Archive for June 1st, 2010

Eliminating Illegal Settlements – Monday, 31.5.2010

Posted on 1 June 2010. Filed under: Week 667 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 667

“On Friday the Council of Ministers approved a circular for dealing with illegal settlements on state land.

“The spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, said on Sunday, ‘The circular will help citizens and the government to eliminate anarchic settlements on state land in populated areas, in cities, and at public places [like parks, pedestrian lanes, etc.]. In the future we will eradicate illegal settlements at public places.’

“The circular aims at resolving problems at temporary settlements, also called anarchic constructions, that are built on state land, which results in the loss of road space for traveling, or there is no sanitation. The circular advises the local authorities to provide data about the actual number of such illegal settlements and the number of families, producing plans of these anarchic constructions in order to find solutions, to organize infrastructure and public services to support the life of the people.

“A legal expert of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions [which works in 20 different countries around the world], Mr. Pen Sithorn, said that the new circular is not bad, but it depends on whether or not the implementation will involve also non-government organizations and the affected communities. He said, ‘The circular says it depends on the government what kind of participation from different sides they will allow.’

Note:

Additional information from the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions:

“A senior official of the Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Mr. Chan Soveth, said on Sunday that the circular is good, but its enforcement is not as good as the contents stated in the circular, which makes people live in ever worse conditions. He added, ‘The government evicts people and accepts coordination from the authorities. They confiscate people’s land and deliver it to the rich and to companies, providing little compensation to people. Thousands of citizens have been affected by the policy of the government to force citizens to move to remote areas.’ He went on to say that even though citizens are living on state land, they have been living there for years before the land law was approved. Therefore, they should be offered solutions through the provision of new areas with proper living conditions.” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #142, 31.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 31 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #4, 30-31.5.2010

  • A Car Loaded with Paddy Rice Was Intercepted – there Were More Than 800 Kilogram of Turtles Hidden in It, to Be Exported to Vietnam [Kandal]
  • Disputes [through the exchange of statements quoted in the press] between [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit and [ousted and fugitive prime minister] Thaksin Creates Political Tension in Siam [Thailand]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2262, 30-31.5.2010

  • The Thai Authorities Released [207] Khmer Citizens Who Had Been Accused of Possessing Explosive Materials
  • Construction Workers on the Bokor Mountain Had a Car Accident while Getting Ahead of another Car – Two Died and Twenty Eight Others Were Injured

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #773, 31.5.2010

  • Oknha Ly Say Kheang, a Big Trader Destroying the Forest, Appeared in Sihanoukville after Having Escaped from Arrest for a While [he was arrested in late March 2010 over illegal wood trading and keeping some in storage. He was spotted driving a luxury car and relaxing in Sihanoukville]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #669, 30-31.5.2010

  • The Ministry of Interior Allows a Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarian to Visit Ms. Meas Srey and Mr. Prum Chea [jailed for uprooting Cambodian-Vietnamese border markers in Svay Rieng]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6969, 31.5.2010

  • More Than 60 Persons [police, military police, soldiers, as well as a prosecutor, a commune chief and a village chief] Surrounded a Site where a Military Captain is Storing Luxury Grade Wood [seizing 922 pieces of wood, but the owner of the wood has not been arrested – Svay Rieng]
  • Cambodia Condemned the Persons Who Planted a Sea Mine [attacking a South Korean navy ship, killing 46 sailors] – They Cause Instability on the Korean Peninsular

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3893, 31.5.2010

  • Forced Evictions are against the Constitution and Cannot Be Legalized – Those Who Criticize This Should Not Be Stopped

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #142, 31.5.2010

  • Eliminating Illegal Settlements
  • The Authorities Seek to Arrest Citizens over a Land Dispute [with the Heng Development Company; two persons were arrested for inciting villagers go to protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s resident]
  • A US Company [Elixir Gaming Technologies] Received a License to Open a Casino in Takeo [this company plans to start constructing a casino late next year, spending US$8 to 10 million]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #51, 30-31.5.2010

  • An Environmental Officials: The Sesan Hydro Electric Dam II [planned to be constructed late next year] Will Not Flood Ratanakiri [but it might affect only four communes in Stung Treng]
  • Police Arrested a Man Who Raped His Three Step Daughters over a long Time [aged from 12 to 17 – Siem Reap]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
And please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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About the Clear Separation of Functions and Responsibilities – Sunday, 30.5.2010

Posted on 1 June 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 666 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 666

According to the Preamble of the Constitution, the Kingdom of Cambodia is a multi-party liberal democracy. That different people make different observations and have different information and different opinions is natural – that these can also be expressed and discussed openly is legal under such a constitution, unless there is any criminal intent involved.

When putting the pieces for the Mirror together day by day, we encounter often confrontative news items which could be resolved easily by an open, mutual, clarifying consultation about facts and structural arrangements, which might overcome personal positions and feelings.

During the past week, we carried a report about a tragic event in India: “160 People Were Killed in a Plane Crash in India.” But this is not just a tragedy – it is necessary to investigate what led to this problem, in order to avoid similar events to happen in future. Naturally, questions about safety procedures have to be clarified – and there were some press reports claiming that the accident was the result of a soft handling of air safety regulations. When this discussion started, the management of Air India claimed to make a thorough investigation by themselves – and prohibited its employees to discuss related questions with the press. This resulted in further protests: “The striking employees were upset over the management’s gag order prohibiting some of its leaders to speak out in public on the Mangalore crash.”

In the meantime, the Indian government has set up a Court of Inquiry headed by a former high court judge, and a Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council with persons with a background in aviation, and experts in engineering and operations. They will conduct the inquiry, not Air India. And the strike was called off.

Does this mean that the Indian government does not trust the management of Air India? Maybe or maybe not – the fundamentally important point is that Operations and Safety are to be handled by two separate, independent bodies, which have to cooperate mutually.

Some months ago, I had an experience in Malaysia where this separation obviously works. – We were about 250 passengers, waiting to board a long distance night flight. But instead of calling us to board the plane, we were told that the flight is canceled, buses would transport us to different hotels and collect us again in the morning. So it happened – connections lost and schedules not met. The explanation: When the plane was prepared for departure, the air safety controller discovered that the pilot had landed only 11 hours ago – but no pilot is allowed to fly again, if not 12 hours passed between two flights. Malaysia Airlines had to accept this ruling from the air safety institution, though it meant a disruption of many schedules and a considerable economic loss. The airline had assigned the pilot – “just one hour too short should be OK” – but the independent safety supervisor rejected this.

Not good personal relations of different actors, and group or institutional loyalties assure smooth an safe procedures, but clearly defined, different institutions – which all have to refer to objectively defined rules. And these rules have to be kept and followed.

When Mr. Om Yentieng was recently appointed as head of the newly created Anti-Corruption Unit, it was reported that some persons from the opposition parties raised critical questions about him – this is a case where different people may have different opinions. But we did not see any critical questions raised against the fact the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit is also automatically a member of the Anti-Corruption Council, the body that is supervising the Anti-Corruption Unit. This is an objectively serious problem, whoever the person is. Everybody has to act responsibly in public offices – but this does not mean to be just responsible to oneself. Responsibility implies that one has to answer what is right and what is wrong to another institution. Where this is not structurally institutionalized, there is the danger that a conflict of interest may lead to wrong results.

Malaysian Airlines had the well founded interest not to disrupt its intercontinental schedule, and not to organize and pay for 250 hotel guests. But the air safety agency hand a different, also well founded interest: that the strict working schedules of pilots have to be kept.

When the US Securities and Exchange Commission [“The mission of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation”] started to investigate the Australian mining company BHP Billiton, and links to the US$2.5 million which had been paid as tea money to “Cambodia,” this naturally triggered a public interest where and under whose authorities and according to which rules this money was used. Then an amount of US$20 million from the French oil company Total was added to the surprises, and additional millions from an Indonesian company.

Then allegations surfaced that the ban on sand export, imposed by the government, was not applied, and sand exports to Singapore continued.

Around the time when different partial answers related to payments were reported in the press (which could not be reconciled with each other) the Prime Minister tasked the Senior Ministers Sok An and Keat Chhon to present a consolidated answer to the National Assembly; then also the Ambassador of Cambodia in London offered to publicly discuss and refute such allegations, raised by the British NGO Global Witness.

But on 21 May 2010, the Cambodian Embassy in London withdrew the offer in a letter from which we quote:

On the issue you raised, I am pleased to advise that His Excellency Hor Nambora is no longer prepared
to enter into a public debate with Global Witness.

First, we believe it would be inappropriate to share a platform with representatives of your organisation
since it would appear you have a politically-motivated and hidden agenda to discredit the legitimately-
elected Government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Second, it seems clear that your group is starting to lose credibility and respect within the international
community, not least for the irresponsible and devious way in which you operate…

In short, as your group, leadership and campaigners certainly suffered from epilepsy and other mental disabilities, it would be more prudent for any Cambodian representatives or officials, not to take part in the debate.

Epilepsy is disease defined in medical terms as “a disorder of the central nervous system characterized by loss of consciousness and convulsions” – it is surprising that the Cambodian embassy claims to have such medical data on the staff of Global Witness, quite apart form the whole style of this official letter.

We do also not have any information that Global Witness “is starting to lose credibility and respect within the international community.” – Global Witness shares the list of their supporters publicly:

Trusts and foundations

  • Adessium Foundation
  • The Blue Moon Fund
  • The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
  • The DOEN Foundation
  • The Fledgling Fund
  • The Ford Foundation
  • The Jocarno Fund
  • The Joffe Charitable Trust
  • Foundation Open Society Institute (Zug)
  • The David and Elaine Potter Foundation
  • The RH Southern Trust
  • The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund
  • The Roddick Foundation
  • The Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation
  • The Sigrid Rausing Trust
  • The Staples Trust
  • The Wallace Global Fund

Development organisations

  • Concern Worldwide
  • Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (Hivos)
  • Oxfam Novib
  • Trocaire

Governments

  • Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • DFID – Department for International Development (UK)
  • The European Commission
  • Irish Aid – Irish Department of Foreign Affairs
  • Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (Sida)
  • Norad

To accuse Global Witness leadership of “epilepsy and other mental disabilities” is probably not making an impression on the supporters of the world wide activities of Global Witness. It will rather bring embarrassing questions, asking to explain how an embassy of the Kingdom of Cambodia can act in such a non-professional way.

In Cambodia today, to make such a public statement, might this lead to a court case for disinformation and defamation.

Again: this is not first of all a question about the person who wrote this letter. It is a question in which way, in the diplomatic service where such a letter was written, responsibility is exercised – not only personally by oneself and for oneself – but in a way that one institution, or one part of the institution, has to submit itself to another institution, to clarify what is acceptable, and what is not, for the Kingdom of Cambodia.

During the week, the question has also been raised, whether somebody from outside tries “to teach” something to Cambodia. This may happen occasionally, but it is not as important as that the field, as described by the Constitution, is kept open to exercise the freedoms of expression and opinion. The article about Mr. Vann Molyvann, who has shaped the image of Phnom Penh and some other places in the contry, is such an example. In spite of his historical role and his achievements, he felt compelled to resign, when his professional judgment as an architect and as a long term protector of Khmer traditional culture was overruled for shot term economic gain. To listen to him is worth while. Not only because this previous warnings about the over-use of ground water in the Angkor area have now – finally – been seen as a real problem which may lead to the collapse of some of the old temples – similar to the destruction of more modern, but historical buildings in Phnom Penh and other cities, that are being destroyed and replaced by modern business buildings, for economic gain.

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