Friday, 13 May 2011

Prosecutors Disagree on Cambodia War Crimes Tribunal’s Next Case

Robert Carmichael, VOA
Phnom Penh Thursday, 12 May 2011

via CAAI

Photo: Reuters
Tourist looks at portraits of former Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary (R), 84, ex-foreign minister, his wife Ieng Thirith, 78, former minister of social welfare (2nd L), former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav (R), better known as Duch, former President Khieu Samphan (bottom R), and Nuon Chea (L), 84, the regime's second in command, at Toul Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh.

“I don’t consider that the investigation is concluded and I’ve asked for a number of steps to be taken including the interviewing of the suspects who are named in the introductory submission."

Prosecutors at the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh are at odds this week after investigating judges said they have completed their work on their third case - reportedly against two senior former military commanders. In Phnom Penh, critics accuse the government of interfering in the high-profile prosecutions.

The war crimes tribunal has long been split over how many former Khmer Rouge cases it should prosecute.

The international prosecutor Andrew Cayley said last year that he expected to see no more than 10 people stand trial for their alleged roles in the deaths of around two million people during the movement’s rule of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

But his Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, has opposed prosecuting more than five people. The first of those was the former security chief Comrade Duch, whom the court last year convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His sentence is under appeal.

The other four, who make up Case Two, are the movement’s last surviving senior leaders. Their trial is expected to start later this year.

But while those cases are moving forward, the Cambodian government has long opposed prosecuting Cases Three and Four - involving the five remaining suspects.

The prosecution is tasked with assessing the court’s investigation and determining whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

This week international prosecutor Andrew Cayley said it is clear that much more work is needed on Case Three.

“If you’re asking me how much more investigation needs to be done, I would simply use the words 'a significant amount' of investigation is still left to be done in that case,” Cayley said.

Cambodia remains an authoritarian country and the government’s opposition to Cases Three and Four has had a chilling effect on the tribunal’s Cambodian staff, most of whom have refused to work on the cases.

This week the investigating judges in Case Three closed their investigation and handed the case file back to the prosecution.

“I don’t consider that the investigation is concluded and I’ve asked for a number of steps to be taken including the interviewing of the suspects who are named in the introductory submission," Andrew Cayley said as he explained what work is still needed, "and a number of other steps including investigation of crime sites also originally named by the prosecution in the introductory submission, which haven’t been investigated at all.”

Cayley’s comments appear to confirm widespread rumors that the investigating judges did very little work on Case Three.

But Cayley’s Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, later released a press statement recommending that Case Three be closed.

Chea Leang said she had examined the case file, and decided that the unnamed suspects were not senior leaders and were not among those most responsible for crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge - the two categories that define those whom the court can prosecute.

With the Cambodian prosecutor, the government and the investigating judges all pushing to close Case Three, outside observers doubt that the prosecution will go forward.

International prosecutor Andrew Cayley’s last option for Case Three is to appeal its closure to a bench of five judges. Three of the judges are Cambodian and trial observers believe the bench would likely vote to dismiss the case.

Few Equate Climate Change With Its Causes: Study

Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Thursday, 12 May 2011

via CAAI

FILE - In this July 19, 2007 file photo, an iceberg is seen melting off the coast of Ammasalik, Greenland. A new assessment of climate change in the Arctic shows the ice in the region is melting faster than previously thought and sharply raises projections of global sea level rise this century.

“The stage is now set to guarantee that all Cambodians have access to reliable information about climate change.”

The majority of Cambodians have little understanding of the causes of climate change, due to a lack of information, a new poll has found.

In a survey by the BBC World Service Trust of 2,401 Cambodians from all walks of life, about 85 percent said they had heard of climate change, although they associated it with disease, farming troubles and drought.

Very few respondents connected climate change or global warming with industry or vehicle use, according to the report, “Understanding Public Perception of Climate Change in Cambodia.”

More understanding could come from clear explanations, Charles Hamilton, country director for the World Service Trust, said in announcing the survey results in Phnom Penh this week.

“We need to keep the language straight forward and simple and not complex; like talking about the mitigation, adaption, what does that mean to a farmer or a fisherman?” he said. “They should be our main audience in Cambodia: these people with limited education who need to have clear information about what it means to their lives. It needs to be relevant.”

Environment Minister Mok Mareth said the report provided necessary information that would be helpful to the government and other institutions wanting to raise public awareness of climate change and its impacts.

“The stage is now set to guarantee that all Cambodians have access to reliable information about climate change,” he said. “ And we know the information to be conveyed needs to be understandable and relevant.”

Brian Lund, East Asia director for Oxfam America, said education and accurate, simple information play a crucial role in empowering people to adapt to and recover from the effects of climate change.

Billboards to be dismantled

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Children walk past a billboard that was stripped of its advertisement yesterday in Chroy Changvar commune, in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district. Three other nearby billboards blew over on Tuesday, damaging property and injuring one woman.
via CAAI

Thursday, 12 May 2011 14:02 Sen David

Two billboards on Chroy Changvar peninsula in Russei Keo district are set to be dismantled after three others nearby collapsed on Tuesday amid strong winds, injuring a woman and leaving at least four homes damaged.

Chin Pou, director of the commercial billboard office at Phnom Penh Municipal Hall, said yesterday that the company that constructed the structures, Moon Media, had decided to remove the remaining two in view of obvious safety concerns.

“The company decided to take out these two billboards because most of the residents appealed to have them taken out and residents think these billboards cannot stand up against the force of the wind,” Chin Pou said.

“This area is on the riverside, so when a strong wind comes up, sometimes the billboards cannot stand up. The recent incident is an example of this.”

An announcement on the City Hall website said yesterday that Moon Media had “intelligently and responsibly decided to remove the remaining billboards”.

The remaining two structures carried advertisements for the mobile operator Mfone and the Japanese company Kansai Paint. The three that went down on Tuesday had been commissioned by mobile operators Hello and Beeline and by Hennessey cognac.

As of late yesterday afternoon, the signs had been removed, though the metal structures that had held them in place remained, prompting concern from some on the peninsula.

“We thank the authorities and the company for taking out the signs, but I am so worried that the billboards will be put in place again because the legs have not been removed,” said Vern Vannak, 21.

“The authorities and the company must think about our safety before business.”

The billboards that collapsed on Tuesday were held in place by rusted bolts in concrete foundations that could be scraped away by hand following the accident.

Chan Nat, assistant to Chroy Changvar commune chief Pich Saroeun, said Moon Media had arranged for compensation for the injured woman and the owners of the damaged homes, though he was unsure of the amount provided.

In addition to their signs on Chroy Changvar, Moon Media is responsible for a number of other billboards throughout the capital and in the surrounding provinces, including one located near Phnom Penh International Airport on Pochentong Boulevard and another at the roundabout on Street 289 in Tuol Kork district.

A receptionist at the Moon Media offices in the capital’s Canadia Tower said yesterday that the company’s manager was unavailable for comment. As the woman spoke with a reporter, another staff member called down the hallway: “Don’t talk!”