Denials, Insults, and Rational Arguments – Sunday, 15.3.2009

Posted on 17 March 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 603 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 603

Apologies for the delays in publishing – due to my international travel. I try to catch up as soon as possible.

Norbert Klein

It seems that some issues, which need to be clarified, do not find any solution – not only because they are controversial, but because it seem to happen frequently that issues raised are not discussed – the detailed facts and concerns they raised are disregarded, they are put aside by flat denial, not touching at the presented facts at all. Or instead of dealing with controversial facts, the “other party” is served with an insult – and it is up to the reader to consider whether the insult carries enough conviction to override the arguments, or whether an insult, instead of an argument, backfires on the party which refuses to engage in a rational discussion.

We will bring here some reminders, where it seems that facts and opinions had been presented, and the public received responses. Some seem to have intended to close further discussion – though the discussion continues anyway. In some cases we hope to lead to further open discussion – inviting to consider some aspects which are not widely shared, but may merit more attention. We let “both parties” speak.

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On 5 February 2009, the UK based organization Global Witness published a report entitled Country for Sale. The organization describes its general, global outreach, in the following way:

“Global Witness exposes the corrupt exploitation of natural resources and international trade systems to drive campaigns that end impunity, resource-linked conflict, and human rights and environmental abuses. Global Witness was co-nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for its leading work on ‘conflict diamonds’ and awarded the 2007 Commitment to Development Ideas in Action Award, sponsored jointly by Washington DC based Center for Global Development and Foreign Policy magazine.”

The content of the study, presented on 72 pages with detailed references, is described by Global Witness as follows:

“Cambodia – one of the world’s poorest countries – could eventually earn enough from its oil, gas and minerals to become independent of foreign development aid. The report, Country for Sale, exposes for the first time how this future is being jeopardized by high-level corruption, nepotism and patronage in the allocation and management of these critical public assets.

Country for Sale details how rights to exploit oil and mineral resources have been allocated behind closed doors by a small number of powerbrokers surrounding the prime minister and other senior officials. The beneficiaries of many of these deals are members of the ruling elite or their family members. Meanwhile, the findings suggest that millions of dollars paid by oil and mining companies to secure access to these resources may be missing from the national accounts.”

Among the details, Global witness says:

“Global Witness wrote to both Chevron and BHP Billiton in October 2008 to ask them to reveal any payments made to the Cambodian government or government officials. At the time of publication, Chevron had not responded. BHP Billiton however, did reply to say that BHP Billiton, Mitsubishi and the Cambodian Government have established a joint social development fund. The total contribution of BHP and Mitsubishi is to be US$2.5 million. BHP’s response stated: ‘BHP Billiton has never made a payment to a Cambodian Government official or representative and we reject any assertion that the payment under the minerals exploration agreement is, or the amounts contributed to the Social Development Projects Fund are, “tea money”.’ BHP also shared how much had been paid to the Cambodian government, adding: ‘In accordance with the terms of a minerals exploration agreement with the Cambodian government which granted BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi the right to explore for bauxite an amount of US$1 million was formally paid to the Cambodian government in September 2006.’”

The Cambodian Embassy in London responded to the publication of Country for Sale with a press release with a color graphic page, saying global witness – A Collection of Rubbish

“Reacting angrily to the report, the Ambassador of Cambodia in the UK, H.E. Nambora Hor, accused Global Witness of being poorly-managed and indulging in hugely-damaging smear campaigns. He called on the wide variety of international bodies which help fund Global Witness to demand an urgent review of its policies and activities. ‘It is naïve for Global Witness to imagine that Cambodia’s international donors are not fully aware of the way the Royal Cambodian Government’s conducts its affairs and its commitment to demonstrating the highest possible standards.’”

Details about this Social Development Projects Fund – who administers these huge amounts of money paid by some foreign companies, and for which purposes, and under whose public monitoring – are not known to the public.

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On 25 February 2009, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the US Department of State published a 2008 Human Rights Report: Cambodia, part of the 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The 16,000 words report on Cambodia states initially:

“The government’s human rights record remained poor. Security forces committed extrajudicial killings and acted with impunity. Detainees were abused, often to extract confessions, and prison conditions were harsh. Human rights monitors reported arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention, underscoring a weak judiciary and denial of the right to a fair trial. Land disputes and forced evictions were a continuing problem. The government restricted freedom of speech and the press and at times interfered with freedom of assembly. Corruption was endemic. Domestic violence and child abuse occurred, education of children was inadequate, and trafficking in women and children persisted. The government offered little assistance to persons with disabilities. Anti-union activity by employers and weak enforcement of labor laws continued, and child labor in the informal sector remained a problem.

On February 15, the government passed and promulgated a comprehensive Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation containing provisions criminalizing all forms of human trafficking. By year’s end the Cambodian National Police had arrested perpetrators in 48 trafficking-in-persons and related cases, and the courts had convicted at least 12 persons on trafficking-related charges.”

The Mirror had carried a related report from a Khmer language newspaper on 27 February 2009. On 14 March 2009, we carried a report from another Khmer newspaper, saying:

“The Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dismisses the US Department of State’s Report [on the human rights situation in Cambodia] on behalf the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia.”

But later, another Khmer newspaper reported in its 15/16 March 2009 edition: “The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC – said that tens of thousands of families of Khmer citizens suffer human rights violations.” And reports in the Phnom Penh Post of 16 March 2009 show a 9 year old boy standing in the wreckage of his house – sixteen houses in the Rik Reay Community – “Happy Community” – were torn down, and the area is being fenced in. A teacher, living there, said he had received a death threat. “This mistreatment is to force us to agree to their compensation package,” he said. “I am now worried for my personal security because I heard a company staffer on the walkie-talkie saying they would kill me because I am a community leader. I want to tell you that if I die, it was not at the hands of anyone else but because I was murdered by the staff of Bassac Garden City.”

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On 12 March 2009, we carried the headline from a Khmer newspaper, reporting Dalai Lama: Tibet under Chinese Control Is Like Hell on the Earth. And in order to elaborate, we added a link to the original text of the March 10th Statement of H.H. the Dalai Lama, where he says:

“Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising against Communist China’s repression in Tibet. Since last March widespread peaceful protests have erupted across the whole of Tibet. Most of the participants were youths born and brought up after 1959, who have not seen or experienced a free Tibet. However, the fact that they were driven by a firm conviction to serve the cause of Tibet that has continued from generation to generation is indeed a matter of pride… We pay tribute and offer our prayers for all those who died, were tortured and suffered tremendous hardships, including during the crisis last year, for the cause of Tibet since our struggle began.

“Around 1949, Communist forces began to enter north-eastern and eastern Tibet (Kham and Amdo) and by 1950, more than 5000 Tibetan soldiers had been killed…

“Since the re-establishment of contacts in 2002, we have followed a policy of one official channel and one agenda and have held eight rounds of talks with the Chinese authorities. As a consequence, we presented a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, explaining how the conditions for national regional autonomy as set forth in the Chinese constitution would be met by the full implementation of its laws on autonomy…

“We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. Fulfilling the aspirations of the Tibetan people will enable China to achieve stability and unity. From our side, we are not making any demands based on history. Looking back at history, there is no country in the world today, including China, whose territorial status has remained forever unchanged, nor can it remain unchanged.”

But while the voice of the Dalai Lama receives wide attention in the international press, there is also another aspect of the history of Tibet, which is not addressed, but to which the People’s Daily Online refers: Dalai Lama’s utter distortion of Tibet history:

“The Dalai Lama also alleged at a gathering in India’s Dharamsala to mark his 50 years in exile that “these 50 years have brought untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet.

“Unfortunately, the Dalai Lama has not only been on the wrong side of history, but also has got the history upside down. Miseries of ‘hell on earth’ and ‘untold suffering’ occurred nowhere but in the slavery Tibet symbolized by the Dalai Lama.

“Even from historical books written by Western scholars, people can draw the conclusion that Tibet under the rule of the Dalai Lama clique was a society of feudal serfdom that trampled human rights and easily reminded visitors of the dark age of medieval Europe.

“The feudal serfdom had truly brought ‘untold suffering and destruction’ to the serfs and slaves who accounted for 90 percent of the then population.

“The slavery in Tibet was just ‘hell on earth’ as Charles Bell, who lived in Lhasa as a British trade representative in the 1920s, observed that the Dalai Lama’s theocratic position enabled him to administer rewards and punishments as he wished. That was because he held absolute sway over both this life and the next of the serfs and coerced them with that power.

“In 1959, after the failed rebellion by the Dalai Lama and his followers, the central government of China carried out the long-delayed emancipation of millions of serfs and slaves in Tibet…

“But just as the rebellion by the Dalai Lama clique failed disgracefully 50 years ago, its fantasy of ‘Tibetan Independence’ is also doomed to failure, because of the firm opposition from the Chinese people, including the Tibetans in Tibet.”

But the Dalai Lama does not speak of Tibet’s independence, but of national regional autonomy as set forth in the Chinese constitution, and this within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. Both sides do not hear each other in detail to reach mutual understanding. It is easier to maintain an old antagonism than to find ways to a common understanding – a much more difficult task.

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On 13 March 2009, the Mirror carried an article “IMF: Cambodia Cannot Avoid the Consequences of the Global Economic Crisis!” (with reference back to similar IMF statements which we had mirrored on 13 February 2009):

“The Cambodian economy is in a negative status… We are talking about a period of dramatic decline in economic activities. So far, what we have seen is that the depth of the downturn is worse than expected.”

Since many weeks, there were many voices echoing the IMF concerns, even more so, since the Prime Minister had publicly questioned that the international economic downturn – in the so called economically rich countries – has the same social effects in a country like Cambodia. His comparison of rich and poorer countries with elephants and sheep may turn out to be a clue not only to understand the differences, but also to find ways to mitigate the economic problems in Cambodia, in a way industrialized countries cannot do:

“Growth in agriculture can surely prevent Cambodia from falling into an economic crisis, even though some major sectors of the Cambodian economy encounter a downturn.”

A foreign businessman, living in Cambodia, shared his appraisal on 12 March 2009, Putting It in Perspective:

“Now that the U. S. has shed 4.5 million jobs in the past 18 months alone and unemployment stands at 8.1 %, the conventional wisdom is that garment exports will go down substantially as the U. S. is the main market for Cambodia. The current figures appear to prove it, with a 27% decrease in exports for the month of February alone. Last December it was 30%…

“Likewise, tourist arrivals show a 2.9% reduction over the same month last year…

“According to the latest statistics the construction sector is holding sort of firm, although it was reported that some 3,000 to 5,000 jobs were lost there too.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen finds fault with all those predictions, saying that all those number are altogether not that important. What’s important is that people won’t go hungry in Cambodia. All those factory workers that lost their job can go back to their native village where they will find a rice paddy to cultivate, and a family that will take care of them…

“So the garment factory girls come back and find their wooden houses, a functioning family structure, and food to eat. They don’t have problems with heating or air conditioning… They wear simple clothes. There is one communal cell-phone which provides contact to the outside world. Yes, this is a simple life, and Westerners can only look on with widened eyes wondering how people can live like this. But let’s face it – this is reality, not only in Cambodia, but in most of South East Asia. And rural areas are exactly where the majority of the factory workers come from.

“So the fact that people can go back to their village is actually a boon for them. Yes, they are poor but they have to eat. And in this context let’s not look at the social problems, e.g. lack of health care and fundamental education. This is for another, hopefully not too far off, time.

“The Western alternative is no laughing matter. People losing their jobs, lose their homes, their savings along the line, their health care, practically their freedom. In my view it’s much more dire in the West. Recession hits people in the industrialized world much harder.”

Not all readers shared his appreciation of the Prime Minister’s perspective. He responded, “I like a good discussion with contrarian viewpoints, but they need to make sense.”

It is in this same spirit that this issue of the Mirror presents contrary and controversial views. We hope also for a good discussion – but the points put forward need to make sense. And this requires to research complex facts, and to engage in open, rational thinking.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

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Friday, 10.10.2008: Elections to Choose a President of the Bar Association, on 16 October 2008, Might Face Crisis

Posted on 11 October 2008. Filed under: Week 581 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 581

“During every election to choose a president for the Bar Association in Cambodia, there were always harsh confrontations because of disagreements, that led one person who had lost an elections not to agree to hand over the position to the winner of the election. Because of the previous challenges related to the position of president of the Bar Association, the Bar Association is very careful, being afraid that similar problems might appear again during the elections for a new president of the Bar Association

“Members of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, who stand as new candidates for the position of president, are very agitated and anxious, because they want the elections to come soon, so that they know who is competent to be the new-term president of the Bar Association to replace Ky Tech, who is the present president of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“A member of the Bar Association, who asked not to be named, reported that the elections to choose a new president of the Bar Association will be held at the Hotel Cambodiana on 16 October 2008 with more than 500 lawyers attending. Ky Tech is not allowed to stand again as a candidate for the election of a president for the Bar Association.

“The restriction by the Bar Association [regulations] for Ky Tech to stand again as a candidate for the forthcoming elections for a new president of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia leaves some people, who support Ky Tech, unhappy, because when Ky Tech is no longer president of the Bar Association, they will loose their backing. Even Ky Tech himself is unhappy with the restriction for him to stand again as a candidate for another new term.

“Sources from the Bar Association said that the following persons are candidates for the election of a new president of the Bar Association: 1. Nou Tepirith, 2. Khieu Sophal, 3. Puth Theavy, 4. Ouk Phouri, and 5. Chiv Song Hak. The five candidates have two days or 48 hours to lobby the members to support them before the elections.

“A candidate said that the upcoming elections for a new president of the Bar Association are essential. If lawyers are not independent and do not take a moral position, it creates an impossible situation; therefore, whichever candidate is elected, that person must transparently and independently work for the Bar Association.

“Previously, the Bar Association was not very independent, which caused some harsh and disorderly situations in the Bar Association. Another problem was that some government officials and politicians infiltrated the Bar Association, previously led by Ky Tech; moreover there was also discrimination and nepotism.

“It should be noted that after the elections in 2004, Ky Tech, the president of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, did not hand over his position to Mr. Suon Visal, who had won the elections, creating a conflictive situation which was a heavy burden on the Bar Association.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3584, 10.10.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 10 October 2008


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1764, 10.10.2008

  • Siam [Thailand] Puts More Troops and Canons in Front of the Preah Vihear Temple
  • Burmese Ambassador to Cambodia [Mr. Aung Naing, 61] Died from Illness in SOS Hospital [8 October 2008]
  • Mr. Rong Chhun [president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association] Announces to Demonstrate against the Siamese [Thai] Prime Minister [who plans to visit Cambodia on 13 October 2008]


Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.1, #260, 10.10.2008

  • Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Do Not Move to Become Members of the Commissions of the National Assembly [because the Cambodian People’s Party did not discuss the nominations for the composition of the National Assembly’s leaders with the Sam Rainsy Party]


Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #113, 10.10.2008

  • The Cambodian Mine Action Center Announced to Seek Aid for Mine Clearance [annually, between US$10 and US$11 million is spent to clear around 27 square kilometers from land mines]
  • The Open Society Justice Initiative Requests Donor Countries of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to Set Conditions so that There Is No Corruption [a brief press statement is here – the full 17 pages document “Recent Developments at the ECCC: October 2008” can be downloaded there by a mouse click on the icon presented there]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6469, 10.10.2008

  • During the First Nine Months, the Number of International Tourists Increased by 10.11% Compared with 2007 [to 1,389,557]


Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3584, 10.10.2008

  • Elections to Choose a President of the Bar Association, on 16 October 2008, Might Face Crisis
  • Because of Tense Situation in Siam [Thailand], Khmer Workers Rush to Return Home
  • [Funcinpec Secretary-General] Nhek Bun Chhay Asks Hun Sen to Nominate Former Secretaries of State and Under Secretaries of State [from Funcinpec] as Advisors


Rasmei Angkor, Vol.15, #1368, 10.10.2008

  • [A 17 year-old] Youth Was Rolled Over by a Truck, Completely Destroying His Body into Pieces of Flesh that Could Not Be Recognized [Dangkao, Phnom Penh]


Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4712, 10.10.2008

  • The National Assembly Recognized Seventeen Newly-Elected Parliaments from the Cambodian People’s Party to Replace Those [from the CPP] Who Had Resigned [because they were appointed to ministerial positions – and the validity of the three elected members from the Human Rights Party as members of the National Assembly was also established – after a special swearing-in ceremony for all, presided over by the King]
  • The Appeals Court Sentenced a Russian Millionaire [Alexander Trofimov, 41] to Serve Six Years Imprisonment for Sexually Assaulting Children under the Age of Fifteen [reducing the original sentence of 13 years imprisonment we had reported on 14.3.2008]
  • Thai Army Commander-in-Chief [General Anupong Paochinda] Promised Not to Make a Coup [after the worst turmoil on 7 October 2008]


Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3422, 10.10.2008

  • Phnom Penh Authorities Warn about Plans to Demonstrate during the Siamese [Thai] Prime Minister’s Visit [according to the Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth]

Click here to have a look at the last editorial: Consensus about law enforcement in a society is easy to achieve, when the leadership shows to enforce it equally for all.

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Tuesday, 2.9.2008: Cambodia and Vietnam Agree to Finish Setting Border Markers by the End of 2008, while Siam Continues to Invade in the West

Posted on 3 September 2008. Filed under: Week 576 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 576

“Phnom Penh: The government of Cambodia sent another working group to Vietnam to continue the negotiations regarding the setting of land border markers, while Siamese [Thai] troops continue to invade the west of Cambodia.

“Early this week, Mr. Var Kim Hong [the head of the Cambodian Border Committee] and Mr. Long Visalo [Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] led a border working group to Vietnam to discuss details of the border markings, mutually agreed at the end of 2006, in order to put land border markers as agreed previously.

“An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that during one-day negotiations on 28 August 2008, Cambodia and Vietnam agreed to finish setting 100 land border markers by the end of 2008.

“The official continued that the 1,270 km land border between Cambodia and Vietnam will be marked with more than 300 border markers, both on land and on the sea. The maps for the discussion used by both working groups are based on 1:100,000 scale maps. The maps will be used as basis for the discussions with Vietnam and Laos, in order to mark the unclear border points along the borders of both countries.

“As for the maps for the discussions and as reference with Siam [Thailand], they are based on the international French and Siamese maps or the 100/200,000 map [sic! – though this is maybe not correct, as it is not a usual scale, and it is also not probable that an old, but very detailed 1:2,000 map exists of the whole borderline, made at the time when France was the colonial power in Cambodia and negotiated with Thailand]. However, the official said that to put border markers at the Cambodian and Vietnamese border, and border markers at the Cambodian and Laotian border is easy to be achieved, because Vietnam and Laos recognize the maps mentioned above. As for Siam, it bases its arguments on the maps made between Siam and France without any discussion with Cambodia [because at that time, there was no Cambodian government, but the French held the state authority]. This is the point why Cambodia does not accept the demands by the Siamese side.

“Mr. Var Kim Hong, the head of the Cambodian Border Committee, reported to Kampuchea Thmey that the Cambodian working group visiting Vietnam early last week signed an agreement on the points of convergence between Cambodia and Vietnam, and between Cambodia and Laos. ‘We met as the working groups of the three countries, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, to discuss about the setting of 100 border markers by the end of 2008. During this meeting, we wanted to speed up the marking of the border lines of the three countries according to each stage.’

“Mr. Var Kim Hong added, ‘We will continue to study to set more than 300 border markers between Cambodia and Vietnam, according to our legal policies and the Indochina Scale Map. During the meeting we confirmed to fulfill more of the agreements of early 2005. Nevertheless, Cambodia is optimistic that solutions for the Cambodian and Vietnamese border, and for the Cambodian and Laotian border are easy to be discussed, because we depend on [intergovernmental] memorandums of understanding.’

“An official of the government said that after the working groups of the three countries agreed about common maps, ‘we will use instruments receiving the data of the Global Positioning System – GPS – by pressing at the locator button [to identify the location]; for some points – the three sides said – if the GPS shows that Cambodia extends into Vietnamese territory, and in some areas Vietnam extends into Cambodia – and similarly for Laos – then each side will have to withdraw from those points.’

“As for the border between Cambodia and Siam, Mr. Var Kim Hong said that ‘we now cannot say how to solve it, because negotiations are stalled.’ He added, “We have sufficient maps as references, but we cannot talk now, because the negotiations cannot proceed, as there is a crisis in Siam’ [which started some days ago]. He went on to say that he is still confident that Cambodia and Thailand can solve their dispute.

“Although the government of Cambodia hopes the borders between Cambodia and Siam can be clearly established, Siam still continues to invade Cambodia with no end. Though now a crisis erupted in their country, they still let their troops invade Cambodia along the border.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1735, 2.9.2008

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 2 September 2008


Chakraval, Vol.16, #2807, 2.8.2008

  • Boeng Kak Lake Residents Protest at Municipal Office Demanding a Solution from the Company Before Soil Is Pumped in [1 September 2008]
Boeng Kak Lake in Phnom Penh

Boeng Kak Lake in Phnom Penh

In spite of the concerns of Prime Minister Hun Sen and of the President of the Natinal Assembly Heng Samrin, this lake may disappear – see also the editorial of the previous Sunday: Click here to have a look at the last editoria.


Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1735, 2.8.2008

  • Cambodia and Vietnam Agree to Finish Setting Border Markers by the End of 2008, while Siam Continues to Invade in the West
  • Political Crisis in Siam [Thailand] Leads to a Complete Deadlock


Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #88, 2.8.2008

  • People Demand Municipality Stop Filling Boeng Kak Lake
  • Forest Crimes Increase in Batheay District [Kompong Cham]


Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3554, 2.8.2008

  • Income from Oil Will Benefit Only Leaders and Corrupt Officials
  • Siamese Troops Enter and Build Base, 2 km inside of Khmer Land at Dangrek Mountains [Oddar Meanchey]


Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4683, 2.8.2008

  • Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha Will Complain to the International Community after the Announcement of the Election Results Today
  • National Election Committee Did Better Than UNTAC Did [United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia 1992/93]; the National Election Committee Counted Votes Immediately After Elections [says National Election Committee chairperson Im Suorsdey]


Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3399, 2.8.2008

  • Mystery of the Cobra Two Karaoke Parlor: Women Working there [are required to] Wear No Underwear [Kien Svay, Kandal]

Click here to have a look at the last editorial – will the Prime Minister’s concern for the environment continue to be violated?

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