Sunday, 15 June 2008

Day in Pictures

Cambodian dancers perform a traditional dancing to celebrate the 46th anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)'s 1962 ruling that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia rather than Thailand, which organized by Khmer Civilization Foundation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, June 15, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Cambodian dancers perform a traditional dancing to celebrate the 46th anniversary of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)'s 1962 ruling that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia rather than Thailand, which organized by Khmer Civilization Foundation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, June 15, 2008.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Sacravatoons : " About the Law "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Sacravatoons :" Dam Sith "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

‘Best kept secret’

June 15, 2008

By Julianna Parker
Transcript Staff Writer

Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast has built a small but faithful clientele since it opened in 1999. The restaurant and lounge followed in 2002.

Now owner Rany Kchao is expanding to wine. He’s planted a five-acre vineyard and hopes to begin making wine with next year’s harvest.

But Kchao doesn’t come from a wine-making tradition.

“Cambodia don’t have no grapes, but … the landscape of the grape always take(s) my soul,” he said.

Kchao was born and raised in Cambodia, but fled the country during communist rule and eventually immigrated to the U.S. in 1982. He calls Jan. 7, 1982, his birthday, because that’s when he started his new life.

Kchao came to the U.S. with only $300 and worked in food service washing dishes and sweeping floors, but he said he never regretted his choice to come to America.

“Just to be born in the place called the United States is just a blessing; Don’t ask for anything more,” Kchao said.

He’s grateful for the opportunities he’s had in the U.S., marveling at the place he’s at now, owning his own business.

“If you can’t make it in the U.S., you can’t make it nowheres,” he said.

Kchao has kept that gratitude his whole life, along his tough work ethic. He and his wife, Terry, bought Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast, 7820 E. Highway 9, after its previous owner had given it up, Kchao said. The couple, along with their son David and daughter Molida, cleared the land, added a pond and gazebo for weddings and added a fine dining restaurant. The chef at the restaurant is Rany’s sister-in-law, Chinda Kchao.

Kchao said he wants Whispering Pines to be a retreat for city-dwellers.

“You can’t find a place like this — Norman’s going to be filled with concrete,” he said.

Seven rooms are available at the bed and breakfast. Although it’s only a few minutes from the city, it feels like the country — but a well-manicured version.

The word has spread about Whispering Pines.

Norman resident Leonard Lang found out about the Whispering Pines restaurant by word of mouth, and now goes with his wife several times a year for special occasions.

“In the metro area of Norman, I guess you could say it’s the finest cuisine you can find — and the atmosphere.” he said.

The restaurant is made up of smaller, more intimate rooms with a fireplace. The waiter, David Kchao, is always attentive, Lang said.

“He is a remarkable gentleman, he is professional to no end,” Lang said.

Lori O’Brien, who lives near Whispering Pines off SH 9, also said she enjoys the quality of service at the restaurant.

She celebrated her birthday at the restaurant last week, and the Kchaos kept the restaurant open even though O’Brien and her husband were the only customers.

O’Brien said she loves the food and the elegant presentation, adding that she’s traveled a lot and this restaurant is world-class.

“I have yet to have anything there that I did not like,” she said.

O’Brien recommends the restaurant to everyone. She also said she knows people who have stayed in the bed and breakfast and had equally wonderful experiences.

“I really honestly believe that Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast and restaurant there is Norman’s best kept secret.”

Julianna Parker

A voice for witnesses of horrors

"It's not just other people's history. It's our own history, as well, because these people ... live right here among us," Steve High says.Photograph by : ALLEN MCINNIS THE GAZETTE

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thousands of survivors of genocide live in Montreal: among them, elderly Jews who lived through the Holocaust in Europe, Africans who escaped the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and Cambodians who fled the Khmer Rouge genocide of the late 1970s.

Now, in an ambitious oral-history project, a Concordia University research team is starting to interview more than 500 of these survivors, as well as people who escaped deadly political violence in Haiti since the 1960s.

Thirty-eight researchers and community-group volunteers are recording people's experiences on digital video or audio in their own homes and archiving them for future use. Refugee youths will also be interviewed, theatre workshops will be formed based on testimonies, and genocide victims will eventually give guest lectures in high schools and CEGEP.

"It's hard to imagine a more important area of research than genocide and war and traumatic memory - these are profoundly important parts of the human experience," said Steve High, an oral historian who holds Concordia's Canada Research Chair in Public History.

"It's not just other people's history. It's our own history, as well, because these people don't just live someplace far off - they live right here among us." Backed by a $1.5-million federal grant, the project is called Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide and Other Human-Rights Violations.

Today, High and other project leaders and participants will hold an annual meeting to plot the next four years of their research for this project. The interviews will be catalogued in a database, and might eventually be accessible to the public online.

"This project gives voice to those who escaped genocide, wherever it happened in the world," said Callixte Kabayiza, 57, president of the Association of Parents and Friends of Genocide Victims in Rwanda, known as PAGE-Rwanda.

"Scholars usually do research on people, not with them," said Kabayiza, who arrived in Quebec at the height of his country's genocide. "That's what makes this project different. It's giving people a chance to write their own stories, through the means of the extended interview. That's the power of oral history." Typically, interviewees will spend between two and five hours altogether recounting their stories, long enough for the the account to be deep and as full as possible, the researchers believe.

"It's a real chance for everyone to talk from the bottom of their hearts about something many have never talked about," said Savary Chhem-Kieth, 54, president of the Communauté angkorienne du Canada, a Montreal-based Cambodian association.

"A lot of people have been so busy making a living here, learning a new language, simply surviving, that they haven't had the opportunity to really talk about the past and what brought them here," said Chhem-Kieth, who escaped the Khmer atrocities by living abroad as a student.
For the project, some 150 Holocaust survivors will be interviewed, along with 200 people from Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as 150 Cambodians and 50 Haitians.

Among them, researchers expect to find not only victims, but perpetrators, too. But the aim of the project isn't to expose anyone. That's why anyone who wants to can ask for anonymity, and have their names changed in the research archives that will eventually be made available to the public.

"We're not going on a hunt for anyone," Chhem-Kieth cautioned. "That's not the point of the exercise. We're all victims, in a way, so it would be pointless." Same goes for refugees whose stories might not jibe with accounts they gave when they asked for status in Canada - they, too, won't be challenged.

"It's not about getting at the truth - it's about getting at people's own truth," High said. "Interviews aren't an objective source of information." The intercultural approach to learning about genocide is a natural one, Kabayiza said, because in Quebec, different groups have similar histories. Rwandans, for example, are very interested in how Jews have organized the memory of their tragedy, especially at the Holocaust Memorial Centre.

"The evil of genocide is universal," he said. "Each of us has lived it in own own way, of course, but we can share some of that unfortunate history in a spirit of peace and mutual understanding." For more information on Life Stories, contact Luis Van Isschot at 514-848-2424, Local 7920, or jheinrich@

Cambodian newspaper publisher released from prison after PM intervenes

June 15, 2008

Publisher of Cambodian-language newspaper the Khmer Conscience News Dam Sith was released from the Prey Sar Prison Sunday noon after Prime Minister Hun Sen intervened, said his lawyer Choung Chou Ngy.

"Premier Hun Sen wrote an intervention letter to the court, so my client won his temporary release," Choung Chou Ngy said.

We paid nothing or bail for the release because of the letter, he said, adding "we all thank the prime minister and the court to provide justice for my client."

Dam Sith was jailed one week earlier under the charge of "disinformation, defamation and insult," which was filed by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Hor Namhong charged him for he published an article on his newspaper that quoted Sam Rainsy, leader of major opposition Sam Rainsy Party, as saying that the minister used to work as prison chief during the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) era and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) should bring him on trial.

Hor Namhong denied the report, by saying that he was prisoner rather than prisoner chief during that time.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodia Editor Freed on Bail Ahead of Election

Jun 15, 2008

PHNOM PENH—A Cambodian newspaper editor and opposition candidate was freed on bail on Sunday after a outcry from rights activists who accused the government of trying to silence critics ahead of a July general election.

Dam Sith, a candidate for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, was charged last week with defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in an article about the Khmer Rouge, the regime blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s.

"This is about putting pressure on journalists. This is all about politics," Dam Sith, editor of the Khmer Conscience newspaper, told reporters after he was granted bail.

Amnesty International said Dam Sith's arrest demonstrated how the criminal justice system "is used and abused" to silence critics of the government in the runup to the July 27 poll.

"His arrest sends a message of fear to journalists and other media workers in the lead-up to national elections next month," the human rights group said last week.

The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen has denied any wrongdoing.

Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier who has been in power over the last 23 years, and his Cambodian People's Party are widely expected to win the parliamentary election, possibly with a clear majority of seats.

Hun Sen said early this month that his former co-premier Norodom Ranariddh, now a major opponent who has formed his own political party, would face jail if he returned to the country.

Ranariddh was found guilty last year in an embezzlement suit brought against him by colleagues in the royalist FUNCINPEC party who had ousted him as party leader.

Ranariddh, who was sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison, has spent most of his time since the trial in self-imposed exile in Malaysia.
Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia, was built almost 1,000 years after Angkor Wat and is almost as impressive.


By Chris Gray
The Philadelphia Inquirer

SIEM REAP, Cambodia - Let's be honest: It was the specter of tigers, temples and tom yam soup that led my husband and me to honeymoon in Southeast Asia. We wanted an adventure to remember, on a continent where neither of us had been.

But as I researched our trip, I realized that we should spend at least a little time practicing "voluntourism," giving back to people who are still struggling for the basics after decades of war and poverty.

We found a way to have it all in Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the ancient temple complex Angkor Wat, and Ponheary Ly, a tour guide who considers it her mission to help educate as many Cambodian children as possible.

I found Ly, a Siem Reap native and survivor of dictator Pol Pot's labor camps, through the Asia message board on Ly, 44, is a veteran guide who has arranged private tours of Angkor Wat and other Siem Reap attractions in both English and French - languages she learned in secret during the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia - since 2000.

A former English teacher, Ly has also worked for seven years to enroll children in Cambodian schools. While public school in the country is ostensibly free for the first three years, many rural children do not have the $12 necessary for shoes, school supplies or uniforms, she said.

"As a teacher, I knew about the difficulties of the kids and families who couldn't send the kids to schools," she said. "Also, I found that the kids are smart, but they don't have any occasion to show how smart they are. To build the country, we have to build the education for all people, especially the kids."

It's a message that Ly's clients - mostly Americans who prefer independent travel with native guides to packaged tours - could support. In addition to touring the temples, more and more visitors asked Ly whether they could visit the schools and donate money for bicycles, supplies and uniforms.

One such convert

Lori Carlson, formerly of Austin, Texas, was one such convert. When she visited here in 2005, Carlson was struck by Ly's background and dedication. On her return to the States, she founded the Ponheary Ly Foundation (, a registered nonprofit that channels money directly to the schools.

Carlson, 48, raised $90,000 for five schools - and quit her job to move here to work full time with Ly. She formed a board of directors for the PLF, which distributed school supplies to 1,955 children.

"I believe the travelers who go to visit the temples at Angkor Wat understand they bear at least some of the responsibility to gently nudge these children toward school rather than reinforce the idea that it's good to stand on the corner and beg dollars from tourists," she said.

With such strong advocates, Don and I were excited to meet Ly and do our part. We arrived here to find a city undergoing massive change. The number of tourists visiting Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, has exploded in recent years, spurring an increase in hotels, shops, restaurants and other businesses.

While the influx of dollars has been good for many Cambodians (merchants prefer U.S. dollars to the Cambodian rial), it's disconcerting to see barefoot bicyclists ride past $800-a-night hotels. Young children hawk maps, books and trinkets near the temple grounds; tuk-tuk drivers fight over $1 fares.

That's not to say that Don and I eschew luxury (it was our honeymoon, after all). We turned down a $20 room at Ly's simple guest house, primarily because it didn't have a pool, which we considered essential to deal with the area's crushing humidity. At $95, our poolside room at Bopha Angkor was spacious yet not ostentatious, and the package included daily breakfast, a traditional Khmer dinner and a massage.

More than 300 temples

Just a few hours after we landed, we went to Angkor Wat with Ly's brother Dara as our guide. There are more than 300 temples in the complex, but Dara steered us to the ones that would provide the most interesting backdrops for my husband, the photographer.

As we sweated in the 90-degree heat, I asked Dara about his family's experience under the Khmer Rouge. He told us that his father, a teacher in Siem Reap, was among the first wave of educated people to be killed under Pol Pot's regime. As a result, Dara and his siblings were sent with their mother to the countryside to work.

It's a sobering tale, and we heard more from Ly over the next few days. Ly, who was 13 when the Khmer Rouge came to power, and her siblings survived, mainly because villagers would leave food for them at night.

"We were given this much rice," Ly told us, holding up the tip of her finger.

Dara would "crawl out on all fours, like a cat" to get extra food; sometimes, actual cats or monkeys would have gotten to the rations instead, she said.

Still, the extra nourishment kept the family alive - and the Khmer Rouge noticed. Officials asked her mother why her children were still alive when so many other youngsters had died, Ly said. When her mother refused to answer, she was horribly beaten.

Such atrocities were common in the Pol Pot years. Yet most Cambodians don't like to talk about the time under the Khmer Rouge, Carlson said. It's rare to find it discussed in schools, primarily due to the country's Buddhist beliefs, which hold that people - even war criminals - are responsible for their own karma.

Understands what's important

Ly is different, Carlson said. She understands that it's important to talk about the past so it doesn't happen again. We were talking in Ly's van, on our way to deliver lunch to the 476 children at Knar school, out in the Cambodian countryside. On the road, we saw men on bikes toting crates filled with piglets and open huts with children playing in the dirt.

Cambodian families expect all children, no matter how young, to contribute economically, Ly told us. Which is why even the kids who are lucky enough to go to school attend for a half day; at home, they are needed for chores, farm work or other ways to make money.


In addition to a donation made before our trip, we gave Ly $40 for lunch, which buys two noodle packets for each child. That's essential, Carlson said, because if the child received only one packet, he or she would take it home to the family instead of eating it. The school tries to feed the children at least once a day to make sure they have enough energy to learn, Carlson said.

We arrived at Knar School, which consists of several one-story classrooms. As Don carried the boxes of noodle packets into the rooms, the children's eyes grew wide. They straightened in their seats and thanked us by pressing their hands together and bowing.

Carlson and Ly showed us around the school and talked about the improvements that have been made. Incentives such as bicycles, uniforms, and extra noodle packets show the families that there are tangible benefits to their children attending school, Carlson said.

"I would like to have my country be the same as the other countries," Ly said, with Cambodian children able "to have good education to work well to get out from the poor life."

The children seemed to love school, showing off their uniforms and books. An impromptu game of soccer ensued, with Don in the thick of it. It was an emotional sight for me, which sparked later discussion: Although we had been together several years, Don and I had never talked about the greater good we could accomplish as a couple.

It's a conversation that all newlyweds should have, wherever their honeymoon takes them. For us, road-testing our fledgling marriage in an underdeveloped country not only gave us the adventures we sought, but also set the course for a more permanent path. And that's definitely a trip worth taking.

Cambodian prime minister requests release of jailed news editor
June 14th, 2008
by Sahil Nagpal

Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wrote late Saturday to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court requesting the release of an imprisoned opposition newspaper editor on bail, journalists' representatives said.

The Cambodian Club of Journalists, which lobbied the prime minister personally Friday, said by telephone that the letter had been prepared and sent to the court at around 9 pm local time.

Dam Sith, an opposition candidate for the Sam Rainsy Party in elections scheduled next month and editor of pro-opposition Moneaksekar Kampuchea newspaper, was arrested last Sunday and detained on charges of disinformation, "insult" and defamation.

He is charged with printing allegedly defamatory comments made by opposition leader Sam Rainsy about Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

If Sith is released almost immediately, as expected after the prime minister's intervention, it will add to claims by rights groups that the judiciary is not independent of government influence.
However, it is likely to please Sith and his family after his detention in one of the region's most notorious jails, Prey Sar prison, for almost exactly one week.

His detention on civil charges is unheard of, but the court ruled he was a risk to witnesses - something which has infuriated rights and media advocates, who claim his imprisonment is a prime example of the Cambodian courts being used for political ends.

The ruling Cambodian People's Party of Hun Sen has repeatedly claimed Sith's detention was a personal matter between Hor Namhong, who also serves as deputy prime minister and a party politbureau member, the court and Sith and was in no way linked to the party. (dpa)

Sex workers have been forcibly detained in rehabilitation centres where they have been rap

by Maxine Doogan
Saturday Jun 14th, 2008


From Andrew Hunter at the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers

Cambodia has recently passed an anti-trafficking law which equates all sex work with trafficking and has led to massive closures of brothels and widespread human rights abuses against sex workers. Sex workers have been forcibly detained in rehabilitation centres where they have been raped and robbed by police and guards. Thousands of women have lost their livelihoods and HIV positive sex workers have great difficulty in accessing ARV’s- both in and outside the detention centres.

Condoms are being used as evidence of sex work and carrying condoms leads to arrest or forced “rehabilitation.” Sex workers are scared to carry condoms and to access STI services. The national HIV prevention programs for sex workers have completely broken down.

On June 4 Women’s Network for Unity, Cambodian Prostitutes Union and Cambodian Network for Men’s and Women’s Development- Cambodia’s 3 grass-roots Sex Worker Networks are coming together with APNSW to have an open day of Action.

WNU have also written to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for his intervention to protect sex workers from the human rights abuses encouraged by this law, and those abuses that are a direct result of it’s enforcement. The press release is pasted below and the letter to PM Hun Sen is attached.

APNSW calls on all those organisations who support the human rights of sex workers to sign onto these demands by declaring their support for WNU’s call for this situation to be urgently addressed by the government of Cambodia and for UNAIDS and other UN agencies to openly declare their support for sex workers human rights and to reject the anti-trafficking law itself as a violation of sex workers human rights.

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The Department of Agriculture Publishes Contract System to Farmers’ Associations to Plant Sugar Cane

Posted on 14 June 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 564

“Svay Rieng: In the afternoon of 11 June 2008, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery announced a contract system to farmers’ associations’ representatives in the province to plant sugarcane, to change to new crops planting which can provide high yields and can obtain suitable income. The president of the provincial department of agriculture, Mr. Thach Ratana, the representative of Kamadeno [phonetic] Venture Cambodia Limited (KVCL), Mr. Nagarayu [phonetic], and 197 farmers’ associations’ representatives from all districts of the province participated in this act.

“Mr. Thach Ratana said that because some farmers, nowadays, have land that is not used for rice farming, and because the planting of paddy rice does not provide very good yields, and because farmers lack capital for the cultivation and some leave their land unused, the agricultural department contacted a company to invest in the agricultural sector and agro-industry by providing loans to farmers to plant sugarcane in order to increase the cultivation as much as possible on the land they have. Mr. Thach Ratana added that this year, the Indochina Food Industrial Company of Singapore is interested in Cambodia and invests with the farmers to plant sugarcane on 500 hectares of land as a test; and the company provides seeds of sugarcane, teaches techniques for planting, for caring, for using fertilizer, and for harvesting, and provides capital and fertilizer to farmers for planting until the farmers obtain their first yield. This is the day to provide information to farmers’ associations by the department of agriculture, to spread this information to other members at the villages, so that they can prepare themselves and the land for doing rice farming and for planting sugarcane in 2009.

“The Representative of KVCL, Mr. Nagarayu, said that the company has practiced the program of planting sugarcane in Vietnam successfully for twelve years in Long An Province of Vietnam with farmers on 20,000 hectares of land to produce sugar and wine. The waste from sugarcane is used to create 45 megawatt electricity for the villages; and the company is interested in Cambodian fertile soil that can provide 70 tonnes to 100 tonnes per hectare. He added that because Mr. Thach Ratana, the president of the provincial department of agriculture, has organized farmers’ associations in a proper structure at the local level, the company wants to invest directly with farmers to plant sugarcane. If farmers have at least half a hectare of land, the company will provide loans of sugarcane seed and fertilizer to farmers, and train them in the ways to plant, to choose seeds, to use fertilizer, to take care, to harvest, and to protect their plants etc. The company also provides tractors and machines for planting, and teaches farmers how to use them by themselves.

“Mr. Nagarayu continued that sugarcane can be harvested in four years; and per year, one hectare of sugarcane can be harvested once and can provide from 70 tonnes to 100 tonnes. The company buys it for US$20 per tonne. So, with just 60 tonnes, they can get US$480; US$560 from 70 tonnes; US$640 form 80 tonnes; US$810 from 90 tonnes; and US$1,000 from 100 tonnes. From 60 tonnes to 80 tonnes, the company gives 40% of the profits to farmers; with 90 tonnes they can earn 50%; and if farmers have 100 hectares of land, the company will dig channels to bring water, charging for it.

“Mr. Thach Ratana said that the provincial agricultural department organized the center for the publication of the planting of sugarcane in Ou Smach Village, Chamlang Tralach Commune, Svay Chrum District by planting sugarcane on five hectares of land with the cooperation of KVCL. He went on to say that the planting of sugarcane needs much capital, and many citizens cannot afford it. In Vietnam, people are rich so they have their own capital to plant sugarcane, when they harvest, they sell it directly to the company. As for Cambodia, because they cannot afford it, the company provides equipment, techniques, seeds, and fertilizer, and the farmers just invest their land and their labor. When they get their yields, the company shares 50% of the profits; this is a good opportunity. Citizens can decide to use some land for sugarcane planting and some for rice farming. If we compare, 2 tonnes to 2.5 tones of paddy rice are from one hectare of land which is equal to US$250 to US$300, but nowadays prices of land increase and if we cut out other expenses, the most profits are form US$100 to US$150. Therefore, we must change the kind of crops for plating in order to obtain suitable income that can improve the living standard.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.41, #6371, 14.6.2008

France, China to sign oil and gas deal with Cambodia

Saturday, June 14,

Phnom Penh, Jun 13, 2008 ; France's oil and gas company TOTAL and China National Offshore Oil Corporation CNOOC are expected to sign a deal with Cambodia to explore oil and gas on the mainland of Cambodia.

The signing ceremony will take place this year, following the conclusion of Cambodia?s parliamentary election scheduled on July 27.

Currently, other oil and gas companies in the world such as Moeco, Jogmec, GS Gallex, Pan Orient and Inpex are working with Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) to reach agreements on oil and gas exploration in the coutry.

Cambodian Cabinet approves 2 hydroelectric dam projects to be built by Chinese companies

The Associated Press
Published: June 14, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: The Cambodian Cabinet has approved plans for Chinese companies to build two hydroelectric plants beginning the end of this year, a government official said Saturday.

Environmental groups say the dams threaten the country's ecosystem and the livelihoods of thousands.

Both dams will be located in Koh Kong province in southwestern Cambodia, said Seng Savorn, a spokesman of the Council of Ministers.

China National Heavy Machinery Corp. will take until at least 2014 to complete a US$540 million dam, which should be able to generate up to 246 megawatts of electricity, he said.

Another Chinese company, Michelle Corp., is to build a US$495.7 million dam intended to generate up to 338 megawatts of electricity, he said. The project is due to be completed in 2015.

Electricity generation in Cambodia remains largely undeveloped, with most power plants using fossil fuels. The impoverished Southeast Asian nation also buys electricity from neighboring Vietnam and Thailand.

Power costs in Cambodia are among the highest in the world, and only about 12 percent of its 14 million people have access to electricity, according to the World Bank.

Electricity prices are also a major source of complaint from investors in Cambodia.

In a bid to meet future electricity demand, the government has identified 14 potential hydroelectric dam sites across the country.

Environmentalists have voiced concerns about the impact those projects will have.

In a report earlier this year, U.S.-based International Rivers Network said "poorly conceived hydropower development could irreparably damage" Cambodia.

"Large hydropower projects can incur significant environmental and social costs that risk undermining sustainable development," said the report released in January.

Seng Savorn dismissed the concerns, saying the projects were studied thoroughly before they were approved by the Cabinet.