Hun Sen rival faces trial even as EU threatens Cambodia sanctions

Hun Sen rival faces trial even as EU threatens Cambodia sanctions

Op-Ed: Nekei Asean Review, Kem Sokha will be tried for treason despite being released from house arrest

SHAUN TURTON, Contributing Writer NOVEMBER 19, 2019 14:35 JST

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the European Union flag. The EU last week sent Cambodia its preliminary report on whether to suspend the country from special trade privileges over its human rights record. (Nikkei Montage/ Source photo by Reuters)

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is pressing ahead with a treason case against a leading opposition figure who has just been released from house arrest, despite the nation facing European Union trade sanctions over its human rights record.

Hun Sen said on Monday that charges against Kem Sokha would not be dropped as demanded by the EU, Cambodia’s biggest export destination. “This case doesn’t require one or two days, or one month or two months, it will take a long time,” the strongman leader said.

Sokha was arrested in 2017 and faces up to 15 years in prison for what the government has claimed were plans for a U.S.-backed coup. His arrest and the subsequent Supreme Court ruling that dissolved his main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), saw Hun Sen’s ruling party capture every parliamentary seat in last year’s national election.

The crackdown, which also targeted civil society and media outlets, sparked an EU review of the country’s special trade privileges under the Everything But Arms scheme (EBA).

Losing the preference, which grants duty and quota free access to the bloc for all exports except weapons and ammunition, could be disastrous for the country’s 750,000-worker strong apparel and footwear sector, which generated more than $8 billion in exports last year.

The EU last week sent Cambodia its preliminary report on whether to suspend the country from the initiative, which is conditional on countries abiding by human and labor rights set out by the United Nations.

Its findings were not made public but a leaked copy, obtained by Radio Free Asia, reportedly concluded Cambodia had not taken enough steps to address “severe and systematic” violations of its principles.

In a statement, Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry claimed RFA’s coverage of the report was “not accurate” but did not provide any details from the document to contradict the outlet’s story. It said the government would review the report and submit “an appropriate response that will reflect updates of recent developments.”

In a sign of the mounting pressure, authorities last week relaxed house arrest conditions for Sokha, who can now travel in Cambodia but cannot leave the country or participate in political activities. The court also officially closed the case’s more than two-year investigation period.

In announcing the charges would not be dropped on Monday, Hun Sen claimed the court process was “independent,” an assertion at odds with the track record of Cambodia’s politically compliant judiciary.

President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha, right, shakes hands with European Union ambassador to Cambodia Carmen Moreno at his home in Phnom Penh on Nov. 13.   © Reuters

Just last week, Hun Sen ordered the release on bail of more than 70 opposition activists arrested for supporting failed plans by self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia and lead an uprising.

Following a familiar playbook, the moves appeared an effort to soften the oppression of opponents. The government also announced tentative steps to allowing independent media to once again purchase airtime on local radio stations.

Sebastian Strangio, author of “Hun Sen’s Cambodia,” said using prisoners as “bargaining chips” was a well established practice by the strongman over his 30 years in power.

“These types of concessions have long been part of the political game,” he said.

“The pattern has concealed a steady drift towards more and more control in Hun Sen and the CPP’s hands,” Strangio said. “The EU had to threaten half a billion dollars estimated worth of economic impacts on Cambodia in order to get Hun Sen to back down on this and it’s taken a plus to get this concession out of him.”

But whether Hun Sen’s apparent concessions will sway the EU remains to be seen. While Sokha’s improved conditions were welcomed, the move also appeared a strategic ploy to engender a split between the opposition leader and his CNRP co-founder, Sam Rainsy.

“The decision has been made to play Kem Sokha against Sam Rainsy, to dilute, diminish or marginalize Sam Rainsy at the time his status has been rising,” longtime Cambodian political commentator Lao Mong Hay told the Nikkei Asian Review. “It’s too late and too little,” he said of the concessions.

Cambodia’s exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to the media upon arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Indonesia on Thursday. He met lawmakers in Indonesia before returning to his base in Paris.   © AP

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Cambodia to Arizona: Bo Dul’s extraordinary journey to democracy

Cambodia to Arizona: Bo Dul’s extraordinary journey to democracy

Op-Ed: Arizona Capital Times, By: Katie Campbell and Carmen Forman April 19, 2019


Founders Day 2018: Sambo “Bo” Dul – Young Alumni Achievement Award
Sambo “Bo” Dul is the elections director under Secretary of State Katie Hobbs

Sambo “Bo” Dul wasn’t born in a democracy.

Her father gave his life to smuggle her and her family out of Cambodia following the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Thirty-five years later, she’s a crucial cog in Arizona’s elections.

On January 7, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs tapped Dul, a former election law attorney at Perkins Coie, to be her elections director.

“It was very hard to think of leaving [Perkins Coie], but I also couldn’t not think about it,” Dul said. “It was like once that genie came out of the bottle, I couldn’t put it back in.”

PATRIOTS

Dul was born in Cambodia at one of the most tumultuous times in the country’s history.

Her family fled the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge genocide when she was just a year old.

The trek to a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border was perilous. Her father didn’t survive.

Pure luck may have been all that kept Dul, her pregnant mother and siblings alive.

Crying babies aren’t ideal for quietly fleeing a country, so her family slipped Dula sleeping pill before the trip.

As the Duls approached the Thai-Cambodian border under the cover of night, the sleeping pill wore off. Dul, finding herself in the arms of a stranger as her mother had grown too weary to carry her, started wailing.

That might’ve been the end, but the wind was blowing away from the soldiers lining the border, carrying the sound of her cries in the opposite direction. She was carried to safety.

She lived in the camp on the Cambodian-Thai border until she was 5.

Her family arrived in the United States as refugees in the 1980s.

Her mother, Leng Poch Dul, didn’t speak English, so Dul was in charge of completing her family’s immigration paperwork and securing their place in the U.S.

While in high school, the Dul family’s immigration status was renewed for another year, but something had gone wrong with her paperwork and immigrations officials couldn’t pinpoint the problem even after she skipped school in Tempe to go to the immigration office in Phoenix.

Her experience highlighted how bureaucratic errors could plunge the lives of immigrants into a tailspin of anxiety, anger and even resignation.

“At some point, I was just like what can I do? There’s nothing I can do?” she said.

It took nearly a year for Dul to find out that someone had misfiled her paperwork. All this time, she feared deportation.

Dul later became a U.S. citizen, and took full advantage of what America has to offer.

She graduated summa cum laude with three degrees from Arizona State University, and went on to simultaneously earn a law degree from New York University and a master’s degree in public affairs from Princeton University. She built a successful law career and a family of her own.

And she set out to help others like her family through a pro bono immigration law program called the Phoenix Legal Action Network or PLAN.

Telling her story isn’t always easy, but it’s evenmore important now than ever to combat misinformation about other immigrants who fought so hard to get to America, she said.

Dul said it’s important to share what she went through – and what she does now – out of love for America, Arizona and democracy. Stories like hers prove that immigrants can be “patriots,” too.

INVALUABLE

Attorney Roopali Desai had made the call and given the pitch.

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How China changed Sihanoukville

How China changed Sihanoukville

តាមអត្ថបទនេះ គម្រោងមហិច្ចិតាគំនិតផ្តួចផ្តើមផ្លូវសូត្រ(BRI)របស់ចិន កម្ចីគឺមានលក្ខណៈជាកិច្ចសន្យាគ្មានការស្មោះត្រង់(opaque contracts) អត្រាការប្រាក់ខ្ពស់ហួសហេតុ(exorbitant interest rates) ការផ្តល់កម្ចីដោយយកប្រៀបខ្លាំងលើម្ចាស់បំណុល(predatory loan practices) និងការឃុបឃិតគ្នាដោយអំពើពុករលួយ(corrupt deals)។ ជាលទ្ធផល ប្រទេសក្រីក្រជាច្រើននិងទន់ខ្សោយខាងស្ថាប័នល្អ(weak states and weak governance countries) មានបំណុលវ័ណកររើខ្លួនមិនរួមរហូតយល់ព្រមធ្វើសម្បទាលក់ឬប្រគល់ដីធ្លីក៏ដូចជាសម្បត្តិដាក់ចំណាំប្រកាន់ទៅអោយចិនទាំងដុលតែម្តង។ ចំណែកទេសចរណ៌និងវិនិយោគិនចិនវិញ និយមប្រើប្រាស់តែក្រុមហ៊ុនចិន សម្ភារៈចិន និងកម្មករចិន ដើម្បីទាក់ទាញយកលុយនោះទៅផ្តល់ផលប្រយោជន៌អោយចិនវិញ ទុកអោយប្រជាជនអ្នកមូលដ្ឋាននិងម្ចាស់ប្រទេសត្រដររស់តាមសម្មាអាជីវោខ្វះខាតដដែល។ គ្រាន់តែដើម៦ខែនៃឆ្នាំ២០១៨នេះ ជនប្រព្រឹត្តបទអាជ្ញាកម្មចិនដែលប៉ូលីសខ្មែរចាប់បានមានដល់៦៨ភាគរយនៃការចាប់សរុបទាំងអស់ទូទាំងប្រទេស។

Op-Ed: The ASEAN Post Team, 13 April 2019

This photo taken on 13 December, 2018 shows one of the many Chinese casino establishments in Sihanoukville, the coastal capital of Preah Sihanouk province. (Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP Photo)

Sihanoukville used to be a sleepy coastal town in south Cambodia. Its beaches were known for their quiet, cosy – albeit a little seedy – atmosphere that attracted mostly families, individual travellers and backpackers. Aside from the goings-on of the tourists and those connected with the country’s sole deep-water port, nothing much had changed over the years. That was until the Chinese investment flooded in as a result of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).


Cambodians Lose, As China Tourists And Cash Pour In

Fast forward to 2019 and the once-tranquil city has been transformed beyond recognition. Now an enclave of Chinese investment, Sihanoukville is peppered with Chinese-run, operated and patronised hotels, apartments towers, restaurants and gambling dens. The area is dotted with Chinatowns, festooned with neon signs in Mandarin which have taken the place of Khmer and English language signs.

The magnitude and make-up of its tourists has also changed with the new influx. Tourism increased more than 700 percent between 2012 to 2017, with Chinese tourists accounting for one-third of the 6.2 million visitors Cambodia received last year. Officials estimate that Chinese nationals make up some 90 percent of the expatriate population in Sihanoukville. A number of the long-term Western tourists living in the city have either been pushed or kicked out to make way for better paying Chinese. Some have moved out to avoid the area because of the loss of tranquillity.

Within the BRI framework, Sihanoukville is known as the first port of call on China’s massive infrastructure programme. The area, previously known as Kampong Som before it was renamed after former king Norodom Sihanouk, received US$4.2 billion in Chinese investment for power plants and offshore oil operations.

Beyond Sihanoukville, with the strong support of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the BRI has spread Chinese investment further inland into the kingdom. Cambodia is a key beneficiary of infrastructure projects under China’s trillion-dollar BRI, and this includes financing for new highways, national roads, power plants, airports, and special economic zones (SEZs) dedicated to technology innovations. China has also bequeathed US$100 million in aid to help modernise Cambodia’s military.

Source: Various

Chinese investment and related discontent

With the massive influx of Chinese investments, loans and aid, many have cautioned Cambodia on China’s debt-trap diplomacy. The Chinese loan model, often characterised by opaque contracts, exorbitant interest rates, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals, has left smaller countries further debt ridden and in danger of losing their sovereignty.

The China Road and Bridge started construction of the country’s first highway last month, a US$2 billion four-lane road linking Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh. The growing dependence on China has led Hun Sen to insist that Cambodia is not a colony of China – going on to rubbish rumours that China plans to set up a naval base in the South China Sea, a strategic area which has long been an issue of contention between China and some ASEAN member nations.

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Saumura Tioulong: Aristocrat & Activist, East and West, Synergy & Individuality

Saumura Tioulong: Aristocrat & Activist, East and West, Synergy & Individuality

Op-Ed: FNF

Feature 03.04.2019

This author has personally heard Saumura, on more than a few occasions, say this statement or permutations of the same point—“The wife of Sam Rainsy?! I am Saumura.” Indeed, it is but just to refer to her as her own person whose solid credentials and competence in the fields of both politics and economics stand on their own merit. 

(C) FNF SEEAsia

She is the daughter of a former prime minister, minister of three portfolios: foreign affairs, finance and education, and governor of Phnom Penh and other provinces; and the wife of the leader of the Cambodian opposition who was also a former finance minister after a successful career in Paris in business and finance. But make no mistake about it, she is her own person.

Saumura Tioulong
(c) Cambodia Daily

At the zenith of its power and glory, the Khmer Empire covered much of today’s Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. More than five hundred years later and after a century of French colonial rule, the genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge reduced Cambodia to one of the poorest nations in the world. 

Imperial Khmer…Indochine. The ruins of the magnificent Angkor Wat in Siem Reap and the dilapidated maisons along Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh are monuments of stone to Cambodia’s past—both as conquerors and conquered, both triumphant and tragic. In 1953, Cambodia gained independence from France. Though political turbulence continued, Cambodia in the fifties and the sixties held promise and possibilities. And Saumura’s father was part of that promise. 

Then came the Killing Fields (1975 to 1979) that assaulted Cambodia with the relentless orgies of death and destruction of the infamous and murderous Khmer Rouge. 

Saumura spent her primary education in Phnom Penh, Paris, Tokyo and Moscow; her high school at the Lycee Descartes in Phnom Penh. In 1969, Saumura went to France, her prominent family maintained a home in the center of Paris. She was still in her late teens when she left Cambodia, several years before the Khmer Rouge came to power. She returned only in 1992 with her husband, Rainsy. They have three children. 

In France, she received the best education: a Political Science Diploma from the Institute of Political Science of Paris (1974) and an MBA from the prestigious Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires (European Institute of Business Administration) or INSEAD (1980), acknowledged as one of the best business schools in the world, in its main campus in Fontainebleau. 

With her sterling academic qualifications, she entered the world of high finance. Starting as Financial Analyst and Portfolio Manager at Banque Indosuez de Paris (1975- 1983), she became Managing Director of the French branch of Robert Fleming and Company, a Scottish investment bank specializing in securities management (1983-1988). And from 1988 to 1993, she was President and Chief Executive Officer of Mobiliere Conseil, a stock market advisory firm specializing in the Southeast Asian market. 

Her being Asian and a woman were not obstacles not necessarily because the European and the men were open-minded but more so, because she did not allow it to be so. Had she remained in Europe, she would have certainly made more impressive strides in world finance. But Cambodia, her home, beckoned. 

During her long years in France preoccupied with her studies and immersed in the world of finance while raising a family at the same time, Cambodia was always in her mind and heart. She was a member of the royalist FUNCINPEC since its founding in 1981. The Front Uni National pour un Cambodge Indépendant, Neutre, Pacifique et Coopératif (National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia) or FUNCINPEC was founded by King Norodom Sihanouk and his son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, led the party to electoral victory in the 1993 elections supervised by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) (Facts and Details, n.d.). Sam Rainsy was one of the FUNCINPEC candidates who won that year’s election and he was later appointed as Minister of Finance. 

Saumura Tioulong
CALD Archives

Saumura became Vice Governor of the Cambodian Central Bank in 1993. She nego- tiated and supervised the implementation of the first International Monetary Fund (IMF) support programs in Cambodia. She left the Central Bank in 1995, the same year Rainsy founded the Khmer Nation Party (KNP), the precursor of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). 

In 1998, she became a member of parliament for the first time, representing Phnom Penh during the second National Assembly of Cambodia. She was one of the 15 SRP stal- warts who became part of 122-member legislature. She was reelected in 2003, one of the 24 SRP legislators in the 123-member third National Assembly of Cambodia. In 2008, she became one of the 26 SRP members in the fourth Cambodian National Assembly. During that year’s general elections, the Human Rights Party (HRP) of Kem Sokha won three seats. 

Saumura Tioulong
CALD Archives

SRP and HRP merged to become the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) on 17 July 2012. A CALD press release (18 July 2012) reported that Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha and other leaders of SRP (including Saumura and Mu Sochua) and HRP convened at the CALD Secretariat in Manila to discuss the long-awaited unification of the two parties. After two days of careful deliberations, the two party presidents reached a historic agreement to “unite in accordance with the Khmer people’s will in order to save Cambodia by bringing about political change to put an end to a dictatorship serving destructive foreign interests.” The merger between SRP and HRP aims to directly oppose the dictatorial government that lies at the root of Cambodia’s problems. The ruling CPP recklessly exercises its power in violation of human rights and with- out consideration of national interests. It is this government that has led Rainsy into multiple self-imposed exiles to avoid imprisonment for politically motivated charges. 

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