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Cambodia: Major News Items, 3/1/95 to 7/31/95

Corruption Toll
Finance Minister Keat Chuon estimated in March that no import duties are paid on 30% of the goods brought into Cambodia. The cost in lost revenue to the government is believed to be roughly $100 million per year. (Indochina Digest 3/3/95)

Construction of Power Plant Begins
On March 15, construction began on a $40 million power plant for Phnom Penh. The project will consist of renovation of existing facilities, and the installation of 7 five-megawatt generators. (Indochina Digest 3/17/95)

Aid Donations
On March 16, Prime Minister Ranariddh announced that Cambodia had received pledges of aid totalling $472 million for 1995. (Indochina Digest 3/17/95)

Villagers Abducted By Khmer Rouge
On March 11, 31 people were kidnapped by Khmer Rouge guerrillas in Sneung, in Battambang province. Battambang provincial authorities have begun distributing weapons to villagers to defend against the attacks. (Indochina Digest 3/17/95)

Repatriated Refugees Struck By Poverty
A report by World Vision suggests that as many as 40% of the refugees repatriated from Thailand during the peace process are now living in poverty. A shortage of arable land has prevented authorities from giving all returnees the 5 acres of land that they were originally promised. (Indochina Digest 3/17/95)

UN Human Rights Center To Remain Open
Despite suggestions from Second Prime Minister Hun Sen that the UN Center for Human Rights in Phnom Penh was no longer necessary, the office will remain open. "The closure," Sen remarked, "is not a unilateral decision from Cambodia." (Indochina Digest 3/24/95 and 3/31/95)

New Currency
On March 25, the National Bank issued new bank notes and coins. Coins range in value from 50 to 500 riels; the new notes range from 1,000 to 100,000 riels. (Indochina Digest 3/31/95)

Inflation Falls
The rate of inflation in Cambodia, 26.1% last December, had fallen to 18.5% by April. As of April 10, the exchange rate stood at 2,190 riels to the dollar. (Indochina Digest 4/7/95 and 4/14/95)

Chinese Technicians Killed
Two technicians from a Shanghai-based mining company were killed in Kompong Speu when unidentified assailants attacked a quarry with rockets and machine guns. The attack occurred on April 5. (Indochina Digest 4/14/95)

Mine Clearing Continues
In April, the French government donated over $800,000 to a demining company to continue its work in Siem Reap province. Over 800 mines were cleared in the first three months of the year. Meanwhile, the US donated $1.5 million worth of equipment to the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC). Ieng Mouly, the director of the CMAC, suggested that in the future Cambodian mine clearers may be able to "export" their skills to other heavily mined countries. (Indochina Digest 4/14/95)

Thai Relations Improve
On May 7, Cambodian Foreign Minister Ung Huot announced the formation of a joint Thai-Cambodian commission to establish permanent border checkpoints at Koh Kong and Poipet. His Thai counterpart, Krasee Chanawongse, also announced that Thailand will provide $1.6 million in foreign aid, and will support Cambodia's bid for full membership in ASEAN. (Indochina Digest 5/12/95)

Peace March
On May 8, 500 monks and nuns participated in the fourth annual "Pilgrimage for Peace." The marchers walked 125 km, from Poipet to northwest Battambang, where they were greeted by a crowd of 10,000. (Indochina Digest 5/12/95)

Press Woes
On May 19 a court closed the newspaper Uddom Gati and fined its editor $2,200 for an article which compared Hun Sen and Norodom Ranariddh to barking dogs. On the same day, another court acquitted an army officer who had been arrested in connection with the murder of journalist Chan Dara late last year. The following day, Hen Vipheak, the editor of Serei Pheap Thmey, was sentenced to a year in jail for a cartoon and an editorial which described the prime minsters as thieves. Also, on May 22, Cambodian Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith stated that the government would take legal action against a third paper, the Dom Noeng Pel Proet, for a May 5th article which damaged "the reputation of government leaders." (Indochina Digest 5/26/65 and 6/2/95). On July 18, the situation for the press grew even darker when the National Assembly passed, by a vote of 90 to 4, a law severely limiting press freedom. The new law states that "The press shall not publish or reproduce information which affects national security and political stability." It also restricts "rude" language and sexually explicit material. The law provides for penalties including jail sentences and fines of up to $6000. (Indochina Digest 7/14/95 and 7/21/95)

Suspects Escape Prison
On May 19, two men charged with the January murder of American tourist Susan Hadden and her Cambodian guide were among the 57 prisoners who escaped during a jailbreak in Siem Reap. (Indochina Digest 5/26/95)

Dissident Rainsy Expelled
On May 23, Sam Rainsy, the widely respected former finance minister, was expelled from the FUNCINPEC party. The expulsion followed harsh criticism of the government by Rainsy, largely centering on official corruption. Rainsy angrily protested the expulsion and claimed to have "dozens of documents" detailing his charges. (Indochina Digest 5/26/95). Prince Norodom Sirivudh, the Secretary General of FUNCINPEC, criticized the party's steering committee and suggested that the expulsion had not been carried out in accordance with party regulations. (Indochina Digest 6/9/95). On June 22, Rainsy was formally expelled from the National Assembly following a 9 to 3 vote by the standing committee. Rainsy vowed to continue his fight, stating that the expulsion "does not mark the end of the issue but rather its beginning." King Sihanouk criticized the Assembly's action and said that "I have always considered H.E. Sam Rainsy as a patriot, honest, and competent." The action was also criticized by the US State department: "We are concerned that the expulsion will sully Cambodia's international image with regard to respect for rule of law and for open political debate on national issues." (Indochina Digest 6/23/95 and 6/30/95). In a related development, four of Rainsy's bodyguards were arrested and allegedly beaten by authorities on July 13. The four were accused of aiding the Khmer Rouge. They were released after 24 hours. The government denied that the arrests were linked to Rainsy. (Indochina Digest 7/21/95)

Rannariddh Vows Crackdown on Logging
Prime Minister Ranariddh accused the Khmer Rouge and corrupt government officials of violating the April 30 ban on timber exports. He vowed to impose harsh punishment of anyone violating the ban. (Indochina Digest 6/9/95)

Australians Ship Rice
In early June the Australian government shipped 10,000 tons of rice to Cambodia to offest an expected shortage, caused by flooding and droughts in Kompong Thom and Prey Veng province. (Indochina Digest 6/9/95)

Hun Sen's Son Accepted At West Point
Hun Marot, the son of Hun Sen, has been accepted by the US Military Academy at West Point. Marot had been nominated by the US Ambassador for inclusion in a program for foreign students. (Indochina Digest 6/23/95)

Thai Killed By Stray Shell
In June a Thai official was killed near the Cambodian border when shells fired by Cambodian government forces strayed into Thai territory during a firefight with Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Thai forces briefly returned fire, and the Thai government lodged an official protest. (Indochina Digest 6/16/95)

Children Recruited for Army
According to a survey of 77 government soldiers, conducted by the Vietnam Veterans of America, nearly half of those interviewed were recruited into the army when they were between 10 and 16 years of age. (Indochina Digest 6/23/95)

Birth Rate, Mortality High
The birth rate in Cambodia is increasing at a rate of 2.5% annually. Meanwhile, infant mortality stands at the high rate of of 125 per 1000 live births. (Indochina Digest 6/23/95). A UN report released in July estimates that Cambodia's population is now roughly 10.4 million. The report warned that population growth was outpacing the growth of resources and social services. (Indochina Digest 7/14/95)

Aids Update
The World Health Organization (WHO) now estimates that at least 600 Cambodians are HIV-positive. In 1994, 4.3% of blood donors in Phnom Penh were HIV-positive. Fifty Cambodians were known to be suffering from AIDS, and ten others have already died this year. WHO has pledged to provide $83,000 for a public awareness campaign to combat the spread of the disease. (Indochina Digest 6/23/95 and 7/7/95)

More Parliamentary Strife
Hun Sen has called for the removal of Kem Sokha from his position as the chair of the National Assembly's human rights Commission. A split within the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party may also lead to the removal of six members of the party, including Kem Sokha and Son Sann. (Indochina Digest 7/14/95)

Cambodian Embassy Opens in Washington
On July 20, the Cambodian Embassy, closed since 1975, officially reopened in Washington, D.C.. Var Huoth is Cambodia's Ambassador to the U.S.. (Indochina Digest 7/21/95)

More Aid
The World Food Program on July 19 began shipping 250 tons of rice to Cambodians displaced by fighting in the northwest of the country. Seventy thousand refugees faced acute food shortages in Pursat, Battambang, and Banteay Meanchey. The rice was donated by Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and Thailand. Also, the Asian Development Bank announced on July 23 that it had approved a $2.6 million grant for Cambodia, to be used primarily to improve the country's transportation infrastructure. (Indochina Digest 7/28/95)

Killer Sentenced
On July 24, Khmer Rouge guerrila Choun Mean was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the murders of three westerners in 1994. Three other defendents, including alleged leader Sam Bo, were sentenced in absentia to terms ranging from 16 to 20 years. (Indochina Digest 7/28/95)

Battlefield Update
Fighting continues in the rural areas of the country, particularly in the northwest. In late March. following battles near Aranyaprathet, Thailand, government forces captured the towns of Runtong and Prey Phdau. (Indochina Digest 3/31/95). In May, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that the Cambodian air force had destroyed two hotels in the Khmer Rouge held town of Pailin. The government recaptured several areas previously held by the Khmer Rouge, including the town of Treng. Twenty Khmer Rouge were reportedly killed. (Indochina Digest 5/12/95) Treng was recaptured by the Khmer Rouge on July 4, and a force of 1000 government troops, supported by helicopter gunships and tanks, launched an unsuccesful counterattack the following day. Eighteen government soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing after the assault. (Indochina Digest 7/7/95). The government subsequently retook the town on July 16, sustaining twelve deaths in the process. (Indochina Digest 7/21/95) Meanwhile, in other fighting in early July, Khmer Rouge forces conducted raids into Preah Vihear province. Government officials believe the guerrillas have a base just across the border in Thailand. (Indochina Digest 7/7/95) On July 22, the Khmer Rouge recaptured the town of Kla Ngab, in northwestern Cambodia, driving out government troops who had taken the town only weeks earlier. The government vowed to counterattack. On July 27, a Khmer Rouge artillery shell struck Poipet, killing 3 civilians and wounding five others. (Indochina Digest 7/28/95)

 

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