Hope for exploited daughters

Thursday, April 22, 2010

(Photo: Samaritan’s Purse)

Thursday, 22 April 2010
Samaritan’s Purse (Australia)

“Channa” was 14 when she was sent to Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh to earn extra income for her mother’s medical treatments. Desperate for work, she found a job at a bar.

Channa had always refused lewd offers from male patrons, but when her family continually pressured her to earn more, she thought she had no alternative. For a full year, Channa engaged in commercial sex work and desperately wanted out. Neighbours began looking down on her. And her dreams of a happy future seemed spoiled. “I thought I was an animal, a slave,” she said.

Thousands of Cambodian women are forced into such work every year. A lack of opportunities for education and skills training, the result of decades of civil unrest and instability, leave them with few options to support their families.

Samuel Heng of Daughters, our local partner says that cultural norms contribute to the problem. “Many girls believe that the more they sacrifice for their parents and family, the better their next life will be. They say parents are like a second god – Buddha is the first, parents are the second. So you should serve your parents like you would serve god.”

Samaritan’s Purse is working with Daughters to give these women a way out. The ministry runs a safe house and provides vocational training in sewing, cooking, fabric painting, cake decorating, card and jewellery making.

Channa now works as a cake decorator, with a special expertise in making delicate sugar flowers. Perhaps the sweetest part of her story is that Channa has found new hope and peace in her faith in Jesus Christ. “When I prayed, I felt a peace in my heart,” she says. “I hadn’t felt that before.”

Channa goes to weekly church services and has found a community that provides encouragement and support. “I feel that a lot of people love me at Daughters, that I have a big value and a lot of hope,” Channa said. “Before I had a big family, but with no love, no peace. Now I have a good father – God.”
READ MORE - Hope for exploited daughters

Unconditional nomination of Hun Xen and Xok An to the Royal Cambodian Academy ... which was created by Hun Xen

Hun Xen (R) and Xok An (L) are the two new members of the Royal Cambodian Academy which, coincidentally, was set up by Hun Xen himself. Hun Xen's talent is displayed by his poem writing whereas Xok An is a well known expert in cock-fighting.

Poem written by Academician Hun Xen sent to his lover, Ms. Piseth Pilika, who was later gunned down. Heng Pov revealed that the person who commissioned the killing of Piseth Pilika was no other than Mrs. Bun Rany Hun Xen, the famous wife of Academician Hun Xen (Poem posted at: pisethpilika.free.fr)

21 April 2010
By Nhim Sophal
Cambodge Soir Hebdo
Translated from French by Sen Os Somneuch
Click here to read the article in French

Hun Xen and vice-PM Xok An have just been nominated as members of the Royal Cambodian Academy

The royal decree to the effect was also issued, but the ceremony will only take place next week. It is now official: the two leaders are now full members of the famous academy. 16 individuals, including 4 Cambodians living overseas, are part of this prestigious institution.

Created in 199 by a sub-decree issued by Hun Xen who is also its honorary president, the Royal Academy is still administered by the Council of Ministers. At the beginning, there was no preset condition to become a member. Graduated individuals who provide academic documents and work are often accepted as its members. Under this stipulation, Hun Xen – who penned several poems and research works in politics, as well as giving out important speeches – and Xok An were both admitted to the prestigious institution.

However, in the future, candidates must fulfill new conditions in order to become provisory members. They must earn a Ph.D. degree after spending 5 years of academic work and they must be elected the full members. The maximum number of members is limited to 60 and only 2 persons can be selected for each year.

“To be elected, one must undertake scientific research without plagiarizing others. We must have new [rules], but for now, it is not easy to follow all the rules,” Ros Chantraboth, an advisor and full member of the academy, admitted.

For the past 10 years, this institution has been criticized for not undertaking any valid research. From now on, it hopes to play the role of a memory bank for the government and the society.
READ MORE - Unconditional nomination of Hun Xen and Xok An to the Royal Cambodian Academy ... which was created by Hun Xen

Short biography of the world cookbook winner

Mrs. Long Sorey (L) winner of the World Gourmand cookbook (Photo supplied)

21 April 2010
By Mao Sotheany
Radio Free Asia

Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy and Socheata

Click here to read the article in Khmer

Under this week’s Khmer Women’s Progam, Mrs. Mao Sotheany is reporting about a short biography and the volunteer work by the winner of the World Gourmand cookbook author.

The Cambodian cookbook penned by a Cambodian woman and her daughter was selected to receive the World Gourmand prize in France. The cookbook was considered as the most talented cookbook in the world for 2009 among a selection of 6,000 other entries.

The French-language cookbook includes about 139 recipes and it also includes photographs. It was authored by Mrs. Long Sorey who is currently retired and living in Cambodia.

The 69-year-old lady was a former teacher during the Lon Nol Khmer Republic regime and she is currently retired. She is very happy after learning that the cookbook she co-authored with her daughter was recognized as a special cookbook in the world, both in terms of quality, printing, cover illustration, as well as photo illustrations of the completed dishes and the ease to prepare more than 130 Cambodian dishes.

Mrs. Long Sorey said: “I am very pleased, extremely pleased! Two Cambodian women wrote the number 1 cookbook in the world. This prize is beyond my imagination, it means more than money to me. I remembered about Cambodia, nobody knew about me, I had a Cambodian flag and they did not know about Cambodia. I showed them where Cambodia is! I showed them…”

Mrs. Long Sorey, the winner of the World Gourmand cookbook, said that the recognition of the talent in this Cambodian cookbook is an important factor to let countries in the world know about the civilization, the culture and the customs of Cambodia, and Cambodian food in particular.

In addition to her cooking skills, she is also very skilled in sewing and knitting, as well as being an expert in wedding marriage clothing. She said that after coming to live in Virginia, USA, in 1975, she was actively involved in Cambodian communities, especially during the celebration of the Cambodian New Year.

Mrs. Long Sorey said: “I dress up in Cambodian clothes to show how Cambodian women dress up, how they carry a food container to take to the pagoda, how we dress up for weddings, and during the Cambodian New Year, I have to do it to show others. People like to cook, they asked me to help so I can earn some extra income on top of my factory salary because I only know how to cook, to work in the household, so in order to survive, I did everything…”

In 1977, Mrs. Long Sorey and her husband, Mr. Long Bota, a former professor under the Lon Nol regime, along with their two children, decided to move to live in France. There, she and her husband were actively involved in the Cambodian community: “… Me and my teacher, we formed the women association to help in the translation work, to help find jobs, to teach cooking, tailoring, dressing up in Khmer. In Cambodia, I used to teach tailoring. People wanted to know, wanted to learn, so on Sundays, my family went to teach others because it’s something we like…”

Mrs. Long Sorey added that, in addition to being a teacher for household work during vacation period and weekends, she also used to volunteer her work in France and in refugee camps along the Khmer-Thai border.

Mrs. Long Sorey said: “When I arrived in France, I continued my study until I became a chef teacher for more than 20 years, up until my retirement in 2001. Prior to 2001, I returned back to Cambodia once a year. After 1980, I volunteered to work at refugee camps along the border because I have 2 months of vacation each year, I went to teach cooking and tailoring to Cambodian women in refugee camps so that when they return back to Cambodia, they have some skill to survive on…”

Mrs. Long Sorey and her husband, Mr. Long Bota, retired in 2001. They currently returned back to live in Cambodia and to offer volunteer work for the Children’s Smile NGO.

Mrs. Long Sorey claimed: “I volunteered to teach at a school where they gather children who scavenge garbage and bring them in to study at the center. I teach them, the younger teachers do not know how to cook Khmer food.”

The two children of Mrs. Long Sorey and her husband are both married now. Her son now lives and works in Switzerland, and her daughter went to live and work in England after her wedding.

She added that as long as she lives, she will continue to share all her professional knowledge to all Cambodian girls and younger generation of Cambodian women who want to learn about savoir-vivre (life), morale and household work such as cooking, dressing up for wedding, tailoring, knitting, etc…

Mrs. Long Sorey claimed that her cookbook is currently being translated into English and in the future, it will also be published in Khmer as well.
READ MORE - Short biography of the world cookbook winner

Chhnam Thmei Mok Dol - "Arrival of the New Year": A Poem in Khmer by Srey Sra'em

Click on the poem in Khmer to zoom in
READ MORE - Chhnam Thmei Mok Dol - "Arrival of the New Year": A Poem in Khmer by Srey Sra'em

Photo Exhibition by Khvay Samnang Starting from Wed April 21

Dear art lovers,

Happy Khmer New Year!!!!

Sa Sa Art Gallery is back!! Our first exhibition this new year features Khvay Samnang’s photo series on Cambodian wedding. Come join us at the opening night on Wednesday April 21st at 6:30pm.

'I want to show a fuller picture of the wedding - what is happening during the wedding, for example when the bride and the groom changing dresses and doing make-up, the decoration of the wedding house, the way people dress-up and show off their jewelery, the hectic pace of the wedding and the tiresome rituals endured by the family, and especially the embarrassment that people don’t want to show in photos.'
READ MORE - Photo Exhibition by Khvay Samnang Starting from Wed April 21

Khmer New Year Celebration in Fresno 2010

READ MORE - Khmer New Year Celebration in Fresno 2010

Sacrava's Political Cartoon: Neay Krud'th's Words

Cartoon by Sacrava (on the web at http://sacrava.blogspot.com)
READ MORE - Sacrava's Political Cartoon: Neay Krud'th's Words

Sacrava's Political Cartoon: Tea Money

Cartoon by Sacrava (on the web at http://sacrava.blogspot.com)
READ MORE - Sacrava's Political Cartoon: Tea Money

Cambodia reports H5N1 death, WHO confirms Vietnam cases

Lisa Schnirring Staff Writer

Apr 21, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – Cambodia's health ministry today announced that a 27-year-old man died of H5N1 avian influenza, while the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed two previously reported cases in Vietnam and ruled out human-to-human transmission.

The Cambodian man, whose case is the country's first of the year, lived in the eastern part of the country in Prey Veng province, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. Few other details were available about the case, and the health ministry said it is investigating the man's illness and death. He will be listed as Cambodia's 10th H5N1 case and its 8th death from the disease.

Meanwhile, the WHO today confirmed the H5N1 infections of two Vietnamese patients who are part of a suspected case cluster. The patients, a 22-year-old man and a 2-year-old girl are both from Bac Kan province in the northern part of the country. Their illnesses raise the number of H5N1 cases in Vietnam to 119, of which 59 have been fatal.

Previous news reports said the area where the two live had mass poultry deaths and that at least four other people with flulike symptoms were isolated and treated with antiviral medication. Reports of suspected and confirmed H5N1 infection clusters raise fears that the virus is becoming more transmissible among humans and could become a pandemic flu strain. However, the WHO said an epidemiologic investigation has found no link between the two patients that would suggest human-to-human transmission.

A WHO statement suggests both had similar exposure to the virus. It said an initial investigation revealed sick and dead poultry around both patients' homes and in surrounding areas. It said the girl's family had recently slaughtered sick poultry to eat.

The man is listed in critical condition at National Hospital of Tropical Diseases, and the girl is in stable condition at Cho Moi District Hospital.

The newly confirmed Vietnamese H5N1 cases raise the global H5N1 total to 495 cases, which includes 292 deaths.
READ MORE - Cambodia reports H5N1 death, WHO confirms Vietnam cases

China's new dam seen as a water hog

Still under construction, the 66-story-high Xiaowan dam is scheduled to be completed this year. Other countries accuse China of stealing water.

By Calum MacLeod

XIAOWAN, China — Wearing cloaks of tree bark strands, villagers from the Yi ethnic minority tend wheat terraces that cascade downhill toward the riverbank.

It is a scene unchanged for centuries, and it takes place in the shadow of a modern wall of concrete as high as a 66-story skyscraper that fills a gorge of the Lancang River in remote southwestern China.

The Xiaowan dam in the hills of Yunnan province is one of eight hydroelectric projects that will bring China?s industrial revolution to the impoverished region. It is by far the biggest of the four dams built so far that when done this year will be the biggest arch dam in the world.

But not all of the water is China's. The downstream half of the 2,700-mile-long river winds through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, where it is known as the Mekong.

In those countries, 60 million people rely on the Mekong not for electricity but for food, water and transport. They say the Chinese dams have reduced the river to its lowest levels in 50 years, and environmental groups accuse China of reducing the river flow downstream.

"Many local people and groups that monitor the dams in China point the finger at the dams as one of the main causes of the drying up of the river," says Srisuwan Kuankachorn, co-director of Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance, a Thailand-based environmental group.

Srisuwan says the countries are in a drought caused by China that has killed fisheries, withered croplands and dried up waterway transportation routes.

And the problems are likely to get worse with the completion of the Xiaowan dam. A United Nations report issued in May 2009 warned that China's eight planned dams, of which Xiaowan is the fourth, "may pose the single greatest threat to the river."

"The capability of the new dam is much bigger than the other three combined," Srisuwan says.

Little leverage for compliance

At the plush local offices of dam builders Huaneng Hydrolancang, senior engineer Zhao Meng is unruffled by the dire allegations. Zhao, 58, bears a scientist's conviction that the doubters are wrong.

"However much water arrives, the same amount will leave," Zhao says. "We have no plan to keep the water or use it elsewhere. We will store water for a while as we fill the reservoir (currently 30% full), but this dam will not affect the water flow downstream."

Some regional experts agree that the hydroelectric projects are unrelated to the drought.

"China's dams have not caused this problem," says Jeremy Bird, CEO of the Mekong River Commission, an organization that helps manage the river's resources for Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

But China's refusal to provide data to the commission on the dams already is raising suspicions among analysts. This month, a Chinese delegation to the commission promised deeper cooperation but stopped short of adding to a promise to provide hydrological data for two smaller Yunnan dams.

"The Chinese must come clean on how much water they are diverting at Xiaowan and, in the future, at Nuozhadu," another dam that will boast an even bigger reservoir, says Alan Potkin, a development specialist at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University.

Xiaowan is "an enormously large dam, bigger than anything in North America," says Potkin, who worries that in two years' time both Xiaowan and Nuozhadu could be filling reservoirs simultaneously. Potkin is urging the commission to ask China for the most critical data. But he knows the board can do little if China refuses. "It has very little leverage at all," he says.

Journalists have been kept at bay at Xiaowan. A USA TODAY reporter was detained by police for three hours while trying to get to the site and then refused entry.

Local residents dispute that the drought stems from natural causes.

Here in Yunnan province, White Fish Pond hasn't seen fish for years, says Bi Xiuxian, who heads a small hydropower station on the Weishan River. For the past half-year, the river has hardly seen any water, either. So the privately owned power plant in the village of Lishimo is idle.

"Poor management of water facilities is definitely a major reason for this drought," complains Bi, an ethnic Yi. "We need new wells, better management of old wells, and more maintenance of water canals."

Elders pray for rain

China's thirst for energy will likely keep the projects moving forward without much look back, say activists.

"We need time to see the real results," says Wang Yongchen, founder of Green Earth Volunteers, an environmental group, who has monitored China's dam-building for several years. "China is developing so quickly and needs a lot of energy, but nature is not just for humans."

In Shuanghe village, Nanjian County, Yunnan province, farmer Xu Piqing stands on a bridge above the now-dry water canal that usually rushes into the Weishan River.

"We should be busy now, harvesting corn and beans, but instead we have nothing to do," says Xu, 43.

Some villagers are taking action, though.

This month, more than 100 elders will gather to pray for rain on the hilltop, lighting incense and kowtowing to the earth. It's an annual ritual, but "this year will be the biggest ever," Xu says.
READ MORE - China's new dam seen as a water hog

Cambodian toddler recovering after surgery in Dominican Republic

Millikan High senior Lauren Briand, left, and Socheat Nha in her Briand's Long Beach home in February. Behind her is Nha's father, Phin Ken, and her cousin, Kenha Heang, right. (Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Long Beach Press Telegram (California, USA)

A Cambodian girl taken from her homeland to receive life extending surgery was resting comfortably after a four-hour surgery performed in the Dominican Republic.

Socheat Nha, who turned 3 years old Wednesday, survived a tricky operation to repair a large hole in her heart and also had work done on the pulmonary artery that connects the heart ventricle to the lungs.

Although Dr. Rodrigo Soto, who performed the procedure, said the next 48 hours remain critical, he did say Socheat left the operating room in good condition and that in some ways her condition was not as bad as initially feared.

Soto, a surgeon from Chile working for the International Children's Heart Foundation, said he closed the hole, called a ventricular septal defect. Socheat, however, might need more work done in 6 to 10 years on her pulmonary artery, he said.

If she gets through the recovery period without incident, "she should be able to grow, put on weight and live a normal life."

Socheat overcame a big hurdle by making it through the operation without issue, but there are myriad other complications that can arise in the two days of recovery, according to doctors.

Peter Chhun, the head of Hearts Without Boundaries, which brought Socheat from Cambodia for the procedure, was cautiously optimistic.

"We all jumped up and down with joy that she survived the surgery," he said, "but I told her father we will celebrate when we all walk out of here together."

Socheat has gone through a circuitous and fretful route to get this far.

When she was first accepted by Hearts Without Boundaries to receive the surgery, it was planned that she would have an operation done in Las Vegas. However, doctors canceled her surgery because of complications and fear she would not survive.

With the help of a cardiologist in San Diego, Chhun was able to connect with International Children's Heart Foundation, which specializes in treating children from Third World countries.

That organization offered to perform the procedure in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

Chhun had to raise funds to cover travel expenses and to pay for the hospital, although the surgeon donated his services.

Despite his immediate relief, Chhun sound exhausted when reached by phone in the Dominican Republic.

He said the celebration will come when Socheat walks out of the hospital doors.

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1291
READ MORE - Cambodian toddler recovering after surgery in Dominican Republic

BHP declines comment on 'tea money'

22 Apr 2010

BHP Billiton Ltd is refusing to confirm corruption claims relating the company are connected to so-called "tea money" paid to officials in Cambodia.

Non-government group Global Witness last year highlighted allegations originally aired in a local Cambodian newspaper in 2007 that the company had paid the "tea money" a customary term for unofficial payments.

A BHP Billiton spokeswoman on Thursday said she was unable to add to comments already made by the company.

In its quarterly production report on Wednesday, BHP Billiton revealed it had uncovered potential corruption in company dealings with government officials.

The company did not disclose which country or countries the allegations related to, or whether any workers had been stood down or sacked in relation to the claims.

But Global Witness has said: "According to an article published in The Cambodia Daily on 24 May 2007, Cambodia's Minister for Water Resources, Lim Kean Hor, told the National Assembly that BHP Billiton had paid $US2.5 million to the government to secure a bauxite mining concession.

"In the same article, Lim Kean Hor is reported to have described this payment as tea money, a customary term for an unofficial payment in Cambodia," Global Witness said in its Country for Sale report.

The report went on to say that in accordance with the terms of a minerals exploration agreement BHP Billiton paid $US1 million to the Cambodian government in September 2006.

It said the money did not appear to be accounted for in government financial documents, raising questions about where the $US1 million had gone.

Global Witness wrote to BHP Billiton in 2008 about the allegations and the miner replied that it had paid $US2.5 million for a social development fund in Cambodia.

"We reject any assertion that the payment under the minerals exploration agreement is, or the amounts contributed to the social development projects fund are, tea money," the miner told Global Witness.

BHP Billiton on Wednesday said it was cooperating with relevant authorities and had disclosed evidence it uncovered regarding "possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws".

The corruption investigation comes at a crucial time for BHP Billiton, as it is trying to convince regulators in Australia, Europe and Asia to sign-off on a controversial joint venture with Rio Tinto.

While refusing to name which country the corruption allegations relate to, BHP Billiton has volunteered that it does not relate to China.

Four Rio Tinto workers based in Shanghai were recently convicted of receiving bribes and jailed in China.

BHP shares were 1.47 per cent weaker at $42.10 at 1242 AEST, against a 1.17 per cent slide in the benchmark index.
READ MORE - BHP declines comment on 'tea money'

Doing business in Cambodia, BHP-style

22 April 2010
By former Phnom Penh Post journalist Georgia Wilkins

Today’s broadsheets reported that mining giant BHP Billiton could be guilty of paying $US2.5 million in bribes to the Cambodian government to secure a bauxite mining concession in the country’s north-west.

Further investigations have revealed that BHP discretely shelved its mining plans at the same time as a probe into the deal by the US Securities and Exchange Commission began. It seems Japan’s Mitsubishi were also part of the deal.

Is this a repeat of the Rio Tinto saga, or are we seeing a pattern emerge?

It seems that even the world’s largest mining company and one of the world’s largest diversified trading and investment companies believe that they can get away with corrupt behaviour; at least in vulnerable corners of the world in which few in London or New York pay attention too.

The Sydney Morning Herald claims that the latest graft scandal to hit a mining company has been under investigation by SEC since August. This coincides exactly with the company’s sudden pull-out from the bauxite mine in Mondulkiri province, Cambodia.

BHP at the time attributed the pull-out to their failure to find bauxite in sufficient quantities, with a spokesman for BHP in Australia quoted in the Phnom Penh Post as saying: “We completed our exploration field work in the Mondulkiri province and are in the process of sharing our evaluation with the Royal Government of Cambodia. As such, we have reduced our presence in Phnom Penh.”

The spokesman, who was not named, refused to give further details, saying that “…we do not comment publicly about the results of our exploration activities”.

Another source confirmed this alibi, telling the Post a feasibility study, which reportedly cost $US10 million and covered 400 hectares of the company’s 996-hectare concession, failed to find bauxite in sufficient quantities to make extraction profitable and justify the construction of the aluminium refinery.

But it seems that the news of poor profits was so devastating to BHP that it not only exited the deal, but exited the country, quickly vacating their large French-colonial building on the city’s main boulevard and no longer returning the Post’s calls.

The question needs to be asked: Why is this coming to light now?

The Global Witness report has been on the record for over a year, claiming BHP is involved with gross wrongdoing. But only now is it reaching papers in the developed world — surely in part because of the blow-up of the Stern Hu case.

Tireless watchdogs like Global Witness have long been a thorn in the side of Cambodia’s political and military elite. But officials know that without a large international audience, the group’s naming and blaming usually falls on deaf ears. It is this isolation from the world community that, as Global Witness itself points out, makes Cambodia such a natural fit with extreme corruption and kleptocracy.

So why were these commercial titans with huge reputations on the line dipping into the forbidden fruit on offer in small, backwater countries?

Global Witness says the fact that Cambodia has been resting on the cusp of a “petroleum and minerals windfall” is at least partly to blame.

“High demand worldwide for these commodities has, until recently, led to high prices. As a result companies are beginning to search for economically viable reserves in previously untapped countries once thought to be too politically unstable to operate in,” it says in its report, Country for Sale.

So, was it only a matter of time?

Cambodia and Vietnam, with fractured economies and greedy politicians, both have a reputation in south-east Asia for being the lowest hanging fruit on the dirty-money tree. Cambodia also has the seductive advantage of a huge bureaucracy in which standard accounting practices can disappear without a trace; not to mention a system of bullying predicated on fear which guards corrupt deals against squealers.

Indeed, the Cambodian government has been labeled the biggest in size in the world per capita; and they may likely be the richest. A nomenklatura of inter-wed and blood-related elites manage the country’s wealth through a sophisticated pyramid-shaped network of handshaking and intimidation. It is almost impossible to defy this natural hierarchy of power and its coercive logic of bribery: Global Witness claim every mine they investigated for their report was indeed run by a member of the government or military, or their relative.

So protected is the government from opposition that it can be genuinely humoured by attempts to threaten its power – especially when they come from outside the country. Following the release of Global Witness’s report, the Cambodian ambassador to the UK and son of the Minister for Commerce, Hor Nambora, responded by whipping up his own “report” with a poorly drawn image of the initial report going into a waste-paper basket.

But as the government squanders so much of the country’s wealth on big cars and expensive watches, teachers and low-level government workers are starved and forced to perpetuate the cycle of bribery.

‘Tea money’ may sound like a sinister misnomer, but to most Cambodians, a kickback is simply the cost of an every-day service. A legitimate monetary system can be easily reversed once one person’s salary is not paid. Because teachers receive barely any income, children learn from an early age that if they want to pass subjects, they must take a few hundred riel along with their lunches to school every day.

With this culture in place, it is difficult to believe that any company, large or small, international or local, can avoid paying this ‘tea’ tax on top of bloated concession fees. With SEC’s investigation underway, we are no doubt likely to see that the Stern Hu case is the rule, rather than the exception, when it comes to second and third-world business deals.
READ MORE - Doing business in Cambodia, BHP-style

"Kung Th'Ngai Na Muoy..." a Poem in Khmer by Hin Sithan

READ MORE - "Kung Th'Ngai Na Muoy..." a Poem in Khmer by Hin Sithan

Journalist reports death threat

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Vong Sokheng
The Phnom Penh Post

A JOURNALIST for the Sam Rainsy Party-aligned Khmer Machas Srok newspaper alleged on Tuesday that bodyguards working for Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) officials had threatened to kill him.

Boay Roeuy, 40, who has worked for the paper since 1994, said he was at his home in Dangkor district’s Krang Thnong commune on Tuesday when a bodyguard whom he could identify only as “Sna” and several other men turned up at his door with a handgun and began shouting for him to come outside.

Boay Roeuy said that neighbours later told him that the men work as bodyguards for CPP officials.

He added that he fears for his safety because the bodyguard known as “Sna” lives in a house across the street from his own.

“If I would have gone outside my house they would have shot at me,” he said.

Boay Roeuy said he had informed the rights group Licadho of the incident and submitted a complaint to Mak Mi, the Krang Thnong commune police chief.

Mak Mi said on Tuesday that he had received Boay Roeuy’s complaint on April 20, but that no action had yet been taken.

“It doesn’t look like a case of intimidation or a death threat against the journalist,” he said, adding that during Khmer New Year it is normal for villagers to play loud music, shout in the streets and drink beer.
READ MORE - Journalist reports death threat

Top Ratanakiri forestry official replaced

Illegal logging in Prek Proloung commune, Prek Prasap district, Kratie province on 12 August 2009 (Photo: Or Phearith, RFA)

21 April 2010
By Ratha Visal
Radio Free Asia
Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy
Click here to read the article in Khmer

The ministry of Agriculture had replaced Youkan Vimean, its top forestry official for the province of Ratanakiri, after it discovered numerous illegal cases involving precious wood in the region.

The announcement of the replacement took place on Tuesday 20 April at the Ratanakiri provincial office under the presidency of Chan Savuth, the under-secretary of state of the ministry of Agriculture. Vong Sok Serey, another provincial forestry official, took over Youkan Vimean’s position.

Besides provincial TV reporters and photographers for the ministry of Agriculture, no other reporters are allowed inside the building to report this event.

Youkan Vimean said that he does not have a positive feelings about this replacement: “This is a re-organization of my department where there is a replacement of working officials.”

Vong Sok Serey declined to comment, claiming that he is busy in a meeting and that he just took over his duty.

However, an anonymous provincial official indicated that the replacement took place under order from Hun Xen in order to reform the local forestry leadership to provide efficient forestry work.

The same anonymous source indicated also that Vong Sok Serey was the former top forestry official for Stung Treng province. Youkan Vimean will be transferred to the forestry department.

Ratanakiri officials indicated that about 600 to 700 cubic meters of all sorts of precious wood logs were confiscated from various hiding houses, located both in farms and in the woods in all the province’s districts, starting form March 2010.

Pen Bonna, a facilitator and investigator for the Adhoc human rights group for Ratanakiri province, said that it is time for a replacement in order to reform the protection of forests which are destroyed by the thousands of hectares for private interest.

Pen Bonna said: “He is not the only one, it also involves authorities and local officials as well. In some areas, we received reports that logs are still being hidden there, and illegal logging is still taking place.”

Pao Horm Phan, the Ratanakiri provincial governor, asked the population to cooperate and report all instances of illegal logging to the authority so that they may be taken care of.

Pao Horm Phan said: “If they [public] see it, let them report to us. We are searching every day and the work is still in progress.”

For the entire country, report of illegal precious wood log confiscation indicated that about 3,000 cubic meters of logs were confiscated during police raids since the beginning of March. However, Pen Bonna said that several thousands of cubic meters of precious wood were illegally logged and transported to Vietnam along the international border gate in O’Yadaw district, and to other destinations inside Cambodia between January and March 2010. Currently, there are still several hundreds of cubic meters of precious wood logs hidden on farms and in businesses and private houses belonging to some of the local officials.
READ MORE - Top Ratanakiri forestry official replaced

Gov’t to increase bonus salary for high ranking army and police officers

5-golden-star general Hun Xen and top army brass (Photo: Khmer Sovannara, DAP)

21 April 2010

By Meas Mony
Free Press Magazine online
Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy
Click here to read the article in Khmer

It has been turned into a bad joke when nonstop waves of demonstration of low ranking civil servants are demanding for a raise of their bonuses so that they can live a decent life, but quite to the contrary, the government instead decided to hand out bonuses only to a handful of high-ranking army and police officers.

Based on a sub-decree promoted by Keat Chhon, the minister of Finance, and approved by Hun Xen on 15 March 2010, bonuses will be doled out to army and police officers ranking between levels no. 1 and 50 only, the bonus amount is 50% [of their salary(?)].

Under this unfair distribution of social rewards, MP Yim Sovann, the SRP spokesman, declared that the government should think about soldiers and police officers stationed all along the country who have to face severe living and health conditions. Due to their low salaries, these lower-ranking soldiers and police officers could not send their children to school.

Currently, the salary for regular civil servants amounts to more than 100,000 riels (about $30). However, for those who hold the position of department chief and up, their salaries start at 1 million riels ($250), they also receive additional gasoline and telephone stipends.
READ MORE - Gov’t to increase bonus salary for high ranking army and police officers

The political battle becoming dirtier by the day [in Thailand]

April 22, 2010
By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

Thais appear to be keen on expanding the ongoing conflict instead of containing it, with many different colour-coded groups emerging to confront the red-shirt protesters. Such confrontation would only orchestrate violence, if not a civil war.

Initially, the current political stalemate was only meant to be a conflict between Abhisit Vejjajiva's government and former PM Thaksin Shinawata's supporters. Now, unfortunately, lots of issues are being raised and more and more people are getting involved.

For instance, middle-class Bangkokians - at the end of their tether over the chaos caused by the red shirts - decided to take to the streets in multicoloured shirts last week to express their dissatisfaction. Some of them had minor clashes with the red shirts near Lumpini Park, while others had a bit of a fracas on Silom Road.

The multicolour group was born along the same lines as the red shirt's arch foe, the yellow-clad People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). Their demands are the same - disperse the protesters.

In fact, it is no secret that leaders of the multicoloured group used to be members of the PAD movement, which brought down the red-influenced governments of late Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat in 2008 before putting Abhisit at the helm.

The right-wing PAD has given the government a week to bring down the red-shirt movement, otherwise the group - which now calls itself a royal guardian - will take things into its own hands.

The yellow-shirt PAD is accusing Thaksin's red-shirt supporters of trying to bring about a "regime change" in which the Kingdom of Thailand becomes a republic, with Thaksin as its first president.

Although the red shirts' demand for a new election is nothing strange in a democratic society, Prime Minister Abhisit is subscribing to the PAD's belief and echoing accusations that the reds are committing "acts of terrorism" to bring about a "great change" in Thailand.

On Tuesday, an unknown group of people put up stickers on Silom Road saying that the red-shirt group wanted a new Thailand with Thaksin as president. A move like this suggests that the right wing and elitist forces are employing old tactics to label the opponents as anti-monarchists.

The anti-monarchist accusation in Thailand is powerful enough to destroy anybody. The institution of monarchy has been firmly established in the Kingdom for a long time. Stringent laws protect the monarch from the slightest of criticism and if anybody gets accused of lese majeste, it is hard for them to escape.

On October 6, 1976, student activists in Thammasat University were massacred just because they were accused of being anti-monarchists. Many politicians, including the red-shirt leader Veera Musigapong and some members of the ruling Democrat Party, have had bitter experiences related to the lese majeste law.

The stickers on Silom Road prompted an immediate denial from Thaksin, with the red-shirt leaders declaring on Tuesday that it was a dirty political game. They know the power of anti-monarchy accusations.

However, if Abhisit and his government are gentle and fair enough, they should be able to limit the conflict and stop a third hand from using this sensitive issue to make things worse.

Calling the protesters terrorists and turning a normal political protest into a national security issue and a threat to the revered institution, is uncivilised and unfair. Besides, such tactics will only make the problem more complicated and difficult to resolve.
READ MORE - The political battle becoming dirtier by the day [in Thailand]

Senior Opposition Leaders Continue Court Battles

Mu Sochua, a Cambodian opposition party lawmaker, looks on in front of the Phnom Penh Municipality Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Photo: AP)

Senior opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua returned to Cambodia last week, where she is contesting a defamation verdict at the Supreme Court.

Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Wednesday, 21 April 2010

On Tuesday, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer requested the establishment of a court border commission to investigate encroachment.
Senior opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua returned to Cambodia last week, where she is contesting a defamation verdict at the Supreme Court.

Mu Sochua, a member of the Sam Rainsy Party, was fined for remarks made in connection with a lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen, who she claims defamed her in public speeches made last year. She had been traveling in the US.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy himself remains in exile abroad, facing a two-year sentence on charges stemming from the destruction of border markers in Svay Rieng province, next to Vietnam.

He is also facing charges of disinformation—a potential 18-year sentence—for publishing a map on his Web site alleging border encroachment from Vietnam. On Tuesday, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer requested the establishment of a court border commission to investigate encroachment.

Court officials said Wednesday they were considering the request.
READ MORE - Senior Opposition Leaders Continue Court Battles

Counter-terrorism building inaugurated by ... Cambodia's "top power terrorist"?

1-golden-star general Hun Manet (L) standing next to his 5-golden-star father, general Hun Xen, during the inauguration of the new counter-terrorism building (Photo: Ly Meng Huor, RFI)

Hun Sen Opens Counterterror Building

Cambodia has emerged as a willing partner in the US’s fight against terrorism, having arrested four suspects of the Jemaah Islamiyah network in 2003.

Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Wednesday, 21 April 2010

“Terrorism is the most ferocious [act] we have to fight. It occurs everywhere, without racial or religious discrimination.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said he was committed to fighting terrorism, with the participation of Cambodian citizens.

“What I insist on is preventing terrorism,” Hun Sen said at the inauguration of a building that will house the government’s counterterrorism agency.

Hun Sen’s son, Hun Maneth, is the head of the Ministry of Defense’s counterterrorism unit.

“Terrorism is the most ferocious [act] we have to fight,” Hun Sen said. “It occurs everywhere, without racial or religious discrimination.”

Cambodia has emerged as a willing partner in the US’s fight against terrorism, having arrested four suspects of the Jemaah Islamiyah network in 2003. Three suspects remain in jail in Cambodia. Cambodia was also used as a haven for the head of Jemaah Islamiyah, Hambali, who was arrested in Thailand in 2003.

“We consider the Cambodian government to be a strong partner in terms of counterterrorism cooperation,” US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said Wednesday.

“We’ve said in the past that Cambodia’s porous borders are a concern, not just in terms of terrorism but also in terms of transnational crimes and narcotics trafficking,” he said. “And we’re therefore engaged with the government at all levels to help improve maritime and land border security, in order to ensure that Cambodia remains a strong and stable partner in the region.”
READ MORE - Counter-terrorism building inaugurated by ... Cambodia's "top power terrorist"?

Cambodia rubber price rises by 236 percent

April 21, 2010

PHNOM PENH (Commodity Online) : Cambodia’s General Directorate of Rubber said the price of dry rubber has increased by more than 236 percent year-on-year in the country.

Such sharp increase in rubber prices has not been seen for 60 years. It has resulted from demand outstripping supply, it said in a report.

The price of rubber sold to international markets this month reached $3,700 per tonne.In April last year, rubber was sold for only $1,100 per tonne, with a 2009 market high of $3,000 per tonne.

Last year, because of the unfavourable weather and unusual heavy rainfall in major producing areas such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, world production decreased around 6 percent.

So far, much of Cambodia’s 130,000 hectares of rubber cultivation consists of young crops, which have not yet yielded.

In 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries reported that Cambodia produced 37,000 tonnes of rubber, 36,000 tonnes of which was exported.
READ MORE - Cambodia rubber price rises by 236 percent

Cambodia reports 8th bird flu death, 1st this year

Associated Press

A 27-year-old man in eastern Cambodia has died of bird flu, the country's first fatality this year and its eighth since the virus started to sweep through Asia almost seven years ago.

Cambodia's Health Ministry said in a statement issued jointly Wednesday with the World Health Organization that the man in Prey Veng province died Saturday. It was the country's 10th human case of the disease.

The statement says there have been 494 laboratory-confirmed cases of the disease in 15 countries since 2003, with 293 fatalities. The Cambodian man's death was the 11th worldwide this year.

The Health Ministry said it was investigating the case, and stepping up a campaign for preventative health measures.
READ MORE - Cambodia reports 8th bird flu death, 1st this year

BHP dawdles to reveal SEC probe

April 22, 2010
Malcom Maiden
The Age (Australia)

BHP Billiton learned last August that its acquisition of exploration rights in Asia years earlier was the subject of a US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, and it found out because the SEC told it so.

BHP sat on that information until yesterday, when it used a routine quarterly announcement to reveal that it had checked out the matter, had found evidence pointing to ''interactions'' with government officials that may have breached anti-corruption laws, and had passed that information on to the authorities.

The questions raised by this are: why didn't BHP brief the markets last August; and why did it choose not to announce the probe separately yesterday.

And the short-term answers are: BHP didn't reveal the SEC investigation last August because its legal advice was that under its continuous disclosure obligations it did not need to; and it revealed the investigation yesterday inside another, regular announcement because it believed the matter did not warrant immediate, separate disclosure.

As unsatisfying as those answers might be, they suggest one thing: BHP at this stage is confident that it is not headed into the same kind of nightmare that Rio Tinto has been in for more a year since the detention, charging and conviction of four of its Shanghai-based executives for taking bribes and obtaining commercial secrets about China's steel industry. That confidence is going to be tested as the facts emerge.

BHP was precise and sparing with what it said yesterday in a single paragraph at the bottom of page three of its March-quarter exploration and development report.

It said that the SEC had requested information as part of an investigation into ''certain terminated minerals exploration projects'' and that as a result it had uncovered evidence of possible violations of anti-corruption laws involving ''interactions'' with government officials. The group said it was co-operating with the investigation while continuing its own examination, and said it could not predict where the affair was headed, or how long it would take it to get there.

Separately, a spokesman created distance from the Rio debacle, saying that the investigation did not relate to any activity in China, or the sale and marketing of BHP products.

It is believed that the SEC is looking mainly at the $US1 million acquisition of bauxite mineral rights in Cambodia in 2006 by a consortium led by BHP and Mitsubishi. The purchase of mineral rights in the Philippines may also be a focus.

A British anti-corruption advocacy group, Global Witness, reported in February last year that the $US1 million payment seemed not to have been booked by the Cambodian government, which recorded revenue of only $US443,866 from mining concessions that year.

BHP defended the deal at that time as being above board, and in an interview Global Witness director Gavin Hayman congratulated the mining group for being ''transparent'' and responding to inquiries.

Last August, however, BHP was contacted by the SEC and asked to use its own resources to inquire into the Cambodian deal. BHP took the position that the SEC's approach was not material, and its own investigation was complicated by the fact that the projects had already been shut down after being rated as non-goers commercially. But what it found raised enough questions about how BHP gained mineral rights for it to make renewed contact with the SEC.

Even then, however, BHP waited a short time before announcing the SEC probe, and its discovery of possible breaches of anti corruption laws. The group's position is that its

re-examination of the payments has raised questions about them, rather than revealed them to have been illegal, something that would have required immediate disclosure.

Despite BHP's apparent confidence, news of the probe comes at a challenging time for the mining group. It is in the midst of attempting to persuade competition regulators in Australia, Europe and the US to approve its proposed Pilbara iron ore merger with Rio, and it is also preparing for the imminent release of a tax report from Ken Henry that will almost certainly recommend a new tax on mining company super-profits.

The issues it potentially faces are similar to those Rio is dealing with in the wake of the Chinese court's finding that four of its employees obtained commercial secrets.

Regulatory inquiries are under way in the US, Australia and Britain to determine whether Rio should bear some responsibility for what the Chinese court says happened. If the SEC concludes that anti-corruption laws were breached as BHP and its partners acquired minerals rights, similar questions will be asked of BHP about whether the breaches were renegade acts, or sanctioned.

At the very least it looks as though the auditing trails that support BHP's comprehensive ban on preferential payments will need to be overhauled. The group's code of conduct expressly forbids improper payments, and defines them exhaustively. There are already enough doubts about what happened to suggest that its policing of those rules failed.

READ MORE - BHP dawdles to reveal SEC probe

BHP faces investigation into $2.7m Cambodia graft claim

April 22, 2010
Matt Chambers and Matthew Stevens
The Australian

BHP Billiton yesterday joined Rio Tinto in battling graft allegations, saying it had uncovered evidence of possible corruption by employees on an overseas project.

The Australian understands the conduct, now under investigation by the powerful Securities and Exchange Commission in the US, relates to a bauxite exploration project in Cambodia.

BHP has admitted making a $US2.5 million ($2.7m) payment to the community near the bauxite project, in the northeastern Cambodian province of Mondulkiri, near the Vietnamese border.

A Cambodian government minister described the payment as "tea money", a local term for unofficial payments to government officials.

BHP has rejected this, saying the money was put into a development fund investing in local social welfare programs. The company said it had paid $US1m in September 2006 to the Cambodia government for bauxite exploration rights.

BHP yesterday declined to reveal where the alleged corruption occurred, stressing only that it was not China. It would not comment on what the behaviour involved and whether employees had stood down or been fired but it said the activities involved mineral exploration, not marketing its products.

Last month, Rio sacked four workers, including Australian Stern Hu, after they were convicted of bribery and stealing commercial secrets related to deals to sell iron ore to Chinese steel mills. Rio has introduced sweeping changes to its Chinese operation and is conducting a review to avoid a repeat of the scandal.

Yesterday, BHP said the alleged corruption was uncovered after the SEC queried it during an investigation into mineral exploration projects.

"The company has disclosed to relevant authorities evidence it has uncovered regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials," BHP said yesterday in a statement.

According to a report in The Cambodia Daily in July 2007, the nation's National Assembly was told BHP had paid $US2.5m to the government to secure exploration rights to a bauxite deposit in Mondulkiri with Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi.

The claim was made by the then water minister, who described the payment as "tea money".

The minister's comments informed a report into Cambodian corruption by the non-government organisation Global Witness. The report, Country for Sale, details the claims and BHP's rejection of them.

Global Witness wrote to BHP in October 2008 requesting details of any and all payments made to the Cambodian government.

BHP responded saying it had put $US2.5m into a development fund and it had paid $US1m in September 2006 to the government for bauxite exploration.

"BHP Billiton has never made a payment to a Cambodian government official or representative, and we reject any assertion that the payment under the minerals exploration agreement is, or amounts contributed to the Social Development Projects Fund are, `tea money'," the miner said.

While Global Witness did not draw any negative conclusions about the management of the development fund, it did identify an issue with the $US1m payment to government, although one outside the control of BHP.
READ MORE - BHP faces investigation into $2.7m Cambodia graft claim

BHP bribe scandal could involve Cambodian project

Cambodia's Minister for Water Resources, Lim Kean Hor, told the National Assembly BHP had paid $US2.5 million to the government to secure a bauxite mining concession. ''Lim Kean Hor is reported to have described this payment as 'tea money', an unofficial payment in Cambodia''
April 22, 2010
The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

BHP BILLITON'S blue-chip reputation has been tarnished by a foreign bribes scandal, believed to involve the group's abandoned bauxite exploration project in Cambodia where the payment of ''tea money'' to gain access to exploration ground is rife.

The scandal has been under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission since August but only became ominous for BHP in a reputational sense yesterday when the Australian resources giant admitted the bribery claims could have merit.

BHP disclosed that its own internal investigation - a response to inquiries from the SEC - had uncovered evidence ''regarding possible violations of applicable anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials''.

It did not name the country or the now abandoned projects involved. While Cambodia was the popular tip by the non-government organisations that monitor the behaviour of the global miners in Third World countries, a nickel project in the Philippines was also mentioned by the organisations.

Either way, the revelations are a blow to BHP Billiton's need to maintain a squeaky clean corporate image while waiting on clearance from global regulators for its $US115 billion ($123 billion) iron ore production joint venture with Rio Tinto, a proposed deal that has angered the Chinese steel industry, the world's biggest. It was notable that while BHP would not name the country at the heart of the bribery scandal, it was prepared to volunteer that it was not China.

''We are limited in what we can comment on as the matter is still under investigation,'' it said.

''However, we can confirm that the SEC's requests for information primarily relate to certain terminated minerals exploration projects and not any activity in China, BHP Billiton's marketing activities or the sale of any of the company's products.''

Rio itself has suffered damage to its reputation in recent weeks. Last month China jailed four iron ore traders, including the Australian citizen Stern Hu, for accepting bribes and stealing commercial secrets. They were sentenced to between seven and 14 years' jail.

BHP is being assisted in the investigation by the New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardell. BHP would not comment on whether any of its employees had been stood down pending completion of the inquiry.

The bombshell was contained on the third page of an exploration and development report to the stock exchange for the March quarter.

BHP believes it was not obliged to make an earlier disclosure on the SEC investigation. But it now considers it relevant information - at least in the context of announcing in the exploration and development report - following its more recent discovery of possible anti-corruption violations.

''The company is co-operating with the relevant authorities including conducting an internal investigation, which is continuing. It is not possible at this time to predict the scope or duration of the investigation or its likely outcome,'' BHP said.

Under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, BHP could be fined up to $US2 million while ''officers, directors, stockholders, employees, and agents are subject to a fine of up to $US100,000 and imprisonment for up to five years''.

The laws were introduced in the 1970s after more than 400 US companies admitted making questionable or illegal payments to foreign government officials to secure favourable treatment.

In a report by the British advocacy group Global Witness, published in February last year, the group cites a 2007 article in The Cambodian Daily which says that Cambodia's Minister for Water Resources, Lim Kean Hor, told the National Assembly BHP had paid $US2.5 million to the government to secure a bauxite mining concession.

''Lim Kean Hor is reported to have described this payment as 'tea money', an unofficial payment in Cambodia,'' the report says.

BHP rejected the claim in a letter in November 2008 to Global Witness saying the money was used for a social development program. ''In … terms of the minerals exploration agreement with the Cambodian government, which granted BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi the right to explore for bauxite, an amount of $US1 million was formally paid to the Cambodian government in September 2006,'' BHP wrote.

''If the money appears elsewhere … it is not clear where,'' the Global Witness report said. ''This raises questions as to where BHP Billiton's $US1 million payment made in September 2006 has gone.''
READ MORE - BHP bribe scandal could involve Cambodian project

Talks address Kampong Speu dispute

Villagers on Tuesday block a section of a road in Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune as part of a protest related to an ongoing dispute over a land concession. (Photo Supplied by ADHOC)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010
May Titthara
The Phnom Penh Post

Rights groups say not all affected villagers were invited to boundary discussion.

ABOUT 500 villagers from Omlaing commune in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district met with authorities on Tuesday to discuss setting boundaries between their farmland and land granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, though many who attended said afterwards that they still had concerns about how the dispute would be resolved.

Meanwhile, some 600 villagers continued to block National Road 52 until early in the afternoon to protest what they described as insufficient efforts on the part of the company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, to work towards a resolution to the ongoing land row.

Representatives from the company were not present for Tuesday’s negotiations, which were held at the Omlaing commune office and attended by Deputy Provincial Governor Pen Sambou, Thpong District Governor Tuon Song and Commune Chief Hab Dam.

Well-known media personality Soy Sopheap, who serves as a commentator on Bayon TV, took charge of the talks, villagers said.

“Soy Sopheap ordered the villagers to write down details on a document about how many hectares of land we have and where our land is, and then put our thumbprints” on the document, said San Tho, a representative of the villagers.

He said villagers were hesitant to give their thumbprints, and that many were concerned that the government would try to use the document against them.

Hi Hoeun, a villager who also attended the negotiations, said, “We are afraid the authorities will cheat us.... If we agree to put our thumbprints [on the document] we are afraid they will change the document and make it look like we agreed that the company could grab our land.”

He added that he was also concerned by statements from officials at the meeting indicating that the rights of villagers who did not attend would not be honoured.

“The authorities said they will not be responsible for villagers who did not attend the meeting and did not put their thumbprints on the document,” he said. “It’s an injustice, because the authorities did not invite all the villagers.”

Ouch Leng, land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, also said that not all villagers who stand to be affected by the concession had been invited to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, expressed concern that villagers not present at the meeting would not be given the opportunity to provide the details of their land claims.

“We are worried the authorities ... will not settle the problem,” he explained. “If they want to get the real statistics, they should go to the farmland and let the villagers show them where their land is.”

After the meeting, however, Soy Sopheap said villagers would be given another chance to sign the document today. He added that over the next month officials would work with villagers to finalise accurate measurements of their land.

“We will let them show us where their land is, but if they show us forest land we will not provide them with compensation because that is state-owned land,” Soy Sopheap said.

He said the information gathered from villagers would be passed on to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had set aside about 1,050 hectares for the villagers in case the company encroached on their land.

Eleven villages in Omlaing commune – home to more than 2,000 families – have been affected by the 9,000-hectare concession granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company.

Pen Sambou and Ly Yong Phat both declined to comment on Tuesday’s meeting.
READ MORE - Talks address Kampong Speu dispute

Defamation: Mu Sochua returns to Kingdom

(Photo: AP)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Meas Sokchea
The Phnom Penh Post

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, who arrived in Cambodia last week not long after missing a Supreme Court hearing for the defamation case filed against her by Prime Minister Hun Sen, said Tuesday that she would be willing to show if she were summoned again, though court officials said they had no immediate plans to schedule a new hearing.

Mu Sochua was in the US for the April 7 hearing at which the Supreme Court was expected to read out a verdict in the case. The verdict was postponed in line with her request that it be delayed until she returned. In August, Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Mu Sochua guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen by alleging that he had defamed her in a speech in April 2009. She was ordered to pay a fine of 16.5 million riels (around US$3,975), and that judgment was upheld by the Appeal Court in October. On Tuesday, she reiterated that she would not pay the fine.
READ MORE - Defamation: Mu Sochua returns to Kingdom

Sam Rainsy’s lawyer asks for border post committee

Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Meas Sokchea
The Phnom Penh Post

THE lawyer for opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Tuesday asked Phnom Penh Municipal Court to form a committee to investigate the placement of border markings in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district that are at the centre of two separate cases concerning allegations of Vietnamese encroachment.

Investigating judge Oeung Sieng said Tuesday the court would consider forming the committee, which Choung Choungy, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, said should include himself, Oeung Sieng, government lawyer Ky Tech and government officials involved in border-demarcation efforts.

The committee would be tasked with visiting the site of the border markings in Chantrea district to determine their precise location, information the court could then take into account when deciding on charges facing Sam Rainsy, Choung Choungy said.

The court last month charged the president of the Sam Rainsy Party with falsifying public documents and spreading disinformation after he staged several press conferences during which he accused government officials of turning a blind eye to demarcation work that he said was robbing farmers of their land.

The charges could fetch him up to 18 years behind bars. In January, Svay Rieng provincial court sentenced him to two years in prison for charges stemming from an October action in which he helped Chantrea villagers uproot the border posts.

Oeung Sieng on Tuesday did not give a timeline for when the court would decide on whether to grant Choung Choungy’s request. “I have not decided yet. He just delivered [his request] this morning. I am reading it,” he said.

Ky Tech said he would accept the court’s decision on the matter. “This does not mean that I support the request, but however the court decides, I will respect it,” he said.

Tuesday’s questioning session, which lasted about an hour, marked the second time that Sam Rainsy, who is currently abroad in self-imposed exile, failed to appear when summoned by the court.

When issuing its latest summons, the court said an arrest warrant would be filed for Sam Rainsy if he refused to show, but Oeung Sieng on Tuesday again declined to comment on the likelihood that a warrant would be issued.

Also Tuesday, Choung Choungy asked that government lawyers alter the coordinates they have provided for the border posts in court documents, describing them as incorrect.
READ MORE - Sam Rainsy’s lawyer asks for border post committee

Heng Pov pens book lauding PM

Former municipal police chief Heng Pov’s new book is displayed for sale Tuesday along Street 51 near Sihanouk Boulevard. (Photo by: Pha Lina)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Cheang Sokha and James O'toole
The Phnom Penh Post

He also alleged that actress Piseth Pilika, who was shot and killed in 1999, was gunned down on orders from first lady Bun Rany, who he said had learned of an affair between the starlet and her husband, and accused local tycoon Mong Reththy of involvement in drug trafficking.
FORMER Phnom Penh municipal police chief Heng Pov has written a book from prison that offers effusive praise for Prime Minister Hun Sen, in what observers say is a marked turn from previous public comments and may be an attempt to secure a pardon.

The book was first distributed to stores in central Phnom Penh on Tuesday, with Heng Pov’s preface dated January 2010. In the 227-page volume, titled Strategy to Extinguish War in Cambodia, Heng Pov offers an analysis of recent Cambodian history and politics that describes Hun Sen as the Kingdom’s most skillful leader and refers to him by his full honorific.

“The special condition of the diplomatic strategy of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen is not to consider any philosophy, country or religion as an enemy of Cambodia with whom we cannot compromise or reconcile,” Heng Pov writes, offering similar praise for the premier’s role in domestic politics.

“Samdech Techo never considered other Cambodian politicians as life-or-death enemies with whom he cannot compromise or reconcile,” he says.

Kao Soupha, Heng Pov’s lawyer, said he had proofread the book prior to publication. He said Heng Pov’s aim in writing it had been to demonstrate his patriotism and to describe Hun Sen’s political career.

“This book is not written simply to praise Hun Sen, but to show the facts of his leadership of the country,” Kao Soupha said.

Heng Pov, a widely feared leader during his time as police chief, was arrested in 2006 and sentenced last year to over 90 years in prison on a raft of charges including extortion, kidnapping and murder. He is scheduled to appear at the Appeal Court on April 30 to contest three of the cases against him, though Kao Soupha said that at this point, Heng Pov’s only hope is for the prime minister to come to his aid.

“For Heng Pov’s case, the court will never find justice for him, and only Hun Sen can save him,” Kao Soupha said.

Heng Pov’s praise for Hun Sen stands in stark contrast to previous public statements, including a 2006 interview with the French weekly L’Express in which he accused Hun Sen and former national police chief Hok Lundy of being behind the 1997 grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy Party rally and numerous other assassinations of opposition or political figures.

He also alleged that actress Piseth Pilika, who was shot and killed in 1999, was gunned down on orders from first lady Bun Rany, who he said had learned of an affair between the starlet and her husband, and accused local tycoon Mong Reththy of involvement in drug trafficking. These allegations have been denied.

Heng Pov has claimed innocence of the charges against him, alleging that they were engineered by Hok Lundy, his former rival.

Hok Lundy was killed in a helicopter crash in 2008, a fact that Cambodian Defenders Project director Sok Sam Oeun said may have played into Heng Pov’s decision to write the book.

“The enemy of Heng Pov, Hok Lundy, is dead, so maybe Heng Pov thinks he has a chance to be pardoned by the prime minister,” Sok Sam Oeun said. He added that for a case involving a high-profile political figure – Heng Pov is also a former adviser to Hun Sen – a pardon could indeed be possible.

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said the book might have been conceived as an attempt to “appease” Hun Sen. Though he said a pardon could be possible, he argued that given the severity of Heng Pov’s past statements, the premier may be unlikely to offer leniency.

“The fallout was so deep,” he said. “I know that sometimes the prime minister does have a change of heart over political-related court cases, but this one is a difficult one.”

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that Heng Pov may indeed be angling for clemency, but declined to offer a response without first reviewing the book.

“He has the free time to write – that might be the intention – but because I didn’t see the book, it would be difficult for me to make any comment,” Khieu Kanharith said, adding that government staffers could “make excerpts” for Hun Sen if they were deemed of interest.

Nearly US$1 million in Heng Pov’s personal bank accounts has frozen following his arrest, and he wrote to Hun Sen last year in a bid to secure funding for family and legal expenses, asking the prime minister to “intervene to allow me to withdraw some money from the bank, with forgiveness”. This request, however, went unheeded.

Prey Sar prison director Mong Kim Heng said Tuesday that despite his former stature, Heng Pov has received no special treatment in jail.

“He has nothing to do each day besides exercise,” Mong Kim Heng said, “and I have observed that he likes reading and writing in his free time.”
READ MORE - Heng Pov pens book lauding PM

Thomson Reuters' map has shrunk Cambodian territory by 4,515 sq. km

By Khmerization
Source: Kampuchea Thmey

The Cambodian government is furious that Thomson Reuters Foundation, an international news service, had shrunk Cambodia's land mass by 4,515 sq. kilometres, reports Kampuchea Thmey.

Thomson Reuters Foundation had listed in its official website the total Cambodian territory as 176,520 sq. kilometres, instead of the official total area of 181,035 sq. kilometres recorded in all official documents.

The Cambodian Council of Ministers (CoM) had written a letter since 12th April requesting Thomson Reuters for a correction, but up until now it said it had not received any correspondences from Thomson Reuters yet.

Mr. Tith Sothea, spokesman for the CoM's Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said the Cambodian government had requested Thomson Reuters to correct the mistake as a matter of urgency. However, up until now the CoM had not received any official reply from Thomson Reuters yet, he said.

During the 22nd SEA Games hosted by Vietnam in Hanoi in 2003, the Games official website listed Cambodia's total area as 176,520 sq. kilometres. The website only change Cambodia's land mass to 181,035 sq. km after Khmer overseas strongly protested.
READ MORE - Thomson Reuters' map has shrunk Cambodian territory by 4,515 sq. km

Foreign war reporters arrived in Cambodia

Foreign and local reporters taking notes in Cambodia during the 70s (Photo: DC-Cam)

20 April 2010
By Leang Delux
Radio France Internationale
Translated from Khmer by Socheata

As planned, foreign reporters who survived the war in Cambodia at the beginning of the 70s have returned back to Cambodia to commemorate their colleagues who died or disappeared between 1970 and 1975.

27 veteran reporters have arrived in Cambodia. They will be greeted by Khieu Kanharith, the minister of Information during a dinner meeting. Now, all these reporters are in their 60s or older. The majority of them are US citizens, followed by Australians, and Brits. All of them are reporters for major news agencies in the world, such as AP, Reuters, UPI, the Washington Post, Newsweek etc…

This gathering will span over a period of 4 days, starting form Tuesday afternoon. They will meet with Cambodian reporters during dinner. There will be 3 main events that will take place on Thursday 22 April: in the morning, they will be taken to Wat Po Pagoda, located in Borset district, Kampong Speu province. The Wat Po area was the location where 9 reporters were ambushed and killed by Pol Pot soldiers on 31 May 1970. Therefore, at this pagoda, the reporters will pay respect to the memory of their fallen colleagues there.

In the afternoon of the same day, they will return back to Phnom Penh to hold the second major event: paying respect to the memory of all reporters who died or disappeared between 1970 and 1975. This major event will be held at the park located in front of Le Royal Hotel where a stupa will be built to commemorate these reporters. The stupa will be built there because these reporters used to meet each other at that location in the beginning of the 70s.

The 3rd major event will take place in the evening of 22 April: it will be discussion forum among the reporters’ community and the exposition of old photos showing the activities of reporters during the 70s war.

Furthermore, for the majority of reporters who never returned back to Cambodia after their stint in the 70s, they will be taken to visit the Tuol Sleng museum, the Choeung Ek memorial and the royal palace.

Regarding the goal of the meeting with these foreign reporters, Khieu Kanharith said that it is only held to allow the opportunity for current reporters to meet with old reporters and to connect with each other. However, it will also allow these old reporters to have the opportunity to see Cambodia’s current situation which is quite different from what it used to be in the 70s.
READ MORE - Foreign war reporters arrived in Cambodia