Wednesday, June 30, 2010

DSI to Probe 8 Red-Shirt Pipeline Suspects Today

UPDATE : 30 June 2010

The Department of Special Investigation is set to probe eight individuals today who are suspected of funding illegal red-shirt activities. Meanwhile, the agency has reported a movement of millions of baht in cash across the Thai-Cambodian border.

The Department of Special Investigation or DSI will take testimonies today from eight individuals accused of providing financial backing for illegal activities of the red-shirt group including: Pinthongta Shinawatra, Yingluck Shinawatra, Banpoj Damapong, Kanjanapa Honghern, General Chaisit Shinawatra, Yaowares Shinawatra, Karun Hosakul, and Wicharn Meenchainan.

Acting Secretary-General of the Anti-Money Laundering Office, Police Colonel Sihanart Prayoonrat, said the inquiry is aimed at gathering primary information and does not focus on any areas in particular.

He added that the eight suspects have been advised to prepare financial documents and transaction records to accompany their testimonies.

Sihanart noted that the more information they can provide to investigators, the sooner the suspension of financial transaction can be revoked.

Further investigation will be conducted if the information supplied by the accused is insufficient.

Meanwhile, a DSI report revealed that a large amount of money has been carried out across the border to Cambodia unchecked by border immigration officers, which could be relevant to the current case.

Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and senior officials contract swine flu

30 June, 2010
Source: Monstersandcritics

Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and five other government officials have contracted the A(H1N1) virus, also known as swine flu, the Ministry of Health said.

Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said late Tuesday the prime minister has received treatment and is recovering.

Mam Bunheng said the six were likely exposed to the virus at the weekly cabinet meeting last Friday.

Among the other officials infected are Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly and two senior ministers.

Hun Sen's illness caused him to miss the 59th anniversary celebration of the founding of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, which took place Monday in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia reported its first swine-flu case in June last year, and the first death in September. The disease has since infected around 600 people in Cambodia and killed six.

The World Health Organization's latest update from June 20 reveals the disease has killed at least 18,209 people worldwide.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SRP reverses Sochua decision

Photo by: Pha Lina
SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua leaves the Supreme Court following a hearing on June 2.
29 June 2010
Meas Sokchea
Phnom Penh Post

THE opposition Sam Rainsy Party has apparently backed away from an earlier pledge to pay 16.5 million riels (around US$3,928) in fines and compensation on behalf of parliamentarian Mu Sochua, stating instead that she will have the final say in the matter.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court levied the fine and damages against Mu Sochua when it found her guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen in August last year, a ruling that was upheld by the Appeal Court in October and the Supreme Court on June 2.

The Kampot province parliamentarian has consistently stated she would rather go to jail than pay the fees, and SRP officials previously supported her stance.

On Sunday, acting SRP spokesman Kimsour Phirith said the party decided at a meeting on Thursday that it should pay the fines in order to prevent Mu Sochua’s fight with Hun Sen from affecting the SRP’s work.

Mu Sochua noted in an email, however, that she had not authorised the payment.

On Monday, Kimsour Phirith said the party would allow her make the final decision.

“SRP is leaving the final decision to Her Excellency Mu Sochua … since she is the victim of the lawsuit. If she has decided to face jail and absolutely not pay the fine, it is her business,” he said. “[We] must respect her rights as an individual.”

He added that the SRP raised the issue of the payment last week in an attempt to promote stability and demonstrate political maturity.

The defamation case arose after Mu Sochua filed her own lawsuit against Hun Sen, claiming he defamed her during a speech in Kampot in April.
Mu Sochua said on Sunday that she would be returning to Cambodia on July 5.

On June 17, National Treasury President Ker Bunleng issued a letter ordering Mu Sochua to pay a fine of 8.5 million riels to the treasury within two weeks, or by July 1.

The treasury did not set a deadline for the 8 million riels in compensation that make up the balance of money Mu Sochua owes.

Ker Bunleng could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Sok Roeun, deputy prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said that if Mu Sochua fails to pay the fine by the July 1 deadline, the treasury will notify the court, which will then take legal action to obtain the money after issuing a final 10-day ultimatum.

“If Mu Sochua refuses to pay, [we] will force her,” he said, and added that the lawmaker could ultimately end up in jail.

Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said Monday that the issue of whether the SRP or Mu Sochua agrees to make the payments or not is of little consequence to the government.

But he said Mu Sochua’s political life could be affected by the decision she makes.

“If Mu Sochua decides not to pay and agrees to jail, this will be her political life story,” he said, adding: “This is the SRP’s business.”

Cambodia's foreign tourist arrivals rise 11.5% in first 5 months

PHNOM PENH, June 29 (Xinhua) -- Foreign tourist arrivals in Cambodia increased 11.5 percent in the first five months of this year, compared to the same period last year, according to the statistics released by the Ministry of Tourism on Tuesday.

From January to May this year, Cambodia had received 1,054,821 foreign tourists, up 11.5 percent, compared to the same period last year of 945,807 tourists, said the report.

Of the figure, Vietnam placed number one among the top ten, up 43.76 percent to 175,937, and followed by South Korea and China, increased by 33.53 percent to 125,455 and 32.07 percent to 74,558, respectively.

Whilst Thailand ranked ten among the top ten markets arrivals to Cambodia with the tourist number declined 13.83 percent to 36, 995 from 42,931 due to the turmoil in the country.

According to the report, for the month of May alone, tourists to Cambodia increased by 16.9 percent to 170,164 in 2010 from 145, 564 the same month of last year, of which Vietnamese tourists increased by 68.31 percent to 36,992, South Korea rose 44 percent to 19,108, and Chinese tourists up 43.45 percent to 11,162, while Thailand dropped 3.45 percent to 7,392.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Mekong Delta asked to invest more in infrastructure

Nhan Dan

The Mekong Delta cities and provinces should focus their investments on traffic and irrigation systems, education, and healthcare when pursuing their new rural programme, said a senior government official.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung, Head of the Steering Committee for the south-western region, made the suggestion on June 28 while chairing a committee meeting in Bac Lieu province to review its performance in the first half of the year and discuss major tasks for the rest of the year.

Leaders from relevant ministries and agencies, and 13 cities and provinces in the region attended the meeting.

As the country’s biggest granary, the Mekong Delta needs to invest more into building comprehensive infrastructure, rural roads and irrigation networks to ensure the nation’s food security as well as the supply of rice and aquatic products for domestic consumption and exports, Deputy PM Hung said.

He asked the region to pay due attention to training and education, especially in isolated areas and those inhabited by ethnic minorities where a large number of students have dropped out of school and vocational training is lacking in both terms of availability and quality.

On health care, the Deputy PM said, the region should speed up the disbursement of investment for the construction and upgrading of medical infrastructure and equipment, and must strive to provide better healthcare services to local people, particularly regarding severe diarrhea and seasonal diseases in children are occurring in several localities.

Reports delivered at the conference show that, despite various difficulties in the first six months of this year, the region has recorded many socio-economic achievements, with high growth rates in industrial production, trade and the service industry.

Its rice output for the winter-spring crop reached 10.3 million tonnes, 420,000 tonnes higher than the same crop last year, while the aquatic product output hit almost 649,000 tonnes and industrial production value was estimated at VND 57.61 trillion (over US$3 billion), up 16% from the same period last year.

During the review period, the region’s cities and provinces earned US$2.66 billion from exports, a year-on-year rise of 10.6%, making up 10% of the nation’s total export turnover. The Mekong Delta contributed half of the country’s total rice exports and 60% of aquatic export earnings.

The conference noted that a comprehensive co-operation programme has helped enhance the connections between Meking Delta cities and provinces with Ho Chi Minh City, the largest southern economic hub.

Provinces bordering Cambodia such as Kien Giang, An Giang, Dong Thap and Long An, have also carried out programmes to strengthen co-operation with their Cambodian counterparts, boost cross-border trade, develop border gate economic zones, and organise trade fairs in the neighbouring country. (VNA)

Cambodia sends Vietnamese martyrs’ remains home

VOV News

The Cambodian provinces of Kongpong Thom and Kongpong Cham on June 29 held a solemn ceremony to hand over the remains of 83 Vietnamese martyrs to Vietnamese provinces of Binh Phuoc and Tay Ninh.

Speaking at the ceremony in Kongpong Thom province, provincial chairman Chum Chuan expressed his delight at the fine results of cooperation between the two countries in exhuming and moving the remains of voluntary Vietnamese soldiers who died in Cambodia.

This demonstrates the Cambodian people’s deep gratitude towards Vietnamese families whose relatives had died for Cambodia’s independence struggle, he said, adding that the work will be continued until the last set of remains is found.

The province of Krache will also have a similar ceremony on June 30 to hand over 81 sets of remains of Vietnamese martyrs to Vietnam.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Vietnamese firms flock to participate in HCMC Expo 2010 in Cambodia

Source: SGGP

More than 350 Vietnamese companies have registered to join the Vietnam – Cambodia Trade, Service and Tourism Fair 2010 (Ho Chi Minh City Expo), to be held in Cambodia from July 15-19, said the HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Most Vietnamese companies registered in fields such as import – export, tourism, education, health-care, electronics, construction materials and textile and garment.

The expo marks a developmental step for Vietnamese companies seeking to penetrate Cambodian markets, as the event highlights the commercial potential between two countries, said the department.

The fair is not only a chance to display Vietnamese products, but it also promotes trade and cultural activities, as well as hosts seminars on the business connections between the two nations.

The highlight of the event will be a caravan tour, which will depart from HCM City, cross the Moc Bai Border Gate and travel through several Cambodian provinces on the way to Phnom Penh.

The four-day caravan tour will publicize the exhibition and promote tourism to Vietnam, said the department.

The fair is organized by HCM City’s Investment and Trade Promotion Center.

In the first three months of this year, bilateral trade between the two countries reached nearly US$500 million, up 130% compared with the same period last year. The two-way trade is expected to hit US$2 billion this year, a 43% increase year-on-year.

By L.Nam, translated by Cong Dung

Groups decry torture by police

Photo by: Pha Lina
A prison guard mans a watchtower overlooking Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh earlier this month.
28 June 2010
May Titthara and Irwin Loy
Phnom Penh Post

A SEVERELY inadequate legal system and poorly developed law enforcement have prevented Cambodia from meeting global commitments to prevent torture, rights advocates say.

In a statement released Saturday to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said authorities in the Kingdom must boost efforts to curb instances of torture.

The AHRC called the country’s judicial and policing systems “wholly inadequate” to deal with the issue.

“The problem of torture in Cambodia ... is rooted in Cambodia’s policing system, which is seriously lacking in every way....” the statement said.

“The underdevelopment of the policing system results in the constant use of coercion on people who are arrested.”

Victims of torture have few options when wading through the legal system, and they often feel compelled to drop complaints against police, the AHRC contends.

“This is due to the fear of serious reprisals following the complaints,” the statement said.

“The complete absence of any kind of protection for those making complaints prevents people from making such complaints.”

Officials on Sunday rejected allegations that people are tortured, either in police custody or within the prison system.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, noted that Heng Pov, the disgraced former municipal police chief who has been sentenced to more than 90 years behind bars, managed to publish a book earlier this year while incarcerated at Prey Sar prison.

“Who can believe he was tortured in prison? How can police benefit from torturing a prisoner?” he said.

Heng Pov said in May that he had witnessed the torture and beatings of other inmates.

Hi Chamroeun, deputy director of the provincial prison in Battambang, said rights monitors check on his facility on a daily basis.

“Those NGOs just report according to documents they read. They have never come directly to visit our prison,” he said of the AHRC.

“If we did torture prisoners, we could not avoid [local rights groups] Licadho and Adhoc staffers’ eyes.”

Torture difficult to prove
Rights groups, however, say there is evidence to suggest that some people are tortured while in custody.

The number of torture allegations reported to Licadho monitors has been on a downward trend in the last decade, with most of the victims reporting torture while in police custody, according to a report on prison conditions released last March.

In 1999, there were 450 reports of torture in police custody and 49 while in prison. In 2008, there were 78 in police custody and just seven while in prison.

But because interviews are rarely conducted in private without a prison guard watching, making accurate estimates can be problematic, said Ham Sunrith, Licadho’s deputy director of monitoring and protection.

“We have difficulties getting information on torture because police or guards always accompany us during the interviews, so the prisoners dare not talk about torture,” he said.

Cambodia is the only country in the region to have signed on to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which compels signatory nations to establish some kind of national torture-prevention mechanism.

Such a body was supposed to be in place by 2008, according to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), though authorities currently have not implemented one.

Vietnam Money-Banks aim to cut rates from July

HANOI, June 28 (Reuters) - Banks in Vietnam have agreed to cut interest rates from July to support the government's target of 6.5 percent economic growth this year, but bankers said they do not expect a significant drop.

Top lenders have pledged to cut lending rates to 12-12.5 percent from July from around 13 percent at the moment, the State Bank of Vietnam said on its website (

They also agreed after a meeting with the central bank governor to bring their deposit rates down to 11 percent next month from 11.5 percent, and to 10.2-10.5 percent by September, it said.

The central bank said on Thursday it was holding its base rate at 8 percent in July.

"The central bank will have to strongly support lenders via its open market operations. Otherwise, they won't be able to cut deposit and lending rates," a trader with a Hanoi-based bank said.

Banks still faced difficulty raising funds due to depositors' expectations of higher rates, said an official from another bank in Hanoi. "Lenders hesitate to cut deposit rates for fear of losing depositors," he said.

Banks' deposits at the end of May had risen 7.8 percent from December while credit in the same period was up 7.46 percent, the central bank said in a monthly report. However, that is way below Vietnam's credit growth target this year of 25 percent.

The meeting on Friday was the central bank's second call to lenders to cut rates this month, after one on June 11.

"I don't think there will be a significant change in the rate level. Instead, banks will cut rates in small steps and keep an eye on how the central bank supports the process," the Hanoi-based trader said.

Vietnam's GDP grew around 6.2-6.4 percent in the second quarter from a year before after 5.83 percent in the first quarter, and first-half GDP grew 6.0-6.1 percent from a year earlier.

The growth rate in the first half suggested Vietnam might hit its 6.5 percent target, economists said, but they said higher credit growth was needed to maintain the pace in the second half.

(Reporting by Ngo Thi Ngoc Chau; Editing by Alan Raybould)

((; +844 3825 9623; Reuters

The panel is about Ban-Ki Moon saving his skin

Posted on June 28th, 2010

Ajit Randeniya

The appointment by Ban Ki-Moon of a panel to advice him on the accountability process has justifiably attracted the ire of most Sri Lankans, the Sri Lankan government and some foreign observers. On closer inspection however, the devil does not appear as black as it appears at first blush; it is just a cynical bureaucratic manoeuvre by Ban.

Contrary to the malicious propaganda of Reuters and AFP, the panel has no legal authority, or commission from Ban, to conduct a war crimes investigation; it is simply an administrative manoeuvre by Ban, designed to keep the American Zionist monkeys and the EU off his back.

America badly needed a diversion or two to break the disastrous news cycle that has circled the empire for the last fortnight or so: it started with their ‘mate’ Benyamin Netan-Yahoo’s murder of nine unarmed people who accompanied the peace-flotilla.

Since then, politically things have become simply catastrophic for Barack Obama: Afghanistan is fast becoming a quagmire much deeper than Vietnam ever was. The number of NATO and American soldiers killed has been steadily increasing every year since the unjust and unnecessary war began. There were 275 deaths in 2009, and 156 deaths so far in 2010, with June recording the highest number of NATO and US deaths of 86 and 52 respectively.

The military ‘strategy’ of the just-sacked war criminal Stanley McChrystal that formed the basis of the ‘surge’ of troops to blitzkrieg the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar is dead in the water due to lack of support by the Afghani people, and by the puppet government of Hamid Karzai.

Obama broke his campaign promise to wind up the murderous Afghanistan war, succumbing to the neocon conspiracy to send more troops, and his withdrawal date of July 2011 is becoming increasingly rubbery by the day, on the excuse that things have not gone according to plan, and he is due to face fresh presidential elections in 2012.

Judging by the Vietnam experience, before the nightmare is all over, the coterie of White House backroom boys, from Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod to the last White House intern, the hidden arm of the Israeli lobby who keep offering Obama ‘Hobson’s choices’ on important war decisions will be gone; they will be busily selling their ‘memoirs’ through Rupert Murdoch owned publishing houses, each one of them blaming Obama for all the failures!

At times like these it is quite usual for the CIA, diplomatic missions, State Department and UN ambassadors to receive informal orders for ‘announceable’ good news stories; and they create them! Neocon agents such as Lynn Pascoe and the Bush family favourite Susan Rice would have quickly explored unfinished businesses at the UN for a way out. The announcement of the panel was one of Ban’s responses to pressure from the US.

Ban Ki-Moon, like every other Secretary General before him, by necessity, is compliant to US demands; Ban was appointed essentially by John Bolton, the disgraced neocon who knew him well, and hated North Korea with gusto for calling him ‘human garbage’. Ban’s appointment helped serve the neocon objective of periodically inflaming tensions in the Korean Peninsula in order to justify keeping nearly thirty thousand US soldiers there, more than fifty years after the last war. A bit of UN assistance is always helpful in international affairs!

Ban gave the Americans another concession by despatching Lynn Pascoe to Colombo, giving him a chance to thumb his nose at the Sri Lankan government by announcing the appointment of the panel in Colombo!

Pascoe himself suggested however, that “there have been many misunderstandings about this panel about what its going to do, but there is no cause for concern at all. I also hope that the panel would be useful to the Sri Lankan side.” But in the usual duplicitous American way, he issued a mild threat when he said that “the responsibility for carrying out a credible process that meets international standards rests first and foremost with the Sri Lankan authorities and the UN would follow with interest in the progress made by the Presidential appointed committee.” Susan E. Rice, the Bush appointed US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, ‘welcomed’ the panel

The composition of the panel clearly shows that Moon was keen to please the Americans and at the same time, the panel will serve no useful purpose. The only reason why Ban appointed Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia to head up this panel was because his appointment would not attract any objections by the Americans: Darusman is a well known former US agent, used by Paul Wolfowitz to undermine the Suharto regime in Indonesia in the late eighties and early nineties, from within Suharto’s Golkar party by promoting religiously-based dissension and by surreptitiously promoting a plethora of NGOs.

But Darusman’s performance since securing the job of Attorney General in the Kafkaesque government of Abdurrahman Wahid and more recently as the UN independent commissioner appointed by Ban to investigate the ‘facts and circumstances surrounding the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhuto’ shows that he is not a man known for producing results.

The other two members, Steven Ratner, an American ‘friend’ of the neocon establishment who advised the UN intervention in Cambodia during the heyday of interventions in the early nineties, and the professional human rights activist from South Africa, Navanethem Pillay’s nomination perhaps, Yasmin Sooka are not worth talking about. Darusman is obviously the key US instrument here.

Marzuki Darusman (65) can best be described as Mangala Samaraweera of Indonesian politics. Coming from the miniscule, yet influential, Catholic minority in Indonesia, he holds a law degree with a major in international law of the sea from an Indonesian catholic university. As the son of an Indonesian diplomat he spent his formative years in Europe and is reputed to be a ‘slave’ to ‘European values’.

He served as a ruling Golkar party Member of Parliament, representing Bandung, West Java for 15 years until 1992, when he appeared to have outgrown his shoes: he revealed to an Indonesian news magazine that he had presidential ambitions. The problem was, his party boss Suharto was still very much in power and Indonesian culture does not take such loose talk kindly. Golkar struck his name from the list of party candidates in the 1992 election.

Darusman then managed to work his way in to the National Human Rights Commission, and started investigating complaints against the army of alleged kidnappings, mass murders, and gang rapes. In reality, he was creating and collecting data for the Americans. He held that position for seven years.

Darusman is known to have been firmly cultivated as an ‘agent provocateur’ by the corrupt, leading neocon conspirator Paul Wolfowitz who worked as US Ambassador to Indonesia between 1986 and 1989. Wolfowitz later admitted to “quietly pursuing political and economic reforms in Indonesia while he was Ambassador.” During this period the CIA, USAID and all other US clandestine agencies were working hard to destabilise the Suharto regime that was making Indonesia economically strong, receiving widespread public support for its ‘Panca Sila’ based national development plan. America simply couldn’t allow an Islamic country of over 200 million people to become too powerful!

The means by which they tried to achieve their objective was by creating and financing a wide variety of bogus fronts, disguised as ‘NGOs’ undertaking development work, with the hope of creating social disharmony. However, this strategy failed to yield desired results for them: they had to stage the 1997 ‘Asian Fnancial Crisis’ and implement a full capital withdrawal with the assistance of George Soros (of the International Crisis Group!), followed by the IMF and World Bank belt tightening ‘advice’ to create the social unrest they were looking for. The non-availability of cooking oil was the crucial factor that ultimately triggered social unrest.

Darusman’s handy work yielded results when the Golkar party was torn apart by a rift between Suharto loyalists and the so-called reformists who were American agents, during the crisis. Using the turmoil, Darusman put himself in charge of a pivotal committee to ‘remake’ the party and he helped galvanise support for the idiotic Abdurrahman Wahid from outside the party, as a presidential candidate and to be appointed interim president following President Suharto’s resignation in 1998. Darusman secured the job of Attorney General for his troubles!

Darusman started a corruption investigation of Suharto, his family and friends, and the former armed forces commander General Wiranto for crimes against humanity in East Timor and human rights violations in Aceh. He took the unprecedented, illegal and high-handed step of placing Suharto under ”city arrest” allegedly to keep him from tampering with evidence. President Wahid and his Attorney General Darusman achieved no headway in bringing any of the 23 army generals accused of atrocities in East Timor to books.

Darusman still maintains close contacts with a number of veteran and powerful US intelligence agents through his position as a Trustee of a shady organisation known as The United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO). His handlers at USINDO are all former USAID and State Department intelligence agents such as Stapleton Roy, Stanley Roth and Karl Jackson, with decades of experience in Asia. The president of the Board of Trustees of USINDO, David N. Merrill is the biggest of them all. Merrill is a former ambassador to Bangladesh and was Mission Director of USAID in Indonesia from 1987 to 1990. His tenure coincided with that of Wolfowitz’s, showing the level of importance the neocon ‘rulers’ who controlled US foreign policy unchallenged at the time placed on Indonesia. After government service he joined Dick Cheney’s former employer, the US Army contractor Halliburton and Enron!

Wahid, the ‘accidental president’ passed away in December 2009; Paul Wolfowitz appeared to have been so moved that he wrote an obituary in the ‘Wall Street Journal of January 6, 2010, titled ‘Wahid and the Voice of Moderate Islam’. The corrupt neocon Zionist lamented that “ Wahid was one of the most impressive leaders I have known.”

Darusman is alive, and is trying to kick, through meaningless but lucrative UN jobs he keeps securing with the assistance of his US masters.

Sri Lanka should not have to dance to the tune of spies like Darusman and Roth, or entertain Pascoe again for that matter!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Uighurs flee China after riots

Find little welcome elsewhere, fight extradition for 'big crime' of seeking asylum

ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS  A Uighur woman facing paramilitary police officers demands the return of  members from her community in China's Xinjiang province as journalists  visit in July 2009.  At least 300 Uighurs are thought to have fled the  country amid a government crackdown, but many nations quickly extradite  refugees back to China.ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS A Uighur woman facing paramilitary police officers demands the return of members from her community in China's Xinjiang province as journalists visit in July 2009. At least 300 Uighurs are thought to have fled the country amid a government crackdown, but many nations quickly extradite refugees back to China.

UN advisory panel on Sri Lanka war

AFTA welcomes UN naming an advisory panel on Sri Lanka war

The Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations (AFTA), the umbrella body of the peak Tamil associations in Australia and New Zealand is relieved to hear the long awaited announcement made by the UN Secretary General on Tuesday about the formation of a three-member panel to advise him on whether war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka during the final months of brutal military push in to the Tamil held territory.

It is reported that the panel will be chaired by Indonesia's former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, who was recently named the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea. The other two members of the panel are Yasmin Sooka, a human rights expert from South Africa, and Steven Ratner, a U.S. lawyer who advised the United Nations on how to bring the Khmer Rouge to justice in Cambodia.

According to U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky, Ban's panel "will advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka….The panel hopes to cooperate with concerned officials in Sri Lanka,” Nesirky said further. Human Rights groups took advantage of last month's first anniversary of the defeat of the Tamil Tigers to renew pressure for a probe into the end of the war, in which they say tens of thousands of civilians died in the cataclysmic final battles. The Sri Lankan President has categorically denied of any civilian killings by his security forces. But rights groups say that both the government and the LTTE were guilty of human rights violations that resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths.

Last month, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa named an eight-person "Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation" to look into the last seven years of the war. When media at UN asked Stephen Rapp, US ambassador at large for war crimes issues, on the 18th of June, if "Lessons Learned" is enough, he replied that "Obviously, what's been announced to date has not met the standard. They're telling us it does have that capacity, to investigate these cases, to follow up and call witnesses. We're hearing it, but we're not seeing it." There had been several reports from the Tamil homeland in the northeast of the island that the Sri

Lankan security forces were removing any physical evidence of the war crimes committed that included exhuming and destroying skeletons of the victims from the war zone. This raises the need for the appointed panel to move very fast and the UN to have physical presence on the ground to protect hard evidence. Also the terms of reference of the panel should include the right to hold full investigations and a trial into the alleged war crimes and offer full protection to witnesses coming forward from the Tamil homeland and the Tamil Diaspora to provide evidence. Amid heavy Western pressure, Ban has insisted that the panel must go forward despite Sri Lanka's urging against it, and assertion that it is a violation of its sovereignty. Nesirky said that the panel was not a formal investigative body and would be available to the Sri Lankan government, should they choose to take advantage of it. The group will have four months from the time it starts to complete its work.

AFTA calls upon the International Community in general and the Australian and New Zealand governments in particular, to express their desire publicly, for this panel to guide the SG to deliver justice to the innocent victims of the alleged war crimes.


Viettel plans US$300 million investment in Haiti


Vietnam’s largest mobile network operator, Viettel, will invest about US$300 million in the telecome market in the Republic of Haiti, with its survey work entering the final stage.

Tong Viet Trung, Deputy General Director of Viettel, said that the capital will be spent on building mobile network infrastructure and improving the fixed line network in Haiti

Work on the mobile network infrastructure is scheduled to start in October with over 1,000 base transmission stations to be built so that mobile phone services can be launched in the first quarter of 2011.

According to Viettel, the Haitian telecom market is promising because there are currently only two mobile telecom providers in this country.

Earlier, Viettel signed a deal to buy 60 percent of shares of Telecom Company in Haiti worth US$99 million. Under this agreement, Viettel will be allowed to provide services in wireless fixed telephone, international sea optical cables, WiMAX wireless bandwidth and mobile phone.

Besides Laos, Cambodia and Haiti, Viettel is expanding investment in many countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, focusing on mobile telecom and Internet broadband services which are Viettel’s strength.

In another development, Metfone, the Cambodia-based affiliate of the military-run Viettel Corporation, has been honoured as the most promising service provider of the year by the international business research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

The prize, included in the Frost & Sullivan Asia -Pacific ICT Award, reflects the international recognisation of Viettel’s development in the newly emerging market.

VOV News

Sacombank expands business in Cambodia

VOV News

The Sacombank Financial Group opened the SBJ Cambodia Company with an initial chartered capital of US$3 million in Phnom Penh, Cambodia , on June 26, following the opening of a branch more than one year ago.

On the occasion, Sacombank introduced its product of “Sacombank Than Tai” (Gold of Wealth) gold bar.

Sacombank President To Thanh Hoang said that his group has decided to conduct long-term investment in Cambodia, a potential market with abundant gold reserves.

Director of the Sacombank branch in Cambodia Than The Hanh said his branch is now providing financial services to more than 700 Vietnamese and Cambodian customers.

The assets of Sacombank Cambodia now totals US$38 million.

1.25-dollar debt leads to machete killing in Cambodia

Posted : Fri, 25 Jun 2010
By : dpa

Phnom Penh - A Cambodian farmer stands accused of killing his neighbour with a machete after an argument over a 1.25-dollar debt for a farming implement, national media reported Friday.

Yung Yat was charged with murder for killing Chhum Saroeurn, 47, in the central province of Kampong Chhnang after he went to his neighbour seeking payment for a hoe he had made, said Choem Bunthoeun, the provincial police chief.

Angered at the request for cash, Chhum Saroeurn picked up the hoe he had bought but not paid for and beat Yung Yat, 45, with it, Choem Bunthoeun said.

Yung Yat retaliated with a machete, killing his neighbour with a blow to the neck, the police chief said.

"Due to his temper, the suspect decided to kill the victim and confessed to the crime without regret," the official told the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

Yung Yat is in pre-trial detention.

Thai rice market share down in ASEAN

VOV News

Thai rice exports to ASEAN are facing more challenges, as relatively higher prices and tariff cuts under the ASEAN Free Trade Area or AFTA make Thai rice less appealing to regional buyers.

Thailand has already lost its market leadership in ASEAN, as the grains from Vietnam and Cambodia now control up to 60 percent of the market, according to Director of the Thai Rice Exporters Association Somkiat Makcayathorn.

Thai rice makes up only 30 percent of the ASEAN market share, down from as much as 60 percent five years ago, as key buyers including Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have turned to Vietnam.

Vietnam last year exported 6.5 million tonnes of milled rice, with the figure for the first five months of this year totalling 3.1 million, slightly lower than 3.3 million tonnes for Thailand, said Somkiat.

"More importantly, Vietnam's rice exports are mainly in the form of white rice, while Thai rice shipments have parboiled and glutinous rice combined.''

Vietnam last year exported 2.8 million tonnes to the region, mainly to the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, while Thailand's figure was only 640,000 tonnes out of 8.5 million globally.

Somkiat also warned that Thailand could no longer be complacent about quality, as the renowned aroma of Thai Hom Mali (Jasmine) rice was not considered as good as it was five years ago.

More worrying is the fact that Cambodia has adapted some Thai Hom Mali varieties and ships the paddy to Vietnam, capitalising on the free trade pact.


Cambodia's former King returns home from friendship visit to Vietnam

June 25, 2010

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk on Friday returned home from a four-day friendship visit to Hanoi at the invitation of Vietnamese president.

Sihanouk was accompanied by his wife and son King Norodom Sihamoni. Prime Minister Hun Sen, the National Assembly President Heng Samrin and the Senate President Chea Sim and other government officials and royal family members met them at the Phnom Penh International Airport.

During his stay in Hanoi, King Father Norodom Sihanouk met with Vietnamese President Nguen Ninh Triet, focusing on the topic of further strengthening the traditional relations between the two countries.

Triet said Sihanouk's visit demonstrated the friendly relations and fine cooperation between the two countries. The former King also thanked Vietnam for supporting Cambodia in the cause of the national protection and construction.

Before the former king's visit, his adviser Prince Sisowath Thomico said that the former king's Vietnamese trip will not address political issues. "I think that the visit will be aimed to boost good relations between the governments of Cambodia and Vietnam and between the peoples of the two countries."

"Being retired and no longer doing politics nor diplomacy, my trip to the glorious Socialist Republic of Vietnam will have a strictly private character," the former King said in a statement dated June 14.

The former king made the first visit to Vietnam in 1995 in his capacity as a king of Cambodia. Sihanouk abdicated in October 2004 and was succeeded by his son King Norodom Sihamoni.

Source: Xinhua

Siem Reap is in the mood for love

Siem Reap is the backdrop for a movie currently being filmed in the town called I Have Loved.
25 June 2010
Nicky Hosford
Phnom Penh Post

It’s not about Pol Pot, or the Killing Fields, or land mines, or poverty. It’s not about the Khmer Rouge or corruption or any of the grim narratives that form the basis of most accounts of Cambodia.

It’s a film and it’s about love. A young Asian crew is in town right now making I Have Loved, set in Siem Reap with an international flair. It’s a reflection of contemporary Cambodia seen through the cosmopolitan lens that Siem Reap in particular provides. The movie was conceived and written – and is being financed, co-produced and directed – by a young couple that met at university in Singapore. They came to Cambodia on holiday two years ago and were astonished, they say, by the many ways in which the reality didn’t match up to the rhetoric. From that three-week trip came the idea to create a film that shows Cambodia as the background not just for stories of despair, but also for tales of love and hope.

The story, set in Siem Reap over a number of years, opens with the honeymoon of a young couple from England. However, while on holiday he disappears and her innocence is progressively tested as she searches for him. She returns again and again, challenging her memory each time of what was seen and experienced before, and it is during this time that she meets an Asian man with whom love soon blossoms.

One of the driving forces behind the movie is Elizabeth Wijaya from Malaysia, who is just finalising her English literature Masters at the University of Singapore, where she met her boyfriend and project partner, Weijie Lai, when they were both still undergraduates.

He has just finished his Master of Fine Arts at New York University. They have both worked on short films before, together and separately, but this is the first time either of them has worked on a full-length feature film.

“Our lead actor has more experience than we do,” a relaxed Elizabeth says with a smile. “But, we’re learning a lot from him. It’s a part of our strength, that we are flexible and willing to take risks.”

100625_sr11The couple is financing the film out of their own pockets and relying on the kindness of supporters, including the crew who are only being paid allowances, to make it happen. It’s easy to see what has drawn people to support this young couple. They’re smart, brave and energetic, and their idea is very attractive. The support has come from a number of places, too: from Ambré in Phnom Penh, which is providing all of the costumes for free, to the Hotel de la Paix, which is the backdrop for much of the story and is supporting the film creators’ and actors’ accommodation. Additional support comes from 8 Rooms Guesthouse, which is providing the crew’s accommodation.

The choice of Siem Reap as a location is fundamental to how the film works. The couple was impressed by the internationalism of this town, which is reflected in both the story and the crew itself, which has members from South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the UK.

Elizabeth says, “We were amazed when we got here that there was so much more to Cambodia than all the bad stories. That inspired us to make a film that showed the different sides of Cambodia. That you can have romance here, too.

“Siem Reap is like an extra actor in the film. It struck us that this was a place quite different from what we imagined.”

The international nature of the town, with its tourists, restaurants and shops, was fundamental to the idea of the film as much as for providing the canvas. “It changes so much, and it’s different every time we come back,” says Elizabeth.

Sometimes this can be tricky. One scene was due to be filmed at the street market, until Wiejie came back again earlier this year to discover that the market was no longer there. “We’ve been working on it for two years, going back and forth, and the changes that we’ve seen are reflected in the film, too. It’s part of the nature of Cambodia and of the film,” says Elizabeth.
Filming will continue for another two weeks. The hope is to have post-production completed in time for the Cambodian Film Festival in October this year and then for submission to the Cannes Film Festival for 2011.

PM cuts ribbon on overpass

25 June 2010
Cheang Sokha
Phnom Penh Post

Hun Sen also calls for citizens to follow traffic laws and wear helmets on bikes

Photo by: Pha Lina
Motorists drive past the newly-opened overpass close to Monivong Bridge on Thursday, after it was officially inaugurated by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The premier said the overpass would ease congestion on Monivong Boulevard.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Thursday inaugurated Phnom Penh’s first overpass, which he said would help to ease traffic jams along Preah Monivong Boulevard and serve as a model for future overpasses in the capital.

After cutting a ribbon to officially open the US$6 million “sky bridge”, the premier declared that traffic along Monivong “will not be jammed or crowded any longer”.

“Today we inaugurate the first overpass in the history of Cambodia. The first overpass is now born,” he said to the applause of several hundred observers.

“Now that we have the first, there should be a second, third, fourth and so on.”

Hun Sen then announced that the municipality is conducting a feasibility study for a second overpass – this one to be built on Russian Federation Boulevard near Preah Kossamak Hospital – that he said would help to facilitate the daily commute of around 170,000 vehicles and 800,000 motorbikes.

Traffic safety appeal
The prime minister also used the occasion to highlight the importance of road safety, appealing to motorbike drivers to wear helmets and asking all drivers to obey traffic laws.

“To avoid traffic accidents, drivers should respect the law, and as required, they should wear helmets,” he said. “I would like to appeal to all drivers to respect and love your lives.”
Photo by: Pha Lina
Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema (third from right), Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, look out over Norodom Boulevard from the newly opened overpass on Thursday.

Sem Panhavuth, Road Crash and Victim Information System project manager at Handicap International Belgium, said the premier was wise to draw attention to the benefits of wearing a helmet.

“According to our data ... the number of motorbike fatalities from head injuries decreased from 86 percent in 2008 to 76 percent in 2009 because more people are wearing helmets,” he said.

In 2008, there were 297 road fatalities in Phnom Penh and 1,638 throughout Cambodia, while last year saw 243 road fatalities in the capital and 1,717 throughout the Kingdom, he said.

Phnom Penh traffic police chief Heng Chantheary said he estimated that 90 to 95 percent of the public obeyed traffic laws, and that most violators were young people.

“In general, we have seen that the number of traffic accidents has decreased because more people are respecting the laws these days,” he said.
“Accidents usually occur when people are driving drunk or driving over the speed limit.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Obama and Pol Pot

While traveling along Ming Avenue recently, alongside the ongoing road construction, I passed a sign that gave me pause.

The sign was of a stick figure shoveling a pile of asphalt. Underneath this caricature was the catchy slogan, "Putting America back to work."

I shook my head and wondered if I was in present-day America or if I had traveled back in time to Cambodia in the late '70s.

I'm not suggesting that our "dear leader," Barack Obama, will follow the lead of Pol Pot, who murdered millions of people that represented the successful, self-efficient masses -- slaughtered for not being good state employees.

His approach is a much more subtle one, a Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" technique. He despises everything that has made this country great, and his efforts are directed at the institutions of capitalism and constitutionality.

He's not about to send out his goons to bash our skulls for refusing to shovel asphalt. He only needs to slit the throat of those institutions. Then, we will have no choice but to shovel asphalt at his behest.

The blade is at the throat.



Thai farmers left praying for rain year after year

Millions of Thais, especially the farmers, go through a real hard time during this time of the year when there is a drought. The farmers, whose livelihoods depend on rainfall, are left praying for rain year after year. -- Photo by AFP

The Nation
Bangkok, Wednesday 24 June 2010

Around this time every year, Thailand experiences drought, which affects millions of people, especially farmers, whose livelihoods depend on rainfall. We should have learned how to deal with this by now. It's time for the government and relevant agencies to come up with ways to mitigate the effects of water shortages. We need a long-term solution.

The recent proposal by the agriculture ministry to give affected farmers cash handouts may ease the pain for a while, but such measures offer only an immediate, temporary solution. Combating drought requires a sustainable solution. Natural disasters always recur, and water deficiencies will continue to affect our lives.

It is estimated that drought this year will affect more than 1.7 million households in 50 provinces. More than 6 million Thais are affected by the extreme dry season. Drought not only depletes water reserves, but also causes damage to fields and plantations. The lack of rainfall also affects those not directly involved in agriculture, as some waterways are used for transportation of goods and passengers.

Agriculture is of course the most affected sector, as it consumes more than two-thirds of the country's water supply. Being the world's largest rice exporter, the country's water crisis could have a severe impact on rice output as farmers are forced to reduce their rice harvesting cycles.

The agriculture ministry earlier urged farmers to plan for fewer crop cycles this year, but some farmers have been reluctant to do so, as any reduction in output will affect their earnings.

Another problem is that the decrease in the amount of water that flows into dams can be attributed to a high level of water consumption upstream.

The issue must be addressed from both supply and demand sides. Effective irrigation systems should be developed to ensure a sustainable supply of water. The pipe and storage infrastructure should be constantly checked and improved to prevent unnecessary waste of water through leakage or corrosion.

Everybody must consider the effect they are having on water supplies. We must conserve as much as possible instead of simply waiting for the force of nature to start working. We may not always be able to rely on big monsoon storms, as the effects of climate change are unpredictable.

We have to utilise water resources effectively and efficiently. Quality water management is urgently needed. Consumers should be more responsible in their consumption habits. Farmers are in need of education on how to manage water supplies instead of looking for new places to farm, leading to more deforestation and further reduction of green areas that are required to maintain a conducive environment for the retention of natural water.

Unfortunately, the government does not have an effective water management plan to deal with this annual issue. The proposal for cash handouts is an example of how the ministry desperately tries to respond to the crisis each year in an ad hoc manner.

Lower levels of water will eventually mean fewer people engaged in farming. If that is the case, the challenging question will be how to find alternative sources of income for farmers who are forced to reduce their output or abandon the land altogether.

The amount of rainfall is not only the decisive factor in water management. Israel, for example, sees much less rainfall than Thailand, but the country manages to maintain its good agricultural output and water supply, thanks to effective water consumption and management.

We can no longer desperately wait for the monsoon. It's imperative to take pre-emptive steps. Precautionary measures must be in place. New sources of water supply should be explored. Sustainable and long-term water management plans should be formulated.

A lack of resources and, ultimately, competition for those scarce resources will bring conflict and instability - especially if the majority of farmers feel that their urgent needs are not being properly addressed.

Asia News Network

PP court says no extradition for Sam Rainsy

24 June 2010
Vong Sokheng
Phnom Penh Post

HE president of Phnom Penh Municipal Court said Wednesday that there were no plans to ask for cooperation from France in securing the return of opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who faces charges related to his claims of Vietnamese border encroachment.

Chev Keng said the court had taken no steps to expedite the return of Sam Rainsy, who was charged in March, although his lawyer has said that a warrant was issued for his arrest on May 28. Sam Rainsy is currently residing in France.

“I have not received any report related to Sam Rainsy’s case from the investigating judge, and so far I have no plans” to request that the French government hand him over, Chev Keng said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Wednesday that the government may choose to push for Sam Rainsy’s return
using “diplomatic channels”, noting that there is no extradition treaty between France and Cambodia.

But he said that any request for cooperation from France would need to come from the court, and would also need approval from his ministry and the Ministry of Justice. “It’s up to the court,” he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Wednesday that law enforcement officials are actively working on finding a way for Sam Rainsy to be returned.

He declined, however, to elaborate on any particular methods that were being considered.

“We are the executive branch, which has to follow the court’s verdict,” he said.

Svay Rieng provincial court in January sentenced Sam Rainsy to two years in prison for his role in uprooting border posts in Chantrea district last October. Sam Rainsy and other lawmakers from his party have said that the posts were placed in Cambodian territory.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court laid its charges in March in connection with maps Sam Rainsy released after the verdict, which he said offered proof of his encroachment claims.

SRP makes new border claim

24 June 2010
Meas Sokchea
Source: Phnom Penh Post

Lawmakers say that more Cambodian land is being illegally ceded to Vietnam

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Mao Monyvann, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian for Kampong Cham province, stands next to a Cambodia-Vietnam border marker in Kampong Cham’s Ponhea Krek district on Wednesday. The lawmaker was part of a group investigating encroachment allegations.

Kampong Cham Province
VILLAGERS in an area bordering Vietnam in Kampong Cham province have lost land during the ongoing border demarcation process, lawmakers with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party said Wednesday.

Three SRP lawmakers invited reporters to Kak commune in Ponhea Krek district on Wednesday to see what they say is another example of authorities turning a blind eye to the loss of Cambodian territory.

Some residents in Anlong Chrey and Thlok Trach village said an old pagoda that used to be in Cambodian territory now lies on the Vietnamese side of the border – the result of a pair of markers placed in the area in 2008.

“The posts were planted into our land,” said Saum Tuon, who said he has lived in Anlong Chrey since 1987. “Thnort pagoda is now on Vietnamese land.”

Ek Yuth, a villager from Thlok Trach, said she has not lost any land as a result of the border markers that were planted in 2008. But she claimed that she lost 15 hectares of land in 1995, when Vietnamese authorities barred her from planting on land she believed was hers.

“When I planted the rice, they pulled it out,” she said.

Mao Monyvann, an SRP lawmaker from Kampong Cham, said Wednesday’s visit was intended to publicise evidence that the demarcation process is threatening Cambodian sovereignty.

“The SRP wants to see clearly with our own eyes whether the border posts were planted in Khmer land or not,” he said.

But Var Kimhong, the senior minister in charge of border affairs, brushed off the opposition lawmakers’ concerns.
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Lawmakers with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party inspect a border marker in Kampong Cham province’s Ponhea Krek district on Wednesday.

The posts “were not planted into anyone’s land. It is on the borderline,” he said, and noted that National Assembly President Heng Samrin also has a house in Thlok Trach village.

“It is Samdech’s village. He has a family living there,” Var Kimhong said. “Do not worry instead of Samdech.”

Wednesday’s exercise was the latest in a series of trips SRP lawmakers have taken to border areas to draw attention to claims of Vietnamese encroachment.

Earlier this month, opposition members publicly announced their intentions to visit a border area in Takeo province, only to have their progress blocked along the way.

On Wednesday, SRP members did not tell officials beforehand that they were coming, and they faced little resistance.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the SRP’s continued border trips have been part of a deliberate political strategy.

“I think they’re successfully playing to this core constituency – those who feel that Cambodia is being swallowed by Vietnam,” he said.

Maybank Continues Expansion In Cambodia With 8th Branch

KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 (Bernama) -- Maybank has opened its eighth branch in Cambodia's Battambang city, the second largest city in the country after Phnom Penh.

Battambang is the main commercial hub of the northwestern region of Cambodia and is about 291 km from Phnom Penh and 140 km from Poipet, the border town between Cambodia and Thailand.

In a statement, Maybank said the new branch offered a range of retail and commercial banking services, namely deposit and placement, trade finance, loans, remittances, foreign exchange and mortgages as well as an automated teller machine.

Maybank Head of International, Abdul Farid Alias said the opening of the new branch was in line with the group's strategy of accelerating its network expansion in Cambodia to tap into the growing demand for banking services in the country.

"With the Cambodian economy expected to grow by about 4 per cent this year, arising from improved external demand and the easing of credit, we believe this is an opportune time to leverage on the strong business potential and rising demand for banking," Farid said.

He added that Battambang's growth prospects were even more evident given its significant population as well as the presence of agriculture and agro-based industries, trading & wholesale business enterprises and tourism.

"There are also a number of foreign investors involved in infrastructure and telecommunication projects as well as property development in the area, which augurs well for the future of this region," he added.

Farid said that Maybank would not only cater to its international customers who have investments in Cambodia, but also to the local market through its range of banking services.

"We are currently working on a regional ATM linkage to provide greater convenience for our customers and this will enable us to also explore the setting up off-site ATMs in Cambodia."

He added that given the growth potential and positive economic outlook for Battambang and Cambodia as a whole, Maybank was confident that its newest branch will record profits from the second year of its operation.

"We intend to maintain our growth momentum in Cambodia with the opening of another three provincial branches by 2011, which will also reinforce our expanding regional network and leadership," Farid said.

Maybank Cambodia has six branches in and around Phnom Penh and one branch in Siem Reap apart from the latest office in Battambang.

Globally, Maybank has over 1,750 offices in 14 countries, with presence in seven out of the 10 ASEAN countries as well as in the key international financial centres of Hong Kong, London, New York, Shanghai and Bahrain.

Cambodian rebel jailed for life in LA court

Source: The Independent

An accountant has been sentenced to life in prison in Los Angeles for orchestrating a failed attempt to overthrow the Cambodian government in 2000.

Yasith Chhun, 53, was found guilty in 2008 of three counts of conspiracy and one count of engaging in a military expedition against a nation with which the United States is at peace.

Chhun, a naturalised US citizen who fled Cambodia in 1982, grew frustrated with the lack of free elections under what he viewed as the oppressive regime of the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, a former member of the Khmer Rouge under the dictator Pol Pot, said Chhun's attorney, Richard Callahan. "He saw Hun Sen as on an even par with Pol Pot," Mr Callahan said.

Chhun also wanted to avenge the death of his father, who he was forced to watch being beheaded by Khmer Rouge soldiers.

Chhun was found guilty after a two-week trial, during which prosecutors said he had planned "Operation Volcano" to overthrow Hun Sen's government. Mr Callahan said Chhun would appeal.

The Cambodian government welcomed the verdict. The Foreign Minister, Hor Namhong, said: "Terrorism is the main threat to human beings, not only in the United States but also in Cambodia."

Chhun assembled a force of 200 in Thailand which was subdued after attacking government buildings in the capital, Phnom Penh.

As Champagne is to France, Kampot pepper is to Cambodia

The Cambodian government recently approved 'geographical indication' status for Kampot ground pepper, which Parisian chefs have called the best in the world.

Ngnoun Lay holds pepper from a Kampot plantation. “When I stopped being a soldier I went to grow pepper like my ancestors,” says the president of the Kampot Pepper Farmers’ Association, standing among ripening plants that tower over him on wooden poles.

Jared Ferrie

By Jared Ferrie

Kampot, Cambodia
• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

After he grew tired of fighting on the government side of Cambodia’s civil war and left the Army in 1993, Ngnoun Lay knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“When I stopped being a soldier I went to grow pepper like my ancestors,” says the president of the Kampot Pepper Farmers’ Association, standing among ripening plants that tower over him on wooden poles.

Pepper has been cultivated in this region since at least the 13th century. But the spice’s heyday came much later, under French rule. Parisian chefs considered it the best in the world for its uniquely strong yet delicate aroma and its slightly sweet, eucalyptus taste. At the turn of the 20th century, Cambodia was exporting around 17.6 million lbs. a year, according to FarmLink, a company working with farmers to create a niche gourmet market in Europe.

Under the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79), the industry was completely destroyed and has yet to regain anything close to its former glory.

But farmers in Kampot recently got a boost when the Cambodian government approved geographical indication status for their product. (GI provides a guarantee of quality standards and assurance that a product comes from a particular region.)

Kampot has a microclimate ideal for growing pepper, as well as specialized cultivation techniques that have been passed down for generations, says Jerome Benezech, director of FarmLink. He says GI status will help to stop traders selling pepper from other regions under the Kampot brand. And it will mean higher profits for Kampot farmers, because GI appeals to consumers willing to pay a premium.

Mr. Benezech says Kampot may never produce the volume of pepper it did a century ago – the province exported only 6,600 lbs. last year – but he and the farmers hope for a steady rise “To increase the volume exported today to a couple of hundred tons would be very profitable for everybody, for the province and the farmers,” he says.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

US man gets life for failed Cambodia coup plot

LOS ANGELES — A Cambodian-born accountant was jailed for life for plotting a bloody coup attempt in his homeland 10 years ago, justice officials said.

Chhun Yasith, 53, who arrived in America in the 1980s after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge's "Killing Fields" regime, was convicted in April 2008 of drawing up plans to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh.

Sentencing Chhun on Tuesday, District Judge Dean Pregerson expressed some sympathy for the defendant, who told the judge he formed a rebel militia to avenge the murder of his father by the Khmer Rouge.

"I don't think Mr Chhun is an evil human being," the judge said. "I think he's had a tragic life -- and had the misfortune of being born in a place where terrible things were happening."

Pregerson added that he could understand where such circumstances "could motivate someone to feel they could not stand on the sidelines."

The Cambodian government on Wednesday hailed the sentencing.

"We applaud the decision taken by the US government to prosecute Chhun Yasith," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters, saying the sentencing would help "to prevent terrorism."

Prosecutors said Chhun Yasith founded a group known as the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) in 1998 and was elected president after traveling to Thailand to enlist the support former Cambodian military personnel.

The CFF planned a twin-pronged strategy to bring about revolution, prosecutors said. The group was ordered to carry out "popcorn" attacks on soft targets such as karaoke bars, nightclubs and coffee houses before launching an all-out assault to overthrow the government.

Chhun Yasith selected a total of 291 targets for their ill-fated coup, codenamed "Operation Volcano."

Despite being warned by senior CFF advisors that the rebel forces were not big enough to challenge the Cambodian army and police, Chhun Yasith -- based in Thailand -- pressed ahead with the coup attempt, which took place on November 24, 2000.

Dozens of armed men stormed into Phnom Penh firing AK-47 rifles and rockets at government buildings, leaving at least four people dead, before the rebellion was quelled.

More than 100 people were jailed for the attack, which left Hun Sen unscathed.

Chhun Yasith was tried in absentia in Phnom Penh in June 2001 and convicted of conspiracy, terrorism and membership of an illegal armed group.

During the US trial, Chhun Yasith's attorney, Richard Callahan, argued that his client's "only goal was to bring democracy to his homeland."

"It was misguided and naive in its execution but it was not misguided and naive in its intent," Callahan said, saying his client had launched a "noble effort to save Cambodia" from the "tyrannical regime of Hun Sen."

In a December 2000 interview with the Cambodia's English-language Cambodia Daily newspaper, Chhun Yasith said the attack was a failed coup bid and vowed to strike again to topple the government.

Government must look to the rights of refugees

Dear Editor,

In the shadow of World Refugee Day (June 20), I would like to take the opportunity to remember the 20 ethnic Uighurs forcibly returned to China by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) in December 2009, despite Cambodia’s signature to the 1951 Convention on Refugees.

There is no information on the whereabouts of the 20 returned individuals who had come to Cambodia seeking refuge following an outbreak of ethnic riots in July 2009. The group had described clearly to the Cambodian authorities the persecution they were escaping in China, and that they feared for the safety of their families, yet they were still repatriated in contravention of the Convention on Refugees. Neither the United Nations nor their families have any record of where the group ended up. As reported by Human Rights Watch in January 2010, there has been no notification of legal charges against the group and no guarantees given by the Chinese government that the group are safe from persecution.

The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights is following the plight of the ethnic Rohingya (another predominantly Muslim minority), fleeing persecution from the Myanmar government. As reported in The Phnom Penh Post on June 21, the group have been in Cambodia since January and have been given no indication by the RGC of their refugee status or right to asylum; they now face food shortages. I strongly urge the RGC to adhere to their obligations under the Convention on Refugees, in ensuring that the group is given access to public assistance, food and healthcare.

With the passing of World Refugee Day, it is important to remind the RGC that we have not forgotten the Uighurs. As a former refugee myself, having spent 4 years in a Thai refugee camp, I – like the countless other Cambodians who have sought refuge in foreign countries in recent decades – understand the plight of these people and would like to take this opportunity to remember all refugees and all those who have worked hard to help them. Moreover, I strongly urge the RGC to ensure that the Rohingyas are treated with the dignity and respect that was denied to the Uighurs.

Ou Virak, President
Cambodian Centre for Human Rights

Cambodian royal family starts four-day visit to Viet Nam


President Nguyen Minh Triet (second right) welcomes former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, Queen Mother Norodom Moninieth Sihanouk and King Norodom Sihamoni. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Khang

President Nguyen Minh Triet (second right) welcomes former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, Queen Mother Norodom Moninieth Sihanouk and King Norodom Sihamoni. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Khang

HA NOI — Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, Queen Mother Norodom Moninieth Sihanouk and King Norodom Sihamoni arrived in Ha Noi yesterday to start a four-day visit to Viet Nam at the invitation of President Nguyen Minh Triet.

President Triet hailed the royal family as close and esteemed friends of the Vietnamese people.

He said the visit was a special event in relations between the neighbouring countries, who had a long history of co-operation and traditional friendship.

In President Triet's meeting with former King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Mother Norodom Moninieth Sihanouk, the two sides reviewed the two countries' histories, including both nations' struggles for independence.

Vietnamese and generations of Vietnamese leaders always remembered, respected and were thankful for the profound sentiments and support of the former king and Cambodian people to Viet Nam in the past and during the present, said Triet.

In reply, Sihanouk thanked Vietnamese leaders for their valuable sentiments and support to his family and Cambodia during the past and at present.

Triet and Sihanouk expressed their delight at continued development in friendly relations between Viet Nam and Cambodia. They said they believed bilateral ties would continue to be consolidated and developed in the time to come. —VNS

Former refugee gets life term over failed Cambodian coup

Yasith Chhun of Long Beach raised money and helped plan attempted overthrow of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Yasith Chhun was convicted in 2008 of orchestrating a Cambodian attack. "I had to do something for that country," he said. "I've been punished because I failed, that I'm not good enough to overthrow that government." (Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram / October 8, 2001)

Yasith Chhun never made a secret about his plans to overthrow Cambodia's government.

The Long Beach man boasted to reporters about his role in a rebel attack in Phnom Penh in 2000 that resulted in the death of at least three people. In interviews, Chhun denounced the government as tyrannical and said his group, Cambodian Freedom Fighters, would try again.

Chhun and his supporters drew up plans for another attempted coup from his office, where he worked as a tax accountant. He also held two fundraisers for his group on the Queen Mary. The charismatic man cultivated an image as America's freedom fighter and even gained support among several Republican politicians.

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In 2008, Chhun was convicted of orchestrating the Cambodian attack, as well as a series of small-scale "popcorn" attacks aimed at karaoke bars and fuel depots that killed at least six people, including innocent bystanders.

Chhun's saga ended Tuesday when he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Chhun, wearing a green windbreaker under chains around his waist, addressed the court in a tearful speech in which he talked of his suffering under the Khmer Rouge genocide that took the life of his father.

"I am not lucky like Americans who are born in this country," he said. "I was, unfortunately, born in Cambodia."

He said that after coming to the U.S. as a refugee in 1982, he felt he could no longer stand by as his native country descended into political chaos. He said he was moved by a video he saw of a woman whose son was shot during a protest for free elections, and became frustrated when his attempts at orchestrating nonviolent protests did not result in change in Cambodia.

"I had to do something for that country," he said, the anger rising in his voice as he wiped away tears. "I've been punished because I failed, that I'm not good enough to overthrow that government."

Judge Dean D. Pregerson said he did not believe Chhun was an "evil human being" and that he had the "misfortune of being born in a place where terrible things were happening."

But Pregerson said Chhun's prison term was the consequence of his actions. "I do not want to be the person who does not say to all those groups that, if you conspire against the U.S., that the U.S. will tolerate or be lenient to you," Pregerson said.

During the 10-day trial, prosecutors said Chhun, a naturalized U.S. citizen, travelled to the Cambodia- Thailand border in 1998 to meet with Cambodian military personnel opposed to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who had recently come to power after a bloody coup.

Shortly after, Chhun formed the Cambodian Freedom Fighters group and was appointed president.

The group was plotting for "the violent overthrow of the Cambodian government," prosecutors said. The faction in Cambodia was to acquire weapons, while Chhun was responsible for raising funds.

Prosecutors said Chhun hid on the Cambodia-Thailand border while the attack was carried out in the event the coup was successful and Chhun could possibly lead the new government.

About 100 members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters attacked the Ministry of Defense building and military police headquarters. Police stopped the assault before it reached the residence of Hun Sen.

The Cambodian government convicted 38 group members, including at least two U.S. citizens, for taking part in the attack. Chhun, who evaded capture, was convicted in absentia. The U.S. government began investigating Chhun in 2001.

Like many Cambodians living in the U.S., Chhun suffered greatly under the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime, in which an estimated 1.7 million people were killed between 1975 and 1979.

During the sentencing hearing, Chhun's attorney showed a video interview with Chhun's mother who recalled her son's horror at seeing his father murdered by the Khmer Rouge. The video also showed an interview with Dr. William H. Sack, who studied post-traumatic stress disorder in Cambodian refugees, who said that the events of Chhun's life triggered him to do something against the government of Hun Sen.

Still, Chhun was a controversial figure in Long Beach's Cambodian community for his outspoken rhetoric against the current government, though many supported his desire for a more democratic Cambodia.

Sokhom So, an acquaintance of Chhun and a former member of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, said that he did not believe the life sentence was fair. "He's a good man," he said. "He tried to free people. I don't think Yasith Chhun has bloody hands."

Chhun's attorney, Richard Callahan Jr., said he would appeal the sentence.

"I'm tired from this political stuff," Chhun said on Tuesday. "I lost everything…. I don't know my life's meaning."