Thursday, October 8, 2009

Khmer Rouge court calls government witnesses

7 October 2009

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge war crimes court has summoned six top government and legislative officials as witnesses against leaders of the late 1970s regime, said documents released Wednesday.

In a move opposed by the Cambodian government, letters signed by the French investigating judge called on the officials to testify in the second case against former Khmer Rouge leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Current senate president Chea Sim, national assembly president Heng Samrin, foreign minister Hor Namhong, finance minister Keat Chhon and senators Sim Ka and Ouk Bunchhoeun were each "asked for a hearing as a witness," said the letters.

They will have to give testimony to an investigating judge of the tribunal, which was created in 2006 to try leading members of the regime.

"Except for individuals who volunteer to go, the government's position is no to this even if they are called as witnesses," government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP Wednesday.

He said that foreign officials involved in the tribunal "can pack their clothes and return home" if they are not satisfied.

However Heather Ryan, court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, said the move to release the court documents was an "important step" which might make members of government feel obliged to cooperate with the tribunal.

"The fact that the letters are public hopefully increases the chances they will comply with the summonses," Ryan said.

Critics of Cambodia's administration have previously alleged that it has interfered in the tribunal to protect former regime members now in government.

The court's second case is expected to try detained former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith.

As the court has sought to investigate other suspects, Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned further prosecutions could plunge Cambodia back into civil war. But critics say there is no risk of more fighting after over a decade of peace.

Final arguments in the court's first trial of prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known by the alias Duch, are scheduled for late next month.

He has used the proceedings to accept responsibility and apologise for overseeing the execution of more than 15,000 people at the main Khmer Rouge jail, known as Tuol Sleng.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Source: AFP Google News Alert

Typhoon Ketsana

Brief description of the Emergency:

Since 8 September 2009 heavy rains and flood waters have inundated 39 communes in 6 districts of Kompong Thom Province. On 29 September at 1:00 am local time or 08:00 GMT, Typhoon Ketsana, making its way from the Philippines to Vietnam, lashed the central and northern provinces of Cambodia.

In addition to the existing flooding, Typhoon Ketsana brought more flood water and havoc to at least three provinces. According to the Cambodian National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), as at 1 October 2009 the death toll due to the floods stood at 14 (nine deaths in Kompong Thom, three in Siem Reap province and two deaths confirmed in Rattanakiri).

In Kompong Thom – ACT member Church World Service (CWS) Cambodia operational area - the following casualties and damages have been reported following the flooding and further rains dropped by Typhoon Ketsana.

- 10,684 seriously affected families in 254 villages in 43 communes
- 9 deaths (5 women and 3 children)
- 14,862 ha of paddy rice were completely destroyed
- 34,078 meters of roads cut off
- 47 people were reported injured with 18 having serious injuries
- At least 98 houses and public buildings were completely destroyed
- At least 430 houses and public buildings were destroyed (more than 60%)

As at 5 October the flood waters have not subsided and the waters remain 1 – 2 metres deep in most part of the affected areas including Kompong Thom town. There are reports that the water levels are rising in some of the lower areas.


The flooding and heavy rains brought by Typhoon Ketsana has resulted in more than 500 families being rendered homeless or having insufficient shelter (according to data from the Provincial Governor). Food items, access to clean water, health and sanitation are the primarily needs of the affected population of 10,684 families. In addition, livelihood, infrastructures and education of children are the major longer term concerns.

National and local coordination:

From 26 to 28 September 2009, Church World Service Cambodia was part of an assessment team comprising the NCDM, the Provincial Red Cross Branch, OXFAM, World Vision, Caritas, Muslim Aid and CARE who jointly assessed the flood damages. However, typhoon Ketsana hit on 29 September, and NCDM, CWS, OXFAM and Caritas again got together to assess the most affected area in Sandan district on 30 September 2009.

Some limited emergency responses have been carried out by World Vision, OXFAM and Caritas as well as the local authorities in their respective target areas to reduce hunger and suffering of the affected population. The Cambodian Red Cross has also provided some small relief packages 800 families severely affected by Ketsana.

However, this assistance is not expected to last longer than 1 – 2 weeks and food and non-food items are scarce and insufficient to cover the needs of the coming months.

Planned Activities:

CWS will conduct a further joint rapid needs assessment with ACT member DanChurchAid (DCA), the Provincial Red Cross and the NCDM in selected communes. Based on the capacity of CWS and the presence of existing INGO in the areas, CWS Cambodia will prioritize three or more of the most affected communes including Sandan and Dang Kambet in Sandan district and Sraeung commune in Prasat Sambou district in Kompong Thom province.

CWS plans to provide emergency assistance from mid of October to June 2010 (about 7 months). Priority will be given to food items (white rice, canned fish, vegetable oil, fish and soya source and iodine salt) and non food items (plastic sheeting, water containers and filters, mosquito nets, hygienic materials, blankets, etc).

Restoration of livelihood and food security (seeds, livestock, agricultural techniques promotion), water and sanitation (rehabilitation of wells, water filter distribution, hygiene promotion), repair and upgrading of shelter and school buildings will be improved when the flood water is gone. However, a consultative and participatory approach with victims and local authorities is needed to fully identify the needs and to ensure coordination with key stakeholders.

CWS and DCA are keeping the ACT CO updated on the situation and intend to send an appeal proposal to the ACT CO. According to latest information from ACT member Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the flooding in their normal operational areas is not as serious as in other areas. However, the Coordinating Office is awaiting further information from LWF Cambodia.

Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jesssie Kgoroeadira, ACT Finance Officer (

Action by Churches Together (ACT) International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.

Source: ACT International

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pregnant woman dies of swine flu in Cambodia

Associated Press
2009-10-06 05:03 PM

Cambodia's health minister says a pregnant woman died from swine flu, the country's third reported fatality from the illness.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng says the 25-year-old woman, who was nine months pregnant, went to a Phnom Penh hospital several days ago with flu-like symptoms and tested positive for swine flu.

He said doctors performed a cesarean section and the baby was born healthy, but the woman died Tuesday.

Cambodia's second swine-flu related death, a 47-year-old man, occurred Monday at the same hospital, the minister said.

The World Health Organization reports more than 340,000 confirmed cases of H1N1 worldwide, and more than 4,100 deaths. Many countries have stopped counting individual cases.

Source: Associated Press article posted in Taiwan News

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Over 5,000 Families Need Immediate Help In Cambodia :Oxfam

PHNOM PENH, Oct 6 (Bernama) -- Cambodia is still in emergency relief mode though flood waters in some areas are beginning to stabilize, the international humanitarian agency Oxfam said Tuesday in its press release.

Affected populations are in need of food, plastic sheets, mosquito nets, water filters and water containers among other non- food item needs, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

Livelihoods have greatly been threatened especially with loss of the current rice crop. Wage labour opportunities are no longer available to those who rely on agriculture labour for income, the release said.

According to Oxfam, 5,000 families or about 20,000 people need immediate assistance in four provinces.

This figure may grow bigger as more information is received and more areas accessed. Oxfam's staff reported that flood victims in Kampong Thom, Stueng Treng, Kratie, and Preah Vihear remain among the most vulnerable.

"We can't underestimate the situation" said Francis Perez, Country Lead of Oxfam International in Cambodia.

"We are still in an emergency situation. Public health concerns and people's livelihoods are our priorities. We must keep strong coordination with other humanitarian agencies."

It is now estimated that 60,000 people are affected with at least 17 deaths including one pregnant woman, 65 injured with 18 serious cases and 30,000 hectares of rice fields and plantation destroyed by flood waters.

Oxfam's field reports show that 1,519 houses, 55 public buildings, 40 km of rural roads, 160 irrigation systems, channels, dams, embankments, and three bridges were damaged, causing major disruption to people's livelihoods. Relief works are hampered by transportation problem as roads and bridges have been damaged.

The traditionally dispersed settlements of Cambodian people also make some of the forested villages inaccessible for need assessment and aid distribution, whilst public health concerns are mounting among unaccounted population in remote and forested villages.

Oxfam's health experts warn that people must be careful about drinking water, as flood waters are highly contaminated.


ASEAN must help rebuild disaster-hit countries

October 5th, 2009

Ketsana is a Lao term for agarwood, the resinous heartwood from large evergreens that are native to Southeast Asia. But from now on, many people will forever remember Ketsana as the name of the typhoon that caused massive destruction in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos last week.

Ketsana was not the first great typhoon of the year in the Asia-Pacific region. Early this year, a series of flooding disasters struck Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. A minor flooding calamity also hit Brunei. But the flooding disasters did not force the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other countries in the Asia-Pacific to meet as one body to coordinate relief and rescue efforts.

So how strong was Typhoon Ketsana? It dumped more rain than Hurricane Katrina. In about six hours it unleashed a whole month’s worth of rain in the Philippines, which triggered the worst flooding in Metro Manila in 40 years. It claimed almost 300 lives. More than 10,000 houses, including 260 schools, were damaged.

Half a million people are now living in overcrowded evacuation centers. More than 200 schools have been converted into refugee centers, which could affect the schooling of many children. As of Oct. 2, typhoon Ketsana had affected 3 million people in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

After wreaking havoc in the Philippines, Ketsana unleashed its fury in Indochina. It forced the evacuation of 350,000 people in central Vietnam and destroyed more than 300,000 homes, schools and other vital infrastructure in the country. It killed at least 92 people, left 19 missing, and injured 199 according to a government report. Ketsana also destroyed millions of dollars worth of agricultural crops in six provinces, which will affect the country’s food security.

Residents described Ketsana as the most serious and ferocious typhoon to hit Vietnam in the last five years. They also compared the floods caused by it to the deadly 1964 floods.

Ketsana also battered Cambodia and Laos. The casualties in these countries are lower compared to the Philippines and Vietnam but they also experienced unprecedented flooding.

An expat in Cambodia said that it was the first time floods have been so bad in Siem Reap. Another expat wrote that the level of water in the moat surrounding Angkor Wat had reached its peak. A civil society group reported that in one province alone, almost 15,000 homes were flooded.

Ketsana also damaged the southern part of Laos and caused widespread flooding in Xekong and Attapeu provinces. Authorities are also worried that 50 hectares of agricultural land is flooded.

Last August, Typhoon Morakot became the worst calamity to hit Taiwan in the past 200 years. Again, Asia-Pacific nations failed to call an emergency caucus to discuss collective efforts on ways to minimize the negative economic, social and environmental impact of natural disasters in the future.

Today there is a need for ASEAN unity and cooperation to help rebuild the flooded communities in four Southeast Asian countries. The least ASEAN should do is to share resources and volunteers to aid flood victims. ASEAN should lead the international campaign in seeking more economic relief for the calamity-stricken areas in the region.

ASEAN should have a regional disaster-preparedness program. It should identify the environmental high-risk areas in the region and establish a common fund to modernize the weather monitoring facilities of member countries.

It should implement an innovative system to quickly respond to natural calamities. It should have green soldiers, medical teams and volunteers who can be swiftly deployed to any part of the region that needs assistance.

If Typhoon Ketsana were a terrorist group, ASEAN members would have met by now to denounce it and plan measures to prevent another terrorist group from destroying more lives and properties in the future. ASEAN governments should refocus their priorities. Climate change and not terrorism is the number one threat to stability in the region.

There would be many advantages if ASEAN’s efforts in combating the negative effects of climate change were synergized. This would facilitate a productive exchange of new ideas, efficient programs and modern approaches in dealing with climate change. It could foster economic progress based on the principle of environmental sustainability and generate a sense of solidarity among the people in the region. It would also guarantee immediate relief to disaster-hit countries.

This year, as in past years, ASEAN has failed to demonstrate unity although its member countries were ravaged by various natural calamities. Can Typhoon Ketsana finally force a change in attitude among ASEAN leaders?

Source: MONG PALATINO, filipino activist, blogger, and parliamentarian

20,000 garment workers lose jobs in Cambodia

5 October 2009

PHNOM PENH — The global economic downturn has forced at least 20,000 workers to lose their jobs in Cambodia's garment industry this year, a labour ministry report showed Monday.

Between January and September, 77 factories were closed across the country resulting in the loss of 30,617 jobs, according to the report obtained by AFP.
Although 40 new factories opened in same the period and created more employment, more than 20,000 job losses remained, it showed.
Another 53 factories also suspended operations during the period but about half have reopened.

"The closure of the factories is due to fewer purchase orders," Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, told AFP.
"We can assume that this has been caused by the global financial crisis because the consumption in big countries has declined and this made some factories receive no purchase orders," he said.

In the face of shrinking demand from the US, the largest importer of Cambodian-made garments, the government is seeking new markets for textiles in Asia and Europe, Oum Mean added.

Cambodia's garment industry is the impoverished country's largest source of income, providing 80 percent of its foreign exchange earnings and employing an estimated 350,000 people last year.

The International Monetary Fund said last month that Cambodia's economy will contract 2.75 percent this year as the global economic crisis takes its toll.

Source: AFP

Storm leaves Kingdom on verge of crisis


Aid agencies say remote settlements are difficult to reach; death toll rises.

Photo by: AFP
A woman cradles her child as she waits for aid from the Cambodian Red Cross in the aftermath of Typhoon Ketsana in Kampong Thom province.

A HUMANITARIAN crisis loomed across the Kingdom on Sunday as aid agencies struggled to reach people in remote parts of the country caught in the path of Typhoon Ketsana when it struck Cambodia with devastating force last week.

At least 10,000 people are still in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, according to Oxfam, although there are fears the true figure could be much higher. More than eight provinces were severely affected by the storm, creating a “staggering demand” for aid, the group said.

Relief workers stationed across the country reported serious difficulties transporting much-needed supplies to the worst-hit provinces, as still-rising floodwaters left vast stretches of the country’s rugged terrain almost completely cut off.

While survivors of the flash floods and 185mph winds began the daunting task of rebuilding their shattered lives, experts warned on Sunday that the damage wrought on the Kingdom’s food supplies could trigger serious long-term shortages.

“The concern in Cambodia is huge,” said Francis Perez, country director for Oxfam International in Cambodia. “We’re talking about thousands of people in need of emergency assistance just in Kampong Thom province alone. I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination we could assume that more than half of the affected people have been reached by emergency relief.”

The typhoon destroyed large swathes of Cambodia’s rice crops and left a trail of dead livestock in its wake, just weeks before the November harvest was due to start. Oxfam’s initial estimates of the damage have since doubled: As many as 50,000 hectares of rice paddies may have been destroyed, it said in a statement Saturday.

“In areas where we have been conducting assessments, damages to crops are as much as 90 percent,” said Perez. “That will have a longer-term impact on people’s lives. In most of the fields where there have been floods, particularly in Kampong Thom province, crops have been submerged for more than two weeks. The farmers say that will ensure the crops will not survive.”

As the country struggled to calculate the long-term cost of the storm, the immediate human cost continued to climb. The official death toll from the National Committee for Disaster Management rose to 15 over the weekend: nine people in Kampong Thom province, three in Ratanakkiri and three in Battambang. Additional reports of fatalities, including a report of 17-year-old boy believed to have drowned while in Siem Reap’s swollen river, had not been confirmed.

Efforts to get aid to the people most in need have been “severely hampered” by widespread flooding, said Uy Sam Ath, director of disaster management for the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC). In Preah Vihear, where it normally takes the CRC 45 minutes to distribute basic food aid to 1,000 families, dangerously high water levels in the wake of the storm meant the process took an arduous four days to complete.

At the same time, parts of Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri provinces have proved completely impassable, leading CRC to appeal to its Vietnamese counterparts for help in what Uy Sam Ath described as the largest domestic rescue effort he has seen since catastrophic flooding in 2000 destroyed more than 300,000 homes.

Provincial officials reported continued flooding Sunday night, and several attempted to evacuate people to higher ground.

Chhun Chhorn, Kompong Thom provincial governor, said: “The water levels are getting higher and higher. We are moving people to safety now.”

People living along the Stung Sen River in Sandan, Prasat Balang and Prasat Sambor districts have been warned to make emergency plans, he said.

In Stung Treng province, Governor Loy Sophat said floodwaters had risen higher than expected, and authorities put the entire province on alert. “The flood has destroyed more than 3,000 hectares of rice paddies, affecting every district in the province,” he said.

In Ratanakkiri, where three people were confirmed killed, emergency food aid was being delivered by helicopter, said Governor Pao Ham Phan.

Two of the victims were crushed by falling trees; the third drowned when the boat in which he was fishing capsized. Despite the deaths, the governor said most people in the province had been well-prepared. “Because we knew about the storm first, we could save our people on time,” he said.

Kham Phoeun, governor of Kratie province, said most people had been evacuated from the rising floodwaters, but that about 180 hectares of rice had been destroyed.

Near Preah Vihear, military personnel had to clear the road after a landslide blocked it in two places following heavy rain Friday night. “Our soldiers are used to it, so they are not affected by it,” Yim Phim, commander of Brigade 8, said Sunday.

Polling stations in several provinces were also closed due to flooding, preventing voters from checking their details on the electoral register, according to officials. Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee, said: “People only have until October 20 to check their names on voter lists, but now our country is facing a natural disaster. It has really interrupted our work.” People in the affected provinces of Kampong Thom, Pursat, Ratanakkiri and Preah Vihear would be given an extended deadline, he said.

As the waters begin to recede, aid agencies are bracing themselves for the next phase: recovery. The CRC will provide water-purification systems, health education and seeds in what it insists will be a modest cleanup operation compared with neighbouring countries where Ketsana first struck, leaving hundreds dead.

“We cannot compare the impact [in Cambodia] to Indonesia, the Philippines or Vietnam,” Uy Sam Ath said.



Cambodia, South Korea to sign oil, energy agreement

2009-10-05 14:38:32

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and South Korean governments will sign an agreement of oil and energy cooperation during the two-day official visiting by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak later this month, an official said here on Monday.

"Both sides will sign the agreement on seeking mines, oil, gas, and energy cooperation to push the economic development in the country," Eang Sophalleth, spokesman for Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters after the meeting between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and visiting Shin Jae Hyun, ambassador in charge of cooperation, natural resources and energy affairs to the South Korean President.

Shin's visit is to pave the way for President Lee Myung-bok's visit in Cambodia on October 22-23.

The bilateral cooperation will serve the mutual benefits, Eang said, adding that Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his hope that it will help speed up the country's economic development.

Shin also expressed his sympathy and condolences to Cambodian victims who suffered from Ketsana storm last week and hoped the Ketsana-hit regions would be restored soon under the Cambodian government's leadership.

South Korea has contributed to building rural infrastructure, irrigation systems, and road restorations in Cambodia and has helped e-government, information technology in Cambodia. Moreover, South Korea also joined to invest in a stock exchange which plans to open next year in Cambodia.

Editor: Fang Yang