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

Posted on 6 May 2010. Filed under: Week 663 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 663

“High ranking officials of the Sam Rainsy Party had expressed their concerns before, that the non-transparent management of the rich natural resources of Cambodia, as well as corruption, make citizens – the owners of those important resources – become poor, so that they cannot receive the benefits from the present anarchic exploitations of natural resources.

“Officials from 16 countries met in Phnom Penh for two days, on 4 and 5 May 2010, to discuss about the control of forestry resources and the trade of forestry products. Cambodian high ranking officials welcomed and chaired the discussion meetings to step up effective controls on forest resources. Asian and European officials came from Burma, Cambodia, China, England, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Siam [Thailand], the United States of America, and Yuon [Vietnam], to discuss how to promote forestry exploitation that follows legal standards.

“Mr. Timo Mäkelä, the Director of Directorate G – Sustainable Development and Integration – in the Environment Directorate-General of the European Commission, said that forestry trading is an important sector that boosts economic growth in Asian and European countries, and forestry products have significantly and enormously contributed to development of the economies of Asian and European countries. It is stressed that forestry products are essential for a national economy.

“Mr. Timo Mäkelä said that good management of forestry resource will help prevent forestry destructions in any country, though forests can provide substantial national income. Cambodia used to export forestry products to some countries such as the former Soviet Union. But since Cambodia introduced reforms in 2001, the export of [unprocessed] forestry products abroad was halted [but illegal export continued].

“The Minister of Agriculture of Cambodia, Mr. Chan Sarun, who was also present at the discussions, said that people from the countries that attend the meeting can jointly create plans to strengthen forestry management and legislation. ‘We can create joint planning to improve forestry control and to strength fundamental laws, as well as cut down illegal forestry productions.’

“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.

“Ebony, Thnong, and Beng are most wanted luxury grade woods to produce furniture in some countries, and most illegal exports from Cambodia are of these kinds of wood. Most luxury grade wood confiscated was found in Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey, Kompong Cham, Stung Treng, and Kratie. The destinations for its export are known to be China and Yuon, where millions of cubic meters are needed.

“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.

Global Witness said in a statement early April 2010, ‘The idea that Ty Sokhun has been removed from his post because of a failure to crack down on illegal logging is laughable.’ The organization thinks that to tolerate Mr. Ty Sokun after 15 years of forestry crimes originating from his office shows that the past spreading of forestry crimes seems to be forgotten.

Note – From the text of the Global Witness statement:

Sacking of Cambodia’s forest chief unconvincing as move against illegal logging

Press Release – 7.4.2010

Global Witness today welcomed the removal from his post of the Director General of Cambodia’s Forest Administration, Ty Sokhun, but warned that much more needed to be done to guarantee the survival of the country’s remaining forests and the fair and sustainable exploitation of the country’s other natural resources for the benefit of the many not the few.

Global Witness’s 2007 report, Cambodia’s Family Trees, documented how Ty Sokhun and the Ministry of Agriculture Director, Chan Sarun, sold off 500 or more jobs in the Forest Administration. The report also revealed that Ty Sokhun’s father-in-law was a key member of Cambodia’s biggest illegal logging syndicate.

“Ty Sokhun’s reign as Cambodia’s forest chief was a disaster for Cambodia’s forests”, said Simon Taylor, Global Witness Director. “On his watch we saw Cambodia’s forests shrink dramatically, largely due to illegal or ill-managed logging operations. It is a good thing he is gone, but he shouldn’t be let off the hook for what happened while he was in charge.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen says he sacked Ty Sokhun because he had no confidence in his ability to crack down on illegal logging but Global Witness questions why it has taken so long to act…

Taylor: “Ty Sokhun was not the only one responsible for the destruction of Cambodia’s forests. Our investigations have proven the complicity of officials and elites at the highest levels, including members of the Prime Minister’s own family. If Hun Sen genuinely wants closure on the destruction of Cambodia’s forests, he should commission a full independent enquiry into what has happened, publish the findings and punish the perpetrators.”

“At the occasion of the change of head of the Forestry Administration and the appointment of Mr. Chheng Kimson it was seen that some high ranking officials such as [Minister of Agriculture] Mr. Chan Sarun were spared to be called to account for their wrongdoings by the head of the Cambodian government, while in fact Mr. Chan Sarun and Mr. Ty Sokun are the most important persons responsible for forestry crimes for years. This way of suppressing illegal wood trading makes international donors to think that Cambodia does it just to satisfy them to get aid, while the Cambodian government is not really willing to intercept illegal wood trading. [[see also The Mirror of 7.4.2010]]

Note – from a historical Global Witness statement from December 2004

Resign or be sacked

Press Release – 3.12.2004

With the advent of Cambodia’s Consultative Group (CG) donor meeting on 6 and 7 December 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 honourable 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 characterised the crisis situation in Cambodia’s forest as “…total system failure; resulting from greed, corruption, incompetence and illegal acts…” However, according to the ADB so many people, companies, institutions and countries were responsible for the fiasco that no one should be made accountable. Since that time not one forest department official has been charged with corruption, let alone convicted. Yet as recently as April 2004 the Independent Forest Sector Review referred to “high levels of institutionalised corruption.” Still, no one is being held to account.

“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.”

Good governance is at the core of the new “Rectangular Strategy,” of the third legislature of the National Assembly, but the government has been talking tough on corruption and doing nothing for years, as has the donor community. At the 1996 CG meeting, then First Prime Minister H.R.H. Norodom Ranariddh stated that the Royal Government of Cambodia was committed to “implement appropriate measures,” to amongst other things “effectively combat corruption.” More recently at the 2001 CG the ADB’s Urooj Malik “respectfully urged” the Royal Government “to move forward with the finalization of legislation on Anti-corruption…”. The donors then pledged US$ 615 million, US$ 115 million more than the Cambodian government had actually asked for. In 2002 “the adoption of a new Anti-Corruption Law” was, according to the World Bank, by now “of particular and most urgent importance.” The donors pledged US$ 635 million.

“The Cambodian government must find the whole CG process absolutely hilarious. Each year they fail to meet their benchmarks and each year the donors give them more money.” said Buckrell.

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.” During Monday’s CG, the donors must hold the entire government to account for their failure to put anti-corruption rhetoric into practice. The donors should insist on rapid enactment of an effective Anti-Corruption law and a register of business interests for politicians, officers in the military, and senior officials.

“Dismissing the Director of the Forest Administration is an absolute minimum first step any donor really interested in Cambodia’s development should expect from a government committed to reform and addressing corruption,” said Global Witness Director, Simon Taylor. “Our recent report, Taking a Cut, provides a number of other key minimum steps we would expect the Cambodian Government to undertake to clean up its act. Some years ago, Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that his Premiership depended on his success in delivering improvements in the forestry sector. By any standards, he has thus far failed. The challenge is now to the donors and the Prime Minister to deliver.”

“According to a report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the trade in forestry products with markets in Asian countries, North America, and the European Union in 2001 amounted to about US$140 billion, while in 1999, it had been less than that. A report about the fight against illegal forestry crimes of the World Bank, from 2006, showed that the forest destructions in the world siphoned off more than US$10 billion each year.

“A well known opposition party leader in Cambodia, Mr. Sam Rainsy, had said that corruption leads to the devastation of natural resources of Cambodia. He said that if there were a proper and transparent management of those resources, Cambodia were able to earn huge amounts of money for national construction and for some important infrastructure developments to serve the needs of the citizens.

“Mr. Sam Rainsy recalled that the exploitation of national resources does so far not contribute proper benefits for the nation and for poor citizens, due to corruption. If there were an accurate management, Cambodia could find sufficient income without depending on foreign aid or loans, as the government does at present.

“The Sam Rainsy Party spokesperson, Mr. Yim Sovann, said that the improper management of the national budget, especially the collection of income from the exploitations of natural resources without transparency and without following the laws of control, make Cambodia lose its benefits. Mr. Yim Sovann suggests that the government should create effective laws to control the natural resources and to ensure that income from the exploitation of natural resources is not lost to corruption.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3872, 6.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 6 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.17, #1438, 6.5.2010

  • Sweden Plans to Establish an Embassy in Cambodia [no exact date specified]

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #470, 6.5.2010

  • A 30-Year-Old Woman Was Attacked with Acid over a Suspected Love Affair [the perpetrators are not yet arrested – Phnom Penh]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2241, 6.5.2010

  • The Prime Minister Met with the Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense [Mr. Shimba Kazuya [防衛副大臣 榛葉賀津也], discussing about bilateral and regional cooperation]
  • Jointly Stepping Up the Fight against Human Trafficking
  • A Workshop about the Results from a Consultation to Cooperate Implementing the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women Was Held [Ms. Chim Manavy, the director of the Open Institute: priorities and strategies to achieve the same goals together cooperating between civil society organizations and institutions of the government, to effectively implement the action plan, had been discussed and set up, including Information and Communication Technology as a means to promote gender equality and to empower women, as stated in the 2015 Millennium Development Goals]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #648, 6.5.2010

  • Journalists Publish a Declaration on Freedom of Information, Demanding that the Government Creates a Law about the Right to Know Soon [the government is drafting this law without open participation of journalists’ associations]
  • Samdech Euv [Father King] Norodom Sihanouk and Siamese [Thai] King Sent Each Other Good Wishes

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6948, 6.5.2010

  • Nearly 100,000 Hectares of Economic Concession Land in Kompong Thom Are Delivered to Twenty One Companies for Growing Agro-Industrial Crops
  • A Woman Was Raped and Killed and a Few Hours Later, the Perpetrator Was Arrested [Phnom Penh]
  • A Statement by Cambodian Journalists Published on the World Press Freedom Day Suggests that “The Right to Know Must Be Guaranteed for Cambodian Citizens by the Government”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3872, 6.5.2010

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

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.140, #165, 6.5.2010

  • Cambodia Claimed Again that the Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda Is on Khmer Territory [while Thailand claimed it is on Thai territory. – Actually, it is on territory declared by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in a Joint Communique on 18 June 2008, signed together with UNESCO and the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, as a “buffer zone” not claimed by Cambodia in the context of the World Heritage Site designation plans]
  • [More than 100] Boeng Kak Lake Residents Protested in Front of the Council for the Development of Cambodia [CDC – to oppose the submission of a Master Plan for the development of the area from the Municipality to the CDC, but officials said that the Master Plan has not yet been delivered to the CDC – but people have already been evicted before the plan was accepted]
  • The Minister of Finance of Indonesia [Ms. Sri Mulyani Indrawati] Receives the Top Position in the World Bank [as its Managing Director]
  • Cambodia Railway Station Is Starting with New Life because of Continuing Investment [it is now controlled by the Toll Royal Railways; the whole Cambodian railway system is being repaired under US$141,1 million aid and credits from the Asian Development Bank, AusAID, and OPEC]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5190, 6.5.2010

  • Cambodia Imports Fuel Amounting to US$450 Million Each Year [according to a report from the Ministry of Commerce]
  • 199 Pieces of Ebony [loaded on a boat] Prepared to Be Imported to Vietnam, Were Seized on the High Sea [Kampot]

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The Prime Minister Said that to Summon More Khmer Rouge Leaders for Questioning Is Fatal – Friday, 4.12.2009

Posted on 5 December 2009. Filed under: Week 641 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 641

“The Prime Minister said, ‘Some do take the opportunity to use the Khmer Rouge court again and again… it is a fatal case. I do not interfere in the court affairs, but the court did not put off the war [with the Khmer Rouge]; and be careful, in case the court creates war and division in the society again…’

“This statement was made by Prime Minister Hun Sen again on 3 December 2009 during the 27th International Day of Disabled Persons in Phnom Penh, in relation to the intention of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to summon more people to testify.

“On 30 November 2009, the lawyer of a Khmer Rouge leader demanded that the investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal question Prime Minister Hun Sen and some government officials, for having politically interfered in the affairs of this court. But yesterday, the head of the government, Mr. Hun Sen, stated that he does not interfere in the court affairs, but he just pointed to intentions to destroy the peace, which could hardly be recovered by summoning more former Khmer Rough leaders for questioning. This kind of an expression of concern is considered by a foreign defense lawyer of a former Khmer Rouge leader to be a criminal offense.

“Nuon Chea’s defense lawyer mentioned Prime Minister Hun Sen’s words, saying in September 2009, that the Prime Minister stated that he himself fled from the communist regime in 1977, adding that witnesses do not need to testify at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

“Nuon Chea’s defense lawyer, Mr. Michael Pestman, said to the news agency AFP and was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post, for their publication on 30 November 2009, as saying, ‘Mr. Hun Sen really told all summoned witnesses that they do not need to cooperate with the tribunal. That means he committed a criminal offense and it seriously affects the legal investigations of this court.’

“A similar suggestion, which AFP had received, mentioned the words of government officials they had used in October 2009 that the six parliamentarians and high ranking officials of the government, summoned by this court, do not need to testify.

“Mr. Pestman added, ‘Mr. Hun Sen’s statement is affecting the hearings to seek justice for our clients, because those government officials are direct witnesses whom we need for this process.’ He added, ‘At least, these words can weaken the legitimacy of the court.’

‘Yesterday morning, Mr. Hun Sen did not exactly refer to any Khmer or foreign lawyers, prosecutors, or judges, but stressed that this measure intends just to provoke turmoil in Cambodia.

“Mr. Hun Sen said, ‘They try to create turmoil in order to exploit the benefits for themselves.’

“After the celebration of the International Day of Disabled Persons yesterday, Mr. Hun Sen said, ‘From 1993 till now, when Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, and other leaders of the Khmer Rouge cabinet arrived back, we considered this as the stage where the political and military organizations of the Khmer Rouge had been dissolved.’

“Mr. Hun Sen added that he would rather let the Khmer Rouge Tribunal fail, than would he let it to create a new war in Cambodia. He stated, ‘A hearing is just a hearing, but the peace must be kept also, and national unity must be maintained. You must balance these. Do not play with them, it can be fatal; and 100,000 to 200,000 people would die if there would be war again; who will then call the Khmer Rouge, or go to call them back from the forest again? I am old now. When I went to call the brothers and sisters [the former Khmer Rouge people] back from the forest, I was not yet 50 years old… I would rather let the court fail, but I will not let war break out. I want to say this clearly to the people. If the court fails, let it be.’

“Mr. Hun Sen is the 7th person who was to be summoned to testify.

“Even though Mr. Hun Sen is worried about the breaking out of war again because of the summons for more former Khmer Rouge leaders, the former prime minister of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea in the 1980s, Mr. Pen Sovann, supports the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to summon more former Khmer Rouge leaders to testify, who are now high ranking officials of the Cambodian People’s Party.

“On 8 October 2009, Mr. Pen Sovann told Khmer Machas Srok related to this case that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is an independent and professional court which can provide justice to Khmer citizens who are victims of the Khmer Rouge. He said, ‘Nobody who was involved in the past Khmer Rouge history, no politician, should interfere in this court, because this court is independent… I support this court as it has its rights, its independence, and its role.’

“Prime Minister Hun Sen frequently warned that there will be instability if this court continues to summon more former Khmer Rouge leaders for questioning. But Mr. Pen Sovann claimed that there will not be any instability. He went on to say, ‘I think that this could not happen. It is only the personal opinion of Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen; he wants to protect persons of the former the Khmer Rouge Regime.’

“The four top former Khmer Rouge leaders, who are at present already being detained, are the former head of state, Mr. Khieu Samphan; the former president of the National Assembly, Mr. Nuon Chea; the former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ieng Sary; and the former Minister of Social Affairs, Ms. Ieng Thirith; in addition, there is also the former S-21 (Tuol Sleng) prison chief Duch, who was a middle level leader, who was brought first to the hearings.

“On 7 October 2009, the French investigating judge, Mr. Marcel Lemonde, and also a co-judge of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, summoned six high ranking officials of the Cambodian People’s Party to give testimony. Those six officials are the president of the Senate and of the Cambodian People’s Party, Mr. Chea Sim; the honorary president of the Cambodian People’s Party and president of the National Assembly, Mr. Heng Samrin; the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr. Keat Chhon; the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Hor Namhong; and two other senators, Mr. Sim Ka and Mr. Ouk Bunchhoeun. Mr. Hun Sen is the 7th person of the Cambodian People’s Party who was summoned for questioning and to testify.” Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #546, 4.12.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 4 December 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #353, 4.12.2009

  • Samdech Dekchor: I Would rather Let the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Fail Than Let the Country Fall into War Again
  • The Prime Minister Encourages the Provision of Job Opportunities to Disabled People [he said this during the celebration of the International Day of Disabled Persons; at present there are 19,232 disabled people in Cambodia; their rate declined from 2% in 1998 to 1.4% in 2008]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2115, 4.12.2009

  • The Number of People Infected with A/H1N1 Increased to 480 [and there were five deaths]
  • An American Official [Ms. Diane Whitten from the US embassy in Phnom Penh] Wants That More Khmer Students Study in the United States [and return to develop the country]

Khmer Amatak, Vol.10, #689, 4.12.2009

  • The United States Helps to Prepare the Angkor Guard Military Exercises in 2010 in Cambodia, with 23 Countries Participating [US$1,800,000 was granted to prepare an area for the exercises]
  • The Ministry of Health Closed Three Clinics within One Week [the Beijing Clinic in Ratanakiri, and the Russey Keo, and the Bopha Meas Clinics in Phnom Penh, where recently patients died because of neglect, and for not following some principles of the Ministry of Health] while Some Big State Hospitals Are Privatized

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #546, 4.12.2009

  • The Prime Minister Said that to Summon More Khmer Rouge Leaders for Questioning Is Fatal

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6822, 4.12.2009

  • The Former Malaysian Prime Minister Brings Donations for Cambodian Muslim People Who Suffered from a Big Fire [in Phnom Penh]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #60, 4.12.2009

  • [Prime Minister] Hun Sen: I Do Not Interfere in the Court [of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal]
  • Foreign Investment Dropped by Almost 100% in October this Year [the investment was only US$15.5 million while last year during the same month, it amounted to US$869.8 million; according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), it declined due to the collapse of banks where many investors had asked for loans for investment]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5064, 4.12.2009

  • Cambodia Denied that Deputy Prime Minister Sok An Went to Welcome the Mother of the Thai [alleged] Spy at the Airport [when she came to visit her son]
  • Cambodia Asked the Former Malaysian Prime Minister to Look at Cambodian Rice [for possible export to Malaysia]
  • A Man Rides a Bicycle across 12 Countries to Collect Donations for Cambodian Disabled Persons [Mr. Ben King, New Zealander; look at http://bikeben.com]
  • Cambodia Asked China [through a Chinese parliamentarian delegation] to Help Train Human Resources to Repair and Preserve Temples and to Find a Ship That Sank in Koh Kong [during the 14th or 15th century]
  • The First European Union – Asian Cultural Event Will Be Organized [on 4 December 2009 at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1826, 4-6.12.2009

  • The Diplomatic Dispute between Siam [Thailand] and Cambodia Is Destroying the Plan to Construct the ASEAN Railroad [to connect the ASEAN states to the South of China]

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A 30 Years Commemoration – Civil Society in Cambodia – Sunday, 29.11.2009

Posted on 30 November 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 640 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 640

The past weak saw a special anniversary celebration, which is in no calendar of national events: 30 years since NGOs started to work in Cambodia. Nowadays, when the participation of NGOs – foreign and national – is assumed as a regular feature of life in society, it is surely not easy to understand the extraordinary nature that foreign NGOs came to Cambodia in 1979. At that time, the majority of UN member states considered the Cambodian government to be illegal. The so called “Western” countries and the People’s Republic of China agreed on the point that the Khmer Rouge representative continued to legally represent Cambodia at the United Nations until 1990. Seeing this agreement between these two world powers normally not much in agreement, many Third World countries went along with this understanding. Only the socialist countries (except China) and India established diplomatic relations with the government in Phnom Penh after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime. And US citizens, working in Cambodia, even if their salaries did not originate from the USA, had to pay “punitive taxes” in the USA.

30 Years NGOs in Cambodia Celebration

30 Years NGOs in Cambodia Celebration

Eva Mysliwiec, now the director of Youth Star Cambodia, who had came to Cambodia in May 1980, spoke at the commemoration, on behalf of the NGO Organizing Committee, about the three decades of NGO partnerships with the people and government of Cambodia, saying,

“It is very moving to look around this room and to see so many people who have contributed to the Cambodia in which we live today. How far we have come since 1979!

I remember well my arrival in May 1980, in a country devastated by war and genocide. I remember vividly my first meeting with Samdech HUN Sen who was then Foreign Minister and 28 years old.”

There were only five NGOs, who had dared to break the boycot of their home governments: the American Friends Service Committee, CIDSE, Church World Service, OXFAM, and World Vision – now, as the Prime Minister announced in his speech, there are 3,207 NGOs and associations, that is 1,933 NGOs and 1,274 other associations. Eva Mysliwiec continued:

“The core of NGO work was focused on massive relief, meeting health needs and restoring agricultural production in order to prevent famine. Because of the embargo imposed by the Western Community and with precious few resources, NGOs found themselves in a unique role where they had to provide massive infrastructure assistance as well… NGO work in the eighties spanned virtually every sector of Cambodian society and economy, from the restoration of urban and rural water supply, to the rehabilitation of infrastructure, the provision of basic agriculture, education and health inputs, etc. – the list is endless.”

But in spite of all this emphasis on practical actions, she said:

“In my view, the most valuable role the NGOs played in the eighties was solidarity: bearing
witness to the suffering of Cambodian people, bearing witness to the unearthing of mass graves, bearing witness to the continuing hardship caused by the embargo and isolation and especially bearing witness to the resilience, ingenuity and determination of people to rebuild their country. They created a bridge between Cambodian people and the people in countries whose governments did not recognize Cambodia.”

This history has to be remembered, when nowadays, sometimes the opinion is expressed that NGOs have one role only: “to provide humanitarian assistance” – quite different from the wide variety of activities NGOs are engaged with in other countries of the world.

All the more it was interesting that also the keynote speaker, Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS (“Promoting a worldwide community of informed, inspired, committed citizens who are actively engaged in confronting the challenges facing humanity” – with member organizations in 110 countries), described the fundamental task of civil society not just in terms of development or humanitarian project implementations, but located their role in the present situation, after the collapse of many schemes based on an free-market system, where human rights an democratic are more under threat than before.

“In Latin America, Africa, Eurasia and Asia authoritarian governments are being permitted to crack down with impunity on civil society and media freedoms through new, draconian legislative and fiscal controls if they control access to energy resources, investment or markets… Funding for defending these rights, for strengthening civil society architecture and for building solidarity across civil society groups is also much harder to come by as donor resources are stretched by increasing domestic needs and by more immediate humanitarian needs…

“The possibilities of mounting a coherent challenge to the economic paradigm of market fundamentalism and the patent inequity of the institutions of global governance have never been greater. For the first time in history peoples from Michigan to Manila, Madrid to Mali, and Mumbai to Moscow can share the realization that the root causes of their individual problems, and hence their interests, are in fact, identical. From slums to forests, fishing communities to assembly-lines, indigenous peoples to suburbia – the people we so often refer to as ‘ordinary’ are increasingly aware of the connectedness of their causes. It’s up to us as civil society to provide the means for them to mobilize in solidarity with each other. We have unprecedented access to the information, networks and technologies that permit us to support their struggles against tyranny and injustice…

“Speaking in Moscow a few months ago, Barack Obama affirmed that ‘meeting these challenges requires a vibrant civil society; the freedom of people to live as they choose, to speak their minds, to organize peacefully and to have a say in how they are governed; a free press to report the truth; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; a government that’s accountable and transparent.’

“We know from experience that active citizenship is the only antidote to this takeover of governance and that investing in the creation, nurturing and protection of civil society rights is the only vaccine. We know, or ought to, that empowering people to defend their own freedoms to exist, engage and express is not only the most sustainable development strategy but the only morally defensible one…

“Despite, or rather because of, our lack of hierarchical command and control structures, our diversity and belief in values-led approaches, civil society is better equipped to grasp, respond to, and evolve collective solutions that require a fundamental shift in world-view than either governments or businesses. And possibly better at displaying the humility required to build the cross-sectoral partnerships without which we cannot possibly resolve these crises…

“Doing so will take more than a business as usual approach from us. It will take each of us as individuals, organizations and alliances setting aside our egos, our brands, our narrow self-interests and our differences to come together in unprecedented levels of collaboration and genuine partnership that focuses on amplifying the voices of those least heard, and of finding common cause across boundaries of nationality, geography and thematic interest.

“If we can aspire to that ideal, we may, just may, address the stupendous challenges before us and even realize the goals you have all dedicated your lives to, whether you approach that goal through the lens of volunteerism or human rights, faith or secularism, charity or human rights – the overarching goal of civil society in all its forms – a world based on equity and justice.”

Such a challenge to reflect, to consider a clear fundamental orientation for the day-to-day work of civil society is important. And it is equally important that civil society communicates clearly to the other sectors of society its claims and commitments. It is important to see what the suggested orientation is: “to struggle against tyranny and injustice, and for equality.”

The address of the Prime Minister dealt, according to reports, a lot with the planned NGO Law. There is some apprehension among the NGO community, because a current draft is not available for public discussion in the community.

Some examples given, why an NGO Law is important – like to prevent terrorist acts planned under the cover of NGOs – were widely not seen as convincing: the intended terrorist attack against the British Embassy had been stopped in time, and the Indonesian terrorist Hambali was arrested – both without an NGO law.

The following reported concern of the Prime Minister is surprising. There are detailed and elaborate forms from the Council for the Development of Cambodia – CDC – where NGOs have to describe source of funding and work plans – on the national level and in the provinces – which serve exactly this purpose since many years ago, though the Prime Minister said now:

“The Royal Government wants to know where NGOs get the money from and how they use it for what. ‘Just this they do not want to tell.’”

Here are obviously some misunderstandings about administrative processes involved. In addition, most donors, providing financial resources to NGO, have requirements for professional auditing, and the results are not secret. Compared to the recent calls by the Prime Minister to curb multiple remuneration payments to government advisers, combined with the repeated calls by the Prime Minister to economize gasoline usage by a better control on the use of public vehicles, allows the assumption that the handling of finance in the NGO world is comparatively well organized and transparent.

What is important, therefore, is the clear statement of the Prime Minister, that the NGO Law will not interfere with the normal activities of NGO: “I guarantee that it is not an action to restrict the freedom of NGOs, please believe me.” Should lower level authorities try to act differently, civil society can appeal to this public promise of the Prime Minister.

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2010 Will Be the Year That Vietnamese Products Flow in Heavily – Up to US$2 Billion – Monday, 12.10.2009

Posted on 13 October 2009. Filed under: Week 634 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 634 – Monday, 12.10.2009

“Trade between Cambodia and Vietnam will increase dramatically in 2010, if the Cambodian economy recovers again from the global economic crisis.

“According to a report by a Vietnamese radio station on 9 October 2009, commerce between both countries will rise to as much as US$2 billion in 2010. In 2008, commerce between Vietnam and Cambodia surpassed the commerce between Cambodia and Thailand.

“According to the Ministry of Commerce of Vietnam and an industry report, the commerce between both countries declined by 29.2% to only US$858 million within the nine months in 2009 (by September). Vietnamese exports to Cambodia amounted to more than US$726 million. Vietnam is the fourth biggest importer of agricultural products from Cambodia, like rubber and wood and wood products.

“What is also noticeable is that within nine months, more than 40 Vietnamese companies were registered in Cambodia, a higher number than for other countries. In 2008, 52 Vietnamese companies were registered in Cambodia, the third position after China with 82, and Malaysia with 56 companies.

“According to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), investment from Vietnam increased up to US$114 million within nine months. This is more than the total amount within the 12 months of 2008. The Bank of Investment and Development of Vietnam in Saigon opened a branch in Cambodia.

“While China is the biggest investor in Cambodia, Vietnam is becoming the biggest supplier of imports into Cambodia. Vietnam takes a bigger market share in Cambodia, while the imports from Thailand to Cambodia are affected by the border disputes between both countries.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5018, 11-12.10.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 12 October 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #308, 11-12.10.2009

  • The Ministry of Health Steps Up Activities to Control A/H1N1 Infections during the Water Festival [where a large number of people will come from the provinces to celebrate the event in Phnom Penh – the Ministry is preparing to broaden awareness about A/H1N1 in the public]
  • South Korea Will Expand Flights to Cambodia [adding flights also from Busan to Siem Reap, after tourist arrivals to Cambodia from South Korea had dropped due to the global financial crisis]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2069, 11-12.10.2009

  • A Southeast Asian Television Network [supported by a foundation for art and culture of Japan] Will Be Inaugurated in December 2009 [in Cambodia]
  • The Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Returned from France with More Than Euro 200,000 of Aid for Poor Communities [from the Association Internationale des Maires Francophones, mainly for the improvement of clean water supply]

Khmer Amatak, Vol.10, #659, 12.10.2009

  • 320 Police Officials of the Department of Public Order Reacted when New Uniforms Had Not Been Offered since Three Years [sending an anonymous letter to Khmer Amatak to make their problems known

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6776, 12.10.2009

  • More Than 1,000 Houses and the Doung International Border Crossing Point in Kamrieng District Are Flooded by Rain [Battambang]
  • An Adult Man Used Money to Lure a Girl for Sexual Relationship until His Wife Found Out [and then he was arrested – Kompong Speu]

Phnom Penh Post, Vol.1, #23, 12.10.2009

  • Seventeen People Died and Ten Are Missing after a Boat [that was overloaded] Sunk in Kratie
  • Nearly 100 Houses Were Burnt by the Oddar Meanchey Authorities [to evict citizens from disputed land, disputed with the Angkor Sugar Company, known to be owned by a Senator from the Cambodian People’s Party, Mr. Ly Yong Phat]
  • [The Minister of Economy and Finance] Mr. Keat Chhon: The Cambodian Economy Unexpectedly Encounters Many Problems
  • The Defense Lawyers of a Former Khmer Rouge Leader [Ieng Sary] Prepare to Sue the Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde for Bias [as he summoned six high ranking government officials who overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime to testify]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5018, 11-12.10.2009

  • 2010 Will Be the Year That Vietnamese Products Flow in Heavily – Up to US$2 Billion
  • The Millennium Development Goals of Cambodia: The Child Mortality Rate Will Remain a Concern [even though there had been declining figures, if health services are not improved]
  • France Helps Train Cambodian Troops [in preparing materials and in the French language] before They Are Sent to Chad and to the Central African Republic

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.16, #3499, 11.10.2009

  • The Ministry of Health Warns about a Pandemic of Swine Flu [the Minister of Health, Mr. Mam Bunheng, told private hospitals to refer patients to state hospitals immediately if they are suspected to be infected with the A/H1N1 flu]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1805, 12.10.2009

  • An Opposition Party: The Government Should Take Its Wrongdoings into Account [repeating old Global Witness reports]

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Websites of the Council for the Development of Cambodia Also Sleep – Thursday, 22.1.2009

Posted on 23 January 2009. Filed under: Week 596 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

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The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 596

“After visiting the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation – and there was nothing specially new – I began to wonder whether the websites of other state institutions are also all numb or not.

Note:

From the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: ‘International Issues’ – the last entry is from 2003; for 2003, 2002 and 2001 there is only one item each. ‘Statements by H.E. Mr. HOR Namhong’ – up to February 2007. The icons of little flags of China, France, Japan, and South Korean seem to invite to read the documents in the language of these countries – but a click leads back to the English text – the target of the British flag icon. A Khmer language version does not exist.

“Therefore, I started to visit a website of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, which is an important state institution, especially it is tasked to attract investment to Cambodia. It was as disappointing as visiting the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On the websites of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, and on another website, Cambodian Rehabilitation and Development Board (CRDB) – Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), most information, except for laws, is out of date, which is not different from that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first website deals with investment, and the second one is related to foreign aid and meetings with donor countries. Both websites do not have information since 2007. [The first of the two sites displays an icon with the Japanese flag – and a click leads really to a Japanese version.]

“As for information about the gross domestic product [GDP], there are only figures for 2005; that means the GDP figures for the last three years, when Cambodia achieved double digit percentages of economic growth, are not published to the world through this website. What is ridiculous, is that the price of land in Phnom Penh, presented to investors, is just between US$357 and US$700 per square meter. Is this information useful for anything?

“In fact, this is very old information, because the price of land in Phnom Penh is now not under thousands of dollars, even though we are facing an economic crisis. The reason, why the Council for the Development of Cambodia publishes such cheap land prices is because those prices are from reports from 2006.

“How about looking for information about the political system on the website? New information related to the political system is also not provided. That means they still present previous information about the parliamentary election results of 2003, where the Cambodian People’s Party won 73 seats, Funcinpec won 26 seats, and the Sam Rainsy Party won 24 seats. Results of the elections in July 2008 are not found on this website. Therefore there is no information saying that the Cambodian People’s Party won 90 seats, the Sam Rainsy Party won 26 seats, the Human Rights Party of Kem Sokha won 3 seats, Funcinpec won 2 seats, and the Norodom Ranariddh Party won also 2 seats among the 124 seats of the National Assembly. As for information about the government, there is nothing; that is, no one knows about the Cambodian government led by Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen. They only keep old information of many years ago, around 100 words in English. They do not present anything to the world about the political stability in Cambodia.

“The Council for the Development of Cambodia should know that political stability is a key factor which can attract foreign investors to invest in Cambodia. This omission is part of the failure to attract foreign investors to come to invest in Cambodia. The role of the Council for the Development of Cambodia is to present detailed information about Cambodia to the world, particularly information related to favorable factors for investment.

“If this website contains mostly unusable information, how can investors decide to invest in Cambodia? Moreover, publishing such information about investment on this website can also make the foreign press use it and publish it in their countries – so they use these figures of investments in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Looking at these investment figures, the press will analyze these data and publish wrong information to the world.

“What the Council for the Development of Cambodia and all state institutions have to know better is to provide information; information is a necessary factor for democratic and free market countries. Additional billions of dollars will flow to Cambodia, if investors receive sufficient information: that Cambodia has political stability and many other favorable factors for investment. They will not take a risk to invest in a country that they do not known well.

“It should be time that all state institutions wake up and catch up so that information technology will be benefiting as much as possible. A lazy Cambodia might be assessed wrongly when seeing such out-of-date information. They might think that those institutions do not do anything for the nation. Written by a citizen” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4801, 22.1.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 22 January 2009

Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, #9, 22.1.2009

  • [Foreign] Co-Defense Lawyers of [former Khmer Rouge leader] Nuon Chea Will Appear to Explain Their Corruption Complaint Today [at the Phnom Penh Primary Court]
  • Dey Krahom Residents Ask the Municipal Authorities to Provide between US$30,000 and US$100,000 to Each Family
  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Ms. Mu Sochua Asks the President of the Cambodian People’s Party to Keep the Renakse Hotel as a National Heritage

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1853, 22.1.2009

  • Obama Sworn in to Take His Office and Become the First Black US President
  • Municipal Traffic Police Complain that Money Provided by the Municipality Was Lost for Four Months [Riel 5 million, corresponding to approx. US$1,250, is provided to the Phnom Penh Traffic Police Office monthly, and each traffic police official receives Riel 10,000, corresponding to approx. US$2.50]

Khmer Aphivoath Sethakech, Vol.7, #328, 22.1.2009

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen: If I Want to Break Up the Alliance between Both Parties [the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party], It Can Be Done Any Day

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.2, #189, 22.1.2009

  • If It Keeps Working, It Is against the Punishment Imposed; therefore It Is Better to Close It [the Bopha Meas Clinic was closed by the Ministry of Health, after violating the ban for private hospitals to pick up and transport patients]
  • The Cambodian Government Adopts a Video Conferencing Program [using e-government technology for state meetings]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6558, 22.1.2009

  • A Teenage Boy and a Teenage Girl [of a group of ten teenagers] Are Arrested for Attacking another Student [one girl was hit until she fainted; all of them are high-school students – Phnom Penh]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3672, 22.1.2009

  • Siamese [Thai] Minister of Foreign Affair [Kasit Piromya] Will Come to Discuss Solutions for the Border Disputes with Cambodia This Weekend
  • Mr. Sam Rainsy Hopes that the New US President Will Improve the Promotion of Democracy

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4801, 22.1.2009

  • Websites of the Council for the Development of Cambodia Also Sleep
  • Research Report [conducted from 9 September to 1 October 2008 by researchers from the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley and from the Treatment Committee] Found that only a Small Number of Khmer People Know and Follow he Processes of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
  • A Man Died and a Boy Is Seriously Injured because of Playing with Unexploded Ordnance [Pursat]
  • Cambodia and Vietnam Do Not Allow the Building up of Military Activities against Each Other
  • The Minister of Health [Mr. Mam Bunheng] Appeals to Residents Living near the Vietnamese Border to Be Careful with Bird Flue

Samleng Yuweakwey, Vol.2, #6, 22-24.1.2009

  • Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun [who have just been released on bail] Will Attend to Place Flowers for Chea Mony This Morning [the former president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, who was murdered in 2004]

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Thursday, 5.6.2008: Mr. Sam Rainsy Says that Good Investors Will Not Come to Invest in a Country Where Leaders Are Corrupt-to-the-Bone like in Cambodia

Posted on 6 June 2008. Filed under: Week 563 | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 563

“Observers said that the year 2008 is a most important year for Khmer citizens, for more than eight million voters, to change to a new leader to lead the government until 2013.

“However, early 2008 investments in Cambodia declined to nearly 50 percent of the period of three months, compared to the same period in early 2007.

“According to a summary report by the Council for the Development of Cambodia [CDC], in the period of three months, private investments in Cambodia covered in total US$253 million, which is less than that during last year, covering US$503 million. This report showed that foreign investment declined from US$282 million for the period of three months in early 2007 to US$162 million for the same period of early 2008; and also local investment declined from US$221 million for the same period of 2007 to only more than US$90 million in 2008.

“The CDC report added that in terms of foreign investments in the period of three months of 2008, Singapore ranked first with US$48 million, China ranked second with US$32 million, and South Korea ranked third with US$30 million. However, in the period of three months of 2007, the investments from China had been first with US$66 million, and South Korea had been third with US$38 million.

“An economic analyst said that the decline will affect the labor force, and economic growth will also decline. There are two reasons leading to this problem – the decline of garment exports, and the decline of the constructions of high rise buildings, flats, and houses, mostly by investments from South Korea. This decline might affect the everyday livelihood of citizens and might increase poverty.

“Regarding the above issue, Mr. Sam Rainsy, a famous opposition leader and an economist, criticized the government, claiming that the decline is because of corruption, which makes good investors not to dare to invest in Cambodia.

“He said, ‘It does not mean only the decline of quantity, but also the decline of quality, because there is more corruption in Cambodia than in other countries; therefore good investors will not come to invest in a country where leaders are corrupt-to-the-bone like in Cambodia, and companies that dare to invest in Cambodia are mostly problematic companies.

“The report of the CDC showed also that in 2007, the total investment covered US$2,700 million, of which US$1,200 million came form tourism, and US$708 million came from physical infrastructure and services, US$374 million came from industries and factories, and US$363 million came from agro-industries. In 2007 investment from China ranked first with US$461 million invested in big hydro-electricity plants, and South Korea ranked third with US$152 million.

“Some economic observers in Cambodia noted that investment in 2007 was lower than that in 2006, and in 2008 it will decline more than in 2007. This decline was mainly because of corruption and heavy bureaucratic procedures in important institutions, making big investors afraid of investing in Cambodia.

“Economic observers in Cambodia claim that some important state institutions which are full of corruption are the Council of Ministers of Cambodia, administered by Sok An, who is Hun Sen’s in-law, the Ministry of Economy and Finance managed by Keat Chhon, the former advisor to Pol Pot, the Ministry of Commerce administered by Cham Prasidh, Sok An’s in-law, the Customs and Excise office administered by Pen Siman, the CDC, and the Department of the Economic Police of the Ministry of Interior.

“Some officials of civil society organizations mentioned that in the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum meeting on 19 and 20 June 2007, the power addicted Hun Sen, head of the Royal Government of Cambodia, promised the international community and the donor countries that he would adopt an anti-corruption law soon; however, after the international community and the donor countries had agreed to provide aid of nearly US$600 million to Cambodia, he did not keep his promise. In contrast, he let corruption spread further than before, making foreign investors not to come to invest in Cambodia.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3478, 5.6.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 5 June 2008


Chuoy Khmer, Vol.2, #114, 5.6.2008

  • The Accused Chea Ratha Hires a Lawyer to Sue [against the warrant of the Phnom Penh Court prosecutors and investigating judges] to Open a Way Back for Her to the Country, Saying that a Third Person Was behind the Acid Attack [on Ms. In Soklida’s aunt]


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1658, 5.6.2008

  • [Former Khmer Rouge leader] Khiev Samphan’s Illness Gets More Serious [according to his wife, Mr. Khiev Samphan cannot speak and is partly paralyzed]
  • [Prime Minister] Samdech Hun Sen Announced that He Will Not Participate in the Election Campaign
  • The US Will Provide Nearly US$1 Million for the Preservation of the Phnom Bak Khaeng Temple [according to the US Embassy in Phnom Penh]
  • The Government Advises All State Institutions to Save Electricity
  • Price of Land and of Houses in Phnom Penh Stays Still High


Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #169, 5.6.2008

  • Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association Strongly Condemned Phnom Penh Authorities [for prohibiting them to commemorate at a public site, the 59th anniversary of France cutting Khmer land off and giving it to Yuon – Vietnam – but to hold it at the headquarters of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association with limited space, also criticizing the arrests of monks like the Vietnamese government did]
  • Investment Declines, because There Is Serious Corruption


Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6363, 5.6.2008

  • Merchants Are Cutting Down Trees on Phnom Kulen; It Is Reported that There Are Ten Sites Splitting Trees
  • Cambodia Ranked 21st [with a high rate of primary and a lower rate of secondary education] among 129 Countries ranked by UNESCO
  • Korea Intends to Plant Trees and Preserve Forests in the Angkor Area where there Are Temples [according to Mr. Hun Sen’s assistant Mr. Ieng Sophalet]
  • Robbers with AK Assault Rifles Shot Dead Husband and Wife to Take a Gold Box [on 3 June 2008 – Battambang]
  • Vietnam Opens Way for the Construction of a Nuclear Plant


Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3478, 5.6.2008

  • Mr. Sam Rainsy Says that Good Investors Will Not Come to Invest in a Country Where Leaders Are Corrupt-to-the-Bone like in Cambodia
  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mr. Kuoy Bunroeun Asked the National Election Committee to Include People from Political Parties to Join in the Distributions of Information Leaflets [4 June 2008]

Have a look at last week’s editorial: Setting priorities – what to do to remove some dangerous obstacles, to get safer roads

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