More Than 30% of the Size of Ratanakiri Is Contracted to Foreign Companies for Mineral Exploration, Affecting the Environment and the Living Conditions of the Poor Citizens – Thursday, 19.8.2010

Posted on 20 August 2010. Filed under: Week 678 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 678

“The rich natural resources in Cambodia, especially gold, gems, and diamonds, attract the attention from foreign investors to invest in mining in Cambodia, and the leading companies are the OZ Company and Southern Gold company of Australia. Also, some Yuon [Vietnamese] companies that do not make their identity known, operating illegally on gold exploitation, siphoning national resources out from Cambodia.

“The Yuon press quoted the director of the Saigon Jewelry Company, the biggest gold company in Vietnam, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Long [Nguyễn Thành Long], as having said that the company had shown its plan to the Yuon government to ask for permission to invest in factories in Cambodia and Laos. If this company earns the approval from the Yuon government or from the governments where it plans to invest, this company will establish gold manufacturing factories abroad not later than in late 2010.

“Yuon officials said that this company will start its production with the trademark SJC in Laos this year, investing in Laos first, before seeking to create factories and branches in Cambodia. Some other Yuon companies investing in gold trade, such as the Sacom Bank, the Agri-Bank, and the Hun Huang [? – phonetic], and have opened representative offices in Cambodia and are strengthening and expanding their business operations.

“Yuon investors see huge benefits from investments in Cambodia and in gold exploration in the northeast of Cambodia; they have sent skilled workers to come to conduct illegal exploitation with the backing from military officials or civil authorities. Gold deposits in the northeast of Cambodia are being exploited illegally by traders, not leading to national income.

“Recently, Yuon traders had sent a barge on the Sekong river to Siem Pang district in Stung Treng, loaded with gold filtering machines, in an attempt to conduct illegal gold exploitation. The local authorities blocked the barge for some time to clarify questions about legal documents, but they will likely let it go after an intervention from the provincial level.

“Also, citizens in the Veun Sai district in Ratanakiri are worrying about the impact on water quality in the Sesan river, as Chinese gold miners are drilling to explore gold ore on Pang Island. They said that the Chinese company has been operating for two months, employing more than 10 Khmer workers, using two machines for drilling, and disposing waste water into the Sesan river, from which citizens consume water for their daily living.

“Citizens complained that at present, the water in the Sesan river was dirty and can no longer be used, but the local authorities do not intervene. Pang Island in the Sesan river has an area of 200 meter in length and 100 meter in width, and there live Krueng ethnic minority tribespeople, who have settled there since long. Now they are seriously affected by the gold exploitation by the Chinese company Indochine Resources [a holding company for the Indochine Group, ‘the largest mineral concession holder in The Royal Kingdom of Cambodia’ – including Indochine Mining].

“Officials of the Ministry of Industry. Ratanakiri Department, said that the Ministry of Industry provided a license to Indochine Resources in November 2009, to explore metal ore on an area of 200 square kilometers. So far, no companies have been registered also to exploit resources. All are just conducting explorations, and any exploitation in the past was illegal.

“The exploitation means that a company can gain benefits from the ore, whereas exploration means just to drill to find ore samples for experiments, but some companies colluded with expert officials and the authorities in charge to conduct exploitation while they only have exploration rights, so they gain benefits without paying tax to the state on their profits. Such anarchy occurs at the northeast of Cambodia, and some officials and members of the authorities are happy to collect personal benefits from it.

“According to expert officials, in Ratanakiri more than 3,000 square kilometers, or 30% of the size of the province, have been contracted to 19 companies to conduct explorations. Those companies deal with quarries, or they are construction companies, sand companies, gems companies, granite companies, and metal companies etc., and 10 companies have not received exploitation license. Citizens complained that some activities of those companies violate the land they own, and there is also deforestation.

“Civil society officials often voiced concern relating to the issues that some mineral exploration companies do not obey the laws, and that the requirements from relevant ministries and the exploitation by some companies affect the environment and the living condition of citizens. Expert officials never take restrictive actions against these companies doing exploitation, though citizens from the region had reported about improper activities of those companies.

“Since private companies started anarchic mine exploration in Cambodia without any interception by expert officials, they have extracted almost everywhere underground mineral deposits, but so far, no money has been paid into the national budget. Officials of civil and international organizations frequently warned that the improper management of mineral resources might seriously damage Cambodia. Therefore, the government must create laws to carefully control mineral resources and income.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3962, 19.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 19 August 2010

Areyathor, Vol.15, #1452, 19-20.8.2010

  • Two Persons Were Killed by Lightning while They Were Transplanting Rice Seedlings [Sihanoukville]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.1, #2331, 19.8.2010

  • Four Workers Were Attacked with Acid – They Sustained Serious Burn over Their Bodies [it is suspected this attack was related to rancor or a triangle love story; the two perpetrators have not yet been found – Phnom Penh]
  • Turtles and Many Other Types of Wild Animals Were Intercepted by Wild Aid [cooperating with the military police of Siem Reap to raid two sites selling animals – pangolins, soft shell turtles, and snakes]
  • A Plane Crash in Thailand Killed Five High Ranking Officials of the Ministry of Environment

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7038, 19.8.2010

  • Mobile Custom Officials Intercepted Two Trucks Loaded with Ebony [about 40 cubic meters illegally cut; the owner of the wood is known, but officials asked not to provide names [officials asked for understanding from journalists that they cannot provide the names while the investigations go on – Prey Veng]
  • The Gold Mining Area in Ratanakiri Cracked Down On Last Month Starts Operating [illegally] Again

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3962, 19.8.2010

  • More Than 30% of the Size of Ratanakiri Is Contracted to Foreign Companies for Mineral Exploration, Affecting the Environment and the Living Conditions of the Poor Citizens
  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Son Chhay Criticized Corruption [over mining proceedings] of the Ministry of Industry, Which Led to the Canceling of the Kravanh Mountain Eco-Tourism Investment Project
  • At Least 145 Citizens Have Been Arrested [since 2008] over Land Disputes due to the Weak Court System [according to the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC]

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #34, 19.8.2010

  • An Armed Clash Broke Out at the Choam Sa Ngam Border Crossing Point while Troops [of Cambodia and of Thailand] Were Patrolling [there is no report of casualties – Oddar Meanchey]
  • Japan Grants Technical Aid worth More Than US$4 Million for Agricultural Development [to improve agricultural productivity and to promote markets for agricultural products at the west of the Tonle Sap lake through the technical support to the Departments of Agriculture of Battambang, Pursat, and Kompong Chhnang]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.9, #240, 19.8.2010

  • ASEAN Begins Discussing about the Cambodian Request for an Intervention over the Khmer-Thai Border Disputes
  • Vietnam Strengthens Military Cooperation with Cambodia [Prime Minister Hun Sen had asked Vietnam during a visit by the Vietnamese Senior General Le Van Dong to help consolidate the defense sector of Cambodia]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5280, 19.8.2010

  • The Asian Development Bank Plans to Provide US$558 Million [cooperation financing] from 2011 and 2013 [to support poverty reduction, to promote rural development, to improve the economy and agriculture, to strengthen the capacity of human resources, and to develop the financial sector and the private sectors]
  • The DK Fund [established 1998 by a Korean who was orphaned and later received a scholarship to study in the USA] Chose Cambodia to Provide Scholarships for Poor Students for Ten Years [the DK Fund plans to create a vocational training center in Sihanoukville, and a health science university in Cambodia]

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Seventy Five Percent of the Victims of Traffic Accidents Were Motorbike Drivers – Monday, 16.8.2010

Posted on 17 August 2010. Filed under: Week 678 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 678

“Phnom Penh: To help prevent and reduce the number of deaths in traffic accidents, the Global Road Safety Partnership and Handicap International Belgium collaborated with the National Road Safety Committee to organize a workshop about the draft of a ten years road traffic safety plan 2011-2020 at the Sunway Hotel on 12 August 2010.

“A Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior and deputy head of the National Road Safety Committee, Mr. Khan Savoeun, said that in recent years, the number of deaths in traffic accidents rose alarmingly. According to a report of the Ministry of Interior, within six months of 2010, there were 3,040 traffic accidents and 6,346 victims, where 913 people were killed, 2,853 seriously injured, and 2,562 lightly injured. According to a report on traffic accidents in 2009 by Handicap International Belgium, among the victims 75% were motorbike drivers, where 35% died because of head injuries as they did not wear helmets, 49% drove over the speed limit, and 13% were drunk while driving. In 2009, traffic accidents made Cambodia waste US$248 million.

“Mr. Khan Savoeun added that according to a survey by the Ministry of Health about helmet use by motorbike drivers in 2009, 72% of the drivers wore helmets during the day and 46% at night. He called especially on travelers to join to prevent and lessen traffic accidents by trying to obey the law to wear helmets, to fasten seat belts, not to drive over the speed limit, and not to drive when drunk. Only participation from all travelers can help prevent and cut down traffic accidents, as it is said in a slogan ‘Traffic Safety Starts from Me’ – and it is stated in the goals of ASEAN countries’ plans. If they do not join, all road safety plans will not succeed.” Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7035, 16.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 16 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2328, 15-16.8.2010

  • The Head of Police of the Dangkao District Removed the Head of the Traffic Section and Suspended the Deputy Head over Their Mistakes in Detaining a Kampuchea Thmey Journalist
  • A USAID Representative Praised Cambodia over a Successful Reduction of the Spread of HIV [by 2010, there are 40,039 people having AIDS, and about 95% of them receive life extending pills]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7035, 16.8.2010

  • Seventy Five Percent of the Victims of Traffic Accidents Were Motorbike Drivers
  • A Toyota Camry Crashed into a Motorbike, Killing a Woman and Her 2-Years-Old Child and Seriously Injuring Her Husband [Phnom Penh]
  • After as Many as 107 Garment Workers Fainted [because of a lack of oxygen in the Main Harton [[phonetic]] factory], the Authorities Suspend Work for Two Days [Kompong Cham]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3959, 16.8.2010

  • A Barge and Yuon [Vietnamese] Skilled Workers Crossed the Sekong River into the Siem Pang District to Conduct Unlicensed Gold Ore Exploitation while the Governor Is Asleep [Stung Treng – Vietnamese traders sent a barge with many skilled workers and with gold ore exploring machines to the Siem Pang district – those Vietnamese traders are backed by some powerful officials]

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #31, 15-16.8.2010

  • Court Arrested a Moto-Taxi Driver Who Drove [a female] Distributor of Leaflets [in Phnom Penh, criticizing government leaders]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #237, 16.8.2010

  • 60,000 Workers Plan to Strike to Demand a Wage Increase [on 13 September 2010; at present, the minimum salary of workers is US$61 per month; according to the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, Mr. Ath Thun]
  • Four Suspects Were Arrested over a Drug Crime [in Phnom Penh]
  • Burma Plans to Release [the Burmese elected leader] Suu Kyi after the Elections [to be held on 7 November 2010]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5277, 15-16.8.2010

  • The Head Diplomat of Cambodia [Mr. Hor Namhong, the Minister of Foreign Affairs] Sent a Letter to the ASEAN General Secretary to Ask for the Coordination by ASEAN over Border Disputes [with Thailand]
  • The Brazilian Ambassador Plans to Encourage [Brazilian] Experts in the Agriculture of Sugar Cane Growing to Come as Advisors [to Cambodia]

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The Arrest of Journalists Is Worrying – Saturday, 14.8.2010

Posted on 16 August 2010. Filed under: Week 677 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 677

“Phnom Penh: Recently, several journalists have been detained by the authorities while they were fulfilling their duties as journalists and following the ethics of journalists, but some others had them arrested because dishonest merchants and related authorities exaggerated some stories changing them from right to wrong.

“According to a statement from the League of Democratic Journalists, several journalists had been arrested recently, which is really worrying. For instance, on 20 July 2010, the editor-in-chief of Chhanteak Koun Khmer was arrested in Kompong Thom, and on 21 July 2010 the editor-in-chief of Rasmei Eysan was arrested in Prek Prosob district in Kratie. On 2 August 2010, the head of a Cambodia watchdog office in Memut district in Kompong Cham was also detained.

Note:

Some information about the work of Cambodian Journalists on professional ethics:

“Those journalists were arrested, because merchants involved in illegal business colluded with dishonest officials and tried to find pretexts to put blame on journalists who were performing their work, and some wicked officials who act against their duties and the regulations sought ways to arrest the journalists in order to hide these scandals. The distortion of stories by dishonest authorities leads to internal frictions. They turn their rancor against journalists, and this becomes a concern for the function of journalism.

“The rancor by the authorities towards journalists frequently victimizes journalists. Actually, at 20:30 on 12 August 2010, also a journalist of Kampuchea Thmey was detained for a night by Dankao district police over a minor traffic accident. This resulted from discrimination by police and their rancor against journalists.

“Journalists expressed dismay over such an action from police who acted against the law. All offenses must be dealt with according to the law but not just how some people think in their mind.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2327, 14.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 14 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2327, 14.8.2010

  • The Arrest of Journalists Is Worrying
  • Two Construction Workers Were Killed after a Dilapidated Building [left from the French colonial time, in Kampot] Collapsed on Them

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7034, 14-15.8.2010

  • The European Union Provides Scholarships to 33 Khmer Students and Lecturers [to further their education and to give lectures in Europe; through the Erasmus Mundus Program for 2010 and 2011]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3958, 14-15.8.2010

  • An International Organization [Wildlife Alliance, based in Washington D.C] Voiced Concern over the Destruction of Natural Resources due to Mining at the Kravanh Mountain Area

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #30, 14.8.2010

  • Telecommunication in Cambodia Advances Strongly, but Prices of Mobile Phone Services Are Still High [by now, the number mobile phone users increased to 6,300,000 and the telecommunication sector contributes about US$40 million to the state budget each year]
  • The Worldwide Spreading of Swine Flu A/H1N1 Ends [claimed a representative of the World Health Organization]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5276, 14.8.2010

  • Cambodia Sent a Letter to ASEAN to Ask for Intervention over the Border Disputes with Thailand
  • Malaysia Wants to Import Rice from Cambodia [according to the Malaysian Ambassador to Cambodia, Datuk Pengiran Mohd Hussein Mohd Tahir Nasruddin]

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The Former Tuol Sleng Prison Chief Is Sentenced to Serve 35 Years in Prison – Tuesday, 27.7.2010

Posted on 28 July 2010. Filed under: Week 675 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 675

“Phnom Penh: The former Tuol Sleng Prison chief Kaing Kek Eav was sentenced by the trial chamber of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to serve 35 years in prison, but this verdict was criticized in the general public, especially by victims of the Tuol Sleng prison.

“In the morning of 26 July 2010, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia [ECCC] opened a hearing to announce the verdict in Case 001, on the former Tuol Sleng Prison chief Kaing Kek Eav. About 1,000 citizens and victims of the Democratic Kampuchea regime, as well as about 100 national and international reporters, participated in the event.

“During the announcement of the verdict, after the conclusion of the procedures had been announced at 11:05, the head of the trial chamber, Judge Nel Non, ordered Duch to stand up and he announced that after considering the evidence and all considerations from all sides, the trial chamber concluded that Kaing Kek Eav is guilty according to Article 5 and 6, and the new Article 26 of the ECCC about crimes against humanity and about the mistreatment of political prisoners, including the crimes against humanity of massacre as well as slaughter, slavery, detention, torture, and one rape case, as well as other inhuman acts, and a severe abuse against the Treaties of International Humanitarian Law, signed in Geneva on 12 August 1949.

“Judge Nel Non added that, based on the reasons mentioned in the judgment, the trial chamber does not consider any culpability of the accused over the allegation of genocide which violates Article 501, 506, and 500 of the criminal code of Cambodia of 1956 that can be prosecuted at the trial chamber, following the new Article 3 of the ECCC. He stressed that to determine the appropriate punishment, the trial chamber, considering all circumstances of the case, valued the burden of each punishment, including the atrocities committed against 12,273 victims, and the trial chamber considered also that there should be a reduction of the punishment of the sentence for the accused through a prison term with a limited period rather than to sentence him to life imprisonment. The reduction of the penalty is based on the cooperation of the accused with the trial chamber, his recognition of his responsibility, and his expression of remorse; therefore, the trial chamber decided to jail Kaing Kek Eav for 35 years. However, this verdict was strongly criticized by some victims of the Democratic Kampuchea regime, while some are satisfied with it.

“Mr. Chum Mey, a victim of the Democratic Kampuchea regime who was under Duch’s control in the Tuol Sleng prison, told journalists that this tribunal has proceeded well since the start by allowing victims to visit the Tuol Sleng criminal center twice a week. But he regretted that the judges announced a verdict to sentence Duch only for 35 years in jail.

“Also a citizen from Kompong Speu, who went to watch the announcement of the verdict in the morning of 26 July 2010, said that he is satisfied with the verdict announced by the judges, because within 35 years, Duch might die in jail, as he is now already 68 years old. Other citizens who attended the event expressed also similar ideas.

“Ms. Hong Savath, 47, participating in the announcement of the verdict of Case 001 of the former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Kek Eav, alias Duch, cried until she almost fainted, when she had heard the verdict announced by the judges to convict him to 35 years in prison. She said that she wanted Duch to serve the rest of his life in prison, because her parents were killed and raped in the Tuol Sleng prison during Duch’s time in office.

“The spokesperson of the ECCC, Mr. Reach Sambath, said that morning during a press conference after the pronouncement of the verdict, ‘Today, the ECCC created an important historical milestone for the Cambodian people; this is the first time that a verdict was made against a person who committed serious crimes during the Democratic Kampuchea regime, after it was overthrown on 7 January 1979.’ He added that also in 1979, a verdict had been announced, but it was different in the point that those who were considered highly responsible for serious crimes were not present to answers to the accusations, as it happened in the present hearings. Since this court was established in 2006, Cambodian people in the whole country have observed and studied the procedural proceedings applied this time.

“Mr. Reach Sambath added that at the hearing during the announcement of the verdict of Duch, in the morning of 26 July 2010, there were about 1,000 persons attending, while millions of other citizens were watching and listening to the live broadcast on all television channels and on many radio stations, sharing the information nationwide.

“A co-prosecutor of the ECCC, Ms. Chea Leang, said during the press conference that such a decision is a historic event for Cambodia. It is more than 30 years since the Khmer Rouge Regime had fallen from power and was forced to stop its violence. Nothing can eliminate the pain and misery of many citizens and their families, but the verdict represents now a trustworthy legal action toward war crimes which were committed as a policy of the Khmer Rouge.

“Ms. Chea Leang went on to say that the co-prosecutors are considering to appeal the verdict on Case 001, checking whether it is acceptable or not.

“According to the announcement of the ECCC, Kaing Kek Eav is the first person brought for sentencing at the ECCC. Kaing Kek Eav used to be deputy chief, and later on chief of the S-21 Center, a security center with the duty to interrogate and kill any persons suspected by the communist party to be enemies of the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

“It should be noted that the verdict of former Tuol Sleng Prison chief Kaing Kek Eav, called Duch, for 35 years imprisonment, starts to count from the day of his arrest on 10 May 1999. But considering the cooperation of the accused and his recognition of his acts, 5 years are reduced, so that 30 years remain. Therefore, starting from the day of his arrest, Duch has still to serve only 19 years in prison, counting from the pronouncement of the verdict on 26 July 2010. Compared with the former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov [convicted to about 100 years in prison], Duch received a lower punishment.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2311, 27.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2311, 27.7.2010

  • The Former Tuol Sleng Prison Chief Is Sentenced to Serve 35 Years in Prison
  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Promised that Cambodia Is Open for Singaporean Investors [he said so during his visit to Singapore, extending from 25 to 27 July 2010]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7018, 27.7.2010

  • A Former Prisoner of the Tuol Sleng Prison [Mr. Chum Mey] Reacted: I Cannot Accept the Verdict Sentencing Duch [to serve 35 years in prison, but when some years are deducted because he has been in prison already in the past, he has to serve only 19 years more]
  • The European Union Granted Euro 2 Million [approx. US$2.6 million] to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3942, 27.7.2010

  • The Verdict Is Announced to Sentence the Former Tuol Sleng Prison Chief to a 35 Years Term of Imprisonment, but There Is Still No Prison to Jail Him
  • The Yuon [Vietnamese] Authorities Continue to Ban Khmer Citizens from Doing Rice Cultivation on Khmer Territory along the Border in Takeo [while the Khmer authorities in Takeo said that Khmer farmers have the full right to do farming along the border and Vietnam has no right to stop them]

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #14, 27.7.2010

  • Duch Can Get Out of Jail When He Is 92 Years Old
  • [The Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Said Thailand Will Not Recognize a Cambodian Map [not mentioned which map] during a Meeting in Brazil [he said if the World Heritage Committee meeting there agrees with the Cambodian request to develop the Preah Vihear Temple region, Thailand will have its strategies in place, not disclosing details at present, against such a decision]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #223, 27.7.2010

  • Duch Is Sentenced to Get 35 Years in Jail, but He Will Serve only still 19 Years when Considering the Time He Has Served already, however Victims Are Disappointed
  • The Opposition [Sam Rainsy] Party Asked for an Intervention by [the Minister of the Council of Ministers] Mr. Sok An [to allow 1,255 families in Siem Reap to reconstruct their houses and selling stalls, after they had been banned by the Apsara Authority, claiming it was against the law of the Angkor heritage area, as this act of the authorities affects their livelihood – Leang Dai commune, Angkor Thom district]
  • The Export of Garments in the First Six Months Increased by 10% [to US$1.3 billion – according to the Ministry of Commerce]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5260, 27.7.2010

  • Duch Killed 12,273 People – That Means He Serves One Day in Prison for Killing One Person
  • The Cambodian Prime Minister Called on Singaporean Businesspeople to Take Up Investment Opportunities in Cambodia

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Using Computers: Upholding Rights and Freedoms while Fighting Crime – Sunday, 18.7.2010

Posted on 21 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 673 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 673

The Ministry of Defense hopes that the use of computers will help better to cut down the names of ‘ghost soldiers’ from the salary lists of the military. This was expressed by the spokesperson of the Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat, who said that the present census of all soldiers will be more accurate and thorough this year than in previous years. “It is an annual census to find out the real number of soldiers and of the children of those soldiers, and to cut out the names of soldiers who have retired or who died, or are not present anymore.” There are some traditional elements in this process, even surprising ones – if one assumes that soldiers would be known, present, and listed at their command posts: “All soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are required to show up at their command posts. The soldiers will there be asked to identify themselves by showing themselves and their ID numbers, as well as to specify the number of children they have at present in the lists… the names of soldiers who do not show up will be deleted from the salary lists of the Ministry of Defense.”

Considering the results of a similar exercise in 2008, where – according to Mr. Cheam Yeap, a member of the National Assembly from the Cambodian People’s Party – the government found 10,000 ghost soldiers and 10,000 ghost police, for whom salaries were regularly paid out (to whom?), the new findings might again bring considerable savings to the national budget.
Lieutenant General Chhum Socheat added that there is confidence that this year, the data will be accurate, because of the use of a computer system to store all documents.

The newly created Anti-Corruption Unit of the government will start with to collect about 100,000 declarations of assets, and this process is to be implemented before November 2010, “to facilitate a quick enforcement of the law.” Though the Anti-Corruption Unit is to keep all these documents, it has not been announced how this is going to happen practically. Even trusting the capacities of computer systems, it will be difficult to receive and file more than 1,000 asset declarations per day during the remaining days before November.

But the past week brought also a different reminder about the power of computer systems: Cambodian authorities began creating legislation against cyber crimes. “A workshop about the creation of legislation against cyber crimes was held on 13 July 2010 at the Council of Ministers, and government officials, officials of national and international organizations, and representatives of Internet Service Providers, of telecom companies, of technology companies, of publication institutions, and of other relevant fields participated in the workshop… The advancement of technology is a double-edged sword. It can make many things easier and provides abundant benefits for quick development. But it also creates opportunities for criminals to use it to commit various offenses.” This double reality was pointed out: that by now communication technology plays an ever growing role in society – but on the other hand, Cambodia is also experiencing similar problems and threat as they happen in other countries also, which can be a threat for security, economy, and the general and political life of a society.

This Cambodian workshop was held also to consider how other countries are dealing with this new world wide problem. The head of the Economic Crime Division of the Council of Europe, Mr. Alexander Seger, referred to the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime of 2001, which had been developed during four years before it was presented to the member states of the Council of Europe, but which is also open for other states to sign and to access, so that among the 47 countries which signed it, there are also non-European countries: Canada, Japan, South Africa, and the United States of America.

These preparatory efforts in Cambodia are considering the same range of criminal activities which happen also in other countries around the globe. “Cambodia has already experienced many problems that allow cyber criminals to commit offenses using such technology. There are many cases where all must pay attention, to prevent cheating on the Internet, to receive the inheritance from someone illegally, not to respond to electronic messages asking for passwords, or messages threatening someone, stealing of passwords, and the distribution of child pornography into computer systems, or the sending of spam mails.”

What is remarkable is the fact that the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime does not only point to the threats which can come from criminal use of the Internet, and to the need to protect society from them. Included in this document of 28 pages is also a warning that the need for criminal prosecution shall not violate fundamental rights of the citizens to be protected:

The member States of the Council of Europe and the other States signatory hereto,… Convinced of the need to pursue, as a matter of priority, a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cyber crime, inter alia, by adopting appropriate legislation and fostering international co-operation;…

Mindful of the need to ensure a proper balance between the interests of law enforcement and respect for fundamental human rights as enshrined in the 1950 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the 1966 United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other applicable international human rights treaties, which reaffirm the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and the rights concerning the respect for privacy;

Mindful also of the right to the protection of personal data, as conferred, for example, by the 1981 Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data;…

Have agreed as follows:

Each Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offenses under its domestic law, when committed intentionally…

followed by chapters on Illegal access, Illegal interception, Data and System interference, Misuse of devices, Computer-related forgery and fraud, Offenses related to child pornography and to infringements of copyright, etc.

When representatives of governments, of the business community, and of civil society – according to the multi-stakeholder principle introduced by the United Nations for dealing with questions of the present Information Society – met in June for an Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum in Hong Kong, the issue of cyber security was also high on the agenda. While there was an emphasis on legal measures to assure the security and stability of the Internet, and on technical facilities to implement such controls, a group of civil society representatives from Southeast Asia made their common concern public in a 2010 Southeast Asia Civil Society Declaration on Internet Governance.

This Southeast Asian reflection starts with a references to the UN Summits for the Information Society of 2003 and 2005, especially with their Declaration of Principles, which the representatives of governments from around the globe had voted upon:

We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, assembled in Geneva from 10-12 December 2003 for the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centered, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Building on this guideline, which had led to the setting up of the Internet Governance Forums, this civil society declaration says among others in a longer text:

Key Observations of the Asia Pacific regional Internet Governance Forum

In response to the first Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum Roundtable in Hong Kong on 15-16 June 2010, we, netizens, journalists, bloggers, IT practitioners and nongovernmental representatives from across Southeast Asia, offer the following observations from the Roundtable:

Critical issues of Internet governance in Asia should guide future discussions on Internet governance policy:

Openness

Open access to information is the right of every individual, a right that serves as a fundamental venue for one’s knowledge- and capacity-building. Access to information ultimately helps foster creativity and innovation, thus promoting sustainable human and economic development. Openness is key to a democratic and open society. Restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression online, such as state censorship which blocks Internet intermediaries, is one of the threats to open societies. Intimidation and state censorship facilitate self-censorship, a hazardous social phenomenon that further undermines democracy and openness.

Access

The Internet is for everyone; it is a public good. Yet a Digital Divide between those countries and communities with Internet access and those without persists, and has not been sufficiently addressed in discussions on Internet governance. Proceedings at the Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum indicated a higher priority must be placed on addressing not only the global digital divide, but also regional and national ones. While Singapore enjoys high Internet access rates (70% penetration), countries like Burma and Cambodia are at the other end of the spectrum (0.22% and 0.51% penetration, respectively), ranked the lowest of 200 countries studied in the World Bank.

Internet access is fundamental for progress. Various factors, such as political, economic and social development, poverty levels, and technological infrastructure affect whether and how often people can access the Internet. Internationally coordinated efforts must be made to address domestic policies that contribute to the digital divide in Southeast Asia and find solutions to bridge the gap.

Cyber Security

Definition of cyber security must include elements that address the right to privacy and to civil and political freedom.

An individual’s right over his/her own privacy, including personal data and information, must not be sacrificed…

Today’s information society connects personal IT devices directly to the outside world, no longer storing personal data on a single server. Given the involvement of the government and businesses (especially state-owned enterprises) in running such technologies, surveillance and identity theft remain a constant threat against Internet users.

In this regard, any national security policy must not deviate from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all international human rights covenants to which states are parties…

The references of the Budapest Convention on Cyber Crime and of the Southeast Asia Civil Society Declaration on Internet Governance to human rights and freedoms, not only threatened by criminal action, but also by efforts to impose extensive control, are important reminders that security must be human security.

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The Declaration of Asset Will Be Made before November – Thursday, 15.7.2010

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: The declaration of assets of officials of the Royal Government as well as of relevant civil society officials will be made before November 2010.

“The head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, Senior Minister Om Yentieng, said during a press conference in the morning of 14 July 2010 that the Anti-Corruption Unit will proceed with the procedure of the declaration of assets of relevant officials, including officials of the Royal Government appointed by sub-decrees and royal decrees, as well as other officials including those of civil society organizations, and the declaration will be conducted before November 2010, to facilitate a quick enforcement of the law. He added that there are about 100,000 persons in Cambodia who are required to declare their assets. The duty of the Anti-Corruption Unit is to keep all documents. Also, the Anti-Corruption Unit has the right to check those documents anytime.

“Relating to a question from journalists about how much money is to be considered as corruption, Mr. Om Yentieng said that an amount to be considered as corruption does not need to be up to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Riel 1,000 to Riel 2,000 [US$0.25 to US$0.50] can also be considered as corruption, and there are many types of corruption, like the provision of licenses and permissions, or the offering of sexual pleasure which can also be considered as corruption. He said that improper activities of traffic police who fine citizens without giving them a receipt for the fine paid can also be considered as corruption.

“Mr. Om Yengtieng added that the declarations will be made officially, and the procedure does not protect corrupt people as the opposition parties have said, because the procedures had granted full rights to the opposition parties to express their ideas during the discussions and adoptions of the law in the National Assembly, but the decision [to terminate the discussions] were within the rights of the president of the National Assembly. He believes that this law will proceed smoothly. He went on to say that as soon as this law had been released, some officials required to declare their asset felt afraid. Thus, it is not a simple matter.

“The head of the Anti-Corruption Unit stated during the press conference that the Anti-Corruption Unit has a fivefold mission:

  1. Lead the fight against any acts of corruption.
  2. Fight against corruption of all forms, in all sectors, and at all levels.
  3. Proceed following three legal procedures: to educate, to prevent, and to punish.
  4. Fight corruption with participation by the general public.
  5. Fight corruption with participation by international agencies.

“Also, the Anti-Corruption Unit is always aware of a recommendation by the president of the National Assembly to prevent its members from committing corruption, as they are more in danger to commit corruption than others. As there are difficulties to fight corruption, the Anti-Corruption Unit is provided with some special rights to act.

“Mr. Om Yentieng stressed that all personnel of the Anti-Corruption Unit, including the watchmen at the Anti-Corruption office, have to declare their assets. There are two types of penalties for corruptions: misdemeanors and felonies, which cover 7-days to life imprisonment.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2301, 15.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 15 July 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2301, 15.7.2010

  • The Declaration of Asset Will Be Made before November
  • The Sharing Experience for Adapted Development [SEAD] Delivers 40,000 Books of a Services Directory for Vulnerable People [the books, which list 280 organizations, 25 units, 85 hospitals, and 220 health centers will be provided to staff of the government and of non-government organizations that work with vulnerable children and families to be used as their reference in offering necessary services to those people]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7008, 15.7.2010

  • More Than 100,000 Officials Will Have to Declare Their Assets and Debts Every Two Years
  • Cambodia and the United States of America Will Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations [from 18 to 24 July 2010 in Phnom Penh and in Battambang]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3932, 15.7.2010

  • More Than 100,000 Officials Are the Target to Declare Their Assets, according to a Report when Cambodia Hosted an Anti-Corruption Conference
  • Khmer Citizens Have Not Received the Right for Just Hearings, as Guaranteed by National and International Laws [according to observations by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights cooperating with the US Agency for International Development and the East-West Management Institute in 199 hearings at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #215, 15.7.2010

  • Cambodia Rejected UN Criticism [over the proceedings of the defamation case of the opposition politician, Ms. Mu Sochua, and Prime Minister Hun Sen, saying that this relates to internal affairs of Cambodia; recently the spokesperson of the United Nations, Mr. Rupert Colville, stated that Cambodian courts have been used as weapon to restrict the freedom of expression]
  • Vietnam Supplies Additional 20 Megawatt of Electricity to Cambodia [in response to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s request, amid the increasing demand for electricity in Cambodia; according to an agreement signed by both countries, Vietnam promised to supply 200 megawatt of electricity to Cambodia by 2009, but by now, Vietnam can supply only 120 megawatt due to a lack of electricity in its own country]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5250, 15.7.2010

  • Cambodia Earns Riel 6,000 Million to Riel 7,000 Million [US$1,380,000 to US$1,610,000] Each Year from Fishery Yield [each year 500,000 tonnes of fish are caught – according to the director general of the Department of Fisheries Administration, Mr. Nao Thuok]
  • Three Cars Loaded with Ebony Were Intercepted in the House of a Military Official in Stung Treng [but he has not been yet arrested]

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Within Five Months of 2010, Tourist Arrivals to Cambodia Were More Than One Million – Wednesday, 7.7.2010

Posted on 9 July 2010. Filed under: Week 672 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 672

“Phnom Penh: A report of tourist statics shows that within five months of 2010, there were 1,054,821 international tourist arrivals in Cambodia, an increase by 11.53% compared to the corresponding period in 2009, and the arrivals from Vietnam had the highest number.

“The report was released by the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Thong Khon, for Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen on 29 June 2010, and it was then made available to journalists on 5 July 2010.

“The report says that, among the international tourist arrivals to Cambodia of more than one million, 552,523 tourists came to Cambodia by air (243,907 through the Phnom Penh International airport, and 308,616 through the Siem Reap airport), 409,349 tourists arrived on land, and 34,349 by ship. 58,743 tourists made one-day-return visits.

“Minister Thong Khon said that the 10 major tourism markets of origin for Cambodia within the first five months were:

  1. Vietnam: 175,937 tourists, an increase by 43.76%
  2. Korea: 125,455 tourists, an increase by 33.53%
  3. China: 74,558 tourists, an increase by 32.07%
  4. Japan: 67,658 tourists, an increase by 4.80%
  5. America: 65,472 tourists, a decrease by 5.43%
  6. England: 47,635 tourists, a decrease by 4.86%
  7. France: 46,600 tourists, a decrease by 0.51%
  8. Taiwan: 41,707 tourists, an increase by 41.82%
  9. Australia: 38,118 tourists, an increase by 11.05%
  10. Thailand: 36,995 tourists, a decrease by 13.83%

“Mr. Thong Khon said that the number of international tourists visiting the four priority tourism sites of Cambodia within these five months were:

  1. Siem Reap-Angkor: 565,803 tourists or 45.87% of the total tourist arrivals, increased by 26.63% compared to the same period in 2009.
  2. Phnom Penh: 489,018 or 39.65% of the total arrivals, increased by 11.9%
  3. Seashore regions: 81,459 tourists or 6.60% of the total arrivals decreased by 7.65%
  4. Eco-Tourism regions at the Northeast: 39,791 tourists or 3.23% increased by 91.28%

“Minister Thong Khon said that the number of national tourists visiting tourism resorts and regions countrywide within five months of 2010 were about 3.5 million, increased by 17% compared to the same period in 2009.

“Minister Thong Khon added that the number Cambodian tourists going abroad within five months of 2010 were 194,473, an increase by 14.86% compared to the corresponding period in 2009, where there were 339,698 Cambodian tourists going abroad, a decrease by 56.79% compared to 2008.

Note:
The numbers in the previous sentence do not tally – and this text does not provide any clue how to interpret the figures – giving percentages up to two digits behind the decimal point, so that any effort to speculate what the figures mean could, at the best, lead to some general statements, without pretending precision up to some hundredths of one per cent.
But we still try to mirror in The Mirror what is in the originals.

“The president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, Mr. Ang Kim Ieng, welcomed the increase of international tourist arrivals to Cambodia and said this is because the world is recovering from the economic crisis.

“Mr. Ang Kim Ieng added that even though Asian tourists to Cambodia, especially from Vietnam that stand on top of the list, who spend a short period of three days on average, spending less money than European tourists, it is still a positive sign for the tourism to Cambodia. Also, the current political stability and the good infrastructure of Cambodia, as well as the expansion of flights, help to attract tourists.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5243, 7.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2294, 7.7.2010

  • Municipal Court Ordered [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mu Sochua to Pay Her Fine within Ten Days [for losing a defamation case against Prime Minister Hun Sen], otherwise she will be detained according to the law; Ms. Mu Sochua rejects to pay[as she considers the court decision not to have been just]
  • A Group of Japanese Investors Asked for Support from the Senate for Agricultural Investments in Cambodia [they began a pilot step by doing rice cultivation on 200 hectares in Battambang for rice export]

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #787, 7.7.2010

  • Can the Decision of Ms. Mu Sochua to Allow Herself to Be Imprisoned Change the Judicial System in Cambodia, and Bring Help from the International Community?

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7001, 7.7.2010

  • The Appeals Court Delayed Sam Rainsy’s Hearing [over the removal of border markers at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border; it was postponed as two prisoners involved in the case were not present]
  • Cambodia and Laos Connect a Fiber Cable Network [to expand highly effective communications]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3925, 7.7.2010

  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Yim Sovann: The Sam Rainsy Party Does Not Recognize Any Border Demarcation That Leads to the Loss of [Cambodian] Territory to neighboring countries [especially to Vietnam, where recently some farmers lost their land because of the new settings]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #209, 7.7.2010

  • Cambodia Celebrated the Second Anniversary of the Listing of the Preah Vihear Temple as a World Heritage Site [on 7 July 2010]
  • Four Forestry Department Higher Level Staff [accused of being involving in forestry crimes] in Koh Kong Were Released Temporarily [but they are still under court investigation; Prime Minister Hun Sen signed off on a letter sent by the Minister of Agriculture to the Koh Kong Court, requesting the temporary release of those forestry officials]
  • [The manager of a company said:] A South Korean Company, Korean Overseas Grains Investment and Development Corporation – KOGID – Plans to Spend US$7.35 Million to Buy Red Corn [from Cambodia]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5243, 7.7.2010

  • Within Five Months of 2010, Tourist Arrivals to Cambodia Were More Than One Million
  • The Minister of Agriculture of Cambodia Asked Vietnam to Invest in Agriculture [to produce more rice and become a major rice export country like Vietnam]
  • Eight Khmer Citizens Liberated from India Arrived in Cambodia [they had been trafficked to India]
  • [Minister of the Council of Ministers] Sok An: The Cambodian-Laotian Border Is No Longer a Problem [so far 88% of the border markers are set, along the border line of about 600 km]

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The Number of Cambodian Migrant Workers Is Increasing – Monday, 21.6.2010

Posted on 23 June 2010. Filed under: Week 670 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 670

“Observers said that the sharp increase in the number of Cambodian migrant workers creates more problems for officials fighting against human trafficking. According to the report of the US Department of State released last week, Cambodia carried out positive measures last year to fight human trafficking, but some people called for attention to the fact that workers migrating to foreign countries for better job opportunities are also facing more problems.

“A legal advisor of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights – LICADHO – Mr. Manfred Hornung, said that his team has worked with about 60 migrant workers who had been trafficked and then sent back to Cambodia during the last 18 months. He said, ‘They experienced dangerous situations after they had fallen into trafficking.’

“He added that they tell similar stories. Because there are less job opportunities in the country, many workers were lured by local merchants with the promise to find them well-paid jobs in Thailand. They were then trafficked across the border. Before they were sold to work on fishing boats, they were locked up in guesthouses. When they started to understand what had happened, it was already too late.

“Mr. Hornung said, ‘Those workers were almost like slaves. Many of them said that they worked under difficult working condition, where some were even beaten and killed.’ He added, ‘In many cases, they experienced the bad fate of trafficked male migrant people, whose labor is being exploited.’

“An obvious difficulty is not to have an accurate number of people who fell into such exploitation. The World Bank estimates that there are about 350,000 Cambodian migrant workers abroad. Observers who work with the problems of migrant workers said that there is also a large number of unreported workers working abroad.

“Mr. Hornung added that the International Labor Organizations [ILO] estimates that between 250,000 to 300,000 young citizens of Cambodia want to enter the job market every year. If there is a shortage of jobs in the country, some of these young citizens are forced to seek jobs in foreign countries.

“The head of the Anti-Human Trafficking Department of the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Bit Kimhong, recognized that many citizens are being trafficked into forced labor in different countries. But he said that the authorities are stepping up legal measures. He said, ‘The government created its strategies for 2010 to investigate border crossing crimes.’

“The human trafficking report of the US Department of State released last week shows that the number of prosecutions against perpetrators of human trafficking increased compared to before, so that Cambodia was removed from the Tier 2 Watch List of countries that are being assessed in their combat against human trafficking, which is not yet sufficient. From thirty six reported convictions, only one was not for sexual trafficking, which shows that there was not much done against labor related trafficking.

“The report says, ‘The trafficking of Cambodian citizens abroad increases and it needs to receive more attention from the authorities during the next years.’ It adds, ‘While there are more reports about Cambodian migrant workers who become victims due to trafficking, resulting from the exploitation of their labor in different countries, the government hardly prosecutes criminals and those companies which select workers involved in the trafficking of laborers.” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #197, 197.6.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 21 June 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #509, 20-21.6.2010

  • Ethnic Minority People in Ratanakiri Criticized the Authorities for Unfairly Distributing Donations [like money, paddy rice seeds, rice, fertilizer, or vegetables; the poor people did not receive donations, but only families with medium livelihood conditions received donations]
  • President Obama Asked Burma to Release [Burmese elected leader] Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2280, 20-21.6.2010

  • Within Half an Hour, There Were Two Traffic Accidents in the Meanchey District, Killing Two People and Injuring Three Others [Phnom Penh]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #686, 20-21.6.2010

  • 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]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6987, 21.6.2010

  • Diarrhea Raged in the Northeast: During Three Months, 902 People Were Treated Timely and 23 Others Died in Ratanakiri

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3911, 21.6.2010

  • Does [Phnom Penh Municipal Governor] Kep Chuktema Not Dare to Use Violence to Evict Yuons [Vietnamese] Living along the River in the Niroth Commune [Meanchey district, Phnom Penh] as He Did to Khmer Citizens Living in Temporary Shelters? [no details about the evicted Cambodians given, but in this case, the authorities ordered 70 Vietnamese fisher families living along the riverbank to move; now observers wait to see how the authorities will enforce it]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #197, 197.6.2010

  • The Number of Cambodian Migrant Workers Is Increasing
  • Fifty Two Cambodian Deminers Left to Sudan Last Night [20 June 2010] [under the auspices of the United Nations]
  • More Than 400 [illegal] Khmer Workers Were Arrested by the Thai Authorities [late last week]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5229, 20-21.6.2010

  • The Khmer Authorities Prohibit Farmers from Doing Cultivation on the Fields Next to the Temporary Border Marker Number 270 in Takeo [while experts are doing the demarcation]
  • There Will Be a Military Exercise with More Than 1,000 Soldiers from [23] Different Countries in Cambodia in July 2010

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Not Everything Legal is Considered Legitimate – Sunday, 20.6.2010

Posted on 22 June 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 669 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 669

A Secretary of State of the Ministry of Health spoke against the economic exploitation from blood donations and blood infusions during an event at the occasion of the World Blood Donors’ Day. Did she say that the financial transactions related to blood donations and transfusions are illegal? No. They are legal. But she still considers these business aspect as “totally against the moral of medical professionalism, and such behavior must be avoided.”

We encounter here a situation where something that is legal is still being considered not to be legitimate. No law is violated, but still some people claim to have good reasons to say that it is not acceptable.

And the Secretary of State elaborated further about the consequences of such a discrepancy, when – from a moral perspective – a legal but illegitimate action leads to a loss of “trust from the general public” in medical institutions which are involved in such actions.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Subedi, is quoted to have made a similar remark. Speaking to journalists he said that several reasons: “the lack of resources, institutional problems, and the interference from outside of the court system have created institutions which are not trusted by citizens.”

He did not say that the law is violated – but still: the result is not trusted by many citizens.

Probably it can be said that many actions which caused the sufferings and the deaths of many people under the Khmer Rouge regime were implemented according to the law – the laws of that time – and still a basic feeling for justice considers them not to have been legitimate.

To question legality in the name of legitimacy is not without problems – but still it has to be raised in every society which is built on basic human values, such as the values stated in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia; nobody can avoid to face this dilemma.

As reported by Reuters, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia stated at the end of his third mission to Cambodia on 17 June 2010, that he was troubled by the land disputes and the apparent inability of the poor to get a fair hearing in court. And in a reference to the government’s tough stand on dissent, he expressed concern about what he called a narrowing of the political space for debate. He has the duty to report the results of this visit to the UN Human Rights Council, and he will do so in September 2010. Again: there was no statement claiming that laws are violated – but also a clear indication that he understands that there is doubt and lack of trust in the courts, and in the legitimacy of the results of court actions, felt and expressed by many people.

Facing this situation , the head of the government’s Cambodia Human Rights Commission is quoted to have said already that he expects that the assessment by the UN Special Rapporteur will not be correct, as he was in the country only for a short visit.

It is a general phenomenon that flawed or wrong information and opinion can best be countered and maybe corrected by open and transparent communication – but this may also lead to clarify that there are different, even opposing opinions.

The rapporteur, Mr. Surya Subedi, expressed also that he was disappointed that he could not meet the Prime Minister – a meeting had been scheduled only for the end of his 10-days visit, and the visit could not materialize because the Prime Minister was unwell.

In response, the Prime Minister criticized Mr. Subedi, considering it as a sign of disrespect that he said he was disappointed about the Prime Minister’s illness. “Every time he’s come here, I’ve met him,” Hun Sen said. “From now on, I’ll see him just once a year. I hope he will hear this: I’m ill, I don’t need to report to you,” Hun Sen added, accusing Subedi of wanting to “colonize” his country.

The necessary exchange of information and of opinion with Mr. Subedi, as the United Nations appointed Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, will not become easier. When Cambodia was “colonized” like many other countries by European powers and by Japan were colonized, this was done with military threat or lethal force. It is not obvious why this service of the United Nations, agreed upon with the Royal Government of Cambodia, looking into the status of the human rights situation in Cambodia, considering the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the laws based on it, is an effort to colonize Cambodia.

If it were not that hundreds of people would demonstrate – often holding pictures of the Prime Minister and the First Lady whom they trust that they will help them to find justice – and thousands of people gave their thumb prints to raise their concerns, considering that they have been unjustly evicted – Mr. Subedi would not listen. He listened also to these people after meeting government representatives and members of the judiciary. And these people are among the ‘masters of their own country” according to Article 51 of the Constitution, and they have the right to struggle, with all other sections of society, that the application of the law is felt to be legitimate.

Where this social consensus is lost – like recently in large section of the Thai society – this can lead to serious problems.

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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.

Please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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