Women's Day Forum Blocked

A show of force by authorities today at Freedom Park suppressed a planned public forum on garment industry issues, causing union leaders to cancel the event timed to International Women’s Day.
The leaders of 18 union confederations had planned to discuss issues including the continued push for a $160 minimum monthly wage and the release of 21 activists and workers detained during a January crackdown - despite City Hall and the Ministry of Interior forbidding the gathering in decisions earlier this week.
“I’m disappointed that the government didn’t allow it and that the authorities blocked Freedom Park,” Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (C.CAWDU), said after the incident. “Freedom Park [should allow] for freedom of the workers.”
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Opposition Leader Sam Rainsy Returns to Cambodia

I have come home to rescue the country,'' he told a crowd of supporters at the airport. "I am happy to be 

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has returned to Cambodia, days before a general election.
Mr Rainsy had been living in France after being jailed in absentia in 2010 on charges he said were politically motivated.

But he was granted a royal pardon last week and was greeted by thousands of cheering supporters as he arrived back in Phnom Penh.

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Hunger Strike Ahead of Hearing

Residents of the Boeung Kak lake community participate in a hunger strike in front of Phnom Penh’s Court of Appeal yesterday. The protesters are calling for the release of jailed campaigner Yorm Bopha, a key player in the evictee community.

Two days before the appeal trial of imprisoned Boeung Kak lake activist Yorm Bopha, some of her supporters went on a hunger strike yesterday to demand her release.

Led as usual by Boeung Kak activist Tep Vanny, the group of four, dressed in white, set up outside the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh at about 9am and laid flowers spelling “Free Bopha” on the pavement.

One, Bo Chhorvy, said the group, all women, would remain there until this morning.

“We will keep striking here until Tuesday and will return again on Wednesday to support and encourage Yorm Bopha when the Court of Appeal hears her case,” she said.

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The Great Rubber Rush

A Vietnamese company operating in Cambodia is in possession of 16 times the legal amount of economic land concessions (ELC), while another has nearly five times what it should – and both are logging illegally, an international investigation released today reveals.

In Rubber Barons, the UK-based NGO Global Witness accuses state-run Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) and privately owned Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) of destroying lives and the environment in Cambodia and Laos in their quest for rubber, a commodity that nets about $200 million in exports from the Kingdom each year.

Under Cambodian law, an individual can hold a total of 10,000 hectares of ELC land. But according to the Global Witness report, VRG possesses 161,344 hectares of rubber plantations in the Kingdom, spread across seven provinces.

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From Prison, an Accidental Activist

Boeung Kak activist Song Srey Leap takes part in a protest in Phnom Penh last month. Srey Leap says she had not been motivated to take part in demonstrations until after she was arrested last year.

When Boeung Kak lake protesters converged on the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to demand justice for imprisoned activist Yorm Bopha last month, an increasingly familiar face was at the front.

After her fellow activists chanted, released birds from a cage and then dispersed, Song Srey Leap, 27, remained at the court’s entrance.

Crying, she continued screaming for justice as police – who likely recognised the face before them – watched her every move.

A year ago, Srey Leap wasn’t an activist. Her community was in the grip of an enduring land dispute and her mother was a regular protester, but Srey Leap was only a silent observer.

“I would only sometimes attend protests, on the weekend, when I wasn’t working,” she said yesterday. “But I never spoke with police. I was only ever watching.”
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Cambodian Activist Awarded for Work on Land Rights

Cambodian land rights activist Tep Vanny has received an international award for leading a battle against forced evictions with a vow to spare no efforts to win the freedom of a jailed fellow campaigner.

The housewife, who has been representing evicted residents from the Boeung Kak lake neighborhood in Phnom Penh which was razed to make way for a luxury residential development, was presented on Tuesday with the Leadership in Public Life Award by Vital Voices—a Washington-based organization that trains women leaders and social entrepreneurs.

“To me—just like other women in Boeung Kak who are suffering from forced evictions—this award is very meaningful,” Tep Vanny said during her acceptance speech at the award gala, which was also attended by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
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Koh Kong Land Reps Descend on PM

About 70 representatives from five communities locked in land disputes in Koh Kong province protested in Phnom Penh yesterday, but were thwarted in their efforts as they called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to deploy his army of youths to measure their land and issue titles.

Three of the communities represented are in dispute with Chinese company Union Development Group, which received 36,000 hectares in economic land concessions (ELCs) in 2008 and about 9,000 more in 2011.
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Cambodia Economic Land Concession


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Fight for the Frontier

On Monday at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, legal teams from Cambodia and Thailand will begin presenting arguments over a small swath of land along the border between the countries.

The long-awaited judicial battle is being waged over a few square kilometres of mountainous terrain next to the Preah Vihear temple, a majestic ruin sitting atop a cliff in the north of Cambodia. The disputed area is about the size of central Phnom Penh, but the history leading up to it goes back more than 100 years – some say further.

At the source of the story sits the temple, and wrapped around it are aspects of most modern conflicts: culture, military exchanges, politics, diplomatic relations, colonialism and nationalism.

What follows is a basic primer on the subject, crafted after consulting court documents and talking to historians, experts and officials involved on both sides.

When did the conflict over the temple begin?
Seeds of the legal dispute were sown in the early 1900s, when France, which controlled Cambodia as a protectorate, and Thailand, an independent power known then as Siam, signed off on a series of maps that established boundaries between the two Southeast Asian countries.
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The European Union

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe. The EU operates through a system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states.Institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European Parliament. The European Parliament is elected every five years by EU citizens. The EU's de facto capital is Brussels.

The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), formed by the Inner Six countries in 1951 and 1958 respectively. In the intervening years the community and its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit. The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union under its current name in 1993.The latest amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.

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Activist Yorm Bopha Denied Bail

Jailed Boeung Kak activist Yorm Bopha hugs her son yesterday outside the Supreme Court during a break in proceedings at her bail hearing in the capital.

Supporters of imprisoned Boeung Kak lake land activist Yorm Bopha surged into the grounds of the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh yesterday morning, screaming and crying, after Bopha's second appeal for bail was rejected and she was escorted to a van bound for Prey Sar prison.

The protesters, among more than 100 who had gathered outside, screamed at officials and banged on the windows of the van before it sped off – with Bopha shouting out of the window. In the streets, others tore a styrofoam “scales of justice” apart before setting the pieces alight.

Bopha, 29, who was sentenced in December to three years in prison, had quietly entered the court hours before, hopeful a panel of five judges would release her on bail before her appeal hearing – a date for which has not been set.

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Association of Southeast Asian Nations

 The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN pron.: /ˈɑːsi.ɑːn/ AH-see-ahn, rarely /ˈɑːzi.ɑːn/ AH-zee-ahn) is a geo-political and economic organization of ten countries located in Southeast Asia, which was formed on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.Since then, membership has expanded to include Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, and and the working language is English. The headquarters is in Jakata, Indonesia. Secretary General is Le Luong Minh hwo living in Vietnam. Its aims include accelerating economic growth, social progress, cultural development among its members, protection of regional peace and stability, and opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully.

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Largesse and Threats Ahead of Election

Youth volunteers prepare to depart Phnom Penh to take part in the government’s land measurement and titling scheme in 2012.

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned thousands of villagers yesterday that his most popular initiatives, including his far-reaching land-titling scheme, will simply disappear if he is not re-elected in July’s national election – amid suggestions his campaigning has unofficially begun.

In a marked shift from his apparent generosity of last week, which included returning land to evictees in Preah Sihanouk province and adding $2 to a monthly garment wage increase, the prime minister used a ground-breaking ceremony for a bridge to predicted regression should the CPP fall from power.

“You come to Hun Sen for help with problems relating to markets, bridges [and] roads,” he said during a speech to about 10,000 villagers in Kandal province’s Koh Thum district. “But when July comes, you must help me, just once. I ask for only one vote each.”
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