Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Postcyclone challenge for Burma (Myanmar): deliver relief fast

Supplies for victims of a devastating cyclone in Myanmar wait to be loaded on to a Thai military transport plane at the military airport in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday, May 6, 2008. Myanmar announced Tuesday it is delaying a crucial constitutional referendum in areas badly hit by a cyclone that killed more than 10,000 people and may have left as many as a million homeless. Officials feared the death toll could soar.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Western tourists make their way through fallen debris Sunday May 4, 2008, in Yangon, Myanmar following Cyclone Nargis. Myanmar officials said Tuesday the death toll could continue to climb higher than the nearly 15,000 already feared dead from the Southeast Asian nation's devastating cyclone as the international community prepared to rush in aid. In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, state radio reported that the government was delaying a constitutional referendum in areas hit hardest.(AP Photo/Barry Broman)

By David Montero
Tue May 6

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - In a rapidly escalating death toll, a cyclone that ripped through Burma (Myanmar) on Saturday killed nearly 4,000 people, not 351 as originally announced, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in Asia since the tsunami of 2004, authorities said on Monday.

But that death toll, which accounts for only two of five areas hit, could rise as high as 10,000 in coming days, government officials said, while relief agencies warned that rescue operations would be critically hampered by the remoteness of the disaster region, home to 24 million people.

Concerns of higher death tolls have been further exacerbated by the political isolation of the military-led government of Burma, which has largely shut itself off from the outside world, and which many feared would reject international assistance.

But relief agencies said Monday they were confident that international relief would be allowed into the country, following a meeting between government officials and the head of the United Nations relief agencies in Burma on Monday. And state authorities issued appeals for international aid.

"The acting head of the UN agencies ... received positive indications that international assistance would be invited and accepted into the country," says Paul Risley, a spokesman for the World Food Program's Asia office in Bangkok, Thailand. "We are continuing assessments on the ground, and as soon as these assessments provide more details, we will be able to test that invitation.'

'Entire village wiped out' When it set down with 120 mile-per-hour winds on Saturday, cyclone Nargis ripped apart cities, shantytowns, and villages throughout this nation of 56 million, leaving a path of destruction and hundreds of thousands homeless as it arced from the Irrawaddy delta in the southwest to Rangoon (Yangon), the former capital, farther north. The city was reduced to a chaotic standstill by Monday, with no electricity and long lines for water, the Associated Press reported, adding that at least one entire village has been wiped out.

The cyclone comes just days before the ruling military junta is scheduled to hold a referendum on an army-drafted charter for a new constitution. Government authorities insist the charter symbolizes their commitment to democracy, but critics have dismissed it as an eyewash that allows the Army to maintain the lion's share of power. Adding fuel to that criticism, authorities insisted the referendum would still take place despite the scale of the tragedy, a local newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, reported on Monday.

Death tolls on Monday were dramatically higher than originally announced. "The confirmed number is 3,934 dead, 41 injured and 2,879 missing within the Yangon and Irrawaddy divisions," Myanmar TV reported on Monday. Authorities had originally reported 351 deaths, but the numbers have been adjusted as damage assessment reports come in.

Perhaps responding to the sharp increase, the military government, which has ruled since 1965, agreed to a rare intervention from international relief agencies and made requests for emergency aid.

Mr. Risley says he is confident that, given the drastic scale of the disaster, the government will honor its side of the agreement.

Some relief efforts were already under way on Monday, and the World Food Program says it has 900 tons of food in storage warehouses in Rangoon. Neighboring Thailand, meanwhile, quickly responded that it would fly in aid by Tuesday.

Relief efforts could prove difficultEven with the possibility of international aid flowing in, he and others say, relief efforts are likely to be extremely difficult and could raise the death toll if not handled properly.

"[Transportation of relief goods] will be one of the major challenges," says Risley. "We are very concerned that roads have been washed away or destroyed by the flooding."

Relief agencies warned that the fallout from the cyclone was likely to be more devastating than that from cyclone Sidr, which struck nearby Bangladesh last November and killed more than 3,000 people.

"In fact, this may be a larger tragedy," says Risley. "The next 10 days are very critical for the relief effort."

British bar owner saved from Cambodian mob

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


PPHNOM PENH -- A British bar-owner in Phnom Penh was saved by police from a vigilante mob after being accused of attacking his Cambodian girlfriend, police said Monday. Police in the Cambodian capital said David Finch, 42, had been rescued as an angry group attacked him on a busy street outside his "Broken Bar."

But after saving him from the group, the police immediately arrested and charged Finch with violently injuring a person, the police said. Finch allegedly attacked his 20-year-old girlfriend outside his bar on Saturday before a group of onlookers crowded round and hit him back, according to Chhit Vuthy, a local deputy police chief.

Indian jailed in Cambodia

The Times of India
6 May 2008

PHNOM PENH: An Indian national has been remanded in custody after he allegedly rented a motorbike for two days and twice tried to sell it for a plane ticket home police said on Tuesday.

"Dhu Tait Parsad, 31, had rented the bike for $2 an hour and first tried to sell it for $750 and then $600," said Phoeurn Arun, chief of Siem Reap minor crime police.

Police investigated because the bike had no license plates and arrested Parsad, who had lived in Cambodia for a decade.

"He says he wanted money for a plane ticket home to India," Arun said.

Siem Reap is a northern tourist town, 400 km from the capital. It is the gateway to the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.

Under Cambodian law, Parsad can be detained for six months pre-trial and his attempt to sell the rented bikes could earn him five years in prison.

Duch To Be Tried in Early 2009: Tribunal Judge

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 05 (798KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 05 (798KB) - Listen (MP3)

Jailed Khmer Rouge prison director Kaing Khek Iev, known to many by his nom de guerre, Duch, will be the first regime cadre to be tried, some time early next year, a tribunal judge said Monday.

You Bunleng, an investigating judge for the tribunal, said the investigation of Duch’s case will be finished this month, after which responses from lawyers will be considered before the case is submitted for trial.

If all goes smoothly, the first case against Duch can be submitted by July or August, meaning a trial could start by the end of 2008 or beginning of 2009, he said.

Duch was arrested in 1999 and held by the military courts until his transfer to tribunal detention last year.

He faces charges of crimes against humanity for his role as director of S-21, or Tuol Sleng, a prison where as many as 16,000 Cambodians were tortured and later executed in “killing fields” on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Less than 10 survived.

“The case related to Tuol Sleng’s history is easier than others, and there is clear evidence,” said Sok Samoeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project. You Bunleng said Monday elements of Duch’s trial will be used in subsequent trials.

Hun Sen Defends Rice Cartel

By Win Thida, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 05 (590KB) - Download (MP3)
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Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday defended the proposed creation of a Southeast Asian rice cartel that he said could help ensure supplies and stabilize prices of the staple grain.

Dwindling supplies and rising costs of rice have hit many countries across the region in recent months, but leaders in some countries do not support the idea of Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam joining together to control rice supplies.

Hun Sen said Monday an organization of the rice exporting countries should not cause alarm.
Such a grouping could “ensure rice security,” he said.

Opposition Proposes Salary Hike

By Win Thida, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 05 (723KB) - Download

The Sam Rainsy Party has proposed a salary raise for workers, up to $75 per month, but the proposal has no course for adoption, as the National Assembly will not have another session until after July’s general elections.

Chiem Yeap, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said the proposal would also not be discussed at a special session Wednesday, as the opposition will not have enough members attending to quorum.

He called the proposed law a political maneuver to curry votes ahead of July’s general election.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said the proposal, made April 29, would help allay pressures on workers from inflation.

Union officials said they were disappointed the lawmakers would not meet on the proposal.

Elections Dangerous for Journalists: Group

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 03 (674KB) - Download

Many Cambodian journalists have been physically or legally attacked, and most feel vulnerable or threatened as they set about covering elections, the rights group Licadho said Saturday.

In a report for World Press Freedom Day, the group said journalists experience “threats and fear” that have “direct influence” on their work.

“Their reporting has a direct influence on the public’s perception of their country, especially around election periods,” the report said.

“Cambodia’s media is often described as one of the freest in the region, but in reality journalists describe an environment in which the pursuit of truth is undermined by political bias, fear and corruption,” it said.

Most of the national media are aligned with a political party, and most favor the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, the report said.

“Bribes are so commonplace they are not even considered corruption,” it said. “Formal censorship exists, and self-censorship is widespread through Cambodia’s media.”

Um Sarin, director of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, called the report “a reflection of the facts.”

“Recently, some Cambodian journalists have been threatened, assaulted, sued and sacked,” he said.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith called the report “unfair.”

“If a newspaper wants to support any political party, please go support that party,” he said.

While some papers favored parties, others were independent, he said.

“Asian nations have praised the good freedom of the media in Cambodia,” he said. “Why does Licadho not value Cambodia?”

Rights Party Attacks Demonstration Draft

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 03 (984KB) - Download (MP3)
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Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha blasted a new draft law on demonstration that he said would limit the rights of Cambodians to freedom of assembly, especially in seeking redress to governmental wrongdoing.

The draft law has received widespread condemnation from rights groups, especially a clause that limits the number of demonstrators to 200 participants and the time of gatherings from 6 am to 6 pm. The draft law also focuses more responsibility on demonstration organizers “if the demonstration becomes violent and destroys public or private property.”

“The human rights party cannot accept this new draft law on demonstrations, as it is not serving the interest of people or democracy, but the ruling [Cambodian People’s Party] interest,” Kem Sokha said.

The party would seek laws that open more rights and freedoms if it wins July’s general election, he said.

“The new draft law on demonstrations is not widely democratic for the people to express and protest on their grievances and concerns,” said Ny Chakrya, chief of Adhoc’s rights investigation unit.

The people have a right to push the government to solve such issues as the judiciary, corruption, poverty and land disputes, he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has welcomed the draft, saying it does not limit peaceful demonstration but helps authorities protect “national security, public order,…public health [and] morale [and] rights and freedom of other people.”

US, UK Begin Condom Program

By Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 04 (614KB) - Download (MP3)
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The governmental aid agencies of the US and UK have begun a new health program that seeks to reduce the spread of HIV through 100 percent condom use.

The project will provide $27 million to Population Services International over five years to help fight the spread of the disease.

Mam Bunheng, secretary of state for the Ministry of Health, said the funds will help the government in its fight against HIV and AIDS.

A national survey released last week showed an increase in condom use in Cambodia: 99 percent for direct sex workers and 83 percent for indirect sex workers.

Where he get the money from? Mr. Hun Sen Said that Ly Yong Phat Has between US$300 Million to US$1 Billion

Ly Yong Phat nick name is The king of Koh Kong

Posted on 6 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 559

[As some new readers may wonder why this article was selected: we mirror the realities of the press in Cambodia, trying to give a broad overview of the different voices in society - this article as an example of how the atmosphere is heating up towards the elections in July.]

Mr. Hun Sen Said that [Oknha] Ly Yong Phat [senator from the Cambodian People’s Party] Has between US$300 Million to US$1 Billion [but the following text doesn’t say anything about Mr. Ly Yong Phat]

“On Saturday 3 May 2008, at a foundation stone laying ceremony in Kompong Chhnang, Mr. Hun Sen, who is known to be strong, power addicted, and a man with an aluminum fist, insulted the Sam Rainsy Party by saying that some parties consider the rich to be their enemies.

“Indeed, when a Sam Rainsy government would rule the country after the coming elections on 27 July 2008, Mr. Sam Rainsy will implement 100 measures, especially first to take action against dishonest businesspeople and ‘rat oknhas’ [the title 'oknha' can be bestowed to a person who has donated at least US$100,000 to some charitable or socially relevant causes – here it is used in an intentionally derogatory way – an translation which conveys the negative feeling in this case may be something like 'a rat baron'] who do business illegally such as illegal logging, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, running casinos illegally – particularly stealing and selling state property as they like, so that they become rich, including by the sale of high-priced big buildings belonging to the state, tens of thousands of hectares of land concessions, all kinds of minerals in the ground, and by the destruction of fish grounds, and the diversity of the habitat of wild animals. Those businesspeople collude with those who are at present powerful through corruption and dictatorship under the pretext of development.

“In such a situation [after the elections], a Sam Rainsy government will not spare the crimes of a handful of wicked people including dishonest businesspeople who steal from the nation, ‘rat oknhas’ who own tens of thousands of hectares of land concessions; some other oknhas not only take state land, they even grab from the citizens with the help of powerful officials and the courts, which are very corrupt to-the-bone. A government ruled by the Sam Rainsy Party will review all wrong contracts which affect the national and the citizens’ interests, and expropriate a number of illegal economic land concessions, which have been taken by collusion between powerful people and ‘rat oknhas,’ and give them to citizens. A Sam Rainsy government will not let dishonest businesspeople steal billions of dollars of state property like the current corrupt government, that defends such dishonest businesspeople. A Sam Rainsy government will protect national and international businesspeople and investors who do business legally, respect the labor law, and pay taxes appropriately to the state.

“In the arrogant speech of the man with an aluminum fist, Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, he said that during the nearly 30 years while the party ruled the country, there had never been much money in the national treasury like today (how could there have been money when the system was corrupt to the bone – whispering [probably added by they newspaper's typesetter, a prank sometimes used in other countries]: – is this Hun Sen’s speech or the writer’s?); now there is an amount of Riel 1,000,000 kaut in the national treasury [the numeric unit kaut is defined differently in different reference sources: 1 kaut either representing the amount of 1,000,000,000 or of 1,000,000,000,000; these would roughly correspond to US$260 billion or US$26,000,000 billion]. Some officials told Samleng Sadeav that this sounds very ridiculous… it is shameful… if there is such a big amount of money, why not increase the salaries for civil servants, police, soldiers, workers, and teachers, in order that they can appropriately live in an honorable living standard, without having to seek for extra income… the prices of goods doubled, so why not double the salaries also?

“Regarding this case, Mr. Sam Rainsy told Samleng Sadeav, ‘If a government of the Sam Rainsy Party rules the country, Mr. Sam Rainsy will increase the salaries for civil servants, police, soldiers, workers, and teachers – at least to Riel 300,000 [approx. US$75] for workers, and at least Riel 500,000 [approx. US$125] for officials of all institutions, in line with the prices of goods on the market, and he guaranteed to decrease the price of fuel from Riel 5,000 [approx. US$1.25] to Riel 3,800 [approx. US$0.95].

“Mr. Hun Sen’s current government is incompetent to decrease the prices of goods on the market and to increase the salaries for officials of all levels, workers, and teachers; that is why our writer gave him a new name as the Dekchor Hun Sen [= the Strongman Hun Sen], the man [not with an iron, but] with an aluminum fist.

“One more thing that is very ridiculous is that Mr. Hun Sen boasted that nowadays our country is rich in wild animals. A source from a citizen, living in Tuek Thla commune, Russey Keo, Phnom Penh, Mr. Lim Socheat, said that the current government develops in all sectors - what a rubbish, how can it be rich in wild animals when all valuable trees have been cut and sold, and the minerals in the ground, gems and other minerals, have been totally destroyed, and in the water, there are not many fish left, like it was during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum time? Little development, conducted only in the densely populated areas deceive the eyes of the national and international community, and especially of the donor countries (on the land, there are now more mosquitoes, and in the water, there are more mosquito larvae). The citizens should be no longer deceived, they know well the tricks, and they will never be cheated again…”

Samleng Sadeav, Vol.1, #6, 5-6.5.2008

Cambodian PM: Rice cartel to benefit regional, global food security

May 06, 2008

An organization of rice exporting countries (OREC) will help make regional and global food price more stable in the future, said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen here on Monday at a university graduation ceremony.

Unlike the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), OREC would contribute to ensuring food price stability not just in individual countries, but to addressing the problem of food shortage in the region and the world, he said.

OREC won't hoard rice to raise prices when there is shortage, so people shouldn't be worried about the creation of OREC, he said.

Meanwhile, he clarified that he himself was the original creator of the OREC concept, as he first mentioned it in 2005 during a meeting of the OREC countries, namely Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

After all, Cambodia has two million tons of rice for export each year, while Thailand has 9.5 million tons, he added.

On April 30, in response to ever spiraling rice price, Thailandhighlighted the idea to establish OREC, which quickly resulted in widespread mixed reactions.

Cambodia surely appeared positive. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Chan Sarun told a rural products exhibition in southern province of Takeo on Sunday that OREC aims for common price of rice in order to enhance their capability of rice production, help settle the world food crisis and increase incomes for their farmers.

During a meeting in Indonesia on Sunday, the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asia Nations) countries, including OREC themselves, agreed for cooperation to stabilize rice price.

However, on the same day during a meeting in Spain, Asian Development Bank's senior officials clearly opposed establishment of the OREC, citing that it contradicted the free spirit of market economy and would bring about disadvantages to both sellers and purchasers.

According to earlier reports, the OREC are now planning to meet as soon as possible to materialize the concept.

The rice exports of Thailand and Vietnam used to account for some 40 percent of the world's total annual export of rice.

If Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are also included, the percentage will rise over 50 percent. Rice price has been spiraling since 2008 and high-quality rice currently sells some 1,000 U.S. dollars a ton.


Top officials to discuss Preah Vihear

The Bangkok Post

World Heritage listing row still needs settling


A top foreign affairs official will leave for Phnom Penh today for discussions on the controversial issue of Unesco World Heritage listing for the ancient Khmer temple of Preah Vihear. Foreign affairs permanent secretary Weerasak Futrakul will meet Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in the Cambodian capital.

Bangkok accepts Cambodia's sovereignty over Preah Vihear, which sits right on the border with Si Sa Ket province but can be easily accessed only through Thailand.

But they need to settle the dispute over ownership of 4.6 square kilometres of land adjoining the temple ruins.

Thailand has proposed that a joint management plan be drawn up for the overlapping areas until the border demarcation is completed, and that they jointly propose Preah Vihear to Unesco for listing. Cambodia has so far thrown cold water on the Thai proposal and will continue its solo push for the temple's registration with the UN body at a meeting in Canada in July.

The Preah Vihear dispute erupted in 2001 when Cambodia asked Unesco to put the ancient ruins, called Khao Phra Viharn in Thai, on the World Heritage List. Unesco last year postponed a decision on the listing pending an agreement between the two sides.

According to Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, Unesco special representative Francesco Caruso has cancelled a trip to Thailand and Cambodia during which he was to have separate talks with the two governments on the issue. The cancellation came after Cambodia suggested the two sides settle the issue between themselves.

The Preah Vihear dispute has at times strained relations between the two neighbours.

On April 10, the government handed an aide-memoire to Cambodian ambassador Ung Sean protesting the deployment of Cambodian troops near the temple. Phnom Penh countered by summoning Thai envoy Viraphand Vacharathit to deny the allegations.

Thailand, Cambodia to confer on Preah Vihear Tuesday

BANGKOK, May 5 (TNA) - The permanent secretary of the Thai Foreign Ministry will meet with Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister on Tuesday to discuss the overlapping claims to the areas surrounding the Preah Vihear temple of Cambodia, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said on Monday.

The meeting between Veerasak Footrakul, the Thai Foreign Ministry's permanent secretary and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An would be held in Cambodia, he said.Mr. Noppadon said the Thai government welcomed the Cambodian government's move to register the temple ancient ruins as a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, the two countries must first settle their divergent views regarding a disputed 4.6 square kilometre area around the temple ruins, so that officials of both countries could jointly manage the area.

Cambodia has asked the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to put the Preah Vihear temple ruins as a World Heritage list. Thailand did not oppose the idea, but argues the area's border issuehas not been settled. UNESCO's stance is that the two neighbours must first settle their differences.

Preah Vihear straddles the border with Cambodia in Kantharalak district of the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket.

Cambodia leader allays fears of Asia rice cartel

Philippine Daily Inquirer, Agence France-Presse

Phnom Penh—Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Monday said that a proposed OPEC-style rice cartel in Southeast Asia would ensure global food security, rejecting concerns that such an economic bloc would aggravate hunger and poverty.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej last week said that his country had agreed in principle to the formation of a rice price-fixing cartel with Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia as the price of the staple grain continued to skyrocket.

The grouping of the five nations along the Mekong River would be similar to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and would be called the Organization of Rice Exporting Countries (OREC).

During a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Monday, Hun Sen said that the proposed rice cartel would not try to manipulate markets but would guarantee the adequate supply of the staple.

“We will not only ensure food security in each of our own countries, but will help solve the entire problem of (food) shortages across the region and the world,” he said.

“When there are shortages, we will not stockpile the rice or increase prices . . . We really want to help ensure food security,” he added.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has come out against the planned cartel while Philippine officials have blasted the proposed cartel as “antipoor,” saying it would only exacerbate hunger and poverty.

Hun Sen urged other Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines, not to worry about the cartel.

“The formation of the organization is not meant to strangle the throats of countries that do not have rice,” he said.

Back into poverty

The five proposed members of the cartel, which plans to export up to 15 million tons of rice a year, will discuss the formation of the economic bloc at regional talks in October, Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen sought to allay fears of a rice cartel after Asian leaders warned at the ADB annual meeting in Madrid that soaring food prices could push millions of people in Asia back into poverty and spark social unrest.

Japanese Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga said the surge in rice prices would hit Asian countries hard and cited the need for safety nets for the poorest segment of the population.

Prices for the benchmark Thai variety of rice, a food stable across much of Asia, have tripled to $1,000 a ton the past four months.

Meat prices have also risen by 60 percent in Bangladesh in the year ending in March, and by 45 percent in Cambodia and 30 percent in the Philippines, according to an ADB report issued on Saturday.

The rise in global food prices has sparked riots last month in Egypt and Haiti, protests in other countries and restrictions on food exports in Brazil, Vietnam, India and Egypt.

Indian Finance Secretary Subba Rao said a 20-percent rise in food prices could force 100 million people into extreme poverty.

“In many countries, including in Asia, that will mean the undoing of gains in poverty reduction achieved during the past years of growth,” he said.

The Indian government, which is facing a general election by May 2009, has banned the export of staple foods like rice and lentils and cut customs duties on other items in a bid to ease price pressures.

Rao said his government was spending the equivalent of about 2.0 percent of gross domestic product per year on subsidies for food, fertilizer and energy to help offset the impact of rising prices on the poor.

Burden on state budgets

But Nukaga warned that export restrictions could lead to higher prices while food subsidies to help the poor deal with surging prices could place a tremendous burden on state budgets.

“Export restrictions will not only distort the proper functioning of markets in price formation but further exacerbate the price hikes in international markets,” he said.

“Subsidies that are intended to keep food prices under control have the risk of becoming a significant burden to budgets and are not sustainable over time.”

Food subsidies in Bangladesh, one of the poorest nations in Asia, are estimated to double in the current fiscal year and reach over $1.5 billion in the current fiscal year.

The ADB, which estimates one billion people in Asia are seriously affected by soaring food prices, announced on the opening day of its four-day annual meeting in Madrid that it would provide a sizeable amount in soft loans to help Asian countries subsidize the price of food staples for the poor.

The ADB also announced it would provide $2 billion in loans in 2008 and 2009 to finance agriculture infrastructure projects such as irrigation systems and rural roads aimed at boosting farm output in the region.

Rising use of biofuels, trade restrictions, increased demand from Asia to serve changing diets, poor harvests and increasing transport costs have all been blamed for skyrocketing food prices.


Siam Cement May Spend 6 Billion Baht on Second Cambodia Factory

By Anuchit Nguyen

May 6 (Bloomberg) -- Siam Cement Pcl, Thailand's biggest producer, may spend as much as 6 billion baht ($189 million) to build a second factory in neighboring Cambodia to triple its production capacity there.

The planned factory, twice as big as the first plant, will increase the Bangkok-based company's capacity in Cambodia to 2.55 million tons a year, company President Kan Trakulhoon said in a May 2 interview. A feasibility study will be completed this year.

Siam Cement, controlled by the king's asset management arm, is building cement and paper plants in countries including Vietnam and the Philippines to counter slowing domestic sales. The company is also expanding investments in petrochemicals to benefit from oil reserves in the region.

``We have to import cement for our customers in Cambodia, as the first factory, which started operations in January, is already running at full capacity,'' Kan said. ``There's a very strong outlook for cement sales in Cambodia because of infrastructure development and economic growth.''

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's largest miner, and Chevron Corp. are investing in Cambodia to tap the nation's natural reserves of copper and oil. Developers such as Club Mediterranee SA and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. are building hotels and adding rooms as more tourists visit ancient temples such as Angkor Wat.

Cambodia's economy expanded 9.6 percent last year and 10.8 percent in 2006, according to the International Monetary Fund's data on its Web site.

Shares of Siam Cement rose 1.9 percent to 212 baht on May 2 in Bangkok. Markets were shut yesterday for a public holiday.

Photos: Global Food Crisis

A Cambodian family grinds rice for their daily meal at Tram Knar village in Kampong Speu province about 45 kilometres west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, March 29, 2008. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday, May 5, 2008 that a proposed OPEC-style rice cartel in Southeast Asia would ensure global food security, rejecting concerns that it would increase hunger and poverty. (Heng Sinith/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A Cambodian man prepares sacks of rice for transport to the main market at Tram Knar village in Kampong Speu province about 45 kilometres west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, March 29, 2008. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday, May 5, 2008 that a proposed OPEC-style rice cartel in Southeast Asia would ensure global food security, rejecting concerns that it would increase hunger and poverty. (Heng Sinith/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A Cambodian vendor cleans rice for sale in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, March 26, 2008. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday, May 5, 2008 that a proposed OPEC-style rice cartel in Southeast Asia would ensure global food security, rejecting concerns that it would increase hunger and poverty. (Heng Sinith/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

A Cambodian woman cleans rice for her daily meal at Tram Knar village in Kampong Speu province about 45 kilometres west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, March 29, 2008. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday, May 5, 2008 that a proposed OPEC-style rice cartel in Southeast Asia would ensure global food security, rejecting concerns that it would increase hunger and poverty. (Heng Sinith/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Veterans Remember Victims of Bulgaria's Mission in Cambodia

In the eve of May 6, Day of the Bulgarian Army, only twenty veterans and no representatives of the Defense Ministry took part in the remembrance of the ten Bulgarian rangers, who were died in Cambodia. Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (Sofia Photo Agency)

Sofia News Agency
5 May 2008, Monday

Twenty veterans from Bulgaria's first peacekeeping mission - in Cambodia in 1991-1993 - gathered in Sofia on Monday exactly 16 years after the start of the mission in order to honor the memory of the ten Bulgarian soldiers who died in it.

The ceremony took place before the memorial tablet in the National Military History Museum in Sofia, the Bulgarian National Radio reported.

The Deputy Commander of the Bulgarian battalion in Cambodia in the beginning of the 1990s Yanko Yankov said the mission had laid the foundations for Bulgaria's further participation in peacekeeping operations.

Sixteen years after the Cambodian mission, the veterans believe the authorities were not using properly the experience from it in the ensuing missions to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bulgaria participated in the two UN peacekeeping missions to Cambodia with 850 soldiers. No representatives of the Defense Ministry attended the remembrance ceremony honoring the ten Bulgarians who died during the mission.

Hun Sen: Orec can solve world hunger

The Bangkok Post

Phnom Penh (Agencies) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday that the Opec-style rice cartel proposed by Thailand would ensure global food security, not increase hunger and poverty as critics say.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said last week there was an agreement in principle to form what he calls Organisation of Rice Exporting Countries by Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Mekong-region nations hope they can run a group similar to the oil cartel Opec.

Hun Sen said during a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh that the cartel would never try to manipulate markets like Opec. It would only seek to ensure global food security.

"We will not only ensure food security in each of our own countries, but will help solve the entire problem of (food) shortages across the region and the world," Hun Sen said.

"When there are shortages, we will not stockpile the rice or increase prices," the premier said. "We really want to help ensure food security."

The Asian Development Bank said it hated the idea. Senior Philippines officials have blasted the proposal as "anti-poor", designed to increase hunger and poverty.

Hun Sen urged them to stop. "The formation of the organisation is not meant to strangle the throats of countries that do not have rice," he said.

The five proposed members of the cartel will discuss the organisation at regional talks in October, Hun Sen said, adding that the Mekong river nations would export up to 15 million tonnes of rice a year - 10 million by Thailand.

Hun Sen last week appealed to farmers to grow more rice in order to profit from the increased global food crisis.

More Vietnam tourists keen on Cambodia tourism


VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam ranks third following the Republic of Korea (RoK) and Japan on the number of tourists visiting Cambodia in the first quarter of this year.

According to the Cambodia Tourism Ministry, thanks to favorable travel between Vietnam and Cambodia, more Vietnam tourism companies attach importance to exploiting well-known tourist attractions in the country such as Angcovat, Angcothom in Siem Riep, Phnom Penh Capital and coastal Kongpongxom.

Aiming to further attract foreign tourists to Cambodia in the upcoming time, the Cambodia Tourism Ministry set a plan to upgrade infrastructure system, speed up tourism cooperation with Greater Mekong Sub-region countries, invest in building sea and airports to support transport activities and pick up foreign tourists to Cambodia.

The country’s tourism sector is expected to attract an estimated more than 2.3 million foreign tourists in 2008.

(Source: HNM/CPV)

1 billion Asians need help in food crisis: development chief

CBC News
May 5, 2008

A billion Asians require assistance to weather the effects of the soaring price of food around the globe, the head of the Asian Development Bank said Monday.

Haruhiko Kuroda, the bank's president, said an erosion of purchasing power has put Asia's poor at risk of hunger and malnutrition and could “seriously undermine the global fight against poverty and erode the gains of the past decades.”

"This price surge has a stark human dimension and has greatly affected over a billion people in Asia and the Pacific alone,” Kuroda said as the bank opened its two-day annual meeting in Madrid.

The price of basic staples has increased dramatically in the past three years, spurred by poor harvests, increased use of biofuels, fuel costs and surging demand for food-grains in China and other emerging economies.

More than 1.7 billion Asians — three times the population of Europe — live each day on less than $2 US, the bank said in a statement. Meanwhile, the poorest of the region cope with the effects of an infrastructure investment gap of about $300 billion a year, it said.

Last month, the United Nations announced it would set up a high-level task force headed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to tackle the global food crisis that is threatening to destabilize developing nations.

Ban said UN leaders will take a series of medium- and long-term measures, with the first priority the $755-million US funding shortfall for the World Food Program, much of it because of soaring world grain prices.

OPEC-like 'rice cartel' proposed

Kuroda's remarks came as officials of four rice-exporting countries — Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Burma — prepared to meet Tuesday to discuss a Thai proposal to create a cartel to control prices of the staple grain.

Markets indicate the price of standard Thai rice has tripled in the last year.

The soaring cost of rice and other developing world staples has already led to riots in impoverished Haiti and export bans by India, Thailand, Vietnam and other major rice-producing countries to ensure domestic supplies.

But Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday that unlike the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the group known as OPEC, the purpose of the rice cartel would be to ensure stability of the rice market rather than raise prices.

He said cartel members would address food shortages both regionally and around the world, and have no intention of hoarding or using their power to drive up prices.

"We shall not hoard [rice] and raise prices when there are shortages," Hun Sen said.

But representatives from the Philippines said they weren't convinced.

Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Philippine Senate's committee on agriculture, said he fears a small group of producers could control the staple food and price it out of reach for "millions and millions of people."

"It is a bad idea … It will create an oligopoly and it's against humanity," Angara said Friday.

Television Journalist and Producer Bill Kurtis Interviews Last Three Surviving Nuremberg Trial Prosecutors About Cambodia Tribunal Now Underway

Monday May 5

Nuremberg prosecutors Ben Ferencz, Henry King and Whitney Harris tell why Cambodia Tribunal must go forward; tie to Nuremberg precedent

Exclusive video of Nuremberg interviews posted on www.CambodiaTribunal.org

CHICAGO, May 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The Cambodia Tribunal Monitor Web site today posted exclusive video interviews by TV journalist, producer and former CBS news anchor Bill Kurtis with the last three surviving prosecutors of post-World War II trials held in Nuremberg, Germany about their perspective on the upcoming Cambodia Tribunal. Senior officials of the Khmer Rouge regime are expected to be tried over the next several years for atrocity crimes in Cambodia during their 1975-79 rule. The pre-trial hearings of some of the regime leaders are currently underway.

Kurtis interviewed prosecutors Ben Ferencz, Henry King and Whitney Harris, asking them to reflect on the significance of the Nuremberg trials on international law, what lessons we learned, how far we've come and what advice they have for the Cambodia Tribunal currently underway in Phnom Penh.

Kurtis, with the consortium responsible for the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor Web site, posted these exclusive interviews with the surviving Nuremberg prosecutors on the Web site in an effort to raise awareness about the need to punish war crimes and crimes against humanity, no matter how long ago those crimes were committed.

Speaking about the significance of interviewing the Nuremberg prosecutors, Kurtis said, "These are the voices of history speaking. They provide an important historical context and precedent from the post-World War II era that can be applied to today's tribunal in Cambodia. I thought it was especially important to draw from their experience and hear their perspective, as their insights will inform the trials -- and procedures of those trials -- for today's alleged war criminals."

When Kurtis asked if it is still worth it for Cambodia to have a tribunal after 30 years since the crimes were committed, former prosecutor Ben Ferencz said, "Of course it's still worth it. Because it tells the people of Cambodia, we have not forgotten ... And we are trying, within the limits of our capacity, to recognize that what happened to you and your people and your loved ones and the victims was a crime, it was an outrage, and we will never tolerate that as an acceptable human behavior."

Henry King told Kurtis that he would offer the following advice to the Cambodia Tribunal, "Take the long view. Be persistent. Never give up. We didn't ever give up at Nuremberg ... Think of future generations ... because the weapons of destruction are becoming so violent that we'll destroy ourselves if we don't have a rule of law in the world."

From April 1975 to January 1979, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodian citizens died under the Khmer Rouge regime. After nearly 10 years of negotiations, this special war crimes tribunal has commenced. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as the special Cambodian court is formally known, will oversee the proceedings and is a joint partnership of the United Nations and the Royal Government of Cambodia.

Video and transcripts in English are now posted on http://www.CambodiaTribunalMonitor.org. The media will be notified when French voiceovers of the video and French transcripts of the interviews are available in the coming weeks.

Biographies of Nuremberg Prosecutors:

Benjamin Berell Ferencz: Ferencz is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Following the Nuremberg trials, Ferencz became a vocal advocate of the establishment of an international rule of law and of the International Criminal Court. From 1985 to 1996, he was Adjunct Professor of International Law at Pace University.

Henry T. King, Jr.: King is a legal practitioner and an academic writer. King received his B.A. degree in 1941 from Yale College, and his LL.B. in 1943 from Yale Law School (1943). Following his service at Nuremberg, King had a long career as counsel for several corporations, including the TRW Corporation. A former chairman of the American Bar Association's Section of International Law and Practice, he served on the ABA's special task force on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and was the U.S. chairman of a joint working group, organized by the American, Canadian, and Mexican bar associations, on the settlement of international disputes. Currently, King teaches International Arbitration and is U.S. director of the Canada-U.S. Law Institute.

Whitney R. Harris: Harris is author of Tyranny on Trial (1954), a major book about the Nuremberg Trials. In recent years he generously funded the establishment of The Whitney R. Harris Institute for Global Legal Studies at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, bringing together experts from around the world to expand understanding of real-world issues and prepare lawyers for the professional challenges of the 21st Century. In addition to teaching law during his post-Nuremberg career, Harris was director of the Hoover Commission's Legal Services Task Force; served as the first Executive Director of the American Bar Association; and was Solicitor General of Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in St. Louis where he practiced law until his retirement. In 1998, Harris was a non-governmental delegate to the United Nations-sponsored conference that resulted in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Background on the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor Web site:

The Cambodia Tribunal Monitor Web site is the leading independent source of news and information on the upcoming trials of senior officials of the Khmer Rouge regime for atrocity crimes. The Web site posts timely news updates and guest commentaries by leading international experts on the recent history of Cambodia, politics, human rights and international law. It also provides background information on the history of the Khmer Rouge and ECCC and important resources such as court documents and bibliographies of scholarly articles and books. Complete videotaped trial footage will be available throughout the court proceedings.

The Cambodia Tribunal Monitor was developed by a consortium of academic, philanthropic and non-profit organizations committed to providing public access to the tribunal and open discussion throughout the judicial process. The academic manager and sponsor of the site is Northwestern University School of Law's Center for International Human Rights, joined by co-sponsors Documentation Center of Cambodia and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. The prime sponsor of the site is the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.

The Web site was conceived by Illinois State Senator Jeff Schoenberg, a Chicago-area legislator who also advises the Pritzker family on its philanthropy. In January 2007, Schoenberg participated in a trip sponsored by Build Cambodia, a U.S. based not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping Cambodians build their lives and society. As a result of the experience, Schoenberg enlisted the support of the aforementioned sponsors, and with their assistance the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor was created.

Source: Cambodia Tribunal Monitor

Asian rice market uncertain ahead of meeting on possible cartel

A Cambodian man prepares sacks of rice for transport to the main market at Tram Knar village in Kampong Speu province about 45 kilometres (28 miles) west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday March 29, 2008. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Heng Sinith

CBC News
May 5, 2008
Canadian Press: Paul Alexander

MANILA, Philippines - The Asian Development Bank says a billion poor people in Asia require food aid to help them cope with skyrocketing food prices.

Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda, speaking as the bank opened its two-day annual meeting in Madrid, says an erosion of purchasing power has put Asia's poor at risk of hunger and malnutrition.

His remarks came as officials of four rice-exporting countries - Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar - prepared to meet Tuesday to discuss creating a cartel to control the staple grain.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen says that unlike the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the purpose of the rice cartel would be to ensuring stability in the rice market.

He says cartel members would address food shortages both regionally and around the world, and have no intention of hoarding or using their power to drive up prices.