A Change of Guard

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Wednesday 29 February 2012

Sam Rainsy Party promotes members who refused to defect to CPP

Published: 29-Feb-12

KOMPONG CHAM (Cambodia Herald) – The opposition Sam Rainsy Party has promoted two members from Kompong Cham’s Tbong Kmom district to become provincial board members after they refused to defect to the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), sources said Wednesday.

In a letter to party leader Sam Rainsy, Hor Phalla and Kun Kim Ear said they attended a meeting last week presided over by Chea Sophara, provincial vice chairman of the CPP, and Hun Manith, a son of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"At the meeting, Chea Sophara asked us to resign from the Sam Rainsy Party before becoming official CPP members, and we were also given $500 each," they said.

At least 17 members of the opposition party in Kompong Cham resigned last week to join the CPP.

Opposition asks Sar Kheng to take action against authorities for seizing CDs in Ratanakiri

Published: 29-Feb-12

BANLUNG (Cambodia Herald) – Sam Rainsy Party Secretary General Ke Sovanroth (pictured) appealed to Interior Minister Sar Kheng Wednesday to take action against Ratanakiri police officer Bun Nat and unidentified commune leaders in the province who he accused of seizing CDs from a local person identified as Sal Yean, sources said.

In a letter, Ke Sovanroth said the CDs were provided by the opposition party which considered the seizure as an "abuse of rights" and a "threat to the Cambodian people."

There was no immediate response from Sar Kheng, who is also a deputy prime minister.

Human Rights Party says women to account for three percent of candidates in commune elections, other parties vague

Published: 29-Feb-12

PHNOM PENH (Cambodia Herald) – Women account for three percent of the candidates and seven percent of the reserve candidates the opposition Human Rights Party plans to field in commune council elections in June, Secretary General Yem Bunharith (pictured) told a news conference Wednesday.

Other parties attending the news conference were more vague about their commitment to field women candidates.

Kim Nat Sim, a representative of the Sam Rainsy Party, the main opposition grouping in the National Assembly, said her party had a policy to urge greater political involvement by women and young people.

“The party is focusing mainly on migrant women who have usually been abused,” she said.

Phan Sothy, a representative of Funcinpec, said 10 percent of the royalist party's committee of directors were women while
the Norodom Ranarridh Party said it planned to field "many" women candidates in the commune election.

Kol Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), said most political parties did not have a clear policy on selecting candidates and that selections would depend on national leaders.

“Up to now, we don't known the specific number of women candidates prepared to engage in the upcoming election," he said.

Interior minister asks union leader to keep protesting workers under control

Published: 29-Feb-12

PHNOM PENH (Cambodia Herald) – Interior Minister Sar Kheng asked Free Trade Union President Chea Mony to tell workers to stop blocking roads and committing violence when they go on strike, sources said Wednesday.

In a letter to the union leader, the minister said that protests had to follow procedures including negotiations and discussions to ensure there was no violence, the sources said

Sar Kheng, who is also a deputy prime minister, also expressed thanks to Chea Mony for a letter last week in which he urged the minister to ask police to stop harassing protesting workers.

King nominates SRP defectors as undersecretaries of state

Published: 29-Feb-12

PHNOM PENH (CEN) – King Norodom Sihamoni has signed a royal degree nominating two opposition party members who defected to the ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP) as undersecretaries of state, sources said Wednesday.

Van Sivoeun, a former senator and former vice president of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) in Kompong Cham, is now an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, while Heng Chanthouk, the former SRP vice president in Pursat, is an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, the sources said.

Khmerization's note: These two defected to the Human Rights Party (HRP) 2 years ago before defecting from the HRP to the ruling Cambodian People's Party recently.

Fatal tourist bus crash (one Russian and one Austrian died)

Tep Nimol with additional reporting by Bridget Di Certo
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Phnom Penh Post
Wacth thevideo by Reuters here.

One Russian tourist died instantly and 46 other passengers – largely foreigners – were injured and rushed to hospital yesterday afternoon when a tourist bus spun off the road and slammed into a house while en route from Sihanoukville to a destination in Koh Kong, officials said.

“All 46 passengers – 40 foreigners and six Cambodians – were injured, and a 23-year-old Russian woman among them died at the scene,” Koh Kong traffic office chief Uk Sopha said yesterday, adding that the bus also seriously injured one occupant of the house when the vehicle collided with the dwelling and overturned.

Authorities believe the bus was struck by a punctured tyre, shortly after crossing Tatai Bridge in Koh Kong’s Koh Kong district at 1:25pm yesterday. As the bus was going downhill, the burst tyre rocked the bus off balance due to the speed it had collected, authorities said.

The Paramount Bus Company bus driver fled the scene of the accident and escaped into the nearby forest, Uk Sopha, an eyewitnesses recounted.

All passengers and the injured villager were immediately taken from the scene to Koh Kong provincial hospital for treatment.

Deputy director of Koh Kong’s tourism department Suon Samit said that among them, six to seven were so critically injured they would need to be rushed to hospital in Phnom Penh last night.

“One Cambodian girl who is about 5 years old had her entire left arm amputated from the shoulder,” Suon Samit said.

“Between six and seven have suffered broken arms and legs and serious head injuries.”

Suon Samit said there was chaos at the accident site and chaos in the provincial hospital, which was not expecting so many wounded people requiring urgent treatment.

“There was a person who died at the traffic accident, but I did not have time to check the body, because I needed to pay attention to all those who were injured,” he said.

Passengers had all purchased their bus tickets from Rith Mony bus company, however Rith Mony Koh Kong branch owner Mab Rithmony, denied all responsibility.

“The company had sold the tickets to customers, but as there were too many customers that day, they were transferred to the bus of the Paramount Bus Company,” he said.

Chan Thid, a ticket seller for Paramount Bus Company in Preah Sihanouk province, said that Paramount was responsible for the traffic accident even though customers had Rith Mony tickets.

“The bosses of the two companies are brothers, and they are American-Cambodians,” Chan Thid said.

“It is normal that the two companies transferred customers to each other, but the traffic accident was under the management of Paramount Company,” he said.

“Compensation for the passengers is up to the evaluation of the insurance company.”

Caminco Insurance Company representatives inspected the accident site yesterday to evaluate damages, authorities said.

The Russian Embassy declined to comment outside of office hours.

Ministry of Tourism representatives did not respond to questions.

Mark Mobius Was Excited By What He Saw In Cambodia

Mark Mobius visiting Angkor Wat.

My recent visit to the enchanting Cambodia can only be described as exciting.

By Mark Mobius
Original article at The Business Insider

This charming kingdom is home to the Angkor Wat, one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. The temple contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th centuries and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.1

The airport at Siem Reap is an international entry point because of the many tourists visiting. The terminal was very tastefully decorated with Khmer statues and decorations, but travelers may appreciate the quick customs and immigration formalities even more –something which is becoming rare around the world.

Cambodia has a land area of 181,040 square kilometers, about the size of the U.S. state of Missouri2, and it sits in the southwestern part of the Indochina peninsula, consisting of Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. This location brings a lot of opportunity for cross-trade among those countries; the potential for investment opportunity certainly appears to be there.

One thing that is clear from my visit is that Cambodia has been making strides into the capital market arena. The government has been encouraging foreign and local investment. Eventually, the local capital market should follow suit. The Cambodia Securities Exchange opened last year, making it one of the last Southeast Asian nations to open a stock exchange. Neighboring Laos opened its bourse in January 2011 and Vietnam’s exchange has been operating since 2000. 3 Though the Cambodian exchange has no stocks listed as I write this, the plan is to have state-owned companies— in utilities, telecoms and ports—to be listed.

There are a few sectors in Cambodia I’m watching with particular interest. There has been substantial investment in railroads— Cambodia is part of the southeast railroad project to link the south of China to Singapore— so transportation has been interesting.

Cambodia’s tourism industry has benefited from, for instance, the magnetic lure of the Angkor Wat, which has been a boon for the airports and hotels. The hotels there are generally up to international standards and maintain the general milieu of the Angkor site. As Cambodia was part of the French Indochina, the French influence is evident in the hotels and restaurants providing many nice lodging choices.

While we can’t get direct access to Cambodian companies just yet, Cambodian companies listed in overseas markets do present opportunities to get early exposure to its prospects.

The demand globally for emerging markets companies usually centers on those areas that are more liquid and larger because many of the larger institutional investors require larger companies and more liquidity. So if a country can list its state-owned enterprises and list enough stocks so that foreign investors can get involved, then we believe it can be good for all stakeholders.

For potential investors, it is important there be sufficient liquidity in the market so that investors can freely buy and sell shares on the market. Most important is the need for strong monitoring of corporate governance standards to ensure investors are treated fairly.

It’s not just the launch of the stock exchange generating a buzz in the country; Cambodia is one of the fastest developing economies in Southeast Asia and the Asian Development Bank expects Cambodia to post GDP growth in 2011 which is likely to be the second highest in Southeast Asia.4 GDP growth in 2010 was also an encouraging measure at 6.3% versus 0.1% in 20094. Cambodia’s inflation has moderated to a single digit number indicating inflation is not a large concern to us.

I left Cambodia feeling that the country is moving towards a more dynamic and influential position in the Southeast Asia economy. It will be interesting to watch the situation there unfold as we continue to look for opportunities to invest in companies with exposure to Cambodia.

An Alaska Woman’s Voyage Out of the Killing Fields of Cambodia (KTVA.com exclusive)

The picture of dictator Pol Pot.

Samantha Bouasri recalls her hellish trip escaping the Khmer Rouge and arriving in an America not as welcoming as she’d imagined

By Megan Edge
Feb 28, 2012

CAMBODIA - The communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia killed many in just four years.

For the rare survivors, life has never been the same. On April 17, 1975, at just 11 years old, Samantha Bouasri, who now lives in Anchorage, began a journey to save herself and – unlike roughly two million others who set out on the same voyage – live to tell the tale.

“People came screaming through the streets,” Bouasri says, with a stern look on her face. “They yell, ‘The Americans are coming; they are coming to bomb us!’” Cambodians were frightened and upset.

A former colony, Cambodia had only become independent in 1953 when it separated from France. “We celebrated our freedom, we celebrated the help we thought the Khmer Rouge was going to give us,” says Bouasri.

Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge guerillas began to take over the country in April of 1975. With inspiration from many tribes who resided in deep portions of the jungle, the militia’s hope was to create a communist society without all the in-between steps. They looked to rid the country of Buddhism, wealth and education.

“They [said] they were cleansing the country,” Bouasri says.

In a matter of six hours, on April 17, 1975 the capital city of Phnom Penh was empty – the guerillas had cleared it. “It was nothing more than a ghost town.”

The Khmer Rouge fighters began executing civilians, starting in government buildings, then schools, and then killing the farmers selling vegetables and poultry from wooden carts on the street. The attacks became routine.

The guerrillas would take the groups of people into a field that had already been dug with big trenches that would later become graves – and memorials to all the people lost during the country’s civil war. The Khmer Rouge would line people up up, and shoot them one by one until everybody lay dead on the ground.

The trenches were built big enough to bury 500 corpses. “They would take other people from that village and have them come bury them with a thin layer of soil, but you were not allowed to watch the killing,” says Bouasri. “If you see them kill someone then they kill you. You end up in the pit too.”

Young girls were raped and tortured.

“I was never raped in Cambodia,” Bouasri says. “But if they feel like raping you, they rape you, otherwise they don’t lay a hand on you cause we[’re] disgusting. And they don’t want to produce a new seed with the newcomers. They want pureblood, pure breed, like in Hitler’s time.

“When they rape, it was just for fun.”

Men were forced to watch the Khmer Rouge cut off women’s breasts and burn their hair. The guerrillas would laugh and dare their fellow soldiers to eat various body parts of the innocent, recalls Bouasri, as she looks down at the wooden table in front of her, trying to hold back tears.

“It was hell on earth.”

Her statement triggers memories of one of the roughest nights during the war.

In the village Bouasri was moved to, she began to starve, like many others. She can’t remember the name of the place; she was a stranger to the area and was moved on several occasions.

One large bowl of lukewarm water mixed with bits of rice was the daily meal. As the days passed, the bowl eventually came with only water.

Late in the night, Bouasri decided to take charge. She went searching for food. The Cambodian jungles are home to large mango trees. “It was almost a dare to see who was brave enough to pick because we were not allowed to pick anything, steal anything. If they caught us they torture us, then kill us.”

Once she was within the leaves, Bouasri became hidden from the outside world.

Bouasri crawled in the tall grass until she hit the tree line. She quickly began climbing, as if she were able to enjoy the childhood torn away from her by Pol Pot’s regime. She began pulling ripe mangos from the tree, but her happiness was interrupted by a gunshot.

She moved her hands through the green of the leaves and looked down into one of the infamous killing fields. “They were lined up, and they opened fire.” Bouasri says. She remembers the sound of gunshots, screams, bodies hitting the ground and shovels scraping the dirt.

She began to get restless. She wanted to get down, but she saw a soldier looking into the jungle. She was certain the man – she refers to him as “evil” – had heard her rustling in the treetops. “I climbed higher to make sure I was hidden, then I laid my head down and tried to stay still. I began to sweat, but I was ice cold.”

Eventually the executions faded away; the guerillas simply starved the rest. The Khmer Rouge had no interest in wasting any more ammunition, according to Bouasri.

“They hit people on the head, push them in a pit and bury them alive.”

Death pits were filled to the brim, causing bodies to pile up in school fields, temple yards and street corners.

Bouasri feels confident she knows the fate of her four older adopted siblings. She thinks they were killed behind the school – schools and churches later became popular killing grounds – along with most of the school’s teachers. She credits their death to simply being at the “wrong place at the wrong time.

“They were celebrating. They thought we were getting help fighting the Americans.”

At that time, Bouasri had already become the head of her household. Her mother and father had been taken away by the guerilla fighters. She was left with her only biological sibling, a younger brother who eventually died due to illness, and three adopted siblings.

“They die[d] one by one. They were not healthy children and my brother he was already ill and needed medicine but we couldn’t get it.”

By 1976 there was no one left for Bouasri to care for.

Before that fateful day, April 17, 1975, her home housed six families: her own, and relatives of her parents. Their family farm thrived and neighbors would offer to trade labor, fabrics, blankets and various trinkets for food. Every time the children came home from school they would bring four or five more mouths to feed. “No, it was not always a happy time, but it was happier than any other memory I have in Cambodia.” Bouasri says. “My family did whatever they could to help other people. People did what they could to survive, men would sell their children and sisters for money.”

Bouasri reflects on another painful memory of life in Cambodia. It’s a memory that makes the happiness and joy of her younger years seems like something of a fairy tale.

It is the day she took her turn in the death pit.

“We were to be in line at 3 a.m., if you were not there in time they would beat you and torture you.”

She took her place in line and crowded with other “enemies,” as the Khmer Rouge referred to them, by the brick wall of a local elementary school. Beneath her was a muddy pit awaiting her arrival. “There was a tall man in front of me; he was sobbing,” says Bouasri. “Right before the soldier took his shot, the man grabbed me by the shoulder to try and stop the bullet from hitting him. The next thing I knew I was laying face first in the mud with a 120-pound man over the top of me.”

The bullet had missed her.

“I was in shock.” She remembers laying face-first in the mud “playing dead. I couldn’t believe it – they thought they killed me.” Bouasri says. “So I just laid there until they walked away. I waited ‘til night and escaped.”

At first she remembered being upset with the man but reflecting on it now now she is grateful. “He saved my life.”

Bouasri returned unnoticed – the Khmer Rouge didn’t track who they killed – to the village she’d been living in.

Finally in 1979 Samantha started walking with her grandmother, father and her father’s new wife. The goal was simple: walk until they were in a Thai refugee camp.

At the start of the Cambodian genocide, her mother and father were married. Months later when she was reunited with her father he was remarried with no idea where her mother was.

In years to come Bouasri would find out her mother was forced to remarry and had lived in Vietnam after the war.

Eventually her small group made it to the first refugee camp, after weeks of walking and crawling at night through the long jungle grass. Shortly after arriving, Bouasri fell severely ill. “I was a skeleton and my hair was falling out.”

She suspects her illness was the consequence of living in a chemical storage plant she was forced to stay in under the Khmer Rouge’s power. “Who knows?” she says with a shrug.

Doctors examined her, confused, with no solutions to her problem. She describes the hospital as a tent with only three doctors holding thousands of ill and injured Cambodian refugees.

The doctors suggested she move to the Khao-I-Dang Holding Center. They were promised better doctors and more medicine. Again Bouasri and her family set out on a journey. Khao-I-Dang was the most sufficiently equipped refugee camp on the Thai border. The camp, full of small huts made of bamboo with thatched roofs and a real hospital, became Bouasri’s recovery center for the next few months, as well as the home for roughly 84,800 others.

“I stay in the hospital for a while, but then they tell me I can’t stay anymore,” says Bouasri. “They needed the bed for other people, sick and injured.”

Doctors then directed her to a small tent where her father and grandmother looked after her, walking her back to the hospital on a daily basis. With approximately 1,600 new refugees arriving daily, the camp was forced to close its doors to newcomers looking for food, shelter and medical attention. “They began injecting me with protein shots, and when that seemed to be working they gave me other nutritions, and in three months I was recovered,” Bouasri says with a smile.

In August of 1981 her father made a deal with friends of the family. They would pose as her aunt and uncle, and take Bouasri with them to San Francisco if her father agreed to return to Cambodia to bring more people to Thailand. He agreed – and that would be the last time she saw him until 1984.

By the time she was preparing to leave the refugee camp, she was labeled an orphan. “My father said we would all die if we stayed together so he say we must split up.” The orphanage provided her with shelter and food – commodities that were scarce in camp.

“So I changed my name, lied about my age and was able to come to America with a family that had been very close to mine. I always say, since I have no belongings from Khmer Rouge, that Cambodia took everything, even my name.”

Bouasri asked that KTVA not release her real name. “There are some people that I want to believe I am dead.”

She left Thailand with only the shirt on her back, not even a pair of shoes. After her arrival she struggled significantly.

“I was a slave to that family.” She was forced to sleep in the kitchen and was raped by the husband of the family she came with and his friends. She eventually escaped.

Outside the home, life wasn’t any better. She was constantly under assault, which consisted of racial slurs; people would throw feces and dirty diapers at her.

“People were mean,” Bouasri says. “They told me to go back to where I came from and they [would] chop of parts of my hair. I would ask myself why I came here, and why they [are] doing this to me? What’s the point?”

She told anyone that would listen that she wanted to return to Cambodia.

In February of 1984 Samantha thought there was hope. She had found her father in New York City, but the man she found was mean, angry and a drunk.

“I thought it would be a happy reunion – it wasn’t.” From the moment she stepped off of airplane they fought. She couldn’t recall what started the enmity, but it wouldn’t end until 1985. Until then she watched her stepmother, grandmother, stepsiblings and half-sister suffer beatings from her father. Altogether 13 people lived in their tiny apartment in the Bronx.

Bouasri and her grandmother separated from the family and moved to Massachusetts, where she met her husband.

”I called my dad all the time, but he never want to talk to me.”

Bouasri and her husband moved to Alaska in 1994 searching for work. “They told us that in Alaska you could be your own boss. This was not true.” They picked up odd jobs to support a family that now consists of five.

She didn’t know what happened to her mother. She assumed she was dead.

“The only time I have seen my mom since Khmer Rouge, she was in a coffin,” Bouasri says. “I have four kids and a husband, they never met my mother, and have never met my father.” When she went to Cambodia for her mother’s funeral, in 2009, it was the one and only time she has ever gone back, although she aspires to return.

“When I went back I was happy to be in the place of my birth, but sad because of [the] memories. It was scary going back,” Bouasri says. “I felt like I was being sent back to the slaughterhouse. It was a prison with no walls, no windows and no escape. I need to go back though, put things in order, see the change in the dark days and say goodbye.”

She tries to explain her time in Cambodia to her four children – their ages range from 8 to 20 – but her memories seem unreal.

These days she struggles with the day-to-day issues of raising her immediate family – she says her eldest causes her the most trouble. But lately her thoughts have been focused on family in Cambodia.

Currently she is trying to find a way to financially support extended family members who’ve come across hard times. Young women in her family are being forced into prostitution to support themselves, and others are ill from AIDS.

Cousins are lying dead in an unmarked grave because there was not enough money to do anything else.

The reminders of her early years are everywhere. “I have scars on both sides of my feet from where they put nails in my feet, to keep me from trying to run away. They nearly beat me to death. They hang me by the nails in my feet. I have scars on my back from being stabbed, and I have scars on my knees. I have scars on my hands, they use them like ashtrays,” she says, pulling her hand out of her sleeve showing several round, pale, fading scars.

She is suffering from depression and is now seeing a doctor for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I try to forget, but all the scars on my body are constant reminders,” Bouasri says.

“Once you smell blood and flesh it never goes away.”

Contact reporter Megan Edge at medge@ktva.com

Cambodia sets up protected area in bid to save endangered dolphins

By Robert Carmichael
Monsters and critics
Feb 29, 2012,

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian government said Wednesday it was establishing a 180-kilometre-long conservation area on the Mekong River to protect the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin (pictured).

Touch Seang Tana, the government's specialist on the fresh-water dolphins, said the zone would extend from the Laos border to the town of Kratie in north-eastern Cambodia, and should be enshrined in law by April.

Touch said fine mesh nets, known as gill nets, would be banned from the area, since the dolphins have in the past become trapped in them and drowned.

'And there will be no floating houses, because they might put gill nets under those, and there can be no floating fish cages in that area,' he said.

'But we are not (overly) restricting what people can do in the protected area. Boats can pass, people can take products to market and also they can fish.'

In August the environmental group WWF warned that if the government did not act urgently to conserve the mammals, the dolphin population was 'at high risk of extinction.'

At the time WWF estimated there were only 85 Irrawaddy dolphins still alive in Cambodia, most of them in the north-east, and called for a conservation area and a ban on gill nets. It also warned that the survival rate of dolphin calves was 'very low.'

A WWF technical report dated April 2009 found high levels of chemical pollutants including the pesticide DDT and mercury in dolphin carcasses.

Irrawaddy dolphins, which are protected under Cambodian law, are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of the most threatened species on the planet.

Touch, who heads the Commission for Mekong River Dolphin Conservation and Ecotourism Development, said there were thought to be between 85 and 180 dolphins left. He said a formal count over the next three years should provide a more precise figure.

The Irrawaddy dolphins, or Orcaella brevirostris, have become an increasingly popular drawcard for visitors to the remote north-east. Touch said 50,000 domestic tourists and 15,000 foreign tourists visited Kratie in 2011 to see the dolphins.

Cambodia's debt a concern

Don Weinland
Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Original art at The Phnom Penh Post

An International Monetary Fund and World Bank report has questioned Cambodia’s ability to deal with future financial crises if government borrowing increases.

While the report indicated that Cambodia was at low risk for severe debt problems, it highlighted the need for effective management of new debt and rapidly growing build-operate-transfer, or BOT, projects, which include the hydropower dams and road reconstruction conducted by Chinese companies.

This month alone, the Kingdom courted more than US$800 million in Chinese loans for infrastructure projects.ANZ Royal CEO Stephen Higgins told the Post this month.

The result is outstanding debt and further building costs.

“And there have been a couple of examples where the work hasn’t been up to the quality it should be,” he said, although he declined to name the parties responsible.

Liabilities posed by BOT projects do not always surface in the standard measures of an economy’s health, Olaf Unteroberdoerster, deputy division chief of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, told reporters during a press conference in December.

Unlike public debt, the projects are most often contracted to private companies and are not reflected in the national budget, he said.

“The issue here is, because these projects are undertaken by private-sector partners, these projects don’t directly go through the budget and affect the fiscal indicators … We do not necessarily have the full picture,” Unteroberdoerster said at the time.

Few statistics or studies have been conducted on China’s BOT work in Cambodia, Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said yesterday.

The lack of information has left the public in the dark on the costs and liabilities of the projects.

“Transparency is the key issue here,” he said.

China holds the largest bilateral loans to Cambodia, at 66 per cent at the end of 2010, the joint report showed.

In October, Cambodia owed more than $730 million to China at interest rates substantially higher than that owed to other sovereign creditors, according to information compiled by the NGO Forum on Cambodia.

Cambodia has proven its ability to weather financial crises, and the country can expect continued growth for the next few years, National Bank of Cambodia director general and spokeswoman Nguon Sokha said yesterday.

Ongoing diversification of the country’s economy has lessened its susceptibility to external shock, she said, adding that the risks mentioned in the report were all contingent on a future financial crisis.

“We are confident we will continue to grow in the short term,” Nguon Sokha said.

Koh Kong Fishing Community Rejects Chinese Development

Photo: VOA Khmer, A Cambodian evictee stands by her hut in Preah Sihanouk Province. She is among 100 families that were evicted from a disputed land in April 2007.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh

Fishermen in the coastal province of Koh Kong have accused a Chinese-owned company of forcefully evicting more than 1,000 families from their land and businesses to clear space for new development.
Union Development Group Co., Ltd, from China was granted a 99-year contract in 2008 to develop for tourism 36,000 hectares of coastal area in Koh Kong province’s Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.

Villagers said they have been relocated 20 kilometers away to a site where access to the sea is limited.

"In the past we never faced any difficulty," a fishery community representative, Tith Tein, said Tuesday at a press conference in Phnom Penh.

Villagers complained that the new location lacks enough clean water, electricity, roads, schools and access to health care.

"If we want to go fishing at the sea, we have to spend money on gasoline," said Lim Song, a villager from Botum Sakor. "There, we can only hunt wild animals and grow vegetables."

Tens of thousands of Cambodians support themselves and their families by fishing, both freshwater and in the ocean, often using techniques little changed from 100 years ago.

A Cambodian human rights group condemned the land swap as lacking “transparency.”

"At the old location villagers’ living condition was good,” said an Adhoc rights group investigator Yi Sok San. "There were schools for their children but at the new location there is mainly forest, and no health care service and some areas are ridden by malaria."

However, provincial authorities said they are working on improving the recently settled area and each family has been given decent pieces of land for housing and farming, according to Sorn Dara, deputy governor for Koh Kong.

Hun Sen Releases Fishing Lots Ahead of Local Elections

Photo: AP, Hun Sen criticized commercial fishing operators saying that they have “abused” local residents by preventing them from fishing for their own consumption.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh

Prime Minister Hun Sen declared Tuesday the elimination of commercial fishing lots in the Tonle Sap Lake and put it under preservation. However, the opposition party said it was merely a political ploy used to attract voters ahead of local elections in June.
“I would like to declare to all the people that there will no longer be any fishing lots in the Tonle Sap Lake,” Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh. “They will all be eliminated.”

Hun Sen criticized commercial fishing operators saying that they have “abused” local residents by preventing them from fishing for their own consumption.

The large body of freshwater is located in central Cambodia and is one of the signature natural features of the country, providing a diet rich in fish for generations of Cambodians.

“It’s just a correction of mistakes that the government officials have done,” said Son Chhay, a National Assembly member from the Sam Rainsy Party. “I wonder how effective it will be. Or is it simply to briefly excite people ahead of the election?”

Cambodia will hold commune council elections in more than 1,600 jurisdictions on June 3 to elect local representatives.

There are 35 fishing lots in the Tonle Sap Lake which includes parts of the provinces of Siem Reap, Pursat, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Thom.

The Lake provides 230,000 tons of fish products yearly, providing a major source of protein to more than three million people in the country, according to statistics from the national fishery department. However, local communities have reported a decline in catches in recent years.

“If the declaration is serious, I hope fish products will increase,” said Tea Lov, a representative of Angkor Thebdei Agricultural Development Community in Siem Reap.

After retirement, elephant in Cambodia tries to forget

Sambo in a pen with soft sand under her feet. By Julie Masis

By Julie Masis, Correspondent
Christian Science Monitor
February 28, 2012

An urban elephant used for tourism in Cambodia retires from the hot asphalt streets of Phnom Penh after thirty years of work.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Visitors to Cambodia’s capital may be missing a well-known icon. Sambo, the 51-year-old female elephant who has given rides to tourists for 30 years and was one of Southeast Asia’s last working urban elephants, has retired.

The elephant needed treatment for her feet, says Louise Rogerson, the chief executive officer of the Hong Kong-based Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival foundation. According to Ms. Rogerson, years of walking on hot, hard asphalt streets eventually took its toll on Sambo, who has been relocated outside the city limits.

Rogerson says Sambo’s retirement is a sign of progress for the care of elephants living in captivity. “I don’t believe that elephants should be working in the city,” she says.

Ancient Statue Sits in Limbo as Rights Question Looms

Agnes Dherbeys for The New York Times
Top: The pedestal and feet belonging to a disputed thousand-year-old statue, currently held by Sotheby's, in Cambodia.

Bottom: Sotheby's catalog from March 24, 2011 includes a photo of a statue from Koh Ker, Cambodia. Some experts believe it was looted.

Read original article at The New York Times
Published: February 28, 2012

Cambodia has asked the United States government for help in recovering a thousand-year-old statue of a mythic warrior that sits in limbo at Sotheby’s in New York and that some experts believe was looted amid the convulsions of the Vietnam War and the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.

The statue, a sandstone masterwork with a catalog estimate of $2 million to $3 million, was pulled from auction at the last minute last March after the Cambodian government complained it had been “illegally removed” from the country.

The Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation, but Cambodian officials say they have held off asking for the piece to be seized while they negotiate with Sotheby’s for a private purchase. The auction house says that the seller is a “noble European lady” who acquired it in 1975. Although it was severed from its feet and pedestal, which were left behind at a remote Cambodian archaeological site, Sotheby’s says there is no proof that it was taken illegally.

The quiet tussle over the relic reveals the swampy terrain of auctioning antiquities with incomplete or disputed pedigrees. Sellers with a good-faith belief in their ownership rights enter a landscape in which ethics and regulations are evolving, governments are increasingly assertive, and lawyers versed in arcane statutes are as necessary as jungle guides.

“We live in a different world, and what was acceptable 50 years ago is no longer so,” said Matthew F. Bogdanos, a Marine Corps Reserves colonel and a lawyer, who was awarded a National Humanities Medal for leading the hunt for treasures ransacked from the Baghdad Museum in 2003. ”Whatever the letter of the law may state, in the end you have to ask yourself, ‘Does the item pass the smell test?’ ”

Jane A. Levine, senior vice president and worldwide compliance director for Sotheby’s, said the auction house was “aware there are widely divergent views on how to resolve conflicts involving cultural heritage objects.”

“Sotheby’s approach to the Khmer sculpture is one of responsible and ethical market behavior and international cooperation between private and public entities,” she said.

Archaeologists and Cambodian officials say the case of the footless statue is all the more poignant because of the country’s recent history of genocide and plunder, and because researchers have found the very pedestal and feet belonging to the artwork. The discovery was made in Koh Ker, 60 miles northeast of the Angkor Wat temple complex; Koh Ker, another city in the Khmer empire, was at one time a rival capital to Angkor, which was once the largest city in the preindustrial world, perhaps more than three times the area of New York City today.

The sculpture, which is five feet tall and weighs 250 pounds, is one of a pair of scowling athlete-combatants in intricate headdresses from the mid 900s who were positioned in battle-ready stances and come from one of Koh Ker’s temples; it is about 200 years older than the famous sculptures at Angkor Wat.

In 2007 archaeologists matched the other statue, on display since 1980 at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif., to its similarly detached pedestal.

Archaeologists say all clues suggest the work at Sotheby’s was plundered in the 1970s amid the chaos of power struggle and genocide, when the Khmer Rouge ravaged Cambodia, and looters hacked their way into long-inaccessible temples, pillaged priceless antiquities and sold them to Thai and Western collectors. The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

“Every red flag on the planet should have gone off when this was offered for sale,” said Herbert V. Larson Jr., a New Orleans lawyer and antiquities expert who teaches legal issues involving smuggled artifacts. “It screams ‘loot.’ ”

When asked whether the statue could have been stolen, Ms. Levine countered that the statue could have been removed any time in its thousand-year history, and said the word stolen was often “used loosely.”

To write the catalog entry for the statue, Sotheby’s hired the scholar Emma C. Bunker, a co-author of the authoritative book “Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art.” She called it an unrivaled example of Khmer sculpture, and the lot was promoted on the catalog’s cover and in a Sotheby’s news release. It was withdrawn on the day it was to be sold, March 24, 2011, after a Cambodian official working with the United Nations, Tan Theany, complained in a letter “that this statue was illegally removed from the site” and asked Sotheby’s to “facilitate its return.”
The Cambodian government also contacted the State Department, prompting the investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch. A spokeswoman for the agency, Danielle Bennett, said it “is working closely with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the government of Cambodia to look into the matter and determine the proper course of action.”

Sotheby’s says its research proves that its client has had “clear title” to the work since buying it from Spink in London in December 1975. A spokeswoman for Spink, which was acquired by Christie’s in 1993, said the 1975 records about where the company had obtained the statue were no longer available. Ms. Levine would not discuss the federal government’s investigation.

Ms. Levine, a former federal prosecutor named last year to President Obama’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee, said Cambodia’s willingness to negotiate indicates that it is aware that under American and Cambodian law, it has no legal claim. She said Cambodia “did not identify any basis to contest the owner’s title to the property and did not allege that it would be unlawful for Sotheby’s to sell the statue.”

Originally, Ms. Levine said that Cambodia had been informed of the Sotheby’s sale “four to six weeks” before the auction. Late on Tuesday, however, a Sotheby’s spokeswoman said that Ms. Levine’s recollection had been “incorrect,” and that the auction house had notified Cambodia on Nov. 8, 2010, four and a half months before the auction date. The statue’s seller, speaking through Sotheby’s, declined to be identified or to comment.

Laws governing the repatriation of disputed artifacts are complex and differ from nation to nation. In Cambodia’s case, because the statue was exported “long before the passage of a 1993 Cambodian law that nationalized cultural heritage,” Ms. Levine said, there were no restrictions on its sale or auction.

Nonetheless, the global controversy surrounding looted artifacts has led many American museums to adopt ethical guidelines that go beyond the legal requirements. In 2004 the Association of Art Museum Directors declared “member museums should not acquire” any undocumented works “that were removed after November 1970, regardless of any applicable statutes of limitation.”

Ms. Levine said Sotheby’s withdrew the antiquity from the auction block “to forge a solution acceptable both to Cambodia and to the owner of the statue.”

Doing so has laid bare a little-known but increasingly common practice used by poor nations to recover artifacts. Working with the Unesco office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia has asked Sotheby’s to bargain with a wealthy Hungarian antiquities collector who has offered to pay $1 million for the statue and present it to Cambodia as an act of good will.

“There is no question the statue was looted in the final stages of the war,” said the collector, Istvan Zelnik, a former Hungarian diplomat in the region who has visited Koh Ker. His own collection forms the Zelnik Istvan Museum of Southeast Asian Gold in Budapest.

“The best solution is that I purchase it for purposes of donation,” Mr. Zelnik added.

Anne LeMaistre, the Unesco representative in Phnom Penh, who is involved in the Sotheby’s talks, said “buying back such items can seem distasteful, but sadly it is not unusual when the country’s aim is return of the property.”

Yet another wrinkle is expected on Wednesday when lawyers working with Cambodia plan to announce the rediscovery of a 1925 French colonial law declaring all antiquities from Cambodia’s multitude of temples to be “part of the national domain” and “the exclusive property of the state.” The statement goes on to say that this law remained in force after Cambodian independence, which came in 1953.

Tess Davis, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation and the Cambodia scholar who dug out the law, said it had been analyzed by three French-speaking lawyers conversant in cultural heritage litigation and by Ms. LeMaistre. All four say it “nationalizes ownership of Cambodian cultural artifacts.”

If international legal authorities and American civil courts agree, the law could establish 1925, rather than 1993, as the dividing point after which Cambodian artifacts taken without government permits can be treated as stolen property. Cambodia would still have to prove that the statue was looted after 1925, “a high burden but not an impossible one,” according to Mr. Bogdanos, who agrees the 1925 law “appears to be valid.”

If it survives legal challenges, the law could affect the Norton Simon piece too, although that case would be more difficult because Cambodia has long known of the statue’s presence there, lawyers say. Mr. Simon, the industrialist and collector , bought his statue, also in 1975, from a leading Madison Avenue antiquities dealer, William H. Wolff.

Eric Bourdonneau, the archaeologist who matched both statues to their bases, says the relics were looted in the early 1970s.

He said French records in Paris indicate the statues were in place in 1939, and that the Koh Ker temple was thickly covered by jungle and inaccessible by road until it became a military staging area for Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese forces.

On one thing all parties agree: The statue is a masterpiece. In the Sotheby’s catalog Ms. Bunker wrote, “If one could choose only one sculpture to represent the glory of Khmer art, this figure could fulfill such a challenge.”

Minister says construction sector enjoying V-shaped recovery

Camko City on the outskirt of Phnom Penh is still being constructed.

Published: 28-Feb-12

PHNOM PENH (CEN) – Cambodia's construction sector has been enjoying a V-shaped recovery over the past two years with the value of projects more than doubling in 2011, Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Minister Im Chhun Lim said Tuesday.

The minister said 2,129 construction projects worth $17.34 billion were approved last year. “It was up 106 percent compared with 2010 which had 2,149 construction projects worth only $8.4 billion,” he said.

Im Chhun Lim also said that 286 foreigners had bought 670 properties after the government relaxed rules on foreign purchases of local real estate.

The minister said separately Tuesday that Cambodia, currently chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. was preparing legal documents to apply for a seat on the ASEAN Engineers Register in 2012. The group was established in 1998 in line with ASEAN's plans to liberalize professional services.

Shooter now unknown [despite a promise from Sar Kheng to arrest the shooter]

May Titthara and David Boyle
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Phnom Penh Post

The Interior Minister backtracked yesterday after previously declaring officials knew the identity of the person who shot three protesters outside a shoe factory in Svay Rieng province last week and refused to quash rumours that Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith was a suspect.

Derek Stout/Phnom Penh Post
Buot Chinda (centre), a 21-year-old factory worker, rests at Svay Rieng provincial hospital after being shot.
Rushing to his car outside an ASEAN seminar yesterday morning, Interior Minister Sar Kheng told reporters they would “have to wait and see” if the governor was a suspect in the shooting outside the Kaoway Sports Ltd factory in Bavet town last Monday.

“We don’t know the identity of the gun shooter yet and our police are looking to arrest the suspect,” he told reporters, before declining to answer any further questions.

The minister’s comments come six days after he declared officials had identified the shooter and had sufficient evidence to convict the perpetrator.

At the time, he declined to reveal details about the suspect’s identity due to the ongoing investigation into the person’s whereabouts.

Sar Kheng’s comments also contradict Svay Rieng provincial police chief Prach Rim, who yesterday said police were pursuing a suspect.

“We know their identity already, so we will arrest them soon, and you will know who they are when we arrest them,” he said.

Chhouk Bandith told the Post last week that he was aware of rumours that he was the shooter, which he categorically denied. Since then, he has not answered his phone despite repeated attempts to contact him.

The three victims were shot at a protest of about 6,000 people last Monday morning outside the Kaoway Sports factory in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone where protesters pelted the building with rocks and lit fires, demanding transport and food allowances.

Eyewitness reports suggest a gunman dressed in a khaki police-style outfit and flanked by a bodyguard and a man dressed in police uniform arrived in a car, fired into the crowd and then ran off, escaping in another vehicle.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Cambodian Legal Education Centre, questioned why someone who committed a crime in front of police and thousands of people was not arrested immediately in a case where there are some obvious clues.

“One, the workers were told the governor was coming. Two, the man [perpetrator] came in the expensive [Lexus] car with bodyguards and a couple of days later, Sar Kheng said the police officials had identified the gunman,” he said. “It is so strange that Sar Kheng changed his message [to say] he does not know who the gunman is, so strange.”

He said he was worried the suspect, who has now been alerted, would have had sufficient time to flee the country.

The shooting has attracted significant international media attention largely because Kaoway Sports supplies sportswear giant PUMA and sparked concern amongst international buyers that source products from Cambodia.

Jill Tucker, chief technical adviser at the International Labour Organisation’s Better Factories Cambodia, said buyers were becoming increasingly concerned to see that due process was conducted by those investigating the case.

“I know that there is an effort right now to communicate these concerns to the government from a bunch of buyers, they want to see that due process is followed and that the gunman will be held accountable,” she said.

“The brands are really looking for a complete investigation and for there to be a due process in this case, they just don’t want to see a repeat of 2004.”

In 2004, the president of Cambodia’s Free Trade Union, which represented garment workers, was gunned down in front of a kiosk while reading a newspaper.

Two suspects, both of whom had alibis, were convicted for the crime in a trial where no forensic evidence was examined and no witnesses called to testify.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Thai activist jailed for royal slurs

Surachai Danwattananusorn, 70, gestures upon arrival at criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. The court sentenced Surachai, a member of the Red Shirt political movement to 7 and a half years imprisonment for remarks judged to have insulted the country's monarchy.

Published: 28-Feb-12

BANGKOK, February 28, 2012 (AFP) - A Thai political activist was sentenced Tuesday to seven and a half years in prison in the latest in a series of convictions under the kingdom's controversial royal defamation laws.

The Criminal Court in Bangkok found Surachai Danwattananusorn guilty of insulting the monarchy during several public speeches he gave to supporters of his "Red Siam" group in 2008 and 2010.

"This case is political motivated," his lawyer Karom Polpornklang told AFP, adding that he planned to appeal the verdict.

Red Siam is a hardcore offshoot of the Red Shirt movement, which is broadly loyal to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by royalist generals in a 2006 coup.

Two months of mass anti-government protests by the Red Shirts in Bangkok in 2010 descended into the kingdom's worst political violence in decades, with more than 90 people killed in a military crackdown.

The royal family is an extremely sensitive subject in Thailand, but calls for reform of the strict lese majeste legislation have grown following several high-profile convictions.

A 61-year-old man was jailed in November for 20 years for sending text messages deemed insulting to the monarchy, while a US citizen in December was handed two-and-a-half years in prison for defaming the king.

Rights groups say the use of the rules to suppress free speech has worsened under the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra -- Thaksin's sister -- who rode a wave of support among Red Shirts in an election last year.

Hun Sen and Sar Kheng: Who will make a better prime minister of Cambodia?

Sar Kheng (top) and Hun Sen (below).

A few days ago, I put forward a question to readers of “Hun Sen and Sar Kheng: Who do you want to be prime minister of Cambodia?” Many readers had made their contributions to the debate and the overwhelming majority of readers had chosen Sar Kheng over Hun Sen. However, many of the comments are too short to publish and I have chosen only three full length articles to publish in the main page of Khmerization blog. Here they are. Please enjoy your reading:

By Anonymous…..

The long rivalry between Hun Sen and Sar Kheng has of course attracted interests from long-term Cambodian political observers since at least in the mid 1980s, but particularly around early 1994 when the victorious Funcinpec Party and the vanquished Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) were trying to form a coalition government.

Right after the election in September 1993, when the Funcinpec Party and the CPP formed a provisional coalition government, Hun Sen, using his executive power as a Second Prime Minister, appointed all people from his faction from the CPP to the newly-formed government.

This action of Hun Sen has angered the Chea Sim-Sar Kheng faction as they viewed Hun Sen’s action as an attempt to sideline them from the new government altogether. Chea Sim sent Sar Kheng to negotiate with Hun Sen to get a fair share of the government positions for his loyalists. I remembered that Sar Kheng had come out of the negotiation, which took part inside Hun Sen’s house, very angry that Hun Sen did not want to share the positions with his loyalists. However after that angry confrontation between Hun Sen and Sar Kheng, some of Sar Kheng’s loyalists were appointed to the positions within the coalition government. Afterward diplomats and political observers viewed the resurrection of the Chea Sim-Sar Kheng faction as a sign of its immense influences within the CPP, as has been reported by Nate Thayer in the Phnom Penh Post.

However, in around September of 1994, Hun Sen had cleverly managed to significantly weaken the Chea Sim-Sar Kheng faction by inventing a fake coup and accused the Chea-Sim Sar Kheng faction of being behind that coup. Many of Chea Sim’s and Sar Kheng’s loyalists like Sing Song, Minister of Security, Sin Sin, a powerful police chief, and Prince Norodom Chakrapong, son of King Sihanouk and also deputy prime minister from the CPP, were accused of plotting a coup against Hun Sen and were arrested. Chakrapong was freed after an intervention from Funcinpec Party and exiled to France. Many of Chea Sim’s and Sar Kheng’s powerful people, like many police chiefs, have been either arrested demoted or sacked. There was a rumor that Hun Sen also planned to arrest Sar Kheng or sack him, but backed down at the advice of Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the first prime minister, and only after Sar Kheng’s loyalists had threatened bloodshed if Sar Kheng is arrested or sacked.

Now, let’s us go back to the question of who I want to be prime minister of Cambodia. Frankly, if have the choice, I would choose neither of them because both were brutal ex-communist leaders who had committed crimes of genocide when they served under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. However, if I have to choose between the two, I would choose the lesser of the two evils, and that is I would choose Sar Kheng.

My reason for choosing Sar Kheng over Hun Sen is this: that Hun Sen has been presiding over a very dictatorial, brutal and corrupt government for the last 33 years. Under his reign, human rights abuses, corruption and mismanagement are rampant. Land grabbing and forced evictions have intensified and land concessions to foreign companies, sometimes at the expense of poor land owners, have been awarded to foreign companies, leaving many poor farmers landless. Unemployment rate has not been reduced and poverty not been improved either. His behavior is erratic and sometimes maniac and uncompromising.

Despite my grim assessment of Hun Sen’s rule, I have to give him some credits where credits are due. In the last 10 years, we have seen an influx of foreign investments to Cambodia, we’ve seen better roads were built and a rise in the developments and constructions in around some major cities, such Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville etc.

Consequently, these so-called achievements, in my opinions, have outweighed the benefits that the ordinary people have received due to mismanagement and corruption. These developments and constructions have affected many poor land owners when their lands were forcibly confiscated to make way for developments and most of the money received from the investments has mostly gone into the pockets of corrupt officials.

Sar Kheng, on the other hands, has never been a tested leader because he is always in the shadow of Mr. Hun Sen or Chea Sim. But his behavior is consistent and compromising as he has proven to be a very moderate, less corrupt and capable leader. All his children have never been in trouble with the law or the public. On the other hand, Hun Sen’s children and his relatives, especially his nephews like Hun To, Nhim Sophea and Hun Chea, are bad boys who have committed serious crimes, but still roam free under the protection of Mr. Hun Sen.

I believe that Sar Kheng will be more democratic and more open to criticism and more receptive to the oppositions than Hun Sen. He seem to be more caring about the wellbeing of the people, such as on many occasions, he had expressed sympathy with the people who had been abused by officials, as has been proven when he ordered the arrests of those who shot three garment workers recently.

At this moment, it remains impossible for Sar Kheng to wrestle power from Hun Sen, either through democratic means or military means because Hun Sen is deeply entrenched politically and militarily. He had put all his loyalists in all the powerful positions and, importantly, he had significantly weakened the Chea Sim-Sar Kheng faction to the point of near destruction. Many of Chea Sim-Sar Kheng’s loyalists, like Ke Kimyan, former Commander-in-Chief, Moek Dara, former anti-drug chief, Chhoeun Chanthan, Chea Sim’s ex-body guard chief, Pheng Kunthea Borey, Chea Sim’s chief of protocol, etc were also arrested with dubious charges.

In conclusion, with my analysis above, I strongly believe that Sar Kheng would make a better prime minister than Hun Sen. What does everybody think?
The Great Khmer Empire said...

In my opinion, choosing between the 2 individuals is like choosing the lesser evil. You have to play the cards you are dealt with.

I would choose Sar Kheng over Hun Sen in terms of putting the people's interest first over his personal interests. True, we don't know much about the political life of Sar Kheng, however, the last good deed he did was finding justice for the garment workers who had been shot. He sought and arrested the perpetrators. He cited (pharaprasing) that we're a nation of civilized society unlike that of the Khmer Rouge regime.

I do believe he is more moderate than Hun Sen.

Hun Sen has done many good things to improve the infrastructure of Cambodia. But, as a leader of a nation, you're supposed to do that anyway. He built many schools and roads. He attracted many foreign investors to the country. Relatively speaking, he had provided a stable political climate in the country.

On the contrary, many will argue that Hun Sen lacks the necessary leadership skills to lead Cambodia. He only holds on to power because of his military control and of his dictatorial style of oppression. But one must not forget that he won every elections since 1997, fair or not is debatable. He is arguably the longest reigning leader in Khmer history.

In conclusion, I would choose Sar Kheng over Hun Sen for the pure fact of change. "Change" is good. We need a fresh politics. We need a fresh face. We need new visions. I've yet to see any long term visions provided by any of our leaders. If Sar Kheng becomes the next prime minister, I believe there will be more opportunity for the opposition parties to expand.

I want to point out that I neither a CPP supporter nor the supporter of the opposition parties. I support the party who offers unity, growth, and respect for personal freedom.

When I pointed out the lists of accomplishments of Hun Sen, I only listed as facts, not my opinions. Also, before I listed those accomplishments, I did state that all those things are done by any leader of a country because it's their job to do so. There was nothing outstanding at all about Hun Sen’s resume. The moderator stated that I have to give the "Pros" and "Cons." He also stated that I have to choose between the 2 men, Hun Sen or Sar Kheng. If there is a third choice or the 4th, there is no doubt I would choose the latter.
Anonymous said...

All along people like me know Hun Sen as a strong man and a tough man, a Vietnamese puppet, a villain ruling a remote destitute land of Southeast Asia and the list goes on and on. There is nothing wrong with individuals in the organization or party or country to compete with one another in different ways. Some competitions are fair and some other are so so...

Cambodia has been long known to possess people with good leadership when those people are still immature to be at the helm of their power. However, once he/she reached the top food chain of command, things have changed for the worst or even turned into a catastrophic proportion, like when Cambodia was ruled by the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979.

Hun Sen has best managed himself to capture a trophy of Cambodia’s erratic political sportsmanship status, meaning that winning is absolutely must be achieved at all cost. He knows quite well how to assimilate himself with the strong backers and willing to sacrifice/share some of the earmarks toward the followers whether they support him or not based on rewards but not leadership characters. Hun Sen's management the quantity of his political matrix has been so far steering toward the opportunity to capture what he perceives as the evidence based justification of day-to-day events. All these styles of his leadership, nevertheless, have been producing physical achievements, but negligently missing the point of desire of the whole purpose of trickling down to the bottom.

Hun Sen's political maneuvering to outsmart his Cambodian opponents has been outstanding of long list records, but he had never been able to outsmart his rivals in neighboring countries. His charms of rewards and punishments are served as a dual spearhead to gain control of respect of the name of a decisive character of an authoritarian individual, but not in the name of legitimate individual earning his marksmanship. But in the Cambodian society, sometimes the period of postwar turmoil/turbulence may somewhat be required that sort of leadership style but will suffer and could dismantle the fabric of society in the long run, especially for the young generations. Unfortunately, Cambodians have to choose between the two devils, the rotten apple or the rotten orange.

Sar Kheng, otherwise, looks innocent in Cambodia’s political playing field. I know very little about him but most Cambodians may have known him much more... However, he has been in the footstep of a rocky drama of Hun Sen's political grip for a long time. There is a string attached to the style of his leadership from the same point of source, meaning the CPP. The level of Sar Kheng's political consciousness of attempting to play a good political Samaritian in the Cambodia's knee-jerking politics is somewhat outdated but may well be taken into considerations and could get well established if and only if there is enough support the within ruling CPP. Sar Kheng should know himself best when he comes to play the political cards with Hun Sen, but this guy (Sar Kheng) chooses the backdoor ways of taking the breath of fresh air and let the course of his leadership ambition formulating by itself. This style is not working for his best interests and his group but only serves himself in keeping his post. So making the story short, Sar Kheng possesses good characters and attitudes of a good governor, but he lacks the decisive decision making process to control the crisis and managing the magnitude of state affairs. However, he may be a fast learner and hopes that people around him are willing to give their hands, if, by luck and fortunes, to elevate to the position of Cambodia’s new PM.

[Khmer Krom] Monks await justice

Tep Nimol
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Phnom Penh Post

Khmer Krom and Buddhist monks gathered yesterday in the capital for a ceremony to mourn the five-year anniversary of the venerable Eang Sok Thoeun’s death, who was found with his throat slit in February 2007.

Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
Khmer Krom and Buddhist monks gather yesterday at the grave of the venerable Eang Sok Thoeun.
The body of Eang Sok Thoeun, a Khmer Krom monk, was found at the Tronum Chhroeung pagoda in Kandal the morning after he protested with some 300 other monks at the Vietnam Embassy in Phnom Penh, demanding improved treatment for ethnic Khmers in southern Vietnam.

Officials and monks from the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association gathered yesterday at their murdered brethren’s grave in Dangkor district, calling for the government to arrest those responsible for his death.

“The authorities have not arrested the killer,” Kim Sisomna, a leader for the association said.

Dangkor district deputy governor Seng Kun said police officials were still searching for a suspect.

“Police officials have not been careless in attempting to find the killer and punish him through the law,” the deputy governor said.

Bar lowers boom on KRT ‘failure’

Bridget Di Certo
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Phnom Penh Post

Present government interference at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal has led to a “failure of credibility”, International Bar Association executive director Mark Ellis said in a report released yesterday.

Pha Lina/Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen delivers a speech in Phnom Penh earlier this month.
ECCC/Phnom Penh Post
Co-investigating judge You Bunleng in a handout photo.
The report, the second from the IBA, attributes that failure directly due to the lack of judicial independence in Cambodia.

“A history of corruption within the Cambodian justice system, coupled with a weak disqualification mechanism, fails to adequately safeguard internationally accepted standards of judicial integrity,” the report states.

“The court’s handling of Case 003 and the Supreme Council of Magistracy’s rejection of Judge Kasper-Ansermet, the International reserve co-investigating judge, only highlight these shortcomings,” it continues.

A litany of allegations of political pressure, official obstruction and uncontrolled corruption on the part of the Cambodian government and the national side of the court is catalogued in the 30-page report, including the “pervasive and institutionalized nature of the executive interference with the Cambodian judiciary, and the deeply concerning failure by judicial bodies to deal with it”.

Ellis is critical of actions and statements by Prime Minister Hun Sen toward controversial cases 003 and 004 and in blocking certain executive members from giving testimony to the tribunal as part of investigations.

He is also critical of actions and statements by Cambodian Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng in his involvement in blocking the Supreme Council of Magistracy appointment of Kasper-Ansermet, a role Ellis called a “significant conflict of interest”.

Hun Sen and You Bunleng were not the only Cambodians under the microscope in Ellis’ report – Trial Chamber Judge Nil Nonn, who is now presiding over Case 002 against an elderly trio of Khmer Rouge senior leaders, “should have been disqualified” the report states.

“Nil Nonn is on record as admitting to taking bribes in relation to cases. Moreover, there have been allegations that several other judges and Court officials secured their positions by paying bribes to members of the executive”.

The report also accuses the UN of adopting a “detrimental hands-off approach” at the tribunal and concludes that “ensuring the effective investigation of alleged governmental influence in judicial matters would go some way to tackling the actual and perceived institutional legitimacy problems that threaten the future of the ECCC”.

Tribunal legal affairs spokesman Lars Olsen yesterday said he had “no comments at all on a report by third parties”.

UN Special Expert David Scheffer did not respond to requests for comment.

The co-investigating judges “fiasco” is at the heart of the report. Hun Sen stalled the appointment of Kasper-Ansermet, telling the UN “prudent consideration” of the appointment was required due to the judge’s use of social-media website Twitter.

Kasper-Ansermet has tweeted links to critical articles and reports on the work of his predecessor Siegfried Blunk and Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng.

The IBA report analyses the criticisms levied against Kasper-Ansermet’s use of Twitter and draws the conclusion that his “Twitter posts fall short of infringing on international standards regarding a judge’s public involvement in controversial topics and government criticism,” adding that Kasper-Ansermet exercised “appropriate restraint”.

Ek Tha, representative of the Council of Minister’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit, told the Post the criticisms of the government were unfounded.

“You have to be careful when you criticise people and you don’t have any substantive information in your hand. You could be subjected to defamation law,” Ek Tha said.

“From the government’s point of view, it is very clear that there is no interference from the executive in the work of the ECCC.”

Globe-trotting [French] family checks out Cambodia

Roth Meas
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Phnom Penh Post

The Guicheney family’s travels can be followed on their blog.

A French family on a journey around the world recently passed through Cambodia and recounted the highlights of their journey across continents, including what it takes to travel with four small children in a camper-van.

Photo Supplied
Jean-Philippe and Anne-Gaëlle Guicheney Mahler, plus kids, in front of their camper-van.
“In Paris, I would leave for work at a construction company early in the morning till late in the evening, so I didn’t have enough time to see my children. I wanted to spend time with my family, so we organised this trip,” said 37-year old Jean-Philippe Guicheney Mahler.

He, his wife Anne-Gaëlle, and their four children – Margaux, 9, Victoire and Capucine, 7, and Marin, 3 – left France last July in a camper-van.

From there, they crossed Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungry, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, India, Thailand and Laos, finally arriving in Cambodia last month.

The Guicheneys left Cambodia for Vietnam last week and will continue their travels into Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, eventually making their way to South America.

The trip will take a total of two years and cost the family over US$200,000.

With three school-age children in tow, the family has had to turn the camper into a part-time school.

“In France, you are allowed to attend school from a distance,” said Guicheney.

“Every morning from 9 to 12, three of our children are studying. They have lessons to learn and work to do. When they’re done, we send their work by internet to their teachers in France. They correct it and send them back.”

The Gucheneys’ trip is determined by the weather.

They won’t cross any country in winter or when the temperatures are too hot.

Along the way, they’ve encountered challenges dealing with people and countries of different religions and political situations.

“We decided to cross Iran, not Afghanistan or Pakistan because of the security. In Iran, we still had a danger of religion. They were always asking us two questions: The first was if we had a television in our camper, and the second was whether we were Muslim or Catholic,” Guicheney said, adding that it had been a frightening moment in the trip.

Luckily for the family, they had no problem crossing after saying they were Catholic.

At the border between Laos and Cambodia, the family had to fight with corrupt border officials who tried to overcharge them for their visas.

“The customs officer charged us for six visas, two for us and four for our children. But we knew that children enter for free. They tried to charge us nearly $200 when we only needed to pay $40. We fought with them, and finally only two of us had to pay,” he said.

In Cambodia, the family visited Siem Reap to donate books, pens and other study materials to a non-profit organisation, L’ecole du Bayon.

One of the biggest adjustments has been adapting to different countries’ driving patterns, said Guicheney.

“India, Iran and Thailand are on the left side. When we arrived at the border of Cambodia, we didn’t know whether it was left or right. We just drove on the middle of the road for about two kilometers. Then we saw a car on the left, so we just knew,” he said.