Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Pressure on Canada as Britain backs cluster-bomb ban

Landmine victim Tun Channareth, from Cambodia, speaking during the cluster munitions conference at Croke Park, Dublin, Monday, May 26, 2008. American activists and global victims of cluster bombs united Monday in a demand that governments - particularly the United States - ban the weapons because they kill and maim too many civilians. The appeal came four days before negotiators from 110 governments are expected to unveil a treaty restricting the development, sale and use of cluster munitions. The pact would be formally signed in December in Norway and seek to emulate the achievement of a 1997 treaty outlawing land mines.(AP Photo / Niall Carson)


Chunnareth Tun, of Cambodia, a survivor of a cluster bomb, was in Dublin, Ireland, for a 12-day conference aimed at clinching a global ban on cluster munitions. Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

Peter O'Neil, Europe Correspondent , Canwest News Service

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants to sign a proposed new treaty banning so-called cluster bombs and is prepared to scrap his military's entire stockpile of the weapons that have proven to be a nightmare for hundreds of civilians, the Guardian reported today.

Brown's decision is likely to heighten pressure on Canada to support the treaty being negotiated at an international conference in Dublin this week aimed at striking a global treaty banning the weapons.

"The prime minister is very much behind this process and wants us to sign," according to an unidentified British official quoted in the newspaper.

Several organizations pushing for the ban have criticized Canada, which played a lead role in the Nobel Prize-winning treaty in the late 1990s banning landmines, for dragging its feet on the cluster bomb treaty.

Cluster bombs explode in mid-air, scattering numerous "bomblets" that at times don't explode until found later by civilians, including children.

Afghan cluster bomb victim Soraj Ghulam Habib, 16, presented a letter to the Canadian embassy in Dublin earlier this week saying that a bomblet blew off his legs and killed his relatives.

"These weapons destroy lives and communities and should be banned by all countries, including Canada," Habib said, according to a news release from a coalition of Canadian groups involved in the Dublin talks.

The U.S. government, which has refused to take part in the negotiations, has been accused of pushing allies like Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Australia to oppose or try to water down the treaty.

There are concerns that the treaty could prevent Canada, which has no cluster bombs in its arsenal, from working with the U.S. in theatres such as Afghanistan.

Pope Benedict XVI and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have called on negotiators to strike a deal by the time the Dublin negotiations conclude Friday.

Smuggling prompts petrol supply cut

(28-05-2008)

TAY NINH — With the smuggling of petrol out of the country becoming rampant in Tay Ninh, the province’s Department of Industry and Trade has instructed oil enterprises to limit monthly supplies to retailers in border communes to 150,000 litres.

If a retailer required more than 150,000 litres, the department said it would survey the actual need before supplying enough stocks.

Nguyen Hong Khanh, the department’s deputy director, said some retailers bought 400,000 – 500,000 litres per month, much above the actual need.

On average, 10,000 –15,000 litres are smuggled into Cambodia through Kien Giang Province every day. However, three to four times the quantity is sold by fishermen to foreign vessels at sea.

The latter activity mostly happens off Tien Hai village and north of Phu Quoc Island.

Local authorities are unable to prevent it because it happens mostly at night and the maritime police force is too small and does not have enough vessels.

— VNS

Thai rice prices fall as Vietnam crop climbs

HO BINH MINH AND APORNRATH PHOONPHONGPHIPAT

Reuters
May 28, 2008

HANOI/BANGKOK — World benchmark Thai rice prices fell back from near a record high on Wednesday while Vietnam reported a six per cent increase in its main rice crop, further easing fears over supplies of Asia's staple food.

News of a bumper winter-spring harvest and of a big jump in plantings for the summer-autumn crop in Vietnam, typically the world's second-largest exporter behind Thailand, also added to expectations that Hanoi will end a months-long export ban on schedule from July, soothing anxious importers.

On Monday, Cambodia became the first exporter to lift trading curbs, with Prime Minister Hun Sen saying he was confident that after two months of restrictions the country had enough rice for its own needs.

The perception of a looming increase in supplies helped drive Thailand's benchmark 100 per cent B grade white rice down more than 10 per cent to $900-$930 (U.S.) per tonne on Wednesday, off the near record high $1,030-$1,050 a tonne last week, traders said.

Exports bans earlier this year by Cambodia as well as bigger sellers like Vietnam and India had triggered a wave of panic buying by importers who depend on the narrow spot rice market for their supplies, driving prices up nearly threefold since January.

But those buyers now appear more confident.

“Demand is slow as most buyers are waiting to buy at cheaper prices when Vietnam resumes its exports,” one Thai merchant said.

A 141,000 tonne tender from the Philippines, the world's biggest importer, attracted private sector bids of only 500 tonnes on Tuesday, suggesting the record highs of the last two months are over.

However, no major slide is expected was key buyers such as Iran, Iraq, Malaysia and Nigeria are expected to move in and replenish stocks at cheaper levels, traders said.

In its monthly report on Vietnam's southern region for May, the General Statistics Office (GSO) said farmers had so far harvested 11.5 million tonnes of export-quality winter-spring paddy, up 5.8 per cent from last year.

The Agriculture Ministry estimated last month that output from the winter-spring crop would rise just 3.9 per cent.

Hanoi banned the signing of new deals from March to June to ensure sufficient domestic supplies and control double-digit inflation, but Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat said last week Vietnam may lift the ban in early July.

Vietnam could set a floor price of at least $800 a tonne when it resumes signing new export contracts, a state-run newspaper reported on Tuesday.

After finishing the winter-spring crop, farmers in the Mekong Delta planted 1.12 million hectares for a summer-autumn crop – 17.7 per cent more than last year – the GSO said, in a bid to cash in on the soaring prices.

Many growers of vegetables, sugarcane and other crops have also switched to rice, officials say.
The Mekong Delta grows three rice crops a year. The highest yielding winter-spring crop is mainly used for exports.

On Wednesday the winter-spring paddy was 6,000-6,200 dong (37.3-38.6 U.S. cents) per kilogram in An Giang, one of the delta's largest rice growing provinces, unchanged from last week, but double its level of a year ago.

In Vietnam, the rise in rice prices has ignited inflation, which accelerated to 25.2 per cent in May from 21.4 per cent in April, its seventh consecutive double-digit reading and one of the highest in Asia.

Cambodian General Election to Hold in July

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The number of political parties contesting Cambodia's upcoming general election is down from five years ago, officials said Wednesday, but the results are expected to be the same with a win for the longtime ruling party of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Eleven parties will contest the July 27 polls compared to 23 parties that participated in the last general election in 2003, said Tep Nitha, secretary-general of Cambodia's National Election Committee.

"Only 11 parties have been officially endorsed for taking part in the election. This number will not change," Tep Nitha said.

Lack of financial resources was one of the main reasons that smaller parties decided against running in the upcoming election, Tep Nitha said.

Analysts say that smaller parties don't pose a serious challenge to Hun Sen, whose party has a firm grass-roots presence, easy access to state-controlled media and financial resources unmatched by its rivals.

Hun Sen's biggest challengers will be Sam Rainsy, the main opposition leader and head of the namesake Sam Rainsy Party, and Kem Sokha, head of the Human Rights Party. Kem Sokha is a former human rights activist the prime minister once had jailed in a politically motivated defamation lawsuit.

Hun Sen's party will likely add more parliamentary seats to its current 73, leaving a smaller number to be split among its opponents, said Kek Galabru, president of the Cambodian human rights group Licadho.

"I have no doubt about it. All the factors are in favor of the ruling party," she said.

Hun Sen was initially made Cambodia's prime minister in 1985 by the Vietnamese-installed government that took power after toppling the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979. He became democratically elected in 1998 when his Cambodian People's Party won a general election.

More than 8 million out of the Cambodia's 14 million people are eligible to vote in the upcoming election, the election committee said.

Sacravatoons :" Avoiding Violence "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at http://sacrava.blogspot.com/

Hun Sen Announced to Give Golden Handcuffs to Prince Norodom Ranariddh and to Invite Him to Prey Sar Prison

Posted on 28 May 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 562

“According to Article 46 of the Criminal Code, the lawsuit between Prince Ranariddh and the Funcinpec Secretary-General Mr. Nhek Bun Chhay, accusing the Prince of abusing the confidence, motivated Prince Ranariddh to flee the country to stay with the ‘phantom fox’ [his partner Uk Phalla, whom the Prime Minister calls so] with no courage to face the law.

“Although Mr. Hun Sen indirectly insulted a president of a party who is outside the country, without mentioning the name of Prince Ranariddh, Khmer citizens understand well that when Mr. Hun Sen talked about Princess Marie Ranariddh, Prince Ranariddh’s former wife, and when he warned to offer royal golden handcuffs, it was clearly understood that Mr. Hun Sen directly warned Prince Ranariddh, who escaped and is living in Malaysia with the ‘phantom fox,’ and he does not dare to return to the country. He and his followers accused Prime Minister Mr. Hun Sen of abusing the King’s right to grant a pardon to Prince Ranariddh.

“On the Morning of 26 May 2008, Mr. Hun Sen expressed his strong and direct reactions against Prince Ranariddh, who is the president of the Norodom Ranariddh Party, and who is living outside the country, ‘If you, all the Norodom Ranariddh Party officials, wonder, you can go to the Royal Palace to ask the King in which respect Hun Sen abused the King’s rights.’

“Mr. Hun Sen added that there is no one who rejects the King’s rights, but the King’s procedure must have their qualifications. Without mentioning any name, Mr. Hun Sen continued that previously they accused him of setting this or that condition in order that the Prince can return to the country.

“Mr. Hun Sen went on to say that previously, Prince Ranariddh had wanted the King to pardon him, because he has guilt - but now he announced also that he has no guilt. Mr. Hun Sen continued, ‘When did you have a guilt? When the court issued the verdict, you appealed - and because you appealed, the judgment did not became valid. Now the Appeals Court sentenced you and you appealed to the Supreme Court. So you claim that you are not guilty, but if you are not guilty, why did you ask the King to pardon you? Unless the Supreme Court has sentenced you… – but if you are guilty, you will be punished.’

“Mr. Hun Sen said that previously, when the Prince was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment over having a contract to import guns and dealing with the Khmer Rouge, ‘Hun Sen could spare him because it was my own case, but now this is not my case, I want to make this clear.’ Mr. Hun Sen said, ‘That party president and his officials, who accused Hun Sen of not recognizing the King’s rights, please tell me which points you refer to?’

“Mr. Hun Sen said, ‘This case has been delayed for a long time, because if I hit the older brother [Prince Ranariddh], it hurts his younger brother [the King], and if I hit the child [Prince Ranariddh], it hurts his father [the former King]. Some observers said that Mr. Hun Sen indirectly insulted and looked down on the Royal Family.

“Mr. Hun Sen added that arrangements for an amnesty were always made to be announced at the Khmer New Year, on Pchum Ben Day, or on the King’s Birthday, or the Father King’s, or the King’s Mother’s Birthdays; and the procedures for amnesties had been prepared by the Minister of Justice, together with clarifications by the heads of the prisons, to clarify that the prisoners had promised not to commit any crime again. Then they brought requests to the Ministry of Justice, the Minister will bring the clarifications about the prisoner’s promise to the Prime Minister. Finally, the Prime Minister will bring it to the King to be signed to grant an amnesty.
___________
Note:Article 27 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says:“The King shall have the right to grant partial or complete amnesty.”
___________
“Mr. Hun Sen went on to say that the Prince claims that he has not any guilt; but then he said that I abused the King’s rights. Once he said it like this, once he said it like that - how can he be a person from the legal profession?

“Mr. Hun Sen warned, ‘I have asked [the Director General of the National Police] Mr. Hok Lundy to make handcuffs painted with golden color. If you are not guilty, why do you not return to the country? Nobody prohibits you. When you left, we did not force you, and if you come back, we will not care about you, so why do you not come when actually you are not guilty?’
“Mr. Hun Sen was very angry with the president of a certain party whose name was not mentioned, and he said that that party’s president’s officials in the country had also accused him of abusing the King’s rights…

“The US Ambassador, Mr. Joseph A. Mussomeli, had told journalists in Kompong Thom some days ago that Prince Ranariddh should return to the country to address and to finish his case legally at the court.

“However, people from the legal profession said that Prince Ranariddh has no courage to return and to face the court in Cambodia, because if he returns, the court will issue a warrant to detain him temporarily, to continue the inquest and to prevent him from escaping abroad again, even though the Supreme Court has not yet opened a hearing to decide whether Prince Ranariddh is guilty or not.

“Prince Ranariddh had been sued by Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhek Bun Chhay on the accusation of having abused the confidence over the sale of the Funcinpec headquarters at the base of the Chroy Chongva Bridge, and over putting of his name, to be the owner of the new headquarters at a Phnom Penh suburb.

“The Phnom Penh court had opened a hearing of Prince Ranariddh in absentia to serve eighteen months in prison, and ordered him to pay US$150,000 to Funcinpec, with Mr. Nhek Bun Chhay being the Funcinpec representative.
“Analysts said that if Prince Ranariddh does not dare to return to the country and to face the court, his party will lose the confidence and the supports from the citizens. And now, some officials who had followed him for many years, leave him.”

Chuoy Khmer, Vol.2, #107, 27.5.2008

Malaysian King Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin and Queen Nur Zahirah disembark on a six-day state visit to Laos and Cambodia

Malaysian King Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin and Queen Nur Zahirah disembark their plane at Phnom Penh international airport May 28, 2008. The Malaysian king is on a six-day state visit to Laos and Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)


Malaysian King Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin walks as Queen Nur Zahirah greets Cambodian officials upon their arrival at Phnom Penh international airport May 28, 2008. The Malaysian king is on a six-day state visit to Laos and Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)
Malaysian King Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin walks as Queen Nur Zahirah greets Cambodian officials upon their arrival at Phnom Penh international airport May 28, 2008. The Malaysian king is on a six-day state visit to Laos and Cambodia.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Vietnam reports "UFO" explosion off Cambodia coast

Wed May 28, 2008

HANOI (Reuters) - An unidentified flying object exploded in mid-air over a southern Vietnamese island, state media said on Wednesday, a day after Cambodia's air force retracted a report of a mysterious plane crash.

The Vietnam News Agency said residents of Phu Quoc island, 10 km (6 miles) off the coast of the Cambodian province of Kampot, found shards of grey metal, including one 1.5 metres (1.5 yards) long.

"The explosion happened at about 8 km (5 miles) above the ground, and perhaps it was a plane, but authorities could not identify whether it was a civil or military aircraft," VNA said in a report headlined "UFO explodes over Phu Quoc Island."

Soldiers were sent out to look for wreckage and survivors, and local authorities contacted airlines in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, but received no reports of missing aircraft, the official state news agency added.

Villagers in Kampot said on Tuesday that they had heard a loud explosion. On Wednesday they told Reuters they had found small chunks of metal near the coastline.

Kung Mony, deputy commander of Cambodia's Air Force, said on Tuesday he had been told of a foreign plane crashing in Kampot province, but later backed off his claims of an aircraft accident.

Findings on dragon boat tragedy due Friday, asregional races begin

Today Online.com
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Neo Chai Chin

EVEN as the inquiry panel’s long-awaited report on last November’s Cambodia dragon boating accident is due out on Friday, many local teams are already steaming ahead with preparations for upcoming regional competitions.

Some teams began planning more than two months ago. Next month, the Safra Dragons will compete in Nanning, China, while the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) team will compete in Macau. Teams from NUS, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National Junior College and other organisations will also take part in the Club Crew World Championships cum ADBF Asian Dragon Boat Championships in Penang from August 1 to 3.

While some may question the wisdom of committing to overseas competitions before the release of inquiry findings on the accident in Cambodia — which killed five national paddlers :— the schools told Today they would stick to tried-and-trusted safety procedures.

NUS’ student athletes competing overseas are insured and will be accompanied by their coach and at least one team manager, said a spokesperson. A crisis management plan with “proper response procedures” is also in place, she said.

The NTU team decided to race in Penang because of its confidence in the Penang Dragon Boat Association and because it has competed there since 2002, said a spokesperson. But paddlers below the age of 21 will need their parents’ permission.

Dragon-boaters told Today the tragedy in Cambodia had not dampened their competitive spirit. “Going overseas to train and compete exposes us to a different level of competition,” said NTU student Tan Hanming, 25.
Victims of the Cambodia accident were sucked under a pontoon by undercurrents. Still the fact that they were not wearing life jackets came under the spotlight at the time.

Safety recommendations expected from the inquiry panel’s report include the compulsory donning of life jackets in all competitions. While vests are mandated for meets held here, this is not necessarily the case overseas :— even in some events conducted to the International Dragon Boat Federation’s standards.

But the schools are not taking chances. The NUS advises its paddlers to wear life jackets, while the NTU team wears them during all training sessions and competitions.

The Singapore Dragon Boat Association said its affiliates should consult the association prior to any overseas races.

“We will draw their attention to anything that is unusual, for example, fast currents (at the race venue) or unusual equipment required,” said its president Rear-Admiral (Ret) Kwek Siew Jin.

Prosecution seeks $19M in pyramid scam case

Coston Herald
By Jerry Kronenberg
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Prosecutors plan to seek a 13-year prison term and $19.1 million in restitution today from a Rhode Island man who helped swindle hundreds of Cambodian immigrants out of some $30 million.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Stearns is set to sentence Christian Rochon of Warwick, R.I., on mail fraud and other charges related to Canton-based World Marketing Direct Services Inc.

Rochon, 57, the company’s ex-president, pleaded guilty last year and agreed to testify against ring leaders James Bunchan and Seng Tan, whom a jury later convicted.

Defense lawyer James Krasnoo said he plans to seek home confinement instead of prison for Rochon, who claims to suffer from numerous health problems.

A court has already sentenced Bunchan and Tan, who are married, to long prison terms. Bunchan also faces charges for allegedly trying to hire a hitman to kill Rochon and other witnesses.

World Marketing billed itself as a vitamin and beauty-supply company, but prosecutors say the firm was simply a “pyramid scheme” that targeted Bunchan and Tan’s fellow Cambodian immigrants.

The company promised $300-a-month payments for life to people who invested $26,000, and many victims refinanced homes or raided 401(k) plans to participate.

But authorities say the ring spent much of the money on houses, cars and high-stakes gambling trips. World Marketing then used cash from new victims to send early investors monthly payments until the scheme collapsed.

Scammers partly used memories of Cambodia’s 1970s “Killing Fields” era to advance the scam.

Tan reportedly told would-be investors she had fought the communists who took over Cambodia in the 1970s and killed some 2 million people. One victim also told prosecutors that after challenging the ring, Tan told people the man was “lucky he was not back in Cambodia or else he would have disappeared already.”

Cambodia upbeat about tourism development

Travel Blackboard
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

With Sihanoukville as the official location of the 21st Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Tourism Working Group (TWG) and Mekong Tourism Development Project (MTDP) meeting, being held on May 20-21 at the Sokha Beach Resort, Cambodia is upbeat about its amazing tourism development going on. Hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, the event was being held in conjunction with the 5th Working Group on Tourism Development Co-operation in the Emerald Triangle, comprising the borders of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand.

On the agenda were topics, such as the several international border checkpoints, human resources development, tourism promotion, infrastructure and tourism facility development, and community participation. Don Ross, Managing Director of Travel Trade Report (TTR) Weekly based in Bangkok, was one of the few journalists specialising on Thailand and the Mekong Region to attend the meeting. He was the first to file a summary of the event on the web-site www.ttrweekly.com this week - in order to give a firsthand report about the outcome.

According to Don Ross, Mekong tourism policy makers say they will consider an offer from Laos to host the rotating Mekong Tourism Co-ordination Office (MTCO) in 2009. The position of the MTCO Executive Director was filled in sometime ago with the person of Stephen Yong, a former PATA executive, who dropped out after some two years in the job. The vacant position is still waiting for a soon to be appointed new director within the upcoming months. Currently, Thailand hosts MTCO in Bangkok, through the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, which provides free office space and utilities.

Furthermore, it was discussed that in the context of an already adopted Mekong Tourism Marketing Plan a new web-site called www.exploremekong.org will be established leading up to “Visit Mekong Year 2010.” But nevertheless, most of the government representatives from the six GMS countries - Cambodia, China (Yunnan and Guangxi), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – were cautious to approve a new campaign logo, which was introduced by Peter Semone, Senior Advisor to MTCO in Bangkok. Following the report of Don Ross, “TWG members have three weeks to return a verdict on the branding, which will be used on promotions and the web-site leading up to Visit Mekong Year 2010.”

Interesting to note is that Cambodia is looking for a branding campaign logo by itself. “Explore Cambodia” is just one of the many suggestions made during a recent Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) meeting in Siem Reap. On a recent one-month visit to the country, I came across so many development schemes, which will guarantee the growth of tourism of up to 20% on a yearly count. Surprisingly, Cambodia had just announced its achievement to receive some 2 million tourists in 2007 alone.

Exciting tourism developments evolved in Siem Reap, where a new National Museum has successfully opened its doors to visitors and light and sound shows at Angkor Wat are sought after. There is a steadily improving infrastructure of high-class hotels, such as Angkor Palace Resort & Spa, Borei Angkor, Le Meridien Angkor or Sofitel Royal Angkor Golf & Spa Resort. For nightlife, there is a crowded Pub Street and the Passage running parallel about a half of a block over – with galleries, shops, bars, and small metropolitan restaurants. To clean the nearby Siem Reap River is a meritorious project to do. Streets branching out in all directions, reaching Tonle Sap in the south, Phnom Penh further east, Kulen Mountain in the north, and Poipet at the Thai border in the west. The road to Thailand is still under construction and should be completed in 2009.

Phnom Penh is becoming a magnet for developers and foreign investors. In the wake of the booming property and real estate market with land prices going sky high, there was the First Home & Lifestyle Expo at the Phnom Penh Cultural Centre on April 4-6, 2008. Some 27 major retail and wholesale companies participated, displaying a wide range of quality products and services. The Expo will be an annual event not to be missed. Another exhibition is now permanently displayed at the centrally located Wat Phnom Culture and Fine Arts Museum that shows Khmer civilisation from the 1st century to the present and advertises Kampuchea as the “Golden Land.” For the grim past of the Khmer Rouge era during 1975-1979, just head out to the Choeng Ek Memorial on a newly constructed access road.

In the capital city, recommended accommodations are the Phnom Penh Hotel, where Thailand-born Pheerasit Kanthiwang is Acting General Manager, Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Bougainvillier Hotel on the lively riverfront or the luxurious Hotel Cambodiana, overlooking the mighty Mekong River’s Four Arms. New dining outlets are the Italian Restaurant Le Duo, Restaurant Khmer Malis and the elegant French Van’s Restaurant. Night bars in the city abound. To reach the outlying areas of Battambang in the west and Rattanakiri and Mondulkiri in the east, there are functioning taxi services and buses.

The best-developed highway connects Phnom Penh with the port town of Sihanoukville in the south. On the way, you should explore ancient Angkor Borei/Phnom Da at Takeo and the river landscape of Kampot. Nearby Bokor Mountain will be developed as an attractive hill station, while it is already possible to reach the elusive Mekong Delta in Vietnam by a newly opened border crossing to Ha Tien, if you have a Vietnamese visa. Actually, this newly developed “Cambodian Riviera” connects Kampot via Kep to Vietnam and via Koh Kong to Thailand.

Sihanoukville is the newest rising star and jewel in the crown of Cambodian tourism. Blessed with five sand-lined beaches and an emerging international airport, the town will become a fierce competitor of Pattaya City at Thailand’s East Coast. Also, it will become the starting point for excursions into Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and further to Ho Chi Minh City. A Vietnamese consulate is already established in Sihanoukville.Both, the luxurious Sokha Beach Resort and the nostalgic Independence Hotel are open for international and domestic guests. Ideal for holding conferences, both hotels have romantic restaurants near by the sea. Hotel veteran Axel Goerlach, German GM of the Sokha Beach Resort, told me on my last visit in April that two years work at this prime property in Sihanoukville had likely become his last exciting challenge.

Overseeing a small kingdom of green palms along a private beachfront, his view rings true for any visitor with an optimistic world-view.

Anyway, the near economic future of Cambodia with some 13 million people, mostly farmers, will be reviewed today (on May 23), as there will be the annual “Royal Ploughing Ceremony” to be held near the Royal Palace in downtown Phnom Penh. Independent of the outcome, the future of tourism in Cambodia will be bright and rosy.

Industry hails lifting of ban on Cambodian rice exports

Agence France-Presse
05/28/2008

Industry experts hailed Cambodia's decision to become the first country to lift a ban on rice exports, saying the move would benefit local farmers and could help dampen global prices of the grain.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday lifted the ban on rice exports, which he enacted in late March in a bid to halt the staple food's spiraling price.

The move could lead to other rice producers like Vietnam and India also lifting their bans on rice exports, said Sushil Pandey, senior agricultural economist at the International Rice Research Institute in Manila.

"It is a careful balancing act," Pandey said. "I wouldn't say (the export bans) are over, because every country doesn't want to export unless they can ensure a low price for domestic consumers."

The Cambodian move, Pandey said, takes advantage of high prices just before the next rice harvest, and could have an effect on global prices.

"As export volume comes into the marketplace, surely that will have a dampening effect on prices," he said.

"Ultimately, how it plays out will depend on what the harvest will be -- what the season plays out in terms of drought and flood."

Cambodian economist Sok Sina said the move would raise the local price of rice in impoverished Cambodia, but it was still the right thing to do.

"We should not keep the surplus of rice. Especially, when the (international) price is high -- we will benefit from it," he said.

Cambodia produced some 6.7 million tons of rice last year with a surplus of 2.3 million tons which can be exported. Hun Sen said the government would allow the export of about 1.6 million tons of rice.

Phou Puy, the president of the Cambodian National Rice Millers Association, said the lifting of the ban would benefit the country's rice millers and farmers, who need both the local and international markets to do well.

"We support the government policy. It is the right decision," said Phou Puy.

Rice prices have skyrocketed by around 76 percent between last December and April, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Rice Price Index.

Experts blame the trend on higher energy and fertilizer costs, greater global demand, droughts, the loss of rice farmland to bio fuel plantations, and price speculation.

To avoid food scarcities in their own countries, major rice exporters have imposed export bans, taxes or caps.

These measures have further restricted the availability of supplies on international markets, triggering yet more price rises and fears of rice shortages in developing countries.

Cambodia mission for teenagers

Davon 24
28 May 2008

A PARTY of Torridge teenagers are planning a visit to the "killing fields" of Cambodia and the memorials that provide a stark reminder of the millions who died there in the 1970s.

But their trip will not be for sightseeing as they will be travelling to Cambodia in support of the children's charity Edukid.

The charity was set up seven years ago by Torridge youth worker Chris Turner to help the children of Cambodia receive an education.

Chris and his wife Debs are youth leaders with the Bideford Methodist Circuit and the 14 teenagers making the trip are members of the Stuff group, mostly members of churches within the circuit.

The charity was born from a trip there, made by Chris and Debs when they were youth workers in Oxford."

The parents had given up hope of improving their quality of life, but believed education offered their children the best way out of the poverty they lived in," said Chris. "We took photos of 100 children in that village and came home and asked our church and friends to sponsor them at £10 a year - enough for a school pack with everything they need to study for one year, uniform, books, stationery, shoes, etc."

Last year the charity was able to provide its education packs to 750 children.

Next summer's trip will cost around £15,000, so the group has already started fund raising activities. When they return home they will continue their work by raising awareness of the needs of the Cambodian children.

Rice Slumps by Limit as Cambodia Ends Ban on Overseas Shipments

Harvested rice is spread on concrete for drying in the sun prior to milling, at a rice mill in Nueva Ecija, the Philippines, on May 23, 2008. Photographer: Enrique Soriano/Bloomberg News

By Jae Hur and Luzi Ann Javier

May 27 (Bloomberg) -- Rice futures tumbled by their daily limit for the second session as producers eased export bans, alleviating concerns that global supplies will fail to meet demand.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday that an export ban has been lifted, Chan Tong Yves, deputy head of the farm ministry, said today by phone from Phnom Penh. Vietnam and India said earlier this month they may ease export curbs.

The staple for half the world, which reached a record $25.07 on the Chicago Board of Trade on April 24, slumped 50 cents. The record prices for food, including palm oil and wheat, have stoked concern about shortages and caused riots from Haiti to Egypt.

``The Cambodian news has damped market sentiment,'' Takaki Shigemoto, an analyst with Tokyo-based commodity broker Okachi & Co., said by phone today. ``With major producers in Southeast Asia braced for harvesting bumper crops in the next couple of months, the global market sees more supplies.''

Rough rice for July delivery fell 2.5 percent to $19.85 per 100 pounds as of 11 a.m. in London. The price is still 88 percent higher than a year ago. The Chicago market, which fell 50 cents on May 23, was closed yesterday for a public holiday.

Cambodia would produce 6.8 million metric tons of unmilled rice this year after sufficient rains, compared with 6.7 million tons last year, the farm ministry's Chan Tong said.

The country has more than 1 million tons of rice available for sale overseas, the Financial Times said today, citing the Cambodian premier. The ban on exports was put in place in March, the report said.
Global Forecast
Global output of milled rice in 2008 will be 445.3 million tons, up 2.3 percent from last year's record 435.2 million tons, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said on May 22. Consumption will rise 2.4 percent, the agency said.

The Philippines, the world's largest rice importer, has failed this year, to fill state tenders for the grain, driving prices higher last month. The country imports about 2 million tons a year to plug a supply deficit.

A Philippine food company was the sole buyer today at a rice tender for private companies in Manila, the National Food Authority said. Uni-Agro Native Products Inc. was seeking 500 tons out of the total 141,440 tons of tariff-free imports on offer, Assistant Administrator Conrad Ibanez told reporters.

The Philippines may hold another government rice tender in December to make sure stockpiles in state-owned warehouses will not drop below the equivalent of 15 days' of consumption, Ibanez said. The Philippines consumes about 33,000 tons of rice a day.

`Soften Prices'

Cambodia's lifting of the nation's export ban ``will soften prices,'' Ibanez said. ``We'll import if September harvests are lower than last year.''

Vietnam, the world's second-largest rice exporter, said on May 21 that a ban on new overseas shipments may be lifted from July and the harvest in the north of the country is ``much better'' than previously expected.

India, the world's second-biggest rice producer after China, may partly ease a ban on rice exports as the country is set to harvest a bumper crop, Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai told reporters on May 9. Output in the year ending June may reach a record 95.68 million tons, the farm ministry said April 22. That compares with 93.35 million tons produced a year earlier.

Pakistan, the fifth-biggest exporter, will permit shipments of 1 million tons because local needs have been met, Mohammad Azhar Akhtar, chairman of the Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, said on May 16.

Japan is in talks with the Philippines, the world's largest rice importer, about shipments from Japan's stockpiles of overseas rice, according to a government official, who declined to be identified in remarks reported May 12.

Cambodia Seeks Tourism Ties With Central Highlands Province

Wednesday May 28

PHNOM PENH, May 28 Asia Pulse - A senior Cambodian government official says Cambodia wants to cooperate in tourism with Vietnam's Lam Dong province in the South Central Highlands.

Cambodian tourism minister Thong Khon said he supports tourism cooperation and joint venture plans between Lam Dong province and Cambodian localities during a meeting with a Lam Dong province delegation in Phnom Penh on May 27.

He also said he welcomes the initiative to open a direct air route linking Da Lat and Siem Reap, popular tourist sites of the two countries.

According to the Minister, Cambodia welcomed more than 80,000 Vietnamese visitors in the first four months of this year, a 97 per cent increase year-on-year.

This took Vietnam to third ranking, following the Republic of Korea and Japan, in terms of the number of visitors to Cambodia, representing an upgrade from the fourth and the sixth position in 2007 and 2006, respectively.

In the first quarter of this year, Vietnam hosted around 50,000 Cambodian visitors, up 80 per cent from the same period of last year.
Media Credit: Kaitlin Johnson

Trip to examine effects of genocide
Kaitlin Johnson
Issue date: 5/27/08

This trip began almost a year ago when The Northern Light gave me my first story: a feature about Dr. Jesse Owens, a professor who had won an award. Eager to start, I called Owens and scheduled an interview. He told me it would be easiest if I'd meet him at his house in Palmer. The afternoon before the interview, I Googled Owens and found out that besides teaching at UAA, he was also an inventor and did philanthropic work in Cambodia.

I had just completed Bill Myers' history of genocide class in the spring semester of 2007. The Cambodian genocide in particular had both horrified me and piqued my interest. Shortly after the Vietnam War, a political group called the Khmer Rouge seized control of the country. The Khmer Rouge, led by the infamous Pol Pot, was a communist group that rejected all ties to the West. In order to bolster the country's economy, the Khmer Rouge forced Cambodians into slave-labor camps, where they toiled in rice fields. The regime executed anyone with ties to the West, including all educated people, doctors, teachers, lawyers. It also included people who wore glasses, or who opposed the regime. More than a million were killed or allowed to starve to death. I had a vague, underdeveloped idea of turning the article on Owens into a piece focused on the genocide.

When I arrived at Owens' house, I quickly jotted down a few prepared questions to ask him and went to the door. His house, among several inoffensive, average houses, was vibrant purple. The yard was littered with mechanical contraptions. A wheelchair ramp led up to his home and a dog let out baritone barks from inside. Owens, in a wheelchair, answered the door and introduced both himself and Ferlin, one of the largest dogs I'd ever met.

I felt comfortable with Owens immediately, even though it was my first time conducting an interview. He spoke easily and was fascinating to listen to. He told me about how he had taken up inventing after he had been paralyzed as a young man. His inventions were designed to help him regain access to the wilderness. He had had much success in this; with the assistance of his Kilikart, he had climbed Mount Killimanjaro.

As fate had it, the article was very much entwined with the Khmer Rouge. Owens had won the award that prompted the article for an invention designed to assist paraplegics in Cambodia. Land mines, a side effect of the Vietnam War and the Cambodian genocide, have disabled thousands, while chemicals like Agent Orange are responsible for crippling birth defects. Without proper infrastructure, also a side effect of the Khmer Rouge, the nation is ill-equipped to assist these people. They live as parasites, without access to medical attention, food or employment. Owen's invention was designed to give poor people in developing nations mobility.

After the interview, Owens and I discussed at length the genocide and how the Khmer - Cambodians - were recovering as a culture, and he invited me to have dinner with his friend Jim Gollogly. Gollogly runs a surgical clinic in Cambodia called the Children Surgical Center. The clinic is an Alaska non-governmental organization based in Cambodia that provides free surgeries to children. I thought the dinner would be a great opportunity to learn more about the country I was becoming enthralled with.

A week later I met Owens; Gollogly; Gollogly's wife, Kanya; and a few of their friends at a house in Wasilla. I listened as they spoke about the challenges Cambodia is facing. They discussed political corruption, the poor population and the lack of bureaucratic infrastructure. At the end of supper, Gollogly invited me to spend a few months in Cambodia as a volunteer. I excitedly told him I would love to, without any thought of what I would do, how I would get there or what the trip would entail.

And here I am. A year has passed and I'm sitting at a computer in Jim's house in Cambodia, sweaty and tired. I will be working for CSC until July. My job is to produce the literature that CSC sends to potential contributors and benefactors. Also, I'm publishing articles in English-Cambodian publications. But primarily, I'd like to examine how a dehumanized society recovers and how Cambodia has rebuilt itself since the Khmer Rouge set the clock back to year zero.

I will not pretend that this is at all possible in six weeks. This trip is only an introduction to Cambodia culture.
Asian elephants walk through the Mondulkiri Protected Forest in eastern Cambodia in this undated photograph, which was triggered by a camera trap. Decades after war wiped out most of the reserve's native wildlife, small but growing populations of animals—including Indochinese tigers, Asian elephants, and critically endangered species such as the giant ibis—are being spotted.AP Photo/Flora and Fauna International Intl, HO
Stefan Lovgren in Mereuch, Cambodia
for National Geographic News

For years wildlife poacher Lean Kha had prowled the war-ravaged forests of Mondulkiri Province in eastern Cambodia looking for meat.

A former teenage soldier for the Khmer Rouge political party, he estimates that he killed a thousand animals, including ten tigers, after the fall of the brutal Pol Pot regime in 1979.
May 27, 2008

Once dubbed the "Serengeti of Asia," almost all of Mondulkiri's wildlife was wiped out by poachers during decades of conflict, which began with the war in neighboring Vietnam. (See a Cambodia map.)

Now, with Cambodia finally at peace, small but growing populations of animals—including Indochinese tigers, Asian elephants, and critically endangered species such as the giant ibis—are returning to one of Southeast Asia's last remaining dry forests.

And Kha, now 45 years old, is helping to protect them as a head ranger supported by the international conservation group WWF.

"At the time I was ignorant and did not think there was a problem when I shot those tigers," he said, sitting at the forest headquarters in Mereuch as the Srepok River rushed behind him.
"Now I know we need to protect these animals for our children and grandchildren."

Coming Back Home

Humans cannot live inside the protected Mondulkiri Protected Forest reserve. A visitor can walk for miles without seeing any sign of humans, an unusual experience in otherwise densely populated Cambodia.

And with the region's searing summer temperatures and open, shadeless terrain, it's also usually hard to spot wildlife during the day.

But camera traps that take pictures at night show a different story.

A few years ago park rangers caught their first Indochinese tiger on camera. In 2007 a camera trap produced a picture of a female leopard and her cub.

Other wildlife returning to the area include banteng, a type of ox; Eld's deer; several species of wild cats; and one of the region's last remaining wild water buffalo populations.

"There is a lot of wildlife out there, considering the beating that this area has taken," said Nick Cox, who coordinates WWF's regional dry forests program and is based in Vientiane, Laos.

While leopards are now relatively common, there may be only five to ten Indochinese tigers in the forest today.

But conservationists say that as the density of prey species increases, the number of tigers could rise to at least 30 in as little as five years.

That is, if the 70 rangers working the forest can keep poachers at bay.

Like Kha, many of them are former hunters who have spent their whole lives under the forest canopy. Now they spend at least 16 days on patrol every month, keeping strict records of wildlife numbers.
(Related: "Armed Squads Aim for Poachers, Loggers in Cambodia" [August 15, 2003].)

"All protected areas need to know the number of important prey species and carnivores, because if we don't know the credit in our bank account, we can't monitor our wealth," said Prach Pich Phirun, a research coordinator for WWF's Srepok Wilderness Project.

Cambodia Boomtown

Even without the threat of poachers, the battle for this vast forest of almost a million acres (close to 400,000 hectares) is far from over.

Cambodia's popularity as a tourist destination is skyrocketing, with foreign tourist arrivals topping two million last year, according to the country's tourism minister. And the remote Mondulkiri Province is becoming the country's new hot spot.

Draped over several rolling hills, Sen Monorom, the tiny provincial capital, has the feel of a Wild West boomtown.

A plethora of hotels and backpacker lodges have opened up, and wealthy Cambodians are streaming to the area to snap up any available land. The main road being graded and paved by Chinese contractors will ease access to the region.

"This increased activity could put a lot of pressure on the environment," said Craig Bruce, WWF's technical advisor on protected areas in Cambodia, who is based in Sen Monorom.

A housing building boom, he warned, could also lead to a surge in illegal timber cutting.

And there are signs that poaching and illegal wildlife trade are on the rise in Cambodia, where animals are being smuggled through Vietnam with the involvement of Chinese traders.

Ecotourism Plans

Conservationists are now investing in ecotourism projects in the hopes of keeping the Mondulkiri forest protected.

WWF is planning an upscale eco-resort with eight cottages along stilts on the banks of the Srepok River.

Yet money earned from such eco-projects must benefit local communities living around the forest, said James MacGregor, an environmental economist at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, which backs the WWF project.

"There are a lot of poor people in this area who have traditionally generated their livelihood through hunting and collecting wood," MacGregor said.

"We're asking people to forgo doing something that has helped them for years."

(Related: "Unique Mosses Spur Conservation, Ecotourism in Chile" [November 14, 2006].)

Planners envision that Mondulkiri could also become a destination for adventurous travelers, such as mountain bikers.

Mark Ellison of Cambodia-based Asia Adventures said tour operators are looking to offer tourists additional activities in Cambodia besides visiting the popular Angkor Wat temples.

"Here's an opportunity to go mountain biking in an area that is for all intents and purposes undiscovered," he said.

While a recent bicycle trip of conservationists and journalists showcased the unchartered nature of the terrain, it also turned into a harrowing ordeal at one point, with bikers getting lost without any means of communication.

Luckily a passing elephant driver had noticed tire tracks from the bikes going the wrong way and tracked down the team just as its water supply was running out.

Cox, the WWF dry forest program coordinator and one of the most experienced bikers on the trip, admitted that some work needed to be done before Mondulkiri would be ready to welcome visitors.

"There are a few kinks that need ironing out, that's for sure," he said.

Rice falls to daily limit for 2nd time

May 28, 2008

Rice futures tumbled by their daily limit for the second session as producers eased export bans, alleviating concerns that global supplies will fail to meet demand.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that an export ban has been lifted, Chan Tong Yves, deputy head of the farm ministry, said yesterday by phone from Phnom Penh. Vietnam and India said earlier this month they may ease export curbs.

The staple for half the world, which reached a record $25.07 on the Chicago Board of Trade on April 24, slumped as much 50 cents. The record prices for food, including palm oil and wheat, have stoked concern about shortages and caused riots from Haiti to Egypt.

"The Cambodian news has damped market sentiment," Takaki Shigemoto, an analyst with Tokyo-based commodity broker Okachi & Co, said by phone yesterday. "With major producers in Southeast Asia braced for harvesting bumper crops in the next couple of months, the global market sees more supplies."

Rough rice for July delivery fell as much as 2.5 percent to $19.85 per 100 pounds, and traded at that level at 3:27 pm Singapore time. The price is still 88 percent higher than a year ago. The Chicago market, which fell 50 cents on May 23, was closed on Monday for a public holiday.

Cambodia would produce 6.8 million metric tons of unmilled rice this year after sufficient rains, compared with 6.7 million tons last year, the farm ministry's Chan Tong said.

The country has more than 1 million tons of rice available for sale overseas, the Financial Times said yesterday, citing the Cambodian premier. The ban on exports was put in place in March, the report said.

Global forecast

Global output of milled rice in 2008 will be 445.3 million tons, up 2.3 percent from last year's record 435.2 million tons, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said on May 22. Consumption will rise 2.4 percent, the agency said.

The Philippines, the world's largest rice importer, has failed this year, to fill state tenders for the grain, driving prices higher last month. The country imports about 2 million tons a year to plug a supply deficit.

A Philippine food company was the sole buyer today at a rice tender for private companies in Manila, the National Food Authority said. Uni-Agro Native Products Inc was seeking 500 tons out of the total 141,440 tons of tariff-free imports on offer, Assistant Administrator Conrad Ibanez told reporters.

Source:China Daily/Agencies

Cambodia's fuel subsidies to cost 300 mln USD in 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PHNOM PENH, May 28, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- -- With discontent growing over rampant inflation, the Cambodian government has claimed it will spent 300 million U.S. dollars on fuel subsidies in 2008, local media reported Wednesday.

"We are trying to control inflation which is a phenomenon that influences Cambodia from outside by subsidizing gasoline," Keat Chhon, Cambodian Minister of Economics and Finance, was quoted by the Mekong Times newspaper as saying.

Keat Chhon predicted the subsidies would cost the state 300 million U.S. dollars by year's end, the newspaper said.

The government still imposes the same tax on oil - 309 U.S. dollars per ton for gasoline and 267 U.S. dollars for diesel - despite the fact imported oil has currently increased price to over 1,000 U.S. dollars per ton, Keat Chhon said.

"Currently, we do not take tax freight and insurance even though the oil price is rising," he added.

The Cambodian government claimed last month it had spent 29 million U.S. dollars on gasoline subsidies so far this year.

ECONOMY-CAMBODIA: Resource Curse or Blessing?

PHNOM PENH, May 28 (IPS) - Cambodia is facing a natural resource boom, prompting donors and non-government organisations (NGOs) to warn that without measures to improve financial transparency, promote better governance and curb corruption, the potential windfall could be squandered.

In addition to significant oil reserves off Cambodia’s coast, there are major deposits of natural gas, as well as minerals such as gold, copper and bauxite, mainly in the northeast of the country.

"The risk of a resource curse is there," said Jo Scheuer, country director for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in an IPS interview. "Included in this is the issue of corruption and funds disappearing."

At the same time Scheuer is keen to stress that Cambodia "has a great opportunity to avoid mistakes that have been made in other countries,’’ and translate the benefits to all Cambodians to ‘’create a resource blessing’’.

"The government says it is a little early to start to talk about revenue because the resources are still underground," said Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum in Phnom Penh. "We think it is important for us to be prepared for the new situation and challenges."

NGO Forum is one of a number of local organisations behind a new coalition, yet to be formally launched, that wants to ensure the potential financial benefits from the country’s resource windfall are managed in a socially responsible manner.

The Berlin-based Transparency International’s 2007 Corruption Perception Index ranked Cambodia 162 out of 179 countries, making it the most corrupt country in Asia after Burma and among the worst globally.

"I think the concern is the past experience," continued Sam Ath. "A lot of natural resources have been extracted often under concessions, but the revenue that has gone into the budget has been less than expected."

"It is generally accepted that poor governance, lack of transparency and corruption are serious problems for Cambodia," said Sek Barisoth, director of the Mainstreaming Anti-Corruption for Equity Programme with PACT Cambodia, another supporter of the emerging coalition.

While observers say the Cambodian Government is verbally committed to the fight against corruption, there has been little action. A proposed anti-corruption law, developed in early 2005 with technical assistance from PACT, remains in draft form. It would establish an independent anti-corruption commission and provide a better legal definition of corruption.

Oil is the current focus of the resource boom, with exploration well underway in the waters off Cambodia’s cost to determine the extent of the country’s reserves.

How much oil is there? "We do not know," said UNDP’s Scheuer. "The standard answer is that no one has done any work on exactly how much oil and gas there is."

Two years ago, U.S. oil giant Chevron, the lead partner in Block A, where exploration has gone the furthest, announced "significant" oil and gas reserves. Scheuer said the company is expected to announce the results of its exploration sometime after Cambodia’s July national election.

With the price of a barrel of crude currently hovering around 130 US dollars and some analysts expecting it to reach 200 dollars by the end of the year, the financial gains for Cambodia are significant.

"It is a potentially huge windfall for a country if invested wisely in the long-term development objectives such as health, education and expanding the labour market," said Scheuer. His organisation has been one of the key donors working to help the Cambodian government deal with the threats and opportunities presented by the oil boom.

It is collaborating with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority to build its capacity, and earlier this year cooperated with the government to organise a major international conference on oil and gas.

"It is not necessarily a blessing for a country to be endowed with petroleum resources," Arne Walther, a Norwegian diplomat said at the conference. Norway, one of the poorest countries in Europe until the discovery of oil and gas off their coast in the mid-sixties, is cited by many as a success story in terms of how to handle the issues raised by an influx of petro dollars.

"It is how governments arrange for their resources to be extracted and how revenues earned are used that determine the success or failure of being a petroleum endowed state," Walther said. "I believe Cambodia faces a challenging task in planning and developing its petroleum sector and developing policy and instruments for channelling the future oil and gas revenues in a best possible way for the benefit of Cambodians. It is actually a momentous task."

"We realise the opportunities that petroleum revenues may afford us to improve the livelihoods of the Cambodian people," Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told the gathering. "The translation of the capital value of oil reserves into the stored capital value of our people through improved health and social conditions and education is very important for the long term prosperity of Cambodia."

"While some technical people in the government are concerned that the Nigerian experience is not copied in Cambodia it is unclear how high up this goes," said Barisoth.

"The concerns are valid," agreed Scheuer. "It is still too early to make a judgement and we are cautiously optimistic that they will get it right," he says of the government’s efforts.

The threat of corruption is not the only factor bearing on Cambodia’s efforts. "It is extremely difficult for a country like Cambodia, with its capacity, to develop a petro industry because everything is so complicated," said Scheuer.

The appropriate contractual arrangements and tax regimes are just two of the complex issues the country faces. Other countries, including developed countries, have encountered unexpected economic difficulties in developing their resource wealth, often dubbed ‘Dutch Disease’.

This refers to the problems associated with dumping large amounts of resource revenue into an economy and the distorting impact this has on other sectors such as agriculture. It originated in the Netherlands after the rapid flow of funds from the discovery of North Sea gas led to significant structural changes, including price increases and the de-industrialisation of many sectors of the economy.

The key message from the conference earlier this year was that Cambodia should take time to develop the industry and get the policy fundamentals right.

"In Norway it was ten years from the first drilling to first revenue coming on stream. Their advice is not to rush it," said Scheuer. "The main point now is to get the governance and policy frameworks right. If they get it right with Block A it will flow onto the other blocks."

The other idea being suggested by donors and experts with experience in the sector is for Cambodia to set up a fund to store revenue from oil and invested appropriately. Similar funds already exist in Norway and East Timor.

"We need to learn more about this fund but in general we would support a transparent process for the resource revenue," said Sam Ath from NGO Forum. He is one of two Cambodian NGO people who are closely studying East Timor to look at how the fledgling state is handling its revenue from natural gas.

Timor was selected from among several countries because of its similarities to Cambodia. "It is very important to build capacity and learn from them how civil society can engage with the government over the distribution of natural resources," said Sam Ath. "NGOs are open and happy to work with the government. We are not working to oppose them but to help them make the most effective use of the revenue from oil and gas."

NGOs and donors are also keen that Phnom Penh sign up to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative supported by a coalition of governments, companies and civil society organisations aimed at ensuring companies disclose what they pay and governments what they receive.

Hun Sen Discourages Election Violence

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original repoort from Phnom Penh
27 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 26 (1.27MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 26 (1.27MB) - Listen (MP3)

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday called for all competing parties for July’s election to avoid violence, but observers say such advisories are rarely taken seriously at lower levels of power.

Hun Sen said at a ceremony Monday respect for the rule of law is the best way to reduce violations during the election period.

Election observers and other party officials say violence is not likely to disappear from this election.

Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Ieng said such warnings were rarely heard by Hun Sen’s low-ranking officials, and it is those officials who pose a threat.

The National Election Committee has approved 11 parties to compete in the general elections.

Norodom Ranariddh Party Deputy Secretary-General Thav Kimhor agreed with Hun Sen’s warning, but said so far his party had already had people killed.

Keo Remy, vice president of the Human Rights Party, said Monday he worried election violence could not be prevented.

Parties Trained for Election Observation

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

Khmer audio aired May 26 (0.98MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 26 (0.98MB) - Listen (MP3)

Trainers for four of the competing parties for July’s general election received training themselves Monday, so that they can teach poll observation to monitors.

Some 240 members of the Cambodian People’s, Funcinpec, Sam Rainsy and Norodom Ranariddh parites received training from the National Democratic Institute, with more training to follow for each of the remaining seven parties.

These trainers will then go on to train other party activists.

Trainers were taught skills of systematic poll observation in order to prevent irregularities on Election Day, July 27, and in subsequent ballot counting.

“The presence of party polling agents enhances public confidence in the polling and counting by promoting transparency and openness,” said Jerome Cheung, NDI’s Cambodia representative.

The training will help ensure “all parties have the ability to protect their own party’s interests on Election Day and counting day,” said Sothearayuth Lee, a senior program officer for NDI.

Hundreds Rise Up Over Land Disputes in 2 Provinces

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
27 May 2008

Khmer audio aired May 26 (812KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired May 26 (812KB) - Listen (MP3)

Representatives of nearly 900 families separately protested in Kampot and Battambang provinces Monday, claiming they suspected local officials of selling their land to private companies.

Nearly 100 protesters from Kampot district, Kampot, gathered in front of the Konsat commune office Monday afternoon, claiming their commune chief sold 72 hectares of land, rights officials and residents said.

The commune chief could not be reached for comment.

In Battambang’s Banan and Koas Krolor districts, protesters for nearly 250 families gathered in front of the provincial cabinet office, asking for help in a long-standing land dispute.

That dispute has not been solved at the commune or district levels, leaving protesters to look to their provincial leaders, a rights worker said.

Fateful encounter leads student to Cambodian adventure

Trip to examine effects of genocide

Kaitlin Johnson
5/27/08

This trip began almost a year ago when The Northern Light gave me my first story: a feature about Dr. Jesse Owens, a professor who had won an award. Eager to start, I called Owens and scheduled an interview. He told me it would be easiest if I'd meet him at his house in Palmer. The afternoon before the interview, I Googled Owens and found out that besides teaching at UAA, he was also an inventor and did philanthropic work in Cambodia.

I had just completed Bill Myers' history of genocide class in the spring semester of 2007. The Cambodian genocide in particular had both horrified me and piqued my interest. Shortly after the Vietnam War, a political group called the Khmer Rouge seized control of the country. The Khmer Rouge, led by the infamous Pol Pot, was a communist group that rejected all ties to the West. In order to bolster the country's economy, the Khmer Rouge forced Cambodians into slave-labor camps, where they toiled in rice fields. The regime executed anyone with ties to the West, including all educated people, doctors, teachers, lawyers. It also included people who wore glasses, or who opposed the regime. More than a million were killed or allowed to starve to death. I had a vague, underdeveloped idea of turning the article on Owens into a piece focused on the genocide.

When I arrived at Owens' house, I quickly jotted down a few prepared questions to ask him and went to the door. His house, among several inoffensive, average houses, was vibrant purple. The yard was littered with mechanical contraptions. A wheelchair ramp led up to his home and a dog let out baritone barks from inside. Owens, in a wheelchair, answered the door and introduced both himself and Ferlin, one of the largest dogs I'd ever met.

I felt comfortable with Owens immediately, even though it was my first time conducting an interview. He spoke easily and was fascinating to listen to. He told me about how he had taken up inventing after he had been paralyzed as a young man. His inventions were designed to help him regain access to the wilderness. He had had much success in this; with the assistance of his Kilikart, he had climbed Mount Killimanjaro.

As fate had it, the article was very much entwined with the Khmer Rouge. Owens had won the award that prompted the article for an invention designed to assist paraplegics in Cambodia. Land mines, a side effect of the Vietnam War and the Cambodian genocide, have disabled thousands, while chemicals like Agent Orange are responsible for crippling birth defects. Without proper infrastructure, also a side effect of the Khmer Rouge, the nation is ill-equipped to assist these people. They live as parasites, without access to medical attention, food or employment. Owen's invention was designed to give poor people in developing nations mobility.

After the interview, Owens and I discussed at length the genocide and how the Khmer - Cambodians - were recovering as a culture, and he invited me to have dinner with his friend Jim Gollogly. Gollogly runs a surgical clinic in Cambodia called the Children Surgical Center. The clinic is an Alaska non-governmental organization based in Cambodia that provides free surgeries to children. I thought the dinner would be a great opportunity to learn more about the country I was becoming enthralled with.

A week later I met Owens; Gollogly; Gollogly's wife, Kanya; and a few of their friends at a house in Wasilla. I listened as they spoke about the challenges Cambodia is facing. They discussed political corruption, the poor population and the lack of bureaucratic infrastructure. At the end of supper, Gollogly invited me to spend a few months in Cambodia as a volunteer. I excitedly told him I would love to, without any thought of what I would do, how I would get there or what the trip would entail.

And here I am. A year has passed and I'm sitting at a computer in Jim's house in Cambodia, sweaty and tired. I will be working for CSC until July. My job is to produce the literature that CSC sends to potential contributors and benefactors. Also, I'm publishing articles in English-Cambodian publications. But primarily, I'd like to examine how a dehumanized society recovers and how Cambodia has rebuilt itself since the Khmer Rouge set the clock back to year zero.

I will not pretend that this is at all possible in six weeks. This trip is only an introduction to Cambodia culture.

Cambodian plane crash denied

Independent Television News
27 May 2008
Source: ITN

A senior Cambodian military official has backed off earlier claims that a plane has crashed in the remote province of Kampot.

Earlier, Kung Mony, Kampot's deputy military commander said, "I can confirm there was a foreign plane that crashed in Cambodia in the province of Kampot this morning."

However, the deputy commander of the southeast Asian national Air Force has now retracted his statement.

He said, "I would like to make a clarification. I earlier received firm information from the airport that there was a plane crash, but now I cannot either confirm or deny that that was the case."
Further to this another official at Phnom Penh's international airport outrightly denied the incident saying, "We haven't had any plane crash."

Contrary to this villagers in the district said they had heard a loud explosion and since the alarm was raised soldiers and police have been searching the area.

Plane crashes in southeast Cambodia - official

Tue May 27, 2008

PHNOM PENH, May 27 (Reuters) - An airplane has crashed in the remote province of Kampot in southeast Cambodia, a local military commander said on Tuesday.

"I can confirm there was a foreign plane that crashed in Cambodia in the province of Kampot this morning. We don't have any details," deputy Kampot military commander Kung Mony told Reuters.Villagers in one district told Reuters they had heard a loud explosion.

Soldiers and police were searching the area. (Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Sanjeev Miglani)

We will govern alone: Cambodian PM Hun Sen

www.chinaview.cn
2008-05-27

PHNOM PENH, May 27 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has confidently announced that his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) will govern alone after the national election, controlling the National Assembly (NA) without the need for coalition partners, local media reported Tuesday.

Hun Sen's ambiguous statement was thought to be aimed at Sam Rainsy, who said during the 2003 national election campaign that he would not form a coalition government with Hun Sen, the Mekong Times newspaper said.

"The NA can have him, but he won't be there in the government," Hun Sen said, adding that the newly introduced "50 percent plus one" majority voting formula had made it much easier for one party alone to form a government.

Hun Sen also said no leadership positions in NA commissions will be given to parties other than the CPP, the newspaper said.

He claimed that past attempts to install members of other parties as NA commissions chairmen had failed as "they acted as opposition and did not fulfill their duty as chairmen."

He said the CPP is already prepared to take over the NA commissions, with CPP members already at the head of five of the nine commissions.

Editor: Amber Yao

Rice tumbles as Cambodia lifts ban on exports

By Moming Zhou, MarketWatch
May 27, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Rice futures slumped by their daily limit of 50 cents for a second day on Tuesday after Cambodia, one of the world's top 10 rice exporters, said it will lift restrictions on exports.

Cambodia will resume rice exports Tuesday after a temporary two-month ban, the country's Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Monday, according to the Associated Press. Rice futures trading on the Chicago Board of Trade tumbled 50 cents to below $20 per 100 pounds.

Futures prices also slumped by 50 cents on Friday. Trading was closed on Monday in observation of Memorial Day.

Cambodia's move, however, may have a limited effect on the long-term world rice market, according to a U.N. rice expert, because the ban had already been somewhat lifted.

Cambodia has limited milling facilities, said Concepcion Calpe at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. The country has to export rice to two neighboring countries, Thailand and Vietnam, to get milled. Cambodian rice will then be re-exported from these two countries.

"They had lifted bans in a number of neighboring provinces along the boarder," said Calpe.

Officially ending the ban will "make things a little easier, but there won't be much difference because rice has already been flowing through the boarder."

Export restrictions

Rice futures have almost doubled this year, touching a record high of $24.46 per 100 pounds in April, despite estimates that the world rice production is to hit a record high in the next crop season. The culprit is export restrictions among leading rice producers, analysts said.

India, the third largest exporter of the grain, banned the export of non-basmati rice in March. Commerce Secretary Gopal Pillai on Tuesday said that the country won't follow Cambodia and ease curbs on export restriction, Reuters reported.

India's "export restrictions spread to other suppliers and lead to urgent efforts by rice importing countries to secure supplies -- at any price -- in a thin global market," said Tom Slayton, an economist at Center for Global Development, a Washington-based nongovernmental organization, in a note.

Vietnam, the world's second-largest rice exporter, reportedly may lift restrictions on rice exports in July. But the country lowered this year's export target to between 3.5 million and 4 million tons from last year's 4.5 million tons.

Other countries such as Argentina, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have also placed additional taxes or restrictions on exports of grains, rice and other products.

Export restrictions in some countries were driven by political reasons, Slayton said. India is facing a parliamentary election in May 2009 and "the government does not want to face further criticism."

To secure grain supplies, consuming countries have been encouraging imports by reducing or eliminating tariffs. Mexico on Sunday eliminated import tariffs on staples including corn, rice and wheat, according to Reuters.

Davik wins hearts as her own mends

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
05/26/2008

LONG BEACH - Call it the Davik Teng victory tour.

Davik, the 9-year-old Cambodian girl brought to the United States for life-altering open-heart surgery, is making the rounds in Southern California before returning to her home in a small village in Battambang Province.

Doctors have cleared Davik to travel and she is scheduled to return on July 9. At that time, she will be accompanied by her mother, Sin Chhon, and Peter Chhun, the founder of Long Beach nonprofit Hearts Without Boundaries, which sponsored Davik's journey to the United States.

Two months after surgery to repair what doctors described as a quarter-sized hole in her heart, also known as a ventricular septal defect, Davik has shown remarkable progress and is fit to return to her home country.

Although she will remain on heart medication for the duration of her stay here, there are no plans for her to see doctors again until after she returns home.

Dr. Mark Sklansky, Davik's cardiologist in the United States, says the girl's heart function is still "mildly depressed" but that there has been consistent improvement since her March surgery.
"I think she'll have a full recovery," he said.

Sklansky, who helped broker the deal with Childrens Hospital to bring Davik here, said although there were some minor setbacks and obstacles along the way, he is happy with the results.

At the end of Davik's final visit, Sklansky said, "I raced her down the hall and she beat me. As I waddled back to my office, she was laughing."

On Thursday, Davik, her mother, Chhun and family friend Chantha Bob visited the Press-Telegram, where Davik munched on pizza and was given a tour of the paper's downtown office.
On Saturday, she was feted by the Cambodian Jewelry Association of California.

Trips to Disneyland and other Southern California attractions are also planned. Davik and crew will also visit Portland, Ore., where she will meet members of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon. That group, led by Chantha Bob's younger brother, Chanly, organized the aid mission that led to the discovery of Davik and her ailment.

When he returns to Cambodia with Davik, Chhun hopes to find another child in need of a miracle.

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles donated its facilities and cardiac team for Davik's procedure and UCLA has offered similar services for Chhun's next patient.

"We are going to bring back one more," Chhun said of Davik's successor. "One heart at a time."

Cambodia Property: Untapped Potential Revealed as Tourism Grows

-- The Cambodian government has announced plans to re-launch the national airline, which was scrapped with massive losses on 2000. --

/24-7PressRelease/ - NOTTINGHAM, UK, May 27, 2008 - This time however the airline is being launched with the backing of massive Indonesian conglomerate Rajawali, and will be able to tap into the massively growing number of tourists to Cambodia.

Visitor numbers to Cambodia grew to 2 million in 2006, 60% of whom flew into the country. And with Cambodia being hailed as the new Thailand, because of its virgin white sandy beaches, and undiscovered tropical locations prompting a further 20% rise in tourism for 2007, it is hoped the new airline will be an added boost to the clearly flourishing Cambodia tourism market.

Liam Bailey head of international research for David Stanley Redfern Ltd gave his view on the possible effect the airline will have on the Cambodia property market:

"New air routes are always good news for property markets, but the new Cambodia airline, and the likely increase in flights it will generate will be of special significance in Cambodia. The massively successful property markets of Malaysia, Thailand, and Thai islands like Koh Samui, have largely been fuelled by tourism, well in Thailand almost completely fuelled by tourism.

"But in Cambodia, property market growth has been largely limited to Phnom Penh, and fuelled by growth in commercial, business, financial and services sectors. The recent massive increases in visitor numbers, which will be helped by the new airline, will spread property market growth to other areas, and new Cambodian property hotspots will be emerging very soon - perfect timing given that the Phnom Penh property market is showing signs of levelling out."

Even though Cambodia property has been among the hottest for the past two years, it seems the surface has barely been scratched on the country's property investment profitability.

Find out more about Cambodia property at
http://www.davidstanleyredfern.com/investment-property/cambodia.

Cambodians raise more than 1m $ for China quake

(DPA)
27 May 2008

PHNOM PENH - Aid for China's earthquake victims was pouring into Cambodia's many Chinese associations from businesses, Chinese-language schools and individuals, the associations and local media reported Tuesday.

The English-language Mekong Times newspaper reported a single donation of 301,000 dollars from the China, Hong Kong and Macau Expatriate and Business Association of Cambodia delivered to the Chinese embassy Monday.

The Khmer-China Association said it gave around 210,000 dollars, and the Foundation for Promoting Chinese Culture in Cambodia donated around 22,000 dollars, which was also delivered to the China embassy in Phnom Penh.

China's official news agency Xinhua said Cambodian politicians, the royal family, businesses and individuals had given a total of 1.17 million dollars in aid since the earthquake struck.

Cambodia and China have strong ties that go back centuries, and a large percentage of the Cambodian population claims at least some Chinese blood.

China is Cambodia's main investor and donor, and former king Norodom Sihanouk maintains a royal residence in Beijing, where he spends months out of every year. The octogenarian credits his remission from colon cancer to Chinese doctors.

7-year-old's photos to help develop funds for Cambodia

Kalliyan Srey-Ry Lagger holds one of her photos as mom Deb Lagger and sister Hannah Khim Lagger, 8, lend support. Kalliyan’s photos will be on display at Garden Smiles in Waterville. ( THE BLADE/LORI KING )

Toledoblade.com
Tuesday, May 27, 2008


By JC REINDLBLADE STAFF WRITER

Seven-year-old Kalliyan Srey-Ry Lagger rifled through a box of photos on the kitchen table, plucking out the most radiant prints of the bunch.

"I like the color on this one. And I like the color on this one too," Kalliyan said, holding the close-up of a pink rose, its shiny petals dotted with beads of water. "I try to get the camera in the right place where I want it to be."

Gathered by the side of the talented young photographer were her adoptive mother, Deb Lagger, and her sister, Hannah Khim Lagger. Hannah is 8 years old and, like Kalliyan, was adopted as a baby from an orphanage in Cambodia by Ms. Lagger and her partner. The family makes its home in Lambertville.

Mother and daughters last week were making preparations to put Kalliyan's photos on display and on sale at the shop of George and Deb Carruth, Garden Smiles, in Waterville. The photos go up today with the plan to send half of the sales' proceeds to a recently opened English language and career-training center in Battambang, Cambodia, that was named for both girls.

The center was the latest result of a partnership involving Ms. Lagger's employer, Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio, along with Goodwill Industries International and the Cambodian-based nonprofit, Digital Divide Data. Ms. Lagger is director of work force development.

The rest of the proceeds are to go to Kalliyan's college fund. She and Hannah attend Monroe Road Elementary School, where Betsy Doyle taught them both for second grade.

Mrs. Doyle's class last year decorated water bottles and sold them at school to raise more than $100 that went to building a drinking well for Cambodian villagers. This year her class plans to sell bookmarks to raise funds to buy maps and globes for Cambodians learning English. Ms. Lagger visits the girls' classes to talk about life in Cambodia, a developing Southeast Asian nation of 14 million people where much of the population lives in poverty by Western standards.

"It's really neat to see the kids become aware of something beyond their own little world," Mrs. Doyle said.

Ms. Lagger said her interests in Cambodia grew as she learned about the country's history. She and her partner had been considering adoption, and in 2000 they worked through the World Child International Adoption Agency to adopt Hannah from an orphanage in Phnom Penh, the country's capital and largest city.

The trip to pick up Hannah was Ms. Lagger's first visit to Cambodia. She since has made three additional visits, each leaving indelible impressions.

"It's unimaginable poverty. I mean absolutely unimaginable poverty," Ms. Lagger said. "You know the little scooters we have here? You'll see a family of six or seven on those scooters. It's unbelievable.

"From our first trip there, I committed myself. I was just going to do whatever I could do to give back to the Cambodians for trusting me to take care of one of their children."

Ms. Lagger returned the next year to adopt 14-month-old Kalliyan from a rural Pursat orphanage. All that was known about Kalliyan's biological family was she had been the youngest child of parents who died. The adoption process for both girls involved lots of paperwork and took about five months, she said.

The Cambodian people have only recently begun to recover from decades of violence and unrest. After gaining independence from France in 1953, Cambodia experienced a military coup in 1970 and a period of civil war. The country was bombed and briefly invaded during the Vietnam war by U.S. forces hunting down Viet Cong.

In 1975, communist Khmer Rouge rebels captured Phnom Penh and forced the evacuation of all cities and towns in their attempt to transform Cambodia into an agrarian society.

More than 1.5 million Cambodians eventually would die from starvation, killings, and forced hardships under the regime's Pol Pot leader. These events were depicted in the Academy Award-winning film, The Killing Fields.

A Vietnamese invasion in 1978 then led to occupation and nearly 13 years of civil war. Cambodia has been under a relatively stable constitutional monarchy for the last decade and today has a fast-growing economy.

Ms. Lagger said she did not encounter much anti-American sentiment during her visits. Instead the Cambodians seemed to offer encouragement as they saw her, a white woman, cradling an Asian baby. She recalled a passer-by on the street saying, "Lucky baby. Lucky baby."

"They're grateful to Americans for adopting their children," Ms. Lagger said. "And we kept trying to tell them, 'We're the lucky parents. We're the lucky ones.'•"

Hannah and Kalliyan are aware of the circumstances of their birth.

But while Ms. Lagger makes occasional visits to Cambodia for her job, she isn't sure whether the girls are ready to experience firsthand the rough-and-tumble lives many Cambodians still live and then make the inevitable comparisons to their own lives here in the U.S.

"Maybe when they're teenagers," she said.

Kalliyan will be signing her photos from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Garden Smiles.

Contact JC Reindl at:jreindl@theblade.comor 419-724-6065.

Report Says Cambodia Media Subject to Political Pressures, Bias

Policemen escort Cambodian radio station director Mam Sonando, left to court of appeals in Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh (2005 File)

By Rory Byrne
Phnom Penh
27 May 2008

Byrne report - Download (MP3)
Byrne report - Listen (MP3)

With just two months to go before a general election in Cambodia, a report on the news media says that local journalists regularly face interference from the business and political elite. It says journalists work in a climate of fear in Cambodia and that there is impunity for those who threaten or kill them, allegations the government rejects. Rory Byrne has more from Phnom Penh.

The report found that over half of Cambodian journalists live in fear of physical or legal attack. Most say they are pressured to cover stories with a political bias.

"They have political bias because the conditions that they work push them to do that, you know, because their newspaper were supported by one political party, but mostly the ruling party," said Kek Galabru, the president of Licadho, the Cambodian rights group that produced the report.

All of Cambodia's television stations, and the bulk of its radio stations, are owned by people close to the ruling Cambodian People's Party. Galabru says the owners use those outlets to gain political advantage.

"Concerning the electronic media - the government controls (it) very tightly," Galabru noted. "They know that it makes a big impact on the public opinion. There is no single one - concerning television - that belongs to (an) independent voice."

With the election in July, campaign observers complain about what they call excessive pro-government content on the airwaves. Koul Panha is heads the Committee for Free and Fair Elections.

"The election process in Cambodia [does] not reach to international standard [for a] free and fair election," Panha said. "The key measure of importance is the media - equal access to the media.

But in the Cambodian context it's not like that - you can see the TV - 84 percent of political coverage is still in favor to the ruling party."

The minister of information, Khieu Kanharith, denies that the media favors the government.

"You know the people criticizing this, or assert these allegations, most of the time they are not really journalists," Kanharith said. "They don't understand the job or sometimes they didn't listen to the radio or watch the TV. And if everyone can read Khmer, or listen [to] Khmer, they know well that we have real freedom here."

The Licadho report also says there is little risk for those who threaten or kill journalists.

"We found at least nine that were killed for their work and none of the perpetrators was brought to justice so it sends a very strong message that there is impunity for the one that wants to attack the journalists," Galabru said.

The government disputes the number of journalists killed and denies that killers go unpunished.

"They say nine were killed - are you sure they got killed? Two or three - traffic accident," Kanharith said. "When you are a journalist killed it doesn't mean politically killed. When [Prime Minister] Hun Sen's brother was killed, until now also we couldn't find the murderer. Nobody says 'Why don't you go to find Hun Sen's brothers killer?'"

The minister says journalists can, and do, write and say what they want, including attacking Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"If you [are] scared you cannot accuse Hun Sen of being a Vietnamese puppet, as a thief, as the most corrupt family or anything. Read the newspaper, listen to the radio - you can see it. If they [are] really scared, how you can put it?" Kanharith asked.

Rights activists, however, say that critical voices find it hard to get heard in Cambodia. Koul Panha of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections says the authorities should do more to ensure fair access to the media.

"The Cambodian government, and the National Electoral Commission must make more effort to encourage the state media and the private media [to] open [themselves] to all political parties," said Panha. "If they can do that they will contribute a lot to the improved election environment and electoral process in Cambodia."

The Licadho report calls on the government to pass a law guaranteeing the electronic media's independence. It also calls for abolishing prison sentences for defamation, misinformation and incitement, and for media owners to increase salaries for journalists to make them less susceptible to bribery.