How final are the ECCC’s decisions? Allen Myers Monday, 20 February 2012 Hits: 256
Dear Editor, Leaving aside Judge Kasper-Ansermet’s claim to be a co-investigating judge of the ECCC without having been appointed by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, does anyone besides me find it strange that his first proposed action is to re-open an investigation already concluded by his predecessor? If that is permissible, what does it mean for other decisions of the ECCC? If a judge of the ECCC Supreme Court finds it necessary to resign, can his or her replacement decide to re-open the recent appeal ruling on Case 001? If a Trial Chamber judge resigns, can the new judge decide that Duch’s lawyers’ disagreements with one another messed up his case on the final day of his trial and, in the interests of fairness, that day’s proceedings should be re-run? If so, this creates some problems for Cambodian and international NGOs: should they support the appointment of the reserve judge in such a situation? Clearly, it is incumbent on the reserve judges of all chambers of the ECCC to ease the NGOs’ decisions by indicating well in advance what they would rule in any impending case — as Judge Kasper-Ansermet did on his Twitter page. Allen Myers Phnom Penh
Justice requires precision rather than confusion Prince Sisowath Thomico Monday, 20 February 2012 Hits: 252
Justice and history both demand precision. Precision regarding the events, the dates and the contexts, as well as precision with respect to the involvement of individuals in those events.
Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post King Father Norodom Sihanouk gestures to well-wishers after returning to Cambodia from China in October last year.
Instead, an article in The Phnom Penh Post on February 16 titled “Blueprint for forced labour” is nothing but all about confusion. Consequently, for the sake of justice and history, it is necessary to restore the facts in their historical context. The article states: “. . . a translated version of the document appeared to implicate now-King Father Norodom Sihanouk in ordering the executions of two prominent Khmer Rouge leaders, Hu Nim and Hou Yuon, in 1977.” There are two major inaccuracies in that sentence. After his return to Cambodia on December 31, 1975, then-Prince Sihanouk asked to resign from his position as the formal chief-of-state of Democratic Kampuchea. On April 1, 1976, his resignation was accepted by Angkar and he was replaced by Khieu Samphan from then on. It is widely known — and acknowledged — that even during the short time he was chief-of-state of Democratic Kampuchea, Prince Sihanouk held no power. So, how could he, with no power and while he had been under house arrest in the Royal Palace since 1976, have been implicated in the execution of Hou Youn and Hou Nim in 1977? Furthermore, official Khmer Rouge documents also established that Hou Youn was killed some
time in 1975, after the Khmer Rouge had taken power. So how could Prince Sihanouk have ordered the execution in 1977 of somebody who had been dead since 1975? The article also states: “In audio-visual footage presented by civil-party lawyers yesterday, Khieu Samphan also claimed it was he who was instrumental in bringing then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk into an alliance with the Khmer Rouge.” Once again, that sentence lacks the essentials: when was Khieu Samphan supposedly instrumental in bringing then-Prince Sihanouk into an alliance with the Khmer Rouge? On March 23, 1970, five days after he was ousted by a coup, Prince Sihanouk created the United National Front of Kampuchea and made an appeal to the people of Cambodia to join it in order to fight the Lon Nol regime. During those five days between the putsch and his appeal to the people, Prince Sihanouk had no contact with Khieu Samphan or any other Khmer Rouge leaders. This means no negotiations ever took place between the Prince and the Khmer Rouge to form a so-called alliance that actually never existed. The historical, undeniable truth is that it was the Khmer Rouge who joined the United National Front of Kampuchea — without meeting with Prince Sihanouk. So, making believe that Khieu Samphan brokered an alliance between Prince Sihanouk and the Khmer Rouge can be interpreted as a trick to implicate him, against every piece of evidence, in whatever happened after April, 1975. This is clearly a political stance. The lack of precision, the untruthful facts or events reported in that article show how much the Khmer Rouge tribunal has become a land of confusion. Instead of bringing justice, instead of establishing historical truth, which it was supposed to do, the Khmer Rouge tribunal is now blatantly showing what it really is: a political ring. Prince Sisowath Thomico Personal assistant to King Father Norodom Sihanouk
KR leadership fair game: PM Vong Sokheng and David Boyle Monday, 20 February 2012 Hits: 479
Prime Minister Hun Sen is weighing his legal options in response to accusations from Nuon Chea’s defence lawyer that the premier has violated his client’s right to a fair trial by publicly condemning him as a Khmer Rouge killer.
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks in Phnom Penh in December.
Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
During a closed-door meeting with government officials and civil society representatives on Friday, the premier said he would not be prevented from freely expressing himself about Nuon Chea’s alleged crimes under the Khmer Rouge. “Preventing me from speaking to condemn Nuon Chea and Pol Pot regime means that I was wrong to fight to topple the Pol Pot regime,” he was recorded saying. “Look! Together help to defend me and do not allow Nuon Chea’s lawyer to act arrogantly.” On January 10, Nuon Chea lawyer Michiel Pestman called on the tribunal’s judges to “officially condemn” statements the premier reportedly made in Vietnam in which he condemned Nuon Chea for his alleged crimes under the Khmer Rouge. In October, Pestman filed a criminal complaint with Phnom Penh Municipal Court against the prime minister and other high-ranking government officials, calling for an investigation into their alleged interference in the court. Pestman told the Post yesterday he would pursue this legal action “more than ever” now and would also file a motion to the ECCC calling on the court’s trial chamber to stop the premier from making further comments that could prejudice the case. “There’s no tradition of an independent judiciary in this country, you just do what the prime minister says, so if the prime minister expresses his opinion about my client’s guilt, then what’s the point of the trial,” he said. Key Tech, one of Hun Sen’s senior lawyers, refused to speak specifically about what legal
course the premier will take, but said in general terms that every citizen, not only the prime minister, had the right to counter-sue someone who filed a complaint against them. “If a litigant abuses the rights of one party, then the victim has the right counter-sue,” he said. Clair Duffy, a Tribunal Monitor with the Open Society Justice Initiative, said senior politicians such as a prime minister should not be commenting on the guilt or innocence of a defendant during their trial, in any country. “I think it’s especially the case in Cambodia, where judicial independence is still in its infancy – those foundations are still being built – and it’s even more so the case at the ECCC, because we know there have been issues with political interference in the court,” she said. “The risk really is that allegations of political interferences that have been mostly limited to cases 003 and 004 until now could seep into Case 002.”
Bloody day in Svay Rieng May Titthara and David Boyle with additional reporting by Derek Stout Tuesday, 21 February 2012 Hits: 3040
A young woman is fighting for her life after she was shot in the chest during a protest of about 6,000 workers yesterday at a factory that supplies sportswear giant PUMA by an assailant that witnesses have said was dressed in police uniform.
BUOT CHINDA, A 21-YEAR-OLD GARMENT WORKER, RECOVERS AT SVAY RIENG PROVINCIAL HOSPITAL AFTER SHE WAS SHOT IN THE CHEST DURING A PROTEST AT THE KAOWAY SPORTS FACTORY, NEAR BAVET TOWN, YESTERDAY. DEREK STOUT
A SECURITY GUARD WALKS PAST BROKEN WINDOWS AT THE KAOWAY SPORTS FACTORY IN SVAY RIENG PROVINCE FOLLOWING A PROTEST YESTERDAY DURING WHICH AT LEAST THREE PEOPLE WERE SHOT. ABOUT 6,000 WORKERS REPORTEDLY TURNED OUT FOR THE PROTEST. DEREK STOUT
A PUMA SHOEBOX LIES ON THE PAVEMENT IN FRONT OF THE KAOWAY SPORTS FACTORY FOLLOWING A VIOLENT PROTEST YESTERDAY DURING WHICH AT LEAST THREE PEOPLE WERE SHOT AND INJURED. DEREK STOUT
BUOT CHINDA, 21, RECEIVES TREATMENT AT SVAY RIENG PROVINCIAL HOSPITAL AFTER BEING SHOT IN THE CHEST YESTERDAY DURING A PROTEST AT THE KAOWAY SPORTS FACTORY. DEREK STOUT
The victim, Buot Chinda, was one of three people shot in front of police during the rowdy protest at the Kaoway Sports Ltd factory, in Svay Rieng province, in an incident PUMA has said it is taking “very seriously”. She remains in a critical condition from the bullet wound that narrowly missed her heart and punctured her lung and has been rushed to Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital. The shootings began when two truckloads of police confronted protesters after they began hurling rocks through the factory’s windows, ignited tyres and invaded the premises, demanding
increased benefits. From her hospital bed, Bout Chinda said yesterday she could not identify the person who shot her as she walked through the crowd, because she was in severe pain and shock. “When I was walking to the toilet, I was shot. When the bullet entered my body, I didn’t think I would survive,” she said. Her sister, Som Sina, who also works at the factory, said a man wearing a short-sleeved police uniform stepped out of a car and began firing randomly into the crowd, hitting her sister and two others. “It didn’t make a sound because he used a silencer. Some of the workers recognised him as a Bavet town police officer,” she said. A Kaoway Sports Ltd employee, who works for the management but wished to remain anonymous, also identified the perpetrator as a man dressed in a police uniform, adding that he was flanked by a police officer and a bodyguard. “After he shot the workers, some of the protesters tried to follow and capture him, but he got into a black Camry that was waiting for him and drove away,” the employee said. This account, which was confirmed by several other protesters who witnessed the scene, was disputed by Bavet police chief Keo Kong, who denied a police officer was responsible, adding that six officers had also been injured. “We just know that one man wearing a white shirt fired on the workers. Police and workers tried to arrest him, but failed because he ran into the forest,” he said. Keo Kong said the 6,000 protesters at the Taiwanese-owned Kaoway Sports factory, in Bavet town’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone, included employees from other factories in the zone including Kingmaker, Sheico Group and Ankor Supreme. He identified the other workers who had been shot as Keo Neth, 18, Nuth Sakhorn, 23, both of whom were in a stable condition. National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said a special team had been sent to investigate and arrest the gunman. “The gunman is not in our police forces, and we did not hurt anyone,” he said. Kaoway Sports Ltd could not be reached by the Post for comment yesterday. But PUMA was quick to respond to the incident, releasing a press statement before telling the Post it already had people on the ground investigating the situation. “PUMA takes this incident very seriously and will take all measures to ensure that the safety of its supplier factory workers is paramount,” the statement read. “According to the information PUMA has been able to obtain, factory management has evacuated all personnel from the compound to ensure the employees’ safety and workers have been sent home.”
Boeung Kak residents given more land titles Khouth Sophakchakrya Tuesday, 21 February 2012 Hits: 597
Hard investment: Chinese firm eyes Kingdom investment Rann Reuy Tuesday, 21 February 2012 Hits: 963
A Chinese company is aiming to invest in cement production in Cambodia, according to officials at the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy (MIME).
Bloomberg Cement imported from Thailand.
The China Triumph International Engineering Company (CTIEC) would become one of Cambodia’s biggest cement producers and would invest in the Kingdom, said assistant to the CTIEC president Ma Mingliang. Although contracts for producing cement in Cambodia had been given out to various local companies, said Sim Sisokha, director of the Development Department at MIME, CTIEC’s proposed investments would be welcomed because some local companies lack the capital for large-scale production. Investing in Cambodian cement production is risky, however, says Khov Phallabuth, a local investor in Kampot Cement Co, a joint venture with Thailand’s Siam Cement Group. The country lacks the natural resources to produce large quantities of cement, he says.
Nuon Chea team blamed for 'chaos' Tuesday, 21 February 2012 Hits: 323
Foreigners working at the Khmer Rouge tribunal were responsible for embroiling the court in chaos that was akin to incitement, government officials said yesterday at a snap news conference. Press and Quick Reaction Unit deputy president Keo Remy called the conference to attack criticisms of alleged public statements by Prime Minister Hun Sen about the guilt of one of the tribunal’s three elderly accused, who are being tried for crimes against humanity and war crimes. “There is nothing wrong in expressing that Nuon Chea is a killer and was involved in genocide during the Pol Pot regime,” Keo Remy told about 10 journalists. “[Nuon Chea defence lawyer Michiel Pestman] is taking the opportunity to bring in political issues at the KR tribunal to cause chaos,” he said, adding: “I found that the chaos was always made by some foreigners [at the tribunal]. “We will not surrender to incitement caused by a small group of foreigners,” he said, adding that comments by court monitor Open Society Justice Initiative in Monday’s Post show they consistently back those doing the inciting. Keo Remy said Hun Sen continued to consider his legal options in response to Michiel Pestman’s call for the tribunal to “officially condemn” the premier’s statements. Government attorney Key Tech told the Post: “There is still no official discussion. I will wait to see.’’ No motion from the Nuon Chea defence team calling on the Trial Chamber to prevent the premier making further prejudicial comments on Case 002 was publicly available by deadline yesterday. Tribunal legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen said the admissibility of any such motion would be up to the Trial Chamber to determine. Michiel Pestman could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Siem Reap families uprooted Thik Kaliyann Tuesday, 21 February 2012 Hits: 1012
Nineteen families in Siem Reap town’s Sala Kamroeuk commune were yesterday the first to be moved from along the Siem Reap River as part of a plan to relocate more than 1,000 families.
Thik Kaliyann/Phnom Penh Post A woman being relocated from an area near the Siem Reap river speaks yesterday as homes are dismantled in the background.
Duch to testify next month, officials say Bridget Di Certo Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Khmer Rouge security and detention centre chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, would take the stand again at the Khmer Rouge tribunal next month to testify in the case against the alleged Khmer Rouge regime power trio currently on trial, court officials said yesterday.
ECCC POOL Former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias ‘Duch’, sits in the trial chamber at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in February.
Duch, whose sentence was increased to life imprisonment for his crimes during the brutal communist regime, will give testimony in the case against Brother No. 2 Nuon Chea, expresident Khieu Samphan, and former deputy prime minister for foreign affairs Ieng Sary. “We can confirm that he will give testimony in the next part of the hearings,” press officer Neth Pheaktra told the Post. “But we have no other details yet.” According to a scheduling order of the court’s Trial Chamber, Duch will give testimony on the roles of the accused, among other things. In sentencing Duch, judges at the tribunal found that accused Nuon Chea was his direct supervisor while Duch operated the notorious S21 prison in Phnom Penh. The Khmer Rouge tribunal also announced yesterday that it would deliver the promised reparations to Duch’s victims, now that his final sentence had been handed down. These reparations were in two parts, one part being the publication of a compilation of Duch’s statements of apology and acknowledgments of responsibility. The compilation, available on the ECCC website, will be published in local media in the coming days. Phnom Penh Post Khmer will publish a summary of the compilation this week.
Child labour drains Kingdom Mom Kunthear Thursday, 23 February 2012
Child labour was draining the Kingdom’s brainpower and adversely affecting 750,000 of its children, officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said yesterday.
Sol Saly, 16, processes fish into prahok along the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh in January.
Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Speaking at a three-day conference on child agricultural labour, Kaing Khim, deputy directorgeneral of fisheries administration at the MAFF, said budget constraints were a significant hurdle to addressing the issue. “We still lack funds . . . because the state budget that we receive is still low and we cannot do what we do in time. That’s why we look for additional funding from partner NGOs,” she said. Kaing Khim estimated that, as a starting point, the ministry needed between US$50,000 and $100,000 to cover expenses for officials to travel to the provinces to investigate child labour violations and educate families about the negative effects of using their children as labourers. Roughly 1.5 million Cambodian children are “economically active”, according to Veng Heang, director of the child labour department at the Ministry of Labour. This means they contribute to the economy in some way through either “permitted” or “nonpermitted” work. Of this total, approximately half were child labourers – children younger than 16 who spend most of their day working rather than attending school, Veng Heang said. A majority of them – between 400,000 and 500,000 – are involved in the agricultural sector, which includes both fishing and farming. This is the population the ministry hopes to target. It aims to reduce that number to fewer than 300,000 by 2019. Kheang Kim said children were “a very important resource” that should be in school rather than working. “We will lose this human resource if those children cannot get knowledge,” she said.
Most child labourers worked in the non-commercial sector, Veng Heang said, so raising awareness among families about the importance of childrenâ€™s education was vital. â€œWe will announce to families when it is suitable for children to work and what kind of work they can do,â€? Kaing Khim said
Flood-affected poor ‘drowning in debt’ Bridget Di Certo Thursday, 23 February 2012
The curse of Cambodia’s 2011 floods continues for those most affected, as they fall deeper into debt from unsustainable cyclical debt practices, a consortium of international NGOs said yesterday. The consortium of Care, Oxfam, Pact and Catholic Relief Services released the results of their January survey yesterday which show that flood-affected poor are now “drowning in debt”, coalition representatives said. Bill Penington of Care said the cycle of debt is exacerbated when people take out multiple loans and use informal loans to pay back formal loans. “Debt is a growing issue that needs to be addressed,” Pennington said. “What we don’t want to see is a situation where poor families are in a cycle of debt, where they use new loans just to pay off existing borrowings or simply to buy food – yet, unfortunately, we are seeing that happening now,” Pennington said in the consortium’s press release yesterday. The survey, conducted in Prey Veng, Kampong Thom and Kandal provinces – the three most heavily affected by the flooding – found that 71 percent of households already lived on or below the Cambodian food poverty line and more than three quarters of landholders experienced 80 percent crop damage from the floods, thereby further impacting their income-generating capacity. “Forty-eight percent of households interviewed have taken out new loans as a result of the 2011 flood event,” the survey found. “This indicates the high level of impact the flood had on affected rural communities.” The survey also found the 2011 floods had a significant impact on the ability of people to repay their existing debt. Sixty percent of households reported they would have some level of difficulty repaying their primary loan and nine percent said they could see no way to repay their debt. Prime Minister Hun Sen will meet with Ministry of Finance and microfinance industry representatives today to discuss solutions to the developing debt crisis of Cambodia’s rural poor.
Rescued men due to return Sen David Thursday, 23 February 2012
Another eight fishermen will be repatriated today after being saved from forced labour on fishing boats in Indonesia, according to a press release issued yesterday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The statement said the men had been saved in Indonesia’s Maluku province by a co-ordinated action of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the International Organisation for Migration and Indonesian authorities. Seven Cambodians who were repatriated from Indonesia on February 7 reported being overworked and abused, and having received no salary for more than two years. More than 100 Cambodian men have been repatriated from abroad since December after being trafficked onto Thai fishing boats, and either escaping or being saved in the various locations the boats ply. Chhiv Phally, deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said police would focus on investigating and catching brokers who cheated people into forced labour abroad. “The authorities have appealed to Cambodians to not risk migrant work abroad. It is not the first time that Cambodians have been trafficked to be boatmen,” he said. Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for rights group Licadho, said many trafficking victims still languished abroad. “It is still a big concern that many Cambodians are mistreated abroad,” he said. Meanwhile, Chea Mon, the mother of Soy Sros, whose whereabouts have been unknown since he left 11 years ago to work on Thai fishing boats, said she would attend the fishermen’s homecoming. “I hope one among them is my son,” she said.
Rubber investments in Kingdom jump 255% May Kunmakara Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Investment in Cambodian rubber plantations increased by 255 per cent in 2011 on rising global demand for the commodity.
Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post A plantation worker collects rubber seeds.
There were 20 new projects worth US$675 million in the Kingdom last year, according to data from the Council for the Development of Cambodia. There were nine projects worth $190 million in 2010. Cambodia is one of Southeast Asia’s last rubber-planting destinations. The majority of the investment came from Asian countries as a result of increased global demand for rubber, in particular demand from the tyre industry. “I think [investors] see potential for making higher profit with rubber compared to other agricultural products, which don’t have a stable market. Rubber has mainly followed the global trend,” Ly Phalla, director-general of Cambodia’s General Directorate of Rubber, said yesterday. The jump in 2011 rubber investments surpassed a 2015 government goal on plantation size by about 60,000 hectares, Mak Kim Hong, president of the Association for Rubber Development of Cambodia, said. The government originally aimed for 150,000 hectares of rubber plantations by 2015. Last year, there were 210,000 hectares. According to official data from the ministry of commerce, rubber exports last year totalled 46,727 tonnes worth $200.9 million, compared with 30,040 tonnes, valued at $86.8 million, in 2010. Most of the investment came from Vietnam, China, South Korea and Malaysia, Mak Kim Hong said.
About 50 per cent of the plantations were government-granted concessions in Mondulkiri, Rattanakkiri, Kampong Thom and Kratie provinces, he said. Rubber plantations in Cambodia have also been at the heart of repeated eviction disputes and claims of environmental destruction. More than 3,000 villagers faced evictions in Kampong Cham province in November when rubber companies were granted concessions on the land. The inhabitants were offered $600 per family by way of compensation
Boeung Kak quartet face charges Khouth Sophakchakrya Friday, 24 February 2012
Four villagers involved in the long-running land dispute at Boeung Kak lake appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday in connection to allegations that they insulted and obstructed authorities during a protest last November.
Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post Boeung Kak lake residents, wearing traditional outfits and carrying Buddha statues, protest outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.
On November 28, the four villagers – Tep Vanny, Bo Chhor, Heng Mom and Kong Chan – were arrested and detained by capital police after protesting with about 50 other villagers outside city hall. The group was demanding that the government hasten the process of issuing them land within an onsite resettlement area set aside by the government. The following day, the women were charged under articles 502 and 504 of the penal code, which state that “insulting” or “obstructing” a public official is punishable by up to one year in jail. While only detained for a night in jail, the women were banned from moving their homes or participating in future protests. Outside court yesterday, the four villagers, clad in traditional r dress and carrying Buddhist statues, were flanked by more than 100 supporters, who also carried with them Buddhist pictures and banners and who demanded that the court drop the charges against their fellow residents. The four accused spoke to the crowd and suggested that being punished by authorities for staging a protest to protect one’s home was akin to being “shot to death”. After emerging from the courthouse after two hours of questioning, Tep Vanny reported that the court did not add any charges to their case or pressure them, but that “the accusations and bans…are still valid for the four of us”. While releasing caged birds, Heng Mom said that she and her fellow accused deserved to be just as free.
Investigating judge Chhe Virak could not be reached for comment yesterday. Ham Sun Rith, a lawyer for rights group Licadho who is defending the four women, said he was â€œexcitedâ€? that the villagers showed so much support for his clients.
‘Crisis of credibility’ at tribunal: monitor Bridget Di Certo with additional reporting by Vong Sokheng Friday, 24 February 2012
A seemingly irreconcilable division has emerged between some of the international and Cambodian judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal that threatens the ongoing work of the court, according to a report set for release today by a prominent court monitor. The February, 2012 tribunal report by the Open Society Justice Initiative catalogues a litany of issues boiling down to one core theme: a pressing need for the United Nations to examine whether the Royal Government of Cambodia is in fact “causing [the court] to function in a manner that does not conform with the terms” of the agreement between the UN and the Kingdom. The report is also concerned with the failure of Cambodia’s Supreme Council of the Magistracy to endorse the UN-nominated Reserve Co-Investigating Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet. “The Cambodian government’s refusal to endorse Kasper-Ansermet must be addressed immediately, before it does permanent, perhaps fatal, damage to the court,” today’s report says. The 36-page report indicates that every milestone for the tribunal in 2011 was plagued by controversy. From the conclusion of the case against notorious prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch – the final verdict was marred by human-rights concerns – to the beginning of the case against the three surviving alleged senior leaders, the “crisis of credibility” bore into the court’s operations, according to the report. Tribunal legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen told the Post: “We have noted the report, but we have no comment on the content of the report.” UN Special Expert David Scheffer did not respond to requests for comment. Keo Remy, deputy president of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said yesterday criticisms of the court came only from those who “misunderstand the agreement between the UN and Cambodia”. “It’s not just the premier. I also call Nuon Chea the head of murderers,” Keo Remy said.
Fishermen back in Kingdom Sen David Friday, 24 February 2012
Eight fishermen who escaped after more than a year of forced labour aboard a Thai fishing boat recounted tales of abuse and miserable working conditions upon their repatriation to the Kingdom yesterday.
Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post Trafficked fishermen return to Cambodia yesterday after being made to work without pay on Thai fishing vessels.
The men said that brokers had promised them salaried jobs in Thai factories, but instead trafficked them onto Thai fishing boats for between 30,000 and 40,000 baht (between approximately US$1,000 and $1,300), where they were forced to work for free and with little rest and food. Tim Phon, 33, who was told he would earn US$250 per month working in a Thai factory, said that the year he spent aboard the fishing vessel was “the worst in my life”. “I thought I had died aboard that boat, but now I am back,” he told reporters, after arriving at the Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday. Twenty-five-year-old Khon Nou, of Kandal province, said he was only allowed to sleep two hours each night and was not given enough food. “If I did not work, they threatened to shoot me into the water,” he added. The men also appealed to authorities to save “more than a hundred” of their compatriots who they said were still aboard the vessel. “There are more … Cambodian men, victims of human trafficking, on that boat. They need help,” 45-year-old Van Houn, of Siem Reap province, said. “For me, I escaped, so I am saved. I could not endure the difficult work with no rest and no salary,” he said. According to a statement issued by Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, the eight men escaped and were rescued in Indonesia’s Maluku province by a coordinated effort
among Indonesian authorities, the International Organisation of Migrants, and the Kingdomâ€™s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Approximately 12,000 Cambodians were repatriated from foreign countries in 2011, according to the Ministry of Interior.
Legal seafood: New laws in works for aquaculture Rann Reuy Friday, 24 February 2012
New laws are being drafted to help promote and regulate Cambodia’s aquaculture industry, officials said. The law would aim to manage and regulate the way aquaculture and fish farmers handle operations and will try to ensure that the farmers’ methods do not affect the country’s biodiversity, Fisheries Administration general director Nao Thuok said. Stipulations for protecting aquaculturists from illegal coercion by authorities were also in the works. He added that the draft law was still in its discussion phase and would be finalised after further debate. Van Po, who has been farming fries, or small or young fish, in Takeo province for the past 10 years, said he welcomed the news. He said that authorities had sometimes tried to illegally demand money when they transported the fries to customers. “I would be so happy if there was a law defending aquaculture farmers.”
MFIs claim efforts to help flood victims May Kunmakara Friday, 24 February 2012
Cambodia's microfinance industry yesterday responded to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s call to aid farmers affected by the worst floods in a decade by claiming lenders were already taking steps to offer relief.
Don Wienland/Phnom Penh Post A man canoes across a flooded rice field in Kampong Thom Province last year.
About 350,000 Cambodians were affected by floods that swept through large areas of the country between September and November last year, Hun Sen said during a speech on Tuesday at the Ministry of Rural Development. As a result, thousands were struggling to repay loans to MFIs. Hun Sen then requested that interest rates on outstanding loans be frozen and payment deadlines suspended. But yesterday, the 30-member Cambodian Microfinance Association claimed during a meeting with Economy and Finance Minister Keat Chhon that it had already eliminated interest on loans to families affected by last year’s floods and would not seize property from flood victims in the event of default. Microfinance institutions had not publicised the measures extended to flood victims because they feared an influx of false claims, CMA director Bun Mony told the Post. “We had already taken the measures before the prime minister suggested them, but we did not publicly announce it because we wanted to avoid some clients who wanted to take advantage,” he said. “What we are afraid of is someone who wants to spoil the industry.” Bun Mony claimed that no property had been, or would be, confiscated from flood-affected borrowers who defaulted on their loans. Fewer than one per cent of microfinance borrowers had been affected by the floods, and the ratio of non-performing loans had decreased in 2011 to 0.25 per cent from 0.9 per cent the year
before, he said. According a survey conducted in January by Oxfam, Care, Pact and CRS, nearly two-thirds of the 400 flood-affected households surveyed had taken loans from MFIs or unofficial lenders. About 60 per cent of households said they had difficulty repaying the loans, and about six per cent said they had no hope of making repayments. MFIs have been under fire for practices some economists have called unsustainable. Interest rates between 25 and 45 per cent a year have the potential to destabilise Cambodia’s agriculture sector as farmers default on loans, some of the Kingdom’s leading economists have said. Concerns about informal microlending, which some Cambodian farmers employ to pay off debt to microfinancers, still exist among government officials and members of civil society. Informal loans often carry interest rates of more than 50 per cent a year. Economy and Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the meeting with MFIs the government would take measures to deal with unofficial lenders. In Channy, president and CEO of ACLEDA Bank, said the bank lent US$167 million in microloans but had only 63 borrowers affected by floods. “Our bank had already suspended repayments and frozen interest on the loans. No property seizures have been made,” In Channy said. The floods had only slightly affected the industry, National Bank of Cambodia governor Chea Chanto said. He confirmed that MFIs had been quietly helping borrowers affected by the floods
Military court sentences Chhoeun Chanthan Buth Reaksmey Kongkea Friday, 24 February 2012
The jail time is piling up for the former head of Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit. A week after earning a 10-year sentence from Phnom Penh Municipal Court for crimes including forgery and illegal weapons possession, a military court today sentenced Lieutenant General Chhoeun Chanthan to 26 years in jail and ordered him to pay well north of US$3 million to parties affected by various embezzlement schemes. Chhoeun Chanthan’s conviction and sentence stemmed from five charges: breach of trust, intentional destruction and embezzlement of state property, illegal distribution of weapons, destruction of military materials and lacking consciousness and responsibility when leading a unit. Poak Porn, president of the Military Court’s trial council, ordered Chhoeun Chanthan to pay $2 million to General Yim Leang, new bodyguard unit commander for Senate president Chea Sim and his representative in the court; $749,836 to civil plaintiff Meas Kimheng; and $897,750 to Ngeth Sarin, representing the Ministry of National Defence. He was also fined 10 million riel [about $2,500] that will be put into the state’s budget. Poak Porn additionally ordered that land that had once belonged to the government including a former camp for Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit and property in Kandal province be returned to the Ministry of Defense. At his trial on February 15, the court heard that Chhoeun Chanthan had promised to pay $2 million for the land but never made payment. Also known as Mao, the 41-year-old former bodyguard chief for Chea Sim and deputy commander of the Mixed Chief of Staff at the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, stands to lose significant personal assets if he is unable to pay as ordered. Poak Porn said in the event that Chhoeun Chanthan cannot pay, the court will confiscate and auction off properties including two homes in Phnom Penh, a plot of land located in Prek Ek district’s Ang Kanh village and any property belonging to Chhoeun Chanthan’s import/export business. Chhoeun Chanthan yesterday maintained his innocence, adding that he cannot accept the verdict, which he considers unduly harsh. “I cannot accept the military court’s decision, because I have not committed the offences as accused. I think that the court’s verdict is an injustice,” he told reporters outside the court. “I will appeal it to the Court of Appeal.” Orn Hing, defense lawyer for Chhoeun Chanthan, also said that he could not accept the sentence.
“I think that the military court’s decision was very harsh for my client, and I cannot accept it. I will talk with my client about the possibility of appealing it to the Court of Appeal,” he told the Post. General Yim Leang, new commander of Chea Sim’s Bodyguard Unit, could not reach for comment yesterday. His attorney, Nach Try, declined comment, telling the Post that he was “not aware of the court’s decision.” Chhoeun Chanthan was arrested on August 13 along with three bodyguards at his luxury residence in Boeng Keng Kang III commune in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmorn district. Police seized a cache of weapons and ammunition including an Okano gun with three cases of bullets, five pistols, one AK-47 assault rifle, a machine gun, more than 1,400 bullets, and a large amount of military uniforms and other related military materials in his house. On February 16, 2012, Chhoeun Chanthan was sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to 10 years in jail and a fine of 5 million riel, about $1,250. Charges in that case included possession of weapons and ammunition without permission; issuing licenses for weapons and ammunition to persons who are not competent; forging public documents; and the use of those faked documents.
Premier seeks RCAF vigilance Vong Sokheng Friday, 24 February 2012
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called for increased vigilance from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in ensuring safety and security ahead of the upcoming commune elections and ASEAN summit.
Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post Prime Minister Hun Sen delivers a speech.
Speaking at the close of the Ministry of Interior’s annual meeting yesterday, the premier did not name specific threats to national security, but highlighted the importance of security during the two upcoming events. “The Ministry of Interior has to pay strong attention to tightening security to ensure the safety for delegations and officials and partners of ASEAN and to protect the political environment for free and fair commune elections,” Hun Sen said, speaking before a delegation of about 500 highranking police officials at the Interior Ministry. Commune elections are scheduled to take place on June 3 this year. “All these important affairs will increase the burden on all armed forces, especially for the Ministry of Interior, which is why it is necessary to increase strong attention [on security],” the premier said. The Premier added that Cambodia was still a “fragile” Kingdom and pointed to the results of a 2011 Ministry of Interior report, which highlighted regional and global security issues such as terrorism and drug and human trafficking. He also said that 3,600 Cambodians were killed and 10,000 injured during traffic-based and weapons-based accidents last year. Weapons-based accidents included accidental shootings and mine explosions.