Friday, 15 February 2008

Money exchange stall in Cambodia

A currency trader counts Cambodian money, the Riel, to exchange with U.S. dollars from a customer at a money exchange stall on a roadside in the capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2008. Cambodia has more pressing concerns than repaying millions of dollars (euros) it owes the United States, a government spokesman said Friday, rebuffing Washington's latest demand for settlement of loans from the 1970s.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


A currency trader counts Cambodian money, the Riel, to exchange with U.S. dollars from a customer at a money exchange stall on a roadside in the capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2008. Cambodia has more pressing concerns than repaying millions of dollars (euros) it owes the United States, a government spokesman said Friday, rebuffing Washington's latest demand for settlement of loans from the 1970s.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


Police probe Cambodian link in home invasion

February 14, 2008
By NANCY H. GONTER

NORTHAMPTON - A home invasion at a Westhampton Road home yesterday may be the second case of Cambodian thieves targeting a Cambodian home in this area, Police Capt. Kenneth A. Patenaude said today.

Police are investigating whether the 1:15 p.m. robbery in which only a 15-year-old Cambodian girl was at her Westhampton Road home is connected to a December incident in Granby in which an Amherst Road woman was robbed by two men using a handgun, Patenaude said. In the Granby case, the victim was a Cambodian woman and the two suspects were identified as being Cambodian, Patenaude said.

"We suspect, although we're not saying there is a pattern, that these could be suspects targeting Cambodian families," he said.

In each case, the victims did not know the two men who entered their homes, he said.

The 15-year-old, home alone because of the school snow day Wednesday, allowed the two suspects into her house after they told her they were real estate agents. While one kept her in a room at gunpoint, the other took a safe and her cellular telephone, police said.

The two also made sure that she could not use telephones in the house, police said.

The men were described as being Cambodian, between 30-40 years old, between 5 feet 8 and 9 inches tall and both wearing leather jackets and gloves. One man had a mustache, while the other did not, police said.

They left in a white four-door car, police said.

In the incident in Granby, the two men also identified themselves as real estate agents and were allowed into the home, Granby police said at the time.

Once inside, the men showed a gun and demanded money. The men took some cash and went through closets, taking some jewelry, police said. The men then used an electrical cord to tie the victim's legs and left in a white car.

Queen Sofia of Spain to visit Cambodia

Queen SofĂ­a of Spain

chinaview.cn
2008-02-15

PHNOM PENH, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- Queen Sofia of Spain will pay an official visit to Cambodia from Feb. 19 to 22 under the invitation of King Norodom Sihamoni, a senior official said here on Friday.

The queen's visit is for cooperation and friendship ties between the two kingdoms, said Chea Sokhom, deputy secretary general for the National Committee for Organizing National and International Festivals.

According to the her visit-agenda, the Queen will pay a courtesy call to King Norodom Sihamoni and lay bunch of flowers at the Independent Monument, he said.

The queen will also visit mines clearance fields of the Cambodian Mine Action Center and some rural areas in Battambang province, and then visit the Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap province, he added.

Editor: Jiang Yuxia

Preah Vihear temple talks to be held soon


Bangkok Post
Friday February 15, 2008

Thailand and Cambodia will hold talks on the issue of the Preah Vihear temple ruins later this month during the visit of Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok Ann to Bangkok.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said yesterday the issue remained ''negotiable'' and would be resolved through diplomatic channels when he met Mr Sok An in Bangkok. The date for the meeting has not been set.

''The Foreign Ministry looks after this issue closely and will maintain the sovereignty and borders of the nation. Preah Vihear is a negotiable process. I don't believe it will affect the relationship between Thailand and Cambodia,'' he said.

In 2001, Cambodia asked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to put the Khmer temple ruins, called Khao Phra Viharn in Thai, on the World Heritage List. But Thailand protested due to concern that the announcement could affect its rights over the unsettled border.

The World Heritage Committee said at its meeting in New Zealand last year that Cambodia should negotiate with Thailand on the issue because Thailand was a stakeholder as it shared the border with Cambodia.

Rotary to host 'Killing Fields' survivor

By None
Kosal Suon, a survivor of the infamous “Killing Fields” and Project Director, Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, Low...

By Staff reports
Thu Feb 14, 2008

Wellesley - Many readers have already forgotten Pol Pot and his Cambodian “Killing Fields,” where two million were massacred and buried by his Khmer Rouge Communist regime between 1975 and 1979.

Not Kosal Suon.

Suon will recall the horrors of those years in his talk next Tuesday evening following the regular Rotary dinner held every Tuesday evening with a social hour beginning at 6 p.m. at the Wellesley Community Center, 219 Washington St.

Ten years in a Thai refugee camp put Suon in contact with many who lost their families only to end up in American cities unprepared to handle them.

Today, Suon is furthering his own higher education while working for the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Program in Lowell. There he helps a large number of immigrants to learn English and to pass their citizenship tests. CMAA also works with community, educational and social service agencies on behalf of the immigrant community.

Many of the children who come through CMAA face problems like Nanda (not her real name), a 15-year-old Cambodian-American refugee referred to a court-assisted youth program in Lowell.
Nanda, a frequent truant, and drug abuser, began acting out after witnessing and being victimized by her father’s violent outbreaks. Her story can be traced back to the inhuman history of her family in the Killing Fields. Suon’s group has helped her get back on her feet.

Suon will discuss his own family history in Cambodia and since coming as a new immigrant to the United States.

Rotary President Laurence Sheehan called Suon’s talk “an example of what Rotary does to fulfill its mission toencourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise.”

Sheehan explained Rotary’s four primary objectives: 1) The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service; 2) High ethical standards in business and professions, the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations, and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society; 3) The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business and community life; 4) The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

Students bond with Cambodian orphans

BY FORREST SELLERS

ANDERSON TWP. - Students in Shari Devine's class have made some new friends. However, they are not in the same building nor are they even in the same school district.

Some of the fourth- and sixth-graders at Maddux Elementary School are pen pals with youngsters in Cambodia. Specifically, they have been writing to children at the Cambodian International Children and Friend Organization, an orphanage at Phnom Penh.

The students sent their first letters in December. In addition, they have also bought "Doodle Pro" writing and drawing tablets for the children.

"They are excited to have contact with students from another country," said Devine, who teaches language arts and social studies. "They also feel good they (are) in communication with a child who is an orphan."

Devine said it has been a pleasant learning experience for both cultures.

She said it began with a Journal Journey project last September, when the students started a journal that they then sent to people in a variety of locations.

Fourth-grader Emily Navaro sent the journal to her uncle, Kurt Cook, who was visiting Cambodia at the time. A director at the Cambodian International orphanage asked Kurt if the Maddux students would be interested in becoming pen pals.

"I thought it was cool," said Navaro, 9. "I thought it would be fun to write to (them)."

Fourth-grader Bailey Winters, 9, said he has also enjoyed making new friends.

"I'm learning about the Cambodian language," he said.

The students are currently painting pictures in their art class to send with their next letters.

Cambodia's government denied Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008 that it illegally evicts poor people from their land, accusing an international human rights







Cambodian people are suffered the civil war for decate, Now facing the war of land grabbing and evictions

A Cambodian boy transports a metal barrel containing water through the resettlement village for people who were evicted from a slum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008. Cambodia's government denied Thursday, Feb. 14, 2007 that it illegally evicts poor people from their land, accusing an international human rights group of concocting the allegation to get publicity.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


A baby sleeps in a hammock at the resettlement village for people who were evicted from a slum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008. Cambodia's government denied Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008 that it illegally evicts poor people from their land, accusing an international human rights group of concocting the allegation to get publicity.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian girls look out of their home at the resettlement village for people who were evicted from a slum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008. Cambodia's government denied Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008 that it illegally evicts poor people from their land, accusing an international human rights group of concocting the allegation to get publicity.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian woman carries a saw as she walks in the resettlement village for people who were evicted from a slum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008. Cambodia's government denied Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008 that it illegally evicts poor people from their land, accusing an international human rights group of concocting the allegation to get publicity.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian motorcycle taxi driver goes past a small shrine at the resettlement village for people who were evicted from a slum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008. Cambodia's government denied Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008 that it illegally evicts poor people from their land, accusing an international human rights group of concocting the allegation to get publicity.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A family sits behind a water jar, foreground, in their home at the resettlement village for people who were evicted from a slum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008. Cambodia's government denied Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008 that it illegally evicts poor people from their land, accusing an international human rights group of concocting the allegation to get publicity.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Sacravatoons : " Cambodia & Its Leaders " observed by Sacrava since 1970-2008

click on image to enlarge
Courtesy of Sacravatoon : http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

War of words over evictions of poor


From The Times
February 15, 2008

Phnom Penh The Foreign Ministry in Cambodia has denied that it illegally evicted poor people from their land and accused Amnesty International of concocting the allegation in a new report - Rights Razed: Forced evictions in Cambodia - to garner publicity. The statement called the allegations deplorable and said that legal evictions from state land always carried advance warning.

The report said that at least 150,000 Cambodians lived at risk of being forcibly evicted because of land disputes and development.

The United States and Cambodia: Bilateral Relations and Bilateral Debt

Scot Marciel,Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Tesimony Before the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment House Foreign Affairs Committee
Washington, DC
February 14, 2008

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Manzullo, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me here today to testify about the growing U.S.- Cambodia bilateral relationship and, in particular, Cambodia’s outstanding bilateral debt to the United States.

The bilateral relationship between the United States and Cambodia has been steadily improving, especially over the course of the past two years. Although Cambodia continues to undergo a difficult transition to democratic governance, we have seen positive developments in several key areas, including the strengthening of civil society and democratic processes, rapid economic growth, improvements in the fight against trafficking, support for democratic reforms in Burma, and increasing religious tolerance. While longstanding problems in the electoral process persist, which we are working to address through our democracy assistance programs, Cambodia’s April 2007 commune-level elections were peaceful and generally positive. National elections are scheduled for July 2008.

U.S. - Cambodia cooperation in a number of areas is growing and moving our bilateral relationship forward. In 2007, Cambodia hosted two U.S. Navy ships – the first to visit in over 30 years – and inaugurated a Peace Corps program. With U.S. encouragement and support, Cambodia has taken increasingly responsible positions on the world stage, including sending de-miners to participate in a UN peacekeeping mission to the Sudan and instituting a parliamentary caucus on Burma. We share good cooperation with the Cambodian military on counterterrorism and POW/MIA accounting.

Despite this progress, weak rule of law, rampant corruption, and weak institutions remain major challenges to Cambodia’s democratic development and sustained economic growth. While the political opposition plays a role in the country’s political affairs, the ruling party dominates all branches of the government. Cambodia’s leaders continue to occasionally use its weak and easily-influenced judiciary to pursue legal cases against critics and the political opposition. Land disputes and forced evictions, often accompanied by violence, continue to be a high-profile problem. Cambodia’s health and education system were largely decimated during the reign of the Khmer Rouge (1975 – 1979), and this legacy continues to hamper the country’s social and economic development.

In Cambodia’s efforts to deal with the legacy of the Khmer Rouge, the U.S. strongly supports bringing to justice senior leaders responsible for the atrocities committed under that regime. We applaud the progress made by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a Cambodian government and UN hybrid tribunal created in 2004 to try those individuals most responsible for the crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge regime in which nearly two million Cambodians were killed. The investigative phase of the tribunal is now underway and five former Khmer Rouge senior officials have been charged with war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. The U.S. has not in the past provided direct funding to the ECCC, due to congressional and Administration concerns about the tribunal’s quality, and in particular that the tribunal is not capable of meeting “international standards of justice.” However, in light of the Court’s progress during the past year, the Department is currently reviewing the tribunal and its operations, including whether or not it is capable of meeting international standards of justice, in order to make a decision regarding future funding.

Economy and Trade

Cambodia has taken a number of important policy measures recently to improve its business climate and promote economic growth. Cambodia joined the World Trade Organization in 2004 committing to implement global trading rules and opening its economy to foreign investment and trade. Implementation of these WTO commitments and other economic reforms have resulted in annual GDP growth rates in the 8 – 10 percent range over the past two years. Despite these impressive results, Cambodia remains a poor country: per capita income is only $590 per year; education levels are lower than in most neighboring countries; and infrastructure remains inadequate. Economic opportunity and competitiveness continue to be retarded by corruption and lack of legal protections for investors, and there are significant questions regarding the sustainability of recent high economic growth rates.

Cambodia’s largest trading partner is the United States. Garments dominate Cambodia’s exports, especially to the U.S., and accounted for over $2.6 billion in 2007. The garment industry employs roughly 350,000 workers, mostly women. Cambodia has developed a good labor record in the garment sector, built through close cooperation with the International Labor Organization and the U.S. Government, which has attracted socially conscious buyers in the United States. Since the end of the WTO’s Multi-Fiber Agreement in 2004, Cambodia has defied expectations that its garment industry would shrink significantly. In fact, exports have grown by nearly 20 percent, due in part to safeguards placed on imports of apparel from China. The U.S. safeguards on Chinese textiles will expire at the end of 2008, and under WTO rules cannot be renewed. The U.S. will continue to help accelerate economic opportunity and competitiveness in Cambodia by encouraging policy reform, implementing measures to reduce and eliminate corruption, and strengthening the legal framework for investors.

In July 2006, the U.S. and Cambodia signed a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), and the first round of discussions took place in Cambodia in February 2007.

The on-going bilateral TIFA dialogue is focused on creating a cooperative mechanism to deepen and expand bilateral trade and investment ties, and supporting Cambodia’s efforts to implement its WTO commitments and other domestic economic reforms. Our engagement with Cambodia under this dialogue has been highly successful. In November 2007, Ambassador Susan Schwab led the bilateral dialogue, becoming the first U.S. Trade Representative to visit Cambodia.

U.S. Assistance to Cambodia

Cambodia is the third-largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance in the East Asia and Pacific region. In 2007, Cambodia received $62 million to cover a broad array of important issues, including HIV/AIDS and maternal health, demining and professionalizing the military, strengthening good governance and human rights, and promoting economic development (see Appendix 1). U.S. assistance also supports programs to reverse the current culture of impunity, while strengthening civil society's ability to address legal and judicial reform, land tenure, rights of workers and children, and prevention of trafficking in persons. The U.S. also encourages expanded political participation by youth and women in elections and political processes. The USG provides assistance to improve the quality of and access to education, teacher training, assisting school directors to measure performance, and strengthening the leadership of the education system. We hope to increase the number of Cambodians studying in the United States under Fulbright and Humphrey Fellowship programs beyond the current twenty. U.S. assistance also helps preserve Cambodia’s rich natural resources, by building increased transparency in natural resources management.

From 1997 to 2007, legislative restrictions limited direct funding to the central government of Cambodia. Current assistance programs started since the restrictions were removed are carefully targeted to ensure funds are being used effectively to promote reform.

U.S. Policy on Restructuring Official Foreign Debts

Debt relief can be an important means of achieving U.S. goals of promoting economic growth, well-functioning financial markets, and economic reform abroad. Longstanding U.S. policy is to coordinate sovereign debt restructuring internationally, primarily through the Paris Club group of official creditors. This multilateral approach is a good value for the U.S. taxpayer because it increases recoveries from countries that are not paying their debts to the U.S., while maximizing benefits of debt relief for heavily-indebted, low-income countries that are unable to meet their payment obligations.

The United States provides debt cancellation only under limited circumstances, for example, as a Paris Club creditor in the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. This approach provides budgetary resources to pay for the cost of debt relief for debtor countries that are in debt distress. These debtor counties commit to implement economic reforms aimed to reduce poverty and help avoid a new build-up of unsustainable debt before having debt relief.

In evaluating requests for debt cancellation, the U.S. and other major official creditor countries rely heavily on International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank assessments of a debtor country’s financial need for debt relief and willingness to undertake reforms. Congress has reinforced this need-based approach to debt relief by enacting statutes such as the Special Debt for the Poorest authorization (enacted this year as Section 662 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Program Appropriations Act, Division J of P.L. No. 110-161) and the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (Title V of Appendix E of H.R. 3425, as enacted into law by Section 1000(a)(5) of P.L. No. 106-113). These statutes authorize the Executive Branch, under specific circumstances, to reduce or otherwise restructure sovereign debts, which are considered U.S. Government assets.

Cambodia’s External Debt

Cambodia’s public debt is almost entirely external, of which roughly one-third is owed to the United States and Russia. At the end of 2006, Cambodia’s debt was 31 percent of its GDP.

According to the World Bank and the IMF, Cambodia’s debt is on a sustainable path and the risk of debt distress is judged “moderate,” an improvement from the 2006 assessment that Cambodia’s risk was “high,” thanks to higher-than-expected GDP growth and additional large-scale concessional financing from creditors such as China and South Korea. IMF and World Bank data indicate that, in 2007, Cambodia’s debt-to-exports ratio was 32 percent and its debt-to-government revenues ratio was 188 percent (net present value terms). In comparison, the threshold levels of indebtedness needed to qualify for debt relief under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative are 150 percent (debt-to-exports) and 250 percent (debt-to-revenues). Simply put, Cambodia does not qualify for debt relief under Enhanced HIPC applying the usual criteria, which were designed to identify the most heavily debt burdened poor countries. Based on the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative’s different eligibility criteria, Cambodia benefited from $82 million in IMF debt relief in January 2006.

Cambodia’s Debt to the United States

Cambodia’s bilateral debt to the U.S. Government stems from shipments of U.S. agricultural commodities, such as cotton, rice, and wheat flour, financed with low interest-rate loans by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under Title I of the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954 (P.L. 480). The U.S. and Cambodia signed three “P.L. 480 agreements” in 1972, 1973, and 1974, during the Vietnam War and Cambodia’s turbulent Lon Nol era. The United States accepted significant payments in local currency under a “Currency Use Payment” provision commonly included in such agreements; the remainder of the debt was to be paid in dollars. The Lon Nol regime never consolidated its hold on the country and ultimately Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975, which ceased servicing this debt. Arrears and late interest accumulated over the next three decades.

In 1995, the Paris Club group of creditor nations and Cambodia reached an agreement to restructure Cambodia’s debt on “Naples” terms – then the most generous treatment in the Paris Club’s “toolkit.” At the time, the U.S. was by far Cambodia’s largest Paris Club creditor.

Cambodia benefited from a 67 percent reduction of certain non-concessional debts, and a long-term rescheduling of certain concessional debts. Since all of Cambodia’s debt to the U.S. was contracted on concessional terms, at below-market interest rates, the Paris Club agreement called on the U.S. to consolidate arrears and future payments scheduled between January 1, 1995 and June 30, 1997 into a new loan payable over 40 years following a 16-year grace period. Debt service falling due on or after July 1, 1997 was to be paid according to the original schedule.

Cambodia eventually signed debt agreements with France, Germany, Italy, and Japan to implement the 1995 Paris Club debt treatment, and began paying those countries normally. The United States and Cambodia never concluded a bilateral implementing agreement, in part because the Cambodian government refused to accept responsibility for debts incurred by the Lon Nol regime and, in part, because of a disagreement at the time over the amount of debt owed.

After several years of deadlock, negotiations resumed over the 2001-2005 period, with the active involvement of the State Department, the U.S. Treasury Department, USDA, and U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh. After carefully examining the available legal authorities, the U.S. negotiating team's offer to the Cambodian government showed significant flexibility on the amount of debt owed. In December 2005, the Treasury Department affirmed that, for legal and policy reasons, this was the final, best offer the U.S. could make.

In February 2006, the Cambodian Finance Minister indicated that Cambodia agreed with the U.S., in principle, with the amount of principal it owed. Based on this understanding, the United States drafted a bilateral agreement that retroactively implemented the 1995 Paris Club agreement, including USDA’s concessions, and presented it to the Cambodian government in the summer of 2006. If the agreement is implemented in 2008, Cambodia’s total debt to the U.S. totals approximately $339 million using data calculated as of December 31, 2007. About $154 million of that amount, arrears that have accumulated because regular debt service payments were to have resumed in 1997, would be due immediately. The United States has repeatedly communicated to Cambodia that, should Cambodia agree to the proposed bilateral agreement, the U.S. stands ready to support a new debt treatment in the Paris Club to reschedule these arrears.

To date, the Cambodian government has been unwilling to sign the draft bilateral agreement and now seeks additional concessions, such as a lower interest rate. Longstanding U.S. debt policy, in keeping with Paris Club principles and U.S. budget rules, is to retain the same interest rate of the original loans in any rescheduling of those loans. The proposed U.S.-Cambodia bilateral debt agreement would reschedule the consolidated P.L. 480 debt at the original interest rate of 3 percent – a highly-concessional interest rate given the interest rate environment of the early 1970s. Offering a lower interest rate would be an unauthorized form of debt reduction.

Cambodian officials have also indicated that domestic political obstacles still make the government reluctant to accept responsibility for debts incurred by the Lon Nol regime. Although Cambodian observers may consider this debt illegitimate, the U.S. has on its side the international law principle that governments are generally responsible for the obligations of their predecessors. The government of Iraq accepted the debts incurred by Saddam Hussein. The civilian government of Nigeria accepted responsibility for debts accumulated by military governments that ruled the country in the 1980s and 1990s. Similarly, Afghanistan accepted the heavy debt burden left by decades of foreign occupation and civil war. There are many other examples.

Senior U.S. government officials have repeatedly encouraged Cambodia to live up to the 1995 Paris Club agreement it signed with the United States and other creditors, and urged it to sign the pending U.S.-Cambodia bilateral agreement without further delay. However, Cambodia may be reluctant to accept the current proposal to settle the bilateral debt issue if it believes there are good prospects of converting a significant amount of the debt service it would otherwise pay to the United States into a form of increased U.S. assistance.

We understand Cambodia has expressed an interest in a debt-swap program similar to debt-for-assistance measures that were enacted for Vietnam in 2000. Observers often compare Vietnam and Cambodia for geographic and historical reasons, but several distinctions about the treatment of the debts these countries contracted with the United States are worth highlighting. In 1993, Paris Club creditors provided Vietnam a debt rescheduling on terms similar to Cambodia’s 1995 Paris Club debt agreement. Vietnam signed a bilateral implementing agreement with the U.S. in 1997, resumed making scheduled payments, and was in good financial standing when Congress created the Vietnam Education Foundation, which will refund to the Foundation’s programs about 40 percent of Vietnam’s total debt payments to USAID and USDA. The same cannot be said of our current situation with regard to Cambodia debt.

The Administration’s position is that Cambodia’s economic and financial situation does not merit debt reduction, because the country is neither heavily indebted nor experiencing an external balance of payments crisis. The Administration is concerned that creating a special debt reduction program for a country that is unwilling, rather than unable, to pay its debts, sets a poor precedent for other counties in similar circumstances and sends the wrong message about prudent debt management. Cambodia has accumulated arrears to the U.S., while paying other creditors on time, and in at least one case, early. Every year, both within and outside of the Paris Club context, the U.S Government reviews and declines similar requests for debt-for-assistance swap arrangements from debtor countries that are both current on their debt service and may owe billions of dollars of debt.

Congress has also expressed its view on the importance of maintaining orderly creditor-debtor relations in a number of statutes, including Section 620(q) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Brooke Amendment (enacted this year as Section 612 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations and related Programs Appropriations Act, Division J of P.L. No. 110-161). These statutes provide for an automatic cutoff of U.S. economic assistance to a country that is in default on certain loans for certain periods of time. Although Cambodia’s USDA debts are not subject to these default sanctions, these statutes reflect Congress's expectation that countries repay their debts to the United States in a timely manner.

Another concern about funding foreign assistance programs through the principal and interest payments of debtor counties is that it circumvents normal budget rules. Congress passed the Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 requiring U.S. creditor agencies to make realistic estimates about recoveries when calculating the true cost of lending programs. This approach saves U.S. taxpayers money by creating transparent incentives for agencies to manage credit programs efficiently and effectively. Accordingly, the Administration requests and Congress annually appropriates, funds to be used to pay the U.S. budget cost of cancelling a country’s debt obligation or providing a debt swap. The Cambodian proposal circumvents this congressional budget oversight mechanism.

In sum, Cambodia’s prompt agreement to resolve U.S. debt claims would eliminate this long-standing dispute in a scenario of otherwise improving bilateral relations; it would also enhance Cambodia’s creditworthiness and Cambodia’s ability to access international capital markets. Other countries following this path have benefited enormously.

Mr. Chairman, I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you and welcome any questions you may have. Thank you.

RIGHTS-CAMBODIA: Painter to Meet His Jailer at Khmer Rouge Trials

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

ipsnews.net

BANGKOK, Feb 15 (IPS) - Sometime this year, two men who stood on either side of the genocide unleashed in Cambodia in the 1970s may finally face each other in a special war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh.

For one of them, Vann Nath, it is a moment that he has waited patiently for over almost three decades. He was one of only seven people who came out alive from Tuol Sleng, a high school in the Cambodian capital that was converted into a prison during the Khmer Rouge regime’s brutal grip on power from April 1975 to January 1979. At least 14,000 people who were imprisoned there were not as fortunate. They were all tortured and killed.

The other is Kaing Khek Eav, or ‘Duch’, who was the chief jailer of Tuol Sleng, or S-21, as it was known by the extremist Maoist group. He is currently under custody, along with four other surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as the special tribunal is officially called, is expected to hear its first case this year.

‘’I have been hoping for this tribunal for nearly 30 years. I wanted the Khmer Rouge leaders to face justice for what they did,’’ says Nath, who has carried the torment of his one year in S-21 since he found freedom in January 1979. ‘’I will go and attend the trial of Duch to see if the tribunal will deliver a good verdict.’’

But the 61-year-old, who has a shock of white hair and thick black eyebrows that have whitened at the edges, is prepared to do more. ‘’I am ready to go and testify if the court needs me as a witness,’’ he said in an interview during a recent visit to Bangkok. ‘’I think it is a secret of the court: to invite me or not.’’

Such an appearance will inevitably add to Nath’s legendary status in his country. For not only is he an inmate who witnessed the horrors that unfolded in S-21, but he has made it his mission, since his freedom, to tell the story of his nightmare through paintings that have a raw, immediate and blunt quality. They are frozen moments of agony that have flowed from his memory.

The exhibitions of his paintings since 1980 -- the first in the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum -- have scenes of prisoners being whipped and their fingernails pulled out, of one having his neck sliced by a Khmer Rouge guard, and of a mother being beaten as her baby is grabbed from her hands by a prison guard. His most recent exhibition, which opened in Bangkok this month, has disturbing portraits of prisoners in chains and an emaciated figure of Nath being led away by two prison guards.

They are paintings, moreover, that have come to graphically represent the horror of the Khmer Rouge regime, which was responsible for killing close to 1.7 million people, nearly a quarter of the country’s population at the time. Most of the Cambodian victims, even babies, were either executed or died due to forced labour or starvation. Among them were two of Nath’s sons, who died of starvation while he was imprisoned.

But dredging up such memories for his next canvas brings little relief or creative joy. ‘’When I paint the scenes of prisoners being dragged by the guards, it is still very hard for me,’’ he explained in a flat, controlled tone of voice. ‘’They bring back memories of my time there. It makes me go into the painting and remember the painful moments of that dark period.’’

In fact, a book Nath wrote about his experience in S-21 confirms how close to the truth his images of torment are. During an encounter with ‘’the former butcher of Tuol Sleng,’’ as he described a former prison guard, Nath asks him how accurate the images of the prison were. ‘’No, they are not exaggerated,’’ the guard had said during that early 1996 meeting. ‘’There were scenes more brutal than that.’’

‘’Did you see the picture of the prison guards pulling a baby away from his mother while another guy hit the mother with a stick?’’ Nath writes in his book, ‘A Cambodian Prison Portrait’, of the question he next posed to the now freed Khmer Rouge guard. ‘’What did you and your men do with the babies? Where did you take them?’’

‘’Uh ... we took them out to kill them,’’ the guard replies. ‘’We were ordered to take all of them to be killed.’’

‘’You killed those small babies? Oh God!’’ writes Nath of his pained response. Then, he adds: ‘’My words dried up. His last statement was not a lie. All these years, in the back of my mind, I had always thought that they had spared the children.’’

Yet the ‘Painter of Tuol Sleng’ is the first to admit his work as an artist, which evokes so much pain, is also the reason why he survived the prison. For when Nath, who was born into a poor farming family, was arrested and dragged into S-21, he was singled out for his talent. Till then, he had been a painter of billboards in Battambang, a city in north-west Cambodia some 300 km from Phnom Penh.

He was ordered by the prison’s tormentors to paint the portrait of a man he had little knowledge of -- Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader. His first painting, in black and white, was based on a black-and-white photo of the reclusive tyrant. Later, he shifted to a painting in colour.

He knew, then, that he was painting for his survival. There was no provision for error. Some of the other imprisoned painters who had been ordered to do likewise had been executed for their failure.

The final arbiter was Duch, who had said ‘’good’’ and ‘’it’s all right’’ after studying one of Nath’s portrait of Pol Pot.

Yet how good Nath was in the eyes of Tuol Sleng’s chief jailer came to light after the Khmer Rouge was driven from power by the Vietnamese army. In 1980, while working at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Nath was shown a list by a researcher examining the prison’s documents.

It was a list of prisoners that Duch had authorised to be killed on Feb. 16, 1978. On it was Nath’s name. But next to it was an entry written in red ink. ‘’Keep the painter,’’ it is reported to have said.

Son Chhay vs. Sok An

February 15, 2008

Although not exactly an unbiased source, Khmerization outlines the general problem.
The Apsara Authority, which is under the chairmanship of Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, is infamous for confiscating people’s land in Siem Reap. Reports coming out from Siem Reap is that any valuable land around the vicinity of the Angkor areas owned by ordinary people were confiscated by the Apsara Authority using the pretext that the lands are government-owned which had been earmarked for future tourist developments.

As this relates to SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, Dr. Christina Son elaborates.

On Friday February 15, opposition MP Son Chhay, has been ordered to appear again in court to contest his appeal more than a year after his last unsuccessful attempt to seek justice over the force removal of his property and transfer of his land in Siemreap province to the ruling CPP controlled Apsara Authority for the sole purpose of developing the Angkor Hotel Resort.
This sudden order was not surprising given several outspoken public criticisms recently given by Son Chhay against corrupt government officials and the current political environment aimed clearly at intimidating opposition party members using false legal pretences.

As a lawyer and, having worked in Cambodia for many years on land tenureship issues, this dispute illustrates that the Rule of Law is still sadly amiss in Cambodia and I would argue illustrates why offering the poor and marginalised avenues to pursue legal redress or any alternative adequate remedy in Cambodia, as suggested by Amnesty International in their 2006 report, or more recently by the Center for Social Development in encouraging victims of the Khmer Rouge to file civil suits, is futile.

As Son Chhay’s case clearly illustrates - even a long serving opposition parliamentary member in this country can not protect what is rightfully theirs because the corrupt and politically aligned judiciary system only protects those with powerful and influential connections.

The United Kingdom Will Grant US$15 Million Financial Support for the Development to Cambodia

Posted on 15 February 2008.

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 547

“Phnom Penh: The Senior Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Mr. Keat Chhon, and the Ambassador of the United Kingdom, Mr. David Reader, signed an agreement on financial support through a grant of US$15 million to implement the national development strategic plan for the next three years.

“The funds to support this program will be granted to the Royal Government directly through the national budget. The purpose of this program is to provide additional funds to implement poverty reduction programs proposed in the national development strategic plan of the Royal Government of Cambodia, as well as to speed up and strengthen reforms in public finance administration, customs, tax, and land management, allowing wider access to basic services including education, health care, business facilities, the right to land ownership for the poor, and to improve the effectiveness of the grant for government capacity building programs.

“Mr. Keat Chhon, Senior Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, said that the cooperation agreement to reduce poverty and to improve development is the first step of the joint commitment of the grant recipient and the development partners to ensure the effectiveness of the grant, by providing financial assistances through the Royal Government’s system. ‘On behalf of the Royal Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia, I would like to assure you of our commitment to transparently use the assistance donated by our development partners, and to fully assure you that the funds will be used for the expected objectives with transparency, and we take all measures to avoid any misuse of the aid for purposes different from the planned and agreed objectives. We would like to vow to use the development aid efficiently and make sure that it will maximize the benefits for the poor.’

“The British Ambassador Mr. David Reader added, ‘The Royal Government of Great Britain would like to compliment the Royal Government of Cambodia for its initial implementation of the multi-donor budget support program. This kind of direct funding is not only a major step toward the improvement of the ownership of Cambodia of its own development programs, but also an improvement of the cooperation with other development partners. This program will help the Cambodian government to speed up its reform efforts to stimulate growth and eliminate poverty. This program is our main endeavor to support the Cambodian government to achieve our joint commitment: to reduce poverty, to improve governance, to solve the problem of corruption, and to respect human rights.’ This grant will be given in the context of multilateral cooperation for the elimination of poverty and development, funded by the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom, the European Commission, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and the World Bank.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6271, 14.2.2008

Studying Angkor's demise, archaeologists warn of repeating the past

The Associated Press
February 15, 2008

SIEM REAP, Cambodia: By destroying vast tracts of forest to enlarge their farm land, inhabitants of the wondrous city of Angkor lit the fuse to an ecological time bomb that spelled doom for what was once the world's largest urban area.

So believe archaeologists engaged in groundbreaking research into the ancient civilization of Angkor.

And they are warning that history could repeat itself through reckless, headlong pursuit of dollars from tourists flocking to see Angkor's fabled monuments.

"It's just a weird cycle. It seems like Angkor is self-repeating itself," said Mitch Hendrickson, who recently led an excavation as part of research into Angkor as a human settlement.

Conservationists have long expressed concerns about the state of the monuments, especially the stress from the tourist invasion. They also say the uncontrolled pumping of underground water to meet rising demand of hotels, guesthouses and residents in the adjoining town of Siem Reap may be destabilizing the earth beneath the centuries-old temples so much that they might sink and collapse.

"There's just so much building going on without any concern about the long term. Things are moving so fast in Siem Reap today that it's going to chew itself up very quickly and become unsustainable," said Hendrickson, an archaeologist from the University of Sydney, Australia.

From their city, Angkorian kings ruled over most of Southeast Asia during their pinnacle between the 9th and 14th centuries, overseeing construction of architectural stone marvels, including Angkor Wat, regarded as a marvel of religious architecture.

While the 1431 invasion from what is now Thailand has long been regarded as a major cause of Angkor's fall, archaeologists from the Australian university's Greater Angkor Project believe earlier ecological forces led to the city's demise.

Their findings supported a theory in the early 1950s by Bernard-Philippe Groslier, a prominent French archaeologist, that the collapse of Angkor resulted from over-exploitation of the environment.

Angkor's inhabitants started rice farming from the low lying area near the Tonle Sap lake just south of Siem Reap town, said Roland Fletcher, another archaeologist with the project.

But gradually, they cut down natural forest to extend their farm land up to the slope of Kulen mountain, 50 miles (80 kilometers) to the north, said Fletcher, who led 10 archaeologists to excavate various sites near the Angkor complex.

Flooding ensued, and huge amounts of sediment and sand were washed down to fill up canals — thus probably choking the vital water management system.

Using NASA's airborne imaging radar data, the project has conducted numerous aerial and ground surveys across nearly 1,200 square miles (3,108 square kilometers) which revealed that the city — with about 1 million inhabitants — was far larger than previously thought.

It covered some 385 square miles (997 square kilometers) and featured a sophisticated hydraulic system that proved too vast to manage.

Angkor was "a huge low-density, dispersed urban complex" comparable to Los Angeles and "by far the most extensive preindustrial city on the planet," Fletcher said.

Its water network included an artificial canal used for diverting water from a natural river about 15 1/2 miles (25 kilometers) north of Angkor, and two mammoth, man-made reservoirs known as the East and West Barays.

"They (people) probably didn't necessarily need any of this extra water ... because just a rain-fed rice agriculture is quite sufficient to feed a very substantial population," said Damian Evans, a project member.

One theory, he said, was that the Angkorian kings built the water system just "to demonstrate their power and their authority to rule."

But he said only excavations and soil analysis could yield more clues.

"It's a process of going to those sites on the ground and looking for finer detailed information like the profiles of the canals underneath the ground and the types of sediment that lie within those canals," he said.

Armed with a printed digital map of the Angkor area, Evans and Fletcher toured an excavation site at the West Baray where archaeologists dug trenches to seek traces of an ancient channel through the bank. They were trying to determine whether the channel really existed and could have served both as water inlet and outlet.

The reservoir is walled by four banks — now covered with jungle — each 40 feet (12 meters) high, 331 feet (100 meters) wide and about 12 miles (19 kilometers) in length. It can store up to 1.8 billion cubic feet (50 million cubic meters) of water.

Fletcher called it "the single largest artifact and piece of engineering in the preindustrial world."

"All of this work is aimed at understanding how the water management system of Angkor functioned ... and how it stopped working," he said, adding that forest clearance is "the current key piece of information" about the ecological peril that caused Angkor to tumble.

Although past environmental problems were associated with deforestation, they also underline the menace the tourism boom is posing to the temples, the researchers say.

"The same types of things which we knew were problems of Angkor are essentially being repeated in our modern day context in the Angkor area — things like unsustainable use of water, massive overdevelopment without any consideration of the long-term effects," Evans said.

"There's definitely lessons to be learned from what happened here before."

Local couple reaches out to needy in Cambodia, Thailand

Submitted: Sean Dodds connects with a child.


Submitted: Sidney resident Chris Dodds with one of the children.


Submitted: Some of the children in Cambodia.
Sydney Herald
Thursday, February 14, 2008


One's a country that has become a popular, exotic and an affordable vacation spot. The country to the east is still in shambles, trying to rebuild from a genocide that wiped out 1.7 million of its people and destroyed all social and economic systems.

Thailand and Cambodia are the two countries that two Sidney residents, Chris and Sean Dodds, decided to visit. They didn't visit to see something exotic or experience another culture through night clubs and fancy dinners. They went to help.

"We could have just sent money," Chris said."

It probably would have been more efficient," her husband, Sean, said. "But to show the people that you care by being there, and really taking it home and sharing that with everyone you meet, that's a very important part of short-term mission trips."

The Dodds, originally from southern California, did not go alone. They went with a team of seven from their former church, Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills. This was Sean's fifth trip.

They flew into Bangkok and met up with a missionary originally from their church in Chiang Rai, though she has been living in Thailand for 28 years.

"Rose (Martinez) has set up six orphanages, and they blow out of the water every preconception I had of orphanages," Chris said.

Sean added that Martinez has a connection with children that is special, and the orphanages, which started with two people donating $50 a month, a dirt floor and six orphans, are a place that the children are cared for very well.

"She raises the children Thai," Sean said. "She doesn't try to raise them as westerners." The children raised in Martinez's orphanages in Thailand and Cambodia have gone on to hold government positions, teachers, translators and more.

After spending time in Thailand, they crossed the border into Cambodia and went to a town which travel guides warn: "if you've been in Poipet for 15 minutes, that's 15 minutes too long."

"Nothing can prepare you for what you see," Chris said. "Sean told me about it, and showed me pictures, but I wasn't prepared. I cried the whole way through. There were kids running around the streets without clothes, and I thought where are their parents?"

"Most were lost to AIDS contracted and spread through work in brothels, and sometimes the parents leave to work in Thailand for months at a time," Sean said.

It was in Poipet that the Dodds and their team met Chomno who created and runs Cambodian Hope Organization (CHO). Chomno's entire family was murdered by the Khmer Rouge government during 1975-80; he alone survived the killing fields. He has now devoted his life to educating Khmer children and parents.

"Often times people will come to families and offer to buy the children," Chris said. "I used to think these people were horrible that would sell their child."

"But a person comes to you offering $1,000, you have three other children to feed and you only make $1 a week, it becomes hazy," Sean added. "They often promise the parents they will teach the child a skill, but they are instead sold into the brothels. They're used up by the time they are 20 to 21."

Chomno has classes to warn parents the truth behind these schemes and what really happens to their children. Chomno also goes to the public schools and delivers vitamins for the children. He also offers classes for children to teach them a trade to give them other options besides death or prostitution.

Just last year, with money donated by Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills, they removed mines in the village that were left by the Khmer Rouge. There were nine removed from the playing field alone. Chomno also works heavily in helping get children out of human trafficking.

"Once the kids are used," Sean says, "they are dumped on the border. Those are harsh words, but to go into detail and say it any other way is too difficult to talk about at all."

Chomno and Martinez combine their efforts in Poipet to help orphans, single moms and women just out of the brothels find a support system in one another and in the family of Christ.

The Dodds and their team put on a conference for the teachers of both Martinez and Chomno's various ministries called "Walking in the Spirit." They talked about the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit along with giving marriage and parenting classes. The conference ended with a question and answer session that the audience loved more than was participated.

"As I was getting ready to leave, a woman came up to me and hugged me," Chris said. "We couldn't communicate yet there was a connection. I had done something for her, meant something to her. That was a great hug."

"Everyone should get out of their comfort zone and go to a place where people don't think the same," Sean said. "The living conditions there are beyond appalling, yet in some senses the people are more content; it's what they have always known. But going will impact and change your life."

Lawmaker Defends Cambodia's Development Policy

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testifies on Capitol Hill before Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, 13 Feb 2008

By Sok Khemara,
VOA Khmer
Washington
14 February 2008

Sok Khemara reports in Khmer(766 KB) - Listen (MP3)

A lawmaker from the ruling party defends Cambodia’s development policy.

Speaking to VOA Khmer by phone, Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker from the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) says that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s disappointment about Cambodia doe not reflect the real progress in Cambodia.

"I can say that what Mrs. Rice US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has raised is her rights ", says Cheam Yiep.

The Associated Press in Washington DC quoted Secretary Rice as saying "the U.S. is disappointed about pace of change in Cambodia". Rice reportedly told law makers on Wednesday that the United States wanted to see more progress in that country. However, the Associated Press did not elaborate.

Cambodia receives about USD 600 million dollars every year. An estimated 34 percent of its population is living under the poverty line and most people in Cambodia makes less than a dollar a day.

VOA could not reach government spokesman Khieu Kahnarith and other senior government official for comments.

Workers Clash With Factory Over Salary

By Chun Sakada,
VOA Khmer Phnom Penh
14 February 2008

Chun Sakada reports in Khmer(951 KB) - Listen (MP3)

As many as 100 workers broke through glass panes and destroyed office material at the Tonga garment factory Tuesday, angered by the management’s failure to pay timely salaries.

Worker representatives said they were facing rising prices of room rental and other penalties if they weren’t paid.

The violence erupted after the factory owner announced he would not provide a salary to workers who lodged complaints against the factory, a union leader said.

Seung Chanrith, a union leader in the Tonga garment factory, told VOA Khmer on Tuesday that he was seeking an internal solution to the dispute.

“Our workers broke the door and the glass wall,” he said. “I went immediately to the garment factory and I heard that the workers were very angry with the company, which did not provide them their salaries.”

Management said the workers had not properly followed arbitration procedures.

Workers said they wanted appropriate salaries dispensed without discrimination.

“The workers are angry because they don’t have money for house rental, water supply, food, and our whole living condition,” one worker said. “Now the house owner demands a fee from us if we don’t have money for owner then they will stop renting the house to us.”

No one was arrested following the protest.

Ang Eng Thong, head of an arbitration council at the factory, said the company will have to provide full salaries to the workers, including for the time work was suspended.

Advancing Global Advocacy on Sex Worker Health and Human Rights meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tactical Technology Collective

Tactical Technology Collective was invited to contribute to a three day meeting called "Advancing Global Advocacy on Sex Workers' Health and Human Rights"in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as part of a larger project aimed at increasing the ability of sex worker advocates to utilize information and communications technologies. This project is part of Tactical Tech's Movement Building Program, providing longer-term needs-based mentoring and capacity building for specific issue areas and networks.

Tactical designed a training track specifically geared to the participants of the meeting that included sessions called "Taming the ICT Beast,""ICT Tools That You Can Use in Your Advocacy Work NOW!," & "Using ICT for Successful Advocacy Strategies." We presented these trainings in partnership with Melissa Gira, a well-respected blogger and sex worker advocate from San Francisco, CA.

Tactical Tech is currently compiling a thorough information technology needs assessment of grantees of SHARP (Sexual Health and Rights Project), which is part of OSI's Public Health Network. We will be releasing the final report of our findings in June, 2007.
Preliminary findings include:

-Mobiles are used for outreach to sex workers, this is a key technology when considering how to organize and increase participation from constituents.

-Web and email is used predominantly for advocacy work and to a limited extent for cross-country solidarity networking.

-As most organizations have reliable access to the Internet, the biggest likely barrier to international networking will be language and content creation (i.e. posting resources as opposed to asking questions on email lists).

-There is a general flair and tendency towards innovative and creative uses of technology, such as photographs, PowerPoint, videos, karaoke, audio, etc.; this could be partly due to cross-cultural and literacy barriers, but also partly due to the creative nature of the community.

-Privacy is a concern for a number of groups; some groups reported knowledge of surveillance, however none are using digital security technologies, though many are using informal ways of protecting themselves.

-The biggest barrier cited by respondents to accessing technology is cost.

Next Stop for Big Oil: Cambodia?

A Cambodian smuggler (L) rides his motorbike in Kandal province loaded with gasoline he got from neighbouring Vietnam, some 40 kms south of Phnom Penh. TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images

Global February 14, 2008
As Chevron and partner Mitsui Oil explore offshore, skeptics worry that Cambodia will fall prey to the "oil curse"

In the world of $90-a-barrel oil, oil companies have plenty of incentive to search in unusual places for the fossil fuel. One of the newest energy frontiers is in the clear blue waters off the coast of Cambodia. Here, where fishing sampans sail among scattered, picturesque islands in the Gulf of Thailand, U.S. oil giant Chevron (CVX) has drilled 15 exploratory wells 150 kilometers offshore from the tourist town of Sihanoukville. If all goes according to plan, Chevron will begin extracting oil and gas from these wells by 2011.

Onshore, many Cambodians are watching—some hopefully, others nervously—about what oil might mean for one of the world's poorest nations. Prime Minister Hun Sen has recently called discussion about the oil finds "premature" and "speculative," and will say little about the prospects, which Chevron initially estimated at 400 million barrels. That's not much compared to neighboring Indonesia, with 4.3 billion barrels in reserve, or Malaysia, with 3 billion. But for a poor country like Cambodia, which has precious few energy resources, it's a big deal. Quietly, the premier has been lining up undisclosed partners for a small domestic oil refinery while the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority has begun talking about setting up a national oil company.

How important is oil for Cambodia? The International Monetary Fund produced a "moderate economic scenario" last year that showed revenues to the government from oil could be $174 million when Chevron's production starts in 2011, peaking at $1.7 billion annually after 10 years.

For a country with a total national budget of just $1.2 billion, such a windfall could bring such benefits as raises for public teachers now paid $80 a month, rebuilding the education and health systems destroyed during the Khmer Rouge era, or bringing electricity and clean water to the bypassed rural areas that make up almost all of the country. "There are a lot of uncertainties about the amount of oil available," says IMF Resident Director John Nelmes, who explains the $1.7 billion estimate is a conservative one based on total reserves of 500 million barrels.
Overlapping Claims With Thailand.

Of course, the size of the estimated oil reserves hardly ranks Cambodia with the big leagues. But the current picture in Cambodia could change. In addition to Chevron's Block A, five other blocks licensed for exploration are so far unexplored. And in an overlapping claims area with Thailand there are huge unexplored oil fields that cover an area as much as all six existing blocks combined. Cambodia and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding in 2001 to resolve the overlapping claims, but no progress has been made since then and diplomatic ties worsened after Cambodians burned down the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh in 2003. Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Sok An says negotiations are expected to resume soon and he's willing to split the claims "on a 50-50 basis."

The question is, how should an undeveloped country like Cambodia proceed in tapping those resources? The possibility that Hun Sen's government might set up a state-owned oil company and a state-owned refinery horrifies some foreign advisors who worry that Cambodia could fall victim to what economists call the oil curse. That's the phenomenon of corruption in developing countries with state-owned companies that control abundant oil reserves. It's too easy for corrupt government officials to skim profits from state-controlled oil companies, says Warwick Browne, a former extractive industries project manager for Oxfam America in Cambodia.

Having a Phnom Penh-controlled oil and gas company would be "a very bad move," says Browne, adding that such state-owned entities "are black holes for corruption." He says a small national oil refinery would probably not be profitable and the government would have to subsidize sales to the population while forgoing the opportunity to earn needed foreign exchange by exporting to neighboring countries.

Other Obstacles
Government officials won't discuss these questions publicly. Chevron, after three years of exploration at a cost of more than $120 million, says in a public statement that the undersea reservoir has a complex design and contains "small dispersed fields, rather than one core field." Translation: It will take more technical expertise and cost more to extract. With partner Mitsui Oil Exploration (Moeco), Chevron is considering a third round of exploratory drilling in 2008 and 2009.

Another complication: a recent dispute between the joint venture and the government over the way Chevron would eventually be taxed on royalties. The two sides are expected to compromise eventually but won't discuss the matter. Even so, production will probably begin by 2011 under terms of Chevron's and Moeco's license with the government. (Chevron officials in Bangkok declined to comment.)

The licensing of the other blocks taking place is raising eyebrows. Browne says the information about the contracts is kept secret in the hands of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who signs the concessions, and Te Duong Tara, head of the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority. (Both declined BusinessWeek requests for interviews.) Quietly, the CNPA over the past year has handed out licenses for the five other blocks to three Chinese companies and two international partner groups.
Beefed-Up Security

One block went to a consortium including Singapore Petroleum, Malaysia's Resourceful Petroleum, and Thailand's PTTEP International. Another went to a consortium led by Indonesian company Medco Energi Internasional Tbk with partners Kuwait Energy and Sweden's Lundin Petroleum. The others went to Chinese companies, including Chinese National Offshore Oil (CNOOC) and China Petrotech Holdings.

Meanwhile offshore, the Cambodian Navy recently ordered patrols to ensure security in the Gulf surrounding the oil fields, an area where Cambodia and Thailand have had a border dispute.
Now all eyes are on Chevron. A petroleum consultant who asked to remain anonymous says the other companies are waiting to see; their contracts allow for six years of exploration before production is required. "They're gambling. Very often they sit back and wait and see if there are any hits. The strategy is to wait, watch, and then decide whether to drop out or resell their license," the consultant says.

Calls for Anti-Corruption Laws

The government is growing impatient with all the pessimists. Hun Sen, in a rare and testy public mention of oil, assured 600 people at a Nov. 7 investment conference in Phnom Penh that the country knows how to avoid the oil curse. "Cambodia is on the right path," the Prime Minister said. "I am hopeful Cambodia will be able to benefit from the sector in the near future."

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy in December urged lawmakers to adopt an anti-corruption law before the oil begins flowing to prevent government "looting of the nation's oil wealth."

Andrew Symon, petroleum researcher with Menas Asia, a research company from Britain, says he's optimistic about the potential: "It's an exciting area and very contentious politically. If there were to be gas this would be very significant for Cambodia," But, he wryly notes, "There's no shortage of voices wanting this to be a curse. It almost makes it seem it should be left in the ground."

Whether Cambodia, with no oil expertise, will be able to, as U.S. Ambassador Joe Mussomeli put it last February, use its oil resources for "tossing off the shackles of the Pol Pot regime" remains to be seen. According to Mussomeli, oil has been a "horrific curse" in many nations, "rendering the population destitute while a small, corrupt elite siphons off revenue that should go to improving the welfare of all the people." He has called for Cambodia to sign onto a "transparent policy framework" that ensures no one misuses the revenues.

Staff nurse Digby's long haul in aid of hospice

coventry.co.uk
Feb 14 2008

A NURSE is planning a marathon charity bike ride across South East Asia.

Digby Meacher, a staff nurse at Manor Hospital in Nuneaton, will travel through Thailand to Cambodia to raise money for Myton Hospice.

Starting in the Thai capital Bangkok, the 33-year-old, from Almond Avenue in Leamington, will cycle 350 miles over eight days to reach the famous temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Digby, along with the 40 other riders on the organised trip, will need to raise nearly £3,000 for the hospice, to go on the trip in April.

He said of his early training: "I've done a little bit here and there, and I'm riding to and from work, which is 18 miles there and back, so that will be 36 miles a day."

Digby has been raising funds for the trip by holding a guess the birthday of a teddy bear competition in surgeries and is also planning to sell advertising space on the fluorescent tabards the riders will wear.

He added: "I thought this would be a good thing to do. You can see the benefits Myton Hospice brings." o Anyone wanting to sponsor Digby can contact him on either 07966 146664 or via e-mail at digbymeacher@yahoo.co.uk

Donations can also be made online at www.justgiving.com/ thechallengedigbymeacher

AIDS Healthcare Foundation and NCHADS Partnership Adds 8th Cambodian AIDS Treatment Center in Kirivong

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, February 14, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which operates free AIDS treatment clinics in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia, is honored to announce the partnership between the Cambodian Government and AHF and the start of its collaborative AIDS treatment center in Cambodia. The facility, AHF's eighth in the country, was dedicated Monday, February 11th in Kirivong with a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony at the facility at the Kirivong Referral Hospital in Takeo Province. The Cambodian clinics are a partnership between , the and Cambodia's (NCHADS). The partnership aims to provide life-saving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to people living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia in care centers in the Operational Districts (OD) of several provinces throughout the country. Other ART centers in the partnership in Cambodia include sites in Phnom Penh, and in the provinces of Kandal, Kampong Thom, Kampot, Prey Veng, Stung Treng and Svay Rieng.

"We are honored to open our eighth collaborative ART center in partnership with the Cambodian Ministry of Health and NCHADS at Kirivong, in Takeo Province, a facility which will bring relief, positive changes, better quality life and above all, hope of life to those in need in the surrounding area," said , Asia Pacific Bureau Chief for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Over the next five years, we will work together to expand and increase our collaborative initiatives in Cambodia, and AHF will continue to provide technical support and strengthen the roll out of antiretroviral treatment and the scale up of ART delivery services in Cambodia. It is our sincere hope that this collaboration between AHF and NCHADS will not only improve access to HIV/AIDS care and treatment throughout the country, but also serve as a shining example of a comprehensive and collaborative model of care for people living with HIV/AIDS."

One key aspect contributing to the success of AHF's work with its partners in Cambodia includes the linkage of clinic services provided together with other community and home-based services. In addition, the Cambodian partnership focuses on integrating the delivery of services under a Continuum of Care (CoC) approach -- an approach that recognizes the complexities surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic in order to improve prevention efforts and optimize use of the oftentimes limited resources available in the successful care and treatment of those living with the disease.

Takeo Province, one of 20 provinces in Cambodia, is located in southwestern Cambodia about 130 kms from Phnom Penh. Kirivong serves as one of the ten Operational Health Districts (OD) of the province, where the population of the surrounding area is approximately 226,000 people. The Kirivong Operational District has one Referral Hospital and 19 Health Centers.

The ART Clinic, located at Kirivong Referral Hospital, was established in October 2005 by NCHADS and was supported by Europe Aid working with NCHADS from October 2005 to October 2007. At that time, Europe Aid ended its support to this clinic and NCHADS was left with no option but to seek support from elsewhere otherwise risk closing of the center.

"It was then that NCHADS contacted AHF Cambodia Cares to provide support for continuance of support to the ART Center. AHF Cambodia Cares started its partial support to the Kirivong Continuum of Care site in October, and began fully supporting it from January 2008 onward. This collaborative support provided by AHF Cambodia Cares to NCHADS will ensure treatment, care and support to hundreds of clients on ART will continue to receive the life saving medications without interruption," said , AIDS Healthcare Foundation's Country Program Manager for Cambodia. "The center will not only support and provide continued services to existing clients, but will also ensure rapid scale up of the lifesaving treatment to many more PLHAs in Kirivong."

Currently there are 336 clients at the Kirivong site on treatment and care and 181 clients on antiretroviral treatment. The objectives of this collaboration at Kirivong are similar to the partnerships' other projects throughout Cambodia, and include:

-- Capacity and skill building of the doctors and healthcare providers at the Kirivong Referral Hospital in collaboration with NCHADS, and

-- Establishment of an ART Clinic at the hospital and provision of free antiretroviral treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA), including treatment of both adults and children.

The first case of HIV infection in Cambodia was reported in 1991 and was followed by a rapid rise in its transmission. Cambodia's national HIV/AIDS prevalence rate - around 3% in 1997 but decreasing to 1.9% in 2003 - is still understood to be one of the highest in Southeast Asia. According to a recent AFP/France 24 News Report (as cited on Kaiser Family Foundation's Daily HIV/AIDS Report

"It is a privilege for AHF to continue to be a part of this successful AIDS treatment effort in Cambodia, and I thank our partners at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Mean Chhi Vun and his team at NCHADS, as well as our own dedicated staff at AHF's Asia Pacific Bureau for helping to make widespread treatment availability more and more a reality in Cambodia," said , President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the US' largest non-profit HIV/AIDS healthcare, research, prevention and education provider. AHF currently provides treatment, care and support services to more than 62,000 individuals in 20 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean and Asia. Additional information is available at www.aidshealth.org.

Cambodia says it is terror free

newkerala.com

Phnom Penh, Feb 14 : Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said the country is free of terrorism and must stay this way if the tourism industry is to continue growing, the Cambodian Daily reported Thursday.

Hun Sen made these remarks at the opening of the four-day Asean (Association of Southeast Asia Nations) anti-terrorism conference Wednesday in Siem Reap.

"If Cambodia is a target of a terrorist attack like what the Hambali group was trying to stage in 2002, the prosperity and development that we have achieved would definitely be destroyed," he told the US and Asean delegates at the conference.

Countries must join hands to combat this threat, he added. Cambodia was selected to host the conference as it had successfully helped the Thai and US authorities arrest Riduan Isamuddin, an Indonesian citizen and operations chief for the militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

Jemaah Islamiyah was responsible for carrying out the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2003 Marriot Hotel bomb attack in Jakarta.

Chinese ‘Black Gold’ to Flow from Cambodia

By WILLIAM BOOT / BANGKOK
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Forced evictions from settled land; government collusion with commercial interests; a failed legal system; large untapped gas and oil reserves—and increasing Chinese influence.
Sound familiar?

It could be Burma, but it describes Cambodia today as the country awakens from its Khmer Rouge nightmare.

A new Amnesty International report says the Cambodian government involvement in land grabs for business merely underlines a process that has been underway for some time.

The report comes as evidence also emerges of China’s growing “fraternal” relations with the Phnom Penh government.

The closer ties aren’t because Beijing is keen to help the Cambodian people, say observers, but because of the insatiable Chinese appetite for oil and gas resources under the sea in Cambodian territorial waters, as well as the potential of the country’s rivers for Chinese state hydroelectric enterprises.

Cambodians might be sitting on as much as two billion barrels of oil and 10 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to recent reports by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

But both organizations have voiced concern that unless these resources are handled well, Cambodia could become the Nigeria of Southeast Asia.

Nigeria has netted US $450 billion from its oil during the last 35 years, but more than half the population still earns less than $1 a day, and there is a national debt of $30 billion.

About one-third of Cambodia’s 14 million people live on much less than $1 a day, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in 2007.

The Amnesty report warns that 150,000 Cambodians are at risk of losing their home and land as vested government-business interests push self-enriching developments.

“Depending upon the world price of oil, Cambodian reserves may be contributing annual revenues of $2 billion, several times the current level of domestic revenue and ODA (overseas development aid) combined—within perhaps five to ten years,” says a World Bank report.

But the bank adds: “International experience suggests that such petrochemical wealth may equally well result in a ‘resource curse’ that actually retards development and poverty reduction.”

That curse is the corruption which often ensues from sudden large wealth. Cambodia may be stable and improving after the years of Khmer Rouge chaos, but there is little sign of progress toward accountable and transparent government.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his cronies maintain a tight grip on power.

Much of Cambodia’s potential is under the Gulf of Thailand, less than 200 kilometers from the sleepy port of Sihanoukville that is set to become a black-gold boom town—again with Chinese involvement.

Cambodia has six potential offshore hydrocarbon fields in its territorial waters, plus several sea areas disputed with neighbor Thailand. Only one of them has so far been explored.

The US oil company Chevron currently has the lead in undersea exploration work, with France’s Total, South Korea’s GS Caltex and Japan’s Mitsui Oil bidding for a slice of the action. But analysts say Chinese influence over the Hun Sen government could beat most of them to the big prize.

Two Chinese state enterprises, the China National Offshore Oil Company and China National Petroleum Corporation—which are also exerting influence in Burma in the offshore Shwe gas field and a planned oil transshipment land pipeline—are also studying the fields.

The China National Chemical Engineering Group Corporation is set to build an oil refinery in Sihanoukville capable of processing 40,000 barrels a day. The refinery will likely cost more than $400 million.

The Cambodian NGO Center for Social Development estimates that, aside from international donor agencies, China has become the biggest commercial investor in the country, ranging from timber to textiles.

“What the Chinese really want out of Cambodia is the oil and gas, just like in Burma. Nothing else really matters,” said energy industries analyst-consultant Collin Reynolds in Bangkok.

“China is becoming increasingly dependent on importing both, and the closer to home they can get them the more they will seek to exert their influence to achieve that.”

Cambodian government disputes human rights group's charges of illegal forced evictions

Global News
Thursday, February 14, 2008

PHNOM PENH (AP) - Cambodia's government denied Thursday that it illegally evicts poor people from their land, accusing an international human rights group of concocting the allegation to get publicity.

London-based Amnesty International has tried "to manipulate facts, exaggerate the situation and invent reality in Cambodia" in making such allegations, the Cambodia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement called the allegations deplorable and accused Amnesty of trying "to make sound bites and grab headlines in the news without due regard for truth and reality in the country."

Danish Official Questions the Cambodian Tribunal's New Budget

scandasia.com
2008-02-14
Line Lagoni Leonhard

Official from the Danish representation in Phnom Penh, Tom Barthel Hansen, expresses concern regarding Cambodian genocide tribunal’s wish to triple it’s budget to 170 million dollars from the original 56,3 million dollars.

- The tribunal will have to explain clearly what kind of reforms they are undertaking with regards to administration and why they have chosen a budget like this, the Danish Embassy official says to AP.

The Cambodian war tribunal is formed with the support of several UN members. Amongst them Denmark, who has already contributed with about 500.000 dollars

The genocide tribunal was adopted in early 2006 after years of wrangling between the Cambodian government and the UN. The tribunal right now holds five suspects for the crimes of the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge in the late seventies, which led to the death of more than 1,7 million people.

A budget document recently presented to donor nations in New York was obtained on Wednesday by the Associated Press (AP).

The Budget document says more money are needed to expand services and personnel to allow the tribunal to work through March 2011 – a little more than a year longer than expected.

The new budget is quoted to be ‘based on a more realistic expectation of the work of the court, with a maximum number of eight detainees’, but the budget document does not however explain, how these new conclusions have been made or who the additional three suspects might be.

Danish official, Tom Barthel Hansen, told the Associated Press that it is not yet clear, how the Danish government will respond to the tribunals request for further funding.

Casino industry to provide 20 mln USD of tax for Cambodia in 2008

Xinhua
14/2/2008

The burgeoning casino industry is expected to provide US$20 million of tax revenues for the Cambodian government in 2008, said national English-Khmer newspaper the Cambodian Daily today.

It contributed tax revenues of US$18 million in 2007, US$16 million in 2006 and US$12 million in 2005, the paper quoted statistics from the Ministry of Economics and Finance as saying.

The government calculates tax bills based on how many card tables and slot machines each establishment has, it said, adding that five new casinos opened in 2007, bring the total number to 29.

Currently, the largest casino concentrations are along the national borders, with 15 on the Thai frontier and 10 on the Vietnamese, as well as three in Sihanoukville and on in Phnom Penh.