Cambodia as a Member of the International Community of States – Sunday, 11.10.2009

Posted on 12 October 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 633 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 633

Serious questions surfaced during the week about the meaning of the consequences when a state has resolved to sign international covenants, and has entered into certain agreements of international cooperation.

The discussion of the draft Penal Code in the National Assembly, during several days on the way towards its adoption, revealed some surprising elements – some of a formalistic nature, others relating to substantive understandings.

Article 88 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia states clearly and simply: “The National Assembly sessions shall be held in public.”

When, on 6 October 2009, crucial draft articles were to be discussed, two members of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia were asked to leave the observation gallery. This was later explained to be a measure related to security concerns – but the same persons had attended the meeting unencumbered during previous days. – And it is remembered that ambassadors and several embassy staff members from different countries were prevented on 23 June 2009 to enter and to observe the session, when the immunity of a member of an opposition party was to be discussed.

The present debate took place several days after Dr. Surya Subedi, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental UN body where 47 member states are represented, shared his first report to the Council on 1 October 2009. When Mr. Yim Sovann, a member of the National Assembly from the Sam Rainsy Party, referred to Dr. Subedi’s concern about legal provisions for the freedom of expression, Mr. Ai Khan, a member of the National Assembly from the Cambodian People’s Party, is reported to have said: “I do not know who Subedi is… he does not understand about the words criticizing, scorning, and defaming… I want to notify H.E. Yim Sovann: Do not raise a foreigner’s ideas for discussion here.” Mr. Cheam Yeap, a member of the National Assembly also from the Cambodian People’s Party, had also been reported to respond to a reference to Dr. Subedi as “a foreigner’s request concerning this.” And Mr. Chheang Vun, the chairperson of the Assembly’s Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Media and Information, rejected Dr. Subedi’s statements as a violation of Cambodia’s sovereignty.

Dr. Subedi had not been speaking just “as a foreigner,” in fulfilling a mandate given to him by the UN Human Rights Council. In response to having been told that all Cambodian court actions had been conducted in accordance with Cambodian laws, he had not spoken to violate Cambodia’s sovereignty, but stated that he was “concerned that the laws in question themselves fell short of the standards required by international human rights treaties and practice, and that Cambodia’s judiciary was taking a restrictive approach in interpreting these laws, ultimately leading to excessive restrictions on freedom of expression.” Dr. Subedi is just expressing what is assumed internationally and in general: when a state accedes to international human rights treaties, it is assumed that they will be adhered to – they are not “a foreigner’s opinion.” They are part of multilateral intergovernmental agreements being clarified.

The discussion of the draft Penal Code in the National Assembly showed that by Saturday, 10 October 2009, 525 of the 672 articles had been approved – without a single change, in spite of the many questions for clarification, or suggestions for changes by Assembly members of the opposition parties. This absolute unity of opinion of the deputies of the Cambodian People’s Party is at least surprising in view of Article 77 of the Constitution: “The deputies in the National Assembly shall represent the entire Khmer people, not only Khmers from their constituencies. Any imperative mandate shall be nullified.” Not one of them seems to have thought to pronounce a different position from the majority. And this while they are – by the Constitution! – not bound by any “imperative mandate” ordering them what position to take. It is no surprise that Ms. Mu Sochua, a member of an opposition party, asked in view of the way the debate did not lead to the slightest change of the draft, why to spend more time in such kind of discussion: “I think we should just put a stamp on it.”

Another serious conflict of understanding, difficult to solve, is the warning by the Prime Minister, “that the government will not accept, or even stop receiving foreign aid, if aid is linked with conditions. Recently, the government has canceled the assistance of the World Bank for a land registration program.”

This is obviously a double threat: not only a warning towards the members of parliament in the countries which have to discuss and to negotiate how much money from the taxpayers of their country they will make available for which purposes and under which conditions. As a person from ADHOC pointed out, it is a threat also against those people of Cambodia who might benefit from such international aid.

In the case of the World Bank, their conditions were actually what both sides – the World Bank and the Cambodian government – had agreed upon together, about a Land Management and Administration Program: under which conditions Cambodians living on a certain piece of land for a certain period of time could get an ownership title for this land. But when the World Bank discovered and raised their observation, that the agreement is not applied evenly, the Prime Minister canceled the cooperation. The Program was applied mostly in rural areas, but people in certain settlements in the city do not get land titles, but are “evicted” or, to use the new wording of the government, are “temporarily relocated” (which often involved massive violence).

The aid, of which the Prime Minister is reported to be tired, relate to “linking it with conditions about the respect of human rights, the solution of land disputes, resettlement of the poor, and especially the creation of an anti-corruption law, an old intent of Cambodia,” as a newspaper explained.

Various pronouncements of the Prime Minister over the years had stated clearly that these are also his own political goals, when he said that a new farmers’ revolution might happen if land grabbing continues, and it is the Prime Minister himself who had announced, over the years, the planned creation of an anti-corruption law.

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The Head of the Royal Government Warned Donor Countries – Friday, 9.10.2009

Posted on 10 October 2009. Filed under: Week 633 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 633

“Phnom Penh: Ahead of a meeting about the provision of development aid for Cambodia, the head of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, warned donor countries not to link conditions with development aid for Cambodia.

“Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen considers the linking of conditions with aid as being under more pressure than during the presence of Vietnamese experts in Cambodia after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

“During the 30th anniversary celebration of the creation of the National Bank of Cambodia on Thursday, 8 October 2009, at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall, the head of the Royal Government of Cambodia warned that the government will not accept, or even stop receiving foreign aid, if aid is linked with conditions. Recently, the government has canceled the assistance of the World Bank for a land registration program.

“Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen told donors that the government welcomes the involvement to develop Cambodia, but donors should not interfere and link conditions with aid.

“Getting tired of conditions set by donors at present, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen added that, after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, though Vietnamese troops and experts came to Cambodia, Vietnam respected the independence of Cambodia. Decisions in politics and economy were under the authority of Cambodia, different from nowadays.

“Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen stressed that at present, the development aid from the World Bank, from the International Monetary Fund, and from other donors forces the government to listen to their orders.

“In the meantime, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen appealed to donors and friends that assist Cambodia, to understand and respect the independence of Cambodia.

“Donors will meet the Cambodian government later in this year to announce development aid for Cambodia in 2010. After the international meeting in 2009, international development partners decided to provide about US$1 billion to Cambodia, linking it with conditions about the respect of human rights, the solution of land disputes, resettlement of the poor, and especially the creation of an anti-corruption law, an old intention of Cambodia.

“Human rights activists of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) pointed out that some conditions of donors aim, for example, at encouraging the Cambodian government to respect human rights or to address corruption, but not to apply pressure on the government. In this way conditions direct the implementation of laws and fill gaps of the government, so that the aid can reach the poor, and Cambodia becomes a state of law.

“ADHOC activists asked the government to soften their position and to accept aid to assist Cambodia’s poor people, rather than to reject international support, as the country needs aid.” Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5016, 9.10.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 9 October 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #306, 9.10.2009

  • Health Agents Seized 327 Types of Expired Medicines [Phnom Penh]
  • German Government Provides Aid for Ketsana Victims [the assistance of US$37,000 through the World Food Program, supporting to secure the survival of more than 30,000 people affected in Cambodia]
  • Natural Disaster Impacts Tourism in Cambodia

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2067, 9.10.2009

  • Capital of International Reserves of Cambodia Increased to US$2,522 Million [by 21% by August 2009 despite the global economic crisis; said Prime Minister Hun Sen]
  • 733 Families in Khvav Commune Eat Manioc Instead of Rice and Call for Aid [Siem Reap]
  • A Notorious Robber and His Son Were Gunned Down by Police when They Shot Back

Khmer Amatak, Vol.3, #658, 9.10.2009

  • Phnom Penh Becomes More Flooded after the Shukaku Development Company Fills the Boeng Kak Lake [with sand]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #505, 9.10.2009

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6774, 9.10.2009

  • Japan Grants More Than US$1.4 Million for Mine Clearance [in Cambodia]
  • The 30th Anniversary of the Creation of the National Bank of Cambodia Was Celebrated
  • A 11-Year-Old Girl Was Lost for a Night and Was Found Dead with Both Eyes Gouged Out [Kampot]

Phnom Penh Post, Vol.1, #22, 9.10.2009

  • Mr. Hun Sen Said that if High Ranking Officials of Cambodia Go to Testify [at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal], It Is Like Killing the Suspects [since they are the ones who overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime; he said so after the foreign co-investigating judge summoned six high ranking officials of the government to testify]
  • [Twenty one] Civil Society Organizations [that work on human rights and provide legal assistance] Asked the National Assembly to Exclude Defamation from the Penal Code
  • More Than 2,000 Workers of the Tac Fat Factory Protested after the Factory Closed [Phnom Penh]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #5016, 9.10.2009

  • The Head of the Royal Government Warned Donor Countries
  • There Is Much Aid from Japan [US$1.7 billion since 1993], but There Is Very Little [Japanese] Private Investment [only US$129.9 million or 0.6% of the total foreign investment to Cambodia]
  • Vietnam Announced to Support the Candidacy of Cambodia as a Member of the World Heritage Committee

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.17, #1804, 9-11.10.2009

  • The World Bank Said that More Than 60,000 Workers Lost Their Jobs Creating Hazard for the Cambodian Economy

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Thirty Percent of Construction Workers Are Unemployed – Wednesday, 31.12.2008 – end of the year 2008

Posted on 31 December 2008. Filed under: Week 593 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 593

“The Cambodian economy, which should continue to grow now, seems to be like a jammed brake, because investment capital this year declined up to [the figures available for] November, where foreign investment capital for construction, which is an important sector, decreased by more than 12%. Tens of thousands of workers are laid off, and this affects one important part of industry and then also others.

“The financial crisis strongly affects the construction sector in Cambodia, because big investment capital is mainly coming from foreign countries; as for investors from South Korea, they are directly affected by the meltdown of the economy in the United States of America.

“The latest figure of the Royal Government published, said that during 11 months of 2008, investment in the construction sector and in related furniture development declined by 12.5%; compared to the same period of last year, it declined from US$3.2 billion to US$2,8 billion. This figure is from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

“The above problems result from the decline of construction, from the prices of furniture materials, and from the meltdown of the world economy as a whole, while the construction sector around the world encountered also the same problems during 11 months of this year.

“As for Cambodia, the labor unions say that 30% of the construction workers are laid off, and various projects are suspended. The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction said that Cambodia had between 45,000 and 50,000 workers employed, with salaries between US$60 and US$1,200.

“Senior Minister and Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction H.E. Im Chhun Lim said that such meltdown happened at the same time of foreign investment projects being under development, and it is forecast that in 2009 the decline will continue.

“The problems in the construction sector strongly affect the prices of construction materials… prices declined around 30% to 40%; but even so, such materials cannot be sold, and businesspeople who had invested in this sector mostly did it depending on bank loans.

“He went on to say that big construction projects, such as the construction projects of the CamKo City [Cambodian-Korean City], or the double Gold Tower 42 [42 stories], and of the International Finance Center Tower, are still in progress, but they are not stable.

“Between June and November, there were around 1,869 construction sites countrywide, while in 2007, there had been 1,942.

“It is the first time that figures are released, after press reports had said that big construction projects in our country – in Phnom Penh – have all closed down.

“The president of the Cambodian Economic Association, Mr. Chan Sophal, shared his opinion that the construction sector was seriously affected during the last six months of this year, and in early 2009 it will get worse…

“The Cambodian Economy grew 10% on average during previous years, with the garment industry, tourism, and the construction sector as energetic forces.” Mate Nak, Vol.1, #16, 31.12.2008-6.1.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Areyathor, Vol.15, #1374, 31.12.2008

  • Nine Pawn Houses’ Illegalities [accepting stolen motorcycles etc.] Were Stopped [in Phnom Penh]

Deum Ampil, Vol.2, #102, 31.12.2008-1.1.2009

  • The Supreme Court Will Decide the Fates of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun This Morning [appealing their conviction for killing the president of the Cambodian Free Trade Union of Workers, Mr. Chea Vichea, in 2004 – Note: They have been released on bail!]
  • The National Assembly Decided to Allow Two Chinese Companies to Invest in the Electricity Supply System in Cambodia, Spending Around US$1 Billion [by constructing hydro-electricity dams on the Ta Tai River in Koh Kong, and the Russey Krom hydro-electricity dam near the Kravanh Mountains]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1834, 31.12.2008

  • The King Inaugurates a New Building of the Jayavarman VII Children’s Hospital in Siem Reap
  • The Ministry of Heath Prepares Six Health Hazard Warning Pictures to Be Put in Turn on Cigarette Packages
  • Israel Strongly Attacks the Hamas Group in Garza; 345 Palestinians and 4 Israelis Died [Note: After years of international criticism against the political system in the Palestinian territories, in early 2006 there were the first democratic elections – and Hamas won the majority in Gaza]
  • Sheikh Hasina Leads Election Results in Bangladesh [Note: Unofficial results say she won 255 seats, her rival only 32, out of 300]

Khmer Sthapana, Vol.1, #172, 31.12.2008

  • An Official of the Department of Education Voices Concern about the Future of Children and of Human Resources in Some Regions, where Children Drop Out of School to Become Merchandise Cart Draggers [at the Phnom Dey Cambodian-Thai border crossing point in Battambang]
  • Khmer Women Getting Married with Korean Men Wait Anxiously for Leaving [to Korea, after the ban of international marriages has been lifted]

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6539, 31.12.2008

  • The Thai Parliament Met in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while Red-Shirt Demonstrators [supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra] Continue to Block the Parliament House and Refuse to Withdraw

Mate Nak, Vol.1, #16, 31.12.2008-6.1.2009

  • 30% of Construction Workers Are Unemployed

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3653, 31.12.2008

  • [Minister of Interior] Sar Kheng Acknowledges that There Is Corruption among High Ranking Police Officers

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4782, 31.12.2008

  • The First Elevated Road in Cambodia, from Phnom Penh to Ta Khmao [in Kandal], Received Construction Permission [by the Phnom Penh Municipality]
  • Vietnam Said that Merchants Are Rushing to Smuggle Goods from the Khmer Border into Vietnam [in An Giang Province]

Samleng Yuvachun Khmer, Vol.15, #3467, 31.12.2008

  • Siamese [Thai] Minister of Foreign Affairs [Kasit Piromya] Greeted [Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs] Mr. Hor Namhong by Phone and Plans to Visit Cambodia Officially [but the date of his visit is not yet fixed]

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