Emotions run deep at annual Day of Anger Monday, 21 May 2012 Vong Sokheng
Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema (fourth from the left) and his wife release birds at Choeung Ek yesterday for the Day of Anger. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
The soldier, clad in the Khmer Rouge uniform of black pajamas and red-checked kroma, swung his wood chock high above his head before crashing it towards the base of the skull of the man kneeling in front of a deep pit at Choeung Ek yesterday. This and other forms of execution as well as rape were re-enacted by actors at the annual Day of Anger ceremony held at the notorious killing fields in Phnom Penh. Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema, who did not give his usual speech at this year’s ceremony, tearfully told reporters after the ceremony that many members of his family were executed during the regime that killed nearly one in every four Cambodians. “I and many other Cambodian people have never forgotten May 20 as the Day of Anger, and after watching today’s actors dressed as Khmer Rouge soldiers acting out executions and reminding us of the mass killings during the genocide regime, it also reminded me of the many members of my families who were killed in that time and those who are still suffering,” Kep Chuktema said. The Day of Anger was first established by the Vietnamese-backed Cambodian forces that overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
The day was chosen to correspond with May 20, 1976, the day the Khmer Rouge allegedly began its policy of mass killing. Approximately 1,000 people and monks attended yesterday’s ceremony. Sixty-two-year-old Cheang Youk, who attended the ceremony yesterday, said she wanted the Khmer Rouge tribunal to speed up its work and bring justice to all victims. “It is my suffering day. Therefore, the UN must speed up to find justice for me and others because currently it seems that the tribunal is in trouble,” Cheang Youk said. To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fisheries administration working to restore lobster market Monday, 21 May 2012 Rann Reuy
A lobster salesman earlier this year in Takeo province holds his product near the river in which it was caught. Photograph: Abe Becker/Phnom Penh Post
The government and international organisations are working to restore Cambodiaâ€™s once plentiful freshwater lobster market, officials have said. Technically a freshwater shrimp, the crustacean is a popular foodstuff in the Kingdom, selling for up to US$10 for a single lobster. Efforts are being made by the Fisheries administration to provide technical assistance on the farming and hatching of the lobsters and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided financial assistance to farmers since 2006, acccording to the JICA website. They have trained 70 farmers nationwide and currently most farms are situated in Kampong Speu, Kampot, Takeo and Prey Veng provinces.
The centre for research and freshwater aquaculture of the fishery administration has hatched about one million lobsters, which is a step toward their stated goal of releasing seven million lobsters into the wild to boost numbers said Sam Narith, deputy director of the centre. “Releasing young lobsters in the wild rivers is very important to increase livestock because lobsters are decreasing,” Sam Narith said, adding that “if we don’t do it, production will be less and less in the future”. The lobster population has decreased drastically during the past 10 years, officials have told the Post. Lobsters have been found in the current market to be 10 to 20 times more profitable than farming fish on the same amount of land. Yan Dee, a lobster farmer in Takeo province has a seven-hectare farm and says he can usually produce around 70 kilograms of lobster per pond. “Now I can deliver about 100 kilos of lobster to Phnom Penh alive every two weeks,” Dee said. He reports he produces very nearly a tonne of lobsters a year, which he considers to be about one-tenth of total production in Cambodia. Om Savath, director of the fishery alliance coalition team said that illegal fishing is still a concern for the fisheries sector, because there was a large increase in illegal fishing from March to April compared to the same time last year. Om Savath said there are reports of corruption, bribery and misunderstanding of the law among fisheries officials that puts the future viability of the lobster in some doubt. “Officials should crack down on illegal fishing actively, and they should continue to educate fishers not to use illegal fishing tools,” said Om Savath. To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at email@example.com
Ieng Sary still unwell, in hospital Monday, 21 May 2012 Vong Sokheng and Bridget Di Certo
Ieng Sary testifies at the Trial Chamber earlier this year. Photograph: ECCC/POOL
Officials remained tight-lipped yesterday about the whereabouts and health of former Khmer Rouge Minister for Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary. The 86-year-old was rushed to hospital in the middle of proceedings on Thursday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. Chhoeung Yovyan, deputy president of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, where Ieng Sary was admitted with breathing difficulties, yesterday refused to release any information because he had been rebuked by the tribunal. “I was blamed when I talked to you [media] last week, now I only make reports for the ECCC,” Chhoeung Yovyan said. The tribunal’s legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen yesterday confirmed Ieng Sary was still in hospital but said he had no information about when he might be discharged. Ieng Sary’s Cambodian defence lawyer, Ang Udom, said he had no new information about his client’s health. “I haven’t had time to visit him at the hospital,” Ang Udom said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Vong Sokheng at firstname.lastname@example.org Bridget Di Certo at email@example.com
New governor in Kratie Monday, 21 May 2012 Bridget Di Certo
Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed former Kratie deputy governor Sar Chamrong, one of his personal advisers, as the new governor of the province in a ceremony there on Friday, the governmentâ€™s official news agency said over the weekend. The Post reported earlier this month that Kratie provincial governor Kham Phem was killed in a traffic accident when the car he was riding in flipped over as he was travelling back to his home from Phnom Penh. Kham Phem had served as Kratie governor since 2004. To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at firstname.lastname@example.org
Three new witnesses called in Chut Wutty case Monday, 21 May 2012 Chhay Channyda
People light candles at the site of the killing of Cambodian anti-logging activist Chut Wutty in Koh Kong province on May 11. Photograph: Reuters
Three more witnesses have been summonsed for questioning over the fatal shooting of prominent environmentalist Chut Wutty and military police officer In Rattana, rights groups said yesterday. In Kongchit, Koh Kong provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said yesterday that deputy prosecutor Srey Mak Ny had issued citations summoning Pum Ravin, 37, Bou Orn, 28, and Ek So Oeun, 28, to appear at court on May 28 over the shooting. “A clerk told me that the prosecution issued the summons on May 17 to the three people,” he said. On April 26, Chut Wutty and In Rattana were shot in mysterious circumstances at Veal Bei point in Modul Seima district’s Bak Khland commune. At the time, Chut Wutty was investigating alleged illegal logging activity with two journalists.
Military police have given several contradictory explanations as to what took place, eventually deciding that Chut Wutty was shot by In Rattana, who was then accidentally killed by security guard Ran Boroth, who was trying to disarm him. Neang Boratino, provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said the new witnesses called are believed to be military police officers. “[We] find it hard to get information in this case because the court works based on their legal procedure and said it was secret information not to be leaked,” he said. The court has previously summonsed journalist Phorn Bopha; Kruy Settha, a manager of a logging warehouse owned by Timbergreen – the company licensed to clear a nearby dam site; and military police officers So Sopheap and Prum Sokha. Srey Mak Ny, Koh Kong provincial deputy prosecutor, could not be reached yesterday. To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at email@example.com
Villagers vs bulldozers Monday, 21 May 2012 Khouth Sophak Chakrya
One hundred and thirty-five ethnic Kouy families from the Brame, Srae Preang and Bos Tom villages in Preah Vihear’s Tbeng Meanchey district gathered on Saturday and yesterday to protest the Lan Feng Company’s alleged bulldozing of their farmland. Phan Suket, 23, the representative of the 135 families, said that Lan Feng Company employed 10 bulldozers to level their farmland – consisting of one roughly 600-squaremetre plot per family – to make way for a sugar plantation. “Their [the Kouy’s] living is dependent on cultivation, but now the company bulldozed their farmland,” he said. “So how do our next generations survive without farmland?” Khan Chern, one of the Kouy villagers from Brame village, said that nearly a half-hectare of his farmland was bulldozed and taken without payment, and that the bulldozers only stopped after villagers went to ask local authorities to intervene. Pich Theara, 42, one of Lan Feng Company’s two foremen who allegedly levelled the area, denied bulldozing any of the villagers’ farmland. “I was employed to bulldoze the company’s land, an area 20 metres wide and 5,500 metres long, but I accidentally drove the car across their rice field,” he said. “We neither damaged their plants, nor their rice field, because they had not been ploughed or sowed.” To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org
Xayaburi study questioned Monday, 21 May 2012 Shane Worrell
A road leading to the proposed dam site in Xayaburi province, Laos, was constructed last year. Photograph: Bangkok post
A study the Lao government has used to claim the Xayaburi dam would be harmless if redesigned has been criticised for not addressing concerns about the project’s effect on fish in the Lower Mekong river. Lao Vice Minister of Energy and Mines Viraponh Viravong was reported as saying last week that a redesigned Xayaburi dam in northern Laos would allow a steady flow of sediment downsteam, thus allaying environmental concerns. “First, we hired … Poyry to do the impact study, but people were not satisfied with that. And now we have hired a French company,” he told Radio Free Asia. “This study … confirms that if the Lao government wants to let the dam be redesigned, there will be no impact on the environment.” Viraponh Viravong did not name the study’s French authors, but conservation groups said Laos had commissioned Compagnie Nationale du Rhone (CNR) to review Poyry’s 2011 study.
Marc Goichot, sustainable hydropower manager for WWF-Greater Mekong, said CNR failed to address concerns about potential effects on fish in the Lower Mekong. “WWF’s understanding is that the scope of the CNR review is limited to hydrology, sediment and navigation impact,” he said. “Questions about fish and fisheries raised in response to the Poyry report have not yet been addressed.” International Rivers Southeast Asia programme director Ame Trandem said the new report was a “meaningless” attempt to woo fellow Mekong River Commission member countries. “While Poyry sidestepped science on the dam’s fishery impacts, the new CNR review deliberately omits the dam’s fishery impacts,” she said. “Until the transboundary impacts of the project are assessed, Laos has no basis for claiming this dam is sustainable.” The four MRC member states – Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos – agreed in December that the 1,260-megawatt could not proceed until further studies assessed its potential impact. Japan last month agreed to help fund a study with MRC’s other development partners. Thai developer Ch.Karnchang said last month that construction had begun on the dam – the first of 11 along the Lower Mekong – on March 15. Laos agreed early this month to suspend construction. Viraponh Viravong and CNR could not be reached yesterday. To contact the reporter on this story: Shane Worrell at email@example.com
Ieng Sary health woes prompt adjournment Tuesday, 22 May 2012 Bridget Di Certo
Former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary attends a hearing at the ECCC in 2010. Photograph: ECCC/POOL/Mak Remissa
Former Khmer Rouge Minister for Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary has been undergoing emergency treatment for bronchitis since Thursday, according to a medical report read aloud at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday. Judges adjourned proceedings until Wednesday, when they will hear from doctors who have been treating the octogenarian at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital since his evacuation to the facility. “Having read the report that clearly indicates that Ieng Sary cannot be discharged from the hospital until [Tuesday], the chamber now decided that [Monday and Tuesday] proceedings cannot go on,” Trial Chamber president Nil Nonn said. Ieng Sary defence counsel Michael Karnavas told the court that he had been blocked from visiting his client in hospital. “It would be good if the lawyers were informed about his medical condition. Normally, we are not; normally, we are kept in the dark,” Karnavas said of his client, who has been hospitalised several times since his detention at the tribunal began in 2007.
Speaking to the Post by telephone yesterday, Karnavas said that he had visited his client at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital – something previously barred by Calmette Hospital. “My impression is that my client is probably best to have the week off and rest,” Karnavas said. “And there will be no waiver [of his right to be present at trial] provided for witnesses testifying to his case particularly.” Karnavas said the former diplomat was very active in his defence and gave lawyers guidance and advice during proceedings. “With his present condition, we don’t know yet how capable he is to follow proceedings,” Karnavas said. “If he falls asleep in the holding cell, that is not active participation. “That would be nothing but a charade to suggest that he is following the proceedings.” Open Society Justice Initiative trial monitor Clair Duffy said the decision to adjourn was “absolutely correct”. “We are exploring issues of policies, and authority over individuals. It is very hard for the Trial Chamber to proceed without him,” Duffy said. “If this unravels over a period of time, there might be other measures the court needs to consider, like severing him from the proceedings, and that will come down to what his health conditions are and how likely they are to worsen,” she added. Ieng Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, has already been severed from proceedings in Case 002 for health reasons. The “first lady of the regime” has been diagnosed with dementia believed to be caused by Alzeheimer’s. To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lake protestors take ‘homes’ to City Hall Tuesday, 22 May 2012 Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Boeung Kak lake residents protest at city hall yesterday. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
Nearly 100 Boeung Kak lake villagers took to city hall yesterday carrying mattresses, umbrellas and food to protest what they called government inaction on the long-standing land dispute over their eviction from the lake. They were met by hundreds of police officers stationed nearby, but there were no reported clashes. Nine representatives were allowed to meet with city officials. They said authorities vowed to resolve grievances after the coming commune elections in early June. Srah Chak commune resident Sen Touch, 41, said the Phnom Penh municipal authority was doing what it has always done: delaying things. “We can’t stand awaiting the solution anymore,” she said. She added that Shukaku, the company behind a development project that has filled the lake with sand and forced residents out, destroyed her house without providing any compensation.
She also said that she is one of 90 families cut off from the 12.44 hectares of land granted by the government to displaced residents last year. She added that villagers will attempt to reconstruct houses on their former property this morning. To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at email@example.com
Malnutrition affecting Cambodia’s development Tuesday, 22 May 2012 Don Weinland
A 50 per cent stunting rate among Cambodian children contributed to lower-skilled labour and slower economic development for the Kingdom, a senior government economist said yesterday at a workshop on food security. Stunted growth as a result of malnutrition led to ineffective learning among children and low work productivity among adults, Mey Kalyan, a senior adviser on the Supreme National Economic Council, said. Stunting was pervasive, and not only among poor families, he said. The condition also resulted in a smaller stature and early death. “Being small is not special to Cambodian DNA. We can improve,” he said in a report. Relieving the country of the “vicious cycle” of malnutrition could raise Cambodia’s gross domestic product by up to three per cent, Mey Kalyan said, citing reports by other economists. While Asian Development Bank traditionally focuses on gaps between education and the work force, the bank’s 2012 outlook for Cambodia specifically mentioned Cambodia’s nutrition shortfall as a threat to developing a skilled labour force. “Normally, when you think of skill development, you think of vocational training. But [nutrition] is actually a critical part of this,” ADB deputy country director Peter Brimble said yesterday. “It’s how wide you want to spread your net when you’re talking about skills.” Along with boosts throughout the education sector, the ADB report said improvements in early childhood nutrition could provide a firmer base for skill training. Malnutrition and stunting was at the base of a dour assessment of Cambodian education and labour. About 63 per cent of youth are out of school, and 93 per cent don’t complete secondary school, Mey Kalyan said. “Because of these factors, our labour forces are not productive and competitive,” he said. To contact the reporter on this story: Don Weinland at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nutrition a great investment Tuesday, 22 May 2012 Post contributors
Women and children wait to see a doctor at the Preyvihear Health Centre, in Kampong Speuâ€™s Chamkah Dong village. Photograph: WHO CAMBODIA
In recent years, Cambodia has enjoyed impressive growth in its economy and agricultural productivity, a reduction in poverty rates, and successes in the social-health sectors. These gains have flowed from focused interventions that have resulted in maternal, infant and under-five mortality falling by more than 50 per cent during the decade from 2000 to 2010. These are fine achievements, but more needs to be done to improve the nutritional status of children and women. This has been the focus for government officials, national and international experts, development partners and civil-society representatives who have gathered yesterday and today for the fourth National Seminar on Food Security and Nutrition, with a particular emphasis on maternal and child nutrition. As UN country representatives, we were encouraged to see this issue prioritised and led by the highest level of government, with Prime Minister Hun Sen opening the seminar. As Cambodia moves to become a middle-income country in the region, it is important to be aware that economic growth and increased agricultural production will not on their own
improve nutritional status. The Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS) shows that 28 per cent of children are underweight. This is a clear indication that, after impressive gains in child nutrition during the 1990s and early 2000s, the improvement in the nutritional status of children is slowing down. International evidence tells us that, over time, nutritional shortfalls can have an impact on a country’s human capital – the ability of children to learn and the ability of adults to lead productive lives – and can reduce GDP by two to three per cent. Investment in nutrition is an internationally recognised “Best Buy” to create a productive society that is growing with economic vigour. It is also one of the most potent remedies to alleviate poverty. Investing in nutrition between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday saves lives and prevents an irreversible impact on the child’s intellectual, physical and social development. We have been encouraged by the efforts of the Cambodian government and its development partners to implement community initiatives aimed at improving nutrition. The ministries of health, rural development and agriculture, forestry and fisheries have been particularly active in this area, and a many community members have been trained in nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, health, agriculture and other topics related to nutrition. As in many countries, however, the challenge in Cambodia lies in scaling up targeted, community-based interventions aimed at addressing food security and nutrition. Such efforts have been very successful in countries in thec region and elsewhere, and we know a community-based program can address the multiple causes of malnutrition. Action by all concerned partners is critical, as there are strong links between nutrition and key sectors such as agriculture, education, social protection, hygiene and sanitation. Social safety-net initiatives such as food and cash transfers are known to contribute positively to nutrition levels by increasing access to diverse and nutritious foods, particularly when coupled with efforts to improve awareness of what constitutes a healthy diet and, over time, changing behaviour in this regard. Cash-transfer programs can help families devote adequate time to child-care practices and address economic constraints to accessing basic health and nutrition facilities. Clean drinking water, hygienic sanitation and access to basic health care such as vaccination and mother and child health-care programs affect people’s nutrition indirectly. But more needs to be done in the areas of provision and availability of safe water and sanitation facilities.
Fewer than 40 per cent of Cambodians have access to an improved sanitation facility, and 20 per cent of households lose their access to safe drinking water during the dry season. We congratulate the leadership by Prime Minister Hun Sen in prioritising food security and nutrition. The success of the above-mentioned solutions to improve nutrition requires the highest level of leadership to press for accelerated results. Such strong leadership will link ministries and local government with a centralised, multisector authority empowered to take the actions needed to address this critical issue. We acknowledge that upscaling a countryâ€™s nutritional interventions is difficult. It requires joint ownership of the problem and strong partnerships. The UN will continue to stand alongside the Cambodian government and tackle this issue together. Better nutrition is a powerful investment: it transforms human potential and fuels economic growth and development. Douglas Broderick is the UN resident co-ordinator in Cambodia; Nina Brandstrup is the representative for FAO; Sunah Kim is the acting representative of UNICEF; Jean-Pierre deMargerie is the country representative for WFP; and Dr Pieter JM Van Maaren is the representative of the WHO.
PM announces oil-food equation hurting poor Tuesday, 22 May 2012 Vong Sokheng
Women buy meat at a market in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. Prime Minister Hun Sen blamed rising food prices on high fuel prices during a speech yesterday. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday blamed soaring food prices on fuel prices set by oil cartels like OPEC, appealing to oil-producing countries to pay attention to the connection between food security and energy. Cambodia imports 100 per cent of its oil, and the majority of agriculture production is dependent on fuel, he said, expressing concern over recent data that showed 80 per cent of food producers in Cambodia would increase prices in order to match jumps in fuel costs. “If we increase food prices to balance with fuel prices, it would cause people to die. This is a big issue,” said Hun Sen at the opening of the Food Security and Nutrition Seminar, hosted by the government in partnership with the UN, USAID and NGO Caritas. Speaking to approximately 500 representatives from the government and civil society, the premier said oil-producing countries had never considered how to bring food and energy security into harmony. “This is an initiative of the Cambodian Prime Minister, and I will appeal to the world to pay
strong attention to make food and energy security in harmony through food and fuel prices. “I think that through the representatives of the FAO and [the World Food Programme] these initiatives should be taken up for debate,” he said. Cambodia is among the 20 worst countries globally for child malnutrition, according to a fact sheet released at the seminar that labels it “one of the biggest health problems that Cambodia is currently facing”. Despite successes in reducing maternal and under-five mortality, improvements in nutrition have stagnated in the past five years, said Council for Agricultural and Rural Development chairperson and deputy prime minister Yim Chhay Ly in a press release. WFP country director Jean-Pierre de Margerie agreed certain nutrition indicators had stalled, likely due to high food prices that hit the country in 2007 and 2008. “The poor spend their majority of income on food, so they are vulnerable to fluctuations in food prices,” he said. To contact the reporter on this story: Vong Sokheng at email@example.com
Security forces strip, handcuff women in Kratie amid eviction Tuesday, 22 May 2012 May Titthara
Villagers are forced to leave Pro Ma village, in Kratie province’s Chhlong district last week, during a military-led eviction which resulted in the killing of a 14-year-old girl. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
Villagers detained during a bloody crackdown in Kratie province last week in which a 14year-old was shot dead have accused security forces of brutal acts of cruelty, including forcing pregnant women to stand naked in the sun for hours. The villagers from Pro Ma village in Chhlong district‟s Kampong Damrei commune have alleged that military police and police forced men and women to strip naked, handcuffed them and left the females in broad daylight for hours while the males were not freed until the end of the day. Almost 1,000 police and military police officers stormed the village, where residents have a longstanding land dispute with the company Casotim, at about 8:30am last Wednesday in an operation they said was to arrest the ringleaders of a group attempting to create a mini autonomous state. Sotheavy, a 19-year-old who requested her real name be concealed, said she had “never seen such brutality” as the violence the forces employed while storming the village of about
1,000 families – which led to the death of 14-year-old Heng Chantha. “It is so difficult to forget the event. They pointed their guns at me and ordered many women to take their shirt and underwear off, then seized our money and tied our hands behind us and ordered us to stand in broad daylight for two or three hours,” she said. Sopheap, 63, who also requested her real identity be concealed, said the villagers would file a complaint against the perpetrators. “I experienced Pol Pot‟s regime, but it was not as cruel as this. Now that I‟ve tasted being handcuffed and bound in the hot daylight, if I had land in another place, I would not live in the area,” she said. Kratie provincial governor Sar Chamrong – who took the post on Friday, replacing recently deceased governor Kham Phem – said the forces had only been authorised to search for weapons. “If the forces hit, harassed and forced people to undress, it is not a policy,” he said. The operation, ordered by a joint committee of the Ministry of Interior, the national police and the provincial governor, was launched under the pretext that a group called the Democratic Association, led by Bun Ratha, was provoking a separatist movement. But villagers have repeatedly said Bun Ratha, who evaded arrest along with the four other alleged ringleaders of the group, was merely helping them stand up to the company Casotim. Eight people have been arrested as a result of the crackdown. Touch Sok, 52, alleged that during the operation, forces had also confiscated rice and gasoline as well as slaughtered their poultry. “I seem defeated, but if I am not allowed to live in the area, where can I live to farm and feed myself? I have to return to the area when the situation becomes normal,” he said. Sar Chamrong said forces had begun pulling out of the area but that some would remain to protect the safety of some 200 families that had lived in the area since 2006. Others who had migrated to the area from Kampong Cham and other provinces after being tricked by Bun Ratha had been sent home, he said. But a 2010 Phd thesis suggests their migration there had been economically motivated. Titled The Geographies of Evasion: The Development Industry and Property Rights Interventions in Early 21st Century Cambodia, the thesis found that significant numbers of migrants, most from Kampong Cham, had moved to Chhlong district after Casotim was awarded a logging concession there and in Snuol district. Part of the thesis, by Robin Biddulph of Sweden‟s University of Gothenburg, examines the
impact that Casotim‟s 124,000-hectare logging concession, granted in the 1990s, had on the local population. The thesis found the concession had led to industrial-scale logging in Chhlong and Snuol districts where officials responsible for the forest became “far more ambivalent”. “Anyone with a tractor or truck that could carry felled trees from the forest to the Mekong was able to pay a fee to Casotim to go into the forests, cut wood, and then sell it to the company. As many as 50 locally owned tractors and trucks participated in this business,” the thesis reads. Villagers had developed the perception that the military and the Forestry Administration, which had become the equivalent of informal regulators and tax collectors, worked for the concessionaires, the thesis found. “For the villagers, these soldiers were known simply as the „Casotim soldiers‟,” it says, referring specifically to the military. Ly Hout, a representative of Casotim declined to comment yesterday. To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org
Standards out for tourism officials Tuesday, 22 May 2012 Rann Reuy
A tourist poses for a photograph at Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap province, earlier this year. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
Housekeeping and front offices at hotels around Cambodia are set to change as the country prepares to adopt regional standards that all ASEAN nations are trying to put in place. The draft document on housekeeping and front-office standards, and related training courses, had been finalised by Tourism Ministry officials, Try Chhiv, director of the National Committee for Tourism Professionals, said. The committee would wait until July, when ASEAN officials send copies of ASEAN’s standard documents, in order to ensure uniformity, he said. The documents, implemented by trainers, trainees and employers, would become the standard for evaluating professional staff, Try Chhiv said yesterday. Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the preparation of services in compliance with ASEAN standards was crucial for Cambodian tourism. “I want Cambodia to go along with ASEAN,” he said. Thong Khon said Cambodia did not yet have state-run professional schools for training, but
staff were trained by private-sector partners. Cambodiaâ€™s tourism sector employed about 400,000 people and would need twice that number by 2020, Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said. To contact the reporter on this story: Rann Reuy at email@example.com
Women in upper union positions vital Tuesday, 22 May 2012 Shane Worrell and Mom Kunthear
Garment workers make athletic apparel at a factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district last year. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post
Female union leaders in the garment industry – where women constitute 90 per cent of the work force – are effective at bargaining for better working conditions, but their voices aren‟t being heard in a union landscape dominated by men, a labour expert said yesterday. Veasna Nuon, co-author of Building Unions in Cambodia: History, Challenges, Strategies, said even in factories where women are elected as union leaders, they are often unable to effect much change because bargaining usually takes place further up the union chain, where men hold most positions of power. “In terms of union representation, there are more women at a lower level,” he said. “But the number of women elected at federation level is less than 10 per cent,” he said. “They have . . . almost nothing when it comes to national representation . . . men are making decisions for women.” Cambodia‟s garment industry has an estimated 400,000 employees working in hundreds of factories. But while the vast majority of these workers are women, little more than half of elected
union representatives at the factory level are female, Veasna Nuon said. One of these union leaders is Ti Sokhun, a 36-year-old garment worker who works at a factory in Phnom Penh. After seven years of frustration at issues her co-workers faced, Ti Sokhun decided last year it was time for change. “I couldn‟t stand to see female workers constantly threatened and looked down upon by factory officials,” she said. “I asked my fellow workers if they would support me to be their leader in the factory, even though I didn‟t particularly want to do it.” Ti Sokhun stormed to victory in an internal Cambodian Federation for Workers‟ Rights leadership vote in October to become her factory‟s first female union representative. It was only then she began to notice things change for women – and even men – in her factory. “The difference between before I was union leader and after was enormous,” she said. “The factory officials, who had not paid attention to our demands before, began to listen. They stopped threatening workers, so more joined the union – now we have more freedom, attendance bonuses and other things.” Achieving major changes that would affect the whole industry are much more difficult to achieve, Veasna Nuon said. “At a factory level, it is more democratic than at a national level,” he said. “[At a national level], there are so many issues that are not met,” he said. “It‟s very broad.” Perpetuating the problem were barriers preventing women from climbing the union ladder. “The union job is not an easy job. People have competing interests, it‟s long hours, voluntary, and [many women] have family commitments and often no support from their families to become a union leader at this level,” he said. Dave Welsh, country director of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, said the industry faces a huge challenge in getting women more involved in the labour movement at all levels. “There needs to be more gender diversity,” he said. “Just from a morale point of view, if you‟re looking across the trade union movement and thinking: „We‟re all women. Why aren‟t any of us in leadership positions?‟ then it‟s an issue. “There are certain issues that require gender sensitivity – there are certain issues embedded in the labour law that require gender sensitivity.” Under Cambodia‟s Labour Law, factories must allow women to breast feed, they must
provide them Western toilets and they cannot order them to lift heavy boxes if they have recently given birth or miscarried. Protection from sexual harassment is also clearly spelled out. In his book with Melisa Serrano published in 2010, Veasna Nuon wrote that Cambodia‟s labour movement was “essentially a women‟s movement under male leadership”. “It would augur well for unions to adopt policies and strategies that would enhance women‟s participation of women in union activities.” “I don‟t think anything has changed since then,” he said yesterday. Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said he encouraged such participation within his confederation. “We need to have more women union leaders, because more than 90 per cent of garment workers are women. If their leaders are women, they can easily understand women‟s issues,” he said. Women are often lacking inside knowledge of how unions work and are therefore not confident when it comes to being involved, he said. “We need to [nurture] their leadership and [encourage participation],” he said. Ti Sokhun will be one person relieved when more of her co-workers become involved in the union movement. “Sometimes I feel tired and I want to abandon this work, but I think there will be no one else to help the workers,” she said. To contact the reporters on this story: Shane Worrell at firstname.lastname@example.org Mom Kunthear at email@example.com
Arrests greet symbolic Boeung Kak gesture Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Khouth Sophak Chakrya
A Boeung Kak lake resident is detained by police officers during a violent clash over disputed land at the Boeung Kak development site in Phnom Penh yesterday. At least 13 people were detained. Photograph: Reuters
Thirteen Boeung Kak women, including a 67-year-old, were arrested and forced into police vans and trucks yesterday as about 200 Phnom Penh municipal police and security officers cracked down on a 100-strong demonstration at the site. The group, which included Boeung Kak lake residents, evictees and their friends, had gathered in support of 18 families from village 1 who had threatened to build homes where their houses stood before their demolition in 2010. Only one of the families from Daun Penh districtâ€™s Srah Chak commune carried through with the attempt to rebuild yesterday â€“ using basic tools to erect a simple wooden frame that was quickly torn down by police. Most of the Boeung Kak crowd spent their time singing songs that reminded authorities of their plight. The mood changed, however, when officers carrying shields and sticks were accused of
pushing a woman to the ground. Those arrested as tensions flared included Nget Khun, 67, and villagers’ representative Tep Vanny, who shouted “please look after my kids” to her mother-in-law from the back of a police pick-up truck before she and five other women were driven away. Also caught in the confrontation was Khek Chan Raksmei, 32, from village 22, who fainted after three security guards arrested her and forced her toward a police van. She was soon released and given medical treatment. The 13 arrested women were last night being held at the municipal police station; it was unclear what charges, if any, they faced. NGOS condemned the “unjust” arrests and called for the women’s immediate release. Um Samath, technical adviser at human rights group Licadho, said the Phnom Penh municipal authority’s decision to use force rather than engage villagers in peaceful negotiations was a huge mistake. “This action is a serious human rights abuse,” he said. “On behalf of civil society organisations, we cannot accept this.” Speaking to the Post at Boeung Kak, Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said the authorities needed to release the 13 women and speed up attempts to resolve housing problems at Boeung Kak, including by marking the 12.44 hectares of land the government promised to give back to residents. “The use of violence and arrests against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable, yet we are seeing more and more of it every day,” Sia Phearum said in a statement released by NGOS including HRTF and Licadho. Ee Sarom, a representative of housing NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said the incident again proved violence would not resolve the dispute. “The crackdown this morning highlights the authorities’ continued lack of tolerance of peaceful gatherings and expression by Cambodian citizens,” he said. Ly Channary, 39, a member of one of the 18 families who had vowed to rebuild their homes, said they had not received compensation after being “illegally” evicted in 2010. Phnom Penh governor Kep Chutema granted a 99-year lease to Cambodian People’s Party senator Lao Meng Khin, the owner of development firm Shukaku, in 2007, clearing the way for a $72 million development. Phnom Penh municipal police chief Touch Naruth, deputy municipal police chief Poung Malay and Daun Penh district deputy governor Sok Penh Vuth declined to comment.
To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Cambodia: Youth shake up the NGO model Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Bunglong Cheng and Chanpolydet Mer
Community service volunteers teach children in Kampot province. Photograph: Joseph Pocs/Phnom Penh Post
When we look back over the past decade, the brunt of community service and social action was carried out by NGOs and government initiatives. But within the past few years, young Cambodians are turning to community service on their own, in an increasing trend, forming groups that look to develop remote areas, teach underprivileged children, and improve the environment. “Nowadays, Cambodian youth are learning a lot about social work – they’re beginning to do social work and spend their own time, money and energy on it,” said Pou Sovachana, a lecturer at Pannasastra University of Cambodia. “Youth are becoming role models for the rest of society, setting an example of good spirit and kindness for the next generation,” he added. “In the past, it was difficult for youth to involve themselves in community action, but now they love the work and are doing it out of the goodness of their own hearts.” Eang Sathy, a 22-year-old student at University of Management and Economics in
Battambang, said, “I began doing social work in the first place because my friends were doing it. “Now, I’ve found out that I’m setting a good example for others and I know how much value there is [in community service], so I plan to continue it,” Eang Sathy continued. Now, some ministries and other institutions are quick to encourage youth to keep up their involvement in community service. Seat Lykheang, president of Youth Experience Sharing (YES), said, “Social work does not only give benefits to society, but it also leads young people to develop themselves in terms of gaining knowledge, leadership skills, experiences, connections and a lot of opportunities for both study and work.” Tauch Choeun, the General Director of Youth at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport noticed that the number of young Cambodians involved in community service is still increasing. “Cambodian youth, now, are involved in many social work groups – there is the Red Cross Youth Group, Scout Volunteering Group and some volunteer groups in universities, high schools, institutions and organisations,” he said. “The Ministry is working with other ministries and some local and international organisations to encourage young people to keep doing this work,” he added. Tauch Choeun encouraged all youth to keep up their involvement in community service. “The government has a policy to give certificates, admiration letters or rewards for any youth who has work hard in social work to help the community and society,” he said. “We also have another policy that awards certificates in the form of study credit to apply a job, for their hard work in social development.” Khoy Sovanny, a 49-year-old vendor, said, “Young people in this generation are smart – they do not only focus on their studies, but they also spend their free time giving back to society.” “I’m extremely happy to see this,” she said. “If young people model themselves like this and stay away from drugs, alcohol and gangs, society will develop fast.” Some companies and organisations are providing job opportunities recently for young Cambodians looking to develop a career in community service and social action. Yun Sophat, Chief Technical Officer at Sola Agriculture Co, Ltd, said that he always has employment opportunities for those who are patient, hardworking and have clear goals. He said that every year, his company will allow five or six students to work five days per week and study on the weekends, to develop themselves both as employees and students.
Education & the income gap Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Vannak Oum and Samphoasphalyka
A young girl collects rubbish from a trash field in Siem Reap province. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
I only have fate to blame,” said Som Sopheaktra, a young factory worker in an iron workshop. “If I had money and a family like other people, I would have tried to study hard and find a good job without letting myself fall into this kind of difficulty.” Sopheaktra was orphaned at an early age and was adopted by his grandmother. But he dropped out of school at the tender age of 10-years-old, and began working to sustain himself. He had no choice but to do this because his grandmother had passed away, and meanwhile, Sopheaktra faced starvation and death. “In the future, no matter how hard it is, I’ll work hard so that my children can get a good education,” Sopheaktra said. “I don’t want them to live like I had to.” Sokhorn, a garbage collector who works on a small block of Phnom Penh, is only 10-yearsold. “I try so hard to do my work every day,” he said. “I just wish I had been born to a better family, so I could go to school like normal children,” he said.
Sopheaktra and Sokhorn aren’t the only ones who’ve lost their opportunity to study because of the country’s poverty plague, as many other young Cambodians continue to drop out of school without hesitation in order to work for their own survival. But what’s happening on the opposite side of society’s social spectrum? Increasingly, many middle- and high-class Cambodians are taking their studies for granted, using their money to entertain themselves at the city’s venues and skipping class. “I don’t have to care much about my studies because I’m still young,” said 18-year-old Vorleak, a student at Preah Sisowath High School. “With my family’s [financial] condition, I’ll have more opportunities to grab in the future.” “Plus, I’m a teenager now and I want to fill this time with happy memories, not complexity,” he added. Poun Sareoun, a school director at IntraTevy High School, recognised that many of the school’s students are skipping class to spend their time entertaining themselves. “We know that they like things that make them feel happy and excited, and it’s reflected in their environment and what kind of friends they have,” he said. He added that there are frequent absences and some students are failing to complete their study sessions. Sim Hak, a former school director at Samaki High School, said that one’s financial standing does not determine how useful they will be to society. Instead, it depends on the individual. “Some students from poor family backgrounds who have support can succeed in school,” he said. LA Vibol, who works for Pour un Sourire d’enfant (PSE), said that students at the organisation are split between those who wish to succeed through study and those who are apathetic towards it. “If we know that some children are careless and skipping their classes often, we might send them to the Department of Education or find them a proper job,” Vibol said. For this week’s Constructive Cambodian, IntraTevy’s Poun Sareoun weighs in for advice. “Parents’ participation and attention towards their children is important in encouraging their children to study hard, so parents should focus not only on their work, but also on their children,” he said. “Parents, along with schools, can determine the future of young Cambodians
Eviction force’s garb curious Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Joseph Freeman
Cambodian soldiers involved in last week’s violent eviction in Kratie province wear helmets market with a design that incorporates the United States stars and stripes. Photograph: (L) Heng chivoan / (R) supplied
Observers on site in the aftermath of a Kratie province military operation last week that lead to the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl noticed something odd about the attire of some soldiers. It was their helmets. Crude replicas of what appeared to be American flags were stuck between the green and tan camouflage, like an out-of-place piece of a puzzle. A uniform worn by one of the soldiers is from the US, an Embassy spokesman confirmed yesterday. But the helmets accompanied by the design are not official. “That’s not us,” said Sean McIntosh, public affairs officer with the embassy in Phnom Penh. “When the US military makes uniform donations, no US insignia is left on the articles.” That’s not us, either, was the response from the Cambodian government, deepening the mystery of where the elusive headgear originated. General Neang Phat, Secretary of State of Cambodia’s Ministry of National Defence, had an answer.
“It is their own helmet that they bought by themselves,” he said, without explaining why soldiers would be buying their own helmets. Uniforms purchased through US grant money and transported to Cambodia are worn by various contingents of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, according to McIntosh. But he said some US and RCAF soldiers also traded gear during joint operations. Asked if he was concerned that stars and stripes on the helmets of Cambodian soldiers could send a distressing message to villagers, McIntosh referred to a statement issued last week. “We do not condone violence on the part of any party to settle these issues,” he said. To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Freeman at email@example.com
Investigation flawed: 004 suspect’s lawyers Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Bridget Di Certo
Lawyers representing Case 004 suspect Ta An said yesterday they had received instructions from their client to take “the necessary action to have the investigation against me dismissed”. In a statement, Richard Rogers and Mom Luch said the investigation into the governmentopposed Case 004 had reached an impasse. “In the current circumstances, it is difficult to see how the ECCC can provide the suspect with a meaningful opportunity to clear his name,” the statement says. Speaking to the Post yesterday, Rogers said ongoing turmoil in the Office of the CoInvestigating Judges had affected his client’s rights. “We are not taking a position on who was right or who was wrong; our concern is that there is an investigation and that it functions properly, and there certainly hasn’t been that for at least six months,” he said. “There have been different approaches between the investigating judges and also the pre-trial chamber judges, and it seems to be disagreement about how this case would move.” Rogers said the identity of his client was well known and his name had been in the public domain for some time. “He now carries all the weight of a man accused of mass atrocities, which has the potential to damage his health and security,” he said, adding that his client was 79 years old and in poor health. The former Khmer Rouge zone deputy secretary is the only one of the five known suspects in cases 003 and 004 to have retained legal counsel. Rogers said his appointment as defence lawyer had not been smooth, but he had not been denied access to the case file. Swiss judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet informed all the suspects in the two cases of their rights before he quit the court at the beginning of this month alleging “egregious dysfunctions” at the tribunal. Kasper-Ansermet described a situation of serious misconduct at the tribunal in a lengthy note published on the court’s website. To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mao Sirun: Child and education advocate Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Cheng Bulong & Song Kimsour
Mao Sirun on a community service mission on behalf of M'lop Tapang in Sihanouk province. Photograph: Phnom Penh Post
"I used to be poor, so I know how poor people feel and I understand the situation,” said 28year-old Mao Sirun, who works hard to erase illiteracy and improve education in Sihanouk province’s rural areas. After moving to Phnom Penh from his hometown in Kampong Speu, and again to Sihanouk province, Sirun faced plenty of obstacles financing his studies and maintaining a stable living environment. But now, Sirun is the Community Education Coordinator at M’lop Tapang, an organisation dedicated to children’s rights, education and care in Sihanouk province. “When I was in year-10, I earned a bit of money working as a part-time English teacher,” Sirun recalled. “I knew English because I had studied it for two years prior.” During high school, Sirun could only attend public classes because it was all he could afford at the time; meanwhile, his peers sat extra classes.
This didn’t put him at a disadvantage, however. Diligence in his studies propelled him towards a successful graduation and a full scholarship to pursue his Bachelor’s in English Literacy at the University of Management and Economics in Sihanoukville. Back in 2007, M’lop Tapang held a training course on aiding the local community, which Sirun attended. After the course, he was selected as a volunteer at the organisation; shortly thereafter, Sirun was promoted to work as a full-time employee, thanks to his hard work. Today, it’s Sirun’s job to raise the children’s interest in taking up study and also persuading their parents to send them to M’lop Tapang to study. Also, he has to encourage those children to stand up for positive social change and help them make a plan on how to achieve their goals. Sirun said that the hardest part of his job is convincing the child’s parents to send them to study. “Some parents are still strict with the idea that their child should be earning money for the family, or doing housework and other tasks rather than being at school,” he said. Sirun added that those children who grow up in a negative family environment, characterised by alcohol, drugs and gambling, are at most risk for repeating these habits. Yet, Sirun refuses to give up his advocacy work, and maintained that these children still have a good chance at success through education. Sirun has seen much positive change since he began his work, keeping him motivated. “I never look at my work as an achievement, but instead a contribution,” he said. “I am really happy when I see that children have a chance to study and their parents understand the value of education.” In the future, Sirun wants to improve the reach of his work at M’lop Tapang and help even more children get a chance at success. “In spite of the fact that I cannot personally finance these children, I will always do something for them and contribute as much as I can to those children,” he said.
Mondulkiri villagers face eviction deadline Wednesday, 23 May 2012 May Titthara
Authorities set a May 25 deadline yesterday for residents of Mondulkiri province’s Rayum commune in Koh Nhek district to leave their homes, prompting the deployment of additional provincial forces to the area. Villager Seng Channy, 52, said that the coalition of about 300 police, soldiers and military police had already readied one bulldozer to tear down villagers’ houses. “All the villagers must remove their houses before May 25,” he said. “If not, they [soldiers] will not be responsible for the damage to their property, and they said that the villagers have no right to live on the land.” According to Seng Channy, most villagers have nowhere to go, and none have been compensated for their land. “We will join together to protect our houses,” he said. Koh Nhek district police chief Men Savann said that the authorities are ready to take action against villagers, and that as newcomers, the villagers have no right to the land. “The land belongs to Pacific Pearl Joint Stock Company Limited, so they must leave the land,” he said. According to the Royal Book issued last June, the land grant in question – more than 28,000 hectares – is in violation of the 10,000-hectare limit on economic land concessions. Deputy provincial governor Svay Sam Eang, however, claimed that the concession was split between Pacific Pearl Joint Stock Company Limited, Pacific Grand Joint Stock Company Limited and Pacific Lotus Joint Stock Company Limited. Svay Sam Eang said that authorities are now negotiating peacefully with villagers to go back to their home provinces. The villagers, he says, first came to Mondulkiri to sell materials to company workers after the company was granted the land. “According to the law, they came to settle there after the company, so we have no policy to give compensation to them, but if any villagers volunteer to leave by themselves, we will offer them a little,” he said. Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for human rights group Licadho, said that authorities should take a lesson from the incident in Kratie province, and refrain from labelling the villagers secessionists. “We suggest the authorities take peaceful action to avoid violence,” he said.
To contac the reporter on this story: May Titthara at email@example.com
Rail looks for new funding Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Don Weinland
A Toll Royal employee climbs aboard a train at Phnom Penh Railway Station in 2010. Photograph: Sovan Philong/Phnom Penh Post
It's a nearly 300-kilometre stretch of rail in disrepair. More than 60 bridges – some crumbling, some dotted with landmines at the base – lie on the line between the towns of Bat Deong, northwest of Phnom Penh, and Sisophan near the Thai border. It’s also where about US$118 million in grants and concessional loans from the Asian Development Bank, AusAid and other donors came up short in the effort to rehabilitate the country’s railways. “More reserves should have originally been put in place,” Peter Broch, senior transportation economist at ADB in Cambodia, said yesterday, adding that the tracks were in a poorer state than originally thought when assessments were conducted five years ago. The shortfall, and the reportedly slow pace of progress on the line, led to the suspension on March 31 of Toll Royal Group’s operations. The company, which has a 30-year concession for operations, has yet to issue a formal statement announcing the suspension, but a majority of the company’s staff have left the job.
Sources of funding for the remaining track are unclear, but an official at ADB yesterday said the line that would connect Thailand to Cambodia’s only deepwater port would be complete in 2015. The search for the remaining money, which experts yesterday said could not be assessed at present, was now in the hands of the government. “This is with the expectation that the government would be able to mobilise some sources of funding,” ADB Cambodia country director Putu Kamayana said yesterday. “I understand that there are public and private sources looking into it.” There’s an equal amount of speculation on Toll’s concession, which is in partnership with domestically owned Royal Group of Companies. While ADB expects Toll to operate the 256-kilometre southern line when completed at the end of this year, Putu Kamayana also said that “we’ve heard the rumour that there are others waiting in the wings”. No firms have stepped forward as the successor to Toll. Touch Chankosal, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works, declined to comment yesterday on other possible companies interested in the Toll concession. Council of Ministers spokesman Ek Tha yesterday also declined to comment on developments regarding Cambodia’s railways. In early May, Pierre Chartier, a transportation specialist at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia, told the Post that a slowdown on Cambodia’s railways could lead to slower regional progress on both the Vietnamese and Thai sides of the track. A functioning railroad in Cambodia would save $1 billion in road and sea transportation costs during the first 30 years of operation, according to an ADB estimate. To contact the reporter on this story: Don Weinland at firstname.lastname@example.org
Activist monk Loun Savath detained Thursday, 24 May 2012 Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Luon Savath speaks to reporters during a demonstration at Boeung Kak lake earlier this week. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
Senior members of the monastic community this morning were involved in detaining Buddhist monk Loun Savath, an award-winning human rights activist, after he took photos of protesting Boeung Kak lake villagers outside Phnom Penh municipal court. Monks, police and unidentified plain-clothed men forced him into a Land Cruiser and ushered him away from the scene as more than 60 protesters, flanked by about 100 police, called for the release of 13 Boeung Kak women who where being questioned inside. The monks would not comment on why they had detained Venerable Loun Savath, who was banned from all pagodas in Phnom Penh last year by Supreme Patriarch Nun Nget. Venerable Loun Savath was driven to Wat Botum, where police and officials from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Cults and Religion barricaded him inside, sealing off entries so even pagoda boys could not enter. A Ministry of Cults and Religion official said it was unclear whether the supreme patriarch has grounds to defrock the monk. â€œ[Venerable Loun Savath] is being held here, and after [the supreme patriarch] has finished
lunch, he will decide what to do.â€? The 13 Boeung Kak women arrested on Tuesday are yet to be charged. To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at email@example.com With assistance from Bridget Di Certo
Boeung Kak 13 held without charge Thursday, 24 May 2012 Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Military police officers watch a group of Boeung Kak lake residents, who gathered outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday to wait for information about 13 villagers who were arrested on Tuesday. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Thirteen women hauled into police vehicles during a demonstration at Boeung Kak lake on Tuesday were being held without charge at Phnom Penh police headquarters last night. About 70 Boeung Kak villagers rallied outside Phnom Penh municipal court yesterday in support of the arrested women, who they thought were being held inside. “I received information that the court has charged them with inciting our 18 families to take the land [at Boeung Kak] illegally,” said Ly Chanary, 39, who was evicted from her house at Boeung Kak in 2010. “I think it is a very unjust accusation [because] we have not [received] any compensation or a solution.” Police arrested the group, which included a 67-year-old, on Tuesday after officers tore down a wooden frame the villagers had erected where their houses once stood. Eighteen families evicted from Boeung Kak in 2010 to make way for a $72 million development by Shukaku, a company owned by CPP senator Meng Khin, had vowed to rebuild on Tuesday, resulting in about 200 police being deployed.
Heng Mom, one of the 13 women who remained in custody last night, told the Post by telephone that she did not know how long she would be behind bars. “Daun Penh governor Sok Sambath had accused us of encouraging the 18 families to build houses on their land illegally,” she said. “We have already denied this to police.” Sok Sambath could not be reached for comment. Phnom Penh Police commissioner Touch Naroth defended the arrests, saying the women shouted obscenities at his officers. Touch Naroth said, however, that it was not up to police to charge the women – that role lay with the court prosecutor, who could not be reached for comment yesterday. Am Sam Ath, senior technical officer at human rights group Licadho, said that suggestions the detainees were guilty of incitement was distorting what they had really been doing: looking for a solution to their housing problems. “I appeal to the authority to release these 13 women,” he said. In a similar incident, Phnom Penh municipal police detained more than 30 women and children during an eviction protest in January. The detainees, from Borei Keila, were held without charge for a week at a social affairs centre before they climbed the walls and fled. To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cambodian migrants seek China exit strategy Thursday, 24 May 2012 Sen David and David Boyle
Four Cambodian women working at a garment factory in China have said they want to leave but are trapped there because the employer has taken their passports. Yin Sophy, 27, said the group were at a factory she called Minan – a company name the Post was unable to independently verify – in southern China, but wanted to leave because two of them had fallen sick. “I have a stomach ache and my friend Sokunthea, she has a lung disease. We want to go back home but the factory owner did not agree,” she said. “We decided to stop working right now, but the employer do not agree to give our passports back.” The girls arrived at the factory in August after paying a Cambodian broker US$300 each, but had received only intermittent work after being promised a regular and high salary, she added. Yin Sophy identified the other women as Chhuon Sokunthea, 25, Non Sophea, 21, and Yin Sophea, 20. Joel Preston, a consultant with the Cambodian Legal Education Center, said the women were in Dongguan city, near Guangzhou, in Guongdong province. “We’re working with UNAIP; we’re going to try and get them back,” he said. Chiv Phally, deputy director of the anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said he was unaware of the case. To contact the reporters on this story: Sen David at email@example.com David Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Defiance works: Amnesty Thursday, 24 May 2012 Bridget Di Certo
Workers demolish houses on the edge of Boeung Kak lake in Phnom Penh in 2010. More than 4,000 families have been affected by the Shukaku Inc development. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post
In the face of increasing economic land concessions and ongoing restrictions on expression, disaffected Cambodians were increasingly taking to the streets with success, Amnesty International representatives said yesterday at the launch of their annual report. Amnesty reported that Cambodians continued to face challenges to their human rights through restriction of freedom of association and expression and land disputes that had been exacerbated by “an increase in the number of economic land concessions granted to business interests by the government”. Amnesty also identified several cases of human-rights defenders who had been physically attacked, arrested, detained or convicted by the Kingdom’s authorities for their peaceful activities. Although the report highlighted the persecution, intimidation and harassment human rights protesters often face, in-country researcher Rupert Abbott said protests in Cambodia could bring about change. “Indeed, protests in Cambodia are on the rise, and this is undoubtedly partly because protesters know protests can bring results that other courses of action – such as relying on
the corrupt justice system to resolve disputes – cannot,” Abbott said by email. He cited examples of peaceful protests that have influenced change, such as the Boeung Kak lake protests that helped push the government to give back 12 hectares, and civilsociety pressure against the proposed Law on Associations and NGOs. “There are also numerous examples of garment workers protesting peacefully and gaining concessions from factory owners as a result,” Abbott said. The 2012 report, themed “No longer business as usual for tyranny and injustice”, estimates 420,000 people in areas covering approximately half the country have been affected by forced evictions since 2003. Freedom of expression, association and assembly have also been jeopardised by authorities who have disrupted peaceful, legal gatherings and places, it says. Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha said he had no comment on the report. “I cannot tell you the answer without seeking approval from my boss,” Ek Tha said. To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at email@example.com
Drownings taking toll on nation’s youngest Thursday, 24 May 2012 Cassandra Yeap
Drowning has emerged as a leading cause of death for those aged 17 and under in Cambodia, accounting for half of non-illness-related deaths among young people, a new UNICEF report shows. Drowning was also responsible for one out of every four deaths from any cause for children ages one to four – the age group comprising the majority of drowning deaths – according to the report, which adds that childhood drowning has been “greatly under-reported” as a cause of death in Asian low and middle-income countries. The high number of deaths in Cambodia are attributed to a number of factors, mostly tied to economic issues, with similar trends seen in Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Vietnam. “There are often accidents where children can fall into unfenced water jars…and some are not adequately supervised, with parents not able to watch them,” said UNICEF chief of communications Denise Shepherd-Johnson. Key risk factors noted include a lack of access to piped water leading to homes being located near wells or water bodies, large families in which young children are supervised by siblings rather than adults, and lack of access to pre-school education. Also, despite a common perception that drowning deaths were linked to natural disasters, most children drowned during sunny weather, with only 5 per cent of deaths occurring during flooding from monsoons. The majority of drowning deaths took place in rural areas, however, children in urban areas are also at risk, states the report, adding that though a low percentage of Cambodia’s population was urban, it saw a relatively high rate of drowning due to hazards “prevalent throughout urban environments”. Director of the Ministry of Rural Development’s department of rural health Chea Samnang said the World Health Organization had collaborated with the Ministry of Health to educate families on preventing drowning during seasonal flooding. More broadly, steps had been taken to include injury-prevention in the school curriculum and provide education at the household and community levels on how to keep children safe, said Shepherd-Johnson. To contact the reporter on this story: Cassandra Yeap at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ieng Sary’s recovery ruled out: doctors Thursday, 24 May 2012 Bridget Di Certo
Former Khmer Rouge regime deputy prime minister Ieng Sary’s health would not improve and “stabilising” him was the best that could be hoped for, doctors told judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday. During brief proceedings that were adjourned mid-morning, Ieng Sary remained in the detention facility, recovering from a bout of bronchitis that required five days of treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital. “We [medical specialists] diagnosed him and found that his condition cannot improve. He can only be stabilised, and his health condition will deteriorate,” treating doctor Lim Sivuth told the court. Lim Sivuth recommended two days of bed rest for the former foreign affairs minister, after which the octogenarian will spend a week participating in proceedings remotely from the holding cells below the court. “He is closer to the doctor there, and it is easier to monitor his condition,” Lim Sivuth said. Ieng Sary’s defence counsel, Michael Karnavas, was particularly perturbed at the state of his client’s mental health following his hospitalisation. “He [Ieng Sary] informed us, and I would tend to value his assertions, that more than five minutes or so [after sitting up], he begins to feel dizziness, he is unable to physically be here and he has indicated he thinks he cannot concentrate for more than five minutes without feeling dizzy,” Karnavas said. When asked by civil-party lawyers how long this dizziness could be expected to last, Lim Sivuth replied that it was hard to say. “He will frequently experience this dizziness, given his health and his age,” the doctor said, adding that Ieng Sary’s heart disease dated back to 1992 and the chronic illness appeared to be deteriorating. Ieng Sary’s wife, Ieng Thirith, has already been severed from Case 002 proceedings, as doctors concluded she did not have sufficient mental faculties to participate in the trial. To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at email@example.com
Police destroy 50 homes in Mondulkiri Thursday, 24 May 2012 May Titthara
With a looming deadline to move still two days away, police yesterday stormed tiny Rayum commune in Mondulkiri province, dismantling and burning at least 50 homes belonging to villagers embroiled in a land dispute with a Vietnamese rubber company. Seng Channy, a villager representative who escaped arrest, said that a group of more than 15 armed provincial police used a chainsaw to tear down their houses, then burned them, telling villagers not to protest. “They threatened that if we dared to confront them, they would instantly arrest us,” he said. “If today you didn’t agree to thumbprint [a document consenting to leave], they will dismantle and incinerate your house without taking responsibility for the damage.” Yesterday’s conflagration comes only a few days after authorities burned down four of the villagers’ homes. “All the villagers dared not to protest against them, but only stood looking as their houses got burned and ruined, because all the soldiers and police were armed,” said Seng Channy. Buth Preang, 47, said that villagers are living in fear, and that the number of police is now greater than the number of villagers. “We refused to give a thumbprint to them, and we will stay at our house to see what they will actually do to us,” he said. Now, says Buth Preang, authorities are dismantling houses gradually, telling villagers to completely tear down their houses, or risk authorities returning to tear them down tomorrow. “They accused us of occupying the company’s land, so why doesn’t the company chase us?” he asked. “Or does the company employ the authorities to abuse us?” Authorities claim that villagers live on 28,000 hectares granted to three similarly named Vietnamese rubber companies: Pacific Grand Joint-Stock Company Limited, Pacific Lotus Joint-Stock Company Limited and Pacific Pearl Joint-Stock Company Limited. Official documents, however, show that all the land was granted to the Pacific Pearl JointStock Company in a concession that is technically illegal, due to its size. Man Saran, the district police chief in Koh Nhek, said that “of course” authorities started dismantling houses today, but that he had not been briefed on the number of houses because he was busy in a meeting at Mondulkiri provincial hall. Khlout Sophea, deputy district police chief in Koh Nhek and director of the eviction, said that authorities didn’t forcibly burn any houses, and that they decided to dismantle the homes with the villagers’ consent.
World Bank outlook for Cambodia positive Thursday, 24 May 2012 Don Weinland
The World Bank’s biannual report on Cambodia was largely positive given dire economic prospects in Europe, which economists agreed were closely tied to the Kingdom’s key export sectors. The report, released yesterday, predicted 6.6 per cent growth in gross domestic product compared to 2011. That’s a tenth of a percentage point higher than the bank’s 2012 estimate in November last year. Manufacturing is predicted to slow slightly this year, but the nature of Cambodian-made clothing may dodge some fallout from the continued sovereign debt crisis in Europe, which has been compounded recently by the threat of Greece’s exit from the European Union. “That might be very well linked to many stores in the US and EU focusing on budget garments. And Cambodia is supplying some of those garments,” senior country economist Enrique Aldaz-Carroll said yesterday during a discussion on the report in Phnom Penh. GDP growth in 2011 was also considerably higher than the World Bank predicted in November. The economy expanded by 6.9 per cent, up from the 6 per cent predicted at the time. The report noted that Cambodia has benefited from a shift in labour intensive industries from China to countries with lower wage costs, but economists said the country’s capacity to absorb new investments was not guaranteed. Cambodian industry saw signs in 2011 that production was moving up the value chain. Several assembly factories opened last year, although continued advances in the manufacturing sector would depend on boosts in education and training, bank economists said. Price inflation would stay within the government target of 5 per cent this year, the report predicted. Inflation cooled to a 4.9 per cent year-on-year increase in 2011. To contact the reporter on this story: Don Weinland at firstname.lastname@example.org
Activist monk detained at Wat Botum Friday, 25 May 2012 Chhay Channyda and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
The Venerable Loun Savath (centre), a prominent rights activist, was detained by police, monks and unidentified plain-clothed men yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Senor members of the monastic community yesterday detained Buddhist monk Loun Savath, an award-winning human rights activist, after he took photos of protesting Boeung Kak lake villagers outside Phnom Penh municipal court. Monks, police and unidentified men in plain clothes violently forced Loun Savath into a Land Cruiser outside the courthouse and whisked him away from the scene as more than 60 protesters, flanked by about 100 police armed with guns, batons and shields, called for the release of 13 Boeung Kak women who were being questioned inside. Venerable Loun Savath was driven to Wat Botum to meet Supreme Patriarch Nun Nget. Police and officials from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Cults and Religion barricaded him inside, sealing off entries to the complex, barring entrance to all journalists and preventing even pagoda boys from entering without showing their ID cards. He remained detained there as of press time last night. According to students living in the pagoda, Loun Savath was put in monk house number 17 in the complex, which s where a number of Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks live.
At 1pm, Loun Savath was bought to a meeting with Supreme Patriarch Nun Nget and about 20 other senior chief monks including Khim Sorn, the Phnom Penh municipal director of monks. Nun Nget, however, retired from this meeting about 2pm to nap in his room. A Post reporter who gained entry to the complex approached the Supreme Patriarch, but he refused to answer questions. About 7:30 pm, the meeting with the senior monks ended and Loun Savath made a brief appearance near the entrance. “I am not defrocked,” he told reporters. “But they have asked me to stay at a pagoda in my homeland in Siem Reap.” The “multimedia monk”, originally from Chi Kraeng district in Siem Reap, began his activist career supporting villagers in a long-running land dispute there. Loun Savath declined to elaborate on details of the meeting. When asked what prompted the meeting, and what conditions had been placed on him, he replied that the situation was “serious”. Loun Savath fled the capital in March last year, fearing he would be arrested for his activism. He returned two months later to attend a Prey Lang vill-ager rally. There, he was also forced to flee the scene with the assistance of rights groups when it appeared local authorities were planning his arrest. He recently attended the funeral of slain environmental activist Chut Wutty. After briefly talking with reporters last night, Loun Savath returned to the pagoda for a oneon-one meeting with the Supreme Patriarch. Chief monks who attended the meeting could not be reached for comment. Phan Davy, director of Phnom Penh’s Cults and Religion office, declined to comment because he was “too busy”. Officials from the Ministry of Cults and Religion could not be reached. Am Sam Ath, senior technical officer at Licadho, said Loun Savath had the right to defend weaker people. “Even though he is a monk, he still has the right to defend human rights, but in contrast he is arrested,” he said. Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson condemned the treatment of Loun Savath. “Defrocking a monk for standing up for the poor would be a sign of Hun Sen’s desperation,” he said.
Boeung Kak women jailed after three-hour trial Friday, 25 May 2012 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Shane Worrell
Women from the Boeung Kak community, who were each sentenced yesterday to as long as two and a half years in prison, scream to friends and relatives from inside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
Thirteen women protesters from Boeung Kak lake were yesterday sentenced to two and a half years in prison after a three-hour trial that was widely condemned as illegal – and which prompted SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua to urge the international community to suspend aid to Cambodia. The women, who were arrested as a family tried to rebuild its home during a demonstration at Boeung Kak on Tuesday, stood trial at 2pm – without a lawyer – after court prosecutors spent the morning interviewing them. The women spent two nights at Phnom Penh municipal police headquarters and had not been charged until yesterday, when the court tried them for cursing public authority and encroaching upon the land of a public figure – Cambodian People‟s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, the head of Shukaku. Little more than three hours after their trial began, the women were being transported to overcrowded Prey Sar prison.
Phou Povsun, a Phnom Penh municipal court judge, confirmed the 13 women had been sentenced, but said some of those sentences had been partly suspended. “Six women were convicted to two years and six months each in jail. Another six will spend two years each in jail,” he said. “The oldest woman will spend one year in jail,” he said, referring to 72-year-old Nget Khun. Am Sam Ath, senior technical officer at Licadho, said well-known village representative Tep Vanny was among those who had received the full sentence, along with Heng Mom, Chheng Leap, Bouv Saleap, Kong Chantha, Phann Chhunreth and Tol Srey Pao. “Convicting these people does not end this land dispute,” he said. Ham Sunrith, the women‟s lawyer, said he walked out of the courtroom in the morning after judges refused his proposal to have the case heard later with witnesses – two of whom were arrested outside the court as a crowd of more than 60 protested. “We will lodge an appeal if [the women] agree,” he said. SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said the trial was proof Prime Minister Hun Sen‟s government was terrorising its people. “I am so shocked. This must be condemned. This is total manipulation of the court,” she said. Mu Sochua called on the international community to suspend aid that went directly to Cambodia‟s government, singling out the US – as Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs at the US State Department, arrived in Cambodia yesterday. “I‟m calling on the internat-ional community to suspend aid,” she said, adding that financial contributions from overseas should henceforth enter Cambodia through NGOs. “I call on women‟s networks across the world to take action. I call on [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton to take action. “If aid continues to flow into the hands of the leaders who totally violate human rights, especially women‟s rights, the government will remain totally unaccountable to its people – it will have no legitimacy.” Sok Sam Oeun, former director of the Cambodian Defenders‟ Project, said the trial had not followed national law. “In pre-trial detention, according to the law, we have . . . a summary trial, which means the prosecutor can send the people to trial without pressing any investigation charge, but the law says that if they are arrested, the trial must be within the same day they are arrested,” he said. Cambodian Centre for Human Rights president Ou Virak said such a violation left the Kingdom‟s justice system at the crossroads.
“It appears the trial was a show. It was predetermined. City hall was being the judge. The judiciary was not independent,” he said. Ou Virak said the court system‟s inability to bring anyone to justice over the shooting of three women at the Kaoway Sports factory in Bavet – which deposed Bavet governor Chhouk Bandith is accused of – proved yesterday‟s trial could not have been fair. “If the court cannot even detain him in so many months, how can they sentence 13 people in one day?” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said yesterday‟s trial was the death knell for justice in Cambodia. “This case is an all-new low that says succinctly, „Cambodian justice: RIP‟. “The tycoons and government cronies behind the Boeung Kak project, and their supporters at the highest levels of government, should be ashamed that their greed has suddenly torn mothers and grandmothers away from their children.” The actions of the court and the government were outrag-eous and unjust, he said. “Charging and convicting women for exercising their rights to express their views and peacefully assemble, then denying them time to prepare their case, and refusing to allow defence witnesses – these are the actions of a kangaroo court jumping to the tune sung by its political masters in the CPP and the government.” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, however, said the trial had nothing to do with the government. “We have no comment,” he said, referring the Post to the Ministry of Justice, which, along with the Phnom Penh municipal authority, could not be reached for comment.