Govt crisis as military option fails
One year after the rapidly fading promise of the UN sponsored elections, Cambodia's
new government is reeling from a disastrous dry season military campaign and plagued
by internal weaknesses that, some say, threatens its collapse.
His Majesty King Sihanouk left for Beijing on 18 May with an eleventh-hour agreement
by the government and the Khmer Rouge to hold talks in Pyongyang on May 27, although
some observers believe the talks will not result in any significant breakthrough.
The government has officially requested more foreign military support and vowed to
drive the guerrillas back to the jungle.
Sources close to the Khmer Rouge confirm that the guerrillas' leadership has decided
to launch a full-scale offensive, perceiving that the new government is now vulnerable
and that only clear success on the battlefield will force the government to accept
their demands of inclusion in the government and the army.
The escalating civil war comes against a backdrop of growing insecurity across the
country with robberies and skirmishes along main highways a daily occurrence. Four
westerners have been taken hostage, leading several embassies to issue stern travel
warnings. Aid workers have been evacuated from a number of provinces and UN agencies
have banned travel on previously safe highways.
Political killing raises fears
The apparently politically-motivated killing of Funcinpec party leader Ang Kuoy in
Kampot last month has raised concern about the possible reappearance of political
killings one year after the elections.
The 51-year-old Kuoy was the third-ranking Funcinpec official in Kampot and ran his
party's provincial election campaign. His house in Borivas village, Samrong Leu commune
of Banteay Meas district was the party's commune headquarters.
The killing occurred at around 8:15 pm on April 19, when Ang Kuoy's house was surrounded
by more than 15 men with lit flashlights wielding AK-47s and hand grenades. Kuoy
tried to leave but was stopped about 30 meters from his house.
According to a report by the human rights organization Licadho, witnesses say that
one of the men told Kuoy: "We know you, you can go back home." Even as
he turned and walked back, he was shot in the head by someone carrying an AK-47.
King warns graft may empower KR
Political infighting, corruption, and a weakly led and ill-trained Cambodian army
could lead to the return to power of the Khmer Rouge, King Norodom Sihanouk warned
on May 12.
Sihanouk said the Khmer Rouge could not be trusted and had not changed since their
brutal rule in the 1970s.
"They are the same. They have not changed their leadership, their philosophy
or their policy. They want always to retake power and make Kampuchea a very backward
country-pushing Kampuchea back to the Stone Age, and they are going to fight us until
they come into Phnom Penh to take power like on the 17th of April, 1975-it is their
ultimate aim," he told reporters at the Royal Palace.
Garbage deal heralds taxes on collections
Phnom Penh Municipality has signed a 25-year concession contract with the French
company Asia Pacific Development (APD) which is intended to revolutionize garbage
collection in the city. But it could mean hefty charges for residents and businesses.
City authorities are to impose a "rubbish" tax on all households and businesses
to pay ADP to run the service, which is to begin June 2.
Rates for the new tax have yet to be decided but ADP has proposed either a flat charge
of around $28 per month for larger businesses, or it may charge according to volume
Govt makes sweeping new tax proposals
The Finance Ministry has proposed new taxes on personal income, company profits,
construction licenses and land in a bid to broaden the tax revenue base of the cash-strapped
"This is part of the continued efforts to reform the fiscal structure of Cambodia
with the aim of increasing tax revenue," said a ministry statement on May 1.
In particular, the measures are aimed at broadening the revenue base, at present
heavily dependent on customs duties, particularly those levied on re-exports (imports
which are re-exported to neighboring countries), the statement said.
At present the country has no income tax and the proposed new tax would apply to
all workers who earn a monthly salary in excess of $300.
A person earning between $300-$400 a month would pay tax at 10 percent, rising to
15 percent for salaries between $400-$4,000, 20 percent for $4,000-$8,000 and 30
percent for monthly salaries in excess of $8,000.
CMAC pulls out of northeast
The Cambodian Mine Action Centre has announced it is completely suspending operations
in Battambang and Sisophon in the wake of the upsurge in fighting.
It will transfer 1,000 staff to work in a "corridor"from Phnom Penh to
Kampot and Kampong Som.
CMAC withdrew most of its staff from the two northeastern towns to Phnom Penh as
they came under threat from Khmer Rouge offensives at the beginning of the month.
Wounded officer tells of battlefield atrocities
When Sarouen Sok suffered shrapnel wounds to the spine and head from a Khmer Rouge
rocket earlier this month, he said he had to walk bleeding the 25km back to
Battambang city. All the military trucks were being used by his commanders to haul
the motorcycles, furniture and other prized war booty to safety from advancing guerilla
"The government only takes care of the people they can use. But the people they
cannot use, they just throw away, like me," a bitter Sarouen told the Post.
He asked that his real name not be published. Sarouen is a junior Marine officer
based at Prek Kdam, on the Tonle and has been serving for six years.
He confessed to taking part in torture and beheadings of Thais associated with the
Khmer Rouge and said the practice was widespread on both sides. Sarouen even admitted
to participating in the killing of a superior officer during an interview.