Don't Miss

Khmer News in En

Interview: 'I Request That Hun Sen be Brave Enough Not to Obstruct Me'

Former Cambodia National Rescue Party 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 in Washington Friday to discuss the CNRP’s performance in local elections on June 4 and the party’s prospects for national elections in 2018.

RFA: You resigned from your position as CNRP President on February 11. At that time you said your resignation was in order to rescue the CNRP from any attempts to dissolve the party through the use of the amended law on political parties by Hun Sen’s government. Now the election is over, how effective is your resignation and how did  it affect the commune council election results?

Sam Rainsy: My resignation was only made on paper. But my heart and my mind still rest with rescuing the nation 100 percent. I want to commend and thank our compatriots, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, who went to vote en masse for change. In 2017, we have changed most [officials] at the commune/sangkat levels. What is most important is that in 2018, our compatriots will go to vote for change at the national level through electing new lawmakers. Then we will have a new government and a new prime minister to lead new politics so as to serve the genuine interests of the nation and the people and bring about full happiness for Cambodian citizens.

RFA: Had you not resigned, how would the political situation have developed?

Sam Rainsy: It is clear that they created a new law aiming at me, Sam Rainsy, as their courts had unfairly prosecuted me. With such a pretext, they created a new law stipulating that any party whose leaders are convicted by the court shall be subject to dissolution. Had I not resigned, the CNRP would have been dissolved. In the name of one of the founders of the CNRP, like being a parent, we dare to withdraw ourselves so that our children can stay alive and grow up.

RFA: Now your party has not been dissolved and it has just won nearly 500 commune/sangkat chief posts although it has not won a majority. Are you satisfied with this result? Do you think that, had you taken other strategies, it would have increased the votes for your party? Or is this what your party can do to the best of its ability?

Sam Rainsy: I believe that this election was not free or fair. Had it been held in a free and fair environment, the CNRP would have received more votes than what it has now. How can you call it free, if there were always threats of war, arrests and jailing of the innocents? How can it be free with such an environment of fear? How can it be fair if the ruling party employed state means, materials, budget and personnel to serve its own interests? How can it be fair and equitable when I, who stands behind the CNRP and used to be its president, could not participate in this election or during the election campaign? I trust that had I had my freedom and the possibility to participate during the election campaign, the votes that CNRP would have received would be much higher than this. As for the other side, its leader could conduct his election campaign at will. But as for me, had I not resigned, and had I not been accused unfairly, I would have been present with Kem Sokha to conduct the election campaign together across the nation. And the CNRP would have won more than this time. Hence, I regret that this election was not free or fair. I will make all-out efforts to ensure that the upcoming election is freer and fairer.  The CNRP will then achieve a victory greater than in 2017.

RFA: Having said that the election was not free and fair and that the party received greater pressure and oppression than in previous polls, why did your party accept the election results?

Sam Rainsy: We understand that the level of support for the CNRP was higher than ever before. Even though it was not free or fair, our votes keep increasing. Our commune/sangkat chief seats increased in 2017 to nearly 500 seats. I believe that in 2018, we will receive at least eight additional assembly seats than what we have now. Actually it should be more than this, but at least this is the minimum votes that we should gain when the citizens vote for the CNRP. Right now we have 55 seats in the national assembly. If we receive just eight additional seats then the CNRP will have 63 seats in the national assembly which is enough, equivalent to the absolute majority, for the party to form a new government and bring about the change the citizens have wished for. So… for next year, I call on our citizens to come out to vote en masse so that the CNRP increases its seats by an additional eight seats so that we have enough lawmakers at the national assembly to form a new government.

RFA: The possibility that Prime Minister Hun Sen plans to dissolve the CNRP has not yet disappeared, even though you chose to resign earlier this year, especially at a time when support for the CNRP is increasing. What else do you have as a strategy for further rescuing the party? What if there is any case lodged against Kem Sokha, including the Anti-Corruption Unit plans to investigate him over his alleged human trafficking case? Will Kem Sokha dare to resign as president to rescue the party? Do you have other strategies should there be such attempts?

Sam Rainsy: Such attempts show that the other side is in a panic. They know that they are losing. Because the level of citizens’ support for the CNRP is increasing over time. In contrast, the support for the CPP is decreasing. In the past, the gap between the CPP and the CNRP was FAIRLY huge. But from one election to the next, the gap is shrinking. And in 2017, the line of support for both parties almost stayed at the same level. By 2018, the lines will be crossed, meaning that the CPP is dropping and the CNRP is rising. Then the support for the CNRP will be higher than that for the CPP. So they know that they are losing and that with a fair and proper election that allows our citizens to express their will genuinely, the CNRP will win a landslide. That is why they tried to find measures and devise plans that are of bad intention and not in compliance with democratic principles in order to cause trouble for the CNRP. This is not the first time that they used such tricks to cause trouble for the CNRP. Prior to the creation of the CNRP, the Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party were also being subject to harassment and trouble. But we still sustained and our votes kept increasing from one election mandate to the next. Their tricks could not outdo us. We as good people also have our strategies to protect ourselves from ill-intended persons. Just take a look at what we have done to sustain the life of the party. Not only for the sustainability of the party but also for the party to grow and increase votes from one year to the next. I trust that in the future as per in our past we are equipped with ideas and strategies to confront them to ensure that our party is strong and soon next year we can bring about victory. It is true that without Sam Rainsy, the party can still grow and that without Kem Sokha, the party can also grow. As a matter of fact, there is not just a single Sam Rainsy or Kem Sokha. There are millions of Sam Rainsys and Kem Sokhas in Cambodia. Those who love the nation, justice and those who yearn for positive change. These people are called Sam Rainsy or Kem Sokha. So no having me or Kem Sokha will not cause any problems so long as our conscience stays alive within the hearts of Cambodian people across the nation.

RFA: You had committed to return to Cambodia in time for the national election in 2018 and to stand as prime minister candidate for the CNRP to compete with the ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen. But how will you return to Cambodia? By what means?

Sam Rainsy: Hun Sen has to suspend and drop the order that his government had given to airline companies worldwide not to board me on any of their planes to Cambodia. So no airline companies dare to board me due to Hun Sen’s threat that any airlines that fly me to Cambodia, will face a situation in which all passengers on board will not be allowed to leave the plane and the plane has to return to its place of origin. So I cannot return to Cambodia because now I’m living in France. I have to board a plane that flies across several countries and the last country will be either Thailand or Korea. Yet all airliners have received the same order. If they want to have a free and fair election, as a contender and as a prime minister candidate to compete with Hun Sen, I request that Hun Sen be brave enough not to obstruct me from being able to compete with him. This does not mean through Hun Sen’s leniency. I ask Hun Sen to abide by the law and the constitution. No government in the world obstructs one of its citizens from being able to return to their own homeland. This is such a cruel and illegal act. Hun Sen should know that he should not act like this since it is shameful. Only his government dares to obstruct one of its citizens from being able to return to Cambodia.

Translated by Sovannarith Keo.

Source link

Cambodia’s Ruling Party Banking on Lack of Access to Independent Media: Civil Society

A de facto monopoly on Cambodia’s radio waves has allowed the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to retain political control of the country’s northeast, according to civil society groups and residents, who have called on the government to allow independent media broadcasts into remote areas in the region.

Rural residents of Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri provinces are only able to access independent media—including Khmer-language radio broadcasts from foreign entities—via shortwave frequencies, giving government-aligned media groups that use stronger FM frequencies an advantage.

While the Ministry of Information officially delegates power to provincial information departments to decide how media groups can broadcast locally, provincial directors routinely refer to the ministry for permission whenever independent outlets request the right to rebroadcast their programs through local FM radio stations.

The relay requests are inevitably rejected on the grounds that each radio station should “produce its own broadcasting content.”

Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) executive director Pang Nguon Teang told RFA’s Khmer Service that by refusing to grant rebroadcast rights to independent media groups, the government is effectively denying the public access to information and balanced news coverage.

“People [in rural parts of the northeast provinces] rarely receive information from independent news outlets, so their perspective [on Cambodia’s current events] is not comprehensive,” he said.

“The government is also failing to provide them with the option of accessing independent news.”

Pang Nguon Teang’s concerns were echoed by ADHOC’s Stung Treng provincial coordinator Ho Sam Ol, who told RFA that denying the public access to a range of viewpoints is undemocratic, particularly amid Cambodia’s commune ballot held on June 4 and ahead of general elections set for 2018.

“We have seen that residents only receive news from one side, so they only hear about the good aspects [of the government] and tend to make uninformed decisions,” he said.

“In genuinely democratic [countries], citizens should be allowed access [to information from various sources] for their own consideration.”

While official results from last week’s commune elections won’t be announced until June 25, preliminary results showed the CPP won 22 provinces while the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) won two major cities, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, as well as in Kompong Cham province.

Government-aligned broadcasts

Residents from Stung Treng’s Thala Borivath district told RFA they don’t know why they lack access to independent media when they can easily tune in to government-aligned broadcasts through the province’s six FM radio stations.

Sy Nang said she would like to hear relays of independent media broadcasts through local FM radio stations so that she and other members of her community can “understand the realities of society.”

“It is crucial for us to understand what is going on in our society, such as … government activities, since we all are Khmers,” she said.

Another resident of Thala Borivath named Chan Borin said that he used to listen to domestic news broadcasts, but gave up because they only portrayed the government in a positive light.

Ministry of Information spokesperson Ouk Kimseng was not immediately available for comment regarding the government’s policy on independent media broadcasts.

Stung Treng provincial Information Department chief Ouk Theavy told RFA that local radio stations with licenses from the Ministry of Information must comply with terms and conditions as stipulated by the ministry according to the law.

He said his department can neither grant nor deny permission for local radio stations to relay broadcasting from independent media outlets, adding that the onus is on local station owners to comply with Ministry of Information standards.

“All stations must comply with the law … which clearly stipulate guidelines for operation,” he said.

‘Free flow of information’

San Chey, the Cambodia network fellow for the Philippines-based Affiliated Network for Social Accountability–EAP Foundation, told RFA he wants to see citizens from all walks of life have access to comprehensive, accurate and independent news so that they can make informed political decisions.

He said news coverage that lacks balance can lead local communities to make choices that can negatively affect their development.

“This can affect the progress of democracy, such as the implementation of government reform policies and, in particular, decentralization reforms,” he said.

San Chey called on Cambodia’s government to find ways to facilitate public access to comprehensive news coverage that addresses the needs of local communities.

“The free flow of information and ideas is a fundamental resource in democratic countries and is crucial for the genuine respect of human rights,” he said.

In 2013, the Ministry of Information overturned an order directing all FM stations to cease rebroadcasting Khmer-language radio programs by foreign broadcasters in the run-up to the country’s general elections, after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration came under fire from the U.S., as well as foreign and local rights groups.

Khmer programs of at least three foreign broadcasters—U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA), as well as Radio Australia—had been barred from being aired under the directive, which was seen as a major setback to media freedom in the country and aimed at stifling the voice of the opposition.

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

Source link

Sixteen Montagnards returned to Vietnam from Cambodia After Failed Asylum Appeals

Cambodia repatriated 16 Montagnard asylum seekers to Vietnam on Thursday after they failed to meet requirements for gaining refugee status in Cambodia, Cambodian authorities said.

The 16, who agreed to return to Vietnam afte exhausting their appeals, were accompanied by officials from Cambodia and the U.N High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)  until they were handed over to Vietnamese authorities, a Cambodian immigration spokesman said.

“Cambodia did not deport them. The UNHCR arranged their return as these [Montagnards] were not granted refugee status,” Tan Sovichea, spokesman and director of the Immigration Department’s Refugee Office of the Cambodian Ministry of Interior, told RFA’s Khmer Service.

“When they filed their appeals, perhaps they gave up hope as they didn’t have additional supporting evidence. That is why they voluntarily agreed to return while the UN was making arrangements for them,” he added.

Tan Sovichea added that the UNHCR had been working with Vietnamese authorities to ensure that the Montagnards would be safely returned and protected from persecution for their attempt to flee the country.

Cambodian authorities were scheduled to return to the capital Phnom Penh upon reaching the Cambodia-Vietnam border, , while the UNHCR officials would continue the trip with Montagnards and Vietnamese authorities until they reach the location where the would-be asylum seekers would be settled down.

The UNHCR in Cambodia was not immediately available for comment.

Since 2001, at least three thousand Vietnamese Montagnards have crossed the border into Cambodia via Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces to seek refugee status, including a large wave that came in 2014.

Vietnam’s Central Highlands are home to some 30 tribes of indigenous peoples, known collectively as Montagnards or the Degar. The group of Montagnards who fled to Phnom Penh comes from the mountainous region of Gia Lai, Dak Lak, and Kon Tum provinces in central Vietnam, which border Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces of Cambodia.

More than 50  Montagnard asylum seekers, many of whom are Christian, fled Cambodia to Thailand in early 2017 amid fears of forced repatriation to Vietnam, where they complain of discrimination and persecution at the hands of local authorities, according to U.S.-based rights group Montagnards Assistance Project. It said some 250 Montagnards had gathered in Thailand as of April.

Reported by Sothearin Yeang for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

Source link

Interview: 'We Didn’t Involve Ourselves in Playing Their Games'

Cambodia National Rescue Party President Kem Sokha spoke with reporter Vuthy Huot of Radio Free Asia’s Khmer Service on Wednesday on the results of elections on June 4 for rural commune and urban sangkat councils and council chiefs. The elections, seen as a bellwether for national elections in 2018, saw the CNRP, a party formed by the merger in 2012 of the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, get nearly 12 times the number of commune chief posts than the two component parties had held prior to the vote.

RFA:  What did the party do right during its campaign and on election day?

Kem Sokha: As our compatriots already know, the CNRP has overcome political heat over the past period which raised concerns and fears among our supporters. Not only has it been able to hold its position, but it was also able to move forward another step. What we have done right is, first, we properly set our goals which are based on the will of the people, meaning that our goals are not based on any delirious feeling of any individual or leader. As a leader, we don’t follow our feelings, but act based on the will of the people. The will of the people is that initially they had wanted us to unite together democrats and nationalists. And we did unite in 2012. This was a positive point as a stepping stone for reinvigorating our people’s hope after these hopes had been lost for quite a long period of time. In 1993, our citizens went to vote for change one time already. But they couldn’t sustain their hopes as they had been ruined. It was not until the recent time that after there was a merger between the Human Rights Party and the Sam Rainsy Party that we have gathered our forces among democrats. This served as a crucial point when we made the right decision by uniting our forces.

Second, is due to our political maturity. We know how to be patient at some points. We didn’t use our feelings to react to situations, but instead worked strategically. Whatever they did against us, we were patient … and when we didn’t involve ourselves in playing their games, we were able to focus on preparing our structure, candidates and political platform.

Third, we tried to conduct regular meetings with people in their localities. As per reports from various organizations, the CNRP lawmakers have been actively visiting their constituencies more often than [the ruling party]. Likewise, the CNRP activists also carried out more activities than the other side. These are the points that we have been doing right and we will continue to pursue them further.

RFA: What are the things that the CNRP should improve internally for the upcoming 2018 election?

Kem Sokha: We know that politically, we are correct. But as for some technical issues, we have not been thorough. For instance, we have yet to approach each commune or village level with proper statistics. During the campaign, we also did not visit people’s homes as often as the ruling party had done. We also have not taught the people how to mark their ballots properly. Another point, is related to our observers. Although we recruited them in large numbers, our training of them, both spiritually and materially, fell short due to time constraints. These are things we need to improve. Improvement means that for 2018, we still have time. We won’t wait until that day comes to recruit more observers. We have to do it from now. Following the election on June 4, I summoned all our party’s provincial leaders and lawmakers to an urgent meeting. We have already laid out our plan. Our immediate task is to urgently meet with our commune/sangkat chiefs so that they further understand their roles and our political stance and they can lead the nearly 500 communes/sangkat that we won right away. Moreover, we also have to train our elected commune/sangkat councilors so that they know better how to manage, and to lead well. I don’t think this is a difficult task. The most important thing is whether they already have their hearts ready for loving the nation and the people. Since we already have our hearts ready, we can just teach them the technical parts. We will request national and international organizations to join with us in providing training to our elected commune/sangkat councilors and chiefs. Another important issue is our observers. We need to train them to strengthen their spirit so that they will not be bought or be scared of threats, and will be technically ready. We will provide them with further training. We can’t just teach them one time and expect that they’ll understand everything. We have to teach them repeatedly.

RFA: What are the things that your party demands be improved from the outset, including on the government or National Election Commission side?

Kem Sokha: There are a lot of things that we demand be improved. Although no violence occurred in this election, there were other various issues of concern. We noticed that there were a lot of threats prior to the election. The courts or the NEC appeared not to undertake any concrete measures against such threats even though they prompted an outcry and appeals from the international community. Another thing is that on election day, the issue of shutting doors during the ballot counting process, whereby our citizens were not allowed to monitor or observe the process from outside. The NEC said such acts are illegal, yet they occurred. The election law appears to be too strict toward civil society organizations carrying out their activities. In this cycle, civil society organizations were very concerned and worked cautiously. When they were too cautious, it was hard for them to carry out their work effectively. Another point that needs to be improved concerns our people living overseas. We must ensure that our people living and working abroad such as in Thailand, Korea or other countries are provided the opportunity to register to vote. We continue to demand that our overseas workers be able to vote through arrangements such as via our embassies or at set locations.

Lastly, we know that more than one million people who registered to vote failed to go to vote due to various obstacles. These included restrictions for garment workers as they were not given enough time to travel to vote, and were faced with having their wages cut. We need to change all of this. We have to think about the fact that more than 1 million people did not go to vote. If those people were able to vote, the CNRP would have increased its votes and we would be able to gain further victory. We see the preliminary results showed that the CNRP votes are 500,000 less than the CPP. Most of these workers vote for the CNRP. Also, almost 2 million people were not able to register to vote. Had these people been able to register and go to vote, the number of democrats would be much higher. We don’t expect that all of these things can be changed at once. But if we all have the will (to change), this would be not just for the sake of the CNRP, but also for the sake of other parties that lost elections.

RFA: You said that in this election, there were a lot of restrictions on civil society organizations, causing them to be very cautious, and as a result their work was not carried out effectively. Can you give a specific example?

Kem Sokha: I noticed that during past elections, when there were any problems, they would take prompt actions and intervene immediately at voting stations, offices or nearby spots. Such intervention included lodging complaints and other efforts to seek justice. But now they appear to be very quiet and didn’t dare to do much. Also, in issuing their statements, they appear to be very cautious. Another example of unfairness is that while some civil society organizations faced are concerns and fears and faced restrictions, other groups that considered themselves civil society … could go visit any polling stations at will. But independent groups, if they dared to do so, they would face litigation.

RFA: What will the new blood in the CNRP do to distinguish itself from the CPP? What will your party’s commune chiefs do to make themselves better than the old commune chiefs? What are their strong points, since they are inexperienced?

Kem Sokha: For the CNRP, we know clearly, and we already have our plan. Right after the conclusion of the June 4’s election, on June 5 I called for a meeting among all CNRP provincial presidents and lawmakers so that we can devise plans to help our elected commune chiefs and councilors. We discussed what we have to do to implement our political platform set forth during the campaign, so that they will honor the party’s promises. There are a lot of things that we can do different from the ruling party. For instance, our commune chiefs will issue papers without any political discrimination; we won’t let them charge service fees over what is determined by law and they must make sure that they act on a timely manner. We are not merely talking. We have our lawmakers to help guide them from behind the scenes by giving advice, and providing further training and arrangements for them to practice. Also, we have our monitoring group. If they notice our commune chiefs do not work properly, we will dare to change or have them removed. Another thing, we will educate our commune chiefs and councilors to work properly and cooperate with other parties without any political discrimination. We want them to cooperate and treat one another as the same Cambodians. Even if we win, we have to cooperate so as to ensure the effectiveness of our work for the sake of the citizens. They can only discuss the party’s affairs during their time off from commune work, not during their working time when they are serving the citizens in their localities.

RFA: Will the CNRP’s commune chiefs charge commission fees, a major complaint of citizens?

Kem Sokha: As I already said, absolutely we won’t allow this to happen. Our commune chiefs and candidates have already made commitments to never letting that happen. If such issue occurs, they agreed to be removed from their posts. We won’t just let them tell us or let us know about the irregularities. We will form a senior commission at each commune/sangkat, led by respected people, to monitor and evaluate, and give scores to our commune chiefs’ performance. If their score is low or dropping from year to year, we won’t let them continue. We have to change them. I also want to reiterate that we cannot just change everything in one day. We have a plan to educate, train, improve, and strengthen the capacity of our commune chiefs and councilors.

Translated by Sovannarith Keo.

Source link

Lao Health Officials Shut Down Clinic Suspected of Providing Illegal Surrogacy Services

Lao officials have ordered a clinic in the capital Vientiane to shut down amid indications that it is using Thai women to provide illegal surrogacy services to infertile couples, an official from the Lao Ministry of Public Health said.

The move comes amid signs that a commercial surrogacy industry is growing in the small impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

The official, who agreed to speak to RFA’s Lao Service on condition of anonymity, said the facility, which he did not mention by name but which is known as the VIP Clinic, was shut down on May 24 after relevant bodies checked it and discovered that it was operating without a permit from the ministry.

The clinic, which offers “consulting services” to well-off infertile couples and pregnant women, is now being investigated by anti-human trafficking police, he said.

“The clinic was illegal, or operating without permit,” said the ministry official. “The anti-human trafficking police also came and requested some related information from us.”

The official went on to say that the relevant bodies could not determine if the clinic, located in a house along the Kamphaeng-Meuang road in Nonghay village in Vientiane’s Hadshaiyfong district, had definitely been providing surrogacy services supplied by Thai women, as suspected by Thai officials at a nearby border checkpoint.

Vientiane’s public health department, however, had already reported the problem to the Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Public Security and passed the case to the anti-human trafficking police, the source said.

“We went to the VIP Clinic and checked it carefully, but we do not know if it has been offering any surrogacy services there,” he said.

“Now, we’ve handed the case over to the anti-human trafficking police, and we have provided them with related information when we found out that that clinic was operating illegally,” he said.

Ministry of Public Health regulations do not allow human organs and human cell tissue to be sold, he added.

When RFA contacted a clinic staff member by phone in late April after suspicions about the facility surfaced, she denied comments made by Thai authorities, and said the facility was providing consulting services for couples with infertility problems and pregnancy services for women.

RFA called the clinic again on May 24 when the ministry said it had ordered it to close, but the person in charge of the facility’s management refused to answer any questions.

Lack of restrictions

Surrogacy agencies and fertility clinic recently started operating in landlocked, communist Laos, according to the nonprofit organization Families Through Surrogacy.

Though Laos has no laws or restrictions pertaining to surrogacy services, neighboring Thailand and Cambodia have taken measures to eliminate illegal surrogacy amid growing concern about the exploitation of women who serve as surrogate mothers.

Thailand passed a law in 2015 banning foreigners from hiring Thai women as surrogates after high-profile cases sparked debate the previous year. Those found guilty of paying surrogates in Thailand can receive a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

In November 2016, Cambodia banned surrogacy arrangements. But four months later, the foreign ministry said the government was preparing to draft a new law to make surrogacy legal “in order to control and prevent Cambodian children who are born via surrogacy from becoming victims,” according Families Through Surrogacy.

Meanwhile, fertility services and embryo imports remain legal in Cambodia, the group said.

Thai authorities at the Vientiane-Nongkhai border checkpoint first became suspicious that the Vientiane clinic was providing cross-border surrogacy services after they arrested a 25-year-old Thai man for smuggling human sperm into Laos in April.

The man confessed that he was crossing the Lao border to deliver six vials of sperm packed inside a nitrogen tank to a clinic in Vientiane, a Thai customs officer said at the time. Authorities believed that the facility was the VIP Clinic.

A week after the man’s arrest, an official from the Lao health ministry told RFA that she was not aware of sperm smuggling activities or the existence of surrogacy clinics in the country.

“The ministry regularly inspects all clinics, and the clinics cannot do more than what is stated in an official document,” said the official who declined to be named. “If a clinic performs any illegal activities, it will be punished.”

During the weekend of May 20-21, Thai police arrested a Thai driver and six Thai women beteween 25 and 35 years old, and seized 45 vials of sperm and human eggs.

The women said a Chinese businessman in the Thai capital Bangkok paid for them to travel across the border to Vientiane the previous week to be artificially inseminated at a clinic.

During that time, they stayed in a hotel and received medical checkups at the clinic, but they were all deemed unfit to be surrogate mothers, the women said.

One of the women told police that she and her husband agreed that she would serve as a surrogate mother in exchange for a U.S. $10,000 payment.

Both Thai men caught at the border in April and May eventually told authorities that they were heading directly to the VIP Clinic in Vientiane, which triggered an investigation of the facility by Lao police.

Lao anti-human trafficking police told RFA on May 26 that they inspected the clinic and collected some relevant information.

Now the case is under careful review to find a solution to the problem, they said.

A new phenomenon

Police said that surrogacy services are a new phenomenon in Laos.

“We went out and gathered information, and we know well that the clinic was operating without permit,” said an officer who declined to give his name. “However, we are waiting for the order from our boss about what we should do.”

“Because we have never seen a case like this—a case of cross-border surrogacy—we consider it a new phenomenon,” he said.

The police said the next step will be to close down the clinic permanently because it does not have a permit from the Ministry of Public Health.

Lao and Thai authorities will work together on the case because the two countries have a memorandum of understanding that covers this type of joint investigative work, the officer said.

“We will inform you later about what we will do next,” he told RFA.

“This case has severely damaged the good standing of our medical sector,” he added.

The official from Ministry of Public Health told RFA the same day that the clinic was ordered closed that the medical sector does not allow any facility to provide an artificial pregnancy services.

He also said the ministry will create a specific unit to stop the VIP Clinic and any others like it from operating.

“If a clinic requests a permit to provide artificial insemination services, we will not allow it,” he said. “If we find that any clinic is doing this, we will withdraw the medical permit and order it shut down.”

“The enforcement of our regulations is being implemented step by step, but we will make sure they will be fully implemented in the end,” he said. “We handed over the case of VIP Clinic to the Vientiane and district-level administration and the specific unit that enforces medical regulations.”

The clinic held a grand opening ceremony in August 2016.

Authorities ordered it to stop operating once before, but it reopened a short while later until Thai authorities this April suspected it might be a center for cross-border surrogacy services, anti-human trafficking police said.

Reported and translated by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Source link

Jailed Analyst Kim Sok Emerges From Election Hunger Strike in Weakened State

Jailed political commentator Kim Sok has emerged weakened from a seven-day hunger strike he staged from prison to encourage Cambodians to vote in weekend commune elections, his younger brother said on Tuesday.

Kim Sok, who has been in jail since Fenruary, staged a hunger strike from May 29 to election day on June 4,  Kim Seng told RFA’s Khmer Service.

“He started having meals, but he said he could not eat well like before due to a stomachache since he ate nothing for seven days,” said Kim Seng.

“As for his stance for [the nation], he won’t change,” Kim Seng added.

On May 28, Kim Sok issued a handwritten letter bearing his thumbprint, which was seen by RFA, saying he would skip eating for the sake of social justice and to call on Cambodia’s citizens to use their rights to vote for change of commune chiefs in nationwide polls.

Kim Sok’s lawyer, Choung Chou Ngy, said he did not know how his client conducted the hunger strike.

“I have not met with him since the day he announced staging this hunger strike. I just know that he staged it for seven days,” he told RFA.

Slightly more than 7 million Cambodians, or 89.52 percent of registered voters, turned out for commune council polls on Sunday, a record turnout in a test of public opinion ahead of 2018 general elections.

Preliminary results released by political parties showed slightly more than 51 percent of the popular vote going to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and around 46 percent going to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Kim Sok was arrested Feb. 17 and charged with inciting social chaos and defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen during a radio interview with RFA’s Khmer Service last month. He is being held in Prey Sar Prison on the outskirts of the capital Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen sued the analyst for allegedly accusing the CPP of orchestrating the July 2016 murder of popular political pundit Kem Ley, but Kim Sok has told RFA that what he said about the killing was simply a reflection of what many Cambodians believe.

Kem Ley was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 when he stopped in a Star Mart convenience store beside a Caltex gas station in Phnom Penh.

Although authorities charged a former soldier, identified as Oueth Ang, with the murder, many in Cambodia don’t believe the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the man over a debt.

Just days before he was gunned down, Kem Ley had discussed on a RFA Khmer Service call-in show a report by London-based Global Witness detailing the extent of the wealth of the family of Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 31 years.

On Dec. 23 the Phnom Penh court quietly closed its investigation into the murder case without revealing its findings and in a final hearing on March 1, Oueth Ang confessed to killing Kem Ley.

Reported by Moniroth Morm for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

Source link