[Thai] PM: Thailand will not boycott World Heritage meeting in Brazil

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010
The Nation

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti will attend the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil on Wednesday.

Abhisit said Suwit would not boycott the meeting as called on by several sides.

The prime minister said Suwit would be present to raise Thailand's objection to Cambodia's plan to unilaterally manage the Preah Vihear world heritage site.
READ MORE - [Thai] PM: Thailand will not boycott World Heritage meeting in Brazil

Irish photographer recalls day he found KRouge torturer

Nic Dunlop (Photo: Reuters)

Sat, Jul 24, 2010

BANGKOK, THAILAND - In March 1999 an old man wandered up to an Irish photographer on his day off in a village in Cambodia. It was Duch, the torture chief of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime who many assumed was long dead.

On Monday the former prison chief, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, will hear the verdict in his trial at a UN-backed court in Phnom Penh on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and premeditated murder.

The story behind the remarkable encounter began in 1989 when Nic Dunlop left Ireland aged 19 for Cambodia, where Khmer Rouge rebels were still waging an insurgency a decade after being routed by invading Vietnamese forces.

"Cambodia was the first place where I realised the world wasn't quite right. What has occurred under the Khmer Rouge was so far beyond my understanding... that ignoring it became impossible," said Dunlop.

He visited Tuol Sleng, or S-21, the Phnom Penh prison that has been transformed into a genocide museum, and saw the walls covered with photographs of the victims' faces. Duch's picture was also there.

"If there was one person that could provide something close to an explanation as to what happened, it would be him," Dunlop said in an interview with AFP in Bangkok, where he now lives.

By the late 1990s, Dunlop was on a quest to find the maths teacher turned revolutionary, who is accused of overseeing the execution of some 15,000 prisoners at S-21. Dunlop even carried a photograph of him in his wallet.

He began to ask Khmer Rouge defectors if they recognised Duch, but with no success.

"I was trying to work out whether they were trying to hide something or telling me the truth because he was a terrifying figure by any standard," Dunlop said.

Then one day, during a walk in a village in western Cambodia, he came face to face with Duch, who was working for a Christian aid agency under a false name.

"It was Duch. Immediately I knew it was him," Dunlop recalled. "He was very disarming and friendly. We talked a lot. I tried to ask him questions that would not arouse his suspicion."

For a journalist it was the scoop of a lifetime. Dunlop, worried about what might happen to Duch if his whereabouts became widely known, notified the United Nations in Phnom Penh of his discovery.

He returned to see the former jailer several times in an attempt to learn more about him. Then Dunlop decided to give Duch the chance to defend himself for a magazine article he was writing.

Three times in one day he denied being the chief of Tuol Sleng, before suddenly confessing.

"Suddenly he was talking about running S-21, responsibilities, his remorse, the fact that he felt he'd been betrayed by the communist party because he wanted to be a good communist and not an executioner."

Duch was arrested a few weeks later and has spent more than a decade in prison.

Dunlop has requested interviews with him for his biography, "The Lost Executioner", but Duch indicated he would only talk after the end of the trial.

Initially called to testify at the tribunal, the photographer was later dropped from the list of witnesses, without explanation.

To those who say Monday's verdict might never have come about without him, Dunlop smiles.

"It was just a matter of time before somebody else would discover him. What's strange for me in the end is that he should walk up to me and I should recognise him immediately."

Duch is the first Khmer Rouge cadre to be prosecuted in an international court.

He is also the first to have confessed - although he also asked to be acquitted and released - and the tribunal is relying on his testimony in the planned trial of four regime leaders.

"Whatever you make of his confession, contrition, lack of contrition or arrogance, the fact that we had somebody talking about that period of history is very significant," said Dunlop.

Prosecutors have demanded Duch be sentenced to 40 years in prison - in effect a life sentence for the 67-year-old.

Dunlop does not plan to be in court for the verdict.

"It's not my story. It's the Cambodians' story," he said.
READ MORE - Irish photographer recalls day he found KRouge torturer

Cambodia awaits verdict in Khmer Rouge tribunal

Saturday, July 24, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Hav Sophea's father was killed by the Khmer Rouge just after she was born and she's spent a lifetime trying to make him feel real. She even took the single photo she had of him — a black-and-white mugshot snapped at the regime's notorious prison — and used a computer to insert him into a family portrait.

But nothing helped as much as testifying before a U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal, which will issue a landmark verdict in its first trial Monday.

"That night, for the first time ever, I had a dream about him," said the 34-year-old, adding that the court, despite its flaws, has helped her deal with her grief. "He was holding my hand and we were running out of Toul Sleng prison."

More than 1.7 million Cambodians — roughly a quarter of the population — died from forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and executions during the Khmer Rouge's regime from 1975-79.

But it wasn't until the monthslong trial of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, that the traumatized nation started to speak out publicly about those atrocities. More than 28,000 people attended the hearings in the capital, Phnom Penh, and millions more watched on TV.

As part of outreach programs in the countryside, emotional villagers have gathered beneath coconut trees to tell stories about lost loved ones. Some angrily ask for answers: Why did Cambodians turn on one another and where was the international community then? Others complain about migraines and dizzy spells.

"One of the beauties of this process ... is that it is breaking the taboo, piercing the topic of trauma," said Theary Seng, a human rights lawyer and a victim. "People hear others talking about these issues on the radio, or in daily life, and they think "Oh I'm NOT crazy. I'm NOT the only one."

Duch headed Toul Sleng, a former elementary school that was transformed into a top secret prison for people deemed the worst enemies of the paranoid state: spies, traitors and saboteurs.

Many of the 16,000 people who passed through its gates were tortured to extract confessions. They were electrocuted, had toenails pulled out, and were nearly drowned. Today the prison is a museum, where pictures of men, women and children, snapped moments before they were killed, line the concrete walls.

Only a handful of people brought to Toul Sleng, also known by its codename S-21, survived. One of them was Norng Chan Phal, a child who escaped death when Vietnamese troops rolled into the capital and ousted the Khmer Rouge.

When he told the tribunal how, at the age of 8, he got a final glimpse of his mother holding onto the bars of her prison cell before she was led away to her death, he was crying so hard the court had to call a recess.

But afterward, he said, he felt his suffering "melt away."

Eric Stover, a human rights expert at the University of California, Berkeley, said many of the 90 people who testified at Duch's trial reported similar experiences. Some said it provided relief to face the former prison chief and to hear him admit his crimes.

But, he cautioned, that does not necessarily mean they benefited psychologically.

"I have found in my research at other tribunals that victim-witnesses can experience a boost — but not always — from testifying," he said. "But I always caution on proclaiming absolutes in this area. Other events in their life — loss of a loved one, a job, for instance — could later re-trigger past trauma."

Four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders are expected to go on trial sometime next year.

But because Duch is the only one to acknowledge responsibility (though he upset many on the final day of his hearing by asking judges for an acquittal), few doubt he will be found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now the problem, experts and victims say, is the sentence.

Duch faces a maximum life in prison, but because the 67-year-old has mitigated with the court and already spent 11 years in detention, there is a chance he'll get less than that, perhaps even one day walking free, said Heather Ryan, who has been monitoring the trial for the Open Society Justice Initiative.

That could leave people more cynical than before the trial began.

Legal analysts have already criticized the process.

The government, perhaps fearing that a widening circle of defendants could reach into its own ranks, has sought to limit the number of those being tried. And its insistence that Cambodians be among the panel of judges and prosecutors has increased the likelihood of political interference.

Some outreach workers said, as the verdict approaches, they have noticed stress levels rising.

"More and more they remember traumatic events," said Judith Strasser, a clinical psychologist with the Phnom Penh-based Transcultural Psychosocial Organization. "They have extreme headaches, nightmares. They can't eat and they feel they are alone."

One of the people who is worried is Chum Mey. He also was sent to Toul Sleng, but his life was spared because he was an engineer and his captors needed him to service the generators.

"I am having trouble sleeping," he said, noting that Duch's last-minute acquittal plea is haunting him. "He can't get off lightly. Duch must be convicted and sentenced as an example to the younger generations."

Associated Press writers Sopheng Cheang and Jerry Harmer contributed to this report from Phnom Penh.
READ MORE - Cambodia awaits verdict in Khmer Rouge tribunal

Child sex tourist [in Cambodia] was a 'customer' (sic!), defence argues

Kenneth Klassen tries to hide his face as he arrives at B.C. Supreme Court for the second day of a sentencing hearing related to child-sex tourism in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, July 23, 2010. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Friday Jul. 23, 2010
The Canadian Press

A Canadian man who admitted having sex with young girls in Colombia and Cambodia was a "customer" of willing participants and not an abuser, says his defence lawyer.

Kenneth Klassen pleaded guilty earlier this year to 14 counts of having sex with underage girls and one count of importing child pornography.

At his sentencing hearing Friday, the 59-year-old Burnaby man's lawyers said the crimes were "consensual" and his prison time should reflect that.

Lawyer Len Doust suggested a five- to six-year term. Prosecutor Brendan McCabe previously asked the court for a 12-year term.

"It would be an error in principle ... to find that (Klassen) is somehow deserving of a more severe sentence because of what is characterized as the abject poverty in some other country or the failure of some other location to provide for its citizens," his other lawyer, Ian Donaldson, told a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

It was wrong for Klassen to have sex with girls the Crown says were as young as eight, Donaldson said, but that shouldn't be a factor in his "moral blame-worthiness."

"If (the girls) had ever said 'No,' he would have stopped," Donaldson said.

Court has heard witness statements from several children saying they were given gifts and cash to buy things like new clothes or soap for their family.

McCabe said Friday that while he can't prove the girls were not sex workers, he believes they were just "inexperienced" children. Video footage shown only to the judge make it "abundantly clear" some of the girls were much younger than age 14, he said.

Klassen's lawyers said he concedes the girls were under age 14, but not that they were as young as eight.

Donaldson told the judge his client will get a "substantial sentence ... no doubt," but he shouldn't get a longer sentence because of the aggravating factors raised by the Crown.

In asking for a more lenient sentence, he said Klassen is willing to attend all rehabilitation programs offered in prison and had no prior criminal record. Klassen hasn't offended in the nearly six years he's been in Canada on bail, either, Donaldson said.

Doust said the offences didn't occur in Canada but in a country where Klassen lived for two decades -- Columbia -- and where sex laws aren't as rigorously enforced, making the acts "quasi-acceptable" in his mind.

"By entering the plea of guilty, this man has publicly acknowledged that he did what he's accused of doing, that he's responsible for it, that he understands and he accepts that his conduct was criminal and that it was morally wrong," Doust said.

And while Donaldson raised no issue with Klassen providing a mandatory DNA sample or having a weapons prohibition, he asked the judge not to impose a lifetime ban on him attending playgrounds or community centres. Donaldson said Klassen has children himself and may eventually have grandchildren.

"He sees what he did was wrong, he sees how to avoid doing that," Donaldson said.

Klassen was arrested in 2004 after he was caught trying to ship homemade DVDs back to Canada with images showing him having sex with prepubescent girls.

The father of three pleaded guilty to the 15 charges in May after a failed constitutional challenge to Canada's child-sex tourism law.

A judge is expected to sentence Klassen on Wednesday.
READ MORE - Child sex tourist [in Cambodia] was a 'customer' (sic!), defence argues

Another border gate in Romeas Hek, Svay Rieng ... to help Viet trade in Cambodia?

Cambodia, Vietnam to open another auxiliary border gate

VOV News (Hanoi)

Tan Bien district in the southwestern province of Tay Ninh and Romeas Haek district in the Cambodian province of Svay Rieng have agreed to open an auxiliary border gate on the shared borderline.

An agreement to this effect was signed between officials of the two districts on July 23.

The Ben Nam Chi – Ta Ro border gate will be the 11th of its kind to be opened along the border between Tay Ninh and Cambodian provinces to facilitate people’s travel and the flow of goods from both nations.

In recent years, Tay Ninh authorities have exempted import tariffs for goods worth less than VND2 million a person a day, and opened quarantine areas for imported animals.

Statistics shows two-way trade turnover via border gates between Tay Ninh and Cambodia provinces reached US$150 million in the first seven months of this year, US$50 million higher than the same period last year.

Vietnam’s imports include rubber, timber, processed rubber latex, cassava, maize, cigarettes and cattle, while its exports are plastic products, fruit and vegetables, instant noodles and handicrafts.
READ MORE - Another border gate in Romeas Hek, Svay Rieng ... to help Viet trade in Cambodia?

Peeping-Tom [Wat Srah Chork] Pagoda Reopens After Scandal

Neth Khai in court (Photo: DAP)

Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Friday, 23 July 2010

“All of Cambodian Buddhists should bury what happened at Sras Chak pagoda, and they need to think about Buddhism.”
A pagoda that was at the center of a peeping-tom scandal has reopened in Phnom Penh, but it has seen few worshippers.

Sras Chak pagoda, where a monk allegedly convinced women they could be blessed by showering there and then secretly videotaped them, will now have to work to recover its reputation.

The video images have spread throughout Cambodia, passed phone to phone via Bluetooth technology or USB drives, despite a national call from the government to cease their disbursement.

Now defrocked, Net Khai has been charged with shooting video of more than 100 women since 2008. He is also charged with distributing pornography, a crime under the anti-trafficking law. He faces up to 15 years in prison.

The former head of the pagoda, Meas Kong, stepped down as a result of the scandal. The new chief monk, Chhoeng Bunchhea, told VOA Khmer he was preparing internal regulations and rules of Buddhism to restore the reputation of the pagoda.

“Monks are not allowed to bless in hidden rooms,” he said. “We allow the monks to bless people in public spaces.”

He appealed to Cambodians to stop the spread of the footage and destroy copies as an act of good merit.

“All of Cambodian Buddhists should bury what happened at Sras Chak pagoda, and they need to think about Buddhism,” he said.

The pagoda, which is home to 55 monks and 108 students, is now quieter than before and still controlled by investigating police.

The pagoda had previously seen up to 30 or 40 visitors per day, but now very few visit, according to a layman at the pagoda who asked not to be named. The shower room where victims were videotaped has now been destroyed, he said.

“I didn't think Net Khai could commit this video shooting, because he was a gentle man and talked little with ordinary people,” said a monk living near the suspect's quarters.

Chea Vannath, the former head of the Center for Social Development, said the scandal will hurt the reputation of monks as well as the victims.

Police are now investigating whether more suspects were involved in the video shooting.
READ MORE - Peeping-Tom [Wat Srah Chork] Pagoda Reopens After Scandal

Japanese Textile Artist Drawn to Silk Mystery

Louise Allison Cort, a ceramic curator at the Freer and Sackler galleries, is seen admiring these beautiful silk. (Photo: by Pin Sisovann)

Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Friday, 23 July 2010

“I am interested in the mysterious story of yellow raw silk of Cambodia as material relating to Cambodian textiles.”
While the Freer and Sackler galleries showcase rare Khmer bronzes in an ongoing exhibition, traditional Khmer silks are also on display.

The silks are a bit of a mystery, at least to Kikuo Morimoto, the founder of the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles, who was invited by the Smithsonian to explain Khmer silk dyeing and weaving.

Morimoto brought with him examples of hand-woven textiles that include an important twill pattern, called “hol.”

“I am interested in the mysterious story of yellow raw silk of Cambodia as material relating to Cambodian textiles,” he said, in addition to finding the source of the unique weaving technique.

An artist from Kyoto, Japan, Morimoto said he started his project to restore silkworm cultivation in Cambodian villages and to preserve a culture of weaving that is similar to that in Japan. He especially worked with weavers in Takeo province.

“I met an old woman, she is still keeping the old-day [hol],” he said. “This is the same in Japan also.”

He moved his institute to Siem Reap in 2000, after establishing it in Phnom Penh in 1996, and he hopes to find a way to teach the old methods to younger generations. He now has five hectares of land north of the temples of Angkor, a region that was the heart of the Khmer empire from the 9th to 14th centuries.

His work earned him a Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2004 and an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni in 2007. The king praised the institute for providing employment opportunities to impoverished Cambodian women and maintaining the old tradition.

Louise Allison Cort, a ceramic curator at the Freer and Sackler galleries, said she admired Morimoto for working to preserve the environment as well as the methods.

“When I wear this piece, I know that it was made completely by hand,” she said. “Somebody grew the mulberry trees to raise the silkworm; someone sponged the silk from the silk cocoons; someone used the natural dye to make the colors; someone weaved on the loom; and all of these people enjoyed their work and felt that it contributed to the whole finished result. And when I wear this I feel like I am participating in that project as well.”

The products of the silk weavers' labours are already being sold at a shop above the Siem Reap workshops. They are also available at the Freer and Arthur galleries withing the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
READ MORE - Japanese Textile Artist Drawn to Silk Mystery

What kind of Khmer pushes Cambodia toward the Indochinese Federation: Op-Ed by Uon Sim

Click on the article in Khmer to zoom in

READ MORE - What kind of Khmer pushes Cambodia toward the Indochinese Federation: Op-Ed by Uon Sim

"Thnamm Yuon" a Poem in Khmer by Sam Vichea

READ MORE - "Thnamm Yuon" a Poem in Khmer by Sam Vichea

CJR Public Forum On the advent of the Duch Verdict

Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the advent of the Duch verdict...

Transforming the Killing Fields into Healing, Living Fields

Friday, 23 July 2010, 8 – 11:30 a.m.
Pannasastra University AUDITORIUM
(Norodom Blvd. cross Street 310)
(Top floor Conference Hall, campus south of Independence Monument)

The speakers will be engaged in an open Q & A in regards to Duch’s verdict and its affect on the past, present and future. Panelists can choose to speak in Cambodian or English with simultaneous and consecutive translations available.

We hope you join us on this important occasion along with the many university students, victims of Khmer Rouge, civil society leaders, colleagues, ECCC staff, ambassadors and embassy officials, national and international media.

National Anthem: Mr. KHUON Sethidak, Tenor

Moderators / Presenters

Ms. Theary C. SENG - CIVICUS Founding Director; CJR Founder/Board
Mr. Gavin Tritt – Country Representative, The Asia Foundation
Mr. SOK Leang – CJR Interim Director / Victims Outreach Manager
Ms. YIM Sotheary - CJR Psycho-social Trauma Manager
Ms. CHAP Chandina – CJR Voice of Justice & Reconciliation Radio


Mr. Lars Olsen -ECCC Public Affairs UN Deputy Chief
Mr. Rob Hamill – Olympian, Civil Party whose brother was killed (New Zealand)
Mr. VAN Nath – artist, Tuol Sleng survivor
Prof. David Chandler - Historian, Author of S-21
Ambassador Andrew Mace - British Ambassador to Cambodia
Mr. CHHORNG Rong, Acting Chief of ECCC Victims Support Section
Dr. MEAS Bora – Legal Officer, ECCC Office of Co-Investigating Judges
Ms. Michelle Staggs Kelsall – Deputy Director, Asian International Justice Initiative
Mdm. OUM Sophany – prolific author, member of Victims Association
Ms. MORM Sokly – actress/playwright, president of Victims Association
Mr. BOU Meng – Tuol Sleng survivor

TPO Cambodia will be on hand for counseling.
Funded by The Asia Foundation and the German Development Service.
READ MORE - CJR Public Forum On the advent of the Duch Verdict

Mu Sochua: You can impound my salary but I’m not changing my stance

22 July 2010
By Leang Delux
Radio France Internationale
Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy
Click here to read to article in Khmer

Because SRP MP Mu Sochua refused to pay the compensation fee to Hun Xen as ordered by the court, a judge from the Phnom Penh municipal court issued another order to impound her MP’s salary. Mu Sochua commented that the court can force the impounding of her salary, but it cannot make her change her stance.

A judge from the Phnom Penh municipal court issued an order dated 20 July, ordering the impounding of Mrs. Mu Sochua’s salary to pay for Hun Xen compensation after Mrs. Mu Sochua lost her case and refused to pay the compensation amount. Judge Chea Sok Hieng of the Phnom Penh municipal court issued a decision to impound Mrs. Mu Sochua’s salary at the finance department of the National Assembly (NatAss). The impound amounts to 4.2 million riels per month (~$1,000). According to the judge, Mrs. Mu Sochua would have earned 7.3 million riels (per month) during the pay period ending 15 July 2010, this amount is equivalent to about $1,800.

According to the judge’s decision, the impounding of Mrs. Mu Sochua’s salary will continue until all the compensation amount is recovered. The court earlier issued an order for her to pay 8 million riels in compensation to Hun Xen. The latest court order indicated that Mrs. Mu Sochua must not block, prevent or refuse to have the official in charge of the NatAss pay department from impounding her salary.

Regarding this issue, Mrs. Mu Sochua commented that it was a forced order by the court which she cannot oppose. She indicated that the court can impound her salary, but it does not mean that she agrees to lose her case. She added that she still maintains her stance and she considers the court decision as being unfair. She also called on the court to act independently.
READ MORE - Mu Sochua: You can impound my salary but I’m not changing my stance

Press Release: Khmer Rouge Victims Demand ECCC Inventory and Provincial Learning Centers as Part of Their Right to Reparations for All KR Victims

Civil Party of Orphans Class Demands ECCC Inventory and Provincial Learning Centers
as Part of Their Right to Reparations for All KR Victims


PHNOM PENH, 23 July 2010: The Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia (“Victims Association”)—the first Cambodia-based association to be officially registered with the Ministry of Interior and the first to be officially recognized by the Victims Support Section of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (“ECCC”)—demands that the inventory of the ECCC be given to victims after it has closed operations and that Learning Centers in all 24 provinces of Cambodia be established and furnished with this inventory. The Civil Party of Orphans Class, a sub-group within the Victims Association, has the right to reparations as a party to the ECCC criminal proceeding against the senior Khmer Rouge leaders, should they be found guilty.

After initial review of the ECCC website and communications with ECCC officials, it is our understanding that the ECCC has at minimum these basic items of inventory for its 500 personnel (350 of these Cambodian):
  • 24 vehicles
  • 200 desktop and laptop computers
  • 25 photocopy machines
  • 50 printers and scanners
  • Telecommunications and communications systems (property of UN, according to Art. 1.3 of Supplementary Agreement Re Utilities, Facilities and Services)
  • Air conditioners
  • Televisions, screens, LCD projectors, video-conferencing equipments
  • Transcription equipments
  • Video cameras
  • Office desks, chairs, tables, cabinets, bookshelves
It is also our understanding that (i) the Chambers may award only “collective and moral reparations to Civil Parties”, (ii) Article 39 of the ECCC Law to “be awarded against, and be borne by convicted persons” not to exclude the Cambodian government and the United Nations, parties to the laws and agreements establishing the ECCC in the provision of this collective and moral reparation as owners of the inventory (see ECCC Law Art. 44.1, 44.2, 44.4 New; Internal Rules 9.3 New), and (iii) any sensitive materials and data can be easily removed and protected before the handing over of the inventory.

Here, we would like to draw the attention of HE SOK An, Mr. Sean Visoth and his replacement Mr. Tony Kranh for the Cambodian government; Mr. Douglas Broderick and Mr. Knut Rosandhaug for the United Nations; and the donor states who are Friends of the ECCC.

In addition, we demand that provincial Learning Centers be established in each of the 24 provinces of Cambodia as part of our right to reparation and the legacy of memorializing and education. With all due respect, Phnom Penh was not the only crime scene; memorializing and resources need to include and respect the 85% of Cambodian victims who reside in the provinces. These provincial Learning Centers must be the joint efforts of local and national government with civil society and all the victims associations. Local government can donate land and office space while civil society and victims associations work to maintain and operate these Learning Centers. The Learning Center being established at Wat Samroung in Battambang with the involvement of the local community, assisted by the Center for Justice & Reconciliation and funded by the Australian Embassy is one existing example. The ECCC documents, the Virtual Tribunal, public forums and outreach materials produced by civil society and victims associations, art works are but some of the materials which can be made available at these provincial Learning Centers. These provincial Learning Centers would be furnished with the above-mentioned equipment and inventory.

Our demand for the ECCC inventory does not burden the ECCC with a new budget as they are items already financed and purchased. No one else has a greater moral and legal right to these equipment and inventory than the civil parties for the welfare of all the victims, including the new generation born after the Khmer Rouge who lost grandparents and other loved ones in addition to limited opportunities produced by the genocide. Moreover, the provincial Learning Centers do not pose a heavy financial burden, if at all, a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the national budget which can easily be legislated by the National Assembly. The benefits which these reparations of inventory and provincial Learning Centers impart toward reconciliation and legacy for the current and future generation are priceless.

We would like to thank the Center for Justice & Reconciliation (“CJR”) for facilitating our establishment and involvement in these public forums, CIVICUS Cambodia for co-organizing this particular forum, as well as the donors The Asia Foundation, the German Development Service and the Australian Embassy of these public forums, victims participation and the Battambang Learning Center.
For further information, please contact:
  • Ms. Theary C. SENG: Founding Advisor, Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia at 012.222.552 or theary.seng@gmail.com.
  • Mr. SOK Leang: Interim Director/Victims Outreach Manager, Center for Justice & Reconciliation at 012.588.081 or sokleang@cjr-cambodia.org.
For more information about:
  1. The Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia—the first association based in Cambodia to be registered with the Ministry of Interior and the first to be recognized by the ECCC Victims Support Section and independent of any political or religious affiliation—is a network of survivors of the 1975-79 killing fields who are joined in the fellowship of suffering, in the demand for justice, and in the work for a just peace. The members of the Victims Association are from overseas and spread across the provinces and capital of Cambodia, coming together as a result of the public forums conducted by its Founding Advisor Ms. Theary C. SENG and CJR Victims Outreach Manager Mr. SOK Leang since 2007. They include widows and orphans; former child soldiers and former prisoners; hard-working farmers and middle-class city-dwellers; well-known actresses playwrights, authors and journalists; as well as teachers, translators, security guards, taxi drivers, inter alia. Among the other members of the Victims Association is the Civil Party of Orphans Class, a special grouping officially recognized by the ECCC Victims Support Section and a party to the Extraordinary Chambers Case File No. 002 against the senior Khmer Rouge leaders. www.akrvc.org
  2. The Center for Justice & Reconciliation, a non-profit non-governmental organization registered with the Ministry of Interior, is founded by Ms. Theary C. SENG and senior staff to continue the work of the Center for Social Development on victims outreach, psycho-social support, court monitoring and radio broadcasting with seed funding and consultants from the German Development Service. Over the last year, CJR has conducted public forums in former Khmer Rouge strongholds to give a more concrete meaning to the term “reconciliation”. www.cjr-cambodia.org
  3. CIVICUS: Center for Cambodian Civic Education is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational, non-governmental organization registered with the Ministry of Interior dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in Cambodia and the larger, globalized world. Up to now, Cambodia has had only a society of “survivors”, not of “representatives” or “citizens”. Cambodians as survivors are either “survivor-authoritarian” if the person is in a position of power or “survivor-subject” if an average person. The principal goals of CIVICUS Cambodia are to help Cambodian citizens develop (i) an increased understanding of the institutions of Cambodian constitutional democracy and the fundamental principles and values upon which they are founded, (ii) dialogue as a norm of communication, (iii) the skills necessary to participate as effective and responsible citizens, and (iv) the willingness and ease to use democratic procedures for making decisions and managing conflict. In its engagement of citizens, CIVICUS Cambodia gives a special emphasis to (i) students—from elementary to university level—and the generation born after the Khmer Rouge era, (ii) female (both girls and women) participation, and (iii) elected representatives. CIVICUS Cambodia has an official Memorandum of Understanding of partnership with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights.
READ MORE - Press Release: Khmer Rouge Victims Demand ECCC Inventory and Provincial Learning Centers as Part of Their Right to Reparations for All KR Victims

CACJE's Press Release on the Nokor Wat's article linking CACJE to Chhun Yasith's CFF

Click on the statement in Khmer to zoom in

Click on the Nokor Wat's article in Khmer to zoom in
READ MORE - CACJE's Press Release on the Nokor Wat's article linking CACJE to Chhun Yasith's CFF

Politiktoons No. 111 - Love's Brother

Cartoon by Sacrava (on the web at http://politiktoons.blogspot.com
and also at http://sacrava.blogspot.com)
READ MORE - Politiktoons No. 111 - Love's Brother

Court orders parliament to dock Mu Sochua’s salary

Thursday, 22 July 2010
Meas Sokchea
The Phnom Penh Post

If my salary is taken without my agreement, it is a violation of my rights” - Mu Sochua
PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has informed opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua that the National Assembly has been authorised to dock her salary for two months in order to pay 8 million riels (US$1,904) in compensation to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In an order sent to the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Tuesday, Judge Chea Sok Heang said that the Assembly’s Finance and Banking Commission would be responsible for redirecting the funds to Hun Sen’s lawyers.

“The court decides to seize Mu Sochua’s salary ... of 4,204,899 riels ($1,001) per month until [the amount is] completely paid to Ky Tech, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s lawyer, as the creditor requested,” the letter said.

“Mu Sochua must not block or prohibit the officials in charge of salaries at the Assembly’s finance department from seizing the debt.”

The 8 million-riel compensation payment is part of the 16.5 million riels ($3,928) in fees Mu Sochua was told to pay after being found guilty of defaming Hun Sen in August last year. Two appeals against the verdict have since been rejected.

It is unclear whether the court can legally dock Mu Sochua’s pay without her authorisation. Earlier this week, senior Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the National Assembly could not abide by any court request to seize Mu Sochua’s salary if she did not consent to it.

“In this situation, if we cut her salary without her agreement, it is impossible,” he said. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the court has the power to enforce the seizure of Mu Sochua’s assets or salary, but that it should not seize her entire salary for the next two months.

“The court should allow her to live easily. I think the court can do this,” he said.

Mu Sochua could not be reached yesterday, but has consistently maintained she will not assent to having her salary docked. “If my salary is taken without my agreement, it is a violation of my rights,” she said on Sunday.
READ MORE - Court orders parliament to dock Mu Sochua’s salary

New plan for civil servant salary top-up

Thursday, 22 July 2010
Irwin Loy
The Phnom Penh Post

THE government has approved a revamped compensation scheme for civil servants, though observers say it remains unclear how quickly authorities and NGOs will be able to implement it.

The Priority Operating Costs scheme was approved July 12 as a replacement for a previous salary supplement programme that was abruptly cancelled last year.

Paul Pidou, deputy secretary general of the Council for Administrative Reform, confirmed that Prime Minister Hun Sen approved the sub-decree, which will be implemented retroactive to July 1. CAR officials were not available for comment yesterday.

A copy of the sub-decree obtained by the Post yesterday shows the new scheme will be more complex than the programme it is replacing. Under the POC scheme, development groups will be required to obtain permission to supplement civil servant salaries for each individual programme.

The sub-decree also outlines two broad levels of pay scales: “national” and “sub-national/public service delivery” .

Jeroen Stol, country director for Handicap International Belgium, said the new definitions could help equalise payments offered by NGOs under the old scheme.

“In the past, different organisations paid different incentives for the same types of jobs, which caused ... jealousy in some cases,” he said.

However, many details are still unclear, he added, including the payment levels in which civil servants will be grouped.

Authorities will need to add a new management layer to administer the scheme, according to its implementation guidelines. Each POC scheme will require its own director and must be approved by the relevan ministry, the development partner, the CAR and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Sharon Wilkinson, country director for Care Cambodia, said her NGO still has not received any official word about the new scheme. “I still do not feel there’s sufficient information available for us to implement this within the timeframe designated,” she said.

READ MORE - New plan for civil servant salary top-up

Kandal wells high in arsenic

A woman pumps water yesterday from an arsenic-tainted well in Phoum Thom village, in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district. (Photo by: Will Baxter)

Thursday, 22 July 2010
Will Baxter and Sun Narin
The Phnom Penh Post

We only use the wells for washing clothes or bathing, but some people still use [it] for cooking.
Kandal province - KHUN Yeun, 55, has a well in her backyard, but she stopped using it after UNICEF sanitation experts concluded in 2009 that it contained extremely high levels of arsenic and carbon.

“I haven’t used the well for about a year because I was afraid of getting some disease,” said the resident of Phoum Thom village, located in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district. “We use tap water instead.”

She is not alone in her village. Chhiev Kimlorn, the village chief, said that 10 of the community’s 26 wells had been tested. According to a document she was given by UNICEF, seven of them were found to contain elevated arsenic levels.

Three were found to contain arsenic levels as high as 500 parts per billion – more than 50 times the limit considered safe by the World Health Organisation, and more than 10 times the limit considered safe by the Ministry of Rural Development.

“Most people here drink tap water,” Chhiev Kimlorn said. “We only use the wells for washing clothes or bathing, but some people still use the water for cooking.”

Both she and Khun Yeun said that although they knew the wells were dangerous, they had never been told that arsenic is a known carcinogen.

“No one has come to the village to educate people about the wells, so I had never heard that drinking well water could lead to cancer,” Chhiev Kimlorn said.

The Ministry of Rural Development said this week that up to 150,000 people living along the Mekong and Bassac rivers are consuming water from wells laced with arsenic. Mao Saray, director of the Department of Rural Water Supply at the ministry, said there were 1,607 high-risk villages in seven provinces in Cambodia.

The government’s total exposure estimate is down considerably from one included in an April 2009 independent study, which said up to 2 million people could be at risk.

Andrew Shantz, laboratory and research director for Resource Development International Cambodia, which produced the study along with Dartmouth College in the United States, said that although the April 2009 study had overestimated the problem nationwide, its estimate for Kandal was likely accurate.

“The original 100,000 estimation for Kandal is quite close, as a very high proportion of the people drinking arsenic-contaminated water are in Kandal,” he said.

Scott Fendorf, a groundwater expert at Stanford University in the US, said that “a large portion of the aquifer residing within the Mekong-Bassac floodplain is contaminated with high levels of dissolved arsenic”, and that tube wells were “providing toxic levels of arsenic”.

He said chronic arsenic poisoning causes skin discoloration as well as a hardening of the outer layer of the skin. Prolonged exposure, he said, “leads to skin cancer and various internal cancers”.

Shantz said yesterday that RDIC staff are going “door-to-door” testing wells and educating villagers such as Khun Yeun about the health risks associated with arsenic.

He noted that he would “not recommend” using arsenic-contaminated water for cooking. “But, if they are only using the contaminated water for cooking and not actually drinking it, the exposure levels should be much lower,” he said.
READ MORE - Kandal wells high in arsenic

Cambodia: A banana democracy with a perpetual dictator

Cambodian Ruling Party's Plenum Reaffirms Hun Sen for PM Post in Next Terms


The Cambodia's ruling party -- the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) on Thursday reaffirmed at it plenum Hun Sen's candidate for prime minister post for the next terms.

"The plenum reaffirms its endorsement of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen's candidacy for the post of prime minister for the next terms," announced the party's communique released at the ending of the 35th Plenum of the Fifth-Term Central Committee of the CPP.

Almost 900 party members from across the country gathered at its headquarters in Phnom Penh to have a two-day plenum started on Wednesday.

Party President Chea Sim, Vice President Hun Sen attended the 35th central committee meeting. This was the first meeting of CPP' s Central Committe this year and it usually assembles twice annually.

Last month, at the gathering to commemorate CPP's 59th founding anniversary, Chea Sim also reaffirmed party's decision to support for the candidacy of Hun sen for the post of prime minister for the following terms.

Hun Sen, 59, has ruled the country, as the prime minister for more than 20 years.

Cambodia is holding general election every five years. The last election was held in 2008 and the next one will come in 2013.

In last general election, the CPP won 90 seats out of 123-seat parliament, following by opposition Sam Rainsy Party with 26 seats, Human Rights Party with 3 seats, and two each obtained by Norodom Ranariddh Party and FUNCINPEC party.

CPP was found on June 28, 1951 and is, so far, the biggest political party in the country.

The CPP is now headed by Chea Sim who is also president of the Senate and Hun Sen is positioned as deputy chairman of the party while Heng Samrin is honorary chairman and also president of the National Assembly.
READ MORE - Cambodia: A banana democracy with a perpetual dictator

US announces climate change help for Mekong region

Friday, July 23, 2010

HANOI — The United States on Thursday announced a three-year programme to help countries in the Mekong River basin adapt to the impact of climate change on water resources, food security and livelihoods.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the pledge at a Hanoi meet with Southeast Asian countries of the lower Mekong region, whose waterway is also under threat from rapid economic development and expanding populations.

"Managing this resource and defending it against threats like climate change and infectious disease is a transnational challenge," she told the foreign ministers of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

"Regional cooperation is essential to meeting that challenge, to preserving the ecological diversity and fertility of the Mekong region."

The meeting was the first between the five ministers since they launched the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) in Thailand a year ago to develop cooperation on environment, health, education and infrastructure issues in the Mekong region.

The initiative was seen as an attempt by Washington to improve its profile in the region and counter the influence of China, which is home to the upper reaches of the Mekong.

The United States has said it will spend more than 187 million dollars this year under the initiative, the majority of which is directed at health issues.

Low-lying areas around the Mekong, which have been beset by drought this year, are considered some of the world's most vulnerable to climate change.

More than 60 million people rely in some way on the river, which is the world's largest inland fishery.

The intergovernmental Mekong River Commission has warned that the basin's health and the river's eco-systems could be threatened by proposed dams and expanding populations.

China has eight planned or existing dams on the Mekong River, but rejects activists' claims that these have contributed to low water levels downstream.

Japan also held a meeting with the Mekong countries in Hanoi on Wednesday to discuss a joint "Green Mekong" initiative for the next decade, which aims to tackle challenges such as natural disasters and deforestation.
READ MORE - US announces climate change help for Mekong region

U.S. pledges assistance for Mekong environment programmes

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, poses for a photo with Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung before their meeting at the Government office in Hanoi on Thursday. Photo: AP

Hanoi, July 22, 2010


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged continued assistance on Thursday for US—led environment programmes in the Mekong Delta.

Ms. Clinton spoke in Hanoi at the ASEAN Regional Forum, a gathering of delegates from the ten—member Association of South—East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The programmes are part of the Lower Mekong Initiative, a joint effort of the United States and the four lower Mekong countries — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam — focused on health, education, infrastructure and the environment.

“Managing this resource and protecting it against threats is a transnational challenge,” Ms. Clinton said on Thursday of the Mekong River Basin. “Regional cooperation is essential to realizing that challenge.” The US will provide more than 220 million dollars in funding to Lower Mekong countries in fiscal year 2010, two—thirds of which goes to environment, health and education.

Addressing ASEAN delegates, Ms. Clinton announced a “sister river” partnership between the Mekong River Commission and the U.S.—based Mississippi River Commission. She also announced a new three—year programme designed to promote adaptive responses to climate change.

“We expect to continue similar levels of funding for the next two years,” Ms. Clinton said.

The U.S. is also funding programmes to combat HIV/AIDS and pandemic influenza in the region, she said.

The Lower Mekong Initiative was created after a July 2009 meeting between Ms. Clinton and the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

More than 60 million people live in the Lower Mekong Basin, an area comprising about 606,000 square kilometers in South—East Asia. Climate change will likely increase flooding and threaten food security in the region, the Mekong River Commission reports.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
READ MORE - U.S. pledges assistance for Mekong environment programmes

New Zealander in Cambodia for Khmer Rouge verdict

Friday, July 23, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The brother of one of a handful of Westerners killed by the Khmer Rouge returned to Cambodia for a landmark verdict in a war crimes tribunal, saying there can never be adequate justice for his family.

It was not clear how Rob Hamill's brother, Kerry, fell into the hands of the brutal communist regime. The 28-year-old's yacht was captured in Cambodian waters in 1978 and he and shipmate Briton John Dewhirst were taken to S-21 prison, tortured and executed.

A third member of the crew, Canadian Stuart Glass, was apparently shot dead when the boat was seized.

When the news reached Hamill's hometown of Hamilton, New Zealand more than one year later, it tore apart what had been a close-knit family. One brother committed suicide months later; Rob Hamill became a teenage drunk. His parents never recovered.

"There'll never be justice for our family," said Hamill, 46, noting his mother died seven years ago and did not get to witness the trial or hear its verdict. "I can't quite reconcile how justice can ever be served with the nature and the way these people's lives were taken."

A U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal will issue its first verdict Monday against a senior member of the Khmer Rouge, the ultra-communist regime blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians during their 1975-79 rule.

About a dozen Westerners were among the estimated 16,000 people held at S-21 before being killed.

As commander of S-21, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Those who passed through the gates of his secret prison were deemed the worst enemies of the paranoid Pol Pot regime: spies, saboteurs, traitors — and foreigners. Many were tortured. Interrogators pulled out toenails, drained blood and electrocuted prisoners to extract confessions.

In 1979 after Vietnamese invaders overthrew the Khmer Rouge, Kerry Hamill's so-called confession of espionage was among the meticulous records discovered at S-21.

Last year Rob Hamill spoke at Duch's trial, the only Westerner to do so as a victim, and tried to convey his family's suffering.

He says confronting Duch in court has helped him deal with the grief that has haunted his life, but forgiveness for his brother's killer still eludes him.

"I wanted to forgive Duch so that it would allow me to move on — until I went to S-21 and I got to see what this guy created," he said. "Any compassion I had for him at that time went out the window.

"Since then, time has a funny way of warping things," he said. "I've got an internal battle going on and maybe this sentencing will somehow further that process."

On his first visit, Hamill says he was an emotional wreck. This time he said he feels more in control, more at peace and believes his brother Kerry would approve of the way the family is finally moving on.

"I think he'd be very proud of what we're trying to do as a family to represent him after 30 years of our own family suppressing it and not talking about what happened and the effect it had on us all as a family," he said.

"I think this is a very special time and I'd like to think he's looking down and saying 'Well, it's about bloody time.'"

Rob Hamill, a rower who represented New Zealand at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, has requested a face-to-face meeting with Duch after the verdict to try to find out more about Kerry's fate. So far he's had no answer.
READ MORE - New Zealander in Cambodia for Khmer Rouge verdict

Cambodian Anxiety Peaks Ahead of Khmer Rouge Verdict

In this Nov. 20, 2007 file photo, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, center, the former Khmer Rouge prison chief at Tuol Sleng prison, sits in a dock during a hearing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Photo: AP)

Luke Hunt, VOA
Phnom Penh 22 July 2010

In Cambodia, the trial of a leading Khmer Rouge figure, blamed for the deaths of about 16,000 people, is heading for a conclusion.

The trial of Kang Guek Eav, also known as Duch, has gripped this nation for almost a year and a half. Millions of people are expected to watch on television as the verdict is announced, Monday, by a United Nations-backed court.

Duch ran the S21 torture and extermination center, where thousands of men, women and children were processed before being sent to dig their own graves in the killing fields on the outskirts of the capital.

Initially, Duch pleaded no contest. Throughout the tribunal he has provided an abundance of chilling evidence into the inner workings of Pol Pot and his ultra-Maoists.

They ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 and are being held responsible for the deaths of perhaps two million people, who died of murder, starvation and illness.

But, in a final legal twist, Duch changed his plea to not guilty and asked the judges to release him. He has sacked the head of his international defense team, French Lawyer Francois Roux, and asked for a Chinese lawyer to replace him.

Theary Seng survived the killing fields as a child. She was rescued from the refugee camps and raised in the United States, where she became an author and lawyer. She is the founder of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation.

"There's a lot of confusion at the moment because recently we were told Duch fired his U.N. lawyer at the 11th hour, on the advent of the verdict, which is very perplexing," Seng says. "And, it has raised suspicions again of political interference. It has raised cynicism. It has confirmed the fears of many Cambodians in thinking that Duch is not believable, in the first place - that his confession, his asking for forgiveness - aren't genuine and hopeful the fears won't turn into paranoia."

The Cambodian government has directed all domestic television networks to broadcast the verdict.

At the court, about 300 journalists and hundreds more officials, diplomats, legal observers and Khmer Rouge victims have overwhelmed authorities in seeking seats for the announcement.

Regardless of Duch's last-minute legal maneuvers, Theary Seng, along with many others, believe his admissions to overseeing crimes of torture that included water boarding and medical operations on patients without an anesthetic and the eventual murders of thousands of people will lead to a conviction and life in prison.

His evidence would also prove compelling in cases to follow. Another four surviving Khmer Rouge leaders - Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith - are to on trial next year.

"It's a catalyst that has broken the silence of the last 30 years of this regime, which has truly taken the lives of one-fourth to one-third of the Cambodian population. Every Cambodian alive right now is directly affected by the crimes of the past," Seng said.

After the Khmer Rouge were ousted by invading Vietnamese troops in early 1979, civil war continued for another two decades. Only then was Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in a position to ask the United Nations to help broker an international tribunal to focus on the atrocities allegedly carried out by Pol Pot and his henchmen.

Further delays followed, amid bickering with the United Nations about the final make-up of the tribunal and funding issues. However, the long awaited trial eventually got underway and is expected to remain a fixture on this country's legal and political landscape for a few years to come.
READ MORE - Cambodian Anxiety Peaks Ahead of Khmer Rouge Verdict

Khmer Rouge victims, perpetrators live side-by-side

READ MORE - Khmer Rouge victims, perpetrators live side-by-side

Cambodia to Propose Preah Vihear Temple Management Plan at Annual WHC Meeting

22 July 2010
Thai-ASEAN News Network

Thepmontri Limpaphayom, a Thai historian, plans to submit a letter to UNESCO, demanding that the United Nations agency issue an apology to all Thai people regarding the Preah Vihear Temple dispute and to remove the temple from the list of the World Heritage sites
The Cambodian deputy prime minister along with other Cambodian officials have arrived in Brazil where they will attend the UNESCO World Heritage Conference. They are planning to propose a management plan of the area surrounding the disputed Preah Vihear Temple.

Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, Sok An along with a number of Cambodian officials arrived in Brazil yesterday to attend the UNESCO World Heritage Conference, which will be held from July 25 through August 3.

The Cambodian representatives are planning to propose a plan for the conservation of the Preah Vihear Temple and management of the surrounding land, where Thailand and Cambodia claim sovereignty.

Previously, the Natural Resources and Environment Minister of Thailand, Suwit Khunkitti pointed out that he has not yet seen the plan that will be proposed by the Cambodian representatives at the conference. However, the Thai government will not endorse such a plan until all border disputes have been resolved.

Meanwhile, Thepmontri Limpaphayom, a Thai historian, plans to submit a letter to UNESCO, demanding that the United Nations agency issue an apology to all Thai people regarding the Preah Vihear Temple dispute and to remove the temple from the list of the World Heritage sites.
READ MORE - Cambodia to Propose Preah Vihear Temple Management Plan at Annual WHC Meeting

Khmer Rouge trials

Jul 22nd, 2010
Shankari Sundararaman
The Asian Age (India)

On July 26, 2010, the first verdict of the Khmer Rouge trials is awaited. This will decide the fate of Kaing Guek Eav alias “Duch”, the jailer at the dreaded Tuol Sleng prison, or the S-21 interrogation centre, in Phnom Penh. He is the first perpetrator against whom the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) will deliver its verdict for crimes against humanity and genocide. Even as the decision is awaited amidst speculation and debates, the July 26 verdict will also be critical for the United Nations which is primarily responsible for the implementation of the trials. The UN’s role in the Cambodian conflict will come a full circle with this verdict.

From April 1975 to December 1978, Cambodia went through a period of genocide under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. This period was a reversion to what was called the “Year Zero” when the Khmer Rouge sought to bring to a standstill the entire history of the country and begin its rule from scratch. During this period nearly two million people lost their lives due to starvation, disease and torture. The Khmer Rouge period was ended by Vietnamese intervention and occupation which lasted for over 12 years, until the Cambodian peace settlement of 1991.

Reports of the genocide within Cambodia first emerged because of refugee accounts. The stories contained tales of forced labour in agricultural lands, an agrarian style model that was brutally enforced, and mass execution of people suspected to be loyal to the former government that assisted the United States’ war efforts in Vietnam.

What is significant today is the role played by the UN in pushing forward the genocidal tribunal for crimes against humanity and bringing to trial the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Five members, including Duch, of the immediate group that controlled Cambodia during this period are facing trial, all of them in their seventies. There’s Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea — these four were closest to Pol Pot and were significant players in pushing the agendas and vision of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot, who should have been brought to book, escaped by a quirk of fate and died as a result of malaria.

While today the UN is responsible to a great extent to push forward the Khmer Rouge trials, at the height of the Cambodian conflict the UN had in some sense kept the conflict alive. The intransigence of the Cold War is nowhere more visible than in the context of Cambodia where the UN was stymied by its inability to assist in finding a resolution in the initial years of the conflict.

During the Khmer Rouge period, the UN was unable to take steps to prevent the genocide because of a clause within their charter. The clause, that pertains to domestic jurisdiction, in effect said that even in cases where there have been gross human rights violations, the UN may not be able to act since the issue may fall within the limits of internal affairs of member states.

In the aftermath of the Vietnamese intervention, the debate in the UN raged over the issue of representation of the UN seat — the seat was occupied by the Khmer Rouge government which was officially known as the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) regime. The government which replaced the Khmer Rouge was that of Heng Samrin and was officially called the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). However, because this government was backed by the Vietnamese forces, it was not accepted as the legal government within the UN. And as a result, the seat in the UN remained with the Khmer Rouge for most of the conflict.

In 1982, three years after the conflict had begun, three political factions combined together to form the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (CGDK). This was a grouping of three political factions that were against the Vietnamese-backed Heng Samrin government. It comprised the royalists under Sinhanouk, the republicans under Son Sann and the Khmer Rouge. In fact, the formation of this coalition lent greater credibility to the Khmer Rouge which handled the foreign affairs of the CGDK and continued to retain the UN seat.

While this dichotomy in the UN’s stand was a critical issue, in the run-up to the Cambodian peace settlement the UN emerged as the main arbiter. It was under the auspices of the UN that a transitional authority oversaw the elections in Cambodia in 1993. This resulted in the victory of both the royalists under Norodom Ranariddh and the Cambodian People’s Party under Hun Sen. For the first five years, from 1993 to 1998, power was shared between two conflicting groups. The 1998 election onwards Hun Sen has emerged victorious and there has been little political change within Cambodia since.

With the first verdict awaited in the Khmer Rouge trials on July 26, the debate rages over the extent to which punishment should be given. In fact, this first trial sets the stage for the other four high-ranking members of the Khmer Rouge who are to be tried. The trials of these four will be far more significant than the first one against Duch. Duch in his statements has claimed that he was merely an instrument of state policy. He even argued that he was carrying out orders given by the higher authorities within the Khmer Rouge and as a result should be acquitted rather than be found guilty.

There have been debates over verdicts such as life imprisonment, death penalty and other punishments. Interestingly, the political leadership within Cambodia has been less than willing to let the process take a conclusive course. Prime Minister Hun Sen has even hinted that the trials could lead his country to another civil war. While there is an opinion that the degree of punishment needs to be muted, given the age of the perpetrators and the time that has elapsed, it still needs to be weighed very seriously. Bringing justice to the victims of genocidal crimes is a crucial part of putting to rest a phase of history that is best forgotten. However, to forget that history without due justice to the victims would be to undermine the sufferings of thousands of people. The United Nations’ efforts to bring the issue to a completion must not be based on principle alone, it needs to be tangible in terms of its outcomes as well.

Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU
READ MORE - Khmer Rouge trials

City refuses to allow union forum to take place

22 July 2010
Translated from Khmer by Socheata

The Phnom Penh city hall decided not to allow unions to organize a public forum at the public park located in front of Wat Botum Pagoda planned for Sunday 25 July 2010. The reason for the refusal was explained by the city that the location is too close to Hun Xen’s house and the location is where protesters usually meet to protest against land disputes etc… Furthermore, the refusal was made to avoid affecting the security, safety and public order in the city of Phnom Penh. However, the city indicated that the unions can hold its forum at their headquarters or at a private location. The unions still insist on holding its forum at this public park as it has planned. Under this condition, the city hall will ask the ministry of Interior to make the final decision.
READ MORE - City refuses to allow union forum to take place

Labor Conference at the Sunway Hotel 22-23 July 2010: Agenda and Concept

Labor Conference Agenda
July 22 to 23 2010
Sunway Hotel

July 22 – Thursday

7:30 am – 8am: Registration

National Anthem

8:10 am to 8:25 am: Overview of the Cambodia Trade Union History – Noun Vesna, Consultant and Labor Academician

8:30am to 9:00 am: Opening Speakers
  • Mr. Ath Thorn – President of Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC)
  • Mr. Vong Sovann – President of Cambodian Confederation of Trade Union (CCTU)
  • Mrs. Morn Nhim – President of Cambodian National Confederation (CNC)
  • Mr. Apolinar “Dong”Tolentino – Regional Representative of Building Woodworkers International (BWI), Asia Pacific Region
  • Mr. Floro Francisco – Regional Consultant for LO-Norway
9:00 am to 9:30 am: Labor Conference Concept Presentation: Mr. Alonzo Suson, Country Program Director of Solidarity Center, AFL-CIO

9:45 to 10:00 am: Break

10:00am to 10:45am: Panel: Trade Unions Formed During the Socialist Era: Past/Present:
  • Mrs. Tep Kimvanary, President of Cambodian Federation Independent Trade Union (CFITU)
  • Mr. Choun Mom Thol, President of Cambodian Union Federation (CUF)
  • Mr. Noun Vesna, Consultant and Labor Academician
10:45 to 12pm – Small group discussion

12:00pm to 1:00pm: Lunch

1:00pm to 1:45pm: Panel Discussion: Trade Unions Formed During the Post-Socialist Era: The “Oppositionist” and the “Third Current”
  • Mr. Rong Chhun, President of Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA)
  • Mrs. Morm Nhim, President of National Independent Federation of Trade Union Congress (NIFTUC)
  • Mr. An Nan, former staff of the Cambodia Labour Organization (CLO)
  • Mr. Noun Rithy, former National Project Coordinator, ILO-WEP
2:00 pm to 3:00pm: Small group discussion

3:00pm to 3:15pm: Break

3:15 to 4pm: Panel Discussion –Trade Union Solidarity Support Organizations and their role
  • Mr. Kao Poeun, Project Officer for LO-FTF (Danish Unions)
  • Mr. Kenya Popaine, Coordinator for TWARO
  • Mrs. Meas Morokot, President, CWMO
  • Mr. Lim Soksan, Program Coordinator, APHEDA
4pm to 5pm: Small group discussion

July 23, Friday

7:30am to 8am: Registration

8am to 9 am: Panel: Struggle-Unity-Struggle: Trade Union Experiences From Other Countries
  • Dr. Kun Wardana Abyoto, Director, UNI Asia Pacific Regional Organization
  • Mr. Apolinar “Dong” Tolentino – Regional Representative of Building Woodworkers International (BWI), Asia Pacific Region
  • Mr. Don Driscoll, Coordinator, Service Employees International Union
  • Mr. Floro Francisco, Consultant, LO-Norway (Norwegian Unions)
  • Mr. Rey Rasing, Coordinator, Global Network/International Federation of Workers Education Association
9am to 10am: Questions and Answers

10am to 10:15am: Break

10:15 to 11am: Panel: Present Challenges: Minimum Wage, Decent Trade Union Law, Occupational Health and Safety (Awka Nyum – Opportunism and SamakiPheap-Solidarity)
  • Mr. Chhiev Veyara, National Project Coordinator, ILO-Dispute Resolution Project
  • Mr. Ath Thorn – President of Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC)
  • Mr. Van Thol – Vice President of Building Woodworker Trade Union Confederation (BWTUC)
11am to 12pm: Small group discussion

12pm to 1pm: Lunch

1pm to 2pm: Plenary Session: Issues that the Cambodian Labor Movement Need to Work Together in the Interest of Workers and Cambodian Society. Principles for Working Together Despite Our Differences: Presentations and Facilitations by:
  • Mr. Tola Moeun- Head of Labor Project, Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
  • Mr. Yim Serey Vathanak- National Project Coordinator, ILO-Workers Education Project (ILO-WEP)
2p to 3pm: Small group discussion

3pm to 3:15pm: Break

3:15pm to 3:45pm: Report back of small group discussion

3:45pm to 4:00pm: Affirmation: Where we agree and where we disagree.

4:00pm to 5pm: Closing Speakers:
  • Mr. Vong Sovann, President, Cambodian Confederation of Trade Union
  • Dr. Kun Wardana Abyoto, Director, UNI Asia Pacific Regional Organization
  • Mr. Reynaldo Rasing, Coordinator, Global Network/IFWEA
  • Mr. Yeng Virak, Director, Community Education Labor Center (CLEC)
Conference Concept:

The year 2010 marks a decade of growth for the modern Cambodian Labor Movement. By year 2000, five union federations were established and formed. Now forty-nine labor federations and associations were formed and the majority of those unions are in the garment industry.

Similarly, the trade union support organizations in Cambodia and Global Unions partnership with Cambodian unions has increased in their activities, and put in place programs that will further assist the growth and maturity of the Cambodian Trade Unions and Cambodian Labor Movement as a whole.

Politically, a Trade Union Law drafted by the Ministry of Labour with technical assistance from the ILO is currently being circulated, discussed and debated with the goal of Trade Union Law being ratified with the National Assembly by Mid-2011.

The Cambodian Garment Industry has been hit hard by the global economic crisis as orders from the US and European country has declined. Garment workers saw some of the factories closed down, suspended work or maintain limited working time while the cost of living continues to increase. The trade unions last negotiated a minimum wage increased in 2006. The majority of unions came together with the assistance of TWARO and ILO-WEP and attempted to negotiate a minimum wage with garment industry representative. Unilateral decision by the government to recommend a minimum wage, the coalition of unions fell apart without a discussion and without negotiation with the industry. The trust level amongst the unions is at an all time low.

Workers (union member and non-union members), local and federation leaders, and trade union support group activists’ states that the current union leadership consciously or not, acts more in their self interest than the interest of the workers they represent. In a social and political context this acts of self-interest is known as opportunism(1). In short, opportunism whether from the right or left perspective is a disease within the Cambodian Labor Movement that need to be challenge, spotlighted and critique to be replace by the acts of labor solidarity needed to mature the movement.

The conference will highlight what is opportunism within the Cambodian Labor Movement; review the union formation in Cambodia, review the trade union support programs in Cambodia. What is labor solidarity and in particular how should trade unions shown solidarity in the context of the minimum wage negotiation (lessons learned) and the debate on the trade union law, and the future challenges for the Cambodian Labor Movement in developing solidarity.

With the coming decade, it is opportune time to have discussion amongst Cambodian and foreign trade unionists and activists in the trade union support group to assess the development of the Cambodian Labor Movement. Acknowledge our differences in terms orientation and politics, and by challenging each other about the future by raising the question of what is a mature Cambodian Labor Movement. The conference does not and will not answer all the questions. But hopefully a framework on how the Cambodian Labor Movement debate, argue, critique, build coalition and separate can be done in a principled way be achieved.

(1) Opportunism is the “conscious “policy and practice of taking selfish advantage of circumstance, with little regard for principles. The opportunist seeks to gain personal advantage at every opportunity, putting self-interest ahead of the greater good
READ MORE - Labor Conference at the Sunway Hotel 22-23 July 2010: Agenda and Concept

Sacrava's Political Cartoon: My ASEAN Family

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

My Wat is Bigger Than Your Wat

July 21, 2010
Posted by Aron Flasher
Star Tribune Staff Blog (Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)

Siem Reap is the stagging ground for most forays into Angkor Wat. It used to be a sleepy little river town that in the last five years or so has received the brunt of foreign investment. On my way in, I passed at least a good mile of 5 star hotels and was shocked to find a bustling city center. Still, the wooden bridges running over the lazy river give the casual observer some impression of what life must have been like when Siem Reap was still an isolated village.

After collapsing for a night in town, I set out for Angkor Wat early the next morning (but not early enough. I would recommend trying to get in at dawn as there are less tourists and you kind of have the run of the place.). Angkor Wat is more than just a city, but rather the heart of the former Khmer empire. About a thousand years ago, Angkor Wat boasted over a million inhabitants while London possessed a mere 50,000. The empire stretched from parts of Vietnam to Myanmar to Northern Indonesia and actively traded with China and the Middle East. Today, Angkor is the symbol of Khmer identity (Cambodians refer to themselves as Khmer and it is also the name of their language.) and appears on the Cambodian Flag as well as the national beer. To truly see everything would take more than a week, but honestly after a day you kind of get it. Massive stone structures covered with hand-carved etchings and statues showcase what was an extremely advanced culture. Unfortunately, since I am ignorant of most history of this time period as well as a bit behind in my studies of Buddhist and Hindu Mythology, the names of the kings and battles meant little to me. What was fascinating was the level of access; I was able to walk right into the temples and structures and stand on the ramparts (on delineated paths).

The other interesting occurrence in Siem Reap was the Cambodian new year (Chaul Chnam Thmey in Khmer). I met a Cambodian waitress who spoke descent English and she offered to take me to a party. Generally, locals work almost every day of the year except holidays. Thus when they have a holiday, they taker full advantage of it. In the case of new years, they can stay up the whole 3 days of the festival, spending time with their relatives and neighbors. The party turned out to be in the woods just outside of Angkor Wat (I could actually see the turrets of some of the towers from the party.). It looked like a carnival, complete with food stands, games and strangely enough, a dance area cordoned off by chicken wire (so I guess more like a carnival in Wisconsin). Again, I was one of the only westerners at this event so I elicited many stares and frightened more than a few children (I have got to remember to shave more often.), but again everyone was very welcoming (I also won a giant bag of candy which turned out to be the greatest icebreaker ever. Kids like candy more than they feared me and word got around fast that the white guy was passing out sweets. For about twenty minutes, I was the Pied-Piper.)

I made one mistake which was to sample a soup I had never heard of (As a personal rule, this doesn't work because I have never heard of most anything on the menus here. I was one of those suburban kids who grew up calling anything remotely Asian Chinese food). It turned out to be a collection of what had not been used earlier: blood cubes, chicken joints and cartilage and... well I stopped asking after I found out about those three. Cambodian cuisine is known for its lack of boundaries. Anything can be eaten: frogs, spiders, snake heads, fish bladders etc. After making a go of it with the soup so as not to offend my host or the chef who stood over me and watched, I made my way to the dance circle which had formed inside the chicken wire.

Cambodian dance is usually preformed in a moving circle with the men and women standing separate. The majority of work is done with one's hands and looks incredible tame by our standards of dance (A test of one's patience are the redundant Cambodian dance videos shown on most bus rides. I'll summarize the plots. Boy meets girl. Girl is sad. Boy impresses girl through song and circle dancing. Girl is happy). It was fun to watch all the young boys and girls strut about, trying to catch each other's attention... until I realized that most of the young girls were actually boys as well (Ladyboys are well known throughout Southeast Asia. Often I cannot tell a difference unless I hear them speak.)
READ MORE - My Wat is Bigger Than Your Wat