*Editorial*

To Trust the Law Means to Trust that the Law is not only Written, but that It Is Implemented – Sunday, 29.8.2010

Posted on 30 August 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 679 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 679

Important Announcement

Would you please mouse-click, further up on this page here, on About The Mirror to read information about changes planned to be implemented, starting from 1 September 2010.

Thanks,

Norbert Klein
Editor of The Mirror

Social stability depends on a situation where the citizens trust that the law is implemented. Not every time when somebody thinks to be treated unjustly this is also true. But the fact that every week there are several reports of demonstrations of groups of people, in different parts of the country, who feel they are suffering injustice – mostly related to land use and land rights – should be a sign of alarm. Social stability can be enforced for some time, but that is different from social stability based on peace and justice.

In 2002, the Prime Minister had said in his opening speech to the Consultative Group Meeting between representatives of the Cambodian Government and representatives of cooperating countries and international institutions:

“We are conscious that corruption in the public machinery, be it judiciary or administrative or any other, increases transaction costs for everyone and reduces predictability in law enforcement and implementation of government’s policies… The government believes that enactment of adequate laws and regulations to prevent and punish corruption is crucial for addressing this problem.”

And in December 2005 he warned that if illegal land seizures were not brought under control, they could lead to a farmers’ revolution.

Are these words of the Prime Minister out of date?

Seeing that during many of present demonstrations people carrying pictures of the Prime Minister and the First Lady shows that many people still have hope in interventions by the Prime Minister to provide justice – even when they have lost confidence that the normal process of the courts will achieve this goal.

Violations of the law happen regularly and massively, as claimed in the Cambodian press, and this is also confirmed by high ranking officials of the government. Just to quote some examples from the current week reported in The Mirror:

  • Contraband Is Massively Imported while Members of the Authorities Are Collecting Colossal Amounts of Money
  • Prime Minister Hun Sen Had Often Warned against It, but Frequently Heads of Some Institutions and Units Continue to Nominate Their Children’s Spouses or Other Relatives to Take Their Positions When They Retire
  • Tax Officers Who Collect Excessive Amounts of Money from Road Tax Payments Face Dismissal [so this is happening]
  • Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Order to Intercept Forestry Crimes Is No Longer Followed [recently, there is more illegal wood transported]
  • Disabled Veterans and Retiring Civil Servants Complained about Difficulties to Get Their Salaries [as they were told to wait from day to day]

Not all press reports are verified – but if there are repeatedly reports about the same kind of violations, one would expect concerned statements from the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers, explaining to the public what the authorities are doing to check what is going on to rectify what is wrong.

It is surprising that, instead, the spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Tith Sothea, when requested to look into problems in the way society is operating in spite of the regulations of the Constitution of 1993, made appeasing statements. He said that the government always rules the country following the law, adding, “If the opposition party wants further reforms beyond this, it has to wait until it wins the elections.” Many people who are convinced they suffer injustice do not want to see a complete political change, they just want to see that the laws and the Constitution of 1993 are really implemented.

When the 2010 report of Amnesty International drew the attention to the plight of thousands of Cambodian citizens suffering from forced relocations – in case of Group 78 in the Tonle Basak commune and other cases – the same spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers accused Amnesty International not to have studied the actual situation. Even accusations were made that such reports about the plight of Cambodian people asking for justice are only written to gain money for the writers. One might expect that the spokesperson would rather elaborate what the government is doing to help the people who have lost their homes, where they had had their livelihood – though poor – established for many years.

Will the Minister of Justice also be accused of “not to have studied the actual situation” for blaming the court system of not functioning according to the law, and therefore not delivering justice:

  • The Ministry of Justice Released a Letter to Warn Judges and Prosecutors Who Read Newspapers during Hearings and Assign Clerks to Assume Their Responsibility Instead

When a Delegation of the European Parliament recently visited Cambodia to study the medical sector, they observed the gap between what the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says, and the realities they met. The Mirror carried repeatedly reports about sick people who could not get proper attention in hospitals if they were not able to pay first.

The public is not so much interested in claims by the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers that everything is all right. It would rather be interesting to read more about what measure are taken or planned to bridge the gap between the requirements of the Constitution – from which we quote here – than to be referred to a possible change by electoral vote, if the people want to see the Constitution implemented.

Some related quotes from the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia – always interesting and important reading:

  • Article 72: The health of the people shall be guaranteed. The State shall give full consideration to disease prevention and medical treatment. Poor citizens shall receive free medical consultation in public hospitals, infirmaries and maternities.
  • Article 74: The State shall assist the disabled and the families of combatants who sacrificed their lives for the nation.

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Disregarding or Facing Agreements in the Press? – Sunday, 22.8.2010

Posted on 23 August 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 678 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 678

The Mirror was created to mirror the Khmer language press – that is to focus on important dynamics in society, as they are reflected in the press. That includes also to observe when there seem to be discrepancies between different streams of reporting. And it includes also to observe what seems not to be reported in the Khmer language press, though one would expect it.

Monitoring what is going on includes also to observe the reaction to one’s own publication. The main website of The Mirror by now gets up to 10,000 visits per month (it started in January 2007 with zero – replacing the former edition printed on paper).

While observing this wide interest with satisfaction, it is also disappointing to see that some important pieces of information, related to the conflicts with Thailand, are regularly not reported in the Khmer press. If this impression is wrong, we would appreciate to be informed which publications and public documents in the Khmer press we missed. The Mirror does not have access to confidential information; what we use and quote is publicly available, especially on the Internet.

In response to careful, detailed documentations, where we asked for specific responses, if our documentation is deficient, so that we can correct and improve it, there was either no response – and the public debate continues as if it were not missing some important points – or I get mail saying just “You are completely wrong!” I do not mind to get such mail, if it points to where I am wrong – I appreciate corrections.

Therefore I am repeating here some essential points, and I will do so until they are receiving proper attention in the present situation of tensions.

I was utterly surprised, talking recently to a friend who is a regular reader: when I mentioned some of the facts which had been on The Mirror repeatedly, he had obviously missed them. He thought the controversies about the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage list were related to Thailand referring to maps drawn by Thailand, and therefore Thailand was denying that the whole area around the Temple of Preah Vihear was designated a World Heritage Site.

The contrary is true, according to the documents. Emphasis in the following sections is added during editing.

For Preah Vihear

From the Cambodian 2008 submission document, THE TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR – Proposed for the inscription on the World Heritage List (UNESCO), Edited by the Council of Ministers, PHNOM PENH, JUNE 2008:

On 6 May 2008 His Excellency Mr. SOK An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, welcomed his Excellency Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand… The meeting was conducted in a fruitful and constructive atmosphere to discuss ways and means of strengthening the neighborly cooperation for a further reach for long lasting cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand… The Kingdom of Cambodia strongly stresses that the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear is without prejudice to the demarcation work of the Cambodian-Thai Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) between Cambodia and Thailand; and the zoning (“Zonage” in French) stipulated in the document submitted by Cambodia to UNESCO shall not be considered as boundary line.

And finally, during a meeting in Paris (France) on 22 May 2008 between a Cambodian delegation led by His Excellency Mr. SOK An,…The Kingdom of Thailand reconfirmed its support for the Heritage Committee to be held in Quebec, Canada in July 2008. For its part, the Kingdom of Cambodia, in a spirit of goodwill and conciliation, accepted to inscribe the Temple of Preah Vihear on the List of the World Heritage, at this stage, without a buffer zone on the north and west of the Temple.

On 18 June 2008, a Joint Communique was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, including a map presented and signed by Mr. Var Kim Hong, the Head of the Cambodian Border Committee, which was – as far as we know – never presented in the media in Cambodia (again – any correction of this information is welcome), but it was repeatedly in The Mirror, including the Cambodian proposed map for the listing, the last time here. The text says the following:

1. The Kingdom of Thailand supports the inscription, at the 32th session of the World Heritage Committee (Québec, Canada, July 2008), of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List proposed by the Kingdom of Cambodia, the perimeter of which is identified as N. 1 in the map prepared by the Cambodian authorities and herewith attached. The map also includes, identified as N.2, a buffer zone to the East and South of the Temple.

2. In the spirit of goodwill and conciliation, the Kingdom of Cambodia accepts that the Temple of Preah Vihear be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple.

3. The map mentioned in paragraph 1 above shall supersede the maps concerning and including the “Schéma Directeur pour le Zonage de Preah Vihear” as well as all the graphic references indicating the “core zone” and other zoning (zonage) of the Temple of Preah Vihear site in Cambodia’s nomination file;..”

This is the last public map, a Cambodian map, which was to “supersede” – that is: to replace – the formerly used Cambodian maps.

As a consequence, this was decided:

The World Heritage Committee,

9. Notes that the property proposed for inscription is reduced and comprises only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves;…

14. Requests the State Party of Cambodia, in collaboration with UNESCO, to convene an international coordinating committee for the safeguarding and development of the property no later than February 2009, inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand and not more than seven other appropriate international partners,…

15. Requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2009, the following documents: c) Confirmation that the management zone for the property will include the inscribed property and buffer zone identified in the RGPP [“revised graphic plan of the property”]; d) progress report on the preparation of the Management Plan)

All these points were to be implemented after convening this international coordinating committee, inviting the Government of Thailand and others, to work together and to present their results.

Questions:

– Why is the discussion in the Khmer media not referring to the official documents about the listing of the Temple of Preah Vihear, clearly limited in nature: “only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves.” This is not based on a map unilaterally drawn by Thailand, but it relates to what the Cambodian side had officially brought to the World Heritage Committee. – There were even statements from people in official positions saying: “There is nothing to be discussed with Thailand.”

– Why are the Khmer media disregarding that there were – from the beginning – the following requests by the World Heritage Committee: “to convene an international coordinating committee… inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand… [to provide the expected results] – a) a provisional map providing additional details of the inscribed property and a map delineating the buffer zone…” It has never been reported in the press that the Cambodian Government did invite the Thai Government according to this request by the World Heritage Committee. – There were even statements from people in official positions saying: “There are no buffer zones.”

Reading the documents, it seems that Thailand is not insisting on some unilaterally drawn Thai maps, but looks forward that the documented decisions of the World Heritage Committee be implemented.

For the Border

This is a different legal issue from the World Heritage Listing (though, of course, related).

In order to demarcate the border between the two countries, a Memorandum of Understanding “on the Survey and Demarcation of Land Boundary” was concluded between the two countries in June 2000, long before the Preah Vihear World Heritage Listing was on the agenda of the relevant UNESCO committee. This Memorandum is related to the whole stretch of the border. That the whole length of the approximately 800 km border is to be demarcated shows that both sides agreed that this is not yet done – there is not yet mutually agreed border. Both sides agreed on this – otherwise they would not have signed this joint agreement.

While there is frequent reference to this Memorandum of Understanding from 2000 in the Khmer press, it was quite difficult to find it in Cambodia, also consulting with several persons from the media did not help. One e-mail request to a friend in Thailand immediately provided a source on the Internet.

But there is a noteworthy difference in the handling of the related task: While in Thailand, related government officials and agencies are accountable to the Thai National Assembly about what they do related to the border – the executive is monitored by the legislative – we are not aware that either the Cambodian National Assembly nor the Khmer press have requested similar information to monitor the activities of the Cambodian government officials and agencies involved. The different legal arrangements under the different constitutions of both countries result in different procedures.

Shortly after Prime Minister Hun Sen had made his conciliatory declaration about a win-win solution by mutual dialogue without a winner and a loser, several statements from various other sectors of the government were released, strongly blaming Thailand and calling for multilateral negotiations. The Prime Minister added his voice – but more recent news say that there still may be a bilateral meeting between the two prime ministers soon in Brussels at an ASEN meeting.

Whatever the future will bring in terms of bilateral or multilateral meetings – the written submissions and the documented decisions will have to be faced. To continue to disregard them can hardly bring the solution where both sides win, the goal that Prime Minister Hun Sen has seen as important for all.

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Words Can Reveal or Obscure – Sunday, 15.8.2010

Posted on 16 August 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 677 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 677

On Thursday, 12 August 2010, The Cambodia Daily had a headline that said:

Gov’t Refutes Court Order on Land Dispute

And in the text this is explained as follows:

Ratanakiri Provincial Court has ordered the province’s largest rubber company to temporarily stop operations…

But an official at the Ministry of Agriculture said that the order should not be carried out, as it would harm government revenues coming from the rubber sector.

“The injunction cannot be implemented because it is on state land,” Ly Phalla, director general of the Ministry of Agriculture’s rubber department said yesterday.

Is this acceptable? When some personal interest is negatively affected by a court order favoring an opposing side, it is understandable that an individual does not want to follow a court order. But a court order has to be obeyed anyway in a country under a Constitution like the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodian. Or an appeal to a higher court can be made.

Is this suggestion by a high ranking official at a ministry, calling not to obey a court order, acceptable? If it is not acceptable, it would be interesting to read the sanctions which were taken against such a position.

But it is not surprising, then, that there was also a report in The Mirror of Thursday, 12.8.2010 – see details there – saying:

The report by the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, Mr. Lim Kean Hor, does not relate to only one case, but he says that 45 illegally built reservoirs were already destroyed since 25 June 2010, but 239 illegal reservoirs which still are to be demolished, are located in the six provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Thom, Pursat, and Siem Reap. So it is a widespread fact, in spite of the criticism since many months, and an order by the Prime Minister in April 2010.

The Minister of Water Resources said he is just following the Prime Minister’s order, and “We reported and sent the name list of those people to Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen to consider and to decide an appropriate measure.” The list names some district governors and commune chiefs, suspected to be involved in collusion to protect illegal reservoirs which are ruining the Tonle Sap lake. Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhayly took a similar position: “We must cooperate to protect and conserve the Tonle Sap lake and engage in the conservation for the development of eco-tourism…. The Cambodian People’s Party must acknowledge what we did, because party officials such as district governors and commune chiefs signed on documents to allow the creation of those illegal reservoirs.” – “He will hold all responsibilities for everything if there are any of subordinate officials taking bribes and trying to prevent these newly-built basins from being destroyed by the Government’s local authorities,” he added.

This is quite different from the call from another Ministry’s department director. It is obvious where proper responsibility is taken to act, and where it is difficult to understand what is said by others in high positions.

And one may ponder what is more surprising – that a department director of a ministry can publicly call to disregard a court order, or that a ministers really does what has to be done, in spite of the fact that it will create displeasure among members of the same party, as it includes a public admission that the Cambodian People’s Party must acknowledge what was done wrong. Such admission clears the way to a new, and better start.

= = =

In quite a different context, the question of taking responsibility for words spoken by persons with public responsibility has also to be addressed.

Even as it is complex and difficult to navigate, The Mirror tries to mirror it – mirroring what is in the media; and this may not in all cases correctly reflect reality. But it all relates to the painful tensions between Cambodia and Thailand.

On 4.7.2010, The Mirror carried reports about allegations in the Thai press that two Thai citizens, supposed to have been involved in planting a bomb in Bangkok, fled to Cambodia. The Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers rejected such reports, calling on the Thai government to end what it described as a “malicious campaign to fault Cambodia…” The Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mr. Koy Kuong said that these allegations were “stupid.” – “Cambodia completely denies this kind of provocative information.” – “They raise incorrect information. When Thailand has problems, they blame Cambodia.” – “If Thailand denies that they have accused Cambodia, then they should make corrections in all their media that have published such false information,” he said. “I think this is a play from the Thai government officials, who speak out without taking responsibility for their comments.”

On 5.7.2010, one day later, The Mirror had a headline “Cambodia Will Hand Over Two Terrorist Suspects to Thai Embassy Officials on Monday” – they were arrested in Siem Reap. – Thai government officials did not have to apologize for a “malicious campaign” of “provocative information” and to correct wrong, “stupid” allegations, and they did not have to make corrections in all their media. While Thai government officials had been accused by their Cambodian counterparts of speaking out without taking responsibility for their comments. We are not aware that an apology for the accusations against the Thai side was published in all Cambodian media, that had carried the – now proved groundless – accusations against the related Thai voices.

Now again the Thai government is again urged by representatives of the Cambodian government to control their media better.

A press report from Thailand has been taken as the basis for a Cambodian appeal to the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, stating that the Thai Prime Minister’s words imply a violation of the UN charter – but the Thai Prime Minister claims that he was “misquoted, taken out of context and misunderstood” in what he had said in relation to the use of military force in border disputes. The Cambodian government sees this, on the other hand, as a Thai effort to blame the media, while actually continuing a Thai “toxic” campaign to confuse the public. And the Cambodian side retorts, in this war of words, that the Thai government should control its press better, and to publish immediately corrections, if necessary.

A similar need to correct supposedly problematic reports by the press was felt by the Cambodian side already once in February 2010. The international press had reported that the Cambodian Prime Minister had cursed his Thai counterpart:

“If you don’t tell the truth about Thai troops invading Cambodia, let magic objects break your neck, may you be shot, be hit by a car, may you be shocked by electricity or (may you be shot) by misfired guns.”

“Will Abhisit swear on having all his family members killed and having them (perish) in a plane crash, if (he still claims) that Thai troops did not invade Cambodia?”

In order to clarify the situation, the Cambodian Minister of Information, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, appealed to the media on 15.2.2010 to report correctly, saying that the Cambodian Prime Minister did not “curse” Mr. Abhisit, but just asked to swear that Thai troops did not invade Cambodia. “In the past, there are a lot of misunderstandings. So, I would kindly ask you to correct those words. Samdech (Hun Sen) did not curse, Samdech only ask Abhisit to swear whether Thai troops invaded Cambodia or not. If they didn’t invade Cambodia, just swear.”

Considering that most of the indirect exchanges over the press are – in addition to the difficult situation – mostly burdened by translations, from Thai to English, and from Khmer to English, and then re-translated again in the respective local media; there is enough room for emotional interpretation and misunderstanding.

“The Thai Prime Minister declared again that “Thailand is committed to solve the border dispute peacefully under the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding,” and the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An was quoted in the issue of Rasmei Kampuchea of 8-9.8.2010 also to appeal to adhere to this same Memorandum of Understanding.

But while the Cambodian Prime Minister also repeated this hope for a peaceful solution, he also warned last week again that the border tension could lead to “bloodshed,” a wording similar to his statement from October 2008, when the BBC reported that the Cambodia Prime Minster had threatened “all-out war, to turn the area around the disputed Preah Vihear temple into a ‘zone of death’.”

Is there any other way to what the Cambodian Prime Minister himself had said recently, as The Mirror reported:

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Preah Vihear – Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Solution: “Dialogue, No Winning or Losing” – Sunday, 8.8.2010

Posted on 8 August 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 676 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 676

When The Mirror presented, as last Sunday’s issue, a series of quotes and excerpts from publicly available documents it was done with the hope that some quick negative conclusions – not based on available texts, either disregarding, or even contradicting them – can be avoided.

Some steps in time are clear and not contested, especially the 1962 decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, stating that it …FINDS THAT THE TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR IS SITUATED IN TERRITORY UNDER THE SOVEREIGNTY OF CAMBODIA.

Some other steps on the way are less well known widely, while they were also called into memory, for example some principles on which the World Heritage List is operated, as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. It is not about national interests, but about culture as “part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.” The convention makes it clear that decisions about cultural world heritage do not make any judgment on the sovereignty and territory of States:

Whilst fully respecting the sovereignty of the States on whose territory the cultural and natural heritage… is situated, and without prejudice to property right provided by national legislation, the States Parties to this Convention recognize that such heritage constitutes a world heritage for whose protection it is the duty of the international community as a whole to co-operate. (Article 6.1).

The inclusion of a property situated in a territory, sovereignty or jurisdiction over which is claimed by more than one State, shall in no way prejudice the rights of the parties to the dispute. (Article 11.3).

The UNESCO World Heritage Convention is concerned about World Heritage Sites, “part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole,” not about the solution of border problems.

There are rules and decisions of the World Heritage Committee, and there are declarations on the way to the decision of 2008 when the Temple of Preah Vihear was listed as a World Heritage Site, together with decisions how to elaborate its management. Though a management plan, prepared by the Cambodian side, is to be discussed only by the next meeting of the World Heritage Committee in 2011, statements by Prime Minister Hun Sen, quoted in the Cambodia Daily on 5 August 2010, cleared the way into the future:


“Mr. Hun Sen said yesterday that dialogue was the way forward for the two countries. ‘We will use dialogue to solve the rest of the problem,’ he said. ‘I don’t want winning or losing – it is better that we have the win together in solving the problem.’”

Actually, there are two separate – but related – problems:

One problem is concerned with the management plan for Preah Vihear requested by the World Heritage Committee with its 2008 decision to list the Temple of Preah Vihear, where it:

Notes that the property proposed for inscription is reduced and comprises only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves;
Encourages Cambodia to collaborate with Thailand for safeguarding the value of the property, in view of the fact that peoples of the surrounding region have long treasured the Temple of Preah Vihear,..
Requests the State Party of Cambodia, in collaboration with UNESCO, to convene an international coordinating committee for the safeguarding and development of the property no later than February 2009, inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand and not more than seven other appropriate international partners, to examine general policy matters relating to the safeguarding of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in conformity with international conservation standards…

The other problem is related to the demarcation of the Cambodian-Thai border, for which both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2000. The Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted on 8 August 2010, to have said that “Thailand has no intention of revoking the border Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cambodia inked in 2000” – he said so in response to a “demonstration in the [Thai] capital yesterday demanding the Thai government to cancel the Memorandum of Understanding.” The same report says that “under the Memorandum of Understanding, Cambodia and Thailand need to consult each other if they want to carry out any activities in the disputed 4.6 sq km territory claimed by both countries near the Preah Vihear Temple.” It is not clear whether this Memorandum was published in the media in Cambodia – only the fact of its existence, not its content, has been referenced regularly in the press.

That these border problems also need to be addressed, was obviously agreed by both sides, as it is stated in the large Cambodian 2008 Submission Document, separating the two issues: the World Heritage inscription – and the border problems:

On 6 May 2008 His Excellency Mr. SOK An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, welcomed his Excellency Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand accompanied by a Thai delegation during their visit to Phnom Penh. The Kingdom of Cambodia strongly stresses that the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear is without prejudice to the demarcation work of the Cambodian-Thai Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) between Cambodia and Thailand; and the zoning (“Zonage” in French) stipulated in the document submitted by Cambodia to UNESCO shall not be considered as boundary line.

The Kingdom of Thailand reconfirmed its support of the Heritage Committee to be held in Quebec, Canada in July 2008. For it part, the Kingdom of Cambodia, in a spirit of goodwill and conciliation, accepted to inscribe the Temple of Preah Vihear on the List of the World Heritage, at this stage, without a buffer zone on the north and west of the Temple

The proposals of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has also in other situations worked successful for win-win results, solving complex problems, provide a clear way towards a solution for both problem, based on the existing common agreements.

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Preah Vihear – Who Said What and Why – Sunday, 1.8.2010

Posted on 4 August 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 675 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 675

When the media in both countries – Cambodia and Thailand – quote various sources to make conflicting claims, it is again an occasion to try to mirror these sources and leave it to our readers to draw their conclusions.

As ever, such a statement is always combined with the invitation to point out if the sources we quote are misquoted, or if there is an important reference missing. But it is not convincing to accuse the writer of this documentation simply to be wrong without showing substantive evidence, as happens sometimes. What follows is all based on publicly available documents. But as this case is complex, the following text is long; maybe a lot of confusion comes from not reading the texts. The pieces presented here were selected in the hope that some quick negative conclusions – not based on available texts, either disregarding, or even contradicting them – can be clarified. All this is written, to quote words from the final agreements negotiated by Senior Minister Sok An with representatives of Thailand and UNESCO before the decisive meeting of the World Heritage Committee in July 2008 – in a spirit of friendship and cooperation, in the spirit of goodwill and conciliation – as it is stated in the final joint document before the 2008 decisions.

The Early History

Going back in history is often necessary to clarify facts. But their meaning may have changed over time. As a German, I know that there was a time when the Germans considered that Karl der Grosse, crowned in the year 800 – not long before the temple of Preah Vihear was started to be built – is at the beginning of our German history, while also the French considered Charlemagne as their’s. Actually, at his time, he ruled over large parts of western and central Europe, not over France or Germany as they exist now. But since the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman – a French with a good German name – took the initiative in 1950 to create again common political entities in Europe – the European Union – we have almost forgotten the old historical and emotional divides.

There is a long pre-history for the present history of the Preah Vihear conflicts. But for the discussion of the present situation, it may be enough to start in 1962, when the International Court of Justice in The Hague came to the conclusion that it …FINDS THAT THE TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR IS SITUATED IN TERRITORY UNDER THE SOVEREIGNTY OF CAMBODIA.

Cambodian comments often go further back. Maybe this is not necessary, as the 1962 court ruling is not questioned by the political leadership of the governments of both sides, in spite of the fact that this is often disregarded or denied.

It is not surprising that some people, even some people with a wide group of supporters, have taken different positions. The present government of Thailand accepts the 1962 verdict. Whoever doubts this, should provide quotable evidence. Last week, after a group of Thai nationalists had demonstrated in front of the UNESCO office in Bangkok on 27.7.2010, rejecting any discussion of the status of Preah Vihear by the World Heritage Committee, the Thai prime minister invited representatives of the People’s Alliance for Democracy – PAD, widely overlapping in membership with the “Yellow-Shirts” – to clarify where he does not agree, and where he agrees with them. “The PAD wanted an end to the Thai-Cambodia Memorandum of Understanding, because it ‘turned a Thai territory into a disputed territory.’ But Abhisit thought that the MOU turned a territory that Cambodia thought to belong to them, to become a disputed territory. The PAD wanted the government to boycott the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil, because attending the meeting would signify that Thailand accepted the listing of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site, and only disagreed with the temple’s management plan. But for the Thai prime minister, it is exactly the present management plan which he did not want to see accepted.

To disregard this point is obviously confusing, not clarifying, the state of affairs.

Or is it this way of interpreting the MOU – the Joint Communique – assumed to by the Thai prime minister’s one, also a reason why the media in Cambodia never published the Joint Communique (details further down), neither in Khmer nor in English? It is difficult to understand why such an important document, including a new Cambodian draws map, which was discussed in parliament in Thailand, was not – at that time or later – presented also to the Cambodian public.

The Preparations toward the Listing of the Temple of Preah Vihear

The inscription into the World Heritage List was first proposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen to the UNESCO Director General on 10 October 2001. The necessary detailed documentation was submitted on 20 January 2006. The Cambodian Nomination File was considered by the next session of the World Heritage committee, meeting from 23 June to 2 July 2007 in Christchurch/New Zealand.

Some of the detailed discussions and decisions of the World Heritage Committee may be surprising, as they are very practically oriented, according to the purpose of the World Heritage List, as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. It is not about national interests, but about culture as “part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.”

Whilst fully respecting the sovereignty of the States on whose territory the cultural and natural heritage… is situated, and without prejudice to property right provided by national legislation, the States Parties to this Convention recognize that such heritage constitutes a world heritage for whose protection it is the duty of the international community as a whole to co-operate. (Article 6.1).

The inclusion of a property situated in a territory, sovereignty or jurisdiction over which is claimed by more than one State, shall in no way prejudice the rights of the parties to the dispute. (Article 11.3).

Therefore the Draft Summary Record of the decisions from the 2007 meeting show that the concerns of the World Heritage Committee are of an eminently practical nature, as the purpose of any listings is to make the cultural heritage of the world easily accessible. The notes from the Committee show this clearly:

Having taken note of the willingness to collaborate for the safeguarding of the property of the Sacred Temple of Preah Vihear, expressed by the States Parties of Cambodia and Thailand in the framework of the meetings of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand, Requests the State Party of Cambodia to implement, in close co-operation with the neighboring Government of Thailand, detailed arrangements for the conservation of the property, based on the principles expressed by the two States Parties at the 5th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand, especially in respect of:

a) Joint management;
b) The continued open border;
c) Mine clearance;
d) Protection of the natural forest areas surrounding the property, especially of small areas where burning has been recently observed on the Cambodian territory.

The formal decision from 2007 states not details, but simply the procedure to be followed:


The State Party of Cambodia and the State Party of Thailand are in full agreement that the Sacred Site of the Temple of Preah Vihear has Outstanding Universal Value and must be inscribed on the World Heritage List as soon as possible.
Accordingly, Cambodia and Thailand agree that Cambodia will propose the site for formal inscription on the World Heritage List at the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee in 2008 with the active support of Thailand…
The World Heritage Committee, further requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit a progress report to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2008.

As a result of the understanding achieved at the 2007 meeting, preparations for 2008 started, marked by a number of joint Cambodian-Thai agreements and declarations. They are all quoted in the very large 2008 Submission Document:





THE TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR
Proposed for the inscription on the World Heritage List (UNESCO)

Edited by the Council of Ministers

PHNOM PENH
JUNE 2008

This document, presented to the public in the name of the Council of Ministers, in English (later, before the World Heritage Committee Meeting, it was also made available in Arab, French, and Spanish), presents the positive common experiences on the way to the listing of the Temple of Preah Vihear, saying:

In a spirit of friendship, neighborliness and mutual understanding between the two countries, the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand have been working together in recent months to strengthen dialogue and consultation in a number of areas of mutual interests. These fruitful developments focus in particular on inscribing the TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR on the World Heritage List in 2008. Thailand has confirmed its decision, as expressed at the 31st Session of the World Heritage Committee held in Christchurch (New Zealand, 23 June to 2 July 2007), to support the inscription of the Sacred Site of the Temple of Preah Vihear.

These confirmations were made:

1

Firstly, by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, His Excellency Mr. Samak Sundaravej, on the occasion of his visit to Phnom Penh on 3 and 4 March 2008 at the invitation of His Excellency Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo HUN Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia

2

On 6 May 2008 His Excellency Mr. SOK An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, welcomed his Excellency Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand accompanied by a Thai delegation during their visit to Phnom Penh. The Kingdom of Cambodia strongly stresses that the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear is without prejudice to the demarcation work of the Cambodian-Thai Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) between Cambodia and Thailand; and the zoning (“Zonage” in French) stipulated in the document submitted by Cambodia to UNESCO shall not be considered as boundary line.

3

And finally, during a meeting in Paris (France) on 22 May 2008 between a Cambodian delegation led by His Excellency Mr. SOK An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers and a Thai Delegation led by His Excellency Mr. Noppadon Pattama, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand in the presence of a number of UNESCO eminent members, led by Her Excellency the Deputy Director General of UNESCO for Culture, Mrs. Françoise RIVIERE. The Kingdom of Thailand reconfirmed its support Heritage Committee to be held in Quebec, Canada in July 2008. For it part, the Kingdom of Cambodia, in a spirit of goodwill and conciliation, accepted to inscribe the Temple of Preah Vihear on the List of the World Heritage, at this stage, without a buffer zone on the north and west of the Temple

This wording became part of the JOINT COMMUNIQUE of 18 June 2008, a joint Cambodian-Thai-UNESCO declaration, the last common step towards the World Heritage Committee meeting on 8 July 2008.






JOINT COMMUNIQUE

On 22 May 2008, a meeting took place between H.E. Mr. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia and H.E. Mr. Noppadon Pattama, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, to continue their discussion regarding the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List. The meeting was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in the presence of Mrs. Françoise Rivière, Assistant Director General for Culture of UNESCO, Ambassador Francesco Caruso, Mr. Azedine Beschaouch, Mrs. Paola Leoncini Bartoli and Mr. Giovanni Boccardi. The meeting was held in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. During the meeting both sides agreed as follows:


  1. The Kingdom of Thailand supports the inscription, at the 32th session of the World Heritage Committee (Quebec, Canada, July 2008), of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List proposed by the Kingdom of Cambodia, the perimeter of which is identified as N. 1 in the map prepared by the Cambodian authorities and herewith attached. The map also includes, identified as N.2, a buffer zone to the East and South of the Temple.
  2. In the spirit of goodwill and conciliation, the Kingdom of Cambodia accepts that the Temple of Preah Vihear be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple.
  3. The map mentioned in paragraph 1 above shall supersede the maps concerning and including the “Schema Directeur pour le Zonage de Preah Vihear” as well as all the graphic references indicating the “core zone” and other zoning (zonage) of the Temple of Preah Vihear site in Cambodia’s nomination file;
  4. Pending the results of the work of the Joint Commission for Land Boundary (JBC) concerning the northern and western areas surrounding the Temple of Preah Vihear, which are identified as N. 3 in the map mentioned in paragraph 1 above, the management plan of these areas will be prepared in a concerted manner between the Cambodian and Thai authorities in conformity with the international conservation standards with a view to maintain the outstanding universal value of the property. Such management plan will be included in the final management plan for the Temple and its surrounding areas to be submitted to the World Heritage Center by 1st February 2010 for the consideration of the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;
  5. The inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List shall be without prejudice to the rights of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand on the demarcation works of the Joint Commission for Land Boundary (JBC) of the two countries; 6. The Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand express their profound appreciation to the Director-General of UNESCO, H.E. Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, for his kind assistance in facilitating the process towards the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List.

Phnom Penh, 18 June 2008               Bangkok, 18 June 2008

For the Royal Government For the Government of the Kingdom

of Cambodia, of Thailand, (signed) (signed) Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers Paris, 18 June 2008 Representative of the UNESCO (signed) Assistant Director-General for Culture



Cambodian Joint Communique Map



There had been some final problems: The Cambodian side, represented by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Senior Minister in Charge of Border Affairs Var Kimhong – “in the spirit of goodwill and conciliation” – negotiated and made incisive decisions (having the former Cambodian map as well as graphic references, referring to the 1962 decisions “superseded” by the new Cambodian side map presented here, declaring that Cambodia “accepts that the Temple of Preah Vihear be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple” – all this without much discussion in the Cambodian public. On the other side, however, the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs was instructed by the Constitutional Court of Thailand that the government would need, for such decision, the authorization by the Thai parliament.

In spite of these last minute reservations, the World Heritage Committee declared the Temple of Preah Vihear a World Heritage site. Instead of peaceful continued cooperation, confrontation and violence followed.

As far as we were able to monitor the Khmer media, the Joint Communique, and the appended map, were never published in the Cambodia press. Neither were the conditions published, which accompanied the listing of the Temple of Preah Vihear. The Decisions of the World Heritage Committee, meeting from 2 to 10 July 2008 in Quebec/Canada, state the following (excerpts):


“The World Heritage Committee,


  1. Recalling Decision 31 COM 8B.24, which recognized ‘that the Sacred Site of the Temple of Preah Vihear is of great international significance and has Outstanding Universal Value on the basis of criteria (i), (iii) and (iv), and agreed in principle that it should be inscribed on the World Heritage List’,

  1. Recognizing that the Joint Communique signed on 18 June 2008 by the representatives of the Governments of Cambodia and Thailand, as well as by UNESCO, including its draft which was erroneously referred to as having been signed on 22 and 23 May 2008 in the document WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add.2, must be disregarded, following the decision of the Government of Thailand to suspend the effect of the Joint Communique, pursuant to the Thai Administrative Court’s interim injunction on this issue,

  1. Notes that the property proposed for inscription is reduced and comprises only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves;

  1. Encourages Cambodia to collaborate with Thailand for safeguarding the value of the property, in view of the fact that peoples of the surrounding region have long treasured the Temple of Preah Vihear,…

  1. Inscribes the Temple of Preah Vihear, Cambodia, on the World Heritage List…

  1. Requests the State Party of Cambodia, in collaboration with UNESCO, to convene an international coordinating committee for the safeguarding and development of the property no later than February 2009, inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand and not more than seven other appropriate international partners, to examine general policy matters relating to the safeguarding of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in conformity with international conservation standards;

  1. Requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2009, the following documents:

a) a provisional map providing additional details of the inscribed property and a map delineating the buffer zone identified in the RGPP;
b) updated Nomination dossier to reflect the changes made to the perimeter of the property
c) Confirmation that the management zone for the property will include the inscribed property and buffer zone identified in the RGPP;
d) progress report on the preparation of the Management Plan.

These requirements – to convene an international coordinating committee, to cooperate with the Thai government, to provide a map delineating the buffer zone identified in the Cambodian government – were, according to our monitoring of the press in Cambodia, never published, nor any information about the content of reports submitted by the Cambodian side. Quite to the contrary, and surprisingly, a highly placed spokesperson at the Cambodian Council of Ministers, distanced himself from the results achieved by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, claiming that “there is no buffer zone,” and ‘there is nothing to be negotiated with Thailand.”



After a year of tensions, confrontations, and occasional fighting, the World Heritage Committee, meeting in Sevilla/Spain from 22 June to 30 June 2009, could not do much more than the following; it

Requests the State Party [of Cambodia] to submit to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2010, a report on the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations by the Committee in its Decision 32 COM 8B.102 [2008 in Quebec/Canada], for the examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.” The decision 32 COM 8B.102 is the one which requests, as stated above, “to convene an international coordinating committee… inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand and not more than seven other appropriate international partners…

In spite of these clear requests by the World Heritage Committee for cooperation, the Thai government declared, even some days before the recent meeting in Brazil, that they had not received any invitation to cooperate, nor information about the Cambodian submission. As a result, representatives of the Thai government, up to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, stated that Thailand could not accept a decision about a management plan, though Thailand would have had to be involved in its consideration, if previous recommendations of the World Heritage Committee would have been implemented.



On the other hand, there were various statements from the Cambodian side – quite different from the spirit of friendship and conciliation, which had been regularly invoked in former joint statements. The following is published especially because it is so different from the attitude in which Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Minister of the Council of Ministers, had brought forward the process toward the listing of Preah Vihear in 2008. Under the date 29.6.2010, the Spokesman & Deputy Director, Office of the Council of Ministers’ Press Department, distributed an opinion text widely to many members of the media, written by Pen Ngoeun, Advisor to the Office of the Council of Ministers, member of the Advisory Board of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PRU) of the Office of the Council of Ministers – with the following qualifying note: “This article represents only the personal opinion of the writer, and does not reflect under any shape and form the opinion of the PRU nor that of the Office of the Council of Ministers. Considering the way of its distribution and the pubic positions of the author and of the person who distributed the text, and its timing, it seem to be worth while to quote some sections from it:



29 June 2010


OPINION
WILL THAILAND’S ENMITY TOWARDS CAMBODIA END:


Will it end one day, and soon enough, after 150 years of its happening? Cambodia had nothing to do with it.


Its source was the failure of Siam King Mong Kut and his ministers. Colonel F. Bernard, President of the French Commission for the delimitation of the French-Siamese border in virtue of the Convention of 13 February 1904 had made an observation about the Thais, which is worth remembered. He said: “the superiority of their self-esteem was the primary cause of their troubles and misfortune… He wrote in a book published in 1933, “L’Ecole des Diplomates, within the context of the Thai diplomacy during the reign of king Mong Kut of Thailand, the reign of King Ang Duong of Cambodia and the mission of M. de Montigny, the plenipotentiary of the French Emperor Napoleon III to the court of King Mong Kut. Colonel F. Bernard had mentioned as well that: “The ministers of Siam have had negotiated for a long time already with England and America; they have the intelligence and the ability of the Westerners, which obviously had made them to acquire that “superiority of their self-esteem” which is equated in recent times to “arrogance” and “condescension” which are the current state of mind of the government of Abhisit Vijjajeva, with “former terrorist” turned foreign minister Kasit Pyromya, and the malicious and machiavellic [deputy prime minister] Suthep Thaugsuban at his sides… In 1853 King Ang Duong of Cambodia wrote a letter to the French Emperor Napoleon III to express his friendship and solicit his support. The immediate consequence of which had been to stop the armies of Siam from marching at will into Cambodia to conquest and ravage the many provinces of Cambodia to the West and North, and to relieve Cambodia from paying tributes to Bangkok. Siam, now Thailand always acts like a hungry mad dog that missed a good piece of meat and had never stopped dreaming about it, since…

The arrogance, the condescension, and the obstinacy which cause the failure of King Mong Kut and his ministers from executing the annexation policy by annihilating Cambodia and her people create an endless nostalgia that Thailand had never allowed itself to wake up and liberate itself from the bad dream of the hungry mad dog. Therefore, Thailand’s territorial ambition on Cambodian territories has become its grand design to be executed by the government of Thailand if any of such a government wishes to have a reasonable life span. From then on, Thailand has learn, acquired, and mastered the art of distortion of the facts, dissemination of misinformation and disinformation, the art of accusation, of denial with arrogance, condescension and obstinacy… In 1954, not even a mere one year after Cambodia acquired full independence from France, Thai armed forces occupied the Temple of Preah Vihear, to be ordered out by the international will, the LaHaye ICJ Judgments of 15 June 1962. Finally, Thailand has made official, its territorial ambition on Cambodian territories in 2007 in Christchurch, New Zealand during the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee by presenting for the first time to such an important international gathering a map dressed up unilaterally and secretly by Thailand and thus laying claim on an area of 4.6 km sq. inside the Cambodian territory near the Temple of Preah Vihear, as an objection of various uncoordinated, confusing, illegitimate, and nonsense motives to the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear to the World Heritage List. Again, Thailand’s arrogance, condescension, and obstinacy were its primary troubles and misfortune. In 2008, the Temple of Preah Vihear was inscribed unanimously on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee…

And again, some sections of another opinion piece, from the same origin, distributed in the same way, on 13.7.2010:

Thailand plans to oppose a management plan for the Preah Vihear temple while overlapping territory nearby remains subject to dispute, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya says. Cambodia does not have “an overlapping territory” with Thailand. There was a claim by Thailand that uses the unilateral map in similar fashion as the Nazis (led by Hitler) and the Fascists (led by Mussolini) for the purpose sending troops to invade and occupy foreign territory.

One cannot be sure if this is an attack against Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, or whether Mr. Pen Ngoeun, though he is an Advisor to the Office of the Council of Ministers, a member of the Advisory Board of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PRU) of the Office of the Council of Ministers, does not know that the documents, elaborated with great care by the Deputy Prime Minister, spell out in detail the buffer zones, otherwise referred to as overlapping territories, and it was the Cambodian side, that presented a map to “supersede” the formerly used maps, relating to the 1962 decision of the International Court of Justice.

To make sure that Kasit does not bang his head too much against the wall from trying to come up with new innuendo, suggestion and speculation, here is a crude fact to chew: The Temple of Preah Vihear has been inscribed on the World Heritage List since 2008. Kasit need to pick up the WHC 32 COM 8B. 102 and read it… It is clear from a few sentences above, that Cambodia has implemented the requirements of the World Heritage Committee – WHC – and has conformed herself to the procedures set forth by the Committee. And NOT to leave the door wide open for speculation and mind twisting, Deputy permanent secretary for culture Somsuda Leyananija has the task to tell the truth, as to why… Let’s play the game, fair and square in conformity with the WHC rules and procedures.

It s reported that Cambodia had submitted a progress report to the World Heritage Secretariat, but two weeks before the meeting in Brazil, it had neither be distributed to the members of the committee, it had not been shared with Thailand – in spite of the recommendation by the World Heritage Committee that Cambodia should seek such cooperation – and its content had also not been made available to the public in Cambodia. None of the UNESCO and World Heritage Committee Press Releases, which describe in detail the many decisions taken recently in Brazil, make any reference to Preah Vihear. But the fact that the Cambodian report was forwarded again to next year’s meeting – similarly to what had been done also from 2009 to 2010 – is now reported in Cambodia as a big victory for Cambodia. Asked about his comment, the Thai prime minister said: “Please find out and read the resolution yourself.”

The official Cambodian side acted differently: within 4 hours, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers issued two long statements on 2.8.2010, a “Summary” about the Brazil session, mainly referencing questions of the conservation of the site without reference to any past action taken by the formerly requested joint international elaboration of plans, and some hours later a “Clarification,” stressing that “it was Cambodia who has achieved immense victory,” because the World Heritage Committee:

Takes note that the World Heritage Center has the documents submitted by the State Party;
Further welcomes the steps taken by the State Party towards the establishment of an international coordinating committee for the sustainable conservation of the Temple of Preah Vihear’
Decides to consider the documents submitted by the State Party at its 35th session in 2011.

These are the officially recorded successes. The Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers adds, however, some remarks about a Thai “intoxication campaign” against the Cambodian management plan, a campaign which “was a total debacle because Thailand had no substantive arguments.” The Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers presented its own arguments as follows:

On the contrary, the Thai intoxication campaigns’ spending of B10 millions with the dispatch of 50 delegates in order to oppose the management plan at the site of the Cambodian Temple of Preah Vihear, was a total debacle because Thailand had no substantive arguments against the World Heritage Centre Report of the two documents submitted by Cambodia. Moreover, Thailand has failed in its efforts to have the Temple inscribed by the two countries, and has failed in its efforts to have joint management of the Temple.

The Press and Quick Reaction unit of the Office of Council of Ministers notes that the signing of the Compromise Decision 34 COM, 7B.66 by Cambodia, Thailand, and witnessed by the Chairperson for the 34th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Brazil clearly affirmed the recognition by all parties concerned of the official documents concerning the Management Plan for the conservation and sustainable development at the site of the Cambodian Temple of Preah Vihear, which had never been recognized previously.

It is obvious that the intoxication campaign by the Thai Government to lure the local and international public opinion has adversely damaged its own image and credit as an old saying which goes “If you fan the flame, you blow up the fire or As you sow, so shall you reap.”

To underline further the failure of the Thai Government, it must be stressed for the benefits of the public and international opinion that it is not like what the Thai Government claimed that it had succeeded to “postpone”the Management Plan to next year. In fact, the WHC final decision did not mention either about the terms Postpone – Defer or Delay but choose to use the wording Consider which means that the documents submitted by Cambodia, namely the Progress Report on the State of Conservation and Development of Preah Vihear and its Management Plan, were officially received by WHC and will consider it at the next session.

Much information is available – what will be the next steps? One journalist suggests that “facing reality” may be the only way out, and this includeds new open, mutual talking, again “in a spirit of friendship and cooperation, in the spirit of goodwill and conciliation”

Part of the reality is also geography.

The Temple of Preah Vihear

The Temple of Preah Vihear

This picture provides a view over the Temple of Preah Vihear: 500 meters down, to the left, is the landscape of the Cambodian Province of Preah Vihear; the temple lies at a different level, high above the plain. Until mid 2008, it was easily accessible for thousands of tourists, approaching the Temple of Preah Vihear from the Thai side, on the right of the picture, from the Khao Pra Viharn National Park.

After all, a World Heritage Site is according, to the UNESCO World Heritage concept, “part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.”






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Just Deny… or Investigate and Clarify? – Sunday, 25.7.2010

Posted on 26 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 674 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 674

After the acting Asia Director of Human Rights Watch had presented a report Off the Streets: Arbitrary Detention and Other Abuses against Sex Workers in Cambodia to the press, and this was reported on 21.7.2010, on the following day of 22.7.2010 there was already another press report: “The Government Dismissed the Report of Human Rights Watch.”

As this 76-pages report is based, as it states, on more than 90 interviews and group discussions with sex workers in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Siem Reap, one wonders how a government spokesperson could dismiss such a report on the day after its public presentation – a report that contains Testimonies from sex workers from around the country. The denial cannot be based on an investigation of the details and facts claimed to be real, with names and locations of witnesses, unless there is no respect for the persons quoted, not assuming that some of the terrible experiences they describe are correct and deserve legal clarification.

The press reported from the presentation that some of these cases were claimed to have happened: “Some members of the police abuse sex workers without ever receiving any punishment, and police punch them, beat them with rattan sticks, batons, and electric shock batons. In some cases, sex workers have been raped by police while they were in detention, and all sex workers have to pay bribes, or their money was simply stolen by police.”

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says in Article 31:

“Every Khmer citizens shall be equal before the law, enjoying the same rights, freedom and fulfilling the same obligations regardless of race, color, sex, language, religious belief, political tendency, birth origin, social status, wealth or other status.”

What are the implications – under the Constitution – when statements by Cambodian citizens who claim to have been victimized and abused by police, including the allegation of regular impunity, are dismissed and not taken up by agencies which should rather care for equal justice.

Human Rights Watch did not only report their observations, they also made practical proposals, as reported in the Khmer press:

“…the report of Human Rights Watch suggests the creation of a special committee to thoroughly and independently conduct investigations on violence and the extortion of money by law enforcement officials, by security guards working in the parks, and by staff or volunteers of municipal social rehabilitation centers; this committee should have representatives from the government who are capable and respectful, as well as from the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Department of Social Affairs, UN agencies, non-government organizations, and representatives of sex workers.”

It seems that all this has now been dismissed – and the alleged impunity may continue without being investigated? – No investigation and clarified about what was wrong, and what was true and has to be punished according to the laws of the country?

On 26.7.2010 the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia – the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – will announce its first verdict, on the former head of the Tuol Sleng prison. He is the only one of the five persons facing the court who has not denied the accusations against him.

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Using Computers: Upholding Rights and Freedoms while Fighting Crime – Sunday, 18.7.2010

Posted on 21 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 673 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 673

The Ministry of Defense hopes that the use of computers will help better to cut down the names of ‘ghost soldiers’ from the salary lists of the military. This was expressed by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat, who said that the present census of all soldiers will be more accurate and thorough this year than in previous years. “It is an annual census to find out the real number of soldiers and of the children of those soldiers, and to cut out the names of soldiers who have retired or who died, or are not present anymore.” There are some traditional elements in this process, even surprising ones – if one assumes that soldiers would be known, present, and listed at their command posts: “All soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are required to show up at their command posts. The soldiers will there be asked to identify themselves by showing themselves and their ID numbers, as well as to specify the number of children they have at present in the lists… the names of soldiers who do not show up will be deleted from the salary lists of the Ministry of Defense.”

Considering the results of a similar exercise in 2008, where – according to Mr. Cheam Yeap, a member of the National Assembly from the Cambodian People’s Party – the government found 10,000 ghost soldiers and 10,000 ghost police, for whom salaries were regularly paid out (to whom?), the new findings might again bring considerable savings to the national budget.
Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat added that there is confidence that this year, the data will be accurate, because of the use of a computer system to store all documents.

The newly created Anti-Corruption Unit of the government will start with to collect about 100,000 declarations of assets, and this process is to be implemented before November 2010, “to facilitate a quick enforcement of the law.” Though the Anti-Corruption Unit is to keep all these documents, it has not been announced how this is going to happen practically. Even trusting the capacities of computer systems, it will be difficult to receive and file more than 1,000 asset declarations per day during the remaining days before November.

But the past week brought also a different reminder about the power of computer systems: Cambodian authorities began creating legislation against cyber crimes. “A workshop about the creation of legislation against cyber crimes was held on 13 July 2010 at the Council of Ministers, and government officials, officials of national and international organizations, and representatives of Internet Service Providers, of telecom companies, of technology companies, of publication institutions, and of other relevant fields participated in the workshop… The advancement of technology is a double-edged sword. It can make many things easier and provides abundant benefits for quick development. But it also creates opportunities for criminals to use it to commit various offenses.” This double reality was pointed out: that by now communication technology plays an ever growing role in society – but on the other hand, Cambodia is also experiencing similar problems and threat as they happen in other countries also, which can be a threat for security, economy, and the general and political life of a society.

This Cambodian workshop was held also to consider how other countries are dealing with this new world wide problem. The head of the Economic Crime Division of the Council of Europe, Mr. Alexander Seger, referred to the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime of 2001, which had been developed during four years before it was presented to the member states of the Council of Europe, but which is also open for other states to sign and to access, so that among the 47 countries which signed it, there are also non-European countries: Canada, Japan, South Africa, and the United States of America.

These preparatory efforts in Cambodia are considering the same range of criminal activities which happen also in other countries around the globe. “Cambodia has already experienced many problems that allow cyber criminals to commit offenses using such technology. There are many cases where all must pay attention, to prevent cheating on the Internet, to receive the inheritance from someone illegally, not to respond to electronic messages asking for passwords, or messages threatening someone, stealing of passwords, and the distribution of child pornography into computer systems, or the sending of spam mails.”

What is remarkable is the fact that the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime does not only point to the threats which can come from criminal use of the Internet, and to the need to protect society from them. Included in this document of 28 pages is also a warning that the need for criminal prosecution shall not violate fundamental rights of the citizens to be protected:

The member States of the Council of Europe and the other States signatory hereto,… Convinced of the need to pursue, as a matter of priority, a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cyber crime, inter alia, by adopting appropriate legislation and fostering international co-operation;…

Mindful of the need to ensure a proper balance between the interests of law enforcement and respect for fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the 1966 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other applicable international human rights treaties, which reaffirm the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and the rights concerning the respect for privacy;

Mindful also of the right to the protection of personal data, as conferred, for example, by the 1981 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data;…

Have agreed as follows:

Each Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offenses under its domestic law, when committed intentionally…

followed by chapters on Illegal access, Illegal interception, Data and System interference, Misuse of devices, Computer-related forgery and fraud, Offenses related to child pornography and to infringements of copyright, etc.

When representatives of governments, of the business community, and of civil society – according to the multi-stakeholder principle introduced by the United Nations for dealing with questions of the present Information Society – met in June for an Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum in Hong Kong, the issue of cyber security was also high on the agenda. While there was an emphasis on legal measures to assure the security and stability of the Internet, and on technical facilities to implement such controls, a group of civil society representatives from Southeast Asia made their common concern public in a 2010 Southeast Asia Civil Society Declaration on Internet Governance.

This Southeast Asian reflection starts with a references to the UN Summits for the Information Society of 2003 and 2005, especially with their Declaration of Principles, which the representatives of governments from around the globe had voted upon:

We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, assembled in Geneva from 10-12 December 2003 for the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Building on this guideline, which had led to the setting up of the Internet Governance Forums, this civil society declaration says among others in a longer text:

Key Observations of the Asia Pacific regional Internet Governance Forum

In response to the first Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum Roundtable in Hong Kong on 15-16 June 2010, we, netizens, journalists, bloggers, IT practitioners and nongovernmental representatives from across Southeast Asia, offer the following observations from the Roundtable:

Critical issues of Internet governance in Asia should guide future discussions on Internet governance policy:

Openness

Open access to information is the right of every individual, a right that serves as a fundamental venue for one’s knowledge- and capacity-building. Access to information ultimately helps foster creativity and innovation, thus promoting sustainable human and economic development. Openness is key to a democratic and open society. Restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression online, such as state censorship which blocks Internet intermediaries, is one of the threats to open societies. Intimidation and state censorship facilitate self-censorship, a hazardous social phenomenon that further undermines democracy and openness.

Access

The Internet is for everyone; it is a public good. Yet a Digital Divide between those countries and communities with Internet access and those without persists, and has not been sufficiently addressed in discussions on Internet governance. Proceedings at the Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum indicated a higher priority must be placed on addressing not only the global digital divide, but also regional and national ones. While Singapore enjoys high Internet access rates (70% penetration), countries like Burma and Cambodia are at the other end of the spectrum (0.22% and 0.51% penetration, respectively), ranked the lowest of 200 countries studied in the World Bank.

Internet access is fundamental for progress. Various factors, such as political, economic and social development, poverty levels, and technological infrastructure affect whether and how often people can access the Internet. Internationally coordinated efforts must be made to address domestic policies that contribute to the digital divide in Southeast Asia and find solutions to bridge the gap.

Cyber Security

Definition of cyber security must include elements that address the right to privacy and to civil and political freedom.

An individual’s right over his/her own privacy, including personal data and information, must not be sacrificed…

Today’s information society connects personal IT devices directly to the outside world, no longer storing personal data on a single server. Given the involvement of the government and businesses (especially state-owned enterprises) in running such technologies, surveillance and identity theft remain a constant threat against Internet users.

In this regard, any national security policy must not deviate from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all international human rights covenants to which states are parties…

The references of the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime and of the Southeast Asia Civil Society Declaration on Internet Governance to human rights and freedoms, not only threatened by criminal action, but also by efforts to impose extensive control, are important reminders that security must be human security.

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“The King Called on All Development Partners of Cambodia to Provide Financial and Technical Support for Forestry Reform in Cambodia” – Sunday, 11.7.2010

Posted on 12 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 672 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 672

On Saturday, 10 July 2010, it was reported that the King had called on all development partners of Cambodia to provide financial and technical support for forestry reform in Cambodia.

At this occasion, we reprint part of the history before this call by the King, starting with an old statement by Global Witness from December 2004, continuing with texts which had all been in Cambodian newspapers in 2010 and had been translated and published in The Mirror – a historical review for further consideration.

Resign or be sacked
3.12.2004

With the advent of Cambodia’s Consultative Group (CG) donor meeting on 6 and 7 December 2004, combating corruption is once more at the top of the political agenda. In line with this renewed emphasis, Global Witness is calling on the Director of the Forest Administration to be made accountable for the rampant corruption within his own department.

“Ty Sokhun should do the honorable thing and resign. If not, the Prime Minister should sack him.” said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness.

Ty Sokhun was made Director of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife1 in 1998. Since then, corruption within the department has if anything got worse. The May 2000 Asia Development Bank [ADB] Forest Concession Review characterized the crisis situation in Cambodia’s forest as “…total system failure; resulting from greed, corruption, incompetence and illegal acts…” Since that time not one forest department official has been charged with corruption, let alone convicted…

“How can the new Forest Administration hope to address corruption if the people at the top remain the same?” said Buckrell. Ty Sokhun is hopelessly compromised by his familial links to the timber trade. His father-in-law, Khun Thong, is one of Cambodia’s most prolific illegal loggers. “Ty Sokhun’s failure to make public his familial links to the timber trade is a massive conflict of interest and is in itself reason enough to dismiss him.” …

Global Witness agrees with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sentiments, of more than two years ago, that “while good policies do matter, their rigorous and consistent implementation remains vital.” … Global Witness Press Release

And from the Khmer press in 2010:

It Is Time to Stop: Military Officials Who Do Illegal Activities
Are Not Fit to Work in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces
29.1.2010

“Phnom Penh: The top Five-Star General, Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, announced that from now on, military officials who are involved in illegal activities are not fit to work in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, because they destroy the reputation of the armed forces, the reputation of the soldiers. …

“… ‘All military commanders, please remember that you have no authority to order soldiers to guard your mangroves. I tell you this for the future, because previously this happened… The role of the military is to fulfill obligations for the nation, not to guard your mangroves, please check this again! Please do not use soldiers and the military’s machinery to serve individual interests. If it still continues, do not say that I have not told you. How many stars showing your military rank you wear, though I wear only five stars, I will dismiss you even if you are wearing the big moon as the sign of your rank, I will dismiss you!’” – Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6870, 29.1.2010

The Authorities Intercept Wood Every Day, but Never Arrest the Wood Traders
24.3.2010

“After the Cambodian Prime Minister, Mr. Hun Sen, ordered to crack down on forestry crimes, the logging seems to continue even stronger, and some perpetrators drove luxury cars loaded with luxury wood in a procession of cars of high ranking officials to deceive the authorities.

“The authorities, including forestry administration officials, police, military police, and committees from the agencies from military and other units charged with suppressing forestry crimes and forestry criminals, intercepted cars and trucks loaded with wood and checked wood storehouses of some powerful people. But by now, the authorities have not arrested any traders to show their accomplishment to the Khmer public on television. …” – Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #634, 24.3.2010

Samdech Hun Sen Considers Forestry Crimes to Be Acts of National Betrayal
27.3.2010

“Phnom Penh: During a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen affirmed the position of the government regarding the campaign to strongly intercept forestry crimes, and not to give up. Although there may be barriers against it made of rock or of iron, any obstacles must be broken down.

“During the cabinet meeting yesterday, which took from morning to noon, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen spoke to all members of the Royal Government, saying that all related institutions, whether on the national or on regional levels, have to cooperate to intercept forestry crimes, and to reach the ringleaders. All authorities have to investigate this at every place to find the offenses and to arrest the offenders, the principal leaders, and other relevant persons, to be prosecuted without any exception regardless of how powerful those persons are, and whatever their relationships, because the suppression of forestry crimes is the suppression of criminal groups – their activities have to be considered as activities of national betrayal. …” – Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2212, 27.3.2010

Considering Forestry Crimes, Ty Sokun Should Not Be Allowed to Hold a Position,
but Should Be Punished according to the Law
7.4.2010

“Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday morning, in a conference at the Chamkar Doung Royal University of Agriculture, to remove the director of the forestry administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Such a removal of the holder of the same position, of a former head of the forestry administration – Mr. Ly Kim Han – happened also some years ago, making him feel heart-broken, and he died. But in Ty Sokun’s case, according to opinions expressed among the general public, he should face the law and receive punishment. To remove Ty Sokun, but to appoint him at the same time as Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Agriculture, shows the great tolerance of the Prime Minister.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly announced the decision to take out Mr. Ty Sokun from the position of Director General of the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, because he was involved in illegal wood trading. But Mr. Hun Sen did not specify any measures to be taken against Mr. Ty Sokun, and he reassigned him to the position of Under-Secretary of State of Agriculture. Prime Minister Hun Sen said on 6 April 2010 at the Chamkar Doung Royal University of Agriculture, that the head of the forestry administration, Mr. Ty Sokun, was involved in corruption related to forestry crimes, and that the authorities had recently started investigations to intercept them. …

“… Prime Minister Hun Sen stressed that at this time, there will be no tolerance for any official who got involved in forestry crimes. ‘We take hot measures to hit the heads of the main leaders. Therefore, the Prime Minister has to decide to do things, even if they hurt, in order to create models of law enforcement in the campaign to intercept forestry crimes.’ …” – Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3852, 7.4.2010

Important Officials from Sixteen Countries Come to Cambodia
to Discuss Appropriate Control Systems for Forestry Resources,
after an Unclear Suppression Campaign
6.5.2010

“… Recently, Cambodia has started to crack down on luxury grade wood trading, and after activities for one month, the authorities confiscated 6,000 cubic meter of such wood that was to be transported to China and Yuon. Some was to be exported to the international market via Singapore. …

“The illegal wood trading in Cambodia reduced the rich forestry resource during the 1960s of about 75% of the whole country to drop to only more than 30% at present, according to some environmental organizations. Forestry expert officials and some sectors of the authorities have been blamed for their collusion, committing illegal wood trading, but most of the actors are not brought to the courts.

“According to reports from forestry administration officials, 207 forestry crimes have been reported to the courts, but some traders with a title as an Oknha, or with close relations to high government officials, have not been charged, though they colluded to commit forestry crimes in Cambodia. Some forestry administration officials enjoy their lives with the wealth they gained from the illegal cutting down of trees. …” – Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3872, 6.5.2010

Records show 17 held for forestry crimes
9.7.2010

A total of 17 people are being held in pretrial detention in Koh Kong provincial prison on forestry-related charges dating back to 2008, according to a document provided this week by a prison worker who expressed frustration with the release last month of four forestry officials charged with involvement in an illegal logging ring.

The document shows that an additional seven people in the province have been convicted of forestry crimes and are serving sentences at the prison.

The official, who asked not to be named, said that all the people on the list were “poor” Koh Kong residents who had been arrested for such crimes as “collecting wood” and “clearing farmland.”

“It doesn’t seem very fair,” the official said. “Poor people who depend on clearing forest for their livelihood are convicted for up to five years for forestry crimes, while forestry officials involved with illegal logging rings are released.”

Although their case remains under investigation, the four Koh Kong Forestry Administration Cantonment officials were released on June 24 after being arrested in a raid amid a crackdown on illegal logging called for by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“The small fish is punished, but the medium and big fish never get punished.”

Chhin Long, the chief clerk for the prosecution at the provincial court, said Tuesday that he had seen a document signed by Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun and the prime minister requesting the officials’ release.

Chheng Kim Sun, director of the Forestry Administration, noted on Thursday that the officials were still being investigated and could be summoned back to court at any time. He defended the release of the prisoners, describing it as part of standard legal procedure.

“The court is independent, and the court’s decision-making process in this case would be the same for rich and poor people, powerful and powerless people. It is not biased to one side,” Chheng Kim Sun said.

But Un Than Aan, provincial coordinator for the rights group ADHOC, said that although the releases might have been legal, the poor are bearing the brunt of the government’s logging crackdown.

“The release of the four officials can be done according to court procedure, because they are able to provide the court with a permanent job and address,” Un Than Aan said. “Poor people aren’t released because they have no permanent job or address, and they are often found guilty of forestry crimes because there’s enough evidence against them.”

ADHOC President Thun Saray said the pattern was consistent with past crackdowns.

“The small fish is punished, but the medium and big fish never get punished,” he said. “That’s been my observation for the last 15 years.” – Phnom Penh Post, 9 July 2010

“The King Called on All Development Partners of Cambodia
to Provide Financial and Technical Support for Forestry Reform in Cambodia”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5246, Saturday, 10.7.2010

“Financial and technical support” – plus, as Global Witness had quoted a 2002 statement of the Prime Minister in 2004 – “While good policies do matter, their rigorous and consistent implementation remains vital.”

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Borders Link and Borders Separate – Sunday, 4.7.2010

Posted on 7 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 671 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 671

The Mirror carries regularly reports about incidents considered to be border violations, but much more frequently information about smuggling. Some people are caught and sent to court; the border with Thailand has been beyond regular control, so that finally an attempt had to be made that even a large number of illegal border crossings had to be brought under control, as The Mirror had reported on 10 June 2010, from which we quote again:

Illegal border entries closed in crackdown

Between 30 and 40 illegal border crossings in Banteay Meanchey province have been closed in an attempt to curb the smuggling of pigs, gas, petrol, fruits and expired perishable foods from Thailand to Cambodia, provincial officials said Wednesday.

“We have closed more than 30 illegal border crossing points along the border with Thailand to stop smuggling, and this closure is forever,” Banteay Meanchey deputy governor Im Phoansophal said…

He declined to provide any figures supporting this claim, though he accused local businessmen of resorting to smuggling in order to evade taxes.

“Businessmen have always used these illegal crossing points to smuggle their goods. They prefer to do things this way because they don’t want to pay tax on items, and they think it will cost less to just bribe local officials,” he said.

Obviously, these 30 to 40 border crossings had been used regularly and formally – though illegally – for some time, before there was an effort made to put this chaotic situation to an end. This surely does not mean that there is no illegal border crossing going on any longer at the Cambodian-Thai border, which extends for about 800 kilometers, for long stretches through forested areas.

When a Thai newspaper published a report, saying that Thai anti-government activists, suspected of having been involved in the bombing of a building in Thailand during the recent violent confrontations in Bangkok, had entered Cambodia, Cambodian government officials quickly denied this and accused the Thai government and the Thai media of making false accusations against Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post reported on 29 and 30 June 2010:

In a statement issued Monday, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers said there was no evidence the men had entered Cambodia. The statement also called on the Thai government to end what it described as a “malicious campaign to fault Cambodia…”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Monday that the allegations were “stupid.”

“Cambodia completely denies this kind of provocative information,” he said…

In addition to arguing that there was no evidence that the two fugitives were in Cambodia, the Council of Ministers statement called on the Thai government to end its “malicious campaign to fault Cambodia,” and accused it of “fanning acts of provocation against the Kingdom of Cambodia.” …

But Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,… also said the names of the two fugitives cited in the report on Monday – Warisaya and Kobchai – had not appeared on registration lists at the border.

“The border always registers people when they cross the border, and the two names mentioned as suspects were not on that list,” he said. “They raise incorrect information. When Thailand has problems, they blame Cambodia.”

“If Thailand denies that they have accused Cambodia, then they should make corrections in all their media that have published such false information,” he said.

“I think this is a play from the Thai government officials, who speak out without taking responsibility for their comments.”

These official and massive Cambodian denials – assuming that nobody could have crossed the border without having their names registered in an official border crossing list – were combined with accusations against the Thai government and media, requesting “they should make corrections in all their media that have published such false information.”

This war of words was accompanied by the forwarding of a document by the Spokesman and Deputy Director for Press Department of the Office of the Council of Ministers, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit – a document written by Pen Ngoeun, an Advisor to the Office of the Council of Ministers and member of the Advisory Board of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers, representing “only the personal opinion of the writer, and does not reflect under any shape and form the opinion of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit nor that of the Office of the Council of Ministers.” In spite of this disclaimer, it is interesting that this long document was widely published at this time and with this background, asking: WILL THAILAND’S ENMITY TOWARDS CAMBODIA END.

This long document is accusing that Thailand, since 150 years, has taken a negative attitude against Cambodia. “This writing is not a piece about history, but as far back as the eyes can see, the Kingdom of Thailand has kept its enmity towards Cambodia,” which is similar to “the current state of mind of the government of Abhisit Vijjajeva, with ‘former terrorist’ turned foreign minister Kasit Pyromya, and the malicious and machiavellic [deputy prime minister] Suthep Thaugsuban at his sides…” This negative attitude was also the cause which made Cambodia to entrust its destiny to French colonial rule. “Thailand always acts like a hungry mad dog that missed a good piece of meat and had never stopped dreaming about it, since.”

“Finally, Thailand has made official, its territorial ambition on Cambodian territories in 2007 in Christchurch, New Zealand during the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee by presenting for the first time to such an important international gathering a map dressed up unilaterally and secretly by Thailand and thus laying claim on an area of 4.6 km sq. inside the Cambodian territory near the Temple of Preah Vihear, as an objection of various uncoordinated, confusing, illegitimate, and nonsense motives to the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear to the World Heritage List.

Would Thailand wake up from the bad dream of a hungry mad dog? It had to be decided by Thailand. It had nothing to do with Cambodia.”

It is appropriate to say that not only persons in positions of political leadership will have to find ways to help to establish good neighborly relations. This will also be necessary in Cambodia, not only by using a different type of language, but also by seeing some facts, not published in Cambodia and therefore hardly seen, and therefore also not considered in Cambodia.

What this Advisor to the Office of the Council of Ministers and member of the Advisory Board of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers calls “various uncoordinated, confusing, illegitimate, and nonsense motives to the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear to the World Heritage List” related to the contested 4.6 square kilometers around the Temple of Preah Vihear, is described with quite different words in a document, based on a meeting at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris, signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on 18 June 2008, inscribing the Temple “without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple” – “without prejudice to the rights of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand on the demarcation works of the Joint Commission for Land Boundary.” The related map, superseding the maps formerly presented in Cambodia’s nomination file, signed by the chairperson of the Border Committee of Cambodia Var Kim Hong at the same time, is here:

Cambodian map around Preah Vihear Temple

Cambodian map around Preah Vihear Temple

Joint Communique

The meeting was held in a spirit of friendship and cooperation.

During the meeting both sides agreed as follows:

  1. The Kingdom of Thailand supports the inscription, at the 32th session of the World Heritage Committee (Québec, Canada, July 2008), of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List proposed by the Kingdom of Cambodia, the perimeter of which is identified as N. 1 in the map prepared by the Cambodian authorities and herewith attached. The map also includes, identified as N.2, a buffer zone to the East and South of the Temple.
  2. In the spirit of goodwill and conciliation, the Kingdom of Cambodia accepts that the Temple of Preah Vihear be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple.
  3. The map mentioned in paragraph 1 above shall supersede the maps concerning and including the “Schéma Directeur pour le Zonage de Preah Vihear” as well as all the graphic references indicating the “core zone” and other zoning (zonage) of the Temple of Preah Vihear site in Cambodia’s nomination file;
  4. Pending the results of the work of the Joint Commission for Land Boundary (JBC) concerning the northern and western areas surrounding the Temple of Preah Vihear, which are identified as N. 3 in the map mentioned in paragraph 1 above, the management plan of these areas will be prepared in a concerted manner between the Cambodian and Thai authorities in conformity with the international conservation standards with a view to maintain the outstanding universal value of the property. Such management plan will be included in the final management plan for the Temple and its surrounding areas to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre by 1st February 2010 for the consideration of the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;
  5. The inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List shall be without prejudice to the rights of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand on the demarcation works of the Joint Commission for Land Boundary (JBC) of the two countries…

Finally, after, and in spite of all the strong denials and accusations, the two Thai bombing suspects, Kobchai Boonplod and Varisareeya Boonsom, were arrested in Cambodia and handed over to Thai authorities.

We recall:

“If Thailand denies that they have accused Cambodia, then they should make corrections in all their media that have published such false information.”

“I think this is a play from the Thai government officials, who speak out without taking responsibility for their comments.”

Will this now – with reversed roles – be considered and implemented in Cambodia?

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Free access to free flowing information – Sunday, 27.6.2010

Posted on 3 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 670 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 670

The Constitution of a country is its basic law – all other laws and regulations have to follow the guidelines of the Constitution. The Constitution is also a basic guideline for the citizens of a country, especially in a country where the Constitution declares (inscribed in the name of the people: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA” as its Preamble states): “Cambodian people are the masters of their own country,” living in the Kingdom of Cambodia that has adopted “a policy of Liberal Democracy and Pluralism” as stated in its Article 51. The Constitution, written in 1993 by the elected representatives forming the first National Assembly of the newly established Kingdom of Cambodia, established a high and clear vision for the future after the troubled and violent decades of the past: “to restore Cambodia into an ‘Island of Peace’ based on a multi-party liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law, and responsible for the destiny of the nation.”

The Constitution lays out also clearly where the responsibility for the destiny of the nation is located: “All power belongs to the people.”

To fulfill the goals laid out is a daily challenge – not just to be celebrated on Constitution Day on 24 September every year, remembering the signing of the new Constitution on 24 September 1993 by King Sihanouk, and not only on the days every five years, when the members of the National Assembly are elected as the legislative power, with the authority over the creation of a new government, through which the people exercise their power.

To fulfill this challenge requires, among others, that the people can know what is going on in the country over which they are the masters: access to correct and transparent information is a fundamental condition for the Constitution to be alive.

The media play an important role in facilitating the access to information. We had the headline this week “Khmer Journalists Need More Training to Write Investigating Information [to write such information, journalists have to investigate to collect strong evidence to support their conclusions]” – an indication that there is still work to be done. Some time ago it was also decided that all Ministries shall have an official spokesperson, and there had also been special training events for persons taking on these new roles.

Unfortunately, the situation is often far away from the goal to be achieved. There are regular reports in the press, almost every week, that a reporter calling a Ministry to get some information is directed to a different person, and from there to a third person, and finally the answer is “no information available.” Or after being re-directed to several other sources, the caller ends up with the original contact. Or the called party hangs up as soon as they understand the call is from a journalist.

There are other cases where the information is clear – but it is difficult to understand it, as it is only a partial answer to a public question.

A case of this type of a response is the elaborate response given in the National Assembly by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to an opposition request for clarification about “tea money” paid by foreign oil and mineral exploring companies, about which The Mirror carried a report in the Friday edition. There was, in response to the information given, some praise in the national and international press – but there was also frustration.

“In the case that there is money paid, like reward money for signing, paid into the state budget, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the National Petroleum Authority deposits it into an account at the National Bank of Cambodia. The money is the income from oil for the Royal Government of Cambodia to be used, and the use of the money is not dependent on the companies signing the oil deals, like in the case of the social development foundation. The money for the social development foundation is also deposited into an account at the National Bank of Cambodia, but before the money can be taken out to be spent on any projects, there needs to be a discussion with company that signed the oil deal, as, in general, that money is used to serve the development in areas designated when the oil deal was signed.”

But there were no total figures given, no explanation why such payments were not reflected in past accounts of the national budget, and no information about the administration of the Social Fund – who is responsible, and according to which criteria; no NGO could get away with such vague information.

And there are cases where the information is clear – but it is difficult to understand the arguments used and not used.

The demarcation of national borders is an important affair, often loaded not only with practical, but also with emotional elements. Clear, transparent information can always help to defuse a tense situation. Why are then the Khmer authorities prohibiting farmers from doing cultivation on the fields next to the temporary Border Marker Number 270 in Takeo, and people trying to visit the site to verify what is really going on were are prohibited from visiting? We did not find that the media were given the precise geographical coordinates, and detailed mapping reference – why only general reference to some border agreements?

Similarly, but even less transparent, is the argumentation in the following press report:

“An Expert Official [the head of the Border Committee of Cambodia, Mr. Var Kim Hong]: [Opposition party president] Sam Rainsy’s Map Is Fake [he claimed that the 1:100,000 map deposited at the United Nations in 1964 does not have grids, while the map that Mr. Sam Rainsy published on the Internet has grids; the Phnom Penh municipal court issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Sam Rainsy for faking public documents and spreading disinformation].”

If the original map deposited at the United Nations does not have a grid, showing the geographical coordinates of Latitudes and Longitudes of the depicted locations – how is it possible to determine where the contested border posts are actually located? It is faking the map, if the claim is made that the original maps did contain the grid of geographical coordinates but it actually did not – but it is helping to clarify the situation, if the geographical coordinates of Northern Latitude and Eastern Longitude are later provided so that the place of the border line can be clearly shown. – The legal struggle against the grid on the map seems to criticize that clarifying information is provided, while not saying that the information provided is wrong – nor providing alternative information with the assertion what is right.

That the public handling of information and the access to it is crucial has been underlined again by the top UN officials on 3 May 2010 – marking the annual World Press Freedom Day – calling for the promoting of the universal right to publicly-held information as well as ensuring the safety of all those who work in the media, adding that “some journalists risk intimidation, detention and even their lives, simply for exercising their right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, through any media, and regardless of frontiers.” That is what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a message for the World Press Freedom Day. It is a continuing challenge and a task not yet fulfilled.

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