Thursday, May 31, 2012

CAMBODIA: The culture of impunity and violence must stop

May 31, 2012

A Joint Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Phnom Penh, 30th May 2012- We, Cambodian and International civil society organizations represented in this statement, condemn the use of armed force and escalating violence against citizens peacefully defending their land, labor and natural resources rights. We are referring to not only the events earlier last week on 22nd May, when dozens of peaceful Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) protesters were violently dispersed and two days later when fifteen (fourteen women and one male) BKL residents were sent to Prey Sar prison and charged and convicted of unfounded criminal offenses,1 but also the recent shooting incidents—the killings of environmental activist Chut Wutty2 in Koh Kong province and 14-year old girl Heng Chantha3 in Kratie province, and the shooting of three young women protesting for better working conditions in Svay Rieng province. These incidents are particularly disturbing because they indicate an increasing readiness on the part of security and military forces to use lethal force against civilians.

The year 2012 has already witnessed at least five such instances, not including numerous other human rights abuses. We are deeply concerned, shocked and saddened about this escalation of violence, particularly in disputes related to Economic Land Concessions (ELCs). Pursuant to Article 41 of the Cambodian Constitution and international conventions to which Cambodia is a party, all citizens enjoy a fundamental right to free expression, which includes the right to protect against decisions of public authorities that infringe on their rights and livelihood . In practice, the exercise of this right is all too often denied or met with violent repression.

Cambodian citizens have a right to live under the rule of law. They deserve to be protected, served with dignity and fairness based on universally agreed basic rights. Public authorities not only have a duty and obligation to ensure that a culture of impunity is never condoned but also must make fighting against impunity a priority. All instances involving the use of firearms against civilians should be promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated. Investigations that find shootings to be “accidental” or the result of low-ranking officers acting on their own initiative should be supported by evidence gathered in a rigorous, transparent manner. At the very least, protection against threats and intimidation should be provided to witnesses and all victims should have access to effective judicial verdict and justice.

The recent shootings took place despite the fact that Prime Minister Hun Sen has made an announcement prohibiting the use of firearms against protesters4 and issued a moratorium on the granting of ELCs5. Civil society organizations welcome the Prime Minister’s much needed directives, which work to improve human rights in Cambodia. However, the Prime Minister's directives should be followed by detailed, binding regulations that highlight how public authorities—both local and provincial and armed forces—should thoroughly and systematically implement these directives.

It is necessary to fully review all existing concessions to ensure they all are fully compliant with relevant national and international legal frameworks. Gaps in resources or technical capacity should be identified and addressed, and the implementation of these decisions should be monitored and reported to the public.

We, the 122 undersigned civil society organizations, believe that violence against citizens is never acceptable and should cease immediately and will also continue to monitor individual cases related to land, labor and natural resources rights. In addition, we will seek to engage the Royal Government of Cambodia with the aim to strengthen the rule of law and to break the current cycle of violence and impunity.

This statement is endorsed by the following Cambodian and International Civil Society

1) 3S Rivers Protection Network (3SPN)
2) Action for Environment and Communities (AEC)
3) Action for Research and Development (ARD)
4) ActionAid International-Cambodia
5) Advocacy and Policy Institute (API)
6) Affiliated Network for Social Accountability-East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP
7) Aide Et Action International-Cambodia
8) Alliance Action for Rural Restoration Organization (AARR)
9) Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
10) Assistance to Poor Children’s Agency (APCA)
11) Australian Council for International Development (ACFID)
12) Banteay Srei (BS)
13) Buddhism for Development (BFD)
14) Building Communities Voices (BCV)
15) Burma Partnership
16) Cambodia Women's Crisis Center (CWCC)
17) Cambodia’s Media Forum on Environment (CMFE)
18) Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
19) Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR)
20) Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT)
21) Cambodian Civil Society Partnership (CCSP)
22) Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP)
23) Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation (CFSWF)
24) Cambodian HIV/AIDS Education and Care (CHEC)
25) Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC)
26) Cambodian Human Rights and Development (ADHOC)
27) Cambodian Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA)
28) Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
29) Cambodian Mental Health Nurses Association (CMHNA)
30) Cambodian National Research Organization (CNRO)
31) Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT)
32) Cambodian Volunteers for Society (CVS)
33) Cambodian Worker Center for Development (DWCD)
34) Cambodian Center for the Protection of Children's Rights (CCPCR)
35) Center for Advanced Study (CAS)
36) Child Hope Cambodia
37) Children and Life Association (CLA)
38) Children Development Association (CDA)
39) Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC)
40) Christians for Social Justice (CSJ)
41) Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability (CISA)
42) Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC)
43) Community Capacities for Development (CCD)
44) Community Economic Development (CED)
45) Community Empowerment and Development Team (CEDT)
46) Community Managed Development Partners (CMDP)
47) Community Peace-Building Network (CPN)
48) Concern Worldwide Cambodia
49) Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC)
50) CORD South & East Asia
51) Culture and Environment Preservation Association (CEPA)
52) DanChurchAid/ChristianAid
53) Danmission-Cambodia
54) Development and Partnership in Action (DPA)
55) Development and Peace-Canada
56) Diakonia
57) Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE)
58) Environment and Society Organization ( ESO)
59) Environmental Protection and Development Organization(EPDO)
60) Equitable Cambodia
61) Farmer of Cambodia Organization (FOC)
62) Forum Syd
63) Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI)-based in Indonesia
64) Gender and Development for Cambodia (GADC)
65) Heinrich Böll Stitfung Cambodia
66) Highlander Association (HA)
67) Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)
68) ICCO & KiA Southeast Asia and Pacific
69) Inclusive Development International
70) Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association (IDEA)
71) Indigenous Community Support Organization (ICSO)
72) Indigenous Rights Active Members (IRAM)
73) International Center for Conciliation (ICfC)
74) Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC)
75) Jesuit Service Cambodia
76) Kelompok Studi Konservasi (KSK)- based in Indonesia
77) Khmer Institute for National Development (KIND)
78) Khmer Youth Association (KYA)
79) Korean Missionary Society (KMS)
80) Krom Akphiwat Phum (KAWP)
81) Kunathor (TNK)
82) LICADHO Canada
83) Life with Dignity (LWD)
84) Mercy Teams International
85) Mlup Baitong (MB)
86) My Village (MVi)
87) Neak Poan Organization For Development (NOP)
88) Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFIC)
89) NGO Committee on the Rights of the Child (NGOCRC)
90) NGO Education Partnership (NEP)
91) NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF)
92) Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP)
93) Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA)-Cambodia
94) Operations Enfants du Cambodge (OEC)
95) Organization to Promote Kuy Culture (OPKC)
96) Partnership for Development in Cambodia (PADEK)
97) People in Need Cambodia (PIN-Cambodia)
98) People’s Action for Change (PAC)
99) Phum Baitong
100) Ponleu Ney Kdey SangKhum (PNKS)
101) Ponlok Khmer (PKH) based in Preah Vihear
103) Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC)
104) Riverkids Foundation
105) Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
106) Save the Children
107) Servants of Cambodia
108) Silaka
109) Social Action for Change (SAC)
110) STAR Kampuchea
111) Strey Khmer Organization (SKO)
112) The Cambodian Center for the Protection of the Children’s Rights (CCPCR)
113) Trócaire
114) Urban Poor Development Fund (UPWD)
115) Village Focus Cambodia (VFC)
116) Volunteers for Sustainable Development (VSD)
117) WAI Bangladesh Steering Committee
118) Welthungerhilfe Cambodia (DWHH/GAA)
119) Women Association for Community Development (WACD)
120) World Rainforest Movement (WRM)
121) World Vision Cambodia (WVC)
122) Youth Resource Development Programme (YRDP)

Thailand to be centre for Fujitsu's move into 4 new markets

The Nation
May 31, 2012

Japanese IT company Fujitsu aims to double its revenue in Asia in two years, using Thailand as the centre of its foray into four new markets: Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
"Thailand and East Asia are important markets for us. We will focus on this region," Fujitsu president Masami Yamamoto said yesterday in a group interview at the World Economic Forum |on East Asia. "This year, we will have investments and business expansions in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, |and Thailand will be the centre of our expansion into these four markets." 

He said the company aimed to double its annual revenue in Thailand within two years from 100 million Singapore dollars (Bt2.5 billion) currently. In the same period, it targets doubling its S$600 million annual revenue from Asia as a whole. To achieve these goals, it will invest more in the region and the Kingdom this year.

"Two main focus areas for investment this year in Thailand and East Asia are data centres and human resources," Yamamoto said.

Because of the natural disasters last year in Japan and Thailand, the company is rethinking its supply-chain strategy, he said. |It plans to expand its manufacturing bases and focus on global, multipurpose supply chains. 

"This is to reduce the risk when a natural disaster occurs. But this does not mean we will not focus on Thailand. Thailand is |still one of our important markets. Importantly, this year Thailand will be our operational centre for stepping into four new |markets." 

The president said that the plan to move into Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the company would enter in these markets as one of Japanese group of companies with the lead in the markets by Japanese government. 

Yamamoto said that as the world faces the three challenges of food safety, environmental protection and energy supply, Fujitsu was working with the Thai and Japanese governments on pilot projects applying technologies such as sensor monitoring systems and simulations to manage the problems at Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong province. The company has similar projects in other countries.

He noted that the WEF conference in Davos, Switzerland, early this year highlighted the role of information and communications technology in sustainable development and disaster resilience.

"This is also one of our focuses. We hope to provide our technologies to help people and create a better world," Yamamoto said.

Southeast Asian Currency ‘Long-Term Goal’: Trade Body

 Thursday, 31 May 2012
by Catherine Boyle, CNBC
Despite the recent turbulence in the euro zone, the leader of the World Trade Organisation believes that a single currency should be a “long-term goal” for the countries in the ASEAN economic area.

Hoang Dinh Nam | AFP | Getty Images
ASEAN flags

“With a single economic goal, a single market without trade obstacles, with harmonized tariff and non-tariff measures, at some stage the issue of the currency will be there,” Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the WTO, told CNBC Thursday. 

He added that the European model for currency union – which has been attacked by some as partly responsible for the current crisis in the euro zone - would not necessarily be followed for the ASEAN nations. The group includes Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia, which have a much wider economic divergence than Germany and Greece. 

At the most recent ASEAN-EU Summit, the Secretary-General of ASEAN told Europe to “put your house in order.” 

“Whether it comes through exchange rate agreements that create a reasonably fixed system or the European way, this clearly entails a level of political integration which is not yet on the horizon,” Lamy said. 

Protectionist measures brought in the wake of the financial upheaval of 2008 should now be rolled back, he added. 

“For the first time since 2008, I’m getting worried. We’ve had so far trade protectionist rhetoric, but little action. That’s happening now,” Lamy said. 

“It’s more pernicious than one visible trade dispute. It’s an accumulation of little measures, tariff increases, administrative controls, government protection, the purpose of which is to slow trade.” 

Around 3 percent of world trade is affected by protectionist measures, according to the WTO.

China vows to ensure national sovereignty

China expressed an unwavering resolve to protect its national sovereignty and to deal with disputes peacefully, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said on Tuesday.

Liang made those remarks at a short consultative meeting with defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, following talks on Monday with his Philippine counterpart, Voltaire Gazmin.

The two meetings came amid an impasse over Huangyan Island in the South China Sea. The dispute was prompted by a Philippine warship's harassment of Chinese fishermen in waters off the island on April 10.
Liang called for cooperation, mutual benefit, equality and mutual respect at the meeting, which mainly concerned regional security and strengthening mutual trust and cooperation.

"China will never slough off its responsibility to ensure regional peace and stability, never change its choice of pursuing peace and development, never slacken its efforts to promote regional cooperation, never give up its sincere pursuit of peaceful resolutions to disputes and never waver from its determination to guard its national sovereignty," Liang told his counterparts from ASEAN countries.
On Wednesday, Beijing once again demanded that Philippine vessels leave waters near Huangyan Island.

"China's stance on guarding its territorial sovereignty is unwavering," Liu Weimin, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a daily news conference.

Liu also confirmed that the two countries are communicating regularly.

Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asia studies at Peking University, said Liang's remarks conveyed more than the Chinese armed forces' stance on the Huangyan Island impasse.

"Although the Philippines cannot afford to enter into a large conflict over Huangyan Island, its rival claim over the island won't be withdrawn overnight," Yang said. "And it still wants to bargain with China and involve more third parties."

Liang, during his meeting on Monday with Gazmin, which was held on the sidelines of the defense ministers' meeting of Southeast Asian countries, urged the Philippines to show "discretion in both words and deeds" over the island impasse and to make real steps toward the establishment of regional peace and stability.

It was the first face-to-face talk the two defense chiefs had held since the most recent dispute over Huangyan Island broke out about two months ago. The island has been part of China's indisputable territory since ancient times.

Manila, following the incident, has attempted to enlist support for its position from third parties such as the United States and United Nations. Those actions have been firmly opposed by China and other countries.

The Philippines says it has a territorial claim to Huangyan because the island lies within its so-called 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. It has vowed to take its contentions about the island to international tribunals, a move China believes is meant to foment a territorial dispute and make the situation more complicated.

"Bringing disputes about another country's indisputable territory to international tribunals violates the ground rules of contemporary international relations," Deng Zhonghua, director of the department of boundary and ocean affairs with the Foreign Ministry, said earlier this month.

Philippine Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak supports the Philippine position that a resolution of the island dispute with China should be based on the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, the Manila Bulletin reported on Tuesday.

Binay met with the Malaysian Prime Minister at the Prime Minister's office, according to a statement from the Office of the Vice President, it said.

Source:China Daily 

Cambodian prime minister meets with Liang Guanglie

 31 May, 2012(PLA Daily)

Hun Sen, prime minister of Cambodia, met with Liang Guanglie, state councilor and minister of national defense of the People's Republic of China, on May 28, 2012 in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. The two sides exchanged views on issues of common concern such as relations between the two countries and the two militaries in a cordial and friendly atmosphere.

  Liang Guanglie said that China-Cambodia relations have withstood the test of international vicissitudes since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries 54 years ago. China-Cambodia comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership is currently well developing as evidenced by high political mutual trust, mutually beneficial economic cooperation and cultural exchanges and mutual learning, showing bright prospects for development.

  Liang Guanglie noted that the relations between the Chinese and Cambodian militaries have been well developed in recent years as evidenced by fruitful cooperation in such fields as high-level contacts, academy education, personnel training, logistics support and multilateral security. The Chinese side is willing to make joint efforts with the Cambodian side to promote the friendly and cooperative relations between the two militaries to a new high.

  Hun Sen said that China and Cambodia share long-term friendship and trust each other, and leaders of the two countries have frequent contacts with each other. Chinese President Hu Jingtao's state visit to Cambodia in March 2012 has pointed the way for the future development of bilateral relations.

  Hun Sen said that the Cambodian side speaks highly of the bilateral cooperation in national defense field and expresses heartfelt gratitude to Chinese Ministry of National Defense for its strong support and assistance to Cambodia's national defense and army building.

  Hun Sen hoped that the two militaries would further strengthen exchanges and cooperation in such fields as personnel training, academy building and national defense industries.


China urges PHL to be discreet in 'words and deeds' over Panatag Shoal

31 May, 2012

China urged the Philippines to be "discreet in both words and deeds" in resolving their standoff over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which started in early April.

A news item posted on the Chinese government's web portal said this was the call of Chinese defense minister Liang Guanglie to Philippine counterpart Voltaire Gazmin.

The article said Liang made the call to Gazmin Monday, but was posted only Wednesday on the web portal on the sidelines of the defense ministers' meeting of Southeast Asian countries in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In the meeting, Liang also urged Manila to make tangible steps toward regional peace and stability.

Liang said he hoped Manila could maintain restraint and give priority to the overall situation, urging the Philippine military to "respect China's sovereignty and stop further provocations."

The meet was the first face-to-face talk for the two defense chiefs, and the highest level meeting between officials from both governments to exchange views on bilateral issues since the standoff started.

The standoff started when Philippine military forces spotted Chinese fishermen gathering marine species but were blocked by Chinese vessels when they tried to make arrests.

But Liang insisted it was "the Philippine warship's armed harassment of Chinese fishermen that triggered the Huangyan incident."

"And actions of the Philippines afterwards further complicated the whole issue," he said. China calls the shoal as Huangyan Island.

'Important signals'

On the other hand, the news item quoted Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Research Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as telling China Daily Liang is sending important signals through his statement.

"The meeting was held between officials of the highest level. And considering Liang's military duties, his statement indicated China’s intention to solve the dispute through political solutions and also demonstrated our capability to protect territorial integrity," he said.

Liang also said that as neighboring countries across the sea, China pays great attention to military relations with the Philippines, and it has taken various measures to improve bilateral contacts.


Gazmin was quoted in the news item as saying he appreciated the meeting, and exchanged views on the sensitive bilateral issue with his Chinese counterpart.

He also said the defense departments of both sides should keep communication lines open to seek a peaceful and proper solution.

While tensions still remain high in the South China Sea, the meeting was "a good thing," said Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asia studies at Peking University.

Yang added it suggested both sides shared the willingness to ease tension.

"Dialogues between the two defense chiefs prove both sides want to talk to each other. Despite the continuous provocations, Manila actually understands there is no other way but peaceful talks to resolve the issue," he said.

But Yang also warned that Gazmin's call for open communication does not mean Manila has changed its stance.

The China news item said the Philippines has not only turned to the United States for support but also expanded military cooperation with countries such as Japan and India.

Japan sent two training ships to the Philippines for a four-day port call this week and declared it would provide the country with 10 patrol vessels to bolster its maritime and territorial capabilities before the end of the year.

"Washington does not expect the issue to escalate into an armed conflict, but it will be generous with its support. Japan just wants to use the incident to scatter its pressure in the East China Sea," Yang said. — LBG, GMA News

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is China Trying to Split ASEAN?

By Trefor Moss
 Cambodia's Prime Minister and other Defence Ministers pose for a photograph during the opening ceremony of the 6th ASEAN  Defence Ministers' meeting at the Peace Palace in Phnom PenhCambodia's Prime Minister and other Defence Ministers pose for a photograph during the opening ceremony of the 6th ASEAN Defence Ministers' meeting at the Peace Palace in the Office of the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh May 29, 2012. (L to R): Brunei's Minister of Energy Mohammad Yasmin Umar, Thailand Minister of Defence Sukumpol Suwanatat, Vietnam's Minister of National Defence Phung Quang Thanh, Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Tea Banh, Indonesia's Minister of Defence Purnomo Yusgiantoro, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, Laos Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Douangchay Phichith, Malaysian Minister of Defence Ahmad Zahid bin Hamidi, Myanmar's Minister of Defence Hla Min, Philippine's Secretary of National Defence Voltaire T Gazmin, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Deputy Secretary General of APSC department Nyan Lynn. REUTERS/Samrang Pring (CAMBODIA - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS)

Defense leaders from around Southeast Asia are meeting in Phnom Penh this week for the 6th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM). The theme of the get together – “Enhancing ASEAN Unity for a Harmonized and Secure Community” – smacks of doublespeak: unity and harmony within ASEAN are sorely lacking at the moment, and no-one really thinks the ministerial meeting is going to rediscover them.
In the anarchy of the international arena, a club like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ought to be a reassuring place to be. The organization gives its ten members – small or medium-sized players in geopolitical terms – the opportunity to close ranks when dealing with the greater powers, and to speak with one voice loud enough to be heard in Beijing, Washington and any other place that needs to listen.
Unfortunately, ASEAN doesn’t work like that: individualism swiftly trumps collectivism whenever contentious issues arise.

In particular, ASEAN has a China problem. Ask the ten members about China, and you’ll get a kaleidoscope of opinions about what that country represents. Some ASEAN countries are very much pro-China: their own economic development is tied closely to Beijing’s, and they are comfortable with the political implications of their China connections. Others are cooler on relations with Beijing: they balance a wariness of Chinese influence with the obvious benefits of a healthy trading relationship. And finally, there are those that feel threatened by China and regard themselves as targets (or at least potential targets) of Chinese assertiveness.

Unity on the question of how to handle China has therefore eluded ASEAN. And given the association’s nature, this is unsurprising: neutrality and non-intervention, not unity and collectivism, are ASEAN’s most cherished principles.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that the member states which feel most insecure about China – the Philippines and Vietnam – had hoped for at least some ASEAN solidarity in managing their territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea. They didn’t get it. Philippine proposals in 2011 for the creation of an ASEAN-China “Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation” in the South China Sea were hung out to dry by the other ASEAN countries, with only the Vietnamese expressing real support. Most instead backed a bilateral approach to arguments with China: in other words, they said they’d rather not get involved.

As the stand-off between China and the Philippines at Scarborough Shoal – a disputed territory in the South China Sea – comes close to entering its third month, there’s certainly hope that diplomacy might still provide a solution to the complex problem of China-ASEAN tensions. This week’s ADMM could make some headway. More significantly, ASEAN officials last week completed a draft version of a new Code of Conduct governing behavior in the South China Sea; once finalized internally, this will be presented to China for discussion over the summer, though Beijing is presumed to have already had some unofficial input.
However, in ASEAN’s security discussions China has become the elephant in the room. At the ADMM, China is quite literally in the room: Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie is attending the event in Phnom Penh, even though this isn’t a gathering of the ADMM Plus, of which China is an official member. As for the drafting of the new Code of Conduct, there are concerns that the proposed regime will fail to take the all-important step: the setting out of clear rules in disputed zones. China is the constraining factor, with the draftees wary of presenting Beijing with a code that it cannot accept. But equally, drafting a code that fails to get to the heart of the South China Sea’s problems would be to squander a once-in-a-decade opportunity.

There’s no doubt that ASEAN is split on the issue of China and territorial disputes. What is less clear is whether ASEAN’s disunity is simply playing into China’s hands, allowing it to deal with each country individually, or whether Beijing is actively driving a wedge between ASEAN members that oppose China and those that are more sympathetic to the Chinese position.

“Beijing has consistently pursued a strategy to prevent the South China Sea issue [becoming] one between China and ASEAN,” suggests Zhang Baohui, an associate professor at Lingnan University. “It has argued that the any conflict is bilateral. To this end, Beijing has succeeded by using a few Southeast Asian countries to prevent the emergence of a united ASEAN agenda or strategy.” Zhang points to China’s economic leverage over Cambodia and Thailand in particular, and also to the fact that these two countries (and several others within ASEAN) have no direct stake in the South China Sea disputes. Their membership of ASEAN is their only real link to these affairs.

The spotlight has fallen on Cambodia especially: the country is China’s closest regional ally and a major beneficiary of economic aid from Beijing. It’s also the current ASEAN chair, which has given rise to suggestions that China is currently exerting undue influence on ASEAN through Cambodia at what it obviously a sensitive time for China-ASEAN relations.

Hun Sen, the Cambodian prime minister, was moved to declare publicly last month that his country had “not been bought” by China as a means of influencing ASEAN policy. However, even in public it hasn’t been difficult to see how Beijing links the issue of economic assistance with political support for China’s stance. When Hu met Hun Sen at the end of March, Reuters, for example, reported their discussions as follows: “Chinese President Hu Jintao asked close economic ally Cambodia on March 31 not to push talks on the vexed issue of the South China Sea "too fast" as he pledged to double bilateral trade to $5 billion and announced fresh aid to the impoverished country.”

Irrespective of the extent of Beijing’s control over Cambodia, its ability to split ASEAN – whether intentional or coincidental – is undeniable. However, China is also one of the few issues with the power to unite ASEAN. According to Mark Thompson, director of the Southeast Asia Research Centre at the City University of Hong Kong, non-intervention remains central to the ASEAN philosophy, with the result that ASEAN members are naturally in favor of balancing the competing influences of the US and China.

However, in its territorial disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam, China risks overstepping the mark, and violating ASEAN’s core principles. Chinese military action could therefore trigger the very circling of ASEAN wagons that Beijing’s policy has so far successfully prevented. “At the moment I think China has played its cards smartly enough,” says Thompson. “If ASEAN stands for anything, it stands for neutrality. Generally, the principle of the ASEAN Way, of non-interference, is accepted and even believed in, and so if push comes to shove you could see ASEAN rally [against China]. China understands that, and that’s why it has been acting relatively cautiously.”

China’s involvement in ASEAN constrains the group’s behavior, and militates against unity. But equally, China’s involvement in ASEAN is a self-constraint: only by treading relatively softly can Beijing continue to handle territorial issues bilaterally, as it prefers, as opposed to having to tackle ASEAN en bloc. So for all the damage that the long-running stand-off at Scarborough Shoal might be inflicting on ASEAN, it is at least encouraging to conclude that military action in the South China Sea is not in Beijing’s playbook. China can only divide and conquer ASEAN politically, not militarily.

Cambodia seeks $200m from China for rice mill

Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Rann Reuy
Phnom Penh Post

Cambodian government officials and private sector leaders have met with Chinese officials to negotiate a US$200 million loan for the development of Cambodia’s rice sector, an official said on Tuesday.

Cambodian delegates and investors with ties to the rice sector are now in China negotiating with the Chinese side to get the loan from the Chinese Import-Export Bank, said Son Kun thor, President of the Rural Development Bank.

The new loan would focus on the development of the agricultural sector, primarily the construction of rice-milling factories and improvements of cultivation techniques.

Now surveys are being done to assess where the funds would be best placed, he said.

The $200 million will go entirely to the rice sector but the conditions have not yet been “clearly discussed”.

The final decision rests with the Cambodian and Chinese governments, he said.

The Federation of Cambodian Rice Miller Associations said the federation is working with government officials on this issue and to insure that the loan proceeds, said Phou Puy, president of the federation.

Up to $200 million would be put into the rice sector within reach of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s goal of one million tonnes of rice exported to the global market by 2015, he said.

A memorandum of understanding was signed in early Febuary between Finance and Economy Minister Keat Chhon and Chinese Import-Export Bank President Li Ruogu.

The MoU was signed to aquire a $300 million loan to develop infrastructure and irrigation systems in the Kingdom.

Chinese government loans have so far reached almost $1.82 billion in Cambodia.

The loan will help to develop and improve Cambodia’s agricultural sector, but it is not really enough said Yang Saing Koma, President of CEDAC, an agricultural NGO.

Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand lead in travel & tourism

Singapore offers the most attractive environment among ASEAN countries for developing the travel and tourism (T&T) sector, according to the ASEAN Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2012 released today at the Travel, Trade & Tourism Summit held in Bangkok prior to the World Economic Forum on East Asia.
Followed by Malaysia and Thailand and steps ahead of Cambodia and the Philippines, Singapore, the highest placed nation in Asean, ranks 10th out of the 139 countries, ranked accordingly to their performance in areas that make investment in developing the T&T sector attractive.

The report analyses the relative strengths of the travel and tourism sector in ASEAN countries and makes recommendations on how to further unleash the potential of T&T in the region. The analysis is underpinned by the World Economic Forum's Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI).

ASEAN member countries span the entire rankings. While Singapore is ranked the 10th, Malaysia is at the 35th place and Thailand 41st, which do well despite some weaknesses. A third group, consisting of Brunei Darussalam (67th), Indonesia (74th) and Vietnam (80th), demonstrate clear strengths counterbalanced by weaknesses. Finally, both the Philippines (94th) and Cambodia (109th) present shortcomings in most dimensions.

The report stresses the critical role of T&T in accelerating the establishment of the ASEAN community. It reviews the efforts and initiatives by ASEAN member countries to collectively develop the sector. "Travel and tourism is not only a critical driver of economic development and social progress. It also represents a formidable factor of regional integration," said Børge Brende, Managing Director, World Economic Forum. "By improving connectivity and mobility, travel and tourism contributes to creating a regional identity, a sense of 'ASEANness' among citizens."

The rankings are based on data covering 14 areas: policy rules and regulations; environmental sustainability; safety and security; health and hygiene; prioritization of T&T; air transport infrastructure; ground transport infrastructure; tourism infrastructure; ICT infrastructure; price competitiveness in the T&T industry; human resources; affinity for T&T; natural resources; and cultural resources.

"What is good for the travel and tourism sector is good for the economy and vice-versa," explained Thierry Geiger, Economist, World Economic Forum, and lead author of the study. "Beyond cultural and natural heritage, the underlying drivers of T&T development are often the same as those of other sectors. Think of quality infrastructure, the ease of setting up a business, the absence of crime, or the availability of a healthy workforce."

The analysis provides some insight into the profound differences among countries in terms of tourism outcomes. Singapore draws 20 times more tourists per capita and 30 times more receipts per capita than the ASEAN average. Malaysia is one of the world's top 10 destinations, with about 25 million visitors per year, while the Philippines, despite being much larger, attracts six times fewer.

The report highlights the enormous potential for developing the T&T sector in ASEAN. The region boasts a wealth of natural and cultural heritage, as well as a long tradition of tourism. It is also strategically located at the heart of Asia. The extraordinary diversity of ASEAN countries further enhances the region's attractiveness. In addition, the ASEAN is an affordable destination by international standards. Yet, in most countries, the potential has been only partially tapped, owing to a number of weaknesses. They include inadequate infrastructure, poor public health and weak environmental stewardship. Conservation efforts must protect the region's extraordinary natural heritage, which is central to its T&T competitiveness. In addition, the analysis points to the significant benefits of travel and tourism for the economy and society at large.

Malaysia couple charged with hurting Cambodia maid

 30 May 2012 
By Agence France-Presse

A Malaysian couple have been charged with causing "grievous hurt" to their Cambodian maid, their lawyer said Wednesday, in the latest case of alleged abuse of domestic helpers.

A string of such cases has strained ties between Malaysia and some of its Southeast Asian neighbours, leading to Cambodia and Indonesia to temporarily stop sending workers until better protection was granted.

Hairdresser Tan Mong Huwai and his wife Eng Lay Sang, both 36, pleaded not guilty in a district court in the capital Kuala Lumpur Tuesday to causing "grievous hurt by dangerous weapons" to their maid, lawyer Hue Kok Chung said.

He declined to give further details. The Star daily reported the couple allegedly hit their maid, Cheah Phalla, 28, with an iron, an aluminium rod, a kitchen knife and other household items between last August and this May.
The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison. Tan and Eng, who is pregnant, were released on bail with the next court date set for June 29, Hue said. They have two other children.

Malaysia employs about two million people from mainly poorer regional countries to fill jobs shunned by locals on construction sites, in plantations and elsewhere, in addition to an estimated two million more who work illegally.

Cambodia imposed the freeze on sending domestic workers last October after activists highlighted dozens of cases of sexual abuse, overwork and exploitation among an estimated 50,000 Cambodians in Malaysian households.

Indonesia, the main provider of domestic workers for Malaysia, announced a similar ban in 2009 but lifted it recently after Malaysia pledged better protection, including granting maids one day off a week.

Vietnam to host Indochinese writers’ conference

30 May, 2012
VietNamNet Bridge – The former imperial city of Hue and central city of Da Nang have been chosen to host the fourth conference of writers from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia this September.

Vietnamese writers Nguyen Ngoc Tu won the Mekong River Literary Prize in 2009.
Vietnam has invited delegates from Thailand, China and Myanmar as observers to promote literary works and diverse cultures in the Mekong River Delta, said Huu Thinh, President of the Vietnam Writers’ Association which plays host to the event.

“Through the event, we want to strengthen solidarity, friendship and cooperation, as well as to stimulate innovations amongst writers living in the Greater Sub-Mekong Region,” said Thinh.

The Indochinese writers’ conference, initiated by the Vietnam Writers’ Association, is held annually in the three Indochinese countries on a rotary basis.

The first conference, held in 2007, marked the coming into being of the Mekong River Literary Prize presented to writers recognizing their best works and contributions to literary development in their respective countries.

To date 12 Vietnamese writers have been honoured with the prize.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

China, Philippines Agree to Show Restraint in Maritime Dispute

May 29th, 2012

China and the Philippines have agreed to exercise restraint in their two-month-long standoff over a disputed island chain in the South China Sea.

Philippine Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin made the announcement Tuesday after meeting with his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie on the sidelines of a conference of Southeast Asian defense officials in Cambodia.

“The reaction of the Chinese defense minister was a welcome gesture, because I sat down with him and talked about the issues concerning both countries. And like I said, we agreed on three points — to restrain our action, to restrain our statements, so that it stops escalating, and then we continue to open lines of communication until we come up with a peaceful solution to the case.”

The dispute began in early April when Chinese surveillance vessels blocked a Philippines warship from arresting a group of Chinese fishermen near the Scarborough Shoal.

Since then, both countries have had ships stationed at the shoal. They have also engaged in a war of words, with each side accusing the other of escalating the situation.

China and the Philippines imposed temporary fishing bans in the area earlier this month, in an attempt to lessen the tension. But Manila accused Beijing last week of sending additional ships to the territory, saying some were observed breaking the fishing ban.

China says the islands, known as Huangyan in China, are a key part of Chinese territory, while the Philippines says the shoal is within its internationally recognized exclusive economic zone. China has rejected a request by the Philippines to refer the issue to an international court.

The standoff is part of a wider territorial dispute in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei. China claims nearly the entire region, which is thought to contain large amounts of oil and natural gas.

CAMBODIA: Joint statement condemning baseless convictions and violence against human rights defenders

May 29, 2012

Shortly after a joint  statement condemning the violent and arbitrary arrest of 13 women from the Boeung Kak community, Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF), Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT), Equitable Cambodia, Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC), Inclusive Development International (IDI), and Licadho Canada express their outrage at the baseless criminal convictions of the women and the utter travesty of justice that occurred today.

After being detained for two nights, the women were woken before 5 am today and taken to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Their lawyers and the community had not been informed in advance of this unusually early transfer.
Photo: Children crying after their mothers, who are detained inside the courtroom
Approximately 100 of the women's community and family members soon gathered at the courthouse to show their support. They were quickly surrounded by a force of over 120 local police and riot police. The area surrounding the court was then sealed off, with police blockades set up over several blocks, preventing access for additional observers and media.

Around noon, word emerged that the 13 women were to be charged under articles 34 and 259 of the 2001 Land Law, and article 504 of the Penal Code. Article 34 of the Land Law states that any "illegal occupant" of certain property shall be subject to article 259, which provides for imprisonment of one to five years and fines from 5-50 million Riel (US$1,250 - US$12,500). Penal Code article 504 describes the crime of obstruction of public officials with aggravating circumstances. It carries fines from 1-2 million Riel (US$250-US$500) and imprisonment from six months to one year.

There is no basis for the "illegal occupant" charge against these women. Since

August 2011, when Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a sub-decree granting 12.44 hectares of the Boeung Kak Lake area to the remaining resident families, the entire community has been consistently calling on the government to mark the boundaries of the land they were given. They have organized marches and written multiple letters and petitions seeking to resolve the land dispute. One defendant was even wearing a shirt bearing the plea to please demarcate the 12.44 hectares today.

The authorities have refused or ignored all of the residents' demarcation requests. Lakeside families have thus been left without clear knowledge of the boundaries of the 12.44 hectare area.

As for the obstruction charge, it requires proof of violent resistance against an official who is trying to enforce a law or a proper government order. As video from the events on May 22 shows, the demonstration was entirely peaceful. The demonstrators were harassed and intimidated by a sizeable police force for hours before the 13 women were violently arrested, as they sat singing on the empty sand where 18 families’ homes used to be located. There is no indication that the police were acting within the scope of their duties, or enforcing a law or proper government order.

Regardless, the trial began this afternoon before presiding judge Pou Phov Soeun approximately one hour after the Phnom Penh prosecutor filed these spurious charges. The prosecutor had first begun interviewing the women just three hours earlier.

The 13 women's lawyers immediately requested a delay to allow for them to prepare their defense -- a delay they are unequivocally entitled to under

Cambodia's Code of Criminal Procedure articles 34 and 304. Although the law does not provide for judicial discretion upon such a request, it was denied. The lawyers then requested the case file and evidence, which the law also expressly entitles them to review. Again the request was denied.

The defense lawyers then made a request to bring witnesses -- again their right under the law. Four such witnesses stood ready to testify, just behind the police line in front of the courthouse. This request was also denied.

By 5:30 pm, all 13 women had been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. The 72-year-old, Nget Khun, had 1.5 years of her sentence suspended. Five others had 6 months of their sentences suspended. The main, most active representatives received the full sentence. The sentences appear directly related to the level of activism engaged in by the women.

By the time the 13 women were taken from the court, around 200 mixed police lined their path in a staggering show of force. There is little doubt this unprecedented display was intended to intimidate the community members and observers in front of the courthouse.

During the trial, the police arrested two more Boeung Kak lake community representatives, Sao Sareoun and Ly Chanary. Both were prepared to testify as

witnesses for the 13 women who were on trial. Their trial began immediately after the verdict for the first trial was announced. This second trial was suspended around 6:30 pm. The whereabouts of Sareoun and Chanary are currently unknown.

"This was nothing short of a show trial -- a complete charade," said Sia Phearum, Secretariat Director of HRTF. "The women were peacefully demonstrating, continuing their struggle to have their land clearly marked according to the 12.44 hectare sub-decree. They were seeking an end to the ongoing dispute surrounding Boeung Kak lake."

"The speed with which the trial began and ended, and the court’s refusal to follow Cambodian law, reveals a complete disregard for the fundamental rights of Cambodian citizens," said Naly Pilorge, Director of LICADHO. "Under no circumstances should an individual be required to defend themselves against serious felony charges within an hour of them being filed. This was a travesty."

As the women faced unjustifiable charges inside, the crowd of supporters waiting in front of the courthouse were outnumbered and intimidated by the large police force. Among the observers stood Venerable Luon Sovath, a tireless human rights defender and Cambodian monk who is currently one of three nominees for the prestigious 2012 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

Just after 10 am, Venerable Sovath was violently accosted by religious officials and men in plain clothes, wrestled into a waiting vehicle with the help of police, and whisked away to Wat Botum in Phnom Penh. He was detained until about 8 pm, before being released. A video of his assault is available here:

The undersigned organizations call for an end to violent responses to peaceful demonstrations; and for the authorities to drop the charges, vacate the unjustified and improper convictions, and immediately release: Nget Khun; Tep Vanny; Kong Chantha; Srong Srey Leap; Tho Davy; Chan Navy; Ngoun Kimlang; Pao Saopea; Cheng Leap; Soung Samai; Phan Chan Reth; Heng Mom; Toul Srey Pov; Sao Sareoun; and Ly Chanary; Sao Sareoun; and Ly Chanary.

For more information, please contact:
• Am Sam Ath, Monitoring Supervisor, LICADHO, 012327770
( )
• Sia Phearum, Secretariat Director, HRTF, 012852325 ( )
• Ee Sarom, Representative, STT, 012836533 ( )
• Eang Vuthy, Representative, Equitable Cambodia, 012791700
( )

Cambodian PM Initiates ASEAN Civil War Free Zone

 Web Editor: liuranran 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday initiated an ASEAN Civil War Free Zone, saying the initiative will make the region even stabilized and developed.

The premier's remarks were made during a 30-minute meeting with the ASEAN defense ministers ahead of the 6th ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting, Eang Sophallet, the spokesman for the Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters after the meeting.

The cooperation in defense sector among ASEAN member states is very significant to build peace, stability and prosperity for an ASEAN Community in 2015, said Hun Sen.

He urged ASEAN defense ministers to focus their cooperation not only on defense sector, but also on humanitarian activities in any event of natural disasters.

He said the roles of armed forces are more important in assisting victims during natural disasters.

Moreover, the premier also urged ASEAN member states to consider sending more armed forces to foreign countries for humanitarian operations under the United Nations umbrella in order to strengthen and expand ASEAN's roles on international arena.

Founded in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) group Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Cambodia, China defense ministers meet ahead of Asean talks

Phnom Penh (Rasmei Kampuchea Daily/ANN) - Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh met with Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie Monday ahead of an Asean defence ministers meeting, a source said.
The source said the meeting would discuss strengthening military cooperation between the two countries.

After meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen later Monday, Liang was scheduled to visit Siem Reap and later meet with the Asean ministers who begin their annual meeting on Tuesday.

The source said that Tea Banh, who is also a deputy prime minister, was also expected to hold bilateral talks Monday with Thai Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat.

Preah Vihear talks set for next month

Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Vong Sokheng
Phnom Penh Post

A closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defence Ministers meeting yesterday saw Cambodia and Thailand take what they hope is the next step toward the eventual withdrawal of troops from the disputed area around Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian Minister of Defence Tea Banh and his Thai counterpart, Sukumpol Suwanatat, agreed to a second meeting of the Cambodia-Thailand Joint Working Group of the General Border Commission, scheduling it for early next month in Phnom Penh, officials said.

“We have the will to implement this matter [withdrawal] and Thailand has realised that a slowing down of proceedings is not good for Thailand,” Sukumpol said after the meeting.

The first JWG meeting was hosted in Bangkok in April, during which no agreement was finalised over the withdrawal of troops from the 17.3-square-kilometer Provisional Demilitarised Zone declared by the International Court of Justice in June.

Ban on Thai Politicians Set to Expire

May 29, 2012
By Newley Purnell

A five-year ban on 111 Thai politicians linked to exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is set to expire Wednesday. The potential effect that the legislators’ return could have on the government of Mr. Thaksin’s younger sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, remains unclear.

The politicians and their now-defunct party, Thai Rak Thai, were banned in 2007 when the country’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the party had violated election laws the previous year. The ruling, which came after Mr. Thaksin was overthrown in a bloodless military coup in 2006, said that the politicians had financed little-known parties to run against Thai Rak Thai, circumventing turnout rules.

“The Thai Rak Thai diaspora returns home today — so to speak,” said Sunday’s Bangkok Post, in a preview of the ban expiring Wednesday. “The 111 banned politicians wind up their five years in the wilderness and will now…well, who knows?”

Some have suggested that an influx of some of the country’s most experienced political hands may strengthen Ms. Yingluck’s party, while others argue that it could lead to internecine squabbles. One question is whether Ms. Yingluck will offer any of the returning politicians ministerial posts, and whether this could create friction within her camp.

Most of the returning 111 are skillful politicians, and “have an intimate connection with Thaksin and more importantly with the red shirt grass roots,” says Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, referring to the largely pro-Thaksin red shirt movement.
Mr. Pavin told Southeast Asia Real Time that most of the returning politicians “supported the party financially in the past” and “this will be an extra asset for the Yingluck government.” However, allowing the once-banned figures to take up new posts could create competition with existing Yingluck loyalists, he says.
Mr. Pavin said there is speculation that one of the returning men, Surakiart Sathirathai, who served as Thaksin’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, could become Ms. Yingluck’s new foreign minister. (The current foreign minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, assumed the office last year.) An article in today’s Bangkok Post says that one of the banned politicians, Varathep Rattanakorn, who was Mr. Thaksin’s deputy finance minister, “is widely expected to be offered a seat in the Yingluck Shinawatra cabinet.”\

Still, some wonder whether some of the banned lawmakers ever really left the political game. A May 21 article in The Nation newspaper headlined “Return of the big guns” noted that “…it has been no secret that many of Thai Rak Thai’s 111 have played politics behind the scenes through nominees, such as spouses, children, and other family members. Some key figures among the group retained their influence behind political parties legally run by politicians loyal to them.”

What does the Thai public think? The official MCOT news agency reported May 20 that a Suan Dusit Rajabhat University opinion survey asked 2,592 Thais nationwide for their views on the banned politicians’ return. Forty seven percent said Thai politics “would be the same,” 31 percent said they thought things would improve due to an influx of “competent people to help run the country,” and 20 percent said the return “could lead to another conflict.” The survey results concerning whether or not the return would aid Ms. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party were more clear cut: 62 percent said yes, while 37 percent said no, citing potential “party disharmony.”


PM attends World Economic Forum on East Asia

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will attend the 2012 World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia in Bangkok on May 31 at the invitation of Thailand ’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the WEF President, Klause Schwab.

Themed, “Shaping the Region’s Future through Connectivity,” the forum will focus on the roles played by the ASEAN economies with high economic growth to help rebalance the global and regional overall economic outlook.

The forum will discuss the roles of governments and institutions in the development of financial policies to manage inflation, capital outflows, the volatility of commodity prices and a more balanced growth to stimulate a greater domestic and regional demand.

The participants will also discuss how the region will use its demographic dividends and technology base to develop a model that will increase growth through innovation, introduce a mobile workforce, help entrepreneurs and raise the level of workers’ skills.

WEF for East Asia this year is taking place at a time when the world’s economic situation has seen a more positive growth rate over the last year, with the East Asia region recording a growth rate of 8 percent in 2011 and expected to reach 7.4 percent in 2012.

The ASEAN member countries also hope to establish an ASEAN community by 2015, which includes a general overall plan for ASEAN connectivity.

Vietnam has increasingly integrated into the world and actively participated in international forums. The country successfully hosted the WEF in June, 2010 in Ho Chi Minh City . The forum attracted 450 delegates, including government leaders from Cambodia , Laos , Myanmar , Thailand and Vietnam .

With the theme, ‘Responding to the New Globalism’, the 2011 forum was held in Indonesia. The Vietnamese delegation was led by Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat.

VN eager to discuss defence co-operation

Viet Nam would actively engage in discussions at the sixth ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM6) to help make it a success.

The fruitful outcomes of this meeting would further contribute to promoting peace, stability, co-operation and development in the region.

The remarks were made by Minister of Defence Phung Quang Thanh during a bilateral meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Tea Bank in Phnom Penh yesterday, May 28.

On this occasion, Thanh expressed his thanks for the support of the Cambodian Government, Defence Ministry and Cambodian Royal Army towards Vietnamese military-owned enterprises operating in Cambodia.

For his part, Tea Banh spoke highly of the operations of these companies and affirmed his country's continuing support.

The two defence ministers also discussed opportunities for further co-operation.

Previously, Thanh visited Metfone Telecom, owned by Viettel and a Military Bank branch in Phnom Penh.

President Sang receives five incoming ambassadors

President Truong Tan Sang yesterday, May 28, received the incoming ambassadors of Iran, Mozambique, Georgia, Eritrea and Ethiopia as they presented their credentials.

Sang warmly welcomed the newly arrived diplomats and wished them all a successful working term in the country.

He affirmed Viet Nam always attached importance to the development of its relations with other countries.

VN, Laos see good results in educational cooperation

A total of 150 students from eight of Laos’ northern provinces are studying in Vietnam’s northern province of Son La as part of a joint education and training programme.

After completing a Vietnamese language course at Son La College, the students go on to continue their studies at vocational schools, colleges and universities in Son La.

Since 2002, Son La has helped to train over 500 students for the eight Lao northern provinces in health care, agro-forestry, teaching and economics.

MA Le Anh Tuan, the rector of Son La Medical College, said that his institution first started admitting students from Laos in 1970 and 35 students from seven northern Laotian provinces are currently studying there.

After graduating, the students return home and help to take care of ethnic minority peoples in Laos’s northern mountainous region, said Tuan.

Son La and Laos’ northern provinces plan to cooperate together in the future and the province will continue to offer more scholarships to Lao students.

Vice President attends opening of Vietinbank's Berlin branch

Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan yesterday, May 28, attended the opening ceremony of the second branch of the Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade of Viet Nam (Vietinbank) in Berlin.

She said the pioneering bank, in expanding into the German market in particular and Europe in general, has created to a turning point in the expansion strategy of Vietnamese banks.

It marked the development of the local finance and banking sector during the country's international integration process.

Doan also chaired a forum on accessing credit and business opportunities in Germany, co-hosted by the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Vietinbank.

She said this was an opportunity for businesses from both countries to explore investment prospects and further boost their trade relations.

As part of her three-day working tour, which concludes today, she also visited the Vietnamese Embassy and the Vietnamese overseas community of some 100,000 and said they played a key role in consolidating ties between the two countries.


Obama calls treatment of Vietnam War veterans "a disgrace"

WASHINGTON | Mon May 29, 2012
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama called the treatment decades ago of returning Vietnam War veterans a "national shame" on Monday and promised as commander-in-chief not to send U.S. troops back into harm's way without a clear mission and strategy.

Obama did not mention rising tensions with Iran and Syria or other potential threats in his remarks to veterans and military families on a hot, sunny Memorial Day, focusing instead on the legacy of Vietnam and his own efforts to wind down the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started by his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Many of those who survived brutal fights in the Southeast Asian jungle faced derision when they got home in the 1960s and 1970s as a result of public opposition to that Cold War battle.

Some 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam War, compared to 4,000 who were killed in Iraq and nearly 2,000 who have been killed so far in Afghanistan.

"You were often blamed for a war you didn't start, when you should have been commended for serving your country with valor," Obama told a crowd gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, which lists names of those who died in the conflict.

"You came home and sometimes were denigrated, when you should have been celebrated. It was a national shame, a disgrace that should have never happened. And that's why here today we resolve that it will not happen again," he said to applause.

The president noted that many Vietnam War veterans have gone to airports to personally greet soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom joined the military in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks that triggered the now-unpopular wars.

"Across America, communities have welcomed home our forces from Iraq, and when our troops return from Afghanistan, America will give this entire 9/11 generation the welcome home they deserve. That happened in part because of you," he said.

Obama asked all of the veterans in the crowd to rise to be recognized. "Welcome home. Welcome home. Welcome home," he said.

Veterans and family members wiped tears and sweat from their faces during the ceremony, which ended with a fly-over by Vietnam-era aircraft including a B-52 bomber.

John Hoffmann, 67, of Springfield, Virginia, served a year in Vietnam from 1970-1971. In a conversation with a reporter, he stopped abruptly to salute when the U.S. national anthem was played.

"We virtually came back to a thankless country," he said, his voice breaking. "So I'm ... grateful for this day that we get the recognition that we duly deserved so many years ago."

Obama's 2008 election campaign centered on his promise to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and as president he has focused heavily on improving the care and welfare of veterans, including those suffering from post-traumatic stress and other disorders that were undiagnosed at the time of the Vietnam War.

Without speaking explicitly about the Bush era, when critics said U.S. troops were sent into conflict ill-equipped and with unclear goals, Obama attributed many of the initiatives he has put into place to "the true legacy of Vietnam."

"Because of the hard lessons of Vietnam, because of you, America is stronger than before," he said.

"When America sends our sons and daughters into harm's way, we will always give them a clear mission, we will always give them a sound strategy, we will give them the equipment they need to get the job done," he said.

"We will resolve that leaders will be candid about the risks and about progress, and have a plan to bring our troops home with honor," Obama said.

Earlier on Monday, at the Arlington National Cemetery, Obama described "the light of a new day on the horizon" with overseas conflicts abating. He drew applause when he noted it was the first Memorial Day in nine years without Americans fighting and dying in Iraq.

"As commander in chief, I can tell you that sending our troops into harm's way is the most wrenching decision that I have to make," Obama said shortly after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

"I can promise you I will never do so unless it's absolutely necessary, and that when we do, we must give our troops a clear mission and the full support of a grateful nation."
(Editing by Todd Eastham)

Cambodia reports third bird flu death of 2012

Infectious Disease Examiner

The Cambodian Health Ministry (MOH) has notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of a fatality from human infection with avian influenza.

According to an AFP report, a 10-year-old Cambodian girl from southwestern Kampong Speu province has died from bird flu on Sunday according to a joint WHO/MOH statement Monday.

AFP reports the girl developed a fever and shortness of breath on May 20. The epidemiological investigation shows that the child was exposed to sick poultry (chicken) before becoming sick.
Avian influenza H5N1 was laboratory-confirmed by the hospital.

According to WHO statistics, this was the third case of human avian influenza in Cambodia and the third fatality of 2012.

Since 2003, Cambodia has reported to the WHO 21 cases of bird flu, of the 21, 19 of the patients died of the disease with a case-fatality rate of 90 percent.

According to the WHO, the primary risk factor for human infection with the virus appears to be direct or indirect exposure to infected live or dead poultry or contaminated environments.

They go on to say there is no evidence to suggest that the H5N1 virus can be transmitted to humans through properly prepared poultry or eggs. A few human cases have been linked to consumption of dishes made of raw, contaminated poultry blood. However, slaughter, defeathering, handling carcasses of infected poultry, and preparing poultry for consumption, especially in household settings, are likely to be risk factors.

Previous cases reported in Cambodia this year include a 2-year-old boy from Banteay Meanchey Province who died in January and a 6-year-old girl from Kampong Chhnang Province who died in late March.

Wei Fenghe attends ARF security policies conference

 29 May, 2012(PLA Daily)

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Conference on Security Policies was held on May 25, 2012 in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. Wei Fenghe, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), led a delegation to attend the conference.

  In his speech, Wei Fenghe analyzed the current regional security situation and focused on his four point opinions on the efforts of the Chinese side to strengthen maritime security cooperation:

  Firstly, safeguard common interests and actively perform international duties and responsibilities. Countries should actively carry out maritime security cooperation and take it as one of their bounden duties and responsibilities.

  Secondly, strengthen dialogues and exchanges and enhance mutual trust in maritime security strategies. Countries should strengthen communication and exchanges as well as dialogues and consultation and constantly enhance strategic mutual trust, so as to lay a foundation for maritime security cooperation.

  Thirdly, carry out pragmatic cooperation to improve the ability to jointly respond to threats. Countries should take pragmatic measures in information sharing, joint training, cooperation mechanism and joint actions to improve their ability to jointly respond to maritime security threats.

  Fourthly, properly settle differences and jointly maintain maritime security and peace. For the issues concerning the recent tensions and the navigation freedom and security in the South China Sea raised by some participating countries, Wei Fenghe reiterated the principled stand of the Chinese side on relevant issues and pointed out that the Chinese side is not to blame for the recent tensions in the South China Sea and the navigation freedom and security in the South China Sea have never been affected by disputes over its sovereignty.

  At the conference, Wei Fenghe re-emphasized that China unswervingly takes the road of peaceful development and pursues a national defense policy defensive in nature. Wei Fenghe expressed that China is willing to work together with the international community to strengthen maritime security cooperation and strive to create a better and harmonious Asia-Pacific region.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Obama visit on track

 28 May 2012
Kristin Lynch

Another senior United States official has said that President Barack Obama will visit Cambodia in November for the East Asia Summit and the US-ASEAN summit.

Sean McIntosh, spokesman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, told the Post yesterday that US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell “communicated his expectations that President Obama would be here in November” during a closed-door meeting with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Friday.

However, the embassy has not yet received official word from the White House, McIntosh added.

David Carden, US ambassador to ASEAN, made a similar announcement about Obama’s impending visit in October.

In addition to the regional summits, foreign affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that Obama’s visit would also focus on “strengthening cooperation between the US and Cambodia”.

McIntosh, along with Koy Kuong, also confirmed yesterday that Hor Namhong would visit Washington on June 12 at the invitation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Boeung Kak 13 to appeal

 28 May 2012
Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Shane Worrell 
Phnom Penh Post
Boeung Kak lake villagers protest outside Prey Sar prison yesterday morning after 13 protesters were sentenced to prison after a three-hour trial last week. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
Thirteen Boeung Kak lake women who were sentenced to two and a half years in jail on Thursday following a lawyer-free trial that lasted just three hours will appeal their convictions, their distraught supporters said yesterday.

As the reality of the trial, which rights groups have condemned as illegal, set in, families and friends of the women gathered at the home of imprisoned representative Tep Vanny in village 22, vowing to fight for the women’s freedom.

Heng Tong, 62, the husband of jailed Heng Mom, said the women’s lawyer, Ham Sunrith, would meet with the 13 women at Prey Sar prison today.

“They will urge him to file a complaint to the Appeal Court against the decision,” he said.

Tep Vanny’s husband, Ou Kong, 35, said he would write to every NGO and embassy in Cambodia pleading for more action to secure the women’s freedom.

“The judgment on my wife and other women in Boeung Kak was not legal,” he said. “Correct procedures were not followed. The judge refused to bring important witnesses to the hearing, which is a right protected under the constitution.”

The 13 women were arrested at Boeung Kak on Tuesday as they supported a family who was trying to rebuild their home on land from which they were evicted in 2010.

They were taken to court on Thurday without having been charged and tried in about three hours – without lawyers.

Two more Boeung Kak villagers, who were arrested outside the court on Thursday, were also being detained at Prey Sar yesterday, accused of masterminding last Tuesday’s demonstration.

Eng Houy, 42, whose mother, Nget Khun, 72, was one of six to have part of her sentence suspended, said she was concerned about the conditions in Prey Sar.

“I am very concerned about my mother’s health,” she said. “Our protesting will continue until we get resolution with justice and fairness,” she said.

A Boeung Kak villager who did not wish to be named said she was caring for 2-year-old twin girls, whose adoptive mother was one of the 13 women imprisoned.

The girls, whose birth parents had not been able to care for them, had spent the weekend crying and asking when their mother was coming back, the woman said.

The two girls are not alone – children who travelled to Prey Sar prison with the Boeung Kak villagers on Saturday carried banners with the words: “Please release my mother. Do not let me become an orphan.”

Their supporters also prayed at nearby Ang Metrie pagoda, where one woman shaved her head as she tried to invoke spirits to help free the women.

Human rights group Adhoc criticised over the weekend what it said was hypocrisy.

“It is particularly disturbing that the 13 Boeung Kak women received hefty prison terms for occupying the disputed land for merely three hours, when companies continue to flagrantly ignore the laws with no consequences,” it said in a statement.

“Whereas companies continue to abuse the Land Law and Sub-Decree No. 146 on Economic Land Concessions – razing people’s land before official licence is granted, neglecting to carry out required impact assessments and disregarding calls for compensation – citizens who exert their right to peaceful protest are met with violence and judicial harassment.”

Development firm Shukaku, which is headed by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, was awarded Boeung Kak lake in 2007.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, who after the trial called on the international community to take a strong stance, yesterday criticised remarks by Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs at the US State Department, who arrived in Cambodia late last week.

Campbell said on Friday he was “thrilled” to be in Cambodia and told of his country’s “deep desire to have strong and deeper ties between our business communities in the United States and ASEAN”.

Posting on her blog yesterday, Mu Sochua questioned whether trade was being put before human rights.

“This statement by a high-ranking official of the State Department is an insult to human rights and in particular to women’s human rights,” she said.

US Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh, however, said Campbell’s comments had been taken out of context.

“[Campbell] was here primarily to focus on ASEAN-driven issues. He was thrilled to be here for a senior officials meeting.”

McIntosh said the US had been closely following the 13 women’s situation and was regularly raising issues including freedom of assembly and independent judiciary.

“Boeung Kak ... is another example of a need to define property ownership more clearly.

“We address human rights issues with Cambodia routinely. We are not ignoring this.”

Trust govt, PM tells protesters

 Monday, 28 May 2012
May Titthara and Meas Sokchea
Phnom Penh Post

Villagers in Kratie province block the road in January after four people in a group of villagers protesting against alleged land grabbing by the TTY company were shot. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen has told villagers they should not to protest in land disputes but rather seek help from authorities following a spate of violent crackdowns on demonstrations.

The premier said protests affect public order and claimed they sometimes become violent in a statement signed last Tuesday and obtained by the Post yesterday.

“In settling to divide land or land ownership to villagers, there is no other means to resolution than authorities to tackle [the problem],” the statement reads.

Protesters must avoid “all forms of violence” and not employ disruptive actions such as blocking national roads, it continues.

Conversely, rights groups and opposition parties last week issued a series of statements condemning government crackdowns of protests and the abuse of the legal system in favour of companies over villagers in land disputes.

In what observers have said has been a sharp downturn in respect for human rights in Cambodia this year, a series of bloody crackdowns on land protesters have left an innocent 14-year old girl dead and several others injured by gunfire.

On Thursday, 13 women involved in the Boeung Kak land eviction were sentenced to two and a half years in jail, while on the same day, activist monk Loun Sovath was manhandled into a car, detained and threatened with arrest if he refused to stop attending protests.

In a statement on Friday, rights group Adhoc condemned the abuse of the land law to grant concessions on land already occupied by villagers.

“It is particularly disturbing that the 13 Boeung Kak women received hefty prison terms for occupying the disputed land for merely three hours, when companies continue to flagrantly ignore the laws with no consequences.”

The Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party both issued statements the same day condemning government-sanctioned violence in disputes.

“[We] would like to request Supreme Council of Magistracy to have a look and punish judges and prosecutors who used power to convict people unjustly,” the SRP statement reads.

Chan Soveth, an investigator for Adhoc, said yesterday the very reason people take to the streets is because they cannot expect help from Cambodia’s dysfunctional legal system.