President Barack Obama arrives in Cambodia on Monday having just won four more years in office, but that is nothing compared to his host, Hun Sen. The 60-year-old Cambodian prime minister has held power since Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and says he’s not stepping down until he is 90.
Hun Sen is known as one of Asia’s most Machiavellian politicians, with a knack for making sure his rivals end up in jail or in exile. A laudatory biography is subtitled “Strongman of Cambodia,” and some would say that’s putting it mildly.
Yet, through his country’s civil wars, a U.N. peace process and several elections, the one-time communist cadre has always managed to come out on top. Over the last decade, he has also overseen modest economic growth and stability in a country plagued by desperate poverty and nearly destroyed under the Khmer Rouge “killing fields” regime.
Obama is making the first visit ever by a U.S. president to Cambodia because it is hosting the annual East Asia Summit. But White House aides say the president will also raise human rights concerns in his meeting with Hun Sen. …
The Associated Press
An appeals court Wednesday ordered the release of 13 women who were jailed for protesting being evicted from their homes without adequate compensation, in a case that had critics had highlighted as an example of injustice.
The women cheered in the courtroom, their supporters applauded and observers from foreign embassies, including the United States, smiled in the audience after the judge’s ruling.
“Finally, justice has been done for us,” defendant Heng Mom said tearfully, before being driven away again in a prison van. …
Security forces fatally shot a teenage girl Wednesday during a clash with villagers armed with axes and crossbows in eastern Cambodia, in the latest of several violent evictions aimed at clearing land for development.
Cambodia’s system of commercial land concessions, decried by activists as opaque and corrupt, has become a volatile issue nationwide and prompted a U.N. inquiry. Last month, a high-profile activist was slain after investigating illegal logging in a forest concession.
On Wednesday, about 400 police and soldiers raided a settlement in Kratie province after community leaders rejected demands to vacate their farmland for several months, provincial Gov. Sar Chamrong said. The security forces clashed with about 200 villagers armed with axes, crossbows and sticks.
He said a 15-year-old girl was critically wounded in the confrontation and later died at a hospital.
Government forces secured the area and were hunting for five accused ringleaders who escaped into the jungle, Sar Chamrong said. He alleged that the protesters were trying to set up a self-governing zone outside of the law.
Authorities say the land is owned by the government, but the activists say the previously state-owned land already has been awarded to a Russian company to be developed as a plantation.
Accused protest ringleader Bun Ratha said about 500 villagers have been farming the land for years and have nowhere else to go. …
KOH KONG, Cambodia (AP) — Round a bend in Cambodia’s Tatai River and the virtual silence of a tropical idyll turns suddenly into an industrial nightmare.
Lush jungle hills give way to a flotilla of dredgers operating 24 hours a day, scooping up sand and piling it onto ocean-bound barges. The churned-up waters and fuel discharges, villagers say, have decimated the fish so vital to their livelihoods. Riverbanks are beginning to collapse, and the din and pollution are killing a promising ecotourism industry. Read more