Friday, March 30, 2012

Asian emergency funding pool set to double

Speaking at the opening of the 16th Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) finance ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon confirmed that the ministers would "commit to finalizing the expansion of the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization, including the doubling of its funding contribution."

The initiative, which sets out a foreign currency reserve pool currently worth 120 billion US dollars, came into force in 2010 between China, Japan, South Korea and the 10-member Asean.

It aims to provide financial support to countries with short-term liquidity needs and acts as a supplement to existing international financing arrangements, according to the Asean secretariat. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen added the funding pool would provide liquidity "particularly during times of crisis."

The Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.//DPA

EU- Asean Meeting To Enhance Trade & Investment Ties With Southeast Asia

By Tengku Noor Shamsiah Tengku Abdullah

SINGAPORE, March 30 (Bernama) -- The European Union and Asean are set to further strengthen their trade and investment relations at the EU-Asean meeting in Phnom Penh next week.

EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will head to Phnom Penh tomorrow to meet Asean economic ministers and attend the Second Asean-EU Business Summit on April 1.

"The meeting with Southeast Asia economic ministers and the second Asean-EU Business Summit this year underlines our dedication to engage Asean member states and the private sector in the region to strengthen our economic ties.

"Given the economic dynamism of the Asean region, I see considerable opportunities for working more closely together in the coming years," said De Gucht in a statement from Brussels released by the EU Delegation office here today.

De Gucht will meet economic and trade Ministers from the 10 Asean member states during the annual Asean Economic Ministers' Summit where he will discuss possibilities to enhance trade and investment relations between the 27-member EU and Asean.

He will also hold individual meetings with his Asean colleagues to discuss bilateral trade issues.

The Business Summit will help promote dialogues between governments and the private sector and intensify business-to-business relations.

The EU aims to open up new trade and business opportunities in this fast- growing region and create strong partnerships which support Asean's economic integration.

The EU has increased its economic ties with Southeast Asia by opening negotiations for free trade agreements with Singapore and Malaysia in 2010 and remains open to start negotiating similar comprehensive free trade agreements with other partners in the region.

These bilateral agreements are considered building blocks for a future free trade agreement with the whole region.

This year's events coincide with the 35th anniversary of the inception of official relations between the EU and Asean.

Asean comprises Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

As a whole, Asean represents the EU's 5th largest trading partner, with 206 billion euros of trade in goods and services.

The EU is Asean's third largest trading partner after China and Japan, accounting for 10.7 per cent of Asean's trade.

The EU is by far the largest investor in Asean countries, with companies from EU member countries accounting for an average of 20.6 per cent foreign direct investments share during the 2008-2010 period.


MAFEX’s trade delegation to Vietnam and Thailand

Source: Spanishrailways News

The Spanish Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Equipment and Services for the Railway Industry (MAFEX), in collaboration with the Spanish Institute of Foreign Trade (ICEX), coordinated a trade delegation to Vietnam and Thailand in March 21-28.

30/03/2012) Spanish representatives met with representatives from transport authorities in each country, as well as with companies of the sector to search for cooperation possibilities. The Spanish rail sector showed its interest in being part of future transport plans in Thailand and Vietnam for the upgrade of the existing infrastructures and the improvement in urban mobility.


Thailand at present has ongoing upgrade plans of its rail networks with modernization works and such new projects as the construction of five new high-speed lines, according to the Spanish Trade Office in the country. The total distance of the new rail infrastructure would be 767 km, with an investment of 1,572.2 million euros.

MAFEX’s trade delegation aims to provide opportunities for the participation of Spanish companies in the new projects and their consolidation in the Thai market, where some companies are already operating: Amurrio Ferrocarril y Equipos, Eahsa Smart Grid, Ikusi-Ángel Iglesias, Manusa Door Systems, Patentes Talgo and Telvent.


New rail connecting projects are also being considered for Vietnam. To be highlighted is the line that would link the country with Cambodia and China, a key rail line for the international trade of goods, which would result in great economic benefits for Cambodia, particularly in the development of agriculture and mineral resources, as the Prime Minister Han San has recently indicated.

The country also has the support of the Asian Development Bank for the remodeling project of the existing railway lines, which includes the 254 km connecting the capital city with Sihanoukville, and the 388 km line between Phnom Penh and Thailand’s border. Spanish companies such as Getinsa Ingeniería and Manusa Door Systems are already present in Vietnam.

Phnom Penh hotel bars presentation on Myanmar situation, gov't hand eyed

Burma Partnership's Khin Ohmar tells a press conference how the Pnom Penh hotel where the ASEAN People's Forum is being held threatened to cut off power and padlock the venue if participants insisted on holding a presentation on the political and human rights situation in Myanmar and three workshops on land. (photo by Jefry M. Tupas, TV5 Davao)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Incensed Myanmar participants to the ASEAN People's Forum in Phnom Penh here were forced to forgo Friday morning a scheduled presentation on their country's current political and human rights situation because of restrictions imposed by the hotel where the event is being held, prompting suspicions that the Cambodian government had a hand in the incident.

The management of the Lucky Star Hotel threatened to cut off power and padlock the venue if organizers of the APF insisted on presenting the Myanmar situation and two other "questionable" activities - three workshops on land and another on whether Myanmar will be in a politically mature position to chair the regional bloc two years from now.

Cambodia is the current chair of ASEAN.

Khin Ohmar, coordinator of Burma Partnership, the group supposed to do the presentations, said it was difficult to believe the Cambodian government had nothing to do with the hotel’s prohibitions, although she added that the pressure may have originally emanated from the military-ruled government of Myanmar.

“I am sad to see that the Cambodian government is doing this as they claim that they will be able to finish the ASEAN declaration of human rights,” Ohmad said. “Basically, the basic freedom to expression is a human rights issue. But what happened just showed that the ASEAN government, including Cambodia, is not ready to commit to do what they claimed to be…”

“There is a possibility that the Burmese military rule has something to do with this. They have done this before and I would not be surprised if they are doing it again. But I am surprised that the Cambodian government will still comply or response to the pressure from the Burmese government. Why would they do that?” she said.

Filipina Consuelo Katrina Lopa, regional coordinator for the South East Asian Committee for Advocacy, said the gathering of civil-society groups at the APF has been facing all sorts of pressures from some ASEAN governments.

“All 30 delegates from Laos were picked up by their ambassador upon their arrival here and they were all transferred to the other APF,” she said, referring to the “APF” at the Chaktomuk Conference Hall, a government-owned facility overlooking the Mekong River.

She said the head of the Lao delegation chose to go home instead of attend the other forum, “which was obviously had the support of the government.”

“And now this pressure on Burma … grabe (it’s too much),” she added.

Ohmar said although there was still an opportunity for them to look for another venue to present their inputs, “we stopped because we are here to show our solidarity to the people of Cambodia.”

“Land is a huge issue. We are here in solidarity with the people. We are not here to appease the government. If they are not able to raise their voice, and they move out, why should be go on with our inputs?” she said.

The pressures on them, she said, show the ASEAN objective to “build a community” as nothing but a farce.

“To me, this is the same attitude common among ASEAN governments. They always want to be in top-down control of the people. I don’t know really what they mean when they say ‘building the community.’ You can’t have a community when you don’t have a space for them to freely express and practice their basic rights. We are the major stakeholders of the community. This is not a club of the elite people or of the government,” she said.

The cancelled workshops on land had to do with the expansion of mono-culture plantations in the region, the protection of indigenous and ethnic minorities’ rights to land and territory, and on land rights and eviction.

“Not only are we facing eviction from our land, we are now also being evicted from this civil society process,” said Seng Sokheng, member of the National Working Group of the Community Peace Building Network, of the cancelled presentations.

“We came here to join the ACSC/APF because we believed it was a space for us to explain our issues and share them with fellow civil society from the region. Cambodia has tarnished its image by evicting us like this,” Sokheng said.

Cambodia, Vietnam to fight financial crimes

The National Bank of Cambodia this week signed a Memorandum of Under-standing with the State Bank of Vietnam that would allow for the exchange of information to fight money laundering and terrorism financing.

The MoU, signed by NBC Governor Chea Chanto and SBV Governor Nguyen Van Binh in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, will allow the individual countries to leverage the databases and information held by the other country in combatting the two issues.

The Kingdom and Vietnam also signed an MoU on Wednesday to enhance their respective financial industries through worker development programs.

Cambodian court temporarily releases 4 Thai miners charged with illegal entry

SA KAEO, March 30 – A Cambodian court on Friday temporarily released four Thai miners charged with illegal entry pending a court verdict.

The four are two couples, Saran and Suriya Panphet, both 43, Sa Kaeo natives and the mining contractors, and their assistants, Bai Sodachan and his wife, Ms Wanwisa, both 24.

Cambodian border officials handed over the four to senior Thai officials at the Bantaphraya-Buengtakuan border crossing after they were temporarily released Thursday evening. They were fined Bt1,600 each for leaving the country without permission.

Pol Lt-Col Benchaphon Rodsawat, deputy superintendent of the Sa Kaeo immigration police said the four were released on bail and their Cambodian lawyer is now fighting the case.

The court in Sisophon, the Banteay Meanchet provincial seat, is awaiting relevant documents from their employer before delivering the verdict.

The four Thais were en route to work at a gold mine in Cambodia’s Udon Meechai province and were arrested by Cambodian soldiers on March 23 for illegal entry. (MCOT online news)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hu Jintao's visit to strengthen Sino-Cambodian ties: Chinese envoy

March 28, 2012

PHNOM PENH, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese President Hu Jintao's state visit to Cambodia this week will build up stronger Sino-Cambodian ties in politics, trade and investment, Pan Guangxue, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia, said Tuesday.

Speaking in a press briefing about Hu Jintao's visit schedule to Cambodia from March 30 to April 2, Pan Guangxue said it will be the first visit of the Chinese Head of State to Cambodia in the last 12 years.

"The visit will deepen the bilateral relations in all fields, especially in politics, economics, trade, and culture," he said, adding "the China-Cambodia ties are as of good brothers, good partners, good neighbors, and good friends."

He said Hu's visit is made at the invitation of Cambodian King Norodom Sihmoni and it will be a historical landmark in the bilateral ties.

During the visit, a joint statement and several contracts are expected to be endorsed by the two countries, a move believed to help further beef up the two countries' long lasting ties since 1950s.

Hu Jintao will also visit Siem Reap's Angkor Wat temple, one of the world heritage sites, and he will visit the deteriorating Ta Keo temple in the complex of Angkor Archaeological Park, which is being renovated by Chinese and Cambodian archaeological experts with China's financial support, Pan said.

Meanwhile, Pan expressed China's gratitude on Cambodia's constant supports on China's core interests-related issues and pledged Beijing will continue assisting Phnom Penh in various economic sectors in the future, including infrastructure, stuff training, and disaster relief.

When asked about the South China Sea issue, Pan said the dispute should be solved under the framework of Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) with claimant states. China is willing to cooperate with related parties to solve the dispute under the principle of shelving differences and seeking joint development.

"Moreover, China strongly opposes the internationalization of the South China Sea dispute and do not allow non-claimant forces to interfere this issue," Pan added.

During the press briefing, Pan also highlighted fruitful relations between China and Cambodia in the fields of trade and investment.

He said, according to the statistics from the Council for the Development of Cambodia, till the end of 2011, 317 projects under construction in Cambodia were assisted by China with the total contract value of 8.9 billion U.S. dollars, bringing China as the largest investor in this Southeast Asian nation.

On the trade side, the two-way trade had surged to 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, 11 times over that in 2000.

The Sino-Cambodian relations had reached the level of the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation in December 2010 during Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Beijing.

Authorities Seek Freedom For Four Thai Detainees In Cambodia

BANGKOK, March 28 (Bernama) -- Concerned authorities are trying to secure freedom for four Thai detainees in neighbouring Cambodia, after they were arrested by Cambodian troops in Cambodia's Banteay Meancheay province on March 23 for allegedly illegal entry.

Sa Kaeo's Ta Phraya district Chief Yutthana Nutchanart said: "I am working closely with relevant Cambodian authorities to seek freedom for the four Thai detainees.

The detainees, who had reportedly appeared before Cambodia's Si Sophon Court, is expected to be set free soon, Thai News Agency quoted Nutchanart as saying.

The four Thai nationals, two employers and two workers of a gold mining company in Cambodia's Udon Meechai province, were identified as 42-year-old Saran Parnphet, 42-year-old Suriya Parnphet who is Saran's wife, 24-year-old Bai Sodajan and 24-year-old Wanwisa Sodachan who is Bai's wife.

While, Sanit Naksuksi, Governor of Thailand's eastern Sa Kaeo province told reporters Tuesday, said the arrest of the four Thais would also be raised, among other issues, during this week's Thai-Cambodian Regional Border Committee Meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

"An initial probe found that the four Thai nationals have been legally granted a concession to explore and run gold mines in Cambodia for more than two years and have often travelled across the border through the Bueng Ta Kuan-Ta Phraya border crossing, facilitated by Cambodian border patrol police," he said.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Suspect in SF murders faced deportation to Vietnam

This booking photo provided by the San Francisco Police Dept. shows Binh Thai Luc, 35, who was arrested Sunday, March 25 2012 and is being held on suspicion of five counts of murder. Luc was taken into custody in the murders of five people inside a San Francisco home Friday, in a surprise twist after police initially hinted that it was a murder-suicide case. Investigators are sorting through a crime scene that they say is so complicated that they still can't identify all the victims three days after the gruesome killings. (AP Photo/San Francisco Police Dept.)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Six years ago, an immigration judge ordered the deportation of Binh Thai Luc, the man now suspected of killing five people in a San Francisco home last week, according to federal authorities.

Luc was to return to his native Vietnam after serving time in prison for armed robbery and assault, but he was never deported because the Vietnamese government didn't provide the documents needed to process his removal from the U.S., officials said Monday.

The 35-year-old Vietnam citizen now faces murder charges in the deaths of five people whose bodies were found Friday in what police initially thought was a murder-suicide.

Luc was contacted by ICE agents while he was serving his sentence for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon at San Quentin State Prison. After he was ordered to be deported, the agency sought the official documents it needed to return him to Vietnam, but never got them, said Gillian Christensen, ICE's deputy press secretary.

U.S. law establishes that all aliens who face a deportation order can't be held for more than 180 days. After that, if they can't be removed from the country within the reasonably foreseeable future, ICE has to release them, she said.

That was the case with Luc, who was released into the community after spending time in an ICE detention facility in Eloy, Ariz., in 2006, she said.

"He continued to report to the ICE office in San Francisco as required after his release from ICE custody, and had no other incidents or arrests during that period," Christensen said.

She said the agency could not immediately say how many people with deportation orders were released when their home countries refused to respond or did not provide proper documentation.

"Unfortunately there are some countries that people are very difficult to remove people to, and Vietnam is one of those countries," Christensen told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Binh served almost a decade in prison for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, records show.

State records indicate that he was convicted in 1998 of the armed robbery of a Chinese restaurant in San Jose in 1996. He was in prison from 1998 to 2006, then served two years on parole.

Luc was booked on five counts of murder Sunday. Police say he knew the victims, who were identified Monday by the San Francisco medical examiner as Hua Shun Lei, 65, and Wan Yi Xi, 62, who were married, and their children Vincent Lei, 32, and Ying Xue Lei, 37. The other victim was Chia Huei Chu, 30, the girlfriend of Vincent Lei.

The medical examiner has not yet determined the cause or manner of death, although police said Sunday the victims appeared to have been killed by blunt force trauma.

Ying Xue "Jess" Lei was described by a co-worker as a quiet, capable colleague who shared few details about her personal life.

"She was always a hopeful, nice, fun-loving person," said Todd Sidebottom, who worked with her at Quantitative Medical Systems, a medical device company in Emeryville.

"I came because I wanted to pay my respects to her and the family," he said as he dropped off a bouquet of flowers outside her home over the weekend.

A relative, Lena Huang, reached by The Associated Press, said the family was in mourning and would not comment.

Police Chief Greg Suhr said 40 investigators were working on the case.

Investigators initially couldn't determine if a suspect was at large, and they thought at least two of the victims were shot. The chief said an "edged weapon" was involved in the slayings of the three women and two men.

The bodies were found by a woman with access to the home in the Ingleside District, a middle-class neighborhood in the southern part of the city. The home near San Francisco's City College is in a thriving immigrant community, largely from Asia.

Also arrested was Luc's brother, Brian Luc, 32, on unrelated charges involving drugs, ammunition possession and violation of probation.

Brian Luc was serving three years of probation for drunken driving and firing a gun in a reckless manner, records show.

Suhr did not provide details of that arrest but said the siblings lived together.

The brothers were both being held without bail.

Prosecutors were still awaiting a report from police before filing charges, though an arraignment could happen as early as Wednesday, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Sharon Woo.

Jail records didn't show if either man had retained a lawyer.

Associated Press writer Jason Dearen contributed to this report.

Popular Tibetan Singer Detained

The singer is taken into custody soon after he dedicates his songs to the Dalai Lama.


A Tibetan music concert on the sidelines of the Kalachakra Buddhist festival in India in January 2012.

Chinese authorities have detained a popular Tibetan singer after he released an album of songs dedicated to Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, sources said Monday.

The 25-year-old singer, Ugyen Tenzin, was detained last month soon after the release of his album titled, “An Unending Flow of My Heart’s Blood,” the sources said. Information flow has been severely restricted from troubled Tibetan-populated areas in recent months.

Unconfirmed reports said that Ugyen Tenzin has been beaten in custody and is disabled.

“He released the album about a month ago, and he was arrested soon after that,” said a source in New York who recently traveled to Tibet.

On the album, he had dedicated songs to the Dalai Lama as well as the third highest ranking Buddhist leader the Karmapa, and the Kalon Tripa, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

“It has thirteen songs, and some of songs are dedicated or in praise of the Dalai Lama, Karmapa and [Kalon Tripa] Lobsang Sangay,” the source said.

Wave of protests

Ugyen Tenzin is from Sugma in Nangchen (in Chinese, Nangqian) county in Yulshul (Yushu) prefecture of China's northwestern Qinghai, among three key Tibetan-populated provinces where tensions have risen in recent months following a wave of protests challenging Chinese rule and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama.

There have been 30 Tibetan self-immolations in protest against Beijing's rule in the Tibetan-populated areas of Gansu, Sichuan, and Qinghai, triggering ramped-up security across the areas as well as in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Another Tibetan, Duldak Nyima, who is originally from the same county and now lives in New York, said that he heard from a friend back home that Ugyen Tenzin had been arrested because of the album.

“A friend of mine received the letter from Tibet few days ago, stating the singer was arrested. I believe the arrest was connected to the release of the album.”

“Before the release of the album, [other Tibetans were worried about] the album’s consequences and advised the singer against distributing it,” Duldak Nyima said.

“The singer also said in the DVD that he is doing this for the religious and political cause of Tibet; he was … discussing the Tibet issue and Tibetan identity,” he said.

In one song on the album, part of which was posted on YouTube, the singer alludes to Tibetan independence and repression: “The unity of the three provinces of Tibet, that is what I have repressed in my heart for 50 years and what I am now going to share through songs, until I breathe my last,” he says.


A letter sent by an anonymous source in Tibet said that Ugyen Tenzin is being mistreated in prison and is in ill health.

“None of his relatives or friends are allowed to reach him,” according to a copy of the letter.

“We learned from the police sources that he was so severely tortured under detention that his body and faculties are disabled. He was recovering from surgery prior to his detention and the torture made it worse,” it said.

China has jailed scores of Tibetan writers, artists, singers, and educators for asserting Tibetan national identity and civil rights since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Another popular Tibetan singer, Tashi Dhondup, was released from jail last year after serving most of a 15-month sentence for recording songs calling for Tibetan independence.

The singer was convicted for violating laws by singing songs in support of Tibetan independence and the Dalai Lama.

Reported by Norbu Damdul for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

Trial opens in Vietnam in shipbuilding scandal that hurt the country’s credit rating

HANOI, Vietnam — Nine former senior executives of a Vietnamese state-owned shipbuilding giant go on trial Tuesday for allegedly causing losses of $43 million to the state in a high-profile case that damaged the country’s credit rating.

Former chairman Pham Thanh Binh of the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industrial Group, known as Vinashin, and the others are accused of intentionally contravening government regulations that nearly led to the conglomerate’s collapse.

The losses occurred during the purchase of three used ships without government approval and while importing two used power plants.

If convicted, the former executives face up to 20 years in jail. The trial is being held in the northern port city of Hai Phong.

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

Resignation ‘Reflects Responsibility’


A Cambodian war tribunal judge says his international counterpart was never approved to sit.


Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet in Phnom Penh, Oct. 21, 2011.

The national co-investigating judge of a U.N.-backed war tribunal in Cambodia said Monday that his international counterpart’s recent resignation amounts to an admission of his misconduct and misunderstanding of the Cambodian judicial process.

National co-investigating judge You Benleng of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Court of Cambodia (ECCC), as the tribunal is formally known, “welcomed” the resignation of Swiss judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet, who had announced his intention to leave the court earlier this month.

“The National Co-Investigating Judge is convinced that the resignation reflects his taking responsibility for his professional as well as his procedural misconduct done thus far, despite repeated warnings by the National Co-Investigating Judge,” You Bunleng said in a statement.

He claimed that Kasper-Ansermet had “repeatedly issued public statements in violation of Rule 56” in connection to trying two additional cases against members of the former Khmer Rouge regime, during which an estimated two million Cambodians died. Those cases are still under formal investigation by the court.

Kasper-Ansermet resigned two weeks ago, saying he had been repeatedly “blocked” by You Bunleng from pursuing a third and fourth case. His marks the second resignation by an international co-prosecuting judge since German Siegfried Blunk stepped down in October blaming government interference.

He had been appointed by the U.N. General Secretary to replace Blunk as a reserve judge in the tribunal, but You Bunleng maintained that he was not eligible to proceed with casework because his selection had been vetoed by Cambodia’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

‘No contest’

You Bunleng said that progress on cases 003 and 004 had “slowed down” since the departure of Blunk “because there has not been an official appointment of a new judge to replace him and undertake the ongoing procedures.”

And in response to claims that Bunleng had specifically moved to block his counterpart in all attempts to proceed with his duties, the national co-investigating judge said he had “never contested with Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet on any procedural matters,” though he could not acknowledge the legal validity of any of those acts due to Kasper-Ansermet’s “reserve” status.

In January, the U.N. ruled that Kasper-Ansermet could proceed with his mandate to investigate cases at the tribunal, despite Cambodia’s decision to veto him, saying the Supreme Council of Magistracy’s approval was “not necessary.”

The Cambodian government defended its decision, saying that U.N. officials did not fully understand Cambodia’s rights according to the agreement under which the ECCC was formed and that the authority to appoint the judge ultimately lies with the country’s Supreme Council of Magistracy.

The council is headed by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni and determines all judicial appointments, transfers, promotions, suspensions, or disciplinary actions.

Mired in scandal

The ECCC has successfully tried one case against a former jail warden and a second case is underway involving the three top surviving members of the former regime.

But despite spending nearly U.S. $150 million since it was established six years ago, the ECCC has handed down only one sentence and has been mired in allegations of corruption and interference.

The tribunal completed its first trial last month, jailing former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch for life on appeal for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.

A second trial involving the Khmer Rouge's four most-senior surviving leaders is under way. Many do not expect the third and fourth cases to proceed.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge cadre, and other Cambodian officials have often expressed opposition to any further prosecutions in the Tribunal beyond the second trial.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Sum Sok Ry. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Hun Sen Nephew Denies Australian Report of Drug Trafficking


Hun To, an influential nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen, has denied a media report in Australia that he is wanted there for drug trafficking and other crimes.

The Age, an Australian newspaper, reported Monday that Australian police suspect Hun To of “heroin trafficking and money laundering” with a crime syndicate there.

Hun To was the target of an inquiry between 2002 and 2004, the Age reported. “But a plan to arrest and question Hun To in Melbourne was thwarted because his application for a visa was denied by Australian embassy officials in Phnom Penh, with one official citing the need to avoid a diplomatic incident,” the Age said.

Hun To is the son of Hun Sen’s brother, Hun Neng, the governor of Kampong Cham province.

Hun To told VOA Khmer Monday he was not involved in drug trafficking or other crimes reported in the news.

“The Age accused me of involvement with heroin, but do they have proof?” he said.

He said he hoped to file suit against the newspaper, but would not discuss details.

Bob Carr, Australia’s foreign minister, who was on a visit to Cambodia, declined to comment on the report. The Age did not respond to e-mail questions late Monday.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Cambodian Interior Ministry, told VOA Khmer Monday the Cambodian government works closely with Australian law enforcement. He said it has not received criminal information related to Hun To.

Khmer Krom: Vietnam’s Record On Religious Freedom Denounced

Below is an article published by IBIB:

In its Annual Report for 2012 unveiled in Washington D.C. this week, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has named Vietnam as one of the world’s worst religious freedom violators along with Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan,Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and recommended that these countries be designated as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) by the US administration for “systematic, ongoing and egregious violations” of religious freedom.

The USCIRF, a federal government commission that monitors global religious freedom, was created under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act to provide independent policy recommendations to the US President, Secretary of State, and Congress. Each year since 2001, the USCIRF has urged the US to place Vietnam on the CPC list. Vietnam was designated CPC by the State Department in 2004 and 2005, but removed in 2006 prior to the visit of President Bush to Vietnam for the APEC summit conference. Under the 1998 Act, the U.S. may impose a series of measures, including economic sanctions, on countries blacklisted as CPCs.

In its 21-page chapter on Vietnam, the USCIRF reported that “the government of Vietnam continues to control all religious communities, restrict and penalize independent religious practice severely, and repress individuals and groups viewed as challenging its authority”. It noted “marked increases in arrests, detentions, and harassment of groups and individuals viewed as hostile to the Communist Party” over the past four years, and an overall climate of religious repression in which “individuals continue to be imprisoned or detained for reasons related to their religious activity or religious freedom advocacy; independent religious activity remains illegal; legal protections for government-approved religious organizations are both vague and subject to arbitrary or discriminatory interpretations based on political factors.”

The USCIRF also observed that “the U.S.-Vietnamese relationship has grown quickly in recent years, but it has not led to needed improvements in religious freedom and related human rights in Vietnam.” The report urged the US government to use the CPC designation to press for “measurable improvements”, and adopt programmes to “protect and support those in Vietnam peacefully seeking greater freedom and the rule of law”.

The report detailed widespread abuses against the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), “Vietnam‘s largest religious organization with a history of peaceful social activism and moral reform”, noting that the UBCV had “faced decades of harassment and repression for seeking independent status and for appealing to the government to respect religious freedom and related human rights”. It deplored the detention of UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do and other senior monks, restrictions on humanitarian activities of UBCV Provincial Committees and the UBCV Buddhist Youth Movement, and harassment of UBCV followers.

Mr. Vo Van Ai, Director of the International Buddhist Information Bureauand international spokesman of the Unified Buddhist Church in Vietnam(UBCV) welcomed the USCIRF’s report, commenting that it reflected the reality endured by UBCV followers and members of all other religious confessions in Vietnam. “Having failed to eradicate religion by force, Vietnam is increasing controls on religious activities and reducing religion to the practice of quasi-superstitious rites”, he said. “The recent nomination of Major-general Pham Dung, a high-ranking Public Security official as the Head of the Government Religious Board shows how Hanoi intends to pursue its religious policies in Vietnam”.

Mr. Ai stressed that UBCV members all over the country routinely suffer harassments and abuses in all aspects of their lives. Earlier this month, UBCV monk Thich Thien Phuc was intercepted by Police and subjected to interrogations and harassments as he attempted to visit Venerable Thich Thanh Quang at the Giac Minh Pagoda in Danang. The Giac Minh Pagoda, which is also the headquarters of the UBCV’s Buddhist Youth Movement and the UBCV Provincial Committee for Quang Nam-Danang, has been the target of systematic Police surveillance in recent years. Police prohibit the celebration of Buddhist festivals such as Vesak and Vu Lan at the Pagoda, and intercept all Buddhists who try to attend.

In Dong Nai province, UBCV monk Thich Vien Duc, Superior monk at the Buu Duc Meditation Centre has been repeatedly interrogated and harassed. In Quang Tri, UBCV monk Thich Tu Giao has been intercepted and threatened by Police, who broke into his Pagoda during the monks’ summer retreat and assaulted several Buddhists. In Hue, senior UBCV official Thich Thien Hanh reports routine Police harassments and intimidation at many UBCV Pagodas, including the Kim Quang Pagoda of which he is Superior monk, and at the Mai Vinh Buddhist Centre, which has been confiscated by the authorities.

Mr. Ai noted that religious freedom violations, notably against the UBCV, are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Instead of imprisoning UBCV leaders or staging well-publicized public crackdowns, the government’s policy is to quietly isolate UBCV leaders by maintaining them under de facto house arrest, threaten and intimidate Buddhist followers to prevent them attending UBCV Pagodas, and prevent UBCV Pagodas celebrating major Buddhist festivals, thus cutting off all contacts between the UBCV leadership and their followers.

This is exactly the strategy devised by the Communist Party in 1981 when it set up the State-sponsored Vietnam Buddhist Church (VBC) to supplant the UBCV. The architect of this policy, former high-ranking religious cadre Do Trung Hieu, described this policy in “Buddhist Unification”, a document circulated underground in 1994, which led to his arrest and subsequent imprisonment.

According to Do Trung Hieu, the Communist Party’s aim was to “transform Vietnamese Buddhism into a people’s association. Its structure should be inferior to that of an ordinary association, restricted exclusively to monks and nuns without any participation of lay-followers - a top-level structure without any popular structural base”.

The activities of the State-sponsored VBC, he said “should be confined exclusively to the celebration of religious ceremonies and worship in Pagodas. It must on no account be allowed any activities related to society or to the people... Thus, the mass following of Buddhist laity will never be allowed to structure its forces into organic units of the Church.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

Burma poses electoral challenges to Asean

Monday, 26 March 2012
Kavi Chongkittavorn

(Commentary) – When Asean Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan met with Burmese President Thein Sein in Naypyitaw last month, it was a special occasion with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Commentator Kavi Chongkittavorn Photo: Facebook

Commentator Kavi Chongkittavorn Photo: Facebook

After all, it was the first time that a Burmese president had invited and hosted an Asean secretary-general. The two had met several times at various Asean summits, but it was Surin’s first meeting with the president as an official guest of Burma, also known as Myanmar.

Before he left the capital to meet with opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi and tour the Irrawaddy Delta, he appealed to Thein Sein personally that Burma do more to increase the “transparency and accountability” of the by-election on April 1.

“The people of Asean deserve to know how you are conducting your reforms. Myanmar will be our chair. You can do no less than what you did in the 2010 general elections. A bit more would help. Invite relevant people from the capitals and let Asean journalists in, at least,” he told the president.

Exactly three weeks later, Naypyitaw extended an invitation to Asean to send an observer team comprising the Asean chair, two observers from each Asean member and three observers from the Asean Secretariat to observe next week’s by-elections. The secretariat will also bring three journalists along.

The U.S. and the E.U. have also been invited to send observers – a far cry from the 2010 general elections, which were strongly condemned as a sham by the international community. Back then Burma invited only Rangoon-based diplomats and representatives from international organizations to observe the polling stations.

Asean diplomats took part to show solidarity with Burma while Western diplomats boycotted the event. This time the invitation includes observers inside and outside Burma, demonstrating Naypyitaw’s strong desire to make the by-election transparent, free and fair. The U.S. and E.U. reiterated that the polls and the manner in which they are conducted would carry weight in building further trust, as well as easing and ending decade-long sanctions.

Certainly, an overall process that is generally acceptable to the outside world will also greatly bolster Thein Sein’s authority and provide him with ammunition against persons or groups seeking to undermine his reform platform.

Although this is a high-stakes undertaking specifically aimed at winning the hearts and minds of Western countries, it also has far-reaching implications for Asean as a whole. Since Burma’s admission in 1997, Asean has been an all-weather friend of the junta and repeatedly called for an end to sanctions. Prior to the 2010 polls, the country was a favourite target of criticism in the international community for its brutal political suppression and failure to take up reforms and open up democratic space.

Within Asean – even though the peer pressure against Burma built up after the massacre in Depayin in 2003 and reached a crescendo during the bloodshed in September 2007 with a joint statement from New York expressing “revulsion” against the government’s armed crackdowns – the attitude to Naypyitaw remained benign. Past Asean proposals – including the dispatch of a troika and the pardoning of Suu Kyi – were turned down as well. Asean had to bite the bullet as its reputation and international standing plummeted.

As far as the Asean secretariat is concerned, its pivotal role was not given much attention during the post-Cyclone Nargis period, despite the great coordinating work by the tripartite core group, made up of officials from Asean, Burma, the U.N. and international agencies assisting rehabilitation and recovery efforts.

More than the Burmese authorities dare to admit, the core group’s 36-month presence (June 2008-December 2010) helped to create trust and confidence between Burma and the seemingly hostile outside world, not to mention prevention of “undesirable” foreign intervention. Indeed, the outpouring of humanitarian assistance worth nearly $1 billion in cash and in kind greatly helped to mitigate ill feeling among the top echelons.

To be fair, incremental changes began to emerge after the Asean Charter came into effect, coupled with the formation of the current government under President Thein Sein last March. Viewed from this perspective, the invitation to the Asean secretariat was unprecedented in the group’s 45-year history. In fact, Thein Sein is actually throwing a wrench into the works, unwittingly exposing the shortcomings of Asean.

By the nature of the political and electoral systems within Asean, its members do not have sufficient moral high ground to preach about a “free and fair” electoral system, let alone for building democratic institutions. There is a small hiccup, though, as independent monitoring organizations and individuals such as Asia Networks for Free Elections are not allowed in this time. It is hoped that during the next general election, scheduled for 2015, if there is no democratic backsliding, additional independent observers could be allowed. Truth be told, in Asean only Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia give accreditation to independent outside observers, which the other half of Asean still reject.

During his visits to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos last week, Thein Sein highlighted the role of Asean observers and asked for support. As a result, Cambodia, the current Asean chair, sent a letter on Thursday to other members calling for a consensus.

It remains to be seen what Asean’s collective response will be. In fact, the Asean Regional Forum had a plan to send a team of observers to monitor the recent presidential election in East Timor. However, it was aborted due to administrative and technical problems on both sides. Suffice it to say, most Asean members would be satisfied with the poll monitoring done by their Rangoon-based diplomats.

By engaging the Asean Secretariat in a sensitive political matter, Burma is effectively opening a Pandora’s box in regard to the mandate of Surin and his office. After the adoption of the Asean Charter in 2008, their mandate increased and expanded in representing the Asean position and voice.

Interestingly, when Asean decided to take a leading role in the post-Nargis recovery in May 2008, it was done quickly as part of the humanitarian effort and salvaged the group’s creditability. As such it was not perceived as an expansive endeavour that would cover political matters. It remains to be seen how Asean members will eventually respond to Burma’s initiative.

Again, the reform process, including monitoring of upcoming polls, is a work in progress with specific short-term and long-term objectives. Since there is no guarantee that the progress made now is irreversible, as the Tatmadaw – armed forces – still has the power to trump the ongoing transformation, if it so wishes. So long as the democratic transformation continues to hold firm at least until Burma’s chairmanship in 2014, Asean and the world could encounter a fresh regional game-changer as never before seen.

Kavi-Chongkittavorn-s– K avi Chongkittavorn is a columnist for The Nation in Bangkok and a long-time observer of Asean and Burma.

Protecting human rights through the mechanism of UN Special Rapporteurs

On March 22, the Human Rights Program and International Legal Studies at Harvard Law School sponsored “Protecting Human Rights Through the Mechanism of UN Special Rapporteurs,” a talk by Surya Subedi. Subedi, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia and Professor of International Law at the University of Leeds, discussed the role of the Special Rapporteurs in combating human rights abuses and he shared anecdotes about his work in Cambodia.

The Special Rapporteurs, he explained, have been called the crown jewel of the UN human rights mechanism, as they carry out some of its most difficult duties. They visit countries where human rights abuses are suspected, traveling through both cities and remote areas, to speak with people who have suffered. Protected by diplomatic immunity, they often speak on behalf of citizens who fear persecution. They provide early warning about potential human rights abuses and they recommend preventive measures. And they activate and mobilize national and international communities to encourage cooperation between governments and societies.

In short, he said, Special Rapporteurs are expected to be human rights activists, international diplomats, academics, and government advisors. In Cambodia, Subedi’s job is to ensure that human rights treaties ratified by that country are implemented. Where there are shortcomings, he investigates and makes recommendations to the government. Subedi said that his activities within a country are governed by three ideas – independence, objectivity and impassivity.

“So long as we remain in these parameters, we can do whatever we’d like,” he said. “Although we’re appointed by the UN, we’re not employed by it. We’re not loyal to it. I’m a lawyer, and my loyalty is to the rule of law and to the international human rights treaties ratified by Cambodia. That’s it.”

Subedi also discussed international law and national sovereignty more generally. Acting on behalf of the international community, Special Rapporteurs enter countries and essentially pierce the veil of national sovereignty.

“No country can seal itself. National sovereignty is actually a limited sovereignty,” he said. “In no other area of international law can international actors pierce the veil of national sovereignty to the degree that they can under human rights law.”

—Jill Greenfield

Thaksin talks, controversy follows

Source: Bangkok Post
March 26, 2012

Former prime minister made another phone-in to red-shirt supporters in the Northeast and one of his remarks has caused a bit of a controversy.

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Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra photographed earlier this year in Dubai.

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Courts say no red shirt bail talks with Thaksin

Ex-PM's remarks 'aimed at impressing backers'

Post Reporters

The Courts of Justice yesterday denied discussing bail releases for jailed red shirts with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, saying the fugitive politician had made the claim only to impress his supporters.

"He might have said this to impress his people but the truth is that there has never been a discussion," court spokesman Sitthisak Wanachakit said.

Thaksin said in a phone call to his supporters during a rally in the Northeast on Saturday that he was talking to judges about arranging the release on bail of red shirt detainees.

But Mr Sitthisak said: "Bail is handled on a case-by-case basis and concerns individuals, and a panel of judges is responsible for each case. It is impossible to talk with a judge to influence 100 cases."

He stressed that judges made their vow to His Majesty the King to work on the monarch's behalf to ensure justice and refrain from prejudice.

The Supreme Court president had also told the judges to adhere to justice. He said bail releases depended on laws, individual cases, the behaviour of the accused, the bail bond, and the decision of particular judges in charge.

The court spokesman declined to comment on whether Thaksin's remarks were in contempt of the court.

He said, however, the Courts of Justice had different levels of response to people who made statements with an intention to discredit it, ranging from seeking a simple explanation to legal prosecution of the wrongdoers.

Opposition and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thaksin's remark implied the justice system could be influenced and it reflected the fact that Thaksin wanted a justice system that could be swayed. He asked whether society wanted that kind of justice system.

Thaksin fled overseas in 2008 to avoid a two-year jail term for abusing his authority to help his then-wife Potjaman na Pombejra buy a state-owned land plot in Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai MP and red shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan said red shirts from Udon Thani and Nong Khai provinces would meet Thaksin in Vientiane, Laos, on April 12 and 13 and in Siem Reap, Cambodia, on April 14 and 15.

Mr Jatuporn said Thaksin missed his red shirt supporters, so he tried to be as close to Thailand as possible. Tens of thousands of Thai and Cambodian people are expected to join the Siem Reap meeting with Thaksin but he did not yet know whether Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen would attend.

You can read the full story here:

bail – money that is given to a court when someone is allowed to stay out of prison until their trial. If they do not return for the trial, the court keeps the money เงินประกัน; การประกันตัว
remark – something said คำพูด
aim – to have as your purpose or goal มีเป้าหมาย มีจุดมุ่งหมาย
impress – to cause someone to admire or respect you because of something that you have done or said ประทับใจ
backer – someone who strongly supports someone or something ผู้สนับสนุน
deny – to say that something is not true ปฏิเสธ
release – allowing someone to go free การปล่อยตัว
fugitive – someone who has been accused of doing something illegal and is trying to avoid being caught by the police ผู้หลบหนี
claim – saying that something is true although it has not been proved and other people may not believe it ข้ออ้าง ข้อกล่าวหา
rally – a large public gathering of people to support someone or to protest against something การชุมนุม
arrange – to plan or organize something in advance จัดเตรียม, เตรียมการ
detainee – someone who is kept in prison ผู้ที่ถูกกักขัง คุมขัง
case-by-case basis – each case is considered separately
concern – to be about เกี่ยวกับ
individual – a person considered separately rather than as part of a group บุคคล
panel – a group of people who make decisions or judgments คณะกรรมการ
responsible for – to have a duty to do something มีความรับผิดชอบ, มีความรับผิดชอบ
influence – to affect or change how someone or something develops, behaves or thinks มีอิทธิพลต่อ, ชักจูง อำนาจบังคับ
stress – to emphasise something; to say that something is important เน้นย้ำ
vow – a serious promise สาบาน
on behalf of – as a representative of ในนามของ ในฐานะของ
monarch – a king or queen กษัตริย์ หรือราชินี
ensure – to make certain that something happens or is done ให้การยืนยัน, รับรอง, ให้ความมั่นใจ
justice – a fair result or punishment from a court of law ความยุติธรรม
refrain – to stop yourself from doing something ระงับ เลิก
prejudice – an unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially the feeling of not liking a particular groups of people ความมีอคติ
supreme court – the highest court in a country ศาลฎีกา, ศาลสูงสุด
adhere to – to obey a rule, principle, law, agreement, etc. ยึดมั่น
behaviour – the way that someone acts or behaves พฤติกรรม, การกระทำตัว
bail bond – the amount of money given to a court for a person to go free on bail, plus a fee if a bail bondsman puts up the money
in charge – to be in control of an activity and to check that everything is being done correctly ดูแล ควบคุม
decline – to say politely that you will not do something ปฏิเสธที่จะทำ
comment – to express an opinion แสดงความคิดเห็น
contempt of court – the crime of refusing to obey an order made by a court; not showing respect for a court or judge การดูหมิ่นศาล
level – a position or rank in a scale of size or importance ระดับ
intention – a plan in your mind to do something ความตั้งใจ เจตนา
range from – having an upper and a lower limit in amount, number, etc ผันแปรภายในขอบเขตหนึ่ง
prosecution –the process of accusing someone of a crime and asking a court of law to judge them การดำเนินคดีตามกฎหมาย
opposition – of a political party that is not part of the government ฝ่ายค้าน
imply – to suggest that you think something without saying it directly บอกเป็นนัย, แสดงนัย
reflect – to show สะท้อน แสดงถึง
sway – to influence or change someone’s opinion — ทำให้โอนเอียง, โน้มน้าว, จูงใจ
fled (past of flee) – escaped; left an area very quickly because of a danger there หนีไป
overseas – in one or more foreign countries, especially those separated from your country by the sea or ocean ต่างประเทศ, ข้ามทะเล
avoid – to try to prevent something from happening หลีกเลี่ยง
abuse authority – to use of power in a bad, dishonest or unlawful way ใช้อำนาจในทางที่ผิด
state – government รัฐบาล
plot – a piece of land used for a particular purpose ที่ดินแปลงเล็ก
meanwhile – at the same time ในเวลาเดียวกัน
miss – to feel sad because you can no longer see somebody or do something that you like คิดถึง

Australia gives $1.6m to Khmer Rouge trials

The Australian Government has announced it will contribute an extra $AU1.6 million to fund the Khmer Rouge trials.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr made the announcement after meeting the Cambodian deputy prime minister in Phnom Penh.

Senator Carr is in Cambodia on his first overseas trip since being sworn in as Foreign Minister.

The Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia in the late 1970s and a fifth of its population is believed to have died as a result of the regime's policies.

Senator Carr says it is important the people of Cambodia see justice.

"I think it would be intolerable, an insult to their memory, if Cambodia and the international community were not able to proceed with the process of justice," he said.

"The process of justice is proceeding with Australian aid to Cambodia, which is a developing country and would find it difficult to mount a robust judicial investigation without our assistance."

Four Thais detained in Cambodia for alleged illegal entry

SA KAEO, March 26 – Four Thais have been detained in Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey for alleged illegal entering into the neighbouring country. The case is due to be filed in court late Monday.

The four are identified as Saran Panphet and Suriya Panphet, both 42, who are Sa Kaeo natives, as well as their mining contractors and assistants-- Bai Sodachan and his wife, Ms Wanwisa, both aged 24.

The four were detained while driving two pick-up trucks to survey a mine in Cambodian territory, nine kilometres from the Thai-Cambodian border.

Pol Lt-Col Benchapol Rodsawat, deputy superintendent of immigration police in Sa Kaeo, said he learned from Cambodian officials that on March 24, the four contacted Cambodian border police to bring mining equipment and power generator to enter Cambodia at the Bungtakuan-Taphraya border crossing for mining survey in Cambodia’s Udon Meechai province.

They were later detained by Cambodian soldiers as they carried no travel documents and charged with illegal entry.

Pol Lt-Col Benchapol said that he was informed by Cambodian officials that the case of the four Thai nationals is being filed to the Sisophon court late Monday.

The Thai authorities are working with their Cambodian counterparts to quickly help the four detainees, according to Pol Lt-Col Benchapol. (MCOT online news)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Vietnam seizes 5 tons of dead iguanas, pangolins


HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Police in northern Vietnam have seized five tons of pangolin and iguana carcasses destined to be shipped to restaurants in China.

State-run newspaper Thanh Nien says police found the frozen carcasses in a warehouse in Mong Cai town near the Chinese border on Wednesday.

Police declined to comment Friday.

Pangolins — a type of scaly anteater — and iguanas are considered delicacies in China and Vietnam. They are protected under an international wildlife convention and trafficking of the animals is illegal.

The news report quoted the 30-year-old trader as telling police that he had bought the animals in central Vietnam and intended to sell them to China. The report did not say whether the trader was arrested.

U.S., Cambodian Military Drill Ends Successfully

Web Editor: dingxiaoxiao

The 12-day joint U. S., Cambodian military exercise Angkor Sentinel 2012 ended successfully on Friday.

The closing ceremony was held at the Training School for Multi- national Peacekeeping Forces in Kampong Speu province, about 48 kilometers west of Phnom Penh, under the presidency of the four- star general Chay Sang Yun, a secretary of state for the Cambodian Defense Ministry, and Jeff Daigle, Charge d'Affairs of the U.S. Embassy to Cambodia.

"The drill was a very good opportunity for Cambodian and U.S. military personnel to create closer friendship relations and to build better military ties between the two countries," said Chay Sang Yun, adding that about 450 Cambodian armed forces joined the drill.

He said that the exercise was also good to exchange experience between the two armies.

Daigle said the U.S. would still continue helping Cambodia in military sector through providing military materials such as clothes and vehicles, but not weapons.

According to a press release from the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, the drill began from March 13 to 22 in Kampot and Kampong Speu provinces to cement the two countries' military ties.

It said approximately 100 members of U.S. Army Pacific joined Cambodian armed forces in focusing on peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations, including a battalion exercise, a counter improvised explosives devices field exercise, medical civic actions projects to treat underserved rural inhabitants, and battlefield medical activities.

Angkor Sentinel is an annual, bilateral exercise sponsored by U. S. Army Pacific and hosted by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, it said. This exercise marks the third anniversary of this significant and highly productive regional military exercise.

In Cambodia, there’s a price on childhood

Part one of six
By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun columnist

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — More U.S. bombs dropped on Cambodia during the Vietnam War than fell on Europe during the Second World War. Genocide and civil war followed.

The terrible legacy is that Cambodia is one of poorest, most corrupt countries in the world with the second highest number of landmines.

There is no social safety net here. No welfare. No health care. No free schooling. No mandatory minimum wages.

Half of all Cambodians survive on less than $1 a day. The average factory worker earns $61 a month. Police are not only poorly paid, their meagre wages also have to cover the cost of uniforms, guns and ammunition.

Judges are frequently bribed.

But it’s also a country brimming with children. More than half of Cambodia’s 14.7 million citizens are under the age of 18.

If you’re looking to exploit children, this is a good place to come because there are so many desperately poor parents willing to do desperate things.

With all of its problems, Cambodia is a destination of choice for so-called sex tourists and it’s here that Canada’s most notorious travelling sex offenders have come.

British Columbians Donald Bakker and Kenneth Klassen — two of only five Canadians convicted under the Criminal Code’s “sex tourism” provisions — came here. So did Chris Neil of Maple Ridge, who was on Interpol’s most wanted list before being convicted in Bangkok for sexually abusing two under-aged boys.

It’s impossible to know how many Canadian men have visited Cambodia and sexually abused children, just as it is impossible to know how many other travelling sex offenders from other countries have visited and escaped prosecution. The only statistic that even hints at the amount of Canadian sexual predators abroad comes from the federal government, which says that since 1997,136 Canadian men have sought consular help overseas after having been arrested or imprisoned for child sex offences.

What is known is that the number of tourists to Cambodia — both good and bad — grows every year. Inbound tourists increased 12 per cent in 2010 to 2.5 million. That number increased a further 26 per cent in the first half of 2011.

What sets Cambodia apart among so-called sex-tourist destinations is the age of the children exploited here, according to non-governmental organizations who work to rescue victims and counsel the survivors. Children as young as three have been, and continue to be, rescued from brothels; the youngest are almost always procured for foreigners.

Because raping children is so sadly normalized here, some experts say it creates situational or opportunistic pedophiles — men who might not dream of having sex with a child at home, but are willing to give it a try here.

The Cambodian government’s 2006 estimate of 30,000 children being commercially sexually exploited has never been updated. The government has never provided an estimate of how many additional children have been trafficked outside the country and are working in forced or indentured labour.

But last June, the United Nations committee on the rights of the child special report on Cambodia expressed “deep concern” that thousands of children are exploited in prostitution — that’s child rape. It also noted, “an alarming proportion of children are exposed to sexual violence and pornography.”

Among the committee’s other concerns are that: perpetrators of child sexual abuse and exploitation are rarely prosecuted because of the widespread practice of out-of-court settlements and compensation paid to victims’ families; limited action is taken against sex offenders and operators of brothels and other sex establishments where under-aged girls are sexually exploited; and, that rehabilitation services and shelters for victims of sexual exploitation are almost all in the capital and almost all are run by non-governmental organizations.

In the first nine months of 2011, 118 cases involving trafficking and children were heard in Phnom Penh municipal court. More were heard in other tourist-friendly places such as Siem Reap, near the famous Angkor Wat, and the beach resort villages in and around Sihanoukville.

Part of what’s pushing travelling sex offenders into Cambodia is neighbouring Thailand’s increased enforcement of child sexual abuse laws, according to western diplomatic sources and non-governmental groups such as World Vision and ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes).

And with six million Cambodians under the age of 18 — and 1.6 million under the age of five — there’s a boundless supply of victims.

Online and underground

Things have changed since Donald Bakker arrived here in 2003 from Vancouver and went to find his victims in the notorious pedophile paradise called Svay Pak about 11 kilometres from downtown Phnom Penh.

Little girls and boys are no longer openly marketed on Svay Pak’s main street.

The trade has largely gone underground and online.

It’s likely because of the Internet that Burnaby art dealer Kenneth Klassen could step off a plane even a decade ago and within 48 hours have procured, assaulted and videotaped eight girls, the youngest of whom was eight.

The 59-year-old pleaded guilty in 2010 only after his attempt to have Canada’s sex tourism law — Criminal Code Sections 7 (4.1) to 7 (4.3) — declared unconstitutional. Those laws — passed in 1997 — says that anyone who commits sexual offences against children outside Canada is deemed to have committed that offence in Canada.

In sentencing Klassen to 11 years in jail — less than a year each for abusing six Colombian girls and eight Cambodian girls — B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen described what Klassen had done as “a gross violation of the natural imperative to protect children.”

It was the longest sentence given for that offence.

Canada’s first sex tourist — Bakker — received seven years in prison; two years for a horrifically violent assault on a Vancouver woman and five for abusing seven Cambodian girls, the youngest of whom was only seven.

Bakker gets out of jail in June.

Compare that with the sentence given ex-Marine Michael Pepe, who abused seven Cambodian girls and was sentenced about the same time as Klassen in a California court. Pepe, who was 55 at the time, received 110 years. It’s a ridiculous sentence even for a young man, but it makes the point that Americans view sex tourism as an intolerable crime.

And while Canada’s sex tourism law is well-crafted and has been deemed by the courts to be constitutional, Klassen was the last person charged.

Another British Columbian, Orville Mader, was arrested at Vancouver airport in 2007 after a worldwide manhunt. Mader had fled home from Thailand carrying only his laptop to avoid arrest on charges of sexually abusing a seven-year-old boy.

A judge set Mader free on bail, but placed restrictions on him, while police investigated and Crown prosecutors determined whether to lay sex tourism charges. Mader was restricted from using the Internet, being in contact with children or going anywhere they might congregate. His passport was taken away and he was to report regularly to Surrey police.

While he lived under those restrictions, Mader was convicted in absentia in Thailand. But in November 2010, police and B.C. prosecutors allowed Mader’s conditions to lapse. The Crown had decided that the evidence didn’t meet Canadian standards. Mader was free. Whether he got his passport back, Canadian officials won’t say, citing privacy laws.

Then there’s the case of Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh. Last year, the 67-year-old from Cape Breton had his conviction on 17 charges of gross indecency and indecent assault of six Canadian boys overturned because it had taken so long to get to court. Their allegations dated back to the 1970s and by the time the victims came forward in 1995, MacIntosh was in India.

Twice, the Canadian passport office failed to revoke his passport. Finally, in 2006, Canada requested MacIntosh’s extradition from India. That was the same year the Toronto Star reported that two Indian men had alleged MacIntosh assaulted them while they were boys living in an orphanage.

“I think there’s a need for a more aggressive stand with respect to the acquisition and analysis of intelligence and a better co-ordinated approach to [sex tourism],” Insp. Sergio Pasin of the Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children said in a phone interview.

Pasin is in the process of formulating a national strategy that is likely to focus mainly on men who access child pornography online.

“In my view, these are the individuals you really need to look at because they’re grooming and luring and then they transition from the online offender or have the potential for transitioning from the online offender to the hands-on offender. So then the next phase you have to look at is whether they have the potential to travel and have they travelled in the past? Where have they gone? And so on.”

International action

Pushed by faith-based and non-governmental organizations as well as celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and the formidable Somaly Mam, who was a child sex slave in Cambodia, other Western governments such as the United States, Australia and Britain have made greater efforts to prosecute sex tourists and protect children abroad.

The United States passed its sex tourism law in 1994, which was amended and renamed the Protect Act in 2002 when it also began Operation Predator that links not only American police agencies to U.S. border security, it allows them to partner with foreign governments in both overt and covert child pornography and sex tourism investigations.

Among the recent investigations, one involved setting up a website for sex tourists that had Canada as its destination. The two-year project, which ended in March 2011, resulted in the conviction of two Germans and two Americans.

Operation Twisted Traveller, which was conducted in Cambodia over two years in collaboration with a French-based, non-profit organization — Action Pour Les Enfants — resulted in the arrests of three Americans who had previous convictions in the United States for sexually abusing children. The three were arrested in 2009. One pleaded guilty; the other two are in jail awaiting trial in Los Angeles.

Earlier this month, Britain closed what was described by the international child protection group ECPAT as “the three-day loophole,” which allowed registered sex offenders to leave the country for up to three days without notifying police. Now, they must notify authorities of all foreign travel plans.

Earlier this year, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) began Project Childhood, a $7.5-million, three-year program involving the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, Interpol and World Vision. Working with police and courts to increase enforcement and with community leaders to educate children and their families, the project aims to reduce sexual exploitation of children in tourism in the Mekong Delta region including Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.

Pushed by western countries and NGOs — and because of a growing fear that ‘good’ tourists are now avoiding it — Thailand has increased enforcement of its child exploitation laws. But that increased enforcement has resulted in sexual predators seeking out countries such as Cambodia where the commitment to prosecuting and jailing child sex offenders is far from certain.

Last year, three foreign pedophiles were granted royal pardons at the government’s request. Among those pardoned was Alexander Trofimov.

Also known as Stanislav Molodyakov, Trofimov is wanted by Interpol for having allegedly raped six girls under the age of 10 before he fled Russia for Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s coastal resort town.

There, the 44-year-old executive director of Koh Puos Investment Group negotiated a deal to build a $300-million resort. But while he was doing that, Trofimov also sexually abused 15 under-aged girls, including a mute 13-year-old.

Trofimov’s sentence was initially 15 years, but that was reduced to eight years in 2010. Then, in May 2011, Trofimov was pardoned after having served half of the reduced sentence.

Freed in Cambodia, he remains on Interpol’s most-wanted list. The Cambodian government has not responded to a request from 14 international children’s’ rights organizations to deport him to Russia.

Lifelong sentence for victims

Pedophiles most often escape arrest. Others may do their time, get pardons and disappear to other countries where they’ll likely re-offend.

But the victims are never free.

“They’ll always have scars,” says Sue Taylor, who has counselled dozens of survivors since coming to Cambodia in 2005. Among the survivors are Donald Bakker’s victims.

The girls refused a request to be interviewed.

“They want to put it behind them. They don’t want to be reminded of the past and they don’t want to be labelled as one of Bakker’s girls,” says Taylor, who works for Hagar International, an Australia-based NGO.

Even though the abuse occurred more than a decade ago, all but one of the girls is still a minor. That’s how young they were when Bakker raped them in tiny rooms in a filthy brothel in Svay Pak, a dusty village outside Phnom Penh that’s a notorious pedophile paradise.

As part of their recovery, the girls have all completed school. One or more of them may qualify for university scholarships; others have completed training programs in administration, child care and hairdressing.

By the end of 2011, all had moved back to Svay Pak to live with their families or foster families even though, as Taylor says, their families were complicit in selling them into Svay Pak brothels.

“Our choice would not be to have them there. But we have to believe that with what they’ve learned about empowerment and resilience, they will be able to make the right decisions.”

Taylor hopes these young women have learned enough to have fulfilling lives, jobs and relationships. She hopes that if they choose to have families, they will be good mothers and wives.

But, she says, “I worry that they’re naive and that they’re really not out of danger. If they hit hard times, I don’t know if they’d go back [to a brothel]. I used to be so idealistic. Now, I realize that you have to let them go, just as you have to let your own children go and you hope that they remember some of the things you taught them.”

What makes it all the more troubling, says Taylor, is that images of one of the girls recently showed up on a pornographic website. She’s also seen images of other sexually exploited children on kiddie porn videos sold for a couple of bucks along the roadside in Phnom Penh.

“It’s just sick that this can go on and on,” she says.

“How can the survivors really ever escape?”

Friday, March 23, 2012

PRESS DIGEST - Vietnam newspapers - March 23

HANOI, March 23 | Thu Mar 22, 2012

HANOI, March 23 (Reuters) - These are some of the leading stories in the official Vietnamese press on Friday. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.



- VietinBank, Vietnam's biggest partly private lender by assets, said it received central bank permission to raise registered capital to 26.22 trillion dong ($1.26 billion) via a share issue.


- VietinBank said it plans to raise a combined 7 trillion dong ($336 million) via issuing certificates of deposit in the Vietnamese dong, dollar and euro until May 20.


- The central bank has asked Agribank, VietinBank, Vietcombank, BIDV and Mekong Housing Bank to cut lending rates by an unspecified amount.



- Two white tigers were born in captivity at a zoo in the central province of Nghe An, a zoo official said. Their parents were brought in from South Africa in September 2010.


- Vietnamese companies bought an equivalent 200,000 tonnes of milled rice within five days since starting purchases on March 15, or a fifth of the volume planned for stockpiling, the Vietnam Food Association said.

- Trade between Vietnam and the Czech Republic last year rose to $220 million from $205 million in 2010, which was not on par with the countries' potential, said Vice President Doan Duy Khuong of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

- U.S. firm Cargill Inc has opened its ninth animal feed factory, with an annual capacity of 240,000 tonnes, in the northern province of Ha Nam, raising its total annual capacity in Vietnam to 10 million tonnes.


- Officials from the police and trade ministries have proposed the government halt imports of goods for re-export to prevent smuggling and fakes, which often come from China.

China Urges Vietnam to Stop ‘Illegal Poaching’ Near Disputed Waters

Marianne Brown | Hanoi

Vietnamese fishermen paddle their boat in Vung Tau, 125 kilometers (77 miles) south east of Vietnam's southern city of Ho Chi Minh (file photo)
Photo: AP
Vietnamese fishermen paddle their boat in Vung Tau, 125 kilometers (77 miles) south east of Vietnam's southern city of Ho Chi Minh (file photo)

A territorial dispute between Vietnam and China has escalated this week after Chinese forces arrested 21 fishermen. Vietnam says the fishermen detained near disputed waters in the South China Sea are being held for ransom. Beijing has urged its neighbor to stop what it calls “illegal poaching” in the area.

Less than 24 hours after the Vietnamese government urged China to release 21 fishermen arrested near the disputed Paracel Islands, Beijing said the group is being held for territorial violations.

At a news briefing in the Chinese capital, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei asked Hanoi to stop fishermen from entering the area again.

Hong Lei said recently more than 100 Vietnamese ships had entered waters around the Paracel Islands, an area controlled by China but claimed by Vietnam.

Hong Lei says on March 4, the fishermen were detained in the area. He says authorities acted in accordance with the law and urged Vietnam to better educate and manage fishermen so they would stop their illegal poaching in China.

The comments came a day after Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement demanding the release of the fishermen. whom they claimed were being held for a ransom of $11,000.
The Vietnamese government has advised families not to pay and are pressing Beijing for their release.

The incident has put a lot of pressure on local people, says fisherman Le Van Loc from Quang Ngai province. He was detained by the Chinese while he was sailing near the islands in 2010.

Loc says, as a Vietnamese citizen, he is angry because the islands belong to Vietnam. He says families are told not to pay the ransom while the government demands the release of those detained. This had made life difficult for families.

The incident is the latest in a long-running dispute about territory in the South China Sea. Last year, both sides signed a series of maritime agreements aimed at resolving tensions. However, Vietnam has continued to protest Chinese activity on or near the islands.

Earlier this month, Vietnam sent six Buddhist monks to re-establish abandoned temples on another series of islands claimed by both countries in the South China Sea.

An editorial in China's official Global Times newspaper says on Wednesday the move to send monks there was a "religious guise" to "permanently claim sovereignty" over the islands.

Vietnamese government spokesman Nghi denied the claims.

He says the plan was a normal and civilian activity.

Starting next month, the monks are to refurbish the temples and hold rituals there for at least six months. Vietnam abandoned the temples in 1975. It recently renovated them as part of wider efforts to re-establish its claims to the Spratlys.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also claim portions of the more than 100-island chain. Beijing insists the entire 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea is part of its territory. It has become increasingly assertive about its maritime claims in recent months, regularly interfering with foreign fishing boats and oil exploration vessels.

Fisherman Loc says he will continue fishing near the Paracel islands in the future. However, while China is strengthening its patrols, he will stay away.

He says he still sees many boats heading to the islands, because they are near Vietnam’s coastline.

Impunity at Khmer Rouge court won't be tolerated: UN

Updated Friday, March 23, 2012

PHNOM PENH -- The United Nations said Thursday it would not tolerate impunity at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge war crimes court in a worsening row with Phnom Penh about whether to pursue more suspects.

In a major setback to the U.N.-backed tribunal, a Swiss judge on Monday became the second international judge in six months to resign over difficulties probing two new cases linked to the 1975-1979 regime blamed for the deaths of up to two million people. The government strongly opposes the cases.

The U.N. is now likely discussing whether to find a replacement for Laurent Kasper-Ansermet from May 4 or possibly pull out of the court altogether, observers say.

“The United Nations, in its dealings with the (court), remains committed to ensuring that impunity for the crimes committed during the period of the Democratic Kampuchea is not tolerated,” U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky said in an email to AFP.

The U.N. had earlier expressed “concern” about the latest resignation, but issued a much stronger statement on Thursday after Kasper-Ansermet published a document detailing how his efforts to investigate the cases were blocked at every turn by his Cambodian colleague.

Kasper-Ansermet alleges that his counterpart made it difficult for him to have access to drivers, translators and even the office's official seal to validate court filings.

“The United Nations is seriously concerned about these worrying developments,” said Nesirky.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former cadre before he defected, has long objected to the potential new cases involving five mid-level Khmer Rouge members, telling Ban in 2010 that prosecutions beyond the current second trial were “not allowed.”

Asked whether Cambodia stood by that position, Ek Tha, a government spokesman, told AFP: “Whatever my prime minister says, I respect his decision.”

Kasper-Ansermet's resignation came after a German judge quit the court in October citing government interference in the controversial cases.

The U.N. named reserve judge Kasper-Ansermet as his replacement but Phnom Penh refused to recognize the appointment, and the U.N. reminded Cambodia on Thursday this was “a breach” of the agreement establishing the court.

The tribunal has so far completed just one case, sentencing a former prison chief to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.

Cambodia Gets Ready to Open Its Stock Exchange


Min Sovannry hadn’t been born when leaders of the Communist Khmer Rouge took power in 1975 and abolished Cambodia’s money, markets, and financial system. Now Sovannry, a 21-year-old college student, can’t wait to embrace capitalism. One of thousands of Cambodians who have attended stock trading seminars in Phnom Penh, Min says she’ll take as much as one-third of the $300 monthly salary she expects to earn next year and invest it in the country’s stock exchange, which is scheduled to begin trading its first shares in April. “It’s a chance for me to make money from buying stocks instead of putting it in the bank,” she says.

Trading will begin on April 18 when state-owned Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority has its initial public offering. Phnom Penh Water’s shares will likely be priced near the high end of the target range after investors sought more than 10 times the available stock, says a person with knowledge of the matter who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the offering. The company, which plans to raise as much as 82.8 billion riel ($21 million), held a two-week road show in the nation’s capital starting Feb. 29, with about 400 potential investors crammed into a conference hall with seating capacity for half that number.

Enthusiasm extends beyond the borders of the Southeast Asian country. Investors including Mark Mobius of Templeton Emerging Markets Group (BEN) say they are planning to invest in Cambodian stocks. “I have met more than 100 foreign investors who came to Cambodia because of the stock exchange,” says Han Kyung Tae, managing director of Tong Yang Securities, the Cambodian brokerage that is managing the Phnom Penh Water IPO. “They are very serious. They see the potential, and they’re very, very positive about Cambodia’s economy.”

The stock will trade on the Cambodia Securities Exchange, which has two dozen computers in an air-conditioned room on the 25th floor of the capital’s tallest office building and is a joint venture with Korea Exchange, the operator of the Seoul bourse. The Cambodian government has said it wants to sell stakes in state-owned companies and encourage private ones to expand with new funding. Two more state-owned companies—Telecom Cambodia and Sihanoukville Autonomous Port—are expected to list in the coming year, with the possibility of two more after that. Eventually banks, telecommunications companies, rice millers, garment makers, and mining companies could seek public listings. “If we have a complete financial system, the economy can grow very fast and be stable,” says Kao Thach, deputy director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia. That system was fractured in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh. Its Communist guerrillas blew up the central bank, declared currency worthless, and outlawed private property and trading.

The SECC has already approved seven firms to act as securities underwriters, and Kao expects more will be needed. “When it’s crowded with companies queuing for IPOs, you will see that this number is not enough.” To help supervise those brokers, Kao says the SECC plans to hire 10 to 15 people a year to add to the more than 80 currently employed. He wants to have enough people to police the markets and make sure investors are well-informed. “Market confidence will be very crucial,” he says. “If it fails one time, we’ll need at least 20 years to restore the confidence. We cannot afford it.”

More than 5,000 Cambodians have attended the 200 trading seminars organized by Phnom Penh Securities since June, says Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hsu. He has hired 45 brokers, underwriters, auditors, advisers, and managers and plans to add 50 more by the end of the year and set up brokerage branches in Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap, home to the 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex. “Almost all the clients do not know how to trade and what a stock is,” says Hsu, who moved to Phnom Penh from his native Taiwan two years ago. “The human character is to make money, and the stock market is one of the key methods.”

Investor interest in Cambodia’s new capital market may cool after the initial euphoria, as evidenced by the experiences of exchanges in neighboring Vietnam and Laos. “A new emerging-markets stock exchange takes a decade to mature at best, with booms, busts, and boredom along the way,” says Douglas Clayton, founder and CEO of Phnom Penh-based Leopard Capital, whose $34 million Leopard Cambodia Fund invests in closely held companies. “The Cambodia stock exchange will explore all of these phases at different times.”

At one of the stock trading seminars in Phnom Penh, Paul Quach was taking notes and mulling whether to seek a public listing for his seven-year-old company, which operates seven school campuses in the capital. Quach, chief financial officer and vice chairman of Mengly J. Quach Group, which is majority-owned by his brother, ran through Cambodia’s jungles to neighboring Thailand when he was 17 to flee the turmoil in his country. Now 48 and a U.S. citizen, he came back to Cambodia five months ago to help build the company. “After I understand more, we can think about an IPO,” he says, adding that he is amazed that the ravages of war have been replaced by progress and that the country is drawing people from all parts of the world. Says Quach: “The same jungle I escaped from has become a casino, a playground where tourists go.”

The bottom line: Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority may raise $21 million in an IPO next month, and two more state-owned companies may list this year.

Koh is a reporter for Bloomberg News in Singapore.