Posts tagged ‘Cambodian’

July 29, 2013

Cambodia’s Hun Sen shaken as opposition rejects poll result

Reuters U.S. Edition

Cambodia’s Hun Sen shaken as opposition rejects poll result

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/29/us-cambodia-election-opposition-idUSBRE96S03C20130729

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH | Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:12am EDT

(Reuters) – Cambodia’s long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen faced his biggest political setback in two decades on Monday as the country’s opposition rejected an election result as tainted by widespread fraud, despite heavy losses for the ruling party.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, buoyed by a near doubling of seats in parliament, called for an inquiry into what he called massive manipulation of electoral rolls in Sunday’s vote.

The government announced late on Sunday that Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had won 68 seats in the 123-seat parliament to the opposition’s 55, a loss of 22 seats for the ruling party.

That marked the 60-year-old Hun Sen’s worst election result since the war-torn country returned to full democracy in 1998, although the CPP retained a governing majority to enable the prime minister to extend his 28-year rule.

Prolonged wrangling over the result and a weakened Hun Sen could raise policy uncertainty in the small but fast-growing Southeast Asian nation that is drawing growing investor interest and has forged strong economic ties with China and Vietnam.

But the opposition’s chances of overturning the outcome are slim given the ruling party’s grip on the courts and with major foreign donors like the United States unlikely to reject the result without evidence of massive fraud.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), whose campaign was given a boost by the return from exile of leader Sam Rainsy, said it wanted an investigation committee set up with representatives from political parties, the United Nations, the election authority and non-governmental organizations.

“There were 1.2 million to 1.3 million people whose names were missing and could not vote. They deleted our rights to vote, how could we recognize this election?” Sam Rainsy, a French-educated former finance minister, told a news conference.

“There were ghost names, names only on paper.”

The opposition tapped into growing concern among Cambodians over rising inequality and entrenched corruption that Hun Sen’s critics say his policies have exacerbated.

Hun Sen, who has yet to speak publicly about the outcome, may have to adjust some policies in light of the surge in opposition support and show more sensitivity to public opinion. The loss of its two-thirds majority means the CPP will need opposition support to enact any changes in the constitution.

But Hun Sen still has the ability to control policymaking through his majority and the entrenched networks of political influence he has built within the CPP.

“It’s definitely unprecedented and unexpected but for now I don’t think regime stability is at stake,” said Giulia Zino, a Southeast Asia analyst at Control Risks group in Singapore.

ANGRY VOTERS

The CPP had 90 seats in the outgoing parliament and the parties that united to form the CNRP had 29, with minor parties holding the remaining four. Cambodia’s election commission has yet to announce how many seats each party has won, and will not announce full, official results until August 15 at the earliest.

Rights groups have criticized the electoral system as heavily biased in favor of the ruling party. The European Union declined to deploy poll monitors for this election after Cambodia did not act on its previous recommendations.

The Transparency International group, which helped monitor the election, cited various irregularities in the vote and said in a statement it was “very concerned about the disenfranchisement of citizens and suspect voters”.

Voting on Sunday, like the campaign itself, was for the most part peaceful.

The CPP, backed by a compliant domestic media and superior resources, had been confident of victory. Analysts had predicted a reduction in its majority after the merger of two main opposition parties, as well as the return of Sam Rainsy, but the extent of opposition gains was a surprise.

Rising garment exports plus heavy flows of aid and investment from China have fuelled rapid economic growth, but that has been accompanied by a rise in social tension.

Cambodians have protested more frequently over poor conditions in the garment industry and land rights in the country of 14 million, where a third of people live on less than 65 U.S. cents per day.

The urban population has swelled in recent years, giving rise to a new generation of young voters who have access to wider sources of information online and who tend to support the opposition.

“Democracy is stronger in Cambodia than most outsiders anticipated,” said Douglas Clayton, the chief executive of the Leopard Capital investment fund in Phnom Penh.

“The government will likely become more consultative and sensitive to public opinion.”

The United Nations organized an election in 1993 that put Cambodia on a rocky path towards stability after decades of turmoil that included the 1975-79 “Killing Fields” rule of the communist Khmer Rouge.

Hun Sen, a former junior commander in the Khmer Rouge who broke away during their rule, lost that election but refused to accept the result and negotiated a position as joint prime minister before seizing power in a coup in 1997.

(Writing by Alan Raybould and Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Reuters U.S. Edition

Party of PM Hun Sen wins Cambodian election, majority slashed

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/28/us-cambodia-election-idUSBRE96R01G20130728

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH | Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:36pm EDT

(Reuters) – Cambodia’s ruling party won Sunday’s general election but with a much-reduced majority, according to the government, a result that will be seen as a setback for authoritarian leader Hun Sen, one of the world’s longest-serving prime ministers.

Khieu Kanharith, government spokesman and information minister, said on his Facebook page the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 68 seats in parliament to the opposition’s 55, adding that was the final count.

The National Election Committee (NEC) gave a list of results from each polling station but no tally for parliamentary seats.

Backed by a compliant media and with superior resources, the CPP was confident of victory, but analysts had predicted a reduction in its majority after the merger of two main opposition parties plus the return from self-imposed exile of popular long-time opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

While not formally conceding defeat for his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Sam Rainsy was conciliatory and called for calm after what were significant gains for the party.

“We want to thank all Cambodian people … regardless of their political affiliation, Cambodians who support all political parties, for their dignified participation in this election, for their contribution to make democracy move forward,” he told a news briefing.

The CPP had 90 of the 123 seats in the outgoing parliament and the parties that united to form the CNRP had just 29.

Sam Rainsy appealed to his youthful supporters not to cause any trouble. “We call for peace and reconciliation,” he said.

Military police blocked off a road leading to the home of Hun Sen, who has been in power for 28 years, and one going to the offices of the CPP and the NEC.

Trucks carrying soldiers were seen going into the city but by late evening the streets were calm.

Earlier, in a highly charged atmosphere, an angry crowd had set fire to two police cars outside a polling station, a Reuters photographer said.

However, voting, like the campaign itself, was for the most part peaceful despite anger at alleged electoral fraud.

Sam Rainsy’s party claimed electoral lists were manipulated to give the CPP more votes and complained about the disruption of meetings and campaigning by the security forces for Hun Sen.

“The partisanship of the military and police has created an intimidating atmosphere for voters in many parts of the country,” U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement ahead of the poll.

ROCKY PATH TO STABILITY

The United Nations organized an election in 1993 that put Cambodia on a rocky path towards stability after decades of turmoil, including the 1975-79 “Killing Fields” rule of the communist Khmer Rouge.

Under Hun Sen, a former junior commander in the Khmer Rouge who broke away during their rule, Cambodia has been transformed into one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economies, helped by garment exports plus aid money and investment from China.

But economic growth has been accompanied by a rise in social tension over poor factory conditions and rural land rights in a country of 14 million where a third of the people live on less than 65 U.S. cents a day.

Before a royal pardon this month, Sam Rainsy had faced a jail sentence handed down in 2010 for spreading disinformation and falsifying maps to contest a new border agreed with Vietnam, charges he called politically motivated.

He returned too late to run in the election or even to vote, and the electoral authorities rejected his request to do so.

But the charismatic former finance minister had attracted large crowds to rallies, appealing to younger voters with no memory of the turmoil before Hun Sen helped restore stability.

At one polling station set up at a pagoda in Phnom Penh, 29-year-old Khat Sreynit said she wanted a better country and jobs for university graduates. “And also that people have a living wage,” she said, before rushing into the crowd to get a glimpse of Sam Rainsy, who had turned up there.

A 70-year-old voter clutching an ID card declined to give her name but said: “This election is important for the country. I have always voted before, since 1993, I voted for living conditions and the country.” She paid little attention to Sam Rainsy’s arrival.

(Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Robert Birsel and Peter Graff)

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June 30, 2012

Cambodian villagers protest controversial Laos dam

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/29/cambodia-laos-idUSL3E8HT26U20120629

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH, June 29 | Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:11am EDT

(Reuters) – Cambodian villagers demonstrated on Friday against a controversial Lao hydropower dam that activists say is being built in defiance of an agreement to assess its potentially damaging impact on millions of people first.

About 200 villagers whose livelihoods depend on the Mekong River urged a halt to the Thai-led construction of the $3.5 billion Xayaburi dam, which has angered Cambodia’s government and triggered a rare rebuke by Laos’s biggest ally, Vietnam.

“This dam won’t just affect the people in our country but will also affect many parts of Laos,” said Buddhist monk So Pra, organiser of the protest in Kompong Cham province, 124 km (77 miles) from the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The Xayaburi dam is one of dozens planned as part of Laos’s aggressive push to boost its tiny $7.5 billion economy and become the “battery of Southeast Asia” by exporting the vast majority of its power.

Foreign governments are concerned Laos is prioritising its growth ambitions over ecological and environmental protection.

Under pressure from neighbours that felt its environmental impact study was inadequate, Laos agreed in December to suspend the project pending an assessment by foreign experts. Four countries share the lower stretches of the 4,900 km (3,044 mile) Mekong — Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Environmental group International Rivers released a report this week saying it had witnessed Ch Karnchang Pcl, Thailand’s second-biggest construction firm, resettling villagers, beefing up labour, building a large retaining wall and undertaking dredging to deepen and widen the riverbed.

“So far, Ch Karnchang claims that they are only going forward with ‘preliminary construction’ on the project,” said Kirk Herbertson, Mekong Campaigner for International Rivers.

“Ripping up the riverbed and resettling entire villages cannot be considered a preliminary activity.”

Te Navuth, secretary general of the Cambodia National Mekong River Commission, said Laos had violated a 1995 agreement requiring prior consultation before starting any development on the Mekong.

“Laos always said that it’s just preparatory work,” he said, adding Cambodia and Vietnam would jointly demand a halt.

Thailand could also be affected but, although small protests have taken place there, the government has been reluctant to oppose the project.

Ch Karnchang has a 57 percent share in the Xayaburi, which Thai banks are helping to finance. State-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) will buy electricity generated by the plant.

(Editing by Martin Petty)

May 16, 2012

Cambodia: Security forces kill teenage girl during in Mass Eviction ‎

By

Phnom Penh:  Wednesday 16 May 2012

Security forces in Cambodia have killed a teenage girl during a clash with villagers armed with axes and crossbows in the latest of a series of violent evictions aimed at clearing land for development.

Reports said that during a clash between up to 400 soldiers and police and villagers in Kratie province in the east of the country, a 15-year-old girl was badly injured. She subsequently died of her injuries in hospital, according to the Associated Press.

Provincial official Sar Chamrong said government forces had secured the area and were hunting for five accused ringleaders who had escaped. He claimed the protesters were trying to set up a self-governing zone outside of the law. Authorities say the land is owned by the government, but villagers say the previously state-owned land already has been awarded to a Russian company.

Cambodia’s system of land concessions, which campaigners say is riddled with corruption, became an international issue and the focus of a UN inquiry last month, following the killing of a high profile environmental activist. Under intense pressure, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive a week ago suspending new concessions to private companies and ordering a review of existing ones. The move was announced during a visit by a UN human rights envoy.

The envoy’s visit followed the killing last month of 46-year-old Chut Wutty, who headed the National Resources Protection Group and had exposed a series of logging scandals involving corrupt officials. He was shot dead by security forces as he escorted journalists from a local newspaper to investigate alleged illegal activities in Koh Kong province. After an altercation with military police, he was killed by an officer. Police initially claimed the officer subsequently shot himself in a fit of remorse.

The killing of the father-of-two stunned activists in Cambodia and beyond. Few believe the police’s explanation for his death and as more details have emerged, the story has looked increasingly unlikely. The EU and UN have called for an independent inquiry.

Chut Wutty’s wife, Sam Chanthy, told The Independent she did not believe what she had been told. “After my husband’s death, I’ve had fear and worry about the safety of my children and myself,” she said. “My husband used to be the main bread-winner for the family, but after he’s gone I don’t know what it’ll be like. It’ll be very difficult for me to bring up two daughters and one son alone.”

She added: “On the day when I was told of my husband’s death, I was very shocked as if something pierced through my chest and my heart was taken away from me. He died on his mission to save the country.”

Chut Wutty was killed while travelling in the Cardamom Mountains in the country’s south-west. He and the reporters from The Cambodia Daily had apparently stopped to take photographs when they were approached by armed men who demanded they delete their cameras’ memory cards. A report subsequently published in the newspaper said that after a protracted argument, the activist was shot while sitting in his car.

The two female reporters who then ran for cover and say they did not see who did the shooting, said two shots were fired. When they returned to the vehicle they saw the body of a military policeman, later identified as In Rattana, sprawled next to the car. The women tried first-aid to save Mr Wutty but the armed men did nothing to help.

“Despite the lack of clarity about what exactly happened, we are very concerned that the killing of Mr Wutty marks the latest and most lethal in a series of gun attacks on human rights defenders in Cambodia,” Rupert  Colville, a spokesman for the UN human rights office, told reporters in Geneva. “We urge the royal government to ensure that a full civilian judicial investigation proceeds speedily and with the utmost probity and independence.”

Campaigners in Cambodia have picked apart the explanations of the circumstances surrounding the shooting of Mr Wutty, on April 26. Police initially said the activist was killed in an exchange of gunfire but later said he had been killed by In Rattana, a military police officer who then shot himself.

But when campaigners pointed out that In Rattana had suffered two gunshot injuries – unlikely in a suicide – a third explanation was offered; namely that after In Rattana shot the activist, one of the other men, a guard employed by a private logging firm, Timbergreen, had rushed forward to try and take the gun from him. As he did so, it accidentally fired twice, striking In Rattana in the chest. According to police, the private guard, Ran Boroth, employed by the company Mr Wutty was investigating, has now been charged with involuntary homicide.

Police have since declared their investigation complete. Spokesman Tith Sothea told reporters in Phnom Penh: “We have shown the truth to the public. So our work is closed for now.”

Campaigners, unimpressed with the pronouncements of the authorities, say the killing of Mr Wutty was the latest in a series of attacks, threats and killings of activists, among them labour-rights campaigner Chea Vichea, who was assassinated in 2004. Mr Wutty had himself received a number of death threats but refused to give up his work highlighting illegal logging, in particular in the Prey Lang forest in the centre of Cambodia. Private logging and agricultural companies, local and foreign, are said to control around 10m acres of land in the country.

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, which has investigated Mr Wutty killing, said activists faced both physical and legal threats as they went about their work. “Illegal deforestation is very lucrative. There are huge interests at stake,” he said. “There’s no doubt that those involved [in illegal logging] have links to the government. These people are always connected.”

A 2007 report by the group Global Witness highlighted what it said was a network that linked those involved in illegal logging with the police and military and senior politicians. “Cambodia is run by a kleptocratic elite that generates much of its wealth via the seizure of public assets, particularly natural resources,” the report concluded.

Megan MacInnes of Global Witness said of Mr Wutty’s death: “Sadly there is a long and well-documented history of activists trying to protect Cambodia’s [resources] being attacked and dying. This is not the first.”

The area in which Mr Wutty was killed is currently being cleared by Timbergreen, a private company registered in Cambodia, to make way for two dams to produce hydroelectricity. Construction of the Lower Russey Chrum dams is being carried out two Chinese state-owned firms. Mr Wutty had alleged the company was breaching its licence and cutting trees outside of the area it was permitted to do so.

Timbergreen owners have denied the allegations. The company’s majority shareholder, Khieu Sarsileap, said that the firm only cleared a few logs in the areas it has been given permission to work in. “We are clearing logs only in the reservoir, and even in the reservoir itself, we can’t finish it up; we have to do it fast because we have a contract,” she said.

“In Chut Wutty’s case, I am sorry that it happened to him, but my company wasn’t in any way involved in that. Illegal logging is a problem happening throughout the country, and if anybody who is involved in illegal trading of woods or timber tells you that they are from Timbergreen, they are only lying to you.”

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