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Thai in Pictures

Saturday, October 17, 2009



Armed with batons and shields, Thai soldiers march into the government house compound to provide security Friday, Oct. 16, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Thai government imposed the ten-day Internal Security Act ahead of this weekend rally by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the ASEAN Summit is to take place next week in the southern resort town of Hua Hin. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong) (


Armed with batons and shields, Thai soldiers march into the government house compound to provide security Friday, Oct. 16, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Thai government imposed the ten-day Internal Security Act ahead of this weekend rally by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the ASEAN Summit is to take place next week in the southern resort town of Hua Hin. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong) (


Thai soldiers stand in formation inside the government house to provide security Friday, Oct. 16, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Thai government imposed the ten-day Internal Security Act ahead of this weekend rally by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the ASEAN Summit is to take place next week in the southern resort town of Hua Hin. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)


Thai soldiers put down their equipment after entering the government house compound to provide security Friday, Oct. 16, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Thai government imposed the ten-day Internal Security Act ahead of this weekend rally by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the ASEAN Summit is to take place next week in the southern resort town of Hua Hin. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)


Thai soldiers, armed with batons and shields, stand in formation while providing security at the government house compound Friday, Oct. 16, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Thai government imposed the ten-day Internal Security Act ahead of this weekend rally by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the ASEAN Summit is to take place next week in the southern resort town of Hua Hin. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)




Thai well-wishers pray for Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej to get well at hospital in Bangkok in September. Thailand's prime minister has said an investigation is under way into whether the stock exchange was manipulated, after anxiety over the king's health sent markets plunging. (AFP/File/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)


An official works near a portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok October 15, 2009



A Thai soldier stands guard in front of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit portriats in restive southern Yala province, in 2006. Thailand's prime minister has said an investigation was under way into whether the stock exchange was manipulated, after anxiety over the king's health sent markets plunging. (AFP/File/Muhammad Sabri)

Cambodia in Pictures



Cambodian school children ride on a bicycle on a dirt road in flooded village of Balang, Kampong Thom province, about 168 kilometers (104 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Oct. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith) (CAAI News Media)


Cambodian school children ride on bicycles on a dirt road in flooded village of Balang, Kampong Thom province, about 168 kilometers (104 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Oct. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


Him Huy, top, a former security guard of the Khmer Rouge's S-21 prison, delivers the first Cambodian-authored Khmer Rouge history textbooks to high school students in Kampong Thom province, about 168 kilometers (104 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Oct. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

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Hundreds of Factory Workers Faint on Job

Friday, October 16, 2009

Workers taken to the hospital (All Photos: Koh Santepheap)
A worker is carried out of the factory

Chhuon Malay was still feeling shaky Tuesday night. She waited until the rain stopped before walking from her rented apartment in a Phnom Penh suburb to get a fruit shake—a luxury she said she can rarely afford but that she hoped would bolster her strength.

The 28-year-old garment worker still felt weak from Monday, when she and around 400 coworkers fainted on the job at the Willbes Cambodia Co., Ltd., garment factory in the capital’s Dangkor district.

“My health used to be strong, but at that time I fainted unexpectedly,” she told VOA Khmer, drinking her fruit shake. “I am afraid that my health would be weak in the future.”

The mass fainting—caused apparently by noxious fumigation chemicals—underscores an ongoing problem in Cambodia’s factories, a leading union representative said after the spell. As many as 30,000 workers have passed out on the job in factories in the last decade.

The weakened workers were sent to various state hospitals and private clinics in Phnom Penh. Chuon Malay found herself at the Samphup Angkor clinic, having lost consciousness for six hours. She returned to her home later that night.

“I’m still tired until now,” she said.

The following day, the factory closed its doors. On Wednesday, it was open again, but dozens of workers walked off the job, claiming they were still too ill to work.

Willbes human resource manager Sem Sokunthea said the factory allowed ill workers a day off on Wednesday without a dock in pay, after doctors confirmed their ill health.

“We regret that unexpected event,” Sem Sokhunthea said. “We also regret that our company lost a lot.”

The fainting spell cost the factory thousands of dollars in lost production and wages, as well as medical treatment, she said.

The factory had employed an unnamed company to fumigate two weeks ago, she said, to prevent insects from damaging clothes.

Pok Vanthat, director of the Ministry of Labor’s health department, said the fumigations had caused the fainting. The company had agreed to renovate its factory to avoid further problems and will be fined if it fails, he said.

At least two other companies this year had fumigated, he said, and he urged companies to find ways to minimize harmful effects of pesticides and other chemicals.

“Now we are working on this,” he said. “The minister has taken care to disseminate this information to all of the factories, to understand the impact of chemicals.”

However, Chea Mony, head of the Free Trade Union of Workers in the Kingdom of Cambodia, said the problem is nothing new.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 workers have passed out on the job since 1997, he said.

“If the government doesn’t take care of the health of workers, we will lose our labor force,” he said.

Cambodia’s garment exports are a major economic driver, and the country’s 500-some factories employ more than 300,000 workers. Most are young women and earn a minimum monthly salary of $50.

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ECCC Watch

(Photo courtesy Philip Short, Pol Pot: Anatomy of a Nightmare)

CAMBODIA MUST NOT MISS THE OPPORTUNITY TO PROVIDE TESTIMONY TO THE KHMER ROUGE TRIBUNAL

I am delighted to learn that lately the Khmer Rouge’s Tribunal (KRT) at the Extraordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) has issued summons calling on 6 ranking members of the Cambodian government to provide testimonies as witnesses for the investigation of the Khmer Rouge’s crimes against Cambodian people in the late 1970s. What is so significant about these testimonies is that all of these 6 individuals namely: Cambodian National Assembly president, Mr. Heng Samrin, Senate president, Mr. Chea Sim, Senators Sim Ka and Ouk Bun Chhoeun, Finance Minister Keat Chhon, and Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong are both former members of the Khmer Rouge and victims of the Khmer Rouge regime. Together, these 6 individuals possess unique knowledge on how the Khmer Rouge perpetrated crimes against Cambodian people.

While some people expressed concerns that these 6 individuals’ past connection with the Khmer Rouge and their present involvement in formulating laws to bring those who committed crimes against Cambodian people during the Khmer Rouge’s era to trial would make them biased witnesses, I strongly believe that the appearance of these extraordinary and august individuals before the KRT gives Cambodia the greatest opportunity to tell the world the details of the Khmer Rouge crimes and how Cambodians were treated under their terrible, tyrannical regime.

Based on numerous publications and media reports, it is well known that Mr. Heng Samrin used to work as a military commander under the Khmer Rouge while Mr. Chea Sim, Sim Ka, and Ouk Bun Chhoeun worked as low level officials. As for Mr. Keat Chhon and Hor Nam Hong, they worked as cabinet member and diplomat, respectively. Besides working as Khmer Rouge officials, these 6 individuals were also victimized by the Khmer Rouge with either impending threats of death or outright persecuted with death warrant. For instance, Mr. Chea Sim and Heng Samrin were only able to save their lives by fleeing to Vietnam while Mr. Keat Chhon and Hor Nam Hong were living like death row inmates at Boeung Trobek Reeducation camp/prison.

Unlike most Cambodians who were forced to work as slave labors which, in effect, limited their experiences to that of a victim, these 6 witnesses have, I believe, better knowledge on the Khmer Rouge criminal enterprise than anyone else. As officials at different levels of the Khmer Rouge ruling apparatus, these witnesses, at least, knew, to varying degrees, how criminal policies were carried out. And as victims of the Khmer Rouge persecution, they also, certainly, knew how serious the Khmer Rouge crimes were. These two interconnected factors present the most balanced criteria for these 6 witnesses to be exceptionally credible.

Justice is about searching for the truth and exposing how particular events occurred. Based on their individual life’s experience, perhaps no one is more qualified or has a more balanced knowledge than these 6 witnesses. Hence, if we were to find most knowledgeable witnesses to tell the KRT about our ordeal, these 6 witnesses are the best because, through the twists and turns of their lives, they were able to see and experience both sides of the spectrum. As a Khmer Rouge victim, I wholeheartedly support their testimonies and hope that they will do their best to provide the KRT with credible and compelling accounts on our behalf so that justice is properly served in the context of holding criminals accountable for their crimes and bringing closure to the suffering their victims had endured during their ruthless rule.

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Media Mogul Hun Mana offered 80% of Kampuchea Thmei ownership … for free (sic!)

Media mogul Hun Mana, scion of the top food chain of Cambodia's Family Trees (aka “Family of the Thieves of the Nation” in Khmer) (Photo: The Phnom Penh Post)

Try Heng, the owner of the Kampuchea Thmei, one of Cambodia’s largest newspapers, announced that Hun Mana, Hun Sen’s daughter and director-general of Bayon TV and radio, is set to take control of the Kampuchea Thmei.

The Cambodia Daily reported that, according to Try Heng, Hun Mana will receive 80% of the newspaper revenues. Try Heng also claimed that he offered the majority ownership of the newspaper to the PM’s daughter “without her paying any money for the privilege” (i.e., free of charge?). “The reason she wants to have shares is because she loves Kampuchea Thmei,” Try Heng was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying.

In its September 16-30 edition, the Free Press Magazine online reported that the 80% control of the Kampuchea Thmei in fact came at a cost of $750,000 to Cambodia’s media mogul Hun Mana. Needless to say that with her family sitting at the top of food chain in Cambodia’s Family Trees (also known as “Family of the Thieves of the Nation” in Khmer), the ¾ million dollar cost to acquire the interest in the Kampuchea Thmei must have been chump change that can be characterized as “nearly free.”

In any case, we pray that deforestation in Cambodia is not accelerated by Hun Mana’s takeover of this daily newspaper, because, as we all know, large publication requires large amount of papers, and papers are produced from wood pulp obtained from cut down trees (thus our concerns).

On the other hand, Moeun Chhean Naridh, the director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, indicated that the takeover of the Kampuchea Thmei by Hun Mana is a legitimate cause of concerns because sensitive information on government officials could be self-censored by employees working for the perpetual prime minister’s daughter. He cited Bayon TV news coverage as example of “very biased” report.

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Why bother to appeal to the Supreme court when the outcome is known in advance: Mu Sochua

Mu Sochua decides to drop lawsuit case against Hun Xen

Kampot SRP MP Mu Sochua had decided to drop her lawsuit against Hun Xen after the Appeal court decided to toss her defamation and curse lawsuit against Hun Xen.


In an interview, Mrs. Mu Sochua said that she will not appeal her lawsuit case against Hun Xen to the Supreme court. The Appeal court decision to toss her case shows the court inequity. Mrs Mu Sochua added that if she pursues her case to the Supreme court, the decision will still remain the same.

Mrs. Mu Sochua made this decision shortly after Uk Savuth, the prosecutor of the Appeal court maintained the decision handed down by the Phnom Penh municipal court, i.e. her lawsuit against Hun Xen was dropped by the court.

In June 2009, the prosecutor of the Phnom Penh municipal court considered Mrs. Mu Sochua’s accusation as being unacceptable. Therefore, the court decided to drop her lawsuit case against Hun Xen.

Mrs. Mu Sochua’s lawsuit led to a countersuit by Hun Xen who accused her of defamation. The reason Hun Xen accused her of defamation was because Mrs. Mu Sochua claimed that Hun Xen defamed and cursed her in his speech in Kampot on 04 April 2009. Hun Xen strongly criticized a “Cheung Khlang” (thug) woman who is very good at protesting land issues in Kampot province.

At the end, on 04 August 2009, the Phnom Penh municipal court decided that she lost her case against Hun Xen and it ordered her to pay a 16.5 million riels ($4,100) fine.

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New wave of evictions in Phnom Penh

30 families had to witness the demolition of their homes (Photo: Jerome Becquet, Cambodge Soir Hebdo)
On Thursday 15 October morning, an area of Russei Keo district along the Tonle Sap River, 30 families were evicted from their homes which were later destroyed.

Once you cross the Japanese bridge at the exit of Phnom Penh in the direction of Kampong Cham, a troubling scene is attracting a large crowd of onlookers. In fact, the cops were directing a demolition gang busy at work. Distinguishable by their bright green T-shirts, the demo workers went on from one house to another, tearing out the tin roof, emptying the houses of all the furniture before loading them into moving trailer trucks.

70-year-old Phalhiot live here for the past 15 years. His family is respected by the authority, nevertheless, he couldn’t believe what he saw: “We negotiated with the city hall twice. They proposed to give us a 32-square-meter plot located next to the purification station in Meanchey district, in exchange for the plot of land that my family is living on right now. Our plot here is about 3 times larger than the one proposed to us,” he said with indignation.

Nevertheless, Phalhiot is one of the privileged residents because he was able to take down his house to rebuild it elsewhere. Meanwhile, several others did not have this opportunity. Phirom is among the unlucky ones: “They destroyed my wooden house with a bulldozer. Everything went by very quickly. Nobody listened to my complaints about my rights for relocation. I no longer have a roof to live under.”

According to a representative of the authority, 10 families out of the total of 30 families involved accepted the relocation proposal. “There were 5 warnings, and the eviction ultimatum was set on 7 October, it has been extended by one week,” he claimed. According to the latter, the cops intervened today because the road widening project must start as soon as possible to make way for a round-about.

Naroth, an investigator for Licadho, stressed that these new evictions – which are taking place after the recent evictions in Oddar Meanchey and Ratanakiri – are adding more fuels to the current land dispute chapter that is highly criticized by the civil society.

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ASEAN chief: Thai-Cambodian issue unlikely to be aired at ASEAN Summit

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_kWKqQEHEdf0/StWxqtesjcI/AAAAAAAAk7g/AIio6XtwTqY/s200/000.jpg
BANGKOK, Oct 14 (TNA) - ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan on Wednesday said he did not believe that Cambodia will raise the border conflict with its neighbour Thailand at the upcoming summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the end of this month.
The ASEAN chief commented after French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) earlier quoted Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong as saying Prime Minister Hun Sen will raise the Thai border spat at an upcoming regional summit despite opposition from Thailand, which is hosting the meeting.

Mr Hor Namhong however said "Because there is no answer from Thailand to my official proposal, Cambodia still considers that Prime Minister Hun Sen can raise the dispute in the ASEAN summit."

He said that Cambodia is willing to raise the issue in other international bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, and accused Thailand of delaying the resolution of the dispute.

Thailand will host the 15th ASEAN Summit and its related summits in Phetchaburi's Cha-am district and Prachuab Khiri Khan's Hua Hin district October 23 to 25.

The ASEAN chief said that if any country member feels that the Thai-Cambodian border dispute affects ASEAN's image, the foreign ministers from other eight country members (except from Thailand and Cambodia) can raise the issue for discussion at the regional pact meeting.

"I know the Cambodian stance only from news report. I think that the border spat is the issue between the two countries which can be agreed at bilateral talks," said Mr Surin, "It should not be raised in the ASEAN Summit."

The ASEAN chief added that he is not worried that the summit will be overshadowed by the Thailand-Cambodia conflict, saying that ASEAN members are mature and willing to solve problems.

He said if anyone of either party raises this topic at the meeting, it will be a good opportunity to help find appropriate solutions to the conflict.

Tensions between the two neighbouring countries, renewed when Mr Hun Sen said he had ordered his troops to shoot any Thai stepping on Cambodian soil, after protesters of Thailand's yellow-shirted Peoples’ Alliance for Democracy (PAD) rallied in Si Sa Ket province last month opposing Cambodia's plan to build new structures in the contested 4.6 square kilometre zone surrounding Preah Vihear.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva shunned Mr Hun Sen's threat, saying it is his style to make international headlines and for his internal political benefit.

Cambodian Foreign minister said early this week that he wished to propose the dispute over the area around the ancient Preah Vihear temple be included in the agenda of the ASEAN summit and in other international meetings.

The Thai foreign affairs ministry however said the dispute should not be internationalised or raised at the regional pact meeting and Thailand will continue to seek a peaceful solution with Cambodia via a bilateral mechanism.

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Cambodia to raise Thai border dispute at ASEAN: FM

PHNOM PENH, Oct 14 (AFP) - Cambodia's foreign minister said Wednesday that premier Hun Sen will raise the Thai border spat at an upcoming regional summit despite opposition from Thailand, which is hosting the meeting.
"The prime minister will raise the issue in... the (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) ASEAN summit," Hor Namhong told reporters.

He said the dispute -- which has sparked several deadly troop skirmishes -- remained up for discussion at ASEAN since Thailand had not officially responded to his proposal to include it in the October 23-25 summit.

"Because there is no answer from Thailand to my official proposal, Cambodia still considers that Prime Minister Hun Sen can raise the dispute in the ASEAN summit," Hor Namhong said at a press conference.

The spat focuses on an area of land around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, where clashes have killed seven soldiers since last year.

Hor Namhong added that Cambodia was willing to raise the issue in other international bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, and accused Thailand of delaying a resolution to the dispute.

A spokesman for the Thai foreign affairs ministry told AFP Tuesday that his country would continue to seek a peaceful solution with Cambodia but believed the dispute should not be raised at ASEAN or "internationalised".

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around Preah Vihear for decades, but nationalist tensions spilled over into violence in July last year when the temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia.

Soldiers from both countries continue to patrol the area, with the last gun battle near the temple area in April leaving three people dead.

The border between the two nations has never been fully demarcated, partly because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

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Is Cambodia's monarchy still relevant in the 21st century?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


(Photo: AP)

Are Southeast Asia’s monarchies still relevant in the 21st century? In recent years, the demise of the 239-year old Shah dynasty in Nepal indicates that the institution could be highly vulnerable if it appeared antagonistic toward democracy.

In Southeast Asia, some monarchies have successfully entrenched their rule alongside democracy. Some are potentially becoming the target of annihilation. At present, four of 10 Southeast Asian nations endure various kinds of monarchy, ranging from absolute to constitutional and ceremonial.

The deeply respected King Bhumibol Adulyadej remains the world’s longest reigning monarch and the epicenter of the Thai political entity despite the political turmoil that has swept the country since the 2006 military coup that deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, allegedly at the hands of backers of the royalty. As the aging monarch grows more frail, there are concerns about how the succession to the throne will be handled.

In Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei has proven his resilience in upholding the legitimacy of his absolute reign in an era of surrounding democratic nation-states. Cambodia’s King Sihamoni, whose role is largely ceremonial, nonetheless plays a vital part in the construction of a Khmer national identity.

Malaysia has a system of elective monarchy. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the highest ranking office created by the Constitution of the federation of Malaysia. The current Agong is Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, the Sultan of Terengganu. As political turmoil has swept the country in the wake of 2008 elections that broke the ruling national coalition’s two-thirds hold on power in the national legislature, the United Malays National Organization, the biggest ethnic party in the national coalition, has attempted to use a perceived lack of respect for the royalty by opposition leaders to whip up Malay sentiment against the opposition.

Elsewhere in the world, monarchies have been perceived as a political anachronism in the face of the prevailing democratic institutions. In Southeast Asia, the vestiges of the bygone era ruled by kings and sultans have been able to survive the democratic era. But for how long?

Thailand’s prolonged crisis in which opposite factions have competed fiercely to strengthen their power position has further dragged the much-revered King deep into the political abyss. The Thai monarch could hardly escape being a casualty of the internal conflict simply because the political fault line was drawn on the growing resentment of the majority poor Thais who criticized the Bangkok elites for their despotic behavior. These elites have long claimed to represent the voice of the Thai monarchy.

The sultan of Brunei has so far demonstrated his ability to adjust to meet new challenges. He solidifies his legitimacy using the ideology of Melayu Islam Beraja, which allows for the significant role of Islam at the state level. But this process is exclusive and it is at risk of being rejected by Brunei’s non-Muslim population.

Indian scholar Sreeram Chaulia argues that the future of monarchies in Asia depends on the combination of their personal and political capabilities and how they transpire as a nonthreatening factor to democracy. They rely upon their ability to reinvent themselves at three levels: personal, national and international.

At a personal level, the monarchs more than ever need to exhibit their increased accountability, transparency and responsibility as they live side-by-side with a democratic regime. In Southeast Asia, the concept of divine kingship has remained highly sacred. The Thai and Cambodian kings are supposed to perform as Buddhist Dhammarajas, or virtual kings, so as to augment their charisma, and subsequently reverence, from their subordinates. Likewise, the sultans have been exercising their royal authority based on Islam.

The religious sanctity of the throne is indispensable for the existence of the monarchs. It unveils the close intertwining between kingship and religion, and if used wisely, it can enhance further the level of divinity of the monarchs. The abolition of the Nepalese absolute monarchy under the reign of Gyanendra Bikram Dev partly derived from the lack of his religious charisma and from the fact that he had come to the throne after his nephew, the crown prince, had murdered almost the entire royal family.

At a national level, the monarchy’s endurance is intricately related to its alliance with the military, as exemplified by the Thai military’s role in bringing down Thaksin and making sure the deposed prime minister’s Republican supporters didn’t come to power and bring him back.

Historically, the military was an obligatory defender of the royal institution. Past and present kings have sought to forge intimate alliances with armies. In fact, the military possesses a powerful mandate that often determines the lifespan of all kinds of regimes, be they monarchical, despotic or democratic. Central to the longevity of the monarchies is the loyalty of the military.

Moreover, future monarchies need to work closely with fundamental political parties which represent dominant groups in society and are not necessarily royalists. Meanwhile, they are obliged to avoid being seen as the patrons of minority privilege, as this would further separate the throne from the majority middle to lower classes: if the majority’s voice is heard, the king’s position is safe.

All these guides to longevity of the monarchies in Southeast Asia do not automatically offer a rosy picture for their future. New factors emerge periodically to challenge the integrity of their rule. Using illegitimate weapons, such as manipulating the legal system to fight against such challenges, may prove counterproductive.

The monarchical system has been around for thousands of years. The ultimate key to the survival of the monarchical institution, therefore, rests on the way in which it acts and reacts in a complementary manner to the rising desire of the people for democracy.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.


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The Freedom Awards: Celebrating Anti-Slavery Heroes


An angry brothel owner gouged out Pross Long's eye with a stick. Sina's tender support is helping her regain her self esteem.
"I was dead, and now I have a new life," Pross says.
"I can go to school. And my parents love me. I’m very happy,
very excited. I never expected that."

(Click here to read Sina's story)


How can something so disturbing, so dark, look so ordinary to the untrained eye? They could be young girls hanging out on a warm evening anywhere. But they're not -- they are sex slaves in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. My guide knew this better than anyone. Until a few years ago, she was one of them.

Twelve years ago, Sina Vann was forced to have sex with 20 to 30 men a night. Tonight, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are presenting her with an award for her heroism in freeing others from sex slavery.

Incredibly, after escaping the hell of daily serial rape, Sina chose to go back and confront human traffickers like the one who enslaved her and fed his greed with her life. She told me, "If I didn't service customers I would be locked in the dungeon. They would tie my hands and tie my feet. And they would splash water over me, and they would shock me. When I was shocked, I felt like my spirit just left me."

Sina continues to go back to this underworld nearly every day, often risking her own life, to help women and girls out of sex slavery and into lives of self-sufficiency and purpose.

Sina was showing me around the brothels as we shot her story. The footage will be seen for the first time tonight at the 2009 Freedom Awards where Free the Slaves honors the Harriet Tubmans and Frederick Douglasses of today.

She is joined by Veero from Pakistan, who escaped slavery and went on to help bring 700 more slaves to freedom.

We're also honoring two young people through the Anne Templeton Zimmerman Fellowship, Alexis Weiss and Betsy Bramon, who are promising new leaders in the anti-slavery movement.

The awards honor freedom, not slavery, and we're ready to celebrate. Jason Mraz, Camilla Belle, Emmitt Smith, Isabel Allende, Ambassador Lou C. deBaca, Pam Omidyar and Maurice Greene will be there. You're invited. Watch it streaming live here at 7 p.m. PST.

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Cambodia's Family of Operetta Generals [Operetta: A short amusing opera]

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen greets the honour guard as he arrives to attend the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70 on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade which cracks down on terrorism has more than 600 armed combatants including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) poses with his son Hun Manet during the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70 on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade which cracks down on terrorism has more than 600 armed combatants including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

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Four-golden-star General Hun Xen oversees the 15th anniversary of Brigade B-70, his private army

(All Photos: DAP news)

Source: Cambodia's Family Trees, Global Witness

Brigade 70 and the Bodyguard Unit – a Private Army for the Prime Minister

Brigade 70 is a special unit of 2,000 soldiers headquartered in Cham Chao on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Its commander is Major General Mao Sophan. It acts as a reserve force for Hun Sen’s 4,000 strong Bodyguard Unit and Mao Sophan takes his orders from Bodyguard Unit chief Lieutenant General Hing Bun Heang. Hing Bun Heang’s commanding officer is General Kun Kim,294 one of four deputy commanders-in-chief of the RCAF and Hun Sen’s chief of cabinet.258 In January 2007 Hun Sen promoted Kun Kim to four star General, the most senior rank in the Cambodian armed forces.

In the words of a former member of United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (UNOHCHR) staff, “The term bodyguard is a misnomer ... the Prime Minister’s bodyguard unit is a substantial military elite unit equipped with modern weaponry and many of its members have received special training abroad.” The Bodyguard Unit and Brigade 70 are central to Hun Sen’s strategy of cultivating special units to protect his interests from potential challengers inside and outside the CPP. The latent threat of violence is integral to the prime minister’s hold over the population as a whole, moreover. Hun Sen responds even to muted criticism by declaring that attempts to remove him will cause the country to fall back into conflict and instability. Cambodians take these threats extremely seriously. The fact that the prime minister has developed what is essentially a private army is surely one of the reasons why.

Hun Sen’s military capability is rarely commented on by the international community, despite the evident danger that it poses to democracy in Cambodia. It perpetuates a situation in which military units are controlled by individual politicians rather than the state; the same conditions that enabled Hun Sen to unseat his co-prime minister Norodom Ranariddh in a violent coup d’etat in July 1997. Human rights organisations accuse Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit of playing a leading role in mounting this coup.

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The Cambodian military take part in a parade to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70


Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen greets the honour guard as he arrives to attend the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70 on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade which cracks down on terrorism has more than 600 armed combatants including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) poses with his son Hun Manet during the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70 on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade which cracks down on terrorism has more than 600 armed combatants including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


The Cambodian military take part in a parade to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade which cracks down on terrorism has more than 600 armed combatants including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


The Cambodian military take part in a parade to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade which cracks down on terrorism has more than 600 armed combatants including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


The Cambodian military take part in a parade to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of Brigade 70, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade, which cracks down on terrorism, has more than 600 armed combatants, including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


A member of the Cambodian military salutes from a tank during a parade to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade which cracks down on terrorism has more than 600 armed combatants including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


The Cambodian military take part in a parade to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade which cracks down on terrorism has more than 600 armed combatants including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea


The Cambodian military take part in a parade to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Brigade 70, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh October 13, 2009. The brigade which cracks down on terrorism has more than 600 armed combatants including the prime minister's body guards, an emergency unit and a military unit to assist fighters when needed. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

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Body of missing toddler found in Auckland drain

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POLICE IN New Zealand have confirmed that the body found in a drain last night is that of missing toddler Aisling Symes.

Aisling disappeared on Monday, October 5th, from her late grandparents’ house in the Auckland suburb of Henderson. She was watching her mother, Angela, fix a tap on a washing machine when she wandered away. Aisling’s father, Alan, is from Stradbally, Co Waterford. The family also has another daughter, five-year-old Caitlín.

Two-year-old Aisling’s body was found in a storm water drain at 5 Longburn Road, just metres from her grandparents’ home at number 7, and close to where she went missing a week earlier. The body was discovered after fire and police officers dug for two hours, using concrete cutters. It was removed at 1.30am local time (1.30pm Irish time).

Police have revealed that the drain was searched up to four times before Aisling was finally found. It was searched twice on the night she disappeared.

A police officer had climbed two metres (six feet) down into the drain and shone a torch up and down, calling Aisling’s name to no response. The officer estimated that he could see five metres either direction, said head of the investigation Insp Gary Davey.

Aisling’s father also looked in the drain that night, and it is reported that a search-and-rescue crew also searched the drain.

“I’m sure we would not have been able to save her on the night,” said Insp Davy.

“You need to bear in mind that she was found 36 metres from the manhole and a metre-and-a-half underground.

“I believe it is more likely than not she was there from the start and it is a case of misadventure,” Insp Davey said. However, police are still keeping an open mind about the possibility of foul play.

Insp Davey said it had been raining the night Aisling went missing, with water running fast down the drain.

“It would have been impossible for her to turn around if she was crawling.”

The police said the manhole cover of the drain was seen to be eight to 10 centimetres ajar after Aisling had gone missing.

“I’m personally deeply saddened with the discovery of Aisling’s body. I truly hoped we would be able to find her alive and bring her home for the family,” said the inspector.

He added that the police had put their heart and soul into the search for the toddler.

The Symes family is distraught.

A message on the Facebook internet page “Find Aisling”, set up by her family, thanked people for their support and asked them to pray for them, “as this is going to be the hardest time of our lives”.

“I am extremely devastated to have to report to you that Aisling’s body has been found in a drain near where she went missing,” the posting read.

“If even the smallest positive can come from this at least we know we did all we could, it was a national effort, and thank you all for that. It did bring us together as a country, and proved at least that we are a nation full of caring and compassionate people, who genuinely want to help those in need, thank you all for that.”

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Telcos meeting due over tax



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Beeline announces its “Super Zero” tariff in Phnom Penh last month.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
You have to be able to offer discounts if you want to sell something.
Companies in the Cambodian telecoms sector say recent government warning on tax remains ambiguous ahead of meeting on Friday with ministry officials

MOBILE-phone operators say they are due to meet with the telecoms minister Friday to discuss a ministry warning last month over pricing and interconnection policies that it said were destabilising the sector and eroding government revenues.

The meeting is expected to centre on tax implications in an inter-ministerial circular on measures to “prevent unfair competition in the telecommunications sector” that many operators have deemed unworkable.

The circular, signed by Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon and Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun on September 29, was issued without passing through the Tax Policy Department at the Finance Ministry, the Post has learned. According to a source within the ministry, the circular was prepared at the highest level.

Operators and tax experts have privately expressed surprise at the speed with which the circular was prepared and the ambiguity of the wording, which they say does not appear to be based on either existing tax laws in the country or international tax practices.

The circular also required operators to abide by the ruling from the date it was signed. One operator said that even if the requirements in the circular were clear, and the proposed tax regime enforceable, it would have been impossible for companies to amend their calling plans, promotions and advertising campaigns so quickly.

According to interpretations of the circular by operators and tax experts, the finance ministry is considering taxing companies on minutes talked rather than revenues generated. The circular said that offers of “free calls” within networks or calls across networks at a price “lower than the one fixed by the state” robbed the government of tax revenues. It added that “a number of telecoms operators will certainly not escape the obligations to pay taxes and various other revenues at the end of each fiscal year”.

Serious ministry warning
Though operators consider the suggestions in the circular unworkable, one tax adviser, who requested anonymity, has warned operators that the ministry’s warning “should be taken seriously”.

In a tax pointer released last week, the adviser wrote that the circular raised some “interesting and worrying” questions of interpretation and application of the Cambodian tax law, particularly the reference to free and low-cost services.

“The legal basis is somewhat untested, but there are indeed provisions in Cambodian law that may pose some concern to taxpayers, particularly in VAT and Specific Tax,” the tax pointer said. “More importantly, it is not impossible that the [Ministry of Economy and Finance] would introduce minimum values or reference values as a basis for taxing certain services.”

The introduction of such a policy would rule out almost all promotional efforts, including SIM card giveaways, discounted handsets, free minutes and capped calling plans, meaning every operator in the country, with the possible exception of Hello, is likely to already be in violation.

Simon Perkins, chief executive officer at Telekom Malaysia International (Cambodia) Co, which operates the Hello brand, acknowledged that the circular could have been worded less ambiguously but said he was confident the company was in full compliance.

“There are no real tax implications because we abide by their guidelines,” he said, noting that the company had a set price for every minute talked.

“The idea is to keep the tariff rate simple and clear,” he said. “What you see is what you get.”

However, Smart Mobile CEO Thomas Hundt said the circular, as it was worded, would reduce the ability of operators to compete freely for customers.

“In Cambodia, you have to be able to offer discounts if you want to sell something,” he said.

Mobile-phone taxes worldwide are calculated on revenues, not minutes, he said, adding that it would be very difficult for the ministry to set a baseline for taxes on services rather than revenues.

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7NG courts Korean investors



Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
A bulldozer moves ground Monday as labourers build what 7NG says will be a car park at the Dey Krahorm site in central Phnom Penh

CAMBODIAN property developer 7NG Group is in talks with potential South Korean investors to raise money for a commercial project on land at the centre of a major eviction controversy earlier this year.

7NG Managing Director Srey Chanthou did not name the investors considering jointly developing the 3.6-hectare Dey Krahorm site, located on prime real estate in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmorn district, but said the project would be finalised next year.

“At the beginning of 2010, we will know clearly,” he said. “This is a big project; we need time to study more detail on this project.”

Construction work began at the site last week, but Srey Chanthou said workers were erecting a temporary car park to house the cars of 7NG staff, who work at a nearby office, until the final deal on the site goes through.

“We don’t know yet when we will start building or how much money we will use to invest in this business,” he added.

Tonle Bassac commune Chief Khat Narith said he did not know of any plans for the development of the land.

Kim Hyun-ki, a communications officer from the South Korean embassy in Jakarta, currently based at the embassy in Phnom Penh, said Korean officials based in the capital were not aware of a deal between 7NG and a Korean firm.

On January 24, more than 100 families were forcibly evicted from the Dey Krahorm site, an action Raquel Rolnik, the UN’s special rapporteur for adequate housing, described as a “grave breach” of human rights. At the time, 7NG Chairman Srey Sothea told the Post that the land would be used for a “modern commercial centre including hotels and supermarkets”

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Cambodia asks border dispute with Thailand be on ASEAN summit agenda+

Monday, October 12, 2009




PHNOM PENH, Oct. 12 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The Cambodian government proposed Monday that its border dispute with Thailand be on the agenda of summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders and their dialogue partners later this month in Hua Hin, Thailand.

The proposal was made in a letter to Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya from Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

"I would like to propose the dispute between Cambodia and Thailand in the area of the Temple of Preah Vihear be included in the agenda of the ASEAN summit in Hua Hin, on 23-25 October 2009," he wrote.

Hor Namhong made the proposal four days after Bangkok Post Online published an article quoting Kasit as seeking ASEAN arbitration in setting up a neutral organization that may provide a venue for Thailand and Cambodia to settle the dispute.

The dispute between Cambodia and Thailand erupted last year after Cambodia's Preah Vihear Temple was listed as a World Heritage.

The dispute stems partly from the use of different border maps.

Two weeks ago, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he will never have talks with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on the 4.6 sq. km area near the temple as long as his counterpart uses a map drawn up by Thailand.

The premier also alleged the border dispute was caused by internal problems in Thailand.

Since the border issue erupted, many rounds of talks at different levels, including the defense and foreign ministerial levels, have been held but a solution has proved elusive.

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Thai FM denies wanting Asean involvement



Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said yesterday he would seek help from Asean countries to resolve the dispute with Thailand over the Preah Vihear temple during the Asean Summit late this month in Hua Hin/Cha-am.

He said he agreed with his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya to seek Asean approval for the establishment of a neutral mechanism to solve disputes among member countries.

However the Thai Foreign Ministry's deputy spokesman Thani Thongpakdi has denied Kasit ever proposed an Asean dispute settlement mechanism to solve the conflict over Preah Vihear.

The minister might have been quoted out of context in media reports, he said. The Thai government had reaffirmed its position that the border dispute must be solved bilaterally through the joint boundary commission.

Meanwhile, Thailand's chief of the joint boundary commission has warned political groups in the Kingdom not to politicise the border issue for their benefit, since it could jeopardise the boundary demarcation with Cambodia.

"The border issue is very sensitive. It could be a powerful political tool if used for political purposes," said Vasin Teeravechyan Co-chair of the Thai-Cambodia Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary (JBC).

"It is dangerous to politicise the issue for personal interests," he told a seminar at the Foreign Ministry yesterday.

The JBC was set up under a memorandum of understanding signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2000 to demarcate the temple boundary. The disputed area is located near the Hindu temple where both sides claim the overlapping territory of 4.6 squares kilometres.

The issue has been politicised recently by the People's Alliance for Democracy and its New Politics Party to gain support from nationalists to attack the government.

The group alleged the JBC had cut a deal with Cambodia on provisional arrangements for the disputed area adjacent to the temple, and accepted a Cambodian map.

In fact, Vasin said, the JBC merely proposed Parliament's approval on three minutes from the JBC meetings, and a note on what the JBC had talked about that was neither a commitment nor an agreement.

The three minutes are pending Parliament's approval to enable the commission to move on.

Vasin said a map drawn originally by France was one of many documents included in the boundary negotiation. "Whether we like it or not, we cannot rule out the role of the map," he said.

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Thai in Pictures


A Thai bar girl waits for customers outside a bar in Sungai Kolok, in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat at the border with Malaysia, in August 2009. Many Malaysian men take advantage of the less restrictive social environment in Kolok in contrast to conservative and mainly Muslim Malaysia, giving the Thai town a seedy reputation as a prostitution and party land. (AFP/File


Thai bar girls wait for customers outside a bar in Sungai Kolok, in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat at the border with Malaysia. Many Malaysian men take advantage of the less restrictive social environment in Kolok in contrast to conservative and mainly Muslim Malaysia, giving the Thai town a seedy reputation as a prostitution and party land. (AFP/Madaree Tohlala)


Thai bar girls wait for customers outside a bar in Sungai Kolok, Thailand, at the border with Malaysia. Many Malaysian men take advantage of the less restrictive social environment in Kolok in contrast to conservative and mainly Muslim Malaysia, giving the Thai town a seedy reputation as a prostitution and party land. (AFP/File/Madaree Tohlala)


Malaysian men have drinks with a Thai bar girl at a bar in Sungai Kolok, in Thailand's southern province of Narathiwat in August 2009. Many Malaysian men take advantage of the less restrictive social environment in Kolok in contrast to conservative and mainly Muslim Malaysia, giving the Thai town a seedy reputation as a prostitution and party land. (AFP/File/Madaree Tohlala)

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