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Cambodia: Major News Items, 4/22/96 - 4/28/96

Suspects Charged in Ngor Murder
Three men, alledgedly members of an Asian gang, were charged on Friday with the murder of actor Haing S. Ngor. Ngor, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of journalist Dith Pran in the movie "The Killing Fields," was killed on February 25 near his Los Angeles home. Police believe the three suspects, Jason Chan,18, and Tak Sun Tan and Indra Lim, both 19, followed Ngor home from a Chinatown restaurant and attempted to rob him when he got out of his car. Chan and Lim were already in police custody on an unrelated robbery charge. It was reported in the New York Daily News that Ngor may have been shot when he refused to give up a gold chain and locket containing a picture of his late wife, who had died in childbirth during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. (Matt Spetalnick, Reuter, 4/26/96.) I will merely add to this a quote which appears on the back of the slip cover of the videotape of "The Killing Fields": "If I die from now on, O.K.," Ngor told the New York Times. "The film will go on 100 years."

Hun Sen Warns Against Protests
In a speech to graduating medical students in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen complained about a scheduled rally in Paris organized by Cambodians in France. Leaflets seen in Phnom Penh said that the demonstrators would call for respect for human rights, a crackdown on corruption, and an end to the ongoing civil war. Hun Sen warned that "You can hold a demonstration in France but do not do it in Cambodia. If you do I will use the military force to suppress you." (Chhay Sophal, Reuter, 4/27/96.)

Chinese To Provide Aid
On April 23 China announced a $1 million uncondition grant to Cambodia for 1996. Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh said that the money would be used to assist to purchase equipment for the Cambodian army. China had previously donated demining equipment and uniforms. Later in the week, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Xie Yu'ee signed a separate agreement for a $6 million grant to repair Mao Tse Tung Boulevard in Phnom Penh, and to improve water facilities in Kandal. (UPI, 4/23/96, and Reuter, 4/26/96.)

Deforestation Danger
A joint report by the World Bank, the UNDP, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warns that Cambodia's forests are being rapidly depleted, and poorly managed. The present government policy has allocated most of the country's resources to a small number of concessionaires, and "rests on a level of timber exploitation which is likely to be unsustainable and will, in any case, provide inadequate fiscal returns." The report suggested that better management and more realistic government policies would not only lead to better conservation, but could also increase revenues from the present $20 million annually to $100 million. (Phnom Penh Post, April 19 - May 2, 1996.)

Sin Song Freed By Thais
General Sin Song, convicted in absentia for his role in the attempted 1994 coup in Cambodia, has been freed by Thai authorities after almost two years in custody. Song had been imprisoned in Cambodia shortly after the failed coup, but escaped in September 1994. He appeared in Bangkok a short time later, and was arrested by Thai authorities for having entered the country illegally. There were conflicting reports of where Song would go; some sources say that he has already entered Sri Lanka. (Dan Robinson, Voice of America, 4/26/96.)

Britain To Back Landmine Ban
After similar announcements by Australia and Germany, Britain announced on April 23 that it would begin destroying its stockpile of antipersonnel mines, and would work toward a global ban of the weapons. (Reuter, 4/23/96.)

Ranariddh Vows Crackdown On Corruption
On April 25, Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh vowed to take tough action against government corruption. "Public officials found guilty of corruption must be terminated from their functions and barred for life from holding a public position," Ranariddh said. Some sources estimate that corruption may be costing the state as much as $100 million. However, Ranariddh's comment that it would be a while before the proposed anti-corruption law reached debate in parliament drew fire from parliament member Son Chhay, the author of the proposed law. "There's been enough of talking. If the Prime Minister is serious... it will be in parliament no later than next month." (Maja Wallengren, Reuter, 4/25/96.)

Hong Kong Residents Offered Citizenship
Prime Minister Ranariddh has offered Cambodian citizenship to Hong Kong residents who would be willing to come to Cambodia. "My aim is to attract more young people, young blood coming from the outside, very educated, to help rebuild the country." (Reuter, 4/24/96.)

Armed Forces To Be Reduced
A spokeperson for the Cambodian Information Ministry announced on April 24 that 43,000 soldiers will be demobilized by the end of the year. Training programs will be created to ease the soldiers' transition to civilian life. The cuts were announced in advance of forthcoming guidelines from the World Bank, guidelines which were expected to call for the demobilization. Estimates of the current strength of the government's army range from 90,000 to 126,000. Meanwhile, the Information Ministry also confirmed that government forces have paused in their offensive against Pailin because of the start of the rainy season. (Reuter, 4/24/96.)

Sihanouk: KR Troop Strength About 6,000; Pol Pot Ailing
In France for an official state visit, King Sihanouk estimated that Khmer Rouge troop strength is now only about 6,000. Sihanouk also stated that Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, 65, is ill and may die soon. Sihanouk suggested that the Khmer Rouge are likely to disappear when Pol Pot dies. (Reuter, 4/23/96.)

No Progress On Hostages
Hem Bun Heng, the Second Deputy Governor of Siem Reap province, last week asked for assistance from the Thai, Lao, and British governments in freeing a British demining expert and his Cambodian interpreter. The two were abducted on March 26, and are believed to be in the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng. "(T)hey are in the area where we can't really reach." (Reuter, 4/27/96.)


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