Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Thursday, March 29, 2007

After 10 Years, No Justice for Grenade Attack on Opposition


Carnage scene after the grenade attack on
30 March 1997 (Photo: Asiaweek Magazine)





Park worker Chan Dara, 39, clears grass near a memorial of
Cambodian victims of a deadly grenade attack of March 30, 1997,
in the capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 29, 2007.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch urged the FBI
to reopen a probe into the grenade attack that killed
more than a dozen Cambodians and wounded an American.
(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

28 Mar 2007
Human Rights Watch

(New York, March 29, 2007)- Ten years after a grisly grenade attack on an opposition party rally in Phnom Penh left at least 16 dead and more than 150 injured, the Cambodian government has made no progress in bringing the perpetrators to justice, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch urged the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to reopen its investigation of the attack, which the US government deemed an "act of terrorism."

On March 30, 1997, a crowd of approximately 200 supporters of the opposition Khmer Nation Party (KNP), led by former Finance Minister Sam Rainsy, gathered in a park across the street from the National Assembly to denounce the judiciary's lack of independence and judicial corruption. In a well-planned attack, four grenades were thrown into the crowd, killing protestors and bystanders, including children, and blowing limbs off street vendors.

After the first grenade exploded, Rainsy's bodyguard, Han Muny, threw himself on top of his leader. He took the full force of a subsequent grenade and died at the scene. Rainsy escaped with a minor leg injury.

"The Cambodian authorities have never conducted a serious investigation into this attack, either despite or because of substantial evidence of government involvement," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This attack was intended to destroy serious political pluralism in Cambodia, and it partially succeeded. Politics in Cambodia has never fully recovered."

On the day of the attack, for the first time co-Prime Minister Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit was deployed at a demonstration. Photographs show them there in full riot gear. The police force, which had previously maintained a high-profile presence at opposition demonstrations in an effort to discourage public participation, had an unusually low profile on this day, grouped around the corner from the park. Other police units, however, were in a nearby police station in full riot gear on high alert.

Also for the first time, the KNP had received official permission from both the Ministry of the Interior and the Phnom Penh municipality to hold a demonstration, fuelling speculation that the demonstration was authorized so it could be attacked.

Numerous witnesses reported that the people who had thrown the grenades subsequently ran toward Hun Sen's bodyguards, who were deployed in a line at the west end of the park in front of a closed and guarded residential compound containing the homes of many senior Cambodian People's Party (CPP) leaders. Witnesses told investigators from the United Nations and the FBI that the bodyguards opened the line to allow the grenade-throwers to pass into the compound, and that members of the crowd pursuing the grenade-throwers were stopped at gunpoint and threatened with being shot if they did not retreat.

In a June 1997 interview with the Phnom Penh Post, Hing Bun Heang, deputy commander of Hun Sen's bodyguard unit, threatened to kill journalists who alleged that Hun Sen's bodyguards were involved.

"The authorities have never offered a credible explanation for the deployment or behavior of Hun Sen's bodyguards," said Adams. "The actions speak for themselves, and may reach the highest levels of the Cambodian government."

Instead of launching a serious investigation, Hun Sen immediately called for the arrest of the demonstration's organizers and instructed police not to allow them to leave the country. (To read an Agence France Presse account published at the time, please see
http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/03/28/cambod13086.htm.)

The attack took place at a time of extreme political tension. The coalition government between the royalist FUNCINPEC and Hun Sen's CPP was unraveling after armed clashes in Battambang province the previous month. Rainsy's KNP was seen as a threat in national elections scheduled for the following year. For more than a year, he and his party members had been the subject of attacks and threats from CPP officials and agents. A bloody coup by Hun Sen's forces followed in July 1997, killing more than 100 and sending politicians and activists into exile in fear for their lives.

"This brazen attack carried out in broad daylight ingrained impunity in Cambodia more than any other single act in the country's recent history," said Adams. "A few months later, Hun Sen's coup cemented his hold on power."

At the time, the grenade attack made headlines and provoked outrage around the world. The Washington Post dispatched one of its senior investigative reporters to Phnom Penh. On June 29, 1997, R. Jeffrey Smith wrote:
In a classified report that could pose some awkward problems for US policymakers, the FBI tentatively has pinned responsibility for the blasts, and the subsequent interference, on personal bodyguard forces employed by Hun Sen, one of Cambodia's two prime ministers, according to four US government sources familiar with its contents. The preliminary report was based on a two-month investigation by FBI agents sent here under a federal law giving the bureau jurisdiction whenever a US citizen is injured by terrorism ... The bureau says its investigation is continuing, but the agents involved reportedly have complained that additional informants here are too frightened to come forward.
The FBI investigated the attack because Ron Abney, a US citizen, was seriously injured in the blast. Abney had to be evacuated to Singapore to treat shrapnel wounds in his hip.

While the investigation made a promising start, the Cambodian authorities failed to cooperate sufficiently and it soon wound down. Although on January 9, 2000, CIA director George Tenet said the United States would never forget an act of terrorism against its citizens and would bring those responsible to justice "no matter how long it takes," this investigation has effectively been abandoned.

"The FBI launched the only investigation into the attack, but the US has inexplicably dropped it," said Adams. "Intentional amnesia has since set in, and no government or donor now says a word about the attack."

In March 2006, the FBI awarded a medal to the Cambodian Chief of National Police, Hok Lundy, for his support of the US global campaign against terrorism. Hok Lundy was chief of the national police at the time of the grenade attack and has long been linked to political violence.

"Instead of awarding medals to known human rights abusers, the US government should insist that the FBI return to complete its investigation," said Adams. "Family members of the victims are still waiting for justice."

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Guidelines for U.S. policy in Southeast Asia




Walter Lohman, Mar 28, 2007
Source: http://www.philippinenews.com

Southeast Asia’s half-billion people reside in the most dynamic area of the world. China, a rising economic and military power with an economy of more than $2 trillion and a population of over 1 billion, sits on their northern doorstep. India, another billion-person nation, is outside their western door. Japan, which has the world’s second largest economy, and South Korea, a country with such energy that it maintains an economy the size of India’s with only 5 percent of India’s population, are each a short flight away.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)—composed of Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—faces the challenge of safeguarding its interests and prospering in this hypercompetitive neighborhood.

The United States has an overarching interest in seeing that it succeeds while also remaining independent and outward-looking.Securing this strategic imperative relies on two mutually reinforcing approaches to the region: bilateral and U.S.– Asean. While bilateral approaches to the countries are absolutely necessary, they are not sufficient. Without a coherent, robust U.S. approach to the region as a whole, the grouping will develop its common interests in association with alternative benefactors—likely China. In such a scenario, the interests of the U.S. and its partners in the region will drift apart.

The U.S. has too much at stake in the region to let this happen.Asean can be much greater than the sum of its parts. It can grow strong and remain independent, and it can be a reliable U.S. partner far into the future. It is this long-term vision that should be the basis of U.S. foreign policy aspirations.The purpose of this paper is to lay out the stakes involved, guidelines for securing them, and specific policy recommendations.

America’s Stake in Southeast Asia

The U.S. has major economic, political, and security interests in Southeast Asia.

Economic. The U.S. exports $50 billion in goods to Asean per year. Only Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the European Union (EU) are bigger markets for U.S. goods. U.S. private-sector investment in Asean exceeds $80 billion, surpassing U.S. investments in each of China, Japan, and India.

These numbers, while clearly significant in themselves, reflect U.S. interest in maximizing Southeast Asia’s economic performance. The better the performance, the greater the opportunity the U.S. will have to expand its stake; the greater that stake, the stronger will be the rationale for U.S.– Asean ties.

If the 1997 Asian financial crisis proved anything, it proved that global financial markets and convertible currencies impose an inescapable interdependence among national economies. Poor performance or financial crisis in one country can quickly affect U.S. economic and political interests elsewhere.Economic performance is closely correlated with economic freedom.

For 13 years, The Heritage Foundation has conducted an annual analysis that proves this thesis. The Index of Economic Freedom, published by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, systematically and empirically evaluates national economies on such things as ease of doing business, tariff and non-tariff barriers, property rights, corruption, and investment regimes. It uses data from internationally authoritative sources—the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, Transparency International, and others—to calculate a percentage rating for each country.

The Index has consistently ranked Singapore as the world’s second freest economy, behind Hong Kong. Malaysia and Thailand rank eighth and ninth out of the 30 countries in the Asia–Pacific region. Others in Asean do not fare as well, but all of them rank higher than China, except for Vietnam, Laos, and Burma.

As a region, Asean has a 55.2 percent rating on the economic freedom index, compared to China’s 54 percent rating.The U.S. has an interest in Asean’s improving its ratings, as does Asean itself. This dynamic economic interest makes the United States different from Asean’s other economic partners. It is not content with the status quo, working around difficult environments to make or sell more widgets. It seeks positive economic change by way of broader, deeper economic freedom.

Political Development. Democratic reform strengthens Asean and facilitates its relationship with the U.S. The U.S. has an abiding stake in how it develops.

The current state of democratic development in Asean is diverse, complex, and fluid. Freedom House’s annual index lists one Asean member country as “free,” three as “partly free,” and six as “not free.”

The 2006 coup in Thailand was a big blow to freedom. Although most the countries in the region are listed as “not free,” the number of people living in either “free” or “partly free” countries still outnumbers those in “not free” countries by 150 million.

Indonesia is the one “free” country in the region. Indeed, its political development since President Suharto’s departure in 1998 has been astounding. National parliamentary elections were held in 1999. In 2004, a total of 350 million votes were cast in three national elections, including the two rounds of the 2004 presidential election—the first direct election of the president. The final round involved 117 million voters—the “largest single day election in the world.”

And there is far more than just elections to Indonesian democracy, as any perusal of its daily press will affirm.In 2006, the Philippines and Thailand were downgraded from “free” to “partly free,” but the Freedom House categorization of the Philippines is debatable.

In the Philippines, the political debate, press coverage, and jockeying of politicians are vigorous. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been under constant, sometimes serious assault by opposition politicians.

The report is on firmer ground with Thailand. Since its 2006 downgrade, which was concerned primarily with the excesses of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s democratically elected government, Thailand has taken yet another step backward with the September 2006 coup. It remains to be seen whether the generals will keep their commitment to return the country to constitutional democracy and elections by the end of the year.

Security. “Southeast Asia is the Front Line of the War on Terror in Pacom [U.S. Pacific Command]” is how Admiral William J. Fallon summed up his command’s perspective on Southeast Asia.Terrorism and insurgency are real, if manageable, threats in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has faced major attacks including the Bali bombings of October 2002 and 2005, the 2003 bombing of the Jakarta Marriott Hotel, and the 2004 bombing of the Australian embassy. The Philippines is fighting Jemaah Islamiyah, the Abu Sayaf terrorist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Rajah Sulaiman Movement, and an armed communist movement. Thailand has struggled to find a solution to a persistent insurgency in its far south.

The U.S. military is helping the region to fight terrorism by “building and strengthening the ability of countries in the region” to resist it. The Philippine armed forces’ recent success against Abu Sayaf in the southern islands is due in large part to close cooperation with the U.S. military.

All indicators suggest that the deaths of Abu Sayaf leader Khaddaffy Janjalani in September 2006 and his possible successor in January 2007 have significantly degraded the group’s strength.

The U.S. plays a critical role in helping the region combat terrorism. Americans know well from experience that allowing terrorists to operate in isolated circumstances halfway around the world can lead to tragic consequences at home.

In addition to its focus on counterterrorism, the U.S. military presence in the region is indispensable to hedging against a burgeoning Chinese military capability.U.S. security relations with Southeast Asia are centered around two treaty allies: the Philippines and Thailand. The U.S. holds major military exercises with both during the year. The U.S.–Thai Cobra Gold exercise is the largest U.S. exercise in Asia. “The May 2006 drill featured over 7,800 troops from the U.S. and 4,200 from Thailand.” Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia also participated.

The 2006 Balikatan exercises with the Philippines involved approximately 5,500 U.S. personnel and 2,800 Filipino personnel. With these exercises and others in the region, the U.S. improves the interoperability of its forces and those of its partners, improves joint response to emergencies, and enhances their military capacity. Joint military exercises are essential to joint readiness.

The U.S. also has a very close security relationship with Singapore. The U.S.-Singapore Strategic Framework Agreement covers cooperation in “areas such as counterterrorism, counter-proliferation, joint military exercises and training, policy dialogues, and defense technology.” Combined with Singapore’s first-class full accommodation of the U.S. Navy, the framework provides a perfect example of the “places, not bases” approach to aligning security cooperation.

Walter Lohman is Senior Research Fellow for Southeast Asia and Acting Director of the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation. This is an abridged version of his paper.



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Special Message To H.M. Queen-Mother N. Monineath Sihanouk, H.E. Samdech Chaufea Veang Kong Sam Ol



Translated from French by Tola Ek

Special Message
To H.M. Queen-Mother N. Monineath Sihanouk,
H.E. Samdech Chaufea Veang Kong Sam Ol

Beijing, P.R. China, March 25, 2007

Please

1- At my death, there will probably be declarations, letters, etc… (coming from Khmer and foreign Personalities, People) dedicated to me, to my work to the service of the Homeland (Cambodia) and to the Khmer People (including my action at the international level).

2- I am asking H.E. Chhorn Hay and H.E. Ke Kimse to extract adequate EXCERPTS of those declarations, letters, etc… which are in Khmer.

3- I am asking H.E. Srey Nory to extract adequate Excerpts of these declarations, letters, etc… which are in French, English, Spanish (in the latter case, please ask for the indispensable help from H.E. Julio A. Jeldres).

4- H.M. Queen-Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, H.E. Samdech Kong Sam Ol, and H.R.H. Samdech Norodom Sirivudh (my younger brother) would please print all these excerpts in a single book, with my money.

5- This book, to be published in several thousands copies (with my money) will be offered to all schools and universities, to all our Institutes, to the NGOs, to the foreign missions, to the national and international media, to my Khmer and foreign Friends and “fans” both inside and outside of Cambodia. The [distribution] list should be compiled before my death.

Thank you with all my heart.

(Signed) Norodom Sihanouk

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Building Phnom Penh: An Angkorian heritage



The library of the School of Foreign Languages in Phnom Penh,
designed by Vann Molyvann.
(Courtesy of Susan Schulman)



Source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/27/arts/cambarch.php

PHNOM PENH: Many Asian cities have laid claim to the title of "Paris of the East." During the 1930s, Phnom Penh's candidature was supported by no less a luminary than Charlie Chaplin, who described its orderly, tree-lined avenues as "little sisters" to the Champs-Elysées.

But today's visitors to Cambodia are surprised to discover that the true architectural legacy of this former French protectorate is not colonial at all, but a unique synthesis of postwar European modernism and what might be called "Angkorian vernacular."

"New Khmer Architecture" emerged from Cambodia's 15 years of prosperity following the end of French rule in 1953. The euphoria of independence spawned an entire school of designers and architects who, rather than replicate international styles, chose to reinterpret them according to a set of local conditions, foremost among them flooding and hot temperatures.

It was a kind of Asian Bauhaus in that its members worked concurrently and in a similar style.

The movement's influence was short-lived: few of its architects survived the Khmer Rouge. However, Vann Molyvann, the leader and most prolific member of the group, remains, at 80, an enterprising and respected figure, even if his work has yet to acquire the protection it so patently deserves.

The first Cambodian architect to be trained in Europe - at Paris's Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts - Vann returned to Cambodia in 1956. Introduced to the left-leaning King Norodom Sihanouk, the two spearheaded a campaign of urban development and construction that transformed Phnom Penh from a sleepy colonial backwater to a vibrant, ambitious capital.

From universities to sports facilities, the architect and his royal mentor created more than a hundred public projects throughout Cambodia, using funds from the Chinese, Russian and French governments as well as "nonaligned" states during the decade and a half before Cambodia was dragged into a regional war with the United States. The engineer Vladimir Bodiansky and the urbanist Gerald Hanning provided technical assistance.

Vann's imposing Independence Monument at the intersection of Sihanouk and Norodom boulevards symbolizes the era. Paying direct homage to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the chocolate-hued Phnom Penh structure built in 1960 is adorned, appropriately enough, with a profusion of nagas, the protective serpents of Hindu mythology.

Vann's 1964 National Sports Center, constructed before Kenzo Tange's Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, is as clear a statement of civic pride and for Sihanouk an attempt to proclaim the country's neutrality in the face of growing Cold War hostilities. Cambodia's rejection by the pro-Western International Olympic Committee prompted Sihanouk to join Ganefo (Games of the Nonaligned and Emerging Forces), a sporting event created by China, Russia and others. Cambodia's turn to host the Games came in 1966.

Though Vann shared Sihanouk's utopian vision, his inspiration is drawn from his own architectural heritage. The Sports Center's large ornamental pools directly imitate the barays, or reservoirs, surrounding Angkorian temples, while the elevated walkways at both his Cham Car Mon palace and the School of Foreign Languages pay homage to Angkor Wat's kilometer-long causeway.

Vann's signature suspended "zigzag" roof lines created artificial space to enable air to flow in what he describes as "a reworking of the concave shape of the temple roofs."

The other major influence was Le Corbusier and his complex theories of communal living. Vann's use of the Frenchman's "modular"' as a tool for establishing proportions is best emulated in the "White" and "Gray" buildings of the Front du Bassac, a development begun in 1964 to house foreign advisers and Ganefo's athletes.

"His buildings are like sculptures in the way they celebrate depth and space as well as light and darkness," said the architect today.

Assessing Phnom Penh at that time as "an active sedimentation zone with poor ventilation and prone to flooding," Vann found traditional solutions to mass housing in a rapidly expanding city. A new book, "Building Cambodia: 'New Khmer Architecture' (1953-1970)" by Darryl Leon Collins and Helen Grant Ross (The Key Publishers, Bangkok 2006) applauds the movement's aims and philosophy while establishing Vann as a seminal figure in postwar Asian architecture.

But while steadily collecting admirers abroad and celebrated by the more enlightened sections of Phnom Penh society, this architectural patrimony has not been protected by the authorities. Rather than celebrate the achievements of Sihanouk's "golden age," the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen seems to go to considerable lengths to undermine them.

To the dismay of international groups attempting to stimulate cultural continuity, Vann has been largely shunned by the political establishment in Cambodia. When Unesco organized a conference on how to protect this legacy and designated Vann as its head, it had to disinvite him after complaints by the government. Rarely consulted on the fate of his buildings, Vann has been forced to watch from the sidelines while his work has been ripped out or ineptly renovated.

The refurbishment of Vann's fan-shaped Chaktomuk Conference Hall met with the architect's general approval. However, the Taiwanese Yuanta Group's cosmetic makeover of the National Sports Center in 2000 robbed this voluminous site of a good deal of its land to make way for commercial development. "Economic tradeoffs with foreign developers result in short-term quick-fix solutions that ignore longterm planning," Collins said.

The latest building to attract scrutiny is a theater commissioned by Sihanouk in 1966 to promote Cambodia's performing arts. A masterpiece of concrete plasticity with staircases suspended over shallow pools of water, the Preah Suramarit was gutted by fire in 1994, devastating the auditorium and stage area. It has remained in its ruined state for more than a decade.

Only days after Cambodia's new King Norodom Sihamoni declared a desire to see the theater rebuilt, the government pre-emptively announced its sale to a local telecommunications company, which is expected to replace it with a conference hall and TV tower.

Given the minimal architectural merit, much less public interest to be found in the latest rash of government offices, casino and private villas, this is especially depressing.


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Thursday, March 22, 2007

CAMBODIA: Investigation of 1997 grenade attack on peaceful demonstrators and other

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AS-058-2007
March 21, 2007

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

CAMBODIA: Investigation of 1997 grenade attack on peaceful demonstrators and other criminal cases must be conducted and the report made public

On 30 March 1997, Sam Rainsy who is now the leader of Cambodia's opposition party, organised and led a peaceful demonstration in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh. The rally was called to protest the corrupt judiciary, which then, as is now was under the control of the dominant Cambodian People's Party (CPP). Approval had been obtained for the demonstration. When the people gathered to listen to Rainsy deliver a speech, four to five men threw four grenades into the crowd, killing 14 and injuring 142.

In July of the same year, FUNCINPEC (a Cambodian Royalist party) fell out of their coalition with the CPP, and into open warfare on the streets of the capital. Over 40 of FUNCINPEC members were extra-judicially killed, among them Ho Sok, a senior official and a secretary of state for the interior. He was shot dead in cold blood while being held in custody on the premises of the Ministry of Interior.

It has now been ten years since the killings and the grenade attack, yet police investigations have not led to a single arrest. No progress report has been made known to the public or the relatives of the dead and the survivors. These heinous crimes not only symbolise Cambodia’s human rights struggle, they also demonstrate the judicial systems failure to deliver justice.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) would like to highlight the following few cases that are well known in the country due to the notoriety of the victims. In July 1999, Piseth Pilika, a much-loved singer, dancer and actress, whom Prime Minister Hun Sen was alleged to have good relations with, was shot in front of a shop and died in hospital a week later. In February 2003, Venerable Sam Bunthoeun, a well-respected Buddhist leader who advocated voting rights for Buddhist monks, was shot and died two days later. In October of the same year, Chou Chetharith, journalist at FUNCINPEC-owned Ta Prum radio, was shot dead in front of that radio station. A few days after that, Touch Srey Nich, a popular singer who had performed several of FUNCINPEC's campaign songs for the general election held a few months earlier, and her mother were both shot at a flower shop. The mother died in hospital while Touch Srey Nich was paralysed from the neck down. In all these cases, the Cambodian government have also failed to apprehend perpetrators of crime because they have not conducted any investigations or their investigations have been ineffective. There are concerns that any inquiry into these cases will not be answered.

These cases have gone unsolved despite the fact that the Cambodian government can no longer claim that it lacks the means to conduct serious and effective investigations. For 16 years, the international community has continuously provided it with training and material resources. In stark contrast to the work on these killings, the Cambodian government has shown over the years that it is capable of moving with great speed and expertise whenever it is in its interest to conduct investigations. For instance last year, a murder case involving Judge Sok Sethamony of the Phnom Penh Court that was deemed unsolved in April 2003, was resolved after the Cambodian government swiftly apprehended five perpetrators after it had removed Phnom Penh Police Commissioner Heng Pov. These five perpetrators were police officers and were Heng Pov's associates. They were tried in September 2006 and sentenced to 16 years in prison each for murder. Although Heng Pov was implicated, he had already fled to Singapore, where he later crossed over into Malaysia. He was nevertheless tried in absentia and sentenced to 18 years in prison for masterminding the murder. The Cambodian government then defied any doubts about its capability to investigate in December (2006) when they stunningly succeeded in repatriating him from Malaysia to serve his sentence and face other criminal charges after he had been granted asylum by Finland.

This evidence shows the government has the ability to deal with criminals when they see fit. The AHRC therefore urges the Cambodian government to meet its human rights obligations under the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, the international human rights instruments Cambodia has adhered to, and its national constitution. The AHRC also urges the Prosecutor General of the Appeal Court to avail himself of the power given to him under articles 35 and 36 of the Law on Criminal Procedure of 1993 and order the police to conduct effective investigations into all those cases. The Prosecutor General should ensure that the surviving victims or the relatives of the dead are informed of the outcome and the status of investigations. According to the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (Principle 6 (a), all these victims have the right to such information.

The AHRC further urges donors, the United Nations and international agencies to work with the Cambodian government, the Prosecutor General of the Appeal Court and the police to get all the cases mentioned above investigated and to ensure that the outcome or status of the investigations is notified to the surviving victims and the relatives of the dead, as well as made known to the public.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.



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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's A Family Affair


Click on the image above to view the details of the CPP dynasty.
The source of the image: Cambodian Bright Future.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One big happy family in Cambodia

Mar 20, 2007

By Bertil Lintner Asia Times (Hong Kong)

PHNOM PENH - Cambodia's rough-and-tumble politics have long been bloody, marred by frequent political assassinations and violence. But never before have they been quite so blood-linked.

The English-language fortnightly Phnom Penh Post published without comment in late February a family tree it had compiled, revealing how the top leaders of the ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP) have become more intimate through an old-fashioned Cambodian custom: arranged marriage. And the growing family ties run all the way to the top of Cambodia's political pyramid, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Southeast Asia's longest-serving leader.

For instance, there is Hun Sen's brother, Hun Neng, currently serving as governor of Kompong Cham, whose daughter, Hun Kimleng, is married to the deputy commissioner of Cambodia's National Police, Neth Savoeun. Meanwhile, Hun Neng's son, Hun Seang Heng, is married to Sok Sopheak, the daughter of Sok Phal, another deputy commissioner of the National Police. Hun Sen's 25-year-old son, Hun Manith, is married to Hok Chendavy, the daughter of Hok Lundy, the National Police commissioner.

Another of the premier's sons, Hun Many, 24, is married to Yim Chay Lin, the daughter of Yim Chay Li, secretary of state for rural development. One of Hun Sen's daughters, Hun Mali, 23, meanwhile, is married to Sok Puthyvuth, the son of Sok An, Hun Sen's right-hand man and minister of the Council of Ministers. The friendship between Hun Sen and Sok An dates back to the early 1980s, when Hun Sen was foreign minister and Sok An director of the office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Now those personal ties run blood deep as in-laws.

And that's just a sampling of the connections at the highest echelons. Heng Samrin, who was Cambodia's head of state from the Vietnamese invasion in January 1979 to the United Nations intervention in 1991, and now serves as president of the National Assembly and honorary CPP president, has a daughter named Heng Sam An, who is married to Pen Kosal, an adviser to Sar Kheng, deputy prime minister and minister of the interior - as well as brother-in-law of Senate and CPP president Chea Sim.

Heng Samrin's adviser, Cham Nimol, is the daughter of Cham Prasidh, minister of commerce. Another of Cham Pradish's daughters, Cham Krasna, is engaged to Sok Sokann, another of minister Sok An's sons. Sar Kheng's son, Sar Sokha, meanwhile, is married to Ke Sunsophy, daughter of Ke Kim Yan, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. And Hun Sen's wife, Bun Ramy, currently serves as president of the Cambodian Red Cross, while its second vice president, Theng Ay Anny, aka Sok An Anny, is Sok An's wife.

Family traditions

There has been no official reaction to the Phnom Penh Post's revealing study. Intermarriage among members of the ruling political and business elites is not uncommon in Asia.

In neighboring Thailand, Field Marshal Phin Choonhavan's son, Chatichai Choonhavan, became prime minister of Thailand, while his daughter, Khun Ying Udomlak married Phao Sriyanond, director general of the Thai police. Another high-ranking Thai army officer, Thanom Kittikachorn, was the brother-in-law of fellow military dictator Praphas Charusathien, while his son, Narong Kittikachorn, also became a military strongman, while his sister Songsuda married Suvit Yodmani, who has served with several Thai governments.

Sino-Thai tycoons are known to have arranged their children's marriages to members of other top business families to progress their commercial interests. But in Cambodia's case, where many of the political elite were wiped out during Khmer Rouge-led purges between 1975 and 1979, the number of political marriages is extraordinary. And these new family ties between the children of ministers and top officials potentially set the stage for the CPP's grip on power to continue for generations.

Significantly, the CPP's family connection is emerging simultaneously with a waning of the royal family's influence over national politics. Ever since Hun Sen and his inner circle of friends and advisers ousted former prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh in a 1997 coup, the royalist Funcinpec party's political fortunes have waned.

Ranariddh was forced into exile after the bloody putsch that killed many of his party members, but later returned to Cambodia to become president of the National Assembly after inconclusive general elections in 2003, when the CPP was unable to garner enough votes to form a one-party government and after much squabbling joined with Funcinpec in a wobbly coalition.

One of the sons of former king Norodom Sihanouk and half-brother of the present monarch, Sihamoni, Ranariddh resigned that post last March and subsequently left the country again. While he was away, he was dismissed as co-chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia as well as the National Olympic Committee. He later returned to Cambodia - and was ousted as president of Funcinpec, the main opposition party, amid an internal power struggle in October that many political analysts believe Hun Sen had a hand in.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, several of Funcinpec's original leaders were also related. Ranariddh's uncle and former king Norodom Sihanouk's younger half-brother, Norodom Sirivudh, served as foreign minister in a Funcinpec-led government in 1993. Ranariddh's half-brother, Norodom Chakrapong, meanwhile, helped found Funcinpec but later defected to the CPP. Their half-sister and Sihanouk's eldest child, Norodom Bopha Devi, has served as minister of information and culture, while her latest consort, Khek Vandy, was elected to the National Assembly on a Funcinpec list in 1998.

But Funcinpec's family pride has waned considerably since it emerged as the biggest party in the UN-supervised elections in May 1993, when it captured 45% of the popular vote and outpaced the CPP, which came in a close second with 38%. Many political observers think Ranariddh's recent ouster from Funcinpec may represent his last political gasp.

His former Funcinpec colleagues recently sued him on allegations that he embezzled US$3.6 million from the sale of the party's headquarters last August. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found the prince guilty and sentenced him - in absentia - to 18 years in prison. Ranariddh had recently set up a new party, aptly named the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP).

Funcinpec, the NRP and the opposition Sam Rainsy Party will be among 10 different political parties standing against the CPP juggernaut in upcoming commune council elections, which are scheduled for April 1 and widely viewed as a bellwether indicator for next year's general elections.

It may well be an April Fool's election, with the opposition fractured and vulnerable and the CPP allegedly pursuing a campaign of violence and intimidation against opposition candidates and their supporters in rural areas. Khieu Kanharith, CPP minister of information, predicted on February 22 that his party would win about 97% or 98% of the positions in the commune councils, and 95% of the vote in the general elections next year. That may well be the case, as Cambodia is fast morphing into a one-party state dominated by the CPP.

The Phnom Penh Post in its February 9 edition quoted a foreign diplomat as saying: "The CPP controls the government, the National Assembly, the Senate, 99% of the village chiefs, the provincial governments. Their influence goes through the judiciary, through the police ... Practically everything is controlled by one party."

That assessment would appear to jibe with 55-year-old Hun Sen's January 9 pronouncement that he does not intend to stand down from the premiership until he is at least 90 years old. By then, a third generation of CPP family-tied politicians and officials, if everything goes according to the apparent plan, will just be coming of political age.

Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review, where he reported frequently on Cambodian politics and economics. He is currently a writer with Asia-Pacific Media Services.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

37th Anniversary of Khmer Republic

37th Anniversary of Khmer Republic
Kok Sap –US March 17, 2007
Before March 18, 1970, in cultural aspect, Sihanouk saw to no Khmer intellectual society ought not to be risen above his self serving and primitive standard. Most educated person could only get a job in his regime if the person was to pledge allegiance and join his Communist leaning political party for life. He called his party, Sangkum Reastra Niyum, literally in English, the People Socialist Party. Since his first rigged election in 1955, his proprietary party remained absolute in power. He had nationalized banks, private industrial factories, and enforced state controlled market in export or import. He had disallowed no competition in the open and free market. All state properties are at his private disposal. Similarly he had manipulated educational philosophy and institution as his regimental Sangkum Reastra Niyum Youth Camps modeled after the Nazi Hitler curricula. All public servants were his personal servants. Any intellectual challenge or open minded criticism was not permitted. It was a lese majesté or treason charge with capital punishment. All judiciary systems were his play court and grand juror at his personal residence and audience. To his hypocrite and demagoguery regime, the critic, if caught, be shot to death or stamped out to no existence for life.
From 1955 up to January 1970, Sihanouk had plundered national treasury for personal pleasure. Because of that the entire country armed forces were purposely marginalized to self-defenseless. He personally instilled beggar and self insecure mentality in his government and Khmer society since. The records show when the going got tough between 1965-1969, Sihanouk had struck deals with enemies as he had called them to allow conduit of arms and sanctuary on Khmer land to wage war against US in Lowland Kambuja region. In hope to redeem self from deprecation, he had begged the other nations included US. However, Sihanouk preferred free gift and no accountability then. At dead end he had allowed US bombardment to regain trust from US government which few years before he had agitated students to sack US embassy then severed relations. The US had no trusted in him and his policy. US and other capitalist nations saw Sihanouk as a free loader of no morality. The entire nation suffered disadvantage in rebuilding economy and infrastructure. That had angered his subordinates, family and worst his own National Assembly to unanimously vote of "no confidence" on March 18, 1970 to strip him from power. That action was constitutionally correct.
From that point on Sihanouk was enraged more than ever. He had antagonized and vowed to kill and disgrace his own mother who sided with people. He had declared from far, in rage, to kill even a baby or anything of Khmer Republic matter. In April 17, 1975 with Viet Cong help, Sihanouk achieved his sanguinary victory. Within 24 hours, Khmer Republic elements and Khmer social fabric were instantaneously eradicated before his return. It was an absolute hell hole on that day. Millions of child and woman became orphans and widowers in a matter of his followers trigger pull.
The very same tact and trick reappeared in Phnom Penh presently. No critic was spared imprisonment if it displeased government policy. Hun Sen has become Sihanouk evil sidekick. Sihanouk has subtlety manipulated Hun Sen in doing what he had done years before to prove that it was not Sihanouk who was the culprit. In this endeavor, Sihanouk had calculated and decreed Hun Sen illegal and world condemned government in 1997 after a bloody coup. Since then he had hoped by now Hun Sen had been deposed or executed by own peers already. That was wrongly. Not only Hun Sen had been dangerous but dangerously to Sihanouk own safety. Either way, the ghost of Khmer Republic remains a close watch to Sihanouk soon own demise.
Over 4,000 year of Khmer history in Southeastern Asia, for the first time Khmer land was truly belong to citizens 37 year ago. The great awakening of generation had liberated self and nation from the amoral feudal links. The Khmer Republic had instilled sense of duty in citizens to defend own rights no matter what. The spirit of self salvation and liberty had fallen upon the majority then. It was the moment that inspired generation to appreciate freedom and liberty for the country. Despite its short live, the Khmer Republic ideal had shown the enemies that Khmer people would defend own dignity and national integrity at all costs. For the social virtue and responsibility we, the Khmer Republic survivors, shall not be forgetful but hopeful that our dream has not ended or destroyed just yet. The Republic ideal lives in and among our fellows. So, for this occasion, especially I would wish Long Live and Happy Anniversary to the Khmer Republic and its faithful.
###

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Cambodian Court Sentences Prince To Jail


March 13th 2007
DPA

A Cambodian judge sentenced disgraced politician, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, to 18 months jail Tuesday in absentia over a scandal involving the sale of his former party's headquarters.

The verdict was immediately condemned by Ranariddh's lawyer, Lee Sovann, who called it "a complete injustice from beginning to end."

A spokesman for Ranariddh's newly-founded Norodom Ranariddh Party, Muth Chantha, said demonstrations in the capital from Ranariddh supporters would follow.

Ranariddh, whose political career has nosedived since he was voted out as president of the royalist government coalition partner, Funcinpec, in October before setting up his own self-named party, declined to return from France for the hearing.

Ranariddh was convicted of misappropriating money from the more than 1.5 million dollar sale of the royalist Funcinpec party's headquarters after a complaint by Funcinpec Secretary General Nhek Bun Chhay.

Judge Sao Miech of Phnom Penh Municipal Court said he had found the evidence presented showing breach of trust to have been sufficient to impose a jail term.

He also ordered the prince to pay 150,000 dollars in compensation to Funcinpec and to hand the party's new headquarters over to Funcinpec.

The prince had denied the charges, saying they were false and politically motivated. Vital nationwide community elections are to be held on April 1.

Ranariddh was Cambodia's first post-Khmer Rouge prime minister but lost much of his power during factional fighting against the ruling Cambodian People's Party in 1997.

He is a half-brother to King Norodom Sihamoni and a son of former king, Norodom Sihanouk. Estranged from his wife, Princess Norodom Marie, he now spends most of his time overseas with his partner, the classical dancer, Ouk Phalla.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen vowed there would be no pardons for Ranariddh if convicted this time as there were in 1997 when he was convicted of leading an armed force and sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.

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US Congress warms to Cambodia

US Congress warms to Cambodia

March 14, 2007

Reports of a top al-Qaeda operative in the Southeast Asian country have prompted a thaw in relations.

By Erika Kinetz
Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor


PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
When the USS Gary arrived at the touristy port city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, last month, it became the first US military vessel to dock in this Southeast Asian nation in over 30 years. US and Cambodian military personnel played soccer, and military doctors fixed the teeth of poor Cambodian villagers.

It's a different picture from the last time the Navy came to Cambodia in 1975, after the infamous Khmer Rouge regime had seized the US merchant ship SS Mayaguez and the military launched a full-scale rescue mission in response.

The USS Gary is just one sign of warming relations between the two nations. Two days after the ship left Sihanoukville, President Bush signed into law a budget resolution for 2007 that for the first time in nearly a decade lifts the congressional ban on direct US funding to Cambodia.

This change in US policy comes as the international community calls attention to Cambodia's shortcomings on corruption and human rights. US officials say that it is a shift of strategy driven, in part, by the exigencies of the US-led war on terror.

"Our hope is to have more normal relations and draw Cambodia closer to the community of nations," says Joseph Mussomeli, the US ambassador to Cambodia.

The appearance in Cambodia in 2002 and 2003 of Riduan Isamuddin – an Indonesian better known as Hambali, who was believed to be Al Qaeda's top operative in Southeast Asia – was a wake-up call to Washington, one Cambodia-watcher and US congressional aide said on condition of anonymity. "Washington bureaucrats finally realized what Cambodia-watchers knew all along: Cambodia matters, and it is indeed a swamp in need of draining."

Sam Rainsy, the leader of the eponymous Sam Rainsy Party, which is the closest thing Cambodia has to an opposition party, praises the policy change, saying it will give the US more leverage to promote human rights and democracy in a region increasingly dominated by China. "China does not pay any attention to human rights," he says. "We cannot leave our country to Chinese influence alone. The world must be more balanced."

China's roots in Cambodia are deep and in recent years it has emerged as one of Cambodia's most generous donors.

Moreover, Chevron's discovery of oil offshore in 2005 has led to speculation that this small, impoverished nation could become the world's newest petrostate.

Mr. Mussomeli, however, says China and oil have nothing to do with the warming relations. "The US is looking to see progress on issues that matter to the Cambodian people – greater openness, greater democratization, a higher standard of living, and a genuine commitment to stamp out corruption," he says. Congress has earmarked $15 million for democracy and rule-of-law programs in Cambodia this year.

Though Mussomeli says Cambodia is becoming a more open society, the nation still has a long way to go. In its annual review of human rights around the world, released last week, the US State Department took Cambodia to task for its "poor" human rights record, citing security forces that act with impunity, arbitrary arrests, endemic corruption, and human trafficking.

Local rights group Licadho found that nearly 40 percent of the 172 human rights abuses it documented in the first half of 2006 were perpetrated by the military or the police.

US officials stress that the lifting of the ban on direct assistance and military aid will not result in a tide of new money sloshing around government coffers. No new direct funding has yet been committed. "The absence of restrictions will not result in a major change in US government funding priorities, oversight, or project management, as we look to develop this promising bilateral relationship," says Erin Soto, the Cambodia Mission Director of USAID.

Mu Sochua, the secretary general of the Sam Rainsy Party, warns of the US loosening its oversight of the country's governance. "If the US is only thinking about fighting terrorism and lowers its standards on the performance of governments in terms of democratic social protections, that will not be beneficial to the Cambodian people."

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Excerpt from Violence Against Women in Cambodia 2006

Excerpt from Violence Against Women in Cambodia 2006
Licadho

My name is Ly Viden, I am 18 years old. I was raped. This is my story.

I live with my aunty and my sisters in the village. We all work on the land farming and also in the rice fields.

One day, my sisters and I went to guard the cows at the rice fields near our house. We let the cows eat some grass and decided to have a rest whilst they were eating. Two of my sisters went to swim in a nearby pond and my other sister and I sat under a tree, watching the cows and talking to each other.

After half an hour, a man that I had not seen before, came up to me and asked him if I had seen his four cows. I told that him that I had not seen his cows and he should go and check the rice fields for himself. The man stayed and talked to me – he seemed very interested in me.

My two sisters, swimming in the pond, called to us and asked one of us to bring them something. I asked my other sister to go instead of me as I was still talking to the man. We watched my sister walk away and when she had reached the pond the man turned to me and hugged me. I was very shocked as I did not know him but all of a sudden he grabbed me and he dragged me to a nearby canal. I tried to scream for help, but he covered my mouth and he would not let go of me.

I kept trying to escape, but I could not get away from him. I was so scared. I tried to struggle but I couldn’t escape and in the end – the man raped me.

After it was over, the man ran away. I tried to get up and I tried to walk towards my sisters. I think I must have screamed because my sisters came running towards me. They kept asking me ‘what happened? what happened?’ but I could not tell them. I was too ashamed.

Finally they carried me home and I told my aunty what had happened. My aunty was very angry at the man and immediately went to the police station to report what had happened. My sisters made me wash and go to sleep but I could not sleep. I was too scared to be alone so one of my sisters stayed with me.

The next day the police arrested the man and later he was sent to prison. I felt a bit safer knowing that the man could not hurt me anymore and I would not have to see him again. But I still had trouble sleeping and I would not go anywhere by myself.

A few weeks after the man had gone to prison, my aunt received a visit from the local police and a strange man. I did not know why they had come to see her. After they left my aunt explained to me that the police had come with the father of the man who raped me. The father had offered to pay me compensation for his son raping me. However he would only pay me the money if I dropped my complaint against his son.

I was very confused and my aunt told me that it would be better to accept the money as the family was willing to pay lot of money, 4,000,000 riels ($1000 USD). I listened to my aunt and she talked to the police. After that, the man was released from prison and I have not seen him since then. The police came to give me my compensation, and in the end I only received $700 USD. My aunt said that the police had taken the rest of the money as a fee for organizing the payment.

I still feel very sad and angry about what happened. I feel confused about the money I received. On the one hand, it has allowed my sisters to go to school and I have been able to give my aunty some money to help her. But I think that I would feel better if the man who raped me was still in prison, so that I wouldn’t have to be scared anymore.

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Koh Kong Families are demonstrating


Koh Kong villagers (L) who came to demonstrate in Phnom Penh
about the lands they lost to CPP Tycoon-Senator Ly Yong Phat (R), are settling
themselves in front of the National Assembly to have their case heard and resolved.
(Photo: Sralanh Khmer Newspaper)


Thursday, March 08, 2007
Koh Kong Families are demonstrating

By Kang Kallyan
Cambodge Soir
Translated from French by Luc Sâr

They took the road from Koh Kong since Monday, they are men, women, children, and old people who have walked from their far away southwestern province. They completed their journey by bus to arrive in Phnom Penh on Tuesday evening. Since then, they have been demonstrating in front of the National Assembly, holding pictures of the prime minister and that of his wife. They protest against the expropriation of their lands, and the absence of reaction from the local authorities in spite of negotiations which were held for several months.

Their object of their grievances is a contract concluded last summer between the Ministry of Agriculture and two private companies for a 90-year land concession. The concession was destined for a sugar cane plantation covering an area of 20,000 hectares, 9,700 of which belong to farmers in three villages: Chi Khor, Chhouk, and Trapeang Kondor, all in Sre Ambel district.

41-year-old Lach Hour lost all her farmlands. “We are no longer eating our fill anymore. The company took away the 8-hectare of land I owned, and they finished clearing half of it already,” the mother of 7 explained. She added that no compensation was given to her for her lands. Lean Muy lost her small 35-square-meter plot where she grew cashew nut. “I lost everything,” the old woman said in tears.

It is not because the farmers did not ask for intervention from the authorities, in fact the villagers brought three complaints against the two companies belonging to CPP Tycoon-Senator Ly Yong Phat. Later on the companies proposed to some villagers a compensation of between 150,000 and 200,000 riels ($38 to $50) per hectare. The two parties did not come up to an agreement, the villagers who lost their lands would like to be compensated in land [exchange] rather than money. Faced with the quagmire of the conflict, the villagers are now appealing to the prime minister. “We will not leave as long as our problems are not resolved,” one of the representative of the villagers declared. “Now that we are here, we are not moving.”

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Letter of Ambassador Julio Jeldres addressed to King-Father

Letter of Ambassador Julio Jeldres addressed to King-Father


Historical Words

Ambassador Julio A. Jeldres
Official Biographer of H.M. the King Father Samdech Preah
Upayuvareach Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia


2550/CBT:008
Melbourne, 2nd March 2007

His Majesty the King Father
Samdech Preah Upayuvareach
NORODOM SIHANOUK of Cambodia
Royal Residence
PEKING, China

Your Majesty,


I was disturbed to read Your Majesty’s Press Release of last night announcing that the esteemed BMD and Your website will no longer have any historical, political or press related texts because they may upset certain people.

May I respectfully suggest to Your Majesty that as a historian myself, I find Your Majesty’s daily texts with Your esteemed annotations part of the contemporary history of Cambodia and extremely important. I also feel that Your Majesty, as the Leading Historian Cambodia has produced, is making a significant and historic service to new generations of Cambodians of both sexes, by publishing these texts, memoirs or press articles with Your Majesty’s considerate comments more than often full of wisdom.

Without Your Majesty’s comments and guidance the new generations of Cambodians will not be able to learn more of the past, of Your struggles for independence against imperialism and against neo-colonialism and will not learn from the inspiring example given by Your Majesty as Father of the Cambodian Nation.

I would respectfully request that Your Majesty reconsiders last night’s decision and continues to publish all these texts otherwise new generations of Cambodians will only be left with the “histories of Cambodia” written by Milton Osborne, Charles Meyer and other anti-Sihanouk foreigners for their learning.

May I respectfully add that while the British monarchy has adopted the ancient motto of “Never explain, never complaint”, it is also true that a majority of British citizens are very critical of this attitude of the British monarchy because it lacks communication with its people and this was shown, particularly, after the untimely death of the Princess of Wales.

I am enclosing two excerpts from the newly published memoirs of Mr. Wilfred Burchett, which I recently purchased here in Australia. I will send other pages of the book related to Cambodia and to Your Majesty by air mail.

With my affectionate regards to Her Majesty The Queen Mother and Your Majesty and my profound respect and admiration.

(Julio A. Jeldres)

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