Khmer News in En

Cambodian Evictees Protest For Fair Compensation, Ask to be Moved

More than 30 representatives of 140 families evicted by Phnom Penh authorities from their homes in the capital’s Borei Keila area gathered on Thursday outside government offices to press for better compensation for their loss.

The families had been moved following the January 2012 destruction of their homes for commercial development to Phnom Bat, an area 25 miles away in Cambodia’s Kandal province described by evictees as lacking running water, markets, hospitals, and schools.

“Sometimes I can’t catch frogs or crabs [to eat], and I have to cut my hair to sell to support my family. I can only buy two kilograms of rice to cook each day,” Kim Sarann, one of the Phnom Bat representatives, said on Thursday.

“Some days, we don’t even have enough money to buy the water we need,” Sarann said.

“I am asking Samdech [prime minister Hun Sen], who hears what I am saying now: Please pay attention to us. We are destitute!” she added.

The families’ eviction from their homes by the politically-connected Phanimex Co. five years ago followed a deal struck in 2003 by Hun Sen in which the firm agreed to construct ten new apartment blocks to accommodate  displaced residents, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Phanimex built only eight of the buildings, though, and on Jan. 3, 2012 the homes of the 384 families living in Borei Keila were razed and the residents sent to settlements far from the capital in Tuol Sambo and Phnom Bat.

Gathering outside Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance and Phnom Penh municipal offices on July 20, protesters from Phnom Bat demanded compensation of U.S. $5,000 per family and asked to be moved to one-room houses in Kandal’s Aung Dan village, an area better able to support their needs.

Alternatively, grants of U.S. $10,000 per family would allow them to run businesses to support themselves in Phnom Bat, they said.

Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service after meeting with city officials, protesters said they were promised that Phnom Penh governor Khoung Sreng would go personally within the next two weeks to inspect living conditions in Phnom Bat.

If he fails to do this, they said, protesters will return to demand action from the prime minister’s cabinet.

Reported by Savi Khorn for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Savannarith Keo. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Source link

Interview: ‘No One Can End my Political Career as Long as I’m Alive’

Former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Sam Rainsy, who has been forced to live in exile since 2015 in the face of questionable defamation charges, spoke with reporter Vuthy Huot of Radio Free Asia’s Khmer Service from France Wednesday to discuss a second amendment to Cambodia’s Law on Political Parties, which effectively cuts ties between him and the opposition party ahead of national elections in 2018.

RFA: Recently you met with a number of senior officials of the CNRP in Hong Kong and some of your colleagues said it was the last meeting with you prior to implementation of the amended law, so as to avoid any possible legal challenges. How will you help the CNRP while at the same time avoid any legal problems for the party that could lead to a five-year suspension of operations or dissolution?

Sam Rainsy: I will continue my activities. Even if I’m a normal citizen, I still have the rights and freedom to express my ideas by not having to tie myself to any political party. As a Khmer citizen, I will continue to talk about the truth, to reveal the truth—either concerning the past, our history, the present truth, or any future progress that concerns me and Cambodian citizens as a whole. I will continue raising such concerns, along with my hopes as a patriot and lover of justice.

These two amendments are targeting me because they are afraid that if I continue to lead the CNRP … or work together with the CNRP, the party will remain strong and I would maintain my influence. Such amendments illustrate the fear and panic within the CPP, and of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen personally.

Our country is currently facing many great challenges. [The government] should have spent time creating proper laws so that justice can be granted to our citizens. They should have spent time considering how to better serve our society. However, they only know how to think about causing troubles for Sam Rainsy, because they know that I pose great danger to their dictatorship. Sam Rainsy dares to speak the truth and dares to protect the voices of the many victims in Cambodia, who are experiencing tremendous suffering under the present regime.

RFA: Before returning to Paris recently, we learnt that you went to meet with CNRP lawmakers and senior officials to discuss a number of issues. Can you tell us what the purpose of the meeting was? And what are your thoughts about the fact that your colleagues today wrote a joint letter requesting [King Norodom Sihamoni] to intervene by refusing to approve the amendment?

Sam Rainsy: [The meeting] concerned expressing mutual regards, contacts, beliefs and trust—regardless of how the situation has changed. Our minds and commitments remain unchanged. We will continue our work. Either separately or individually, we will continue upholding honesty and integrity along with our fellow citizens. We all are well aware that even if [the government] wants to terminate my influence or reduce my influence, or end my political life, they can only attempt to do so. No one can end my political career as long as I’m still alive, I continue to draw breath, or I still have the energy, health, freedom and means. I will use everything I have to rescue the nation through any means possible.

I believe that what my former colleagues have done by bringing this issue to the King is the right thing to do. We have followed the monarch for many years, even since during the reign of our former King Norodom Sihanouk, as they have always promoted unity, reconciliation, and peace within Khmer society to keep the Khmer nation thriving and prosperous. These are the intentions of our former King, the present King, and [the CNRP].

But the intentions from the other side are completely different. They want to wage war—or at least a war of minds. They want to bring accusations against one another and attack one another. This is because our present leader [Hun Sen] used to be a military commander for the Khmer Rouge regime. For those with a dictatorial mindset like the Khmer Rouge, this is how they want to live, because their power can only be preserved in an environment of war … As long as the former Khmer Rouge leaders remain in power, the Khmer people will never enjoy happiness; they will endure endless troubles and animosity against one another for the rest of time.

RFA: What is your reaction to the second amendment to the Law on Political Parties—in particular with regard to the controversial clause … which states that no political parties shall carry out any activities that “openly or tacitly agree or conspire with a person convicted of a felony or misdemeanor to carry out any activities for political gain or in the interest of its party.” Any party found violating this clause will be subject to a five-year suspension or dissolution, and many have said it could be employed by the ruling party as a pretext to dissolve the CNRP or to terminate its operations for a period of five years if it does not openly reject involvement with you.

Sam Rainsy: What is most crucial is not that I am supporting the CNRP, but I am supporting the cause of rescuing the nation … Any party fearing that Sam Rainsy’s words may be used as a pretext to dissolve it may declare that those words are my sole responsibility.

RFA: So the CNRP may issue a letter once the law is enforced saying that, from then on, it rejects involvement in what is said by Sam Rainsy?

Sam Rainsy: It may declare in principle from the very beginning that the only individuals allowed to speak on behalf of the party are its leaders, permanent committee members, and spokesperson, etc. But as for other individuals, their comments are their own, and such individuals must be held solely responsible. As I’ve said earlier, I will speak about the issues facing our country. If I see any party doing well—say the CPP may one day awaken and rectify themselves through good deeds—I will commend it. And if I see them continue to do so, I will continue to commend them. In such a situation, if the CPP doesn’t issue a rejection of [my commendation], the CPP itself would also be subject to dissolution.

RFA: Regarding your wife, Tioulong Saumura, she is also a lawmaker from the CNRP and a senior official of the party. How will you manage your marriage despite your status as a criminal convict? Once this new law comes into effect, how will you manage your relationship so that it won’t cause trouble for the CNRP?

Sam Rainsy: Respect for human rights must distinguish between political affairs and private life. Only the Khmer Rouge sent its agents to spy and cause trouble against its own citizens [based on family relationships] … My wife is still my wife, and I remain her husband. We maintain our private lives just like other families. If this law is promulgated so that I will have to divorce my wife, I will never follow it … I will continue leading a political life as much as I possibly can. I will never let them use [my marriage] as an excuse to cause trouble against those who share a similar conscience as me and who are struggling to rescue the nation.

Translated by Sovannarith Keo.

Source link

Cambodia’s Opposition Commune Chiefs Denied Office Access by Ruling Party Predecessors

More than one month after Cambodia’s commune elections, several opposition candidates who beat out ruling party incumbents for local councilor positions are reporting being blocked from accessing their new offices, in what some observers have called examples of political discrimination.

Cambodia’s June 4 ballot saw the largest reshuffle of local politicians since the country’s first election in 1993, with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) losing nearly 500 commune chief positions to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), out of 1,646 nationwide.

On July 3—two weeks after the official election results were announced—the Ministry of the Interior held a ceremony to mark the handover of responsibilities to newly-elected councilors, as mandated under the country’s electoral laws, which it said had progressed “smoothly.”

But days later, the CNRP informed RFA’s Khmer Service that many of its elected chiefs had reported being blocked from accessing existing commune offices, lacking office space to take on their new responsibilities, and missing office materials that had been taken by their predecessors.

The CNRP has yet to compile data on the exact number of disputes, but has called on its new councilors to resolve their issues peacefully.

There is no law in Cambodia that dictates where commune chiefs should perform their duties, and the National Election Committee (NEC)—the country’s top electoral body—has said it is up to the Ministry of the Interior to investigate and resolve the quarrels.

On Monday, Ministry of Interior spokesperson Khieu Sopheak told RFA one reason for the delay in handovers may be that some commune chiefs have had to personally renovate their offices due to lack of funding from the central government, and feel they are entitled to keep them.

“We know that in the past not all commune offices were built by the state—some spaces were rented from residents’ homes, while others used space belonging to the ruling party,” he said.

“So we need to properly determine the root causes and shouldn’t immediately place the blame on those who disagree with handing over their office space. In some way, these people have their own reasons … so we must study each case and find out the real problem.”

Khieu Sopheak said that the government allocates funds from the national budget for local use to build commune offices in only 70 communes each year, forcing some commune chiefs to cover their own costs of arranging office space.

Recent tiffs

Last week, newly-elected CNRP chiefs from seven communes in Kampot province’s Chum Kiri district accused their CPP predecessors of locking them out of their offices, delaying the issuance of administrative documents to local constituents. The chiefs reported having to work out of conference rooms or “under trees” located in the vicinity.

A day later, Heng Lay Hour, the newly-elected CNRP councilor of Phnom Toch commune in Banteay Meanchey province’s Monkul Borey district, told RFA that the commune police station stopped renting its space used by the previous chief shortly before he assumed office, labeling the decision an act of “political discrimination.”

Also last week, newly-elected CPP and CNRP councilors, and their deputies, from at least eight of 15 communes in Kampot’s Banteay Meas district reported a lack of office space, saying they were forced to carry out their work in their own homes or in homes they had rented from residents.

Reports suggest that similar situations have occurred at communes in Preah Sihanouk and Stung Treng provinces.

Personal disputes

Meng Sopheary, the CNRP’s head of election affairs and legislation, acknowledged that some commune offices had been built by predecessors through personal expense, but added that she believes many of the disputes are personal in nature.

“I think that since we have never witnessed such a huge reshuffle in the past, incumbent [commune chiefs] are used to performing their work at their own offices and when they have to hand over their responsibilities, they can’t immediately accept having to do so,” she said.

The CNRP, however, doesn’t expect that the disputes will have a negative effect on general elections set for next year, Meng Sopheary said, adding that by simply allowing the ballot to proceed, the country’s politicians have indicated their readiness to abide by the will of the voters.

Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC) executive director Sam Kuntheamy, however, told RFA that his organization considers the office disputes examples of “powermania” on the part of commune chief predecessors, reluctant to give up their authority, and said that the Ministry of Interior must take a stronger stance.

“The Ministry of Interior is validating their position—this means that they continue to enjoy full and legitimate rights in managing their commune administration,” he said.

“In principle, parties that lose elections must hand over all their responsibilities to the new commune chiefs so that they can manage and ensure the sustainable operations of their commune.”

Reported by Moniroth Morm, Maly Leng, Vandeth Vann, Hour Hum, and Vandeth Vann for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source link

Cambodian Villagers Brace For Flooding in Test of Sesan II Dam

A test of floodgates in Cambodia’s Sesan II Dam looks set to flood two downstream villages, with more than 100 families vowing not to leave after refusing offers of compensation, sources say.

Residents of Srekor commune and Kbal Romeas commune in Stung Treng province are already bracing for the impact of rising water that may inundate their homes, one villager told RFA’s Khmer Service on Monday.

Deng Muon, a resident of Srekor commune, said that water levels in the villages are already beginning to rise, and that he and other residents threatened by the flood are standing by to move household goods and foodstuffs to higher ground.

“We will move to whatever point the water reaches,” Muon said.

“If the water rises to the nearby main road, that’s where we will be,” he added. “And if the water keeps rising, we may have to move to live on Krala Puos mountain.”

Many in the affected villages have already given up farming their land due to fears of floods, he said.

The company building the dam, now scheduled for completion by December 2018, had warned commune residents in a June 5 letter that floodgates would be closed in mid July, and urged villagers to leave their homes during the period of the test.

“Engineers will be looking at various aspects of the test to assess the danger of future floods, and we will continue with our shutdown until  the water level reaches 72 meters above sea level,” company representative Oum Reth said.

“Then, we will check everything again, and we will also talk to any residents who remain.”

Rescue plans in place

Reth dismissed reports that his company and Cambodian authorities had forcibly evicted any residents from the area, adding that his company had fully cooperated with local officials to publicize offers of compensation to villagers wishing to move.

“We are trying hard to respect the feelings of the residents because we don’t want to see any rumors being spread,” he said.

Stung Treng provincial government spokesman Men Kong said that authorities are already prepared to rescue residents affected by the test and transport their belongings to safer ground.

Authorities have also urged company officials to provide homes for the more than 100 families, 124 in Srekor and 58 in Kbal Romeas, who have so far refused compensation to be moved, he said.

“Intervention planning involves covering all areas of concern in response to any possible emergencies,” he said.

Reported by Chanthy Men for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Source link

Falling Vegetable Prices Leave Cambodian Farmers in a Bind

Plunging pumpkin and corn prices in Cambodia are driving farmers in two provinces to destroy their crops and block roads in protest in an effort to convince the government to help develop the agricultural market, growers in the two areas said on Thursday.

Farmers in Sam Ang commune, Thala Borivath district, in northeastern Cambodia’s Stung Treng province said they have destroyed several tons of pumpkins because plunging prices have left them unable to offset their labor costs.

They have now called on government to help develop the market for their vegetables, they said.

As a result of falling prices, most of them are now heavily indebted, and their lands are subject to confiscation by banks from which they have taken out loans, they said.

Phann Narith, a farmer in Sam Ang commune, said on Thursday that farmers have been concerned for years about falling prices for their produce and a lack of markets where they can sell them, though government institutions have said they would resolve the issue.

Some farmers who grow pumpkins on small plots of land ranging from one to five hectares per household have decided to destroy several tons of the vegetable because of falling prices, he said.

The price of pumpkins has hit its lowest point ever at between 150-180 riels (U.S. $0.036-0.044) per kilogram comparing to an average price of 1,000 riels (U.S. $0.24) per kilo two years ago, he said.

“Other farmers, including me, have borrowed money [from banks] to [grow pumpkins], and we depend on being able to sell them to repay the loans,” he said. “I requested that the government help find [new] agricultural markets for pumpkin farmers because we are heavily indebted,” he said.

Another farmer, Chhoeun Chhay, said he has little hope that area growers will be able to settle their debts without intervention from the government and nongovernmental organizations.

Some farmers have been forced to look for work outside Cambodia to earn enough money to pay off their loans because they have had to borrow millions of riels from banks or microfinance institutions to get capital for their farming operations, he said.

“Around 30-40 percent of them have chosen to migrate to Thailand and China so that they can earn money [to survive],” he said.

With prices of pumpkins and other produce such as potatoes continuing to fall, farmers now do not have enough money to buy fuel for their tricycle tractors, he said.

A sensitive issue

Un Sokha, acting head of the Stung Treng Provincial Department of Commerce, could not be reached for comment on the issue.

Stung Treng province spokesman Men Kong said provincial authorities do not have grounds for controlling the fluctuating prices of agricultural products, but instead have encouraged relevant institutions to study the issue and determine the causes of drastic price drops.

Authorities always encourage farmers to familiarize themselves with fruit and vegetable prices in other regions before deciding to sell their produce, he said.

“Middlemen or traders purchase agricultural products at lower prices so that farmers must study prices [in other regions] before they decide sell their produce through middlemen or traders,” Men Kong said.

“Our working group always disseminated this information to farmers when visiting them at their localities,” he said.

Ngeth Chou, an economy and finance expert, considers the falling prices a sensitive issue to which the government must pay attention and not leave farmers in the lurch by having to sell their agricultural products according to their own luck.

He suggests that the government help farmers market their agricultural products as a measure to improve the national economy and reduce the occurrence of various social crises such as migration.

“Such market connections can’t happen just by thinking about them. Farmers today say they don’t have an adequate market for their agricultural products,” he said, adding that there should be a liaison to which farmers can turn to help them sell their fruits and vegetables.

Farmers now appear to be losing faith that the government will resolve the pricing issues for them.

Protest over corn prices

Hundreds of farmers in the Kamrieng district of northwestern Cambodia’s Battambang province staged a daylong protest on Thursday, blocking roads in downtown Takry commune, to show their displeasure with the rapidly dropping price of corn.

Farmers used more than 100 trucks to block crossroad number 30 in the commune’s heavily trafficked downtown area.

Nak Vanny, a farmer who participated in the protest, told RFA that he has lost at least U.S. $20,000 annually for the last two consecutive years because of falling corn prices.

Farmers have asked authorities to intervene to ensure that their corn can be sold at a price of at least 400-600 riels per kilogram so they can offset their production costs, he said.

Growers in Kamrieng district decided to stage the protest to put pressure on authorities to help them, he said.

In the past, traders from neighboring Thailand bought dried corn from the farmers at an average price of five baht, or 600 riels, per kilo, Nak Vanny said. But now the traders will purchase them for only 3 baht, or 400 riels, per kilo or less.

The protest ended after Battambang provincial authorities promised to address the issue within three days.

Yang Saing Komar, former director of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said the root causes of the plunging pumpkin and corn prices might stem from the fact that agricultural products such as rice, corns, beans, and sesame are all low quality and fail to meet market demand, or that farmers have failed to form communities or groups to facilitate produce sales.

He also noted that the government and relevant ministries are providing less support to farmers than they have done in the past.

The government is fully capable of stopping prices from falling by encouraging companies or firms to process agricultural products domestically rather than exporting them, or by directly contacting overseas markets, Yang Saing Komar said.

In addition, government officials could teach farmers better production techniques or let them create a group or community to sell their output, he said.

At the same time, the state should provide additional loans to companies to purchase agricultural products from farmers, he said.

Reported by Chanthy Men and Sonorng Khe for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Source link

New Law Puts Cambodia Opposition Party at Risk of Dissolution: Experts

Cambodia’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) must remove all images of its leadership from banners nationwide and cut all ties with its former party chief or risk being dissolved following the passage of a controversial amendment to the country’s electoral law, experts said Thursday.

The warning came as the CNRP said it was preparing to ask King Norodom Sihamoni to reject the changes to the Law on Political Parties recently passed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) controlled parliament that bans it from associating with Sam Rainsy due to criminal convictions widely seen as politically motivated.

Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service Thursday, political analyst So Chantha advised the CNRP to remove all banners throughout Cambodia depicting Sam Rainsy alongside current party president Kem Sokha and replace them with ones that simply display the party’s sunrise logo to avoid legal trouble when the new law goes into effect.

“By placing an image of any individual on the party banners—should that concerned individual be involved in any legal issue—the entire party is subject to dissolution,” he said.

So Chantha noted that with Kem Sokha still facing legal action in government-backed cases related to his alleged affair with a young hairdresser, even using photos of the party’s current president is risky.

“Kem Sokha still has lawsuits pending at the court,” he said.

“Hence, I think that if the party continues to display images of any individual on its [banners], similar problems may exist.”

New law

On Monday, Cambodia approved Article 44(2) at a session of the National Assembly, or parliament, boycotted by CNRP lawmakers—effectively severing ties between the party and Sam Rainsy ahead of a general election scheduled for next year.

The amendment to the Law on Political Parties—proposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP and adopted with votes in favor by 65 of its 66 present members of parliament—bans parties from associating with or using the voice, image, or written documents of anyone convicted of a criminal offense.

All 55 CNRP lawmakers boycotted the voting session on the grounds that the proposed changes were part of a bid to “suppress” political parties and potential challengers to the ruling party, which the opposition said went against the principles of rule of law and a pluralist democracy, as guaranteed by the constitution.

Article 44(2) also prevents parties from supporting or organizing plans with anyone to undertake “actions against the interest of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” and using a name or acronym that is similar to one used by another party.

Political parties found in violation of the proposed amendment could be banned from political activities for up to five years and prohibited from competing in elections, or even dissolved.

Sok Sam Oeun, chief attorney at Amrin Law and Consultations Group, told RFA Thursday that based on the contents of the newly amended law, the CNRP and its officials must end all contact with Sam Rainsy, “both officially and privately.”

Opposition response

Responding to concerns over the party’s continued ties with Sam Rainsy, CNRP spokesperson and lawmaker Yim Sovann said the CNRP is “yet to consider this issue.”

“I will notify you later if the [party] makes any decision about this matter,” he said.

Yim Sovann also said he had no knowledge of a reported meeting recently held between a high-ranking CNRP delegation led by Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy in Hong Kong.

The CPP had also proposed an amendment to the Law on Political Parties which was approved amid a boycott of parliament by opposition lawmakers in February, banning convicted criminals from holding a leadership position in a party and forcing Sam Rainsy to resign as president of the CNRP.

The former opposition chief has been living in self-imposed exile in France since November 2015 to avoid jail time for convictions widely seen as politically motivated and delivered by courts beholden to Hun Sen’s government, but his image appears on CNRP billboards throughout Cambodia and he regularly speaks at opposition events via Skype.

The CPP won last month’s commune elections, but the CNRP received nearly 44 percent of all votes to the ruling party’s 51 percent.

Amendment status

While the new amendment was adopted in the National Assembly Monday, it must now be approved by the Senate and the Constitutional Council—widely seen as formalities—before being signed into law by King Sihamoni.

CPP spokesperson Sok Ey San said Thursday that the newly amended law will be sent to the Senate’s Expert Commission on Friday, after which it will be forwarded to the Senate’s Permanent Committee. When the two bodies complete their reviews, a plenary session will be scheduled for Senate approval.

If the Senate passes the law and the Constitutional Council determines it to be in line with the constitution, the National Assembly will forward a final version to King Sihamoni for promulgation. The law can be enforced 90 days after it is approved by the King.

Sok Ey San was unable to confirm how long it would take for the new law to be implemented.

In a recent interview with Radio France International (RFI), CNRP vice-president Eng Chhay Eang said that all 55 opposition lawmakers plan to write a letter to King Sihamoni by Friday requesting him to reject the new legislation.

The February amendment of the Law on Political Parties was approved by Senate president Say Chhum, who had assumed the role of Acting Head of State while the King was in China for a medical examination.

Disappearing act

Brad Adams, executive director of HRW’s Asian division, called the CPP-led amendment an “attempt to make the opposition disappear” ahead of next year’s elections.

“The CPP and Hun Sen are absolutely scared to death of Sam Rainsy and the CNRP winning the next election,” he told RFA.

“They’ve probably done polling and realized that they will lose and they can’t think of any other way to hold onto power except to make Sam Rainsy disappear and become a non-person. But of course, that won’t work.”

Adams said that Sam Rainsy can continue to rally his supporters online, and that even if his name does not appear on next year’s ballot, the public knows that if they vote for the CNRP and the party wins, it would quickly repeal the amendment and permit the former party chief to rejoin.

He dismissed the amendment as a “pointless anti-democratic exercise” that would seriously damage the CPP’s image worldwide, and could call the legitimacy of a ruling party win in 2018 into question.

Furthermore, Adams said, if the CNRP is prohibited from participating in the general election because of the new law, “people won’t show up” at the polls.

“Governments have tried this in many countries around the world and it usually fails,” he said.

“This is usually the finish line for a dictatorial government, when it has to proceed like this, and it will undoubtedly blow up in the face of the CPP.”

Reported by Vuthy Tha for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source link