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Lawmakers’ firing irks US | National | National

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LAWMAKERS’ FIRING IRKS US Last Updated on 10 June 2013 By Abby Seiff

After three days of silence from Cambodia’s biggest governance donors over the firing of all 27 opposition lawmakers, the US late Saturday night became the first to publicly comment on what had transpired, condemning the move and calling for the legislators’ reinstatement. “The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Permanent Committee of the Cambodian National Assembly, made up entirely of members of the ruling party, has expelled opposition lawmakers from the National Assembly,” reads the statement by US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. On Wednesday, the 12-member committee voted to strip the posts of 29 parliamentarians from the Sam Rainsy Party, Human Rights Party and now-defunct Norodom Ranariddh Party, claiming they had broken the law by joining new parties. All 29 lawmakers had been absorbed into other parties earlier this year following mergers of both the royalist and opposition parties. Legal analysts have denounced the firings, calling them a breech of the “spirit” of the law, while the opposition party has said the move effectively nullifies the National Assembly – which requires at least 120 members as per the constitution. In an email sent yesterday, UN special rapporteur Surya Subedi said he too was concerned by the development. “The move coming so close to the elections to the National Assembly is not helpful ... There should be a level playing field for all political parties to compete in the elections. Cambodian democracy would be weaker without an effective opposition in the National Assembly.” The US appears to agree, noting that: “such a decision starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process.” “Stripping the salaries and parliamentary status of opposition party legislators deprives the Cambodian people of their voice and hurts the democratic process in Cambodia,” the statement continued. Repeated requests for comment from Australia, France and the EU have gone unanswered. The countries are among Cambodia’s biggest governance development partners, and have sunk millions of dollars over the past two decades into improving Cambodia’s democratic institutions. From 2009 until now, the US government alone has disbursed more than $50 million in funds earmarked for democracy, human rights and governance, according to State Department data. Asked whether the US would consider suspending aid if the lawmakers are not reinstated, embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh, said it was “the wrong question”. “The focus here is on the democratic process and the action taken by the National Assembly ruling majority does

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6/14/2013 3:14 PM


Lawmakers’ firing irks US | National | National

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not help the process,� he said.

6/14/2013 3:14 PM


Rights groups say denial law a threat to freedom | National | National

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RIGHTS GROUPS SAY DENIAL LAW A THREAT TO FREEDOM Last Updated on 10 June 2013 By Meas Sokchea

Rights groups said yesterday they believed the controversial Khmer Rouge crimes denial law, which was rammed through the National Assembly last week, would be used to freeze free speech in the run-up to the July elections. On Friday, the law passed unanimously and with no debate by CPP lawmakers during a specially convened session of the National Assembly. The law makes denial of crimes committed during Democratic Kampuchea an offence punishable by up to two years in prison and by fines of up to $1,000. Similarly, people can be punished for glorifying, opposing, downplaying or refusing to recognise the crimes that occurred under the Khmer Rouge, while legal entities – including companies and political parties – can be punished if their representatives are found guilty. Rights monitors said they were doubtful many prosecutions would arise from the law, given that denial is all but non-existent in Cambodia, but said they believed the law would instead be used to silence opposing voices. “I don’t expect anything serious to take place or prosecutions to take place, but what this does for the Cambodian public is to further create fear for expressing one’s opinion,” said Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak. His comments were echoed by Amnesty International’s Cambodia researcher, Rupert Abbott, who said the speed with which the law was passed raised questions as to its intention. “The law was passed in record time, with apparently little or no consultation [ . . . ] and through a national assembly from which opposition members had been expelled on mass,” he wrote in an email, adding that it appeared “incompatible” with Cambodia’s freedom of expression obligations. Of the 86 ruling party and Funcinpec lawmakers present Friday, none offered pushback on the highly criticised law. Instead, after each of the brief, five articles were read out, lawmakers stood up to praise the law their party had drafted a week ago and, at times, to share their own suffering under the Khmer Rouge. No opposition members were present. All 27 Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party lawmakers were stripped of their elected posts Wednesday by the National Assembly’s CPP-controlled permanent committee. While National Assembly ruling party lawmakers insisted Friday that the law was created to protect the survivors of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia, said he had little doubt the legislation was, in fact, politically motivated. “They’re trying to create an environment where the opposition is very careful about how they talk about the Khmer Rouge,” he said yesterday. With campaigns for the July 28 election beginning, Panha said the law’s passage shifts the focus from more pressing issues in the Kingdom and creates an “environment of fear”. “It will affect the fairness of the election coming up.”

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Rights groups say denial law a threat to freedom | National | National

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Additional reporting by Sean Teehan and Abby Seiff

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6/14/2013 3:18 PM


Trauma models used at the ECCC flawed | Analysis | National

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Trauma models used at the ECCC flawed Last Updated on 11 June 2013 By Peg LeVine

The Khmer Rouge used forced labour in cooperatives throughout the country during its regime. Photo by DC-CAM It seems “trauma” was on trial last week (June 5-6, 2013) when the prosecuting and civil party teams at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) conducted their two half-day examinations of Cambodian psychiatrist, Sotheara Chimm MD, an expert witness whose research on “baksbat” tempers the cultural supremacy of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), globally. If only the defence team could have refrained from challenging research markers on the percentage of the Cambodian population traumatised today, they could have gathered evidence on the spread of trauma found in baksbat. In turn, they might have opened a forum for discussion by clarifying further the atrocities Khmer Rouge leaders instigated and those that they did not. Overall, baksbat was devised via qualitative and quantitative methods, with sampling from a population that never left the country. To date, much research on the Khmer Rouge period is cross-sectional with an over-emphasis on taking testimonies for the purpose of building evidence solely for the prosecution of key leaders. Most noteworthy, Dr Sotheara’s research leads us away from being PTSD-bound as these norms were based on a US Vietnam veterans’ population sample (officially entered by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 and snowballing from there). Those survivors did not return to a land and waterscape filled with moaning, deceased ancestors, or to places contaminated by UXO landmines, poverty, starvation and disease. Americans have had the privilege all these years post war of having a trauma system that emerged from their own cultural, religious, medical and socio political milieu, and one that represents their interests in court. These past few days have been historical for the fields of genocide and traumatic studies. Most significantly, the formal emergence of baksbat makes more transparent the cultural assumptions that restrict our terms of justice, democracy, trauma, recovery, forced truth and reconciliation that have run right through this tribunal, and genocide

6/14/2013 3:13 PM


Trauma models used at the ECCC flawed | Analysis | National

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proceedings elsewhere. It is fair to note that baksbat entered the literature formally in 2000 when Cambodian psychiatrist Dr Lina Huot studied trauma in the Cambodian former refugee community in Melbourne, Australia. Dr Sotheara developed the reliability and validity standards for the Khmer instrument inside Cambodia. With the arrival of this long awaited measure, trauma recovery programs can account better for protective factors embedded in ritual and Buddhist practices, some of which counteract retribution as part of community health. More and more, truth and reconciliation proceedings overlap with the growing Western trauma industry that sets up camps in post-war regions where foreign academics seek funding and ethics clearance in their home countries. They bring PTSD criteria into the field, “prove” its existence and seek further funding for curative purposes – sometimes with resources for creating trauma institutes. The defence lawyers in fact, quoted such studies. PTSD is event bound, plain and simple, while genocidal trauma is seamless. Torture is never one act; it is downright premeditated and progressive. The April 17, 1975, shock wave of mass confused exodus out of cities was followed by calculated displacement, which assisted the regime to insert its agenda more vehemently. In all of this, it seems to me that it could be productive to put trauma itself on trial. The Khmer Rouge agenda was ambitious to be sure, with a fanatical attempt at deconstructing a whole society to form a pure communal and agricultural state – and disengage a nation totally from Western capitalism. But now Cambodian survivors are expected to adopt the most widespread Western capitalist measure of trauma – PTSD. After all, this system counts traumatic “events” just as we count bodies in determining the depth of genocide. It’s just that the criteria for baksbat invite us to reconsider the origins of our standards, and direction of scrutiny in this tribunal. Peg LeVine, EdD, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist/Medical Anthropologist and author of Love and Dread in Cambodia: Weddings, Births, and Ritual Harm Under the Khmer Rouge.

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6/14/2013 3:13 PM


Mind your own business | National | National

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MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS Last Updated on 11 June 2013 By Vong Sokheng and Shane Worrell

Two senior government officials yesterday issued a warning to the US and other countries critical of last week’s expulsion of opposition lawmakers from the National Assembly: stay out of it. Signalling that the topic was essentially off-limits to outsiders, Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Chheang Vun described a US statement critical of the affair as “unacceptable” and tantamount to political interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs. “Cambodia is a sovereign state, so the US cannot order us to go left or go right or to make it rain or to bring a storm,” he said at a press conference. “Cambodia is . . . strengthening democracy through law enforcement,” Vun said. “We do everything based on law. So the US’s statement is unacceptable.” Parliament was thrown into disarray last Wednesday when the National Assembly’s permanent council – made up wholly of CPP members – stripped 29 lawmakers of their parliamentary status and salaries. Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy said on Saturday that the expulsion created the “preconditions for civil war”. The US wasn’t as bold but said the same day that it was concerned about the effects of the expulsion on Cambodia’s democracy. “Stripping the salaries and parliamentary status of opposition party legislators deprives the Cambodian people of their voice and hurts the democratic process in Cambodia,” a statement released at the time says. But Vun added yesterday that it was not acceptable for the US to “point fingers” at the government, because some of its own past actions in the Kingdom had left “Cambodia wounded until today” and, in any case, the US was not the Kingdom’s colonial ruler. “Does the US recognise Cambodia as a sovereign country or not?” he asked. Concurrently yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong told Australia’s new ambassador, Alison Burrows, that Cambodia did not appreciate interference from foreign embassies, ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told reporters after a closed-door meeting. “[Namhong] informed [Burrows] that there were a number of foreign embassies in Phnom Penh who had made comments relating to the forthcoming election,” Kuong said. “[Namhong] stressed that this activity was interference into Cambodia’s internal affairs.”

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Mind your own business | National | National

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Kuong then appealed to all foreign embassies based in the country to stay out of issues that Cambodia could deal with itself. “This is democracy, and Cambodia will do its best to ensure a transparent and democratic election on July 28 and urge foreign observers to monitor the election.” The US and Australia have been generous donors to Cambodia in the past two decades. Sean McIntosh, a spokesman for the US embassy in Phnom Penh, declined to comment directly on Vun’s words yesterday, instead choosing to focus on the extent to which the Cambodian government remained committed to a fair and democratic election. “The upcoming National Assembly elections will be a critical test of the [government’s] commitment to strengthening the nation’s democracy,” he said. “The full and unfettered participation of all political parties and their leaders on a level playing field allows for a more democratic electoral process.” McIntosh added that the government should implement recommendations from “credible, independent observers” such as UN Special Rapporteur Surya Subedi, the National Democratic Institute, and the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia “without further delay”. Two spokesmen from the Australian embassy, which was closed yesterday due to a public holiday in Australia, did not respond to emailed questions. A spokeswoman from the European Union’s Delegation to Cambodia – another major financial supporter of democracy in the Kingdom – said she could not provide comments before deadline. Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said it was up to embassies to continue shining light on actions that potentially compromised democracy or electoral processes in the lead-up to July 28. “Embassies should be highlighting these things. Serious things that would not make elections free and fair,” he said, adding that issues ranged from voter list abnormalities to political coverage in mass media. Events of the past week, during which the government has turned its focus away from policy to heap pressure on CNRP acting leader Kem Sokha and the rest of the opposition, demonstrated the need for more measured responses from the ruling party in general, Mong Hay said. “An observer used the term ‘child responses’,” he said. “I think our government officials should find ways to make their responses much better.”

6/14/2013 3:04 PM


Parties told to see life at the grassroots level | National | National

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PARTIES TOLD TO SEE LIFE AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL Last Updated on 11 June 2013 By May Titthara and Sean Teehan

Members of the Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly invited the country’s biggest political parties to participate in assemblies in three provinces at a press conference in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post A collective of citizens who say the government ignores their concerns has invited the Kingdom’s three largest parties to participate in public assemblies in three different provinces this month. Members of the Cambodian Grassroots People’s Assembly made the announcement to about 40 people at a press conference yesterday at Meta House in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district. “Should these peaceful events be prevented from occurring or the politicians choose not to attend, then Cambodians will once again have demonstrable proof that their representatives are anything but,” a statement from the group said. At the conference, Grassroots members called on politicians from the Cambodian People’s Party, Cambodia National Rescue Party and Funcinpec to attend the assemblies scheduled to take place in Kampong Chhnang on Thursday, Preah Sihanouk on June 16 and Siem Reap on June 24. The Cambodian constitution states that the government will hold a forum once a year to hear citizens’ grievances and seek solutions, said Chan Soveth, a senior investigator at rights group Adhoc. However, this is something that has not been adhered to.

6/14/2013 3:12 PM


Parties told to see life at the grassroots level | National | National

http://phnompenhpost.com/2013061166183/National/parties-told-to-see-l...

Several members of the Grassroots People’s Assembly – which formed in 2010 and represents causes from fishery protection to LGBT rights – expressed disillusionment with the government yesterday, noting that a petition they filed seven months ago remains unanswered. The petition demanded the National Assembly place more protections for citizens in the land, foreign security, trade, human rights and labour sectors. “We stopped believing in the government,” said Chea Spoherk, a board member for the Farmer Nature Network. “We’ve lost our confidence in the government.” Citizens continue to struggle with issues on which the government has already acted, said Koem Rady of the Workers Information Center. For instance, workers in Cambodia’s booming garment industry saw their minimum monthly wage rise from $61 to $75 last month, but they still struggle to pay their bills, Rady said. “Even though our pay increased, our rent and utilities also increased.” Yem Pech, a forestry advocate representing the Phnom Kuk Network in Kampong Chhnang, said the government promised to return 500 hectares of forest land set aside for development back to villagers, but had not made good on their promise yet. Grassroots members are expecting a hefty turnout to each of the assemblies, with a predicted 800 coming out to Kampong Chhnang, and more than 1,000 expected at the other two events, said Ly Pisey, of Social Action for Change. The Grassroots group does not support any one particular party, Pisey said. But if officials do not show up at the assemblies, the group will send another petition listing their demands to the government.

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6/14/2013 3:12 PM


UNESCO to add new sites to World Heritage list

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Tuesday, 11 June 2013 11:48 DAP

PARIS, June 10 (Xinhua) -- World Heritage Committee will meet this month in Cambodia to consider adding 32 more sites onto UNESCO's World Heritage list, said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Monday. The Committee's debates on June 16-27 will be chaired by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap of Cambodia.Deputies will also examine conservation of properties on the List. The Committee published Monday on the official website of UNESCO the nominations by States Parties to the World Heritage Convention that will be examined. Among the Natural properties are Xinjiang Tianshan of China, Great Himalayan National Park of India, Mount Etna of Italy, Mount Kenya-Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (an extension of "Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest) of Kenya, El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve of Mexico, Namib Sand Sea of Namibia, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary of Philippines, Tajik National Park (Mountains of the Pamirs) of Tajikistan, and Cat Tien National Park of Viet Nam. In addition, there are four candidates for Mixed Natural and Cultural Properties presented by Canada, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho and South Africa. The candidates for Cultural properties comprised of 18 sites in the countries around the world. Five of the above sites had already been considered for inscription in the past: Hill Forts of Rajasthan of India, Al Zubarah Archaeological Site of Qatar, Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong of DPRK, Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex of Russia and Tajik National Park of Tajikistan. Three of the nominations to be debated are extensions to existing World Heritage sites. A press conference with the Chair of the World Heritage Committee Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova will be held at the venue of the session on June 17.

6/14/2013 1:24 PM


Cambodia and S Korea aid workers | National | National

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CAMBODIA AND S KOREA AID WORKERS Last Updated on 12 June 2013 By Sen David

Labour safeguard Cambodia and South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday, agreeing to work together to ensure worker protection. Last month, a Kampong Speu shoe factory collapse killed two workers. The incident inspired the Ministry of Labour to implement a Health and Safety Network for workers here and abroad, Secretary of State Huy Han Song said. “We will focus on every work safety issue, but initially faintings, injuries in factories, construction, and traffic accidents during the commute,” he said. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Han Song added that South Korea will provide training to officials in Cambodia and a budget that will allow Cambodia to create the planned network. Baek Hun Ki, director of South Korea’s Occupational Safety and Health Agency, said Korea will help Cambodia. “Safety and health are the majority of workers’ needs,” Hun Ki said.

6/14/2013 3:00 PM


FTU asks for benefits for fired staff | National | National

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FTU ASKS FOR BENEFITS FOR FIRED STAFF Last Updated on 14 June 2013 By Sen David

Sabrina factory The Free Trade Union on Wednesday wrote to the Ministry of Labour asking the Labour Dispute Department to compel the Sabrina Garment factory to pay compensation and severance benefits to the nearly 300 workers the factory fired on Saturday. FTU president Chea Mony said the Kampong Speu factory’s officials had forced workers to thumbprint resignation documents without receiving the benefits they were guaranteed under the Labour Law. “The company is famous for five-star standards, but in fact, the company put pressure on the workers to resign. So we ask the Ministry of Labour to intervene,” he wrote in the letter. The workers were fired after protesting the arrest of eight of their colleagues, who are accused of using violence at a demonstration that left at least 23 people injured. The Sabrina Garment factory, a Nike supplier, could not be reached yesterday.

6/14/2013 2:33 PM

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