Pha Thanchan, 65, one of only seven people believed to have survive the Khmer
Rouge's notorious genocide prison S-21, dies in a Phnom Penh hospital on December
29. His death leaves just two known victims of S-21, also known as Tuol Sleng, alive.
The government's self-imposed deadline of December 31, 2001 to solve the country's
border disputes comes and goes with no agreement reached. The Students' Movement
for Democracy claims Thai and Vietnamese soldiers shift border markers further into
Cambodia every few months.
The National Election Committee (NEC) comes under fire for vetoing the proposed
public telecast of the Kingdom's first candidate debates during the commune elections.
The NEC says the debates would have to be representative of the whole country to
be broadcast on television or radio.
After a year of controversy, the government, the private sector, the IMF and World
Bank reach a compromise on the details of an investment law on January 15. The agreement
paves the way for release of the $15 million structural adjustment credit.
Fisheries Office head Mom Seng warns that the fish harvest is only half of the
previous year, due to a combination of unusual weather conditions and illegal fishing
inside breeding zones. Fish accounts for around two-thirds of the population's protein
Commune election campaigning begins January 18, coinciding with a human rights
report urging the international community to pressure the government to stop political
killings and intimidation. HRW lists 15 political killings of candidates and activists
from the SRP and Funcinpec, as well as 250 cases of intimidation and threats.
Tourist numbers jump 25 percent over the previous year, to almost half a million.
The Ministry of Tourism says it is aiming for one million visitors to "keep
the industry focused".
February's local elections: 'Free and fair enough,' said Hun Sen.
The commune elections on February 3 are dubbed the country's first step towards
a grassroots democracy, despite widespread allegations of vote-buying. The ruling
Cambodian People's Party (CPP) hammers both Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP),
winning all but a handful of the 1,621 commune chief seats on offer. Funcinpec enters
a period of introspection and insecurity that lasts the rest of the year.
The NEC criticizes eight news organizations for unbalanced reporting of the commune
elections. Comfrel disagreed with NEC findings, citing a major pro-CPP bias in the
One result of the commune elections is the low number of women appointed to commune
council positions, despite lofty promises by the three major parties. In May 2001
the parties said 30 percent would be women, but only half that number made it on
to the lists of candidates. Final figures reveal only 5 percent of council members
The government stops issuing adoption documentation to US families to prevent
a backlog of cases developing. The US ceased issuing visas to children adopted from
Cambodia in December after more than three months of controversy that saw seven people
charged with adoption-related trafficking offenses.
The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts says vendors selling pirated video CDs will
be prosecuted as of May. Why? To stop the decline in Khmer culture caused by pirating,
and no less importantly, to ensure the country can join the World Trade Organization
(WTO). The result? Nothing much changes at the city's markets.
Five years of discussions between the United Nations and the government ends when
the UN announces February 8 that it has quit the proposed Khmer Rouge tribunal. The
UN's chief legal counsel, Hans Corell, says disagreement over whether Cambodian law
or the Memorandum of Understanding should take precedence meant the UN was at risk
of being sucked into a biased process. The government is disappointed.
Ke Pok, a senior KR commander implicated in the deaths of tens of thousands, dies
on February 15 on his way back from medical treatment in Thailand, and is buried
in Anlong Veng. Pok was believed by experts to be a prime candidate to stand trial
if and when a KR tribunal took place.
Ta Mok, a former senior KR military commander, has his pre-trial jail term extended
by another three years on February 22. Mok was in jail charged with genocide; his
extension is justified, the government says, by now charging him with crimes against
humanity. The same thing happens to Duch, the former head of S-21, two months later.
Demining celebrates its tenth anniversary on February 24 as NGOs and government
officials go to Battambang, the most heavily mined province. The government says
it will take at least another ten years before the mines are gone.
Investors use the February 28 government-private sector forum to push for lower
private sector taxation and an end to smuggling. That should help reverse ever-lower
levels of foreign direct investment, which dropped to $218 million in 2001, and further
still in 2002.
Tuol Sleng's skull map removed.
Human rights NGO Licadho labels as unfair the February 28 trial of 20 people accused
of belonging to the outlawed Cambodian Freedom Fighters. Observers say defendants
lacked access to lawyers and adequate medical care. The trial breached the Constitution
and international conventions on the rights of suspects. Most went to jail for lengthy
The Cambodian Institute of Human Rights is investigated for fraud and misuse of
funds by international auditors PwC. Senior staff accuse each other of theft, donors
are unimpressed, and the NGO later announces it will close.
Tuol Sleng's skull map is dismantled in a Buddhist ceremony on March 10. The map
was made of the skulls and bones of KR victims, which reportedly prompted King Norodom
Sihanouk to state that it was "like hanging people twice".
The UN tells foreign governments on March 12 to talk to Phnom Penh if they want
to see a KR tribunal. Kofi Annan says that Hun Sen "must change his position
and attitude". His comments come after foreign governments criticize the UN
for pulling out of the process.
A senior official at the aviation authority voices concerns over safety and finances
after two new carriers, Mekong Airlines and Cambodia Air, are granted operating licenses.
The official alleges "political interference from the top". If there was
any, it doesn't help Mekong - its inaugural flight is canceled after it fails to
get the proper paperwork in time. By the end of the year, neither operator has appeared
on the radar.
Prince Norodom Ranariddh mirrors his father's flair for film-making by sending
his own feature film Raja Borei, a love story laden with cultural overtones, to a
Malaysian film festival on March 20.
Funcinpec's co-Minister of Interior, You Hokry, is asked to quit and save face
at the party's annual congress on March 21. Many in the party turn against Hokry,
accusing him of nepotism, corruption, and ignoring the plight of the former resistance
fighters. The result is months of discord played out in the press, further damaging
the royalist party.
The United States formally requests on March 26 that 1,000 Vietnamese Montagnard
refugees in northeast Cambodia be allowed to resettle in the US. The refugees fled
Vietnam's Central Highlands after being pushed out by land-grabs and discrimination
February 2001. They are finally transported to Phnom Penh from their camps on April
A new $8 million bridge linking Koh Kong and Thailand is opened by Hun Sen on
April 4, and should lead to an increase in trade.
Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee offers the services of a judge to assist at a KR
trial if the UN remains outside the process. His visit on April 9 is the first by
an Indian premier since Nehru in 1954.
After the US government ceased issuing visas to children adopted from Cambodia
in December, a stream of adoptive parents and their infants flow through the US Embassy
on April 10 and 11.
Forty-five adoptions are approved after a joint effort ensures the children weren't
A study between the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the World Health Organization
finds 10 percent of drugs sold in-country are counterfeit. In response, traditional
healers extol the virtues and value of traditional medicines.
The world's second-largest tobacco company, British American Tobacco (BAT), comes
under fire for recommending a potent pesticide, Endosulfan, to contract tobacco growers,
but failing to offer protective gear. An Indian study on the pesticide, which is
banned in ten countries, linked aerial spraying to nervous system disorders, mental
disorders, cancers and genetic mutations. The company denies it is negligent.
A Bangkok Airways flight landing in Phnom Penh on April 22 narrowly avoids hitting
a pick-up truck that is chasing dogs next to the runway. The incident follows a warning
from an aviation expert just over a year earlier that the situation was "literally
one in which we are just waiting for an accident to happen".
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy announces he will sue in an overseas court the Canadian
company Cintec Group, whose subsidiary was awarded the capital's garbage collection
contract. Rainsy alleges corruption in the dealings of Cintri, which becomes the
third foreign company to be taken to overseas courts by Rainsy.
Two policemen identified as the killers of Funcinpec commune council candidate
Thon Phally on November 14, 2001, are acquitted on May 3. Three others are convicted,
two in absentia, by the Kampong Cham court. The UN says the decision sets a bad precedent
for the 2003 general election.
Buddhist monks are encouraged to give up smoking after it is revealed smoking-related
illnesses are the leading cause of death among Thai monks. At the International Workshop
on Buddhism and Tobacco Control held May 7-9, monks are told they will get good karma
if they lead by example in educating Buddhists to stop smoking.
The country's shipping registry, Cambodian Shipping Corporation (CSC), runs into
flak from international maritime bodies over its 'flag of convenience' (FOC) status.
The government later announces the Funcinpec-linked business will be taken over,
after a series of embarrassing incidents.
Micro-finance - the practice of lending small sums to the poorest - comes under fire
after a Senate hearing condemns the high interest rates involved. Several NGOs defend
their annual interest rates of up to 60 percent, a practice one observer describes
Funcinpec's prospects for the general election take a further dip on May 20 as
Prince Norodom Chakrapong, half-brother of Funcinpec's leader Ranariddh, announces
the formation of a new party, the Chakrapong Khmer Spirit Party. He says former resistance
fighters will vote for him.
Two years after a warrant was issued, former KR commander Sam Bith is arrested
on May 22. He is accused of involvement in a train attack in 1994 during which 13
Cambodians were killed, and three Western backpackers were kidnapped and later murdered.
After months of trying to keep his job, co-Minister of Interior You Hokry announces
May 23 he will "step down" to avoid being fired from both his post and
Funcinpec. Stepping down, he says, is not the same as resigning. He ends up keeping
his job anyway.
A year of floods and drought - shoring up defenses in Kg Cham.
In a lightly-veiled warning to Funcinpec, Prime Minister Hun Sen warns political
parties on June 5 to refrain from using the armed forces to settle any internal disputes.
To do so, he says, would spark an "immediate reaction".
In a State Department report released June 5, Washington warns aid sanctions could
be imposed if Phnom Penh does not make progress in combating human trafficking by
June 2003. Cambodia got the lowest possible rating.
NGOs meet on June 11 to discuss lowering the cost of AIDS drugs. The Post determines
that anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) imported from Thailand and India are being sold
on the streets of Phnom Penh for up to eight times the amount they retail for in
their countries of manufacture.
The SRP says it will strengthen its structure at the grassroots level by establishing
more village councils. The party states at its June 15 meeting that it has enough
money to contest the 2003 election.
Logging firm GAT is thrown out on June 19 after it is caught illegally felling trees
in breach of a moratorium instituted in January.
Hun Sen urges donors June 20 to take a broad view of the country's progress at
the annual donor meeting. The Consultative Group (CG) hears from government and donor
representatives on issues including legal reform and governance. The government requests
$1.45 billion in development assistance over three years, and gets $635 million pledged
Fourteen trafficked Vietnamese girls, rescued by police in a raid on a city brothel
in May, are arrested for illegal immigration on June 20. One government minister
and several NGOs are outraged.
Agriculture officials say a genetically engineered variety of cotton is being
grown here. It was being tested in trials in Kampong Cham and is resistant to bollworm.
The government concludes that GMO controls must be enforced.
Around 200 monks follow the coffin of Wat Lanka's 86-year-old senior monk, Sin
Khim, through Phnom Penh two days before his cremation on June 30.
SRP lawmakers produce a draft law to regulate the Throne Council, the body that
will select the successor to the King. A senior palace insider says the King is worried
that the monarchy could be replaced with a republic if the law is not put in place.
The traditional doctors' association asks the MoH to crack down on people advertising
'miracle' cures for AIDS, lung cancer and liver disease. The new AIDS law approved
in June bans false ad claims.
A city orphanage removes wooden cages in which three disabled children and one adult
were being held. It follows a threat by the World Food Programme to suspend food
deliveries to the orphanage.
A French government agency study shows 70 percent of babies born to HIV-positive
mothers in Cambodia do not contract the HIV virus if both mother and newborn child
are given the drug nevirapine. Although mothers were then warned about the risks
of breast-feeding as a possible way of passing on the virus, 10 percent decide to
breastfeed anyway either for personal or financial reasons.
A July 2 workshop held to debate reform of the NEC runs into problems after the
CPP representative suggests that no political parties be represented on the body.
On July 12 Hun Sen tells the interior ministry to draft changes to the election law.
NEC board members will be selected from politically independent candidates, dignitaries
and popular people.
An Italian man is found guilty of pedophilia at the Phnom Penh municipal court
on July 16 and sentenced to ten years in jail. Alain Berruti,30, rejects the sentence,
but admits he had sexual relations with boys under 15.
The chairman of the Cambodian Shipping Corporation (CSC), Khek Sakara, is questioned
by the government on July 17 after a Cambodian-flagged ship is found laden with cocaine
off the west African coast in late June. The registry was accused of being one of
the world's worst Flag of Convenience (FOC) states.
A national census initiates the registration of immigrants. Human rights groups
express concern over the potential for abuse, as politicians have in the past used
racism against ethnic Vietnamese to win votes.
A preliminary investigation into the murky world of forestry royalties shows that
the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) allowed years of unpaid
royalties to be illegally 'offset' against expenditure incurred. At least $3 million
Use of illegally imported pesticides nearly doubles over two years. Agriculture
officials and pesticides experts say they are worried at the trend, and warn that
new ways are needed to reduce damage to human health and the environment.
The National Assembly approves a new forestry law on July 30, despite strong criticisms
from some MPs and forestry observers.
Late rains don't do much to alleviate the country's drought situation, particularly
in the south and south-east. MAFF figures show rice planted is only 32 percent of
the norm. Conditions cause hundreds of farmers to seek food in Phnom Penh, and the
ministry warns up to one million people could suffer severe food shortages.
Education officials meet Sok An, Minister for the Council of Ministers, on August
1 to discuss a law to regulate a body that will accredit higher education institutions.
It comes after complaints that the sector is dangerously unaccountable.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara says he will "rescue poor people" by
removing all homeless families, drug addicts and street children from city streets
before ASEAN's summit in early November. He aims to send people to their home provinces
with transport and food, or give them land outside the city. The plan is abandoned
the following month after what he describes as "a bad reaction".
Funcinpec and the SRP call off their boycott of the National Assembly on August
14. The decision comes after their members paralyzed the legislative body over discontent
with NEC reforms.
Three people with UNHCR 'persons of concern' status are illegally deported. A
Vietnamese monk belonging to an outlawed Buddhist sect is handed back to Hanoi, and
a Chinese couple, practitioners of Falun Gong, are sent back to China.
The UN indicates on August 22 that it is ready to restart talks on the trial of
former KR leaders. Despite the apparent progress, differences between the UN and
the government remain. Hun Sen calls for other countries to become involved.
A leading economist warns on August 28 that outstanding debts to the World Bank
and Asian Development Bank (ADB) total over $500 million, and foreign debt could
become a dangerous burden if more care is not taken.
Eighteen people die and more than a million are affected by flooding along the
Funcinpec members worry about the party's chances in the July 2003 election after
the National Assembly rejects the nomination of deputy army head Khan Savoeun to
replace You Hokry as co-Minister of Interior.
The MoH issues a prakas on September 2 authorizing health centers and hospitals
to perform abortions, five years after it was made legal.
Two former KR commanders receive life sentences for the abduction and killing
of three backpackers in 1994. The Supreme Court confirms on September 4 the life
term meted out to Nuon Paet. Chhouk Rin is sentenced by the Appeal Court two days
later, but lodges a further appeal.
Senior CPP officials say many members want the party to abandon its coalition
with Funcinpec if it wins a two-thirds majority in next year's general election.
An international prize for excellence in river management is awarded to the Mekong
River Commission. The move draws strong criticism from regional and international
NGOs which say the MRC is not managing the river effectively.
Results from a government survey on HIV show the AIDS epidemic has moved from
brothels to the home. More deaths and improved intervention meant the number infected
dropped to 157,000.
King Norodom Sihanouk reportedly threatens to abdicate while in Beijing receiving
medical attention. The move is apparently related to the impasse surrounding the
lack of a law to regulate the Throne Council. On his return to the country on October
11, the King neither confirms nor denies the reports.
Three opposition parties threaten demonstrations if the government does not reorganize
the NEC. The SRP and two new parties are critical of the selection process for the
five nominees. Three of the nominees are linked to the CPP, and two to Funcinpec.
Hun Sen tells the second national AIDS conference on October 2 that the country
needs anti-retroviral drugs, and says tackling the disease must become a national
priority. He predicts 230,000 people will die without access to the medicines.
More US families are allowed to adopt Cambodian children in a bid to assist those
who missed out with the US government's decision to ban adoptions. The ban was put
in place after mounting evidence of baby trafficking.
The head of the anti-smuggling office, Sar Theng, fears for his life after an
operation to seize smuggled luxury vehicles in September results in a stand-off between
police, customs officials and armed men guarding the cars.
A multi-billion dollar plan to make Kampong Chhnang a high-tech regional air cargo
hub is revived after discussions between the government and a Malaysian construction
The spokesman for 59 families involved in a land dispute with So Khun, the Minister
for Posts and Telecommunications, is arrested on charges of interfering with an investigation
on October 18.
Villagers accused the minister and his four associates of trying to force them
off their land.
The World Bank admits to a series of problems in the $42 million donor-driven demobilization
program. They include 'ghost' soldiers being flagged for demobilization, and genuine
soldiers paying their commanders to get on the list for the second phase. None of
those stood down in the first phase has received the reintegration packages.
Beat Richner, the founder of the Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital in Phnom Penh,
threatens on October 20 to close, unless the MoH gives him more land to cure the
overcrowding problem. Richner warns 2,000 children a month could die, but says he
has no choice.
Relief agencies ready themselves to begin distributing substantial amounts of
food aid after debilitating droughts and flooding afflict much of the country.
Three local fishermen are shot dead by commercial fishermen in Koh Kong province
October 25, the latest in a long line of violent incidents over fishing rights. A
fisheries official says 20 people have been killed in Chroy Svay commune alone since
Forestry experts criticize the government for undermining its own conservation
laws after the Department of Forestry and Wildlife announces on October 29 it has
dropped a key provision contained in the reform process. Logging companies no longer
need to submit a five-year plan, which NGOs believe will reopen the door to unsustainable
After boasting of a gift "beyond our expectations", Hun Sen's announcement
on November 2 that the country's debts to China would be canceled turns out to be
less generous than first assumed. A report on a Chinese government website states
the offer only applies to debts that have fallen due, while some speculate that the
debt eradication applies only to loans to the KR, which would not have been paid
Cambodia hosts the 8th ASEAN Summit on November 4-5. Leaders converge on Phnom
Penh for the two-day conference and are wooed by economic heavyweights China, India
and Japan. The result: a triumph for both the country and Hun Sen as they take their
places on the world stage.
Religious tension mounts in Prey Veng province when a Buddhist group distributes
letters claiming that war with Christianity, which it refers to as the "second
Pol Pot", is imminent. Christian groups play down the letter, while the Buddhist
Institute doubts the letter's authenticity.
Human rights NGO Licadho reports that Thai border guards set a landmine trap the
previous month that killed five Cambodians and wounded six others pushing a stolen
pick-up truck through an illegal border crossing.
Ranariddh accuses the US-based International Republican Institute and former Funcinpec
senator Kem Sokha on November 13 of colluding to ruin his party by convincing royalist
officials to defect to the SRP.
The UN looks set to re-enter talks on a KR tribunal after a committee votes overwhelmingly
on November 20 in favor of a draft resolution. If passed by the General Assembly,
it will give Kofi Annan a new mandate to re-start talks.
A Cambodian-registered ship is used by gunmen to hijack a Russian fishing trawler
in the Sea of Japan on November 20. The government says its registration lapsed in
July, but the Kingdom's reputation as an FOC state takes another hit.
King Norodom Sihanouk grants a meeting on December 4 for villagers living in logging
concessions who are worried that the revised logging plans could leave them without
viable forests. Attendees say the King told them he would raise the matter with the
government. The following day, police reportedly armed with electric batons break
up a peaceful gathering outside DFW. A 29-year-old protestor dies later of a heart-attack.
The Third World Buddhist Conference is held in Phnom Penh from December 5 - 7.
More than 2,000 Buddhists gather for the summit with most delegates coming from Japan.
Buddhists also arrive from Sri Lanka, Australia, Russia, Mongolia and several other
A refocused military strategy is announced in response to the September 11 attacks
and the Bali bombings. A senior general warns the country is ill-prepared to deal
with international terrorism.
A research paper finds that urban youth are embracing IT. One important difference
to trends in the West is that sex sites are well down the list of priorities.