Friday, 14 August 2009

U.S. senator in Myanmar, may meet junta leader

A pro-democracy activist holds a placard during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in New Delhi August 12, 2009.
REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli


A Myanmar pro-democracy activist shouts slogans during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in New Delhi August 12, 2009.
REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli


Pro-democracy activists for Myanmar hold portraits of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi while a child looks on during a protest in New Delhi August 12, 2009.
REUTERS/Adnan Abidi


Fri Aug 14, 2009

YANGON (Reuters) - A U.S. senator arrived in Myanmar on Friday and a government source said he would meet the leader of the country's junta, which was condemned by the United States this week for the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Jim Webb, chairman of a Senate subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific affairs, arrived in Naypyidaw, the Southeast Asian country's remote new capital, and would meet leader Than Shwe on Saturday, said the source who declined to be named.

Webb is the first member of Congress to travel in an official capacity to Myanmar in more than a decade, and has also been described as the first senior American official ever to meet Than Shwe.

It is unclear what he aims to achieve. He arrives the same week that Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate and a symbol of the movement for democracy in Myanmar, was sentenced to another 18 months' house arrest for violating a security law.

The U.S. embassy in Myanmar has little knowledge of Webb's plans and says all arrangements were made by his office in Washington.

According to some reports, he may press for the release of John Yettaw, the American who swam uninvited to Suu Kyi's lakeside home in May. The authorities said his two-day stay there breached the terms of her house arrest, which led to her trial.

Yettaw himself was sentenced to seven years' hard labor in a parallel trial on Tuesday on three charges, including immigration offences and "swimming in a non-swimming area." His health is fragile and he spent several days in hospital this month.

President Barack Obama said the conviction violated universal principles of human rights and called for her release.

In May, Obama extended a ban on U.S. investment in Myanmar first imposed in 1997 because of the authorities' repression of the opposition. He has also renewed sanctions targeting imports from Myanmar.

Before Suu Kyi's trial ended, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held out the prospect of better relations with Myanmar but made that conditional on the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

Webb's office said on August 6 he would travel to five countries in Southeast Asia on a two-week mission "to explore opportunities to advance U.S. interests in Burma (Myanmar) and the region."

He is not expected to be allowed to see Suu Kyi in her Yangon home, but the military government has invited members of political parties, including senior members of her National League for Democracy, to Naypyidaw this weekend.

Webb flew to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, from Laos and will also visit Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

He is a former U.S. Navy Secretary and a Vietnam War veteran who speaks Vietnamese.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

Shame on you ASEAN


Fri, Aug 14, 2009
The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

World leaders and human rights groups could only spew condemnation and anger in the direction of the chief of Myanmar's junta, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, for his continuous, merciless and brutal treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, the county's incarcerated democracy leader.

Than Shwe's latest act of injustice came Tuesday, when he extended the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's house arrest by 18 months for allowing an uninvited American to stay in her home for two nights in May. One Myanmarese general rendered the rest of the world's will irrelevant for no good reason.

Than Shwe and his cadres fully know that no one will ever be able to punish them, not even the world's most powerful man, US President Barack Obama, because the leaders of the other nine members of ASEAN - Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia - are staunch opponents of any efforts to punish Myanmar's heartless rulers.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the President of the world's third largest democracy, is a strong believer that persuasion and constructive engagement is the only way to lure Than Shwe into 'repenting'. This absurd belief is shared by the leaders of other ASEAN member states.

Shame on ASEAN leaders, especially those of democratic nations, who continue to tolerate the gross human rights abuses being committed in Myanmar. ASEAN leaders often cite fears that Myanmar would fall under the influence of China, or India, as an excuse for their inaction against Myanmar, while at the same time openly admitting the junta and its generals do not deserve any supports because of their unspeakable brutality.

As China and India close their eyes and pretend not to know what is going on in Myanmar, for economic and geopolitical reasons, we say shame on you too.

We urge ASEAN leaders, although we know very well that they have no guts to do it, to suspend Myanmar's membership to the regional grouping until the nation's generals surrender power to the country's supreme rulers: the people.

Morally, who is guiltier: Myanmar's generals, or those who continue to back them? -The Jakarta Post/ANN

Vietnamese, Cambodian Parties talk cooperation


14 August 2009

The Commissions for External Relations of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) met to further cooperation and tighten the two Parties’ relations.

The talks were held in Phnom Penh on Aug. 9 during a working visit to Cambodia by a delegation of the CPV’s Commission for External Relations from Aug. 9-11.

During the talks, the two sides briefed each other on their own political and economic situation and shared experiences in diplomatic activities.

The Cambodian side agreed to the Vietnamese proposal of increasing high-level meetings to exchange views and experiences and promoting the dissemination of education and information to help the people of both nations learn more about the traditional relations between them.

The two sides also agreed to coordinate in preventing hostile forces from distorting and destroying their special rapport.

During the visit, the Vietnamese delegation paid a visit to Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, and met with CPP Chairman and Senate President Chea Sim, CPP Honorary Chairman and National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin, and CPP Vice Chairman and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Stranger than fiction

Cambodia: Details are Sketchy
http://detailsaresketchy.wordpress.com/

August 14, 2009

Amazing. Cambodia, a country consistently ranked at the bottom of transparency and corruption indexes, nonetheless manages to lead the world in holding its microfinace institutions to account.

Impoverished Cambodia has emerged as a global microfinance leader, becoming the first Asian nation to hold lenders accountable to their original mission of poverty reduction. If a new global initiative aimed at promoting greater transparency over microfinance institutions (MFIs) recently launched here gains traction, the multi-billion dollar industry could be set for a shake-out.

No prizes for guessing why bankers might need the oversight.

It has long been assumed that microfinance ventures, launched in the 1970s as non-profit enterprises to bring cheap credit to the poor, prioritize alleviating poverty over maximizing profits. … But so-called barefoot banking has come under growing criticism as MFIs reap huge profits. Reports have shown that many misrepresent their underlying loan fees, with some charging annual interest rates in excess of 100%. For instance, Mexico’s Banco Compartamos, originally a non-profit institution, generated $458 million in an April 2008 initial public offering. Private investors piled into the offering because the bank charges its 1.4 million poor borrowers up to 128% annual interest.

Cambodian and Israeli telcos figure in sale of stakes by majority owners

CamGSM now fully locally-owned while new entity buys into Partner Communications

by Ek Heng, Asia-Pacific Correspondent
Thu. August 13, 2009

Following two agreements reached this week, the long expected sale of stakes by the majority owners of Israel’s Partner Communications and Cambodia’s CamGSM are expected to be completed by end-2009. see Millicom to dispose of Asian telecom assets : Hutchinson to sell Israeli stake

Hong Kong-based Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd (HTIL) announced the sale of its 51 percent stake in Partner Communications to Israeli-based mobile phone distributor, Scailex Corp for about US$1.4 billion. Partner Communications, HTIL’s Israeli telco subsidiary, operates under the Orange brand. The deal involves cash of US$1.08 billion and the remainder in secured debt instruments.

HTIL expects to gain US$1 billion

Quoting HTIL’s chief financial officer Christopher Foll, the Bloomberg report said that Scailex submitted the highest bid among the four to five firms that were interested in acquiring the stake.

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd owns 60 percent of HTIL while billionaire Li Ka-Shing has an additional 5.5 percent in a personal capacity, according to Bloomberg. Pending approval by shareholders and Israeli regulatory authority, the transaction will yield an estimated US$1 billion before tax for HTIL.

Besides Hong Kong and Macau, HTIL also has operations in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. It indicated it has earmarked HK$7 billion (US903 million) this year for capital expenditure for the group, up from HK$5.1 billion (US$657.9 million) in 2008. In its annual report ending March, the telco indicated it will continue to invest in Indonesia and Vietnam. It is targeting to expand its mobile networks to 9,000 base stations in Indonesia and 5,000 base stations in Vietnam to capitalise on the market opportunities in these two markets.

Millicom sells stake to Cambodian partner

In a separate development, Millicom International Cellular SA (MIC) announced it has sold its interests in Cambodia for US$346 million to its local partner, the Royal Group.

The transaction comprises MIC’s 58.4 percent stakes in CamGSM, which provides cellular services under Mobitel brand, Royal Telecom International and Cambodia Broadcasting Services, reported the Phnom Penh Post.

Quoting from a company statement, the newspaper attributed MIC’s chief executive officer, Mikael Grahne as saying it ‘was delighted to reach agreement on the sale of our Cambodian operations to our local partner, the Royal Group.

Indian telco reportedly eyeing MIC’s Sri Lanka interest

MIC had said earlier it was also considering disposing of its other Asian telecom assets in Sri Lanka and Laos. One recent media report indicated that India’s Bharti Airtel is planning to make a pitch for MIC’s Sri Lanka Tigo mobile operator. If it translates into an actual bid and is successful, it will strengthen the Indian telco’s position in Sri Lanka where it has invested US$250 million to set up Bharti Airtel Lanka (Pvt) Ltd with a further US$120 million in the pipeline.

Int`l conference held for conservation of Cambodian Prasat Banteay Chmar

Prasat Banteay Chmar, one of the great ancient Khmer architectures during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, comprises the values of culture, architecture, arts and religion, said Khim Sarith.

PHNOM PENH,(Xinhua) -- The Second Conference on Conservation Project of Prasat Banteay Chmar was jointly organized in Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, the provincial authority, and the UNESCO, the official news agency AKP reported on Wednesday.

The three-day conference ended Monday was attended by Khim Sarith, secretary of state to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Banteay Meanchey Governor Ung Oeurn, and the representatives of the British and U.S. embassies, and a number of national and foreign historians.

"The entire people in the province, especially those living in the vicinity, supported the conservation project of Prasat Banteay Chmar," said Banteay Meanchey Governor Ung Oeurn, underlining that people are prepared to participate in the conservation activities with a view to list it as one of the World Heritage.

Prasat Banteay Chmar, one of the great ancient Khmer architectures during the reign of King Jayavarman VII, comprises the values of culture, architecture, arts and religion, said Khim Sarith.

He recalled that many ancient temples and historical stations had been damaged by the nature and by human acts of destructions due to the prolonged wars for many years in Cambodia.

Jonh Sandy, the Global Heritage Fund representative, said his organization and the ministry had concluded a MOU, not only for the conservation project of Prasat Banteay Chmar, but also for the professional staff training, the establishment and development of an association of tourism, and particularly the preparation of Prasat Banteay Chmar to be listed in the World Heritage.

Cambodian monks save remote forests, tree by tree


In Cambodia, there is an unusual effort underway by Buddhist monks to replant forests devastated by war and clearing by loggers.

This is important to them for both religious and environmental reasons. The monks, like others, believe that trees may help counter the effects of climate change.

Worldfocus partner IRIN travels to the remote forests of Cambodia.
(View Video)

In Cambodia, there is an unusual effort underway by Buddhist monks to replant forests devastated by war and clearing by loggers. This is important to them for both religious and environmental reasons. The monks, like others, believe that trees may help counter the effects of climate change.

Cambodia lost revenue because of ASEAN visa exemption


By Reinhard Hohler
eTN Staff Writer
Aug 14, 2009

According to media sources in Phnom Penh, the visa exemption for citizens of five states in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has cost Cambodia's treasury US$14.1 million in reduced revenue since it was introduced in January 2008.

Citizens from Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam currently qualify for the exemption.

Cambodian Tourism Minister Thong Khon told the Phnom Penh Post that the visa exemption agreement will be extended next year to Thailand, and by 2015 to the remaining three ASEAN members of Brunei, Indonesia and Myanmar.

"We realize that our visa-exemption program for travelers from ASEAN countries results in lower national revenues, but we will continue it because increased arrivals can boost economic growth kingdom-wide and will create many jobs," Minister Thong Khon said.

Tourism is one of Cambodia's key economic engines. More than two million tourists visited the country last year, many drawn by the Angkor Wat temple complex in the northwest.

The Ministry of Tourism reported that Cambodia issued 278,842 visas to ASEAN nationals in the first six months of 2009, which cost the government US$5.5 million. That compared with 431,426 visa exemptions issued last year at a cost of US$8.6 million.

Cambodian farmers demand stop to land grabs, evictions - Feature


Fri, 14 Aug 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - "The land is our rice pot," a rural villager told a packed hall in the Cambodian capital. The speaker, Leng Simy, arrived in Phnom Penh this week from a village in western Cambodia, one of 300 villagers representing 15,000 people from across the kingdom who came in a coordinated move to get the government and international donors to listen to their concerns about evictions and land grabs.

The numbers are significant. Organizers said 700,000 hectares of mainly communal land are at risk for this group of petitioners alone. Amnesty International last year estimated that 150,000 people across Cambodia were at risk of being forcibly evicted in land grabs generally perpetrated by the politically powerful, the military and companies awarded land concessions

One purpose of the trip to Phnom Penh was to deliver thumb-printed petitions protesting the land grabs to government ministries, the prime minister, parliament and the national land dispute authority. Another purpose was to be heard, which for people in Cambodia's rural areas is difficult.

Leng Simy told the meeting and media Wednesday that her village had lost its communal land to a company growing cassava and palm oil.

Her experience was a common one, and one shared by Chann Na from Kampot province in southern Cambodia. Clutching the microphone, she told the audience how a company took land that villagers used for grazing cattle. She said she hopes the national government would resolve the problem, but she said she also knows the petition might make no difference.

"If there is no solution, then the representatives from all the provinces and cities will come again to Phnom Penh until at last we have a solution," Chann Na told the audience. "And we will not come in ones and twos - we will all come together. I hope that will generate a solution."

Her comments generated an enthusiastic round of applause from a worried and frustrated audience of villagers. The reason for their concern is easy to understand: More than 80 per cent of Cambodia's 15 million people live in rural areas. To lose your land is to lose your livelihood, and there is no social safety net.

The story of Cambodia's land is not straightforward. Under the catastrophic 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime, private property was abolished and land records destroyed. To this day, more than 90 per cent of the nation's land parcels do not yet have legal title, which makes it easy for the unscrupulous to take them.

And as stability returned in recent years after decades of strife, land prices rocketed. The result is that evictions and land grabs have also soared.

One local human rights group recorded 335 land dispute cases last year alone. And remedies are hard to come by: The courts typically favour those with power, which limits the options for ordinary people, and the military and police are regularly used to put down any dissent.

Loun Sovath, a monk from the western province of Siem Reap, told how villagers in his area had 100 hectares stolen by "rich and powerful people" earlier this year. During a protest at the disputed site, several villagers were shot and wounded by authorities. Others were arrested "just as the Khmer Rouge did," he said, and 11 are now in jail.

"Previously, people would file a complaint with the local and provincial authorities, but they didn't get resolved until they came to Phnom Penh," Loun Sovath told the hall. "[The government's] solution now is that they arrest more people. I am asking that the government please consider the land issue. This is not a game."

It is not only the country's majority Khmers who are losing land to a scourge that runs the length and breadth of the kingdom. Soal Nak is from the Jarai tribe, an ethnic minority in the north-eastern province of Ratanakkiri, where land, forests and religion are wrapped together in tribal culture and livelihoods.

"Our people remain worried about losing our land and our forests and our traditional way of life," he said. "If we lose our forests or our land, then our traditional ways go, too, and more than that, we will lose our togetherness as a tribal community."

It was too early to say whether the petitioners' concerns would be addressed, but early signs were not encouraging. The government was caught off-guard by the collaborative effort and was trying to find out whether civil society groups were involved - a classic case of shooting the messenger, said a long-term member of one of these groups.

At least one villager has decided not to return home. Ngou Leang is a representative from a village in the western province of Banteay Meanchey whose commune chief colluded to grab land used by 280 families.

She spoke by phone Wednesday to fellow villagers who had stayed behind. They told her the authorities had come to the village and threatened to arrest everyone for protesting about land issues.

"So for now," she said, "I cannot go back home."

Cambodia to export rice to Brunei

August 14, 2009 Friday

Cambodia reached an agreement on Tuesday with Brunei Darussalam to export 1,500 tonnes of prime-grade milled rice, an official confirmed Wednesday.

According to the spokesman for the Council of Ministers, Phay Siphan, the deal was struck between Brunei Ambassador Pengiran Haji Ismail and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, but declined to provide details of the agreement, The Phnom Penh Post reported.

"At this time, Brunei has not expressed its long-term intent to secure rice exports, but has agreed to purchase 1,500 tonnes of milled rice from a local producer," said Phay Siphan, who referred any additional questions on the deal to the Brunei Embassy.

A member of the Brunei Embassy in Phnom Penh also declined Wednesday to provide details of the scope and duration of the agreement.

But two local companies said they have received inquiries from Brunei officials about the purchase of rice, though no formal sale has yet been secured.

Phou Puy, the Head of Cambodia's Rice Milling Association, said he was contacted by Brunei officials about yearly purchases of top-grade rice - which sells for about US$780 million per tonne.

"This would be our first sale of rice to Brunei, and I think they are currently researching prices," he said.

Deputy Defence Minister has dinner with Cambodian envoy

(From L-R:) General Tea Banh, Mr Nan Sy, and Pehin Yasmin

During the dinner. - PHOTOS: SYAFIQ AFFENDY

By Syafiq Affendy
August 14, 2009 Friday

The Deputy Minister of Defence, Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Paduka Awg Hj Mohammad Yasmin bin Hj Umar yesterday attended a dinner with the visiting Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia and National Defence, General Tea Banh, at The Emperor's Court Restaurant in Kg Manggis.
Also in attendance was the Ambassador of Cambodia to Brunei, Mr Nan Sy, as well as senior government officers from both countries.

Gen Tea Banh is in the country to attend the Bridex 2009, a must-see event on the international defence & security calendar that showcases the latest, innovative and value-enhancing technology solutions in land, sea and air security systems.

Govt: Release Suu Kyi

Photo by: AFP
A demonstrator protests outside the Myanmar Embassy in central London on Tuesday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Cheng Sokha

The government on Thursday called for Myanmar to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in advance of elections scheduled for next year, expanding upon its initial reaction to her recent conviction and adopting a message more in line with other ASEAN countries.

Speaking after a signing ceremony for a Japanese loan and aid grant, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong emphasised that Myanmar's ruling junta should allow Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest, to participate in the elections.

"That is the problem, whether Ms Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to participate in the 2010 elections or not," he said. "ASEAN has previously told Myanmar that we want to see an election that is transparent, democratic and fair."

A court at Yangon's Insein Prison on Tuesday found Suu Kyi guilty of breaching her house arrest and sentenced her to three years in prison and hard labour, a punishment the head of the ruling junta commuted to 18 months' house arrest.

In response, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong on Tuesday described the decision to commute the sentence as an indication that Myanmar, formerly Burma, was "on the way to democratisation". He declined to comment further, describing the trial as Myanmar's "internal affair".

Hor Namhong's comments Thursday were similar to a Tuesday statement in which Thailand, the ASEAN chair, expressed "deep disappointment" with the verdict and asserted that only "free, fair and inclusive" elections would "pave the way for Myanmar's full integration into the international community".

That statement called "for the immediate release of all those under detention, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi".

Kek Pung, Cambodian chairperson of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, said Thursday that she welcomed the government's decision to vocally push for Suu Kyi's release and suggested that Koy Kuong's initial comments had been wrongheaded.

"It's really very difficult to accept [the August 11 sentence]. It's not a sign of a democratic country," she said.

Rupert Abbott, director of programmes and development at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), said the rights group "congratulated" Hor Namhong for his remarks.

Kek Pung said ASEAN countries should speak out more forcefully on the issue, particularly following the July adoption of terms of reference for a regional human rights body. The body - expected to be known as the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission of Human Rights - was approved during the 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phuket.

But both she and Abbott said the nature of the rights body - which has been criticised for focusing too much on the promotion of human rights rather than their protection - could make it difficult for Cambodia and ASEAN to do much more than publicly reprimand the ruling junta for rights violations.

Meanwhile, Abbott also said the government should work to improve the rights situation in Cambodia.

"I don't think that in recent years the government has behaved at the same level as the Burmese junta," he said. "But I do think the government has itself cracked down on the opposition here and, like the junta at the moment, has used the courts to do so. We urge the government to practise what it might preach abroad."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ROBBIE COREY-BOULET

Protest outside courthouse approaches end of 3rd week

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Around 100 villagers camp at the front of the Municipal Court in Banteay Meanchey to protest a land dispute and the arrest of two villagers on murder and robbery charges.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Chhay Channyda and Thet Sambath

Banteay Meanchey residents say that the two men who represented them in a land dispute have been wrongfully accused of murder and robbery.

AROUND 100 villagers from Banteay Meanchey province have been staying in front of the provincial courthouse for more than three weeks, demanding that two people from their village who represented them in a land dispute be released from prison, villagers said.

Fifty-six-year-old Van Saroeun and 45-year-old Kloeng Da, from Poipet town's Nimit commune, were arrested July 18 on charges of attempted murder and armed robbery, but villagers said that these charges are baseless and the men should be released.

"They have never done anything wrong," said 26-year-old Roeun Srey Neang, Vann Sareoun's wife.

"They were only arrested because they were our representatives in a dispute with a businessman."

Govt sides with villagers
Roeun Srey Neang said that around 400 families live on 100 hectares of land in Reaksmey Samaki village in Nimit commune, but since 2004, armed guards working for the unnamed businessman have prevented the villagers from farming rice on the disputed land.

In 2007, she added, villagers received a signed order from the Council of Ministers allowing them to continue living on the land, but local government officials refused to recognise this directive.

Roeun Srey Neang said that she and the other protesters would stay outside the courthouse until the two prisoners were freed.

"We are getting exhausted from staying out here because we don't have much food, but we are willing to stay until our men are released," she said.

Nuth Ly, police chief of Poipet town, said Thursday that he was not familiar with the directive from Council of Ministers chief Sok An, but that Poipet Governor Try Narin had already solved the problem for the people.

Try Narin could not be reached for comment.

Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said that his staff had provided food and water to the protesters outside the courthouse.

He added that Licadho staff have been summoned to appear at provincial police headquarters today for questioning.

"We do not intend to incite them to further protest, but when people lack food and need support, we must help him," he said.

Chea Sim aide accused of passing bad cheque, warned of legal action

Photo by: Photo Supplied
A bank document details the bounced cheque allegedly passed by Yin Sovanny.


Photo by: Photo Supplied
Yin Sovanny, adviser to CPP president Chea Sim.


The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Meas Sokchea

AN adviser to Senate and Cambodian People's Party President Chea Sim has been accused of issuing a bad cheque to a former provincial governor, who on Thursday threatened legal action in the case.

The cheque, numbered 000171, was issued by Canadia Bank on behalf of CPP member Yin Sovanny. Showing an amount of US$30,000, the cheque was to be sent to ANZ Bank, but the transfer was invalidated due to insufficient funds in Yin Sovanny's account, according to a document recently obtained by the Post.

The former provincial governor and intended recipient of the cheque, who asked to remain anonymous, said Thursday that Chea Sim's adviser Yin Sovanny had agreed to transfer him $30,000 in exchange for a sand-dredging business owned by the governor. Sand dredging can be environmentally destructive and is banned in many countries.

"We made an agreement, and he wrote me a cheque on June 5 from his account at Canadia Bank, but when I went to cash the cheque, the people at the bank told me it had bounced," the former politician said, adding that he would file a legal complaint against Yin Sovanny if he does not settle the debt.

"If he issued this cheque when he knew he had no money, that's fraud. I've tried to contact him many times since June, but he hasn't responded," the governor said.

Reached by phone Thursday, Yin Sovanny refused to discuss the case at length, saying that he has been travelling. He said only that he knew it had been reported in the local press, but that the press had the facts wrong.

"I cannot speak much now because I have been staying in Korea. Wait for me. I will come back on Monday," he said.

Canadia Bank could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Officials leery of villagers in Bokor park

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Vong Sokheng

THE director of Bokor National Park on Thursday threatened to forcibly remove villagers suspected to be living illegally on a designated conservation site, though Kampot provincial officials said no action would be taken until they could study the site and determine whether the villagers had any right to the land.

An estimated 166 families have relocated to about 150 hectares of land within a Bokor conservation site over the past year, said Yang Phirom, the park director.

But only 50 families have been regularly found in their houses at the conservation site, he said, which could be an indication that they are merely squatting on the land in the hope that they will receive compensation for it later.

"We are very concerned about the issue of land-grabbing," Yang Phirom said.

He added that it has been difficult to obtain much information on the families in recent months, as the land on which they are staying is often inaccessible during the rainy season.

"We are trying to get exact statistics, and then we will ask them to leave peacefully from the conservation area," he said.

"If they do not agree to leave, then we will take legal action and remove them by force because we cannot allow land-grabbing here in the park," he said.

Officials to investigate
Chhouk district Governor Khem Horm also said Thursday that officials have noticed an influx of migrants from other provinces moving there.

"We are not sure how many people have come to grab land there, and we don't know what their impact on the conservation area might be," he said.

Heng Voantha, a deputy provincial governor, said no villagers will be asked to leave before officials study the area and make sure it is not part of a social land concession.

"I don't think any villagers will be asked to leave while we are studying this," he said.

Embattled vendors go back to PM

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Tonloab market protesters gather outside Prime Minister Hun Sen's house on Thursday to highlight their plight.


The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
May Titthara

Takeo vendors say government officials failed to make good on vows to resolve ongoing dispute.

VENDORS from Tonloab market in Takeo province returned to Prime Minister Hun Sen's home in Takhmao, Kandal province, Thursday to protest both the actions of the market owners as well as those of government officials, who they said have failed to follow through on reassurances that they would resolve an ongoing dispute.

About 100 of the market's 400 vendors were expected to make the trip, down somewhat from the 130 who walked 30 kilometres to Phnom Penh on August 1 to protest at the premier's house. That protest prompted assurances from officials that the government would broker a solution.

But only 40 ended up making the trip Thursday, and Nguon Srei Mao, a vendor, said he was discouraged by the sparse attendance.

"I don't know if the PM will solve the problem, because not all of us came," she said.

The vendors have claimed that the owners of the market, located in Takeo's Kirivong district, told them to leave their stalls temporarily for redevelopment purposes and then sold them to other vendors at higher prices. Srey Heng, another vendor, said Thursday that she believed the vendors' demands were perfectly reasonable.

"We just want the prime minister to grant us the right to sell at our old spots," she said.

Tek Songlim, the governor of Kirivong district, said officials were preparing new stalls for the vendors.

"We are constructing a new place for them, and it will be finished in about five days," he said. "We can't allow them to sell from their old stalls because they have been sold."

Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen's Cabinet, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Kingdom seeks debt relief

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Sam Rith

Cambodia implores US to forgive over $300 million in Lon Nol-era debt.

CAMBODIA has implored the United States to cancel debts of more than US$300 million that the Kingdom has owed to the United States since the Lon Nol regime of the 1970s, Prime Minister Hun Sen said.

Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker, said that since 1972, Cambodia has been indebted to the US for more than $100 million. Most of that debt, he said, could be attributed to the Lon Nol regime. When the interest was factored in, he said, Cambodia currently owes the United States a total of more than $300 million.

"Now [we] are negotiating," the prime minister said during a graduation ceremony on Wednesday at the Royal University of Law and Economics. "We do not know what sort of things Lon Nol bought at that time that caused [Cambodia] to owe America such a lot of money."

Cheam Yeap said that during a visit to the US from June 1-12 this year, he commenced negotiations with the US State Department and Cambodia's National Assembly and Senate with a view to getting the Kingdom's debt cancelled.

"I led the Cambodian National Assembly and Senate delegation to the US," he said. "I addressed this issue with representatives of the United States' [Department of State] as well as the [House of Representatives and Senate] and asked them to consider cancelling the debt," Cheam Yeap said.

Those representatives assured Cheam Yeap, he said, that they would bring Cambodia's request to US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said that since 1979, in addition to being indebted to the United States, Cambodia also has owed vast sums to other countries, including Russia. "Most of the loans were spent on buying weapons," he said. "Only a little bit of that money was used to develop the country."

Hun Sen also said that the arrival of Vietnamese nationals in the Kingdom was "nothing new", in response to opposition party criticism that the numbers had increased during his premiership.

He said that many Vietnamese arrived in the country in 1979 expressly for the purpose "of liberating [Cambodian people's] lives".

Moto fees too high, villagers say

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
May Titthara

About 400 Banteay Meanchey province residents visited the provincial governor's office this week to ask for a reduction in the fee charged for importing motorbikes.

Without a reduction, residents said, they will not be able to officially register their motorbikes and obtain licence plates in line with the Land Traffic Law, forcing them to risk fines of up to 200,000 riels ($48).

Im Phoan Sophal, a deputy provincial governor, warned that officials would not be able to reduce the fee, which could be as high as $200. "If we were to reduce it, it would have too large an impact on the national budget," he said.

Sok Vireak, who lives in O'Chrouv district, was part of the group of 400 that visited the governor's office. "We haven't paid the fee because we haven't needed to before," he said. "But if the authorities were to reduce it, we would be able to buy number plates. We want to join together to respect the traffic law and reduce the number of accidents."

Father won't file suit over baby's 'death'

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Soriya Clinic apologises, but denies legal fault in incident.

THE father of a premature baby mistakenly declared dead twice by medical staff has agreed to suspend legal action against the clinic responsible after receiving a letter of apology.

Im Samnang, whose name means "Lucky", was born three months premature on Monday, weighing just 0.9 kilograms. Staff at the Soriya Clinic in Phnom Penh's Phsar Thmei 1 commune twice told Im Vannarith his son had died, but each time he checked his son's body, he discovered the child was still breathing.

The boy, who is still in intensive care, was eventually taken to Kantha Bopha Hospital, where doctors said the delay in admitting him had hampered his chances of survival.

Im Vannarith had threatened to take legal action against the clinic's director, Dr Hy Sopharea, for attempted infanticide, but agreed on Thursday to postpone the move after Hy Sopharea apologised by letter.

"I would like to express my deepest regret over the incident during the delivery of your son on August 10," the letter states. "I believe the incident really made you, your wife and your family disappointed. After mutual understanding in a friendly manner and with facilitation from the Ministry of Health, you and your wife agree to accept my apology."

Speaking Thursday, Im Vannarith confirmed he had accepted the apology, but warned he would not hesitate to file a further complaint if the clinic failed to provide adequate care in the future.

Hy Sopharea could not be reached on Thursday, but Serey Vath, a spokesman for the clinic, said that the letter was an apology, not an admission of liability. "The letter was meant to show we are sorry, not to show we were at fault," he said.

Government, city police ramp up crackdown on mobile phone porn

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A teenager looks at pornography on his mobile phone in Phnom Penh last week.

The Phnom Penh post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Khuon Leakhana

Municipal officers target computer- and phone-to-phone transmission

THE government and municipal police are ramping up efforts to curtail the distribution of pornographic videos by cracking down on computer-to-phone and phone-to-phone transmission, officials said Thursday.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Thursday that officers had confiscated 30 computers in the past four months after finding that their owners were allowing people to upload pornographic videos from them onto their mobile phones.

He added that police had been focusing in particular on "places that allow for the copying and transferring of data onto cell phones".

Khim Sarith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, appeared on CTN Wednesday to warn viewers that the penalties for transferring pornographic videos could include one month in jail and a fine.

Touch Naruth said fines would vary in amount depending on "the severity of the offence".

Khim Sarith argued that pornographic videos can cause viewers to commit sex crimes.

"We would like to call for all parents, students and civil servants to be active in preventing the transferring of pornographic movies and pictures onto cell phones," he said.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said Thursday that he hopes the crackdown is successful.

"If it is not effective, the youth will be spoiled," he said. "They will abandon their studies, and the whole of society will suffer from disorder."

Soldiers' shared ceremony delayed

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Thet Sambath

A JOINT border ceremony near Preah Vihear temple that was scheduled for Saturday and intended to promote good relations between Cambodian and Thai soldiers has been delayed until August 25, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) officer told the Post.

"We agreed to cancel the ceremony for [Saturday] and hold it on August 25 because the Thai side will be busy with a visit from a Thai delegation," said Ten Navun, a first lieutenant in RCAF's Battalion 404.

In addition to soldiers, monks and government officials were also slated to be present at the ceremony.

Soldiers have described near-constant tension at the border since UNESCO accepted Cambodia's application to enlist Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

Ten Navun said Wednesday that he hopes the ceremony will contribute to the easing of hostilities.

"The ceremony will help us cooperate well, to forget the past tension and to develop along the border together," he said.

Cambodian tourism abroad falls amid recession, flu fears

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Children play in the water at Occheuteal beach in Sihanoukville earlier this year.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Chun Sophal

More travellers opt to visit domestic resorts, ecotourism sites

Cambodia's Ministry of Tourism on Thursday said the number of Cambodian tourists visiting foreign countries dropped 78 percent in the first half of 2009 compared with the same period last year.

Kong Sophearak, director of the ministry's Statistics and Tourism Information Department, said Thursday that in the first quarter of last year, 668,555 Cambodian tourists travelled to foreign destinations, but that only 146,056 did so in the first quarter of this year.

Though attributing the drop in part to the global recession and ongoing political turmoil in neighbouring Thailand - a popular destination for Cambodian travellers - Kong Sophearak said the government could not say precisely why so many travellers had decided to stay home.

"We remain unclear about why the number of Cambodian tourists to foreign countries has declined, and whether it will continue to do so," he said.

Ang Kem Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said Thursday that fears of contracting the H1N1 swine flu virus had likely kept many travellers in the Kingdom.

He said Cambodian tourists who booked trips to Thailand, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines last year have now considered destinations closer to home, including local resorts.

"I think that we will see a jump in tourist numbers as fears over H1N1 begin to ease," he said.

Lav Heng, director of VLK Royal Group, said that in the past Cambodians spending substantial amounts of money on travel wanted to see big cities with a variety of sophisticated shopping options.

"I think that many Cambodians are now finding that sophistication in their own country. We have seen a shift towards Cambodia's coastal areas and ecotourism sites," Lav Heng said.

Ministry of Tourism figures for the first six months of 2009 showed that the total number of Cambodian tourists visiting local resorts stood at 4 million, up approximately 5 percent compared with the same period last year, when 3.8 million visited local resorts.

Last year, 6.7 million Cambodian tourists visited well-known domestic resorts in Phnom Penh and in Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep provinces, and ecotourism resorts in Koh Kong, Kratie, Rattanakkiri, Mondulkiri and Stung Treng provinces, Ministry of Tourism figures showed.

Thai, VN fixed-asset investment increases

Thye Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

FIXED asset investment in Cambodia from Thailand and Vietnam increased 87.2 percent and 85.3 percent respectively in the first half of this year compared with the first half of last year, according to a report from the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) released earlier this month.

CDC data from the first half of 2009 showed that Thai investment in the Kingdom rose to US$178 million from $22.7 million in the same period last year.

Vietnamese investment jumped to $114.2 million from 16.7 million last year.

Youn Heng, deputy director of the Evaluation and Incentive Department at the Cambodian Investment Board, an arm of the CDC, said Wednesday that Thai investments in sugar cane plantations and processing plants accounted for most of the spike in investment.

"The sharp rise in Thai investment follows agreements on two sugar cane factories in Koh Kong worth about $158 million," he said, adding that the investments were inked prior to the ramping up of border tensions over the disputed Preah Vihear temple complex and had just been approved by the CDC in the first half of this year.

CDC figures also showed that the uptick in Vietnamese fixed-asset investment relates to ventures in rubber plantations, telecommunication and transportation, especially the Kingdom's new national carrier Cambodian Angkor Air.

"These investments will be mutually beneficial and will strengthen bilateral business relations between the regional neighbours," said Le Bien Cuong, a commercial counselor at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Singapore allots $15m for corn in K Speu

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
May Kunmakara

HLH Agriculture Co Ltd said Wednesday that Singaporean investors have provided US$15 million for corn production in Kampong Speu province to boost exports to Asian and European markets.

Rort Veasna, a purchasing officer for HLH, said an agreement was reached last year for investment in corn plantations on 450 hectares of land in the Thpong district of Kampong Speu, and an additional 10,000 hectares in Oral district have been added this year.

"We have purchased five German planting machines and two Chinese drying machines, which are capable of processing 300 tonnes of corn per day," Rort Veasna said.

HLH purchases corn from local farmers for export, and the $15 million investment would be devoted largely to expanding production in Cambodia, Rort Veasna said.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, was unavailable for comment on Thursday, but he said earlier this month that the government was looking for additional corn markets in Vietnam.

DM Group blocks road: villagers

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

SIXTEEN families in Patang commune in Ratanakkiri's Lumphat district say the agricultural company DM Group has blocked the road they use to access nearly 30 hectares of farmland, Pen Bonnar, former provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said Thursday.

"The company has blocked access to [villagers'] land and is making it difficult for these 16 families to bring tractors and motorbikes to their farms," Pen Bonnar said.

Say Chamroeun, a DM Group representative, told the Post Thursday that the company has never harmed the villagers.

"Our company has not blocked their land. We have left them a broad road for them to enter their farms," he said.

Karate kid


The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
EM MEAK

A young boy performs his karate kata routine in the U17 boys final of the National Karate Championship at Olympic Stadium on Wednesday. The tournament, which runs through Sunday, will feature a total of 101 participants from six Phnom Penh-based karate clubs. Wednesday saw the U17 girls and boys kata finals. Phnom Penh's Karate Youth Club dominated the girls event, with top three placings for Phuong Sovanvoleak, So Malin and So Measla, respectively taking first, second and third. Similarly, the capital's National Karate Club took the spoils in the boys event, with Chan Yong Chean, Ke Kimyei and Machim Sophaorun claiming respective honours. Kata are routines that demonstrates sequences of movements. Competitors are judged on a varitey of elements including techinique, directness and clarity of movement, rhythm, capability to adapt to different situations, enthusiasm and energy of performance, control of breathing, visual awareness, fighting spirit and dynamism. The tournament follows closely to the rules laid out by the International and Asian Karate Federations. Chief Referee Lach Chandara said: "It is important that all competitors are judged under international karate law in order for them to have correct understanding and experience of the rules, so they can join international competitions in the future. Thus, the judgement is very strict." Individual combat events start today, with weight divisions of both men and women progressively getting heavier until freeweight finals on Sunday. Bouts start at 8am and continue all day inside the Olympic Stadium.

Photo by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)

TFC hosts its second Cambodian Open

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A young national tennis player practices July 20 in preparation for the Cambodian Open starting next week.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
DAN RILEY

THE Tennis Federation of Cambodia (TFC) is holding its second annual Cambodian Open Tennis Tournament, from August 21-30 at the Cambodian Country Club, Phnom Penh.

The TFC hopes to attract between 80-100 players, with registration lasting until August 19 at 5pm.

Participation fees are US$10 for foreigners and $2 for Cambodians, with categories including men's singes, women's singles, men's doubles, mixed doubles and U18 boys singles. Contact Khith Sipin at 012 899 001 for more details.

Eight boys and three girls from the Cambodian national team have been entered in the event, and they will be joined by Vietnamese players including 25 year-old JP Huyin, who is well-ranked in doubles tennis, and 20-year-old Huyin Mae, who won the 2008 Master's Cup in Thailand and is currently the Asian junior champion.

Cash prizes will be awarded to top four finishes in each category, with the men's champion taking home $250, the runner-up $150 and third- and fourth-place $100. In the women's competition, the champion will be awarded $150, with second earning $100, and $50 allotted to each of the losing semifinalists.

TFC President Cham Prasidh will preside over the finals on August 30.

The Premiership kicks off

The usual suspects for any Fantasy Football team lineup: Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney (left), Liverpool's Fernando Torres (centre) and Chelsea's Frank Lampard. All are slated to score big points in this season’s Barclays Premier League competition. AFP

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Chris Dring

This weekend welcomes the start of the 2009-10 Barclays Premier League, and Chris Dring trawls through the fixtures to give you some fantasy managing tips

AT last, the torment of a summer without football will end Saturday night. Not only can we lie back on our sofas, or head to the nearest bar, and blissfully waste away our nights staring at a TV screen cheering on the greatest league in the world, but we can now participate online and see if we have what it takes to be the next Alex Ferguson. If you haven't yet signed up to the Post's fantasy league, then get online now and join in to add extra significance to each match in what should be the most thrilling Premiership season to date.

The season opener of Hull City at Chelsea is surely the most obvious result among Saturday's fixtures. Hull miraculously escaped relegation last term, mainly due to a woeful Toon army. I can only see them battling the drop again this time out, and I expect Chelsea to steamroll them comfortably. Any Chelsea players in your fantasy team are surely guaranteed points, but if you have Lampard, Anelka or Drogba, certainly make them your team's captain. This game should be a barometer in class between the strugglers and contenders for the season.

Oil-rich Man City travel to Blackburn with the weight of expectation firmly hanging over Mark Hughes' head. Can he gel his overpaid stars into a team? With a whole host of attacking options at his disposal, I think you'll have to play the waiting game to find out his preferred starting 11. Blackburn's summer acquisitions look weak on paper, and this game should be a dogged home side trying to nullify its visitor's newfound flair. Who'd bet against Adebayor scoring on his debut, as he is almost certain to start with Tevez struggling for fitness?

One would expect Aston Villa at home to defeat a Wigan side that has had their star players prized away from them for greener pastures. With Young and Milner proving the ammunition from the flanks, Villa could generate a lot of points and should create the opportunities for whoever O'Neil prefers in attack.

The standout game on Saturday is the late kickoff of Everton v Arsenal, in almost a case of beauty against the beast. Arsenal looked fragile last season, despite playing the most attractive football. Key players in this one could be Cahill or Jo for Everton, and Van Persie or Asharvin for the Gunners. Both teams will be desperate for a good start to the season, and the game is likely to be played at a frantic pace. Wenger's young guns might just have too much extra class, and I fancy them to sneak a winner.

On Sunday, we get a chance to see two of the four title hopefuls in action. First up, Man United will hope to banish last week's poor second-half showing at Wembley by beating newly promoted Birmingham. Even without the now-departed Ronaldo, they should have enough in their armory, and one would expect them to be fired up in front of the Old Trafford faithful. Hart should be a busy keeper with Rooney set to play through the middle. He's certainly my key man to watch and a sure banker for points for your team. Apart from Carrick, it's hard to be sure of who will play in midfield. Berbatov has something to prove, and with Birmingham unlikely to pose much in the way of offence, any starting United defender will be a good choice.

Liverpool travel to Spurs, with both facing a defensive crisis that should hopefully bring us plenty of goals. Both teams can hardly muster a centre half between them, so I'd stay away from picking any defenders from this game. Torres and Gerrard (if he's fit) will ultimately hold the key for the Reds, but as with Man City, it's hard to tell who Redknapp will choose to play upfront for Spurs. If Liverpool can start the season they way they ended their last campaign, then Spurs could be in trouble. With the departure of Alonso, Liverpool could struggle to maintain their crisp passing game. The game will most probably be decided by the performances of the Reds' only two truly world-class players.

The attractiveness of the fantasy league is that the remaining fixtures, as unglamorous as they might appear, could bag you the points to keep you flying high in the table. Stoke striker Beattie is going to fancy his chances at home to Premiership debutants Burnley. Nugent has been scoring for fun in preseason, and with Portsmouth having been forced into selling their star players he could be one of the surprise packages amongst the cheapest players on offer. Make sure you sign up before 5:30pm Saturday to put your armchair knowledge firmly on the line.

Relegation teams hunt for way back

Phouchung Neak players look dumbfounded after Naga Corp inflicted yet another Cambodian Premier League defeat on them Sunday at Olympic Stadium.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Ken Gadaffi

With relegation from the CPL more or less inevitable, CPL clubs Phouchung Neak and Post Tel FC are already starting to look for a financial loophole that would allow them back in the top flight next year

ITH just four rounds left of the Cambodian Premier League (CPL), and it's almost certain that Post Tel FC and Phouchung Neak are heading for relegation. Having been rooted to the bottom of the league all season, the Navy team Phouchung have yet to record a win, their only points coming from two draws, while Post Tel have as just seven points to show for their efforts.

However, Phouchung were relegated from the CPL last year, only to be granted a reinstatement by the Cambodian Football Federation (FFC) due to the withdrawal of promoted side Kampot FC, as well as a strong showing in the 2009 Samdech Hun Sen Cup.

The lower division, Division A1, is organised by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and is actually a knockout tournament run over two weeks, said FFC spokesman May Tola.

"Normally, there are all 24 clubs representating various provinces, and 4 to 6 teams from Phnom Penh who play in a short tournament in which the finalist go on to the CPL," stated May Tola.

This competition was concluded in June, with clubs Svay Rieng Province and Prek Pra FC from Kandal Province winning through to await promotion into the Premier League. However, due to the high running costs incurred by a club in the CPL, it is not yet certain whether these provincial sides will generate enough funds to maintain a team in the top league.

The FFC have stated that their place in the league is guaranteed by the terms of their promotion policy, however, if sufficient funds are not found, their place can be offered to another club, as happened at the start of the current season with Kampot FC and Phouchung Neak.

Phouchung and Post Tel have both noted their interest to reclaim a CPL spot in the next season. "We are looking at the possibility of taking up any available space if any of the promoted teams decline to come up to the premier league," said Chap Socheat, Deputy Secretary of Post Tel Club.

Navy coach Solomon Demagudu also asserted his team's willing to swoop on any chance to avoid relegation. "We are already looking forward to next season, starting with Samdech Hun Sen Cup, and hopefully we can find a team to take over in the CPL," he said.

Photo by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)

National baseball squad splits into teams

Cambodia's Moun Chanthorn pitches against Myanmar during their Asian Baseball Cup match in Bangkok on May 27. Moun Chanthorn struck out 8 batters and gave up 3 runs in a full 9-inning game. CBF

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
DAN RILEY

THE Cambodian Baseball Federation (CBF) will assemble its members Saturday for a national team draft day, during which players and coaches will be divided into two teams who are set to play each other 30 times from Monday until September 24.

Currently, 28 players and 4 coaches have been selected for the national team, with 11 more players also in consideration, after training together since July 25.

The teams will be named the Royals and the Braves, and will play all their games at Baribo field in Kampong Chhnang province, home of the CBF and birthplace of Cambodian baseball.

Team practice before Cup
One of the purposes of the national league is to allow potential national team players to practise team game situations in preparation for the South & West Asia Baseball Cup 2009 to be held in Dubai September 28 to October 2. The Cup was originally to be played in Pakistan, but had to be turned over to Dubai due to security concerns. Teams from Afghanistan, India, Iran Iraq, Myanmar, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will compete with Cambodia for the trophy. CBF President Joe Cook told the Post by email that the national team is looking to upset Myanmar in a rematch of the May 27 Asian Cup game in Bangkok, which Cambodia lost 3-1. Cook states that if his team can beat Myanmar, they will rank 60th in the world standings.

Cook also asserted that this year's focus in training would be on improving their offensive hitting, thanking coaches from the US and the China for their recent visits to Kingdom to help educate and develop the national team.

Police Blotter: 14 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
Lim Phalla

SIX ARRESTED IN TEACHER'S KILLING
Tuol Sangke commune police arrested six people on Tuesday who are suspected of killing and robbing 29-year-old teacher An Chan Tola, who worked at Russey Keo High School, of a motorbike, a cell phone and a diamond ring. The victim's body was then thrown into a lake in Ponhea Leu district in Kandal province. The high school teacher was tricked by his girlfriend, Seng Nana, who asked him to come to her house for dinner and then colluded with the other five perpetrators to strangle him, police said.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

STUDENT JAILED FOR BRICK KILLING
Twenty-year-old Sar Sochet was sentenced to three years in prison on Monday and was ordered to pay 20 million riels [US$4,859] in compensation for accidentally killing 19-year-old student Duok Vichay in Kandal province's Sa'ang district. The perpetrator drunkenly attempted to hurl a brick at a stray dog, but missed and hit the victim in the head.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

SERIAL BIKE THIEF GETS 11 YEARS
Thirty-five-year-old Y Pock was sentenced to 11 years in prison and was fined 5.7 million riels on Tuesday for stealing motorbikes. The thief would steal the bikes by telling their owners he was just borrowing them to go buy snacks and beer. But one victim suspected him and reported him to the police. Udong district police received five separate complaints about the perpetrator.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

LOVERS' QUARREL LEADS TO SUICIDE
An 18-year-old woman died at hospital on Monday one hour after she drank poison to kill herself. The event happened in Bati district, Takeo province, after the victim had been married for just one month. Her 19-year-old husband said he and his wife had argued after she asked him to borrow 50,000 riels. He refused because he was using all his savings - 120,000 riels - to cultivate his rice field.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

POLICEMAN, DRIVER SHOT IN ROBBERY
Two men attempted to steal a motorbike on Wednesday in Phnom Penh's Thmey commune, Sen Sok district. As the victim, 21-year-old Sin Panha, shouted for help, police came to his aid and exchanged gunfire with the perpetrators. Pov Nath, a tuk-tuk driver, and Prum Saroeun, a policeman, were wounded in the crossfire. The two robbers managed to escape safely with the motorbike in hand, police said.

Brief: Angkor Amateur Open

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 14 August 2009
DAN RILEY

SIEM REAP - The 2009 Angkor Amateur Golf Open tees off this weekend at Siem Reap's Angkor Golf Resort. Today will see a 48-strong field take to the course for practice rounds, with two days of Medal Play scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Twenty of the golfers boast a handicap of nine or less, with current Vietnam Amateur Open champion Ian Quek honouring an invitation. Countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and the US will also be represented. The 18-hole course, designed by recently knighted Sir Nick Faldo and opened February 1, 2008, was voted third-best new course in Asia by readers of Asian Golf Monthly.

Hun Sen Chides Mu Sochua’s Appeal Decision

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
13 August 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday appeared to mock opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, saying she made a mistake by suing him and forcing him to defend himself in a suit of his own.

Mu Sochua was fined for defamation earlier this month after she brought a suit against the premier for allegedly sexist remarks in a speech in April. Mu Sochua has vowed to appeal the decision.

“You were doing press conferences and filed a complaint against me, but now I’ve won the case in the municipal court,” Hun Sen said at a graduation speech in Phnom Penh, in apparent reference to Mu Sochua, who is the Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker for Kampot province.

“[They] said I sued a woman. Why can’t I?” Hun Sen said. “Can’t women make mistakes? [She] said she represents women; this type of woman can’t represent women; don’t make yourself so strong.”

“Now I said this,” the premier continued. “If you file another complaint, go ahead. I will continue by filing another complaint.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said the party supported Mu Sochua’s decision to appeal.

“The Sam Rainsy Party fully supports Mu Sochua,” he said. “Any decision she consciously makes will get the party’s support.”

India, ASEAN ink comprehensive trade pact

Indian Express
http://www.indianexpress.com

Smita Aggarwal
Friday , Aug 14, 2009

BANGKOK:

India and 10-country bloc ASEAN today signed a free trade agreement after more than six years of negotiations. The FTA will eliminate tariffs on products including electronics, chemicals, capital goods and textiles, that account for more than 80 per cent of total trade in goods between the two sides. Tariffs on these products will be reduced to zero between 2013 and 2016.

Agreement on trade under the comprehensive economic cooperation plan was signed by Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma with ASEAN economic ministers. “The agreement with ASEAN is well-balanced and is in harmony with India’s Look East policy,” Sharma said after the signing ceremony.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Indian domestic concerns have been addressed in the agreement by retaining a duty protection of five per cent on sensitive products. Besides, 489 items have been kept in the negative list.

Coping with global connections


Anne-Laure Porée

Even after growth returns, Cambodia will still have to figure out how to hitch its industry to the global economy profitably rather than be a supplier of garments produced by cheap labour

Defying the gloom descending on the tourism sector brought about by the global crisis, the Cambodian capital’s airport recently launched a hopeful initiative: a new airline. Cambodia Angkor Air was launched to boost tourism between the capital and Siem Reap near the famed ruins of Angkor Wat. With tourist arrivals falling sharply since late last year, this may signal a triumph of hope over reality. If anything, the hopes and fears surrounding Cambodia’s tourist revenue and garment trade underline how the fortune of the country has become intertwined with the larger world.

Since peace came to Cambodia in the last years of the last century, the country has emerged as a poster child of globalisation in Southeast Asia. In the middle of this decade, Cambodia enjoyed double digit growth and even hoisted itself up to 6th place in the rank of the fastest growing economies for the 1998-2007 period.

And now the country is experiencing the downside of dependence on the world. The sectors most affected by the crisis — tourism and garment export — are the ones that have seen the most development thanks to the integration of Cambodia into the global economy a decade ago, after peace was restored in the country. At this time, the economy was opened to foreign investors, who poured money into the garment industry, taking advantage of supports granted to Cambodia such as the Most Favoured Nation and the Generalised System of Preferences. This status provided access to the American market and it enabled other Asian investors — Chinese in particular — to get round their own quotas or the Least Developed Country status conferred upon them by the UN.

But the happy days are now threatened by the shrinking world market. Of the four major pillars of Cambodian economy — the garment industry, tourism, construction and agriculture — three are seriously impaired by the global crisis. With 70 percent of Cambodia’s garment production going to the US, the declining American economy, choosey shoppers and stay-at-home tourists have led to job losses in Cambodia.

The figures released in late July by the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) showed a worse than anticipated loss: exports dropped almost 30 percent and one garment worker in 6 lost her job in the first six months of 2009. Most of these workers are women who transfer a substantial part of their earnings to their family living in rural areas in order to supplement farming-based incomes. In some villages, every family has one or several members working in the garment factories based in the Phnom Penh suburbs. Some go for unpaid leaves or part time jobs, some enter prostitution, but most decide to go back to their village in order to work in the rice fields.

According to Van Sou Ieng, GMAC president, Cambodia is much more severely affected by the crisis than other Asian countries because the industry sector in Cambodia is less competitive.

Tourism has suffered from the economic crisis, and the fallout from the swine flu. In Siem Reap, located next to the famed Angkor temples, a spot visited by more than 1 million tourists in 2008, the situation is described as “catastrophic” by hotel managers. The drop in Western tourists’ arrivals has a direct impact on tourism generated incomes — foreigners spent 1.6 billion dollars in 2008. The Ministry of Economy and Finance expects a drop in tourism growth of 7 to 8 percent this year.

The construction sector is also affected: many foreign investors have delayed, reduced or slowed their projects. The capital Phnom Penh started to change face in 2008 with the building of huge towers, business centres and shopping malls but activity slid in the second half of 2008, leaving workers without employment. Such trends have had significant consequences, particularly among the banking sector. Cambodians, who speculated on land as investment, are now facing difficulties because the prices of land and real estate have plunged and they can’t sell and get cash.

The hardest hit, of course, are the poorest of the poor who count each riel. For them, any drop in income, as well as any unexpected crisis, immediately results in cutting down the number of meals per day.

Agriculture, the fourth pillar of the Cambodian economy and the least exposed to global currents, could bolster the country’s 2009 growth, which is forecast at 2.1 percent. The agricultural sector (with 4.3 percent growth expected in 2009 depending on weather conditions) is essentially based on rice farming and fishing. But the part of agriculture that has drawn foreign interest proves to be a mixed blessing.

In northeastern Mondolkiri province, plans by a French company to set up a rubber plantation have created a conflict that symbolises the double edged sword of globalisation. For several months, Bunong, a Montagnards ethnic group, has been fighting against the project — as their farmland gets swallowed up by the rubber company that has an agreement with the Cambodian government. The company is expected to make huge profits, a part of which could return to the community via the salaries of the plantation workers and the development of a new city.

The crisis has forced the government to pay attention to those left behind by globalisation. “We thought that the private sector could solve every problem but we have to reconsider the role to be played by the State in order to palliate the deficiencies of the market,” says Hang Chuon Naron, Secretary General of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

The crisis has also led to calls for injecting government funds into the economy and for pushing reforms, in particular against endemic corruption. But the government would rather let the storm blow over, waiting for growth to come back in developed countries, hopefully pulling the country out of its recession in the process.

In the meantime, some hopes turn to the mineral, oil and gas resources development. But the revenues from these productions will be mainly derived from exports of raw materials with no local added value, whereas imports of manufactured goods will increase. Even after growth returns, Cambodia will still have to figure out how to hitch its industry to the global economy profitably rather than be a supplier of garments produced by cheap labour. Cambodia is beginning to learn the challenge of being part of an integrated world. —YaleGlobal

Anne-Laure Porée is a journalist based in Phnom Penh

SWINE FLU: MOST AT RISK


Thursday , Aug 13, 2009

DIABETICS

Being sick by itself can raise your blood glucose. Moreover, illness can prevent you from eating properly, which further affects blood glucose.

In addition, diabetes can make the immune system more vulnerable to severe cases of the flu. People with diabetes who come down with the flu may become very sick and may even have to go to a hospital. You can help keep yourself from getting the flu by getting a flu shot every year. Everyone with diabetes—even pregnant women—should get a yearly flu shot. The best time to get one is between October and mid-November, before the flu season begins.

HIV PATIENTS

At present there is no confirmed information about risk of the H1N1 flu in people with HIV/AIDS. In the past, people with HIV/AIDS have not appeared to be at any greater risk than the general population for infection with routine seasonal influenza. However, HIV-infected adults and adolescents, and especially persons with low CD4 cell counts or AIDS, can experience more severe complications of seasonal influenza. It is therefore possible that HIV-infected adults and adolescents are also at higher risk for complications from infection with the H1N1 flu virus.

Cambodian HIV Villages Draws Controversy

2009-8-13

25 kilometers outside of Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, lies a village built by the government for HIV-infected patients and their families.

Come to be known as the "AIDS colony", in the past two months the government has relocated 47 families to live in its metal and wooden sheds.

With inadequate sanitation and no running water, the area is not a health sanctuary for HIV-infected patients, who require personal attention and care.

The government maintains it is taking care of patients by building new homes and offering healthcare and ownership rights previously unavailable.

But HIV-infected people living in the village say they have not received any official recognition of ownership rights nor government compensation for their old homes.

40-year-old HIV patient Chheang Toma says even with free medical treatment, he has no real means of earning a living in the colony.

[Chheang Toma, HIV Patient]:
"I feel sluggish in my arms and on my legs everyday and I cannot walk well. I will hang on, until the day I need to go to sleep in the hospital. I wanted to go now, but I have no money to spend for food, although they give treatment free of charge."

With little prospect of work in the area due to the distance from the city, people say they must survive largely on donations from the government and NGOs.

[Suon Davy, HIV Patient]:
"I face great difficulty for my family day to day, because we live far away from the hospital, far from any job opportunities and it is very hot here."

Local human rights activist Dr. Kek Galabru says the government actions are discriminatory while the conditions could pose health risks to already vulnerable patients.

[Dr. Kek Galabru, President, Lacadho NGO]:
"It's regretful that city hall sent 40 families to Tuol Sambo village. This is a discriminatory act because by putting them together like this, everyone will know this is an AIDS community."

The "AIDS colony" is one of a number of forced evictions in Cambodia, where the government has faced escalating criticism about its mandatory relocations.

Many HIV-infected people living in Tuol Sambo previously resided in squatter areas in the Borei Keila area of the capital, forced out as the government took over the land to build high-rise buildings.

Last month, the World Bank urged Cambodia to halt the forced evictions from disputed land, saying it threatened the livelihoods of thousands of urban dwellers.

Cambodia genocide tribunal to get anti-corruption oversight


Thursday, August 13, 2009
Jaclyn Belczyk

[JURIST] UN and Cambodian officials on Wednesday announced the establishment [press release] of an independent counselor to oversee anti-corruption efforts at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive]. The parties mutually agreed to appoint Cambodian Auditor General Uth Chhorn to the position. According to a joint statement by Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Royal Government Task Force on the Khmer Rouge Trials Sok An and UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen:

The designation of an Independent Counsellor builds on the existing structure of national and international Ethics Monitors and the Joint Sessions established by the Joint Statements of 10 December 2008 and 23 February 2009. It represents a further step to help strengthen the human resources management in the entire ECCC administration, including anti-corruption measures, to ensure the requirements of due process of law, including full protection of staff on both sides of the ECCC against any possible retaliation for good faith reporting of wrongdoing. In this context, the Independent Counsellor will be available to all staff to bring forward any concerns confidentially, and will be empowered to address such concerns.
Both parties expressed hope that ECCC staff would now be able to raise concerns without fear of retaliation
The ECCC, established to try those responsible for atrocities committed during the 1975-79 rule of the Khmer Rouge [BBC backgrounder], has been plagued by accusations of corruption. Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called [JURIST report] on the ECCC to determine the scope of its prosecutions "to thwart growing perceptions that court decisions are directed by the government." In February, HRW warned that the ECCC trials were in danger of being tainted for their failure to follow fair trial standards, and in January a Cambodian court agreed to hear a corruption case [JURIST reports] involving two ECCC judges. The ECCC is in the midst of the first trial of a former Khmer Rouge leader, Kaing Guek Eav [TrialWatch backgrounder, JURIST news archive], also known as "Duch." Kaing's trial is the first of eight [JURIST report] that the ECCC hopes to hear against former members of the Khmer Rouge, which has been accused of murdering 1.7 million Cambodians during its nearly four-year reign.