Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cambodia farm land sold to wealthy nations

Cambodia farm land sold to wealthy nations

Last Modified: 29 Jan 2009
By: Nick Paton Walsh (Channel4 News)

Countries who are unable to produce enough food for themselves are scouring the world for cheap farmland to grow food and export it home, reports Nick Paton Walsh.

Never mind the food miles: when prices are soaring around the world some countries have found a way of keeping their own consumers happy - farming out their farms overseas.

China, South Korea and many Arab nations can't produce enough food for themselves, but they do have cash and plenty of it.

Now they are scouring the world for cheap farmland to grow their own food and export it home. It's a global trend which has already got the United Nations worried.

Huge plots of land in Africa have been secured and now many rich nations are looking elsewhere for farmland.

One of Asia's poorest countries, Cambodia, is at the top of their wish list.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

UN Special rapporteur on adequate housing denounces forced evictions in Cambodia

UN Special rapporteur on adequate housing denounces forced evictions in Cambodia

30 January 09 (Human Rights Tribune)

UN, Geneva - The following statement on the latest in a series of forced evictions in Cambodia was issued today by the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik:

“More than 130 families were forcibly evicted during the night of 23 and 24 January 2009 from Dey Krahorm, in central Phnom Penh to make way for a private company to redevelop the site.

The forced eviction was carried out in the middle of the night, without prior notice and the shelters belonging to this poor community were torn down and destroyed. This situation has grave consequences for all the victims, but particularly the women and children. Reports also state that prior to the eviction, the community suffered intimidation and community representatives and members were also subjected to criminal charges.

It is regrettable that the ongoing negotiations with the residents were abandoned, casting aside a valuable opportunity to reach a just and lawful solution to this longstanding dispute. It is now of utmost importance that the rights of the residents to fair compensation for their lost homes and property and the provision of adequate alternative housing are fully respected.

Unfortunately this is by no means an isolated case, and the increase in forced evictions throughout Cambodia is very alarming. Reports indicate that tens of thousands of poor people have been forcibly evicted and displaced, pushing them into homelessness and further destitution.

In Cambodia, a consistent pattern of violation of rights has been observed in connection with forced evictions: systematic lack of due process and procedural protections; inadequate compensation; lack of effective remedies for communities facing eviction; excessive use of force; and harassment, intimidation and criminalization of NGOs and lawyers working on this issue.

Forced evictions constitute a grave breach of human rights. They can be carried out only in exceptional circumstances and with the full respect of international standards. Given the disastrous humanitarian situation faced by the victims of forced evictions, I urge the Cambodian authorities to establish a national moratorium on evictions until their policies and actions in this regard have been brought into full conformity with international human rights obligations.”

The former Special Rapporteur on adequate housing conducted a mission to Cambodia in 2005 and presented a mission report on his findings and recommendations (E/CN.4/2006/41/Add.3). Concerns on forced evictions in Cambodia have been shared through a large number of communications by the Special Rapporteur with the authorities. These communications remain unanswered to date.

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Ke Kim Yan uncertain of future plans

Ke Kim Yan uncertain of future plans

Written by Thet Sambath (Phnom Penh Post)
Friday, 30 January 2009

GENERAL Ke Kim Yan, former commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, is uncertain of the future following his unceremonious removal from the post last week.

"I have no idea of what work I will do in future," Ke Kim Yan told the Post Thursday. "The whole country knows I have stopped being commander-in-chief, [so] let everything be quiet from now on."

The general previously said he resigned his post for "health" reasons, but Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay said Tuesday that the CPP stalwart was removed by Prime Minister Hun Sen because his business activities were distracting him from his role as head of the armed forces.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen told a Cabinet meeting that Ke Kim Yan has a lot of land. He is a military officer, and he is also involved in business," he said. "While he is in the military and does business, he should give up his work."

But a senior official in the Council of Ministers, who declined to be named, said the prime minister was more specific, saying the former RCAF chief was removed for illegal land deals and failing to fulfill the duties of his office.

"Ke Kim Yan was withdrawn from the post of commander-in-chief because he has much illegal land and is not active along the border with the soldiers," the official quoted Hun Sen as saying during the Friday meeting.

"He has a lot of illegal land in the provinces ... and he is not as active as other commanders like Kun Kim and Hing Bun Heang."

"There are bigger problems than this, but we can't release them to the public. They are internal issues," the official added.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Top Military Chief Sacked for Impropriety

Top Military Chief Sacked for Impropriety: Hun Sen

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh
24 January 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday said his decision to remove a top military chief from his position Thursday was due to “land issues” and a dereliction of duties.

Gen. Ke Kim Yan “was conducting his own business” instead of performing his duties as commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, Hun Sen told a weekly Cabinet meeting.

Ke Kim Yan was backing the illegal purchase of land in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, Kampot province’s Phnom Vor area and sites in the provinces of Banteay Meanchey and Stung Treng, Hun Sen said.

Ke Kim Yan could not be reached for comment Friday. He was removed from his post late Thursday by royal decree following the request of Hun Sen.

Replacing Ke Kim Yan is his deputy, Gen. Pol Saroeun. Also promoted to deputy commanders of RCAF by the royal decree are military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Mol Roeup, military police commander Lt. Gen. Sao Sokha and the chief of Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit, Lt. Gen. Hing Bun Heang, among others.

Pol Saroeun declined Friday to comment on the removal of Ke Kim Yan, saying it was an internal military matter.

It remained unclear Friday whether Ke Kim Yan would be given another command or remain in the army. Hun Sen told his Cabinet a new position had not yet been considered for the former chief.

The sacking comes as Cambodian continues a months-long military standoff with Thailand on the border of Preah Vihear province.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is scheduled for border talks with his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, in Phnom Penh Sunday and Monday. Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the removal of Ke Kim Yan would not affect the talks.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Four Star General Ke Kim Yan removed from post

Ke Kim Yan removed from post

Cambodia's Gen. Ke Kim Yan, left, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, listens to his Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, during the celebration of Independent Day, Nov. 9, 2007, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The head of Cambodia's armed forces has been dismissed from his post and replaced by a loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Cambodia's Gen. Ke Kim Yan, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, is seen on June 26, 2007, at Kampot province, about 130 kilometers (80. 6 miles) southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The head of Cambodia's armed forces has been dismissed from his post and replaced by a loyalist of Prime Minister Hun Sen.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Source: Phnom Penh Post

GENERAL Ke Kim Yan, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and long-time loyalist of Cambodian People's Party President Chea Sim, has been removed from his post in a sweeping reshuffle of the Kingdom's military leadership.

According to a royal decree broadcast Thursday on Apsara Television, Ke Kim Yan's deputy, General Pol Saroeun, has been appointed commander-in-chief, and seven officers have been bumped up to the post of deputy commander-in-chief, including Hun Sen loyalists General Kun Kim and General Meas Sophea.

When contacted by the Post Thursday, Pol Saroeun confirmed he had been promoted. When asked how he felt about it, he replied: "I am modest."

Nem Sowath, Cabinet chief for the Ministry of Defence, said that it was a routine reshuffle of the Kingdom's top brass. "There has been no problem," he said.

He added that Ke Kim Yan had led the army for many years and had made "enviable achievements" since being appointed to the post.

Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party , said the reshuffle was likely a result of internal CPP power politics.

"We have long heard rumours that Prime Minister Hun Sen had plans to remove Ke Kim Yan from commander of RCAF because of an internal dispute," he said, referring to speculation that has abounded since 1997 when reports of Ke Kim Yan's death in the factional fighting sent his family fleeing to Thailand. Although the reports proved erronrous, it later emerged Ke Kim Yan had disputed an order to deploy the army on the streets of Phnom Penh.

In 1999, when Hun Sen appointed Kun Kim to the general staff, observers cast it as a move by the prime minister to tighten his grip on RCAF.
A three-star RCAF general who declined to be named said that he was "very surprised" to hear of the transfer.

"If he was withdrawn from his post without real reason, there could be a reaction from soldiers and commanders," he said.

But Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the National Assembly, denied the move was a sign of internal divisions in the party. "There is no such dispute in the CPP," Nguon Nhel said. "If there was a dispute, the CPP would not have such support."

Ke Kim Yan could not be reached for comment Thursday.


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Four Stars General Ke Kim Yan was Sacked

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

alliance between the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and the Human Rights Party (HRP)

The idea of an alliance between the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and the Human Rights Party (HRP) in Cambodia slowly but surely reached the successful shores of completion. The presidents of both parties, Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, signed on Thursday January 15th a common declaration officially establishing the “Democratic Movement for Change”, sealed with a frenetic handshake and a mutual smile. In Kem Sokha's own words, this “historic” moment was welcomed with profuse applause by elected representatives and campaigners from both opposition political formations gathered for the occasion at the SRP headquarters. From now on, the candidates will stand for election under one name but insisted their Movement was in no way the merging of their respective parties.

The idea of a Movement had been ripening for a while
When they registered their formations at the Cambodian National Election Committee (NEC) before the July 2008 legislative elections, the issue was raised. They eventually decided to stand for election as two different parties. After the July 27th 2008 elections, which confirmed the domination of Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) on the Cambodian political scene, SRP and HRP leaders, together with representatives of the FUNCINPEC and Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), presented a united front in their protest against the election results. A long crusade of denunciation ensued, but Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha soon found themselves alone in the equation and battling side by side for their common cause.

Since then, they often aligned themselves with each other's ideas without however setting up any official rapprochement between their parties. On December 18th, Kem Sokha, back from a trip to North America, expressed his wish for the creation of the alliance they had mentioned many times before. The principle of the alliance seemed more or less established since on September 17th 2008, both parties had set up a technical committee in charge of laying the foundations for their union, composed of representatives from both formations.

Initiating change with a view to change society
The new “Democratic Movement for Change”, as its name suggests, aims at gathering “true democratic forces” with the continuous goal of operating “change in the Cambodian society”, Kem Sokha explained in an introduction to the press conference called for the occasion. “The creation of this Movement will allow citizens to make their choice more easily in future elections, and it is a response to a request made by our fellow-citizens”, he added.

Sam Rainsy, answering a question formulated by Mam Sonando, director of Radio Beehive (FM 105) who was in the audience among other journalists, publicly thanked him for having encouraged, very early, both parties to unite. To Mam Sonando's question on whether the formations had thought over the conditions of their alliance to prevent a potential separation in the future, the SRP president replied that discussions on that subject had started the very day after the legislative elections. “After the elections, we both made the same observation: time had come to change the direction of the country, and besides it is currently a trend in democratic countries. As a consequence we will elaborate a joint list to stand for the 2012 communal elections and the next legislative elections in 2013. I am convinced that other political formations will join our alliance”, he said, hopeful.

SRP / HRP? Who will hold the reins?
But what about the allocation of tasks and the roles of each within the Movement? The crowd of journalists was dying to receive an answer, but Sam Rainsy shrugged it off, insisting that “what matters is change”. “Cambodia and the Khmer people need change. And for democratic change to happen, the people must have a new choice!”, he maintained.

Neither of them set conditions on the way responsibilities will be allocated. “We do not need to do that. We will not compete, and rivalries between our parties will not matter much. If any competition there is, it will then be with another party. The goal is to have more influence than that party... [...] In a word, anyone will be entitled to be a candidate to the position of Prime Minister or president of the Movement, as long as these persons respect the principles of the Movement”, Sam Rainsy detailed.

Kem Sokha agreed with his political partner: “The problem is not there. What we want is to serve the interest of the nation and Khmer citizens. If we need power, it is democratic power we are talking about! Our Movement has a solid foundation and a position which is far from being inconsistent. We are not affiliated to any other Cambodian political party and we do not depend on any foreign group. [...] We will not argue about power, but we will act on behalf of the Democratic Movement for Change, not on behalf of the SRP or the HRP.”

“Should disagreements arise, this will not mean that we have become enemies. Unity will prevail, it is a principle!”, Kem Sokha asserted. As for Sam Rainsy, no concern to be raised on that matter either. He gave as an example the case of the United States: “Before being elected president, Barack Obama was Hillary Clinton's rival. But after the elections, he offered her the position of Secretary of State [the equivalent of a Minister of Foreign Affairs] and even kept the Minister of Defence from G. W. Bush's government!”

Perspectives on the long run
Sam Rainsy claimed he believed in the longevity of their Movement, “which must hold on at least until we meet our goal: achieving democratic change”. In a merely concealed reference to difficulties encountered by the FUNCINPEC and its alliances with the CPP, he promised that the Democratic Movement for Change would not be weakened by petty internal quarrels “like other parties” suffered in 1998 and 2003. He did not fail to have a dig at “some” who chose to rally to the ruling party in exchange for good job positions and money.

The SRP and the HRP will continue discussing issues to detail in depth the new structure of the alliance. Sam Rainsy already foresees good results in the next election polls since “as it was the case in the United States, people always need change”. As a reminder, the SRP won 26 seats in the National Assembly and the HRP, 3, in the last legislative elections, out of a total of 123 MP seats. Kem Sokha, for his part, also nourishes “great hopes” for the next polls. “Here, we have already gathered strength and responded to a wish expressed by many citizens. Now, we still have to fight for free and fair elections”, he declared, before calling SRP and HRP activists to “work hand in hand as from today”.

Besides, to those who might question the legality of their alliance, both leaders said their action was part of a “legal, peaceful and democratic frame”. They called intellectuals in the country, Khmer citizens from Cambodia and abroad and other campaigners from other parties potentially tempted to take part in the adventure, to join the new alliance, because “the time has come to speak with one voice”.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Mr. Somchai at the wedding of Hun Sen’s daughter

Ex-Thai prime minister attended the wedding of PM Hun Sen’s daughter

Mr. Somchai (L) and PM Hun Sen (R) walk hands in hands cordially during the wedding ceremony.
Mr. Somchai and his wife participated in a hair-cutting ceremony of the bride and bridegroom.

3rd January, 2009
Translated from Khmer by Khmerization

The surprised appearance of ex-Thai PM, Mr. Somchai Wongsawat, at the wedding of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter, Ms. Hun Mana, has attracted curious attention from many senior government officials.

Mr. Somchai arrived in Cambodia on the 2nd of January with his wife and 4-5 assistants. Upon their arrival at the airport, they were whisked away straight to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Takhmao city of Kandal province in order to attend the wedding of Mr. Hun Sen‘s daughter.

At the wedding ceremony, Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Somchai have chatted cordially in front of many important guests.

Samdech Hun Sen and Lok Chumteav Bun Rany invited Mr. Somchai and his wife to participate in a haircutting ceremony of the bride and bridegroom and in other various ceremonies in accordance with the Khmer tradition.

Mr. Somchai accepted the invitation happily as he considered the Khmer and Thai traditions are very similar and both countries practise the same form of Buddhism.

Mr. Khieu Kanharith, the government spokesman, said that the invitation and the attendance of Mr. Somchai to the wedding of Samdech Hun Sen’s daughter is a private matter. He added that Mr. Somchai and Samdech Hun Sen have been friends for a long time, since before Mr. Somchai became Thailand’s prime minister.

Even though the invitation of Mr. Somchai is a private invitation, it shows that, in term of friendship and co-operation, both countries can still be good friends with each other. Prime Minister Hun Sen used to say that ‘if we (both countries) don’t have a concrete bridge, even a bamboo bridge is better than no bridge at all.’

Mr. Somchai, even though he is no longer a prime minister, but he used to be a special politician who had been actively involved in Thai politics for a long time. Please note that, Mr. Somchai, after attended the wedding of Mr. Hun Sen’s daughter, has attended a luncheon in his honour at Mondiale Centre and then returned to his native country on the same day.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has 5 children: 3 sons and 2 daughters. Ms. Hun Mana, the bride, is the second daughter who is a director-general of the Bayon TV. The bridegroom is Mr. Dy Vichea Chetra, the first son of the late Gen. Hok Lundy, the ex-National Police Commissioner of Cambodia. The late Gen. Hok Lundy has 5 children: 3 sons and 2 daughters.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Elixir Gaming Enters into Agreement with NagaWorld Limited

Elixir Gaming Enters into Agreement with NagaWorld Limited to Place and Operate Gaming Machines on Participation Basis at Leading Cambodian Casino Resort

Mon Jan 5, 2009 7:00am EST
Soure: Reuters

LAS VEGAS--(Business Wire)--
Elixir Gaming Technologies, Inc. (AMEX:EGT) ("Elixir Gaming" or "the Company"),
a provider of gaming technology solutions to the Pan-Asian gaming industry,
announced today that it has entered into a contract with NagaWorld Limited, a
wholly owned subsidiary of the Hong Kong listed NagaCorp Ltd. (HKSE:3918), to
place electronic gaming machines on a participation basis at its NagaWorld, a
five-star hotel casino resort in Cambodia. The only licensed full service casino
in Phnom Penh, NagaWorld is a luxury destination resort.

Under the terms of the agreement, Elixir Gaming will place electronic gaming
machines in a prescribed area of NagaWorld`s 14-story hotel wing and will share
in the gross revenue generated by each machine. It is expected that
approximately 140 electronic gaming machines will be placed in the prescribed
area and Elixir Gaming and NagaWorld will have joint control over the operation
of the electronic gaming machines, including floor staffs and respective audit
rights. Elixir Gaming anticipates the electronic gaming machines to be in
operation in time for the upcoming Chinese New Year in late January 2009.
Subject to certain milestones and agreement between the parties, the Company
expects that the electronic gaming machines placed by it at NagaWorld may be
increased to over 200 by the second quarter of 2009.

NagaWorld is Cambodia`s only integrated hotel casino entertainment complex,
located in the heart of the nation`s capital city of Phnom Penh. One of
Cambodia`s most popular tourist destinations, NagaWorld currently has, among
others, 508 rooms, 176 table games, a premium meeting, incentive travel,
convention, and exhibition (MICE) facility, a retail shopping area, a collection
of restaurants and bars, a karaoke lounge, and a spa.

Clarence Chung, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, commented,
"We are excited to work with such a well-established gaming operator with a
proven track record of operating excellence, deep industry experience, and
extensive local knowledge and networking. NagaWorld is one of the premier hotel
casino resort destinations in Southeast Asia and its five-star amenities rival
those of many of the high-end casinos in major gaming markets worldwide.

Through Elixir Gaming`s expertise in developing full scale slot operations, as
well as collaborative marketing efforts, we believe we can drive even greater
player traffic and gaming revenue to NagaWorld`s already successful operation."

Stuart Sandon, Senior Vice President of NagaWorld Ltd., added, "Elixir Gaming`s
market knowledge and ability to develop and implement turnkey slot floor
solutions will help to solidify what is an important component to NagaWorld`s
gaming operation. We look forward to the benefit that Elixir Gaming`s expertise
and industry relationships, as well as its established and growing base of
operations will bring to the long-term success of our facility."

About Elixir Gaming Technologies, Inc.

Elixir Gaming Technologies, Inc. (AMEX:EGT) is a provider of gaming technology
solutions. The Company secures long-term contracts to provide comprehensive
turn-key solutions to 3, 4, and 5 star hotels and other well-located venues
throughout Asia that seek to offer casino gaming products. The Company retains
ownership of the gaming machines and systems and receives recurring daily fees
that average in excess of 20% of the net gaming win per machine and provides
on-site maintenance. The Company has established a strategic presence in the
Asia Pacific region with a focus on the Philippines and Cambodia markets. For
more information please visit www.elixirgaming.com.

About NagaCorp Ltd.

NagaCorp Ltd. (3918.HK) operates NagaWorld, the only licensed 5-Star Hotel
Casino Resort in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. NagaCorp holds a casino
license issued by the Royal Govemment of Cambodia, which gives the company the
rights to operate the casino for 70 years commencing January 1995 with 41 years
exclusivity within a 200 kilometer radius of Phnom Phen (except the
Cambodia-Vietnam boarder area, Bokor, Kirirom Mountains, and Sihanoukville.)
NagaWorld, currently has, among others, 508 rooms and 176 table games. NagaCorp
Ltd.is incorporated in Cayman Islands with limited liability and its securities
are listed on the Main Board of The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Limited.

Forward Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements concerning Elixir Gaming,
Elixir Group and Elixir International within the meaning of Section 27A of the
Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange
Act of 1934, as amended. Those forward-looking statements include statements
regarding expectations for the business of Elixir Gaming, its working capital
requirements and future revenue and profitability. Such statements are subject
to certain risks and uncertainties, and actual circumstances, events or results
may differ materially from those projected in such forward-looking statements.
Factors that could cause or contribute to differences include, but are not
limited to, risks related to Elixir Gaming`s inability to place gaming machines
at significant levels, whether the gaming machines placed generate the expected
amount of net-win, the ability of Elixir Gaming to acquire additional capital as
and when needed, the ability of Elixir Gaming to collect revenue and protect its
assets and those other risks set forth in Elixir Gaming`s annual report on Form
10-K for the year ended December 31, 2007 filed with the SEC on March 31, 2008
and our Form 10-Q for the three months ended September 30, 2008 filed on
November 14, 2008. Elixir Gaming cautions readers not to place undue reliance on
any forward-looking statements. Elixir Gaming does not undertake, and
specifically disclaims any obligation to update or revise such statements to
reflect new circumstances or unanticipated events as they occur.

Elixir Gaming Technologies
Traci Mangini, 702-617-4741
SVP, Corporate Finance
Jaffoni & Collins Incorporated
Richard Land/Dave Jacoby, 212-835-8500


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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Born Samnang & Sok Sam Oeun Released

Cambodian Court Releases Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, Alleged Killers of Union Boss, Chea Vichea

Cambodian Sok Sam Oeun (centre) the previously convicted murderer of prominent Cambodian labour leader Chea Vichea, is escorted by police at the Supreme court in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's highest court has provisionally released two alleged killers of Vichea and ordered the case to be re-tried, citing unclear evidence.
(AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Cambodian prisoners Born Samnang, left, and Sok Sam Oeun, center, are paraded by police in Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008. A Cambodian highest court on Wednesday provisionally released the two believed to have been framed for murdering a prominent labor leader and government critic.
(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's highest court Wednesday provisionally released two alleged killers of a prominent labour leader and ordered the case to be re-tried, citing unclear evidence.

Chea Vichea, who headed the country's largest labour union and was a vocal critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen's government, was gunned down at a Phnom Penh newsstand in January 2004.

The daylight murder shocked the country and was condemned by Cambodian and international rights groups as a brutal attempt to silence the opposition-linked workers' group.

Just days after the killing, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were arrested, convicted of murder and quickly sentenced to 20 years each in prison.

International and local rights watchdogs had called the conviction and trial deeply flawed.

After the two men made their final appeal during a hearing Wednesday at the Supreme Court, judge Dith Monty, the court's president, dismissed the conviction, which was upheld by the Appeal Court in 2007.

"The case is a criminal one which requires more investigation," Dith Monty said, adding that to make sure the men's rights were not violated, the court had "decided to release the two suspects provisionally, but under watch of the court."

The judge also ordered the Appeal Court to retry the case, adding that the two men had to appear before the court when summoned.

The pair have denied any involvement in the killing. Former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who led the investigation, has also said that the two did not kill Chea Vichea.

The men told the court, which was packed with diplomats, rights activists, journalists and their relatives, that they had been framed by a group of police.

"I am not the killer," said Born Samnang, asking the judges to free him.

UN rights officials, the United States and relatives of the accused welcomed the court's decision.

"It was greeted with a warm round of applause by the public, including the families of the defendants, as it truly deserves," the UN rights office said in a statement.

The UN office "hopes that this decision will set the standards for the future handling of all criminal cases by Cambodian courts," it said.

In a statement, the United States urged the Appeal Court to "take up the case expeditiously and finally resolve this matter in a way consistent with Cambodian law and international standards of due process."

"The decision to release the two on bail and return the case to the appeals court for review was a particularly auspicious way to start the new year," said the US embassy's charge d'affaires Piper Campbell.

"I am very happy and I am excited that my son can stay out of detention," said Born Samnang's mother, Nuon Kimsry.

Rights group Amnesty International last week called for the release of the pair, saying the true perpetrators remained at large.

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