European shares bounce after Brexit bruising, Vivendi shines

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares staged a modest recovery on Friday as investors licked their wounds after a tumultuous week while strong results from Vivendi boosted the media sector.

The pan-European stocks index lost steam only an hour into trading, though, as UK media reports suggested that lawmakers are likely to trigger a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May.

The index was on course for a weekly loss as Brexit chaos, Italy’s budget showdown with the European Commission and anxious oil markets sapped risk appetite.

The STOXX 600 opened 0.7 percent up but that slipped to 0.4 percent by 0950. Germany’s DAX .GDAXI rose by 0.6 percent.

Britain’s FTSE 100 .FTSE and FTSE 250 .FTMC recovered slightly, up 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent respectively after Thursday’s sharp sell-off in domestic stocks on ministerial resignations.

French media company Vivendi’s (VIV.PA) quarterly results helped to lift the media sector .SXMP by 1.5 percent.

Vivendi shares topped the CAC 40, climbing 5.9 percent after the company posted stronger than expected third-quarter sales, helped by growth in music streaming at its Universal Music Group (UMG). It also said it was lining up banks for a possible sale of part of the UMG division.

Deutsche Bank analysts said the fourth-quarter slate for Universal looks “strong” with releases announced for multiple platinum sellers and ongoing Drake and Eminem sales.

“With solid steps toward a stake sale in 2019, this is a timely reminder that valuations of over 20 billion euros for UMG are not hype,” they wrote in a note to clients.

Bollore (BOLL.PA), which is also owned by French media tycoon Vincent Bolloré, gained 3.7 percent.

The technology sector .SX8P lagged the market after worse than expected results from U.S. chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA.O), the latest in a string of negative news for tech components producers.

German semiconductor maker Siltronic (WAFGn.DE) slid 3 percent, among the biggest STOXX fallers.

Dutch lender ABN AMRO (ABNd.AS) also fell 2.7 percent after its results.

ABB (ABBN.S) shares were up 2.5 percent after sources said the Swiss industrials group is in talks with three Asian suitors for the sale of its Power Grids business.

Swiss chocolate producer Barry Callebaut (BARN.S), meanwhile, dropped 3.7 percent after members of the majority stakeholder Jacobs family sold 150,000 shares, amounting to 2.7 percent of the company.

Swedish electrical components company Nibe (NIBEb.ST) jumped 6.7 percent, the top STOXX gainer, after its results.

Outside large-cap stocks, Danish industrial component maker NKT (NKT.CO) plunged 19.2 percent after it cut its full-year earnings outlook and CEO Michael Hedegaard left the company.

Shares in the maker of the “Angry Birds” mobile game, Rovio Entertainment (ROVIO.HE), jumped 10.2 percent after third-quarter results.

Fewer companies than usual have beaten expectations in Europe’s third-quarter results season, with companies facing difficulties converting sales into profits as costs climbed.

IBES Refinitiv data showed analysts expect third-quarter earnings to grow 15.8 percent year on year, in euro terms and 2019 European earnings to edge higher than the United States.

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PKR polls and Malaysia's future political landscape: Sin Chew Daily

KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The dust has almost settled on Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR’s) heated elections.

Datuk Seri Azmin Ali is confirmed to be re-elected as party deputy president, while his challenger Rafizi Ramli has failed to unseat him.

The party’s election committee will make the official announcement during the party’s general congress this weekend.

Based on the results released by the election committee so far, coupled with the fact that there will be no fresh election for the highly controversial Julau division, it is almost certain that Azmin is the ultimate winner in the tightly contested race.

There have been a fair share of irregularities taking place during the course of the party’s elections, seriously tarnishing the image of the country’s largest ruling party and hurting the credibility of the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Incoming president Anwar Ibrahim, who is prepared to take over the premiership from Tun Mahathir, has not demonstrated a respectable level of leadership in the midst of confidential crisis arising from the elections.

The elections have been marred by suspected vote-buying and technical issues, but the election committee’s approach in resolving the problems has been crude and inconsistent.

The legitimacy of election results in some divisions has been questionable, and this has dealt a severe blow on transparency and credibility of the elections.

Take the Julau division in Sarawak, for instance.

Some argue that an invisible hand was behind the overnight surge in the number of eligible voters.

Others complained about the tablets used in e-voting, although such technical issues have later been denied by the election committee.

In addition, the election committee has also failed to address the problem of missing ballots in some divisions.

As a consequence of the election committee’s inefficiency and incompetency, PKR’s party elections have been full of irregularities which are sadly ignored by the party’s political bureau and top leadership.

The PKR leadership must not remain in a state of denial but must seriously look into the complaints of all party members and rectify the weaknesses in relation to party elections while offering full cooperation to the investigation authorities in a bid to restore the party’s credibility.

If incoming president Anwar Ibrahim who is also the PM-in-waiting, and his wife outgoing president cum deputy PM Wan Azizah, have both failed to demonstrate a high level of leadership, their roles and abilities in the government will be questionable.

They must let the voters see the real strength of PKR as a component of the ruling coalition.

Otherwise, they cannot convince Malaysians that Anwar is capable enough to take over as PM within two years.

Anwar must have the ability to put together a party that is on the brink of division, because the party’s future is closely associated with his hold to the PM post as well as the stability of the PH government.

Following the re-election of Azmin and major party posts won by his team mates, it is anticipated that his position in the party will get further boosted, threatening Anwar’s position in party and government.

How is Anwar going to handle such an intricate relationship between him, Azmin and Rafizi?

While this appears to be a wholly internal problem of PKR, it will nevertheless have implications for the position of the PH government as well as the country’s future political landscape.

Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe deepens ties with Australia in historic visit to Darwin

SYDNEY – Japan and Australia on Friday (Nov 16) agreed to deepen defence ties and jointly fund regional infrastructure projects, bringing the two nations closer together amid shared concerns about China’s growing regional influence.

During a historic visit to the northern Australian city of Darwin, which Japan bombed during World War II, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart, Mr Scott Morrison, announced a series of new agreements spanning defence, scientific research and investment.

They agreed to combat maritime crime and announced a memorandum of understanding to promote investment that specifically aims to prevent nations in the region falling into excess debt – a goal seen as a response to Chinese loans which have left some countries such as Sri Lanka and Tonga with heavy debt burdens.

“The MoU will support sustainable regional infrastructure investment that is needs based, transparent and avoids unsustainable debt burdens,” Mr Morrison and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement.

“Australia continues to welcome all investment into our region from all partner nations where it meets these criteria.”

The statement added: “Our countries are great friends and these initiatives recognise our deep shared interests and values.”

The Japanese and Australian leaders said they had discussed efforts to support regional stability and achieve “broader and deeper defence cooperation”.

These discussions included plans for a pact – due to be completed by early 2019 – to facilitate joint military operations and exercises.

The two countries, which are close allies of the United States, praised the growing cooperation of these three nations with India – a four-way grouping that has gained momentum and has been seen as an attempt to balance China’s growing power and influence in the region.

Mr Abe said at a joint press conference that he and Mr Morrison had committed to deeper ties to pursue “our common vision of a free and open Indo Pacific”.

Japan and Australia were quick to normalise trade ties after World War II and have expanded defence ties in recent years. Their interests have increasingly come to overlap, particularly due to their concerns about China’s rise as well as United States President Donald Trump’s unpredictable approach to alliances.

Mr Morrison said that Australia and Japan were “working very closely together and identifying more and more ways to do that”.

“We have a very similar outlook on how issues need to be managed in this part of the world,” he told reporters.

“Japan has a very important strategic partnership with the United States, as do we. They also have a very significant trade relationship with China and a broader relationship, as do we.”

Mr Abe and Mr Morrison visited a cenotaph in Darwin and paid tribute to the war dead.

In February 1942, Japan launched the first attack by a foreign force on Australia’s mainland, conducting two raids that killed at least 235 people.

An Australian war veteran, Mr Austin Asche, shook hands with Mr Abe, saying later that he hoped the visit would lead to closer relations between the two nations.

“Darwin is the gateway to Asia and one of our great friends are the Japanese,” he told The Northern Territory News.

“You don’t blame people for generations back, you meet them as they are these days.”

Mr Morrison told Mr Abe: “The way you’ve done this today in the spirit of tremendous grace and humility is important. But more than that, you have done this as a great friend of Australia and we thank you for that.”

Mr Abe also used the visit to mark the commencement of a $A54 billion-plus (S53.92b) liquefied natural gas project, Japan’s largest foreign investment.

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North Korea ‘to expel detained US citizen’

North Korea says it will deport a US citizen who was detained in October after entering illegally from China.

State news agency KCNA said the man, whom it named as Bruce Byron Lowrance, had told officials he was “under the command” of US spy agency the CIA.

A man of the same name was deported from South Korea in November 2017 after being found wandering near the highly fortified border with the North.

There has been no official confirmation of the man’s identity.

“While being questioned, he said he had illegally entered the country under the command of the US Central Intelligence Agency,” KCNA reported.

“Relevant authorities have decided to expel him from the country.”

US authorities have not yet commented on the report.

Last year, US media said the man expelled from South Korea – who has also been named as Lawrence Bruce Byron – had claimed he wanted to help resolve tensions between North Korea and the US.

He is originally from Michigan, the Los Angeles Times reported, and was arrested in a restricted area near the border with the North in Yeoncheon county, about 40 miles (64km) north of the capital Seoul.

North Korea released three US detainees in May ahead of a summit between its leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

In 2017, the North released a US student who had been arrested a year earlier for stealing a propaganda sign.

Otto Warmbier was returned to the US in a comatose state and later died, worsening tensions between the two countries.

His parents say his death was the consequence of torture but North Korea says he contracted botulism during detention.

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India tiger cubs ‘could become man-eaters’

India’s forest officials are trying to capture two orphaned tiger cubs because they are feared to become man-eaters, authorities have told the BBC.

The two cubs’ mother was shot dead in Maharashtra state after a major hunt earlier this month as it is said to have killed 13 people.

The six-year-old tigress had evaded capture in the jungles of India’s western state for two years.

Now its nearly 11-month old cubs are left wandering the forests.

“They need to be rescued because they can become a potential threat to human beings in and around the area they are in now,” AK Misra, Principal Chief Forest Conservator of Maharashtra state told the BBC.

“The area the cubs are in now is a mosaic of forests and agricultural land,” he added. “And we fear they may go for human beings as easy prey.”

Mr Misra said for now the cubs could survive by hunting small wild animals in the forests of Yavatmal.

“But because this area is not a national park nor is it a proper forest, they may go for easy prey in the nearby human settlements. And we want to pre-empt that potential danger for human beings in that area, ” he said.

He added that forest officials had traced the cubs’ locations but because of difficult terrain their capture was taking some time.

“We are waiting for the right opportunity to tranquilise them. We are not on a hot pursuit; we want to make sure that we do this successfully.”

The killing of the cubs’ mother, known as T-1, had enraged conservationists who had demanded that the tigress be captured.

The hunt for the tigress included more than 100 camera traps, horses and goats tied to trees as baits, round-the-clock surveillance from treetop platforms and armed patrols.

Wildlife officials also brought in bottles of the cologne, Obsession for Men by Calvin Klein, which contains a pheromone called civetone, after an experiment in the US suggested that it could be used to attract jaguars.

‘Conflict’

In August the tigress and her cubs killed three people in the area around the town of Pandharkawada in Yavatmal district and left more than 5,000 residents fearing for their lives.

Since then, locals in the region have had concerns about whether the cubs too have tasted human blood.

“They might not have tasted human blood,” said Mr Misra, adding that his field staff have secured pictures of the cubs using camera traps.

He said it was not clear what will be done with the cubs once they are captured.

“Once they are captured, the relevant authorities and personnel will meet and decide how and where these cubs will be rehabilitated.”

With more than 2,200 big cats, India is home to 60% of the world’s wild tigers, an endangered species.

There are more than 200 in Maharashtra, but only a third of them live in the state’s 60 protected areas, including sanctuaries, natural parks and tiger reserves.

Conservationists say their natural habitats in India are shrinking because of human encroachment.

Human-wildlife conflict is seriously on the rise in India.

Government’s figures have shown that each day one person is killed by elephants and tigers in the country.

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Thai proposal for all-powerful cyber agency alarms businesses, activists

BANGKOK (REUTERS) – A proposed cyber security law in Thailand would give a new government agency sweeping powers to spy on Internet traffic, order the removal of content, or even seize computers without judicial oversight, alarming businesses and activists.

Civil liberties advocates, Internet companies and business groups are protesting the planned legislation, saying it sacrifices privacy and the rule of law, according to interviews and documents reviewed by Reuters.

The legislation, likely to gain approval by year-end, is the latest in a wave of new laws in major Asian countries that aim to assert government control over the Internet, further undermining the Western ideal of a global network that transcends national borders.

It would grant a newly created National Cybersecurity Committee (NCSC) the authority to access the computers of individuals or private companies, make copies of information, and enter private property without court orders. Criminal penalties would be imposed for those who do not comply.

The NCSC could also summon businesses or individuals for interrogation and force them to hand over information belonging to other parties.

“Cyber security policy should be respective of privacy and rule of law,” the US-Asean Business Council said in letter to the Thai government that was not released publicly but was obtained by Reuters.

“Enforcing cyberspace cannot come at the cost of sacrificing privacy, civil liberties, and rule of law.”

The letter also warned requirements such as forcing companies to alert the agency of cyber threats or even anticipated ones would impose “a very heavy burden” on businesses and should be removed.

Tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon are all members of the council.

The Singapore-based industry group Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), which represents the four US giants and seven other major internet companies, also warned the law might drive businesses out of Thailand.

The AIC, in a public statement, cited concerns about government surveillance and criminal liability for defying NCSC orders, among other issues.

Somsak Khaosuwan, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Digital Economy, which is in charge of the law, told Reuters the government is now discussing revisions of the draft and would take the concerns into account.

“The law will conform to international standards… The team working on the law will certainly listen to the issues that have been raised,” Somsak said.

“There is nothing scary about it,” he added, declining to elaborate on possible revisions.

The draft law does not contain specific provisions on hot-button issues such as “fake news” or requirements that international tech and social media firms store data locally. Internet companies are currently battling governments over such issues in countries including India, Vietnam and Indonesia.

But the Thai law would grant the new NCSC “sweeping powers, holding a monopoly on all things cyber in the country… without being subject to check and balance, control, or regulation,” said Sutee Tuvirat, a cyber security expert with Thailand’s Information Security Association.

“If anyone is more powerful than the Prime Minister, this is it.”

CENSORSHIP FEARS

Civil rights advocates worry Thailand’s military junta, which actively censors the internet and often casts criticism of the government as a threat to national security, will use the new law to further codify its censorship regime.

The NCSC would be empowered to order removal of “cyber threats” and override other laws when they are in conflict.

The latest draft of Thailand’s new Data Protection Law, also expected to be approved this year, correspondingly says it does not apply to “national security agencies,” including the NCSC.

Arthit Suriyawongkul, a civil rights advocate with the Thai Netizen Network, told Reuters the law could readily facilitate censorship.

“The law doesn’t categorise data, which may include online content, and does not include protection measures,” he said.

In a joint statement seen by Reuters, the Telecommunications Association of Thailand and the Thai Internet Service Provider Association also said they were concerned about the government’s efforts to “regulate content”.

Data from internet companies shows Thai government requests to take down content or turn over information have ramped up in recent years. A law prohibiting criticism of the monarchy has often been the basis for such requests.

Following the death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2016, the government threatened to prosecute Facebook in Thailand if it didn’t comply with content restriction requests.

In the first half of 2018, Facebook restricted 285 pieces of content, almost all of which were alleged to violate local lèse-majesté laws, according to the company’s latest transparency report released on Friday. Facebook restricted 365 pieces of content last year, 10 times the amount in 2014. It also handed over user data to the Thai government for the first time in 2017.

From mid-2014 to the end of 2017, the military government has made 386 requests to Google to remove 9,986 items, almost all of which were identified as government criticism, according to Google’s transparency report.

Google agreed to remove content named in 93 per cent of the requests last year, up from 57 per cent in late 2014.

Facebook declined to comment. It has previously said its general guidelines on receiving government requests to remove content are to determine whether the material violates local laws before restricting access.

Google declined to comment.

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Rantau by-election to be held after Malaysian court invalidates Barisan Nasional win

SEREMBAN (BERNAMA) – A by-election will be held for the Rantau state seat in Negri Sembilan.

The Special Election Court on Friday (Nov 16) ruled as null and void the unopposed election of Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan as the assemblyman in the 14th General Election in May.

Judge Azimah Omar handed down the judgment after having heard arguments from the lawyers of the petitioner Dr S. Streram and Mohamed, the first respondent, over 12 days.

The court also heard the testimonies of 19 witnesses.

Azimah said no election rule states that an electoral candidate, proposer and seconder should have a tag or pass to submit the nomination form.

“This was acknowledged by the second and third respondents in their written submissions,” she said.

Streram, who was denied entry to submit his nomination form due to the absence of the tag or pass, had named Mohamad, the former mentri besar of Negri Sembilan, as the first respondent, Rembau parliamentary constituency returning officer Amino Agus Suyub as the second respondent and the Election Commission as the third respondent.

Azimah said that as such, the court allows the petition and rules that Mohamad was not duly elected as the assemblyman for Rantau and that his election is null and void.

Streram, filed a petition on May 23, naming Mohamad of Umno as the first respondent, Election Commission (EC) returning officer Amino Agus as the second respondent, and the EC (the third respondent).

Mohamad won the seat unopposed after Amino allegedly refused to allow Dr Streram into the nomination centre on April 28 because he did not have a valid pass issued by the EC.

In his election petition, the anaesthesiologist sought for a by-election to be held for the Rantau seat as its incumbent had not won the seat legitimately.

The report said that Justice Azimah Omar, who presided over the case, on Friday ruled that there was no written law or requirement for a candidate, his seconder or proposer to have passes to enter the nomination centre.

The ruling means that Malaysia will see its fifth by-election post-GE14 and the fourth contest for a state seat.

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Police warn against buying and importing airsoft and stun guns following several incidents

SINGAPORE – The police issued a statement on Friday (Nov 16) reminding the public that airsoft guns and stun guns are regulated items in Singapore.

The reminder comes after the police were alerted to several cases of airsoft guns and stun guns being purchased on e-commerce platforms, and imported into Singapore.

At least six cases involving these prohibited items were reported on by The Straits Times this year.

In March, three airsoft guns and packets of pellets were seized by police at Woodlands Checkpoint from the boot of a car driven by a Singaporean woman.

In May, a 14-year-old was arrested after he allegedly carried an airsoft gun and trespassed into a private residence in East Coast.

Two incidents occurred in July. In the first, a 29-year-old man was arrested for attempting to import two sets of airsoft guns, a flick knife and a baton at Woodlands Checkpoint.

Later that month, 20 sets of airsoft guns and parts were seized by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) at Changi Airfreight Centre.

On Sept 10, Taser-like items were spotted on e-commerce company Lazada’s online marketplace and removed the day after.

On Oct 21, the ICA seized seven sets of airsoft rifles and parts at Changi Airfreight Centre after an officer detected anomalies in the scanned images of several postal articles.

The police said that airsoft guns and stun guns, including flashlights with stun gun capabilities, are defined as arms and regulated under the Arms & Explosives Act.

Those who wish to import, export, sell, or possess these items will need to get a licence from the police. Members of the public are also advised to verify that any items purchased online do not fall within the definition of arms under the Act.

Anyone who possesses an airsoft gun or a stun gun without a valid licence will be fined up to $5,000 for each gun and jailed up to three years.

The same penalties apply to anyone who imports, exports, or deals in said guns without a valid licence.

Members of the public can visit www.police.gov.sg/e-services/apply/licenses-and-permits/arms-and-explosives for more information on controlled or prohibited items in Singapore.

For further enquiries, the public can also contact the Police Licensing & Regulatory Department on 6835-0000 or at [email protected]

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Khmer Rouge's slaughter in Cambodia is ruled a genocide

ANLONG VENG, CAMBODIA (NYTIMES) – Many of the foot soldiers for the Khmer Rouge remain in Cambodia’s remote reaches, each with a chronicle of the horror-soaked years in which Pol Pot and his Communist disciples turned the country into a deadly laboratory for agrarian totalitarianism.

Mr Mea Chrun, a former bodyguard in the Khmer Rouge, lives in the jungle-choked hills of northern Cambodia. He is matter-of-fact about the weight of the slaughter.

“I think that one million people were killed,” he said. “Don’t say three million.”

On Friday morning (Nov 16) – four decades after at least 1.7 million people, a fifth of Cambodia’s population, were culled by execution, overwork, disease and famine – an international tribunal for the first time declared that it was genocide.

And it held the two most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, now 92 and 87, respectively, responsible for genocidal actions toward groups in Cambodia, including the Muslim Cham and Vietnamese.

In dry legal prose that did not camouflage the violent class struggle waged by the Khmer Rouge, the verdict repeated certain words: murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, persecution on political grounds and other inhumane acts against human dignity.

Detailed instances of forced labour, such as the building of dams and dikes at the threat of death, were enumerated, along with forms of torture ranging from suffocation by plastic bags to the extraction of toenails and fingernails.

Muslims were forced to eat pork. Civil servants were executed by electrocution by telephone cables.


Cambodian-Muslim women attend the verdict of two former Khmer Rouge leaders at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on Nov 16, 2018. PHOTO: AFP 

As the lengthy verdict was read out, Nuon Chea, his eyes shielded by oversized dark glasses and his lips collapsing into a mouth missing teeth, asked to be allowed to listen to the proceedings in a holding cell rather than in the glass-enclosed courtroom.

For some, the verdict felt like a marginal footnote to a murderous history that has made Cambodia a byword for genocidal mania.

“It may be finished,” said Ms Iam Yen, 52, who gave testimony to the tribunal of her years imprisoned in a child camp under the Khmer Rouge. “But I won’t ever have peace.”

Still, a verdict of genocide in Cambodia, no matter how delayed or limited in scope, carries implications for future prosecutions of crimes against humanity, such as in the cases of Sudan or Myanmar.

“We need to show the world that even if it takes a long time, we can deliver justice,” said Mr Ly Sok Kheang, the director of the Anlong Veng Peace Centre and a researcher in peace and reconciliation efforts.

For more than a decade, the UN-backed tribunal, called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, has sifted through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, called hundreds of witnesses and heard in exhaustive detail how the Khmer Rouge ran its killing fields.

The entire effort has cost more than US$300 million (S$412.82 million).

Yet the court has convicted just three senior Khmer Rouge leaders of crimes against humanity: Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who commanded a prison camp where at least 12,000 people were tortured and ordered to their deaths.

Only five top Khmer Rouge leaders have been arrested and put on trial. But as the court’s deliberations dragged on, the other two elderly defendants died.

With Friday’s judgement, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia has made clear he would prefer the tribunal to cease its high-profile work. But others would like trials to extend to many lower-ranking officials who are believed to have carried out some of the Khmer Rouge’s most horrific crimes.

Mr Hun Sen, a onetime Khmer Rouge cadre who has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades, had opposed the formation of the tribunal in the first place.

Rather than put Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea on trial, he said in 1998, they should be greeted with “bouquets of flowers, not with prisons and handcuffs”.

“This trial has frequently been a disgrace and a farce,” said Dr Sophal Ear, a professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles, whose family fled the Khmer Rouge. “The message is that you can be held to account, if you live long enough.”

Khieu Samphan, head of state during most of the Khmer Rouge years, and Nuon Chea, an aide-de-camp and chief political strategist to the Khmer’s leader, Pol Pot, were arrested in 2007, after having spent years living freely in the country’s north.

When handed life sentences in 2014 at an earlier trial for other crimes against humanity, both men denied responsibility for the regime’s brutality, even though they were among its highest leaders.

“Do you really think that that was what I wanted to happen to my people?” Khieu Samphan asked after the verdict four years ago. “The reality was that I did not have any power.”

Mr Khieu Udom, his son, who runs a gas station in Anlong Veng, dismissed the charges against his father.

“My father was targeted so they can do whatever they like with him,” he said.

Khieu Samphan’s daughter-in-law, Ms Bun Ratana, called him “a good man who would never beat a dog or a cat”.

Nearby, her six-year-old son sat hunched over a notebook writing the word “teacher” in English.

Both the word and the language it was written in could have doomed him when his grandfather was head of state of Kampuchea, as Cambodia was known during the Khmer Rouge era.

Friday’s genocide conviction comes more than 40 years after the Khmer Rouge imposed its reign of terror on Cambodia.

In 1975, Pol Pot and his communist forces marched into Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, and declared it “Year Zero”.

The aim was a classless agrarian society. People were executed for the slightest of crimes: wearing glasses, speaking French or liking ballet.

Many of the Khmer Rouge’s most fervent ideologues were foreign-educated.

Khieu Samphan studied political science at the Sorbonne, while Nuon Chea went to college in Thailand.

The support they garnered, however, came from Cambodia’s young, rural base, which had suffered from years of civil war and US bombardment as the Vietnam War spilled over the border.

Cambodia today is again a young country. Most of the population was born long after the Khmer Rouge was removed from power by the invading Vietnamese in 1979.

Even if many families lost relatives during the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge, little national introspection has occurred.


Tourists view the remains of victims who died during the Khmer Rouge regime at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov 15, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Mr Hun Sen has muzzled the media, thrown opposition leaders in jail and warned that Western-style democracy may be a plot to foil Cambodia’s autonomy. The Khmer Rouge trials are not his priority.

Mr Yun Bin, 63, said he was taken to one of the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields, hacked with an axe and dumped in a well with others.

To ensure no one lived, the soldiers threw grenades in the well, he said. Mr Yun Bin alone survived. To honour those who died in the well, he added his name as a civil party in the Khmer Rouge trials.

“I don’t want people to forget what happened,” he said. “Today, people care about business and money, and they want to look forward.”

Even in Anlong Veng, which remained a Khmer Rouge stronghold for years as the ultra-communists created a fiefdom near the Thai border, a flashy capitalism has arrived.

The shabby grave of Pol Pot, who died in 1998, receives only a few visitors a day. But across the street from the grave site, a massive casino with fountains and statuary draws Thai and local customers, even if gambling is illegal for Cambodians.

The most consistent visitors to Pol Pot’s burial grounds are casino staff, who come to burn fake money to ensure continued good luck for the gambling hall, the grave’s caretaker said.

Many ex-Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng said they had no idea that a genocide verdict was imminent in Phnom Penh. Dividing the Cambodian population into binary good and bad halves is impossible, they said.

“We are all victims,” said Mr Panh Sam Onn, who hid his background as a teacher to avoid being persecuted by the Khmer Rouge. He was soon drafted into the Khmer Rouge and rose from foot soldier to district chief.

Mr Panh Sam Onn acknowledged the excesses that occurred under his watch: the forced labour, the separation of children from their families, the starvation that could have been prevented by sound agricultural policies.

The Khmer Rouge trials, in a custom-built courthouse on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, were a good idea, he said, because justice was needed.

But sitting on his veranda in a village full of former Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng, Mr Panh Sam Onn waved away the idea that more prosecutions should follow.

“They should only try the top leaders and stop there,” he said. “Otherwise, it will be too fragile for society. Where will it end?”

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Fed plans review of how it pursues inflation, employment goals

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve, under pressure from a critical White House even while it largely hits its inflation and employment targets, will conduct an extensive review next year of how it guides the U.S. economy as it seeks to become more open and accountable.

The U.S. central bank said on Thursday it will hold a series of forums across the country to hear from a “wide range” of stakeholders.

By the time the review wraps up around mid-2019, it could lead to a rethink of the tools the Fed uses to achieve its goals and the way it communicates policy to the public and financial markets.

The unusual announcement suggests that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, who took over as head of the central bank in February, wants to quicken its decades-long march toward greater transparency and accountability in order to head off any damaging political interference.

President Donald Trump has publicly slammed the Fed’s gradual interest rate hikes, saying higher borrowing costs threaten the economic expansion.

“Now is a good time to take stock of how we formulate, conduct, and communicate monetary policy,” Powell said in a statement, noting that the Fed was close to meeting its inflation and employment goals.

The Fed plans to host a series of events, including a research conference at its Chicago branch in June, to support the review. Policymakers then plan to discuss the perspectives gained and report their findings.

In the wake of the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession, the Fed leaned on powerful but unconventional tools such as the purchase of trillions of dollars of bonds and promises of near-zero interest rates over extended periods. It also began publishing individual policymakers’ anonymous forecasts for future rate hikes and key economic metrics.

While no changes are guaranteed, all of those tools could be up for debate not just by economists and investors but also workers, employers and civic leaders.

“We’re not just locked into policy, because that’s what we did before,” Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said in Madrid on Thursday about alternative frameworks.

UNDER BROADER MICROSCOPE

The Fed’s goals of both maximum sustainable employment and stable inflation are set by Congress and not to be part of the review. Nor does the Fed intend the process to debate whether to change its 2 percent inflation target, or use it to tackle shorter-term questions such as how best to control interest rates or when to stop the current rundown of the central bank’s balance sheet.

But the review, at a time of shifting power dynamics on Capitol Hill and heightened grassroots focus on the Fed, could evolve in unpredictable ways.

Labor-allied groups have lobbied the Fed to use inflation as a tool to boost wages, for example, and could see the review as an opening to make their case.

And with control in Congress now to be split following the November elections – with Democrats in the majority in the House of Representatives and Republicans in majority in the Senate – and a presidential election looming, congressional leaders may also seek to put their print on the Fed’s discussion.

For the Fed, it may be just a chance to review lessons learned from the financial crisis.

Now that the economy is growing well above potential, unemployment is down to 3.7 percent and inflation is roughly at the Fed’s target, the central bank has settled into a quarterly rate-hike cycle. The review suggests the Fed is taking advantage of calm waters to decide what may work best in the next downturn.

Options could include choosing an inflation range rather than a narrow target, adopting a “price level” approach that would allow for an inflation overshoot, targeting nominal gross domestic product instead of inflation, or even raising the target altogether.

“None of these alternative frameworks are without challenges, but all are worth thorough review,” Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said in an October speech in New York. “It might be useful to do something akin to simulated stress testing to see how each framework might fare.”

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