Thursday, 11 March 2010

Cambodia puts the cremation site of Pol Pot on 'historic' tourist trail


A Khmer Rouge fighter lights a hastily built pyre of mattresses, car tyres and old chairs beneath the coffin of his former leader, Pol Pot, in 1998

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Government criticised over plan to profit from country's genocidal past

By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Thursday, 11 March 2010

The place where the body of Pol Pot, the former Khmer Rouge leader, was unceremoniously burned in a pile of rubbish is set to be the latest location from Cambodia's dark recent history to be transformed into a tourist spot.

In a controversial move that underlines the increasing allure of the country's genocidal history and the importance of tourists to Cambodia's coffers, the government has decided to "preserve and develop" Anlong Veng. The jungle town in the far north of the country was the last stronghold of the rebel movement responsible for the deaths of up to 2 million people. In a statement, the authorities in Phnom Penh said the town will be transformed into a "historic tourism site for national and international guests to visit and understand the last political leadership of the genocidal regime".

For more than two decades hardly anyone visited Cambodia. Although the rebels who seized power in April 1975 were ousted just four years later, a civil war kept most visitors away until well into the mid-1990s. For years, splendours such as the World Heritage site of Angkor Wat were effectively out of bounds.

Yet tourism has bounced back. Last year around two million visitors visited the country and by next year the authorities hope the figure will top three million. Increasingly, as tourists have returned to Cambodia to visit such wonders as the 12th-century temple complex near the town of Siam Reap, they have also found time to fit in locations associated with the Khmer Rouge.

Chief among these have been Tuol Sleng prison in Phnom Penh, where up to 17,000 people were tortured and sent for execution, and the killing fields themselves, located on the edge of the city at Choeung Ek. Today, tour buses pull up and hundreds of thousands of international visitors wander around the former school that was turned into a terrible prison and the quiet fields nearby, where people were clubbed to death and buried in mass graves.

Even if it wanted to, Cambodia has not been allowed to forget its past. A major legal process to try six former Khmer Rouge officials is proceeding under the oversight of the UN in a move that took more than a decade to agree.

Yet not everyone agrees that the government should be using this dark period in the country's history – when up to a third of the population was killed or else died of starvation or disease – to bring in foreign currency, however much they are needed.

Youk Chhang, who heads the well-respected genocide documentation centre, which brings together personal testimonies and documents from the Khmer Rouge era, said last night: "Using genocide to attract tourists is irresponsible. These [events] have to be preserved; they have to be documented. But if you allow this to be commercialised then you dehumanise and victimise us. For a long time we have been struggling to become something else."

The government of Hun Sen, who himself once was a Khmer Rouge official, has been planning to promote Anlong Veng for some years and has identified three dozen places at the remote hilly location it wants to bring to the attention of tourists. As recently as 1998, the village near the Dangrek mountains was the final stronghold of the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge.

Among the obvious elements of interests will be the place where the French-educated Pol Pot was cremated after he reportedly suffered a heart attack. In the final months of his life, the former leader had been under detention in his hut after a split within the remaining members of the movement.

The government believes the fenced-off area in which he was held, as well as warehouses where munitions were stored, will also attract visitors. Another spot to be promoted is the grave of Ta Mok, also known as "The Butcher" for his apparent ruthlessness, and who was the only Khmer Rouge leader not to be killed or else surrender to government forces. Captured in 1999 after the movement disintegrated, he died in 2006 while waiting to be tried at the UN tribunal.

The listing of Preah Vihear Temple as world heritage site could boost Cambodia Tourism

http://www.prlog.org/

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Preah Vihear is one of the most fascinating places in the world, with its ancient ruins and mysterious temple. Preah Vihear temple is the historical site named “Se Khari Svarak” means “power of mountain” and was built at..

PR Log (Press Release) – Mar 11, 2010 – Preah Vihear is one of the most fascinating places in the world, with its ancient ruins and mysterious temple. Preah Vihear temple is the historical site named “Se Khari Svarak” means “power of mountain” and was built at the end of 9th century and at the beginning of 10th century by four Cambodian kings namely: Preah Bat Yak So Varman I (AD 889-910), Preah Bat Sorya Varman I (AD 1002-1050), Preah Bat Chey Varman VI (AD 1080-1109) and Preah Bat Sorya Varman II (AD 1113-1150).

After having been listed the Preah Vihear, a temple built in at the end 9th century, as a world heritage site, Cambodian was very happy with victorious event of the nation and celebrated a congratulation party at stadium in Phnom Penh. Listing Preah Vihear Temple as a world heritage site could not only help preserve the temple but also reflect an economic miracle that would help mitigate poverty, one of the most crucial Millennium Development Goals of Cambodia, through the tourism economic contribution while Cambodia’s Tourism Action Plan targeted 3.2 million tourists by 2010 and 5 million tourists in 2015. Preah Vihear's World Heritage listing reflects the success of the Cambodian Government's Economic Quadrangle policy.

It is no surprise to say that Preah Vihear Temple is one of the most foremost temples in Cambodia. Significantly, promoting the Preah Vihear site as a Cultural Development Area would be an option to enable Cambodia to enjoy economic benefits and let the world to increase cultural understanding as well as cultural link in the region via tourists flow.

ASEAN chief shows bias against Cambodia

Photo by: BLOOMBERG
Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, speaks last month at an ASEAN economic summit in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:03 Jeffrey Serey Hola

Dear Editor,

The statement from Dr Surin Pitsuwan [that comments made following a Cambodian missile test on March 4 addressed not the test, but ongoing tensions along the Cambodian-Thai border], who is a Thai citizen, is biased and ignorant.

As a matter of fact, Surin has never acknowledged or expressed concerns about the problems along the Cambodian-Thai border. The Thai military has conducted exercises many times, during which they have crossed over into Cambodian territory or flown aircraft into Cambodian airspace. Rockets fired by Thai solders have landed in our territory as well, and Cambodian citizens have been shot or burned alive by Thai troops for illegally crossing the border or gathering timber.

These and other abuses by the Thai military continue, and Surin has neither mentioned nor expressed concern over the violations of Cambodian air space, territorial boundaries or human rights.

The recent rocket test was the first such military exercise since the civil war ended. It took place within Cambodian borders, and it did not send an improper message or suggest instability. Cambodia has the right to conduct such tests, just as every other country does. Prime Minister Hun Sen is within his right as leader to protect the territory and integrity of the Kingdom.

In addition, foreign media organizations failed to report accurately and with the necessary research on this issue, as they often favour Thai interests – especially reports from the nefarious Thai correspondents in Bangkok who feed the foreign press.

ASEAN policies and approaches are weak. It is only concerned with its own well-being and increasing trade between member states. The bloc stands by and does nothing while a stronger nation steps all over a weaker one. It fails to recognise Thailand’s aggression against Cambodia.
Thailand has a political agenda, and it uses the issue of Preah Vihear as a diversion whenever internal political power struggles erupt. Thailand also fails to recognise the legitimacy of the judgment of June 15, 1962, by the International Court of Justice [that the Preah Vihear temple complex belongs to Cambodia].

Jeffrey Serey Hola
Lancaster, California, USA

Cambodia to host "Trade Fair" in Development Triangle

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March 11, 2010

Cambodia will host a "" for the first time in Development Triangle among Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, a government official said on Thursday.

Son Sotha, deputy director of export department of Ministry of Commerce, said that the "CLV Development Triangle Trade Fair" will be held from March 13-15 in provincial town of Rattanakiri, the Cambodia's far northeastern part.

He said that some 50 companies of the private sectors from the three countries will be there to present their products.

Son Sotha said the main purpose of the "Trade Fair" is to turn the area into the actual development with more awareness of the potentiality and the connectivity among the three countries.

The "Trade Fair" will be organized at the same time of the 5th meeting of the Joint Coordinating Committee for Development Triangle Area.

Rattanakiri Province is located about 600 km, northeast of Phnom Penh--and known as one of the less developed provinces in the country due to poor infrastructure.

Source:Xinhua

Cambodia passes controversial anti-graft law

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Thursday March 11, 2010
By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia's parliament passed a controversial anti-graft law on Thursday, with the government unmoved by protests from rights groups and opposition politicians who say the legislation will entrench official corruption.

The National Assembly, dominated by the ruling Cambodian People's Party, voted in favour of the long-awaited bill despite calls from the United Nations and civil society groups to postpone the vote so the public could be consulted.

Lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) walked out in protest at what they said was a law that lacked transparency and would deter individuals from reporting corruption.

Critics also complained the law did not require government officials or their spouses to declare their assets, which they said would promote illegal practices.

"This is a law to protect corruption," SRP spokesman and lawmaker Yim Sovann told reporters as he joined the walkout. "It doesn't mean anything. The people have not been involved in the fight against corruption."

Yim Sovann said the legislation did not guarantee members of a yet-to-be appointed Anti-Corruption National Council would be independent of the government.

WHISTLE-BLOWERS BEWARE

He also joined rights groups in condemning a clause under which whistle-blowers making corruption allegations could be jailed for up to six months if their claims could not be proven.

Cambodia has come under fire over its strict defamation laws, which rights groups and opposition lawmakers say are being used to stifle criticism of the government.

Corruption is rife and the payment of bribes is part and parcel of doing business in the impoverished Southeast Asian country, from one-off payments to state officials to guarantees of lucrative contracts or shares of company profits.

Graft watchdog Transparency International last year ranked Cambodia 158th out of 180 countries in terms of corruption, with a low-ranking denoting high instances of graft.

The United Nations had expressed concern about the bill, which took 15 years to draft, and had urged the government to provide more time for the public, aid donors and civil society to scrutinise the legislation before it was passed.

In a statement released on Wednesday, before the law was approved, it said the draft should undergo a "transparent and participatory consultation process" and "contain sufficient safeguards to protect the rights and duties of Cambodian people who will be the ultimate beneficiaries".

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An countered criticism of the draft in parliament and defended the clause that punished whistle-blowers whose claims could not be proven.

"It is not just Cambodia that prevents the issue of causing trouble or launching attacks on individuals," Sok An said.

(Editing by Martin Petty and Alex Richardson)
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Wait For Election Victory to Amend Corruption Law: PM

Thursday, 11 March 2010 04:20 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Prime Minster Hun Sen said on Wednesday that opposition parties’ and NGOs who want to amend the anti-corruption law should wait until they win an elections victory in 2013.

The premier’s confirmation was made as the National Assembly (NA) held a session to discuss the draft law for a whole day with 106 lawmakers from the Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) and Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), though Human Rights Party (HRP) lawmakers boycotted the session. The session took place as planned despite a request for a delay from NGOs and the opposition.

“I call on all worried persons to wait until following 2013 election victory. If you win, you can amend the law,” the premier said during a national conference on the new Penal Code at the InterContinental Hotel.

SRP lawmaker Kim Souphirin he asked to delay the session to let all have enough time check this important law.

Related to assets declarations, the PM said that not only government officials, but also opposition and NGOs officials must declare their assets, both in the country and overseas.

The NA adopted two chapters of the anti-draft law on Wednesday by 84/99 support. Another session will be held today.

NA passes anti-corruption law chapters

The Cambodian National Assembly (NA) on Wednesday finally began debat- ing the draft anti-corruption law. The law has been long awaited, and it is hoped the law will promote transparency and the rule of law, boosting economic growth.

The NA approved two of the nine chapters of the law in a single day, despite being asked to postpone by civil society and the political opposition because of an unclear definition of the word corruption and the process of the body set up to combat corruption.

The Cambodian parliament is dominated by lawmakers from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, which won a landslide election victory in July 2008 with 90 of 123 NA seats. To pass laws, a party needs 50 seats plus one.

Nigerians Nabbed with Cocaine

Thursday, 11 March 2010 04:19 DAP-NEWS

Two Nigerian men were detained on Wednesday in the Mondial Business Center in Phnom Penh, and another arrested the same day, said police. The men are suspected of drugs offenses.

Dangkor district police told DAP News Cambodia that a four-strong gang trafficked narcotics, but only two are foreigners.

The district police said the Nigerian men traveled from the Poipet Cambodia -Thai border crossing but had no passports. The two suspects were detained while riding moto-taxi. Six packages of cocaine and a small amount of other narcotics were confiscated.

The same day, two Cambodian women were arrested with two packages of cocaine.

The women were detained behind the Phnom Penh Hotel in Daun Penh district, a Daun Penh official told DAP News Cambodia. The six suspects were sent to court by police.

The law has nine chapters with 57 articles and according to this law, civil servants, judges, members of the military, and legislators would need to disclose their wealth. Bribery and corruption can be punished by prison terms ranging from seven days to 15 years.

HKL Profits Fall in 2009

Thursday, 11 March 2010 04:18 DAP-NEWS

HKL, a private Cambodian Micro-Finance Institution (MFI) with 510 employees, earned US$1.2 million in 2009, a drop of 15 percent compared with 2008, said HKL’s director in a seminar on Wednesday.

Hourt Eangkok said in the seminar there were about 47,835 depositors, and 41,110 borrowers in the period.

HKL has foreign backers including Oiko credit, the CD Organization, Norfund Triple Jump, Cordaid and other local MFIs.

Germany Inks €19 M Grant

Thursday, 11 March 2010 04:14 DAP-NEWS

Dirk Niebel, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Keat Chhon, Cambodian Minister of Economy and Finance, have signed an €19 million grant agreement, a German embassy statement said on Wednesday.

Dirk Niebel arrived in Phnom Penh for his first visit to Asia yesterday. The two legged trip includes a visit to neighboring Vietnam.

During his three days in Cambodia, Niebel will discuss the political and social economic development with senior government officials, the statement said. In his first meeting with Keat Chhon, Niebel underlined that Germany remains a reliable partner for Cambodia and will continue to support efforts to achieve the millennium development goals (MDGS).

German development cooperation will be geared at alleviating the consequences of the global economic crisis which are particularly affecting the poor segments of the population, the statement said .

Minister Niebel, together with German Ambassador Frank M. Mann and Keat Chhon signed an agreement on financial cooperation 2009, with a grant of €19 million will be made available and used for projects concerning the health sector, regional economic development and rural infrastructure. At the signing ceremony, Niebel stressed the importance of the German assistances in both sectors for reaching the MDGs. He pointed out that good governance, respect of human rights and rule of law and rights of opposition parties are essential for the cooperation between Cambodia and Germany. “These are basic requirements for the sustainable development and an effective development cooperation. Therefore, Germany shall continue to cooperate with our Cambodian partners to improve the governance track record,” he said. He also highlighted that continued commitment to implement reforms in the land sector is essential for the sustainable development of Cambodia.

The agreement on financial cooperation contains an additional allocation €1.6 million allocation for the to further improve the quality and accessibility of public and private heath services for the poor population in five provinces. Long term goals are the establishment of a social heath insurance scheme, including fee exemptions, health equity funding, community health insurance and social health insurance.

Dust off your toy collection

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 10 March 2010 15:03 Heng Chivoan

A vendor travels along Street 240 selling household cleaning items, as well as balloons and other toys on Tuesday.

Boeung Kak villagers call on PM to intervene in land case

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Residents of communities surrounding the city’s Boeung Kak lake argue with police after being moved away from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house near the Independence Monument on Wednesday. The villagers, who face displacement by a controversial development project, were calling on the premier to recognise their claims to land titles.

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:05 May Titthara

ABOUT 60 people from communities surrounding the city’s Boeung Kak lake gathered in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in central Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning to demand titles for land they say they are likely to lose to a planned real estate development project.

Villager Seav Kheng said the residents had decided to protest in response to maps released February 26 by Chhay Rithy Sen, the municipal director of land management, showing that their properties are set to be impacted by the controversial project.

“We don’t want to oppose the government development project, but we want fair compensation – we can’t accept US$8,000,” he said, referring to City Hall’s offer to villagers.

Sim Lida, who also took part in the protest, said: “We would like to ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to help us get our land titles, because we have been [at the lake] since 1979. If the company needs to develop on our land, they can buy it at the market price.”

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A Boeung Kak villager holds a portrait of Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany, during protests outside the prime minister’s Phnom Penh residence on Wednesday morning.

Another Boeung Kak resident, Huon Navy, also said she wanted a resolution from the government, one way or another.

“Now we live as if in a prison. We have no right to do anything: even if we want to repair our houses, we can’t do it,” she said.

After the villagers arrived at Hun Sen’s house near the Independence Monument, district police moved them to nearby Wat Botum while they discussed the issue with the prime minister’s Cabinet.

In February 2007, City Hall signed a 99-year lease agreement with local developer Shukaku Inc, owned by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin and his wife, to develop the Boeung Kak area. In August 2008, local firm HSC began filling the lake with sand dredged from the Tonle Sap.

More than 4,000 families are expected to make way for the 133-hectare housing and commercial project. Last month, the Post reported that a succession of Chinese companies had been linked to the project, but the current status of foreign involvement remains unclear.

When contacted on Wednesday, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Sok Penhvuth said local officials were merely fulfilling a “government directive”.

Hoping for unity on Web hub


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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:05 Ellie Dyer

Finance minister tells Posts and Telecommunications to resolve disagreements

FINANCE Minister Keat Chhon has asked the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) to resolve disagreements with the private sector over the proposed creation of a state-run centralised Internet hub before a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen next month, said IT company representatives who attended a meeting with government officials on Tuesday.

According to four sources, the request was made at a Government-Private Sector Forum (GPSF) conference on laws, taxation and government on Tuesday afternoon.

Representatives of the Kingdom’s telecoms firms and Internet service providers (ISPs) used the session to raise concerns about the controversial proposal to create a domestic Internet exchange point (DIX) hosted by Telecom Cambodia – through which all of Cambodia’s Internet traffic would be routed.

International commentators and domestic companies say they believe the plan has the potential to crush the Kingdom’s thriving ICT sector, and have expressed concern that the move could result in a drop in quality for users.

AZ Communications CEO Chris Maloy, who acted as a spokesman for ISPs on Wednesday, confirmed via email that the proposal had been discussed at length during the invite-only meeting, along with the issue of overlapping licences.

The potentially damaging impact of the ministry’s actions on investor confidence was highlighted, Maloy said.

Keat Chhon then asked the ministry and private sector representatives to resolve all problems related to the proposal before a GPSF meeting with Hun Sen scheduled for April 27, those in attendance said. A potential solution on how to resolve issues pertaining to the centralisation plan, as well as licencing, must be submitted to the premier early next month, Keat Chhon said, according to attendees.

Maloy said private sector representatives would be happy to discuss their concerns with government officials.

“We hope to meet with the MPTC, as directed by Keat Chhon, to resolve the issue,” Maloy said.

The intervention of a senior government official in the ongoing row was widely viewed by those in attendance as a step forward by the private sector representatives, one of whom said it was good to be “given the ear” of the minister after being disappointed with a lack of MPTC response to industry-wide concerns.

One attendee who spoke on condition of anonymity said “frustration” had been building within the sector prior to the meeting.

“The next step is for the sector to refuse to die quietly,” he said. “The MPTC has not been listening. It is taking a healthy market and working out how to use the law to destroy everything that has been built up over the last 10 years.”

He estimated that around US$500 million of investment in the IT sector and related infrastructure could be at risk of destruction if the centralised hub is created.

“We hope the ministry might see that no one in the industry supports this idea,” said another attendee, who also wished to remain anonymous.

Telecoms officials have said they believe the hub would enable the government to control Internet access while providing cheaper access to international lines, thanks to wholesale buys.

That argument has also been made by Moa Chakrya, director general of the MPTC, who did not reply to an email request for comment Wednesday, and MPTC Secretary General La Narath, who was present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Keat Chhon could not be reached Wednesday.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BROOKE LEWIS

Graft law opens to fierce debate

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who had criticised the timing of debate on the government’s long-awaited Anticorruption Law were hypocrites and urged the National Assembly to pass it as soon as possible.

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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:05 Meas Sokchea and Cheang Sokha

THE National Assembly on Wednesday began debating the government’s long-awaited anti-graft law, more than 15 years after the legislation was first proposed.

During the day-long session, ruling party and opposition officials clashed over the controversial draft, as critics repeated their concerns that the law was being rushed through the legislature with little public input.

During the session, the first 15 of the Anticorruption Law’s 57 articles were passed by a majority of the 99 parliamentarians present at the time of the vote.

Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) lawmaker Yim Sovann again called for a delay to the debate, as lawmakers were given less than a week to study the draft. “We have been waiting 15 years for this law. Why can’t we wait for three weeks more?” he said.

Yim Sovann pointed out that a recent survey by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) had found Cambodia was perceived by business executives to be the second-most corrupt Asian country, and said he doubted the new bodies would have the “political will” to fight graft.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the UN country team in Cambodia agreed that the law’s drafting process had been less than transparent.

The office noted “with concern that an extraordinary session was convened only days after the draft was shared publicly with parliamentarians. To its knowledge, no draft law has been shared with interested stakeholders, including civil society, since 2006,” the UN stated.

Among the parts of the law passed on Wednesday, Article 6 will establish a National Anticorruption Commission consisting of 11 members chosen by the King, Senate, National Assembly and eight other government institutions. The commission, reporting directly to Prime Minister Hun Sen, will be responsible for the government’s overall anticorruption strategy.

Article 11 calls for the establishment of a separate Anticorruption Unit, operating under the Council of Ministers, which will be responsible for the day-to-day investigation of corruption and maintain a secret register of assets belonging to government officials, political party leaders and some members of civil society.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay on Wednesday called on government officials to publicly disclose their own assets before coming after opposition and civil society leaders.

“As a principle, we must sweep garbage from the top – we cannot sweep rubbish from the bottom up,” he said. “People want to know how much money Son Chhay has made since he became a people’s representative in 1993. How much money does Deputy Prime Minister Sok An have?”

In his rebuttal, Sok An told the assembly that under the Anticorruption Law, all of those forced to disclose assets would be treated equally, and that maintaining secrecy was vital to ensuring that people come forward.

“The first step must have persons declare their property without worries,” he said. “We do not want to detain people in jail – we want to crack down on corruption.”

Critics are hypocrites: PM
Also Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen criticised civil society activists and opposition members for requesting a delay to today’s debate.

Speaking at the Phnom Penh launch of the Kingdom’s new penal code, which was approved by the National Assembly in November, the premier said such critics were hypocritical for pushing the government to adopt the law and then campaigning for its postponement a day before it was due to be debated.

“I used to comment previously that when the new penal code is used, the Anticorruption Law will also be adopted,” Hun Sen told an audience of 300 judicial and government officials.

“Today, if parliament holds a full session in the morning and evening, the Anticorruption Law should be approved today, or at the latest tomorrow.”

Hun Sen said the government did not take into account some of the recommendations from civil society and opposition parties because this would have complicated articles that had already been drafted.

“People are recommending to do this or to do that, so the solution is to follow the decision made by the majority voice from the parliament and Senate,” Hun Sen said.

He added that opposition officials who are not satisfied with the current draft of the law should put their efforts into winning the 2013 election, noting that they could amend it if they won.

Changes to traffic laws to be delayed, govt says


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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:05 Chhay Channyda

GOVERNMENT officials have delayed a decision on a long list of proposed amendments to the Kingdom’s traffic laws, including the introduction of an article that would require all drivers to have road insurance, authorities said this week.

Proposals discussed at an inter-ministerial meeting in late February were due to be finalised at a meeting later this month before being reviewed and sent to the National Assembly for final approval.

The proposals included the introduction of a helmet law for motorbike passengers, an increase in fines for noncompliance with the helmet law and the imposition of fines for unlicenced drivers.

However, Preap Chanvibol, director of the Department of Land Transport at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said ministry officials need more time to debate the proposed amendments to 13 articles.

He was unable to give an exact timeframe for the extension, but said officials would have to meet at least seven or eight more times to discuss the proposed changes.

He pointed to the introduction of mandatory insurance as an example of a change that needed to be closely examined to ensure it did not create problems for drivers.

Jeroen Stol, country director for Handicap International Belgium, said he had not heard details of the proposal but agreed with it in principle.

“Mandatory insurance is always a good idea because that will save a lot of people problems once they go to hospital,” he said. “Health care should be free, but it’s often not here, and that can create inequality for poor people requiring immediate care.”

Police file complaint against Kraya villagers

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Chhum Chhorn, a 59-year-old former resident of Kraya commune who was shot in the stomach during an altercation with police on Sunday, receives treatment at the home of relatives in Kampong Cham province on Tuesday.

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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:05 May Titthara

POLICE in Kampong Thom province filed a criminal complaint on Wednesday against eight villagers for their alleged involvement in an altercation earlier this week that led to the shooting of three men who used to live on a disputed land concession, the deputy provincial police chief said.

Meanwhile, the rights groups Adhoc and Licadho issued a joint statement condemning the shootings and calling on local officials to grant families who were relocated from the concession site in December the farmland they have been promised.

Three men – 59-year-old Chhum Chhorn and brothers Tuot Chanka, 37, and Tuot Veasna, 35 – sustained bullet wounds when, according to villagers, police opened fire on a group of 40 former residents of the 8,100-hectare section of land in Kraya commune. Some 1,700 families were evicted from the site in December to make way for a rubber plantation to be developed by the Vietnam-based company Tin Bien, which received the land concession in 2007. Local officials have said that the 40 villagers provoked the police, and that the police were acting in self-defence.

Deputy provincial police chief Chou Sam Ath said Wednesday that the criminal complaint had been filed against eight people among the group of 40 who had never lived on the concession land.

None of the injured villagers were included in the complaint, he added.

“Today we have filed a complaint against eight people from outside the village, who came to persuade the villagers to rally against the authorities to take over the company land,” Chou Sam Ath said.

The statement from Adhoc and Licadho, however, contends that all 40 villagers used to live on the concession land, and that the authorities had failed to provide them with the one hectare of farmland that was promised to each of the families who accepted plots of land at a relocation site 7 kilometres away.

“We would like to urge the authorities to not arrest the villagers who protested to demand their farmland. They should take measures to provide farmland to the villagers,” the statement said.

Pich Sophea, the governor of Santuk district, in which Kraya commune is located, said authorities were only looking to arrest people from outside the commune who had incited the evictees.

Chou Sam Ath said he planned to meet with villagers living at the relocation site today to discuss the prospect of providing them farmland.

Despite assurances from officials that none of the three injured men will face arrest, all of them are reportedly in hiding. Chhum Chhorn, who was shot in the stomach and briefly received treatment in Kampong Cham provincial hospital before fleeing to stay with relatives there, said Wednesday that he could not afford further medical treatment.

Women in Thai prison receive antenatal care


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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:04 Tep Nimol

THAI authorities have begun providing health services to two pregnant Cambodian women jailed for trespassing and logging illegally in Thailand’s Surin province, though they have rebuffed calls for the pair to be released, the Cambodian government says.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Thailand had promised to send the women to a local hospital for regular checkups and to ensure that they will have access to hospital facilities for the birth of their children.

“Thailand has now implemented a policy of looking after the two pregnant women and checking their health at a hospital regularly,” he said Wednesday, citing reports from consular officials.

“We want them to be released back home, but … [we] have to comply with the court ruling and the law in Thailand.”

The two women are part of a group of six Cambodians from Oddar Meanchey province’s Samrong district who were sentenced in February to 27 months in jail for logging illegally in Thai territory. The group was arrested by Thai soldiers in January while collecting rattan.

Koy Kuong said the government was in the process of filing an appeal on the villagers’ behalf.

Guidelines issued to fight malaria


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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:04 Irwin Loy

THE World Health Organisation released new guidelines this week aimed at ensuring that antimalarial drugs are used correctly, particularly in areas where resistance to them has been detected.

Observers say there could be potentially dangerous consequences if resistance to treatment is allowed to spread.

The WHO is recommending that health practitioners administer treatment only after testing has confirmed the presence of malaria in a patient.

Efforts to address the problem are particularly key in Cambodia, where evidence of emerging resistance to the drug most commonly used, called artemisinin, has been documented in Pailin province.

“There is likely no greater global threat to the future success of malaria control than resistance to artemisinin,” Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s global malaria programme, said during a press conference this week in Bangkok.

Steven Bjorge, team leader on malaria with the WHO in Cambodia, said that although it is urgent to address the problem, the drug is still effective when administered correctly.

“What we’ve found so far is that the drug still works, but it doesn’t work in a short period of time, as it did a few years ago,” Bjorge said.

Whereas before, it might have taken fewer than three days for antimalarial treatment to kill the parasite, it is now taking five or more. “That means the drug can still be used, but it requires vigilance,” Bjorge said

In 2009, authorities recorded more than 80,000 malaria cases and 300 resulting deaths – both increases over the previous year’s tally. But Bjorge said there has been a downward trend in reported cases over the last decade.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

Officials say electrical fire sparked Tuol Kork blaze

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
destroyed dozens of dwellings and left hundreds homeless. A commune official on Wednesday said the blaze likely began with an electrical fire in a wooden house. HENG CHIVOAN

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:04 Khouth Sophakchakrya

LOCAL officials said Wednesday that they believed an electrical fire in the wooden home of a resident of Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 2 commune was the source of a blaze that destroyed dozens of dwellings and left hundreds homeless on Monday evening.

Commune officials say Monday’s fire destroyed 178 homes and 31 dormitory rooms, and that while no one was hurt, 257 families, 181 students and 90 monks were left homeless as a result.

Van Sareth, the Boeung Kak 2 commune chief, said that after studying the site of the fire and speaking with local residents, authorities had concluded that the flames had spread from the home of 66-year-old Phoeun Phou, who has apparently fled the community.

“Based on our interviews of the affected families and our investigations at the site, we understood that this was an electrical fire,” Van Sareth said. “We could not find [Phoeun Phou] or his family, but they might have left because they were afraid of revenge after the fire spread from their home.”

Local officials and representatives of the Cambodian Red Cross have been distributing food, water and tents this week to commune residents who remain at the site. As the community is reconstructed, Tuol Kork district governor Seng Ratanak said it must be designed with an eye to preventing a repeat of Monday’s inferno.

While some residents claimed that firefighters were slow to put out the blaze, Seng Ratanak said the firefighters had been hindered by the community’s narrow streets, which prevented them from accessing parts of the neighbourhood with their hoses. Narrow streets also proved a burden for firefighters called to combat a November fire that destroyed 243 homes in Russey Keo district’s Chraing Chamres 2 commune.

“Currently, we have no plan to develop this area, but we will not allow them to rebuild a slum here,” Seng Ratanak said, adding that he was planning a trip with community representatives to view plots of land in Dangkor district and in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district, where they could potentially be relocated.

However, Kong Keang, 48, said he believed he and the other residents would be pushed out in favour of commercial interests.

“This is just the plan of the authorities who want to evict us to another area,” he said. “We are hopeless about finding homes at the new site.”

Villagers to appear in court over Kampong Speu row


via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:04 May Titthara

SIX village representatives in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district said they would appear in provincial court today to answer to allegations that they became violent with employees of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, during a series of standoffs last week.

More than 200 families live on land in Omlaing commune , which is also part of a 9,000-hectare concession granted to the company. Ly Yong Phat has said they will not be evicted.

On Monday, the representatives sent a letter to the provincial court to ask to settle the dispute with local officials before today’s session, but Nov Chhon, one of the representatives, said Wednesday that they had received no response.

Nov Chhon added that he would be happy to answer any questions posed to him during the session.

“I will explain to the court the reason why we did not allow company staff to grab our land,” he added, referring to incidents in which company staff appeared along with military police officers in an attempt to survey the land last week.

Municipal court charges two in sale of virgin girls


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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court this week filed human trafficking charges against a 40-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman who allegedly charged clients US$2,500 for sex with virgin girls, a human trafficking official said Wednesday.

Keo Thea, head of the municipal anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said Bou Ty and the woman, whose name he could not provide, were arrested late last week at a guesthouse in Tuol Kork district.

“We arrested the pair as they were preparing to bring one virgin girl and three prostitutes for customers at the guesthouse,” Keo Thea said.

“We were told that for the virgin girls [customers] would pay $2,500,” he said.

He added that clients of the pair were charged $1,000 if they opted to take a non-virgin prostitute with them to the provinces for periods of up to three days.

Under Article 3 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking, perpetrators of human trafficking face prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years. When the victim is younger than 15, the sentence range is from 15 to 20 years.

Keo Thea said Wednesday that a court date had not yet been set.

Assault complaint filed


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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

A WOMAN in Preah Sihanouk province has lodged a complaint with provincial military police against a naval officer who she says attacked her 10-year-old son and two local teachers.

Workers at the International Home of English School said Sunday that General Koe Monysoka, deputy commander at the Ream Naval Base, attacked the student and teachers on Friday because he believed the 10-year-old had frightened his daughter using a turtle.

In her letter of complaint, Huon Maly called for Koe Monysoka’s resignation, saying her son had suffered injuries to his head and is now afraid to go to school.

Chan Chamroeun, Adhoc’s provincial monitor, described the alleged attack as “brutal” and said Adhoc would monitor the situation. “We are trying to contact the boy’s family for details to lodge a complaint to the provincial court for further investigation.”

Freight volumes climb at Sihanoukville port

Photo by: NGUON SOVAN
Containers on the quayside at Sihanoukville Automous Port in November awaiting shipment. Projected growth in container volumes for this year is just 2 percent, port Deputy Director General Ma Sun Hout said Wednesday.

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:03 Chun Sophal

Report shows 13pc gain in first two months over low ’09 figure

FREIGHT volumes through Sihanoukville, Cambodia’s largest port, climbed an annualised 13.35 percent in the first two months, a sign that the facility is recovering from last year’s slump, but against the lowest base in recent years at the start of 2009 when the economic crisis hit the Kingdom.

Figures obtained by the Post Wednesday showed inbound volumes were up 15.5 percent over the same period as outbound rose 3.72 percent. Total volumes in January and February climbed to 325,368 tonnes from 287.059 a year ago.

Total revenue during the period rose by 1.96 percent to US$3.59 million from $3.67 million in the first two months of 2009, the figures showed.

Sihanoukville Autonomous Port Deputy Director General Ma Sun Hout said Wednesday that the recovery was due to rising exports while imports of coal, cars, raw materials for the garment sector and cement, among other items, also picked up in January and February.

“We cannot presume that this year’s shipment situation will be good, or bad, because we are still in the first quarter,” he said.

Maersk, owner of the world’s largest shipping-container line, which also operates in the Kingdom, said in a financial report on March 4 that it estimates a “modest” profit this year following its first annual loss for at least 60 years in 2009.

Analysts have said that this year the shipping industry is likely to see a recovery, but that the climate will likely remain challenging.

Sihanoukville Port has seen volumes cannabalised by the smaller Phnom Penh port since the opening of Vietnam’s Cai Mep deepwater port at the mouth of the Mekong Delta, which cuts shipping times from Cambodian to North America by a few days.

Sihanoukville, given its coastal location and the geography of the region, does not benefit from the Vietnamese facility, which was partly responsible for a 75 percent annualised rise in shipments through Phnom Penh in January.

So Nguon, director of the Kingdom’s largest overland logistics firm, So Nguon Group, said Wednesday that he had seen a 20-percent rise in volumes at his operation this year.

“Productivity is getting better,” he said, adding that overland traffic between Sihanoukville and the capital was mostly textiles and raw materials for Cambodia’s biggest export industry – garments.

In 2009, Sihanoukville Autonomous Port – which is due to issue an initial public offering on Cambodia’s forthcoming stock exchange at the end of the year – saw volumes slide about 9 percent to 1,874 million tonnes as the garment sector recorded a 15.8 percent downturn in exports.

“We expect that freight shipped through this port will increase at least 2 percent [this year],” said Ma Sun Hout.

Phnom Penh port on January 27 projected a 26-percent rise in container traffic for this year.

Sihanoukville port remains heavily dependent on a US recovery to sustain a rebound, added Ma Sun Hout, given that 70 percent of freight through the facility is linked to Cambodia’s largest export market.

Miner calls gold, silver drill tests 'significant'


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Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:03 Steve Finch

AUSTRALIAN mining firm Southern Gold announced Wednesday “significant” gold and silver mineralisation in results from the first drill of the 2009-2010 season at its Anchor prospect in Snoul, Kratie province.

Results from a further six “eagerly anticipated” test drills at the site are due by April at the latest, added a statement by the Adelaide-based miner, which fully owns the concession.

“Southern Gold’s work at Anchor is part of the company’s aggressive exploration programme under way in Cambodia during the 2009-2010 field season,” it added.

With phase 1 of drilling in the prospect completed, the firm said it would begin phase 2 next month.

“Both drill phases are designed to target the source of [a] significant gold trench,” Wednesday's announcement added.

Southern Gold’s stock rose 4.76 percent at the close of Sydney trading following the announcement to A$0.11 (US$0.10) after hitting A$0.15, its highest value since February 23.

Elixir profits get Naga boost

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Vehicles in front of NagaWorld Hotel and Casino in Phnom Penh Wednesday. Elixir Gaming said its revenues last quarter from the casino rose to US$1.5 million from $1.1 million in the period before.

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:03 Ellie Dyer

US slots firm sees revenues rise 26pc in Q4 as NagaWorld income hits $1.5m

INCREASED revenues from slot machines at Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld Hotel and Casino contributed strongly to dramatic fourth quarter growth at Las Vegas-based Elixir Gaming, its CEO said Tuesday.

Elixir Gaming – which runs machines across the Asia-Pacific region and currently owns 560 slots at the Cambodian capital’s only licensed casino complex – posted its fourth quarter results during a conference call recorded on Tuesday night in the United States.

Elixir CEO and Chairman Clarence Chung said in a webcast that the business’ total revenues for the fourth quarter improved 26 percent on quarter three to US$4.5 million. Of this, $2.5 million was garnered from gaming revenue, a quarter-on-quarter rise of 34 percent, mostly from NagaWorld.

Chief Accounting Officer Andy Tsui added that slot revenue from its operations at NagaWorld rose to $1.5 million in quarter four, up from third quarter 2009 levels of $1.1 million. Average net win per unit was $196 for the fourth quarter, up from $187.

Chung went on to explain that Elixir has dramatically driven up the number of gaming machines it owns, focusing on venues set to give the “greatest potential return on our gaming assets”.

“A strong contributor to our success has been our operator-partner relationship with NagaWorld, our sole venue in operations in Cambodia,” he said.

In February, Elixir announced that 200 extra gambling equipment would be placed at NagaWorld over the next six months, raising the total number of company-owned units from 440 to 640.

Under the deal – in which Elixir agreed to pay NagaWorld a $5.48 million commitment fee and contract amendment fee – the companies would share revenue from the machines.

Chung confirmed that: “We have increased a number of units at NagaWorld to 560 as of mid-February and are on track to reach 640 during the second quarter of 2010.”

He praised the “aggressive growth” in winnings at the Cambodian casino, saying: “We attribute this to our targeted marketing efforts to build strong customer loyalty, the right machine mix, and the benefit of the closure of all slot clubs previously operating in the Phnom Penh region early in 2009.”

Looking to the future, the Elixir CEO said that the company hopes to expand its operations in existing markets – including Cambodia. It is seeking to become an operator in key areas, which include the Kingdom’s border areas with Thailand and Vietnam.

In recent months, millions of dollars-worth of investment has been evident in casinos opening in border towns.

A new $100 million four-star casino-hotel complex, Titan King Resort and Casino, was opened last month in Bavet City in Svay Rieng province, and earlier this year the Top Diamond Casino opened in Kirivong district, Takeo province.

Canadia's Siem Reap project to open June


via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:03 Soeun Say

A US$15 million development project in Siem Reap to erect a two-storey centre, containing 163 residential and business units, will be completed by June this year, a project manager of Canadia bank told the Post Wednesday.

The Angkor Shopping Arcade – construction on which began in June of 2008 – will be ready to receive residents and customers as early as this summer at its 2-hectare location west of the Siem Reap city centre on National Highway 6, said Sok Sambath, project manager of Commercial Housing and Building for Canadia Bank.

“As of current, the Angkor Shopping Arcade is 95 percent completed, with most of the unit spaces already sold,” said Sok Sambath.

The price tag for individual units ranges from US$115,000 to US$125,000.

Kerk Narin, general manager of Bonna Realty Group and secretary of the National Valuers Association in Cambodia, said the project would face low demand due to the continued property slump.

“People will need to save up a lot of money to buy a unit in the centre,” he said.

Police Blotter: 11 Mar 2010


via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:03 Sen David

DEBT LEADS MEN TO CUT TIES, EACH OTHER
Two friends were seriously injured in Kampong Cham province’s Kampong Cham town last week after an argument between the two ended in stabbing. One man, 23, accused his 25-year-old counterpart of attempting to rob him. The 25-year-old said, however, that he was only demanding money that was owed to him, adding that his friend had been very rude about refusing to settle the debt. Following their verbal confrontation, the two stabbed each other with scissors and were sent to a local hospital with serious injuries.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

BANTEAY MEANCHEY POLICE NAB RAPE SUSPECT
Police arrested a man suspected of raping a 17-year-old girl in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thmarpouk district last week. The victim said that her assailant accosted her as she was travelling to a local market to buy eggs for her mother. After raping her, the girl said, the man stole her jewellery and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the incident. Her mother later filed a complaint with local police.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

LOCALS BLAME ARSON FOR DEADLY DEATH
A 70-year-old woman died Tuesday after a fire burned down her house in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district. Police said the fire had started by accident, and that the woman did not receive assistance because her cries for help were too faint. Local residents said, however, that the woman was killed by an unknown assailant who robbed her and burned down her house, destroying the evidence. Police said there was no evidence to support this claim.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

16-YEAR-OLD HANGS SELF IN PREY VENG
A 16-year-old girl died on Monday in Prey Veng province’s Svay Antor district after hanging herself from a tree in the woods near her home. Her family said she had escaped the house and committed suicide after learning that she was infected with HIV and which made her feel ashamed. Local residents said they were very sorry to hear of the beautiful girl’s tragic death.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

DRUNKEN DRIVER KILLS MOTHER, CHILD
A mother in Prey Veng province’s Kamchaymea district died on Tuesday along with her 5-month-old child as they were returning home on a motorbike. Police said the pair were killed by a drunk motorbike driver who lost control of his vehicle and struck them in the middle of the road. That driver has since been detained by police, who have sent the case to court, where the man may be forced to pay compensation to the victims’ family.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Technical institute to host science festival


via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:02 Roth Meas

THE first Festival of Sciences will be held from March 19 to 26 at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) in Phnom Penh, with the aim of raising awareness of the sciences and promoting the French language.

The festival will be organised by the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in affiliation with the French embassy and the École Polytechique in France.

ITC assistant office director Souk Sorphorn said the event will include exhibitions, film screenings and conferences.

“The exhibition will be very important for young people. For those who attend the festival, it will inspire a sense of wonder, make them think and even teach them something,” he said.

The interactive exhibition, which will be free to the public, will feature information on 15 important physics experiments and discoveries that have been made in the past 50 years.

Meanwhile, 10 French-language science films will be screened during the festival, covering topics such as radioactivity, music, the invention of telescopes and the travels of Charles Darwin.

The conference program will consist of four discussions on different topics with top scientists, including Philippe Durouchoux (March 19), Jean-François Clervoy (March 23), Ludwik Dobrzynski (March 25) and Jacques Rosay (March 25), the latter of whom will talk about the design and construction of Airbus aircraft.

While the exhibition is open to everyone, anyone wishing to attend the film screenings or conferences must obtain an invitation letter from the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (on Russian Federation Boulevard at the corner of Street 289), Room 222, First Floor, Building A, between 3pm and 5pm.

More information about the festival can be found on the Internet at fetedelascience@itc.edu.kh This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Suu Kyi barred from joining political parties

A Myanmar activist holds a portrait of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi at a protest in Bangkok last year. AFP

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It will be a very big problem for us, as they asked us to obey a constitution that we cannot accept."
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US calls election law 'disappointing'

KUALA LUMPUR – Myanmar election laws that bar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from standing in polls this year are not what the United States was hoping for, US envoy Kurt Campbell said Wednesday. “I think it would be fair to say what we have seen so far is disappointing and regrettable,” Campbell told a press conference during a visit to Malaysia, part of a tour of Southeast Asia. Campbell reiterated calls for the release of Suu Kyi, who has been detained for 14 of the 20 years since the military junta annulled 1990 elections which her National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide. “We stand by our continuing statements about having her released and playing an active and full role inside the country,” he said. “We want her to play an active role in the political life of the country going forward.” The US has led calls from governments and human rights groups for the Myanmar junta to ensure the credibility of elections planned for this year by making the process fair and inclusive. “We would like to see steps taken by the government to encourage domestic dialogue in anticipation and in advance of the elections,” Campbell said. AFP

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, 11 March 2010 15:02 AFP

US swift to condemn enactment of new law that effectively bans her from leading her own party in upcoming elections

YANGON – Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi faces expulsion from her own party and is barred from standing in elections this year under the military government’s new election laws unveiled Wednesday.

In a move swiftly branded “disappointing and regrettable” by the United States, the regime said in a law printed for the first time in state newspapers that anyone serving a prison term cannot be a member of a political party.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) – which won Myanmar’s last elections in 1990 but was stopped from taking power by the junta – would in turn be abolished if it failed to obey the rules.

The Nobel Peace laureate was sentenced to three years’ jail in August over an incident in which an American man swam to her lakeside home. Suu Kyi’s sentence was commuted by junta supremo Than Shwe to 18 months under house arrest.

“I have noticed that we have to expel Daw Suu. Their attitude is clear in this law,” NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP, using a respectful form of address to refer to Suu Kyi.

“I was extremely surprised when I saw this. I did not think it would be so bad.”

The Political Parties Registration Act also gives the NLD just 60 days from Monday, when the law was enacted, to register as a party if it wants to take part in the elections, or else face dissolution.

“The NLD also needs to reply clearly, but I cannot say how we will respond,” Nyan Win said.

Critics have dismissed the polls, which Than Shwe has promised to hold at a still-unspecified date this year, as a sham aimed at legitimising the military’s nearly five-decade grip on power.

The 64-year-old Suu Kyi has been in detention for 14 of the the 20 years since the previous elections.

She was already barred from standing as a candidate under a new constitution approved in a 2008 referendum that stipulates that those married to foreigners are ineligible. Her husband, British academic Michael Aris, died in 1999.

“What I can say now is the law is meant to safeguard the constitution. It will be a very big problem for us, as they asked us to obey a constitution that we cannot accept,” Nyan Win added.

The new law effectively also prevents more than 2,100 political prisoners from taking part in the elections.

It also explicitly bars people from any religious order – including Buddhist monks – and members of the civil service from standing as candidates.

Monks led mass anti-junta protests in 2007, which the regime suppressed with the loss of at least 31 lives.

The act is the second of five laws to have been enacted on Monday ahead of the polls, for which the junta has given no date but which are expected to be in October or November.

The first law stipulates that the regime itself will hand-pick members of the electoral commission.

Aung Din from the US Campaign for Burma, which uses Myanmar’s former name, urged worldwide action in response to the new laws.

“Now, the ball is in the court of the United Nations, United States and the international community, who have been repeatedly calling for the regime to make an inclusive, free and fair election,” said Aung Din.

Win Min, a Myanmar analyst based in Thailand, said party law was in some ways more of an attack on the NLD than on Suu Kyi.

“Than Shwe does not want the NLD to run for the elections. And it will be very difficult for them – they need to expel Aung San Suu Kyi and the other detained members, and they need to agree on the 2008 constitution,” he said. AFP