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Cambodia: Major News Items, 11/1/94 - 12/31/94

Drought Raises Fears Of Famine
A severe drought in Cambodia has caused the loss of nearly 70% of the country's rice harvest. The government has asked for international aid to prevent the onset of famine. According to foreign aid workers, as many as 250,000 people in Svay Rieng and 100,000 in Takeo are in danger. The hardest-hit areas are eastern Prey Veng and Svay Rieng, central Kompong Thom, southern Kandal, Takeo, and Kompong Speu, and northwest Battambang. (Indochina Digest, 12/2/94.)

Villagers Abducted By Guerrillas
Thirty-eight villagers from Kroch Kore and Sem Seb in Siem Reap province were abducted by the Khmer Rouge in late November. According to a representative from the World Food Program, "The Khmer Rouge have put price tags on kidnapped government workers, teachers and foreign aid workers. It's $2000 for a foreign aid worker, I am told, but just 400 baht ($18) for a Cambodian teacher." (America Online, Uli Schmetzer, Chicago Tribune, 12/13/94.) The head of the Red Cross in Siem Reap has also accused the Khmer Rouge of forcibly abducting local men, and said that six men had been shot for refusing to cooperate. (Indochina Digest, 11/18/94.)

Fighting Update
Khmer Rouge attacks in Kompong Speu province in early November reportedly left 17 people dead and 33 others injured, and in early December guerrillas burned down almost 150 homes in the Ek Phnom district of Battambang. Meanwhile, on December 7, the government reportedly captured the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Phnom Kulen. About 400 government troops and 150 Khmer Rouge defectors took part in the two-week siege. (Indochina Digest, 11/18/94, 12/9/94.)

Thai Loggers Murdered
At least 22 Thai loggers were killed in Cambodia on November 22, allegedly by Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Ten others were wounded, and at least one more remains missing. The workers were captured in Preah Vihear province, and when the Thai company employing the workers failed to pay the $200,000 ransom demanded by the captors, the victims were lined up and shot. Survivors of the massacre say the attackers were Khmer Rouge, but the Khmer Rouge deny responsibility. (America Online, Sutin Wannabovorn, Reuter, 12/22/94.)

Killing Of Vietnamese Continues
Two more ethnic Vietnamese were murdered in the Ksach Kandal district of Kandal province on December 7. Two others were also wounded in the attack. Three Cambodians asked to talk with the Vietnamese, then began shooting when the men sat down. The killings were condemned by local human rights groups, and the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh called on Cambodian authorities to arrest those responsible. (America Online, Reuter, 12/12/94.)

Journalist Murdered
Chan Dara, a 28-year-old reporter for the Koh Santepheap newspaper in Kompong Cham province, was fatally shot in the back on December 8. According to Amnesty International, Dara had previously recieved threats from local military police after he began investigating military involvement in the logging industry in the province. (America Online, Reuter, 12/15/94.) The outgoing director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy also accused the the government army of human rights abuses, stating that "groups of soldiers go around the countryside taxing the poor beyond their means, often killing and committing atrocities against innocent people." (America Online, Reuter, 12/14/94.)

Proposed Press Law Criticized
Under a proposed law soon to be debated by the National Assembly, it would be a crime to write or publish "racist" articles, or to insult King Sihanouk. Anyone convicted under the law would be subject to fines or imprisonment. Pin Samkhon, the President of the Khmer Journalist Association, decried the proposal. "If the draft is adopted by the National Assembly, the life of Khmer journalism will be endangered as a result of facing imprisonment for the written word. If this happens, political prisoners will return to the life of Cambodia." (America Online, Maja Wallengren, 11/9/94.)

German Tourist Held By Khmer Rouge
A 32-year-old German man is apparently being held by the Khmer Rouge after having strayed across the Thai-Cambodian border on December 8. He is believed to be alive, but the guerrillas have issued no comment on the case. Similarly, there is still no word on the fate of a Belgian couple who disappeared near Preah Vihear temple last May 23. (America Online, Reuter, 12/24/94.)

UN Envoy: Jails Improving, But...
UN Human Rights Envoy Michael Kirby in November praised the Cambodian government for what he called "unbelieveable" improvements in prisons he recently inspected. However, he also voiced "deep concerns" about lingering reports of secret prisons. Although the Cambodian government denies that such prisons exist, King Sihanouk has stated that some army units run "small Auschwitz-like prisons" which torture and execute inmates. (America Online, Reuter, 11/18/94.)

Coup Leader In Custody
Former Interior Minister Sin Song, who was convicted in absentia for his role in the July coup attempt, was arrested in Bangkok on November 2. Song had escaped from house arrest in Phnom Penh in September. He was charged with illegal entry by the Thai government, and the Cambodian government is trying to arrange for his extradition to Cambodia. Meanwhile, King Sihanouk has requested that Sin Sen be freed from jail. Sen is presently serving an 18-year sentence for his role in the coup. Prime Minister Ranariddh has said that he will discuss the request with Hun Sen and Parliament President Chea Sim. (America Online, Reuter, 11/9/94 and 11/25/94.)

U.S. Evangelist Sparks Furor
Texas evangelist Mike Evans was ordered to leave Cambodia after his promises to heal the sick and disabled created chaos at appearances during his "God Bless Cambodia" crusade. Many Cambodians travelled for days at great expense to attend the performances, and attendence at the first of rally in Phnom Penh was estimated at 30,000. Many of the spectators, however, became enraged when the promised "miracle cures" failed to materialize. Evans was led out of the country by police escort. (America Online, Reuter, 11/25/94; Indochina Digest, 12/2/94.)

Tuol Sleng Remains To Be Cremated
The skulls and bones which have been publicly displayed at Tuol Sleng Museum in Phnom Penh will be cremated, and a new memorial for victims of the Khmer Rouge reign will be built. King Sihanouk has pledged that he will personally contribute $10,000 for the cremation, and another $10,000 for a monument. (Indochina Digest, 12/9/94.)

Logging Ban
In a move aimed at preventing deforestation, the Cambodian government has announced plans to ban logging as of January 1. Some critics of the ban have expressed fears that it may backfire by causing an increase in unregulated, illegal logging. (America Online, Reuter, 12/27/94.)

Thai Police Killed
On December 7, a group of Cambodian soldiers entered a restaurant in Aranyaprathet, Thailand, and began shooting through the roof. Two Thai police officers exchanged fire with the soldiers and were killed. One of the Cambodians was wounded and was left behind when his companions fled. Police believe the group had entered the town with the intention of stealing cars and motorcycles. (Indochina Digest, 12/9/94.)

Tanks Purchased
The Czechoslovakian government has confirmed reports that 40 Soviet-designed T-55 tanks have been sold to the Cambodian government. As of late November, the tanks had been shipped but had not yet arrived in Cambodia. (America Online, Reuter, 11/23/94.)

U.S. Donates Medicine To Defectors
The U.S. government donated 200 emergency medical kits to the families of former Khmer Rouge soldiers who defected during the government's October offensive near Vine Mountain. According to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, "The US Government made this donation in support of the Royal Cambodian Government's effort to re-integrate Khmer Rouge defectors and their families into Cambodian society and to support King Sihanouk's desire for national reconciliation." (Indochina Digest, 11/18/94.)

Foreign Aid
Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh has asked foreign governments to begin providing direct military aid to the Cambodian government to combat the Khmer Rouge. He suggested that, with foreign assistance, the Khmer Rouge threat could be eliminated within three years. (Indochina Digest, 11/11/94.) Meanwhile, Australia has formally signed a $66 million aid agreement with Cambodia, and also pledged to increase funding for military training to $8 million. The Australians also offered to provide 10,000 tons of rice to help make up for the shortfall of domestic rice production caused by the drought, fighting, and flooding. Also, the Asian Development Bank has approved a $28 million interest-free loan for upgrading power generation and distribution, and the World Bank has agreed to provide $17 million for technical training, assistance, and equipment. (Indochina Digest, 12/2/94, and 12/16/94.)

Exchange Rate
As of the first week of December, the exchange rate for Cambodian currency was 2,593 riel to the dollar. (Indochina Digest, 12/9/94.)

 

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