Sunday, January 27, 2008

Skyscraper in Phnom Penh

A 42 storey high skyscraper is planned to be build on Norodom Boulevard by a South Korean company according to BBC News. "Golden tower 42" is one of three planned skyscrapers.

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Cambodian stock exchange to open next year

The Economic Times sais that South Korean bourse operator the Korea Exchange, KRX has agreed with the Cambodian government to set up a joint stock exchange in Cambodia in 2009.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Release scapegoats!

Today, January 22, Amnesty International releases a public statement which calls for the release of two men who are unfairly imprisoned for the murder of labour union leader Chea Vichea. For exactly four years ago, on January 22, 2004, 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.

Souhayr Belhassen, the president of the International Federation for Human Rights said, according to the Amnesty statement, that "there is compelling evidence that these two men were targeted by the authorities as scapegoats for the murder".

Amnesty International also states that there has been an "ongoing pattern of violence against trade union activists in Cambodia". Two other labour unionists have been murdered since 2004 and many have been subjected to physical assaults.

Guy Ryder from the International Trade Union Confederation said the murders "sends a deplorable message to Cambodian workers that trade union membership or activity will put their safety at risk".

Amnesty International's Southeast Asia researcher Brittis Edman concluded that "four years after the murder of Chea Vichea, the true perpetrators remain at large while two innocent men are imprisoned. This deep injustice shows the sorry state of rule of law in Cambodia and the urgent need for genuine legal and judicial reform."

A joint statement by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Asian Human Rights Commission, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a joint program of the International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organization Against Torture) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) calls on the Cambodian authorities to exonerate and free Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, and to launch an independent public inquiry into the handling of the prosecution of them and a full and impartial investigation of the murder. The organisations also urge the Cambodian government to act against "Cambodia’s endemic impunity and lack of rule of law, government interference in the judiciary, intimidation and violence faced by trade union members and leaders, and widespread torture by the police".

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Judges ask for help from former KR-fighters

According to The Australian, investigating judges from ECCC ("Khmer Rouge tribunal) have had a meeting with former Khmer Rouge fighters in Pailin, the Khmer Rouge's final stronghold in western Cambodia. The judges assured that they did not intend to arrest any of the former fighters, but they had the meeting to ask for help to convict the five former high ranking Khmer Rouge cadres already in custody.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Farrow's memorial ceremony barred

Hollywood actress Mia Farrow wanted to hold a genocide memorial ceremony with her group Dream for Darfur at genocide museum Toul Sleng, the former Khmer Rouge-prison, according to AP. She wanted to do this to call attention to the current situation in Darfur. Dream for Darfur is on a tour to visit seven countries that have suffered genocide. As part of the memorial Farrow would light an Olympic-style torch to press China to use its influence on Sudan. China is one of Sudan's major trading partners, and a major donor to Cambodia.

The Cambodian government did not agree to the ceremony, calling it a "political stunt to smear China", but Farrow insisted. Today, January 20th, police blocked Farrow's group of activists away from Toul Sleng sais AP. When the police started to forcefully push them away, they eventually left the site. No one was getting hurt.

The Cambodian governments action was criticized by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Phnom Penh Post's new owners

Two Australians have bought a controlling interest in Cambodia's most independent English-language newspaper Phnom Penh Post, according to The Australian. One of the two businessmen, Ross Dunkley, is the Editor-in-Chief of the Burmese newspaper Myanmar Times, which according to The Australian is a mouthpiece of the Junta. The new owners have promised that Phnom Penh Post will remain independent.

I certainly hope that they will keep that promise. I think Myanmar Times professed to be an independent newspaper when it started as well. But it is of course much tougher to stay independent in Burma, where every publication is censored.

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Last Year

Phnom Penh Post has made a review of the year 2007.

They report, among other things that Sihanoukville Airport was reopened in January, and that the Governor of Phnom Penh signed a lease for an 133 hectare area around and including the lake Boueng Kak (which could lead to eviction for thousands of residents) in February. In the same month the World Bank said in a report that the Cambodian Government has to do more to help working children in the country, the Council of Ministers approved a draft law which meant a first step towards a stock market and the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers Hy Vuthy was murdered.

In March the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Kem Sokha, announced that he will form a new political party (four months later the Human Rights Party was launched) and 300 people marched the 315 kilometres from Phnom Penh to Bayon Temple where they performed a ceremony for non-violence, political tolerance and freedom of expression.

On April 1 commune elections were held. The ruling Cambodian People's Party, CPP, finished with control of 98.2 percent of the commune councils. Later that month the Appeals Court upheld the prison sentences of two men accused of the murder of the former leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers Chea Vichea (january 2004). This decision was condemned by international and local rights groups which considered the criminal investigation and trial flawed.

In May UN human rights envoy Yash Gai visited Cambodia without succiding in his efforts to have a meeting with prime minister Hun Sen and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development announced that it will support a $11.5 million development project to help poor people in rural areas.

kicked off with the release of a report by NGO Global Witness about extensive involvement by government officials in illegal logging. A week later the National Assembly approved Cambodia's new Criminal Procedural Code. June 12th Yash Ghai released a "damning assessment" (Phnom Penh Post) of the human rights situation in Cambodia. Later that month the government declared that it was illegal for Buddhist monks to participate in demonstrations and a decade-old Russian made plane crashed in of Kampot province.

In July General Electric launched its Phnom Penh branch, one of many signs of a growing international business in Cambodian markets. The next day Bobby Charlton and Tony Hawk visited Cambodia and the Spirit of Soccer program which educates children about the dangers of landmines. Kaing Khek Iev, aka Duch, were charged with crimes against humanity by the ECCC.

An August 20th International Monetary Fund study estimated Cambodia's possibilities to benefit from oil production. According to the IMF study, Cambodia could earn $174 million in 2011, rising to $1.7 billion after 10 years. During the last days of the month the first ever "Clogger Summit" was held. Khmer bloggers discussed blogging issues such as limited access to internet and the tendency to write in English among Khmer bloggers.

In September, Nuon Chea, brother number two, was arrested. But a drawback for the tribunal were the several audit reports that stated that the Cambodian side of the tribunal was an administrative failure, and in early

...October, an UNDP audit report found that some Cambodians working at the tribunal were being paid several thousand dollars.* For the sake of national security Cambodia officially established an Intelligence Department in October to collect information from abroad. The same month Prince Norodom Ranariddh's Municipal Court Conviction for breach of trust was upheld by the Appeals Court. Norodom Ranariddh is the former president of the royalist party Funcinpec and also former president of the National Assembly. A second decade-old Russian made plane crashed. This time in Kandal province. The rest of Cambodias old Russian-made planes were grounded pending reults from the investigations into both crashes. In the end of the month three voter watchdog groups complained that there had been problems with the voter registration list, but the National Election Committee said it were not going to extend the voter registration period.

November 1th Cambodia got a visit from North korean PM Kim Yung Il (not to confuse with Kim Jung Il). Trade agreements were being signed. Later that month Ieng Sary, brother number three, and his wife Ieng Thirith, the highest ranking woman in the Khmer Rouge leadership, were arrested. A few days later Khieu Samphan, the official head of State during the Khmer Rouge regime, allegedly suffered a stroke and was brought by helicopter to Phnom Penh. Yet a few days later Khieu Samphan was arrested. With him the five highest-ranking Khmer Rouge leaders still alive are imprisoned. November 20th the ECCC held the first open hearing. It was Kaing Khek Iev who was the first to sit in the dock.

In December Transparency International released the result of its 2007 Global Corruption Barometer survey. Cambodia ended up second-to-last out of 60 countries.

* To compare with the $25 salary of a government employee.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008


"Under an agreement signed by the UN and Cambodia, the ECCC [the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia] was set up as an independent court using a mixture of Cambodian staff and judges and foreign personnel. It is designated to try those deemed most responsible for crimes and serious violations of Cambodian and international law between 17 April 1975 and 6 January 1979."

(UN News Centre)