Archive for June 2011
By Uong Ratana,PPenhPost- Former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan listens to court proceedings on a set of headphones at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Lawers for civil parties outlined reparations requests yesterday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, demanding compensation for the suffering of their clients as the court’s historic second case stretched into its third day.
Civil party participation has long been touted as a distinctive feature of the tribunal, the first international war crimes court to allow for direct victim participation. Some 3,850 civil parties are participating in Case 002, including 1,728 whose applications were originally rejected but who were accepted on appeal in a decision released last week.
Speaking towards the end of the hearing yesterday, civil party lead co-lawyer Pich Ang offered a list of proposed reparations that he said would hopefully help victims “heal their psychological wounds”.
“Those who applied to be civil parties have the intention to seek the truth and justice, and to seek reparations awards for the victims as well as for the society as a whole,” Pich Ang said.
Among the requests he listed were the construction of stupas and a memorial site, the establishment of a national day of remembrance of some kind, the preservation of crime sites for historical purposes and the establishment of a museum and archive related to Khmer Rouge history.
Pich Ang also called for the expanded teaching of Khmer Rouge history in Cambodian schools, the establishment of centres where victims can seek psychological treatment, the provision of citizenship to Vietnamese victims of the regime and an education programme for children born as a result of forced marriages during the KR period. A trust fund, he said, could be established to fund the proposed awards.
Trial Chamber president Nil Nonn noted that financial awards were not feasible given the large number of civil parties, and in any case, the court’s rules empower it to grant only “collective and moral” reparations.
Pich Ang’s foreign counterpart, civil party lead co-lawyer Elisabeth Simonneau Fort, said the reparations proposals named yesterday represented only preliminary suggestions, and that further consultation with victims and other lawyers was necessary.
“We have the possibility of modifying our request and adding, and it’s obvious that we will be obliged to do so,” Simonneau Fort said, noting the large number of civil parties that were admitted only last week.
Reparations were one of the more contentious aspects of the tribunal’s first verdict, which came last year in the case of former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch.
In the Duch judgment, the court’s Trial Chamber granted a pair of reparations requests from civil parties: It printed the names of accepted civil parties in the verdict and pledged to collect and publish all statements of apology made by Duch during the proceedings.
Civil party lawyers and court monitors criticised these reparations as unimaginative and insufficient, though the judges said in their decision that they did not have the power to fund projects or make recommendations to the government.
At a plenary session in September, the court thus amended its rules to allow for more expansive reparations options that will be available to judges in Case 002. The court can now make non-binding recommendations to the government regarding reparations and design projects that can be implemented with external funding.
Sou Koeun, a Case 002 civil party from Kampong Speu province, said outside the court yesterday that he approved of the proposed awards.
“The most important for me is the memorial stupa for civil parties,” he said. “These reparations can help the victims recover from what happened a long time ago and the mental problems they have had since a long time ago.”
Also yesterday, the court heard arguments on whether the statute of limitations for crimes in the 1956 Cambodian Penal Code had expired by the start of investigations in the case.
While such crimes originally carried a 10-year statute of limitations, the 2001 law on the establishment of the tribunal extended this statute by an additional 20 years for crimes falling within the court’s jurisdiction. The 2004 amended tribunal law carried an additional 10-year extension.
Cambodian deputy prosecutor Seng Bunkheang said the original 10-year statute of limitations did not apply due to the weakness of the Cambodian court system in the years following the Khmer Rouge reign.
“Time was needed to ensure that a proper and functional judicial system could be reestablished,” he said.
But Michael Karnavas, a defence lawyer for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, said the extension of the statute of limitations represented an unjustified, retroactive alteration of the law. Trials were indeed conducted during the 1980s, however imperfectly, he added.
“Was it a perfect situation? No. But if you pick up the newspapers and you read the reports on Cambodia today, you hear the same refrain – political interference, lack of independence and so on,” he said.
Sa Sovan, a lawyer for former KR head of state Khieu Samphan, echoed the Ieng Sary team in arguing against the retroactive altering of the statute, though he acknowledged finding portions of the discussion inscrutable.
“Sometimes the words used here are so technical and sometimes it is hard for me to follow and to understand,” he said.
In the Duch judgment, the judges were divided on whether the statute of limitations for crimes outlawed in the 1956 Penal Code had expired, and thus ruled only on the basis of international law.
Ieng Sary left the hearing yesterday morning due to back pain, while KR Brother Number 2 Nuon Chea walked out for the third day in a row as his own case was not being considered. The other defendants, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary’s wife, former KR social action minister Ieng Thirith, stayed for the duration.
After running behind schedule earlier this week, the tribunal is set to conclude this round of initial hearings today with a discussion of proposed witnesses. Hearings involving evidence and witness testimony are not expected until August or September.
“The prince said that I led Funcinpec to serve ‘them’. His claim is not the truth,” the Funcinpec party president said, referring to allegations made by Ranariddh on June 18 in apparent reference to Nhek Bun Chhay’s relationship with the ruling elite.
“What I have most regretted is that Nhek Bun Chhay took the national patriot movement Funcinpec, of our father and our grandfather, to play as bay lok bay lor, to serve them until all was broken,” Ranariddh said at the time, referring to a children’s game similar to “playing house”. The prince then urged Funcinpec members to join his Norodom Ranariddh Party.
Nhek Bun Chhay claimed yesterday, however, that hundreds of NRP members had defected to Funcinpec. “There are more than 600 NRP leaders in communes, districts and provinces who have defected,” he said.
NRP spokesman Pen Sangha dismissed the claim, saying that Nhek Bun Chhay was no “super star” like Ranariddh and Funcinpec was a “ship nearly sunk in the water”.
BANGKOK, June 30 (Xinhua) — Thai army chief Gen Prayuth Chan- ocha on Thursday turned down the rumors that the military may stage coup if the opposition Pheu Thai wins the general election.
“Rumors are only rumors. There is no such a thing,” the army chief replied to questions raised by reporters on his return from a visit to South Korea.
He said the army would continue doing its own duty regardless of who becomes the government.
As for the opposition party trying to meet with the Defense Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and himself for building relationship, he said it is not necessary because any government could direct the army. Army is only an institute with its responsibility as stated in laws, he added.
Gen Prayuth also repeated his call that all sides refrain from trying to drag the military into politics. Whoever is government, the army is duty-bound to protect national sovereignty, he said.
Asked about concerns that the “Red Shirt” protesters might take to the streets if Pheu Thai could not form a new government and this might trigger military coup, Gen Prayuth replied “It is the matter of the future. It depends on how media will convince people that the army will not meddle with politics and administration.”
The most recent coup in Thailand took place in September 2006 when the military ousted the then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for massive corruption and undermining democratic institutes in the country. Pheu Thai Party is the second reincarnation of Thaksin-found Thai Rak Thai and Red Shirt movement is the strong allies of Thaksin. Coup rumors have been spread as opinion surveys showed that Pheu Thai would win the July 3 election and will be able to form a new government.
HANOI, June 30 (Xinhua) — The seminar “Vietnam-Thailand Partnership Get-together” was held in Vietnam’s southern Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) on Thursday.
Vietnam-Thailand trade relations have developed well, and Thai businessmen expect further cooperation with their Vietnamese partners and more contracts signed in new areas, IPB Deputy Director Surasith Bungbhisand said at the seminar.
Bungbhisand said that Thai participants to the seminar were representatives from such industries as plastics, equipment and accessories, automobiles and motorbikes, hotels and restaurants, interior decoration, foodstuff and consumer goods.
According to Vietnam News Agency, the event was held by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI)’s HCMC Bureau and Thai Ministry of Industry’s Industrial Promotion Bureau (IPB).
According to VCCI, there are 250 Thai-invested projects in Vietnam, with a total registered capital of 5.8 billion U.S. dollars. Thailand is ranked among Vietnam’s top ten foreign investors.
In 2010 the two-way trade turnover reached about 7.5 billion U. S. dollars, up 21 percent year-on-year, of which Vietnam’s exports to Thailand earned 1.2 billion U.S. dollars, up 10 percent.
PHNOM PENH, June 30 (Xinhua) — The number of the critically endangered vultures in Cambodia has declined 7.6 percent to 267 in June this year from 289 at this time last year, according to the vulture census released on Thursday.
The census was conducted by Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project (CVCP) in cooperation with the ministries of environment and agriculture.
Song Chansocheat, the manager of CVCP, said the census had been done simultaneously on June 10 and 20 in seven different jungles in the provinces of Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, Mondolkiri and Rattanakiri, where the vultures are living.
The vulture census was held by lying out cattle carcasses for vultures to eat and then the vulture population had been counted.
“The census is not 100 percent accurate; however, we can conclude that the number of vultures has been declining in Cambodia,” he said.
In an effort to save this critically endangered bird in Cambodia, the CVCP has killed a cow in each of the seven places every month in order to feed those vultures, he added.
When Indonesia took the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in January, it could not have asked for a more challenging task than to deal with the military clashes which have erupted between Thailand and Cambodia over a border dispute.
Jakarta had some grand designs when it asked Brunei to swap places for the right to chair the regional grouping as Indonesia’s turn was not due until 2013. But as Asean under Indonesia’s chairmanship forges ahead with the creation of an Asean Economic Community by 2015, the clashes on the Thai-Cambodian border are a reminder of the many territorial disputes among its 10 members that for much of its 44-year history have been swept under the carpet.
Some border disputes are hard if not impossible to resolve, except through a war where one party wins and the other loses.
The overlapping territorial claim by both Thailand and Cambodia over the border region that houses the historic Preah Vihear temple is one such example. To both sides, this is a matter of sovereignty. Neither country is prepared to give up an inch of land, and both sides are prepared to go to war if necessary.
Many territorial disputes within Asean are the legacy of the European colonial rulers that carved the region according to their economic interests. In the case of Preah Vihear temple, however, it goes back centuries and predates European colonialism, making a solution to the problem extremely contentious.
While it may be unfair to judge Indonesia’s leadership of Asean in 2011 by how it manages the Thai-Cambodia conflict, given the near impossibility of finding a settlement that would satisfy both sides, it is still a blessing in disguise for the region that the clashes have happened under its watch.
Indonesia, as the most influential Asean member, can use its weight and diplomatic resources to prevent the skirmishes from escalating.
Asean’s founding fathers got it right when they decided to put aside overlapping territorial claims and border disputes, and instead focused upon turning Southeast Asia from a zone filled with wars and conflicts that marred relations in the 1960s, into a region of peace, development and cooperation.
Looking back, without Asean, the region would not have developed and prospered the way it has.
Each Asean country has a border and/or territorial dispute with almost all its neighbours. Some of these are being resolved bilaterally through long negotiations. One or two of these territorial disputes were also brought before the International Court of Justice. Unfortunately, the settlement reached at the court did not inspire confidence for others to utilise the same adjudication process in other territorial disputes. Indonesia for one is unlikely to go back to The Hague any time soon, after it bitterly lost Sipadan and Ligitan, two islands off the northeast of Borneo, to Malaysia in 2002. The court recognised that both countries had legitimate claims based on the map they inherited from their former colonial rulers, respectively Holland and Britain, but gave sovereignty to Kuala Lumpur simply because it had de facto jurisdiction.
The lesson for Indonesia was to ensure that all its remaining 17,504 islands _ it was officially 17,506 in 2002 _ particularly those furthest on the border are populated.
Meanwhile, Malaysia was not so fortunate when it returned to The Hague for a ruling over its territorial dispute with Singapore. The court in 2008 gave the more strategic Pedra Branca Island to Singapore and Middle Rocks to Malaysia. The court noted that the Sultanate of Johore, which held the original title over Pedra Branca, waived its claim in 1953 to Britain, Singapore’s administrator at the time, and that Singapore had since conducted activities on the island without any protest from Malaysia.
These elements were not present in Singapore’s claim of the adjacent Middle Rocks islands, and so the court granted possession to Malaysia.
Indonesia would have been content with this type of a Solomon’s justice in 2002 and probably would not have lost confidence in turning to the International Court of Justice again.
While the Asean Charter, signed by leaders of all 10 member countries in 2007, provides for a regional conflict-resolution mechanism, it was not designed for settling territorial disputes among members.
After the first salvos were fired between Cambodia and Thailand in January, neither country expressed interest in turning to the Asean Charter. Thailand insisted on solving this conflict bilaterally without outside interference and Cambodia quickly turned to the UN Security Council, only to be told to let Indonesia mediate within the framework of Asean.
More recently, Cambodia has taken the issue to the International Court of Justice in another show of no confidence in Asean.
Given Bangkok and Phnom Penh’s distrust of Asean, Indonesia’s task as a mediator has been made that much harder, and expectations of what Indonesia can do should, therefore, be more realistic.
Sweeping the big and difficult issues under the carpet is not exclusive only to Asean. European countries are not entirely free from long and unresolved border and territorial conflicts _ the dispute over Gibraltar between Britain and Spain is but one example _ yet they have been able to forge the creation of the European Union and turn it into a borderless community.
One close Asean watcher has suggested that Indonesia should use its chairmanship to push for even speedier integration of the region and make the borderless Southeast Asia concept a reality. Once the barriers are lifted, the argument goes, it matters little who controls the border territories.
These intra-Asean disputes would seem miniscule compared to the looming battle most members now face with China, which lately is flexing its muscle in exercising its territorial and maritime claims to the South China Sea.
China, which has many overlapping claims in this region with some Asean countries, is insisting that these disputes be resolved bilaterally, rather than multilaterally.
The Thai-Cambodian border conflict may be taking much of the time and energy of Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who has shuttled between the two capitals, but it should not stop Indonesia from pushing forward with whatever grand designs it had in mind for Asean, including setting a new agenda for the group beyond 2015.
The territorial conflict and others like it are speed bumps that may provide discomfort for Asean on its way to becoming an integrated, economic community in 2015, but they should not in any way become an obstacle to stop the integration process.
The real test for Indonesia’s chairmanship is not whether it can resolve the Thai-Cambodian border dispute, but whether it can get everyone to stay on the course of Asean community, in spite of it.
Writer: Endy Bayuni is a visiting fellow at the East-West Center in Washington and former editor-in-chief of the Jakarta Post.