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Cambodia: Major News Items, 8/1/95 to 9/30/95

BLDP Racked by Internal, External Strife
On August 5, six members of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party were expelled following an internal split. Son Sann was among those expelled, as were three other members of the National Assembly: Sou Soubert, Kem Sokha, and Keat Sokun. Information Minister Ieng Mouly, who was elected president of the BLDP in July, cited a desire to "reduce dissent in parliament" as one of the reasons for the expulsions. The rift between Son Sann and Mouly dates back to 1993, when the two nearly split following a disagreement on whether or not to participate in the UN-sponsored elections. "Our opposing faction have sent a message outside of Cambodia, saying there is no respect for human rights here, and my faction believes human rights abuses should be dealt with in Cambodia," said Mouly. A BLDP official stated that the party would now request that Sann, Soubert, Sokha, and Sokun now be expelled from the Assembly as well. Also, on August 8, another BLDP member of the National Assembly, shot and killed himself in the mailroom of the Assembly building. Police refused to speculate on a motive, but another party member said that two letters were found on the body, addressed to Son Sann and Ieng Mouly, asking for a reconciliation. (Indochina Digest, 8/11/95). Problems for the party escalated on September 30, when 39 people were injured in a grenade attack on a BLDP meeting in Phnom Penh. On the same day, 23 people were injured in a similar attack on Son Sann's headquarters. Son Sann was in the headquarters at the time but was unhurt. In both incidents, a grenade was thrown from a passing motorcycle. The attacks came in the wake of government criticism of Son Sann's attempts to rally his supporters. Son San had attempted to organize a public rally at the national stadium, but was refused permission, although the government had previously allowed a similar meeting of supporters of Ieng Mouly. Hok Lundi, the chief of the national police, said the government could not guarantee the safety of the participants. King Sihanouk, meanwhile, condemned the attacks, calling them "despicable and unjustifiable." Son Sann called the violence "a threat to democracy" and said that "Whoever committed this activity doesn't have a democratic idea, they don't want to rebuild this country." (Tricia Fitzgerald, UPI, 9/30/95; Leo Dobbs, Reuters, 10/1/95; Indochina Digest, 10/6/95)

Killing Field Found
On July 31, the Cambodia Daily reported that the remains of an estimated 2000 people had been found at the site of a former teacher's college about 15 miles southeast of Phnom Penh. The remains were discovered by a Yale University team collecting evidence of atrocities during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. (Indochina Digest, 8/4/95)

Foreign Officials Visit
On August 4, Secretary of State Warren Christopher met with King Sihanouk, Prime Minister Ranariddh, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Foreign Minister Ung Huot. Christopher announced that the US would donate over $17 million in aid for health, education, technical, and democratic programs, and for relief of rice shortages. (Indochina Digest, 8/4/95). Vietnamese President Le Duc Anh visited Cambodia four days later, and pledged to resolve disputes over the demarcation of the countries' common border. (Indochina Digest, 8/11/95). On August 23, Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono also met with Sihanouk, Ranariddh, Hun Sen, and Ung Huot. Kono pledged an additional $24 million in aid to Cambodia. Japan has given Cambodia about $350 million in aid since 1991. (Indochina Digest, 8/25/95)

Refugees To Be Released?
A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on August 1 that the Cambodian government had interviewed 13 families of ethnic Vietnamese who had been detained at the Chrey Thom river border since 1993. The river has been home to roughly 2,000 Vietnamese who had fled their homes on the Tonle Sap during a series of violent attacks shortly before the 1993 elections. The families have been stranded, unwanted by either the Cambodian or Vietnamese governments. A spokesperson for the UNHCR stated that the Cambodian government intends to interview the remaining families, and described the developments as "very positive." (Indochina Digest, 8/4/95)

Naval Clash
On July 20, one Cambodian sailor was killed and two others wounded during a firefight with Vietnamese vessels which had been fishing near Sihanoukville. Two of the Vietnamese boats were captured, and a third was heavily damaged. (Indochina Digest, 8/4/95)

Killers Convicted
On August 8, two Khmer Rouge guerrillas were sentenced to prison terms for the murder of an American tourist and her Cambodian guide near Angkor Wat last January. The two, Khang Choeun and Sok Kfok, were sentenced to 18 and 15 years respectively. Two other guerrillas who had escaped from prison in April were sentenced in absentia to 20 year terms, and three other defendants were acquitted. (Indochina Digest, 8/11/95)

Armed Forces To Be Reduced
Hun Sen stated in late July that the government hopes to reduce the armed forces from the present 130,000 to 90,000 by 1997, and to 60,000 by 2000. The reductions will, however, be dependent upon the security situation. (Indochina Digest, 8/11/95)

AIDS Update
On September 13, the World Health Organization estimated that there are now roughly 30,000 Cambodians who are HIV positive, up from about 6,000 in 1994. Nationwide, 4% of blood donors were HIV positive, and screening in Phnom Penh in August showed 8.7% positive. An official for WHO declared that the statistics in Cambodia are "worse than any other country in the region." (Indochina Digest, 8/11/95)

Protestors Arrested, Freed
Six persons were arrested and detained on August 5 and August 6 for attempting to distribute pamphlets critical of the Cambodian government during Sceretary of State Warren Christopher's visit. The pamphlets accused the government of corruption and human rights violations. The six were freed on September 18, following criticism from King Sihanouk, Amnesty International, and others. (Indochina Digest, 8/18/95, 9/22/95)

Khmer Rouge Internal Split?
According to recent defectors, the Khmer Rouge have been weakened recently by internal feuding. The rebels are said to be dividing into three categories: The "pure" Khmer Rouge, former FUNCINPEC and KPNLF fighters, and defectors from the government. (Indochina Digest, 8/18/95)

Mines Still Taking Toll
Mines in Cambodia still cause an average of about 120 amputations per month. In the past, the toll has been as high as 600 per month, but demining and greater public awareness of the danger have lessened the toll. However, an official with the the British demining group HALO Trust stated in September that the Khmer Rouge are continuing to target civilians and the families of defectors in the northwest, and deminers have recently been uncovering newly planted Chinese-made mines. (Indochina Digest, 8/25/95, 9/8/95)

Harassment Of Press Continues
On August 24, the government filed a complaint against the English-language Phnom Penh Post, accusing the paper of printing "false information" after the paper published an article about infighting and manuevering within the government. (Indochina Digest, 8/25/95). On September 18, however, US Ambassador Charles Twining said at a news conference that Norodom Ranariddh had told him that the government did not intend to close the paper. Meanwhile, the Far Eastern Economic Review has reported that King Sihanouk has privately assured publisher Michael Hayes that, if convicted, he will be given a royal pardon. (Indochina Digest, 9/22/95). In general, however, the climate for the press in Cambodia continues to look ominous. On August 28, another newspaper, the Khmer Ideal, was ordered closed by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, and its publisher was fined $4000 for describing government officials as greedy dictators and suggesting that power be handed over to Sihanouk. On September 1, the President of the National Assembly, Chea Sim, signed into law a widely-criticized measure severely limiting freedom of the press. Chea Sim signed the law in his capacity as Acting Head of State while Sihanouk was out of the country. (Indochina Digest, 9/1/95). The following week, a grenade damaged the office of the publisher and editor of the Damneung Pel Prek (Morning News). The publisher, Ngoun Noun, had been jailed twice in 1994 for articles critical of government officials. (Indochina Digest, 9/15/95)

Foreigners Shot
On August 26, four foreigners were injured near the home of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. The son of a Bulgarian diplomat was shot three times in the upper body, and another Bulgarian suffered severe head injuries resulting from a fall from a motorcycle. A Briton was shot in the arm, and an Australian was slightly wounded in the head. It was unclear who was responsible for the shooting, but Hun Sen suggested that it may have been the work of guerrillas, and said that three armed Cambodians had passed his house on a motorcycle similar to that carrying two of the foreigners shortly before the incident. (Indochina Digest, 9/1/95)

Former KR Official In US
The New York Times revealed in September that Thiounn Prasith, who served as Democratic Kampuchea's ambassador to the UN and the Khmer Rouge representative in the guerrilla coalition from 1982 to 1991, was living in the United States. Immigration officials said that Prasith was admitted with an H-4 visa as the spouse of someone who provides an essential service. A State Department spokesman has said that the US is looking for a way to expel Prasith. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranariddh has said that Cambodia would welcome Prasith back, and hinted that the government may employ him in border talks with Vietnam and Thailand. (Indochina Digest, 9/8/95)

Guerrillas Attack Highway
On August 29, Khmer Rouge forces attacked government soldiers along highway 4, 70 miles southwest of Phnom Penh. A section of the roadway was destroyed. (Indochina Digest, 9/8/95)

Thai Loggers Killed
One Thai logger was killed and four others wounded on September 4 when they were attacked by unidentified gunmen on a Cambodian island in Koh Kong province. (Indochina Digest 9/8/95)

ADB Loan Approved
On August 31, the Asian Development Bank approved a 40-year, no-interest $20 million loan to help develop health services and physical infrastructure in Cambodia. (Indochina Digest, 9/8/95)

Prostitution Crackdown
Police in Battambang raided several brothels on August 22, taking 232 women and girls into custody, and arresting 39 alleged brothel owners. Sixty-two of the girls were under 18, and 32 were only 14 or 15 years old. The crackdown came in the wake of reports of forced prostitution, mistreatment of women, and assaults at some of the brothels. (Indochina Digest, 9/8/95)

Education Statistics
Statistics provided by the Education Minister showed that there are presently 58,219 teachers employed in Cambodia. An additional 1,932 are expected to be hired by the start of the next school year. Cambodia now has roughly 1.6 million primary school students, 270,000 secondary school students, and eight institutions of higher education, with a total of nearly 11,500 students. (Indochina Digest, 9/15/95)

Sihanouk Has Cataracts Removed
Surgeons in Beijing successfully removed cataracts from King Sihanouk's left eye on September 21. A second operation is scheduled for some time in October. (Indochina Digest, 9/22/95, 9/29/95)

Flooding Along Mekong
The Red Cross reported on September 21 that flooding and broken dikes resulting from torrential rains displaced 337 families and destroyed 2,900 hectares of rice along the Mekong River. (Indochina Digest, 9/22/95)

Fire Displaces Phnom Penh Squatters
A fire on September 21 destroyed at least 250 structures in Phnom Penh. One 14-year-old boy was killed. Municipal authorities have barred the rebuilding of illegal structures razed in the fire. (Indochina Digest, 9/22/95)


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