Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hmong: More than 5000 Refugees Returned to Laos by Year End

Below is an article published by: The Straits Times
March 31, 2009

Thailand will complete the repatriation of more than 5,000 Hmong ethnic minority refugees to neighbouring Laos by the end of the year, the foreign minister said on Sunday [29 March 2009].

The Hmong live in camps in northeast Thailand and are seeking political asylum, claiming they face persecution at home because they fought alongside US forces during the Vietnam war.
'All will be sent back to Laos by the end of this year [2009] and Thailand will help monitor their safety,' Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told a meeting of Thailand's ruling Democrat Party.

Thailand agreed with Laos in January that it would repatriate the 5,000 Hmong. Thailand says the Hmong refugees are economic migrants seeking work and has been slowly sending them back to Laos, to the anger of human rights campaigners who say that some are in danger of persecution.
Bangkok has lately cultivated Laos as a key regional ally, with energy-hungry Thailand buying increasing amounts of electricity from its northern neighbour.

Trial of Major Khmer Rouge Man Opens at Cambodia Tribunal

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The man accused of overseeing the torture and execution of enemies of Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge rulers faced scores of his victims Monday, as the first trial for one of the communist group's leaders opened at a genocide tribunal.

Victims of the 1975-79 regime, some missing limbs, mixed with law students in a modern courtroom to watch the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, who ran the main prison where every inmate "was destined for execution," according to the indictment.

The 66-year-old defendant, widely known as Duch, betrayed no emotion as court officials read the litany of horrors that took several hours and was broadcast live nationwide.

"Several witnesses said that prisoners were killed using steel clubs, cart axles, and water pipes to hit the base of their necks," the indictment said. "Prisoners were then kicked into the pits, where their handcuffs were removed. Finally the guards either cut open their bellies or their throats. After the executions were complete, the guards covered the pits."

Despite the emotional weight of the moment, a polite calm prevailed among the 500 spectators and the robed judges and lawyers, who conducted the proceedings on a stage behind a glass wall.

The United Nations-backed tribunal on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh, is seeking to establish responsibility for the reign of terror under Pol Pot, the group's leader who died in 1998. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died of starvation, medical neglect, slave-like working conditions and execution under the Khmer Rouge, which ruled from 1975 to 1979.

Duch is charged with committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as torture and homicide. He ran the group's main prison, the notorious torture center known as S-21, or Tuol Sleng, in Phnom Penh. As many as 16,000 men, women and children were brutally tortured there before being sent to their deaths.

Duch holds the distinction of being not only the first member of the Khmer Rouge to face trial for the regime's atrocities, but also the only one of five set to be tried to express remorse or take responsibility for his actions.

Duch's job was to extract confessions of counterrevolutionary activity, but "every prisoner who arrived at S-21 was destined for execution," said the indictment, which was issued last year when Duch was formally charged.
"Interrogators used several forms of torture in order to extract confessions from prisoners. According to Duch, only four methods of torture were allowed: beating, electrocution, placing a plastic bag over the head and pouring water into the nose." It says he also acknowledged that he knew about the practice of puncturing or removing finger and toenails, and that there was evidence that "at least one prisoner was force-fed excrement."

Execution inevitably followed torture and was equally gruesome. The indictment alleges that "some prisoners were killed by having large quantities of blood withdrawn by medics," leaving them unconscious and gasping.

Duch's French lawyer, Francois Roux, said last month that his client wished "to ask forgiveness from the victims, but also from the Cambodian people. He will do so publicly. This is the very least he owes the victims."

Duch disappeared after the group fell from power, living under two other names. He returned to teaching and converted to Christianity before he was discovered by chance by a British journalist in the Cambodian countryside in 1999.

Since then he has been in detention awaiting trial. Only now, after years of political and procedural wrangling, is his case ready to be heard.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How much do you spend for Newspaper perday?

By Love Khmer
March 30, 2009

Lord Chao Monikhemra is reading Newspaper.

Lord Chao Monikhemra and his Newspaper was bought from day to day.

These Newspapers were be read by Lord Chao Monikhemra in whole this year.
4 pages of one newspaper (Bro Chang) is 1.000 real = 0.25$,

The more you read, the more you get!
You read more, you get more ideas!
Knowledge is not voluntarily increased, it is increased by reading, studying, listening and speaking.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

U.S. State Department Names Religious Violators

Posted at: USCIRF
March 29, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - For the first time since 2006, eight countries were designated recently by the U.S. State Department as "Countries of Particular Concern" (CPC) for their severe and egregious religious freedom violations.

The Bush Administration re-designated the same eight countries it named in 2006 - Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, the People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. The formal designation by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took place Jan. 16, but the list was not made available until this week, when the Obama State Department released the list in response to a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) inquiry.

Being designated a CPC requires the president to encourage improvements in violator nations through a range of tools, including sanctions, or a waiver, if the president determines it is in U.S. interests to do so. This year, as in the past, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan were given waivers by the departing Bush Administration, which in effect gives them a pass. No sanction was cited for any other country.

USCIRF expressed disappointment that the State Department did not accept its recommendation that Pakistan, Vietnam, Turkmenistan and Iraq be designated CPCs.

"The Commission is disappointed that Secretary Rice refused to designate any new countries and that waivers were granted for both Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia," said Felice Gaer, USCIRF chair. "Religious freedom conditions in Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia are appalling and a specific U.S. government response is required."

USCIRF sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Feb. 10, in which it identified outstanding Commission concerns, including the State Department's failure to designate CPCs.

Saudi Arabia has been a CPC since 2004, and has received a waiver every year. Despite its promises of reform, USCIRF has concluded that there has been little or no improvement in the Kingdom's religious freedom conditions.

Ms. Gaer also noted that the State Department's designation was long overdue.

"In adopting IRFA, Congress recognized that CPC designation is an important tool in securing improvements in international religious freedom," said Ms. Gaer. "State Department efforts to negotiate with certain countries to bring about improvements in religious freedom certainly might be an appropriate reason for delaying CPC designation, but the Commission concludes that the State Department should have acted years ago in the case of a number of the countries our Commission recommended for CPC designation, under our statutory authority. As it reviews the previous Administration's CPC designations, we hope the Obama Administration will recognize the added value that CPC status can bring to American public diplomacy on human rights."

The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA) requires an annual State Department review by Sept. 1 of each year. While IRFA does not set a specific deadline for CPC designations, the fact that the decision is based on the annual review indicates it is meant to occur soon thereafter. The more than two year delay is particularly problematic, as presidential actions taken under IRFA terminate after two years, if not expressly reauthorized.

The CPC designation is for countries engaged in or tolerating "particularly severe" violations of religious freedom, which are systematic, ongoing, and egregious, including acts such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances, or "other flagrant denial[s] of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons."

The 2008 USCIRF Annual Report recommended that the following countries be designated as CPCs: Burma, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, the People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Iraq was added to the list in Dec. 2008
USCIRF's 2009 Annual Report will be delivered to Congress, the President and the Secretary of State May 1, and will recommend nations to be designated as CPCs, as well as list nations on the USCIRF Watch List.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner or USCIRF country expert, contact Tom Carter, Communications Director at tcarter@uscirf.gov or (202) 523-3257.

Tibet: Expression of Gratitude to India

Below is an article published by: www.tibet.net
March 29, 2009

As an expression of their gratitude to the government and people of India for their generosity and hospitality in the last 50 years in exile, Tibetans in exile are showcasing their efforts in the promotion and preservation of Tibet's cultural heritage and foundation of democratic institution accomplished under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The five-day festival being jointly organised by the India International Centre (IIC), Department of Information and International Relations and Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, opened at the India International Centre in New Delhi yesterday [26 March 2009].

The festival began with the opening of an exhibition on the 50 years of Tibetan people's experience in exile under the generous support of government and people of India. Kalon Tripa Prof Samdhong Rinpoche and Prof M G K Menon, president of India International Centre, opened the exhibition, as a group of monks from Gyuto monastery chanted auspicious prayers.

A battery of friends and sympathisers of the Tibetan cause, including Kapila Vathsayan, member of Rajya Sabha, upper house of Indian parliament, former foreign secretary of India and former Ambassador of Bhutan to India and other dignitaries attended the inaugural function. Around 400 people, including Tibetans residing in Delhi, took part in the event.

While addressing the function, Prof M G K Menon said it is a proud moment for Tibetans as they commemorate their 50 years in exile at the India International Centre, which is considered as the centre of two apostles of peace and non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a leading figure who introduces the meaning of peace to people around the world, he added.

He said the vibrant display of traditional Tibetan thangka (scroll) paintings and artifacts symbolise the fruits of Tibetan people's efforts in the protection and preservation of Tibet's unique cultural heritage in the last 50 years in exile.

Similarly, features such panel discussions, talks and photo exhibitions at the event will help in fulfilling the mission of IIC in creating an atmosphere of peace and tranquility, he said.

Prof Menon said IIC felt honoured to hold the event showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Tibet.

In his address, Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche expressed heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the government and people of India for extending invaluable support for Tibetans in preserving and protecting the Tibetan culture and religion.

Kalon Tripa also wholeheartedly thanked the Indian government's immense support in providing education of the Tibetan children.Kalon Tripa emphasised the need to deepen and strengthen the bond of friendship between the people of India and Tibetan people.

“This Commemoration is an expression of our appreciation to the government and people of India for their generosity in hosting us for 50 long years and our attempt to inform the world what the Tibetan exiles have achieved when they are given the freedom and opportunity,” said Kalon Tempa Tsering, who is also the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi.

“What the Tibetans in exile have accomplished is nothing but the rejuvenation of their culture and community, which is serviced by an excellent education system,” Kalon Tempa Tsering said. “While rebuilding and strengthening our community in areas like education, health, cultural preservation, finance, administering the settlements in India, Nepal and Bhutan and democratizing the administration, we have been able to bring the concerns and plight of Tibetans in Tibet to the international community.

We have been helped in this most capably by a network of Tibet Support Groups which have been responsible for keeping the struggle of the Tibetan people in the conscience of the world,” Kalon Tempa Tsering said,“The generosity and hospitality of the government and people of India have been one fundamental reason for the success of the Tibetan refugees,” he said.

While building a cohesive community that is serviced by a vibrant and strong civil society, the Tibetans have been successful in bringing the sad and appalling conditions of the Tibetan people in Tibet to a sympathetic international community.

Tibetans have been fortunate in this effort by the support of a growing and effective network of organizations in spreading the word of Tibet to the media, governments and parliaments around the world, he said.The festival will go on till 30 March [2009].

For the first time, the festival will bring together all the important institutions of the exile Tibetans to chart the progress Tibetans in exile have made in all fields that keep any community vibrant.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Confermata la condanna contro i fedeli di Thai Ha. Cattolici contro l’ingiustizia

By di Trung Tin
March 27, 2009

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – La corte di appello ha riconfermato oggi la condanna contro gli 8 fedeli della parrocchia di Thai Ha colpevoli – secondo il governo - di “distruzione di beni” e “turbamento dell’ordine pubblico”. In realtà gli 8 fedeli sono alcuni delle migliaia di cattolici che hanno partecipato alle manifestazioni e veglie per fermare l’esproprio dei terreni della parrocchia di Thai Ha. Gli 8 erano già stati condannati in prima istanza nel dicembre 2008. Il presidente della corte, Nguyen Quoc Hoi, ha dichiarato che "il comportamento degli accusati è stato pericoloso per la società, causando serie conseguenze e minando la grande unità nazionale". Gli accusati si sono ancora una volta difesi rivendicando la loro innocenza. "Una preghiera pacifica - ha detto Le Thi Hoi, uno degli 8 - non può essere definita 'disturbo dell'ordine pubblico'". La situazione nella città e attorno al quartiere della corte è molto tesa.

Stamane almeno 5 mila cattolici della capitale hanno partecipato ad una marcia di preghiera conclusasi davanti al tribunale dove stava per iniziare il processo d’appello. Ieri, in serata a Saigon altri 5 mila, cattolici e non, hanno pregato contro l’ingiusto processo.

La manifestazione ad Hanoi è avvenuta in aperta sfida alle minacce e intimidazioni operate dal governo della città. Stamane alle 6, dopo la messa mattutina a Thai Ha, i 5 mila fedeli, accompagnati da dozzine di padri redentoristi e da sacerdoti della diocesi, hanno marciato per 12 km fino a 200 metri dal tribunale. Almeno 1000 poliziotti in tenuta anti-sommossa e con cani addestrati al guinzaglio hanno tenuto a bada la folla che pregava e domandava giustizia.

Il processo d’appello è stato fortemente manipolato: l’avvocato difensore che gli accusati avevano scelto, Le Tran Luat, ha subito per mesi vessazioni, accuse, minacce e infine gli è stata ritirata la licenza di esercitare la professione. Ieri, un giorno prima del processo, la televisione VTV1 ha lanciato una serie di accuse contro i redentoristi, i reggenti della parrocchia, dicendo che essi “manipolano” i fedeli per loro scopi non ben definiti e si domanda come mai i sacerdoti non sono stati ancora arrestati. Lo stesso canale televisivo aveva a suo tempo diffuso notizie che gli 8 accusati si erano dichiarati colpevoli, mentre al processo gli 8 hanno sempre dichiarato la loro innocenza.

Ieri la polizia ha ispezionato tutte le case del quartiere di Ha Dong, dove avviene il processo per allontanare ogni persona non residente, che potrebbe inscenare dimostrazioni. Alcuni sono stati espulsi dal quartiere e altri sono stati arrestati. La polizia ha avvertito i residenti dell’area di non ospitare nessuno, minacciando severe punizioni se essi non collaborano.

Ieri sera a Saigon, almeno 5 mila persone – cattolici e non, insieme perfino ad autorità politiche locali – hanno preso parte a una veglia di preghiera a lume di candela per gli 8 fedeli che oggi sono processati in appello. Alla veglia, iniziata con la messa, hanno partecipato più di 60 redentoristi e 18 preti diocesani.

P. Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, superiore provinciale dei redentoristi vietnamiti, ha preso la parola, invitando i presenti a pregare per l’arcivescovo di Hanoi, mons. Ngo Quang Kiet, per il parroco di Thai Ha, p. Vu Khoi Phung, e per gli 8 accusati, che “lottano per la giustizia nella diocesi di Hanoi”.

Al momento dell’omelia, un sacerdote ha paragonato il processo subito dagli 8 a quello di Gesù: “Più di 2 mila anni fa, i capi politici di quel tempo hanno condannato a morte Gesù, sospendendolo alla santa croce. Non è stato anche quello un processo ingiusto?... Dopo la croce viene la gloria. Gesù stesso ha detto: Io ho vinto il mondo. La Verità vi farà liberi. La verità non può morire… In questi ultimi anni molti fedeli si sono levati come testimoni di giustizia. Essi sono disposti ad accettare tutte le difficoltà e avversità in nome della verità”.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hall for compensation

Written by Chhay Channyda
Thursday, 26 March 2009

Posted at: Phnom Penh Post

As officials chip away at houses, residents are demanding better compensation than a plot of land at the relocation site.

Photo by: HENG CHIVOANHouse breakers take down houses that were in the way of a City Hall road widening project for Russey Keo's Hanoi Road. RESIDENTS of the Phnom Penh Thmey commune, situated along Russey Keo's Hanoi Road, have applied for compensation of both cash and land ahead of the demolition of further homes as the city's road-widening project gets under way.

City officials began demolishing homes, fences and stalls at Teuk Thla commune this month as work began to widen the road to 30 metres along four kilometres of its length.

Phnom Penh Thmey commune resident Tey Narim said although they had been offered replacement land in Thnot Chrum village, which stands on a flood plain, the sites had no water or electricity.

"District Governor Khoung Sreng told people that the authorities would issue a notice informing people when they will start working in our area, so people need to be aware and decide on how to deal with the resettlement policy," he said.

Meanwhile Im Roeun, the resident at Teuk Thla whose house was entirely demolished, has filed a lawsuit against Khoung Sreng. Im Roeun refused the authorities' offer of a 32-square-metre plot at Thnot Chrum and wants compensation of 7 million riels (US$1,700) and a replacement house near where her old home stood.

Residents without water
The lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, was filed at the municipal court last Thursday.

"Nowadays, I am sleeping on the ground under the shelter of the neighbours' houses," Im Roeun wrote in her three-page deposition. "I have no water, no toilet and no kitchen supplies.

"Governor Khoung Sreng said he was unaware of the lawsuit but said it was her right to complain. He added that the authorities' policy was only to compensate those whose houses were entirely demolished, but that those residents of the other 10 homes at Teuk Thla who had lost up to 90 percent of their houses could negotiate to accept land in Thnot Chrum.

"Thnot Chrum relocation site is a good choice because it has water and electricity," he said.

"People who build on the pavements are on public land, which must be handed back when it is needed for development," he added.

Act on rights abuses: group

Written by Sebastian Strangio
March 26, 2009

Regional body says officials changing subject after report.

THE Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called on the government to address documented rights abuses, arguing that attacks on groups researching human rights are being used to detract attention from its own lack of compliance with international human rights obligations.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government should be reminded that Cambodia is bound by its international human rights obligations under the agreements concluded in Paris in 1991 to end the war in their country," the Hong Kong-based rights group said in a statement Wednesday.

The US State Department's annual human rights report for Cambodia, released in February, detailed a list of rights abuses including extrajudicial killings, forced land evictions, arbitrary arrests and restrictions on the freedom of the press.

The report drew a harsh rebuke from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which released a statement March 13 questioning the political motivations of the report and accusing the US of hypocrisy over its alleged torture of detainees at secret jails inside Thailand.

But the AHRC said the ministry's response, and comments made the following week by Hun Sen, who said NGOs were "working only for salaries" and "fabricat[ing] stories", posed a serious threat to human rights NGOs and their freedom to operate in the Kingdom.

"Criticism based on the discovery of what is wrong is simply an exercise of the right to freedom of expression, and this right is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed and protected by the [Constitution]," the statement said.

Thun Saray, president of Cambodian rights group Adhoc, agreed the government should "recognise the truth" about human rights violations and address the issues highlighted in the US government report.

"Not every report is perfect," he said. "But I think if the government denies every report issued, the people will not have a lot of confidence in the seriousness of the government to tackle human rights violations."

Mistakes in university enrolment handbooks make students suffer

March 26, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge – Fourteen mistakes have been discovered so far in the ‘Things to know about university and junior college enrolment in 2009’ published by the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET).

MOET has confirmed that there are 14 mistakes in the ‘Things to know about university and junior college enrolment in 2009’ handbook. The mistakes relate to figures in enrolment quotas and study branch codes of universities.

The ministry said that on March 23, it sent dispatches to local education and training departments, universities and junior colleges to inform about the mistakes.

However, a problem has arisen that the mistakes may lead to misunderstanding in students’ registration. The problem lies in the fact that students began registering to take university entrance exams two weeks ago, before the mistakes were found and confirmed. Therefore, many of them might have made wrong registrations due to the mistakes.

Ngo Kim Khoi, Deputy Director of the University Education Department under MOET, said that schools can decide for themselves whether to allow students to take back the registrations to change the declarations. As for students who submitted registrations at local education and training departments, the local departments can decide themselves whether to allow students to change registrations.

However, Khoi said that in principle, students have the right to change the registrations.

Meanwhile, universities and junior colleges are complaining that they have found a lot of incorrect information in the handbook, which they fear will cause difficulties for their enrolment.

Associate Professor Dr. Huynh Thanh Hung, Vice Director of the HCM City Agriculture and Forestry University, said that the handbook did not provide information about the university’s finance administration branch (study branch code 410, enrolling students under A and D1 groups, and enrolment quota 100).

‘We began enrolling students for the finance administration in 2008, and we don’t know why the handbook did not cover the information about the training branch,” he said.

Dr. Vo Van Thang, Deputy Director of the An Giang University, complained that last year’s handbook missed information about the pedagogical English language branch for junior college training (3 year training), and this year’s handbook, once again, repeats the mistake.

Thang said that this training branch has existed for the last several decades, and it is illogical to ignore the information in the handbook.

In order to have the information about the training branch to be published in the handbook, the university needs to show the decision that allows the university to carry out the training in this branch. However, Thang said that decades ago, when the university began providing the training branch, it only reported this to MOET.

Meanwhile, in previous years, the university enrolled students under A, B, C and D1 groups for primary education study branch. However, it is not allowed to enroll students under the B-group this year (with B-group, students have to take mathematics, chemistry and biology exams).

Besides, a lot of mistakes in printing have been found and has led to misleading information in the names of universities, addresses and telephone numbers.

Nguyen Toan, MA, Director of the Thu Duc Technology Junior College, said that the handbook misprinted the name of the college. In the handbook, the name was misprinted as the ‘Thu Duc Industry Junior College’ while it should be read as ‘Thu Duc Technology Junior College,’ and the college code is CCO.

VietNamNet, TP, TT

Assembly’s first session in May

March 26, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge – The National Assembly's first plenary sitting for the year will begin from Wednesday, May 20.

Its agenda would include approval of 13 draft laws; discussion of nine draft laws and adopting a resolution for law building in 2010, said National Assembly Office Chairman Tran Dinh Dan.
It would also assess the Government's socio-economic report for 2008 and the first months of 2009; review the State budget and quiz cabinet members.

The 13 bills listed for approval included the Public Debt Management Law; the State Compensation Law; the Urban Planning Law and the Cryptography Law.

Proposed changes to the penal code; Article 126 of the Housing Law and Article 121 of the Land Law will also be discussed.

Both deal with the rights of Overseas Vietnamese, or Viet Kieu, to own residences in Viet Nam.

Seeking assessment

National Assembly Social Affairs Committee Chairwoman Truong Thi Mai asked for the Government to provide an assessment of the economic contraction; unemployment; the impact of the "stimulus package" and its social security measures at yesterday's Standing Committee session.

Council of Nationalities Chairman Ksor Phuoc and National Assembly Deputy Chairman Nguyen Van Kien agreed that the status of the country's economy and unemployment should be included in the socio-economic report.
The duo asked the Standing Committee to arrange time for deputies attending the plenary session to discuss both.
Economics Committee Chairman Ha Van Hien said he was worried by the Government's proposal to delay the implementation of the personal income tax and that some articles governing the Bidding Law were not included in the agenda for May's plenary session.

The chairman suggested that the Government ask the Standing Committee to consider inclusion the issues in the agenda.

Closing the Standing Committee session, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong asked that parliament's agencies work with the Government to make the agenda for the May meeting more practical.
Of the delay in changing the State Budget Law, the chairman asked the drafting committee to take its time to think about the changes to ensure they were of high quality.

"The National Assembly Standing Committee should withdraw from the agenda any draft laws that do not meet its expectations,'' he said.

The chairman also asked the Government to prepare a comprehensive report that focuses on the country's socio-economic development in the context of economic downturn before the plenary session.

"If the Government sees any issues that needs a National Assembly decision, it should feel free to ask for one," he said.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Inizia il processo contro l’ex presidente Chen Shuibian

March 26, 2009

Taipei (AsiaNews/ Agenzie) – Si è aperto stamane nella capitale taiwanese il processo contro l’ex presidente Chen Shuibian, accusato di corruzione. Chen è entrato nell’aula ammanettato, mentre i suoi sostenitori facevano un sit-in fuori dal tribunale. Secondo l’accusa, Chen, sua moglie e altri 12 accusati avrebbero ottenuto enormi bustarelle, riciclato denaro, falsificato documenti. Chen si è sempre difeso dicendo che egli e la sua famiglia sono vittime di una “persecuzione politica” organizzata dall’attuale presidente Ma Ying-jeou e dal suo partito, il Kuomintang (Kmt).

Chen e sua moglie Wu Shuchen sono accusati in particolare di aver intascato milioni di dollari da fondi pubblici e di aver accettato consistenti bustarelle per aver favorito alcune vendite di terreni.

Lo scorso febbraio, la moglie di Chen si è dichiarata colpevole di aver accettato 2,2 milioni di dollari taiwanesi , detraendoli dai soldi per la campagna presidenziale, ma ha negato che questa fosse corruzione.

Chen appartiene al partito democratico (Dpp, partito democratico progressista), che sostenuto dalla popolazione locale (taiwanese), dal 2000 al 2008 ha lavorato per una politica indipendente dalla Cina, attenta ai problemi della popolazione indigena. Il Kmt, invece, erede di Chiang Kai-shek, ha sempre lavorato per la riunificazione della Cina con Taiwan. Il nuovo presidente Ma Ying-jeou ha stabilito buoni rapporti economici con la madrepatria, anche se i suoi oppositori lo accusano di favorire con questa mossa di distensione solo la classe imprenditoriale e i loro investimenti in Cina.

La popolazione di Taiwan è molto divisa sul processo: vi sono quelli che applaudono alla giustizia, che non guarda in faccia nemmeno gli ex presidenti, e chi invece condanna i giudici e l’apparato governativo, accusandoli di voler umiliare il partito democratico per boicottarne i risultati alle prossime elezioni locali, che si terranno entro l’anno. I fedeli di Chen accusano anche Pechino di aver accettato rapporti più distesi con Taiwan a condizione di “punire” colui che rischiava di dichiarare l’isola indipendente dalla Cina. Pechino considera Taiwan una provincia “ribelle”, ma appartenente alla repubblica popolare cinese, anche se Taiwan ha un suo governo democratico, eletto dal popolo, l’unico nel mondo cinese.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thai troops 'cross into Cambodia'

BBC News
March 25, 2009

Thai soldiers have reportedly entered Cambodia near a disputed temple where the two sides briefly exchanged fire last year.

A spokesman for Cambodia's government said that about 100 troops had crossed the border.A Thai border commander denied there had been any troop movements and said there had been no increase in tension.

Thailand and Cambodia both lay claim to the temple area. Despite several rounds of talks, a settlement remains elusive.

Soldiers from the two countries have been stationed in the area since the clashes in July last year.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan told reporters that Thai troops had gone about a kilometre into Cambodian territory.

"We are negotiating with their commanders to ask them to leave the area now because it is Cambodian territory," he said.

Col Pichit Nakarun, a Thai army commander at the border, denied any Thai troops had crossed the border.

"The situation is not more tense than usual," he told the Associated Press.

An international court awarded the Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962 but land surrounding it remains the subject of rival territorial claims.

Last year Unesco decided to list it as a World Heritage Site, reigniting lingering tensions over unresolved border disputes.

Thai troops moved into an area both sides claim after Cambodian guards arrested three Thai protesters there.

Both sides then rapidly increased their military presence at the site, and in October two Cambodian soldiers were killed in an exchange of gunfire.

One Week Out, Tribunal Readies for Duch Trial

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh

When the impending trial for Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Kek Iev begins, Cambodians will learn about his role at three prison sites: Tuol Sleng, Cheoung Ek and Prey Sar.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal announced Monday that during three days of hearings, starting 10 am March 30, discussions will center around the creation of Tuol Sleng, known as S-21, as well as a site called S-13, Takmao prison and armed conflict.

“If nothing changes, the trial will be as scheduled,” Judge Nil Nonn, head of the Trial Chamber, told VOA Khmer.

Better known as Duch, Kaing Kek Iev, 66, faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder, for his role as the head of Tuol Sleng and other sites, where at least 12,000 Cambodians were tortured or executed.

His trial will be the first of five jailed leaders of the regime for a tribunal that has been more than 10 years in the making and has weathered much criticism for delays, mismanagement and potential corruption.

The courtroom is expected to receive an audience of 500 people, but those who are interested must file an application of participation. The deadline is Wednesday, March 25.

According to Mao Vutha, who is in charge of registering persons at the tribunal, more than 300 people have so far registered to watch, including aid and development workers, diplomats, students and everyday Cambodians.

Obama claims gains in fight against economic woes

By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent
March 25, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama claimed early progress Tuesday night in his aggressive campaign to lead the nation out of economic chaos and declared that despite obstacles ahead, "we're moving in the right direction." At the second prime-time news conference of his presidency, Obama also toned down his criticism of bonuses to executives at bailed-out AIG, and shot back at Republican critics of his budget.

In office for 64 tumultuous days, Obama cast his budget — now under review in Congress — as essential if the economy is to recover. The tax and spending plan "is inseparable from this recovery because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity," he said.

The president also defended the U.S. dollar in the wake of China's suggestion for a universal currency, saying: "The dollar is extraordinarily strong right now," and "I don't believe that there is a need for a global currency."

The news conference, lasting 55 minutes, came at a pivotal, early moment in Obama's young presidency. Democrats in Congress are readying budget proposals that will largely determine how much of his first-term agenda will be passed, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is churning out near-daily proposals to solve the nation's economic crisis and the administration is struggling with public and congressional outrage over bonuses paid to executives of bailed-out AIG. Additionally, Obama departs next week for his first European trip as commander in chief, with the global economy a major focus.

Flexible on some points, Obama was unyielding on others. Pressed on why he seemed to delay before condemning the AIG bonuses, Obama said, "It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."

The news conference was dominated by questions about the economy. Obama defended the steps his administration has taken to counter the recession and an unprecedented credit crisis. He said teachers and others have jobs today because of the economic stimulus measure that Congress passed, and the nation is "beginning to see signs of increased sales and stabilized housing prices for the first time in a long time."

He said full-fledged recovery is months away, and he added, "It will take patience."
At the same time, he said, "we're in a better place because of the decisions that we made."

Obama put in a plug for the request Geithner made to Congress earlier in the day for extraordinary authority to take over failing companies like American International Group Inc., much as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. now does for banks.

"It is precisely because of the lack of this authority" that AIG's problems threatened to bring down the entire U.S. economy, he said. Top Democrats in Congress reacted positively to the proposal, although it is not clear when legislation might be considered.

Obama has been vocal in his unhappiness over the $165 million in retention bonuses paid to executives at AIG, although his favorable reference to business men and women seeking profits was a new twist.

"Bankers and executives on Wall Street need to realize that enriching themselves on the taxpayers' dime is inexcusable, that the days of outsized rewards and reckless speculation that puts us all at risk have to be over," he said.

"At the same time, the rest of us can't afford to demonize every investor or entrepreneur who seeks to make a profit. That drive is what has always fueled our prosperity, and it is what will ultimately get these banks lending and our economy moving once more," he said.

On other issues, Obama:

• Said the American people are assessing his ability as chief executive based on his skills and work, not the color of his skin. He said there was justifiable pride in January, when he was inaugurated as the first black president.

• Strongly defended his proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy by reducing the value of the deductions they may take for items such as home mortgages or charitable donations. It's a "realistic way for us to raise some revenue from people who benefited enormously over the last several years. Its not going to cripple them. They will still be well-to-do," he said.

• Called his decision to expand federal support of embryonic stem cell research the "right thing to do and the ethical thing to do." He said he wrestled with the ethics of the decision but is hopeful that the science will lead to help for people with debilitating diseases.

• Said the recent elections in Israel would not make it easier to create a stable environment with side-by-side Israeli and Palestinian states.

The president opened the news conference with a prepared statement read from a screen, turning the event's opening moments into a brief speech delivered to a nationwide TV audience in addition to the roomful of reporters.

He said his administration was taking steps to make sure banks have money to lend "even if the economy gets worse."

Obama said he did not feel the government should call on Americans to make sacrifices beyond those imposed by the recession and credit crisis. "Folks are sacrificing left and right ... across the board, people are making adjustments large and small," he said.

Obama was quick with a retort when asked about Republican criticism of his budget, with its huge projected deficits.

"First of all," he said he inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion from his predecessor. And secondly, he said the Republicans have yet to offer an alternative to his own tax and spending plan.

Obama has emphasized a desire to cut projected deficits in half by the end of his current term, although recent estimates make it appear almost impossible barring an extraordinary series of events.

Given concern in Congress over the red ink, Senate Democrats are drafting a separate budget plan that assumes Obama's proposed middle class tax cut expires after two years — the sort of sleight of hand that other administrations of both parties have used in the past.

While Congress' budget does not go to the White House for a president's signature, the White House traditionally seeks to influence its provisions. Obama restated his objectives Tuesday night — health care overhaul, a new energy policy and more money for education and deficit control.

Obama stepped to the microphone one day after his administration unveiled a plan to melt the credit freeze by helping banks shed bad loans. Under the proposal, the government will finance the purchase by private investors of as much as $1 trillion of the $2 trillion in bad assets still held by the nation's banks, in the hopes of freeing banks to begin lending more freely and churn up economic activity.

On Wednesday, Obama is heading to Capitol Hill to lobby Senate Democrats.

Before Obama's speech, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell emphasized Republican criticism of the president's proposed budget as an over-spending, over-taxing disaster. A Congressional Budget Office analysis released last Friday estimates Obama's budget would generate deficits totaling $9.3 trillion over the next decade .

"If these plans are carried out, we run the risk of looking like a Third World country," said McConnell, R-Ky.

Obama's job approval rating is 63 percent, according to Gallup polling. That number has been relatively stable recently, down from the 68 percent when the president took office mostly on a loss of support among Republicans.

Officials seek new power over financial companies

By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer
March 25, 2009

WASHINGTON – Pointing with dismay to the AIG debacle, the nation's top economic officials argued Tuesday for unprecedented powers to regulate and even take over financial goliaths whose collapse could imperil the entire economy. President Barack Obama agreed and said he hoped "it doesn't take too long to convince Congress."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, in a rare joint appearance before a House committee, said the messy federal intervention into American International Group, an insurance giant, demonstrated a need to regulate complex nonbank financial institutions just as banks are now regulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
"AIG highlights broad failures of our financial system," Geithner told the House Financial Services Committee. "We must ensure that our country never faces this situation again."

But the two appeared divided over where the authority should reside. Geithner suggested his Treasury Department's powers be expanded. Bernanke was noncommittal, even suggesting the FDIC.

Both officials sought to channel the widespread public outrage over the millions of dollars AIG spent in post-bailout bonuses into support for regulatory overhaul. Geithner was expected to lay out more details on the administration's plan Thursday when he appears again before the committee.

Democrats in the Senate say the administration wants the proposal on taking over non-banks to move separately from the larger financial industry regulatory bill, to get it going more quickly.

At the White House, Obama told reporters, "We are already hard at work in putting forward a detailed proposal. We will work in consultation with members of Congress. That will be just one phase of a broader regulatory framework that we're going to have to put in place to prevent these kinds of crises from happening again."

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the committee chairman, said that "when nonbank major financial institutions need to be put out of their misery, we need to give somebody the authority to do what the FDIC can do with banks."

The government has given AIG over $180 billion in bailout funds since it first intervened last Sept. 16. The U.S. now owns nearly 80 percent of the giant insurer.

"If a federal agency had had such tools on Sept. 16, they could have been used to put AIG into conservatorship or receivership, unwind it slowly, protect policyholders and impose haircuts on creditors and counterparties as appropriate," Bernanke said.

Both Geithner and Bernanke told the panel they did not become aware of the $165 million in AIG bonuses until March 10, just days before the payments were made. However, lower-level officials at both agencies were aware of the payments.

At the time of the first AIG bailout, Geithner was the president of the New York Fed, which helped oversee the government intervention.

AIG is a globally interconnected colossus, with 74 million customers and operations in more than 130 countries.

"Its failure could have resulted in a 1930s-style global financial and economic meltdown, with catastrophic implications for production, income and jobs," Bernanke told the panel.

Bernanke said it was "highly inappropriate to pay substantial bonuses" in such a situation. He said he had asked that the payments be stopped but was told that they were mandated by contracts.

"I then asked that suit be filed to prevent the payments," he said.

But Bernanke said his legal staff counseled against this action "on the grounds that Connecticut law provides for substantial punitive damages if the suit would fail."

Separately, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the Fed "never contacted me or my office concerning the applicability of the Connecticut wage law to the AIG bonuses. If the Fed had called, we would have given the green light for litigation blocking these unconscionable bonuses."

Dealings between Congress and Geithner have been tense. But they were a little more relaxed in the afterglow of Monday's nearly 500-point surge in the Dow Jones industrials, though the Dow gave back about 116 points on Tuesday. The rise came in large part in response to the administration's unveiling of a public-private program to buy up to $1 trillion in bad loans and toxic mortgage-related securities clogging bank balance sheets.
Still, there were a few pointed exchanges Tuesday.

Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., warned Geithner about any requests by the Obama administration for more taxpayer money to support financial bailouts.

"I assume that you recognize there's not an awful lot of sympathy up here to necessarily provide additional funds — not going on the merits of whether the funds are necessary," he said.

"We recognize it will be extraordinarily difficult," Geithner acknowledged.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., told Geithner: "What I fear here is that we are doing a kabuki theater in three acts.

"The first act: Washington tells the American people, `We understand your anger at Wall Street.' In the second act, we nitpick to death any proposal that actually adversely affects Wall Street. And then, in the third act, we bestow another trillion dollars on Wall Street under extremely favorable terms."

Geithner made it clear he believes the treasury secretary should be granted broad powers — after consultation with Federal Reserve officials — to take control of a major financial institution and run it. The treasury chief is an official of the administration, unlike the FDIC, which is an independent regulatory agency.

AIG has become a symbol of reckless risk-taking on Wall Street. The bonuses came even as AIG reported a stunning $62 billion fourth-quarter loss, the biggest in U.S. corporate history. The government has bailed out AIG four times, to the tune of more than $180 billion altogether.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Monday that 15 employees who received some of the largest bonuses from AIG have agreed to return the money, totaling about $50 million.

The House last week voted overwhelmingly to slap 90 percent taxes on the largest bonuses. But Republicans in the Senate are blocking similar legislation, and White House reaction to the legislation has been tepid at best.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters on Tuesday Democrats were considering other alternatives.

"The issue is not over," he said.

But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, "If the money is returned, the legislation may no longer be necessary."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Geithner should get credit for trying to fix the financial system.

"That's the real issue. And at least he's grappling with that," McConnell said.
Associated Press writers Martin Crutsinger, Ben Feller and Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.

Tibet: Dalai Lama ban halts conference

A peace conference for Nobel laureates in South Africa has been called off over Pretoria's refusal to allow the Dalai Lama to attend, organisers said.
Article published by: BBC
March 25, 2009

This week's meeting in Johannesburg was linked to the 2010 Football World Cup, which the country is hosting.
A storm of controversy erupted over the ban, with the government being accused of bowing to Chinese pressure.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African President FW de Klerk pulled out of the meeting in protest.
Despite the controversy surrounding the decision, presidential spokesman Thabo Masebe has confirmed that no visa will be issued.
"We stand by our decision. Nothing is going to change. The Dalai Lama will not be invited to South Africa. We will not give him a visa between now and the World Cup," he said.
'Spirit of peace'
The conference, scheduled for Friday [27 March 2009], was intended to discuss football's role in fighting racism and xenophobia.
But the chairman of the South Africa 2010 Organising Committee said the conference was being postponed indefinitely.
"The convenors have... decided in the spirit of peace to postpone the South African peace conference to ensure it is held under conducive conditions," Irvin Khoza was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.Mr Khoza said the government had "persuaded" the Dalai Lama to postpone his visit until after the football championship.
Mr Mandela's grandson, one of the conference organisers, expressed his disappointment at its cancellation.
"I am very saddened today to see that someone like the Dalai Lama, who all our laureates hold highly, has been turned down on their visa application," Mandla Mandela told a press conference.
"This rejection by the government... is really tainting our own effort of democracy.
It's a sad day for South Africa, and it's a sad day for Africa."Among the confirmed guests for the conference were former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari, Queen Rania of Jordan and South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela.
'Best interest'
A government spokesman said on Monday [23 March 2009] that the Dalai Lama's visit was not in the country's best interest as it would distract attention from South Africa's hosting of the World Cup.
Archbishop Tutu has branded the government's decision as "disgraceful" and accused the government of "shamelessly succumbing to Chinese pressure", a sentiment echoed in the local media.
Chinese officials in Pretoria said Beijing had warned against allowing the Dalai Lama into the country, saying it would harm bilateral relations.
The incident is a huge embarrassment for the South African government, which has placed a lot of importance on democracy and human rights since the end of apartheid in 1994, our correspondent Peter Biles reports from Johannesburg.
He says on this occasion, the relationship between South Africa and China - the business relationship in particular - appears to be more important.
Beijing says the Dalai Lama is pushing for Tibetan independence, and has stirred up unrest in the region.But the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 during an uprising against Chinese rule, has said he only wants limited autonomy for his homeland.

Thirty-two foreigners granted Vietnamese citizenship

Posted at: VNN
March 25, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge - Ho Chi Minh City’s Justice Department handed over a decision to grant Vietnamese citizenship to 32 foreigners residing in the city at a ceremony held on Mar. 24.

According to Nguyen Nguyet Hue, Deputy Director of the municipal Justice Department, those foreigners included 21 people who used to have Cambodian nationality, nine people bearing no nationality and two Chinese citizens.

The decision, coded 96/QD-CTN, was signed by State President Nguyen Minh Triet on January 14.

Huynh Minh Tuan, who used to carry Cambodian citizenship and is residing in the city’s Thu Duc district, said he was moved and felt honour of becoming a Vietnamese citizen.Tuan and the 31 recipients of Vietnamese citizenship pledged to exercise all rights and obligations of Vietnamese citizens in accordance with law.

They will receive other relevant documents regarding their new citizenship from the municipal agencies.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Global downturn threatens Cambodian garment success

By Ek Madra
March 23, 2009

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Mon Moeun, one of thousands of Cambodians pulled out of poverty by a job in the garment trade since foreign investors arrived in the 1990s, may be back rearing pigs soon after a collapse in demand from Western countries.

Many garment factories in Cambodia are closing as shoppers in the United States, Europe and elsewhere cut back on clothing purchases due to the global financial crisis.

Garments are Cambodia's biggest export earner and its economy may shrink this year due to the drop in demand.

Moeun and his wife have suffered a double blow. They used to earn $80 a month each as garment workers, sending half of it back to support their 8-year-old son living with Moeun's parents in the southern province of Takeo.

Then, three months ago, their factories shut without notice.

"We see hard times ahead when we get back to the countryside, raising pigs and planting vegetables to make a living," said Moeun, 39, chatting with friends under a tree near a shuttered factory on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh.

More than 1,000 workers were owed pay when South Korean-owned Da Joo (Cambodia) Ltd. closed. It has become an all too familiar story.

At its peak, Cambodia's garment sector boasted almost 300 factories employing 340,000 workers, many of them women from the countryside.

Foreign companies started to move into the impoverished Southeast Asian country after U.N.-sponsored elections in 1993, fuelling an economic revival after 30 years of civil war and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" in the 1970s.

The monitoring of work conditions by the International Labor Organization helped lure brands such as Adidas, Nike and Gap, keen to avoid bad publicity from sweatshops. Cambodia's membership of the World Trade Organization from 2004 provided another boost.

Factories sprang up where once there were green rice fields around the capital and garments became Cambodia's biggest export earner. They brought in $2.78 billion in 2008, but that may drop about 30 percent this year, said Kaing Monika, spokesman of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC).

Exports of garments to the U.S. market dropped nearly 40 percent in January compared with a year earlier. Some 70 percent of the clothes go to the United States, 25 percent to Europe and the rest mainly to South Korea and Japan.

So far about 20 out of 291 factories, owned mostly by Taiwanese, Chinese, South Koreans and Malaysians, have closed their doors, Monika said. Other factories, at best, were running at 70 percent of capacity now. Some had no orders at all.

Some 70,000 workers have been laid off since last year and another 100,000 jobs are under threat over the next two years, according to the country's leading labor union, Chea Mony.
Another laid-off worker, 28-year-old Sar Bunthoeun, said his mother would suffer now he can no longer send back $40 a month. "I'll return to my old job as a barber. It's my fate," he said.


The sector represents about 16 percent of Cambodia's GDP, so the factory closures will hurt, with a ripple effect in the countryside as the money sent home by garment workers dries up.
The International Monetary Fund says the economy could shrink 0.5 percent in 2009 and the garment trade slump is a big factor.

But Kang Chandararot, director of the Cambodian Institute of Development Study (CIDS), said even if the double-digit growth of recent years was out of reach, 4 or 5 percent may be possible thanks to a bountiful rice crop in 2008/09 and the record $950 million in aid pledged by international donors for 2009.

"Cambodia could use the aid of nearly $1 billon to invest in infrastructures to stimulate its economy," Chandararot said.

People surviving on less than $1 a day are deemed to be living in poverty. Garment workers earn on average $2.7 a day so the loss of these jobs will hurt.

"More people will be pushed into poverty," said Huot Chea of the World Bank in Cambodia.
Historical data is lacking in Cambodia, but the World Bank says 45 to 50 percent of the people lived in poverty in 1994. Prime Minister Hun Sen says that was cut to 30 percent by 2008 thanks to the garment sector, tourism and agriculture.

Analysts doubt the job losses will undermine the grip on power of Hun Sen, who has run the country for 23 years, but some are worried about social problems.

"The massive layoffs of workers could lead to social unrest, with more armed robberies or drug smuggling," Chandararot of the CIDS said.

And he foresaw land disputes as people returned to the countryside. "What is most likely is that they will fight over the land needed to make a living in the future," he said.

Hun Sen called on aid donors at a meeting on March 12 to join with the government to provide a social safety net to help workers who had been laid off. He also said the government would try to find new export markets in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has urged the government to make foreign-owned factories deposit funds with the Treasury so that workers can get what they are owed in the event of bankruptcy.

There have been reports of looting of machinery but, in some instances at least, it's more a question of workers and management trying to find ways to pay wages.

Chhen Mey, 30, was a supervisor at a factory of Malaysian-owned L.A (Cambodia) Garment Pte. Ltd, which closed in late 2008 with the loss of 2,180 jobs.

A Reuters reporter saw L.A workers carrying sewing machines onto trucks, heading for auction. "If we don't sell the machines, we'll have no money to pay the unpaid workers," Mey said.
Albert Teoh is the director of a Malaysian-based company with three factories that used to export goods worth over $160 million a year under the 'Target' brand and employed 12,000 workers.

He is worried that in the next few months most of the subcontractors for the factories will have folded.

"There's no way to make profits. How to survive the crisis is our main priority, really," Teoh said.
(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Alan Raybould and Megan Goldin)

How the Global Economic Crisis affects Khmer-Krom in Mekong Delta

By Sophac Thach
Posted at: kkfyc.org
March 23, 2009

The current global economy has been difficult on people throughout the world; however, the Mekong Delta Region has been hit especially hard. The people in the Mekong Delta Region of South Vietnam had to deal with an entire year of bad farming season that crippled the entire region from the beginning to the end of the year. As for some people in the villages that leave their hometown to the city to seek employment, they are faced with potential layoffs.

In addition to the difficulties, the Khmer-Krom families for instance, have been struggling with poor farming weather. Having a bad year for the farming is one thing, but not being able to sell the harvest crops is the major issues that forces thousands of Khmer-Krom families into deeper debt.

Most of the Khmer-Krom people are farmers in rural villages, and many of them rely on income from farming. The poor financial condition of many of Khmer-Krom forces them to borrow money to buy the seeds and other supplies needed for the farming season. When the year is bad, and when there is little or no harvest due to the poor weather condition, the farmers not only end up without money to support their family, but also ending up with no money to pay off their loan.

With the drastic decreased in the price of rice, many farmers faced with major difficulty of paying back the loan that they had borrowed.

The lives of the Khmer-Krom farmers, it really is unfortunate that they have to face with this kind of faith.

According to a source, there was a high demand for the rice all around the globe in 2008; taking advantage of this high demand, the Government of Vietnam limit the exportation of the rice. This limitation causes the demand of the rice in the Country to decrease. As a result of this, many farmers could not sell their harvest crops to pay for their debts.As the number of debt increases in the household, more and more Khmer-Krom families have to sell their land to repay their loan.

How could the Government of Vietnam still believe that their strategic planning of lifting the poor from poverty is working? How can one government still go on presenting to the world communities that its citizens are in much better condition? Sometime, we have to really have to wonder if this government are putting on a charade for the world communities to see, or are they just out of touch with their citizens.

The most important task for the government to do at this current economic crisis is to save their own citizens from going into deep poverty and not seeking ways to earn extra bucks at their citizens’ expense.

Sihanouk to stay in Beijing for further cancer treatment

Written by Neth pheaktra
Monday, 23 March 2009

Frail King Father sets no deadline for his return to Cambodia

KING Father Norodom Sihanouk has said he will remain in Beijing for several months more in order to continue receiving medical treatment. Sihanouk, who is 87, was last in Cambodia in August 2008 and has not fixed a return date.

In a statement issued Saturday from Beijing, he said the Chinese doctors were continuing to treat him for cancer.

"I have the great honour of presenting to my lovely compatriots the kindness [China's] eminent doctors are showing in curing my third cancer (lymphoma B)," he said in a handwritten statement, but added that he did not know when his cancer would be cured.

"Every month at the Beijing Central Hospital there is chemotherapy, injections and a drip (that lasts seven hours). This treatment, which is indispensable, will last four, five or six months," he wrote.

He said his condition was being monitored through the use of MRI and PET scans.

"If it is completely cured, they will provide two more drips (seven hours for each drip) to prevent the cancer coming back."

Sihanouk's statement came three days after the 39th anniversary of the March 1970 coup in which he was overthrown by General Lon Nol, who abolished the Cambodian monarchy and set up a republican regime.

On March 20, he sent a letter of gratitude to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who referred to the 1970 coup in an address on the anniversary.

Sihanouk wrote: "I would like to thank you very much for giving justice to me and our nation's history in your speech."

In his speech at the National Institute of Education's annual congress on March 18, Hun Sen blamed the coup for unleashing decades of civil war and the 1975 victory of Khmer Rouge.

"If there was no coup d'etat on March 18, 1970, dismissing [Sihanouk], the war would not have taken place and the Pol Pot regime would not have been created either," Hun Sen said. "If they had let Sihanouk lead the country, Cambodia would have developed more and would have prevented millions of deaths."

Textbook author, freed from jail, defends work

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Posted at: Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 23 March 2009

MORE than two weeks after his release from Prey Sar prison, Tieng Narith, the former professor convicted of "printing false documents" in connection with a textbook he wrote criticising the government, said in an interview Sunday that he is recuperating from his time behind bars and pondering his next move. "

I am very happy to be freed," he said. "I now have to rest for at least one month to clear my mind."

The 32-year-old former professor, who taught subjects including political philosophy and political science at Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University in Phnom Penh for nearly four years, was convicted in September 2007 of printing false documents, an offense that carries a sentence of six months to three years. He was released March 6 after serving his full two-and-a-half year sentence.

He said the textbook "attacked" the government and accused the ruling Cambodian People's Party of corruption-related crimes. But he said the criticisms were general and did not target individual officials.

Article 62 of the criminal code outlaws "information which is false, fabricated, falsified or untruthfully attributed to a third person ... in bad faith and with malicious intent, provided that the publication, distribution or reproduction has disturbed or is likely to disturb the public peace".

Miech Ponn, 75, a researcher at the Buddhist Institute in Phnom Penh, said Tieng Narith was guilty only of voicing his opposition to government policies. He echoed the professor's view that the criticism was largely harmless because it did not target individuals.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, called the textbook a "ridiculous verbal attack" that had little academic merit.He added, though, that he did not think the professor should have been arrested or imprisoned.

Crisis sparks growth in fakes, smuggling and trade fraud in VN

Business Desk
Viet Nam News
Publication Date: 23-03-2009

The economic crisis has made the fight against smuggling, fake products and trade fraud more complicated in Viet Nam, according to director of the market watch department Nguyen Hung Dung.

Dung and his colleagues from around the country attended a conference in Ha Noi yesterday to review the work from 2008 and plan for this year.

He forecast that the influence of the global economic crisis on domestic prices of all types of products would result in more fake goods and trade frauds this year.

According to data, there were more than 70,000 commercial law violations last year, an increase of 8.4 per cent over 2007. From those cases officials seized VND239 billion (US$14 million).
Smuggling in the north was reported to have been reduced, but there were still complicated and increased cases in the central and the southern provinces last year, said Dung.

Smugglers increased their activities on the railways, as they discovered easy conditions to conduct their affairs. "Ten-minute train stops are not long enough for us to carry out our investigations," he said.

Nguyen Viet The, head of the market watch team in the central Quang Tri Province, said tobacco was the hot smuggling product in his area because of its ease of transport.

The said the rugged terrain of the areas near the Lao border gates was perfect for smugglers and illegal traffickers. His limited team and the lack of co-operation with others means challenges to combating the problem.

More important, The said, the Viet Nam Tobacco Association did not provide adequate policies or funding to achieve good results in the fight against tobacco smugglers. The added that the funding given to the market watch team was not even enough to cover the work costs.

Representatives from Tay Ninh Province said some violators yelled verbal abuses and even beat customs officials at the Moc Bai Duty Free Shop when they were checked.

They explained that because people were allowed to purchase VND500,000 worth of imported goods such as liquor and tobacco per visit to the shop at duty free prices, the smugglers used multiple ID cards to try to buy more products.

Hung asked those working at border gates to strengthen their work in the investigation of trade products such as petrol, medicines, cosmetics, electronics, wine, tobacco, poultry and cattle.
Recently, Ha Noi’s market watch team found two companies involved in the production and sale of 5,000 fake Vodka Ha Noi liquor bottles, a favourite drink for many people in Viet Nam.

Hung said the small market watch team and the low quality of their professions were the two major disadvantages. He added that they would continue the current project to build capacity among his officials in intellectual rights management as well as market management in the most effective way.

Further plans call for the department to work with the US, China, Switzerland and other countries on specific projects in an aim to improve the work of its officials, said the director.

Germany to assist Vietnam in environmental protection

Posted at:VNN
March 23, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge - Germany will assist Vietnam in protecting the environment, said German Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Environment Ministry Astrid Klug on her recent visit to Vietnam.

Klug said Vietnam faces big environmental challenges as results of its war aftermaths, strong development of industrial zones and the global climate change.

She suggested that the country carry out solutions to protect its coastal environment and ensure a safe living environment for people in the Mekong Delta and the Red River regions which are most influenced by the global climate change.

Germany has pledged to provide 2.8 million EUR for an environment protection project in coastal provinces of Vietnam, she added.

The German official also praised the strong cooperation in land protection and reform as well as drainage between the two countries for many years, adding that Vietnam is an important partner and a potential market for German’s environment protection technology./


UN helps Vietnam reduce greenhouse gas emission

Posted at: VNN
March 23, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam is among five beneficiaries from Asia, Africa and Latin America to receive an aid of 18 million USD from the UN-REDD programme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate more jobs for locals.

The other countries to benefit from the UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD programme) are Congo, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania.

UN-REDD Policy Department said one-third of the aid is ready for disbursement.

UN-REDD is the cooperation of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The programme was launched by UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon in September 2008 to cope with climate change through actions against deforestation.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that deforestation has caused an increase of 20 percent in greenhouse gas emissions, a main cause to climate change.

Bolivia, Panama, Paraguay and Zambia have also shown interest in aid from this programme.


Delta farmers cash in on rice prices

Posted at VNN
March 23, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge - The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta is entering the peak harvest season for the winter-spring rice crop, with the price of rice continuing to increase as demand for exports remains high.

Tran Van Hai, a farmer in Can Tho City’s Thoi Lai District, said he had harvested two hectares of long-grain rice OM 1490 with a total output of 13.6 tonnes.

"At the current price, I can earn a profit of about VND55 million (US$3,200) for my two hectares of rice, but I will wait for rice prices to go up," Hai said.

Hoang Kim Cuong, head of the Thoi Lai District Agriculture and Rural Development Department, said farmers were harvesting a bumper winter-spring crop and earning high profits as production costs fall and rice prices increase.

Cuong said all harvested rice in the district had been bought by the district-based food companies.

"My family and other farmers here are very glad about the harvest of the winter-spring crop as we can sell all of our rice at a high price," said Luong Hong Thien, a farmer in Dong Thap Province’s Tan Hong District.

With the lower production costs and increase in rice prices, farmers can earn profits of VND2,000-2,100 a kg on the winter-spring crop, according to local authorities.

The delta, the country’s ricebowl, has harvested more than 30 per cent of the total of 1.54 million hectares of the winter-spring crop.

High demand
Huynh Minh Hue, acting general secretary of the Viet Nam Food Association (VFA), said under the instruction of the Government to increase the number of rice export contracts earlier this year, more contracts had been signed in the first three months of the year.

However, some food companies have lost $10-15 for a tonne of exported rice since the beginning of the month as they failed to predict the increase of rice prices when they signed export contracts at low prices early this year, said Hue.

He said food companies suffered losses because they lacked warehouses to buy rice for stock before they signed export contracts.

Nguyen Thanh Bien, deputy minister of Industry and Trade, said the rice quantity of export contracts signed in the first two months of the year was very large.

The quantity of rice that must be delivered under signed export contracts from now to the end of June would be about 2.7 million tonnes, Bien said.

Viet Nam exported a total of 1.05 million tonnes of rice worth $479 million in the first two months of the year, an increase of 2.2 times in volume and 2.5 times in value over the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Banks mobilise to grab dollar bonds

By VietNamNet Bridge
March 22, 2009

VietNamNet Bridge - Dollar-nominated bond issuances are one step closer to reality with banks prepared to withdraw overseas greenback deposits to fund purchases.

With Decision 505/QD-BTC dated March 12, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has worked out an overall plan for greenback treasury bond issuances with first bidding session to be conducted at the Hanoi Securities Trading Centre (HaSTC) on March 18 valued at $300 million.

However, the bond yield has yet to be decided though local bankers, with internal information, claiming they expect it would be considerably higher than greenback deposit rates.

Vo Thi Sanh, Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) Treasury Department vice head, said that the bank was processing the withdrawal of overseas greenback deposits.“Our total domestic greenback mobilisation is $1 billion which we have to channel for the major part in overseas banks. Maybe around $100 million will be called back for this week’s bidding,” said Sanh.

A Vietcombank source said that the expected yield for one-year greenback bonds was around 3.2-3.5 per cent per year while the expected level for two and three-year papers should be more than 4 per cent per year.

“Only these yields can attract local institutional bidders,” said the Vietcombank official. At the moment, local lenders are offering 2.0-2.5 per cent per year for greenback deposits with terms from three to 12 months.

In this week’s first bond issuance tranche, the MoF’s State Treasury will offer $100 million worth of bonds with one-year terms, $100 million for two-year and another $100 million for Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, the State Bank’s Banking Development Strategy Institute head, said that over the last three months, local banks have deposited a large amount of dollars mobilised in Vietnam into overseas markets due to low greenback demand from borrowers.

Over the first two months of 2009, while greenback deposits grew by 1.13 per cent, the total outstanding greenback loans decreased by 2.69 per cent.

Nguyen Thanh Toai, Asia Commercial Bank’s deputy general director, said sometimes greenback deposit interest rates in overseas markets were even lower than mobilisation rates in Vietnam. “But, better something than nothing,” said Toai.

As planned, the MoF will issue the total $1 billion worth of greenback- nominated bond in 2009 for funding foreign currency needs. BIDV’s Sanh said $1 billion was still small compared to the available amount at local banks. “I think the available amount of greenbacks in the banking system originating from public deposits should be around $10 billion. Thus, this issuance would not affect market greenback depository rate,” said Sanh.

Obama says treasury secretary's job is secure

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
March 22, 2009

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama says treasury secretary is one job that's not up for grabs.

In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" Obama said that if Treasury chief Timothy Geithner offered his resignation, the answer would be, "Sorry buddy, you've still got the job."

Obama also took the opportunity to strike back at recent comments by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who claimed that plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center will make the U.S. less safe.

Obama contended that the Bush administration's policy of holding detainees for years on end with no trials is "unsustainable," and has only fueled anti-American sentiments. At the same time, Obama said that U.S. authorities haven't done a good job determining who should be released from the Navy base in Cuba.

On Geithner, Obama reiterated his support for the beleaguered secretary who has been roundly criticized over the recent corporate bonus flap and steps to revive the economy. And he urged patience.

"It's going to take a little bit more time than we would like to make sure that we get this plan just right. Of course, then we'd still be subject to criticism," he said in the interview, taped Friday and set to air Sunday evening. "What's taken so long? You've been in office a whole 40 days and you haven't solved the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression."

CBS released excerpts Saturday.

Obama also said corporate executives would better understand the public's outrage over bonuses if they ventured out of New York and spent time in Iowa or Arkansas. There, he said, people are thrilled to be making $75,000 a year with no bonuses.

Public outrage spilled over last week after revelations that struggling insurance giant American International Group Inc. doled out $165 million in bonuses to employees, including to traders in the financial unit that nearly caused the company's collapse.

On the Bush administration's detainee policies, Obama noted the hundreds of men at Guantanamo who have been held for several years.

"How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney?" Obama said. The Bush administration's policy, Obama said, "hasn't made us safer."

Among those who have been released, more than 60 former Guantanamo detainees are believed to have rejoined the fight, the Pentagon says.

"There is no doubt that we have not done a particularly effective job in sorting through who are truly dangerous individuals to make sure (they) are not a threat to us," Obama said.

Some 800 men have been held at Guantanamo since the prison opened in January 2002, and 240 remain. Some are admitted terrorists, including confessed Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was transferred to Guantanamo from CIA custody in September 2006. But officials have said that many may have been innocent men unconnected to the Taliban or al-Qaida, but were swept up by U.S. forces in the early days of the Afghanistan war.

Since taking office, Obama has taken aim at Bush administration policies, suspending military trials for suspected terrorists and announcing he will close Guantanamo and other overseas sites where the CIA has held some detainees. The president also ordered CIA interrogators to abide by the U.S. Army Field Manual's regulations for treatment of detainees and denounced waterboarding, part of the Bush program of enhanced interrogation, as torture.

On CNN last weekend, Cheney charged that those moves have made the country less safe and raised the risk of another attack.

Ministry To Tighten Broadcast Control

By Pich Samnang,
VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh
March 22, 2009

The Ministry of Information will strengthen controls on broadcasting in 2009, officials said Thursday.

In 2009, the ministry plans to continue to monitor and control the publishing of newspapers and the broadcasting of radio and television to ensure media outlets follow ministry guidelines and the Cambodian Press Law, officials said at an annual ministry assessment for 2008.

“The arrests of journalists and rising complaints against journalists has occurred so far, because some journalists did not follow a journalistic codes of conduct,” Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who is also the spokesman for the Cambodian government, said on the sidelines of the meeting.

According to its 2008 report, the Information Ministry called in editors in 27 cases of print and three cases of broadcasting to advise them to follow ministry guidelines and not to publish or broadcast stories against the good culture and tradition of the nation.

The ministry also ordered the permanent closure of Angkor Ratha FM105.25, in Kratie province, shortly after the station leased air time to four political parties (and not the ruling Cambodian People’s Party) in the run-up to 2008 elections.

The closure of the station, together with the arrest of an opposition editor, Dam Sith, and the murder of one of his journalists, Khim Sambo, drew much criticism from national and international press freedom defenders last year.

Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said monitoring and control of broadcasts did not affect freedom of expression in Cambodia. However, he said, the ministry should better control its media passes and licenses to ensure quality journalism.

“The problems arising so far come from the ministry itself, which just issues press cards to those who are not professional journalists,” he said, adding that there are hundreds of newspapers in Cambodia, but only a few that regularly appear in newsstands.

According to the ministry’s 2008 report, nearly 600 print media outlets exist nationwide. Among those, national newspapers and magazines account for more than 500; the rest are bulletins and foreign papers and magazines. Of more than 200 broadcast media, more than 80 are live and relay radio stations; the rest comprise local and cable television.

Kosova: Reconfiguration of UN Mission

Article published by: UN News Centre
March 22, 2009

Despite a perception among many Kosovo Albanians that the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Kosovo has run its course, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in a new report that it has stepped up the pace of its adaptation to the changing situation on the ground.

Under “significant pressure” from opposition parties, authorities in Kosovo have repeatedly said in recent months that resolution 1244, which set up the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), is “no longer relevant and that the institutions of Kosovo have no legal obligation to abide by it,” the publication said.

UNMIK took over the administration of Kosovo in 1999 after North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) forces drove out Yugoslav troops amid deadly fighting with the majority ethnic Albanian population there.

The UN has remained neutral on the question of the status of Kosovo since its declaration of independence last February [2008], a move rejected by Serbia.

The report to the Security Council on UNMIK noted that, in line with Belgrade’s official policy, many Kosovo Serbs are rejecting the authority of Kosovo’s authorities; although many are applying for identify cards, driver’s licenses and other Kosovo documentation.

Notwithstanding these developments, Mr. Ban said that the reconfiguration of UNMIK, for which he called in response to the “profoundly changed reality” on the ground, has picked up pace.

After almost 10 years of policing Kosovo, UNMIK has been phasing out its police component to allow the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, known as EULEX, to assume its operational functions in the rule of law sector under the UN’s overall authority.

The Secretary-General said this joint effort with the UN has taken place without significant security incidents and with the support of Pristina, Belgrade and international partners. “It constitutes a major milestone in the international involvement in Kosovo, and a positive example of cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union,” he wrote.

Also last November [2008], UNMIK’s head told the Council that the mission is re-orienting its field presence to concentrate in areas occupied by ethnic non-Albanians following Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

“The recent actions of the institutions of Kosovo have made it no longer possible or practicable for UNMIK to function as an administrator,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Lamberto Zannier.

“We need to be able to concentrate on the areas where we can still make a difference for good, rather than attempt to continue functions which are neither relevant nor needed,” he said, noting that UNMIK would monitor the well-being of the non-Albanian communities and retain a support and mediation role.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Chinese Ex-Spy Speaks Out

Original reporting by Richard Finney and Joshua Lipes
Produced by Joshua Lipes
Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han
March 21, 2009

WASHINGTON—A former Chinese spy called today for greater world attention to human rights in China, saying abuses in the country are worsening.

Speaking through an interpreter at a news conference here, former Ministry of State Security (MSS) intelligence officer Li Fengzhi said, “The improvement of human rights in China will be realized by the Chinese people themselves.”

“But help from the international community is definitely effective and is very important.”
Li said that China’s government “does all it can” to hide the truth of its abuses from other countries.

He added that world leaders should speak out more clearly to defend the Chinese people’s rights to dignity and social justice.

'Abuse' of resources
Li, now 41, said he quit the MSS and came to the United States “several years ago.”
He criticized what he called the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s “abuse” of China’s resources to “monitor, suppress, and persecute” the Chinese people.

“They include political dissidents, people who freely express themselves, spiritual groups like the Falun Gong, grassroots citizens who protest unfair treatment, unemployed workers, poor farmers who lost their land, and so on.”

“Besides the police, other state agencies—including state security departments—are all participating in these atrocities,” Li said.

Employees of China’s state security system should instead serve and protect the country, he said, adding that many MSS officers are “furious” at the Communist Party’s manipulation of their role.

“Many government departments have become closed groups that seek economic and social benefits for themselves,” Li said.

“All these benefits are actually robbed from ordinary citizens.”

Able to walk away
Li worked in an MSS office collecting information in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, according to a Washington Times article on March 19. He has now applied for political asylum in the United States.

Calls seeking confirmation of Li’s identity and status from the Chinese embassy in Washington went unanswered.

Also speaking to the press, California Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher called Li an example of someone who was able to “walk away” from his role as an “instrument of repression.”

“No one who is in that position should think they have no alternative. We now have an example before us who knew that, yes, there is an alternative, and that is to walk away.”

Friday, March 20, 2009

Thailand expels Khmer Krom asylum seekers: rights groups

Written by Brendan Brady and Cheang Sokha
Post at: Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 20 March 2009

Rights workers say group was trucked out of Thailand after UN officials previously intervened to secure release of others

FOLLOWING the release Monday of 19 Khmer Krom refugees from a Bangkok prison, the seven remaining in detention were abruptly expelled from the country under suspicious circumstances, according to local rights activists.

Ang Chanrith, head of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization, said seven Khmer Krom political refugees were shuttled to the Poipet border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province in the middle of the night Thursday.

The original group of 19 Khmer Krom, who hold refugee documents from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were released after the UN office petitioned Thai officials to recognise them as legitimate asylum seekers, he said. Ang Chanrith has been working on the case with UN officials in Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

Members of the group released Monday had contacted him early Thursday morning to warn of the departure of the seven left in detention, who were recent arrivals to Bangkok and therefore had not yet been registered with the UNHCR, he said.

"We are concerned they could be taken back to Vietnam," he said.

Escaping the past
Ang Chanrith said all 26 people had fled Vietnam after they feared imprisonment at the hands of authorities there following public demonstrations against limits on their freedom of culture, religion and speech.

Rights groups and Khmer Krom activists have accused the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments of engaging in a persistent and often violent campaign to stifle the rights and distinct identity of the Khmer ethnic group originating from what is now Vietnam's southern Delta.

Hun Hean, provincial police chief of Banteay Meanchey, said he had not heard about the incident, adding that between 100 and 200 illegal Khmer immigrants were turned over by Thai authorities at the border each day.

Suong Sopheap, a program officer with the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre in Banteay Meanchey, said his staff had attempted to track the whereabouts of the group without success.

"We have staff remaining in Poipet who are continuing to monitor the situation," he said. Christophe Peschoux, head of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights in Phnom Penh, said his office was following the case but had not been in contact with the group.

"It's a very tricky situation for Khmer Krom in Cambodia," he said. "Even if the government gives them citizenship, if they agitate from Cambodia it could create tension between the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments; and Cambodia could be pressured to prevent it or hand them over to Vietnamese authorities."

The government has said all Khmer Krom are entitled to Cambodian citizenship, but Khmer Krom activists and rights groups say their status as Cambodians is ambiguous and can be stricken at the whim of the state.