Archive for December 21st, 2009

Phnom Penh Still Lacks School Buildings in 2010 – Monday, 21.12.2009

Posted on 21 December 2009. Filed under: Week 644 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 644

“Officials of the Department of Education, Youth, and Sports of Phnom Penh said that in 2010, Phnom Penh lacks hundreds of classrooms for students, both at primary and secondary levels.

“The deputy head of the Phnom Department of Education, Youth, and Sports, Mr. Em Ham Khuon, said on 18 December 2009 that at present, there are 22 lower secondary schools and 25 high schools in Phnom Penh. Most school do not have sufficient classrooms; secondary schools lack 110 rooms, and only 8 of the 25 high schools lack 80 rooms, while primary schools lack about 100 rooms.

“Mr. Hem Ham Khuon added that at primary schools, there are not so many problems, as the Japanese government helped to build 11 buildings with 224 classrooms in 2005 and in 2007. In 2010, the Japanese government plans to help to construct 7 more buildings with 96 classrooms, spending approximately US$5,330,000 for 7 primary schools in Phnom Penh.

“Mr. Em Ham Khuon went on to say that the shortage of classrooms at the secondary level results from the increasing number of students, and it is also because most lower secondary schools are located together with primary schools, and some high schools were formed through the expansion of lower secondary schools.

“The lack of classrooms gravely affects the students’ education.

“Mr. Em Ham Khuon said that due to the lack of classrooms, some schools are forced to put up to 50 or 60 students into one classroom, beyond the standard number students in one classroom set by the Ministry of Education at 40 to 45 students. That means students have to be squeezed into the rooms. At some schools, there are three shifts per day: the first shift from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.; the second shift from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; and the third shift from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. He emphasized that the lack of classrooms affects also the curriculum of the Ministry of Education. According to the curriculum of the Ministry, in one week, there should be 34 to 36 sessions [with 45 minutes per session], but at present, due to the lack of classrooms, at some schools, there are only 27 to 28 sessions, and each school has to encourage teachers to teach more to catch up with the curriculum of the Ministry.

“Educational analysts suggested that if the Ministry of Education does not solve the lack of classrooms soon, the quality of education will deteriorate, because there are up to 50 or 60 students in one classroom, leading to disorder and making it difficult for teachers to teach, and for students to gain knowledge. When some schools try to speed up teaching the students to catch up with the curriculum of the Ministry of Education, that leads to neglecting the quality of education – they just manage to catch up with the curriculum and do not care whether students can gain anything from it or not.

“Mr. Em Ham Khuon called on the leaders of the government, on national and international organizations, and on generous people to donate funds for the construction of school buildings, as long as there is a lack of classrooms, in order to help to foster the education for students as well as to achieve a better quality of education.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2129, 20-21.12.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 21 December 2009

Deum Tnot, Vol.2, #92, 21-22.12.2009

  • Many Khmer Workers in Detention in Thailand Are Not as Lucky as Siwarak Chothipong, a Thai Citizen Accused [who was quickly pardoned by the Khmer King]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2129, 20-21.12.2009

  • Phnom Penh Still Lacks School Buildings in 2010

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6836, 21.12.2009

  • A UNESCO Delegation Visited the Preah Vihear Temple [to conduct more studies to restore and repair the ancient area of the temple, listed as a world heritage site]
  • Six People Died and Four Were Injured in a Car Crash on National Road 6A [Kandal]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #71, 21.12.2009

  • Human Rights Activists and Diplomats Criticized Cambodia for Deporting Uighur People [back to China; according to the spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior, 20 of them were sent back at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday 19 December 2009 from [the military section of] Phnom Penh International Airport to China; the head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Mr. Ou Vireak, and the spokesperson of the UNHCR, Mr. Kitty McKinsey, said that the deportation violates the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, to which Cambodia has signed on]
  • The Poipet Authorities Rejected to Provide Shelter for [24] Khmer Kampuchea Krom People [they had been sent from Thailand; the Poipet governor said that those people were identified as originating from Kompong Chhnang, Prey Veng, and Takeo, and therefore they can just return to their home towns and villages]

Rasmei Angkor, Vol.16, #1482, 21.12.2009

  • [The former Thai prime minister, after prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted] Surayud Chulanont Wants to Be a Mediator for Negotiations between [Thai ousted and fugitive prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra and [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5078, 20-21.12.2009

  • Cambodia Decided to Deport Chinese Ethnic Uighurs
  • Belgium Provided [US$715,468] Funds for Mine Clearance in Cambodia
  • Europe Grants US$1.3 Million Additionally for Human Rights in Cambodia
  • [The European Union ambassador and head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand] David Lipman: The Rule of Law in Cambodia Is Advancing
  • The first [H5N1] Bird Flu Patient in 2009 Was Confirmed [by now, there are 9 cases since 2005 in Cambodia]
  • A Document Disclosed that Thailand Planned to Use Military Force against Cambodia [according to the claim of a member of the opposition Puea Thai Party interviewed by The Nation – while the government claims that the plan has been distorted by the member of the opposition party who “disclosed” it]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1847, 21.12.2009

  • [Sam Rainsy Party spokesperson and parliamentarian] Mr. Yim Sovann Asked the Government of the Cambodian People’s Party to Implement the Immigration Law Properly
  • [The head of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers] Chea Mony Asked the Siamese [Thai] King to Pardon Khmer Workers Being Detained in Thailand

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When Is It Possible to Trust, or Not to Trust the Law? – Sunday, 20.12.2009

Posted on 21 December 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 643 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 643

Several events during the past week provide a lot of food for thought. Some cases have been extending over several weeks before they came to a surprising end, others started only recently – but in their mutual links, they leave the public with a lot of questions.

It is not the task of the media to respond to many of these question – but to collect information and to share it publicly. How the answers have to be found, for the whole society, is clear according to Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia: “The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country. All power belongs to the people.” This is the starting point, so the people need to know what is going on.

The next point is (still according to the same Article 51): “The people exercise these powers through the National Assembly, the Senate, the Royal Government and the Judiciary” – about which the constitution adds an important point of clarification: “The legislative, executive, and judicial powers shall be separate.”

The people elect the legislative, which appoints the executive, and the judicial power cares that new laws conform to the Constitution and are implemented properly.

The past week saw several events where the public cannot easily understand how public procedures work and laws and applied – and this is in some cases made more difficult because the press does not cover some areas in detail. The following is just a series of descriptions. How they are to be understood is not clear in all cases.

An employee handling air traffic control information at the airport shared information over the telephone about the Flight Plan of the private jet-plane of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra. This employee was convicted to seven years in prison for allegedly having engaged in an act of spying. But according to some public media reports, information about the flight plan was shared with the Thai embassy only 20 minutes after the plane had already landed. In addition, in many countries, flight plans are in principle public, not secret (except for military aircraft in combat or military training). Were flight plans not publicly available, in national and in international Flight Information Regions, there would be a lot of near or real accidents in flight. We tried to find any information in the press about the legal status of Flight Plan related information – we did not see any.

In this, and in some other of the cases, the Mirror does not claim to have all information publicly available, though we try. If there is important information publicly available but we missed it, we are always grateful to receive additional information in the form of Comments.

The legally convicted spy was freed by a Royal Pardon within less than a week – in response to requests by representatives of the opposition party of a neighboring country, and, as the Prime Minister said, also in view of the concerns and the love of the mother of the convict to her son. That the convicted spy was set free was welcomed widely, including by the Thai government.
As a general reaction, the Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarian Mr. Son Chhay said that the Prime Minister had suggested a Royal Pardon to the King, though the court had claimed to have enough evidence for a legal conviction to serve seven years in prison, so the Prime Minister might also initiate the procedures to have the Khmer people set free, now in prison over land disputes, who were jailed when they just protested when the land they were living on for many years was taken away.

Surely there are many mothers caring for their sons in a similar way as the mother of the convicted Thai spy.

The former Thai prime minister, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, now often also identified as a billionaire because of the huge economic gains of his telecommunications companies during his time as prime minister, had been ousted from office by a bloodless military coup. But later, he was also convicted for corruption – related to the sale of public property to his wife, and three of his lawyers were arrested, arrested of leaving about US$60,000 to officials at the Thai high court, handling his case. During the appeal process, he asked for bail to leave the country for some business in China for some days – but he did not keep the conditions of the bail agreement and stays ever since in other countries.

When Mr. Thaksin, in legal terms a convicted fugitive, was invited to Cambodia as an adviser to the Prime Minister on economic affairs, the Thai government made an extradition request based on a Cambodian-Thai extradition agreement. The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was reported to have refused to even receive the documents from the Thai embassy, claiming the conviction by the Thai courts was politically motivated. Interpol sees this differently: Interpol is prepared to help locate Mr. Thaksin as a convicted fugitive.

On Saturday, 19 December 2009, the Cambodian authorities arrested and handed over 20 Uighur people to the Chinese authorities, that had asked for their extradition, claiming they are criminals (though two of them are said to be children). They applied for recognition as refugees with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR – in Phnom Penh, but the UN interviews with them had not yet been finished. They were not, in legal terms, convicted for anything in China, there had been no court hearings on them. “They were led to Cambodia by the leader of a terrorist group, but I do not want to mention the name,” Mr. Khieu Sopheak, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, is quoted. And the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, is quoted to have said that they were deported to China “because of Cambodia’s obligations as a sovereign state.” Obviously this would apply to both China and Thailand.

In addition, Cambodia has signed the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, adopted by the United Nations in 1951. The regional spokesperson of the UNHCR called the deportation, before the end of the interviews, a “grave breach of international refugee law” – to which Cambodia had actually subscribed.

The Thai government declared that a normalization of diplomatic relations with Cambodia would require that Cambodia terminates the agreement with Mr. Shinawatra as economic adviser, and not to continue to call a legal conviction for corruption as politically motivated. But the spokesperson of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said these conditions are “nonsense.” Prime Minister Hun Sen added that relations with the Thai government cannot be normalized, unless the present Thai government is replaced.

Such statements are of a dimension which has never existed before in ASEAN, with a tradition of not interfering into the internal affairs of another country, like calling for a change of government. Even in relation to the present military leadership of Myanmar, ASEAN states have only called for the institution of a democratic process in Myanmar.

The Nation of Bangkok wrote in an analysis:

“The dispute is one thing, but the most important thing is that the incident not pose a risk to Asean solidarity,” Tommy Koh, chairman of the grouping’s task force, was quoted as saying by [the Chinese] Xinhua News Agency. “I’ve asked my colleagues how they would have felt if [a neighboring country] had done to us what Hun Sen did to Thailand,” said one Asean diplomat even before the Thai-Cambodian conflict deteriorated into a spy farce and relations sank to new lows. An expert on Asean affairs said: “No other Asean leader in the grouping’s long history has ever called for the destruction of a neighboring government. This is beyond everything we have experienced.”

The present situation will probably be remembered in the history of ASEAN as a new turning point, testing the very fabric of the ASEAN community.

Finally, the meaning and the role of the law is extremely tested in another way in Cambodia itself: There are two cases, where the president of the largest opposition party, and leader of the government, are quoted to have said that they have no respect for the calling of a court:

  • The opposition party president, Mr. Sam Rainsy: I Do Not Care about the Court That Serves the Ruling Party Only [he was sued by the Svay Rieng Municipal Court for removing temporary Cambodian-Vietnamese border markers]
  • Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that all recently summoned witnesses, who are presently holding high offices in the Royal Government – like the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Economy and Finance and he himself – do not need to cooperate with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

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