Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Thailand faces internal and international conflict

Religous Intelligence
By: Toby Cohen.

Wednesday, 3rd September 2008

exercise caution following a state of emergency being imposed in Bangkok yesterday after violent clashes between protesters.

At least one person was killed and dozens were injured as pro-government and anti-government demonstrators clashed with golf clubs, slings and pistols in the city centre early on Tuesday.

The Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, had said “I have a sword, but I have chosen not to use it,” in response to protesters who were calling for his government's resignation earlier in the week. The authorities estimate there to be around 30,000 protesters, apparently with an organized, well funded backing.

However, there was a surge in violence following threats from trade unions to cut off water and electricity supplies to show support for the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has been occupying Government House for a week in protest at Mr Sundaravej’s government.

Tourists were stranded at Hat Yai airport, in the south of the country, as anti-government protests forced airport closures for the second time in recent days. Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said: “We are advising Australians to exercise a great deal of caution and if they are in Bangkok to keep away from demonstrations.”

However a British embassy spokesman said: “We are not advising people not to come.”

The state of emergency decree gives the military the right to restore order, allows authorities to suspend certain civil liberties, including travelling freely, bans public gatherings of more than five people and bars the media from reporting news that causes panic.

Military intervention has raised fears of a second coup in three years, but Gen Anupong Paochinda, the army chief, insists his forces will not take over again. However, it is thought the PAD, formed three years ago, may have some support from Thailand's armed forces.

Thailand also faces an escalation of tensions with neighbouring Cambodia, as a dispute rages over a 1,000-year-old temple on the border of the two Southeast Asian nations.

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.

Although the site was awarded to Cambodia by the International Court of Justice in 1962, the only reliable maps of the jungle-covered region show that the temple ruins actually stand on Thai territory.

Thailand decided this week to stake its claim to the land around the site by moving in 1,500 troops and heavy artillery. Cambodia responded with a similar show of force, and the two sides now stand at an impasse as the Cambodian government spoke of an “imminent threat of war”.

Of commerce in Cambodia

HENG CHIVOAN; Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh in his office in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Roger Mitton
Wednesday, 03 September 2008

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh says a stock market may be premature but is confident the Kingdom can achieve another year of double-digit growth

During your years as a minister, has the press treated you fairly?
There are people who think that freedom of the press means they can say what they like, and sometimes they go too far and fabricate stories to harm your credibility. It happens whenever there is an election, the opposition and their newspapers attack us, saying we are corrupt and not doing our job properly. This is the way they operate.

Despite that, you won the election pretty handsomely.
Yes, the result was good for us. We knew we were going to win because we have done so much for the people. But the result went beyond our expectations, and we won more seats than we had anticipated. What is important is that we were able to ensure that it was a safe election. Nobody was harassed, and no one was prevented from voting. Of course, the opposition complain and moan about such things, but later on they will accept the result. They should try to play a proper check-and-balance role, because they have no other choice. What else can they do - just go to sleep and wait until the next five years pass and there's another election?

If you expected to win, why did you need to poach politicians from the opposition?
The people who joined us had seen that the government has done good deeds. They wanted to join us because we have been a success story. Why would they want to continue to be part of a bad story? They want to get on the boat. That is safe.

You criticise the media and the opposition, but don't some rich and powerful figures who feel their money and political connections give them impunity also behave badly?
What do you want us to do - take action against people just because they are rich? Or should we continue to help the country prosper, because it's better to have rich and poor, than only to have poor. When people get richer and richer by speculating, buying and selling land and so on, what can you do? People who have never had money, never been rich, suddenly become millionaires, even billionaires. They are like mushrooms that pop up overnight. And if you turn a simple man in the street into a minister, a general, a business tycoon, it's like a tiger changing its stripes. They change their behaviour, and that's why they sometimes they behave in that way.

Doesn't their bad behaviour highlight the economic disparity between the rich urban elite and the rural poor?
You know, when you develop a market economy, certain sectors move faster and you can make profits faster. Others move slowly, so you also make money, but at a different pace. Normally, the speed in the countryside is slower than in the urban areas. So businessmen with factories in the city, and now people who engage in land speculation, they make money faster. So, there is inequality. But it is the same everywhere, not just in Cambodia. In the US and Europe, they still have beggars on the streets. So can we say they have perfect systems? Whatever you do, you cannot reduce poverty at the same speed everywhere. You have to do it step by step by creating jobs and attracting investors.

What do you tell investors who complain that contracts are not respected in Cambodia?
We don't have all the laws yet to properly govern doing business here. But we are going to set up an arbitration centre and also a commercial court that will address these issues. They are needed because sometimes people feel there can be problems in the civil courts. We know that many people continue to distrust our judicial system, and that's why many reforms have been made. That process will continue, and we hope that in a couple of years, things will be better. It is just a question of time. And since we joined the WTO, a lot of investors have come here because they feel more secure and confident knowing they will now be protected by international rules and regulations.

Are you ready to set up a stock market next year?
Personally, I think it is premature. But we cannot wait too long. When it comes in next year, it will be for a trial period for at least three years to make sure that everything goes properly. In the meantime, we have to adopt the e-commerce law so that people can refer to it for e-commerce transactions and so on. Until we have that law in place, the stock market cannot commence.

You've known Hun Sen for 25 years and even play golf with him. What's he like?
He is very dedicated and very devoted to his people. He always travels to the countryside to keep in touch with them, and he listens to their problems and tries to help them. This makes people believe in him and continue to support him. They know that he is the one who has been able to pacify the country.

Only since we dismantled the Khmer Rouge regime have we had peace and unity in Cambodia. For the first time in our history, there are no pockets of rebellion or separatism, and the central government rules over the whole country. That generates a lot of confidence, and that's why more people are coming here and investing more. Our own farmers are starting to grow more, and the livelihood of everyone is improving.

Let me also tell you that the prime minister is very open. He listens and absorbs the ideas of the entourage around him, and then he makes them his own. That is why, despite his limited background - he only has a secondary school education - he has been able to grow and rule the country for more than 25 years. Some people say the longer you stay in power, the more your power erodes. But as long as you know the needs of the people, and you address their needs, that power is not going to erode. It will be consolidated. That's why the CPP continues to be in power. Wait until after the next five years, we will get even more votes at the next election because we are going to build more roads, more schools, more bridges, more hospitals.

You still seem enthusiastic after all these years.
Why should I not be enthusiastic and satisfied when I see my policies being implemented and helping the country move to double-digit growth? In my ministry, we are like the lubricant of the economy. If we are not working well, the government will not work well. But we cannot be complacent and rest on our laurels. This year will not be as rosy as we expected because of the high price of oil. But if it drops a little bit more and the dollar gets a bit stronger, we will be safe. Perhaps we can move again to double-digit growth this year.

Why do you keep all your past copies of The Phnom Penh Post?
I have a small library so I like to get the consolidated edition, so I can keep things in order. That way, when I get old and I want to go back and see what we have done, I will be able to do it conveniently because The Phnom Penh Post provides a good documentary record. And as well as providing a good memory, it is also a learning experience. We evolve by learning from the past, by making sure we do not repeat previous mistakes. That is important. That's why we always do a good job.

How are you going to diversify the economic base?
We have a very narrowly-based economy that is dependent on tourism and textiles, and both these sectors are vulnerable because they are subject to external shocks. If anything negative happens, the garment makers will pack up their sewing machines and the tourists will stop coming to Cambodia. So, for many years now, we have been preparing to diversify our economy into other sectors that have more long-term stability, like electronics and manufacturing goods. And we are promoting new resorts along the coast that will provide other attractions aside from Angkor Wat and other temples.

Can Cambodia maintain these high growth rates?
Yes, provided the price of oil does not go too high, we will continue to have double-digit growth. The cost of energy is the key factor. It is already high here because, although we have many rivers, we do not have many hydropower dams. We cannot do anything on the Mekong River because it would affect all the ecosystem there. So we have to go to the tributaries and to areas in the southwest and northeast, where we can start to develop hydropower plants. In the meantime, we are arranging for Vietnam, Laos and Thailand to supply us with cheaper electricity.

There is relatively little investment here from the US, why is that?
Although we have a good record of attracting investors to Cambodia, we cannot expect to perform better than Thailand and Vietnam, because they are much bigger countries with bigger domestic markets. Still, we have been able to bring more investment into Cambodia than we expected.As for the US, they had imposed restrictions on dealing with us because they said Cambodia had a Communist regime. That is no longer true, but the ban was only lifted last year. So it is only since then that American businessmen have started to explore the Cambodian market. But already a lot of American companies have started to set up representative offices here because they see Cambodia has great potential for their future business strategy in Asean.

How do you respond to charges of nepotism because your wife and daughter and son work in your ministry?
[My wife] has now retired, so please don't talk any more about her working here because she does not. My son and my daughter do work here. But they are graduates from abroad, and they are qualified. So what should I do? Leave them to their own fate or recruit them, as I recruit hundreds of other young people?

Khmer cuisine

PHOTOS BY PETER HALEY/THE NEWS TRIBUNE
Mitapeap Khmer Restaurant features Cambodian cuisine prepared by husband and wife owners Tharath, left, and Souvanna Eang. Trei Chien with its salsa is in the foreground, and Loc Lac is at left


PETER HALEY/THE NEWS TRIBUNE
Mitapeap Khmer Restaurant owner Souvanna Eang prepares vegetables for Loc Lac, a favorite dish at the restaurant. In the background, her husband, Tharath, works over a hot wok. The couple opened the Cambodian restaurant at the urging of friends.

A “good luck frog” with a coin in its mouth guards the kitchen at Mitapeap restaurant in Tacoma.
Tacoma couple create a haven for authentic Cambodian cooking

THE NEWS TRIBUNE
DEBBIE CAFAZZO; debbie.cafazzo@thenewstribune.com
Published: September 3rd, 2008

Tharath Eang uses a wide-bladed knife to slice a fish diagonally, scoring the flesh with cuts a few inches apart.

The cuts, he explains, will help the tilapia cook faster.

He tosses the gutted fish – head, tail and skin intact – into the deep fryer.

While the fish fries, Eang’s wife Souvanna prepares a sauce to accompany it. The sauce mixes tamarind, tomato, basil, garlic and other spices.

“You have to do it right, or don’t put it on the menu,” says Tharath, who takes pride in cooking the traditional food of his native Cambodia, the way he remembers his mother cooking it. “What we do here, we do authentically.”

The Eangs opened Mitapeap Khmer Restaurant on Tacoma’s East Side in December to showcase the food they grew up eating. Mitapeap is a Khmer word that means “friendship” and “welcome to old friends.”

The restaurant is a family operation, with the Eangs handling all the cooking and their teenage son Aalex waiting tables when he’s not in school.

Tharath, 40, a former delivery driver, and Souvanna, 38, who once worked in a dental clinic, both grew up in the Battambang area of Cambodia, not far from the border of Thailand. Both fled with their families from Cambodia’s oppressive government to Thai refugee camps in the late 1970s, then to the United States.

“When we came here, it felt like we were in heaven,” says Souvanna. “Everything was beautiful.”
Her family immigrated first to Virginia, but they disliked the cold winters. So after hearing about Tacoma from a family friend, the family relocated. The cross-country bus trip took three or four days, Souvanna remembers, with her newborn sibling crying all the way.

Tharath’s family moved first to Ilwaco, on the Washington coast, where a Catholic church sponsored them. But there were few other Asian families in Ilwaco, so Tharath’s family moved to South Bend, Pacific County, and Raymond, where Tharath graduated from high school, then to Tacoma.

Tharath and Souvanna met in Tacoma in 1989.

The couple decided to open Mitapeap, their first restaurant, at the urging of friends.

“Friends would come to our house to eat and they’d say, ‘Your food is good. Why not think about opening a restaurant?’” Souvanna says.

The Eangs dined at Asian restaurants around town before Tharath decided he and Souvanna could do as well or better.

While there are many Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in Tacoma, Cambodian restaurants are rare. The Eangs describe the food of their homeland as somewhere between the food of Thailand and China – with a dash of French influence, left over from colonial days.

“If you like Thai food, you will love Camobdian food,” Tharath says.

The Eangs use spices familiar from other types of Asian cooking, including lemongrass, curry and ginger. “I julienne the ginger,” says Tharath. “I use it as a vegetable.” But they also add flavors such as tamarind and turmeric.

The menu offers nearly two dozen entrees and a variety of soups, salads and appetizers, with fish and seafood dishes prominent. Among them:

Prahut trei: Deep-fried ground fish patty seasoned with garlic, lemongrass and other spices.

Ngoim Sadao Kreung Samot: Seafood salad featuring shrimp, squid, mussels and preserved fish
Sngao Chruok Trei: Fish soup with lemongrass and other herbs in a lime broth
Trei andang chean: Deep-fried Cambodian-style catfish
Trei chean: Fried whole tilapia with house sauce

Tharath says fish plays an important role in Cambodian cuisine. In his home country, fish are everywhere, he says.

“In Cambodia, there’s a saying that if there is water, there are fish,” he says. “If there is a little puddle, there are fish in there. You can find fish in the backyard, or under the house when it rains.”

Although Cambodians love to eat meat, he says, cattle are often used as draught animals, so killing a cow for food isn’t often considered. Chickens are needed to produce eggs – and more chickens. So chicken meat is also an infrequent menu item.

Fish fills in the gaps, Tharath explains.

And at Mitapeap Khmer, it plays a starring role.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635

A Khmer glossary

Some words you’ll find on the menu of Mitapeap Khmer Restaurant:

bai: rice
cha: stir fry
chean: deep fry
trei: fish
tdoung: eel Mitapeap Khmer Restaurant
1314 72nd St. E., Suite A-3, Tacoma
253-414-2262
11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
11 a.m.- 7 p.m. Sunday

Closed Mondays Loc Lac

Cambodian lettuce wrap

For the wrap:

Whole Romaine or iceberg lettuce leaves or spinach leaves
For the garnish:
Medium tomato
Red onion
Cucumber
For the filling
8 ounces beef, chicken, pork or tofu
Garlic
3 Tablespoons canola oil
For the filling sauce:
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup water
Green onion
For the lime dipping sauce:
Juice of a fresh-squeezed lime
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fish sauce
Pinch of salt

Cut the meat or tofu into 1/4-inch cubes. Stir fry in oil, then add garlic. Heat oyster sauce, sugar and pepper, then green onion. Add cornstarch and stir until incorporated. Then add water. Pour atop meat or tofu.

Line a plate with whole lettuce or spinach leaves.

Slice the tomato and place the slices on one side of the plate. Slice the cucumber and arrange slices on the opposite side. Slice some of the red onion and place it on either side of the plate.

Top lettuce with meat or tofu filling.

Blend dipping sauce ingredients together and serve in a small bowl.

To eat, wrap filling in lettuce leaves and dip into lime sauce.

Recipe from Mitapeap Khmer Restaurant

Trei Chean

Fried whole tilapia with side sauce
1 whole tilapia fish, cleaned

Sauce:
Medium tomato
Several basil leaves
Several cilantro leaves
1 jalapeno pepper
Roasted chopped garlic (from a jar)
Ground tamarind, to taste
Splash of fish sauce
Start with a cleaned whole tilapia. (Thaw it first if it’s frozen.)

Score the fish body with a knife, making cuts an inch or two apart, but not slicing all the way through.

Deep fry the fish whole (including head and tail) until the meat is cooked and the skin is crispy, at least 10 minutes.

While the fish is frying, chop sauce ingredients together. Think of the sauce as a kind of salsa to get the mix of ingredients correct.

Serve sauce atop cooked fish.

Recipe from Mitapeap Khmer Restaurant

Palm oil seen rising to 2,900 rgt by Dec - Mielke

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Malaysian crude palm oil futures are likely to rise to 2,900 ringgit ($844.5) per tonne by December on strong demand and lower output yields, leading industry analyst Thomas Mielke said on Wednesday.

The price of the reddish-brown vegetable oil slid about 17 percent this year and halved from an all-time high of 4,486 ringgit hit in March, due to a knock-out combination of high stocks and news of defaults from key buyers India and China.

"In December the price should be around 2,700 to 2,900 ringgit for the third month contract. We expect increases in prices from here for several reasons," Thomas Mielke told reporters on the sidelines of a regional grains conference in Cambodia.

"Global demand for palm oil is going to pick up due to the very wide price discounts of palm oil relative to soyoil and other vegetable oils. Palm oils discounts are unusually high at the moment whatever locations you take," he said.

Mielke, head of German oilseeds research outfit Oil World, said the differential between the two products was as high as $500 in the Rotterdam market at the end of August, with crude palm oil being quoted at $835 per tonne and crude soyoil at $1,338 per tonne.

Malaysian crude palm oil rose more than 1 percent on Wednesday as the price of crude oil bounced back from Tuesday's low, and a weaker ringgit currency against the U.S. dollar provided some support. ($1=3.434 Malaysian Ringgit)

(Reporting by Naveen Thukral, w

Cambodia casino reaps 25 mn dollars profit

3 Sep, 2008
The Economic Times

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's burgeoning economy brought casino operator NagaCorp 25.5 million dollars in profit in the first half of the year, a company report obtained by media revealed Wednesday. The profit signalled a rise of 26.9 per cent on a year earlier.

"Our operations continued to benefit from the political stability and economic development of Cambodia," the NagaCorp report said. After decades of turmoil, Cambodia has emerged as a rising economy in Southeast Asia - posting an average of 11 per cent growth over the past three years on the back of strong tourism and garment sectors.

Nagacorp reported its revenue soared 68.5 per cent from the same period last year to approximately 109.1 million dollars, in a country hosting several casinos popular with gamblers across the region.

The Malaysian-owned company is registered on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and runs the largest casino in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh. The government awarded it a gambling license in 1994 to promote international tourism.

More than a dozen casinos operated by other companies dot Cambodia's borders with Vietnam and Thailand, raking in an estimated tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The industry fuels the economies of several hard-scrabble Cambodian cities, though the country remains desperately poor with more than 30 per cent of its 14 million population living in poverty.

Canada asked to augment contribution to Cambodian genocide tribunal

French ethnologist François Bizot looks at a 2003 picture showing himself and Kaing Geuk Eav, his one-time captor in a Khmer Rouge camp. Mr. Kaing, now 66, will next month become the first Khmer Rouge leader to go on trial before Cambodia's UN-backed genocide tribunal.Photograph by : Saeed Khan, Agence France-Presse, Getty Images

Budget crunch faces body on eve of Khmer Rouge leaders' trials

Kathryn May
The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On the eve of the historic trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders responsible for one of the world's worst genocides, the Canadian-born lawyer prosecuting them came home for a rest and money to help complete his work.

Robert Petit, a lawyer at the Justice Department's war crimes unit who was appointed co-prosecutor for the Cambodia genocide tribunal, recently met with Canadian officials to ask for money and resources toward the $34 million needed to start the trials of five indicted Khmer Rouge leaders that are expected to have a soap opera-style hold on a nation where hundreds of thousands died in the infamous Killing Fields.

The Cambodia tribunal, funded mostly by foreign donors, is facing a budget crunch. It is running out of money and will need more than $59 million from international donors to complete the hearings by 2010. Canada is among the top 10 donors, having so far contributed about $2 million. Japan is the largest donor and has so far picked up more than one-half of the cost.

Canada has helped fund every major multinational criminal tribunal and led the creation of the International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent court to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Mr. Petit and UN officials are only looking for international donations and it's up to Cambodia to come up with its share.

The new budget of $100 million is a far cry from the original $56.3-million estimate, but it remains a bargain compared to the Rwanda and Yugoslavia genocide tribunals, which have so far cost about $1 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively.

Department of Foreign Affairs officials say the government is "comfortable" with the revised budget, but is "reviewing funding requests" and has yet to make a decision on whether to contribute more. They say Canada is "highly supportive" of bringing former Khmer Rouge leaders to justice as a step to lasting peace and reconciliation in Cambodia.

The budget crunch is the latest problem for the tribunal, which has been plagued by delays and corruption allegations since Cambodia first asked the United Nations for help in prosecuting Khmer Rouge leaders in 1997. It took a decade of wrangling between the UN and Cambodia to sort out the rules, and work finally began in 2006 with a unique mix of foreign judges, prosecutors, lawyers and other support staff.

After 30 years, five of the Khmer Rouge leaders, charged with murder and crimes against humanity against the 1.7 million people who died between 1975 and 1979 in what was known as Democratic Kampuchea, will finally stand trial.

The first trial is scheduled to begin this fall and will extend into 2010 if more charges are laid, as expected. Mr. Petit, however, knows he's racing against time because the accused are elderly and some are in failing health.

Canada has been a big contributor of money and staff to the tribunal. About eight per cent of all personnel are Canadian.

Mr. Petit says the tribunal's biggest contribution is helping citizens understand why Cambodians turned on their own people. The tribunal's legacy will be a record of what happened and why.

"Khmer killing Khmer in the name of a (Marxist) ideology bewildered them at the time and it's no clearer now. It hasn't been taught in schools and there's been no accountability. We are the best hope for setting the record straight on what happened and if it happened."

The first trial is expected to begin next month, with the youngest of the accused, Kaing Geuk Eav, 66. He was director of the infamous S-21 prison where more than 14,000 of the Khmer Rouge's victims died. Most were Communist Party members accused by Khmer Rouge guerrillas of "betraying the revolution."

The Boeung Kak river residents don’t give up

Cambodge Soir

03-09-2008

The real estate project on the lake continues to stir up anger amongst the residents.

On Monday 1st of September, about 300 people have demonstrated in Phnom Penh in order to obtain an acceptable compensation in the light of their expulsion, which is becoming more and more reality. The demonstrators have asked the Governor, Kep Chuktéma, to stop the pumping operations. They also wish that the Sukaku company, licence-holder of the site, would offer financial compensations which would match the current real estate prices.

Despite their good will, the residents weren’t able to meet with the Governor. They thus pledged to renew their actions next week and as long as it would take. Amongst the 4000 families who are living on the site, 450 allegedly accepted the conditions offered by the project leaders. They each received 8500 dollars or have obtained accommodation on the outskirts of the city. Even if some have given up, others keep on fighting. It seems like the standoff is only starting. However, the residents are already in a delicate position. The Government considers that the land on which they are living for years belong to the State. It is thus just a question of time before the company realises its ambitious real estate project.

Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha still challenging the CPP

Cambodge Soir

03-09-2008

It looks like the parliamentary opening will be rough. On Tuesday 2nd of September, the head of the opposition announced that he and his members would take an oath before the King on the 25th of September and not before, like the CPP. The HRP will join the SRP.

For Sam Rainsy, this initiative aims to show that the future National Assembly hasn’t been elected on democratic bases. The SRP and the HRP are still challenging the 27th of July election results, although their complaints have been thrown out by the National Election Committee and the Constitutional Council. According to the parliamentary procedure, at least 120 out of the 123 delegates have to come together on the 24th of September at the National Assembly before taking an oath before the King. On that day, the SRP and the HRP delegates will not be present in the hemicycle. But Sam Rainsy warns: “We’re not giving up our seats. However, we don’t ’want to sit besides the parliamentary members who stole our positions”. The 26 elected representatives of the SRP and the 3 of the HRP wish to take an oath before the King on the 25th of September, at the very moment when the CPP, Funcinpec and probably the NRP will be voting for the constitution of the new government.

The question is now whether this strategy will be successful.

Elections: CPP official winner

Cambodge Soir

03-09-2008

On Tuesday 2nd of September at 2pm, the General Secretary of the National Election Committee, Tep Nitha, announced the official results of the 27th of July elections. This news was broadcasted during a television speech.

The CPP comes in first with 90 seats, before the SRP 26, the HRP 3. The NRP and Funcinpec close the ranks with two elected representatives each. These numbers comply with the partial results which were communicated for several days already, as well by the NEC as by different NGO’s in charge of observing the election process. The new Assembly will include 20 women. The most senior member of the hemicycle is Chea Soth, 80 years old, CPP delegate. He’ll thus preside the first session on the 25th of September.

Tuol Sleng recommended for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register

Cambodge Soir

03-09-2008

Last week the Cambodian Government has officially requested Unesco to include the Tuol Sleng Museum’s archives in the Memory of the World Register.

The S-21 museum is collaborating on the work concerning the memories of the Khmer Rouge period. Last February, in Canberra, Australia, the archives of the former torture centre have been officially included in Unesco’s “Memory of the World” register for Asia and the Pacific region. The Cambodian authorities now wish that those documents be listed in the national register of the organisation. They submitted the official request last week. The United Nations have established this Memory of the World program in 1992, in relation with the numerous documentary heritages which preserve the past of their respective countries through their historical value. The registered documents receive a particular attention regarding their preservation and protection. It is essential for them to remain permanently available to the public. A Cambodian Memory of the World program committee is now being set up.

The S-21 archives reveal how more than 15,000 people have been tortured there between 1975 and 1979. They contain 4186 confessions, 6226 biographies of prisoners and 6147 pictures. All items which are used during the work of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Cambodia and Vietnam Agree to Finish Setting Border Markers by the End of 2008, while Siam Continues to Invade in the West

Posted on 3 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 576

“Phnom Penh: The government of Cambodia sent another working group to Vietnam to continue the negotiations regarding the setting of land border markers, while Siamese [Thai] troops continue to invade the west of Cambodia.

“Early this week, Mr. Var Kim Hong [the head of the Cambodian Border Committee] and Mr. Long Visalo [Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] led a border working group to Vietnam to discuss details of the border markings, mutually agreed at the end of 2006, in order to put land border markers as agreed previously.

“An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that during one-day negotiations on 28 August 2008, Cambodia and Vietnam agreed to finish setting 100 land border markers by the end of 2008.

“The official continued that the 1,270 km land border between Cambodia and Vietnam will be marked with more than 300 border markers, both on land and on the sea. The maps for the discussion used by both working groups are based on 1:100,000 scale maps. The maps will be used as basis for the discussions with Vietnam and Laos, in order to mark the unclear border points along the borders of both countries.

“As for the maps for the discussions and as reference with Siam [Thailand], they are based on the international French and Siamese maps or the 100/200,000 map [sic! – though this is maybe not correct, as it is not a usual scale, and it is also not probable that an old, but very detailed 1:2,000 map exists of the whole borderline, made at the time when France was the colonial power in Cambodia and negotiated with Thailand]. However, the official said that to put border markers at the Cambodian and Vietnamese border, and border markers at the Cambodian and Laotian border is easy to be achieved, because Vietnam and Laos recognize the maps mentioned above. As for Siam, it bases its arguments on the maps made between Siam and France without any discussion with Cambodia [because at that time, there was no Cambodian government, but the French held the state authority]. This is the point why Cambodia does not accept the demands by the Siamese side.

“Mr. Var Kim Hong, the head of the Cambodian Border Committee, reported to Kampuchea Thmey that the Cambodian working group visiting Vietnam early last week signed an agreement on the points of convergence between Cambodia and Vietnam, and between Cambodia and Laos. ‘We met as the working groups of the three countries, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, to discuss about the setting of 100 border markers by the end of 2008. During this meeting, we wanted to speed up the marking of the border lines of the three countries according to each stage.’

“Mr. Var Kim Hong added, ‘We will continue to study to set more than 300 border markers between Cambodia and Vietnam, according to our legal policies and the Indochina Scale Map. During the meeting we confirmed to fulfill more of the agreements of early 2005. Nevertheless, Cambodia is optimistic that solutions for the Cambodian and Vietnamese border, and for the Cambodian and Laotian border are easy to be discussed, because we depend on [intergovernmental] memorandums of understanding.’

“An official of the government said that after the working groups of the three countries agreed about common maps, ‘we will use instruments receiving the data of the Global Positioning System – GPS – by pressing at the locator button [to identify the location]; for some points - the three sides said - if the GPS shows that Cambodia extends into Vietnamese territory, and in some areas Vietnam extends into Cambodia - and similarly for Laos - then each side will have to withdraw from those points.’

“As for the border between Cambodia and Siam, Mr. Var Kim Hong said that ‘we now cannot say how to solve it, because negotiations are stalled.’ He added, “We have sufficient maps as references, but we cannot talk now, because the negotiations cannot proceed, as there is a crisis in Siam’ [which started some days ago]. He went on to say that he is still confident that Cambodia and Thailand can solve their dispute.

“Although the government of Cambodia hopes the borders between Cambodia and Siam can be clearly established, Siam still continues to invade Cambodia with no end. Though now a crisis erupted in their country, they still let their troops invade Cambodia along the border.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1735, 2.9.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 2 September 2008

NBCU Asian Channels Suite Heads to Cambodia

Worldscreen.com
2008-09-02

SINGAPORE, September 2: NBC Universal Global Networks will launch its package of four Asian channels—SCI FI, Universal Channel, Hallmark Channel and KidsCo—in Cambodia beginning September 9 on Star Digital TV.

This makes Cambodia the second country in the Asia-Pacific region to carry all four channels after Singapore and the third country to launch channels this year. All four will be available on Star Digital TV, while SCI FI and Universal Channel will join Hallmark Channel on Phnom Penh Municipal Cable & Optical TV sometime in October.

“We are pleased with the take-up of our portfolio of channel brands in an exciting market like Cambodia,” said Raymund Miranda, the managing director of NBC Universal Global Networks for Asia Pacific.

Paul Robinson, the managing director of KidsCo, added, “We are delighted to be launching KidsCo into the Cambodian market. With a lineup of quality, learning-based and educational programming, parents recognize that KidsCo is a safe and responsible environment for children. We are sure that children and families in Cambodia will embrace the fun world of KidsCo.”

This is the seventh Asian market for KidsCo since its launch early this year. Cambodia is the fourth country in Asia Pacific to launch SCI FI and the second country for Universal Channel this year, while Hallmark Channel is currently available in 20 countries throughout the region.

—By Kristin Brzoznowski

Embedded Travel Guide Cambodia: Sihanoukville

JAUNTED
9/02/2008

I don't like Sihanoukville. Cambodia's boomtown may have nice beaches, but the juxtaposition of obnoxious tourists with grasping poverty, set against a backdrop of fevered development, isn't conducive to relaxation. Yep, the Cambodian coast is awesome (check out my guides to Kep, Kampot, Tatai and the islands) but Sihanoukville is a shithole.

That said, I've spent more time in Sihanoukville than anywhere else in Cambodia, and I know how to avoid the nasty bits. If you go to Sihanoukville--perhaps on your way to the Cambodian islands?--this is the guide you want to read.

Where to Stay:

Don't stay anywhere near Victory Hill. The former backpacker area has become sex tourist central in recent years, and the scene is nauseating. Serendipity Beach is where most decent Western travelers stay these days, and it's pleasant enough, with all the backpacker amenities. If you want to relax, stay at Cloud 9; if you want to party, stay at Monkey Republic.

My favorite guesthouse in Sihanoukville is a little place called Geckozy, on a quiet backstreet downtown, well away from the tourist zones. Rooms at Geckozy are clean and cheap and there's free WiFi.

Beaches and Beyond:
Victory Beach, like Victory Hill, is best avoided. Sokha Beach is the nicest in town, but the white sand is now walled off behind the gates of the luxury Sokha Resort. Ocheauteal Beach is split into two parts: The western half, with Serendipity at one end, is the domain of Western tourists, while the eastern half is where Cambodian tourists play.

Beyond Ocheauteal is Otres Beach, a much less crowded alternative, but when I went there last week most businesses were shut down and sex tourists were representing.

My favorite spot in Sihanoukville is the temple on top of a mountain overlooking town. This is a great spot to get away from the beach scene and watch the sunset in peace. For tips on temple visits, check out this guide.

Where to Eat:
The best thing about Sihanoukville is the food. Holy Cow Restaurant serves up terrific Western comfort food downtown, and there are two excellent Japanese restaurants called Kukai and Happa side by side near Serendipity Beach.

Seafood beach barbeques are an inexpensive treat, and for a good coffee check out the Starfish Bakery and Café, a wonderful grassroots non-profit located behind the Samudera supermarket.

Finally, Cambodia's weirdest restaurant experience awaits at The Snake House, the brainchild of a wealthy Russian who has amassed a huge collection of Cambodian snakes and reptiles, all of which live in glass tanks in the restaurant. Pythons live inside the tables!

China, Cambodia vow to carry forward traditional ties

Jia Qinglin (R), chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), meets with Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim in Beijing, Sept. 2, 2008. (Xinhua Photo)


Wu Bangguo (R), chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress (NPC), shakes hands with Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim in Beijing, Sept. 2, 2008. (Xinhua Photo)

http://www.chinaview.cn/
2008-09-02

BEIJING, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- Senior leaders of China and Cambodia on Tuesday underscored the traditional friendship between the two neighbors.

Let's work more closely to take our five-decade bilateral friendship and cooperation to a new high," China's top legislator Wu Bangguo told the President of the Cambodian Senate, Chea Sim.


In their talks in the Great Hall of the People, Wu, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, reviewed the sound development of China-Cambodia ties, citing political trust, substantive cooperation and support on important issues.

In response, Sim said the Cambodian leadership will carry forward the bilateral traditional solidarity that was forged by the older leaders in the previous century.

Sim said he hoped the two legislatures can step up their cooperation and share experience on governance.

Sim's visit to Beijing coincided with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China-Cambodia ties.

Later Tuesday, Sim met with Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top advisory body.

Jia said China would like to enhance its comprehensive and in-depth cooperation with Cambodia.

The top advisor also expressed appreciation for Cambodia's adherence to the one-China policy and opposition to "Taiwan independence".

Sim said Cambodia was grateful for the assistance China had offered and would like to work more closely with China in politics, economics and other fields.

Sim reaffirmed Cambodia's one-China stance.

Editor: Mu Xuequan

Cambodia seeks UNESCO recognition of KRouge prison

Tourists visit the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh


A foreign tourist looks at photos of Khmer Rouge victims on display at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodia's government is seeking to register a notorious Khmer Rouge prison and its archives at the UN's cultural agency, according to documents obtained by AFP Tuesday.

The application to help preserve archive material from "S-21" prison, now site of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, was submitted to UNESCO by government officials last Friday.

The archive contains over 5,000 photographs of the more than 15,000 prisoners, as well as biographical records of Khmer Rouge officials and inmates, torture instruments and written confessions, said a copy of the application to UNESCO's Memory of the World programme.

"Undoubtedly crucial as evidence to be use in the forthcoming Khmer Rouge trial, the archive is also an essential part of Cambodia's recent history," it said.

"Its significance as a part of the Memory of the World stems from its testament to man's inhumanity to man and its documentation of one of the most extreme examples of crimes against humanity in the 20th century with a major impact on world history," it added.

The high school turned torture centre is still littered with reminders of its brutal past, such as shackles and bare metal bed frames on which the corpses of inmates were found by invading Vietnamese soldiers in 1979.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum Archive was registered by UNESCO's Memory of the World for Asia and the Pacific region last February in a step towards international recognition.

The prison was run by Kaing Guek Eav -- better known as Duch -- who is among five Khmer Rouge leaders detained by the UN-backed court for crimes committed during the regime's 1975-79 rule.

Duch's trial for crimes against humanity is expected to begin in October.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation or overwork as the communist Khmer Rouge dismantled modern Cambodian society in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia.

ACLEDA Bank opens new international branch in record time using TEMENOS T24 Model Bank

bobsguide
2 September 2008

Temenos Group (SWX: TEMN), the provider of integrated core banking systems, today announced that ACLEDA Bank, a fast-growing Cambodian financial institution, has deployed TEMENOS T24 (T24) to support its new operations in Laos. T24 has been installed in the first of several new branches based in Vientiane and was deployed in just two and a half months.

ACLEDA Bank worked with Temenos Professional Services consultants to implement the solution in record time, helping the organisation to meet its licensing deadline in Laos. The bank also uses the technology to comply with local regulatory requirements by generating reports for auditing. T24 is now enabling the bank to deliver a full range of commercial and retail banking services, including credits, deposits, fund transfers and cash management.

In Channy, President and CEO, ACLEDA Bank, says: "We are delighted to be using Temenos T24 to power our new presence in Laos. Having used the system for many years in our Cambodian operations, we know it to be a feature-rich, scalable and robust solution. It offers all the functionality we need to provide a wide range of services to our customers from day one. The deployment process was extremely quick, and we are confident that the software will help us expand rapidly in the new territory and beyond."

ACLEDA Bank plans to use the Temenos technology to increase its presence in Laos from one to three branches before the end of 2008. Within five years, the organisation hopes to add a further four provincial branches, 11 district branches and 19 service units. It expects to service 150,000 loan clients over that period, and to grow its staff to 400 employees.

The bank implemented T24 Universal Model Bank, which includes pre-configured products and processes based on banking best practices and provides the bank with a single proven application to support front and back office activity. The system also integrates with SWIFT interface and is deployed on IBM pSeries using jBASE database.

Andreas Andreades, CEO, Temenos, comments: "As well as cementing our relationship with the bank and our presence in the region, this project demonstrates that we can deliver rapid, risk free implementation on an international scale. These capabilities make Temenos the ideal choice for banks looking to increase their global footprint quickly."

Civil party participation

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Terith Chy
Tuesday, 02 September 2008

Dear Editor,
Monday, September 1, saw the start of a weeklong Plenary Session at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). In light of the Pre-Trial Chamber's recent consideration of civil party participation, it appears very likely that discussion of procedures governing such participation will feature high on the Plenary's agenda.

Despite initially adopting a progressive approach, the Pre-Trial Chamber's treatment of civil party participation has been restrictive of late. On July 1, for example, the Judges refused to allow an unrepresented civil party to address the Chamber in person. This has caused many to question whether the Judges remain committed to the continued implementation of a system of meaningful participation for victims. The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee has expressed concern that the Judges may amend the Internal Rules (IRs) at the Plenary to limit civil parties' rights.While recognising that inappropriately managed civil party participation may cause delay, we urge the Judges to respect civil parties' existing rights.

At present the IRs reflect the relevant Cambodian procedures for civil party participation and accord civil parties various rights, including the right to introduce evidence and summon witnesses, the right to request reparation and the right to (but not requirement of) legal representation.

Any limitation of civil parties' rights beyond these limits would violate the ECCC Law and UN-RGC Agreement. Furthermore, the Judges should remember that civil parties have joined the proceedings expecting to be treated as full parties. Restriction of civil parties' rights would cause disappointment and compromise their ability to participate as full parties. Instead, the Judges should commit themselves to more robust management of the proceedings.

Terith Chy (Team Leader)
Sarah Thomas (Legal Fellow)
Victim Participation Project (VPA)
Documentation Centre of Cambodia

From Khmer Rouge to KhmerOS: Cambodia's New Era Begins With Technology



Sep 2, 2008
By Casey Mayville

Found in: E-Government / Serving the Citizen

Photo: Student using new KhmerOS software

Cambodia has all the makings of an idyllic tourist destination: miles of coastline, year-round warm weather and a rich cultural heritage. Instead, it is a country with a tumultuous past, one that has been caught for decades in the middle of warring nations and civil unrest. Used as a buffer zone by both the U.S. and the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, Cambodia suffered from bombs, Communist influence and mounting internal struggles in the 1950s and 1960s. By the mid-1970s, military extremist Pol Pot and the Communist Party of Kampuchea -- also known as the Khmer Rouge -- were rapidly gaining power and thus began the destruction of Cambodian society. People were moved from the cities into the country to live and work in Pol Pot's version of an agrarian utopia. Convinced that Cambodia needed cleansing, Pol Pot and his regime systematically executed an estimated two to three million of their own countrymen. Former government officials, intellectuals, students, businessmen and countless other innocent lives were lost during the five-year reign of the Khmer Rouge. A genocide comparable to the Holocaust, the Khmer Rouge visited torture, mass executions and starvation on the population. Nearly half of Cambodia's 7.3 million people were brutally exterminated while the living were left to pick up the pieces.

A closer look at Cambodia today will reveal a much improved picture. Although Pol Pot died before he could be held accountable for war crimes, his top officials will soon come to trial. The Khmer Rouge has been largely dismantled and the fighting between neighboring countries has been all but eliminated. But a country littered with landmines, suffering from extreme national poverty and battling internal corruption can hardly be considered a thriving nation. Still agrarian in nature, a majority of Cambodia's estimated current population of 13.8 million people subsist on growing rice, corn and other crops. With an average life expectancy of 57 years and an average literacy rate of 67 percent, there is no question that Cambodia falls far behind many of the more developed countries of the world. Today, about 44,000 people have access to the Internet, which is about .3 percent of the population -- a seven-fold increase from the year 2000. But with an ongoing struggle for the basics of survival, how can technology be considered a priority by and for the citizens of Cambodia? Is it something superficial that would be "nice to have" or is it an essential ingredient for the country's future economic prosperity?

A Brighter Future

Open Institute, a non-governmental organization based in Cambodia and headed by Spanish engineer Javier Solá takes the view that technology is indeed a key ingredient for Cambodia's future well-being. "Technology is an essential part of the infrastructure needed for the economical future of Cambodia," explained Solá. "Humanitarian help is more and more directed to try to create development, and not to solve [immediate] crises. Our project is bringing this infrastructure into Cambodia at the right time, as it will be necessary for most urban jobs within the next five years."


Part of the answer is The Khmer Software Initiative (KhmerOS) -- 2007 finalist in the Stockholm Challenge. With help from this program, the hope is that Cambodia will soon be able to open its doors to foreign development and trade.

Khmer Software Initiative

KhmerOS -- initiated in 2004 -- is based on two simple principles: 1) Basic technology is essential to development; and 2) The technology must be in the national language to avoid minority control. With the country's history and current economics, proprietary software companies were not willing to make the translation investment so their products could be marketed there.

Cambodians -- with the help of Open Institute -- translated applications such as word processing, e-mail, spreadsheets and an Internet browser into Khmer using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). FOSS -- which allows for translation, adaptation, modification and free distribution -- became the backbone of the programming process. And since power consumption is an important consideration in Cambodia, FOSS's low power consumption was crucial for sustainability.

During its first year of operation, 2004, Open Institute translated computer applications into the Khmer language. Project workers developed and standardized Khmer scripts and fonts, designed and manufactured keyboards and printed manuals in Khmer for the applications. Translation proved to be a challenge because the Khmer language lacks the equivalent for many words we use in the English language. For example, "They have a word for ‘elder sibling' and a word for ‘younger sibling' but no word for ‘brother,'" Solá explained. The incompatibilities necessitated the use of some English words for clarification purposes.

Government and Education

In 2005, Open Institute teamed up with the government's National ICT Development Authority (NiDA). Together, the two organizations trained approximately 3,000 government officials and 1,000 teachers. For those working in administrative government jobs, the new technology meant the possibility of using computers for their everyday work for the first time, as using English software was not a viable option.

Equally as important was distribution to school teachers and other trainers. Because the education system is the fastest vehicle in which to spread knowledge to the masses, KhmerOS aimed to educate the younger generation of Cambodians through schools and training centers. "The education system produces the professionals of the future [and] these professionals will need computer skills," said Solá.

Later, in 2006, a National Typing and Document Contest motivated several thousand students and professionals to learn how to type Khmer and use other applications. Knowledge of the KhmerOS program was spreading nationwide and soon schools and government operations all over the country were using the new software and technology. As the program matured, its focus shifted to accommodate social and cultural needs of the country. Open Institute began collaboration with the Cambodian Ministry of Education and by 2008, it became mandatory for all high schools with electricity (roughly 30-40 percent) to use the new technology. The most significant achievement of the project thus far has been its ability to involve the government in a positive and productive way, allowing ICT to become fully integrated into public policy.

Sustainability

To ensure that the new technology would have lasting power, KhmerOS made long-term sustainability a top priority. The physical elements of the project found their own way to sustainability. Technology for the Khmer script keyboards and textbooks was transferred to local vendors, who are now manufacturing and selling them. Other aspects of the project are also looking for interested third parties that will turn portions of the project, that now require funding, into businesses that make the system sustainable.

"The most important success factor of the KhmerOS project has been its ability to bring together the [developmental] know-how of NGOs with the technological expertise of the FOSS community and the experience and vision of the Cambodian government," said Solá. "This has interested commercial stakeholders, leading to the sustainable low-cost use of local language ICT in education, government and local society, strongly reducing the digital divide."

Change is always difficult, even when it brings clear advantages. But when change is necessary for survival, bold, and sometimes daunting, steps must be taken. By removing the language barrier, technology has been made accessible to most of the population and is helping Cambodia move out of the past and into the future; a future where information is just a click away.

CAMBODIA: Gambling fuels poverty

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.

POI PET, 2 September 2008 (IRIN) - In a dimly lit room in a frontier town along the Thai-Cambodian border, a man slaps down a card on the table, having bet all his daily earnings as a motorbike taxi driver.

He loses the US$4 he earned that day. To quell his anger, he sniffs a bowl of glue - a daily habit to boost his stamina to work through the oppressive heat.

"How am I going to pay off the police tomorrow?!" he exclaims in a flurry of curses, referring to the daily cuts demanded by the border officers.

Gambling addiction poses a huge problem in Southeast Asia's second-poorest nation, and those afflicted can rarely find help. In a country where 33 percent of the population live on 50 cents a day, according to Cambodian government statistics, gambling is only worsening the poverty cycle.

However, the Ministry of Interior, whose mandate includes overseeing Cambodia's largely unregulated gaming industry, does not even recognise gambling addiction as a problem.

"It [gambling addiction and gambling-related crime] doesn't happen here," said one police commander at the Ministry of Interior in Poi Pet, who refused to give his name. "Maybe in countries around Cambodia, but definitely not here." Poi Pet is a small town along the Cambodian-Thai border known for its casinos.

"If people want to gamble legally, it's their choice," he said. But there are no counselling or mental-health services for gambling addicts in the town.

Poi Pet is home to a special border zone between Thailand and Cambodia with regulated gaming, popular among Thai gamblers, as casinos are outlawed and gambling tightly regulated in Thailand.

The Cambodian government has outlawed informal gambling in Poi Pet. But gamblers claim the police abuse the law, demanding exorbitant bribes when caught.

Savuth, 27, who did not want his surname revealed, said Poi Pet police demanded up to two-thirds of illicit gambling earnings when caught.

That added heavily to the weekly "corruption tax" as he put it, which involves paying another cut to the police just to avoid harassment.

Rock bottom

A thief-turned-casino employee, Savuth claims he was once drawn by the glamour and potential of big gambling years ago in Phnom Penh and lost everything. One night, he promised himself he would play only three times at the city's Naga Casino, but bet $1,500 and his motorbike – crucial to his career as a taxi driver.

As a result, he became a thief in the capital, and developed an addiction to hard drugs. He kept gambling to sustain his addiction and soon lost his house.

His commune intervened, donating $50 a month to his personal expenses until he found a new job. Instead, he gambled it away.

"I went crazy at that point. I couldn't find help anywhere, because everyone was so angry at me," he told IRIN. "And I was homeless."

With his family and friends having abandoned him, Savuth shaved his head - signifying a promise for purification – and succeeded in beating his gambling habit but not drugs. He migrated to the border where, ironically, he found work at a casino.

With a lack of services for gambling addicts, such stories are common. "I've known some people who lose everything, can't repay their debts, and are hunted down by criminals and killed," he said. "Sometimes their children must repay the debts."

Gambling on the weather

Illicit gambling is so pervasive in Cambodia that residents in Battambang and Phnom Penh bet daily on the rain, with wagers topping $1,000.

Such gambling is considered a higher-end sport in Cambodia, according to recovering addict So Sopheap. "It's an activity of richer people," he said. "But it's also an activity where the rich lose everything."

It has spawned underground mafia-style networks. Participants can bet on the minute and hour rain will occur, as well as how much.

"The networks really get you hooked by promising a lot of money," he said. "But the fact is, you can't win this game unless you know weather patterns from observing rain for years."

Sopheap lost his house, property and car. His children had to find better jobs just to support his addiction, but he did not stop until he developed a serious drug addiction and his family intervened.

Yamaha Motor to open assembly plant in Cambodia

The Earth Times

Tue, 02 Sep 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Yamaha Motor Company said in a press release received Tuesday that it will establish a Cambodian assembly factory and sales unit. The plant will use parts produced in neighbouring Thailand.

Yamaha holds a 70 percent stake in Yamaha Motor Cambodia Co, according to the press release, and the company, worth 11.1 million dollars in capital, is 20 per cent-owned by trading house Toyota Tsusho Corp, with another 10 percent being held by local trading company Kong Nuon Import and Export Co.

The factory is scheduled for completion by July.

Cambodia is attempting to broaden its economic base to relieve its dependency on garment manufacture and tourism, including developing its sparse secondary industry sector.

CPP's control of parliamentarian seats help secure policy sustainability in Cambodia

http://www.chinaview.cn/

2008-09-02

By Xia Lin, Liu Lu

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian National Election Committee (NEC) declared Tuesday the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has secured 90 seats, or over two thirds of the 123 seats, at top legislative body in the general election, thus enabling CPP to have stronger management of the country.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) won 26 seats and the Human Rights Party (HRP) received three seats, and the Funcinpec Party and the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) got two seats each, according to official results declared by NEC on Tuesday.

The first meeting of Cambodia's new parliament is scheduled for Sept. 24, ahead of forming the new government.

"The CPP's dominance will secure peace and stability in Cambodia, which is very precious for the country and its people," said local economic analyst David Phat, who was born here and endured the war-torn years of Cambodia.

Phat said that primarily, continued governance by CPP can guarantee policy sustainability in its upcoming term, adding that the party in its current term has pursed political stability for the sake of economic development, and regional coordination for the sake of international cooperation.

"Political stability can lead to economic prosperity," he told Xinhua.

Under the CPP governance, the Cambodian economy is expected to remain nearly double-digit growth rate and the per capita GDP will probably top 1,000 U.S. dollars by 2014, he added.

Pen Samitthy, editor-in-chief of the country's largest Khmer-language daily newspaper the Rasmei Kampuchea, agreed that the political and economic situation will be further improved as CPP establishes the new government right after the general election.

"CPP will enjoy a larger space and better conditions, so it can lead the government more efficiently," he told Xinhua.

According to the Constitution, the party winning majority of the seats at the National Assembly will establish the government. Law can be passed with support from 50 percent plus one seat at the National Assembly.

The focus will be our economy after the political situation is settled, and especially, the foreign investment will increase, said Pen Samitthy.

"Everything will be better," he added.

Hu Jinlin, a Chinese merchant and major electric appliances dealer in Phnom Penh, echoed the above prediction, saying that national policy sustainability will stay, as CPP grips bigger power and Hun Sen himself can manipulate more development issues.

"The results are a good message for us. They will stabilize and promote the middle- and long-term investment in Cambodia. We see a clear prospect and know that the situation won't change much. Especially, more Chinese people will come to find their opportunities because the two countries have shared decades of friendly cooperation and China is Cambodia's major donor and investor," he told Xinhua.

Suy Sok Khun, senior CPP cadre and veteran reporter at Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News, told Xinhua that the strong economic performance under the CPP governance in the past few years has boosted its electoral results.

"Hun Sen and senior CPP leaders used to like citing positive economic figures and development of infrastructure as the major achievements of the government. Most voters accepted this and deem CPP is capable," he said.

Official records showed that Cambodian had 11 percent of economic growth on average in the past three years, the highest among Southeast Asian countries; the per capita GDP rose from 448 U.S. dollars in 2005 to 594 U.S. dollars in 2007; and the foreign reserves from 890 million U.S. dollars in 2005 to 1.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2007.

Meanwhile, major national roads, bridges and power projects have also been constructed countrywide, which improved the kingdom's traffic and power network to an unprecedented level.

In addition, said Suy, there were also a big number of inertia voters, who thought that those who did well in the past should be encouraged to stay on their posts in the future.

"One more message that we can feel from the results is that CPP becomes more consolidated than ever before," he added.

However, a source close to the Council of Ministers said on condition of anonymity that any coin has two sides and the landslide victory may also push the giant party to turn a blind eye to its internal problems and govern the kingdom in a pampered way.

Alleged corruption and land grabbing have haunted the CPP government and officials for a long time and drained some voters' confidence and ballots to the major opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), which in effect surpassed Funcinpec during the Commune Councils Election in April 2007 to become the second largest party of the country, said the source.

"If part of SRP members hadn't changed their flag to found the Human Rights Party (HRP) right before the general election, SRP might have been closer to CPP now," he said.

What's more, this overall victory in the election may bear out the assessment of some CPP members that occasional corruption and land grabbing are not as destructive as NGOs and opposition parties thought, and those with critic rhetoric are not worth fearing, he said.

"This frame of mind will inevitably fuel their future wrongdoings and even arrogance in its management of the country," he added.

CPP was established in 1951 and has governed the kingdom since 1993. It now has around 5 million members, over one third of Cambodia's total population.

For the general election held on July 27, 11 political parties and 8,125,529 voters were registered, while 15,255 polling stations were set up nationwide and 17,000 local and international observers watched the process going.

Editor: An

US Holds Bird Flu Training for Veterinarians

By Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 September 2008

The US government launched a series of training courses for Cambodian veterinarians Tuesday, in an effort to prevent an outbreak of deadly avian influenza.

The US Department of Agriculture will conduct laboratory training to help Cambodian health professionals diagnose the virus early.

Ninety veterinarians from 24 provinces will participate in the 10-day training courses.

Rural veterinarians have an important role in preventing an outbreak of the disease, so they need to understand how to diagnose it and prevent an outbreak, including methods of reporting to the Ministry of Agriculture, said Dr. Kao Phal, director-general of the department of animal health and production of the ministry.

The training was in response to the needs of Cambodian veterinarians, who were asking for more knowledge of the disease, said Um Bunna, an agricultural scientist and poultry health specialist for the US Department of Agriculture.

Kim An, a veterinarian from Kep, said Tuesday the training was important for him to monitor the disease from his rural base. He planned to share his experiences with other veterinarians, villagers and authorities.

Seven Cambodians have so far died from bird flu, four in Kampot province, and one each in Kampong Speu, Prey Veng and Kampong Cham provinces.

Kratie Villagers Protest Land Destruction

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 September 2008

About 300 ethnic minority villagers wielding axes and knives gathered in protest at the Kratie province village Tuesday, angered over the start of land clearance by a private company.

No violence was reported from the demonstration, in Kbal Damrei commune, which is home to mostly Phnong and Mil minority villagers. The 300 protesters were representing about 700 familes.

"Since this weekend, two bulldozers and one tractor of the company have come and cleared our land, where we plant rice and other vegetables, and where our ancestors are buried," said villager Suon Ouk, who joined the demonstration. "They came and cleared without asking permission."

Provincial authorities say the Sun Puy Ty import-export company has plans to cultivate rubber trees on the land, but villagers say between 2,000 and 4,000 hectares of land has been seized by the company where they planned for conservation.

So far, about 10 hectares have been cleared.

The demonstration was quiet by Tuesday afternoon, Uch Sareth, chief of Kbal Damrei commune said. "We promised to resolve the problem for them in five days, and they have calmed down now."

The dispute over the land has been forwarded to provincial authorities, and Kratie Governor Uch Sareth said Tuesday he would send officials to negotiate with the villagers.

"The company has the right to exploit 1,500 hectares," he said. "But they must resolve everything before starting work."

New Government Prepares To Swear In

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 September 2008

The National Assembly secretariat began preparations for a swearing-in ceremony to be held later this month for incoming parliamentarians, following the official announcement of election results Tuesday.

The National Assembly meeting, slated for Sept. 24, will pave the way for the selection of the National Assembly president and the prime minister, as well as the chairmen of nine commissions of the Assembly and the passage of the internal rules.

"We are being very careful about the security system, especially limiting the passage for National Assembly staff, parliamentarians and for the leadership and the king," Leng Penglong, secretary-general of the National Assembly, told VOA Khmer.

King Norodom Sihamoni will preside over the ceremony.

National Assembly security will guard within the grounds of the building, while the Ministry of Interior will be tasked with securing the area outside the compound, Leng Penglong said.

The ceremony will also include invitations to distinguished guests, including embassy representatives and international agencies, he said.

The National Election Committee announced official election results Tuesday, giving 90 of 123 National Assembly seats to the ruling Cambodian People's Party, 26 to the Sam Rainsy Party, three to the Human Rights Party, and two each to Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party.

Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha said members of their parties will boycott the swearing-in ceremony, in an attempt to continue their complaints of voter fraud to the international community.

Sam Rainsy plans to leave for Paris on Wednesday, followed by Kem Sokha, who will leave for France on Thursday. The two will travel together to Brussels, New York and Washington DC, carrying claims that July's national election was not free and fair.

US-Cambodians Expand Republican Effort

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
02 September 2008

As the Republican Party convention gets underway, US-Cambodians in Minnesota are expanding their work, finding an additional role in forming a coalition with other minorities, such as Somalis, living in the US.

"Somalis are the same as Cambodian-Americans, in that they understand [Republican Sen.] John McCain can help promote freedom and democracy in other countries," said Path Suykry, president of the National Cambodian Republican Coalition. "So they are happy to do this, and we will continue to meet together."

The convention is being held between Sept. 1 and Sept. 4, ahead of the November US presidential election.

US-Cambodians have contributed to the Republican effort through fundraising and campaigning in pagodas, churches and across Cambodian communities in the US.

Satri Huoch, a Cambodian living in Minnesota, said he supported the Republicans as a party that can help minorities benefit from democracy.

"I believe in him as other Cambodian-Americans and other minorities support him," Satri Huoch said.

Worries Mount as Phnom Penh Lake Fills

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
02 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 30 August (5.45 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 30 August (5.45 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Concern is rising for residents of a Boeung Kak lake development that is putting at risk housing rights and the environment, a representative of the lake residents said Monday.

"It's affecting the rights to housing of the people, and it affects the environment," said Nerb Ly, a representative of the Housing Rights Task Force, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Boeung Kak, on the northern end of the city, holds much of the flood water from rains in Phnom Penh, leading to worries of flooding once it is filled in, to become part of a 133-hectare development by Shukaku, Inc.

More than 1,000 families living around the lake have demanded proper compensation for moving out of the development area, claiming the $8,000 buyout offered by the city is far below current real estate market values.

A lack of transparency in the deal, which is being conducted under a 99-year lease worth $78 million, is also a concern, and the National Assembly has so far done nothing to alleviate potential problems, Nerb Ly said.

Inflation Pinching Cambodians in US, Too

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from New York
02 September 2008

With the US economy worsening, inflation and the price of gasoline have hit Cambodians living in the US. The pinch is obvious in Lowell, Mass., where Cambodians have numerous businesses, jobs and now financial woes.

Businesses are foundering in Lowell, as industries are moving to other states or overseas to reduce costs, said Kong Sengly, an official at the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association. That has put many Cambodian workers out of a job.

"At the moment, many manufacturing companies have move to other states in the South that have low taxes, and some others have moved to neighboring countries," he said recently. "So at this point, it has strongly affected the Cambodians and Cambodian-Americans."

The loss of jobs has also met with high inflation, making living conditions difficult for Cambodians living in Lowell, said Ou Sovann, a member of the Education Program for Migrants.

"Actually, as I always meet with friends or people here, they always complain a lot about their living condition while the inflation and the gasoline hikes that have hit their lives," Ou Sovann said. "As you know the price of the groceries are going up double or more. For example, one chicken cost only 50 cents before [about 2,000 riel], but now it is four or five dollars for one chicken."

The 35,000 Cambodians living in Lowell make up about 10 percent of the town's population.

Many of them run businesses and restaurants, tourism companies, law firms, salons and grocery stores. Cambodians here also work in manufacturing, in electronics, computer supply, military supply and garment factories.

The streets of Lowell are quiet, and many here work two or three jobs, or they work overtime to earn more money to pay their mortgages, car payment, daily food, electricity, insurance and other utilities.

Most people in America are paying mortgages to buy a house or land, so that people in America do not have a lot of free time. Meanwhile, a mortgage crisis in the US has meant that many people with low incomes have been forced to forfeit their homes to the bank.

About 600 homes in Lowell had been forfeited, Kong Sengly said.

"When they first borrow the money from the bank, they were told that it is not a problem, in the next two or three years you can borrow money with low interest to pay it back," he said.

Sophea David, a former film and karaoke actor, run Kampuchea Video in Lowell.

He made a good income when he first began running his story, from 2002 to 2005, but in recent years, his income has decreased.

"Many people are cutting out their entertainment, because people's incomes cannot afford it anymore," he said. "They only spend it on something that is more important, such and food, gasoline and stuff."

Condoms Feared Criminal in Sex Crackdown

Sex workers in June protested police methods that have made carrying a condom a liability. Critics say a continued crackdown threatens to spread HIV.

By Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 September 2008

Every night as the sun sets, Srey Mao begins looking for sex clients at a public park in Phnom Penh, where she has worked for the past 10 years. Until Cambodia passed a new anti-trafficking law in February, she always carried a condom, but a provision of the law that bans public solicitation of sex has made that harder.

To carry a condom now is to carry evidence of a crime, Srey Mao said.

"When the police come, I run down into a hole, and sometimes I climb up a tree, not daring to bring a condom along because if the police find it, they will accuse me of prostitution and disorder," said Srey Mao, 40, standing under a tree in front of the Royal Railway station in Phnom Penh.

Over the past few months, she said, enforcement of the new law has meant police in every district of the capital have been arresting sex workers on the streets.

"I never use a condom and always feel afraid the police will arrest us," she said. "Sometimes we hide ourselves under a tree or in the garden bushes."

Article 24 of the "Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation" bans public solicitation of sex, with a penalty of one to six days in prison and a fine of 3,000 riel, about $0.75.

The penalty may seem small, but organizations and sex workers say the new law has been an obstacle to another government initiative, the 100 percent use of condoms in the sex industry, declared in 1999.

Leng Sros, a 24-year-old beer server, said that after the law, the use of condoms diminished among women in her industry who also have sex clients.

"Most of the beer promotion girls seldom use a condom," she said.

Customers are not willing to use condoms, she said. "If we use it, they feel that we are sex workers."

Sou Sotheavy, director of the Men and Women Network for Development, said 100 percent condom use had been made impossible by the new law, which forces sex workers to move from one place to another, from the streets and parks to nightclubs. The moving targets make it difficult to promote condom use, he said.

"How can the condom be used 100 percent," he said. "Even in a proper brothel it was not possible. Then what about such a brief liaison at the public garden, and with the police giving chase?"

Keo Tha is the director of the Women's Network for Unity. The new law has not only put sex workers at risk of HIV, but it is hurting their livelihoods, she said.

"Why are they not allowed to be sex workers? What are they doing wrong?" she said. "When the business is more strict, HIV/AIDS is more widespread."

Police say the new law has allowed them to put order to the streets, making them safer for travelers.

Yim Socheat, police chief of Phnom Penh's Daun Penh district, said police had no intention of driving down the use of condoms.

Officers arrest sex workers with or without condoms, he said, adding that any recent decrease in condom use was due to confusion by the sex workers.

The conflict between the two groups is not necessary, said Dr. Ly Cheng Huy, director of the HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Both sides should understand each other, he said. Otherwise, the implementation of the law won't be undertaken properly, leading to a rise in HIV and AIDS.

Meanwhile, the government is working on an initiative to make police understand that sex workers are victims, not offenders, said You Oy, secretary of state for the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

However, she added, sex workers must not solicit from public places or the street. Such acts not only impact social order, she said, but also Cambodian tradition.

SEZ investors get one-stop service in Phnom Penh

Nguon sovan; The front gate of the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, which hopes to eventually attract more than 200 investors.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 02 September 2008

Administrative centre will simplify paperwork and cut out ministry middlemen looking for 'under-the-table' money

THE Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone (PPSEZ) on Monday introduced a "one-stop" service option aimed at simplifying application procedures for potential investors in the zone.

Investors now have a central administrative office located at the PPSEZ that can process all necessary paperwork for investment, Lim Chhiv Ho, chairwoman of the zone, told the Post.

"Previous investors were required to submit documents and proposals to five ministries, and they often complained of rampant corruption, or the requirement of ‘under-the-table money', among ministry officials, as well as long delays in processing necessary paperwork," said Lim Chhiv Ho. "Such frustrations will no longer affect investors."

Chea Vuthy, administration chairman of the zone and the deputy secretary general of the Cambodia Special Economic Zone Board, said investment laws state that proposals take at least 28 days to process. He said the new one-stop office will cut that time to three days.

"Through our one-stop administration centre, investors will have a much easier time completing their paperwork," he said.

"They will simply pay a fee of 7 million riels (US$1,700) to the government for any investment project."

He said the PPSEZ is the third zone to adopt the one-stop service, after the Manhattan and Tai Seng SEZs in Svay Rieng province.

Phased development

The PPSEZ was founded in April 2006 with investments of $92 million, covering an area of some 352 hectares about 18 kilometres outside Phnom Penh in Kandal province.

Its development was projected to cover three phases. The first phase, which the zone has already completed, was the creation of an international-standard infrastructure, including a power station, water supply and sewage systems, internet capability and a dry port - at a cost of $15 million.

Lim Chhiv Ho said that until now, a large number of the zone's investors come from Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea and Japan, but that she expects a new investor from Great Britain.

"Currently, there are 22 local and foreign companies that have invested with us, including nine companies that have been approved by the Council for the Development of Cambodia. Seven others have begun construction on plants in the PPSEZ," she said.

"Companies have invested in factories that manufacture garments, cartons, shoes and even a Yamaha motor plant from Japan," she said.

She added the zone's industrial land price has been fixed at a cost of $50 per square metre.

Cambodia currently has 19 licensed Special Economic Zones. Most are located near the borders with Vietnam and Thailand.