Parliamentarians: Within Seventeen Years, Only Six Ministers Appeared to Make Clarifications in the Parliament – Saturday, 21.8.2010

Posted on 22 August 2010. Filed under: Week 678 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 678

“Phnom Penh: According to the first study by Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians, since the general elections in 1993, or within 17 years, only six ministers appeared at the parliament to clarify questions. But government officials explained that, based on the regulations, there clarifications can be given both directly and verbally, or through letters.

“Findings from the study were shown publicly in a press conference on 20 August 2010. The team leader of the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians, Mr. Son Chhay, said that since 1993, probably only six ministers showed up to respond to questions of parliamentarians in the parliament. That means also that within one 3 years period there was only one minister making clarifications. Until now, the Prime Minister has never come to answer to questions from parliamentarians following Article 96 of the Constitution. It is different from other democratic countries where prime ministers and government members regularly appear to give clarifications in parliament.

Article 96:

The deputies have the right to put a motion against the Royal Government. The motion shall be submitted in writing through the Chairman of the National Assembly.
The replies shall be given by one or several ministers depending on the matters related to the accountability of one or several ministers. If the case concerns the overall policy of the Royal Government, the Prime Minister shall reply in person.

The explanations by the ministers or by the Prime Minister shall be given verbally or in writing.

The explanations shall be provided within 7 days after the day when the question is received.

In case of verbal reply, the Chairman of the National Assembly shall decide whether to hold an open debate or not. If there is no debate, the answer of the minister or the Prime Minister shall be considered final. If there is a debate, the questioner, other speakers, the ministers, or the Prime Minister may exchange views within the time-frame not exceeding one session.

The National Assembly shall establish one day each week for questions and answers. There shall be no vote during any session reserved for this purpose.

“Mr. Son Chhay added that the procedures for questioning and for inviting ministers to appear are difficult. Sometimes, only two months after a request letter was sent there is a response, and sometimes it takes even up to one year. Some ministers do not care about answering questions from parliamentarians.

“A parliamentarian, Mr. Son Chhay, presented a study about government members who did not properly adhere to the principles of the Constitution, which set the rules for questioning and answering to questions of parliamentarians through letters, or straight and verbally.

“Mr. Son Chhay said that 132 letters with questions were sent to members of the government in 2009, but they responded to only 23%, or 39 letters, from Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians. Within eight months of 2010, Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians submitted 47 letters to the government, but only 15 letters received a response.

“Mr. Son Chhay added, ‘In 2009, we sent 24 letters to Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, and he responded to 13 letters. The Prime Minister answered more questions than others among the members of the government. The Minister of Interior, Mr. Sar Kheng, received 21 letters from parliamentarians in 2009 and he replied to 9 letters, and in 2010, he received 8 letters and he responded to 2.’

“Mr. Son Chhay went on to say that Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians sent 10 letters in 2009 and 2 more letters in 2010 to the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, Mr. Kim Kean Hor, but he did not respond at all. Also, the Minister of Commerce, Mr. Cham Prasidh, did not respond to questions from parliamentarians.

“Mr. Son Chhay stressed that submitting letters to request clarifications and to invite members of the governments, including the head of the government, to appear to clarify questions from parliamentarians in the parliament itself allow the government time to defend itself and to present its achievements in the past. This also helps to encourages the government to work with responsibility. ‘We aim to strengthen the implementation of democracy and to consolidate national institutions.’

“Also, another statement was released by Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians over the loss of their roles in the parliament of Cambodia. Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians voiced strong concern about the possible disappearance of democracy in Cambodia, which is affecting national development and social tranquility more seriously.

“Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians appeal to the ruling party to immediately check to fix all the limitations in order to appropriately implement the principles of multi-party democracy, as stated in the Constitution of 1993.

“Responding to the above mentioned concerns, a spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Tith Sothea, said that to respond, there are two ways: responding by letter, or directly and verbally. So far, government officials frequently sent official letters, and sometimes they appeared directly in parliament to respond. He added that the government is formed by elections, and the Cambodian People’s Party, that won a massive support in the parliament, always rules the country following democracy and respecting the rights of the citizens, who are the voters. The government is not dictatorial or lawless. The government is on the right tract based on democracy. If the opposition party wants further reforms beyond this, it has to wait until it wins the elections.

“A senior member of the Cambodian People’s Party and a long standing member of the National Assembly, Mr. Cheam Yeap, said that the Cambodian People’s Party always obeys the laws and the Constitution since 1993. Also, [the president of the National Assembly] Samdech Heng Samrin, often allows more Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians than those from the Cambodian People’s Party to express their opinions along with the participation of national and international organizations that carefully observe the proceedings.

“In addition, during the press conference in the morning of 20 August 2010, Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians announced that they have sent a letter to the US parliament and Senate to express their support for the United States of America adopting an amendment to financial legislation that requires US listed oil exploration companies operating in Cambodia to publicly disclose their expenditures and income. Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians consider that this law helps to promote transparency in the investment and in the management of income from mines, and in the oil and gas sectors in Cambodia.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5282, 21.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 21 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2333, 21.8.2010

  • Thailand Sent Letters to the Ten Members of ASEAN to Suggest How to Solve the Disputes with Cambodia Bilaterally
  • After an Electric Fault Occurred [producing toxic smoke] in the M.V Factory, 120 Workers Fainted [Kompong Chhnang]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7040, 21-22.8.2010

  • A Railroad Construction Company Asked the Authorities to Crack Down on the Stealing of Concrete Supports and of Iron Bars [Kampot]
  • The Ministry of Labor Warned It Will Take Legal Action against Companies with Irregularities in Sending Workers to Malaysia [according to a meeting between the Ministry of Labor and 31 companies sending workers abroad]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3964, 21-22.8.2010

  • [Sam Rainsy Party] Parliamentarians and a Human Rights Organization [the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC] Expressed Regret over the Verdict against Chi Kraeng District Residents [nine citizens were sentenced to 3 years imprisonment over a land dispute, but they will serve only 17 months and the rest will be suspended – Siem Reap]

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #36, 21.8.2010

  • The Vietnamese President [Mr. Nguyen Minh Triet [Nguyễn Minh Triết]] Will Visit Cambodia [from 26 to 28 August 2010 in response to an invitation by the Khmer King]
  • Cambodia Does Not Accept a Bilateral Solution with Thailand [according the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Koy Kuong]
  • Only One of the Students [countrywide] Gets an A Level, and 81.90% Passed [or 87,561 students among the 106,908 candidates passed the Grade 12 examinations]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5282, 21.8.2010

  • Parliamentarians: Within Seventeen Years, Only Six Ministers Appeared to Make Clarifications in the Parliament
  • Ebony [2.377 cubic meters] and Wild Animals [about 166 kg, including snakes, big lizards, and turtles] Were Intercepted at the Chrey Thom Border Crossing [for export to Vietnam; no persons are yet caught – Kandal]
  • Scientific Evidence Shows that Chemicals Are Still Found in Food Sold at the Markets [affecting the health of the consumers – studies conducted by the Royal Academy]

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If There Are No National Standards for Food Safety, the Export of Goods Will Be Impossible – Monday, 26.7.2010

Posted on 27 July 2010. Filed under: Week 675 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 675

“Officials of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy said that technical obstacles against the export of products from Cambodia are a very serious problem. ‘We do not have proper national standards, and we have not any in line with ASEAN. As a member of the World Trade Organization, we need to eliminate such commercial obstacles.’

“The head of the Department of Industrial Standards at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, Mr. Ping Siv Lay, said during a meeting of a technical committee on food and processed food, supported by the Asian Development Bank, held for two days on 22 and 23 July 2010 at the Hotel Cambodiana, that food safety is a sensitive topic, on focus in recent years, and it is a priority for the Royal Government of Cambodia to improve the safety of food and bewerages. Food in Cambodia is a high level problem in the region. Food manufacturers must promote the implementation of measures of general and of personal sanitation. But which standards do they have to take up? Are they recognized as internationally defined standardized in the country or not? At present, there is no answer, when food manufacturers produce food with can carry high hazards: such as chicken, sausages, milk, drinks, etc.

“Mr. Ping Siv Lay added that for private companies to have exports going on with food security, there need to be national standards for the export of products to international markets. The Asian Development Bank office in Cambodia vowed not only to support the development of standards, but also to help to promote food safety testing in the country, which will also facilitates commerce.

“This official went on to say, ‘We have created standards for ten types of products to ensure commerce in the country. But there are yet no quality standards for international markets.’

“According to an official of the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy, such technical obstacles make it impossible that a larger portion of agricultural products can be exported, even though our trading partners do not charge taxes. As Cambodia does not have standards, no special products have been exported to China. The other side in trade relations demands us to adhere to standards for our products, comparable to their standards, so that export can be carried out.

“During the meeting, many questions were discussed in order to create a draft about food standards to catch up with other countries.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5259, 25-26.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 26 July 2010

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7017, 26.7.2010

  • [About 500] Workers Marched to Demand an Increase of Their Salaries in Front of the National Assembly – They Do Not Accept the Increase Offered by the Labor Council [they demand a minimum salary of US$75 per month, while at present, they are offered US$61]
  • Officials of Seven Embassies [of Australia, Britain, Cuba, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam] Visited the Preah Vihear Temple of Cambodia

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3941, 26.7.2010

  • [The vice-president of the Sam Rainsy Party] Kong Korm Appealed to the US Administration to Intervene, so that Mr. Sam Rainsy Can Return to Cambodia [who has been convicted for the uprooting of Cambodian-Vietnamese border markers]
  • The Women’s Movement for Democracy Has Collected Riel 10 Million [approx. US$2,370] to Be Paid as Compensation to [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Instead of [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mu Sochua [as she lost a defamation case against him; but the collected money needs first to be accepted by Ms. Mu Sochua.]

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #12-13, 24-25.7.2010

  • Cambodia Supports (together with ASEAN countries) a Statement [of the UN Security Council] That Condemns North Korea [for sinking a South Korean navy ship, killing 46 navy soldiers]
  • The United Nations Continues to Seek Contributions to Fund the Khmer Rouge Tribunal [additional US$10 million are needed for 2010, and US$39 million for 2011]
  • North Korea Declared to Use Nuclear Threats to Respond to US Military Exercise [with South Korea]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #222, 26.7.2010

  • For the Crimes at the S-21 Center [known as the Tuol Sleng Prison, where more than 15,000 persons were sent to their death]: Will Kaing Kek Eav Get 40 Years Imprisonment or a Release? [the sentence of the former head of the Tuol Sleng Prison will be announced on 26 July 2010]
  • Two Companies [of Cambodia,: Seledamex and Rattana Corporation] Will Receive Land Concession of Nearly 20,000 Hectare for Rubber Plantation in Preah Vihear [with the consent of the Prime Minister, for 99 years]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5259, 25-26.7.2010

  • If There Are No National Standards for Food Safety, the Export of Goods Will Be Impossible
  • The Cambodian-Thai General Border Committee Promised to Guarantee Security along the Border [officials of both sides of the border committee met on 15 and 16 July 2010 in Bangkok]
  • A Government Ambulance Car Hit People, Resulting in Two Deaths and Three Injured [the driver escaped – Takeo]

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Eighty Percent of the 1,621 Communes in the 24 Provinces and Cities Are Rural Areas – Friday, 16.7.2010

Posted on 19 July 2010. Filed under: Week 673 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 673

Note:

Apologies again for the delay – I am back in Phnom Penh, but I returned with a defective computer. I hope within one day to be up to date again.


Norbert Klein

“Phnom Penh: According to a report of the United Nations for 2010, there are 1,621 communes in the 24 provinces and cities in Cambodia, where 80% is rural areas.

“The report on the outlook of fundamental developments for 2010, recently published by the United Nations, says that Cambodia has 24 provinces and cities, but only 142 communes are considered as [densely] populated or urban, while as many as 1,479 communes remain rural.

“The same source adds that in Phnom Penh, 10 among the 76 communes are considered as rural.

“Besides Phnom Penh, the report divides the rest of the 23 provinces and cities into 4 areas: low lying areas, the Tonle Sap lake area, highlands, and the seashore area.

“In the low lying areas, among the 616 communes, only 27% are considered urban. That means 83% of the total area is rural. The low lying areas cover Kandal, Kompong Cham, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, and Takeo.

“The Tonle Sap lake area consists of 8 provinces: Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Thom, Oddar Meanchey, Pailin, Pursat, and Siem Reap. In these 8 provinces, among the 491 communes, only 30 are urban, while the other 461 are still rural. To sum up, as much as 85% of the communes are rural.

“The highlands of Cambodia comprises 6 provinces: Kompong Speu, Kratie, Mondolkiri, Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, and Ratanakiri. In total, only 10 communes in these 6 provinces are urban, whereas the rest of 276 are rural. To conclude, only 9% of this area is considered urban.

“In the seashore area, there are 4 provinces, and only 19% of the communes of those provinces are urban. The 4 provinces are Kampot, Kep, Koh Kong, and Sihanoukville, where there are 152 communes, but only 9 are considered as urban.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5251, 16.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 16 July 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2302, 16.7.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Will Pay an Official Visit to Singapore on 26 and 27 July 2010 [detailed information about this visit has not yet been provided]
  • After the Authorities Checked [two] Companies Sending Workers to Malaysia, They Found Many Underage Girls [between 15 to 16 years old among them – Chamkar Mon district, Phnom Penh]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7009, 16.7.2010

  • The Maternity and Child Death Rate Is Still a Concern for Cambodia [according to the Minister of Health, the death rate decreased from 472 among 100,000 live births in 2005 to only 416 deaths in 2008, and this problem needs more attention from the government]
  • Ms. Mu Sochua Stressed Her Position Again that She Would Rather Get Jailed Than Pay Riel 16.5 Million [approx. US$3,930] for Losing a Defamation Case [against Prime Minister Hun Sen – as she considers the verdict not to be just]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3933, 16.7.2010

  • A Visit [from 14 to 22 July] of US Under-Secretary of State [Mr. William J. Burns] to Southeast Asia Is Crucial to Ensure the Respect for Human Rights and Democracy in Cambodia [according to an announcement of the US Department of State]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #216, 16.7.2010

  • A Study [by the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, conducted by interviewing 400 workers who had been sent back from Thailand through the Poipet Border Crossing]: One Fourth of Migrants Were Trafficked
  • Demonstration to Mark the Thai Invasion onto Territory [claimd by Cambodia, close to the Preah Vihear Temple, led by the president of the Cambodian Confederation Union, Mr. Rong Chhun] Was Blocked by the Authorities [Phnom Penh]
  • [Cambodian] Officials Receive Training on the Management of Oil Resources [from oil experts from New Zealand]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5251, 16.7.2010

  • Eighty Percent of the 1,621 Communes in the 24 Provinces and Cities Are Rural Areas
  • [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Said the Ball Is in Phnom Penh’s Court [that means Cambodia should send a Cambodian ambassador to Thailand first] while Phnom Penh Said It Is in Bangkok’s [Thailand should send a Thai ambassador to Cambodia first]
  • Major General [Chim Sok] Ordered [two] Body Guards to Beat a Man Seriously after a Traffic Accident [where that man’s car had hit the General’s Lexus car from behind] and the General Demanded US$10,000 as Compensation [while the man can afford only US$4,000 – Phnom Penh]
  • Two People Were Killed after a Crash between Two Motorbikes [Prey Veng]

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Free access to free flowing information – Sunday, 27.6.2010

Posted on 3 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 670 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 670

The Constitution of a country is its basic law – all other laws and regulations have to follow the guidelines of the Constitution. The Constitution is also a basic guideline for the citizens of a country, especially in a country where the Constitution declares (inscribed in the name of the people: “WE, THE PEOPLE OF CAMBODIA” as its Preamble states): “Cambodian people are the masters of their own country,” living in the Kingdom of Cambodia that has adopted “a policy of Liberal Democracy and Pluralism” as stated in its Article 51. The Constitution, written in 1993 by the elected representatives forming the first National Assembly of the newly established Kingdom of Cambodia, established a high and clear vision for the future after the troubled and violent decades of the past: “to restore Cambodia into an ‘Island of Peace’ based on a multi-party liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law, and responsible for the destiny of the nation.”

The Constitution lays out also clearly where the responsibility for the destiny of the nation is located: “All power belongs to the people.”

To fulfill the goals laid out is a daily challenge – not just to be celebrated on Constitution Day on 24 September every year, remembering the signing of the new Constitution on 24 September 1993 by King Sihanouk, and not only on the days every five years, when the members of the National Assembly are elected as the legislative power, with the authority over the creation of a new government, through which the people exercise their power.

To fulfill this challenge requires, among others, that the people can know what is going on in the country over which they are the masters: access to correct and transparent information is a fundamental condition for the Constitution to be alive.

The media play an important role in facilitating the access to information. We had the headline this week “Khmer Journalists Need More Training to Write Investigating Information [to write such information, journalists have to investigate to collect strong evidence to support their conclusions]” – an indication that there is still work to be done. Some time ago it was also decided that all Ministries shall have an official spokesperson, and there had also been special training events for persons taking on these new roles.

Unfortunately, the situation is often far away from the goal to be achieved. There are regular reports in the press, almost every week, that a reporter calling a Ministry to get some information is directed to a different person, and from there to a third person, and finally the answer is “no information available.” Or after being re-directed to several other sources, the caller ends up with the original contact. Or the called party hangs up as soon as they understand the call is from a journalist.

There are other cases where the information is clear – but it is difficult to understand it, as it is only a partial answer to a public question.

A case of this type of a response is the elaborate response given in the National Assembly by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to an opposition request for clarification about “tea money” paid by foreign oil and mineral exploring companies, about which The Mirror carried a report in the Friday edition. There was, in response to the information given, some praise in the national and international press – but there was also frustration.

“In the case that there is money paid, like reward money for signing, paid into the state budget, the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the National Petroleum Authority deposits it into an account at the National Bank of Cambodia. The money is the income from oil for the Royal Government of Cambodia to be used, and the use of the money is not dependent on the companies signing the oil deals, like in the case of the social development foundation. The money for the social development foundation is also deposited into an account at the National Bank of Cambodia, but before the money can be taken out to be spent on any projects, there needs to be a discussion with company that signed the oil deal, as, in general, that money is used to serve the development in areas designated when the oil deal was signed.”

But there were no total figures given, no explanation why such payments were not reflected in past accounts of the national budget, and no information about the administration of the Social Fund – who is responsible, and according to which criteria; no NGO could get away with such vague information.

And there are cases where the information is clear – but it is difficult to understand the arguments used and not used.

The demarcation of national borders is an important affair, often loaded not only with practical, but also with emotional elements. Clear, transparent information can always help to defuse a tense situation. Why are then the Khmer authorities prohibiting farmers from doing cultivation on the fields next to the temporary Border Marker Number 270 in Takeo, and people trying to visit the site to verify what is really going on were are prohibited from visiting? We did not find that the media were given the precise geographical coordinates, and detailed mapping reference – why only general reference to some border agreements?

Similarly, but even less transparent, is the argumentation in the following press report:

“An Expert Official [the head of the Border Committee of Cambodia, Mr. Var Kim Hong]: [Opposition party president] Sam Rainsy’s Map Is Fake [he claimed that the 1:100,000 map deposited at the United Nations in 1964 does not have grids, while the map that Mr. Sam Rainsy published on the Internet has grids; the Phnom Penh municipal court issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Sam Rainsy for faking public documents and spreading disinformation].”

If the original map deposited at the United Nations does not have a grid, showing the geographical coordinates of Latitudes and Longitudes of the depicted locations – how is it possible to determine where the contested border posts are actually located? It is faking the map, if the claim is made that the original maps did contain the grid of geographical coordinates but it actually did not – but it is helping to clarify the situation, if the geographical coordinates of Northern Latitude and Eastern Longitude are later provided so that the place of the border line can be clearly shown. – The legal struggle against the grid on the map seems to criticize that clarifying information is provided, while not saying that the information provided is wrong – nor providing alternative information with the assertion what is right.

That the public handling of information and the access to it is crucial has been underlined again by the top UN officials on 3 May 2010 – marking the annual World Press Freedom Day – calling for the promoting of the universal right to publicly-held information as well as ensuring the safety of all those who work in the media, adding that “some journalists risk intimidation, detention and even their lives, simply for exercising their right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, through any media, and regardless of frontiers.” That is what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a message for the World Press Freedom Day. It is a continuing challenge and a task not yet fulfilled.

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People Losing Land and Housing Plan to Protest in Front of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – Monday, 14.6.2010

Posted on 15 June 2010. Filed under: Week 669 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 669

“Phnom Penh: Human Rights activists said that many citizens who have land disputes and suffer from evictions without proper compensation plan to come from provinces and cities to protest and to express their difficulties to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Surya Prasad Subedi, on Monday, 14 June 2010.

“The UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Surya Prasad Subedi, is on a 10 days mission in Cambodia, starting from 8 June 2010. Mr. Surya did not intend to take up land disputes and the evictions of citizens as important topics to discuss them with the head of the Cambodian government. He mentioned only the judicial reform as the subject to be discussed, to find solutions during his third visit to Cambodia.

“An official of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association [ADHOC], Mr. Uoch Leng, said that on 14 June 2010, many citizens who are victims of land disputes in several provinces and cities will come to protest in front of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia at House Number 4, Street 302, Boeng Keng Kang I commune, Chamkar Mon district, Phnom Penh.

“This activist said that the protest aims to express the difficulties of citizens losing land due to the activities of the rich and of the powerful, and due to the provision of economic concession land to private companies, which affect and make citizens lose the land on which they depend for their lives.

“Mr. Uoch Leng added that on 14 June 2010, there will be citizens from the Kompong Tralach district in Kompong Chhnang, the Kandal Stung district from Kandal, the Chi Kraeng district from Siem Reap, the Romeas Haek district from Svay Rieng, the Thpong and Oral districts from Kompong Speu, and the Srae Ambel district from Koh Kong, citizens from the Boeng Kak Lake area in Phnom Penh, and some other citizens involved in land disputes.

“According to ADHOC, since early 2010, 42 citizens were jailed over land disputes at different provinces and cities. 187 citizens were accused by courts relating to land disputes with private companies, officials, and the rich, such as in Svay Rieng, Takeo, Siem Reap, Kampot, Preah Vihear, Kompong Thom, Kompong Speu, Battambang, and Oddar Meanchey.

“About 150,000 citizens have been evicted from their homes on the basis of not transparent decisions by the courts.

“Regarding the plan of citizens from different areas to protest, an advisor of the Royal Government of Cambodia and the spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers, considers that officials of some non-government organizations which tend towards the opposition, take the opportunity to benefit from the visit of Mr. Surya.

“Mr. Tith Sothea, an adviser of the Royal Government of Cambodia and the spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers, added that those organizations encourage the UN human rights Special Rapporteur to solve land disputes so that they can apply for more international funds for their own organizations.

“Mr. Tith Sothea said the government is conducting reforms on land disputes, and the concessions of many companies had been withdrawn by the Royal Government after it became obvious that there was no development. He added that the plan of citizens from provinces and cities to protest on Monday, 14 June 2010, is within their rights, and their demonstration will not be prohibited by the authorities.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol. 18, #5223, 13-14.6.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 14 June 2010

Deum Tnot, Vol.3, #107, 14-15.6.2010

  • The Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers Called on Workers [in the whole country] to Suspend Their Work on 13, 14, and 15 July 2010 [to ask for an increase of their monthly salaries to at least US$70, and to demand that factory owners have to obey the labor law]

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #503, 13-14.6.2010

  • The Authorities Allow 237 Families, Victimized by a Fire [at the railway block in Tuol Kork] to Settle on the Same Area [they will not be required to relocate to a new area – Phnom Penh]
  • About 100 Workers at the Seratic Garment Factory Fainted because of Inhaling Gas Leaking from some Pipes

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2274, 13-14.6.2010

  • The Supreme Court Ordered the [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Ms. Mu Sochua to Pay a Fine [roughly US$4,000 for losing a defamation case with Prime Minister Hun Sen]
  • The Ministry of Information Ordered to Stop the Broadcasting of the Program of [the director of a development and training organization, providing education about democracy via radio at FM 90 in Phnom Penh, FM 90.25 in Battambang, FM 88.5 in Kompong Thom, and FM 90.25 in Oddar Meanchey, who is also the president the League for Democracy Party – “Think Together – Decide Together – Act Together” – who is a [dissident] former Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mr. Khem Veasna [claiming that the programs did not follow the principles set by the ministry, as the programs were often used for political propaganda]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6981, 14.6.2010

  • Within Three Months of this Year, Thai Products Imported to Cambodia Amounted to US$700 Million [and Cambodian products exported to Thailand were only about US$24 million]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3905, 14.6.2010

  • The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association [ADHOC] Denied that It Encourages Citizens Losing Land to Meet with the UN Human Rights Special Representative This Morning [there had been such accusations against ADHOC, but the accuser is not mentioned]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #192, 14.6.2010

  • [With more than 60,000 thumbprints attached] Citizens Victimized by Land Disputes Plan to Send a Petition to the Prime Minister [to ask for his intervention]
  • Samdech Euv [the former King] Plans to Go to China at the End of June [for a medical checkup]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5223, 13-14.6.2010

  • People Losing Land and Housing Plan to Protest in Front of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • The Export of Cambodia to France Increased [to Euro 83 million or approx. US$100 million in 2009, compared to 2008, when it was Euro 82 million], while There Are More French Investments in Cambodia [amounting to more than Euro 90 million or approx. US$108 million – [no 2010 figures given here]]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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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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“The Right to Know” and to Participate – Sunday, 23.5.2010

Posted on 24 May 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 665 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 665

The Mirror frequently reports about the difficulty of journalists to get information about public concerns when they contact officials at different ministries, even when there are spokespersons appointed. It happens from time to time that these officials refer to others, and the referred persons again to others – and a question remains unanswered, or with different conflicting responses. The most recent such case relates to the more than US$25 million, paid by foreign companies – and it is difficult to know where and according to which procedures they were used or are still kept.

Now it is reported that also the Prime Minister has such problems: it is reported that he warned army commanders to report in detail about the border situation, neither to exaggerate, nor to understate the reality. The media can only welcome such a statement by the Prime Minister, as it may help to clarify the need to have reliable information provided by those who have it – in this case those in charge of leadership of the military at the border.

There were other – related and unrelated problems – in the reports during the last months. On the one hand there is support for the soldiers who are charged with keeping a dangerous situation of border tensions under control – while higher level political discussions between Cambodia and Thailand, which could lead to a final solution of the border problems, do not progress. So there is emotional support for the troops. On the other hand there were many more reports of illegal logging also from the northern border region, since there is more military stationed there.

That the Prime Minister called on the troops to protect the forest and the land in the areas of their bases may be understood in this context – but it does not relate only to the northern border region. Since larger private enterprises started to sponsor and financially support specific military units, there were also reports in the media that up to 150 soldiers have been deployed to protect the preparations for a sugar production entity against the people who claim that this happens on their land. What is the meaning of the Prime Minister’s words – “the troops should protect the forest and the land in the areas of their bases” – in such a situation?

International and national news during the week covered extensively the escalating tensions in Thailand, and the final, violent confrontations between the – initially – peaceful protesters and the military, which led, at the end, to the loss of the life of many people. More than 35 buildings were set on fire after the leadership of the Red Shirts had declared an end of the confrontation; in one building alone, the dead bodies of 10 persons were now found, who had been killed by the fire.

The discussions to come to a common understanding about what happened is controversial – when a solution was closer as ever during these weeks, and then everything turned around negatively. The following is a quote from a Most Viewed report and analysis in the Bangkok Post from three days before the final violence, from 16.5.2010, moved by the concern that the situation was heading toward a bloody conflict. Such reports stands also under the warning of the Prime Minister: to try to find the reality – “neither to exaggerate, nor to understate” – however difficult this is, step by step.

…The military coup in 2006 wrongly overthrew the then democratically elected prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. That was no democracy.

The coup council handed the power back to the people in 2007. The People Power Party (PPP) won the following election. That was democracy.

The PPP was banned by the Constitution Court for electoral irregularities and the parliament the democratically elected representatives of Thailand voted the Democrats into power. That was democracy.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) argue against the Democrat-led coalition government’s legitimacy and protest for the government to step down and call a general election.

That was democracy.

And the UDD had won.

The goals of the UDD from the very start: They wanted a House dissolution. They will have one in September. They wanted a general election. They will have one on Nov 14. All within seven months and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s term actually ends in January 2012, a year and a half from now.

They should be dancing in the streets, celebrating victory. Then we can all go to the voting booth in November. Peace and democracy. But no.

The truth has revealed itself. The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship is simply using democracy as a front in the interests of dictatorship. Refusing the peaceful compromise, forsaking the democratic process, continuing to harm the country for the interests of one man, Thaksin Shinawatra, fighting against security forces of the rightful democratic government of Thailand – that’s an uprising, it’s a rebellion.

It’s criminal. That is not democracy.

If you disagree with me and think the UDD is in the right, then let me simplify it: The next time you’re pulled over by the law in a traffic stop, you should just burn tires, shoot slingshots at the cop and call him a dictator…

Here’s Thaksin’s dilemma. Peace and the democratic process don’t guarantee his return to power…

Accepting the compromise is a loss of face and may even make Prime Minister Abhisit look good in the eyes of the people, for biting the bullet and extending his hand. Thaksin Shinawatra can no longer rely on the voting booths. He can no longer rely on the democratic process. The UDD has used democracy as a tool – manipulated and exploited it to return Thaksin to power. Now that they are no longer confident that the democratic process will serve their interests, the UDD has transformed itself from a democratic movement into an uprising, a rebellion, a criminal organization.

It’s worth repeating: They wanted a House dissolution. They have one in September. They wanted a general election. They have one on Nov 14. That’s democracy. Instead, they flushed democracy down the toilet…

The UDD is screaming: ”Now! Now! Now! Prime Minister resign now!” Thaksin Shinawatra is crying: ”Me! Me! Me! I want my power back!” That’s not democracy…

And when there’s a rebellion, the government must put down the rebellion. Otherwise, we have anarchy. The law must be swift, severe and certain – any student of criminology can tell you that.

It didn’t have to come to this. It shouldn’t have come to this. But here we are on the brink of anarchy because of the pride, greed and vengefulness of one man, and of the indecisiveness, uncertainty and lack of leadership of another.

One day later, on 17.5.2010, the Bangkok Post wrote that Red leaders all miscalculated and are losing. Instead of accepting the proposals of the government,

“they promptly replied with more demands to the government…

The hardliners in the UDD wanted to corner Mr. Abhisit with more conditions, while the moderate camp led by Mr. Veera Musikhapong tried in vain to convince the others to stop the rally by accepting the prime minister’s proposal…

If only they had agreed to disperse the protest after Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban reported to the Department of Special Investigation last week, they would have emerged as the winner of the political standoff. The leaders could have told the demonstrators that they successfully forced the prime minister to call an early poll.
In fact, the offer by Mr Abhisit was the best ever since the red shirts converged on the capital in mid-March…

The hard core members miscalculated that they could press for more from the prime minister after seeing him show signs of compromise…

The UDD has come up with new calls for Mr Abhisit to immediately quit and not lead the interim government while waiting for the new elections to take place…

The only condition for the prime minister is to immediately end the rally with no more bargains. It would not have turned out this way had the UDD leaders not made the wrong move.

In December 2005, Prime Minister Hun Sen had warned that if illegal land seizures were not brought under control, they could lead to a farmers’ revolution. Nobody can hope that the continuing confrontations related to land conflicts remain mostly solved against the people who have lived and worked on the land for years. This is not only a political concern which the Prime Minister raised in 2005; also many agro-economists consider big agro-business less productive economically – and socially.

The public, the citizens, need to know and be involved, when basic future policy is developed. Obviously, part of the rural population in Thailand felt that they were kept out, and not listened to. Their peaceful protest was not listened to in time, and got finally beyond control.

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Preventing the Destruction of the Tonle Sap Lake: The Six Provinces around the Lake Must Act to Protect the Flooded Forest – Friday, 7.5.2010

Posted on 7 May 2010. Filed under: Week 663 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 662

“Phnom Penh: The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology invited the six governors from Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Thom, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, and Pursat, and other related institutions, to attend a discussion in the morning of 6 May 2010 to determine what to do in three regions, and to decide actions on the reservoirs in a second area around the Tonle Sap Lake. The event was chaired by the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, Mr. Lim Kean Hor, at a meeting at the ministry, in order to find protective measures to timely prevent the possibility of a serious devastation of the Tonle Sap Lake and other related areas.

“Mr. Lim Kean Hor stressed that the meeting held on that day was in response to a wise decision and order of the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen. The three areas determined connect flooded forest to the Tonle Sap Lake, and those areas are covered by grass land, jungle with tall trees, and flooded forest. Based on aerial photos taken from planes, the flooded forest is being burnt down, but the burning is not for hunting animals. A working team conducted a study over three months by using aerial photos taken in 2005. The second study was also based on – new – aerial photos, and the third study depended on direct visits at the six provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake.

“Regarding this direct monitoring, Mr. Lim Kean Hor presented the findings and figures. According to the aerial photos taken in Kompong Thom, the size of the third area dropped to only 3,130 hectares, compared to 2005 when the size was 56,000 hectares. Therefore, in Kompong Thom more than 94% or 53,000 hectares were lost.

“In Kompong Chhnang, there are only 4,000 hectares at present, while before there were 101,000 hectares, which is a loss of as much as 95% or 97,000 hectares. This is a serious destruction, and if there are no thorough and timely interventions, the three areas that serve as a special eco-system, providing shelter for fish to lay eggs, and that are also a natural tourism site. will be lost. Therefore, there must be emergency decisions taken to protect these areas.

“The Minister added that if the cutting down of flooded forest continues, the areas will become barren land. Thus, the authorities must think of this and take action. If some people have been doing cultivation on the land inherited from their ancestors, they can keep the land, but if it is land gained from clearing of forest during the years 2003 to 2010, it will be confiscated and kept as flooded forest area. There are losses in all provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake, but Kompong Thom and Kompong Chhnang sustained more serious destruction than the other four provinces.

“After presentations by the six province governors during the discussion, it was agreed that the size of the three areas of 640,000 hectares, based on the aerial photos taken in 2005, will be kept as protected area. The meeting agreed to send this conclusion to Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen to decide about it formally by issuing a sub-decree for the three areas.

“Relating to reservoirs in the second area, Mr. Lim Kean Hor stressed, ‘First, please keep some existing resources, and second, consider that some reservoirs were not constructed technically correct.’

“The meeting decided to determine the three areas of 640,000 taken in 2005 to be protected areas. The actions to be taken with reservoirs in the second area of the Tonle Sap Lake depends upon the Tonle Sap Lake Authority.” Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6949, 7.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 7 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #471, 7.5.2010

  • Cambodia Calls On Partner Countries to Continue Addressing the Global Crisis [such as the financial, the food, the climate crisis, and the crisis related to terrorism – according to the ASEM Senior Officials’ Meeting held in Phnom Penh from 5 to 6 May 2010]
  • A Secretary of State [of the Ministry Social Affairs] Is Accused of Cheating US$5,000 [from the residents of a commune in Battambang, violating a contract to provide US$5,000]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2242, 7.5.2010

  • Traders Continue to Transport Wood Anarchically in Chhloung District [Kratie]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6949, 7.5.2010

  • Preventing the Destruction of the Tonle Sap Lake: The Six Provinces around the Lake Must Act to Protect the Flooded Forest
  • Most Beggars in Phnom Penh Are Children – Expert Officials Suspect that They Are Probably Forced [by their parents] to Do Begging
  • Diarrhea Continues to Rage after Nine Villagers Died [at present, more than 30 other villagers are suffering from it – Kratie]
  • A Park between Roads 106 and 108 Will Be Designated as Democracy Compound [for protesters, not more than 200; it is located in the Wat Phnom commune, Daun Penh district, Phnom Penh]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3873, 7.5.2010

  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Yim Sovann: Political Stability in Siam [Thailand] Is Beneficial for Cambodia [for the economy and for politics], but the Neighboring Country Must Respect International Treaties

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #166, 7.5.2010

  • Ms. Helen Jarvis Will Resign from Her Position [as head of the Victims’ Unit of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal] at the End of This Month [for personal reasons]
  • [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Promised to Dissolve the Parliament in September 2010

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5191, 7.5.2010

  • Three Fishermen, three Brothers, Were Killed by Lightning on the Sea during Light Rain [Kampot]
  • The Siem Reap Court Decided to Release 14 Detained People, Accused of Destroying Public Forest

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Cambodia Will Be Able to Produce Oil in 2012, and Cambodia and Japan Jointly Study a Wetland Area near the Tonle Sap Lake – Wednesday, 5.5.2010

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

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 663

“The Minister of the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, stated that Cambodia will be able to produce oil in 2012. He said so during the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) and the National Petroleum Authority of Cambodia in the morning of 4 May 2010 at the Council of Ministers.

“Deputy Prime Minister Sok An stated on the occasion that he strongly believes in the project signed that day, because it enables to study whether or not to explore for oil and gas resources, especially to explore for oil in Block 17, adding, ‘I welcome and wish this Japanese company well for having decided to invest in Cambodia.’

“The deputy director of JOGMEC said that he cannot foresee the amount of money to be invested in this project, as today’s signing allows the company only to study the field, but it has not reached a stage to discuss mining explorations. According to the plan, the study might take around two years, and then, the company might conduct explorations as soon as possible.

“A spokesperson of the Office of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Ek Tha, said at that occasion, ‘This is an agreement that encourages joint industrial studies between two Asian countries, Cambodia and Japan.’ He added, ‘The area to be studied covers 6,500 square kilometers, and it is to the northeast of the Tonle Sap Lake in Kompong Thom.’ According to officials, the JOGMEC had already conducted magnetic and pressure studies between 1997 and 1999.

“Mr. Ek Tha went on to say that there are concerns raised by environmentalists in Cambodia about this project. But he said that Cambodia and the Japanese oil company are studying also the possible bad impacts on the environment in Block 17, in order to reduce or to avoid those impacts, since Japan is a country that strongly cares about the environment. Cambodia is also keenly caring about the environment in order to maintain the sustainability of resources in this long term project. The environment is also an important issue for the Cambodians of future generations.

“It should be noted that the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on commercial cooperation on underground oil and gas resources was chaired by the Parliamentary Secretary for Economy, Trade and Industry Takahashi Chiaki [大臣政務官 高橋千秋], who said that his country is the second biggest donor to Cambodia, granting US$12 million each year.

“According to the Council of Ministers, commercial ties between Cambodia and Japan are progressing, amounting to US$105.18 million between 1994 and 2009. Cambodia exported products to Japan worth US$69.6 million in 2008, but only US$6.8 million within 8 months of 2009.” Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #468, 5.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #468, 5.5.2010

  • Cambodia Will Be Able to Produce Oil in 2012, and Cambodia and Japan Jointly Study a Wetland Area near the Tonle Sap Lake
  • The Phnom Penh Municipality Will Set Up a Democracy Compound for Non-Violent Protesters [which is not far from the National Assembly – a law relating to this creation will become valid in June 2010]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2240, 5.5.2010

  • The Minister of Information [Mr. Khieu Kanharith] Wants All Journalists Associations to Unite into One [to facilitate the organization of training events and to strengthen international trust, and to better protect journalists’ rights; at present there are 23 different journalists’ associations]
  • The Malaysian Prime Minister [Tun Abdul Razak] Will Visit Cambodia Officially for Three Days [from 9 to 11 May 2010 in response to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s invitation]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #647, 5.5.2010

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6947, 5.5.2010

  • A Man Coming from Pailin to Buy a Car Bringing More Than US$15,000 with Him Was Robbed [by four robbers] and Wounded by One Shot [Phnom Penh]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3871, 5.5.2010

  • [Sam Rainsy Parliamentarian] Son Chhay Demands the Government to Explain to the National Assembly about ‘Tea Money’ and Payments from the BHP Billiton and the Total Petroleum Companies, as Well as about Payments for the Provision of Mobile Phone Licenses

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #164, 5.5.2010

  • Official [Mr. Chheng Kimson, head of the Forestry Administration]: 6,000 Cubic Meters of Wood Were Seized and 100 Suspects Were Accused [during the present campaign]
  • The Ministry of Health Will Provide Logos to Be Displayed at Restaurants That Serve Food According to Good Sanitation Standards

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5189, 5.5.2010

  • Cambodia Tells Thailand that the Ta Krabei Temple and the Cable Lift to the Mountain Is On Khmer Territory [this response was made after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand had sent a diplomatic note to Cambodia, claiming that the temple and the construction site for a cable lift are on Thai territory]
  • A Trade Union and the Opposition Party Plan to Present the Documentary Film ‘Who Killed Chea Vichea’ [while the authorities had warned they would take legal action against this]
  • Court Detains Fourteen Villagers for Destroying State Forest [Banteay Srey, Siem Reap]
  • The National Television of Cambodia Spends US$600,000 to US$700,000 Each Year [for hiring a satellite link] to Send Television Programs to the United States of America [now, the Ministry of Information wants to send them through standard Internet procedures which is cheaper]

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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]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
And please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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