The United States of America Launched a Program of Accountability in Governance and Politics – Wednesday, 21.4.2010

Posted on 22 April 2010. Filed under: Week 661 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 661

“Phnom Penh: The United States of America launched a Program of Accountability in Governance and Politics with US$16.2 million to promote accountability and transparency in the Cambodian government.

“The program was launched on 20 April 2010 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Phnom Penh, and it was chaired by the Minister of the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, and by the US Ambassador to Cambodia, Ms. Carol A. Rodley.

“The United States Agency for International Development [USAID] developed this Accountability in Governance and Politics 5-year program, aimed at assisting Cambodia by encouraging the government to be responsible for implementing their policies through: 1. Strengthening of accountability, transparency, and broad access to information; 2. Creation of modern leadership; and 3. Support for the electoral systems.

This program will provide US$7.2 million to the International Republican Institute from 2009 to 2014, concentrating on consolidating the capacity of civil servants and of officials of political parties through the analysis of public surveys and through the creation of effective strategies for decision making.

“This program also offers US$6.08 million to the National Democratic Institute for increasing transparency over decisions of the government, and for further strengthening the access to public information about policy formation.

“The program also provides US$2.29 million to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems to strengthen the understanding of politics and the participation by women in government positions.

“Ms. Carol A. Rodley said that democracy in Cambodia is young, but it has progressed much since the first elections in 1993. She added that the United States of America hopes to cooperate with related institutions of the government, with civil society, and with all political parties to strengthen democracy in Cambodia. She went on to say, ‘I am exited about the extensive consolidation of skills and of experiences that these organizations have contributed to Cambodia, with which they can implement the projects at their areas. I believe that we will see positive results within five years.’

“On the same occasion, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An highly assessed USAID for initiating and for funding this crucial program, and he hopes that it will contribute to promote the understanding and the participation of citizens in creating and implementing various policies that are more accountable and more transparent, so as to lead to a broader implementation of democracy in Cambodia.

“He added that the projects to be implemented are also consistent with the political program of the Royal Government that is encouraging the participation from all circles in the process to establish policies, in project organization, and in different decisions made by the Royal Government through consultations to ensure a balanced progress in Cambodia. The Royal Government clearly stated that civil society and non-government organizations are important partners for economic and social development, as well as for the strengthening of democracy and the respect for human rights in Cambodia.

“He hopes that these projects will be implemented equally and faithfully by the three organizations, according to their goals, in order to join with the Royal Government to strengthen democracy, development, and the implementation of polices to further develop the economy and the society.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5177, 21.4.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #458, 21.4.2010

  • The Asian Development Bank [ADB] Predicted that the Cambodian GDP Will Grow by 4.5% in 2010 and by 6% in 2011 [if the global economic growth is in line with the forecast of the ADB, and if the climate is favorable for agricultural cultivation in Cambodia]
  • Samdech Hun Sen Will Lead a Delegation to Attend the Inauguration of the Expo 2010 Shanghai [in China on 29 April 2010]
  • The Number of People Killed by an Earthquake in China [in the northwest] Rose to 2,000

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6920, 21.4.2010

  • The Municipal Court Issued a Warrant to Bring Mr. Sam Rainsy to the Court [for a hearing, not for arrest] over an Accusation that He Faked Public Maps
  • A Fierce Lightning Storm Killed Six People during a Rain in the Early Visakh Lunar Month in Bakan District [Pursat – the Visakh month is the second month in the traditional lunar calendar, in 2010 extending from the end of March to the end of April]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3859, 21.4.2010

  • The Asian Development Bank Found that the Rate of Poor Khmer Citizens Strongly Increased in Rural Areas

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.154, #1, 21.4.2010

  • Asian Development Bank: Cambodia Lacks behind Its Neighboring Countries in the Garment Sector and in Tourism
  • [The Former Phnom Penh police chief, now jailed at the Prey Sar Prison] Heng Pov Published a Book Praising [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s Politics [“The Strategy of Putting the Fire of War in Cambodia to an End” – ហេង​ពៅ “យុទ្ធសាស្ត្ររំលត់ភ្លើងសង្គ្រាម​នៅ​កម្ពុជា”]
  • The Land Dispute in Amleang Commune Is Still Hot as There Is Still No Solution [about 500 villagers continue to protest against Oknha and Senator Ly Yong Phat’s sugar company encroaching on what they claim is their land]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5177, 21.4.2010

  • The United States of America Launched a Program of Accountability in Governance and Politics
  • [Twenty seven] Foreign Journalists from the time of the War between 1970 and 1975 Arrived in Cambodia Again [for a reunion, and they were welcomed by the Minister of Information, Mr. Khieu Kanharith]
  • [The President of the Cambodian People’s Party and of the Senate] Samdech Chea Sim Welcomes the Former Head of State of Vietnam [Mr. Trần Đức Lương (Tran Duc Luong} during his visit to Cambodia to strengthen the ties and good cooperation between both countries]

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The New Demonstration Law Is More Difficult Than That of 1991 Which Did Not Limit the Number of Demonstrators – Tuesday, 30.3.2010

Posted on 31 March 2010. Filed under: Week 658 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 658

“When the new demonstration law of Cambodia, adopted by the National Assembly in 2009, was published on Monday 29 March 2010 at the Sunway Hotel through a workshop at national level by the Ministry of Interior, officials of civil society organizations said that this new law is more difficult than the previous one.

“A senior investigating official of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Mr. Chan Soveth, spoke to journalists after the workshop, saying that the limitation of the number of people to participate in a demonstration or in a strike, limited to 200, is too tight, because at each factory there are thousands of workers.

“Nevertheless, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Sar Kheng, stressed that for all demonstrations, there must be letters sent to inform the Ministry of Interior in advance, so that it can take measures for security and protection. He added that any group of persons that want to demonstrate must write a letter to their municipal authorities, where the demonstration is to happen, five days before the event, and the number of people allowed to join in a demonstration is only 200.

“Another point that is seen as a threat against those who intend to demonstrate is that the new non-violent demonstration law requires at least three representatives to attach their photos and addresses with the proposed letters. Regarding this point, civil society organization officials said that this makes it probably difficult for those who suffer from injustice or disagree with something to decide to stand as representatives, because those who were targeted in a demonstration can use tricks to put the blame on the leaders of demonstrations. They can be arrested easily as their names, photos, and addresses have already been attached to the papers to be submitted to the Ministry of Interior.

“Mr. Chan Soveth thinks that this new demonstration law imposes more difficult conditions for demonstrators and strikers than that of 1991. The law of 1991 also required to submit request letters to get a permission for a demonstration, but it did not limit the number of people who could participate. Also, the president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association [Mr. Rong Chhun], who frequently appears in demonstrations, said that most articles of the new demonstration law inhibit demonstrators from acting freely. The Constitution, the basic law of the country, clearly states that Khmer citizens have ample rights to enter politics, to demonstrate, to strike, or to assemble.

“Many people are aware that these statements exist only on the paper where the Constitution is printed. Some of those who dare [with reference to the Constitution] to demonstrate when they are not satisfied with the situation in a company, or with actions of the government, have been cruelly confronted by armed forces, when the authorities dispatched them arguing that this is done for public security reasons. Some non-government organization officials say that – because government officials in charge do not have the courage to address problems by meeting protesting citizens face-to-face – they use violent measures to suppress the citizens who act based on the Constitution. Furthermore, because the government is afraid it may get a bad reputation because of demonstrations, it decided to rather violate democratic policy.

“It is natural that people compare the actual situation of different countries implementing democratic principles, like Cambodia and Siam [Thailand]. At present, tens of thousands of red-shirt demonstrators, supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, are all over Bangkok and are shouting their slogans freely to demand the dissolution of the parliament, and of the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva, but the armed forces did not harass them. That means that the demonstrators are allowed to express their opinions as they like. This indicates that the democratic space in Siam is wide, and citizens who oppose the government have sufficient rights to express their intentions and their positions toward their government – this is much different compared with Cambodia.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3845, 30.3.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #447, 30.3.2010

  • Mr. Sar Kheng Asked for Understanding for the Non-Violent Demonstration Law, while Civil Society Is Not So Satisfied with It
  • More Than 10,000 Citizens in Kompong Speu Received A/H1N1 Vaccine Injections

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2214, 30.3.2010

  • An Amleang Commune Counselor and Another Villager [representatives of the Amleang Commune residents] Were Released from Temporary Detention [they were arrested for having been in a crowd that burned down the on-site office of Oknha and Senator Ly Yong Phat’s sugar company over a land dispute]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #639, 30.3.2010

  • [The Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Mu Sochua Asked the Supreme Court to Delay Her Hearing until after 17 April 2010 [over a defamation court case, initiated by Prime Minister Hun Sen against her, as she is in the USA and cannot appear on 7 April 2010 as summoned by the Supreme Court]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6921, 30.3.2010

  • The Minister of Industry Launched the Construction Site of the A Tai River Hydro-Electric Dam [which will generate 246 megawatts; it might cost about US$540 million, to be invested by a Chinese company, and it is expected to be operating by 2014 – Koh Kong]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3845, 30.3.2010

  • The [Kompong Speu] Court Must Punish the Brigadier General Who Shot a Citizen [in the head], Wounding Him Seriously [just because of a minor driving mistake]
  • The New Demonstration Law Is More Difficult Than That of 1991 Which Did Not Limit the Number of Demonstrators

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #141, 30.3.2010

  • About 3,000 Cubic Meter of Wood Were Seized [the head of the Department of Forestry in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Ty Sokun, said that about 100 loggers, including powerful people and traders, will have to face legal actions after the authorities found that they store illegally cut wood]
  • The Malaysian Petronas Petroleum Company Will Withdraw Its Investments from Cambodia [to develop petroleum resources] Next Month [it is the second company, after Shell, that withdrew in 2007 – no reason given]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5163, 30.3.2010

  • A Man Was Convicted to Serve Fifteen Years in Prison and a Woman to Twenty Years for Trafficking People to Be Prostitutes in Malaysia
  • Bangkok: Negotiations Failed [to achieve the protesters’ goal, as Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vijjajiva declined to dissolve the parliament immediately as demanded by the red shirt groups, supporters of ousted and fugitive prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra] – and Gun Fire and Bomb Explosion Continue to Be Heard

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A Too Quick Reaction from the Government – Thursday, 25.3.2010

Posted on 26 March 2010. Filed under: Week 657 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 657

“The anti-corruption law has already been adopted by the National Assembly and by the Senate of Cambodia. Therefore, after the King would have signed it, it will become valid. But what has to be remembered is that local civil society officials as well as officials of the United Nations had mentioned many shortages of the new law and criticized that the two institutions too quickly adopted the law. One problem they see is that the law requires high ranking officials of the government to declare their assets confidentially.

“UN officials in Cambodia criticized specifically the very quick adoption process of the crucial anti-corruption draft law. The government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen did not accept the recommendations suggested by UN officials, but warned to expel them from Cambodia. This results in a loss of trust in the general public whether the elimination of corruption in Cambodia can be achieved effectively.

“Officials of some non-government organizations said that UN officials just wanted the anti-corruption law of Cambodia to be more transparent, so that the Cambodian government can combat corruption successfully. Therefore, [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s government should not have expressed an angry reaction with the UN official’s criticism, but should take into account what they mentioned. In addition, the requirement for high ranking officials of the government to declare their assets confidentially seems to help hide the assets of corrupt officials rather than to uncover corruption.

“Officials of non-government organizations said that before, the Cambodian government had offered the opportunity for local civil society officials and for international organization officials to provide ideas toward the creation of the anti-corruption draft. But the anti-corruption draft, with 9 chapters and 57 articles, recently adopted by the National Assembly and by the Senate, does not include their recommendations. Moreover, both the National Assembly and the Senate used a very short time to adopt this important law, a process quite unlike the adoption of other laws which takes much time for reviewing and discussing.

“Cambodia had been ranked by Transparency International among the countries in the world where there exists very serious corruption [What is the Corruption Perceptions Index?Corruption Perceptions Index 2009 – Cambodia is on position 158 of 180 countries; this number is calculated based on 8 different suveys]. Even the US Ambassador to Cambodia had criticized that corruption leads to the loss hundreds of millions of dollars of national resources every year. That means corruption in Cambodia is a serious concern, starting from high levels to the lower, where even traffic police commit offensive acts. Thus, based on the content of the anti-corruption draft recently approved by the National Assembly and by the Senate, elimination of corruption seems impossible.

“Non-government organization officials observing corruption in Cambodia said that the 9-chapters-and-57-articles draft does not have explicit content as similar laws in Yuon [Vietnam] and in China have. Even the point about the declaration of assets of high ranking officials does not state the details clearly, and thereby does not explain how corrupt officials can be identified. The government led by Prime Hun Sen should reconsider the critical remarks by UN officials, but should not react against them too fast which does not help.

“It should be noted that the government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen had created an anti-corruption unit administered by Om Yentieng; soon it will create another anti-corruption committee. Creating two institutions that have similar roles does not explain what kind of power will be provided to which institution. With a vague anti-corruption law which does not comply with international standards, corruption might occur more seriously.

“All in all, the anti-corruption draft approved by the National Assembly, presided over by Mr. Heng Samrin, and by the Senate, headed by Mr. Chea Sim, is not praised by the general public, as the content of the law does not show its real value. Actually, the opposition party parliamentarians did not raise their hands to support its adoption. Only the parliamentarians from the Cambodian People’s Party raised their hands to support it. Under such circumstances, the government, led by the Cambodian People’s Party, should consider the content of that law again, but should not react by warning to expel UN officials just because they pointed out deficiencies of that important law.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3841, 25.3.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 25 March 2010

Areyathor, Vol.16, #1434, 25-26.3.2010

  • The Thai Parliament Began to Meet, though the Puea Thai Party Members Boycotted It

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #443, 25.3.2010

  • The Ministry of Health Launched a Campaign of A/H1N1 Vaccinations [for citizens in Phnom Penh; so far in Cambodia, there were 566 cases of infections, and six people died]
  • [About forty] War Journalists [from the 1970s] Will Have a Reunion in Cambodia Next Month [from 20 to 23 April 2010; according to the former Minister of Information of the Khmer Republic, Mr. Chhang Song]

Note:

Mr. Chhang Song had been the last Minister of Information of the Khmer Republic, which came to an end with the end of the Lon Nol government in 1975. Mr. Chhang Song went, like many others, as a refugee to the USA and became a US citizen. But in 1989, he returned to Cambodia and was among the few returnees who joined the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] – offering his experience to act as a communicator between the political leadership of the CPP and the Western world.

During the time, when the majority of the governments of the world – and the whole “Western world” continued to consider the Khmer Rouge seat in the General Assembly of the United Nations legitimate, while not recognizing the Cambodian government in Phnom Penh during the 1980ies, he testified in the Congress of the USA, speaking against support for the fighting factions of FUNCINPEC, the Khmer Rouge, and the Khmer People’s Liberation Front against the State of Cambodia from their positions at the Cambodian-Thai border. And he helped to organize an interview for Prime Minister Hun Sen with the US National Public Radio, to provide an interpretation to the US public about the Cambodian situation from inside of Cambodia, and not from the prevalent news outlets on behalf of the border camps of the three resistance factions.

Later he became a member of the Senate of the Kingdom of Cambodia – but in 2001, he – together with Mr. Phay Siphan and Mr. Pou Savath – was expelled from the CPP and also from his position as a senator. Details are in a document of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

After six years, Mr. Chhang Song was called back into public service, as an advisor of the Royal Government of Cambodia with the rank of a minister.

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2210, 25.3.2010

  • A Popular Member of the Amleang Commune Council [from the Cambodian People’s Party] and a Villager Were Detained [for burning down the on-site office of Oknha Ly Yong Phat’s sugar company, while about 500 villagers are protesting – Kompong Speu]
  • [Former Khmer Rouge leader] Khiev Samphan Has Been Transferred to [Calmette] Hospital since Ten Days [he receives medical treatment for hypertension]
  • Two Chinese and one Khmer Man Were Brought to a Court for Smuggling Drugs Worth US$10,000 [Phnom Penh]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #635, 25.3.2010

  • Two Villagers among Five Victimized by a Land Dispute Were Detained when They Had Been Summoned by a Court for Questioning [Kompong Speu]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6917, 25.3.2010

  • The Daun Penh Authorities Started a Big Operation to Crack Down on [ten] Massage Shops and Karaoke Parlors Offering Sex Services – among Them also the Yang Chou Massage Shop Was Closed [a Chinese man who administered the place and 37 sex workers were arrested – Phnom Penh]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3841, 25.3.2010

  • A Too Quick Reaction from the Government

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #138, 25.3.2010

  • Cambodia Said that 88 Thai Soldiers Died during Armed Clashes in 2008 and 2009 [and also two Khmer soldiers died; according to a Deputy Commander of the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces, General Chea Dara]
  • Cambodia Has Produced Enough Salt for the Local Demand for This Year [now 80,000 tonnes have been produced already within five months while the total demand is 90,000 tonnes]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5159, 25.3.2010

  • The Siem Reap Authorities Intercepted Two Wood Storehouses and Found Nearly 400 Cubic Meters of Wood [of Oknha Sok Kong and of Oknha Lao Meng Khin – Siem Reap]
  • A Son of Two-Star General Chea Mon [military commander of Region 4] Was Arrested over a [robbery] Case Five Years Ago [Siem Reap]

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An Opposition Party Parliamentarian Accused the Minister of Agriculture of Being Inactive – Saturday, 20.3.2010

Posted on 21 March 2010. Filed under: Week 656 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 656

“Phnom Penh: In a letter from the opposition party parliamentarian Mr. Son Chhay, delivered through the office of the president of the National Assembly, Samdech Akkak Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin, Mr. Son Chhay accused the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Chan Sarun, of being inactive.

“Mr. Son Chhay, as a parliamentarian, sent the letter to Minister Chan Sarun through an arrangement from the National Assembly, asking the Minister to clarify the lack of activities in the ministry.

“Mr. Son Chhay wrote that there are complaints from citizens living along the Tonle Sap and the Mekong rivers, appealing to the Minister and to related authorities of the Ministry of Agriculture to assist farmers, to monitor the selling of pesticides, and to intercept fishery crimes more effectively.

“Mr. Son Chhay said that citizens often complain that institutions and departments of the Ministry of Agriculture are not active. They do very little to serve farmers. Thus, citizens requested the Minister of Agriculture to provide them training in agricultural techniques or to timely save their crops from being damaged by insects and to offer treatment for their livestock when it suffers from diseases. Some farmers said that at their place, some non-government organizations are working in agriculture, but it is not enough. Therefore they require agricultural officials at the province and district levels to do more. Mr. Son Chhay also asked the Minister of Agriculture to encourage his fellow officials to assist farmers regularly, and he asked for a detailed nationwide report from the Ministry of Agriculture. Doing so would allow to see whether agricultural officials work or not.

“Mr. Son Chhay implied that agricultural officials act irresponsibly, and the Minister has to take timely action against them.

“Regarding the selling of pesticides and fertilizer, the Ministry of Agriculture does not seem to care about it. At some border crossings, pesticides and fertilizer are imported without proper checking to be sold at the markets. Many types of pesticides were not carefully checked by the Ministry of Agriculture, and there is nothing in Khmer written on those products to show farmers how to use them. This is dangerous. Some farmers applied pesticides in a wrong way, which led to poisoning.

“To allow such problems to happen without taking action related to the selling of pesticides shows that the ministry is irresponsible.

“Relating to the destruction of fish by illegal fishing, the Minister Chan Sarun does not supervise fishery officials who collude with traders to do fishing during the season when it is prohibited to fish. Fishery crimes that lead to the destruction of fish are, for example, the use of fine-meshed nets during all seasons, so that both big and small fish are being caught. Other serious activities which lead to the destruction of fish resources is fishing during the season when the fish lay eggs, and the destruction of flooded mangrove forests.

“Therefore, the fishery crimes mentioned above lead to the destruction of all fish resources in Cambodia. In the evening of 19 March 2010, Minister Chan Sarun told Kampuchea Thmey that he had not yet received Mr. Son Chhay’s letter, but he is glad to clarify the case any time.

“Mr. Chan Sarun said, ‘We organize the work as a team, according to the administrative procedures in our institutions. Moreover, we assign teams to mentor and to observe the actual situation where the people live, and we regularly supervise our fellow officials.’ He welcomes Mr. Son Chhay and he is prepared to provide clarifications.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol. 9, #2206, 20.3.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 20 March 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #439, 20.3.2010

  • The Prime Minister Warned [the relevant authorities] Again that Brothels and Illegal Gambling Sites Must Be Closed
  • The European Parliament Delegates Asked Questions about the Political Situation in Cambodia and the Role of the Opposition Parties in the National Assembly
  • A Man That Produced Fake Johnnie Walker Whiskey Was Released by the Police because of His Strong Influence Relations [no clarifying details given – Phnom Penh]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2206, 20.3.2010

  • An Opposition Party Parliamentarian Accused the Minister of Agriculture of Being Inactive
  • [Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that] High Ranking Officials Who Go to Karaoke Parlors Can Be Arrested and Videos Could Be Taken of Them to Be Broadcast on Television
  • An Agreement Was Signed for Grant Aid of More Than US$31 Million from the Japanese Government [for the Neak Loeung bridge construction on National Road One from Phnom Penh to Vietnam; for clean energy production by using solar energy; and for a forest conservation project]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #631, 20.3.2010

  • Delegates from the European Union Asked Leaders of the National Assembly about Mr. Sam Rainsy’s Case [about the suspension of his immunity and his conviction to be imprisoned]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #69, 20-21.3.2010

  • The Senate Fully Agreed with the Content of the Anti-Corruption Law by 52 Votes in Favor, out of a Total of 53 Votes
  • Two Persons Transporting Drugs from Stung Treng to Battambang Were Arrested, ad the Authorities Seized 20,000 Tablets of Yama Drugs [‘extasy’] and a Car [Battambang]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3837, 20-21.3.2010

  • A Warrant Was Issued to Arrest Sixteen Poor Citizens in Kompong Speu Who Are Having a Land Dispute with [Senator] Oknha Ly Yong Phat’s Company [Kompong Speu]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5155, 20.3.2010

  • A Force of More Than 100 Persons Was Sent to Guard Machinery of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company [of Senator Ly Yong Phat, after citizens had burnt down the temporary on-site office of the company over a land dispute – Kompong Speu]
  • The Minister of Information Asked [the Phnom Penh Municipality] for a Place to Construct a Memorial Monument for the Journalists Who Had Died and Who Disappeared during the Five-Year War [between 1970 and 1975, during the Lon Nol regime]

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Report of the US Department of State Is in Line with the Actual Situation in Cambodia – Monday, 15.3.2010

Posted on 15 March 2010. Filed under: Week 656 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 656

“Recently, the US Department of State assessed the human rights situation in Cambodia for 2009, saying that Cambodia progressed in the prevention of human trafficking. But the United States of America expressed some concerns, such as about the restriction of the freedom of expression, the deportation of Uighurs to China, land disputes, and the growing corruption in Cambodia.

“The report on human rights for 2009 of the US Department of State noticed that Cambodia positively promoted the rights of the disabled, and made also efforts at the national level to protect victims of human trafficking that helps the most vulnerable people. Besides this, the authorities worked to reduce serious crimes – the number of murders declined, compared to 2008. The report continues to say that the United States of America is worried about the restriction of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press by the Cambodian government, pointing to court cases related to defamation and disinformation.

“The report continues that the United States of America is worried about land disputes, forced evictions, and corruption that frequently happens in Cambodia, while the court systems remains weak. The report of the US Department of State is not welcomed by high ranking officials of the Cambodian government, and they accused it as not being based on thorough observations. However, officials of human rights organization recognized that the report reflects the actual situation, and what is mentioned in the report is true.

“The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia said that the Cambodia government is settling those problems, including through the adoption of an anti-corruption law soon. But meanwhile, the president of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights [LICADHO], Ms. Pong Chhiv Kek [Dr. Kek Galabru], said that in general, the work to prevent the trafficking of women and children still faces some shortages, but the government tried to do it to some extent. The other three points that are unacceptable for the United States of America are real issues, because land disputes is also recognized by the government as a major issue. The claim by non-government organization officials testifies that the situation of human rights violations in Cambodia has not improved.

“It is remembered that in late 2009, the Cambodia government arrested 20 Uighurs and forcedly deported them to China, while they were applying for asylum from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Such action caused concerns from human rights groups, voicing the concern that those Uighurs might receive the death penalty in China. Due to this deportation, the Cambodian government was strongly criticized by many local and well-known international human rights organizations.

“At present, heavy human rights violations happen in Cambodia, not different from the concerns raised in the report of the US Department of State. Typically, like in a land dispute in Kompong Thom, the authorities ordered armed forces to evict citizens without any justification, to grab land for a Yuon [Vietnamese] company. When citizens protested to protect their land and their shelters, they were shot at like animals – an unacceptable human rights violation.

“In another case, even the freedom of expression of a parliamentarian, who had expressed his opinion to protect the territorial integrity of the country, was restricted. The opposition party president and parliamentarian from Kompong Cham, Mr. Sam Rainsy, was convicted by the Svay Rieng Court to serve two years in prison and was ordered to pay millions of Riel as a fine, because he uprooted border posts at the Khmer-Yuon border in the Samroang commune, Chantrea district, Svay Rieng, while two villagers who lost their rice fields, Mr. Prum Chea and Ms. Meas Srey, were jailed unjustly.

“After all, the report of the US Department of State regarding human rights issues in Cambodia complies with the actual situation, and officials of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s government cannot hide this. Therefore, all members of the international community and donors, especially the United States of America, should encourage the Cambodian government to respect human rights, as stated in the Constitution. That means the government should stop restrictions that violate the freedom of expression, and protect the right of living of citizens by completely stopping to use the word ‘development’ as an excuse to evict citizens from their land.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3832, 15.3.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 15 March 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #434, 14-15.3.2010

  • The Government Reacted against the US Human Rights Report That Overlooks the Efforts of Cambodia [to improve the human rights conditions]
  • US$41.5 Million for Investment Projects Were Approved in February 2010 [mostly focusing on investments in the garment sector and in agricultural product processing; in January 2010, the Council for the Development of Cambodia approved US$75 million]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2201, 14-15.3.2010

  • The Phnom Penh Municipal Court Informed the Public of a Temporary Relocation, in Order to Construct a New Court Building [it is relocated to the previous headquarters of the Ministry of Tourism in Tuol Svay Prey II, Chamkar Mon, Phnom Penh]
  • The Republic of Korea Congratulates Cambodia after an Anti-Corruption Law Has Been Discussed and Adopted

Khmer Amatak, Vol.11, #744, 15.3.2010

  • Chinese Hydro-Electricity Dams Cause Drought and Environmental Destruction to the Mekong River – as [Thai] NGOs Inform the United Nations

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #626, 14-15.3.2010

  • Perpetrators Who Shot and Injured [three] Disabled People [guarding the land of the Vietnamese Tan Bien company] in Kompong Thom] Are Out of the Net of the Law, while Some Victims Do Not Dare to Return to Their Own Homes [as the authorities are seeking to arrest them because of their protests against their eviction from the land]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6908, 15.3.2010

  • Among 569 Poor Communities in Phnom Penh, for More Than 300 Their Problems Have Been Solved [through ‘development-in-place’ and through compensation – according to the municipality]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3832, 15.3.2010

  • Report of the US Department of State Is in Line with the Actual Situation in Cambodia

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #130, 15.3.2010

  • The Opposition Party President [Mr. Sam Rainsy] Was Formally Indicted at a Count for Faking Public Documents
  • Cambodia Spent US$59 Million on Electricity Bought from Thailand [about US$19 million] and Vietnam [about US$40 million] in 2009
  • More Than 1,000 Hectares of Conservation Forest Were Destroyed by Fire in Siem Reap, Pailin, and Kampot [because people slashed-and-burnt some places to claim farmland, which led to fire getting out of control]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5150, 14-15.3.2010

  • Nine Members of the European Parliament Will Visit Cambodia [from 18 to 20 March 2010, to study the political and economic situation in Cambodia]
  • France Will Help to Establish a Chemistry Laboratory for the Royal Academy of Cambodia [according to a meeting between the Minister of the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, and the director of the National Scientific Research Center of France, Ms. Marie-Florence Grenier Loustalot; it might take two to three years]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.18, #1887, 15.3.2010

  • Citizens from 10 Villages in Amleang Commune, Kompong Speu, Are Struggling to Demand Their Land Back from a Company of [Senator and Oknha] Ly Yong Phat [who invests to grow sugarcane on this land]

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The Passing of the Anti-Corruption Law, and Planned Changes in Telecommunications – Sunday, 14.3.2010

Posted on 15 March 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 655 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 655

As regular readers of The Mirror know, we often quote the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia to have a clear basis when trying to better understand certain actions and events. Today’s editorial is written hoping for discussions and explanations, and, if necessary, clarifications and corrections. Recently, there were actions and statements, which seem to call for explanations and clarifications, so that a common public understanding can be achieved. One issue is related to the Anti-Corruption Law, and the other to regulatory plans or decisions in the field of telecommunications.

As for the Anti-Corruption Law, this is not an attempt to analyze its content. It is only to share some observations, some of which seem to have implications related to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The first observation is related to formalities, as this is the Cambodian law which has been drafted for the longest time compared to other laws – since 1994, and with active support for this process by the United Nations since 2004. Then, in December 2009, the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers announced that the draft is now ready, but he disclosed only one point: that also the heads of NGOs would have to declare their assets, adding that the text would be available for consideration as soon as it would be at the National Assembly. This too took a surprisingly long time; because of timing problems, the parliamentarians of the Human Rights Party declared not to take part in the parliamentary deliberations of this draft, as they did not have enough time to review this important text, which was actually distributed only on 5 March 2010, while a session of the National Assembly was scheduled to be held already on 10 March 2010. And then the draft, under deliberation since 1994, was adopted very fast, without any amendments, in just one and a half days.

An Anti-Corruption Law had been awaited eagerly since years, as Cambodia was ranked 158 out of 180 countries on the latest list of the corruption perception index of Transparency International, and it was ranked the second most corrupt Southeast Asian country after Indonesia, in an annual poll by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy.

The UN country team in Cambodia, made up of 23 specialized agencies, had expressed its concern that an extra-ordinary session was convened only days after the draft had been shared with the members of the National Assembly. But the Cambodian government considered the call by the UN country team for “a transparent and participatory” process to be “flagrantly interfering in the internal affairs of a UN member state,” and to be a statement outside of its mandate, though “good governance and the promotion and protection of human rights” is one of the four fields of the agreed UN Development Assistance Framework, on which the work of the UN country team is based.

But not only the timing gives cause to questions. The UN country team was also advised by the Cambodian government to “refrain from acting as if it were the spokesperson of the opposition parties.” We are not aware that this had been the case, but the press had also quoted the Prime Minister as saying, “if somebody wants this law to be amended, they have to wait until they win the elections.” We cannot verify that the Prime Minister said so, but these words seem to indicate that the constitutional principle, stated in Article 51, “The legislative, executive, and judicial powers shall be separate” is not considered to be applicable. In normal parliamentary proceedings under the separation of the three powers of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial, no executive can know – before the deliberations in the legislative – if a draft will be amended or not. This is not only something which may happen because of efforts of opposition party members, but also any active member of the parliamentary majority may scrutinize drafts and propose amendments, before voting on a draft.

Besides, the Senate, and the Constitutional Council, are additional important stages to consider legislation passed by the National Assembly – irrespective of party allegiances of their members – which may result in amendments, before a law is presented to the King. Such considerations may not only come from opposition parties, but they are foreseen as possible in the Constitution itself. The Senate and the Constitutional Council were not created just to rubber-stamp what the National Assembly has decided.

There is a second issue, which seems to be of a more technical nature – but it has fundamental implications for the free flow of information, and for the basic principles for the management of the economy of the country, as laid out in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The Articles 56 and 63 of the Constitution say: “The Kingdom of Cambodia shall adopt the market economy system” and “The State shall respect market management in order to guarantee a better standard of living for the people.”

Two weeks ago, under the 28.2.2010, The Mirror had presented, in more detail, considerations under the headline of “Internet Governance, Censorship, and the UN Multi-Stakeholder Approach” about plans to force all Internet communication between e-mail users of different Internet Service Providers in the country through only one Internet Exchange Point [IXP]. A deputy director of Telecom Cambodia – the organization to operate the IXP – had said that a Web site that attacks the government could then be blocked. As the Minister of Information said: there is no legal basis for this.

In the meantime additional information appeared and is discussed: Telecom Cambodia might get the right to operate a monopoly by becoming the only company in Cambodia with the right to internationally buy Internet connection, and all other Internet Service Providers would have to buy their international access from Telecom Cambodia, one of their competitors. Such interference into economic affairs is difficult to understand in view of the legal framework defined in the Constitution, where the state is ordered – rather than to interfere into the marked – to guarantee that the market can operate freely “in order to guarantee a better standard of living for the people” according to the forces of competition in the market.

It should be remembered that Telecom Cambodia was created in order to disengage the regulatory and the operational functions which formerly had been both combined in the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.

The second term government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, starting from 1998, had adopted as its key orientation a “three pronged strategy” – the second prong was the re-integration of Cambodia into the international community – the UN, ASEAN, and the World Trade Organization. The other two elements were “establishing peace and security,” and “promoting administrative and judicial reforms.”

In a speech of the Prime Minister to welcome the Third Asian-German Editor’s Forum on 31 January 2000, he referred to this principle, “I think it is best to give everyone of you the role as an evaluator for your judgment to be made on the current situation of Cambodia. What I can share in this efforts is the three pronged strategy which I have put out… Essentially, one needs to have a clear and correct vision before one can develop Cambodia as a process.” This orientation led also to extensive consultations with advisors of the World Bank about the situation of the telecommunication sector in the country, which the Prime Minister had identified on several occasions as a crucial field for the future of Cambodia, in a situation, where the costs of using the telephone and the Internet was – and still is – high in Cambodia, compared to neighboring countries.

The International Telecommunication Union [ITU] is about 100 years older than the United Nations, but it is now part of the UN system. In the ITU’s World Telecommunication Development Report of 1998 it is stated that previously, investment in the “telecommunication services sector have been limited by the fact that most countries had state-owned monopoly carriers. This era is now coming to an end. Since 1984, 44 Public Telecommunication Operators have been privatized… telecommunications has a dual role as both a traded product and service, and as a facilitator of trade in other products and services… What are the benefits of trade liberalization? Freer trade in telecommunications promises to deliver at least three economic gains: new and improved products and services, lower prices, and additional investment. Open trade in telecommunication services should result in more competition, lowering prices for most businesses and for many consumers and providing both with a choice of different service providers.”

The World Bank advice, at that time, for Cambodia, showed the direction. The following direct quotes are from the final report and presentation of its “Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility.”

  • World Bank project to strengthening the Cambodian Telecommunications regulatory framework with rules for fair competition – interconnection regime
  • Aims at cost effective communications – Doing nothing in not an option, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication – MPTC – as it is cannot long survive
  • Mobile vs. Fixed Phones: THE BIG DIFFERENCE:
    • fixed: state sector, no money, no autonomy, slow progress
    • mobile: private money, growing fast, light handed regulation
    • competition in mobiles has produced, good services
    • state management has produced poor service, stagnation and lost opportunities
  • Principal Institutional Problem:
  • MPTC is an integrated, policy, regulatory, operational and asset management agency
  • Expert advice is unanimous that this leads to
    • conflicts of interest
    • poor asset management
    • business decisions suffer from political intervention
    • political priorities suffer from a preoccupation with business issues
  • All Advisers Recommend
  • MPTC should have its current functions located in separate agencies:
    • policy – the correct function for MPTC is regulation, an independent function
    • business operations – Telecom Cambodia a commercial entity with operational autonomy, eventually private

The present intentions, to re-establish, a monopolistic role for Telecom Cambodia, would revert what has been achieved under the Prime Minister’s guidance, related to the second of his three-pronged objectives: to place the policies of the Cambodian government, after decades of international isolation, into the present international context. Telecom Cambodia was created as an operator under the rules of the market, to have competition among other operators, and to establish the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications as a technical regulator. To give a mandatory monopolistic role to Telecom Cambodia is contrary to the efforts of a decade, and is contrary to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

I have observed these developments during the last two weeks form abroad, participating in the meetings of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers – ICANN – the institution coordinating the assigning and the functioning of the Internet addresses, which was held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

In a reception by the Communications Commission of Kenya – the main telecommunications regulator of the country – we received the following bag to carry our documents. It is inscribed with the words which show that the monopolies have been abolished in the telecommunication sector, and the results ensure fairness for all – and much lower costs than in Cambodia:

Fairness

Fairness


Ensuring fair play

Kenyan Broadband Pricing

Kenyan Broadband Pricing

.

The public is invited to sign up for Internet connections in this developing country in East Africa at a fair, low price:

1499 Kenyan Shilling per month, that is US$20 for unlimited broadband Internet access at a speed of 256 Kilobit per Second – how long will this remain a distant dream in Cambodia?

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Civil Society Encourages a Solution to Be Found in Mr. Sam Rainsy’s Case – Tuesday, 2.3.2010

Posted on 3 March 2010. Filed under: Week 654 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 654

“Phnom Penh: The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee published a statement, calling for a political solution for the president of the biggest opposition party of Cambodia, Mr. Sam Rainsy.

“The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 23 non-government organizations, issued the statement late last week.

“The committee regrets that a lawyer of the government filed a lawsuit against Mr. Sam Rainsy, in addition to the complaint which had been handled by the Svay Rieng court. Civil society organizations wrote that the new complaint will pose more concerns among national and international opinion about the recent political situation in Cambodia, especially relating to the space for democracy and the role of parliamentarians; opposition party parliamentarians were frequently sued, while important issues in the country need the involvement by all political parties. In this sense, the committee thinks that party leaders should focus more on the national interest and unite through negotiations to peacefully settle national issues.

“The committee stated, ‘We would like to encourage our political leaders to respect each other and to negotiate patiently, discussing national problems so that Cambodian citizens can live in peace and in a democratic society.’

“The executive director of the Cambodian Defenders’ Project – a member of the committee, Mr. Sok Sam Oeun – explained that the statement is aimed not only at the government, but at both parties. Mr. Sok Sam Oeun said, ‘Also Mr. Sam Rainsy should soften his position.’

“However, there seems to be less hope that there can be political coordination like in 2005, as Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen stated that he will not ask for an amnesty for Mr. Sam Rainsy again. Last week Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen said, ‘I can say now that in the next elections, there will be opposition parties, but not such a person (like Sam Rainsy).’

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen even considered Mr. Sam Rainsy’s activities as traitorous.

“The lawyer Sok Sam Oeun said that it is difficult to follow the way of politicians.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5139, 2.3.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #423, 2.3.2010

  • India Provided a Loan of US$15 Million for the Construction of Electricity Lines from Kratie to Stung Treng
  • Citizens Accused Banteay Meanchey Custom Officers of Extorting Money, though They Transport Goods Legally [more than 30 homebuilt small tractors loaded with goods were blocked, extorting Riel 50,000 each, approx. US$12, to let them pass]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2190, 2.3.2010

  • It Is Estimated that in 2010 in Cambodia, There Will be 56,200 People Having AIDS [29,500 women and 16,700 men – according to the Ministry of Health]
  • The Sam Rainsy Party Adds a Thai Language Section to Its Website [a government official said that doing so amid border conflicts with Thailand seems to express support towards foreign aggression]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6897, 2.3.2010

  • Thirty Six Hectares of Rubber Trees [of six families] Are in a Conflict [a company that wants to buy the land, while the owners do not want to sell it], Where by Now Thirty Hectares Have Been Burnt Down [by unknown persons – Kompong Cham]
  • More Cambodian Students Learn French [the number increased from 45,000 students in 2005 to more than 110,000 in 2009 [announced at the occasion of a meeting between the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French embassy]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3821, 2.3.2010

  • Sam Rainsy Welcomes the New Lawsuit by the Government, as Those Loving Justice around the World Sympathize with Cambodia

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #121, 2.3.2010

  • The Opposition Party and Civil Society [the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC] Are Concerned about the Knot Tied between the Private Sectors and the Troops [saying that private companies might use the military power of those supported to support their illegal businesses], but this Was Rejected [by the government]
  • Cholera Is Affecting Five Provinces and one City [Kandal, Kompong Speu, Prey Veng, Takeo, and Phnom Penh; 223 cases of diarrhea are suspected to be Cholera – according to the Ministry of Health]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5139, 2.3.2010

  • Civil Society Encourages a Solution to Be Found in Mr. Sam Rainsy’s Case
  • Cambodia and America Cooperate to Fight Cross-Border Crimes and Sex Tourism [so far, 14 American tourists were arrested by the Cambodian authorities and sent to America to be convicted for child sex tourism; at present, Cambodia and the United States of America are cooperating on 30 cases of sex tourism]
  • [Two] Robbers Robbed a Gold Seller, Taking 300 Chi of Gold [worth approx. US$40,200], and in Cash Riel 4 Million [approx. US$950], and US$100 [Phnom Penh]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.18, #1884, 2.3.2010

  • Thai Security Is Tightened after Bomb Explosions [in Bangkok]

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The First Meeting about the Implementation of the National Strategic Plan to Stop Violence against Women – Thursday, 18.2.2010

Posted on 19 February 2010. Filed under: Week 652 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 652

“Phnom Penh: The Open Institute, in collaboration with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, held the first consultative meeting on the topic ‘Participating in the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women, and the Importance of Using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to Combat Violence against Women.’

“Opening the meeting in the morning of 17 February 2010, a Secretary of State of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Ms. Sy Define, said that the meeting was the first one held by a government institution with a civil society organizations on this issue, and it was organized after the government had published the ‘National Action Plan about the Prevention of Violence against Women’ last year. She stressed that even without reference to specific figures, rape and violence against women appear in new ways, and all forms appear more frequently and more cruelly. This is a concern for the government as well as for non-government organizations.

“She added that a major challenge for the prevention of violence against women, which needs to be addressed immediately, is the victims’ fear and shame. She emphasized that the victims often try to hide what happened, and even as there are more rapes happening, there is also the increased tendency to hide them. This is because women feel ashamed and they are afraid of being treated with contempt by the society, and also the knowledge of citizens in many communities is limited, including the knowledge about the legal procedures to appeal to the courts which require the victims, mostly the poor, to pay money.

“Based on the above issues, Ms. Sy Define called for more publications of laws about rights and other measures that are important for preventing and reducing violence against women, where Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plays an important role.

“ICT provides a modern and fast way of communication using computers or mobile phones; it can reach us wherever we are, as far as the communications network extends. It provides easy and quick access to a collection of all kinds of information.

“Regarding this issue, the Executive Director of the Open Institute, Ms. Chim Manavy, said that this meeting is really important for reflecting about violence against women and the intersection between this problem and Information and Communication Technology. In many countries around the world, women’s networks and organizations use the Internet and communicate, using these technologies, to share their experiences and to gather resources and support for their activities, and organize for the creation of global strategic actions. She said that in Cambodia, however, most women have not developed the habit and the ability to use the Internet and to communicate through it to support their activities like it happens in other countries.

“She added, ‘Recently, there is more recognition of the intersection between violence against women and the instruments for electronic communication [with computers and mobile phones]. Violence against women and ICT have an impact on establishing fundamental freedoms and human rights.’

“But Ms. Manavy raised also other examples, saying, ‘While mobile phones and websites can benefit women who suffer violence, seeking information and assistance, some wicked persons use the same technology for exploitation, sending images violating women’s rights, which are human rights.’

“Relating to the negative use of ICT, Ms. Sy Define called on women to be aware of this problem and to join together to control it and to use ICT to combat such wrongdoings.

“She emphasized that the government alone cannot achieve the Millennium Development Goals for 2010, which state [as Goal 3] ‘Promote gender equality and empower women,’ without cooperation in many fields with non-government organizations and development partners to promote the capacity, knowledge, strength, and courage of women.

“She also asked all women’s and other institutions to join to encourage the use of ICT to help prevent violence against women as well as domestic violence, following the National Action Plan about the Prevention of Violence against Women.

“During the meeting held at the Hotel Cambodiana, participants from more than 40 institutions working on women and rights presented their results from separate observations about violence against women and domestic violence, and discussed to share their experiences, knowledge, lessons learned, other strategies, and the use of ICT to prevent violence against women and domestic violence.

“In the three hours meeting, participants offered recommendations and sought to identify key priorities for cooperation between civil society organizations and government institutions to develop joint strategies to effectively prevent violence against women, to encourage gender equality, and to empower women. Ten other organizations cooperated and attended the meeting: Cambodian Women for Peace and Development, the Cambodian Defenders’ Project, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (NGO-CEDAW), the Project Against Domestic Violence, Legal Aid of Cambodia, the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, the Women’s Media Center, Positive Change for Cambodia, Pharmaciens Sans Frontières, and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO).” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5129, 18.2.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 18 February 2010

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #413, 18.2.2010

  • Samdech Hun Sen: Cambodia Never Plants New Mines along the Border [he said so in response to some accusations, especially by Thailand]
  • The Phnom Penh Municipality Plans to Create Senior Citizens Associations Soon in the Eight Districts
  • Seventy One Journalists Were Killed in 2009 Worldwide [including 33 in the Philippines; according to the Committee to Protect Journalists]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2180, 18.2.2010

  • More Than 100 Cleaners at the Angkor Resort [of the Apsara Authority] Protested over the Late Payment of Their Salaries [Siem Reap]
  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal Signed an Agreement to Create a Digital Tribunal [with the Stanford University and the Berkeley War Crimes Study Center of the University of California]
  • Report: America and Pakistan Arrested the Head of the [military wing of the] Taliban

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #605, 18.2.2010

  • A Casino of Oknha Ket Theang Worth US$100 Million Will Open Next Week [in Bavet, Svay Rieng, at the border to Vietnam – he said that his casino can offer jobs to about 6,000 Khmer citizens]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3811, 18.2.2010

  • Avoiding to Respond to Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians’ Questions [over border issues] Shows the Irresponsibility of the Government

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #114, 18.2.2010

  • Thirty One People Died in Traffic Accidents within the Three Days of the Chinese New Year [in Cambodia]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5129, 18.2.2010

  • The First Meeting about the Implementation of the National Strategic Plan to Stop Violence against Women
  • The Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Education Plan to Create a Navigation School to Improve Waterway Traffic Safety [this navigation school is for youth of the next generation to get training, based on proper educational standards to obtain a license. Before, the provision of shipping licenses depended on the testing and questioning previous experience of piloting ships or motor boats, but there was no training offered. Two or three years ago the Phnom Penh port started training for its personnel, but it was not open for the public]
  • The Transport of Luxury Wood in Thala Barivat District Continues without Any Disturbance [by the authorities – Stung Treng]

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.18, #1876, 18.2.2010

  • [A Sam Rainsy parliamentarian] Mr. Son Chhay Asked [the Minister of Interior] Mr. Sar Kheng to Check Road Traffic Police Activities that Establish Illegal Check Points to Extort Money from Citizens [he raised a case near the Chroy Changva bridge where police stop cars or trucks to make them pay money unofficially which they keep for themselves or share some with their next higher level officials]

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The Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Declaration – Sunday, 7.2.2010

Posted on 8 February 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 650 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 650

The Mirror carried already last week a report about the extraordinary speech of the Prime Minister: “It Is Time to Stop; Military Officials Who Do Illegal Activities Are Not Fit to Work in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces” – where he directly named several generals present, criticizing their unacceptable, corrupt behavior. During the present week, there were still positive responses in the press, including from sources not so close to the government. Human Rights Watch, a US based organization, often very critical of the political climate in Cambodia, also supported the Prime Minister’s warning to commanders over their corrupt, illegal actions. And the Prime Minister himself continued to speak according to the same line, when he attacked nepotism, warning that nobody should nominate relatives and partisans for public office.

But we got also another response: “Words are cheap, nothing will change.”

And another, also anonymous voice, calls it to be my idea – while I actually quoted Article 51 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia – that the Cambodian people are the masters of their country, because they can vote, saying, “Having rights is not enough. You’ve got to have the power to exercise those rights, so that they can be useful. That can also explain why the civil society has always failed in demanding for respect for human rights.”

These are pessimistic views, assuming and expecting that rights can be enjoyed automatically, while history shows in many different cultures that rights have to be fought for, even if they are written in the law, when other powers violate them.

The Prime Minister has spoken clearly.

According to a report in the Phnom Penh Post of 4 February 2010, “Farmers set to call soldiers to Kampot court,” saying

“A group of people in Chumkiri, Kampot, filed a complaint in the provincial court against members of an army unit they say are encroaching on their land and cutting down their fruit trees, escalating a standoff that began in 2001… The court complaint comes less than one week after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned top military officials to refrain from participating in illegal land-grabbing operations.

‘It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. I don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats,’ the Prime Minister had said at the end of a conference on military reform at the Ministry of Defense last week.”

So we will see.

But did civil society always fail in demanding respect for human rights? It is not clear on which basis this is said, and which understanding or misunderstanding of the term ‘civil society’ is used when saying so. First, there is no general, clear definition of this term. But it refers to all movements, associations, or individual citizens, independent from the state, whose aim is to improve policies, standards, or social structures, through common efforts. Civil society – that are organizations formed for these purposes – civil society organizations, non-government organizations, citizens action groups – but civil society is also all individual citizens in a social unit – be it a residential region, or a common interest group (for example enjoying sports or music, and caring together to see that the proper space is set aside for these purposes). Civil society is citizens who organize themselves to care for the quality of life where they live.

Civil society is also the majority of the citizens of Phnom Penh, who, in their majority, do not care that the Boeung Kak lake in this city is being destroyed, being filled up with sand for the benefit of some business interests to construct a commercial and housing center – though the plans have not even been made transparent and publicly know, leaving all the struggle for rights to the several thousand people who are directly affected, because they lose their traditional environment and with it also their means of living.

On 31 August 2008 The Mirror had reported the following: “Later in January 2008, Areyathor reported that Samdech Heng Samrin, the President of the National Assembly – and also a Honorary President of the Cambodian People’s Party – had signed a letter for the suspension of pumping of soil to fill Boeng Kak lake, and the paper reported also that the Phnom Penh governor and vice-governor allegedly disagree with each other about filling Boeng Kak lake.” We are not aware that the press has done any follow up on these reports. But the public is aware that the lake is gradually disappearing, that many residents had tried to organize themselves to jointly represent their concerns and demands, and that some of the remaining residents around the lake are at present living on top of rising dirty water, as the promised pumping for stagnant dirty water – as a result of the filing in of sand – was installed too late and is not strong enough.

Recently I had the opportunity to be in Myanmar, and to have dinner one evening at the Kan Taw Gyi lakeside – a wide park where hundreds of people enjoy walking around or sitting together, with a music stage, very many small restaurants, and a wonderful view. Phnom Penh is destroying such a possibility for its future.

The lake before being filled

The lake before being filled

The lake being filled

The lake being filled



.

At the Kan Taw Gyi Lake in Yangon/Myanmar.

At the Kan Taw Gyi Lake in Yangon/Myanmar.



.

Does civil society – the people in general in Phnom Penh – care? Or why not?

.

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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!

Please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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