Thursday, 28 August 2008

ASEAN concludes Australia, New Zealand free trade talks

The Economic Times
28 Aug, 2008

SINGAPORE : The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has concluded a free trade deal with Australia and New Zealand following three years of talks, said a joint statement issued here on Thursday.

"The ministers welcomed the conclusion of the negotiations between Asean, Australia and New Zealand" for the free trade agreement (FTA), which started in March 2005, said the statement.

The 10-member bloc's trade ministers met their counterparts from Australia and New Zealand Thursday, as part of the 40th Asean Economic Ministers Meeting now running for the third day in Singapore.

The comprehensive agreement covered trade in goods, investment, services, financial services, telecommunications, electronic commerce, movement of natural persons, intellectual property, competition policy and economic cooperation, it said.

The ministers saw the deal "as paving the way to enhancing the region's economic integration and acting as an impetus to deepen and broaden the trade and investment among the 12 participating countries", it added.

The deal is expected to be signed in December.

During the meeting, Australia and New Zealand also recognised Vietnam's full market economy status. Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Rat meat in demand in Cambodia as inflation bites

Cambodian rat butcher Louch Savoun holds up a handful of the skinned rodents to a customer in the provincial town of Battambang, some 290 km northwest of Phnom Penh on February 19, 2004.(Reuters Photo)

International Business Times
28 August 2008

The price of rat meat has quadrupled in Cambodia this year as inflation has put other meat beyond the reach of poor people, officials said on Wednesday.

With consumer price inflation at 37 percent according to the latest central bank estimate, demand has pushed a kilogram of rat meat up to around 5,000 riel (69 pence) from 1,200 riel last year.

Spicy field rat dishes with garlic thrown in have become particularly popular at a time when beef costs 20,000 riel a kg.

Officials said rats were fleeing to higher ground from flooded areas of the lower Mekong Delta, making it easier for villagers to catch them.

"Many children are happy making some money from selling the animals to the markets, but they keep some for their family," Ly Marong, an agriculture official, said by telephone from the Koh Thom district on the border with Vietnam.

"Not only are our poor eating it, but there is also demand from Vietnamese living on the border with us."

He estimated that Cambodia supplied more than a tonne of live rats a day to Vietnam.

Rats are also eaten widely in Thailand, while a state government in eastern India this month encouraged its people to eat.

Norodom Sihanouk renews his warning to the royal family

Cambodge Soir

27-08-2008

Yesterday, in a short release, the former King mentioned Princes and Princesses implication in the country’s political life. He also reiterated his position, made public in 2006. He was at the time asking his family to withdraw from politics.


“I had asked publically the members of the Royal family not to be involved in politics” wrote Norodom Sihanouk in the introduction of a release headed: “Royal family members and politics”. He referred to the position he adopted two years ago following Prince Ranariddh’s resignation as National Assembly President. The Prince and Funcinpec were at the time losing ground against the CPP and the SRP. After the temporary result of the general election, with Funcinpec only winning two seats, the situation went from bad to worse. There are no members of the Royal family positioned to hold High-ranking functions in the future government.

The former King recalled and quoted the “strong and negative if not hostile” reactions from some Princes(ses) determined to be “free politicians”. “A great Princess and her beloved husband are in disgrace and their names are dragged through the mud” he pointed. Then he went on about a Prince forced to live in (gilded) self-exile”. Even if he does not mention his name, the former King was referring to Prince Ranariddh, the former Prime Minister who now lives in Malaysia to escape a jail sentence.

Finally, Norodom Sihanouk used examples to predict that “the misfortunes and humiliations of Khmer Princes and Princesses crazy for politic are far from over”. Overall the King renewed his wish that the Royal Family should limit their involvement to charity activities and invited princes and Princesses to follow his advice.

Sam Rainsy ruled out by the Constitutional Council on Svay Rieng votes

Cambodge Soir

27-08-2008

The judges declared the SRP request as unreasonable. The opposition party president evokes play-acting.

A request from the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) for a recount of 129 out of the 650 polling stations in Svay Rieng was rejected by the National Election Committee (NEC) on August 12. The Constitutional Council chaired by Ek Sam Ol examined the complaint on Tuesday August 26.

Sam Rainsy stated a large a number of irregularities had occurred in Svay Rieng as the names of many voters who are not CPP supporters had been deleted from the rolls. He added that these people had not changed their residential addresses. Another irregularity concerned the use of false identities by certain individuals so that they could vote in the names of others. Sam Rainsy stated that at present he has received 20,000 thumbprints of voters who were victims of irregularities.

He raised the matter that the 1104 form—which lists the voters—was established by the NEC and the CPP and do not concur with his party’s observations. He asked for a recount of the ballots in 129 of the 650 Svay Rieng polling stations. He estimated that the figures provided by the NEC are in favour of the CPP.

Sam Rainsy and his lawyer sent the relevant documents and the now famous thumbprints to the Constitutional Council. Despite this evidence the president of the hearing qualified the SRP request as unreasonable, mentioning the lack of undisputed evidence and the production of several forged documents. “ A recount is impossible” he declared.

“This hearing is as good as a theatre play and the happy ending was already written. Those responsible for these irregularities are scared, as they do not want a recount of the votes even in one polling station”, accused Sam Rainsy in the hearing room.

According to him it is highly doubtful that the CPP could have won the five seats at stake in Svay Rieng.

Preah Vihear preparing to lure back tourists

Cambodge Soir

27-08-2008

Access to the temple remains forbidden but both country’s authorities already discussed the site’s future exploitation.

Does it all come down to money? In Preah Vihear, strangely enough, the important land issue is slowly being replaced by business negotiations.

“Thailand and Cambodia have agreed on the promotion of tourism to the ancient temple of Preah Vihear, once the withdrawal of the two countries’ soldiers is effective", declared Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej on Monday August 25.

This may present a way to end the row which would also enable Thailand to limit the financial damages as most tourist infrastructures are located on its territory.

Khieu Kanharith, the Cambodian government spokesperson, when questioned by Cambodge Soir Hebdo went further into detail: “This is only a statement of intention; many details remain to be solved. This shows the good will of both governments in order to diffuse the tension and to work jointly”. But “a joint management of the site” is not on the agenda.

For the moment, as most tourists visit the site from Thailand, one of the issues is where will the generated income from tourism go? “This will be to the benefit of both countries; Cambodia will collect the ticketing revenues, and Thailand will profit from different sources of income”, said Samak. The Cambodian authorities have started to build road access to the temple. A cable-car project is also being considered to access the cliff-top site.

But for Khieu Kanharith, it is all clear: “This is not a question of sharing any interests with Thailand or we would not have gone to such great lengths to inscribe the temple on the UNESCO World Heritage List while Thailand was hindering our efforts”, pointed out the Minister.

Meanwhile the border issue still remains to be solved.

Cambodia: Lake filling must not lead to forced evictions

Amnesty International UK

The filling of Boeung Kak Lake in central Phnom Penh should immediately stop until a proper process that ensures human rights protection is in place, said Amnesty International and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) today.

With work starting on the redevelopment of the lake, tens of thousands of Phnom Penh residents living in its immediate vicinity fear forced eviction. They were not notified the work was going to begin. Few details about the plans have been disclosed as to what will happen to the affected people - an estimated 3,000 to 4,200 families living on the shores of the lake and around the area.

Amnesty International and COHRE said the project process is in breach of both Cambodian and international law.

Brittis Edman, Amnesty International's Cambodia Researcher, said:

'In the absence of proper plans, compensation and adequate alternative housing for at least 3,000 affected families, the filling of the lake should be immediately halted. Otherwise, this may be the beginning of the biggest forced eviction in post-war Cambodia.'

Dan Nicholson, Coordinator of COHRE's Asia and Pacific Programme, added:

'If the government wishes to develop Boeung Kak, they should do so through a legal process, with the participation of communities that live around the lake.

'Affected communities need to be able to make informed decisions. The serious lack of clear information and accountability shows that preparations are just not in place.'

Background ·

The development plans for Boeung Kak Lake emerged in 2007, after the Municipality of Phnom Penh had entered into a 99-year lease agreement, handing over management of 133 hectares of land, including 90 per cent of the lake, to a private developer, Shukaku Ltd. According to the Municipality, this company will turn the area into 'pleasant, trade, and service places for domestic and international tourists.'

As recently as two weeks ago, representatives of the Municipality conceded to journalists in Phnom Penh that they did not know how many people were affected, but estimated the number to be just 600 families. Local group surveys show the number to be far higher.

In breach of international law and standards the process leading up to the agreement between the company and the Municipality of Phnom Penh excluded affected communities from participation and genuine consultation. Information has been lacking throughout the process, and community members and housing rights advocates in Phnom Penh consider that offers of compensation and/or adequate alternative housing have not been systematic, while resettlement plans have been withheld from the public.

The agreement also appears to breach domestic law and implementing regulations in that no environmental impact assessment has been made public and no bidding procedure preceded the agreement. Moreover, according to the 2001 Land Law, the lake itself should be inalienable state land (so-called state public property), so its ownership cannot be transferred for longer than 15 years, during which time the function [of the property] must not change. Many of the affected families have strong legal claims to the land under the Land Law.

Cambodia traffic the most deadly in Asean

The Bangkok Post

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Cambodia is now officially home to the most dangerous roads in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, officials said Thursday.

Cambodian drivers are infamous for their blithe disregard for traffic laws, let alone the laws of physics, and as roads improve rapidly this combination resulted in an average of 4.5 people dying on the country's roads every day, new statistics said - up from 3.7 in 2006.

Figures by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport for the first half of 2008 show 3,870 documented traffic accidents, resulting in 6,839 people injured and 956 killed - nearly 15 per cent higher than the same time last year, with 833 fatalities reported.

"We have to rush to educate people on the traffic laws," the ministry's secretary-general of transport, Ung Chun Hour, said by telephone. "And we have to enforce laws like helmets for motorbike riders and their passengers."

The ministry did not provide updated comparisons to other Asean countries, but said Cambodia's fatality rate puts it ahead of much larger nations such as the Philippines, also known for road chaos.

The government spent millions on driver education, taking out television and newspaper advertisements and setting up driver education centres, after the Asian Development Bank estimated accidents cost the country 3 per cent of its GDP in 2003 alone.

However, poorly paid traffic police often lack the will to enforce the law and a "fine" of 1.25 dollars (or 2.50 dollars if the driver insists on a receipt) usually makes the traffic violation go away.

Drunk driving is also rampant, but Cambodia has no more sophisticated ways of testing if a driver is over the limit than smelling his or her breath - usually after the accident.

Cambodia to export rice to Brunei

The Hindu

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): President of the Alliance of Cambodian Rice Millers Association Phuoy Puy said Cambodia is preparing to export 50,000 to 70,000 tons of high quality rice to Brunei, local newspaper the Cambodia Daily reported Thursday.

Phuoy Puy said that he and Rural Development Bank President Sun Kunthor met Brunei Finance Ministry Secretary-General Dato Tado Kahazi Alidine Hazaipong on Tuesday, the newspaper said.

The Brunei official said that so far, his country have purchased rice from Vietnam and Thailand, but now wishes to buy rice in Cambodia, Phuoy Puy said.

The Brunei Finance Ministry secretary-general also met Cambodia 's Finance Minister Keat Chhon on Monday to discuss the plan and request Keat Chhon to help facilitate the export process, according to the newspaper.

Keat Chhon said they discussed possible Brunei investment in Cambodia in the future.

Cambodia says temple talks off due to crisis

The Bangkok Post

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Informal talks between Bangkok and Phnom Penh over disputed border areas were halted abruptly and scheduled formal talks postponed indefinitely amid political tension in Thailand, a Cambodian official said Thursday.

Defence Ministry Secretary of State Neang Phat said the Thai delegation arrived Wednesday in Siem Reap, 300 kilometres north of Phnom Penh, and the two sides had talked amicably before formal talks scheduled for Friday were abruptly cancelled.

"We had prepared all the documents," Phat said. "Then a call came and they asked for the meeting to be delayed. They didn't say why but we can assume. This is Thailand's business, not ours."

Phat was referring to the ongoing anti-government protests in Bangkok by the Thai opposition People's Alliance for Democracy movement, which escalated Tuesday.

Phat said no new date had been set for a resumption of joint talks over border areas around the newly listed UNESCO World Heritage site of Preah Vihear temple, as well as the Ta Moan temple complex 150 kilometres to its west.

Thailand maintains the sovereignty of the areas is disputed but Phnom Penh claims the territory belongs to Cambodia. Several rounds of bilateral talks so far have failed to break the impasse.

Cambodia closed the border to Thailand at Preah Vihear, north of Siem Reap, in June after Thai protesters gathered in the area, saying it feared trouble with Cambodian settlers.

On July 7 UNESCO granted the 11th-century hilltop Hindu temple World Heritage status over protests by Thailand. Thai troops moved into nearby areas a week later, severely straining relations between the neighbours.

Thailand postpones border spat talks

The Standard
08-28-2008

Anti-government protests in Bangkok have caused the Thai military to postpone talks to discuss withdrawing troops from a disputed border area near an ancient temple, a Cambodian general said.

Twenty soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand remain stationed at a small pagoda on a patch of disputed land near Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple, while 40 from both sides remain nearby.

Cambodian and Thai military officials scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss a further pullback of troops postponed their talks at the request of Thai officials, said Cambodian General Neang Phat.

The request was made Wednesday afternoon, just hours after a 30-member Thai delegation arrived in Siem Reap to prepare for the talks, he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Cambodian people must reject poll results

UPI Asia Online
By Sourn Serey Ratha
Guest Commentary
Published: August 27, 2008

Cranston City, RI, United States, — The full implementation of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement is the only alternative to lead Cambodia toward freedom and democracy.

Presently, Cambodia is a police state just as were Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria during their occupation by the Red Army of the Soviet Union. The elections in Central Europe during the Red Army occupation were merely a masquerade for the communist control of these countries by the Soviet Union.

It was the same in the Cambodian parliamentary elections held last month. The European Union said the elections failed to meet international standards because they were biased in favor of the ruling party. Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party claimed a landslide victory, ensuring that he will keep the seat he has held for 23 years.

In the same way as the police states of Central Europe, the Cambodian People’s Party has absolute control of all aspects of Cambodian life: the police, the army, the administration, education, healthcare, the economy, land, real estate, natural resources and the National Election Committee, without transparency and true representative oversight.

As in Central Europe then, elections in Cambodia are a sham.

Although less apparent, the People's Army of Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia was comparable to the Soviet Union's Red Army's occupation of the Eastern European countries. Prime Minister Hun Sen once publicly admitted in a speech broadcast on national radio, "Yes, I am a Vietnamese puppet. More than 100,000 Vietnamese soldiers still occupy Cambodia."

Hence, Vietnam had Cambodia under its thumb.

While under Vietnam's control, CPP leaders signed the 1979, 1982, 1983, 1985 and 2005 treaties with Vietnam in violation of Cambodia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and ceded lands and territorial seas to Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.

Through these treaties, millions of Vietnamese flooded into Cambodia, and the majority of them have been authorized by the NEC to vote for the CPP, out a total of 8 million voters.

Simultaneously, several hundred thousand legitimate Cambodians had their voting rights "ripped off," according to Puthea Hang, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia. Without a doubt, these millions of immigrant Vietnamese voters have artificially increased the number of CPP-elected members.

How can we rectify the wrongs committed by the CPP and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Lao People's Democratic Republic toward Cambodia?

The solution is the integral implementation of the Paris Peace Agreement of Oct. 23, 1991.

Under the CPP's watch, the elections have always been manipulated, rigged, unfair, and undemocratic.

To reach the full implementation of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement, we urge the opposition parties to stick to the following strategy in two stages:

The two main opposition parties, the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party must, as they have already done, reject the results of the July 27 election and continue to do so.

What exactly does it mean? This means that SRP and HRP must agree that they were awarded respectively 26 and three "elected members,” but they must claim that they should have obtained more than 29 seats. Therefore, they are contesting the validity of the mandate of the 90 CPP-elected members to the Parliament.

Simply put, the three opponent parties are not rejecting their own 29 "elected members" to Parliament.

Hence, Article 118 E. of the Electoral Laws did not apply to these 29 "elected members.”

Therefore, the NEC cannot rip off the mandate of these 29 "elected members" of SRP and HRP to distribute these 29 seats to other parties, as Hun Sen declares.

The first line of Article 76 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia stipulates that the National Assembly consists of at least 120 members. This article will block the Fourth National Assembly from being fully constituted if any four of the "elected members" refuse to participate in the first session of the Fourth National Assembly.

So, it needs only the non-participation in the first session of the Fourth National Assembly of any four "elected members" of SRP and HRP to block the Fourth National Assembly from being fully constituted.

Conversely, if 120 "elected members" participate in the first session of the Fourth National Assembly – which will be convened by the king or, in his absence, Senate President Chea Sim – on Sept. 24, then the Fourth National Assembly will be de facto officially constituted because the CPP has at its disposal 90 "elected members.”

"With a super majority of two-thirds, you can appoint a horse as president," a U.S. congressman once said.

Hence, a fortiori, the CPP with its 90 elected members – more than the two-thirds majority, and more than the number required for a quorum of 87 – can appoint anyone as president and the next day can strip that person of all parliamentary immunity rights, then put him on trial by a kangaroo court and execute him as a traitor to the nation. Such a kangaroo court already condemned Norodom Rannaridh in absentia as a traitor.

Hence, the 90 seats for the CPP are not acceptable because they indicate that the elections were not really free and fair. In a true democracy, no political party would get more than a two-thirds majority. Only when the elections are not free and fair, such as under communism or fascism, can one party get more than a two-thirds majority of seats.

With 90 CPP "elected members,” Cambodia will be forever under the dictatorship of the CPP.
According to NEC rules, the first session of the Fourth Assembly is to be held on Sept. 24.

Therefore, according to article 78, the mandate of the Third National Assembly will terminate on Sept. 24. From that day on the Hun Sen regime will become the caretaker government, legally empowered only to conduct routine business, and will have no political and economic mandate to act on behalf of Cambodia. This already happened during 11 months of 2003-2004 until the unconstitutional package vote put an end to the stalemate.

If four "elected members" refuse to participate in the first session of the Fourth National Assembly, then Cambodia will have neither a National Assembly nor a government.

Therefore, by blocking the Fourth Assembly from being fully constituted, the king, if he has the courage to do so, can ask for new elections to be organized and supervised by the United Nations, which is the only way to bring about the full implementation of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.

This is the only way to cut the Gordian knot and dismantle the police state that has ruled Cambodia since the signature of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.

--

(Sourn Serey Ratha is chief of mission of the Action Committee for Justice and Equity for Cambodians Overseas, based in Rhode Island, United States. He was born to a farmer's family in Cambodia, earned B.A. degrees in law and sociology in Phnom Penh and an M.A. in international policy from Mara University of Technology in Malaysia. He has been a social activist for his country on the national and international levels since 1997. ©Copyright Sourn Serey Ratha.)

From Pol Pot to pot of gold

WA Today
August 28, 2008

Kith Meng grew up in Australia as an orphan and a refugee from Cambodia's genocide. He tells of washing dishes and mowing lawns to make ends meet while living in Canberra. Being a poor oUSder made him stronger, he says, and unusually driven.

Now, back in Cambodia since 1991, the 39-year-old has built his Royal Group into an empire that owns Cambodia's biggest mobile phone company and television network and is developing a $US2 billion ($2.3 billion) resort and casino on a fishermen's island on Cambodia's coast. The country's most successful businessman, he supports Prime Minister Hun Sen and benefits from his ties to the government, which granted the 99-year lease on the island for his resort. He is a Neak Oknha, an honor the royal family confers on a few of the wealthiest members of society.

Thousands of former refugees, with their own harrowing stories, have returned to Cambodia, and now investors hoping to profit in the next frontier market -- a term Standard & Poor's coined for economies smaller or less developed than traditional emerging markets -- are coming to the country, too.

The entrepreneurial drive and technical skills the returnees bring with them from overseas are breathing life into the economy. Three decades after Pol Pot exterminated the country's educated classes and emptied its cities, Cambodia's gross domestic product is just $US8 billion a year.

''Suffering is my mentor,'' says Kith Meng, who fled the terror, first to a refugee camp in Thailand and then, in 1981, to Australia. Black-and-white photographs of his parents adorn one wall of his office in the capital city of Phnom Penh. They starved to death during Pol Pot's reign, when Cambodia's fertile countryside became the killing fields. They were two victims among the 1.7 million, or 20% of the population, who perished.

Political and business leaders are grappling with poverty, inadequate health care, poor education and a lack of roads in this nation of 14 million. Corruption is slowing progress, says Joseph MUSmeli, the US ambassador.

``The trick with a frontier market is getting the timing right,'' says Douglas Clayton, who founded Leopard Cambodia Fund LP last year and is raising $US100 million to invest in real estate, banking and agribusiness. ''Cambodia is really a discovery story -- and it's being discovered.''

Growth spurt

Cambodia grew 9.5% a year from 2000 to 2007, the fastest pace in Asia after China, which expanded 9.9% a year. Political stability under the administration of Hun Sen, 56, has helped the Cambodian economy take off, says Bretton Sciaroni, chairman of the American Cambodian Business Council in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen has run the country since 1985. He came to prominence as a communist while the Vietnamese occupied the country, having pushed Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge from the capital. He strengthened his grip with a landslide victory for his Cambodian People's Party in July's parliamentary elections. An opposition leader has alleged manipulation of voter rolls, and the royalist party that shared power in the 1990s has been reduced to two seats in the legislature.

Clothing exports and tourism have buoyed the tiny economy, though the revenue of any of the world's 500 largest companies would still dwarf Cambodia's annual economic output.

A 1994 law to open the country to foreign investors has encouraged some to put money in. Approved foreign direct investment rose to a record $US4.4 billion in 2006, according to the Cambodian Investment Board. Investors can own 100% of a company, and they face no restrictions on taking money in and out of the country -- in contrast to China or Vietnam.

Still, the business council's Sciaroni, a former lawyer at the White House under President Ronald Reagan, says perceptions of Cambodia have not caught up to the changes. In May, a US State Department official inquired on behalf of an executive if it would be safe to visit Siem Reap, home to Angkor Wat, the five-towered archaeological wonder.

''He wanted to know about bandits and land mines,'' he says. ''I said this is ancient history.''

Risk perceptions

If Cambodia is about to take off on the same trajectory as Vietnam to its east or Thailand on its western border, the time to get in is now, says Robert Ash, a former executive at the asset management arm of insurer American International Group Inc.

''Where the perceived risks are greater than actual risks, investment opportunities are the result,'' Ash says. ``Such is the case of Cambodia.''

Investors familiar with Thailand and Vietnam have been among the first to spot the changes taking place in Cambodia.

''In the past, when you went to a dinner party here, everybody would be talking about politics,'' says Leopard's Clayton, 47, who used to run the Thailand office of CLSA Securities, a Hong Kong- based brokerage. ``Last year, when I came, nobody was talking about politics. Everyone was talking about property, investments, deals, like everywhere else in the world.''

Anger over cuts to jail time for paedophiles in Cambodia

ABC Radio Australia

In Cambodia changes to child sexual abuse laws could mean the reduction in sentences of nearly 40 foreign paedophiles currently serving jail terms.

It has court officials, and child exploitation activists outraged.

Presenter: Bo Hill
Speakers: Samleang Seila, country director, Action Pour Les Enfants Cambodia

HILL: In 2006, 48-year-old Belgian man, Philippe Dessart, was arrested and charged after being found in a Phnom Penh guesthouse with a naked 13-year-old-boy. Under Cambodian child sexual abuse laws at the time, he was sentenced to 18 years in jail. But recent changes to the country's abuse laws saw Dessart's sentence reduced to just three years. His lawyer said he was satisfied by the appeal court's decision. Child sexual exploitation activist, Samleang Seila, says this case will be just the start.

SEILA: This is a new law which is protocol at every level of the courts. All the paedophiles were sentenced under the old law but the appeal has to use the new law, so all the sentences must be reduced according to the law.

HILL: That's nearly 40 foreigners convicted of what was once known as debauchery, but now has several categories under the new laws. The changes were designed to stop forms of sexual abuse going unpunished. Samleang Seila, the director of child exploitation NGO Action Pour les Enfants in Phnom Penh, explains.

SEILA: The good thing about this new law is that each offence is clearly defined. In the old law when we talk about debauchery it was very general, so sometimes for slight sexual activity it was not considered debauchery. But now if someone commit sexual exploitation with the child, the other code will apply. So if a person does not have sexual penetration he may be charged with indecent act.

HILL: The judge in the case of Belgian paedophile, Philippe Dessart, ruled that only an indecent act had taken place in the Phnom Penh guesthouse. While sexual intercourse with a minor carries a maximimum penalty of 10 years in jail, an indecent act, which does not involve sexual penetration, carries a sentence of between one and three years. Dessart is not the only one to have his sentence reduced under the new laws. An American was convicted of indecent acts against a 12 year-old-girl, and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. A convicted Swiss paedophile, sentenced last year to 11 years jail, will now serve just two and a half years. For Samleang Seila, it goes against all that he and his action group campaign for.

SEILA: I think this is a very light sentence and I am concerned that a paedophile would use this to abuse more and more children because a paedophile will not have to have sexual penetration so they just perform sexual activitiy with a child especially masturbation and physical, sexual touching, is enough for a paedophile.

HILL: Cambodia, along with several of its Southeast Asian neighbours, has for years been fighting its image of a sex tourism destination. While education campaigns have helped raise awareness of the problem, little funding and poor law enforcement resources have hampered these efforts. Samleang Seila says the new child sexual abuse laws will only encourage the paedophiles to return.

SEILA: I would make that prediction because the charges and the sentences and the new law would not give serious punishment to the paedophiles so Cambodia would become a set destination for sex with a child again.

KTB seeks presence in Sihanoukville

The Bangkok Post
Thursday August 28, 2008

Garment, tourism businesses targeted

NAREERAT WIRIYAPONG

PHNOM PENH : State-owned Krung Thai Bank is looking to expand its presence in Cambodia by opening a new branch in the port town of Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville, about 230 kilometres southwest of Phnom Penh, is considered a strategic location for the new branch of KTB as it is the centre of logistics, trade and investment, as well as tourism, said Pisit Buranakitpinyo, general manager and vice-president of KTB's Phnom Penh branch.

The Thai bank, which has had a presence in Cambodia since 1994, currently operates two branches in the country _ one in Phnom Penh and a sub-branch in Siem Reap.

''The deep-sea port at Sihanoukville has created a big volume of business transactions including shipments of goods exported from Thailand, China and Vietnam,'' said Mr Pisit.

''At the same time, factories, mainly those in the garment industry, are operated there while beaches have led to developments of tourism businesses around the area.''

Garments are the biggest industry in Cambodia since it has enjoyed tariff privileges from exporting to the US market. Through the operations of roughly 300 factories, garments accounted for a major share of Cambodia's gross domestic product (GDP), noted Mr Pisit.

According to the Office of Commercial Affairs of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, a cluster of 20 Chinese garment factories in Sihanoukville takes advantage of cheap labour and tariff privileges for exporting to the US.

Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), which operates in Cambodia under the name Cambodian Commercial Bank, has four branches at present including the one in Sihanoukville, Mr Pisit said.

According to Mr Pisit, Cambodia is currently the biggest overseas operation of KTB, which operates 200 branches locally. The bank has one branch each in Vientiane, Mumbai, Kunming, Singapore and Los Angeles. The two branches in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City had been closed.

''Cambodia is one of the emerging markets that have high potential,'' he said, citing the country's double-digit growth rates seen over the past decade. ''But this year, the (Cambodian) economy is likely to expand below 10% due to high oil prices and the global economic slowdown.

''The government here has introduced aggressive economic measures, for example the establishment of a stock exchange by the end of next year. Laws and regulations have been adjusted to facilitate the plan,'' he added.

On the bank's performance, Mr Pisit said first-half results remained on target despite tensions over Thailand's border with Cambodia.

''So far, I think we are still on track to achieve the whole year's target,'' he said but decline to elaborate the figures.

KTB shares closed yesterday on the SET at 7.50 baht, up 10 satang, in trade worth 112.13 million baht.

Thai military cancels talks with Cambodia on border dispute

www.chinaview.cn
2008-08-28

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Amid mass protests in Bangkok, the Thai military has canceled bilateral talks with Cambodia over the border dispute near the Preah Vihear temple scheduled for Friday in Siem Reap town, local newspaper reported Thursday, citing Cambodian officials.

Defense Ministry Secretary of State Neang Phat told the Cambodia Daily that he learned Wednesday morning of the last-minute cancellation of the talks.

As Cambodian officials gathered Wednesday in Siem Reap town to prepare for Friday's talks, Neang Phat said they received an emergency call from the 30-member Thai delegation, which had already arrived in Siem Reap.

The two groups held an immediate meeting at the Century Hotel, and, at the Thai military's request, agreed to postpone Friday's meeting because of the protests in Bangkok, Neang Phat said.

Meanwhile, Thai Foreign Ministry press officer Apirat Sugondhabhirom said the military had only informed the Thai government of the canceled negotiations Wednesday, but he downplayed the Bangkok demonstrations as the reason for the delay, the newspaper said.

The Preah Vihear Temple straddles the Cambodian-Thai border atop the Dangrek Mountain and was listed as a World Heritage Site on July 7 by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice decided that the 11-century temple and the land around belong to Cambodia, which rankled the Thais and has led to continuous disputes.

Editor: Du

A dream come true Cambodian custodian now a U.S. citizen

By Mark Rogers
UCMS custodian Keo Sok (center) shows off his naturalization papers to middle school teachers Larry Bruce and Klaudia Fisher.
By Mark Rogers
The Daily Reporter
Wed Aug 27, 2008

UNION CITY — Each day at school as he cleaned the classrooms and swept the hallways, Keo Sok was bombarded by civics questions. Eighth grade students at Union City Middle School (UCMS) constantly asked the questions that would ultimately be on Sok’s citizenship test.

In the end, Sok passed with flying colors — Red, White and Blue that is. Sok, UCMS’ long-time custodian, was a refugee of Pol Pot’s regime of terror in Cambodia during the 1970s. He has been in Union City for 28 years.

Back in January, the students and teachers at UCMS began to rally around Sok’s desire to become an American citizen. A large rally was held, state Rep. Bruce Caswell told the students and Sok about the importance of citizenship, not just being a citizen, but voting and participating in the process. It was an education for both Sok and the students.

On July 21, Sok took the test in Detroit. In the end, he missed one question out of the 100 on the test.

Lake dwellers fear loss of homes

Boeung Kak lake is being filled in for a property development

By Guy Delauney
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Residents around the largest lake in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, are protesting against it being filled in.

Boeung Kak is home to thousands of families - many of whom own homes and thriving businesses serving tourists.

The local government has leased the land to a property developer - a move residents say is illegal.

Some argue the project is needed to help develop the city, but others say that compensation is too low and that rights have been ignored.

Disappearing lake

An enormous pipe is spewing a constant flow of sandy sludge into one of Phnom Penh's few open spaces.

By the time it is turned off, only a tiny part of the lake will remain.

The developers plan to build high-end shopping centres and housing on the new land.

But the project is a multiple blow for local residents. They stand to lose both their homes and their livelihoods.

The sunset over Boeung Kak is one of the most striking sights in the city and it attracts large numbers of overseas tourists.

Dozens of guest houses, restaurants and shops provide a good living for local families. There seems to be little chance of those businesses surviving.

Residents have been offered alternative housing on the outskirts of Phnom Penh - or a small amount of cash.

But many people living and working here rent their property - and face losing everything.

"We've been doing this business for 10 years - and suddenly we heard [about] the development.

So we're worried, we're all worried. We don't know where we're going to and what's going to happen," said a guest house owner.

Housing rights organisations say the deal between the city and the developers is an illegal use of state land.

But local government officials insist that partnerships between the public and private sectors are the best way to ensure much-needed development in Phnom Penh.

CAMBODIA: Hydropower projects lack transparency, could displace thousands

27 Aug 2008
Source: IRIN

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

PHNOM PENH, 27 August 2008 (IRIN) - PHNOM PENH, 27 August 2008 (IRIN) - Over the past year Phnom Penh has been considering several multi-million dollar dam projects around the lush Cardamom mountains and in other regions which threaten the country's wildlife and, if implemented, could lead to the displacement of thousands of people.

"The prime minister has been pushing to build these dams very quickly," said Seng Bunra, Cambodia's country director for Conservation International, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) [see: http://www.conservation.org/Pages/default.aspx] working to protect rainforests worldwide. "'We need to make sure the feasibility studies are not rushed, and that care is taken in their construction."

Bunra is especially concerned about a hydropower project on the Areng river, which he says could flood 20,000 hectares and displace some 1,500 primarily indigenous people.

The government has appeared to be unwilling to discuss the feasibility and environmental effects of the dam, he said.

"They [the government] had a research team studying the feasibility of the Areng project," Bunra told IRIN, "but they just… kept it private, and then stopped studying it."

Lack of public consultation

The World Commission on Dams (WCD) [see: http://www.dams.org/], which sets international hydropower standards, says construction locations should be determined through a public consultation process.

A joint report [http://www.ngoforum.org.kh/Environment/Docs/3s/Cambodia%20hydropower%20and%20Chinese%20involvement%20Jan%202008.pdf] by the NGOs International Rivers (IR) [see: http://www.internationalrivers.org/en/africa/ngo-coalition-sondu-miriu-hep ] and the Rivers Coalition in Cambodia (RCC) also concluded that "hydropower development in Cambodia has proceeded in the absence of meaningful public consultation and an overall lack of transparency in the decision-making process."

The report points out that Prime Minister Hun Sen and his cabinet have repeatedly made decisions regarding hydropower "behind closed doors".

"We're still not certain on the actual roles of the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy, and the National Electricity Authority," said Ngy San, director of the RCC.

"We're concerned the government has not been releasing this information publicly, but the prime minister seems to be the main decision-maker regardless."

Representatives from the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy were unavailable for comment.

China's influence

To counteract spiralling electricity prices (some of the highest in the world, according to the World Bank), the government has embraced a development plan tapping into Cambodia's vast river resources, with annual funding from Beijing (US$600 million) that almost equals the total of Western donor monetary aid.

In April, Chinese Foreign Minister Wen Jiabao promised $1 billion in aid to Cambodia specifically for two hydropower projects, which have since materialised into the Stung Tatay and Stung Russey Chrum Krom dams.

Unlike aid from Western governments and NGOs, Chinese aid comes with no good governance or transparency strings attached. Premier Hun Sen praised China after an earlier $600 million aid package in 2006 for not "interfering with the internal affairs of Cambodia".

However, whether Chinese companies will build dams that meet international environmental and social standards remains questionable, says the IR report.

China's largest hydropower firm, Sinohydro Corporation, will build the $280 million Kamchay dam inside a major national park, potentially flooding 2,000 hectares of protected forest, the report warns.

Sinohydro, owned by the Chinese government, was "downgraded" in 2006 after a government review - for its poor performance and for unspecified safety and environmental accidents - the IR report notes.

The details of many hydropower contracts - particularly Sinohydro's - remain unknown.

Cambodian lawmakers were asked to endorse the Sinohydro deal in 2006 without even having had access to the contract, according to the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

Environmental concerns

Another dam project under way on the Atay river threatens endangered Siamese crocodiles, which rely on the river's seasonal levels for breeding.

Various species of turtle, fish, and birds are also at risk, according to Flora and Fauna International [see: http://www.fauna-flora.org/], an NGO that protects two wildlife sanctuaries in the Cardamom Mountains.

Local diets depend particularly on fish, of which several species may face significantly reduced populations, according to Flora and Fauna.

The Atay dam will flood 3,560 hectares of protected forest in the Phnom Samkok Wildlife Sanctuary, and 5,193 hectares in total, according to a recent assessment by the Chinese Danang Corporation.

"In terms of conservation, it's a lot of land," Bunra told IRIN. "We cannot stop the development projects in these areas, but we can only ask the government and companies to reduce the environmental impact."

Government's stance

The official stance of the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy states that the Cardamom Mountains consist of over one million hectares, making 5,000 hectares worth sacrificing to lower energy costs in Cambodia

Thorn Kimhong, who directs the Cardamom natural protected areas for the Ministry of Environment, said the Atay dam was necessary. "The dams must be built," he told IRIN. "We need it for lower energy prices and for developing Cambodia."

But for the thousands of residents who could be displaced, uncertainty lies ahead.

Brunei negotiates for rice imports from Cambodia says local media

The Earth Times
Wed, 27 Aug 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A delegation from the Brunei Finance Ministry met with Cambodian Finance Minister Keat Chhon to discuss importing Cambodian rice and seed, local media reported Wednesday. The delegation, headed by Brunei Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Dato Paduka Haj Ali Apong, had not reached any firm agreements on the amount of rice and seed Brunei would require or how soon, but that discussions went well, according to Khmer-language Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper.

The delegation is also scheduled to meet the Cambodian commerce and agriculture ministers as well as the Rural Development Bank and the Rice Millers Association of Cambodia, the paper said.

It did not state a scheduled duration for the visit.

Cambodia has said it aims to be a major rice exporter in the region, matching the current leader Thailand by 2015, and in recent months has negotiated with African nations, including Guinea, as well as Gulf states Kuwait and Qatar.

Brunei is a fellow of Cambodia in the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations and has already provided advice on tapping potential offshore oil reserves.

Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah visited Cambodia in April last year and the two countries have strong bilateral ties.

Paris agreements key

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Serey Ratha Sourn
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Dear Editor

Presently, Cambodia is a police state just as were Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria etc. ... during their occupation by the Red Army of the Soviet Union.

In the same way as the police state of Central Europe, the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has absolute control of all aspects of Cambodian life: the police; the army; administration; education; healthcare; the economy; land; real estate; natural resources; and the National Election Committee (NEC), without transparency and true representative oversight.

As in Central Europe then, as in Cambodia now, the elections were a sham.

The solution is the integral implementation of the Paris Peace Agreement of October 23, 1991.

To reach the full implementation of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement, we urge the opposition parties to stick to the following strategy: The two main opposition parties, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Human Rights Party (HRP) must, as they have already done, reject the results of the July 27, 2008, election and continue to do so.

This means that SRP and HRP must agree that they were awarded respectively 26 and three "elected members", but they must claim that they should have obtained more than 29 seats.

Therefore, they are contesting the validity of the mandate of the CPP's 90 elected members to the Parliament. The parties are not rejecting their own 29 "elected members" to Parliament.

Hence Article 118 E. of the Electoral Laws does not apply to these 29 "elected members".

Therefore, the NEC cannot rip off the mandate of these 29 "elected members" of SRP and HRP to distribute these 29 seats to other parties, as Hun Sen declares.

The first line of Article 76 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia stipulates that the National Assembly consists of at least of 120 members.

Hence, Article 76 will block the Fourth National Assembly from being fully constituted (born) if any four of the "elected members" refuse to participate to the first session of the Fourth National Assembly.

So, it needs only the non-participation to the first session of the Fourth National Assembly of any four "elected members" of SRP and HRP to block the Fourth National Assembly from being fully constituted.

Therefore, by blocking the Fourth Assembly from being fully constituted, the King, if he has the courage to do so, can ask for new elections to be organised and supervised by the United Nations, which is the only way to bring about the full implementation of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.

This is the only way to cut the Gordian knot and dismantle the police state that has ruled Cambodia since the signature of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.

Serey Ratha Sourn
Cambodian Action Committee for Justice and Equity

Rat meat in demand in Cambodia as inflation bites

ABS CBN News Online

Reuters

PHNOM PENH - The price of rat meat has quadrupled in Cambodia this year as inflation has put other meat beyond the reach of poor people, officials said on Wednesday.

With consumer price inflation at 37 percent according to the latest central bank estimate, demand has pushed a kilogram of rat meat up to around 5,000 riel ($1.28) from 1,200 riel last year.

Spicy field rat dishes with garlic thrown in have become particularly popular at a time when beef costs 20,000 riel a kg.

Officials said rats were fleeing to higher ground from flooded areas of the lower Mekong Delta, making it easier for villagers to catch them.

"Many children are happy making some money from selling the animals to the markets, but they keep some for their family," Ly Marong, an agriculture official, said by telephone from the Koh Thom district on the border with Vietnam.

"Not only are our poor eating it, but there is also demand from Vietnamese living on the border with us."

He estimated that Cambodia supplied more than a tonne of live rats a day to Vietnam.

Rats are also eaten widely in Thailand, while a state government in eastern India this month encouraged its people to eat rats in an effort to battle soaring food prices and save grain stocks.

($1 = 3,900 riel)

Cambodia mulls allowing foreigners to buy property

27 Aug 2008
bbj.hu

The Cambodian government is considering allowing foreign ownership of property such as apartments and office buildings to boost the country's economic growth, an official said on Wednesday.

Under the current rules, foreign property investments can only be made through the name of a Cambodian national, and many are unwilling to risk losing their assets to unscrupulous local partners. Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the government is evaluating the policy to ensure that foreigners will be allowed to own buildings and apartments but not land.

“The important thing is that foreigners cannot own land... They can buy things above the ground only,” Khieu Kanharith told. He said that the plan would attract more foreign investment and more skilled foreign workers to the impoverished nation. “This policy will boost our economic growth,” Khieu Kanharith added. The move comes after the private sector last year urged the government to allow foreign ownership of certain properties like apartments or factories, saying a liberalized real estate market would spur the economy.

Cambodia ’s investment law was amended in 2005 to allow foreign ownership of buildings, but the legislation has yet to be implemented and the initiative has floundered. Despite current restrictions, billion-dollar skyscraper projects and sprawling satellite cities promising to radically alter Phnom Penh have bloomed over the past few years. They are mainly backed by South Korean companies working through local partners.

After decades of turmoil, Cambodia has emerged as a rising economy in the region - posting average 11% growth over the past three years on the back of strong tourism and garment sectors. But officials warn that the country, which still relies on international aid for half of its annual budget, must diversify by seeking more varied foreign investments.

(The Economic Times/Agencies)

CPP To Control All Ministerial Positions

Key leaders of the Cambodian People's Party, from right, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin, attend a pre-election rally in July.

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
27 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 27 August 2008 (1.32 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 27 August 2008 (1.32 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The ruling Cambodian People's Party will have the top seats in all of Cambodia's 25 ministries, as well as the Council Minister position, according to a draft of its new administration.

Every administration since the 1993 Untac elections has shared ministerial posts, as part of the peace process, but the CPP's dominant showing in July's election means it will not divide the top posts.

The new administration will include lower ministry positions for both Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party, but not for the opposition Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties, officials said Wednesday.

Critics warn that the planned administration could lead to the decline of democracy and rights.

The CPP's draft administration will include 36 political defectors from the Sam Rainsy Party, including secretary and undersecretary of state positions, according to the draft.

"Those CPP ministers have talent and experience," said CPP lawmaker and Central Committee member Chiem Yeap. "The CPP is now trying to govern alone and keep partner positions in secretary and undersecretary [slots] and some provincial governors only."

According to the draft, obtained this week by VOA Khmer, Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bunchhay will be promoted to a deputy prime minister position, the only non-member of the CPP to hold that title.

The draft also shows several shifts in the CPP cabinet. At least five Funcinpec members will be appointed to "senior minister" positions, honorary titles below deputy prime minister that can include special assignments.

Key ministries, such as Commerce, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Interior and Council of Ministers will all keep their current ministers, according to the draft.

The ministries of Rural Development, Transportation, Education, Health and Culture will lose their Funcinpec ministers to CPP replacements.

The ministries of Tourism and Religion, which have been held by CPP members in recent years, will retain their CPP ministers who recently replaced Funcinpec members.

"The new government will be more dynamic in tourism, agriculture, industry, petroleum, construction, services and investment," Chiem Yeap said.

Officials expect to enact the new administration following the first session of the National Assembly Sept. 24.

The two opposition parties have threatened to boycott the session, potentially deadlocking the government, which they maintain was fraudulently elected.

However, the opposition and human rights organizations note that the single-party administration will have its downsides.

The right of expression in public places like demonstrations or rallies will be minimized, said Ny Chakrya, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc.

The new administration will "deteriorate" democracy nationwide, Sam Rainsy said.

"It will be a great danger, and the country will fall into the communist system," he said.

Council Rejects Opposition Call for Re-Vote

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

Khmer audio aired 27 August 2008 (861 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 27 August 2008 (861 KB) - Listen (MP3)

The Constitutional Council on Wednesday upheld a National Election Committee rejection of an opposition party demand for a new round of voting.

The Sam Rainsy Party had requested another vote, claiming July's election had been illegitimate. The NEC rejected the claim earlier this month, on grounds that the irregularities reported were not supported by evidence.

The Sam Rainsy Party claims that the use of administrative form 1018 in lieu of identification, the omission of voters' names from registries, and other irregularities should be grounds for another election.

The Council hearing Wednesday was the last chance for an appeal, and the last hearing over Sam Rainsy Party election complaints.

The Council will examine complaints from the Human Rights Party Thursday.

Former King Notes Royal 'Pain' in Politics

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
27 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 26 August 2008 (1.38 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 26 August 2008 (1.38 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Former king Norodom Sihanouk launched a fresh reminder of the failures of the royal family in politics this week, writing in a communique that political involvement for royals had led to severe punishments and exile.

"The pain and humiliation of Khmer princes and princesses who get involved in politics is far reaching," Sihanouk wrote in French.

The participation of royal family members in politics remains a contentious issue in Cambodia. Critics say they should avoid politics altogether, even if there is no law to ban them.

Neither royalist party faired well in July's election.

The Norodom Ranariddh and Funcinpec parties each won two of 123 National Assembly seats.

The former monarch's communiqué was an apparent reference to his son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who is leading his self-named party from exile in Kuala Lumpur and faces a jail sentence and fine if he returns.

Prince Ranariddh was not available for comment.

Prince Sisowath Sereyroth, a member of Funcinpec, said this week that a ban on royal family members from politics would be unfair and would mark the abandonment of one group of Cambodians.

"I am Khmer," he said. "I want to help Khmers when I see the country going in an improper way".

In Thailand, another monarchy, princes are involved in politics, he said.

Prince Sereyroth noted that Sihanouk was known for his politics, bringing peace to the country that did not come under the Lon Nol, Khmer Rouge or State of Kampuchea regimes.

"It should not be forgotten that only the king can bring peace," he said. "And if we have peace, do not forget that."

National Museum Library Gets US Funding

By Kong Soth, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
27 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 25 August 2008 (1.09 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 25 August 2008 (1.09 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Between the narrow spaces of the archives of the National Museum, not far from the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, lie documents of Cambodia's heritage that are more than 100 years old.

On a recent morning, a concerned Ly Ye, director of the National Museum's archive, looked over a wooden cabinet full of books turning red with age. Even changes in the weather could further damage the books.

"It can be damaged by itself, because it is very old, and nature can destroy the paper," she said.

Threatened with deterioration from age, documents like these will get preservation with help from the US, through an ambassador's fund. The US Embassy pledged $45,000 earlier this month to help the National Museum preserve its book collection and to rebuild part of the library.

Some of the books in the library document archeological research of Khmer artists, the history of ancient temples, and other texts written by the French at least 120 years ago.

Som Aol, a former student of the Royal University and an archeologist, said the documents can be a source of research for students.

"It is very difficult, because these documents are in a foreign language, especially in French," he said. "I am not good at it, but now I have started to learn French bit by bit [but] I think it is very useful and easy for Khmer youths to do more research."

US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli said during a signing ceremony for the funds on Aug. 18 that even a small amount of money could make a significant contribution to the museum's library.

National Museum Director Hab Touch said the funds would be used to renovate the library with equipment needed to repair books, as well as undertake translations of some of the texts.

US Dance Troupe Keeps Traditions Alive

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Massachussetts
27 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 19 August 2008 (1.55 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 19 August 2008 (1.55 MB) - Listen (MP3)

PHOTO SLIDESHOW by Stephane Janin, click here.

Even though some Cambodians born in the US speak broken Khmer, the language of their parents, some children are keen to learn about their culture, traditions and home civilization.

The Angkor Dance Troup, in Lowell, Mass., helps them do this by teaching a younger generation traditional dances.

Troupe founder Tim Chan Thou told VOA Khmer recently that the students who come to learn dance here take it very seriously. They are committed to their training, learning such dances as the Ream Ka, Ra Bam Krot, Ra Bam Kos Traloak, Ra Bam Ken, Ra Bam Krap and others.

The dance troupe welcomes not only Cambodians, but students from other backgrounds as well, Tim Chan Thou said.

"The goal of Angkor Dance Troup is to disseminate Cambodian classical and traditional dancing to all Cambodian-Americans, and some other nationalities in Lowell, [dances] that we lost for many years during the war and after the war," he said.

His goal is to preserve the Cambodian art form and its legacy forever, and to raise Cambodian civilization to an international level of fame.

One of the main obstacles, he said, was a lack of time to practice.

"We have difficulty finding suitable times to match together become students are going to their school and some are working," he said. "So that is why it is kind of hard at this point."

Support from the US government and the people of Lowell were helping the troupe meet its goals, he said, adding that dancers from the troupe are often hired by universities and private individuals.

"The money that I received from the hiring, I always share with my team and also keep the rest of the money in the bank in order to buy food, electricity, gas, and buy more dancing cloths from Cambodia," he said. "We have all kinds of classical and traditional dancing cloths here."

The troupe also plays a role in educating young Cambodians and keeping them away from drugs and gangs.

Tim Chan Thou established the troupe in 1986, having survived the Khmer Rouge and living in the Kao Ei Darg refugee camp on the Thai border.

He worked together with other classical dancers to form the troupe, steadily raising its profile among the Cambodian community in the US. The troupe now teaches more than 100 students, men and women.

Peter Veth, assistant director of the troupe and a dance teacher, said he was proud to be able to participate in teaching young Cambodians about the classical art.

"It even makes me more interested in my culture," he said. "It even makes me more powerful as a youth, because you know teaching the kids is making me happy, because I know that I am passing on a tradition from my teacher, who taught me to teach the others."

Huy Serey Hou Sita, who also teaches classical dance, said Cambodian children in the US love the Cambodian arts, learning through their parents and videos.

"Some students have been coming to this since they were six or seven years old," she said.

"They really love this art. Even now they have a different job from this artistic dance, but they come to practice and come to perform whenever we call them to help."

US School Maintains Cambodian Culture

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Massachussetts
27 August 2008

Khmer audio aired 24 August 2008 (1.25 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 24 August 2008 (1.25 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Anywhere Cambodians are around the world, they find ways to preserve Khmer literature and Cambodian identity. In Lowell, Mass., that has meant a public charter school that helps teach US-Cambodian children about Cambodian arts, history, music and culture.

Eng Rida, director of Lowell Community Charter Public, said the school teaches US and immigrant children, including those from South America or Africa.

"We have the ability to let our students study Khmer history, South American history, and the history of other countries, from where they have moved to live in the US as immigrants," he said.

Students can choose to learn in Khmer or Spanish, he said.

Besides helping students with a free education, the charter school also helps parents by offering after-school programs for the children.

"I think we take care of them very well, so that it can help reduce the burden on parents," Eng Rida said.

The school was established in 2000 with support from the US government, growing from 200 students in the beginning to about 950, eight years later. The school is considered a public school, and does not make a profit. Of those, 300 are Cambodian.

Eng Rida said he planned to expand the school to accommodate more students and more grade levels, and he hoped to establish an exchange program with Cambodian schools.

Eighth-grader Sok Sovanarith said his school was a leading institution in the state and took great care in educating students.

"This school always has a new program to teach us from year to year, in order to teach us about Cambodian society, American society and societies of some other countries societies."

The charter school was much different from schools in Cambodia, he said.

"We study eight hours per day and six days a week here, but in Cambodia the students study only four hours per day and five days a week," he said. "The students here have more time to work and have discussions with the teacher. Furthermore, we have the after-school program, which allow us to stay in the school so we can talk more with the teachers and the teachers always help us whenever we need. In Cambodia we don't have this kind of program."

Livan Yary, who teaches painting and ceramics at the school, said the method of US instruction is to show students how to learn from their own creations, which is a much different approach from Cambodian schools, where students receive exact interpretations of subjects from their teachers.

"After I explain to them how to paint like this and that or so on, then I will let them do it themselves or let them create by themselves, no matter what kind of picture will come out of their painting," he said. "Here they teach them to know how to create first, but back in Cambodia everything has the be exactly the same as the teacher does, or they won't have a score."

First property expo set for October

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan and Hor Hab
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Hopes are high event will spur interest in housing market

CAMBODIA'S booming real estate market is attracting record interest from property companies with the Kingdom's first-ever real estate expo scheduled for October.

Whale Event Management, a member of Whale Group, expects to be at full capacity when it kicks off the three-day exposition on October 3 at Phnom Penh's Mondial Center, said Sorn Sovattey, senior sales executive for Whale Event Management.

"We expect to have 31 real estate companies registering for the expo, because we have only 31 booths," Sorn Sovattey told the Post.

She said the expo will focus on city developers, realtors, property agents and property development consultants. It will also feature a growing field of designers, contractors and urban planners.

Luxury and high-end real estate developers are especially interested in the Kingdom, which has so far remained sheltered from the property market turmoil in Vietnam and stagnation in Thailand.

"The event is a good chance to gather all real estate companies together, which is easy for customers to see," she said. "It is a premium and high-class expo, which is expected to attract about 40,000 businesspeople, company bosses and customers."

Exhibitors can choose from five categories of booths: diamond, costing US$20,000 for three days, gold ($10,000), silver ($8,000), platinum ($6,000) and standard booths ($2,500).

"The real estate market is improving with a lot of satellite cities," Sorn Sovattey said. "After the 2008 election, the trend will go further."

Nhem Sothea, marketing manager of the Grand Phnom Penh International City, one of the capital's housing mega-projects, said the expo would give developers a chance to reach a wider audience.

"It is a good chance to display real estate products such as house styles, villas, business centers," he said Monday.

Others said the event would allow potential customers to get an overview of Phnom Penh's rapidly evolving housing market by talking directly with developers and real estate agents.

"Customers can see the styles of houses that they prefer and negotiate prices," said Mao Thora, an undersecretary at the Commerce Ministry.

But some realtors have complained that the expo fees are too high and that the event was not planned far enough in advance.

In Sitha, general manager of Sovannaphum Realty, told the Post that his company would visit the event, but not join as an exhibitor.

"My company focuses on land speculation and building development, but I don't have any interest displaying at the expo. We have [other] ways to promote our products, and the expo schedule is too early to arrange for it," he said.

Sung Bonna, president of Bonna Realty Group, said that the initiative is good for the Cambodian market, but timing and costs could curb participation.

"My company has not made a decision yet.... The price for exhibiting is also too high for Cambodia's standards," he said.

Sorn Sovattey acknowledged that it was too early to tell how successful Cambodia's inaugural property expo would be, said she hoped it would be a top draw for the market.

"It is too early, of course, but we hope all real estate companies can participate," she said.

Thailand, Cambodia agree to tourism for Preah Vihear once military tensions ease

AFP; Tourists stroll through the ruins at Preah Vihear. Officials hope to draw in more visitors.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Brendan Brady
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Thai Prime Minister Samak met with Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh over the dispute, agreeing to restart tourism to the ancient site after troops leave the area

THAILAND and Cambodia have agreed to cooperate to develop tourism at areas along the border once the military standoff is resolved, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Monday.

The Thai premier made the statement in Bangkok after meeting with Cambodia's defence minister, Tea Banh, who is also a deputy prime minister.

"Territorial problems which cannot be resolved by now will be left for negotiations later," and a "middleman will be appointed to oversee promoting tourism with an aim to bring back tourists," Samak was quoted as saying by the Thai government news service, Thai News Agency (TNA).

He added that the temple cannot be opened to tourism until all military personnel have withdrawn, according to TNA.

Monday's agreement to promote tourism at Preah Vihear temple came after Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart, Tej Bunnag, failed in talks August 19 and 20 to reach a resolution on the border dispute.

The two sides agreed they would meet again in October pending a survey and demarcation of the area to be carried out by the Joint Border Commission.

" I never thought this area would become popular with tourists. "

On the Cambodian side, developing tourism at Preah Vihear could give a major boost for a corner of the country long notorious as the last region occupied by Khmer Rouge fighters.

Locals hopeful

The prospect of a tourism boom has enterprising Cambodians in the area licking their lips at the potential windfall.

Tep Savy, 43, an owner of a small guesthouse in Sa Em, about 25 kilometres from the base of the pitted mountain road to the temple, said her village had been an active battlefield between Khmer Rouge and Cambodian military forces since she moved there in 1979.

"I never thought this area would become popular with tourists. It's going to go from a war zone to a tourist boom town," she said.

She said that since the temple's World Heritage listing, her 12-room guesthouses, which before was lucky to see a guest every couple of days, is now regularly fully booked.

She said she planned to add more rooms but would wait for the temple standoff to cool down before making the investment.

Chim Phalla, from Komuoy village at the base of the Dangrek mountain range on which the temple sits, has "high hopes to earn a fortune" by quitting his job as a grocer and opening a restaurant to capitalise on the expected influx of tourist dollars.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon told the Post that the government would develop comprehensive plans to encourage the development of tourism infrastructure for Preah Vihear temple, including road access from Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

The Unesco listing should also promote Preah Vihear's spot on multinational temple tours through Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, he added.

Infrastructure

Early this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered that the 80 km road connecting Anlong Veng town to Preah Vihear temple be paved as the dispute with Thailand has lent new significance to the ancient ruins of Preah Vihear temple.

The prime minister followed up last week, ordering the construction of a new 9km road from Prey Veng village in Oddar Meanchey province to Ta Moan Thom temple complex, also along the border with Thailand.

Thailand and Cambodia have been locked in a military standoff at the temples for six weeks.

Tensions have eased, but troops are still only yards apart in some disputed areas.

Rat sales soar as Vietnam seeks cheaper meats

AFP Cambodian children play with dead rats, which are caught for their meat, in Kandal province

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Cambodian rats selling for $1.50 each across border from Kandal as inflation eats away at Vietnamese spending power

FARMERS in Kandal province have seen skyrocketing profits from exports of rat meat to neighbouring Vietnam, where cheap meat is in rising demand, Kandal province's governor told the Post.

Exports have reached 10 tonnes per month, Governor Ly Marong said, with profits rising to as much as US$15,000 per month in Kandal's Kho Thom district.

"In addition to exports, local people are buying rat meat more than ever before," he said. "Grilled rat meat, or spicy, fried meat with basil, is delicious."

Live rats sell for about 6,000 to 6,500 riels per kilogram in Vietnam's Long Bin market, across the border from Kandal province, but traders purchase rats from Cambodian farmers for about 4,500 to 5,000 riels per kilogram.

The governor said that because heavy rains flood forest areas, rats swarm to nearby farms. High inflation and the rising cost of other meats - as high as 20 percent in recent months - have led farmers to harvest the rats for their own use and for export.

"Rats used to be trapped and killed, but high market values make them a good product for export to Vietnam," Ly Marong said.

Sann Nguon Sreng, a villager in Chroy Takeo commune in Kandal province, said he can catch as many as six kilograms of rats each day. He sells some of them to Vietnamese traders and keeps the rest for his family.

He earns as much as 20,000 riels per day as the price of rat meat has nearly doubled in recent months.

"I and my villagers are very happy because we can increase our income by hunting rats," Sann Nguon Sreng said.

Keo Soeung, who lives in Kandal province's Deum Por village, said he buys more than 500 kilograms of rats per day from local farmers and exports as many as three tonnes each week across the border in Vietnam.

"I get profits of more than three million riels (US$750) per week from my exports," said Keo Soeung, who sells them at Vietnamese market prices.

He said he sells the bulk of his rat meat to a Vietnamese crocodile farmer, but whatever is left he takes to Long Bin market.

Government to investigate impact of sand dredgers

HENG CHIVOAN; A boat pushes a barge-load of sand up the Tonle Bassac river in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong, Thet Sambath and Hor Hab
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sand from the Mekong are being sucked from the banks and shipped to Singapore, which some say could be destructive

The Ministry of Water Resources is set to investigate and possibly ban dozens of illegal sand-pumping companies on the Mekong River, ministry officials told the Post Tuesday.

"We will take measures against companies that illegally pump sand along the Mekong," said Secretary of State Veng Sakhon.

Singapore has been buying massive amounts of sand to expand its land, but has had trouble sourcing the material.

Indonesia and the Philippines are among the countries that have banned most sand sales because of its destructive impact on riverbeds and shorelines.

Cambodia is one of the only countries that still allows sand dredging in protected areas.

Veng Sakhon said Minister of Water Resources Lim Kean Hor has already reported to Prime Minister Hun Sen about illegal sand-pumping companies, especially boats pumping sand along the river in Russey Keo district's Kien Klang commune.

"Hun Sen agreed with the minister on the need for action," Veng Sakhon said. "He will make a decision this weekend," he said.

He added that some mobile pumping companies plying the rivers claim to be doing business in the name of high-ranking government officials.

"Some businesses claim that they know this or that official, but we don't believe them," Veng Sakhon said.

"We need an investigation." He added that other companies use falsified licences to stay in operation.

Illegal sand pumping contributes to bank erosion along the Mekong and could seriously affect the lives of villagers near the river, Veng Sakhon said.

"I have received several complaints from villagers and officials about illegal sand pumping," he said.

But the ministry has also encouraged legal businesses to export sand to Vietnam and Singapore.

20 licensed companies

Pov Chantha, director general for Sand Resource Co Ltd, said his company exported a total of 200,000 square metres of sand to Singapore via Vietnam in the first half of 2008.

Sand Resource, established earlier this year, is one of at least 20 licensed companies shipping sand to Singapore, Pov Chantha said, adding that due to its high quality, Cambodia's mountain and river sand sells for as much as US$6 per square metre in Vietnamese ports.

" Our sand is much better quality than sand available in Vietnam. "

"Cambodia exports directly from Phnom Penh to Singapore, and we pay import and export taxes," said Pov Chantha.

"The Mekong has never been dredged, and if we did not pump sand it would become too shallow in the future."

He said that, as a legal business, Sand Resource has paid $200,000 to Cambodia's customs department and the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy for its exports and the same amount to the Vietnam Tax Department at the Vietnamese port.

Cambodia exports sand to Singapore principally for use in beaches, construction and road building.

"We can export as much as the market needs," Pov Chantha said. "Our sand is much better in quality than sand available in Vietnam."

Pov Chantha questioned what he said is excessive taxation by the government, saying that the Mekong River was as much as 20 metres deep during the 1960s but is now only about eight metres.

"I wonder why the government is even taxing us at all because we are helping to make the river deeper," he said.

"I have heard that the ministry once sought $100 million in financing to pump out silt from the river."

He also questioned the potential impact that pumping sand could have on the river banks.

"I don't think riverbanks along the Mekong and Tonle Bassac will collapse because of sand-pumping companies, but rather because of the flow of water during the rainy season," he said.

Ith Praing, secretary of state at the ministry, said sand is a national mineral and should be properly controlled by a joint committee with the Ministry of Water Resources.

Complaints filed

Dang Chamroeun, first chief of Chruoy Changvar commune, said there are a few hundred boats dredging sand from the river each day along the banks of the peninsula, especially along National Road 6A.

"Local residents have filed complaints to related ministries for authorities to take action but have received no answer," Dang Chamroeun said.

He said commune authorities used to catch the boats, but they were released after four or five days and continued dredging in the same place. "The people feel disappointed with that," he said.

Residents fear that their homes will eventually fall into the river if the dredging continues and the river gets deeper, he said.

He added that one house in Deum Koe village has already been destroyed by eroding banks and many others have been abandoned.

"I don't understand the technical studies about the effects of dredging or the licences companies hold to do business," Dang Chamroeun said.

He said there were no problems in the area before the dredging started but that villagers in Prek Pra commune along the Bassac River now fear that dredging will result in eroding riverbanks.

Most disturbing to conservationists is the presence of sand dredging in protected areas where companies are apparently operating without permission from the Ministry of Environment," he said.

"If you take too much sand from a river, it affects the shore and the forests nearby ... some of the areas the companies are operating are very sensitive," said Bunra Seng, the country director of Conservation International (CI).

He said CI is monitoring sand dredging in the Central Cardamom protected forest.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY GEORGE MCLEOD

Hello moto

HENG CHIVOAN

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Heng Chivoan
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

A woman drives away from the wreckage of a motorbike accident on the junction of streets 57 and 294 in Phnom Penh's Boeung Keng Kong district on Tuesday morning. No one was seriously hurt, but traffic accidents have been claiming more than four fatalities a day in recent months.

Villagers protest the cutting, burning of acacia trees in S'ville

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

LOCAL villagers and municipal officials in Sihanoukville have illegally cleared more than 100 hectares of acacia forest in Lek Muoy commune, residents and NGOs in the area said.

The acacia forest was planted as part of a joint effort between the Cambodian and Danish governments to protect local wetlands in Kbal Chhai that constitute the municipality's largest supply of fresh water.

"Authorities charged with protecting this area are doing nothing," said So Song, a Kbal Chhai resident. "They ... don't care that it will affect the availability of our water resources in Sihanoukville."

She said logging on protected land concessions is illegal, and she regrets there has been no reaction from the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), which worked jointly with Cambodian officials to protect the area in 2003.

"Some residents have not cut trees, but several businessmen have cleared the land and sold it for as much as US$2,800 for a 10-metre-by-30-metre tract," So Song said.

Bun Narith, a coordinator with the local human rights group Licadho in Sihanoukville, said the forest in Kbal Chhai was part of a land concession made to DANIDA in 2003 for the protection of local wetlands.

"The acacia trees are government property, and they have been cut down and burned," Bun Narith said.

Investigation launched
Doung Socheat, deputy of the provincial Forestry Administration Department, said his officers have started to investigate claims of illegal logging.

"We are trying to protect the area by replanting lost acacia trees during the rainy season, but people continue to harvest them," he said, adding that he has asked for assistance from police in Sihanoukville.

"This is concession land, so anyone trying to sell or buy it is breaking the law," Doung Socheat said.

Say Hak, governor of Sihanoukville Municipality, said he understands the importance of preserving the wetlands.

"If anyone has information that government officials are involved in seizing this protected land, they should write down names and send them to me directly," the governor said.