The Samrith Law Group Offers Free Defense Services to Poor People and Reduces Dependence on External Aid – Tuesday, 24.8.2010

Posted on 25 August 2010. Filed under: Week 679 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 679

Important Announcement

Would you please mouse-click, further up on this page here, on About The Mirror to read information about changes planned to be implemented, starting from 1 September 2010.

Thanks,

Norbert Klein
Editor of The Mirror

“They provide legal assistance, but they are not a non-government organizations. They accept work for profit, but they are not working just for money. The Samrith Law Group, the first institution in Cambodia providing legal services to serve public interests, is opening a new page for profit-based lawyers’ groups, saying that the reliance on funding from donors [for free legal services to the poor] can be reduced.

[This long article has been abbreviated – abbreviated sections are marked by three dots …]

“The manager of this lawyers’ group, established in 2008, Mr. Ith Meakthura, said, ‘We want to show to other lawyers in Cambodia that even though we are private lawyers, we can help poor communities.’

“As the Cambodian government cannot offer legal assistance services, this role is normally left to a handful of non-government organizations that depend on international aid agencies, such as USAID and AusAid to support their operations.

“Until early this year, two major organizations of Cambodia offering legal aid, the Cambodian Defenders Project and the Legal Aid of Cambodia [the web site http://www.lac.org.kh did not work at the time of this writing] were forced to restrict their expenditures after donors reduced their funding support…

“A senior lawyer of the Samrith Lawyers’ Group, Mr. Ly Ping, said that his group is using a service pricing system with different levels, depending on the capacity of clients to pay. That means they can also offer services with no payment charged. While the Samrith Lawyers’ Group receives also some funding support which is gladly received, they can gain income from their own work as the basis for their operations, in case no aid is provided…

“Mr. Ly Ping stressed, ‘This is our commitment. We want to help. It is an obligation. It is a general feeling of human beings. And we make enough money.’ He added that as for public interest activities, the Samrith Law Group handles also big cases which take a long time, maybe one year, to deal with one or two cases. Such work brings income through services such as consulting, research, and training for some of these private cases, and sometimes donors provide funds for some cases…

“Part of the reason leading to the creation of the Samrith Lawyers’ Group were limitations they saw in the system that relies on the support for non-government organizations. The Cambodian Defenders Project and the Legal Aid of Cambodia were established specifically to offer legal aid and related services, but for some other non-government organizations, legal aid is just one part of what they do.

“But to establish the budget of the Samrith Lawyers’ Group faces also obstacles. A major problem of the lawyers’ group are disputes, that happen between personal interests, on which they depend, and public interests, that they want to serve. Since in big land dispute cases they may face the rich and the powerful, the lawyers’ group has to ensure that they proceed carefully, to guarantee the further flow of personal cases to deal with, on which they depend.

“Mr. Ly Ping said, ‘Therefore, our strategy which cases to select is very important. We try to accept moderate cases. Such cases are not too big.’ According to the head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Mr. Ou Vireak, though the Samrith Lawyers’ Group has accomplished some initial success, one needs to see whether they can use sustainable choices to replace existing, traditional practices or not.

“Mr. Ou Vireak said, ‘It is too quick to say. I think that legal aid can help to a certain level, but the Samrith Lawyers’ Group has not yet played an important role in legal aid. The real question is always the bigger picture: can they make a change to the court systems in Cambodia?'” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #243, 24.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2335, 24.8.2010

  • [The former and now fugitive Thai prime minister] Thaksin Resigned from the Position as an Advisor of the Royal Government of Cambodia, and Thailand Will Send Its Ambassador Back to Cambodia Today
  • More Than Ten Luxury Cars Transported Ebony Wood across the Svay Leu District; Forestry Administration Officers Said They Were Not Aware of That [Siem Reap]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7042, 24.8.2010

  • More Than 200 Kilogram of Wild Animals [snakes, turtles, porcupines, and civets] Were Intercepted in Suong District [five people were held – Kompong Cham]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3966, 24.8.2010

  • The Authorities Must Care about the Construction of Roads in Phnom Penh That Do Not Have Proper Culvert Systems to Drain Out the Rain Water That Floods the City When There Are Heavy Rains

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #38, 24.8.2010

  • A Sihanoukville Court Released a [police] Officer Who Raped an 11 Years-Old Girl [court officials could not be reached for comment on 23 August 2010]
  • The Phnom Penh Municipal Court Began to Construct a Five Stories Court Building

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #243, 24.8.2010

  • Names of Officials to Declare Their Assets Will Be Published [according to the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, Mr. Om Yentieng]
  • Members of the Authorities [police] Suppressed Citizens Who Protested over Flooding, Resulting from the Boeng Kak Lake [sand filling] Development [they used shields and electric batons to disperse about 200 protesters who gathered in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Phnom Penh]
  • [About 300] Amleang Commune Residents Blocked a Road to Protest over Land Disputes [with the sugar company owned by Oknha and Senator Ly Yong Phat – Kompong Speu]
  • [Prince] Ranariddh: To Merge FUNCINPEC and the Nationalist Party Will Result in the Loss of Positions [according to legislation about political parties, if two parties merge, the Ministry of Interior will delete the former parties’ name from the list of registered parties]
  • The Samrith Law Group Offers Free Defense Services to Poor People and Reduces Dependence on Aid

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5284, 24.8.2010

  • Tax Officers Who Collect Excessive Amounts of Money from Road Tax Payments Face Dismissal [warned the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, Mr. Om Yentieng]
  • There Are Only About 50 Hectares for Coffee Growing Left in Cambodia, and Coffee Growers Are Competing with Coffee from Laos and from Vietnam [before there were more than 500 hectares with coffee grown in Ratanakiri]

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“The King Called on All Development Partners of Cambodia to Provide Financial and Technical Support for Forestry Reform in Cambodia” – Sunday, 11.7.2010

Posted on 12 July 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 672 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 672

On Saturday, 10 July 2010, it was reported that the King had called on all development partners of Cambodia to provide financial and technical support for forestry reform in Cambodia.

At this occasion, we reprint part of the history before this call by the King, starting with an old statement by Global Witness from December 2004, continuing with texts which had all been in Cambodian newspapers in 2010 and had been translated and published in The Mirror – a historical review for further consideration.

Resign or be sacked
3.12.2004

With the advent of Cambodia’s Consultative Group (CG) donor meeting on 6 and 7 December 2004, combating corruption is once more at the top of the political agenda. In line with this renewed emphasis, Global Witness is calling on the Director of the Forest Administration to be made accountable for the rampant corruption within his own department.

“Ty Sokhun should do the honorable thing and resign. If not, the Prime Minister should sack him.” said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness.

Ty Sokhun was made Director of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife1 in 1998. Since then, corruption within the department has if anything got worse. The May 2000 Asia Development Bank [ADB] Forest Concession Review characterized the crisis situation in Cambodia’s forest as “…total system failure; resulting from greed, corruption, incompetence and illegal acts…” Since that time not one forest department official has been charged with corruption, let alone convicted…

“How can the new Forest Administration hope to address corruption if the people at the top remain the same?” said Buckrell. Ty Sokhun is hopelessly compromised by his familial links to the timber trade. His father-in-law, Khun Thong, is one of Cambodia’s most prolific illegal loggers. “Ty Sokhun’s failure to make public his familial links to the timber trade is a massive conflict of interest and is in itself reason enough to dismiss him.” …

Global Witness agrees with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sentiments, of more than two years ago, that “while good policies do matter, their rigorous and consistent implementation remains vital.” … Global Witness Press Release

And from the Khmer press in 2010:

It Is Time to Stop: Military Officials Who Do Illegal Activities
Are Not Fit to Work in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces
29.1.2010

“Phnom Penh: The top Five-Star General, Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, announced that from now on, military officials who are involved in illegal activities are not fit to work in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, because they destroy the reputation of the armed forces, the reputation of the soldiers. …

“… ‘All military commanders, please remember that you have no authority to order soldiers to guard your mangroves. I tell you this for the future, because previously this happened… The role of the military is to fulfill obligations for the nation, not to guard your mangroves, please check this again! Please do not use soldiers and the military’s machinery to serve individual interests. If it still continues, do not say that I have not told you. How many stars showing your military rank you wear, though I wear only five stars, I will dismiss you even if you are wearing the big moon as the sign of your rank, I will dismiss you!’” – Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6870, 29.1.2010

The Authorities Intercept Wood Every Day, but Never Arrest the Wood Traders
24.3.2010

“After the Cambodian Prime Minister, Mr. Hun Sen, ordered to crack down on forestry crimes, the logging seems to continue even stronger, and some perpetrators drove luxury cars loaded with luxury wood in a procession of cars of high ranking officials to deceive the authorities.

“The authorities, including forestry administration officials, police, military police, and committees from the agencies from military and other units charged with suppressing forestry crimes and forestry criminals, intercepted cars and trucks loaded with wood and checked wood storehouses of some powerful people. But by now, the authorities have not arrested any traders to show their accomplishment to the Khmer public on television. …” – Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #634, 24.3.2010

Samdech Hun Sen Considers Forestry Crimes to Be Acts of National Betrayal
27.3.2010

“Phnom Penh: During a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen affirmed the position of the government regarding the campaign to strongly intercept forestry crimes, and not to give up. Although there may be barriers against it made of rock or of iron, any obstacles must be broken down.

“During the cabinet meeting yesterday, which took from morning to noon, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen spoke to all members of the Royal Government, saying that all related institutions, whether on the national or on regional levels, have to cooperate to intercept forestry crimes, and to reach the ringleaders. All authorities have to investigate this at every place to find the offenses and to arrest the offenders, the principal leaders, and other relevant persons, to be prosecuted without any exception regardless of how powerful those persons are, and whatever their relationships, because the suppression of forestry crimes is the suppression of criminal groups – their activities have to be considered as activities of national betrayal. …” – Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2212, 27.3.2010

Considering Forestry Crimes, Ty Sokun Should Not Be Allowed to Hold a Position,
but Should Be Punished according to the Law
7.4.2010

“Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday morning, in a conference at the Chamkar Doung Royal University of Agriculture, to remove the director of the forestry administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Such a removal of the holder of the same position, of a former head of the forestry administration – Mr. Ly Kim Han – happened also some years ago, making him feel heart-broken, and he died. But in Ty Sokun’s case, according to opinions expressed among the general public, he should face the law and receive punishment. To remove Ty Sokun, but to appoint him at the same time as Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Agriculture, shows the great tolerance of the Prime Minister.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly announced the decision to take out Mr. Ty Sokun from the position of Director General of the Forestry Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, because he was involved in illegal wood trading. But Mr. Hun Sen did not specify any measures to be taken against Mr. Ty Sokun, and he reassigned him to the position of Under-Secretary of State of Agriculture. Prime Minister Hun Sen said on 6 April 2010 at the Chamkar Doung Royal University of Agriculture, that the head of the forestry administration, Mr. Ty Sokun, was involved in corruption related to forestry crimes, and that the authorities had recently started investigations to intercept them. …

“… Prime Minister Hun Sen stressed that at this time, there will be no tolerance for any official who got involved in forestry crimes. ‘We take hot measures to hit the heads of the main leaders. Therefore, the Prime Minister has to decide to do things, even if they hurt, in order to create models of law enforcement in the campaign to intercept forestry crimes.’ …” – Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3852, 7.4.2010

Important Officials from Sixteen Countries Come to Cambodia
to Discuss Appropriate Control Systems for Forestry Resources,
after an Unclear Suppression Campaign
6.5.2010

“… Recently, Cambodia has started to crack down on luxury grade wood trading, and after activities for one month, the authorities confiscated 6,000 cubic meter of such wood that was to be transported to China and Yuon. Some was to be exported to the international market via Singapore. …

“The illegal wood trading in Cambodia reduced the rich forestry resource during the 1960s of about 75% of the whole country to drop to only more than 30% at present, according to some environmental organizations. Forestry expert officials and some sectors of the authorities have been blamed for their collusion, committing illegal wood trading, but most of the actors are not brought to the courts.

“According to reports from forestry administration officials, 207 forestry crimes have been reported to the courts, but some traders with a title as an Oknha, or with close relations to high government officials, have not been charged, though they colluded to commit forestry crimes in Cambodia. Some forestry administration officials enjoy their lives with the wealth they gained from the illegal cutting down of trees. …” – Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3872, 6.5.2010

Records show 17 held for forestry crimes
9.7.2010

A total of 17 people are being held in pretrial detention in Koh Kong provincial prison on forestry-related charges dating back to 2008, according to a document provided this week by a prison worker who expressed frustration with the release last month of four forestry officials charged with involvement in an illegal logging ring.

The document shows that an additional seven people in the province have been convicted of forestry crimes and are serving sentences at the prison.

The official, who asked not to be named, said that all the people on the list were “poor” Koh Kong residents who had been arrested for such crimes as “collecting wood” and “clearing farmland.”

“It doesn’t seem very fair,” the official said. “Poor people who depend on clearing forest for their livelihood are convicted for up to five years for forestry crimes, while forestry officials involved with illegal logging rings are released.”

Although their case remains under investigation, the four Koh Kong Forestry Administration Cantonment officials were released on June 24 after being arrested in a raid amid a crackdown on illegal logging called for by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“The small fish is punished, but the medium and big fish never get punished.”

Chhin Long, the chief clerk for the prosecution at the provincial court, said Tuesday that he had seen a document signed by Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun and the prime minister requesting the officials’ release.

Chheng Kim Sun, director of the Forestry Administration, noted on Thursday that the officials were still being investigated and could be summoned back to court at any time. He defended the release of the prisoners, describing it as part of standard legal procedure.

“The court is independent, and the court’s decision-making process in this case would be the same for rich and poor people, powerful and powerless people. It is not biased to one side,” Chheng Kim Sun said.

But Un Than Aan, provincial coordinator for the rights group ADHOC, said that although the releases might have been legal, the poor are bearing the brunt of the government’s logging crackdown.

“The release of the four officials can be done according to court procedure, because they are able to provide the court with a permanent job and address,” Un Than Aan said. “Poor people aren’t released because they have no permanent job or address, and they are often found guilty of forestry crimes because there’s enough evidence against them.”

ADHOC President Thun Saray said the pattern was consistent with past crackdowns.

“The small fish is punished, but the medium and big fish never get punished,” he said. “That’s been my observation for the last 15 years.” – Phnom Penh Post, 9 July 2010

“The King Called on All Development Partners of Cambodia
to Provide Financial and Technical Support for Forestry Reform in Cambodia”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5246, Saturday, 10.7.2010

“Financial and technical support” – plus, as Global Witness had quoted a 2002 statement of the Prime Minister in 2004 – “While good policies do matter, their rigorous and consistent implementation remains vital.”

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People in Rural Areas Are Entering into Other Sectors besides Agriculture – Thursday, 1.7.2010

Posted on 5 July 2010. Filed under: Week 671 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 671

“A report of the United Nations Capital Development Fund [UNCDF] released yesterday found that workers in rural areas in Cambodia are shifting to do different work besides agriculture, formerly the only source of their income. They are leading a change that can boost sustainable development in rural areas.

“The UNCDF report says that while about 80% of Cambodian citizens are mostly living as farmers, the economy in rural areas has extensive potential that is not yet used through the diversification of the economy.

“According to the above report, called Basic Development Outlook, that tries to support decentralization, two years ago, 91% of the poor people in Cambodia lived in rural areas.

This report says that even though agricultural development is crucial for Cambodia, also the diversification of the economy in rural areas, and strategies to reorganize basic policies might encourage the growth of the economy in rural areas, to move Cambodians out of poverty.

“The report says, ‘The current integrating policy strategy to develop rural areas in Cambodia focuses on agriculture and the provision of social and public services, and on the social safety network. These are necessary policies, but frequently they are not adequate for improving basic economic developments.’

“The main author of the report and Chief Technical Advisor of UNCDF, Mr. Nicola Crosta, told the Phnom Penh Post on Wednesday, 30 June 2010, that workers in rural areas change to work in other sectors, like tourism, due to the increasing use of machinery in agriculture in Cambodia. Therefore, this sector needs less and less labor.

“Mr. Crosta added, ‘Must importantly the Cambodian government must anticipate the future (of rural development) and must not fall into the trap to think only of agriculture (that means there must be other sectors for citizens in rural areas in addition to agriculture).’

“A government official said to the Phnom Penh Post on Wednesday that the government has decided to concentrate on basic developments, stressing that the increase of the yield of rice is a measure to improve the livelihood of people living in rural areas.

“A secretary of state of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Mr. Chan Iv Tong, welcomes ‘that machinery is used in cultivation, as it can increase productivity, and most importantly, improve the livelihood of farmers, and it contributes to economic growth in Cambodia.’

“He added that rural infrastructure, such as irrigation systems, are a means to improve the living condition of farmers.

“But the above report warns, ‘While infrastructure is crucial, it should not be considered as enough for the development of the economy.’

“In the meantime, some economic advisors do not agree with the opinion that the improvement of agricultural techniques through the use of machinery leads to unemployment.

“The general secretary of a Cambodian association for small and medium scale businesses, Mr. Ut Ren, said that many laborers lose their jobs because of the replacement of human power by machinery, but they then seek jobs in food manufacturing factories.

“He added, ‘We should not be concerned that agricultural development would affect rural employment. What we have to be worried about is how much potential from this sector can be used more productively.’

“Nevertheless, the president of the Cambodian Economic Association, Mr. Chan Sophal, believes that at present, there is too little industry in rural areas, so it cannot provide enough jobs for farmers.

“He said, ‘Farmers would seek jobs in new areas in agriculture such as in former forest areas, and they will travel to Thailand to seek jobs.’

“Without worrying too much about the challenges in rural areas in Cambodia, the UNCDF believes that the strengthening of decisions at the basic levels in Cambodia is an important way to boost economic growth.

“He added that at present, Cambodia is improving a 10-year plan that shows policies relating to these views.” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #205, 1.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 1 July 2010

Areyathor, Vol.17, #446, 1-2.7.2010

  • Eight Relatives of [ousted and fugitive prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra Are Reported [by The Nation on 30 June 2010] to Be Entering Cambodia [bringing much money, millions of Baht, with them, but Cambodia denied it] (no more details are given)

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #518, 1.7.2010

  • Cholera Killed Six Prov Ethnic People [25 Others are hospitalized – Lum Phat district, Ratanakiri]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2289, 1.7.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen [and five other officials] Recovered from A/H1N1 [Swine Flu]
  • Cambodia Sent a Diplomatic Note to Siam [Thailand] to Investigate the Fatal Shooting on a Khmer Citizen near a Border Crossing in Sampov Loun [Battambang, that had accused him of illegally trafficking a motorbike across the border]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6996, 1.7.2010

  • The Transportation of Luxury Grade Wood Occurs Again in Siem Reap [two cars were intercepted with illegal wood, and four people were arrested]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3920, 1.7.2010

  • The Ministry of Economy Plans to Create a Real-Estate Assessment Committee in Order to Start to Collect Taxes at the End of This Year [it will help increase the national income from US$3 million to US$9 million, after Cambodia experienced a drop of income due to the global financial crisis]
  • An Australian Company [OZ Minerals] Wants that the Authorities Provide Appropriate Compensation to Poor Citizens before Evicting Them, when Claiming Land for Exploring Gold Minerals [in Mondol Seima district, Mondolkiri – both the company and the government share the income from the exploitation of gold]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #205, 1.7.2010

  • People in Rural Areas Are Entering into Other Sectors besides Agriculture
  • [Eighty seven] TACFAT Factory Workers Protested in Front of the Ministry of Labor to Demand Their Salaries [from the owner of the factory]
  • Global Witness Welcomes the Clarification [by the Minister of the Council of Ministers] of Oil Issue [about the payment by the Total company to receive exploration right from the Cambodian government], Mr. Sok An, but suggested that the government should publish the full details of all agreements and of account balances, so that the Cambodian people can be confident that the deals are above board]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5238, 1.7.2010

  • Bank Systems in Cambodia Are Mostly Controlled by Foreigners [there are 27 commercial banks, where as many as 17 banks are completely controlled by foreigners, and among 6 specialized banks and 20 micro-finance institutions about 77% are controlled by foreigners]
  • The Users of the Banking System [those who deposit their money in banks] Increased to About One Million [in 2009; according to the National Bank of Cambodia]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Cambodia Is Side-Tracking in Implementing the Anti-Torture Convention – Monday, 28.6.2010

Posted on 3 July 2010. Filed under: Week 671 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 671

“The international community celebrates the 23rd anniversary of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Cambodia became a member of this convention in 1992.

“By now, it has been 20 years that Cambodia has become a member of the Convention Against Torture of the United Nations. Human rights group noticed that among the 146 members, Cambodia has achieved little improvement in implementing the Convention. In addition, Cambodia seemingly continues to hide torture against persons who have not been found guilty. Sometimes, torture against suspects became a habit.

“During the international anniversary commemoration, civil society organizations expressed strong concern over the violation of the Convention. Moreover, no thorough investigations have been conducted over torture and mistreatments against suspects who had not been found guilty but had been arrested. Some cases of torture against a person were extreme. In some cases, there was just a suspicion, but law enforcement officials acted beyond the law. That means law violations seem to have been grave, and victims often did not dare to react. Additionally, there was not much effort to seek legal intervention. Therefore, some law enforcement officials often committed wrongdoings.

“According to a statement by Cambodian civil society organizations, in 2007, Cambodia ratified the additional Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and this was seen as a positive step where Cambodia took up more obligations to create an independent protection mechanism to observe all prisons, so as to prevent the use of torture in Cambodia. But things did not go in line with the situation of the world, as it was seen that there were still cases where the agreements entered were neglected in the implementation, not following international laws.

“Civil society organizations called on the Royal Government of Cambodia to fully cooperate with the Committee Against Torture of the United Nations that will come to conduct a second assessment in Cambodia, in November 2010, on the measures taken to ensure effectively following obligations according to the UN Convention Against Torture, and to fully comply with the final observations of the Committee Against Torture. This is a reminder by civil society organizations for the Cambodian government to check what it agreed to carry out, when it became a member of the UN Convention Against Torture, and when it ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture in 2007.

“Torture was not only used against the accused, but also against some suspects to extort information from them. These are the results from the culture of impunity spreading in Cambodia at present, leading to extending of the application of torture against the accused and the suspects. Obviously, the use of ‘citizen courts’ (where citizens act directly, like in some cases where a mob lynched suspects and perpetrators), to sentence robbers is a sign also encouraging the spread of torture in prisons. Many people have been released from prison, but their behavior did not change, as prisons are not places that educate them to walk on the right way. In contrast, prisons are places where torture is used to extracy answers for the authorities. Thus, Cambodia is viewed as not strictly taking up what it had agreed to practice when it became a member of the Convention Against Torture.

“This is a disappointment for civil society, as there are many problems in prisons, especially the use of torture by the authorities during interrogations. Torture is an important topic, because in prisons there are many issues such as corruption and torture. Hopefully, as member of the Convention Against Torture for almost 20 years, Cambodia will make positive changes over some secret happenings in prisons, otherwise crimes cannot be cut down, since those released from prisons continue to cause fear to the society.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3917, 28.6.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 28 June 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #515, 27-28.6.2010

  • The Person Who Filmed Beautiful Girls Bathing in Holy Water is a Monk of the Srah Chak Pagoda [after a video clip leaked of nude women bathing in holy water, police investigated and found out that a Srah Chak Pagoda monk had hidden a camera to film them; he was arrested and defrocked – Phnom Penh]
  • The Wife of the Spokesperson of the US Embassy [Mr. John Johnson] Suffered Serious Injuries after a Car Accident [in Sihanoukville]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2286, 27-28.6.2010

  • The UN Special Rapporteur Surya Subedi Apologized to the Cambodian Prime Minister [for using the word “disappointed” as he could not meet with Mr. Hun Sen]
  • [The head of the National Authority for Combating Drugs] His Excellency Ke Kim Yan Asked Common Citizens to Be Brave to Report Real Information to the National Authority for Combating Drugs or Directly to Him If They Are Afraid that There Is Collusion [between police and drug smugglers]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #692, 27-28.6.2010

  • [The executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation] Thach Ngok Thach Said that Khmer Kampuchea Krom People Are Disappointed when Samdech Euv [the former King] Did Not Raise the Case of Yuon [Vietnamese] Mistreatments [of Khmer Kampuchea Krom people]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6993, 28.6.2010

  • More Than 200 Pieces of Luxury Grade Wood Were Seized [they had been gathered by wood traders to export them to Vietnam [no info about any punishment of the wood traders – Ratanakiri]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3917, 28.6.2010

  • Cambodia Is Side-Tracking in Implementing the UN Convention Against Torture

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5235, 27-28.6.2010

  • Human Rights Activists Called on the Cambodian Government to Implement the UN Convention Against Torture
  • The Construction of a Bridge of 2,215 meters at Neak Loeung [across the Mekong River in Prey Veng] Will Start at the End of 2010 [under grant aid from Japan]

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Improving Communication by Communicating – Sunday, 6.6.2010

Posted on 7 June 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 667 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 667

The major event during the week was the meeting of the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum, which brought more than 100 representatives from donor countries and from international financial organizations to Cambodia, to meet with representatives of the Cambodian government. One newspaper quoted a Cambodian official as saying, before the meeting: “Cambodia Hopes to Get US$1 Billion Aid as Expected.” As expected! On the other hand, just days before this meeting, a group of local NGOs released a study with a critical call to the donor community, suggesting that donors should press the government to fulfill agreed requirements carrying out major reforms in the country and to apply Joint Monitoring Indicators defined in the past. Global Witness, the UK based monitoring agency supported by 17 trusts and foundations, 4 development organizations from different countries, and 7 governments, suggested that the donors should take “a coordinated stand against the horribly subverted dynamic of aid in Cambodia in which their country’s money props up the basic functions of the state, leaving an elite free to exploit the state’s assets for personal profit.”

There are voices saying that the pledge of about US$1 billion is a sign that the donors don’t care about critical statements – either deploring the fact of the pledges realize “as expected,” or taking the pledges as a sign of a flat endorsement of the Cambodian government’s policies. Both these opinions are wrong.

To publish critical evaluations of aid effectiveness some days before such a meeting helps to get broad attention. But to expect that it would greatly affect the meeting, assumes that the international donor delegates arrive to sit around the table and then decide on the spot how much to pledge. They all come with the results of a year’s deliberations at home, considering information and opinion gathered and discussed with others, and decisions prepared towards the meeting.

Both sides then, in the formal meeting, share their well considered long range statements:

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen: The aid provided by development partners is a very important contribution for the development of Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government will use the aid effectively, adding that the government will continue to solve major problems such as corruption, land ownership, and judicial reform.”

“The World Bank country director, Ms. Annette Dixon, said, representing the donors, that she lauded the development of Cambodia since the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum held in December 2008, but the progress of the government is still limited in terms of its work to improve strategic planing and to manage aid. She said, ‘It is important for the government to take the lead in aligning resources to development priorities.’”

That is more than a hint that the donors think that available resources are not aligned to development priorities.

What went on during the closed-door meetings may have been more mutually engaging – but the most important things will happen – or not happen – during the course of the year which starts now towards the next meeting. And it will depend on the monitoring of ongoing events and the related discussions – including the regular follow-up in the press and by government and non-government agencies’ observations.

This is a field of hard work: to observe, to analyze, to compare, to speak up, to share – regularly and consistently.

There will be questions requiring answers, and if the questions do not get answers easily, they have to be repeated and made more precise and receive follow-up, maybe again and again. This is the role of the public, and especially of the media. That is why the press is also called “the fourth power” in a state – independent also, like the three others: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary, mutually separate, as Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia requires.

The Mirror tries to contribute to this important process.

One element of regular surprise is information like the following, which we carried during this week:

  • Oknha Ly Say Kheang, a Big Trader Destroying the Forest, Appeared in Sihanoukville after Having Escaped from Arrest for a While [he was spotted driving a luxury car and relaxing in Sihanoukville]

A fugitive from prison. Was he arrested?

  • More Than 60 Persons [police, military police, soldiers, as well as a prosecutor, a commune chief and a village chief] Surrounded a Site where a Military Captain is Storing Luxury Grade Wood [seizing 922 pieces of wood, but the owner of the wood has not been arrested]

Why 60 persons for one suspect? And he was not arrested?

  • The Authorities Seek to Arrest Citizens over a Land Dispute [with the Heng Development Company; two persons were arrested for inciting villagers to go to protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence]

“Every Khmer citizens shall be equal before the law” says Article 31 of the Constitution. But some get arrested and others not! So many cries for help trust in the highest authority of the government, carrying pictures of the Prime Minister and the First Lady. When will this confidence wear out if there are too many disappointments?

  • The Government Declared to Fight Corruption [Prime Minister Hun Sen said that there are only a handful of corrupt officials, and the government will encourage other officials to fight corruption together]

We will read it in the press.

And here is a variety of related observations:

An interesting source of income for the state reported:

  • Within Three Weeks, Nearly Riel 2 Million [approx. US$470] Has Been Charged from Those Throwing Away Rubbish in Public Places

Not much, less than US$500. There is no report how much was collected from new, big cars driving around town without neither temporary nor permanent license plates. Almost every day when I am driven around town on a motorcycle-taxi, I see some. Probably there was nothing to report because nothing is being collected from them.

The President of the National Assembly Heng Samrin Does Not Allow Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians to Visit and Monitor the Putting of Border Marker Number 270 in Takeo [at the Cambodian-Vietnamese border; the Sam Rainsy Party claims that the marker is planted on Khmer territory, while the government denies it]

Members of the National Assembly, elected by the people (The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country. All power belongs to the people – says Article 51 of the Constitution), need a permission before they can travel inside of the country? Article 40 of the Constitution sound different: Citizens’ freedom to travel, far and near, and legal settlement shall be respected. We did not reed that the parliamentarians claimed this Constitutional right.

The result:

  • Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Were Prevented from Visiting and Checking a Border Marker [in Takeo, as their visit was blocked by more than 30 armed forces and more than 50 local citizens]

And finally a dilemma:

  • The Opposition Party President Sam Rainsy Plans to Go to the Philippines to Meet with Parliamentarians and Democrats in Asia [at the end of this month, to welcome the newly elected president of the Philippines when he takes office]

Probably there will be many international guests there, especially from the ASEAN region. Among them politicians from Cambodia. But Mr. Sam Rainsy is facing the court in Cambodia, though he is abroad to avoid arrest – but he is free in France, and he is free to travel.

Could another politician from the ASEAN region, the former Thai Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra, also go to the Philippines? Maybe not. There is a search warrant for him from Interpol, and the Thai government is now in the process to send arrest warrants for Mr. Thaksin through Interpol to 187 countries, which makes it more and more difficult to travel anywhere. Except to Cambodia:

  • Cambodia Expressed [through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] the Position Not to Extradite Thaksin to Thailand

He was convicted by a Thai court for corruption – for arranging the sale of valuable Bangkok land without bidding and at a low price, to his wife. But he left the country – “temporarily for about a week,” after paying bail – and did never return.

Everybody is equal before the law? Not quite.

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Eliminating Illegal Settlements – Monday, 31.5.2010

Posted on 1 June 2010. Filed under: Week 667 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 667

“On Friday the Council of Ministers approved a circular for dealing with illegal settlements on state land.

“The spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, said on Sunday, ‘The circular will help citizens and the government to eliminate anarchic settlements on state land in populated areas, in cities, and at public places [like parks, pedestrian lanes, etc.]. In the future we will eradicate illegal settlements at public places.’

“The circular aims at resolving problems at temporary settlements, also called anarchic constructions, that are built on state land, which results in the loss of road space for traveling, or there is no sanitation. The circular advises the local authorities to provide data about the actual number of such illegal settlements and the number of families, producing plans of these anarchic constructions in order to find solutions, to organize infrastructure and public services to support the life of the people.

“A legal expert of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions [which works in 20 different countries around the world], Mr. Pen Sithorn, said that the new circular is not bad, but it depends on whether or not the implementation will involve also non-government organizations and the affected communities. He said, ‘The circular says it depends on the government what kind of participation from different sides they will allow.’

Note:

Additional information from the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions:

“A senior official of the Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Mr. Chan Soveth, said on Sunday that the circular is good, but its enforcement is not as good as the contents stated in the circular, which makes people live in ever worse conditions. He added, ‘The government evicts people and accepts coordination from the authorities. They confiscate people’s land and deliver it to the rich and to companies, providing little compensation to people. Thousands of citizens have been affected by the policy of the government to force citizens to move to remote areas.’ He went on to say that even though citizens are living on state land, they have been living there for years before the land law was approved. Therefore, they should be offered solutions through the provision of new areas with proper living conditions.” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #142, 31.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 31 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #4, 30-31.5.2010

  • A Car Loaded with Paddy Rice Was Intercepted – there Were More Than 800 Kilogram of Turtles Hidden in It, to Be Exported to Vietnam [Kandal]
  • Disputes [through the exchange of statements quoted in the press] between [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit and [ousted and fugitive prime minister] Thaksin Creates Political Tension in Siam [Thailand]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2262, 30-31.5.2010

  • The Thai Authorities Released [207] Khmer Citizens Who Had Been Accused of Possessing Explosive Materials
  • Construction Workers on the Bokor Mountain Had a Car Accident while Getting Ahead of another Car – Two Died and Twenty Eight Others Were Injured

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #773, 31.5.2010

  • Oknha Ly Say Kheang, a Big Trader Destroying the Forest, Appeared in Sihanoukville after Having Escaped from Arrest for a While [he was arrested in late March 2010 over illegal wood trading and keeping some in storage. He was spotted driving a luxury car and relaxing in Sihanoukville]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #669, 30-31.5.2010

  • The Ministry of Interior Allows a Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarian to Visit Ms. Meas Srey and Mr. Prum Chea [jailed for uprooting Cambodian-Vietnamese border markers in Svay Rieng]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6969, 31.5.2010

  • More Than 60 Persons [police, military police, soldiers, as well as a prosecutor, a commune chief and a village chief] Surrounded a Site where a Military Captain is Storing Luxury Grade Wood [seizing 922 pieces of wood, but the owner of the wood has not been arrested – Svay Rieng]
  • Cambodia Condemned the Persons Who Planted a Sea Mine [attacking a South Korean navy ship, killing 46 sailors] – They Cause Instability on the Korean Peninsular

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3893, 31.5.2010

  • Forced Evictions are against the Constitution and Cannot Be Legalized – Those Who Criticize This Should Not Be Stopped

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #142, 31.5.2010

  • Eliminating Illegal Settlements
  • The Authorities Seek to Arrest Citizens over a Land Dispute [with the Heng Development Company; two persons were arrested for inciting villagers go to protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s resident]
  • A US Company [Elixir Gaming Technologies] Received a License to Open a Casino in Takeo [this company plans to start constructing a casino late next year, spending US$8 to 10 million]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #51, 30-31.5.2010

  • An Environmental Officials: The Sesan Hydro Electric Dam II [planned to be constructed late next year] Will Not Flood Ratanakiri [but it might affect only four communes in Stung Treng]
  • Police Arrested a Man Who Raped His Three Step Daughters over a long Time [aged from 12 to 17 – Siem Reap]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Thai Goods Are Imported through the Cham Yeam Border Crossing without Checking – Wednesday, 26.5.2010

Posted on 27 May 2010. Filed under: Week 666 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 666

“Koh Kong: At present, during the season to import fruits, hundreds of tonnes of Thai goods are imported at the Cham Yeam border crossing on cars, trucks, and carts each day, to be distributed in Koh Kong and other provinces and in Phnom Penh without proper checking on the quality of those goods by CamControl officials.

“According to information from the Cham Yeam border crossing, CamControl officials at the crossing do not care to check the quality of imported goods nowadays, but they just wait to collect money from the owners of the goods.

“A trader who imports goods on carts said that he has to pay CamControl officials stationed at the crossing Riel 10,000 to Riel 30,000 [approx. US$2.40 to US$7.10] per cart instead of checking, and there are no receipts for the payments. The above trader complained that he cannot protest against the requirement to pay money, otherwise they would block the goods from being imported by declaring that those goods are of no quality and that no tax had been paid. He added that besides goods loaded on carts, other goods are imported on cars and trucks without any checking, like the cars of traders that transport all types of sausages, and cars and trucks carrying small fish, drinks, and other goods.

“The above source added that on every single day, there are at least 100 to 150 carts that import Thai goods across the Cham Yeam border crossing. Because there is no proper checking, every day some prohibited and no-quality goods such as pork, chicken, eggs, vegetables, and fruits, that are considered to be garbage in Thailand, are now acquired by traders and imported for distribution at the markets anarchically.

“A CamControl official, Mr. Chea Ny, told Rasmei Kampuchea that recently, imported goods had been checked for their quality occasionally, and no chemicals [applied on those goods] were found.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5207, 26.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #487, 26.5.2010

  • ASEAN Police Will Step Up Cooperation and Strengthen Security and Economy in the Region
  • [The Minister of the Council of Ministers] Mr. Sok An Asked the Asian Development Bank to Continue to Cooperate with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific [ESCAP – according to a meeting with an ADB delegation]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2258, 26.5.2010

  • There Will Be a Vote [in the National Assembly] to Promote Eleven Officials [to positions of secretary of state and minister] on 27 May 2010 [but their names are not yet mentioned]
  • French Officials Plan to Come to Cambodia to Help Improve the Procedures for Exporting Products to International Markets [according to a Secretary of State of the Ministry of Commerce, Mr. Mao Thora]

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #771, 26.5.2010

  • The Director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights [LICADHO], Naly Pilorge, Uses the Influence of Foreign Funds to Dismiss Staff [not respecting contracts and the labor law]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #665, 26.5.2010

  • The Sam Rainsy Party Asked [Minister of Interior] Sar Kheng for Permission to Visit Ms. Meas Srey and Mr. Prum Chea [being jailed for uprooting Cambodian-Vietnamese border markers in Svay Rieng]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6965, 26.5.2010

  • Three Persons, a Man and His Two Children, Died in the Forest [of diarrhea]; Diarrhea Killed Sixteen People among 543 Patients in Ratanakiri [Yesterday, Dr. Beat Richner announced in a full page ad in The Cambodia Daily that the hospitals to which he relates have diagnosed 290 cases with the germ “Vibrio cholerae” – Cholera – among 1300 patients treated, and informed the Cambodian authorities since several months, but the Cambodian authorities continue to deny that it is Cholera and wrongly claim that the treatment for Cholera and for diarrhea is the same]
  • Thma Koul Police Intercepted 22 Pieces of Luxury Grade Wood to Be Transported to Siam [Thailand – Battambang]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #179, 26.5.2010

  • Brick Producers: The Price of Bricks Doubles because of the Increase of Demand for Construction Materials [at present, 10,000 bricks cost US$400]
  • Thai Court Released Warrant to Arrest [ousted and fugitive prime minister] Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra as Terrorist

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5207, 26.5.2010

  • Thai Goods Are Imported through the Cham Yeam Border Crossing without Checking
  • New Ambassadors of Malaysia and of Laos Met and Greeted Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Seven Companies Receive Economic Concession Land from the Government – Saturday, 8.5.2010

Posted on 8 May 2010. Filed under: Week 663 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 663

“Phnom Penh: Seven local and foreign companies received economic concession land from the Royal Government of Cambodia to grow agro-industrial crops and trees. The agreement to provide concision land was made on 5 May 2010 at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and was chaired by Minister Chan Sarun.

“In front of the participants and leaders of the companies that got concession land, the Minister of Agriculture expressed appreciation for those companies as they are trusted by the Royal Government. And he suggested to those companies to invest more, to promote a proper and sustainable ago-industrial sector, based on plans that include the exchange of techniques, the creation of jobs, and the increase of income and of health services, roads, and agricultural markets. He asked those companies to care about protecting the environment in order to avoid, and to reduce, as much as possible bad impacts on the environment because of their investment operations, to promote the plantation of trees, especially rubber trees, and the manufacturing for export, based on a proper sharing of benefits between the investors and the state.

“The seven companies that received economic concession land:

  1. PLT Company, 7,900 hectares in Rovieng district, Preah Vihear, for planting rubber trees
  2. CRCK Rubber Development company, 6,044 hectares in Sandan district, Kompong Thom, for planting rubber trees
  3. Hua Ling company, 7,773 hectares in O’ Reang Euv district and Monorum district in Mondolkiri, to plant Srol trees [a type of pine trees; its rosin is of better quality than that of rubber trees]
  4. CCV company, 5,730 hectares in Santuk district, Kompong Thom, for planting acacia
  5. IPD Instance Pro-Trading, 987 hectares in Sambou district, Kratie, for planting rubber trees
  6. Camtri Corporation, 2,409 hectares in Chhouk district, Kampot, for planting acacia trees
  7. Krongbuk-Ratanakiri Rubber Development Company, 6,695 hectares in Andong Meas district, Ratanakiri, for planting rubber trees.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5192, 8.5.2010

Note:

The article contains:

  • No information which company is national, and which is foreign
  • No information about the bidding process through which these companies “received economic concession land from the government”
  • There is no information presented about any financial conditions that had to be met to receive these contracts
  • There is no information given about the number of years covered by the various contracts
  • The minister asked those companies to care about protecting the environment, but there is no information given whether and what kind of measurable data for the protection of the environment are part of the concession contracts, and what kind of penalty regulations have been contracted, in case the environment protection regulations might be violated
  • What is considered to be “proper sharing of benefits between the investors and the state” is not spelled out in terms of monetary or percentage figures.

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 8 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #472, 8.5.2010

  • The National Assembly Adopted a Law about the Creation of [six] More Consulates in China [at important cities of China to facilitate trade related visits between the two countries]
  • Korea Grants US$3.3 Million to Support the Health Sector in Siem Reap
  • The European Union and Cambodia Jointly Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Creation of the European Union [on 9 May 2010 – the date relates to a programmatic speech by Robert Schuman, Foreign Minister of France between 1948-1952, on 9 May 1950. – The Mirror editorial tomorrow will deal with this in detail – relating also to relations within ASEAN]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2243, 8.5.2010

  • The Heng Development Company Is Accused of Violating 4,000 Hectares of Residents of Four Communes in Kandal Stung District [in Kandal; around 250 citizens came to protest in front of the residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh]
  • Son of [the Kompong Speu deputy governor] Mr. Tong Seng Drove His Car to [intentionally] Hit a Worker [working at his ice factory, because the worker demanded his salary that had not been paid for four months], but the Authorities Released the Driver [after there had been interventions from generals – Kandal]
  • Leaders of Red Shirt Demonstrators [opposing the government] Agreed to Disperse on 10 May 2010

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #650, 8.5.2010

  • [Opposition part parliamentarian] Yim Sovann: Many Questions [about payments from foreign companies to Cambodia related to mineral and oil concessions] Were Not Answered by the Government

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6950, 8-9.5.2010

  • The Authorities Require Land Owners of 3,177 Unused Plots of Land in Seven Districts in Phnom Penh to Pay Land Tax to the State
  • The Chamkar Mon Authorities Raided Four Night Clubs Including the “Young Girl Night Club” Where There Were Many Teenage Girls [Phnom Penh. – The Owners of three clubs were arrested for involvement with drug distribution, and nude dance presentations; the fourth club was not found to have committed any violations]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3874, 8-9.5.2010

  • The Honor of the Poipet Immigration Police Is Getting Lost as They Extort Money from Workers
  • A Luxury Grade Wood Storehouse in Sihanoukville Was Checked, and 10 Cubic Meter of Wood Was Found Buried in the Ground

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5192, 8.5.2010

  • Seven Companies Receive Economic Concession Land from the Government
  • Early 2010, the Number of Cambodian Workers Who Migrate Abroad Increased [from January to April 2010, 2,607 workers were sent to work in Malaysia and 500 to Korea]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Important Officials from Sixteen Countries Come to Cambodia to Discuss Appropriate Control Systems for Forestry Resources, after an Unclear Suppression Campaign – Thursday, 6.5.2010

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

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 663

“High ranking officials of the Sam Rainsy Party had expressed their concerns before, that the non-transparent management of the rich natural resources of Cambodia, as well as corruption, make citizens – the owners of those important resources – become poor, so that they cannot receive the benefits from the present anarchic exploitations of natural resources.

“Officials from 16 countries met in Phnom Penh for two days, on 4 and 5 May 2010, to discuss about the control of forestry resources and the trade of forestry products. Cambodian high ranking officials welcomed and chaired the discussion meetings to step up effective controls on forest resources. Asian and European officials came from Burma, Cambodia, China, England, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Siam [Thailand], the United States of America, and Yuon [Vietnam], to discuss how to promote forestry exploitation that follows legal standards.

“Mr. Timo Mäkelä, the Director of Directorate G – Sustainable Development and Integration – in the Environment Directorate-General of the European Commission, said that forestry trading is an important sector that boosts economic growth in Asian and European countries, and forestry products have significantly and enormously contributed to development of the economies of Asian and European countries. It is stressed that forestry products are essential for a national economy.

“Mr. Timo Mäkelä said that good management of forestry resource will help prevent forestry destructions in any country, though forests can provide substantial national income. Cambodia used to export forestry products to some countries such as the former Soviet Union. But since Cambodia introduced reforms in 2001, the export of [unprocessed] forestry products abroad was halted [but illegal export continued].

“The Minister of Agriculture of Cambodia, Mr. Chan Sarun, who was also present at the discussions, said that people from the countries that attend the meeting can jointly create plans to strengthen forestry management and legislation. ‘We can create joint planning to improve forestry control and to strength fundamental laws, as well as cut down illegal forestry productions.’

“Recently, Cambodia has started to crack down on luxury grade wood trading, and after activities for one month, the authorities confiscated 6,000 cubic meter of such wood that was to be transported to China and Yuon. Some was to be exported to the international market via Singapore.

“Ebony, Thnong, and Beng are most wanted luxury grade woods to produce furniture in some countries, and most illegal exports from Cambodia are of these kinds of wood. Most luxury grade wood confiscated was found in Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey, Kompong Cham, Stung Treng, and Kratie. The destinations for its export are known to be China and Yuon, where millions of cubic meters are needed.

“The illegal wood trading in Cambodia reduced the rich forestry resource during the 1960s of about 75% of the whole country to drop to only more than 30% at present, according to some environmental organizations. Forestry expert officials and some sectors of the authorities have been blamed for their collusion, committing illegal wood trading, but most of the actors are not brought to the courts.

“According to reports from forestry administration officials, 207 forestry crimes have been reported to the courts, but some traders with a title as an Oknha, or with close relations to high government officials, have not been charged, though they colluded to commit forestry crimes in Cambodia. Some forestry administration officials enjoy their lives with the wealth they gained from the illegal cutting down of trees.

Global Witness said in a statement early April 2010, ‘The idea that Ty Sokhun has been removed from his post because of a failure to crack down on illegal logging is laughable.’ The organization thinks that to tolerate Mr. Ty Sokun after 15 years of forestry crimes originating from his office shows that the past spreading of forestry crimes seems to be forgotten.

Note – From the text of the Global Witness statement:

Sacking of Cambodia’s forest chief unconvincing as move against illegal logging

Press Release – 7.4.2010

Global Witness today welcomed the removal from his post of the Director General of Cambodia’s Forest Administration, Ty Sokhun, but warned that much more needed to be done to guarantee the survival of the country’s remaining forests and the fair and sustainable exploitation of the country’s other natural resources for the benefit of the many not the few.

Global Witness’s 2007 report, Cambodia’s Family Trees, documented how Ty Sokhun and the Ministry of Agriculture Director, Chan Sarun, sold off 500 or more jobs in the Forest Administration. The report also revealed that Ty Sokhun’s father-in-law was a key member of Cambodia’s biggest illegal logging syndicate.

“Ty Sokhun’s reign as Cambodia’s forest chief was a disaster for Cambodia’s forests”, said Simon Taylor, Global Witness Director. “On his watch we saw Cambodia’s forests shrink dramatically, largely due to illegal or ill-managed logging operations. It is a good thing he is gone, but he shouldn’t be let off the hook for what happened while he was in charge.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen says he sacked Ty Sokhun because he had no confidence in his ability to crack down on illegal logging but Global Witness questions why it has taken so long to act…

Taylor: “Ty Sokhun was not the only one responsible for the destruction of Cambodia’s forests. Our investigations have proven the complicity of officials and elites at the highest levels, including members of the Prime Minister’s own family. If Hun Sen genuinely wants closure on the destruction of Cambodia’s forests, he should commission a full independent enquiry into what has happened, publish the findings and punish the perpetrators.”

“At the occasion of the change of head of the Forestry Administration and the appointment of Mr. Chheng Kimson it was seen that some high ranking officials such as [Minister of Agriculture] Mr. Chan Sarun were spared to be called to account for their wrongdoings by the head of the Cambodian government, while in fact Mr. Chan Sarun and Mr. Ty Sokun are the most important persons responsible for forestry crimes for years. This way of suppressing illegal wood trading makes international donors to think that Cambodia does it just to satisfy them to get aid, while the Cambodian government is not really willing to intercept illegal wood trading. [[see also The Mirror of 7.4.2010]]

Note – from a historical Global Witness statement from December 2004

Resign or be sacked

Press Release – 3.12.2004

With the advent of Cambodia’s Consultative Group (CG) donor meeting on 6 and 7 December combating corruption is once more at the top of the political agenda. In line with this renewed emphasis, Global Witness is calling on the Director of the Forest Administration to be made accountable for the rampant corruption within his own department.

“Ty Sokhun should do the honourable thing and resign. If not, the Prime Minister should sack him.” said Jon Buckrell of Global Witness.

Ty Sokhun was made Director of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife1 in 1998. Since then, corruption within the department has if anything got worse. The May 2000 Asia Development Bank [ADB] Forest Concession Review characterised the crisis situation in Cambodia’s forest as “…total system failure; resulting from greed, corruption, incompetence and illegal acts…” However, according to the ADB so many people, companies, institutions and countries were responsible for the fiasco that no one should be made accountable. Since that time not one forest department official has been charged with corruption, let alone convicted. Yet as recently as April 2004 the Independent Forest Sector Review referred to “high levels of institutionalised corruption.” Still, no one is being held to account.

“How can the new Forest Administration hope to address corruption if the people at the top remain the same?” said Buckrell. Ty Sokhun is hopelessly compromised by his familial links to the timber trade. His father-in-law, Khun Thong, is one of Cambodia’s most prolific illegal loggers. “Ty Sokhun’s failure to make public his familial links to the timber trade is a massive conflict of interest and is in itself reason enough to dismiss him.”

Good governance is at the core of the new “Rectangular Strategy,” of the third legislature of the National Assembly, but the government has been talking tough on corruption and doing nothing for years, as has the donor community. At the 1996 CG meeting, then First Prime Minister H.R.H. Norodom Ranariddh stated that the Royal Government of Cambodia was committed to “implement appropriate measures,” to amongst other things “effectively combat corruption.” More recently at the 2001 CG the ADB’s Urooj Malik “respectfully urged” the Royal Government “to move forward with the finalization of legislation on Anti-corruption…”. The donors then pledged US$ 615 million, US$ 115 million more than the Cambodian government had actually asked for. In 2002 “the adoption of a new Anti-Corruption Law” was, according to the World Bank, by now “of particular and most urgent importance.” The donors pledged US$ 635 million.

“The Cambodian government must find the whole CG process absolutely hilarious. Each year they fail to meet their benchmarks and each year the donors give them more money.” said Buckrell.

Global Witness agrees with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sentiments, of more than two years ago, that “while good policies do matter, their rigorous and consistent implementation remains vital.” During Monday’s CG, the donors must hold the entire government to account for their failure to put anti-corruption rhetoric into practice. The donors should insist on rapid enactment of an effective Anti-Corruption law and a register of business interests for politicians, officers in the military, and senior officials.

“Dismissing the Director of the Forest Administration is an absolute minimum first step any donor really interested in Cambodia’s development should expect from a government committed to reform and addressing corruption,” said Global Witness Director, Simon Taylor. “Our recent report, Taking a Cut, provides a number of other key minimum steps we would expect the Cambodian Government to undertake to clean up its act. Some years ago, Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that his Premiership depended on his success in delivering improvements in the forestry sector. By any standards, he has thus far failed. The challenge is now to the donors and the Prime Minister to deliver.”

“According to a report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the trade in forestry products with markets in Asian countries, North America, and the European Union in 2001 amounted to about US$140 billion, while in 1999, it had been less than that. A report about the fight against illegal forestry crimes of the World Bank, from 2006, showed that the forest destructions in the world siphoned off more than US$10 billion each year.

“A well known opposition party leader in Cambodia, Mr. Sam Rainsy, had said that corruption leads to the devastation of natural resources of Cambodia. He said that if there were a proper and transparent management of those resources, Cambodia were able to earn huge amounts of money for national construction and for some important infrastructure developments to serve the needs of the citizens.

“Mr. Sam Rainsy recalled that the exploitation of national resources does so far not contribute proper benefits for the nation and for poor citizens, due to corruption. If there were an accurate management, Cambodia could find sufficient income without depending on foreign aid or loans, as the government does at present.

“The Sam Rainsy Party spokesperson, Mr. Yim Sovann, said that the improper management of the national budget, especially the collection of income from the exploitations of natural resources without transparency and without following the laws of control, make Cambodia lose its benefits. Mr. Yim Sovann suggests that the government should create effective laws to control the natural resources and to ensure that income from the exploitation of natural resources is not lost to corruption.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3872, 6.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 6 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.17, #1438, 6.5.2010

  • Sweden Plans to Establish an Embassy in Cambodia [no exact date specified]

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #470, 6.5.2010

  • A 30-Year-Old Woman Was Attacked with Acid over a Suspected Love Affair [the perpetrators are not yet arrested – Phnom Penh]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2241, 6.5.2010

  • The Prime Minister Met with the Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense [Mr. Shimba Kazuya [防衛副大臣 榛葉賀津也], discussing about bilateral and regional cooperation]
  • Jointly Stepping Up the Fight against Human Trafficking
  • A Workshop about the Results from a Consultation to Cooperate Implementing the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women Was Held [Ms. Chim Manavy, the director of the Open Institute: priorities and strategies to achieve the same goals together cooperating between civil society organizations and institutions of the government, to effectively implement the action plan, had been discussed and set up, including Information and Communication Technology as a means to promote gender equality and to empower women, as stated in the 2015 Millennium Development Goals]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #648, 6.5.2010

  • Journalists Publish a Declaration on Freedom of Information, Demanding that the Government Creates a Law about the Right to Know Soon [the government is drafting this law without open participation of journalists’ associations]
  • Samdech Euv [Father King] Norodom Sihanouk and Siamese [Thai] King Sent Each Other Good Wishes

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6948, 6.5.2010

  • Nearly 100,000 Hectares of Economic Concession Land in Kompong Thom Are Delivered to Twenty One Companies for Growing Agro-Industrial Crops
  • A Woman Was Raped and Killed and a Few Hours Later, the Perpetrator Was Arrested [Phnom Penh]
  • A Statement by Cambodian Journalists Published on the World Press Freedom Day Suggests that “The Right to Know Must Be Guaranteed for Cambodian Citizens by the Government”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3872, 6.5.2010

  • Important Officials from Sixteen Countries Come to Cambodia to Discuss Appropriate Control Systems for Forestry Resources, after an Unclear Suppression Campaign

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.140, #165, 6.5.2010

  • Cambodia Claimed Again that the Keo Sekha Kiri Svarak Pagoda Is on Khmer Territory [while Thailand claimed it is on Thai territory. – Actually, it is on territory declared by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in a Joint Communique on 18 June 2008, signed together with UNESCO and the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, as a “buffer zone” not claimed by Cambodia in the context of the World Heritage Site designation plans]
  • [More than 100] Boeng Kak Lake Residents Protested in Front of the Council for the Development of Cambodia [CDC – to oppose the submission of a Master Plan for the development of the area from the Municipality to the CDC, but officials said that the Master Plan has not yet been delivered to the CDC – but people have already been evicted before the plan was accepted]
  • The Minister of Finance of Indonesia [Ms. Sri Mulyani Indrawati] Receives the Top Position in the World Bank [as its Managing Director]
  • Cambodia Railway Station Is Starting with New Life because of Continuing Investment [it is now controlled by the Toll Royal Railways; the whole Cambodian railway system is being repaired under US$141,1 million aid and credits from the Asian Development Bank, AusAID, and OPEC]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5190, 6.5.2010

  • Cambodia Imports Fuel Amounting to US$450 Million Each Year [according to a report from the Ministry of Commerce]
  • 199 Pieces of Ebony [loaded on a boat] Prepared to Be Imported to Vietnam, Were Seized on the High Sea [Kampot]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Mr. Hang Chakra Vowed to Continue to Write According to His Conscience as He Did Previously – Monday, 19.4.2010

Posted on 20 April 2010. Filed under: Week 661 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 661

“The editor-in-chief of Khmer Machas Srok, Mr. Hang Chakra, has just been released from Prey Sar prison on Tuesday last week, a day ahead of the Khmer New Year, and he vowed that he will continue to publish his paper according to his conscience, constructively also criticizing the government.

“Mr. Hang Chakra told the Phnom Penh Post on Sunday, ‘I could not believe that I would be released a day ahead of the Khmer New Year. I am so happy that I can meet my family.’ Mr. Hang Chakra added that he will try to publish his Khmer Machas Srok papers again next week, after a suspension early this month due to financial reason, and he will continue to criticize the government with the attempt to constructively contribute to the nation and to fight corruption. He said, ‘I will continue to publish the paper with my conscience, to criticize corrupt people among government officials, to serve the readers and the society. I hope that the readers will still support me.’

“It should also be known that, before Hang Chakra had been released, he wrote a letter of apology to Prime Minister Hun Sen one month after he was convicted, and he promised that he will not write to accuse anyone of corruption without evidence, if he would be released.

“Mr. Hang Chakra is the editor-in-chief of Khmer Machas Srok, a newspaper that has a tendency towards the Sam Rainsy Party. He was convicted to serve 12 months in prison, and he was fined to pay Riel 9 million (at present approx. US$2,200) on 26 June 2009, for defaming Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, after he had released several texts accusing cabinet officials of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of being involving in corruption without intervention.

“Mr. Hang Chakra denied he is related to the rumor that he is joining the Cambodian People’s Party and will stop criticizing the government. Mr. Hang Chakra clarified, ‘No institution can press me to change my conscience, as I spend my own money to publish my papers, and my paper is still alive because of our readers.’

“The head of the Criminal Department of the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Pov Bunthouen told the Phnom Penh Post on Sunday that Mr. Hang Chakra was one of the 42 prisoners who were released earlier than expected who were on the list to be released, while the punishment of 119 others on the list will be reduced. He said, ‘We are preparing to organize a Visakh Bochea ceremony (on 28 April 2010). I have not yet checked all documents, and I expect that all those documents in the lists that will be checked after the ceremony.’” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.140, #150-151, 12-14.4.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:

Monday, 19 April 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #486, 11-19.4.2010

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] Set Up New Plans to Boost the Economy [ASEAN leaders promised to cooperate to restore the economic and financial sectors by eliminating commercial protectionism and to open free markets]
  • Robbers Robbed a Jewelry Seller at the Canadia Market, Taking Away Nearly US$10,000 [Phnom Penh]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2225-2226, 11-19-.4.2010

  • The Phnom Penh Authorities Offer Two Options for 257 Families Whose Houses Were Burnt Down in Boeng Kak [they will be allowed to reconstruct houses on a plot of 3.9 by 5 meters at the burnt area, but the authorities will not provide them with land titles – or they can settle on a plot of 5 by 12 meter in Chaom Chau commune, Dangkao district where the authorities will provide them land title. So far, 165 agreed to take the 2nd option]
  • The Cambodian-Chinese Prek Kdam Bridge [across the Tonle Sap River in Kandal, constructed with a loan from China and US$28,783,644 from the Cambodian government] Was Opened for Traffic
  • The Cambodian Prime Minister Sent a Letter of Condolence at the Occasion of the Death of the Polish President [who was killed in plane crash]
  • Cambodia Asked the Head of ASEAN to Immediately Convene a Meeting to Reduce the Tensions in Thailand [but Thailand rejected it as previously usual for all members: No interference into internal affairs!]
  • Nearly 60 Cubic Meters of Luxury Grade Wood Found in Dangkao District, belonging to a [Kompong Cham] Forestry Head [the authorities are seeking to arrest him – Phnom Penh]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6932-6932, 12-19.4.2010

  • 579 People Were Seriously and Slightly Injured or Killed in Traffic Accidents during the Khmer New Year [49 people were killed this year, compared to 2009, when 52 people were killed]
  • More Than US$87 Million Is Provided [by donors] to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal for 2010 and 2011 [ announced by the Khmer Rouge Tribunal]
  • Clashes Broke Out in Bangkok, Killing 20 People and Injuring 842; and 28 Police and Soldiers Had Been Held as Hostage [by red-shirt demonstrators]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3856, 12-18.4.2010

  • The Constitutional Council Rejected a Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians’ Request which Heng Samrin Had Rejected Before [for the government to temporarily suspend putting border posts]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.140, #150-152, 12-19.4.2010

  • Cambodian and Thai Soldiers Clashed along the Border, when there Was an Invasion from Thailand [Thai soldiers demanded Khmer soldiers to remove a wooden house which has been constructed there over ten years, but Khmer soldiers disagreed; four Thai soldiers were injured while Khmer soldiers were not – Oddar Meanchey. In the meantime it was reported that the soldiers of both sides withdrew from the area, and also, that this information is not correct; we cannot just trust ONE information in such a situation, but be aware of frequent inconsistencies and changes – but we “mirror” them, not knowing if there will be coming more changes]
  • The United States of America Greeted Cambodia at the Khmer New Year, while the Cambodian Prime Minister Praised Troops [stationed along the Cambodian-Thai border]
  • [Five representatives of] Amleang Commune Residents Came [to Phnom Penh] to Ask for an Intervention from Mr. Hun Sen [over a land dispute with Oknha Ly Yong Phat’s sugar company in Kompong Speu]
  • The Ministry of Health Calls on Citizens to Stop Using [Kemlotlanhthomcaocap – Spelling/wording not sure] Cosmetic Foam Imported from Vietnam [after a woman in Banteay Meanchey died after she used it]
  • Prices of Petroleum at Big Fuel Stations in Cambodia Increased Also after Prices of Oil at the International Markets Rose [a liter of premium quality is US$1.12 and the normal quality is US$1.07]
  • Mr. Hang Chakra Vowed to Continue to Work According to His Conscience as He Did Previously

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5174-5175, 11-19.4.2010

  • The Top US Diplomat [Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Secretary of State of the USA] Vowed to Strengthen Cambodian-American Ties [recalling good cooperation between the USA and Cambodia]
  • Luxury Grade Wood [about 100 cubic meters] Was Found in the Sambara Resort and Spa Hotel [in Siem Reap]
  • The President of Poland Is among the 132 People Who Were Killed in a Plane Crash in Russia
  • Within the First Two Months of 2010 Cambodia Attracted Investment of US$116.5 Million [for 15 projects in agriculture and the garment sector, from China, Singapore, and Vietnam]
  • The Ministry of Tourism Expects that 2010 Will Be the Year That Tourism Recovers and Grows by 10% [or to 2.4 million tourist arrivals]
  • The Army Commander-In-Chief Anupong Paochinda and Opposition Party President Chavalit Support the Dissolution of the Parliament, after a Clash Which Cost 21 Lives [Thailand – This headline shows also the need to follow developments carefully to verify what is going on; in the meantime it is reported that the military, under General Anupong Paochinda, has taken over the responsibility to maintain security in Bangkok, after the police had not been able to do so]

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

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