Friday, December 26, 2008

More governmental control over non-governmental organizations

Inter Press Service reports that Prime Minister Hun Sen wants stricter laws for local and international NGO:s in Cambodia. He claims the new laws is needed to control terrorists, but critics say this will restrict the democratic space yet more.

Borithy Lun, President for Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, the largest Cambodian umbrella organization for NGO:s, said to IPS that there is no need for stricter laws. Since all organizations need to register at the authorities, the government already knows about their acitivities.

Many observers say that the democratic space in Cambodia has shrinken after last summers election. Reporters without borders and Amnesty International has reported about a harder reality for journalists and human rights activists.

China has recently become one of Cambodia's most important donor countries, and Hun Sen has pointed out that unlike the western aid, the Chinese won't require conditions such as good governance.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Amnesty International: Supreme Court must deliver justice


23 December 2008
AI Index No: ASA 23/044/2008

Cambodia: Supreme Court must deliver justice

The Cambodian Supreme Court must seize the opportunity to deliver justice in the high-profile murder case of union leader Chea Vichea on 31 December 2008, Amnesty International said today.

Amnesty International calls on the Supreme Court to dismiss the case against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, and ensure that they are released without delay and their names cleared. In view of the human rights violations perpetrated during their detention and trial, including torture or other ill-treatment, unfounded and inadmissible “evidence” and deeply flawed court proceedings, this is the only fair and just outcome for this case, the organization said.

Amnesty International believes that the true perpetrators of the murder remain at large, while Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun have spent almost five years in prison after a seriously flawed criminal investigation and a grossly unfair trial.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun had alibis for the time of the shooting on 22 January 2004. Instead of conducting a thorough, impartial investigation, police officers threatened and detained people who would provide these alibis, and intimidated other witnesses. Born Samnang repeatedly stated that police beat, coerced and bribed him into making a confession; despite this the Municipal Court accepted the confession as a central piece of evidence on the basis of which both men were convicted. On 1 August 2005, the Municipal Court sentenced them both to 20 years’ imprisonment for murder; on 6 April 2007, the Appeal Court upheld the decision, despite the prosecutor’s acknowledgment there was insufficient evidence.

Amnesty International repeats its calls to the Cambodian authorities to conduct an impartial and effective investigation into the murder of Chea Vichea so that those responsible for it are brought to justice.

The organisation also urges the authorities to initiate a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of the case - including allegations of torture or other ill-treatment by police during the initial interrogation of the two men, intimidation of witnesses and political interference with the judicial process.

Chea Vichea, President of Cambodia’s Free Trade Union (FTU), was murdered on 22 January 2004 after receiving a series of death threats. He was shot dead in an assassination style killing at a news-stand in central Phnom Penh. Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested shortly afterwards on suspicion of his murder.

Chea Vichea was a well-known trade union leader who championed workers’ rights in Cambodia’s burgeoning garment industry and a founding member of the main opposition Khmer Nation Party (KNP) in 1995, renamed the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) in 1998. He was elected President of the FTU, one of Cambodia’s largest trade unions, in 1999, when he left all official positions within the SRP.

Since Chea Vichea’s death another two FTU activists have been killed in Phnom Penh. In May 2004, Ros Sovannareth, FTU President at the Trinunggal Komara factory, was murdered. Thach Saveth was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his murder in a one hour trial described by observers as grossly unfair. On 24 February 2007, Hy Vuthy, FTU President at the Suntex factory, was shot dead. No one has been brought to justice for this killing, and by September 2008, a Phnom Penh court official told media that the investigation had been closed for lack of evidence. Moreover, numerous other trade union members have been victims of harassment, intimidation and violence.


Public Document

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New suspects for the tribunal

Phnom Penh Post reports that sources from the Khmer Rouge Tribunal sais the court has identified six more potential candidates for prosecution.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thousands of new species around Mekong

Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reports that 1068 new animal and plant species have been found around the Mekong River during the period 1997-2007. 519 plants, 279 fishes, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizzards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders and a toad. Stuart Chapman, Director of WWF’s Greater Mekong programme, sais they thought "discoveries of this scale were confined to the history books". WWF is now desiderating an agreement between the six Mekong countries governments.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

WHO is preparing attack against new resistent malaria

Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reports that WHO will make a huge effort to eradicate the new malaria parasites in Cambodia being resistent against the drug artemisinin before they spread to other countries.

50 years ago the first chloroquine-resistent malaria parasites were discovered in Cambodia. Since then the chloroquine resistance has spread around the world and killed tens of millions of people. Around 20 years later the chinese herb artemisia started to be in use as a malaria treatment. Artemisinin is now gradually taking over chloroquine and the risk that parasites would develop resistance againt artemisinin as well has been a horror scenario according to Svenska Dagbladet. Less then a week ago New England Journal of Medicine reported about the first cases of artemisinin resistent malaria in Cambodia.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Eighth human case of bird flu

(The International Herald Tribune) The Cambodia's Health Ministry has confirmed the eighth human case of virulent bird flu since 2005. There have been 246 confirmed fatal cases of the disease in humans worldwide since 2003 according to the WHO.
However, the eighth Cambodian case, a 19-year-old man does not seem to be a fatal case. He is being treated at Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh and a health ministry expert on bird flu said that "his health is being better day by day".

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Controversial case to be heard by the Supreme Court

Phnom Penh Post reports that the controversial case of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun will be heard by the Supreme Court on December 31.

Five years ago, on January 22, 2004, labour union leader Chea Vichea was murdered. Six days later the two men Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested. In a highly flawed trial in August 2005 they were both convicted for the murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Cambodian authorities has been extensively criticised for the handling of the case, both domestically and internationally. Nevertheless the men's convictions were upheld by the Appeal Court in April 2007.

Chea Mony, the current president of the Free Trade Union and brother of activist Chea Vichea, sais to Phnom Penh Post that the previous courts "acted under pressure from the government" and if the supreme court is independent and investigate the case the men will be freed. The Post reports that human rights organisation Licadho has called the case "the most glaring example of impunity and miscarriage of justice in Cambodia".

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cambodia decrease military budget after criticism from donors

IMF expressed concern about the big increase of the military budget that Cambodia announced in October. Reuters reports that the government now propose a military budget of $160. Cheam Yeap, head of the National Assembly's finance commission told Reuters that "We don't want donors to get nervous about spending in the field so we decided to reduce it".

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Placebo concert for 1200 fans

AFP reports that the Placebo concert was highly appreciated. Around 1200 fans where at the gig at Angkor Wat.

Agreement against corruption among tribunal's staff

AP reports that the Cambodian government and UN have agreed in strengthening measures to prevent corruption among the ECCC staff. The tribunal staff have been accused of corruption twice in the past two years according to AP.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Growing slum on the rooftops of Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Post reports abot the slum communities on the rooftops of Phnom Penh which lack basic sanitation and have growing problems with drugs and crime. According to the Post the Phnom Penh Municipality says there is not enough money to help the situation. Sar Bamnang, deputy director of the Municipal Department of Land Management sais to the Post that the concerns of the residents of the slums are still on the agenda and that they might have the budget to help them at some point in the future. Somethearith Din, a project manager at the UN Human Settlements Program (UN- Habitat) sais that the situation on the rooftops could be vastly improved with the installation of simple sanitation facilities like taps for washing and toilets. But the Post further reports that Somethearith Din is not hopeful that this is something that will me made since there are thousands of slum settlements across Cambodia.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Open letter to Phnom Penh's governor

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) has sent an open letter to the Governor of the Municipality of Phnom Penh regarding the forced eviction of residents of Boeung Kak Lake. In the letter they call on the Municipality "to ensure that the rights of the residents of Boeung Kak lake are respected and protected, and that victims of forced evictions are provided with effective remedies, including restitution of housing, land or property" and request that "arbitrary arrests, intimidation and restrictions of the right to peaceful protest be stopped immediately."
They also request a meeting with the Governor and other officials to discuss "Boeung Kak lake and related matters".

The letter is found here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cambodia ask foreign donors not to withdraw aid

AP reports that Prime Minister Hun Sen ask foreign donors to keep support Cambodia despite the global finincal crisis. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. International donors including the World Bank has expressed concern about corruption and inefficiency in Cambodia's administration of aid. At the opening of a two-day meeting to coordinate assistance, Hun Sen tried to assure the donors that the long-delayed anti-corruption law is soon to be adopted.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Armed force burns down the homes of poor villagers to forcibly evict them from the area

(Amnesty International) Around 100 soldiers, police, military police and Forestry Administration officials forcibly evicted around 300 families in Ta Ken commune, Chhuk District in the province of Kampot on 17 and 18 November.

November 17th around 130 houses in a village in Kampot Province were burnt down by the mixed force. The next day they returned and burnt down the remaining 170 houses.

The villagers did not receive any prior notification of the eviction, which appears to have taken place without any legal eviction order. The families living in the village are poor farmers, some have now lost all their belongings in the fires. Representatives of the authorities have said the village lies within a protected area of forest, but observers say the boundaries of that area are unclear. The land is very fertile and attractive for business interest.

As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and other international human rights treaties which prohibit forced eviction and related human rights violations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Cambodia has an obligation to stop forced evictions and to protect the population from forced evictions.

Tens of thousands Cambodians have already been forcibly evicted in recent years, many left homeless, others relocated to inadequate resettlement sites with poor infrastructure, lacking basic amenities including sanitation, and with limited access to work opportunities. Individuals and groups with political or economic power are allowed to act with impunity in arbitrarily expropriating land.

Send immediate appeals to Cambodian ministers. Write your own or use my letter:

Dear Minister,

It has come to my knowledge that 300 poor families from Anlong Krom village was forcibly evicted on the 17-18 November. I am very concerned at the eviction and the destruction of their homes, and urge You to immediately provide emergency relief, including adequate shelter, food, clean water and medical assistance.

I further call on You to proceed with concrete steps to ensure they receive adequate reparation, including adequate alternative accommodation and compensation, and urge You to undertake a full, effective and independent inquiry into the legality of the forced eviction and the violence by members of the mixed force, following which those responsible should be brought to justice.

I finally call on the authorities to end all forced evictions and declare and enforce a moratorium for all mass evictions until legislative and policy measures are in place to ensure that evictions are conducted only in full compliance with international human rights laws and standards.

As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and other international human rights treaties which prohibit forced eviction and related human rights violations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Cambodia has an obligation to stop forced evictions and to protect the population from forced evictions.

Respectfully and sincerely,

Name, Address

Addresses to the ministers are to be found here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Placebo concert at Angkor Wat

AFP reports that British rock band Placebo will headline a concert at Angkor Wat December 7. The gig is a part of the anti-trafficking MTV Exit campaign.

Phnom Penh Post reports that the MTV Exit Campaign will kick off on Saturday in Sihanoukville. After the last gig in Cambodia, on December 12, the tour will continue on to other Asian countries.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gunnar in the living hell

The Swedish former maoist Gunnar Bergström returns to Cambodia for the first time since 1978 when he was one of four in a Swedish delegation from the Sweden-Kampuchea Friendship Association invited to visit Cambodia. At the time he believed that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge was on their way to transform Cambodia into a fairer society benefiting the poor. Radio Australia reports that "he also saw things which caused him disquiet. It took him six months to talk about them and thirty years before he could return to the country and fully face his mistake". Radio Australia also publishes an interview with Bergström. He returns to Cambodia to apologize and also to donate his archives from the 1978 trip. The photos that he took will be exhibited in the exhibition "Gunnar in the living hell". According to Inter Press Service the exhibition will be shown in different cities in Cambodia and is planned to be on display in Stockholm in September next year.

Another blogpost about the exhibition: Livin Hell.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thailand and Cambodia marking out border

BBC News reports that Thailand and Cambodia have started to marking out their common border near the Preah Vihear temple. After the meeting between the foreign ministers they seemed very relaxed. According to BBC News both foreign ministers expressed great satisfaction with their achievements.

However, BBC News added, that all they actually agreed on was to start to work for a deal in the border, and to scale down the armed force around the temple.

Other blogposts about the conflict.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Close ally to Hun Sen killed

(AFP) Police Chief Hok Lundy, who was a close ally to Hun Sen, was killed in a chopper crash Sunday Evening. The crash was caused by bad weather according to ministry of interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak.

Hok Lundy was accused of involvement in drug trafficking, trafficking prostitutes and politically motivated killings, and internationally critised for alleged human rights abuses and corruption. Last year Human Rights Watch said Hok Lundy "represents the absolute worst that Cambodia has to offer".

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Water Festival might lead to gross abuses of human rights

Radio Australia reports that human rights group LICHADO is worried that the upcoming Water Festival, Bon Oum Tuk might see a surge of illegal detentions and abuses for homeless people and sex workers in Phnom Penh. LICADHO'S director, Naly Pilorge states that during public holidays and particularly during Bon Oum Tuk, the Cambodian Government "wishes to maintain its image of the 'Kingdom of Wonder' and therefore the government continues to detain people who they believe contradict that image".

According to LICHADO there are several camps in Cambodia, which the government claims are volontary "Social Rehabilitation Centres", that in reality are illegal prisons that keep the poorest off the street. LICHADO has interviewed former detainees who have described the terrible situation at the camps. Naly Pilorge, says "We have allegations of gang rapes and sexual abuse. We also have information about beatings, very severe beatings leading to the death of people" reports Radio Australia.

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But last week LICADHO monitors gained access to a facility in Kampong Speu province.

New border talks somewhat successful

Phnom Penh Post reports that troops have withdrawn from the disputed temple area at Preah Vihear. AFP reports that a new meeting between the Cambodian and Thai officials was successful in moving forward towards a solution of the border conflict, according to Va Kimhong, head of Cambodia's border committee. He told reporters that agreements about how to move forward had been made, reports AFP. The countries foreign ministers are scheduled to meet on Wednesday.

Other blogposts about the conflict.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Unesco to Preah Vihear

According to Phnom Penh Post a Unesco delegation will begin marking out the boundary of the Preah Vihear temple. Cambodian military officials have said that they will protect the Unesco team, and that the security is good.

Other blogposts about the conflict.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

New military budget twice as big as today

(AFP) Following the deadly firefight at the Cambodia-Thai border, Cambodia will double its military budget next year. Cheam Yeap, head of the parliament's finance commission sais that Cambodia needs soldiers with enough capacity "to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity", and that the new military budget at about 500 million dollars will be approved by the parliament in early November.

Other blogposts about the conflict.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Top commanders to solve the crisis

Top commanders from the Cambodian and the Thai armies will meet Thursday to discuss the border crisis reports Phnom Penh Post. Cambodian commaders have said that only an increased dialogue can prevent more deadly violence.

Other blogposts about the conflict.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Clashes at the border

Yesterday the border conflict escalated. There where more shooting, and Phnom Penh Post reports about two deaths on the Cambodian side.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gun Fire on the Thai-Cambodian border

Thailand and Cambodia have failed to solve the border dispute near the ancient temple Preah Vihear. On Monday Hun Sen gave Thailand an ultimatum that the thai troops must withdraw within 24 hours reports Phnom Penh Post. Ten days earlier there where some shooting in the area which wounded one Cambodian and two Thai soldiers. The Post further reports that Hun Sen has said that the issue will be brought before the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

AP reports that Thai troops retreaded on Tuesday around one and a half hour before Hun Sen's deadline. According to AP the troops retreated to their camp half a mile from the disputed area. Hun Sen ordered Cambodia's army chiefs to take full responsibility over the area, adding that it is a "life-and-death battle zone". Thailand's Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat on the other hand ordered his army to "take care of the situation so there is no violence".

The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reports today, Wednesday about gun fire. Thai television has today showed images of military vehicles with tanks on their way to the border. The Thai minister of foreign affairs has told all Thai citizens to leave Cambodia immediately, adding that the government is ready to evacuate their citizens if necessary. According to a Cambodian officer it was the Thai army who started todays shooting. A Thai army employee confirms that a fight has broken out according to Dagens Nyheter.

Some facts about the conflict:
*Preah Vihear was built in the 11th och 12th century, and are dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
*A commission settled 1904 that the temples should belong to Siam (Thailand), but on a map published in 1907 they were placed in the French protectorate of Cambodia.
*The temples got occupied by Thai military not long after Cambodian independence in 1954. The conflict was committed to the International Court.
*In 1962 the court found that the temples belonged to Cambodia.
*The temples were the Lon Nol-regime's last stronhold until the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975.
*It was also in the temple area that the communist guerilla met governments negotiator 1998 for final capitulation in.
(Facts from TT)

Earlier blogposts about the conflict: New temple on the World Heritage list..., Temple talks on hold, Temple talks soon to start again and Temple talks continues today.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Khmer rouge soldiers jailed for murder

Four ex-Khmer Rouge members were jailed for 10-20 years for the 1997 murder of the British mine-clearer Christopher Howes reports BBC News. The trial is seen as a sign Khmer Rouge figures no longer enjoy immunity.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yash Ghai on human rights in Cambodia

Radio Australia has published one of their radio programmes about UN and Human Rights in Cambodia. It can be read (or listened to) here. Yash Ghai, the recently resigned United Nations Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia sais among other things that: "My deep conviction is that the government has absolutely no interest in the promotion of human rights. The whole state exists on systematic violations of political, economic and social rights."

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cambodia applies for pneumonia vaccine

The Cambodian government has applied for funding for a pneumonia vaccine, reports Phnom Penh Post. The vaccine is expected to prevent 1,200 deaths in Cambodia every year. Some 30,000 children die before their fifth birthday each year in Cambodia, one in five os these deaths is caused by pneumonia reports Phnom Penh Post. Dr Varun Kumar, medical adviser at the Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) in Siem Reap, sais pneumonia is one of the top two diseases of kids admitted into the hospital.

Phnom Penh Post reports that Cambodia has applied to the GAVI Alliance, a public-private organisation, for funding to expand its National Immunisation Program to include a new vaccine against the Hib-bacteria that causes pneumonia, as well as several other infections. The GAVI Alliance was created in 2000 to improve access to immunisation in poor countries. Its partners include national governments, Unicef, WHO, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the vaccine industry, and research and technical health institutions.

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Cambodia gets $35 million in emergency food aid

(AP) The Asian Development Band, ADB, have granted Cambodia $17.5, and will give them as much in a low-interest-rate loan, in emergency food aid for the poorest 500 000 people in the country. The recipients include slum residents in Phnom Penh and around lake Tonle Sap. People who, according to the bank's country director, have suffered a lot from the latest year's rising food prices. Mahfuz Ahmed, the bank official in charge of the food project, said that of Cambodia's 14 million people, about 2.6 million sometimes go hungry and suffer from malnutrition. The program will run through September 2011.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Resumption of food programme for school children

The breakfast programme for schoolchildren which stopped earlier this year due to lack of funds has resumed. The resumption was made possible by donors responding to an WFP appeal, reports AP. The programme costs about $9 million per year, or about $20 per child. Radio Australia reports that Bradley Busetto, acting country director of the World Food Program in Cambodia has said it will continue at least until early next year.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ranariddh retires

Only a few days after his return to Cambodia Prince Norodom Ranariddh quit politics reports the International Herald Tribune. The prince was a key leader in Cambodia during the 80's and 90's. According to IHT, a Norodom Ranariddh Party statement said the party's chief handed in his resignation on October 3rd without giving a reason.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Empty promises from the old new government?

The Cambodian new government's official five-year plan, is highlighting human rights, corruption and the rule of law. But opposition party SRP's lawmaker Ke Sovannroth commented to the Phnom Penh Post that "It is the fourth mandate of a new government, but the officials holding power are not new." The head of the election watchdog Comfrel also agree that the promises doesn't mean much, saying that "every political announcement was good, but the individual officials have no real commitment to following up all these programs" reports Phnom Penh Post.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Prince Ranariddh back in Cambodia

Phnom Penh Post reports that Norodom Ranariddh returned to Cambodia yesterday after 18 months in exile in Malaysia. In March 2007, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for peculating money from the sale of his former party, Funcinpec's property. A few days ago King Norodom Sihamoni issued a royal amnesty on the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen according to Phnom Penh Post.

Cheam Yeap, the ruling party CPP's lawmaker said the Prince's returs was a "symbol of national reconcilation" reports the Post.

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Temple talks continues today

According to Radio Australia, political representatives from Cambodia and Thailand were to meet today at the UN to resume talks about the disputed border area near the temple Preah Vihear.

Background: New temple on the World Heritage list..., Temple talks on hold, and Temple talks soon to start again.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Press release: Human rights defenders silenced through the legal system


Embargoed 0001 GMT Friday 26 September 2008

Cambodia: Human rights defenders silenced through the legal system

Rich and powerful individuals and groups involved in land disputes in Cambodia are increasingly using their power to silence opponents through the criminal justice system, said Amnesty International today, as it called for greater protection for human rights defenders.

In the briefing paper 'A risky business - defending the right to housing',Amnesty International provides examples of abuses of human rights defenders working for the promotion of land rights and against forced evictions in Cambodia in the last two years.

Informal village leader Chhea Ny, released in December 2007 after 16 months in prison, told Amnesty International: "I was chained and held in a dark prison cell for one week. I was so miserable. And I was not allowed to wash. After one week they removed the chain from my legs. When they took off the chain they let me stay outside in daylight, and they offered an apology; they said they had made a mistake and [punished] the wrong man.” He had been arrested in August 2006 over a long-standing land dispute with local officials, business people and high-ranking military in Boeung Pram village, in Battambang province.

"His case is a blatant example of what happens when the legal system fails to protect human rights and to serve justice," said Brittis Edman, Amnesty International’s Cambodia Researcher.

According to local human rights groups, over the past two years the number of land activists arrested has practically doubled from 78 in 2006 to 149 in 2007. This rise corresponds with an increase in the number of reports alleging that police have unfairly arrested land activists; prosecutors have pressed groundless criminal charges against them; and law enforcement and court officials have threatened people protesting against forced evictions with arrest or imprisonment.

"The rapid increase in the number of peaceful land activists in prison is a serious concern in its own right. But every imprisoned human rights defender becomes a tool for intimidation of other activists, demonstrating that detention, trials and imprisonment are a real threat," said Brittis Edman.

"The Cambodian authorities must ensure that the legal system fairly protects all parties involved in land disputes and protecting human rights, and must investigate allegations of intimidation and unlawful arrests of human rights defenders."

Attacks against such activists violate international human rights law provisions guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and the right to participate in public life. They run counter to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which reflects and details these rights. In many cases, other rights of human rights defenders have been violated, including the right to equality before the courts and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention.

In 2008, some 150,000 Cambodians were known to live at risk of being forcibly evicted in the wake of land disputes, land grabbing, and agro-industrial and urban redevelopment projects. Tens of thousands have already been forcibly evicted in recent years, many left homeless, others relocated to inadequate resettlement sites with poor infrastructure, lacking basic amenities including sanitation, and with limited access to work opportunities.

In a report released in February 2008, Amnesty International showed how the Cambodian authorities are failing to protect - in law and practice - the population against forced evictions. By contrast, those with political or economic power are allowed to act with impunity in arbitrarily expropriating land. They do so by colluding with local authorities in ways that lead to the issuing of dubious land titles and eviction orders, and the misuse of the court system to prevent victims from acting to defend their rights.


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Temple talks soon to start again

Thailand's newly elected Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat says he's ready to hold talks with his Cambodian PM Hun Sen to resolve the border dispute near the temple Preah Vihear. This reports Radio Australia.

Earlier this week Radio Australia reported that Hun Sen accused Thai soldiers of "being thieves creating anarchy" around border areas. They further reported that Hun Sen has hinted that he might take his complaints to the UN Security Council if Cambodia and Thailand cannot resolve the disagreement, and that Somchai Wongsawat has said he expects officials to hold talks on the matter during the UN General Assembly in New York next week.

Background: New temple on the World Heritage list... and Temple talks on hold.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

The United States contributes to Khmer Rouge tribunal

According to the Washington Post has the United States agreed to give $1.8 million to ECCC. This is the United States' first contribution to the tribunal.

Yash Gai resigns

The UN's special envoy for human rights to Cambodia Yash Ghai has resigned, reports Radio Australia. The lawyer was unusually blunt in his criticism of the human rights situation in Cambodia, and has been arguing with Cambodian officials.

Cambodia has lodged a formal complaint against Yash Ghai with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

I liked Yash Ghai, I hope his successor will be as daringly straightforward as he has been.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Surprisingly large primate population discovered

According to Red Orbit a WCS report reveals large populations of two globally threatened primates in a protected area in Cambodia.

Dr. John G. Robinson, Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science for the Wildlife Conservation Society sais that they now have to put into place "the management to truly protect these populations and apply the approach to other regions where primates are in trouble", informs Red Orbit.

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Victim of sexual abuse files complaint to the genocide tribunal

Sou Sotheavy, a Cambodian transgender woman, filed a complaint last week with the ECCC alleging that the Khmer Rouge exposed her to sexual abuse, reports the Herald Tribune. She sais soldiers repeatedly raped her as punishment for "moral offenses", and she was forced to marry a woman and have sexual intercourse to produce a child. Sou Sotheavy, who is now 68 years old, was born male but has been living as a woman since she was a teenager.

The Khmer Rouge imposed strict rules against sexual misconduct. Sou Sotheavy's lawyer, sais she hopes that this case will encourage others who has been subject to sexual abuse during the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79), to come forward and demand acknowledgment and justice. The Herald Tribune reports that these victims suffering has largely been ignored until now, according to the lawyer.

The Herald Tribune reports that the genocide researchers have found many cases of rape and sexual violence committed by Khmer Rouge soldiers, while at the same time the Khmer Rouge banned romance, forced many men and women into mass marriages and tortured or killed those who engaged in unsanctioned sexual relations.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Personnel drain from the garment industry

The Herald Tribune reports the high inflation and stagnant wages have prompted several thousands of workers to leave their jobs in the garment industry to look for better-paid jobs. According to the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers, Chea Mony, 27 000 workers have quit their jobs so far this year. He sais many of them are working in entertainment clubs like karaoke parlors, reports the Herald Tribune.

The Cambodian minister of planning, Chhay Thansaid, said inflation in July, 22 percent, was the highest rate recorded in 15 years.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Temple talks on hold

After several talks without any success in resolving the deadlock situation around Preah Vihear, further talks are now on hold because of the political situation in Thailand. The Earth Times reports that the Cambodian government said on Thursday that Cambodia will wait as long as it takes for Thailand to settle the political chaos.

Background about the dispute: New temple on the World Heritage List...

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Threat of new HIV infection wave

A new anti-sex trafficking law poses a threat to Cambodia's "100 percent comdom use programme". The programme provides sex information and distributes condoms to sex workers. Asia One News reports that the new law was followed by police crackdowns on brothels, which has forced prostitutes to move from place to place leaving their condoms behind. A statement from the Cambodia AIDS authority said the main risk of a second wave of HIV infections is from female sex workers, reports Aisa One.

According to Asia One, Cambodia's HIV rate before the 100 percent comdom use program was initiated was the worst in the region. In 1997 3.7 percent of the population was infected, and the rate among prostitutes were estimated to as high as 40 percent. Since the programme began, the overall HIV rate has dropped to 0.9 percent.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

A long way to democracy? - some thoughts about the political situation in Cambodia

I believe that the main obstacles to make Cambodia democratic are the widespread poverty and illiteracy together with CPP controlling most of the media (many poor people know of no good alternatives than the party who build the roads and the schools). And of course, the biggest obstacle to change the system and make people literate and richer is the corruption (Cambodia is one of the most corrupt countries in the world), and a ruling party which is unwilling to make changes…

And to me it's quite obvious that CPP lacks the political will to make any big changes, they have too much to gain personally on keeping things the way they are. Especially the corruption... I find it hard to believe that, even if they finally will adopt the anti-corruption law, they will do much to implement it.

I think it's quite troublesome though, that the biggest opposition party, SRP, is making use of the widespread racism against ethnic Vietnamese to get supporters by spurring the feelings of hatred. I have spoken to Khmers who have the opinion that all ethnic Vietnamese are corrupt and that the solution to that problem is to send all ethnic Vietnamese to Vietnam. This feeling of hatred against Cambodian Vietnamese affects of course even the poorest refugees, not only the rich Vietnamese. It seems like many people are unable of separating the idea of Vietnam as a country (a richer, big brother-, neighbouring country…) and Vietnams government from the idea of Vietnamese individuals (who might have been living in Cambodia for generations, who have emigrated from Vietnam for some reason, and who might feel as much Cambodian as Vietnamese…). A widespread idea seems to be that ethnic Vietnamese are some sort of spies for Vietnam – that for example an ethnic Vietnamese politician would work for the best of Vietnam, not of Cambodia.

I was hoping for the new Human Rights Party, but they didn’t get much more than 6% of the votes…

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Reports about the not so fair election

Earlier this month, The Asian Network for Free Elections, ANFREL, and the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, COMFREL, released reports about the general election. Both organisations concludes that the election was not fair.

ANFREL and COMFREL both reports that the general pre-election environment was peaceful in most areas. However, ANFREL reports that lack of campaign finance regulations created an unfair environment that clearly favoured the ruling party, CPP. ANFREL also reports that vote buying was used prevalently, and that there was a problem with politically aligned media, particularly the state media promoting CPP. They also reports about children being used in campaigning by both CPP and SRP. When David and I visited the orphanage he was working at in 2003 and 2004 the week before the election, many of the children where wearing caps and T-shirts with the CPP logo, and one of the children told us how CPP activists came to pick them up in big trucks for the campaigning.

According to ANFREL's report, election administrators did their job without any complaints, but the National Election Committee, NEC, was not perceived as impartial by a majority of electoral stakeholders. COMFREL however, reports of 207 cases of polling station officials not complying with the electoral Procedures and Regulations.

COMFREL reports that some political party activists, particularly of CPP, provided large-scale transportation or money to voters in "order to stimulate them to vote for their particular party" (which we saw one case of in Svay Rieng).

Both ANFREL and COMFREL reports about the misuse of "Form 1018". This is an alternative to an identification card available to Cambodian citizens. ANFREL reports that many official authorities issued this form to non-citizens in order to increase the number of votes for CPP.

ANFREL and COMFREL both addresses the problems with the voter lists. Particularly in Phnom Penh, many voters could not find their names on the voter list even though they had been registered and their names were present on the list prior to the election. ANFREL estimates that about 50‐60,000 of voters were unable to enjoy their right to vote. According to COMFREL, there were more serious irregularities affecting people’s voting rights this year than in previous elections.

Many voters made complaints about problems to CEC (the local branch of NEC), but ANFREL reports that many CEC members were unwilling to assist in finding a solution. COMFREL reports that 42% of the complaints to CEC were rejected, but none of the complaints filed by CPP were rejected.

The reports can be read here:
ANFREL's report
COMFREL's report

On August 12th, COMFREL published a joint statement on "The 2008 National Assembly Elections and Priority Recommendations for Electoral Reform" together with the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, CHRAC, the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, NICFEC, and the People’s Forum on Cambodian-Japan, PEFOC,J. That statement can be find here.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Press release: Lake filling must not lead to forced evictions



27 August 2008

Cambodia: Lake filling must not lead to forced evictions

The filling of Boeung Kak Lake in central Phnom Penh should immediately stop until a proper process that ensures human rights protection is in place, said Amnesty International and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) today.

With work starting on the redevelopment of the lake, tens of thousands of Phnom Penh residents living in its immediate vicinity fear forced eviction. They were not notified the work was going to begin. Few details about the plans have been disclosed as to what will happen to the affected people – an estimated 3,000 to 4,200 families living on the shores of the lake and around the area.

Amnesty International and COHRE said the project process is in breach of both Cambodian and international law.

"In the absence of proper plans, compensation and adequate alternative housing for at least 3,000 affected families, the filling of the lake should be immediately halted. Otherwise, this may be the beginning of the biggest forced eviction in post-war Cambodia," said Brittis Edman, Amnesty International's Cambodia Researcher.

"If the government wishes to develop Boeung Kak, they should do so through a legal process, with the participation of communities that live around the lake," said Dan Nicholson, Coordinator of COHRE's Asia and Pacific Programme. "Affected communities need to be able to make informed decisions. The serious lack of clear information and accountability shows that preparations are just not in place."

The development plans for Boeung Kak Lake emerged in 2007, after the Municipality of Phnom Penh had entered into a 99-year lease agreement, handing over management of 133 hectares of land, including 90 per cent of the lake, to a private developer, Shukaku Ltd. According to the Municipality, this company will turn the area into "pleasant, trade, and service places for domestic and international tourists."

As recently as two weeks ago, representatives of the Municipality conceded to journalists in Phnom Penh that they did not know how many people were affected, but estimated the number to be just 600 families. Local group surveys show the number to be far higher.

In breach of international law and standards the process leading up to the agreement between the company and the Municipality of Phnom Penh excluded affected communities from participation and genuine consultation. Information has been lacking throughout the process, and community members and housing rights advocates in Phnom Penh consider that offers of compensation and/or adequate alternative housing have not been systematic, while resettlement plans have been withheld from the public.

The agreement also appears to breach domestic law and implementing regulations in that no environmental impact assessment has been made public and no bidding procedure preceded the agreement. Moreover, according to the 2001 Land Law, the lake itself should be inalienable state land (so-called state public property), so its ownership cannot be transferred for longer than 15 years, during which time the function [of the property] must not change. Many of the affected families have strong legal claims to the land under the Land Law.


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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Words from the party leaders

I intended to write about the parties before the election, but a functioning internet connection was nowhere to be found in Svay Rieng, and then I got back home and left for a month in Dalarna where I don't have internet connection either...

Anyway, even if the election is in the passed, I think it might be interesting to read about what the parties said they wanted to change if they won the election. Cambodian Daily had a series of interviews with senior leaders in the five biggest parties during the week before the election.

Sam Rainsy, president of the Sam Rainsy Party, SRP, which has been the most popular party among students for many years, said to Cambodia Daily that the party's three top issues are employment, to stop the inflation, and free healthcare. He said that SRP wants to approve and then implement the anti-corruption law. This would, according to him, make Cambodia more attractive for investors, spur competition, improve the collection of state revenue, and make sure that donated medicines will be free for the poor patients - as intended by the donors - instead of being stolen by government officials and sold to a high prize. Sam Rainsy further claimed that CPP (the ruling party, which won this years election as well) attracts big companies to buy land, but SRP doesn't want investors to focus on land speculation, they want investors to process products in Cambodia. They also want to encourage small and medium-sized farms instead of mega-sized farms where farmers don't own their own land.

Sam Rainsy also addressed the problem with parallell budgets, and the fact that CPP's budget is higher than the state budget. That means for example that schools are not built by the government but by CPP, and are presented with Hun Sen's (the president of the CPP) name on them as a CPP/Hun Sen donation:
It is totally ridiculous this patronage culture mentality, this beggar mentality, making people dependant on donations from the CPP. This is backward, it cannot help the country move forward. So we have to put things right.
The Human Rights Party, HRP, was formed in 2007 by Kem Sokha, former president of the NGO Cambodian Center for Human Rights. Now being the president of Human Rights Party, Kem Sokha told Cambodia Daily that his party believes there are three main obstacles to the development of Cambodia: The dictatorship, corrupt leaders and that the leaders are dependant on foreigners. He said that one of the first things HRP would do if they won the election is to approve the anti-corruption law. Another very important thing to HRP is to make the judicial system independent. Kem Sokha claimed that now there are judges and court official who want to be independent, but pressure leaves them with no choice but to stay affiliated with the CPP. Kem Sokha did also, just like Sam Rainsy, address the problem with lost tax revenue because of corruption. He claimed Cambodia have a good tax law, but the law is not implemented. He said that HRP want to change the current situation where the poor are paying taxes for the rich. He claimed that owners of big land holdings do not pay tax now, since they are affiliated with CPP.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, was removed from the Funcinpec Party presidency in late 2006 and then formed the NRP. He said to Cambodia Daily that NRP depends on and are hoping to get support from people that are unhappy with illegal immigration. He further acknowledged the problem with a small minority of the richest and the powerful owning most of the land in Cambodia. He pointed out that Cambodia should not have to be poor being a country with only 14 million people and rich on natural resources. Ranariddh also said that his party wants to approve the anti-corruption law and implement it towards everyone. He said he doesn't find it likely that a CPP-led government will approve it, "It's been 1994 ut to now..." (the draft anti-corruption law was submitted when Ranariddh was prime minister in 1994).

About the problem with getting support because of the split in the royalist political movement, Ranariddh said he has a lot of followers and:
They [the people who removed him from the Funcinpec presidency] forget that without Norodom Ranariddh, Funcinpec is not Funcinpec. Funcinpec was Ranariddh Norodom.
Funcinpec's new president and Cambodia's deputy prime minister, Keo Puth Rasmey, said to Cambodia Daily that "the split used to be an issue, but I don't believe it is anymore for us. First of all, I don't call it a split, because Funcinpec is still Funcinpec...". Keo Puth Rasmey said Funcinpec has the political will to make changes. He admitted that he does not know much about economic problem-solving or he best way to reduce corruption, but he said that how to do something is not the problem. He claimed that the main problem today is lack of political will:
All we need is political will, the rest is technical - you can open a book on how to solve inflation - this is no problem.
Cambodian People's Party's Cheam Yeap, the chairman of the National Assembly's banking and finance commission and a member of the Standing Committee of the CPP Central Committee, said to Cambodia Daily that they will find all ways to decrease the price of goods and the price of food. He also pointed out that CPP has created more than 600 000 jobs in Cambodia, while none of the other parties have created any jobs at all. He said that CPP are obliged to strengthen existing laws and make new laws in order to find potential revenue. Cheam Yeap claimed that CPP wants to approve the anti-corruption law and that the reason for the delay is that they want advice from the international community so that the law, when it is adopted, will be a law that is useful and effective for a very long time. He further claimed that if CPP would win the election the law will be adopted in late 2008. "We want to do whatever it takes to get this law adopted".

He further claimed that there has not been much done about the land dispute because the deputy chief of the national committee for solving land dispute, Sam Rainsy Party's Eng Chhay Eang, was playing cards instead of solving things. He also informed Cambodia Daily that when CPP was leading the country alone land grabbing was not a problem since nobody dared to do this (from what I've heard they will stay in coalition with Funcinpec, even though they got a simple majority of the votes which is what is needed nowadays to form a government on one's own...).

When being asked about the heavy criticism from NGO's and international organisations such as the UN, The World Bank and the US State Department, Cheam Yeap said CPP agreed to some of the criticism, and that it is important to consider criticism in order to be better going forward. But he also claimed that much of the heavy criticism are based on reports from opposition parties that want to spoil the CPP's reputation and popularity in order to destroy the party, and that this criticism is very unjust.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Landslide victory for CPP

The preliminary results from the election is, according to COMFREL (the Committee for free and fair elections in Cambodia):

Cambodian People's Party 58.22%
Sam Rainsy Party 21.85%
Human Rights Party 6.37%
Norodom Ranariddh Party 5.67%
Funcinpec Party 5.04%

These five parties will get seats in the parliament. According to a recently adopted law, a party needs a simple majority to form a government on their own (before they needed two thirds of the votes). This means that CPP now for the first time can form a government without a coalition. The Cambodia Daily reports today that according to CPP calculating they would win 91 of the 123 seats, leaving SRP with 26, HRP with three, NRP with two and Funcinpec with one.

I haven't figure out how this works, I find it more logical that CPP would get 74 seats when they have won 60% of the votes that leads to Assembly seats.

The other parties who took part in the election where League for Democracy Party (1.27% according to COMFREL's preliminary result), Khmer Democratic Party (0.55%), Hang Dara Democratic Movement Party (0.43%), Society of Justice Party (0.23%), Khmer Republican Party (0.20%) and Khmer Anti-Poverty Party (0.16%).

In Svay Rieng where I was observing the election CPP are very popular. In the polling station where I observed the counting after the election was closed, they got 402 of the 505 votes (79.60%). According to Cambodian law the parties are not allowed to transport any voters to the election. CPP arranged transport from Phnom Penh to Svay Rieng for around 7500 voters, around 150 trucks each carrying 50 people arrived on Saturday and Sunday. When we asked the truck drivers about who was paying, most of them said they didn't know, one said "maybe some parties, but I don't know which ones...", one said he didn't want to answer to that question since he did not want to die and one answered "Cambodian People's Party pays. But I am afraid to tell you this." A woman from Svay Rieng, who was working as an election official, said that the village chief from her village had spread the word before the election that people who has relatives in Phnom Penh who are registered to vote in Svay Rieng should tell them that CPP will arrange transport for free.

Another reported problem is voters deleted from the list (wich means they were not able to vote). This has been a problem mainly in the cities and above all in Phnom Penh where Sam Rainsy Party wants a re-election to be held. Cambodia Daily reports that they are worried they have lost as many as 60 000 voters in Phnom Penh because of this. COMFREL said on their press conference this morning that they don't have the exact number of deleted registered voters, but the preliminary approximation is 50 to 60 000 voters in total (all over Cambodia).

Another foreign observer for COMFREL told us during the conference that he had spoken to people who had found their names on the list the day before the election, and then had found them deleted the next day. He had also met people who had their name on the list outside the polling station, but not inside.

On the question if this was a free and fair election COMFREL's president, Thun Saray, answered that it was not free and fair according to "western standards" and that it was too early to say if it was free and fair in "a Cambodian context".

Note: The final results from the election is 90 seats for CPP, 26 for SRP, 3 for Human Rights Party, and 2 seats each for the royalist parties Funcinpec and Norodom Ranariddh Party. (Radio Australia, September 2nd)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New temple on the World Heritage List escalates border dispute

On July 8th, UNESCO decided to let Preah Vihear temple, near the Thai border, to join Angkor Wat on the World Heritage List. Happy news for Cambodia, everyone talks about it here. One of our friends said she screamed out loud at work when the news reached her.

Many Thai people are not as happy, since this seems to reinforce the 1962 border which puts Preah Vihear in Cambodia. On early morning July 15th three Thai protesters jumped the wire fence at the temple entrance, reports Cambodia Daily. Cambodian authorities detained the protesters, which had more than 100 Thai soldiers to enter Cambodian territory to claim their release. Since then tension has escalated. Both Cambodian and Thai troops have gathered near the temple.

On Cambodian TV there have been shows requesting people to donate money to the soldiers and monks staying by the temple. Last week Cambodia Daily reported that both sides agreed not to send any more troops until Monday's (yesterday's) intergovernmental negotiation. The negotiation seemed to lead nowhere though, which has led to a Cambodian request for a UN intervention, according to Cambodia Daily. Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong will fly to New York this week to personally ask for assistance.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Rising rice price a growing problem

The price of rice keeps rising in Cambodia, which makes life harsh for many poor families. Schools which have been able to buy rice for the children thanks to the World Food Program are no longer able to do so, since the rice stocks have run out reports the International Herald Tribune. Cambodia Daily reports that some families have tried to find additional work to get by, and many have been forced to cut down to fever meals per day. 29 year old Ky Kheng from Koh Kong province told Cambodia Daily that her children will have to help with the work and stop going to school if the price keeps going up.

The Cambodia Daily has launched a campaign together with American Assistance for Cambodia and Japan Relief for Cambodia, which aims to carry on the World Food Program feeding programs that has stopped because of the current rice price. For further information, contact Bernard Krisher,

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Opposition journalist murdered

Last Friday, July 11, journalist Khim Sambor were shot dead. His 22 year old son was also hit and died in hospital Saturday. The Cambodia Daily reports that Khim was working at Moneaksekar Khmer, a pro Sam Rainsy Party newspaper.

Two days after the shooting the bodies were cremated. The gunmen are still unidentified, and the motive for the murder has yet to be established, but Reporters Without Borders stated Saturday according to Cambodia Daily that Khim Sambor had written about corruption cases allegedly involving high politicians and that the murder could have been political. President of the Cambodian human rights NGO Licadho said to Cambodia Daily that this kind of violence against journalists is a threat to the access to information for the people since the people working with media will be scared and and start to censor their information.

The murder of Khim Sambor is the 12th killing of a journalist since the 1993 general election reports Cambodia Daily. None of this killings has been solved. FBI has offered their help in solving the Khim Sambor case.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Instructions for COMFREL's foreign volunteer observers

We didn't learn as much as I think we could have on the course Saturday 5, but we did get to know a little bit about what to look for on the election day:

*No weapons or uniforms are alowed on anyone.

*Before the casting of votes starts at 7 am the election official has to show that the ballot box is empty.

*Elderly, handicapped and monks are to vote first.

*The ID of the voter has to be checked before she/he is handed the ballot paper.

*The voters have to stand in line outside the polling office.

*It is not allowed to campaign or say "remember to vote for my party" on the election day or the day before.

* When the polling office closes for voters at 3 pm the ballot papers in the box have to be counted to make sure that they are as many as registered casted votes.

*When the votes are counted, the person who reads them out must show the paper to the observers, party officials and the person who writes the results down. To do this very fast is a violation.

*The person who writes down the results must look at the ballot papers.

The problem we are most likely to observe is that people are not to be find on the list, and therefore not allowed to vote. These people have the right to complain to the National Election Committee, NEC.

David and I are going to observe in Svay Rieng, the poorest province in Cambodia. It will be interesting to see a new part of Cambodia. A part where there is, according to Lonely Planet, literaly nothing do do.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Amnesty International urges Cambodian parties to stop forced evictions

July 7 Amnesty International released following public statement:

Public Statement
Index number ASA 23/011/2008
7 July 2008

Amnesty International to Cambodia’s political parties: Stop forced evictions

All political parties contesting the 27 July elections should let the voters know how they plan to address forced evictions, Amnesty International said today as election campaigning was well underway ahead of the 27 July poll.

Forced evictions are one of Cambodia’s biggest human rights problems, affecting both urban and rural populations across the country, perpetuating marginalization and deepening poverty. The ongoing election campaign presents an opportunity for Cambodians to hear what their future leaders have to say about their human rights.

The issues of land rights and tenure security have received some attention during the election campaign. Nevertheless, the parties could go further and clarify how they plan to protect the rights of the tens of thousands Cambodian who have been forcibly evicted in recent years and as many as 150,000 Cambodians living at risk of forced eviction.

Amnesty International called on the 11 political parties registered with the National Election Commission to publicly state that they will stop forced evictions and to add the following commitments to their party platforms:

* Stop forced evictions and introduce a moratorium for all mass evictions until legislation and policy is put into place that requires any further evictions to be conducted in full compliance with international human rights laws and standards;

* Ensure that those victimised by forced evictions have access to, at the very least, minimum essential levels of shelter, clean water, sanitation, health services and education, including through the provision of humanitarian assistance where necessary.

* Abide by its obligations under international human rights law to give those affected by eviction an opportunity for genuine participation and consultation.

A forced eviction is ‘the permanent or temporary removal against the will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection,’ according to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Forced evictions have been recognized by the UN Commission on Human Rights as a gross violation of human rights, and are intrinsically associated with violations of other human rights.

As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and other international human rights treaties which prohibit forced eviction and related human rights violations, Cambodia has an obligation to stop forced evictions and to protect the population from further forced evictions.

Public Document

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Khmer Rouge trials continue, so does land dispute and harassment.

It feels good to be back in Cambodia. It doesn't rain much at all considering it is supposed to be in the middle of the rain period now. Phnom Penh looks pretty much the same as last time as was here, 18 months ago. There are no sky scrapers yet, but we've been shown a building site where one is supposed to be built. Phnom Penh Post is still a fortnightly newspaper. The lake Boeng Kak and the people around it is still there, but according to a friend of mine who is living and working in the area, there are pumps installed to drain the lake already, and rumours say the eviction of people and the filling in of the lake is to be started after the election.

Some national news from The Cambodia Daily today, July 1:

The former Khmer Rouge Foreign minister Ieng Sary appeared on court for the first time Monday June 30. The bail hearing was however adjourned shortly after Sary had left the courtroom, complaining of dizziness. Later a doctor testified that the defendant seemed to have liquid in his lungs, and that it might affect the health to continue the proceedings. Ieng Sary's US defense lawyer Michael Karnavas said Sary insisted on his right to be present during trial.

Kheiu Samphan's Cambodian lawyer Say Bory has resigned for an unknown reasons. Samphan's French lawyer Jacques Vergès was unavailable for comment. Following an April hearing when Vergès refused to speak, Say Bory said he had not been informed by Vergès of his intention not to speak.

Oppostion parties complained Monday of campaigning irregularities and, in one case, alleged physical violence.

Chey Szena villagers in the Kampot province complained Monday that they comtinue to be harassed by soldiers, and that they are running low on food. The confrontation between soldiers and villagers began June 21 when Forestry Administration officials told the over 1000 families in Chey Szena that they had to move somewhere else. The village is supposed to turn into a tree nursery. A villager told Cambodian Daily that soldiers had removed her home Sunday and that her family now slept in a field. She also said that the land the soldiers are offering are 30 km away and already owned by other villagers.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Election campaigning

On June 26th, one month before Cambodias forth general election since the UN-backed voting in 1993, the election campaign was launched. Phnom Penh Post reports that the streets of the Cambodian capital were filled with political party activists with "banners flapping and bullhorns blaring". There are eleven parties running, but according to Phnom Penh Post is the ruling party CPP widely expected to win the election on July 27th.

Cambodias Prime Minister and leader of CPP, Hun Sen, called for a calm non-violent campaign reports Phnom Penh Post. He urged members of his own party to ignore insults from the oppostion. He also promised a peaceful transfer of power if CPP would lose the poll.

Mar Sophal from the election watchdog Comfrel said, according to Phnom Penh Post, that even if the atmosphere is better than in previous elections, there are still threats against activists among the people.


On July 5th I will attend a course to become an election observer for Comfrel. I have to be honest no idea what you're suppose to do when observing the voting...make sure no one is apparantly threating each other? I will return to this subject after the 5th.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Khmer Rouge murderer arrested

The last of the four former Khmer Rouge soldiers involved in the murder of British mine decommissioning expert Christoffer Howes in 1996 has finally been arrested according to Daily Mail. Howes was kidnapped together with 20 other deminers. The rest of the team were in time released, but Howes and his Cambodian translator, Huon Huot, were shot. Howe's remains were found in 1998. According to the arrested soldiers, the murder was on the command of the military commander Ta Mok, who died in July 2006.

During the turbulent years of the 1990's the Khmer Rouge killed at least ten foreign tourists and workers.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New conditions for the approaching poll?

Asia Times reports that the medium- and smallsized opposition parties in Cambodia might form a coalition to compete with the ruling Cambodian People's Party, CPP, in July's election. The three main opposition parties taking part in the discussion on forming a coalition are the Sam Rainsy Party, SRP, the Human Rights Party, HRP, and the Norodom Ranariddh Party, NRP.

The major oppostion party, SRP, has been in the opposition for over ten years. According to Asia Times, it still does not represent a real democratic challenge to the CPP. It has also had problems with internal discord in recent years.

The HRP was formed in July last year by the founder of Cambodian Center for Human Rights, CCHR, Kem Sokha. Several well known political figures have since joined the party. Sokha has been imprisoned for criticizing Prime Minister Huns Sen's policies in public, and has a reputation for fighting corruption and human rights abuses.

The NRP was formed in 2006 by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the leading party founder of the royalist Funcinpec party. Prince Ranariddh left the Funcinpec party, who is currently in coalition with the CPP, and formed the NRP after some time of internal conflicts that undermined the formerly very strong Funcinpec. In the 1993 election Funcinpec was the top vote recipient. From 1993 until the CPP coup in 1997 Cambodia had two Prime Ministers: First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Hun Sen's party, the CPP has been accused of harrassing and threatening opposition party members reports Asia Times. The president of CCHR, Ou Virak, sais that even if the upcoming election will have a better environment than previous, it will still not be free and fair by international standards. He tells Asia Times that opposition acitivists have recieved threats in recent months, and that a few have even been killed under mysterious circumstances.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

ECCC out of money

According to The Earth Times, the ECCC have anounced that it needs at least 117 million dollars more to continue past September. The tribunal was originally budgeted at 56 million dollars according to The Earth Times.

According to The Manila Times, ECCC officials said they were confident the court would be able to gather enough funds to stay on schedule.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Devil's advocate postpones hearing

Wednesday, April 23rd, the hearing on Khieu Samphan's appeal was abruptly adjourned, according to the Boston Globe, when Samphan's French lawyer Jacques Vergès refused to continue. He claimed that the court documents had not been translated into French, and that he because of that where unable to know what his client was accused of. The tribunal's judges warned Vergès later for his behaviour that caused the hearing's postponement. On Thursday 24th, Khieu Samphan's Cambodian lawyer Say Bory, asked Vergès to tone down his aggressive style.

83-year-old Jacques Vergès has been called "the Devil's advocate" because of his controversial clients. Among others he has been defending Klaus Barbie, Carlos the Jackal and Slobodan Milosevic. Last year he was the subject for the feature-length documentary film "Terror's Advocate" by Barbet Schroeder.

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Scientists will examine Tonle Sap

Cambodia's - and South East Asia's - largest lake Tonle Sap will be examined by a coalition of Thai and Finnish scientist according to The scientists aim to find the potential climate-change impacts that the people living around the lake might experience during the next 50 years.

Tonle Sap is the source of protein-rich food for Cambodia's population, but global warming and economic exploitation are destabilising the ecosystem. Locals are finding it more difficult to survive. The government has aggressively exploit the lake's fisheries with the watchword of poverty reduction, but reports that sociologist Mak Sithirith of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team said it is not the poor who are benefiting. And climate change is adding more anxiety to the communities around the lake.

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Phnom Penh Post goes daily!

The new Australian owners of Phnom Penh Post have decided to turn the old fortnightly newspaper into a daily one according to Thomas Crampton.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cambodia and Thailand willing to share oil and gas resources

According to Radio Australia negotiations between Cambodia and Thailand opened in 1995 on how to divide the sea border. Both countries have been unable to start exploit oil and natural gas resources because of their clashing claims of the. The last round of talks were held in 2006 without getting any closer to an agreement. Radio Australia reports thats the director-general of Cambodia's National Petroleum Authority, Te Duong Tara says talks might resume as early as this April.

Radio Australia says Cambodia is planning to begin oil production in 2011.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Prosecutors request new investigations

UN News Centre reports that the co-prosecutors at the UN-backed "Khmer Rouge-tribunal", the ECCC, have called for the judges to investigate alleged crimes at a security and detention centre between 1975 and 1979. The allegations have been raised by victims and civil society groups. Numerous Cambodians were "unlawfully detained, subjected to inhumane conditions and forced labour, tortured and executed" at the centre according to UN News Centre.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Casino and Resort complex to be built in Sihanoukville

Globes online - Israel's Business Arena, reports that the casino builder and operator QLI (Queenco Leisure International Ltd.) has bought over 9 hectares of land by the sea in Sihanoukville in southern Cambodia to build a beachfront casino. Last year the company bought a 48-hectare lot in the area, and they are planning to develop a new resort and casino complex.

On QLI's website the company announces that they have "acquired exclusive rights from the Cambodian Government for the stretch of beach immediately in front of the site".

I start to wonder whether there will be any public beaches left in Sihanoukville in some years...

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Ieng Sary back in gaol cell

The International Herald Tribune reports that the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary was back in detention Saturday evening after having spent six days at Calmette hospital because of a urinary tract problem. He was hospitalized last Monday after having urinated blood. Ieng Sary's health has now improved according to his lawyer.

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A cruel patriot?

Last Thursday was Nuon Chea, brother number two, back in court reports Al-Jazeera. According to the news channel Nuon Chea is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity including "murder, torture, imprisonment, persecution, extermination, deportation, forcible transfer, enslavement and other inhumane acts". The 81 year old former Khmer Rouge leader argue that h is not a cruel man, but a patriot.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Brother number two in court for the first time

Today, February 4th, Nuon Chea appeared in court for the first time. According to BBC News the oldest of the surving Khmer Rouge leaders asked the judges to adjourn the hearing since his Dutch lawyer had not been registered with the Cambodian Bar Association as required. After an hour of private discussions, the judges agreed. The hearing is planned to continue on Wednesday.

According to AP the Cambodian Bar Association refused to swear the Dutch lawyer in last week after he had petitioned the court for the removal of one of the Cambodian judges in the tribunal's pre-trial chamber. They also accused him for breaching the associations rules when acting as Nuon Chea's defense Counsel before he had been formally sworn in.

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FBI director pleased with Cambodia

According to Radio Australia, FBI boss Robert Muller, is in Cambodia to discuss law enforcement. FBI has just opened an office in Phnom Penh because of growing concern over regional extremists. Radio Australia said Muller praised Cambodia for it's role in America's war on terror. Last April Cambodian National Police Chief Hok Lundy visited Washington for anti-terror talks with the FBI.

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