Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Misuse of courts mars Cambodian election

Column: Rule by Fear
Published: May 07, 2008

HONG KONG, China, The courts mar the election in Cambodia
Cambodia will hold its next general election on July 27. According to the electoral law, campaigning will not begin until 30 days prior to the polls. Yet leaders of major political parties seem to have already started campaigning, with speeches attacking one another to score points and win votes. As in previous elections, party signs, especially those of non-ruling parties, have been damaged or destroyed, and non-ruling party activists have received threats and intimidation, or have even been killed.

There are now concerns that two court cases involving the leaders of two opposition parties will create more serious trouble, marring the whole electoral process. The first and latest one is a criminal lawsuit against Sam Rainsy, leader of the self-named Sam Rainsy Party, a more established opposition party, for defamation and disinformation against Hor Nam Hong, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. This minister is also a leading member of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

Hor Nam Hong filed this lawsuit on April 22 at the court of Phnom Penh, after Sam Rainsy made a public speech that Hor alleges defamed him. On April 17, at a ceremony to commemorate the seizure of power by the Khmer Rouge and the beginning of their massacres of the Cambodian people on that day in 1975, Sam made a speech in which he said, without naming any names, that two ministers of the current government had been Khmer Rouge cadres. He mentioned that one minister, the senior minister for economics and finance, had been Khmer Rouge Leader Pol Pot's secretary and translator, and the other minister, the deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, had been chief of the Khmer Rouge prison at Boeung Trabek in Phnom Penh.

The court has acted promptly on this lawsuit and has summoned Sam to appear before it on May 22 -- while it has not acted with the same promptness on cases of violence against opposition parties and their activists. This has prompted further doubts about not only this particular court's but also all Cambodian courts' lack of independence and impartiality. If convicted, Sam could be sentenced to between six months and three years in prison for disinformation, and also fined for each count. Any such imprisonment would cripple his party, which is the second largest after the CPP.

The other court case is an on-going one and involves Prince Norodom Ranariddh, former leader of the FUNCINPEC party, CPP's current coalition partner in the government, and leader of a newly formed party, also self-named the Norodom Ranariddh Party. His former party has filed a criminal lawsuit against him for breach of trust in the handling, while he was leader of that party, of the sale of the party's land when he was alleged to have misappropriated the proceeds from it.
Fearing a negative outcome, Ranariddh has fled the country and is now living in exile in Malaysia. In March 2007 the Court of First Instance in Phnom Penh tried him in absentia, and as widely expected, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay damages to FUNCINPEC. He appealed this court ruling, but in October the Court of Appeal ruled against his appeal. He then appealed the ruling of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court. This Supreme Court has now started its proceedings, and it is expected that his appeal would be heard sometime in July, around the time of the election. Ranariddh cannot return to Cambodia to directly lead his party and its electoral campaign lest he is arrested and put in jail.

It is widely known that courts in Cambodia are politically controlled and almost all judges and prosecutors belong to the CPP, the ruling party. The president of the Supreme Court, or chief justice, is a member of the party's standing and central committees. As a local human rights group called LICADHO put it in its report, "Human Rights in Cambodia: The Charade of Justice," published in December 2007, a primary function of the courts in Cambodia is "to persecute political opponents and other critics of the government." Prof. Yash Ghai, the U.N. special envoy for human rights in Cambodia, totally agreed with this assessment in a report which he presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2008.

Sam Rainsy is Prime Minister Hun Sen's long-time political opponent, and the Sam Rainsy Party is the major contender against Hun Sen's CPP. Nordom Ranariddh and Hun Sen have had a love-hate relationship, but over the last several years the two have fallen out and Hun Sen has made continuous efforts to marginalize this prince from Cambodian politics.

It seems that the courts are again being used to cripple political opponents. It is hard for both Sam Rainsy and Norodom Ranariddh to expect any prompt or fair trial, so they might win their cases and freely and fully lead their respective parties to compete in the election. This use of courts as instruments of political oppression could mar the whole of the electoral process. It could impair the fairness of the forthcoming election and undermine the legitimacy of the new government.


(Lao Mong Hay is a senior researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong. He was previously director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and a visiting professor at the University of Toronto in 2003. In 1997, he received an award from Human Rights Watch and the Nansen Medal in 2000 from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.)

New arrest in mine clearer death

BBC News
Wednesday, 7 May 2008

A fourth former Khmer Rouge soldier has been charged for his role in the 1996 kidnapping and murder of North Somerset mine clearer Christopher Howes.

Sin Dorn was charged with premeditated murder over the death of Mr Howes and his Cambodian translator Huon Huot.

Mr Howes, who was 37, was given the chance to leave his kidnapped team of 20 mine clearers to retrieve a ransom, but refused.

The team was eventually released but Mr Howes and Huon Huot were killed.

Mr Howes' remains were found in 1998.

He and the group were seized near the Angkor Wat temples in northwest Cambodia.

At the time the communist Khmer Rouge was battling government troops in the final years of Cambodia's drawn-out civil war.

Sin Dorn has also been charged with illegal confinement of Christopher Howes and his translator and with being a member of rebel forces.

In November, three other former communist rebels - Khem Ngun, Loch Mao, and Cheap Chet - were arrested and received the same charges over the deaths of Mr Howes and his translator, Huon Huot.

No trial date has been set.

Charity cooks up $40,000 for kids

Yvette Elliott has written a book on Cambodian food to raise funds for Cambodian children and their families. Photo: Danielle Butters

Source: North Side Courier
Author: Andrew Priestley
Posted: Wed 7 May, 2008

Putting 150 children through school with a cookbook may sound far-fetched, but a Lane Cove charity worker has shown it's a sizzler of an idea.

Yvette Elliott and a team of volunteers put their own time and money into writing, editing, printing and distributing Nyum Bai!, a book of more than 30 Cambodian recipes.

Since December, the book has generated more than $40,000 which is enough to put 150 Cambodian children through school for a year and buy school uniforms and equipment.

Ms Elliott said she and her colleagues absorbed the production costs so that all the money generated, aside from postage expenses, could go back to Cambodia through the Green Gecko Project charity program. She said she did not know how much the production cost but she didn't care.

"I don't even like to add [the costs] up, but that's OK. It's a good cause," she said. "It becomes less about the money and more about the value you can add. It's about soul food."

The project set out to provide food, an education, and medical treatment for street children in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, near the temples of Angkor Wat.

Ms Elliott said the children, who are as young as five, often become their family's main provider and can suffer abuse, disease and violence. But through the book sales, she said they would have the resources to follow their dreams.

"I hope that ongoing sales give these kids the ability to fund their education and whatever they want to be and whatever they want to do," she said. "One of them wants to be an astronaut, and who's to say they couldn't?"

The book was launched to the public last week and has sold more than 2000 copies.


Aussie credit unions to help developing nations

By Laine Lister
7 May 2008

Fifteen Australian credit union industry bosses will travel to Cambodia this month as part of a volunteer education program initiated by the Credit Union Foundation Australia.

The Cambodian Credit Union Education Program aims to provide insight into the major challenges and issues faced by financial institutions in Cambodia and help strengthen the growth of the credit union movement in the country.

Commenting on the program, Credit Union Australia managing director, and one of the 15 Australians travelling to Cambodia for the program, Graham Olrich said it is an opportunity to make a difference in the area of micro finance in a developing country.

“This is really about helping Cambodians access credit, which is not necessarily readily available to them through conventional banks,” he said.

“Credit unions [in Australia] have evolved from being in a position to provide credit to those who are not able to obtain it easily through mainstream financial institutions … to the point where we now provide a real alternative to the mainstream banks.

“We believe this is achievable across the globe,” he said.

Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia to enhance economic cooperation

HANOI, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia launched here an economic cooperation and development association, aiming to strengthen the economic and investment ties with each other, local newspaper Vietnam News reported Wednesday.

The Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia Economic Cooperation and Development Association set up on Tuesday will also collect feedback on strategies, policies or administrative reforms in the region. Its four-year action plan includes forums and trade fairs where its members can exchange information and experience, obtain consultation services and legal support for enterprises and investors.

The association, having 500 members of organizations, individuals and enterprises now, is expected to double the number by 2012.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Rice shortage impacts on New Zealand

Radio Australia

The global rice shortage is starting to impact on New Zealand, with reports local rice merchants in Auckland have now set limits on how much customers can buy.

A New Zealand Herald report says, long and medium grain rice is still readily available in supermarkets but stocks of specialty varieties, like jasmine and basmati, are running out.

Ursula Lawrence, from New Zealand's Thai Rice Wholesalers, says her business is down to its last 25 kilogram sack of rice The company, Wholesalers Gilmours, says it too is running low and has placed a two-bag restriction on certain varieties of rice, to stop retailers from stockpiling.

The decision by India, Vietnam, Egypt, Cambodia, Brazil and China to curtail exports to protect prices at home have been blamed for the global price hike and the recent rice panic.

Thailand, Cambodia on alert in Interpol paedophile hunt

Christopher Paul Neil, a suspected Canadian paedophile, talks with Thai police at the Crime Supression Division in Bangkok in October 2007. Thai police said Wednesday they were on high alert for another Western man accused of molesting Asian boys, triggering a global hunt, but said that tracking him down would be difficult.(AFP/File/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

An interpol officer's computer, May 5 at the Lyon-based agency, eastern France, shows images of a man who is thought to have abused three boys aged between 6 and 10. Interpol posted six images on its website to launch a global appeal to identify this man, suspected of sexually abusing several asian boys and distributing hundreds of photos of the acts.(AFP/Fred Dufour)

Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, France. Thai and Cambodian police were on high alert Wednesday after Interpol launched a global manhunt for an unidentified man accused of molesting Asian boys, but warned tracking him down would be tough.(AFP/File/Fred Dufour)

by Anusak Konglang

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thai and Cambodian police were on high alert Wednesday after Interpol launched a global manhunt for an unidentified man accused of molesting Asian boys, but warned tracking him down would be tough.

Interpol has posted images on its website of a white man accused of distributing hundreds of photos of his abuse of Southeast Asian boys committed in 2000 and 2001.

It is the second time in seven months the international police agency has made such a public appeal, following a search for another suspected paedophile, Christopher Paul Neil, a 32-year-old Canadian who was arrested in Thailand in October.

"We have alerted our agencies by distributing his picture to the immigration department and the police central investigation bureau," said Colonel Apichat Suriboonya, head of Thailand's branch of Interpol.

"As of now we have no information about whether the suspect is in Thailand or not. It is not like the Christopher case where we knew his name and flight number," he said.

In Cambodia, the head of the national Interpol office Keo Vanthan said local police were also on high alert, although officials had no indication if the suspect was in the kingdom.

"If he is here, he will be arrested," Keo Vanthan said. "We don't know the name of the guy or which country he is in."

Interpol official Yves Rolland told AFP that the photos discovered on the Internet were "typical of paedophiles frequenting sexual tourism hotspots in South Asia, especially Thailand and Cambodia."

Both countries have tried to crack down on paedophiles, and Thailand has been praised for its cooperation in tracking down Neil last year.

Neil, a teacher, was seized in northeast Thailand on October 19 following the worldwide Interpol campaign to track down a man seen in 200 Internet photos abusing Asian boys.

The suspect's face had been digitally swirled in the pictures, but German computer experts were able to reconstruct the images, which Interpol then posted on its website along with its public appeal.

Neil was identified after Interpol received responses from around the world that helped authorities track him down.

Without tips from the public in the latest case, Apichart said tracking down the suspect would prove difficult.

Last year Thailand began taking digital photos of all the passengers arriving at the nation's airports.

But Apichart said Thailand did not have the technology to match a suspects' face to those images.

Given that Thailand receives some 15 million visitors a year, it would be very hard to locate the unnamed Interpol suspect, he said.

"This time the request is quite difficult but we have to try," he said.

"I think they (Interpol) have investigated this case for some time but when it hit a dead end they tried this strategy as a last chance."

Interpol's Rolland said the pictures of the abuse showed a white man aged between 50 and 70.

The affair came to light in March 2006 after the discovery of hundreds of paedophile images in the computer of a Norwegian man who was later convicted on paedophilia-related charges.

The three boys featured in some 800 shots, of which 100 showed the man Interpol is seeking to identify.

Sacravatoons : " The Battery of South-East Asia "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Cambodian doubles bank reserve requirement to tame inflation

Cambodian women work at a Ly Hour currency exchange booth in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, May 7, 2008. The Cambodian government has decided to double the private bank reserve requirement in a bid to reduce cash flow in the economy and tame inflation, a Finance Ministry official said Wednesday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian woman works at a Ly Hour currency exchange booth in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, May 7, 2008. The Cambodian government has decided to double the private bank reserve requirement in a bid to reduce cash flow in the economy and tame inflation, a Finance Ministry official said Wednesday.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The Economic Times
7 May, 2008

PHNOM PENH: The Cambodian government has decided to double the private bank reserve requirement in a bid to reduce cash flow in the economy and tame inflation, a Finance Ministry official said Wednesday.

The measure will take effect in July when all private banks will have to raise their reserve requirement from 8 percent to 16 per cent, said Hang Chuon Naron, secretary-general of Cambodia's Finance Ministry.

He said the move is necessary to cut back on loans made to the private sector and help cool down the economy, which ``has been heating due to too much cash circulation ... that has spurred investment but also driven up prices on property and general commodities.''

The Cambodian economy grew an average of 11.1 per cent a year in the 2004-7 period. Inflation rose along with the growth, with sharp increases in foods and fuel.

Through the end of January, measuring from the end of 2006, the food price index increased 20.9 per cent and the transportation cost index rose 13.5 per cent, the Finance Ministry said in a report last month.

Officials at the Association of Banks in Cambodia could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In Channy, the president and CEO of ACLEDA Bank Plc, said the reserve measure ``is not a good idea at all.'' He said it would slow growth and limit business and employment opportunities.

Banks should lend out 100 per cent of the deposits made by the public, he said.

``The more they lend the more investment can be generated, as well as more employment, more income for both companies and private individuals,'' he said.

Cambodia has a cashed-based economy in which 90 per cent of bank deposits and the money in circulation is in foreign currency, mostly the US dollar.

In Channy said current bank deposits in Cambodia total about $2.4 billion (euro1.6 billion). ACLEDA is holding 21 per cent of the total deposits, making it the second largest commercial bank in the country.

He said banks' loans which are already less than 80 percent of the total deposits will effectively shrink by another 8 percent as a result of the government measure. The reduction, he predicted, would result in a decline in investment and employment.

Even if the measure was necessary, it should have been gradual and ``not jumped straight to 16 per cent'' from 8 percent, In Channy said.

``I believe we need more growth,'' he added. Hang Chuon Naron, the Finance Ministry official, did not say how long the measure would stay in place. He stressed that the government's ``goal is to cool (the economy) down to avoid too much inflation.''

``When it grows too strongly, it generates inflation, so we cannot tackle both'' at the same time, he said.

Calls for Cambodia to draft anti-tobacco laws

Radio Australia

An alliance of non-government organisations called the Cambodia Movement for Health are urging the parliament to speed up passage of draft anti-tobacco legislation.

The Mekong Times reports the group is also stressing that stronger tobacco laws won't harm the economy.

The movement's director Mom Kong says raising the tax on cigarettes will allow the government to raise more revenue that can be spent on the health and education sectors.

Mon Kong says Cambodia is obliged under the W-H-O's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to adopt appropriate anti-tobacco policies.

Temple fatigue

NO APPARENT BONES: One of the 2,000 carvings of apsara dancers on the walls of Angkor Wat.

In Cambodia, monuments to religious fervor amaze and dismay.

By Peter Meinke

The first view of the foreboding ruins of Angkor Wat reminds one of Shelley's great sonnet, "Ozymandias." Out of the flat plains of Siem Reap, the massive three-tiered temple rises like some primitive fortress of the Dark Lords. It must have been a terrifying sight twice: once back in the 12th century when it was built, and again in the 19th century when it was rediscovered by French explorers. Considering the state of the world today, and the role of religion in it, it's still pretty scary.

We'd been in Bangkok getting to know our new grandson, Tai, and decided to see the famous temples in nearby Cambodia. (Tai's parents added that my ability to put Tai asleep, developed through decades of practicing on students, was useful but not necessary, and encouraged us go.)
We landed in Siem Reap with images of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge marching through our heads. These thoughts dispersed as we entered a scene out of Alice in Wonderland: eight jovial uniformed personnel, drinking tea and seated at an elevated table, tossed our passports back and forth for 15 minutes, occasionally stamping something, finally returning them with a smile and no comment. The stamps were impressive, and no one checked our luggage.

Cambodia's in much worse shape than Thailand. Wracked by decades of poverty, war and drugs, it hasn't recovered enough to benefit from its neighbor's newfound embrace of capitalism. The sprawling "village" of Siem Reap (meaning "Defeat of Siam," commemorating a centuries-old bloodbath with Thailand), lies in the area along the Siem Reap River, where most of the temples are located; it's surrounded by large hotels for tourists, their main source of money. The Cambodian riel is so devalued that the U.S. dollar is the de facto currency: we rode around in a cyclo -- a motorbike pulling an open-air cab -- hiring an amiable driver, Bun, to take us to the temples and around the city, for $12 a day.

Siem Reap is also the birthplace of one of the world's true heroes, Dith Pran, who died last month, at age 65. Pran, a journalist and interpreter, was the prime mover in revealing the horror of the Khmer Rouge's genocide, when they slaughtered 2 million of Cambodia's 7 million people. His description -- vividly enacted in the 1984 movie, The Killing Fields -- of Pol Pot's attempt to create a perfect Communist agrarian society by murdering anyone with education, including everyone with watches and/or glasses (!), shows from the inside what fanaticism is capable of: Pran was captured, survived by pretending to be an illiterate peasant, and escaped to Thailand, where he was rescued by reporter Sydney Schanberg, who later received the Pulitzer Prize for his book about Pran and Cambodia.

We enjoyed eating Khmer food (like morning-glory dumplings) in town, and French food at the elegant FCC Café along the river. At the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club), journalists lugging large cameras with telephoto lenses were leaning against the bar. Pretending I was in a Graham Greene novel, I took out my notebook and began writing some of these observations. If one of the journalists sidled over and said, "Bon jour, I'm with Le Monde -- what brings you here?" I was prepared to whisper "Creative Loafing" (Flème Créatif?). But, merde, it didn't happen.

Most of our time was spent walking through and around the temples, past the monkeys in the trees, the beggars around the gates, the children (called "touts") tugging at us to buy postcards.
The Ta Prohm temple is the most unnerving, still half-strangled by the roots and vines of the massive fig and silk-cotton trees that overwhelmed it (the temples were first damaged and looted by centuries of warfare, before they were abandoned to the jungle). On the long walk in to the temple, we heard primitive drums beating, and I thought of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness; and then I thought, "No, it's just local musicians." But when we reached them, we saw that the musicians were crippled; their legs had been blown off by land mines, and there was a pot for money in front of them. And I thought of Heart of Darkness again.

Other aspects of these temples are more life-affirming: thousands of carvings of temple and village life. Although many depict war scenes, the most memorable are the carvings of the famous apsara dancers -- 2,000 on the walls of Angkor Wat alone. This was, and still is, the traditional Khmer dance, performed in theaters throughout Cambodia by lovely young women with no apparent bones.

Despite the charms of the apsara dancers, the biggest surprise at Angkor Wat is its vastness: hundreds of temples (wats) spread over so many miles, each one ornate and magnificent in its own way. Considering the circumstances, the religious fervor that fed these impossible creations is almost as frightening as the certainty of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Nothing, they seem to say, can stand in the way of our view of the world. Perhaps this is also true of Western miracles of construction, from Stonehenge to Chartres. I came away from all of these immensities -- maybe it was just temple fatigue -- with a greater affection for simpler constructions, like the English cottage, the Swiss chalet, the American log cabin. I prefer visions that are both modest and affectionate.

Top official moved over border temple row

The Bangkok Post
By Thanida Tansubhapol

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama yesterday ordered the abrupt transfer of a senior ministry official handling the Preah Vihear temple dispute with Cambodia to an inactive post.

Treaties and Legal Affairs Department director-general Virachai Plasai has been made an ambassador attached to the ministry, an inactive position.

He was on his way to Phnom Penh with foreign affairs permanent secretary Virasakdi Futrakul yesterday for talks with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on the controversial issue of Unesco World Heritage listing for Preah Vihear.

Krit Kraichitti, currently head of the International Economic Affairs Department, will replace Mr Virachai.

The cabinet yesterday approved the special reshuffle order.

Tanatip U-patising, who is the ambassador attached to the ministry, will replace Mr Krit.

It is believed the transfer was linked to Mr Virachai’s handling of the Preah Vihear issue.

Mr Noppadon explained that the transfer was meant to improve efficiency and working coordination.

"I try to put the right person in the right job. There was no other reason for the transfer," said Mr Noppadon.

He said Mr Krit, who formerly headed the Treaties and Legal Affairs Department, knows the problem (Preah Vihear) very well.

"Each horse has a lot of experience but I want the horse that can run on the right track," said Mr Noppadon.

Cambodia donates $50,000 to cyclone-hit Myanmar

May 07, 2008

The Cambodian government on Wednesday donated 50,000 U.S. dollars to cyclone-stricken Myanmar to relieve the difficulties there, said Hor Namhong, Cambodian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

"This small amount of money is our people and government's spirit and heart to help the Myanmar people and government which is our friend in the ASEAN family," Hor Nam Hong told reporters at his office after he met with a Myanmar diplomatic official on Wednesday morning.

Hor Namhong handed over the donation to Aung Naing, Myanmar Ambassador to Cambodia, after they talked about the cyclone disaster in Myanmar.

"The Cambodian people and government join the condolences for Myanmar's families and the government who suffered from the cyclone disaster.

It is our sadness," Hor Nam Hong said. Cambodia also conveyed a wish for the referendum in Myanmar to succeed, he added.


PM: Cambodia could mediate between DPRK, S Korea

PHNOM PENH, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that Cambodia could mediate between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea, as unlike most countries it enjoys good relations with both, local newspaper the Mekong Times said Wednesday.

Speaking at the inauguration of a South Korean-funded project to revitalize National Road 3, Hun Sen revealed that the recently-elected president of South Korea, himself a former advisor to Hun Sen, had asked him to relay a message to the DPRK Prime Minister during a recent official visit.

South Korea bears no bad intentions for the DPRK, in fact it plans to assist it in the economic and humanitarian sectors, Hun Sen said.

The fact that Cambodia has had strong diplomatic ties with South Korea since 1996, dose not mean that Cambodia ignores the DPRK, he added.

Political analysts have said Cambodia is in a unique position to mediate between the two as Hun Sen has a good relationship with South Korea while former King Norodom Sihanouk has held close links with the DPRK and China for decades.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Hun Sen Applauds Korean Investment

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
06 May 2008
Khmer audio aired May 06 (679KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 06 (679KB) - Listen (MP3)

More than a decade of strong ties between Cambodia and South Korean have meant a boon to economic development, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday.

“Now, after 11 years, diplomatic relations with the Republic of Korea are remarkably developed,” he said, speaking at the inauguration of a construction project on National Road 3, which is being financed through a Korean grant.

South Korea is at the forefront of at least eight sectors, he said, including investment and tourism. He also pointed to the construction of Gold Tower 42, a proposed skyscraper scheduled to be constructed in Phnom Penh by 2011, as a sign of strong investment.

“Soon, construction of a building of 42 floors will be invested by the Koreans, and there will be another 55 floors,” he said.

South Korea has invested in building construction, information technology, aviation, tourism and textile. Investment worth $152 billion came for the country in 2007, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia.
But opposition officials cautioned against measuring Cambodia’s worth only in investment.

Mu Sochua, deputy secretary of the Sam Rainsy Party, said that not even Korean investment had brought much to the nation’s poor.

Parties Unclear on Opposition Path

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
06 May 2008
Khmer audio aired May 06 (1.25MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 06 (1.25MB) - Listen (MP3)

[Editor's note: In the weeks leading into national polls, VOA Khmer will explore a wide number of election issues. The "Election Issues 2008" series will air stories on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a related "Hello VOA" guest on Thursday. This is the first in a two-part series examining the opposition.]

Less than three months from national elections, the opposition is facing some problems, and many Cambodians are wondering what the face of the next opposition will be. No one yet has a good answer.

Officially, the opposition is the Sam Rainsy Party. It has seats in parliament and is not a part of the ruling coalition comprised of the Cambodian People’s Party and Funcinpec.

But last year’s local commune elections saw the rise of two other parties that could vie for seats in parliament this year without taking control of the body: the Human Rights Party, led by Kem Sokha, and the eponymous party of Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

In fact there are more than 50 small parties expected to compete in the July polls. And, given free and fair elections and more than 8 million voters, anything can happen.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer this week the country could see a change in the opposition party. He predicted the new opposition would be the CPP.

Khieu Kanharith, spokesman for the CPP government, said he doubted that would happen.

Meanwhile, no political observers were ready to predict who might take the most opposition seats.

Kek Galabru, founder of the rights group Licadho, said the next opposition, whomever it is, must be strong in human resources and in budget, in order to gain the confidence of the people nationwide.

As Election Nears, Media Still Biased: Expert

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
06 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 05 (6.13MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 05 (6.13MB) - Listen (MP3)

Media coverage ahead of this year’s elections has been no different than in years past, an expert said Monday, with many journalists and their media outlets biased or subsidized by politics.

“If people do not understand clearly about each political party’s platform, or personality of politicians, these experiences make it difficult of them to decide in electing politicians,” said Moeun Chhean Nariddh, a journalism trainer who was guest on “Hello VOA” Monday.

Observers have warned that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party enjoys much more thorough coverage in the months leading to elections, from radio, TV and newspapers.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh said most of the country’s 22 radio stations broadcast in favor of the ruling party, as well as seven TV stations, including National TVK.

Of all the media, newspapers are the least biased, but even they are politically influenced, he said.

That was no help to rural voters, many of whom are illiterate and rely on radio and TV for information.

Cambodia can and should seek independent news coverage, following the examples of the UK, Australia and Canada he said. Some countries have state media the works independently and even criticizes the government, he added.

Rice Price Reaches Cambodian-Americans

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
06 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 03 (939KB) - Download

Rice prices on the world market have jumped 50 percent in the past three months and doubled since 2004. The high prices are hitting many families in Asia, but they have also reached Cambodian families in the US.

“Rice rose to a record $40 per 50 pounds in California, double the price a month ago,” said Bunna Seng, a grocery store owner in Long Beach.

Some countries in Asia have experienced rice shortages, and Cambodia has been forced to curb its exports. In more affluent countries, like the US, there is not a shortage, but families still feel the crunch. Some of them have begun stockpiling.

“The rapid price increase we have recently suffered is from record oil prices,” said Vanna, a Connecticut grocer. “Cambodian people bought between five and 10 50-pound sacks of rice to store in their house.”

Meanwhile, the actions of both consumers and rice sellers is affecting the cost.

“Hoarding by wholesalers and panic buying by consumers are factors of the soaring rice price,” said Marith Chhang, a consumer in the state of Washington.

The state of California is a huge rice producer in the US, but even here, the same factors affecting farmers in Asia are at work.

“There are many factors for the rise, including rising fuel and fertilizer costs, as well as climate change,” California farmer Thong Kim said.

Plan to Create Association of Rice Exporting Countries in Five ASEAN Countries

Posted on 7 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 559

“In an attempt to reduce the Philippine senior officials’ worry about the creation of an association of rice exporting countries, Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen said that this issue is not new among the cooperating countries of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. A few days ago, the Thai prime minister mentioned an issue related to ASEAN and the creation of an Association of Rice Exporting Countries. Samdech Dekchor stated that the Thai Prime Minister’s initiative is not new, and it is also not anyone other’s idea but Hun Sen’s idea.

“Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that on the morning of 5 May at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, as he presided over a certificate awarding ceremony to graduates of engineering of the 21st and the 22nd intakes, of bachelor’s degrees in engineering of the 1st and the 2nd intakes, and of senior technicians of the 10th and the 11th intakes. Samdech Prime Minister added that ‘during the meeting in Bangkok in 2005, I, myself, asked the countries in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region to create an Association of Rice Exporting Countries, and I was immediately supported by our partners, but those people have gone and passed away – first, the former Thai Prime Minister Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra who hosted the meeting, second, the former Vietnamese Prime Minister, third, the former Lao Prime Minister, and forth, the former Myanmar Prime Minister who has passed away; that is it.’

“Regarding the statute for the association, it had been planed for a meeting since 2007, the event would be held in Hanoi, Vietnam; however, there were storms and rains which destroyed infrastructure, so Vietnam asked for a delay until February. At that time the situation in Thailand was not clear, as a government had not yet been properly created, so Vietnam shifted the planed meeting until this April after the traditional Khmer New Year.

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen said that however, at that time, ‘I had suggested to discuss it with Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. From March until the elections [in July], I would not be able to leave my country.’

“Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen stressed again that it is not the Thai Prime Minister’s new idea, but it was Hun Sen’s idea in 2005, which had earned support from all former prime ministers, who are by now no longer in these positions or have died, and only Hun Sen is still here. In the speech regarding this issue, Samdech Prime Minister stressed that it is not an intention to create something like OPEC [the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries], which some times is producing more oil, and sometimes it cuts the production down. We really want to contribute to guarantee food safety.

“Samdech explained that this initiative was taken because Cambodia had once accepted a request from the World Food Program to establish storehouses in Cambodia for food distribution in the region. Whenever there might be a tsunami, the World Food Program would immediately send planes to load rice from Cambodia. Thus, we want to create a system of cooperation with rice exporting countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Thailand has approximately 9 million tonnes, Vietnam has 6 million tonnes, Cambodia has 2 million tonnes, as for Myanmar and Lao, they have not yet the figures, but if we check in general in these five countries, the figure is approximately 12 to 15 million tonnes per year; this covers the world market at a pretty high level.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6337, 6.5.2008

USAID and British Work to Improve Sexual Health

Tue, 06 May 2008
Author : U.S. Agency for International Development
Category : Press Release

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, May 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new program aimed at reducing the rate of new HIV infections and child mortality and improving reproductive and sexual health for Cambodians begins May 6 thanks to the joint efforts of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the British Department for International Development (DFID).

Together, the two development agencies will invest up to $27 million during the next five years encouraging the nation's most poor and vulnerable populations to use donor-subsidized contraceptives. The Evidence to Action Partnership for Health, as the program is called, will use social marketing to promote and distribute affordable contraceptives as well as change ideas, attitudes and behaviors to expand the use and sale of contraceptives throughout Cambodia.

"Through a groundbreaking partnership between USAID and DFID, this program will ensure that all Cambodians - regardless of their socio-economic status - have access to the products and information they need to make informed decisions about their health and well being," said Erin Soto, mission director of USAID Cambodia.

The effort builds on the Royal Government of Cambodia's 100% Condom Use Program, which has helped decrease HIV/AIDS in Cambodia, a rare success story in the global fight against the disease.

Also, by increasing access to high-quality, affordable contraceptives, more couples can plan births.

For more information about USAID and its programs in Cambodia, visit

The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years.

Global shortage of food

By John Liebhardt

The crisis of skyrocketing food prices is affecting all economic groups in every corner of the world. Every day, it seems, high-priced food sends another country lurching through some crisis: demonstrations, riots, rumors of hoarding, falling governments, even deaths.

Global Voices is well positioned to follow the nuances of this complex issue with authors tracking citizen media in nearly every country of the planet. This article is an attempt to place an overall narrative on the global food crisis with observations from our authors from around the world.

Clicking on the links will take you to all the posts that have been referenced.

Let’s begin in the Caribbean. In Barbados, locals learn to deal with a 30% increase in flour prices, along with gasoline and diesel price jumps. Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Agriculture, denies there is a food crisis on the two islands, but locals notice an increase in chicken and flour prices. Cuba is trying a new agriculture policy of providing more land to private farmers.

Prices and shortages of food can be seen across Latin America, as many people are becoming desperate. Blame is being placed on both farmers and governments for their failure to act. Arab bloggers in Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and Egypt are also feeling the pinch, and writing about it too.

Worries continue to circulate in Cambodia that nearly 500,000 children could start missing meals due to a 20% increase in the price of rice. However, a dramatic increase in rice production may not be beyond hope in this country. Farmers here can cultivate two or three harvests per year on the same piece of land.

The latest riots

Two days of riots broke out on April 6 and 7 in Egypt, where prices of staples have doubled since 2004 (and in some cases quadrupled). At least two people were killed and 111 people – including police – were injured (See our special coverage on Egypt's General Strike).

In Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, protesters blocked roads and burned tires, demanding the government cut taxes on key imports.

Just days later, four people were killed and 25 injured in riots in Haiti, where the prices of rice, beans, and fruit have increased 50% in the past 12 months. Less than a week after the violent demonstrations, Haiti's prime minister was ousted in a vote of no confidence.

For Natifnatal, a Haitian currently in Abu Dhabi, the food crisis offers simple math:
For those who don't even know the basics can present the equation: hunger + poverty + rising prices = demonstrations + the Prime Minister's resignation + violence, and argue that an increase in food aid would suffice to reduce hunger.

Even as a cargo plane crashed in Kinshasa on April 15 killing 75 people, Congolese blogger Du Cabiau à Kinshasa, ruminated on a more silent, less telegenic disaster facing the country: the doubling of food prices in the same week.

The effects on trade

So many countries of the developing world import a large percentage of the foodstuffs necessary to feed their populations. Rising prices means problems grow quickly. Even for food exporters, rising prices has touched a nerve. In Korea, one of the world’s most prolific rice producers, a Netizen argues that rice should be withheld from free trade talks, allowing the country to do as it seems fit with its strategic commodity.

Sometimes protectionism won’t be enough, however. As the price of rice has increased throughout Southeast Asia’s rice growing nations, governments were forced to plea for calm and pray that domestic prices would soon begin to fall. The situation is doubly bad for rice importers like the Philippines, where the poor have felt the brunt of the price increase. Indonesia, another importer, has canceled its imports due to high prices. Cambodia and Vietnam have abandoned exports. Bloggers in Malaysia report rumors of rice shortages. The Government of Brunei could move to subsidize food staples like cooking oil, flour, milk, eggs and chicken.

For decades food prices in Japan have been in stasis, which is strange for a country that imports almost every staple other than rice. Not any longer. Price increased for the first time in more than two decades. The same goes for milk products, which consumers been paying for at the same rate for three decades. Beer, cooking oil, and soy sauce also experienced increases.

A silent killer

In Bangladesh, where people spend as much as 80% of their salaries on food, high prices for rice have hit the middle class. It’s much worse for the poor, as media reports confirm several hunger deaths. The country’s military chief raised the ire of many when he suggested people replace rice by eating potatoes.

In Tajikistan, where people already faced a winter-long energy shortage, it looks like more than 260,000 people are in need of immediate food assistance. Worries persist that this number could grow to 2 million by winter.

Talk about globalization. In Yemen, the prices of staples have risenwhile the cost of certain electronic goods have dropped. Kuwait has also seen price increases, no thanks to the falling U.S. dollar.

In Burkina Faso, where people felt the government sat on its hands as prices in some sectors increased more than 40% since the beginning of the year, riots sparked in several cities throughout the country in late February, resulting in plenty of property damage and more than 300 arrests.

At about the same time in Cameroon, anger over rising prices and falling wages sparked three days of violent confrontation with the military. Anger was also fed by President Paul Biya's attempt to change the constitution so he could sit for a third term.

Story originally featured on Canadian Content on Tuesday May 6, 2008

The Water Festival of Cambodia

Cambodia Water Festival is the most popular and biggest Khmer traditional festival celebrated in Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia ( ). Tourist boom occur annually when such a great opportunity arrive and it seem like Carnival celebration because almost 10% of the population move to the heart city of Cambodia, the yet explored and exotic Kingdom.

For fun, excitement, action and spectacle surely none of many boat racing events in the region match this four-day river gala in Phnom Penh. It is colorful competition that engages the large portion of population connected to the country's water ways.

A swirl of color blankets the Tonle Sap River (, as hundreds of boats cluster near its shores. From these banks the thousand of revelers throw up cheers to oarsmen and women who already themselves for race that pays tribute to the power of vital life source. Bonn Om Touk, or the Water festival, ushers in the fishing season and markets reversal of the current in the Tonle Sap River. Typically held near the end of November, when the Mekong sinks back to its normal levels, Bonn Om Touk is the most attended Cambodian national festival.

Approximately 10% of the country's population gathers to play games, give thanks to the moon, and watch the long boat race in Phnom Penh. Fireworks and a lighted flotilla of boats add to festivities.According to the Mekong River Commission, the Mekong is the 12th largest river in the world, and the 10th-largest by volume. From Tibet it run's through China Yunnan Province, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam ( , an estimated length 4,800 km. From June to September the Mekong is in full flood, as a result of torrential rain fall. The force of water coming down stream pushes again the current in Tonle Sap, causing it to flow backward in to the Great Lake, which swell to more than five times it dry season size. This surge and retreat drives one of the most productive fisheries in the world: in Cambodia alone basin provides breeding habitats more than 1,300 species of fish, and annual rise and fall of the river ensures a nutrient- rich environment topped only by Amazon.

Prepared By: CHHEM Samnang

Half of Cambodia for Sale

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

May 06, 2008
by findingDulcinea staff
A surge in land speculation has resulted in the sale of 45 percent of the country’s landmass, and more than 150,000 Cambodians are facing eviction as a result.

Recent domestic and foreign investment has caused land prices in the impoverished country to skyrocket, and has resulted in scores of forced evictions from coastal cities to urban slums, reports Britain’s The Guardian.
The Cambodian real estate market has suddenly become a haven for investors troubled by the effect of the sub-prime crisis on U.S. and European financial markets. Critics blame the Cambodian government for unlawful dealing and lax regulation of investors and land developers.
“[Prime Minister] Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party have, in effect, put the country up for sale,” writes Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark in the Guardian report.
Amnesty International has criticized Cambodian authorities for failing to protect victims of illegal evictions. The organization also accuses authorities of threatening and intimidating land rights activists. “It is becoming the practice of developers that if they want a piece of land and they are prepared to disregard the rules and procedures laid down they can do it,” said Brittis Edman, an AI researcher.
Inter Press Service reports that the Cambodian government denies that forced evictions occur.
Cambodia’s real estate market began heating up in 2002, when increased scrutiny by international banks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 led domestic business interests to spend more money at home.

Leopard Fund Prowls For Private Equity Deals In Cambodia

May 6, 2008

A Hong Kong-based private equity firm is raising a fund to invest in a country infamous for its genocidal Communist regime but now looking forward to the opening of its first stock exchange next year.

Leopard Capital has completed an initial closing of the Leopard Cambodia Fund, which has a target size of US$100 million and an expected lifespan of 10 years. The fund has won commitments from investors in Europe, the U.S. and Asia.

Leopard will invest in companies and real estate positioned to benefit from Cambodia’s rapid economic growth and integration into the global economy, according to the firm. It will focus on venture, expansion, and buy-out opportunities, primarily in the financial services, retailing, construction materials, agribusiness, tourism and property development sectors.

The firm said that Cambodia offers a strong opportunity for investment, supported by rapid economic growth, political and policy stability, and an improving legal framework. It also said the country holds the potential to become one of Asia’s top tourist destinations as well as a significant exporter of soft commodities and food products.

“A free market economy, Cambodia’s investment policies and incentives rank among the most favorable in Asia, and its exports are accepted ‘duty free’ by many developed countries,” Leopard explains.

The firm also said it will actively support the development of Cambodia’s stock exchange, which is slated to open late next year with assistance from the Korea Exchange.

Douglas Clayton, managing partner, said the launch of the first Cambodia-dedicated fund is another important milestone along the country’s troubled path to prosperity.

“Leopard Cambodia Fund will help create employment for Cambodians, broaden Cambodia’s economic base, and attract other international funds to invest here,” he said. “For investors, Cambodia offers a rare ‘safe haven’ from the global credit storm; the Cambodian economy is unleveraged and rising rapidly off a low base as confidence spreads.”

Leopard Asia was formed in 2007 by Clayton and is headed by Kenneth Stevens and Stephen Simmons, all of whom at CLSA Securities in Thailand, and Thomas Hugger, former head of investments at LGT Investment Management.