Archive for March 2012
22 March 2012,AFP
The United Nations said Thursday it would not tolerate impunity at Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge war crimes court in a worsening row with Phnom Penh about whether to pursue more suspects.
In a major setback to the UN-backed tribunal, a Swiss judge on Monday became the second international judge in six months to resign over difficulties probing two new cases linked to the 1975-1979 regime blamed for the deaths of up to two million people. The government strongly opposes the cases.
The UN is now likely discussing whether to find a replacement for Laurent Kasper-Ansermet from May 4 or possibly pull out of the court altogether, observers say.
“The United Nations, in its dealings with the (court), remains committed to ensuring that impunity for the crimes committed during the period of the Democratic Kampuchea is not tolerated,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said in an email to AFP.
The UN had earlier expressed “concern” about the latest resignation, but issued a much stronger statement on Thursday after Kasper-Ansermet published a document detailing how his efforts to investigate the cases were blocked at every turn by his Cambodian colleague.
Kasper-Ansermet alleges that his counterpart made it difficult for him to have access to drivers, translators and even the office’s official seal to validate court filings.
“The United Nations is seriously concerned about these worrying developments,” said Nesirky.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former cadre before he defected, has long objected to the potential new cases involving five mid-level Khmer Rouge members, telling Ban in 2010 that prosecutions beyond the current second trial were “not allowed”.
Asked whether Cambodia stood by that position, Ek Tha, a government spokesman, told AFP: “Whatever my prime minister says, I respect his decision.”
Kasper-Ansermet’s resignation came after a German judge quit the court in October citing government interference in the controversial cases.
The UN named reserve judge Kasper-Ansermet as his replacement but Phnom Penh refused to recognise the appointment, and the UN reminded Cambodia on Thursday this was “a breach” of the agreement establishing the court.
The tribunal has so far completed just one case, sentencing a former prison chief to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.
PHNOM PENH, March 21 (Xinhua) — Thousands of Cambodian armed forces were on training Wednesday aiming at providing security and safety for the 20th ASEAN summit and related meetings from March 30 to April 4.
The training was held at the capital’s Diamond Island Center with the participants from police, soldiers, riot police, military police, anti-terrorism police, fire police, traffic police, and guards of honor as well as protocol officials.
Speaking to reporters during the training session, Lieutenant General Chuon Sovan, deputy chief of the National Police, said that during the upcoming summit, the security forces would mainly focus on anti-terrorism.
“Security will be tightened at the airport, meeting venues, delegate buses, hotels, and roads in order to prevent any terrorism plot,” he said, adding “we also train our forces to prevent any protest during the summit.”
Brigadier General Touch Narath, Phnom Penh police chief, said that security and public order in the city have been beefed up from now on through routinely patrolling and searching for weapons and explosions at night among passengers.
“Also, security and safety at hotels and guesthouses have been strengthened, and street businesses along main roads will not be allowed until the end of the summit,” he said.
The 20th ASEAN summit and related meetings will be held at the capital’s Peace Palace.
by Paul Everingham,19 March 2012 publshed by PhnomPenh Post
It help to alleviate my disappointment in, and bewilderment at, the relentless criticism of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia by some of my brothers and sisters in the human-rights movement when I remember that many of them have not had the same experience as I have.
I happen to be of that generation who, throughout their adolescent years in the 1960s and ’70s would turn on the nightly television news to watch the unfolding events in Indochina with an increasing fascination and abhorrence.
Even at that tender age, it was obvious that great crimes against humanity were being committed on a daily basis.
Then, in February of 1980, while sitting in an aeroplane, I opened a news magazine to read with chilling horror about the fate of my friends Stuart Glass and Kerry Hamill.
Glass, a Canadian, Hamill, a New Zealander, and British citizen John Dewhurst had been captured by Khmer Rouge naval forces while sailing past the Cambodian coast in September, 1978.
Glass was probably the lucky one; he was shot and killed at sea.
Hamill and Dewhurst were taken to Tuol Sleng prison, where the last signed portions of their lengthy “confessions” were dated exactly two months after their capture. They were executed soon after.
This perhaps helps explain my acute awareness of the international community’s abysmal record in relation to Cambodia.
Not least in this series of gross betrayals was the United Nations’ insistence on recognising the clearly insane and genocidal Pol Pot forces as the legitimate Cambodian government throughout the 1980s.
This was not mere symbolism; it enabled the Khmer Rouge to rebuild and to wage another decade of devastation. For those of us who cared, it seemed that Cambodia’s agony would be eternal.
When peace and sanity finally arrived in the early 1990s, many of us hoped that some sort of justice would be applied to those most responsible.
These sentiments were tempered by the knowledge that none of the other readily identifiable culprits responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent Cambodians, Vietnamese and Laotians had faced any accountability.
Indeed, when UNTAC came to Cambodia in 1992, it failed to conduct any war-crimes investigations at all.
Fast-forward to February, 2010, and I found myself sitting in the public gallery of a fully constituted combined United Nations and Cambodian war crimes trial.
The man who directed the torture, interrogation and murder of at least 13,000 people at Tuol Sleng, including my friends, was sitting in the dock just 10 metres away.
In the two years since the trials began, I have had the opportunity to closely observe one of the most open, exhaustive and supremely fair trials ever conducted anywhere – and the commencement of a second, even more thorough, exercise in justice.
And all this is occurring right here in Cambodia, in the very midst of the millions of ordinary people whose previous lives had been so comprehensively destroyed.
A population that, for more than 20 years, had been the plaything of a handful of mass murderers – some from within their own country and some from among the world’s most powerful leaders.
A nation that, just 30 short years ago, was a complete wasteland.
For many of us, this is an occurrence of miracle and wonder.
Perhaps, I thought, there was still hope for those who believe in the better side of human nature, for those who strive to advance human consciousness – indeed, for the further development of human civilisation.
Yet it seems this is all a great injustice to some – a transgression that must be vilified and impugned at every opportunity.
I speak, of course, of those preachers of human-rights perfectionism who are insisting that every single aspect of the Khmer Rouge tribunal is consistent with some fantastical, utopian (and, in fact, non-existent) “international standard of justice”.
Lieutenant William Calley served 42 months of home detention for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in March, 1968.
This, I believe, was the sum total of “international-standard justice” delivered by the rest of the world for one of modern history’s darkest chapters: America’s, and its allies’, war in Indochina.
If the UN and the human-rights NGOs could more fully recognise the Khmer Rouge tribunal as a unique landmark in international justice, then perhaps they might be able to play a more constructive role – at least until the rest of the world catches up with what is going on in Cambodia.
The trials under way at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia are the only formal justice ever applied, and ever likely to be applied, to the whole Indochinese mega-atrocity.
Paul Everingham is accredited by ECCC Public Affairs as an independent researcher.
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.”
PHNOM PENH, March 20 (Xinhua) — Japanese government on Tuesday signed up to provide Cambodia a grant aid of 7.5 million U.S. dollars for the rehabilitation of roads, which were damaged by floods last year.
The exchange of notes for the grant was inked between Ouch Borith, a secretary of state at Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry, and Masafumi Kuroki, ambassador of Japan to Cambodia.
“Last year’s floods had claimed many lives and seriously damaged various infrastructures, so it is an urgent need for Cambodia to rehabilitate and reconstruct these infrastructures in order to restore economic and social activities,” said a press release by the Japanese embassy after the signing ceremony. “The grant aid will enable Cambodia to purchase construction equipment for road repair and maintenance.”
Cambodia had suffered the worst flooding from August to October last year, leaving at least 250 people dead and estimated 1.4 million people affected, according to the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM).
Moreover, Nearly 3,000 kilometers of gravel roads and some 180 kilometers of national roads have been damaged.
The floods cost the country about 521 million U.S. dollars, mainly the damages of roads and rice paddies, it said.
Last month, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed up to provide a loan of 69 million U.S. dollars to Cambodia to support a major upgrade of provincial roads in some provinces, which were hard-hit by the floods.
PHNOM PENH, March 20 (Xinhua) — The government of Cambodia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and civil society on Tuesday jointly launched a child protection program, aiming at collecting data about vulnerable children and preventing children from abuse and exploitation.
The 3-year partnership program will focus on the collection of data about vulnerable children and their needs, according to a press release from the UNICEF-Cambodia.
It will also provide trainings to civil society organizations on child-protection services and will provide outreach services to more than 180,000 children and their families to reduce harmful practices.
In addition, the program will prevent and respond to child abuse, exploitation and violence. “The launch of this partnership is a significant step in the efforts of the government, civil society partners and development partners to work together to build a system of laws, structures and services that will allow Cambodian children to grow up in a safe and healthy environment,” said the press release. “The program will protect girls and boys from violence, exploitation, labor, and unnecessary separation from their families.”
Prak Chanthoeurn, director general of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said that the program will be implemented in Phnom Penh and four other provinces including Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk.
The ministry, UNICEF and NGO Friends International have selected other 9 NGOs to implement the program, he said.
Suna Khim, deputy representative of UNICEF to Cambodia, said the UNICEF was the financial and technical sponsor for the program.
“The partnership is very important. The UNICEF would like to encourage other concerned parties to join force to strengthen child protection system in order to ensure that vulnerable children are free from all forms of abuses,” she said.
JAKARTA, March 20 (Xinhua) — Myanmar invited the ASEAN Secretariat and member states to observe the April 1 bi-elections, a press statement from the organization said here on Tuesday.
Myanmar planned to invite a five-member Observer Delegate, including two Parliamentarians and three media staff from each ASEAN member state.
In its invitation letter to the ASEAN Secretariat, Myanmar requested the teams to arrive in Yangon on March 28, to attend a briefing the following day.
The April bi-elections in Myanmar have attracted a lot of attention.
Myanmar has urged relevant countries to lift sanctions, and allow the country to pursue its development to improve the living standards of its people.
Last month, in response to the recommendation of ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan, during his visit, Myanmar President Thein Sein said, “We will seriously consider having observers from ASEAN and the ASEASN Secretariat during the April elections.”
The two leaders agreed that such a move would boost transparency, which will add to the international goodwill that Myanmar had attracted so far.