Looking Back and Looking Ahead – Sunday, 4.1.2009

Posted on 5 January 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 593 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 593

The beginning of a new year always challenges us – to look back, and to look ahead. In both cases we may gain some orientation. We know, more or less, what happened – but do we understand why? Are we satisfied with what we know? What do we like to continue, and what to change?

Or do we try to look more into the future than into the past? Looking forward to 2009 – but is it with fear, or with hope? May be we have our own clear plans what to do – but will we be ale to make things work out, because many others have the same hopes – or not?

Obviously, we cannot get all the lifetime prosperity, harmony, and affection which people wished for us so that the New Year would be a Happy New Year. But could we, maybe, foresee and say more – not for us as individuals, but for the society were we live?

The last couple of days provided two strong indications about that – but of a contradicting nature.

A paper reported that the president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had said – though without using these words – that we do live in a society which is not governed by the law.

Quite a strong statement – because the Phnom Penh Municipal Court court “lacked judges for hearing 6,500 cases in 2008. Being unable to solve many cases like that, makes that hundreds of accused persons are detained beyond the legal limit, which states that the detention of an accused or of a suspect can be up to a maximum of six months. Then they have to be brought to court for a hearing, and if the court cannot find them to be guilty, they must be released immediately. However, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and Khmer courts in different provinces do not abide by this legal procedure, and continue to detain thousands of people for many years without conviction, which is against legal procedure and seriously violates the rights of the accused.” By the end of 2007, there had even been 9,200 such unsolved cases.

Not some uninformed and ill-intended observers said this, but the president of the Phnom Penh Municipal court.

And the future?

The president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court “acknowledged that Khmer courts are not yet quite in good order; therefore all Khmer courts need many more years to improve.”

The Court Watch Bulletins of the Center for Social Development describe what the accused – guilty or not – will have to endure for years to come (according to the time line given by the president of the Municipal Court): “The municipal court conducted hearings for three criminal cases every day, and half of those hearings lasted only not more than 20 minutes. So the period for hearing each case was very short, just enough to read the verdicts by which the court defined punishments, or defined who were the losers and the winners in a conflict. The result is that each case is not clearly analyzed according to the procedures of the law, and according to the facts. Therefore it is seen that frequently the rich and high ranking officials won cases against poor people, and against people who are not powerful in society.”

The president of the Municipal Court states now that one of the reasons for these regular violations of the law is a lack of staff at the courts: there are not enough judges and not enough prosecutors! There is no reason to doubt this. But we do not remember to have seen, in the press over the years, that the leadership of the courts, the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, the leadership of the government as a whole – responsible in different ways to upheld a state of law – has decried this situation, leading to regular gross violations of basic rights of citizens according to Cambodian laws, and initiated urgent efforts to rectify this situation.

The situation has an even worse aspect, when one considers that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng was quoted to have acknowledges that there is corruption among high ranking police officers.

But is all his going to be rectified – not immediately, but consistently, and step by step, without unnecessary delay?



The Supreme Court Released Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun on 31 December 2008 on bail – they had been arrested on 28 January 2004 and were convicted to serve 20 years in prison by the Phnom Penh court, for killing the labor union leader Mr. Chea Vichea on 22 January 2004.

But the president of the Supreme Court explained now that the present decision – to release them on bail – was made because the murder of the former president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia needs further investigation, as there were gaps in the procedures, and there is insufficient evidence.

This decision was widely welcomed – as it initiates a reconsideration not only of what really happened five years ago, but it will also be necessary to clarify:

  • What went wrong with the investigation of the police, and why?
  • What went wrong at the initial court procedures, when evidence offered by the defense was disregarded, and why?
  • What went wrong when the Appeals Court on 12 April 2007 upheld the convictions of Born Samnang and of Sok Samoeun, in spite of many indications raised in the international and national public – including by the former King – that the initial process was flawed, and why was there no new investigation ordered by the Appeals Court?

There is hope that the present decision of the Supreme Court will lead to justice for the two persons who spent already five years in prison.

But tis is only one side of the problem. The Supreme Court created an opportunity like never before, to go into detail, to clarify what went wrong and why, and who may have to take responsibility for what went wrong, and bear the consequences according to the law.

Not a revision of old, or the promulgation of new legal procedure will make Cambodia a state under the law – only the strict application of the law will help to bring change.

There was never a better chance for this than since the recent decision by the Supreme Court.


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The Municipal Court, Notorious for Corruption, Describes the Shortage of Judges for Hearings – Saturday, 3.1.2009

Posted on 4 January 2009. Filed under: Week 593 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 593

“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court, ranking first in committing corruption among the courts countrywide, described on Monday that it lacked judges for hearing 6,500 cases in 2008. Being unable to solve many cases like that, makes that hundreds of accused persons are detained beyond the legal limit, which states that the detention of an accused or of a suspect can be up to a maximum of six months. Then they have to be brought to court for a hearing, and if the court cannot find them to be guilty, they must be released immediately. However, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and Khmer courts in different provinces do not abide by this legal procedure, and continue to detain thousands of people for many years without conviction, which is against legal procedure and seriously violates the rights of the accused.

“The president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Chiv Keng, notorious for being biased toward the rich and frequently causing poor people to loose their cases, said that in 2008 the Phnom Penh Municipal Court did not solve around 6,500 cases, while by the end of 2007, there had been 9,200 unsolved cases. If one compares the two years, in 2008 there were more of the normal complaints filed at the municipal court solved than in 2007, because in 2008, there were only 6,500 complaints not solved in time, while in 2007, there had been 9,200 left unsolved.

“Chiv Keng said, ‘This does not mean that we received fewer complaints than last year. We received a similar number of complaints like last year, but this year, we worked more effectively, and the number of judges has also increased.’

“Chiv Keng, who was just promoted as an excellency in 2008, added that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court received between 3,000 and 5,000 complaints on average per year. He said that in 2008, also more complaints than in 2007 were addressed.

“Chiv Keng went on to say that at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, the number of judges was increased in 2008 from 9 to 16, and it is planned to increase the number up to 45 judges in a few more months in 2009; it will also be requested to increase the number of prosecutors to 25, while at present, there are only 8 prosecutors.

“Chiv Keng continued to say that the space available for work is also a problem for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court; therefore the municipal court plans to construct a building with six floors in the compound of the present Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

“According to the last Court Watch Bulletin [Volume 5, #23, October 2008], published by the Center for Social Development, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had only two hearing rooms in September 2007 in which the municipal court conducted hearings for more than 884 criminal cases between October 2006 and September 2007.

“The same report added that the municipal court conducted hearings for three criminal cases every day, and half of those hearings lasted only not more than 20 minutes. So the period for hearing each case was very short, just enough to read the verdicts by which the court defined punishments, or defined who were the losers and the winners in a conflict. The result is that each case is not clearly analyzed according to the procedures of the law, and according to the facts. Therefore it is seen that frequently the rich and high ranking officials won cases against poor people, and against people who are not powerful in society.

“The executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, Mr. Sok Sam Oeun, said that he saw some progress in the Khmer court system, but there is a lot more work that the court has to do.

“He said, ‘Courts should make their judges more independent than they are at present, so that the judges can decide about the various complaints by themselves.’

“Chiv Keng acknowledged that Khmer courts are not yet quite in good order; therefore all Khmer courts need many more years to improve. Chiv King pointed out, ‘Now we are not 100% in good order, but we have made many reforms, and now, we do not hear as much criticism about corrupt courts as three or four years ago.’

“Chiv Keng added that at present, courts have ways by which citizens can report about inactivities of courts, or about different rule violations by courts. Chiv Keng continued to say that Cambodia needs more than 300 judgesT and prosecutors in addition countrywide. At present, Cambodia has only around 200 judges and prosecutors.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3656, 3.1.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 3 January 2009

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1837, 3.1.2009

  • The Department of Information Denies Radio Free Asia Broadcast that Citizens Are Forced to Set Flags [in front of their houses to welcome the upcoming 7 January [1979] victory festival]
  • Former Thai Prime Minister [Somchai Wongsawat] Joins Samdech Hun Sen’s Daughter’s Wedding [Phnom Penh]
  • There Were More Than 8 Million Voters in the Voter Lists of the National Election Committee in 2008
  • Thieves Entered to Break a Safe in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Taking Riel 20 Million [approx. US$5,000]
  • The Number of Beggars at the Beaches in Sihanoukville Increase
  • A Senior Leader of Hamas Killed by an Air Strike Attack by Israel on Gaza
  • Cuba Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.2, #174, 3.1.2009

  • A Korean Man Committed Suicide by Hanging without Any Known Reason [Phnom Penh]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6542, 3-4.1.2009

  • Three Explosive Devices Were Destroyed [by the Cambodian Mine Action Center – CMAC] – Police Conclude as a First Assumption that the Aim Was that the Sound of Explosions Should Trigger Disturbance [one hand made explosive device was set in front of the Ministry of Defense and two others were found west of the TV3 station – Prampi Makara, Phnom Penh]
  • A Girl in a Sugar Cane Plantation Was Raped by Three Wild Workers; One of Them Raped Her and the Ears of the Two Others Were Bitten [all of them were arrested – Koh Kong]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3656, 3.1.2009

  • The Municipal Court, Notorious for Corruption, Describes the Shortage of Judges for Hearings
  • [The president of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party] Sam Rainsy: Because of the Events of 17 April 1975 [when the Khmer Rouge regime took full control of Cambodia], There Were the Events of 7 January 1979 [which led to the invasion by Vietnam – critical appraisal of the 30th victory anniversary over the Khmer Rouge]
  • [Former Khmer Rouge leader] Ieng Sary Sent to and from the Calmette Hospital More Frequently because of Serious Illness
  • Siamese [Thai] Minister of Foreign Affairs [Kasit Piromya] Is Pressed to Resign after He Phoned to Ask for Negotiations about Border Disputes with [the Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs] Hor Namhong [according to the Bangkok Post, he is pressed to resign by officials from the ruling Democratic Party of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4785, 3.1.2009

  • The Acid Attack on In Soklida’s Aunt Is Sent to Court to Be Sentenced; this Is ‘Special,’ Compared to the Cases of Tat Marina, Touch Sunich, and Pov Panhapich [who also suffered acid attqcks, because police take quick [[???]] action for what happened on 8 May 2008, while for the three other women, so far no perpetrators have been found and convicted; it is seen that Ms. In Soklida, a film star, is richer, because now, she owns a car taken away from Ms. Chea Ratha by police, and she has her own bodyguards]
  • Defense Lawyers of Victims Warn They Will Resign from Work in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal [if there is no money for them]
  • The Royal Government Creates a Committee for the Management of Concessions and for the Rehabilitation of the Cambodian Railway [financed by the Asian Development Bank]
  • Siamese [Thai] Prime Minister Orders Investigations of Phone Call Threats against Him

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.

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Wednesday, 27.8.2008: Seng Theary Is Ordered to Stop Working, but There Are Persons to Defend Her

Posted on 28 August 2008. Filed under: Week 575 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 575

“Phnom Penh: Ms. Seng Theary, the president of the Center for Social Development [established in 1995 ‘to promote democratic values and improve the quality of life of the Cambodian people through training, seminars, research, publication, broadcasting, partnership with other like-minded organizations and institutions and dialogue with Cambodians from all walks of life’], has been told to stop to work two times already, because she does not follow her contract responsibly as seen by the board of directors, and still continues to work without caring about the order to stop, issued by the board of directors that has appointed her to this position.

“On 26 August 2008, many journalists went to the Center for Social Development, because they had been informed by phone that the Center for Social Development had planned to hold a press conference, but when they arrived there, they were prevented to enter.

“Mr. Vi Houi, the president of the board of directors of the Center for Social Development, reported to Kampuchea Thmey in the evening of 25 August 2008 that the board of directors plans to hold a press conference about the firing of Ms. Seng Theary from her work on 26 August 2008, but Ms. Seng Theary’s supporters had requested to discuss the possibility to keep her as the president of the center.

“Mr. Vy Huy added that Ms. Seng Theary has been fired already more than 60 days ago, but she refused to leave. He said that the board of directors has contacted some donor countries, but they had responded asking that at this stage, the donors requested to stay quiet temporarily. If there would be no agreement between Ms. Seng Theary and the board of directors, there would be no salaries for the staff, as well as no money to pay the rent for the office.

“On 26 August 2008, some staff members had distributed some documents to the journalists and asked them to wait outside of the fence, but later there was no one from the center to inform them what happened or to offer interviews to the journalists, so that the journalists, both Khmers and foreigners, after waiting until after 11:00, finally decided to leave.

“The journalists said that maybe the staff of the Center for Social Development asked the journalists to sit and wait, to share with them the arguments between staff and board, that is why they did not offer any interviews and did not say anything at the beginning.

“According to some staff, the Center for Social Development started to have internal disputes, since Ms. Seng Theary had taken full control of the center. As soon as the board of directors had appointed Ms. Seng Theary as president [in 2006], she started to strengthen her power, and when she was strong enough, she did not recognize this board of directors that had assigned her as president, and created another board of directors that supports her, causing rift and turmoil.

Note:

A press release from the staff side is http://www.csdcambodia.org/pdf/2008/PressRelease-30-June-08.pdf/

“Many analysts said that leading a small center, depending on foreign donations, can bring rifts and disagreements: what laws to teach to citizens, and therefore, how citizens can then consider them as models. At present, Khmer citizens are not much weaker in knowledge than Seng Theary; but being the president of the center, she refused to give up her power, but what would happen if she ruled over the rules of the country?

“The letters announcing the press conference of the Center for Social Development on 26 August 2008 say that Ms. Seng Theary had already once been fired on 20 May 2008, and then she was fired a second time by the board of directors on 24 June 2008.

“The board of directors of the Center for Social Development has intervened with Ms. Seng Theary’s work already twice: once on 18 July 2007 and then again on 10 September 2007.

“Ms. Seng Theary has been hired to work since March 2006. During her work at the Center for Social Development, she had attended only four of the nine meeting of the board of directors.

“Ms. Seng Theary does not follow the contract she had agreed to with the board of directors of the Center for Social Development.

“Ms. Seng Theary had formed a board of directors while she was working under the administration of the board of directors of the Center for Social Development. There are eleven members in the new board of directors, as published by the Phnom Penh Post on 16 May 2008.

“Ms. Seng Theary had rejected a request to reorganize the statute structures for the Center for Social Development under the guidance by Oxfam – United States.

“Ms. Seng Theary does not fully cooperate with two arbiters – one comes from an important donor country, and another one is the founder of the Center for Social Development. As a result, the Center for Social Development lost aid from an important donor country.

“Ms. Seng Theary had requested coordination, but that request aims to ask the board of directors to do what she wants; she offered two choices to choose from – to ‘agree’ or to ‘disagree.’ The board of directors had responded by requesting a face-to-face meeting to solve the requests by Ms. Seng Theary, but she considered this response to be a ‘disagree’ answer, and she continues activities in her own ways by publishing another new board of directors’ list on the website of the Center for Social Development.

“It has been 63 days since the board of directors terminated Ms. Seng Theary. To leave her position for a long period vacant would affect the prestige of the Center for Social Development, and also its resources for the foundation. Also other foundations may not continue with their support from about October 2008.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1730, 27.8.2008

Note:

Ms. Seng Theary, who earned her degree in law in the USA, became internationally known through her book Daughter Of The Killing Fields – Asrei’s Story, where she describes her early childhood and life under the Khmer Rouge regime, then the flight of her family to Thailand and the resettlement in the USA – the description of her history is regularly accompanied by her own reflections.

As executive director of the Center for Social Development, the activities of the Center and she herself were often in the public limelight because of the controversial nature of these engagements, symbolized in the concern for “Four Freedoms”

“The Voice of Justice Program, at every opportunity, reminds the readers of the Voice of Justice columns or the Voice of Justice Research Bulletins and the radio listeners of the Four Freedoms – i.e., Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Belief, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want – which build the foundation for democracy, human rights, and social and economic development.

We continually lobby for a Freedom of Information Act, for a freer press, for a freer right to assembly, for a freer and open society… for we believe every Cambodian is born to be, and desires to breathe freely.”

These concerns are publicly expressed in the “Voice of Justice Column,” published twice a month in Khmer in Koh Santepheap and in English in The Phnom Penh Post.

Ms. Seng Theary took also an active role in some events which attracted public attention:

  • When the “G8” meeting took place in Germany in 2007 – the leaders of 7 Great industrialized countries plus Russia – an alternative meeting was also organized, as usual, with a critical appraisal of the interests of the powerful as over against the rest of the world, as even such large countries like China and India are not represented, and there are no African or Latin American members in the group. – Ms. Seng Theary was invited to speak to the “P8” meeting as one of the persons from “People” from 8 poor countries, to raise public consciousness of poverty in the world, urging the G8 to take action to end the plight of the poor.
  • The gathering of the “Dream for Darfur,” after having organized similar symbolic actions in different countries’ genocide memorials, planned to light a candle of commemoration at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Memorial in January 2008, led by Hollywood actress Mia Farrow and one of the few Tuol Sleng survivors, the painter Mr. Van Nath, coordinated by the Center for Social Development – but this was prevented by armed authorities.
  • More recently, Ms. Seng Theary’s requested to speak as a “civil party” participating in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – the Khmer Rouge Trial – where there is also a role foreseen for the participation of victims. But the majority of judges ruled that only lawyers of civil parties could speak in pre-trial hearings, not victims themselves; so far, no victims’ voice could be heard in this court.

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #83, 27.8-2.9.2008

  • Mr. Hun Chea [Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew] Seeks a Lawyer to Sue an American Newspaper, Accusing it of Defamation [he asks for evidence for the accusation that he drove a car and fatally hit someone in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh]
  • [US Ambassador] Joseph [Mussomeli]: Preah Vihear Temple Dispute Can Be Solved by ASEAN


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1730, 27.8.2008

  • Seng Theary Is Ordered to Stop Working, but There Are Persons to Defend Her
  • [Thai Prime Minister] Samak Says Demonstrations Cannot Force Him from His Position; Siamese [Thai] Police Prepare to Resist 35,000 Demonstrators
  • Rumor in Pursat that the Spirit of Military Chief Khleang Moeung [heroic leader against invading Thai troops around 1482] Tells People Who Were Born in the Year of the Tiger and in the Year of the Monkey to Get Washed with Magic Water, or They Will Meet Danger


Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #230, 27.8.2008

  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Son Chhay Says that the American Newspaper [The Modesto Bee about a fatal traffic accident and about impunity, saying “The world leader in corruption is – Cambodia”] Reflects the Facts in Cambodia
  • Sam Rainsy Says Hun Sen Government Is Afraid of Paris Peace Accord, Fearing to Lose Power [over border issue]


Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #83, 27.8.2008

  • Constitutional Council Refuses to Recount Votes [in Svay Rieng] at Sam Rainsy Party’s Request


Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6434, 27.8.2008

  • Miracle before Siam’s [Thailand’s] Invasion: A Piece of Rock from the Phnom Tbaeng Mountain Broke Loose and Rolled Down, and There Was a Pair of Flying Lights in January 2008 [People in Preah Vihear provincial town claim now to remember that back, in the evening of 27 January 2008, they saw two lights flying down from the mountain. One light disappeared at the Preah Vihear Provincial Office and the other light flew to the West]


Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3549, 27.8.2008

  • Mr. Sam Rainsy Criticizes the Constitutional Council and the National Election Committee of Being Puppets of the Cambodian People Party

Click here to have a look at the last editorial – some fundamental challenges into the future

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