Rioters at the burning entracnce to the Thai Embassy.
Cambodia awards the shipping registry contract to an overseas firm, South Korea's
Cosmos Group on Jan 3. International Transport Workers Federation and other shipping
organizations feel it is dangerous to put the reputation of the Cambodian 'flag-of-convenience'
- already known globally for its easy registration processes, lack of inspections
and old fleet - in the hands of off-shore interests.
After years of non-specific guidelines on the awarding of lucrative government contracts,
the government agrees to implement a more transparent tendering system. The Ministry
of Economy and Finance says none of the ministries will be exempt from the new procurement
regime, making tendering a much more competitive process.
Global Witness (GW), an independent forest-monitoring agency heaps criticism on police
for their treatment of villagers requesting a consultation with the Department of
Forestry and Wildlife. Prime Minister Hun Sen calls for GW to leave the country.
The one-month voter registration begins on Jan 17, with National Election Committee
secretary-general Tep Nytha indicating in May that the registration rate had reached
94 per cent, or 6.34 million.
Anti-Thai sentiment erupts on Jan 29 when protestors, under the assumption the Cambodian
embassy in Bangkok had been attacked and in response to non-verified defamatory statements
by Thai actress Suwanan Kongying, set fire to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh. A dozen
other Thai-owned hotels and businesses are also attacked and looted. Thailand's Prime
Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra says Cambodian-Thai relations, both diplomatic and commercial,
are at an all-time low. Thai ambassador, Chatchawed Chartsuwan, escapes from the
embassy over a back fence and onto a riverboat after distress calls to Cambodian
officials prove futile. As well as damaging relations with Thailand, many predict
a drop in tourist numbers, during the somewhat ironically labelled, 'Visit Cambodia
Year'. The embassy sacking makes news all around the world and leaves Cambodia with
an estimated $47 million repair bill. Conspiracy theories abound.
Two of Botum Sokur National Park's most industrious residents find a rare pair of
sea legs on Feb 7. 'Floaty', an Asian elephant and her calf, swim over seven kilometers
to an island off the coast of the Koh Kong province - a pachyderm world record perhaps.
The Australian government agrees to extradite convicted pedophile Clint Betteridge
back to Cambodia after the Australian Embassy mistakenly issues him a passport. He
had received 10 years jail for sexual abuse.
The country's first national tuberculosis survey finds only half the number of cases
predicted by the World Health Organization. Officials herald the results as evidence
of progress, but say the ground gained could be lost to the HIV virus, which had
infected 2.6 per cent of the population.
Om Radsady, a senior advisor to Prince Norodom Ranariddh, is shot and killed outside
a city restaurant in broad daylight, raising fears of an increase in politically
motivated killings before the July elections. Larch Than, a CPP activist, Kim Chunly,
a Funcinpec activist and Chan Nim from the Sam Rainsy Party, all died previously
under equally suspicious circumstances.
King Norodom Sihanouk asks the government to pardon the 62 students implicated in
the Thai embassy sacking. Human rights groups say the government had given no explanation
of the arrests of student leaders Ken Nara, who was charged with violence and inciting
racism, and Thorn Veasna, who was also charged with inciting.
A UN Development Programme report says that even with significant economic growth,
the government has failed to remedy poverty levels and needs to embrace a much broader
Police Chief Hok Lundy ups the ante in the run-up to the elections, with an additional
2000 national police and 300 military police set to patrol Phnom Penh's streets.
Triple the number (an additional 600) of police are to be stationed along Cambodia's
North Eastern border, raising fears of another crackdown on the asylum seeking Montagnards
Soldiers Mom Sophann and Ruos Sophann, both rank and file members of the parachute
regiment 911, are arrested on Mar 7 for the killing of Om Radsady.
Thai-Cambodian relations continue on tenterhooks after Prince Norodom Ranariddh questions
the state's ability to pay the $50 million riot bill. Bangkok says relations will
not be normalized until reparations are made. The Government also fuels tensions
by closing border checkpoints, with Hun Sen claiming overzealous Thai border patrols
and unfair trade practices as the reason.
After nearly six-years of negotiations between the United Nations and Cambodia on
the format of the Khmer Rouge trials, under-secretary general Hans Corell announces
an agreement between the two has finally been reached on Mar 17 and sent to the UN
General Assembly for debate. The UN passes the agreement on May 13 and sends it back
to Cambodia to be ratified.
Senior Minister Sok An and Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai reopen the
borders with Thailand on Mar 21. Poipet villagers and Thai gamblers rejoice.
Seven senior members of Funcinpec defect to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party on March
25, and one member of SRP defects the other way in the continuing saga of political
musical chairs. More defections are expected.
The influential Asian Wall Street Journal savages the US Agency for International
Development (USAID) for "aiding and abetting the slave trade" in Cambodia
through their funding of HIV/AIDS research programs in the Svay Pak brothel district.
SARS fears grip Asia and the rest of the world and Cambodia goes on high alert. Nine
suspected cases are referred to the Calmette Hospital but all are discharged. Tourism
is the first victim, with an estimated $10 million loss of tourism revenue. On a
brighter note, the magical mung bean quickly becomes the cure de jour after it is
rumored the beans are the only way to stop the rampant disease.
Roadside vendors prosper.
Two misdiagnoses at the International SOS clinic lead to complaints of incompetence
and unsympathetic treatment. Onesta Carpene's fractured spine is diagnosed as osteoporosis
and the wife of a US embassy employee takes one-third of a course of drugs to abort
what she was told was a dead baby in utero. It was later discovered to be perfectly
The Ministry of Planning is accused of pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars
in a scam involving the sale of state-owned land, leading to calls for the Ministry
of Justice to overturn a Supreme court ruling given last November. Minister of Finance
Keat Chhon declines to respond to questions on the whereabouts of the missing $373,000.
A report into the effectiveness of the 100% Condom Campaign - the national strategy
to prevent HIV through sex workers - finds that its success is being hindered by
corruption, particularly from police involvement.
A UN report says Cambodia's drug trade, as well as drug use, is flourishing under
the control of foreign crime rings, many of which have the backing of military, business
and political figures. Seizures of yaba rise by 82 per cent since 2001, but significant
amounts still make it onto the streets.
Thailand's ambassador Chatchawed Chartsuwan returns to Phnom Penh on April 24 - the
first time since the January riots - in a forgiving mood, resolving "to let
bygones be bygones". Relations between the two countries were normalized on
After months of friction, the government terminates Global Witness from the role
of independent forest crimes monitor on April 22, raising eyebrows as to the possibility
of forest liquidation to fund election campaigns.
Sok Sethamony, a Municipal Court Judge set to adjudicate the trials of more than
60 people linked to the Thai riots - and who had also presided over the Sam Bith
case - is shot and killed on April 23. He is said to have had many enemies.
Archaeologists call on the government to intervene and put an end to persistent looting
of pre-Angkorian temples in Banteay Meanchey province, is looted beyond repair. They
say a similar fate awaits other sites if no action is taken.
The National Election Committee approves 8,000 national and 90 international election
observers. Political violence is minimal in comparison to the last two elections
in 1993 and 1998.
The government bans the pesticide endosulfan, which has been linked to birth defects,
neurological disease and wildlife kills. Most who sell it, along with one of the
biggest advocates of the product, British American Tobacco, are unaware of the ban.
The UN Committee Against Torture remains skeptical after a government report on the
issue is discussed without the presence of the head of the National Human Rights
Committee, Om Yentieng. The return to work of the 'Battambang Barbecuer' also raises
concerns of continuing torture practices.
The NEC's rules on media in the run-up to elections gains a predictably mixed response.
The 'equitable coverage' rule generally leads to discontent from anyone not CPP affiliated.
Chea Sim is placed on top of the CPP candidate list for election to the National
Assembly. CPP expect to win a two-thirds majority and oust incumbent, Prince Norodom
New terms of reference governing the powers of the next independent forestry monitor,
which World Bank forestry expert Bill Macgrath says creates a "stronger architecture",
strip the position of much of its power. 'Communities' now have seemingly pointless
AOL-Time Warner's 'Looney Tunes' jumps on the mine awareness bandwagon with two Khmer-language
cartoons hoping to limit mine-related casualties, still said to be around 50 a month.
King Norodom Sihanouk states in increasingly frequent letters he feels his death
The NEC says that if all 25 parties who registered are approved, 3000 candidates
will vie for 123 National Assembly votes.
Three terrorists with suspected links to Islamic extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah
are arrested on May 28, leading to the closure of a Saudi-funded Islamic school,
where the three men are employed. One Cambodian man is also arrested and around 50
other foreign nationals are expelled in May.
A historic first meeting of the Thai and Cambodian cabinets takes place in Siem Reap
on May 31. Forgiveness is in the air, and smiles, handshakes and goodwill abound.
The government sets up a ministerial committee to deal with the privatization of
the lucrative rubber industry, a state-owned fishing company and a fertilizer company,
securing a $35 million Asian Development Bank loan for their troubles.
Chief of Police Hok Lundy attributes the 17 suspected political murders and 13 attempted
murders in the last four months to revenge attacks, domestic violence or robbery.
He also announces 30,000 security personnel will be deployed during the election.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell visits Phnom Penh on Jun 18, pushing Cambodia
to sign the
controversial war crimes exemption policy, 'Article 98', and hinting that direct
US aid could return if elections are conducted fairly. Problems in Myanmar and North
Korea dominate discussions.
The first two defendants to stand trial in the Thai riots are released without charge
on Jun 19. Four-months after the riots, 58 defendants still await trial.
Khieu Ponnary, feminist, politician and former wife of Pol Pot, dies, July 1.
In the lead up to the Cambodian general elections on July 27, the Funcinpec and Sam
Rainsy parties indulge in racial rhetoric in their election campaigns in an attempt
to wrest control from the Cambodian People's Party. By July 3, election monitoring
NGOs report nine murders and 26 cases of intimidation since campaigning began on
Prime Minister Hun Sen hosts a clandestine meeting with over 100 local NGOs, many
established to monitor the elections, in the Tiger's Lair on July 4. They discuss
the ruling party's plans to discredit election monitoring organizations and organize
bloody demonstrations in support of the CPP. Participants are told "If we can
win by the law, then we win. If we lose by the law, we must still win".
81 percent of those registered to vote cast their vote. The CPP gained 73 seats,
but failed to muster the two thirds majority needed to form a government alone. Funcinpec
gained 26 seats and Sam Rainsy Party 24. The election procedure receives mixed reports.
Some election monitoring organizations proclaim it free and fair, while others say
it was not, citing intimidation, vote-buying, misinformation from election officials,
voter registration failures, confiscation of voting cards, intimidation of ethnic
Vietnamese and lack of ballot secrecy or security.
The World Bank begins an investigation into a $42 million demobilization programme,
designed to retire thousands of soldiers from the military and allow more of the
budget to be spent on social issues. The World Bank declares $6 million have been
A French court sentences Charles Fejto (spelt with an umlaut on the o), former director
of the French NGO ASPECA, to six years in prison on July 8 for sexually assaulting
a 13 year old orphan in Cambodia in 1998. Fejto is also ordered to pay the victim
7000 euros compensation and 4000 euros in damages to ASPECA.
The Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) proposes that Sihanoukville be
established as a free trade zone. Critics claim this will merely line the coffers
of foreigners but do little to help the national economy.
Twenty foreign nationals are arrested July 15 on suspicion of illegal share dealing
and operating illegal international telephone gateways. The men, mostly from the
UK, used a local NGO to front their scam.
Political negotiations continue throughout August as the three parties vie for power
within the coalition. Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy party form the Alliance of Democrats
August 4 and push for a tripartite government without Prime Minister Hun Sen. Hun
Sen refuses to step down.
Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party condemn the election process as neither free,
fair, nor transparent and claim 1.5 million people were denied the chance to vote.
The National Election Committee works through 41 cases of electoral complaints.
Poll watcher Comfrel reports that sixteen people were killed as a result of political
violence in June and July. Eight of the victims were affiliated with the CPP, seven
with the Sam Rainsy party and one with Funcinpec. Comfrel also notes that officials
linked to the ruling CPP party have been involved in 23 cases of intimidation in
the month following the elections.
The Ministry of Health claims that money that should be spent on health is being
used to aid election campaigns instead. Less than 10 percent of the health budget
has been disbursed by mid-year and health professionals report a dramatic increase
in dengue fever, with new cases up by over 50 percent from last year and twice the
number of deaths.
Police and local youths tear down 200 shacks built illegally on the Stung Meanchey
rubbish dump on August 7. Residents are angry at their treatment and note officials
waited until after the elections to evict them. Most are left homeless.
21,000 hectares of forest in Samlot, western Cambodia, are designated as a protected
area on August 7. The funding for the project comes from Hollywood actress Angelina
Jolie who donated $1.5 million.
A study by the World Bank reports that smuggling and corruption costs Cambodia hundreds
of millions of dollars every year. The study concludes that the unpredictable conditions
deter foreign and domestic investors.
Senior officials in the Ministry of Economy and Finance meet on August 14 to discuss
the $1.3 million corruption scam besieging the office. It is alleged that the contract
to make official Customs and Excise Department uniforms was rigged.
CamLot, the country's most "technologically advanced" lottery is launched
on August 15 to a tepid response. CamLot chairman says he wants to create a "dream
Police crack down on the Khmer Front Party march protesting the CPP's victory on
August 31. 100 police were deployed to disperse the 25 peaceful demonstrators, using
electric batons and arresting 19 people.
Prime Minister Hun Sen issues a prakas September 1 ordering the country's armed forces
to assist fishery officials in halting illegal fishing practices such as electro-shock
and mosquito net methods.
The 35th ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting is held in Phnom Penh on September 2, with
an aim of discussing Asian economic integration. Delegates at the meeting express
optimism at continued economic growth in the region.
Twenty-one accused appear in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on September 2 - 3, on
trial for charges relating to the anti-Thai riots in January. A further 37 are tried
in absentia. Human rights groups accuse the government of using the accused as scapegoats.
Nagacorp's bid to become the first listed company with primarily Cambodian assets
is thwarted when the Monetary Authority of Singapore refuses to register the company
on the Singapore Exchange on September 8. There are fears that the Phnom Penh casino
will be used to launder money.
Cambodia receives approval to join the World Trade Organisation on September 11,
culminating four years of negotiations to join the global trade body. The government
must pass 46 laws by 2006 to comply with WTO rules.
Prime Minister Hun Sen dismisses 17 senior government officials from the Funcinpec
party on September 12 for failing to perform their duty. The move is condemned by
Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
The Global Fund pledges $11.2 million over the next two years to fight the HIV /
AIDS epidemic. The money is to be administered by the MoH, but critics say the government
should not be responsible for distributing international aid. Cambodia has one of
the highest HIV infection rates in Asia, with 157,000 infected people.
Six hundred Cambodians who were living on the streets of Thailand are repatriated
September 30 in a move to clean up Bangkok in preparation for the APEC summit late
October.. A further 300 are flown home on October 3.
Suspected paedophile Michael Lewis Clark, a US citizen, is extradited from Cambodia
on September 9 under a new US law to prosecute citizens who commit sex crimes abroad.
Cambodia's political stalemate continues. The first meeting of the National Assembly
is scheduled for September 27 but only the CPP party agrees to attend the meeting.
Neither King Norodom Sihanouk nor the Alliance of Democrats agree to attend the meeting.
The political stalemate stretches into its third month and a new government is still
unable to form. King Norodom Sihanouk swears in the National Assembly at the Royal
Palace October 4. 123 newly elected parliamentarians give their oaths to serve the
Twelve Buddhist monks in Phnom Penh are threatened with expulsion from their pagoda
for supporting the Sam Rainsy Party in the July elections. Their leader was disrobed
and forced into exile following the election.
Cambodia's disabled National Volleyball League team flies to Greece October 7 to
compete in the Volleyball World Cup.
A spate of violence rocks Phnom Penh. Radio Ta Prohm editor and journalist Chour
Chetharith is shot dead outside his office October 18. This is the first targeted
killing of a journalist since 1996.
Three days later, popular Cambodian singer Touch Prey Nich and her mother are gunned
down as they leave a flower shop on Monireth Boulevard on October 21. They are flown
to Bangkok where Nich is placed in intensive care, but her mother dies. On October
27, a group opens fire on on-lookers following an accident on Sihanouk Boulevard.
The collision and subsequent gunfire leave three dead and four injured. A warrant
is issued for the arrest of Nhim Sophea, reputedly the nephew of Prime Minister Hun
Authorities torch 40 kg of confiscated heroin and amphetamines at Hun Sen Park October
8 to send a message that Cambodia is serious about cracking down on drugs. Municipal
police chief Heng Peo called the haul Cambodia's "biggest ever anti-drug operation".
Officials use the ceremony to call for international aid to combat narcotics trafficking.
On October 20, the court orders the release of the two main suspects from the drug
bust, calling the government's "hard-line on drugs" into question.
Cambodia's oldest man, Sek Yi, estimated to be 122 years old, dies on October 19.
Yi said the secret to his longevity was avoiding bad karma, not stealing, and not
raping another man's wife.
King Norodom Sihanouk celebrates his 81st birthday October 31.
The three main political parties appear to end their three-month impasse and agree
to form a tripartite government on November 5. The CPP take 15 of the ministerial
posts and Funcinpec and SRP take 5 each. Prime Minister Hun Sen hails the meeting
as "a big success" but details are yet to be worked out as the Alliance
of Democrats are not yet willing to accept Hun Sen as Prime Minister.
The Alliance of Democrats refuses to attend November meetings to form a new government,
demanding that the Cambodian People's Party drop defamation charges against Funcinpec
President Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Western and Asian diplomats warn that if the
impasse continues, international aid to Cambodia could be jeopardized.
376 boats register to enter in the annual Water Festival boat races November 7-9.
A boat from Mondolkiri takes home the top awards as the fastest and most beautiful
Cambodia's first school to train judges and prosecutors opens on November 11, hailed
as a big step toward reforming the corrupt legal system. One failing candidate is
reputedly offered entry to the school for $15,000.
The municipal government announces plans to resettle more than 10,000 squatters in
Phnom Penh over five years. NGOs estimate that 230,000 squatters live in the capital.
The government asks Vietnam for compensation following the devastation caused by
the first of a proposed six dams built on the Se San River. The Yali Falls dam is
blamed for more than 30 deaths and the loss of livestock, fish stocks and agriculture
Strikers clash with police when hundreds of workers from a local garment factory
protest on November 19, seeking to air a list of grievances that includes intimidation,
unpaid overtime and illegal firings.
The political deadlock continues as the three main political parties remain unable
to agree on the formation of the new government.
Proposals to build a $95 million power plant 15 km from Angkor Wat meet with heavy
opposition as critics charge it could damage the temples of Siam Reap. Cam-Tai, the
US-Taiwanese company proposing the 72-megawatt heavy-fuel-oil powerplant say the
project is essential for economic growth.
The government signs on a new forestry crime monitor, Societe Generale de Surveillance,
December 1, replacing Global Witness which was dismissed by the government nine months
ago, apparently for overzealous reporting. The new contract opens the way for a $15
million loan from the World Bank, which was being withheld while no forestry monitor
was in place.
King Sihanouk appeals to Prime Minister Hun Sen December 3 for the pardon of political
activist Sok Yoeun, accused of an assassination attempt on Hun Sen in 1998.
Phnom Penh's Preah Sisowath High School receives 24 computers donated by former students
living in the US, making it the first school to offer information technology in its
The United States begins funding training courses for Cambodia's Cham Muslims promoting
democracy and human rights and emphasizing anti-terrorism in an effort to block inroads
by Islamic fundamentalists to the traditionally moderate sect.