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Newspaper Editor's death rattles press

ten years ago.jpg
ten years ago.jpg

The Sept 7 assassination of Non Chan, a well-known editor of a popular Khmer newspaper,

came as little surprise to local journalists and human rights groups.

The newspaper's staff, which had been openly critical of the government, had received

numerous death threats in recent months. Its previous editor resigned in late July

after being warned he would be killed. The newspaper, Samleng Yuvachun Khmer (Voice

of Khmer Youth), had been officially warned by the government on at least three occasions

since June, and its journalists threatened with arrest, lawsuits, and confiscation

of their equipment if they continued writing articles critical of the government

and its leaders.

The newspaper, formerly sympathetic to the ruling Funcinpec party, had been openly

critical of Funcinpec leader Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh in recent months, accused

high officials of corruption, and called for a political solution with the Khmer

Rouge to end the civil war.

Investigators say that the broad daylight killing near Wat Phnom by uniformed men

on a motorcycle remains unsolved, but comes amidst a general crackdown against critics

of the government, particularly human rights groups and journalists.

Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh has ordered his government to put a stop to criticism

he says is harming its image and the ability of the country to attract foreign investment,

tourism, and vital military and other aid from donor countries.

Tel tappers send out extra lines

When a senior Cambodian government official last week demanded that all mobile telephones

have their power shut off and removed from the table before relaxing over a dinner

conversation, he wasn't necessarily being paranoid.

For the same reason, the US Embassy now has its security guards confiscate all mobile

phones before you are allowed to enter the premises. Security experts say the phones

can be used as listening devices, passing on conversations to spies with recording

devices.

And sophisticated computers meant to compile bills are busily recording and identifying

the origin of all incoming and outgoing calls made from many phones now operating

in the country. The phone records are being seized by government security services,

executives of several private phone firms in Cambodia acknowledge.

It is all part of a concerted campaign of monitoring telephones and fax machines,

stepped up since the failed July coup, as officials continue to probe suspected plotters

still in the ranks.

But the government has now widened its new-found ability and is using it in an aggressive

crackdown against government critics in general. Targets now include journalists,

UN officials, human rights organizations, diplomats, businessmen, and even other

members of the Royal Government, according to officials, foreign intelligence operatives

and communication experts.

Many government officials, human rights investigators, diplomats and journalists

now refuse to use their phones to gossip or hold vaguely sensitive conversations,

with people exchanging pre-arranged code names used only to set up meetings to talk

in person. The use of phone records by government security staff has sparked a fear

of guilt by association as officials fear they will be linked to cooperating with

journalists or human rights investigators as the government widens its monitoring

of perceived opponents.

Dengue menace tamed

Major childhood killer dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is now being successfully treated

by the National Pediatric Hospital (NPH), according to hospital director Dr. Chhour

Y Meng.

Dr Meng said no deaths were recorded amongst the 165 DHF cases admitted to the hospital

during the first six months of the year.

He said this was a major success as DHF along with diarrhea and respiratory infections

cause 60-70 percent of childhood deaths in Cambodia.

Dr Meng said the mortality rate for patients admitted to the hospital with DHF reached

its highest in 1986-87 running at about 8.7 percent.

Groups poised to bid on $500m casino

Five casino companies and a consortium have expressed interest in the Royal Government's

$500 million project to build a casino on Naga Island off Sihanoukville, a Tourism

Ministry source said.

Two of the potential bidders are from Malaysia, one is from Australia's Gold Coast,

one from Hong Kong, while the fifth is an international syndicate, the source said.

He added that he was unable to name the companies and spoke after the Ministry officially

announced Nov 21 as the closing date for bids to be submitted.

In a further development in the wake of the passage of the Investment Law through

the National Assembly, the Ministry has announced a package of investment incentives

and low tax measures to attract more interest in the project.

They include a 70-year license and a 10-year exclusivity on casino operations in

Cambodia including an interim right to operate a floating casino in Phnom Penh.

Reform plan to cut 80,000 civil servants

The government intends to cut the size of the civil service by almost one half, according

to a plan announced by the Inter-Ministerial Technical Commission (ITC).

The ITC was set up by the Council of Ministers to examine and reform the public sector.

Spokesman for the ITC Ho Noun said there was a plan to reduce the overall size of

the [non military] civil service from 170,000 to 90,000 employees.

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