Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson: An Award is Not the Lawful Means of Defence in the Courts of Any Country

The Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia on Friday issued a three-point press statement in response to the U.S. Department of State’s recent announcement of an award bestowed upon a law-breaking person in Cambodia.

“1. An honor usually recognises advocates for, among others, peace, national harmony and reconciliation, disarmament; eradication of racial discrimination, violence and hatred; or an accomplishment for the interest of the society. The move of the Department of State does not represent a genuine wish of the majority of the Cambodian people as it emboldens certain forces, who readily exploit the situation for their hidden agenda under the guise of human rights and democracy.

2. The legal actions against the said individual were neither about human rights nor about labor disputes, but her flagrant violation of the ban on leaving the country while still under court supervision. ‘If the accused deliberately evades the obligation of judicial supervision, the investigating judge can decide to place the accused in pre-trial detention,’ stipulates article 230 of Cambodia’s Criminal Procedure Code.

3. The prize is not the lawful means of defence in the courts of any country in the world. What is lawful is to attend the proceedings and offer legal arguments with concrete evidences against the charge under the law and procedures of the state concerned.”

According to a recent announcement of the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, the U.S. Department of State has recognised detained Cambodian trade union leader Chhim Sithar as one of 10 recipients globally of the annual Human Rights Defender Award.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

Myanmar junta looks to extend rule as nation counts losses in two years since coup

Myanmar’s top military leaders dropped hints on Tuesday, the eve of the second anniversary of their overthrow of the civilian government, that they may extend emergency rule, declaring an “extraordinary situation” in light of ongoing resistance to junta rule.

The 11-member National Defense and Security Council, which local media said would announce a decision on Wednesday, looks set to offer Myanmar’s people either six more months of harsh military rule, an election later this year that opponents have dismissed as a sham because it is rigged to keep junta officials in power, or a combination of both.

Junta chief Senior. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy on Feb. 1, 2021–about two months after their landslide election victory– blamed opposition forces for disrupting its rule.

Junta figures cited groups formed from deposed lawmakers and officials–the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and the National Unity Government–as well as the numerous local militias known as People’s Defense Forces that have fought the junta across Myanmar since 2021.

“As you can see, some local and foreign organizations are committing destructive activities against this election. But we are trying to hold a free and fair election throughout the whole country,” Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, the junta spokesman, told Radio Free Asia.

The proposed election has been largely rejected by civilian parties because of onerous registration and finance regulations unveiled recently that tilt the playing field in favor of the military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party.

In the two previous parliamentary polls, the party lost badly to Suu Kyi’s National league for Democracy, and its unproven claim of voter fraud in the 2020 election was what prompted the coup.

‘He wants to be president’

Myanmar political analyst Than Soe Naing told RFA that junta chief Min Aung Hlaing would do whatever it takes to stay in power, either by forcing an election within six months or declaring martial law.

“His promise to return to the path of democracy in Myanmar is just a cover story. He wants to be the president,’ he said.

“He wants to gain the presidency himself. But the election will not be accepted by the world, except for Russia and China, of course,” added Than Soe Naing, referring to continued support for the junta from Beijing and Moscow.

In a sign of growing foreign opprobrium toward the junta on the two-year anniversary, the U.S. and its allies on Tuesday announced fresh sanctions on the military regime.

Washington imposed sanctions on the Union Election Commission, mining firms and energy officials, and other regime-linked entities, the Treasury Department said. Similar measures were unveiled by Canada, Australia, Britain and Canada.

Falling currency, worsening corruption

In a sign of falling confidence in the junta, the value of the country’s currency, the kyat, has dropped by 50 percent in the two years to December 2022, according to a report released by the World Bank on Monday.

“The people’s livelihood is becoming more and more difficult. If it goes on like this, it will continue to decline further and the situation of the country will get worse,” said an economist in Myanmar, who requested anonymity for personal safety.

Further fallout from the coup was traced by a leading corruption watchdog.

Myanmar has fallen 17 places in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index, supplanting Cambodia as Southeast Asia’s worst country for graft for the first time in a decade and ahead of only North Korea in Asia for clean government.

Despite all the adverse developments, the head of a pro-military think tank told RFA things were looking up.

“In summary, we are leading to a more stable situation and it’s almost certain that the election is happening,” said Thein Tun Oo, the executive director of Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, which is made up of former military officers.

Opponents of the junta, the latest iteration of military governments that have ruled Myanmar for more that 50 of its 75 years since it gained independence from British colonial rule, said the coup had destroyed the country’s fledgling democracy, rule of law and freedom of speech.

“As political parties, we can’t go into the public and organize and spread political awareness among the people,” said Tun Aung Kyaw, a senior official of the Arakan National Party, which represents the interests of the Rakhine ethnic minority in western Myanmar.

“There is a very vast difference between the situation now and that of the previous government,” he told RFA.

“We established political parties in order to create a political environment for the people to develop our democracy, but these parties themselves are struggling,” said Sai Laik, the general secretary of Shan National League for Democracy in northern Myanmar.

“When the military operations have replaced the politics of the parties like now, you can say that their role and political activities have become almost non-existent.” he told RFA.

Targeting the opposition

But it is the party of jailed Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy, that bore the brunt of junta atrocities.

According to the National League for Democracy’s human rights research department, junta troops have killed at least 84 party members and officials and arrested at least 1,232 others since the February 2021 coup. Of those killed, 16 died in interrogation, eight in prison, one by execution, and 59 others “for no reason.”

Democracy icon Suu Kyi, 77, was sentenced to another seven years in prison at the end of 2022 on five counts of alleged corruption, bringing the total number of years she must serve in detention to 33 on 24 counts, prison sources said.

“The main reason for the military coup is the military dictator’s power-madness and greed to control all sectors of the country forever, regardless of the people’s needs and interests,” said Kyaw Htwe, an executive of the National League for Democracy.

“The only way to rectify the country’s total deterioration is to overthrow the military dictatorship and build a federal democratic nation.”

Meanwhile, residents of the France-sized country are struggling with surging commodity prices, power outages, transportation difficulties, crime and lawlessness.

“About 50 percent of our country is in a state of disintegration,” said Than Soe Naing, the political analyst.

Radio Free Asia –Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

Myanmar plunges in latest corruption index, but Vietnam rises

Myanmar has fallen 17 places in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index, supplanting Cambodia as Southeast Asia’s worst country for graft for the first time in a decade.

The junta-led nation is now ahead of only North Korea in Asia for clean government. Singapore, despite a fall of one place, remains the cleanest jurisdiction in the region – at 5th of the 180 included – ahead of both Hong Kong and Japan (steady at 12th and 18th).

Vietnam, meanwhile, rose 10 places to 77th, putting it in the vicinity of emerging and middle world powers like Saudi Arabia (54th), South Africa (72nd) and India (85th).

Transparency International’s 2022 graft index, released Tuesday, tracks perceptions of “public sector corruption” around the world, using diverse data from businesspeople, experts and “reputable institutions” like the World Bank and World Economic Forum.

The best performing jurisdictions last year were once again Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, according to the index, while the worst was Somalia, followed by South Sudan and Syria. The United States came in at 24th, just behind the Seychelles, Austria and France.

Taiwan (25th) and South Korea (up one place to 31st) round out Asia’s other good performers.

Lower down the list are Malaysia (down one to 61st) and China (down one to 65th). Closer to the bottom are Indonesia (down 14 to 110th), Laos (up two to 126th), Cambodia (up seven to 150th), Myanmar (down 17 to 150th) and North Korea (up three to 171st of 180).

It’s the first time Myanmar has fallen below Cambodia since 2012, the year of the country’s first round of limited free parliamentary elections after decades of military rule, amid the thaw of relations with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. It’s also a fall of 20 places since Myanmar came in at 130th place in 2019.

“While every country faces different corruption challenges, this year’s index reveals ongoing stagnation around the world,” notes Transparency International in a report accompanying the index,

The Berlin-based organization notes that “basic freedoms” key to clean government have been under particular attack across the Americas, Europe and Africa in the past few years, as “multiple crises threaten security and stability, democracy and human rights”

“Similarly, in various Asia Pacific countries, rising authoritarianism dilutes civil society’s function as a watchdog, while many leaders are prioritising economic recovery over anti-corruption efforts,” it says.

Radio Free Asia –Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

Ruling Party to Resort to Legal Action to Protect Honour and Dignity

Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister and President of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), said his ruling party will not tolerate anymore and will take legal action to defend its rights, justice, and dignity.

Speaking at a get-together with some 1,200 construction workers after inspecting the construction progress of the Techo Santepheap National Hospital in Phnom Penh this morning, Samdech Techo Hun Sen said no matter what the history of the CPP is, its honour and dignity must not be affected.

“If you want to win, you propagandise only about your own party, don’t speak ill of other parties. CPP will take legal action to protect its rights, justice and dignity,” he stressed.

At the same time, Samdech Techo Hun Sen reiterated that the politicians should not link all cases to political issues. “Some cases are personal guilty, don’t relate it to the politics,” he said.

Moreover, he asked the CPP’s lawyers to check the possibility for any legal action against the Candlelight Party for its new statement accusing the ruling party of oppression and threats, after the recent arrest of its senior member.

Regarding the arrest of Mr. Thach Setha, Vice President of the Candlelight Party, H.E. Chin Malin, Secretary of State and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice, has explained that it was purely non-political and an act of law enforcement.

A lawsuit over the issuance of dud check to settle his business transaction was filed and the court proceedings started since 2019, he said, adding that the proceedings had issued two verdicts for his clarification at the court, however, he did not show up, so the Phnom Penh Municipal Court lately issued his arrest warrant for further investigation.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

Cambodia begins dismantling scorched Poipet casino

Cambodian authorities have started to dismantle the charred remains of the Grand Diamond City Casino in Poipet to pave the way for new construction, only one week after the massive blaze killed at least 26 people.
But the sudden shift from rescue efforts to rebuilding the casino has angered the families of a dozen people who remain missing in the aftermath of the fire and who say not enough has been done to search for their loved ones and investigate the cause of the catastrophe.
Sek Sokhom, a spokesperson for Banteay Meanchey province, said Wednesday that authorities found seven safes with cash in them while going through the buildings, but added that no more bodies have been found.
“We have fenced the scene and the committee’s engineers are dismantling the burned buildings,” he said.
Relatives say at least three Cambodians and nine Thais are still missing since the fire.
Khem Vong’s wife Sam Srey Mom is one of those not yet found. He told RFA he is disappointed with how authorities are focusing on the site and securing cash safes before searching for his wife.
“I have asked them many times but they said they will wait for their superiors,” he said. “I don’t know what to say. They are prioritizing money over human life.”
The fire broke out shortly before midnight on Dec. 28 in the casino along Cambodia’s border with Thailand, injuring nearly 60 people. Thai authorities at the time said that more than 100 people were transferred to the Thai side, but only 34 were admitted for treatment.
Thawatchai Bunseng, a Thai official from Aranyaprathet district across the border from Poipet, said Cambodian authorities are the ones responsible for finding victims, adding that families will suffer without being able to properly bury their loved ones.
“Cambodia is responsible for the search and safeguarding of the bodies and evidence. Cambodia can resolve the case according to the law but we will wait and see,” he told RFA.
“We can’t search for ourselves … if they said they stopped searching, it means they stopped.”
Ny Sokha, president of the NGO Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, said authorities should continue searching for victims and investigate the fire to bring those responsible to justice, adding that it is up to officials to make sure victims’ families feel at peace.
“[The investigation] is crucial for compensation. At the end of the [investigation] there must be people found to be responsible before compensation can be discussed,” he said.
Firefighters were only able to douse the blaze by 2 p.m. on Dec. 29, according to a report by the Associated Press. Civil society officials told RFA that the deaths were caused by the negligence of casino owners and relevant authorities who had skirted building codes. One official pointed out that the fire spread rapidly across the complex because it was built using wood, as opposed to concrete.
A victim who survived the fire said the casino didn’t comply with fire codes. He added that there was no fire alarm inside and too few exits out of the building, which prevented some of the guests from escaping.

Radio Free Asia –Copyright © 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036