LICADHO: Prisons in Cambodia Could Become Detention Places with the Highest Prisoner Rates in the World – Tuesday, 20.7.2010

Posted on 21 July 2010. Filed under: Week 674 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 674

“Phnom Penh: The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights [LICADHO] has found that prisons in Cambodia could become detention centers with the highest prisoner rates before or by 2018. Such a prediction is based on the results from the observations of 18 among the 25 prisons countrywide.

“The findings from the observations of LICADHO, released on Monday, 19 July 2010, show that there are 12,646 prisoners in 18 prisons in 13 provinces, as observed by LICADHO. In December 2009, one third of the prisoners in detention did not yet have a hearing. Some prisons do not have proper living condition for prisoners.

“Prisons in Cambodia have scarce resources, and the overcrowding of prisons leads to ever more serious conditions in the prisons.

“According to the report of LICADHO, the increase in the number of prisoners from day to day might lead to a situation where Cambodia has a prison system with the highest prisoner rates in the world before or by 2018, because in some prisons in Cambodia there are three times more prisoners compared to the designed capacity. For example, in the Takmao prison, the official capacity is only 314 prisoners, but actually, there are up to 1,042 prisoners. The M2 rehabilitation center in the Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh, houses up to 777 women and children while the official capacity is merely 300. The Kompong Thom prison has 208 prisoners, while the official capacity is 50 prisoners only.

“The head of the investigation section of LICADHO, Mr. Oum Sam Ath, said that the major cause for the overcrowded prisons in Cambodia nowadays is that some offences should not lead to imprisonment, while now many suspects are detained temporarily before they get sentenced, affecting the judicial systems and the prisoners’ health. Also, there is overcrowding because many prisoners are jailed beyond the term of their conviction.

“Mr. Oum Sam Ath added that LICADHO recommended to the Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior to discuss this situation with the Ministry of Justice and with the court system, to solve the problem of overcrowded prisons by checking the terms of imprisonment, and by releasing prisoners facing minor accusations, like misdemeanors, on bail.

“Nevertheless, the head of the Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Heng Hak, said that the current number of prisoners is not the highest rate in the world.

“He went on to say, ‘At present, we are dealing with overcrowding by constructing new prisons or expanding the housing capacity of the existing prisons, such as M2 and M3, and by repairing old buildings as well as constructing new ones, like in Pursat, where we built a new prison – M4 – which can house 2,500 prisoners.’

“Mr. Heng Hak added that nowadays, the conditions for prisoners are better, as they now get a food support of Riel 2,800 [US$0.65] per day.

“Before, their food support was only Riel 1,500 [US$0.35]. The health of prisoners is better than before, as they are cared for by the government by cooperating with non-government organizations working on health issues, to check and to treat prisoners.

“It should be noted that at present, there are 25 prisons nationwide with 13,325 prisoners; LICADHO found that 90% of the prisoners are overcrowded, as these 25 prisons can house merely 8,000 prisoners.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5254, 20.7.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2305, 20.7.2010

  • Samdech Hun Sen Announced to Continue a Long-Term Career in Politics
  • The Opposition Party Asked the United States of America to Guarantee [opposition party leader] Mr. Sam Rainsy’s Return [but so far, there is no response]
  • In This Year’s [lower secondary school] Grade 9 Examinations, 91.81% of the [159,724] Students Passed Which Is Comparable to Last Year

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #7012, 20.7.2010

  • Two Female Workers Jumped from the Second Floor of a House to Escape [from the VC Manpower Company, sending workers to Malaysia] – One Was Seriously Injury [she broke her spine], the Other One Ran Away [Phnom Penh]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3936, 20.7.2010

  • The United States of America [during a visit by US Under-Secretary of State Mr. William Burns] Asked Cambodian Politicians to Think about the Freedom of Expression in Politics before They Decide to Use Court Systems to Solve Problems
  • The US Senate Created a New Law Requiring Companies Registered at the US Stock Exchange to Declare Their Payments to the Cambodian Government before Starting Oil and Gas Exploitation Later in 2012

Nokor Wat, Vol.1, #8, 20.7.2010

  • Cambodia Continues to Develop the Preah Vihear Area without Caring about Thai Warnings [Thailand claimed that the demarcation of the area between both countries have not been finished, but Cambodia claimed developments are made only on Cambodian territory]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #218, 20.7.2010

  • Those Who Attempt to Overthrow Hun Sen Using No-Democratic Means Will Receive a Response by Force [the Prime Minister warned the opposition parties for recently discussing his health condition]
  • Cambodia Angkor Air Will Buy Two Planes [Airbus 321, which cost about US$99.5 million each] to Expand Its Flights [so there will be five planes in total]
  • The Khmer Rouge Tribunal Closed Investigations of Case 002 [involving former Khmer Rouge leaders Khiev Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, and Nuon Chea]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5254, 20.7.2010

  • LICADHO: Prisons in Cambodia Could Become Detention Places with the Highest Prisoner Rates in the World
  • Samdech Dekchor Wants Universities to Be Established in All Provinces [to reduce the expenses of students who seek to further their education in cities]
  • The National Budget for 2011 Amounts to Riel 12,000,000,000,000 [approx. US$2,800 million, compared with 2010 when it was Riel 8,000,000,000,000 or approx. US$1,900 Million – according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance]
  • Garment Workers of Two Factories with About 2,000 Workers Strike to Demand Improved Work Conditions in 16 Points [such as an extra payment of US$10 for female workers who have delivered a baby buy milk powder, and the permission for a 90 days absentee regulation during pregnancy – Phnom Penh]

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Children in Prisons Are Suffering from Malnutrition – Friday, 27.3.2009

Posted on 28 March 2009. Filed under: Week 605 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 605

“Phnom Penh: The condition of children and of women in prisons is being considered by the government and by human rights organizations in relation to their health, even though they are in prison.

“Children under the age of six are brought with their prisoner parents to live with them in prison. Therefore, do these children receive enough nutritious food?

“According to a report by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights – LICADHO – in January 2009, there are 40 children living with their parents in prisons. Children living in prison face malnutrition, lack other necessities, and lack education which is crucial for their growing up.

“A prison research official of LICADHO, Mr. Khieu Kolay, said that children are not required to live with their parents in prison, but parents themselves want their children to live with them because no one else can take care of them besides them. Thus, nobody can hinder them.

“Regarding monetary allowances for prisoners, the Prison Department of the Ministry of Interior is asking the Ministry of Economy and Finance to increase it from Riel 1,500 [approx US$0.37] to Riel 2,800 [approx. US$0.69] per day, so that they can eat enough food and also so that it is in line with the high inflation at the markets.

“According to Prison Regulation Number 34, children under the age of six are allowed to live with their parents in prison, since this provides benefits to children. Because the period of the first five-years of children is important for the growing of their bodies, their social living, and their mental development, the Regulation Number 34 requires prison authorities to provide children with their basic needs.

“However, in reality, these necessities are neglected. Women who are mothers, and pregnant women are not offered additional food and material for taking care of their children.

“It should be remembered that children living with their parents in prison are not prisoners, and they must not receive any punishment.

“Based on ADHOC’s report [maybe this should say ‘LICADHO’?], in January 2009 there were 40 children living with their parents in prisons, where 22 are male and 18 are female. There are 17 children in the Rehabilitation Center II, 2 in the prison in Takhmao, 2 in the prison in Battambang, 3 in Banteay Meanchey, 4 in Siem Reap, 8 in Sihanoukville, 1 in Koh Kong, 1 in Kompong Chhnang, and 2 in Kompong Cham.” Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #150, 27.3.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 27 March 2009

Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, 48, 27.3.2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #150, 27.3.2009

  • Children in Prison [with their parents] Are Suffering from Malnutrition
  • More than 20,000 Red-Shirt Demonstrators [who support ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra] Surround Government House of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1908, 27.3.2009

  • Parliament Members from the Opposition Party Ask the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy to Investigate the Allegation that Ice Manufacturing Companies Steal State Electricity
  • Artillery Fire [between Tamil insurgents and government troops] Killed 54 Civilians in Sri Lanka

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #373, 27.3.2009

  • Former Khmer Rouge Leaders Said that the Conviction of Former Khmer Rouge Leaders Is Not Just, because Yuon [Vietnam] Also Killed Khmers after 1979

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6613, 27.3.2009

  • The Tense Conditions near the Preah Vihear Temple Gets Better after Siam [Thailand] Denied It Had Sent Troops to Violate Cambodian Territory
  • America Provides Helicopters to Mexico to Combat Drugs

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3722, 27.3.2009

  • [Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian] Son Chhay Asks the Government to Increase Import Taxes and Assist Farmers with Resources

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4854, 25.3.2009

  • Officials: Big Construction of Buildings in Cambodia Is Still in Progress despite the Global Economic Crisis
  • The Ministry of Culture of Vietnam Donates Musical Instruments to the Ministry of Culture [of Cambodia]
  • Incheon City of Korea and Phnom Penh Sign to Tie Sister City Relations

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.16, #1683, 27.3.2009

  • Mr. Sam Rainsy Calls on Khmer Citizens to Care about Border Problems both at the West [with Thailand] and at the East [with Vietnam]

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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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    Outlook into 2009 – Sunday, 11.1.2009

    Posted on 12 January 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 594 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


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    The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 594

    Observing a wide range of discussions about the future, there are two fields which get most prominent attention: the economy – and the state of law.

    As the Cambodian economy – internationally – depends much on the export of garment products and on international tourism, and on a construction boom, we did mirror related reports:

    The garment industry was a sure bet in the past – in every of the previous years, this sector grew by 15% to 20%. But this was not an assurance for the future. The situation is bad, but not too bad, some observers say:

    In Cambodia 73 factories were closed in 2008, making nearly 25,000 workers unemployed. But 64 new factories opened, absorbing 10,000 new workers. – The export of garments to international markets dropped by 2%, while before, it was expected that it would drop by between 5% and 7%. Therefore the global financial crisis affected this sector very little.

    Others are more careful to express their hope: While at present the future looks really to dark, things may change:

    Presently received orders will be finished by February and March 2009, and there are no buying orders for May and June 2009.

    But buyers from the United States of America probably wait until the new president takes his position in mid January, then they will continue buying.

    Investments in the construction industry are also facing big problems:

    All construction projects of high rise buildings to develop the city to become a modern city are mostly based on foreign investment in Cambodia. Therefore large scale investments, like those by Korean investors planning constructions for the city, are delayed.

    The labor unions say that 30% of the construction workers are laid off, and various projects are suspended; and it is forecast that in 2009 the decline will continue.

    And tourism?

    The Minister of Tourism recognized that the global financial crisis and the confrontation with Thailand in the Preah Vihear region slows the number of tourists to Cambodia down, but Cambodia will make all efforts to guarantee the safety of tourists, and to promote the further growth of tourism.

    The loss of everyday jobs and income for the families is a consequence resulting from the decline in the number of tourists to Cambodia since July 2008.

    Such reductions in the economic possibilities are also reflected in the cautious employment policy of the government for new graduates, in spite of the fact that their number is increasing year by year:

    The Cambodian government decided to reduce the recruitment of new civil servants from 9,000 to 8,000 to work at different ministries and departments in 2009.

    To reduce employment alone will not be sufficient. We will watch out for reports about other determined decisions how to contain and to save expenses.

    The plan to spend US$10 million on public lighting in Phnom Penh is surprising in this context. Even if it is intended to do this with a foreign loan, it is not only a liability to be paid back; after the investment is done, a lot of electricity will have to be paid for. Public taxpayer money will have to be spent regularly for the electricity, and this money will go to the producers of electricity; more and more private companies will profit from this.

    Of course there is the hope for big oil money in the futue. And the international community has pledged around one billion dollars of aid for 2009.

    The scholarly wisdom from the field of Economics and of Business Administration has not prevented a global economic meltdown of a size never before experienced. Now there are many efforts under discussion, what kind of political will and political action is needed to control the economic problems so that they do not get totally out of control. The myth about the “self-regulatory powers of the market” led into global crisis; new bold legislation and new government interventions are now being called for internationally.

    There is new movement also in Cambodia in the field of the role of law.

    The new year started with an almost unexpected news from the past: after five years of doubts and mistrust in police and in court actions, related to the 2004 murder of the labor leader Chea Vichea, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were released on bail, because, as the Supreme Court judge Dith Munty explained, there is a lack of clarity: the case needs further investigation, as there were gaps in the procedures, and there is insufficient evidence.

    There will have to be a lot of explanation to be done, why previous investigations were not done correctly, and how it was possible that gaps in the procedures – which had been pointed out by many, including by the former King – could not be rectified without keeping two persons in prison for five years.

    Now the police waits already one whole week for the green light from the court to start the new investigation. It is probably the correct procedure now to wait for the court again. When there is a lack of clarity, new investigations are to be made, according to the law, independently from any outside influence, also independent from the executive branch of the government, according to the Constitution of the country.

    Article 51 of the Constituton says:
    “The Cambodian people are the masters of their own country. All power belongs to the people. The people exercise these powers through the National Assembly, The Senate, the Royal Government and the Judiciary. The legislative, executive, and judicial powers shall be separate.”

    But it is at least surprising that the effort by three persons, accredited by the Bar Association of Cambodia to act at the courts in Cambodia, met with difficulties when hey tried to file a law suit. They want to initiate a clarification by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court about allegations of irregularities at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. They had not been able, in spite of their efforts over several months, to receive certain pieces of information – as we had mirrored on Friday, 9.1.2009, in detail from the Khmer press.

    What is even more surprising – not based on any legal expertize, but just on common sense – is that the appeal to a court of law to bring clarity, is not welcome, but is met by an expression of regret. The national judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia criticized this appeal to a court with the argument, that they had entered into service at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal on the basis of a Royal Decree, signed by the King.

    This case brings a basic problem of perception to the public, whether this society will live up to its constitution, where an independent judiciary is to find out what is right and what is wrong, or whether positions of rank will have precedence. Do the national judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia not trust that the courts can fulfill their duty?

    The fact, that a person had an illustrious career to which he was properly appointed, is no reason not to clarify by the courts and on the basis of the law in a transparent way, whether a person has acted properly or not. When Heng Pov, who was, over the course of time, undersecretary of state, and assistant to the Minister of the Interior, and then police commissioner of the city of Phnom Penh – who had had all the proper appointments – was put to the test by the courts, he failed and is now in prison.

    Whoever is innocent, should be happy to have this finally confirmed by a normal, public court. Why not?

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    Looking Back and Looking Ahead – Sunday, 4.1.2009

    Posted on 5 January 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 593 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 593

    The beginning of a new year always challenges us – to look back, and to look ahead. In both cases we may gain some orientation. We know, more or less, what happened – but do we understand why? Are we satisfied with what we know? What do we like to continue, and what to change?

    Or do we try to look more into the future than into the past? Looking forward to 2009 – but is it with fear, or with hope? May be we have our own clear plans what to do – but will we be ale to make things work out, because many others have the same hopes – or not?

    Obviously, we cannot get all the lifetime prosperity, harmony, and affection which people wished for us so that the New Year would be a Happy New Year. But could we, maybe, foresee and say more – not for us as individuals, but for the society were we live?

    The last couple of days provided two strong indications about that – but of a contradicting nature.

    A paper reported that the president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had said – though without using these words – that we do live in a society which is not governed by the law.

    Quite a strong statement – because the Phnom Penh Municipal Court court “lacked judges for hearing 6,500 cases in 2008. Being unable to solve many cases like that, makes that hundreds of accused persons are detained beyond the legal limit, which states that the detention of an accused or of a suspect can be up to a maximum of six months. Then they have to be brought to court for a hearing, and if the court cannot find them to be guilty, they must be released immediately. However, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and Khmer courts in different provinces do not abide by this legal procedure, and continue to detain thousands of people for many years without conviction, which is against legal procedure and seriously violates the rights of the accused.” By the end of 2007, there had even been 9,200 such unsolved cases.

    Not some uninformed and ill-intended observers said this, but the president of the Phnom Penh Municipal court.

    And the future?

    The president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court “acknowledged that Khmer courts are not yet quite in good order; therefore all Khmer courts need many more years to improve.”

    The Court Watch Bulletins of the Center for Social Development describe what the accused – guilty or not – will have to endure for years to come (according to the time line given by the president of the Municipal Court): “The municipal court conducted hearings for three criminal cases every day, and half of those hearings lasted only not more than 20 minutes. So the period for hearing each case was very short, just enough to read the verdicts by which the court defined punishments, or defined who were the losers and the winners in a conflict. The result is that each case is not clearly analyzed according to the procedures of the law, and according to the facts. Therefore it is seen that frequently the rich and high ranking officials won cases against poor people, and against people who are not powerful in society.”

    The president of the Municipal Court states now that one of the reasons for these regular violations of the law is a lack of staff at the courts: there are not enough judges and not enough prosecutors! There is no reason to doubt this. But we do not remember to have seen, in the press over the years, that the leadership of the courts, the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, the leadership of the government as a whole – responsible in different ways to upheld a state of law – has decried this situation, leading to regular gross violations of basic rights of citizens according to Cambodian laws, and initiated urgent efforts to rectify this situation.

    The situation has an even worse aspect, when one considers that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng was quoted to have acknowledges that there is corruption among high ranking police officers.

    But is all his going to be rectified – not immediately, but consistently, and step by step, without unnecessary delay?



    The Supreme Court Released Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun on 31 December 2008 on bail – they had been arrested on 28 January 2004 and were convicted to serve 20 years in prison by the Phnom Penh court, for killing the labor union leader Mr. Chea Vichea on 22 January 2004.

    But the president of the Supreme Court explained now that the present decision – to release them on bail – was made because the murder of the former president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia needs further investigation, as there were gaps in the procedures, and there is insufficient evidence.

    This decision was widely welcomed – as it initiates a reconsideration not only of what really happened five years ago, but it will also be necessary to clarify:

    • What went wrong with the investigation of the police, and why?
    • What went wrong at the initial court procedures, when evidence offered by the defense was disregarded, and why?
    • What went wrong when the Appeals Court on 12 April 2007 upheld the convictions of Born Samnang and of Sok Samoeun, in spite of many indications raised in the international and national public – including by the former King – that the initial process was flawed, and why was there no new investigation ordered by the Appeals Court?

    There is hope that the present decision of the Supreme Court will lead to justice for the two persons who spent already five years in prison.

    But tis is only one side of the problem. The Supreme Court created an opportunity like never before, to go into detail, to clarify what went wrong and why, and who may have to take responsibility for what went wrong, and bear the consequences according to the law.

    Not a revision of old, or the promulgation of new legal procedure will make Cambodia a state under the law – only the strict application of the law will help to bring change.

    There was never a better chance for this than since the recent decision by the Supreme Court.


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    The Supreme Court Releases Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun – Friday, 2.1.2009

    Posted on 3 January 2009. Filed under: Week 593 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 593

    “Phnom Penh: This is a rare and almost incredible decision in the Cambodian court system during these latest decades. The Supreme Court decided to provide justice to Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun by releasing them from prison [on bail]. This was decided by the Supreme Court on 31 December 2008 during the hearing on the murder of Mr. Chea Vichea.

    “After a four-hour hearing, the president of the Supreme Court who was presiding over the panel of five judges, the judge Dith Munty, announced to return the murder case of Mr. Chea Vichea to the Appeals Court for reinvestigation and retrial. The Supreme Court decided also to release Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun on bail, but requires them to be present on the dates that the court authorities decide.

    “Judge Dith Munty explained that this decision was made because the murder case of the former president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia five years ago needs further investigation, as there are gaps in the procedures, and there is insufficient evidence.

    “After the decision of the Supreme Court, the accused Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were immediately brought back to the PJ prison, to wait for the release order from the Supreme Court.

    “This decision was welcomed by the families of the released, by civil society organizations, and by the embassies observing the murder case of Mr. Chea Vichea; and the decision was considered to be a new turning point for the Cambodian court system.

    “With great happiness, Born Samnang’s parents, Ms. Nuon Kimsry and Mr. Voun Phon, expressed their satisfaction beyond words, outside of the court room, considering that the court had really brought justice.

    “The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, Mr. Rong Chhun, who observed the hearing with keen interest, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. This decision is a new turning point in the court system in Cambodia. Now impunity will be eliminated in future by the correct implementation of the law.

    “Representatives of several embassies had observed the hearings of the Supreme Court, and the US Embassy released a statement welcoming the decision to release the accused Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun [on bail].

    “A few days before the hearing, the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Observatory for Protection of Human Right Defenders, Amnesty International, and the Treatment Committee, 21 organizations of human rights defenders communities, had released statements asking the Supreme Court to provide justice to the accused Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun. Civil society organizations believed that both of them are not the real murderers oft Mr. Chea Vichea.

    “A Secretary of State of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, said that the decision of the Supreme Court about the murder of Mr. Chea Vichea is not related to reforms of the court system. He said also that that decision was not made according to someone else’s will or according to political considerations. It is a decision on which no one has the power to influence it, it is the will of the judges who have brought suspicions to an end through the process of the law.

    “However, analysts of the murder case of Chea Vichea think that the Supreme Court made this decision because some of the police who built this case (Heng Pov’s group) are mostly criminals, and are now detained. Another point is that Mr. Heng Pov had also said that the former powerful police chief, who had recetly died, was also involved in the murder case of Mr. Chea Vichea. Therefore it is now the time that the Supreme Court acts independently to provide justice to the accused, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, who were imprisoned nearly five years.

    “It should be noted that during the hearing of the Supreme Court on 31 December 2008, both Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun claimed that they are not the real murderers who shot dead Mr. Chea Vichea. As for the defense lawyers of the accused Born Samnang and of Sok Sam Oeun, they raised arguments to defend both of them. Sok Sam Oeun’s defense lawyer, Mr. Hong Kimsuon, claimed that both suspects are just persons that the police used to play a farce. Born Samnang’s defense lawyer, Mr. Chum Sovannaly, claimed that Born Samnang’s confession in this case is only a creation by the police who are incompetent [to arrest the real murderers]. They are Mr. Heng Pov’s group who persuaded and used money to lure Born Somnang and created fake evidence to put blame on both.

    “The accused Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun had been arrested on 28 January 2004 and were convicted to serve 20 years in prison by the Phnom Penh court, for killing Mr. Chea Vichea on 22 January 2004.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4783-#4784, 1-2.1.2009

    Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
    Friday, 2 January 2009

    Chakraval, Vol.17, #2838, 2.1.2009

    • Police Has a Spokesperson; [Major-General Kiet Chantharith] Becomes the Spokesperson

    Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #103, 2-6.1.2009

    • Economist: Prices Can Drop As Long as There Is Intervention from the Government
    • Olympic Market Vendors Protest against the Thai Bunrong Company That Asks Them to Pay Vendors Stalls’ Prices 6 Months before Contracts End
    • Israel Rebuffs the United Nations’ Request for a Cease Fire
    • 10,000 Iranians Volunteer to Register Their Names to Commit Suicide Bombings in Israel

     
    Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1835-#1836, 1-2.1.2009

    • Rare Photos Describing Events 30 Years Ago [about the victory over the Khmer Rouge regime on 7 January 1979] Are to Be Exhibited Next Week [at the Wat Phnom Exhibition Center]
    • 266 People Died and 1,103 Were Injured by Traffic Accidents in Phnom Penh in 2008
    • Being Discouraged by Poverty and Being Handicapped, a Man Decided to End His Life by Setting Himself and His House on Fire [Banteay Meanchey]

     
    Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #317, 2.1.2009

    • It Is Time to Call [former Phnom Penh police chief, now jailed in Prey Sar Prison] Heng Pov to Reveal the Farce That He Made after the Murder of Chea Vichea [because he had organized to force Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun to confess that they killed Mr. Chea Vichea]
    • On 5 January 2009 Human Rights Watch Will Release a Book about Yuon [Vietnamese] Violations against Monks and against Khmer Krom People

     
    Khmer Sthapana, Vol.2, #173, 1.1.2009

    • [Royal Cabinet advisor] Prince Sisowath Thomico Appeals to Royal Family Members to Stop Doing Politics
    • Deaths from Dengue Fever in Cambodia Declined [from 407 people in 2007 to 65 people in 2008]

     
    Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6540-#6541, 1-2.1.2009

    • Observation during the First Day of the Implementation of the Traffic Law in Phnom Penh Shows that 85% of Drivers Wear Helmets
    • Cambodian Railways Concludes Work in 2008 and Issues Directions for 2009 [in 2008, 233,854 tonnes of goods and 4,924 passengers transported
    •  

    Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4783-#4784, 1-2.1.2009

    • The Supreme Court Releases Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun
    • Buddhist Circles Ask that the ‘Where Elephants Weep’ Opera Apologizes and Stops Performing [because there is criticism by some Buddhists and Monks in the audience. – Note: As this is an opera, all actors sing, also the monks – which seems to have been the rigger for the complaint; on TV station canceled already a program where it had been announce that ‘Where Elephants Weep’ would be broadcast]
    • In 2008, the Government Borrowed US$279.5 Million [and received US$109.3 million as grant aid from financial institutions and foreign countries – according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance]
    • [Father King] Samdech Euv Is Admitted to a Beijing Hospital for Blood Transfusion [because of leukemia]
    • The United States of America Trains Cambodian Officials about Oil Resources Management
    • The US Embassy Welcomes the Decision of the Supreme Court over [the president of Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers] Mr. Chea Vichea’s Case [where Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were released on bail]
    • Cambodia Joins to Share Condolences for the Death of Former Malaysian King [Tuanku Ja’afar Ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman – at the Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh]
    • Eldest Daughter of Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen [Hun Mana] Gets Married [to Mr. Dy Vichea, a Son of the former Director General of the National Police Hok Lundy, who recently died in a helicopter crash,]
    • Fire in a Night Club in Bangkok Killed 60 People Crossing from 2008 to 2009 [it is said that the fire was caused by firecrackers released inside of the club]

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

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