Friday, January 27, 2012

S. Korea seeks Cambodia support for mining, oil

Business Desk
Rasmei Kampuchea Daily
Publication Date : 27-01-2012

A senior South Korean official appealed to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Thursday for increased support for Korean companies operating in the mining, oil and energy sectors.

The request came during a courtesy call on Hun Sen by Shin Jae-hyun, the country's ambassador for mining and energy cooperation, the premier's assistant Ieng Sophalet said.

"During the meeting, he asked Samdech Techo Prime Minister to further support South Korean companies when studies are finished," the assistant said.

Korean companies are currently exploring for minerals in Preah Vihear, Takeo and Kampong Speu provinces.

Ieng Sophalet said the prime minister welcomed such investment and said that any companies conducting exploration projects would have the priority for mining operations.

Hun Sen also asked the envoy to convey a message to the South Korean president about the possibility of loans for Cambodia to improve electricity distribution.

The government is so far said to have approved exploration on 128 concessions covering about 13 per cent of Cambodia's land area.

Apart from local and South Korea interests, companies approved for exploration licenses are reportedly from Australia, the United States, Vietnam, China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and France.

ASEAN Adopts International Negotiating Procedures

By Edmund Sim
Fri, Jan 27th, 2012

Last week’s ASEAN Coordinating Council meeting of foreign ministers in Cambodia adopted “The Rule of Procedures for Conclusion of International Agreements by ASEAN” (ROP).

As described by ASEAN Deputy Secretary General Bagas Hapsoro,

“The Rule prescribes the procedures for ASEAN as an inter-governmental organization to enter into agreement with countries, international, regional and sub-regional organizations and institutions in pursuing its external relations as provided for in Article 41.7 of the ASEAN Charter.”

As ASEAN has not yet published the ROP on its website, I provide a copy below.

I suspect that only international law aficionados will study the ROP in detail. Yet I think that the ROP does provide some interesting points of relevance to the study of the ASEAN institutions and the AEC.

First, the ROP does not apply to agreements which are negotiated by the ASEAN member states collectively and create obligations for individual member states, namely the various free trade agreements (FTAs). ASEAN FTAs are actually a collection of 10 bilateral FTAs which share common language and obligations, the product of collective negotiation by ASEAN member states, with the support of the ASEAN Secretariat.

Second, the ROP illustrates, once again, the determination by ASEAN member states not to create strong supranational institutions. Under the ROP, the ASEAN Sectoral Ministerial Bodies coordinate with the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR) on proposals to commence negotiation.

Final approval of the proposals is up to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, or the CPR acting for the foreign ministers. The ASEAN foreign ministers directly or indirectly through the CPR appoint the ASEAN representatives to the negotiation. The ROP requires the ASEAN representatives to maintain close consultations with the CPR and ASEAN Sectoral Ministerial Bodies. Finally, the ASEAN foreign ministers by themselves or through the CPR will specify the manner of concluding the agreement and by whom.

The ROP thus anticipates a case-by-case authorization by the ASEAN foreign ministers (representing the ASEAN member states) for international agreements. Unlike what the EU does in trade matters, there is no standing delegation of authority by the member states to a central institution like the ASEAN Secretary General or the ASEAN Secretariat. Rather, the ROP allows for the designation of the ASEAN Secretary General to act on behalf of ASEAN in specifically authorized circumstances. The ROP also limits the role of the ASEAN Secretariat to that of assisting the designated ASEAN representatives. The primacy of the ASEAN foreign ministers in the process is firmly set by the ROP.

Now, this tension between national sovereignty and regional institutions is always present in entities such as ASEAN and the EU. The EU itself is still resolving such tension in other areas of the Community, such as in monetary affairs and foreign policy. So the factors that resulted in the ROP’s approach are not new.

In any event, perhaps this is all the “ASEAN” that the member states can accept at this time. But it still marks another step in the implementation of the ASEAN Charter, the further commitment to rule of law in ASEAN’s operations. For now, this should be celebrated.

Edmund Sim is a U.S. international trade lawyer at the Singapore office of Appleton Luff and adjunct associate professor of law at National University of Singapore. There, he teaches the first course developed on the law and policy of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). You can follow him via AEC Blog.

Exile group presses China on Uighur deportees

Jan 27, 2012

Uighur activist leader Rebiya Kadeer, pictured in in Washington, DC, in 2011 (AFP/File, Nicholas Kamm)

BEIJING — An exile group has urged Beijing to explain the fate of 20 ethnic Uighurs who escaped to Cambodia but were deported back to China, amid reports some were sentenced to death or life in jail.

The deportees, members of the mainly Muslim minority Uighur group who have long complained of oppression in Xinjiang, fled China after ethnic rioting in the remote, northwestern region in 2009.

They applied for UN refugee status in Cambodia, but were forcibly repatriated back to China in December 2009, in a move that triggered strong international condemnation.

Cambodia's decision to deport the Uighurs was quickly followed by a 1.2-billion-dollar aid and loan package from Beijing. China has rejected accusations of a link between the two.

According to the World Uyghur Congress, China has refused to confirm the whereabouts of members of the group despite media reports that four were sentenced to death after their return, while another 14 were jailed for life.

"Uighurs forcibly returned to China are in extreme risk of torture, detention and enforced disappearance," Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Munich-based exile group, said in a statement emailed to AFP.

"We call once again on international governments to pressure the Chinese authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts of all the extradited Uighurs and to provide the charges, if any, that have been made against them."

In the latest unconfirmed sentencing, a deportee named Musa Muhamad was sentenced to 17 years in prison by a court in Xinjiang's Kashgar city on October 20, according to Radio Free Asia.

The report said it was unclear what charges the 25-year-old faced because it was a closed trial.

Calls to the court went unanswered on Friday, as did calls to Xinjiang's regional judicial department.

China has said the Uighurs were wanted in connection with rioting that erupted in July 2009 in the regional capital of Urumqi between Uighurs and China's majority Han ethnic group which left nearly 200 people dead.

The Uighurs had expressed fears of persecution and torture if they were sent home to China, which implemented a massive security crackdown in Xinjiang following the 2009 violence.

At the time, the UN special rapporteur on torture called the expulsion from Cambodia of the Uighurs "a blatant violation" of anti-torture rules and urged an independent probe as well as access to the group should they be detained.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Foreign Policy Under Yingluck: Return to Thaksin’s CEO Style?

Pavin Chachavalpongpun
January 25, 2012

It has been six months since the election that brought the first woman into Thailand’s top political position, Yingluck Shinawatra.

As a prime minister, Yingluck has encountered several difficult issues, from the devastating floods to the attempt to provide amnesty for her fugitive brother Thaksin to the increasing cases of lese-majeste.

But there is one area in which Yingluck has appeared to be doing well so far: foreign affairs. It is fair to say that since Thaksin’s downfall in 2006, Thailand has had no tangible foreign policy. The Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat governments were short-lived. And the Abhisit Vejjajiva period was marked by conflicts with neighboring countries, especially Cambodia.

It is therefore a real test for Yingluck to reinvent Thai diplomacy, departing from antagonism toward neighboring countries. In terms of Thailand-Cambodia relations, Yingluck paid a high-profile visit to Phnom Penh, as the first stop on her introductory tour. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was gleeful to roll out a red carpet to receive the Thai female leader. For now, relations between the two countries have returned to normal. And the secret to this success is that issues in this bilateral relationship have simply become less politicized, particularly on the Thai part.

Yingluck then went on to visit a number of countries that are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including Burma, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos and recently the Philippines. Symbolic as they were, these visits signaled Thailand’s recovery from political illness at home and its eagerness to play a role in Asean. But a question must be asked: How realistic is this Thai eagerness?

During her visit to Naypyidaw in December, Yingluck demonstrated that her government wanted to diversify Thailand’s policy options toward Burma, by reaching out to both the government and the opposition. Yingluck held a discussion with President Thein Sein and also paid a visit to Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy. At the end of her tour, Yingluck offered her support for national reconciliation in Burma, wishing to see further political reforms in the country long governed by the military.

Can Thailand, despite these bold moves, expect a shift in its foreign policy, which traditionally sought to advance national interests at the expense of promoting universal values, such as democracy and human rights protection? My answer is rather pessimistic.

Ultimately, both Yingluck and her foreign minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, have no experience in diplomacy. And one must not forget that Yingluck is indeed Thaksin in disguise. Accordingly, it is likely that she will restore the “Thaksinized” foreign policy that was essentially commerce-driven without any respect for principles.

In 2001 to 2006, Thailand under Thaksin was so ambitious that it thought it could conquer the world.

Thaksin, a successful businessman, was confident that he could transform Thailand into a hegemon dominating smaller and weaker states in the region. He then bypassed Asean, once a cornerstone of Thai foreign policy. He perceived Asean as a representation of “old politics” — the kind of politics sullied by rigid bureaucratic processes. Instead, Thaksin invented a myriad of business-centric cooperative frameworks, including the Asia Cooperation Dialogue and the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy. He also strengthened Thai economic cooperation with major trading partners through the conclusion of many free trade agreements. Undoubtedly, the Thaksin period witnessed the most colorful and innovative foreign policy Thailand had had in decades.

The remapping of Thailand in the age of globalization put Thaksin’s foreign policy in the spotlight: he was tipped to become Asia’s next leader. Thaksin endorsed diplomatic activism, and in this, he wanted to place Thailand at the core of the regional order. Thaksin turned the kingdom into a company, run by a CEO prime minister whose task was to evaluate economic costs and benefits in the conduct of diplomacy.

But it wasn’t just the content of foreign policy that changed. The operational mode within the Foreign Ministry also underwent an extreme makeover. Representatives of the nation and the monarch were now becoming CEO ambassadors who would visit their customer for product demonstrations. While CEO ambassadors were dressed with more power, the role of the Foreign Ministry in the formulation of foreign policy diminished.

The radical transformation of the Foreign Ministry has left deep hostility between those who agreed and disagreed with Thaksin’s approach. .

If Thaksin is indeed behind the formulation of Thailand’s foreign policy in this Yingluck era, then he has to learn from the mistakes he made while he served as prime minister. Thaksin’s past foreign policy initiatives might have provided his government with a channel to secure Thailand’s supposed national interests. But along the way, he and his family members were accused of using state mechanisms for personal gain.

Yingluck needs to open up the foreign policy decision-making process, making it transparent to the public. More importantly, her foreign policy for the next few years will have to be based on economic interests and good governance. Her government has received a popular mandate through democratic means and Thailand cannot run away from a new international environment that has become more democratic.

Asia Sentinel

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. He is the author of “Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and His Foreign Policy.”

Ieng Sary defence grills DC-Cam rep on group’s motives

Phnom Penh Post
Mary Kozlovski
Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A defence lawyer for former Khmer Rouge foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary yesterday asserted that a senior representative from the Documentation Centre of Cambodia was being “less than honest” while testifying in Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Following questioning by a defence lawyer for former Khmer Rouge Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, Michael Karnavas, co-defence counsel for Ieng Sary, requested that DC-Cam deputy director Vanthan Dara Poeu be reminded that he was under oath.

“It is our position … that the witness is confabulating, is being less than honest, so we would respectfully request that he be informed that he is still under oath and is required to answer the questions truthfully and fully,” he said.

The DC-Cam representative has testified this week about the organisation’s approach to researching the Democratic Kampuchea period, which defence teams have challenged in court.

While questioning Vanthan Dara Poeu, Jasper Pauw, co-defence counsel for Nuon Chea, stated repeatedly that the witness had not answered his questions.

Karnavas later repeated certain questions posed by the Nuon Chea defence, including whether representatives from DC-Cam had consulted with prosecutors at the tribunal, to which the witness responded that he had not personally met with prosecutors.

Jasper Pauw earlier questioned Vanthan Dara Poeu about the organisation’s “goals and purposes” including whether DC-Cam had ever “stated a desire to have Nuon Chea prosecuted”.

Vanthan Dara Poeu said that he had been called to testify about “documentation” and, after Pauw repeated the question, Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn ruled that the witness was not required to answer it.

Pauw later presented Vanthan Dara Poeu with a copy of a questionnaire used by DC-Cam researchers in fieldwork, and read out “sub-sections” from the document including those labeled with “torture”, “religious persecution”, “genocide” and “crimes against humanity”.

Pauw asked the witness whether he concurred with the Nuon Chea defence’s assessment that, through the questionnaire, the organisation was attempting to provide “building blocks for a later trial”.

“We intend to provide that information and those documents to people who are interested in finding justice for those who lived through the Democratic Kampuchea regime,” Vanthan Dara Poeu said.

The prosecution has argued that simply because one of DC-Cam’s goals is to “search for the truth” of the Democratic Kampuchea period, that does not signify that the organisation is biased.

Thailand import ban on rice slows trade with Cambodia

Phnom Penh Post
May Kunmakara
Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Cambodia's total exports to Thailand decreased by more than 20 per cent year-on-year through November, the effect of a Thai ban on paddy imports from the Kingdom, officials said.

Exports to Cambodia’s western neighbour fell to US$159 million in the first 11 months of 2011, down from about $200 million during the same period the year before, data from the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh showed.

Bilateral trade, however, increased by 10 per cent, hitting $2.59 billion in 2011 through November.

Thailand temporarily banned Cambodian paddy imports last year when the Kingdom’s rice prices fell below that of Thailand’s, Thai Embassy Trade Promotion Officer Jiranan Wongmongkol said this week.

The ban has since been lifted but did contribute to Cambodia’s falling export figures, Jiranan Wongmongkol confirmed. A Thai ban on Cambodian corn also stymied the exports, she added.

Changing trade patterns may have lowered agricultural shipments to Thailand, Jiranan Wongmongkol said. Whereas Thailand often processed and resold Cambodian cassava products, China and Vietnam have recently started buying processed and raw cassava directly from Cambodia, she said.

A Thai ban on Cambodian paddy would not halt unofficial exports to Thailand, University of Cambodia economics and business lecturer Chheng Kimlong said.

“Even with a ban, it doesn’t mean that we did not export paddy to Thailand. We did but we did it unofficial. [The trade] wasn’t recorded,” he said.

Exports to Thailand – official or unofficial – are the only option for many Cambodian rice farmers. Chheng Kimlong said domestic mills don’t have the capacity to purchase much of the Kingdom’s paddy harvest.

Cambodia’s exports to Thailand, which comprise only a fraction of bilateral trade figures, are mainly agricultural products such as rice, corn and beans. Thailand exports oil, cement, construction materials, as well as a wealth of consumer products to Cambodia.

Floods and political problems have turned Cambodia into an attractive investment destination for Thai companies, Thai Business Council of Cambodia deputy manager Kriegn Kria said.

“[Investors] mostly want to invest in processing factories like rice milling and garment in Koh Kong and Banteay Meanchey provinces,” he said.

“This year we will see more big factories moving from Thailand to Cambodia because Thailand has big problem. Politics and natural disasters like flood have impacted their businesses.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thai, Vietnam rice prices drop as India lifts export cap

January 22, 2012

Rice prices eased in top exporters Thailand and Vietnam last week due to thin demand and may be undermined further after India lifted its export cap, traders said on Wednesday.

The export market in Vietnam has also slowed ahead of a long holiday next week to mark the Lunar New Year.

India has allowed the overseas sale of common rice in excess of two million tonnes, officials said on Tuesday, removing a previous cap imposed in September 2011.Stocks in Indian government warehouses stood at 29.8 million tonnes by January 1, above a target of 11.8 million tonnes.

This week Indian white rice rose to $440-$450 per tonne, on a free-on-board basis (FOB), from $430-$440 a week ago.

"India now has more to export, maybe an additional three or four million tonnes of rice," a Vietnamese trader said.Thailand's benchmark 100 percent B grade white rice dropped to $535 per tonne on Wednesday, from last week's $550 per tonne, hit by weak demand, traders in Thailand said.

Thai 5 percent broken grade white rice also fell to $520 per tonne on Wednesday, from $540 last week, well above Indian grain of the same grade.

"There's almost no buyers in the market.

We have seen this trend for a while," said a rice trader based in Bangkok."The rice pledging scheme has distorted market prices.

India and Vietnam sell rice at much lower prices than us and we will probably see our rice exports falling this year." The weakening trend of Thai rice prices has started since November, following the introduction of the government's rice pledging scheme that pushed prices up, making Thai grain less competitive than Vietnamese or Indian rice.Thailand's rice exports in 2012 could halve to 5 million tonnes due to the high prices.

In Vietnam the export market has already closed last week and only some domestic transactions remained this week, traders said.

"The market closed early for Tet while demand has been thin," said a trader in Ho Chi Minh City, referring to the country's biggest festival to mark Vietnam's Lunar New Year.Vietnam's market holidays run from January 21 to 29.

Port activities also slowed, with no rice vessels for Africa, one of Vietnam's traditional markets, while loading for top buyer Indonesia has nearly been completed, he said.

"Africa has been quiet and Vietnam now only hopes it could sell to regional countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia," the Ho Chi Minh City-based trader said.Indicative prices for Vietnam's 5 percent broken rice eased to between $450 and $455 a tonne, free-on-board (FOB), against $455 last Wednesday, and the 25-percent broken rice also dropped to $420 a tonne, from $430 a week ago.

"With a large volume of rice coming from the next winter-spring harvest, we do not know how much more prices could fall if there are no large deals to support," another trader said.The winter-spring rice crop, the country's largest, with harvesting due to peak in March, is projected to produce 11 million tonnes of paddy, up around 4 percent from 2011.

Buyers were expected to return to Vietnam next month in anticipation of lower prices due to the harvest, traders said.

Vietnam needs 'rights progress' for US weapons

US Senator John McCain (R) speaks next to US Senator Joseph Lieberman (2nd L) at a press conference in Hanoi (AFP/File, Hoang Dinh Nam)


BANGKOK — The United States will not sell lethal weapons to Vietnam until it reverses the "backward movement" in its human rights situation, US Senators including John McCain said Saturday.

Following a visit to the communist Southeast Asian nation, McCain told reporters in Bangkok that Hanoi had a "long long list" of arms it would like to buy.

But the US delegation "specifically stated to the Vietnamese that our security relationship will be directly impacted by the human rights issues", said McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam.

"There has not been progress on human rights issues, in fact there has been some backward movement on it."

Senator Joe Lieberman added that approval from US Congress was necessary for ally Vietnam to get "lethal" weapons specifically.

"There's certain weapons systems that the Vietnamese would like to buy from us or receive from us and we'd like to be able to transfer these systems to them, but it's not going to happen unless they improve their human rights record," he said.

Rights groups say dozens of peaceful political critics and campaigners have been sentenced to long prison terms since Vietnam launched a crackdown in late 2009, despite Hanoi's stance that its rights record is improving.

Vietnam has been seeking greater exchanges with the United States amid high tensions with China, particularly over disputes in the South China Sea.

The senators spoke ahead of a trip to Myanmar, where they will be looking into dramatic reforms by the nominally civilian government in recent months.

These include the release this month of hundreds of political prisoners, leading US President Barack Obama to call for the resumption of full diplomatic ties.

McCain said US would likely begin to lift sanctions on the country if by-elections held in April were free and fair, but he expressed caution over the pace of change in the country that saw military rule for nearly 50 years.

"It seems to me that we ought to put a pause on things, see what happens and evaluate the situation and then act accordingly. Let's not rush into judgments that we may regret later on," he said.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Endangered turtle to be tracked in Cambodia

BANGKOK (AP) — One of the world's most endangered turtles has been released into a Cambodian river with a satellite transmitter attached to its shell to track how it will navigate through commercial fishing grounds and other man-made hazards.

The 75-pound (34-kilogram) southern river terrapin — one of only about 200 adults remaining in the wild — waddled into the Sre Ambel river in southwestern Cambodia this past week to the cheers of local residents and conservationists.

The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society said the female terrapin was given to the group last year instead of being sold to traffickers who have decimated the country's population of turtles and other species to cater to demand for exotic wildlife in China.

The southern river terrapin, once considered the sole property of Cambodia's kings, only survives in the wilds of Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia, the group said in a statement. The population in the Sre Ambel river is estimated at less than 10 nesting females.

But it said the terrapins there have an excellent chance of recovery because coastal mangrove forests in the region are among the largest and most pristine in Southeast Asia, spanning some 175 square miles (45,000 hectares).

The first-ever satellite monitoring of the species hopes to determine how the turtle will fare among fisherman as well as in areas threatened by sand mining and conversion of mangrove forests into shrimp farms.

A small population of the species was found in 2000 in Sre Ambel after being considered locally extinct for many years.

Following the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge in the mid-1970s which left the country devastated, poor rural dwellers scoured the forests for wildlife, much of which was sold to traders connected to China, where many wild animals — from turtles to tigers — are believed to possess medicinal and sex-enhancing properties.

The turtle project is being run by the Wildlife Conservation Society in cooperation with the Cambodian government and Wildlife Reserves Singapore, a zoological enterprise.

Cambodia: U.N. Assails Rejection of Khmer Rouge Tribunal Judge

The United Nations on Friday deplored Cambodia’s decision to reject the choice of a new judge from Switzerland to a court trying former Khmer Rouge leaders, and called on the government to appoint him immediately.

The decision by Cambodia’s Supreme Council of the Magistracy not to appoint Laurent Kasper-Ansermet as a joint investigating judge was “a matter of serious concern,” a United Nations statement said, and was a breach of a 2003 agreement between Cambodia and the United Nations on prosecuting former Khmer Rouge officials.

The United Nations had appointed Judge Kasper-Ansermet to replace a German judge who resigned in October from the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal because of what he said was interference by the Cambodian government.

Cambodian PM sends greetings on Chinese New Year

Jan 21, 2012

PENH -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sent his greetings to overseas Chinese in Cambodia on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, according to his message released to the media on Saturday.

In the message dated Jan. 14 to all beloved people of overseas Chinese in Cambodia, the premier said, "Cambodia is a warm house for all brotherly people, including Cambodians with Chinese descent."

He added, "During the time of miserable difficulty and complete separation of families in the 3 years, 8 months and 20 days, we had been in the same difficult lives, losing the beloved lives of fathers, mothers, spouses, and children."

"When the day of Jan. 7, 1979 came, we were all resurrected in warmth together, joining happiness, misery, difficulty and development together until now, it was 32 years ago," he said.

The premier continued to say that 2012 is the Year of the Water Dragon that occurs just once every 60 years. "The Year of the Dragon with water element is more powerful than other years and will bring immense luck, wealth, and happiness to all brotherly people."

"My wife and I would like to join the pleasure with all brotherly Chinese people and bless all of you with prosperity, fortune, and longevity," Hun Sen wrote in the letter.

The Chinese New Year is one of the largest festivals in Cambodia, up to 80 percent of Cambodian people celebrate it every year, Hun Sen said in a public speech in last January.

He said that Cambodia celebrates three times of New Year in a year: Universal New Year, Chinese New Year and Khmer New Year itself.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Facebook face-off

Claire Byrne
Friday, 20 January 2012

THERE'S a formidable force in Siem Reap, up there with Angkor Wat for the number of daily visitors. It’s the Expats and Locals Living in Siem Reap Facebook page and it’s now surpassed a membership number of 1,000.

The page, created about 10 months ago, is a source of information on all things Temple Town. Any given day it can serve up restaurant suggestions, bikes for sale, questions on where to buy what, and, given the feisty nature of our residents, frequent debates.

Former page administrator Zoe Kirby says the page was founded as a good natured way for locals to converse.

“Before, there was no central place for expats and locals to really share information, thoughts and ideas, and experiences. Now the page has developed into an invaluable resource for finding out where to source items, find housing, and allowing new businesses to advertise themselves. It’s also especially useful for newcomers to the town.”

But the page has taken somewhat of a nasty turn of late, with an increasing number of online spats and negativity.

Founder Daniel Venn initially set up the group as a way of meeting people in his new town. “It’s completely cleared a thousand now. When I first started doing it, it was very small. I’d be looking at it getting really excited that there were two more people. I had the idea in my head at the time that this could be big, so I’m not surprised. ”

Though for Daniel, the growth of the group has been a double-edged sword, “It’s a mix between good and bad really, with so many people, there are so many opinions that conflict one another.”

Daniel stepped back from his role as administrator several months after setting up the page following disputes within the group. “There was a conflict of interest. I didn’t really ever delete posts unless they were really directly insulting to someone or other. There was a time when someone made some pretty crude comments, and I was sent about 10 emails from different people asking me to try and delete the person from the group.”

Daniel deleted the member but says that the fallout was worse than he’d expected.

“I did remove the person, which was probably a fault on my part, because a lot of people got pissed. A bunch of people were also happy, but by then the fun had gone out of it.”

Since Daniel’s resignation, the admin post has been a revolving door, some added against their own free will, others criticised for intervening in the group’s conversations.

Earlier this month one admin attempted to bring in a three-strike-system and was met with a wide mix of praise and frustration.

As with many popular forums, criticism, debate and feuds tend to spark off, personalities clash and in a town this small the page has led to some rather rough swipes over recent months, with one new member commenting, “As a ‘new’ Reaper, just joined the page two weeks ago, I was amazed at the negativity.”

Daniel says he thinks the original concept of a cooperative group will win out in the end.

“Aside from all of that, and the animosity, it’s still really good, really helpful. For me personally I found out about things that I’d never have known about, certain shops, certain items that I needed to purchase. You also realise people are decent. But there’s no need to go on there swearing, being rude to other people. What’s the point?”

Daniel says that with the way Siem Reap is growing, he thinks page membership next year could hit 3,000.

As each new quarrel sparks off on the page, names are called and members threaten to quit, that 3,000 mark looks increasingly ambitious. But with calls for positivity rife on the page, change is certainly in the air. . After all, as is frequently quoted among heated threads, “Come on guys, it’s only Facebook.”

But in an aim to dispel any tensions both virtual and real, and more importantly celebrate all that is great about the page, a birthday party of sorts is being thrown to celebrate the 1,000 member milestone, and all Reapers and visitors are invited.

Party organiser Zoe Kirby says the party, at XBar on Saturday, also aims to raise money for chosen charities and to encourage Reapers to get together.

Proceeds of a raffle on the night going to two water charities – Water Aid for Cambodia and the Trailblazer Foundation – a fitting move given our love-hate relationship with town water, or the lack of it, over recent months. There is $1500 worth of loot up for grabs, including hotel stays, spa treatments, restaurant vouchers and a helicopter ride.

The night will feature several local bands including Cambojam and Mylo, three DJs, a fire-breathing act and the infamous ice luge. Food will consist of caterer Michael Foidl’s fabulous pig roasts, pork steaks and sausages plus a veggie option.

What there won’t be is speeches from page founder Daniel. “No, I’d get booed off stage,” he jokes.

Zoe hopes that the event will help shine a light on more positive aspects of the group, “Siem Reap is a small town and it’s inevitable that some people won’t get on but I hope that for this event everyone will put any differences aside and come together.”

Indonesian toddler has died of bird flu in Jakarta

January 20, 2012

JAKARTA (AP) — Indonesian health officials say a 5-year-old girl has died of bird flu in Jakarta — just days after her uncle succumbed to the virus.

The H5N1 virus also claimed the lives of a man in Vietnam and a toddler in Cambodia this week. It has ravaged poultry stocks across Asia since 2003.

Indonesia's health ministry said Friday that several lab tests confirmed the girl had the virus.

She and her 23-year-old uncle lived in the same house and are believed to have been infected by sick pigeons.

Bird flu rarely infects humans and usually only those who come in direct contact with diseased poultry. But experts fear it will mutate into a new form that passes easily from person to person.

Indonesia has been hardest hit.

Cambodia stands out among CLMV

Cambodia stands out among CLMV

Among Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Vietnam, widely abbreviated as CLMV, Cambodia is the most outstanding investment destination for Thai companies thanks to the country's free-trade policy and abundant natural resources, according to the Trade Negotiations Department.

Srirat Rastapana, director-general of the department, said that though Cambodia was the last to join Asean in 2009, its trade policy is the most liberalised among the four countries under the government’s policy to draw foreign investment and reduce poverty.

"Cambodia sets its sight on infrastructure investment, particularly road connection with neighbouring countries and hydro power plants. Beside, it possesses a competitive edge, over natural resources. Offshore oil and gas reserves were discovered. This could help eradicate poverty, but it depends on the efficiency and transparency of revenue to be derived from the resources," she said.

In 2010, Cambodia attracted FDI worth US$782.6 million (including $349 million from other Asean countries), up 45.2 per cent from the previous year. Among 10 Asean nations, in terms of FDI, it was ranked the 7th. Cambodia is also a member of key international organisations like the World Trade Organisation, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank.

Srirat noted that the Asean community paves way for Thai investment. Low labour cost would also be on the plus side. Attractive investment areas are in parawood processing, hotel, food and spa, aside from construction.

Ambassador to Cambodia tapped as Lee’s foreign policy secretary

Jan 20, 2012

President Lee Myung-bak on Friday tapped Chang Ho-jin, Seoul’s ambassador to Cambodia, as his secretary for diplomatic affairs.

Chang has served in a variety of key diplomatic posts including those in the Foreign Ministry’s divisions handling North American issues and inter-Korean peace negotiations. He has served at the embassy in Cambodia since September 2010.

Lee also appointed Kwon Ik-hwan, senior prosecutor in charge of financial and taxation cases at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, as his secretary for civil affairs.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

American expert to advise UN on Cambodia court

Jan 19, 2012

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on Wednesday appointed the former United States ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues as the special expert to advise the United Nations on assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials in Cambodia.

United Nations spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Wednesday that David Scheffer was well qualified to advise the Cambodia tribunal 'during this critical phase' because he was involved in its establishment. He was also involved in the establishment of the International Criminal Court and tribunals dealing with war crimes in former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone, and crimes against humanity stemming from the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Nesirky said.

The UN-backed tribunal is seeking justice for 1.7 million people who died of starvation, lack of medical care or execution under the Khmer Rouge's rule in the 1970s.

Three top Khmer Rouge leaders accused of orchestrating Cambodia's 'killing fields' went on trial in late November, and one official has been convicted. Prime Minister Hun Sen has openly opposed expanding the trials by adding indictments of other former Khmer Rouge figures, some of whom have become his political allies.

Cambodia royal family seeks medical care in China

Jan 19, 2012

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Cambodia's royal family has traveled together to China for medical checkups.

King Norodom Sihamoni accompanied his mother and his father, the former king Norodom Sihanouk, to Beijing on Thursday for what family members called routine medical visits.

The 89-year-old former king has suffered a variety of health problems and in recent years has spent most of his time in China, where his doctors are based.

In October, he vowed never to leave his homeland again, saying he would ask his Chinese doctors to come to Cambodia.

Bird flu kills two in Cambodia, Vietnam

Jan 19, 2012

Vietnam on Thursday reported its first human death from bird flu in nearly two years, as the virus also claimed the life of a toddler in Cambodia.

Concerns about avian influenza have risen in the region after China in late December reported its first fatality from the H5N1 virus in 18 months, but Vietnamese authorities said there was no need to be alarmed.

"The bird flu situation is still within our control," said Le Minh Hung, a doctor from the Health Department of Ho Chi Minh City. "Some healthcare teams have been sent to check on the situation in southern provinces."

The Vietnamese victim, who died on January 11, was a duck farmer from the southern Mekong delta province of Hau Giang, and experts were investigating whether the infection came from his flock.

It was Vietnam's first human death from the disease since April 2010.

In neighbouring Cambodia, a two-year-old boy from northwestern Banteay Meanchey province, who is thought to have been exposed to sick poultry, died on January 18 from the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has killed more than 340 people worldwide since 2003, according to WHO statistics.

Vietnam has recorded one of the highest numbers of fatalities from bird flu in southeast Asia, with 59 deaths since 2003, according to the WHO.

In Cambodia 17 people have died of H5N1, according to the UN agency.

All of Cambodia's eight bird flu cases last year were fatal -- the last of them in August. Seven of the victims were children.

Indonesia, the country hardest-hit by bird flu, last week reported its third fatal case in three months.

Winter is the season when the virus tends to boom. Since early January, more than 3,000 birds have been culled in Vietnam's Mekong delta area in an effort to contain bird flu outbreaks.

Filipino Gets 15 Years Jail In Cambodia For Drug Trafficking

PHNOM PENH, Jan 19 (Bernama) -- A Filipino woman found in possession of 72 grams of cocaine was sentenced to 15 years in jail and fined US$7,500 on Thursday by a Cambodian court, according to China's Xinhua news agency.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Cadalso Vilma Cristales, 42, guilty for cross-border drug trafficking under the new article 32.2 of the amended drug control law.

She was arrested last May at the Phnom Penh International Airport upon arriving in Cambodia.

Judge Sin Visal said that Cristales has one month to appeal against the verdict.

The death penalty was abolished in Cambodia in 1989.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Maid in Malaysia: a story of beatings, abuse

18 Jan, 2012

Cambodian maid Orn Eak, 28, with her  son Ho Bora, 5. Orn Eak was abused for almost two years by her Malaysian employer.
Cambodian maid Orn Eak, 28, with her son Ho Bora, 5. Orn Eak was abused for almost two years by her Malaysian employer.

BEATEN, starved and treated as a slave in a Kuala Lumpur apartment, Cambodian maid Orn Eak says a one-metre snake ended her almost-two-year nightmare in Malaysia.

''When the snake crawled into my employer's apartment she blamed me and kicked me out,'' says Orn Eak, 28, one of thousands of Cambodian domestic workers who have been exploited and abused in Malaysia. ''I got the blame for everything, including the death of my employer's elderly mother,'' she says.

Orn Eak's body is covered in scars from beatings by a Kuala Lumpur woman who employed her through a Cambodia employment agency in early 2010. Single with a five-year-old son, Orn Eak says she joined 30,000 other young Cambodian women and girls working as maids in Malaysia because her mother was struggling to survive in their village in Kompong Thom province.

In Kuala Lumpur, Orn Eak had no days off and worked from dawn into the early hours of the next morning caring for her employer's disabled mother. She says she was frequently beaten and often hungry.

The mistreatment worsened after the old woman died in hospital. ''I missed my son and mother very much, but I knew I had to keep working for them,'' she says.

But her mother, Ee Tha, 55, says she received only two payments in almost two years from her daughter's Malaysian employer totalling $US270 ($A262). The employer deducted Orn Eak's flight home from her salary, which was supposed to be $US180 a month.

When Orn Eak arrived back in Phnom Penh in November a woman picked her up at the airport and took her to the employment agency.

''I told the story about the snake to a director … Five men came into the room and beat me … they pushed my head into a glass door and kicked me on the ground,'' she says.

Ee Tha received a message to come to Phnom Penh to take her daughter home.

''When I saw that my daughter's face and body were cut and bruised my heart dropped,'' Ee Tha says. After Ee Tha refused to leave the employment agency's office with her daughter until she was given the money she was owed, a director finally handed over $1200 - meaning Orn Eak earned only $1470 for nearly two years' work, half what had been promised.

Social workers have verified her claims of abuse. Nine Cambodian domestic workers died in Malaysia in 2011, according to human rights organisations.

Malaysian opposition MP Charles Santiago has accused the Malaysian government and police of ''totally disrespecting'' laws by conducting only cursory investigations into the deaths.

Human Rights Watch says common abuses include excessive work hours with no rest days, lack of food and irregular or non-payment of salaries.

Many have reported sexual abuse, restrictions of movements and bans on contact with other maids.

A Cambodian government ban on sending maids to Malaysia has been ignored by unscrupulous recruitment agencies.

Free Trade and ASEAN

Jan 18, 2012
Source: Live Trading News

10 ASEAN member states came together yesterday in Siem Reap, Cambodia to discuss the challenges and opportunities of free trade agreements, as well as ways that ASEAN would benefit from free trade agreements, according to a press release of the EU delegation in Cambodia.

The “Enhancing ASEAN FTA Negotiating Capacity Program” is a 2.5-million-euro (US$3.1 million) technical cooperation program funded by the EU for the benefit of ASEAN’s member states. It supports ASEAN economic integration and facilitates ASEAN’s preparedness for participating in FTA negotiations. The program is designed to provide high-quality training, cutting-edge research and analysis, and bilateral FTA negotiations for government and private sector representatives of the ASEAN member states and ASEAN Secretariat officials. It covers a broad range of trade and investment issues and addresses traditional and non-traditional issues and newer 21st century challenges.

In addition, the “Enhancing ASEAN FTA Negotiating Capacity Program” will conduct awareness-raising seminars on a wide range of international trade, investment, globalization and related political economy and socio-economic issues, which will be opened to the public, private and civil society sectors. Issues were chosen to reflect the interests and needs of the ASEAN Member States.

ASEAN as a whole represents the EU’s 3rd largest trading partner outside Europe (after the U.S. and China) with more than 175 billion euros (US$222 billion) of trade in goods and services in 2010 (according to ASEAN statistical data).

The EU represents ASEAN’s largest export partner with exports worth more than 90 billion euros (US$114 billion) in 2011 and ensuring an annual trade surplus to ASEAN of nearly 25 billion euros (US$31 billion).

EU and ASEAN started regional negotiations in 2007 which were also designed to contribute to ASEAN’s process of regional integration. Although these negotiations are currently suspended and the process is following a bilateral track, the EU still believes that a region-to-region free trade agreement makes political and economic sense in the long term.

Shayne Heffernan

Shayne Heffernan oversees the management of funds for institutions and high net worth individuals.

Shayne Heffernan holds a Ph.D. in Economics and brings with him over 25 years of trading experience in Asia and hands on experience in Venture Capital, he has been involved in several start ups that have seen market capitalization over $500m and 1 that reach a peak market cap of $15b. He has managed and overseen start ups in Mining, Shipping, Technology and Financial Services.

Philippines Urge Lifting of Sanctions on Burma

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Philippines Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario (far left) and his Burmese counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin (second right), link hands with other Asean foreign ministers for a photo-op in Cambodia on Jan. 11. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
MANILA—The Philippines says international sanctions against Burma should be lifted amid the political reforms taking place there.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late Tuesday that the Philippines welcomes the recent amnesty and release of more than 600 political prisoners. It said they showed Burma's political resolve and commitment "to nurture an environment for an enduring national reconciliation and democracy."

The foreign affairs department says such reforms "should find reciprocal gesture from the international community" in the lifting of sanctions.

The Philippines was one of the most vocal critics of the junta that once ruled Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.

Western countries have praised the reforms but are keeping sanctions in place for now.

UN calls for Cambodia to fulfil war crimes court obligation

Jan 18, 2012
Source: Monsters and Critics

Phnom Penh - The United Nations said Wednesday that Cambodia is obliged to appoint a judge to the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal despite the government's insistence that it has a choice on whether to approve such a move.

Martin Nesirky, spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said Cambodia is 'under an obligation' to appoint the tribunal's reserve international co-investigating judge as the international co-investigating judge if there is a vacancy.

The post is currently open after German judge Siegfried Blunk stepped down in October, citing perceived political interference in two cases currently under investigation, the third and fourth to be taken up by the tribunal.

Senior Cambodian officials have repeatedly said the government would not permit either case to reach trial.

The UN-nominated replacement is reserve international co-investigating judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, who voiced a determination Sunday on the micro-blogging site Twitter to investigate cases three and four.

Kasper-Ansermet's role has been left in limbo as Cambodia has yet to officially approve his appointment. Unconfirmed local media reports said his appointment was not endorsed at a meeting Friday of Cambodia's Supreme Council of Magistracy.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Monday that the judiciary has the power to decide whether to approve a judge or not. 'We continue to call upon Cambodia to fulfil its obligation,' Nesirky said.

The tribunal is investigating crimes against humanity during the Maoist Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule, during which 1.7 million to 2.2 million people died, according to tribunal estimates.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Martin Luther King Day: A Time To Reflect On Freedom And Peaceful Activism

The Hague, The Netherlands
Source: UNPO

Today marks the 25th celebration of Martin Luther King Day. In the United States and elsewhere, millions will observe that holiday, which was created in 1986 to commemorate the legacy of a man whose unrelenting struggle for freedom and equality led to the end of an era of oppression.

It was through his nonviolent campaigns that after decades of marginalization Black Americans gained acceptance as equal members of society in the United States. Beginning in 1965, his campaign to ensure that Black communities registered to vote gave millions a voice, paved the way to the ending of discrimination before the ballot box, and ultimately changed American politics forever.

Martin Luther King was an outstanding man to say the least. Through life-long activism and deep beliefs in peace and freedom, he became the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, an involvement that tragically cost him his life. He inspired and still inspires millions of people throughout the world. If the man has become a legend, it is his ideals and precepts that one should also honor today.

Indeed, all over the world countless nations and peoples are still walking in his footsteps and that of other prominent leaders such as Mahatama Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From the Degar-Montagnards in Vietnam to the Uyghurs in East Turkestan, from the Haratin in Mauritania to the Mapuche in Chile, countless people around the world are still pressing for their right to live free from oppression and persecution while engaging in peaceful activism.

So today, as we celebrate the accomplishments and ideals of a truly great man, let us not forget about people whose existence is the object of a relentless struggle. Let us praise the values of freedom, equality and peace while remembering Martin Luther King’s words: “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle”.

Chinese Dam Project in Cambodia Raises Environmental Concerns

Source: New York Time

KAMPOT PROVINCE, CAMBODIA — Ever since she was a child, Bun Thavry and her family have ventured into the nearby hills above the Toek Chhou river in Kampot Province to chop down bamboo plants to weave into baskets.

But after the Chinese company Sinohydro, one of the world’s largest construction companies, started work on the 193-megawatt Kamchay Dam in 2007, access to the countryside surrounding this tranquil town has been restricted. Mrs. Thavry’s husband, Kim Sopha, 39, like hundreds of others in nearby villages, must now travel about 10 kilometers, or 6 miles, beyond the dam site to collect the bamboo.

“Before, all you needed was a bicycle and a knife,” Mrs. Thavry, a 32-year-old mother of two, said recently as she perched on a small stool outside her wooden home near the riverbank. “But it’s completely different now.”

Today, villagers must take a truck and a boat to arrive at an unrestricted area where bamboo plants grow. Mrs. Thavry’s husband sometimes spends a week at a time in the forest to maximize his pickings and reduce travel expenses.

Downstream from the Kamchay Dam, inaugurated last month by Prime Minister Hun Sen, giant boulders bake in the sun where river waters once flowed. Owners of riverfront restaurants complain that business has fallen now that there is often no water to attract customers who might also enjoy a swim.

Cambodia’s economy grew 6.5 percent last year, according to the International Monetary Fund. To keep up with demand, the government wants to increase its domestic energy production from less than 1,000 megawatts currently to more than 10,000 megawatts through the construction of more than 20 hydropower dams all over the country.

Like Laos, which has 10 dams under construction and 25 more planned, Cambodia wants to sell to other countries a portion of the electricity generated from its new dams. The government has also said it wants to increase the domestic supply as a way to reduce dependence on imports, to lower energy costs at home and to create more jobs.

“The expected benefits of these projects are huge, including cheap electricity, new job and business opportunities, ‘greener’ energy and wider energy source diversity,” Maria Patrikainen, an analyst based in London for IHS Global, said by e-mail.

Ms. Patrikainen and environmentalists also say, however, that the dams would do more harm than good, and that situations like those being played out in Kampot Province could soon be repeated millions of times over, affecting the livelihoods of families like the Thavrys.

The most worrisome threat posed by the dams, some environmentalists say, is to food security for the rural population of Cambodia, people who depend heavily on fish as a source of protein.

“Large dams disrupt the ecosystems of rivers, block vital fish migration routes and stop nutrient-rich sediment from flowing downstream to the country’s riverbank gardens and rice fields,” Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers, an organization based in the United States, said by e-mail from Bangkok. “Their reservoirs also often lead to the displacement of large numbers of people and the clearing of the country’s forests.”

Large dams, she said, “can destroy livelihoods and food security, exacerbate poverty and lead to human rights violations.

“While each project proposed in Cambodia comes with a different set of impacts, large dams are likely to widen the gap between the rich and the poor, increase malnutrition levels and lead to an environmentally unsustainable future,” she said.

Most of the attention has been focused on the proposed 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi Dam in Laos, the first dam planned for the lower Mekong River, which runs through Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. But environmentalists assert that dams planned farther downstream on some of the Mekong’s major tributaries in Cambodia would be just as damaging.

The state-owned Électricité du Vietnam is due to start work next year on a dam on the Sesan River, one of the largest Mekong tributaries in Stung Treng Province, in northeastern Cambodia.

In the next three years, work is expected to begin on two more Chinese-built dams in Pursat Province, on the border with Thailand, and on a project on the Tatai River in Koh Kong Province.

Environmentalists say these dams, especially those with links to the Mekong, would have serious consequences for local fisheries and would prevent the flow of the nutrient-rich sediment that travels through to the Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The Mekong Delta is where 40 percent of Vietnam’s rice stock is grown, where the majority of its fish is caught and where 17 million people live, according to the Mekong River Commission, an intergovernmental organization with representation from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

“Cambodia is possibly globally the country that is the most reliant on wild-capture fisheries for food security of its 13-plus million population,” Marc Goichot, a hydropower specialist from the WWF’s greater Mekong program, wrote in an e-mail from Vientiane, Laos. “A significant part of those wild fish are migratory species,” he said, and no system for fish passage through large dams has proven effective in similar cases.

To mitigate the negative effects on rural communities, consulting firms and government officials have in the past suggested ideas like getting villagers to switch their eating habits from fish to the abundant supply of rabbits in the northeast of the country. The introduction of boat tours where dams have been built to generate revenue from tourism has also been suggested.

But environmentalists say Cambodia should think about scrapping the dams altogether for technologies like solar power, gasification and co-generation, a process in which heat generated from power plants is captured and converted to energy.

Observers of hydropower development in the region also say that dam projects should be subject to strict environmental and social assessments.

“At present, there does not seem to be an appetite for best practice development, especially amongst the Chinese-developed dams in the Cardamom Mountains and elsewhere,” said David Blake, a doctoral candidate in the school of international development at the University of East Anglia, England, who has studied the development of hydropower dams in Southeast Asia.

One way that locals can be included in the economic benefits that hydropower dams bring, he said by e-mail, is through profit-sharing programs like those in Canada, where, after decades of rampant dam building, the aboriginal First Nation people have started to be paid an income from hydropower revenue.

Unlike dams planned for most of the region’s rivers, the Xayaburi Dam in Laos must undergo proper risk assessment under a 1996 pact between countries in the Mekong River Commission, which requires them to agree on all dam projects on the lower Mekong. China has already built four mainstream dams on the upper Mekong, already reducing the amount of sediment flowing downstream, environmentalists say.

Last month delegates from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia met in Siem Reap and decided to postpone the construction of the Xayaburi Dam until further studies could be done on its environmental and social effects.

The decision was based largely on findings in a 2010 report for the Mekong commission, which was carried out by the International Center for Environmental Management, a consulting firm based in Melbourne.

The report said the two hydropower dams planned for the mainstream Mekong in Cambodia would be enough to generate revenue of $1.2 billion for the government, or half of country’s entire annual budget for 2012.

The losses, however, could be far greater, it cautioned. If all the proposed dams on the mainstream Mekong go ahead, the report estimates, fisheries in the Mekong commission countries will lose $476 million a year in revenue.

Fish productivity, it said, would shrink by as much as 880,000 tons, or 42 percent of the total catch recorded in 2000. Fifty-four percent of all riverbank gardens on the Mekong River would be lost as agricultural land is flooded to create reservoirs or taken over for transmission lines, the report said. The transportation of sediment downstream would be reduced, which means the nutrients that fertilize the flood plains around the Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, would be reduced by half. And 106,942 people stand to be evicted from their homes.

Still, he dams will give an already fast-growing region low-cost electricity, new jobs and renewable energy.

The Kamchay Dam, for example, will provide a new source of electricity to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, as well as the southern provinces of Kampot and Preah Sihanouk, all of which experience regular blackouts.

But observers say weaknesses in the region, like a lack of dispute-resolution mechanisms, are making it harder to arrive at ways that will avoid some of the more harmful consequences.

“In my view the question is not so much about whether Cambodia and other Mekong countries should not seek to increase their hydropower activism, but how they can cooperate more effectively with each other in order to manage their common water resources more equitably,” said Ms. Patrikainen, at IHS Global said.

As for the Kamchay Dam in Kampot Province, there were few measures put in place to make sure that the dam was an equitable solution for everyone involved.

“As this project was built in a protected park, without adequate impact studies or meaningful consultation with affected communities, it places the country at risk that this process may be repeated,” Ms. Trandem from International Rivers said.

Mrs. Thavry, the bamboo basket weaver, said she was not consulted before construction of the dam. If she had been, she said, she would have asked to be compensated for the weekly $15 journey her husband now has to make into the forest so that she can earn $100 a week selling her baskets.

“The electricity will flow,” she said, “but it has destroyed my ability to get bamboo.”

The Coming Age of Ethnic Reconciliation in Burma

Vikas Kumar | January 17, 2012

Recent developments in Burma have generated considerable optimism about the country’s long-impending democratization.

But will democracy foster ethnic reconciliation, essential for Burma’s domestic stability? A cross-country comparison with Sri Lanka and an examination of Burma’s demography and geographic distribution of resources indicate that despite sharing an otherwise similar trajectory with Sri Lanka, Burma’s emerging democracy could foster ethnic reconciliation, even after more than 60 years of ethnic insurgency.

Geographically, Burma belongs to mainland Southeast Asia. But culturally it belongs to the Theravada Buddhist world, along with countries like Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. These countries are all alike insofar as their constitutions symbolically link the legitimacy of the state to Buddhism or, at the very least, extend special treatment to the majority Buddhist community.

But to the extent that each was affected by colonialism and communism/socialism, these Theravada countries can be classified into three groups: Thailand, which was never directly colonized and remained largely immune to communism; Laos and Cambodia, erstwhile French colonies that were strongly influenced by communism; and Sri Lanka and Burma, former British colonies, where socialism had considerable appeal. More recently in Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka, minority insurgencies have contested the authority of the state. With these commonalities in mind (among others), Sri Lanka is clearly the Theravada country whose path most closely resembles that of Burma.

In Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese Buddhist-dominated state militarily defeated the Tamil ethnic minority insurgency, but then refused to honor its commitment to reconciliation. While the Sri Lankan Buddhist majority is unwilling to hold the government accountable in this regard, the Buddhist majority in a democratic Burma is unlikely to behave in a similar fashion.

At the moment, it seems the process of democratization in Burma is entirely controlled by the military regime. But the regime is introducing political reforms and trying to initiate peace talks with ethnic militias only because it is increasingly unable to sustain itself in the absence of popular support, while its legitimacy as the guardian of the majority Burmese Buddhists’ interests remains questionable. So, the democratization of Burma, whenever that happens, will be a people’s victory against an authoritarian state — much different from the case of Sri Lanka.

There are two more structural reasons why majority-minority relations will not be overtly antagonistic in a democratic Burma. First, Burma’s population is not divided into two antagonistic camps. This is unlike Sri Lanka, where there remains a clear division between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority in the north.

In contrast, insurgents in Burma are divided along ethnic lines — and none of the groups has managed to establish authority over the rest, as was the case in Sri Lanka, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam dominated the scene for more than two decades. Moreover, the Burmese Buddhists are also divided into a number of camps with fundamentally different approaches to the ethnic question. Second, unlike in Sri Lanka, the Burmese minority insurgent groups are not devoid of members from the majority community.

In short, religious, ethno-linguistic and political divides are not co-extensive in Burma. This has two consequences. First, it is highly unlikely that one political party will emerge as the sole representative of all the major ethnic minorities. So, the ethnic minorities are unlikely to pose a unified political threat to the Burmese Buddhists. Second, one political party is unlikely to maintain a majority with only the Burmese Buddhist vote. Parties representing the majority community would also need the support of ethnic minority parties. Consequently, political contests are unlikely to divide the polity into two clearly demarcated camps.

In addition, unlike the stronghold of the Sri Lankan Tamils, which is resource poor and located in one corner of the country, the strongholds of ethnic minorities are distributed along the entire periphery of Burma. The strongholds of Burmese ethnic minorities are not only resource-rich regions that should attract major international investment following democratization, but they also control Burma’s access to key neighbors like China, India and Thailand. Given the country’s decades-long economic stagnation, it is unlikely that the Burmese Buddhists will overlook this.

In sum, although demography and geographic distribution of resources failed to restrain ethnic conflicts immediately after independence, they will play a different role in a democratic Burma. A cursory acquaintance with Burma’s post-colonial history will convince the majority Burmese Buddhists of the impossibility and futility of any attempt to subjugate the minorities. This time, history should bear out the limits that demography and other factors place on ethno-political polarization and help foster ethnic reconciliation.

East Asia Forum

Vikas Kumar is an assistant professor at Azim Premji University in Bangalore.

RI ready to send observers to Cambodia, Thailand

Nani Afrida and Novan Iman Santosa,
The Jakarta Post,
Tue, 01/17/2012

Indonesia will send military observers to mediate a territorial dispute between Thailand and Cambodia as the two countries have agreed to ask for Indonesia’s assistance.

Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiatoro said on Monday that the Indonesian foreign minister had told him about the plan.

“We have done some preparations since last year and we will send those observers soon,” he told a press conference after a leadership meeting at the ministry.

He added that last year Cambodia had agreed to involve Indonesia in mediating the dispute, but that Thailand did not respond due to a change in government.

“Now, both countries have agreed and what we need is to prepare our human resources,” he said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Agus Suhartono said that the standard operational procedure (SOP) and term of reference (TOR) had been changed.

“Previously, Indonesia was to send 15 observers to each side of the border,” he told the press conference. “But now we will work together with the Cambodian and Thai forces along the 4.6-kilometer border.”

He said the previous arrangement required 30 observers, while TNI was still calculating the personnel need for the new one.

“We will have to deploy the personnel on May 2 at the latest,” he said.

Agus said the observers were being trained at the Indonesian Peace and Security Center (IPSC) in Sentul, West Java.

Contacted separately, Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene confirmed the plan, saying that Indonesia would help Thailand and Cambodia create peace on their border, but added that Indonesia was still waiting for some reviews of the TOR.

“The TOR has been created, but we have to review it based on the recommendation given by the International Court of Justice (ICJ),” Tene told The Jakarta Post, adding that the three countries were now working on that matter.

Tene said that the ICJ had recommended establishing joint teams of observers comprising Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia.

“We are ready to send our observers when Thailand and Cambodia are ready,” he added.

Besides establishing joint observers, the ICJ ruled that Thailand and Cambodia should pull their troops out from the site of an ancient Hindu temple and establish a demilitarized zone around its ruins in order to facilitate negotiations.

The dispute between Thailand and Cambodia centers around Preah Vihear, the 11th Century Hindu temple located along the borders of the two countries. Previously, a 1962 ICJ ruling gave the right of the temple to Cambodia; a point Thailand does not debate. Thailand, however, claims the land surrounding the temple.

There have been various skirmishes along the disputed area since 2008, in which soldiers from both Cambodia and Thailand were killed.

CAMBODIA: Toppling cambodian dictators is not impossible if we think smart and act smart

Contributors: Dr. Gaffar Peang-Meth

An article by Dr. Gaffar Peang-Meth published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

My grandson, 12, a seventh grader, read "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror" (2004), a bestseller by a former Soviet prisoner, Natan Sharansky. He passed the book to me, saying I might be interested in reading it.

I had read about Sharansky, 9 years a prisoner in the Soviet gulag; I hadn't read his book. I immediately opened the book to pages my grandson had bookmarked: Sharansky's distinction between "free societies" and "fear societies"; Sharansky's description of believers, dissenters and the millions of "double thinkers" who don't speak their thoughts because of fear of arrest, imprisonment and physical harm so they speak with their "eyes" but go through the motion of supporting rulers who are interested only in remaining forever in power.

Sharansky contends that elections are not enough to dub a society free – a free press, an independent judiciary, the rule of law must exist before genuine free elections are held. He became controversial as he blasted conservatives for placing "stability" above human rights in international relations, and liberals for failing to distinguish between struggling democracies and authoritarian regimes that overtly trample human rights. Sharansky advocates the universality of freedom and human rights.

As I browsed through the book, a Khmer saying came to my mind: "Tumpaeng snorng russey," referring to young bamboo shoots that grow to replace aging bamboo trees – the future is in the making.

A day later my grandson forwarded me comments by an anonymous blogger "Pissed Off" on KI-Media. Although I am rarely interested in anonymous postings, I have commented in this space before about Pissed Off's well-reasoned op-ed piece on the Internet about using our resources to educate every Khmer child as a way to resolve countless Khmer problems, including the much feared Vietnamization of Cambodia.

In his most recent posting, blogger "Pissed Off" commented on "potential Cambodian leaders" who oppose Hun Sen's rule as "like different streams that run fiercely toward the same goal, but cannot merge to reach that goal with a strong and full force. Perhaps the four rivers that merge in front (of) Phnom Penh can serve as an enlightenment for them to see."

Pissed Off's most relevant question: "(C)an't potential leaders of Cambodia be bound together by their education and the common goal of saving and helping Cambodia and her people?"

Inquisitive minds

Those who read my columns know that my purpose in writing springs from my role as an educator. I write to share what I know and have experienced and to nudge readers to remain curious and inquisitive: A mind that does not question is intellectually useless, especially in this ever changing world. Cambodia, the land of my birth, has gone through hell and fire for too long and her people have suffered greatly. The least I can do at my age is to write while my brain still functions.

As a political scientist, I have engaged in the discipline's conventional tasks: to describe objectively what is; to explain through analysis, causes and effects; to project what may or not happen in the time ahead; and to suggest what or what not, to do. Of course, I don't expect everyone to agree with my views. But diversity is what democracy is about, and in a civilized world gentlemen disagree and move on.

In the past, I carried my tasks further: I became a political activist and "actionist" – a pursuit I put to rest when I left the Khmer People's National Liberation Front in 1989, to become a teacher. I taught in formal classrooms and engaged in writing for wall-less classrooms. Since my retirement, I continue to share, seeking to educate, and inspire – another form of activism.

The Chinese say, "Talk doesn't cook rice." True enough. But I have also often referenced Lord Buddha's words: "An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea." It has been said, "The ancestor of every action is thought."

An old Khmer saying tells of a place for anything and any person in a Khmer's world: "A vieach york mork thveu kang; A trang york mork thveu kamm; A sam rognam york mork thveu os dot" – "Bent woods make wheel; Straight woods make spoke; Crooked/twisted woods make firewood." So, think smart, make room; make use of it or him/her, or his/her ideas and thoughts.

The New Year 2012: An unhappy beginning

My end of the year article in December in this space contained unhappy news on Cambodia and her people. The New Year didn't begin with happy news, either.

On January 3, 2012, some 500 hundred police supported by emergency vehicles provided security to employees of private developer Phan Imex, and to its hired men armed with axes and crowbars, who were bulldozing citizens' homes in Phnom Penh's Borei Keila.

The police fired shots and used sticks and electric batons against about 200 residents – including children, as photos and videos on the Internet illustrated. The residents fought back. They threw stones, Molotov cocktails, and used tree branches to fence off those who had demolished nearly 300 homes. Phan Imex was armed with a court order that ruled the land belonged to it.

A 2003 agreement between the government and Phan Imex authorized the latter to construct 10 buildings on 2 hectares of land to house 1,776 families, and to have development rights over a remaining 2.6 hectares. However, Phan Imex has constructed only 8 buildings leaving some 400 families without housing. On Jan. 3, 2012 Phan Imex, backed by the government, began dismantling the rest of the Borei Keila residents' homes.

The remarks of Var Ponlork, a member of the uniformed military, were posted on the Internet. He asked how Premier Hun Sen could send soldiers to protect Khmer land at the border while taking away land that belongs to the people?

Eleven human rights groups issued a joint statement condemning the "destruction of … homes" and the "violent eviction" of the residents, "Phnom Penh's urban poor." The Phnom Penh Post dubbed it "A Battle for Borei Keila" – a far cry from being a welcoming New Year!

If the past is a guide for the future, forced, violent evictions will continue, and more "battles" will be fought between the people and developers backed by the government.

Ironically, an almost identical event occurred in Southern China's fishing village of 20,000 residents in Wukan, where an open popular revolt took place against local Chinese Communist Party officials following seizures of farmland and land deals. The Wukan revolt began as a protest against officials selling a village-owned pig farm to developers of luxury housing community for $156 million. The townspeople received none of the proceeds of the transaction. The protesters alleged that their village leader died as a result of a beating by police. Subsequently, Wukan villagers ousted the local officials. Worried, China's higher-ranking authorities called for negotiation – but the fate of the land deal remains unclear.

Some Cambodians speak

After my December column, a Phnom Penh University student, Phiev Tong Him (he authorized me to use his name), identified himself as a teacher of English in a state school and noted he is worried as a "culture of corruption (is) now being promoted in Khmer society": "Children in all grades do not study hard as they rely on the teachers to whom they bribe to get high scores." He claimed the situation is "critical" because "corruption is rampant from the bottom to the top in all fields in the country." He asked "what will happen to society if this habit continues?"

A former comrade-in-arms of mine from the royalist faction of the Khmer Non-Communist Resistance lamented from Phnom Penh about former leaders – both KPNLF and Royalist – "crippled" by the force they once had fought against, as they have been lured by a thirst for "power, money and prestige." The ranking royalist called "pathetic" a Phnom Penh overpass called "7 January Overpass" – in recognition of Vietnamese seizing the capital in 1979 – and which "the new Khmer people called ‘Liberation Day' overpass." He optimistically asserted, "Personally I don't think this is the end"; "The silent majority is hard at work."

They will have to work quickly, however. Teveakor, a young Khmer activist I introduced in this space at an earlier time, wrote that he travelled last month from commune to commune in northwestern Cambodia looking for "land to rent, to grow cassava in the next year." He was shocked, he reported, that "thousands of hectares of land already belonged to foreign companies through land concessions, about 10 hectares only are owned by a middle class family in the city, the Khmer farmers and villagers in the area no longer own land."

I could feel Teveakor's nationalist blood boiling in his e-mail, as he asked: "Does this not mean that the Khmer villagers, once masters of the land, will in the short future become farm workers and immigrants on their ancestors' soil?" The nationalist sentiment is also very personal: "I always owned ten hectares of land in this area, but the authorities found reasons to let a foreign company grow rubber on them."

He assured me that what happened to him with the land he owned also happened to "countless citizens" throughout Cambodia.

Teveakor is angry, and frustrated.


The years 2012 and 2013 are election years that will change or sustain the status quo for another term in Cambodia. Looking ahead, Teveakor, a democrat, believes in elections as a founding principle of a democracy. He questions how anyone says s/he believes in democracy but rejects elections even in adverse conditions: If conditions are adverse, then do something to render them more favorable, he says.

Early this month, political analyst Lao Monghay told the Voice of America that, "Now, their destiny is in the hands of the Cambodian people entirely." In a perfect world, this would have been true. As Pissed Off commented, "Dictators in Cambodia maintain their grip on Cambodians using violence, fear, suppression of justice, false image of monarchy . . . control of the justice system and most importantly with a new method of providing just, or barely, enough for the poor, so they won't revolt . . .," et cetera.

Teveakor doesn't doubt that Hun Sen and the ruling CPP will rig and manipulate the elections, use fear and intimidation, in order to hold on to power. But, he thinks they can hold on to power perhaps for another decade only. There is still much work for rights and democracy advocates to do – like instilling a political awareness and new political thinking in the Khmers. But progress will be made over time.

Teveakor's thinking dovetails with that of democracy advocate Sambath and colleagues (who seem to keep low profiles at this moment). Even the ranking royalist correspondent shares the same thought.

What will happen when these different forces – and many others not mentioned here – converge against the same adversaries, to attain the shared goal of ending the autocrats' rule? Of course, democrats must not forget that the autocrats, too, seek to divide, weaken, and defeat them at every opportunity.

Non-Violent Resistance to Topple Dictators

I have written elsewhere about two men whom the December issue of Foreign Policy Magazine identified as among 100 top global thinkers.

One was American political scientist Gene Sharp, 83, a Ph.D. degree holder in political theory from Oxford, Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and founder of the nonprofit Albert Einstein Institution in Boston, devoted to studies and promotion of nonviolence action in conflicts worldwide. The other was Srdja Popovic a former marine biology student at Belgrade University, who at age 29, and influenced by the work of Gene Sharp, formed "Otpor" ("Resistance" in Serbian) in 1998, to mobilize Serbia's populace against Slobodan Milosevic, Serbian president (1989-1997) and Yugoslav president (1997-2000), ending Milosevic's rule in 2000.

Sharp's work has become a blueprint for the world's activists against dictatorship, and Popovic's first hand experiences and his writing have become sought after knowledge by democracy advocates in more than 50 countries – especially the Arab Spring movements against their dictators.

It is more the reason, and with urgency, that Cambodian rights and democracy advocates become familiar with the work by Sharp and by Popovic. Of course Cambodia is not Serbia nor Egypt. But we need to examine the similarities where they exist and learn to see many trees in a forest and see a whole forest from different trees.

I have written on Sharp's 1993 book published in Thailand, "From Dictatorship to Democracy, A Conceptual Framework for Liberation," and I am happy to see the book, and Popovic's "Nonviolent Struggle, 50 Crucial Points" posted on the Khmer Blog KI-Media.

Sharp's 1973 classic, "The Politics of Nonviolent Action" has influenced revolutionists the world over, and Popovic's Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies' (CANVAS) one-hour documentary film, "Bringing Down a Dictator," is said to be a must-view film (which inspired Burma's Saffron Revolutionists).

There is no substitute for reading their writings. But here are some of Sharp and Popovic's ideas that opponents of Hun Sen might draw upon. Activists and "actionists" from other nations have already benefited from them.

Gene sharp

A dictatorial regime remains in power thanks to the obedience, submission and cooperation of the people it governs. Therefore, democracy activists' goal is to convince the people that their withdrawal of obedience, submission and cooperation from the regime would end the regime's hold on power. As a regime is like a building that is supported by columns, activists must pull those columns from it to their side. Two very important columns to pull away from autocrats are the police and the military – and Popovic's Otpor and the Egyptian protesters did precisely that.

Sharp's seven reasons why the many obey the few are applicable to the Cambodian situation. People obey out of habit, and from fear of punishment if they don't obey. Thus, many people are what Sharansky called "double thinkers." Also, there are those who feel a moral obligation to obey (as Cambodians obey "Sdech phaen dei" or the king of the earth); those who obey out of a kind of emotional-psychological identification with the ruler; and those whose "zone of indifference" allows them to tolerate and overlook areas that are unpleasant, so they endure.

Many people obey out of their own "self-interest" in prestige, power position, direct or indirect financial gain incurred. Cambodians in general fit this criteria so well. Those whose self-interests include desire to travel in and out of the country find using Hun Sen's travel passport and visa to be within their zone of indifference or tolerance. Sharp also mentioned people without the self-confidence to disobey and resist – Sharp refers to this as an avoidance of responsibility.

Can Cambodians reverse some or all of these reasons?

Sadly, Sharp argues, obedience is essentially "voluntary" – a person consents to obey because s/he is unwilling to face the consequence(s) of disobedience. Sharp mentioned Russian Leo Tolstoy's writing on the English subjection of India: "What does it mean that (a commercial company of) 30,000 men . . . ha(s) subdued 200 million . . .? Do not the figures make it clear that it is not the English who have enslaved the Indians, but the Indians who have enslaved themselves?"

Sharp also cited 16th century French writer Etienne de La Boetie on the power of a tyrant: "He who abuses you so has only two eyes, has but two hands, one body, and has naught but what has the least man of the great and infinite number of your cities, except for the advantage you give him to destroy you."

Sharp's "Methods of Nonviolent Action" lists about 200 methods available for democracy activists to use against autocrats, including methods of social, economic, and political "noncooperation" and methods of nonviolent intervention (psychological, physical, social, economic, political).

Srdja Popovic

Born on October 29, 1969, the Belgrade University marine biology student Srdja Popovic who, with his friends, founded the Otpor resistance movement on October 10, 1998, at a time when Serbian dictator Milosevic's rule was firmly entrenched, decided that it must be Otpor's primary objective to transform the political culture of the Serbian people. Their political consciousness needed to change, and all issues were considered in terms of the overall goal of removing Milosevic.

Otpor leaders were very frustrated by the different opposition political leaders who were more concerned with protecting and promoting their own interests, and who fought among themselves rather than working to remove Milosevic.

A document, "Declaration of the Future of Serbia," was drafted to expose Otpor's vision for Serbia's tomorrow: It defined Serbia's main problems, Otpor's objectives, and the methods Otpor proposed to use to remove Milosevic from power. Happily, the document was endorsed and approved by "all" important student organizations in Serbia, and prominent figures from different walks of life emerged to throw their support behind Otpor. Otpor's symbol of the clenched fist was adopted.

Otpor's two-pronged strategies included mobilizing the Serbian people to vote, although Otpor leaders knew well that Milosevic would never accept defeat in the elections. As Sharp puts it in his book, "Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones." So, while people were encouraged to vote, they were also encouraged to carry out "individual resistance" using nonviolent methods of civil disobedience. Otpor made clear that it was a must that the opposition must get more votes than Milosevic, and that in order to reach this objective the different opposition parties must "unite" behind one opposition presidential candidate, and that the only goal in the struggle was removing Milosevic.

Otpor leaders thus worked on improving analytical skills to promote and maintain "unity, planning, and nonviolent discipline" – the analytical skills that can be taught and learned.

Serbian students who led Otpor made use of Serbian translations of Prof. Gen Sharp's writings on nonviolent action as a theoretical basis for their struggle.

Slowly, the Otpor leaders stripped away the traditional "fear, fatalism and passivity" of the Serbian people, and creatively turned those factors into positive action by making it "even cool" to be a revolutionist. They used humor and creative street theater in public protests to mock Milosevic, to make "those grey and square-headed bureaucrats look stupid and ridiculous."

The idea was to break down fear, and to inspire "the tired, disappointed and pathetic Serbian society." Elevate enthusiasm and humor, and fear and apathy would diminish. People needed to be empowered to see the regime's vulnerability, thus, overcoming their fear of punishment.

"Gotov je" (He is finished!) and "Vreme Je!" (It's Time!) became slogans to galvanize public discontent. One month before the people stormed Serbia's parliament, Milosevic's police arrested some 2,000 Otpor activists in September 2000.

But, in October 2000, Milosevic resigned.

Advice on Violence

Sharp posits: "Constitutional and legal barriers, judicial decisions, and public opinion are normally ignored by dictators." On the other hand, "By placing confidence in violent means (in the struggle against dictators), one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority."

Popovic advises: "There are two things you need to avoid if you don't want your movement to be doomed: One is violence . . ." Popovic sees the maintenance of a "nonviolent discipline" as indispensable for the success of a revolution. A protester who throws rock at the police opens door for the police with superior power to respond with force on the whole group.

The second thing to avoid is "taking advice from foreigners."

On reliance on outside saviors

Sharp says, oppressed people who are "unwilling and unable to struggle" for lack of "confidence in their ability to face the ruthless dictatorship . . . understandab(ly) . . . place their hope in for liberation in . . . outside force" to come to their rescue.

Sharp presented "a few harsh realities." Frequently, Sharp tells us, "foreign states will tolerate, or even positively assist, a dictatorship" to serve the foreign states' "own economic or political interests." Also, foreign states "may be willing to sell out an oppressed people instead of keeping pledges to assist their liberation at the cost of another objective"; they will act against a dictatorship "only to gain their own economic, political, or military control over the country." Foreign states may become actively involved "only if and when the internal resistance has already begun shaking the dictatorship . . ." However, Sharp posits, "International pressures can be very useful . . . when they are supporting a powerful internal resistance movement."

"Foreign governments don't have friends, only interests," warned Popovic.

He encouraged democrats to "try to cultivate external support, get the knowledge and material resources from those offering it and use it for your movement's mission. But beware of their political advice because successful revolutions are only those which are home grown, designed and followed by local people in a certain country."

Happy 2012

I write this article hoping to spark discussion and cause Cambodians to reflect on what opponents to Cambodia's autocracy can learn from the experiences of others. Some Cambodian democracy activists may feel helpless and lonely in their fight, but they must not feel hopeless or alone. Many people under the sun have traveled this road and some have seen success.

"Never" is too long a time. Humans' liberation from oppression is not impossible.

Remember Lord Buddha's words, "Nothing is permanent"; "He is able who thinks he is able"; "I believe in a fate that falls on (men) unless they act."

Happy New Year 2012 to all Cambodian democracy activists!


The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

About the Author:

Dr. Gaffar Peang-Meth is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. He currently lives in the Uni