Monday, 15 June 2009

Do Khmers really love Khmers?

The Phnom Penh Post
http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Ambassador Julio A Jeldres
Monday, 15 June 2009

Dear Editor,

Reading the article "Deputy Governor faults land-grabbing report as biased, un-Cambodian", (June 9) made me realise with sadness that Cambodian government officials do not seem to appreciate that by continuing to hide evictions beneath the banner of development, they are pushing the people being evicted to desperate actions that may lead to instability.

The Licadho report is a compassionate, well-researched, factual and moving report on the plight of the people who have lost their land through forced evictions by powerful elites that control today's Cambodia.

It is becoming more and more common for Cambodian officials to respond to factual criticism on forced land grabbing, corruption and other violations of human rights as "foreign interference in Cambodia's internal affairs".

The logo "No one loves Khmer more than Khmer" is becoming the fashionable mantra of the government's response to any critical remark to its actions. I often wonder if this "No one loves Khmer more than Khmer" really comes from the heart of the officials who use it.

Otherwise, how do you explain the violent deaths of Piseth Pilika, Chea Vichea and so many other Khmers?

Yet, while Cambodian officials become more and more "anti-foreigner", they do not seem to have any compunction to constantly request further funds from foreign countries, which continue to support the Cambodian government's request for assistance because of their genuine concern for the welfare of the people of Cambodia.

The contemptuous manner in which Professor Yash Ghai, the former special representative of the UN Secretary General for Human Rights, and Ms Carol Rodley, the US Ambassador to Cambodia, have been treated by government officials for drawing attention to genuine violations of human rights, such as land grabbing, and other problems such as the corruption affecting the livelihood of the less privileged of Cambodia, is morally wrong, historically unsound and totally unacceptable.

Cambodian government officials need to understand that foreign governments, in particular the signatories of the 1991 Paris Agreements who are the guarantors of the Cambodian people's rights, cannot remain silent in front of so much injustice.

Likewise, we ordinary citizens of the countries that provide multiform assistance to Cambodia, contribute through our taxes to the national reconstruction of Cambodia and, therefore, have the right to expect our respective governments not to remain silent when these continuous violations of human rights take place in Cambodia.

Ambassador Julio A Jeldres
Adjunct Research Fellow
The Asia Institute, Monash University

Cambodia-Vietnam drug and gun ring suspects indicted


The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court received indictments for 15 people accused of involvement in a trans-Vietnam-Cambodian drug and gun trafficking ring this week.

City police began arresting suspects in the case in July, 2007, rounding up the last of the 15 in August last year. The city People’s Procuracy, the municipal prosecutors’ office, prepared the indictments.

The gang had moved dozens of 350- gram heroin blocks and thousands of crystal methamphetamine, or ICE, tablets through the Cambodian border to Ho Chi Minh City since 2005, according to investigators. Court documents also allege the group had moved the contraband to the neighboring coastal city of Vung Tau as well.

In 1994, former prison guard Nguyen Tan Duy helped Le Hoang Hoi escape from Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province’s Xuyen Moc Prison, where Duy had previously worked, according to police reports. The two fled to Cambodia and began dealing in drugs there, said police.

They opened a café in Phnom Penh where they received heroin from Nguyen Van Binh, according to the indictment. They then sold the contraband to Le Thi Anh Dao, a tobacco smuggler with experience breaching the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Nga, a dancer in Phnom Penh, said the indictment.

Nga resold her goods to several drug dealers in Vietnam, including Tran Dinh Tam, Tran Minh Quang and Truong Quoc Thang, all of whom she is also accused of supplying K59 handguns to, said investigators.

In September 2006, Tam asked Nga for a handgun and she introduced him to a man named Bay Viet, another of Nga’s drug suppliers, who sold him a pistol for US$600. Viet is wanted by police but has yet to be apprehended.

In October, Nga helped Quang buy a pistol and eight bullets from Hoi.

Quang lent the gun to his friend Vu Manh Hung to repay a debt, but Hung was then caught with the gun by police.

In 2007, Thang asked Nga to help him get a similar gun. Nga then sold Thang a gun she had bought from Hoi for $600. Hoi had bought the gun from Duy for $320. Duy had bought the gun at a Cambodian market for $300.

Police have seized Thang’s pistol, but not Tam’s.

The trial’s start date has yet to be released.

Australia's Toll to help revive Cambodian railway

Mon Jun 15, 2009

PHNOM PENH, June 15 (Reuters) - Cambodia has awarded a 30-year contract to manage its railway system to a venture led by Australia's Toll Holdings (TOL.AX), which should boost trade and attract more tourists, company officials said on Monday.

The Southeast Asian country has two lines dating back to French colonial days in the 1930s running over 652 km (405 miles).

Toll is a leading provider of transport and logistics services in Asia. Eugene Cody, its general manager for Cambodia, said Toll would have a 55 percent stake in the venture, with 45 percent going to local partner Royal Group.

He and other officials would not reveal the investment planned nor give details on profit sharing with Cambodia's government, but they said the new system would be in place in 2011, complete with new imported locomotives.

The first line links the capital, Phnom Penh, to Poi Pet near the border with Thailand, while the second links Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville beach, the country's second-biggest tourist destination.

"Can you imagine being able to catch the train from Thailand to Cambodia, down through the rice fields before going to the beach. It's beautiful," said Australian Ray Yager, a spokesman for the Royal Group in Phnom Penh.

The rail infrastructure was badly damaged during the country's civil war in the 1970s but a service has continued for both freight and passengers.

The Asian Development Bank said in March it would provide a loan of $42 million to help renovate the railways.

(Reporting by Ek Madra; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Cambodia war crime court rules Duch's rights violated

Cambodia's war crimes court has ruled Khmer Rouge jailer Kaing Guek Eav's (Comrade Duch) rights were violated. [Robert Carmichael/ABC]

Australia Network News
http://australianetworknews.com

Karen Percy, South East Asia correspondent

Judges in Cambodia have ruled former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Geuk Eav has been detained unlawfully for the past decade.

Kaing Geuk Eav, also known as Comrade Duch was arrested by the Cambodian military in 1999.

In a 15 page ruling, the five trial chamber judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, have determined that Comrade Duch was imprisoned contrary to Cambodian law.

Comrade Duch was the supervisor of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh during the 1970s where more than 12,000 people were sent to their deaths in the "killing fields".

The ruling means that if he's found guilty the time he's been detained so far will probably be cut from any sentence.

If he's acquitted Comrade Duch will be able to claim compensation.

The judges refused a request to release Comrade Duch saying he remained a flight risk and say he must remain in detention for his own security and to ensure public order.

During his trial so far Comrade Duch has apologised to his victims.

He's also providing evidence that could prove to be crucial in the cases against four other defendants, who were senior Khmer Rogue members.

Cambodian judges rule genocide defendant detained illegally


Monday 15th June, 2009

Cambodian judges have ruled that Comrade Duch, the man being tried in the Khmer Rouge genocide trial, has been detained unlawfully for over ten years.

Five trial judges determined that Duch was imprisoned contrary to Cambodian law when he was arrested in 1999.

Duch was the supervisor at Tuol Sleng prison, where thousands of people were sent to their deaths during the 1970s.

While the judges have ruled on Duch’s illegal detention, they have refused to release him.

If he is found guilty, time spent in prison will be deducted from his sentence.

He may also be able to claim compensation if he is acquitted.

'Unlawful' detention violated K.Rouge man's rights

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - at the UN-backed tribunal into atrocities committed by the regime in the 1970s. Cambodia's war crimes court has ruled that the former prison chief's rights were violated when he was detained for a decade before trial, a decision that could reduce any eventual sentence.
(AFP/Pool/File/Mak Remissa)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia's war crimes court has ruled that a Khmer Rouge prison chief's rights were violated when he was detained for a decade before trial, a decision that could reduce any eventual sentence.

Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - who was arrested by the Cambodian military in 1999, had to wait in prison until earlier this year to face crimes against humanity charges for his role in the 1975-79 hardline communist regime.

The chief judge at the UN-backed tribunal, Nil Nonn, said it was "unlawful" that the 66-year-old former maths teacher had spent so long in detention before the case came to court.

"The accused, under international law and the law of the kingdom of Cambodia is entitled to a remedy for the time spent in detention under the authority of the military court and the violation of his rights," Nil Nonn said.

The ruling appeared to be a small victory for Duch, whose lawyers in April argued he had been held illegally and urged the judges to compensate by subtracting time from his final sentence and softening their eventual verdict.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, took the stand in March and accepted responsibility for supervising the extermination of around 15,000 people who passed through the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

He faces a maximum sentence of life in jail if convicted by the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.

Wearing a striped short-sleeved shirt, Duch told the court Monday that he was the only staff member at the prison who spoke with senior Khmer Rouge leaders.

"It was me who reported to the upper echelons but it was not done in writing. It was done verbally," Duch said.

However he has consistently denied prosecutors' claims that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge's iron-fisted rule and maintains he only tortured two people himself and never personally executed anyone.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, and many believe the tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people.

The court was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and the Cambodian government, and is expected next year to begin the trial of four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders also in detention.

But the troubled tribunal also faces accusations of interference at the hands of the Cambodian government and claims that local staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Cambodia's last frontier falls

Asia Times Online
http://atimes.com

Southeast Asia
Jun 16, 2009

By Stephen Kurczy

RATANAKIRI – The remoteness of Cambodia's northeast once made it an ideal hideout for Vietcong, Khmer Rouge, wildlife poachers and illegal loggers. The same isolation had in recent years drawn adventure travelers to the once jungle-covered province, which is now struggling to strike an equitable balance between eco-tourism and sustainable natural resource extraction.

After decades of civil war and lawlessness, Cambodia is now politically stable and promoting tourism to generate foreign currency earnings. Bordering Laos and Vietnam, Ratanakiri now has the infrastructure - a paved road that stops 96 kilometers from the provincial capital, Banlung - and a range of accommodations to host amateur explorers.

The Lonely Planet guidebook refers to the province as "a colorful hotchpotch of natural beauty and cultural diversity". The Wall Street Journal Asia recently labeled it "one of the last frontiers of Asian adventure travel". Those picture-perfect assessments have drawn bigger and bigger crowds: according to the Tourism Ministry, visitors to Ratanakiri surged from 6,000 in 2002 to over 105,000 in 2008.

However those expecting to find pristine forests teeming with wildlife are increasingly disappointed to find lifeless patches of freshly cut tree stumps. Officials say they are doing everything in their limited powers to protect the areas, but the market forces driving resource extraction are often too powerful to resist.

"Forests everywhere are a frontline between conservation and development. It's not easy to say which way to go," said Chheang Dany, deputy director of the Forestry Administration's Wildlife Protection Office. That frontline is slowly but surely receding in resource-rich Ratanakiri.

En route to the province's picturesque waterfalls, unregulated gem mines pockmark the landscape. Recently the government approved a Spanish company's 100,000-hectare plan to establish a game reserve, drawing ire from conservationists who fear it will lead to over-hunting in the area. Meanwhile the mystical "spirit" forests of minority hill tribes are yielding to the commercial impulse of rubber and cashew nut plantations.

The competition between development and conservation is exemplified inside the province's 3,325-square kilometer Virachey National Park. Conservation International, a US-based group that strives to empower grass roots communities in jungles and deserts to make conservation part of their livelihoods, has called the park "potentially one of Cambodia's most biologically diverse protected areas".

Yet many of those tasked with protecting the park, including police and rangers, are known to supplement their meager official salaries through collusion with loggers and poachers. Asia Times Online recently took a three-hour boat ride up the SeSan and Ta Bok rivers, followed by a seven-hour trek along the leech-infested Ho Chi Minh Trail inside the park.

There, a freshly cut tree blocked the path. So Sokoeun, a guide and part-time park ranger, speculated that military police likely cut the log to sell on the black market. "The military police don't make enough money, so they need to do illegal activities," So Sokoeun said, adding that each two-meter-long section of the log could sell for several thousand dollars.

His assessment of police abuse of power is supported broadly by documentary evidence. According to a 2007 report compiled by British environmental watchdog Global Witness, "The police are frequently implicated in forest crime and border police units played a lead role in the massive illegal logging of the Virachey National Park in Ratanakiri in 2003-2004."

The report cited an infamous illegal logging case that involved a former park ranger, Yerb Sat, whom police allegedly got drunk on rice wine and forced to sign papers allowing logging in his section of the park. "Police threatened to kill him if he didn't sign," his wife said during an interview at her stilted home on the southern edge of the park.

Yerb Sat was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison as part of a bust that implicated the province's former governor and military chief, who both fled Cambodia to escape arrest. Because much of Virachey's timber and animals are sold to Vietnamese buyers, illegal activity focuses in the park's so-called Dragon's Tail - where Cambodia comes to a point between Laos and Vietnam.

Denuded dragon
During a three-month patrol of the Dragon's Tail during early 2008, So Sokoeun arrested eight groups of poachers and loggers, he said. Kham Phon, another guide who accompanied Asia Times Online through Virachey, is a former trader of illegal timber and live animals taken from the park. He said in the 1990s he would stack cages filled with sun bears and monitor lizards on the back of his motorbike and drive clandestinely by night to meet buyers along the Vietnamese border.

Police caught him once, he said, but he paid a bribe and drove on. A decade ago, a live sun bear sold for US$200; now, as the animals become more rare, the same creature fetches $1,500 on the black market, he said. "Many of the animals now are gone," said Kham Phon, who gave up his illegal trade in 1998 to become a park ranger.

The price of illegal timber has also skyrocketed, quadrupling in the past year to between $4,000 and $8,000 per cubic meter, said Pen Bonnar, the provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc. To deter illegal logging and trapping inside Virachey, from 2000 to early 2009 the World Bank provided about $2.8 million for additional rangers, training and environmental studies.

In an October 2008 report, the bank stated the program "probably contributed to poverty alleviation by providing community grants and creating local employment opportunities in the [park]. On the other hand, it probably reduced income generation from lucrative illegal activities such as hunting, fishing, logging and unregulated collection of non-timber forest products."

However the bank ended its support for Virachey in March, partly in response to the Cambodian government's controversial decision in 2007 to grant a mineral exploration license to Australia-based Indochine Resources that covered 60% of the 3,325-square-kilometer park. Indochine's geologists have since sent numerous helicopter expeditions to take rock and soil samples.

Virachey park director Chou Sophark said in an interview that he hasn't enough resources for dedicating a ranger to monitoring Indochine Resources' activities. Without World Bank funding, the park had to reduce its number of rangers from 70 to 55 and cut monthly salaries from $70 to around $30. The cuts, environmentalists note, coincide with rising prices for animals and timber on the black market, raising the incentive for illegal poaching and logging.

Even if the World Bank continued its financial support for Virachey, Adhoc's Pen Bonnar said illegal logging and trapping would continue "because all the local authorities - the police, courts, provincial authorities - are part of the problem".

With the tourism industry suffering from the global economic downturn, it will likely be even harder for locals to see the long-term benefits of conservation over the short-term profitability of natural resource extraction.

International arrivals to Cambodia fell 2.2% year-on-year in the first four months of 2009 and Ratanakiri-based guides and guesthouse owners say arrivals have slumped. Pierre-Yves Clais, owner of Terres Rouges, an upscale lodge in Banlung, said he has nearly lost hope that Ratanakiri can be saved from resource extraction-led development.

Clais said he watched as the long road to Banlung - once hidden beneath a canopy of old growth trees - was transformed by illegal logging into open fields. Independent estimates show that Cambodia lost 29% of its primary tropical forest in the five-year period spanning 2000 to 2005.

"Whenever I see a nice piece of forest, I know it's doomed," said the former French soldier, who first came to Cambodia with the United Nations-backed peacekeeping authority in 1992. Clais said that he loved Cambodia's pristine forests and native cultures so much that he decided to stay.

"It was so nice back then. But I don't have the same feeling about it because of the destruction of the local environment and local cultures, primarily by the Cambodian people," said Clais. "Every day they destroy it more."

Chheang Dany, the official at the government's Wildlife Protection Office, said if conservation and development are to find equilibrium, provincial authorities must respect the law, locals must protect the environment and businesses must invest in tourism.

"Virachey National Park, bigger than Singapore, only generates 10 to 20 tourists a day. How can we generate the revenue for the rangers to guard the park?" he said. "We want to preserve the natural resources and promote the sustainable use for the economy. It's not easy to find a solution, to do it equally."

"I'd love to say it's not too late," said Clais, "but who's going to enforce that policy? If there is going to be hope for Ratanakiri, who is going to bring it? Superman?"

Stephen Kurczy is an Asia Times Online contributor based in Cambodia. He may be reached at kurczy@gmail.com.

Govt deal on temple land 'can end row'

Bangkok Post
PREAH VIHEAR

By: THANIDA TANSUBHAPOL
Published: 15/06/2009

SURIN: The Thai and Cambodian governments should jointly manage disputed areas around the Preah Vihear temple while they work on border demarcation, academics say.

Boonruang Kajmary, an academic on Cambodian studies at Surindra Rajabhat University, said unless the governments of the two countries agree to manage the area together, the border conflict would probably never be settled.

The two countries should agree to manage it together for the sake of their people.The temple problem was created by politicians and had been blown up into a social problem, he said.

While an atmosphere of mistrust remains, attempts to demarcate the overlapping area would probably fail as they would be criticised by the parliament from the other side.

Thailand and Cambodia both claim land amounting to 4.6 sq km or 3,000 rai around the temple in Si Sa Ket province as their own.

They have troops patrolling the area who have clashed with each other many times over the years.

However, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last week assured Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that fighting over the area would end.

Damkeung Tothong, director of the democratic study centre at Surindra Rajabhat University, said Thais and Cambodians could talk about their similar ethnicity. But when it comes to history, they cannot agree.

"I tell my students to forget the political borderlines as ethnology can promote peace. Our northeastern region and Cambodia used to be on the same piece of land," he said, adding that the people of Surin province can speak the Khmer language and some Cambodians cross the border to see their Thai relatives.

Soey Wongsi, a Cambodian graduate student, agreed that both countries should focus on the long relationship between their peoples.

Disputed borders central to talks during Thai PM's visit

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (right) and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva smile as they flank an ancient Cambodian carved head repatriated from Thailand during a ceremony Friday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thailand returned seven smuggled ancient artefacts to Cambodia, in efforts to soothe relations between the two neighbours locked in a military standoff at their disputed border.


Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
The returned antiquities on display at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Friday.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by Post Staff
Monday, 15 June 2009

SHAKY bilateral relations, including recent border clashes at Preah Vihear and the stalled demarcation of a maritime border that has hindered oil exploration offshore, dominated the first official visit to Cambodia by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, officials said Sunday.

"[Prime Minister] Hun Sen would like to see the border between the two countries normalised, as it was before July 17," Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday, referring to what the government says was an incursion by Thai troops into Cambodia that sparked the ongoing military standoff over disputed territory on the frontier.

"Both prime ministers agreed to resolve this issue peacefully," Koy Kuong said, adding that the pair also vowed to resolve a dispute over the countries' sea border, which lies over an area thought to contain large deposits of oil.

"Deputy Prime Minister Sok An will meet in the near future with his Thai counterpart to find a solution to the sea border issue," Koy Kuong said.

Additional talks centred on trade, the creation of a single tourist visa between the two countries and the development of infrastructure such as roads and hydropower dams, Hun Sen's spokesman Eang Sophalleth said last week.

As a gesture of future cooperation, Thailand returned seven antiquities - including six asura (giant) heads and one deva (angel) head confiscated from smugglers in 1999.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the artefacts were among 43 pieces of 12th-century Angkorian sculpture stolen from temples inside Cambodia and expressed hopes the additional artefacts would be forthcoming.

"The government of Cambodia hopes that the remaining pieces will also be returned in the future," he said. During meetings with Abhisit, Hun Sen also urged the Thai government hand back the remaining antiquities.

"We are continuing to ...provide more documentation in order to receive back all 43 of our antiquities," said Khim Sarith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

Assembly to rule on MP's legal shield


Written by Meas Sokchea
Monday, 15 June 2009

THE Permanent Committee of the National Assembly is to meet today to consider suspending the parliamentary immunity of Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, in relation to the defamation lawsuit filed against her last month by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

National Assembly Permanent Committee President Cheam Yeap said a request for the temporary suspension of Mu Sochua's immunity came Friday from Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

"When we have the meeting we will discuss this. This is one of a large number of issues that the committee must resolve," he said, adding that Mu Sochua's immunity would be restored if the court found she was not at fault.

"This is just a temporary suspension [of her immunity] so that the court has the right to question her directly about the lawsuit."

The move has been criticised by observers who say that, while technically legal, the removal of the lawmaker's protection would raise questions about the independence of the courts.

"The court's request is legal, but I would like to emphasise that the courts in Cambodia nowadays are not independent. This issue is very much bound up with politics," said Heang Rithy, president of the Cambodian National Research Organisation.

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, agreed, saying the abuse of power by the ruling party ran counter to the spirit of the Kingdom's Constitution.

"We are concerned about the suspension of [her] immunity. It doesn't seem to be necessary," he said.

"We should think whether it is necessary and in the interests of the people. When one side has all the power and abuses it, it is contrary to the Constitution."

Hun Sen sued Mu Sochua after she filed her own lawsuit against him for comments made during a speech in Kampot on April 4, when, she said, he insulted her by calling her a cheung klang.

Mu Sochua claimed the Khmer term, meaning "strong legs" in English, has derogatory overtones when used in relation to a woman.

But her lawsuit was dismissed by the Municipal Court on Wednesday, with Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bun Chea explaining in a three-page statement that since the prime minister's comments did not refer to Mu Sochua by name, and Hun Sen did not intend to insult any individual with his comments, the suit was not valid.

Mu Sochua told the Post on Sunday that she was unsurprised by the news that she might lose her immunity, claiming her only concern was the reversal of basic democratic rights because of the ruling party's domination of the judicial process.

"I am not worried at all. I just want people to realise that they voted for the CPP to win 90 seats in the National Assembly. But how much justice has the CPP guaranteed for the people? This is not only my story: It is everyone's story," she said.

'Balance' seen as key for UN envoy


Written by Georgia Wilkins and Sam Rith
Monday, 15 June 2009

CIVIL SOCIETY groups say they hope the new UN human rights envoy is "not too diplomatic" in his new posting, saying on the eve of his first visit to the Kingdom that a balance has to be struck between negotiation and criticism.

Surya Subedi, a Nepalese national, is likely to change tack from his predecessor Yash Ghai, who resigned from the post in September after enduring multiple personal attacks from government officials.

But local rights groups have warned against submitting to UN "soft" diplomacy, saying the position requires some sting.

"There is no one in the country who can say the things that this person can," said Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodia Defenders Project.

Subedi, a professor of international law at the University of Leeds, is to meet with rights advocates during his 10-day tour, including the director of the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights, Ou Virak.

"I'm not sure how diplomatic you can be and at the same time do this job," Ou Virak said Sunday.

"The question he will need to address is, What is the role of the UN human rights envoy? If it is to address human rights abuses, then you can't be too diplomatic," he added. Subedi is also expected to meet several senior members of the government during his visit.

Evictees cry foul over homes


Photo by: CHRISTOPHER SHAY
Borei Keila resident Horm Oun checks out the homes at Tuol Sambo, to which she could be relocated this week.


Written by CHRISTOPHER SHAY AND KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA
Monday, 15 June 2009

District officials deceived the HIV community of Borei Keila into thumbprinting an agreement to vacate homes, residents claim

MEMBERS of the Borei Keila community, where more than 30 families with HIV-positive members are facing eviction, say they were duped by district authorities Friday into agreeing to leave their neighbourhood near Olympic Stadium in exchange for larger homes at a relocation site outside the city.

"The authorities are cheating. When we agreed to thumbprint, the authorities told us they would remove the dividers to make two houses into one house," said resident Sok Sinethe.

But Horm Oun, another Borei Keila resident, said, "Lim Seda [the deputy chief of Prampi Makara district] told us after we gave our thumbprints we cannot make two houses into one".

"I felt hopeless when I heard this," she said.

The chief officer of the district's development programme, Sok Ath, said the Borei Keila residents were mistaken.

"We did not make promises or threaten them for their thumbprints. We only agreed to take their request for larger homes to City Hall for a decision," he said, adding that they would also ask City Hall that instead of buying two tuk-tuks to ferry people into the city for work, that it give each family US$250.

Sao Vanna, the chief of the HIV community, who does not live with the families facing eviction, said 20 families will be moved to Tuol Sambo perhaps as early as today.

Sao Vanna, who will set up an office at Tuol Sambo, blamed NGOs for the conditions at the relocation site.

"Before, City Hall had plans to construct 4-metre-by-12-metre homes and called upon the NGOs to fund the construction and infrastructure, but without NGO funding ... City Hall did not have enough money," he said.

But on Sunday during a visit to Tuol Sambo - about an hour's tuk-tuk ride away from Borei Keila - residents said that it was clear the municipality could do more to support them.

Ten paces from the green metal shelters that will house the families, workers are building brick homes for families from Russey Keo who lost their houses after a riverbank collapse. According to a construction worker, the Russey Keo homes will be 4 metres by 8 metres, almost double the floor space of the HIV community's homes, which are 3.5 metres by 4.8 metres.

"Why does the municipality make small houses for us and big homes for others?" Sok Sineth asked.

Residents also fear that their community, which is already known as "the AIDS village", will face discrimination.

Resident Touch Chhay Ran said when she visited Tuol Sambo last month she overheard local villagers insulting the Borei Keila community, giving her fears that she will need to endure discrimination on a daily basis.

"They said they were afraid that their community would catch AIDS from us, turning all of Tuol Sambo into ‘the AIDS village'," she said.

Civil society groups call for transparency on resource revenues


Written by Sebastian Strangio
Monday, 15 June 2009

A COALITION of civil society groups launched a new resource revenue watchdog Friday, citing the need for more transparency in Cambodia's natural resources sector.

Cambodians for Resource Revenue Transparency (CRRT) - founded by the Centre for Social Development, Development and Partnership in Action, the NGO Forum on Cambodia, the Economic Institute of Cambodia and the Youth Resource Development Program - aims to ensure that revenues from mining and potential offshore oil deposits are handled accountably.

"[T]he revenues from extractive industries have enormous potential to lift Cambodians out of poverty," Lim Solinn, the regional programme coordinator for Oxfam America's East Asia office, said at the launch.

"Conversely, if not properly managed, these same dollars could have dramatically adverse affects - environmental, social and economic."

Resource bounty
The discovery of oil and gas reserves by US oil giant Chevron off the country's south coast in 2004 has prompted speculation about the potential benefit of any future oil revenues, with some civil society groups expressing concerns that Cambodians will derive little benefit from the money.

In February, international corruption watchdog Global Witness released a report claiming high-level corruption and nepotism in the country's extractive resources sectors, springing from the granting of "highly dubious" economic concessions by the government.

Lim said that Cambodia was well-placed to avoid the "resource curse" - the economic distortions caused by a heavy reliance on extractive resources - provided it makes an effort to establish the proper procedures and regulatory infrastructure, including input from the non-government sector.

"This can only be done with a strong and meaningful engagement between government, companies and civil society," she said.

Financial reforms
Hang Chuon Naron, vice chairman of the Supreme National Economic Council, said at Friday's launch that the government was dedicated to ensuring extractive resources would be a blessing rather than a curse, claiming increased revenues could be used to sustain "robust economic growth" and "rapid poverty reduction".

He said the government's Public Financial Management Reform Programme, initiated in 2004, would ensure a fully transparent system is in place by 2015, adding that the government would share information about oil revenues with NGOs and development partners.

But Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay regarded the government's promises with suspicion, saying its track record on natural resource revenue management was not good.

"We don't trust the government.... There's no record in the past that the government has been accountable," he said. "A lot of resources have been disappearing, starting with forests, gems and gold mines."

But he reiterated the CRRT's calls for more information on oil revenues, saying the SRP has requested that details of oil exploration agreements be made public.

Post scoops 2 awards


Written by Post Staff
Monday, 15 June 2009

THE Phnom Penh Post scooped up awards for reporting and photography at the Society of Publishers in Asia's (SOPA) annual competition for editorial excellence, announced Thursday night at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong.

Vandy Rattana, Chhay Channyda and Rick Valenzuela took the Excellence in News Photography award for their coverage of Boeung Kak lake, where a private company is reclaiming the natural reservoir to build a commercial and residential project, affecting more than 4,000 families. The judges said the essay and singles were "striking, heartbreaking images that are also visually complex".

May Titthara and Christopher Shay won the award for Excellence in Human Rights Reporting for their article "Escape from Hell on the High Sea: Nine trafficked Men Return Home", about 17 men repatriated from Malaysia after having escaped forced labour on a Thai fishing boat. The judges called the report "enterprising work from a small publication".

The Post's publisher, Ross Dunkley, and its managing editor, Seth Meixner, received the awards at the Hong Kong ceremony. The newspaper had entered submissions from its daily-newspaper coverage, which began in August after more than a decade as a fortnightly paper, in the group for English-language local newspapers and magazines with a circulation less than 50,000.
Only one other publication in the same group won more prizes than The Phnom Penh Post: the South China Morning Post.

The SOPA Awards were established in 1999 to honour high standards of journalism and the best work in Asia. This year saw what organisers called a "staggering" 547 entries vying in 17 categories.

A window into kingdom Kim


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
North Korean waitresses perform for patrons at Pyongyang restaurant prior to its unexpected closure in February this year. Restaurant staff say the eatery will reopen in “about three months”.
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

Written by SEBASTIAN STRANGIO and VONG SOKHENG
Monday, 15 June 2009

The closure of the city’s North Korean eatery casts a spotlight on the isolated regime

PYONGYANG, Phnom Penh's North Korean government-owned restaurant, has long been one of the city's stranger tourist attractions.

Opened in 2003, South Korean tourists and expats flocked to the Monivong Boulevard eatery, where North Korean-born waitresses - wearing traditional dress and pasted-on smiles - served up servings of kimchi, barbecued squid and shrill karaoke.

No portraits of the Great Leader adorned its walls, but Pyongyang provided customers with a rare glimpse into the hermit kingdom of Kim Jong Il - and a taste of its homely native cuisine.

The enigma only deepened when the restaurant was unexpectedly shuttered in February along with Pyongyang branches in Bangkok, Pattaya and Siem Reap, prompting further speculation about the restaurant's obscure operations.

Some experts contacted by the Post suggested the restaurant, just one of dozens across Asia that provide annual remittances and help keep the isolated North Korean regime afloat, may have been hit hard by the global economic downturn.

Clean money
Journalist Bertil Lintner, who has done extensive research on North Korea, said that in the early 1990s, when both the Soviet Union and China began demanding that Pyongyang pay for goods in hard currency rather than barter goods, it was forced to open "capitalist" foreign ventures to make up funding shortfalls.

He said the restaurants are part of this chain of trading companies, controlled by Bureau 39 - the "money-making" (and, according to Lintner, money laundering) arm of the Korean Workers' Party.

"The restaurants were used to earn additional money for the government in Pyongyang - at the same time as they were suspected of laundering proceeds from North Korea's more unsavoury commercial activities", he said by email. "Restaurants and other cash-intensive enterprises are commonly used as conduits for wads of bills, which banks otherwise would not accept as deposits."

Sheila A Smith, a senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, said she had no insight into the restaurants. But she added that a sharp drop in revenues from illicit activities and remittances from Koreans in Japan may have forced the regime to find new income.

"I cannot imagine they make that much money, but then again the North Koreans are desperate for cash - of any amount," she said by email.

"Overall, it will be very hard now for North Korea to access foreign exchange as the international effort to develop sanctions produces greater sensitivity than ever."

A 2007 article in the Daily NK, a North Korean news source created by activists from the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, cited a defector who ran a similar restaurant in China as saying that each establishment affiliated with government "trading companies" is forced to make annual fixed payments of between US$10,000 and $30,000 to the government coffers.

"Every year, the sum total is counted at the business headquarters in Pyongyang, but if there's even a small default or lack of results, then the threat of evacuation is given," he said.

"Capitalist" ventures, however, are vulnerable to market pressures, and Lintner quoted an Asian diplomat in Bangkok as saying the restaurants have been closed down "due to the economic situation".

"Even if those enterprises were set up to launder money, operational costs and a healthy cash-flow are still vital for their survival," Lintner said.

Grand reopening?
But when contacted Tuesday, staff at the gated restaurant compound suggested Phnom Penh may not have seen the last of Pyongyang's totalitarian kitsch.

"We will be reopening soon, in about three months," a staff member said by phone. When asked whether the closure was a result of renovations, the staff member, who declined to be named, merely said that the restaurant had "a few problems that needed to be taken care of", raising the possibility that economics is not solely to blame.

Moon Young-soo, the manager of Le Seoul Korean restaurant on Monivong Boulevard, said he had heard that the restaurant closed because of internal problems in the DPRK but could not comment further.

But one worker at a nearby business who did not give his name said the restaurant had closed after a dispute with a customer who wanted to take one of its North Korean waitresses out after dinner and encountered resistance.

If true, it would not be the first time. In 2006 and 2007, the Daily NK reported several incidences in China's Shandong and Jilin provinces of restaurants' having been shuttered after its waitresses tried to flee the premises.

According to one report, the waitresses are subjected to a tight screening process before being allowed to work overseas, adding that if even a minor detail is undesirable the candidate is "discarded".

The report also claims two or three DPRK security agents live on-site at the restaurant to "regulate" the staff, and that any attempts at flight result in the repatriation of the entire staff.

"Because they are pursuing business competitively, they have had to shut down operations one after the other due to the inability to manage internal affairs, such as employees breaking away," said the restaurant-manager-cum-defector.

The North Korean Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment. But as the pariah nation continues to remain in the headlines over its nuclear weapons programme, a reopened Pyongyang would likely continue to attract visitors eager for a small taste of the reclusive regime.

French paedophile to serve full sentence


Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 15 June 2009

THE PHNOM Penh Court of Appeal on Friday ordered a Frenchman convicted of committing indecent acts against an 8-year-old girl to serve the entirety of his 18-month sentence, overruling the Preah Sihanouk provincial court's decision to suspend it after eight months.

David Makhout, 46, was arrested in April 2008 at his rented house in Sihanoukville, where he had been living with an 8-year-old in an arrangement approved by the girl's mother.

Police seized pornographic films and condoms from the house, and the provincial court found him guilty of committing indecent acts against the girl, though a medical examination did not provide conclusive evidence of sexual abuse.

The court sentenced Makhout to 18 months in prison and ordered him to pay 10 million riels (US$2,409) in compensation.

Samleang Seila, country director of the anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), which has been monitoring the case, said he had been "upset" when the sentence was suspended and had requested that the prosecutor general at the Court of Appeal try to overrule the provincial court's decision.

Makhout was transported from Preah Sihanouk provincial prison for Friday's hearing, which was closed to reporters.

Peng Maneth, a lawyer provided by APLE, said Makhout again denied having committed indecent acts against the girl and repeated his claim that the mother had granted him permission to help care for her daughter.

Samleang Seila said in an interview that Makhout had "strongly begged the mother for permission to care for her daughter at his rented house" and accused him of "trickery and cheating".

Peng Maneth said Makhout also blamed APLE for his conviction, calling the case an "injustice".

With time served before trial, Makhout has about four months left on his sentence.
He was not made available for comment.

Extortion suit names Ratanakkiri court director


Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 15 June 2009

THE director of Ratanakkiri Provincial Court and a court clerk are being sued on allegations they tried to extort US$500 from a local woman in order to expedite the trial of her son, who has served two years in pretrial detention, a rights worker said Sunday.

"This is a serious breach of the law on pretrial detention - two years without a hearing is too long, and now there is the suggestion of extortion," said Pen Bonna, the provincial coordinator for Cambodian rights group Adhoc.

After receiving a complaint from the mother of the accused early last week, Pen Bonna filed two lawsuits on behalf of the family Thursday against court director Lu Su Sambath, who is also a judge, and his clerk Yorn Thorn, to the Supreme Council of Magistry and the Ministry of Justice for alleged extortion.

He told the Post Sunday that the complaints had reached Phnom Penh, and that he was waiting for a response.

Keo Seila, 18, was arrested June 1, 2007, after his family complained to the court about his drug use and an assault that had occurred, his aunt, Meas Sophea, told the Post.

"After one week his mother and I visited him in prison, and he told us that he stopped using drugs and asked us to help him get out of prison," she said.

"When I met the court clerk he told us to find $500, but I said we had no money," she said, adding that she didn't know how serious the charges against her nephew were but feared the worst.

On May 6, 2009, she returned to the court and was again told by the clerk that her nephew would neither be released nor have a hearing until the family paid $500.

Passing the blame
The court clerk in question admitted that money had been demanded, but denied it was extortion.

"I just obeyed my boss's [Lu Su Sambath's] order to ask for $500 to conduct a hearing soon," Yorn Thorn said.

"However, I will make a schedule to inform my boss to conduct a hearing more quickly," he added.

Lu Su Sambath declined comment, telling the Post he was too busy to speak to a reporter.

Foreign dealers, collectors return Angkorian antiquities


Photo by: CHRISTOPHER SHAY
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An examines an 8th-century linga at a ceremony at the National Museum on Friday.


Written by Christopher Shay
Monday, 15 June 2009

Govt hails pivotal moment for Cambodian culture as National Museum celebrates an upgrade to its ageing lighting system

FIVE foreign donors handed over five Khmer artefacts at a ceremony Friday to celebrate a new electrical and lighting system at the National Museum.

"Cambodia has lost a lot in the last 20 to 30 years. Anything that is given back to them of any value is of great importance," Douglas Latchford, a collector of Khmer antiquities, told the Post shortly before giving his speech in Khmer.

Son Soubert, a former lecturer at the faculty of archaeology at Royal University of Fine Arts, pointed to a pendant donated by Latchford as a particularly important antiquity.

An inscription on the pendant dates the piece from 1218 as part the royal collection of a princess under the reign of Jayavarman VII at the height of the Angkorian empire.

The piece, or ones very similar to it, can be seen in Angkorian carvings, but the actual amulet is a unique addition to the National Museum.

"It's exactly what we've seen in the carvings," Son Soubert said. "It's a reality."

In a speech at the event, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An thanked the donors for their "kind and generous contribution", saying that now "the National Museum will be able to continue to improve its storytelling".

Decades of looting and antiquities smuggling have led to many stolen pre-Angkorian and Angkorian-era artefacts ending up on the international market.

One torso of a female divinity, donated by New York antiques dealer Doris Wiener, is on a UNESCO-sponsored list of 100 objects stolen from Angkor.

Sok An also hailed the new electric wiring and lighting as an important step to protect the 89-year-old museum and create a "more fruitful experience" for the visitor.

"The renewal of the electrical system will significantly enhance ... the beauty of the artefacts," he told the audience.

The old lighting, according to Him Chhem, minister of culture and fine arts, was a serious fire hazard.

"Old wiring lay loose in the roof space on top of the timber ceiling. It was largely unprotected by conduit," Him Chhem said.

The new electrical lighting system cost US$192,500 and the money came from 22 foreign donors, many of whom were in attendance at the ceremony.

Boeung Kak families protest firm's seizing of sugarcane press

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/


Written by May Titthara
Monday, 15 June 2009

Residents say 10 Shukaku Inc employees impounded a resident’s sugarcane press on Friday and forced her to sign away her land

FIFTY Boeung Kak lake families protested outside the offices of Shukaku Inc Saturday morning after they claimed the developer used armed staff to seize a sugarcane press and intimidate the owner into thumbprinting a document stating that Shukaku owned her land.

Mom Thul, the resident whose sugarcane press was confiscated, said the document also said she would need permission to sell sugarcane juice there.

"They forced me to put my thumbprint on a contract to agree to stop selling in the area, otherwise I would not get my sugarcane machine back," she said.

"Now they said if we want to do business in front of our house, we must ask permission from the authorities," she added.

Boeung Kak lake community representative Be Pharom said 10 Shukaku staffers used two guns to impound the sugarcane press and take it to their office Friday evening.

The following morning, about 50 families went to Shukaku's office and demanded that they return the press.

"They should not use guns to mistreat people here," resident Sear Nareath said. "We are poor people, and we are not afraid of death.... If they support our living, they should not ban our businesses."

Commune and municipal officials were unavailable for comment Sunday. Shukaku officials also could not be reached.

Bunn Rachana, a monitor for the Housing Rights Task Force, called the dispute "very strange" and said it would be "totally unreasonable" for Shukaku to prevent residents from doing business in front of their homes.

Filling the lake
In February 2007, the municipality signed a 99-year lease agreement with Shukaku, which is owned by Cambodian People's Party Senator Lau Meng Khin and his wife Choeung Sopheap, handing over Boeung Kak lake. Shukaku Inc hired the HSC Company to fill in the lake, a process that started in August. An estimated 4,250 families will be affected by the lake's development.

Kingdom's third demining mission to Sudan a successs, officials say


Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Cambodian deminers return to the country Friday after a year demining in Sudan.


Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 15 June 2009

Deminers are lauded for exhibiting courage in the face of adverse conditions as Cambodia continues to make its mark in peacekeeping

A TEAM of Cambodian deminers working as part of a UN peacekeeping force in Sudan has returned to the kingdom, with officials hailing the mission a success.

The yearlong assignment was the country's third since 2006. A fourth 52-man team was deployed last week.

"During our operation in Sudan, we had no injuries and succeeded in doing our work," Mey Sophea, the team's commanding officer, said during a welcoming ceremony.

He said that the 139-man team had successfully removed 800 anti-personnel mines and 17,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance from more than 13 million square metres of land.

Minister of Defence Tea Banh said the deminers had pushed through difficult conditions to receive more awards from the UN for their effort.

"Through heightened consciousness and thorough discipline ... [they] succeeded the mission so that the UN still believes Cambodia is the best among the other [demining] countries," he said.

More than 50 countries are involved in the peacekeeping mission, but only five - Cambodia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Kenya and Zambia - offer their services through demining.

Valuable experience
Khun Sophal, a 40-year-old deminer, said he was required to work long hours in hostile conditions.
But despite the hard work, he gained more experience in demining during the mission than ever before.

"Every day we worked from 7am to 2pm," he said. "But we have succeeded in our work, 100 percent."

Teruo Jinnai, acting president for UN agencies and representative of UNESCO, said Cambodia had proved itself as a leading country in demining and humanitarian services in post-conflict countries.

"Significantly, Cambodia has made a remarkable transition from being one of the countries most affected by mines to becoming one with the global leaders in mine clearance," he said.

"I would like to ... thank you all for the mission you just accomplished. We applaud your courage and acknowledged the success you have achieved in the challenging circumstances," he said.

Since their first deployment in 2006, Cambodian deminers have cleared more than 57 million square-meters of land in Sudan, according to a report by the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and ERW Clearance.

Royal recognition


Photo by: MICHAEL HAYES

Written by Michael Hayes
Monday, 15 June 2009

On behalf of Her Majesty the Queen of England, British Ambassador Andrew Mace presented to Sri Lankan citizen and longtime Phnom Penh resident Senaka Fernando the honorary award of Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) on Friday. Ambassador Mace said at a ceremony that the award "marks a very long period of service to the business and international communities ... and to the pleasure and jollity of life in Phnom Penh". Fernando, 39, arrived in Cambodia in 1994 and is currently the country director of PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He was one of the founders of the British Business Association of Cambodia. Mace said Fernando had also acted on behalf of the British Embassy in an "unpaid but not unthanked" role as the first point of contact and advice for British companies wishing to trade and invest in Cambodia.

Strikes, bureaucracy crimp garment sector


Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Cambodia’s garment industry, which has suffered a huge drop in demand for its products since the global economic crisis, needs to address persisiting problems to compete, the CSDC said.


Written by Holly Pham
Monday, 15 June 2009

Industry conference hears how Cambodia’s business climate is damaging the competitiveness of its biggest export industry

GOVERNMENT bureaucracy and industrial unrest are crippling Cambodia's garment sector and have already cost the country at least one major investor, the chairman of the Cambodia Skills Development Centre (CSDC) told a major industry conference Friday.

David Van cited a recent decision by a major Japanese manufacturer to make a $50 million investment in Bangladesh rather than Cambodia as a "wakeup call for Cambodia's garment industries" and urged the government, private sector and unions to work together to ensure the sector's survival.

"Garment industries in Cambodia are in danger," he said. "Collaborative efforts are needed immediately."

He said a major reason for the Japanese company's decision was the frequency of strikes in Cambodia and the excessive time taken to clear shipments in Cambodia. "Excuse my frank words, but there is no strike [in Bangladesh]," he said. "Instead, they have access and competitive costs."

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Import-export clearance in Cambodia is still painfully slow.
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It took between three and four days to clear one shipment through customs in Cambodia, he said, compared with between half a day to a dayin Vietnam.

"Compared to other countries in the region, import-export clearance in Cambodia is still painfully slow," he said.

According to the World Bank, it takes 4.3 days on average in Cambodia to clear a shipment for export, and 5.1 days to clear an imported container, while informal charges are also common.

Van did not name the Japanese company. Van Sou Ieng, the president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), also referred to the Japanese manufacturer in an interview with the Post on Thursday and again declined to give the company's name.

The conference, which was organised by the CSDC in association with GMAC and USAID's Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise/Business Enabling Environment project, was held against a backdrop of a 26.41 percent year-on-year decline in garment exports in the first quarter to US$534.64 million, according to Ministry of Commerce figures. Export figures for April and May are not yet available.

The quarterly contraction came after garment exports grew just 3.33 percent to $2.93 billion in 2008 after growing 28 percent per annum since 1998.

Garment manufacturing accounted for 12 percent of 2007 GDP and 72 percent of total merchandise exports.

Foreign investment has been the major driver of growth, with more than 90 percent of garment manufacturers in Cambodia owned by foreign investors, according to GMAC figures.

Cambodia welcomes US lifting of loan ban


Written by MAY KUNMAKARA
Monday, 15 June 2009

GOVERNMENT officials on Sunday expressed support for the recent US decision to remove Cambodia from a blacklist that made American companies operating in the Kingdom ineligible for export-financing products.

US President Barack Obama signed a memorandum Friday stating that Cambodia no longer qualified as "a Marxist-Leninist country" under the terms spelled out in the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, which established the government agency charged with promoting the export of American goods and services. The ban was also lifted on Laos.

US Embassy spokesman John Johnson described the signing of the memo as "the start of a very lengthy process".

"A lot of things need to happen before this comes into full effect," he said, though he could not elaborate on additional steps that needed to be taken.

The US Export-Import Bank authorised US$243.74 million to ASEAN last year in loans, guarantees and insurance, most of which - $234.73 million - went to Singapore.

Senior Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that he had urged US officials to take steps to bolster bilateral trade while visiting the United States as part of a parliamentary delegation from May 30 to Tuesday.

"I think that President Barack Obama removed our country from his trade blacklist because he recognised our development, and this will pave the way for businesspersons to get loans from American banks to do business here," he said.

Railway agreement signed

http://www.phnompenhpost.com

Written by Chun Sophal
Monday, 15 June 2009

THE government signed an agreement Friday with Australia's Toll Holdings and the Royal Group as part of a joint venture that will manage Cambodia's railway services with an investment of US$145 million over 30 years, officials said.

The deal, signed by Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon, means the Australian firm takes a 55 percent stake in the project, with the Royal Group securing 45 percent.

The deal will see the companies invest in 70 locomotives, which will begin running in 2011 or early 2012, said Va Simsoriya, director of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport's Department of Planning, on Sunday.

An overhaul of the country's two main lines - between Phnom Penh and Poipet and another between the capital and Sihanoukville - would have to be completed first, he added.

"We are now undergoing renovation with a $73 million loan from ADB. Only 10 percent is completed.... We hope to complete in two years," he said, adding that the new rail network would provide jobs for up to 1,000 people.

SME loan talks in progress


Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 15 June 2009

UNDP and International Trade Centre in discussions with major banks over proposed lending to agriculture SMEs

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) are in talks to recruit three major banks to participate in a programme that would provide loans to 100 small and medium-sized agriculture enterprises.

UNDP Assistant Country Director Wisal Hin said Thursday that he expected formal agreements to be reached with two or three of the banks by October.

"When we have partnerships with the banks, the loans will begin in October of this year, and 100 agriculture-related small and medium enterprises will be selected for the loans," said Wisal Hin.

He said the programme, titled "Access to Finance for SMEs", would last 18 months and be part of an effort to help export-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) get loans. He said he could not provide information about rates.

He added that the French Development Agency (AFD)would guarantee the loans and that the programme would not require all recipients to put up collateral.

A business survey released in April by the International Finance Corporation and the Asia Foundation found that 96 percent of Cambodian businesses were micro-enterprises, but that the "number of business with between 10 and 20 employees has nearly doubled over the past two years, while those with over 20 employees grew by almost 200 [percent]".

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When we have part-nerships with the banks, the loans will begin in October.
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Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said at a launch event in late May that up to 80 percent of Cambodian SMEs had never received a bank loan.

Wisal Hin said the three banks participating in the discussions were ACLEDA Bank, ANZ Royal Bank and Cambodian Public Bank.

So Phonnary, ACLEDA's executive vice president and chief of operations, said Thursday that the bank had been approached to participate, but that no agreement had been reached.

"We're interested ... because now the bank has strong liquidity so we can support any loan project," she said.

She said ACLEDA had deposits of US$596 million as of Thursday, up from $487 million at the end of 2008, adding that loans totalled $442 million.

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal Bank, declined to comment on the programme except to say the bank was "still in discussions with UNDP and the ITC".

Ong Ming Tech, deputy general manager of Cambodian Public Bank (CPB), said Thursday that he was not aware of the programme and referred questions to Country Director Phan Ying Tong, who was unavailable.

Festival showcases Khmer and international poetry


Marianne Larsen and Kristin Bjarnadottir gather attendees at their poetry workshop in Siem Reap last week. Photo Supplied

PHNOM PENH READINGS AND WORKSHOPS

Monday June 15
University of Cambodia. Reading – Noun Pechsodeny, Houng Savong, Pol Pisey, Athena Farrokhzad and Joanes Nielson.
Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) – Stung Meanchey. Workshop with Marianne Larsen and Kristin Bjarnadottir.

Tuesday June 16
French Cultural Centre. Reading – Thon Sambo, Ven Chin Meas, Pov Sok, Athena Farrokhzad and Joanes Nielsen.
PSE – Stung Meanchey. Workshop with Marianne Larsen and Kristin Bjarnadottir.
Australian Center for Education. Reading – Synoda, Ying Yon, Ngoun Sivngim, Hanna Hallgren and Anna Mattsson.

Wednesday June 17
Gasolina. Yin Louth, Neng Kanitha, Hanna Hallgren and Marianne Larsen.

Thursday June 18
Monument Books. Reading – Yin Louth, Khmer Chan So Akhaing, Marianne Larsen and Kristin Bjarnadottir.

Friday June 19
Reyum. Reading – Ven Son, Pal Vannarirak, Kristin Bjarnadottir and Anna Mattson.

Saturday June 20

The Buddhist Institute. Seminar and reading

Written by Lucy Kinder
Monday, 15 June 2009

‘Northern Europe Meets the Mekong’ festival hopes to reach out to Cambodians

AN ECLECTIC poetry festival that fuses Cambodian and Northern European poetry will take place at various locations around Phnom Penh this week.

Following readings in Siem Reap and Battambang, six poets from Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and the Faroe Islands will perform in the capital alongside their Cambodian counterparts.

All the poets will recite in their own language so that listeners can get some idea of the depth of various types of poetry.

Anna Mattson, one of the organisers of the festival, titled "Northern Europe Meets the Mekong", explains the inspiration behind this exciting exploration of cultural diversity.

"I have been working with literature in Cambodia for some years, and I spent a lot of time talking with people in both Sweden, where I come from, and Cambodia about how nice it would be to have some sort of meeting between these different cultures," she said.

"This now has resulted in the showing of different ways of reading and writing poetry," she said.

This unique cultural opportunity could signal a resurgence of interest in poetry among Cambodians, something Mattson cited as among her goals.

"Before the Pol Pot regime, I'm sure there must have been poetry readings for audiences in Cambodia, because poetry in the Cambodian language is designed for an audience," she said.

"But in contemporary Cambodia I think that this kind of festival is a new idea, and we hope to reach out to Cambodian listeners."

Mattson says the distinct differences between Cambodian and Northern European poetry will produce significant challenges during the festival, even though the foreign poetry will be translated into Khmer.

"Cambodian poetry is what we would call in the Western world very traditional poetry," she said.

"Poetry in the West becomes something very personal, but Cambodian poetry uses different rules, it uses a very metric style, and poets are not free to use the words that they want to, but have to use certain words that fit with the rhythm and subject of the poem," she added.

However, even though the differences between Cambodian and Northern European poetry are more obvious than the similarities, Mattson says each style of poetry has a great deal to contribute to the festival.

"Cambodian poets almost sing when they recite their poetry. They do not read it out as we do. This is a special tradition, and the mixing of traditions will be the most interesting thing about this festival," she said.

Cultural exchange
Visitors to the festival will be able to enjoy the poetry, as well as an opportunity for cultural exchange.

The Northern European poets in particular have been chosen for their diverse creative roles, and Mattson hopes that the Cambodian audience will be inspired to pursue similar outlets for their creativity.

"The Northern European poets each write in a very modern style; they don't focus on the traditional aspects of rhyme and they are all different in the subjects that they write about," she said.

"They are also very different in age. The youngest one is 25, and the eldest is 60," she added.
Almost a year's work has gone into organising the festival.

Support for the event has come from the Nou Hach Literary Project, which aims to promote and strengthen the development of modern Cambodian literature.

The festival also received backing from Northern European organisations including The Swedish Institute, the Swedish Academy and the Nordic Culture Fund.

Bad referee calls infuriate players


Photo by: NICK SElls
Preah Khan Reach goalkeeper Ouk Mich (second left) and team captain Samel Nasa (second right) argue with the linesman and referee during the Cambodian Premier League match against Naga Corp at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

Written by DEAN MULLEN
Monday, 15 June 2009

A sequence of bewildering and missed calls from referee and linesmen during Naga Corp’s 2-2 draw with Preah Khan Reach Saturday caused arguments to delay proceedings by four minutes

Both Naga Corp and Preah Khan Reach (PKR) felt aggrieved at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday after their Cambodian Premier League game exploded into controversy in the second half. The referee and linesmen were in the eye of the storm when one goal that shouldn't have stood was given and a perfectly good one was almost disallowed.

It had all begun in much milder fashion, with Naga dominating and after 17 minutes nearly forcing an opener when Meas Channa flashed a superb low cross across the six yard box. Two Naga attackers flexed every muscle, but neither was able to make the vital connection.

Soon afterwards, Naga keeper Pich Rovinyothin was quick enough off his line to thwart Olisa Onyemerea when the big Nigerian forward chased a through ball. However, with nine minutes left in the half, a similar situation yielded the opener when Ifeanyi Alex played a raking ball behind the Naga defence, and this time Onyemerea was first to it. A great first touch was followed by an even better second as he rifled a right-footed drive across the keeper and into the far corner.

The goal was harsh on Naga, but they didn't have to wait long for the equaliser. Just five minutes later, captain Oum Thavarak arrived at the back post to plant a bullet header just underneath the bar from a Meas Channa corner to send the sides into the break all square.

It took just five minutes for the second half to burst into life. When a free-kick was swung into the box, Naga had chances to clear, but somehow the ball found its way to Onyemerea, who was standing on the line. In rolling the ball home, the African striker became active and should have been given offside, but, despite fervent Naga protestations, the linesman kept his flag at his side.

Chances followed for both teams, but neither net was troubled again until the 71st minute, and once again it was shrouded in controversy. It needn't have been, though. Meas Channa simply sent in a wicked, curling corner kick which flew straight in at the near post despite the best efforts of PKR defender Sok Ratha on the line.

At first it seemed that the referee had, for no apparent reason, disallowed the goal, with PKR playing on. However, after consultation between referee and linesman, the officials came to an understanding and gave the goal. PKR were furious, and the protests lasted a full four minutes. None seemed more incensed than PKR keeper Ouk Mich, who raced 50 yards to remonstrate with the referee's assistant and even gave him a lesson in how to raise his flag.

Eventually, silly season petered out, and the game continued without much incident. With the sides deadlocked at 2-2, Meas Channa wasted a golden opportunity, having gone clean through, but the winger hit his shot too weakly to take the spoils, so the points were shared.

Kirivong 2 Phouchung 1
A brace from Julius Chukwumeka settled the second game of the afternoon as Kirivong Sok Sen Chey just about managed to overcome a spirited Phouchung Neak side.

Indeed, rock-bottom Phouchung turned the form book on its head in some style when they took the lead after 23 minutes. A free-kick was awarded just outside the area, and a number of players clearly fancied their chances, but it was Pouv Samnang who stepped up and clipped a delightful free-kick over the wall and into the corner, leaving Kirivong keeper Kem Makara clutching at thin air.

Just five minutes later, Kirivong hit the post through Chukwumeka, and Phouchung broke straight from the rebound to nearly extend their lead, but for Heng Sokly heading wide when well-placed. They were made to pay two minutes before half-time, when Kirivong's Ly Ravy whipped in a wicked free-kick for Chukwumeka to get in front of his man and glance the ball into the far corner. There was still time left in the half for Phouchung keeper Sar Sophea to make a fantastic double save to ensure his side went in level at the interval.

Kirivong made all the early running in the second half. Some superb last-ditch defending from Phouchung's Tuy Sam kept the scores at one apiece, until a goal worthy of winning any game came just before the hour mark. Chukwumeka, who had been a constant threat, played the ball out to Mim Sophal on the right. The wideman then returned the favour by picking out the lanky Nigerian with his cross, and the winner was dispatched with a glorious volleyed back heel at the near post.

With the result, navy-affiliated Phouchung remained floundering at the foot of the table with just a solitary point from seven games, whereas Kirivong sprung up to second place overnight.

Khemara treat Spark to 5-2 rout


Khemara Keila's Kuoch Sokumpheak charges through Sunday. NICK SELLS

Written by DENE MULLEN
Monday, 15 June 2009

Khemara Keila’s attacking duo do the damage in the first half against a startled Spark side Sunday

BUILD Bright United (BBU) and National Defence Ministry (MND) could not be faulted for effort, but a game woefully short on quality failed to capture the imagination at Olympic Sunday, with the teams yawning to a 0-0 draw.

A dire first half almost provided a false dawn when Phoeung Soksana went through on goal, only to see BBU keeper Hem Simay deflect his shot onto the post in the first minute.

That was as close as either side came to scoring a goal, and only a 35-yarder from Khek Khemrin, which sailed just over the bar, broke up the monotony.

The second half did not offer any greater entertainment, with the only incidents of note being a superb header off the line by In Vireak and, in the final minute, the dismissal of Pheak Rady for lashing out wildly at Kang Sophea.

Khemara flash 5 past Spark
In stark contrast, Khemara Keila and Spark FC served up a veritable feast of football and goals in Sunday's second game, with Khemara emerging 5-2 victors.

Spark hotshot Justine Prince opened the scoring, volleying home superbly inside three minutes to give his side the lead. From then on, though, Khemara took control, and their front two were in particularly dominant form. A mistake at the back from Spark defender Olawaseun Olatide let Khemara back in the game, with Anthony Alichigozie finishing emphatically after being found by an intelligent square pass from Kuoch Sokumpheak.

Then, with just 18 minutes gone it was 2-1, after Kuoch Sokumpheak headed in Alichigozie's superb cross from the right. Kuoch Sokumpheak subsequently turned his attention back to creative duties, first setting up a goal for Ty Bunvichet with an excellent slide rule pass, and then flicking on a long ball for strike partner Alichigozie, who skipped round the keeper and rolled the ball home.

There was still time for Nelson Oladiji to get on the scoresheet just before the break when he leathered a left-footer past Spark keeper Pouv Raksa for goal number five.

The second half was a rather more sedate affair, with Khemara taking their foot off the gas and Spark struggling to break down the defence. Phoeun Saorum was twice denied from free-kicks by Khemara goalie Mak Theara, and Spark's Olatide did manage to bundle home a late consolation to make up for his earlier blunder.

A late sending off for Chan Dara after a professional foul marred Khemara's day somewhat, but their often unplayable front two had already done the damage in the first half.

Kyrgyz champions knock off Crown


Written by DAN RILEY
Monday, 15 June 2009

CAMBODIAN champions Phnom Penh Crown had their hopes of qualification from the Group stage of the AFC President's Cup dashed Friday when they lost to host nation Kyrgyzstan's Dordoi-Dynamo 3-1.

Eight thousand fans filled the stands of Spartak Stadium in Bishkek to watch the side from Naryn - who have dominated the Kyrgyzstan league, winning the past five seasons - finish strongly over the Cambodian visitors to stay on top of the group table.

After Crown had opened the scoring in the 33rd minute through Cameroonian sensation Jean-Roger Lappe Lappe, Dynamo managed to claw their way back into the game thanks to Ghanaian forward David Tetteh, who netted deep into first-half stoppage time.

Just a minute after the restart, fellow Dynamo striker Mirlan Mirzaev put the Kyrgyz ahead before captain Ruslan Sydykov sealed the win with a strike 12 minutes from time.

Kanbawza 4 Yeedzin 2
In Friday's earlier Group C fixture - played in front of a modest 150 spectators according to the AFC official match report - Bhutan champions Yeedzin FC threw away a two-goal advantage to finish the wrong end of a 4-2 scoreline against Myanmar club Kanbawza.

Goals from Pema Chopel and Jigme Tenzin with just a third of the match gone had the Bhutanese seemingly in the driving seat, but an own goal by Yeedzin defender Pema Rinchen on 38 minutes signified a change in the tides. Kanbawza came out firing in the second half, with a brace from in from Soe Min Oo, and another from defender Win Min Htut in the 78th minute that left Yeedzin with a bitter taste after the game.