Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sonando Denied Bail; Court Cites ‘Disorder’

By and  
The Cambodia Daily

The Court of Appeal on Friday denied bail to imprisoned radio station owner and government critic Mam Sonando during a rapid-fire hearing, while hundreds of Mr. Sonando’s supporters marched to the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Phnom Penh to appeal for help from the U.N. envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi.
Imprisoned radio station owner Mam Sonando smiles as he arrives at the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh on Friday. The court denied the 72-year-old’s bail request, claiming that the popular radio broadcaster could pressure witnesses and cause public disorder. (Siv Channa)

The 72-year-old radio station owner is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence for his alleged involvement in stirring up a so-called uprising in Kratie province in May, a charge that has been widely derided as politically motivated.

“The court does not agree to release Mam Sonando, 72, on bail,” presiding Judge Khun Leang Meng said at the end of the 40-minute session.

“The court is afraid that he will be able to put pressure on witnesses and cause public disorder,” Judge Leang Meng said by way of an explanation for his decision to deny bail.

Hean Rith, the Appeal Court’s prosecutor, said that because Mr. Sonando has dual nationality—Cambodian and French—he should not be released on bail because he might flee to France.

Mr. Sonando—who has faced a host of health problems since he was jailed in July—reiterated his innocence to the judges during his brief hearing, pointing out, once again, that he was not even in the country when the so-called uprising took place.

“This case occurred while I was in France and I don’t know what happened,” Mr. Sonando told the court. “If I did wrong, I would not have returned to Cambodia,” he said.

“I have been imprisoned for five months and for each month, I have lost a kilogram,” he added.
Mr. Sonando’s lawyer, Sar Sovann, appealed to the court to consider house arrest for his elderly client, adding that the court could also impose a gag order on the popular radio stationer owner.

“Please release him on bail, even if he is not allowed to go outside his house or to meet journalists,” Mr. Sovann said.

Both he and Mr. Sonando’s wife said they would now appeal to the Supreme Court.

Outside the Court of Appeal, more than 300 supporters—dressed in T-shirts and hats bearing Mr. Sonando’s face—protested for his release. When they heard that he was denied bail, several burst into tears.
Sim Lay, 53, said that she has lost hope in the judicial system.

“I am very angry with the court denying Mam Sonando bail, but this result will make me stronger in my protests,” Ms. Lay said, speaking between sobs.

After Mr. Sonando was driven back to Prey Sar prison, his supporters marched to the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Street 302—with hundreds of police and military police officers tailing them—to appeal for help from Surya Subedi, the human rights envoy to Cambodia.

Shortly after, Mr. Subedi arrived at the office and apologized to the hundreds-strong crowd in the street for not being able to attend Mr. Sonando’s hearing in person. The decision of the Appeal Court, Mr. Subedi said, was questionable.

“The decision made by the court this morning is puzzling to me. At his age and health, I would have expected that the court would grant him bail,” Mr. Subedi said, using a loudspeaker to address the crowd gathered outside the U.N. office.

Mr. Subedi visited Mr. Sonando in prison on Wednesday and spent an hour talking to him about his case and his conditions in jail.

Human rights groups also expressed disappointment with the decision to deny bail and said that the court’s stated reasons were “baseless.”

“[B]y refusing Mam Sonando bail and continuing the detention of the [72-year-old ] journalist and human rights defender, the judicial system showed itself to be politically pliant,” local rights group Adhoc said in a statement.

“CHRAC [The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee] is of the view that [the decision] lacks legal reasoning in failing to consider the submissions from Mr. Sonando’s lawyer,” the group said a statement.
“We are concerned about the political interference with the judicial ruling of this case,” CHRAC added.

In Garment Sector, a Labor Movement Divided

By and - December 16, 2012 
The Cambodia Daily

There was so much noise blasting from the loudspeakers that the occasional rallying cry from striking workers at the demonstration in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district last week could hardly be heard.
One 2-meter high stack of amplifiers had been set up outside the Nex-T factory and was blaring directives of union leaders from the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU), encouraging the 300 workers to keep striking.

Coming from another two large loudspeakers attached to the factory wall was an even louder broadcast from a representative of the Cambodian Labor Union Federation (CLUF), a CPP-aligned union, urging the workers to go back to work.

“We [management and workers] are like husband and wife,” said the CLUF representative over the loudspeakers. “We should work together. You should consider this—if you don’t work, you won’t get paid and you will lose your attendance bonus.”

The strikers were supporting two CCAWDU representatives who say they were ousted from the factory for trying to organize a CCAWDU-affiliated union.

“The CLUF does not understand what a union is,” came the response from the CCAWDU loudspeakers. “Why do they fight against us? When there is oppression, we have to fight against it.”

The opposing interests of the CCAWDU and CLUF-affiliated unions at Nex-T act as a metaphor for just how splintered Cambodia’s labor movement has become, with most factories giving preferential treatment to unions with close ties to the CPP, labor experts say.

Today, there are more than 600 unions operating in Cambodia for a workforce of just 300,000 garment workers. That compares to just 60 unions present in the country in 2010.

Part of the reason for this is that Cambodia’s trade union law places no limitations on the number of unions allowed to register in the country or operate in a given factory. What’s more, only 20 workers are needed in order to apply for a union license.

But there are other reasons why Cambodia’s labor movement has become so fractured.

Ath Thun, president of CCAWDU, said the reason for the myriad of unions is twofold: Union leaders are given financial incentives, and workers are urged to create unions to draw support away from groups affiliated with the CCAWDU—the only truly independent union body in the country.
“Factories organize and support their own unions,” he said. “They pay their union leaders monthly money under the table.”

Ken Loo, secretary-general of GMAC, said that “management supported” unions do exist, but that the splintering of the labor movement was also due to legal protections granted to workers who become union officials.

“The multiplicity of unions is because the office holders are protected under the law. So there is an incentive for any worker to be elected as a union leader, be-cause then in a way he has very high job security,” he said.

Whatever the reason for the divisions inside the labor movement, the more than 60 union confederations are principally divided into two camps: CPP-aligned confederations and independent ones.

According to Dave Welsh, country program director for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), CCAWDU is the only labor confederation in the garment sector that could be considered independent by international standards.

“The unions are fractured mainly along political lines,” said Mr. Welsh, with the wide majority of the garment sector unions in step with the ruling CPP.

The country’s first labor union, the Free Trade Union, has had close ties to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party since its launch in 1996.

But CCAWDU “has no outright political affiliation, certainly with the governing party,” said Mr. Welsh.
Mr. Thun at CCAWDU said that most CPP-affiliated unions are created just to support factory management. “Pro-government unions are mostly the pro-factory unions. They don’t only work for workers, but for the companies and the government,” he said.

Chun Mun Thal, the leader of the government-aligned Cambodian Union Federation, said that siding with the CPP was a pragmatic decision to strengthen the position of his union.

“When you work with trade unions, you need to be involved with politics,” said Mr. Mun Thal. “We’re CPP because Prime Minister Hun Sen helps us in negotiations.”

“They [CPP-aligned unions] are not a force for evil,” said Mr. Welsh. “But if you’re viewing trade unions as an independent civil society body that isn’t automatically going to be at the behest of the government whether financially or in terms of policy, that’s an issue.”

Mr. Loo said, however, that a union with political affiliations could still improve the lot of workers in the country.

Factory management paying union leaders to maintain industrial relations, he said, does not create a conflict of interest, but rather an “early warning system” that allows both parties to avoid disputes that might lead to a strike.

“Every single union would have a political agenda behind it. But to me, when it comes to politics, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Whether you can be, or should be, defined as a trade union, lies simply on the question: Are you fighting for workers?”

The U.S.’ largest labor group, for example, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, has historical ties with the U.S. Democratic Party, Mr. Loo noted.

For Mr. Welsh, the crucial question is not one of what party a union supports, but the influence of the party in determining what position that union will take on policy matters.

“The unions that are affiliated with the government…rarely won’t toe the line that is put forth by the government,” said Mr. Welsh.

This was clearly seen in 2010 when tens of thousands of garment factory workers belonging to unions across the political spectrum turned out demanding a minimum wage of $93, a $40 raise on what was then a minimum wage of $53.

Soon after the demonstrations began in July, a tripartite group made up of seven labor confederation leaders, seven factory representatives and 14 government representatives that make policy recommendations to the government, met with Labor Minister Vong Soth.

Mr. Soth proposed a $5 in-crease, which then went to a vote. The 21 government and factory representatives were unanimous in their approval of the raise. The seven union chiefs voted 5 to 2 in favor of the new proposal, and Mr. Thun and Morn Nhim, president of the National Labor Union Federation, voted against the suggestion.

The $5 increase was officially endorsed by the Labor Advisory Committee, and Mr. Soth later announced that the decision would take effect in August 2010.

There are more than 300,000 workers employed in Cambodia’s garment sector, and about 80 percent of them are unionized, according to Mr. Welsh.

While critics say CPP-affiliated unions are more likely to act on the behalf of factory management, Sam Aun, who heads CLUF and also works as a CPP official at the Council of Ministers, said his union was not influenced by the CPP.

“There is no conflict of interest. In negotiations, I only represent the workers and the un-ions,” said Mr. Aun, who confirmed he works at the Council of Ministers but refused to give his position.

However, on matters of policy, Mr. Aun has very publicly walked the government and factory line.
In August 2010, following general strikes over the minimum wage, Mr. Aun appeared on the state-owned television channel TVK and appealed to the government to take “serious action” against those who continued to oppose the minimum wage decision through strikes.

At the Nex-T factory on Thursday, workers left the picket lines after agreeing to accept the offer from management to return to work until the Arbitration Council makes a decision on whether management discriminated against the two workers for their union-building activities.

Management also promised to pay striking workers 50 percent of their salaries for the days they did not work. Representatives for the workers said they took the deal because they were running out of money to eat and would not be able to pay rent.

Factory manager Chea Samnang continued to insist last week that the two CCAWDU representatives were fired for poor work performance, but also said that she warned them multiple times to stop trying to organize an affiliate union at the factory.

“We already have a union at our factory,” she said. “That should be enough for our workers.”

Monday, December 10, 2012

Labour crisis troubles Cambodian garment industry

December 10, 2012 (Cambodia)

Labour shortage stirred by factors like migration of workers, poor work conditions and good opportunities in other sectors continue to hinder the Cambodian garment industry, according to industry experts.
As reported in The Phnom Penh Post, Ken Loo, Secretary General of the Garment Manufacturer’s Association in Cambodia said apparel units in Phnom Penh are enduring severe labour scarcity.
National Co-ordinator of the International Labour Organization in Cambodia, Sophorn Tun said garment factories do not have enough workers to operate at full capacity to meet production demands. This is because while huge investments are coming to Cambodia, the job market has become diverse as workers get to choose from the various job opportunities in several sectors. 
Moreover, several workers, including those from Cambodian garment industry have migrated to Thailand, as that country has recently implemented a hike in minimum wages. This has led to a situation where a number of factories are approaching the National Employment Agency (NEA) to requisite their help in finding workers.
Hay Hunleng, Advisor at NEA, said the clothing companies and factories associated with NEA were seeking around 3,720 workers and NEA has helped them to procure 1,439 workers. However, he said the apparel industry still needs many more workers.
Head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Centre Moeun Tola said factories are advertising vacancies by putting posters on factory walls. As workers continue to shift to another industry or to other countries like Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand, Cambodia’s garment industry cannot expect to boost its productivity. If the productivity remains low, it will ultimately impact the sector’s competitiveness, he said.
Labour dearth faced by the Cambodian apparel industry, which has high export potential, will certainly have an impact on the nation’s economy, David Welsh, Country Director of the American Center for Labor Solidarity, said.
According to the Ministry of Commerce data, Cambodia’s textile and garment exports for the first three quarters of the current year surged to US$ 3.44 billion, 10 percent higher than US$ 3.13 billion worth of exports made during the corresponding period of last year.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

Anti-China protests: Vietnam's turn

In the recent wave of anti-Japan protests in China, we've wondered how much of it was genuinely spontaneous and how much (contrary to official appearances) state-instrumented. The signals are even harder to read in Vietnam, where several were actually arrested in anti-China protests Dec. 8. At issue is the contested South China Sea and its oilfields, a question that has (paradoxically, for those who can remember back just to the 1960s) caused Vietnam to tilt to the US in the New Cold War with China. Has the regime's anti-China propaganda (and exploitation of hopes for an oil bonanza to lift the nation out of poverty) created something now a little out of control? Or are even the arrests part of a choreographed game? From AP:
Vietnamese police broke up anti-China protests in two cities on Sunday and detained 20 people in the first such demonstrations since tensions between the communist neighbors flared anew over rival claims to the oil and gas-rich South China Sea.

Any sign of popular anger in tightly controlled Vietnam causes unease among the leadership, but anti-Chinese sentiment is especially sensitive. The country has long-standing ideological and economic ties with its giant neighbor, but many of those criticizing China are also the ones calling for political, religious and social freedoms at home.

Police initially allowed about 200 protesters to march from Hanoi's iconic Opera House through the streets, but after 30 minutes ordered them to disperse. When some continued, they pushed about 20 of them into a large bus which then drove quickly from the scene. It was unclear where they were taken, but in the past people detained at anti-China protests have been briefly held and released.

As foreign tourists and Sunday morning strollers looked on, protesters shouted "Down with China" and carried banners bearing the slogan "China's military expansion threatens world peace and security."

Using loudspeakers, authorities urged them to disperse and tried to reassure them.

"The Communist Party and government are resolutely determined to defend our country's sovereignty and territory through peaceful means based on international law," it said. "Your gathering causes disorder and affects the party's and government's foreign policy."
That line about how "anti-Chinese sentiment is especially sensitive" strikes us as a bit naive. It is undoubtedly true, but ignores the longstanding rivalry between the neighbors, and how the Hanoi protests could be of political use to the Vietnamese regime—the loudspeaker dude's admonition that the gathering could "affect foreign policy" is ironically telling. AFP informs us that the protesters attempted to march on Hanoi's Chinese embassy, and that a similar rally was held in Ho Chi Minh City. And the "spontaneous" outburst comes on the heels of another maritime confrontation. Reuters, Dec. 6:
China told Vietnam on Thursday to stop unilateral oil exploration in disputed areas of the South China Sea and not harass Chinese fishing boats, again raising tensions in a protracted maritime territorial dispute with its neighbor.

Vietnam had already expelled Chinese fishing vessels from waters near China's southern Hainan province, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

Hong's description of the confrontation last Friday was in contrast to the account by Vietnam, which said a Vietnamese ship had a seismic cable it was pulling cut by two Chinese fishing ships.

"Vietnam's statement is inconsistent with the facts," Hong said.
And with the leadership change in Beijing, there appears to be a sort of good-cop-bad-cop game going on. Incoming boss Xi Jinping strikes a conciliatory note. From the South China Morning Post, Dec. 6:
The new Communist Party general secretary, Xi Jinping, assured foreign experts in Beijing yesterday that China was not seeking hegemony and would continue to open up to the world.

Xi made the remarks during a meeting with 20 experts from 16 countries at the Great Hall of the People, his first meeting with foreign visitors since his appointment.

"China is following a path of peaceful development," Xi told the experts, who are all working in China.

He added that the country's progress was not detrimental to other countries. China's development "is absolutely not a challenge or threat to other countries. China will not seek hegemony or expansionism," Xi said.
Contrast the more hardline verbiage from the outgoing Hu Jintao. From AFP via the Manila Times, Nov. 9:
Against a backdrop of simmering territorial disputes with its neighbors, President Hu Jintao indicated China would continue to assert its disputed claims to maritime territories as he addressed the ruling Communist Party’s congress.

"We should enhance our capacity for exploiting marine resources, resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power," Hu said in his speech to more than 2,200 delegates in Beijing.

His comments were likely to fuel alarm among China’s neighbors, some of whom have watched warily as Beijing builds up its military amid offshore disputes...

"It is not surprising to hear leaders in [China] speak about their intention to engage in maritime activities," said a foreign ministry spokesman in Tokyo. "But those activities must be carried out in a peaceful manner based on international law."

Hu said that China was committed to a peaceful foreign policy but must continue a military build-up that has seen huge sums poured into developing fighting capacities.

Citing "interwoven problems affecting its survival," he said that China must build a "strong national defense and powerful armed forces that are commensurate with China’s international standing."

Hu called for China in particular to step up the military’s technological abilities, saying its most important task was to be able to "win a local war in an information age."
If China were to get into a "local war" with, say, Vietnam, would it stay local—that is, confined to powers within the sphere of East and Southeast Asia? In fact, would there even be any question about China winning unles another Great Power got involved? You barely have to read between the lines here to see where this is headed...

Vietnam police break up anti-China rallies

South China Sea tensions have spilled over again in Vietnam as police detained 22 people on  Sunday at a protest in the capital.

Waving banners with slogans like “the Paracel and Spratly islands belong to Vietnam,” and “China, stop massacring innocent Vietnamese fishermen,” a group of up to 200 people met outside Hanoi’s Opera House and marched through the city center on the way to the Chinese Embassy, flanked by police.

After about 30 minutes police bundled 22 of the protesters into a bus. One of the detainees in the vehicle said they had been taken to detention center Loc Ha.

Images from the protests were quickly uploaded onto blogs and social media.

A similar protest was broken up in Ho Chi Minh City but there have been no reports of arrests there. One woman on the march in Hanoi, Bui Thi Minh Hang, 47, said the police had no right to detain the protesters.
She said people came to the march because they wanted to show their patriotism.

Last week the country’s state-run oil and gas giant PetroVietnam accused Chinese fishing boats of cutting the cables of a seismic survey vessel operating in Vietnamese waters. The company had accused China of cutting survey cables at least twice last year, triggering weeks of anti-China protests in Vietnam’s major cities.

Tensions have been rising recently as China released a new passport design showing the disputed area as part of China, provoking protests from other countries in the region. China’s Hainan province also caused a stir after releasing new regulations that will affect the country’s coastal regions, including the contested archipelagos.

Analysts say Vietnam and China use confrontations over the South China Sea to influence domestic public opinion and crack down on the demonstrators only when public opinion gets out of hand. Some believe authorities fear the protests will become anti-government.

Several high-profile rights activists were notably absent from Sunday’s march. Anti-corruption activist Le Hien Duc was one of them.

Speaking on her way to visit those detained at the detention centre, Duc said police prevented her from leaving her home on Sunday morning so she could not attend the protest.

The land at the center of the dispute is the uninhabited Paracel and Spratly islands, which are believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim South China Sea territories.

China Seeks ‘Good Relationship’ With Asean

 Muhamad Al Azhari | December 10, 2012

ASEAN Prime Minister and China at the 21st Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean)-China Cummit, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov.19. Photo: Quoc Viet/RFA

China, the world’s most populous nation, is not likely to take any hard-line economic policy toward Indonesia and other Southeast Asia nations that make up Asean, as its incoming president, Xin Jinping, takes power in March.

“China needs to make a good relationship with Asean. Since 2000, China has seen Asean as one potential trading bloc,” Richard Tan, executive board chairman at the Indonesian Chinese Entrepreneur Association said on Friday.

“It shook hands with Asean for a free-trade pact before Asean had set up one with Japan and Korea,” he spoke after a seminar attended by Indonesian graduates of Tsinghua University in Beijing at the Borobudur Hotel.

China Daily reported on Sept. 22 on its website that Xi, in addressing the annual China-Asean Business Investment Summit in Nanning, Guangxi province, wanted a stronger trade and economic relationship between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations despite a dispute over territorial claims in the South China Sea. Asean’s 10 members are Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

Richard was confident that the rising tension would not derail China’s intention to forge a stronger economic tie with the bloc. The Philippines and Vietnam protest intrusions by China into areas that the two nations claim are part of their territories.

“Xi Jinping will be more moderate ... his country is getting bigger, it means a bigger responsibility and more difficult to govern. It will be hard to make any sharp maneuver, including derailing the already good relationship with overseas partners,” Richard said.

ICEA was established in Indonesia by prominent ethnic-Chinese enterpreneurs like Liem Sioe Liong, who is the founder of Salim Group; Eka Tjipta Wijaya, who is the founder of Sinar Mas; and Sukanto Tanoto, who is the founder of Royal Golden Eagle International.

The organization has played an important role in promoting Indonesia in China and abroad through trade fairs, investment and trade seminars, publications, education and training.

Asean has been among the top destinations for Chinese companies. Bilateral trade jumped to $292.78 billion in 2010 from $7.96 billion in 1991, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state media. The two economies seek to achieve $500 billion in trade by 2015, through a free-trade pact that was signed in 2004 and was implemented in 2005, according to a report by China Daily.

China confirmed its economic strength on Sunday with the release of some economic figures. Its National Bureau of Statistics announced that there was a double-digit increase in production at factories, workshops and mines for the first time since March, suggesting that the world’s second-biggest economy is weathering the effects of global slowdown.

Rizal Sukma, the executive director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies — a Jakarta-based think tank — said Asean should take advantage of a chance to boost trade with China, just as growth in western economies is slowing. China’s influence is rising and is challenging the United States’ economic dominance, he said.

“We should maintain all economic cooperations that are possible,” he said.

Indonesia had good relations with China during the presidency of Sukarno in the 1950s and early ’60s. That relationship turned under President Suharto, a strong anti-communist, but has strengthened in the past decade.

UN Says Information Ministry Decided to Halt Equity Weekly

The Cambodia Daily
By and
 December 10, 2012

The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) said last month’s suspension of the “Equity Weekly” television program was uniquely due to a decision made by the Ministry of Information after the show aired a feature on economic land concessions in Ratanakkiri province.

“[T]he suspension was initially suggested by the Ministry of Information and agreed to by UNDP Cambodia,” a UNDP spokesperson said in an email.

“Equity Weekly,” which is broadcast every Sunday on the state-run channel TVK, funded by UNDP and aims at promoting good governance through investigative journalism, was taken off the air after the station received a complaint from the Ministry of Information announcing its displeasure over archive footage showing images of logging in the country.

“The decision was taken following a technical error in the identity of a portion of the footage used in a story related to the [Virachey] National Park in Ratanakkiri province. That portion of the footage was an archive but was not properly identified as such, which resulted in a misunderstanding,” the UNDP spokesperson said.

Environment Minister Mok Mareth confirmed that a letter he had sent to the Information Ministry had brought about the popular show’s suspension from broadcast.

“Yes, because if there’s wrong information, [there’s] no show,” Mr. Mareth said. “I wrote down the mistakes and sent it to the Ministry of Information,” which then informed TVK’s “Equity Weekly.”

Asked to comment on the government’s suspension of the show, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith referred a reporter to a letter his ministry had written to the UNDP.

“As for the letter, we unfortunately are unable to share with you as it is a formal correspondence addressed to UNDP specifically,” the UNDP spokesperson said.

On November 11, the last time “Equity Weekly” was broadcast, the host, Khem Vuthy, spent almost 25 minutes apologizing for the report made on September 30, which discussed the impacts of 50,000 hectares of economic land concessions used for rubber plantations in the Virachey National Park in Ratanakkiri—a province beset by land disputes and logging.

Ouy Bounmy, “Equity Weekly’s” senior producer, said that after the broadcast, he had to meet with Minister of Information Mr. Kanharith.

“Now it is just suspended. We are under discussion to improve reporting skills, because we don’t want to make or repeat the same mistakes again,” he said.

Spokesman for the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan said he did not believe that the show was suspended for its investigative journalism.

“This is not the government’s attitude. I know [Mr. Kanharith] very well and he wants to maintain different voices to be heard. There is no attitude to block free flow of ideas.”

CII urges Indian SMEs to boost ties with Cambodian counterparts

The Hindu Businessline

Indian SMEs should increase cooperation with its counterparts in Cambodia, a south-east Asian nation, to enhance economic engagement between the countries, Ambassador of India in Cambodia Dinesh Patnaik said.

“The time is right for the Indian SMEs to look at Cambodia as its key partner for accessing the ASEAN market, as well as be a part of Cambodian growth story,” industry body CII said in a statement quoting Patnaik.

He was speaking at the Business Marker event — Small Business — Big Opportunities, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Cambodia is a member of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) with which India has implemented a free trade agreement in goods.

CII is taking a SME delegation to Cambodia.

The chamber said that businessmen of both the countries can increase cooperation in sectors like agro-industries, food processing, sea food, hand and machine tools, IT education, auto components, logistics, packaging, railway equipment and construction.

The bilateral trade between the countries stood at $107 million in 2011-12.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Eight die in Cambodia night market blaze

Dec 8, 2012

PHNOM PENH: Eight people, including four children, were killed in a fire that tore through a popular night market in the Cambodian tourist town of Siem Reap early Saturday, police said.

The children, aged between nine and 14, were sleeping with their families on the upper floor of a building on the premises when the blaze took hold in the early hours, said Sath Nady, chief of police in northwestern Siem Reap province.

"Eight people from two families died in the fire. They could not find their way out," he told AFP, adding that two others were seriously injured.

The inferno, which raged for some two hours, was apparently caused by an electrical fault, Sath Nady said.

More than 100 market stalls selling souvenirs were destroyed by the flames, he added.

The night market, a popular attraction for visitors to the small provincial town, was closed when the fire broke out.

Siem Reap is the gateway to the country's main tourist site, the ancient temple complex of Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Around two million foreign tourists visit Angkor national park each year, according to figures from the Cambodian tourism ministry. (AFP)


Friday, December 7, 2012

Vietnam busts China, Taiwan fake police scam: media


HANOI, Dec 7, 2012 (AFP) - Vietnamese state media Friday said authorities had busted an elaborate telephone scam in which victims in China and Taiwan were tricked into handing over money by callers posing as police officers.

Police in Vietnam's southern city of Ho Chi Minh confirmed that 52 people, all from China and Taiwan, were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of involvement in the fraud, without giving further detail.

The accused are believed to have called randomly-selected numbers in China and Taiwan and pretended to be police officers and prosecutors to persuade victims to wire money to bank accounts they had access to, media reports said.

"Similar fraud groups often move between different countries and tend to stay only for a few months in each place to avoid police detection," Nguyen Sy Quang, a HCMC top policeman, told the Tuoi Tre newspaper.
"In Ho Chi Minh City, they were discovered and arrested right when they first started operating," he said, adding that the suspects had all entered Vietnam on tourist visas.

Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau has said previously that a number Taiwanese and Chinese fraud rings have relocated to Vietnam to avoid detection and arrest by local authorities.

Briton questioned over wife’s Cambodia drug death

Dec 07, 2012
Bangkok Post

A British solicitor who embalmed his wife’s body soon after she died of a drug overdose in a Phnom Penh hotel has faced some difficult questions at the UK inquest into her death.

Kristy Cadman-Jones died in her sleep in the couple’s hotel room in Cambodia on Jan 9 this year after taking heroin, which she wrongly believed to be cocaine.

The couple had been married for six months when they embarked on a four-week trip to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

“Were you in any way involved with others in any intention to end your wife’s life?” her husband Damian Cadman-Jones, 31, was asked by the coroner, during proceedings at Leicester town hall reported by The Telegraph.

Mr Cadman-Jones denied that he was and also refuted suggestions that he had contacted his wife’s life insurance firm in Zurich on the day of her death.

The inquest also heard that Mr Cadman-Jones had his 27-year-old wife embalmed, something that could dilute drug levels found in the bloodstream and therefore hamper toxicology tests.

In reply to the question: “Why were you so desperate to have your wife’s body embalmed within 48 hours of her death?” Mr Cadman-Jones told the inquest he made the decision so that his wife’s mother could say goodbye to her daughter, after she was returned from Cambodia.

The coroner criticised statements that Mr Cadman-Jones gave to authorities, saying they were inconsistent and contradictory.

Mr Cadman-Jones told the inquest that he and his wife had been offered a drug they believed was cocaine by two travellers they had met in a bar. He said his wife had been an occasional cocaine user.
The coroner recorded an open verdict.

Lawyer to defend imprisoned activist in Vietnam

 Written By:

She has served as co-counsel to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Paraguay and as counsel in Supreme Court cases such as Padilla vs. Rumsfeld.  Now, Marshall-Wythe Foundation professor Linda Malone of the Marshall-Wythe School of Law will act as pro-bono counsel for Nguyen Quoc Quan, an American democracy activist who has been detained in Vietnam since April 17, 2012.
Quan, a member of the Vietnamese reform group Viet Tan, was arrested in the Tan Son Nhat International Airport before departure to the United States on charges of organizing terrorist activities.
“Quite clearly, the only thing that he has done is distribute materials and encourage people to advocate for a more democratic government in Vietnam,” Malone said. “I just got the indictment translated into English, and that’s exactly what they say he’s done but it’s characterized as subversion.”
A Vietnamese law that allows for political prisoners to be held without trial for four months, a period which can be renewed three times, deprived Quan of due process and legal counsel until his November hunger strike pressured the Vietnamese government into granting him access to lawyers.  Malone took the case after being approached by the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights.
International relations professor Katherine Rahman sees this deprivation as a strategic point in the case.
“There are international standards for what constitutes due process and those one can make reference to,” Rahman said.  “The right to due process is just a basic human right.”
Malone will advise Quan’s Vietnamese defense lawyers on international law and while in the United States. she will continue to lobby the State Department as well as the Department of Justice to bring up the issue with Vietnamese officials.
“Because this man is an American citizen, the
United States has the right, if not the obligation, to do things in order to try to make sure what’s happening to him is reasonable and fair,” Rahman said.  “However, an international standard — a universal standard—that says you always have these kinds of rights may or may not be something that a state is going to push for even at the best of times.”
Much of Malone’s value lies in her ability to bring visibility to the case, according to government professor Maurits van der Veen.
“Everyone knows that Vietnam still violates human rights — the less people that know about what Vietnam does, the better it is for Vietnam,” van der Veen said. “For this guy’s defense and for international human rights purposes, you want maximum visibility.”
However, Malone is skeptical of the Vietnamese justice system.
“The mere fact that these charges have been filed indicates that it’ll be very difficult for him to have a fair trial,” Malone said.
Malone emphasized the need for students to become involved.
“This is a very clear human rights violation where support on the local, national and international level would be helpful,” Malone said.

Snakebite Doctors Transferred

Two Cambodian doctors found negligent in a boy’s death are moved to new clinics.
Moeun Mat's grandmother holds a picture of the young victim at the family's home in Banteay Meanchey province, Dec. 6, 2012.
Health officials in northwestern Cambodia have transferred two doctors from a medical clinic after they agreed to pay compensation to the family of a boy who allegedly died from a venomous snakebite under their watch, but a lawyer has called for the two men to face criminal prosecution for their neglect.

Moeun Mat, 8, was brought to the Thmar Pouk District Health Center in Banteay Meanchey province on Nov. 29 after being bitten by a cobra, but according to relatives, he was refused anti-venom treatment by clinic officials who said it was reserved for a youth volunteer group mobilized by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son.

Clinic director Kim Sam Ol and physician Ing Sopharoth were found negligent in the boy’s death after provincial officials determined through an investigation that anti-venom was available at the facility at the time and said it was “irresponsible” for the center to make such a suggestion.

Provincial health officials on Wednesday formally removed the two doctors from their posts at the Thmar Pouk District Health Center after they agreed to pay 17 million riels (U.S. $4,250) in compensation to Moeun Mat's family in exchange for a pledge not to bring a civil suit against them.

Provincial Health Center Deputy Director Le Chan Sangwat blamed the doctors for Moeun Mat’s death, saying all medical professionals must adhere to the Hippocratic Oath, which dictates that they should practice medicine ethically and honestly.

“Removing them acknowledges their responsibility,” Le Chan Sangwat told RFA’s Khmer Service.

“In the case of snakebites, we have enough anti-venom for treatment. The Ministry of Health supplies us with enough for treating anyone, regardless of their status,” he said.

“It was a mistake to act without considering this. [Their removal] is a punishment.”

During the removal ceremony on Wednesday, Kim Sam Ol acknowledged his mistake and cautioned other doctors not to do the same.

“Please doctors, do your job and don’t make a mistake like mine in the future,” he said.

But the two men have since been transferred to other clinics, angering local lawyer Pen Son Samai who said providing compensation to the boy’s family would not protect the two doctors from facing criminal prosecution.

“The provincial prosecutor must investigate this case and send it to court,” he said.

“We have seen that they want to resolve the case through compensation, but this is a criminal offense.”

Provincial prosecutor Phan Vannaroth told RFA’s Khmer Service that he is currently traveling and is unfamiliar with the details of the case, but pledged to send staff to investigate.

“Even though the victim didn’t file a complaint, the court will investigate,” he said.

Appeal to doctors

Moeun Mat’s grandmother said she was saddened to hear that the clinic had anti-venom but refused to provide treatment for the snakebite.

“I would like to appeal to other doctors not to make this kind of mistake again,” she said.

“People rely on doctors for their lives. If doctors are careless about their jobs, who else can we rely on?”

On Monday, Ser Channy, the victim’s mother, said doctors at the clinic had “discriminated” against her son by refusing to treat him, saying that the facility’s anti-venom was reserved for the youth group mobilized by Hun Sen’s son Hun Manit and tasked with measuring land for concessions in the area.

She said that despite offering to pay for the medicine, the doctors had refused to inject the anti-venom, saying it was “illegal.”

In August, reports surfaced in Cambodia about discriminatory practices against the poor in hospitals around the country, particularly in rural areas.

Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said at the time that since 2010 the ministry has worked to teach doctors not to differentiate between the rich and the poor—a practice which had led to some doctors refusing to admit pregnant women and other patients who could not cover medical fees.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Cambodian DPM: dam 'not collapse'

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Keat Chhon said Thursday that the incident at the Atay hydropower dam was just a "small technical problem" and the company has high responsibilities for this issue.
"It is not the collapse of the dam," he said at the National Assembly's session following the claim of opposition party lawmaker Yim Sovann that "the Atay dam collapsed due to substandard (factors)."
"The project is still good, but it will be a bit delay in supplying electricity," Keat Chhon said. "We are sorry for the injuries to workers during the incident."
Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem said that the incident was "very small" because it was just the leakage in a concrete tunnel of the dam.
"It is not the collapse of the dam, there is no remarkable damage, the turbines are all in good conditions, the dam is also in good shape," he told Xinhua over the phone on Wednesday. "The firm just fixes the damaged point, everything is OK."
He said the incident would not discourage the government from supporting Chinese companies in hydropower development.
"We still strongly support the company in continuing the dam construction in order to complete it as soon as possible," he said. "We need electricity; it is a key element for the country's social and economic development."
The incident happened on Dec. 1 at the Atay hydropower dam when a concrete tunnel at the upper part of the dam ruptured, causing water in the reservoir to flood downstream, leaving six workers slightly injured and three others missing.
The injured were immediately sent to hospital and five of them have recovered and left the hospital.
The firm is still searching the three missing men, and construction of the dam is still under way.
Situated on the upper reaches of the Atay River in Pursat province, western Cambodia, the hydropower project covers an area of 4,674 hectares. With a total installed capacity of 120 megawatts, the hydropower station will supply power to the Electricity of Cambodia when it goes into operation.
The 381-million- U.S. dollar project is invested by the China Datang Corporation. Construction started in May 2008 and is expected to complete in November 2013 under a concessional 34-year build-operate-transfer contract with the Cambodian government.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Graft Up in Vietnam, Laos, China

A report on global graft calls for transparency and accountability.
Vietnam, Laos, and China all dropped in rank in Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index.
Vietnam, Laos, and China have dropped significantly in a ranking of global graft, while North Korea remains the world’s most corrupt nation, according to a new report released Wednesday.

Vietnam fell to 123rd among 176 nations and territories from 112nd a year ago, the Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International said in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index. The group’s 2011 report ranked a total of 183 countries and territories.

On a second graph, based on perceived levels of public-sector corruption, Vietnam was given a score of 31 on a scale where 0 indicates “highly corrupt” and 100 represents “very clean.” The nation scored a 2.9 on a scale of 0 to 10 in 2011.

Vietnam’s economy is in turmoil amid a spate of corporate scandals and inefficient management of major government-run firms which have sparked investor concerns.

Growing public frustration over the economy has led the government to renew an anti-corruption drive leading to the arrests of a number of banking executives and heads of failed state-owned companies. However, many see the arrests as a result of political infighting.

Laos slipped to 160th this year from 154th in 2011 and received a score of 21 in 2012 from 2.2 a year ago, the report said.

The poorest Southeast Asian state has moved to step up development, but rights groups complain of government repossession of land from the people and other human rights problems, including rampant official corruption, in the one-party communist state.

China dropped to 80th down from 75th a year ago and scored 39. The country scored 3.6 a year ago.

China implemented a once-in-a-decade leadership change last month, with incoming Chinese president Xi Jinping warning that the ruling Chinese Communist Party must beat graft or lose power.

Official privilege, rampant graft, and the impunity with which well-connected people break the law have caused widespread public fury in recent years, which is particularly evident on China's popular microblogging services.

North Korea tied with Somalia and Afghanistan for dead last on the list, according to the report—equal to its position in 2011, when Transparency International ranked the nation for the first time.

“Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia once again cling to the bottom rung of the index,” the report said.

“In these countries the lack of accountable leadership and effective public institutions underscore the need to take a much stronger stance against corruption.”

North Korea scored 8 out of 100—the lowest of all rated countries—on the 2012 report. The pariah nation received 1 out of 10 a year ago.

Slight improvements

The index uses data from a combination of surveys and assessments of graft that look at factors such as bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts.

Meanwhile, Burma improved slightly to 172nd from 180th last year and scored a 15 compared to a 1.5 in the 2011 report.

The new ranking brought the nation, undergoing rapid democratic change under a new quasi-civilian government, to third from the worst in corruption from second from the worst a year ago. Sudan was ranked second from the worst in 2012.

As part of Burma’s reform process, the country’s press is now free of censorship and stories about government corruption appear weekly, singling out the individuals responsible. In addition, the new government is drafting new legislation to crack down on corruption.

Cambodia also increased in rank to 157th from 164th and scored 22 compared to 2.1 last year.

Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit, a government body started in 2010 to fight graft, launched a new initiative in May to eliminate bribes solicited by local commune councilors for performing public services.

At the time, Transparency International called the campaign “a vital step” in the government’s efforts to fight corruption, although the organization still considers Cambodia one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Governments and agencies around the world have frequently called on Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian leadership to more seriously tackle corruption.

Regional corruption

Transparency International said that of the nations it ranked in the Asia Pacific region, 68 percent scored below 50 on its scale of 0 to 100.

It said that many of the countries in Asia where citizens challenged their leaders to stop corruption “have seen their positions in the index stagnate or worsen.”

Cobus de Swardt, managing director of Transparency International, urged wealthier nations to set an example for developing countries.

“The world’s leading economies should lead by example, making sure that their institutions are fully transparent and their leaders are held accountable,” he said.

“This is crucial since their institutions play a significant role in preventing corruption from flourishing globally.”

Huguette Labelle, the chair of Transparency International, said efforts at combating graft must be better implemented into national legislation, even in the world’s more developed nations.

“Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making,” she said.

“Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people.”

Reported by Joshua Lipes.

Corruption: It's Easier Than You Think

" When I lived in Cambodia, I got into a lot of fights. I'd protest the fruit seller who was overcharging me for mangoes because I was American. I'd wave my hands at the police officer who fined me for driving on the correct side of the road. I'd get angry with doctors at the "free" clinic for charging poor patients for drugs.
My Cambodian boyfriend usually just watched and shook his head.

But when we went to the Justice Ministry to get papers for his U.S. visa application, he told me not to fight. Not this time. Just go with it, he said, as he handed money to the clerk to get his papers the same day.
It made me wonder, why do people accept corruption that's exploiting them? Why defend a government that runs off bribes or nepotism?

"We rationalize the status quo because it reassures us that things are under control and we're going to be able to have a predictable life," says Justin Friesen, a doctoral candidate at Ontario's University of Waterloo and co-author of "Why Do People Defend Unjust, Inept and Corrupt Systems," published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

"People have psychological needs to feel good about themselves. Nobody likes to be criticized. Nobody likes their group to be criticized," he says. "Because of this, people will often rationalize and defend the systems they belong to and the status quo they belong to."

In Cambodia, that might mean paying an extra "service charge" to power company officials to make sure your lights stay on. In the United States, it could mean staying silent when your coworkers are overcharging clients or lying on their timesheets to earn money for hours they didn't work.

Basically, people want to keep things calm. And if you're not protesting the problem, the likelihood that you're a part of it grows.

According to Lamar Pierce, associate professor at the Washington University in St. Louis, two major factors contribute to corruption: Economic motivation and self-serving biases.

"If taking bribes are a function of how much you can feed your kid, then often that is the overwhelming motivator," Pierce says of the first factor.

But the second factor, to which we all fall prey, is more complex.

"If people are able to convince themselves quite irrationally that what they're doing is really okay, it's not their fault, it's not hurting anyone, that they're not going to get caught, that's where you get situations like the subprime crisis," he says, referring to the U.S. financial crisis in which profit-hungry lenders approved mortgage loans to people who couldn't afford them.

It's even easier for people to ignore the desire to be good if they cheat "by a little bit" rather than to the maximum extent possible, according to Francesca Gino, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and the author of Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan.

"By seeing other people around us cheat, especially when those people are our co-workers or peers, we are more likely to cheat ourselves," she adds, describing dishonesty as "contagious."

So where do we draw the line? Pierce says it starts with asking a simple question. "How would you feel talking to your mom about this at dinner?"

"The very simple metrics that people intuitively tend to do are very helpful as a first-line defense," Pierce says.

The second-line defense? Ask yourself about the consequences of your actions.
"Is there an ethical component to this? Who is this going to harm? Who is this going to benefit? Is it going to violate any rules?"

It's a five to 10-second check, Pierce says, that can mean the difference between right and wrong.

Everybody has their own perception of what is corruption and what is an acceptable "service charge" for goods and services delivered.

What do you think? Take our short polls to see how your perceptions measure up to our other readers.

Is it corrupt to give the police a tip to help you avoid a major fine?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Vietnam vets sue military in Conn. over discharges blamed on post-traumatic stress disorder

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The military has failed to correct the wrongful discharges of thousands of Vietnam veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, an advocacy group says in a federal lawsuit.

Vietnam Veterans of America on Monday joined a proposed class action lawsuit in Hartford against the Army, Navy and Air Force. The lawsuit, filed last year by a veteran, says the Vietnam veterans suffered PTSD before it was recognized and were discharged under other-than-honorable conditions that made them ineligible for disability compensation and other benefits.

The lawsuit says the military has refused to review or upgrade the discharge statuses of thousands of Vietnam War-era veterans with service-related PTSD.

“People did not understand PTSD during the Vietnam era,” said John Rowan, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America. “Now that we do, these service members must not be denied the recognition and benefits they long ago earned.”

The U.S. attorney’s office, which is representing the military in the lawsuit, said it’s reviewing the matter and will respond in court. A Department of Defense spokeswoman said the agency is committed to addressing concerns related to PTSD and has taken numerous steps, including conducting PTSD assessments of service members at military treatment facilities.

The initial lawsuit was filed by Vietnam veteran John Shepherd, of New Haven, who says he was diagnosed with PTSD in 2004 but has been repeatedly denied a discharge upgrade.

Shepherd and the VVA, which has about 65,000 members, are represented by Yale Law School students who work at a veterans legal services clinic. The students say since 2003 the Army has approved fewer than 2 percent of applications by Vietnam veterans claiming PTSD to upgrade discharges, compared to 46 percent for all discharge upgrade applications in recent years.

Some of the veterans denied had at least one medal or had a PTSD diagnosis from the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to the students, who analyzed the Army data.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he sympathizes with the veterans’ concerns and has been working with the Yale Law Clinic, the Department of Defense and state and federal veterans services agencies on a more equitable process to resolve them.

“The fact that Post-Traumatic Stress was not understood during the Vietnam War era should not preclude a reconsideration now of individual cases,” Blumenthal said in a statement.

The lawsuit estimates about 85,000 of the more than 250,000 Vietnam veterans discharged under other-than-honorable conditions have PTSD. The discharges were based on poor conduct such as unauthorized absence without leave, shirking, using drugs or lashing out at comrades or superior officers, conduct the lawsuit says was a symptom of underlying undiagnosed PTSD.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in a person who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Symptoms include flashbacks or nightmares of the traumatic event.

The veterans have experienced homelessness, prolonged unemployment and troubled relationships, the lawsuit says.

“Isolated and impoverished, they have struggled to cope not only with their war wounds but also with the shame of a bad discharge,” it says.

The Army awarded Shepherd with a Bronze Star after his unit came under intense fire and he entered an enemy bunker and threw a grenade that killed several enemy soldiers, according to the lawsuit.

Shepherd developed symptoms of PTSD after blowing up the enemy bunker and later witnessing the gruesome deaths of several comrades, according to his lawsuit. Shepherd began to act strangely and was found wandering around a base in a confused state. He eventually reached a breaking point and refused to go back out into the field, the lawsuit says.

He was charged with failure to obey an order and was discharged.

Shepherd’s application for a discharge upgrade was denied again in June. The Army said he failed to present convincing evidence that his misconduct 43 years ago was the result of PTSD or that his discharge was improper, but he’s appealing the decision.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Vietnam Protests List of Chinese 'Sovereignty Violations'

Marianne Brown

More to US-Cambodia relations than rights

By Vannarith Chheang

A meeting between US President Barack Obama and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on November 19 took on added significance given the backdrop of the 21st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, which was held in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh in the same week.

Focusing on human rights, fundamental political freedoms, and electoral democracy in Cambodia, the conversation was generally described as "tense" by media. Obama touched a raw nerve by mentioning deteriorating rights situation, the fairness of upcoming 2013 general elections, and the issue of political prisoners. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, who accompanied Obama, said it will be difficult to deepen bilateral relations if the Cambodian government did not improve its human-rights record.

However, Obama's visit was not only about human rights; wider US interests in the region including strategic and economic relations must be taken into account. The presence of Obama in Cambodia was a significant event in the two countries' diplomatic relations. It was the first time a sitting US president visited this small and poor country, and it reaffirmed the long-term and sustainable US commitment to engagement in Asia.

US-Cambodia relations are shaped and framed by the US "pivot to Asia" strategy, which is dynamic and comprehensive. The strategy covers a wide range of activities including the strengthening of bilateral security alliances, forging of a broad-based military presence, engaging regional multilateral institutions, expanding trade and investment, advancing democracy and human rights, and deepening working relationships with emerging powers. It is an extension of the US smart power project, which includes, as suggested by the 2007 CSIS Commission on Smart Power, five pillars: alliances, partnerships, and institutions; global development; public diplomacy; economic integration; and technology and innovation.

Issues surrounding human rights are a key stumbling block in bilateral relations that need to be addressed objectively and collectively. Since 1992, the US has provided more than US$800 million to strengthen democracy and improve human-rights conditions in Cambodia. USAID programs have been diversified to include aspects such as education, public health, infectious disease, food security, climate change, private-sector competitiveness, and good governance. The US has contributed a lot to strengthening the role of local civil society organizations in addition to promoting democratic principles and protecting human rights.

Bilateral relations have steadily improved since the resumption of diplomatic relations in 1992. Cambodia was granted Most Favored Nation (MFN) status from the US in 1996 and in 1999 the two countries signed a Bilateral Textile Agreement (BTA) to link labor standards with trade. Under such favorable treatment, the US has become the biggest market for the garments and footwear (about 70%) made in Cambodia. The industry employs 350,000 people, mostly young women.

The US private sector is very much interested in expanding and deepening investment and trade with the region in general and Cambodia in particular. In 2011, US investment in Cambodia was more than $144 million, triple the amount invested in 2010. In remarks at the US-ASEAN Business Forum in Siem Reap in July 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated "Our economic ties are already strong. ASEAN and the United States are large trading partners. Last year, US exports to ASEAN exceeded $76 billion, and that was up 42% since 2009. We have more than twice as much investment in ASEAN as we do in China. So there is a great deal of potential for continuing to grow our economic activity."

US-Cambodia defense cooperation has gained momentum since 2004 after many restrictions were eliminated, paving the way for direct military-to-military contact and engagement. Training and capacity building are the key areas of cooperation. Joint training and military exercises have been conducted regularly under the themes of disaster relief, counter-terrorism, demining activities, and peacekeeping operations.

During the visit of Cambodian Defense Minister General Tea Banh to Washington in 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates reaffirmed the commitment to strengthen the capacity of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in peacekeeping operations, maritime security, and counter-terrorism. In 2010, Cambodia, with support from the US, participated in the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) program and co-hosted the Angkor Sentinel with the participation of 1,000 peacekeeping personnel from more than 20 countries. The second CARAT program was conducted in October 2012, focusing on maritime security skills such as maritime interdiction, diving and salvage operations, maneuvering, and disaster response

The annual Bilateral Defense Dialogue (BDD) established in 2008 is a foundation for dialogue, cooperation, and confidence-building measures. It focuses on operational topics of mutual concern and coordination of security cooperation activities. The BDD illustrates the broadening and deepening of the military-to-military relationship and is an additional mechanism to further strengthen the bilateral relationship. In September 2009, Cambodia and the US created a Security Cooperation Coordination Group that meets regularly to discuss operational issues involving theater security cooperation.

In addition, there were several port visits by US naval forces to promote relations between militaries and strengthen mutual strategic trust between the two countries. The latest visit was on May 5, 2012 by sailors from the US 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge and Marines assigned to Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Pacific.

The recent bilateral talks on November 16 between US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Tea Banh in Siem Reap provided an opportunity for both countries to elaborate more on defense cooperation, especially in capacity building of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, cooperation on the recovery US soldiers missing in action from the Vietnam War-era, and the on new US strategy in the Asia-Pacific. Panetta reaffirmed the US goal of ensuring that the Asia-Pacific is a zone of peace, stability, and prosperity, and the commitment to work with ASEAN to increase its capacity to maintain peace and stability in the region.
US-Cambodia relations have been improving over the last decade and reflect a promising trend. Defense and economic cooperation have taken significant steps to build trust and mutual accommodation with common interests. However, as the recent talks between Obama and Prime Minister Hun Sen indicated, Cambodia needs to work harder to improve its record on human rights and democracy to advance relations with the US to a new level.

It is not a big challenge for the current Cambodian administration to improve the situation since it has established a relatively good foundation to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is a matter of continued political will, leadership, and participation from the people.

Continued US engagement with Cambodia on the issue of human rights is necessary but it needs to be more objective and scientific. Both countries should concentrate on convergent forces - economic and strategic interests - and continue to sincerely work together to overcome remaining challenges. It is in the interests of the two people and the global community of nations to raise the standard of the universal values of human rights and fundamental freedom. Cambodia and the US can continue working together on this issue.

In the rapidly changing regional security and economic environment that is increasingly complex and uncertain, there is a need to build and nurture trust and confidence. A good and healthy US-Cambodian relationship can contribute to peace, stability and development in the Asia Pacific. It would be a serious setback if the human rights issue overshadows other areas of cooperation and needs to be addressed in a holistic way.

Vannarith Chheang, a Pacific Forum CSIS young leader, is executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. He can be reached at

Victims’ Rights before the ECCC: A Mixed Record for Civil Parties

5 December 2012
One year after the opening of the trial of Nuon Chea, Kieu Samphan and Ieng Sary before the Extraordinary Chambers within the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), to which almost 4000 victims of the Khmer Rouges are participating as Civil Parties, FIDH, with the support of its member organisations in Cambodia, ADHOC and LICADHO, is launching a report entitled "Victims’ Rights before the ECCC: A Mixed Record for Civil Parties". This report takes stock of the implementation of a regime of victims participation announced as one of the most progressive ones before international and hybrid tribunals.
Victims' Rights before the ECCC: A Mixed Record for Civil Parties
"The ECCC experience raises essential questions concerning the mode of participation of victims", explains Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and Civil Parties lawyer in Case 002 before the ECCC. "Is Civil Party participation the best way to ensure realistic, effective participation of victims in mass crimes trials? Were the ECCC given the practical means to explore all the possibilities offered by this system? In responding to these questions, this report intends to give its contribution to the effective participation of victims before other international and internationalized tribunals, such as the African Chambers within the Senegalese courts responsible for trying the international crimes committed under Hissène Habré, that have been recently created", he added.

This stocktaking exercise is undertaken while the ECCC are today facing the challenging issue of reparations for victims in the first trial of Case 002. "Given the ambiguities and gaps of the decisions on reparation in Case 001, that have caused disappointment among Civil Parties, the expectations are even higher in Case 002", says Marie Guiraud, lawyer, member of the FIDH Litigation Action Group (LAG), representing Civil Parties in Case 002 before the ECCC, and author of this report. "Nearly 4000 Civil Parties are participating in the Case 002 proceedings but only part of them are directly concerned by the first trial that is currently taking place, concerning in particular the forced population transfers. If the other trials, concerning other facts, are not taking place, contrary to what was initially planned, what will happen to the right of Civil Parties to reparation?" she added.

FIDH, ADHOC and LICADHO are also concerned by the fact that Civil Party Lead Co-Lawyers are now required to propose - before any decision on the guilt of the accused - "turnkey" collective and moral reparation projects to the Chambers, already financed and approved by the Cambodian government. "The effective implementation of reparation measures for victims is overly resting on the shoulders of intermediary organisations, that are already considerably contributing to the activities of outreach and victims support", declares Thun Saray, President of ADHOC.

Our organisations are as well concerned by the announcement of the creation by the government of Cambodia of a Victim’s Foundation that is supposed to be coordinating, as of 2014, the funding and implementation of the ECCC reparation programme developped by the ECCC Victims Support Section, but which mandate and fonctionning are still not clearly defined. Given the record of political interferences in Cases 003 and 004, clear guarantees of independance and transparency will have to be given by the government, in order for this Foundation to be supported by NGOs. To this date, these guarantees seem insufficient.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Indian navy ready to deploy to South China Sea as tensions climb

(Reuters) - India has declared itself ready to deploy naval vessels to the South China Sea to protect its oil-exploration interests there, a potential new escalation of tensions in a disputed area where fears of armed conflict have been growing steadily.

India's naval chief made the statement on Monday just as Vietnam's state oil and gas company, Petrovietnam, accused Chinese boats of sabotaging an exploration operation by cutting a seismic cable being towed behind a Vietnamese vessel.

Petrovietnam said the seismic vessel, Binh Minh 02, had been operating outside the Gulf of Tonkin when the cable was severed on Friday. It had earlier been surveying the Nam Con Son basin further south -- an area where Indian state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has a stake in a Vietnamese gas field.
Indian Navy Chief Admiral D.K Joshi said that, while India was not a territorial claimant in the South China Sea, it was prepared to act, if necessary, to protect its maritime and economic interests in the region.
"When the requirement is there, for example, in situations where our country's interests are involved, for example ONGC ... we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that," Joshi told a news conference.

"Now, are we preparing for it? Are we having exercises of that nature? The short answer is yes," he said.
Petrovietnam posted on its website comments made by the deputy head of exploration, Pham Viet Dung, to a journalist from Vietnam's Petrotimes that the seismic cable was quickly repaired and the survey resumed the following day.

"The blatant violation of Vietnamese waters by Chinese fishing vessels not only violates the sovereignty ... of Vietnam but also interferes in the normal operations of Vietnamese fishermen and affects the maritime activities of Petrovietnam," Dung was quoted as saying.

Tensions have simmered in the South China Sea for many years but have escalated this year as an increasingly powerful China, which sees virtually the entire sea as its territory, begins to assert its long-standing offshore claims more vigorously.

Parts of the South China Sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. The region, Asia's biggest potential military troublespot, is believed to be rich in oil and gas -- and more than half the world's oil-tanker traffic passes through it.

Last week, Chinese state media said police in southern Hainan province would board and search ships which illegally entered what China considers its territory in the sea -- a move that immediately raised fears for the free passage of international shipping and the possibility of a naval clash.

India is not the only non-claimant nation concerned about disruption to shipping or oil exploration in the South China Sea. The United States, a close ally to several of the Southeast Asian claimants, has also voiced concern at the prospect of China stopping international ships in contested waters.

India has sparred diplomatically with China in the past over its gas and oil exploration block off the coast of Vietnam.

Any display of naval assertiveness by India in the South China Sea would likely fuel concern that the navies of the two rapidly growing Asian giants could be on a collision course as they seek to protect trade routes and lock in the supply of coal, minerals and other raw material from foreign sources.

Admiral Joshi described the modernization of China's navy as "truly impressive" and a source of major concern for India.

"It is one of the most important international waterways and freedom of navigation there is an issue of utmost concern to India because a large portion of India's trade is through the South China Sea," said Brahma Chellaney, an analyst at the Centre for Policy Research, in New Delhi.

Chellaney, however, played down Joshi's comments, saying the Indian navy's focus would remain on the Indian Ocean, which the South Asian nation views as its strategic backyard.

Singapore, home to the world's second-busiest container port, joined some of its neighbors on Monday in expressing concern at the Chinese reports that Hainan police would board and search ships under rules to take effect from January 1.

"We urge all parties to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea to refrain from provocative behavior," the Singapore government said in a statement.

Asked about the reports of China's plan to board ships, Joshi said India had the right to self-defense.
Estimates for proven and undiscovered oil reserves in the South China Sea range as high as 213 billion barrels of oil, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in a 2008 report.

That would surpass every country's proven oil reserves except Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, according to the BP Statistical Review.

On Monday, China's National Energy Administration said China aims to produce 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year from the South China Sea by 2015.

It said the South China Sea would "form the main part" of China's offshore gas exploration plans.

(Reporting by Arup Roychoudhury and Mayank Bhardwaj in NEW DELHI, Kevin Lim in SINGAPORE and John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI, and Ho Binh Minh in HANOI; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Paul Tait)

Vietnam: Chinese boats cut seismic cables

By CHRIS BRUMMITT, Associated Press

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam's state-owned oil and gas company accused Chinese fishing boats on Monday of sabotaging one of its seismic survey ships in the South China Sea, adding to already high tensions over Beijing's disputed territorial claims in the waters.

PetroVietnam said two Chinese fishing boats cut across cables being laid by the survey vessel Binh Minh 2 off the coast of central Vietnam on Friday.

"PetroVietnam vehemently protests the Chinese fishing boats' action against the Binh Minh 2," Pham Viet Dung, the deputy head of exploration at the company, said in a statement on the company's website. "We ask that China educate its citizens to respect Vietnamese waters."

Chinese and Vietnamese Foreign Ministry officials had no immediate comment.

China claims most of the South China Sea, bringing it into conflict with its smaller neighbors. Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also claim part of the waters, which are believed to be rich in gas and oil reserves as well as fish stocks. China, which is strengthening its navy, has been increasingly assertive in pressing its claims as its economy as grown in recent years.

It is the second time that Chinese fishing vessels have reportedly damaged the Vietnamese survey ship's cables. An incident in June last year off Vietnam's central coast triggered rare street protests in Hanoi.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the reported incident took place in contested waters. PetroVietnam said it occurred 43 miles (69 kilometers) from the small island of Con Co.

China recently issued new passports featuring a map showing its territorial claims in the South China Sea, angering Vietnam and the Philippines, which have refused to stamp the passports.

Vietnam has also protested a recent announcement by the China National Offshore Oil Corp. opening nine oil and gas lots for international bidders in areas overlapping with existing Vietnamese exploration blocks. Vietnam says the lots lie entirely within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.