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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cambodia Needs to Adopt Independent Judiciary

Cambodia Needs to Adopt Independent Judiciary, Democratic Pluralism -- UN Expert

New York, Oct 23 2011 10:10AM

Despite progress in the 20 years since the Paris peace agreements ended decades of fighting in Cambodia, much still needs to be done to fulfil the promise of the accords, including instituting an independent judiciary and a fully pluralist democracy, a United Nations expert warned on Sunday.

"Cambodia has undeniably progressed over the past 20 years, with peace and stability bringing enormous dividends in terms of wealth and development," Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia Surya P. Subedi in a message marking today's 20th anniversary of the accords that ended the war with the Khmer Rouge, whose 1975-1979 regime is estimated to have killed up to three million people in what is widely recognized as genocide.

"Institutions have been established and laws writt
en. However the challenge remains in the implementation of many of these laws and proper functioning of these institutions," he said, calling for the vision of the peace agreements to be turned into reality for all Cambodians.

"The independence of the judiciary needs to be anchored in fundamental laws on the judiciary, which have been awaiting adoption since 1993 and the pluralist democracy in the country needs to be deepened and strengthened, particularly as Cambodia enters two election years," he stressed.

Last week Judge Siegfried Blunk, international co-investigating judge on the UN-backed tribunal set up to try those accused of the worst crimes under the Khmer Rouge regime, resigned, citing repeated statements by senior Government officials opposing progress on two cases concerning senior Khmer Rouge members suspected of responsibility in the deaths of thousands of people.

Yesterday UN Legal Counsel Patricia O'Brien met with Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Phnom
Penh, the South-east Asian country's capital, and urged the Government to refrain from interfering in any way with the tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).

"Impunity needs to be addressed for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge period as well as for crimes committed since then, and the right to freedom of association, expressly mentioned in the agreements, needs to be carefully protected and nurtured if Cambodia is to remain on the right road," Mr. Subedi said in his message.

"As we mark the 20th anniversary of the agreements, all parties should reaffirm their commitment to the full implementation of the agreements so that their vision and legacy may become reality."

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Cambodian village has disturbing reputation for child sex slavery

SVAY PAK, Cambodia (CNN) -- Svay Pak has a disturbing reputation. The village outside Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh is known as a place where little girls are openly sold to foreign predators looking for sex.

One of the girls who was sold into the sex trade told CNN that before she could read she was working in a brothel.

"I was about 5 or 6 years old," she said. "The first man said to me, 'I want to have sex with you.' At the time I didn't know what to do. No one could help me."
Dozens of girls have had the same experience in her neighborhood.

She says she was approached by a man while playing outside. He asked her to come over and talk to him and before she knew it she was alone and being asked for sex. Some of the girls were actually sold into the sex trade by their own parents.

Many were housed with other girls her age in what looked like a cell. The room was pink had thick walls and no windows and was about 7 feet long by 7 feet wide. There were several rooms just like it stuffed into a building that had a gate over the front door and bars on the bathroom window. The brothel she lived in specialized in pre-pubescent girls.

The young girls were sought after by the foreign men who came to the area for one reason, they knew they could find young girls for sale.

"At the beginning they talked to me gently but when they raped me, they also beat me up," the former sex slave said, her head bowed and tears rolling from her eyes uncontrollably.

She is now 18 and no longer trapped in a terrible and painful life. Three years ago she found a safe haven after Don Brewster and his wife moved in to the neighborhood and began operating a rehabilitation center for child sex slaves.

"I really think it's an evil -- I mean there is no understanding it. The girls, I mean, they're in such pain and suffer so greatly and it is obvious to the man that's raping them," Brewster said.

Brewster says things have changed in Svay Pak in the past several years. It used to be girls hung out in the open beckoning from behind barred windows to the men who walked by. Pimps no longer descend on every foreign man who shows up in the neighborhood offering to sell them virgins. While it is changing there is still a nasty underbelly in the area but travelers have to go looking for it now. The sex trade has gone underground but it is still there.

"If you just look on the surface you would say that doesn't happen but just yesterday we rescued a 5-year-old girl here in Svay Pak," said Brewster, who works with Agape International Missions.

But the situation is changing there slowly now that there is a place that provides a secure environment for children to just be children.
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Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar rice to trade in Thailand

By Sameer Mohindru

HO CHI MINH CITY (MarketWatch) -- The Thai government's procurement of rice from growers well above market prices is expected to result in at least 2.5 million metric tons of the grain from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to find its way into Thailand's granaries and trade, industry officials said.

On Oct. 7, Thailand started procuring domestic rice from growers at THB15,000/ton, around 40% above market rates. Barely any procurement has taken place due to severe floods but is likely to gather pace in the next few months as waters recede.

Traders and industry officials point out that due to Thailand's porous borders, rice from neighboring countries will also be moved into Thailand to take advantage of the higher prices. This will push up inventories in Thailand, world's largest exporter and push up global prices.

There is a large price differential between Thai and Cambodian rice, even though the quality is similar and many traders are now trying to bring in rice from across the border, said Christophe Cousin, managing director, Prasert and Sons, a Pathumthani-based international rice brokerage in Thailand.

It is usual for around 1.0 million tons of Cambodian rice to be transported across the Thai border every year for more remunerative export prices, and now with the government offering even better rates, the trans-border movement will at least double in volume, said Chookiat Ophaswongse, former president of Thai Rice Exporters Association.

Cambodia's ordinary white rice is being traded around THB7,000/ton, less than half of the Thai government's procurement price. Corresponding prices of rice in Laos are between THB6,000-THB7,000/ton. Rice in Myanmar is even cheaper between THB4,500-THB5,000/ton.

At least 500,000 tons of rice from Myanmar move across the border annually to neighboring countries including Thailand as part of informal trade and it is possible that Thai traders make more purchases this year due to high price differential, said Tin Htut Oo, a senior adviser in Myanmar Rice Industry Association.

Analysts and industry officials participating in a global rice conference here said that Thai government policy has loopholes because the grain will be procured and stored by the millers on its behalf. Earlier this month, government said that it has set a stringent criteria to ensure only the domestic crop of the latest harvest is procured.

However, private executives point out that due to unscrupulous millers and gullibility of lower-level bureaucracy not only rice from neighboring countries but also previous year's Thai harvest will be passed on to pocket the price differential.

Millers will blend large volumes of rice from neighboring countries and previous Thai crops and register them in the name of local farmers resulting in a huge government stockpile, a slowdown in exports and tightened global supply, said Chookiat.
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