The Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Declaration – Sunday, 7.2.2010

Posted on 8 February 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 650 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 650

The Mirror carried already last week a report about the extraordinary speech of the Prime Minister: “It Is Time to Stop; Military Officials Who Do Illegal Activities Are Not Fit to Work in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces” – where he directly named several generals present, criticizing their unacceptable, corrupt behavior. During the present week, there were still positive responses in the press, including from sources not so close to the government. Human Rights Watch, a US based organization, often very critical of the political climate in Cambodia, also supported the Prime Minister’s warning to commanders over their corrupt, illegal actions. And the Prime Minister himself continued to speak according to the same line, when he attacked nepotism, warning that nobody should nominate relatives and partisans for public office.

But we got also another response: “Words are cheap, nothing will change.”

And another, also anonymous voice, calls it to be my idea – while I actually quoted Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia – that the Cambodian people are the masters of their country, because they can vote, saying, “Having rights is not enough. You’ve got to have the power to exercise those rights, so that they can be useful. That can also explain why the civil society has always failed in demanding for respect for human rights.”

These are pessimistic views, assuming and expecting that rights can be enjoyed automatically, while history shows in many different cultures that rights have to be fought for, even if they are written in the law, when other powers violate them.

The Prime Minister has spoken clearly.

According to a report in the Phnom Penh Post of 4 February 2010, “Farmers set to call soldiers to Kampot court,” saying

“A group of people in Chumkiri, Kampot, filed a complaint in the provincial court against members of an army unit they say are encroaching on their land and cutting down their fruit trees, escalating a standoff that began in 2001… The court complaint comes less than one week after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned top military officials to refrain from participating in illegal land-grabbing operations.

‘It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. I don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats,’ the Prime Minister had said at the end of a conference on military reform at the Ministry of Defense last week.”

So we will see.

But did civil society always fail in demanding respect for human rights? It is not clear on which basis this is said, and which understanding or misunderstanding of the term ‘civil society’ is used when saying so. First, there is no general, clear definition of this term. But it refers to all movements, associations, or individual citizens, independent from the state, whose aim is to improve policies, standards, or social structures, through common efforts. Civil society – that are organizations formed for these purposes – civil society organizations, non-government organizations, citizens action groups – but civil society is also all individual citizens in a social unit – be it a residential region, or a common interest group (for example enjoying sports or music, and caring together to see that the proper space is set aside for these purposes). Civil society is citizens who organize themselves to care for the quality of life where they live.

Civil society is also the majority of the citizens of Phnom Penh, who, in their majority, do not care that the Boeung Kak lake in this city is being destroyed, being filled up with sand for the benefit of some business interests to construct a commercial and housing center – though the plans have not even been made transparent and publicly know, leaving all the struggle for rights to the several thousand people who are directly affected, because they lose their traditional environment and with it also their means of living.

On 31 August 2008 The Mirror had reported the following: “Later in January 2008, Areyathor reported that Samdech Heng Samrin, the President of the National Assembly – and also a Honorary President of the Cambodian People’s Party – had signed a letter for the suspension of pumping of soil to fill Boeng Kak lake, and the paper reported also that the Phnom Penh governor and vice-governor allegedly disagree with each other about filling Boeng Kak lake.” We are not aware that the press has done any follow up on these reports. But the public is aware that the lake is gradually disappearing, that many residents had tried to organize themselves to jointly represent their concerns and demands, and that some of the remaining residents around the lake are at present living on top of rising dirty water, as the promised pumping for stagnant dirty water – as a result of the filing in of sand – was installed too late and is not strong enough.

Recently I had the opportunity to be in Myanmar, and to have dinner one evening at the Kan Taw Gyi lakeside – a wide park where hundreds of people enjoy walking around or sitting together, with a music stage, very many small restaurants, and a wonderful view. Phnom Penh is destroying such a possibility for its future.

The lake before being filled

The lake before being filled

The lake being filled

The lake being filled



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At the Kan Taw Gyi Lake in Yangon/Myanmar.

At the Kan Taw Gyi Lake in Yangon/Myanmar.



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Does civil society – the people in general in Phnom Penh – care? Or why not?

.

Please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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Friday, 19.9.2008: The United States Expects that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Will No Longer Be Involved in a Corruption Scandal

Posted on 20 September 2008. Filed under: Week 578 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 578

“The United States expects that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal will no longer be involved in a corruption scandal in the future, after the US pledged to grant US$1.8 million to the mixed tribunal to seek justice for the victims who died during the Killing Field regime. This information is based on statements of the spokesperson of the US Department of State Sean McCormack during a press conference in Washington on Tuesday, 16 September 2008 [see the full text at the end].

“Mr. Sean McCormack stated, ‘We believe that the court is now capable of meeting international standards of justice, and our decision at this time to identify funds reflects our belief that the court has the capacity to respond effectively and appropriately to these allegations.’ He said that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal still has more to do, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia have made significant strides to overcome international concerns about corruption, mismanagement, and political influence, including adding a new international deputy administrator from the United Nations side, strengthening management practices, and establishing procedures to deal with allegations of wrongdoing.

“It should be remembered that previously, employees of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal had repeatedly raised the problem of kickbacks in exchange for getting employed, but it was never officially announced that there were any perpetrators or who they are. As a result of suspicion, the UN Development Program office had suspended more than US$300,000 for a period of time, suspending the payment of salaries for Khmer staff in July. Then, the head of the Khmer Staff Department was removed from his position, as a big corruption leader at the Khmer side of the court, but it seems that nobody really dares to touch him.

“The international community and many donor countries, especially the United States, hesitated to grant more funds to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, because of the [not yet clarified allegations of a] corruption scandal. However, the United States, through its Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. John Negroponte, who visited Cambodia recently, pledged to grant US$1.8 million to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, so that it can proceed smoothly. Mr. Sean McCormack added that the US Department of State had already shared information about this attempt to help Cambodia to try the former Khmer Rouge leaders.

“Mr. Reach Sambath, the spokesperson of the [Cambodian section of the] Khmer Rouge Tribunal, said that the granting of US funds is mainly a political sign, and the tribunal welcomes this decision by the United States as a correct one. He went on to say that although this grant is small, it is better than nothing, and though it comes late, it is better than nothing. Mr. Reach Sambath boasted that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is strongly committed and has created clear plans to deal with corruption, like by the nomination of two ethics monitoring officials, and the reassignment away of the director of personnel.

“This spokesperson hinted that the trial of Kang Kek Iev – called Duch, the former Tuol Sleng Prison chief – might happen in October or in November, after some procedural problems between the co-investigating judges and the co-prosecutors will have been clarified. Some officials of civil society organizations and observers are keenly observing this problem, because they want to see that the trial of the suspects to happens soon, in order to find justice for the victims. However, if there is more delay, the funds from the United States will be spent wastefully, and the Khmer citizens still do not see the light of justice.

“The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which has suffered from allegations of a corruption scandal, needs approximately US$50 million in addition, to cover expenses until 2010, out of which approximately US$10 million are to come from the Cambodian side, and approximately US$40 million are needed from the United Nations. At present, many observers are waiting to see whether the trial – which is planed to take place this late October – of Khiev Samphan, who had filed an appeal to be temporarily released from detention, will proceed smoothly or not. If the trial of Khiev Samphan in October faces complications and is delayed again, like it happened already on 23 April 2008, it is not easy for the tribunal to seek additional millions of dollars.

“Although the US government announced to ask for parliamentary approval for a grant of US$1.8 million to the [UN, not the Cambodian section of the] Khmer Rouge Tribunal budget during the recent visit by the US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, some observers of the processes of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal do not expect that this mixed tribunal can find justice for the victims who were killed during the killing filed regime, because previously, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal had spent already millions of dollars wastefully, while Khmer citizens in general have been waiting for justice nearly 30 years. Furthermore, irregularities and a corruption scandal at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal have not yet been clarified.

“Khmer citizens inside of the country and abroad want that the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders should occur soon, as long as they are still alive, so that the real reasons that led to the killing of more than 1.7 million people during their time in power from 1975 to early January 1979 can be revealed. Therefore, if there is further delay, those former Khmer Rouge leaders might die before the trial takes place, because already at present, they became older, and some of them had been suffering from serious illness and had often been sent to Calmette Hospital.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3569, 19.9.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 19 September 2008


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1750, 19.9.2008

  • Samdech Hun Sen and Samdech Krom Preah [Norodom Ranariddh] Extend Friendly Wishes to Each Other; Amnesty Letter for Samdech Krom Preah Arrived at the Royal Palace on 18 September 2008
  • The Ministry of Economy and Finance Has Not Taken Any Action to Decrease the Price of Fuel Following Samdech Hun Sen’s Order
  • The Murder Case of the Journalist of Moneaksekar Khmer [Mr. Khim Sambo and his 21-year-old son] Reaches a State to Call Those Who Know Much to Be Asked [medical doctors of Calmette Hospital, editor of The Cambodia Daily, Mr. Dam Sith, editor-in-chief of Moneaksekar Khmer, staff of ADHOC and of LICADHO]


Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #247, 19.9.2008

  • [Opposition party President] Sam Rainsy Affirms that on 24 and 25 September 2008, There Will Be No Opposition Party Parliamentarians Present to Satisfy the Face of the Cambodian People’s Party


Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #102, 19.9.2008

  • The Head of the Government Affirmed His Final Position Regarding some Political Issues Related to the Opposition Parties [he warns to sue Sam Rainsy for insulting the new National Assembly by saying that it is a thief, ghost, wind, and a Yuon (Vietnamese) National Assembly]
  • Vendors of the New Market Plan to Protest in Front of Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen’s House [related to the plan to narrow their stalls]
  • US Military Medics [from the US Tripler Army Medical Center] for Smile, Sound, and Sight, Treat Khmer Citizens Free of Charge [from 10 to 19 September 2008]


Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6454, 19.9.2008

  • Thai Prime Minister [Somchai Wongsawat – สมชาย วงศ์สวัสดิ์] Responds Positively to Continue to Negotiate with Cambodia [after Prime Minister Hun Sen’ request for negotiations]
  • Delegations from Hong Kong and from [South] Korea Look for Development in Sihanoukville [with plans build new towns, casinos, hospitals, stadiums, hotels, a public zoo, golf courses, resorts, and seashore and on-the-sea recreation sites, and also preserving a natural forest park]


Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #34, 19.9.2008

  • The United States Expects that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Will No Longer Be Involved in a Corruption Scandal
  • [Sam Rainsy Party Deputy Secretary General] Mu Sochua: 20% or 21% of Khmer Citizens Lack Food [she raised this problem, based on a survey by the Cambodia Development Resource Institute]


Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4698, 19.9.2008

  • Cambodia Criticizes Thailand for Lying to the World by Announcing that the Ta Krabei Temple [located in an unmarked border region] Belongs to Them
  • Vietnam Sends Seventeen Khmer Citizens Home, Whom They Rescued from a Leaking Ship
  • Digging up of Khmer Ancestral Graves Happens Again in Thma Pouk [probably by artifact plunderers – Banteay Meanchey]


Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3411, 19.9.2008

  • The Court Summons Representatives of the Citizens and of the Company over the Boeng Kak Lake Land Dispute Today [after citizens had filed a complaint, requesting to stop the dredging of sand to fill the lake]

Cambodia related section of the press conference at the US Department of State on 16.9.2008
Source:
http://useu.usmission.gov/Article.asp?ID=B76C5503-996F-4F03-AAC0-749F4312BA5D

QUESTION: Did you manage to get answers to the two questions that I had at the end of the briefing yesterday,…[on] the Cambodia issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: As a matter of fact, we did. And I have on Cambodia – I have some –…
I’ll just read – I have a few points on this. I’ll read them off to you and see if they’re useful.

We are committed to helping Cambodia in its efforts to hold Khmer Rouge leaders accountable for their crimes. The State Department has notified Congress of our intention to provide $1.8 million to help the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the E-triple-C, complete its task. We believe that the court is now capable of meeting international standards of justice, and our decision at this time to identify funds reflects our belief that the court has the capacity to respond effectively and appropriately to these allegations.

While the court still has more to do, the ECCC has made significant strides to overcome international concerns about corruption, mismanagement, and political influence, including adding a new international deputy administrator, strengthening management practices, and establishing procedures to deal with allegations of wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, the court must still take appropriate steps to address the current allegations and hold responsible those involved.

QUESTION: And this was – a similar message was conveyed by the Deputy [Secretary of State Negroponte] when he was there?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the issue was discussed by the Deputy in Phnom Penh.

QUESTION: Yeah, but, I mean – but he told them that they were going to get the money.

MR. MCCORMACK: I have not spoken with the Deputy, so I can’t vouch firsthand for his message. But the issue was raised.

Click here to have a look at the last editorial – how the whole Khmer press withholds the final, decisive document from the public, before the Preah Vihear Temple was listed as a World Heritag Site.

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