Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Jatuporn claims Cambodia has audio clip of Kasit's seeking Thaksin's flight schedule


November 18, 2009

(Posted by CAAI news Media)
Pheu Thai Party MP Jatuporn Promphan claimed Wednesday that the Cambodian government has an audio clip of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya ordering the first secretary of the Thai embassy in Cambodia to seek flight schedule of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Jatuporn said the first secretary, Khamrob Parnwatwichai, in turn told Siwarak Chutipong, an engineer of Cambodia Air Traffic Services, to steal the information for him.

Jatuporn said the Cambodian government retaliated by expelling the first secretary and arresting Siwarak.

Jatuporn warned Kasit could be embarrassed soon when the Cambodian government released the audio clip.

The Nation

Rare crocs found hiding in plain sight in Cambodia






In these photos taken Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, a Siamese crocodile is seen at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in Phnom Tamao village, Takoe province, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Conservationists searching for one of the world's most endangered crocodiles have found dozens in an unlikely place, a wildlife rescue center in Cambodia. Retrieving DNA from 69 crocodiles housed at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, researchers said Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009, that they found nearly 50 percent were Siamese crocodiles which until recently were believed to have gone extinct in the wild (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)



By MICHAEL CASEY, AP Environmenta

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK – Conservationists searching for one of the world's most endangered crocodile species say they have found dozens of the reptiles lounging in plain sight — at a wildlife rescue center in Cambodia.

DNA taken from 69 crocodiles housed in the moats of the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center showed nearly 50 percent were Siamese crocodiles, which until recently were believed to have become extinct in the wild, researchers said Wednesday.

"For the first time in Cambodia, we have a captive population of animals that we know 100 percent are purebred Siamese crocodiles," said Adam Starr, who manages the Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Program, a joint effort between the government and Fauna & Flora International.

Once common throughout Southeast Asia, the Siamese crocodile is locally extinct in 99 percent of the areas it once roamed and is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Much of the wild population was wiped out by habitat loss and poaching.

Those left in the wild — thought to be less than 250, with nearly all in Cambodia — face the new threat of hydropower dams being built in two of their three known habitats in the country.

Starr said the discovery of the captive population would give conservationists new options for breeding and reintroducing the crocodiles into the wild, most likely in places not affected by the dams. He said up to 60 crocodiles a year could be released into areas they once thrived.

The development provides "a critical lifeline for the long-term preservation of this critically endangered species," said Nhek Ratanapech, the director of the wildlife center.

DNA testing is necessary because it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between Siamese crocodiles and the populations of salt water and hybrid crocodile species that are also housed at the center.

Siamese crocs are said to be a bit smaller at just under 10 feet (3.5 meters) than salt water crocs, and their snouts are narrower.

But the hybrids, for example, often have the same telltale ridges on their necks as the Siamese.

Khmer Rouge casts lingering shadow over Cambodia


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

(Reuters) - Closing arguments begin next Monday in the trial of chief Khmer Rouge interrogator Duch, the first senior Pol Pot cadre to face a U.N.-backed "Killing Fields" tribunal investigating Cambodia's genocide. Skip related content

Here are some facts about the Khmer Rouge and how Cambodia is dealing with its legacy:

THE KILLING FIELDS

- Pol Pot's ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge guerrillas launched a bloody agrarian revolution in 1975, five years after King Norodom Sihanouk was overthrown in a right-wing coup.

- An estimated 1.7 million people -- 21 percent of the population -- were executed or died of disease, starvation or overwork over the next four years in rural labour camps that became known as the "Killing Fields."

THE FALL OF THE KHMER ROUGE

- Vietnamese troops invaded in late 1978 and installed a communist government made up mostly of former Khmer Rouge cadres, including current Prime Minister Hun Sen. Hanoi withdrew in 1989.

- Fighting continued between the government and Khmer Rouge remnants between 1979 and 1991. Millions of Cambodians remained in refugee camps during the unrest.

SLOW ROAD TO JUSTICE

- A 1991 U.N.-brokered peace pact led to elections in 1993 and the restoration of Sihanouk as a constitutional monarch.

- In August 1999, two years after Cambodia asked the United Nations and the international community to help set up a Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal, the government said it wanted to maintain overall control of the court.

- The plan languished for years. Draft laws flew back and forth between Cambodia and the United Nations. The tribunal's legitimacy was questioned in Cambodia and there were calls for world leaders -- from former U.N. leaders to Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher and Henry Kissinger -- to be subpoenaed over their support for Pol Pot's regime.

CRUNCH TIME

- The United Nations gave the go-ahead for a $56.3 million, three-year trial in April 2005, but officials disagreed over the legalities of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the joint tribunal is known.

They finally agreed on the basic rules of the court in June 2007, allowing the tribunal to proceed in earnest. Full trials are expected to start next year, but prosecutors say they need more time and cash.

ON TRIAL:

- Five senior Khmer Rouge cadres have been arrested and charged variously with crimes against humanity and war crimes.

They are ex-president Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Khieu Thirith, "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, and Duch, who ran Phnom Penh's "S-21" torture and interrogation centre.

- Pol Pot, architect of the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" peasant revolution, was captured in 1997 and died in April 1998. The one-legged military chief Ta Mok died in 2006.

LIVING LEGACY:

- Thirty years after the regime fell, more than 20,000 ex-Khmer Rouge soldiers and workers live freely in the country.

- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has blasted the tribunal after acting international co-prosecutor, William Smith of Australia, recommended five more suspects be investigated. Hun Sen said arresting more suspects could spark a civil war.

- While there is no evidence linking him to any atrocities, his government includes many former cadres.

Sources: Reuters, Cambodian Genocide Project ( www.yale.edu/cgp/chron_v3.html )

(Writing by Gill Murdoch; Editing by Martin Petty and Jason Szep)

Suthep: Govt won’t lose face



Published: 18/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

It will be good if former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra can use his personal friendship with Cambodian premier Hun Sen to get the release of Siwarak Chutiphong, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said on Wednesday.

"The government has been trying every means to get [Mr Siwarak] free and would not lose face if Cambodian government releases him because of Thaksin’s influence,” said Mr Suthep.

Citing a Cambodian radio station, a local Thai daily reported that Cambodia had agreed to release the alleged Thai spy and had asked Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh to fly to Cambodia to bring the man back.

However, Lt-Gen Chawengsak Thongsaluay, a close aide of the party chairman, said Gen Chavalit had not yet made a decision to fly to Cambodia as he needed time to verify the report.

Thaksin on Tuesday said on his internet channel, Thaksinlive.com, that he had asked the Cambodian government to ensure the Thai engineer receives a fair trial.

Chavanont Intharakomalsut, secretary-general to the minister of foreign affairs, said Cambodia has pressed a charge of spying, accusing the Cambodia Air Traffic Services engineer of obtaining secret official information and threatening its security. Mr Siwarak was earlier alleged to have passed intermation about the flight schedules of Thaksikn and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to an official at the Thai embassy.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied the charge, insisting that the engineer has nothing to do with spying and that his action has not posed a threat to Cambodia’s security,” Mr Chavanont said.

Mr Suthep said the charge against Mr Siwarak was unjust because Thaksin's flight plans were not a state secret.

Chavalit undecided about flying to pick up a Thai man in Cambodia


November 18, 2009

(Posted by CAAI news Media)

Pheu Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has not decided whether he would fly to Cambodia to bring back a Thai man charged for spying in Cambodia, his aide Chawaengsak Thongsaluay said on Wednesday.

Chawaensak said he needed time to verify the new reports related to Chavalit.

The Thai press reported from a Cambodia radio programme claiming Chavalit's involvement, he said.

The Nation

Malaria deaths, infections on rise in 2009 in Cambodia

http://www.investors.com/

11/17/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov 17, 2009 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The number of malaria cases and deaths nearly doubled in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period last year, local media reported on Wednesday, citing officials from the Ministry of Health.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health's National Malaria Center, 60,157 recorded malaria cases led to 213 deaths from January through September of this year, compared to 38, 261 cases and 133 deaths for the same period in 2008. And it is pointing to heavy rains and increased migration to the northwest region of the country as the reason.

"The cases are increasing compared to last year since more and more people are moving from non-malaria areas to the malaria areas in order to work as cassava planters, land speculators, and those preparing the land for farming," the Cambodia Daily quoted Norng Sao Kry, deputy chief of the malaria center in Phnom Penh as saying.

Sao Kry said fatalities were also on the rise because infected patients were waiting too long to seek treatment. In response, the government has begun public information campaigns to warn people to take precautions, how to spot symptoms of malaria and to seek treatment as soon as possible.

"We have volunteer groups going directly to educate people and also to care for the patients," Sao Kry said.

In July, Health Ministry officials were blaming the rising malaria rates on the early start of the rainy season.

The Cambodian government has been making efforts to teach people in the provinces how to avoid the parasite and the radio broadcasts information about how people can protect themselves from malaria and also to always sleep under the mosquito net.

Cambodia - what road rules?


By MICHAEL FOX - Stuff.co.nz
18/11/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A stint in Cambodia teaches you to appreciate road rules.

Traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, the give-way rule and seat belts reveal themselves as true blessings.

In my time in Cambodia I was honked at, swerved past, almost run over and driven into the path of an oncoming concrete truck by an unrepentant tuk tuk driver.

A six-hour trip from the capital Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was a game of dodge-the oncoming-death-trap. It was no surprise to learn that Cambodia has one of the highest rates of road fatalities in Asia.

Kids play fight on the side of the roads, a mere push or a shove away from certain death.

An endless procession of villagers cycle along the side of the road, aware of the vehicle coming up behind them only by the incessant honking of horns - quite possibly the biggest necessity in a vehicle in Cambodia, and indeed in Thailand and Vietnam also.

Some vehicles are so poorly lit that what appears to be a motorbike coming towards you, can often turn out to be a Khmer tractor hauling a wider load than you're prepared for.

The median strip is a guide more than a rule and drivers, well my driver at least, seemed to prefer to spend as much time on the wrong side of the road as possible.

Children ride on top of loads strapped to the back of utes that would be considered outrageous hazards in New Zealand.

Some passengers, who are left with no choice as the back of the ute is overloaded, as is the roof, are forced to ride nonchalantly on the bonnet of the car hurtling down the motorway.

Marauding cows cross the road at will.

One unlucky milky-white bovine had the misfortune of crossing the road ahead of an oncoming ute. The vehicle struck the cow so hard it completed a 180 before landing on its back. It got up and limped off nursing a presumably smashed leg.

In the cities, there are no such things as pedestrian crossings. You soon learn to walk out and leave it to the drivers to avoid hitting you - this experience becomes even more nerve-wracking when you notice some of the scooter drivers are texting as they hurtle towards you.

Taking a moto - a scooter taxi - is a lesson in daring driving. Every now and then a driver offers you a helmet but more often than not you're forced to risk your marbles every time you set foot, or bum, on the back of one.

It's obvious the fairly recent law making it compulsory to wear helmets has not quite worked.

Drivers merge when and how they feel like it and it's a wonder you don't see constant crashes. Perhaps it's fortunate scooters, and not SUVs, are the most popular vehicle of choice. Hummers are de rigueur among the newly rich, however.

The only times the roads are quiet are when convoys of VIP vehicles are on the move and their security staff shut the roads down to the public.

You certainly learn to appreciate roads rules for what they are - lifesavers.

Cambodia caught between Thai internal politics, official

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington
17 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia has maintained neutrality in Thailand’s internal politics for not extraditing fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra as a way to avoid causing irritation from Thai “Red Shirt” and “Yellow Shirt” protestors, a government official said.

“When a criminal whom we wanted to arrest stayed in Thailand, did Thailand send the criminal back to us? They didn’t. But here we just exercise our rights to decision making and maintain a neutral role. If we extradite Thaksin back to Thailand, the Red Shirt group would be angry at us and if we don’t, the Yellow Shirt would, so that’s why the government [of Cambodia] must stand on a neutral ground,” Phay Siphan, a spokesman at the Council of Ministers, said as a guest on Hello VOA show Monday.

For further solution with Thailand Phay Siphan said Cambodia’s stance is to maintain peace, good relationship and good cooperation.

Cambodia has recently appointed Thaksin as an economic advisor, a move that Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said does not respect international principle on extradition.

The appointment and Cambodia’s refusal to extradite Thaksin have caused diplomatic tension between the two neighboring countries. Both have lower relations by recalling their respective ambassadors.

Protest fatigue



Photo by: Tracey Shelton

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:04 Tracey Shelton

Tack Fat garment workers, laid-off when the factory closed unexpectedly last month, sit around during a recent protest. The dispute hit another glitch on Tuesday when the two sides failed to reconcile during a meeting at the Ministry of Labour. The case will be sent to the Arbitration Council today, officials said.

AIDS aid earns praise



Photo by: Kim Sovannara

(Posted by CAAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:02 Kim Sovannara

Dr Nafis Sadik of the UN presents Cambodian first lady Bun Rany an award for her role in combating HIV/AIDS and reducing discrimination against those living with the disease at the Red Cross Headquarters in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

Recycled community



Photo by: Tracey Shelton

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:04 Uong Ratana

A child from a community of 346 families living in Stung Meanchey district adjacent to the old city dumpsite stands in a recycling collection cart on Tuesday. The families who formerly made a living by collecting recyclable materials from the dump were recently given a land concession of 1 hectare per family in Kampot province. Family members who began moving to the plots in recent weeks say they were informed by government officials that if the forested land is not cleared within six months it will be taken back.

Land clash wounds 9 in Kampong Thom



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:04 May Titthara and Rann Reuy

Kampong Thom Province

TWO men were recovering in hospital Tuesday night after a group of 30 soldiers and military police officers in Kampong Thom province used knives, hatchets and canes to disperse villagers protesting against the takeover of their land by a Vietnamese rubber company, officials and rights workers said.

The Monday morning melee began after some 200 villagers burned four excavator trucks belonging to the company, Tin Bean, on the disputed 8,000-hectare piece of land in Kampong Thom’s Santuk district.

The company was awarded the property in a 2007 economic land concession, though many of the families who first moved there in 2004 have yet to relocate and decry the concession as unfair.

“We burned those excavator trucks down because we wanted to block them from digging up the land,” said Prom Saroth, one of the villagers.

Shortly after, soldiers and military police officers stationed at the site approached the villagers and told them to leave, firing AK-47 assault rifles into the air. When the villagers did not disperse, the police and soldiers charged them, beating them with canes and in some cases cutting them with knives and hatchets, rights workers said.

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Now we do not dare go out even to buy food because we are afraid....
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Nine men were hurt – two hospitalised – though most of the injuries were minor cuts and bruises.

Prom Saroth, one of the seven men who sustained minor injuries, said one of the hospitalised men received serious bruises on his arms and back, and that the other, Mok Maly, suffered powder burns on his his face from a gunshot.

Kampong Thom Governor Chhun Chhorn said Tuesday that the villagers had provoked the attack by burning the excavator trucks, adding that they had previously burned a military police car and speaker set.

He said the heavy police presence on the site was necessary. “The reason that we allow the soldiers and military police in the area is because we want to protect the company’s property,” he said.

On Tuesday the charred wrecks remained at the site. One truck driver who did not want to be named said he was slightly hurt in the clash.

Chan Soveth, a researcher for the rights group Adhoc who visited the site Tuesday, said the officers were responsible for keeping the peace and deserved the blame for Monday’s violence. “The authorities are to blame because nine innocent villagers got injured,” he said.

Lockdown
Chheng Sophors, a monitor for the rights group Licadho, said the villagers had been living under siege since soldiers and police were first stationed there in 2008.

“The situation is difficult because they have the soldiers about 7 kilometres from the village, and they don’t allow people to go in and out,” he said.

A man who was among those who received minor injuries on Monday said villagers had been living in fear that they would be shot if they left the village.

“Now we do not dare go out even to buy food because we are afraid the soldiers will shoot at us,” said the villager, who declined to be named for fear of retribution.

“And just recently, they blocked off the road nearby and said that if any villagers dared to pass it, they would shoot or arrest us. They said they had orders from their superiors to do this.”

The number of families who stand to be evicted from the site remains a point of contention between rights workers and the government. Chheng Sophors said 1,362 families were living there. but Governor Chhun Chhorn said the families numbered only 300, more than 200 of which had already accepted land provided by the government and relocated.

“I don’t know why they keep saying there are more than 1,000 families,” he said. “In fact, they should not get any compensation because they live on a government land concession, but we had pity on them and tried to give them new 20-metre-by-30-metre plots of land. Also, we asked the company chairman to hire them,” he said.

Several villagers said the plots offered by the government were significantly smaller than the plots on which they currently live.

Officials from Tin Bean rubber company could not be reached Tuesday.

PM calls for action on transnational crime



(Posted by CAAI news Meida)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:04 Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has called on all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to join in efforts to fight terrorism and transnational crime in the region. Speaking at the opening of the seventh ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the fourth Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime in Siem Reap on Tuesday, the premier said development depends on security and political stability.

“Development cannot be sustained in the absence of peace and security; the security situation can have a great influence on development,” Hun Sen said. “Terrorism and transnational crime still remain big challenges for our region and individual countries.”

Hun Sen said ASEAN ministers in charge of security and law enforcement efforts can be regarded as partners in fighting transnational crime, which threatens lives, social security and economic development.

Hun Sen said that to build the capacity of its police and law enforcement agencies, Cambodia has established a series of special committees dealing with drugs, human trafficking and arms control.

The two-day meeting, which winds up today, was attended by interior ministers from ASEAN’s 10 member states, as well as Japan, China and South Korea.

Nation rises in annual index on corruption



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:03 Sebastian Strangio

CAMBODIA has improved its position in an international corruption ranking but remains one of the most corrupt countries in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the latest report from global corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI).

In its annual Corruption Perceptions Index released in Berlin on Tuesday, the group rated Cambodia 158 out of 180 countries for public-sector
corruption, a marginal increase on 2008’s ranking, when Cambodia came in 166th.

Cambodia, which shared its ranking with neighbour Laos, was listed ahead of military-ruled Myanmar, which was ranked the third-most corrupt country in the world, but well behind Vietnam (120), Indonesia (111), Thailand (84) and China (79).

When contacted on Tuesday, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, rejected the country’s ranking, saying it only took into account the negatives.

“They fail to address the anti-corruption measures we are taking,” he said, referring specifically to the recently passed Penal Code and the coming Anticorruption Law, which officials have said will be presented to the National Assembly next year.

“The ranking we don’t mind – we just care about the peace, harmony and happiness of the Cambodian people,” he added.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said there was “no doubt” the TI report painted an accurate picture of the country’s situation. He said the government had been promising an anticorruption law for 13 years and was sceptical it would be passed next year.

“The promise has been made for more than a decade, and so far it has not happened,” he said.

“Corruption has become the culture of Cambodia. The people who are corrupt are still enjoying their impunity.”

According to its Web site, TI’s annual corruption index is calculated from “a survey of surveys” of experts and businesspeople, based both in the country and abroad, covering the past two years.

Rainsy takes gripes to Brussels



Photo by: AFP
Lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party march through Phnom Penh on Monday after boycotting a National Assembly vote that suspended the parliamentary immunity of party leader Sam Rainsy.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:03 Meas Sokchea

OPPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy attended a meeting of the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the Cambodian human rights situation, a day after his parliamentary immunity was suspended by the National Assembly.

Sam Rainsy told Voice of America prior to the meeting that he would raise a number of issues related to the past year’s crackdown on opposition lawmakers and other government critics.

“I will raise the issue of the suspension of my immunity ... and tell the EU parliament about the violation of human rights and parliamentarians’ rights in Cambodia,” he said.

On Monday, the National Assembly stripped Sam Rainsy of his immunity to pave the way for his prosecution over an incident in which he removed wooden posts that marked the Vietnamese border.

Tith Sothea, a government adviser, said that Sam Rainsy’s allegations in Brussels had often “inflated” information for an international audience in order to gain a political edge on the Cambodian government.

“We already know that opposition leader Sam Rainsy is a provoker who seeks political benefits,” he said.

“I dismiss this accusation – the Cambodian court system is independent from the legislature and executive bodies.”

Sam Rainsy said Monday that in the coming days, he will also meet with the International Parliamentary Union in Geneva and other “friends of Cambodia” to discuss what he termed the country’s ongoing “slide towards totalitarianism”.

The UN Human Rights Council will review Cambodia’s human rights situation during its quadrennial “Universal Periodic Review” on December 1.

Commune councillors assemble for forum



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE National League of Commune/Sangkat Councils (NLC/S) opened a two-day forum in Preah Sihanouk and Kampot provinces on Tuesday to gather input from commune councillors on the challenges of decentralisation.

“We created the forum to reinforce good governance in the commune councils and push the government to give more power to the commune councillors as part of the decentralisation effort,” said Pok Sokundara, secretary general of the NLC/S.

Commune councillors were first elected in 2002, the initial step in the government’s ongoing effort to delegate greater administrative responsibility to local authorities. Common concerns voiced by forum participants, however, included the difficulties managing finance and development plans, and the lack of communication between commune officials and higher-level government authorities.

“We don’t have the power to make development plans for our communes because high-ranking government officials never ask us what our people need,” said Touch Satheang, chief of Boeng Touk commune in Kampot province.

Govt drafting quotas for hiring disabled



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:03 Kim Yuthana and Mom Kunthear

THE Ministry of Social Affairs is leading an effort to draft a sub-decree that would establish disability hiring quotas for ministries and other government institutions, officials said Tuesday.

The quotas, required under the disability law passed in July, are part of a broader move to revise government hiring practices that have been described as inherently discriminatory.

Speaking at a conference on employment prospects for the disabled, Sem Sokha, a secretary of state at the Social Affairs Ministry, said Tuesday that the quotas would “help all the disabled people have more success in the labour sector and in the wider society”.

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Few disabled people are able to find jobs, so the government should help them.
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Thong Vinal, executive director of the Disability Action Council (DAC) and part of a 12-member working group tasked with drafting the sub-decree, said it was still too early to estimate what the quotas might be. He said the committee, made up of two officials from the DAC and 10 from the Social Affairs Ministry, was studying quota systems implemented in Japan as well as in neighbouring countries such as Thailand that he said “have similar situations to Cambodia for disabilities”, adding that quotas would also be adopted for the private sector.
Thong Vinal said the sub-decree would be drafted “maybe next year”.

Discrimination allegations
A report released in September by Handicap International criticised the government for discriminatory hiring practices, focusing in particular on the Ministry of Social Affairs, which it said “continued to stipulate in its hiring practices that candidates be ‘able-bodied’”.

Thong Vinal said the ministry had revised its requirements for job applicants and hired five disabled employees in the past year. Though he could not name the employees’ specific disabilities, he said they were physical disabilities, and that “some of them are in wheelchairs”.

The Handicap International report also criticised the Education Ministry for applying discriminatory hiring practices in government schools, though it noted that the ministry was revising its policies.

Thong Borann, the ministry’s staff director, said Tuesday that it employed fewer than 10 disabled people.

“Most disabled people in the ministry are teachers, but they are not seriously disabled. They are just missing an eye or a leg or a hand,” he said.

He said the ministry did not discriminate against disabled people. Rather, he said, the ministry had traditionally received few job applications from them.

Beyond problems in specific ministries, Thong Vinal said Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng had earlier this year encouraged the government to revise an article requiring that all civil servants have “appropriate physical appearance”, saying there were concerns it had been used to justify discriminatory hiring practices.

Ngin Saorath, executive director of the NGO Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation, said disability hiring quotas for the government were long overdue.

“We as NGOs are dissatisfied with the government because few disabled people are able to find jobs, so the government should help them more in both the state and private sectors,” he said.

Defendant absent for indecency hearing



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

Siem Reap provincial court on Tuesday heard the case of a Canadian man charged with indecent acts against minors, but proceedings were hampered by the absence of the accused, a lawyer said.

Peng Maneth, a lawyer for the victims provided by French NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), said he was representing three boys between the ages of 13 and 15 who were allegedly sexually abused by the suspect in February. “We ... had to reckon with the absence of the Canadian national, who is believed to have fled the country after the court agreed to release him on bail.”

The suspect was arrested on February 20 in Siem Reap and was released on bail after two months in pretrial detention. His current whereabouts are unknown.

“No one, not the judge, prosecution or the defence lawyer, talked about where the defendant might be,” Peng Maneth said. “We don’t know who will be responsible for the victims’ compensation if the court finds him guilty.”

Siem Reap provincial court is due to announce the verdict on November 30.

Forum aims to lower domestic violence rates



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:02 Chhay Channyda and Irwin Loy

Srey Mom used to blame herself for the lashings her husband inflicted on her. The first time, her husband beat her with a bamboo pole so badly it left her bleeding. She told neighbours she had fallen down the stairs. Within months, the beatings became more frequent – and violent. But it was only when he started beating their children that she left.

“It was time for me to be strong for my children,” Srey Mom told advocates with rights group Licadho.

Srey Mom’s story, detailed in a Licadho report on violence against women, may be her own, but it is far from unique.

A 2008 report from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs suggests that between one-fifth and one-quarter of all women in Cambodia have experienced domestic violence. Government and NGO officials are preparing to meet next week in Siem Reap for the Asia-Pacific Conference on Primary Prevention of Violence against Women and Children, a forum focused on ways to reduce the sobering statistic.

“People are starting to recognise the violence,” said Chhay Kim Sore, a coordinator with the Cambodian Men’s Network. “Before, people thought domestic violence was a private matter. Now, they’re starting to realise it’s a crime.”

Next week’s conference will focus specifically on prevention – coming up with strategies aimed at instilling a culture in which violence against women is unacceptable. “We need to change the concept for the younger generation,” said Chhay Kim Sore.

The conference will coincide with a 16-day awareness campaign aimed at tackling the subject online.

Open Institute’s “Take Back the Tech” campaign recognises that many of the presumed triggers for violence against women may be found online.

“There are porn videos via the Internet and via mobile phones, so we want to grab their attention so they can instead contribute to eradicating violence against women,” said Prak Sokhayouk, the group's project coordinator.

Tuk-tuks gain licence reprieve



Photo by: Sovan Philong
Tuk-tuk drivers wait for customers around Independence Monument during the Water Festival earlier this month.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:02 May Titthara

CITY Hall has announced it will stop fining tuk-tuk drivers who lack licence plates until the end of the year, but a ban on tuk-tuks driving along Norodom Boulevard is set to remain in place.

“We will postpone the fining of tuk-tuk drivers without licence plates until December 30. After that, we will start to punish them again,” said Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Chreang Sophan.

The decision was prompted by a meeting between driver representatives and municipal officals on Monday, at which drivers asked authorities to temporarily stop fining those who lacked licence plates so that they could have time to obtain their plates.

They also asked the government to again permit tuk-tuks to drive along Norodom Boulevard south of the Independence Monument to Preah Monivong Bridge.

Kim Saphan, a driver representative, said it was difficult for drivers to get licence plates because of the US$35 fee and because supply did not meet demand.

“It is very hard for us to get a licence plate because there are a lot of tuk-tuk drivers who need it. But authorities can only issue it to 10 drivers at a time,” he said.

Nhem Saron, director of the Municipal Department of Public Works and Transport, said drivers must all respect the Land Traffic Law. “We did allow [tuk-tuks] to drive along Norodom Boulevard, but they did not respect" the law, he said.

City Hall cabinet chief Koet Chhe said the city did not allow tuk-tuks to drive along Norodom Boulevard because they wanted to keep roads clear for foreign delegations visiting Cambodia.

Penal Code: Senate passes key legislation



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:02 Vong Sokheng

Penal Code

The Senate on Tuesday approved three major pieces of legislation, including the Kingdom’s new Penal Code and laws on foreign adoption and public demonstrations, without any amendments, drawing opposition complaints that the body has acted as a rubber stamp in the passage of flawed legislation. Senator Kong Kom from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, the only one of the 61 senators present who voted against the Penal Code and Law on Nonviolent Demonstrations, repeated concerns made by local and international critics that the laws contain a number of excessive restrictions on freedom of expression. “I regretted that the majority of the senators ignored the concerns made by the opposition and civil society groups,” he said. Nhek Chhay Eng, deputy secretary general of the Senate, said the laws will be returned to the National Assembly in the next two weeks, formally passing it on to King Norodom Sihamoni for signature. Laws come into effect 10 to 20 days after being signed by the King.

Critics raise questions over proposed coal power plant




(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:02 Irwin Loy and Sam Rith

GOVERNMENT departments and developers must proceed cautiously with a coal-fired power plant planned for Preah Sihanouk province, rights groups warned Tuesday, saying that not enough was being done to ensure the facility does not harm the environment.

Rights group representatives were meeting with officials from the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy to discuss the proposed 100-megawatt power plant, to be built by Malaysian-owned Leader Universal Holdings.

The talks once again drew a line under one of energy-starved Cambodia’s most pressing development conundrums – how to balance a recognised need for sustainable power against protecting the Kingdom’s environment.

“We’re not opposed to the government’s plan,” said Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia. “We realise the energy is needed, but we do not want to see the energy plan cause negative impacts.”

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) commissioned by Cambodian Energy Limited, a subsidiary created by Leader Universal to steer the project, downplayed some of those concerns.

“The impacts on coastal water quality will be caused by coal spillage into the sea during strong wind,” the report’s authors warn, before noting that a spill plate could prevent coal from escaping.

Likewise, though the EIA acknowledges that hot coolant water released back into the ocean may affect non-mobile flora and fauna, it adds, “dolphin, fish and other swimming animals will be able to escape … easily”.

Questions remain
But one rights advocate worries the measures are insufficient. “After we read the EIA … the company seems not to take much care on managing the pollution,” said Boun Narith, coordinator for rights group Licadho in Preah Sihanouk.

NGO Forum’s Chhith Sam Ath contends the stated US$3.59 million environmental management plan lacks enough detail to ensure mitigation measures are monitored or even adequate.

Puth Sorithy, director of the Environment Ministry’s EIA Department, declined to comment or suggest a date when the proposed power plant might be approved.

A representative with Leader Universal did not return a request for comment Tuesday.

However, the project is not the only plant proposed for the area. Leader Universal previously pitched a 200-megawatt project as a joint venture with MKCSS Holdings. The proposal was split into two separate 100-megawatt plants in June, with each company developing a single facility.

Leader Universal has an active proposal to develop a 700-megawatt coal plant, also in Sihanoukville.

Prices fell in October as food supply rose: official



Photo by: Sovan Philong
Vendors prepare fish at Phnom Penh’s Central Market. An increase in the food supply has helped trigger deflation in the Kingdom.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:01 Steve Finch and May Kunmakara

Analysts’ expectations of accelerating inflation in fourth quarter are confounded as NIS reports CPI dropped month-on-month for the first time since February

CAMBODIA experienced month-on-month deflation in October, figures released by the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) showed Tuesday, countering analysts’ predictions that inflation would speed up in the last quarter.

The Kingdom’s consumer price index (CPI) decreased 0.3 percent compared with September – the first time prices have fallen on a monthly basis since February. Prices rose 0.5 percent from August to September.

Compared with the same month a year earlier, consumer prices fell 1.6 percent in October, a slower pace of decline than a month earlier when prices fell 2.3 percent year-on-year.

However, a year of rapid inflation in 2008 began cooling off in the final quarter, meaning the September comparison was based on a lower base number.

“Prices for food decreased 0.2 percent, which contributed … to the overall 0.3 percent decrease of consumer prices,” the NIS report said.

An official at the institute who declined to be named said Tuesday that last month’s deflation was due to the rising supply of food on the domestic market. “In October, the government permitted fishermen to catch fish for the fishing season. Furthermore, locals were able to supply meats and produce into the markets, which caused inflation to bottom out,” the official said.

Although food fell overall, Ministry of Commerce data showed that meat and fish prices were largely stable last month. Beef, mud fish, duck, smoked fish and dried fish prices remained the same between October 1 and October 28, the last date before the Water Festival, while pork and bacon were both up 200 riels a kilogram. Chicken fell 200 riels a kilogram.

October’s CPI data follows a prediction by the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in this month’s economic outlook that “consumer prices … will begin to increase again on a year-on-year basis in the final quarter of 2009”.

“We estimate that Cambodia experienced a year of deflation in 2009, with consumer prices falling by an average of 1 percent,” the report said. “In line with global trends, food and fuel prices have fallen from their highs of mid-2008.”

The NIS official forecast that prices would be up slightly for the whole year, based on the basket of 135 goods used to evaluate the Kingdom’s CPI. Inflation soared last year, reaching more than 20 percent at its height in July and August, spurred by the rise in global commodity prices, particularly oil.

The EIU said that it expected consumer prices to increase 5.9 percent in 2010 due to renewed demand-side pressures, higher global commodity prices and stronger GDP growth in Cambodia. It forecast inflation of 5.6 percent for 2011.

Philippine flights given go-ahead



Photo by: NATHAN GREEN
Ticket sellers sit idle at Angkor Wat. The Tourism Minister hopes planned direct routes to the Philippines will boost tourism.

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We welcome the direct flights ... and hope they start as soon as possible.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific Air has been greenlighted to fly direct routes to Cambodia from next year, although officials have yet to determine a specific launch date for the service

Cebu Pacific Air, a Philippines-based airline, plans to begin direct flights between its home country and Cambodia in the spring of 2010, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Tuesday.

“Cebu Air is authorised to start flying to our country in March or April next year,” he said, citing a memorandum of understanding signed by Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on September 16 to open the airways between the two countries.

The agreement is the fourth Cambodia has made this year allowing direct flights. The SSCA has also inked deals with Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Under the terms of the agreement, up to seven flights a week originating from Cambodia are authorised to land at Manila, 14 in the Clark Freeport Zone and another 14 for any point in the Philippines outside the two aviation centres.

The Philippines is a major tourism hub in Southeast Asia, Thong Khon said, adding that the deal would draw more tourists directly from the Philippines as well as offer another transfer point for tourists travelling from other locations.

“I hope that tourism from the Philippines will increase further,” he said. “Moreover, with the new flights, we plan not only to attract Filipino tourists, but we also aim to draw tourists from other countries,” he said.

Filipinos do not require a visa to visit Cambodia; nor do Cambodians require a Philippine visa to travel there, Thong Khon said.

Air traffic at the two main Cambodian international airports, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, fell 12.96 percent in the first nine months of 2009 year-on-year, according to Tourism Ministry figures, but the number of tourists arriving from the Philippines bucked the trend. According to ministry’s numbers, 36,608 tourists arrived from the Philippines in the first nine months of 2009, 29.36 percent up from the same period a year earlier.

The Philippines ambassador in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment, Tuesday.

SSCA Cabinet Chief Long Chheng said the two sides were currently working on ironing out the details of the flights. “I am not sure of the exact date the flights will commence because I have received no confirmation,” he said, adding that an Air Service Agreement (ASA) still must to be signed by both parties.

The SSCA is actively pursuing additional open-skies agreements to boost the tourism sector, Long Chheng said. “We welcome the direct flights from the Philippines and hope they start as soon as possible,” he said. “That will be very good for our tourism sector.”

The SSCA and the CAAP had been working on the agreement since 2007.

Baitong inks $19m in red corn export deals with Japan, Vietnam



(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal

Signings come after farmer reluctance and ruined roads caused company to miss its target for red corn purchases during rainy season

Baitong, a Cambodian producer and exporter of agricultural product, has signed deals to sell 100,000 tonnes of red corn at US$190 a tonne to buyers from Japan and Vietnam over the coming dry season, Baitong President Phou Puy said Monday.

Exports of the corn, which will be used in animal feed, would begin at the start of December, he said.

“We will supply 70,000 tonnes of corn to the Japanese company and 30,000 tonnes to the Vietnamese company in this coming dry season, and will continue to supply them if we are able to buy enough corn,” Phou Puy said.

Baitong managed to collect only 13 percent of the 100,000 tonnes it planned to purchase from farmers in Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey provinces during the rainy season, Phou Puy said. He blamed stiff foreign and international competition and poor weather that flooded roads and impeded transportation in the three provinces.

The 13,000 tonnes of corn Baitong had managed to purchase had already been sold to a Vietnamese company in September and October, Phou Puy said.

Red corn has recently picked up steam as an agricultural export from Cambodia. A string of announcements in 2009 was capped in July when South Korea-based KOGID Cambodia Co announced plans to purchase as much as 150,000 tonnes for $150 million. It also said it would set up a corn-drying plant in Battambang province.

The three major red corn-producing provinces are Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey, where it is the second-most important crop next to rice.

Cheam Chan Sophorn, director of Battambang province’s Agriculture Department, said the recently announced supply deals would encourage farmers to increase production of the crop in coming years.

“At present, Battambang province has about 100,000 hectares of land which has potential for growing corn, but farmers have not used all of the land to grow corn yet because they are still concerned that they might not find markets to sell their products,” he said.

A report from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries showed that during the dry seasons of 2008 and 2009, the three provinces together grew red corn on 114,343 hectares, yielding 502,798 tonnes, 90 percent of the country’s total production of 561,584 tonnes.

A lack of knowledge of the Kingdom’s agricultural offerings previously led foreign firms to purchase their produce from Cambodia’s neighbours, who directly imported the same agricultural products from the Kingdom, Phou Puy said.

“Many companies I have met promised to come and buy agricultural products from us directly because they are confident that we are able to supply them,” he said.

Mapping a clear path to business success



Photo by: SOVAN PHILONG
Aruna Sales Manager Loy Prim holds up a map created from digital images beamed to earth from satellites.

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Initially I was worried about powerful wives monitoring their husbands.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:01 Jeremy Mullins and Soeun Say

Aruna Technology has grown into a million-dollar business producing pinpoint-accurate maps

Inside Bussiness
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By Jeremy Mullins and Soeun Say

Precisely mapping Cambodia in the digital age requires an array of satellites and hi-tech software, as well as a bit of old-fashioned field savvy.

Aruna Technology Limited, a medium-sized Phnom Penh business, combines traditional field surveys with cutting-edge digital mapping from satellite images to help its customers with all their location-based needs.

Aruna Sales Manager Loy Prim said telecoms companies were keen users of the company’s services, combining demographic information with satellite imaging to most profitably place their mobile-phone towers. NGOs seeking to improve the Kingdom’s irrigation system were also regular clients.

Aruna is developing a cutting-edge project that allows clients to track the movements of individual vehicles on Google Earth, an online interactive atlas.

“Initially, I was worried about powerful wives [using this system to] monitor their husbands,” said Loy Prim, “but it’s useful for big businesses.”

Instead of being sold to jealous spouses, the system is marketed towards large Cambodian companies. It updates the exact location of each vehicle in the company fleet every two minutes on a digital map, allowing more efficient operations.

Aruna uses the same technology as international leaders in the field, said Loy Prim. It relies on Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, which allows features to be overlaid on digital maps, creating more flexible and accurate representations than the archaic method of drawing by hand on physical maps.

Aruna is the sole licensed provider and trainer in Cambodia of California-based Environmental System Research Institute’s (ESRI) GIS software.

To acquire the imagery required for its GIS software to function, Aruna has contracts to access pictures from cameras stationed on satellites orbiting the earth, often using the same cameras as international giants such as Google.

Once Aruna has the required photograph in hand, it tailors the image to its customers’ specific areas of interest using its various GIS programs.

It also makes a profit selling the Global Positioning System (GPS) handheld devices its customers need to specifically plot their points of interest on the digital maps. Pocket Guides, for example, uses a GPS device to pinpoint the exact locations of hotels and restaurants for the maps in its publications.

The devices work by tapping into signals emitted by a series of satellites circling the earth, accurately fixing the user’s position by triangulating the signal from three or more satellites. The most common GPS devices are accurate to 5 or 10 metres, but Aruna’s high-end equipment can narrow down a location to within 0.05 centimetres, Loy Prim said.

Having begun in 1993 with three employees, Aruna has grown to employ around 35 people and reports annual revenues of about US$1.7 million.

“When the company was founded, people didn’t have many reliable resources as far as information. It wasn’t as accurate; half of the information came from government ministries, but we have closed the gap regarding reliability,” said Loy Prim.

He added that growth involves a good deal of give and take, especially with the government. “We work with the Cambodian government; we didn’t just start from scratch. We share information. They give us stuff, and we make changes and improve it,” he said.

“In my opinion, if we had done [what Aruna has accomplished in terms of mapping] back then, we wouldn’t have a border issue now. Everything would be properly marked.”

Most of Aruna’s business comes from sources unaffected by current economic conditions, notably the government and NGOs, he said, and there had only been a small dropoff from private sales. “We are lucky,” he said.

Loy Prim points to the company’s experience and modern equipment and technology as the reasons Aruna has become the market leader in digital mapping in Cambodia.

It has now expanded to Laos, intending to export its local successes to the Kingdom’s northern neighbour.

Rebuilding the education sector



Photo by: Tracey Shelton
International donors and development partners such as Save the Children Norway aim to ensure children of all genders and backgrounds gain access to quality education.

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We may have achieved considerable success with some aspects of quality education, but WE HAVE not attained 100 Percent perfection.
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(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009 15:00 Mom Kunthear

An international conference last week set out to unlock Cambodia’s human capital potential by increasing the number of schools, improving teacher training and raising education standards

Education specialists from more than 30 countries gathered at the International Topic Network Conference on Quality Education in Phnom Penh last week.

Organised by the Cambodian chapter of Save the Children Norway, the conference aimed to review Cambodia’s achievements in education since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.

It specifically set out to develop an understanding of the importance of quality education among participants, and how quality education could be achieved through practical and theoretical means, said Markus Aksland, country director of Save the Children Norway in Cambodia.

“We have gathered here to discuss ways to boost our achievements in education. How we ensure that children not only get access to school, but that they actually learn once they are there,” he said.

The Ministry of Education was making a concerted effort to build more schools in rural areas, he said. However, a major quality gap existed between schools in the capital and those in the most remote areas, such as Ratanakkiri province.

“I think the quality of education in some parts of Cambodia is good, but some parts outside of the capital still have problems,” Aksland said.

The conference was also used as a vehicle to present recommendations from Save the Children Norway’s Quality Education Project to educators and government officials in Cambodia and around the world.

With more than 100 delegates from 34 countries in attendance, Aksland said it was a “unique opportunity to make a difference”.
Save the Children Norway has pledged to donate US$6 million every year to Cambodia between 2006 and 2010.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has developed an action plan to ensure all Cambodian children have access to quality education at all levels regardless of their gender or class by 2015.

Education Minister Im Sethy said the Education Strategic Plan (ESP) and Education Sector Support Programme (ESSP) were timely and appropriate measures to support the government’s policy on talent and skills development.

The ministry has emphasised the development of intellectual capital and human resources as critical to the Kingdom’s development, he said.

They were also key indicators for “ensuring Cambodia’s competitiveness in reconstructing the nation’s economy and integrating itself into the region and the world”, Im Sethy said.

“We are hopeful of young students coming to schools when they reach the age eligible for entering school.”

He acknowledged that the country still had a long way to go, but said he was encouraged by the number of donor and development partners coming forward to lend a hand.

“We may have achieved considerable success with some aspects of quality education, but we have not attained 100 percent perfection,” he said.

“We are encouraged by the fact that many countries are coming to help us find ways to improve the quality of education because we lost nearly everything during the Khmer Rouge regime.”

He said that less than 20 percent of the Kingdom’s teachers survived Pol Pot’s bloody reign.

The Ministry of Education seeks to recruit an additional 500 teachers per year because the number of schools has increased rapidly.

There are now nearly 8,000 school buildings across the country, but even that is not enough to meet the demand of new and existing students.

The ministry also plans to build some 800 to 900 additional school buildings in remote rural areas, Im Sethy said.

The government is also formulating strategies and initiatives to boost the quality of education.

One method of sustaining quality education was by widening knowledge of the teachers, so they are able to pass on their knowledge to students.

“Along with our own efforts, I want to add that some of the success we have achieved is because we have good support from donor agencies such as Save the Children Norway,” Im Sethy said.