Group 78 evicted

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"They came and evicted us today without violence, because they already threatened us with their words," resident Hem Many, 29, said. "It shows that this country does not respect law; they respect the power."

AT dawn on Friday, police in riot gear, military officers and truckloads of demolition workers entered Group 78, an inner-city Phnom Penh community that once held more than 80 families. Despite eviction threats, four families remained in their homes, hoping for better a deal.

Upon entering the community, the scores of red-shirted workers started tearing down the community's homes, and by midday the community had been razed, marking the end of the inner-city community that residents say is over 25 years old.

"They came and evicted us today without violence, because they already threatened us with their words," resident Hem Many, 29, said. "It shows that this country does not respect law; they respect the power."

Though there was no physical violence during the eviction, residents say the government's previous verbal threats combined with Friday's show of armed force intimidated the residents into leaving their homes and prevented fair, last-minute negotiations from taking place.

Resident Suong Sarin said that no one in the community wanted to accept any of the government compensation packages, but that people felt they had no choice.

"Nobody here volunteered to get compensation, but we had to agree with the government. Accepting the government money is better than if they demolish our houses and we have empty hands," he said.

In the morning, the six families who had previously refused to accept government compensation met with Mann Chhoeun, the Phnom Penh deputy governor, and discussed compensation packages. While their community was being dismantled, the families agreed to accept government money, though one family told the Post the government tricked them into leaving their home.

Three families, according to Group 78 representative Kheng Soroth, will receive US$20,000, while two families agreed to accept $9,000.

Photo by: Christopher Shay
A woman piles up the wooden planks that used to make up her house in Group 78, a community in central Phnom Penh that was forcibly evicted on Friday morning.
But Kheng Soroth said he will refuse the $8,000 being offered to him, because Mann Chhoeun reneged on his agreement. Kheng Soroth said the Deputy Governor promised his family $20,000, but after their homes were demolished, he was told he would get only $8,000.

Mann Chhoeun, however, claimed all Group 78 residents had agreed to let the government tear their houses down.

"Today, we evicted people without violence, because all the residents agree to have their houses torn down," he said, adding that City Hall will give families clothes, books and food as gifts.

But Mann Chhoeun's promises of presents did not placate all Group 78 residents.

Hem Many said that if she could, she would get back at Municipal officials responsible for the destruction of her home.

"In the future, if I become rich or a high-ranking officer, I will demolish the former high-ranking officers' houses so they will know how it feels when they meet that situation."

During Friday's eviction, six embassies and five international organisations including the United Nations and the World Bank released a joint statement calling for a moratorium on land evictions until a better mechanism for resolving land dispute is put in place.

The statement does not mention Group 78 specifically nor does it call any of Phnom Penh's previous the land evictions illegal, but it says Cambodia's policies and practices "do not make effective use of the procedures and institutions allowed for in Cambodian law."

The group's choice to release the statement right as the community's houses were being knocked down and its refusal to condemn the Cambodian government in harsher terms came under criticism from civil society groups.

Dan Nicholson, a coordinator at Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), said that the statement was "completely irrelevant" for Group 78, and David Pred, the director of Bridges Across Borders, said that though it is significant that major donors "have publicly acknowledged that the current systems of dispute resolution ... are not fair and transparent ... their words will ring hollow ... unless they are backed up by real consequences."

A coordinator for the Community Legal Education Centre, Man Vuthy, said that the evictions were clearly in violation of Cambodian law.

Many of the families should have received land titles since they have been living on the land for five years prior to the 2001 Land Law, and that they should receive "fair and just compensation in advance" if the government can prove their evictions are for the public interest.

"The government should pay before they smash their houses," he said as the Group78 homes were being demolished around him.
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Oun Sos, 60, gathers all her belonging in Phnom Penh’s Group 78 community on Friday. In the early morning, armed security forces and demolition teams evicted the families that had chosen to remain despite eviction threats.


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Tourists to Siem Reap down 0.6pc in first half

SIEM Reap's tourism department said the overall number of tourists visiting the province dropped slightly in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year.

The department said the number of local tourists rose 11 percent to 692,000, which almost offset the 13-percent decline in foreign visitors.

Than Chhayvanna, deputy administrator of the provincial tourism department, told the Post that total numbers dipped 0.6 percent to 1.195 million. Around 503,000 were foreign tourists, down from 578,000.

She blamed the decline in part on the global economic crisis.

"The other factor was political unrest in Thailand, but the key issue now is swine flu," Than Chhayvanna said. "However ... local tourists increased a lot, which means that the tourism industry in my province is still good."

Kong Sophearak, director of the Ministry of Tourism's statistics department, said the key to boosting tourism revenue is to emulate China and focus more on domestic tourism.

He said foreign tourists spent US$1.6 billion in 2008, which equates to $118 per foreign tourist per day. The ministry does not calculate revenue from local tourists, he said, but it is certainly substantially lower.

Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the tourism working group, a government-private sector initiative, said the difference in revenue between the two categories explains why boosting local tourist numbers will not solve the problem entirely. But he said the government is trying hard to make Cambodia the most attractive destination in Asia.

"We have a variety of tourism destinations to entice tourists - such as the white sand beaches on the coast, eco-tourism, and soon a new amusement park [on Bokor mountain]," he said.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told the Post on Thursday that the government is working to improve services and said one focus is to open new border crossings.

"We are trying to make things more convenient ... which is a key issue," he said. "Also we are looking to get rid of other unnecessary barriers and introduce visa exemptions."

Thong Khon said safety and cutting prices for tourism products remain ongoing priorities.

Statistics from the ministry show that 2.85 million Cambodians travelled as tourists inside the Kingdom in the first five months of this year, up 5.3 percent on the same period in 2008. The total number of Cambodian tourists was 6.7 million for 2008.

About 2.12 million foreign nationals visited the Kingdom last year, with the number of foreign visitors down 2.2 percent in the first five months to 946,000.

Tourists gather at one of the temples outside of Siem Reap. BLOOMBERG


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Preah Vihear: the history of a denial or a denegation of the history


The end of the history announced by Fukuyama continues endlessly, and the shock of the civilizations of Huntington, is nothing else than the shock of the interests and the weapons, in defiance of any notion of civilization, but thus, the shock, only, prevails there. We are here to the antipodes of the ethics of the responsibility, the moral value of which is not determined by the intentions but by the sociopolitical consequences and the ethics of pure conviction in which the abstract notions of very moral or of duty have a precedence absolved on the possibility of realizing an action or its long-dated results. Indomitable and generous, an immoral rewriting of the history is always possible by the Pharisees, sophists and the casuists in the same mould, through their insidious prism, and the canons of a deleterious archaism, which lean on the denial of existence and on the aporie. Indeed, beyond a historic and political analysis in situ, of the present Thai government, acting more as a synarchy or camarilla to resume a Gaullien vocabulary, than rulers elected democratically do this analysis in an anthropological and civilizational perspective.

Applied to the case of Preah Vihear, this denial of existence or this denegation of the history, by these scholastics, open a spectrum of understanding and explanation which would deserve that we linger there. The Thai ethnocentrism, this avatar of past, but nevertheless recurring and resilient of the humanity, condemns any symbol expressing the past greatness of our late Khmer empire. It crystallizes not above all, greed, jealousies, fears and scorn, but, at first and above all, a denial of existence or nonexistence as parent of the Thai culture, or more exactly Siamese. The vain palinodes, the uttered slanders, the invasions, the deportations, the plunders, the crimes, the confiscation of our knowledge, through a re-appropriation of our culture, the lethal jealousies, the violations of our sovereignty for many centuries, until today even, establish at once, a reject and an attraction, the fear of seeing reappearing the Khmer genius, and probably the mark of a true but unconfessed admiration.

The Khmer intellectual empyrée, in its apogee, ruled over during centuries and influenced many parts of the country, including until the Siamese royal court of former days. This annoying reality, especially in this 21st century, does not stop stressing the contempt of our Thai neighbors, towards their former powerful neighbor, that is, towards themselves especially, very incapable point to understand, but to accept that the genius of people confronts, in what this genius allowed to carry out for the humanity and, that once finished, to restore it to the humanity for the future generations. For that purpose, the Khmer civilization and Khmer genius, throughout its long history, brought to the humanity its most beautiful brilliant works, to humanize the humanity by its understanding of the universe and the harmony, which surrounds it there. The grateful humanity, has declared that this monument called Preah Vihear, dedicated to kings, to princes, to goddesses and to universe, is well and truly the work of the Khmer genius. This legacy is a fact, an indivisible reality of the Khmer genius. That this legacy, is still subject to debate nowadays, is a degradation in the gratitude of a been in love humanity, a peace and a justice, an insult, to the abyssales pain of people tortured by the war and genocide always traumatizing. This insult, demonstrates well the unreliability of an oligarchy denigrator in power.

Strange immature Thailand, the tamed smile of which has an equal whom its turpitude, its duplicity, its certainties obsessed in front of the history and its insensitivity in front of the human tragedy, far, of this plastic smile conveyed by the media of the world. These Pharisees do not deny not any contradiction, they carry them even, while easing it, under a friendliness of surface that a fury almost manslaughter animates, which weighs its weight of ambiguity and is reflected a dangerous and inexorable evolution. These vehemence and hoarded hypocrisies, this paralogisme and this blindness in front of the turned out history, for many centuries and which re-appear sporadically, express more than ever, this overcompensation of their culture, arisen from ours. Indeed, of this précellence of the inconceivable Khmer culture towards today, it is advisable to add, the refusal persisted in understanding the understandable and in accepting the acceptable.

The inanity of this double refusal engenders a paroxystic frustration, a hyperbolism in acts, among which the present events, at once pathetic and even comic, which are daily delivered to us, would not miss to make smile, if there had been no loss of life, and a conflict to become there. The Thai textbooks of history, indicates, in which point the forgery of the history towards their Khmer neighbors turns out to be truncated. In addition, it is very there where is situated the focal. The indoctrination of the whole generations of Thai, concerns the denial, on the spoliation of the knowledges and an apocryphal Khmer history in the name of a certain idea of their nationalism. Nonetheless, the greatness of a nation does not confront in its GDP, its megalopolises, its éxogèneité… only, but also and especially in the way this country reconciles with humility, its past and its present, and consents, that no cause, it was, wholesome for one, does not rest on the denial of others. To cross of this vicious circle in a virtuous circle, no man would satisfy of a sum of shams, an aggregate of good will, either still, the fact of the prince, but an authentic willingness based on human complicity, the intellectual righteousness and the moral integrity.

Reconcile the irreconcilable and to make likely the improbable, so that the likely becomes true, which is our mission before the coming challenges, which the stakes are incommensurably different. Plentiful, honest people, which populate this beautiful and proud country, which the taste of the difference, the sense of the equity, the feeling of the respect, more than the hostility, constitute the base of the contemporary homo-oeconomicus. Listen to their voice too.

By Khaou Vireth Vathdey


Fonder of éponyme cabinet
Preah Vihear : l’histoire d’un déni ou la dénégation de l’histoire.

La fin de l’histoire annoncée par Fukuyama continue à n’en plus finir, et le choc des civilisations de Huntington, n’est rien d’autre que le choc des intérêts et des armes, au mépris de toute notion même de civilisation, mais donc, le choc, seul, y prévaut. Nous voilà aux antipodes de l'éthique de la responsabilité, dont la valeur morale n'est pas déterminée par les intentions mais par les conséquences sociopolitiques et l'éthique de pure conviction dans laquelle les notions abstraites de bien moral ou de devoir ont une préséance absolue sur la possibilité de réaliser une action ou ses résultats à longue échéance. Indomptable et généreuse, l’histoire, de par sa réécriture immorale toujours possible, par les pharisiens, les sophistes et casuistes de tout acabit, à travers leur prisme insidieux, et les canons d’un archaïsme délétère, s’appuie sur le déni d’existence de l’autre, sur une béante aporie. Bien au-delà d’une analyse historico-politique in situ du présent gouvernement thaï, actant plus comme une synarchie ou camarilla pour reprendre un vocabulaire Gaullien, que gouvernants élus démocratiquement, plaçons cette analyse dans une perspective anthropologique et civilisationnelle.

Appliqué au cas de Preah Vihear, ce déni d’existence ou cette dénégation de l’histoire, par ces scolastiques, ouvre un spectre de compréhension et d’explication qui mériterait que l’on s’y attarde. L’ethnocentrisme thaïlandais, cet avatar du passé, mais néanmoins récurrent et résilient de l’humanité, condamne tout symbole exprimant la grandeur passée de notre feu empire Khmer. Il cristallise non pas avant tout, convoitises, jalousies, craintes et mépris, mais, d’abord et avant tout, un déni d’existence ou de non-existence en tant que parent de la culture thaïe, ou plus exactement siamoise. Les vaines palinodies, les infamies proférées, les invasions, les déportations, les pillages, les crimes, les confiscations de notre savoir, à travers une réappropriation de notre culture, les jalousies létales, les violations répétées de notre souveraineté, depuis bien des siècles, jusqu’à aujourd’hui encore, constituent à la fois, ce me semble, un rejet et une attraction, la crainte de voir resurgir le génie khmer, et probablement la marque d’une admiration éprouvée, mais inavouée.

L’empyrée intellectuel khmer, à son apogée, régenta indéniablement, pendant des siècles et influença bien des contrées, y compris jusqu’à la cour royale siamoise d’antan. Cette fâcheuse réalité, surtout en ce 21ème siècle, ne cesse d’accentuer le mépris de nos voisins thaïs, à l’égard de leur ancien puissant voisin, c'est-à-dire, à l’égard d’eux-mêmes surtout, bien incapables non point de comprendre, mais d’accepter que le génie d’un peuple se mesure, à ce que ce génie a permis d’accomplir pour l’humanité et, qu’une fois achevé, de le restituer à l’humanité pour les générations futures. A cet effet, le génie et la civilisation khmers, tout au long de son histoire, apportèrent à l’humanité ses plus belles œuvres, pour humaniser l’humanité par sa compréhension de l’univers et de l’harmonie qui l’y entoure. L’humanité reconnaissante, a déclaré que ce monument dénommé Preah Vihear, dédié aux rois, aux princes, aux déesses et à l’univers, est bel et bien l’œuvre du génie khmer. Ce legs est un fait, une réalité insécable de ce génie. Que ce legs, soit encore sujet à polémique de nos jours, est un avilissement à la gratitude d’une humanité éprise, de paix et de justice, une injure, presqu’une insulte aux afflictions abyssales d’un peuple martyrisé par la guerre et d’un génocide toujours traumatisant. Cet affront, démontre bien, nul n’en doute, la perfidie d’une oligarchie contemptrice au pouvoir.

Étrange immature Thaïlande, dont le sourire apprivoisé n’a d’égal que ses turpitudes, sa duplicité, ses certitudes obnubilées face à l’histoire et son insensibilité face à la tragédie humaine, bien loin, de ce sourire plastique véhiculé par les médias du monde. Ces pharisiens, ne nient aucunement les contradictions, ils les portent même, tout en l’atténuant, sous une aménité de surface qu’anime une fureur presque homicide, qui pèse son poids d’ambiguïté et reflète une évolution dangereuse et inexorable. Ces véhémences et hypocrisies thésaurisées, ce paralogisme et cette cécité face à l’histoire avérée, depuis bien des siècles et qui ressurgissent sporadiquement, expriment plus que jamais, cette surcompensation de leur culture, née de la nôtre. En effet, de cette précellence de la culture khmère inconcevable au regard d’aujourd’hui, il convient d’ajouter, le refus obstiné de comprendre le compréhensible et d’accepter l’acceptable.

L’inanité de ce double refus engendre une frustration paroxystique, un hyperbolisme dans les actes, dont les évènements actuels, à la fois pitoyables et piteux, voire burlesques, qui nous sont livrés quotidiennement, ne manqueraient pas de faire sourire, s’il n’y avait eu morts d’hommes, et un conflit en devenir. Le parcours des manuels d’histoire thaïs, indique, à quel point la falsification de l’histoire à l’égard de leurs voisins khmers s’avère être tronqué. Et, c’est bien là où se situe le focal. L’endoctrinement des générations entières de Thaïlandais, porte sur le déni, les contrevérités, sur la spoliation des savoirs et une histoire apocryphe de leur voisin, au nom d’une certaine idée du nationalisme. Cependant, la grandeur d’une nation ne se mesure point seulement à son PIB, ses mégalopoles, son éxogèneité…mais aussi et surtout à la manière dont ce pays concilie et accepte avec humilité, son passé et son présent, et consent, qu’aucune cause, fut-elle, salutaire pour soi, ne se repose sur le déni d’autrui. Pour passer de ce cercle vicieux à un cercle vertueux, nul ne saurait contenter, d’une somme de faux-semblants, d’un agrégat de bon vouloir, ou bien encore, le fait du prince, mais bien d’une authentique bonne volonté établie sur l’humaine connivence, la probité intellectuelle et l’intégrité morale.

Réconcilier l’inconciliable et rendre probable l’improbable, pour que le vraisemblable devienne vrai, telle est notre mission, avant que d’autres défis ne surviennent, et dont les enjeux sont bien autres. Abondants, les gens honnêtes, qui peuplent ce beau et fier pays, dont le goût du discernement, le sens du juste, le sentiment du respect, plus que de l’inimitié, constituent le soubassement de l’homo œconomicus contemporain. Écoutons aussi leur voix.


READ MORE - Preah Vihear: the history of a denial or a denegation of the history

UN criticizes Cambodia over land eviction

Friday, July 17, 2009

Phnom Penh - The UN on Friday joined a chorus of international criticism aimed at the Cambodian government's handling of a land dispute that led to a community of more than 70 families surrendering its property to developers on Thursday and Friday.

A statement by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed 'regret' over the eviction of the riverside community, known as Group 78, saying the residents 'had to leave their settlement before their claims to land ownership had been adequately determined by the relevant judicial and administrative mechanisms.'

'This eviction sends the signal to communities with similar claims that, no matter what their rights are under the law, development interests trump due process and land rights,' it said. 'The relocation was not voluntary, as families left under duress and were presented with no other option but to accept inadequate compensation.'

Witnesses said more than 60 police officers dressed in riot gear entered the settlement at dawn Friday to remove a handful of families who had refused government compensation offers of 8,000 US dollars for their homes.

The families reportedly left their homes peacefully after accepting a new compensation offer.

Workers from the Phnom Penh Municipal Authority began dismantling houses in the settlement Thursday after a first round of families accepted the offer.

City authorities say the eviction is part of a 'beautification' project in the area, which is located near the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and is regarded as some of the most valuable land in the capital.

The Group 78 settlement will likely be cleared to build a road leading to a new bridge, city officials say.

Kan Sophal, who lived in the collection of wooden and corrugated-iron shacks for 10 years, said he did not know where his family of five would relocate.

'We accept the offer and we are leaving,' he said as workers hacked into walls of his home. 'But there was no offer of land with the compensation, so we do not know where we will go.'

Mann Chhoeun, Phnom Penh's deputy governor, said workers had been instructed to keep building materials and structures intact so the families could reconstruct them on new plots of land.

'This process has been done in a respectful and humanitarian way,' he said.

The World Bank, the European Union, and a range of international embassies in the capital on Thursday evening issued a joint statement on the eviction, which called on the government to 'stop forced evictions from disputed areas in Phnom Penh and elsewhere in the country.'

'This has become a major problem in Phnom Penh and other fast-growing cities in Cambodia - creating uncertainty for, and putting at risk the livelihoods of, thousands of poor people living in disputed urban areas,' the statement said.

Amnesty International condemned the eviction, saying the families had 'no choice but to accept inadequate compensation rather than have their homes demolished.'

'The Municipality of Phnom Penh made no attempts to properly consult with the affected community or explore any feasible alternative to eviction,' said Brittis Edman, an Amnesty representative in Cambodia. 'This makes a mockery of the government's obligations to protect the right to housing.'

Read more:


READ MORE - UN criticizes Cambodia over land eviction

How To Treat Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis and post-nasal drip can be treated, but patients should know the best way to do it, a doctor said Thursday.

Antihistamines are used to treat both conditions, but picking the right one is important, said Taing Tek Hong, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Sedating antihistamines, such as Benadryl and Clemastine, can work, he said. But these should be avoided in patients who need to drive or use dangerous equipment. Alternatives include non-sedating medicines like Zyrtec or Claritin. Most of these are found over the counter.

Decongestant sprays quickly reduce swelling of nasal tissues by shrinking the blood vessels, the doctor said. They improve breathing and drainage over the short term. The most common decongestant is Sudafed, an oral decongestant that temporarily reduce swelling of sinus and nasal tissues.

Montelukast, or Singulair, can be used by patients who do not wish to use nasal sprays or who have co-existing asthma, Taing Tek Hong said.

Nasonex is the only prescription nasal spray clinically proven to help prevent most seasonal nasal allergy symptoms in adults and children, he said.

It helps treat nasal allergy symptoms caused by dust mites, pet dander and tree and grass pollen.

Other treatments include immunotherapy, such as a weekly injection of a solution containing allergens that increases gradually, reducing the sensitivity to the allergen.

Surgery can help in complicated conditions, such as chronic sinusitis, severe septal deviation causing an obstruction, nasal polyps or other anatomical abnormalities, Taing Tek Hong said.

A caller from Kampong Cham province asked how a food allergy might be treated.

While many people assume they have an allergy after they experience a reaction to food, the doctor said, such allergies are rare. However, food intolerance can affect nearly everyone at some time, he said.


READ MORE - How To Treat Allergic Rhinitis

Cambodian security forces forcibly evict 60 low-income families

Sixty low-income families in central Phnom Penh, Cambodia were forcibly evicted from their homes by security forces on Thursday and Friday.

The families dismantled their homes after three years of government harassment and intimidation, with no choice but to accept inadequate compensation rather than have their homes demolished.

"Amnesty International strongly condemns this forced eviction and the deeply flawed process that led to it," said Brittis Edman, Amnesty International's Cambodia researcher.

Before dawn on Friday, at least 70 security forces, some armed with guns and electronic batons, moved in and blocked off the area known as Group 78 where four remaining families were holding out. Human rights workers and journalists were monitoring the situation. Dozens of hired workers demolished what was left of the dismantled houses. Within hours, the resisting families had agreed to leave.

The families in Group 78 had been living under the threat of forced evictions for three years, with the Cambodian authorities following none of the safeguards required under international law.

"Group 78 was clearly cut off from due process and denied justice. The Municipality of Phnom Penh made no attempts to properly consult with the affected community or explore any feasible alternative to eviction," said Brittis Edman. "This makes a mockery of the government's obligations to protect the right to housing."

The Municipality issued a final eviction notice to Group 78 in April 2009 and, in a series of subsequent meetings, officials, including Phnom Penh's deputy governor, warned the community that the police and military police would demolish their homes if they did not accept the compensation on offer. The community had also received information that up to 700 security forces had been mobilized for the eviction.

Group 78 residents started moving into the area on the riverfront in 1983 and have applied for formal land titles several times since 2006, but the authorities have ignored their applications in spite of official documentation proving strong ownership claims.

The final eviction order was issued by the Municipality, which has no mandate under national law to issue such a document, and without the judicial overview required under the 2001 Land Law. It was issued despite the fact that a local Commission has yet to determine who owns the disputed land. The options for alternative accommodation and compensation offered by the Municipality were inadequate.

Under international law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (ICESCR), Cambodia is prohibited from carrying out forced evictions, and must protect people from forced evictions.

The Cambodian Government has consistently failed to guarantee the right to adequate housing and protect its population against forced evictions. In 2008 alone, Amnesty International received reports about 27 forced evictions, affecting an estimated 23,000 people. Amnesty International is repeating its calls on the government to end forced evictions and introduce a moratorium on all mass evictions until the legal framework protects human rights.

As part of its Demand Dignity campaign, launched in May 2009, Amnesty International has called on the Cambodian Government to end forced evictions and introduce a moratorium on all mass evictions until the legal framework protects human rights.

The organization also called on governments globally to take all necessary measures, including the adoption of laws and policies that comply with international human rights law, to prohibit and prevent forced evictions.


READ MORE - Cambodian security forces forcibly evict 60 low-income families

US Aid ‘Fits’ Cambodian Needs: Officials

With questions arising over the focus of US developmental assistance, officials and analysts say US involvement in Cambodia can help the country stay on a democratic path and respect human rights.

Oxfam America issued a report in June saying US assistance in Cambodia needed clarity of purpose and guarantees it was reaching those it was meant to help.

The report comes amid improving bilateral relations between the two, with the US lifting of a ban on direct aid in 2007 and the recent removal of Cambodia from a US list of Marxist-Leninist countries.

Cambodia says the aid has come with clear objectives that match the government’s development priorities, especially in the social sector.

“US aid has so far fit with what Cambodia wants,” Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said by phone last week. “For example, assistance in the health sector that the US focuses on is in infectious diseases, maternal health, and, recently, the flu.”

Oxfam acknowledged a positive impact from US aid in protecting citizens’ rights through legal advocacy, improving income and active participation in community work. But the report also highlighted doubts over a policy shift, with civil society concerned that democracy and human rights were no longer a US priority.

“Cambodia still has problems related to the respect for human rights and democracy,” Yeng Virak, executive director of Community Legal Education Centre, told VOA Khmer in a phone interview. “We think it is still a priority…and we need support from America.”

US assistance to Cambodia averaged $41.55 million between 2002 and 2007, with its focus mainly on health, especially in HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention. Some of the money went to strengthening the rule of law, human rights, good governance and civil society.

“We’ve had a long history of working on specific areas with the government and civil society, and in general we try to seek a coordinated approach,” US Embassy spokesman John Johnson told VOA Khmer recently. “And so on all the issues that come up, whether human rights or rule of law, we work in cooperation with the Royal Government of Cambodia and with our partners in civil society and the NGO community.”

Hang Chhuon Naron, secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance, said most US development is executed by civil society.

“There is still confusion, that once the US improves its relations with Cambodia, it will stay away from civil society,” he said. “This is impossible.”

Development needs remain: post-war Cambodia is plagued by corruption, repressed freedoms, impunity and exploitation.

The country must improve if its leaders expect outside support to continue, said Sam Rainsy, the head of the opposition, whose officials often point out to donors where their money is being spent.

“US policy is very broad,” Sam Rainsy said. “It has helped civil society, and now it has extended its assistance to strengthen better management of our country.”

“If we don’t improve, [the US] won’t help,” he said. On the other hand, “unless it provides assistance, it won’t have access to improving what it deems bad activities within the government.”


READ MORE - US Aid ‘Fits’ Cambodian Needs: Officials

Film Commission to Aid Ailing Industry

The Cambodian Film Commission officially launched Thursday in what local and international filmmakers say could help save the country’s flagging film industry.

Staffed by experienced local and foreign filmmakers, the CFC will train Cambodian professionals in film production and seek to attract more foreign companies to shoot movies in the country.

“The goal is to attract more productions in Cambodia and to be the gate for foreigners,” CFC Executive Director Cedric Eloy said.

Many filmmakers in America, Australia and Europe were previously reluctant to shoot in Cambodia because the country did not make it easy for them to do so, Elroy said. Foreign filmmakers have to go through several ministries and authorities before they are granted shooting permits, he said.

Cambodia’s film industry reached its peak during the 1960s under the leadership of former king Norodom Sihanouk, who directed and starred in myriad films. Although film productions re-emerged a decade ago, the industry has seen a sharp decline for the past few years.

Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Him Chem said at the inauguration Thursday Cambodia welcomed foreign filmmakers.

“Cambodia is a destination for foreign film productions,” he said, adding that the presence of more professional cameras capturing Cambodia could mean the salvation of dying Cambodian films.

Rithy Panh, an internationally recognized filmmaker and director of the Bophana Audiovisual Center, a partner of the CFC, said Thursday that Cambodian film would not die out.

“The CFC will be a training group to make Cambodian films stronger,” he said.


READ MORE - Film Commission to Aid Ailing Industry

Cambodia Readies for Disability Law

King Norodom Sihamoni recently approved a historic law for the disabled, which seeks to improve their lives and promote their rights.

The 60-article law, signed July 3, aims to provide annual financial support for people with serious disabilities, including the elderly, while providing training for people who wish to seek jobs.

In Phnom Penh, the law went into effect Friday, while in all other provinces and municipalities it goes into effect July 22.

The law calls for jail sentences up to five years and fines up to 10 million riel, or $2,500, for those who intentionally abandon the disabled or exploit them.

“This is the first disability law to be implemented in Cambodia’s history,” Sem Sokha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, told VOA Khmer. “I believe it is a very important law for promoting the lives of disabled people and protecting them.”

Three decades of war have given Cambodia more than half a million people with disabilities, creating a large disadvantaged group that faces discrimination in employment, health and education.

This year’s law is the result of heavy lobbying by non-governmental groups since 1996.

“It’s great to have the law signed,” said 45-year-old Yous Pisey, who lost both legs to a landmine 21 years ago and had lived in a Phnom Penh pagoda and sewn scarves until the global financial crisis put her out of work.

“I hope that from now on the government will take a good care of us and search for people with disabilities, like me, to promote our livings by providing an actual career,” she said in a recent interview.

Not everyone is optimistic.

“I don’t think a law can help all people with disabilities,” said one woman who was nine months pregnant with one disabled leg. “I don’t believe this is so.”

Whether or not it helps everyone, the law will help promote the lives of some through education, training and job centers, said Lash Urike, coordinator for Handicap International France.

Ngin Saorath, executive director of Cambodia’s Organization, said his group plans to monitor the implementation of the law closely to ensure people with disabilities benefit from it.


READ MORE - Cambodia Readies for Disability Law

Slow start likely for infant bourse

What is Tong Yang Securities?
Tong Yang Securities is one of the leading investment banks (IBs) in South Korea. It has the largest branch network across the country and the largest retail market share in terms of cash management accounts. We have an outstanding specialty in bond markets; we have been the number one primary dealer in Treasury bonds and also took the first place in the corporate bond market in the first quarter of this year. We have maintained our strong position in almost every IB business, including IPOs.

What preparations are you making ahead of the launch of the Cambodian stock market?
We are carefully assessing the potential of the Cambodia market and setting up an IB practice here. We already have three years' experience in Cambodia and believe we are well ahead of others in preparation for the Cambodia stock exchange.

What exhange-related businessed will you conduct?
We will be an investment bank and financial services company, providing the entire range of services to companies who want to go public on the stock exchange. We will also offer other financial services, such as corporate finance, stock market-related financing services and brokerage services.

How do you rate the exchange's prospects?
It is a little too early and difficult to forecast the future of the new Cambodia Stock Exchange (CSX). However, when we look at neighbouring countries like Vietnam and China, we can somewhat imagine the future of CSX 5 or 10 years down the road. The Vietnamese market was established in 2000, almost 10 years ago, and it started with only two listed companies. Now, almost 400 companies are being traded. And 20 years ago, the Chinese market was opened with only 14 listed companies; now more than 1,000 companies are being traded. By simply comparing these countries with Cambodia in terms of the size of the economies and history of stock markets, we can expect the CSX to have around 40 to 50 companies on the board after 10 years, even though we may only start with a couple of companies.

What must local companies do if they hope to list?
There are several concerns that local companies have when it comes to going public on the stock exchange because for too many years most local companies have operated in a traditional local business environment. [This is characterised by] family businesses, a local standard of accounting, and informal management skills or strategies. There are many issues we should address, but some companies - though not every company - have already met the requirements to go public. But many still need to upgrade their management standards.

The government says it plans to launch the exchange by year end. Do you think any companies will be ready to list then?
I am not in the best position to answer that question, though it will be a little more realistic to say that we still need at least three more months after the complete system is in place. In other words, even if some companies have completed internal IPO preparations and are ready to apply for a listing, those companies still need to go through application, registration and approval processes, and that will take a couple more months. So let's wait until we see the entire system is ready.

Are you currently preparing any companies for an IPO?
We are helping several companies in their preparations for going public, both state-owned enterprises and private companies. We are at the stage of signing contracts with some of them, but this is confidential.

What fees do you charge?
It varies. Each company has different issues to be dealt with, and the size of the IPO is another variable when it comes to the fee, but it is normally between 3 percent and 5 percent of the capital increase resulting from the IPO. For example, if one company successfully sells its shares and increases its capital by $100 million, we charge between 3 and 5 percent of that.

What obstacles are in the way of the stock market?
It is not so much obstacles but challenges that need to be addressed. Information and education continue to be provided to the public. Training programmes need to continue until we have sufficient well-trained human resources in place. A legal framework and accounting standards are still needed. I understand the Cambodian government is working very hard to address these issues, but the private sector also needs to participate and cooperate with the government on this national project.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon has raised concerns that many local companies have no intention of joining the stock market because they are worried that it will make it impossible for them to avoid paying taxes. Do you share his concerns?
I understand what his concerns are about. It is true in part that there are still many local companies that are reluctant to become public companies. I guess it is mainly because they have for too long been settled in the traditional family business environment. However, I believe many intelligent entrepreneurs will soon understand when it is right time for them to change and adapt to the new environment.

Most companies in Cambodia, and even state-owned companies, have never released their financial statements publicly. Do you think they will change their habits if they go public?
The listed companies will be required to release all information that concerns their public shareholders. This is the most important responsibility of public companies towards their public shareowners. And local companies will realise that transparency will eventually take them to a global standard where they can survive and prosper in this tough, competitive world.

Some experts have said that Cambodia does not have the required number of qualified people to establish the securities market by year's end, and that South Korean leaders and experts will be required. What is your view?
I believe that no country has ever had enough resources and experience when they started their stock markets. What we are talking about is the beginning of a long-term national project. We are talking about giving birth to a baby, not a mature adult of a stock exchange. We may only start with a couple of companies on the board at the beginning stage, and then we need to continue to develop the project by providing good education, protection and nutrition etc. But I have no doubt that Cambodia should have a stock exchange now.


READ MORE - Slow start likely for infant bourse

Nissan sales down, but local distributor expects recovery

LOCAL Nissan distributor Narita Motorcare Cambodia has said new vehicle sales halved in the first six months of this year, reflecting a downward trend in the industry also announced recently by its three larger competitors.

But Narith Long, the firm's managing director, said he expects conditions will improve in 2010. "It is hard to believe that the economy will be on hold for the next five years," he said.

"As a car dealer we retain confidence in the automobile market even when the economy slows - people still need old or new cars to get around in."
Narith Long was pinning some of his recovery hopes on Nissan's new 2009 Navara pickup, which has just arrived in-country.

"This [pickup] is the kind of vehicle that Cambodian customers have been waiting for in 2009," he said, adding that the number of customers walking into his showroom has risen this month. Narita Motorcare Cambodia sold around 350 new cars last year.

Out with the old
He was also encouraged by the incentive put forward last year by Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh to encourage the import of new vehicles by banning pre-2000 second-hand cars, he said.

"If this policy is put in place and properly implemented, then it would certainly help car distributors," Narith Long said.
Consumers would also benefit as newer models had better build-quality and in many cases were more environmentally friendly than old cars, he said.

Narith Long is pinning Narita Motorcare’s recovery hopes on the new 2009 Navara, which has just arrived in country.

Tracking real estate
He pointed out that new car sales in Cambodia reflect the real estate market, which has contracted sharply since mid-2008.

"Some customers are awaiting the arrival of new business trends," he said. "They have cash, but they are holding on to it for now."
Toyota distributor TTHK told the Post recently that its sales were down 40 percent in the six months to June 30.

Similar declines were heard from SsangYong distributor Huotraco Automotive, which told the Post it expects the local car market will recover late next year or early 2011.

Mitsu (Cambodia) Co Ltd, which distributes Mitsubishi, said sales were down 70 percent in the first semester. Sales of Fords were reportedly down 20 percent.


READ MORE - Nissan sales down, but local distributor expects recovery

Nordic Aviation looks to Cambodia

DENMARK-based Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC), an aircraft-leasing company, said Thursday it was looking to expand its business into Cambodia before the end of the year having recently opened its first office in the region in Singapore.

The world's largest lessor of turboprop aircraft said that it planned to visit the Kingdom in September or October this year to look for clients.
"We're certainly interested in Cambodia," Mats Ericson, the head of the new NAC Singapore office and vice president of sales and acquisitions, said by telephone.

"We'll be seeing how we can assist [Cambodia's aviation industry]."

With Siem Reap Airways currently grounded, the Kingdom does not have any airlines flying but will launch new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air on July 27 at Phnom Penh International Airport.

Explaining the decision to open its Singapore office, NAC's first permanent presence outside of Europe, Ericson said that having first entered the Southeast Asian region 10 years ago, the company felt the increasing potential here required stronger representation.

"We think Southeast Asia is a growth market," he said, adding that NAC has already leased aircraft to companies in Indonesia and Vietnam.
NAC, which is based in Billund, Denmark, mainly leases ATRs and Bombardiers, according to the company's Web site, and has over 100 aircraft, including a number of jets.


READ MORE - Nordic Aviation looks to Cambodia

Buddhism under siege from within

Comment: this article is very important for all Buddhists to read and understand about their internal indifference. It is also good for all those Christians who donated their money for those evangelists to proselytize, convert and eliminate the identity of those poor and illiterate Buddhists.

Kandy, Sri Lanka --The latest attempt to proselytize the Buddhist world comes in the form of a book entitled ‘Peoples of the Buddhist World: A Christian Prayer Guide’ by Hattaway Paul. Anthropologically speaking, the book deserves credit for its excellent well-researched materials as it deals with 238 distinct people-group profiles, photographs and maps of the Buddhist world – something that Buddhists are capable of producing, but are lazy to do so.

Make no mistake: this most conspicuous book is enterprisingly well done. But it has a hidden agenda: This book serves as a layout and roadmap of Christian evangelical interests and zeal. It is a precise blueprint, a battle plan drawn to craftily attack the peoples of the Buddhist world.

Educated and affluent Buddhists, however, should thank the author, an active evangelic leader for producing
such an enlightening overview of the peoples of the Buddhist world because not many at all know about the majority of these 238 groups mentioned by him.

Indeed, many of these Buddhist communities are little-known and often forgotten. They are some of the most neglected peoples of the world. Much has been said on the evil intentions of the Christian evangelical missionaries for trying to ‘pray and touch the souls of ordinary people’ and bringing them into ‘the merciful rescue of God, the ruler of heaven’.

My intention here is neither to write a review of the book condemning it as anti-Buddhist nor to parrot the accusations labeled against such greedy evangelical missionaries but to urge my fellow educated and affluent Buddhist brothers and sisters of the civilized world to understand that the wisest solution to such proselytization of the Buddhist world.

It does not lie on how logically and convincingly we criticize such undertakings and how many anti-conversion laws we need to enact. The intention is to undertake an honest, objective re-examination of our own Buddhist system within.

It is often proudly claimed by us Buddhists that Buddhism has survived for 2550 years armed with its teachings of non-violence, tolerance, ability for different adaptation, and compassion. Perhaps we have forgotten the lost history of Buddhist lands of the entire Indian subcontinent.

We have lost Afghanistan and Pakistan (East and West) to Muslim invaders, India and Nepal to Hindus and far eastern regions of the Middle East to hard-line Muslims. Having lost so much, how much more are we waiting to lose? This is a question that every progressive Buddhist needs an answer to.

Despite having survived the historic onslaught of Islamic invaders, these unknown Buddhist lands face the grim reality of losing their communities to the onslaught of Christian evangelism. 20th century South Korea is an example of how easy it is indeed for Buddhism to fall prey to aggressive evangelism.

Historically speaking, the strength of Buddhist evolution centered on the members of its monastic - the Sangha. The Sangha institution became the backbone of the entire Buddhist community in any given social context, be it Theravada, Mahayana or Tibetan throughout its 2550 years of history.

The success of Buddhism is often measured by the strength of the Sangha. The traditional defenders of Buddhism have been and are still, the monks and nuns. As a natural consequence, Buddhist adherents tend to look up to the monastic Sangha for guidance. Unfortunately, this dependency has brought forth a devastating paralysis, especially at a time when the monastic priesthood is losing its pristine social and spiritual position as moral models and embodiments of love, compassion and wisdom.

For the last many decades the Buddhist monastic Sangha in every Buddhist country have not been faring well enough to retain its followers and attract new converts. Some monks have been busy filling up pockets while some others are poorly trained to cope with modern challenges. And yet some of these monks keep themselves busy by fighting for ecclesiastical ranking and power within the monastic system.

All these unsavoury activities leave behind great gaps, neglecting the development of promising and creative social and religious leadership within Buddhist circles. Christian evangelicals have been quick to fill up this "Sangha-lay followers" vacuum.

It is believed that private properties owned by the monastic sangha may well surpass the private properties owned by the government of any given Buddhist country. Enormous public generosity have produced some of the richest monks and temples ever seen in Buddhist history, while millions of Buddhists unknown to many of us have been left out on their own, neglected and forgotten.

Even the very existence of the small but distinct minority Buddhist communities such as the Chaungtha people of Burma, the Khamiyang tribe from India, the Huay tribe of Thailand, the Kutangs of Nepal, the Gtsang of Tibet and the Brokkats of Bhutan - to name but a few - are hardly ever known to more educated and affluent Buddhists.

The Buddhist communities from this part of the globe somehow managed to survive with the harshest realities of existence by sticking to their Buddhist identities under oppressive and unfriendly governments. Is it their karma? How long more do we expect them to continue under the banner of Buddhism faced with everyday realities? Can't Buddhism change their karma? Can't the call of Buddha give them a hope, and a chance to live with less poverty?

Any one claiming that even Buddha cannot alter the course of peoples’ living standard, say unto him that this is "utter nonsense". In any case, if Buddha cannot promise to help these desperate people who have been yearning for change and a better life, then why shouldn’t they look up to a foreign God who promises them immediate prosperity, wealth and change here and eternal heaven hereafter? Indeed, the ‘new God, new country’ – a phrase often utilized by missionaries to pinpoint modern Korea under Christianity – has been an enticing and eye-catching example of change brought about by Christian evangelism.

It is time for the progressive Buddhists to meditate on this.

Yes, these Buddhist communities are illiterate and poor. They are easy targets for evangelism. But they deserve education and material prosperity before they could think of religion. And evangelical missionaries are providing just that.

Why can't the richest monks, richest temples and richest Buddhist organizations of the affluent world mobilize work teams to visit and look into the grievances of these forgotten fellow Buddhists? Why are we just shouting at others who are helping them when we chose not to act ourselves?

The Buddhist teachings of karma, rebirth, suffering, selflessness, and contentment have all been part and partial of a deeper level of misunderstanding of Buddhism even among the most educated and affluent civilized Buddhists, and their misunderstanding has been a boon for the greedy missionaries to take advantage of these Buddhist teachings.

Maybe somebody is born poor because of his karma. And someone else out there is suffering and dying without proper hospice care. So what? He's got lots more rebirths coming up next. Somebody is poor but wants to have a better life. So instead of providing skills and opportunities, they are asked to "practice contentment". This is the unfortunate mentality of Buddhists towards those who are at the bottom rung of society.

No matter how openly they deny, sadly this has been proved to be the case over and over again. Highly spiritual monks and committed practicing lay Buddhists tend to overlook the necessity of material development.

But what these people forget to realize is that there cannot be spirituality where there is widespread hunger and poverty; and healthy spirituality cannot exist where there is widespread illiteracy, ignorance and superstitions. It is only in the very recent time that the affluent Buddhist world has felt the need to counter evangelism by establishing parallel institutions like schools, colleges, hospitals, aged homes and carry out relief works but the fact that this is largely to meet the needs of the local community, this is yet to affect the millions of forgotten Buddhists in unknown parts of the world.

And this raises the extreme Buddhist need to establish cohesive, well-financed, dedicated and inspired international Buddhist organizations to safeguard the very existence of the peoples of the Buddhist world through active participation on field.

But it is easier said than done. Believe it or not, Buddhists tend to be very proud and suspicious of fellow Buddhists. The powerful ecclesiastical monastic sangha of Thailand would not allow temples from other Buddhist countries to be built on its soil, while the building of aTheravada temple in the Korean soil is most likely to be seen as an attempt to Theravadize the Mahayanist Koreans. Such is the suspicion and pride among Buddhists of different countries.

Some other Buddhists yet take pride in promoting so-called inter-religious dialogues between Buddhists and Christians, between Buddhists and Muslims but the irony is that Buddhists of Theravada, Mahayana and Tibetan seldom get along together.

Sadly there is hardly any effective contactsbetween and among these three major Buddhist dominations. Economically weak Theravada Buddhist temples and monks of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia have been struggling to cater the needs of their respective native followers living in the West. Meanwhile the economically stronger Mahayana Buddhist temples and monks of China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan have been struggling to expand their influences throughout the rich West. And despite having poured millions of dollars for building temples and universities there, yet Tibetan monks have been struggling to get fame and popularity to draw the attention of the world to their Tibetan issue.

All these trends have effectively left millions of native Buddhists forgotten and neglected. In their unknown lands, it is they who are in dire need of financial investments, education, creative leadership and social betterment more than the West.

It cannot be denied that the West needs promising monks and Buddhist leaders more than anyone else. The Western public is intelligent and affluent but it is we, the Asians, who have taught them the Dharma. But while we try to meet their spiritual needs with our limited spiritual Asian resources, we must also never never forget Buddhists from these unknown lands

They have been, and are our fellow Buddhists for centuries. We share identical Buddhist culture and history but are not getting what they deserve from their more fortunate and affluent fellow Buddhists.

So this being the case, how ethical correct are we to oppose anyone who goes to standby, help and live with these unwanted peoples of the Buddhist world? What Buddhist doctrine can we possibly use to justify and declare that such an action is immoral?

Even the most fanatic Buddhists among us would have to accept the fact that no matter with what ulterior motives the Evangelicals choose to help such forgotten and neglected peoples, the intrinsic goodness of their action is something that cannot be denied or downplayed.

And this only questions our inability and unwillingness to help our own fellow Buddhists.
Indeed, evangelical groups are proving to be very successful with their slogan - ‘believe in Jesus, he will be always with you’. Many things would change if we Buddhists could learn to say ‘we are your friends in your need’ and prove our say with our active social engagement. The kind of Humanistic Buddhism promoted by some creative and progressive Buddhists or Engaged Buddhism as promoted by some is not inclusive enough because it has effectively failed to address and respond to the acute needs of these forgotten Buddhist communities who are now the targets of Christian evangelism.

Indeed, the greatest challenge of sectarian Buddhist traditions and organizations is the unwillingness and hesitation to help those who are not following the form of Buddhism each of them follows.

There seems to be the demand of internal evangelization within and among various sectarian Buddhists before they could be considered fit for help. The most affluent Mahayana Buddhists of Korea and Taiwan, for example, might not be willing to go and help those neglected Buddhist ethnic groups scattered throughout the border areas of Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh and India who are followers of Theravada Buddhism, while the able Theravada Buddhists of Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma might not be willing to come out for the ethnic minorities of the Himalayan regions who are mostly followers of Tibetan Buddhism.

This is certainly not the kind of mentality the Buddha would very much like his followers to have towards fellow Buddhists. The result is that this has effectively barred the interaction between and among the various sectarian groups of Buddhism.

Let’s not deny the historical fact that Buddha was the first and a successful leader of missionary activities hundreds of years before Christ got the smell of this earth. Let’s not pretend that we Buddhists do not convert followers. We do but the difference in us is that we love to target the most educated, the most affluent, and the most intelligent pundits of the world rather than taking advantage of peoples’ poverty and illiteracy.

We take peoples’ intelligence and wisdom to our advantage which is the uniqueness of Buddhist evangelism. Perhaps this very prospect is leading us to the other disadvantage: losing our fellow poor, neglected and illiterate Buddhists. And this only calls for the implementation of the much acclaimed Buddhist ‘Middle Way’.

The well established large monastic sanghas and lay Buddhist organizations of the known Buddhist world are effectively failing to perform their duties well enough due to unscrupulous remnants of corruption, misbehaviors, mismanagement and inefficiency within.

Some of these monastic sanghas need internal reformation to cope with modern challenges. The high rate of disrobing among the intelligent, educated, energetic and promising young clergy is indeed a headache for many of us. Yet despite all these weaknesses and shortcomings there are lots more that can be done, if we are only willing and are truly selfless – ‘for the welfare and happiness of many’, the slogan used by the Buddha himself to denote his kind of evangelism.

So how and when will these 238 or so people-groups of the Buddhist world fall as victims of Christian evangelism? Is there something that we - as informed Buddhists - can do, or should we just fold our arms and rant in our chests about these "evil evangelists"?

It is time for Buddhists to get our act together, look out for one another and redeem ourselves by rallying to Buddha's call to "go forth... for the good of many, for the benefit and well being of many." Failing which, predatory Christian groups will only be too happy to forage by the wayside, preying on our inaction.

And if we were to let this happen, then the only ones to blame will be us - the indifferent, indolent, complacent Buddhists.


READ MORE - Buddhism under siege from within

City's poor unable to hold land

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Group 78 residents protest at Canadia Bank’s head office Wednesday as part of a last-ditch effort to avoid eviction.

THE impending eviction of the city's Group 78 community is the latest example of the failure of a World Bank-funded land-titling programme intended to improve tenure security for the urban poor, housing rights activists say.

Since 2002, the World Bank has funded a large part of the government's $38.4 million Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), which was designed to establish an "efficient and transparent land administration system" in Cambodia by 2007, according to an early project appraisal.

The project, which also receives funding from the German, Finnish and Canadian governments, was recently extended through the end of this year.

But rights groups say that for besieged urban communities such as Group 78, which faces eviction from its Bassac riverfront site Friday, LMAP's efforts have so far done little good.

"The ineffectiveness of LMAP in securing [the] land rights of the urban poor is laid bare in the case of Group 78," said Natalie Bugalski, a legal officer at the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions.

"Households had clear evidence of possession rights but were denied access to the titling programme," she said, adding that the dispute had yet to be resolved "in accordance with the law".

Man Vuthy, a legal coordinator at the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), which represents Group 78, said that if the World Bank does not take action after the eviction of Group 78 residents, LMAP will have "failed".

He said that World Bank officials had met several times with CLEC lawyers to discuss land issues, but that they had neglected poor urban communities involved in land disputes in an effort to maintain a stable relationship with the government.

"We know the World Bank works peacefully with the authorities, but this is the last chance for the community," he said.

"The mechanisms don't work well, and it is only the World Bank that can help them."

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal upheld a Friday eviction deadline for Group 78 after lawyers attempted to halt an April 20 eviction notice.

The government says residents are illegally squatting on land belonging to the state and to Sour Srun Enterprises, a local developer.

But Group 78 claims ownership of its Tonle Bassac commune site under Article 30 of the Kingdom's 2001 Land Law, which allows individuals to claim title over land if they have been in peaceful possession of it for five years prior to 2001. Many residents claim they have lived at the site since the mid-1980s.

Some say the strength of the community's claim only underlines the failures of the LMAP program.

In a March 4 letter from the CLEC to World Bank Country Director Annette Dixon, a copy of which has been obtained by the Post, lawyers noted that Group 78 had received several "illegal" eviction notices and its applications for land title were rejected by city authorities.

The group 78 case is ... an important test case for the implementation of the lmap and the rule of law...

"The Group 78 case is therefore an important test case for the implementation of the LMAP and the rule of law in Cambodia," the letter stated.

On April 30, Dixon wrote to Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon to inform him that evictions could "damage the reputation of the Government as it moves to undertake important reforms in the land sector".

Dixon added: "We would suggest that a temporary moratorium on evictions be declared until such a legal and policy framework is in place, which would send a positive signal."

The LMAP project's appraisal document sets out contingencies to be followed regarding land dispute cases.

The document states the project "includes support for strengthening mechanisms of dispute resolution". It adds that the project would be "scaled back if [government] commitment to a fair process of dispute resolution is inadequate".

Housing rights activists say there has been a marked lack of progress on the ground.

David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia (BAB), said that while LMAP set out to "improve tenure security" for urban and rural land-holders and "reduce land conflict and land-grabbing", the opposite trend was evident.

"We have witnessed a significant increase in land disputes, land-grabbing and forced evictions over the past seven years," he said.

He added: "We have observed that the communities in Phnom Penh who are most vulnerable to displacement, like the residents of Group 78 ...
have been denied access to the land titling and dispute resolution systems established by LMAP."

Mark Grimsditch, a BAB legal adviser, said that just 38,502 out of a projected 198,000 titles had been distributed by LMAP in Phnom Penh since 2002.

He said a number of eligible cases - including communities facing eviction at Boeung Kak lake - had been adjudicated but fell "at the final hurdle" after being arbitrarily denied their title certificates.

Though she described supervision by LMAP's donors as "inadequate", Bugalski said most of the blame fell on local authorities.

"The primary responsibility to ensure tenure security and protect against forced evictions lies with the Cambodian government," she said.

Criticisms of LMAP came as Group 78 representatives met with World Bank officials Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to delay their scheduled eviction by city authorities.

Earlier, they protested outside Canadia Bank, which they claimed is in charge of a plan to build a bridge over the Tonle Bassac. The bridge project prompted the city to claim portions of the community's land, where it plans to build a road.

But Rath Kumnith, a legal adviser to Canadia Bank, said the bank was only providing a loan to the project and was not directly involved in it.

The World Bank was contacted for comment Thursday but had not responded as of press time.

READ MORE - City's poor unable to hold land

Revoke Hun Sen's visa: GW

Global witness urges Britain not to let PM in.

Global Witness urged the British government Wednesday to revoke Prime Minister Hun Sen's visa ahead of a planned visit to the country to see his son graduate.

Hun Sen, who has been on an official visit to France where he met French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also planned to travel to Bristol, where his son resides and studies.

But the international watchdog claimed letting Hun Sen in the country would "signify a failure by the Labour government to live up to its commitments to fight corruption and promote development".

"Hun Sen's regime has presided over a process of grand corruption which has seriously undermined poverty alleviation in Cambodia, but Europe and the UK continue to welcome him and his entourage," Global Witness campaigner Eleanor Nichol said in a press statement released Wednesday.

"Meanwhile, gaps in Cambodia's state services are covered by the UK taxpayer through overseas aid."

Europeans react to Hun Sen
Hun Sen's France trip was also condemned by French-Cambodian group Khmer M'Chas Srok, which appealed to President Sarkozy to "remind" his guest of Cambodia's duty to respect its engagements and obligations towards "France and the international community".

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan called the move "uncivilised" and "undemocratic".

"It's an open society.... They should encourage [Hun Sen] to address corruption, not exclude him," he said.


READ MORE - Revoke Hun Sen's visa: GW

Cambodia: 700 police and military mobilised to forcibly evict families this Friday

The Cambodian government should act immediately To stop the forced eviction, scheduled for this Friday (17 July), of some 60 low-income families living in the area of Phnom Penh known as Group 78, Amnesty International said today. Some 700 police and military police have been mobilised to forcibly evict the families, according to fresh reports.

The Municipality of Phnom Penh issued a 'final eviction notification' to Group 78 in April 2009, in breach of the 2001 Land Law. The Appeal Court on 13 July ruled that the eviction notification was legal.

The Phnom Penh authorities have given different reasons for the eviction of the families, ranging from beautification of the city to claims that the community are illegal squatters. In the 'final eviction notification' the Municipality states that the community is living on land belonging to a private company and on a public road. Group 78 maintains that under the Land Law they are the rightful owners of the land.

The Group 78 families started moving into the area on the riverfront in 1983. Since then the value of the land has increased enormously. The families have applied for formal land titles several times, but the authorities have rejected their applications, despite the families having official documentation proving strong ownership claims.

The families have not accepted the compensation packages that the Phnom Penh Municipality has offered because they deem it unfair and inadequate.Last week, officials from the Phnom Penh Municipality met with some Group 78 residents, in an attempt to coerce them into accepting compensation. The residents were not allowed to speak at the meeting. A community representative described the meetings as very intimidating, with officials, including Phnom Penh's deputy governor, warning that police and military police would demolish their community if they did not accept the compensation on offer.

The Municipality has offered house owners four options: US$8,000; US$5,000 plus a small plot of land; US$1,500 plus a small plot of land and a small house at Trapeang Anchanh resettlement site; or an apartment at a different resettlement site that they have never seen. Trapeang Anchanh is some 20 km from where they now live and work, and basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation and sewerage are inadequate. The cost of transport to and from the site for work far exceeds their daily earnings.

At no point in the three-year-long land dispute have the Cambodian authorities held genuine consultations with Group 78. Nor have they explored any feasible alternatives to the proposed eviction, including proposals about onsite development submitted by Group 78 residents themselves.

In January 2009, about 400 poor urban families were forcibly evicted from Dey Kraham, which is near Group 78. Their homes were destroyed by an estimated 250 members of the security forces, together with demolition workers. Many people lost their possessions. The vast majority were initially made homeless, and had no option but to move to a site far from Phnom Penh, without basic services and with shelters still under construction. On several occasions officials from the Phnom Penh Municipality have warned the Group 78 families that if they do not accept one of the compensation packages, they will see a resolution similar to that of Dey Kraham.

Forced evictions are carried out without adequate notice and consultation with those affected, without legal safeguards and without assurances of adequate alternative accommodation. Under international law, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (ICESCR), Cambodia is prohibited from carrying out forced evictions, and must protect people from forced evictions.

In May 2009 during its scrutiny of Cambodia's compliance with the ICESCR, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern over the number of forced evictions in Cambodia. In its concluding observations, the Committee noted 'with serious concern' the imminent eviction of Group 78 as one example, and recommended that Cambodia introduces a moratorium on all evictions until a 'proper legal framework is in place and the process of land titling is completed, in order to ensure the protection of human rights of all Cambodians'.


READ MORE - Cambodia: 700 police and military mobilised to forcibly evict families this Friday

War of words for Cambodia, Thailand

PHNOM PENH - The military standoff between Thailand and Cambodia over the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple complex has emerged as a new regional security hotspot, one that has claimed at least nine lives, stifled bilateral commercial relations and consumed precious financial resources.

The row is expected to feature at next week's Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Phuket, Thailand, where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be among those in attendance. With both governments playing the nationalism card to domestic constituencies, security analysts say there is no end in sight to the conflict, which in recent weeks has returned to the boil.

Tensions mounted last month when Thailand challenged the
United Nations decision in 2008 to designate the temple as a world heritage site under the sole jurisdiction of Cambodia, motivating both sides to bolster their troop levels in the contested border area. Cambodia, meanwhile, has rejected Thailand's claim to 1.8 square miles (4.6 square kilometers) around the temple, which is more readily accessible from Thailand. The two countries share an 800-kilometer border.

Last week, Phnom Penh used the one-year anniversary of the temple's world heritage site registration as an occasion to stir anti-Thai sentiment. Celebrating what they referred to as a "victory" over Thailand, Cambodian authorities released pigeons from the cliff-top temple and monks at 4,000 pagodas nationwide simultaneously and symbolically banged drums.

In the capital, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Hun Sen's right-hand-man, accused Thailand of "trying to invade and take Cambodian land". Major General Srey Dek, the top commander at the temple, told the crowd: "On behalf of the soldiers, I want to send a strong commitment to fight any obstacle in order to protect my nation."

The nationalistic postures are crimping commercial ties with one of Cambodia's top trade and investment partners. "If the tension continues," said 20-year-old economics student Ath Dalen as he observed the celebrations, "it means Thai businessmen won’t invest in Cambodia."

The temple standoff is hurting both countries' teetering economies, already hit by the global economic downturn. This is particularly so in their shared border areas. Visitors to Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, whose primary tourist attraction is the temple, fell 50% in the first half of 2009, according to official statistics.

From Cambodia's perch, the military spat has made Thailand a less reliable business partner, prompting Cambodia to prioritize trade and investment ties with neighboring Vietnam. That's put negotiations towards a joint exploitation agreement for oil and gas deposits in the overlapping claims area in the Gulf of Thailand on the backburner.

Talks towards a joint agreement had been restarted after the anti-Thai riots of 2003, when a Cambodian mob burned the Thai embassy and ransacked Thai businesses in Phnom Penh. "The standoff can be costly, not only financially but also in terms of wasted labor, attention of our leaders, the time," said Cambodian Economic Association President Chan Sophal. "The worry is that if it cannot be contained, managed at some level, then it could significantly affect the economy."

He says that Cambodian farmers along the Thai border have long anticipated a bilateral agreement that would allow them to export goods more cheaply from Thai shipping ports. "The agreement has stagnated because of the border conflict," Chan said. He claims local farmers now must pay three times as much to ship their goods from the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville.

Heated nationalism
The conflict is deeply entwined in domestic politics on both sides. Thailand controlled Preah Vihear for much of the 20th century, but relinquished control after the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the contested temple is within Cambodian territory. It became a Khmer Rouge jungle base in the 1970s, and their rusted canons still sit beside the temple's 800-meter-long causeway.

Leading up to the UN's July 7, 2008, recognition of Preah Vihear as one of the world's important historical relics, nationalistic and anti-government Thai protestors amassed at the temple to protest the Foreign Ministry's acknowledgement of the UN's designation. Tensions eventually spread to two additional disputed temples along the border. Thai and Cambodian troops clashed in October, leaving one Thai and three Cambodians dead.

The two sides exchanged automatic weapon fire and rockets again in April, killing three Thai and two Cambodian soldiers. As the first anniversary of the temple's heritage recognition approached earlier this month, Thai and Cambodian troops, previously playing together friendly games of cards, were again tensely poised just 50 meters apart. Thailand's commander for the area was quoted saying that his troops were ready "to promptly retaliate" if attacked.

The escalating spat has raised hard new questions about ASEAN's ability to manage regional conflicts. The organization does not demand a resolution to the problem because non-intervention is the "ASEAN way", according to security analyst Andrew Tan, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He says the border issue at Preah Vihear "is another manifestation of the reality that underlies the outward expression of regional comity expressed through various ASEAN declarations".

Comity has so far been in short supply. Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya in March referred to Hun Sen as a "gangster" in the local media. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's rhetoric has vacillated between conciliatory and confrontational. His request that the UN's world heritage committee consider jointly registering the temple angered Phnom Penh.

Domestic politics have contributed to the conflict. Hun Sen's perceived close friendship with deposed Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who from exile has in recent months stirred anti-government street chaos in Bangkok, has greatly strained bilateral relations. There have been unconfirmed reports that Thaksin and his allies have met in Cambodia to discuss strategies.

Both anti-Thaksin yellow-shirt protestors and pro-Thaksin red-shirt protestors have rallied at the temple in the past year. "Nationalist elements in Thailand could choose to blow this up to distract attention from domestic political and economic issues," said Tan.

Meanwhile, bluster from Phnom Penh has also fueled mistrust. In October, Hun Sen vowed to turn the temple area into a "death zone" unless the Thai army pulled back. He recently boasted that Cambodian forces at the temple are equipped with modern ground-to-air missiles and vowed to shoot down any Thai fighter jets that breached Cambodian air space.

He also reportedly told Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon during their June visit to Phnom Penh that they would need to mobilize between 30,000 and 50,000 soldiers to match 10,000 Cambodian troops.

Such tough talk is clearly aimed at domestic audiences. "The Preah Vihear issue provides a very convenient excuse to divert the international attention from negative phenomena in [Cambodia], like reluctance to solve the problem of Khmer Rouge legacy and reproaches against rampant corruption," said an ambassador based in Bangkok. "It is a classic example of seeking a culprit away from one's own house."

For Thailand, too, "the border problem provides an excellent excuse to divert the public opinion from political woes," said the ambassador. While fighting would hurt Thailand's international image, it would divert Thai attention away from economic woes, political gridlock, and the pro-Thaksin street rallies that continue to vex Abhisit's government. "Diplomats here are afraid things may spin out of control, as escalation of hostilities seems quite presumable," the ambassador said.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep's July 4 visit to Cambodia, combined with a series of military meetings and a photogenic lunch date at the temple on July 5, demonstrated the desire of both countries to maintain peace at the temple, said Koy Kuong, Cambodia's Foreign Affairs Ministry undersecretary of state.

High-level Thai and Cambodian military officials met on July 9 and "promised that we won't fight again and that we will find a peaceful solution", according to Cambodian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat. He added that the two sides agreed to talk again in Bangkok during a meeting of the General Border Committee from July 21-23.

Teruo Jinnai, head of Unesco's Phnom Penh office, regards the recent meetings as a "positive development" towards resolving the standoff. "I hope this new trend will continue," he said.

Yet despite those diplomatic overtures, Thailand has according to Cambodian sources in recent weeks built concrete-enforced trenches and doubled its troop level to 4,000. On July 10, according to Thai sources, Cambodia deployed six tanks to the area, adding to its already 9,000-strong soldier presence. And while Thai and Cambodian troops are for now back to picnicking and playing games together, more conflict is likely in the cards.

READ MORE - War of words for Cambodia, Thailand

Khmer Rouge trial hears harrowing testimony

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A senior Khmer Rouge prison guard Thursday told a war crimes tribunal he was forced to send thousands of detainees to an execution site, where they were brutally killed and their bodies thrown into mass graves.

Him Huy, 54, a guard at Phnom Penh's notorious S-21 prison, said he was ordered by Pol Pot's chief jailor to transport prisoners to a rice field where they were stripped naked and beaten with clubs as they bled to death.

"All prisoners were blindfolded so they did not know where they were taken and their hands were tied up to prevent them from contesting us," Huy told the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal.

"They were asked to sit on the edge of the pits and they were struck with stick on their necks," he said, his voice breaking as he gave his harrowing account of the Choeung Ek executions.

"Their throats were slashed before we removed their handcuffs and clothes, and they were thrown into the pits."

Huy was testifying against S-21 chief Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, the first of the five indicted former Khmer Rouge cadres to face trial.


Duch faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder.

Huy said he saw the charred bodies of four Westerners on a pile of burning tyres a few block away from S-21, where he said about 100 children were detained inside a compound with their mothers.

All were later executed.

"No one could dare to do anything without Duch's approval," Huy added, as Duch listened attentively.

Choeung Ek, 17km south of Phnom Penh, is now a memorial to the horrors of the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 "killing fields" reign of terror, when 1.7 million Cambodians were killed.

The burial site, one of 343 across the country, is covered with 129 graves, with the skulls of about 5,000 Cambodians on display in a stupa.

Duch, who has been detained since 1999, wept repeatedly as he prayed before the skulls of his victims during a visit to Choeung Ek in February last year.

The tribunal has also indicted second-in-command Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, both lifelong friends of Pol Pot.

Duch has admitted involvement in the killings of 14,000 people at the S-21 prison, but says he was only following orders.

The others facing trial have denied knowledge of the atrocities, while "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, the architect of the ultra-Maoist revolution, died in 1998 near the Thai-Cambodia border.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Martin Petty)


READ MORE - Khmer Rouge trial hears harrowing testimony

What about the duty to say the truth? Duch lectures his former subordinate, with tone

The former head of the interrogation unit at S-21, Mam Nay, continued to testify impassively on Wednesday July 15th. He chose not to speak. Failing memory, art of eluding, lies. This time, he did not hesitate to use his right to remain silent, a right repeatedly reminded to him so many times in court. Not only did his testimony bring nothing to the debates, but it tended to minimise the responsibilities of the accused, Duch. It prompted some to wonder why the office of the co-Prosecutors submitted his name to the Chamber to be summoned as a witness. Fortunately, the disastrous testimony concluded with an unexpected diatribe by the accused, as eloquent as passionate, in which Duch severely criticised his former subordinate for not contributing to the search of truth and not following his example in recognising the facts. That was not creating an effect, both on Mam Nay and on the audience.

Statute of limitations?

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 08/06/2009: “Communism does not have to obscure our minds […]. Whatever our position back then in relation to the communist party, what we are seeking today is the truth,” Duch told his former subordinate, Mam Nay. “We are here judged by History.”

After the judges, it was the turn of the co-Prosecutors to take on the hardly talkative witness. But first, the Cambodian co-Prosecutor reminded Mr. Mam Nay that he had the right not to incriminate himself. “That being said, the co-Prosecutors would like to encourage you to tell the full story of what you know, even if it is about things you did. The Law on the ECCC provides for the prosecution of only two types of people: senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible for the crimes committed during their regime. Moreover, thirty years have passed since, so there is a statute of limitations for the people not included in the two categories mentioned in the law.” These words failed to unfreeze the witness.

“I wish to remain silent”

When the national co-Prosecutor showed on the screen the confession of Professor Phung Ton and asked Mam Nay if he recognised his writing on it, the latter answered: “The writing looks like mine, but I do not remember interrogating him.” When the co-Prosecutor showed him the confession of an American prisoner this time, after a few moments, the witness declared: “I wish to remain silent.”

“I do not agree”
When the international co-Prosecutor presented him a document entitled “New three-month work plan for interrogation branches,” the witness recognised his own writing and his name, but it did not bring back any memory to his mind… William Smith launched an outright attack: “Do you agree with me to say that, considering you were the one who wrote this document, at the time you wrote it, you were fully familiar with the organisation of the interrogation unit or even one of the mainstays of that service? You were not an isolated individual, in a house, who interrogated only some twenty Vietnamese fighters over a period of three years. Would you agree to say that you coordinated the interrogation unit?” Mam Nay gave a lapidary answer: “I do not agree with you, Mr. co-Prosecutor.”

Mam Nay’s notebook

William Smith then referred to a 396-page notebook, dated from December 17th 1977. The witness recognised he had handwritten it. “Those are things I took under dictation during lessons given by Duch.” “You said you did not know about torture at S-21,” the co-Prosecutor continued, “and yet, this document contains a great number of references to torture as it was practiced at S-21. So, you were actually aware of the use of torture at S-21, because you received instructions for its use. Do you agree with this statement?” “I never personally received instructions regarding the use of torture. This notebook contains notes taken during lessons given by Duch…” “Are you not minimising your role at S-21 and your knowledge of what was going on there and the activities of others at S-21, because you wish to place yourself at a distance from the terrible criminal activity that took place in S-21?”, the co-Prosecutor challenged him. “That idea never crossed my mind. I am testifying today on the basis of what I did,” Mam Nay swore.

Scared of what?

To the civil parties to interrogate the witness. Martine Jacquin, from group 3, tried to make the witness say why he was afraid of being targeted after an “enemy” implicated him in confessions. “What happened to someone who was accused?” At the slightest mistake, he or she was arrested and interrogated, Mam Nay explained, that is he or she had to write their confessions, then sent to Duch. “Why then would you have been scared of making confessions yourself?” Mam Nay said he did not understand the question, even after it was repeated to him, and preferred to use his right to remain silent.

The case of Professor Phung Ton

Next, Silke Studzinsky, for civil party group 2, evoked again the case of Professor Phung Ton. “I knew him under the former regime, but I do not remember interrogating him at S-21,” Mam Nay repeated. The lawyer showed on the screen the photograph of Phung Ton, taken at Tuol Sleng. Suddenly, the uncontrolled tears of his wife and daughter could be heard on the microphone – the two civil parties are seated behind Silke Studzinsky who represents them. The witness stated he recognised him but said he did not remember the circumstances of his interrogation, although his handwriting was on Phung Ton’s confession. The lawyer persevered. “Mr. Mam Nay, you are certainly aware that the wife and daughter of Mr. Phung Ton are present here. They are in the courtroom to know what became of him and it would therefore be extremely helpful that you cooperate to determine the truth for these two persons.” “I most certainly would like to provide further information,” the witness replied. “I have told you as much as I know.”

Return to the substance of the debates
Alain Werner, for civil party group 1, decided to confront Mam Nay to statements he made before the co-Investigating Judges. He quoted some of his answers to their questions: “From what I observed, probably, after consulting the answers, [Duch] analysed the replies to see [if the prisoner] should be interrogated again or if the answers could be sent to the top. And if he had to be re-interrogated, Duch made a note for re-interrogation,” “From what I knew, probably, only once Duch deemed it sufficient and the confession was appropriate, he then sent it to the higher echelon.” The witness remembered saying those words.

Alain Werner ©Stéphanie Gée
Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 15/07/2009: Alain Werner on a screen at the ECCC
©Stéphanie Gée

The Swiss lawyer continued in this exercise, reading the questions Mam Nay was asked and the replies he gave to the co-Investigating Judges. “Question: ‘So, there were arrests made at S-21 as suggested by Duch and authorised by the higher echelon?’ Reply: ‘It had to be like that to be done.’ Question: ‘As for the people you wanted to help, were there people you wished to help but were unable to?’ Reply: ‘People other than those of the unit, those who joined the revolution with me. As soon as Duch told me something, I could protect them because Duch listened to my opinion. But if someone had not made the revolution with me, I wouldn’t have dared to defend him.’ Sir, do you remember saying that before the co-Investigating Judges?” “Yes, that is what I told them…”

Alain Werner continued in the same fashion. He had found a way to make the witness recognised in court significant information. “Question: ‘Back then, did Duch have the right to offer to the superior Angkar to have people from outside S-21 arrested?’ Reply: ‘Duch had the possibility to make reports on cases he knew personally.’” Mam Nay did not deny anything he had told the judges.

Only the stick and electric wires
During the reconstruction at Tuol Sleng, organised by the co-Investigating Judges, Mam Nay found himself, alongside the judges and the accused, in a room in one of the buildings where instruments of torture were displayed. “The accused explained on the spot that the choice of the instruments of torture pertained to the sole interrogators. Then, a witness took the floor. Witness Mam Nay stated he only used the stick and electric wires. On that day, is it not true that […] you were telling the truth?” “I would like to use my right to remain silent on this point,” Mam Nay eluded.

Why were so many valuable documents, added to the file, not used by the judges and the co-Prosecutors? It was not until Alain Werner’s turn to speak that the debates returned to the heart of the matter – S-21 and Duch – and Mam Nay was no longer interrogated as if he were the accused, but as a witness.

No idea of the number of dead in S-21 or across the country

Later, responding to questions by Kar Savuth, national co-lawyer for Duch, Mam Nay finally admitted he had led the interrogation of Professor Phung Ton. He assured the latter gave “confessions that were not forced but spontaneous.” He also claimed that when Duch resumed his functions as S-21 director in 1976, the organisation and management style “remained almost the same.”

His international colleague took over. “To be honest with you, I must tell you that you must not believe the co-Prosecutors when they say they cannot prosecute you.” A debate reignited between François Roux and the international co-Prosecutor. Annoyed, the president promptly ended it. “As for rights and obligations, it is the responsibility of the Chamber to inform the witness about them […]. It is not the role of the defence to advise the witness.”

“Do you know how many people were killed in S-21?”, François Roux asked Mam Nay. “I do not have either the obligation or the desire to know that.” “Do you know how many people died in Cambodia under Democratic Kampuchea?” “On that question as well, I am even more ignorant. I do not know.” “Do you regret being an interrogator at S-21?” “In my opinion, there were good people and others who had committed offences. From what I could observe, there were less good people than bad people, so I have regrets for the small number of good people.” For the others, no remorse. François Roux thus concluded his questions: “Thank you, Mr. co-Prosecutor. If you have other witnesses like the present one, please do not hesitate.”

Duch dissociates himself from Mam Nay

As was customary, the accused was then authorised to make observations in reaction to the witness’ testimony. Beforehand, Duch insisted on dissociating himself from Mam Nay. He explained he was much closer to Pon, an important interrogator, whom he had consulted before marrying, with whom he had joined the revolution and who had “worked hard” – giving these examples to illustrate his personal preference. “I wanted to tell you I liked comrade Pon better than older brother Mam Nay.”

Then, in one breath and without notes, he demonstrated his rhetorical skills.

“We are judged here by History”

“This morning, Mam Nay said this document was entirely written by his hand, but there is one page which bears notes handwritten by Nath [and he quoted the exact pages from memory]. In the notebook, there are also notes by my own hand. When I see your writing or Nath’s, I do understand those are documents found in S-21. But when you say it was a writing similar to yours… don’t be scared of telling the truth. If you only report conjectures, that is no good. You have seen that I myself have accepted the responsibility of all the crimes committed in S-21. We are judged here by History and you cannot hide a dead elephant with a basket. It is no use trying. For my part, I am ready to answer for the crimes I may have committed and I would like you to do the same.”

Duch spoke firmly, on a tone that suffered no reply. It was as if his authority as S-21 director had suddenly returned to him. He lectured his former subordinate and pinned some of his lies. He continued his lecture.

“Communism does not have to hinder the search for truth”
“Naturally, for a humanitarian mind, it is necessary to revise our positions because over a million people died. Those people perished in the hands of the CPK [Communist Party of Kampuchea]. Who were the CPK members? I was one, and so were you. But you have not recognised that fact. So, on an emotional level, we are both responsible for the crimes committed. We did not have the right then to say that the political line was wrong. We had to follow the political line. If you compare the CPK policy of the time and the humanitarian aspects, you understand that those are two incompatible things. Your memory is weaker than mine. However, regarding Chao Chan, I asked Hor to take him to work with you at the place of interrogation. I am convinced of it. I remember that one day, I did not see him and I went to look for him. He talked to me about King Norodom Sihanouk who spoke French, but ‘not as well as the King of Saudi Arabia.’ That is what he said and you, Mam Nay, criticised Chao Chan for saying that. I recall that incident to refresh your memory, that is Chao Chan was with you, even if I had received the order from the superior echelon to eliminate him. Regarding Professor Phung Ton, we both recognise he was our professor. I do not want to go into detail here about the reasons why I liked him a lot. But before the civil parties, including his wife and daughter, I can repeat what I have already said. What we are trying to do here is to re-establish the truth on what happened and what became, for example, of Professor Phung Ton. Today, the world and the Cambodian people seek to know the truth and I believe it is a unique chance for us to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. Keep in mind the presence of the civil parties, who want to know where and when the professor died, and where his ashes are resting. It would be good to locate that place. I believe that here, communism does not have to obscure our minds and hinder the search for truth. Whatever our position back then in relation to the communist party, what we are seeking today is the truth.”

The man held the audience spellbound. His speech took the spectators’ breath away, as they were hanging from his every words, as if in disbelief of what they heard. For some, his statement had a soothing effect, after the anger stirred by Mam Nay’s testimony. Undeniably, Duch was the driver of his trial.

Mam Nay broke down

Silke Studzinsky, the lawyer for the wife and daughter of Professor Phung Ton, opportunely seized the chance to try and obtain more information about the professor from Mam Nay. She asked “the Chamber to give yet another chance to the witness, not to answer, but to tell the civil parties, in this case the wife and daughter of Mr. Phung Ton, if he remembered something he had not yet said. If he can tell us more about Mr. Phung Ton’s fate, because this is a unique chance we have to hear the truth from his lips.”

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 15/07/2009: Mam Nay broke into tears and expressed regrets at last
©Stéphanie Gée

Mam Nay: “I would like to say the following: I would like to express my regrets to Professor Phung Ton’s family. As far as I know, his wife is the goddaughter of my grandfather Thuy.” He came to a halt and broke into tears. The president said, in a smile he struggled to repress: “I would like to know if Mr. Mam Nay can continue. He is overwhelmed by emotion, but we will grant him a few moments to compose himself.”

Regrets at last
The witness resumed: “I feel a lot of regrets, because I have also lost brothers, relatives who suffered during the regime, as well as my wife and children who died. I believe it was a situation of chaos. And nothing is left for us, except regrets. Many Cambodians perished under Democratic Kampuchea. These regrets are shared by many and if we speak in religious terms, it is our karma that suffers from it. Today, I am trying to find relief in faith and karma. But it is true that I feel regret and I hope Phung Ton’s family understands it.”

At last, Mam Nay no longer played the blind, but he did not say more. “I believe and hope I did my best to say what I could in the service of the search for truth, especially for the families. It is impossible for me to give more information. It would be a little like shooting in the dark.”

An over-considerate president

The president thanked the witness for his testimony and overdid it: “The events took place over thirty years ago and it is very difficult to remember them. We are only men and our memory is limited. Even for things that happened a few hours ago, we sometimes need to freshen up our memory. Also, you are 78 years old and with age, memory tends to waver.” He thanked him again, whilst he forgot to do so for S-21 survivors Chhum Mey and Bou Meng.

Fleeting introduction of the next witness

New witness, another former subordinate of Duch: Him Huy, the former head of security at S-21, who participated to Rithy Panh’s movie, “S-21, The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine” (2004). He was now a 54-year-old farmer. He already looked downcast. The president asked him if he wanted to be assisted by a lawyer. Him Huy said he did not have any. After consulting with his colleagues, Nil Nonn found out that the witness already had a lawyer… But Him Huy had only seen him briefly and wanted to consult him longer before testifying. The president accepted. The hearing was adjourned before the usual time. Him Huy will be heard on the next day, Thursday July 16th.


READ MORE - What about the duty to say the truth? Duch lectures his former subordinate, with tone