Denials, Insults, and Rational Arguments – Sunday, 15.3.2009

Posted on 17 March 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 603 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 603

Apologies for the delays in publishing – due to my international travel. I try to catch up as soon as possible.

Norbert Klein

It seems that some issues, which need to be clarified, do not find any solution – not only because they are controversial, but because it seem to happen frequently that issues raised are not discussed – the detailed facts and concerns they raised are disregarded, they are put aside by flat denial, not touching at the presented facts at all. Or instead of dealing with controversial facts, the “other party” is served with an insult – and it is up to the reader to consider whether the insult carries enough conviction to override the arguments, or whether an insult, instead of an argument, backfires on the party which refuses to engage in a rational discussion.

We will bring here some reminders, where it seems that facts and opinions had been presented, and the public received responses. Some seem to have intended to close further discussion – though the discussion continues anyway. In some cases we hope to lead to further open discussion – inviting to consider some aspects which are not widely shared, but may merit more attention. We let “both parties” speak.

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On 5 February 2009, the UK based organization Global Witness published a report entitled Country for Sale. The organization describes its general, global outreach, in the following way:

“Global Witness exposes the corrupt exploitation of natural resources and international trade systems to drive campaigns that end impunity, resource-linked conflict, and human rights and environmental abuses. Global Witness was co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for its leading work on ‘conflict diamonds’ and awarded the 2007 Commitment to Development Ideas in Action Award, sponsored jointly by Washington DC based Center for Global Development and Foreign Policy magazine.”

The content of the study, presented on 72 pages with detailed references, is described by Global Witness as follows:

“Cambodia – one of the world’s poorest countries – could eventually earn enough from its oil, gas and minerals to become independent of foreign development aid. The report, Country for Sale, exposes for the first time how this future is being jeopardized by high-level corruption, nepotism and patronage in the allocation and management of these critical public assets.

Country for Sale details how rights to exploit oil and mineral resources have been allocated behind closed doors by a small number of powerbrokers surrounding the prime minister and other senior officials. The beneficiaries of many of these deals are members of the ruling elite or their family members. Meanwhile, the findings suggest that millions of dollars paid by oil and mining companies to secure access to these resources may be missing from the national accounts.”

Among the details, Global witness says:

“Global Witness wrote to both Chevron and BHP Billiton in October 2008 to ask them to reveal any payments made to the Cambodian government or government officials. At the time of publication, Chevron had not responded. BHP Billiton however, did reply to say that BHP Billiton, Mitsubishi and the Cambodian Government have established a joint social development fund. The total contribution of BHP and Mitsubishi is to be US$2.5 million. BHP’s response stated: ‘BHP Billiton has never made a payment to a Cambodian Government official or representative and we reject any assertion that the payment under the minerals exploration agreement is, or the amounts contributed to the Social Development Projects Fund are, “tea money”.’ BHP also shared how much had been paid to the Cambodian government, adding: ‘In accordance with the terms of a minerals exploration agreement with the Cambodian government which granted BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi the right to explore for bauxite an amount of US$1 million was formally paid to the Cambodian government in September 2006.’”

The Cambodian Embassy in London responded to the publication of Country for Sale with a press release with a color graphic page, saying global witness – A Collection of Rubbish

“Reacting angrily to the report, the Ambassador of Cambodia in the UK, H.E. Nambora Hor, accused Global Witness of being poorly-managed and indulging in hugely-damaging smear campaigns. He called on the wide variety of international bodies which help fund Global Witness to demand an urgent review of its policies and activities. ‘It is naïve for Global Witness to imagine that Cambodia’s international donors are not fully aware of the way the Royal Cambodian Government’s conducts its affairs and its commitment to demonstrating the highest possible standards.’”

Details about this Social Development Projects Fund – who administers these huge amounts of money paid by some foreign companies, and for which purposes, and under whose public monitoring – are not known to the public.

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On 25 February 2009, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the US Department of State published a 2008 Human Rights Report: Cambodia, part of the 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The 16,000 words report on Cambodia states initially:

“The government’s human rights record remained poor. Security forces committed extrajudicial killings and acted with impunity. Detainees were abused, often to extract confessions, and prison conditions were harsh. Human rights monitors reported arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention, underscoring a weak judiciary and denial of the right to a fair trial. Land disputes and forced evictions were a continuing problem. The government restricted freedom of speech and the press and at times interfered with freedom of assembly. Corruption was endemic. Domestic violence and child abuse occurred, education of children was inadequate, and trafficking in women and children persisted. The government offered little assistance to persons with disabilities. Anti-union activity by employers and weak enforcement of labor laws continued, and child labor in the informal sector remained a problem.

On February 15, the government passed and promulgated a comprehensive Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation containing provisions criminalizing all forms of human trafficking. By year’s end the Cambodian National Police had arrested perpetrators in 48 trafficking-in-persons and related cases, and the courts had convicted at least 12 persons on trafficking-related charges.”

The Mirror had carried a related report from a Khmer language newspaper on 27 February 2009. On 14 March 2009, we carried a report from another Khmer newspaper, saying:

“The Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dismisses the US Department of State’s Report [on the human rights situation in Cambodia] on behalf the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia.”

But later, another Khmer newspaper reported in its 15/16 March 2009 edition: “The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC – said that tens of thousands of families of Khmer citizens suffer human rights violations.” And reports in the Phnom Penh Post of 16 March 2009 show a 9 year old boy standing in the wreckage of his house – sixteen houses in the Rik Reay Community – “Happy Community” – were torn down, and the area is being fenced in. A teacher, living there, said he had received a death threat. “This mistreatment is to force us to agree to their compensation package,” he said. “I am now worried for my personal security because I heard a company staffer on the walkie-talkie saying they would kill me because I am a community leader. I want to tell you that if I die, it was not at the hands of anyone else but because I was murdered by the staff of Bassac Garden City.”

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On 12 March 2009, we carried the headline from a Khmer newspaper, reporting Dalai Lama: Tibet under Chinese Control Is Like Hell on the Earth. And in order to elaborate, we added a link to the original text of the March 10th Statement of H.H. the Dalai Lama, where he says:

“Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising against Communist China’s repression in Tibet. Since last March widespread peaceful protests have erupted across the whole of Tibet. Most of the participants were youths born and brought up after 1959, who have not seen or experienced a free Tibet. However, the fact that they were driven by a firm conviction to serve the cause of Tibet that has continued from generation to generation is indeed a matter of pride… We pay tribute and offer our prayers for all those who died, were tortured and suffered tremendous hardships, including during the crisis last year, for the cause of Tibet since our struggle began.

“Around 1949, Communist forces began to enter north-eastern and eastern Tibet (Kham and Amdo) and by 1950, more than 5000 Tibetan soldiers had been killed…

“Since the re-establishment of contacts in 2002, we have followed a policy of one official channel and one agenda and have held eight rounds of talks with the Chinese authorities. As a consequence, we presented a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, explaining how the conditions for national regional autonomy as set forth in the Chinese constitution would be met by the full implementation of its laws on autonomy…

“We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. Fulfilling the aspirations of the Tibetan people will enable China to achieve stability and unity. From our side, we are not making any demands based on history. Looking back at history, there is no country in the world today, including China, whose territorial status has remained forever unchanged, nor can it remain unchanged.”

But while the voice of the Dalai Lama receives wide attention in the international press, there is also another aspect of the history of Tibet, which is not addressed, but to which the People’s Daily Online refers: Dalai Lama’s utter distortion of Tibet history:

“The Dalai Lama also alleged at a gathering in India’s Dharamsala to mark his 50 years in exile that “these 50 years have brought untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet.

“Unfortunately, the Dalai Lama has not only been on the wrong side of history, but also has got the history upside down. Miseries of ‘hell on earth’ and ‘untold suffering’ occurred nowhere but in the slavery Tibet symbolized by the Dalai Lama.

“Even from historical books written by Western scholars, people can draw the conclusion that Tibet under the rule of the Dalai Lama clique was a society of feudal serfdom that trampled human rights and easily reminded visitors of the dark age of medieval Europe.

“The feudal serfdom had truly brought ‘untold suffering and destruction’ to the serfs and slaves who accounted for 90 percent of the then population.

“The slavery in Tibet was just ‘hell on earth’ as Charles Bell, who lived in Lhasa as a British trade representative in the 1920s, observed that the Dalai Lama’s theocratic position enabled him to administer rewards and punishments as he wished. That was because he held absolute sway over both this life and the next of the serfs and coerced them with that power.

“In 1959, after the failed rebellion by the Dalai Lama and his followers, the central government of China carried out the long-delayed emancipation of millions of serfs and slaves in Tibet…

“But just as the rebellion by the Dalai Lama clique failed disgracefully 50 years ago, its fantasy of ‘Tibetan Independence’ is also doomed to failure, because of the firm opposition from the Chinese people, including the Tibetans in Tibet.”

But the Dalai Lama does not speak of Tibet’s independence, but of national regional autonomy as set forth in the Chinese constitution, and this within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. Both sides do not hear each other in detail to reach mutual understanding. It is easier to maintain an old antagonism than to find ways to a common understanding – a much more difficult task.

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On 13 March 2009, the Mirror carried an article “IMF: Cambodia Cannot Avoid the Consequences of the Global Economic Crisis!” (with reference back to similar IMF statements which we had mirrored on 13 February 2009):

“The Cambodian economy is in a negative status… We are talking about a period of dramatic decline in economic activities. So far, what we have seen is that the depth of the downturn is worse than expected.”

Since many weeks, there were many voices echoing the IMF concerns, even more so, since the Prime Minister had publicly questioned that the international economic downturn – in the so called economically rich countries – has the same social effects in a country like Cambodia. His comparison of rich and poorer countries with elephants and sheep may turn out to be a clue not only to understand the differences, but also to find ways to mitigate the economic problems in Cambodia, in a way industrialized countries cannot do:

“Growth in agriculture can surely prevent Cambodia from falling into an economic crisis, even though some major sectors of the Cambodian economy encounter a downturn.”

A foreign businessman, living in Cambodia, shared his appraisal on 12 March 2009, Putting It in Perspective:

“Now that the U. S. has shed 4.5 million jobs in the past 18 months alone and unemployment stands at 8.1 %, the conventional wisdom is that garment exports will go down substantially as the U. S. is the main market for Cambodia. The current figures appear to prove it, with a 27% decrease in exports for the month of February alone. Last December it was 30%…

“Likewise, tourist arrivals show a 2.9% reduction over the same month last year…

“According to the latest statistics the construction sector is holding sort of firm, although it was reported that some 3,000 to 5,000 jobs were lost there too.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen finds fault with all those predictions, saying that all those number are altogether not that important. What’s important is that people won’t go hungry in Cambodia. All those factory workers that lost their job can go back to their native village where they will find a rice paddy to cultivate, and a family that will take care of them…

“So the garment factory girls come back and find their wooden houses, a functioning family structure, and food to eat. They don’t have problems with heating or air conditioning… They wear simple clothes. There is one communal cell-phone which provides contact to the outside world. Yes, this is a simple life, and Westerners can only look on with widened eyes wondering how people can live like this. But let’s face it – this is reality, not only in Cambodia, but in most of South East Asia. And rural areas are exactly where the majority of the factory workers come from.

“So the fact that people can go back to their village is actually a boon for them. Yes, they are poor but they have to eat. And in this context let’s not look at the social problems, e.g. lack of health care and fundamental education. This is for another, hopefully not too far off, time.

“The Western alternative is no laughing matter. People losing their jobs, lose their homes, their savings along the line, their health care, practically their freedom. In my view it’s much more dire in the West. Recession hits people in the industrialized world much harder.”

Not all readers shared his appreciation of the Prime Minister’s perspective. He responded, “I like a good discussion with contrarian viewpoints, but they need to make sense.”

It is in this same spirit that this issue of the Mirror presents contrary and controversial views. We hope also for a good discussion – but the points put forward need to make sense. And this requires to research complex facts, and to engage in open, rational thinking.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

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A High Ranking Official of the Government Criticizes that Foreign Officials Interrupt the Process of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – Thursday, 12.3.2009

Posted on 15 March 2009. Filed under: Week 603 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 603

Apologies for the delays in publishing – due to my international travel. I try to catch up as soon as possible.

Norbert Klein

“A high-ranking official of the Cambodian government stated on Tuesday that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is at present being interrupted and hindered by some foreign officials. The Minister of Information and government spokesperson, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, criticized that some foreign officials are making money rather than coming to seek justice for Khmer citizens. The government spokesperson reprimanded them, saying, ‘One case has not yet been finished, and they raise another case. This group wants to extend the time of the court proceedings for their salaries… Many of them try to oppose some of the court actions, so that it cannot proceed. Therefore, we think carefully about all elements of our Article 46, and nobody can block this court.’

“Moreover, Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith warned that the Cambodian side might move ahead alone, if foreign officials continue to interrupt the process of seeking justice. He said, ‘We have many elements to consider. If no one does it, we do it. The government has money to do it, but we may do it alone, because the government cannot afford tens of thousands of dollars for the salaries for foreign officials. According to Article 46, as a last resort, the Cambodian government can do it alone, but first, we need to work with the United Nations and then with countries that are members of the United Nations. Then we work with partner countries, and if the third way cannot work, the forth way is that Cambodia will proceed alone.’

Note:

Further information about the history and some arrangements for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal:

Cambodia’s Position on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Presentation by His Excellency Sok An, Senior Minister, Minister in Charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers, President of the Task Force for Cooperation with Foreign Legal Experts and Preparation of the Proceedings for the Trial of Senior Khmer Rouge Leaders, to the Stockholm International Forum Truth, Justice and Reconciliation, 23-24 April 2002

Your Excellencies, Diplomatic Representatives and Participants in this third Stockholm International Forum .

Firstly, I would like to thank the Swedish government for making it possible for the Cambodian delegation to participate in this Forum, giving us the valuable chance to meet and exchange views with scholars, diplomats and legal experts from around the world. Learning from others’ experiences and sharing our own is a precious opportunity for us…

The Paris Peace Agreements of 1991 accorded political legitimacy to the Khmer Rouge and, when UNTAC left Cambodia in 1993, the new coalition government had to cope with the Khmer Rouge continuing policy of civil war and destabilization. We then launched a multifaceted strategy involving political, legal, economic and military campaigns, including the 1994 Legislation to Outlaw the Khmer Rouge, and efforts to encourage its members to defect and split. What Prime Minister Hun Sen has described as a “win-win” policy that has formed the bedrock of the political platform of the Royal Government of Cambodia involves five facets: “divide, isolate, finish, integrate, and develop” in which the Khmer Rouge political and military structure was ended, but those Khmer Rouge who defected were assured of their physical safety and survival, the right to work and to carry out their professions, and the security of their property…

The fifth compromise arose because the United Nations wanted the Law explicitly to exclude the possibility of any amnesty or pardon for those who may be indicted or convicted. According to our 1993 Constitution, the King has the right to give amnesty and pardon and we did not wish this law to contradict our Constitution. As a compromise we agreed to state in the law that the Royal Government of Cambodia will not request the King to grant any amnesty or pardon. Our Prime Minister and I have repeatedly stated that no one is above the law, and it will be entirely up to the Extraordinary Chambers to decide who shall be indicted or convicted…

But we cannot wait forever. Article 46 of our Law makes perfectly clear that, while primacy is given to United Nations participation in the process, if it pulls out, Cambodia is entitled to go ahead to establish the Extraordinary Chambers without the United Nations, hopefully with the participation and support of individual member states and foreign legal personalities, or in the last resort to carry out the trial entirely on its own.

[Bold face highlighting added during editing]

“It should be noted that recently, the foreign co-prosecutor of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Mr. Robert Petit, had asked to open investigations on more former Khmer Rouge leaders, besides the five former Khmer Rouge leaders already detained in the special detention facility of the tribunal, waiting for hearings. However, the above request of Mr. Robert Petit was strongly opposed by the Cambodian co-prosecutor, Ms. Chea Leang, by strongly raising different reasons . [The US based organization] Human Rights Watch criticized the disagreement between Ms. Chea Leang and Mr. Robert Petit on his request, saying that this is political interference, raising the accusation that there is intervention by the Cambodian government.

“The investigating judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal have not yet made a decision after the request of Mr. Robert Petit to investigate additional former Khmer Rouge leaders. In the meantime, Khmer citizens inside and outside of the country requested the investigation of more former Khmer Rouge leaders, in order to seek justice for the victims of the Killing Fields regime. It is regretted that high ranking officials of the Cambodian government accused foreign officials of the Khmer Rouge tribunal of interrupting the process by requesting to hear more former Khmer Rouge leaders, to be detained at the special detention facility of the tribunal.

“On the other hand, last week, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal amended 27 points of its internal regulations, but did not consider any request by non-government organizations. This results in further criticism of the hybrid tribunal by non-government organizations, for trying to conceal information, related to the process of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Moreover, the fact that the Khmer Rouge Tribunal did not consider the requests by non-government organizations shows that the special tribunal is under strong political influence.

“It should be noted that in late 2008, many organizations submitted detailed requests for changes in the internal regulations of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Those organizations had said that their requests will lead to more openness: like allowing the public to attend, when those who are arrested are presented for the first time, and like the request to publish information about decisions how differences of opinion between prosecutors and investigating judges in the tribunal were solved. But during the plenary session of the investigating judges of the tribunal last week, these requests by non-government organizations were not raised for discussions.

“In a joint request by five non-government organizations, including the Center for Social Development – CSD, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC, and the Cambodian Open Society Justice Initiative, they ask for solutions for apparent problems of interpretation between the Agreement to establish the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, with the United Nations signed in 2003 with the Cambodian government, and the internal regulations of the tribunal. This request was not taken up for discussion during the plenary session of the judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, while an official hearing of Kaing Gek Iev, called Duch, will be held in late March. This problem creates distrust among national and international observers of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, while corruption allegations at the tribunal are not yet clarified.

“A former US ambassador in charge of war crimes, and an important negotiator to establish the tribunal, Mr. David Scheffer [as ambassador, he participated in the creation of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia], said Tuesday that it was not sure whether policy makers of this tribunal consider to publish such decisions or not. Mr. David Scheffer wrote in an email that it is important that they should not conclude and express views in writing about such sensitive points controversial among prosecutors. He added that the 2003 Agreement should be consulted.

“Some of those who observe the Khmer Rouge Tribunal since its beginning said that this tribunal cannot help Khmer citizens, who have been waiting for justice for more than 30 years, to see the real light of justice, because since it was created, the hybrid tribunal, established together with the United Nations, had to encounter various obstacles, especially corruption allegations, which almost makes this tribunal to lose its value. In addition, attacks between Cambodian government officials and foreign officials in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal lead to further postponement the hearings of former Khmer Rouge leaders.

“Some analysts criticized that both the United Nations and the Cambodian government seem not to have the will to prosecute the former Khmer Rouge leaders soon, and to provide justice to the victims who lost their lives during the Killing Fields regime. That is why the recent hearing of Duch on 17-18 February proceeded in a way which was useless [no explanation given why this newspaper comes to this opinion], and then the Cambodian side announced that it will completely run out of money in March. This announcement from the Cambodian side is a shame, since so far, not any Khmer leader has been prosecuted, while millions of dollars were already spent wastefully.

“Anyway, Khmer citizens inside and outside of the country want the hearings of former Khmer Rouge leaders to be conducted soon, to find out who created the Khmer Rouge, and to reveal the reasons that led to the crimes where more than 1.7 million Khmer citizens were killed during the Killing Fields regime.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3709, 12.3.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 12 March 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #137, 11.3.2009

  • Mr. Hor Namhong Asks the United Nations to Help Street Children
  • [Former Microsoft Corporation chief executive officer] Bill Gates’ Foundation Will Grant Aid to Develop Impoverished Communities in Phnom Penh [according to Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Man Chhoeun]
  • Samdech Dekchor [Hun Sen]: The Government Will Strengthen the Education Sector
  • The National Bank of Cambodia Points to the Downturn of Economic Growth in Cambodia in 2008 [which declined to 7.9%]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #362, 12.3.2009

  • [A parliamentarian of the Sam Rainsy Party] Yim Sovann: The Government Must Acknowledge the Serious Situation because of the Downturn of Cambodia’s Economic Growth

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1895, 12.3.2009

  • The Head of the Royal Government of Cambodia Criticizes Protectionist Policies [of other countris because they make some Least Developed Countries to face difficulties to export goods]
  • UNICEF Provides More Than US$6 Million for the Development of the Educational Sector of Cambodia
  • Vietnam [through a visiting commercial delegation] Seeks Development Partners in Cambodia
  • Dalai Lama: Tibet under Chinese Control Is Like Hell on the Earth [“March 10th Statement of H.H. the Dalai Lama” and a response by the People’s Daily Online: “Dalai Lama’s utter distortion of Tibet history”]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6600, 12.3.2009

  • Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech [Hun Sen] Warns that Those Who Continue Running Football Betting Will Be Sued at the Court

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3709, 12.3.2008

  • A High Ranking Official of the Government Criticizes that Foreign Officials Interrupt the Process of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4843, 12.3.2009

  • Cambodia Allows [Laotian, Thai, and Vietnamese] People Who Hold Border Passports to Stay [in Cambodia] for One Week
  • A Man Sleeping in the Field to Guard Paddy Rice Was Hit and Killed, and a Small Tractor and 27 Bags of Paddy Rice Were Stolen [police are seeking the culprits – Bavel, Battambang]

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

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