Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Five alleged Boray rapists must face law, says district governor

ASSAULT HOTSPOT
Rights group Adhoc's provincial monitor Kun Sitha said that as of Tuesday, she has received two complaints of rape in the Baray district area of Kampong Thom this year. She added that both of the cases are now under investigation.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Boray district governor says alleged rapists responsible will face the law, rejects traditional cash compensation for victim.

FIVE men face criminal charges following the rape of a 29-year-old woman Friday in Kompong Thom's Baray district, with local authorities vowing to use the law - rather than the traditional practice of cash compensation - to resolve the case.

"It is a criminal rape case, which cannot be excused or resolved by paying compensation," said Soeun Sat, governor of Kampong Thom's Baray district on Tuesday.

Kry Sarith, deputy police chief of Baray's Chhouk Khsach commune, told the Post Tuesday that five men were being charged in connection with the case, adding that police filed a complaint to the court Monday requesting further investigation.

The rape occurred in Chhouk Khsach commune at around 11pm Friday evening as two sisters were walking home from the main road - a distance of about five kilometres, Kry Sarith said.

"While they were walking home they ran into five men on an old motorbike who stopped and offered to take them home," Kry Sarith said.

"The girls declined the lift, but later, the men split up and ambushed them," he said.

The elder of the two girls was raped by three of the five attackers, he said, while her younger sister managed to run to safety and alert their village chief, who intervened and called the authorities.

One man was arrested at the scene of the crime, while the other four were apprehended the following day, Kry Sarith said.

"I have interrogated the five men and only three of them admitted that they raped the women. The other two men claim they were only accomplices, so I have filed the case to the Baray district police chief for further investigation," Kry Sarith said.

It is a criminal rape case, which cannot be excused... by paying compensation. "

Baray district Governor Soeun Sat said he was pleased with the police investigation and wanted the five men to be tried in court.

"We are fighting to stop rape cases like this and we will send all the perpetrators to court to be punished according to the law," he said.

Local monitor for rights group Adhoc, Kun Sitha, said the attitude of the local authorities was to be applauded, helping to end the traditional practice of resolving rape cases with cash payments.

"I welcome the local authorities' actions in arresting and sending the perpetrators to court to be punished, which is a good sign that they are cracking down on the habit of solving rape cases by compensation.

"She said Adhoc would be conducting an investigation into the case to help provide legal support to the victim.

Heng Samrin urges govt to act over Dey Krahorm

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
A former Dey Krahorm resident outside the National Assembly displays wounds he said he suffered Saturday during the eviction.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

In letter to City Hall, National Assembly president says help is needed, makes no specific demands to developer 7NG.

National Assembly President Heng Samrin urged the municipality Tuesday to intervene in the bitter dispute between families forcibly removed Saturday from Phnom Penh's Dey Krahorm neighbourhood and private developer 7NG. He made no specific demands, however.

Evicted residents had submitted a complaint to the influential ruling party official Monday, asking for cash compensation to be reinstituted.

"Residents said that on January 24, the 7NG company and municipality demolished and bulldozed their houses without proper compensation," Heng Samrin said in a letter delivered to City Hall, a copy of which was obtained by the Post. "Please help solve this problem and report back to the [human rights] committee."

Cash compensation or a home at a relocation site 16 kilometres from the city, in the village of Damnak Trayoeng, had been offered by the private developer. In the weeks before the eviction, 7NG upped its cash offer to US$20,000, yet all but a handful of the remaining residents held out, arguing neither a home outside the city nor the cash figure offered was sufficient compensation.

Diamonds aren't forever

Dey Krahorm community spokesman Chan Vichet said flocks of evictees would continue protests outside the National Assembly until cash compensation was reinstituted.

But he lamented what he described as a series of broken promises by the authorities.

"I remember the Phnom Penh governor telling us not to exchange our diamonds for stone," he said, referring Kep Chuktema's warning to Dey Krahorm residents not to be cheated when he visited the prime-location slum before the 2003 national election.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun Tuesday declined to comment on how Heng Samrin's letter would affect City Hall's stance.

However, 7NG Chairman Srey Sothea insisted he would not budge.

"A house is the only choice. If I give them money, I would be violating the contract with former community leaders who signed a contract to build houses for them," he said.

In 2005, old community leaders at Dey Krahorm unilaterally chose to sign away the 3.6 hectare property to 7NG in return for relocation homes in Damnak Trayoeng village. Land rights groups had challenged the legality of the original contract and accused 7NG officials of using strong-arm tactics to force residents to accept the compensation deals offered.

In a statement Monday, Amnesty International said authorities are ignoring the needs of residents displaced in the "violent" eviction.

The watchdog group also accused the municipality of breaking the government's commitments under international law.

"Cambodia is obliged to ensure, before any planned evictions, that all alternatives are explored in consultation with those affected by the eviction."

Road deaths rise on holiday

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Traditional dragon dancers celebrate Chinese New Year on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Lunar New Year celebrations ended in the capital Tuesday with 14 serious traffic accidents including six fatalities, which officials blame on bad driving.

ALTHOUGH Lunar New Year was celebrated this year in Phnom Penh with relatively muted enthusiasm, government officials have expressed concern over a startling rise in traffic accidents, including six fatalities, over the festival's two main holidays.

"There were five people who died, six who were seriously injured and seven who received relatively small injuries on the 25th alone," Pen Khun, deputy director of the Traffic Police, told the Post Tuesday.

"And there was one death, eight serious injuries and one small injury on the 26th," he added.

Pen Khun said the number of accidents - 14 in total - were markedly higher than those recorded during last year's celebrations, and were mostly a result of drunk driving.

Road deaths rise on holiday

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Traditional dragon dancers celebrate Chinese New Year on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Lunar New Year celebrations ended in the capital Tuesday with 14 serious traffic accidents including six fatalities, which officials blame on bad driving.

ALTHOUGH Lunar New Year was celebrated this year in Phnom Penh with relatively muted enthusiasm, government officials have expressed concern over a startling rise in traffic accidents, including six fatalities, over the festival's two main holidays.

"There were five people who died, six who were seriously injured and seven who received relatively small injuries on the 25th alone," Pen Khun, deputy director of the Traffic Police, told the Post Tuesday.

"And there was one death, eight serious injuries and one small injury on the 26th," he added.

Pen Khun said the number of accidents - 14 in total - were markedly higher than those recorded during last year's celebrations, and were mostly a result of drunk driving.

"I think accidents during Chinese New Year this year increased from last year because the first day we had many people die," he said.

"Most of them died because they were drunk and drove very fast and carelessly," he added.

Although he claimed the government was trying its best to enforce traffic laws with the introduction of a helmet law this year, he said little could be done if people refused to adhere to road safety.

"There are four main factors that contribute to traffic accidents: people, roads, vehicles and weather," he said. "The worst factor for our country is people. They don't respect traffic laws," he said.

Accidents up from December

According to statistics from the Land Traffic Office, the number of traffic accidents in the capital so far this month has increased compared with December last year. So far, 69 accidents have been recorded in Phnom Penh this month, breaking down to 20 deaths, 56 serious injuries and 46 small injuries. In December, there were only 61 accidents.

According to an interim report by the Ministry of Interior last month, the number of fatalities from traffic accidents in 2008 was up from the previous year.

"Traffic accidents will not decrease if drivers coninue to disrespect the traffic law. They think that it is their right to drive as fast or as slow as they want because it is a public road, a road for everybody. They think it's up to them," Pen Khun said.

KR suspects gain access to case files

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

KHMER ROUGE

Co-investigating Judges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have allowed detainees at the court access to copies of their case file, according to an order released Monday. Previously, suspects held at the court's detention facility were only allowed to be "read out" part of the case file by their lawyers. However, in response to requests by Ieng Thirith and Nuon Chea's defence teams, the judges say they have recognised the need for "direct, satisfactory" access to the evidence by the accused in accordance with international law, and said they will now allow a small, "lockable cabinet" to be placed in each detention cell at the court for case files to be kept in.

Hun Sen and Kem Sokha spar over HRP origins, funders

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha in a file photograph.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

HRP president denies that he solicited advice from Hun Sen before creating party as well as his alleged reliance on foreign donors.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen's statement last week that he had supported the creation of the Human Rights Party in 2007 was misleading, Kem Sokha, the president of the party, said in an interview Tuesday with the Post.

During a speech at an inauguration ceremony in Oddar Meanchey province last week, Hun Sen said he had advised Kem Sokha on his initial plans to form the party and also provided a stadium location in which he could hold the party's first congress.

But Kem Sokha said Hun Sen has never supported opposition parties and has instead actively tried to thwart their progress.

"I don't care what he said," Kem Sokha told the Post.

"He does not want to have democracy. He wants to destroy the democratic movement. He has never said anything good about us."

Before the party was created in January 2007, Hun Sen said, Kem Sokha needed advice. He added that Kem Sokha said he could not create a party right away because he did not have enough money. At the time, he planned to visit the US to solicit donations, Hun Sen said.

In response, Kem Sokha said he did not go to Hun Sen for advice, insisting that he was obligated to inform Hun Sen of his plans because Hun Sen is the prime minister. Moreover, he claimed Hun Sen was obligated to approve the creation of the party and that this did not amount to actual support for it.

"It is just his duty, and it is my duty to ask him," Kem Sokha said.

Without Hun Sen's approval, Kem Sokha said, the Human Rights Party's 30,000 members would not have been allowed to legally attend the party's first congress, which was held in July 2007.

Fight over fundraising

Kem Sokha also took issue with Hun Sen's characterisation of the party's fundraising tactics. At the speech in Oddar Meanchey province, Hun Sen said of Kem Sokha: "He is a beggar of foreign money."

Hun Sen said this made Kem Sokha a hypocrite given that he has repeatedly criticised Hun Sen's interactions with foreign donors.

Kem Sokha said he did not beg foreigners for money but rather solicited donations from Cambodians overseas. Moreover, he said he criticised Hun Sen not for accepting foreign aid per se, but for accepting foreign aid and then criticising the donors, in particular the UN.

Hun Sen also said Kem Sokha at first asked him whether he should create an NGO or a political party, a charge Kem Sokha flatly denied.

Kep farmers wait on new dam payouts

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

FAMILIES in Kep province's Prey Thom commune are protesting the alleged seizure of 65 hectares of farmland by the Western Coastal Development Co (WCDC), which has plans to use their land for an irrigation dam. Villagers say they are yet to receive promised compensation.

Villagers, many of whom said they have lived on the site since the 1980s, told the Post Tuesday that the land had been planted with mango, jackfruit, banana and coconut trees before it was cleared by the company last September. They say 31 farms are affected.

Community representative An Sokhina said that the company promised in September that it would work with villagers to resolve the dispute, but no negotiations have taken place since.

"They said the farms were state land so they did not need to pay compensation," she said, referring to an ownership category in the Land Law that gives the government the right to evict people from state land for development purposes.

Try Chhoun, provincial coordinator of local rights group Adhoc, said the villagers had raised concerns when their land was cleared by the company, but that the company had pledged not to start work until the compensation was paid.

"It seems there has been no resolution for the villagers ... the company said they will not develop this land if the Kep governor doesn't resolve this for the people," she added.

WCDC representative Thun Vorn reaffirmed that the land belonged to the state but that the government "would offer compensation" for families affected by the dam project, which will help irrigation.

"We have had a contract with the provincial governor. It is not my duty to settle this problem, it is the governor's duty, because it was he who found the land for us," he said.

Kep provincial Governor Has Saret said that the local authorities were examining the case.

"We don't know how to settle this for the people involved because it is state land."

Border 'unchanged' despite talks

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Cambodian soldiers (foreground and under blue tarp) and Thai soldiers (rear under green tarp) in Preah Vihear in a file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Soldiers at Preah Vihear say standoff continues in spite of dialogue between Cambodia and Thailand.

DESPITE continued dialogue Monday between Cambodia and Thailand's foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, commanders on the border say the military standoff there - now in its seventh month - continues to drag on.

"Nothing has changed," Srey Doek, commander of Military Division 3, said Tuesday. "Our soldiers are standing in the same place as before."

Tensions along the border were further complicated on Monday when a Thai solider was severely injured in a land mine accident around 200 metres from the Cambodian front lines, Neak Vong, deputy commander of Brigade 42, told the Post.

The injury prompted Thai soldiers to shoot into the air in a bid to signal to superiors what had happened. Cambodian soldiers, unaware of the accident, went on red alert after hearing the shots, Neak Vong said.

He added that Thai soldiers had been on patrol when the incident happened.

"There are many mines in this area because it was a battlefield in the 1980s and 1990s. We know, and Thai soldiers also know, the area is full of mines, but they still violate [our territory on their patrols]," Neak Vong said.

He said that five soldiers in civilian uniforms from each side continue to standoff at the contested Ta Moan Thom temple in Oddar Meanchey province.

Troubles began on the border in July when Unesco listed the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

Soldiers on both sides were killed and wounded when firefights broke out in October, but since then fighting has stopped, with both sides saying they are committed to dialogue in a bid to reduce the military buildup along the border.

KR museum to draw visitors north

Photo by: PHOTO COURTESY OF DC-CAM
Photographer Nhem En in a picture taken during the Democratic Kampuchea era.

Who is Nhem En?
Original name: Nhem En
Revolutionary name: none
Joined KR: October 3, 1973
Introducer: Morn
Village: Trapeang Meas
Commune: Tra-ngil
Family involvement: None
Base opinions: No connection with the enemies
SOURCE: KHMER ROUGE BIOGRAPNY SUPPLIED BY DC-CAM


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Owner of new Khmer Rouge museum in former communist stronghold Anlong Veng says he expects site to drastically increase tourist numbers once project is completed.

THE founder of a new museum for displaying Khmer Rouge memorabilia said he expects the attraction to draw more tourists to the remote Anlong Veng district in Oddar Meanchey province, which has already experienced a recent spike in both Cambodian and foreign visitors.

Nhem En, Anlong Veng district deputy governor and the founder of the museum, said he expects the museum - which will feature 2,000 photos of Khmer Rouge leaders, audio recordings of Khmer Rouge songs and related documents - to trigger a tenfold increase in tourism to the district.

The number of tourists to Oddar Meanchey province is already on the rise. More than double the number of tourists visited the district in 2008 compared with 2007: 97,566 Cambodian and 15,027 foreign tourists visited in 2008, compared with 40,458 Cambodian and 13,063 foreign tourists in 2007, said Kong Sophearak, director of the Statistics Department at the Ministry of Tourism.

Better known for his meticulous, methodical photography of the doomed and dying inmates at Tuol Sleng torture prison, Nhem En said he has invested US$110,000 of his own money buying and clearing land for the museum. He said he plans to place the museum building on 10 hectares that have already been cleared, and will build an irrigation system modelled after those built by the regime on an adjacent 40 hectares that have yet to be cleared.

In an interview with the Post, Nhem En appealed to business people, NGOs and the government to help finance the rest of the project, which he estimated to total $320,000.

He said he would fund the museum himself and construct it piecemeal if necessary, though he would prefer to receive assistance from outside sources.

"I will make my dream come true," he said. "I will not give up hope, even though so far I have received no funding from other sources.

"He said the museum - located near remnants of the Khmer Rouge regime including Ta Mok's house and Pol Pot's grave - would be of particular interest to foreigners.

Hopes to boost tourism

Presently, Nhem En estimates that between 20 and 30 foreign students visit Anlong Veng each day.

When the museum is completed, between 300 and 500 foreign tourists will visit the district, he said. Kong Sophearak said the tourism ministry did not have data on the number of foreign tourists the specific district receives.

One road is currently being built to connect Siem Reap to Anlong Veng, though it has yet to be paved. Yim Phanna, Anlong Veng district governor, said the road will be completed in April.

The government is planning to build two more roads - one connecting Anlong Veng to O'Smach commune, Samroang district, Oddar Meanchey province, and one connecting Anlong Veng to Preah Vihear province.

" I will not give up hope even though so far I have received no funding... "

Still in need of support

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), expressed his support for the establishment of the museum, saying he had met with Nhem En many times to offer suggestions regarding the museum plans.

DC-Cam has also provided technical support for the project, he said, though it has been unable to provide funding.

Yim Phanna, Anlong Veng district governor, said he hoped the museum would attract more tourists to the district.

"The museum could encourage more tourists who visit Angkor Wat temple to also visit Anlong Veng because the 124-kilometre road from Siem Reap to Anlong Veng is almost finished, Yim Phanna said.

Vann Nath, a survivor of Tuol Sleng, said he did not object to the museum, noting that it would allow Nhem En to demonstrate his skills as a photographer. "It is up to him," he said.

Top negotiator doubts new sea border talks will solve dispute

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong speaks to reporters following a meeting with his Thai counterpart Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Var Kimhong points out that 2001 working group similar to that announced Monday failed to demarcate Thai-Cambodian sea border.

CAMBODIA'S top border negotiator questioned Tuesday whether talks between Cambodia and Thailand regarding the countries' disputed sea border could lead to an actual agreement and official demarcation.

Following a meeting Monday between Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, Hor Namhong announced that a joint technical working group charged with demarcating the sea border would be established in March at the latest. The exact date depends on when the Thai Cabinet could approve the head of its side of the group.

But Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator, said the announcement did not amount to a major breakthrough in the dispute, as the two countries had already created a working group in 2001 in a failed attempt to settle their disagreement.

"The problem is that Thailand always changes the leader of its government, so we have to restart discussion of the issue with a new person," he said. "We are already prepared to work on this issue but we're waiting for the Thai side."

He said the Cambodian side of the working group, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, remained in place.

Thailand and Cambodia both assert claims over some 27,000 square kilometres of disputed maritime territory in the Gulf of Thailand that is believed to contain significant amounts of oil and gas reserves. An overseas subsidiary of American energy giant Chevron Corp holds a 55-percent interest in a Cambodian section of the Gulf of Thailand covering 6,278 kilometres.

A more positive take

Phay Siphan, spokesman and secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, had a more positive outlook on the announced talks, saying the two governments have previously focused almost exclusively on the land border to the detriment of maritime talks.

He said that government officials would now begin researching the various memorandum of understanding and treaties relating to the disputed maritime territory in preparation for the talks.

In addition to the announcement of new dialogue on border issues, the foreign ministers also announced Monday an agreement to scale back the number of troops remaining from last year's escalation at the temple.

Phnom Penh traffic strong, Siem Reap dips slightly

e-Travel Blackboard
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Full year figures are in for Cambodia’s two airports and while the airport serving the capital Phnom Penh held its own, the more leisure hub of Siem Reap dipped slightly as leisure travellers opted to stay at home.

Following years of dramatic growth levels Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH) lifted by 5.6% to 1.69 million visitors from the 2007 level of 1.6 million passengers, holding steady amidst global uncertainties.

Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (SEP), which services the world heritage site of Angkor Wat saw a marked downturn of leisure traffic, dropping 11.6% down to 1.53 million passengers for the full year from 1.73 million achieved in 2007.

Despite the fact the Phnom Penh serviced the capital city, traffic at the more touristy SEP overtook PNH in 2006. This recent dip edges PNH back in front.

Forecasts for 2009 show that whilst the capital is expected to slightly grow its traffic numbers Siem Reap, on the other hand, is expected to continue its contraction.

Both PNH and SEP are managed by Cambodia Airports. The government run aviation body also runs Sihanoukville International Airport (KOS), the country’s third, and newest, international airport which does not yet offer scheduled services.

Cambodia considers forming body to implement UN Convention Against Torture

TREND News
28.01.09

The Cambodian government is considering to meet the UN requirement for establishing an official organization to implement the UN Convention Against Torture, national media said on Wednesday.

The Cambodian Ministry of Interior and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had studied the detail of this requirement last week during a special workshop, said English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post.

"We believe that torture is still a common crime... occurring in prisons against those accused of doing something wrong," said Jason Barber, consultant to rights group Licadho, while commenting on the proposed initiative, Xinhua reported.

The proposed sub-decree would create a temporary body pending the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) that is consistent with UN's Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), a legislative process that UN and government officials expect to take up 2 years, said the paper.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said that the proposed NPM could help reduce instances of torture in the country, but only if it is independent and respects the spirit of existing international agreements.

"I think that NPM will improve the investigation process where it is respected," he added.

LICADHO: Razing Dey Krahorm: The Death of a Village

On Saturday, January 24, 2009, hundreds of police and military police helped a private company into forcefully evicting Dey Krahorm community in central Phnom Penh.
Water was fired at villagers and observers, especially photographers.

Documents about development assistance to Cambodia and the government’s so-called Rectangular Strategy, to combat poverty and improve health and education, lie on the ground in the wreckage of Dey Krahorm homes.

At morning’s end, jubilant municipal and government officials and 7NG company staff pose for a group photograph in the flattened village. 7NG plans to build a housing, shopping and office development on the land, which is worth an estimated $44 million.

Other residents pick through a sea of debris to try to find their possessions. At right is a refrigerator.
(© Peter Harris - Fotojournalism.net)
Dazed residents, surrounded by police, stand with their salvaged belongings.

A line of workers push at the skeleton of a destroyed house, trying to topple it over.

Demolition workers use axes, hammers and other tools to destroy homes.
(Left picture © Peter Harris - Fotojournalism.net)

A female community representative, knocked unconscious when she fell down as a bulldozer flattened her house, is carried away to hospital.
(© Peter Harris - Fotojournalism.net)

A woman, who collapsed with heart palpitations, is comforted by her family.
(© Peter Harris - Fotojournalism.net)
Police move residents away as demolition workers (in green) continue their work.

A woman wails as workers begin to destroy her house - her possessions still inside.
(© Peter Harris - Fotojournalism.net)

Protected by police, a horde of demolition workers (in red & blue) pour into the village.
(© Peter Harris - Fotojournalism.net)
A 7NG company worker (in hat) signals for hundreds of demolition workers with machinery and tools to move in to start demolishing villagers’ homes.

More tear gas is fired and, at center right, a helmeted policeman throws a rock at residents.

The flash & smoke of a tear gas canister (at left) fired by police.
Rubber bullets and stones were also aimed at residents.
(© Peter Harris - Fotojournalism.net)
Wielding batons, the police break through the villagers’ lines.
(© Peter Harris -Fotojournalism.net)
Residents hold hands, in a vain attempt to resist.
(© Peter Harris - Fotojournalism.net)
A line of riot police moves in to confront Dey Krahorm’s residents and begin the eviction at 6AM. Hundreds of police & military police, who started coming in at 2AM, participated in the violent eviction.

WAS IT ROBBERY OR AN ACCIDENT?

By Melissa Lampman - Kamloops This Week
Published: January 27, 2009

Questions raised in death of Kamloops aid worker in Cambodia

A new story is emerging about what happened to a Kamloops man who died in Cambodia, originally reported as having been attacked, robbed and left for dead in a ditch.

Jiri Zivny, 43, died on Jan. 15 in Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh from injuries he allegedly sustained when assailants hit him on the head as he was riding away from a bank machine six days earlier in the coastal resort town of Sihanoukville.

According to the International Humanitarian Hope Society, the Kamloops-based charity with which Zivny went on the humanitarian aid mission to Southeast Asia to help orphans, Zivny was nearly beaten to death by his attackers, who stole $500 he withdrew at the ATM, along with his wallet, clothing and camera.

But subsequent reports from the country suggest the aid worker — who stayed with another group member known only as “Loren” to continue the mission overland to Thailand after the group split up in Vietnam in early December — may have died as a result of injuries he received in a motorcycle accident in Sihanoukville.

Curious to why newspapers in Cambodia were relying on Canadian media reports for information, freelance editor and writer Vincent MacIsaac, who lives in the small beachside town, looked into the alleged assault.

MacIsaac told KTW that, in addition to local traffic police reporting Zivny crashed his motorcycle into another bike in the early hours of Jan. 9, the chief of immigration police was quoted in the Cambodia Daily as never having heard of the attack.

“There was a media report that a fax was sent to the Canadian embassy here the day of the accident from traffic police in Sihanoukville, notifying the embassy that a Canadian had been injured in a traffic accident,” MacIsaac said.

When contacted by KTW, the Australian consulate in Phnom Penh, which provides services to Canadians in Cambodia, could neither confirm nor deny this.

“Consular officials are providing assistance and support to Mr. Zivny’s family, as well as following up with local authorities responsible for investigating his death,” said Daniel Barbarie, consular spokesperson.

“Due to the privacy act, no further information can be released on this case at this time.”

However, official police records show Zivny was transferred by an ambulance from Sihanoukville to the hospital in the capital city, where hospital records show he arrived at the emergency ward at 11:35 p.m. on Jan. 10, with the ambulance driver noting the patient had been in a motorcycle accident.

Zivny was immediately transferred to the intensive-care unit and, by 12:30 a.m., had been shifted to the neurological ward, where he died six days later, at 5:15 p.m. local time.

MacIsaac, who has worked in Far East and Southeast Asia for 14 years, was at Calmette Hospital the day Zivny died, interviewing doctors.

The doctors, he said, determined there were no cuts or bruises that indicated blunt-force trauma inflicted by an assailant.

“During the first interview, on the afternoon of Jan. 15, doctors treating the patient allowed me to see him,” MacIsaac reported in an article published in the Asian Sentinel.

“If he had been struck in the face, the wound had healed by then.”

Despite repeated attempts by KTW to contact her, Evelyn Picklyk, president and founder of IHHS, could not be reached for comment before press deadline.

Khmer tourism stagnates

e-Travel Blackboard
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

According to an article in Cambodia's Koh Santepheap Newspaper, officials from the Apsara Authority indicated that revenue from the 2008 sale of tickets to visit the Angkor temple complex amounts to $30 to $31 million, i.e. a small drop from 2007.

Bun Narith, Deputy Director of the Apsara Authority, told Koh Santepheap over the phone, on 13 January: "We are not publishing the actual ticket sale revenue number yet, but we are only providing an approximate number, which amounts to $30 to $31 million. There is a slight drop as compared to 2007, where the revenue was $32 million."

Bun Narith indicated that the official number will be announced only after the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Economy and Finanace agree with each other. The Ministry of Tourism tallies the number of Khmer and foreign visitors, the Apsara Authority tallies the number of visitors, who bought tickets to visit Angkor Wat only, and some of the (foreign) visitors did not even pay for their tickets because they were guests of the government.

It should be noted that the ticket sales right was granted to the Sokha Hotel Company, owned by Oknha Sok Kong, through a government concession contract concluded on 17 June 2005.

Bun Narith indicated that foreign visitors must either buy a $20 ticket for a one-day visit, a $40 ticket for a 3-day visit, or a $60 ticket for a one-week visit. Following the substraction of the sales tax, revenue from the ticket sales is divided between Sok Kong’s Sokha Hotel Company and the Apsara Authority as follows: the first $3 million revenue is shared 50%-50% between Sokha Hotel and the Apsara Authority. For the remainder of the revenue, 15% goes to a development chest for the Angkor area, 68% goes to the Apsara Authority, and 17% is kept by Sokha Hotel Company. The Apsara Authority portion of the revenue goes directly to the state coffer.

The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which is in charge of expert review on the ticket sales revenue, did not provide any comment or official statement yet. Nevertheless, Dr. Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism, recently stated that the total number of tourists visiting Cambodia in 2008 increased by 5.48%. This is translated into 2.12 million tourists, i.e. there is no drop in the number of tourists, even though the percentage of tourist increase is lower than expected.

The tourism sector is one of among the three top priority sectors for the development of Cambodia after the garment sector and the construction sector.

Furthermore, Sdeung Sokhon, Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry of Tourism, used to say that revenue from the tourist sector is continually growing, because in 2007 the number of tourists rose to 2 million. Studies indicated that, in the average, tourists visiting Cambodia spend $700, excluding the price of their airfare, therefore the average spending for the 2 million visitors to Cambodia would amount to more than $1.4 billion. Tourist revenues are distributed to visa revenue, hotel taxes, food, souvenir items and other miscellaneous items, as well as cost of purchase of tickets for visiting Angkor temples. Some of the tourist revenue benefits directly the population. He added also that, based on his personal estimate, tourist revenue benefit private individuals more than the state.

However, economic observers said that out of all the tourist revenue, 30% flows right back out to import products from overseas and neighboring countries.

Cash dries up for tourism development in Asia

FT.com
The Financial Times
January 28 2009

The bridge linking Koh Puos island to the Cambodian mainland is under construction, but the timetable for building a yacht club, shopping centres, villas and hotels is under review as global credit markets dry up and international travel slows.

"We had hoped to finish everything by 2016, but we are probably now thinking more in terms of 2019 or 2020," says Oleg Khaidarov, construction director for the $900m (€682m, £635m) project intended to challenge established Thai beach resorts and make Cambodia a draw for more than the Angkor Wat ruins.

In a best-case scenario, executives such as Mr Khaidarov say projects will benefit from lower construction costs. But for tourism developments in Vietnam, Macao and elsewhere in Asia in early financing stages, the outlook is gloomier.

"Some big funds were very interested in our project but now everybody just wants to keep their money safe," says Kieu Lam, an official with Saigon SunBay, a Vietnamese seaside tourism development expected to cost $525m, of which only $25m has been committed.

In the absence of private funding, the Asian tourism sector is hoping to secure more government support.

Karaoke videos deliver clean water tips

WaterTech
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kean Svay, Cambodia — One nonprofit organization is using karaoke videos to teach Cambodian villagers about the benefits of drinking safe water and to test wells for arsenic levels, according to a January 27 NPR “Morning Edition”
report.

Wells and rivers in Cambodia carry risks from such contaminants as bacteria, parasites, pesticides and arsenic.

NPR’s Jon Hamilton, a correspondent on the science desk, interviewed Mickey Sampson, Ph.D., country director of nonprofit organization Resource Development International (RDI). One of the organization’s projects makes ceramic water filters that remove most bacteria and parasites from water; another teaches Cambodians about the benefits of drinking safe water and how to protect themselves from unsafe water.

Sampson told NPR that RDI was facing two challenges: Many Cambodians cannot read and many poor villagers accept waterborne diseases as part of life. After hearing his children’s babysitter singing — in English — a familiar song from the children’s television program “Barney,” he said he found that “education through media, through song was the way that we needed to go. That was the piece of the puzzle that was missing, not technology.”

According to NPR, in Cambodia, new songs usually arrive in the form of karaoke videos.

Sampson and the RDI team created a series of karaoke videos that are accompanied by familiar tunes with educational lyrics. According to the RDI Web site, “While Americans might find an educational song to be ‘cheesy’ or less than desirable, RDI has found that audiences are eager to sing our educational songs because of the very high quality in which they are written, played, and vocalized.”

To access the NPR report, click here.

Cambodian Girls Driven to Prostitution

AFP
Cambodian sex workers sit on the side walk along a street in Phnom Penh on Dec. 18, 2008.

Radio Free Asia
2009-01-27

Economic hardship is pushing young Cambodian girls into the sex trade while legislation drives the trade underground.

PHNOM PENH—The girl from Prey Veng province has worked as a prostitute in the Cambodian capital for five months. Hard times, she said, have brought her here to earn money for her widowed mother and three younger siblings.

“I am unhappy with myself, but I pity my mother. No girl wants to do this horrible work,” the 15-year-old, who asked not to be named, said in an interview as she looked for business near the Suriya Supermarket.

“Sometimes, I get only one client in two or three days. Some clients ask me to have sex without using a condom, but I refuse. I say that if you sleep with me without using condom, I’d rather not take your money.”

Rising living costs are forcing more Cambodian girls under 18 into prostitution in urban areas such as Phnom Penh to support their families in the countryside.

The girls, spotted easily from around 8 p.m. as they scout urban streets and parks for customers, say they lack the education to find other work.

A dangerous trade

Several Cambodian girls who agreed to be interviewed said they engage in sex work despite its dangers because they cannot afford to quit.

“Clients take me to guesthouses. I get U.S. $10 per night. They gang-rape me and beat me,” another girl, 17, from Svay Rieng province, said.

In February 2008, the Cambodian government began enforcing the new “Law on the Suppression of Human-Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation” after years of U.S. pressure to crack down on sex trafficking.

Human rights groups, however, say the law and its enforcement have made life harder for the women they aim to help.

Prostitutes caught in police raids are made to pay fines of up to U.S. $200 for their release, the 17-year-old girl said.

“They take us to district police headquarters and take our money. If we don’t have the money, we will be kept in custody for two or three days. So we have to run for our lives when we see police approaching us.”

“Police arrest us in the hope that the brothel owners will pay, but if we don’t have anyone to pay for our release we will be sent to one of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). It’s o.k. to live at the NGOs, but then our families have nothing to eat,” she said.

“If [the NGOs] want to help me, they should also help my family. Otherwise I can’t quit.”

Increasing poverty

Lim Mony, program manager for women’s issues at the nonprofit group ADHOC, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, said the number of girls and women involved in sex work is increasing because of higher living costs and the lure of modern luxuries.

“Voluntary sex work by girls on the streets is difficult to define. Many of these girls first were lured and tricked into being sex workers by traffickers. Then, because of that, they began voluntarily selling their bodies. Other women have been voluntarily engaged in prostitution from the start,” she said.

According to Article 35 of Cambodia’s law on “Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation,” the prostitution of children is punishable with a jail sentence of two to five years and a fine of four to 10 million riel (U.S. $1,000 to $2,500).

But Ean Pheara, an assistant at the Phnom Penh-based People Improvement Organization, said impoverished and uneducated children remain among the most vulnerable workers in the sex industry.

This year, he said, the People Improvement Organization—which provides education and vocational training—taught 240 children the skills they will need to avoid being trafficked.

Heng Sithon, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs General Directorate for Social Development, agreed that anti-trafficking efforts must focus on Cambodia’s youth.

Sithon, whose work with the ministry provides education to rural children and their parents on how to protect themselves from trafficking, said more children and women are subject to trafficking “partly due to the migration of rural women looking for work who then are tricked into working in the sex trade.”

More awareness needed

ADHOC, along with the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), says that despite public awareness campaigns, law enforcement against prostitution and human trafficking remains ineffective.

“Really what [they] should be looking at is, if someone gets into a situation where they are forced [into prostitution] or where they are being severely exploited, how can they remove themselves from that situation and how can they best get the help that they need,” Elaine Pearson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, said.

“The basic effect of [enforcing the law] has been to drive the industry further underground. It certainly doesn’t mean that people have stopped selling sex altogether in Cambodia,” Pearson said.

“It’s become more difficult to monitor the conditions inside brothels, and it has made it more difficult for outreach workers ... to provide health services, to provide condoms to sex workers, and to provide education services which would actually improve the health and safety in that industry.”

In its most recent report on human rights around the world for the preceding year, the U.S. State Department noted that while the Cambodian Constitution prohibits prostitution, “there is no specific legislation against working as a prostitute.”

“Trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution was a serious problem, despite laws against procuring and kidnapping for purposes of sexual exploitation. There were reports that police abused prostitutes,” the report said.

“Despite sporadic crackdowns on brothel operators in Phnom Penh, prostitution and related trafficking persisted. Estimates of the number of working prostitutes ranged from 14,725 to 18,250. Sex tourism was a problem, fueled by pervasive poverty and the perception of impunity.”

Original reporting by Seang Sophon for RFA’s Khmer service. Service director: Sos Kem. Translated by Sothea Thai. Written in English for the Web by Joshua Lipes.

Cambodia considers forming body to implement UN Convention Against Torture

TREND News
28.01.09

The Cambodian government is considering to meet the UN requirement for establishing an official organization to implement the UN Convention Against Torture, national media said on Wednesday.

The Cambodian Ministry of Interior and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) had studied the detail of this requirement last week during a special workshop, said English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post.

"We believe that torture is still a common crime... occurring in prisons against those accused of doing something wrong," said Jason Barber, consultant to rights group Licadho, while commenting on the proposed initiative, Xinhua reported.

The proposed sub-decree would create a temporary body pending the establishment of a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) that is consistent with UN's Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), a legislative process that UN and government officials expect to take up 2 years, said the paper.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said that the proposed NPM could help reduce instances of torture in the country, but only if it is independent and respects the spirit of existing international agreements.

"I think that NPM will improve the investigation process where it is respected," he added.

Switzerland helps Cambodia repair Banteay Srey temple

MCOT English News

PHNOM PENH, Jan 28 (VNA) - Switzerland has provided one million Swiss Francs (about 880,500 USD) in aid for a repairing project of Banteay Srey temple in Siem Reap province, Cambodia news agency (AKP) reported on Jan. 27.

An agreement on the aid was signed in Phnom Penh on Jan. 26 by Sun Saphoeung, Secretary of State of the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Rodolphe S. Imhoof, Swiss Ambassador to Cambodia .

The agreement is aimed at boosting the cooperation between the Switzerland’s maintenance team of Banteay Srey Temple and Cambodia ’s Apsara Authorities in repairing and caring for the temple.

In Cambodia development cooperation forum held in Phnom Penh in late last year, Switzerland had pledged to provide nearly 7.5 million USD for the national development in Cambodia from 2009 to 2011, according to the news agency.(VNA)

Justice In Cambodia

Kaing Khek Iev

VOA
27 January 2009

Thirty years after the fall of a dictatorship believed to have killed almost 2 million people, prosecutors with a special tribunal in Cambodia are preparing the first trial for one of the regime’s key leaders.

While the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s were enormous, with the prosecution of Kaing Khek Iev a measure of justice will begin returning to the former killing fields.

Robert Petit, with the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, said Kaing will be tried for genocide and other crimes beginning in March. Known as Duch, he commanded the Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh where at least 15,000 people are believed to have been tortured or killed in the regime’s campaign to totally remake Cambodian society.

Four other Khmer Rouge leaders also tied to crimes against humanity have also been detained and face trial after Kaing. The announcement came on Remembrance Day, the anniversary marking the regime’s removal in 1979.

The United States supports the efforts of Cambodia and the international community to bring to justice those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Evictees Deserve Compensation: Rights Worker

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
27 January 2009

A leading rights worker denied on Monday that non-governmental organizations were pushing an agenda for the displaced residents of a Phnom Penh slum, but are urging the government to provide them fair compensation.

“We know there has been some allegations against NGOs,” said Kek Galabru, founder of the rights group Licadho, as a guest on “Hello VOA” Monday. “But we NGOs only know that the people want fair compensation if they are evicted from the area.”

Kek Galabru was addressing government criticism of rights groups in the eviction of Dey Krahorm, a neighborhood in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, over the weekend.

Residents, who are among the city’s most disenfranchised, were ejected hundreds of demoltion workers of the 7NG development company and riot police, who launched tear gas and opened water cannons on them.

7NG had promised to pay $20,000 per home, but only one person of thousands had been compensated, Kek Galbru said. Some had only received $500.

7NG adviser Srey Sothea canceled an appearance on “Hello VOA” Monday.

Forced evictions have occurred with more frequency in recent years, as land prices in the capital and across the nation have risen. Kek Galabru said evictions of should be done according to law and in the interest of the people.

Land Issues Stump New Government

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

Six months after July’s national election, critics of the new administration of the Cambodian People’s Party say it has so far been incapable of solving the ongoing problem of land disputes.

This inability was underscored by the forced eviction—by tear gas and water cannon—of hundreds of Phnom Penh slum-dwellers in the Dey Krahorm neighborhood Saturday morning.

“I voted for the CPP, hoping this area would have justice and a fair resolution after the election,” said Horn Sar, a 49-year-old evictee of Dey Krahorm. “But right now, I’ve met with injustice through eviction. So I request Prime Minister Hun Sen to protect justice for the poor Dey Krahorm residents.”

The CPP took 90 of 123 National Assembly seats in the July 27 election, but they have so far done little to deal with the concerns of people like Horn Sar, who are at risk of displacement and land grabs, rights workers say.

“One hundred and forty land dispute cases were promised to be solved by the ruling officials during the election campaign,” said Chan Soveth, deputy chief of investigation for the rights group Adhoc. “But those cases are still a concern and cannot be solved at all.”

Local institutions, such as land dispute committees, as well as the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, have proven incapable of solving the problem, Chan Soveth said. “So six months after the election, land disputes have no result and have no resolution.”

Ouk Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, agreed.

“The government has no real willingness to solve the land disputes,” he said. “The authorities continue to use violence in the eviction of the people from their houses, especially in the case of Dey Krahorm. Before the election, the authorities allowed the people to protest land-grabbing, in order to get votes from the people. But after the election, we haven’t seen results coming from the result of the vote. So the government has fallen down.”

On Saturday, armed riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to evict hundreds of residents from Dey Krahorm, razing an area that had been part of an ongoing land dispute with developer 7NG.

Residents say they have not been fairly compensated by the development company. 7NG representatives say the company has offered each family an apartment on outskirts of Phnom Penh. Hundreds of Dey Krahorm evictees gathered on Monday and Tuesday in front of the National Assembly, seeking monetary compensation instead of an apartment.

“We don’t want to get the house from the company, because in that place the housing is not proper and we can’t make business, have no schools, and have not enough water and electricity and no toilets,” said Kim Hong, 58, a Dey Krahorm evictee.

Cheam Yiep, a CPP National Assembly lawmaker, said the government was capable of solving the disputes, but could not solve the thousands of cases before it in only six months. Resolution of the disputes was a priority, he said, “because Prime Minister Hun Sen is not happy about land grabbing by powerful men or rich men, or those who make injustice for farmers or ordinary people.”

Crude Prices To Stanch Oil Flow: Experts

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
27 January 2009

While Cambodia waits for the oil to flow from its offshore blocks, potentially yielding millions of barrels and billions of dollars, industry experts have lowered their expectations.

“It is a very risky business. Oil is sticky, and it likes to stay in the ground,” said Michael McWalter, an oil and gas expert at the Asian Development Bank and advisor for Cambodia’s National Petroleum Authority. “If it is sticky, the water will flow instead. So the oil recovery level is very low, and oil that has been recovered has no gas with it.”

The World Bank estimates Cambodia’s total offshore oil potential at up to 2 billion barrels in six blocks in the Gulf of Thailand.

Block A alone could hold 400 million barrels. It is under exploration by the US giant Chevron in cooperation with Japan’s Mitsui Oil Exploration and South Korea’s Caltex. The remaining blocks are under investment by 13 companies, from France, Kuwait, Sweden, Singapore, China and others.

Chevron is still leading in exploration, but the company has already encountered the problem of dispersion—where oil deposits are scattered in pockets underground, rather than in giant reservoirs.

Cambodia’s offshore crude is dispersed, “rather than in one core field, which makes investment hard,” said Men Den, deputy director of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority. “So it costs more to produce oil.”

Meanwhile, McWalter said low crude prices could mean Chevron won’t be able to start pumping oil by 2011, as it once expected.

“Although all the planning has been done, the circumstances are so different now for the oil industry,” he said. “Even if you can submit the development plan tomorrow, you need more time to check and approve, and a long time to prepare. So it’s hard to believe that any company can produce oil in 2011.”

Chevron is the largest oil investor in Cambodia, spending more than $100 million to explore 6,000 square kilometers in Block A, which lies under the sea 140 kilometers southwest of Sihanoukville town.

Chevron spokesman Gareth Jonhstone told VOA Khmer the company would not discuss start-up dates, but Chevron and its partners in Block A were “working closely with the Royal Government of Cambodia to complete the fiscal and legal framework for the development of petroleum resources in Cambodia.”

While some skeptics warn that the potential billions of dollars from the oil fields must not be used to line corrupt pockets, experts point out the costs and risks of the ventures themselves.

The natural conditions for Cambodia’s oil blocks is not good, the price of exploration technology high and the value of crude oil dropping, McWalter said.

Phat Bunne, an oil and gas expert at the Cambodian Institute of Technology, agreed, saying offshore oil could turn out to be less than expected and deal failure to prospective companies.

Men Den said it all comes down to the price of crude.

“If the oil price falls, no oil [production] starts,” he said. “If the oil price decreases more, or even stays at the same low level, I believe none of the companies can go ahead."

666 final eng&khmer

Part 1



Part 2



Published by licadhocanada

China Welcomes Year of the Ox


AssociatedPress

Revellers in China and Hong Kong on Sunday celebrated the traditional Lunar New Year, welcoming 2009, the Chinese zodiac sign of the Ox.

Hong Kong Welcomes New Year



AssociatedPress

Hong Kong celebrates the Chinese New Year by hosting a giant fireworks display over the harbor, drawing tens of thousands of people to watch the display. (Jan. 27)

Thai Foreign Minister warmly welcomed on an official visit to Cambodia

ISRIA

On 25-26 January 2009, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Cambodia as guest of Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong. During the visit, the Foreign Minister was graciously granted an audience by H.M. Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni. He paid courtesy calls on top Cambodian leaders, namely, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin, President of the National Assembly of Cambodia, and Samdech Akka Moha Thamma Pothisal Chea Sim, President of the Senate of Cambodia. He also met and held bilateral talks with his Cambodian counterpart.

In his discussions with the Cambodian leaders, the Foreign Minister reiterated the importance attached by the Thai Government to promoting stronger ties with neighbouring countries, especially Cambodia. To this end, the Foreign Minister underscored the Thai Government's political will as well as the close cultural affinity and similarities between both Kingdoms which would serve as a strong foundation for closer bilateral ties.

The Foreign Minister suggested that there be more exchanges of visits between both sides. In this connection, the Foreign Minister reiterated the invitation to His Majesty King Sihamoni to pay a State Visit to Thailand as guests of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand. The Thai Government was also pleased that, next month, Prime Minister Hun Sen would be traveling to Thailand to attend the 14th ASEAN Summit in Cha Am/Hua Hin, while the Thai Minister of Defence would also be visiting Cambodia.

On bilateral cooperation, both sides agreed to resolve the border issue using peaceful means under the existing framework of the Joint Border Committee which is scheduled to hold its next meeting on 2-4 February 2009 in Thailand. Both sides also agreed that redeploying the troops would be one of the topics to be discussed during the Defence Minister's visit next month. The Foreign Minister has also informed his Cambodian counterpart that the Thai Cabinet is in the process of appointing the new Thai Chairman of the Sub-Joint Technical Committee (Sub-JTC) so that discussions could be held possibly in March.

Other issues discussed include the identification and the return of Cambodian artifacts and consular relations between Thailand and Cambodia. To follow up on these and other issues, both sides also agreed to hold the next meeting of the Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation.

On sub-regional cooperation, both sides agreed to expedite cooperation within ACMECS, including the ACMECS Single Visa Scheme and the promotion of tourism through the Two Kingdoms/One Destination concept, and the signing of the MOU on Contract Farming. On tourism cooperation, Prime Minister Hun Sen also proposed that a meeting of the Emerald Triangle countries, namely, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, be held on the sidelines of the 14th ASEAN Summit in Thailand. Increased cooperation on rice between Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam was also discussed.

As Thailand is the current ASEAN Chair, the Cambodian side also reiterated its readiness to work with Thailand to promote closer cooperation between Member States as well as with dialogue partners.

The Settling of Payments Outside the Banking Systems in Cambodia Amounts to Up to US$800,000,000 - Tuesday, 27.1.2009

Posted on 27 January 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 597

“Phnom Penh: A report produced by the Australian & New Zealand Banking Group – ANZ – said that the settling of payments oustide of the banking systems in Cambodia amounts to up to US$800,000,000.

“A report published during the inauguration of the Wing Company [mobile phone banking – there is also a video explanation here] early this wekk said that at present, among more than 14 million Cambodian citizens, only 500,000 have bank accounts. The report added that so far, most citizens are settling their payments outside of the banking systems, with an annual amount of up to US$800,000,000.

“The director of the Sthapana Company, Mr. Bun Mony, said on the telephone on 24 January 2009 that he has never surveyed this field, but he is aware that so far the settling of payments outside of the banking systems is the usual habit of most Cambodian people.

“He went on to say, ‘I do not dare to confirm this number to be correct, but I think that the settling of payments outside of the banking systems is the culture of settling money affairs for most Cambodian citizens.’

“He added that this habit or culture should be changed, and people should start to think about settling payments through the banking systems, a public system, because this can bring a lot of benefits to the national economy.

“He continued to say, ‘If all citizens stop to hide their money under their mattresses and put it into the banks, the money will be gathered in one place; therefore, it is easy for transferring and using it for different commercial activities, and our state does not have always to think about printing new paper money.’

“He said also that keeping money under the mattress does not bring any benefit, and it might even face many hazards, but if one puts money into the bank, it is safe and brings benefit in the form of interest, and banks can use that money as loan capital to people who need it.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4805, 27.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Cambodia, Thailand agree on more talks on border dispute

The Peninsula

1/27/2009
Source ::: REUTERS

PHNOM PENH: Thailand and Cambodia agreed yesterday to more talks to resolve a dispute over a stretch of land at their border near the 900-year-old Preah Vihear temple that spilled over into fighting last year. “This is another step forward. We must show our restraint,” Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong said reporters after a two-hour meeting with his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya. The two countries agreed in November to pull out troops from the disputed area and follow up with joint demarcation of the heavily mined frontier. However, the fall of the Thai government in December delayed implementation of the plan.

Kasit, who was a prominent member of the royalist Thai protest group that stirred up last year’s bad blood over the temple, said it was important to resolve the long-running dispute through peaceful means.

The pair also agreed on a joint committee to meet in March to look at a stretch of disputed sea in the Gulf of Thailand believed to contain oil and natural gas.

Parliament finally pass Asean agreements and pacts

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on January 28, 2009

Thai lawmakers yesterday approved a total of 41 crucial Asean and related agreements following a stormy House session which was suspended twice due to heated debates.

The passage of these agreements would allow the government to sign deals with its counterparts during the upcoming Asean summit from Feb 27 to March 1.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva would join other Asean leaders in signing eight pacts during the summit, while foreign ministers of Asean would sign five separate agreements.

The rest of 28 agreements will be signed by economic and other related ministers of the 10 Asean countries.

Article 190 of the Thai Constitution requires the government to seek parliamentary mandate before negotiating and signing any agreements with foreign countries.

The Asean documents include the Bangkok Declaration on the roadmap for an ASEAN Community and framework for the Asean human right body, which would turn Asean into a regional community and a legal-based organization.

Thai parliament also approved free trade agreements which Thailand would join other members and dialogue partners.

These free trade pacts included agreements between Asean and partners from India, China, Australia and New Zealand.

Foreign, commerce, labor, transportation and public health ministries would be involved.

Some bilateral agreements such as on human trafficking with Burma and on labor cooperation with South Korea were also approved.

A total of 36 member ad-hoc committee will scrutinize some of the pacts such as Asean document for human right body and a memorandum of understanding on labor with South Korea. The committee would complete their works within 15 days.

Chai Chidchob, who chaired the morning House session, asked a break for five minutes as the debate involving Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya's role in earlier street protests appeared to have gone beyond the limit.

Jatuporn Prompan from the opposition Pheu Thai Party heated up the session when he asked Kasit to clarify his role in the People's Alliance for Democracy's lengthy protest last year.

Kasit's rude verbal attack to Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen during last year's protests was also cited as a harm to confidence among neighboring countries, the opposition MP said.

"Shame on you, Mr Kasit as you referred to Cambodian Prime Minister with such rude words," Jatuporn said in the parliament.

In a television talk show on October 14 last year, Kasit called Hun Sen a "thug" when Cambodia offered ultimatum for Thai troop withdrawal from Preah Vihear temple's vicinity.

Jatuporn's speech led to a number of objections from Democrat's members including Boonyod Sukthinthai, Chamni Sakdiset and Kraisak Choonhavan.

The debate aimed to ask approval for Asean pacts, rather than a censure motion against the foreign minister, they said in defending the foreign minister.

In response, Kasit said he exercised his right as a Thai citizen to launch the verbal attack to Hun Sen when the latter posed a threat to Thailand. But now he claimed to have a good term with Hun Sen.

Kasit also told the parliament that he saw nothing wrong with the airport closure since many airports around the world also needed to close after protests by pilots or ground staffs.

"I have never seen any countries compensate for the tourists for that matter," he said and added his government has a special care to compensate the travelers.

The afternoon session was also heated during a consideration of free-trade agreements when a Peu Thai MP urged Chairman Prasopsuk Boondej to count the quorum since saw small number of parliamentarians in the meeting room.

Democrat's Boonyod opposed the move saying many members listening out side while Peu Thai Party's Sunai Jullapongsathorn accused the chairman of siding with the government and referred to Boonyod as a pro-dictator journalist. Boonyod was an ex-journalist who hailed the 2006 coup.

Many non-elected senators joined the quarrel before the chairman call another break.

Crucial asean bills pass in rowdy house session

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on January 28, 2009

Free-trade and bilateral pacts among deals approved

Thai lawmakers yesterday approved a total of 41 crucial Asean and related agreements after a stormy House session was suspended twice due to heated debates.

The passage of the agreements will allow the government to sign deals with its counterparts during the upcoming Asean summit from Feb 27 to March 1.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will join other Asean leaders in signing eight pacts during the summit, while foreign ministers of Asean will sign five separate agreements.

Another 28 agreements will be signed by finance and other ministers of the 10 Asean states.

Article 190 of the Thai Constitution requires the government to seek parliamentary backing before negotiating and signing any agreements with foreign countries.

Among the Asean documents are the Bangkok Declaration on the roadmap for an Asean Community and a framework for the Asean human rights body, which will turn Asean into a regional community and a legal-based organisation.

The Parliament also approved free-trade agreements that Thailand will join with other members and dialogue partners. The free-trade pacts include agreements between Asean and partners from India, China, Australia and New Zealand.

The Foreign, Commerce, Labour, Transport and Public Health ministries are involved in these matters.

Bilateral agreements on matters such as human trafficking with Burma and labour cooperation with South Korea were also approved.

An ad-hoc committee of 36 MPs will scrutinise some pacts such as the Asean document for a human rights body and a memorandum of understanding on labour with South Korea. The committee will complete their work within 15 days.

Chai Chidchob, who chaired the morning House session, ordered a five-minute break when debate about Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya's role in protests last year got heated.

Jatuporn Promphan from the opposition Pheu Thai Party warmed up the session when he asked Kasit to clarify his role in the People's Alliance for Democracy protest last year.

Kasit's rude attack on Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen during last year's protests was also cited as bad for relations with a neighbouring countries, the opposition MP said. "Shame on you, Mr Kasit as you referred to Cambodian Prime Minister with such rude words," Jatuporn said.

In a television talk show on October 14 last year, Kasit called Hun Sen a "thug" when Cambodia gave an ultimatum for Thai troops to withdraw from the vicinity of Preah Vihear temple.

Jatuporn's speech led to objections from Democrat members including Boonyod Sukthinthai, Chamni Sakdiset and Kraisak Choonhavan. They said the debate was called to approve the Asean pacts, and wasn't a censure motion against the foreign minister.

In response, Kasit said he exercised his right as a Thai citizen to criticise Hun Sen when the latter threatened Thailand. But he said he was now on good terms with Hun Sen.

Kasit also told Parliament he saw nothing wrong with the airport closure, as many airports around the world also needed to close after protests by pilots or ground staffs.

"I have never seen any countries compensate tourists for those events," he said, noting his government would be a special case if it compensated travellers.

The afternoon session also got heated when a Pheu Thai MP urged chairman Prasopsuk Boondej to count the quorum after seeing MPs meet outside.

Excellent jump start for Thai-Cambodian relations

By The Nation
Published on January 28, 2009

After a year of border tension and political frustration, Cambodia has a new sense of confidence in Thailand

It is difficult to describe the current relationship between Thailand and Cambodia without taking into consideration the positive body language of representatives of the two countries, as well as other nitty-gritty details, on display during the two-day visit to Phnom Penh by Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya over the weekend.

The trip was successful because Foreign Minister Kasit managed to restore confidence among the Cambodian leadership, especially Prime Minister Hun Sen, in Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his government. Over the past year, the lack of political stability in Thailand and the frequent changes of foreign minister and government have worried our Cambodian friends. But it seems now that the Cambodians are confident the new Thai administration is a partner they can deal with.

Hun Sen was also pleased with Abhisit's letter to him citing his statement in Oddar Meanchey that any bilateral problems between the two countries should be solved through peaceful means, negotiation and the non-use of force. Both Abhisit and Hun Sen see eye to eye on this. The Thai leader has reaffirmed that the border issues will be resolved through the existing bilateral mechanisms.

"As we are immediate neighbours and share a common border, traditions and cultures, my government is committed to bringing better security and more prosperity to the livelihood of our two peoples and countries," Abhisit said in part of his letter, and it was that kind of spirit that was displayed throughout the visit. Preparations are now underway for Abhisit to visit Cambodia.

Back in 1989, Kasit was part of the Thai delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, which Hun Sen also participated in. At their meeting over the weekend, the two vowed to work together again like they did twenty years ago to bring peace to Cambodia. But this time the stakes are higher because both countries are Asean members and they have an obligation to work for the benefit of the regional grouping. Thailand is ready to do that. In the near future, the country is planning to release a grant of Bt1.8 billion for a highway construction project in Cambodia.

From 1986-2008, Thailand provided grants of Bt1.2 billion and soft loans totalling Bt2.2 billion to Cambodia for infrastructure development projects. Other assistance included technical cooperation and training in various fields. Despite the tension of the past year caused by border demarcation disputes at the Preah Vihear temple and other historic monuments, trade between the two countries amounted to US$1.8 billion (Bt63 billion) last year, up from US$1.4 billion in 2007.

In the near future, additional cultural and personal exchanges will increase, including between the two countries' legislators. For the first time, the Democrat Party will establish ties, and cooperate with, the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

Thai-Cambodian relations are now on firmer ground and the two sides are ready to move on. However, the Thai opposition parties and ill-intentioned individuals continue to use vitriol to undermine the friendship. So much so that Hun Sen has told the Thais that both sides have to avoid falling victim to misunderstanding and misinterpretation coming from sources such as unconfirmed reports from media or non-governmental organisations. Both countries have suffered recently from such rumour-mongering and even mud-slinging.

The recent calls from Singapore and Burma to boycott the upcoming Asean Summit in Thailand were a bit silly. The postponement of the Asean summit from last December has already damaged Thailand's international reputation and the grouping's interest. But at this point, all Asean members have confirmed their participation. They want to see a successful summit chaired by Thailand. They know that a strong and successful Asean that has agreed on economic and financial cooperative frameworks will be of benefit to all members, especially during this time of global economic crisis.

But make no mistake, Thai-Cambodian relations are pivotal within the Asean context. Hun Sen was right when he said the state of ties between the two countries could affect Asean as a whole. Cambodia is an active member in Asean initiatives, especially most recently in the drafting of the Asean charter and the terms of reference for the new Asean human rights body.

The border tensions last year even led to brief exchanges of gunfire between Thai and Cambodian troops, and naturally this caused great concern among the Asean members. After all, no member countries have ever gone to war with each other before. And this is a record and legacy the grouping wants to maintain. The Abhisit government knows that relations and mutual trust with Cambodia must be improved and solidified before the countries can go beyond the bilateral framework. At the same time, Thailand has emerged from a political abyss and is now moving towards a more stable political condition. However, time is still needed before this situation can be consolidated further.