Week 504

Sunday,2007-4-22: After The Commune Council Elections

Posted on 23 April 2007. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 504 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 504

Looking back three weeks to the day of the Cambodian Commune Council Elections of 1 April 2007 it is a challenge to reflect on what has happened, in spite of the fact that the official results are to be published by the National Election Committee only on 24 April.

The numbers are impressive. More than 100,000 candidates from 12 parties tried to get the 11,353 seats in the 1,621 communes and urban sub-districts (sangkats) – appealing to the 7.8 million registered voters, though only about 70% of them – the lowest number in Cambodia in any election since the 1993 UNTAC organized one – cast their ballots at 14,428 polling stations.

Though the official results are not yet published, it seems that about 98% of all elected commune chiefs are members of the Cambodian People’s Party, with the Sam Rainsy Party having probably only 28, and Funcinpec getting 2, while the Norodom Ranariddh Party – and all others – got none.

From the presidential elections in Nigeria, held this Sunday – the African country with the highest oil production – news are still coming in: 12 persons killed by violence, then it was corrected to 14, and at present the news say 21 persons lost their lives during the election. The constitution does not allow President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has been in this office since 1999, to continue to hold the highest power for more than two 4-year terms, to avoid too much personal power to be built up.

Also the presidential elections in France are still continuing today – the voting stations will be open until 20:00 in the evening to allow all voters to vote – but even now it seems to be clear that the voter turnout is the highest since 1981, as the 44.5 million voters seem to be very concerned about the further direction of French politics. The two strongest candidates, the conservative Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist Ms. Ségolène Royal, provide clearly different political programs.

First of all, the fact that the election day in Cambodia was fairly peaceful is positive – compared to the violent outbursts observed at present in Nigeria and at other times elsewhere. There were problems perceived in Cambodia during the time before the elections, and when there is too much anger building up during the campaign period, the election itself may turn violent – instead of being the occasion where future solutions for existing conflicts in society are being found: precisely by electing representatives of the different ideas, plans, and visions for the future.

But it is exactly here that serious reflection is called for: this time, many people in Cambodia did not care to vote – or they could not. Since the 1993 UN organized and supervised elections, more than 90 percent, later more than 80 percent of Cambodian voters took their voting power very serious. This time, the percentage was down to around 70 percent. Why? And what does this mean for the future?

Quite different reasons have been proposed: from electoral apathy to electoral confusion. Many people are disappointed seeing party political games of personality centered politics – the Norodom Ranariddh Party got only about 8 % of the popular vote, while the 25% for candidates of the Sam Rainsy Party translates only to a tiny number of commune chiefs. Election observers point also to the rather high number of voters who suffered from administrative confusion – their name was not in the voter list – many of these people had been recently, and not always voluntarily resettled – or they were to go to a different voting station from where they assumed to be related to. The Prime Minister even suggested that many women might not have voted, because they did not want their polished and painted fingernails to get dirty from the undeletable black ink used to mark those persons who had already voted.

The attitude and approach of many politicians who would like to see political change in Cambodia have, so far, been among the powers who have clearly contributed to the present political constellations which the opposite results: the many different small parties consume a lot of activists’ commitment and energy, leading to election results for most of them under 1 percent of the votes – and this strengthening the biggest party. Unless a fundamental rethinking and reorientation about the role of political parties in a democratic state gets more attention – not groups with a common loyalty towards a person can play constructive roles in society (the present demise of the Norodom Ranariddh Party is an example with its own problems), but parties which bring together broad coalitions of different personalities who – together! – elaborate constructive, practical plans and strategies for the future of the whole society. Then, the creative power of the “multi-party liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law” mentioned in the Preamble of the Constitution can come to its full development: in a society where different parties do not want to compete to get much positions of power and of benefits, but the multi-party democracy will compete in presenting the most useful and helpful ideas for all – and they will hope to find support from the electorate.

What is to be hoped for towards the 2008 national elections is a broad public debate about the different party programs, instead of personality contests. The more Cambodia becomes an integral member of the international community of nations, the more such a change from focusing on leadership persons to focusing on ideas and concepts will be called for.

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Saturday, 21.4.2007: Kampuchea Krom Monks Demonstrate… Another Group Of Monks Oppose Them And Cause Injury

Posted on 22 April 2007. Filed under: Week 504 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 504

“Phnom Penh: Part of Preah Monivong Boulevard was blocked for three hours. About 100 Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks demanded freedom in Vietnam, appealing to the Royal Government through petition and a march on Friday morning, although they did not have a permission to demonstrate by the Phnom Penh municipality. Their activity caused traffic jams on Preah Monivong Boulevard near the Vietnamese Embassy for about three hours, and also in some other streets in Phnom Penh. A monk was injured on his left eyebrow in a conflict with another group of monks who opposed the demonstration.

“About 100 monks and laypeople, who identified themselves as Kampuchea Krom Khmers from pagodas in Phnom Penh met and marched to the Vietnamese embassy early morning. However, the plan was known by police and by military police who then deployed forces around the Vietnamese embassy, especially on Preah Monivong Boulevard, which was, from the Bokor junction to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, completely blocked.

“The demonstration was led by Yoeung Sen, the head monk of Wat Samaki Reangsey in Stung Meanchey Subdistrict, Meanchey District, who is from Kampuchea Krom. Local police officials deployed forces to prevent the monks from getting out the pagoda to demonstrate, but they could not prevent the monks from getting out of pagoda.

“Due to a strict intervention, the demonstrators could get only 100 meters towards the embassy.

“Chief Monk Yoeung Sen said, ‘The demand by the monks from Kampuchea Krom was not violent at all. The officials should not worry about this. I only take a petition to the Vietnamese Embassy in order to demand freedom for Kampuchea Krom Khmer people and monks who live in Kampuchea Krom land.’

“He added that this demand is made not only in Cambodia but worldwide, especially wherever Kampuchea Krom Khmers live.

“Like in the previous petitions, Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks ask the Vietnamese government to provide complete freedom to Kampuchea Krom Khmer people and monks who live in Kampuchea Krom. The Vietnamese authorities should release all jailed Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks and immediately stop to violate their freedom, especially the freedom of religion of the Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks and people who rightfully live in their land.

“In the petition they also ask the international community to push the Vietnamese government to stop all inhuman activities, and to implement a human rights policy towards Kampuchea Krom Khmers, to respect their freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of culture and tradition, irrespective of their race, and the freedom to create associations, irrespective of their race, independently. They ask the Vietnamese government to stop immediately grabbing of heritage land of Kampuchea Krom Khmers, and the land of some pagodas such as Wat Prasat Kong, and of Wat Boeng Kracha Thmey in Khleang Province [former Khmer name used].

“Monk Yoeung Sen also wonders why a monk died in Kandal Province, but why did the officials prevent people and monks from holding Buddhist ceremonies for the monk?

“When, after about three hours, they were still not able to enter the Vietnamese embassy, the Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks marched to the Royal Palace with some banners.

“Banners with writings – ‘Long live the solidarity force of Kampuchea Krom Khmers,’ ‘Yuon government must stop the violation of the rights of religion and the right of Kampuchea Krom Khmers who rightfully live in their land,’ ‘The Yuon government must release the three Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks and reinstate them as monks again without conditions.’

“Then the Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks chanted holy texts and sang songs about resistance in Kampuchea Krom Khmer land.

“Three Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks read the petition of the Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks and of people who live in the Kingdom of Cambodia, to be sent to the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, in Khmer, English, and Vietnamese.

“Meanwhile, a number of higher monks from Wat Langka, Wat Ounalom, and from some other pagodas arrived to discuss with the Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks to stop the demonstration and to send representatives to take the petition to the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh instead, but this talk was not successful. Therefore, the Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks marched instead to the US embassy in Phnom Penh.

“When the march arrived at the opposite of Wat Ounalom, anther group of monks appeared to prevent the march and there was a dispute which led to fighting. As a result, the monks who opposed the march ran in their robes back into Wat Ounalom. A Kampuchea Krom Khmer monk named Lim Yuth, who stays in Wat Samaki Reansey, was injured on his left eyebrow at that time.

“After this had happened, the Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks and a number of supporters expressed their strong anger.

“After they had calmed down, the Kampuchea Khmer monks marched to the opposite side of the road across the US embassy, which was also under strict protection by Phnom Penh municipal police officials.

“There, a Kampuchea Khmer monk named Huch Phirum was allowed to enter the embassy.

“When the monk got out of the embassy, he told the journalists that he did not meet directly with the ambassador, but he met only with a representative of the embassy.

“During the meeting, the representative of the US embassy promised to seek freedom for Kampuchea Krom Khmers. At that time, the representative of the embassy also accepted the petition from the Kampuchea Khmer monks, to send it to the American government in Washington.

“At that time, the representative of the US embassy affirmed that he will invite human rights organizations and all Khmer Kampuchea Krom associations to meet and find ways to seek rights for Kampuchea Krom Khmers.

“After that, all Kampuchea Krom Khmer monks met and chatted with each other opposite the US Embassy and then went back to their pagodas.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.15, #4264, 21.4.2007

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 21 April 2007

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.6, #1319, 21.4.2007

  • Funcinpec Announces Openly That It Doesn’t Plan To Dissolve Itself And Join Other Parties
  • National Election Committee Has Announced Official [commune] Election Results For 13 Provinces and Towns
  • Legal and Illegal Khmer Laborers Rush To Work In Thailand after Khmer New Year
  • Six Good Cambodian Students Participate In The Physics Olympiad Competition Of Asia In China
  • NATO Soldiers Kill 27 Taliban Militia Members

Koh Santepheap, Vol.40, #6019, 21.4.2007

  • Khmer Kampuchea Krom Program [by Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization] Broadcast Three Days And Three Hours Per Week [from Monday to Wednesday] Through FM 90 MHz [Phnom Penh]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.14, #3138, 21.4.2007

  • Petition of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Monks, Which Is Rejected by Yuon [Vietnamese] Embassy, Is Welcome by US Embassy
  • Japan Urges Solution To Overcome Deadlock Of Khmer Rouge Tribunal Caused By Ky Tech [President Of The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia]
  • Only US$16 Million Collected From 24 Casinos Per Year [in Cambodia, because powerful officials take bribes]
  • 400 Sellers Of Pursat Phsar Thmey Market Ask For Those Who Had Put Arson To Be Revealed, And For Them To Continue Selling On The Same Location

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.15, #4264, 21.4.2007

  • Kampuchea Krom Monks Demonstrate… Another Group Of Monks Prevent It And Injure Them
  • Ministry Of Interior Reacts Against Opposition Party’s Initiative Over Village Chief Elections
  • Cambodian Prime Minister Concerned About Traffic Accidents
  • Kidnapping Recurs In Kompong Thom [former teacher kidnapped for US$6,000 ransom – Baray]

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #3016, 21.4.2007

  • Norodom Ranariddh Condemns Violence Against Kampuchea Krom Monks
  • Sihanoukville Authority Uses Violence, Burns Houses, and Arrests People Over Land Dispute

Sralanh Khmer, Vol.3, #380, 21.4.2007

  • Nhek Bun Chhay [Funcinpec Secretary General] Threatens To Sue Anyone Who Says He Is Involved In 3 Tonnes Of Drugs In Kompong Speu

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Friday, 20.4.2007: Director General Of National Police Proud About Cooperation With The US Federal Bureau Of Investigation

Posted on 21 April 2007. Filed under: Week 504 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 504

“Phnom Penh: General Hok Lundy, the Director General of National Police, expressed his optimism about the cooperation between the [Cambodian] National Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] of the United States of America.

“He expressed this opinion in an interview with CTN [Cambodian Television Network] which was broadcast on Thursday. He is invited by the FBI for an official visit to the United States of America starting from Friday, 20 April.

“He said that during the visit of him and a delegation from the National Police, he may meet with secretaries of three important US ministries, such as the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice, as well as with representatives of the FBI and the Office of National Drug Control Policy [? – or the Organized Crime/Drug Investigation Program? – translated terminology not sure].

“He stated that his visit is really important in order to exchange opinions over prevention of terrorism, cross-border crimes, and drug trafficking, which he considers Cambodia cannot solve alone – it has to cooperate with other countries.

“He added that during the visit he will also meet with the leaders of the Department of State which will focus on actions and measures to prevent trafficking of women and children. He said, ‘We also want to do in Cambodia what the big power countries have done well. We don’t want others to criticize us any longer.’

“Concerning the visit, the Director General expects that the Cambodian police and the FBI will continue to strengthen their cooperation in order to prevent terrorism, drug trafficking, and cross-border crimes which are of joint concern in the region and globally.

“In response to this, he also plans to invite the presidents of the FBI and of the Office of National Drug Control Policy [? – or the Organized Crime/Drug Investigation Program?] to visit Cambodia in order to exchange ideas and experience with each other.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.15, #4263, 20.4.2007

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 20 April 2007

Areyathor, Vol.13, #1230, 20-21.4.2007

  • 54 People Dead And Nearly 500 Injured During Khmer New Year [countrywide – according to a report from the Ministry of Interior]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.6, #1318, 20.4.2007

  • Sam Rainsy Plans To Meet Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng Over Broad Plan On Decentralization in Government
  • Cambodian Center For Human Rights Reduces Staff By 70% [after former president Kem Sokha entered politics]
  • Ministry Of Social Affairs Plans To Help 3,000 Homeless People Per Year [with vocational training]

Khmer Mekong, Vol.5, #260, 19-20.4.2007

  • Born Samnang And Sok Sam Oeun [accused of murder of Chea Vichea, former head of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers] Unlikely To Appeal, But To Ask For Amnesty From The King

Koh Santepheap, Vol.40, #6018, 20.4.2007

  • Murder of Trade Union Head Chea Vichea: International Labor Organization Demands Investigation By Independent Group

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.14, #3137, 20.4.2007

  • Condemnation Of Hok Lundy [director general of National Police] By Human Rights Watch And Mr. Ron Abney [former Cambodia resident director of the US based International Republican Institute] Surprises Washington
  • Sellers at Shopping Center Soriya React Against Announcement Which Forces Them To Buy Stalls For Ten Years’ Time [Phnom Penh]
  • Chiefs Of Military Region 4 Use People As Shields To Grab Land At Dangrek Mountains [Oddar Meanchey]

Rasmei Angkor, Vol.14, #1170, 20.4.2007

  • National Election Committee Rejects Sam Rainsy Party’s Request For Repetition Of Elections In Poipet Commune [Banteay Meanchey]
  • Many Funcinpec Officials Join CPP

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.15, #4263, 20.4.2007

  • National Police Director General [Hok Lundy] Proud About Cooperation With US Federal Bureau of Investigation [as he is invited by the FBI to visit USA]

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.14, #3015, 20.4.2007

  • Corruption And Foreign Debt Become Serious Problems In Khmer Society [says an unnamed senior official of the Ministry of Economy and Finance]
  • [Through an interview with Radio Free Asia] Samdech Krom Preah Speaks About His Wish To Return To The Country To Restore Democracy In Cambodia

Sralanh Khmer, Vol.3, #379, 20.4.2007

  • Keo Puth Rasmey [new Funcinpec president] Plans To Leave Funcinpec [after Funcinpec has got very few votes in commune elections – according to a Funcinpec official]; Uk Phalla [Ranariddh’s unmarried partner] Prepares To Leave Ranariddh [because he is no longer powerful]
  • Does Government Sell Khmer Embassy Land In Bangkok At US$20 Million? [yes]

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Thursday, 19.4.2007: Mr. Yash Ghai: To Continue To Detain Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun Is a Very Seriously Unjust Act

Posted on 20 April 2007. Filed under: Week 504 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 504 – starting again after the Khmer New Year holidays

“Mr. Yash Ghai, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia condemned directly from Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday, the decision to continue to detain Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun as a very seriously unjust act.

“Moreover, he again seriously demanded an investigation by independent officials into the murder of Mr. Chea Vichea, the former head of Free Trade Union of Workers of Kingdom of Cambodia, in order to provide justice to the victim and to the wrongly accused who are jailed instead of the real murderers.

“The hot reaction from the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy happened after the Appeals Court had announced a verdict to continue to detain Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun for 20 years, by maintaining the unjust verdict of Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2005, and regarding it as legal, while national and international civil society organizations consider Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun as wrongly accused murderers.

“The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, which is an association of many civil society organizations, has recently released a statement condemning the very unjust verdict of the Appeals Court, calling it to be politically motivated and completely not independent.

“It should be remembered that Mr. Yash Ghai once criticized the head of current package government, saying that ‘in Cambodia, everything is in only one person’s fists.’ Direct criticism by Mr. Yash Ghai made Strongman Hun Sen angry, and he use bad words towards Mr. Yash Ghai and even demanded that the United Nations remove Mr. Yash Ghai as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for human rights in Cambodia.

“Mr. Yash Ghai did not react badly to Hun Sen’s anger, that means he still plans to come to Cambodia in the future to discus with Hun Sen. And the discussion with Hun Sen will concern nothing besides human rights violation in Cambodia by powerful officials.

“Mr. Yash Ghai has not yet arrived in Cambodia, but he started the attack from Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday, saying that to continue to detain Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun for 20 years, according to the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, is a very seriously unjust issue, and therefore it is important to have an investigation again, by an independent group.

“Mr. Yash Ghai added, ‘So many pieces of evidence which are found indicate that there is a political game in the Cambodian court, and the decision of the court judge was based on the indication from strong powerful people.

“It should be remembered that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were sentenced 1 August 2005 and each was condemned to 20 years’ imprisonment, based on the accusation of shooting Mr. Chea Vichea, the president of Free Trade Union of Workers of Kingdom of Cambodia, on 22 January 2004.

“Such an unjust judgment by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court caused a counter-attack by the families of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun. After the suing back, the Appeals Court held a hearing like a girls’ game for one day, and then delayed the announcement of their decision until Thursday; then the Appeals Court decided to maintain the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as legal, and to continue to detain Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun up to 20 years.

“In response to this, there is also a reaction against Mr. Yash Ghai: if there is no clear evidence, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun definitely cannot be released.

“However, critics said that if there is no investigation by an independent group, from where could evidence be found, to prove that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are not murderers? Therefore, the Ministry of Interior and the court must do whatever possible, in order to hold an investigation of the shooting death of Mr. Chea Vichea, because at least the game which is being played by the court and the power holders is known by Heng Pov [former Phnom Penh Police Commissioner who is accused of crimes and at present is imprisoned in Phnom Penh] and Ms. Va Sothy [a former vendor of newspapers at the place where Chea Vichea was killed] who also announced publicly that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Ouen are not the murderers who shot Mr. Chea Vichea.

“Moreover, even Mr. Chea Mony, who is a brother of Mr. Chea Vichea, does not believe that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are murderers and he demands the court to release both.

“It is said that , the Hun Sen government will be blamed by the international community for what Mr. Yash Ghai has condemned.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.14, #3136, 19.4.2007

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 19 April 2007

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.6, #1317, 19.4.2007

  • Norodom Ranariddh Party Questions Meeting between Sok An and Sam Rainsy [after Sam Rainsy had called for weak parties to join with each other after the commune elections]
  • Two Ambassadors [of the USA and of Canada] Survey Results of Subdistrict and Commune Elections in Cambodia
  • World Food Program Starts to Provide Food to Cambodian People Again [after two-month interruption because of lack of fund]
  • Trees at Vay Chap Mountain Illegally Cut [Banan, Battambang]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.40, #6017, 19.4.2007

  • Sam Rainsy Party Urges Khmer Rouge Tribunal [to be realized soon]; 32 Years Have Passed, Dark History Is Still Controversial
  • Cambodian People’s Party Gets 75 Commune Chiefs in Kompong Thom; Sam Rainsy Party Gets 6 Commune Chiefs [from commune elections]
  • Svay Rieng FM 103.75 MHz Presenter Cut on Head by Her Father in Attempt to Kill Her, Her Husband, and Her Baby Boy [her father is now arrested, she is hospitalized]
  • Trees at Dangrek Mountains Cut to Claim Land [Preah Vihear]
  • Pursat Market Completely Burned on Khmer New Year Day, Allegedly by Arson

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.14, #3136, 19.4.2007

  • Village Chief Election by Simple Majority System To Be Complete Democracy at Local Level
  • [Local] Experts Reject Prediction of Chinese Company [China Petrotech Holdings] about Khmer Gas [it says there are 226 million barrels of oil in Section D, 360 sq km and 278 km off Sihanoukville]
  • Mr. Yash Ghai: To Continue To Detain Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun Is a Very Seriously Unjust Act
  • More 100 Chinese Found Trafficked from Cambodia [in Colombia – according to Associated Press]

Rasmei Santepheap, Vol.15, #4262, 19.4.2007

  • Mr. Ly Thuch [Senior Minister and Parliamentarian from Pursat] Leaves Funcinpec [and joins CPP]
  • [Thach Ket] Sralanh Khmer Publisher Appears in Court to Responds to [defamation] Lawsuits of Samdech Euv [the former King] and Samdech Mae [the former Queen]
  • Canadian Embassy Denies Report about Closure of Office in Cambodia
  • Phnom Pen Municipality Rejects Request for Demonstration Opposite Vietnamese Embassy by Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community
  • President of Vietnamese Assembly Will Lead Delegation to Visit Cambodia [on 25-28 April]

Sralanh Khmer, Vol.3, #378, 19.4.2007

  • Sam Rainsy Party to Complete Local Level Reform in July and Hold Congress in August
  • US Grants Visa to Mr. Hok Lundy [Director-General of National Police] to Attend Meeting against Terrorism Today
  • Sam Rainsy Says Government Uses Different Pretexts To Delay Khmer Rouge Tribunal So All Khmer Rouge Elders Die
  • Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun No Longer Believe in Cambodian Court System

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