Vietnam Said within Six Months This Year There Were Nearly 120,000 Cambodian Tourist Arrivals in Vietnam – Wednesday, 25.8.2010

Posted on 26 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

“Phnom Penh: Within six months of this year, the Vietnamese authorities said that the Cambodian tourist arrivals in Vietnam increased to nearly 120,000, but Cambodian experts said that most of them went for medical services.

“According to a Vietnamese agency, within six months of this year among the tourist arrivals in Vietnam, as many as 117,000 are Cambodians, an increase by 36%.

“The same source added that Ho Chi Minh City attracted most Cambodian tourists, other areas such as the highland in the central area, the Mekong low lying area, and southeast provinces followed. Ho Chi Minh City attracted from 60% to 70% of the 117,000 Khmer tourists.

“According to tourism experts, the increase in the number of Cambodian tourists to Vietnam resulted from the lifting of visas requirements between both countries. The president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, Mr. Ang Kim Eang, said on 23 August 2010 by phone that he does not have accurate figures of Khmer tourists to Vietnam, but he believes that among those tourists, most went only for medical services.

“Based on Vietnamese media, those who go for medical services in Vietnam are considered as tourists. The same source continued that each day, about 100 Cambodians seek medical services at hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City.

“An official of the Ministry of Tourism said that the Ministry does not have accurate numbers of citizens visiting foreign countries. What the Ministry has is the total number of Cambodian citizens going abroad.

“The same official added that within six months of 2010, about 232,317 Cambodian citizens went abroad.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5285, 25.8.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2336, 25.8.2010

  • For the Third Time, an Additional 51 Workers of the MV Factory Fainted, and the Ministry of Labor Is Requested to Close the Factory to Check the Factory
  • Cambodia Asked [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit to Warn [the Thai royalist Yellow Shirt movement leader] Sondhi Limthongkul, Who Makes Himself a Cruel Person [by using rough words to attack Prime Minister Hun Sen]

Note:

Mr. Sondhi Limthongkul [สนธิ ลิ้มทองกุล] is one of the founders of the royalist Yellow Shirt Movement. – In April 2009 he suffered an assassination attempt. In July 2010, he was indicted by the public prosecutor for lese majeste – an “anti-royalist” crime. In Thai media, he is often called a “media firebrand” because of his fiery speeches]

The speech under reference by Mr. Sondhi Limthongkul could not be found, however the response by the Press and Quick reaction Unit of the Office of the Council of Ministers, distributed to the press:

Kingdom of Cambodia
Nation Religion King

Office of the Council of Ministers
Press and Quick reaction Unit
No. 012/PRU/S/2010

Statement

The Spokesperson of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PRU) of the Office of the Council of Ministers of the Royal Government of Cambodia has noticed that Mr. Sondhi Limthongkun, leader of the PAD (the Yellow Shirts), in the Thailand’s weekly political nightly program broadcast over ASTV on 20 August 2010, has made slanderous statement attacking our beloved and respected leader, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, conducting a hatred campaign against the people of Cambodia, igniting the name of enmity between Cambodians and Thais. He has proven once more that he is becoming a raving lunatic. By turning deaf ear and blind eye to Sondhi Limthongkun’s hatred activities against Cambodia, the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva has become an accomplice and a sponsor of a criminal prone activity, and therefore responsible for any moral and political consequences that might happen in the future.

It is unworthy to repeat what Sondhi Limthongkun, a harebrained person had said on ASTV. However the Spokesperson of the PRU will take the high ground and wishes to bring to the attention of the public at large of the followings:

  1. Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia is admirably and deeply loved and respected by the Cambodian people. He accedes to the leadership of the Government through the holding of just and fair consecutive general elections with the majority of the votes of the people and by the unanimity of votes by the members of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
  2. He is a peace loving and peace building statesman of international stature. He had seen and experienced enough the horrors of war; he fought for the survival of the Cambodian people and the nation against the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime. In fact, he builds the great national unity among Cambodians, defends the national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, culminating in the integration of Cambodia into ASEAN family, at the regional level. On the international arena, Cambodia has been known to be a fast developing country economically and socially, a country that brings justice to the victims of crime committed against humanity through the exceptional Cambodian and UN creation and functioning of the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). For his internationally recognized dedication to peace, Samdech Prime Minister of Cambodia was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa and other numerous international awards and he is also a full-right member of the Academy of Natural Sciences.
  3. Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen. Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia is a dedicated and fervent Buddhist and is abide by the principles of non-violence. He upholds and leads traditional Buddhist festivities, and cares for aged devotees nationwide;
  4. King Noreso of Thailand, in fact, had asked for help from King of Cambodia during a Siam (Thailand) war with the Burmeses. After Siam had grown stronger, Siam forgot who had been the benefactor and behaves like a crocodile (in the Cambodian folk tale) that got burnt almost to death and begged a peasant to save its life and to bring it to a pond, and to return the favor to the peasant, the crocodile insisted that it must eat him, for what reason? Because the peasant tied the beast too tight when transporting it to the pond”. This had been the way that Siam had behaved, and the way that Siam had taken away Cambodian territories, like the provinces of Surin, Sisaket, Ubon. etc…
  5. The campaign of intoxication by Sondhi Limthongkun which proved to be unsuccessful up to now, has been turned to be a campaign of hatred from a raving lunatic who had his brain damaged by Thai bullets for his arrogance to the point of abasing himself. As the spokesperson of PRU had said before, “he, who sows the winds, will harvest the turbulence”. Therefore, Sondhi Limthongkun will wind up getting blown away and drown by Thai political typhoons. Sondhi Limthongkun is no longer a human being. He has turned into a beast and spoke cruelly and shamelessly about nonsense.

Once again, the Spokesperson of the PRU urges Thai political figures to put an end to the malicious campaign of innuendo, suggestion and speculation to fault Cambodia by raising the issue of the Temple of Preah Vihear based on their mysterious, unilateral and internationally unrecognized map, and to raise the enmity of Thai people towards Cambodia for their personal political gains in the midst of the squabbling among Thai politicians and the deep division of Thai society. The Spokesperson of the PRU strongly urges the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva to warn Sondhi Limthongkun to stop representing the Kingdom of Thailand as a whole as the kingdom of barbarians who think about violence, killing, cruelty by way of “decapitating and spiking head on the stick” as the way of political and social life. Last but not least, the Spokesperson of the PRU strongly urges the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva to take immediate action against Sondhi Limthongkun, for the sake of future good relations between Ihe two countries, for the simple reason that Sondhi Limthongkun, is less than a human being. He is indeed a cruel beast. Sondhi Limthongkun deserved to be muzzled and kept in the institution of deranged and dangerous people.

Phnom Penh, 24 August, 2010

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7043, 25.8.2010

  • Many Cubic Meters of Ebony Wood Are Exported into Thai Territory through the Thma Da Border Crossing with the Protection by Armed Personnel [Koh Kong]
  • Taiwan Advertised Medical Services in Cambodia [to attract Cambodians to receive medical services in Taiwan]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3967, 25.8.2010

  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Son Chhay Wants the Contract or Concession Documents to Be Published on the Website [Note: not found] of the Anti-Corruption Unit for Transparency
  • [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s Order to Intercept Forestry Crimes Is No Longer Followed [recently, there is more illegal wood transported]

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #39, 25.8.2010

  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal Will Begin Case 002 in 2011 [of the former Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Khiev Samphan, and Nuon Chea]
  • The Thai Ambassador Arrived in the Phnom Penh International Airport at 19:20 p.m [on 24 August 2010] and the Khmer Ambassador Will Depart at 9:40 a.m on Wednesday Morning [to Bangkok]
  • A Delegation of the European Parliament Comes to Study the Medical Sector in Cambodia

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #244, 25.8.2010

  • Cambodia Has Not Implemented the Competition Policy in Commerce as It Affects Local Companies [while they do not yet have enough ability – according to the Minister of Commerce, Mr. Cham Prasidh]
  • The Exports of Cambodia Still Face Problems Due to the Lack of Infrastructure [and expensive transportation]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5285, 25.8.2010

  • Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community Asked the King to Help Solve Problems of Khmer Kampuchea Krom People [by asking the Vietnamese government to release all Khmer citizens arrested by the Vietnamese authorities over land disputes and over the expression of opinions]
  • Vietnam Said within Six Months This Year There Were Nearly 120,000 Cambodian Tourist Arrivals in Vietnam

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
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Disregarding or Facing Agreements in the Press? – Sunday, 22.8.2010

Posted on 23 August 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 678 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 678

The Mirror was created to mirror the Khmer language press – that is to focus on important dynamics in society, as they are reflected in the press. That includes also to observe when there seem to be discrepancies between different streams of reporting. And it includes also to observe what seems not to be reported in the Khmer language press, though one would expect it.

Monitoring what is going on includes also to observe the reaction to one’s own publication. The main website of The Mirror by now gets up to 10,000 visits per month (it started in January 2007 with zero – replacing the former edition printed on paper).

While observing this wide interest with satisfaction, it is also disappointing to see that some important pieces of information, related to the conflicts with Thailand, are regularly not reported in the Khmer press. If this impression is wrong, we would appreciate to be informed which publications and public documents in the Khmer press we missed. The Mirror does not have access to confidential information; what we use and quote is publicly available, especially on the Internet.

In response to careful, detailed documentations, where we asked for specific responses, if our documentation is deficient, so that we can correct and improve it, there was either no response – and the public debate continues as if it were not missing some important points – or I get mail saying just “You are completely wrong!” I do not mind to get such mail, if it points to where I am wrong – I appreciate corrections.

Therefore I am repeating here some essential points, and I will do so until they are receiving proper attention in the present situation of tensions.

I was utterly surprised, talking recently to a friend who is a regular reader: when I mentioned some of the facts which had been on The Mirror repeatedly, he had obviously missed them. He thought the controversies about the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage list were related to Thailand referring to maps drawn by Thailand, and therefore Thailand was denying that the whole area around the Temple of Preah Vihear was designated a World Heritage Site.

The contrary is true, according to the documents. Emphasis in the following sections is added during editing.

For Preah Vihear

From the Cambodian 2008 submission document, THE TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR – Proposed for the inscription on the World Heritage List (UNESCO), Edited by the Council of Ministers, PHNOM PENH, JUNE 2008:

On 6 May 2008 His Excellency Mr. SOK An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, welcomed his Excellency Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand… The meeting was conducted in a fruitful and constructive atmosphere to discuss ways and means of strengthening the neighborly cooperation for a further reach for long lasting cooperation between Cambodia and Thailand… The Kingdom of Cambodia strongly stresses that the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear is without prejudice to the demarcation work of the Cambodian-Thai Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) between Cambodia and Thailand; and the zoning (“Zonage” in French) stipulated in the document submitted by Cambodia to UNESCO shall not be considered as boundary line.

And finally, during a meeting in Paris (France) on 22 May 2008 between a Cambodian delegation led by His Excellency Mr. SOK An,…The Kingdom of Thailand reconfirmed its support for the Heritage Committee to be held in Quebec, Canada in July 2008. For its part, the Kingdom of Cambodia, in a spirit of goodwill and conciliation, accepted to inscribe the Temple of Preah Vihear on the List of the World Heritage, at this stage, without a buffer zone on the north and west of the Temple.

On 18 June 2008, a Joint Communique was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, including a map presented and signed by Mr. Var Kim Hong, the Head of the Cambodian Border Committee, which was – as far as we know – never presented in the media in Cambodia (again – any correction of this information is welcome), but it was repeatedly in The Mirror, including the Cambodian proposed map for the listing, the last time here. The text says the following:

1. The Kingdom of Thailand supports the inscription, at the 32th session of the World Heritage Committee (Québec, Canada, July 2008), of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List proposed by the Kingdom of Cambodia, the perimeter of which is identified as N. 1 in the map prepared by the Cambodian authorities and herewith attached. The map also includes, identified as N.2, a buffer zone to the East and South of the Temple.

2. In the spirit of goodwill and conciliation, the Kingdom of Cambodia accepts that the Temple of Preah Vihear be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple.

3. The map mentioned in paragraph 1 above shall supersede the maps concerning and including the “Schéma Directeur pour le Zonage de Preah Vihear” as well as all the graphic references indicating the “core zone” and other zoning (zonage) of the Temple of Preah Vihear site in Cambodia’s nomination file;..”

This is the last public map, a Cambodian map, which was to “supersede” – that is: to replace – the formerly used Cambodian maps.

As a consequence, this was decided:

The World Heritage Committee,

9. Notes that the property proposed for inscription is reduced and comprises only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves;…

14. Requests the State Party of Cambodia, in collaboration with UNESCO, to convene an international coordinating committee for the safeguarding and development of the property no later than February 2009, inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand and not more than seven other appropriate international partners,…

15. Requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2009, the following documents: c) Confirmation that the management zone for the property will include the inscribed property and buffer zone identified in the RGPP [“revised graphic plan of the property”]; d) progress report on the preparation of the Management Plan)

All these points were to be implemented after convening this international coordinating committee, inviting the Government of Thailand and others, to work together and to present their results.

Questions:

– Why is the discussion in the Khmer media not referring to the official documents about the listing of the Temple of Preah Vihear, clearly limited in nature: “only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves.” This is not based on a map unilaterally drawn by Thailand, but it relates to what the Cambodian side had officially brought to the World Heritage Committee. – There were even statements from people in official positions saying: “There is nothing to be discussed with Thailand.”

– Why are the Khmer media disregarding that there were – from the beginning – the following requests by the World Heritage Committee: “to convene an international coordinating committee… inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand… [to provide the expected results] – a) a provisional map providing additional details of the inscribed property and a map delineating the buffer zone…” It has never been reported in the press that the Cambodian Government did invite the Thai Government according to this request by the World Heritage Committee. – There were even statements from people in official positions saying: “There are no buffer zones.”

Reading the documents, it seems that Thailand is not insisting on some unilaterally drawn Thai maps, but looks forward that the documented decisions of the World Heritage Committee be implemented.

For the Border

This is a different legal issue from the World Heritage Listing (though, of course, related).

In order to demarcate the border between the two countries, a Memorandum of Understanding “on the Survey and Demarcation of Land Boundary” was concluded between the two countries in June 2000, long before the Preah Vihear World Heritage Listing was on the agenda of the relevant UNESCO committee. This Memorandum is related to the whole stretch of the border. That the whole length of the approximately 800 km border is to be demarcated shows that both sides agreed that this is not yet done – there is not yet mutually agreed border. Both sides agreed on this – otherwise they would not have signed this joint agreement.

While there is frequent reference to this Memorandum of Understanding from 2000 in the Khmer press, it was quite difficult to find it in Cambodia, also consulting with several persons from the media did not help. One e-mail request to a friend in Thailand immediately provided a source on the Internet.

But there is a noteworthy difference in the handling of the related task: While in Thailand, related government officials and agencies are accountable to the Thai National Assembly about what they do related to the border – the executive is monitored by the legislative – we are not aware that either the Cambodian National Assembly nor the Khmer press have requested similar information to monitor the activities of the Cambodian government officials and agencies involved. The different legal arrangements under the different constitutions of both countries result in different procedures.

Shortly after Prime Minister Hun Sen had made his conciliatory declaration about a win-win solution by mutual dialogue without a winner and a loser, several statements from various other sectors of the government were released, strongly blaming Thailand and calling for multilateral negotiations. The Prime Minister added his voice – but more recent news say that there still may be a bilateral meeting between the two prime ministers soon in Brussels at an ASEN meeting.

Whatever the future will bring in terms of bilateral or multilateral meetings – the written submissions and the documented decisions will have to be faced. To continue to disregard them can hardly bring the solution where both sides win, the goal that Prime Minister Hun Sen has seen as important for all.

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Words Can Reveal or Obscure – Sunday, 15.8.2010

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

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 677

On Thursday, 12 August 2010, The Cambodia Daily had a headline that said:

Gov’t Refutes Court Order on Land Dispute

And in the text this is explained as follows:

Ratanakiri Provincial Court has ordered the province’s largest rubber company to temporarily stop operations…

But an official at the Ministry of Agriculture said that the order should not be carried out, as it would harm government revenues coming from the rubber sector.

“The injunction cannot be implemented because it is on state land,” Ly Phalla, director general of the Ministry of Agriculture’s rubber department said yesterday.

Is this acceptable? When some personal interest is negatively affected by a court order favoring an opposing side, it is understandable that an individual does not want to follow a court order. But a court order has to be obeyed anyway in a country under a Constitution like the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodian. Or an appeal to a higher court can be made.

Is this suggestion by a high ranking official at a ministry, calling not to obey a court order, acceptable? If it is not acceptable, it would be interesting to read the sanctions which were taken against such a position.

But it is not surprising, then, that there was also a report in The Mirror of Thursday, 12.8.2010 – see details there – saying:

The report by the Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology, Mr. Lim Kean Hor, does not relate to only one case, but he says that 45 illegally built reservoirs were already destroyed since 25 June 2010, but 239 illegal reservoirs which still are to be demolished, are located in the six provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Thom, Pursat, and Siem Reap. So it is a widespread fact, in spite of the criticism since many months, and an order by the Prime Minister in April 2010.

The Minister of Water Resources said he is just following the Prime Minister’s order, and “We reported and sent the name list of those people to Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen to consider and to decide an appropriate measure.” The list names some district governors and commune chiefs, suspected to be involved in collusion to protect illegal reservoirs which are ruining the Tonle Sap lake. Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhayly took a similar position: “We must cooperate to protect and conserve the Tonle Sap lake and engage in the conservation for the development of eco-tourism…. The Cambodian People’s Party must acknowledge what we did, because party officials such as district governors and commune chiefs signed on documents to allow the creation of those illegal reservoirs.” – “He will hold all responsibilities for everything if there are any of subordinate officials taking bribes and trying to prevent these newly-built basins from being destroyed by the Government’s local authorities,” he added.

This is quite different from the call from another Ministry’s department director. It is obvious where proper responsibility is taken to act, and where it is difficult to understand what is said by others in high positions.

And one may ponder what is more surprising – that a department director of a ministry can publicly call to disregard a court order, or that a ministers really does what has to be done, in spite of the fact that it will create displeasure among members of the same party, as it includes a public admission that the Cambodian People’s Party must acknowledge what was done wrong. Such admission clears the way to a new, and better start.

= = =

In quite a different context, the question of taking responsibility for words spoken by persons with public responsibility has also to be addressed.

Even as it is complex and difficult to navigate, The Mirror tries to mirror it – mirroring what is in the media; and this may not in all cases correctly reflect reality. But it all relates to the painful tensions between Cambodia and Thailand.

On 4.7.2010, The Mirror carried reports about allegations in the Thai press that two Thai citizens, supposed to have been involved in planting a bomb in Bangkok, fled to Cambodia. The Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers rejected such reports, calling on the Thai government to end what it described as a “malicious campaign to fault Cambodia…” The Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mr. Koy Kuong said that these allegations were “stupid.” – “Cambodia completely denies this kind of provocative information.” – “They raise incorrect information. When Thailand has problems, they blame Cambodia.” – “If Thailand denies that they have accused Cambodia, then they should make corrections in all their media that have published such false information,” he said. “I think this is a play from the Thai government officials, who speak out without taking responsibility for their comments.”

On 5.7.2010, one day later, The Mirror had a headline “Cambodia Will Hand Over Two Terrorist Suspects to Thai Embassy Officials on Monday” – they were arrested in Siem Reap. – Thai government officials did not have to apologize for a “malicious campaign” of “provocative information” and to correct wrong, “stupid” allegations, and they did not have to make corrections in all their media. While Thai government officials had been accused by their Cambodian counterparts of speaking out without taking responsibility for their comments. We are not aware that an apology for the accusations against the Thai side was published in all Cambodian media, that had carried the – now proved groundless – accusations against the related Thai voices.

Now again the Thai government is again urged by representatives of the Cambodian government to control their media better.

A press report from Thailand has been taken as the basis for a Cambodian appeal to the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, stating that the Thai Prime Minister’s words imply a violation of the UN charter – but the Thai Prime Minister claims that he was “misquoted, taken out of context and misunderstood” in what he had said in relation to the use of military force in border disputes. The Cambodian government sees this, on the other hand, as a Thai effort to blame the media, while actually continuing a Thai “toxic” campaign to confuse the public. And the Cambodian side retorts, in this war of words, that the Thai government should control its press better, and to publish immediately corrections, if necessary.

A similar need to correct supposedly problematic reports by the press was felt by the Cambodian side already once in February 2010. The international press had reported that the Cambodian Prime Minister had cursed his Thai counterpart:

“If you don’t tell the truth about Thai troops invading Cambodia, let magic objects break your neck, may you be shot, be hit by a car, may you be shocked by electricity or (may you be shot) by misfired guns.”

“Will Abhisit swear on having all his family members killed and having them (perish) in a plane crash, if (he still claims) that Thai troops did not invade Cambodia?”

In order to clarify the situation, the Cambodian Minister of Information, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, appealed to the media on 15.2.2010 to report correctly, saying that the Cambodian Prime Minister did not “curse” Mr. Abhisit, but just asked to swear that Thai troops did not invade Cambodia. “In the past, there are a lot of misunderstandings. So, I would kindly ask you to correct those words. Samdech (Hun Sen) did not curse, Samdech only ask Abhisit to swear whether Thai troops invaded Cambodia or not. If they didn’t invade Cambodia, just swear.”

Considering that most of the indirect exchanges over the press are – in addition to the difficult situation – mostly burdened by translations, from Thai to English, and from Khmer to English, and then re-translated again in the respective local media; there is enough room for emotional interpretation and misunderstanding.

“The Thai Prime Minister declared again that “Thailand is committed to solve the border dispute peacefully under the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding,” and the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An was quoted in the issue of Rasmei Kampuchea of 8-9.8.2010 also to appeal to adhere to this same Memorandum of Understanding.

But while the Cambodian Prime Minister also repeated this hope for a peaceful solution, he also warned last week again that the border tension could lead to “bloodshed,” a wording similar to his statement from October 2008, when the BBC reported that the Cambodia Prime Minster had threatened “all-out war, to turn the area around the disputed Preah Vihear temple into a ‘zone of death’.”

Is there any other way to what the Cambodian Prime Minister himself had said recently, as The Mirror reported:

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Preah Vihear – Who Said What and Why – Sunday, 1.8.2010

Posted on 4 August 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 675 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 675

When the media in both countries – Cambodia and Thailand – quote various sources to make conflicting claims, it is again an occasion to try to mirror these sources and leave it to our readers to draw their conclusions.

As ever, such a statement is always combined with the invitation to point out if the sources we quote are misquoted, or if there is an important reference missing. But it is not convincing to accuse the writer of this documentation simply to be wrong without showing substantive evidence, as happens sometimes. What follows is all based on publicly available documents. But as this case is complex, the following text is long; maybe a lot of confusion comes from not reading the texts. The pieces presented here were selected in the hope that some quick negative conclusions – not based on available texts, either disregarding, or even contradicting them – can be clarified. All this is written, to quote words from the final agreements negotiated by Senior Minister Sok An with representatives of Thailand and UNESCO before the decisive meeting of the World Heritage Committee in July 2008 – in a spirit of friendship and cooperation, in the spirit of goodwill and conciliation – as it is stated in the final joint document before the 2008 decisions.

The Early History

Going back in history is often necessary to clarify facts. But their meaning may have changed over time. As a German, I know that there was a time when the Germans considered that Karl der Grosse, crowned in the year 800 – not long before the temple of Preah Vihear was started to be built – is at the beginning of our German history, while also the French considered Charlemagne as their’s. Actually, at his time, he ruled over large parts of western and central Europe, not over France or Germany as they exist now. But since the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman – a French with a good German name – took the initiative in 1950 to create again common political entities in Europe – the European Union – we have almost forgotten the old historical and emotional divides.

There is a long pre-history for the present history of the Preah Vihear conflicts. But for the discussion of the present situation, it may be enough to start in 1962, when the International Court of Justice in The Hague came to the conclusion that it …FINDS THAT THE TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR IS SITUATED IN TERRITORY UNDER THE SOVEREIGNTY OF CAMBODIA.

Cambodian comments often go further back. Maybe this is not necessary, as the 1962 court ruling is not questioned by the political leadership of the governments of both sides, in spite of the fact that this is often disregarded or denied.

It is not surprising that some people, even some people with a wide group of supporters, have taken different positions. The present government of Thailand accepts the 1962 verdict. Whoever doubts this, should provide quotable evidence. Last week, after a group of Thai nationalists had demonstrated in front of the UNESCO office in Bangkok on 27.7.2010, rejecting any discussion of the status of Preah Vihear by the World Heritage Committee, the Thai prime minister invited representatives of the People’s Alliance for Democracy – PAD, widely overlapping in membership with the “Yellow-Shirts” – to clarify where he does not agree, and where he agrees with them. “The PAD wanted an end to the Thai-Cambodia Memorandum of Understanding, because it ‘turned a Thai territory into a disputed territory.’ But Abhisit thought that the MOU turned a territory that Cambodia thought to belong to them, to become a disputed territory. The PAD wanted the government to boycott the World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil, because attending the meeting would signify that Thailand accepted the listing of Preah Vihear as a world heritage site, and only disagreed with the temple’s management plan. But for the Thai prime minister, it is exactly the present management plan which he did not want to see accepted.

To disregard this point is obviously confusing, not clarifying, the state of affairs.

Or is it this way of interpreting the MOU – the Joint Communique – assumed to by the Thai prime minister’s one, also a reason why the media in Cambodia never published the Joint Communique (details further down), neither in Khmer nor in English? It is difficult to understand why such an important document, including a new Cambodian draws map, which was discussed in parliament in Thailand, was not – at that time or later – presented also to the Cambodian public.

The Preparations toward the Listing of the Temple of Preah Vihear

The inscription into the World Heritage List was first proposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen to the UNESCO Director General on 10 October 2001. The necessary detailed documentation was submitted on 20 January 2006. The Cambodian Nomination File was considered by the next session of the World Heritage committee, meeting from 23 June to 2 July 2007 in Christchurch/New Zealand.

Some of the detailed discussions and decisions of the World Heritage Committee may be surprising, as they are very practically oriented, according to the purpose of the World Heritage List, as described in the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. It is not about national interests, but about culture as “part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.”

Whilst fully respecting the sovereignty of the States on whose territory the cultural and natural heritage… is situated, and without prejudice to property right provided by national legislation, the States Parties to this Convention recognize that such heritage constitutes a world heritage for whose protection it is the duty of the international community as a whole to co-operate. (Article 6.1).

The inclusion of a property situated in a territory, sovereignty or jurisdiction over which is claimed by more than one State, shall in no way prejudice the rights of the parties to the dispute. (Article 11.3).

Therefore the Draft Summary Record of the decisions from the 2007 meeting show that the concerns of the World Heritage Committee are of an eminently practical nature, as the purpose of any listings is to make the cultural heritage of the world easily accessible. The notes from the Committee show this clearly:

Having taken note of the willingness to collaborate for the safeguarding of the property of the Sacred Temple of Preah Vihear, expressed by the States Parties of Cambodia and Thailand in the framework of the meetings of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand, Requests the State Party of Cambodia to implement, in close co-operation with the neighboring Government of Thailand, detailed arrangements for the conservation of the property, based on the principles expressed by the two States Parties at the 5th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand, especially in respect of:

a) Joint management;
b) The continued open border;
c) Mine clearance;
d) Protection of the natural forest areas surrounding the property, especially of small areas where burning has been recently observed on the Cambodian territory.

The formal decision from 2007 states not details, but simply the procedure to be followed:


The State Party of Cambodia and the State Party of Thailand are in full agreement that the Sacred Site of the Temple of Preah Vihear has Outstanding Universal Value and must be inscribed on the World Heritage List as soon as possible.
Accordingly, Cambodia and Thailand agree that Cambodia will propose the site for formal inscription on the World Heritage List at the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee in 2008 with the active support of Thailand…
The World Heritage Committee, further requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit a progress report to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2008.

As a result of the understanding achieved at the 2007 meeting, preparations for 2008 started, marked by a number of joint Cambodian-Thai agreements and declarations. They are all quoted in the very large 2008 Submission Document:





THE TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR
Proposed for the inscription on the World Heritage List (UNESCO)

Edited by the Council of Ministers

PHNOM PENH
JUNE 2008

This document, presented to the public in the name of the Council of Ministers, in English (later, before the World Heritage Committee Meeting, it was also made available in Arab, French, and Spanish), presents the positive common experiences on the way to the listing of the Temple of Preah Vihear, saying:

In a spirit of friendship, neighborliness and mutual understanding between the two countries, the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand have been working together in recent months to strengthen dialogue and consultation in a number of areas of mutual interests. These fruitful developments focus in particular on inscribing the TEMPLE OF PREAH VIHEAR on the World Heritage List in 2008. Thailand has confirmed its decision, as expressed at the 31st Session of the World Heritage Committee held in Christchurch (New Zealand, 23 June to 2 July 2007), to support the inscription of the Sacred Site of the Temple of Preah Vihear.

These confirmations were made:

1

Firstly, by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, His Excellency Mr. Samak Sundaravej, on the occasion of his visit to Phnom Penh on 3 and 4 March 2008 at the invitation of His Excellency Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo HUN Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia

2

On 6 May 2008 His Excellency Mr. SOK An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, welcomed his Excellency Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul, Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand accompanied by a Thai delegation during their visit to Phnom Penh. The Kingdom of Cambodia strongly stresses that the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear is without prejudice to the demarcation work of the Cambodian-Thai Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC) between Cambodia and Thailand; and the zoning (“Zonage” in French) stipulated in the document submitted by Cambodia to UNESCO shall not be considered as boundary line.

3

And finally, during a meeting in Paris (France) on 22 May 2008 between a Cambodian delegation led by His Excellency Mr. SOK An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers and a Thai Delegation led by His Excellency Mr. Noppadon Pattama, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand in the presence of a number of UNESCO eminent members, led by Her Excellency the Deputy Director General of UNESCO for Culture, Mrs. Françoise RIVIERE. The Kingdom of Thailand reconfirmed its support Heritage Committee to be held in Quebec, Canada in July 2008. For it part, the Kingdom of Cambodia, in a spirit of goodwill and conciliation, accepted to inscribe the Temple of Preah Vihear on the List of the World Heritage, at this stage, without a buffer zone on the north and west of the Temple

This wording became part of the JOINT COMMUNIQUE of 18 June 2008, a joint Cambodian-Thai-UNESCO declaration, the last common step towards the World Heritage Committee meeting on 8 July 2008.






JOINT COMMUNIQUE

On 22 May 2008, a meeting took place between H.E. Mr. Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of Cambodia and H.E. Mr. Noppadon Pattama, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, to continue their discussion regarding the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List. The meeting was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris in the presence of Mrs. Françoise Rivière, Assistant Director General for Culture of UNESCO, Ambassador Francesco Caruso, Mr. Azedine Beschaouch, Mrs. Paola Leoncini Bartoli and Mr. Giovanni Boccardi. The meeting was held in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. During the meeting both sides agreed as follows:


  1. The Kingdom of Thailand supports the inscription, at the 32th session of the World Heritage Committee (Quebec, Canada, July 2008), of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List proposed by the Kingdom of Cambodia, the perimeter of which is identified as N. 1 in the map prepared by the Cambodian authorities and herewith attached. The map also includes, identified as N.2, a buffer zone to the East and South of the Temple.
  2. In the spirit of goodwill and conciliation, the Kingdom of Cambodia accepts that the Temple of Preah Vihear be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple.
  3. The map mentioned in paragraph 1 above shall supersede the maps concerning and including the “Schema Directeur pour le Zonage de Preah Vihear” as well as all the graphic references indicating the “core zone” and other zoning (zonage) of the Temple of Preah Vihear site in Cambodia’s nomination file;
  4. Pending the results of the work of the Joint Commission for Land Boundary (JBC) concerning the northern and western areas surrounding the Temple of Preah Vihear, which are identified as N. 3 in the map mentioned in paragraph 1 above, the management plan of these areas will be prepared in a concerted manner between the Cambodian and Thai authorities in conformity with the international conservation standards with a view to maintain the outstanding universal value of the property. Such management plan will be included in the final management plan for the Temple and its surrounding areas to be submitted to the World Heritage Center by 1st February 2010 for the consideration of the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010;
  5. The inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List shall be without prejudice to the rights of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand on the demarcation works of the Joint Commission for Land Boundary (JBC) of the two countries; 6. The Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand express their profound appreciation to the Director-General of UNESCO, H.E. Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, for his kind assistance in facilitating the process towards the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear on the World Heritage List.

Phnom Penh, 18 June 2008               Bangkok, 18 June 2008

For the Royal Government For the Government of the Kingdom

of Cambodia, of Thailand, (signed) (signed) Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers Paris, 18 June 2008 Representative of the UNESCO (signed) Assistant Director-General for Culture



Cambodian Joint Communique Map



There had been some final problems: The Cambodian side, represented by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and Senior Minister in Charge of Border Affairs Var Kimhong – “in the spirit of goodwill and conciliation” – negotiated and made incisive decisions (having the former Cambodian map as well as graphic references, referring to the 1962 decisions “superseded” by the new Cambodian side map presented here, declaring that Cambodia “accepts that the Temple of Preah Vihear be nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List without at this stage a buffer zone on the northern and western areas of the Temple” – all this without much discussion in the Cambodian public. On the other side, however, the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs was instructed by the Constitutional Court of Thailand that the government would need, for such decision, the authorization by the Thai parliament.

In spite of these last minute reservations, the World Heritage Committee declared the Temple of Preah Vihear a World Heritage site. Instead of peaceful continued cooperation, confrontation and violence followed.

As far as we were able to monitor the Khmer media, the Joint Communique, and the appended map, were never published in the Cambodia press. Neither were the conditions published, which accompanied the listing of the Temple of Preah Vihear. The Decisions of the World Heritage Committee, meeting from 2 to 10 July 2008 in Quebec/Canada, state the following (excerpts):


“The World Heritage Committee,


  1. Recalling Decision 31 COM 8B.24, which recognized ‘that the Sacred Site of the Temple of Preah Vihear is of great international significance and has Outstanding Universal Value on the basis of criteria (i), (iii) and (iv), and agreed in principle that it should be inscribed on the World Heritage List’,

  1. Recognizing that the Joint Communique signed on 18 June 2008 by the representatives of the Governments of Cambodia and Thailand, as well as by UNESCO, including its draft which was erroneously referred to as having been signed on 22 and 23 May 2008 in the document WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1.Add.2, must be disregarded, following the decision of the Government of Thailand to suspend the effect of the Joint Communique, pursuant to the Thai Administrative Court’s interim injunction on this issue,

  1. Notes that the property proposed for inscription is reduced and comprises only the Temple of Preah Vihear and not the wider promontory with its cliffs and caves;

  1. Encourages Cambodia to collaborate with Thailand for safeguarding the value of the property, in view of the fact that peoples of the surrounding region have long treasured the Temple of Preah Vihear,…

  1. Inscribes the Temple of Preah Vihear, Cambodia, on the World Heritage List…

  1. Requests the State Party of Cambodia, in collaboration with UNESCO, to convene an international coordinating committee for the safeguarding and development of the property no later than February 2009, inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand and not more than seven other appropriate international partners, to examine general policy matters relating to the safeguarding of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in conformity with international conservation standards;

  1. Requests the State Party of Cambodia to submit to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2009, the following documents:

a) a provisional map providing additional details of the inscribed property and a map delineating the buffer zone identified in the RGPP;
b) updated Nomination dossier to reflect the changes made to the perimeter of the property
c) Confirmation that the management zone for the property will include the inscribed property and buffer zone identified in the RGPP;
d) progress report on the preparation of the Management Plan.

These requirements – to convene an international coordinating committee, to cooperate with the Thai government, to provide a map delineating the buffer zone identified in the Cambodian government – were, according to our monitoring of the press in Cambodia, never published, nor any information about the content of reports submitted by the Cambodian side. Quite to the contrary, and surprisingly, a highly placed spokesperson at the Cambodian Council of Ministers, distanced himself from the results achieved by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, claiming that “there is no buffer zone,” and ‘there is nothing to be negotiated with Thailand.”



After a year of tensions, confrontations, and occasional fighting, the World Heritage Committee, meeting in Sevilla/Spain from 22 June to 30 June 2009, could not do much more than the following; it

Requests the State Party [of Cambodia] to submit to the World Heritage Center, by 1 February 2010, a report on the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations by the Committee in its Decision 32 COM 8B.102 [2008 in Quebec/Canada], for the examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.” The decision 32 COM 8B.102 is the one which requests, as stated above, “to convene an international coordinating committee… inviting the participation of the Government of Thailand and not more than seven other appropriate international partners…

In spite of these clear requests by the World Heritage Committee for cooperation, the Thai government declared, even some days before the recent meeting in Brazil, that they had not received any invitation to cooperate, nor information about the Cambodian submission. As a result, representatives of the Thai government, up to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, stated that Thailand could not accept a decision about a management plan, though Thailand would have had to be involved in its consideration, if previous recommendations of the World Heritage Committee would have been implemented.



On the other hand, there were various statements from the Cambodian side – quite different from the spirit of friendship and conciliation, which had been regularly invoked in former joint statements. The following is published especially because it is so different from the attitude in which Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Minister of the Council of Ministers, had brought forward the process toward the listing of Preah Vihear in 2008. Under the date 29.6.2010, the Spokesman & Deputy Director, Office of the Council of Ministers’ Press Department, distributed an opinion text widely to many members of the media, written by Pen Ngoeun, Advisor to the Office of the Council of Ministers, member of the Advisory Board of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PRU) of the Office of the Council of Ministers – with the following qualifying note: “This article represents only the personal opinion of the writer, and does not reflect under any shape and form the opinion of the PRU nor that of the Office of the Council of Ministers. Considering the way of its distribution and the pubic positions of the author and of the person who distributed the text, and its timing, it seem to be worth while to quote some sections from it:



29 June 2010


OPINION
WILL THAILAND’S ENMITY TOWARDS CAMBODIA END:


Will it end one day, and soon enough, after 150 years of its happening? Cambodia had nothing to do with it.


Its source was the failure of Siam King Mong Kut and his ministers. Colonel F. Bernard, President of the French Commission for the delimitation of the French-Siamese border in virtue of the Convention of 13 February 1904 had made an observation about the Thais, which is worth remembered. He said: “the superiority of their self-esteem was the primary cause of their troubles and misfortune… He wrote in a book published in 1933, “L’Ecole des Diplomates, within the context of the Thai diplomacy during the reign of king Mong Kut of Thailand, the reign of King Ang Duong of Cambodia and the mission of M. de Montigny, the plenipotentiary of the French Emperor Napoleon III to the court of King Mong Kut. Colonel F. Bernard had mentioned as well that: “The ministers of Siam have had negotiated for a long time already with England and America; they have the intelligence and the ability of the Westerners, which obviously had made them to acquire that “superiority of their self-esteem” which is equated in recent times to “arrogance” and “condescension” which are the current state of mind of the government of Abhisit Vijjajeva, with “former terrorist” turned foreign minister Kasit Pyromya, and the malicious and machiavellic [deputy prime minister] Suthep Thaugsuban at his sides… In 1853 King Ang Duong of Cambodia wrote a letter to the French Emperor Napoleon III to express his friendship and solicit his support. The immediate consequence of which had been to stop the armies of Siam from marching at will into Cambodia to conquest and ravage the many provinces of Cambodia to the West and North, and to relieve Cambodia from paying tributes to Bangkok. Siam, now Thailand always acts like a hungry mad dog that missed a good piece of meat and had never stopped dreaming about it, since…

The arrogance, the condescension, and the obstinacy which cause the failure of King Mong Kut and his ministers from executing the annexation policy by annihilating Cambodia and her people create an endless nostalgia that Thailand had never allowed itself to wake up and liberate itself from the bad dream of the hungry mad dog. Therefore, Thailand’s territorial ambition on Cambodian territories has become its grand design to be executed by the government of Thailand if any of such a government wishes to have a reasonable life span. From then on, Thailand has learn, acquired, and mastered the art of distortion of the facts, dissemination of misinformation and disinformation, the art of accusation, of denial with arrogance, condescension and obstinacy… In 1954, not even a mere one year after Cambodia acquired full independence from France, Thai armed forces occupied the Temple of Preah Vihear, to be ordered out by the international will, the LaHaye ICJ Judgments of 15 June 1962. Finally, Thailand has made official, its territorial ambition on Cambodian territories in 2007 in Christchurch, New Zealand during the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee by presenting for the first time to such an important international gathering a map dressed up unilaterally and secretly by Thailand and thus laying claim on an area of 4.6 km sq. inside the Cambodian territory near the Temple of Preah Vihear, as an objection of various uncoordinated, confusing, illegitimate, and nonsense motives to the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear to the World Heritage List. Again, Thailand’s arrogance, condescension, and obstinacy were its primary troubles and misfortune. In 2008, the Temple of Preah Vihear was inscribed unanimously on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee…

And again, some sections of another opinion piece, from the same origin, distributed in the same way, on 13.7.2010:

Thailand plans to oppose a management plan for the Preah Vihear temple while overlapping territory nearby remains subject to dispute, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya says. Cambodia does not have “an overlapping territory” with Thailand. There was a claim by Thailand that uses the unilateral map in similar fashion as the Nazis (led by Hitler) and the Fascists (led by Mussolini) for the purpose sending troops to invade and occupy foreign territory.

One cannot be sure if this is an attack against Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, or whether Mr. Pen Ngoeun, though he is an Advisor to the Office of the Council of Ministers, a member of the Advisory Board of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PRU) of the Office of the Council of Ministers, does not know that the documents, elaborated with great care by the Deputy Prime Minister, spell out in detail the buffer zones, otherwise referred to as overlapping territories, and it was the Cambodian side, that presented a map to “supersede” the formerly used maps, relating to the 1962 decision of the International Court of Justice.

To make sure that Kasit does not bang his head too much against the wall from trying to come up with new innuendo, suggestion and speculation, here is a crude fact to chew: The Temple of Preah Vihear has been inscribed on the World Heritage List since 2008. Kasit need to pick up the WHC 32 COM 8B. 102 and read it… It is clear from a few sentences above, that Cambodia has implemented the requirements of the World Heritage Committee – WHC – and has conformed herself to the procedures set forth by the Committee. And NOT to leave the door wide open for speculation and mind twisting, Deputy permanent secretary for culture Somsuda Leyananija has the task to tell the truth, as to why… Let’s play the game, fair and square in conformity with the WHC rules and procedures.

It s reported that Cambodia had submitted a progress report to the World Heritage Secretariat, but two weeks before the meeting in Brazil, it had neither be distributed to the members of the committee, it had not been shared with Thailand – in spite of the recommendation by the World Heritage Committee that Cambodia should seek such cooperation – and its content had also not been made available to the public in Cambodia. None of the UNESCO and World Heritage Committee Press Releases, which describe in detail the many decisions taken recently in Brazil, make any reference to Preah Vihear. But the fact that the Cambodian report was forwarded again to next year’s meeting – similarly to what had been done also from 2009 to 2010 – is now reported in Cambodia as a big victory for Cambodia. Asked about his comment, the Thai prime minister said: “Please find out and read the resolution yourself.”

The official Cambodian side acted differently: within 4 hours, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers issued two long statements on 2.8.2010, a “Summary” about the Brazil session, mainly referencing questions of the conservation of the site without reference to any past action taken by the formerly requested joint international elaboration of plans, and some hours later a “Clarification,” stressing that “it was Cambodia who has achieved immense victory,” because the World Heritage Committee:

Takes note that the World Heritage Center has the documents submitted by the State Party;
Further welcomes the steps taken by the State Party towards the establishment of an international coordinating committee for the sustainable conservation of the Temple of Preah Vihear’
Decides to consider the documents submitted by the State Party at its 35th session in 2011.

These are the officially recorded successes. The Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers adds, however, some remarks about a Thai “intoxication campaign” against the Cambodian management plan, a campaign which “was a total debacle because Thailand had no substantive arguments.” The Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers presented its own arguments as follows:

On the contrary, the Thai intoxication campaigns’ spending of B10 millions with the dispatch of 50 delegates in order to oppose the management plan at the site of the Cambodian Temple of Preah Vihear, was a total debacle because Thailand had no substantive arguments against the World Heritage Centre Report of the two documents submitted by Cambodia. Moreover, Thailand has failed in its efforts to have the Temple inscribed by the two countries, and has failed in its efforts to have joint management of the Temple.

The Press and Quick Reaction unit of the Office of Council of Ministers notes that the signing of the Compromise Decision 34 COM, 7B.66 by Cambodia, Thailand, and witnessed by the Chairperson for the 34th Session of the World Heritage Committee in Brazil clearly affirmed the recognition by all parties concerned of the official documents concerning the Management Plan for the conservation and sustainable development at the site of the Cambodian Temple of Preah Vihear, which had never been recognized previously.

It is obvious that the intoxication campaign by the Thai Government to lure the local and international public opinion has adversely damaged its own image and credit as an old saying which goes “If you fan the flame, you blow up the fire or As you sow, so shall you reap.”

To underline further the failure of the Thai Government, it must be stressed for the benefits of the public and international opinion that it is not like what the Thai Government claimed that it had succeeded to “postpone”the Management Plan to next year. In fact, the WHC final decision did not mention either about the terms Postpone – Defer or Delay but choose to use the wording Consider which means that the documents submitted by Cambodia, namely the Progress Report on the State of Conservation and Development of Preah Vihear and its Management Plan, were officially received by WHC and will consider it at the next session.

Much information is available – what will be the next steps? One journalist suggests that “facing reality” may be the only way out, and this includeds new open, mutual talking, again “in a spirit of friendship and cooperation, in the spirit of goodwill and conciliation”

Part of the reality is also geography.

The Temple of Preah Vihear

The Temple of Preah Vihear

This picture provides a view over the Temple of Preah Vihear: 500 meters down, to the left, is the landscape of the Cambodian Province of Preah Vihear; the temple lies at a different level, high above the plain. Until mid 2008, it was easily accessible for thousands of tourists, approaching the Temple of Preah Vihear from the Thai side, on the right of the picture, from the Khao Pra Viharn National Park.

After all, a World Heritage Site is according, to the UNESCO World Heritage concept, “part of the world heritage of mankind as a whole.”






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Free access to free flowing information – Sunday, 27.6.2010

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

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 670

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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On World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, an Appeal Was Made Not to Restrict the Freedom of Expression of Cambodian Journalists – Tuesday, 4.5.2010

Posted on 5 May 2010. Filed under: Week 663 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 663

“At least 11 journalists are reported to have been killed unjustly [since 1992 in Cambodia], and the perpetrators who killed them were not convicted according to the law. On the World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2010, journalists and civil society organizations in Cambodia appealed for the elimination of restrictions on the freedom of expression of Cambodian journalists, which until now result in suffering just because they write and express their opinions.

“Cambodian Journalists met to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2010 to assess the situation of journalists in the previous year, and to point to various difficulties they are encountering in Cambodia. The most noticeable issue is the creation of new Penal Code, where observers and especially legal experts consider that it contains several points which may newly define crimes of journalists.

“The president of the Press Council of Cambodia, which has 15 major press associations as members, Mr. Sok Sovann, said that the World Press Freedom Day is an occasion where Cambodian journalists can gather to commemorate national and international journalists who lost their lives, were arrested, or are jailed because of their work as journalists. Mr. Sok Sovann added that the Press Council of Cambodia used 3 May 2010 as the date to inaugurate its headquarters, and there will be a commemoration for the Japanese journalist who recently was killed in Siam [Thailand]. Also, there will be a celebration for the creation of a memorial monument to commemorate former leading journalists.

“The Director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Research, Mr. Moeun Chhean Narith, monitored the progress of the press in Cambodia and noticed that the freedom of expression in Cambodia in 2009 dropped, compared to 2008. He added that some journalists were arrested and some were intimidated while they were covering events.

“Also, Reporters without Borders issued a report in February 2010, saying that freedom of expression in Cambodia remains difficult, as many journalists had to face accusations at courts, and some others are in detention or in prison. Fulfilling the work of a journalist in Cambodia is difficult due to the restrictions on press freedom.

“High ranking officials of the Sam Rainsy Party noticed that the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression in Cambodia were restricted, narrowing the space of democracy. It is recalled that journalists with a tendency towards the opposition party had frequently received threats. Even the parliamentarian Sam Rainsy had the expression of his ideas restricted during the sessions of the National Assembly, making some parliamentarians to wear masks as a sign of the restriction of the freedom of expression.

“Also the Cambodian Center for Human Rights released a statement for immediate publication, saying that the International Press Freedom Day is celebrated this year to mark the downturn of press freedom in Cambodia. Since Cambodia has practiced democracy since 1992, at least 11 journalists and those working related to journalism who criticized the Cambodian government are reported to have been murdered.

“The statement continues to say that at present, journalists and those working related to journalism are challenged with mistreatments through accusations embedded with politics and criticism. This violates the fundamental rights for expressing ideas as guaranteed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which are included in and protected by Article 31 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“The statement adds that the overuse of laws to intimidate and to suppress the media through torture, criminal charges, and mistreatment, blocks the open development of journalism in Cambodia and forces journalists to use self-censorship when expressing their opinions, so that they do not irritate the rich and the powerful. The Cambodian Center for Human Rights asked the government to promote and to protect press freedom and the freedom of expression in Cambodia.

“The Cambodian Center for Human Rights supports journalists, as some have faced mistreatment, violence, and intimidation when they received complaints for trying to report truth, justice, and responsibility, and the report praised journalists who had sacrificed their lives, struggling to promote the basic principles of the freedom of expression and of democracy.

“The names of the 11 murdered journalists are given by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights as

  1. Mr. Thou Thormongkol murdered on 11 June 1994
  2. Mr. Non Chan murdered on 7 September 1994
  3. Mr. Chan Dara on 8 December 1994
  4. Mr. Thun Bunly on 18 May 1996
  5. Mr. Chet Duongdara on 30 March 1997
  6. Mr. Pich Em on 4 May 1997
  7. Mr. Michael Sokhan Sinea on 7 July 1997
  8. Mr. Ou Saroeun on 15 October 1997
  9. Mr. Chour Chetharith on 18 October 2003
  10. Mr. Pov Sam Ath on 26 April 2007
  11. Mr. Khim Sambou on 11 July 2008

“The Ministry of Information of Cambodia published in its 2009 report that in Cambodia there are 385 newspapers, 50 newsletters, 172 magazines, 21 journalists associations, and several radio and television stations. Frequently, the Minister of Information called on journalists to closely adhere to their journalistic and moral codes, so that they can avoid complaints and mistreatment.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3868-3969, 3-4.5.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #466-468, 1-4.5.2010

  • The Attempt to Present the Film “Who Killed Chea Vichea” [killed in 2004 – the head of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers] Failed [as the police took the projection screen away – as there was no permission given by the Phnom Penh municipality]
  • China Announced to Provide Aid of Yuan 100 Million [approx. US$15 Million; plus 257 new military trucks and 50,000 soldiers’ uniforms] to Cambodia, and Continues to Support Cambodia
  • The Resulting Omen from the Royal Ploughing Ceremony: Corn Will Provide Good Yields, and Beans Offer Fairly Good Yields [there is no prediction about paddy rice yield, as the royal oxen ate little paddy rice]
  • One Day Before the International Labor Day, the Director and Staff of the Deum Ampil News Center Received a Letter with Death Threats from an Anonymous Sender

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2237-2239, 1-4.5.2010

  • Within One Year [from 3 April 2009 to 3 April 2010], Twenty Four Journalists Were Arrested [compared to the corresponding period in the previous year, when there were only two] and There Were Ten Complaints against Journalists [according to the Club of Cambodian Journalists]
  • Every Year Cambodia Imports Fruits from Thailand Amounting to About Baht 1 Billion [approx. US$31 Million]
  • [Minister of Information] Khieu Kanharith: The Opposition Party Still Uses Chea Vichea for Political Gain [as it implies that the government was behind his murder]

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #271, 3.5.2010

  • Most Wood Traders Are Oknhas – Is It Therefore that [Prime Minister] Hun Sen Does Not Dare to Bring Them to Court?

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #644-646, 1-4.5.2010

  • The Right to Know Remains a Problem, if the Government Is Not Open to Support Press Freedom [according to the Club of Cambodian Journalists]
  • Chea Vichea’s Daughter, Chea Vichita, Asked Her Mom, ‘Why Was Dad Murdered while He Did Such Good Things?’

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6944-6946, 1-4.5.2010

  • The Government Starts to Conduct a New Census on Civil Servants to Control Their Real Number
  • An Anti-Drug Police Colonel Is under Arrest for Drug Smuggling [Phnom Penh]
  • While Gold Sellers Were Preparing Themselves in the Morning to Travel from Their Home to the Market, They Were Robed by [three] Robbers Who Took Away Jewelry Worth More Than US$100,000 [Battambang]
  • [The Mega] Night Club Was Raided by Police at Midnight, Arresting 109 Men and Women [Phnom Penh]
  • Seven Died and Thirteen Others Were Injured in a Traffic Accident When a Car Hit Cows Crossing the Road [Sihanoukville]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3868-3969, 3-4.5.2010

  • On World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, an Appeal Was Made Not to Restrict the Freedom of Expression of Cambodian Journalists

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #162-163, 3-4.5.2010

  • China Promised to Support Cambodia in the Fields of Military, Investments, and the Economy
  • Cambodia and Japan Will Sign an Oil Exploration Agreement Today [for the Tonle Sap area]
  • [Former Phnom Penh police chief] Heng Pov Claims that there Is Torture in the Prisons
  • [Thai Prime Minister] Abhisit Vijjajiva: New Elections Can Be Held on 14 November 2010

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5186-5188, 1-4.5.2010

  • On the International Labor Day on 1 May Trade Unions Demanded that their Salaries Should Be Increased, and the Rules for Their Work Conditions Should Be Respected
  • The Prime Minister Called on Institutions Involved to Strengthen the Observation of the Labor Law
  • 10 Out of 1,000 Children in Cambodia Have Heart Diseases [according to Dr. Hav Rathneary, a Cambodia child heart disease expert]
  • The Preah Vihear Court Led Armed Forces to Confiscate More Than 100 Cubic Meters of [illegally cut] Wood
  • The Biggest Fertilizer Companies in Vietnam [PetroVietnam Fertilizer and Chemicals Joint Stock Company] Enter into the Cambodian Market [by establishing an office in Cambodia]

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“Cambodian Officials Need Education About Press Freedom” – Monday, 12.4.2010

Posted on 13 April 2010. Filed under: Week 660 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Because of the Khmer New Year holidays 14 to 16 April 2010, life during this whole week is different; actually, already since Friday last week, music and the voices of people playing special New Year games, and of groups of friends going out together, indicated that the festive season began already.

This affects also publications, and some offices – also the Open Institute – are closed for a week. Our regular publications will therefore start only on Monday, 19 April. But we will supply our readers with some information also during this week.

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 660

Concerned with the situation of journalists in Cambodia, Mr. Moeun Chhean Nariddh, the Director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, Phnom Penh, wrote the following statement, which was published in The Cambodia Daily in the edition of Saturday-Sunday, 10-11 April 2010, from which we quote:

“As media professionals, we are very disappointed at the continued use of the court by Cambodian officials to sue journalists for defamation and disinformation.

“The recent lawsuits respectively brought by police officers in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces against Koh Santepheap newspaper reporters have indicated officials’ lack of understanding of the press freedom enshrined in the Cambodian Constitution.

Article 31 of the Constitution states: ‘The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights…’

Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly says: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’

“Similarly, Article 19 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:

  1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; the right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of choice.

“To assert Cambodia’s obligation under these international treaties, Cambodia adopted the Khmer Press Law in 1995.

Article 4 of the Press Law states: ‘Publication of official information such as statements, meetings, meeting minutes or reports etc. may not be penalized if such publication is fully true or an accurate summary of the truth.’

“This is what the reporter in Siem Reap did by quoting a police officer’s report for his story.

“It’s sad that the two reporters in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey have been arrested and may face criminal charges of defamation and disinformation, though Article 20 of the Press Law says: ‘…No person shall be arrested or subject to criminal charges as a result of expression of opinion.’

“Of course, journalists may make innocent mistakes in doing their professional work to meet the public’s right to know.

“However, courts need to find two sets of evidence to find journalists guilty of defamation or disinformation.

  • “First, it needs to prove that an article reported is false and defamatory due to a journalist’s negligence or lack of information.
  • “Second, the court must show that the journalist has produced the defamatory article out of his or her malicious intent.

Yet, most journalists are just fulfilling their professional obligation to keep the public informed of what happened, whether it is good or bad news. They do not intend to harm anybody’s reputation though some stories turn out to be false.

“Meanwhile, journalists are bound by the professional code of ethics to balance their reporting as far as a controversial story is concerned.

. . .

“In a separate but related lawsuit, we highly commend the Takeo Provincial Court for acquitting a reporter of Radio Free Asia of criminal defamation and disinformation.

“We hope that the Siem Reap Court officials will follow this good example. We also hope that the Cambodian officials will study journalist’s rights and freedoms enshrined in the laws before another similar lawsuit is brought against another media professional.”

.

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The Law and the Environment of the Law – Sunday, 21.2.2010

Posted on 22 February 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 652 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 652

Very often, when some international media, or some voices in Cambodia deplore what is seen as violations of human rights or just other forms of suffering of some people when their living space – they land on which they lived and the small shelter they built on it – is taken away, the justification is often to say: But it is done according to the law!

While this is sometimes open for controversial interpretations, in other cases it may be perfectly true. But this still does not mean that those who are at the weaker end of the conflict do not suffer, whether they know the law or not.

But there are obviously also cases where it is surely quite difficult for the public to understand the complexity of some legislation – and if it is not easy to understand the rules, there is a lower motivation to follow them – though this is normally wrong not to follow the law.

During the municipal annual reflection meeting looking back at 2009, the Governor of Phnom Penh proudly mentioned that as part of clean-up operations in crime prone environments, also gambling was targeted – all together 1,152 gambling sites had been intercepted. – And in the same week we report that a new casino starts to operate: US$100 million have been invested to create 6,000 jobs.

Surely both elements of this report are based on some laws. Whether the difference is easy to understand or not, is a different question.

About the same meeting of the Phnom Penh municipality it is reported: “The firm position of the Phnom Penh Municipality in 2010 is not like that in 2009; it will not allow dishonest officials to keep on committing bad activities towards the people… previously, some officials used the opportunity of their positions to extort money from the people. But now, [Mr. Kep Chuktema, the Phnom Penh Governor,] warned, saying that officials doing such bad activities will no longer be tolerated.”

During last year the law was not kept by all, as the Governor says, but nothing happened – during this year, however, the law has to be kept. What is the difference? It is the same laws – so will those who did not keep it last year be convinced to now keep it? It is not reported that those, whose money had been extorted, did get it back, nor that whose, who had used the opportunity to misuse their positions for their personal gain were punished. What is changed?

The authorities set again a deadline for illegal pharmacies to apply for licenses – that about half of the more than 2,000 pharmacies operate without a licenses, is known, exposing the public to dangers.

There were also reports about special initiatives by the Prime Minister, either to clarify some gray areas related to the use and registration of cars, or, more seriously, that past and present violations of the law by military personal, which went so far unpunished, should stop.

Some time ago, the Prime Minister had ordered to remove RCAF license plates from private cars to avoid irregularities. A member of the National Assembly from an opposition party found out: “But recently, there appear again several cars using RCAF number plates, and such number plates are used even on some foreigners’ cars and on private trucks for [private] businesses; this can be considered as an illegitimate use of state cars for business, and driving for personal pleasure.” This impression cannot be avoided when one sees who is using some cars with RCAF license plates, and where, and when. But – says the Ministry of Defense – all is now legal. Where private cars are used with military license plates, they have been “contracted” to the state. Does this lead to clarity? Why would anybody contract one’s private care to the state? Why not the other way round: If a state owned vehicle is used also for private purposes, why is it not leased to the private user for an appropriate fee, with a private license plate?

That the new emphasis on the enforcement of the new traffic law is not only leading to a better compliance with the law, becomes clear from the following report – again by a parliamentarian of an opposition party (the much larger number of parliamentarians from the government party were not reported to take such personal initiatives to strengthen the rule of law): Traffic police established check points to extort money from citizens near the Chroy Changva bridge, where police stop and “check” cars and trucks to make them pay money without giving our receipts – keeping some money for themselves, and sharing some with their next higher level superiors.

And the new, strong statements against forest crimes? “The transport of luxury wood in the Thala Barivat district of Stung Treng continues without any disturbance by the authorities.”

The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia, Mr. Surya Prasad Subedi, reported after his second visit to the country on 26 January 2010, that he is encouraged from his positive meetings with Cambodian highest level political leader, as he saw especially progress in the strengthening of legal frameworks: “The Government has been receptive to some of the suggestions, including developing binding national guidelines on land evictions, making the law-making process more transparent by sharing draft legislation which has an impact on human rights issues with the wider community, and creating a Government and civil society forum in order to foster an environment of cooperation to strengthen democracy and human rights in the country.”

As so often in the past, it has to be repeated again and again: Not only the quality of laws, but their implementation is decisive.

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Justice in the Midst of Conflicts – Sunday, 24.1.2010

Posted on 26 January 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 648 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 648

The report on the increasing number of rapes, especially also of young girls less then 10 year old, in some cases ending with the killing of the victim, carried a terrifying comment: “Law enforcement by the relevant authorities, especially the courts, remained limited, as giving impunity to perpetrators continued,” continuing: “The number of cases brought to be heard at the courts was not so high, simply because of out of court arrangements.” Money is used instead of justice.

In another context, the Ratanakiri authorities are reported to have seized a truck with illegally logged wood after a Cambodian NGO and local citizens informed the authorities – but this is worse: Citizens who tried to report and to prevent forestry crimes were threatened by armed personnel, and the authorities do not dare to disclose the names of the powerful wood traders who hire citizens to commit these crimes. Power is used instead of justice.

In view of these and many other, specifically identified cases, there is not much value in discussing, in the abstract, whether Cambodia is a country to be described as under a state of law – because the Constitution says so – or not; the call to strengthen and to ensure effective law enforcement is also not very useful, unless it is accompanied by analyzing why law enforcement is so weak, and therefore: how this might change.

When I am traveling in Phnom Penh – that is normally on the back seat of a motorcycle-taxi – and I question the drivers why they breaks traffic rules, there is almost always a similar answer, with references that “everybody does it, especially the big cars: some without license plates, speeding on the middle of the road or on the wrong side, driving on, even if the traffic light is red, etc. etc.” If the law is not seen to be enforced equally on all, irrespective of money or power, it is very difficult to see how a state of law can be achieved. It can be achieved only when the very same authorities enforcing it are also following the law themselves.

Scanning regularly through news media from other countries, there is one item which is mentioned more and more: How do the Cambodian authorities consider the role of law in their relations with the neighboring country of Thailand? The armed clash yesterday at the border invited again regional concerns. And one concern discussed in other ASEAN countries, which have a tradition of not interfering into internal affairs of other members, is the fact that this seems to be happening now with the appointment of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, convicted for corruption but fugitive from Thailand, with an Interpol warrant, as an official adviser to the Cambodian government – disregarding the legal system of Thailand, and declaring a verdict for substantial financial corruption to be political. And by doing so importing – in spite of denials that this is not the intention – the political tensions of Thailand into Cambodia.

Several news items followed each other:

  • 14 January 2010: International media reported that Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra will visit Cambodia again, even “Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that Mr. Thaksin will visit Cambodia later this month.”
  • 15 January 2010: Mr. Noppadon Pattama, a legal adviser to Mr. Thaksin, said the plan for a visit had been canceled, but Mr. Thaksin would instead visit another country in Asia.
  • 17 January 2010: The Puea Thai Party chairperson Mr. Chavalit Yongchaiyuth meets Mr. Thaksin in Brunei, it is said that Mr. Thaksin would return to Cambodia late in January, staying several days.
  • 19 January 2010: Mr. Thaksin canceled his visit to Cambodia – according to a Khmer newspaper.
  • 21 January 2010: Mr. Thaksin arrived in Cambodia for a brief visit – no press conference, no lecture as economic advisor – only a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen is reported.
  • 22 January 2010: Mr. Thaksin demanded to close the legal case to expropriate his property.
  • 25 January 2010: Mr. Thaksin is reported to have declared already on 18 January 2010 he may set up a government in exile depending on political developments.

Of course the main stage for all this is in Thailand themselves, where extremely difficult problems are being faced: a mix of politics and the law, and the question is still open what will be the outcome of the conflicting dynamics between the two.

After Mr. Thaksin was ousted by a bloodless military coup in 2006, his in-country assets were frozen; the Thai supreme court is scheduled to decide on 26 February 2010, whether these US$2.3 billion – 2,300,000,000 US dollar! – were gained by the misuse of power and corruption as prime minister and will go to the state, or whether they were gained from his salary as a police officer and later businessman and will be returned to him. In addition, Mr. Thaksin said that he still has about US$100 million available abroad.

The attorney-general of Thailand, Mr. Julasing Wasantasing, shared the dilemma and his approach in an interview yesterday, Saturday, in The Nation, where he said that it is increasingly difficult for Thailand’s justice system to function, as there are two powerful pressure groups – the Yellow Shirts and the Red Shirts – trying to enforce their will: “I have been told I have to listen to the people. But when the people are divided into two camps, which side should I listen to?” When the course of the law is not followed, but instead the actions of the police or of prosecutors and judges are defined not by the law, he said: “We should stop and start anew. If every case is influenced by the yellow or red colors, Thailand’s problem is never going to end.”

The attorney-general has also been criticized, from both camps, when they were not happy with decisions based on the law, and he expressed his concern that “legal cases here are being judged by the public not on their legal merit, but on perceived political significance.” He summed up his own position in these conflicts by quoting John Quincy Adams, a US lawyer, diplomat, and politician, and finally the 6th president of the USA from 1825 to 1829. This was at a time when the USA were still a weak country – a “developing country” as we might say today.

“I can never join with my voice in the toast which I see in the papers attributed to one of our gallant naval heroes. I cannot ask of heaven success, even for my country, in a cause where our country might be in the wrong: ‘Let justice be done even if heaven should fall.’ My toast would be, may our country always be successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right.”

If this position would be taken also in view of the tensions between Cambodia and Thailand – not success for oneself is the goal, but justice even if it is for the other side – what a good future could be developed soon together!

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