Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cambodia Opposition Party To Demand Re-Election

Radio Free Asia
The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) will push for a re-election if Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government continues to refuse calls for an independent probe into widespread irregularities in the July polls, the opposition party’s deputy president, Kem Sokha, said Tuesday.

He warned that the party, which has boycotted parliament over the disputed polls, would demand new elections during mass protests beginning Dec. 15 to put pressure on the government to conduct a post-mortem of the July 28 vote.

“We want to send the message to the government and the National Election Committee [the government-appointed election body] that we are demanding the truth, and if they don’t give us the truth, we will demand a re-election,” Kem Sokha told RFA’s Khmer Service.

Following a mass demonstration on Dec. 15, the party will hold regular demonstrations every Sunday until its demand is met, he said.

He said the party was hoping to see 300,000 people—or a tenth of the 3 million people the CNRP says voted for it in the polls—turn out for the demonstration.

“We will make the [Dec. 15] mass demonstration bigger in all respects,” Kem Sokha said.

“After December 15, we will hold demonstrations every Sunday.”

The Dec. 15 protest will follow CNRP gatherings marking World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

CPP-CNRP talks

CNRP lawmakers have refused to join parliament unless their call for an investigation into the polls are met, leaving the party in a political deadlock with Hun Sen’s  Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) which had been declared polls winner by the National Election Committee.

Talks between the two parties have stalled after a meeting earlier this month yielded little progress.

The CNRP has insisted the talks must have on the agenda discussions about an investigation into poll fraud, resignation of election officials, and implementation of recommendations from U.N. experts and NGOs on electoral and other reforms.

On Tuesday, the chief of the CPP’s negotiation team Prum Sokha said the party was waiting for the CNRP to make a fresh move to hold talks.

“The CPP’s door is still open for any talks,” he told RFA.

But CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann responded that his party will only resume talks if the CPP accepts their agenda, which includes pressing for justice for voters, resignation of the NEC members, and electoral reforms.

The CNRP has claimed that election irregularities, including the removal of one million voters from the electoral rolls, robbed it of election victory.

The National Election Committee awarded the CPP 68 parliamentary seats to the CNRP’s 55 in the election, but the CNRP claims it won at least 63 seats and has called for a U.N.-backed investigation and led a series of mass demonstrations against the results.

Reported by Huot Vuthy for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Activists patrol forest for crime

Wed, 27 November 2013
May Titthara
The Phnom Penh Post

Activists in Prey Lang forest yesterday began their second round of patrols this year, with 500 members of the Prey Lang Community Network setting out on a five-day campaign to prevent forest crimes.

Armed with about 200 motorbikes, teams made up of community representatives from four provinces surrounding Prey Lang – Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces – will descend on the forest in an attempt to halt illegal logging, which has reportedly increased since the election in July.

Seng Sok Heng, a coordinator for the activists, said the patrols had been organised in direct response to reports of increased logging since the election period.

“Deforestation not only destroys forests but adversely affects the people’s occupation and livelihood around the areas because their living depends on byproducts,” he said.

In Kratie province, the activists said plantation firm Sueng Biotec had encroached 30 kilometres into Prey Lang, logging some 100 cubic metres of timber.

“We are considering with the communities . . . what to do with the timber,” Heng said.

Tycoon Try Pheap transported thousands of cubic metres of luxury wood daily in Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom provinces in a systematic program of deforestation with the complicity of the local authorities, he added.

However, in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces the forest had been cut chaotically while the authorities looked on.

“Deforestation occurred at an alarming rate because the authorities have not taken stringent measures to eliminate those activities, but rather they work together,” Heng said.

The patrol also met with timber buyers and sellers yesterday and asked them to sign a pledge to stop deforestation, said Svay Pheoun, a community representative in Preah Vihear.

“We did not abuse them, because they do not destroy [the forest] on a large scale like those gigantic companies. We just took their pictures and reported it to the governor for legal action” he said.

Ut Sam Orn, Kampong Thom provincial governor, declined to comment, while Kratie Governor Sar Chamrong could not be reached.

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Fund scandal not enough to deter donors

Wed, 27 November 2013
Kevin Ponniah
The Phnom Penh Post

While key foreign donors to Cambodia have said that government officials implicated in an internal Global Fund probe that exposed bribe-taking in the Ministry of Health must be investigated and brought to justice, a toughening of aid conditions does not appear to be a step any are willing to take.

In largely identical statements to the Post, the EU delegation and the Swedish, German and British embassies backed the Global Fund’s strong stance against corruption but did not respond to whether their own oversight procedures for development assistance to Cambodia had been strengthened since the report’s findings emerged.

“The amounts misused must be recovered, the individuals brought to justice, and the companies sanctioned if they are found to have breached the strict supplier code of conduct of the Global Fund,” they said.

The Anti-Corruption Unit has said it is investigating the report’s findings – which exposed a network of kickbacks and sponsorships from mosquito-net suppliers in exchange for contracts – but has yet to determine whether former officials at the National Malaria Center (CNM), the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs (NCHADS) and MEDiCAM are guilty of corruption.

US embassy spokesman John Simmons said the US government was keeping an eye on the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).

“The US government is monitoring the actions of the Anti-Corruption Unit, and we continue to encourage the ACU to conduct a full and transparent investigation,” he said. “The US government is ever-mindful of the potential for misuse of development assistance funds, no matter to which country provide.”

He emphasised that most US-supported programs in Cambodia were implemented by civil society and the private sector.

Germany, the Global Fund’s third-biggest bilateral donor, warned that “donor confidence and motivation depend on cooperation free of corruption and fraud”.

“The determination of the Royal Government of Cambodia in pursuing this matter will no doubt be an important signal for the donor community,” German ambassador Joachim Baron von Marschall said.

French embassy first secretary Nicolas Baudouin said that France would continue to “monitor the situation closely”.

All foreign donors that responded to the Post pledged continued support of the Global Fund, and praised its efforts to bolster financial oversight.

Since preliminary investigation findings emerged in July last year, the Fund replaced the CNM as a principal recipient for malaria grants, appointed an external fiduciary agent to control NCHADS expenditure and has required pooled procurement for all health products in Cambodia.

The Asian Development Bank, Cambodia’s current lead donor partner, expects to provide more than $500 million in loans and grants to the government between 2013 and 2015.

“ADB applies very stringent safeguards to ensure all funds administered by ADB are used for their intended purposes,” country director Eric Sidgwick said.


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Cambodian NGOs Reveal Poll Fraud Report

Three nongovernmental organizations in Cambodia on Wednesday jointly released reports detailing irregularities from disputed recent polls, saying they demonstrated a “need for real reform” of the national electoral body before the country could hold free and fair elections.

Among the irregularities from Cambodia’s July 28 election were allegations of missing or duplicated voter names, an electoral campaign biased in favor of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and voting by foreign nationals, the NGOs said at a press conference in Phnom Penh.

The NGOs—Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel), Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC) and Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)—said the list of claims was based on investigations they conducted at community forums around the country.

Comfrel official Sin Tithseila said that the National Election Committee (NEC)—Cambodia’s government-appointed election body—“needs real reform in order to have a free and fair election,” based on the “more than 10,000” cases of irregularities his organization documented.

“When Comfrel audited the [voting] lists, we found problems,” Sin Tithseila said at the press conference.

“Voters … couldn’t find their names—or found name duplicates—and a single voter could [turn in ballots] in many different places.”

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) has made repeated calls for an independent probe into claims of voter fraud in Cambodia’s election, which Hun Sen’s government has refused to heed following an official announcement declaring the CPP the victor.

The CNRP has since boycotted parliament over the disputed polls and said it would demand new elections during mass protests beginning Dec. 15 to put pressure on the government to examine the allegations of irregularities.

CCIM director Pa Ngoun Teang said his organization’s report shows that NEC officials were “biased in favor of the CPP,” that voters were seen casting ballots without providing identification, and that illegal “Vietnamese immigrants were allowed to vote.”

CCIM official Nop Vy added that identification cards were “issued non-transparently,” resulting in some voters being “barred from ballot offices while others cast ballots on their behalf.”

He said the report on election irregularities would be sent to NEC officials, along with recommendations on how to reform the electoral process.

CNRP lawmaker Mao Monyvann, who participated in Tuesday’s conference, said that Hun Sen’s government “doesn’t have the political will to carry out election reform.”

He added that even with laws in place, irregularities—such as voting by illegal Vietnamese immigrants—still took place on a large scale, suggesting that implementation is lacking.

Political deadlock

Talks between the CNRP and the CPP have stalled after a meeting earlier this month yielded little progress.

The CNRP has insisted the talks must have on the agenda discussions about an investigation into poll fraud, resignation of election officials, and implementation of recommendations from U.N. experts and NGOs on electoral and other reforms.

The opposition has claimed that election irregularities, including the removal of one million voters from the electoral rolls, robbed it of election victory.

The NEC awarded the CPP 68 parliamentary seats to the CNRP’s 55 in the election, but the CNRP claims it won at least 63 seats and has called for a U.N.-backed investigation and led a series of mass demonstrations against the results.

On Tuesday, CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha vowed that, following a mass demonstration on Dec. 15, his party will hold regular demonstrations every Sunday until its demands are met.

Reported by Zakariya Tin for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


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ASEAN parliamentarians call for independent investigations into deadly shootings of protesters in Cambodia

BANGKOK — Parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia today called on the United Nations and the international community to conduct independent investigations into recent deaths in Cambodia at the hands of state security forces, including the shooting dead of a 29-year-old man at pro-democracy demonstrations in Phnom Penh in September and the killing of a labour protester earlier this month.
“The United Nations and the international community must take a stand on these blatant miscarriages of justice. It has been over two months since security forces shot dead Mao Sok Chan and injured others when they opened fire on a crowd of protesters, and the state is clearly not following through with a genuine investigation,” said Kraisak Choonhavan, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights Vice President.

“By conducting an independent inquiry and seeking to hold the Cambodian government to account for their failure to properly investigate these deaths in line with international human rights and legal standards, we not only seek justice for the families of victims but also send a clear message that impunity for state officials will not be tolerated.”

Mao Sok Chan died after being shot in the head on September 15, 2013, at Kbal Thnal Bridge, Phnom Penh. The 29-year-old laborer was caught up in crowds after police set up roadblocks following a day of political protests in the capital when police allegedly fired indiscriminately on commuters, local residents and demonstrators. To date, there has been no credible investigation into the incident.
Also, on November 12, one person was killed and eight others injured when security forces in riot gear used tear gas, guns and sticks to break up a strike by garment workers at the Singapore-owned SL Garment Processing (Cambodia) Ltd.

Political tensions in Cambodia have risen since hotly contested national elections on 28 July. APHR calls on all parties to disavow violence and prioritize human rights and the rule of law as the country seeks to move forward from the current deadlock. As in other countries in the region, the criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to allegations against state actors, continually fails to deliver, APHR said.
“Responsibility falls on the government and arms of the justice system to ensure that all acts of political violence will not be tolerated, either by protesters or state security forces,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari, AIPMC President and Indonesian Member of Parliament.

“We all want to see Cambodia move through this difficult period peacefully. The failure of the state to properly investigate alleged acts of violence by security forces is setting a dangerous precedent and could lead to an escalation of violence during a tense political period in Cambodia.”

Similar failures of the criminal justice system are commonplace in Indonesia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, APHR said, calling on ASEAN to step up its mandate to ensure peace and stability in the region.
“ASEAN must find a way to end violence perpetrated by state apparatuses before entering an integrated economic community,” said Ms. Sundari.

“I am deeply concerned that the common trend of state violence and impunity in ASEAN member states will only worsen if this serious problem is continually brushed under the carpet to ensure a blinkered focus on economics and trade. ASEAN must change and begin to put the basic welfare of its people first.”
The United Nations and the international community have a duty to press governments to uphold international commitments to human rights standards. In lieu of any proper investigation by the Cambodian authorities, the international community, including ASEAN institutions, must help to ensure justice for the victims of state-sponsored violence and apply pressure on the Cambodian government to meet its international responsibilities.

According to local human rights observers, there have been ten fatal shootings and eight separate incidents of non-fatal shootings by authorities using excessive force in the past 20 months. Only in one out of the 10 lethal cases has there been what human rights observers agree to be a credible investigation.
Many of the families of victims have been offered financial compensation in return for agreement to end legal proceedings against the alleged aggressors. Concerns have been raised that families have been intimidated or coerced into accepting the financial settlements. Moreover, the settlement of a civil dispute does not release prosecutors from their duty to investigate alleged crimes, APHR said.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) is a collective of lawmakers from Southeast Asia working to improve human rights responses and social justice in the region.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cambodia's Supreme Court Orders Land Activist Freed on Bail

Robert Carmichael - VOA
November 22, 2013

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia’s Supreme Court ordered the release of a land rights activist on Friday who has spent more than a year in jail on what rights groups claim are trumped-up charges. However, despite the release, the ruling from the five-judge bench disappointed many by sending the case back to a lower court for further investigation.

Yorm Bopha, a 30-year old mother of one, is a prominent member of a group of residents of an area in the capital known as Boeung Kak lake, where in recent years thousands of families have been evicted as part of an opaque land deal.

Her case has garnered attention at home and abroad, especially after rights group Amnesty International named her a prisoner of conscience, and called on its members to take action. Thousands wrote or emailed on her behalf.

On Friday, hopes were high among hundreds of Yorm Bopha’s assembled supporters, including many Buddhist monks, that the judiciary would free her unconditionally.

Yorm Bopha was confident as well. Speaking during a recess before the Supreme Court handed down its decision, she thanked people inside and outside Cambodia for their efforts.

Bopha said she was grateful for everyone's support, and was hopeful the court would "deliver justice" for her.

In the event, the Supreme Court ordered her released on bail, and instructed a lower court to revisit her case. It was much less than she and her supporters had hoped for.

Minutes later, Yorm Bopha told the media of her disappointment.

Bopha said she felt despondent that the case is being returned to the Appeal Court.  She said this is being done to "shackle" her, and shows that authorities do not want her to file another complaint.

A municipal court sentenced Yorm Bopha to three years in jail last December for her alleged involvement in an attack on two men. Earlier this year, the Appeal Court reduced that term to two years. On Friday, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Appeal Court and instructed it to examine all of the evidence.

Rights groups say the problem is that no evidence has ever been presented indicating that Yorm Bopha was involved in the case.

Outside the court, Amnesty International’s Cambodia researcher, Rupert Abbott, said the verdict has generated mixed feelings.

“Of course we’re pleased that she’s released - I think it shows that activism works. Her community’s been very active, day in, day out, and they’ve had some support from others, including Amnesty International members. We’re really pleased that she’s released. But we’re disappointed because the saga’s still continuing. The case has been sent back to the Appeal Court. She’s only released effectively on bail so it’s hanging over her. It’s another attempt to stop her activism and to silence her. So we’re concerned about that,” said Abbott.

Abbott said that he hoped the lower court - when it eventually looks into the case - would accept that there is no evidence against her.

“Let’s hope that her release today is a positive sign. Let’s hope that it symbolizes a change in attitude from the authorities - the government’s promised reforms here. Let’s hope her release today shows that this trend - harassing, threatening, attacking, imprisoning human rights defenders - let’s hope it’s coming to an end,” continued Abbott.

After the hearing on Friday, dozens of Yorm Bopha’s supporters followed her back to the prison to await her release, which will take place once officials have processed the necessary paperwork. She is expected to leave jail Friday.


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