Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saving children from Cambodia's trash heap

Phymean Noun is helping give Cambodian children a chance at a better life

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (CNN) -- Walking down a street in Cambodia's capital city, Phymean Noun finished her lunch and tossed her chicken bones into the trash. Seconds later, she watched in horror as several children fought to reclaim her discarded food.

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Noun stopped to talk with them. After hearing their stories of hardship, she knew she couldn't ignore their plight.

"I must do something to help these children get an education," she recalls thinking. "Even though they don't have money and live on the sidewalk, they deserve to go to school."

Six years after that incident, Noun is helping many of Phnom Penh's poorest children do just that.

Within weeks, she quit her job and started an organization to give underprivileged children an education. Noun spent $30,000 of her own money to get her first school off the ground.

In 2004, her organization -- the People Improvement Organization (PIO) -- opened a school at Phnom Penh's largest municipal trash dump, where children are a large source of labor.

Today, Noun provides 240 kids from the trash dump a free education, food, health services and an opportunity to be a child in a safe environment.

It is no easy task. Hundreds of them risk their lives every day working to support themselves and their families.

"I have seen a lot of kids killed by the garbage trucks," she recalls. Children as young as 7 scavenge hours at a time for recyclable materials. They make cents a day selling cans, metals and plastic bags.

Noun recruits the children at the dump to attend her organization because, she says, "I don't want them to continue picking trash and living in the dump. I want them to have an opportunity to learn."

Growing up during the Pol Pot regime, Noun faced unimaginable challenges.

"There were no schools during Pol Pot's regime," she recalls. "Everyone had to work in the fields. My mother was very smart. She told them that she didn't have an education. That was how she survived. If they knew she was educated, they would have killed her."

Noun's mother died of cancer when Phymean was 15. Phymean's sister fled to a refugee camp, leaving her young daughter in Phymean's care.

"When my mom passed away, my life was horrible, " says Noun. "It was very sad because there was only my niece who was 3 years old at that time." Yet Noun was determined to finish high school. Video Watch Noun decscibe the hardships of life during the Pol Pot regime »

That dedication paid off, and after graduating she spent the next decade working with various aid organizations.

"I tell the children my story and about the importance of education," she said. "I'm their role model."

Some of the children who attend her school continue to work in the dump to support themselves and their families. Without an education, she said, these children would be vulnerable to traffickers or continue to be caught in the cycle of poverty.

"We are trying to provide them skills that they can use in the future," Noun said. "Even though we are poor and struggling and don't have money, we can go to school. I tell them not to give up hope."

Noun has even bigger plans for them. "These children are our next generation and our country depends on them. They are our future leaders."


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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hun Sen’s Broken Promises And His Government of National Disunity

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hun Sen’s Broken Promises And His Government of National Disunity

Editorial by Khmerization

“Mr. Hun Sen’s declaration of a solo government and running the parliamentary commissions by his own party alone is an attempt to lead Cambodia away from democracy toward dictatorship. In reality, Mr Hun Sen is advocating a government of national disunity instead of a government of national unity.”
The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Mr. Hun Sen, is notorious for his bullying character and a thuggish behaviour and, to a certain extent, his profanity. His other notoriety, hidden from public view, has been his namesake of ‘a boss from hell’.

All these notorieties notwithstanding, his famous trademarks have been his broken promises. The promises of resignations had never been materialised. The PM had made promises on numerous occasions to resign if he could not stop illegal loggings, could not curb corruption and tackle land-grabbing from powerful people serving in his government. These abuses are still rampant and we have yet to see the PM resign.

A few days ago, he had made a surprised announcement of another of his broken promises- that he had decided to cut ties with his long-term ally, the Funcinpec Party. The PM announced that his marriage of convenience with the Funcinpec Party is no longer needed. This means that his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will go solo without a coalition partner. The PM has back-flipped on his earlier repeated promises of forming a coalition government with the Funcinpec Party no matter what. So what changed his mind? The only explanation would be that Mr. Hun Sen is 100% sure, and has been assured by the National Election Committee, that his CPP will win the upcoming election with a comfortable margin. So, after having been used and abused by Mr. Hun Sen for his own political gains for more than 15 years, should Funcinpec invest its trusts in Hun Sen’s empty and broken promises anymore?

Another of Mr. Hun Sen’s worrying declaration has been his decision to govern the National Assembly by himself. Currently the positions for the parliamentary commissions have been shared among the parties that won seats in the election. It would be a travesty of democracy if the parliamentary commissions are not distributed proportionately to the seats won by the individual parties. Mr. Hun Sen’s declaration of a solo government and running the parliamentary commissions by his own party alone is an attempt to lead Cambodia away from democracy toward dictatorship. In reality, Mr Hun Sen is advocating a government of national disunity instead of a government of national unity. Mr. Hun Sen had declared that he had already appointed the people to head the nine parliamentary commissions. To seasoned political observers, Mr. Hun Sen is behaving like he is winning the election already. And to experienced political observers, this sort of behaviour seemed to reinforce the suggestions that Mr. Hun Sen has no intention of relinquishing power should he loses the election.

Seeing the tense political atmosphere at present, one cannot avoid touching on the issues of defections. While people are free to join any party they like, tactics employed by a certain political party to coerce defections are worrisome. Defections from the oppositions to the ruling CPP are not spontaneous but coerced and bribed. The defectors have been unnecessarily appointed to the highly paid positions inside the already inflated bureaucracy. By any standard of government, this is corruptly squandering public money for one’s own political gains, and it is morally wrong. The money that have been paid to these defectors, who won’t have any real jobs to perform inside the bureaucracy, should be diverted to fund the pay increases for public servants like the teachers, the police, the army and administrative bureaucrats in order to assist in reducing corruption.

Coming to this point, one cannot help but mention the issue of corruption. Mr Sam Rainsy was right when he said that political buyouts are Mr. Hun Sen’s attempts to whitewash and divert public attention from the real issues of corruption and economic problems. Mr Hun Sen’s inability and, to a certain extent, his reluctant to deal with the current soaring prices of goods reflect on his conflict of interests. His daughter’s owned Tela Petroleum Company has a monopolistic right of imports of refined petrol to Cambodia. News coming out of Cambodia recently is that Tela has received government subsidy in the form of tax reduction to the tune of around $100 million dollars per year. And due to monopolistic rights given to Tela, all the petrol companies like Total, Shell and others must buy their petrol from Tela. Only Sokimex has its own imported petrol but must set retail prices commensurate with Hun Sen’s Tela. And the result is that it is a price collusion between Tela and Sokimex which kept the petrol prices very high.

The soaring prices of goods at present are related to the costs of petrol. While the petrol prices remain high, the prices of other commodities will always remain high. In order to curb the food prices, petrol prices have to be brought down. Hun Sen doesn’t have the will to resolve the current price hikes because it would affect his daughter’s petrol business. Hun Sen was just paying lip service when he said that he will do what he can to curb the current high food prices. The fact is, he will not do it because he has a conflict of interests. So, his promises for the solutions to the food prices have become another statistics of his many broken promises


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Where is Cambodia’s anti-corruption law?

Delivery of Anti-corruption petition (Photo: AP)
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
UPI Asia Online

Column: Rule by Fear

Hong Kong, China — On May 16, 2006, a petition with over 1 million signatures and thumbprints was presented to the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, calling on the assembly to urgently enact an anti-corruption law. The sheer number of people –one out of every 14 Cambodians – who supported the petition campaign with their signature or thumbprint in a period of just over five months, revealed the gravity of corruption in the country and the urgent need for government leaders and lawmakers to take action.

Corruption in Cambodia was already rife, affecting every walk of life, toward the end of the communist regime in the late 1980s. It was and still is prevalent in every public institution everywhere and at every level: in schools, hospitals, fire services, the police, the army, the civil service, the judiciary, the government and the Parliament. It has also ravaged foreign aid given to the country.

In the early 1990s when the communist regime ended, the public called on the government to tackle the problem. In the mid-1990s, civil society began to organize seminars to highlight the issue and urge the government to enact an anti-corruption law. Many national seminars were held, at times presided over by prime ministers or their colleagues, not to mention many smaller meetings.

There were study tours for concerned senior government officials and lawmakers to countries in the region, including Singapore and Hong Kong, both of which are renowned for their effective anti-corruption laws and agencies. In 1998, the newly elected government promised to fight corruption and enact a law against it.

For their part, international donors began to feel the gravity of corruption and its negative impact on the aid they had given to Cambodia, to the tune of some US$500 million a year since the early 1990s. In 2002, together with the Cambodian government, they made the fight against corruption and the enactment of an anti-corruption law one of the benchmarks for the flow of aid.

Under such pressure the government finally submitted to the National Assembly an anti-corruption bill – which had been drafted and redrafted many times, well before the adoption of the U.N. Convention against Corruption in 2003.

Shortly after, this bill was withdrawn, to be redrafted again to bring it up to the convention’s standards. Meanwhile, deadlines set for the enactment of that law have repeatedly passed and the final draft has not yet seen the light of day.

In parallel with the pressure on the government to enact an anti-corruption law, successive studies were undertaken to look into corruption in Cambodia. A 2004 study conducted by the U.S. Agency for International Development in Cambodia showed that corruption cost the government between US$300 million and $500 million in revenue every year, an enormous sum for a poor country.

Another survey conducted two years later by the Economic Institute of Cambodia in Phnom Penh showed that in 2005 the private sector paid “unofficial fees”—that is, bribes – to public officials amounting to US$330 million, an amount it said was “2.5 times higher than that of official payment” and “represented also about 50 percent of the total government budget revenue in 2005.”

A more recent survey conducted by Transparency International showed that 72 percent of Cambodians reported paying a bribe to receive a public service in 2007, a percentage which was then the highest in the Asia-Pacific region and second only to Cameroon (79 percent) internationally. The same survey also showed that the judiciary and the police were viewed as the most corrupt institutions in the country. It should be added that in 2007 Cambodia ranked 162 out 179 countries in the TI Corruption Perceptions Index.

Corruption has affected not only the Cambodian people but also foreign donors on whom Cambodia very much depends. In 1999 there was a corruption scandal at the Cambodian Mine Action Center, an internationally funded government landmine clearance organization. That scandal led to the suspension of foreign aid to CMAC for some time.

In 2003, the World Bank discovered the misuse of funds in a project to demobilize 30,000 soldiers, and forced the Cambodian government to repay the missing money. In 2004, the World Food Program found that US$1.2 million of its aid had gone missing, and forced the Cambodian government to make up for it. In 2006, the World Bank discovered fraud and corruption in three of the projects it was funding. It suspended its funding for these three projects and requested the Cambodian government to make prompt repayment of the missing funds.

In early 2007, within six months after its creation, the internationally funded Khmer Rouge Tribunal encountered allegations of corruption in its human resource management. These allegations led to the introduction of corrective measures for better management.

These are a few of the cases known to the public and acknowledged by the government. Yet in all corruption cases very few, if any, suspected government officials have been brought to justice and made accountable for their corruption. Generally, they have simply been disciplined and removed from office and then, when their cases are no longer in the public mind, they have been reappointed to other, sometimes higher, positions.

Enacting an anti-corruption law and setting up an anti-corruption body may not end what is a common practice in Cambodia. It is nevertheless a significant step toward that end. The Cambodian government must not let its officials indulge in corruption with impunity. It must not continue to break its promises to its people and its foreign donors. It must heed the petition presented to the National Assembly and submit the long promised anti-corruption bill for adoption without further delay.
(Lao Mong Hay is a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. He was previously director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a visiting professor at the University of Toronto in 2003. In 1997, he received an award from Human Rights Watch and the Nansen Medal in 2000 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.)

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Transitional Cambodia Politics: July, 2008 Election of Segregation

Monday, May 26, 2008
Op-Ed By Khmer Young
On the web at http://cambodianbrightfuture.blogspot.com

I call this coming July 2008 national election of Cambodia as the Election of Segregation because the wealthiest and strongest CPP party has been keeping its Segregating Win-win Strategy forever. Regardless of how CPP has generated the capital resources to win the vote, this party has been tremendously trying to segregate the largest opposition party, the SRP. Hun Sen's win-win strategy is maintaining the same tactic: to weaken internal bond of opposition party, the SRP. There are many faces of that tactic, but the one current significant ongoing operation is to keep welcoming and appointing higher position to all those defectors from the SRP.

Generally speaking and fairly judgment, the sound policy of SRP towards some sensitive issues in Cambodian society surely make CPP's headache such as corruption, land grabbing, kleptocracy, illegal immigrants, commodities inflation, and biased judiciary system etc In responding to this SRP's key campaign, CPP under Hun Sen leadership is subverting the attention of Cambodian peoples and take advantage over SRP by building internal division and breaking inside SRP. Many defectors are increasing from SRP. As a genuine democratic party, SRP has hardship to stop those walking away in hope of finding new opportunity. The opportunists are existing in every party. But when CPP has been targeting SRP, it is surely incomprehensible. But CPP's tactic relating this internal breaking task-force is surely become double-edged sword. However, as an independent observer of Cambodia politics, why no one from CPP has been defected or walked away? Is this because of CPP is good and perfect? Or this is because of CPP is communist party that the defectors expect only to lose their life and invisible suffering?

Not only this internal operation of CPP that we should pay attention, the critical issues of Cambodian nation are neglected by CPP in correcting themselves for genuine development and sustainability of Cambodia. But in order to continue their position and power, CPP has to divide and eliminate any strong opposition party. It seems like CPP has not concerned and paid attention in collective actions and collaboration with the criticism of opposition parties, but CPP has concerned the abolishing anyone who has criticized their misbehavior.

In developed countries, with their professional political task-force, government regards the suggestions and criticism of opponents as the key proponents for their success and to improve the disadvantages of their nations. In contrast, Cambodia more sound criticisms made by opponents more divisive and marginalized will inevitably occur inside that opposition party.

In this matter, who are we going to blame? The political parties? The individual immature political leadership? Or the culture that has long time ingrained in Cambodian society?

The current interaction between government party and opposition parties are likely not basing on professional political career at all. Particularly, the government party (CPP) who is handing the largest social capital absolutely oversee the situation and perpetuate all opportunities to gain and maintain its power regardless of that power surely distracts the interests of Cambodian peoples.

In current transitional Cambodia politics, I can say politics is about the politics, politics is not about the investment of social good for Cambodia and the whole collective interests for them. Who is going to win is about your political party effective strategy, how good you understand the psychological traits of Cambodian peoples? How good you comprehend the collective behavior of Cambodian peoples when they think about politics? And how effective of your public speech in introducing your key policy precisely to be widespread tempted by the peoples to win their heart and mind?

However, to be fair the mechanism that can stimulate the Cambodian peoples and compete on the above perspective is absolutely excellent. But if the election procedure has already been projected to manipulate Cambodian peoples through the biased National Election Committees (NEC), it is a grave and ugly strategy. It is comparing like the winner pervasively robe and rape their own citizens!


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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Report Says Cambodia Media Subject to Political Pressures, Bias

Mr. Soy Sophea & H. E. Chum Kosal - CTN-Reporters (pictured by Kong Siev)

Report Says Cambodia Media Subject to Political Pressures, Bias

By Rory Byrne
Voice of America
Phnom Penh
27 May 2008

With just two months to go before a general election in Cambodia, a report on the news media says that local journalists regularly face interference from the business and political elite. It says journalists work in a climate of fear in Cambodia and that there is impunity for those who threaten or kill them, allegations the government rejects. Rory Byrne has more from Phnom Penh.

The report found that over half of Cambodian journalists live in fear of physical or legal attack. Most say they are pressured to cover stories with a political bias.

"They have political bias because the conditions that they work push them to do that, you know, because their newspaper were supported by one political party, but mostly the ruling party," said Kek Galabru, the president of Licadho, the Cambodian rights group that produced the report.

All of Cambodia's television stations, and the bulk of its radio stations, are owned by people close to the ruling Cambodian People's Party. Galabru says the owners use those outlets to gain political advantage.

"Concerning the electronic media - the government controls (it) very tightly," Galabru noted. "They know that it makes a big impact on the public opinion. There is no single one - concerning television - that belongs to (an) independent voice."

With the election in July, campaign observers complain about what they call excessive pro-government content on the airwaves. Koul Panha is heads the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

"The election process in Cambodia [does] not reach to international standard [for a] free and fair election," Panha said. "The key measure of importance is the media - equal access to the media. But in the Cambodian context it's not like that - you can see the TV - 84 percent of political coverage is still in favor to the ruling party."

The minister of information, Khieu Kanharith, denies that the media favors the government.

"You know the people criticizing this, or assert these allegations, most of the time they are not really journalists," Kanharith said. "They don't understand the job or sometimes they didn't listen to the radio or watch the TV. And if everyone can read Khmer, or listen [to] Khmer, they know well that we have real freedom here."

The Licadho report also says there is little risk for those who threaten or kill journalists.

"We found at least nine that were killed for their work and none of the perpetrators was brought to justice so it sends a very strong message that there is impunity for the one that wants to attack the journalists," Galabru said.

The government disputes the number of journalists killed and denies that killers go unpunished.

"They say nine were killed - are you sure they got killed? Two or three - traffic accident," Kanharith said. "When you are a journalist killed it doesn't mean politically killed. When [Prime Minister] Hun Sen's brother was killed, until now also we couldn't find the murderer. Nobody says 'Why don't you go to find Hun Sen's brothers killer?'"

The minister says journalists can, and do, write and say what they want, including attacking Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"If you [are] scared you cannot accuse Hun Sen of being a Vietnamese puppet, as a thief, as the most corrupt family or anything. Read the newspaper, listen to the radio - you can see it. If they [are] really scared, how you can put it?" Kanharith asked.

Rights activists, however, say that critical voices find it hard to get heard in Cambodia. Koul Panha of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections says the authorities should do more to ensure fair access to the media.

"The Cambodian government, and the National Electoral Commission must make more effort to encourage the state media and the private media [to] open [themselves] to all political parties," said Panha. "If they can do that they will contribute a lot to the improved election environment and electoral process in Cambodia."

The Licadho report calls on the government to pass a law guaranteeing the electronic media's independence. It also calls for abolishing prison sentences for defamation, misinformation and incitement, and for media owners to increase salaries for journalists to make them less susceptible to bribery.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Vintage photos of King Norodom Sihanouk

Receiving surrendering weapons from Dap Chhuon Khmer Issarak group
Crowning in 1941
Crowning 1941
In French army uniform
Inspecting local villagers armed with wooden weapons


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Friday, May 23, 2008

What the parties spend for the general election

What the parties spend for the general election
22 May 2008
By Ros Sokhet
Cambodge Soir Hebdo
Translated from French by Tola Ek

The five major political parties are gearing up financially for the July election. Between voluntary contribution by party members and rank buying on the candidate lists, the situation remains murky.

At the CPP, each provincial team is responsible for its budget during the election campaign. If they lack funds, the provincial teams can ask for an advance form the party headquarters which owns a special fund for this type of need, explained Cheam Yeap, CPP member and chairman of the Finance and Bank committee of the National Assembly. “We cannot tally up the total amount of expenses for the time being. Each of our working groups must first set up a report of the financial status. It’s only after that that we can decide to grant them more means or not,” Cheam Yeap said.

Cheam Yeap added that the CPP does not have the habit of cashing in for positions of the list of candidates for the election, “unlike the SRP. Those who want a position do not have to pay a contribution to the CPP.” Nevertheless, he recognizes that his party received financial supports from some okhnas in the kingdom. “But we have the rights to be subsidized (by these okhnas),” Cheam Yeap said.

At the SRP, the budget for the July election comes “only from contribution of each candidate registered in the various (election) conscriptions,” Eng Chhay Eang, SRP Secretary-general, said. He declined to get into the detail of this funding, declaring that this is an “internal SRP” issue.

According to some anonymous party officials, the candidates would contribute according to the rank they wish to appear on the candidate list. They would contribute $20,000 to $50,000 to be on top of a list, and this would increase their chance of being elected. “All depend on the importance of their electoral zone and its geographic location. If a province has few candidates at the National Assembly, and it is located in a faraway zone, this contribution will be much less. On the contrary, this contribution will increase in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, or in the provinces of Kandal and Kampong Cham.”

Eng Chhay Eang did not deny this information: “It’s a voluntary contribution from each candidate, and also the sole funding source of the SRP. Oknhas and other millionaires do not help us and our party is not corrupt.” He was not able to provide the total funding for the SRP election campaign. “However, in Battambang, where I am a candidate. It will be $110,000,” he revealed.

Keo Remy, deputy chief of the HRP, also said that the total budget of his party for the election comes from contributions from each candidate. He added that no amount was fixed, and that the donations remain at the discretion of the candidate. “When they are rich, they give more money. When a member has no means, but if he is very active within the party, he does not need to contribute to become a candidate.”

Keo Remy also indicated that the oknhas are not helping his party. Nevertheless, Keo Remy, whose name appear on the HRP candidate list in Phnom Penh, confided that, in the capital, a budget of $120,000 to $150,00 will be used. “The HRP does not spend money on gifts for the villagers in exchange for vote. We buy T-shirts and hats with party logo printed on them, we make banners, signs, and we rent cars and microphones. We also pay the observers. In no case are we buying votes.”

Muth Chantha, NRP spokesman, said that the NRP executive committee in each province and municipality is responsible for their own expenses. “They are autonomous,” he said. This is why Muth Chantha cannot provide in advance an estimate of the amount of money that the NRP will spend.

Nevertheless, Muth Chantha declared that this money came in part from contributions by party members in Cambodia and overseas. These funds will be used to buy signs, T-shirts and banners. He also guaranteed that the NRP did not require its candidates to pay to be on the candidate list.

The Funcinpec said the same thing as the NRP: “The main source of our budget come from voluntary contributions from our members,” Nhiek Bun Chhay, the party secretary-general, assured. Like Muth Chantha, Nhiek Bun Chhay cannot yet estimate the budget allocated for the July election, “the funding plan is still being discussed,” he said(1).
CS Note: (1) Behind these speeches which are supposed to display the integrity of the parties, these contributions are not made without an exchange in return, in particular, they are nothing more than actual position buying.


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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Buddhism and the Party Line in Cambodia

An interview with a disillusioned monk
By Prah Sokha (with Antonio Graceffo)

Prah Sokha has been a Khmer monk, off and on, for more than ten years. He once left the monkhood because he felt the Cambodian monks had strayed from a pure form of Buddhism, in order to follow the mandates of the Cambodian government (CPP).

He feels that the influence of politics, greed and the modern world have perverted the religion. He complains about the lack of discipline among the monks and stringent government controls on the temples' teachings. Finally, he fears that as the people move further and further away from Buddhist values, the social order of the country could collapse. He sees the monks as being the only ones who could save the people, bringing them back to their core beliefs. But he asks the question, how can corrupt monks be expected to save the Cambodian people?

According to Prah Sokha:

Theravada Buddhism has played an important role in Khmer society for centuries. Khmer people decided to adhere to Buddhism since it was a religion that required the followers to observe strict principles and follow rigid precepts. They paid the highest respect to the people who became Buddhist monks.

Historically, Khmer people have taken the monastery as their refuge, as well as their training centre, where they could develop both their mind and their spirit. Buddhism is one of the strongest influences on Khmer culture and tradition.

In the past, monks fulfilled essential roles in traditional Khmer society, such as teachers and healers. In ancient times, they were the practitioners whose role was closest to that of modern psychiatrists. The monks provided kindly counseling and encouragement to the laity. They helped develop the country, resolving problems that occurred in Khmer society and interceding between the government and the people. A god example is Prah Samdach Song Chhuan Nat, who was the top hierarchical monk and an advisor to King Sihannuk during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Present: Cambodian Buddhism is in Decline

After the Khmer Rouge regime was finished, Buddhism was reborn, and started developing from day to day. But the development came only from outside forms of Buddhism. They new influences focused only on the constructions. They didn't know what the core of Buddhism was. The roles played by the Khmer Buddhist monks in Khmer society were greatly decreased. The Grand Patriarch, the ranking Buddhist monk, who has traditionally been an advisor to the king, lost most if not all of his influence and power. The monks themselves lost their focus and became selfish. They don't dare to share what they have in order to help Buddhism.

Why Khmer Buddhism is in decline:

Practitioners, Buddhist Monks, novices and laity, are not strict in Vinaya, monastic discipline. They are only attracted to modern materialism such as motorcycles, cars, phones, televisions, and electronic entertainment. They concentrate on earning money in anyway way possible, even engaging in illegal or immoral behavior. They are crazy with money at the moment. They don't spend money in the right way.

"Some monks in PP are gambling; betting on football matches. CamboSix centers have opened nationwide, allowing laity and monks to gamble on football matches around the world." says Phra Nhean, living in Thailand 8 years.

The monks suffer from a limited belief system, because they don't study and find out the deep core of Buddhism. So, they are reluctant to commit to the discipline of the religion. Monks don't have enough knowledge to explain Buddha's teaching to the laity.

The Monk Educational System in Cambodia is not up to standard, and the qualifications are not accepted by any university. Even if you complete your monk education, you must study again from beginning. I, Prah Sokha, was also forced to do this. I completed secondary school, then I became a monk and studied the same grade again. It takes us a long time to complete our studies because we have to do everything twice.

Recently, a monk decree was issued, stating that monks who have completed their studies in a foreign country will not be allowed to work in the government or monk hierarchy. I don't understand why they are so crazy.

"They don't want us to grab their power," says Phra Minh, a Khmer monk who recently went to Thailand for education. "They are afraid because they are ignorant, unlearned, and belligerent."

Some monks who need power, try to have a secrete relationship with government officers of the CPP. The monks bow their heads down to the government and flatter them. Some even dare to kneel down to receive money from Hun Sen. Some agree to work as servants. This is all wrong for Buddhist monks!

Outside Threats to Khmer Buddhism

Other religions, Islam, and Christianity, are penetrating into Cambodia everyday. They are trying to use money to buy the people to practice their religions by offering gifts or cash to the poor and then force them, behind the scenes covert. Buddhist monks have not shown any interest in this situation.

I think if All of Cambodian monks are still sleeping in ignorance don't look at the neighboring countries, don't upgrade their thought or idea, Buddhism will possibly vanish or disappear in the nearest future. And there will be a religious war in Cambodia, no longer, no sooner

Antonio Graceffo has been embedded with the Shan State Army inside of Burma. This article is part of the "In Shanland" project. To raise awareness about the plight of the Shan people Antonio will release one print article and one video per week for a year. He is giving these media away for free to ensure that they will reach the largest audience. You can watch all of the Shan videos released to date on Antonion on YouTube.

Antonio is self-funded. If you wish to contribute to the "In Shanland" film project, you can do so through paypal, through the Burma page of his website.

You can contact Antonio: Antonio@speakingadventure.com
Currently, Antonio is attending paramedic training in Manila, while waiting for word that he can return to Burma as part of a medical aid mission.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

King Sihamoni Celebrates 55th Birthday

14th May 2008
By San Suwith (Radio Free Asia)
Reported in English by Khmerization

King Sihamoni is celebrating his birthday outside of the Royal Palace, this time in Kampong Cham province where his subjects organized a Buddhist ceremony at a local temple in his honour. The king also planned to fly to celebrate his birthday in a location near the historic temple of Preah Vihear on the Khmer-Thai border.

But in Phnom Penh, despite no grand parade and pompous celebration, the king’s pictures were placed along the roads and boulevards everywhere in his honour.

King Sihamoni was born to ex-king Sihanouk and Queen Monique on the 14th of May 1953. He was educated in Beijing and later completed his doctorate degree in classical dance from Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1971.

Between 1975-1976, he studied cinematography in North Korea. From 1975-1979 he lived under house arrest with his parents and his brother, Prince Norindrapong, at Khmamarin Palace in Phnom Penh.

From 1979-1980, he served as a private secretary to the then Prince Sihanouk. And from 1981 onward he served as a permanent representative of the Cambodian resistance to the United Nations, Cambodian Extraordinary Ambassador to the Unesco and also as the president of the Association of Khmer Artists in France.

King Sihamoni is conversant in many languages. Other than his native Khmer, he can speak French, Czech and English very proficiently.

He ascended to the throne on 14th October 2004, succeeding his father, King Sihanouk who had abdicated a second time a few weeks earlier.

Many political leaders hailed King Sihamoni as having a unique and special character.
Mr Ciem Yeap, MP from the Cambodian People’s Party, credited the king as having helped the country moving toward economic prosperity, judicial improvements and have helped solved political issues in the country.

Mr Keo Puth Rasmy, president of Funcinpec Party, said that the king has helped maintain national unity and peace in the country, despite acknowledging the king not being able to fulfill all his constitutional duties.

Mr Son Chhay, MP from the Sam Rainsy Party, said that the current king resides in the country more than the ex-king and therefore helped to ensure political stability. But he also said that the king is still unable to fulfill all his constitutional duties such as ensuring the independence of the judiciary and the army. Despite the king’s shortcomings, MP Son Chhay said that he does not blame the king for not fulfilling all his constitutional duties, but blames the government for not transferring all his constitutional powers to him.

Mr You Hockry, Secretary-General of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, said that the king is a symbol of national unity who can guarantee national independence, sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Cambodia.

Mr Kem Sokha, president of the Human Right Party, wish the king a long life, but also wish to see the king using all his constitutional powers to fulfill all his constitutional obligations. He believed that the king have not been able to fulfill all his duties. The case in point is that the king is a Commander-in-Chief but was and is still unable to ensure the neutrality of the army. Another example is that the king is presently the chairperson of the Council of Magistracy, but he is powerless to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

All civil societies as well as ordinary people have wished His Majesty good health and longevity.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Stanford students try writing a graphic novel

Thursday, May 8, 2008
Justin Berton
San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer (California, USA)

Novel - Shake Girl

Tom Kealey has taught a lot of writing classes at Stanford University, but never one that asked students to consider the dramatic pause provided by the "page flip."

Or how wide to draw "the gutter."

Kealey and co-instructor Adam Johnson taught a winter course titled The Graphic Novel, and assigned their students to write, edit and illustrate a collaborative final project. The result is a 224-page graphic novel titled "Shake Girl," based on the true story of a Cambodian karaoke performer named Tat Marina who was the target of an "acid attack" after she had an affair with a married man.

"In a normal writing class, you'd write a poem or finish a chapter and you'd own it," Kealey said. "In this class, we had to collaborate every step of the way, every idea, and make compromises. It was the most difficult and rewarding class I ever taught."

While the study of comics and graphic novels has steadily become an acceptable part of college curricula - "Maus" creator Art Spiegelman taught a course at Columbia University last year - the project-based graphic novel class offered at Stanford appears to be the first of its kind.

Karen Green, a librarian at Columbia who has been acquiring graphic novels for three years, said Yale and Cornell have growing graphic novel collections, and Michigan State, Ohio State and Duke all have archived comic strips and books that span decades.

Yet for the graphic novel, the leap from archived material to in-class study and production at a major university marks an upgrade in status.

"It's a different way to tell a story that has specific rules," Green said. "And to have somebody teaching those rules, that's impressive."

Kealey and Johnson accepted 40 applications from undergrads and graduates in the English and art departments, and accepted 14.

Kealey said most of the students were already familiar with the works of Spiegelman and Marjane Satrapi's "Persepolis," set in post-revolution Iran, and were aiming to tell a complex, serious narrative.

Eric Pape, a journalist studying at Stanford on a Knight Fellowship, offered the class his nonfiction piece published in 2006 by Open City magazine about the phenomenon of acid attacks against women in Cambodia.

"It was clear from the outset while we were discussing ideas that the class wanted to do some sort of good with this project," Pape said, "not make it just a vanity project."

Pape said even though the basis of "Shake Girl" is rooted in actual events, the graphic novel genre gave the story more dramatic energy, while maintaining the theme of love gone horribly wrong. He said he wanted to see out the adaptation in part to attract readers who prefer visual to text-only stories.

"Young people read graphic novels," Pape said. "The newspaper industry is struggling, and it's looking for new models to tell stories. Journalistically speaking, this is a domain worth exploring."

One reason graphic novels are being read in university classrooms is that the term sounds more academic than comic books, said Ivan Brunetti, a lecturer at Columbia College in Chicago and the University of Chicago, who has taught the course Writing the Graphic Novel on both campuses for the past three years.

Brunetti says the phrase "comic book" still rings childish to administrators; "graphic novel" is more acceptable when pitching a class.

"Graphic novels are really comic books wrapped in book covers with spines," Brunetti said. "But for some reason, 'graphic novel' sounds more lofty and people have bought into it. The term has helped to create a distinction in people's minds that there's an important art movement occurring that is more concerned about long and serious work; and that's partially true."

The U.S. retail market for graphic novels has grown precipitously over the past decade, reaching $375 million in 2007, up 12 percent from 2006, according to a report last month from ICv2, a trade company that tracks pop culture industry trends. Much of the growth is due to the mainstreaming of the genre by specialty publishing houses, such as Drawn and Quarterly in Montreal and Fantagraphics Books in Seattle, and more recently to traditional houses like Pantheon, which has a graphic novel imprint that publishes Spiegelman, Satrapi and Daniel Clowes, among others.

Thomas LeBien, publisher of Hill and Wang, an imprint of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, who oversees the company's 2-year-old graphic novels division, attributes rising sales to the medium's growing storytelling capabilities. He refers to Hill and Wang's "The 9/11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation" by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon, a controversial work he said forced mainstream book reviewers to ditch the "graphic novel" term for "graphic nonfiction" and "sequential art narration."

"There's an audience out there that doesn't view this as 'comic books,' but as sophisticated storytelling," said LeBien. "The reason professors and universities are so interested in teaching it is the form is so versatile. It does very particular things just like movies do, and just like books of prose do."

At Stanford, Kealey and Johnson knew asking 14 students to collaborate to produce one book was an ambitious task. And their class had six weeks to do it.

"Co-writing with one person is difficult," student Pape said. "Co-writing with 14 was extremely difficult."

After the writing, students cut the story into five acts, and the art students created storyboards from a rough draft. The illustrators mulled over the "page flips" - the kapow-y action sequences often found on the right-hand panels. When the flips are done to maximum effect, the time it takes the reader to turn the page can serve as a dramatic pause.

Kealey said, "That's not something a novelist normally has a chance to do."

"Shake Girl" can be viewed at shakegirl.stanford.edu.
E-mail Justin Berton at jberton@sfchronicle.com.


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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Misuse of courts mars Cambodian election

May 07, 2008
UPI Asia Online

Column: Rule by Fear

It is widely known that courts in Cambodia are politically controlled and almost all judges and prosecutors belong to the CPP, the ruling party. The president of the Supreme Court, or chief justice, is a member of the party's standing and central committees.

HONG KONG, China - The courts mar the election in Cambodia

Cambodia will hold its next general election on July 27. According to the electoral law, campaigning will not begin until 30 days prior to the polls. Yet leaders of major political parties seem to have already started campaigning, with speeches attacking one another to score points and win votes. As in previous elections, party signs, especially those of non-ruling parties, have been damaged or destroyed, and non-ruling party activists have received threats and intimidation, or have even been killed.

There are now concerns that two court cases involving the leaders of two opposition parties will create more serious trouble, marring the whole electoral process. The first and latest one is a criminal lawsuit against Sam Rainsy, leader of the self-named Sam Rainsy Party, a more established opposition party, for defamation and disinformation against Hor Nam Hong, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. This minister is also a leading member of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

Hor Nam Hong filed this lawsuit on April 22 at the court of Phnom Penh, after Sam Rainsy made a public speech that Hor alleges defamed him. On April 17, at a ceremony to commemorate the seizure of power by the Khmer Rouge and the beginning of their massacres of the Cambodian people on that day in 1975, Sam made a speech in which he said, without naming any names, that two ministers of the current government had been Khmer Rouge cadres. He mentioned that one minister, the senior minister for economics and finance, had been Khmer Rouge Leader Pol Pot's secretary and translator, and the other minister, the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, had been chief of the Khmer Rouge prison at Boeung Trabek in Phnom Penh.

The court has acted promptly on this lawsuit and has summoned Sam to appear before it on May 22 -- while it has not acted with the same promptness on cases of violence against opposition parties and their activists. This has prompted further doubts about not only this particular court's but also all Cambodian courts' lack of independence and impartiality. If convicted, Sam could be sentenced to between six months and three years in prison for disinformation, and also fined for each count. Any such imprisonment would cripple his party, which is the second largest after the CPP.

The other court case is an on-going one and involves Prince Norodom Ranariddh, former leader of the FUNCINPEC party, CPP's current coalition partner in the government, and leader of a newly formed party, also self-named the Norodom Ranariddh Party. His former party has filed a criminal lawsuit against him for breach of trust in the handling, while he was leader of that party, of the sale of the party's land when he was alleged to have misappropriated the proceeds from it.

Fearing a negative outcome, Ranariddh has fled the country and is now living in exile in Malaysia. In March 2007 the Court of First Instance in Phnom Penh tried him in absentia, and as widely expected, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay damages to FUNCINPEC. He appealed this court ruling, but in October the Court of Appeal ruled against his appeal. He then appealed the ruling of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. This Supreme Court has now started its proceedings, and it is expected that his appeal would be heard sometime in July, around the time of the election. Ranariddh cannot return to Cambodia to directly lead his party and its electoral campaign lest he is arrested and put in jail.

It is widely known that courts in Cambodia are politically controlled and almost all judges and prosecutors belong to the CPP, the ruling party. The president of the Supreme Court, or chief justice, is a member of the party's standing and central committees. As a local human rights group called LICADHO put it in its report, "Human Rights in Cambodia: The Charade of Justice," published in December 2007, a primary function of the courts in Cambodia is "to persecute political opponents and other critics of the government." Prof. Yash Ghai, the U.N. special envoy for human rights in Cambodia, totally agreed with this assessment in a report which he presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2008.

Sam Rainsy is Prime Minister Hun Sen's long-time political opponent, and the Sam Rainsy Party is the major contender against Hun Sen's CPP. Nordom Ranariddh and Hun Sen have had a love-hate relationship, but over the last several years the two have fallen out and Hun Sen has made continuous efforts to marginalize this prince from Cambodian politics.

It seems that the courts are again being used to cripple political opponents. It is hard for both Sam Rainsy and Norodom Ranariddh to expect any prompt or fair trial, so they might win their cases and freely and fully lead their respective parties to compete in the election. This use of courts as instruments of political oppression could mar the whole of the electoral process. It could impair the fairness of the forthcoming election and undermine the legitimacy of the new government.
(Lao Mong Hay is a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. He was previously director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a visiting professor at the University of Toronto in 2003. In 1997, he received an award from Human Rights Watch and the Nansen Medal in 2000 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.)

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US Ambassador Concerned that Hor Namhong’s Lawsuit Against Sam Rainsy

US Ambassador concerned that Hor Namhong’s lawsuit against Sam Rainsy could affect the election

Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Rasmei Kampuchea - Posted on KI-Media

On 06 may, the US Ambassador in Cambodia expressed his concern that Hor Namhong’s lawsuit against Sam Rainsy could affect the election as the court is speeding up this case.

In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, during a vitamin distribution for children in Baray district, Kampong Thom province, Joseph Mussomeli said: “I am concern that it will affect the election, although I hope that it won’t affect it.” Mussomeli added that it will be regrettable if the defamation and disinformation accusation could affect the progress of democracy.

He expressed his personal opinion by saying that the defamation and disinformation should not be considered as criminal case. Instead, it should be considered as a civil case, i.e., a case that should be decided by the civil code instead.

Mussomeli is concerned about this lawsuit because Ka Savuth, Hor Namhong’s lawyer showed up in court even before the summon date. Ka Savuth showed up in court on 02 May, whereas the court summoned him only on 05 May. As for Sam Rainsy, the court summoned him to show up to provide clarification on 22 May.

In addition to his comment on Hor Namhong’s lawsuit, Mussomeli also indicated that he met with a number of political parties in Cambodia recently, among those are the CPP, Funcinpec, SRP, HRP, to talk about the 4th mandate election which will take place on 27 July 2008.

Mussomeli claimed that: “We maintain good contact with all political parties, but we do not support any party in particular, and we don’t care which party will win the upcoming election. But, we hope that the winning party will win the election fair and square.”

Mussomeli said that, in general, prior to the election in Cambodia, near the election there are always some problems that occur and that cannot be avoided. He said that, regardless whether it is in Cambodia, in the US, or in any other country, people focus on the election and they are not too concerned about about daily life. Up until now, no violence related to the election takes place yet, so Mussomeli thinks that the election is moving smoothly. “Currently, we are following up with attention so that there is no violence, no threat, no fear, no forcing in the election. We hope that threat will not take place, and we hope that the upcoming election will be conducted properly. We will send election observers all over Cambodia,” Mussomeli said.

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Government Vows to Reduce Inflation by End of 2008

Wednesday, 07 May 2008
By Chun Sophal
The Mekong Times

Soaring inflation is a painful thorn in the side of Cambodia’s burgeoning economy, but government officials are trying to soothe concerns with assurances that inflation wil be under control by the end of 2008.

“We will reduce the inflation rate to single digits starting from the end of 2008 and into next year,” said Hang Chuon Narun, secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance. He cited the government’s recent efforts to encourage agriculture sector investment, subsidize oil prices, and increase banks’ reserve capital as reasons why inflation would decrease.

Sok Hach, director of the Economic Institute of Cambodia, said that Cambodia would be unable to reduce inflation if open competition with products produced by various dominant Okhna groups is not allowed.

“The government has to decrease taxes on all goods in general and lift barriers to competition in trade,” he said. “I believe we can help reduce inflation to some extent if we have a competition law and implement it well.”

Cambodia, which currently has an inflation rate of over 10 percent, has yet to introduce a trade competition law even though it is a requirement for the Kingdom’s continued membership of the the World Trade Organization.

Economists say that the soaring inflation in Cambodia is partially due to the rising global oil prices, the devaluation of the US dollar and increasing international food prices. Internal factors such as high goods taxes and the lack of open product competition exacerbate the situation.

John Nelmes, International Monetary Fund resident representative for Cambodia, said increased cash flow in Cambodia is linked with the country’s inflation rate. “I think that increasing obligatory reserve funds to reduce growth is a positive step,” he said.

Early this year, the government paid out US$300 million in oil subsidies, US$41 million in electricity subsidies and cut taxes on imported agricultural materials in order to curb increasing prices.

Chhit Sam Ath, director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said inflation is a major problem severely affecting the nation’s poor.

“I believe government subsidies can help people,” he said. “I think the government should try its best to lower and stabilize inflation by dealing with the impact from both internal and international factors.”

- Economist Sok Hach


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Friday, May 02, 2008

A new Political Breeze in Cambodia

By Brian McCartan
Source: Asia Times Online

The CPP has a long history of running rough and tumble election campaigns and there are growing accusations that the party is again using intimidation and threats against opposition supporters in the run-up to the polls.

CHIANG MAI, Thailand - A gathering coalition of smaller parties could give Prime Minister Hun Sen's now dominant Cambodian People's Party (CPP) an unexpected run for its money at National Assembly elections scheduled for this July.

The CPP has ruled the country either alone or in tandem with rival parties since the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1993 and in recent years has strongly consolidated its grip on political power. With its comparatively strong grassroots network, firm control over the national media, and recent successful economic policies, the CPP is widely expected to win the most seats at this year's polls. But perhaps not by the landslide many analysts had until now predicted.

To be sure, Cambodia's other main political parties are still generally in disarray. The Funcinpec party has recently been undermined by internal divisions, leading party founder Prince Norodom Ranariddh to cut ties and start up a new small political party bearing his name. Meanwhile, the major opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) still lacks the numbers and resources to alone represent a real democratic challenge to the CPP. The SRP party has likewise in recent years been plagued by internal discord over strategy and leadership.

Now, faced by the near certainty of another CPP election victory, talks have begun among medium- and small-sized parties of forming a coalition to contest the elections on the same ticket. Some political analysts believe there is some hope of success for such a coalition considering that the CPP received less than half the popular vote during the last general election in 2003 and the more recent commune elections held in 2007.

The 2003 polls resulted in a political stalemate, as neither the CPP nor Funcinpec managed the two-thirds majority constitutionally required to form a government. After a full year of political wrangling and paralysis, both sides agreed to change the rules to an over 50% majority and a new coalition government was formed in July 2004, which the CPP now dominates.

An estimated 23 parties contested the general elections in 2003; as many as 57 different political parties could contest the next polls, around 20 of which are expected to officially announce their candidacy during the April 18 and May 12 registration process. The three main opposition parties now negotiating the formation of a possible coalition include the SRP, the Human Rights Party (HRP) and the Funcinpec breakaway Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP). A united opposition would increase the individual parties bargaining power vis-a-vis the CPP and in an electoral upset could together form the next government.

The HRP, formed in July 2007 by human rights activist Kem Sokha, founder of the once influential and foreign-funded Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), cuts a particularly compelling contrast to the CPP. Sokha was jailed for publicly criticizing Hun Sen's policies and has successfully ridden that controversy, along with the CCHR's strong grassroots network, into politics.

The party claims over 10,000 supporters attended its opening congress and several well known political figures have joined its ranks, including Pen Sovann, a former prime minister of the early 1980s communist government. Kem Sokha has a grassroots reputation for fighting corruption and human rights abuses earned as a lawmaker in the dissolved Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party and later as a senator for Funcinpec before he left to create the CCHR in 2002.

With those political forces coalescing, there are already signs of a CPP rearguard defensive. Several of the newly created parties are allegedly in league with the CPP and have been launched strategically as political Trojan horses to penetrate and disrupt a possible united opposition front.

Democratic dirty tricks

The CPP has a long history of running rough and tumble election campaigns and there are growing accusations that the party is again using intimidation and threats against opposition supporters in the run-up to the polls. Senate elections held in January 2006 were criticized by local election monitoring organizations as undemocratic and slanted in favor of CPP-affiliated candidates. For the upcoming elections, 7,000 local election observers and 40 international monitoring bodies have registered to observe the elections.

Ou Virak, the current president of CCHR, believes that while overall the election environment will be better than previous polls, by international standards they still will not be free and fair. He claims that in recent months opposition activists have received threats and that a few have even been killed under mysterious circumstances.

Although there is not yet any hard evidence to indicate any political motivation behind the murders, Ou Virak sees the upshot in killings as "worrisome", particularly considering one of the main opposition parties is running under a human rights banner.

There has also been growing pressure on opposition members to defect to the CPP, particularly among SRP candidates. Where that doesn't work threats have been made against certain SRP commune chiefs and at least one, Tout Saron from Kompong Thom province, was jailed on March 18 on the some say trumped up charges of allegedly preventing an SRT activist from defecting to the CPP. The arrest of two other SRP officials is also being sought in connection with the case.

The arrest and warrants are already drumming up bad publicity for the CPP. Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a March 23 statement, "Dubious arrests of opposition officials months ahead of an election should set alarm bells ringing. This divide-and-conquer strategy is a well-known tactic of Prime Minister Hun Sen to subdue his opponents."

In the same statement, the US-based rights advocacy group said it believes that the CPP is conducting a "concerted campaign to coerce SRP members to defect to the CPP and punish those who refuse to do so, with the intention to split and weaken the opposition party before the national elections".

Hun Sen's CPP has long harassed the SRP, according to rights groups. In 2005, SRP member of parliament Cheam Channy was convicted to seven years in prison for what many considered an unsubstantiated charge of creating a rebel army. He served one year and was released after receiving a pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni. SRP leader Sam Rainsy, meanwhile, was convicted that same year for defamation of government leaders and fled the country. That intimidation follows on the bloody and still unresolved grenade attack against a Sam Rainsy rally in 1997 which killed 16 and injured 150 people. Human Rights Watch has alleged the attack was carried out by Hun Sen's own bodyguard unit, charges the premier has strongly denied.

Faced with such strong-arm tactics, few expect the opposition to actually win the July polls. Amendments to previous election laws mean that the CPP can form a government as long as it wins over 50% of the vote, rather than the previous constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority. In 2003, inconclusive poll results meant that neither the CPP nor Funcinpec could form a government until several months later an agreement to amend the rules was reached.

With an opposition coalition in the offing, it's unclear if the CPP will need to reach out to one of the medium or several of the small parties to form the next government. After a major split and a number of defections, the CPP's current coalition partner, Funcinpec, is not expected to win as many seats at the upcoming polls as it managed in 2003. The party currently holds 20 of the National Assembly's 123 seats.

Due to their historical antagonistic relations with Hun Sen, it seems unlikely for now that the leaders of any of the other major opposition parties - including the SRP, HRP and NRP - would be keen without major concessions to join a CPP-dominated coalition government. Whether their party representatives, many as in the case of the SRP now in the opposition for over a decade, share those views after this July's polls will represent the success or failure of a united opposition.

Brian McCartan is a freelance journalist based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He may be reached at brianpm@comcast.net.

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Statement by Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Seventh Session
Thursday, April 25, 2008
Speaker: Sothy Kien

Collective Statement by Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation

Madame Chair,

We would like to say thank you to Vietnam and the other countries for taking the positive step of supporting the 13 September 2007 adoption of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, unlike many of our indigenous Native American and Native Canadian brothers and sisters, our people from Asia are not recognized at all.

We believe unless such recognition occurs, our people will continue to be denied our basic fundamental freedoms as guaranteed under the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. Already our rights are not realized. Future work will become irrelevant at the international level and for each individual Khmer if we are not recognized.

Taking advantage of the recent adoption of the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we would like to request the help the Permanent Forum and governments around the world to help set up an appropriate timeframe for which countries who has not yet recognized its indigenous people to do so. The adoption must not only be superficial but substantive in the daily lives of indigenous peoples.

During Human Rights Council meeting last March, Vietnam announced that it was ready for human rights dialogue. For the last four years, we have affirmed the need of an open dialogue between Vietnam and the KKF on human rights at the Permanent Forum. Let us make a historic moment and start a human rights dialogue here today.

We would to contribute the following recommendation to the Permanent Forum in regards to this item:

  • Request the aid of the Permanent Forum to set up an open dialogue between Vietnam and KKF during a session on the Permanent Forum.
  • Through such interactions, we can begin to look at ways in which we can initiate the process of recognizing the Khmer Krom people and the Montagnard as indigenous peoples and explore effective mechanisms to ensure that they are included in free and informed decision making processes affecting Khmer communities.
  • Ask that Vietnam provides a detailed summary of specific policies or programs targeting Indigenous Peoples that are currently taking place or proposed in their Five Year Socio-Economic Development Plan.
  • That a national education campaign is established in Khmer language about the MDGs as well as international human rights instruments such as CEDAW, so our Khmer-Krom people are aware of their basic rights and able to be active participants.
  • That the consultation and implementation of such national plans are conducted under the principles of free, prior and informed consent with indigenous groups and local people to ensure that such programs do not destroy the ancestral lands and compromise our traditions
  • Request that the aid from the World Bank and IMF to allocate specific funds donated to Vietnam to create vocational programs in the local areas where millions of the indigenous Khmer Krom people who are living in the Mekong Delta.
  • Ask that Vietnam work in close collaboration in genuine partnership with specialized agencies and KKF and the Montagnard Foundation to meet mutual objectives.
  • Seek a reversal of current trend of urbanization and Vietnamization. KKF ask that victims of the State’s failure or disastrous projects that result in contaminating land be immediately compensated to provide the basic living essentials and to halt the influx of Khmer Krom people being forced to move to other provinces to find employment.
  • Request the aid of FAO, ILO and Vietnam to help provide employment opportunities for many local Khmer Krom people who are now finding themselves landless as result of land confiscation by corporations and the country of Vietnam.
  • Ask that all special inter-agencies be open to workshops in Kampuchea Krom and where our people live in large diaspora around the world to allow for more effective partnership from indigenous organizations about policies and programs taking place in our homelands
  • Ask that Vietnam allows independent organizations to be formed to enable further social and cultural development of indigenous peoples.
  • Ask for projects that will integrate the indigenous peoples into mainstream society be culturally appropriate and sensitive to their distinctive culture without eroding their sense of identity.
  • While Vietnam is recognized as Asia’s second fastest growing economy in recent years with GDP annually increasing over 8% and making 138.6 Billion USD in 2005, the rural areas where Khmer Krom people are living, does not have a proportional share of Vietnam’s social and economic progress. The KKF remain behind as we are deemed backward by the Vietnam government. We demand to be equal partners for the economic and social development of our homeland.

We are particularly concern that the MDGs for indigenous peoples will not be met if Vietnam continues to undermine the positive contribution of our work at the Permanent Forum.

Thank you
Madame Chair


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Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Source: Economic & Social Council - UN.ORG

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Discuss Ways to More Effectively Promote Countries Implementation of Declaration on Rights

Delegates Underscore Need for National Governments to Protect People over Profits

Monday 28 April 2008

ROMY THACH, speaking for the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation, said the district of Svay Tong in the province of Mouat Chrouk had recently been the scene of acts of terror targeting indigenous peoples. Even as the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals approached, the rights of Viet Nam’s indigenous peoples were being neglected. Viet Nam must realize that the implementation of the Declaration was imperative if the Goals were to be achieved. The Permanent Forum should lead a collaborative initiative that would include exact deadlines to foster Viet Nam’s recognition of indigenous peoples such as the Khmer Krom and the Montagnards. The Forum should insist that Viet Nam, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, cooperate more fully with United Nations human rights mechanisms. It should also address inquiries by the United Nations special rapporteurs on issues of religious intolerance, torture, indigenous peoples and arbitrary detention.

PHAM HAI ANH ( Viet Nam) said his delegation respected the work of the Permanent Forum and had participated actively in its work by providing all relevant information about its efforts to achieve equality of life for every citizen. However, the Forum’s work should be based on accurate and credible information. Unfortunately, it had not always been provided with that type of information. Viet Nam strongly rejected the participation of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation, both of which operated outside Viet Nam and pursued a separatist agenda. Their participation wasted precious time that could be better spent helping indigenous peoples around the world. Viet Nam also strongly supported implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in the Montagnard districts and the United Nations had recognized its work in doing so.

In response, the Chairperson stressed the reality that some indigenous peoples were in exile from their countries, and suggested that the Special Rapporteur investigate that situation as the Permanent Forum lacked the capacity to do so at present. The Chair welcomed, however, the rights of individual countries to appear before the Forum to raise issues about the veracity of any statement or report. That was, of course, part of the important dialogue on the situation of indigenous peoples, which was the role and entire point of the Forum.

Closing Statement

RODOLFO STAVENHAGEN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, expressed solidarity with and best wishes for success to his successor, James Anaya, noting that the intense activity brought to the Forum’s dialogue would bear fruit for the indigenous peoples of the world. The mechanisms of United Nations agencies, including the Forum, the office of the Special Rapporteur and the Human Rights Council, would be more effectively used to promote the rights of indigenous communities.

One of the most important mechanisms that could be employed to that end would be the presentation of complaints, accusations and statements about the situation of indigenous peoples, he said. Without that opportunity, the international community had no way of really finding out what was going on. There were too many filters that did not allow such information to circulate. Both in the Forum and in the Human Rights Council, when some Government delegations were directly confronted with an accusation, they completely rejected the groups making the accusations. Nonetheless, the Forum was a place where those types of groups could meet together.

He said that, over the years, he had sent out more than 200 communiqués to different Governments on the basis of documents, complaints and statements. Unfortunately, some Governments had not responded, while others had simply stated that they had received the information. Very few investigated each situation and complaint, much less dealt with them. While the Forum and the Office of the Special Rapporteur were not legal mechanisms, they provided opportunities for dialogue. It was to be hoped that the Forum would continue to be a place to meet and discuss the issues of indigenous populations, perhaps becoming a joint quest for a solution to the problems raised.

Concluding today’s dialogue, the Chair thanked Mr. Stavenhagen for his service as Special Rapporteur and offered best wishes to his successor, Mr. Anaya, while also thanking Mr. Littlechild and Ms. Nicolaisen for their active involvement in preparing the documents for the current session. Mr. Littlechild presented a token of appreciation to Mr. Stavenhagen in the form of a traditional vest from the Cree Nation.


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