Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Govt warns of milk powder dump threat

Tracey Shelton; Five-month-old Chivi stares at a display of milk powder in Phnom Penh’s Orussei Market. Officials have expressed concern the country will be targeted by those looking to dump contaminated Chinese milk products.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun and Sebastian Strangio
Tuesday, 23 September 2008

No tainted Chinese powdered-milk products have been detected yet, but officials fear banned stocks from abroad could end up in markets

AS the toll of sick children from China's tainted milk scandal topped 50,000 Monday, government officials expressed concerns Cambodia could become a target for the dumping of suspect Chinese baby formula pulled from the shelves in other regional countries.

Phnom Penh's municipal health director, Veng Thai, said that although there were no reports of Cambodian children falling ill from the banned goods, the government remains vigilant over their possible importation.

"I am very concerned about the Chinese formula arriving in Cambodia, because I heard the news that Chinese babies were killed and poisoned," he said. "We don't have this kind of formula in Cambodia now, but we have to use all measures to prevent illegal imports."

On September 13, the Chinese government ordered a recall of Sanlu brand milk powder after it was found to be laced with the industrial chemical melamine, resulting in as many as four deaths and 52,857 cases of poisoning. It has since recalled two other brands, while many countries, including Cambodia, have barred imports of Chinese milk products altogether.

Pan Sorasak, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said the Cambodia Import-Export Inspection and Fraud Suppression Department (Camcontrol) has enforced a strict ban on all Chinese milk products since Friday.

"We don't have this milk product in the market yet, but Camcontrol officials are still checking at markets and supermarkets," he said. "[They] will confiscate this type of milk if it is found in the market."

Got milk powder?

Ban or no, Phnom Penh retailers told the Post that Chinese milk powder has not been available in Cambodia for many years. Koun Leang, 50, who runs a dry-goods stall in Central Market, said she knew about the tainted milk, but did not know of anyone who was selling it.

"I have worked here since 1989 and never sold any milk powder from China," she said, adding that most brands were from Thailand, Malaysia, France, Holland and the United States. "Most customers are not interested in Chinese products, and I have never seen any advertisements or marketing for Chinese milk powder."

Yo Sopheap, a vendor at Phsar Kabko, said that she had also never sold Chinese milk products. "I have sold here for more than 20 years and never sold Chinese milk powder, since no clients ask for Chinese brands," she said.

Mary Chea, coordinator of the Ministry of Health's young child feeding program, said she had immediately scoured local shops for the tainted powder upon receiving warnings from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"I went directly to check some supermarkets in Phnom Penh as well as markets in Kampong Thom to find out if they have that kind of formula, but I didn't see any Chinese products. The Ministry of Health and the WHO are very concerned about this problem," she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KAY KIMSONG

Coffins, crematoria and class

Heng Chivoan; A worker at Phnom Penh’s Wat Ounalom, near Phsar Kandal, paints a coffin.

AT THE MORGUE
Tat Nhem, 62, morgue director at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital, said his mortuary gets one or two bodies a month, as most Khmer families take corpses home for funeral preparation. Most bodies that end up at the mortuary are unidentified.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab and Eleanor Ainge Roy
Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Burying one's deceased relatives is increasingly popular in the Kingdom, as wealthy middle-class Cambodians seek to emulate Chinese habits in hopes of material gain

IT is a calm, sunny day at the Central Market, and people are relaxed as the weekend approaches, bargaining happily over last-minute purchases. Death is the last thing on anyone's mind. But when asked if they have thought about their death preferences, many people's opinions were surprisingly firm.

"I want to be buried," said a young Khmer moto taxi driver confidently. "Then my family will have somewhere to come and mourn me forever. A special place where I will always be remembered."

His answer is not unusual, as the Cambodian way of death is beginning to change, and hundreds of years of cremation are giving way to a preference for burials.

Chinese and Vietnamese people have traditionally buried their dead, and this method is starting to permeate Cambodian death practices, as some middle and upper class families are beginning to view burial as a mark of prestige and success.Since the days of the ancient Khmer empire, the majority of Cambodians have used cremation as an efficient and cheap way to deal with corpses.

But Pheng Sytha, dean of the Faculty of Archaeology at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, said this was not always the case.

"Burying corpses is in the Khmer Mon tradition, before Cambodia was influenced by Indian and Chinese cultures," he said. "Cambodian people started to burn corpses after the influence of Brahmanism in the first century."

Buddhists now account for 90 percent of Cambodia's population, and Buddhist practices teach that cremation allows the soul to exit the body freely, preparing it for reincarnation in its next life.

" I WANT TO BE BURIED. THEN MY FAMILY WILL HAVE SOMEWHERE TO ... MOURN ME FOREVER. a SPECIAL PLACE WHERE i WILL BE REMEMBERED. "

At present 80 percent of buried corpses in Cambodia are Chinese, two percent Vietnamese and the rest Cambodian. But these figures are shifting, as Cambodians lean towards the Chinese example.

"More and more people are tending to marry Chinese people or Khmer people with Chinese ancestry as they believe that they will have a good business, and that their children will be clever," said Thy Nareoun, director of the sociology department at the Royal University of Phnom Penh."

This respect extends to Chinese burial practices," he added.

Im Sreng, director of the Cambodian Association Helping the Miserable Corpses, which assists families who cannot afford to bury their relatives, said the increase in preference for burials is becoming an expensive practice for his charitable organisation.

"We have to spend a lot of money if the corpse is buried. We need land for graveyards and money for petrol and transportation," he said.

Hung Mea, a coffin maker and funeral director, said most of his clients who choose to bury their loved ones are following the Chinese example and are usually wealthy.

"Khmer people see that the Chinese are very prosperous in Cambodia. They think that this success may be due in part to their burial practices, and so they are copying their example."

A show of status

The wealth of a family is also an important factor in deciding how a corpse will be sent off. The wealthier the family, the more likely they are to prefer to bury their dead.

Real Leap, 64, a priest at a Buddhist pagoda in town, has noticed the trend.

"Mostly poor or lower-class families cremate their dead. Rich people like to show off their wealth by buying a piece of land for the grave. That also means that they will always have a place to go and remember their loved ones, to take flowers to the grave, and fruit and food once a year."

Approximately six out of 10 corpses that come to be cremated are the victims of traffic accidents, and the pagoda cremates about 40 people a month, added Real Leap.

Many people who come to the pagoda are too poor to pay the 150,000 riels cremation fee for their loved ones, and in cases such as these the priests hold a smaller, cheaper ceremony. Sometimes wealthy families will pay for coffins for poor families (or donate three or four coffins to the pagoda), or a charity will help them out with expenses, he said.

Real Leap said traditional death practices still predominate in Cambodia, and are carried out in much the same way as they have for hundreds of years.

Three days after a death, the corpse is taken to a Buddhist pagoda for cremation. Family and friends in attendance wear white, and those close to the deceased often shave their heads. The number of monks in attendance depends on the wealth of the family, and can vary from between two and five.

A big part of the ceremony is the outpouring of grief and sadness as the relatives of the deceased beg forgiveness for the mistakes of the deceased and their mistakes against the deceased.

Two hours after the ceremony, the ashes and bones are picked up by the relatives and taken to their hometown. A memorial or remembrance ceremony is held seven days after the cremation, and again after 100 days.

The new generation

Im Sinoun, a fourth-year mathematics student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, laughs at the increase in burials and shakes her head at the suggestion of marrying for good business luck or clever kids.

"I don't think this is a good idea," she said. "If you want to make good business, you have to try hard. Your children's cleverness depends on how they are nurtured. When I marry, I do not mind if my husband is Chinese or Khmer.

" When I die," she continued, "I would like to be cremated. It is easy and you spend less money. If people continue burying the dead, our land will be full of graves and we will lack land for agriculture and other development."

WHO says nearly 2 billion at risk from dengue in Asia

A Cambodian child receives serum against dengue fever



A health worker fumigates school buildings in Yangon

MANILA (AFP) — Nearly two billion people in the Asia-Pacific region will be at risk from dengue fever unless governments do more to fight the debilitating disease, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday.

The UN agency said it would ask the 37 countries and territories that make up its Western Pacific section to endorse a regional strategy for dealing with the mosquito-borne virus, which it deems among 40 emerging diseases of global importance.

A dengue pandemic swept across the region between 1991 and 2004, peaking with 350,000 cases in 1998, the WHO said.

Of the 2.5 billion people at risk globally, 1.8 billion live in the Western Pacific.

Ninety-eight percent of all dengue cases -- and 99 percent of all dengue deaths -- in the region between 2001 and 2004 were accounted for by Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, French Polynesia, Fiji, New Caledonia and China.

The WHO said in discussion papers at a regional committee meeting in Manila that dengue "has greatly expanded over the last three decades" owing to changes in weather patterns that expanded the habitat of the Aedes aegypti mosquito which carries the virus.

"Human practices such as rainwater harvesting and inappropriate disposal of used tyres, plastic containers and metal cans have created new opportunities for vector breeding."

Other key factors were migration, demographic changes, and rapid growth in urban areas.

"Dengue is a neglected disease that gains attention during an epidemic," it said. "Many Asia-Pacific countries lack adequate resources and have limited response capacities" against the virus.

In some cases there are no national programmes, and if there were, scant resources were spent, and mostly on "insecticide sprays and chemical larvicides which have little impact on controlling the epidemic".

The WHO called for "new and improved diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic tools," saying dengue deaths can be cut to one percent or less if the disease is diagnosed early and treated appropriately.

Cambodia to target Mideast for tourism

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by CHUN SOPHAL
Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A NEW government strategy hopes to make Cambodia a target destination for more Middle Eastern travellers, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told the Post.

"We want to attract as many tourists from the Middle East as possible," Thong Khon said Sunday.The move comes amid efforts by Prime Minister Hun Sen to strengthen ties between Cambodia and the Gulf nations.

The government last month signed a direct-flight agreement with Qatar, Thong Khon said, adding that a similar agreement with Kuwait is expected soon.

In April, the Qatari prime minister announced a US$200 million investment in Cambodia's agriculture sector, while Kuwait last month pledged $546 million in soft loans to upgrade irrigation systems and roads throughout the Kingdom.

Hun Sen is expected to pay a state visit to the Middle East in January next year, with stops in Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Cambodia has more than 300,000 ethnic Muslim Cham residents. Cham communities are currently marketed to Muslim tourists, said Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents.

"Cambodia has a Muslim Centre and other sites of interest, and several restaurants serve halal [religiously permissible] food," said Zakaryya Adam, secretary of state for the Ministry of Culture and Religion.

He said the Phnom Penh airport and several hotels in the capital and Siem Reap are also equipped with Muslim prayer rooms.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY HOR HAB

`Lucky Friday' to get mended heart

Nine-month-old Vy Soksamnang, held by his mother, Ratha Vang, will be flown from Cambodia to Children s Heart Center in Las Vegas for heart surgery with the help of the Long Beach nonprofit Hearts Without Boundaries. Vy has a ventricular septal defect, or a hole in the heart, the same defect that afflicted another impoverished Cambodian child, Davik Teng, whom the nonprofit helped receive surgery earlier this year.

CONTRA COSTA TIMES

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
09/22/2008

LONG BEACH - Lucky in Las Vegas. Sounds like a working title for a movie, but it could be a real-life fairy tale for a young Cambodian boy.

It wouldn't be right, exactly, to call him Davik II, but Vy Soksamnang, like Davik, may be able to receive life-altering heart surgery, possibly within a couple of months.

Translated, Soksamnang means "Lucky Friday."

Barring unforeseen complications in the boy's condition after more thorough examinations, Children's Heart Center, a Las Vegas hospital, has offered its staff and facilities for the operation on a 9-month-old boy from a poor village outside of Phnom Penh.

Dr. Lyda Luy, a cardiologist in Cambodia, diagnosed Vy with a ventricular septal defect, or hole in the heart, the same condition that afflicted Davik.

Left untreated, the condition worsens and can irreparably damage the lungs. The afflicted are often easily fatigued and have trouble breathing.

The heart procedure is routine by Western standards, but requires a heart-lung machine and expertise often not readily available in Cambodia.

A Long Beach nonprofit, Hearts Without Boundaries, will make the arrangements for the boy and his mother's transportation and lodging.

Earlier this year, the nonprofit arranged for 9-year-old Davik Teng, another impoverished child with a heart condition, to receive the same surgery at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Initially, Hearts Without Boundaries, with the help of Susan Grossfeld and her San Diego cardiologist husband, Paul Grossfeld, tried to broker a deal with Rady Children's Hospital, where Paul Grossfeld works.

When the California hospital demurred, Susan Grossfeld wasted no time. Her next call was to Dr. William Evans in Las Vegas.

"I picked up the phone and asked if they were interested," Susan Grossfeld said. "I got a call back an hour later and they said `Done.' As simple, as easy as that."

Peter Chhun, president of Hearts Without Boundaries, was thrilled to have the chance to help another child.

"Each time I receive this time of news, it's wonderful," Chhun said. "I'm speechless."

Chhun said he could barely contain himself when he got the good news.

"I jump up and down," Chhun said. "My co-workers look at me like I'm crazy. For me, this is beyond words. I just look up in the sky and say thank God for guiding me and helping another child."

Vy lives in poverty in a bamboo hut with no electricity or running water. His mother, Ratha Vang, is unemployed. His father is a border guard stationed far from home.

Vy will be examined by Paul Grossfeld in November when he joins Variety Lifeline, which makes annual trips to Cambodia to offer minor heart repairs.

Assuming Grossfeld concurs with Luy, Chhun, who will be helping Variety Lifeline, hopes to bring Vy and his mother to the United States then.

Hearts Without Boundaries is raising funds for Vy's journey. Information is available by calling Chhun at 818-640-6191 or going to www.heartswithoutboundaries.org.

Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia Triangle Focuses on Tourism

VIENTIANE, Sept 23 Asia Pulse - Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have agreed on the need to develop tourism as a spearhead in boosting economic growth and reducing poverty in the three countries development triangle.

The agreement, which also included the creation of favourable conditions for the triangular region that comprises 10 border provinces of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, was reached at the third meeting addressing trade, investment and tourism promotion in the Development Triangle, held in Champassak, Laos, on September 22.

Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Vo Hong Phuc joined Lao Minister of Planning and Investment Soulivong Daravong and Cambodian Secretary General of the Development Council Soun Sitthy in chairing the meeting, which brought together both state officials and businesspeople of the 10 localities in the Development Triangle.

Minister Phuc described the three countries policy to develop their shared triangle as a right decision that has contributed largely to promoting each country's socio-economic growth and reinforcing friendship between the three nations.

Following the second meeting of its kind in February this year, the three countries have taken their own initiatives to spur the development of the triangle. In the meantime, mechanisms and policies to facilitate the cross-border flow of people and commodities, investment and trade in the area are being discussed, Minister Phuc added.

At this meeting, the participants focused on assessing what has been done since the two previous meetings and discussed ways to solve difficulties that arise in the process of implementing the reached agreements.

They informed each other of their own countries' current policies, investment environments and related legal regulations in addition to the potential and priorities of the localities located in the development triangle and worked on orientations for cooperation in the future.

Established in 2004 by a decision signed by the three countries prime ministers, the Development Triangle comprises Vietnam's central highlands provinces of Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Dak Lak and Dak Nong,

Laos's provinces of Attapeu, Sekong and Saravanh, and the Cambodian provinces of Rattanakiri, Strungstreng and Moldonkiri.

The governments of the three countries have high hopes for the effects of promoting the development of the region, which has been highly evaluated for its great potential in the areas of hydro-power industry, mining, industrial crop growing and processing and tourism, to improve the living conditions of local people, the majority of whom belong to ethnic minorities.

(VNA)

Cambodian commercial banks told to triple capital

www.chinaview.cn
2008-09-23

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) has tripled the minimum capital requirement for commercial banks in the Kingdom in an effort to tighten and strengthen the banking sector, national media reported Tuesday.

According to a copy of an NBC directive, commercial banks in Cambodia are now requiring to have a minimum capital of 150 billion riel (about 36.5 million U.S. dollars), the Cambodia Daily newspaper said.

Commercial banks will be allowed to maintain the current capital requirement of 50 billion riel (about 12 million U.S. dollars) if they have an influential shareholder that is a bank or financial institution with an investment grade rating from a reputable rating agency, the directive said.

While the Cambodia's four main banks - Acleda, ANZ Royal, Canadia and the Cambodian Public Bank - are likely to be unaffected by the change in conditions, it remains to be seen how many of the country's 17 other commercial banks will measure up tothe new rules, the newspaper said.

In addition, the country's six specialized banks, which only make loans and do not take deposits, must also increase their minimum capital to 30 billion riel (about 7.3 million U.S. dollars) unless they have a bank or financial institution influential shareholder with an investment grade rating, according to the NBC directive.

All existing banks have until 2010 to meet the new requirements, the directive states.

NBC Director General Tal Nai Im said that the new commercial bank requirements are aimed at making it more difficult for prospective banks to enter the sector in Cambodia.

"Some banks that don't have the minimum might have to withdraw," she was quoted as saying.

Editor: Mo Hong'e

1,700 balloons released outside Cambodian prison

International Herald Tribune

The Associated Press
Published: September 23, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A leading Cambodian human rights group renewed its call Tuesday for the release of two men believed to have been framed for murdering a prominent labor leader and government critic.

The "gross injustice" against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun must end because they are innocent, the Cambodian human rights group Licadho said in a statement.

The men are serving 20-year prison terms for the 2004 killing of Chea Vichea, the former head of Cambodia's Free Trade Union of Workers and an outspoken critic of government corruption and human rights abuses.

Licadho and other rights groups say Cambodian authorities have made the men scapegoats to conceal the real killer.

Dozens of people, including relatives of the murdered union leader and the convicted men, staged a peaceful rally Tuesday near the Phnom Penh prison where the pair is detained.

They released 1,700 white balloons symbolizing the number of days the men have been imprisoned.

"They are not the killers of my brother," Chea Mony, the younger brother of slain union leader Chea Vichea, said. "Please do not lose your hope. There will be the day you will get the justice you have long been denied."

Cambodian courts — seen by critics as being corrupt and susceptible to political influence — have drawn heavy criticism at home and abroad for their handling of the case.

Critics have said the courts have persistently ignored key evidence, including witness testimonies that the two men were not at the crime scene the day the killing took place.

"Every day longer that these two men remain in prison only imposes greater suffering and hardship on them and their families, and draws more attention to the appalling state of Cambodia's justice system," the group's director, Naly Pilorge, said in the statement Tuesday.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are awaiting a hearing at the country's Supreme Court to appeal their conviction, Pilorge said.

Norodom Ranariddh will be back on the 28th of September

Cambodge Soir

22-09-2008

The King’s stepbrother still hasn’t received Norodom Sihamoni’s pardon.

The Prince Norodom Ranariddh will return to Cambodia on the 28th of September, during the celebrations of Pchum Ben; the festival of the Death, announced Suth Dina, the NRP’s spokesperson, on Sunday 21 September to the Reaksmey Kampuchea newspaper. The prince should land in Siem Reap.

The President of the NRP received the green light from Hun Sen to return to the country, after having decided to acknowledge the July election results.

Sentenced to eighteen months prison in absentia in 2006 for the illegal sales of the Funcinpec Headquarters, the former Prime Minister lived since then in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The Prince, who was re-elected deputy this year in Kampong Cham province, offered his position to his deputy, You Hockry, General Secretary of the NRP. As yet, his political career remains vague. According to various sources, he could resume his political activities, or halt them in exchange for a position at the Royal Palace.

Boeung Kak: the Court of First Instance declares lacking competence

Cambodge Soir

22-09-2008

Phnom Penh’s Court of First Instance has rejected the complaint filed by the lakeside residents’ lawyer in order to halt the filling operations.

By filing this complaint on the 9th of September, Chuong Chu Ngy, lawyer of the lakeside residents, hoped to obtain a protection mandate. Contacted by Cambodge Soir Hebdo, he specified that the Phnom Penh’s Court of First Instance decided that it couldn’t give a verdict on land dispute. According to this Court, the dispute doesn’t directly concern the contract signed between the town hall and the company and has thus to be processed by the cadastre.

Chuong Chu Ngy also indicated that he was preparing a file for the Court of Appeals.

The Chinese apartments: the market is saturated

Cambodge Soir

22-09-2008

The real-estate agencies and investors will meet on Tuesday 23 September at the Ministry of Economy in order to assess the situation and supervise the sector.

The housing availability in Phnom Penh is likely to be higher than the demand, believe several observers of the sector, forecasting a burst of the real-estate bubble.

“The real-estate sector is in danger of collapsing if the crisis continues further, particularly regarding the Chinese apartments”, believes Sung Bunna, director of the largest agency of Phnom Penh, Bunna Realty.

According to the director of Visal Realty, the purchasing price per square meter is allegedly even decreasing in some neighbourhoods of the capital city: if the market doesn’t take off within a year, it’ll result in a crisis”, he says, emphasising that the current slowdown could be the consequence of the election period, traditionally bad for business.

However, other professionals of the real-estate sector think that the commotion observed during these last months is due to a speculation which isn’t linked to the market reality: “The land prices increased because well-off people bought several houses with the intention to sell them again”, indicated a real-estate broker.

Two other factors explain the recent increase: the foreign investments in the real-estate sector and the economical development.

It is estimated that between 8,000 and 10,000 apartments are built each year in Phnom Penh.

The expected meeting on Tuesday 23 September at the Ministry of Economy will allow the professionals to prepare themselves for the coming market changes and to supervise the sector: out of approximately one hundred real-estate agencies in Phnom Penh, only about twenty have the required license.

Successful architectural visit with Vann Molyvann

Cambodge Soir

22-09-2008

On Sunday 21 September, the French Cultural Centre organised an architectural visit of Phnom Penh under the guidance of Vann Molyvann. Basing himself on three of his major realisations, the architect explained the process he followed, meanwhile criticising the projects which are currently taking shape throughout town.

At the Institute of Foreign Languages, at the Olympic Stadium and in the conference room of Chaktomuk, the architect commented his works in-situ. Moreover, the FCC’s initiative had such a success that not all the aficionados found a seat on the busses. The convoy was thus joined by motos and tuk-tuks. More than one hundred people in total listened to the comments of Vann Molyvann in a studious atmosphere.

Respectively history professor, reminding the stake of the Cambodian urbanisation after the independence, professor of geography when explaining the currents of the TonlĂ© Sap, and of course professor of architecture, Vann Molyvann offered insights of his choices and placed them within that period. For almost three hours he succeeded in drawing the attention. Answering questions of the audience, the architect didn’t hesitate to take a stance concerning the new constructions and the future of his buildings. He respectively criticised the filling of the pits of the Olympic Stadium, the lack of respect of the city planning and also the filling of the Boeung Kak Lake.

Molyvann will introduce his book “Lessons from the Past” at the FCC’s cinema on Thursday 25 September at 6.30pm.

Further details concerning this day are available in the Cambodge Soir Hebdo of Thursday 25 September.

There Are 8 Deputy Prime Ministers, 146 Advisors, and 56 Assistants

There Are 8 Deputy Prime Ministers, 146 Advisors, and 56 Assistants

Posted on 23 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 578

“Decisions Number 42, dated 16 July 2004, Number 9, dated 23 March 2006, Number 50, dated 29 November 2006, and Number 48, dated 5 September 2008 of the Royal Government of Cambodia about the policy for the structure of work and the distribution of duties of the leaders of the Royal Government define that each Deputy Prime Minister has 4 Advisors, out of whom 2 are Secretaries of Sate and 2 others are Deputy Secretaries of Sate, and 3 Assistants, out of whom one is a Director General and the other one is a Head of a Department.

“The recent-third-term Royal Government of Cambodia, led by Hun Sen as Prime Minister, has 8 Deputy Prime Ministers.

“According to the decisions by the government about the policy for the structure of work and the distribution of duties of the leaders of the government [cited above], 8 Deputy Prime Ministers might have up to 32 advisors (16 of them Secretaries of State) and the other 16 are Deputy Secretaries of State, and 24 Advisors (8 are Directors General, 8 are Deputy Secretaries of State), and 8 are Heads of Departments.

“Evidence shows however, that many more Advisors and Assistants were appointed, as the 8 Deputy Prime Ministers had 146 Advisors in total (64 are Secretaries of State, 81 Deputy Secretaries of State, and 1 Director General); and there are 56 Assistants in total (20 are Directors General, 26 are Deputy Directors General, and 10 are Heads of Departments) out of those Assistants, 18 do not get an allowance.

“The number of Advisors and Assistants of the 8 Deputy Prime Ministers, counted at 7 July 2008, were:

“1. H.E. Sar Kheng: He has 31 Advisors (8 are Secretaries of State, 22 Deputy Secretaries of State, and 1 is a Director General), and 4 Advisors hold no position, 3 are Honorary Advisors – and 6 Assistants (4 are Directors General, 1 is a Deputy Director-General, and 1 is a Head of a Department).

“2. H.E. Sok An: He had 16 Advisors (5 are Secretaries of State, 11 are Deputy Secretaries of State), and he has Assistants (6 are Directors General, 1 is a Deputy Director General, and 1 is a Head of a Department).

“3. H.E. General Tea Banh: He has 7 Advisors (2 are Secretaries of State and 5 are Deputy Secretaries of State), 6 Assistants (2 are Directors General, 1 is a Deputy Director General, and 3 are Heads of Departments).

“4. H.E. Hor Namhong: He has 7 Advisors (4 are Secretaries of State, 3 are Deputy Secretaries of State) and 3 Assistants (1 is a Director General, 1 is a Deputy Director General, and another 1 is a Head of a Department).

“5. H.E. Bin Chhin: He has 4 Advisors (2 are Secretaries of State, and 2 are Deputy Secretaries of State), and he has 3 Assistants (1 is a Director General, 1 is a Deputy Director General, and another 1 is a Head of a Department).

“6. H.E. General Nhek Bun Chhay: He has 28 Advisors (12 are Secretaries of State, 16 are Deputy Secretaries of State) and 14 Assistants (4 are Directors General, 9 are Deputy Directors General, and 1 is a Head of a Department).

“7. Lu Laysreng: He has 23 Advisors (12 are Secretaries of State, 11 are Deputy Secretaries of State) and 8 are Assistants (1 is a Director General, 6 are Deputy Directors General, and 1 is a Head of a Department).

“8. H.E. Keo Puth Reaksmei: He has 30 Advisors (19 are Secretaries of State, 11 are Deputy Secretaries of State) and 8 Assistants (1 is a Director General, 6 are Deputy Directors General, and 1 is a Head of a Department).

“Among the 8 Deputy Prime Ministers, H.E. Bin Chhin is the only one, the number of whose Advisors and Assistants is according to the specification of the decisions of the Royal Government of Cambodia [quoted here, up, at the beginning].

“The nomination of Advisors and Assistants of 7 Deputy Prime Ministers shows that the decisions of the Royal Government are being violated, and Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen is the person who is at the head, leading this strong abuse of decisions of the Royal Government of Cambodia.

“Independent observers from legal professions in Cambodia said if leaders of the Royal Government, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Ministers, do not follow the decision signed by themselves, it had not been necessary to create a policy for the structure of work and for the distribution of duties of the leaders of the Royal Government, stating limits for the numbers of Advisors and Assistants for Deputy Prime Ministers, since it just leads to a shameful situation in front of the public, and the whole prestige of the Royal Government of Cambodia gets lost.”

Deum Tnot, Vol.1, #36, 22-23.9.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 22 September 2008

Soaring inflation and stagnant wages force thousands of Cambodian garment workers to quit

No Sweat
Submitted by mick duncan
September 22, 2008

The development raises concerns about the future of the country's main dollar-earning industry.

"Their factory wages could no longer cope with rising food prices," said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which had 80,000 members at the start of the year.

Since then, 27,000 have quit, he said. Many are now working in entertainment clubs such as karaoke parlors, where they can earn more than at their previous jobs, he said.

"Sometimes they collect $5 to $10 in tips per night from guests, and they work even fewer hours than when they were in the factories," Chea Mony said.

Others have returned to homes in the countryside, where living costs are lower.

In April, garment manufacturers raised wages by about $6 to an average of $50 a month.
But union leaders said the raise has done little to help the workers cope with the high costs of living in and around Phnom Penh, where most factories are located.

Consumer inflation in July rose to 22 percent, up from 18.7 percent in January, the last time the figure was released.

Chhay Than, Cambodian Minister of Planning, said the July inflation rate was the highest recorded in 15 years and has been driven mainly by high price of oil.

The consumer rate remained at 22 percent for August, though that figure will be officially released only next week, said Khin Song, deputy director of the ministry's price index department.

High food prices are adversely affecting Cambodia's poor, who spend approximately 70 percent of their total household consumption on food, according to a recent World Bank analysis.

Factories have been having difficulties trying to hire new labor to fill the empty slots in their assembly lines, said Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, another labor group.

The garment industry is the country's major export earner and employs about 350,000 workers, mostly women.

Kaing Monika, the external affairs manager of Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said the country's clothing exports in the first six months of this year were worth about $1.35 billion, a 4 percent increase over the same period in 2007.

But the profit margin, calculated to have been around 2 percent, is becoming thinner or nearly nonexistent for most factories due to high production costs caused by skyrocketing oil prices and inflation, he said.

"The buyers did not pay higher prices, and the workers are demanding more wages because of the inflation that makes them really hard to cope with the current cost of living," he said.

He said the future of the industry "is getting very tough," adding that the competitive situation looks to tighten even more when U.S. measures, which have served as de facto limits on imports from trade rivals China and Vietnam, are lifted at the end of the year.

Lithgow exhibit from Cambodia’s tragic legacy

Fairfax Media.
23/09/2008

A free Red Cross photo exhibition telling the stories of Cambodian landmine survivors will make its way to Lithgow this Thursday as part of an AusAID-funded tour of Australia.

Around six million landmines were laid in Cambodia from 1978 until the end of 1989.

Pailin, a Khmer district on the Thai border, is one of the most heavily mined areas in the world, mines were laid here by the Khmer Rouge, and the armies of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The consequence for poor and vulnerable people has been devastating over the years and while men are statistically most affected, landmines rob whole communities of able workers and productive land.

Poor villagers are forced by circumstance to build their homes and plant their crops in mine-filled areas. Harvesting and planting seasons often mean a significant spike in the number of casualties, as people risk their safety to make a living.

Photographer Somira Sao, who escaped from Cambodia at age three with her parents, recently returned to her homeland with Red Cross to capture the stories of landmine survivors.

“When I told people my story, they expressed genuine happiness that I had returned to understand their lives and my native country,” she said.

The resulting photo exhibition aims to share with Australian audiences stories of landmine survivors in Cambodia and to highlight the important joint work of AusAID and Australian Red Cross through the Landmine Survivor Assistance Program, which is funded by AusAID and managed by Australian Red Cross.

The exhibition explores how poverty, vocational and food insecurity affect people’s decisions to work in mined areas.

It highlights how, by tackling these issues, the program helps survivors break out of the poverty cycle so that they can live their lives with hope and dignity.

Australian Red Cross works closely with counterparts in the Royal Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Red Cross and other partners who are active in this important sector in Cambodia, to achieve the Program’s goal.

Opening in Cambodia in December 2007, the exhibition was launched in Canberra in April and is now travelling around Australia.

It will be held in Red Cross House in Queen Elizabeth Park. The exhibition will be open from 10 am to 3 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and on Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm.

The exhibition is free and open to all interested in understanding more about the tragic legacy of landmines and the work of Red Cross.

South Korean investment changes the face of modern Cambodia

FT.com

By Raphael Minder
September 23 2008 03:00

A young Cambodian couple smile for David Kim, the South Korean photographer, as he takes their wedding pictures.

Last November Mr Kim moved with his wife to Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, using the proceeds from the sale of his photo shop in Seoul to open Luk Studio. The business has made "a really good start" as more and more Cambodians turn to professionals to capture their union, he says.

Although his business is still in its infancy, Mr Kim has already hired three people to help manage bookings and photo shoots.

"I had my company in Korea for three years, but demand wasn't growing any more and there was simply too much competition," says the 32-year-old. "I can already say that I am the number one here because nobody was really offering this [service] professionally."

Mr Kim is making a grassroots contribution to a much more substantial flow of South Korean money and expertise entering Cambodia.

Last year South Korean investments there grew fivefold, making Cambodia the second-biggest recipient of Korean investment after China, according to the Korean International Trade Association. South Korea briefly overtook China two years ago as the biggest source of foreign direct investment, accounting for 23 per cent of projects approved by Cambodian authorities that year. Although China regained its leadership, several large-scale Korean projects are in the pipeline, in sectors including construction and finance.

Observers find it hard to explain exactly why Koreans have zoomed in on a country that is not particularly close to them, either geographically or culturally. "A lot of Korean businessmen are looking to invest abroad and somehow Cambodia seems to be now better known, particularly among small and medium-sized businesses, than other countries," says Anh Ho-young, South Korean deputy trade minister.

One suggestion is that the historic disconnect between the countries has helped. Decades of war have fuelled a profound distrust in Cambodia of its neighbours.

Also, "Koreans are Asia's most adventurous frontier market investors right now", says Douglas Clayton, who has been investing in south-east Asia for two decades and manages Leopard Capital, a Cambodian fund.

"They understand how Korea itself was rapidly developed from a frontier market into a developed society and see the possibilities to repeat that process in transitional economies like Cambodia.

"For historical reasons, Koreans are not eager to place all their bets on China, so they are interested in alternative low-cost production centres," he adds.

The most visible sign of South Korean investment in Cambodia is the redrawing of Phnom Penh's skyline. Two Korean construction companies are erecting skyscrapers that will be the city's tallest buildings.

Meanwhile, a joint venture between Korean and Cambodian companies is developing a satellite city, appropriately named Camko City. The $2bn (€1.4bn, £1bn) project is financed by Shinhan, a Korean bank, and is also due to house Cambodia's future bourse - again with financial as well as training assistance from the Korean stock exchange.

In the six years since he arrived in Cambodia, Won Jong-min estimates the Korean community has grown from less than 500 to about 10,000. He settled there "not because of business but because I fell in love with the beautiful nature" around the temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia's cultural treasure.

Mr Won has since founded K-Channel, a Korean-language broadcaster that is expanding rapidly and is expected to break even after just two years on the air.

His success owes much to the fact that Koreans remain close-knit and rarely learn Khmer, even though many marry Cambodians or form property partnerships with locals to circumvent restrictions on foreign land ownership.

"Demand for more Korean [TV] content and entertainment is very strong," says Mr Won.
Some pundits date the flourishing of business ties between the two countries to a state visit by Roh Moo-hyun, the former South Korean president, in late 2006, accompanied by a cohort of Korean executives.

Hun Sen, Cambodia's long-standing prime minister, has also encouraged an open door policy. Last year, when a Cambodian chartered aircraft crashed on a domestic flight with 13 Koreans among its 22 passengers, he headed the search-and-rescue team, a gesture that did not go unnoticed in Seoul.

"It's very rare for any prime minister to lead this kind of rescue, and I think it shows just how close this prime minister feels to Korea," says Mr Anh.

Dubai Group in first Cambodia investment plan

Gulf Times
Tuesday, 23 September, 2008

SINGAPORE: Dubai Group, an investment company managing more than $40bn on behalf of the emirate’s ruler, said it may invest in Leopard Capital’s Cambodia fund, the group’s first investment in the Southeast Asian nation.“We are interested in Cambodia,” said Lim See Teik, a senior private-equity analyst at Dubai Investment Group, the asset management unit, in an interview late on Friday in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, where he attended an investment forum organised by Leopard Capital. “There seems to be a lot of potential.”

The prospect of oil and gas development and political stability under the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen are luring foreign investments in Cambodia. The economy of Southeast Asia’s second-poorest country, which abolished money and markets under the Khmer Rouge three decades ago, grew 9.5% a year from 2000 to 2007, the fastest pace in Asia after China.Dubai Group has invested in other Southeast Asian countries, except for military-ruled Myanmar, said Lim, 41, who is based in Kuala Lumpur. – Bloomberg

Small CD, DVD shops cry foul over raids

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 22 September 2008

Larger shops said to benefit from tip-offs

A NEW government decree to curb the sale of counterfeit CDs and DVDs in Cambodia is unfairly targeting small market vendors, according to several small shop owners.

"Authorities have seized our products while ignoring larger sellers," one shop owner at Olympic Market who requested anonymity told the Post.

"The big sellers get tips from authorities in advance to warn them of a raid," he said.The shop owner said he can't afford to pay the government fine - between US$1,500 and $2,000 - for selling counterfeit discs.

"If we don't pay, the authorities told us we could be jailed," he said.

"Authorities are only seizing local counterfeit discs, but those from abroad are not taken," said Eung Seangleng, a supervisor at CD World. "They just told us not to sell them or import them anymore."

Pok Vanthy, deputy director of the Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department, said he had not yet received official reports about the confiscations, but he said the law was clear.

"Punishment for selling counterfeit music and movies has been set by subdecree 63 of the Royal Government," he said. "If someone refuses to pay fines, we will file a complaint with the court.

"He said he had no knowledge of local authorities alerting vendors about raids but that the government was doing its best to stop the sale of counterfeit products.

"We don't want to fine anyone," he said. "We just want them to cooperate with us and follow the law."

Pok Vanthy said authorities have targeted three Phnom Penh districts - Dangkor, Prampi Makara and Daun Penh - but operations would be extend to the four other districts beginning next week.

Chup rubber plantation privatised

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Monday, 22 September 2008

THE Chup Rubber Plantation will be handed over to a private company next month, according to the plantation's director general, Mak Kimhong, becoming the last of Cambodia's rubber farms to leave government hands under a plan to boost private investment.

The 13,000-hectare plantation will pass from government control after bidding has been finalised, Mak Kimhong said, adding that at least five local and international companies have submitted bids.

"I think the government has made this decision [to divest] because a private company would be better able to manage the rubber operations," he said.Chup has exported some 8,000 tonnes of rubber annually in the past several years but hopes to up that to 15,000 tonnes by 2013, he said.

Mak Kimhong said only about 5,000 hectares of the plantation is currently available for resin collection.

Ly Phalla, director general of the Rubber Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the government began privatising its plantation holdings in late 2007.

Arjun Goswami, country director for the Asia Development Bank, told the Post last week that divestment of state-owned enterprises could be vital in bolstering private sector enterprises.

"Private control will always be more effective than state control," he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KAY KIMSONG
Wooden boats of all states of repair bob in the Mekong River just outside Huay Xai. They're rickety and uncomfortable, but they're a huge draw for adventure-seeking tourists. Photograph by : Graham Andrews/Edmonton Journal

canada.com
Joanne Lane , Special to The Times

I was lured to explore slow boat travels on the Mekong River by tales of romantic visions of slow, watery days watching floating villages, fishing boats and river life meander by.

I was in Siem Reap, located on the edge of the Tonle Sap, a tributary lake of the river, so from there I decided to take a boat to Phnom Penh, from where you can follow the Mekong north or south.

The river actually starts on the Tibetan plateau at 5,181 metres in the Chinese Qinghai province, crosses the Yunnan province and follows the Myanmar-Laos border. It also forms most of the border between Thailand and Laos before plunging into Cambodia. It emerges again in Vietnam and finally gushes out into the South China Sea.

It's the 12th-longest river in the world and runs like a vein through southeast Asia for 4,200 kilometres; at times a raging muddy torrent, other times a sleepy coiling snake.

If it was India they would have made the river a god. People would come from everywhere just to dip a toe into the water. In Indochina, river worship is not such a fad, but the 60 million people who live along its basin and depend on it daily for subsistence fishing, transport, industry and agriculture must view it somewhat religiously. The river also supports diverse fisheries, second only to the Amazon.

Certainly the names the locals have given it read like a list of credits. In Tibet it is called "Dza Chu," in China "Lancang Jiang," in Thailand and Laos "Mae Nam Khong," in Cambodia "Tonle Thom" and Vietnam "Cuu Long."

Translated these are the water of stone, the turbulent river, the mother of all the waters, the nine dragons river and the great water.

Standing by the Mekong in Phnom Penh, it was impossible not to be inspired by it--a murky expanse littered with fishing boats and local river craft, crumbling colonial architecture and Buddhist temples clinging to the banks and a view over cultivated lawns to the elaborate king's palace.

The entire city was in preparation for the Bom Om Tuk festival. This three-day festivity celebrates the end of the wet season and the provision of fertile land. It draws people from every province and canoes were on display to be raced in the coming days.

From Phnom Penh I took the northern route to Laos, a three-day journey to the border alone.

Until Kratie the river was wide, brown and uninspiring. But north of Kratie it became a mosaic of rapids, eddies and whirlpools coursing between vegetated sandy islets. These featured waving children, birdlife, charging buffalo, coiling tree roots and flapping laundry.

I took the common passenger ferries, keen to see how the Indo-Chinese travelled. Boarding always started early, loading bags of sticky rice, motorbikes and boxes of live chickens. Some ferries were air conditioned with karaoke videos or over-dramatized gangster films.

People played cards or with babies, drank Laos beer with their packed lunches, shuffled to the rear-side bathroom in flip flops, or even slept.

The ferries only ran once a day and were express. But they would take on new passengers mid-river--a fascinating ordeal as the smaller village boats tried to transfer people and possessions without spillage in the swirling currents.

In the mid-afternoon we would halt in a town of no acclaim, its lack of tourism more fascinating as traditional life prevailed: vegetable markets, French breads, coffee houses with reclining chairs to watch TV, limited electricity and a lifestyle beyond laid-back.

Upon entering Laos the Mekong meandered through Si Phan Don's 4,000 islands. Some of the islands are open for tourism but for now the rice fields, buffalo, French villas and colonial railways remain intact. The pace of life was "lounging" interspersed with coffee, the rice harvest and children.

Leaving the Thai border, the river continued north to the mellow Laos capital Vientiane and the UNESCO-listed Luang Prabang. The river coils around both cities and it's impossible not to be within sight or conscious thought of it. Besides, the river is the best place for dining and people watching: saffron-cloaked monks, village women with stained teeth and old fishermen.

From Luang Prabang it's a two-day journey to the Thai border, a popular route for leaving or entering the country.

Freelance travel writer/photographer Joanne Lane who lives in Queensland, Australia.

© Chilliwack Times 2008

South Korean investment changes Cambodia

FT.com
By Raphael Minder
September 22 2008

A young Cambodian couple smile for David Kim, the South Korean photographer, as he takes their wedding pictures.

Last November Mr Kim moved with his wife to Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, using the proceeds from the sale of his photo shop in Seoul to open Luk Studio. The business has made “a really good start” as more and more Cambodians turn to professionals to capture their union, he says.

Although his business is still in its infancy, Mr Kim has already hired three people to help manage bookings and photo shoots.

“I had my company in Korea for three years, but demand wasn’t growing any more and there was simply too much competition,” says the 32-year-old. “I can already say that I am the number one here because nobody was really offering this [service] professionally.”

Mr Kim is making a grassroots contribution to a much more substantial flow of South Korean money and expertise entering Cambodia.

Last year South Korean investments there grew fivefold, making Cambodia the second-biggest recipient of Korean investment after China, according to the Korean International Trade Association. South Korea briefly overtook China two years ago as the biggest source of foreign direct investment, accounting for 23 per cent of projects approved by Cambodian authorities that year. Although China regained its leadership, several large-scale Korean projects are in the pipeline, in sectors including construction and finance.

Observers find it hard to explain exactly why Koreans have zoomed in on a country that is not particularly close to them, either geographically or culturally. “A lot of Korean businessmen are looking to invest abroad and somehow Cambodia seems to be now better known, particularly among small and medium-sized businesses, than other countries,” says Anh Ho-young, South Korean deputy trade minister.

One suggestion is that the historic disconnect between the countries has helped. Decades of war have fuelled a profound distrust in Cambodia of its neighbours.

Also, “Koreans are Asia’s most adventurous frontier market investors right now”, says Douglas Clayton, who has been investing in south-east Asia for two decades and manages Leopard Capital, a Cambodian fund.

“They understand how Korea itself was rapidly developed from a frontier market into a developed society and see the possibilities to repeat that process in transitional economies like Cambodia.

“For historical reasons, Koreans are not eager to place all their bets on China, so they are interested in alternative low-cost production centres,” he adds.

The most visible sign of South Korean investment in Cambodia is the redrawing of Phnom Penh’s skyline. Two Korean construction companies are erecting skyscrapers that will be the city’s tallest buildings.

Meanwhile, a joint venture between Korean and Cambodian companies is developing a satellite city, appropriately named Camko City. The $2bn (€1.4bn, £1bn) project is financed by Shinhan, a Korean bank, and is also due to house Cambodia’s future bourse – again with financial as well as training assistance from the Korean stock exchange.

In the six years since he arrived in Cambodia, Won Jong-min estimates the Korean community has grown from less than 500 to about 10,000. He settled there “not because of business but because I fell in love with the beautiful nature” around the temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s cultural treasure.

Mr Won has since founded K-Channel, a Korean-language broadcaster that is expanding rapidly and is expected to break even after just two years on the air.

His success owes much to the fact that Koreans remain close-knit and rarely learn Khmer, even though many marry Cambodians or form property partnerships with locals to circumvent restrictions on foreign land ownership.

“Demand for more Korean [TV] content and entertainment is very strong,” says Mr Won.

Some pundits date the flourishing of business ties between the two countries to a state visit by Roh Moo-hyun, the former South Korean president, in late 2006, accompanied by a cohort of Korean executives.

Hun Sen, Cambodia’s long-standing prime minister, has also encouraged an open door policy.

Last year, when a Cambodian chartered aircraft crashed on a domestic flight with 13 Koreans among its 22 passengers, he headed the search-and-rescue team, a gesture that did not go unnoticed in Seoul.

“It’s very rare for any prime minister to lead this kind of rescue, and I think it shows just how close this prime minister feels to Korea,” says Mr Anh.

Nuon Chea Appeals Detention Extension

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 September 2008

Defense lawyers for Nuon Chea, the senior-most surviving Khmer Rouge leader, have filed an appeal against an extension of his tribunal detention for another year, as an investigation into his alleged atrocity crimes continues.

Lawyer Son Arun said Nuon Chea, who was arrested more than one year ago, should be released.

Investigating judges at the tribunal last week ordered an extension of Nuon Chea’s detention while they continue to investigate charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against him.

Nuon Chea, 82, was known as Brother No. 2, and was second only to Pol Pot during the brutal reign of Democratic Kampuchea. He was arrested at his home in the former stronghold of Pailin in September 2007.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the ruling was proper under the “laws and internal rules” of the tribunal.

Observers said the ruling could extend the mandate of the cash-strapped courts to as far off as 2010 at a time when the UN-Cambodia hybrid courts are seeking funds to operate through the end of 2009.

Military Police Question 22 in Land Racket

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 September 2008

Khmer audio aired 22 September (10.8 MB) - Download

Military police on Monday were holding 22 people, including a senior armed forces commander, for questioning in connection to the alleged sale of state land using forged documents across Phnom Penh.

Lt. Gen. Men Vichet, deputy commander of RCAF infantry, was among those being questioned, Military Police Commander Gen. Sao Sokha said.

Others being questioning included senior government, military and police officials and land brokers, Sao Sokha said. He declined to give more specific information on the names or ranks of officials.

The men are being questioned in connection to a criminal operation in which land brokers worked closely with senior officials to falsely sell state land with forged titles, Sao Sokha said.

Gen. Meas Sophea, commander of the RCAF infantry, confirmed Monday his subordinate, Men Vichet, had been called in for questioning at military police headquarters, but he could not confirm whether the questioning was related to forged land documents.

The arrest follows a public announcement Wednesday by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said many government officials were involved in forging land documents.

The 22 men were called in for questioning on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and all of them were being held at military police headquarters on Monday, Sao Sokha said.

None has been charged, but a continuing investigation is underway, he said.

Local Fuel Companies Nudge Prices Down

Fuel companies have agreed to lower fuel prices to around 5,000 riel per liter, about $1.25.

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 September 2008

Cambodia's main fuel import companies have agreed to reduce the price of fuel by 100 riel, about $0.02, per liter, but economists said last week the decrease doesn't match the fall in global prices.

The lower costs decided at a meeting held by the Ministry of Economy and Finance on Friday, following a call by Prime Minister Hun Sen for a reduction in costs.

"We reached our goal," Finance Minister Keat Chhon said Friday. "From Monday on, oil companies will reduce the fuel price 100 riel per liter. So it will be reduced from 5,000 or 4,900 riel," about $1.25.

Fuel prices directly affect many Cambodians, but the prices are also a driving factor in high inflation in recent months.

On Saturday, global crude oil was at $104 a barrel, down 30 percent from its highest point, $147. But Cambodia's fuel costs have only decreased about 10 percent from their highest prices, which matched the global surge.

"Our fuel price doesn't equal other markets," said Chap Sotharith, an economist at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. The global price "already had a 30 percent decrease, but ours has decreased only 10 percent."

A decrease of 30 percent in Cambodia would mean prices as low as 3,800 riel, or $1.90, said Sok Sina, an independent economist.

Chhun Oun, managing director of the fuel company Tela, disagreed, saying the current Cambodian prices already match global prices.

Cambodia has at least seven local and foreign fuel importers, but most of them before Friday had been reluctant to lower costs.

Asked Friday whether the cost could be lowered more, Seng Chhung Ly, chief of retail network for France's Total, said, "I don't know. We have to wait and see together."

Critics say the price in Cambodia stays high because the major fuel companies cooperate to keep prices inflated.

"The situation in Cambodia seems to be one of the underdog against oil companies," said Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association. "The four or five companies together limit the price to look like only one. In this situation, the consumers are the losers and the sellers are the winners."

Keat Chhon dismissed such criticisms, saying that during a period when global oil prices rose 80 percent, Cambodia's prices rose only 40 percent.

Meanwhile, he said, the government has subsidized fuel costs more than $260 million since January and plans to spend another $30 million a month through the end of the year.

Sacravatoons :" Corruptions,Resignation and Rewards "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons :" Khmer M'chas Srok "

Click on image to zoom in
Courtesy Sacravatoon