Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Encircling China: Cambodian Jungle

Can't see the cities for the trees.....

"Fighting to save forests in Cambodia, an activist puts himself at risk" by Mike Ives New York Times  April 23, 2016

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Ouch Leng, an environmental activist who operates undercover to fight illegal logging, has had some close scrapes in what is by all accounts a hazardous line of work — 14 Cambodian land and environmental defenders were killed between 2005 and 2014, the London-based advocacy group Global Witness has reported.

For a few hours a couple of years ago, Leng feared he was going to be next. He and some other activists had stopped inside Virachey National Park, near the Vietnamese border, to ask some loggers for directions to a nearby timber concession.

But the loggers, their suspicions aroused, summoned a cadre of Cambodian soldiers, who searched the activists and then ordered them at gunpoint to drive to a ranger station about four hours away. “We were all panicked,” Leng said.

They escaped by alertly veering onto a dirt path that was too narrow for the soldiers’ trucks and driving all night to safety. “It was worth the risk,” Leng said, noting that he had managed to conceal from the soldiers two cameras he was carrying that were loaded with photos and videos of illegal logging.

For Leng, mortal danger is an acceptable occupational hazard in a country where powerful tycoons operate vast illegal timber concessions inside protected forests — some of Southeast Asia’s best, and last, reservoirs of biodiversity.

In dozens of trips since 2011, he has gone undercover, posing as a manual laborer in the logging industry, to film and photograph illegal logging and track timber from Cambodia’s forests to its seaports. He has also carved out a profile in the capital, Phnom Penh, as a prominent critic of logging companies and the government’s forestry policies.

“Many people from local and international NGOs are not willing to work with me because they don’t want to deal with sensitive issues,” Leng said, referring to nongovernmental organizations.

He added with a chuckle, “They don’t even want to join me for a meal or a drink.”

Leng’s supporters say he has an unusually broad range of assets, including a national network of contacts, a law degree, broad knowledge of the forests and an insatiable urge to document illegal logging in Cambodia’s rugged borderlands.

But they worry that those assets could also make him a target of violence as his prominence grows.

“Sooner or later, he has to decide if he wants to be public or undercover,” said Marcus Hardtke, a veteran environmental activist in Phnom Penh. “He cannot be both forever.”

Cambodia’s national forest cover has fallen to between 55 and 60 percent from 73 percent in 1993, Forest Trends, a research group in Washington, said in a 2015 report. Much of the deforestation since 2005 has been a result of illegal logging in and around protected forests that are included in land concessions under Cambodia’s opaque forestry rules, the report said.

Leng said that he had visited 50 or 60 such concessions, often in tandem with local volunteer activists, and that one of his primary targets had been Try Pheap, a prominent Cambodian businessman with logging operations throughout the country.

In January, Cambodia said it had canceled 26 land concessions, including two held by Pheap. Those were spread over nearly 50,000 acres inside Virachey National Park that had been scrutinized in a 2013 report by Leng’s one-man advocacy group, the Cambodia Human Rights Task Forces.

“The corruptive ties that he was able to expose between timber magnates and the government really helped, I think, raise a lot of awareness both within Cambodia and outside” about the downsides of land concessions, said David Gordon, executive director of the Goldman Environmental Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that awarded Leng a $175,000 prize on Monday for his work.

Other supporters said Leng’s investigative reports had put more public pressure on Cambodia’s government and timber industry than well-funded international donors and conservation nonprofits were able — or willing — to exert.

Leng is “fearless in his willingness to expose the big guys,” said Sarah Milne, a lecturer at Australian National University in Canberra who studies Cambodia’s forests. “It’s much easier to look the other way.”

The Try Pheap Group did not respond to a list of emailed questions.

Sao Sopheap, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry, said the government was working with international conservation groups to eliminate illegal logging inside land concessions. But he added that land-reform measures, including a 2012 moratorium on new concessions, were not a response to pressure from activists.

“Those activists concentrating on advocacy are probably not very helpful,” Sopheap said in a telephone interview, without mentioning Leng. “They probably are working on propelling their own interests.”

Hardtke, the environmental activist, said Leng’s advocacy work was broadly similar to that of Chut Wutty, a high-profile Cambodian activist who was shot dead in April 2012 in a logging camp. But Hardtke said Leng took a more analytical approach.

Winning the Goldman Environmental Prize could raise Leng’s profile and make it harder for the Cambodian authorities to bring defamation cases against him, but the award could also make him more of a target when he works in remote areas, Hardtke added.

Leng’s wife, Chan Vorn, said the family home had been monitored by plainclothes men on motorbikes with police license plates. She became more concerned for his safety, she added, after reading that a previous Goldman prize winner, the activist Berta Cáceres, was killed in Honduras in March.

“I’m so worried about my husband because our children are still very young” and should not grow up fatherless, she said in a jittery voice.

But Leng said he was unfazed by security concerns and planned to continue his undercover investigations and public advocacy.

“If I don’t do this,” he said, “who will?”

Lord Hun Sen, who else?


"Thousands attend funeral for critic of Cambodia leader" Associated Press  July 24, 2016

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Tens of thousands of Cambodians marched Sunday in the funeral procession for a leading government critic who was fatally shot in an attack that raised suspicion of a political conspiracy.

The government says it was nothing but robbery, and the pre$$ is subtly signaling the e$tabli$hment's unhappiness with Hun Sen, probably because he is a nationalist leader first an an impediment smack dab in the middle of Southeast Asia. 

Good thing there are never, ever, political conspiracies back here at home -- and you are a wing doodle if you even suggest such a thing.

A farm worker who was caught red-handed told police he killed Kem Ley, 45, over a $3,000 loan. However, the suspect’s wife said the family was too poor to lend so much money. Cambodia has a brutal history of political violence.

Have you read one of the cen$ored, certain point of view AmeriKan hi$tory books? 

The whole country was built on it.

Although there was no overt political sloganeering during the procession, the huge crowds reflected the massive antigovernment sentiment that could pose a challenge to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who was a frequent target of Kem Ley’s criticism.

Look at my pre$$ wishing this will turn into an uprising and coup.

Since the July 10 murder, Kem Ley’s body had been kept at a Buddhist temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, for people to pay respects. It was placed in a glass casket on a decorated vehicle that set out at dawn and took almost 12 hours to complete a largely motorized 40-mile journey to his hometown in Takeo province for a Monday funeral.

Crowd numbers were hard to estimate, because the procession was constantly moving and many were in cars and other vehicles. However, with people gathered all along the route, and large numbers also at the destination, claims of 100,000 or 200,000 were credible.

In Vientiane, Laos, on Sunday, Southeast Asia’s main intergovernmental group apparently failed to reach a consensus on how to counter China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea, intensifying a diplomatic stalemate despite three rounds of formal and informal talks. 

Yes, on to much more important matters.

The foreign ministers of the 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations deliberated for several hours during the three sessions, but remained deadlocked because Cambodia didn’t want China criticized, diplomats said. 

So a government critic is assassinated and maybe pressure for a change of government. 


The stalemate puts pressure on ASEAN’s cherished unity and also gives an upper hand to China, which has used every diplomatic means at its disposal to stave off wider international criticism over its moves. 

Excuse, I'm sorry, what was that about China and diplomacy?

The turnout for Kem Ley’s funeral was the largest public gathering since opposition leader Sam Rainsy returned from exile on July 22, 2013. Sam Rainsy, the strongest rival to Hun Sen, survived a 1997 grenade attack on a rally of his followers that killed 16 people and wounded more than 100. No one was ever brought to justice in the incident.

A float carrying Kem Ley’s widow, Bou Rachana, and children, dressed in the Buddhist mourning color of white, drove ahead of the hearse, which was followed by people on foot, motorcycles, cars, and motor rickshaws. Some carried his portraits.

Most of the marchers wore white T-shirts with pictures of Kem Ley, and some had printed slogans: ‘‘Wipe your tears and continue your journey.’’ Many also waved religious and Cambodian flags in what appeared to be one of the biggest public rallies in Cambodia in recent times.


Maybe Obama should send John Kerry over there to figure things out:

"Kerry hails Cambodia development, expresses rights concerns" by Matthew Lee Associated Press  January 26, 2016

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday welcomed Cambodia’s booming economic growth but also expressed concerns about the Southeast Asian nation’s human rights record.

Will it stop weapons sales or..... ????

Kerry met top Cambodian officials, including long-serving authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as members of the opposition and civic leaders, and discussed the possibility of a U.S.-Cambodia trade and investment treaty. 

That's a tell regarding how the U.S. sees the man.

The opposition is led by a led by a politician and former finance minister, Sam Rainsy, who has been in self-imposed exile since November when he was expelled from the national assembly, stripped of parliamentary immunity and ordered arrested for an old conviction for defaming Cambodia’s foreign minister.

Looks like CIA to me, but I don't want to rain on the Cambodians.

While praising Cambodia’s economic strides, Kerry told reporters after his meetings that the U.S. would like to see the country ‘‘as a thriving multiparty democracy,’’ particularly as local and parliamentary elections approach next year and in 2018. ‘‘We care deeply about respect for human rights, universal freedoms, and good governance,’’ he said. ‘‘Progress in each of these areas is really critical to being able to fulfill the potential of our bilateral relations but also the full potential of the aspirations of the Cambodian people.’’

There is that catch-all of a cudgel to bash who they don't like while ignoring repressive measures by allies.

‘‘Democratic governments have a responsibility to ensure that all elected representatives are free to perform their responsibilities without fear of attack or arrest,’’ he said in a pointed reference to Sam Rainsy. ‘‘That is a fundamental responsibility of a democratic government. So as Cambodians prepare for elections next year and in 2018, it is important to allow vigorous but peaceful debate.’’

The case against Rainsy, along with other attacks on the opposition, have brought an end to a political truce Hun Sen reached with the opposition in 2014 to end a parliamentary boycott. The opposition had accused Hun Sen’s party of stealing the 2013 general election.

Why should there elections be any different than ours? 

Matter of fact, it's a bit insulting to see such a thing coming from this pre$$.

After meeting Kerry, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the top U.S. diplomat had expressed concern about the state of the opposition but downplayed its seriousness.

‘‘He said that he is worried about the situation of the opposition in Cambodia. That is all, he said,’’ Hor Namhong said.

The U.S. is one of Cambodia’s main trade partners and it exports large amounts of textiles and shoes to the American market. Hor Namhong said he had asked Kerry to include clothing and footware in a group of duty free export items. 

Oh, so all the democracy and human rights stuff is nothing but rhetoric.

As a U.S. Senator, Kerry was
instrumental in negotiating an agreement between the United Nations and the Cambodian government for a special tribunal to try the leadership of the Khmer Rouge, the ultra-communist group held responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians while it held power from 1975-79. 

Which is great, no mass slaughter should be ignored; however, I see tinpot Africans they have turned on, recalcitrant Serbs who didn't want to get with the program, and now the long-ago Khmer Rouge up on war crimes. When are Bush, Bliar, Cheney, Rummy, Rice, et al, going to be brought before the bar? 


Cambodia is Kerry’s second-to-go-last stop on an around-the-world diplomatic trip that began in Switzerland and took him to Saudi Arabia and Laos. He will visit China before returning home. His stops in Laos and Cambodia come ahead of a summit of Southeast Asian leaders that President Barack Obama is hosting in California next month. 

What was the carbon footprint on all that anyway?


Of course, the killing fields will never be forgotten.