Archive for November 2010
Comment by Kok Sap 29/11/2010
Following the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements and the UN administered national elections, a free-market economy was introduced. The 1992 Land Law first introduced the concept of legal possession. Legal recognition of possession rights was updated by the 2001 Land Law.
According to this law, anyone who settled on, or began using their land at any time before the 2001 Land Law was passed, is a legal possessor as long as they meet the five conditions set out in the Land Law. These five conditions are that the possession must be continuous, peaceful, in good faith, unambiguous and known to the public. In addition, at the time that the possession commenced, the land could not have been State public property, privately owned by someone else, indigenous land or monastery land.
If all conditions are met, legal possessors have the right to request a title of ownership. The possession constitutes a right in rem meaning that while the possessor is waiting for the possession to be converted to ownership he/she has the right to live on and use the land, exclude others from the land, and transfer it to others. The procedure for issuing title to legitimate possessors is in theory straight forward. It can be done through systematic registration, initiated and conducted by the Government, or through sporadic registration initiated on the application of the land-holder. Upon proving that they meet the conditions of legal possession, all legal possessors should be issued with titles.
However, there is repeated evidence of the Government denying land titles to those with valid possession rights. In many instances, households that have strong possession rights claims are unable to engage Government in any dialogue as to the legitimacy of those claims. Instead, households seeking to advance their possession rights claims and obtain title are simply told they have no rights, with no underlying explanation, no process of examining evidence or presenting a justification for the denial of title, or any other mechanism that might allow for a standardized and transparent process.
Possession rights were formalized by the Land Law in recognition of the fact that many millions of Kampuchean do not have legal title to their land and as such should provide a means of tenure security to these households until formal titling is conducted in their area. The arbitrary and non-transparent manner in which possession rights are recognized or denied renders this legislative attempt to provide security meaningless.”
Due to past history Koh Pich is not the original name. Under the French rule, it said one of the Kings had the lepers rounded up from across the kingdom then sent them to an isolated tiny isle across from his palace compound in Phnom Penh. The lepers were banished from mainland, Kampuchea. No outside contact allowed. The visitor must bribe the officials to visit the leper relatives lived on the isle. The king’s order was absolute and placed upon the lepers not to leave but to live and die on the isle. Any one attempted to leave, if caught, the offender would be charged with lèse- majesté offense and summarily execution. Thereafter, it has come to be known as Koh Khloong (កោះឃ្លង់).
After going through Hanoi perpetuated wars and incursions,1979 Yuon occupied Kampuchea. During the interim, Koh Khloong was a home to hundreds of poor since 1982. The 1991 Paris Peace Agreements and the UN administered national elections, a free-market economy was introduced. Then in 1992 Land Law was first introduced the concept of legal possession.
But for Koh Khloong ‘s 302 families, land law seems ambiguous and ludicrous in defending their rights. Per USAID project PILAP,” When they received an eviction order (from Angkar Leu)in 2004, residents of a lush 68-hectare river island minutes from downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia had no idea their plight would become a symbol for a larger struggle. The order came shortly after local officials and a major financial institution began pressing residents to leave the island to make way for its redevelopment as a “satellite city,” complete with luxury villas and hotels. The residents, many of whom are illiterate farmers, were easily intimidated by threats and misinformation. Many accepted a paltry sum of less than $2 per square meter of their land to relocate to a crude resettlement site outside the city, far from the farms that sustained them.The project seeks out cases that generate public debate and demand accountability and respect for legal norms. In an environment where illegal land-grabbing occurs with impunity, the Koh Pich island dispute presented an opportunity to uphold and publicize important legal principles. The Cambodian Constitution and the Land Law grant rights to people residing on unregistered land. The law also establishes the principle of “fair and just compensation” prior to any government “taking” of land for a public interest. Armed with a clear understanding of these principles, the lawyers analyzed the residents’ claims. To strengthen their position, they conducted an appraisal of land values on different parts of the island. The highly publicized, high-impact approach has enabled a community to assert its legal rights in one of the first collective legal actions in Cambodia. In the process, the case has laid a foundation for the principle of “fair and just compensation” for the increasing number of victims of land-grabbing throughout the country.
To avoid public scrutiny a so called Overseas Cambodia Investment Company (OCIC) belongs to a Chinese born 1946 in Phnom Penh but lives in Canada was fronted for the whole deal.
” In 2006, OCIC signed a $50 million 99-year lease with the city of Phnom Penh to develop and manage Koh Pich. Sales of apartments, villas and houses began in late 2008. At the same time the developers also began building a bridge to the island. With units priced at $1,500 per square metre initial sales were poor and OCIC offered various promotions, including discounts of up to 35 per cent on villas and houses in the first phase of the project, and payment period incentives. Units are available from $200,000 to $1 million. When completed in 2017, Diamond Island City will occupy 75-hectares of the island overlooking Phnom Penh. The project was originally planned to be completed by 2016, but work was delayed because of the downturn in the economy.”In term of the stampede incident,the OCIC owner donated $1,000 for the dead and $200 for the injured.
To fool the potential voters for next election, on 25/11/2010 Comrade Xen put on a spectacular show for the public and press corps. But today he insulted the nation, “no one is responsible for the fatal stampede. This incident could be preventable with proper management. It is the poor management and negligence that had cost hundreds of death. No one is to be punished.” Not bad politic for a flunk out eighth grader proletarian foot soldier from Yuon supported Khmer Rouge regime turned five diamond star general who rules country likes his own rice paddy.
The weeping prime minister daughter and owner of Bayon TV appeared to be one of the owners. Instead of expending her own money for the victims, she has collected large sum of donation via her television station from the public to pay for her own liability and responsibility. Following by Comrade Sok An, the chief operator of the council of ministers and the apparent co-owner of the isle too, used his most powerful position in Kampuchea to announce and hastily conclude the investigation. The death toll was reduced from over 400 to 351. Meanwhile Comrade Kong Sam Ol, the minister of Royal Palace and head of the festival committee offered to resign but he was assured no one knew the incident would happen and the number of spectator was larger than expectted. Comrade Xen did not apologize to the nation. Also he did not accept Kong Sam Ol resignation and insinuated each dead receives $12,000 that ‘s enormous amount as opposed to $700 annual income per family. Other word no one was fired for the incident including the insensitive and insolent governor of Phnom Penh, Kept Chuy Taemae.
In all, the head of government is too incompetent to raise issues with his subordinates. Clearly his and relatives interest is above the laws. To his concern it’s all about who owns what, where and how much can be collected from. Now it is an outrage for Kampucheans to have faced fat crocodiles and starved hyenas in government when comes to law enforcement and responsibility.
Although panic had set in among people caught in the jam, the least fortunate having already collapsed, 18-year-old Chum Thida and her friends weren’t particularly alarmed by what seemed to be, at worst, a severe example of the predictable chaos that descends on the capital each year during the Water Festival.
Traversing the bridge was still being discussed before an unfamiliar woman stepped into their path and warned that hundreds of people had been electrocuted.
Standing metres away from the place where officials would soon put up a human barrier separating victims – 351 dead and 395 injured at last count – from onlookers of the deadly stampede, Chum Thida and two friends squeezed their way out of the crowd and found a grassy spot, on what was once her family’s backyard along the eastern bank of the narrow strip of the Tonle Bassac that separates Diamond Island from Phnom Penh’s riverside, to watch events unfold.
More than 30 minutes went by before people began to jump off the bridge into the shallow waters below. Rescue boats, with people onboard pulling in as many bodies as possible, traced the same route back and forth across the river that she and her six siblings took every day while commuting between public schools in the city and their house on the family fruit farm on Koh Pich.
When soldiers and police finally pushed through the crowd shortly after 11 o’clock, they set up a human barrier to contain the bedlam. Those on the outside of the roadblock, Chum Seila and her five friends included, were told to stay put; a notable change in the position of government enforcers during her encounter at the same place five years ago. Just 13 at the time, she remembers uniformed men, representing the interests of the 7NG group and other developers, carrying lumber over their shoulders as they walked towards her raised wooden house, finally bringing an end to a land dispute in which residents and rights groups battled with developers over compensation for nearly two years.
Chum Thida’s father, Chum Sam Oeun, was the eldest resident of Koh Pich and was often the public face representing the 300 farming families fighting to stay on their land, where they lived modest but comfortable lives selling fruit in markets across the river.
In a story in The Phnom Penh Post on November 3, 2004, Chum Sam Oeun spoke for the 20 families who were still demanding more compensation after a hearing between City Hall lawyers and Koh Pich residents and their lawyers reportedly broke down because judge Kim Ravy refused to move out of his small office to the courtroom, “It’s very, very clear and the decision is very clearly wrong,” he said in an interview with The Post. “If we go with no money, we would die, so we have to struggle to live on the island.”
The compensation paid to Chum Sam Oeun’s family, who were the last residents on the island to accept compensation, was at least four times the offer of $2 per square metre that was made in a 2004 letter from City Hall that was sent to 134 families living in Koh Pich (one family held out longer but lost a lawsuit and received almost nothing). But, the money didn’t soften Chum Sam Oeun’s position toward the companies developing the island, where he settled down in 1979 and stayed for 26 years.
“According to my religion, I believed that the bad events were returned to the company because, before they left, villagers prayed in their minds that they wanted the company bankrupt and unsuccessful in their development projects because they take over villagers’ land, beat and threaten them,” he said, adding that the spiritual connection between the deeds done unto his fellow islanders and the recent stampede help explain why investigations have been unsuccessful in identifying causes.
Khieu Bunthoeun, a former villager on Koh Pich who now lives in Cham Karmon district, agreed that karma, as much as anything, was the root cause of the stampede. “It is an injustice that those people died,” he said. “But their death reflects the activity of the company towards the villagers in Koh Pich in the past, which is why their project had a problem.”
While Soew Hak, another former Koh Pich resident, doesn’t deny that the past actions led to the tragedy on Koh Pich, he questioned why so much of the punishments fell on festival goers.
“They threatened villagers and they deployed police around the village,” he said, referring to their tactics during the eviction struggle in 2004 on 2005. “They even cut off electricity. It should be happened to company, not to those people.”
Just a couple hundred metres from the spot where Chum Thida watched the tragic events unfold on the final night of the water festival, there used to be a shrine, one of three on the island, where neighbors would go if they needed to solve a problem. Because of his status, and the position of the shrine next to his house, neighbors would call on Chum Sam Oeun in desperate times, when he would gather the community together and lead them to the small Buddhist building, built with money collected from community members in 1984, where they prayed and made offerings to the spirits who protected the island and its inhabitants.
Vengeful thoughts were never spoken around the shrine, according to Chum Sam Oeun, but he said revenge was on the minds of many on the island as, one by one, the families accepted compensation packages and moved away.
Touch Samnang, project manager of Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation, the group overseeing development on Koh Pich, said he was only aware of one shrine on the island. Asked about the role of spirits in the recent events on the island, he said he “had no idea”.
The wooden shrine has been replaced by a stone and concrete structure that is used by staff on site for religious ceremonies and prayer. The grey building can still be seen from the bridge, blending in with the surrounding pavement.
Delivering speech at a newly-constructed building for Ministry of Social Affairs, Hun Sen said “no one is deserved to be punished for this accident,” but the whole of them.
He said the main cause of the accident was the “under- estimation and the carelessness to the situation.”
On the last day of a three-day water festival, 351 people died and 395 others injured by the stampede occurred at Diamond Island Bridge in Phnom Penh.
Hun Sen said the water festival will be celebrated as usual in the following years despite such accident, saying it is the national event, while at the same time, the island known as Diamond Island will be developed as planned without any change.
But, he said, his government will take strong measures and all necessary precautions to avoid a repetition of the accident.
He also said the government will use the island for one of the venues for the upcoming meeting of more than 100 political parties which is set for Dec. 1-4, 2010.
The roughly more than 100-hectares of Diamond Island is being developed into residential and commercial area, now one of the most attractive spot for happy goers in Phnom Penh both day and night.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said his government was trying utmost efforts on the day of accident to help the victims on the spot and to avoid mass chaos or panic from the public gathering in the whole city on the day.
He called this year’s gathering for the water festival was a ” sea of people”, referring the largest ever number of people in the country’s history.
With 395 injured people are still in hospitals, Hun Sen expressed his apology to the victims and the people, and urged all doctors to treat them well and if necessary for those in critical condition, to send them abroad, the government will hold responsible for the cost.
However, in his concluding speech, Hun Sen expressed his second time of tear drop following the event and questioned himself why he was so emotional with the dropping tears while he is known to have an “iron heart”.
So far, 3,771 U.S. dollars from the King, the government, Cambodian Red Cross, and the owner of the Diamond Island has already been donated to each family of the dead, Hun Sen said during the inauguration of the office of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation on Monday.
“And at least another 9,000 U.S. dollars will be donated to each corpse through their families,” he said, adding that the donations were raised by the foundations of Bayon TV, CTN ( Cambodian Television Network), and donated from China, Malaysian investors, and Vietnam.
“I would like to thank our compatriots from all walks of life for their generous donations to help the dead and the injured in the stampede,” he said. “And also thank to foreign countries.”
The government has negotiated with ACLEDA Bank to open bank accounts for the families of the dead to deposit the cash donation in order to avoid any robbery, said the premier.
He said that for the 395 injured, they get free treatment and if they are critical and cannot treat in the country, the government will pay for them to get treatment outside the countries such as to Vietnam or Thailand.
The stampede tragedy on Monday night at Diamond Island’s Dianmond Bridge killed at least 351 people and injured 394.
Primary investigation found that the swinging of the bridge is the cause of the accident. The bridge is a kind of suspension one, but people were not aware of it and when it (the bridge) swung, some people thought it was collapsing and burst out shouting and the crowded people on it began to push each other back and forth and causing fatalities.
The dead were from suffocation, stampede and drown and no any evidence found about terrorism or electrocution.
And the official result of the investigation will be released this evening by the committee on Koh Pich (Diamond Island) Casualties to conclude the case of Koh Pich Casualties, said Hun Sen.
Cambodia’s Water Festival from Nov. 20 to 22 is the largest annual festival in the Southeast Asian nation, around three million Cambodians, especially those from rural areas converged to the city to enjoy the regatta.
Siam court drops legal case against ruling party…King Lek thumps the court to save his wealthy families
By Thanyarat Doksone And Grant Peck, Associated Press
BANGKOK – Thailand’s ruling Democrat Party staved off its possible dissolution and ouster from power Monday when a court dismissed charges that it had misused an official election fund.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling is likely to meet widespread criticism that it has applied double standards. Previous court rulings have consistently gone against the Democrats’ political opponents.
If it had been found guilty by the court, the party could have been disbanded and about 40 of its executives — including Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva — banned from politics for five years, forcing the formation of a new government. A guilty verdict could also have brought less severe repercussions that would have allowed its politicians to stay in office under the banner of a new or different party.
The judges ruled 4 to 2 that the case brought by the Election Commission had not followed proper legal procedure and so did not comment on the substance of the case, which accused the Democrats of spending part of a 29 million baht ($907,000) government fund without proper approval during the 2005 election campaign.
“This case has ended, and our party has the duty to continue solving the country’s problems,” Abhisit, who is also party leader, told reporters.
He acknowledged that the ruling might not be universally welcomed but should be abided.
Critics of Abhisit’s government are likely to see the decision as further evidence that the legal system tilts in favor of the Democrats and against its rivals. The country has been polarized since 2006, when then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted by a military coup.
The critics believe the courts and the Democrats are pillars of the Thai establishment, which felt its power threatened by Thaksin’s huge popularity with Thailand’s poor and working classes. The divisions laid open by the coup have since led to deadly violence.
Demonstrations by protesters who believe Abhisit’s party came to power illegitimately — the so-called Red Shirt supporters of Thaksin — and a subsequent crackdown triggered bloodshed in the streets of Bangkok this spring with about 90 people killed and more than 1,400 wounded.
After his ouster, Thaksin faced a slew of corruption charges, and fled the country ahead of his conviction for violating a conflict of interest law, for which he was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.
Abhisit’s two predecessors — both Thaksin allies — were removed from office by court decisions. And Thaksin’s opponents, protesters known as the Yellow Shirts, have yet to be prosecuted for occupying the prime minister’s office for three months and taking over Bangkok’s two airports for a week in 2008.
The Democrats still face another case with the same potential penalties. The case, involving an allegedly illegal campaign donation of 258 million baht ($8.1 million), is expected to be heard next year.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia’s prime minister said Monday that no one will be punished for last week’s stampede in which at least 351 revelers died after the swaying of a suspension bridge cause mass panic.
Hun Sen said many people share responsibility for not anticipating the problems that caused the Nov. 22 tragedy but that rescue efforts were adequate and, without them, the death toll would have been higher.
“No one will receive punishment for this incident,” Hun Sen said at the opening of a new government building. “We have to learn a lesson from this for solving such problems in the future.”
Preliminary findings by an official investigation committee found that the natural swaying of a suspension bridge ignited fears it would collapse among an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 people on the structure. In frantic efforts to escape, the crowd pressed and heaved, crushing hundreds of people and leading some to dive off the span into the water.
The official casualty toll is 351 dead and 395 injured. It was updated Sunday, after two more people died of their injuries and two others were added to list of dead by relatives said they had taken their bodies home.
The stampede occurred on the last day of a three-day holiday, as a crowd estimated to be more than 1 million thronged to the capital to celebrate the traditional water festival.
Last week Hun Sen has described the stampede as the biggest tragedy since the communist Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, which killed an estimated 1.7 million people in the late 1970s.
“It happened unexpectedly,” said Hun Sen. “If we had correctly assessed in advance that there could have been a stampede, then we would not have allowed people to cross the bridge.”
Hun Sen also announced that the families of each of the dead people would each be given at least $12,000, an enormous sum in a country where the annual per capita income is just over $700.
BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s ruling Democrats were saved from dissolution on Monday when the Constitutional Court dismissed a case that had threatened the political survival of the party and the prime minister.
The decision to throw out the case, which centred on alleged misuse of state funds, means Abhisit Vejjajiva stays in power, but will anger government critics who say the Thai political scene is subject to legal double standards.
Six judges voted to drop the case four to two after closing remarks were heard on Monday morning in the trial over charges of misuse of a 29-million-baht (960,000-dollar) state election grant in 2005.
The Bangkok court had the power to disband the Democrat Party — the country’s oldest — and hand down five-year political bans to senior figures, including Abhisit.
Judge Udomsak Nitimontree told the court that Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) had failed to meet a submission deadline when it lodged the case, meaning it must be thrown out.
Reading out the ruling, he said the case was “unconstitutional because the process was not done properly”.
The EC called in April for the party to be abolished over the accusations, as well as a separate case alleging an undeclared political donation, which is yet to be heard in court.
The call coincided with the country’s worst political violence in decades, which ultimately left more than 90 people dead and almost 1,900 wounded in a series of street clashes between anti-government protesters and troops.
The Democrats were accused of paying 23 million baht to advertising firms, despite having permission to spend only 19 million on billboard marketing.
The prime minister was present for Monday’s verdict, which was delivered with hundreds of police officers on hand outside the court to ensure security. He left smiling, without any comment.
Some observers, including author and former Thai diplomat Pavin Chachavalpongpun, questioned whether Abhisit’s backers in the military and Bangkok-based elite would have allowed the Democrats to be toppled.
The ruling “will strengthen the belief among the opposition that the elite and the Democrat party would do anything to maintain their power interests, even at the expense of the reputation and credibility of the court,” Pavin said.
“It deepens the rift in Thai society. It reinforces the belief among the opposition that double standards really exist,” he told AFP.
The Democrats had expressed confidence they would win the case, with Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban saying ahead of the verdict that there was “no contingency plan” in place for a ban.
The party came to power in a parliamentary vote two years ago after court decisions ousted allies of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was himself unseated in a 2006 military coup.
The judiciary forced two premiers from office in 2008 — both opponents of the Democrats. One of them, Samak Sundaravej, was removed for taking payments for hosting TV cooking shows.
Abhisit, the party’s deputy leader at the time of the alleged grant misuse, appeared as a witness for the defence during the trial, telling the court the election body had been informed about changes in campaign plans.
He has also had to defend the Democrats against accusations that a member of his party had attempted to influence the judiciary in the case.
Allegations that a Democrat lawmaker met an aide of a Constitutional Court judge ahead of a hearing in October — and was captured doing so on video — were splashed on the front pages of local newspapers.
Three out of the original nine judges later withdrew from the case to pursue legal action against the aide, whom they accuse of leaking the video.
PHNOM PENH, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) — Four more Cambodians reported on Sunday dead in the stampede tragedy happened on Monday night on Diamond Island bridge during the final day of the Water Festival, bringing the total number of the dead to 351.
The four new dead, two died from serious injury and the other two were reported from the families of the dead to the local authorities, said a letter signed Sunday by Minister of Social Affairs Ith Samheng, who is also the chairman of the sub-committee on urgent settlement on Diamond Island Casualties.
The letter recorded 351 dead people including 129 men and 222 women and 394 injured. The injured people are in hospitals and get free-of-charge treatment and get 1 million riel (250 U.S. dollars) donation from the government and charitable groups.
Cambodia’s Water Festival from Nov. 20 to 22 is the largest annual festival in the Southeast Asian nation, around three million Cambodians, especially those from rural areas converged to the city to enjoy the regatta.
Officials said the swinging of the bridge is the cause of the accident. The bridge is a kind of suspension one, but people were not aware of it and when it (the bridge) swung, some people thought it was collapsing and burst out shouting and the crowded people on it began to push each other back and forth and causing fatalities.
The dead were from suffocation and stampede and no any evidence found about terrorism or electrocution, according to the officials.
BANGKOK, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) — Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday asked all Thai people to accept any ruling of the Constitution Court on his own political future and that of his Democrat Party.
“If they decide not to dissolve (the party), I wish all people will accept it,” Abhisit said in his weekly national televised address. “If they decide to dissolve, I and my party will also have to accept the verdict.”
On Monday, the Democrat Party, to be represented by former prime minister Chuan Leekpai, will deliver its closing statement to the Constitution Court in a case that the Election Commission ( EC) accused the party of misusing 29 million baht (967,000 U.S. dollars) of EC contribution fund in its political campaigns for a general election in 2005.
The court could as soon as on the same day deliver its verdict.
Abhisit said if the party were to be dissolved and he himself banned from politics for five years, a new prime minister would have to be found.
He said the current two Democrat deputy premiers, Suthep Thaugsuban and Trairong Suwannakhiri, could either become the caretaker prime minister, but the House of Representatives will have to meet in seeking a new premier.
“Everything depends on the court,” Abhisit said. “Nobody knows how the verdict will come out.”
The figure, which included 222 females, is four higher than previously announced, while the number of injured stood at 395, said a statement signed by Ith Samheng, who sits on a committee investigating the disaster.
It said each of the wounded would receive free treatment and assistance from the Cambodian Red Cross as well as 1,000,000 riels (S$321.89) from the government.
Cambodia’s most popular festival ended in tragedy on Monday after crowds panicked on an overcrowded bridge leading to an island that was one of the main event sites.
Authorities have said a full report on the incident would be released in the coming week.
Initial findings from the investigating committee suggest the stampede occurred after rumours rippled through the crowd that the suspension bridge to Phnom Penh’s Diamond Island was about to collapse.