Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Water plant nearly complete

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Workers at the new water-treatment plant in Phnom Penh’s Chruoy Changvar district.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

In a bid to keep up with growing demand, the govt has loaned Phnom Penh’s water authority funding needed to build a second major plant in the capital

SOME two years in the making, a new US$13 million water supply station will start providing Phnom Penh with desperately-needed additional water early this year in order to keep up with mushrooming demand, an official said.

"We have borrowed millions of dollars from our development partners and especially from the government to enlarge our water-supply system so we can cope with high demand," said Ek Sokchan, director general of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority.

The station, located in Chruoy Changvar district, which was financed by a 10-year loan from the French Development Agency, draws water from the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac rivers, he said.

He said that the new station would increase supply capacity from the current 235,000 cubic metres to roughly 300,000 cubic metres a day, enough to provide 200,000 families in the city with the essential liquid.

Ek Sokchan said the additional water supply is direly needed. "I estimate that nowadays only 90 percent of Phnom Penh's population has access to water."

"Water demand is increasing at around 200,000 cubic metres [or roughly 10 percent] every year," he said. "This increase is caused not only by population growth, but it also derives from increased individual demand."

More pipes

The authority has expanded the network of underground water pipes to a length of 1,600 kilometres, Ek Sokchan said, adding that even most people living in the outskirts of Phnom Penh now enjoy access to the network.

He explained that the price per cubic metre depended on the quantity and the use to which the water is put. For example, individuals using small amounts of water may pay as little as 550 riels ($0.13) per cubic metre, while industrial enterprises may have to pay up to 1,400 riels, he said.

Chan Sophal of the Cambodia Economic Association told the Post on Wednesday that the country's rapid economic growth played a large role in fuelling water demand, adding that in Cambodia, water was cheaper than electricity.

"The Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority works very hard to meet the high demand and provide people with high-quality water at a fair price," he said.

Critics decry education officials allowed to work past retirement age of 60

Photo by: Heng chivoan
CITA President Rong Chhun shown at a demonstration in a file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Cambodian Independent Teachers Association says that move is unfair to all academics, and that mandatory retirement should be scrapped

AT least 13 senior officials in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport have been allowed to work beyond mandatory retirement, according to critics who sent an anonymous complaint to the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA).

The letter, dated December 15, stated that officials at the director and deputy director levels were given permission to keep their jobs by former Education Ministry secretary of state and current Minister of Education Im Sethy, despite having reached the legally mandated retirement age of 60.

The CITA responded to the claims with a letter sent on Monday to Im Sethy, in which the organisation urged the government to enforce the retirement law.

"This decision [to suspend legal retirement] has made all of us who are professors, teachers and civil servants in other departments within the Education Ministry upset," the original letter stated.

"Some officials have reached retirement age, but they have not been forced to retire in accordance with the law. This is an injustice in the view of other professors and teachers."Im Sethy could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Enforce law or discard
The letter added that if senior officials are allowed to continue working, then the government should discard the retirement law altogether.

CITA President Rong Chhun said he had confirmed that the information contained in the letter was true, adding that its author or authors refused to identify themselves because they were afraid of retribution.

"The letter is valid because it listed specific names of officials who have been allowed to keep working," Rong Chhun told the Post Tuesday.

"I have also heard about this from other teachers before the letter was sent," he added.

A new generation

"Postponing legal retirement age in order to continue working is not good because it prevents the younger generation from participating in state institutions," Rong Chhun said.

"Having new employees means that we will have new ideas in the ministry," he added.

Rong Chhun said that it was common for officials who reach their legal retirement age to want to keep their jobs in order to continue drawing pay.

Two more gold-gang suspects arrested

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

TWO more suspected members of the heavily-armed gang of gold and bank robbers who have terrorised Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham province have been arrested and detained at Prey Sar prison, senior Criminal Bureau Police Chief Choun Narin said on Monday.

"We have arrested two more robbers and confiscated two illegal guns from them," he said, identifying the suspects as You Sovanara, 43, and Ting Kreoung, 38.

The gang, which police say has nine members, robbed an ACLEDA bank near City Hall a few weeks ago, stole US$75,000 in Kampong Cham province and robbed a gold shop of more than 11 kilograms of gold.

Prince Ranariddh drops lawsuit against Khmer newspaper editor

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Rehabilitated Prince Ranariddh has said he will not sue Moneaksekar Khmer for defamation after its editor wrote a letter of apology

PRINCE Norodom Ranariddh has decided not to file a lawsuit against Khmer-language newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer after its editor wrote a letter to apologise and retract previous allegations that the prince had lobbied for special privileges for him and his supporters.

"I thank you for the truth you have presented in your letter; it was very meaningful in providing me justice," Ranariddh wrote to the newspaper's publisher and Editor-in-Chief Dam Sith in a letter dated December 31 and acquired by the Post on Monday.

The article, published in December, alleged that the prince had requested Prime Minister Hun Sen provide him with a mansion in front of the Royal Palace and asked for the appointments of 200 of his supporters to the King's Cabinet.

The prince was swift to lash back, threatening to take the newspaper to court for defamation, claiming the broadsheet had published unfounded information about him.

And Ranariddh's spokesman, Chea Chanboribo, demanded the newspaper present written evidence signed by the prince proving that this accusation was true, or expect to be sued.

Dam Sith had previously stood by the article, saying he had satisfied legal requirements by publishing a letter of protest by Ranariddh's camp and revealing his source for the allegations.

But, according Chea Chanboribo, Dam Sith has now admitted to wrongdoing and the incident is over.

The prince is "finished with the affairs with Moneakseka Khmer, and there will not be a lawsuit", he said.

"He has forgiven the newspaper after its publisher, Dam Sith, sent a letter to Norodom Ranariddh seeking a pardon and recognizing that the information published in the newspaper did not have a real source."

Dam Sith declined to comment Monday, saying only that he had not received a copy of the letter.

Tuol Sleng seeks education funds

Photo by: SOVANN PHILONG
A tour guide shows a tourist around Toul Sleng museum on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Phnom Penh’s genocide museum has requested money for a new educational scheme aimed at teaching students and professional tour guides more about the KR regime

THE curators of the Tuol Sleng genocide museum have requested funding and support for a new educational program targeting students and professional tour guides taking visitors to the site, to invite them to attend workshops to expand their understanding of what went on within the former school's walls during the Khmer Rouge regime.

"Our tour guides will teach them. They will understand what happened when they see prison guards' instruments to torture prisoners and pictures of prisoners," said Bun Kong, the museum's administrative director.

"We want to let them learn more about it and learn the real story about Tuol Sleng."

He said the proposal was formally submitted to the Ministry of Culture last week, and they are waiting for approval and funding.

He said the museum has requested US$1,000 a month to cover the cost of transporting participants from within Phnom Penh to the museum to attend the courses and will later ask for more funding so the program can expand to invite participants from outside the city.

He said the program would also include the construction of a small classroom on the museum grounds.

According to Bun Kong, visitors to the museum were down last year to 40,000, from 50,000 in 2007.

He attributed the drop to an overall decrease in international travellers due to the global financial crisis.

He added that tensions on the border with Thailand have also discouraged land travel, further reducing the number of visitors.

Chuch Phoeung, a secretary of state at the Culture Ministry, welcomed the idea.

"We have no objection to this request," he said.

"We want to improve learning about our history," he added.

" ...tour guides are still lacking in their understanding of the Khmer Rouge. "

"Most students have visited the National Museum of Fine Arts, but few have visited Tuol Sleng, maybe because they are scared of it," he added.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which has been heavily involved in collecting materials on the Khmer Rouge period and has organised free trips to the museum for rural Cambodians, said his organisation has discussed initiating the program with the museum for the past six years.

"The tour guides are still lacking in their understanding of the Khmer Rouge. Through this program, they will get serious training in the history and they can pass it on to tourists in the right way." Youk Chhang said some guides dressed inappropriately and projected their voices loudly to talk over other guides.

Genocide tourism?

Tourism to former Khmer Rouge sites like Tuol Sleng prison and the Choeung Ek "killing fields" have for years been a mainstay for travellers to Phnom Penh.

And the recent arrests of top Khmer Rouge leaders by Cambodia's war crimes court have created a minor boom at the killing fields, where ticket sales doubled compared with the previous year, officials there said.

Beyond Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek, there are a number of less prominent Khmer Rouge massacre sites, such as the "Killing Caves" of Phnom Sampeou, outside Battambang city, and Wat Thmey in Siem Reap.

There are about 90 community stupas around the country containing the remains of those who perished that attract visitors.

Hoping to further capitalise on this increased interest, the government is also considering establishing a circuit of former Khmer Rouge sites in the rebel's former stronghold of Anlong Veng, where regime leader Pol Pot died in 1998.

On some days, more than 100 people come to Anlong Veng to visit the home of the deceased former Khmer Rouge military chief Ta Mok and to survey the high ground from which he commanded over the final days of the movement in the late 1990s.

But Youk Chhang says tourists frequently do not treat the sites with respect. In Tuol Sleng, "rooms are overfilled and people are talking loudly, there's no space to think. There shouldn't be a gift shop and parking lot inside the museum", he said.

Vendors at B'bang market protest company takeover

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

MORE than a hundred vendors at the Beung Chhouk market in Battambang are protesting a move by a private company to force them out of their stalls and onto the streets, demonstrators and company representatives say.

The Kim Hoc Heng company, which last year was awarded a 60-year contract to run the market, issued a notice to vendors Sunday telling them to leave the area before renovation work begins.

"Some shops in Beung Chhouk are too old and unsafe, so we need to repair them, and those shops do not belong to the vendors anyway," said Tang Chhun, general manager of Kim Hoc Heng company.

"After the repairs are complete, I will sell the stalls back to the venders who want to buy them and the price will start at $3,500," he said.

But vendors say that forcing them out of the market and onto the streets will ruin their business - making them vulnerable to the elements and causing chaos in the city centre. Moreover, they claim, they cannot afford to buy the stalls back.

"We depend on the old shops," said Hang Sophal, a vendor at the market. "If they want to move us, they should arrange new locations for us and not just throw us onto the street. How can we do our business there? We are more than one hundred vendors, so it will make for anarchy on the street," he said.

Relocation will be arranged

According to company representative Tang Chhun, a new location will be offered by local authorities to vendors willing to move from the old market.

"It is up to the provincial governor to find a solution. After that, I will start constructing new shops [for them]," he added.

But local rights group Licadho's representative in Battambang, Heng Say Hong, said he is worried about the situation.

"Moving the sellers is illegal [and violates] the company's contract, which says they will only repair the market and not sell it," he said, adding that he wants the governor to help.

But Uy Ry, governor of Battambang district, said it was up to the company to solve the problem. "We don't have a solution, and this case is not related to our authority. It is up to the company to negotiate with all the vendors," he said.

Calling for a government mea culpa for the KR

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Cambodia’s Extraordinary Chambers will see its first trial early this year, but some observers are calling for the government to do more than support the trial - by apologising for the injustices of the KR regime.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Long Panhavuth
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Dear Editor,

The fall of the Khmer Rouge regime left 1.7 million killed, all infrastructure destroyed and many widows and orphans. The new government after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and the current government tried to provide restorative justice for Cambodians, but the scale of the crimes committed was so big and a genuine political will to seek redress remained so fragile that today Cambodia is still struggling to obtain reparations for the victims of past human rights violations.

In (the book) An Introduction to the Khmer Rouge Trials, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen said: "Not a single one of our people has been spared from the ravages brought upon our country during the three years, eight months and twenty days" of Democratic Kampuchea.

The present operation of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is an illustration of the government's good will to deal with past human rights violations by providing some sort of justice for Cambodians who were victimised during the period of the KR regime. This court allows victims to participate as civil parties and to make claims for reparations, though in symbolic ways. As of the end of October 2008, there were 28 civil parties in case 001 (S21-Kaing Guk Eav aka Duch) and 24 civil parties in case 002 (Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, and Kaing Guk Eav) and there are more than 2,500 applications pending. These figures show that the court is relevant and important for Cambodians.

Soon the court will conduct its first trial. Due to the number of victims, neither the court nor the state can compensate each individual. Individual compensation, if it were to be selective, may also affect existing reconciliation in communities.

In any case, the internal rules of the ECCC only allow the court to provide collective and symbolic reparations. There is no money in the court's current budget and the ECCC has not established a Trust Fund to provide and implement reparations. The accused also claim to be indigent. In the minds of the judges, collective and symbolic reparation may be limited to forcing the convicted person(s) to pay for publication of the court decision or forcing him/them to publicly apologise. This is not enough for the victims to move forward.

Reparations uphold the status of victims as bearers of rights and convey a sense that they are owed some compensation. Reparations should serve as a vehicle for acknowledging past violations and state responsibility for crimes committed in its name, as well as a public commitment to address their enduring impact. We can't change the past, but how can victims move forward?

What victims have asked for is not necessarily money. Public apology is often referred to by victims as a key element of the reparations they seek. Up to now, such an apology has never come from the state.

Many victims say that they cannot reconcile when the state has never apologised for the crimes of its predecessor. Yet, state agent(s) continue to get political benefit from the sufferings of the victims.

The country established May 21 as "Hatred Day" to commemorate the death of the victims and, in most public speeches, our prime minister acknowledges the crimes and sufferings of Cambodians during the KR regime. However, he has never issued or planned to come up with any state policy to apologise for the wrongdoings of the prior regime.

Such a state apology has been made in many parts of the world. Hungarian authorities apologised for the role of the state in the genocide of the Jews; Canada apologised and provided compensation for historical abuses against native nations; former French president Jacques Chirac apologized for the crimes committed in the name of the state during the Second World War; the US president as well as the secretary general of the United Nations apologised publicly for their failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda; and other heads of state apologised for past abuse in Australia, Chile, Serbia, etc.

Why not Cambodia?

The government's issuance of a public apology in the name of the state would not disturb social peace, nor would it upset any former Khmer Rouge members who are now in the government, at the parliament or in the Cambodian People's Party.

It would not create political instability. Instead, it would bring more legitimacy to the current government, as it would show its consciousness of the enormous price paid by Cambodians to previous human rights abuses, and assure that they won't be repeated again.

The apology will help the victims to heal and move forward. The state apology could be issued in parallel with the first judgment issued by the ECCC in order to make the symbolic reparations offered more meaningful.

But it could also be made on the 30th anniversary of the end of the KR regime, on January 7, 2009, the day on which the CPP's current leaders put an end to Democratic Kampuchea.

Long Panhavuth
Cambodia Justice Initiative

Police Blotter: 06 Jan 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

WOMAN KILLS MAN BY BITING HIS PENIS

Vuth Voeun, 38, was found dead last month, after his wife Sy Hoeun had allegedly bitten and squeezed his penis in anger after an argument. The argument happened after Sy Hoeun came home from the couple's rice paddy in the Krorkor district of Pursat province to find her husband and his friends drinking 15 litres of rice wine, which she wanted to sell. They had an argument that evening, and the next morning Vuth Voeun was found dead. No report was made at the time, but the district police interviewed the wife when rumours of the molested penis had spread. They could not confirm the cause of death because the body had already been cremated.
VONG SOKHENG

MAN ACCIDENTLY SETS FIRE TO SELF

Prak Sopheap, 23, suffered severe injuries on Thursday night after he caught fire while filling up a motorbike with petrol. He used a lighter to see better in the dark but immediately caught fire. Several people tried to stop the fire from spreading from his arms to the rest of his body, but he was burned from head to toe. He was brought to the Calmette Hospital in Kampong Speu province.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

JOURNALIST ARRESTED FOR PHOTO

Police arrested a journalist for taking photographs of a street dessert vendor in the Chong Kao Sou village in Siem Reap province on December 31. The arrested man, Muth Savy, said he knew the vendor and witnesses said that the arrest was unreasonable. Police claim that they did not mean to arrest him but that they only invited him to the station for some lessons and that he would be released afterwards.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

FARMER SURVIVES REVENGE ATTACK

A man was shot in the neck but survived what police say was a revenge attack. The attack happened in Kampot province on Friday, when the victim, Nhean Vorn, 34, came home from helping thresh rice for his relatives. The police have no sign of the perpetrators.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

MAN TEASES WIFE, BURNS DOWN HOUSE

Try Hongly accidentally burned down his family home after an argument with his wife. During the argument, he decided to tease his wife by pretending to set fire to their small thatch house in Kampong Cham province. He switched on a lighter but when his wife did not stop him, the flame reached the thatched roof and eventually the house burned down. He was arrested Saturday by the local police.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Cambodia travel figures lift, but not as much as expected

Travel Blackboard
Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Second half arrival figures are in for Cambodia, and while international traveller numbers have grown, they haven’t performed as well as previously expected.

For the full year, 2.15 million travellers entered Cambodia, signalling an annual growth rate of 6% for 2008 when compared to 2007 figures, but this fell far short of the 15-20% growth rates targeted earlier in the year.

Breaking the numbers down, first half 2008 saw stronger growth figures year-on-year, with a growth rate of 13%, while the second half grew by 8%.

“We expected foreign tourist arrivals to increase between 15 to 20 percent, but it increased only about eight percent compared to 2007,” said Thong Khon, Cambodia Tourism Minister, to AFP.

“It only slightly increased because of the financial crisis,” he continues. “People stop spending money.”

Additionally, some 31% of travellers into Cambodia transfer through Thailand, and with the recent barricades at Bangkok, much traffic has been throttled back.

Looking to full year figures for 2009, the tourism minister is still eyeing growth for Cambodia.“I [can] guarantee that the number of the tourist arrivals will increase next year, though not by too much.”

In Brief: CMAC gets new director general

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Tuesday, 06 January 2009

Heng Ratana officially replaced Khem Sophoan as director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) on Monday. Khem Sophoan, who had headed CMAC since 1998, was replaced because he had reached the maximum duration of his three-term tenure and was promoted to become chairman of the group's governing council by a royal decree issued by King Norodom Sihamoni on December 27. Heng Ratana, the previous deputy director general, explained that because the governing council was in charge of overseeing the CMAC's activities, Khem Sophoan's new position was actually "higher than his position as the director general".

Cambodia: 30 Years After Fall of the Khmer Rouge, Justice Still Elusive

After 30 years, no one has been tried, convicted or sentenced for the crimes of one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century. This is no accident. For more than a decade, China and the United States blocked efforts at accountability, and for the past decade Hun Sen has done his best to thwart justice.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Related Materials:

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge Tribunal Must Meet International Standards
International Standards in Khmer Rouge Trials a Must

Anniversary Highlights Stalled Trials for Some of 20th Century’s Worst Killers
Human Rights Watch

January 5, 2009

(New York, January 5, 2009) - Thirty years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia's culture of impunity remains as strong as ever, Human Rights Watch said today. Under Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Cambodian government continues to obstruct the United Nations-supported court created to try senior Khmer Rouge leaders and others most responsible for the deaths of up to 2 million people during the Khmer Rouge-era.

Despite more than three years of operations and the expenditure of approximately US$50 million, the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia established to hold the Khmer Rouge accountable have held no trials.

"After 30 years, no one has been tried, convicted or sentenced for the crimes of one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This is no accident. For more than a decade, China and the United States blocked efforts at accountability, and for the past decade Hun Sen has done his best to thwart justice."

The Extraordinary Chambers have been deeply flawed in both design and practice. UN reports have concluded that the Cambodian judiciary lacks independence, competence and professionalism. Yet at the insistence of Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander, the Extraordinary Chambers were established with a majority of Cambodian judges and a Cambodian "co-prosecutor" and "co-investigating judge." The United Nations opposed that structure.

Prosecutors and investigating judges have conducted only limited field investigations. The Extraordinary Chambers have also been mired in allegations of corruption among its Cambodian personnel, with charges of job-selling and bribery.

Five Khmer Rouge leaders whom Hun Sen has allowed to be arrested are in detention, but no other cases have been filed against the many persons implicated in horrific crimes during Khmer Rouge rule. Human Rights Watch has called for broadening the scope of investigations beyond the five already charged.

Today, the Extraordinary Chambers published a statement in which the Cambodian co-prosecutor opposed filing additional cases. The international co-prosecutor rightly asserted in his filing with the Extraordinary Chambers that the charges fall within the court's jurisdiction and "would lead to a more comprehensive accounting of the crimes that were committed." Yet for political and policy reasons, the Cambodian co-prosecutor has opposed bringing more cases, citing "Cambodia's past instability and the continued need for national reconciliation."

"No serious observer believes there is any threat to Cambodia's stability if additional cases are filed against alleged Khmer Rouge killers," said Adams. "On the 30th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge's fall from power, the Cambodian government is playing games. This is a transparently political attempt to stop the court from doing its work."

The Khmer Rouge came to power at the end of the United States' war in Indochina. Led by Pol Pot and Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge was in power from April 17, 1975 to January 7, 1979. Estimates suggest that as many as 2 million of Cambodia's 8 million people were killed or died from disease, starvation, or forced labor during this period.

After the Khmer Rouge carried out numerous cross-border attacks on Vietnam in which hundreds of villagers were massacred, the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia. It pushed the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. The Khmer Rouge retreated to the Thai border, where it received support from Thailand, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and others for the next decade.

To force the Vietnamese army out of Cambodia, the US then led a broad international embargo on Cambodia, depriving a population that had survived inconceivable violence, deprivation, and hardship of the assistance necessary to rebuild their health and their country.

Throughout the 1980s the Khmer Rouge conducted a violent insurgency in which tens of thousands died. For geopolitical reasons, discussions of holding the Khmer Rouge leadership accountable for their crimes while in power were blocked, principally by the US and China.

At China's insistence, the Khmer Rouge was included as a party to the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements, which led to creation of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), the UN's largest peacekeeping effort up to that time, and national elections to form a new government. The Khmer Rouge withdrew from the peacekeeping force, but the elections went ahead without it. China pledged to withdraw support from the Khmer Rouge thereafter, which it apparently did. But elements in the Thai army continued to support the Khmer Rouge and deaths and injuries, many from landmines, mounted.

The Khmer Rouge movement fractured publicly in 1996 with the amnesty granted to Ieng Sary, the former Khmer Rouge foreign minister, by the Cambodian government. The movement effectively collapsed after the death of Pol Pot in 1998 and the defection to the Cambodian government of other top leaders, including Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, and thousands of Khmer Rouge soldiers.

In 1997, Hun Sen and his co-prime minister, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, sent a letter to the UN secretary-general at the time, Kofi Annan, asking for an international tribunal to hold the Khmer Rouge accountable. This effort was blocked by China, which made it clear that it would veto any UN Security Council resolution to create such a court, and by Hun Sen, who with the collapse of the Khmer Rouge, lost interest in holding its leaders accountable. Instead, Hun Sen invited Khmer Rouge leaders who defected to his government to his home, toasted them with champagne, and called for Cambodians to "bury the past."

"Hun Sen has spent most of the past 10 years trying to undermine UN efforts to establish a credible tribunal, miring it in delay and fights over jurisdiction," said Adams. "Now he is trying to stop a few more cases from being filed."

Human Rights Watch said that the impunity enjoyed by the Khmer Rouge has been matched in the post-Khmer Rouge era. The Vietnamese-backed People's Republic of Kampuchea, in power from 1979 until 1993, routinely violated the fundamental rights of Cambodians. During the UNTAC period in the early 1990s, the United Nations recorded hundreds of killings and attacks by forces under the control of Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party.

On March 30, 1997, a grenade attack on an opposition political rally killed at least 16 people and wounded approximately 150. Hun Sen's bodyguard unit has been implicated in the attack. In July 1997, Hun Sen staged a coup against his royalist coalition partners in which more than 100 opposition figures were extrajudically killed. In the 1998 elections, dozens more were killed. In the past decade, many opposition politicians, journalists, labor leaders and human rights activists have been killed or attacked. No perpetrator has been held accountable, in spite of the availability of evidence in many of these cases.

"Whether it is for Khmer Rouge crimes or those of more recent times, brutal, well-known perpetrators remain free men," said Adams. "Sadly, impunity remains almost complete in Cambodia."

Cambodia-Aims to become rice exporting country.

FarmingUK
06/01/2009

CAMBODIA IS SEEKING TO BECOME A WORLD LEADING RICE EXPORTER.

The Agricultural Minister of Cambodia, Chan Sarun ,told ABC Radio Australia, that he hopes to produce enough rice to be in a position to export 8 million tones annually.

This follows an announcement by the Prime Minister of Cambodia that they will not cut down on rice exports.

This comes in the wake of news that India, Vietnam, Brazil, China and Egypt are banning the export of rice. Fears of rice shortages have led to increases in the price of rice in some countries.

Although Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in South East Asia, the prospect of becoming a leading rice exporter is feasible and land for planting is available.

The Prime Minister of Thailand announced in December that his country will not cut back on rice exports and put incentives in place to plant more rice.

A spokesman for the International Rice research institute based in the Philippines, Duncan Macintosh, welcomed the move by both governments which could help stable the market and reduce the panic that has gripped the international rice market.

Cambodia creates new body to regulate foreign marriage

People's Daily Online
January 06, 2009

A new organization to regulate foreign marriage has been created following the lifting of a six-month suspension of such unions in 2008, English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post said on Tuesday.

The Association for People Protection (APP) was licensed by the Ministry of Interior on Dec. 12 to provide "free consultations on marriages to foreigners," the paper quoted an APP statement as saying.

The APP aims at protecting Cambodian overseas migrants, especially women marrying foreigners, said Ky Sina, president of the organization.

"The duty of the association is to help people applying for passports and visas to do this legally. Any foreigner who wants to marry a Cambodian woman will have to become a member of the APP," according to the statement.

The APP will also act as a mediator "to facilitate (dialogue) and find lawyers for both husband and wife" if they have problems later in their marriage, it added.

The foreign marriage suspension was enacted in April amid concerns over an explosion in the number of broker unions involving poor or uneducated women.

It also followed the release of an International Organization for Migration (IOM) report highlighting the plight of a rising number of Cambodian brides migrating to South Korea in marriages hastily arranged by brokers who made large profits.

Some 1,759 marriage visas were issued for Cambodians by South Korea in 2007, up from 72 in 2004, said the report.

Source:Xinhua

Cambodia extends use of high-tech bio-digester for farmers

People's Daily Online
January 06, 2009

Some 17,500 rural households will be equipped with eco-friendly bio-digesters, which convert agricultural waste into cooking gas, English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post said on Tuesday.

"We hope this bio-digester will benefit not only households, but the agricultural sector as a whole because it can help reduce the rate of deforestation, and the waste left over will be used for natural fertilizer," Agricultural Minister Chan Sarun was quoted as saying.

The ministry, in partnership with the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), began the National Bio-digester Program in 2005 and has installed 3,633 of planned bio-digesters so far.

A Dutch finance company has provided 2 million U.S. dollars of low-interest loans for farmers to build bio-digester plants, each of which costs 200 to 1,000 U.S. dollars.

A plant requires about 20 to 40 kilograms of animal dung daily and can supply energy for 5 to 6 hours of cooking and 12 to 15 hours of lighting every day.

Bio-digesters can last over 20 years and allow farmers to recover their costs of construction in 16 to 24 months.

Source:Xinhua

The Government Reduces Recruitment of Civil Servants Due to Economic Meltdown - Monday, 5.1.2009

Posted on 5 January 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 594

“According to information from a high ranking official of the Council of Ministers, the Cambodian government decided to reduce the recruitment of new civil servants from 9,000 to 8,000 to work at different ministries and departments in 2009.

“The secretary-general of the Councils for Administrative Reforms of the Council of Ministers said that the reduction of recruitment of new staff by 1,000 can help the Cambodian government to avoid budget problems, while the Hun Sen government does not have sufficient capacities to accommodate the former plan.

“Moreover, the secretary-general of the Councils for Administration Reforms of the Council of Ministers added that the government must thoroughly monitor the recruitment of staff in the new year, otherwise the total expenses will increase too much, while the salaries of civil servants are increased by 20% every year. Regarding what is mentioned above, the deputy director of the Department of Policy, Economy, and Finance of the Ministry of Economy and Finance said that it is because the national economic growth dropped, so the Ministry of Economy and Finance must save from all expenses for different operations.

“It should be noted that every year, thousands of graduates apply to work at state institutions, but the government can employ only 8,000 of the most recent graduates. The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports can absorb 5,000 graduates to work as teachers; a newly employed staff member receives a salary of around Riel 100,000 [approx. US$25] on the average, while a remaining staff receives around Riel 250,000 [approx. US$62] per month. According to the numbers from the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the government spent in 2008 US$85 million of the annual national budget of around US$1.5 million for salaries of the more than 200,000 civil servants in total.

“In 2009, the fourth-term package-voted government, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, plans to spend US$1.8 billion, but the projected expenses must be restricted, including expenses on office operations and on salaries. An economist agreed with the reform measure of the government, but to add and to reduce civil servants, as the labor market of the private sector drops also, will cause the labor situation in Cambodia to be worse. This means that unemployment will increase in 2009, as economic growth drops to only slightly more than 4%.

“In the last report of the International Labor Organization about youth employment in Cambodia, the number of youth capable for work, between the age of 15 and 24 seeking jobs every year, was given as around 275,000, and this becomes a big concern for Cambodia. It is expected that this number will increase more, if the labor market is still not growing. In the meantime, officials of some non-government organizations also expressed concern about Khmer citizens facing unemployment and earning no income to support their lives.

“Officials of some organizations pointed out that Hun Sen’s government should not reduce recruitment of new civil servants in 2009 by using the economic meltdown as a cause. In contrast, the government should eliminate corruption and bureaucracy in important institutions in order to collect money lost in corruption to be used rather as salaries for new civil servants working to serve the national interest. Also, the fourth-term package-voted government should adopt an anti-corruption law soon, so that a large portion of international aid is not lost in corruption.

“Previously, independent observers had criticized serious corruption and bureaucracy in some important institutions, which make the national budget to loose hundreds of millions of dollar, but Prime Minister Hun Sen does not take action to eliminate corruption in those important institutions. Important institutions which have been plagued by corruption are a heavy burden, and they have been criticized by different circles: they are the Council of Ministers administered by Sok An, the Ministry of Economy and Finance administered by Keat Chhon, the Ministry of Commerce administered by Cham Prasidh, Hun Sen’s in-law, the Customs and Excise Department administered by Pen Siman, the Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Anti-Economic Crime Police Department, as well as the court system.

“Observers said that at present, corruption and bureaucracy in the Ministry of Commerce is not different from that in the Council of Ministers. Therefore, recently there was a corruption scandal in the Ministry of Commerce, regarding the creation of a new department – the CamControl Department to be controlled by Mak Picharith. The creation of a new department leads to strong competition between Mak Picharith and Cham Prasidh’s son-in-law, Cham Borith. Many officials of the Ministry of Commerce said that the strong competition for power by both of them will unavoidably explode like a volcano soon.

“Many officials of the Ministry of Commerce said that if corruption can be eliminated effectively in the Ministry of Commerce, salaries for 9,000 new civil servants are not a problem. Therefore, Prime Minister Hun Sen must take action to crack down on corruption in the Ministry of Commerce immediately, in order to collect budget resources, for the salaries of new civil servants to be recruited to serve the nation. The Hun Sen government should not take the meltdown of the economy as a reason to reduce the number of newly to be recruited civil servants for 2009. Observers added that the economic crisis in Cambodia seems not relevant to the recruitment of only 9,000 new civil servants. The Hun Sen government should reconsider this again in order to avoid embarrassment, because in 2009, the government will spend up to US$1.8 billion, and moreover, it is granted nearly US$1 billion in aid to sustain its breath.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3657, 5.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 5 January 2009

Co-prosecutors dispute charging more Khmer Rouge suspects+

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 5 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal released a statement Monday revealing disputes between Cambodian and international co- prosecutors over whether or not to charge more suspects beyond the five now being detained.

According to the court, international co-prosecutor Robert Petit filed Dec. 1, 2008 a note concerning the appropriateness of opening new judicial investigations against additional suspects for crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge, while the Cambodian co-prosecutor filed a response last Monday objecting to the filing by her colleague.

On Dec. 1, 2008, the international co-prosecutor proposed filing two new Introductory Submissions and one Supplementary Submission, saying the crimes were committed, the crimes are within the jurisdiction of the Court, and those should be investigated by the Co-Investigating Judges.

He said the charges would lead to a more comprehensive accounting of crimes that were committed under the Khmer Rouge's Democratic Kampuchea regime during 1975-79, according to the statement.

He added he did not believe that such prosecutions would endanger Cambodia's peace and stability.

But, Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang said investigations should not proceed on account of Cambodia's past instability and the continued need for national reconciliation, the spirit of the agreement between the United Nations and Cambodia, the spirit of the law that established the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the limited duration and budget of the ECCC.

She said the ECCC should instead prioritize the trials of the five suspects already detained.

When asked how many new suspects being identified by the international co-prosecutor, Reach Sambath, spokesman for the ECCC, said he didn't know but an ECCC source suggested the number could be six.

Of the current five suspects, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who is accused of having a leadership role in the deaths of 14,000 people in Tuol Sleng prison during Khmer Rouge rule, is expected to be tried in the first quarter of this year.

The four other former Khmer Rouge figures charged and detained at ECCC facilities are Nuon Chea, better known as Brother No. 2 in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy after leader Pol Pot; Khieu Samphan who was head of state; Ieng Sary who was the regime's foreign minister; and Ieng Sary's wife Ieng Thirith who was the social affairs minister.

The Khmer Rouge leadership is blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians during its rule.

Ecotourism comes to Cambodia





Chi Pat, Cambodia
[Photos thanks to Asia Adventures]

by Tom Johansmeyer
Jan 5th 2009
Mountain bikers can reclaim wilderness that once belonged to illegal loggers and poachers. Hidden in the foothills of Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains, the village of Chi Pat is now home to a mountain biking experience that is unparalleled in trail and impact.

This new program is the result of cooperation among Wildlife Alliance (formerly known as Wild Aid), Asia Adventures (a Cambodia-based adventure travel company) and the villagers of Chi Pat. Off-road cycling tourists are expected to bring a sustainable source of income to the villagers while exposing guests to some of the world's last remaining virgin wilderness.

Chi Pat is two hours from Phnom Penh by boat and is portal to old logging routes, undulating trails and streams and shallow rivers. Ride through bamboo thicket, rain forest and hills while gazing upon waterfalls, bat caves and waterfalls. A lucky few will see rare wildlife, such as elephants.

Simply by mountain biking in Chi Pat, you can help the villagers reclaim their home from years of abuse by illicit tree-choppers and hunters. Merely enjoying yourself has never been so powerful.

Cambodia claims success against dengue fever, while other nations report rising incidence

TropIKA.net
5 Jan 2009

Paul Chinnock

Source: Reuters (see original article)
Source: Khamerlogue (see original article)
Source: GMA News (see original article)
Source: Bernama (see original article)
Source: Jakarta Post (see original article)
Source: Melbourne Herald (see original article)
Source: Trinidad News (see original article)
Source: BBC (see original article)

Aedes aegypti, the vector of dengue fever.
The incidence of dengue fever – which is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes fever, headaches and agonising muscle and joint pains – has grown dramatically around the world in recent decades. The World Health Organization estimates that there may be 50 million dengue infections worldwide every year and that some 2.5 billion people – two fifths of the world’s population – are at risk of infection by the dengue virus.

There will therefore be considerable international interest in claims that Cambodia is making good progress in improving control of the disease. The director of the health ministry’s anti-dengue fever programme, Ngan Chantha, says that only 65 people died from dengue fever in Cambodia in 2008, down from 407 in 2007, thanks to preventive measures taken by the government and international agencies. Government figures show that 9,300 people were infected during the year compared with 40,000 in 2007, the highest in nearly a decade. Ngan Chantha credits greater funding and educational programmes for the drop in infection rates and deaths. He noted that support for the government’s control programme had been provided by WHO, World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and USAID.

The Cambodian experience contrasts with that of other countries in Southeast Asia, and also in the Americas. Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque recently reported there had been a rise in dengue cases – together with more cases of typhoid and cholera – for which global warming was responsible.

Malaysia also has a growing dengue problem, Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said, ‘About 75% of dengue deaths in Malaysia can be prevented if the public take active roles in dengue prevention and control activities.’ He said 85% of infections occurred in residential premises and 80% of the breeding sites for Aedes mosquitoes were in house compounds. During 2008 the government fined nearly 32,000 people for inadequate maintenance of their compounds, nearly double the figure for the previous year.

There is concern about the dengue situation in Indonesia, where some districts are reported to be particularly badly hit. During 2008 an average of 172 people out of every 100,000 East Kalimantan residents contracted dengue fever each month, over eight times the national average of 20 cases per 100,000 people. There were 101 deaths in East Kalimantan between January and November, a death rate of 1.9% – double the national average.

It is not just developing countries that have a dengue problem. Australia has experienced an increasing incidence. North Queensland has been told to brace itself for the worst outbreak in five years; by the end of December there had already been 52 cases. Residents have been urged to take preventive measures. Apathy over prevention has been cited as a key issue.

On the other side of the world, in Trinidad, 2008 is being referred to as the Year of Dengue Fever. While the authorities have denied there is a major problem, the public perception is different and there have been allegations of a failure to spray households in areas of mosquito infestation. The British government has warned visitors to Trinidad of the risk of dengue. No figures are available although they have been promised for early this year.

WHO says that in 2007 there were more than 890 000 reported cases of dengue in the Americas, of which 26 000 cases were the life-threatening dengue haemorrhagic fever. Throughout the tropical world urbanization is increasing, creating habitats well suited to the Aedes mosquito. While global warming may well be a factor, inadequate preventive efforts in poor urban districts are of greater concern. More information is available in a WHO factsheet.

New hope

It has often been suggested that the Wolbachia bacteria might offer a way of controlling the spread of dengue. The bacteria reduce the lifespan of Aedes mosquitoes and, as only older, mosquitoes transmit the dengue virus, spreading Wolbachia among Aedes populations could in theory have a major effect. Now, Australian scientists, writing in the journal Science, report success in spreading Wolbachia in laboratory-bred mosquitoes. The researchers from the University of Queensland in Brisbane picked a strain of Wolbachia known to halve the lifespan of its host. The mosquito which carries the dengue virus is not naturally susceptible to the bacteria, so the researchers adapted it to create a successful infection. A short summary may be found in a BBC news story.

Rights Group Blasts Temple Travel Ban

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 January 2009

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights accused members of the ruling party in the National Assembly and the government of abuse of the freedoms of opposition parliamentarians, following a travel ban to Preah Vihear temple of Human Rights Party officials last week.

On Jan. 3, military officials in Preah Vihear province prevented Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha and two other parliamentarians from bringing donations to soldiers stationed along the border in a long-running standoff with Thailand.

The gifts, which included kramas, canned fish, fish sauce, bottled water and money, had been donated by party supporters in the US.

The Center, which was once led by Kem Sokha, issued a statement Monday claiming the travel ban exemplified a disrespectful attitude exhibited by the Cambodian People’s Party and its parliamentarians toward other lawmakers following its landslide win in 2008’s national election.

Police Could Re-Investigate Chea Vichea Murder

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 January 2009

Police will re-investigate the murder of popular labor leader Chea Vichea if and when the courts order it, a spokesman said Monday.

Last week the two men who had been accused of the murder, Sok Samoeun and Born Samnang, were released from jail, following an order by the Supreme Court for the Appeals Court to rehear their case.

The two men had faced 20-year prison sentences for the murder of Chea Vichea, who was gunned down in broad daylight in January 2004.

"We are waiting for the final decision by the courts, and if the court orders the police to re-investigate, we will," Ministry of Interior spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak said Monday, following calls by non-governmental organizations for a re-investigation of the killing. "We respect the court's order and the court's decision."

The Appeals Court is expected to decide on the cases of Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun within the next 60 days. Both men said Monday they intended to appear when the court calls them.

2008 Tourism Numbers Rise, But Disappoint

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
05 January 2009

The number of visitors to Cambodia in 2008 surpassed 2007, but officials said Monday less people than hoped had found their way to the kingdom.

The global financial crisis and political unrest in Thailand had both contributed to the lower-than-expected figures, officials said.

In 2008, more than 2.1 million foreign visitors came to Cambodia, a 6 percent rise over the previous year that was about 10 percent lower than expected, Kong Sopheareak, head of the statistics department at the Ministry of Tourism, said Monday.

"First, the global financial crisis, and another thing was the political crisis in Thailand, both of which affected us," he said.

More than a third of all tourists coming to Cambodia travel through Thailand, while another third come through Vietnam and about 3 percent come through Laos, he said. The rest arrive from other countries, he said.

About 60 percent of tourists come by plane, he continued, and about 4 percent are "same day" visitors.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said Monday the ministry was pushing for even more visitors in 2009, including promoting the country as an affordable destination for regional travelers.

HSBC To Expand In Vietnam; Eyes Moving Into Laos, Cambodia

Monday January 5th, 2009

By Vladimir Guevarra Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES LONDON -(Dow Jones)- U.K. banking group HSBC Holdings PLC (HBC) said Monday it plans to expand in Vietnam and have 10 branches there by year-end, up from two currently, and is looking at setting up operations in neighboring Laos and Cambodia within the next five years.

"We will be opening in Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Binh Duong. We plan to have a total of 10 outlets this year," said HSBC Vietnam President and Chief Executive Thomas Tobin.

The Vietnam expansion comes after HSBC was given approval by the government to become the first foreign bank to set up a locally incorporated entity. It also forms part of HSBC's aggressive expansion in developing markets.

The change in legal status also means that it's easier now for HSBC's local operations to set up branches across the country.

HSBC's current two branches are located in Ho Chi Minh city and Hanoi. New laws which help open Vietnam's banking sector to foreign companies have been introduced as part of the communist country's inclusion into the World Trade Organization.

Last year, HSBC hired more than 400 additional staff in Vietnam in anticipation of its expansion. This has brought staff numbers there to more than 1,000. Tobin said the new staff are being trained to man the future branches.

In Vietnam, HSBC also owns 10% of Bao Viet Holdings, an insurance company, and 20% of Vietnam Technological and Commercial Joint Stock Bank, or Techcombank.

Tobin said HSBC is eyeing expansion into neighboring Laos and Cambodia.

"It's something that we keep an eye on. We visit there regularly, and we're in close contact with the customers and the regulators. We see tremendous potential in both those countries. So for sure, within the next five years, we'll keep an eye on it," he said.

In October, HSBC agreed to buy a majority stake in Indonesia's Bank Ekonomi Raharja for $607.5 million.

That acquisition also follows the bank's expansion into China's Dazu county and its efforts to expand in other emerging markets like Georgia, Russia, Peru and Panama.

Source : Dowjones Business News

Cambodia's national bank keeps its eye on stability

Photo by: VANDY RATTANA
National Bank Governor Chea Chanto shows off a new riel note at his offices in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong and Brendan Brady
Monday, 05 January 2009

Chea Chanto, the governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, says that the bank takes a hands-off approach when it comes to the riel’s stability

What is the role of the National Bank of Cambodia?
After many years of destruction, the NBC was recreated on October 10, 1980, as the central bank of the country. The original purpose included bringing back a monetary system and reviving the banking sector with an eye towards supporting the development of the private sector. The NBC plays two main important roles in this context: acting as a monetary authority and as a supervisory authority over commercial banks.

What new policies are currently being considered by the NBC?
The next areas of reform will encompass enhancing corporate governance and disclosure rules for banks, improving the credit information sharing system, enabling leasing business and establishing the necessary framework for the establishment of a national payment and settlement system.

Where is the banking sector headed over the next five or 10 years?
We hope everyone will use banks as other people in developed countries around the world do. We are promoting the use of ATM and credit cards, and many people are opening accounts in commercial banks. We're moving step by step. The NBC wants everyone to make tax and utility payments using the banking system so money can be organised and used to generate more money. We allow as many commercial banks to enter the market as possible in order to promote competition. And the banking sector will keep growing - everyone should have a bank account.

" We hope everyone will use banks as other people in developed countries around the world. "

How has the growth of the private sector and foreign investment in Cambodia affected the role of the NBC in regulating Cambodia's monetary policy?
Having a strong and sound banking sector is not an end in itself. The ultimate goal is to foster private-sector development.

However, the NBC is well-aware of the challenges that private-sector growth and foreign investment could pose for the stability of the banking sector.

Therefore, we are making a constant effort to ensure the regulatory process does not get too far behind the market.

Can the NBC connect rural people with the banking and finance sector?
The central bank helps all people access the banking and finance sector so they have access to loans and can avoid being cheated, which happens to poor people in the countryside with high interest rates from informal money-lenders. And to encourage it, the NBC has also lent wholesale to the Rural Development Bank and microfinance institutions.

Some economists have criticised the central bank for not implementing more pro-poor initiatives.
Yes, some have regarded our work in this area negatively. But, in fact, more than 500,000 families have received loans from banks and microfinance institutions. Look at ACLEDA bank, it has offices everywhere. It has helped people in rural areas to get involved with the banking system, understand saving and how to make incremental investments.

Our goal is "A Post Saving" where people save money and use it to earn more money.

Does the use of the US dollar in Cambodia's economy present any problems for consumers or companies?
The use of the US dollar in Cambodia has dated back more than two decades. Such use has never been a policy decision of the [government] but reflected the preference of the market participants for a substitution currency to the domestic one given the economic difficulties facing the country at the time. Once people get used to the conveniences of using hard currency, there seems to be resistance to reversing the process, even after the macroeconomic conditions have been improved.

It will take a long time to adjust people's behavior.

We are not going to force the public to make payment in riel only. We have been encouraging the use of the riel.

Our policy is to promote payment in riel and build more public trust in it. Our economy is following market demand. We can't implement an administrative economy. People want to use it.

The NBC conducted a study on the advantages and disadvantages of such development for the Cambodian economy, and we understand that de-dollarisation cannot be accomplished by rigid legislation but requires the creation of an environment that stimulates the use of domestic currency by the public.

NBC has printed notes ranging from 50 riels to 100,000 riels, and has issued coins as well. Why haven't these caught on?
Big payments can be made in US dollars, so big notes of riel are not very popular. However, we encourage government tax payment in big riel notes. NBC is trying to design a big riel note that will attract users. For example, the 20,000 riel note is likely to be popular. We can't force the public to use coins. They are difficult to carry. Developed countries use coins for public phones and bus fees.

Why has the exchange rate between the riel and dollar remained stable over the last decade?
This is a policy of the central bank - the bank does not control it but oversees the way the market does. The bank watches closely the way the market moves.

We send our staff to monitor at the markets. We report on it three times a day.

We can take action if we find cases of speculation. If it runs smoothly, we will not do anything. If it is not sound, we will intervene to prevent speculation.

Middle East tour this month for Hun Sen

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by SAM RITH AND AFP
Monday, 05 January 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen will visit Kuwait and Qatar later this month, a spokesman said Sunday, as the Kingdom expands business and trade ties with the Middle East.

Kuwaiti Premier Sheikh Nasser Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah visited Cambodia and inked trade deals last August, while Cambodia is also looking into lucrative land-lease agreements with Kuwait and Qatar.

"Our prime minister will start his visit to the Middle East region after the 10th of January ... in order to strengthen our ties," said government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith, adding that so far, visits to Qatar and Kuwait were confirmed.

High food prices were a key contributor to the Middle East's high inflation this year, as a lack of fertile land and water forces the region to import more than two-thirds of its food.

Kuwait granted Cambodia a US$546 million agricultural loan in August in return for crop production.

Hun Sen's Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, visited Cambodia in April 2008 to offer technology in exchange for arable land.

Cambodia has climbed back from decades of civil unrest to emerge as one of the region's most vibrant economies, attracting increasing foreign investment.

Officials from the Kingdom have also said they hope Middle East governments will help train local experts on the petroleum industry, which is starting to take root here after the discovery of offshore deposits.

S'ville port posts 11pc growth during 2008

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
A ship docked at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port. The port posted strong 2008 revenues, despite the slowdown.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by NGUON SOVAN
Monday, 05 January 2009

But the economic slowdown is expected to hit 2009 revenues

THE Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (SAP) posted strong revenue numbers in 2008 with volume growth of 11 percent, but the long-term impact of the global financial slowdown will see revenues grow only six percent in 2009, Lou Kim Chhun, chairman and CEO of the port, told the Post last week.

"Containers through the port in November declined eight percent, mostly on drops in raw materials and manufactured products from the garment sector, but we will still attain the projected 11 percent [volume] growth, to US$28 million from $26 million last year," Lou Kim Chhun said.

"In 2009, we project revenue growth of only six percent due to declines in the garment and construction sectors. But we expect rice exports to rise," he said.

The port saw throughput of some 1.8 million tonnes of cargo in 2007, rising to two million tonnes in 2008, he added.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann on Wednesday disputed the port's revenue numbers, saying reported revenues were too low given the country's current economic growth.

"There is no report available at the National Assembly about the SAP, but [their figures] are far lower than the real figure," he said.

Imports and exports increased considerably this year, Yim Sovann said, adding that the port could have used irregular accounting to shorten their revenue numbers.

"Corruption at the port is just a part of society. The embezzlement of the state's properties appears everywhere in Cambodia.

"I have no faith in the accuracy of the port's stated figures," he said.

But Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodia Economic Association, told the Post Wednesday the port's numbers reflected the country's current economic position.

"The port's activities are in line with economic growth. If the economy slows down, the port activities will decline," said Chan Sophal.

He added that he expects Cambodia's economy to stabilise by 2010.

Ports worldwide have been hard-hit by the global slowdown as international trade has dropped.

Israeli Forces Split Gaza, Surround Biggest City



Associated Press

Israeli ground troops and tanks cut swaths through the Gaza Strip early Sunday, cutting the coastal territory into two and surrounding its biggest city as the new phase of a devastating offensive against Hamas militants gained momentum.

Thai-Muslim activists chant slogans during a protest outside the Israeli Embassy

Thai-Muslim activists chant slogans during a protest outside the building where the Israeli Embassy is located Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. About 200 activists took part in the protest against Israel's military action on Gaza where more than 510 Palestinians were killed and over 2,500 were injured.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thai-Muslim female activists chant slogans during a protest outside the building where the Israeli Embassy is located Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. About 200 activists took part in the protest against Israel's military action on Gaza where more than 510 Palestinians were killed and over 2,500 were injured.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thai-Muslim activists chant slogans during a protest outside the building where the Israeli Embassy is located Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. About 200 activists took part in the protest against Israel's military action on Gaza where more than 510 Palestinians were killed and over 2,500 injured.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Thai-Muslim activists hold placards and chant slogans during a protest outside the building where the Israeli Embassy is located Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. About 200 activists took part in the protest against Israel's military action on Gaza where more than 510 Palestinians were killed and over 2,500 were injured.(AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Indian state reports fresh bird flu outbreak

Reuters
A health worker culls poultry

TV New Zealand
Monday January 05, 2009

Health and veterinary workers culled poultry in a densely populated eastern Indian state after a fresh outbreak of H5N1 bird flu, officials said.

The latest outbreak of the virus in poultry is the fourth in the state of West Bengal since 2007.

Bird flu first broke out in India in 2006.

Millions of chicken and ducks have been culled since to contain the virus, but it has resurfaced from time to time. India has reported no human infections.

West Bengal officials said they had begun culling about 60,000 poultry after the fourth outbreak was confirmed on Saturday near Siliguri town, bordering Bangladesh.

Culling operations in West Bengal to contain the third outbreak had ended barely a fortnight ago.
"We have sent 30 teams to kill chickens and ducks in the village where dead birds tested positive," Surendra Gupta, a senior government official, told Reuters.

Hundreds of thousands of birds had also been culled in India's north-eastern Assam state and neighbouring Meghalaya after bird flu was detected in November.

Experts have warned that the H5N1 virus might mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a pandemic that could kill millions of people across the world.

According to the World Health Organisation, H5N1 bird flu has infected more than 390 people in 15 countries and killed at least 247 of them since the virus resurfaced in Asia in 2003.

Illegal migrants return home voluntarily from Cambodia

VOV News
01/05/2009

Two hundred Vietnamese people who had illegally crossed the border into Cambodia had returned home voluntarily in 2008 under an agreement between the Vietnamese Government, the Kingdom of Cambodia and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

These people were residents from the central highland province of Gia Lai. They had been provoked and lured by reactionaries to cause political instability in the area.

The UNHCR recently recommended that ethnic people in the Central Highlands should not flee to Cambodia with hopes for asylum and resettlement status in a third country.

Cambodia a target for money laundering

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady
Monday, 05 January 2009

CAMBODIA'S nascent banking sector needs better oversight and enforcement of existing regulations to avoid becoming more vulnerable to money launderers, including those belonging to extremist groups, the London-based watchdog International Bar Association said in a recently released report.

Relatively little regulatory control has made the Kingdom an easy target for money launderers, said Lay Vicheka, a Cambodian legal consultant who was commissioned to write the report.

"People think Cambodia is an easy place [to launder money] because the government and banks here have been slower to address the problem," he said.

Under pressure from the United States to address terrorism funding, Cambodia enacted a number of anti-laundering measures, including opening the Financial Intelligence Office in May.

The office, which is responsible for tracking suspicious activities in the banking sector, has been empowered by the Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism that was passed in 2007.

But even with new legislation, Cambodia remains ill-equipped to deal with the problem, the IBA said in its report, which was completed in November.

"Cambodia has very few pieces of legislation in place to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism," the report said.

Large-scale problem

The Financial Intelligence Office's secretary general, Phan Ho, acknowledged that while money-launderers used a variety of often complicated schemes, he was confident that his office could address the issue.

"We're taking preventive measures," he said.

"But we know it's a real issue now and will continue to be in the future," Phan Ho added.

The Kingdom's largely unregulated gaming sector, which brings in hundreds of millions of dollars each year, is especially concerning, Phan Ho said.

He added that the Financial Intelligence Office is waiting on the Finance Ministry to issue a subdecree requiring the industry to report suspicious activity.

In an a previous interview with the Post, Phan Ho said he was concerned with potential for money-laundering through the large-scale real estate developments that have sprung up in Phnom Penh.

"The cost of those projects is very high and we cannot control how much money they collect" by informal transfers, he said.

Cambodia to strengthen disclosure rules for banks

www.chinaview.cn
2009-01-05

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) will carry out more reforms to strengthen the disclosure rules for banks for the sake of financial safety, national media said on Monday.

"The next areas of reform will encompass enhancing corporate governance and disclosure rules for banks," said NBC governor Chea Chanto in an interview published by English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post.

Concrete steps will include improvement of credit information sharing system and establishment of national payment and settlement system, he said.

"We are making a constant effort to ensure the regulatory process does not get too far behind the market," he added.

NBC was established in 1980 as the central bank of the country to serve as monetary authority and supervisory organization over commercial banks.  

Editor: An

Cambodia tourist numbers disappoint

Tourists explore the grounds of Cambodia's popular Angkor Wat. [Reuters]

Australia Network News

Cambodia's tourism minister says the global financial crisis and political protests in Thailand were behind a less than expected rise in tourist numbers in 2008.

In the first half of last year arrivals soared 13 per cent, and the Ministry of Tourism projected continued growth in the second half of the year.

AFP news agency reports official figures, however, show tourist arrivals were up just eight per cent.

Tourism minister Thong Khon says the global financial crisis affected the forecast.

He also says protests at Bangkok's two main airports in late November had a significant impact, closing a major transit hub to Cambodia for over a week.

Thong Khon says about 31 per cent of tourists enter Cambodia via Thailand.

Altogether, just over two million people visited Cambodia in 2008.

Would-be bombers identified

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 05 January 2009

Govt says suspects trying to disrupt January 7 celebrations

POLICE have identified two suspects in connection with Friday's foiled bomb plot that appeared to target the Defence Ministry and a state television station, officials say.

"[The perpetrators] placed these explosive devices to scare people from attending the anniversary of January 7," Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith told reporters Sunday, referring to the upcoming public holiday that celebrates the 1979 victory over the Khmer Rouge by Vietnamese-backed Cambodian forces.

He refused to comment further, saying that he did not want to jeopardise the ongoing investigation.

But Em Sam An, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and president of the National Secretariat for Anti-Terrorism, said Sunday that police had yet to make any arrests and were continuing to investigate.

"It was not [international] terrorism," he added.

Around 50,000 people are set to participate in the celebrations at Olympic Stadium, he added.

Three explosive devices were found Friday in front of the Defence Ministry and near the TV3 offices. They were later disassembled and destroyed by mine clearance personnel.

Heng Ratana, deputy director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Center, told the Post on Sunday that the explosive devices were "improvised mines" - small bombs that had been placed in cans of mosquito repellent and small cooking gas containers.

Heng Ratana said the devices did not cause any significant damage when they were destroyed in controlled explosions since they contained no shrapnel.

But he warned that the bombs could still have wounded anyone passing by.

A similar incident occurred in July 2007 when three fertiliser bombs were found and detonated near the Vietnamese friendship monument in the park opposite Wat Botum.

Vietnam's role in Cambodia during the 1980s remains controversial, and Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Chea Poch said he would not participate in this week's celebration.

"[January 7] was the day that Vietnamese troops came and invaded Cambodia, adding further misery to the Cambodian people."

Ban 'insulting' opera: monks

AFP
Actor Michael Lee performs during a rehearsal for the Broadway musical-style rock opera Where Elephants Weep in Phnom Penh on November 14.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Monday, 05 January 2009

The world premier of rock opera Where Elephants Weep was held in PPenh and presided over by Sok An, but angry monks now demand it be banned

CAMBODIA'S much-vaunted rock opera Where Elephants Weep has fallen afoul of the Kingdom's Buddhist clergy, who have demanded the show be banned.

"Some scenes in the story insult Buddhism," said a letter sent to the Ministry of Cults and Religion by the Supreme Sangha Council of Buddhist Monks. The letter - also sent to the media - went on to ask that the ministry "ban the performance and airing of the opera", and demanded an apology from the show's director, writer and actors.

Elephants, a post-Khmer Rouge take on the Cambodian classic Tom Tiev, was written by American playwright Catherine Filloux and Cambodian composer Him Sothy. The work merges pop and rock music with more traditional and historical Cambodian tunes, and played in Phnom Penh from late November through early December.

Last week, a local television station aired the show, prompting the monks' council to write to complain, asking that the government ban further broadcasts of the musical.

The opera tells the story a Cambodian-American man who returns after the demise of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime to reconnect with his roots. While he is a monk, he falls into a doomed love affair with a pop singer.

But in predominantly Buddhist Cambodia, monks are expected to be austere and eschew worldly pleasures such as entertainment. Consequently, the council objected to many scenes, including one in which the actor "left the monkhood and slept with a woman, but a moment later put the robe back on to be a monk again..." states the letter, dated Tuesday.

The show "oppresses Cambodian Buddhist monks, causes more than 50,000 monks to lose their honour, value and to express frustration," it added.

Minister of Religion Min Khin told the Post Sunday that he plans to discuss the issue with the minister of culture and fine arts and the minister of information at the upcoming Victory over Genocide celebrations on Wednesday.

"We have received the letter from Cambodia's Supreme Sangha Council of Buddhist Monks, and we think that showing the opera Where Elephants Weep on television inappropriate and presents Buddhist monks in an unacceptable way," said Min Khin.

We will not apologise: artist
Eang Sithul, president of the Cambodian Artists Association and a performer in the controversial show, told the Post Sunday that neither he nor any of the other performers had any intention of apologising.

"We did not look down on Buddhism," he said, adding the musical focused on the story of one individual monk and did not pass judgement on the state of the clergy as a whole.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said his ministry was not planning on demanding an apology.

"We have no objection to the opera, we just do not want to televise it because it looks a bit messy when it is broadcast on TV," he said, adding that the bilingual opera was complex in theme and delivery and better left to those who could afford to shell out for a ticket to the Phnom Penh performances.

"It looks better if we cut the scene with the monks," Khieu Kanharith added.

But Thai Naraksatya, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, told the Post on Sunday that Elephants was an excellent performance that helped portray life in Cambodia in the post-Khmer Rouge period and could provide a moral education of sorts.

"Where Elephants Weep is not only providing a [moral] education to our people, but it also shows how much Cambodia's arts scene has improved," Thai Naraksatya said.

The show had a successful US preview last year, and after its run ends in Cambodia, it is expected to tour South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan before returning to the United States.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP