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Ban Ki-Moon hits back at tribunal criticism

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
The office of United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon has defended
the embattled investigating judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in a
statement that drew criticism from local observers and lawyers at the
court.

The judges have come under fire in recent weeks from
victims, civil society groups and even their own staff for their
apparent failure to investigate the tribunal’s third case properly. The
likely dismissal of the case reflects the viewpoint of the Cambodian
government, which opposes prosecutions beyond the upcoming Case 002,
leading many to charge that Case 003 has been sabotaged for political
expediency.

In a statement released in New York on Tuesday, Ban’s
office rejected “media speculation” that the UN had directed the judges
to shutter Case 003 and denied that any political interference had
occurred in the case. A “closing order” – indictments or dismissals in
the case – will be available to public scrutiny at a later date, the
statement added.

“The judges and prosecutors at the Extraordinary
Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) must be allowed to function
free from external interference by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the
United Nations, donor States and civil society,” the statement read,
adding: “Speculating on the content of the Closing Order at this stage
does not assist the independent judicial process.”

However, local
observers said the statement was in fact cause for greater concern
about the tribunal, as the UN refused to acknowledge the abundance of
evidence that the Case 003 investigation has been mismanaged.

Co-investigating
judges Siegfried Blunk of Germany and You Bunleng of Cambodia announced
the conclusion of their Case 003 investigation in April, though without
taking a number of seemingly basic steps including the questioning of
the suspects involved and the examination of a number of alleged crime
sites.

Staff from the judges’ office have since begun resigning
in protest; in a resignation letter to Blunk last month, noted Khmer
Rouge-era historian Stephen Heder, formerly a consultant to the
investigating judges, spoke of the “toxic atmosphere” within their
office, saying it had become “professionally dysfunctional”. He added
that the judges had closed Case 003 “effectively without investigating
it”.

The judges last week rejected a series of requests from
international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley calling for them to
investigate the case further, a decision Cayley has appealed.

In
the statement Tuesday, Ban’s office cited the confidentiality of the
investigation and said the investigating judges “are not under an
obligation to provide reasons for their actions at this stage of the
investigation in Case 003”.

But Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at
the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, called this an erroneous reading
of court rules and said the UN was “hiding behind a cloak of
confidentiality”.

“As an institution, the UN is trying to protect
the integrity of the court by denying that there are any problems, and
it’s too late for that,” she said. “They need to acknowledge that action
needs to be taken to save this investigation or it could undermine the
entire work of the court.”

Clair Duffy, a trial monitor with the
Open Society Justice Initiative, said UN officials were “ignoring all of
the evidence they now have before them, including from people inside
the court with knowledge of what’s going on”.

“To pretend that
this is a matter of speculation at this point ignores the wealth of
available evidence that no serious investigative action was ever
undertaken in relation to the 003 suspects,” she said.

The
suspects in Case 003 remain officially confidential, though court
documents reveal them as former KR navy commander Meas Mut and air force
commander Sou Met.

Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2
Nuon Chea, set to stand trial later this month in the court’s second
case, also took issue with the UN statement, which referred to their
client as one of “the four remaining leaders of the Khmer Rouge”.

This
statement, the defence team said, presupposes both Nuon Chea’s guilt
and the fact that he and the other Case 002 suspects “are the only
‘leaders’ of the Khmer Rouge still alive”.

Whether the Case 003
suspects also fall into this category “is a matter which is currently
the subject of litigation before the ECCC”, the defence team said.

Categories: Khmer Rouge, Local News

Thailand stands firm; Preah Vihear management plan should be deferred

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
BANGKOK, June 15 – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Wednesday reasserted Thailand’s stance that consideration of Cambodia’s proposed management plan of the area surrounding the ancient Hindu temple of Preah Vihear should be deferred by the upcoming UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Paris.

The Thai prime minister stood firm as the Thai delegation, scheduled to depart Bangkok for the World Heritage Committee meeting in the French capital this weekend, reported the Thai position over the matter to a special meeting of the Cabinet on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Abhisit said Thailand’s position is that consideration of Cambodia’s management plan of the area surrounding Preah Vihear temple should be deferred, but Thailand stands ready to jointly consider it with Cambodia on the condition that Cambodia must withdraw its troops from the contested land first.

Following reported remarks by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that any Thai official intruding Cambodian territory will be arrested, Mr Abhisit said that law of each country must be respected and refrain from doing thing that will adversely affect bilateral relations.

Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Suwit Khunkitti, as head of the Thai delegation in the 35th session from June 19-29, and his team is set to leave Bangkok for Paris on Friday.

Discussion of the Cambodian plan was deferred last year at the WHC meeting in Brazil after Thailand strongly opposed it, citing the unresolved border dispute.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple to Cambodia.

The site of the historic structure on the disputed Thai-Cambodian border has long been a point of contention between the two Asian neighbours.

On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Under the terms of the listing, Cambodia is required to submit a management plan for WHC approval. (MCOT online news)

Categories: Local News

United Nations Rejects ‘Media Speculation’ that Judges Received Instructions to Dismiss Case before ECCC

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
AKP Phnom Penh, June 15, 2011–Following is the full text of the statement by UN Secretary General on ECCC:


Categories: Local News

NGOs in Final Bid to Change Controversial Draft Law

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Photo: VOA NEWS

International and local organizations met over a conference call on Tuesday in a final effort to push for changes to a controversial draft law to regulate the NGO sector before it moves to the next stage of approval.

The groups say they want changes to a third draft of the law, which they fear will hamper their development efforts and leave them open to government interference.


The law is expected to move from the draft stage at the Ministry of Interior for approval by the Council of Ministers in the near future.

In a conference call organized by Washington-based Oxfam America on Tuesday, representatives from a number of organization expressed continued reservations over the law, which many said would weaken civic and social development.
“A country trying to develop without a strong civil society is like trying to ride a bicycle with just one wheel,” Nora O’Connell, a director of policy at Save the Children, said. “You may be able to push it along the road, but it will take a lot longer. You need both government and civil society working together to make real progress.”
Bill Penington, Cambodia’s assistant country director for Care International, said the law would slow down development by impeding the work of organizations.
Such concerns have been echoed by the US State Department officials, who say the new law could be unnecessary and restrict the work of NGOs.
Interior Ministry officials have defended the law as necessary to regulate a growing sector and have dismissed concerns it could be abused.
But critics say the law contains complicated requirements for registration and reporting to the Ministry of Interior, while at the same time it potentially prevents smaller grassroots organizations from forming. The law, they say, could be abused to shut down organizations or associations that are at odds with the government.
Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, a program manager for Freedom House, called the draft law “draconian” and “ambiguous.”
A rights group or other watchdog is “generally going to be critical of the government whether it’s Cambodia or whether it’s the US,” she said.
The law as currently drafted could lead to an organization being shut down, she said. “So this is a significant barrier, not just to the freedom of association as a fundamental principle, but also for the freedom of expression.”
While the organizations say they want the government to redraft the law, there are some who say it should not be necessary at all, given other laws already on the books.
“Things like the civil code, the constitution and also the current laws, actually cover every aspect,” said Brian Lund, East Asia director for Oxfam America.
The government estimates 3,000 non-governmental organizations, either international or local, operate in Cambodia.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the law will “protect the interests of civil society.”

VOA News

Categories: Local News

In Cambodia, Comedians Double as Government Propagandists

June 16, 2011 Leave a comment
In the state-aligned media that dominates the country’s airwaves, enormously popular comedians, often bearing the rank of colonel in the prime minister’s personal bodyguard unit, inject the party line into Cambodian popular culture.

CAMBODIA’S PROPAGANDIST COMEDIANS

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — One recent Sunday afternoon, television audiences across Cambodia watched a middle-aged man named Krem as he was introduced to the mother of his young girlfriend.

The mother, Oeurn, looked dubiously at her daughter’s poorly dressed, extravagantly mustachioed suitor.

“How did you spend the Cambodian New Year?” Oeurn asked him.

“I went to Preah Vihear,” Krem replied, referring to a contested 11th century temple on the Thai border that has sparked several skirmishes between Cambodian and Thai forces over the past few years. “We performed comedy for the soldiers who protect us from Thai invasion. I would like to ask the New Year’s angel to protect our soldiers and let them defeat the enemy.”

A bit later, Krem abruptly announced to Oeurn, “Phnom Penh municipality now has less garbage and is cleaner. Do you know who did that?”

“Who?”

“It is because of Excellency Kep Chuktema, the governor. He has educated people and broadcast it on television not to litter, so now there is less garbage and no more bad smell.”

It might not be precisely how every Cambodian villager addresses his prospective mother-in-law, but the exchange was par for the course on Bayon TV, where Krem’s wildly popular comedy troupe performs a similar sketch every week, with goofy domestic scenarios routinely breaking into extravagant praise for government policy or officials aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. The propaganda became even more pointed in late April, during 13 days of deadly border clashes with Thai forces.

Bayon, owned by the daughter of Cambodia’s strongman prime minister, Hun Sen, is not alone: this kind of politicized comedy is shown on all of the country’s eight television stations — performed by comedians who, frequently, are also paid members of Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit. Many of the comedians bear the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel.

The country’s dozens of “colonel comedians” underscore the extent to which Hun Sen and his CPP have consolidated power over the past two decades, successfully marginalizing not just rival politicians but also dissenting artistic and cultural voices.

“It is further evidence of the deep reach of Hun Sen’s personal networks of loyalties, and the growing difficulty of doing opposition politics in Cambodia,” said Duncan McCargo, a professor of Southeast Asian politics at the University of Leeds.

In 1997, Hun Sen — who then served as co-prime minister in a coalition government with a royalist political party, Funcinpec — staged a bloody coup, ousting his counterpart, Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Although Ranariddh was eventually allowed to return, Funcinpec suffered heavy losses in subsequent elections and never recovered. More recently, in 2009 and 2010, the government filed two separate lawsuits against Sam Rainsy, a liberal politician popular among urbanites and expatriate Cambodians. Rainsy, who had emerged as the new leader of the opposition, was ultimately sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison, leaving him in de facto exile in France. And over the past few years, the government has systematically sued activists, journalists, and critics of every ilk, levying steep fines or jail terms (one man was sentenced to two years for suggesting that a new lighting system at Angkor Wat could harm the 12th-century temple).

Although most of the colonel comedians’ skits and sketches are only sporadically political, they sometimes venture into deeper ideological waters. In 2009, after U.S. Ambassador Carol Rodley infuriated the government with a speech on corruption, both Krem and his equally famous counterpart Koy launched a series of comedy routines that bitingly mocked international NGOs for their own corruption problems. 


Categories: Local News

No spy exchange with Thailand: Cambodian PM

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment


PHNOM PENH –
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that there will be
impossible to exchange the two Thai “Yellow Shirt” activists being
jailed in Cambodia with a recently arrested Cambodian by Thailand.

“It’s absolutely no way to exchange the two
Thai activists with the arrested Cambodian,” he told a graduation
ceremony at the Technical School of Medicine. “Thailand can proceed the
case of the arrested Cambodian man according to Thai legal system.”

The premier’s remarks came after Thai foreign
minister Kasit Piromya said on Saturday that the Thai government is
willing to exchange the arrested Cambodian and the Vietnamese with two
Thai ” Yellow Shirt” activists now detained in Cambodia on espionage
charges.

Cambodian court, on February 1, convicted
Veera Somkwamkid, a high- profile activist in the Thailand Patriot
Network, and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon of illegal entry,
unlawful entry into military base and espionage and sentenced them to 8
years and 6 years in jail respectively. 

On Tuesday last week, Thai police and
paramilitary soldiers arrested three men: a Thai national Suchart
Muhammad, 32, Ung Kimtai, 43 from Cambodia, and Wiang Tengyang, 37 from
Vietnam for “spying” along the Thai-Cambodian border in Si Sa Ket
province.

Also Read: Cambodia Slams Thailand over Spying Claim

Hun Sen reiterated that the “spy” arrest was “fabricated”.

Cambodia and Thailand has border conflict
just a week after Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple was enlisted as a World
Heritage Site on July 7, 2008.

Thailand claims the ownership of 4.6 square kilometers of scrub next to the temple.

Since then, both sides have built up
military forces along the border and periodic clashes have happened,
resulted in the deaths of troops and civilians on both sides.


Categories: Local News

Pentagon papers finally released

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment
Prince Norodom Sihanouk and Jacqueline Kennedy at Chamkarmon Palace during her visit to Cambodia in November of 1967. Photo by: Ambassador Julio A. Jeldres Private Photo Collection
THE United States government has released the full version of the
Pentagon Papers, a once top-secret report that details US actions in
countries including Cambodia as the Vietnam conflict escalated and was
leaked in partial form 40 years ago.

The US National Archives
declassified the report on Monday, 40 years after the New York Times
published selections leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, who worked on part of
the study with the Defence Department. Ellsberg had tried to leak the
documents to the Senate in the hope that it would convene hearings on
the war.

Some 2,384 pages, or about 34 percent of the original
7,000-page report, have been released publicly for the first time, the
National Archives said in a statement.

The report was
commissioned by US defence secretary Robert McNamara and catalogues US
policy-making in Indochina from 1945 to 1967.

The leak showed
that four successive American presidents had misled their citizens about
US policy in Southeast Asia, as they spoke publicly of restraint while
simultaneously expanding US commitments in the region.

The
report also exposed the involvement of the Kennedy Administration in the
1963 coup d’etat that led to the assassination of South Vietnamese
President Ngo Dinh Diem, President Lyndon Johnson’s approval to bomb
North Vietnam and decisions to expand military operations from Southern
Vietnam into Cambodia and Laos.

Among other topics, officials
raised concern over the stationing of North Vietnamese troops in the
Kingdom and debated how to disrupt the Ho Chi Minh trail, which was used
as a supply route between North Vietnam and Cambodia, Laos and South
Vietnam.

Historian David Chandler, an expert on Cambodia who
served as a US diplomat in Phnom Penh in the early 1960s, said it was
“very exciting” when the papers came out.

“It was a good move. I approved of what Ellsberg was doing,” he recalled.

Chandler
said the information contained in the report wasn’t “wildly surprising”
at the time for those closely studying the region, though its leak may
have been the most significant breach of US government secrecy in
American history, igniting a battle at the Supreme Court and an eventual
victory for press freedom.

The National Archives said that the
newspaper and magazine releases from Ellsberg’s leak contained “only a
very small portion” of the complete papers, and Monday’s release marks
the first time they have been available in full.

“The fact of the
matter is that no one, outside the people properly cleared to view Top
Secret, has seen the real Pentagon Papers,” the agency said in a
statement. About two-thirds have been made available previously, as US
Senator Mike Gravel published portions in 1971 and US the State
Department declassified an additional section in 2002.

Chandler
said he had not yet trawled through the final version of the documents
that was released on Monday, but did not expect any “surprises” for
Cambodia, noting that the most controversial US actions toward the
Kingdom came under President Richard Nixon, who approved the infamous
bombing campaign that released at least half a million tons of bombs in
Cambodia from 1969 to 1973.

Though Cambodia is less of a concern
in the papers, the documents do show that trying to eliminate Northern
Vietnam’s use of both Cambodia and Laos for supply routes and military
operations was a persistent challenge for US policymakers.

One
internal document from the Kennedy Administration contained in the
papers shows that officials had raised alarm over the issue at least as
early as December 1962. A US State Department official says in the
document that Northern Vietnamese forces had been using Eastern Cambodia
as a base from which to stage hit-and-run attacks in Southern Vietnam
since 1960.

On numerous occasions, military officials called for
“hot pursuit” of Northern Vietnamese forces into Cambodian territory. A
1967 document reveals pressure within the US government for Johnson to
expand the Vietnam War into neighbouring countries, presaging the
devastating consequences Cambodia would endure as it was dragged further
into the conflict.

“The military had once again confronted the
Johnson Administration with a difficult question on whether to escalate
or level-off the US effort. What they proposed was the mobilization of
the Reserves, a major new troop commitment in the South, an extension of
the war into the VC/NVA [Viet Cong/North Vietnam] sanctuaries (Laos,
Cambodia, and possibly North Vietnam) the mining of North Vietnamese
ports and a solid commitment in manpower and resources to a military
victory,” the US document states.

“The recommendation [from the
military] not surprisingly touched off a searching reappraisal of the
course of US strategy in the war.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KRISTIN LYNCH

Phnom Penh Post
Categories: Local News