Sounds like sabotage, says HRP Khouth Sophak Chakrya Monday, 14 May 2012
A weekend meeting of Human Rights Party activists in Kandal province was disrupted when a supporter of the ruling party set up speakers near the event and attempted to drown out their president’s speech, HRP representatives said yesterday. Phuong Sokha, the HRP’s executive director in Kandal, said Sum Thon – a member of the Cambodian People’s Party and the village chief in Prek Tep – blared traditional Buddhist chants and songs over a speaker system a short distance away to disrupt a meeting that drew more than 650 activists from five districts. After about 15 minutes, local authorities asked him to reduce the volume. “That was an intentional disturbance made on us by members of the ruling party,” he said. According to Phuong Sokha, the HRP had permission from local authorities to hold the gathering of campaign volunteers. However, when HRP president Kem Sokha addressed the crowd, Sum Thon turned on the loudspeaker, drowning out the speech. Sum Thon denied that the music was an intentional disruption, saying it was part of a memorial celebration. “It was ironic that we played a loudspeaker to celebrate a festival, but it was alleged that we were trying to disturb their meeting,” he said. Poung Sokha, however, remained unconvinced by Sum Thon’s explanation. “Calling it a ceremony honouring the dead is an excuse for his wrongdoing,” he said. Poung Sokha cited as evidence Sum Thon’s decision not to hold their meeting at his own house, which was about 100 metres away from the HRP rally, but rather at the house of another activist just 20 metres away. To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cambodia prepares for G20 Don Weinland Monday, 14 May 2012
If it were a Group of 180 nations meeting, Cambodia would be invited. But the Kingdom‟s chances of attending the so-called G20 summit, which brings together the world‟s largest economies, are unlikely, says Mey Kalyan, a government adviser who last week became the first Cambodian to sit in, and speak at, a preparatory meeting for the yearly event. At the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, next month, Prime Minister Hun Sen will be the first Cambodian head of state to pose for photographs with the likes of Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President Barack Obama under one roof – at a time when the country is looking to secure a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. “In the end, I don‟t know what it will lead to,” Mey Kalyan, a senior adviser on the Supreme National Economic Council, said yesterday of the Kingdom‟s attendance. “These things are incremental. We are improving our access to the world, linking Cambodia to the map. This is image-building.” But Cambodia‟s presence was far from ceremonial. The Kingdom, along with West African state Benin, will represent many of the developing world‟s low-income countries before a host of economic powerhouses. The ASEAN chairmanship, held by Cambodia this year, has been routinely invited to attend. Mey Kalyan, who said he “spoke a lot” during the three days in Mexico, delivered a pointed message to the meeting that focused primarily on infrastructure, food security and a combination of sustainable and inclusive growth. The developed powers of the world were devising a new lexicon of terminology for such things, but these phrases were far less important on the ground in countries such as Cambodia, he said. “Development doesn‟t happen in an air-conditioned room. The international community makes a lot of new terms. As a poor country, we‟re constrained by these terms. They confuse us. I told them, „Stick to a few concepts. Grab the bull by the horns.‟ ” Mey Kalyan said the concept of “inclusive green growth” was important and pertinent, but the phrases, which were becoming increasingly convoluted, meant little for countries in the throes of basic development. Cambodia and Benin‟s presence brought some practicality to the discussion, he said.
It was also an opportunity for Cambodia to give back to the countries that had given billions of dollars in development aid, Mey Kalyan added. The country could share its development experience from a failed state to a growing destination for foreign direct investment, he said. Hun Sen would likely point to ways G20 countries could include emerging and frontier markets in global growth, Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace executive director Chheang Vannarith said. “I think the message the Prime Minister may bring is how to reduce the development gap between rich and poor countries,” he said. Indonesia, ASEAN‟s largest economy and a permanent G20 member, would also be in Mexico next month, and could deliver a similar message, Chheang Vannarith said. But Cambodia would have the opportunity to demonstrate that poor nations can have their say on the issue, he said. “It shows that small and big countries are coming together here to shape the world‟s economy.” To contact the reporter on this story: Don Weinland at email@example.com
Chut Wutty slaying puts Timbergreen logging in spotlight May Titthara Monday, 14 May 2012
A facility for processing yellow vine pictured on Friday at a location in Koh Kong province's Mondul Seima district where the Timbergreen company has stockpiled luxury wood. Photograph: May Titthara
Community activists and conservationists commemorating slain environment activist Chut Wutty on the weekend used the occasion to shed light on what they allege are the shadowy practices of a logging company in the southwestern Cardamom forests. Activists amongst the hundreds of people who travelled to Koh Kong province’s Mondul Seima district discovered a yellow vine processing facility, which are generally prohibited under Cambodia’s forest law, at the premises of the firm Timbergeen. But Suwanna Gauntlett, CEO of the conservation group Wildlife Alliance, which monitors the area where Timbergreen is licensed to clear the reservoirs of the Lower Stung Russey Chrum dam site, said the company had a permit to process yellow vine there. “This [processing area] is right next to the reservoir, and it’s for yellow vine coming from the reservoir and they have licence for that from the Forestry Administration,” she said. Chut Wutty, the late director of the Natural Resource Protection Group, was killed after military police officer In Rattana allegedly attempted to take the memory card of a camera
he had been using to photograph stockpiles of yellow vine with two journalists on April 26. A security guard who was working for Timbergreen, Ran Boroth, has been charged with accidentally shooting In Rattana during an attempt to disarm him. When a journalist from the Post photographed the yellow vine processing facility on Saturday, a Timbergreen security guard attempted to stop him. “Where are you from? My boss told me no pictures and interviews here because the company is legal,” the man, who only gave the name Ny, said. Stockpiles of yellow vine and rosewood were also found at the premise along with four sawmills, though there is no evidence to suggest the timber was cut outside of the Lower Stung Russey Chrum dam site. Yellow vine is used in the production of traditional medicines. Timbergreen majority shareholder Khieu Sarsileap could not be reached for comment yesterday but has previously told the Post her company was in no way involved in illegal activities. The firm’s licence to log in the area is set to expire at the start of next month. Marcus Hardtke, who visited the site and is the Southeast Asia regional coordinator of the conservation group ARA, said it was these very activities, which the company was desperate to hide, that Chut Wutty had been investigating when he was killed. “It indicates that something is seriously wrong there. It needs connecting of the dots. It just needs some normal criminal investigation,” he said. Hardtke said the hundreds of activists from around the country who had travelled to Koh Kong for the memorial had achieved their purpose by bringing light to the issue. “We have to drag this back into the rule of law and this action by the community is doing that,” he said. Om Makkiri, Koh Kong provincial director of the Forestry Administration, could not be reached for comment. Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the killing of Chut Wutty had highlighted the need for proper investigations of illegal logging across the country. “You destroy the trees and you killed Wutty to threaten us to stop our activities, I think you have failed,” he said. Hundreds of villagers travelled to Koh Kong province on Thursday, although several vans were reportedly prevented from entering the area.
On Friday, they travelled to Veal Bei point, the spot where Chut Wutty was killed in Mondul Seima districtâ€™s Bak Khlang commune, and marched with an effigy of the activist fashioned out of branches. To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org With assistance from David Boyle
Yingluck steadfast on Preah Vihear Cheang Sokha Monday, 14 May 2012
Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra attends a joint news conference at the Japan-Mekong summit in Tokyo, Japan, last month. Photograph: Reuters
The heated rhetoric around the Preah Vihear temple has been dialed back several notches since her July election, but Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said over the weekend that her nation intends to put its all into the ongoing legal battle over the contested 4.6 square kilometres around the site. On Saturday, the Thai premier said her government would apply its utmost efforts to contest the Preah Vihear case at the International Court of Justice, pledging to protect Thailand’s sovereignty, Thai news agency MCOT reported. Speaking ahead of a Thai by-election, Yingluck, who has seen her public support slide, said she and her deputy prime minister, General Yutthasak Sasiprapa, and military and foreign affairs officials met two days earlier to discuss the case with a specialised legal team. Reached yesterday, Cambodian government spokesman Ek Tha said Thailand must stop making baseless claims to Cambodian land near the temple. “Cambodia is very, very optimistic that the ICJ, which ruled in favour of Cambodia based on the clear maps and clear border lines, will stick to and uphold its 1962 decision,” Ek Tha said.
“If the ICJ did not have clear maps and clear boundaries…the court would have not ruled in favour of Cambodia in 1962. The ICJ has full sense in terms of legal process and technical aspects as well as full authorisation and discretion as a UN court, so no one can pressure the ICJ to do this or that.” The ICJ has asked Thailand to submit further written explanations by June 21, Thai press reports stated. Cambodia previously sent its written explanations to the court ahead of a March 8 deadline. Cambodia’s complaint with the ICJ seeks a reinterpretation of the court’s 1962 decision, which awarded the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia, but was silent on the issue of the surrounding land. “A clear interpretation would prevent both sides from exchanging fire in the future,” Ek Tha said, adding that at the same time, Cambodia wants to maximise and expand trade with Thailand, which would benefit both nations. To contact the reporter on this story: Cheang Sokha at email@example.com
Bavet town shooting victims summonsed again May Titthara Tuesday, 15 May 2012
For the second time, court officials want to question three female workers who say they were shot and wounded by former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith at a labour protest earlier this year. The second summons, which has outraged the women, stems from a complaint that they filed against Chhouk Bandith. Each of them is demanding $45,000 in compensation for their injuries. Svay Rieng provincial court investigating Judge Pech Chhoeut said yesterday the point of the May 18 summons was to “investigate their complaint and the case happening to them”. In February, Buot Chinda, 21, Keo Near, 18, and Nuth Sakhorn, 23, were at a 6,000-strong protest outside the Kaoway Sports factory in the Manhatten Special Economic Zone, in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town, when they were shot. Chhouk Bandith was identified as the trigger man. Though not arrested, he was charged with “unintentional injuries” on May 14, transferred to a lesser post, and is scheduled to appear in court on May 27 to answer questions about the incident. Nuth Sakhorn, who said she got the court order yesterday, wondered why the former governor had not been arrested yet, almost a month after he was charged. “The court has no aim to find justice for us. We filed a complaint against Chhouk Bandith, but the court did not take any action.” Victim Buot Chinda, who was shot through the chest and is a party to the complaint, raised similar concerns. She said the summons told her to bring documents and evidence to support her case. “I don’t know where the justice is. He has opened fire and gave me a wound that almost killed me,” she said. Moeun Tola, head of the labour program unit at the Community Legal Education Center, said the court seemed to have no intention of arresting Chhouk Bandith. “Even my lawyers trying to collect evidence at the scene were prevented by staff of the
Special Economic Zone, although they made an appointment with the factory,â€? Moeun Tola said. To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dengue death tally skewed by CHIKV Sen David and Cassandra Yeap Tuesday, 15 May 2012
A health official examines a man with a new strain of dengue fever in Takeo province last week. Photograph: Supplied
An old virus that shares similar symptoms to dengue fever had resurfaced in Cambodia in recent months and was a leading factor in this year’s sharp spike in deaths attributed to dengue, health officials said yesterday. Last seen in Cambodia in the early 1990s, the Chikungunya, or CHIKV, virus had reemerged in Cambodia over the past six to nine months, World Health Organization epidemiologist Steven Bjorge said. “It’s been moving through India, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand; now it appears it has reached Cambodia,” he said. Although a completely different virus, it is often confused with dengue, as the symptoms are similar and the species of the mosquito is the same, he said. However, dengue symptoms tended to be more severe, with people potentially dying from them, unlike CHIKV. “The problem is that with those viruses, there is no drug to stop the symptoms, likewise
there is no vaccine. The only thing we have left is to protect â€Ś against mosquitoes,â€? he said. Aedes mosquitoes, which transmit the viruses, tended to breed in man-made containers, he said, adding that putting larvacide or guppy fish in pools of water and cleaning up small piles of trash would be a good way of guarding against them. Char Meng Chuor, director of the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, said the similarity of the viruses and the rise in CHIKIV cases had partly contributed to a threefold increase in dengue numbers. There were 2,579 cases, with 14 deaths, more than the first 18 weeks of the year â€“ an increase of 353 per cent if compared to the same period last year. Other reasons for the increase in reported dengue cases included more rainfall and this year being the climax of a five-year cycle that tends to see more deaths, he added. Health officials have distributed 90 tonnes of Abate, a chemical used to kill larvae, and will distribute 180 tonnes during the rainy season. To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David and Cassandra Yeap at email@example.com
Families harming own children to beg Sen David and Cassandra Yeap Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Meas Oun (centre), 45, sits with two of her four children (front) in Poipet town on Friday. Meas Oun and her children earn a living by begging in Thailand. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
Dice roll and cards are dealt every day in the seven casinos along the Poipet-Thai border, but just five kilometres away in the ramshackle village of Kbal Spean, gamblers of a different sort are playing for much higher stakes: betting their and their childrenâ€™s lives as they struggle to eke out a meagre living as beggars in Thailand. The more than 100 families waiting there to cross the border hail from all over the country, says villager Mean Veasna, 36, rattling off Kampong Thom, Kandal, Kampot and Kratie provinces as some of the more common origin points. Most of his neighbours came to work as beggars across the border, he says. But while the stakes are high, the payoff is low â€“ about 50 baht (US$1.60) per day. Crossing over illegally, the would-be beggars risk arrest and detainment by the Thai authorities. And even if they make it safely across, they still have to walk hundreds of kilometres to the urban centres of Pattaya and Bangkok.
Sometimes, parents make seemingly unfathomable decisions to ensure their children’s ability to earn. “There are many cases of children’s legs being broken,” says Mean Veasna. “They [parents] bring small children to be beggars and they inject their legs with medicine, before breaking them. “This makes them [children] more pitiful, so they can beg a lot,” he adds. Nita, 6, is asked to stand up and walk to demonstrate the point. Her right leg is crooked, and she hobbles lopsidedly for a short distance before sitting back down. Her mother, Meas Oun, 45, says she allowed the procedure by a broker in the village in an attempt to help her daughter, but changed her mind about letting her leave when it came time for her to be taken to Thailand. “I pitied my daughter. I would not sell my daughter to someone,” she says. She moved to Poipet from Kandal province 20 years ago, and turned to begging after her husband left for another woman in Thailand. “I am so poor as you can see from my house,” she says, gesturing towards a bare structure cobbled together from corrugated iron and wooden planks. “I have no knowledge to work and no money to do any business, so I decided to beg in Thailand,” she says, breaking down in tears. Across the border, in Thailand’s Rong Kluea market, Vong Srey Leap, 30, cradles her oneyear-old baby close to her, as her six-year-old daughter peeks out shyly from behind. “I’ve come here for more than 10 years,” she says. “I cross over at the illegal border … I walk in the market to beg with my daughter.” Meas Oun, Vong Srey Leap and their children fit a common profile, according to research done last year by NGO Friends that found most Cambodian child beggars in Thailand are there with families or relatives. There is also “rarely any element of coercion”, even for those who use facilitators. This contrasts with commonly held assumptions that most of the children are humantrafficking victims controlled by organised gangs, the report notes. Begging as a way of making a living is the norm for children in Poipet, agrees Long San Rithy, co-ordinator of the Dam Nok Toek rehabilitation centre. Those who are not beggars are cart pullers or rubbish collectors. However, he contends that the children are not truly begging of their own free will.
“Some of the children beg following their families or brokers, but in both cases, children are forced to be in labour. They are forced to earn money,” he says. The definition of trafficking remains controversial, the Friends report notes. The perception of a “trafficker”, or Me Kyhol, ranged from “someone who helps people earn money” to “a person who takes people to find jobs in Thailand” to “a person who leads the way, like the leader of a flock”. But whether choosing to beg of their own accord or not, children who panhandle across the border find the career has a short shelf life. At 19, Nov Sophan is considered past his prime. His home village of Phsar Kandal in Poipet is eerily quiet for the late afternoon. The sounds and activity of children running and playing are completely absent. The children – aged 15 and below – are away, begging in Thailand, says Nov Sophan, but he no longer can follow them. “Now I am older, I cannot beg anymore. I’ve changed to be a construction worker in Thailand,” he says. To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David and Cassandra Yeap at firstname.lastname@example.org
General concern over settlement Chhay Channyda Tuesday, 15 May 2012
A nearly year-long land dispute in Oddar Meanchey has been resolved for most parties involved by the intervention of two RCAF generals, but critics contend the more than 2,400 hectare-giveaway is a ploy to influence upcoming elections. Generals Kun Kim and Chea Tara yesterday granted 1.5 hectares to each of more than 1,600 families affected by a land concession granted to two rubber companies in Anglong Veng district this past June. Most of the families affected by the concession, which granted some 14,000 hectares to Data Rubber Cambodia and Tomring Rubber Co Ltd, agreed to accept the 1.5 hectares, despite some having lost more than that and others having been landless. “Villagers farmed on this land for a long time, but it’s state land,” said Anglong Veng district governor Yim Phanna. “The government agreed to give each 1.5 hectares, and they will get a legal land title.” For some villagers, however, 1.5 hectares was not enough. Villager Yem Sovann boycotted the meeting where villagers received the news, saying he lost more than 10 hectares of land. “I won’t accept,” he said. “It’s too small for us, but I don’t know who to complain to.” Heng Sambath, district council chief for the Norodom Ranariddh Party and second deputy commune chief of Anlong Veng commune, said the move was political. “[The generals] appealed to people to vote for CPP candidate Vong Pheak. This [settlement] is to gain votes before the electoral campaign,” he said. Srey Naren, provincial Adhoc coordinator, concurred. “I wonder why the military officials went to give the land to the villagers,” he said. “It is a way to get [political] benefit from having power.” But Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, said that even if the move was politically motivated, it was still legal. “As long as this campaigning is done in accordance with laws on political parties ... it’s not under the NEC’s control,” he said. Neither Kun Kim nor Chea Tara could be reached. To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at email@example.com
Mu Sochua decries intimidation tactics Shane Worrell and Mom Kunthear Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Women threatened with eviction from the Boeung Kak lake community protest while dressed as Buddhist nuns last year in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua yesterday condemned the “system” that has left civil-servant husbands of Boeung Kak lake protesters believing they must decide between their marriages and their jobs. Activists Tep Vanny and Tol Srey Pov told the Post last week that their husbands, who are both employed in some way by the Phnom Penh municipal authority, had been told they would be sacked if their wives’ continued to protest against Shakaku’s development of Boeung Kak. Rather than go silently, however, the women vowed to divorce their husbands so they could keep fighting for land titles and for the authority to clearly mark 12.44 hectares of land for residents. Mu Sochua said such intimidation, spearheaded by a “system [of] those who have targeted the women from day one”, was unacceptable. “Their husbands should not have to be called in and pressured,” she said. “Not so they have to leave their jobs because of what their wives are doing.”
Tol Srey Pov, 37, said yesterday that her husband’s employer, Electricite du Cambodge (EDC), had threatened to fire him “many times” over her striking, a claim the company denied. EDC falls under the Phnom Penh municipal authority’s umbrella and is partly owned by the government. “I told my husband to divorce me, because I do not want to stand by and watch him get fired because of me,” she said, adding that she had all but filed for divorce last week before deciding against it. “If my husband gets threatened again and his work is affected because of my protesting, I will divorce him,” she said. “I really do not want this because we have never argued or had a problem with each other since we married.” Village representative Tep Vanny told the Post last week that her husband, a civil servant at Phnom Penh municipal authority, had received similar threats. An unidentified government official had also called to ask her husband if he was a member of the SRP, Tep Vanny said yesterday. “This man who called also asked if I was a member of the SRP – but I’m not.” Tep Vanny said she did not want to divorce her husband, but would if it prevented him from being sacked. “Next time, if my protesting affects my husband or it causes my family problems, I will divorce my husband – but it won’t be our fault, it will be the authority’s fault,” she said. Chea Sin Hel, director of distribution at EDC, denied officials had threatened any worker with links to Boeung Kak. “It is not true, and they should contact me to show me who threatened to fire him,” he said. “If their wives are protesting . . . we don’t have the right to threaten or fire them. “They should not accuse us like this.” Kiet Chhe, deputy administrative president of Phnom Penh city hall, declined to comment yesterday. Mu Sochua said intimidation shadowed the Boeung Kak villagers everywhere they went, leading many to feel intimidated and helpless. “That’s exactly what [their intimidators] want. Look at the woman who jumped off the bridge,” she said, referring to Chea Dara, who took her life in November. “That story is finished, gone, forgotten . . . This [intimidation] can work.
“These women are strong inside out,” she said. “[Tep Vanny] has gone beyond [her intimidators]. She fights for a cause. She has shown all along that … she is totally above their tactics and their strategies.” To contact the reporters on this story: Shane Worrell at firstname.lastname@example.org Mom Kunthear at email@example.com
Transparency key to ASEAN Human Rights Declaration Bridget Di Certo Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Transparency and consultation with civil society will give the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration the status and respect it needs to make a difference in the region, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Friday. The AHRD will be presented to foreign ministers in July after scheduled consultation with NGOs, but after years of secrecy and silence on the drafting of the text, rights groups have been wary it could fall short. “Regional human rights instruments should complement and reinforce international human rights standards,” Pillay said. “But my hope is that that the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration will go further by setting the bar higher for governments to ensure full protection and promotion of human rights through their policies, legislation and practices.” Pillay said it was imperative a “credible” human rights declaration be adopted ahead of integration into an ASEAN community by 2015. Last month, Cambodian Center for Human Rights obtained a leaked draft of the declaration and summised that “its premise is admirable; however, a number of articles go against the stated aim of promoting and protecting human rights in the Association of South-East Asian nations”. The Post has previously reported on tensions drafters will face in balancing the region’s commitment to state autonomy with any kind of enforcement mechanism under the declaration. In CCHR’s analysis of the draft, it said that “there are a number of articles that could be utilised to cement the rights of the state above the claims to universal human rights and freedoms”. “Furthermore, there have been efforts to introduce qualifications to certain articles that would essentially allow for the restriction of the fundamental freedoms of religion, expression and opinion, and the right of a citizen to participate freely in the government of their respective country.” To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at firstname.lastname@example.org
HIV prevalence high among migrant workers in Thailand Cassandra Yeap Wednesday, 16 May 2012
An HIV positive woman receives treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh last November. Photograph: Reuters
Cambodian migrants have the highest rate of HIV among migrant groups in Thailand for reasons that range from the nature of their jobs to cultural attitudes towards condoms, Thai health workers said yesterday. The results of the recent Integrated Bio Behavioural Survey by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health shows Cambodian migrant workers have an HIV prevalence rate of 2.5 per cent, the highest of any migrant population in the country. Thailand’s estimated adult prevalence is 1.3 per cent, and Cambodia’s is 0.5 per cent. Raks Thai Foundation program assistant Domrongphol Sangnanee said the results were “not surprising”. “Many Cambodian migrant workers work in the fishery sector, and it’s quite difficult to access workers to educate them,” Domrongphol said. “In the case of Laos [migrants], they don’t work in fisheries, and it’s easy for them to access
material on HIV because the languages are similar.â€? Another reason was Cambodian migrantsâ€™ unfamiliarity with condom usage, he said. Other factors promoting high rates of HIV among migrant workers in general included language barriers to understanding HIV information and inability to use government health service providers. Concerns over communicable diseases among Cambodian migrant workers were not high, however, and the Public Health Ministry was more worried about tuberculosis among the large percentage of Burmese workers in Thailand. Registered migrant workers had to undergo annual health checks and buy health insurance, Domrongphol said. To contact the reporter on this story: Cassandra Yeap at email@example.com
Hospital hygiene highlighted Stuart White Wednesday, 16 May 2012
A nurse washes her hands in a hospital. Government health officials and WHO representatives intend to establish a ‘National Hand Washing Day’ to help curb infections that result from hospital visits. Photograph: Reuters
Officials from the World Health Organization and the Cambodian Ministry of Health will meet today to set a date for a national hand-washing day to raise awareness of proper hand hygiene and curb infections resulting from hospital visits. These complications – known as healthcare-associated infections, or HCAIs – are “deemed the most frequent adverse event threatening patients’ safety worldwide” and are three times more prevalent in developing countries such as Cambodia than in the United States and Europe, the authors of a study published in the medical journal The Lancet last year say. “Healthcare workers play a big role in HCAIs,” Dr Chea Nora, a WHO technical officer for infection prevention and control, said. “By just making them comply with good hand-hygiene practice, the chance of HCAIs is decreased.” Ministry of Health deputy director of the Department of Hospital Services Dr Sok Srun agrees, saying the ministry has a “strategic plan” in place to address the problem, but has yet to form a ground-level “operational plan”.
“We propose new activities for healthcare-associated infections, but we cannot implement them properly,” he said. “If we have no operational plan, we can’t get funding from the government.” One of the main hurdles to formulating such a plan, Sok Srun said, was a lack of statistical analysis. At the moment, the ministry is looking to NGOs to provide skilled researchers to conduct a one- or two-year study of healthcare-associated infections in Cambodia. “We need epidemiologists,” Sok Srun said. “We need more technical data.” Some of the issues contributing to HCAIs, such as insufficient supplies of alcohol-based hand sanitiser in some hospitals, could be attributed directly to the lack of an operational plan, Sok Srun said, but others were purely behavioural. The WHO has a rolling training program in place to teach hospital staff proper hygiene techniques, but the human element continues to confound. Officials are still trying to figure out which methods, if any, will change healthcare workers’ habits. “For example, if they had their own small supply of alcohol hand gel, would they use it more often?” Chea Nora said. “Putting all these elements together is a challenge, but should be achievable with a step-wise approach.” To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart White at firstname.lastname@example.org
KRT running on empty Bridget Di Certo Wednesday, 16 May 2012
By the end of June, funding for the international side of the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal will have run out, adversely affecting the ability of the tribunal to pay the salaries of staff, officials said yesterday. Legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen said it was a “very serious situation”. “By the end of June, the UN side runs out of money,” he said. “Out of a budget of $44 million [for 2012-2013] there remains $28 million that has not been pledged. “The court has faced financial challenges before, but this is a very serious situation.” If the international side runs out of money, it will not be able to pay staff salaries, Olsen added. Earlier this year, the Post reported on the national side of the tribunal facing similar budget woes. Until March, Cambodian staff at the tribunal had not been paid since the previous year, with Cambodian judges having not received salaries since October 2011. Staff from the pre-trial chamber and prosecution said they would be forced to walk away from the tribunal and seek other jobs unless they were paid, press officer Neth Pheaktra said at the time. In a budget meeting in New York in February, representatives from Australia, Cambodia, the European Union, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom committed funds to the court, but only Australia and Japan allocated funds to the international side. When asked about the consequences for Case 002, now under way, Olsen declined to speculate, but pointed to the problems faced by the Cambodian side during salary shortfalls. “The court is funded only by voluntary donations,” he said. Compared to similar tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge tribunal runs at an extremely low cost. Since the tribunal began operations in 2006 until the beginning of 2012, it had spent a total of $149.9 million, with $34 million allocated to the Cambodian side and $115 million to the international side. The court for Rwanda regularly has an annual budget in excess of the total spent on the Cambodian court.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at email@example.com
Police must do more, says card scam victim Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Shane Worrell Wednesday, 16 May 2012
A tourist who was lured to the home of an illegal blackjack ring and later robbed of US$4,400 said yesterday she was disappointed with the police investigation of the crime after they released two suspects she claimed were the group’s ringleaders. Just weeks after the Post reported tourists falling prey to such gangs, the 23-year-old said she was tricked into being driven from Phnom Penh’s riverside to a house near Russian Market on May 1 after meeting a young woman who wanted information about studying in the US. “She seemed really nice . . . she got me a drink,” the victim said. “She asked me to go back to her house. She said her mother was sick.” What followed was a unsettling ordeal in which the tourist was tricked into playing cards with the woman and her partners before they robbed her of $1,500 cash and forced her to withdraw almost $3,000 more from her account. “There were three people in the house when I got in, but in total there were six people involved,” she said. “I had no idea where I was. My heart was going crazy. I didn’t feel like I could do anything. I’ve never been so scared in my life.” She was taken to an ATM, which was empty, then another one, which also didn’t work, before the gang took her to a bank to withdraw the cash. “They’ve pretty much got hands around me the whole time,” she said. CCTV footage she later obtained from the banks had been too fuzzy to identify anyone, the victim said. Tep Vannara, deputy chief of Phnom Penh municipal central security office, told the Post yesterday that police had arrested a man and a woman, both from the Philippines, on Monday in relation to the robbery and detainment. A lack of evidence had resulted in them being released without charge, he said. “We could not detain them after they denied what the victim had alleged,” he said.“However, our police are going to continue investigating the case.” The victim said she had been conducting her own investigation of the group’s activities, which she said were blatant enough that police should be able press charges.
“I think the group has about eight other people spotting for them,” she said. “The police are pathetic. I know I’m not getting my money back. But that’s not the point of it,” she said, adding that the police had interviewed her for nine hours on Monday. To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org Shane Worrell at email@example.com
Politicians get young Cambodians geared up Ty Samphors Vicheka and Kong Meta Wednesday, 16 May 2012
"Integrating youth in all levels of society”, a slogan written in English and Khmer and hung on a white cloth over the main roads of Phnom Penh, was aimed to attract the attention of the Kingdom’s citizens. But how much do young Cambodians know about the different political parties, and why should they become politically active? Ngoeun Raden, a 27-year-old youth activist and Deputy Director of the Funcinpec political party, said that it is vital for young Cambodians to participate in politics. He said that their involvement is key to developing the country’s political system. Regarding youth activities hosted by Funcinpec in anticipation of the upcoming elections, Ngoeun Raden said that he gathered young Cambodians to discuss the importance of voting, while informing them about politics for the sake of making good decisions as citizens. However, are young Cambodians’ affiliations with and knowledge of politics too closely tied with that of their parents? Hing Soksan, Party Chief of the Human Rights Party, explained that youth are held back from political involvement by misunderstandings. He said that young Cambodians perceive that they risk going to prison should their political party come under fire; they also perceive that they are then at risk for exile and even death.
However, these perceptions are false, Hing Soksan said – and they root from the older generation spreading an unclear picture of Cambodia’s political climate to their children. “Politics are about responsibilities to the nation for everyone, not just politicians,” he said. “The lack of youth participation in each political party is not good for the country’s development, because youth have a very powerful voice and can make change in this society.” Maly Socheata, a 28-year-old youth advocate for the Cambodian People’s Party and Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said that youth contribution to politics is the right move for the country’s development. “I have never felt afraid of my [political] activities and I’ve never felt regret involving myself in politics, because I believe that it is an obligation for every youth,” she said. “I am pleased and excited to inform people about what I’m doing for the upcoming election.” Cheam Yeap, a Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker, said that youth have the right to participate in every social activity and that such participation will allow for broadening their knowledge and skill. He added that the government is making an immense effort to focus on education so that young Cambodians will develop into good citizens, and have the ability to actively contribute in society. Seng Rithy, Secretary General of the Khmer Youth Association, said that it is important for youth to become politically active. He explained that young Cambodians should consider the principles of a political party before deciding to join it. “Youths have to think deeply about whether a political party’s policies satisfy their interests,” he said. “And if they cannot find a political party that fits their needs, they can form a new one.” Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said politicians are looking to youth to rid the country of corruption and continue cultivating a culture of democracy
Q&A with Hun Many Dareth Rosaline and Mer Chanpolydet Wednesday, 16 May 2012
Prime Minister Hun Sen's youngest son, Hun Many. Photograph: supplied
Many people believe that children of the wealthy or high-ranking officers are often spoiled, rude or careless to others. The higher one’s family is on the social ladder, people perceive, the worse their behaviour is to others. However, this widely-held belief is certainly false when it comes to the youngest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Hun Many. Getting out of his car – a gentle young man dressed in a blue shirt and black trousers – Hun Many welcomed LIFT reporters into his office with an air of politeness and simplicity. Hun Many invited LIFT for an exclusive interview related to a youth group known as “Youth in the Cause of the Motherland”, a group formed by Hun Many that’s taking off with unprecedented success. Q: Can you tell us about the background of your youth group? A: This group was formed by volunteering youth who share the same vision, see the good causes of devotion of the elder generation for the sake of their people and motherland, and believe gratitude and justice should be paid for those devotions by means of honouring it, maintaining it and improving it. This group consists of all volunteering youth. It has yet to be formed with a formal structure. However, I have, for the meantime, been supported to be a co-ordinator and team leader for
the group. As a volunteer group, we don’t limit the number of members. Anyone who sees the good causes of our group can join. As of now, we have varied members from different backgrounds, including university lecturers, NGO staff members, government officials, businessmen, lawyers, staff of private companies etc. who share common beliefs and visions. Q: What is the purpose and ultimate goal of the youth group? A: We are well-aware that a nursery on which we spring until today has been paved by the elder generation. Our main purpose is, therefore, to get the next generation understanding of this, and to have it maintained, promoted and improved. We envisage a Cambodian society whereby youth at every social class and tendency are not discriminated against, but are seen as a contributing force to the development of the Cambodia. We try our utmost to explain, encourage and put perspectives into actions by means of initiating social gatherings, peer meetings, mentoring, civic education etc. We want all Cambodian youth to understand their roles and obligations – and do good things for the causes of their people and beloved motherland, rather than spending their time with things that leave negative impacts on society. Q: What were the mains factors that impassioned you and other members to get involved in the youth group? A: On the one hand, it’s generally understood that youth are physically and mentally energetic. I feel so, as a youth myself. Indeed, we have energy to do a lot of good things for the cause of our people and motherland. This belief certainly drives me and other members of the group to join hands and form this group. On the other hand, it relates to the history of Cambodia. Before, it’s quite unfortunate Cambodia underwent political instability as a consequence of chronic wars, and didn’t have chance to do what Cambodia and her people deserved. Now, seeing the current situation whereby peace, stability and development are taking root, we take this opportunity to honour this, and foster them by means of understanding how things developed from year zero, how to preserve it, and how to foster it. Since we have faith that every individual is the cell of the society, we need to nurture those cells by encouraging them to take part in whatever activity which bears fruit for their society. It’s always a regret and pity to see any individual Cambodian youth, who I believe, is a key driving force of our country’s development and shall have no time to waste at this peaceful time of our country, get involved in criminal activity when their physical and mental strength is more than needed in the build-up of their own homeland. I also see many youth feel safe and grateful being saved from civil war, from running for shelter from bullet and mortar over 20 years ago. But the border of our youth desire cannot be limited to peace only but to be always active and competitive. We cannot stay safe anymore economically at this globalised time if our youth stay uncompetitive, especially compared to those of our neighbours. Nowadays, youth of Cambodia don’t need to learn how to shoot anymore, but they need to learn how to sew clothes at factories and sow seeds at rice fields etc.
Q: What has the youth group achieved and accomplished since it formed? A: Not as much as compared to what have been achieved by the elder generation. But we are proud that it’s moving. This move is indeed driven by our belief that everyone in the society shall not ask what his nation could do for him, but what he could do for his nation. I myself have been observing this, and I’m sure my group members have also been observing this philosophy too. With this, we are proud to say that our individual and group achievements have thus far contributed tremendously to this country. To name a few, we have so far taken part in environment protection activities where we planted trees, released fish, lobsters etc. into their natural habitats, and also took part in certain social works such as community cleaning, offering donation to flood victims, blood donation etc. Besides, our group has also initiated several study-tours for students in various universities so that they could see the real production chain onsite, and to reflect it against their in-class theories. To exemplify, we have recently hosted more than 500 students from 22 different universities to Phnom Penh Sugar Company where they were exposed to the real production assembly of the company. Particularly, we have organised a gathering of nearly 20,000 youths at Olympic Stadium to focus on the topic “Youth in the Cause of Motherland”. On top of this, we have also involved our group in sports activities where we competed against or joined with other groups so as to make us and others healthier and friendlier. Last year, we organised a youth camping trip and I’m happy to announce that such activities wait in queue to come. Q: Do you think the group is making an impact on Cambodian youth? A: Yes, it has, more or less. But with whatever image, we are not negatively affected as we are standing firm on our principles that we do whatever we can to help this country, but not to manipulate anyone. So far, we have been working with no less than 20,000 youth. Though we don’t have specific assessment on the level of impact, we could tell from their active and energetic participations that they are certainly affected by our activities, and are satisfied by that. This satisfaction is seen to have been geared by the joint efforts that yield multiple-effects on every participant. What I can conclude for now is that they are affected because most of them shared a common vision and causes as I do, and our group does. Q: Does your youth group face any difficulty? A: Of course, yes. We are youth; we lack or may be seen as lacking experience and knowhow, and we need to learn. We need to learn while we are doing, and this is, for sure, our limitation. Besides, as you see, many of us have our work in addition to volunteering. For sustainability of our careers and this volunteer work, we need to find a good time balance. This limitation has thwarted us, to a certain extent, from what we wanted to achieve.
Q: How does your youth group tackle these kinds of challenges? A: Luckily, our group consists of committed members who possess different skills. Based on a principle of openness, we always place challenges on the table for discussions. Our thoroughness, seriousness, commitment and varied skills have helped us get through those challenges. Another strength that we should not forget is that we never consider challenges as obstacles. Rather, we see them as opportunity and a lesson learnt. Besides, we always keep learning from the old people who have gone through those challenges. Q: What does the youth group have planned for the future? A: As mentioned in our vision, we envisage a Cambodian society where youth are actively involved in the cause of their people and motherland. In other words, we plan to do whatever we can to activate, encourage and provide as much necessary assistance as possible to them so that they could use their physical and intellectual strength to its fullest potential to help contribute whatever they believe fit to this country. We also plan to shape this group as a role-model for other people who are willing to contribute whatever resources they have for the betterment of Cambodia and Cambodians. However, I have to be cautious by letting you know that because this group is a volunteer group, not an official institution. Its future plan, to fit with its capacity and flexibility, is subject to change. Q: Do you have any final words on how youth can get involved in bettering Cambodia? A: I just would like to add that you don’t need to be an intellectual to be able to share a piece of knowledge with your countrymen; likewise, you don’t need to be wealthy to be able to contribute a cent to a charity group. By just doing the right thing that causes no harm for your people and country, you’re contributing. There is indeed no time for you to wait; for those who are able to understand this message, you’re, of course, needed by your people and country. Please join us, and act now.
Teenage girl shot dead in Kratie land eviction May Titthara Wednesday, 16 May 2012
A 14-year-old girl was shot dead this morning by heavily armed officials who opened fire on a group of about 1,000 families they were sent to evict in Kratie province, military police have confirmed. A man who identified himself as a military police official but refused to give his name, said his forces had no choice but to fire on the villagers who were violently defying an order to vacate their land. Heng Chantha, 14, was killed while two other villagers were injured and four arrested during the incident that took place in Prama village, Kampong Damrei commune. About 200 heavily armed military police officials assisted by a helicopter stormed the village in the eviction operation before an unknown number of them opened fire. Military police have blocked off the area and are allowing no one in. The villagers were being evicted from the area to make way for agro-business company Casotim, military police and rights groups said. The fatal shooting follows the slaying of Chut Wutty last month and several other incidents this year already in which guns have been used against defiant villagers or protesters. To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tep Phearun: Assistant to Secretary of State HE Prum Sokha Phearun Sreng Wednesday, 16 May 2012
When Tep Phearun graduated high school, the villagers in his hometown mocked him for wanting to move to Phnom Penh and pursue a university education. “With your ability, it’s not appropriate,” they said. “You should stay here and apply to be a teacher.” They were certainly surprised when he was accepted to Royal University of Law and Economics, back in 1996, where he pursued his Bachelor’s in Law. Fresh from Prey Veng province, Phnom Penh was a stark change for Phearun. However, he embraced it with enthusiasm and eagerness. Phearun graduated from university in 2000, and passed his entrance exam to study at Royal School of Administration to sit the Middle Ranking Official Course, which he passed in 2002. He was then posted at the Ministry of Interior.
With hard work and determination, Phearun passed the High Ranking Official Course in 2004, and was promoted within the Ministry. After working his post for three years, Phearun was selected to be the Assistant to Secretary of State HE Prum Sokha in 2007. At the same time, he was awarded a scholarship to pursue a Master’s in public policy under the Japan International Cooperation Agency. During his work at the Ministry, Phearun has been on missions to countries across Asia. In 2005, he spent five weeks in Japan overseeing the project of a village. In 2007, he went to the Philippines to attend a training course that focused on implementing aid projects in Cambodia. And in 2008, Phearun returned to Japan for a seminar on local administration with a focus on policy implementation. Last year, Phearun traveled to Singapore to learn how their government works with the police force. Shortly thereafter, he attended a meeting in Vietnam about border security between Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Phearun is now 32-years-old and satisfied with his achievements. “Struggle and commitment is so important to overcome obstacles,” he said. “Encouragement is also important.” “I always had encouragement from my family and my friends, so I was never lonely – friends are necessary to offer a bright light in times of darkness,” he said. In the future, Phearun hopes to obtain an appropriate government position that will allow him to work in the provinces and aid the development of rural Cambodia.
The political pushback: What’s stopping us? Sreng Phearun and Ou Banung Wednesday, 16 May 2012
"I don’t want my children involved in politics because it makes them waste their time for study and business. Moreover, it can also affect their safety. In my generation, politics were unstable and it caused weak and ordinary people to die,” said 59-year-old Yem Chak. Looking back at the past, from when Cambodia was colonised by the French, history has been marked with bloody civil wars and politically tumultuous regimes. This history of suffering, as a result, has left Cambodians equating the political system with violence and corruption. One doesn’t even have to look back past the Khmer Rouge regime, just over three decades ago, which brought with it the profoundly deep scars of brutal genocide. “In the past [before the Khmer Rouge], Cambodian youth loved politics and spreading their ideas, because they loved their country and wanted to learn so much,” said HE Ros Chantraboth, an expert of Khmer history. He added that ordinary people faced incredible danger expressing their political opinions during the regime. Families, for this reason, hold their children back from engaging in political discussion. Although some young Cambodians might want to become political advocates, they are discouraged by their parents and made to feel insecure. Mach Dara, a third-year student at Royal University of Phnom Penh, chooses to express his strong political opinions despite these social obstacles. However, when he discusses politics, he is often mocked by his friends and – sometimes – he says, forced to stop talking. Bureaucracy also stands in the way of young Cambodians becoming politically involved. Often times, if one does not have family connections in the government, it is hard to obtain a good job working in politics. Many young Cambodians born to average families believe that it’s useless to pursue a career in politics, no matter how hard working they are. And of course, many other young Cambodians just don’t care enough to become involved – they rather stay involved in their work or studies. Those youth who do advocate for political involvement certainly exist – but are a small bunch. Kol Panha, Executive Director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), said, “Youths are the main pillar of this country, so involving them in politics is important.”
“Surely, if youths don’t get involved in politics, this will lead to danger – for example, when leaders make a decision, youths who are disengaged from politics won’t know how to respond to the situation, and they will not be able to protect their own benefits both in the present and in the future,” he said. “For instance, if a leader makes a decision to use a natural resource, such as gold or gasoline, how will youths know whether that political party has implemented regulations to use it effectively?” he said. HE Ros Chantraboth said that youth should join in politics to greater benefit society as a whole. “Youths should work hard in studying and researching political theory and history,” he said. “They should observe political events, both local and international, as they will gain the knowledge they need to engage in politics and make peace.” Kol Panha said that young Cambodians need encouragement to become politically involved. “In order to encourage youths to get involved in politics, the Ministry of Education should include a study program about democratic politics to raise awareness,” he said. “Also, media is so important in sharing knowledge, so there should be more talk show programs on political topics.” For this week’s Constructive Cambodian, Khin Sarong, a youth advocate for political engagement, advises that young Cambodians do their best to get involved in politics. “It is important for Cambodian youth to join together and get involved, because it’s what our political system needs,” he said.
Customers should drive good business Anthony Galliano Thursday, 17 May 2012
When you walk into a bank and are confronted with rows of chairs that resemble an airport waiting lounge, and are asked to take a number that places you in a long queue, you probably get the sense your business isnâ€™t valued much. When the waitress gets the order wrong, the entrĂŠe comes before the appetizer, and you are told that it is not the restaurantâ€™s fault; your return is improbable. Customer-driven organisations versus operations-driven organisations are better positioned to differentiate in a competitive marketplace and are likely to capture larger market shares and be more profitable. Companies spend a great deal of marketing effort and advertising monies attempting to amass new customers. According to the US Office of Consumer Affairs, it is five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain a current one. Ogilvy and Mather Direct reckon the return on investment marketing to existing customers can be seven times greater than a prospective customer. Loyal customers, who are the repeat business of the company, are not only more profitable, but they are also the best source of referrals. A further survey conducted by the Office of Consumer Affairs revealed that an unhappy customer will share their displeasure with at least nine people, 13 per cent telling 20 people or more. Satisfied customers tell approximate five people on average. A happy customer is likely to deliver more customers, even more than the product itself, while an unhappy customer will steer business away. Employees are the heart and soul of customer service excellence and in almost every business the most important asset. Customer interactions begin with human contact. Employees are therefore the front-line; every experience either fosters the relationship with the customer or erodes it. A business is therefore as good as its worst employee. Training of employees needs to go well beyond the mechanics of doing a job and knowledge of products and services. It should include building and cultivating relationships with customers, treating customers with respect and dignity, providing the customer with personal attention, and communicating and ensuring full commitment from the employees on the values, philosophy and culture by which the company operates. Companies that engage, listen and empower employees generally achieve a much higher customer satisfaction rate. Employees want to belong and be part of the business. Instilling a sense that the business is theirs also goes a long way. After all if it the business fails they are out of a job.
“The customer comes first”, the customer is king”, “and the customer is never wrong” are common sayings, and that is because customers generally want to be treated like royalty. Customers, especially repeat customers, want to feel like their business is appreciated. Customers want to be heard and listened too. Surveys are an excellent means of measuring customer satisfaction, highlighting potential flaws in delivery, and a means of airing customer complaints that may have gone unnoticed. Admitting mistakes and apologising defuses customer irritation, making it easier to do business with the company. Rewarding loyalty through affinity programmes protects market share and solidifies the relationship. Do these concepts apply to the developing market of Cambodia? The competitive coffee market is probably an excellent representation. The company that gives you a warm welcome when you arrive, knows your name, recognises your order, offers warm and friendly smiles and attitude along the way, has a loyalty card, and delivers a great product, is a successful example in an ultra-competitive market. As customers are offered more alternatives and choices, customer service excellence will be the ultimate differentiator.
Death points up urgency of ELC review Bridget Di Certo and Chhay Channyda Thursday, 17 May 2012
The government needs to act – and act now – to review all economic land concessions, which underscore the Kingdom’s dark disease of violent land disputes, rights groups said yesterday. Ten days after Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a regulation for an immediate and indefinite moratorium on any new economic land concession grants and a review of all existing ones, a teenage girl, caught up in a protest over farmland, was shot and killed by military officials. “This morning’s [death] was linked to a conflict that arose from a land concession, and this further highlights the urgency of a review by the government of all land concession,” Licadho consultant Mathieu Pellerin said. “An honest review of all land concessions issued by the government whether technically labelled as economic land concessions or otherwise is necessary,” Pellerin said. “These land concessions granted by the government have led to land conflict.” After the regulation was announced, which was determined by the Council of Ministers a day after the murder of forestry activist Chut Wutty, the Post contacted government officials to enquire about the implementation of the regulation. At the time, officials did not have answers. Yesterday, Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun could not be contacted. Secretary of State Chan Tong Yve referred all questions to an under-secretary of state at the department of planning and statistics. The under-secretary, Ith Nody, could not be reached yesterday, while Chhay Sakun, deputy director of the department of planning and statistics in charge of economic land concessions, declined to comment and referred all questions about how the regulation would be implemented back to the ministry management level. However, Council of Ministers’ spokesman Ek Tha yesterday said that the regulation demonstrated Hun Sen’s firm commitment to addressing the issue. “Recently, our Prime Minister issued a direct order to suspend ELCs, this shows the government commitment to pay more attention to the social needs of our people,” Ek Tha said. “We all must respect and execute his policy for the benefit of our people and the nation as a whole.” Rights groups were initially sceptical of what change the regulation would introduce, with some labelling it a “political ploy”. Pellerin said yesterday’s incident only added to doubts.
“The real issue here is whether the government has any will to do any type of real review,” he said. “A 14-year-old girl dies less than 10 days after the issue of the regulation – it doesn’t go very well to identifying whether there is any real will of the prime minister.” To contact the reporters on this story: Bridget Di Certo at email@example.com Chhay Channyda at firstname.lastname@example.org
Japanese judge makes his exit from KR tribunal Bridget Di Certo Thursday, 17 May 2012
Japanese judge Motoo Noguchi yesterday announced his resignation from the Khmer Rouge tribunal, where he sits on the Supreme Court Chamber bench. Noguchi, one of three international judges on the seven-judge bench, has been at the court since its inception in 2006. In a statement, Noguchi said it had been an “honour” to bring justice to survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime. “I trust that they will continue to strive to overcome the tragic past which once put the country in ruins, as was the case with the Japanese people half a century ago,” he said. Noguchi is the third judge to resign from the tribunal in seven months, but his departure was not accompanied by allegations of political pressure. To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at email@example.com
Men rescued from fishing boat slavery Khouth Sophak Chakrya Thursday, 17 May 2012
Two Cambodians were repatriated yesterday after being rescued from a fishing vessel at a port in Senegal on Friday, thanks to collaborative intervention by the International Organization for Migration and Senegalese authorities. Toy Koeun, 29, from Pursat province, and Som Pich, 20, from Kampot province, said they had been sent to work in slavery-like conditions on the boat in October, just one day after being promised a $200 monthly salary by Phoenix International Co to work as fishermen in Japan. “I am absolutely delighted that I was returned home safely,” Toy Koeun told the Post as he was leaving Phnom Penh International Airport. He had been told he would be stuck in Senegal for two years only after the boat had left port on its way out to sea. “I felt like I was under detention in the middle of nowhere in the ocean,” Sam Pich said. “I did not seem to have a chance to meet my family.” Sam Pich said he was fortunate enough to meet other Cambodian workers aboard the ship whose term of service was nearly up. When the ship docked in January, their fellow Cambodians told them to seek help from authorities. While ashore in early May, the pair went to Senegalese police for help, but were not helped. A few days later, after a failed escape attempt and news that the boat would soon be back at sea, the two reached out to Huy Pichsovann, a program officer for labour at the Community Legal Education Center. “Migrant workers, whether they are legal or illegal, will often become victims, and the government and respective ministry should follow up to see to the safety of those migrant workers by having a close co-operation with recruitment agencies,” Huy Pichsovann said. Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, said he had no information about these particular victims, but knew of no agencies recruiting workers to go to Japan. “We have always taken care of our labourers overseas,” he said, adding that migration through illegal agencies made it difficult to check on workers’ safety. Phoenix International could not be reached for comment.
To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org
Monitor pledges 5,000 observers for election Meas Sokchea Thursday, 17 May 2012
The election monitoring organisation Comfrel yesterday announced it would deploy more than 5,000 observers to monitor every aspect of the campaign leading up to the June 3 commune elections and the final division of power among winning candidates. But at a round-table organised by the Club of Cambodian Journalists, National Election Committee secretary-general Tep Nytha dismissed Comfrel’s efforts as “not up to international standards”. Comfrel executive director Koul Panha said monitors would pay particular attention to political activity on “white day”, the one-day buffer between the end of the campaign season and the June 3 vote. “[Previously] we observed that the white day . . . is a very important opportunity for politicians to influence voters, such as vote-buying and intimidation,” he said, citing examples of candidates or party representatives going door to door to pressure voters. Koul Panha accused some ruling CPP officials of using scare tactics such as observing people as they voted at an election office. He said this frightened voters, as many did not understand their vote was secret. Tep Nytha retorted that Comfrel did not have any evidence to back its allegations and that at least 5,000 observers from 16 organisations would monitor the election. He also said the NEC would station three security guards – one armed – at each of the nation’s 18,107 election offices, as well as making moves to increase transparency. “[During] the election in UNTAC time, the ballots were taken from election offices to keep in the provincial offices for one night [before counting] – that is difficult to control. “Now, we count ballots immediately after the election closes. This proves that the election has transparency.” To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at email@example.com
Storms not done just yet Kim Yuthana and Joseph Freeman Thursday, 17 May 2012
A man watches as a car attempts to drive through floodwaters at Phsar Kandal market in Phnom Penh last week, soon after heavy rain inundated a number of areas of the capital. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
In recent weeks, heavy storms have killed 10 people, prompting government officials to issue weather warnings, and raising the question of whether Cambodia can respond to floods like the ones that devastated the country last year. The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said in a statement yesterday the tempestuous weather should continue until Friday, and that coastal provinces and areas along the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers would be especially hard hit. Extensive flooding last year affected more than a million people, leaving hundreds dead and many stranded without aid for weeks due to a lack of governmental and NGO co-ordination. But those involved say that improvements have been made, pointing to more co-operation between officials and local communities and the drafting of a Disaster Management Law. â€œBased on previous experience, we have conducted all measures for saving the victims,â€? Uy Samath, of the Cambodian Red Cross, said. He said areas of high ground had been singled out and boats, food and clean water would
be available in case an emergency struck. Broader plans have yet to be finalised. Hang Pham, who works on disaster reduction in Southeast Asia for the United Nations, said there were ongoing discussions on an early warning system that would alert affected residents about impending floods. â€œThe whole concept of prevention needs to be promoted more,â€? she said. Weeks into the rainy season, the impact is already serious. Keo Vy, spokesman for the National Committee for Disaster Management, said that as well as the 10 deaths, storms had injured 60 people, destroyed almost 700 houses and damaged many more. To contact the reporters on this story: Kim Yuthana at firstname.lastname@example.org Joseph Freeman at email@example.com
Teenage girl gunned down by security forces in eviction May Titthara and David Boyle Thursday, 17 May 2012
The body of Heng Chantha, 14, lies on a mat at her familyâ€™s home in Kratie province yesterday. She was shot dead by heavily armed officials who opened fire on a group of about 1,000 families they were sent to evict from the provinceâ€™s Chhlong district. Two other villagers were injured during the confrontation. Photograph: supplied
Police and military forces shot dead a 14-year-old girl yesterday when hundreds of heavily armed officers stormed a village in Kratie province and sprayed automatic gunfire during a forced eviction. Two other people were injured and five were arrested during the clash with residents of Prama village, in Chhlong districtâ€™s Kampong Damrei commune, some of whom were armed with crossbows or axes. The killing of the teenager is just the latest, but perhaps most shocking, incident in a bloody wave of violence that military forces have committed against activists and protesters this year. Witnesses said that about 8:30 yesterday morning, hundreds of military police, supported by a helicopter, had stormed into the village, roun-ded people into separate groups and opened fire on them with automatic weapons.
Teang Kem Srin, 28, said the forces had sprayed heavy automatic gunfire at them twice. On the second occasion, a bullet hit his 14-year-old sister, Heng Chantha, in the stomach. “My sister was just doing something in my house, but she got hit in her stomach and she died along the way when I took her to get medical treatment at Snuol [district] hospital,” Teang Kem Srin said. His sister “knew nothing”, he said, and called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene. The forces were ordered to evict the residents by a joint committee of Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, National Police chief Neth Savoeun and Kratie provincial governor Sar Cham Rong, which accused them of forming an autonomous state through a group called “Democratic Association”. But the residents of Prama village have been in a long-running land dispute with the company Casotim, which has an active 15,000-hectare agricultural economic land concession granted in 2007 near the area and a 124,284-hectare logging ELC that has been cancelled. A military police officer who took part in the operation and spoke on condition of anonymity said they had been ordered to storm the village by the joint committee on behalf of Casotim and another company that he did not name. He said his forces acted in self-defence against the armed villagers, who attacked a police officer last month. “If we did not fire on them, they would have killed us, because we had experience one time already,” he said, adding that they arrested five people, who he did not identify, but confirmed they failed to catch the group’s leader, Bun Ratha. On April 6, Bun Ratha was arrested for allegedly inciting villagers to destroy a Casotim office, but police released him four days later after hundreds of villagers repeatedly blocked national road 78. In a statement released after the incident, the Ministry of Interior said it was looking to investigate and arrest Democratic Association leader Bun Ratha, 32, and masterminds Bun Chorn, 55, Sok Tong, 61, Ma Chang, 47, and Khat Saroeun, 42. The five men are accused of six offences including fraudulently distributing land, kidnapping two soldiers, illegally blocking roads, nullifying villages, threatening village chiefs and preventing officials from registering citizens. Sok Phany, 34, who fled the village with her two children before the shooting, said the forces had evicted everybody and set up a perimeter around it so no one could get in. “I have been living in that area for about seven years already, now they come to take my house and give the land to the company. They were very cruel to shoot on villagers like we
are animals,” she said. She denied any plot to create an autonomous state and said now she was homeless. Kratie governor Sar Cham Rong was upbeat about the success of the operation, which he said had foiled the “Democratic Association” – the so-called organisation the joint committee has alleged is behind a succession movement. “A lot of villagers are happy with our measures, and now we can control that area and other villagers had left from that area already,” he said. But he was sorry a teenage girl had been killed by a stray bullet that he said accidentally ricocheted into her. Rights groups, the opposition and observers expressed disbelief that the military police had yet again fired on the public this year, just over three weeks after they gunned down environmental activist Chut Wutty. Surya Subedi, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, who just wrapped up a trip to Cambodia where he investigated economic land concessions and evictions, said he was shocked. “I am very concerned by this killing, which comes soon after the killing of Mr Chut Wutty. This is a very worrying trend indeed,” he said. Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker and human rights campaigner Mu Sochua said Prime Minister Hun Sen had completely lost control of the military and needed to face up, in person, to his people to explain. “The prime minister has lost control of his power. He is not the powerful person that he thinks he is; he has lost his credibility, people don’t listen to him anymore. No more lives should be wasted on a government that has lost its credibility,” she said. Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant with the rights group Licahdo, said the situation had reached a new low. “It is turning out to be the most violent year ever when it comes to the use of lethal force against activism,” he said. In January, security guards dressed in military fatigues opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Kratie’s Snuol district, injuring three people, one seriously. In February, three female protesters were shot, one through the chest, at a protest outside a shoe factory in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town, allegedly by the town governor who was charged but never arrested. Ek Tha, a spokesman at the Council of Ministers Press and Quick Reaction Unit, called the killing “heartbreaking” and said the culture of violence had to stop. “It is time for Cambodian armed officials to think and think and think again and again before raising guns to shoot at [their] own blood, own people,” he said, adding that villagers also
needed to not protest violently. Ly Hout, a representative of Casotim; Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior; and Choung Seang Hak, Kratie provincial police chief, all declined to comment. To contact the reporters on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org David Boyle at email@example.com
Union leader brings backup Mom Kunthear Thursday, 17 May 2012
Lor Sopheak (centre), national secretary-general of the Khmer Workers Power Co-operation Union and an employee at the Tai Yean factory, leaves the Ang Snuol district hall in Kandal province yesterday. Photograph: Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
More than 20 union members and workers at a factory in Kandal province rallied around a union leader yesterday, fearing that he would be arrested after police called him in for questioning. Lor Sopheak, national secretary-general of the Khmer Workers Power Co-operation Union [KWPCU] and an employee at the Tai Yean factory, said he had been ordered to appear at the Ang Snuol district hall yesterday over his alleged involvement in blocking National Road 4 on Saturday. Lor Sopheak said police had ordered him to thumbprint an official statement promising not to order workers to block the road again – despite his insistence that he had not led the demonstration. “They accused me of leading workers on strike and blocking [the road], but I did not do as they accused me. “The district police chief sent me a letter calling me in for questioning.
“I told them the workers did it themselves because they want better conditions.” Employees began protesting last week after claiming they had discovered evidence that the factory had secretly changed its name from Tai Yean to Tai Nan in 2010 – a move they fear could rob them of accrued seniority benefits. Police questioned Lor Sopheak for two hours yesterday while his supporters, who had been barred from entering the district hall, were forced to wait outside. KWPCU national president Chey Sovan said yesterday the group had accompanied Lor Sopheak because they feared he would be locked up. “We did not do anything against them. We were there because were afraid the authorities would arrest or detain him,” Chey Sovan said. He said the workers would return to work today as they awaited an Arbitration Council ruling on their complaint about the name change. “The strike will begin again if the workers don’t accept the Arbitration Council ruling. “They need their benefits from work done under the old factory name.” Factory officials and Ang Snuol police chief Mean Samnang, who ordered Lor Sopheak in for questioning, could not be reached for comment. To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at firstname.lastname@example.org
Acid law still not complete Cassandra Yeap and Mom Kunthear Friday, 18 May 2012
A 26-year-old man was badly burned by acid in Kampong Cham province’s Memot district on Tuesday, in an accident that health workers say highlighted the need for the new acid law to be implemented in its entirety. Luch Thun had bought acid from a market and brought it to his rubber farm, storing the acid in a plastic jar on the back of his motorcycle, Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity project manager Ziad Samman said. He slipped, causing the plastic jar to break and acid to douse his face and body. Luch Thun is now at Phnom Penh’s Kossamak Hospital. Samman said the incident showed the importance of clear legislation that regula-ted how acid was handled. “This latest incident is the direct result of how acid is transported and stored; it only shows how important it is to …enforce legislation to prevent avoidable accidents,” he said. An acid law, passed in December, is meant to regulate access to acid and more strictly punish perpetrators of acid attacks. But a sub-decree that governs the usage of acid, including its transportation, has not been issued. Ouk Kimlek, under-secretary of state of the Interior Ministry, said the sub-decree had been completed, but not signed. “We have already created the sub-decree for using the acid law, and we are keeping it at the Ministry of Interior for checking before we send it to Prime Minister Hun Sen to be signed,” Ouk Kimlek said, adding that he was unsure when this would occur. Three acid attacks have occurred since the law was passed, resulting in one death, but no arrests have been made in any of the cases. Samman said that overall, the law had yet to be proved, especially as none of the attack cases had gone to court. “The implementation, including the [sub decree] is going to be very important, which means that when perpetrators have been charged, they need to be held accountable.”
Koh Kong judge queries reporter in Wutty case Chhay Channyda Friday, 18 May 2012
One of the journalists on the scene when environmentalist Chut Wutty was gunned down last month appeared in a Koh Kong provincial court yesterday to answer questions about the shooting incident, which also led to the death of military police officer In Rattana. According to human rights group Licadho, Cambodia Daily reporter Phorn Bopha spent about two hours yesterday responding to questions from investigating Judge Min Makara. In Kongchit, who is monitoring the issue for Licadho, said that Phorn Bopha also spoke with a deputy prosecutor. She declined to speak with Licadho and did not answer her phone yesterday when the Post called asking for comment. “Bopha does not speak about this case because she’s an important witness,” In Kongchit said. “I believe her presence in court could make the court summons more witnesses and could lead to finding the involved perpetrators who ordered the killing of Chut Wutty,” he said. On April 26, Chut Wutty was escorting Phorn Bopha and a reporting colleague, Canadian Olesia Plokhii, into the Cardamom Mountains for a story on illegal logging. The trip quickly descended into tragedy after military police stopped their vehicle in Mondul Seima district. According to a five-member joint investigative committee, Chut Wutty, 48, was shot by military police officer In Rattana, 31. In Rattana was then accidentally shot when security guard Ran Boroth tried to disarm him. A Koh Kong provincial court charged Ran Boroth, 27, with unintentional murder, an offence that carries a one- to three-year jail term. The Post has previously reported that Plokhii was also summonsed to appear in court. She is believed to have left the country. In Kongchit said that human rights NGOs asked the provincial court to summons more witnesses, such as two security guards, two villagers and one military police officer who were present at the shooting. Judge Min Makara said that he could not comment on questions posed to Phorn Bopha. “It’s confidential. I cannot answer you because it could affect the witness’s safety,” he said.
KR soldier details life of fear Bridget Di Certo Friday, 18 May 2012
Life under the Khmer Rouge regime was one of perpetual fear, former child soldier Pean Khean testified at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday. His testimony was delayed in early May due to his poor health and presiding judge Nil Nonn complimented him on his “fresh” appearance before he was questioned in an extended session by prosecutors, civil parties and the defence teams. Pean Khean described a “very quiet” Phnom Penh after April 17, 1975, and said he heard no “gunfire or people screaming” when he arrived by motorbike that evening. After this point, the Ratanakkiri minority ethnic villager said he needed “permission” to travel around the city and that the constant disappearances of people “terrified” him. “When Pang disappeared, I was even more terrified, but I did not understand the situation very well,” he said, additionally testifying that he lived in fear after his superior Koy Thuon, alias Touch, was arrested. “Normally, if a head of a unit was arrested, his subordinate would be implicated as a bad element,” Pean Khean said. “My concern was that I would be accused of being a traitor and I would be implicated by the arrest of my superior. I was afraid because of that.” However, prosecutors, civil parties and defence teams alike struggled to elucidate consistent testimony from Pean Khean. His memory seemed particularly clouded about his role or responsibilities at Wat Svay Meas – a cooperative where people were sent to be “tempered”. Initially, Pean Khean denied any knowledge of people from Wat Svay Meas who were under his supervision before being sent to the notorious Phnom Penh interrogation centre S-21. After being reminded of the situation at Wat Svay Meas through additional witness testimony, Pean Khean recalled that there were many people who “disappeared” from the cooperative. Defence counsel for Nuon Chea said they intended to impeach the witness, while expresident Khieu Samphan’s lawyers highlighted that the witness’s implication of their client was based on hearsay and not eyewitness accounts. Court opens again on Monday.
UK to open investment office Don Weinland Friday, 18 May 2012
Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan (right) and UK Ambassador to Cambodia Mark Gooding, spoke with reporters yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Joseph Pocs/Phnom Penh Post
The United Kingdom Trade and Investment Office would establish a perman-ent branch in Phnom Penh in the expectation that economic ties between the two countries would continue to grow, Cambodian and UK officials said yesterday. Bilateral trade has risen by 300 per cent during the past five years and was worth about US$400 mill-ion in 2011, according to the British embassy in Phnom Penh. It increased by more than 40 per cent in the first quarter of 2012. The trade and investment office would produce market reports and assist in business registration, officials said. Cambodiaâ€™s garment industry has traditionally attracted the biggest share of UK investment. Along with the trade-office ann-ouncement and a visit by Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan, Quantum Clothing, the UKâ€™s largest company in Cambodia, opened its third garment factory here yesterday.
The factory investment was about $10 million, according to representatives at the embassy. Officials and investors, however, are eyeing the potential beyond garments and construction, in which the UK has also invested. “Technology, technology, technology . . . The UK can invest in technology advancement in Cambodia and take us to the next level,” Pan Sorasak, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said yesterday after a speech by Gillan. UK ambassador to Cambodia Mark Gooding said British compan-ies would look at education, construction and financial-services investments in the future. The United Kingdom was the biggest investor in Cambodia in 2011, according to Cambodian Investment Board documents, but the US$2.2 billion in UK money came almost exclusively in a single investment by a company incorporated in the Cayman Islands. That company, the Post reported in November, was linked to Cambodia’s Royal Group of Companies. No separate figure for UK investment in Cambodia was available, but the country invested only about $10 million in 2010, Investment Board documents show. The United Kingdom was the only European investor in Cambodia last year, the documents show. Gillan, who met with Prime Minister Hun Sen during her visit, said the United Kingdom would look into other sectors for investment opportunities in Cambodia. “Our challenge is to increase and diversify this trade and investment, and to maximise the opportunities for British companies in Cambodia while supporting sustainable development and poverty reduction,” she said in a speech. Several of Britain’s largest comp-anies, among them Prudential Plc and British Gas, were eyeing the Kingdom, Gillan said.
Trio face forest-clearing charge Chhay Channyda Friday, 18 May 2012
A married couple and another man were called before a judge yesterday after being charged with clearing protected forest in Koh Kong province’s Kandorl commune. Kry Deuy, his wife, Moeung Yan, and a man named Soun Sareth cleared about 16 hectares of state-protected forest to cultivate the land and plant crops, police said. The clearing was finished in early April but authorities did not make an arrest until May 15. In Kongchit, provincial coordinator for human right group Licadho, said the residents were arrested as part of a joint operation that included military police and forestry administration officials. He added that another 18 families had also illegally cleared land for cultivation, but weren’t at the scene when the arrests occurred. “They were unaware of this being the state’s forest land, and they were absolutely impoverished and had no farmland to do cultivation,” he said. “The local authority should prohibit them, and if they do not follow the warning after it has been made several times, the law will be placed to take legal action,” he said. An official from the forestry administration who asked not to be named had no sympathy for the three. “They are criminals,” he said. He added that the court, apart from the arrests, also issued a warrant to arrest the other families who took part. Under Cambodian law, clearing land in a state-protected forest can bring stiff penalties, including jail sentences of five to 10 years.