Sunday, 28 February 2010

THAILAND UNDAUNTED OVER HUN SEN’S PLANNED BORDER VISIT: DEPUTY PM SUTHEP

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NAM NEWS NETWORK Feb 27th, 2010

BANGKOK, Feb. 27 (NNN-TNA) — Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban on Friday downplayed concerns over the planned weekend visit of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to Cambodian troops near the Thai border, saying security measures along the border have been well-prepared.

Mr Suthep, who oversees national security, commented following news reports of Cambodian English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post that Mr Hun Sen will visit his troops near the Thai border in Battambang province on Saturday, while soldiers in Kampong Chhnang province will also conduct military exercises and will test launch BM-21 rockets on March 5.

The deputy Thai premier said it is normal for Mr Hun Sen to travel wherever he wants, but the Thai government has already put security measures in place along the Thai-Cambodian border. He suggested there was no need for anything in addition.

“I don’t believe that the arms test will threaten Thailand’s security,” Mr Suthep said. “The Thai army stands ready to protect our national sovereignty.”

Mr Hun Sen was earlier quoted as telling a Phnom Penh newspaper that the rocket tests are aimed to strengthen the abilities of the country’s military. Though the rockets are capable of travelling 40 km., troops would normally fire them at less than half the distance.

?We are not flexing our muscles ? this is work to strengthen the abilities of the military in national defence,? Mr Hun Sen said.

The Cambodian leader, who earlier described Mr Thaksin as his true friend, appointing him adviser to the Cambodian government, however dismissed accusations that his trip is linked to Thailand’s court verdict on the Bt76 billion (US$ 2.3 billion) frozen assets of his friend on Friday, saying this weekend’s planned visit is a “normal” visit to the soldiers–do not try to link the problems in Bangkok on February 26 to my visit on February 27.?

Early this month, the Cambodian premier visited his troops stationed near the Thai border and the ancient Preah Vihear temple, claiming that the visit is aimed at boosting the spirit of the Cambodian troops.

But he was denied entry by Thai authorities to the Ta Muen Thom ruins which located in Thailand’s Surin province for safety concerns as supporters of anti-Thaksin movement People’s Alliance for Democracy were rallying not far from the renowned ruins. — NNN-TNA

During Five Years, Cambodia Has Spent About US$500 Million on Information Technology – Saturday, 27.2.2010

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/
via CAAI News Media

Posted on 28 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 653

“Phnom Penh: The president of the Information Communication Technology Association of Cambodia [Yellow Pages: “Website not working” - maybe later again?] and president of the Young Entrepreneur Association of Cambodia, Mr. Ken Chanthan, told Deum Ampil yesterday that during the recent five years, about US$500 million were spent on information technology in Cambodia, and each year the expenses increases by 30%. Thus, Cambodia should have the ability to create software on its own. He added, ‘In Cambodia, the access to computer and information technology is just around 5% to 10%, and most of the computers being used nowadays are clone computers [no-brand-name computers] because they are cheaper and it is easier for students and civil servants to buy them.

“He stressed that actually, in developed countries, Information and Communication Technology is an important field used to create jobs for people through the provision of services, such as the creation of software to be sold abroad, or for the publication of information in the country and abroad. Also, information technology can be used in small and medium scale industries to promote competition in productivity, or to promote markets, like in the tourism sector, where ICT can be used for booking airplane tickets and hotel rooms, and for checking information about various touristic sites. Now, Cambodia needs to change to more use of information and communication technology in order to develop the country to progress, like other countries in the world.

“He went on to say that on 4 and 5 March 2010, an international company from Korea will make a visit to study the possibilities of software development in cooperation with Cambodian companies, as Cambodia has the potential with Information Technology students who can cooperate to produce software. In addition, labor in Cambodia is cheap. Therefore, if Korean companies can establish a company to produce software in Cambodia, it will boost the information technology sector to progress quickly, contributing to the development of the country, and it will create employment for Cambodian people.

“According to a report from an information technology training center about the year 2009, there were 45,700 computers being used in Cambodia, but in 2010, the number might increase up to 56,300 computers.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #421, 27.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 27 February 2010

Thailand ruling party urges Thaksin to quit politics

Supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra react during the Supreme Court verdict on the fortune of Thaksin at the opposition's headquarters in Bangkok. Thailand's fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his supporters have vowed to fight back against a court order seizing more than half of his $2.3 billion fortune.

A supporter of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra holds a book with Thaksin's picture on the cover in Bangkok February 27, 2010. Thailand's top court on Friday seized $1.4 billion of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family assets for abuse of his power, far less than expected, in a ruling that could appease some anti-government forces but protesters said they will continue to rally in mid-March. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

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by Apilaporn Vechakij Apilaporn Vechakij – Sat Feb 27, 2:57 am ET
BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand's ruling party on Saturday urged deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra to leave the political stage after the top court ordered the seizure of more than half of his 2.3-billion-dollar fortune.

The fugitive tycoon said the verdict had made him a "political martyr" of an elitist political system, but politicians from the country's ruling coalition said he should accept the ruling and stop inciting his supporters to protest. Key facts of the case against ex-Thai PM Thaksin

"Every side should accept the verdict. We want to ask Thaksin to quit the political movement, because if he quits the Red Shirts will quit too," Theptai Seanapong, a spokesman for the ruling Democrat party, told reporters.

The "Red Shirts", so-called for the colour they wear, are a strident political group who view Thaksin as a hero for his populist stance against the country's establishment and have held numerous street rallies to back him.

After reading a seven-hour verdict on Friday, broadcast on television and radio, Supreme Court judges said the government should seize 46 billion baht (1.4 billion dollars) of the assets from the sale of Thaksin's telecoms firm.

But they said the twice-elected former leader, who was removed from office in a coup in 2006, could hold on to the money he had already accumulated before taking office in 2001. Key dates in Thaksin saga

Thaksin reacted to the verdict in a video speech from exile in Dubai, where he is living to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption at home, calling the ruling "very political" and a "joke for the world".

His lawyers Saturday said they would consider submitting fresh evidence to the Supreme Court and would mull an appeal to the World Court.

"Our team of lawyers will consider an appeal within 30 days. There are many regulations to consider," said Thaksin's lawyer Noppadan Pattama.

Despite Thai security forces bracing for violence there was no sign of trouble from Thaksin's supporters following the court decision, police said.

Up to 35,000 extra security personnel remained on watch across the country, with riot police still on guard at the courthouse, but Thaksin's political allies vowed to continue their battle without violence.

"We can protest but peacefully. It's not only the duty of the party but everyone to fight for justice," said Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, chairman of the Thaksin-allied Puea Thai party.

The Red Shirts have vowed to hold rallies from March 12 in Bangkok, leading many to fear a repeat of scenes last April when riots at an Asian summit and in Bangkok left two people dead and scores injured.

The government had applied for the seizure of proceeds from the sale of shares owned by Thaksin and his family in his Shin Corp telecoms giant, which was bought by Singapore-based Temasek holdings in January 2006.

The judges said in the ruling that Thaksin had used his power to benefit Shin Corp and illegally hid his ownership of the shares, among other graft charges.

The case goes to the heart of societal rifts that have dogged Thailand since the coup.

The Red Shirts, largely from Thaksin's stronghold in the nation's poor north and northeast, loved his populist policies and accuse the current government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of being an unelected elite.

The tycoon's opponents in the Bangkok-based circles around the palace, military and bureaucracy accuse Thaksin of being corrupt, dictatorial and of threatening Thailand's widely revered monarchy.

Thailand on alert as Thaksin fans weigh fortune seizure

via CAAI News Media

February 27, 2010

Thailand was on alert for civil unrest Saturday as loyal fans of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra weighed a court ruling that seized more than half his 2.3-billion-dollar fortune a day earlier.

Some 150 riot police stood guard outside the country's top court that on Friday stripped the fugitive tycoon of the money they said he had accumulated by abusing his power as prime minister.

Thousands of other security personnel manned checkpoints and key buildings around Bangkok despite commentators saying the court's verdict was an apparant compromise aimed at avoiding violence.

"We are ready for any situation," said senior police officer Weerawith Chanchamroen.

After reading out a seven-hour verdict broadcast on national television and radio, the judges said the government should seize 46 billion baht (1.4 billion US dollars) of the assets from the sale of Thaksin's telecoms firm.

But they said the twice-elected former leader, who was removed from office in a coup in 2006, could hold on to the money he had already accumulated before taking office in 2001. Key facts of the case against ex-Thai PM Thaksin

Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption at home, said in a video speech from exile in Dubai that he was the "political martyr" of a conspiracy to remove him from politics. Key dates in Thaksin saga

"This case is very political... The ruling will be a joke for the world," he said.

Thaksin's supporters, dubbed the "Red Shirts" for the colour they wear, have vowed to press ahead with plans to rally from March 12 in Bangkok, but his political allies Saturday promised peaceful action.

"We can protest but peacefully. It's not only the duty of the party but everyone to fight for justice," said Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, chairman of the Thaksin-allied Puea Thai party.

Red Shirt riots at an Asian summit and in Bangkok in April 2009 left two people dead and scores injured.

Deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban urged the Thai public to be on alert for trouble.

"I ask the people to help keep an eye on the situation. If you see anything that seems unusual, please tell the authorities," he told reporters Friday.

Thousands of troops and police were deployed across the country in the build-up to Friday's verdict.

The government had applied for the seizure of the proceeds from the sale of shares owned by Thaksin and his family in his Shin Corp telecoms giant, which was bought by Singapore-based Temasek holdings in January 2006.

The judges said in the ruling that Thaksin had used his power to benefit Shin Corp and illegally hid his ownership of the shares, among other graft charges.

The case goes to the heart of societal rifts that have dogged Thailand since the coup.

The Red Shirts, largely from Thaksin's stronghold in Thailand's impoverished north and northeast, loved his populist policies and accuse the current government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of being an unelected elite.

The tycoon's opponents in the Bangkok-based circles around the palace, military and bureaucracy accuse Thaksin of being corrupt, dictatorial and of threatening Thailand's widely revered monarchy.

Cambodia: Making Heroin Addicts Use Herbal Remedy


Men get ready to inject heroin in a slum area February 6, 2010 in Phnom Penh
Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

via CAAI News Media

By CHRISTOPHER SHAY
PHNOM PENH Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010

About 100 people — mostly local drug addicts — gathered at a pagoda in Phnom Penh in mid-February. A few drug users had brought their families for support, and they sat together on woven mats before a Buddhist shrine. The crowd put their hands together, bowed their heads and prayed. In a country where many drug addicts report being beaten, electrocuted and forced into military-style camps, the group prayer was organized to raise public awareness of their plight. In one prayer, Cambodia's drug users and monks chanted together, "We pray for drug users to have access to proper, community-based, voluntary drug treatment."

It isn't a prayer that's likely to be answered soon. Though the Cambodian government says its 11 state drug treatment centers are all voluntary, a report released by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month says only 1-2% of drug users enter Cambodia's drug rehabilitation facilities by choice. A few days before the prayer ceremony, a 23-year-old heroin user, who had just fled from Cambodian police that morning, told TIME he feared being whisked away to one of the drug centers. Four months ago during a police sweep of a known drug hotspot, the drug user, who requested anonymity, watched a police officer accuse someone of hiding drugs in his cheeks. When the man opened his mouth, the policeman shoved an electric baton down his throat. "I thought it was flashlight at first, but it was shocker," the witness said. Later, when he was taken to the rehab center, he says he was separated from the others and hit repeatedly with a stick. If the police "look at you with a hateful look, they'll pull you aside, lock you up in a room and beat you," he says.

Cambodia would hardly be alone in forcing its drug users into camps where forced labor and exercise are considered treatment. Gordon Mortimore, a former consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS and the World Bank on drug treatment programs, says these drug boot camps are "very much a Southeast Asia phenomenon" and that the punitive approach to addiction is "part of a societal attitude where drug taking is seen as danger to the community." According to a 2009 World Health Organization report, some 50,000 to 60,000 people are held in 109 Vietnamese detention centers for drug treatment for two years at a time. Thousands more drug users in Thailand are forced into treatment centers run by Thai armed forces, and HRW estimates that about 350,000 Chinese nationals end up in compulsory detox camps in China.

But while detention, physical abuse and forced labor are common across the region, Joe Amon, director of the health and human rights division at HRW, says Cambodia's treatment of drug users stands out for its brutality. "We were shocked by the ubiquity and severity of the abuses in the Cambodian drug detention centers we investigated," says Amon. "People described being beaten, whipped with electrical cables, receiving electrical shocks or raped." Nearly 2,400 individuals passed through Cambodia's drug treatment centers in 2008, a 40% increase from 2007. Estimates as to how many total drug users there are in Cambodia vary wildly, but aid workers and politicians agree the problem has grown more pronounced in recent years. The expansion of the drug centers, according to the HRW report, appears to be tied to cooperation with Cambodia's regional partners, especially Vietnam. Cambodia's neighbor to the east has pledged technical assistance to support a new compulsory drug center that would house about 2,000 drug users, according to the daily Phnom Penh Post. "A lot of this influence is now about economics," says Mortimore. "It's a big business. The drug treatment industry is a huge untapped market."

In December, Cambodian authorities and Vietnamese experts ran a 10-day trial of at least 17 Cambodian heroin users of Bong Sen, an herbal detoxification remedy made in Vietnam. Cambodian authorities have stated the participants in the trial were volunteers, and that Bong Sen safely and effectively curbs the urge to use heroin. HRW, however, claims that participants were forced to take part in the trial. At an NGO that provides food and shelter for drug users, a 35-year-old HIV positive drug user also told TIME he was given no choice to join the Bong Sen trial after he was picked up in a police sweep. The heroin user took out a group photo taken after the trial's "graduation ceremony," showing smiling former heroin users flanked by Vietnamese experts in lab coats. Though he says he did not participate voluntarily, he says at the time he hoped the Vietnamese medication "would make us stop using." But as soon as he was back on the street, he returned to heroin. He pointed to two men nearby at the shelter, passed out after having shot up, and then to their two smiling faces in the photo. "All of them are using again."

The Bong Sen trial, however, had another worrying repercussion. In December, the Cambodian government asked Korsang, a local NGO that works with Cambodian drug users, to provide participants for the Bong Sen training program. The group refused to cooperate, citing lack of research ensuring the drug's safety. Two weeks later, the government refused to renew Korsang's license to run a needle exchange program, one of only two such programs in the country. In the weeks since their clean needle program stopped, drug users in Phnom Penh say it has become difficult to access sterile needles. The HIV positive drug user from the Bong Sen trial said he has been able to eke out money for new syringes, but he worries about others. "I see people pick up syringes off the ground and use them," he says.

Last year, Korsang gave out over 12,000 syringes, and if the group cannot resume handing them out, experts fear a fresh spike in Cambodia's dropping HIV rates. Cambodia is considered a fragile success story in the region, with HIV rates dropping from about 2% in 1997 to 0.8% a decade later. But ignoring one high risk group can derail even the best HIV plans. "When you don't have access to clean needles, you get a massive HIV epidemic," says Mortimore, the former WHO consultant, adding that in a drug using community when "HIV explodes, it jumps to the general population."

The relationship between voluntary drug rehab and lower HIV rates is already playing out elsewhere. In the last five years, Malaysia has shut down about half of its forced drug treatment centers. Though criminal law still penalizes drug use in Malaysia, according to Dr. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, the president of the Malaysian AIDS Council, more than 151 community-based drug centers have opened since 2006. While the 2009 WHO report found relapse rates of between 90-100% among drug users at detox centers in Cambodia and Vietnam, in Malaysia, these out-patient methadone clinics have over 70% retention rates. What makes this all the more important is that one in five Malaysian injection drug users is HIV positive, making it the core of Malaysia's HIV epidemic. Says Kamarulzaman: "The more people are on methadone, the less they will be injecting." The results? Malaysia saw the number of new HIV cases among injection drug users drop more than 40% drop in 2008, when compared to only four years earlier.

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says it is working with the Cambodian government to develop a system of voluntary, community-based drug treatment centers. The program is only in its pilot phase, but Gary Lewis, the Southeast Asia regional representative for the UNODC, says the relatively small number of detainees here should make it easier for Cambodia to phase out its centers and adopt new approaches more quickly than its neighbors. The UNODC has been criticized by HRW for not being vocal enough in their condemnation of the government's centers, but the UNODC hopes that by engaging with the government it can steer treatment in a new direction, something closer to Malaysia's emerging community-based system than Vietnam's military one. "We need to not only to draw attention to the problem, but to also find a solution," Lewis says. "And we need to do this in a way which involves collaboration with the government."

It remains to be seen which direction the tug-of-war between Vietnam and the U.N. will take Cambodian drug policy, but right now, it's clear the current system is broken. One Cambodian drug user with HIV says he's been in and out of Cambodian treatment centers more than 10 times. Without better support, he knows he'll keep ending up back there. "I can never get help," says the gaunt drug user whose clavicle sticks out from his white v-neck t-shirt. "I want to stop; no one can ever help me out."

Northeastern states stage a cultural festival

http://www.thaindian.com/
via CAAI News Media

February 27th, 2010

Agartala, Feb 27(ANI): To promote closer ties among the Northeast states and with their neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, a month-long cultural festival ‘Inter-Cultural Dialogue’ is being staged and the second leg of it concluded in Agartala on Friday.

New Delhi-based the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) in association with North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC) and the state governments is organizing the first ever-international cultural festival across the northeast region.

The festival began on February 21 in Guwahati, Assam and will wind up on March 12 covering Meghaylaya, Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland, followed by a four-day symposium-cum-cultural show in New Delhi from March 17 to March 20.

Around 150 artists and performers from Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and northeastern states are performing various traditional dances to showcase their area’s traditional art and culture.

Other than traditional Thai dance and Indonesian dance depicting scenes from Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, the mask dance of Sikkim and traditional Indonesian Wayang Kulit (shadow puppet) were enjoyed very much by the audience, as they were totally new to them.

Audience, who were mesmerized by the programme, felt that academics and artists of these regions should collectively revisit their history, culture and economy and look at the commonalities, which still persist to a significant extent.

“I feel our culture, that is to say, ancient Indian culture specially the Aryan culture has been beautifully mixed in their chorography. They are also trying to expose their dance items, their choreography through Ramayana, Mahabharata. This is beautiful mixture of Indian culture and neighbouring countries,” said Swapan Nandi, audience and renowned painter.

Participants from the Southeast Asian countries said they were happy participating in the event.

“We are happy to join this festival because here we can show our culture and learn other cultures like of India, Thailand, Cambodia and Java,” said Chum Chanveasna, an artist from Cambodia.

The organisers said that the unique relationship in cultural-historical experiences of the people of Southeast Asian countries and northeast India has become a subject of genuine importance in the background of the overall drive for cultural, economic, political understanding and unity, and such cultural events help to bridge the gap and rediscover old ties between them. (ANI)

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Large Ransom Paid to Somali Pirates for Indonesian Ship

Saturday, 27 February 2010 21:19 DAP-NEWS

Total Cambodia in cooperation with other sponsors on Saturday held the 2010 Motor Racing championship at Prek Leap village in O’Russey Keo diss.

“It is the fifth event that so far we have celebrated in Phnom Penh under the support of Cambodian Total,” Steph- ane Dion, managing director of Total Cambodia, said in the opening ceremony .

“Total Cambodia has been committed to communicating our passion for motor sports and promoting motorcycle racing throughout Cambodia, and grooming an ever larger number of national riders to be able to participate in an international championship,” Dion added. This year, the racing attracted hundreds of local people and foreigners.

In Class A (professionals): Larry Blair from France won the first place, and the runner-up is Piere Yves Catry from France, with third place Chayanutrav BooPawat from Thailand. The winners were awarded US$300, US$200, and US$150, respectively, and each got a medal.

In Class B (maximum 14 years old): Iv Leng from Cambodia won first place, second place went to Mathew Cooper from Canada and third place Vong Khan Pove from Cambodiaof 14 years old. The winners got US$250, US$150, and US$100, respectively .

In Class C: Touch Thach won first place, second place was That Chamroeun, and third Lim Pheng, all from Cambodia. They got US$200, US$150 and US$100, respectively .

In Class D: the winner was Bun Roth, with Jule Van Derrest second place, and third was Sang Makara . The winners got US$100, US$70 and US$50, repectively.

“For the foreign riders we provided accommodation and travel tickets...We have to promote this sport here; it has started to be attractive for local people,” Yim Vibol, the marketing and communication manager for Total Cambodia, told DAP News Cambodia .

This saw 50 racers from eight countries.

The main sponsors for 2010 were Ford, the Pizza, Company, and ANZ Royal, Infinity Insurance, Eurotech mineral water, Coca Cola, and Comin Khmere.

PM Warns TV5

Saturday, 27 February 2010 21:15 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday warned he would close the TV5 station and sell its shares as the station broadcasts little information about soldiers’ activities, depite being owned by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.

The premier’s warning came as he and his wife, Bun Rany Hun Sen, visited soldiers in Army Region 5 in Ratanak Mondul District, Battambang Province.

“There have many generals, but many dancing programs are broadcast, and the army’s activity is not broadcast. The license should be removed ,” the premier said.

“What percentage of the TV broadcasts of devoted to the soldiers’ activities? It is the worst compared to other TV stations,” the PM said.
The Premier urged all Cambodians to cooperate in the face of attempted incursions by Thai soldiers at Preah Vihear Temple.

Cambodian Growth Expected 8- 9 Pct in the Coming Years

Saturday, 27 February 2010 18:20 Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH,– Cambodia saw its growth up to 9 percent in the next several years which will be boosted by robust agriculture’s production and tourism and that figure could be higher thanks to its first oil production, said the report was seen by DAP on Friday.

“The Cambodian economy is expected to grow at a somewhat lower rate of about 8- 9 percent.”

“But growth will likely accelerate after oil production commences on a commercial scale expected in 2010 or 2011,” said the report about the Cambodian Economy.

Cambodia expected to produce first oil in next year by the giant U.S. Chevron Texaco announcement of its discoveries, which was quoted in the report that “a reserve of 400 million barrels of oil and five billion cubic meters of natural gas,” it said.

Cambodian growth is projected to pick up 4.25 percent for 2010, said the report.

The international financial crises affected this Southeast Asian nation’s growth last year projected at a range between 0 percent to -1 percent, but earlier the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that Cambodia’s economic growth would be -2.7 percent in 2009.

The report, which detailed about the country’s economic situation, said that the accelerating economic growth is crucial for the improvement of social indicators and broadening the fiscal base to generate enough revenue to fund social sector.

Growth will have to be achieved from the diversification of production sources and promoting investment in new manufacturing activities, the agro-industry, and tourism sector, it said.

Beyond the near term, Cambodia will need to diversify its sources of growth to sustain a 7 percent growth per annum in non-oil GDP.

“As private sector developing reforms to take root, sectors other than garments and tourism should increasingly contribute to growth.”

“Agriculture is also expected to improve its performance when reforms, including those pertaining to land management, are implemented and when investment in rural infrastructure increases,” it said.

The report also said that in the near term the economy will likely continue to be held by tourism, the garment industry and construction, with agriculture providing periodic but volatile growth spurts depends on weather conditions.

Agriculture, which is the Cambodian economic backbone, accounts 30 percent of GDP—given nearly 90 percent of the kingdom’s total population of 14 million is rural.

Cambodia has been successful with rice production in the last decade and this prospect remains unchanged. The kingdom produced 7.28 million tonnes of rice for 2009/2010 of which Cambodia saw another surplus of 3.1 million tonnes for exports.

Cambodia received 2.1 million foreign tourists last year and that figure is expected to increase 15 percent a year. The sector contributed 13 percent of GDP.

The total value of garment, textiles and shoes exported last year dropped to $2.6 billion compared with $3.1 billion in 2008.

Cambodian Largest Gambling Industry of $100 Million Investment in Casino

Saturday, 27 February 2010 17:40 Ek Madra

PHNOM PENH, A Cambodian tycoon Kith Thieng said on Friday launched $100 million investment in casino to meet the increasing numbers of gamblers flocked to entertain and relax in the kingdom.

The Titan King Casino opened its doors after months of constructions on 2.5 hectares of land and employing some 6,000 people in Bavet town of Svay Rieng province, about 120km from Phnom Penh, right at the Cambodia Vietnam Border.

Kith Thieng said in a release “Bavet has developed very rapidly in recent years and now boasts many casinos in operation with more under construction. The town is rapidly becoming a regional center for entertainment and relaxation much like Las Vegas and Macau.”

“Titan King is poised to be the largest hotel casino in Cambodia,” said the company release.

Titan King Casino shall have the most advanced casino facilities in Cambodia with gaming tables, the latest gaming machines with Special Junket Rooms, exclusive VIP and VVIP rooms, it said.

Attached to this vast casino complex is an exclusive boutique hotel, equipped with the latest facilities and modern amenities.

“Bavet is very important in Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s plan to promote the border area as a regional center of commerce,” said Kith Thieng.

The town located on National Road No. 1, the major ten-country of ASEAN corridor between Cambodia and Vietnam and the most important link for business, trade, and tourism between the nations.

The facility of Titan King Casino is design for the ideal base for entertainment, relaxation, and business.

It offers So Nguon Dry Port operating on 7 hectares with capacity to stock 4,000 containers. With special economic zones, duty free markets, large dry port, and investment incentives.

“Bavet is transforming into the most important commercial city in eastern Cambodia,” Kith Thieng said.

An estimated 23 casinos and gambling complex in Cambodia, many of them are foreign owned and joint venture with the local partners, mushroomed in the last decade. Almost all casinos located near the border of Cambodia-Thailand and Vietnam-Cambodia.

Vietnam provides internet system to Cambodian legislature

via CAAI News Media

February 27, 2010

A delegation of Vietnam’s National Assembly has worked with the Cambodian National Assembly Secretary General on the installation of an internet-connected computer system for Cambodia ’s legislative body.

During their visit to Cambodia from February 22-27, Deputy Head of the NA Office Nguyen Si Dung held talks with Cambodian National Assembly Secretary General, Leng Peng Long, on the project.

The US$300,000 project will be conducted in two phases and completed by late 2011.

For the first phase to be completed this year, Vietnam will provide an internet application server, computers and internet subscriptions to the Cambodian NA to make the parliamentarian agency connected to the worldwide internet.

During the second phase, Vietnam will help install an intranet system for the Cambodian NA to better disseminate information and guidelines among other agencies under its aegis.

Within the visit’s framework, Cambodian NA Chairman Heng Samrin gave a cordial reception for the Vietnamese delegation stating he was delighted at the ever developing co-operation between the two legislative bodies of Cambodia and Vietnam. (VNA)

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Cambodia SKorea bilateral trade soars


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Cambodian exports to South Korea surged 391 percent in January compared with the same month last year.

Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency says the 4 point 3 million dollar rise comes amid an overall increase in bilateral trade between the two countries.

Korea Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia says rising demand from North America has also help spur the recovery in trade.

South Korea runs garment factories in the Kingdom, and Cambodia in turn imports raw materials for its primary export industry, so trade between the two is highly dependent on demand from the United States and Canada.

Last month rubber was Cambodia's largest export to South Korea indicating the Kingdom's intention to move into other export industries, particularly agricultural products.

Viettel conquers Cambodia's mobile market


via CAAI News Media

February, 27 2010

HA NOI — Viettel Cambodia, a subsidiary of Viet Nam's military-run telecom service provider, now owns 42 per cent of the base transceiver stations (BTS) and 88 per cent the optic-fibre cable in Cambodia.

In terms of subscribers, it now holds the second place just six months after becoming operational.

The telecom provider aims to obtain a turnover of US$250 million this year. It also plans to have 3,000 BTS for 2G services and 1,500 BTS for its 3G network. It is also looking to increase its optic-fibre cable network to between 15,000 and 16,000 kilometres.

Viettel said it was looking to have a 46 per cent share of the fixed-line subscriber market, and 90 per cent of the mobile phone and ADSL markets.

The group is now the leading Vietnamese investor in foreign countries.

This year, it plans to invest in Bangladesh, while expanding its market share in other foreign countries.

The group said its targeted turnover this year was VND75 trillion to VND78 trillion ($4-4.2 billion), an increase of 60 per cent to 70 per cent against last year.

In the domestic market, its BTS and optic-fibre cable infrastructure has increased by 50 per cent. It has 26,000 stations for 2G and 3G services and 90,000 kilometres of cable.

The telecom provider plans to have 7,000 operational BTS for 3G services in Viet Nam.

Viettel deputy general director Nguyen Manh Hung said the group would be responsible for designing its products, while they would be assembled in mainland China or Taiwan.

Hung said his company decided to invest in producing made-in-Viet Nam mobile phone products to meet the demand of Viet Nam's 40 million subscribers. It is anticipated that there will be 50 million subscribers by the end of this year. — VNS

Cambodia Not Ready for Munitions Pact: Official

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By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Washington
26 February 2010

Cambodiais not ready to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions, due to stockpiles it is currently holding, a senior government official said Thursday.

Cambodia is still assessing the cost and means associated with finding a replacement to its current munitions, Prak Sokhon, vice president of the Cambodia Mine Action Authority, said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

We need more time to study the number of cluster munitions we have and if we need to replace them in order for us to sign the convention,” he said.

The government also needs to know “how much money and time we need to replace the munitions with the ones that are not banned,” he said. “Once we have these, we can then sign it.”

The UN took the opportunity on National Mine Awareness Day on Wednesday to renew an appeal for Cambodiato renew its commitment to the eliminating cluster munitions.

“We urge Cambodiato sign and ratify as soon as possible the Convention on Cluster Munitions to demonstrate its commitment to a peaceful and secure world,” the UN said in a statement.

Cambodiais peppered with landmines, remnants of decades of civil strife, though the number of mine- and ordnance-related fatalities has dropped over the past four years, falling from 450 in 2006 to 243 in 2009.

The decrease was due to better demining operations, law enforcement and coordination in identifying mined areas, Prak Sokhon said.

Negative impact on Ratanakiri villagers from Vietnamese dam - RFA Video



Water released from Vietnamese dam creates danger along river in Cambodia in Ratanakiri province

Thai Anti-Government Protestors Plan Rally New Tang Dynasty Television



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Anti-government protesters in Thailand announced their plans to hold mass rallies beginning mid-March in a bid to force parliament to dissolve and to call for new elections.

The call for new protests comes as the country waits for a Supreme Court ruling on Friday (February 26) on whether or not to seize the assets of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, or U.D.D, will protest in the capital for at least seven days. Its expected to be their first lengthy demonstration since violent protests last April.

Hundreds of the red-shirted supporters gathered at the Bangkok news conference to hear the plan.

[Jatuporn Prompan, U.D.D. Leader]:
"Our red shirts from all parts of the country will begin to mobilize on March 12. And all the crowd flows will meet in Bangkok on March 14."

The group has vowed to bring a million Thais to the capital to topple the government within seven days.

[Jatuporn Prompan, UDD Leader]:
"The March 14 event will be the beginning of the countdown to the end of autocrats and the government."

The U.D.D. says Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's six-party coalition government is illegitimate because it was not elected by the people but put together by the army after Thaksin was ousted.

At a news conference after the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said its the government's duty to maintain peace and order.

[Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thai Prime Minister]:
"The government will not allow any threat to affect our stability. It is a duty of the government to keep the peace and stability and we will continue to maintain the jurisdiction system."

Security forces are braced for a big turnout and a possible violent response to the court verdict due on Friday (February 26) on whether to seize $2.3 billion in assets belonging to the family of Thaksin, who was accused of abuse of power while he was in the premiership and became unusually rich.

Thailand's top court Friday stripped Thaksin Shinawatra of more than half his 2.3-billion-dollar fortune after ruling that the fugitive former premier had abused his power for personal gain.

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is shown on a large screen during a teleconference to his supporters at one of their headquarters in Bangkok February 26, 2010. A Thai court on Friday seized $1.4 billion worth of assets belonging to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family, about $900 million less than the maximum in a decision that could appease some anti-government forces. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

Supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra cry as they wait for news at one of their headquarters in Bangkok February 26, 2010. A Thai court on Friday seized $1.4 billion worth of assets belonging to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family, about $900 million less than the maximum in a decision that could appease some anti-government forces. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra burn an effigy of a court building and toy rifles during a protest against the supreme court's verdict on Thaksin's asset at the royal ground Friday, Feb. 26, 2010 in Bangkok. Thailand's Supreme Court ruled Friday that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra unlawfully concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, as it prepared to issue a decision on whether his $2.29 billion fortune should be seized. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

A supporter of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is seen as other supporters burn what they say is the spirit house representing the Supreme Court near its main building in Bangkok late February 26, 2010. A Thai court on Friday seized $1.4 billion worth of assets belonging to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family, about $900 million less than the maximum in a decision that could appease some anti-government forces. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra cheer with their clapping tools as an effigy of a court building and fake rifles are set on fire during a protest against the supreme court's verdict on Thaksin's asset at the royal ground Friday, Feb. 26, 2010 in Bangkok. Thailand's Supreme Court ruled Friday that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra unlawfully concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, as it prepared to issue a decision on whether his $2.29 billion fortune should be seized. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra cry at Pheu Thai Party office in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday, Feb. 26, 2010. Thailand's highest court has ruled that Thaksin concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, and ordered the seizure of 46 billion baht (US$1.4 billion) of his US$2.29 billion in frozen assets. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Supporters of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra shout slogans at Pheu Thai Party in Bangkok, Thailand, on Friday, Feb. 26, 2010. Thailand's highest court has ruled that Thaksin concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, and ordered the seizure of 46 billion baht (US$1.4 billion) of his US$2.29 billion in frozen assets. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra react as he addresses them via video link at the park near the Supreme Court in Bangkok late February 26, 2010. A Thai court on Friday seized $1.4 billion worth of assets belonging to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's family, about $900 million less than the maximum in a decision that could appease some anti-government forces. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Buddhist monks join a protest against the supreme court's verdict on Thaksin's assets at the royal ground Friday, Feb. 26, 2010, in Bangkok. Thailand's Supreme Court ruled Friday that ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra unlawfully concealed his assets while in office and abused his power for personal gain, as it prepared to issue a decision on whether his $2.29 billion fortune should be seized. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

Supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra react during the announcement by the Supreme Court of the verdict on the fortune of Thaksin at the opposition Puea Thai party headquarters in Bangkok. Thailand's top court Friday stripped Thaksin of more than half his 2.3-billion-dollar fortune after ruling that the fugitive former premier had abused his power for personal gain. (AFP/Christophe Archambault)

As Thailand's top court rules on the fate of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra 2.3-billion-dollar fortune, an analyst explains why Thaksin remains a popular figure. Duration:01: 02(AFPTV)

Thaksin Shinawatra must cough up half of his fortune: Judge

Thailand`s fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra (L) is embraced by a supporter as he greets red-shirted supporters at a hotel in Siem Reap November 12, 2009. Emboldened by a rousing welcome in Cambodia, Thaksin is raising the stakes in his bid for a political comeback by rallying support from just over the border. (REUTERS / Chor Sokunthea)


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26 February 2010

The Supreme Court in Thailand has ruled that more than half of the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's frozen assets of $2.3 billion could be taken away from him by the government

Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, will have to hand over $1.4 billion.

Following an eight-hour judgement, the court found Thaksin guilty on five counts of corruption.

Thai judges said Mr Thaksin "abused his power" while in office. They added that the former leader had deliberately hidden his wealth and had covered up his ownership of shares in his family-controlled telecommunications company, Shin Corp.

Thaksin himself said the court's decision was "100% political," according to the BBC News.

The former leader was convicted in 2008 over a corrupt land deal and sentenced to two years' jail, but fled the country.

Thaksin now lives in exile in Dubai, but remains hugely popular with Thailand's rural poor.

Floating lodge sits lightly

Water level ... the floating 4 Rivers Eco Lodge in Cambodia

http://www.smh.com.au/

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CAMBODIA'S first floating eco-lodge has opened in Koh Kong province. The 4 Rivers Eco Lodge is on the Tatai River, halfway between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Owner Valentin Pawlik, who arrived in Cambodia five years ago from Romania to work in the boat industry, says the pristine beauty of the area has led him down the eco path.

"I'm not [yet] an eco-maniac but I totally agree that we urgently need to do something in the area of sustainable development," he says.

Pawlik says the resort fulfils all the tenets of responsible eco-tourism. It is treating black water, managing waste, has an energy-consumption policy and a green-energy transition plan.

"So I'm proud to say we're not leaving any environmental footprint," he says. "If we are to move the resort there will be no sign of it following our departure."

Local people have helped build the resort and staff it in maintenance and housekeeping roles as well as in the kitchen, which uses fish and local produce.

The resort is aimed at the traveller who likes wilderness with a dash of luxury. Each of the 12 floating tents is stylishly fitted out and has Wi-Fi and a flat-screen television.

Tents are $US120 ($133) a night including breakfast until April and $US102 from May until September.

Korea Expressway signs construction deal with Cambodia


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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Korea's state-run Korea Expressway Corp. said Friday it has signed a $2.65 million deal with the Cambodian government to improve and build new roadways for the Southeast Asian country.

The clinching of the deal came after Korea Expressway, in a consortium with Korea's Sambo Engineering Co., submitted a proposal to the Cambodian government for a road project there in October last year, it said.

The project calls for the consortium to design and supervise the improvement of two national highways and one local road and the construction of a detour in the Southeast Asian country. Completion of the project, expected to begin next month, is slated for June 2013, the company said in a statement.

Mr. Sam Rainsy Responded to Hun Sen, Saying the Cambodian Leader Himself Fakes Maps and Does Not Even Know Where the Country’s Border Is – Friday, 26.2.2010

http://cambodiamirror.wordpress.com/
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Posted on 26 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 653

“The war of words from the Cambodian Prime Minister, whose angry reaction is surprising, leads to questions among observers – when he blasted Mr. Sam Rainsy, his opponent and president of the biggest opposition party in Cambodia over border issues, it led to different reactions trying to clarify. Khmer people have questions, and national and international observers as well as diplomats want to know why the powerful Prime Minister of Cambodia cannot agree upon other ways to clarify things between Khmers and Khmers, but rather make accusations to have border documents faked.

“In a new interview with Radio Free Asia aired yesterday morning, Mr. Sam Rainsy, a parliamentarian from Cambodia and now in France to continue a mission struggling to protect the territorial integrity of Cambodia from loss, because of the improper setting of border markers, said he is doing it to respond to the Cambodian Prime Minister, Mr. Hun Sen, who accused him of faking map documents of Cambodia.

“During the interview with Radio Free Asia on 25 February 2010, Mr. Sam Rainsy stressed, ‘I know that I have a clear basis for my arguments, unlike the current leader of Cambodia. I stand on the Khmer side in these border issues. We must express that we saw them (the neighboring countries) trying to create a new border that is wrong, and they want to absorb Khmer territory. Therefore, I stand on the Khmer side as a Khmer national, and I protect the territory.’

“Mr. Sam Rainsy added, ‘Those who accused me that I am wrong and said that it is on Yuon [Vietnamese] territory [where the border markers stood] do not serve Khmer interests. Those people stand on the side of the Yuon.’

“He went on to clarify that his political struggle follows a model of major leaders of the country for the nation, which does not specify any time or place for its activities. Mr. Sam Rainsy said, ‘…Where do we stand, and for what? Do not just say what the current leader said, accusing me that I, Sam Rainsy, fake mapping documents. He himself fakes maps. He himself does not even know where the maps and where the borders of the nation are.’

“Prime Minister Hun Sen reacted in anger, using serious words accusing Mr. Sam Rainsy, who had raised border issues at the East with Vietnam, to be a traitor. It is an accusation that observers from civil society and among diplomats described as ‘too extreme.’

“Mr. Hun Sen’s reaction in anger was described by observers and by Khmer citizens in general as a mood that cannot be controlled any longer, as he said, ‘Diplomats in Cambodia, please bring this map, supposedly published on the Internet, which the opposition party is referring to, to be reviewed and compared with the real map, then we will see what will happen.’ He also announced what can be understood as a preparation to take action to arrest Mr. Sam Rainsy, to be jailed – another surprising attitude, according to various observers.

“What the Prime Minister said, whether intentionally or unintentionally, intends to show the power he has over the legislative body of Cambodia, as he said, ‘The National Assembly needs not to be afraid, because we cannot answer unclear questions, because if the questions are unclear, the answers would be also unclear’ (Sic).

“That the Prime Minister gave a clarification instead of the National Assembly [to which Mr. Son Chhay had directed this questions], and ordered the National Assembly not to give any responses to the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians, is against the law. Therefore, the fact that he said, ‘We cannot answer an unclear questions, because if the questions are unclear, the answers will also be unclear,’ makes the responses from the government representative, Mr. Var Kimhong, at the National Assembly also unclear, just as a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, Mr. Son Chhay, who had asked the question, observed.

“Observers said that both Mr. Sam Rainsy and Prime Minister Hun Sen had shown an intention to review maps. Thus, the solution that the leader should provide, should not be to arrest Mr. Sam Rainsy and jail him, but they should find a third party of international standing to review the maps to bring this problem to an end.

“Analysts said that intention to have Mr. Hun Sen review the maps by diplomats, proposed by Mr. Sam Rainsy, reflects the impression that the diplomats probably view the Cambodia Prime Minister as an involved party, and assumes that they believe Mr. Sam Rainsy’s claim. Mr. Sam Rainsy said, ‘Therefore, we take the documents and put them onto the only legal map of 1952, with a scale of 1:100,000, and it will be seen that in 1985, there was no invasion at the point where we visited.’

“He described the geography of the Khmer territory in the Samraung commune, Chantrea, Svay Rieng , saying that in 1985, there was no such loss, and what was set later as the border with Vietnam overlaps the demarcation in the map of 1952, which means that territory was lost later on, and Mr. Sam Rainsy claimed it resulted from the improper use of maps and the faking of mapping documents by the border committees of the two countries, Cambodia and Vietnam.

“Different from the accusation made by Prime Minister Hun Sen and by the head of the Cambodian Border Committee, Mr. Var Kimhong, saying that Mr. Sam Rainsy used faked maps, therefore the government will sue Mr. Sam Rainsy again, Mr. Sam Rainsy explained his position, that he works with the help of technical groups for mapping, and national and international experts, specialized computer experts using modern technical devices, including satellites, and his statement, that the review of the border area in Svay Rieng had shown a loss of Cambodian territory, is based on their findings.

“This reminded an observer to recall a notice by Dr. Mathews Verghese, a Singaporean scholar, who used to be the Singaporean Ambassador to Cambodia some years ago. Mr. Verghese wrote in The Straits Times of Singapore in 2004 that the border line of Cambodia with neighboring countries is moving into Cambodian territory.

“Mr. Sam Rainsy said that he will continue his struggle abroad, like what Samdech Norodom Sihanouk did during the period of his struggles, but he will not come to Cambodia to be jailed by Yuon [Vietnam]. If there would not have been a struggle, there would not have been the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia [UNTAC], nor elections. He will follow this model, saying, ‘I use my influence. What I can do is to help until justice is given to Cambodia and to the Khmer people who are victims.’”

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.18, #1882, 26-28.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Friday, 26 February 2010

Tribunal Judges Admonish Ieng Sary’s Laywers

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By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 February 2010

Investigating judges for the Khmer Rogue tribunal on Thursday issued a stern warning to the defense team of Ieng Sary against breaking the filing rules of the UN-backed court.

Ieng Sary, the former foreign affairs minister of the regime, is facing an upcoming atrocity crimes trial, along with four other Khmer Rouge leaders currently in court detention.

Jugdes Marcel Lemonde and You Bunleng wrote in their official warning that Ieng Sary’s lawyers had broken the rules by filing “duplicitous” motions on issues already addressed by the court. They further warned the defense lawyers not to conduct “their own investigations” and ordered them to “comply” with tribunal rules.

Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said the sanction was a warning to the legal team. If the lawyers further violate practices on filings, they could be prevented from appearing before the court and be reported to the Cambodian Bar Association.

Ang Udom, a lawyer for Ieng Sary, called the sanction a “constraint to our freedom,” but said he was not concerned by it.

The sanction came three days after the defense team filed a complaint that claimed their client had been intimidated during the investigation into his alleged atrocity crimes.

Also on Thursday, the investigating judges sought to remind civil party applicants they can file “complementary information” through April 29. The announcement follows dissatisfaction among some victims who worried they would be left out of the tribunal process.

Meanwhile, international donors in New York on Tuesday approved a budget for the next two years of the tribunal, allocating $42 million for 2010 and $43 million for 2011, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

Government Lodges Suit Against Sam Rainsy

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By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 February 2010

The Cambodian government lodged a criminal complaint against opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday, for publishing a Vietnamese border map on his party’s Web site the government claims is false.

The complaint was filed in Phnom Penh Municipal Court by government lawyer Ky Tech on Friday. Investigating judge Sok Klyan said he had received the complaint from prosecutors on Friday, but he did not give a timeline for concluding his investigation.

The charge of disinformation carries a jail term of three years, but the charge of distributing a false public document is more serious and calls for as much as 15 years in prison.

The Sam Rainsy Party claims on its Web site the Cambodia has lost land to Vietnamese encroachment. The map on the Web site is an apparent attempt to bolster those claims.

The map was posted on the Web site after Sam Rainsy was found guilty in January for destruction of property, for uprooting markers on the Vietnamese border where villagers said they had lost land to encroachment.

Land encroachment accusations from the Thai and Vietnamese borders are political flashpoints in Cambodia. In 2003 unsubstantiated rumors that a Thai actress had claimed Angkor Wat should belong to Thailand led to rioting and the looting and burning of the Thai Embassy.

Sam Rainsy has said the map on his Web site, depicting the Cambodia-Vietnam border in 1952, is correct. On hearing the government was considering a lawsuit earlier this week, Sam Rainsy told reporters, “The court can sentence me to prison, but Cambodian cannot lose its land.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen said earlier this week Sam Rainsy was a “betrayer of the nation” for posting the map on his Web site, a serious charge in the Khmer language.

Am Sam Ath, head of investigations for the right group Adhoc, said the government “should not think about complaints against the opposition leader, because Cambodia is facing a border dispute with

Thailand. So the government and the opposition should unite to protect Cambodian sovereignty and the borders with all the neighbors.”

The complaint will bring concern to the people over Cambodia’s political situation, he said. “It is not in the interest for the whole of Cambodian society.”

For Abstract Painter, the Art of the Mind

Ancient Khmer painting, by Chhim Sothy.

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By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
26 February 2010

For painter Chhim Sothy, standing in his Phnom Penh studio, the image of three deer trying to escape a forest under destruction is clear. For others, the mix of green, red and dark yellow makes less sense.

“At first glance, the painting depicts nothing, because abstract art requires more time to understand it,” said the 41-year-old abstract artist, who is currently displaying 22 of his latest paintings at the Reyum Gallery in Phnom Penh.

It has been a long road. Born in Kandal province, Chhim Sothy received his Bachelor of Arts, in painting, in 1995, after spending 10 years at the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. After graduating, he worked for several non-governmental organizations, as a painting instructor, until moving over to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in 1998, where he is a deputy director in the department of craftsmen.

Along the way, he practiced painting and was noted for well-balanced traditional paintings. But in recent years, he has moved to abstract painting, a contemporary art form that eschews the traditional depiction of visible realty.

“It is of course hard to read the abstract ideas in the painting, but this kind of art enables people to learn so that they can understand our mind,” he said.

Abstract art, he now argues, can make Cambodia competitive with other countries. “We cannot use our traditional paintings to compete with others, as the paintings cannot be understood internationally, so we just preserve the traditional and use the modern art to compete.”

Chhim Sothy has won several prizes in painting competitions: an Asean Art Award in Singapore, in 2002, and 1st Prize for the best painter in 2003 and 2004 from the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

He has also displayed his paintings in galleries in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Battambang, Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk. His abstract paintings were also displayed in the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, China, Laos, Vietnam, France and the US.

“The more difficult to understand the painting is, the better,” Chhim Sothy, said, citing the works by Vasily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso as examples. “Their paintings were unique; thus, they cost millions of dollars,” he said.

Abstract paintings also showcase freedom inherent in art, he said. “I can express my own feelings and use my imagination through this kind of abstract art.”

Cambodia pushes out the poor


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By Joel Elliott

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Rumbling bulldozers at 2 a.m. sent residents of the Dey Krahorm community scrambling from their beds. The time for eviction had come — not of an individual, or of a family, but as the final stage in the demolition of a 1,400-family neighborhood.

Neighbors and family members tried to stop the bulldozers and excavators from tearing down their homes by linking arms and forming a human wall around their neighborhood. But they could not withstand the tear gas. They broke ranks, choking and coughing. Besides tear gas, police beat residents with electric batons and fired rubber bullets into crowds.

The January 2009 incident was caught on videotape and set the tone for a year that brought the largest number of mass evictions in Phnom Penh since 1975, when Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge evacuated the entire city in the process of killing more than 2 million Cambodians.

Over the past year, according to the Cambodia Housing Rights Task Force, a NGO dedicated to the issue, the Phnom Penh government has evicted and relocated an estimated 20,000 people, part of an increasing trend over the past decade in which poor people are being forcibly moved out of the city, and rich and powerful private companies take the land.

About 133,000 people have been evicted since 1990 from Phnom Penh alone, according to Licadho, a human rights organization, and an estimated 250,000 more have been displaced in the provinces since 2003.

"My neighbor, when he saw the truck breaking his house, he tried to jump in front of the truck and die, but another neighbor stopped him," a 19-year-old former resident, who gave only her first name, Lina, said. "The people were crying. They did not have time to take their possessions out of their homes before the men broke them down."

Lina told her story as we stood atop a nearby building, looking down on the site, now a dusty lot filled with rubble.

While those evicted in Phnom Penh are the most visible victims, land-grabbing and forced displacement is happening all over the country at an unprecedented rate, said David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, an organization that promotes human rights in the region.

"This is the most serious human rights problem in Cambodia today," Pred said of the land-grabbing. "It is not getting nearly the attention it deserves."

Pred said that more than one quarter of Cambodia's arable land has been granted to private corporations in the form of economic land concessions, displacing people from their farm lands and forests that they depend upon for their subsistence. If they have paperwork proving ownership, they might receive some sort of compensation, but most do not, according to Phearum Sia, director of the Housing Rights Task Force, another advocacy group in Phnom Penh. Renters are not compensated.

In Phnom Penh, the government usually loads those it evicts onto buses and transports them to a distant point and drops them off. The government sometimes ensures adequate housing; other times, the former residents find themselves in an empty field with nothing.

At some relocation sites, residents who worked in the city said they sometimes paid more per day in fuel costs traveling to Phnom Penh and back than they earned in a day.

Community members have occasionally protested, but these efforts sometimes backfire. A 2008 land dispute in Siem Reap between poor rice farmers and the government ended in multiple arrests and the police opening fire on a crowd of about 200 people, injuring four. Other protests fizzle before confrontation. Ghosts of the Khmer Rouge terror linger in the national psyche, Sia said.

"We work to empower the people, but the people are poor, and weak in their solidarity," Sia said. "Our communities are still affected by the Pol Pot regime. He killed without law and without justice."

Mann Chhoen, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said he is responsible for land rights issues, but twice declined comment for this article.

Phnom Penh city police guard the sites of impending evictions and attempt to keep out NGO workers and journalists. At one site on Boeung Kak Lake, where a Cambodian development company known as Shukaku seized 3.6 hectares of land and began using the city's police force to evict the occupants, police on three occasions barred our way and threatened us with arrest for even approaching the site where several evictions were in progress.

At Dey Krahorm, 200 former residents observed the one-year anniversary of their eviction, Jan. 24, with a procession to the edge of the wall surrounding their former neighborhood. Police officers in plain clothes, their walkie-talkies peeking from beneath their polo shirts, monitored the gathering and photographed the faces of those present, but didn't try to break up the gathering.

There was no point.

The government had already destroyed their homes.

Economy | Fri, Feb 26 2010