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2000 In Review




ambodia celebrates the new millennium in style with a fireworks display over Angkor

Wat on Jan 1.

The Council of Ministers approves a draft law on Jan 6 for trials against

the former Khmer Rouge leaders. This clears a major hurdle to setting up a tribunal

to deal with the atrocities committed by the Pol Pot regime.

Japan's Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi visits Cambodia on Jan 10 and signs agreements

for additional aid, confirming its status as top aid donor. During the visit, the

first by a Japanese Prime Minister in 43 years, Hun Sen announces that the Government

is prepared to allow co-investigating judges in a Khmer Rouge trial, one of whom

could be foreign.

The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM) publishes its first fortnightly

magazine called "Svaing rouk kapi" (Searching for the Truth). The magazine

aims to cover the Khmer Rouge trials and will detail both court proceedings and analysis.

Meanwhile former Khmer Rouge military commander Chhouk Rin is arrested on

Jan 17 and charged for his role in the 1994 train attack that killed 16 people, including

three foreigners. He says he was following orders.

On Jan 19, almost three weeks after the event, the government says opposition

leader Sam Rainsy's New Year message was 'dangerous to the Nation, Religion and King.'

Rainsy blames a faulty translation and says he has been misunderstood.

Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) is in the news again. This time, faced

with financial cuts, it announces controversial plans to allow private demining

firms a slice of the landmine and UXO (unexploded ordinance) clearance market

in 2001.

After three years as a special administrative zone, the western province of Pailin

accepts the government's control over its affairs and pays tax for the first time.

Pailin's "party pagoda", Wat Kong Kang, is closed and more than

20 monks are expelled after their devotional lives turn into a series of disco and

karaoke parties, with girls being invited back to the pagoda and fights breaking

out among the monks.

The Post reports an increase in Ecstasy use in Phnom Penh's night clubs. Chinese

triads and Burmese drug-lords are blamed.

Despite a Government crackdown, illegal offshore fishing continues in Cambodian waters.

Large Thai vessels are blamed for plundering fish stocks, for threatening fisheries

officers and are accused of undermining the local economy.

Forest conservation efforts appear to be having little impact on the Thai border

as the Post reports that over 100 cubic meters of illegal wood (six boat-loads),

are crossing into Thailand from Koh Kong each day, while local police sit back and

watch it sail past.

Championing the cause, Prime Minister Hun Sen denounces illegal logging and attacks

poachers at the Jan 25 opening of Phnom Tamao Zoo and Wildlife Rescue Center.


While former Democratic Kampuchea Prime Minister, Khieu Samphan, agrees to come forward

and publicly face the victims of the 1975-79 regime, providing his safety can be

guaranteed, Hun Sen and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan agree on Feb 12 to further

discussions on KR justice tribunals.

Interim results from an English-language survey show the majority of Cambodians surveyed

want an internationally-controlled, public tribunal and truth commission to try former

Khmer Rouge leaders and bring healing to the Cambodian people.

The Ministry of Religion intends to tighten exam procedures after the Post exposes

wide-spread cheating among monks at Phnom Penh's Norodom School. Monks are climbing

near-by trees and throwing answers wrapped around stones into the classroom.

Police and civilian recruits begin evicting people living on public land near the

Stoeung Meanchey pagoda, Phnom Penh, on Feb 15. About 800 protesters marched on Phnom

Penh on Feb 16 to protest at the planned eviction from public land of up to 20,000

people in the city this year. They plan to take their case for land law reform to

the EU and the National Assembly.

Canadian technical advisors at CMAC withdraw from routine inspection of demined land

after they find site managers had arbitrarily designated mined land as having been


Returning to the international sporting stage for the first time since 1966, Cambodia

hosts the Women's Table Tennis World Cup at Olympic Stadium.

Sculptor Im Chan dies. He was internationally known as one of the few survivors of

Tuol Sleng prison, where he was forced to sculpt heads of Pol Pot during the Khmer

Rouge regime.


Former Funcinpec Secretary-General Loy Sim Chheang accuses National Assembly president

and Funcinpec leader Prince Ranariddh of being a dictator, while the party tries

to reunite splintered elements.

Sam Rainsy party activist Kung Bun Heang pleads for international aid to protect

himself and his family after his release from Phnom Penh Military Jail on March 6.

Japanese researchers discover dangerous levels of carcinogenic dioxins in hair and

breast milk samples taken from residents living near Stung Meanchey garbage dump.

Canadian technical advisors remain restricted from carrying out field inspections

of mining activities, pending a visit by Canadian Brigadier General Chris Ford.

Conservationists discover new species of flora and fauna while undertaking a biological

survey of the Cardamom Mountains, including rare Siamese crocodiles..

Negotiations over a tribunal to prosecute former Khmer Rouge leaders continue with

the arrival of a UN delegation headed by UN Under-secretary for Legal Affairs, Hans

Corell, in Phnom Penh on March 16.

Water spillage from a Vietnamese power station at Yali Falls, which caused sudden

surges in the volume and current of the Se San River, is blamed for the deaths of

five Cambodians, the loss of fishing boats and the destruction of crops. The Vietnamese

authorities will eventually apologize.

Rita Reddy is appointed as new director of the Cambodian Office of the Commissioner

for Human Rights.

US customs investigators visit a foreign-owned garment factory in Phnom Penh after

the US Embassy raises concerns over sweatshop conditions.

Multimillionaire Egyptian businessman Mohammed Al-Fayed meets with Hun Sen and senior

Government officials on March 21, to discuss business opportunities.

Despite recent comments by Thai Army General Mongkol Ampornpisit that he would like

to see closer ties between the two countries, Thai military forces punch a road 6km

into Cambodian territory from Chanthaburi Province. The area around Phnom Preuk is

fortified in a blatant land grab that stuns both Cambodian officials and Western


The armed robbery of mainly foreign passengers on a boat to Siem Reap on March 22

prompts Tourism Vice-Minister Thong Khon to suggest more stringent security arrangements

for passenger boat operators.

Independence Boulevard, Sihanoukville, loses hundreds of trees in the name of progress,

as local authorities proceed with plans to widen the pavement.

Sam Sotha, Royal advisor on CMAC affairs, praises Prime Minister Hun Sen's rejection

of a plan to fire a third of CMAC staff as an emergency cost-cutting measure.

Around 300 people gather in front of the National Assembly on March 30 to commemorate

the victims of the grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy Party demonstration three years


500 workers lose their jobs when the Daun Teuw jute factory in Battambang closes.

Owners cite the smuggling of jute to Thailand and Vietnam as a major cause of the


About 200 demonstrators, some of them monks, march from Wat Chak Angre Leu to Phnom

Penh municipality to voice their anger at a group of 500 Vietnamese occupying a vacant

pagoda. They want the Government to send the people back

to Vietnam.


Shakespeare and Hollywood come to Cambodia. A Khmer version of Othello entitled Samritechhak

premiering at the University of Fine Arts on April 1 while movie-makers from US-based

Dreamworks scout Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for shooting locations for their new film

"Tomb Raider."

Thai Embassy officials in Phnom Penh indicate that land occupied by Thai troops belongs

to Thailand, contrary to Khmer military opinion that they are conducting a land grab.

The Cambodian Government approves the export of 360 crab-eating macaque monkeys to

Vietnam, despite claims from the Ministry of Environment that this contravenes internal


Three fisheries officers from the Pon Nhea Leu district are beaten to death and their

bodies dumped in the river after they confiscated fishing nets and equipment from

fishermen on the Tonle Sap, on April 23.

More than 400 moto-taxi drivers take to the streets of Phnom Penh in an attempt to

pressure the government to lower the price of petrol.

A report by the Asian Development Bank condemns current management of Cambodia's

forests as "a total system failure."

The director of the DC-CAM proposes a different KR trial - concentrating on the members

of the Communist Party's central and standing committees (limiting the number of

defendants to about 25.)

Human rights group Licadho is criticized for its involvement in the case of a group

of Vietnamese garment workers detained at the GT factory in Phnom Penh.

The Minister of Tourism, Veng Sereyvuth, promises strong government action in the

wake of the April 26 Siem Reap ferry accident that claimed the life of a Taiwanese


US senator John Kerry arrives in Phnom Penh on April 28 to try to hammer out an agreement

between the UN and the Cambodian Government on the structure of the prosecution at

a future Khmer Rouge trial.

A government ban on bilingual newspaper the Cambodia News Bulletin remains in place

three weeks after the Ministry of Information accused the publication of criticizing

government leaders without proof.

Chemical sludge from garment factories is being dumped by municipal authorities in

a village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, causing widespread illness and


The Post learns that 50 per cent of the land paid to be de-mined by the US Adopt-A-Minefield

campaign is classified as 'untouchable' by CMAC after revelations that it is controlled

by military and business interests.


British-based businessman Mohammed al-Fayed enters negotiations with the Cambodian

Government to allow his 'Harrods Energy' company to drill for oil next to the Tonle


Municipal authorities ban the transport of raw livestock and agricultural products


central Phnom Penh, in an effort to reduce garbage problems in the city.

A former Khmer Rouge commander reveals that at least one US Marine was still alive

ten days after US forces abandoned an assault on the offshore island of Koh Tang

in May 15, 1975. The serviceman was subsequently killed and along with 17 others

from the operation remains 'missing in action.'

A new computer system that accurately and easily renders Cambodian script on-line

is released. The development of Intelligent Khmer Writing System (IKWS) was funded

by the Japanese and is expected to boost the Cambodian IT industry.

The National AIDS Authority describes new figures revealing that one in seventy Cambodians

are HIV positive. Cambodia has the most serious HIV/AIDS problem in Asia.

As much as eighty billion of worthless Iraqi dinar are revealed to have been smuggled

into Cambodia. While the origin of the money remains unclear, it seems the notes

may have been part of a foreign currency scam.

Babies are found 'for sale' at a Phnom Penh orphanage. For US$11,500 foreigners have

been adopting local children, with their birth parents receiving just $100 for their


On May 19, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer calls for the arrest and

prosecution of RCAF General Sam Bith for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping

and subsequent murder of an Australian backpacker in 1994.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy lashes out at French involvement in Cambodia during

the annual donor meeting in Paris on May 24-26. He accuses the French government

of providing misdirected aid packages and claims French companies are corrupt.

Chainsaws speak louder than words, according to environmental group Global Witness.

In a new report they criticize the Government's logging policies which require concessionaires

to supply 10-to-20 per cent of timber for the local market while at the same time

paying Government royalties. This, they say, will lead to further forest depletion.


Kampot farmer Prak Choeun and his wife are shot dead on June 3 in what human rights

group Adhoc believes is a political killing connected with his Funcinpec candidacy

for the commune elections.

The Chinese Government reacts angrily to the refusal of opposition leader Sam Rainsy

to bow to Chinese pressure to cease official contact with Taiwan's ruling Democratic

Progressive Party. They say he is violating Cambodia's official acceptance of the

"one-China policy".

Khot Kong, head monk at Prey Veng pagoda, gets run out of town by civic leaders after

upsetting local authorities by getting involved in community projects.

The forestry department prepares to take Malaysian timber company GAT International

to court for illegal logging in the Cardamom Mountains.

Fishing families from Kampong Thom province abandon hope of government intervention

in a dispute over fishing rights, after six months of protesting outside the National


Brick-throwing garment workers, striking for an increase to the minimum salary, are

shot at by factory security guards at the June Textiles factory on June 22. The confrontation

leaves 5 injured and union representatives face on-going police intimidation.

Canadian technical advisors officially withdraw from CMAC, citing the end of the

agency's "emergency military de-mining" phase, after 7 years of involvement.

A former worker at a Khmer Rouge base in Ratanakiri known as K16 reveals details

of medical experiments on tribal villagers and captured enemy soldiers performed

during the DK regime.


Defense Ministers, Tea Banh and Prince Sisowath Sirirath, authorize two former KR

commanders to import 30 million liters of gasoline across the Thai Cambodian border.

Sources within RCAF say the men were forced to sign the authorization, believing

it was part of a government KR enticement. The deal is eventually scuttled by the

Council of Ministers.

A trial for former KR leaders moves a step closer when UN Undersecretary-General

Hans Corell meets with KR trial task force members on July 4-7. Though no agreement

is signed, participants are optimistic.

The International Civil Aviation Organization finds serious shortcomings in Cambodia's

aviation legal framework, airline licensing and personnel training procedures. It

says the Secretariat of Civil Aviation is doing the best it can but operates under

difficult circumstances.

A police raid in Phnom Penh on July 9 ends the 40-year crime career of the 'spiritual

leader' of the Bamboo Union gang, Taiwanese Chen Chi-li, also known as 'Dry Duck'.

The Cambodian News Bulletin gets closed down for 30 days after it publishes an article

criticizing King Sihanouk on July 10.

The July 18 acquittal of KR commander Chhouk Rin draws fears that an international

tribunal to try other KR figures will be rejected.

The Ministry of the Interior assumes responsibility for a group or poorly trained

but heavily armed village militia, formerly controlled by the Ministry of Defense.

The changeover angers human rights group who believe the militia are responsible

for many politically-motivated killings.


Pan Chanta, chair of Royal Air Cambodia, loses his job after an aviation gas spill

delays a flight scheduled to take the King and Queen to Beijing on Aug 1.

The Government begins consideration of a draft criminal procedure code which could

see people charged with murder being held for up to 10 years without trial.

Prince Ranariddh gets stuck in the hot seat after the Government transfers responsibility

for the Khmer Rouge tribunal law to the National Assembly.

The position of Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia remains unfilled,

seven months after Thomas Hammerberg left the job on Dec 31. The delay is blamed

on the lack of an agreement between the UN and the Cambodian Government over a tribunal

to prosecute former Khmer Rouge leaders.

Child protection advocates accuse foreign embassies of helping to shelter sex offenders

after a suspected Japanese child pornographer flees the country, supposedly with

the help of the Japanese embassy.

A WHO-sponsored survey of Cambodia's water quality finds 'relatively high' levels

of arsenic in groundwater samples from four provinces. Officials call for urgent

additional tests to determine the full extent of the arsenic poisoning and its potential

human impact.

Cambodia is criticized by environmental group Greenpeace International for providing

Cambodian "flags of convenience" to vessels involved in illegal, unregulated

and unreported fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. The claim is made after the Cambodian-flagged

ship Benny 87 is caught illegally trans-shipping 70 tons of big-eye tuna.

The Post reveals that American adoption agencies are paying Cambodian Government

officials thousands of dollars to expedite the approval of their clients paperwork.

Sokimex and Government ministers sign an agreement on Aug 15 which will see them

sharing revenue from tickets to visit the temples of Angkor.

Seven Eastern European women are rescued from working as 'hostesses' at Phnom Penh's

Best Western Cangi Hotel, but authorities remain reluctant to charge the man responsible

for trafficking them to Cambodia, hotel owner Richard Chun, citing a lack of evidence.

Briton John Keeler is arrested on Aug 26 by military police who say they caught him

in the act of making pornographic videos of four young girls.

Ministry of Defence announces on Aug 30 it will file defamation charges against the

Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), after the organization publishes

a press release alleging military police are responsible for six deaths and the disappearance

of 25 others in Kratie and Kampong Cham.


Sam Sotha is appointed acting head of a new Government body to oversee all land mine

removal activities in Cambodia. This move angers donors and demining experts, who

question Sotha's suitability for the job after he was fired from CMAC.

Human rights group Adhoc claims 334 families in Kampong Cham have suffered ill health

and had their rice fields made infertile by pollution from rubber-processing factories.

Family members of teenage acid victim Tat Samarina say they received death threats

from Council of Ministers Advisor Svay Sitha to quash their attempts to seek justice

against her attackers.

Floods devastate Cambodia and threaten Phnom Penh with inundation. 173 Cambodians

are killed and damage to crops and infrastructure is estimated at $50 million after

the country is covered by the most severe floods in 30 years. Red Cross and Red Crescent

provide disaster relief to more than 500,000 victims and say over 800,000 sq km are


The Royal Cambodian Air Force is revealed to be running unofficial tourist flights

between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in antiquated Russian-built helicopters. Officials

express concern for tourist safety and launch an investigation into the operation.

The Government announces it will draw up a 'black list' of suspected foreign rapists

and child sex predators "to protect Cambodian women and children", on September

11. Suspects could be prohibited from gaining or renewing Cambodian visas.

Malaysian resort company Ariston announces plans for a $100 million hotel, conference

and casino complex, near the river in Phnom Penh.


International analysts and legal experts are critical of agreements reached between

the UN and the Cambodian Government for a future Khmer Rouge trial. They say the

documents outline trials that are below international standards and unlikely to be

fair and independent.

Australian telecommunications company Telstra announces it will hand over its long-distance

and payphone service contract to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications on

Oct 10.

More than 3 million Cambodians are affected by flooding as the Mekong bursts its

banks and destroys over 500,000 hectares of paddy fields and damages more than 2200km

of the nation's roads.

Prime Minister Hun Sen threatens to send journalists to jail if he uncovers evidence

that they are extorting money from high-ranking Government officials and businessmen.

The Independent Journalists Union said extortion was only possible because the government

officials and businessmen were themselves engaged in corrupt practices.

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy begins a hunger strike on Oct 25, in protest at

what he calls unfair distribution of flood relief supplies. He ends his hunger strike

after two days.

Allegations of torture, murder and illegal detention prompt UN human rights officials

to ask Phnom Penh Municipal Court officials to investigate activities at Wat Vongkot


CPP senator Nhim Vanda is implicated in illegal wildlife trafficking following undercover

operations that rescued seven tigers and three sun bears from dealers in Phnom Penh.

He denies any involvement.

"Mystery diplomats" are alleged to be responsible for a traffic accident

on Oct 26 that killed a six-year-old child in Kampong Cham, but local police refuse

to reveal their identity.

His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk turns 78 on Oct 31.


The Minister of Women's Affairs, Mu Sochua, announces plans to decriminalize prostitution

as a way to address the problem of sexual trafficking of women and children.

Days before the visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin to Phnom Penh on Nov 14, Dr

Lao Mong Hay, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, and the Student

Movement for Democracy (SMFD), demand an apology for Chinese support of the KR regime.

US ambassador Kent Wiedemann visits Pailin to discuss a tribunal to prosecute former

KR leaders.

Former headmaster John Keeler is sentenced to three years in prison for debauchery

on Nov 20, after an episode in August when he was caught filming four young girls.

At the trial he shouts at his lawyer, claiming money he paid to get let off was stolen.

Chinese officials respond furiously to controversial evidence suggesting direct involvement

of Chinese advisors in the operations of the Khmer Rouge's notorious Toul Sleng 'S-21'

interrogation and torture center. They describe the evidence, contained in a yet-to-released

report of DC-CAM, as 'groundless and untrue.'

US Senator John Kerry's one-day visit to Phnom Penh on Nov 20 seems to revive Government

efforts towards the formation of the long-delayed tribunal for former leaders of

the Khmer Rouge. He leaves the capital with firm promises that the tribunal process

can move forward, following a schedule that could allow the National Assembly to

pass the law in December.

Physical abuse and intimidation are among the accusations made by factory workers

following what they describe as 'unfair dismissal practices and violent 'discipline'

meted out by their Taiwanese supervisors at the Ho Hing garment factory in Phnom

Penh. The factory's owner says there is an excellent relationship between management

and workers.

Eight people are killed and more than a dozen wounded after an armed assault on the

Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Defense in the early morning hours of Nov

24. A group calling itself the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF), with connections

in the Khmer-American community in the US, takes credit for the attack. The attack

is repelled easily and dozens are arrested.

Oscar award winner Angelina Jolie spends Nov 22 to 29 at Angkor Wat filming a new

movie called Tomb Raiders. Observers are more than perplexed as to why the Hollywood

film crew had Cambodian extras in the production wear Vietnamese conical hats.


At least six wild elephants, and possibly dozens more, have been slaughtered in

recent months in the Cardamom Mountains, according to Sun Hean at the Wildlife Protection

Office. Hean says some of the poachers have been identified and have agreed to stop

killing the endangered species.

Human Rights Watch raises alarm bells over the number of people being arrested as

a result of the CFF attack. The group says more than 200 people have been arrested

without warrants and calls for heightened international monitoring of the situation.

The Post reports that methamphetamine use is on the rise among youth circles in Phnom

Penh and authorities are increasingly alarmed by the growth in the import and use

of the illegal substance.



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