Improving Communication by Communicating – Sunday, 6.6.2010

Posted on 7 June 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 667 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 667

The major event during the week was the meeting of the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum, which brought more than 100 representatives from donor countries and from international financial organizations to Cambodia, to meet with representatives of the Cambodian government. One newspaper quoted a Cambodian official as saying, before the meeting: “Cambodia Hopes to Get US$1 Billion Aid as Expected.” As expected! On the other hand, just days before this meeting, a group of local NGOs released a study with a critical call to the donor community, suggesting that donors should press the government to fulfill agreed requirements carrying out major reforms in the country and to apply Joint Monitoring Indicators defined in the past. Global Witness, the UK based monitoring agency supported by 17 trusts and foundations, 4 development organizations from different countries, and 7 governments, suggested that the donors should take “a coordinated stand against the horribly subverted dynamic of aid in Cambodia in which their country’s money props up the basic functions of the state, leaving an elite free to exploit the state’s assets for personal profit.”

There are voices saying that the pledge of about US$1 billion is a sign that the donors don’t care about critical statements – either deploring the fact of the pledges realize “as expected,” or taking the pledges as a sign of a flat endorsement of the Cambodian government’s policies. Both these opinions are wrong.

To publish critical evaluations of aid effectiveness some days before such a meeting helps to get broad attention. But to expect that it would greatly affect the meeting, assumes that the international donor delegates arrive to sit around the table and then decide on the spot how much to pledge. They all come with the results of a year’s deliberations at home, considering information and opinion gathered and discussed with others, and decisions prepared towards the meeting.

Both sides then, in the formal meeting, share their well considered long range statements:

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen: The aid provided by development partners is a very important contribution for the development of Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government will use the aid effectively, adding that the government will continue to solve major problems such as corruption, land ownership, and judicial reform.”

“The World Bank country director, Ms. Annette Dixon, said, representing the donors, that she lauded the development of Cambodia since the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum held in December 2008, but the progress of the government is still limited in terms of its work to improve strategic planing and to manage aid. She said, ‘It is important for the government to take the lead in aligning resources to development priorities.’”

That is more than a hint that the donors think that available resources are not aligned to development priorities.

What went on during the closed-door meetings may have been more mutually engaging – but the most important things will happen – or not happen – during the course of the year which starts now towards the next meeting. And it will depend on the monitoring of ongoing events and the related discussions – including the regular follow-up in the press and by government and non-government agencies’ observations.

This is a field of hard work: to observe, to analyze, to compare, to speak up, to share – regularly and consistently.

There will be questions requiring answers, and if the questions do not get answers easily, they have to be repeated and made more precise and receive follow-up, maybe again and again. This is the role of the public, and especially of the media. That is why the press is also called “the fourth power” in a state – independent also, like the three others: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, mutually separate, as Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia requires.

The Mirror tries to contribute to this important process.

One element of regular surprise is information like the following, which we carried during this week:

  • Oknha Ly Say Kheang, a Big Trader Destroying the Forest, Appeared in Sihanoukville after Having Escaped from Arrest for a While [he was spotted driving a luxury car and relaxing in Sihanoukville]

A fugitive from prison. Was he arrested?

  • More Than 60 Persons [police, military police, soldiers, as well as a prosecutor, a commune chief and a village chief] Surrounded a Site where a Military Captain is Storing Luxury Grade Wood [seizing 922 pieces of wood, but the owner of the wood has not been arrested]

Why 60 persons for one suspect? And he was not arrested?

  • The Authorities Seek to Arrest Citizens over a Land Dispute [with the Heng Development Company; two persons were arrested for inciting villagers to go to protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence]

“Every Khmer citizens shall be equal before the law” says Article 31 of the Constitution. But some get arrested and others not! So many cries for help trust in the highest authority of the government, carrying pictures of the Prime Minister and the First Lady. When will this confidence wear out if there are too many disappointments?

  • The Government Declared to Fight Corruption [Prime Minister Hun Sen said that there are only a handful of corrupt officials, and the government will encourage other officials to fight corruption together]

We will read it in the press.

And here is a variety of related observations:

An interesting source of income for the state reported:

  • Within Three Weeks, Nearly Riel 2 Million [approx. US$470] Has Been Charged from Those Throwing Away Rubbish in Public Places

Not much, less than US$500. There is no report how much was collected from new, big cars driving around town without neither temporary nor permanent license plates. Almost every day when I am driven around town on a motorcycle-taxi, I see some. Probably there was nothing to report because nothing is being collected from them.

The President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin Does Not Allow Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians to Visit and Monitor the Putting of Border Marker Number 270 in Takeo [at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border; the Sam Rainsy Party claims that the marker is planted on Khmer territory, while the government denies it]

Members of the National Assembly, elected by the people (The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country. All power belongs to the people – says Article 51 of the Constitution), need a permission before they can travel inside of the country? Article 40 of the Constitution sound different: Citizens’ freedom to travel, far and near, and legal settlement shall be respected. We did not reed that the parliamentarians claimed this Constitutional right.

The result:

  • Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Were Prevented from Visiting and Checking a Border Marker [in Takeo, as their visit was blocked by more than 30 armed forces and more than 50 local citizens]

And finally a dilemma:

  • The Opposition Party President Sam Rainsy Plans to Go to the Philippines to Meet with Parliamentarians and Democrats in Asia [at the end of this month, to welcome the newly elected president of the Philippines when he takes office]

Probably there will be many international guests there, especially from the ASEAN region. Among them politicians from Cambodia. But Mr. Sam Rainsy is facing the court in Cambodia, though he is abroad to avoid arrest – but he is free in France, and he is free to travel.

Could another politician from the ASEAN region, the former Thai Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra, also go to the Philippines? Maybe not. There is a search warrant for him from Interpol, and the Thai government is now in the process to send arrest warrants for Mr. Thaksin through Interpol to 187 countries, which makes it more and more difficult to travel anywhere. Except to Cambodia:

  • Cambodia Expressed [through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] the Position Not to Extradite Thaksin to Thailand

He was convicted by a Thai court for corruption – for arranging the sale of valuable Bangkok land without bidding and at a low price, to his wife. But he left the country – “temporarily for about a week,” after paying bail – and did never return.

Everybody is equal before the law? Not quite.

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

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

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 666

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trusts and foundations

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

Development organisations

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

Governments

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

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

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

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

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

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Malaysian “Investments” – Saturday, 15.5.2010

Posted on 17 May 2010. Filed under: Week 664 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 664

Note:

After having been knocked out late on Monday, 10.5.2010, by a bad, but not clearly identified intestinal infection, I am sorry that I could not earlier, and cannot more speedily, catch up again, but maybe it will be done by Monday, 17.5.2010, noon.

Because of the King’s Birthday National Holiday on 13.5.2010, which was extended into further days, it is now intended to have publications, during the current week, only for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Norbert Klein
Editor of the Mirror

I welcome to see Comments in response to publications on The Mirror. When there are Comments, I consider them not as “Letters to the Editor,” but as comments, and I hope other readers may also comment on the Comments.

But the the special situation of this week allows me to respond directly to one comment in detail.

In response to our translated article headline “Malaysian Investors and Investments Are Coming to Cambodia while Cambodia Is Still Unable to Export Its Products” on Monday, 10.5.2010, there was the following Comment noted:

“Do you find this investment not good to your country??”

The “you” is obviously not myself, but the journalist of Khmer Amatak who wrote the article – or all readers in Cambodia. But I will present some subsequent information from the local press.

Before the Billion-Dollar – US$! – deals were signed, there was not much known about their content, only that they would have a total volume of about US$1 billion. This is somewhat surprising, as Article 90 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says: “The National Assembly is an organ which has legislative power, and performs its duties as provided for in the constitution and laws. The National Assembly shall approve the national budget, State planning, loans, financial contracts, and the creation, modification and annulment of tax.” As the financial contracts would also involve one between a Malaysian private company and the Cambodian government, some information towards the National Assembly and the public might have been expected.

All reports in the press welcomed this huge Malaysian investment – for example the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, was quoted in The Cambodia Daily saying “he was aware of the deals and believed that the investment would be a huge plus for the Cambodian economy.”

The climate of the reporting changed later, however, after it was revealed that the major part of the deals – the contract between the Malaysian company Nexbis and the Cambodian government (to provide items to print, including identity cards, passports, and visa – the contract is with the Cambodian Ministry of Interior) was not a Malaysian investment, but a contract for which the Cambodian government will have to pay US$700 million – an amount which corresponds to about 35% of the Cambodian government’s budget for 2010. This payment obligation covers the major part of the “one billion deal” which had been considered to be Malaysian investments in Cambodia.

Some comments were reported in The Cambodia Daily:

  • “That’s a very sizable sum” – Bretton Sciaroni, chairman of the International Business Club.
  • “I am in darkness. I know nothing” – the spokesperson of the Ministry of Information, Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak.
  • No information provided – the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Koy Kuong.
  • National Police spokesperson Kirth Chanthatith said he did not know “what was going on.”
  • Ministry of Interior foreign police department in charge of visas Pen Piseth said he knew nothing.
  • Deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s passport department said he was completely unaware of the deal.
  • The director of the Immigration Department of the National Police Thong Lim: “I do not know about the deal.”
  • The Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance and Economy Hang Chuon Naron said he was unaware of the deal, “I don’t have any information about this. But I think it is not realistic.”

No surprise that now the question is raised, how this deal was concluded – obviously without an open process of competitive bidding. And the question of priorities, to find US$700 million for one of the biggest single deal ever entered into, has not been discussed in the National Assembly, responsible for the national budget.

And in addition, questions are raised about the nature of the company Nexbis – formerly Entertainment Media & Telecoms Corporation – which was hardly known in Cambodia. Now more and more information is coming from Australia, where Nexbis is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange – but it has not reported the Cambodian deal.

In closing, I repeat the Comment received. It is a question to the readers of The Mirror: “Do you find this investment not good to your country?”

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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On World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, an Appeal Was Made Not to Restrict the Freedom of Expression of Cambodian Journalists – Tuesday, 4.5.2010

Posted on 5 May 2010. Filed under: Week 663 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 663

“At least 11 journalists are reported to have been killed unjustly [since 1992 in Cambodia], and the perpetrators who killed them were not convicted according to the law. On the World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2010, journalists and civil society organizations in Cambodia appealed for the elimination of restrictions on the freedom of expression of Cambodian journalists, which until now result in suffering just because they write and express their opinions.

“Cambodian Journalists met to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2010 to assess the situation of journalists in the previous year, and to point to various difficulties they are encountering in Cambodia. The most noticeable issue is the creation of new Penal Code, where observers and especially legal experts consider that it contains several points which may newly define crimes of journalists.

“The president of the Press Council of Cambodia, which has 15 major press associations as members, Mr. Sok Sovann, said that the World Press Freedom Day is an occasion where Cambodian journalists can gather to commemorate national and international journalists who lost their lives, were arrested, or are jailed because of their work as journalists. Mr. Sok Sovann added that the Press Council of Cambodia used 3 May 2010 as the date to inaugurate its headquarters, and there will be a commemoration for the Japanese journalist who recently was killed in Siam [Thailand]. Also, there will be a celebration for the creation of a memorial monument to commemorate former leading journalists.

“The Director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Research, Mr. Moeun Chhean Narith, monitored the progress of the press in Cambodia and noticed that the freedom of expression in Cambodia in 2009 dropped, compared to 2008. He added that some journalists were arrested and some were intimidated while they were covering events.

“Also, Reporters without Borders issued a report in February 2010, saying that freedom of expression in Cambodia remains difficult, as many journalists had to face accusations at courts, and some others are in detention or in prison. Fulfilling the work of a journalist in Cambodia is difficult due to the restrictions on press freedom.

“High ranking officials of the Sam Rainsy Party noticed that the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in Cambodia were restricted, narrowing the space of democracy. It is recalled that journalists with a tendency towards the opposition party had frequently received threats. Even the parliamentarian Sam Rainsy had the expression of his ideas restricted during the sessions of the National Assembly, making some parliamentarians to wear masks as a sign of the restriction of the freedom of expression.

“Also the Cambodian Center for Human Rights released a statement for immediate publication, saying that the International Press Freedom Day is celebrated this year to mark the downturn of press freedom in Cambodia. Since Cambodia has practiced democracy since 1992, at least 11 journalists and those working related to journalism who criticized the Cambodian government are reported to have been murdered.

“The statement continues to say that at present, journalists and those working related to journalism are challenged with mistreatments through accusations embedded with politics and criticism. This violates the fundamental rights for expressing ideas as guaranteed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which are included in and protected by Article 31 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“The statement adds that the overuse of laws to intimidate and to suppress the media through torture, criminal charges, and mistreatment, blocks the open development of journalism in Cambodia and forces journalists to use self-censorship when expressing their opinions, so that they do not irritate the rich and the powerful. The Cambodian Center for Human Rights asked the government to promote and to protect press freedom and the freedom of expression in Cambodia.

“The Cambodian Center for Human Rights supports journalists, as some have faced mistreatment, violence, and intimidation when they received complaints for trying to report truth, justice, and responsibility, and the report praised journalists who had sacrificed their lives, struggling to promote the basic principles of the freedom of expression and of democracy.

“The names of the 11 murdered journalists are given by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights as

  1. Mr. Thou Thormongkol murdered on 11 June 1994
  2. Mr. Non Chan murdered on 7 September 1994
  3. Mr. Chan Dara on 8 December 1994
  4. Mr. Thun Bunly on 18 May 1996
  5. Mr. Chet Duongdara on 30 March 1997
  6. Mr. Pich Em on 4 May 1997
  7. Mr. Michael Sokhan Sinea on 7 July 1997
  8. Mr. Ou Saroeun on 15 October 1997
  9. Mr. Chour Chetharith on 18 October 2003
  10. Mr. Pov Sam Ath on 26 April 2007
  11. Mr. Khim Sambou on 11 July 2008

“The Ministry of Information of Cambodia published in its 2009 report that in Cambodia there are 385 newspapers, 50 newsletters, 172 magazines, 21 journalists associations, and several radio and television stations. Frequently, the Minister of Information called on journalists to closely adhere to their journalistic and moral codes, so that they can avoid complaints and mistreatment.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3868-3969, 3-4.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #466-468, 1-4.5.2010

  • The Attempt to Present the Film “Who Killed Chea Vichea” [killed in 2004 – the head of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers] Failed [as the police took the projection screen away – as there was no permission given by the Phnom Penh municipality]
  • China Announced to Provide Aid of Yuan 100 Million [approx. US$15 Million; plus 257 new military trucks and 50,000 soldiers’ uniforms] to Cambodia, and Continues to Support Cambodia
  • The Resulting Omen from the Royal Ploughing Ceremony: Corn Will Provide Good Yields, and Beans Offer Fairly Good Yields [there is no prediction about paddy rice yield, as the royal oxen ate little paddy rice]
  • One Day Before the International Labor Day, the Director and Staff of the Deum Ampil News Center Received a Letter with Death Threats from an Anonymous Sender

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2237-2239, 1-4.5.2010

  • Within One Year [from 3 April 2009 to 3 April 2010], Twenty Four Journalists Were Arrested [compared to the corresponding period in the previous year, when there were only two] and There Were Ten Complaints against Journalists [according to the Club of Cambodian Journalists]
  • Every Year Cambodia Imports Fruits from Thailand Amounting to About Baht 1 Billion [approx. US$31 Million]
  • [Minister of Information] Khieu Kanharith: The Opposition Party Still Uses Chea Vichea for Political Gain [as it implies that the government was behind his murder]

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #271, 3.5.2010

  • Most Wood Traders Are Oknhas – Is It Therefore that [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Does Not Dare to Bring Them to Court?

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #644-646, 1-4.5.2010

  • The Right to Know Remains a Problem, if the Government Is Not Open to Support Press Freedom [according to the Club of Cambodian Journalists]
  • Chea Vichea’s Daughter, Chea Vichita, Asked Her Mom, ‘Why Was Dad Murdered while He Did Such Good Things?’

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6944-6946, 1-4.5.2010

  • The Government Starts to Conduct a New Census on Civil Servants to Control Their Real Number
  • An Anti-Drug Police Colonel Is under Arrest for Drug Smuggling [Phnom Penh]
  • While Gold Sellers Were Preparing Themselves in the Morning to Travel from Their Home to the Market, They Were Robed by [three] Robbers Who Took Away Jewelry Worth More Than US$100,000 [Battambang]
  • [The Mega] Night Club Was Raided by Police at Midnight, Arresting 109 Men and Women [Phnom Penh]
  • Seven Died and Thirteen Others Were Injured in a Traffic Accident When a Car Hit Cows Crossing the Road [Sihanoukville]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3868-3969, 3-4.5.2010

  • On World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, an Appeal Was Made Not to Restrict the Freedom of Expression of Cambodian Journalists

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #162-163, 3-4.5.2010

  • China Promised to Support Cambodia in the Fields of Military, Investments, and the Economy
  • Cambodia and Japan Will Sign an Oil Exploration Agreement Today [for the Tonle Sap area]
  • [Former Phnom Penh police chief] Heng Pov Claims that there Is Torture in the Prisons
  • [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva: New Elections Can Be Held on 14 November 2010

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5186-5188, 1-4.5.2010

  • On the International Labor Day on 1 May Trade Unions Demanded that their Salaries Should Be Increased, and the Rules for Their Work Conditions Should Be Respected
  • The Prime Minister Called on Institutions Involved to Strengthen the Observation of the Labor Law
  • 10 Out of 1,000 Children in Cambodia Have Heart Diseases [according to Dr. Hav Rathneary, a Cambodia child heart disease expert]
  • The Preah Vihear Court Led Armed Forces to Confiscate More Than 100 Cubic Meters of [illegally cut] Wood
  • The Biggest Fertilizer Companies in Vietnam [PetroVietnam Fertilizer and Chemicals Joint Stock Company] Enter into the Cambodian Market [by establishing an office in Cambodia]

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National Holidays: Labor Day – Sunday – Royal Ploughing Ceremony – Saturday/Sunday/Monday, 1.-3.5.2010

Posted on 3 May 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 662 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 662

While the time runs and runs evenly, the different calendars – related to the year of the sun, or related to the phases of the moon, or related to cultural history and social-political events – have their own ways. And sometimes they lead to interesting crossings.

The Royal Ploughing Ceremony, roughly at the beginning of the rainy season, marks the start of the planting time. And royal astrologers will observe the preferences of the drought animals during the ceremony, which food they prefer – offered to them on seven trays, with beans, corn, grass, rice, sesame seeds, water, and wine – to predict the coming season’s harvest.

We do not keep a record for The Mirror to compare the predictions with the actual results of the harvest several months later. But we just assume that there is some margin of error in the predictions, according to the different animals involved.

During the week, the Prime Minister criticized the big Institutions of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asia Development Bank, for making different predictions for the performance of the Cambodian economy by the end of the year. While the different economic benchmarks monitor and evaluate probably hundreds of data – every institution working independently – is it not surprising that their predictions, depending on so many factors not under their control – are still fairly similar?

The international financial turmoil has brought also a lot of unforeseeable changes for the Cambodian workers in the export and tourism industries, who create a major share of international income for Cambodia. Their work in the textile and shoe factories, and their work to serve foreign tourists visiting the country, is commemorated during Labor Day.

While some international tourist advisories advertise the Royal Ploughing Ceremony as an event worthwhile to visit and observe, some embassies advise tourists to avoiding meetings and events of the organized workers unions, as these may be related to conflicts in society.

One important, positive statement had been reported during the week. The Prime Minister was reported to have said, “Trade Unions Are Not My Enemy, and to Demonstrate Is Their Right.” Though Article 36 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia clearly states that “Khmer citizens of either sex shall have the right to form and to be member of trade unions,” also the notion can be found often assuming that there is a fundamental conflict between the government and the labor unions. Industry and labor have, by their very nature, different interests. But the experience of economically strong democratic countries with a market economy system – like France or Germany of Japan – shows that their strength grew from a political system which allowed for both strong unions and strong associations of industrialists.

In spite of this statement by the Prime Minister, tensions between the authorities and organized labor were building up before the Labor Day, because of the unresolved murder of the former leader of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Chea Vichea, who was killed in January 2004. Two people were apprehended at that time; when they were presented to court with the claim that they had confessed to have committed the murder, they revoked, but though there were no witnesses testifying against them, and no evidence beyond their confessions in prison presented, they were sentenced to 20 years in prison. Because of these publicly discussed irregularities, also the former King Sihanouk expressed his doubt that the real murderers were in prison. In 2007, the Appeals Court upheld their conviction, in spite of several witnesses assuring that one of the accused was not in Phnom Penh on the day of the killing, but 60 km away. After nearly five years in prison, the Supreme Court cited unclear evidence and called for a new investigation in December 2008; since that time, the two accused are provisionally out of prison. By now, there is no public information about what happened since.

When Chea Vichea was killed, Bradley Cox, who had made a documentary “Cambodia: Anatomy of an Election,” happened to be not far away, and he arrived some minutes after the killing. He was able to document the murder scene, and later follow the story further – the funeral, and the subsequent police and court actions.

Now the brother of Chea Vichea, Chea Mony, is the president of the Free Trade Union, and they had the plan to publicly show this documentary, “Who Killed Chea Vichea” [a trailer is available here]. The Khmer media had reported during the week various reasons why the authorities will not allow this documentary to be shown – the film would have to be first presented to the Ministry of Culture with a request to get it approved, or: this documentary has been imported illegally – while the Union intended to show it anyway near the place where Chea Vichea has been gunned down, while he was reading a newspaper.

This is a report from 1 May 2010 on the Internet:

1 May 2010 –
Cambodia screening is stopped before it starts

Cambodian workers who hoped to see Who Killed Chea Vichea? on Saturday didn’t get so much as a bite of popcorn before police intervened and tore down the screen.

Here’s what we’ve got so far, from witnesses on the scene:

The workers’ march arrived at the screening site, in front of the newsstand where Vichea was killed, around 5:00 p.m.

They were met by a force of some 100 police, many in riot gear, as well as local officials and a large group of other men not in uniform, presumably plainclothes security forces.

The organizers went ahead and erected the screen, which was made out of sheets. The police immediately told the main organizer, Rong Chhun of the Union Confederation, to take it down as he did not have a permit. When he refused, they pushed in and pulled it down.

Mr. Chhun returned with a second screen, accompanied by opposition members of parliament, but that screen too was seized.

The workers resisted only briefly. “We did not want to have a big scene as we were outnumbered,” said one participant. “They were there to break down anything and for sure it would have been real force had we resisted and shown the movie.”

So far there are no reports of any arrests or injuries.

So the film was not shown publicly – in Cambodia. But the events of 1 May 2010 will probably contribute to get much more attention for it internationally, where it is scheduled to be shown at the following film festivals:

filmfestivals

filmfestivals

The demonstrations on 1 May 2010 of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia were not focused on the past. The ILO report in The Mirror from last Friday, 30.4.2010, “More Than 1,500 Workers Die Every Year in Cambodia because of Occupational Accidents” shows more problems ahead, in addition to the demands to raise the minimal wages – while facing the consequences of the international economic crisis, including an increasing competition for garment exports from other big exporters in the region – from China and from Vietnam.

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Visak Bochea Day, a National Holiday – Wednesday, 28.4.2010

Posted on 29 April 2010. Filed under: Week 662 | Tags: , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 662

Deum Ampil had reported that “Cambodia will celebrate on Visak Bochea Day the birth, enlightenment and death to Nirvana of Lord Buddha on one day, the first full moon day on 28 April this year.

“’The ceremony this year will be presided over by Samdech Heng Samrin, President of the National Assembly, and it is conducted at Phnom Udong,’ quoting a statement from the National Assembly. Buddhists around the world will mark the same day.

“This year also marks the Buddhist calendar year 2553.”

In order to share with our readers, especially the international readers, some more information about the role of this commemoration nowadays, I talked to some people, asking them about the meaning of Visak Bochea for them.

Everybody I talked to identified the day as the day remembering the birth of the Buddha – therefore some people called it “a day similar to Christmas on the Christian calendar.”

So what happens on this day? “Cambodian people go to the pagoda.” – “Did you go?” – “No. This is something old people do.” – This was the tenor of all responses I got, and I record this here, because it is obviously a problem that merits attention and discussion: What does this disjunct mean between the claimed action of “the Cambodian people,” and the inner distance expressed towards this tradition and its celebration. Occasional appeals “to uphold Khmer culture” will not bring much more clarity. What is the meaning of the basic values, described in Article 43 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia – when it is known, but not finding much active and lively response?

  • Khmer citizens of either sex shall have the right to freedom of belief.
  • Freedom of religious belief and worship shall be guaranteed by the State on the condition that such freedom does not affect other religious beliefs or violate public order and security.
  • Buddhism shall be the religion of the State.

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Cambodia Has to Construct 700 More School Buildings while 5% of the Children Reaching Schooling Age Are Not in Schools – Tuesday, 27.4.2010

Posted on 28 April 2010. Filed under: Week 662 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 662

“Phnom Penh: While the number of primary schools increases to almost 6,500 countrywide, this still cannot respond to the rising number of students every year, 5% of the children who cannot go to school are excluded.

“Does Cambodia have strategies to deal with this shortage? The Minister of Education, Youth, and Sports, Mr. Im Sethy, said, releasing the publication of the report about Education for All on Monday morning, 26 April 2010, ‘The 6,500 primary schools are not enough. We have to construct 700 more school buildings to provide proper education and to increase the number of students registered in schools.’

“According to a report of the Department of Planning of the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports in 2008 and 2009, there were 6,476 schools and 2,311,107 students in total in Cambodia.

“Mr. Im Sethy added that ‘Our rate of school registration covers only 95% of the respective age group. That means 5% of the children cannot go to school, as they live in remote areas, but we are planning to gather them to register to attend school.’

“He continued to say, ‘We plan to collect also those children, so that they can go to school.’ He added, ‘The Ministry of Education alone cannot succeed. It needs the involvement from other related institutions and development partners.’

“Nobody can achieve results by just talking, so Mr. Im Sethy asked the World Bank, that has provided already more than US$54 million, to extend its aid for the construction of educational infrastructure, because during the last two years, aid has not been used on time, as some areas in Cambodia had been affected by floods during the rainy season, making it impossible to construct schools.

“Mr. Im Sethy went on to speak about the strategic goals of Education for All. Cambodia created a National Committee for Education for All with a National Plan 2003-2015, considering the meeting in Dakar in Senegal in 2000, together with the involvement of related institutions; the achievements appearing today result from clear policies and strategic plans to achieve Education for All.

“He added, ‘The Education for All plan approved in Dakar focuses only on primary education, but Cambodia has bigger ambitions than this, that is to achieve secondary education so that all Cambodian youth can end in Grade 9 following Article 68 of the Constitution.”

Note:

Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia – Article 68:

The State shall provide free primary and secondary education to all citizens in public schools. Citizens shall receive education for at least 9 years.

“He continued to say that following the first stage tree-prone and rectangular policy and the Second Stage Rectangular Strategy of the government, at present, there are 3.5 million Cambodian people learning, or one among four is in some learning processes.

“The Representative of UNESCO in Cambodia, Mr. Jinnai Teruo, said that Cambodia has made a lot of achievements in recent years in the equity of school registration, the quality and effectiveness of education, and the success in strengthening educational infrastructure, especially the registration in primary schools that increased from 93% in 2008 to 94% in 2009.

“He added that nevertheless there is still no equity in the registration between children in urban and in rural areas. This issue calls for increased attention towards those children, so that they too can go to school; infrastructure should be built for those without the opportunity to receive education who are at present not in schools, so that Cambodia can become successful in the Education for All plan.

“A Representative of the Global Campaign for Education, Ms. Leng Theavy, said, ‘This year, like in previous years, we have organized events to publicize the global campaign for Education for All in Cambodia in order to receive the announcement of results, and to determine follow-up goals of the global campaign for education following also other signatory countries of the Dakar declaration of 2000.’

“She added that the agreement aims at promoting the joint commitment of the government, of development partners, and of non-government organizations of each country, to ensure that the goals of the Education for All plan will be accomplished.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5182, 27.4.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2233, 27.4.2010

  • A Fierce Tropical Storm Destroyed 113 Houses and Killed a Young Girl [Banteay Meanchey]
  • An American Man Committed Suicide by Jumping from the Third Floor of a House [the reasons behind are not known – Phnom Penh]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6940, 27.4.2010

  • The US Embassy Celebrated the 40th Earth Day of Environmental Conservation [Phnom Penh]
  • Red Shirt Demonstrators [opposing the Thai government] Change Their Shirts while the Deadline for Them to Disperse Is Approaching

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3864, 27.4.2010

  • Mixed Authorities [border police and others] at the Poipet Border Crossing Continue to Extort Money from Cart Pullers Just as They Like

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #156, 27.4.2010

  • Draft Law on Compliant Procedures Involving Individuals Was Approved [this law offers courts the power to temporarily confiscate assets during divorce case proceedings to make sure that the property of each party is not sold before a verdict, and it provides to the courts the authority to decide on imprisonment to ensure child-support payments for children whose parents get divorced]
  • Cambodia Still Cannot Export Crocodile Leather because Crocodile Raising Has Not Met the Standards That Lead to Good Quality Leather [according to the head of the Fishery Administration Department, Mr. Nao Thuok]
  • China Is Provided with New Power as It Became the Third Major Member of the World Bank [after the United States of America and Japan]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5182, 27.4.2010

  • Cambodia Has to Construct 700 More School Buildings while 5% of the Children Reaching Schooling Age Are Not in Schools
  • Head of the Confederation Union [Mr. Rong Chhun] Plans to Play the Documentary Film “Who Killed Chea Vichea” on 1 May 2010 [but he waits for permission from the government; Mr. Chea Vichea was the head of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers who was murdered in 2004; so far, the perpetrators have not been arrested]
  • The [Ratanakiri] Provincial Authorities Collected More Than 700 Cubic Meters of Wood Scattered Disorderly in the Forest

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Fraud? International Cooperation for Transparency – Sunday, 25.4.2010

Posted on 26 April 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 661 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 661

Cambodia entered into many different international relations since the new Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia was promulgated in 1993 and a new phase of history for the country began. International integration was one of the main policy goals of the government – regaining the seat for Cambodia in the United Nations, which had been held by a representative of the Khmer Rouge until 1991, long after the Khmer Rouge had lost their grip on the country, establishing new diplomatic relations, gaining membership in ASEAN, in the World Trade Organization [WTO], etc., and entering into many bilateral agreements – with other governments, with international organizations like the Asia Development Bank, and with Non-Government Organizations through the Ministry of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Some of these agreements have consequences in detail, which were not all foreseen or discussed with those who are affected – for example: the membership in the WTO will require that copyrights of international companies for computer software will have to be enforced from 2013 onward, and the import of goods and services from other countries has to be liberalized. Though this may have difficult consequences for some sections of the Cambodian economy, other sectors welcome it.

During the past week, a five-year Accountability in Governance and Politics program, financed by the USA, was inaugurated by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and the US Ambassador Carol A. Rodley, according to which the Cambodian government will cooperate, implementing specific projects, with the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. According to the nature of this program, international transparency will be necessarily be enhanced, even when this may relate to difficult challenges to be faced internationally.

What this can mean can be deducted from a difficult processes developing at present in the USA. Goldman Sachs – a full-service global investment banking and securities firm – one of the top financial institutions of the USA, is facing at present charges by the US Securities and Exchange Commission [“The mission of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation”] of fraudulently having contributed to the wide breakdown of financial systems, by systematically entering into contract with people and companies who were supposed not to be able to pay back what they borrowed. To give a small-scale example: one internal e-mail, now leaked, says “I’ve managed to sell bonds to widows and orphans” making “some serious money” for the bank; one section manager made a profit of $1 billion for the bank – but then the whole system collapsed and needed much higher government assistance. The future will show how this will be handled.

Once international government agencies get involved, the chance of achieving real transparency is higher. Repeated corruption allegations raised, for example, by the non-government agency Global Witness in the UK were easily dismissed here as not coming from a government agency, without dealing with their specific documentations. They had also raised questions related to the role of the – then – head of the Forestry Department, Mr. Ty Sokun, which were quickly and strongly rejected as “nonsense” and “lies” at that time, but recently he was removed from his position. The situation will be different in a case which is receiving ever more prominence recently.

The Australian Company BHP Billiton – “the world’s largest diversified natural resources company” – entered into a mineral exploration agreement with the Cambodian government in 2006 to explore for bauxite in Mondolkiri – unprocessed aluminum ore; parts of the exploration site, a 996-hectare mining concession, were in protected natural forest areas. It had also been announced that this was just for exploration, a decision could be found only later, as the transport of bauxite, or the production of aluminum which requires huge amounts of electricity, need further studies. But this plan was abandoned in 2009 because the studies had shown that bauxite mining in Mondolkiri would not be cost-effective.

But recently, during this month of April 2010, BHP Billiton announced that United States Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating corruption allegations which may relate to Cambodia, though this is not yet sure.

According to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the USA, a company which has made illegal payments, can be fined to pay “up to twice the benefit that it sought to obtain by making a corrupt payment,” and staff involved may have to serve five years in prison.

Neither the US Securities and Exchange Commission nor BHP Billiton has stated that there were actually illegal payments. But the present investigations are based on some reports dating back to 2007.

According to various sources on the Internet, the Minister of Water Resources Lim Kean Hor had reported in the National Assembly at that time that the Prime Minister had informed him from Australia that BHP had paid US$2.5 million as “tea money” for the concession. BHP said, however, that this money was designated for a “social development fund” for health and education projects in Mondolkiri. According to other sources, BHP confirmed to have paid US$1 million to the government in 2006 to secure the concession agreement.

Later inquiries produced various incongruous pieces of information: that the money was not used, as designated, for health and education in Mondolkiri, but for irrigation in Pursat, and the records of the the Ministry of Economy and Finance show for 2006 only US$443,866 as income from mining concessions.

By Saturday, not only the US Securities and Exchange Commission was dealing with the BHP case, but also the UK Serious Fraud Office [“an independent Government department that investigates and prosecutes serious or complex fraud, and corruption. We are part of the UK criminal justice system”].

A “social development fund” of the Cambodian government had also been mentioned before, in relation to substantial payments from Caltex, having obtained the right for off-shore oil exploration. While one government argument, why an NGO law is urgently needed, was the request to gain more transparency about social and development funds (which are, for NGOs, regularly audited by public auditing companies anyway), we have not seen any similar reporting so far about the government’s social development fund – its purpose, its administrative arrangements and it’s oversight bodies, and its assets and disbursements.

The Cambodia Daily carried on 24/25.4.2010 an article, “Precise Meaning of ‘Tea Money’ Up for Debate.” And Mr. Phay Siphan, the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, is quoted to have pointed to the new anti-corruption legislation which shows that the government is committed to “highlight transparency.” – He will surely be able to shed more light onto this affair.

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“Cambodian Officials Need Education About Press Freedom” – Monday, 12.4.2010

Posted on 13 April 2010. Filed under: Week 660 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Because of the Khmer New Year holidays 14 to 16 April 2010, life during this whole week is different; actually, already since Friday last week, music and the voices of people playing special New Year games, and of groups of friends going out together, indicated that the festive season began already.

This affects also publications, and some offices – also the Open Institute – are closed for a week. Our regular publications will therefore start only on Monday, 19 April. But we will supply our readers with some information also during this week.

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 660

Concerned with the situation of journalists in Cambodia, Mr. Moeun Chhean Nariddh, the Director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, Phnom Penh, wrote the following statement, which was published in The Cambodia Daily in the edition of Saturday-Sunday, 10-11 April 2010, from which we quote:

“As media professionals, we are very disappointed at the continued use of the court by Cambodian officials to sue journalists for defamation and disinformation.

“The recent lawsuits respectively brought by police officers in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces against Koh Santepheap newspaper reporters have indicated officials’ lack of understanding of the press freedom enshrined in the Cambodian Constitution.

Article 31 of the Constitution states: ‘The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights…’

Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly says: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

“Similarly, Article 19 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:

  1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; the right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of choice.

“To assert Cambodia’s obligation under these international treaties, Cambodia adopted the Khmer Press Law in 1995.

Article 4 of the Press Law states: ‘Publication of official information such as statements, meetings, meeting minutes or reports etc. may not be penalized if such publication is fully true or an accurate summary of the truth.’

“This is what the reporter in Siem Reap did by quoting a police officer’s report for his story.

“It’s sad that the two reporters in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey have been arrested and may face criminal charges of defamation and disinformation, though Article 20 of the Press Law says: ‘…No person shall be arrested or subject to criminal charges as a result of expression of opinion.’

“Of course, journalists may make innocent mistakes in doing their professional work to meet the public’s right to know.

“However, courts need to find two sets of evidence to find journalists guilty of defamation or disinformation.

  • “First, it needs to prove that an article reported is false and defamatory due to a journalist’s negligence or lack of information.
  • “Second, the court must show that the journalist has produced the defamatory article out of his or her malicious intent.

Yet, most journalists are just fulfilling their professional obligation to keep the public informed of what happened, whether it is good or bad news. They do not intend to harm anybody’s reputation though some stories turn out to be false.

“Meanwhile, journalists are bound by the professional code of ethics to balance their reporting as far as a controversial story is concerned.

. . .

“In a separate but related lawsuit, we highly commend the Takeo Provincial Court for acquitting a reporter of Radio Free Asia of criminal defamation and disinformation.

“We hope that the Siem Reap Court officials will follow this good example. We also hope that the Cambodian officials will study journalist’s rights and freedoms enshrined in the laws before another similar lawsuit is brought against another media professional.”

.

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The New Demonstration Law Is More Difficult Than That of 1991 Which Did Not Limit the Number of Demonstrators – Tuesday, 30.3.2010

Posted on 31 March 2010. Filed under: Week 658 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 658

“When the new demonstration law of Cambodia, adopted by the National Assembly in 2009, was published on Monday 29 March 2010 at the Sunway Hotel through a workshop at national level by the Ministry of Interior, officials of civil society organizations said that this new law is more difficult than the previous one.

“A senior investigating official of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Mr. Chan Soveth, spoke to journalists after the workshop, saying that the limitation of the number of people to participate in a demonstration or in a strike, limited to 200, is too tight, because at each factory there are thousands of workers.

“Nevertheless, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Sar Kheng, stressed that for all demonstrations, there must be letters sent to inform the Ministry of Interior in advance, so that it can take measures for security and protection. He added that any group of persons that want to demonstrate must write a letter to their municipal authorities, where the demonstration is to happen, five days before the event, and the number of people allowed to join in a demonstration is only 200.

“Another point that is seen as a threat against those who intend to demonstrate is that the new non-violent demonstration law requires at least three representatives to attach their photos and addresses with the proposed letters. Regarding this point, civil society organization officials said that this makes it probably difficult for those who suffer from injustice or disagree with something to decide to stand as representatives, because those who were targeted in a demonstration can use tricks to put the blame on the leaders of demonstrations. They can be arrested easily as their names, photos, and addresses have already been attached to the papers to be submitted to the Ministry of Interior.

“Mr. Chan Soveth thinks that this new demonstration law imposes more difficult conditions for demonstrators and strikers than that of 1991. The law of 1991 also required to submit request letters to get a permission for a demonstration, but it did not limit the number of people who could participate. Also, the president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association [Mr. Rong Chhun], who frequently appears in demonstrations, said that most articles of the new demonstration law inhibit demonstrators from acting freely. The Constitution, the basic law of the country, clearly states that Khmer citizens have ample rights to enter politics, to demonstrate, to strike, or to assemble.

“Many people are aware that these statements exist only on the paper where the Constitution is printed. Some of those who dare [with reference to the Constitution] to demonstrate when they are not satisfied with the situation in a company, or with actions of the government, have been cruelly confronted by armed forces, when the authorities dispatched them arguing that this is done for public security reasons. Some non-government organization officials say that – because government officials in charge do not have the courage to address problems by meeting protesting citizens face-to-face – they use violent measures to suppress the citizens who act based on the Constitution. Furthermore, because the government is afraid it may get a bad reputation because of demonstrations, it decided to rather violate democratic policy.

“It is natural that people compare the actual situation of different countries implementing democratic principles, like Cambodia and Siam [Thailand]. At present, tens of thousands of red-shirt demonstrators, supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, are all over Bangkok and are shouting their slogans freely to demand the dissolution of the parliament, and of the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva, but the armed forces did not harass them. That means that the demonstrators are allowed to express their opinions as they like. This indicates that the democratic space in Siam is wide, and citizens who oppose the government have sufficient rights to express their intentions and their positions toward their government – this is much different compared with Cambodia.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3845, 30.3.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #447, 30.3.2010

  • Mr. Sar Kheng Asked for Understanding for the Non-Violent Demonstration Law, while Civil Society Is Not So Satisfied with It
  • More Than 10,000 Citizens in Kompong Speu Received A/H1N1 Vaccine Injections

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2214, 30.3.2010

  • An Amleang Commune Counselor and Another Villager [representatives of the Amleang Commune residents] Were Released from Temporary Detention [they were arrested for having been in a crowd that burned down the on-site office of Oknha and Senator Ly Yong Phat’s sugar company over a land dispute]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #639, 30.3.2010

  • [The Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mu Sochua Asked the Supreme Court to Delay Her Hearing until after 17 April 2010 [over a defamation court case, initiated by Prime Minister Hun Sen against her, as she is in the USA and cannot appear on 7 April 2010 as summoned by the Supreme Court]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6921, 30.3.2010

  • The Minister of Industry Launched the Construction Site of the A Tai River Hydro-Electric Dam [which will generate 246 megawatts; it might cost about US$540 million, to be invested by a Chinese company, and it is expected to be operating by 2014 – Koh Kong]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3845, 30.3.2010

  • The [Kompong Speu] Court Must Punish the Brigadier General Who Shot a Citizen [in the head], Wounding Him Seriously [just because of a minor driving mistake]
  • The New Demonstration Law Is More Difficult Than That of 1991 Which Did Not Limit the Number of Demonstrators

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #141, 30.3.2010

  • About 3,000 Cubic Meter of Wood Were Seized [the head of the Department of Forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Ty Sokun, said that about 100 loggers, including powerful people and traders, will have to face legal actions after the authorities found that they store illegally cut wood]
  • The Malaysian Petronas Petroleum Company Will Withdraw Its Investments from Cambodia [to develop petroleum resources] Next Month [it is the second company, after Shell, that withdrew in 2007 – no reason given]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5163, 30.3.2010

  • A Man Was Convicted to Serve Fifteen Years in Prison and a Woman to Twenty Years for Trafficking People to Be Prostitutes in Malaysia
  • Bangkok: Negotiations Failed [to achieve the protesters’ goal, as Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva declined to dissolve the parliament immediately as demanded by the red shirt groups, supporters of ousted and fugitive prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra] – and Gun Fire and Bomb Explosion Continue to Be Heard

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