Posts Tagged ‘Politics of Cambodia’
y The Cambodia Daily – July 2, 2013
By Moeun Chhean Nariddh
On the walls of the news room and broadcast studio of a pro-government TV station in Phnom Penh, a warning sign clearly reads: “Banned from broadcasting: Stories on human rights and land disputes.”
So, when the Cambodian government made an announcement last week banning foreign radio programs from broadcasting on local FM stations for 31 days of the pre-election campaign period, it sent a clear message that the government does not allow its people to hear any “negative” stories on matters such as human rights and the election.
Although the government over the weekend reversed the ban, the media blackout would have been a great loss for all sectors of the society, including the public, the media and the government itself.
First, professional media like Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and Radio France International serve as the mirror of the government to reflect on its performance so that it can improve itself. The original decision to ban the three international broadcasters from broadcasting on local radio stations is no different from breaking the mirror.
At face value, presence of the three international programs in Cambodia is an important sign that the government needs to show that it is still upholding democratic principles by allowing some kind of press.
Second, the news produced by the three international radio programs is of a very high professional standard and can only be produced by journalists with high professional skills. The local radio stations that RFA, VOA and RFI have broadcast their news programs on not only receive quality news for free but they also earn a much-needed revenue to support themselves. The three international broadcasters also serve as a role model for local journalists both in terms of the limit of press freedom and how professional news items are produced.
It’s an irony that virtually all government officials have listened to these international radio programs for uncensored and professional news. Local radio stations cannot hire highly skilled and professional journalists like those working at RFA, VOA and RFI to produce quality news.
Third, the Cambodian people, particularly registered voters, badly need balanced news from the three international broadcasters during the election period so that they can make more informed decisions on election day on July 28. Even supporters of the ruling party also need to know the other side of the stories apart from those produced by the pro-government media outlets so that they can help protect the party they support from any criticism.
In a democratic society, nothing is worse than depriving people of their legitimate right to access to news and information during the election period.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director, Cambodia Institute for Media Studies in Phnom Penh
Cambodia and China signed on Monday eight cooperation documents during Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s official visit in China, according to Chinese News Agency Xinhua.
After the bilateral meeting between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Chinese Premier H.E. Li Keqiang in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Monday, eight deals were signed, said Xinhua.
They are the Memorandum of Understanding between the National Bank of Cambodia and the China Banking Regulatory Commission,the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) and the Government of China (300 million Yuan), the Framework Agreement on a Concessional Loan Agreement Provided by China to Cambodia (Koh Thom Bridge Project) between the RGC and the Government of China (126 million Yuan), the Exchange of Notes on the Project of Vocational School on Agriculture in Kratie Province between the RGC and the Government of China, the Concessional Loan Agreement on the Staung River Basin Water Resources Development Project Phase I between the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia and the Export-Import Bank of China (329.75 million Yuan), the Concessional Loan Agreement on the Koh Thom Bridge Project between the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Cambodia and the Export-Import Bank of China (126 million Yuan), the Action Plan on the Implementation of the China-Cambodia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Cooperation between the Government of China and the RGC, and the Memorandum of Understanding on the 5 million tons Oil Refinery Project among China Development Bank, China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation, China Perfect Machinery Industry Corporation and Cambodia Petrochemical Company (US$1.67 Billion).
Yesterday the Cambodian delegation led by Hun Sen arrived in Beijing after attending the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2013 held in China’s Hainan province.
AKP Phnom Penh, March 09, 2013 –
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has called on all political parties to consider including women on the top party candidate lists for the forthcoming general election.
“Cambodia is going to hold the 5th general election on July 28, 2013. So, I would like to appeal to all political parties to consider placing women’s candidacies on the top candidate lists,” said Samdech Techo Hun Sen while presiding over the celebration of the 102nd Anniversary of the International Women’s Day held here at the Peace Palace on Mar. 8 under the theme of “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity for Progress”.
Samdech Techo Hun Sen also took the opportunity to call on the eligible voters, especially women, to go to vote in July.
In addition, the Cambodian premier also highlighted the Royal Government of Cambodia’s attention on women by promoting the respect of their rights, building their capacity and enhancing their roles in society.
“The Cambodian people always recognize and see women as the mother of the world and the backbone of social and economic development,” Samdech Techo Hun Sen stressed.
A Cambodian court orders a radio broadcaster held without bail during his land clash trial.
A court in Phnom Penh on Monday ordered the head of a Cambodian radio station imprisoned pending his trial over a massive land dispute with the authorities, as more than 100 of his supporters gathered outside the court building calling for his release.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigative judge Sem Sakola said Mam Sonando should be locked up in Prey Sar Prison immediately following his first court appearance since his Sunday arrest that has been condemned by human rights groups.
The government has accused the director of FM station 105, also known as Beehive Radio, of orchestrating a mass occupation of land in Broma village in Kratie province’s Chhlong district that triggered a security crackdown and bloody clashes in May.
Mam Sonando’s defense attorney, Cambodian Defenders Project Director Sok Sam Oeun, said the radio chief, in his 60s, faces a lengthy prison term if he is found guilty. “Mam Sonando is likely to face between seven and 15 years in jail if he is convicted,” he said.
Sok Sam Oeun said that Mam Sonando, who also heads the nongovernmental organization Association of Democrats, was arrested and charged on the basis of a warrant issued by a prosecutor for the Kratie provincial court.
The Kratie court had issued the warrant on July 2 but it could not be served on him because he was abroad. Mam Sonando was charged under Articles 28, 456, 457, 464, 504, and 609 of Cambodia’s Penal Code with disobeying and obstructing public officials, and inciting villagers to take up arms against authorities.
The charges all carry significant prison terms. A conviction under article 464 alone could be punishable by 15-30 years imprisonment.
Call for release
During the course of the hearing on Monday, more than 100 supporters, made up largely of members of the Association of Democrats and other rights groups, held a protest in front of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court calling for Mam Sonando’s release. The group of protesters held photos of the station chief and shouted slogans including: “Mam Sonando is innocent” and “He was only helping the poor.”
Among the crowd was Mam Sonando’s wife, Din Phanara, who insisted that her husband had not committed any crime and called the charges against her husband “unjust.” “If my husband had committed a crime he would never have returned to Cambodia,” she said.
Mam Sonando was in Europe when security forces surrounded Broma village and moved to evict the villagers on May 16 in a violent crackdown. He returned home on July 12, days before his arrest.
Cambodia Center for Human Rights Director Ou Virak, who also participated in the protest, said Mam Sonando should have been released on bail because he is not a flight risk, adding that the broadcasting director’s arrest “will affect independent media in the country.”
The Cambodian government accused Mam Sonando’s Association of Democrats of sparking the May land revolt and the ensuing clashes in which an innocent teenage girl was fatally shot by security forces.
The clashes occurred after some 1,000 village families refused a government order to vacate state land they had used for farming and which activists said had been awarded as a concession to Russian firm Casotim, which plans to set up a rubber plantation. Several thousand Cambodians are driven every year from farmland or urban areas to make way for real estate developments or mining and agricultural projects, reports have said.
Economic land concessions granted to private developers have been at the root of several high-profile disputes in recent years, including in the Boeung Kak Lake and Borei Kela areas of Phnom Penh, where residents say they were forced from their homes.
Mam Sonando informed RFA in a brief email that “seven cars and [a] score of police” came to arrest him at his residence in Phnom Penh on Sunday morning. He had earlier rejected any links to the revolt in an interview with RFA.
Human rights groups have protested the arrest, saying it was politically motivated. Mam Sonando has been arrested twice before.
In 2003, he was arrested and charged with giving “false” information and inciting people to “discriminate” and “commit crimes.”
In 2005, he was held and charged with defamation over a radio interview that elicited criticism of Hun Sen’s Cambodian border control issues with Vietnam.
The PP Post by Bridget Di Certo with additional reporting by Cheang Sokha
20 March 2012
After four months of seemingly endless conflict, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet is leaving the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Cambodian staff at the tribunal have stonewalled all efforts by the UN-nominated reserve co-investigating judge to investigate government-opposed cases 003 and 004, effectively forcing his resignation, the judge announced yesterday.
The Swiss national tendered his resignation to the UN secretary-general, effective on May 4, 2012, in the midst of what he called a “dysfunctional situation within the ECCC”.
“I am truly blocked in every aspect,” Kasper-Ansermet told the Post yesterday.
“It is illegal, and I cannot validate this situation any more.”
Kasper-Ansermet’s Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng, has opposed his authority to act in the capacity of reserve international co-investigating judge since the day the Swiss judge arrived in Cambodia.
However, this conflict has now spread and embroils the majority of tribunal sections key to fair and proper investigations into cases 003 and 004.
Information obtained by the Post yesterday revealed the rapidly deteriorating situation at the tribunal, in which national officers have prevented Kasper-Ansermet from conducting even the most basic functions of his office.
The head of the court management section and case file officer have refused to file Kasper-Ansermet’s Order on Resuming the Judicial Investigation in Case 003 under the instructions of the OCIJ national legal team leader and You Bunleng, a source from the court said yesterday.
This obstruction to filing has been extended to all case file documents created under the leadership of Kasper-Ansermet since his arrival in Cambodia, according to the source.
The effect of this is that no steps, including the resumption of investigations in Case 003, the continuation of investigations in Case 004 or records of investigators informing the five suspects of the charges against them and their rights have been filed with the court.
Further, as previously reported by the Post, national staff within the Court Management Section disregarded a judicial decision by Kasper-Ansermet to allow civil party applicant Rob Hamill’s lawyers access to the case file in 003.
This skirmish over access resulted in the OCIJ international legal team leader being banned from the Records and Archives Unit by the chief of the Court Management Section.
Access was only granted later by international staff.
Amid this widening divide, the source said that the national greffier of the OCIJ and You Bunleng’s administrative assistant have withheld the official OCIJ seal – the symbol of judicial authority of the office – from international staff in the office.
The Ministry of Interior additionally rejected a request by international staff for another seal because the request was not signed by both co-investigating judges.
It is in this context that Kasper-Ansermet opened an internal investigation for “interference with the administration of justice”, according to his press release yesterday.
However, even this internal investigation has been blocked by those under investigation who refused to respond to summons issued by international investigators.
International investigators were told that You Bunleng was the sole decider of policy within the OCIJ and made clear that all actions emanated from instructions of the Cambodian judge.
When contacted yesterday about the allegations, You Bunleng denied there was any ill intention on his part against Kasper-Ansermet.
“I actually never have had any dispute with him,” You Bunleng said by telephone yesterday.
“Of course I have met him, and we have discussed about work procedure, but my stance toward him has not changed from my previous statement.”
You Bunleng referred to a letter he addressed to Kasper-Ansermet on February 27, titled “Abrupt stop of unlawful acts and of the use of my name to link to these acts”.
You Bunleng wrote: “I would like to call for your abrupt stop of these unlawful acts and of the use of my name to link to such deeds, particularly to what you have so far considered solely as disagreements between co-investigating judges.”
The Post has previously reported on Kasper-Ansermet’s registration of a disagreement between the two judges.
In his response to that letter, Kasper-Ansermet wrote: “[I] urge you to comply with the law and to refrain from sending me admonitions that are without legal basis and whose sole aim seems to be undermining the proper performance of my duties.”
Council of Ministers’ spokesman Ek Tha said the government had no comment on Kasper-Ansermet’s resignation.
“All I can say is that the Royal Government of Cambodia is very clear and has never and will never interfere with the work of the ECCC,” Ek Tha said.
Clair Duffy of court monitor Open Society Justice Initiative said this was just the latest development in a history of Cambodian tribunal staff acting in accordance with executive will in respect to the government-opposed cases 003 and 004.
“It is interesting to see You Bunleng talk about Kasper-Ansermet’s unlawful conduct when you [consider that] every action and inaction and the unlawfulness of [Bunleng’s] conduct has been documented left, right and centre,” Duffy said.
“The UN and donors can stand upright now and address the heart of this issue.”
By Chhay Channyda and David Boyle,The PP Post,16 March 2012
In a shock development, a court official said yesterday deposed Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith had confessed to shooting three women at a protest last month in a case that has brought international scrutiny to Cambodia’s judicial system
Svay Rieng provincial prosecutor Hing Bun Chea said Chhouk Bandith had confessed to the triple shooting, outside the Kaoway Sports Ltd shoe factory, after going to the court a day early for questioning. Despite the confession, he walked out of court a free man.
“I already questioned him this morning. He was accompanied by his lawyer. He confessed to the shooting, but he gave me many reasons for that,” Hing Bun Chea said.
“It is my right not to arrest [him]. I don’t see it as important. I investigated in accordance with [my] role and procedures.”
On Thursday last week, Svay Rieng deputy provincial governor Men Vibol announced that Chhouk Bandith, the sole supect, had been removed from his position as Bavet town governor to prevent him wielding judicial influence in the case.
Bavet town officials have allegedly attempted to buy the silence of all three victims, 21-year-old Buot Chinda, 18-year-old Keo Neth and 23-year-old Nuth Sakhorn, offering between $US500 and $1,000 for them not to press charges.
Buot Chinda, who was shot in the chest and went into hiding after filing a complaint against Chhouk Bandith, said yesterday she feared for her safety because he was still free.
“I am angry that he has not been arrested while everyone knows that he shot me and others,” she said.
Sam Prachea Manith, director of cabinet at the Ministry of Justice, said the decision to arrest or not was up to the court. “If the suspect has a real address and they [the court] are sure the suspect will not escape and can deposit money with the court, this suspect is not [necessarily] detained,” he said.
Chhouk Bandith could not be reached for comment yesterday, and his lawyer, Mao Sam Putheary, declined to comment.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the prosecutor could technically release the suspect without asking the investigating judge to arrest him if he intended to charge him with battery, a misdemeanour, rather than a more serious crime.
“It may be a problem about the interpretation of the law, I think. It also depends on the type of crime,” he said.
“It is a problem with the Cambodian legal system. For me, I think if he used a gun, it is what we call physical force.
“If he is shooting, even if it is shooting the legs, it can do very serious damage.”
Rights groups such as Licadho and the Cambodian Legal Education Centre have repeatedly asserted that the case is a clear example of attempted murder because the gunman shot directly into a crowd of about 6,000 protesters who were demanding improved pay conditions.
Last Monday, Hing Bun Chea issued a summons rather than an arrest warrant for Chhouk Bandith, saying he was not convinced by the police report, despite the fact the former governor had been identified by Interior Minister Sar Kheng as the sole suspect.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the failure of the prosecutor again to seek an arrest was more evidence of corruption in the case, which needed to be investigated.
“They [the court] know full well that they are not fulfilling their obligations to the investigations, that the whole thing is a sham and that they’re not trying to investigate because the whole thing is a pre-determined outcome,” he said.
“It’s another stark example of the widespread impunity that is going on in this country. It’s a sad state of affairs for the justice system.”
A group of 32 rights groups and unions, including CCHR, issued a statement yesterday calling on the government to ensure that Chhouk Bandith’s arrest become a top priority.
“Many Cambodian garment workers already live a life of hardship, suffering, poverty and uncertainty. As such, the workers should receive protection and support from the State, not face further victimisation through brutal acts of violence,” the statement said.
PUMA, which sources shoes from the Kaoway Sports Ltd factory, has launched its own investigation into the case.
In a statement yesterday, PUMA again urged the Cambodian government to ensure a fair, impartial investigation was conducted, saying its primary concern was the security and safety of the workers.
Tida Tawornseth, the chairperson of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, answers the tough questions on the return of the former prime minister, where the red shirt movement ends and the Pheu Thai begins, and bilateral politics played out on a football pitch
Why did the red shirts play a football friendly match in Phnom Penh yesterday with a foreign government, one that has been in conflict with the Thai government in recent years to the point of bloodshed?
The truth is the Thai people do not want war. People everywhere want love and friendship. We want to visit one another and trade. Conservatives make war with neighbours to cover up internal dissent. We are not conservatives. We are ordinary Thais who want a better life. You can call us liberals.
Shouldn’t relations with neighbouring countries be the purview of the government? Why are the red shirts assuming that role? Are the red shirts acting as representatives of the Thai government?
We speak only for the red shirts, who comprise a sizeable number of the population. This is a good thing, promoting positive relations. They honoured us in the meetings to prepare [for the match]. Premier Hun Sen, [Deputy Prime Minister] Sok An, [Deputy Prime Minister] Tia Banh and other ministers were all there. On our side, we had Jatuporn [Prompan], Natthawut [Saikua], Weng [Tojirakarn, husband of Mrs Tida] and Korkaew Pikulthong. This is a good opportunity for the people to forge better bilateral relations. We do it in the name of the people.
Speaking of good relations, the red shirts have enjoyed them with the Cambodian government. Do you collaborate politically?
I don’t know about other people, but this is the first time that I have met and talked with them in a somewhat official capacity. I know that our neighbours watch us via satellite TV and that they are very interested in the people’s movement in our country. They see the conservatives wanting to provoke nation alistic conflicts to cover up internal problems. But we [the red shirts] only want friendship. They cheer for us.
Let’s go back to Sept 17, the party held in Cambodia. According to reports, Thaksin was there. So were Premier Hun Sen, Mr Arisman and Jakrapob Penkair. You were also there. What did you discuss with each of them?
I didn’t speak with them. The party was held in a big room. It’s strange, but in Cambodia they put the VIP table way in the back. I didn’t get to go on stage. We [red shirts] were able to have an exchange with the leader of Cambodia and that was good enough for me. I sat at the table with Premier Hun Sen’s son [Hun Manet], we talked. I don’t know what was happening on stage. Thaksin was at Premier Hun Sen’s table. I found out later that Mr Arisman played guitar and sang a couple of songs on stage. I didn’t see him or greet him. But I talked to ‘Khun Too’ [Jatuporn] and asked about ‘Khun Kee’ [Arisman]. He said Khun Kee said he wanted to see his friends, to see the people, and that there are many people who wanted to see Thaksin.
Do you think Arisman should return and turn himself in?
Yes, but it’s his right, his business. I can only speak sincerely according to what I believe. I don’t want to pretend or sugar coat.
His guilt or innocence and whether he has been the victim of injustice is one issue, but are you saying he has the right to flee from the law?
It’s not that he has the right, but we can’t force others to do things. You must understand that we are liberals. The red shirts are liberals. I am the chairwoman. I can’t order others. We believe it’s a personal issue. We won’t interfere. But we can offer our opinions. The media shouldn’t ask us to condemn our friends. We will not say things to make the conservatives happy.
As a friend, I understand, but, as a good citizen, if we find a fugitive on the run, shouldn’t we be obliged to inform the authorities?
If you look at it that way, then we have to talk about the justice process. Is it right that we are charged with terrorism? If [Arisman] refuses to turn himself in, perhaps he’s taking a stance to say that he refuses to accept the judicial process. The most important thing to remember is that without justice, there can be no reconciliation. If we talk about surrendering to the judicial process, If we talk about surrendering to the process of justice, why don’t we ask if the  coup was wrong? Where did the Constitution Court come from if not the Council for National Security? We have been abused for five years. You shouldn’t ask this question to those who have been victimised.
We have only won legislative power. Justice is a different issue. In Thailand, court power, judicial power and others are subject to the patronage system.
It’s likely that the military reshuffle will see high-ranking offers involved in the [May 19, 2010] crackdown retaining their positions or gaining promotions. What do you think of that as chairwoman of the red shirts?
I don’t quite remember who’s getting which position _ I don’t really care about ranks. I only care about the role they played in the crackdown. As the representative of the red shirts, I believe that those [officers] who stand accused of involvement [in wrongdoings during the crackdown] should be bypassed for promotion for now. Not punished, but bypassed until the truth comes out about, for example, what happened in the operation at Wat Pathum Wanaram [six people were killed at the temple _ which had been designated a safe haven _ during the red shirt crackdown. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Thailand report released in May found that army actions were ''probably'' to blame for three of the deaths, although No criminal charges have been laid in connection with the deaths].
So make them stay put, no promotions until the judicial process is complete, correct?
By extension, should accused red shirts also stay put instead of becoming MPs and ministry officials until the judicial process is complete?
That’s a different issue.
They were the authorities at the time, we were not. I’m not saying the government is guilty, but the red shirts were imprisoned. What about the authorities who shot at people? Are they in prison? No, they get promoted.
But today, now that we’ve had elections and the Pheu Thai Party is in government, why are the red shirts still in action?
The red shirts are a people’s movement. We want democracy and justice. We are not a movement for the Pheu Thai or Thaksin. The question is with the elections, will there be democracy?
Are you afraid of another coup?
No, but it has happened 20 times. Don’t forget, I’ve been through it for 38 years.
There are accusations that the funding for the red shirts comes from Pheu Thai and Thaksin. During the red shirts’ occupation of Ratchaprasong intersection last year, I saw plenty of banners announcing which Pheu Thai MP helped to bring which group of red shirts from which province. Does that not show that the red shirts are involved with Pheu Thai and Thaksin?
It’s a good question and it’s an ammart [elite] question. Pheu Thai MPs and red shirts are allied because we were both victimised. Look at the yellow shirts and the Democrats, they were allies, and then they bicker.
Will the red shirts and Pheu Thai bicker?
You have to understand that the job of Pheu Thai MPs is politics. We are a people’s movement. They support the red shirts, because those red shirts are people from their districts, from their provinces. If MPs don’t support their constituents, they might fear losing votes the next time around.
Some say the yellow shirts and the Democrats can have a falling out because they draw from two bags of money, while the red shirts and Pheu Thai have the same bag of money.
That’s an insulting question to the people, to say that the mob comes out because of money.
Every mob in this country comes out because of money.
That is not true and unfair to the people who came out, even during heavy rains, the 20 million who voted, those who stayed when shooting began. How much money would it take to hire people to die? This is another ammart question.
No doubt, there are those on the ground who truly believe. I was there talking to them. But the bag of money may be an issue pertaining to the leadership. The leaders are the ones that get the money to rouse the people to come out.
That’s the accusation?
That’s an accusation.
That’s why the ammart will never beat the people. It’s insulting to the people. Where does Thaksin get the money? The ammart robbed him of over 40 billion baht, banned his parties. You think you’ve destroyed him. But what you gave him was more valuable than 40 billion baht _ the hearts of the people. You didn’t destroy Thaksin, you built Thaksin.
Thaksin gave an interview last month saying that he would only return to politics if the people wanted him to. Do the red shirts want him to be prime minister again?
Normally, I only speak about the UDD. If it’s not necessary I don’t speak about Thaksin.
But the red shirts and the people have one weapon, and that is the truth. If you ask, do we want Thaksin back? Certainly. Not just the red shirts, but the 15.6 million people [registered voters in the 20 provinces of the Northeast who voted for Pheu Thai in July's election]. Counting the votes that we were cheated out of, that’s 16 million. I believe everyone wants Thaksin back.
Back, and back as prime minister?
That’s a poor question. There’s a process to become prime minister. Thaksin has charges against him. We can’t speak of the premiership now. Will he return, I do know know. It’s his business, just as Mr Arisman’s business is his own.
Phnom Penh - The Cambodian government said it expected Thursday’s scheduled visit by Thailand’s new prime minister to lead to significantly improved relations.
Yingluck Shinawatra, whose Pheu Thai party won Thailand’s July ballot, is scheduled to meet her Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen during her stopover in Phnom Penh.
Koy Kuong, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Phnom Penh expected the visit would “restore our bilateral relations and cooperation in all fields.”
“The government led by the Pheu Thai party in Thailand has the same goal as the Royal Government of Cambodia – that we hate war, we don’t like to use violence as a means to solve our problems,” he said. “We love a peaceful solution.” //DPA