Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Friday, August 22, 2008

JOEL BRINKLEY: The world leader in corruption is - Cambodia

The World Leader in Corruption Is - Cambodia

August 21, 2008
By JOEL BRINKLEY (McClatchy-Tribune News Service)
The Olympian

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Hun Chea, a nephew of Cambodia's prime minster, was speeding along a busy downtown street a few days ago when he ran down a man on a motorbike.

Phnom Penh's streets are teeming with motorbikes, hundreds of them, criss-crossing busy traffic without seeming to look or care where they are going. Collisions are inevitable. But that's not the point of this story.

Hun was tearing down the street at high speed when he hit the biker, witnesses reported, and his car ripped off an arm and a leg. The biker, Sam Sabo, was killed. Hun began to drive off, but running over the motorbike had shredded a tire. He had to pull over, so there he sat in his big black Cadillac Escalade SUV.

Now, listen to how the Phnom Penh Post newspaper described the events that followed.

"Numerous traffic police were seen avoiding the accident scene, but armed military police arrived. They removed the SUV's license plates and comforted Hun Chea" while Sam Sabo lay bleeding to death in the street. A military policeman was overheard telling Hun: "'Don't worry. It wasn't your mistake. It was the motorbike driver's mistake.'" A few days later, Hun gave the dead man's family $4,000 in hush money, the paper reported. Case closed.

It's no secret that Cambodia is thoroughly corrupt. As an indirect result, the rich and the powerful can commit, well, murder and face few if any repercussions.

A primary rule of foreign correspondence is to avoid applying the values of your own country on the nation you are covering. But then, some events appear so outrageous that the rule does not apply. Police actually removed the car's license plates, to conceal the driver's identity? So I asked Khieu Kanarith, Cambodia's information minister, about the case. He fumbled about for a moment and then explained, "I understand he had his wife in the car, and I don't think he was paying attention to what he was doing." OK, but the police removed the license plates? Khieu had to think about that for a moment but finally managed to say, "You try to cover the plates because it's harder to sell a car if it's been in an accident." As a reporter, sometimes it's hard to keep a straight face. But then, being Cambodia's information minister is a tough job.

Later I asked Joseph Mussomeli, the U.S. ambassador, about this, and he shook his head.

"This goes to the whole culture of impunity here. Who you are, who you know, is more important than following the law. And the police are too intimidated, too deferential, to the wealthy and powerful." Why else would the traffic police assertively avoid the scene of the accident, even with a dying man lying in the street? They knew full well that the owner of a Cadillac Escalade SUV in this exceedingly poor country is quite likely to be well connected.

Impunity is a word that comes up over and over in Cambodia. Last month, two men speeding by on a motorbike shot and killed Khim Sambor and his 21-year-old son as they walked down the street. Khim was a reporter for Khmer Conscience, an opposition newspaper, and not surprisingly the paper had been writing critically about the government.

No one has been arrested. That is true for dozens of apparent contract killings in recent years just like that one. No one has proved that government officials are behind them. But then, why else would the police make no effort to solve any of these crimes? Cambodia has come a long way in the last several years. Phnom Penh is teeming with tourists. The economy is growing. The nation has been stable for more than a decade now, which is no small accomplishment.

Over the years, I have worked in many corrupt states - Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, among others. But in none of them is the corruption so pervasive, even pandemic. Prime Minister Hun Sen just won re-election to a new five-year term. For a decade, the United States and many other countries have been pressing him to pass a comprehensive anti-corruption law. Hun continually promises but never delivers.

Cambodians deserve better. If Cambodia hopes to join the ranks of the world's prosperous and respected nations, it must enact - and enforce - an anti-corruption law. With that, in time, the shiny mantle of impunity resting softly on the shoulders of the rich and well-connected will begin to fall away.


Joel Brinkley is a former Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The New York Times and now a professor of journalism at Stanford University. Readers may send him e-mail at: brinkley@foreign-matters.com

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Thousands Flee as Mekong Breaks Flood Records

A Cambodian woman swims with her cattle to higher ground. Photo: Reuters

Thousands Flee as Mekong Breaks Flood Records

TORRENTIAL rain and overflowing rivers have brought some of the worst flooding in decades to Vietnam and its neighbours in the past week, affecting cities and farmlands in five nations.

In northern Vietnam, at least 130 people have been killed, dozens are missing and thousands have been driven from their homes. Hundreds of tourists were evacuated near the hill tribe resort area of Sa Pa.

Flooding has also hit parts of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos as well as Burma, where waters rose in the Irrawaddy Delta, still recovering from a cyclone that left 138,000 people dead or missing in May.

The floods have hit much of Burma, including the main city, Rangoon, as well as Mandalay in the centre and the Karen and Mon states in the south-east.

In Vientiane, the capital of Laos, officials said the Mekong River had brought the worst flooding in memory, rising to nearly 15 metres above its lowest level in the dry season.

The high water in Vientiane broke a record set in 1966 and overflowed a levee that was built after that flood.

Mud-slides also cut the main road from Vientiane to the ancient capital of Luang Prabang, a city of temples and monasteries where the Mekong also rose.

Laotian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yong Chanthalansy said four people, including a child, had died in Vientiane after being injured in landslides triggered by the flooding.

Speaking by phone from Vientiane, Mr Yong said there were reports that the flooding was receding.

The flooding also cut electricity in Luang Prabang, a popular tourist destination.

In parts of north-eastern Thailand, officials said, the Mekong had reached its highest level in 30 years, inundating farmlands and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people in three provinces along the river, which divides Thailand from Laos. Officials said the high water had been caused by downpours in southern China, Laos and Thailand.

As the high waters of the Mekong moved downstream, Cambodia and eastern Thailand prepared for major floods, and officials were telling residents in some areas to move to higher ground with their livestock.

In the southern Mekong Delta of Vietnam, where the 4800-kilometre river flows into the sea, forecasters said rising waters had reached a critical level two weeks earlier than last year and that worse flooding lay ahead.

The most destructive flooding in recent years came in late 1999 in Vietnam's central provinces, leaving 750 people dead or missing.

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Thai, Cambodian FMs Meet Again for Border Dispute

CHA-AM (PHETCHBURI), Thailand, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Foreign Ministers from Thailand and Cambodia met Monday at a central Thai resort for a second-round ministerial talks on a border dispute.

Thai Foreign Minister Tej Bunnag greeted his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong and the two had a diner together Monday evening at a hotel in Cha-am district, Phetchburi province in central Thailand, some 220 kilometers southwest Bangkok, near the beach resort town Hua Hin.

The meeting was to start officially on Tuesday morning here, ina bid to find a peaceful solution to a long border dispute regarding areas around the ancient Khmer-style Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, the 11th-century ruins listed recently as World Heritage, and to lay down foundations for future cooperation on demarcation and demining work along a 4.6-sq kilometers disputed border area.

Taking apart in the meeting also include Lt. Gen Sujit Sithiparpa, Thailand's Second Army Commander who is responsible for security in the northeastern region including the disputed area, and his Cambodian counterpart Gen. Chea Mon, Cambodia's Fourth Army Commander.

As a good gesture ahead of the talks, the two sides began pulling out their troops, believed at over 1,000 from each side earlier, stationed around the Preah Vihear Temple, which sits at the border between Thai northeastern province of Si Sa Ket and Cambodia's Preah Vihear province.

Only about ten soldiers from each side remain at a pagoda near the Preah Vihear temple now after the pull-out since Saturday, and some 20 others from each at areas nearby for patrol.

The military stand-off, which has seen a quick increase of military personnel along the disputed border zone by each side, started after three Thais, including a monk, were briefly detained by Cambodian authorities on July 15 for "intruding Cambodian territory" by breaking into the Preah Vihear temple compound to declare Thai sovereignty over the temple.

The temple was awarded to Cambodia in a 1962 verdict of the International Court of Justice, which some Thais have been reluctant to accept. The dispute became a hot issue when Cambodia launched efforts to bid for the listing of the temple as a World Heritage Site last year.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee approved Cambodia's application early last month, triggering a wave of national sentiment in Thailand urging the Thai government to take counter actions in defense of territorial sovereignty.

Then Thai foreign minister Noppadon Pattama was forced to resign last month for signing a joint communique to endorse Thai support for Cambodia's World Heritage bid without prior parliament approval, which was later held unconstitutional. Veteran diplomat Tej was appointed as the successor just in time for the first ministerial talks on July 28 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which produced no breakthrough but an agreement to reduce military deployment along the disputed border.

Thai Foreign Ministry officials reiterated to Xinhua that the Thai side did not instigate the situation by deploying more troops to the disputed area around the Preah Vihear temple, but that Thai authorities had sent letters to Cambodian government a few times to protest the setting up of Cambodian communities around the disputed border area in breach of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by two sides in 2000, which was long before the July 15 incident.

The Cambodian authorities had not acted in response to Thailand' protests, the Thai officials said.

On Monday morning, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and Army chief General Anupong Paochinda inspected border points near the Preah Vihear temple.

Reports from Phnom Penh quoted Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong as saying before leaving for Thailand on Monday that he was optimistic about the second bilateral meeting "to seek peaceful resolution to withdraw the troops totally from the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara Pagoda and the surrounding areas of the Preah Vihear Temple."

Following the meeting, Hor Namhong will also be granted an audience by the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej Tuesday afternoon at the royal summer palace in Hua Hin, where the King now resides, before going back to Cambodia.

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[Kith Meng's] Royal to Raise $2bn to Develop Island

[Kith Meng's] Royal to Raise $2bn to Develop Island

By Raphael Minder in Hong Kong (The Financial Times)

Royal Group, a Cambodian conglomerate whose interests range from banking to mobile telephony, is raising $2bn from private investors, together with Hong Kong-based Millennium Group, to develop Koh Rong, an island off Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s only deep-water port.

The move comes as property developers are planning billion-dollar investments to transform Cambodia’s coastline into one of Asia’s leading holiday destinations.

Such investments are designed to help diversify a Cambodian tourism industry that is heavily reliant on Angkor Wat and the country’s other inland historic treasures.

The amount planned by Royal will only cover the initial stages of the development, according to Mark Hanna, chief financial officer of Royal Group.

“We are talking about an island that is the same size as Hong Kong island, where we want to add things such as an airport, so ultimately we are certainly looking at several billions,” he told the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, MPDI, a subsidiary of Seng Enterprise, a family-owned group that is one of Cambodia’s leading construction companies, is working on another $2bn project, with unnamed US, Japanese and Middle Eastern investors. The project will triple the size of Kep, a neglected former French colonial resort

Seng’s plan involves reclaiming land along a 6km stretch of coastline and building luxury towers and bungalows. that will be able to house about 10,000 families.

They also include Preah Vihear, another temple that straddles the border with Thailand and whose disputed ownership has threatened to spark a military conflict between the two countries.

After decades of war and genocide overseen by the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia is playing catch-up to other south-east Asian tourism hotspots in countries such as Thailand and Malaysia.

In the 15 years since Cambodia’s return to multiparty democracy, the country has made an impressive economic recovery and tourism has grown almost tenfold to become the second most important sector after textiles. The number of visitors to Cambodia breached 2m for the first time last year, but of those only 122,000 visited the country’s beaches.

Vantha Seng, chief financial officer of Seng Enterprise, said construction in Kep was likely to start next year, thanks to a first round of financing of about $250m, with contributions from “well-known” Japanese, American and Middle Eastern funds and private equity firms.

She said the project could become Cambodia’s first offshore listing, either on the Hong Kong or Korean stock exchange. As to the targeted clientele, the developers are betting particularly on wealthy Asian pensioners from Singapore, South Korea and Japan. Some of the housing will also be reserved for Cambodians.

“We already have some bookings and it’s mainly from people under 50 who are preparing their retirement plans,” she said. “Thailand has shown how you can develop beautiful beaches but we also want to avoid some of the mistakes there and certainly want to remain upmarket.”

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Cambodia’s Transforming Tycoon

Cambodia’s Transforming Tycoon

By Raphael Minder (The Financial Times)

About an hour into our meeting, Kith Meng, Cambodia’s leading entrepreneur, dips a finger into an intriguing little flask on his coffee table and applies a fragrant yellow ointment to his neck and temples. “It’s Chinese,” he says. “When you have a muscle cramp, it helps take the pain away.”

The massage brings a smile to the face of a man who seems to find it hard to wind down. A self-confessed workaholic, the 39-year-old cannot imagine ever retiring or selling his Royal Group conglomerate because, he says, “this business is my passion”. He adds: “If I don’t work, I get sick. I don’t like to take it easy, I like to get things done.”

Such energy and intensity set him apart from the more relaxed attitude of the average Cambodian.

Mr Kith Meng has been at the forefront of Cambodia’s transform­ation from a backward, war-torn country into one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, averaging 9 per cent growth a year over the past decade. Royal Group’s businesses include the country’s biggest mobile phone company, its first broadband provider and a bank that pioneered ATMs. It is about to launch phone banking.

Such activities have put Mr Kith Meng on a very different path from his fellow ethnic Chinese, who have tended to build family businesses in traditional sectors such as farming, mining and logging.

“We are going into every sector we can because Cambodia needs every sector to grow,” he says. “After that, we’ll see in what industry we want to be an Asian player.”

With such ambitions in mind, he has already started touring financial centres such as Singapore and Hong Kong to see how and when Royal Group should widen its presence in the region as well as list the equity of a company that has already made him a billionaire. (He refuses to value his assets precisely.)

Mr Kith Meng also has casino interests in Cambodia and one of his recent trips abroad was to Macao, the world’s largest gaming centre, accompanied by western bankers. His conclusion is unambiguous, and typical of a man who believes Cambodians must shed their inferiority complex towards other Asians. “Macao is already so crowded,” he says. “I think people in Macao should be looking here, not us looking there.”

Although he has so far confined his activities to his homeland, his ascent has started to draw comparisons with more renowned and far-reaching Asian tycoons, including Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai businessman and ousted former prime minister. Mr Kith Meng scoffs at that particular comparison, insisting he has no desire to use his wealth as a political launchpad as Mr Thaksin did in Thailand, where he created his own political party. “I am a businessman and just don’t have any of that [political] ambition,” he says.

In fact, insiders say Mr Kith Meng’s allegiance to Hun Sen, Cambodia’s long-standing prime minister, has been crucial to his success. Royal Group’s meeting rooms are adorned with pictures of the Hun Sen family, confirming what he describes as “very good relations with the government”.

Mr Hun Sen was returned to power in a landslide electoral victory last month with the backing of a business community that has benefited from strong growth and political stability after decades of war. Still, the government’s record has continued to be stained by international corruption studies that rank Cambodia among the most corrupt nations in the world. On that topic, Mr Kith Meng echoes government officials, emphasising the billions of dollars of foreign investment that have poured into Cambodia in recent years as vindication of Mr Hun Sen’s efforts to guarantee a fair and transparent business and legal environment.

“From outside, people can make any statement they want, but those [investors] who actually come here realise that Cambodia is a place where they should do business,” he says.

Even though he also holds the honorific title of Okhna, the Cambodian equivalent of a British peerage, associates and some other local businessmen say he steers clear of fellow Cambodian high-flyers. While Royal Group is set to build one of the skyscrapers that are redrawing Phnom Penh’s skyline, the company’s headquarters are in a nondescript office block and are entered via an electronics dealership with peeling walls.

Asked about this surprisingly low-key location, Mark Hanna, his Irish chief financial officer, says: “It might seem strange but I don’t think he’ll ever move from here. Perhaps it’s a mix of feng shui, good luck and superstition.” Meanwhile, Mr Kith Meng has his own take on good fortune: “Luck is about intelligence and timing.”

Mr Kith Meng’s workplace may be modest but he does have some flashy tastes. His oversized Cartier gold watch is overshadowed only by his diamond ring. He also has a penchant for luxury cars, owning a Rolls-Royce and a Bentley. He has no plans to settle down. “I’m single because when you’re a workaholic you don’t have time for that,’’ he grins.

Mr Kith Meng’s meteoric rise has drawn a mix of envy and disdain from some rival businessmen.“I can assure you that he has plenty of enemies here,” says a local financier. But he denies feeling threatened, describing his bodyguards as assistants who are “just here to support me”.

He makes no qualms about taking a different stance from the local elite, which tends to close ranks rather than open its doors to foreigners. “I [make joint ventures] with international companies, not Cambodian ones,” he says.

That openness may stem from an adolescence spent in Australia in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime (see below). However, despite having Australian citizenship and maintaining a home there, Mr Kith Meng has “mixed memories” from his youth in Canberra. “In the late 1980s, Australia was a very discriminatory society,” he says. “I think that society has now changed completely.”

Now, Royal Group’s most important Australian connection is its joint venture with ANZ bank. Meanwhile, its telecoms business is a partnership with Luxembourg-registered Millicom International Cellular. Mr Kith Meng also has exclusive distribution rights in Cambodia for a gamut of multi­nationals, including Canon, Siemens and Motorola, as well as the restaurant chains Pizza Hut and KFC. Mr Hanna is among a dozen English-speaking executives working for the group, including a team of former bankers from Macquarie, hired to set up an investment bank for the sprawling business empire. “We, as Cambodians, need outside expertise,” says Mr Kith Meng.

Unsurprisingly, he likes to monitor any international news or report relating to Cambodia.

He cites reading as a favourite hobby, although he has to check with an assistant for the exact title of the book he is currently enjoying. “Hey, what’s the name of that book that I’m reading, that you bought for me?” he shouts across the room. “ Don’t Sweat the Small Stuffby Richard Carlson,” comes the answer. Wise advice, perhaps, but probably something Mr Kith Meng worked out long before starting the first chapter.

‘All this suffering has made me see that I had to be somebody’

As builders erect shopping malls and residential towers around Phnom Penh and chauffeurs wait for businessmen outside trendy restaurants, it is hard to believe it used to be a wasteland – the consequence of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Like most Cambodians born before Pol Pot took power in 1975, Mr Kith Meng experienced the repression first-hand. He calls it “the painful story about my life”.

Because his father was a provincial landlord and businessman, his family was an obvious target. They were forcibly separated and both his father and mother starved to death. In 1980, after the Vietnam-led overthrow of the Khmer Rouge, he was reunited with some family members in Phnom Penh. They then travelled as refugees to a United Nations camp in Thailand. From there , they emigrated to Australia, returning to Cambodia in 1991. As the long-postponed trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders is about to judge its first case, some younger Cambodians have questioned its value. But Mr Kith Meng is adamant that “justice must be given”.

His intransigence leaves little doubt that his past has shaped him. “All this suffering has made me stronger, made me see that I had to be somebody,” he says.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Election Results Adjusted for Fraud Give Fewer Seats to CPP

Sam Rainsy's letter as published in The Cambodia Daily, August 12, 2008

Election Results Adjusted for Fraud Give Fewer Seats to CPP

In "Opposition Parties Reiterate National Assembly Boycott Threat" (August 9-10, page 3), you mentioned figures about the election results adjusted by SRP for irregularities.

NEC's provisional figures published on August 9, 2008, reiterated that the CPP won 3.49 million votes and 90 seats versus 2.05 million votes and 31 seats for the combined opposition: SRP, Human Rights Party and Norodom Ranariddh Party.

''The true results of the election" that I presented -- 77 seats for the CCP, 35 for the SRP, seven for the HRP and two each for Funcinpec and the NRP -- were based on taking back from the CCP votes that were fraudulently collected after CPP commune chiefs had issued forged 1018 registration forms to its supporters. Another adjustment was made taking into account the fact that a significant portion of the electorate identified as non-CPP supporters, had been disenfranchised.

We have made our calculations based on two hypotheses.

1- Our minimum hypothesis is based on the assumption that:

a) An average of 10 forged 1018 forms were given out in the vicinity of each of the 15,254 polling stations, making a total of 152,540 forged forms and inflating the CPP votes by the same amount.

b) An average of 50 non-CPP supporters were disenfranchised at each polling station, meaning that a total of 762,700 voters nationwide were prevented from voting for non-CPP parties. Many independent observers acknowledge that up to 10 percent of the 8.1-million-strong electorate were prevented from voting.

2- Our maximum hypothesis is based on the assumption that:

a) An average of 65 forged 1018 forms were given out in the vicinity of each polling stations, making a total of 991,510 forged forms and inflating the CPP votes by the same amount (see July 29 SRP statement "What election observers did not see in a rigged election"). We now have proof that the 1018 forms were methodically and systematically issued by the CPP local authorities nationwide. This maneuver was conducted on an unprecedented scale.

b) An average of 65 non-CPP supporters were disenfranchised at each polling station, meaning that a total of 991,510 voters nationwide were prevented from voting for non-CPP parties (see the above-mentioned SRP statement). This figure is to be compared with the 2.1 million registered voters who did not or could not vote at the July 27 poll. Based on the much smaller number of people (less than one million) who did not vote at the previous national elections, we can infer that half of the above 2.1 million people wanted to vote but could not because they were disenfranchised. This led to the lowest voter turnout for a national election since the poll organized by the United Nations in 1993. The three opposition parties are now collecting petitions throughout the country from those voters who deplored the loss of their voting rights.

For each of the two hypotheses, we have revised the election results by:

a) Taking back from the CPP votes associated with forged 1018 forms.

b) Increasing, for the main non-CPP parties (SRP, HRP, NRP, Funcinpec), the number of their votes by the number of disenfranchised voters, using an allocation key that reflects the actual breakdown of non-CPP votes based on figures published by the NEC.

The minimum hypothesis shows the following results:

- CPP: 3.34 million votes; 78 seats

- SRP: 1.75 million votes; 34 seats

- HRP: 0.52 million votes; 7 seats

- NRP: 0.45 million votes; 2 seats

- Funcinpec: 0.40 million votes; 2 seats.

Total CPP + Funcinpec: 3.74 million votes; 80 seats

Total SRP + HRP + NRP: 2.72 million votes; 43 seats

The maximum hypothesis shows the following results:

- CPP: 2.50 million votes; 67 seats

- SRP: 1.87 million votes; 41 seats

- HRP: 0.56 million votes; 7 seats

- NRP: 0.48 million votes; 3 seats

- Funcinpec: 0.43 million votes; 5 seats.

Total CPP + Funcinpec: 2.93 million votes; 72 seats

Total SRP + HRP + NRP: 2.91 million votes; 51 seats

Furthermore, CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap's statement about the "three opposition parties" having "representatives" in the National Election Committee is simply not true.

In all cases NEC members had to resign from their original parties; therefore, to say that NEC has political party members as its representatives is a mistake. In any case, no NEC members came from NRP and HRP and only two members were originally from SRP, versus five from CPP and two from Funcinpec, making a total of nine.

What's more, the representatives originally from SRP had actually protested in writing against NEC's plan to unfairly delete voters' names, but they were overruled, which is hardly surprising given they were by far in the minority.

Finally, Cheam Yeap advocated that the NEC's proceedings were observed for irregularities at all levels by international observers and party representatives. In this connection, what does this CPP official think about the assessment by the EU Election Observation Mission that the Cambodian elections of 2008 "fell short of key international standards"?

Sam Rainsy
SRP President

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Cambodia Genocide Tribunal Indicts Khmer Rouge Prison Chief

Cambodia Genocide Tribunal Indicts Khmer Rouge Prison Chief

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (FOXNews) — Cambodia's genocide tribunal formally indicted a former prison chief of the country's notorious Khmer Rouge on Tuesday, paving the way for a historic trial.

The U.N.-assisted tribunal said in a statement Tuesday that its investigating judges issued the indictment upon ending their investigation of Kaing Guek Eav — also known as Duch — whose Phnom Penh prison was used as a torture center.

Duch, charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, is the first suspect to be indicted by the tribunal. He and four other former senior members of the Khmer Rouge, who held power in the late 1970s, were taken into custody last year.

The radical policies of the communist group are considered responsible for the deaths of some 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution. No senior member of the group has ever stood trial for the atrocities.

The tribunal's announcement marks another "important moment in the history of the court," said Peter Foster, a spokesman for the U.N.-assisted tribunal.

He said the indictment sets the stage for the first trial of the tribunal, which began its work in early 2006. No date has yet been set for a trial, but tribunal officials have previously said it was expected to begin in late September.

Duch, 66, headed S-21 prison, the Khmer Rouge's largest torture facility, which used to be a school and is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. About 16,000 men, women and children are believed to have been held there. Only 14 are thought to have survived.

When Duch was detained by the tribunal in July last year, he was charged only with crimes against humanity, with the war crimes charge being added with the end of the investigation against him.

Duch will be tried by a panel of five judges — three Cambodian, one French and one New Zealander — according to a 2003 pact between Cambodia and the United Nations establishing the tribunal.

The other four suspects being held by the tribunal are former top lieutenants of late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who died in 1998. They are former head of state Khieu Samphan, former chief ideologist Nuon Chea, ex-Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, and his wife Ieng Thirith, who served as the Khmer Rouge social affairs minister.

They also face charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Cambodian politics and disagreements between the government and the U.N. delayed the establishment of the tribunal for years. Its work was further delayed by disagreements among judges over the procedural rules and controversies involving allegations of kickbacks among Cambodian staffers.

The tribunal, which is mostly funded by donations from foreign donors, is facing a budget crunch. The $56.3 million that was originally earmarked proved inadequate because the tribunal has had to recruit more staff and expand its work.

A revised budget estimated the cost of carrying out the tribunal's work through 2010 to be $143 million. The tribunal is $86.7 million short of that goal.


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The SRP would like to draw the attention of the international community in general and the election observers in particular to the on-going treatment of the election complaints which is an integral part of the election process that international observers are supposed to monitor. The indication is that NEC, which acts as its own judge, is now undertaking the resolution of the complaints in a secretive and rushed way in order to do away with the whole issue as quickly as possible. SRP complaints are specifically processed in this way.

I- Concerning the deletion of names from the voter lists, we already have submitted lists of thousands of citizens who have complained about the loss of their voting rights. Petitions will shortly be available containing tens of thousands of more names from all over the country.

II- Concerning the forged 1018 forms, the SRP has lodged criminal complaints at the court alongside the election complaints lodged at NEC. We have provided a number of these forged 1018 forms to NEC. But we had to blind-fold the photos to preserve the security of the bearers. We can certify that the names on the forged 1018 forms are not real names. We have already shown those forged 1018 forms with the ID cards showing real names to international observers. http://tinyurl.com/5zb97k

In all cases however, the NEC should be able to know the real ID of the bearers as they delegated the power to issue 1018 forms to all commune chiefs. Different cases are possible:

1) If the NEC says that they are not able to know the real identities of the bearers, this means that they have been voluntarily negligent by giving blind power to the CPP commune chiefs as part of a plot to inflate votes for the CPP.

2) If the NEC claims that the name of the bearers reflect their real identities, we can prove the contrary by showing the bearers' ID cards.

3) If the NEC confesses that the names of the bearers are not real names, this is obvious evidence of fraud.

We have numerous indications that the forged 1018 forms were systematically and methodically issued nation-wide in a very organized manner on a very large scale, allowing hundreds of thousands of illegitimate voters to seriously affect the results of the election:

1) We have seized a number of pre-stamped and pre-signed empty 1018 forms. http://tinyurl.com/5gtsz6

2) We have in our possession photos of one venue where the forged 1018 forms were issued in a very organized way: the voter list was on one side of the commune chief, on the other side was a whole pile of 1018 forms ready to be issued. http://tinyurl.com/5nqcx4

3) We have the recorded confession of a commune clerk who says that over 200 forged 1018 forms were issued in his commune. http://tinyurl.com/5gbkoq

4) Each person who received a forged 1018 form can testify that they were never alone: in the queue there were always four or five people ahead of them and the same number behind them receiving those forms. This shows that the recipients of the forged 1018 forms were certainly not isolated cases.

SRP Members of Parliament

Last minute news (8.30 p.m.): we have just learnt that NEC has rejected all our complaints, with no exception, regardless of all the evidence that we provided.

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Giving up freedoms to settle for 'peace'

Giving Up Freedoms to Settle for 'Peace'

By A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D. (Pacific Daily News)

Whether one perceives Cambodia's recent elections as a glass half full or a glass half empty depends on one's personal political socialization.

Some would see the elections as successful, as the level of violence associated with this exercise of franchise was less than it has been in the past. Those who were victims of the violence that did occur could be expected to have a different view.

Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams warned against "the trap of using lower standards" for judging Cambodia's elections.

The Mekong Times' Ly Menghour's Aug. 4 article refers to photos depicting a finger-wagging Hun Sen apparently scolding opposition leader Sam Rainsy at a departure ceremony for King Father Norodom Sihanouk and his family on Aug. 1, as their "first public exchange of words" since the elections."

The Times says Sen called "demonic" a joint letter by the Sam Rainsy Party, the Human Rights Party, and the Norodom Ranariddh Party protesting election results; and reports Sen's warning to Rainsy that the SRP's "26 seats" won in the elections "will be divided among other (political parties)" should the SRP boycott the Sept. 24 swearing-in ceremony of the elected parliamentarians. The Times says the smiling Rainsy responded: "My party represents the votes of two million."

In his Aug. 5 letter to the editor, Rainsy declares, "the new Assembly cannot even validly convene without participation from the opposition."

Published reports state the head of the royalist FUNCINPEC party, Keo Puth Reasmey, and his wife, Princess Norodom Arunrasmey, a prime minister candidate, have been told by Sen to resign from the party.

On July 28, the Voice of America broadcast a four-party call to Cambodians and the world "not to recognize the results of the July 27, 2008, elections." Prince Sisowath Sirirath signed for FUNCINPEC.

But an Aug. 2 article by Menghour reports FUNCINPEC's reversal of opinion, as it announced after a closed meeting that it may be "not satisfied with the (election's) outcome," but it "(will) not make a complaint against the election results."

Beyond Sen and Cambodia's elections is the fundamental issue that divides peoples and nations: economic development versus rights and freedom of men.

A political animal, man seeks freedom and justice. Without justice, some men will not stop struggling, undermining a durable peace.

When I was still teaching, I attended a lunch in Washington, D.C., with two good friends: One, a political appointee, touted the policies of human rights and freedom of the United States; the other, a ranking Asian diplomat, defended his country's policy of order and security as a prerequisite to economic development.

What I injected into the discussion was my view -- summarized in "Individual freedom in stable society" in the Sept. 10, 1997, edition of the Jakarta Post, and "The world must have balance for survival," in the Sept. 7, 1997, issue of the Pacific Sunday News. Both referenced Somalia, Bosnia, Myanmar and Cambodia, where "repressive" regimes used terror against their people while the West, notably the United States, did not intervene, and how the Association of South-East Asian Nations embraced "non-interference."

I believed then and now that economic development and human rights and freedom are not mutually exclusive.

I didn't think my two friends finished their meal satisfied.

I find the July 29 Christian Science Monitor's David Montero's "In Cambodia vote, stability wins" sums up the Cambodian elections well: "Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for 23 years, won another five-year term Sunday. His party has overseen several prosperous years; critics say it stifles democracy."

Sen is credited for Cambodia's economic growth of more than 10 per cent a year since 2000. The CEO of private-equity fund Leopard Capital that will inject $500 million into Cambodia's economy, cheered Sen's election as a "best-case scenario" for big investors. I doubt if Cambodian victims of land grabbing agree.

British economist Christopher Windsor, who called Cambodians "brainless" for handing the elections to Sen, reminded that even if Cambodians make "twice more" than they did before, the goods and services are "three times more expensive," and the 10 percent growth rate that is "distributed among rich CPP members" means that "all Cambodians" are hurt.

The head of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, Galabru, spoke of the CPP's "mirage of economic stability" as the poor are being evicted from their homes and their land at an alarming rate: "You have a GDP increase, but look at the gap between rich and poor. More than 40 percent (of Cambodia's total population of 14 million) live below the standard income."

Political analyst Sedera Kim told Montero that in Asia, "you don't care about the content of democracy. You care about economic performance first." Galabru begged to differ: "Democracy anywhere, in Europe, in North America, in Asia, must be the same. This is a universal principle," she argued.

Ironically, no Cambodian is in a better position than Sen himself to redress the imbalance of values and principles, and stability and order. But he is the man who said he would stay in power until he's 90, and would not leave power even if he would not win the elections.

A balance between economic growth and human rights must be established in Cambodia, where the people have too long suffered. Unfortunately, economic growth that does not lift the poorest of boats only diminishes the horizon for the millions who are left in the shallows.

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at peangmeth@yahoo.com.

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Royalist Parties U-Turn and Accept Cambodia Poll Results

Royalist Parties U-Turn and Accept Cambodia Poll Results

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's royalist parties said Tuesday they would accept the results of last month's election, despite their previous claims that Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party had rigged the polls.

The royalist Funcinpec party and its offshoot the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) joined opposition leader Sam Rainsy late last month to complain that thousands of people were left off voter lists in the July 27 election.

Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) claimed victory as early results showed they won nearly 60 percent of the vote, and in separate statements released Tuesday the royalists said they would accept that outcome.

"NRP considers that the election ... was transparent, free, fair and in accordance with democratic process in Cambodia," the party headed by former Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh said.

His old outfit, meanwhile, said: "Although there are some technical irregularities, Funcinpec party publicly supports and accepts the temporary results of the election."

Their apparent u-turn comes after Hun Sen said last week he would include Funcinpec in the new government. He also said another party with two seats in parliament -- and apparent reference to the NRP -- had approached him.

Early results released by the National Election Committee (NEC) show the CPP winning 58.1 percent of the vote, compared with 21.9 percent for its nearest rival, the Sam Rainsy Party.

Hun Sen's CPP has said it captured at least 90 of the 123 parliament seats up for grabs. Funcinpec and the NRP are believed to have won only two seats each.

The final NEC tally will be announced in September, ahead of the forming of a new government.

International monitors have said the election was flawed and did not meet key standards, despite a more peaceful campaign and improvements in the electoral process compared to past polls here.

Sam Rainsy has estimated that one million registered voters were cut from the rolls and has demanded a re-vote.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Cambodian Information Minister Denies Reports Talks With Thailand Terminated

Cambodian Information Minister Denies Reports Talks With Thailand Terminated

By: iStockAnalyst

On 5 August, Cambodian Government-run Phnom Penh Television Kampuchea in Cambodian at 0552 gmt carried a 10-minute recorded video interview, following its midday newscast, with Information Minister Khieu Kanharit by an unidentified Television Kampuchea correspondent on the current border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand.

Asked about Thailand's Bangkok Post daily and some local newspapers quoting him as saying that there would be no more talks on the current border problem with Thailand until after the formation of a new government, Khieu Kanharit said, "This is a bit of misunderstanding. I wish to point out that at the meeting between [Cambodian Foreign Minister] His Excellency [HE] Hor Namhong and [Thai Foreign Minister] HE Tej Bunnag, the top representatives of the two countries' prime ministers, in Siemreab Province, we agreed to pull troops out of that area. This means that we will withdraw the armed forces, because it is not good if troops stay close to each other." "However," he added, "this does not mean that we withdraw all our authorities from the Preah Vihear area. Our border authorities and temple security guards remain there as before.

"Anyway, what is important is that the two government representatives have already shown their goodwill in solving this border problem through peaceful means. However, there still remain more details to be resolved, as I said yesterday, with two solutions. First, the details of the troop withdrawal could be dealt with by a commission led by [Defence Minister] HE Tie Banh. As for the entire border problem, with Thailand claiming that this area belongs to it and that area belongs to Cambodia, it could be dealt with by a commission led by HE Va Kim-hong, responsible for the border delimitation. We have done this work successively.

"And as I already pointed out, the [Cambodian-Thai] border is 830- kilometre long, but we have only 73 border markers. This is a very small number. So, we need to do it in more detail. In the past, we did this only in the areas where there was no dispute, and then we moved to dispute areas where talks were tough. Therefore, it does not mean that we terminate those talks. But we cannot hold further talks because we have already pulled troops out.

"A 2000 memorandum of understanding has determined the preparation of border delimitation in detail and with precision. So, since we have already had this, there is no need for the two governments to hold talks further. I only pointed out that it was unnecessary, but if it was necessary and urgent, we could meet any time. However, as we have already determined the border at talks, it seems unnecessary for the two prime ministers' representatives to meet again while we are in the process of forming a government.

"We leave the time for the government to think of the formation of a new government, but it does not mean that we have closed the door completely. However, as the top leaders have already been in agreement, details should be left for technical teams to deal with. As such, it is not like the local newspapers and Bangkok Post said, 'It is over for now'."

Answering the TVK correspondent's question about Thai troops having put barbed wire to close the entry and exit at Ta Moan Temple and a high-level Thai official announcing Thailand's plan to have the temple registered as a World Heritage site, Khieu Kanharit said, "At first, we regret that Thailand has sent more troops to Ta Moan Temple. However, although Thailand has claimed that the temple is in its territory, and we claim that it is ours, we already said that the 2000 memorandum of understanding has determined that we will discuss the border problem peacefully, with compromise. The troop reinforcements show that Thailand does not keep its words, and it is not the manners of a civilized country having diplomatic relations with the others."

Khieu Kanharit also said that Ta Moan Temple was just a "small temple," and if compar ed to Preah Vihear Temple, it was "very far different from it and not that valuable. It is only an ordinary temple." He added, "As the temple is a dispute area, it is impossible for Thailand to make the inclusion. Maybe, the Thai official does not understand what to do to include a site in the World Heritage list. Perhaps, it is just his hint or he does not understand anything at all. However, we think that normally, that cannot be done." "It is just Thailand's illusion," he concluded.

Originally published by Television Kampuchea, Phnom Penh, in Cambodian 0000 5 Aug 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.tracking

Story Source: BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific


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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Help us free children in Cambodia from exploitation.



Hi Everyone,

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We are already making a big difference in Cambodia. Please help us
reach more families by forwarding this email to everyone you know...
don't hold back..you'll feel better for it!

Thank you for your kind support,

David Bacon

I also invite you to visit our site at www.carpetsforcommunities.org
and find out all about our project.

Carpets for Communities (Cambodia)
"Empowering Mothers to break the cycle of Poverty"
Email: davidbacon@carpetsforcommunities.org
Mobile: +61 (0)424 511 155

Check out Carpets for Communities project in Cambodia on YouTube:

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donate to Charity for Free!
Set your Mum's home page.. I set my Mum's already!

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Cambodia's Free Press Under Fire


Cambodia's Free Press Under Fire

By Sophal Ear and John A. Hall
Published: July 27, 2008 (International Herald Tribune)

On the evening of July 11, Khim Sambor, a Cambodian journalist, was shot to death in public by two unidentified men on a motorbike. He was a member of an increasingly endangered species in Cambodia: a journalist for one of only two opposition newspapers still permitted to operate by Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

Although Cambodia held nominally democratic national elections on Sunday, this is clearly a country in which the Fourth Estate - the free press - is in serious and perhaps terminal jeopardy.

Just a month prior to Sambor's murder, the military police arrested his editor, Dam Sith, after his newspaper reported on allegations about the current foreign minister's role during the Khmer Rouge regime. Although Sith was released after a week in jail and the foreign minister dropped his lawsuit against the editor, he still faces criminal charges of defamation and disinformation under Cambodia's penal code.

Sith's arrest came only days after the Ministry of Information ordered the closing of a provincial radio station, Angkor Ratha FM105.25, shortly after it leased air time to four political parties, none of which happened to include the governing Cambodian People's Party, or CPP.

According to the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 21 local human rights organizations, Khim Sambor's murder was related to his journalism. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has analyzed his most recent articles and found that they dealt with allegations of government corruption, internal rifts inside the governing CPP, and questions about the distribution of benefits from recent Chinese investment in Cambodia.

Sambor is at least the 12th journalist to have been killed since 1992, when the United Nations landed in Cambodia to undertake what was then its largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. The UN ran Cambodia's first national election after a decade of Vietnamese occupation and the Killing Fields. Although a royalist party won that ballot, Hun Sen refused to relinquish power and forced a power-sharing agreement that created an unstable dual prime ministership. He ousted his rival prime minister in a coup in July 1997. Elections in 2003 saw the creation of the world's largest cabinet, with more than 300 ministers, secretaries of state, and undersecretaries, far outnumbering members of parliament and senators, combined.

To be fair, a decade and a half after the UN authority arrived, this election season has shaped up to be Cambodia's least deadly for politicians. The police commissioner of Phnom Penh noted that the number of murders have decreased in comparison to the previous election campaign in July 2003.

With the election on Sunday, Cambodia has entered a new phase of managed democracy: Mostly gone are the brazen assassinations of non-governing party candidates, people like Om Radsady, a former royalist member of Parliament who was killed five months shy of the 2003 ballot by two gunmen in Phnom Penh. Radsady allegedly floated the provocative idea of asking the prime minister to answer questions before the National Assembly concerning anti-Thai riots that had resulted in the burning of the Thai Embassy and the destruction of Thai businesses in January 2003.

While it is no mystery that the CPP will win the current elections in Putin-like fashion, what the governing party needs - more than the veneer of electoral legitimacy - is accountability. The real challenge is not just elections for their own sake - Cambodia has proven that a country can have a series of less and less violent elections that result in the same outcome, in which the governing party consolidates power - but the creation and preservation of checks and balances within single-party rule. These are virtually nonexistent in Cambodia. The judiciary is captured and both the National Assembly and Senate are powerless against an executive that rules by edict.

Cambodians know all too well the Chinese adage: "Kill the chicken to scare the monkey."

Now, the Fourth Estate is under fire. All of the country's television stations are pro-government, while the number of independent radio stations has dwindled to two. Speaking truth to power has never been more difficult than at times like these. Supporting a free press in Cambodia has never been more critical.

Sophal Ear is an assistant professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. John A. Hall is an associate professor at Chapman University School of Law, Orange, California. The views expressed are those of the authors alone.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Richard Marles Witnesses Cambodian Democracy

INTERNATIONAL WATCH: Corio MP Richard Marles led an Australian delegation observing the recent Cambodian election.

Richard Marles Witnesses Cambodian Democracy

MEMBER for Corio Richard Marles has returned from observing Cambodian general elections confident democracy is moving forward.

Mr Marles said troubling issues remained in the country 15 years on from its first elections but people's pride in the democratic process was clear.

"It's fair to say Cambodia still has a way to go to becoming a fully democratic country," Mr Marles said.

"But having said that, from an optimistic point of view and Australia's point of view, which is important given its investment in the country, they're making progress."

Mr Marles led an Australian delegation including MPs Mark Coulton, Nola Marino and Senator Rachel Siewert.

They were part of a 17,000-strong team of local and international people who monitored the election, won by Prime Minister Hun Sen with a sweeping majority.

International observers said the election process fell short of international standards.

Mr Marles said the Australian Government had pointed to areas of concern.

A journalist who wrote a scathing comment about Hun Sen was murdered a few days later along with his son and, in a separate incident, a newspaper editor was jailed for comment.

"I guess the extent of the use or support of the public service for the ruling party was also a concern, and they are concerns Australia has raised with the Cambodian Government," Mr Marles said.

He said he found the visit emotionally moving as the group spent time at Cambodia's killing fields and noted that trials of Khmer Rouge leaders were still under way.

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A Gentlemanly Invasion


A Gentlemanly Invasion

By James Pringle Published: July 31, 2008
(International Herald Tribune)
The Global Edition of The New York Times

PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia: The foxholes, minefields and straggling lines of muddy trenches with machine guns poking out make the scene near the 900-year-old Hindu temple here look more like an image from World War I than the latest flare-up of Indochinese conflict.

Still, this disputed no man's land could never be the site of spontaneous soccer matches between enemies like those on the Western front - there's room only for a game of ping-pong or perhaps badminton, if anyone felt inclined, which is unlikely.

The trenches manned by hundreds of Thai and Cambodian troops are from 3 to 25 yards apart. If shooting broke out on what the Thais wryly call the "samoraphum" or "battlefield" - a Sanskrit word also used in Khmer - there would be carnage. But today the mingling soldiers exchange cigarettes and snap images of one another with their mobile phone cameras, which they use to reassure their families at home.

Thailand and Cambodia both claim the 1.8 square miles of land surrounding the Preah Vihear temple, which has belonged to Cambodia since the International Court of Justice ruled in its favor in 1962, and the quarrel has raised nationalist heat in both countries. While both sides say they will refrain from hostilities, the propinquity of the forces spells real risk of mayhem if someone accidentally looses off a shot.

So far, there has been only one casualty - a Thai captain who lost a leg to a mine, probably planted in an earlier war against another invading army, Vietnam's. Historically, Cambodia has long been plagued by land-grabbing from neighbors east and west.

The soldiers here are armed with an eclectic mix of weapons. Thais have state-of-the-art American rifles; the Cambodians are using the stuff of past conflicts, especially Chinese-made B40 rocket-launchers from the Vietnam War era. The B40s were unstable then, so what are they like now?

It is the wet season, and the rains lash down, soaking everything. "We are living like worms," a Thai soldier says of life in his trench.

The Thai soldiers seem to go out of their way to be polite, almost as if they were embarrassed to have made an armed entry into Cambodian-held territory, whether or not it is disputed land. You could call it a gentlemanly invasion.

But the Cambodians have deployed former forces of the Khmer Rouge - war-hardened guerrillas who brought on the "Killing Fields" of the 1970s. They are now integrated into Cambodia's armed forces, even though their onetime leaders currently face trial at a war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh.

From Thailand, Preah Vihear is an easy drive along a tarred road. Although the border is now closed here, there is a small entry track that is kept open to bring in food prepared in Thailand for Thai troops.

On the Cambodian side, there's a gruelling 12-hour haul over unpaved roads from Phnom Penh, then a steep, almost vertical uphill climb of two-and-a-half miles to the temple, built on an outcrop 1,600 feet up in the Dangrek Mountains. The view over Cambodia is now one of deforested jungle, almost bereft of wildlife.

When they are asked which country the territory around the temple belongs to, the oh-so-polite Thai soldiers shrug and say: "I don't know," or "It's disputed," or "it overlaps." None of them said, "This is our land." Then they invite a visitor to join in an imported meal.

Asked how the stalemate will all end, one Thai veteran points toward heaven and says: "Only the higher-ups know."

The Thai soldiers seem to have an unspoken sense that they are pawns in a political game between the Thai government and its domestic opposition.

The Cambodians are more bitter: Many say that they have been invaded.

At a Buddhist pagoda - both Cambodians and Thais share the Theravada branch of the religion - the Cambodians pray for Thai defeat. "May the mosquitoes give them malaria so they all go home," one one asks.

Cambodian tourists come with food for their country's troops and pose in dramatic postures with loaded B40 rocket-launchers borrowed from the troops - even though an accidental discharge could ignite disaster.

The Cambodians don't seem to realize that they too are pawns to posturing politicians: Hun Sen, the Cambodian strongman, used the temple standoff to gain support in the election last Sunday in which he has already claimed a major victory.

This will be borne out if the Thai-Cambodian confrontation suddenly ends - possibly in compromise - after official confirmation of Hun Sen's victory. Otherwise, the confrontation will bog down in the cloying mud, with an ever-increasing risk of an escalation that no one wants.

James Pringle covered the Vietnam and Cambodian wars.


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Cambodia’s Election Stability, Sort of

Cambodia’s Election Stability, Sort of

Jul 31st 2008 | PHNOM PENH (The Economist)

WHETHER Cambodia’s general election on July 27th was a success or a travesty depends on what you compare it with. A team of European Union observers said it fell well below international democratic standards. Tens of thousands of opposition supporters were excluded from the electoral register. There was widespread impersonation of voters, plus the usual vote-buying and glaring pro-government bias by broadcasters.

However, the election was also the least violent since the United Nations-sponsored one in 1993 that marked the end of decades of civil war. The victory of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and its leader, Hun Sen, means Cambodia is set for a further five years of corrupt and inept government but also, probably, of continued stability and rising prosperity.

Preliminary results suggest the CPP won around 90 seats (up from 73) in the 123-seat national assembly. The main opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, believes his party won around 27, up from 24 last time. The big losers were Cambodia’s once-powerful royalists. Divided and in disarray, the main royalist party, Funcinpec, shrank from 26 to perhaps just two seats; a splinter named after the exiled Prince Norodom Ranariddh did no better.

Though the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) wants the world to refuse to recognise the outcome, diplomats in Phnom Penh, the capital, believe the CPP has genuinely gained popularity thanks to Cambodia’s strong growth—10.3% last year, producing a boom in fancy office blocks and rural land prices. Mr Hun Sen also won some votes from his tough stance in an armed confrontation with Thailand over a patch of land near the ancient Preah Vihear temple, which a UN committee recently put on its “world heritage” list. The EU’s observers said that given the scale of the ruling party’s victory electoral fiddles seemed unlikely to have altered the outcome.

Cambodia’s election Stability, sort of

Jul 31st 2008 | PHNOM PENH

Until fairly recently Mr Hun Sen’s critics had a tendency to die violent deaths. As he has felt surer of his position, politics has become more peaceful. Patronage and pilfering are rife and the justice system almost non-existent. But foreign donors fill many of the gaps—in particular, building lots of roads and other infrastructure. Roderick Brazier of the Asia Foundation, a think-tank, says the devolution of money and powers to local communes seems to be improving ordinary people’s lives, and the appearance of a few capable technocrats in central government may help more.

Tired and angry after the election, Mr Sam Rainsy remains defiant. The collapse of the royalist movement, he says, means that now, “we are the only serious alternative. It makes the political game clearer.” He argues that the SRP, hitherto an urban party, is gaining support in the countryside. But if he were to present a serious challenge, would Mr Hun Sen revert to his old brutal ways?

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Minnows Dream of Hogging Limelight

Minnows Dream of Hogging Limelight

SINGAPORE (AFP) — Powerhouse nations like China, the United States and Russia might grab all the Olympic gold medal attention but the world's sporting minnows plan to grab at least some of the limelight.

While some nations might whine about winning dozens of medals, others will be glad of just one -- and a bronze at that.

More than 80 countries competing in Beijing have never before been on the Olympic podium. For a myriad of reasons -- political, geographical, financial -- their sporting prowess has never matured.

Tiny Brunei might be oil rich but when it comes to producing athletes, it is lacking big time. The small monarchy on the island of Borneo will be competing in its fifth Summer Olympics but will inevitably go home empty-handed.

Bhutan is bigger than Brunei but remains one of the most secluded countries in the world, tucked between Asian heavyweights China and India.

Their national sport is archery -- competitions are held regularly in villages throughout the monarchy -- and they have an outside chance after six Games with no joy.

The Maldives, like Brunei, has a population of less than 400,000 and has similarly lacked medals. Being a series of tropical islands it is not surprising that their best hope this year is in swimming.

Cambodia may not be a minnow in population terms, but it remains that way in the sporting arena.

Its troubled history meant that sport was put on hold for most of the 1970s and 1980s, before it once again took part in the Olympics in 1996.

Boxing is its forte and 15 athletes will be in Beijing, including swimmer Hem Thon Ponloeu and his 16-year-old niece Hem Thon Vitiny.

Timor-Leste, one of the world's poorest countries, became the first new nation of the 21st century when it declared independence from Indonesia in 2002, just in time to send a team to Athens.

It's key sports are boxing, weightlifting, taekwondo and athletics.

But severe shortages of money, facilities and equipment means the nation faces more obstacles than most in achieving its Olympic dream, and only marathon runners Antonio Ramos and Mariana Diaz Ximenez will be in Beijing.

"In all the other sports we cannot qualify to participate in Beijing. Sport is not a priority for the government of East Timor and our infrastructure is non-existent," said Joao Carrascalao, the head of Timor's Olympic committee.

"We don't have any hope of winning the marathon, but to finish the marathon is already an achievement."

War-torn Iraq will send just two athletes - Haidar Nasir in the discus and sprinter Danma Hussein - following a spat with the International Olympic Committee last month that led to the suspension of Iraq's Olympic committee.

Agreement between the IOC and the Iraqi government was only reached on Wednesday and by that time the deadline for competitors had passed for all events except athletics.

Like many Asian nations, Africa has its fair share on non-achievers.

While countries like Ethiopia and Kenya have a tradition of churning out world-beating distance runners, the vast majority of Africa nations have never produced the goods.

This includes Angola, Chad, Gambia, Liberia, and Malawi.

Rwanda is another lacking the means to focus on sport, whose main medal hopes are Dieudonne Disi in the 10,000m and Epiphanie Nyirabarame in the women's marathon. Nigeria will be looking towards jukoda Vivian Yusuf.

Other countries never to have made the podium include Bolivia, Cook Islands, Jordan, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Tajikistan, Vanuatu, and Yemen.

A handful of nations have won just one bronze medal since the Games started in 1896, including Iraq, Kuwait, Niger, Kyrgyzstan, and Guyana.

Panama and Qatar have two bronze each while highflyers such as Vietnam, Paraguay, Tonga, and Senegal have a silver medal to their name.

There have been some surprising flops over the years, with countries like Malaysia only ever collecting three medals (one silver and two bronze), on a par with Iceland.



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