Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Friday, September 25, 2009

Clarification - Response




Translation from Khmer by Socheata

Council of Ministers
Press and Quick Reaction Unit

Clarification

According to the broadcast by Voice of America in the morning of 23 September 2009, H.E. Sam Rainsy, President of the Sam Rainsy Party, used a forum organized by the club of Thai journalists in Bangkok to criticize and attack the leadership of the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC), in particular, Samdach Akkok Moha Sena Bat Dey Dek Cho (SAMSBDDC) Hun Sen, calling him a former Khmer Rouge leader, and the [the latter is] using all means to silence the opposition voice. Regarding this unjust accusation, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit of the Council of Ministers is providing the following clarifications to the national and international opinion:

The [reason] Cambodian people is alive and receives everything as they are today is due to the gratefulness of the 07 January 1979, under the highest leadership of VIPs, such as Samdach Akkok Moha Ponhea Chak Krey Heng Xamrin, Samdach Moha Thormok Pothisal Chea Xim and SAMSBDDC Hun Sen who are currently the top leaders of the Senate, the National Assembly and the RGC, and they are also the top leaders of the CPP as well.

Under the genocidal Pol Pot regime, SAMSBDDC Hun Sen was a victim at that time, he fled the pursuit by the Khmer Rouge to kill him, and he joined with other VIPs to form the 02 December front to help liberate the people of Cambodia out of the killing fields, this is contrary to the accusations made by the opposition leader. Besides leading the liberation of the people from the genocidal regime, SAMSBDDC Hun Sen applied the win-win policy to successfully destroy the political and military Khmer Rouge organizations, and he cooperated with the UN to form the Khmer Rouge tribunal to currently judge the Khmer Rouge leaders as well.

After the 1993 election, the Cambodian kingdom No.2 upholds a plural democratic regime, and the constitution, which is the supreme law of the state, guarantees and protects the freedom of expression rights, the freedom for journalists, [the freedom] to form associations, to gather, etc… In fact, currently, we have newspapers, bulletins, magazines, radio stations, television stations, associations of journalists, for a total of 660 units, as well 2,800 NGOs, and other organizations that are conducting their activities freely in the kingdom of Cambodia and overseas, this is contrary to the accusations made by a group of immoral people. Currently, when the nation is filled with total safety throughout the country, the application of the rule of law is the primary goal of the government led by SAMSBDDC Hun Sen, only peace and the rule of law can lead the country to development according the national development policy and the rectangular strategy. The RGC respects the freedom of expression by the people, in particular that of journalists who have expert training, but they cannot use their journalist title to affect the honor of others. Therefore, any action that incites, divides the national society, causes anarchy in the society, violates the rights of others, they must absolutely be curbed through the administration of a country that is civilized, i.e. through the use of the legal system under the rule of law.

In summary, the Press and Quick Reaction unit believes that H.E. Sam Rainsy cannot maintain his dignity as politician. He always uses his personal freedom to select a foreign location to criticize and attack the country leaders, calling them dictators. H.E. Sam Rainsy never dares criticize the political goals of the government, such as criticizing the rectangular strategy and the various reforms brought up by the government, but he is turning to attack individuals instead. The criticism on individuals is universally considered as total political immorality. The lack of morality by H.E. Sam Rainsy led him to shamefully lose to H.E. Hor 5 Hong, the vice-PM and minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, [in the latter’s lawsuit] at the Paris court recently. To preserve dignity, we hope that this opposition leader will act with common sense, without seeking revenge [in order] to unite in the building and development of the country, in order to help alleviate poverty for the Cambodian people.

Done in Phnom Penh, 23 September 2009
Press and Quick Reaction Unit

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Video Clip: Mu Sochua's US Human Rights Commission Testimony 09/10/2009

Cambodian Parliamentarian Mu Sochua Testifies Before U.S. House of
Representatives Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission - Meets with U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akkqkMUtIjw


Presenting testimony before members of Congress during the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing ‘Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Cambodia’ on September 10, Parliamentarian and advocate for the Cambodian people Mu Sochua called attention to rights abuses and corruption in her native nation. A Vital Voices Global Leadership Award Honoree for her work on sex trafficking, Sochua was recognized for her courage and activism by Commission Co-Chairmen and U.S. Representatives James McGovern and Frank Wolf. Representative Jim Moran, who requested that the hearing be held, was in attendance alongside Representatives Ed Royce, Joseph Cao, and Niki Tsongas.

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Human Rights Watch Testimony provided to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

Left to Right: Hing Bun Heang, Sao Sokha and Mol Roeup (Photos: Global Witness)
Left to Right: Hing Bun Heang, Sao Sokha and Mol Roeup (Photos: Global Witness)

Source: Human Rights Watch

I. Summary

Relations between the US and Cambodia have warmed considerably since the US withdrew direct aid to the Cambodian government in 1997, after a coup by the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen against their coalition government partner, the FUNCINPEC party.

In addition to deeply entrenched impunity for human rights violators, other key human rights issues include the lack of integrity and independence within Cambodia's court system, attacks on freedom of expression and pluralism, and the government's chronic inaction on legal reform. Those who speak out to defend their homes, their jobs, and their rights increasingly face threats and physical attacks, including trade union leaders, opposition party members, journalists, activist Buddhist monks, and community activists defending their land and natural resources.

In addition, the gap has widened between wealthy city dwellers and impoverished farmers in the countryside, exacerbated by large-scale forced evictions of tens of thousands of urban poor, illegal confiscation of farmers' land, and pillaging of the natural resources on which people in the countryside depend for their livelihood. Military units are often wrongfully deployed to carry out forced and violent evictions of villagers whose ownership claims to the land have never been properly or fairly dealt with by a court.

To make matters worse, the Cambodian government announced this week that it is terminating the World Bank's $24 million land titling program after the Bank and key donors, including the United States, called on the government to stop forced evictions until fair and transparent land dispute and resettlement policies are in place.

While Cambodia has experienced significant economic growth during the past 16 years, the government has rejected a rights-based approach to development. Economic growth would have been much greater if the rule of law would have been established and voracious corruption by Prime Minister Hun Sen and those around him had not drained so many resources from the country.

In October 2008 the US announced that it would be making its first financial contribution (US$1.8 million) to the hybrid trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders (the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia), which has been plagued by credible reports of corruption and government interference and manipulation. Ongoing statements by Prime Minister Hun Sen calling for the court not to engage in additional prosecutions seriously undermine the court's integrity, independence, and credibility. In helping Cambodia to address legacy issues lingering from the Indochinese wars, the US should be at the forefront of advocacy with the UN, other donors, and the Cambodian government itself in insisting that Cambodians deserve the highest standards of justice for the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.

With the resumption of direct government aid, the US has begun to send mixed signals as to how seriously it takes Cambodia's legacy of impunity, political violence, and high-level involvement of government officials in human trafficking and other rights violations. US funding currently includes training and material assistance to members and units of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces that have been implicated in gross human rights abuses. It has strong counter-terror cooperation with some of the same individuals. The FBI has even given awards to some of the most notorious human rights abusers in the country, making many Cambodians wonder which side the US is on.

As one of the signatories to the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, one of Cambodia's biggest donors, and with great influence in Cambodia, the US should play a consistent role in insisting that Cambodia address its poor human rights record. The US government has to remember that its first priority is to stand with the Cambodian people. Good relations with the Cambodian government are a secondary priority.

II. The US and the Cambodian Security Forces - Impunity and Vetting

The US has provided training, material assistance and even awards to military, police, counter-terror units or related individuals with track records of serious human rights abuses. Since 2006, the US has provided approximately US $4.5 million worth of military equipment and training to Cambodia through the Foreign Military Financing program.

Training has been offered to elite units that are notorious for the impunity enjoyed by their members, as well as to personnel from Prime Minister's Hun Sen's bodyguard unit, which has been implicated in countless rights abuses including a political massacre, under the cover of a newly-created special anti-terrorist unit. The US has given the impression that it has forgotten or lost interest in the human rights record of some of these units or individuals.

While the US may have policy reasons to work with the Cambodian security forces on subjects such as counter-terror, it should work just as hard on holding abusers accountable and ending the culture of impunity that exists for high ranking members of the security services and those close to Hun Sen.

a) Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit/Brigade 70 and New Counter-Terrorism Special Forces

Hun Sen's Bodyguard Unit, also known as Brigade 70, has a long history of impunity for its personnel who commit crimes, and well-documented involvement in smuggling and environmental crimes. Soldiers from Hun Sen's Bodyguard Unit, Brigade 70, were implicated in the March 30, 1997 grenade attack against the opposition Khmer Nation Party (now the Sam Rainsy Party), protecting the grenade throwers and allowing them to escape. At least 16 people were killed and more than 100 others (including an American) were wounded. The results of an FBI investigation into the attack found that the Bodyguard Unit was complicit in it, but the full results of the investigation have never been made public.

Outside of the normal RCAF chain-of-command, Brigade 70 is controlled directly by the Prime Minister. Reportedly comprising some 2,000 or more soldiers, the Bodyguard Unit was long commanded by General Hing Bun Heang, who is now deputy chief of the Prime Minister's Cabinet and reportedly remains in de facto control. The Bodyguard Unit has been implicated in political violence, most notably in a 1997 grenade attack on an opposition party rally. The Bodyguard Unit, mobilized outside of the normal chain-of-command of RCAF, also played a key role in fighting FUNCINPEC troops on the streets of Phnom Penh during CPP's July 1997 coup. In subsequent years, UN and NGO rights workers investigated several cases of individuals being unlawfully detained and tortured at the Bodyguard Unit's headquarters inside the Prime Minister's heavily-fortified residential compound. On or off duty, Brigade 70 personnel enjoy virtually unlimited impunity to commit.

Brigade 70 has an atrocious human rights record. Impunity enjoyed by its members is highlighted in the US State Department's annual human rights reports. In addition to the grenade attack, there are countless examples over recent years. A few examples include:
  • In July 2008, Brigade 70 soldier Dy Sothearith, moonlighting as a security guard at a factory, shot an unarmed factory worker over a minor dispute. The victim was paid $1,000 in compensation, on the condition he not pursue a criminal complaint. Dy Sothearith, who reportedly went into hiding at B-70's HQ, was not prosecuted.
  • In April 2006, Brigade 70 members Major Phat Sophal and Captain Sim Ry opened fire and shot a waitress whom they complained had brought them ice too slowly. Arrested by military police, the two were released hours later when their commander Mao Sophann intervened. The general subsequently said he punished the two officers by shaving their heads. No legal action was taken against them.
  • In July 2005, Brigade 70 member Sen Kok Heang, a former in-law to Prime Minister Hun Sen, attempted to kill two forestry activists in Kampong Thom's Sandan district. Brigade 70 soldiers were mobilized in that area to give protection to a Cambodian logging syndicate in the area.
  • In addition, B-70 has long been implicated in smuggling and the pillaging of Cambodia's environment; there is considerable evidence that cargo trucks belonging to the unit have systematically been used to transport illegally-felled logs and smuggled goods. In 2007, environmental watchdog Global Witness estimated B-70 was making between $2 million and $2.7 million from these operations, with a large cut of the proceeds given to Bodyguard Unit commander Hing Bun Heang.
b) Special Airborne Brigade 911

Brigade 911 has been implicated in gross human rights violations (including murder and torture) allegedly committed by brigade soldiers in the past. Paratroopers from 911, under the command of Major-General Chap Pheakdey, have been accused of gross human rights violations. In 1997, 911 personnel were implicated by UN investigators in the executions of FUNCINPEC military commanders captured during the CPP's coup, and the torture of other prisoners. No-one was brought to justice for these crimes. 911 members, disguised in civilian clothes, were also allegedly used to break up peaceful post-election demonstrations by the opposition in 1998. Subsequently, 911's commander Chap Pheakdey has maintained his reputation for acting with impunity. In 2006, he unlawfully detained one of his soldiers for more than a month, allegedly over a property dispute; no prosecution or other sanctions were taken against the general.

c) Brigade 31

Some material assistance has gone to military units with abysmal rights records. The commander of Brigade 31, for example, has confirmed that his unit used US-donated trucks to move villagers forcibly evicted by soldiers under his command in Kampot Province in 2008.

Brigade 31 (formerly known as Division 44 and then Battalion 44), under its long-time commander Brigadier-General Srun Saroeun, has an abysmal rights record. Its soldiers are alleged to have executed FUNCINPEC soldiers during the 1997 coup and fired gunshots over the heads of UN human rights officials investigating the killings. Headquartered in Kampong Speu province, the brigade has also long been accused of involvement in illegal logging throughout southern Cambodia. In recent years, its commanders have also been implicated in grabbing land from poor villagers. This raises serious questions about the quality of vetting done by the State and Defense Departments.

Brigade 31 assumed a "maritime security" mandate in late 2006 or early 2007 - the same time as an October 2006 joint defence assessment by RCAF and the US Pacific Command which identified maritime security as one of the areas for US support. This raises the question of whether RCAF deliberately gave the brigade a naval mandate in order to obtain US assistance. If so, this is a clear case of a military unit with a poor human rights record (but a record of loyalty to the ruling party) being rewarded and legitimized by US aid. Although US military aid is intended to improve the professionalism of RCAF forces, there are disturbing signs that RCAF is becoming more politicized and less professional, and that known human rights abusers are gaining increasing power within the RCAF structure. For example, General Huy Piseth, now an Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Defense, is former commander of Brigade 70. In January 2009 the government announced the appointment of seven new deputy RCAF commanders-in-chief, including military intelligence chief Mol Roeup; military police chief Sao Sokha; and Hing Bunheang, Brigade 70 deputy commander at the time of the 1997 grenade attack. All of these men have clear records as human rights abusers.

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US Representatives' letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates questioning the US military assistance to Cambodian "human rights VIOLATORS"

Congress of the United States
Washington DC 20515
September 18, 2009

The Honorable Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon Room 3E 880
Washington DC 20301

Dear Secretary Gates:

We write today to bring to your attention concerns regarding U.S. assistance in the form of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to the Kingdom of Cambodia. As you know, the United States has provided approximately $4.5 million in FMF used for training and material assistance to Cambodian military, police, and counterterror units since 2006. According to testimony from Human Rights Watch at a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on September 10, such training and assistance "has been offered to elite units that are notorious for the impunity enjoyed by their members, as well as to personnel from Prime Minister Hun Sen's bodyguard unit which has been implicated in countless rights abuses including a political massacre, under the cover of a newly created special anti-terrorism unit."

While the United States should work with foreign governments to professionalize and train security forces to respect human rights and the rule of law, we must ensure that such assistance and training is not awarded to members of the security forces that have committed serious human rights violations and continue to operate with impunity.

Enclosed please find the testimony of Human Rights Watch which was submitted for the record and details serious abuses by members of the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit, Brigade 70, Special Airborne Brigade 911 and Brigade 31 of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).

Given the nature of the abuses detailed in the enclosed testimony, we ask that the Department of Defense please provide answers to the following questions:

* What U.S.-funded training has been provided to RCAF's Special Airborne 911, RCAF's Brigade 70 and the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit?
* Have members ofRCAF's Special Airborne Brigade 911, Brigade 70, or members of the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit traveled to the United States to receive U.S.-government funded training or on other official business? If so, what was the purpose of the travel? What vetting procedures were used before they traveled?
* What equipment or other material support has been provided by the U.S. government to Special Airborne Brigade 911, Brigade 70, the Counter-Terrorism Task Force, the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit, or any other security services?
* What U.S.-funded training has been provided to Cambodia's National CounterTerrorism Committee, the National Counter Terrorism Task Force and the Counter-Terrorism Special Forces Unit?
* How many members of the Counter-Terrorism Special Forces unit come from the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit? Do they retain their positions at the Bodyguard unit?
* What actions have been taken to establish the identities of the Bodyguard unit personnel who were present during the March 30, 1997, grenade attack against the opposition Khmer Nation Party, and to ensure that these individuals are not included in any U.S.-sponsored training of RCAF forces?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to receiving your response.

Best wishes.

Sincerely,

Signatures of the following US Members of Congress:

Frank R. Wolf
James P. Moran
Edward R. Royce
Maurice D. Hinchey
Tammy Baldwin
Mark E. Souder
Christopher H. Smith
Niki Tsongas

---Original Attached

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cambodia deploys police for Thai border protest



Source: AFP

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia deployed riot police Thursday at an ancient temple on the disputed border with Thailand where Thai protesters are due to hold a protest at the weekend, the defence ministry said.

Thailand's royalist "Yellow Shirt" movement says it will rally on Saturday near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple to demand that the government push Cambodian forces out of the area.

The disputed frontier around the temple has been the scene of several deadly clashes between Thai and Cambodian forces since the ruins were granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

Cambodian defence ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said at least 50 police with dogs, batons, and tear gas have been deployed at the temple ahead of the demonstration.

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Testimony finishes at Cambodian Khmer Rouge trial

Testimony finishes at Cambodian Khmer Rouge trial



PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Testimony concluded Thursday in the first U.N.-backed trial of a high-ranking member of Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge regime.

The tribunal is trying Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who commanded S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, where up to 16,000 people were tortured and then taken away to be killed. He is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture.

Four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders are in custody awaiting trial.

The tribunal is seeking justice for an estimated 1.7 million people who died from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the ultra-communist group's policies while in power in 1975-79.



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