Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 1999 In Review

1999 In Review

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1999 In Review

You can say that again!

"Yes, sorry. I'm very sorry. ... Let bygones be bygones." - Khieu

Samphan, former KR chief, during a press conference in Phnom Penh following his defection.

"Normal. ... Sorry as well for the lives of animals endangered during the

war" - Nuon Chea, at the same press conference.

"For the trial of myself, I don't worry. It is up to Hun Sen and Jesus."
- Duch

"That wall was fixed in a week. I was broke and they fired me. But Duch,

he killed thousands and they forgive him. I don't get it." - A Khmer Christian

NGO worker after he was fired for crashing into a wall during a failed driving test.

"It's for the first and second wife to resolve." - Khieu Thavika,

Spokesman for the Council of Ministers, re: the acid attack on Tan Chhai Marina.

"[The evictions] will help to strengthen the friendship and solidarity between

Cambodia and Vietnam. [They] symbolize that we are honest with each other."

- Chea Sophara

"So Cambodia has a Senate 'to facilitate work between the National Assembly

and the government.' Can anyone tell me what that means?" - Ira Dassa, ex-legislative


"As tragic and despicable as this dumping (in Sihanoukville) has been, the

greater tragedy would be if governments sat on their hands and failed to take the

obvious step of joining the vast majority of the global community that has already

condemned and banned waste trafficking." - Jim Puckett, activist with the

Basel Action Network.

"We will expose the hidden suffering. ...(Sacked workers) will be named like

soldiers who fall in battle and we will point the finger at factories."

- Sam Rainsy, venting his rage at the working conditions of Cambodia's garment factory

workers, on Jan 20.

"The young workers like me were told to stay in the toilet." - A

Tack Fat garment factory child laborer, when asked why she was not present during

a US trade delegation visit to her work site.

"I come to the university everyday. There has not been any politician interfering.

... The strike has been conducted by our stomachs, for our conscience."

- Ly Phatsem, representative of 144 striking professors at the University of Phnom

Penh, commenting at the height of the teacher's strike in early February.

"Its a new phenomenon. ... Taxes were imposed in French colonial times, but

during the past twenty years more or less nobody paid tax." - Executive

Director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, Kao Kim Hourn, on

the country's new 10% VAT.

"We have no money at all. ... Even if they strangled me and pulled out my

fingernails, I would not know what to do." - Hun Sen, bemoaning the teachers'


"This is the last of the great defections, and it is a great contribution

to ending more than two decades of chronic war, and it is the achievement of national

unification and reconciliation and a source of peace and stability in Cambodia."

- Defense Co-Minister Gen Tea Banh at a Feb 9 KR reintegration ceremony in Anlong


"We're so worried about [Y2K] ... because we're the only ones in the government

who seem concerned about it." - National Election Computer Center Director,

Chea Sok Huor, on the government's attitude to the "Y2K" computer bug.

"Even if, in ten years time, a woman has a baby affected by mercury, we will

forward the dossier to Formosa (Plastics Ltd)." - Senior Hun Sen advisor

Om Yen Tieng on the Sihanoukville dumping scandal.

"The international community is not prepared to just pay the bill for a process

which is not up to the standards we require." -Human Rights Envoy for Cambodia

Thomas Hammarberg, frustrated by the Cambodian government's resolve to try former

KR leaders in local courts.

"We disagreed with the idea from the start - it's a waste of money, only

to serve individual interests, and will create a lot of confusion within legislative

powers. ... We're not going to vote for it." - Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian

Son Chhay on the new Senate proposal.

"In today's Cambodia, the God of Impunity reigns side by side with the King

of Corruption." - King Norodom Sihanouk

"I make a distinction between predatory corruption and survival corruption."

- Sam Rainsy

"I never saw mothers take (their) daughters to sell their virginity, or saw

people kill each other for a bicycle, but that's become normal now. ... This is not

the Cambodia I used to know." - SRP MP Son Chhay, voicing his disdain at

some of the corruption-induced social ills blighting the country.

"Do you wait for the rains to come, or use existing water in the container?

... Now we have existing rains in the country, why not make use of those courts."

- HE Om Yen Tieng, dampening prospects of an international trial for former KR leaders

on Mar 29.

"The murderers want us to forget. I dare them to come here [to Siem Reap]

and tell me to forget, unarmed, hand-to-hand tell me to forget. Cowards, bunch of

cowards." - Ronnie Yimsut, 36, at the site of the murder of his family by

KR soldiers in 1978.

"Most of these applications have been sitting in District Land Titles offices

for more than five years and are worm-ridden, dusty, moldy and therefore indecipherable."

- In a report from Oxfam's Cambodian Land Study Project.

"It wasn't really rape." - ASPECA Director International President

Etienne Roussel, discussing allegations a former country director had sex with a

13-year-old girl in ASPECA care, Apr 8.

"Let us be clear: NGO workers who sexually abuse children are criminals,

and colleagues who turn a blind eye, cover up, or issue false statements of denial

are accessories after the fact, guilty of conspiracy, and therefore criminal too."

- Touch Bunnil, in a letter to the Post.

"My family were killed in the Khmer Rouge regime but I try to forget. ...

My friend told me, 'You have to put your family in the back of your head and look

for the truth'." - Benson Samay, appointed trial lawyer for former KR strongman

Ta Mok.

"Robbery, killing, looting, suicides ... after people play at a casino

and lose, they (feel that they) can do anything they want." - Deputy Director

of the Cabinet and advisor to the MOI, Gen Khieu Sopheak, announcing the government's

resolution to bar casinos from operating within a 200 km radius of Phnom Penh.

"Yes, this is my signature. I am so sorry. The people who died were good

people. There were many who were innocent." - Former S-21 KR torture chief

Duch, responding to a document shown to him in which he ordered the deaths of nine

Khmer youths accused of "dissident tendencies," on May 30, 1978.

Questioned about Cambodia's entry into ASEAN on April 30, Opposition Leader Sam Rainsy

lambasted his country's relationship with other ASEAN nations as a "supplier

of cheap labor, with all the abuses (that) involves, and to provide ... virgins to

ASEAN businessmen."

"America Murders Chinese Innocents" - Message written on a placard

at a May 13 protest outside the US Embassy in Phnom Penh; protesters had gathered

to condemn NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade the previous week.

"What we don't want to see is Hun Sen bluster, with him continually saying

'Yes, we will fight illegal logging,' and then when the meeting comes round he just

says, 'Look, I said we would fight illegal logging' as proof of his commitment. Anyone

can say that. We want performance indicators." - An NGO worker, speaking

on condition of anonymity, prior to a meeting of foreign aid donors at the end of


"Out of every 100 vacant CMAC positions, at least 40 to 50 have to be divided

among Ieng Mouly and Sam Sotha's friends and relatives." - MP Son Chhay,

pointing the finger at the Cambodian Mine Action Committee in mid-May.

"If Nuon Paet is found not guilty his lawyer would have to be a super-lawyer

like OJ Simpson's lawyer." - Investigating Judge Oum Sarith when quizzed

as to the likelihood of an acquittal for the former KR commander.

"Very few of us would know ... who have seen you as a champion of human rights."

- Lakhan Mehrotra, UN representative to Cambodia, addressing Prime Minister Hun Sen

at a June 14 donor's meeting in Phnom Penh.

"There are some things that are put in the top drawer and locked away and never

discussed. ... We must be careful not to upset our allies." - Co-Defense

Minister Prince Sisowath Sirirath, addressing allegations in June of clandestine

meetings with Iranian defense officials.

"We have seen a retrogression. The UN is increasingly making concessions

to accommodate Hun Sen and the Chinese." - UK-based KR researcher Steve

Heder, dismissing as "accommodative" an August UN draft proposal for trials

of the former KR leaders.

"If the party disintegrates because I am no longer there, it means it has been

a failure." - Sam Rainsy, commenting on the future of the party which bears

his name.

"I sell oranges ... and anything else they might want." - A young female

"orange girl", plying her trade near the Independence Monument in Phnom


"Both legs were blown off at the knee ... He said he was looking for thatch

for his roof." - Monique Sokha, of UNHCR, commenting on one unfortunate

farmer displaced from his home in O'Smach to make way for a casino and hotel complex.

"The function of the court could infringe on my policy." - Governor

of Prey Veng Chuang Sivuth, addressing criticism in October of his "policy"

of granting amnesties to violent criminals who promise to "refrain from future


"If investors wait around until everything is perfect in Cambodia, they're going

to miss out on some major opportunities." - Kao Kim Hourn, following a CDC

meeting on foreign direct investment on Dec 2.

"If politicians had bad intentions, you would see it immediately." -

MP Chhou Leang Huot

" Today I've insulted some government officials, but I don't mind. I don't think

I've insulted any good people." - Prime Minister Hun Sen, at the government's

Private Investment Sector Forum, Dec 21.


The New Year is kicked off with news of the twin defections of former Khmer Rouge

(KR) chiefs, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, to the government on Dec 29, 1998. The

news is announced on Jan 2 on Bayon Radio, with Prime Minister Hun Sen describing

the event as the final stake in the heart of "Pol Pot's genocidal regime."

The international community hopes that the defections will raise the possibility

of future trials for key leaders of the KR regime. The case against Nuon Chea - former

KR "Brother No 2" - is strengthened following the discovery of documentary

evidence against him in Phnom Penh by historian Steve Heder.

Economically, Jan 1 heralds in the implementation of the government's 10% Value Added

Tax (VAT) on all goods and services sold in the Kingdom.

Also on Jan 1, the Thai Suzuki Motor Company Ltd and OMC Ltd sign a $2.5 million

joint venture agreement to build a 15,000 square-meter motorcycle manufacturing plant

near Phnom Penh.

Despite excessive mercury readings, the World Health Organization (WHO) moves to

dismiss fears that the population of Sihanoukville has been put at risk by a toxic

waste dump site close to the city. WHO's announcement, later to be watered down,

contravenes reports by Licadho human rights employees - some of whom have been jailed

for their activism - and eco-watchdog groups that the waste has seriously compromised

health conditions among villagers.

A Center for Social Development survey reveals that some 84% of respondents believe

that bribery and graft are standard practices among government officials and civil


A study by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) ranks Cambodia as the

second lowest country in Asia in terms of average calorie intake per capita, at just

1,980 kcal's.

Special athlete Chim Phan claims three of the nation's five medals at the FESPIC

Disabled Games in Bangkok, from Jan 10-16.

A Jan 11-18 Ministry of Agriculture search for the world's most endangered bovine,

the Kouprey, turns up no new evidence of the animal's existence.

Controversial moves to establish a new Senate gain momentum with the completion at

the end of January of the Legislation Commission's draft law. The plan, which would

seek to establish 61 Senatorial positions, is denounced by Sam Rainsy Party (SRP)

officials as an unnecessary augmentation of the legislative branch.

The US and Cambodia sign a new textile treaty on Jan 20 which imposes quotas on eight

categories of Cambodian-made garments bound for the US market.

Exiled Cambodian Prince Norodom Sirivudh returns home to Phnom Penh on Jan 21; he

dismisses speculation he will seek to reassert himself in the political arena.

UN Special Representative for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg arrives in the country

on Jan 21, reaffirming UN support for a comprehensive international tribunal for

crimes committed by the KR regime between 1975 and 1979.

Teachers in Phnom Penh and surrounding provinces commence stop-work strikes at the

end of January, lamenting the government's intransigence over asked-for wage rises.

Representatives remain incensed that their requests for a $300 a month wage hike

have been met by a government proposal for a $5 monthly bonus.

The Ieng Sary-led Democratic National Union (DNUM) holds its second National Congress

on Jan 25, its members unanimously deciding to reject future prosecution of Nuon

Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Prime Minister Hun Sen resigns his position as RCAF commander-in-chief on Jan 28

to General Ke Kim Yan, earmarking a major leadership reshuffle within the armed forces.

The changes result in CPP-aligned officers assuming control of all three of Cambodia's

military services.

Gen Ke Kim Yan is immediately entrusted with ending the "anarchy in logging",

which has seen the percentage of forested land in Cambodia reduced to 35% from a

figure nearer to 70% in the early 1970s.


On Feb 2, the UN office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) coordinates

the final repatriations of Cambodian refugees from the Phu Noi camp in Thailand.

The refugees constitute mostly displaced former KR soldiers and their families from

Anlong Veng.

Negotiations commence on Feb 4 between the Ministry of Environment and Taiwanese

petrochemical giant Formosa Plastics over removal of the nearly 3,000 tonnes of toxic

waste it dumped in Sihanoukville in Dec, 1998.

Child labour activists organize celebrations in Phnom Penh on Feb 4 commemorating

the previous year's highly successful Global March Against Child Labour.

A survey conducted by INFRASSORC of over 1,500 Cambodians reveals that some 81.1%

of them wish to see former KR leaders brought to trial.

Buoyed by an arrest warrant issued at the behest of Belgian-based victims of the

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, 23 Cambodian families in Belgium lodge war crimes

charges on Feb 4 against Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary in a Belgian court.

On Feb 7 Formosa Plastics agrees to remove its Sihanoukville dumpsite waste. The

company is given until April 30 to clean up the mess.

A Feb 9 ceremony in Anlong Veng celebrates the final reintegration of 1,700 defecting

KR soldiers into the RCAF.

Ten Phnom Penh university professors meet Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng on Feb

11 to discuss settlement of the three-week-old teacher's strike.

Following a closed-door meeting with his father King Sihanouk on Feb 17, Prince Norodom

Ranariddh reaffirms Funcinpec's pledge to vote for the creation of a new Senate,

the linchpin of a political deal with Hun Sen's CPP, which formed the government

in Nov, 1998.

The newly refurbished Kampong Speu Police Station and Prison opens on Feb 18, a project

partly funded by AusAID.


Citing "fragile" health and general fatigue, King Sihanouk releases

a statement on Mar 1 indicating he will noticeably roll back his schedule of official


The Japanese government announces on Mar 2 that it will donate $5.3 million in food

aid to help relieve food scarcities.

Cambodia's National Assembly passes an historic vote on Mar 4 for the constitutional

amendments necessary for the creation of a new Senate. The vote, overwhelmingly supported

by a 106-5 majority, confirms the likelihood of former Funcinpec RCAF Deputy Chief

of Staff Gen Nhek Bun Chhay, currently living in exile in Bangkok, being appointed

as deputy chief of the new Senate.

The SRP is quick to censure the vote as a hollow deal between CPP and Funcinpec leaders.

A document released by three UN legal experts investigating crimes committed by the

KR regime under Pol Pot canvasses ten key recommendations for Cambodia's national

reconciliation process, including forms of trial for former KR leaders, and the possibility

of reparations payments to victims of the regime.

Prime Minister Hun Sen walks away all smiles from the 1999 Tokyo donor's meeting

with pledges of $470 million in aid, to be disbursed over the coming year. Reflecting

renewed confidence in Cambodia from international aid agencies following a stabilization

of the country's political climate in the past five months, the meeting's World Bank

representative, Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, hopes the financial windfall will assist

in the development of "a framework of transparency and accountability"

in Cambodian politics.

The government and the UN appear to be at loggerheads over the issue of a trial for

former KR leader Ta Mok, with PM Hun Sen repeatedly demonstrating his aversion to

the UN's push for an independent international tribunal.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) green-lights a $140 million loan on Mar 20 for upgrading

240 kms of Highway 1 between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City.

On Mar 24, the Japanese Embassy announces a grant of $3.025 million in support of

the Project for Improvement of Maternal Child Health Care Services.

Undersecretary of State at the Council of Ministers, Pan Sosarak, says that the commune

elections scheduled for November will be delayed because of "Y2K."

Researchers from the University of Hawaii and the Royal University of Fine Arts Archaeology

Department unearth skeletal and material evidence in mid-March at Angkor Borei, Takeo

province, which may possibly date the region as the "cradle of Cambodian civilization."

An SRP activist, Chhum Doeun, 45, is murdered in his home in Kandal on Mar 25, in

what human rights experts describe as the first politically motivated killing in

the run-up to proposed commune elections later in the year.

Land law reform issues take center stage on Mar 30 with a working group of legal

and human rights NGOs presenting a proposal to the Council of Ministers outlining

ways of tackling the country's massive backlog of land claims. Estimates suggest

that just 10% of more than 4.5 million land claims filed after 1989 have been processed.

The First National Conference on HIV/AIDS is held in Phnom Penh from Mar 30-31. Over

700 participants from government, NGOs, the UN, and religious institutions gather

over the two days to discuss methods of combating Cambodia's spiralling infection

rate of the disease, the highest in Asia.

Two men are critically wounded when military police open fire on a crowd of villagers

in Prey Veng province. The villagers had gathered to protest their treatment in a

land rights dispute with the Cambodian Farmers Association for Agricultural Development



Allegations of sexual misconduct are leveled at senior-ranking staff of the French

child welfare NGO, ASPECA, at the beginning of April. In a growing scandal, its former

French Director and Khmer Deputy Director are alleged to have had sex with girls

as young as 13 from ASPECA orphanages.

With the removal of the KR as a credible threat to the RCAF, Hun Sen announces that

he intends to markedly downsize Cambodia's military, with an ambitious plan to halve

current personnel levels to 70,000 by 2003.

Antonya Tioulong files a suit on Apr 2 with the Tribunal de Grand Instance in Paris,

accusing senior ranking ex-KR leaders of the murder of her sister, Raingsey and Son

Qui, a doctor, at Tuol Sleng prison sometime in 1976/77.

Women from Cambodia's major political parties assemble on Apr 6 to discuss ways of

enhancing women's involvement in local, as well as national level politics. The Forum

on Women and Politics is attended by the vice-president of the German Parliament,

Anke Fuchs.

Under intense diplomatic pressure from the US, Hun Sen indicates in an Apr 7 meeting

with US Senator John Kerry that he may be "amenable" to calls for a substantive

international presence in future trials of former KR leaders.

Rights groups fire criticism at the Cambodian government for its haphazard, stand-offish

approach during an Apr 7 meeting with the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in New


Former KR acting-Director of the inglorious Tuol Sleng S-21 torture and interrogation

center, Kiang Khek Iev, commonly known as "Duch", surfaces in Battambang

province. He says he is a "born-again Christian." Duch admits to having

ordered and participated in the deaths of the more than 14,000 people at S-21 between

1975 and 1979.

Hewlett Packard announces its official launch of new products in the Kingdom at a

press conference on Apr 7.

On Apr 10, Cambodia Samart Communication Co. Ltd, following a $4.82 million investment

in infrastructure and equipment upgrades, officially launches its new GSM (digital)

phone service.

A preliminary report from the Cat Action Treasury (CAT), an American NGO, sets Cambodia's

tiger population at "about 700 adult tigers," the second highest national

figure in the world.

China's Deputy Minister of Trade and Economic Cooperation, Sun Guang Xiang, arrives

in Phnom Penh at the end of April bearing gifts of loan and grant guarantees worth

more than $220 million.

Cambodia is officially inducted as the tenth member of the Association of Southeast

Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Apr 30.


A private sector delegation from Singapore visits the Kingdom from May 4-7 to

explore trade and investment opportunities with the government.

A corruption scandal involving the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) widens at

the beginning of May following an admission by the Chairman of CMAC's Governing Council,

Ieng Mouly, that the organization had fraudulently obtained over $90,000 from government

coffers since 1994.

Former Tuol Sleng prison boss, Duch, is arrested on May 10, charged under 1994 legislation

outlawing membership of the KR.

Chinese vituperation resulting from the NATO bombing of the PRC Embassy in Belgrade

spill over into Phnom Penh on May 13, when approximately 100 placard-toting Chinese

residents of the city protest outside the American Embassy.

In a May 20 meeting at the Ministry of Defense, PM Hun Sen indicates he will grant

amnesty to corrupt military commanders willing to admit to falsely inflating staff

numbers for financial gain. Of a total of 148,000 soldiers on the RCAF payroll, the

government estimates as many as 40,000 to be non-existent "ghost soldiers."

In an effort to curb the menace of malaria, the Ministry of Health and the National

Malaria Center launch new 'blisterpacks' - prepackaged dosages of mefloquine and

artesunate tablets - to Cambodia on May 25.

Accepting a unique invitation from the Vietnamese government to "strengthen

cooperation" between the two ASEAN neighbours, Prince Ranariddh leads a Cambodian

parliamentary delegation to Hanoi on May 24, the first in the history of the new

National Assembly.

Representatives of farmers formally submit letters to the Senate's Human Rights Committee

Chairman, Kem Sokha, on May 27, protesting the "confiscation" of land from

more than 300 families throughout the region.

Also on May 27, four kidnappers are arrested in Sihanoukville after abducting a local

family and holding them for a $40,000 ransom in a nearby forest.

In the worst outbreak of cholera in Cambodia on record, official statistics spanning

the period April 16 until the end of May report 1,184 sick and 87 dead in Ratanikiri

province. WHO officials cite poor sanitation and the remoteness of the area as the

root causes.


The beginning of June marks a two-day state visit to the Kingdom by the Secretary-General

of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Le Kha Phieu. The Vietnamese premier, in meetings

with King Sihanouk, Hun Sen, and Prince Ranariddh, discusses a range of issues, from

joint "goodwill" science and technology ventures to the settlement of protracted

border disputes between the two countries. Several student activists set fire to

Vietnamese flags at Phnom Penh University to protest the visit.

On June 4, the Chief Prosecutor in the Nuon Paet murder trial, Yet Charya, announces

that he has received orders to prosecute an additional ten KR soldiers suspected

of participating in the 1994 executions of three western tourists in Kampot province.

Ecological concerns take center stage on June 6 during National and International

World Environment Day. The government promises to make concerted efforts to redress

problems associated with deforestation and illegal fishing in the Kingdom.

On June 11, the government issues Sub-Decree No 53 to Cambodia's Investment Laws,

effectively tightening the country's liberal investment concessions.

A post-consultative group meeting of foreign aid donors and the Cambodian government

is held in Phnom Penh on June 14. Key discussion points include logging control,

military demobilization, civil service and economic reform, and the ever-present

debate over human rights.

The remains of a Belgian man, Michel Baran, 31, murdered by the KR in 1994, are returned

to the victim's family following an aborted attempt to extract $100,000 for their


In overtures that are likely to raise the ire of Cambodia's western friends, it is

revealed that Iranian defense officials visited the Kingdom several times in the

past few months, on each occasion holding "private" meetings with senior

RCAF officials, including Gen Ke Kim Yan, to discuss Iranian proposals for the training

of RCAF staff.

Feathers are ruffled on June 14 when, during an impromptu speech at a Government-Donor

Community meeting, the UN Secretary General's Personal Representative in Cambodia,

Lakhan Mehrotra, labels PM Hun Sen a "champion of democracy".

Two Taiwanese employees of Jade Fortune company are convicted in absentia in Phnom

Penh on June 17 in connection with the dumping of toxic waste in Sihanoukville in

Dec, 1998. They are sentenced to five years imprisonment and fines totaling $500,000.

A special task-force from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre departs for Kosovo on

June 19, charged with assisting the demining of refugee-occupied land in the war-torn


The European Union (EU) promises $5.7 million in humanitarian assistance to Cambodia

at the end of June, to be disbursed over the next twelve months.

Thirty-six prisoners escape from a prison in Sihanoukville on June 17, three are

shot dead by police during the attempt, nineteen others are later recaptured.

Four Cambodian nationals, recruits of the United Nations Volunteers Programme, depart

for East Timor on June 28 to assist in the territory's "popular consultation

ballot" in August.


According to documents obtained by the Post at the start of July, the Cambodian

government gave approval for the importation of 25,000 tonnes of Taiwanese toxic

waste earlier in the year.

ASEAN's Secretary General, Rodolfo Severino arrives in Phnom Penh on July 5 for his

first official visit.

CMAC appears to be doomed following revelations in a report written by CMAC Technical

Advisor for Quality Assurance Operations, Stefan Carlsson, suggesting the organization

routinely abandons its humanitarian goals in favour of private 'purse lining'. Aid

donors are quick to freeze funds.

Piseth Pelika, the much-loved actress, singer and dancer, is gunned down in broad

daylight by an unidentified assassin near Phnom Penh's O' Russei market on July 6.

Pelika starred in more than 60 films, including Sramol Anthaka (Shadow of Darkness),

Around ten thousand mourners gather in Phnom Penh for her funeral.

A four-day national conference of Buddhist monks, sponsored by the King and Queen,

is held in Phnom Penh from July 10.

In an effort to entice tourists to Cambodia, the Minister in Charge of the Council

of Ministers, Sok An, releases a plan to develop cultural and eco-tourism during

a seminar at the National Institute of Management.

The National Assembly elects senior CPP MP Nguon Nhel as its new Second Vice-President,

replacing Chem Snguon, who died of liver failure on June 13.

The Danish government signs an agreement on July 13 contributing $4.18 million in

funding to the Mekong River Commission for freshwater fisheries research.

The human rights community rejoices on July 21, following the announcement by government

prosecutor, Chhun Ngorn, that owing to a lack of evidence, all charges are to be

dropped against Licadho employees Kim Sen and Meas Minear. The two had been accused

of inciting riots in response to the dumping of Taiwanese toxic waste in Sihanoukville.

An earlier survey suggesting tiger numbers to be between 500 and 700 is branded as

"way too high" on July 20 by Tony Lyman, an ecologist with the World Conservation


The PRC lends $40 million to Cambodia at the end of July for the restoration of irrigation

systems in Svay Rieng and Kampong Thom. The German government follows suit with a

loan package of $11 million for small business and rural development.

Co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, reveals on July 29 that large numbers of weapons

disappeared from government warehouses over the past few months, only to "mysteriously"

reappear for sale in local markets.

A public forum on prostitution organized by the Center for Social Development concludes

on July 29. Forum participants narrowly favour the legalization of sex work over

the current unregulated, shady state of the industry.


A Malaysian trade mission, the largest ever to visit Cambodia, arrives in Phnom

Penh Aug 1 for three days of talks with senior government officials and Cambodian

business leaders.

Deputy Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara refuses to issue new factory licenses in

a bid to reduce pollution in the city.

A shadow is cast over prospects for trials for former KR leaders following an agreement

in mid-August, between Funcinpec and CPP MP's, over a legal amendment allowing up

to three years detention without trial for people charged with genocide or crimes

against humanity.

Sam Sotha, Director General of scandal-riven CMAC, is officially dismissed from his

post by Hun Sen on Aug 4, along with the group's Assistant Director and Director

of Finance. Sotha is replaced by the Deputy Commander-In-Chief of the RCAF, Lt Gen

Khem Sophoan.

British Police wind up their investigation into the abduction and murder of British

demining expert, Chistopher Howes, in March, 1996. Petitions to interview Ta Mok

in relation to the murder are vetoed by Cambodia's Military Court.

Koh Chong Ming, chairman of transport systems company, Global Tech, discloses plans

in a private meeting with Hun Sen for the upgrading of Cambodia's two primary rail

links, from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and Sisophon.

Japanese experts commence an eighteen-month feasibility study for a large power station

in Sihanoukville.

New Ministry of Cults and Religions statistics pin the nation's monk population at

50,081, and the number of pagodas at 3,685. Buddhism has enjoyed a steady revival

since the ouster of the KR regime in 1979.

The EU announces plans to fund a $1.3 million "diplomatic training program"

for senior and middle-ranking officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to

begin later in August.

The UN's draft proposal for internationally-oriented trials for former KR leaders

is panned by virtually all interested parties. Hun Sen dismisses it as subversive

of Cambodian sovereignty. Rights workers label it "accommodative".

Tourism authorities announce plans to ban beggars and vendors from "harassing"

foreign visitors to Angkor Wat.

Co-Interior Minister, Sar Kheng, declares that the government has been losing two

to three million dollars a month to illegal beer and petrol smuggling through the

northwest of Cambodia.

Widespread flooding continues to plague parts of the country throughout August. In

Kampot, seven people die and 3,000 face food shortages due to heavy rain. Three people

are killed and over 220 houses are destroyed or damaged during a thunder storm in

Phnom Penh on Aug 10. The German government donates food and medicine to the relief


An Aug 19 raid on a "safe house" in Toul Kork turns up 222 illegal Chinese

immigrants, prompting Police General Skadavy M Ly Roun to warn that illegal Chinese

immigration poses "a serious economic, security and political threat to Cambodia."

On Aug 20, the Cabinet approves amendments to Customs classification laws that will

approximate ASEAN taxation and exemption standards on goods flowing into the country.

A confidential Ministry of Defense document obtained and disseminated by the SRP

at the end of August, reveals the continued payment of salaries to deceased RCAF

staff, including Funcinpec defense officials murdered during the July 1997 coup.


PM Hun Sen departs for New York on Sep 1 for critical, final-stage discussions

with UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, over the make-up of the panel of judges in

a combined Cambodian-international trial of former KR leaders. The meeting follows

a week of talks in Phnom Penh between the government and UN legal experts.

A new 3% tax on imported alcohol and cigarettes takes effect on Sep 1.

New CMAC Director General Khem Sophoan approaches Global Witness to explore the possibility

of a full and impartial inquiry into CMAC's operations in Kampot.

Evidence surfaces of the execution style murders, by prison guards, of at least two

of the recaptured prison escapees from Sihanoukville Prison on June 17.

Thakral Cambodia inaugurates the opening of the first Hewlett Packard authorized

Service Center in Cambodia, Sep 2.

Human rights workers are called to Svay Pak village on Sep 3 when a prostitute is

seriously injured during an escape attempt from her brothel. The woman had leapt

from a second-floor window in an attempt to escape.

The First National Conference on Gender and Development in Cambodia is held in Phnom

Penh, from Sep 7-9.

Koh Kong prosecutor Keo Sim faces legal charges arising out of accusations he assaulted

the proprietor of a brothel in Koh Kong on Sep 8.

The long-awaited southern "buffer zone" extension of Virachey National

Park, first mooted in 1994, faces derailment following revelations of the awarding

of logging contracts in the region by local political leaders.

Inconsistencies arising out of the arrests of SRP activists, Mong Davuth and Kang

Bun Heang, charged in relation to a 1998 rocket attack on CPP officials, surface

on Sep 16 following evidence that at least one of the two was serving a prison sentence

in Battambang at the time of the incident.

The rebuilt Royal Ballet of Cambodia announces the virtual sell-out of a 64-day European

tour, beginning in October.

France donates $1 million to the launch of a three-year pilot rubber-farming program

for families in Kampong Cham.

Former Director-General of CMAC, Sam Sotha, makes a return to public officialdom

on Sep 12 when he is appointed to a senior CMAC advisory post at PM Hun Sen's office.

The wife of Funcinpec Senator Nhek Bun Chhay is assaulted and robbed by an unidentified

group of military-uniformed men Sep 13.

KR files unearthed by the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) during September

open the curtain on clandestine meetings between senior KR officials and East Timorese

Fretilin pro-independence rebels in 1977.

Results from Cambodia's first official census in three decades are released on Sep

14. As of Mar 3, the Kingdom's population was estimated at 11,437,656, about double

the recorded level in 1962. The census estimates Cambodia's population growth rate

to be around 2.5%.

Provincial authorities in Prey Veng announce a bizarre amnesty on Sep 15, offering

armed robbers, murderers and thieves freedom from prosecution should they promise

to "refrain from future wrongdoing." According to the constitution, only

the King may grant such amnesties.

Finance Minister, Keat Chhon, reports the existence of at least 40 illegal border

entry points around Cambodia for people wanting to smuggle themselves, and their

goods, into the country.

Allegations arise at the end of September of a secret operation by immigration police

officials to allow as many as seventy supposedly deported illegal Chinese immigrants

to stay in the country.

The Japanese government lends $36 million to Cambodia on Sep 24 for the renovation

of the port in Sihanoukville.

Government official, Pich Tum Kravel, becomes the first Cambodian to win a South

East Asian Write award for his three submitted works, The Art of Writing Poems, The

Historical Event of Cambodia and The Khmer Shadow Theater Sbek Thom.


Hun Sen opens a Disability Resource Seminar in Phnom Penh on Oct 4. The event,

attended by representatives from fifteen Cambodian government ministries, aims at

discussing a coordinated approach to improving living and working conditions of handicapped

people in the Kingdom.

SRP MP, Lon Phon, is kidnapped by four armed men in military uniforms on Oct 7. He

is released two days later following partial payment of a $140,000 ransom demand.

Two young Cambodian fisherman who escaped slave labour on a Thai fishing trawler

in Indonesia are returned home to Phnom Penh on Oct 9.

About forty senior government officials attend two joint seminars conducted by the

Mekong River Commission and the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, for talks on

environmental awareness and management.

Twelve senior Cambodian defense officials travel to Beijing on Oct 11, for official

talks with leaders of China's People's Liberation Army.

Jordan's Queen Noor arrives in Phnom Penh on Oct 17 to promote humanitarian relief

for Cambodian land mine victims.

Cambodia's national boxing team announces a complete boycott of the King's Cup regional

tournament to be held in Bangkok in November, in protest at the use of the term "Muay


SRP officials denounce as a "falsification" documents allegedly signed

by Sam Rainsy forging an alliance between the SRP and the underground Free Vietnamese

Party (FVP). The FVP advocates insurrection to overthrow Vietnam's communist government.

The French magazine, L'Express, publishes extracts from what it asserts are the personal

diaries of slain Cambodian actress, Piseth Pelika, accompanied by a story alleging

the involvement of Hun Sen's wife, Bun Rany, in the actress' murder. Diary entries

indicate Pelika had been intimately involved with the Cambodian PM since Aug, 1998.

Reports surface on Oct 21 of the complicit involvement of high ranking Sihanoukville

military officials, including the deputy military commander of the region, Mom Sokha,

in incidents of murder and intimidation in the town.

A Phnom Penh internet cafe, Khmer Web, is forced to pay $2,500 for unauthorized usage

of private CamNet and BigPond accounts, in the first case of internet fraud in Cambodia.

The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, The Cambodian Defenders Project,

and Legal Aid of Cambodia launch a attack on the impartiality of Cambodia's judicial

system in a joint statement published in the Post, Oct 29-Nov 11.

The government considers leasing ferries along the Mekong River in Neak Leung to

private operators, just six months after the Danish government had contributed $18

million to their upgrade.

King Sihanouk celebrates is 77th birthday on Oct 31.


More than 500 families in O'Smach are forcibly removed from their homes at the

beginning of November to make way for a government-endorsed casino and hotel complex.

Villagers claim they've been relocated to nearby land littered with mines.

Hun Sen appoints loyalists Kun Kim and Chea Sophara to the postings of, respectively,

Deputy Commander-In-Chief of the RCAF and Governor of Phnom Penh. Privately, a number

of Funcinpec officials are rankled by their party's decision to give the governor's

position to the CPP.

The Khmer Serei (Free Khmer Movement) is blamed for a Nov 3 attack on an isolated

RCAF base in Kratie Province.

The popular Khmer comedian, Niay Mates Ploak, 46, is seriously injured in a motor

accident Nov 4.

On Nov 9 the Kingdom celebrates its 46th year of independence from French colonial


SRP MP Lon Phon's kidnappers are arrested on Nov 11. PM Hun Sen, angered at press

reports of controversy in the case, complains of "foreign interference"

in Cambodian police matters.

The government releases its KR tribunal proposal in late November. Though flexible

on the issue of international judges, the proposal remains steadfastly in favor of

Cambodian jurisdiction and the appointment of trial judges by Cambodia's Supreme

Council of Magistracy.


A Dec 2-3 conference organized by the Council for the Development of Cambodia

(CDC) concludes with the message that, although the Kingdom offers strong incentives

for foreign direct investment, poor infrastructure, corruption and judicial unpredictability

continue to ignite the apprehensions of foreign companies.

CMAC unveils organizational reform and restructuring plans on Dec 3 designed to mollify

the "corruption fatigue" of foreign donors.

In an attack on Dec 5, the wife of Svay Sitha, Chum Teav Svai Sitha, throws acid

over a young actress, Tan Chhar Marina in Phnom Penh. The young actress, described

as Svay Sitha's "second wife," lies near death in a local facility. Armed

guards prevent access.

In an attempt to rid the country of corrupt court officials, PM Hun Sen orders the

suspension of court chief Oum Sarith and prosecutor Kan Chhouen. The suspensions

follow the PM's order to Cambodian police to re-arrest 195 suspects released by the

Phnom Penh municipal court. Rights groups lament the directives as a body blow to

the development of judicial independence in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Hun Sen, bowing to months of diplomatic pressure from Australia, France

and England, orders the arrest of former KR commander Chhouk Rin in connection with

the murder of their nationals by a KR-led force in 1994.

Undersecretary of State to the Council of Ministers, Pan Sosarak, a computer expert,

warns that the Kingdom's $2 million election-related computer system will soon become

defunct as a result of "Y2K" problems.

Bodyguards of CPP President Chea Sim are accused of staging a drunken rampage through

Kampong Cham's southern district of Ponhea Krek. A sixteen-year-old girl and an elderly

man are among those beaten.

Around 30,000 party-goers are expected to attend the government-sponsored Angkor

2000 millennium celebrations at Angkor Wat and neighbouring Siem Reap, prompting

service industry concerns that local businesses will be under-equipped for the event.

Chiming into the debate, King Sihanouk publicly expresses his fears over the lack

of toilet facilities for the gathered masses.

The 1999 Year In Review was compiled by Phnom Penh Post intern Dan Woodley.

Khieu Samphan enjoyed Sihanoukville in January.

... while Nuon Chea looked cool at Angkor Wat.

Duch's discovery in April and arrest in May might help exorcize the ghosts at S-21.

With renewed foreign aid, Asean membership, and the demise of the KR, Prime Minister Hun Sen appears relaxed.

The enormously popular Piseth Pelika, murdered in cold blood but not forgotten.


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