Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Cambodia's institutions must be empowered

By LAO MONG HAY

Column: Rule by Fear
Published: June 18, 2008

Hong Kong, China — Since 1993 the international community has been assisting Cambodia in establishing parliamentary democracy and rule of law, as well as the administrative machinery of government. Fifteen years later, the infrastructure is physically present but is so wracked by corruption that it is largely dysfunctional.

The system cannot secure the constitutional rights of the Cambodian people. The law is not predictable. As a result the people have very little trust in the established system.

These institutions remain subject to the control inherited from pre-1993 communist days, and are utilized to serve the interests of the ruling class rather than those of the people. Although Cambodia has held periodic elections, and preparations for the forthcoming election are underway, its multi-party, liberal democracy has little substance.

First of all, there is no separation of powers among the three branches of government. The idea of checks and balances is entirely absent. The Parliament is overwhelmingly dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, a former communist party, and is unable to hold the government accountable for its decisions and activities. Its main function seems to be to rubber stamp the government’s wishes into law.

The judiciary is also under executive control, as most judges and prosecutors belong to the ruling party. Other supposedly independent institutions such as the Constitutional Council and the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, the judicial body responsible for the appointment and discipline of judges and prosecutors, are all peopled, from top to bottom, by members of the ruling party. And all CCP members are subject to the strict discipline of the party.

Such extensive and tight control has inevitably enabled Prime Minister Hun Sen, already acknowledged as "the strongman of Cambodia," to become even more unchallengeable. Through the party machinery, he controls all those institutions and rules the country with scant regard for the rule of law.

Sen has, for instance, ordered the retrial of accused persons already acquitted by the courts, accusing judges and prosecutors of corruption. He has ordered the arrest of critics or has threatened them with jail sentences, or killed their personalities through public name-calling. He has halted the execution of court judgments or affected these judgments through his "notification letters."

Over the last few years Hun Sen has used his personal power to address the hot issue of land grabbing, which has affected the livelihood of many Cambodians. This issue has arisen out of numerous land disputes between the rich and powerful and the weaker poor.

Sen has recently revealed that he wants to resolve all these disputes “outside the justice system.” In 2006 he created a national authority to resolve land disputes, ignoring the legal jurisdiction of the courts of law and the cadastral commissions created specifically for the purpose under the land law of 2001. A year later, he waged a "war against land grabbers," identified as officials of his party and other “people in power.” Last March he went to a piece of disputed land and, in the midst of the evicted families, took the land from the grabbing company and gave it back to those victims.

Because of his power and his past direct intervention, the people view Hun Sen as the only person in the country who can help the victims of land grabbing, as they lose trust in the courts and other authorities. Over recent months, many have been flocking to his residence on the outskirts of Phnom Penh to petition him for help.

On May 23 some 200 people from the Battambang province journeyed on foot and by car to petition Sen at his residence. The representatives of 265 families in Koh Kong province arrived on June 9, and over 200 people from four different provinces of the country arrived four days later.

Still, Hun Sen’s direct intervention has made little headway. He simply cannot meet all those people’s demands. Some marchers from Battambang province still wait in Phnom Penh after handing in their petition to his office. One desperate marcher declared that if Samdech Hun Sen did not resolve her land dispute and the land dispute adjudicating authorities did not do it either, her group would buy all law books and burn them in front of the Ministry of Justice in Phnom Penh. There is still a big backlog of cases and new ones keep arising.

Hun Sen has not used his power to empower the state institutions and administrative machinery, which lie under his firm control, for public interest. Thus adjudication of land disputes is personally directed toward him. He should exercise his power, not through direct intervention, but to create a more efficient infrastructure so that the existing institutions are able to capture the people’s trust and serve the public interest.

Jean Monet, widely known as the founding father of the European Union, said, “Nothing is possible without men; nothing is lasting without institutions.” Monet’s dictum is very much relevant to the establishment of well-functioning institutions for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law to serve the Cambodian people and not simply the ruling class.

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

Tell us what was said

By The Nation
Published on June 18, 2008

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama has come under an unwanted spotlight over the past few days with the general public and the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy turning the heat up on him, calling on him to come clean about whatever agreement he has reached with Cambodia.

Tension between Thailand and Cambodia has been brewing since last year because of the latter's decision to ask Unesco to declare the ancient Preah Vihear Hindu temple a World Heritage site.

Bangkok immediately protested about Phnom Penh's unilateral move because the map handed to Unesco incorporated 4.6 square kilometres of disputed territory into it.

But just days ago, Noppadon informed the public that Cambodia had agreed to delete the disputed territory from the map given to Unesco. Noppadon said he considered the matter settled and that we all should be happy with the outcome. Ironically, Noppadon sees himself as a hero - the man who prevented Cambodia from creeping into Thailand's territory.

Unfortunately, few believe him. The public is calling him a proxy of ousted premier Thaksin. The minister, it seems, forgets that he is accountable to the people who elected him. So, in other words, show us the map! Excuse us, but we don't believe you.

The problem with the disputed territory has a lot to do with how the area is managed and administered. A Buddhist temple, about 50 houses and scores of shops have been built in the disputed area. And so when local Thai authorities build a fence to prevent further construction on Thai territory, the Cambodian vendors assume that the fence is the farthest they can go.

Interestingly, Noppadon said that within two years, the problems with developments in the disputed territory will be resolved. Again, no details were given as to what kind of concessions the two sides were willing to make. It's time that Noppadon backed up his words with evidence. Excuse us, but we don't trust you.

Body of drowned Cambodian found

The Star On Line
Wednesday June 18, 2008

KOTA BARU: The body of a Cambodian citizen who drowned in Banggol River near Kampung Bunga Mas on Friday was found on Sunday morning at 8.40am.

Kota Baru Fire and Rescue officer Mohd Shukri Ismail said the victim, Maliki Abdullah, 28, was found 5km from the spot where he had jumped into the river.

“His body was found floating in the river by three firemen in a search operation early this morning,” he said.

He said the body was sent to Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital for a post–mortem.
Earlier, two Cambodian nationals dived into Banggol River after spotting Immigration officers in an area where they were playing volleyball with friends.

They were feared drowned.

The body of Sekeri Salleh, 23, was found at 9.20am on Saturday at the base of the river, about 50m from a fish cage.

Sekeri's body was claimed by his cousin and buried in the Badang Muslim Cemetery near Pantai Cahaya Bulan. – Bernama

Court seeks lifting of opposition leader's parliamentary immunity in defamation lawsuit

AP - Wednesday, June 18

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A Cambodian opposition leader said Wednesday a prosecutor's request to strip him of his parliamentary immunity was politically motivated to damage his reputation ahead of July national elections.

Sam Rainsy, head of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, denounced the prosecutor's action as an attempt to ruin his party's chances in the general election and "put me out of the political arena."

His comments came in response to a letter sent Monday to the lower house of parliament by a Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor.

The prosecutor, Ek Chheng Huot, requested that Sam Rainsy be stripped of his immunity so he could be investigated in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, a senior official in Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party.

Stripping a lawmaker of parliamentary immunity requires a two-thirds vote in parliament, which is currently in recess until national elections.

The prosecutor said Sam Rainsy has been accused of defamation and disinformation after he accused Hor Namhong of being a prison official for the Khmer Rouge in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Sam Rainsy made the comments in an April 17 speech commemorating the Cambodians who died during the Khmer Rouge's brutal 1975-79 rule.

Hor Namhong has denied similar allegations in the past and won two defamation suits on the issue.

The foreign minister was among hundreds of Cambodian intellectuals who were living abroad and then returned home at the request of the Khmer Rouge. Upon their return many were held at the Boeng Trabek re-education camp. Many of them were transferred to the notorious S-21 prison before being executed, said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent institute researching the Khmer Rouge atrocities.

But, he said, there was no evidence that Hor Namhong acted as the chief of the camp.

Sam Rainsy repeated his accusation Wednesday. "Hor Namhong was the chief of the Boeng Trabek re-education camp, a kind of prison," he said.

His party is one of the few key challengers to Prime Minister Hun Sen's party in the upcoming national election.

Sam Rainsy said the government was doing all it could to ensure his party can not compete with the ruling party.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who is also the chief government spokesman, dismissed Sam Rainsy's allegation, saying the government had nothing to do with the court's request to have his immunity removed.

He accused Sam Rainsy of playing "dirty tricks" for his own political gain ahead of the election by tarnishing Hor Namhong's reputation.

"So, Hor Namhong also has to clear his name before the election" by suing Sam Rainsy, Khieu Kanharith said.

PAD supporters demand explanation on Preah Vihear

(BangkokPost.com) - Hundreds of supporters of People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) gathered in front of the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday morning to demand the government to clarify the Preah Vihear temple's borders.

The move came after the cabinet approved the new map of the ancient temple, clearing the way for Cambodia to propose the temple to Unesco as a World Heritage site.

The temple has been a magnet for conflicts in decades as Thailand and Cambodia have fought over its ownership.

About 200 police officers were at the ministry to step up security.

Traffic in front of the Sri Ayutthaya was heavily congested as the protesters blocked the four-lane street.

UPDATE 1-S.Korea GS Construction to invest $982 mln in Cambodia

Wed Jun 18, 2008

SEOUL, June 18 (Reuters) - South Korea's GS Construction (006360.KS: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday it planned to invest 1 trillion won ($982 million) to develop an international finance complex in Cambodia.

South Korea has emerged as one of the leading investors in the war-scarred southeast Asian nation, where the economy is enjoying near double-digit growth, based in large part on a boom in the construction, property and garment manufacturing sectors.

GS said in a filing to the Korea Exchange the project was due to end on March 17, 2012.

The GS project comes hard on the heels of "Gold Tower 42", a $300 million South Korean venture that opened its pre-sales offices in January.

At 42 stories high, Gold Tower 42 will be three times higher than Phnom Penh's current tallest building when it is complete, also in 2012.

While the outlook for the garment industry and tourism appears solid, some analysts have expressed concerns about the real estate market, where prices are spiralling in a country that remains one of Asia's poorest despite its recent growth.

Figures from Bonna Realty, a leading estate agent, suggest the price of prime Phnom Penh land doubled last year to $3,000/square metre, up from just $500 in 2000.

By contrast, land in Bangkok's downtown Silom district is $5,000/sq m, while Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial hub of neighbouring Vietnam, prices can be as high as $15,000. ($1=1018.5 Won) (Reporting by Lee Jin-joo and Ek Madra in Phnom Penh; Editing by Ed Cropley and Lincoln Feast)

Cambodia breaks ground on its highest skyscraper

People pass a model of the International Finance Complex in Phnom Penh which will be Cambodia's highest building
PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia on Wednesday broke ground for what will be the country's highest skycraper, a 52-storey tower slated to become the "landmark" of the low-rise capital Phnom Penh.

The one-billion-dollar International Finance Complex (IFC) is being backed by South Korea's GS E&C company and is expected to be completed in 2012.

The project is being hailed by Cambodia's leaders as a symbol of the country's galloping economy, which has averaged 11 percent growth over the past three years.

"IFC is the highest building in the history of Cambodia's capital and is a symbol of the economic growth in Cambodia," said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Kevin K.R. Kim, the Korean firm's CEO, said the project will contribute to the development of Cambodia and become "the landmark of Phnom Penh city."

The site, located near the Tonle Bassac River, includes plans for offices, 275 serviced apartments, a convention centre, an international school and six-high-rise apartment buildings accommodating 1,064 units.

The Southeast Asian nation in March broke ground on the country's first skyscraper, a 42-storey tower.

Cambodia has climbed back from decades of civil unrest to emerge as one of the region's most vibrant economies, marked by an unprecedented building boom that is radically changing the face of this once-sleepy capital.

Thousands of anti-government protesters rally over Thai-Cambodia boundary dispute

A Thai army helicopter sits after landing on the road near Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border in Thailand's Sisaket province in this June 26, 2001 photo. Led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, about 5,000 people gathered in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wednesday, June 18, 2008 and accused the minister, Noppadon Pattama, of giving in territory near the temple to the Cambodians in exchange for business concessions. The Preah Vihear temple issue resurfaced as Cambodia was preparing to apply to UNESCO for the temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site, a process that requires the inclusion of a map.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)


Thousands of People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) members protest outside Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday, June 18, 2008. Protestors accused the Thai government of yielding a disputed border region with an ancient temple to Cambodia, the latest trouble for the embattled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej who has been facing daily protests calling for his resignation.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai demining team searches for mines at a field near Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border in Thailand's Sisaket province in this June 26, 2001 photo. Led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, about 5,000 people gathered in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wednesday, June 18, 2008 and accused the minister, Noppadon Pattama, of giving in territory near the temple to the Cambodians in exchange for business concessions. The Preah Vihear temple issue resurfaced as Cambodia was preparing to apply to UNESCO for the temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site, a process that requires the inclusion of a map.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Visitors are seen on top of a cliff near the Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border in Thailand's Sisaket province in this June 26, 2001 photo. Led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, about 5,000 people gathered in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wednesday, June 18, 2008 and accused the minister, Noppadon Pattama, of giving in territory near the temple to the Cambodians in exchange for business concessions. The Preah Vihear temple issue resurfaced as Cambodia was preparing to apply to UNESCO for the temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site, a process that requires the inclusion of a map.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thousands of People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) members protest outside Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday, June 18, 2008. The protestors accused the Thai government of yielding a disputed border region with an ancient temple to Cambodia, the latest trouble for the embattled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej who has been facing daily protests calling for his resignation.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

An armed Thai ranger stands guard on top of a cliff near Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border in Thailand's Sisaket province in this June 26, 2001 photo. Led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, about 5,000 people gathered in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wednesday, June 18, 2008 and accused the minister, Noppadon Pattama, of giving in territory near the temple to the Cambodians in exchange for business concessions. The Preah Vihear temple issue resurfaced as Cambodia was preparing to apply to UNESCO for the temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site, a process that requires the inclusion of a map.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
The Associated Press
Published: June 18, 2008

BANGKOK, Thailand: Thousands of demonstrators accused the Thai government Wednesday of yielding a disputed border region with an ancient temple to Cambodia, the latest trouble for the embattled prime minister who has been facing daily protests calling for his resignation.

Led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, about 5,000 people gathered in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and accused the minister, Noppadon Pattama, of giving into the Cambodians in exchange for business concessions.

The Preah Vihear temple, dating back to the 11th century, has been the subject of a boundary dispute since the 1950s. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the cliffside temple was within Cambodian territory.

Accusing the government of corruption and abuse of power, demonstrators have been holding sometimes violent protests since May 25 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his coalition government.

The protesters say Samak is merely acting as a proxy for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in September 2006.

The political discord heightened Wednesday after opposition Democrat Party lawmakers lodged a no-confidence motion against Samak and seven other Cabinet members over alleged conflict of interest and mismanagement.

The Preah Vihear temple issue resurfaced as Cambodia was preparing to apply to UNESCO for the temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site, a process that requires the inclusion of a map.

Sondhi Limthongkul, a key leader of the anti-government alliance, alleged that Noppadon gave up some territory near the temple in exchange for his "boss" — Thaksin — getting concessions to develop a casino complex on Cambodia's Koh Kong island.

Noppadon served as Thaksin's lawyer and continues to have close ties with him.

Waving Thai flags, the protesters held up placards reading, "Thailand is not for sale," and "Bandit government sold Thai soil to Cambodia."

Noppadon denied the allegations.

"The minister of foreign affairs deserves flowers instead of brickbats," Noppadon said, adding that not "a single square centimeter" of Thai soil was lost during recent negotiations with Cambodia.

He said Cambodia had drawn up two maps, one of the temple and the other of the adjacent area.

Noppadon said the Cambodians will present only the temple map in their upcoming request to UNESCO. The second map, which includes the disputed boundary, will not be an issue and thus Thailand has not yielded any territory, he said.

Samak's People Power Party won general elections last December. His new Cabinet is packed with Thaksin's allies and relatives, and critics say rehabilitating the former leader is among the new government's top priorities.

A court disbanded Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party last year and banned him from public office until 2012.

Live of people at Somrong Tong district, Kampong Speu province

A worker fills a gas tank of a car at a roadside petrol station in Kampong Speu province, about 60 km (37 miles) west of Phonm Penh June 17, 2008. The current price of gasoline in Cambodia stands at 5,500 riel ($1.25) a litre .REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)
A farmer ploughs a paddy field at Somrong Tong district, Kampong Speu province, about 60 km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh, June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A farmer ploughs a paddy field at Somrong Tong district, Kampong Speu province, about 60 km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh, June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

A farmer ploughs a paddy field at Somrong Tong district, Kampong Speu province, about 60 km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Day in Pictures

Children eat rice in their classroom for breakfast as part of the United Nations World Food Program at Bopha tipe elementary school in Somrong Tong district, Kampong Speu province, about 60km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh, June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

School children watch a cook preparing food for breakfast as part of the United Nations World Food Program at Bopha tipe elementary school in Somrong Tong district , Kampong Speu province, about 60km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Children watch a cook preparing food for breakfast as part of the United Nations World Food Program at Bopha tipe elementary school in Somrong Tong district, Kampong Speu province, about 60km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Children hold a rice container for breakfast as part of the United Nations World Food Program at Bopha tipe elementary school in Somrong Tong district,Kampong Speu province, about 60 km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)
Photo Tools

School children are served rice for breakfast as part of the United Nations World Food Program at Bopha tipe elementary school in Somrong Tong district , Kampong Speu province, about 60km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

School children are served rice for breakfast as a part of the United Nations World Food Program at Bopha tipe elementary school in Somrong Tong district , Kampong Speu province, about 60km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Children eat rice in their classroom for breakfast as part of the United Nations World Food Program at Bopha tipe elementary school in Somrong Tong district,Kampong Speu province, about 60km (37 miles) west of Phnom Penh, June 17, 2008.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Sacravatoons :" K5,the Crime Machine "

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

S.Korea GS Const invests $982 mln in Cambodia

Wed Jun 18, 2008

SEOUL, June 18 (Reuters) - South Korea's GS Construction (006360.KS: said on Wednesday, it planned to invest 1 trillion won ($981.8 million) to develop an international finance complex in Cambodia.

GS said in a filing to the Korea Exchange the project was due to end on March 17, 2012. ($1=1018.5 Won) (Reporting by Lee Jin-joo; Editing by Keiron Henderson)

Thousands of anti-government protesters rally over Thai-Cambodia boundary dispute

Thousands of anti-government protesters rally over Thai-Cambodia boundary disputeBy SUTIN WANNABOVORN - Associated Press Writer© AP

2008-06-18

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - Thousands of demonstrators accused the Thai government Wednesday of yielding a disputed border region with an ancient temple to Cambodia, the latest trouble for the embattled prime minister who has been facing daily protests calling for his resignation.

Led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, the crowd gathered in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and accused the minister, Noppadon Pattama, of giving into the Cambodians in exchange for business concessions.

The Preah Vihear temple, dating back to the 11th century, has been the subject of a boundary dispute since the 1950s.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the cliffside temple was within Cambodian territory.The issue resurfaced as Cambodia was preparing to apply to UNESCO for the temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site, a process that requires the inclusion of a map.

Sondhi Limthongkul, a key leader of the anti-government alliance, alleged that Noppadon gave up some territory near the temple in exchange for his «boss» _ former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra _ getting concessions to develop a casino complex on Cambodia's Koh Kong island.

Noppadon served as Thaksin's lawyer and continues to have close ties with Thaksin, who was toppled in a 2006 military coup.

The protesters say the government of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is merely acting as a proxy for the still powerful Thaksin and have demanded its resignation.Noppadon denied the allegations.

«The minister of foreign affairs deserves flowers instead of brickbats,» Noppadon said, adding that not «a single square centimeter» of Thai soil was lost during recent negotiations with Cambodia.

He said Cambodia had drawn up two maps, one of the temple and the other of the adjacent area.

Noppadon said the Cambodians will present only the temple map in their upcoming request to UNESCO. The second map, which includes the disputed boundary, will not be an issue and thus Thailand has not yielded any territory, he said.

Opposition to bill

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday June 18, 2008

MEDIA :Journalists and media advocates will today petition House Speaker Chai Chidchob to withdraw the controversial frequency allocation bill.

The petitioners, 18 media groups, are upset by an amendment to the bill which allows the cabinet to appoint the 10-member National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). The appointed commissioners would be empowered to design a master plan for frequencies allocation.

The NBTC must be an independent organisation, so the cabinet's intervention would be unacceptable and unconstitutional, said Chatchai Chuaraman.

They want the bill to be discussed and scrutinised by media experts, and vow to take the case to the Constitution Court if parliament pushes ahead with it.

New IDs opposed

RELIGION :A Buddhist group led by a senior monk from the Maha Chula Buddhist University is opposed to the new National Identity Card Bill as the new ID cards will not state a person's religion.

University director for Buddhist information and communication Phra Maha Cho Thassaneeyo yesterday led 20 Buddhists to petition Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej against the bill.

They want the government to keep the section mentioning a person's religion just like the present ID cards. The cabinet has agreed to consider the demand.

Garlic meeting

MAE HONG SON : A leader of garlic farmers was yesterday barred from atending a meeting called to discuss falling garlic prices that have sparked protests in the Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai.

Farmer leader Niran Jankhaen said Mae Hong Son deputy governor Thaweesak Watanatamarak told him not to attend because his presence might "disturb the talks".

The meeting, chaired by Mr Thaweesak, aimed at setting conditions for garlic farmers in Mae Hong Son for receiving state assistance to the tune of 300 million baht that will be used to buy garlic from farmers in Mae Hong Son and another four northern provinces.

Mr Niran believed his exclusion was a signal of non-transparency that would allow some people to exploit the package.

Representatives of agricultural cooperatives, who were among state officials participating in the meeting yesterday, were most likely to gain.

Traders who had earlier bought garlic from farmers in Mae Hong Son are suspected of having mixed the garlic they had in stock with the new supply bought under the state scheme, Mr Niran said.

He is worried the state help being offered might not be enough to relieve the plight of garlic farmers.

The government plans to spend the 300 million baht on buying garlic at 22 baht per kilogramme.

Mr Niran said the garlic in Mae Hong Son alone is worth nearly 150 million baht.

Allowance increase

STATE SECTOR :The cabinet yesterday agreed with a call to increase the special cost-of-living allowance of low-ranking government employees to 1,500 baht a month, said deputy government spokeswoman Suparat Nakboonnam.

It earlier approved a 1,000-baht increase on March 13, but yesterday decided to boost the increase so that state officials and employees could make ends meet.

The new increase is only for those on a monthly salary of no more than 11,700 baht.

Combating drugs

COOPERATION : Justice Minister Sompong Amornwiwat will discuss with Cambodia's interior minister bilateral cooperation on combating drug trafficking along the Thai-Cambodian border during his two-day visit to Cambodia, beginning tomorrow.

Mr Sompong said drug smuggling rings had recently changed their trafficking routes.
In the past, illicit drugs were trafficked from the neighbouring countries to Thailand mostly via Chiang Rai and the country's western provinces.

Now, traffickers have opted to smuggle drugs into the Golden Triangle and then moving down to Vietnam and Cambodia.

From those two countries the drugs are then trafficked to another transit hub in Hong Kong, said the justice minister.

Mr Sompong said he will not be discussing the Preah Vihear issue during his trip.

Proof needed in genocide cases, says UN exec

By Robert Gonzaga
Central Luzon Desk
06/18/2008

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—A top prosecutor in the genocide trials in Cambodia says citing command responsibility “without proof of direct link” in the prosecution of cases involving extrajudicial killings is unjust.

“It’s easier to prosecute someone with blood on his hands than the person who ordered, or perhaps more relevant to the context, the person who let it happen,” said Robert Petit of the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT).

“You have to prove that the person is specifically responsible in some way. Just holding a general responsible for the action of subordinates if he had no way of knowing is just undermining the system,” said the UNAKRT prosecutor.

Petit addressed prosecutors, lawyers and human rights workers during a two-day conference on the prosecution of crimes against international human rights and international humanitarian law here. The conference started on Monday at the Vista Marina Hotel.

Targets of atrocities

The conference discussed issues that concerned human rights workers, journalists and lawyers who, according to a participant, were “targets of atrocities most often suspected to be sanctioned by the state.”

Petit, however, believed that without established links to masterminds in government or the military, it was “unjust to go after persons in authority.”

“I’m saying you have to have that proof. You prove that every day [in court]. You prove that this person knew, or should have known, but did not act to prevent [the crime] and did not act to sanction [the perpetrator],” he said.

He said motives could be “very relevant” to sentencing because “not all murders are equal and not all murderers are equal.”

“But if you put motive as an element that the prosecution must prove, for example, that you acted because you wanted to stifle dissent, or you wanted to prevent prosecution of a political-based crime, or you wanted to scare an activist, you are just making it hard for the prosecution,” he said.

Distinguishing killings

Ibarra Gutierrez Jr., director of the University of the Philippines’ Law Center, sought to separate extrajudicial killings involving human rights workers, journalists and legal professionals from ordinary killings.

He said distinguishing extrajudicial killings from murder or homicide would go beyond the definition of merely taking the life of a particular victim. He said a political slaying was “actually more a violation of certain state obligations or the rule of law.”

Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima said the CHR would continue to monitor compliance by the government of its obligation under international treaties and instruments on human rights.

De Lima, who was appointed to lead the CHR in May, assured the participants that the commission would be “independent, credible and transparent.”

Anyone Lose a Plane?

Autopia

We've heard about people losing their vehicles in long-term parking, but this ridiculous.

A jet plane has been sitting on the tarmac at Noi-Bai International Airport in Hanoi for six months. As if that's not weird enough, no one knows who it belongs to. It's just sitting there, forgotten, like an old sofa abandoned on the sidewalk.

We do know a few things about the mystery aircraft...

It's a Boeing 727, serial No. 20989, once flown by American Airlines and registered as XU-RJK. It's made several trips between Hanoi and Siem Reap, Cambodia, and it had some sort of mechanical breakdown last year. According to the BBC, airport officials allowed the plane to remain at the airport while repairs were made, but they were never done.

There aren't a lot of clues to go on. The plane sports a Cambodian flag and the words "Air Dream" painted in nice big letters, but the International Air Traffic Association says there is no Air Dream Airlines based in Cambodia (It would know; it represents 94 percent of the world's commercial carriers). There's some speculation the plane belonged to the now-bankrupt Khmer Air, and still more speculation that whoever owns the plane parked and ran to avoid paying the ground fees.
After all, it's tough to charge someone for parking a plane at your airport if you can't find the person who owns it.

If no one steps forward to claim the plane, Vietnamese authorities say, it'll be sold for scrap.

You can see a photo of the plane here, but since it's copyrighted we had to use one of Boeing's stock photos of a 727.

Cambodia gives green light to Aussie developer

Asia Property Report
June 17 - News

by Meagan Kelly

Cambodia´s prime minister has given an Australian developer permission to build a $35 million luxury resort on two islands in the south of the country.

Brocon has received final approval to build two resorts on Koh Oeun and Koh Bong, 30 km off the coast of Cambodia in the Gulf of Thailand. The company has been waiting for consent from Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Council for the Development of Cambodia since July 2007.

The resorts will include 25 self-contained suites, three privately owned villas, a spa, wine cellar, gym and yoga retreat, and will meet rigorous environmental standards.

The expected completion date is 2010.

Sexe returns to Cambodia

Daily News
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer
June 18, 2008

Danny Sexe of Estherville found the floods in Iowa weren’t enough, so he decided to head out for Cambodia during monsoon season.

Barring thousands of land mines still buried around the country from the Pol Pot regime and cobras that can kill you within five minutes, though, he should come home safe and sound within nine months.

Sexe, an Estherville Lincoln Central graduate and former Iowa Lakes Community College student, is going to Batdamband, Cambodia on behalf of On the Front Line Ministries, a nondenominational mission organization.

Sexe completed a survey to determine whether he was suited for missions work. The Rev. Allen Porter, his pastor at The River Fellowship in Estherville, had close ties with On the Front Line Ministries missionaries which helped establish a connection.

This is not the first time Sexe was in Cambodia as a missionary. His first time was January 2007 when he went for two weeks. He went again for two months this January through March. Tuesday night his flight departed from Minneapolis, Minn., for a total of 23 hours of flying time, not including layovers. The longest leg will be 14 hours nonstop from San Francisco to Taiwan.

In preparation for his journey, he went to Sioux Falls, S.D. to a specialty vaccination clinic to get vaccinations for malaria, typhoid, and hepatitis. He was also given 400 malaria pills.

Since he’s going during monsoon season, most of the country will be flooded. Other dangers include disease, lethally poisonous cobras, and land mines remaining from the Kmehr Rouge regime.

What he’ll find there will be a people still suffering from post-traumatic stress from the genocide of the Pol Pot regime, many who saw family members murdered. The house he will be staying in is just down the road from a hospital dedicated to land mine victims. Almost daily, someone falls victim to one of the thousands of mines still planted around the country.

The current government actually welcomes tourism and missionaries, a tremendous turnaround from the Cambodia of the early 1970s. Still, development in Cambodia has been thwarted so transportation might consist of everything ranging from ox carts to mopeds to cars. The missionaries have water delivered.

With the population 95 percent Buddhist and 3 percent Moslem, one might wonder how accommodating Cambodians might be to Christians which comprise just 2 percent of the population.

“They’re very, very welcoming,” Danny said. In fact, they see white people as unique and like to touch them. “They think white is the essence of beauty,” he said.

Since Cambodians are open to Christianity, 1,000 house churches have been established. “There’s just multitudes of people that want to hear the gospel message,” Danny said. Even Buddhist monks who might have problems with Christianity are still open to learning more about it since they’re curious about all religions.

While he’s there, Danny will teach English classes from the Bible under a government-approved program. He’ll travel to remote villages and teach both children and adults, accompanied by an interpreter.

His biggest fear is the timeframe in which he’ll be gone. Nine months is a long time to be in a strange culture on the other side of the earth. But he thinks it will all be worth it.

“I really feel led by God to be there nine months this time,” he said. “I know what I’m there for, to share the gospel message. I just want to share with other people the gospel of hope that I’ve found.”

Danny sees the ministry as among his career options. A talented musician, he plans on doing lots of music, both vocal and guitar, as part of his mission in Cambodia.

And, since fellow classmate Laura Hayenga will be there for three months as well, that should take some of the edge off his first few months away from home.

And oh, if you think Danny’s doing it for the money, guess again.

He’s paying $750 a month for the privilege of doing his mission work for the next nine months.

Now that’s dedication.

Govt approves secret Cambodia temple deal

The Bangkok Post

The cabinet on Tuesday endorsed a still secret new map of Preah Vihear temple and surrounding area that it says protects Thai interests while neighbouring Cambodia applies for the UN to declare it as a World Heritage Site.

Related story. Temple in dispute. Click here.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said he is prepared to clarify the government's position in a coming non-confidence debate, when the opposition Democrat Party may challenge the Preah Vihear stance.

The Opposition earlier cast doubts regarding the new map of the historic temple, suggesting that the foreign minister might have compromised Thailand's national interests over the issue.

The minister also emphasised that all details in the new map would be released after the World Heritage Committee meets in July to consider the matter.

Mr Noppadon explained that he could not reveal what he described as "official secret information" now under joint consideration among the Royal Thai Survey Department, the Foreign Ministry and state agencies concerned.

But he said the disputed and undemarcated 4.6-square kilometre area surrounding and adjacent to the temple complex itself is not included on the map.

The 21-nation committee is scheduled to meet in Quebec beginning July 2 to decide whether or not to grant the world heritage site status to the temple.

Historically, both Thailand and Cambodia have claimed the ancient Khmer-built Hindu temple complex astride the mutual border in Thailand's Si Sa Ket province in the northeast, but practical access is only

possible from the Thai side.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

The anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy on Tuesday issued a statement calling on Foreign Ministry officials to argue against Mr Noppadon on the temple issue.

Pipob Thongchai, a core leader of PAD, said in the latest civil disobedience announcement that the group wanted to urge Thai ambassadors, charge d' affaires, consuls, and officials of the Foreign Ministry to carry out a mission to maintain the country's sovereignty.

In particular, they should come out to make an argument over the controversial issue on the historic Preah Vihear temple. (TNA)

Cambodian bloggers opening up conservative society

Young Cambodian bloggers


Cambodian bloggers


Cambodian trainer "clogger" Be Chantra (R)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — When Hor Virak started blogging three years ago, he was one of only a handful of bloggers in Cambodia and quickly gained a following for his frequent postings on technology.

At first, he said, "I just rode my motorbike around and took interesting pictures to post on my blog".

But by the beginning of last year, he was attracting several hundred readers a day and now says he is thrilled with his new-found celebrity.

"When I started it, I had no idea it would take me to this level of fame," he said, sitting at his laptop in a Phnom Penh cafe.

If Hor Virak's idea of fame seems modest, it's because government data show only about ten percent of Cambodia's 14.4 million people have Internet access.

He is among a lively group of Cambodian bloggers -- or "cloggers" as they call themselves -- who are opening up this tiny, conservative country to the wider world and potentially bringing in unprecedented social change.

Cambodian bloggers are keeping online diaries which they use to reflect on personal relationships, school and social issues, expressing opinions that are traditionally kept private.

"This kind of public expression is a new thing that never happened in our society," said Be Chantra, who trains bloggers through a non profit organization called the Open Institute.

Blogging in Cambodia did not have an auspicious start. In 2003, Be Chantra and two other colleagues travelled the country training 2,000 students to blog in an initiative funded by Microsoft and United States aid agencies.

"It was not successful," Be Chantra said, shaking his head.

Fewer than five percent of his students were able to keep a blog afterwards as they could not access the Internet, he said.

Since then, however, more than 1,000 Cambodians have turned to blogging and most of them are students who began by their own initiative, said Be Chantra.

Cambodian bloggers now meet regularly and hold workshops to teach each other about new software applications. Most see this as great progress as the Internet only arrived here a little more than a decade ago.

"If the Internet was cheaper, faster and easier to access there would be even more bloggers," said Be Chantra.

Despite patchy access to the Internet, 20-year-old university student Keo Kalyan has begun earning an income from her blog musings, written under her online identity as "DeeDee, School Girl Genius".

More than 200 visitors per day check out her postings, which are usually written in pink, and the Indian cosmetics company Shaadi has begun buying advertising space on her site.

"The money isn't much, but I'm happy my voice is being heard," Keo Kalyan said.

The majority of Cambodian bloggers write in English so they can reach a global audience, but very few touch on one of blogging's most popular topics: politics.

Be Chantra's Khmer-language comedy blog is read by the Cambodian diaspora in the US and Japan but those hoping for something beyond humour are confronted with a banner on his site that reads: "No Politics Here".

"Politics could easily hurt you and it is nonsense," he said.

Last year Radio Free Asia reporter Lem Pichpisey fled to Thailand after receiving anonymous death threats for his reports alleging Cambodia's political elite were involved in illegal logging.

Attacks against journalists in Cambodia have fallen in recent years as the government has turned to the courts to punish reporters or publications it feels have violated the press law, critics say.

Although defamation, the charge most frequently leveled against journalists, was decriminalised in 2006, stiff fines now discourage aggressive reporting.

"The good thing about a blog is that it can be anonymous and you still can be contacted," said Gary Kawaguchi, a digital media trainer at the Department of Media and Communications of Cambodia.

"But the press here is very controlled and people still find out who you are so bloggers still have to be careful," he added.

Chak Sopheap, a university student who started a blog in her own name last year to draw attention to Cambodia's impoverished rural communities, said she was threatened criticising the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

"The message said, 'If I were you, I would run. Otherwise you will be killed,'" Chak Sopheap said.

While her fellow bloggers have vowed to keep their political criticism anonymous, Chak Sopheap said she will continue to post her views, claiming her blog affords more freedom of expression than Cambodia's mainstream media.

"Through blogs people change their attitudes and open their closed-lip habits. They can talk about how society can be developed," she said.

Labour shortages in Cambodia's garment industry

Phnom Penh garment factories have been a magnet for women from the provinces looking for better wages. [Reuters]
Radio Australia

Unions and manufacturers are at odds over the supply of labour in Cambodia.

Cambodia's garment industry says it is facing labour shortages with the cost of living forcing garment workers out of Phnom Penh.

Manufacturers are planning to shift production to the provinces to cope. But the unions say the real problem is low pay.

Most of Cambodia's 300-odd garment factories are located in and around the capital of Phnom Penh.

For more than a decade they've been a magnet to young women from the provinces - seeking monthly salaries of $US60.

But now many of the 400,000 workers are heading in the opposite direction, forced out of the capital by the spiralling cost of living.

Chea Mony, the President of the Free Trade Unions of Workers in Kingdom of Cambodia, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program, the factories are now competing for the workers who are left.

They've asked him to recruit thousands of workers but, he says, he simply cannot find them.

"Some factories order 1,000, some order 2,000 and some order 500 workers and we cannot find that many workers," Mr Mony said.

The Garment Manufacturing Association in Cambodia, GMAC, says factories from around the capital are planning to disperse to the provinces with the support of the government.

However, Chea Mony says if factories move to the provinces, workers would be likely to be exploited with low salaries and poorer conditions.

"There wouldn't be any unions and the law wouldn't be respected.

"They would simply say if you can work with us you continue to work, or if you cannot cope with it, then it's up to you," Mr Mony said.

He says workers are deserting garment factories to find higher paying jobs in Thailand.

Search for better pay

Chea Mony says even doubling Cambodia's current minimum wage wouldn't meet the basic needs of a factory worker living in the capital.

Chan Sophal, president of Cambodia's Economist Association, believes Cambodia's real inflation rate is about 30 per cent - well above the most recent official figure of 18.7 per cent.

He says Cambodia still has plenty of labour available but warns that at current low rates of pay garment factories will continue to lose workers.

"To say Cambodia is short of labour is not true. "[There are] at least 200,000 workers now in Thailand, Malaysia, Korea."Especially in rural areas, wages also are rising so the garment industry has to offer attractive wages if they want labour," Mr Sophal said.

Cambodian court seeks to suspend parliamentary immunity of SRP chief

June 18, 2008

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has asked President of the Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrinto temporarily suspend the parliamentary immunity of opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) President Sam Rainsy, local media reported Wednesday.

The court has made the request so that Sam Rainsy can be investigated over the defamation lawsuit that has been filed against him by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, the Mekong Times newspaper said.

Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the National Assembly, said Tuesday night that the Permanent Commission of the National Assembly has the right to summon members to decide on the status of a parliamentarian's immunity.

He said that the decision requires a majority ruling.

"If there is no suspension, no one can arrest parliamentarians as they have immunity except in the case of very serious crimes," he was quoted as saying.

Sam Rainsy, a lawmaker for Kompong Cham province, said the court's request was a ploy by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to intimidate the SRP.

"They want to threaten the SRP once again. This has occurred on many occasions. It is like the arrest of Dam Sith, editor-in-chiefof Moneaksekar Khmer," Sam Rainsy said.

Nonetheless, Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith suggested that the judicial issue should not be refused with government affairs, saying the legal complaint lodged by Hor Namhong against Sam Rainsy "is a court matter."

Source:Xinhua

Cambodia leapfrogs to 3G

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday June 18, 2008

Unlimited data at 1.6Mbps costs just $35 a month, writes Don Sambandaraksa in Phnom Penh

Think of 3G and advanced mobile data services such as streaming television and high speed broadband replacement, one of the last countries that comes to mind is Cambodia. But the kingdom's new QB network is promising to deliver these advanced services to a public that has no traditional alternative so to speak, and by doing so leapfrog the competition and bypass a decade of development.

QB (cube), the brand used by Cambodia Advance Communications or Cadcomm, is the fifth entrant to what is rapidly becoming a crowded Cambodia telecom market. Three big incumbent networks have been around for more than 10 years and a few more are now waiting in the wings. However, by betting on a pure 3G network with mobile triple play (voice, broadband and television) with advanced HSDPA and positioning themselves as a media and broadband company first, they hope to prove the critics wrong.

Morten Eriksen, CEO, explained that when he was invited to do a 3G project in Cambodia, his initial reaction was that "they must be crazy" and only after reluctantly travelling to Cambodia did he see the potential in a market with three incumbents providing bad, expensive service and where a 256Kbps ADSL line cost over $600 (19,900 baht) a month.

The project formally started in 2004 and they finally got a licence in 2006 before signing a turnkey network agreement with Ericsson in June 2007. Groundwork started in October 2007 and the first test call was made a month later. Finally on March 15, QB was launched with over 57,000 subscribers signing up on launch day courtesy of a huge concert and free SIM packages.

In retrospect, Eriksen said that the licensing delay was a blessing in disguise as it allowed them to take advantage of lower costs for 3G equipment both for network equipment and handsets.

"We are delivering broadband. We are talking differentiation. We decided to take what is intrinsically seen as advanced services, to give to everybody - Internet and mobile TV," he said.

The price for unlimited data for personal use is $35 a month or just $30 for students. The network has been tested to deliver up to 7.2Mbps but the current speed offered commercially is only 1.6Mbps.

Streaming television over 3G does put a heavy load on the network, but next year Ericsson is coming out with a multicast software upgrade which will considerably lower network traffic.

At launch, over 80 per cent of network traffic was data rather than voice and sms, a percentage that rivals developed countries such as Singapore.

On the distribution side, QB also removed the master dealer and is treating its resellers as partners, with better training and a larger revenue share. It also has installed fingerprint readers to speed the sign-up process. Cambodian law requires a photocopy of an ID and a signature or fingerprint for SIM activation and by doing it electronically, they can cut long queues.

"You can view it as an expensive phone or a cheap Internet access terminal," said CTO John Kjellemo, referring to the higher price of 3G phones compared to cheap 2G only devices.

With low GDP and a small high-end market, many question would anyone consider Cambodia as a 3G market? But Cambodia also severely lacks a fixed line infrastructure (around 30 to 35,000 fixed lines are installed and some say that only half of them are working) and the demographics show a young population with median age of 21. This means that more people are open to learning new technologies

"By 2010, the GSM Association forecasts more customers on HSPA than on 2G. 2G will be a 20-year-old technology by then. 3G also has environmental benefits with much lower power consumption and much higher capacity," he pointed out.

With new antenna technology, the QB CTO said that he was getting outdoor coverage distances on his 2,100MHz WCDMA network comparable to old 900MHz GSM networks (lower frequencies travel further). In-building coverage was still a challenge today but already, Kjellemo was looking to the next big step which he strongly believes will be WCDMA on the 850MHz band. The new generation of so-called power cells on 850 with a huge 120km radius will be the key to providing affordable rural coverage, he feels.

Both WCDMA 850 and WCDMA 900 involves re-farming 2G CDMA or GSM spectrum, respectively. However, he believes that WCDMA 850 will win and provide the industry with the stronger in-building coverage and wide area coverage it needs because of a combination of momentum (850 is firmly established in Australia and Latin America) and the fact that there is more spectrum around 850 than there is with 900, not to mention the fact that 900 will have to be shared with legacy GSM for some time to come.

"Today you see a ratio of 95 to 5 between 850 and 900," he added.

QB does not block Skype or other VoIP technologies which many telcos fear so much. "Of course you can try to lock out the market but it can be a driver for increased network usage. History has shown that anyone who tries to be a monopolist will lose in the long run and you get a very bad reputation."

That said, Kjellemo does not expect price to be the main people use Skype for international calls as QB offers a very competitively priced VoIP gateway of its own at just 25 a minute to most countries. Rather, he sees it used for chat and Skype to Skype calls.

He also noted that VoIP in general is a regulatory grey zone with many governments fearing IDD bypass and losing control.

A very important market is the corporate market and QB provides high speed ADSL replacement and IP VPN (virtual private network) services. He expects this market to really take off with HSUPA which offers even higher speeds and much higher upload speeds.

Another popular service is for remittances and for sending money to relatives upcountry.

Kjellemo also had some interesting things to say about IP versus traditional ATM networks and backhaul. He explained that while legacy microwave equipment may indeed have capacity problems for 3G backhaul, today's PDH microwave systems have around 100 to 150Mbps of capacity which is more than enough for a typical 3G cell site.

"But for ATMs versus IP out to the Node B, if you need to save bandwidth on your network, then ATM is the way to go," he said, contradicting what most vendors have been preaching.

This is because that with ATM, the operator gets much better quality of service control than on a pure IP network. With fibre-connected base stations, bandwidth is virtually unlimited and IP does make sense. For microwave connections, operators need good QOS and need to save bandwidth, thus favouring ATM.

"There's nothing about voice or SMS and its everything about music," said Are Mathisen, Chief Marketing Officer who was responsible for the QB launch extravaganza that was the first of its kind, filling the Olympic Stadium with over 100,000 people to a huge concert that was broadcast live on prime time television.

Mathisen was keen to point out that none of the teaser ads prior to launch was about telephones and the showed the latest round of television advertisements which was also all about music and media The next step will be email and QB expects an entire new generation of users to be accessing email primarily thorough their mobile.

QB as recently signed a distribution agreement with MTV for online content the first of its kind in the region, and it is now being used as a basis for further contracts in more developed countries.

Aside from Ericsson for network, Cadcomm selected Canadian-based Redknee for its billing system which Kjellemo said provided a much more flexible and personal touch than the larger, more established names. Oddly it also has a diesel fuel partner as during summer months, power outages can reach over a hundred hours a month and land mine clearing partners.

So where does QB hope to be by next year? Ericksen said that they started fifth in the market, but managed to overtake the forth placed operator within just two weeks of launch. By the end of 2009, he hopes to see QB as Cambodia's number two telco and also operating in the black.

Whether that can be done remains to be seen.

With every operator claiming to be aiming for the number two spot after Mobitel, competition will be fierce. But while all the operators are focusing on traditional voice services, it will remain to be seen if QB's ultra modern data-centric open approach will work, of whether this team of ex-Telenor consultants and engineers go down in history as the crazy bunch who once thought they could bring advanced data services to Cambodia.

Minister Ith Sam Heng and the Head of a Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, Mr. Chea Son, Are Criticized to Be Partisan Officials

Posted on 17 June 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 565

“Some civil service officials who are suffering and asked not to be mentioned by name reported that the head of a Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, Mr. Chea Son, is a partisan official who appointed his partisans, children, and relatives to hold important positions, so that it is easy for them to commit corruption.

“They said that Mr. Chea Son had appointed his children to work in the Department of Social Affairs, who now use Chea Son’s influence to look down on others and to oppress staff, so that they can commit corruption, for example cutting salaries of officials marked to retire soon and of former veterans, and they are late to provide salaries, and they take other designated moneys.

“They added that the Minister of Social Affairs and Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Mr. Ith Sam Heng can not take any action towards Mr. Chea Son, because Mr. Chea Son follows the model of other officials appointed by Royal Decree and officials appointed by Sub-Decree by the Royal Government.

“They went on to say that Mr. Khuon Ranin, who is a nephew of Her Excellency Nhep Rany Ith Sam Heng [Minister Ith Sam Heng’s wife], was appointed director-general of the Department of Administration and Finance by Royal Decree # NS/RKT/0205/106, dated on 26 February 2005. Mr. Bun Chandarvuth, H.E. Nhep Rany Ith Sam Heng’s nephew, had been appointed to be advisor to the Ministry of Social Affairs. Mr. Samheng Boros, Minister Ith Sam Heng’s nephew, had been appointed head of the Internal Audit Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs, and he was also appointed to be chief of cabinet. Mr. Sieng Sok Khundy, who is a nephew of H.E. Nhep Rany, and who is an older brother of Mr. Khuon Ranin, was appointed head of the Finance and Supply Section. Mr. Nhep Chana, a nephew of H.E. Nhep Rany and Khuon Ranin’s younger bother, was appointed head of the Department of International Relations of the Ministry of Social Affairs by Sub-Decree # 358 ANKr.TT, dated 6 April 2005. Ms. Nhep Sopheap, Her Excellency’s niece, had been appointed deputy-director of the Department of Finance and Supply. Mr. Hem Bora, Her Excellency’s nephew, had been appointed deputy-director of the Department of Finance and Supplies. Mr. Khun Ranich, Her Excellency’s nephew and Mr. Hem Bora’s younger brother, had been appointed head of the Staff of Administration Department [who is the holder of the seal of the Ministry of Social Affairs].

“Those officials said that if Mr. Ith Sam Heng would hold his position one more term, his relatives and partisans will be appointed to work all over in the Ministry of Social Affairs and will spread to other Social Affairs Departments in other cities and provinces.

“Chakraval phoned Mr. Chea Son on 13 June 2008, but he answered that he was in a meeting; as for the Minister Ith Sam Heng, his phone could be reached and was ringing, but he did not pick it up.”

Chakraval, Vol.16, #2786, 17.6.2008

New UN appointees smooth wrinkles in Khmer Rouge trial process

Tracey Shelton, A statue of Grandfather Metal Club, Ta T'bong Dike, welcomes visitors to the ECCC. In Khmer folklore Ta T'bong Dike is the courthouse enforcer of truth and punisher of deception.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cat Barton
Tuesday, 17 June 2008

With two new senior managers in place on the UN side of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal, even erstwhile critics of the court and its handling of the upcoming trials of former regime leaders are now saying the process is finally moving in the right direction.

UN special expert David Talbot, who arrived in Phnom Penh in late April, has spent the past few weeks trimming the court's bloated budget and getting it into a form that makes tribunal donors more comfortable in coughing up the requisite funds to keep things moving.

The UN's new top administrator, Knut Rosandhaug, is also now in place and grappling with the "challenging work" of managing the massive bureaucracy that has grown up around efforts to hold the Khmer Rouge leadership accountable for crimes committed three decades ago.

The twin appointments have been welcomed by long-standing court watchers such as the Open Society Justice Initiative, the group which first drew attention to the so-called "kickbacks" scandal which erupted in early 2007, straining the reputation of the then newly minted tribunal.

"Both [new appointees] seem uniquely well-suited to their positions," OSJI told the Post on June 11. "We hope to see progress on many of the problems that have troubled the UN side of the court over the last year. They both seem committed to ensuring a more effective and transparent approach to the work of the court and we look forward to evidence of their success."

The court has long been plagued by allegations of corruption and mismanagement and earlier this year faced a funding shortfall with donors wary of plowing more money into a bureaucracy that appeared to be hemorrhaging cash.

The Cambodian government had vetoed the suggestion of a sole special advisor with authority over both the UN and Cambodian sides of the hybrid court, but donor demands for better leadership on the UN side of the tribunal appear to have been met with Talbot’s appointment to manage the UN side of the court, and additional funding appears to be forthcoming.

Rosandhaug, a no-nonsense Norwegian lawyer with over 20 years of experience in areas of policymaking, negotiations, program management, human rights and conflict resolution, told the Post in a June 5 interview that "the first and most important issue for me is to get the trials up and running."

"I take the fact that we have detainees very seriously," he said, explaining why he feels speed is of the essence. "There are five people locked up who have lost their freedom ... I have already visited them and it is with me every day. On top of that they are all old and there are health issues."

On June 1, Rosandhaug took over the position of deputy director of administration at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia from Michelle Lee who had been at the UN-backed tribunal since its inception in 2006. He has spent the last four years with the UN Mission in Kosovo which was "very similar" to his new post, but managing the Cambodia tribunal, which he described as both "political" and "turbulent,” would be a challenge, he said.

Donors were mulling over a revised budget for the court doctored to cover only the five detainees currently in ECCC custody. Rosandhaug was being "shielded" from this process by his colleagues but said that he did "not see the budget as a limitation on the court.

"Regarding the donor group, he said, “As long as they feel comfortable with the way money is being spent and are confident that we are a healthy organization, they are open to all eventualities.”

Rosandhaug says his focus would be on building the court infrastructure so that the judicial officials could get on with the task at hand.

"Substantive work is taken care of by substantive people. My role is to make sure they have the services they need," he said.

Minister vows to ban imports of older used cars, motorbikes

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The import of used cars and motorbikes manufactured prior to the year 2000 will be banned in order to help preserve Cambodia’s environment, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh announced Monday.

The move will keep tens of thousands of used vehicles from being brought into the Kingdom.

"We must clean up the country of cheap imported vehicles that may only operate for another six months or less, after which they are turned into scrap," Prasidh said during the opening ceremony for the KT Hino Motors truck distribution office in Phnom Penh.

“We want certain people to stop thinking of Cambodia as the junkyard of the world,” he added.

The proposed policy, which he said he would soon submit to Prime Minister Hun Sen for approval, would ban the import of vehicles made from the 1950s to the 1990s.

The policy is part of the trade platform of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and would be implemented once the government received a new electoral mandate in the coming elections.

The government would implemented the plan on a rolling basis, with vehicles made before 2003 banned in another three years and those made before 2005 banned two years after that.

“Now is the time that our people advance to the next level, using brand new automotive and motorbike technology,” Prasidh said.

The ministry was also considering lowering fees and customs duties on new vehicles to encourage importation, while ensuring that lower-income people had access to affordable transportation, he said.

Cambodia is home to about 200,000 automobiles and 670,000 motorbikes, most of them used, according to figures from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

Economist Sok Sina said there were both advantages and disadvantages to allowing the import of used vehicles, adding that most drivers could only afford second-hand products.

“New cars are very expensive, but old cars also need a lot of repair and are less fuel efficient,” Sok Sina said.

But for a less developed country like Cambodia, the appetite for affordable means of transportation had to take priority over environmental concerns, he added.

Thon Virak, deputy director general of the ministry’s Foreign Trade Department, agreed with the import ban but dismissed the idea that older vehicles were turning Cambodia into a junkyard.

He told the Post on June 16 that scrap vehicles would continue to be re-exported to other countries for recycling.

“I think scrap metal and spare parts are currently quite valuable,” he said.

Addressing the June 16 opening of the Hino Motors distribution center, Hino Motors Ltd Senior Managing Director Masakazu Ichikawa welcomed Prasidh’s proposal to protect the environment by promoting the use of new vehicles.

“Most people in Cambodia now buy used vehicles,” he said. “But we are convinced that economic development will shift demand in the Cambodian market from used trucks to new trucks.”

Cambodia’s ruling party tipped to win overwhelmingly in July 27 polls

RSI, Radio Singapore International
June 17, 2008

Cambodians will go to the polls in about six weeks’ time.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party is widely expected to be re-elected due to weak opposition.

The CCP has been accused of vote-buying, intimidation and other forms of political pressure in past elections but the party has dismissed these claims.

To find out more, Yvonne Gomez spoke with Lao Mong Hay, a senior researcher at the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.

LHM: Over the years, the ruling party has been trying to rewrite and rule, means that it has been using different means to destroy the weak and rival parties. Over the years, the ruling party has assigned senior, powerful and rich officials to look after different districts. They have been going out there trying to help and offer to give donation in the long term. Short term, during the election campaign, they offer gifts and all that. There is an intimidation at the same time before the polling day and after and perhaps throughout the year. Those who are known as supporting the opposition parties are discriminated against with regard to the public services. There are people who are compelled to join the party or support the ruling party because of this kind of discrimination to have good feelings with the government officials.

Despite Hun Sen’s political dominance, Cambodia has 57 parties, with 11 of them running in the July election. Why is that these parties haven’t banded together to form a more coherent and perhaps stronger opposition?

LHM: I think under these political circumstances of a repression of control, I think it’s very difficult for people to unite. Under the rule, people were so much repressed that even if they eat together, they do not trust one another.

How do you expect the main opposition Sam Rainsy party to fare in the election?

LHM: I think it is a bit difficult because their party lacks resources and likely because of the action on the part of the ruling party. I think many of its members have defected to the ruling party and that causes quite a bit of difficulty. Furthermore, there is a court action against Sam Rainsy himself and now his own son has some issue of involving in a plot of something.

Do you expect much violence in the run-up and during the July 27 polls?

LHM: Violence has been going on openly or in secret. Violence against rival parties for instance, dismantling of party signs and intimidation and even killing of party activists. Now there are threats and intimidations going on to even both who are against and who are opposed to the ruling party. Because of extensive ruling party networks across the country, the ruling party has an advantage since it has been there running the army to believe that they can know everything that’s going on at the local level.

What would you say has been the positive and negative elements of Hun Sen’s political legacy in his 23-year rule?

LHM: I think the good thing is that they can assure peace and stability. Now Cambodia has not only achieved fair sufficiency in rice, but for export as well. But the divide between the rich and the poor, that is very bad. The poor living on the land especially and then the land is being grabbed almost everyday. There are cases of land grabbing and their protests and all that. This issue is coming more and more vulnerable to the stability of the country.

Lao Mong Hay, a senior researcher at the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission. He was speaking to Yvonne Gomez

Thailand gives green light for Cambodia to register disputed temple

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, June 17, (TNA) - Thailand's cabinet on Tuesday endorsed a yet-to-be disclosed new map of Preah Vihear temple that would pave the way for neighbouring Cambodia to apply for the disputed Preah Vihear temple to be listed as a World Heritage Site.

Cambodia will present the new map as key document to experts of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) at the meeting in Quebec next month. Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said Tuesday the disputed and undemarcated 4.6-square kilometre area surrounding and adjacent to the temple complex itself is not included on the map. The minister also emphasised that all details in the new map would be released after the World Heritage Committee meets in July to consider the matter.

The 21-nation committee is scheduled to meet in Quebec beginning July 2 to decide whether or not to grant the world heritage site status to the temple.

Historically, both Thailand and Cambodia have claimed the ancient Khmer-built Hindu temple complex astride the mutual border in Thailand's Si Sa Ket province in the northeast, but practical access is onlypossible from the Thai side. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia.

In a related development, the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy on Tuesday issued its third statement supporting its civil disobedience measure, calling for the Foreign Ministry's officials to come out to argue regarding the disputed Preah Vihear temple.

Pipob Thongchai, a core leader of PAD, said in the latest civil disobedience announcement that the group wanted to urge Thai ambassadors, charge d' affaires, consuls, and officials of the Foreign Ministry to carry out a mission to maintain the country's sovereignty.

In particular, they should come out to make an argument over the controversial issue on the historic Preah Vihear temple.

He said the PAD supporters would march to the ministry on Wednesday to monitor the issue because the group believed it involved vested interests gained by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The opposition Democrat Party had earlier cast doubts regarding the new map of the historic temple, suggesting that Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama might have compromised Thailand's national interests over the issue.

(TNA)

Japan's Hino Motors Ltd launches in Cambodia

TopNews.in
June 17th, 2008

Phnom Penh - Hino Motors Ltd of Japan has opened its first Cambodian branch to take advantage of the booming construction sector, local media reported Tuesday.

The Mekong Times reported the Japanese transport vehicle giant would be angling for the dump truck, cargo truck and concrete mixer market, which is currently dominated by second-hand vehicles.

Construction is one of Cambodia's fastest growing markets as political stability continues, real estate prices soar and foreign investors seek new markets.

Hino is just the latest multinational corporation to invest in Cambodia - a move welcomed by government officials, the Mekong Times said. (dpa)

Thailand to back Cambodia's world heritage campaign

Radio Australia

The Thai government has agreed to back Cambodia's application for the historic border temple of Preah Vihear to be listed as a World Heritage Site.

Thailand's foreign minister, Noppadon Pattama, says that the Thai military, his ministry and Cambodian officials have jointly mapped the area around the temple to resolve any territorial disputes.

Last year's attempt by Cambodia to have the ancient Hindu site listed by the UN's cultural body, UNESCO, failed amid speculation that Thailand had blocked the deal.

The map will be submitted to a meeting of UNESCO in Canada next month.Both countries have historically laid claim to the Preah Vihear site, which sits on Cambodian soil but can only be easily visited from Thailand.

For Workers, Special Obstacles to Voting

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
17 June 2008

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

The increasing price of gas may be one deterrent for voters this year, but workers say they will also have to overcome the policies of their bosses.

Many garment workers live in Phnom Penh but hail from rural provinces, where they are registered to vote. This can make travel for voting expensive, and requires time off for work.

Independent groups have worked hard to encourage factories to give their workers time off for Election Day, July 27, but workers say they worry individual factory owners have little incentive to do so.

Workers say in the 2007 commune elections, they were forced to work overtime during the elections, but they were not given time off. They are worried the same will happen in July.

The July election was very important, said Nov Sokheoun, 25, a garment worker at the Teratec factory, who is registered in Kampot province. "I wish to attend to vote, although my province is 120 kilometers far away from Phnom Penh."

Some workers representatives say there should be no problem.

Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, said there should be no problem, and he plans to make a request to the Ministry of Labor to allow workers time off to vote.

Om Mean, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Labor, said on Monday the ministry issued an official letter to all unions and factory owners to allow garment workers to vote. When the factory owners receive the letter, they will respect the ruling of the government, he said.

There are 394 factories in Phnom Penh, employing 340,000 people, according to the president of the Free Trade Union, Chea Mony.

Opposition Faces Police Investigation

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
17 June 2008

Military police and police have opened up an investigation into allegations opposition Sam Rainsy Party members have been involved in violent plots against the government.

Last week, Sam Rainsy Party defector Lek Bunnhean accused opposition officials of being involved in the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, an Angkor Empire Movement, and the rocket attack on Prime Minister Hun Sen in Siem Reap in 1998.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Tuesday the accusations were "unbelievable."

"Because the election is nearly approaching, the CPP knows that Sam Rainsy has more popularity and the CPP has a problem when the people are angry with it over land disputes and the price of goods, and the people don't believe CPP anymore," he said.

Lek Bunnhean, who joined the ruling Cambodian People's Party less than two weeks ago, said Tuesday he had documents implicating Sam Rainsy, Eng Chhay Ieng and former senator Thach Setha in the various plots.

Lek Bunnhean left his position after he worked in Pursat province for the Sam Rainsy Party and as a representative for SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Ieng.

He took the documents from a Sam Rainsy Party office in Thailand, he said, but he refused to provide copies. The documents include photographs of Sam Rainsy with jailed CFF president Chhun Yasith, he said.

Sam Rainsy said Tuesday he had met with many Cambodian expatriates at different demonstrations in Cambodia and was often photographed with people, but that didn't mean he knew what organizations they belonged to.

Eng Chhay Ieng could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the investigation was being conducted at the behest of "the government."

"In this investigation, the government needs collaboration with Sam Rainsy Party defectors," he said.

"We are doing this work," he said, but declined to give further details.

Gen. Sao Sokha, commander of the military police, also confirmed his police were investigating, following the order of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"Regarding the information we obtained, we must investigate with utmost care," he said. "We must work in accordance with the law and without partiality."