Asian Correspondent » Albeiro Rodas Asian Correspondent Thu, 02 Jul 2015 07:44:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Factory owners blamed corruption to increase salary, said Rainsy Sun, 12 Jan 2014 03:35:38 +0000

CNRP deputy Kem Sokha, left, and president Sam Rainsy on a press conference on January 7, 2014 at the opposition party headquarters in Phnom Penh. The two leaders confirmed their position to call on new elections and support the garment factory workers. Photo Arjay Stevens.

Phnom Penh. The leaders of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) confirmed their purpose to ask for the resignation of P.M. Hun Sen and call on new elections, while supporting the campaign of garment factory unions for a 160 USD salary and a reform to the Cambodian rules for the freedom of association. “We are also trying to do is to brake the monopoly of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC)… (…) Normally there should be freedom of association between any factory with their workers. If a company is willing to pay more than 100 USD, why should it prevent them in doing so?” said CNRP’s president, Sam Rainsy in a press conference last Tuesday at the quarters of his party. 

The GMAC represents 400 garment and footwear factories and it is the only one in the country, according to its official website. In a December statement, the associations seems to urge the government in taking “action against crafty unions who have always used violent and non-procedural strikes and demonstrations demanding benefits from the employer.” (GMAC, 2013, para.1) The statement came after an incident on December 16, 2013 at the SL Garment Factory when angry strikers beat two men they accused to be “spies,” but the Association called “innocent workers.” In a letter to The Cambodian Daily on November 27, 2013, Ken Loo, GMAC Secretary-General, complained about the “impunity of trade unions”: “Over the years there have been countless reports of strikes that have occurred in the garment industry and the Garment Manufacturers Association (GMAC) has always pointed out that these strikes have not complied with the procedures as set out under the Cambodian Labor Law.” (Ken Loo, 2013, para. 1) Ken Loo mentioned in his letter that several of those strikes have even involved violence, but there is not an explanation on why strikers became so violent.

Sam Rainsy continued in his press conference that the mechanism of negotiation of the workers and their employers has to be reviewed. He accused also the role of the government as not productive: “Minimum wage is not a rule, it is not an obligation to pay only that minimum of money… You are free, you are engaged to pay more than the minimum,” he said.

The opposition leader mentioned also that his party has been in contact with factory owners: “They told us in private that corruption in Cambodia prevent them from giving 160 USD to the workers. So, if there are measures to reduce the corruption in this country… the government corruption… the systematic corruption… they will be in the position to enable them to raise the minimum wage to a higher level.”

P.M. Hun Sen requested the creation of a committee to investigate in the recent garment strike crackdown, assessing property damage and studying the possible increase of the minimum wage.

South Korea embassy denied involvement in crackdown

The South Korea embassy in Phnom Penh denied any involvement in the strike’s crackdown after Global Post accused it of urging the Cambodian government to protect the Korean owned factories from strikers according to a statement posted at the embassy website and lately removed. “It is the responsability of the ROK government to protect its nationals overseas and therefore request the host countries to protect their safety when necessary,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea to Global Post in a letter, stating that other countries like China and Japan are said to have done similar requests to the Cambodian government. (Geoffrey Cain, 2014, para. 30)

The Ministry denied that the Yakjin Korean Company had requested military intervention and they do not know why a man among the security forces wore a button of the Korean flag: “The ROK government has never provided army fatigues to Cambodia,” he concluded.

The report by Global Post attracted the solidarity of Korean human rights groups, the Confederation of Trade Unions and the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy that led a protest in front to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul last Friday.

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Cambodia’s garment factory workers: Ripe for exploitation Sat, 11 Jan 2014 04:38:34 +0000

An injured Cambodian worker escapes from riot police during clashes in Phnom Penh last November. Pic: AP.

Eight days after the crackdown on garment factory workers and opposition rallies in Phnom Penh, Cambodia seems normal this weekend. The national television continues its regular programs showing Thai and Korean soap operas, karaoke videos and news about curious things in the West like the polar freezing in US or “national news” like the January 7’s Liberation Day Anniversary. The crackdown gets some mentions on TV, such as to announce that factories are  filing cases in court against trade unions for “incitement to strike, damage to property and assets”.

Cheap manpower has attracted companies from countries like China, South Korea and Vietnam to Cambodia to serve big customers such as Nike, Adidas, Puma, Gap and H&M.

Cambodia has two very important factors to guarantee such cheap manpower: a lot of young people and a large rural population. Eighty percent of Cambodians were living in rural areas in 2009 (NIS, 2009, p.1), while 22 percent of Cambodians are between 15 and 24 years old (Index Mundi, 2013). As poverty is mostly concentrated in rural areas, factory workers are mostly farmers with low levels of education and few options to do other things in their fight to break the poverty line.

Emigration is also high, with Thailand, China, Malaysia and South Korea the main destinations. There is a wave of legal migration through certain agencies promoting domestic servants in Malaysia or construction workers in Thailand.  In 2013 Thailand agreed to pay 300 baht per day as minimum wage to employees, approximately 10 US dollars or 40,000 Riel. In Cambodia, many workers earn just $3 a day. However, those working in other countries are not there legally. According to VOA Khmer, 160,000 migrant Cambodian workers are looking to be legalized in Thailand alone, with many working off the books in the sex trade, illegal fishing or construction jobs (Chun Sakada, 2012, para. 1)

(MORE: Civil society groups ramp up pressure on Cambodian govt)

Strikes at Cambodian garment factories are not rare, with conditions so bad and hours so long that mass faintings are also not uncommon. As these workers suffer, Cambodia’s leaders and industrialists are getting rich. A few years ago most of these workers supported the CPP government, but policies of land grabbing and eviction of farmers and now the latest brutal crackdown is further undermining the popularity of the government.

For many the impact would be deeply negative causing a sudden inflation and unemployment. What is true is that keeping a low minimum wage in Cambodia, will attract soon a crisis not only in the garment sector, but in other areas too. Offering cheap manpower to promote foreign investment can be a good thing, but not when the government stands by as its people toil for pittance. At the same time, discontent young workers will tend to look jobs in other sectors such as the tourist industry.

The strike crackdown attracted international condemnation as security forces opened fire on protesters armed with stones asking to earn US$160. It shocked not only human rights defenders around the globe, but also multinationals that are at last becoming more sensitive to  the conditions of the workers that make their products. International clothing retailers like Adidas, Columbia, Puma, Gap, H&M and Levi Strauss, said this week that they oppose violence and called on the government to find a peaceful solution to the problem, stating also that workers have the right to work in a safe and secure environment. (Kimseng Men, 2014, para. 5)

The Washington Post has a good article on whether the minimum wage kills jobs or not, saying “it doesn’t appear to worsen unemployment in any noticeable way” (B. Plumer, 2013, para. 2).

In a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, it is explained why the increase of minimum wage does not mean necessary an increase on unemployment:

In the traditional discussion of the minimum wage, economists have focused on how these costs affect employment outcomes, but employers have many other channels of adjustment. Employers can reduce hours, non-wage benefits, or training. Employers can also shift the composition toward higher skilled workers, cut pay to more highly paid workers, take action to increase worker productivity (from reorganizing production to increasing training), increase prices to consumers, or simply accept a smaller profit margin. Workers may also respond to the higher wage by working harder on the job. But, probably the most important channel of adjustment is through reductions in labor turnover, which yield significa

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23 arrested protesters held in isolated prison, authorities confirmed Thu, 09 Jan 2014 10:45:14 +0000

Phnom Penh. 23 persons that were arrested during the violent crackdown on the Unionists’ strike and the Opposition rally last weekend, among them five Unionist leaders and a land activist from Boeung Kak Lake, are hold at the Kompung Cham CC3 isolated prison, reported local human right defender Licadho in its last statement:

“At 10 am, Sem Sakola, a Phnom Penh investigation judge, called LICADHO lawyers to confirm that six clients arrested and charged during the violent crackdown of garment protesters in the Canadia Industrial Area on Veng Sreng Road last week are being held in CC3 prison.” (Licadho, 2014, para. 1)

On Monday, Licadho denounced secrecy over their retention after a brief appearance before the Court: “Family members, lawyers and independent medical professionals have been denied information about the location of detention of 23 people arrested during recent brutal crackdowns in Phnom Penh.” (Licadho, 2014)  The group included a 17 years old boy, Yon Chea, while they were allowed to receive medical attention only until Wednesday.

Different human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, called for “an immediate, unconditional release of any peaceful protesters.”

Last Friday morning, January 3, security forces ended in a violent way the garment factories’ strike at the Canadia Industrial Park, Phnom Penh downtown.  According to reports, at least five persons died and many others were wounded, although some victims suggested that there were more persons killed during the police assault, something that is not fully confirmed.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said in a statement in Geneva last Tuesday that is “deeply alarmed by the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials in responding to demonstrations.” He urged also from the Cambodian authorities “to launch a prompt and thorough investigation and to ensure full accountability of members of security forces found to have used disproportionate and excessive force.”

About 60% of workers were back to their factories on Monday, reported Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, who explained to Asian Correspondent that the clash began “because the rioters had failed to listen to verbal warnings and further engaged in violent activities including attacking the authorities and destroying private property.” (Rodas, 2014, para. 6)

Garment factories’ workers are demanding an increase of their minimum wage to 160 US dollars, but the Ministry of Labor put it first to 95 and then to 100 US dollars, much inferior to what Unionists asked, going to strike on December 24.  Several workers were fired or suspended this week for participating in the strike, for example at the Svay Rieng Province’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone where 200 persons lost their job. (Phnom Penh Post, 2014, para.1)

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Cambodia’s Liberation Day overshadowed by violent crackdowns Tue, 07 Jan 2014 15:44:54 +0000

Cambodian riot police prepare to confront with garment workers near a factory on the Stung Meanchey complex on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia last week. Pic: AP.

The 35th anniversary of the victory over the Khmer Rouge regime was celebrated today in a tense calm in Cambodia after the violent crackdown on unionist strikes and opposition’s manifestation in the capital last weekend.

The already traditional January 7 date (Prampi Makara) has its main celebrations in Phnom Penh where Primer Minister Hun Sen appears with his allies to give a speech recounting the historical moments when Vietnamese troops and Khmer Rouge defectors defeated the Pol Pot regime on January 7, 1979, starting a new civil war until the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement of October 23, 1991.

This year there was not much popular affection for this date, especially among youth, workers and followers of the opposition party. The government opted to crackdown on strikers demanding a minimum monthly wage of US$160, the same promised by the opposition party of Sam Rainsy in the run up to the elections in July last year. The government increased it to US$100, but workers continued the strike until last Friday when hundreds of members of the police and armed forces launched a violent crackdown, killing at least five people.

Many protesters were arrested, among them three human rights defenders and a boy, Yon Chea, 17 years old.  Licadho, the Cambodian human rights watcher, denounced the secrecy in the whereabouts of these persons. (Licadho, 2014)  The official crackdown did not stop with the strikes: Saturday morning it reached Freedom Park where the Opposition led a rally demanding the resignation of Primer Minister Hun Sen and the holding of new elections.  The followers of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) were  evicted from the area, including Buddhist monks. (Licadho, 2014, video)

Factories resumed operations on Monday with an average 65% of workers returning to their jobs, according to  Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia in an email reply to Asian Correspondent:

The situation currently is that all factories have resumed operations… Although we are not at full attendance, but on average 65% of workers have returned to work on Monday. We are confident that most workers will return to their workplace within the next few days when they have confidence that the government is able to ensure their personal safety.

Ken Loo said also that the strikers have failed to listen the warnings from the authorities:
The clash between the intervention forces and the rioters occurred because the rioters had failed to listen to verbal warnings and further engaged in violent activities including attacking the authorities and destroying private property.  There were no problems when the demonstration had been peaceful.
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Cambodia: Death of Ieng Sary closes a window for justice Mon, 18 Mar 2013 11:02:12 +0000

The death of former Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary last week closes definitively a window for justice in Cambodia. The verdict is delivered then by history. It does, however, represent the loss of a witness that could give valuable information on what was behind the thoughts and actions of the Kampuchea Democratic system. The death of Sary can be compared with the death in impunity of Saloth Sar (alias Pol Pot) on April 15, 1998. The only attempt at justice in Pol Pot’s case was a doubtful tribunal in the jungle led by Khmer Rouge guerrillas looking to gain favour in the new Cambodia.

Correction: Ieng Sary was known as Brother No. 3.

The huge figure of Pol Pot seems to overshadow his powerful team. Pot Pot is compared to Hitler as the leader of a massive crusade against the people he considered an inconvenient to a nationalist ideal, the building of the Democratic Kampuchea with new people, new history, new hopes. But there are also comparisons to Stalin with his deep revolution, or a Mao Zedong with the jump to a total cultural revolution. Pot Pot seems to carry on his shoulders the whole responsibility of the Cambodian revolution that brought the disappearance of more than 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.

However, placing sole responsibility for the atrocities on Pol Pot is a mistake. The Khmer Rouge leadership was very much a team. It was comprised of a rigid pyramidal structure with a strong group of magnetic personalities at the top. These personalities included Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Hu Nim, Hou Yuon, Son Sen, Khieu Thirith, Khieu Ponnary and, of course, Saloth Sar. As Craig Etcheson says:

They were dominant among the people who created and controlled the myriad organizational entities over the stretch of the five stages in the rise and fall of Democratic Kampuchea.

The leading team was bound at the same time by blood linkage, a curiosity if we compare it with the high control over family relations in Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. This included forced marriages for procreation alone, and dividing the families as a strategy to control the feelings of Cambodians.

Ieng Sary married Ieng Thirith, whose original name was Khieu Thirith. She is the sister of Khieuu Ponnary, who is the first wife of Pol Pot. As she went insane, Pol Pot abandoned her and she died at the house of her sister Ieng Thirith in 2003. Thirith took the surname of her husband, Ieng Sary, against the Cambodian naming traditions. The former minister of social action is included also in the list of the most senior Kampuchea Democratic leaders to be prosecuted by the ECCC for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide, but the tribunal dismissed her due to mental problems.

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Cambodia moves to shut internet cafes Tue, 18 Dec 2012 06:48:09 +0000

In a country with few computers, authorities want to limit children’s access to internet cafes

Imagine for a moment you have to check in at the internet cafés as you do in a hotel:

Welcome sir to the Phnom Penh Internet Café, the only one in town out of the reach of any school, how may I help you?

Yes, thank you, I need a PC please.

Yes, sir, just I need your passport or ID. Which sites are you going to visit and what are you going to say to whom and how?

Imagine also a city without internet cafés. You can imagine then only two types of cities: a very modern one with a very low level of digital gap where every inhabitant has Internet access or a very primitive place just without Internet.

Instead of seeing internet cafes as an opportunity to fight the digital gap, some authorities in Phnom Penh see them as a threat to national security and just a danger of pornography and video-games’ addiction. The official solution seems even more amazing: to ban internet cafes from a perimeter of 500 meters from any school in the capital. Enforcing such regulation will clean Phnom Penh out of internet cafes, as it can be concluded from the map projection of Cambodian human rights’ defender Licadho.

On December 15 in Phnom Penh internet cafes got a circular signed by the Ministry of Telecommunications establishing some rules of control to these public commercial services. The persons writing it seemed to compare internet cafes to brothels and they do not distinguish internet cafes from video arcades. Of course, an internet cafe in Cambodia can become just an arcade, but it is where a sound legislation comes to operate.

LICADHO’s Director Naly Pilorge said by email to Asian Correspondent about the implication of this new norm:

We don’t know the number of Internet cafes potentially affected by the circular. We are concerned, however, that this circular is a preview of what is to come when the government enacts the so-called “Cybercrime law,” which has been rumored for a while – though not made public by the government. All of the actual crimes that the circular purports to address are already illegal. The circular’s sole purpose seems to be to create unjustifiable obstacles to Internet access. We believe this is a transparent attempt to block part of the population’s access to independent sources of information through news sites and social media.

Nobody will oppose to rule video arcades far from the schools, but to compare an internet cafe with a video arcade isn’t just correct. In a country where very few children and youth enjoy the benefits of the Internet and  few schools have a computer room, the order to banish public PCs from the schools’ areas is astonishing and senseless.

A more sound rule could work to integrate those internet cafes to the schools’ educational systems. They are by themselves public computer rooms and cheap digital libraries where students can find the windows to science, technology and culture.

Teachers can be trained to interact with local internet cafes and their owners can be included in the school master plan to guarantee the child and youth safety we need on the internet cafes to prevent video-game addictions, pornography and online criminality in a pedagogic way.

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Reducing digital gap in Cambodia through the fear of expression’s censorship Sat, 01 Dec 2012 13:26:16 +0000

The number of Internet users in Cambodia is rising in a country with one of the biggest digital gap in the region. However, there is a fear of a possible online censorship that could come through the weaving of a detailed legislation, as it has been used for example in traditional media since 2008 with laws that include vague provisions that can undermine freedom of expression, according to Licadho, the Cambodian human rights defender. In this sense, it is understandable that the announcement of the first official law on telecommunication service use creates worries over if a new law would intend to turn off dissident voices over the Cambodian cyberspace. One thing is clear: Internet is becoming very important for the development of Cambodia in many senses and even if Cambodia is portrayed as a country with evident limits to freedom of press, it is also one of the freer on Internet usage, though the number of users still low.

Cambodian children using computers at the first and only academic Cafe Internet of Cambodia at Don Bosco City campus in Kep Province. Students of journalism and communication assist the children to develop their digital skills in a formative manner. 'These children will be authentic digital natives and they are located far from the main stream of development in Cambodia, so it is an opening of opportunities for them,' said volunteer educator David Agudelo. Photo Al Rodas, 11/17/2012

The fear of those who think that a law on Internet use could be an instrument to persecute dissident users is not vain. It is enough to see the restrictions expressed in some Cambodian laws, where any person can be accountable of prosecution under the accusation of defamation without an authentic modern procedure.

Cambodia needs of course an online legislation and it is an obligation of the State to protect the cyberspace from criminal behaviors that could put in danger the national security and the vulnerability of the people. But it is true also that Cambodian lacks a law on freedom of expression, one that protects the rights to say and the rights to dissent without the fear of a prosecution or suspension,  while promoting more ethics in schools to really fight corruption that is not only present in the public administration, but also in current life.

Reducing digital gap

There are several official programs and plans leaded by NGOs to reduce digital gap in Cambodia. Since the introduction of Internet in the Kingdom on January 1987 by the Russian Estation Intersputnik in Phnom Penh, the Internet has been extended to the main Cambodian cities, especially Siem Reap, Battamban and Sihanoukville. In 2009 there were 78,500 Internet users registered, less than 0,5 percent of the Cambodian population, while putting Cambodia in the place 166 of the global use of Internet. In Vietnam there where in that same year 20 million Internet users, meaning much more than the entire Cambodian population that is near to 15 million.

In a post by journalist Faine Greenwood (Cambodia Not Online, 2011.) it is said that the primary obstacle to reduce the digital gap in the country is the lack of infrastructures: ‘Many people don’t even have electricity and running potable water, much less a personal computer of their own,’ she concluded.

The growing social gap in Cambodia is evidently consistent with the digital gap. Internet can become a luxury for the most privileged groups of the country, most of them in the biggest centers. Most Cambodian primary and secondary schools lack IT master plans for their alumni and a computer classroom is rare in more educational centers. If teachers’ salary for primary and secondary schools remain low, there is not an official hurry to introduce teachers into a digital culture, moreover, many schools have not even electricity, so how they could have Internet access. According to a research by the United nations (Building E-Communicyt Centers for Rural Development, 2005), one of the reasons Cambodia remains back in the region for its digital gap is not only the situation of poverty, but also the lack of skillful personnel ready to support the Internet growing.

According to official data, there were more than one million Internet users in 2011 that would represent a 70% increase, an estimate of 3,000 Cambodian bloggers and more than 700 thousand Facebookers, putting year 2011 as a significant time for the reduction of the Cambodian digital gap. But such increase does not spread over the country as it is expected, but continues centralized in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, the fourth largest urban centers of Cambodia, letting the rest of the country in a similar situation previous to 2011.

Internet and Education

For Mr. Teng Prach, 19, student of journalism at the Don Bosco Vocational Center in Kep City and a blogger writing about his native Kampot Province, Internet is essentially a tool to support his work and formation. ‘It is important for the development of my own life… I find blogging, social networks… useful to share information about Kampot, my region, for the people to know,‘ he says.

In the school of journalism and social communication, Mr. Brach studies not only IT, but especially content creation, ethics and critical thinking. ‘When I began I thought it was about IT only, to say about how to deal with software and hardware, but then I got that it is most important the fact about what we inform that to just share things, he explains.

Another student of social communication, Mr. Nget Ngean, 21, explains that children and teenagers in Cambodia are prompt to become addict to video games and karaoke online and it must be attended soon through education. ‘It is good we have more computers and Internet access in Cambodia, but if children and young people come to these means alone, we are going to have many video games addicts,‘ he prevents.

IT programs in schools or universities should not limit to technical issues. Information Technology is not only about fixing cables, but opening minds to work for a social development. ‘I use the Internet to improve my own skill that is audiovisual edition and production and I can find thousands of pages about what I want,’ said Mr. Ngean about the way he uses Internet.

Teacher Try Seyha is the manager of the electrical department and he is a consecrated Internet user based in Facebook. ‘I use the Internet to update my knowledge. Before I keep on reading my own text books to prepare lessons to my students, but now I use Internet and it gives me an unique opportunity, it’s easy, fast and I get the last advances of science,‘ he said. ‘Only in a site like Youtube I can watch electrical lessons from foreign countries and it is I have a living library in my computer.’

Mr. David Agudelo, 21, is a Colombian volunteer at Don Bosco school in Kep and his work consists in the organization of the Phum Thmey Cafe Internet, an academic experience inside the campus. ‘The purpose of this space here is that children and youth from the village have the opportunity to enjoy, learn and open their minds through a new experience provided by new technologies,‘ he says.

But how to deal with video games?

My own experience is that a kid is a kid and when coming to a computer he or she will always look what children look: to play. We should not cut it and we should not fear children play video games. But we should stay with them and lead them to another things with more educative perspectives, to conduct their process well,‘ explains the volunteer who is also a student of philosophy and education. After playing, children start to look on other options and in this case schools must be in connection. Teachers must promote that their students get curiosity about research. You ask them where is Europe and you show them that they can use a search engine, so they will discover another world.’

Khmer language still of low use online, although it is growing thanks to the work of universities, schools and official agencies and the development of Khmer Unicode. But children and youth will find mostly Latin scripts web pages everywhere. Is it an obstacle for them?

‘In this academic cafe Internet we have for example the assistance of the students of social communication, so children and youth are not alone. However, English is not a difficulty for Cambodian kids, because anyway it is a lingua franca and they can get the concepts… Two weeks ago two teenagers came to the cafe and they went to look for information about hip hop. When I asked them why they were looking for it, they answered that there are two foreigners living near their houses and they use to speak about hip hop. Curious about such concept, they look for the cafe Internet and open their own research… so I find such attitude too scientific and then we need to promote it.’

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The Khmer Rouge Trial in November 2012 Fri, 30 Nov 2012 17:31:39 +0000

The first visit of a head of government to the Court and the first hearing over the Khmer Krom genocide investigation were the main events this month to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) for the prosecution of top surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975 – 1979.) The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, joined US President Barack Obama, Australian Primer Minister Julia Gillard and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during the ASEAN summit, then the premier paid a visit to the Court and announced a new pledge of NZ$ 200,000 (US $ 164,220.)

Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand and ECCC Acting Director Tony Kranh. — Photo courtesy by: ECCC/ Nhet Sok Heng

New Zealand has been one of the sponsors of the ECCC since 2006 contributing so far with NZ$ 1 million (US $ 821,100.) ‘New Zealand will continue to help the tribunal complete its work prosecuting the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, said the Premier, who met Acting Director Tony Kranh and his fellow citizen Judge Silvia Cartwright. She is undertaking a very challenging process. We are trying to physically demonstrate our support for her and the job in hand. It’s important that those that committed war crimes are held to account,’ he said to

The Court received also in November visits from Swedish Development Aid officials, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and a German delegation, which announced a new pledge of US $1.2 million to the ECCC.

Khmer Krom victims in Court

The process to demonstrate that the Khmer Rouge regime persecuted the Khmer Krom ethnic has been troublesome. In late 2011 the request for supplementary investigations regarding Genocide of the Khmer Krom and the Vietnamese ethnic groups in Cambodia during the time of the Democratic Kampuchea was given, especially in mass executions in Bakan District – Pursat Province – and Takeo along the borders. There is not formal indictment to responsible of these crimes in what is known as case 004 so far, though there is the mention of suspects, which names remain confidential as much as the investigation goes its way.

The ECCC´s Defense Support Section assigned a foreign lawyer to represent a suspect in case 004, Dutch criminal defense lawyer Göran Sluiter.

Khmer Krom refers to the Khmer ethnic population living or coming from the Mekong Delta, today the southern part of Vietnam in what is referred by Cambodians as Kampuchea Krom (Lower Cambodia or Lower Kingdom), because it was a Cambodian territory transferred by the French colony to Vietnam. Although Khmer Krom people speak Khmer and follow Therevada Buddhism as other Cambodians, those who were settled in the country during the regimen were seen as Vietnamese spies, then persecuted, tortured and executed.

Other events

The Court reported also the swearing-in of a new Co-Investigating Judge Mark Harmon from US, following the resignation of Judge Siegfried Blunk in October 2011 and his reserve Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet in May 2012. Judge Harmon is a veteran at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for the past 17 years and he will work with cases 003 and 004 with his Cambodian counterpart, Judge You Bunleng.

The ECCC Victims Support Section leads this year the 4th Regional Forum for civil parties in case 002 to inform those who cannot attend the hearings in Phnom Penh over the current process of the Court, to facilitate discussion between lawyers and civil parties and to facilitate the exercise of their rights. On 16 November the Forum met in Sihanoukville with 200 out of 3,864 civil parties, which names remained confidential for security reasons. They came from the coastal provinces of Cambodia and Kampong Speu.

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ICJ announces Preah Vihear Temple hearings Thu, 29 Nov 2012 14:04:39 +0000

THE HAGUE. The International Court of Justice, ICJ, announced today the schedule for the public hearings in the case concerning the request for interpretation of the 1962 ruling in the case over the Preah Vihear Temple. The first round of oral argument is programmed for Monday 15 April, 2013, for Cambodia and Wednesday 17 April for Thailand. The second round argument will be on 18 April for Cambodia and 19 April for Thailand. On 28 April 2011 Cambodia submitted to the Court a request for interpretation of the sentence that gave the sovereignty of the millennial temple on 15 June 1962 to Cambodia, but let surrounding land to be discussed by both countries in a bilateral dialog. Thailand argued that there is not a dispute in the interpretation of the 1962 sentence.

Cambodia World Court Preah Vihear

In this 2011 photo a Cambodian police officer, right, stands near the 11th century Hindu Preah Vihear temple, near the disputed border of Cambodia-Thailand. Pic: AP.

The ICJ says in its press release:

(…) Cambodia indicates in its Application the “points in dispute as to the meaning or scope of the judgment” at issue. It states in particular that: “(1) according to Cambodia, the Judgment [rendered by the Court in 1962] is based on the prior existence of an international boundary established and recognized by both States; (2) according to Cambodia, that boundary is defined by the map to which the Court refers on page 21 of its Judgment . . ., a map which enables the Court to find that Cambodia’s sovereignty over the Temple is a direct and automatic consequence of its sovereignty over the territory on which the Temple is situated . . .; (3) according to [Cambodia], Thailand is under an obligation [pursuant to the Judgment] to withdraw any military or other personnel from the vicinity of the Temple on Cambodian territory . . . [T]his is a general and continuing obligation deriving from the statements concerning Cambodia’s territorial sovereignty recognized by the Court in that region.” Cambodia asserts that “Thailand disagrees with all of these points.”

Cambodia requested in its application an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Thai forces from those parts of Cambodian territory situated in the are of the Preah Vihear Temple, a ban on all military activity in the area of the temple by Thai forces and that Thailand refrains from any action that would interfere the rights of Cambodians.

The first public hearing on this Cambodian request were hold on May 30 and 31, 2011 where Thailand claimed that there was not a dispute around the 1962 sentence: ‘it did not dispute the fact that the Temple of Preah Vihear was situated in Cambodian territory, as recognized in the first paragraph of the operative clause of that Judgment,’ said the communicate and continues stating that Thailand ‘claimed furthermore not to dispute the fact that Thailand was under an obligation, pursuant to the second paragraph of the operative clause of the said Judgment, to withdraw its military forces from the Temple or from its vicinity in so far as those forces were situated in Cambodian territory; it asserted that this “instantaneous” obligation had been fully met by Thailand and could not give rise to an interpretative judgment; and Thailand maintained, in consequence, that the Court manifestly lacked jurisdiction “to rule on Cambodia’s Request for interpretation” and, therefore, to indicate the provisional measures requested by the Applicant.’

Cambodia maintained its request for the provisional measures.

Military tensions diminished during the government of  P.M. Yingluck Shinawatra of the Pheu Party. During the last ASEAN Defense Ministers’ summit last week, Tea Banh of Cambodia and Sukumpol Suwanatat of Thailand discussed the border dispute and they agreed on the improving of bilateral relations. ‘There is not need to settle the issue now as peace is the priority,’ said Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh in Siem Reap.  It was a consequence of a joined declaration given by both primer ministers Yingluck Shinawatra and Hun Sen on October 19 that Thai and Cambodian people would be allowed to live in the area without fear.

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Teuk Chhou Zoo, building an animal ‘resort’ in Cambodia Sun, 04 Nov 2012 08:02:55 +0000

Kampot City. Rory and Melita Hunter, an Australian couple and the owners of the Song Saa Private Island in Preah Sihanouk Province, think beyond welcoming international visitors to their stunning resort: they want to give a gift to Cambodians by improving the old Teuk Chhou Zoo of Kampot. I visited the zoo in November 2011 and I was impressed by the poor conditions of the beautiful and endangered animal species. You could feel the stress of the elephants, a tiger, the lions, the eagles caged as though they were canary birds, and chimpanzees exhibited like puppets for the amusement of young Cambodian visitors.

At the left, the unflagging young lion I met in November 2011. At the right, a photo provided by Footprints showing the chimpanzees resting as in an authentic resort. I remember these chimpanzees caged in a small place under the sun and the rain last year.

Fortunately I visited the place at the end of that animal nightmare. The zoo, at the foot of the Cambodian southern elephant ranges, attracted the attention of the Hunter couple, an ironic surname for ecology lovers such as them.

Near the zoo we have some water falls and a new dam in the Kampot River that comes down from the Bokor Mountain to provide water and power to the Kampot region.

We want to convert the zoo in an educational park to educate Cambodians how to appreciate their own environment,‘ said New Zealander Dr. Wayne McCallum in an interview with Asian Correspondent in early October. Dr. McCallum is the director of sustainability at the Song Saa Private Island and leads the team to stabilize the situation of the animals and the general setting at the zoo with Nick Marx of the Wildlife Alliance.

The zoo is owned by senior official Nhim Vanda, who signed an agreement with Rory and Melita Hunter to set an organization, the Footprints Wildlife and Care Organization, WLCO, to administrate and organize the zoo. ‘Footprints intends to provide leadership in wildlife and environment education to Cambodians, to involve them in conservation of their unique wildlife and ecological environment,’ said Dr. McCallum.

Years of conflict and violence in Cambodia at the end of the 20th century victimized also its animals and jungles, leaving behind nearly empty places like the Elephants Range, where the only two elephants are at the Teauk Chhou Zoo. Currently, there are tensions over the indiscriminate deforestation of ecological sanctuaries along with land disputes. The rescue and improvement of a zoo like this one of Kampot keeps a deep meaning, since it has an educational purpose. ‘Only if we understand, can we care; only if we care, we will help; only if we help, shall they be saved’ is a quote by Jane Goodall that inspires this project.

Read more:

  • Adam Miller (2011). The zoo of horrors. The Phnom Penh Post. March 18, 2011. Link retrieved on 4 November 2012.
  • Malcom Holland (2012). We bought a zoo. Australian News. October 6, 2012. Link retrieved on 4 November 2012.
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The last journey of late King Norodom Sihanouk Thu, 18 Oct 2012 14:08:48 +0000

Phnom Penh. The lens of Arjay R.J. Stevens, a German photojournalist based in Phnom Penh, followed the funeral convoy from the airport to the Royal Palace with the body of late King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia. People can visit the remains of the king for three months, before they will be cremated and placed in a gold urn at the Emerald Pagoda, inside the Royal Palace complex. Near a million of persons waited hours on the streets of central Phnom Penh under the sun to greet the funeral convoy on Wednesday afternoon.

King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (12) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (20) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (17) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (18) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (15) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (6) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (3) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (9) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (13) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (1) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (23) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (19) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (21) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (11) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (16) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (22) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (7) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (4) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (14) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (10) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (5) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (8) King Father Norodom Sihanouk body coming back to Cambodia on 17 October 2012 photo by Arjay Stevens (2)

Photos courtesy by Arjay R.J. Stevens (Romantic Cafe).

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Prince Sihanouk’s body returned on Wednesday afternoon Wed, 17 Oct 2012 05:07:48 +0000

The remains of prince Norodom Sihanouk, former king of Cambodia, arrived earlier than scheduled at the Phnom Penh International Airport from China this Wednesday afternoon. The government expects more than 10 thousand people to attend the reception of the coffin, which travels Pochentong Avenue to the Royal Palace, about 9 kilometers (6 miles). Security measures and general indications of how people should behave, wearing white and mourning symbols to show respect during the first contact between Cambodians and the late king’s body, have been broadcast by radio and television since Tuesday morning. The body will remain for three months at the Royal Palace, then will be cremated and put in a gold urn at the Emerald Pagoda, following the last wishes of the King-Father.

King Norodom Sihamoni pays respect to his father, late King Norodom Sihanouk yesterday at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. Photo courtesy TTK & TV5, the Cambodian National Television.

Thousands of persons sitting along the avenue wearing white color, Cambodian flags and portraits of the late king, wait to greet the funeral convoy in direction to the Royal Palace.

Different countries have sent already messages of condolences to Queen-Mother Norodom Monineath, 76, King Norodom Sihamoni, to the government and the Cambodian people.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent his condolences through a spokesman:

‘The Secretary-General expresses his deep condolences to the Royal family, Government and people of Cambodia on the passing of Cambodia’s former monarch, King Norodom Sihanouk. The Secretary-General acknowledges King Sihanouk’s long dedication to his country and his legacy as a unifying national leader who is revered by Cambodians and respected internationally. The Secretary-General also hopes that the legacy of the former King will allow Cambodia to advance the national healing process, including through continued commitment to justice.’

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej released a statement last Monday through his private secretary: ‘The Queen and I have learnt with deepest sorrow of the demise of His Majesty the King Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia‘ and expressed his ‘profound feelings of sadness,’ as quoted by The Nation of Thailand.

Vietnamese top leaders joined statements to send condolences to Cambodia for the death of the former king. ‘Vietnam has lost a great friend, who maintained close ties and given valuable support and fraternal sentiment to the Vietnamese people in the struggle for national independence in the past as well as in the current development of each nation,’ said the letter signed by the Party General Secretary Nguy Phu Trong and other dignitaries from Hanoi.

Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, friend of the late king, sent also a message of condolences to Queen Mother Norodom Monineath last Monday. The message was published in the Chinese Official website in English. Jiang said that Norodom Sihanouk ‘was an outstanding leader of Cambodia, who dedicated his life to Cambodia´s national reconciliation and development, and had made immortal contributions to the realization of peace, stability and prosperity in Cambodia.’

The Department Spokesperson of the US Department of State, Victoria Nuland, said in a communication last Monday that the United States ‘expresses its sympathy on the passing of His Majesty King Father Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia. We extend our condolences to His Majesty King Sihamoni, Her Majesty Queen Mother Norodom Monineath, the entire Royal Family, and those in Cambodia who are mourning this loss.’

Other countries, especially members of the ASEAN community and Asia, sent messages of sympathy to the Cambodian people.

Several organizations inside Cambodia, officials and NGOs, have published message of condolences in different newspapers and online sites, like the Cambodian Catholic Church that scheduled a prayer vigil ‘to pray for the peaceful rest of the soul of our deceased King Father,’ said the press release directed to Cambodian Catholics and signed by Fr. Vincent Senechal, spokesman of Mgr. Olivier Schmitthaeusler, Bishop of Phnom Penh.

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Cambodia prepares for the King-Father’s funeral Tue, 16 Oct 2012 08:27:15 +0000

The body of Prince Norodom Sihanouk, former Cambodian king, will be repatriated on 17th October, said Queen-Mother Norodom Monineath, 76, to Dap News in a report published Monday evening. King-Father Sihanouk wanted to be cremated to follow the long Cambodian tradition, said the Queen, who is the mother of Norodom Sihamoni, current King of the Cambodians.

An official delegation headed by the King and Prime Minister Hun Sen traveled Monday morning to Beijing to proceed with the repatriation of the body to Phnom Penh, where the royal funeral will be held. The Queen-Mother welcomed all Cambodian people to the ceremony. According to the last wishes of the King-Father, his ashes must be put inside a gold urn and placed at the Emerald Pagoda, the religious complex inside the Phnom Penh Royal Palace, near the tomb of other Cambodian kings.

A group of young people in Kep City prepares a provisional altar to honor late King-Father Norodom Sihanoukville, who died 89 on October 15 in Beijing. The government ruled seven days of mourning in the Kingdom starting on 17 October, when the body will be repatriated for the Royal Funeral in Phnom Penh.

Prime Minister Hun Sen declared seven days of mourning in the Kingdom starting on 17 October 2012 and ending on 23 October, during which time the flag should be displayed at half-staff at official buildings, including Cambodian embassies, while avoiding activities that display happiness or indifference to this national event.

The news of ex-king Norodom Sihanouk’s death took time to reach Cambodians, who were celebrating the last day of the Ancestors’ Day (Pchum Ben), that takes Cambodians to their original birth place to make offerings to their dead relatives to the 7th generation. Online newspapers and radio stations were the first to communicate the news from the Chinese hospital where the life of the late leader was extinguished. The Cambodian television channels continued with their normal programs dedicated to the Pchum Ben celebrations along the provinces until Monday morning, showing only a teletext confirming the news: ‘His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, His Majesty the King-Father, His Majesty the Merciful, His Majesty King Preah Norodom Sihanouk passed away on kotboth month, year 2556 of the Buddhist era, that is 15 October 2012 at 1:20 (Phnom Penh time).’ 

In the afternoon the television channels were already showing videos about the King-Father, such as his coronation in 1941, the events of the independence from France in which King Sihanouk played a decisive role, his government as Prime Minister, the Vietnamese War and many other historical events to his second abdication in 2004. There is enough audiovisual material since the 1940s to illustrate modern Cambodian history, thanks precisely to a king who was a supporter of film production. Buddhist monks also appeared on television explaining the importance of the former king to the modern history of Cambodia, the difficulties of his life and his decisions intended for the best of the Cambodian people.

King-Father Norodom Sihanouk became a global trend as well on social networks, mainly Facebook and Twitter. In a country where the digital gap is still one of the lowest in the region, Cambodian Facebookers filled the networks with messages, photos and videos to manifest their grief for their late leader. Several Facebookers put the photo of the former king in their profiles, while organizations and agencies manifested their condolences. ‘King Norodom Sihanouk dies today in the morning! He was not only a great king, he was also a great man, an idealist and a talented filmmaker. His life and also his movies make him unforgettable,’ said Jerry Cornelius on his page.

For most Cambodians under 40 years old, it will be the first time they witness a royal funeral. The last one was in 1960 with the death of king Norodom Suramarit, Sihanouk’s father, more than 50 years ago.

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Prince Norodom Sihanouk, former Cambodian monarch, dies at 89 Mon, 15 Oct 2012 02:18:05 +0000

Various official sources and media have confirmed the death of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in a hospital in Beijing, where he was admitted to emergency but died near 1:20 Cambodian time, according to a statement from deputy prime minister Nhek Bun Chhay to Dap News. The official said that the former king of Cambodia, who was in Beijing for health reasons, was brought to the hospital due to a heart attack, but he died 15 minutes after he was admitted. The prince was 89 and one of the most influential people in the modern history of his country and the region. He was revered as the Father of the Nation, because of his leadership in the cause of independence from the French mandate in 1953.

Norodom Sihanouk came to the throne when he was 19 years old in 1941 and abdicated in favor of his father, King Norodom Suramarit, in 1955 to become Cambodian primer minister until he was deposed by Lon Nol in 1970. After the restitution of the constitutional monarchy in 1993, he became king for a second term. Norodom Sihanouk is probably the only king in the history of humanity that has abdicated twice. The second time was in 2004 in favor of his son, the current Cambodian king Norodom Sihamoni. He held the unique Cambodian title king-father and enjoyed a popular appreciation in his own country and abroad.

He used to travel to China to control his health, which was deteriorating due to cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Early this year the former monarch expressed he wanted to be cremated and his ashes placed at the Phnom Penh Royal Palace.

Norodom Sihanouk

In October 2011, Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk, center, speaks during a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the former monarch's return to his homeland after years of civil war, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Sihanouk, the former Cambodian king who was never far from the center of his country's politics through a half-century of war, genocide and upheaval, has died. He was 89. Pic: AP

He died during the third day of the Pchum Ben, or Ancestors’ Day, in Cambodia, when people pay respect to deceased relatives up to the 7th generations. In an official communication, the government declared that it is talking with the People’s Republic of China to repatriate the body of the prince for the proper State’s funeral in Phnom Penh.
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Cambodian scholar suggests pernicious effects of aid dependence Sat, 13 Oct 2012 01:46:30 +0000

In Southeast Asia, Cambodia is probably one of the most aid dependent countries with 3,000 NGOs registered to the Ministry of Interior by 2011 according to The Phnom Penh Post, without counting on the billions of US dollars poured by donor countries in the different sectors of the country. In a 2002 report of the Council for the Development of Cambodia on NGOs at the time – in 2002 the number of local and international organizations did not reach 1,000 -, the reports stated: ‘NGOs continue to play a major role in supporting the provision of basic social services, often in remote areas and communities, and are present in every province in Cambodia. More importantly, NGOs bring alternative models and approaches to development, emphasizing participation, equity, gender sensitivity and environmental sustainability.’

Cambodian-American political economist Sophal Ear suggests aid dependency has pernicious effects in the Cambodian development. Photo courtesy by Oslo Freedom Forum 2012.

For political economist Sophal Ear, this view is more nuanced. In his book ‘Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermined Democracy‘, published by the Columbia University Press (2012), years of dependency are not showing positive results in the rehabilitation of Cambodia, its democracy and war on poverty.

The Cambodian scholar suggests that international intervention and foreign aid did not stop problems like maternal and child mortality rates and unprecedented corruption.

Sophal Ear, an assistant professor of national security affairs in Monterey, California, accepted an email interview for Asian Correspondent to elaborate his findings, emphasizing that these are his personal views and not those of the US government.

How we can determine that Cambodia is an aid dependent country? How we can prove this thesis?

There are many ways of measuring aid and aid dependence. Aid per capita; aid as percentage of GDP, and I use all these figures in my book, but the one indicator I point to repeatedly in my book is that between 2002 and 2010, for each dollar the Cambodian government spent, it received—on average—more than 94 cents on the dollar in net foreign aid. That’s like me saying to you that for every dollar you spend, I will give almost one dollar.

You link aid dependence with corruption and maternal and child mortality. How do you demonstrate it in the book?

Well, it’s not hard. You look at how much aid the country received over a period of time and how much corruption, maternal and child mortality there has been. You would think that after receiving more aid, maternal mortality for example would drop, but it didn’t. And it’s very disturbing. If you think about it, it’s like saying, I give you all this money for many years and all you give me is more death, worsening human development indicators.

And not just that but horrible corruption (it can’t be much worse, Cambodia is not too far from the bottom ever since it started being rated in the Corruption Perception Index in the mid-2000s) and increasing inequality to boot. And you do all this with really impressive GDP growth numbers (which confirms that GDP growth alone, as a measure of development, is really inadequate) for most of the decade… What are we to think about the role of foreign aid in this case?

There are some countries with a very low level of aid, for example Timor East or Sudan, at least this is the impression. They have also several problems. In their cases, what would be the explanation?

East Timor, where I worked as an Assistant Resident Representative for the United Nations Development Programme in 2002-2003 did not accept loans. They had a policy where they only took grants. I would argue the problems there were more along the lines of unity of nation following independence. Was East Timor already a traditional nation-state when the UN intervened? Was it ready? Up until 2006, the UN certainly thought “job well done”. Well, as we know, the job wasn’t done.

Sudan, well, that country has way more problems than just development, beginning with the Darfur genocide and ending with South Sudan oil revenue sharing and conflict. October 23, 2012 marks 21 years since the Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia; what have we achieved? It’s time to take stock.

Do you make a categorization of aid to Cambodia? I mean, can we talk about ‘good and necessary’ aid and a ‘negative’ aid?

I have an entire chapter about aid in response to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza for example, and in it, my argument is that this ended-up being a pretty awful deal for Cambodia’s farmers (which is just about everybody outside of big cities). Basically, when someone died from the disease, the government went out and culled (killed) poultry. And oh, by the way, there was no compensation for the culled poultry.

Can you imagine what happened to people’s incentives to report? It was like, “why don’t I call you to come over and ruin me financially?” So people didn’t. But yet the whole idea was to get to the animals before you had any dead people, kind of like the canary in the coal mine (canary dead, people should leave the mine). But the opposite happened! People dead, find sick poultry. And what did the donors do? They just wanted to make sure that awful disease did not reach their borders. Farmers be damned. What did the authorities do? No reports of outbreaks in the year before the July 2008 election… how curious. The virus knows how to stay out of Cambodia before the elections so as to not disturb the politics of Cambodia?

What should replace aid? Is it possible to recover the Cambodian economy? What should change?

Here’s one alternative I argue makes sense: how about collecting enough domestic revenues (mostly taxes) to do your own development? As I mentioned earlier, using data from the World Bank, my book shows that from 2002-2010, for every dollar spent by the central government, more than 94 cents of net foreign aid was received. This is not a good formula for owning your own development. This is a prescription for extremely serious aid dependence. If you add both current domestic revenues and estimates of corruption, Cambodia could develop on its own. If anything, foreign aid disrupts the link between the people and their government. The people don’t pay enough taxes (but plenty is stolen from them via corruption), the government doesn’t listen to them (but ends-up ranking as one of the most corrupt countries in the world on the Corruption Perception Index), and what do you have? Pretend democracy.

Here’s another alternative: Exports. Yes, exports. What I mean here is how does a country develop? How did Korea do it? How did Taiwan do it? They exported. Park Chung-Hee, who ruled South Korea with an iron grip from 1962 to 1979, when he was assassinated, had a billboard on the road to the airport that said, roughly, Export or Die. Cambodia needs foreign exchange. It can’t just live by the credo of Aid or Die. I’m not, by the way, condoning Park Chung-Hee’s rule, I’m just saying that if you are going to have some sort of leader for life arrangement, you might as well have the kind of growth that got South Korea to where it is today.

How do you evaluate the situation of exports in Cambodia?

I do not think Cambodia can rely only on garments; it has to diversify. From garments, what about car seats? There is little hope if we cannot produce more and more value-added exports. Cambodia needs these things to grow. Tourism alone cannot carry the economy. We cannot all be busboys and concierges.

According to you, the lack of a tax system can be linked to corruption and aid?

What I mean is that if you were a normal country that collects enough domestic revenues (mostly taxes) you would collect about what Cambodia collects already plus the corruption existing in Cambodia. But because corruption can’t be used for the country to develop, aid is necessary. I’m against aid dependence.

Would you be motivated to work if for every dollar you spent, I gave you nearly a dollar? Would you want to earn your own income? I argue that you wouldn’t  And that’s what has happens in Cambodia. Why try hard to collect taxes and raise domestic revenues when you’ve got a Sugar Daddy in foreign donors?

Why is there no tax system or salary policy (only garment factories have a minimum wage and a very low one)?

There is a tax system, it’s just not designed to collect enough revenues. Why? Because there’s no incentive to do so in the presence of aid.

Do you know that in order for a garment factory to pay its taxes, it cannot bring the money to the tax department? If it did, its representative would spend all day waiting because the tax officials cannot be bothered to count the money. Instead, they have to use intermediaries who have bank accounts setup with the tax department. That costs money. Why should it cost money to pay your taxes? Why make paying taxes complicated? Only because there is no private benefit to paying taxes!

When you are referring to a “salary policy”, I assume you mean a minimum salary policy. Why do you think garment workers (which you say are paid a minimum wage and a very low one) are paid more than many government employees? Because it makes sense for patronage reasons. Not enough to live, but not so little that it becomes completely ridiculous. Garment workers often only eat one egg per day, because they just don’t make enough after sending home money to their families. Do you think government workers are also eating only one egg per day? It’s very simple, as the vice president of Cambodia’s top private university told me in 2008 when I asked whether graduates might become civil servants, “If you look at government salary, unless you plan to be corrupted, you have no future in that.”

What is the position of donor countries before this situation in Cambodia?

They know what is going on, but they turn a blind eye. The rationale is usually that if we don’t help, people will starve. But the truth is more complicated. Oftentimes, there are other reasons to continue working—emoluments to such employment are fantastic—private school education, housing, incredible salaries. If someone makes $10,000 to $15,000 per month and points his finger at a civil servant making $50 per month for corruption, while screaming “Why don’t you live within your means? I live within my means!” Does that make sense?

Why is there no conscience over the resulting situation from a country like US or the European Community?

I am sure there is “conscience” as you put it, but there is also a tragedy of the commons. Who will be the first to say enough is enough. We cannot do it like this anymore?

]]> 1 The Khmer Rouge Trial in September 2012 Sat, 29 Sep 2012 09:43:09 +0000

The most important news from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia this month was, without doubt, the release of Ieng Thirith, 80, known also as the First Lady of the Khmer Rouge Regime. The ruling on 16 September found Thirith unfit to stand trial and released her from provisional detention. The Pol Pot’s sister-in-law and Ieng Sary’s wife must inform the Chamber of the address where she will reside, asking permission for any move, remaining in the Cambodian territory and attending any summon by the Court. Short after her release, prosecutors appealed the decision on the unconditional release condition ruled by the judges.

According to different health reports that the Court used for its decision, Thirith suffers probably from Alzheimer and it would make her unable to understand or participate in the course of the process, going against her human rights if she remains under retention, concluded the judges. The children waited for her mother outside the Chambers and brought her to an unknown place in the capital, however charges for crimes against humanity, Grave Breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and genocide still at place against the defendant. Her husband, also defendant Ieng Sary, 86, is also in a delicate state of health, creating a sense of impatience in those who wait that justice will be brought to the historical blood regime, as the processes seem to be too slow for the elderly top leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Sary has been admitted to the hospital since 7 September for dizziness for blood flow lack to the brain and he remains at the moment in the health center.

Ieng Thirith, whose original name is Khieu Thirith, is the wife of Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary and the sister of Khieu Ponnary, the first wife of Saloth Sar alias Pol Pot, who divorced her in 1979. Ponnary died in 2003 at the house of Thirith in Pailin, one of the last fortress of the Khmer Rouge guerrillas. The first wife of Pol Pot suffered chronic schizophrenia since the very year of the Khmer Rouge taking power in Cambodia in 1975.

The Court ordered that Thirith must not contact witnesses, victims, the media or other defendants, with the exception of her husband Ieng Sary.  Experts like legal adviser for the Documentation Center of Cambodia Anne Heindel said to the media that although the decision is correct, it might be explained correctly to the public.

Norway contributed with 1 million US dollars to the Court

The government of Norway made a substantial contribution to the ECCC or Khmer Rouge Trial this month with about 1 million US dollars to continue the prosecutions of three Khmer Rouge Regime top leaders: former Chairman of the regimen Nuon Chea, former Head of State Khieu Samphan and former Deputy Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary.

In total, Norway has contributed 5 million US dollars to the Court since it was established. Other contributions have come from the European Union, Australia, India, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Japan, United States and others.

The Tribunal suffers a current funding shortfall, according to Kranh Tony, acting director of the office administration, and Rejee Kumra, officer in charge in a joint statement where they thanked the government of Norway for its contribution. According to the ECCC Financial report, the Chambers have spent an estimated of 230.7 million US dollars between 2006 and 2013 included.

The Court ordered declassification of more than 1,700 confidential documents

It is well know that the Khmer Rouge Regime (1975 – 1979) operated in a high level of secrecy that made Cambodia a closed country for the international community. Even those working in the Party were forbidden to investigate or know more than what they could know. Information was a key to dead in the Kampuchea Democratic daily life (or daily death.) This month the Tribunal for the Khmer Rouge ordered that 1,749 documents in Case 001 can go to the public. Records include Democratic Kampuchea documents of forced confessions of victims, biographies, witness statements of in camera hearings and plea letters.

To order this declassification, the Chamber has reviewed more than 12 thousand confidential documents and took the decision by following the Tribunal guidelines that seeks to fulfill the condition of transparency and to honor the victims of the violent regime.

‘In this regard, it has considered that wide dissemination of material concerning the Court’s proceedings would support the ECCC’s mandate to contribute to national reconciliation and provide documentary support to the progressive quest for historical truth,’ says the written statement.

The rest of the classified documents are currently placed in cases 002, 003 and 004, therefore they will remain confidential until those cases are over, explains the Court.

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The boom of the Cambodian tourist industry Fri, 28 Sep 2012 16:09:19 +0000

We are less than four weeks away from the tourist high season in Southeast Asia, and Cambodia is optimistic that it will continue its growing boom as an international destination. The government expects an increase of 15 percent in foreign visitors – about 3 million persons entering the “Kingdom of Wonder, as it is called in the official tourist promotional materials. Gone is the time when Cambodia was viewed as a black stain on the Indochina peninsula, avoided by tourists flying over the mysterious country on flights between Bangkok and Saigon.

A group of Japanese tourists see Angkor Wat in early August 2012.

The tourist development has been a progressive process. In the beginning, foreign visitors came only to Siem Reap Province to see the temples in a quiet town that was then without nightlife. Phnom Penh soon also began to draw crowds, and the city developed its infrastructure and now has many attractions.

Cambodia became in the span of a few years a country for either backpackers or more exclusive visitors. Some of its small main towns began to resemble authentic cities: Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville; casinos were built at its borders as guardians, becoming a direct form of foreign investment and job generators. The natural but largely unexplored Cambodian beaches and islands got the attention of national and foreign investors to create luxury resorts and nightlife venues.

The best part of Cambodia is its people. Many foreigners started to settle in the country, not those of NGOs or workers of international agencies, but the most diverse kind of persons from the five continents, who became especially keen to live in the main Cambodian urban areas. One wonders why a European would want to settle in a country like Cambodia and many would answer that they fall in love with the country, its people, their culture, their way of being.

Every year, between November and April, the number of visitors seems to increase and it becomes the spring time of hotels, restaurants, tuk-tuks, casinos, archaeological sites, tourist agencies and business in general. During the tourist high season (THS) 2011-2012, the Ministry of Tourism reported the entrance of 2.88 million foreigners, first to Siem Reap Province and second to the Cambodian capital. It produced earnings of 1.9 billion US dollars, meaning the 12 % of the GDP.

Just to compare how tourism became one of the leading sectors of the Cambodian economy, 118,183 persons arrived to Cambodia in 1993 – it was the year when a new Cambodian constitution was being written and there was a stagnant economy. The number of entrances doubled in 1995 with 219,680 and it is easy to guess that most of them were humanitarian volunteers and workers. In 2000 we saw the second big increase with 466,365 and we are already at the start of an economic rehabilitation: 2004 with 1,055,202, then 2007 with 2,015,128 and last year with 2,881,862, so we expect more than 3 million this time time around.

During the first quarter of 2012, the Ministry of Tourism reported that most visitors – 51.6% (905,773 persons) – to Cambodia arrived by land and water ways and it is thanks to the improvement of land transport connections with Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. The second way was by plane to the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports (850,879 persons, 48.4 %).

Although many Cambodians prepare for European visitors, in reality it is Vietnam that is the number one provider of tourists for the Kingdom with a share of 21.5 % during the first quarter of this year. The second tourist provider was South Korea (12.9%), followed by China (8.6 %), Laos (5.9%) and Thailand (5.2%), which fluctuates according to the political tensions among the countries. In conclusion, Asians are the first tourists and US citizens made the 6th group of visitors during the first six months of the year (5.2 %), followed by another Japan (4.9%), France (3.4%), Australia (3.3%) and the U.K. (3.3%).

Tourism stimulates the economy, of course, creating hundreds of job positions for the growing young Cambodian population. It includes the development of infrastructures and a more universal mentality as soon as Cambodians meet with people from very far cultures. But we see the construction of hotels and resorts to prepare for foreign visitors, though there is still a lack of development in other conditions in the country. There is still much to do in education – there is a very reduced number of public universities and most of them centered in the capital. Public health attention continues to be poor in a general view and poverty stays out of the look of tourists passing through the wonderful tourism path.

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Are we going to have a Cambodian oil producer? Fri, 28 Sep 2012 10:43:29 +0000

It is likely possible, but not yet. At least it is what we can speculate from the present conditions. Oil production needs high responsibilities, big investments, zero corruption, infrastructure, environment compromises and a new legislation. Cambodia has much to do in all these conditions. It is expected that Chevron will receive a green light from the Cambodian government for a production permit. As gas and oil explorations are made in the off Cambodia’s coast, it adds a new situation: another territorial dispute with Thailand in a sea area of 26,000 square kilometers. As we know by history, the presence of oil and gas in a border territory dispute will bring high level interest of sovereignty. The fact of an oil and gas rich sea platform will heat the dispute if negotiators do not put peace over gain interests on the table. 

We can see this study of Thai Captain Somjade Kongrawd: Thailand and Cambodia Maritime Disputes. He writes in page 5 of the Conclusions:

‘It would also need sufficient knowledge about the area in order that one can know which areas are full of oil and gas or less. However, for the present moment only the oil giants of Chevron, Amoco, British Gas, UNOCAL and BP may have this secret weapon. The clear information on resources would make negotiation much easier and avoid the bad luck which the final boundary decision may bring. Thai may end up in the wrong side of the line.’ – Somjade Kongrawd.

Of course, the wrong side of the line would be that part without gas or oil.

But the Thai problem here is not the only threat to a perspective of Cambodian oil production, something that would be great for a developing economy like Cambodia. Some experts point out another menace, more internal and, probably, more difficult to end if there is not a political will to stop it: administrative corruption. According to Julian Boys, an economic justice researcher in an article to The Guardian (2011), ‘Cambodia must get a fair deal for its natural resources, and the revenues should go towards improving lives of its people,’ he wrote. Boys prevents Cambodians from becoming the same as oil-rich Nigeria ‘where the industry has fueled corruption and environmental catastrophe.’ Nigeria is by sure the most evident case of a fiasco in its oil exploitation, but there are other countries to see like Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela where oil production is used as an political instrument either inside or outside the country. To this, CNN reporter Michael Martinez said about the explosions in the Amuay refinery last August 26 killing 42 person: ‘The state-run oil company that operates the refinery has been hampered by how Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez uses the refineries as ‘a cash cow’ to fund social programs such as building homes for low-income voters, taking funds away from plant improvements,´ he writes citing local analysts.

For the moment, let’s wait the interest of Chevron to develop the Cambodian oil dream next year will be possible and that it will become an opportunity for a more sustainable Cambodian development where all Cambodians can enjoy the revenues of a promissory economy.

See also this Aljazeera report (2007), Cambodia’s new oil wealth, when the issue of Cambodian oil began.

The encroached Cambodian sea territory in the Gulf of Siam.

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Rotavirus, Asian children fatal diarrhea leading cause Thu, 27 Sep 2012 07:59:22 +0000

KEP CITY, CAMBODIA – Rotavirus was first discovered in Melbourne in the 1970s and it has been proven as the main cause of 40-50 % of severe and fatal diarrhea in children under 5, according to Dr. Tony Nelson, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics in the Chinese University of Hong Kong in a Skype interview with Asian Correspondent. The problem is particularly serious in Asia where about half of all rotavirus deaths in children occur in an estimate of 500 kids a day, but Asian countries are delaying the implementation of the vaccine recommended by the Wold Health Organization and the ROTA Council. ‘Only two Asian countries have introduced rotavirus vaccine in their immunology national program, the Philippines and Thailand in a partial level, only in the Sukhothai province,’ said Dr. Nelson, who participated recently in the 10th International Rotavirus Symposium in Bangkok (19-21 September) and the first one made in Asia, to discuss what they have concluded is the primary cause of diarrhea-related illness and death in children.

Mother helping to re-hydrate her child sick with diarrhea. Photo courtesy ©PATH/Deborah Phillips.

The symposium gathered 350 scientific experts from the five continents working in private and public sectors to evaluate the progress and what needs to be done to reduce the global threat of a virus that can be transmitted even if hygienic conditions have been improved. ‘From the late 1990s, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) facilitated the establishment of regional Rotavirus Surveillance Networks to collect this all important disease burden data,‘ said Dr. Nelson. it was the origin of the Asian Rotavirus Surveillance Network, established in February 1999.

Dr. Tony Nelson, professor of pediatrics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The rotavirus is particularly active in developing nations with poor hygienic conditions, but lack of hygienic is not the main reason for the rotavirus to act, explains Dr. Nelson. The severity of rotavirus disease can be reduced with a vaccine, but it needs to be implemented in a national level. In a research made in Cambodia from March 2005 to February 2007 in a national hospital in Phnom Penh by a commission of different experts, from 2,817 children under 5 hospitalized with diarrhea, 1,278 were positive for rotavirus, meaning 56 %. (1)

The Americas are the first regions in the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine and its results are satisfactory,’ said Dr. Nelson, who explains that poor countries can purchase it through the GAVI Alliance for its implementation in order to reduce its cost to reach poorest communities, the most vulnerable to the disease. The vaccine was licensed in Mexico in 2004 and US in 2006 after a long process of trials in the Americas to demonstrate its safety and efficiency in kids.(2) (3) ‘Some ‘early-adopter’ countries (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, and the US) have witnessed approximately 70% fewer hospital admissions due to rotavirus illness and approximately 35% fewer hospital admissions due to diarrhoea of any cause during the first two years of life,’ wrote Dr. Nelson in a post at

About 2.5 billion cases of diarrhea are reported each year among children under five, said a 2009 report by UNICEF and WHO, and more than half of these cases are in Africa and South Asia. Statistics remain almost stable over the past two decades, according to that research. Diarrhea is one of the most common water or food born diseases attacking kids under 5 in Cambodia. According to Dr. Nelson, in 2008 there were an estimated 453 thousand deaths from rotavirus in children under five years ‘making it one of the leading causes of death in this age group,’ he concludes. From that group, 188 thousand deaths were in Asia, meaning that 500 children died every day and mostly in poor countries where access to health care is limited.

Dr. Nelson foresees that 2.4 million child deaths could be prevented by 2030 if more countries introduce the rotavirus vaccine. It is to Asian countries to take the decision, but every day is already too late to prevent children of dying from diseases that can be easily defeated only by a vaccine. We wonder why if the vaccine has been successful in other continents with proven data and reports, Asian countries seem to just ignore it, while their children die of diarrhea.


(1) Batmunkh N, Chhour Y, Ket V, Un V, En R, Kirwood C, Bogdanovic N, Kilgore P. (2009). Hospital-based surveillance for rotavirus diarrhea in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 2005 through February 2007. Elsevier Ltd., 2009.

(2) Ruiz-Palacios GM, Perez-SchaelI, Velazquez FR, Abate H, Breuer T, Clemens SC, et al. (2006) Safety an defficacy of an attenuated vaccine against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis. N Engl J Med 2006; 354(1): 11–22.

(3) Vesikari T, Matson DO, Dennehy P, Van Damme P, Santosham M, Rodriguez Z, etal. (2006) Safety and efficacy of a pentavalent human-bovine (WC3) reassortant rotavirus vaccine. N Engl J Med 2006; 354(1):23–33.


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Tackling sanitation in Cambodia: A key to reduce child mortality Sun, 26 Aug 2012 07:03:09 +0000

To improve hygiene and sanitation in rural Cambodia and Vietnam, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants $10.9M to East Meets West

A lack of sanitation is linked to deceases and child mortality in countries like Cambodia and Vietnam, while causing an economical lost counted in billion of dollars.

KEP CITY, Cambodia — To improve sanitation in a country like Cambodia is not only a condition to reduce child mortality, but it creates a positive impact for development as well. According to East Meets West Foundation, open defecation and unsafe disposal of human waste, result in about 17 thousand deaths per year in Cambodia and Vietnam. Children under the age of 5 made up 90 percent of  victims. In Vietnam, 50% of households lack proper latrines, while Cambodia has a worse situation with 80%. It is also calculated an annual lost of 1.2 billion US for the economics of both nations (see graphic).

Sen Naron, 22, a former Buddhist monk of the Kampot district of Kompung Trach, lives in the Bay Thea village. “It is one of the poorest village of the region,” he said with the attitude of a tourist guide announcing you are in a special place. Bay Thea village has about 200 houses sheltering an approximate number of 1,500 persons.

Sen Naron calculates that about 30 houses have latrines in all the village. Asked why those houses have latrines, he suggests that they are ‘rich families’. Insisting why to have a latrine is to be rich for him, he explains that in those families any of the sons or daughters had gone to study in the capital, they have jobs and came to build a latrine for their families.

Places like Bay Thea village belong to the 80% of Cambodian households where open defecation is a common practice.

“Most of our elders do not worry about having latrines, because they don’t know it and they don’t know how to use one,” concludes Sen Naron. “I calculate the build of a latrine costs US$100, so it is too much for poor families to do,” he says.

“It is our mission to target the poor and to train local NGOs to help communities to implement the program,” Ms. Minh Chau Nguyen, East Meets Country Director, told Asian Correspondent from Hanoi. “The aim is to change behavior in sanitation and hygiene in rural poor communities in both countries. To pass from 31% of houses with latrines in Cambodia to 80% cover in 2015.”

Courtesy East Meets West Foundation. Link retrieved from fact-sheet document in

The program is not new and it has already a good precedent in Vietnam, according to the explanations provided by East Meets West President John Anner by a Skype conversation from Oakland, CA.

“We started with a small scale project in Vietnam in 2007, through the government and the Vietnam Women’s Union,” he said. “In all these year we could reach 18 thousand households. One of our main purposes is to guarantee sustainability in a way that latrines will be used for a long time and will not be abandoned.”

East Meets West Foundation received US $10.9 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to implement and develop this program of sanitation and hygiene practices among the rural poor in Vietnam and Cambodia.

“The grant is the first of its kind from the Gates Foundation to support a results-based approach to sanitation and hygiene aid, which requires an initial investment from recipient families and communes, and then rewards them when results are achieved,” says the Foundation in its website.

They face a mammoth task.

“Our toilet is the forest,” continues Sen Naron from the Bay Thea village in Kampot. “When we have a biological need, we get a stick and we go anywhere.”

In 2011 five children aged 6 to 12 months died in the Bay Thea village, recalls Sen Naron. “They died of high fever and diarrhea.”

Asked if the death of the children could be connected to lack of hygienic practices in the village, Sen Naron said: “Of course, I think so. There are thousands of flies and mosquitoes, rats, we use water from the ground and it might be contaminated, there are viruses everywhere. In the village  diarrhea, fever, raunchily, hives and intestinal parasites are very common… you can see some children with big stomachs, it is all about hygiene,” he concludes.

Lack of sanitation is mostly related to human behavior. Open defecation, lack of infrastructure, and poor disposal of garbage and waste water put at risk public health, with consequences are suffered especially by children and elderly.

Open defecation contaminates underground water, something serious in rural Cambodia which depends on wells for water consumption. But it contaminates also crops and spreads diarrhea, cholera and bilharzia parasite. The main Cambodian diseases related to water are bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid fever, according to 2009 date.

The East Meets West program brings education in proper sanitation and hygiene to poor rural communities and gives opportunities to families to finance the installation of latrines and hand washing devices at their homes, says John Anner. There is also an operation to verify the installation and the family receives a cash rebate after it has been verified. The Foundation through the local government and the women’s union trains latrine builders in the area of action, explains Mr. Anner.

The program in Vietnam continues as well. The goal for 2012 is to reach 3,000 households, says Ms. Minh Chau. “We are in dialogue with the government of Laos to be able to implement this program there by 2013,” she reveals.

Courtesy East Meets Weast Foundation.

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WHO confirms EV71 outbreak Tue, 10 Jul 2012 14:00:39 +0000

‘Alarm or no alarm, that is the question.’

Parents bringing their children to the Kantha Bopha Child Hospital in Phnom Penh this afternoon, most of them in prevention of any possible danger. No other cases and fatalities have been reported so far. Photo: Al Rodas - Phnom Penh, 10 July 2012

Phnom Penh. The city was busy today with the summit of ASEAN foreign ministers to discuss on guidelines for preventing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Tight security on the streets and black diplomatic cars with foreign flags moving fast among bodyguard cars created excitation on the usually chaotic traffic of the royal capital. Hundreds of parents, by the other side, stood in front to the Khanta Bopha Children Hospital along the French Avenue. Police officers were guarding the crowd, controlling its strict row to the popular hospital.

Police officers were apprehensive to give declarations. I approached two and one went away as soon as I asked for the situation. The other, the one that could not escape, told me that the people were bringing their children to be tested and he asked me to get access inside the hospital.

My boy got a little fever. I heard in the radio we must bring the children to this hospital if there were any symptom,’ said Mrs. Makhara, 30, coming from Kandal. ‘They say the symptoms are fever, sore throat, headache… my kid got fever last night and he did not eat too much. I hope he has nothing wrong, but it is better to come,‘ she concludes.

I am very afraid of all those children who died. I don´t want the same to my kid,’ said Ny, 25, coming from Phnom Penh. She said that her girl was not eating too much.

The World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health of Cambodia, confirmed yesterday in a communicate the presence of Enterovirus 71 in many of the tests made by the Institut Pasteur.

‘Based on the latest laboratory results, a significant proportion of the samples tested positive for enterovirus 71 (EV-71), which causes hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD). The EV-71 virus has been known to generally cause severe complications amongst some patients,’ said the report dated 10th July.

The test were negative for H5N1, SARS and Nipah, but some samples were positive in dengue and streptococcus.

WHO and the Ministry of Health through the national media, advise HFMD patients to drink plenty of water.

By other part, WHO officials defended today their due process of alert to the community, according to declarations at the Wall Street Journal. Dr. Beat Richner criticized WHO for its regional warning on what it called ‘unknown disease': ‘[it] was neither professional nor necessary, but causing panic for nothing,’ said Dr. Richner in his communicate of 8th July.

There are not more reported cases and fatalities of this Cambodian outbreak.

Laboratory identified 15 cases of EV71 in Cambodian fever disease 

‘There is not alarm on the level of public health,’ said head of the Kantha Bopha Hospitals

Phnom Penh, 9 JULY 2012. The Institut Pasteur du Cambodge identified 15 out of 24 patients with Enterovirus 71 (EV71), a neurological disease that causes illness of hands, feet and mouth in children, but with a rare outbreak.

Regarding the ‘new disease’ it seems it is more a toxic syndrome. All the kids who died went to ‘private’ practitioners, who usually provide a large amount of medication for a lot of money, resulting in intoxication cases,’ said retired Dr. Philippe Longfils by email Monday morning.Dr. Longfils said that the hypothesis of EV71 was already suggested by Dr.  Beat Richner, the founder of the Pediatric Kantha Bopha Hospital, a medical NGO leading medical attention to impoverished children in Cambodia. Dr. Richner was the first to call the attention on the cases that caused the dead of 56 children younger the 5.

Yes ‘doctors’ have no ethics here,’ concluded Dr. Longfils, a Belgium national, who has been in South East Asia for more than 30 years working in humanitarian expeditions. He suggests that the investigation should no be considered as conclusive and there must be other possibilities.

WHO reported to the media that special attention is also paid to other diseases occurring in the country, including dengue, hand-foot-mouth disease (EV71) and the Chikungunya, a viral illness that reported 1,500 cases in Cambodia between May 2011 and May 2012, according to officials, but then with not fatalities.

There are not reports of more cases since the Ministry of Health gave the alert on 4 July, and the illness seems not to be contagious, but it alarmed hundreds of families with small children that are crowding medical centers, especially in the capital, concern over the health of their kids. Investigation over the responsibility of doctors causing possible intoxication in their patients has not been mentioned or proved so far. No other country of the region has been affected by the outbreak.

‘WHO causing unnecessary panic in Cambodia,’ says Dr. Richner

In a public declaration, Dr. Richner says that  in June he suggested to the Minister of Health the presence of Enterovirus as a causing reason, but also an intoxication ‘by a medication outside’ his five hospitals. He estates that all the 64 cases who have died were treated outside by private clinics before they were brought to Kantha Bopha Hospitals.

Although the Institut Pasteur confirmed the presence of EV71 in many cases, it is needed to investigate the deadly pulmonary complication and see if a toxic factor is also part of the illness, suggests the physician. ‘Why only a very few children infected by Enterovirus 71 are doing this awful destruction of the lungs?’ asks Dr. Richner.

He questions also the way WHO has managed the information:

Unfortunately WHO has given a declaration on July 2nd to Reuters without being clear on the facts being presented on 29th  June in the Ministry of Health by Kantha Bopha to all the officials of Health. WHO was telling whole the world: New mystery killer disease in Cambodia! This was causing unnecessary panic in Cambodia (…) This declaration by WHO, which is not at all involved in this matter, to Reuters on July 2nd was neither professional nor necessary, but causing panic for nothing

Dr. Richner concludes in his statement that there is not alarm on the level of public health.

WHO identified 74 cases of unknown disease in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, 7 July 2012 — The World Health Organization (WHO) said today in a press release that it has identified 74 cases of children, most of them younger than 3, contaminated with an unidentified virus causing fever, respiratory crisis and neurological symptoms. In this first step of the investigation that began three days ago in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of Cambodia, WHO reported that the already 74 studied cases were of children hospitalized from April to 5 July. From these 74 cases, 57 presented the same symptoms and from this group, 56 children died.

Most of the children come from the southern and central provinces of Cambodia and they were referred to the not-for-profit humanitarian and pediatric Kantha Bopha Hospital in the capital that gave the alert to the health authorities at the end of April. Despite all efforts, said the report, many of the children died within 24 hours of admission.

The Institut Pasteur du Cambodge is doing the tests and the samples were found negative for the H5N1 bird flu, the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the Nipah virus and other known diseases.

Diseases used to break out in Cambodia during the rainy season, affecting especially rural areas with limited resources and poor health services. The Cambodian authorities and the media have asked parents to bring their children to medical centers as soon as possible if there are signs of this unidentified virus, while making campaigns of good hygiene practices like washing hands.

Philippines on alert over unidentified Cambodian fever

The Filipino authorities are on alert due to an unidentified Cambodian fever that has killed 56 children, most of them younger than 3. The Department of Health of the Philippines recommended its nationals to suspend any unnecessary trip to Cambodia, reported GMANews.

Dr. Enrique Tayag, National Epidemiology Center’s head, said in his Twitter:

Dr. Tayag, who refers to the illness as ‘Cambodia Respiratory Disease’ (CRD), follows the course of the investigation, posting updates on his Twitter. He said that CRD is presented with elevated white blood cell count. According to the medical experts, too much white blood cell counts (it is also known as leukocytosis), means the presence of an infection or an allergy, among others.

61 children died from unknown disease in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, 4 July 2012. From the 62 children admitted in hospitals in this capital, 61 have died of an unknown disease with respiratory complications and neurological symptoms, reported the Ministry of Health. With technical assistance of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ministry is leading an investigation on the disease, which victims come mostly from the south of Cambodia, though there is not yet a proven pattern. ‘MoH and WHO are currently investigating the cases and possible causes of the disease are being considered but definite identification of the cause and source may take some time,’ declared the Minister of Health of Cambodia, Man Bung Heng. Countries of the region have been already informed by the Cambodian authorities through the International Health Regulations event information system. The Kantha Bopha Hospital was the first to give the alert to the authorities about the unknown disease.

To contact the responsible for this story: Albeiro Rodas at, Twitter/Facebook/G+/Skype: Albeiro Rodas or Albeiror24

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Young Cambodians try out for technical education Wed, 17 Aug 2011 16:06:09 +0000

Girls filling application forms at Don Bosco technical school in Sihanoukville on August 15.

Sihanoukville. The week began in the Cambodian sea port with a rainy Monday that did not stop the arrival of several families from nearby regions to the only technical school for unprivileged youth in the southern provinces of the Kingdom. During that first day of interviews, about 500 teenagers and young adults presented their documents to apply for any of the nine technical section offers by the Don Bosco organization in the port. It meant an increase of 100 percent from last year.

“In August 2010 we made 1,000 interviews to choose only 300 new students for the technical sections. This year, in only two of the first days of the interviews, we already reached 1,000,” said Fr. John Visser, 78, Rector of the Don Bosco Technical School, who will receive the Medal of the Order of Orange from the hands of Queen Beatriz of the Netherlands on August 31 for his technical schools in Thailand and Cambodia.

The technical school was built in 1997, when Sihanoukville was a modest town around the only deep sea port in Cambodia. Set up with the purpose of providing technical skills to disadvantaged young people, the NGO wanted to open opportunities for teenagers and young people coming from impoverished areas of Sihanoukville, Koh Kong, Kompot and Takeo. Half of the students come from Takeo and Kompot, two rural provinces bordering Vietnam where young people find few options of further education. The other half of the 700 students come from Sihanoukville, Kompung Speu and Kandal, while a minor group is a gathering of young people from provinces as far as Kompung Thom, Kompung Cham, Battambang, Prey Veng and Pailin.

“I want to study electricity, because we need electricity in my province. Electricity means development… no electricity, no development,” replied Chalak Lon, 21, one of the first four members of the Khmer Krung indigenous of Ratanakiri, who traveled all the Tuesday to try in Don Bosco Sihanoukville.

The city of contrasts

Sihanoukville is a place of big contrasts. This year it was listed among one of the most beautiful bays of the planet by the Bay’s of the World Club. Its Autonomous Port is considered the 5th most efficient ports of Asia by the Benchmarking the Efficiency of Asian Container Ports report, while it is an object of huge development projects of tourism, commerce and foreign investment. Recently, its Snake Island was connected to mainland by the Techo Morakot Bridge that will convert the area in a major development and resort. As for tourism, its Ream National Park, natural beaches, coral islands and hills offer several attractions for national and international visitors.

But at the same time, the port city is gaining a fame of sexual tourism spot where children are at risk. In a recent report by The Phnom Penh Post about children working on the Sihanoukville beaches, Mrs. Maggie Eno, the creator of the M’lop Tabang organization for the protection of street children and children under risk, said that it is estimated that the number of children selling on the beach has tripled over the last two years, from 2,000 to about 3,000. This situation put them at risk of prostitution, because they are not attending school and they are not learning other thing out of selling and begging. Although the local government says that there is a ban on children working on the beaches, it is not really enforced, while visitors continue buying and giving money to child beggars, a practice that only worsen their lives.

Education at the port

The city is also the place of some universities, all private, with fees of 720,000 riels per semester (180 US dollars), a cost that a middle Cambodian family cannot afford with minimum wages of 256,200 riels (64 US dollars.) It is to say that one of the most important Cambodian cities, with an international projection, has not a single public university or polytechnic for its youth. The private universities, by their part, offer faculties such as business administration, Information Technology and English as main subjects, putting in evidence a hurry for business topics, while almost ignoring social areas. None about environment in a country with several national parks. None about archaeology, in a country with valuable ancient treasurers. None about such things like oceanography or biology, in a city that dreams to live from the sea. None about anthropology, psychology, art, history… Most of these are based in Phnom Penh.

It is understood why more than 1,000 youth from the southern provinces of Cambodia come to Don Bosco this week. As it is a Non-for-profit organization, depending on international donors, there is not place for all, as it is expected.

‘We choose about 350 new students every year. It is 700 students in sections like mechanic, electricity, automotive, welding, secretarial, web development, audiovisual, hotel management, culinary… We cannot take more than that, so we have to choose. For this reason we do the interviews that have the goal to select those who are really poor or orphans,’ explained Mr. Ouch Sambo, manager of the social communication section.

According with the 2010-2011 statistics of the technical school, the 80 percent of students come from rural areas, especially Kompot, Takeo and Preip Nub. 60 percent comes from big families and 50 are orphan or abandoned. The 2010 report of the school shows that almost 100 percent of students who finished that year, were engaged in the private and official sector, while 70 percent is working in what they studied at the technical school.

‘The idea is that in two years, the students learn a practical skill in order to have better opportunities in getting a job. Then they are encouraged to continue in superior education after they are engaged. Unfortunately, the best public universities are in Phnom Penh, but some past pupils do a big sacrifice in paying private universities,’ said Heng Lay, a Don Bosco IT teacher, who is also past pupils of the same institution and finished his bachelor degree in languages in a private university in Sihanoukville.

Other provinces of Cambodia have even less opportunities than Sihanoukville for a superior education affordable for young people from poor and middle income families. This week, the first members of the Krung indigenous ethnic of the northern Ratanakiri province, came to apply to Don Bosco, precisely in Sihanoukville, at the other side of the country:

‘There is not a university or something similar in Ratanakiri. If you want to study after 12th grade, you have to go to Phnom Penh,’ said Saren Hin, 22, during his interview applying for web development.

Technical education is, without doubt, a contribution for the development of a country like Cambodia for one part, but also a way to integrate the growing number of young people, especially from rural areas and poor city suburbs. It prevents the joining of vulnerable young people in social evils like prostitution and crime, while it is a way to fight poverty. But it needs the participation of the private and public sector also. Relying in foreign donors is important, but it has also its weakness, something that can be demonstrated in a time of global financial crisis. During a recession, industrialized nations cut for example jobs. If they do such with their own nationals, what can be expected for international aid.

It is good that companies and organizations engage students from technical schools like the ones of Don Bosco, but they should put more to guarantee that the schools can survive and even increase their capacity, while creating new technical schools and educational organizations in a country that dreams with development.

This Thursday is the last day of interviews. About 1,500 teenagers and young people are expected to do their exam. 1,250 of them, most of them just finished 12th grade, will not be accepted. They will, by sure, go to look opportunities in Phnom Penh.

‘If I don’t pass the exam in Don Bosco, I will go to Phnom Penh to look anything to do. I don’t know what, but I cannot go to Kompot again, because there’s not job,’ concluded Socheat, 19.

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Cambodia crime sites’ names released to public Thu, 11 Aug 2011 05:01:21 +0000

Phnom Penh. Co-Investigating judges, You Bungleng and Siegfried Blung, released the names of the crime sites under current investigation in the Case 004 of the UN-Cambodian Tribunal for prosecutions of the top surviving leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979) and the most responsible for atrocities. The statements that appeared on the official website of the Tribunal on Tuesday followed the request by International Prosecutor Andrew Cayley to issue a public statement by 5 August 2011 “describing the crimes and offences under investigation in Case 004.”

Previously, Khmer Rouge victims complained that it was not possible to file as civil parties if they did not know the names of the sites.

Cases 003 and 004 were introduced in September 2009 by the International Co-Prosecutor requesting to initiate the investigation of five additional suspected persons on atrocities during the Khmer Rouge regime. Case 003 was closed last April by the Co-Investigating Judges concluding that the suspected persons were not under the Tribunal jurisdiction.

The Co-Investigating Judges say in their statement that they did not notify the public of the crime sites, because there are serious doubts that the suspects are ‘most responsible’ for crime atrocities, according to the jurisdiction requirement of Article 002 in the competence chapter of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia:

‘Extraordinary Chambers shall be established in the existing court structure, namely the trial court and the supreme court to bring to trial senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible for the crimes and serious violations of Cambodian laws related to crimes, international humanitarian law and custom, and international conventions recognized by Cambodia, that were committed during the period from 17 April 1975 to 6 January 1979. Senior leaders of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible for the above acts are hereinafter designated as “Suspects”.’

Mr You Bungleng and Mr Siegfried Blung said also that “it would be inappropriate to encourage civil party applications further to the 200 already received in this case, as this could raise expectations which might not be met later on.”

Serious doubts whether the suspects are ‘most responsible

The Co-Investigating Judges stated also that there are serious doubts whether the suspects are ‘most responsible.’ It seems like a prediction of what would be the outcome of their own researches. Any judicial investigation assumes that a suspect can be either responsible or innocent. This is the task of the judge to reach the most objective conclusion.

Confronting the request of Mr. Andrew Cayley and the statement of the Co-Investigating Judges, you can feel a different perspective of investigation. For Mr. Cayley, the request to publish the site crimes has the purpose to ensure that victims have a reasonable opportunity to file civil party applications. However, the Co-Investigating Judges said in the statement that ‘it would be inappropriate to encourage civil party applications further to the 200 already received in this case. They said also that it could raise expectations which might not be met later on.

Asking Mr. Cayley by email if he thinks that this declaration of the Co-Investigating Judges is already an advance that not more civil parties will be accepted, he said to

I think that is linked to the indication by the judges that these individuals may not be the most responsible and thus not within the court’s jurisdiction of trying those persons who were either senior or most responsible.

Mr. Andrew Cayley directs us to the comments of Ann Heindel, the legal adviser of the Cambodian Documentary Center in the Phnom Penh Post on 9 August. For Mrs. Ann Heindel, that statement of ‘serious doubts’ about the suspects responsibility on Case 004, raised alarm among observers. ‘Any decision by the judges that the suspects were outside the court’s jurisdiction would be viewed as “political”,‘ said Mrs. Heindel to the newspaper and she suggested that ‘such a ruling could lead to blatant inconsistencies with the court’s own jurisprudence.’

If suspects would be declared outside the jurisdiction of the Court in Case 004, it could force the appeal of Kaing Guek Eav (Case 001), the director of Tuol Sleng torture and execution center, who argued that his case does not fall withing the court’s jurisdiction as one of the ‘most responsible.’ Mrs. Ann Heidel concludes that ‘It would be unfathomable for the [Supreme Court] Chamber to find that Duch falls within the jurisdiction of the court as one who is most responsible for the crimes of the KR era and the co-investigative judges to use the same criteria to find that the suspects in Case 004 do not.

The Kampuchea Democratic political division

During the Khmer Rouge regime, the Cambodian provinces were replaced by seven zones: Central (Kompong Thom and the west part of Kompong Cham); East (the east of Kompung Cham, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng); North (the west part of Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey); Northeast (the east part of Sting Treng, Ratanakiri and Mondolkiri); Southwest (Kandal, Takeo and Kompot), West (Kompung Chhnang, Kompong Speu, Koh Kong and Sihanoukville); and Northwest (Pursat, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey.)

The following is the list of crime sites under investigation. The victims wishing to apply as civil parties were invited to contact the ECCC Victims Support Section. The Co-Judges said also that in the case other crime sites will be included in the investigation, they will be notified to the public. They also prevented the Co-Prosecutors as not having legal standing to inform the public of other crime sites.

Zone Current province Detail Location
1 Central Zone Kampong Cham Security Centre Wat O Trau Kuon in Peam Chi Kong Commune, Kang Meas District.
2 Security Centre Wat Batheay in Batheay Commune, Batheay District.
3 Security Centre Met Sop (Kor) in Kor Commune, Prey Chhor District.
4 Security Centre WatPhnom Pros in Krola and Ampil Communes, Kampong Siem District.
5 Execution Site Kok Pring in Vihear Thom Commune, Kampong Siem District.
6 Security Centre Chamkar Svay Chanty in Svay Teap Commune, Chamkar Leu District.
7 Dam Forced Labour Site Anglong Chrey in Prey Chhor District.
8 Genocide against Cham People
9 Central Zone Kampong Thom Security Centre Wat Srange in Tbeng Commune, Kampong Svay District.
10 Prison and Execution Site Tuol Ta Phlong in Kampong Chen Cheung Commune, Stung District.
11 Security Centre Wat Kandal in Chror Neang Commune, Baray District.
12 Security Centre Wat Baray Chan Dek in Balaing Commune, Baray District.
13 Purges
14 Nord-West Pursat Prison No. 8 Sya Commune, Kandieng District.
15 Execution Site Tuol Pochrey in Sre Sdok Commune, Kandieng District.
16 Nord-West Battambang Security Center Wat Kirirom in Phnom Sampov Commune, Banan district.
Execution Site Banteay O Ta Krey in Treng Commune, Ratanak Mondul District.
17 Security Centre Banteay Treng in Treng Commune, Ratanak Mondul District.
18 Security Centre Wat Thoamayutt in Moung Ruessei District.
19 Security Centre Wat Kandal in the center of Battambang City.
20 Security Centre Wat Samdech in Ta Pon Commune, Sangke District
21 Security Centre Wat Po Laingka in Kampong Prieng Commune, Sangke District.
22 Nord-West Banteay Meanchey Security Centre Wat Banteay Neang in Banteay Neang Commune, Mongkol Borei District.
23 Execution Site La-Ang Phnom Kuoy Yum in O Prasat Commune, Mongkol Borei District.
24 Execution Site Wat Chamkar Khnol in O Ombel Commune, Sisophon District.
25 Security Centre Phnom Trayoung in Preah Net Preah District
26 Security Centre Phum Chakrey in Choup Commune, Preah Net Preah District.
27 Security Centre Wat Preah Net Preah & Chamkar Ta Ling.
28 Trapeang Thma Dam in Por Char Commune, Phnom Srok District.
29 Spean Spreng & Prey Roneam Dam in Preah Net Preah District.
30 South-West Takeo Security Centre Wat Pratheat in Kok Prech Commune, Kirivong District.

Security centers: 19. Execution sites: 6. Purges: 2. Dam forced labor sites: 3. Prison: 2. Genocides: 1.

Victims Support Section, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, National Road 4, Chaom Chau, Dangkao, PO Box 71, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Town office: House No. 6A, Street 21, Sangkat Tonle Basac I, Khan Chamcarmon, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Phone: 023 214 291; or 097 742 4218 (helpline). The office is open Monday to Friday except on public holidays.

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Cambodia: A stop for the Intra-Asia Railway Fri, 22 Jul 2011 15:22:27 +0000

The abandoned Sihanoukville rail station waits for the train

Sihanoukville. Today’s generation know their railway and in some regions like in Battambang, the Bamboo Railway has become a very popular way of transport. [1 journeyman] But as for the train, it already seems something of the past. The main Cambodian roads are almost finished and cars can access these to the most distant provinces. You can travel from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City by bus – 746.28 kilometers in less than 20 hours, crossing the well-maintained Cambodian roads. But the return of the Cambodian train seems near, at least as it is planned by the intra-Asian railway – a project that intents to connect Singapore with China going through the territories of Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.The project is part of the ambitious Trans-Asian Railway Network [2] that would connect the huge continent with Europe.

Certainly, it would be of great benefit for countries, especially in rural areas where roads are less than muddy paths. Currently, Cambodia is rescuing its old railway, built during colonial times, but destroyed by long years of armed conflict and territorial divisions. The Asian Development Bank loaned Cambodia USD $73 million to reestablish the train, including a connection between the capital and the sea port of Sihanoukville. As a colony – that ended in 1953 – it was possible travel by train from Phnom Penh to Singapore.

But the intra-Asian railway in Cambodia needs to build a 257 kilometers missing segment between Cambodia and Vietnam, work that would cost USD $686 million, according to the Chinese Third Railway Survey and Design Institute study that was announced last Wednesday; Beijing has offered to contribute USD $500 million towards this effort. The missing segment, mostly in the Khmer territory, includes the Cambodian provinces of Kampong Speu and Kratie and the Vietnamese province of Binh Phuoc.

Segment of the Trans Asian Network showing the Cambodian-Vietnamese missing fragment that needs to be built

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Drug traffickers use Bogotá – Sao Paolo – Dubai – Guangzhou route, said Colombian consul in Beijing Thu, 21 Jul 2011 16:23:17 +0000

Harold Carrillo Sánchez, a poor taxi driver of Cali, Colombia, faces death penalty in Beijing for drug trafficking. His wife and three teens have one year already trying to get in touch with him.

Bogotá. The Colombian consul in Beijing, Jaifa Mezher, said to Caracol Radio that drug traffickers between the Latin American and the Asian country use the route Bogotá – Sao Paolo – Dubai – Guangzhou. ‘I do not have information about a net of drug dealers using Colombians, but that route does not require visa [for Colombians],’ said the official after she visited Guillermo Álvarez, one of the Colombians sentenced to death penalty for drug trafficking in China.

Mezher said also that Álvarez is sorry for his crime and that he accepted to transport drugs to China due to poverty. He was sentenced by a court of Beijing to death penalty, but it is conditioned on good behavior and previous crime records in Colombia. He is in a prison in Beijing. He sent a message to the Colombians not to fall in the manipulation of the drug dealers, mentioned the consulate official. ‘I am not a bad man, but I did it because I was desperate,’ concluded Álvarez through Mezher, who added that he has faith in God and the best disposition to change that sentence.

Harod Carillo, a taxi driver from Cali that was arrested by the Chinese authorities for carrying 3 kilos of drugs, is jailed in the southern Province of Guandong and another official from the Colombian consulate will meet him next week, said Mezher to the Colombian radio. The family of Carrillo, among them three teens from an impoverished suburb of the industrial city of Cali, is trying to get in contact with him for more than a year, but it has been impossible.

Death penalty for drug dealers

The Minister of Justice of Colombia, Germán Vargas, declared that although he is not agree with death penalty, Colombians must respect the laws of the countries they stay and submit to their rules.

On December 2009 a British man from London, Akmal Shaikh, 53, and father of three, was executed for drug smuggling, although he denied any wrong doing and his family declared that he was mentally ill. At the time, the Chinese Embassy in England reported that Shaikh’s rights ‘were properly respected and guaranteed, while the ‘British concerns were duly noted and taken into consideration.’ The execution was condemned by then British Primer Minister Gordon Brown, who says that he was concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken. [1, bbc] The Chinese Embassy stated that the amount of heroin that Akmal Shaikh brought into China was 4,030g, ‘enough to cause 26,800 deaths, threatening numerous families.’ According to the Chinese law, 50g of heroin is the threshold for death penalty.

On April 2010 four Japanese citizens were executed for drug smuggling. Mitsunobu Akano, 64, Teruo Takeda, 67, Hironoru Ukai, 48 and Katsuo Mori, 67. The three last were working together to smuggle drugs into the Chinese territory, but they were arrested in different airports in Liaoning. [2, japantimes]. Japanese officials at the time considered that death penalty was too harsh for that crime. Japan has also death penalty, but not for drug smuggling.

Colombian officials have been less overwhelming than Japan and England with China in the case. It reduces its role to ask clemency for the two Colombians, but they keep a more respectful role of respect for the Chinese judiciary.

On the other hand, Colombians start to react on the issue, especially through forums on the Internet:

A commentator in the Caracol Radio website, who signed as El Justiciero (The Righteous), says that Colombia should support the Chinese government in order to fulfill the sentence as soon as possible, because the drug dealers threat the youth. Another anonymous concludes that death penalty for drug dealers is a good instrument to fight drugs, because criminals will think twice before wrong doing.

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