NGOs express concern over draft constitution
Khmer pro-democracy organizations are indicating that the draft constitution written by the Cambodian Constitutional Assembly is "dangerous".
An unofficial draft constitution received fairly wide distribution in Phnom Penh last weekend. Sources who are in a position to know have given assurance that it is the one that has been drafted by the Constitutional Assembly's drafting committee and will be presented to Prince Sihanouk in late August and returned to the Assembly in early to mid-September for final approval or amendment.
Officially no one outside of the 12 members of the Cambodia's Constituent Assembly knows what the constitution stipulates. As of Tuesday night, none of the other 108 members of the Constituent Assembly have been given a copy of the draft.
The picture is complicated by rumors that Prince Ranariddh, the son of Prince Sihanouk (Chief of State of Cambodia in the current Provisional Government), has expressed disagreement with this draft constitution and wants a return to Cambodia's 1947 monarchical constitution. The implication is that the work of the drafting committee will be discarded. A high-level government official has confirmed that there is a chance that the draft "will be set aside".
New unified government army assaults KR
Siem Reap-The recent, well-publicized military offensive in Banteay Meanchey by the Cambodian Armed Forces (CAF), where the Khmer Rouge were trounced at Phum Chat with who knows how many fleeing guerrillas transported away by the Thai military to points south of Aranyaprathet, was just one component of a much larger, centrally coordinated, armed assault on Khmer Rouge positions in northern and north-western Cambodia.
The results of the operation include significant losses of territory and weapons, around 100 DK "self-demobilized" defectors and a surprised sense for the new national army that if they work together, maybe they can deal with the Khmer Rouge.
Beyond the attack on the Khmer Rouge stronghold at Phum Chat near the Thai border, which was finally captured on August 19, CAF units involving forces from the former CPAF and ANKI armies have moved against NADK positions in Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces as well.
Firemen accused of extortion
Ten houses near the Olympic Stadium burned to the ground on August 18 as firemen watched on, refusing to help unless they were paid, residents of the second Tuol Svey Prey community said.
The first firemen reached the scene almost one hour after the blaze began but upon arriving did nothing, saying they had mechanical problems with their firefighting equipment ... Deputy chief of the Fire Department, Prak Saphat, said the firemen's problems with the equipment were genuine. He denied the officers had demanded money, claiming that sometimes grateful residents give them gifts for extinguishing fires.
"It was a faulty battery, and they also had to wait for orders from their commander on where they should spray first," he said.
Tax revenues begin to flow after govt warning
Tax revenues for July showed a three-fold increase over June following tough government warnings that it would crack down on tax evaders.
The Phnom Penh city Tax Department collected an estimated 60 percent of its target amount, up from only 20 percent in June. Government-run radio and television has begun broadcasting appeals to members of the public to settle their tax arrears or face severe penalties.
Chan Souen, director of the Phnom Penh Tax Department, said that a lot of people had been waiting to see what kind of government would be formed after the May 23-28 election before they paid their taxes. He said the former State of Cambodia administration had not enforced tax collection in its last months in power for fear of upsetting the electorate.
Souen warned the new government would strictly enforce the tax code, and appealed for understanding at the same time. The cash-strapped administration desperately needed new funds to rebuild the country after more than 20 years of war, he said.
Sketches of peace
The United Nations Human Rights component recently celebrated the publication of a book of children's drawings on the subject of human rights. Over 10,000 children competed in a drawing contest held in 18 provinces and the border area and in Phnom Penh. The pictures of 21 national winners of the contest have been included in the book.
Jamie Metzl, a human rights officer in Phnom Penh, said that "the idea for the book originated from a wish to show that for Cambodian people, human rights are not a foreign concept imposed on Cambodia, but very much a part of Cambodian culture".
Metzl said that "many people thought that the Cambodians, and Cambodian children in particular, did not intrinsically understand human rights". He said that the pictures showed that exactly the opposite was true. The children who competed in the contest showed "a deep understanding of human rights". Subjects of the pictures included the breaking of chains, destruction of weapons, the right to assembly and protest, and most dominantly, the wish for peace.