Perception and Reality – Again – Sunday, 18.1.2009

Posted on 19 January 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 595 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

On Monday, 12 January 2009, we had the 100,000th visit to the Mirror – starting from January 2007.

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The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 595

In the Mirror, we have taken up the public importance of perceptions several times over the years.

Actually, we had raised this question at the beginning of the publication of The Mirror on the Internet in January 2007, with reference to Prime Minister Dato Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia under the tile “Perception and Reality.” At his inauguration, he had pointed to the important role of perceptions held by the public – which may or may not conform to reality, but are nevertheless extremely important for the political situation of a country.

And Dato Seri Syed Hamid Albar, as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, took up the concern for the role of perceptions, saying that “negative developments do not contribute to creating a climate of confidence in the world, which is vitally necessary for all of us, regardless of different faiths and beliefs, to live in peace and harmony.”

Not only the reality is important – but how it is understood and interpreted what is heard and seen – this too is extremely important. Some good things may be misunderstood as if they were bad. But if many things heard and seen result in negative perceptions, it can have deeply devastating consequences for a seemingly well functioning society.

This week, we list up some reports – really not knowing how the public can help to clarify what is confused, to avoid moving further down into the dark.

The international Human Rights Organization Human Rights Watch had, in its 2009 report covering the situation of many countries, also criticized Cambodia.

Human Rights Watch does not report only about notoriously criticized countries like Myanmar, but it deals also with the human rights situation – to name some more countries – in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and in the United States of America. Many of these countries take problems raised very seriously.

The brief Cambodia section of the Events of 2008 is followed by about 20 additional, detailed background documents

The content of all this is – unfortunately – not new: criticism of the criminal justice system, cases of intimidation, violence, imprisonments. Endemic impunity, rampant corruption, and illegal plundering of natural resources. And: Cambodia is due to be reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the UN Human Rights Commission in December 2009.

Most cases had been reported in the Khmer press during the year, quite a number also we had mirrored.

The official Cambodian reaction was reported in the Cambodia Daily as follows:

“Om Yentieng, head of the government’s human rights committee, dismissed the report’s findings, saying Human Rights Watch was defaming the country with lies and, in the process, making themselves foolish.

‘I refuse all of the accusations,’ he said, ‘they are just trying to make up things, or they just want to spoil heir name. They are playing the role as a puppet in order to gain an advantage for themselves.’”

(Cambodia Daily, 16 January 2009)

As an illustration of the gap between this perception and the reality we point to some reports mirrored during the past week – small and big events:

  • When people need public certifications or documentation, there are often no publicly displayed fees, saying transparently what is to be paid – “The price of a certificate, to get employment, to register the place of residence, or to get married is US$5.00, but the price goes up with its urgency – US$5.00 for one month – US$45.00 for 15 days, US$100.00 for one week, and US$150.00 for one day.” Similar arrangements may be in place in other countries too. But the report claims what is said to be general knowledge: “…these extra charges do not go to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.”
  • When a family had lost their new born son in a hospital formerly supported by Japan, the following financial dealings were reported. They had been going on for some time, but nobody had dared to speak up. – “There are notices written on the walls of the Japanese hospital with big Khmer letters on blue background, saying please do not pay anything to the staff, but only to the cashiers. Patients who are not able to pay for the services are invited to contact a monitoring group, and if someone asks for money in addition to the prescribed fees, they should be reported to the monitoring group. The service charges are approx. US$3.50 for a woman delivering her first baby; the normal room charge is approx. US$2.50 per night. – However, everything is different from the above prohibition notice. Each patient pays extra money in addition to the services, such as approx. US$10.00 to US$30.00 for doctors, approx. USUS$2.50 to each medical staff who injects three syringes three times per day etc. A woman said that, when the head of her baby appeared half way, first the doctors asked her how much money she would offer them. That woman offered them approx. US$12.00, but the doctors demanded more. Because she begged that that was all the money she had, they agreed. This is an incredible story, but that was what that woman said herself. Another woman staying in the next bed offered the doctors US$5.00, but only when they arrived at the sum of US$30.00 they agreed.”
  • When defense lawyers at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal were unable to get information about alleged kickbacks of Khmer staff – to higher level persons, for having received their positions – which would have satisfied them that there will be no unfairness in the trials, they finally filed a request for clarification of these corruption allegation at the Phnom Penh court. Now they feel intimidated by judges who prepare to sue them for defamation – instead of being grateful that the allegations could be refuted by a court forever.
  • When a delegation from the Senate and from human rights groups tried to inspect and to check forest sites allegedly cleared for planting rubber trees in Ratanakiri, the DM Group, the company under suspicion, prevented them from fulfilling their task.
  • When a Danish Woman had bought several thousand over-the-counter painkiller tablets with codeine, that can be easily and legally bought at many pharmacies all over Phnom Penh, and she tried to mail them at the Post Office – they are cheap here, and she hoped to sell them abroad to make some small extra money to support her son – she was arrested. Now she was convicted to serve 15 years in prison and fined approx. US$7,500 for drug trafficking. None of the press report said anything about any involvement with illegal substances.
  • When 234 families felt threatened as owners of their land by the Heng Development Company, they were satisfied that the Kandal provincial court had confirmed their land rights on 26 February 2007. But now the company deployed machinery and started to clear their land. When the legal owners protested, the company told them that the Kandal court had made a wrong judgment. The Military Police in Kandal Stung, led by their commander – a nephew of the director of the Heng Development Company – deployed 20 to 30 armed military police who opened fire with their AK-47 rifles – at least three men were seriously injured.
  • When it was reported that the US company PHI Mining had bought the Indochina Mining Corporation, now a subsidiary of PHI Mining, and that it now cooperates with the Cambodian company Angkor Metal Corporation, it was not big news. But maybe it had been big news before, and we had missed to see it – or it should have been big news. As we have mirrored yesterday, his cooperation relates to Cambodian natural resources , where the initial valuation of this copper ore area is estimated at USUS$1 billion. And we also mirrored yesterday that the Angkor Metal Corporation does not disclose much about itself in the way other companies do, though the US partner company writes that the “Founders of Angkor Metal Corporation include a son and a son-in-law of Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, thus ensuring political support to acquire and extend mining license.”
  • The Constitution of Cambodia says:

    The National Assembly shall approve the national budget, State planning, loans, financial contracts, and the creation, modification and annulment of tax. (Article 90)

    We do not have information about any public bidding for the financial contract for national mineral resources, which the Angkor Metal Corporation finally got, neither do we have information on the status of the National Assembly approval procedures for the project and loan agreements – in the range of US$500 million – which are, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, already signed by Cambodia and by Kuwait.

    As stated initially, in public politics the perception of what is going on is often more important for the public democratic process than the reality – so we raised all the issues above – all based on information which was either in Cambodian newspapers, or which is available publicly on the Internet. Prime Minister Badawi had accepted, therefore, the need for self-criticism in searching for the reasons for such perceptions. But at the same time he considered it necessary to engage in identifying what he saw as “wanton violations of human dignity, natural justice, human rights and international law.”

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    The Heng Development Company Used Military Police to Shoot at Citizens in a Land Dispute – Saturday, 17.1.2009

    Posted on 18 January 2009. Filed under: Week 595 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    On Monday, 12 January 2009, we had the 100,000th visit to the Mirror – starting from January 2007.

    Thanks for your interest.

    Would you like easy access to the editions of The Mirror directly by e-mail, and keep them on your harddisk? Or have a “newsfeed”? You can “subscribe” for free!

    Click on Subscribe to The Mirror (not here, but on the blue letters to the right of the text, underneath Have a look at last week’s editorial and Previous editorials). You are offered several possibilities to select from. If you do not have any other preferences, we recommend:

    Get The Mirror delivered by e-mail

    And follow the questions.
    .

    The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 595

    “Kandal: At least three people were injured by Military Police in Kandal Stung, directly led by the Kandal Stung Military Police commander, Mr. Chun Vanny, shooting hundreds of bullets from AK-47 rifles at the citizens protesting against the Heng Development Company. Ms. Sieng Chanheng, the director of the company director, ordering between 5 and 7 machineries to trespass and clear to violate the people’s land, and this company deployed from 20 to 30 armed military police standing to protect the machineries – but they opened fire, shooting at the citizens as if they were their enemies, hitting some protesters, and injuring three men seriously.

    “This shooting of protesting citizens by Kandal Stung Military Police, against citizens trying to stop the activities of machinery of the Heng Development Company invading and clearing land, resulted in three injured people; this happened at around 9:30 a.m. on 16 January 2009, at a place at Region 94 in Ampov Prey village, Kandaok commune, Kandal Stung district, Kandal. The three men injured by the Military Police’s shooting are 1. Mr. Yean, 23, who lives in the Region 94 in Ampov Prey village in Kandaok commune; he was hit by one bullet on his right ear, 2. Mr. Ly Seyha, 28, who lives in Battachi village, Prek Hour commune, Takhmao; he was hit by two bullets on his right arm and on his stomach, and 3. Mr. Voeun Van, 20, who was arrested and it is not known where the bullets hit him.

    “The legal land owner are citizens who said that this land was handled in a verdict by the Kandal provincial court, Number 12‘V’ dated 26 February 2007, declaring that 234 families are the owners of the land. But now, on 15 January 2009, the Heng Development Company ordered machineries to grab the land and clear their rice fields, and on 16 January 2009, the people gathered to protest, but they were shot at by Kandal Stung Military Police, led by Mr. Chun Vanny, injuring three people, and making citizens to withdraw in order not to face more such cruel shootings.

    “The citizens said that they protested, but did not attack to burn the machines, they just hindered the Heng Development Company to use their machineries to bulldoze their land, which the Kandal provincial court had declared to belong to the citizens, while the company told them that the Kandal court had made a wrong judgment. They added that the Kandal Stung military police commander, Mr. Chun Vanny, who has just recently taken the position of commander, is a nephew of Ms. Sieng Chanheng [the director of the Heng Development Company]. Because of he emotional link of being aunt and nephew, this military commander led his forces to shoot at innocent citizens with no fear of the net of the law.

    “Regarding this cruel shootout, citizens ask the commander of the National Military Police, Mr. Sao Sokha, and the commander of the Kandal Military Police, to help to seek justice for the three victims.” Khmer Sthapana, Vol.2, #185, 17.1.2009

    Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
    Saturday, 17 January 2009

    Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1849, 17.1.2009

    • More Than 400 Families Suffering from a Fire which Destroyed Their Houses in Front of the Preah Kossamak Hospital Ask the Authorities to Allow Them to Enter the Area to Reconstruct Their Houses [Phnom Penh]
    • The United Nations Is Outraged with Israel’s Shooting on Its Aid Storehouse
    • All 155 Passengers Survived a Plane Crash into a River in New York City

    Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #328, 17.1.2009

    • Kampuchea Krom Khmers Expects the Government of the New US President Barack Obama to Press Yuon [Vietnam – regarding human rights violations against Khmer Kampuchea Krom people]

    Khmer Sthapana, Vol.2, #185, 17.1.2009

    • The Heng Development Company Used Military Police to Shoot at Citizens in a Land Dispute
    • [The Minster of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation] Hor Namhong: Documents Asking for Millions of Dollars of Loans for Four Projects Were Already Signed by Cambodia and by Kuwait [1. Agreement to establish air traffic between Cambodia and Kuwait, 2. Increase tourism of Cambodia, 3. Memorandum of Understanding about Cambodian citizens to work in Kuwait, 4. Construction of a irrigation system at the Stung Sen, Kompong Thom, at around US$500 million]
    • 140 Families Came to Sleep [to protest] in Front of the Court Became More Angry! [because the court has not released their three representatives, arrested regarding a land dispute – Siem Reap]
    • Civil Society [the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association] Welcomes Decisions of the Supreme Council of Magistracy to Change Assignments of Judges and Prosecutors

    Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6554, 17-18.1.2009

    • Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs [Kasit Piromya] Asks [Thai citizens] Not to Engage in Politics which Create Disputes [with neighboring countries], and He Recognizes that Cambodia Had Suffered [under the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime]
    • A Thai Man Raped a Khmer Woman Worker of the SPT Company [a Thai road constructing company] Was Arrested [Banteay Meanchey]
    • Another High Ranking Leader of Hamas [Mr. Said Siam, Minister of Interior of Gaza] Was Killed by an [Israeli] Airstrike

    Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3668, 17.1.2009

    • Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party Prepare to Unite as One Party Next Week [according to Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhek Bun Chhay]

    Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4797, 17.1.2009

    • Three Adults [a couple and a female servant] Were Killed by Cutting Their Throats, Leaving a Baby Crying and Crawling in Blood [perpetrators are not yet identified – Meanchey, Phnom Penh. Police broke the door open after hearing the crying baby]
    • A US Company [the PHI Mining Group with has bought the Indochina Mining Corporation, now a subsidiary of PHI Mining] Cooperates with a Khmer Company [the Angkor Metal Corporation – no website on the Internet] to Explore Mines in Preah Vihear
    • Thai Soldiers Leave [Burmese and Bangladesh illegal migrant] People on Boats to Die [by putting them on boats without engine floating on the sea – according to different press reports quoting survivors]

    Note:

    The Angkor Metal Corporation does not have a web site with standard information of its own, though there are references to it in other publications on the Internet.

    One such source of information about many companies from around the world is the Alibaba site – a service to search for big and small companies, presenting the companies’ history and profiles, size, activities, and information about the owner of the companies and their legal representatives. The following is the sketchy listing about the Angkor Metal Corporation – neither a web site is given – a method where many, even small companies, present themselves to the public, nor is there any information given in the field “Legal Representative/Business Owner” – and this for a company which may control up to US$1 billion of natural resources of Cambodia!

    More information is given by the PHI Mining Group, the partner of the Cambodian Angkor Metal Corporation, including a map of the copper mining area, roughly between Siem Reap and the Preah Vihear area; the map obviously presented by the Cambodian Angkor Metal Corporation shows the border between Cambodia and Thailand, and the Preah Vihear Temple to be located inside of Thai territory.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Located in Sroyong Commune, Kolean, Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia, one of potential biggest reserves of copper ores in Southeast Asian region with mineralized material likely to amount to several millions of MT [metric tonnes].
    • Angkor Metal Corporation [AMC] has already been granted exploration license for a total area of 192km2 (19,200ha), in which 2.5km2 is fully surveyed with promising commercial exploitation ability.
    • Founders of AMC include a son and a son-in-law of Mr. Hunsen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, thus ensuring political support to acquire and extend mining license.
    • High copper content of averaging 25-32% as a result of sample analysis conducted by a prestigious mining analysis center of Vietnam with cutting edge analyzing equipment. Moreover, mining technology for copper ore is not so complex, thus generating a high economic value.
    • Mineralized material is estimated to be 500,000MT and may amount to several millions of MT.
    • Initial valuation of this copper ore area is estimated at US$1 billion.

    OWNERSHIP

    • PHI Mining Group, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Indochina Mining Corporation, has signed an agreement with Angkor Metal Corporation to acquire a 51% ownership in this joint venture.

    Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.

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