Outlook into 2009 – Sunday, 11.1.2009

Posted on 12 January 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 594 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


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The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 594

Observing a wide range of discussions about the future, there are two fields which get most prominent attention: the economy – and the state of law.

As the Cambodian economy – internationally – depends much on the export of garment products and on international tourism, and on a construction boom, we did mirror related reports:

The garment industry was a sure bet in the past – in every of the previous years, this sector grew by 15% to 20%. But this was not an assurance for the future. The situation is bad, but not too bad, some observers say:

In Cambodia 73 factories were closed in 2008, making nearly 25,000 workers unemployed. But 64 new factories opened, absorbing 10,000 new workers. – The export of garments to international markets dropped by 2%, while before, it was expected that it would drop by between 5% and 7%. Therefore the global financial crisis affected this sector very little.

Others are more careful to express their hope: While at present the future looks really to dark, things may change:

Presently received orders will be finished by February and March 2009, and there are no buying orders for May and June 2009.

But buyers from the United States of America probably wait until the new president takes his position in mid January, then they will continue buying.

Investments in the construction industry are also facing big problems:

All construction projects of high rise buildings to develop the city to become a modern city are mostly based on foreign investment in Cambodia. Therefore large scale investments, like those by Korean investors planning constructions for the city, are delayed.

The labor unions say that 30% of the construction workers are laid off, and various projects are suspended; and it is forecast that in 2009 the decline will continue.

And tourism?

The Minister of Tourism recognized that the global financial crisis and the confrontation with Thailand in the Preah Vihear region slows the number of tourists to Cambodia down, but Cambodia will make all efforts to guarantee the safety of tourists, and to promote the further growth of tourism.

The loss of everyday jobs and income for the families is a consequence resulting from the decline in the number of tourists to Cambodia since July 2008.

Such reductions in the economic possibilities are also reflected in the cautious employment policy of the government for new graduates, in spite of the fact that their number is increasing year by year:

The Cambodian government decided to reduce the recruitment of new civil servants from 9,000 to 8,000 to work at different ministries and departments in 2009.

To reduce employment alone will not be sufficient. We will watch out for reports about other determined decisions how to contain and to save expenses.

The plan to spend US$10 million on public lighting in Phnom Penh is surprising in this context. Even if it is intended to do this with a foreign loan, it is not only a liability to be paid back; after the investment is done, a lot of electricity will have to be paid for. Public taxpayer money will have to be spent regularly for the electricity, and this money will go to the producers of electricity; more and more private companies will profit from this.

Of course there is the hope for big oil money in the futue. And the international community has pledged around one billion dollars of aid for 2009.

The scholarly wisdom from the field of Economics and of Business Administration has not prevented a global economic meltdown of a size never before experienced. Now there are many efforts under discussion, what kind of political will and political action is needed to control the economic problems so that they do not get totally out of control. The myth about the “self-regulatory powers of the market” led into global crisis; new bold legislation and new government interventions are now being called for internationally.

There is new movement also in Cambodia in the field of the role of law.

The new year started with an almost unexpected news from the past: after five years of doubts and mistrust in police and in court actions, related to the 2004 murder of the labor leader Chea Vichea, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were released on bail, because, as the Supreme Court judge Dith Munty explained, there is a lack of clarity: the case needs further investigation, as there were gaps in the procedures, and there is insufficient evidence.

There will have to be a lot of explanation to be done, why previous investigations were not done correctly, and how it was possible that gaps in the procedures – which had been pointed out by many, including by the former King – could not be rectified without keeping two persons in prison for five years.

Now the police waits already one whole week for the green light from the court to start the new investigation. It is probably the correct procedure now to wait for the court again. When there is a lack of clarity, new investigations are to be made, according to the law, independently from any outside influence, also independent from the executive branch of the government, according to the Constitution of the country.

Article 51 of the Constituton says:
“The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country. All power belongs to the people. The people exercise these powers through the National Assembly, The Senate, the Royal Government and the Judiciary. The legislative, executive, and judicial powers shall be separate.”

But it is at least surprising that the effort by three persons, accredited by the Bar Association of Cambodia to act at the courts in Cambodia, met with difficulties when hey tried to file a law suit. They want to initiate a clarification by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court about allegations of irregularities at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. They had not been able, in spite of their efforts over several months, to receive certain pieces of information – as we had mirrored on Friday, 9.1.2009, in detail from the Khmer press.

What is even more surprising – not based on any legal expertize, but just on common sense – is that the appeal to a court of law to bring clarity, is not welcome, but is met by an expression of regret. The national judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia criticized this appeal to a court with the argument, that they had entered into service at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal on the basis of a Royal Decree, signed by the King.

This case brings a basic problem of perception to the public, whether this society will live up to its constitution, where an independent judiciary is to find out what is right and what is wrong, or whether positions of rank will have precedence. Do the national judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia not trust that the courts can fulfill their duty?

The fact, that a person had an illustrious career to which he was properly appointed, is no reason not to clarify by the courts and on the basis of the law in a transparent way, whether a person has acted properly or not. When Heng Pov, who was, over the course of time, undersecretary of state, and assistant to the Minister of the Interior, and then police commissioner of the city of Phnom Penh – who had had all the proper appointments – was put to the test by the courts, he failed and is now in prison.

Whoever is innocent, should be happy to have this finally confirmed by a normal, public court. Why not?

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National Holiday – Wednesday, 7.1.2009

Posted on 8 January 2009. Filed under: Week 594 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 594

40 Years and 30 Years Later

Forty years after the defeat of the German state – the German Reich – at the end of the Second World War, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, spoke on the anniversary, 8 May 1985. Many commentators said that this was probably the most important speech ever given in Germany on the topic.

Thirty years after the defeat of the Cambodian state – the Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge – the President of the Cambodian People’s Party spoke on the anniversary, 7 January 2009.

In both countries there had been great disagreement over how to regard their historic dates, since it marked both the end of a terrible period of history and the beginning of a period in which other countries wielded power over key aspects of life and government.

We document here some abbreviated sections of statements about these two historic events.

From the 1985 speech of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany in the German Parliament:

It does not help to move into the future if we or others are too reluctant to hurt feelings. We need, and we have the self-confidence, to face the historical truth, without hiding the facts and without favoritism.

The day of 8 May is for us, above all, a day of remembrance of what people had to suffer. It is at the same time a day challenging us to openly think about the course of our history. The more honestly we are prepared to really acknowledge what happened, the more we may be open to face the consequences responsibly.

All who lived through the day of 8 May 1945 consciously have personal memories and thus quite different experiences. Some returned home, others became homeless.

It was difficult to orient oneself immediately and clearly. There was uncertainty in the country. The military defeat was complete. Our fate was in the hands of the enemies. The past had been terrible, also for many of those enemies. Wouldn’t they make us pay for what we had done to them?

Most Germans had believed that they were fighting and suffering for a good cause for their own country. And now it turned out: all that was not only futile and useless, but it had served the inhuman goals of a criminal leadership.

We had to think back to a dark abyss of the past, and to look ahead into an uncertain dark future. But it became clearer, day by day, what we all must say today: The day of 8 May was a day of liberation.
We all have good reasons to recognize the day of 8 May 1945 as the end of a period of German history when we went wrong.

[For the full text of the German original: WEIZSÄCKER-REDE 1985 – “8. Mai war ein Tag der Befreiung” click here.]


From the 2009 speech of the President Cambodian People’s Party during the 7th of January Celebration of the Victory Over Genocide Day

“The victory of 7th January saved the fatherland and the people of Cambodia from the harsh regime of genocide in a timely manner,” and the anniversary marked the end of “the dark chapter of Cambodian history” – he thanked Vietnam for “saving the country from genocide.”

While the former King Sihanouk had initially pleaded Cambodia’s case before the United Nations against the new Cambodian government installed by the Vietnamese in January 1979 after they had dismantled the Khmer Rouge regime, he later evaluated the Vietnamese invasion of 1979 differently and positively [quoting a translation from French]:

History
The January 7, 1979
By N. Sihanouk

Beijing, December 18, 2006

Some very senior (CPP) Officials recalled (with good reason) that “without the January 7, 1979,” I would – with (the future King) N. Sihamoni, Samdech N. Monique Sihanouk – be dead in the hands of Pol Potists (Khmer Rouge).

This is strictly conformed to the historical truth.

In this regards, I pay tribute and I express my deepest gratitude to H.E. Samdech Heng Samrin, H.E. Samdech Chea Sim, H.E. Samdech Hun Sen, to the Heng Samrin Khmer Armed Forces (Front), and to the DRV [Democratic Republic of Vietnam] and its armed forces.
It is certain that, without them, Pol Pot, and following my death, Pol Pot’s Angkar of the “Democratic Kampuchea” would have been still leading an ultra-infernal Cambodia.

(Signed) Norodom Sihanouk

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Wednesday, 20.8.2008: A British Newspaper Says that If Hun Sen Does Not Change the Way of Ruling, Poor People Will Seek Different Means to Achieve Justice

Posted on 21 August 2008. Filed under: Week 574 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 574

“Regarding endless land disputes almost everywhere in Cambodia under the rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, The Guardian, a British newspaper, published an article on Sunday about the rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party, which had changed Cambodia from a dictatorship to a free market country, making the economy to develop very quickly, and building pagodas, roads, bridges, schools, and cinemas. However, the newspaper said that this free market system led to speculation in real estate properties such as buildings and land for profit; heritage is for sale, and the US dollar became their king.

“The article in The Guardian, which was quoted by Radio Free Asia for broadcasting yesterday, noted that land, owned by citizens since the 1980ies, can now be lost easily, because of the invasion by some capitalists who are close to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Prime Minister is generally regarded as part of a ‘nouveau riche’ kleptocracy that siphons off foreign aid and ignores protests about human rights. It is said that Hun Sen used to care about the poor people for a long time, but it is regrettable that Hun Sen now cares only about the rising value of real estate properties and does not care to strengthen the nation, where the society suffers from an imbalance of concerns for justice for the economy.

The Guardian of Britain continued, ‘If Mr. Hun Sen had honorably resigned from his position in 1998 [after the surrender of the Khmer Rouge], he would have receive a good name among world leaders in history.’ This newspaper said that Hun Sen brought peace to Cambodia, but he has sacrificed the poor on the altar of an economic boom. This newspaper compared Hun Sen to some leaders of Brazil and Bolivia in South America who originally came also from the poor sector of society, but he has no plan to protect the poor who suffer under the powerful

[It is interesting that this detailed rendering of the article in The Guardian does not render the reference to the Khmer Rouge who ‘were backed militarily by China and diplomatically by the west’.]

“This well-known British newspaper went on to say that although Hun Sen is smart and intelligent and has political skills, Hun Sen’s success was based on survival, not on a vision for the future. If Hun Sen does not change his way of ruling, poor people will seek different means to achieve justice.

“Political and economic observers in Cambodia agree with the analysis of this article published on Sunday, 17 August 2008, in The Guardian, considering it to be an analysis that is in line with the current situation in Cambodia. Actually, Prime Minister Hun Sen, the vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, also comes originally from a peasant class background, but he does not protect the weak farmers at all who are violated by powerful people. Obviously, farmers, who suffer from land grabbing by high-ranking officials, dishonest oknhas, wicked merchants, and military officials, come regularly to protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house at the ‘Tiger Cave’ Tuol Krasaing, but there are no effective solutions coming from Hun Sen for the victimized farmers.

“Political and economic observers in Cambodia added that just some days after the fourth term elections on 27 July 2008, suddenly land disputes erupted again brutally, such as in Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, Mondolkiri, Kratie, Kompong Chhnang, Kandal, Svay Rieng, Kampot, and Battambang. These reoccurring problems have not been solved by the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, administered by Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister and Senior Minister of the Council of Ministers. Therefore, some officials concerned with social affairs assume that there might be more serious land disputes, under the soon to be formed fourth term government, than there were under the third-term government.

“ These officials said that the fourth term government will be again led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, but Hun Sen does not have any clear policies to solve land disputes; therefore, land disputes will really erupt in all provinces countrywide. Another point is that those who use their power and violate citizens by grabbing their land are mostly high-ranking officials, dishonest oknhas, wicked merchants, and military officials, all are from the Cambodian People’s Party, and Hun Sen does not dare to disturb them. At last, a land revolution might break out, as predicted by Hun Sen himself, because the patience of the victimized citizens is limited, if the government does not take any action to solve the problems in time.

“Economic analysts said that the fourth term government, again led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, as vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, might not lead to real growth of the national economy, because Hun Sen does not have economic skills and he can only borrow money from foreign countries and ask for funds from the international community, to extend the breath of his government. Moreover, Hun Sen does not have any clear policies to fight corruption; he just says so to make it sounds nice, like the US Ambassador to Cambodia, Mr. Joseph Mussomeli, had clearly criticized. Even inflation and the price of fuel and of goods are skyrocketing, which affects the daily life of citizens – but Hun Sen is incompetent to solve these problems.

“Economic analysts continued to say that economic growth in 2008 will be lower than in 2007, and economic growth in 2009 will decline further compared to 2008, because of corruption and bureaucracy in important state institutions, where such affairs are spreading stronger without any intervention. This means that the government, led by the same incompetent prime minister and state institutions controlled by the same corrupt officials, will not make the economy grow; even foreign loans will be lost because of corruption. This will make poor citizens to suffer more, because the little economic growth is only for the benefit of corrupt officials and for partisans of powerful leaders.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3543, 20.8.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 20 August 2008


Areyathor, Vol.15, #1351, 20-21.8.2008

  • [Bayon Television] Director-General Hun Mana [Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter] Accuses Sophon Magazine of Defamation and an Extortion Attempt for US$3,000 [from her staff member – the magazine wrote an article titled, ‘Does Sim Solika have a love triangle relation?’]


Chhanteak Kaun Khmer, Vol.1, #1, 20-27.8.2008

  • Samdech Krom Preah [Norodom Ranariddh] Is Eying the Position of President of the Constitutional Council
  • Many Illegal Sawmills Operate in Prey Nob District [Sihanoukville]


Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #82, 20-26.8.2008

  • [Kompong Cham Governor and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s older brother] Hun Neng Considers Khmer-Siamese [Thai] Border Dispute to Be a Military Exercise between a Battlefield Front and a Rear Battlefield [cooperation between troops and people]


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1724, 20.8.2008

  • [US Ambassador Joseph A.] Mussomeli: Historically, Relations between America and Cambodia Have Never Been as Good as They Are These Days


Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #77, 20.8.2008

  • No New Agreements at the Meeting [about Preah Vihear between Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers] in Hua Hin [Thailand]
  • 70% of Vegetables at the Phsar Daeum Kor Market Are Imported from a Neighboring Country [that is from Vietnam]


Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3543, 20.8.2008

  • A British Newspaper Says that If Hun Sen Does Not Change the Way of Ruling, Poor People Will Seek Different Means to Achieve Justice
  • Sam Rainsy: Sam Rainsy Party Has Appropriate and Strong Evidence to Reject Election Results


Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4672, 20.8.2008

  • [Deputy Chief Observer of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission] Graham Elson: [4th Term Parliamentary Election] Was Good but It Did Not Reach International Standards

Click here to have a look at the last editorial – apprehension while waiting for the results of challenging alleged election fraud, the final official election results, and the forming of a new government

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