A Change of Guard

សូមស្តាប់វិទ្យុសង្គ្រោះជាតិ Please read more Khmer news and listen to CNRP Radio at National Rescue Party. សូមស្តាប់វីទ្យុខ្មែរប៉ុស្តិ៍/Khmer Post Radio.
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Tuesday 31 March 2015

NGO: Data shows ‘wholesale sell-off’

Cambodia should urgently disclose all information about land ownership and rethink its “wholesale sell-off” of the country’s natural resources, a local rights group said yesterday.
The call to release information about Cambodia’s land sector, including a declaration of revenues, came as Licadho released an analysis of concessions showing that three-fifths of all of Cambodia’s arable land is under the control of mostly foreign-owned plantation firms.
The data, which exclude land allocated for mining exploration, shows that 2.14 million hectares have been leased to private firms since the government announced its forest “conversion” policy in the early 2000s and began to issue economic land concessions (ELCs).
About 43 per cent of the ELCs are Cambodian-owned, more than a third of which comprise a single concession in Pursat province owned by Pheapimex Group, which is directed by Yeay Phu, the wife of ruling Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin. The more than 333,000-hectare concession is far larger than the Tonle Sap lake and more than 33 times the legally allowed limit.
Vietnamese and Chinese companies control a third of the land, according to Licadho’s data, with Malaysian, Thai, Korean and Singaporean companies combined holding about 17 per cent.
“One important point to stress is that the data we released today is undoubtedly incomplete and misses some ELCs that have not been made public due to a lack of systematic and complete disclosure on the part of the government,” said Naly Pilorge, Licadho’s director.
“For example, in December 2014, the Ministry of Environment merely stated that 113 companies had been given concessions within their protected areas. Licadho could only locate 73. We therefore believe that today’s publication cannot and should not be a substitute for the government’s own data, and we call for the relevant ministries to be fully transparent about land dealings.”
Companies from Vietnam and China are the two biggest “players” in the sector, Pilorge said, a finding that validates media reporting on land conflicts in recent years that have been fuelled by large-scale concessions, such as the Union Development Group’s multibillion-dollar development in Koh Kong province.
“In many instances, the granting of ELCs has resulted in the irreversible loss of primary forests, with considerably negative impact on communities. ELCs have also created access-to-water issues, a critical resource which is already being negatively affected by climate change,” she added.
Son Chhay, an opposition member of parliament who heads the National Assembly’s finance commission, said that by his estimates, about 70 per cent of the concessions were sought either to resell without making an investment or to strip the natural resources from the sites.
“They make so much money by cutting down all these trees. They look for foreign investors so they can cut the trees down and make all this money without benefiting the budget whatsoever,” he said, adding that analysis of previous national budgets had shown that as little as $7 in tax was collected from ELCs per hectare.

Golden memories ... សុវណ្ណអនុស្សារ

"Hatred is corrosive of a person's wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and block a nation's progress to freedom and democracy."
Liu Xiaobo

"When a person doesn't have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity."
Elie Wiesel

អ្នកស្នេហាជាតិ‌ហូបមី អ្នកបំផ្លាញជាតិហូបសុទ្ធតែរបស់ឆ្ងាញ់ៗ នេះ‌ហើយ‌ស្រុកខ្មែរ‌។

Activist’s trial abruptly stalled

Political activist and CNRP supporter Ouk Pich Samnang is escorted though the car park at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after his hearing was adjourned.Pha Lina

The trial of a political activist charged with multiple offences for his alleged role in a violent Phnom Penh protest was dramatically adjourned yesterday, as the defendant refused to continue with questioning unless his accusers also came to the court.
Ouk Pich Samnang was arrested in late October after driving his tuk-tuk through a security barricade near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house during a protest with evictees from Preah Vihear province, which saw clashes with the notorious Daun Penh district security guards.
Pich Samnang, a supporter of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, has been charged with intentional violence with aggravating circumstances, causing damage to public property, obstructing the work of authorities and participating in a criminal association.
During his hearing yesterday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, he grew angry at the judge and prosecutor’s line of questioning.
“I would like to demand that [my] five [accusers] come to debate with me in court.… If they don’t come to face me, handcuff me and send me back to prison. Stop, stop the court, please,” he said loudly, raising his hands in the air.
He added that his accusers – all district security guards – are “third hands who are sources from the district or commune authorities who arranged for them to use violence against me until I had scars”.

Experts back graphic warnings for smokers

Cigarettes in identical olive-brown packets and largely covered with graphic health warnings, are displayed in a shop in Sydney 2012. AFP

Health experts have thrown their weight behind a provision in the draft tobacco-control law that will require graphic health warnings to cover half the face of Cambodia’s cigarette packages.
“The warnings will encourage smokers to quit, because [they can see] the illnesses caused from smoking. It can help to protect children and young people from starting to use tobacco,” said Chea Chor Daphea, vice president of the National Center for Health Promotion, at a workshop yesterday on the impacts of tobacco organised by the Ministry of Health.
Daphea said that images are significantly more effective than text for providing public information about the hazards of smoking and are expected to help combat tobacco-related deaths, which kill 10,000 Cambodians annually. Worldwide, tobacco is projected to cause 8 million annual deaths by 2030.
“[The pictures] are very important, because it provides information to the people. If they cannot read, they can see: smoking causes lung cancer,” said Dr Yel Daravuth, technial officer for the World Health Organization’s Tobacco-Free Initiative.

Cocaine bust: Russian tourist gets 28 years

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced a Russian tourist to 28 years yesterday for smuggling some five kilograms of liquefied cocaine into Cambodia from Brazil last year.
According to presiding judge Ly Sok Leng, defendant Elizaveta Maximova, 28, was charged with drug trafficking after being arrested with the cocaine at Phnom Penh International Airport in April 2014.
“The court decided to sentence her to 28 years and a fine: 50 million riel (about $12,500) to put in the national budget,” judge Sok Leng said yesterday.
Police official Lieutenant Colonel Chab Sameng said the 4.96 kilos of liquid cocaine were concealed in plastic-wrapped bottles.
Maximova declined to comment to reporters yesterday, but during her trial on March 22, she maintained her innocence, saying the cocaine belonged to her boyfriend – a Nigerian she identified as “Joe” – and that she was unaware it was in her luggage.
“I did not know that Joe’s things were liquid drugs, and were illegal things. If I have known it, I would not bring it with me or be involved with it,” she said.

Firm accused of ‘taking over’ community forest

Villagers in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district have filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc against a logging company they say has claimed more than 9,000 hectares of community forest as its own and threatened residents against using the land.
According to the complaint, which four community members filed yesterday, Cambodian company Prampimakara Powery entered the area last year and declared ownership of the community forest. The land covers three villages in O’Yadav’s Sesan commune, where more than 300 ethnic Jarai families live, said Sal Hlob, 36, one of the four who filed the complaint.
“[Prampimakara Powery] cleared the forest and logged Sokrom, Kakoh, and Sra Lov [wood], and sold it to Vietnamese buyers,” Hlob said yesterday. “In the future, the next generation will not have a forest to depend on; that is why we are seeking intervention from Adhoc to remove the company.”
Contact information for Prampimakara could not be found yesterday.
In addition to logging the area – which those who complained said is illegal – officials from the company have threatened villagers that they will fine them for cultivating land there, Hlob said.
If villagers the company fines don’t pay the $5,000 per hectare or $500 per tree demanded, Prampimakara officials say they will sue, he added.

Reporter recalls Caldwell's slaying by KR

Retired American journalist Richard Dudman yesterday recounted details of the attack on his travelling party during a 1978 trip to Cambodia, telling the Khmer Rouge tribunal he narrowly dodged being shot before finding British academic Malcolm Caldwell gunned down in his room.
Dudman, 96, a former St Louis Post-Dispatch Washington bureau chief, was among the first Western writers to visit Cambodia during Pol Pot’s reign, arriving in December 1978 with Marxist scholar Caldwell and fellow American journalist Elizabeth Becker, then of theWashington Post, who testified as a tribunal expert in February.
The trio, invited by Democratic Kampuchea leaders, was given a tightly controlled tour of the country before being afforded rare interviews with Pol Pot on their last night in Phnom Penh, just weeks before Vietnam toppled the regime.
Considered a friend of the regime, Caldwell, 47, was murdered hours after his own private meeting with “brother number one” in circumstances still shrouded in mystery.
Testifying yesterday as a witness via video link from the United States, Dudman – who spent 40 days as a captive of the Viet Cong in 1971 and reported from the region a dozen times during the Vietnam War – recalled being woken by gunshots and running to Caldwell’s room.
“I discussed with him what we thought was going on and we decided that we didn’t know and we’d stay in our rooms and hope that it all blew over,” he recalled.
“I started back, but then a young man came, heavily armed.… At some point he pointed his pistol at me and fired a shot and missed me, but I ducked inside my room, slammed the door and stood to one side, and then there were some shots that came through the door.”
Hearing more shots, Dudman waited two hours behind his bed before Cambodian diplomat Tiounn Prasith arrived and revealed Caldwell’s fate.

Idea exchange: UK clerk tells MPs of Brit system

Members of the National Assembly sat down with a representative of the UK Parliament yesterday to discuss political party groups and the legislative system in the UK as part of a two-day consultative meeting that ends today.
The event saw senior clerk Gosia McBride deliver four seminars to the 14 Cambodian lawmakers in attendance, covering party structure, parliamentary oversight, the legislative process and support for government and opposition members.
“We had an excellent session this morning,” McBride said during a break in yesterday’s event. “We had lots of questions and discussion in the earlier session this morning, so I’ve been quite impressed.”
Her participation came after an invitation from the National Assembly for idea sharing on both the legislative system and female participation in politics, which is on the agenda today.
According to Tep Sothy, one of 11 representatives from the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party in attendance, such an exchange is essential to the evolution of the country’s political culture.
“We need to think differently; Cambodia is not alone anymore.”

Amend judicial laws: Kem Sokha

A woman pays her respects to the victims of the 1997 grenade attack yesterday in Phnom Penh during a commemorative service. Vireak Mai

During yesterday’s 18th annual memorial of the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia National Rescue Party acting president Kem Sokha called for the amendment of three controversial judicial laws passed last year that critics claim have further compromised the independence of the Kingdom’s courts.
Sokha’s comments on the judiciary came as he was summonsed to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning on April 8 in connection with an unspecified case, his lawyer confirmed. The summons arrived just weeks after Prime Minister Hun Sen called on the courts to take action against the firebrand deputy CNRP leader for supposedly having admitted that he tried to topple the government following the 2013 election.
Yesterday’s ceremony commemorated the March 30, 1997, attack in which 16 people were killed and hundreds wounded after three grenades tore through a demonstration calling for improved labour rights and a living wage for garment workers.
Eighteen years later, no arrests have been made in connection to the fatal attack, which many believe was orchestrated by supporters of then co-prime minister Hun Sen, who seized power after defeating forces loyal to Prince Norodom Ranariddh during factional fighting in the capital’s streets months later.
Speaking in front of hundreds of memorial attendees, Sokha said the CNRP will continue to seek justice for the grenade attack victims by restarting dialogues with the ruling CPP to amend the three judicial laws enacted in June and reform the court system.
“It is necessary that the CNRP must demand an amendment of these three laws . . . because right now, we currently cannot urge the courts to be independent,” he said. “So we will prepare the proposal to amend [the laws] and discuss it with the ruling party.”
The Law on the Organisation and Functioning of the Courts, the Law on the Role of Judges and Prosecutors, and the Law on the Organisation and Functioning of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy were passed by the CPP while the opposition was boycotting the National Assembly.
Originally conceived to set better checks and balances in the judiciary, critics say that the long-awaited laws have instead tightened government control over the courts.
Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha (right) attends the 18th anniversary of the 1997 grenade attack
Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha (right) attends the 18th anniversary of the 1997 grenade attack yesterday in Phnom Penh at Wat Botom park. Vireak Mai
“A lot of lawyers are concerned that the members of the Supreme Council [of Magistracy] and courts are not independent enough, because the membership is mostly from the ruling party and the executive branch, and this impacts judicial independence,” human rights lawyer Sok Sam Oeun said yesterday. “There has to be a separation of power.”

Pung Chhiv Kek out of NEC running

Licadho president Pung Chhiv Kek speaks at a press conference last year regarding the ninth seat on the NEC. Heng Chivoan

PUNG Chhiv Kek, president of local rights group Licadho, has officially turned down a position as the ninth member of the reformed National Election Committee.
In a statement released this morning, Chhiv Kek, who was offered the role in July, says that “although it was a great honor to have been chosen for this very important position, I deeply regret I have to decline the offer”.
“I apologize to my fellow compatriots who had faith in me and whom I may have disappointed,” she adds.
Chhiv Kek conditionally accepted the position last year on the basis that she would “enjoy immunity and full autonomy and independence in decision making and other activities.”
In today’s statement she says the role was described to her as “an independent member [who] will bring to this institution the neutrality it needs to organize elections in conformity with the Constitution and the national laws”.
“Today, I conclude that this task has become impossible,” she writes.
The Cambodian People’s Party and Cambodia National Rescue Party, who will each independently choose four members for the NEC, will now have to agree on a new neutral candidate to fill the ninth position.

School of Rock ... "ខ្ញុំអៀនណាស់"


ខេត្តរតនគិរី៖ រណ្តៅត្បូងរាប់ម៉ឺនកន្លែងក្នុងមួយរណ្តៅមានគ្នាជីក៣នាក់
កម្មករយួន២០%ផងដែរ ក្នុងរងចំការកៅស៊ូរបស់ក្រុមហ៊ុនចិន ស្វីហ្វរ៉ាប់ប៊ឺ លីមីធីត ខេត្តរតនគិរី ស្ថិតនៅក្នុងភូមិត្រុំ ឃុំឡាមិញ
ស្រុកបរកែវ កំពុងឃុបឃិតគ្នារវាងថៅកែកុងសែត្បូង មេការចំការ កៅស៊ូ សមត្ថកិច្ចនៅទីនោះ ដាក់កម្មករជីកកកាយយកត្បូងធម្មជាតិ
មានតម្លៃយ៉ាងអនាធិបតេយ្យ គ្មានការទប់ស្កាត់ពីស្ថាប័នជំនាញ ពាក់ព័ន្ធ នោះឡើយ។ ប្រភពសម្ងាត់បានប្រាប់ថា ថៅកែកុងសែត្បូង គេហ៊ានបង់លុយថ្លៃដីជីកត្បូងក្នុង១ហិកតា ១ម៉ឺនដុល្លា ។.
ដីចំការកៅស៊ូកំពុងជីកត្បូងមានទំហំ៣១ហិកតា ធ្លាប់មានជម្លោះ
ជាមួយពលរដ្ឋ ប្តឹងទៅតុលាការ និងចាប់តំណាងលោក ឃឹម សុខ
ដាក់គុក នាពេលកន្លងមកផងដែរ(ខែសីហា ២០១៤) ដោយពួកគេដាក់ កម្មករពេលជីកបានត្បូងពួកគេទិញពីកម្មករវិញ។ នេះជាការដឹកនាំ ប្រកបដោយគតិបណ្ឌិតរបស់សម្តេច!!! - ILCHN

Some Thailand Flights Grounded Over Safety Concerns

FILE - Thai Airways passenger planes park at the ramp of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport.

Steve HermanVOA News
Thailand's government on Monday scrambled to address "significant safety concerns" by the U.N.'s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that has the kingdom's airlines facing bans on international flights.
The ICAO negative review quickly led Japan and South Korea to block charter and new flights from Thailand. There is concern other countries, including the United States, will take similar action, especially if the ICAO downgrades Thailand from Category 1 to Category 2.
A U.S. government source - who is not authorized to speak on the record - explained the ICAO report would probably trigger an audit of Thailand's aviation sector by the Federal Aviation Administration. He called the ICAO audit results a "real red flag for the FAA."
Japan and South Korea do not conduct their own assessments and usually rely on ICAO findings to take action.
Decision by Japan
Japan's Civil Aviation Bureau said that for now, no new charter flights operated by airlines registered in Thailand would be allowed to fly to Japanese airports because of concerns the carriers may not meet international safety standards.
Under particular scrutiny is the department of civil aviation, supervised by the transport ministry. Officials of the ministry and department, including Civil Aviation department Director-General Somchai Piputvat, met on Monday  with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Sesan dam gets new design

Villagers living in the reservoir zone attend a community forum about the Lower Sesan II dam on Saturday in Stung Treng province. KIMBERLEY MCCOSKER

Cambodia's largest hydropower project has been redesigned, leading to concerns from environmental groups, but a company official who confirmed the “design optimisation” over the weekend insisted that the Lower Sesan II dam will provide clean, safe energy and have few downstream impacts.
Ren Zhonghua, deputy director of the Hydro Power Lower Sesan II Company, also said critics of the dam needed to accept the reality of Cambodia’s electricity shortage and understand that the country would not develop without such projects.
The comments came after a delegation from the National Assembly’s environment commission led by Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Pol Ham visited the dam site over the weekend and met with affected communities living in the reservoir zone.
The controversial project, which will block the Sesan and Srepok rivers, is a joint venture between China’s Hydrolancang International and Cambodia’s Royal Group. It is expected to cost more than $800 million and go online in 2017. Experts have warned following extensive research into the projected impacts that it could lead to a food-security crisis in the Lower Mekong, affecting tens of thousands in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.
“We have authorised the design institute [an internal company body] to carry out design optimisation, rather than redesign. Compared with the original design, the total installed capacity remains unchanged after optimisation, with [a] safer dam, easier sediment flushing and flood discharging and more environmentally friendly,” Ren said.
Machinery operates at the construction site for Lower Sesan II dam in Stung Treng province over the weekend
Machinery operates at the construction site for Lower Sesan II dam in Stung Treng province over the weekend. KIMBERLEY MCCOSKER
He added that the environmental impact assessment had been approved by the government, and measures to protect the environment were being put in place. As the Lower Sesan II reservoir was relatively small, he said, “the dam has little impact downstream”.
The reservoir was calculated to cover about 36,000 hectares, according to the original design – about half the size of Singapore.
Since the Post first visited the dam site in February 2014, about a month after the joint venture was formed and the early stages of construction began, a huge wall of rock has been erected across the Sesan River and several square kilometres on the northern bank have been clear-felled and burned.

Smooth Road Means More Tourism for Remote Province

Kouprey is a symbolic statue of Mondulkiri province located in the Sen Monorom provincial capital. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)
A road leading to an ethnic village in Mondulkiri province, Cambodia. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

School of Vice: What tragedy ... hardly any trees left standing, let alone Kouprey!


Phorn Bopha, VOA Khmer
30 March 2015

At the Coffee Resort in Sen Monorom, the capital of Mondulkiri province, business is booming.

In just an hour, about 50 tourists, local and foreign alike, come through, ordering coffee or avocado shakes to go. Coffee beans and avocados grow well here, and now, thanks to a better road, so does tourism.

The remote province, in northeastern Cambodia, is known these days as a good place to trek, where wildlife and waterfalls make for good scenery, amid forested mountains of red clay, and where indigenous hill tribes still live a traditional way of life. But it is unclear what the future holds, as development increases.

“There are a mix of tourists,” says Bou Sopheap, the owner of the Coffee Resort. “They are Khmer, European and Asian. They come to visit Mondulkiri because they want to see the forest and the livelihoods of the minority people. And to get fresh air.”

Since opening the resort a few years ago, Bou Sopheap has seen more and more people start coming here, enjoying his coffee and touring his farm, which has more than 30 different kinds of plants. “Hundreds of cars come in every day,” he said.

Kong Sophearak, director of the Ministry of Tourism’s statistic department, says the number of tourists in Mondulkiri has increased thanks to an improved road there. Nearly 11,000 people visited the province in 2014, more than half of them foreigners.

Cambodia backs topics raised at 132nd IPU Assembly


HANOI (Xinhua) -- Cambodian National Assembly (NA) supports topics that are raised by the 132nd Assembly of the Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU) organizing committee and believed that those topics will be agreed among IPU members, said Heng Samrin, president of Cambodian National Assembly, while meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Sinh Hung here on Friday.

Congratulating Vietnamese NA and people on hosting the 132nd IPU Assembly, Samrin highlighted the preparation of Vietnam for such an important event.

Hung, for his part, said at the meeting that Vietnam-Cambodia cooperation over past years has yielded results in all areas including politics, diplomacy, economy, culture, society, science and technology, with regular exchange of visits.

Vietnamese party, state and NA always hope to promote friendship and comprehensive cooperation with Cambodian people, the website of Vietnamese government quoted Hung as saying.

Samrin-led delegation is paying a visit to Vietnam to take part in the 132nd IPU Assembly which will be held in Hanoi from March 28 to April 1.

Details emerge of refugee meet

A banner hangs on the fence of a refugee camp in Anibare district, Nauru, earlier this month where a Cambodian delegation was to meet with refugees. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Refugees who met with Cambodian immigration officials last week on the Pacific island of Nauru were told they would be given permanent visas and travel documents but would have to pay for English-language education and would lose all but emergency financial support after a year, a refugee said.
Two men attended the meeting where Cambodia explained how the resettlement program signed between Australia and Cambodia in September 2014 would work, but according to a refugee in the meeting, attendees only went out of curiosity and were not interested in moving to the Kingdom.
“We are traded like slaves between two corrupted governments. One wealthy but obsessed by the boats, the other one hungry enough to commit any crime [for] money”, the refugee, who cannot be named for security reasons, said.

“These two [countries] have created a great torture machine to reach their nasty political, economic purposes and are blessed enough to have the support of the all international organisations like [the] UN.
“Many people have died. Many children [have been] sexually abused. Many women [have been] raped … and everybody [is] calling for investigations instead of any real, practical help. We don’t need your investigation. We don’t need your sympathy. We don’t beg any fake respect. We just don’t want to be slaves anymore.”

Pelosi in Kingdom to discuss rights, trade

US House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi arrived with a congressional delegation in Cambodia on Saturday to commence discussions of Washington’s relations with the Kingdom regarding issues like human rights, trade and security.
The stop is part of a five-nation trip to Asian countries including Vietnam, Myanmar, Korea and Japan.
“We arrive at an important moment for the United States’ relationship with these countries, and find ourselves presented with fresh opportunities and familiar challenges in the region,” Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Our delegation will discuss ways we can strengthen security cooperation; advance human rights with an emphasis on women, workers and religious minorities; and increase fair trade.”
Pelosi and her bipartisan delegation, which consists of nine other members of Congress, will meet with stakeholders in Cambodia but will not be holding public events, according to the US Embassy.
“If she meets with the government, the topic that would have the most impact if discussed is Cambodia upholding its labour laws,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division.
According to a recent HRW report, many garment workers experience abuse in the workplace due to a lack of enforcement of the labour law. Given the law’s huge impact on the quality of life of women in the garment sector, the law is a “critical issue”, Robertson added.