Wednesday, 4 November 2009

US officials meet Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi


Aung San Suu Kyi (C) arrives for a meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell (L) at the Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon November 4, 2009. A delegation of senior U.S. officials, pursuing a new dialogue, met with Myanmar's military rulers on Tuesday in the highest-level talks with the reclusive junta in 14 years. The move by President Barack Obama's administration to engage the junta appeared focused on pushing for free and fair elections next year, although analysts said the rapprochement was as much about geopolitics and the growing regional influence of China. REUTERS/Aung Hla Tun


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

YANGON, Myanmar – A U.S. State Department official met Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday in a visit that marked the highest-ranking talks between an American and Myanmar's detained opposition leader in 14 years.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, greeted Suu Kyi with a handshake after she was driven to his lakeside hotel in Yangon where they met privately for two hours, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Mei.

Campbell and his deputy, Scot Marciel, are the highest-level Americans to visit Myanmar since 1995. Their two-day trip, which included talks with senior junta officials, stems from a new U.S. policy that reverses the Bush administration's isolation of Myanmar in favor of dialogue with a country that has been ruled by the military since 1962.

The topic of talks with Suu Kyi was not immediately known, but the meeting offered the Nobel Peace Prize laureate her first trip in years to outside the confines of her dilapidated home and a nearby government guesthouse, where she has met U.N. and junta officials in the past. The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest and for shorter periods at Myanmar's notorious Insein Prison.

Suu Kyi, dressed in a pink traditional Burmese jacket, was upbeat as she emerged from the hotel and joked with photographers who asked her to smile.

"Do I look pretty when I smile," Suu Kyi said as she smiled for the cameras.

"Hello to you all," she said, before getting into a car that whisked her back to her tightly guarded home.

The U.S. visit is the second step in "the beginning of a dialogue with Burma," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters in Washington on Tuesday after the officials had met with senior junta officials in Myanmar's administrative capital of Naypyitaw.

"They laid out the way we see this relationship going forward, how we should structure this dialogue," Kelly said. "But they were mainly in a listening mode."

Campbell is continuing talks he began in September in New York with senior Myanmar officials, which at the time were the first such high-level contact in nearly a decade.

Campbell met Wednesday morning with Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein before flying to Yangon, the commercial capital, Mei said.

Campbell is scheduled to meet later in the afternoon with leaders of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party at their headquarters, followed by talks with other political parties before leaving Myanmar in the evening.

Suu Kyi was recently sentenced to an additional 18 months of house arrest for briefly sheltering an uninvited American, in a trial that drew global condemnation. The sentence means she will not be able to participate in next year's elections, which will be the first in two decades.

For years, the United States had isolated the junta with political and economic sanctions, which failed to force the generals to respect human rights, release jailed political activists and make democratic reforms. The Obama administration decided recently to step up engagement as a way of promoting reforms.

Washington has said it will maintain the sanctions until talks with Myanmar's generals result in change.

Campbell is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Myanmar since a September 1995 trip by then-U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright.

Subaru challenge to rope in contestants from Vietnam, Cambodia next year


By Evelyn Choo, Channel NewsAsia
Posted: 04 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

SINGAPORE : This year's MediaCorp Subaru Impreza WRX Challenge saw good response from seven Southeast Asian countries.

And so next year, organisers plan to bring in contestants from two more nations.

40-year-old Mohd Anuar won this year's competition.

It was his second time competing, but Mohd Anuar didn't quite come prepared, having ended work a few hours prior to the start of competition.

What's more, he was also down with fever on day one.

Nevertheless, he prevailed beating even the 69 overseas contestants.

And organisers are set to have a stronger Southeast Asian flavour next year.

"This year's weather was very extreme - there were thunderstorms and a lot of raining... We were surprised that the contestants lasted a long time, especially the Thai contestants. Next year, we're looking to bring more regional countries. We're looking at Vietnam and maybe even Cambodia," said Glenn Tan, group chief executive of Motor Image.

This year's contest also had some drama - when runner-up Santozkumar Poonsolai refused defeat after one of his finger moved slightly out of the palm print.

"The rules of the competition are your hand needs to be on the palm print. If any part of the finger or palm gets out of the print, you're disqualified. So it was very clear. My marshall who caught him with a finger out of the palm print told us, and we had to do what we had to do," said Steven Choo, AVP of Programming at MediaCorp Radio.

Mohd Anuar may have won the S$81,000 Subaru Impreza, but interestingly the Singaporean who works as a steersman, said he's a biker at heart and plans to buy a Harley soon. - CNA /ls

Local man makes good on vow to help rid Cambodia of mines


Bill Morse of Palm Springs has joined with well-known ex-Cambodian child soldier Aki Ra on his campaign to rid Cambodia of the deadly landmines that pock the country's beautiful landscape. (Omar Ornelas The Desert Sun)

A world traveler, Morse has moved to Southeast Asia on a mission to help his new neighbors

Maggie Downs • The Desert Sun • November 4, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The scene is bucolic. Swollen clouds hang in a technicolor blue sky.
Schoolchildren, on break for lunch, ride their bikes in the distance. A cow grazes on lush grass next to a dirt road.

Only when you notice the objects lining the path do things seem slightly askew.

Bombs.

They stand on end, ushering visitors into The Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Center.

It's a modest $2 to enter the facility, and the paper ticket reassures visitors, “Everything on display has been inspected 100 percent free from explosives.”

The displays are horrific. The centerpiece of the structure is a glass gazebo stacked with thousands of landmines in all shapes and sizes. Every room opens another chapter in the bloody genocide that stole more than 20 percent of the country's population between 1970 and 1979.

Even more horrific is the number of explosives that remain active in Cambodia. Though it's impossible to know exactly how many landmines still pepper the jungles and fields, estimates range from 6 to 10 million.

These weapons kill and maim thousands of children, farmers and other civilians every year.

That's why Palm Springs resident Bill Morse volunteered to help.
Clearing mines

The museum was established by Aki Ra, a former child soldier for the Khmer Rouge. In the 1980s, he sometimes placed up to 1,000 landmines per day.

He doesn't like to talk about that period, though. Aki Ra is focused on making the future better, not dwelling on the past.

Aki Ra has since devoted his life to making his country safe again. He has now cleared more than 50,000 landmines, an expensive, tedious, dangerous task — and one that he did by hand until six years ago.

That's when Morse entered the picture.

Morse and his wife, Jill, are adventurers by nature. The couple has traveled the globe, leading tours through Africa, China, Thailand, Peru, Israel, Tahiti, New Zealand, even trekking to the base camp at Mount Everest.

When they went to Cambodia, though, they had no idea how much their lives would change.

Morse heard stories about Aki Ra — who was seeking out and deactivating landmines with a stick — from a friend who was raising money to buy a metal detector for him.

Morse was instantly impressed by this man. Beyond running a landmine museum and clearing explosives, Aki Ra was also caring for dozens of children who were brutally wounded by mines.

Here was someone willing to place his life on the line in order to help his neighbors live a better life. Nothing could be more admirable.

Morse told Aki Ra he wanted to help.

The Cambodian said he'd heard that story before.

“No, really,” Morse insisted. “I'm going to help you.”

And he made good on his promise.

Getting things done

Morse is one of those people who chips away steadily to get things done. As proof, look to the 11 marathons he has under his belt or ask him about the time he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

So as soon as he made up his mind to assist Aki Ra, Morse got busy.

He sold his sales and marketing consulting business in Palm Springs, then started spending about 8 months a year in Cambodia.

He helped Aki Ra get international certification and a license from the Cambodian government to legally remove the mines. He accompanied Aki Ra in the jungle, sought out explosives, helped disarm them. And he established the Landmine Relief Fund, becoming its director.

When back in the desert, Morse hosted events at Peabody's Cafe, raising thousands of dollars for landmine clearing efforts.

He also worked tirelessly, writing grant proposals, calling government officials and meeting with other groups to secure funds for his organization.

The work recently paid off with a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.

Part of the grant money is earmarked for the purchase of a much-needed truck. It will also be used to establish a rapid response team that can quickly respond to villagers who find mines and need assistance.

“It gives us some breathing room for the things we want to do,” Morse said.

Last month Bill and Jill Morse packed up their belongings and turned their desert house over to renters.

These days home is a small place in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The couple will be living there full-time for the next two years. Maybe more.

They figure it's the least they can do for an entire country that lives each day in fear.

“My wife and I have been able to travel the world and we've been astounded again and again to find that those who suffer most from our wanton disregard for basic human safety are often the ones who greet us with the biggest smiles, the warmest handshakes and the most gracious hospitality,” Morse said.

“We are the lucky ones.”

They have embraced Aki Ra's example: Rather than focusing on the ghosts of Cambodia's past, they look toward the country's future.

Maggie Downs is a features reporter for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at (760) 778-6435 or maggie.downs@thedesertsun.com.

Cambodia tourism rebound continues in September as arrivals rise


November 4, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 4 — Cambodia's key tourism sector showed further signs of recovery in September, local media reported on Wednesday, citing the newly released Ministry of Tourism data, although all-important air arrivals remained down on last year.


Total arrivals in the Kingdom hit 151,937 in September, the figures showed, up 4.68 percent on the same period last year and beating average annualized growth in first eight months of the year at l.68 percent, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

However, air arrivals, which bring in longer term, long-haul passengers that traditionally spend more, remained well down from last year.

In September, 72,671 air passengers flew into Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports, down from 82,764 during the same month last year, a drop of 12.5 percent.

Though more passengers arrived by air in the first eight months of last year than in the first nine months of this year, September's fall was better than the 13.03 percent decline recorded on average over the first eight months, suggesting things are picking up after a dismal first three months of the year.

Also, visitors to Siem Reap – Cambodia's main tourism destination – fell 8.45 percent in the first nine months on last year, while 12.18 percent more visitors went to Phnom Penh over the same period.

Latest figures showed that the third quarter was the best of the year with a 8.39-percent rise in total arrivals compared to growth of 2.25 percent in the second quarter and a contraction of 3.4 percent in the first. (PNA/Xinhua)

Capstone in Cambodia

http://www.dailyvanguard.com/

Upcoming Capstone reaches out to the international community

By Carrie Johnston
Vanguard staff

Published: Wednesday, November 4, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Next summer, 12 students will travel to Southeast Asia to complete their Senior Capstone requirement.


Christopher Carey, assistant professor, will accompany the students as they observe the Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The University Studies Program, which urges local community-based learning, includes the course due to its relevance and involvement in the large and active Portland Cambodian community.

The chosen students will spend five to six days at the tribunals and will have chances to speak with the judges and attorneys involved. Select days will also be spent in Angkor Wat to visit and absorb local culture.

The Capstone students will examine the tribunals through observation and by conducting interviews with judges, lawyers and survivors.

“The course is designed to expose students to international travel, the peace and reconciliation process and how the law operates in the developing world,” Carey said.

Upon returning to Portland State to analyze their research and findings, students will prepare a presentation at a to-be-announced Cambodian community awareness event.

There will be an interview process in late spring of 2010, and students will leave for Cambodia in early summer, allowing students the opportunity to travel as they wish following their studies.

Carey hopes to find students who are flexible, mature and collaborative. Given the ambitious nature of the program, he recommends students possess a strong interest in travel and intercultural communication.

Students will be working with the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE), a community partner in Cambodia, to help collect data and record their observations. They will also work to understand, analyze and disseminate their findings to both academic and popular print outlets.

Carey is a former deputy district attorney who currently works as a University Studies assistant professor. He served as the executive director of a U.S.-based nonprofit focused on addressing human trafficking, safe migration and gender-based violence through culturally grounded, rights-based solutions.

The California Judicial System identified him as an expert on the topic of human trafficking and intercultural communication, an area where he recently testified as a witness.

The Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal is in response to the nearly 2 million Cambodians who died while the Khmer Rouge was in power. The deaths and crimes against humanity were due to its inhumane policies, which included forced labor, executions, starvation and torture.

These war crimes were part of the Khmer Rouge’s effort to dismantle their existing society and build a communist nation in the late 1970s.

Three decades later, contemporary Cambodia is still struggling with millions of leftover land mines, dire poverty and an unstable agricultural system.

The trials are an attempt at enforcing accountability for one of the most notorious mass atrocities of the last century.

“We will be looking at how a country heals after a horrible tragedy,” Carey said.

More information about the Capstone class will be available spring term.

Vietnam Set To Reinforce Practical Ties With Cambodia


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

HANOI, Nov 4 (Bernama) -- Vietnam expects to join efforts with Cambodia to develop bilateral relations in a bid to bring practical benefits to both sides, said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Dung made this statement while receiving here Tuesday Cambodian Permanent Deputy PM Men Sam An, who doubles as President of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Association (CVFA), Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

The government leader noted with pleasure that Vietnam-Cambodia ties have grown fruitfully, especially in the fields of politics, diplomacy, economics and trade, despite the impact of the global economic crisis.

The two nations have also cooperated smoothly in maintaining security, border demarcation and marker planting, mitigating damage caused by natural disasters and facilitating cooperative relations between border provinces, he said.

Dung spoke highly of the efforts of both the CVFA and Men Sam An in beefing up their bilateral relationship, saying that the Vietnamese government will create favourable conditions for the two sides to cooperate effectively, not only at the central level, but also among local chapters.

The PM asked the two associations to increase the dissemination of information about the time-honoured friendship amongst younger generations, and step up coordination at international forums, particularly in Asean and APEC.

Regarding acts and statements made by Sam Rainsy - President of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), who recently uprooted six temporary poles for Marker 185 between Vietnam's southern province of Long An and Cambodia's Svay Rieng province - he proposed that the Cambodian government take due measures to deal with Rainsy's acts of sabotage and not permit similar cases to occur, as they negatively affect the fine relations between the two nations.

Having expressed delight at effective cooperation in economics, trade and investment, An said the two nations need to expand cooperation into the areas of aviation, post and telecommunications and banking.

The deputy PM stated that Sam Rainsy's recent acts destroyed a national asset and violated the laws of Cambodia , undermining its fine relationship with Vietnam.

Empowered by the State President, Dung bestowed a Friendship Order on the Cambodian official.

The same day, Politburo member and permanent member of the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee, Truong Tan Sang, received the Cambodian guests.

Sang applauded the CVFA's collaboration with its Vietnamese counterpart and other partners from both countries to organise practical activities which have helped to beef up friendship and cooperation between their two peoples.

The Party official said he hoped that the two associations would work together to hold more such activities in future for the sake of Vietnam-Cambodia relations.

Also on Tuesday, the Cambodian delegates worked with the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) and the Vietnam Women's Union.

VUFO President Vu Xuan Hong took this occasion to present the union's noblest award--the insignia "For peace and friendship between nations" -- to Men Sam An and four other members of the Cambodian delegation.

-- BERNAMA

VN set to reinforce practical ties with Cambodia



Empowered by the State President, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (R) gives away the Friendship Order to Cambodian Permanent Deputy PM Men Sam An at the Government Office in Hanoi on Nov.3. (Photo: Vietnam News Agency)

Wed, Nov 4, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Vietnam expects to join efforts with Cambodia to develop bilateral relations in a bid to bring practical benefits to both sides, said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

PM Dung made this statement while receiving Cambodian Permanent Deputy PM Men Sam An, who doubles as President of the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Association (CVFA), in Hanoi on Nov. 3.

The government leader noted with pleasure that Vietnam-Cambodia ties have grown fruitfully, especially in the fields of politics, diplomacy, economics and trade, despite the impact of the global economic crisis.

The two nations have also cooperated smoothly in maintaining security, border demarcation and marker planting, mitigating damage caused by natural disasters and facilitating cooperative relations between border provinces, he said.

PM Dung spoke highly of the efforts of both the CVFA and Men Sam An in beefing up their bilateral relationship, saying that the Vietnamese government will create favorable conditions for the two sides to cooperate effectively, not only at the central level, but also among local chapters.

The PM asked the two associations to increase the dissemination of information about the time-honored friendship amongst younger generations, and step up coordination at international forums, particularly in ASEAN and APEC.

Regarding acts and statements made by Sam Rainsy - President of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), who recently uprooted six temporary poles for Marker 185 between Vietnam’s southern province of Long An and Cambodia’s Svay Rieng province - he proposed that the Cambodian government take due measures to deal with Rainsy’s acts of sabotage and not permit similar cases to occur, as they negatively affect the fine relations between the two nations.

Having expressed delight at effective cooperation in economics, trade and investment, An said the two nations need to expand cooperation into the areas of aviation, post and telecommunications and banking.

The deputy PM stated that Sam Rainsy’s recent acts destroyed a national asset and violated the laws of Cambodia, undermining its fine relationship with Vietnam.

Empowered by the State President, PM Dung bestowed a Friendship Order on the Cambodian official.

The same day, Politburo member and permanent member of the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee, Truong Tan Sang, received the Cambodian guests.

Mr. Sang applauded the CVFA’s collaboration with its Vietnamese counterpart and other partners from both countries to organize practical activities which have helped to beef up friendship and cooperation between their two peoples.

The Party official said he hoped that the two associations would work together to hold more such activities in future for the sake of Vietnam-Cambodia relations.

Also on Nov. 3, the Cambodian delegates worked with the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO) and the Vietnam Women’s Union.

VUFO President Vu Xuan Hong took this occasion to present the union’s noblest award--the insignia “For peace and friendship between nations”--to Men Sam An and four other members of the Cambodian delegation

Source: Vietnam News Agency

Ex-US President Carter Plans Cambodia Visit


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 04 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Jimmy Carter, an ex-president of the United States, and his family plan to visit Cambodia in November to help a humanitarian project.

Carter’s visit is a part of humanitarian project called Mekong Building to run November 16-20, according to the Cambodian National Humanity Homeland Organization, which has for three years helped thousands of families in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Southwest China.

The project will construct 21 houses in only 5 days with the support of the International Volunteers (IV), over 300 persons from 21 families who will be transferred from the Stung Meanchey garbage dump to the Oudong district of Kampong Speu province.

Carter will join participants from 5 other countries as well as Cambodia.

The Mekong Building project will construct 166 residences in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and China. The Cambodian Govern- ment hopes the new project and the visit of the ex-president will benefit the poor.

The relocated Stung Meanchey evictees are said now to be hopeful about their new land far from the capital.

Cambodia Signs Anti-deforestation Agreement


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 04 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia and four other countries have joined a United Nations initiative aimed at combating climate change by creating incentives for poorer countries to reverse the trend of deforestation and invest in more sustainable forms of development, a UN press release said on Tuesday.

Five countries, Argentina, Cam-bodia, Ecuador, Nepal and Sri Lanka, were each asked to participate in the Reducing Emissions from Defores- tation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) initiative, it said, adding to the initial 9 member countries.

“Instead of demanding concessions for carbon emissions reductions from others, we must ask how we can contribute to a better world,” Chief of Cambodia’s forestry administration Ty Sokun said last week at a climate change forum in Singapore. Ty Sokun’s remarks could also have been addressed to the heads of state and officials due to negotiate on climate change in Copenhagen in December, on the future of the Kyoto Protocol. World climate change negotiators have failed to agree on how to implement the target of below 2 degrees Celsius temperature increases, which would otherwise have devastating negative impacts on life. The Kyoto Protocol, expiring in 2012, requires developed countries limit or reduce Green house Gases (GHG) emission.

According to a press release from the UN, Cambodia and other countries signed on November 2, and they said they wanted to benefit from the expertise generated by UN-REDD and its activities, particularly concerning improved consultations with indigenous peoples and civil society. UN-REDD, which is a partnership between the Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Development Program, and the UN Environment Program, hopes to eventually generate up to US$30 billion a year of financial flows from rich countries to poor nations to help them reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The initiative targets deforestation and forest degradation as related activities such as agricultural expansion, the conversion of forests to pasture land, infrastructure development, destructive logging and fires account for almost 20 percent of global emissions of greenhouse gases.

In its first year of operations, UN-REDD has approved more than US$37 million in funding for the national anti-deforestation programs of countries, including Panama, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Vietnam. The program says another 20 countries have voiced interest in joining. Denmark also announced Nov2 that it is become the second country donor to the program after Norway.

In Cambodia, The William J. Clinton Foundation also promised a reforestation and deforestation reduction program. Recently, South Korea also promised to help Cambodia with forestry and tree planting against climate change.

Three thieves nabbed at Water Festival


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 04 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday processed alleged three thieves for stealing rings, necklaces and mobile phones from Cambodian visitors in front of the Cambodian Royal Palace during the first day of the Water Festival, a court official said. All three men were said to be Muslims.

Daun Penh police sent all three thieves, Ly Amath, 20, Ly Toloh, 21, and Ly Hasweth, 20, all live in the Russey Keo district of Phnom Penh.

Ly Toloh told the court that “I did not make any mistake, I was near the victim, but the police report is not true.”

An anonymous police source conceded Ly Toloh’s arrest was based solely on the account of victims of theft.

Ly Hasweth admitted to unsuccessfully trying to steal a ring and a necklace.

Another of the accused admitted to a foiled attempt to steal a mobile phone. The unidentified police added that “The two suspects were really with the evidences, Cambodian visitor Sun Chakriya lose ring neck and Srun Nearng Ratha also lose a mobile phone and So Samphors lose ring neck as well, after they loses, they voiced loudly to help and pointed to the three men who nearer them.”

Despite the protests of Ly Toloh, the Municipal Court Judge Ek Chheng Hourt charged all men with theft and remanded them in jail.

On Monday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Judgment Court remanded four Vietnamese women in jail pending a later trial.

The police have a major undertaking in preventing crime during the annual Water Festival Ceremony, which attracts around 2 million visitors. Anecdotal accounts of street crime are common.

Cambodia Rejects PAD’s Demands


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 04 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Royal Camb- odian Armed Forces Army (RCAF) strongly rejected one Thai group’s demands the Bangkok Government close Cambodia’s embassy in Thailand and close border gates between the two countries.

Chea Dara, RCAF chief, warned the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) that Cambodian soldiers would not withdraw from a 4.6 square kilometer area around Khmer Preah Vihear Temple. “They really bother us. If they want the land near Preah Vihear, I say please come, and they will be welcome to die here. If they do not believe it, they can come.”

Hundreds of PAD supporters rallied in front of the Bangkok Government House, demanding their leaders close the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok and withdraw Thai Embassy personnel from Phnom Penh. The PAD also demanded the closure of two border gates between the countries. “We cannot do as requested by this small group and we never recognized the area of 4.5 square kilometers as disputed at all. Thai leaders made this map on their own so we reject it completely,” Chea Dara said.

Koy Kuong, MFA spokesman, said the PAD’s demand is not in line with Bangkok’s Cambodia policy.

“The bilateral relationship between the countries is still good and Cambodia does not care about this small group,” Koy Kuong added.

Storm in Mondulkiri Kills Two


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 04 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Two people were killed, two injured, and 7 houses damaged in two districts, Cambodia’s northeast province of Mondulkiri by a storm on Monday night, according the provincial police commission.

The province was hit by a storm around 9 pm on Monday in Pich Chhrea Da district, killing two citizens and injured two more, with 6 houses destroyed and crops damaged. One house was damaged in Koh Nhek district, the source added.

However, the storm has since mostly abated, with the strong winds dying down.

Department Director of the Ministry Water Resources and Meteorology Seth Sovannareth said that the storm was not a result of Typhoon Marinae from the Philippines.

“It is a local hurricane which took place in Mondulkiri province, but its pressure became low at 1 am on Tuesday,” Seth Sovannareth added.

Typhoon Marinae killed 16 in the Philippines on Sunday.

Cambodia was recently affected by Typhoon Ketsana, which killed more than 20 and injured many more. The Government has estimated the damage at around US$44 million.

Water Festival Ends Without Incident


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 04 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The 3-day Water Festival in Phnom Penh ended without any serious incident, though showers put a slight dampener on events, said Chea Kean, deputy director of the National and International Preparati on Ceremony Committee.

The third day of the Water Festival saw heavy showers.

“There was very good preparation of the ceremony for the third day even though some rain fell,” Chea Kean told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday.

On the third day of the ceremony King Norodom Sihamoni sat in the palace stand despite the rain.

The smiling King waved with both hands to thousands of Cambo-dian citizens as the results of the races were announced outside the royal palace.

Teenage Drug Trafficker Arrested


Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 04 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh Municipal Court processed a suspected drugs trafficker on Tuesday, according to a court official said.

Sang Sovannara was arrested in the infamous ‘Boding’ block of flats in Chamkar Mon by district police who and stands accused of trafficking drug and drugs use.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Vice Judge Ek Chheng Hourt sent Sang Sovannara into the temporary custody of the judicial police.

Police found the suspect in possession of 5 packages of methamphetamine, also known as ‘ice’. Sovannara has not previously been arrested. After his arrest, his family and others tried to contact high-ranking officials to arrange the suspect’s release, but all were unsuccessful. The ‘Boding’ has become well known as a nest of illegal vices, including narcotics and prostitution. Repeated attempts to crack down on the area’s crime have netted only the lower level offenders, with the gang leaders evading justice.

A cleaner, sparser festival



Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Racers compete in the dragon boat races at the Water Festival on Tuesday morning in Phnom Penh.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:03 Jacob Gold and May Titthara

LONG before the first vendor from the provinces unrolled her woven mat and set down her bundle of wares, the organisers of this year’s Water Festival in Phnom Penh anticipated low attendance. Typhoon Ketsana left tens of thousands of families struggling to rebuild and replant, cut off from roads and waterways and in a far-from-festive mood. The effects of the global economic crisis further tightened household budgets, and even without these disasters, the 2009 festival simply couldn’t compare to last year’s all-out extravaganza, which coincided with the 575th anniversary of Phnom Penh and Cambodia’s 55th Independence Day.

Sure enough, the turnout was low: Upwards of 2 million Cambodians usually pour into the capital for the Water Festival. This year, official estimates put that number at 1 million. In Siem Reap last year, 30,000 visitors joined in the festivities, whereas this year it was only 24,000.

Far from putting a gloomy cast on the first days of the dry season, however, this year’s Water Festival went to show that outside of the boat races, Bon Om Tuk is more than just a competition; it’s a national party.

On the whole, Sok Penhvuth, deputy governor of Daun Penh district, considered this year’s attendees a good bunch. “This year, the number of people who attended the Water Festival was less than we expected: it was about one million people, but I am proud of the people who came to visit this year,” he said. “They are respectful and orderly.” The smaller crowd meant this year’s festival was cleaner and safer than usual.


Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
King Norodom Sihamoni (right) greets Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) and Assembly President Heng Samrin at the festival on Tuesday.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said: “This year was very well managed. We kept everything in good order – vendors along the street, security, traffic and garbage.”

Overall visitor numbers dwindled, but racing teams fell only from 424 to 391. In heat after heat, for three days, rowers hove in for all they were worth to propel their dragon boats over the finish line. Sisowath Quay was lined with spectators, shoving and rubbernecking, egged on by loudspeakers blaring out the boaters’ rallying cries and the frenetic commentary of an announcer who sounded like he was one upset away from diving into the water himself.

There were heavily attended concerts, nightly salvoes of fireworks and a village of vending booths in the NagaWorld parking lot. At the end of each night, when the racing boats were tethered and the stages empty, one could stroll along the riverfront, admiring the giant, floating lightbulb murals. Camping out below a portrait of the King, hundreds gathered in little circles for a final meal, a final drink, the smoke from cooking fires hanging in the air.

On Tuesday, the boulevards around Independence Monument were still packed with young people, vehicles turned away by heavily staffed police cordons. Everyone was trying to squeeze the last drop out of the festival before heading back home. Then the clouds gathered – a heavy rain began to fall. It was over.

Sadly, one boat racer died. Chea Sokhom, vice president and secretary general of the festival committee, identified the rower as Ly Phea, a 43-year-old from Koh Sotin district, Kampong Cham province, on the team Meas Srey Pich. The boat sank during the second day of racing. The other 73 rowers were rescued with no serious injuries.

Pen Khun, deputy chief of traffic police, said that from October 31 to November 3, “six people died in traffic accidents and some were arrested.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RANN REUY

Defense spending proposal draws fire


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha and Sebastian Strangio

OBSERVERS have criticised the government’s proposed increase in defence and security spending, saying it ignores more pressing concerns and risks the “militarisation” of Cambodian politics and society.

The 2010 draft budget, approved by the Council of Ministers on October 28, showed a 24.2 percent increase in the country’s defence and security expenditures from $223 million this year to $277 million in 2010.

Of the $1.97 billion contained in the draft budget, defence spending makes up 14 percent, compared with just 1.7 percent for agriculture, 1.7 percent for rural development and 0.7 percent for maintaining water resources.

Observers said the gulf separating military and social spending ignored Cambodia’s developmental priorities.

“[This increase] cannot be justified, considering the combined spending on agriculture and rural development is less than 5 percent,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights. “It’s an indication of where the current government’s priorities stand.”

Ou Virak said a rise might be justified if the country was facing a serious external threat, but that the ongoing border dispute with Thailand was being used as an excuse to bolster the strength of the armed forces.

“The tensions with Thailand are playing into what Hun Sen wants, which is to militarise the state,” he said. If the government wishes to reform the military, he added, a better route would be to make sure it is “smaller, more professional and under civilian leadership”.

Political analyst Chea Vannath said the proposed increases flew in the face of Cambodia’s recent tumultuous history.

“The military budget is always higher compared with the proportion of other ministries, [but] it’s supposed to be the other way around,” she said. “We have to remember our past experience of destruction. The military is not the answer to the Cambodian present and future.”

In last year’s draft budget, the government proposed doubling military spending to $500 million following the escalation of the military standoff with Thailand over Preah Vihear temple but backed down after donors expressed concerns.

The most recent figures in the CIA World Factbook suggest that Thailand spends about $10 billion on its military, while Vietnam spends about $6 billion. Thailand’s GDP is about 20 times as high as Cambodia’s.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly’s Commission on Finance and Banking, denied that the 2010 increase was related to the Thai border dispute, saying it would be used to raise salaries and improve conditions in the army.

“The increase in military spending is intended to restructure the military to better defend the country,” he said, adding that it would be matched by increases for “priority” sectors such as education, health, agriculture, water resources and rural development.

Cheam Yeap said the draft budget will be sent to the National Assembly.

Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party, applauded the increase in spending – from $1.75 billion this year to $1.97 in 2010 – but questioned that the government could pay for it.

“The budget division is still unfair, as corruption continues to be a problem,” he said, adding that the loss of funds from corruption and misuse was taking a bite out of the government’s bottom line.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat could not be reached on Tuesday.

Thaksin says no to Cambodia, report says


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:03 Vong Sokheng and Sam Rith

OUSTED former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra won’t accept an offer of sanctuary in Cambodia because he does not want to spark problems between the neighbouring countries, according to a media report published even as another protest reportedly flared outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok this week.

The chairman of Thai opposition party Puea Thai told the Bangkok Post that Thaksin will not reside in the Kingdom, despite an offer from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“I had asked [Thaksin] why he did not stay in the neighbouring country ... but he said no,” the paper quoted General Chavalit Yongchaiyuth as saying.

Thaksin told Chavalit, “Staying in Cambodia could lead to many problems for Thailand”, according to the newspaper.

Hun Sen sparked the latest row between the two countries by offering the ousted former Thai leader a home in Cambodia last month.

The Thai reaction was swift, accusing the premier of meddling in Thailand’s affairs and pledging to seek Thaksin’s extradition should he ever come to Cambodia. Meanwhile, government officials said 300 Thai Yellow Shirt protesters demonstrated in front of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok on Monday, demanding that RCAF troops withdraw from the Preah Vihear temple area.

“Their demands are not acceptable,” said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong.

Also on Monday, a group of 15 Yellow Shirt protesters tried to enter the area but were blocked by Thai troops, according to RCAF Division 3 commander Srey Doek.

VN slams Sam Rainsy for border post stunt


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea

THE Kingdom’s main opposition party is defending its leader’s tactics after the Vietnamese and Cambodian governments condemned Sam Rainsy for uprooting posts marking the tenuous border between the two countries.

In a media statement, Sam Rainsy Party officials said the government had launched a lawsuit against the opposition leader after he removed six markers last week along the border with Vietnam in Svay Rieng province.

“We have not done anything wrong, so we are not scared of anything at all,” SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Tuesday. He admitted he was unsure whether a lawsuit had actually been filed, but said that the party was prepared for legal action following government comments published in the media.

Svay Rieng provincial Governor Cheang Am could not be reached for comment Tuesday but said last week that the law should hold Sam Rainsy responsible.

After uprooting the border posts last week, Sam Rainsy said that the markers had been illegally placed by Vietnamese authorities.

In a statement issued Friday, Vietnam’s foreign ministry condemned Sam Rainsy’s actions and asked the government to protect the nations’ ongoing border demarcation process. The statement called Sam Rainsy’s act “perverse, undermining common assets, violating laws of Cambodia and Vietnam, treaties, agreements and deals between the two countries”.

In 2006, Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious 1,270-kilometre border in an effort to end decades of territorial disputes.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Father worries for 'jungle woman'



Rochom P’ngieng (centre) sits with help from her parents at a hospital in Ratanakkiri province, 610 kilometres northeast of Phnom Penh, on Thursday. AFP

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:02 Cheang Sokha

THE man who claims to be the father of Cambodia’s so-called “jungle woman” is appealing to public charities after his daughter was hospitalised – then quickly removed from care – for refusing to eat.

Sal Lou, who says he is the father of Rochom P’ngieng, said his daughter has not eaten for one month.

“She is thin now,” Sal Lou said by telephone from O’Yadav district in northeastern Ratanakkiri province. “I will be grateful to any charity if they want to take her for treatment.”

Cambodians have dubbed Rochom P’ngieng the “jungle woman” after she was caught in 2007, naked and dirty, after trying to steal food.

She could not utter a word of any intelligible language, instead making what Sal Lou called “animal noises”.

He said the woman was his long-lost daughter who had gone missing in 1989 as a 9-year-old.

Sal Lou said that he admitted his daughter to Ratanakkiri provincial hospital for treatment last week.

“She has refused to eat rice for about one month. She is skinny now ... she still cannot speak. She acts totally like a monkey. Last [Thursday] night, she took off her clothes and went to hide in the bathroom,” he said.

“Her condition looks worse than the time we brought her from the jungle. She always wants to take off her clothes and crawl back to the jungle.”

However, Sal Lou said he brought Rochom P’ngieng home from the hospital after only a few days because it was too difficult to prevent her from fleeing.

“We have to hold her hand all the time,” he said. “Otherwise, she would take her clothes off and run away.”

Sal Lou said doctors’ attempts to treat Rochom P’ngieng were futile.

“The doctors had injected her and gave her medicine, but she still will not eat and talk,” he said.

Sal Lou said that the family has tried its best to treat Rochom P’ngieng, seeking to heal her using traditional methods as well as modern medicine, but that her condition has not changed.

Hing Phan Sokunthea, director of Ratanakkiri’s provincial hospital, said Sal Lou defied medical advice by checking the woman out of hospital.

“We wanted to monitor her situation more, but we don’t know what to do because the father already took his daughter out of hospital,” he said.

Hing Phan Sokunthea said he believes that Rochom P’ngieng has a mental illness that requires hospital care.

“She is mentally ill, and it would take a long time for the treatment,” he said.

In September 2008, Rochom P’ngieng ran away from home because, Sal Lou said, she missed the jungle. But she returned home when she could not find food to eat, he said.

The jungles of Ratanakkiri are known to have hidden groups of hill tribes in the recent past. In November 2004, 34 people from four hill-tribe families emerged from the forest where they had fled in 1979 after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Two killed in severe weather



One of the relatives of family members who died in a mass electrocution mourns Friday at a pagoda in Phnom Penh. AFP

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

AT LEAST two people died and three others were injured by a severe storm in the northeastern province of Mondulkiri on Monday, province officials said.

Keo Horn, first deputy governor of Mondulkiri, said heavy rains began falling on the province Sunday. When a storm swept in the following day, a tree fell on a house in Pech Chreada district, killing a mother and daughter and injuring three other villagers.

“The injured villagers have been sent to the provincial hospital for treatment,” Keo Horn said.

Mau Thonnerak, provincial secretary general of the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC), identified the victims as 39-year-old Chhun Sokon and 14-year-old Kean Nary. Their home was completely destroyed, and six others were damaged. Mau Thonnerak said the CRC had given 600,000 riels (US$150) to each family affected. “We are appealing to the villagers to be careful because the weather is still foggy,” he said.

Seth Vannareth, director of the Department of Meteorology, said the storm was not connected with Typhoon Mirinae and did not pose a threat to the rest of the Kingdom. “Cambodia was not affected by Typhoon Mirinae, which is already gone,” she said.

In a separate incident, a father and his four sons died on Friday after they were electrocuted in floodwaters in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district.

Mork Tina, 18, said her 65-year-old father, Mork En, opened a ground-floor window of his home, which served as a makeshift goods store.

But after touching the metal frame, he collapsed into the floodwaters outside. Mork Tina and her four brothers ran to pull him from the water, unaware of a downed power line under the surface.

“I was hit by an electric shock and lost consciousness. I woke in Calmette Hospital, but I almost died after a doctor told me that my father and brothers had died,” Mork Tina said.

Mork Phea, 30, Mork Livorn, 28, Mork Livin, 26, and Mork Livann, 22, all died along with their father.

The bodies were taken from Calmette Hospital to Oudravadie Pagoda for cremation in a traditional Khmer funeral ceremony paid for by the Russey Keo authorities.

Kliang Hout, governor of Russey Keo district, said he opened a lock in Svay Pak commune on Saturday to drain the floodwaters into the river.

“We feel very sorry that we could not save these five men from the electric shock,” he said, adding that “now the flood ... is subsiding because we opened the lock to release it into the river”.

People living in the flood zone, however, said the lock opening came far too late.

Siang Savoeun, a 27-year-old Russey Keo resident, said: “We called on the authorities to open the lock starting on October 20, but they said they would only open it after the Water Festival. Now they suddenly opened it, probably because they thought these deaths might cause them to lose their positions.”

Three convicted in rape, murders


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:02 Chhay Channyda

TWO men and a teenager were convicted of raping and murdering 11-year-old Morn Veasna and murdering her 12-year-old brother Morn Phea in Kampong Cham province’s Tbong Khmum district, police said.

Chin Vanny,17, Peng Sreang, 27, and Has Sreng, 29, were each sentenced to 17 years in prison and ordered to pay 45 million riels (US$10,800) in compensation to the victims’ families, Judge Kim Luy said Tuesday. The verdict was announced on October 28, he added.

Leang Eng, former deputy police chief of Tbong Khmum, said Tuesday that the attackers lived next door to the victims. who had been tending cows in a field in Rokab Pram commune in February when they were attacked.

According to court reports, the killers, who were intoxicated at the time, took turns raping the girl, then stabbed her and broke her neck. They were arrested the following day.

“It was a brutal act,” Leang Eng said. “The boy was also killed the same way as the girl.”

Brutal acts
In a separate case, the police are hunting for three more suspects connected to the gang rape and killing of a 11-year-old girl in Soung town in September, Leang Eng said. Seven of the 10 men involved have been arrested and are in pretrial detention.

Thov Chenda, provincial monitor of human rights group Adhoc, said that rape of underage girls in Kampong Cham province has increased.

“They even rape 4- and 5-year-old girls,” she said.

Between January and October, Adhoc monitored 25 rape cases, of which 20 involved underage victims.

“Rape suspects like to watch pornographic films and drink, so they can commit such brutal acts,” she said.

Tourism rebound continues in September as arrivals rise



Photo by: STEVE FINCH
Tourists stay at a guesthouse that is part of a community-based tourism programme in Chi Pat, Koh Kong province. Lonely Planet has listed the province among its top 10 regions to visit in 2010.

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I dare to say we will get the same number of tourists as last year.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:02 May Kunmakara

Government statistics show drop-off in arrivals by air persisted, despite what was otherwise a strong Q3 for tourism after a disappointing start to this year

CAMBODIA’S key tourism sector showed further signs of recovery in September, according to newly released Ministry of Tourism data, although all-important air arrivals remained down on last year.

Total arrivals in the Kingdom hit 151,937 in September, the figures showed, up 4.68 percent on the same period last year and beating average annualised growth in the first eight months of the year at 1.68 percent.

However, air arrivals, which bring in longer term, long-haul passengers that traditionally spend more, remained well down from last year. In September, 72,671 air passengers flew into Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports, down from 82,764 during the same month last year, a drop of 12.5 percent.

Though more passengers arrived by air in the first eight months of last year than in the first nine months of this year, September’s fall was better than the 13.03 percent decline recorded on average over the first eight months, suggesting things are picking up after a dismal first three months of the year.

Also, visitors to Siem Reap – Cambodia’s main tourism destination – fell 8.45 percent in the first nine months on last year, while 12.18 percent more visitors went to Phnom Penh over the same period.

“I dare to say we will get the same number of tourists as last year.… I have seen recently that package tours are getting booked up,” said Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the private-sector tourism working group and president of World Express Travel and Tours.

Latest figures showed that the third quarter was the best of the year with a 8.39 percent rise in total arrivals compared to growth of 2.25 percent in the second quarter and a contraction of 3.4 percent in the first.

Nevertheless, the figures show that although there is an increase in arrivals overall, a reverse on the slide at the beginning of the year, this is almost all due to the huge increase in land arrivals, particularly from Vietnam. In the first nine months, 42.82 percent more Vietnamese visited the Kingdom compared to the same period last year. Arrivals from Laos were up 92 percent.

Luu Meng, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association, said Tuesday that regional tourists were more sensitive to the price of accommodation, and that visitors this year were staying a shorter time in the Kingdom.

There were 40 percent more day arrivals over the same period in 2008, the figures showed.

“Despite the increase [in arrivals], we see that most tourists are from the region that mostly get here by land rather than air,” said Ho Vandy.

Kong Sophearek, director of the Statistics and Tourism Information Department at the Ministry of Tourism, attributed the rise in regional visitors to government initiatives launched this year designed to curb the impact of the tourism slump as the economic crisis reduced demand for global travel.

Cross-border transport agreements that have increased traffic from Vietnam and Laos, as well as a drive to add border crossings with both countries, had produced benefits, he said.

He predicted overall growth in arrivals of between 2 and 3 percent for 2009, citing the July launch of the new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air as another factor that would help bring in foreign tourists.

Nicolas Deviller, CEO of Societe Concessionaire de l'Aeroports (SCA), operator of the Kingdom’s two international airports, predicted at the end of last month a 2 percent rise in aircraft movements next year, with new routes and larger planes on some existing routes as the domestic travel sector gears up for the coming high season.

Asiana Airlines, which stopped flying between Siem Reap and Incheon in South Korea at the end of September due to falling demand, is scheduled to resume four weekly flights on November 17, according to published schedules.

Koh Kong recommended
Meanwhile, Lonely Planet, the world’s largest seller of travel guides, has listed Koh Kong province among its top-ten regions for 2010 alongside Goa in India and Bali, the Indonesian resort island, in its Best In Travel 2010, published Monday.

A number of foreign and local investors, including the Royal Group, are building resorts and eco-tourism developments on the provinces many islands and in the Cardamom Mountains although almost none are scheduled for completion before the end of next year.

Cotton comeback prompts local farmers to switch crops



Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
A farmer in Battambang province shows his soon-to-be harvested cotton crop last week.

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If growing cotton is more profitable than corn, I will change.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 04 November 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

With the building of a new processing factory in Battambang, cotton is becoming a popular agricultural growth market

BATTAMBANG

KERT Serey has grown corn on her 5 hectares of land in Ou village, Battambang province for years, she said, but in July made a decision with her family to commit all her land to growing cotton.

She wasn’t the only farmer in the area to make the switch, despite a recent malaise that saw the domestic industry lie almost completely dormant for close to 25 years.

Up to this year, farmers in western Cambodia were growing only about 50 hectares of cotton per year, mainly in Battambang but also Pailin, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces.

Since the planting season began in July, farmers in the area have put roughly 1,200 hectares of cotton under cultivation, a figure that is expected to grow 40 percent annually in the coming years, said Kong Chan, project manager of Seladamex Co, which recently completed construction of a US$2 million cotton-processing plant 28 kilometres outside of Battambang town in Sdao commune.

“We want to revive this … crop,” he said.

Like many industries in the Kingdom, the cotton industry began to die during the Khmer Rouge era when almost all agricultural resources were focused on rice production. Between 1965 and 1975, the industry – established by the French – thrived, and thousands of acres of the crop were harvested each year.

Although planting continued under the Pol Pot regime, a lack of markets for the cotton, coupled with years during which insects devastated the crop, led Cambodian farmers all but give up on cotton by 1985.

In September, however, Seladamex’s cotton plant began processing cotton, thereby creating huge demand for the crop.

The plant site itself includes 100 hectares for cultivation, and even taking into account the increasing number of fields converted to cotton, Kong Chan said, the factory will need more.

“Now we are just encouraging farmers to start growing again, so the quantity they are producing is still low: It cannot meet the production capacity of the plant,” he said.

This year Seladamex given 14 tonnes of free cotton seeds, purchased from Vietnam at $8 per kilogram, to Cambodian farmers in a bid to spur production, said Kong Chan.

Many farmers say that converting to cotton makes good business sense aside from the lure of free seeds. Kert Serey said Thai buyers of corn and beans had regularly dropped the prices they were willing to pay for corn and beans – one of the main reasons that her family switched to cotton this year.

“I am not worried about the market because I have seen the [cotton] plant with my own eyes,” she said.

The factory has attempted to persuade farmers to switch to cotton by guaranteeing $400 a tonne, a price guaranteed in a written, legally binding contract, says Kong Chan.

San Mong Tol, a 20-year-old farmer in Neangpuon village, Battambang province, said that although he still has doubts about whether his cotton will be bought, he plans to step up from 1 hectare of cotton this year to 7 hectares next year if things go well this harvest.

“This is just a pilot growing project,” he said, adding that his revenue would be comparable to that from growing corn.

In terms of insecticides and clearing weeds, cotton is less expensive and time-consuming compared to corn, he added.

Another farmer in nearby Treng commune, 62-year-old Chhim Meng, said he also has doubts because of the huge increase in the supply of cotton that is likely to follow this year’s harvest.

“If growing cotton is more profitable than corn, I will change and grow cotton on my other 7 hectares next year that currently grow corn,” he said, after planting 7 hectares of cotton recently.

From 7 hectares of corn he would expect to get about $3,500 in revenue, he said, and he could expect an output of at least 2 tonnes of cotton per hectare, or $5,600 for 7 hectares selling cotton at $400 per tonne to Seladamex.

Given the current price of cotton on world markets and dropping global supply, farmers in Cambodia should be optimistic about getting more for their crop in the near future.

Demand up as supply falls
The International Cotton Advisory Committee said Monday that world cotton production would fall 4.7 percent in the year until July, mainly due to a declining crop in China, the biggest producer. At the same time, the Washington-based organisation said in a report this week, consumption will rise to 23.6 million tonnes from 23.1 million tonnes.

Demand for the material is also likely to increase at the Seladamex factory, Kong Chan said. The plant is capable of processing 15 tonnes a day, meaning that if the 1,200 hectares now under cultivation were to result in 2 tonnes per hectare come harvest time, there would only be 2,400 tonnes of cotton for the year. Kong Chan says he hopes to see at least 1,000 tonnes harvested. The factory can handle about 5,475 tonnes per year, and there are plans for expansion of the facility, he said.

Currently the plant can separate only dried raw cotton, but there are plans depending on financing to add $1.5 million in machinery to produce thread and cloth, Kong Chan said. This capacity would provide an obvious advantage for a garment industry that relies exclusively on imported raw materials. This is the aim in the next five years, he added.

“I have spoken to factories in Vietnam, China and South Korea and they told me that they would buy all the cotton we have,” he said. “They will buy at the international market price of roughly $1,500 a tonne.”

The only stipulation, he added, would be reaching a level of quality that Cambodia is struggling to attain.

Seladamex also hopes to sell to the only complete cotton-processing plant in Cambodia, in Kampong Cham province, which currently relies on Taiwanese imports – “if they grant us a competitive price”, Kong Chan said.

In the immediate future, farmers in western Cambodia will harvest the first major cotton crop in the past generation starting this month. And once Seladamex processes the resulting cotton, Kong Chan said, Seladamex will export to Vietnam “for the first time”.