The consolation for the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime can only be, that the other accused such as former head of state Khieu Samphan, chief ideologist Nuon Chea and ex-Foreign Minister Ieng Sary can be held accountable faster. That will not be easy. Also, Ieng Sary, 86 years old, suffers from osteoporosis and heart problems. His hospitalization delayed the hearing of crucial witnesses such as author Philip Short. Nevertheless, justice conforming to international standards catches on in Cambodia. Many former victims are forgiving and know that the judgments delivered will be a part of the history beyond recall.
A skate park for Phnom Penh has opened its doors for the first time, the official opening is scheduled for early October. The sheltered installation was built by the NGO Skateistan near the Russian market. On 500 square meters kids can be kids - irrespective of financial, ethnic and religious background. Children from 5 to 17 years can improve their skating skills and can learn more about art, a subject that is not taught in Cambodian schools.
Economic growth goes at the expense of the democracy, the Bertelsmann Foundation wrote in a report. Accordingly, the country ranks low on the reform countries of Southeast Asia. Corruption, political gridlock and a rapidly growing income gap support this process in addition, the survey of the democratic institutions of the country resumes. The report shows that these institutions as well as the economic situation are unstable. On behalf of the so-called Transformation Index the foundation rates every two years democracies in the reform process. While Cambodia ranked 2008 at place 88 out of 125, it slipped to rank 105 out of 128 countries in 2012. "Economic growth has been prioritized over guaranteeing the protection of water sources and forests. While the Cambodian state now has a very stable political system, this has come at the cost of democratic participation," writes the Bertelsmann Foundation. The spokesman for the Council of Ministers, Phay Siphan, denied the results of the study, since they would be based on outdated information.
The villagers fight against the chainsaws in the forest Prey Lang. A group of Cambodians is struggling against the illegal logging of their forests. For five days, 280 members of the Prey Lang Community have been searching for clues for illegal wood logging in the protected areas of the provinces Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Stung Treng and Kratie. This is already the fifth patrol in weeks. This time, the villagers had seized more than 120 cubic meters of illegally logged timber and seven chainsaws. According to the Community Network, they have handed over the names of the loggers to the local authorities. In addition they burned the confiscated goods, because the local authorities previously had lost the evidences. The provincial governor of Kampong Thom, Uth Sam Orn, stated that he had not yet received any report of the villagers.
Research on illegal logging in Cambodia is dangerous, because mafia organizations influence the timber trade. Environmental activists and journalists are threatened, harassed and even killed if they deal with the issue. The most prominent case in this year was the death of environmental activist Chut Wutty, who was shot dead by a policeman in April in the forest of Kong. He took photos of the illegal logging activities of the company Timberland Green in Cardamom mountains, accompanied by two journalists. Then, he was caught by a military police and a security guard of the company and got shot. Since there were no witnesses, and the gunman himself died of a bullet, the authorities released three different versions. The man accused of shooting the man who shot Chut Wutty will stand trial next month at the Koh Kong Provincial Court on charges of unintentional homicide.
Who gets the oil? Not only on the famous World Heritage Temple of Preah Vihear causes conflicting territorial claims of Thailand and Cambodia. But is this a question of national pride, tourism or treasured resources? While experts only assume the existence of oil reserves in the area around Preah Vihear, this is an assured fact in the Overlapping Claims Area in the Gulf of Thailand. Last week, the countries reiterated their commitment to restart negotiations over the expansive and resource-rich section. 2001 Thailand and Cambodia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the joint development of the 26,000-kilometer area. Since 2006, these plans were stopped due to political developments in Thailand and upcoming conflicts between the nations.
The bridge of neglect will cover up the misconduct of the organizers of the traditional Water Festival in November 2010. While a hysteria on the bridge to Koh Pich 353 people died at the bottleneck in Phnom Penh. According to Prime Minister Hun Sen nobody can be blamed for the incident. Nevertheless, the contractor of the island, the company Ocean Cambodian Investment, decided to replace the old bridge with a new one for 2 million US dollars. Last week, a few meters further from the old bridge, the new construction was opened adorned with two stone dragons. In two months, the festival will be celebrated for the first time since the incident. The new bridge will make the residents of Phnom Penh happy, the Deputy Prime Minister Mem Sam An said during the opening ceremony. The government officials as well as the organizers were not able to name details whether further safety measures are planned.
The improvement of the infrastructure is still being planned. The company Toll Royal Railway, responsible for the maintenance of the rail network, signed Memorandums of Understanding last week with suppliers of locomotives and construction materials. A strong contender is the French company Alstom Transport, the world's largest maker of locomotives. This is an important step for the planned route to the tourist center of Sihanoukville, which is to be completed the end of this year. The railway line to northern Battambang is estimated to open between 2014 and 2015. Toll Holdings and the company Royal Group signed a contract in 2009 for the following 30 years, being responsible for the construction of the railway network in Cambodia. Various media reported earlier this year that the companies want to get out because of drastically rising costs and unexpected problems. The reports, however, were denied by the tough Cambodian-Australian businessman Kith Meng, chairman of Toll Royal Railway.
In addition Prime Minister Hun Sen is planning to build a second airport in Phnom Penh. This would be necessary as the Kingdom in 2020 expects an increase of the number of tourists to seven million per year. He declined to comment about the location of the new airport, in order to avoid land speculation. Meanwhile, the existing airport should be expanded in the coming year. By 2014 or 2015, it should be able to accommodate five million passengers. Residents living in the neighborhood of Phnom Penh International Airport fear that they have to sacrifice their land for the enlargement. They report about municipal authorities saying, that, in spite of their land titles, the expansion of the airport is prioritized.