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
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
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.