Monday, 5 July 2010

Positive Signs In Cambodia-Thai Relations

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PHNOM PENH, July 5 (Bernama) -- Cambodian authorities have handed over two Thai nationals to Thailand over their alleged involvement in a bomb attack in Bangkok last month, according to a statement released by Cambodia's Foreign Ministry.

Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported that Long Visalo, the Secretary of State at Cambodia's Foreign Ministry, handed over the two Thais to a representative from the Thai Embassy at the Phnom Penh International Airport on July 5 and that Thailand has subsequently thanked the Cambodian government.

The two suspects, a man and a woman, were allegedly involved in the June 22 attack on the headquarters of the Bhumjai Thai Party, part of Thailand's governmental coalition. They were arrested by the Cambodian authorities in Siem Reap province on July 3.

According to VNA the statement also said that the Cambodian government had arrested and sent the two back to Thailand without any request from the Thai government.

This showed that the Cambodian government will not tolerate terrorism regardless where the crimes were committed, it said.

The "Phnom Penh Post" newspaper quoted the Director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, Vhheang Vannarith, as saying that this development showed that the relationship between the two countries might grow stronger in the near future.

Cambodia has shown its flexibility in bilateral relations with Thailand, he said, adding that there could be positive developments in the relationship after this sign of goodwill.

Cambodia needs enhancing protection of cultural heritage: official

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2010-07-05

PHNOM PENH, July 5 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian government said Monday that the country needs strong protection to safeguards its cultural heritage and that it needs both bilateral and multiple cooperation, especially in the Asian region.

Delivering speech at the opening of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) on "Protection and Respecting Cultural Diversity", Him Chhem, Cambodia's Minister of Culture and Fine Arts said Cambodia is a small country, but it is rich in cultural and civilization in the Asian region.

He said, "Cambodia needs strong protection to safeguard her cultural heritage."

It is the third kind of such meeting since the Asian Parliamentary Assembly on Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity initiated in 2006.

The first meeting was held in October 2008 in Seoul, South Korea and the second one was held in June 2009 in Tehran, the Islamic republic of Iran.

The meeting is designed to further discuss how to better protect, respect and share the values of cultural heritage in general.

Cambodia is proud of being rich in cultural heritage such as Angko Wat Temple, Preah Vihear Temple, both were registered as Word Heritage Sites and hundreds of more temples across the country as well as arts, culture and tradition.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

2 suspected Thai bomb attackers repatriated from Cambodia to Thailand

Cambodian policemen guard Boonplod Kobchai (2nd L) and Boonsom Varissareeya (2nd R) at the Phnom Penh airport before flying them back to Thailand July 5, 2010. The Cambodian government sent two Thai suspects back to Thailand on Monday after arresting them on July 3 on terrorism charges. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

A Cambodian policeman guards Boonplod Kobchai (C) and Boonsom Varissareeya (R) at the Phnom Penh airport before flying them back to Thailand July 5, 2010. The Cambodian government sent two Thai suspects back to Thailand on Monday after arresting them on July 3 on terrorism charges. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Thai woman identified as Varissareeya Boonsom is escorted by Cambodian military police officers at Phnom Penh international airport, Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Monday July 5, 2010. The woman and another Thai man, both suspected of involvement in a bombing attack of a political party in Bangkok, were sent back to Thailand on Monday after being handed over to the Thai officials. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Thai man identified as Boonplod Kobchai, second left, is escorted by Cambodian military police officers at Phnom Penh international airport, Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Monday July 5, 2010. The man and another Thai woman, both suspected of involvement in a bombing attack on a political party in Bangkok, was sent back to Thailand after handed over to the Thai officials. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Thai man and woman identified as Boonplod Kobchai and Varissareeya Boonsomis respectively wait before being kicked out of Cambodia, at Phnom Penh international airport, Phnom Penh on Monday July 5, 2010. The two, suspected of involvement in a bombing attack on a political party in Bangkok, was sent back to Thailand after handed over to the Thai officials. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Thai man Boonplod Kobchai, 42, second right, escorted by policemen, arrives at the national police headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, July 5, 2010 after he and Thai woman Varissareeya Boonsom were extradited from Cambodia. The couple, who were arrested in Cambodia Saturday, are suspects wanted by the Thai authorities for allegedly planning a bomb attack at the headquarters of a Thai political party, Bhumjaithai. (AP photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai woman Varissareeya Boonsom, 42, center, is escorted to arrive at the national police headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, July 5, 2010 after she and Thai man Boonplod Kobchai were extradited from Cambodia. The couple, who were arrested in Cambodia Saturday, are suspects wanted by the Thai authorities for allegedly planning a bomb attack at the headquarters of a Thai political party, Bhumjaithai. (AP photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thailand's Boonplod Kobchai, 42, and Varissareeya Boonsom, 42, are presented to the media at the national police headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, July 5, 2010 after being extradited from Cambodia. The pair are suspects wanted by the Thai authorities for allegedly planning a bomb attack at the headquarters of a Thai political party, Bhumjaithai. (AP photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai policemen escort Kobchai Boonplod (L) as he arrives at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok July 5, 2010. The Cambodian government sent two Thai suspectsback to Thailand on Monday after arresting them on July 3 on terrorism charges. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

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July 05, 2010

A Thai man and woman suspected to have masterminded the bomb blast at the coalition Bhumjaithai Party on June 22 were repatriated to Thailand from Cambodia on Monday, the Thai News Agency (TNA) reported.

The two are Mr Kobchai Boonplod and Ms Warisriya Boonsom arrived at capital Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport at 11.15 a.m., local time.

The Bangkok Post's website reported that Kobchai, 41, and Warisriya, 42, were arrested by Cambodian authorities in Siem Reap in Northwest Cambodia on Saturday. They were then handed over to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

Though there was no request from the Thai government, the Cambodian government decided to arrest and repatriate them to Thailand since they "committed terrorist acts," according to the Cambodian Foreign Ministry.

They have been taken into custody by Pol Lt-General Aswin Kwanmuang, an assistant police chief, and Pol Maj-General Panya Mamen, deputy chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, amid tight security provided by commando police.

The two would be taken to acting national police chief Pol General Pateep Tanprasert at the Royal Thai Police Office for preliminary questioning, Pol Lt-General Aswin said.

They would later be handed over to the Justice Ministry's Department of Special Investigation (DSI), he said.

The two would be handed over to the DSI on Monday afternoon and would be detained for interrogation, DSI chief Tharit Pengdit said.

On Tuesday the DSI would take them to the Criminal Court, and seek approval for an extension of their detention.

Source: Xinhua

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Thai developers look overseas in the face of tough competition

http://www.property-report.com/

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Andrew Batt | Jul 05, 2010

Property developers in Thailand are starting to look at overseas markets for new opportunities because of the intense competition in the Thai market, according to international property consultants CB Richard Ellis.

Initial target markets are Vietnam and Cambodia because of their proximity, level of development and the local competition is not as well developed as the more mature markets such as Malaysia. There are a wide range of opportunities in the Vietnamese and Cambodian markets – from city centre office, retail, residential and hotel developments – through to the growing resort markets in these countries as well as industrial estate opportunities.

Entering new markets is always a challenge, said CB Richard Ellis. Rules and regulations governing property development and ownership are different. The dynamics of each of the property sectors in these countries is also different to Thailand. Accurate information on regulations, supply, demand, pricing, competitors and prospects for each property sector is essential for a Thai developer to succeed in a new market.

“There is very little publicly available information on the Vietnamese or Cambodian markets. CB Richard Ellis sells and leases properties in these countries everyday, which is why we have the best market data on actual transactions and future supply. This enables us to provide our clients with the best market data, giving them the best knowledge to enable them to succeed,” said James Pitchon, Head of Research and Consulting for CB Richard Ellis Thailand.

There are opportunities for Thai developers to acquire or build properties in both Cambodia and Vietnam but accurate market research will be critical in order to succeed.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Cambodia Rejected a Report on the Proposal for Sending Back the Thai Terrorists by the Thai Government

Monday, 05 July 2010 09:12 DAP-NEWS

CAMBDODIA, PHNOM PENH, July 05, 2010- Mr. Koy Kuong, spokesman of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, on Monday of July 05, 2010 completely rejected a report from Bangkok that the proposal for sending back the two Thai terrorists arrested by the Cambodian authority to Thailand was made by the Thai government.

Mr. Koy Kuong told the journalists in the terrorist-sending ceremony at Phnom Penh International Airport that the sending of the two Thai terrorist was declared in public after the Cambodian authority had arrested these two Thai terrorists in Siam Reap province.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday of July 04, 2010 said that the Thai embassy´s officials to Cambodia now are proposing that the Cambodian government should send the two Thai suspects who were getting involved in the hand-grenade attacks in front of the Central Headquarters Phumi Chaithai in June 22, 2010.

Cambodia to Host Asian Political Parties in December

Monday, 05 July 2010 07:25 DAP-NEWS / Tep Piseth

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, JULY 5, 2010-Cambodian People Party will host the Asian Political Parties in late this year to strengthen the cooperation among political parties in Asia for better Asia in future, a Cambodia official said on Monday.

This year Cambodia will host the 6th General Assembly of ICAPP led by the Cambodian People Party (CPP), for two days, 02 and 03 December 2010 in Phnom Penh, with the participation of Asian political parties in power from 52 countries under the theme: “Asia’s Quest for a Better Tomorrow”, Pen Ngeoun, a adviser to the government said.

“The objectives of the 6th General Assembly of ICAPP are to promote exchange and cooperation between political parties with various ideologies in Asia, enhance mutual understanding and trust among the peoples and countries of the region, To promote regional cooperation through the unique role and channel of political parties; and to create an environment for sustained peace and shared prosperity in the region.

He added that in the past ICAPP had organized 5 sessions of the General Assembly, 12 meetings of the Standing Committee, 2 Special Workshops, and a Joint Session with Other Regional Integrating Organizations. Within the context of the Centrist Democrat International, Asia-Pacific (CDI-AP), the CPP, a member since 2006, had organized an international workshop on 10 and 11 December 2009 in Siem Reap Angkor under the theme: “The Social Market Economy, an Alternative Approach for Asia” based on the declaration of an important CDI-AP’s initiative, with the participation of all Asian political parties.

According to statement from council of minister, the first Press Conference on ICAPP, meaning the International Conference of Asian Political Parties will be held at the Office of the Council of Ministers on 6 July at 05:00 pm. Will be presents are His Excellency Jose de Venecia, former Philippine House Speaker, Founder, and Co-Chairman of ICAPP, His Excellency Chung Eui-Yong, Co-Chairman and General Secretary of ICAPP, His Excellency Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Member of Pakistan Muslim League Party, His Excellency Yos Son, Vice-Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the 6th General Assembly of ICAPP in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and His Excellency Say Sam Al, Chairman of the Sub-Committee for Documentation and Research.

it continued that this Press Conference is organized on the occasion of the visit of the three Asian political leaders to the Kingdom of Cambodia (03/07 – 06/07/2010) for the purpose of evaluating the current state of preparation of the 6th General Assembly of ICAPP, which will be hosted by the Cambodian People Party (CPP), for two days, 02 and 03 December 2010 in Phnom Penh, with the participation of Asian political parties in power from 52 countries under the theme: “Asia’s Quest for a Better Tomorrow”.

Wading in the capital


Photo by: Julie Leafe

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:00 Nay Someta

Pedestrians navigate flooded streets near the Royal Palace after heavy rainfall in Phnom Penh. The rain left streets citywide flooded for hours on Friday afternoon, but no major damage was reported, said Nov Saroeun, chief of the drainage and pumping unit at the Municipal Public Works and Transport Department. Nov Saroeun said the flooding had subsided by the end of the day, and that it likely would have lasted for up to four days prior to the completion this year of Japanese-funded drainage improvements.

Back to Beijing


Photo by: Heng Chivoan

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Monday, 05 July 2010 15:00 Heng Chivoan

King Father Norodom Sihanouk (centre), Royal Palace Minister Kong Som Ol and Queen Norodom Monineath board a plane for China on Friday. Sihanouk announced last month that he would return to China so his doctors there could “take action through their scientific skills” to prevent his cancer from returning.

Pagoda vacated for voyeur inquiry


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A monk takes a cigarette break at Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak pagoda on Saturday. The temple’s monks, nuns, students and laymen have been ordered to leave the pagoda temporarily so police can investigate the case of a 35-year-old monk who was arrested last week on suspicion of secretly recording videos of women in the pagoda’s public bathroom.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:03 Nay Someta and Chrann Chamroeun

MORE than 100 nuns, students and laymen moved out of Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak pagoda yesterday to make way for officials investigating a 35-year-old monk accused of recording videos of naked women showering there.

Soy Phirum, a police official investigating the case, said 70 monks had also been cleared out of the pagoda on Saturday.

Another police official, Lim Boun, said monks and police held a meeting on Saturday morning to discuss “how to restore the pagoda’s reputation”.

Those in attendance agreed that vendors would no longer be able to sell their wares on the pagoda’s grounds, he said.

“There will no longer be vendors who sell cookies, food or dessert any more because it has made the pagoda look messy and out of order,” he said.

A monk who identified himself only as Sela said yesterday that officials were “cleaning and sweeping the surrounding areas to make it nice and clean, though without destroying any evidence” in the bathroom under investigation. The monk, nuns, students and laymen have been told that they will be allowed to apply to return to the pagoda on July 20.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A monk at Srah Chak pagoda clears out his belongings on Saturday. Monks and others living at the pagoda have been ordered to leave while police investigate the case of a 35-year-old monk accused of recording videos of women bathing in a pagoda bathroom.

Sela said yesterday that he did not know whether all of them would be welcomed back.

“We don’t know yet whether or not to welcome all the monks to live in the pagoda on July 20. It depends on the decisions made by the committee for their high consideration of a monk’s good qualifications and character,” he said.

“We don’t want to be ashamed again like we were with the defrocked monk.”

Neth Kai, 35, was arrested and defrocked on June 26 after being accused of secretly recording videos of naked women at the pagoda.

He is in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison after being charged last week with producing and distributing pornography.

The pagoda’s abbot, Meas Kung, had been asked to leave the pagoda permanently due to his negligence during the affair, Sela said last week.

Pair held over Thai bombing


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Monday, 05 July 2010 15:03 Sebastian Strangio and Cheang Sokha

CAMBODIA has arrested two Thais suspected of involvement in a bombing at a political party office in Bangkok last month.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a man and a woman were arrested in Siem Reap province on Saturday in connection with the June 22 bombing, which it described as a “terrorist act”.

“Although there is no request from the Thai government, the Cambodian government has decided to arrest and send the two terrorists back to Thailand,” the ministry said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said yesterday that the pair, Kobchai Boonplod and Varisareeya Boonsom, both 42, would be handed over to the Thai authorities at 9:30am today.

“This is to show the willingness of the government to fight terrorism, and that Cambodia always cooperates with other countries in the world to fight terrorism,” he said.

The arrests follow Cambodian denials of Thai media reports that the pair entered the country on June 23, a day after an explosion rocked the Bangkok headquarters of the Bhumjaithai Party, a member of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s coalition government.

In a statement issued on June 28, the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers dismissed the reports as “groundless and ill-intentioned”, part of a “malicious campaign to fault Cambodia”.

Koy Kuong said the government’s strong reactions followed a series of false Thai media reports, and that the government was showing its good faith by handing the pair over to Thailand.

“The government of Cambodia is committed to extraditing these two suspects to Thailand despite not receiving a request from Thailand,” he said.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said he could not comment on the situation until the prisoners were handed over to Thai authorities, but welcomed Cambodia’s help.

“In general, we welcome the cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia on these activities, and we think it’s very encouraging,” he said.

When asked about the Cambodian government’s earlier accusation, he said he was “not in a position to comment on Cambodian affairs or Cambodian opinions”.

Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the arrests could potentially signal a warming of relations between the two countries.

“I think that Cambodia has a flexible position regarding bilateral relations,” he said.

“I can see positive developments in the bilateral relationship from here.”

The two countries withdrew their ambassadors in November last year after Cambodia appointed fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser to the government.

Land concessions: $1/hectare


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Monday, 05 July 2010 15:02 May Titthara

TWO companies linked to Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat are among five that were granted economic land concessions requiring them to pay only US$1 per hectare in annual rent in exchange for development rights, according to newly discovered agreements with the government.

The contracts with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries state that the five concessionaires must begin paying the “rental fees” five years after the concessions were awarded.

One of the firms linked to Ly Yong Phat, the Koh Kong Sugar Industry Company, is at the centre of a land dispute that erupted in violence in 2006 when security guards fired guns to repel villagers protesting against the destruction of orchards.

The other, the Kampong Speu Sugar Company, is owned by Ly Yong Phat’s wife, Kim Heang. It borders a 8,343-hectare concession granted to another of his holdings, the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is embroiled in a heated dispute with more than 1,000 families.

That dispute has led to three arrests this year. According to a recent field report from the rights group Adhoc, more than 1,000 families are expected to face food shortages this year after being denied access to their farmland.

Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for Adhoc, which first obtained the agreements, said he believed it was a common practice for concessionaires to be charged what amounts to a nominal fee in exchange for development rights.

But he said the companies should be forced to pay higher rates, considering the costs incurred by villagers forced from their land.

“The government is not helping villagers get a better standard of living, but causing them to become poorer and poorer,” Ouch Leng said.

“No other country in the world is renting land at such a cheap price as Cambodia.”

Ly Yong Phat was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Chhean Kimsuon, a representative of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, said she could not discuss the financial arrangements between the firm and the government.

However, she said the land concession would ultimately be beneficial for locals, providing jobs to 300 people.

“We will provide a lot of jobs for villagers when our company is operating,” she said.

Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Illegal reservoirs condemned


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Monday, 05 July 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has ordered authorities in six provinces to destroy or modify all illegal reservoirs lying within two designated zones around the Tonle Sap lake in order to protect its biodiversity.

In an order issued on Friday, the premier informed the governors of Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pursat and Kampong Chhnang provinces that most reservoirs lying within the two areas of the lake’s flood plain were to be destroyed.

He also asked them to halt a range of activities that he said were harming the biodiversity of the lake, including the controlled burning of trees and slash-and-burn farming.

“The illegal reservoir and ecotourism sites have had a serious effect on the natural stability of the Tonle Sap, including its ecological systems such as fish stocks, water levels, flooded forest areas and overall environmental health and biodiversity,” the order said.

The order also banned any new development projects that had not been subjected to environmental impact assessments by the relevant officials.

“If any provincial governor of the six provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap lake does not implement these measures through this regulation, they will be held to face the government of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” it warned.

The order did not specify what should be done with reservoirs lying within a third zone surrounding the lake.

Chan Youttha, secretary general of the Tonle Sap Authority, said yesterday that that body had identified a total of 243 illegal reservoirs, but had only destroyed 12 because heavy rainfall was making it impossible to operate excavators.

“We will continue to investigate and demolish illegal reservoirs in the flooded forest of the Tonle Sap lake area to prevent degradation of the bio-ecology systems,” he said.

More than 400 families in Kampong Thom’s Stung district met local officials last Thursday to request a halt to the destruction of a reservoir that they say has tripled their annual rice yield.

Tak Samnang, a representative of the 424 families in Chamna Krom commune, said each family had contributed US$450 to build the 2,000-by-3,000-square-metre reservoir, and that he didn’t know how they could continue to cultivate rice during the dry season without it.

“There might be not any reservoirs in Kampong Thom province that have been authorised,” he said.

He added that he didn’t object to the destruction of all reservoirs, but that he wanted the government to consider each case individually.

Chan Youttha said he would consider re-engineering rather than destroying some reservoirs in unforested areas around the Tonle Sap lake, provided that those reservoirs were dug by villagers and offered a demonstrable benefit to local communities.

Inside Cover: 5 Jul 2010


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Monday, 05 July 2010 15:02 Roger Mitton

IT was intriguing to spot Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at the recent G-20 summit in Toronto.

The unilingual Dung stood with his headphones on, beaming like a garden gnome and clearly chuffed to be in a group that included the presidents of China, Russia and the United States.

He deserves to look happy. Modern-day Vietnam is blessed with good fortune. It has a young and industrious workforce, a resource-rich interior and oil-rich coastal waters.

It also lies at the strategic fulcrum of Southeast and Northeast Asia, and so is courted by superpowers and invited to confabs like the G-20.

However, Dung’s self-satisfied smile echoed other signs that Vietnam’s leaders are becoming arrogant and intoxicated with grandiose notions that exceed the nation’s capabilities.

Their flamboyant schemes include a high-speed bullet train linking Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, a bevy of high-tech satellite cities and eight nuclear power stations.

In a perfect world, the country would, of course, benefit from all these things.

But mega-projects take time and money. And a wise government does what it can while avoiding costly pipe dreams that deplete the national coffers – already ominously low in Vietnam due to a huge trade imbalance, a weak currency and past economic mismanagement.

Consider the bullet train delusion. Its massive US$56 billion price tag – a figure likely to double when corruption and embezzlement are factored in – would have aggravated the nation’s already high foreign debt (currently 42 percent of GDP).

High ticket prices would also deter passengers, so the capital costs were unlikely ever to be recouped.

Dung and the regime’s other imperious leaders waved these worries away with contempt and pressed ahead. But last month they got a nasty shock. On June 19, members of the National Assembly in Hanoi rejected the scheme by a vote of 178 to 157.

Assemblymen lambasted the project and the need to fund it with foreign development assistance and loans that would impose $600 of foreign debt on every single Vietnamese citizen.

The Cambodian government, currently proceeding with a similarly costly scheme to resurrect its railway system using foreign assistance and loans, might well pay heed to this vote and reassess its own priorities.

In both countries, it would be wiser to defer big-ticket mega-projects and focus on key basic needs such as education and health care.

As Vietnam’s angry assemblymen also pointed out, the nation’s schooling system is woeful, and none of its universities is among the top 500 on international rankings.

Education Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan conceded that the ruling Communist Party, the government, prior education ministers and the National Assembly all shared responsibility for this failure.

He is right. But perhaps now that the bullet train fantasy has been shelved, some of that $56 billion could be used to upgrade schools and rectify the failure.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
correspondent for Asiaweek and former bureau chief in Washington and Hanoi for The Straits Times. He has covered East Asia for the past 25 years.

Land dispute flares in Kandal

Photo by: Photo Courtesy of ADHOC
Pheng Seiha, 25, appears shortly after police in Kandal province released him on Friday afternoon. Villagers and rights workers say police beat him before taking him into custody.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:02 Chhay Channyda and May Titthara

TWO residents of Kandal province’s Kien Svay district have been arrested and briefly detained following a violent altercation with police related to a land dispute pitting a former deputy provincial governor against a sitting provincial councillor.

The altercation occurred Friday morning after about 50 police and provincial officials attempted to enforce a 2001 Appeal Court ruling that awarded 40 hectares of disputed land to Prak Savuth, a provincial councillor in Kratie province.

Rum Tekhamony, a former deputy governor of Kandal province, had also claimed the land, prompting the court case.

Chorn Phally, 49, said yesterday that she and her son were arrested after residents tried to block the authorities from approaching the disputed land in Samrong Thom commune’s Prek Treng village.

“They hit me and dragged me to the car,” she said, referring to police.

“My son was beaten with a gun until his ear was bleeding. They have guns and handcuffs, but we have no weapons.”

She added that police quickly released her after a group of villagers tried to block the police truck from travelling to the district police station. But her son, 25-year-old Pheng Seiha, was kept in the truck and taken to the station, where police held him until about 3:30pm, she said.

They released him, she said, only after he signed an agreement that he would not participate in any future protests concerning the land dispute.

Heng Theam, governor of Kien Svay district, confirmed that Pheng Seiha had been arrested and held for much of Friday, but denied that police had resorted to violence.

“We are just implementing the court’s verdict,” he said.

“We just detained him temporarily and released him when officials finished the task. The man used violence on our police force, so we must arrest him.”

He said that 44 families lived on the land, and that they would be permitted to stay there, though he noted that their plots would be reduced from about 4,000 to 750 square metres per family.

He added that 13 of the families had already agreed to take the 15-by-50-metre plots.

Ouch Leng, senior monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said authorities in Kandal province had attempted to enforce the verdict awarding the land to Prak Savuth on several occasions since 2001, but had been blocked by Prek Treng residents.

Friday’s incident was the first time an arrest was made in connection with the case, he said.

“The villagers are third parties, but they are becoming the victims of this dispute between two people,” he said.

“The verdict of the court is affecting their farmland and houses.”

Prak Savuth and Rum Tekhamony could not be reached for comment.

Migrants freed to leave India


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Monday, 05 July 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

EIGHT Cambodian men are set to return home tomorrow after being held for six months in an Indian detention centre, an official said yesterday.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the workers, brought illegally to India last September on a Thai fishing vessel, were in good health, and that the International Organisation for Migration would be responsible for repatriating them to Cambodia by air.

“They will arrive on Tuesday at 9am,” Koy Kuong said. “The IOM will escort them back to Cambodia directly.”

According to a report issued last month by local rights group Adhoc, the eight men – Nob Chet, 36, Rin Run, 22, Rin Rithy, 19, Song Mov, 24, Song Pheakdey, 19, Yi Vet, 45, Vy Bunthoeun, 17, and Nun Rin, 21 – had secured fake Thai passports and intended to seek construction work in Thailand.

Instead they were trafficked to India, where they were arrested and imprisoned for six months by Indian authorities.

Chan Soveth, a senior investigator with Adhoc, said that the organisation and the workers’ families were both eagerly anticipating their homecoming, though they had not yet been notified of tomorrow’s return flight.

“I knew they were coming back this week, but we hadn’t been given a specific date,” he said.

“I will be happy to see them come back in good health.”

The eight are the most recent victims of what rights workers say is a worsening trend of male migrant workers being tricked into working on foreign fishing vessels with few resources and little chance of escape.

In May, another eight trafficked workers were returned to Cambodia after escaping from a fishing vessel on which they were forced to work like “slaves”, they said.

Sam Rainsy’s appeal to be held in absentia


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Monday, 05 July 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

THE Appeal Court would hold a hearing into the recent conviction of opposition leader Sam Rainsy tomorrow, his lawyer said, despite the fact that the politician remained overseas.

Choung Choungy, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, said yesterday that he would appear to defend his client, who he said hoped to overturn a two-year prison sentence that was preventing his return from self-exile in Europe.

“I have prepared myself already. I cannot say what the result of the hearing will be ... but I will try to request that the court acquit my client,” he said.

In January, Svay Rieng provincial court convicted Sam Rainsy of racial incitement and destroying demarcation posts on the border with Vietnam. The charges stemmed from an October incident in which he joined villagers in uprooting six wooden border posts in Chantrea district. Two local villagers were also jailed in connection with the incident.

Appeal Court officials could not be reached yesterday.

Another 50,000 threaten to strike


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Union leader Chea Mony, reflected in a tuk-tuk’s side mirror, addresses workers during a rally marking International Labour Day on May 1.

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Monday, 05 July 2010 15:02 Tep Nimol

THE head of the Cambodian Labour Confederation said yesterday that its 50,000 members would join a three-day strike scheduled for later this month if the minimum wage for garment workers was not raised to US$93 per month.

Ath Thun, who is also head of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, issued his strike threat one day after the CLC said that the wage hike was necessary in light of the rising cost of food, accommodation and transportation.

In a statement issued on June 25, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Social Affairs called for a $5 increase to the minimum wage for garment workers, now at $50.

The statement also said garment workers should receive “another $6 as a living supplement to the basic salary”. Workers already receive a $6 cost-of-living allowance on top of their salaries.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which claims to represent more than 80,000 workers, has called for the wage to be increased to $70.

Last month, he threatened to stage a three-day sit-down strike beginning on July 13 if that demand wasn’t met.

Yesterday Ath Thun said the proposed increase from the Labour and Social Affairs ministries was unacceptable.

“Even though they have approved to increase the workers’ salaries by $11, we will not support it,” he said.

“If they still disagree, we will protest, and all demonstrations will appear at the same time with Chea Mony.”

The CLC consists of roughly 50,000 members of unions including the CCAWDU, the Cambodia Tourism and Service Workers Federation and the Independent Democratic Informal Economy Association.

Unions and garment factory owners agreed in 2006 to discuss changes to the minimum wage by the end of this year, but there has been no consensus among unions on a suitable increase. Whereas Ath Thun and Chea Mony have called for wages of $93 and $70, respectively, Chuon Mumthol, president of the pro-Cambodian People’s Party Cambodian Union Federation, said last month that he was satisfied with the government’s recommendation.

Officials with the Labour Advisory Committee are scheduled to meet union representatives and factory owners on Thursday to discuss issues including the minimum wage, according to the June 25 press release from the Social Affairs and Labour ministries.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Labour Ministry, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Cheat Khemara, senior labour officer at the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, described the government’s proposal as a “first step”, and said that factories would likely close if a $93 minimum wage ever went into force.

“The government offered the $11 increase after they discussed and researched very carefully,” he said.

Factory closes down as workers pass out


via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

AUTHORITIES ordered the temporary closure of a garment factory in the capital’s Meanchey district yesterday after 47 of its employees fainted while working.

Tep Bora, the chief of Boeung Tumpun commune, said 22 workers at the Pine Great (Cambodia) Garments factory collapsed on Friday, followed by 25 more on Saturday.

“We have decided to postpone [the operations of] the Pine Great factory for a period until they find the reason those workers fainted,” he said yesterday.

He added that a further 50 workers had reported headaches after shifts at the factory.

Tep Bora said that those who suffered fainting spells recovered after being sent to the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital and were resting at home.

“We do not know for sure whether they fainted because of the chemicals that preserve the clothes, because we are still investigating,” he said.

Pok Vanthat, director of the Occupational Health Department at the Ministry of Labour, said yesterday that his department had yet to investigate the incident, but denied chemicals were a likely cause.

“It could be caused by a variety of different reasons, such as the bad environment in the factory, shock from seeing other workers faint or not eating enough food with enough vitamins,” he said.

Factory managers and affected workers could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Man confesses to raping 10-year-old


via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol and Thet Sambath

A MAN in Battambang province has confessed to raping a 10-year-old girl after being arrested late last week, local officials said yesterday.

Police said the man, whose age they could not provide, was arrested on Thursday when the victim’s family filed a complaint, and sent to court the following day after confessing to the crime during questioning.

The suspect “is accused of raping a 10-year-old girl and is currently being detained in prison”, Thuch Ra, the police chief of Battambang town, said yesterday. He added that the court was still investigating the case.

Boun Vanna, deputy chief of the anti-human trafficking division of the Battambang provincial police, said there were 39 cases of rape in Battambang in the first six months of this year, about double the figure reported for the same period in 2009.

He said pornographic videos, easily disseminated on mobile phones, were largely responsible for the province’s recent upsurge in reported rape cases.

“I know the number of rape cases of underage girls has increased in Battambang province early this year compared to last year, and the increase has mostly been caused from families who are careless when taking care of their daughters,” Boun Vanna said.

Three killed by diarrhoea in Ratanakkiri


via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

AT least three deaths in Ratanakkiri province due to acute watery diarrhoea have been reported in recent days, health officials said yesterday, bringing the total number of people who have died in the province since April to 32.

Tha Bunthak, deputy director of the provincial Health Department, said officials had recorded three new deaths in Ta Veng and O’Chum districts.

These included a 50-year-old woman who died last Monday as well as a 20-year-old man who died on Friday.

Since April, the province had recorded 1,300 cases of acute diarrhoea, he said, and added that the current outbreak appeared to be the most significant in Ratanakkiri since 1999, when 100 people died.

“Diarrhoea is seriously affecting people in this province,” said Tha Bunthak, who blamed the cases on poor sanitation.

Meanwhile, Svay Rieng provincial hospital had experienced a new outbreak of acute diarrhoea, with 15 patients being admitted since Wednesday with serious cases, said Kuch Sipha, the hospital’s deputy superintendent. Kuch Sipha said doctors had concluded that the patients contracted diarrhoea because of a lack of proper sanitation that led some villagers to consume contaminated water.

Officials with the Health Ministry’s Department of Communicable Disease Control could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Dr Nima Asgari, a public health specialist working for the World Health Organisation, said he did not have immediate access to statistics for cholera or diarrhoea cases nationwide.

He said, though, that he had seen a general increase in cases this year over last year.

“We do know that there is just more going around this year; that’s for sure,” Asgari said.

Diarrhoea outbreaks have been blamed in part on the late dry season, when communal water sources are used frequently and clean rainwater is not readily available.

But it was possible that improved surveillance methods were contributing to the increase in reported diarrhoea cases this year, Asgari said.

Otres eviction talks set for today


via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:01 Kim Yuthana

PREAH Sihanouk provincial officials said ahead of a meeting today that they had ruled out compensating 70 business owners slated for eviction from Otres beach.

Tuon Bunthol, the chief inspector at Preah Sihanouk provincial hall and the official in charge of resolving the dispute, said yesterday that business owners would be offered a small amount of money to cover transportation costs, but no compensation for the loss of their establishments.
“According to our policy, the province cannot compensate them,” he said.

“Only some small payment to cover the cost of dismantling [their businesses] and transportation will be offered because those vendors have been living and doing business on state property,” Tuon Bunthol added.

The business owners, who occupy a 1.5-kilometre stretch of the beach, were originally set to be evicted on June 30, but that deadline passed without incident after authorities granted appeals for a delay.

The negotiations to take place today appeared to be headed for deadlock, as the business owners reiterated their demand for some form of compensation.

Chao Sarath, a group representative, said authorities would have to force him off the beach if no offer of compensationwas made.

“The vendors were at consensus on Sunday that they will not accept the provincial authority’s policy and will not leave the beach either if there is no compensation,” Chao Sarath said.

Successor reportedly picked for deputy role


via khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

MUNICIPAL cabinet chief Nuon Sameth was set to replace Mann Chhoeun as Phnom Penh deputy governor, a City Hall official said yesterday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the appointment had been suggested by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Mann Chhoeun, 60, announced his retirement late last week. He is expected to take a position at the National Foundation for Population and Development at the Council of Ministers.

He cited his age as the primary reason for his retirement, and said he hoped to continue working to alleviate poverty in Cambodia. “I am very happy with my new post,” he said yesterday. “I intend to keep working for poor people and poor communities across the country.”

In his stint as deputy governor, Mann Chhoeun played a prominent role in several high-profile land disputes, notably the Dey Krahorm eviction in January 2009. He was often criticised by rights groups for the forceful tactics employed by police during his term.

Mann Chhoeun said he couldn’t confirm the identity of his successor, and Nuon Sameth declined to comment.

Rubber trade runs dry as market prices spike


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A rubber tapper's basin hangs from a tree on a plantation in Kampong Cham province.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara

Cambodian rubber exports dropped more than 34 percent in the first five months of this year compared with the same period in 2009, according to official figures from the Cambodia Import, Export, Inspection and Fraud Repression Department (CamControl).

Data released on Friday show a 34.19 percent drop in exported rubber, from 13,057 tonnes to 9,730 tonnes, and growers blame harsh weather for reducing production during the first five months of the year.

“The decrease was because of low rainfall and high temperatures. My production fell compared with last year,” said Mok Kim Hong, owner of the Chub Rubber Plantation in Kampong Cham province. He added that less than half of his 15,000 hectares of plantation had produced resin so far this year.

The Chub plantation had exported only about 2,000 tonnes this year through May, well off pace to match the 9,000 to 10,000 tonnes it exported last year, Mok Kim Hong said.

Meanwhile, rubber prices had spiked in foreign markets, pushed by increasing demand from China, said an official at CamControl who asked not to be named.

“We have seen a sharp rise in prices this year because of a growing demand in China for processed rubber used to produce car tyres,” the official said.

“China has one of the largest markets for tyres.”

The official added that Cambodia had missed out on benefits from high prices because it exported most of its rubber to Vietnam.

“We lose a great deal of value-added benefits because we export almost exclusively to Vietnam, which processes and exports rubber to the global market and gets higher prices than we do,” the official said.

The price of the highest-quality rubber, classified as grade 1 of 10, hit US$3,687.50 per tonne last week on the Malaysian Rubber Exchange. Grade 10 rubber reached $2,868.

In a bid to raise rubber production to 150,000 hectares by 2015, Cambodia inked a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam in September last year, offering 100,000 hectares in land concessions to 14 Vietnamese companies operating in Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Kampong Thom Kratie and Preah Vihear provinces.

Vietnamese companies grew rubber on 10,000 hectares of land in Cambodia last year and planed to add 20,000 more by the end of 2010, some 30,000 hectares in 2011 and 40,000 hectares in 2012, according to the memorandum.

Last month, Cambodian businessman Mong Reththy revealed his firm, Mong Reththy Group, had invested $10 million to grow rubber on 5,000 hectares in Preah Sihanouk province, and planned to build a $5 million rubber-processing facility by 2013.

He said the coastal areas of Koh Konh, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Kep provinces had a total of 100,000 hectares that could potentially yield 2 tonnes of rubber per hectare.

“We will germinate rubber trees to sell to farmers who want to grow them so that they have jobs in Cambodia, in order to reduce emigration.”

Police Blotter: 5 Jul 2010


via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:00 Mom Kunthear

POLIEC SAY TIPSY MAN DROWNED IN RIVER
A 39-year-old man died on Wednesday after he fell into a river in Kampong Chhnang province, police said. Officers reported that the victim – whom they described as being “constantly” drunk – was visibly intoxicated before he stumbled into the river. Witnesses reported seeing him sitting on the edge of a boat, dipping his legs languidly into the water. No one was particularly interested in the man’s actions at the time because they thought he was just pondering taking a bath, police said. When the witnesses realised the man had fallen in and could not swim, it was too late: He had already drowned. Police hired three men to dive into the river to retrieve the man’s body.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

KRATIE DUE ARRESTED ON DRUG CHRAGES
Police in Kratie province arrested two men in a guesthouse and accused them of using and distributing illegal drugs. The Thursday bust was the end result of a five-month investigation into the activities of the two suspects, police said. Investigators reported having found a small package of drugs, including two yama tablets, a scale for weighing drugs and other pieces of paraphernalia. The two suspects have since been sent to court.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

SUPICIOUS CARGO LEADS TO FOUR ARRESTS
Four people were arrested in Kampong Cham province on Wednesday after military police officers stopped a car carrying 64 pieces of luxury wood poorly hidden under the seats. Military police officials said that the four suspects planned to transport the valuable but illegal wood from Kampong Cham province to Vietnam, where they hoped to sell it for a handsome profit. Police added that one of the suspects confessed to buying the wood at a price of 500,000 riels (US$125). That same suspect also helpfully informed officers that the group had transferred illegal wood to Vietnam on six prior occasions without getting caught, police said.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

GIRLS ACCUSE 25-YEAR-OLD MAN OF 'INDECENT ACTS'
Police in Pursat province have arrested a 25-year-old construction worker accused of luring three girls to a pagoda last week and then committing “indecent acts” with them, investigators said. The man allegedly threatened to kill the three girls if they ever told anyone about the incident, which took place on Monday of last week. But the girls – an 11-year-old and two 9-year-olds – decided to tell their parents anyway, and their parents informed police.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Company to export rice worth $1.6 million


via khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

GREEN Trade Company has announced an agreement to export 2,000 tonnes of rice worth more than US$1.6 million to France in August.

Its jasmine rice fetched $810 per tonne from its French buyers as part of a plans to increase sales overseas, Green Trade manager Thun Vireak said.

“We hope the company will be able to find more buyers in the coming months because we are trying to improve production to reach the high standards demanded by the international market,” he said.

Green Trade said it planned to send representatives to Europe to scour the market for international buyers in September.

The firm has sold 2,600 tonnes of rice abroad so far this year, including shipments of 200 tonnes to Russian buyers, 200 tonnes to Poland, 200 tonnes to Latvia and 2,000 tonnes sold to the World Food Programme.

Green Trade, which is under the control of the Ministry of Commerce, formerly possessed authority to issue export licences to rice exporters.

However, Prime Minister Hun Sen formally nullified the requirement for export licences at a government-private sector forum in April, calling it a “barrier for all rice traders”.

Cambodia now faced a bottleneck in rice exports because of a lack of mills to process its produce, Ministry of Commerce secretary of state Mao Thaura said.

Of some 2,000 rice mills scattered through the country, he said only five produced export-quality rice, with potential for milling standing at about 30,000 tonnes of high-quality product in total.

“Cambodia will be able to export rice in larger amount in the future if more quality rice-producing mills can be developed in the country,” he said.

Mobile minnow looks ahead


Photo by: Julie Leafe
Alan Sinfield, CEO of qb, says his company aims to reach 100 percent population coverage in Cambodia’s competitive telecom market.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 05 July 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

MOBILE operator qb has begun its planned expansion to cover Cambodia’s entire population by the end of the year, according to CEO Alan Sinfield.

Service provided by qb, one of Cambodia’s smaller operators by subscribers, was now limited to Phnom Penh and six or seven other metropolitan areas, he told the Post.

“It’s going to be hard to achieve [100 percent population coverage], but certainly that’s our main goal,” he said, though he declined to disclose the cost of the expansion or the number of towers to be added.

He did say it would involve a “substantial build”.

Although many experts say the Kingdom’s mobile sector is overcrowded, with nine active providers, Sinfield said the ongoing plans were inspired by enthusiasm from parent firm Cambodian Advance Communications.

“Our investors view Cambodia as a developing country very positively, seeing great potential, and are keen to be a part of this,” he said. He declined to reveal investors’ identities.

Sinfield said that after he took the helm in March the firm began a two- or three-month period of assessment of the Cambodian market.

“We know our niche, and we are focusing on it. Basically, we’re looking to deliver quality of network, and availability, to customers.”

Tariffs charged by qb would be competitive, but not the cheapest in Cambodia, as the firm intends to focus on value, he said.

It presently operates a 3.5G Ericsson network, which allows users to quickly surf the internet or share videos. The firm also provides high-speed internet through computers via USB modem, allowing access to its 3rd Generation user network.

However, Sinfield acknowledged that the firm was exploring the use of other technologies besides 3G to meet its target of 100 percent coverage of the Kingdom’s population.

“The issue is 3G is expensive technology, so for us to cover the same geographical space it’s almost two times as expensive with 3G [as with 2G].”

3G coverage would remain available primarily in urban areas and major roadways, with less-expensive technology extended to rural areas, Sinfield said.

The firm was also looking to innovate with green technology to power its new towers, he said.

It would prioritise electricity from the national grid and generators, but would also make use of solar panels, he said.

Sinfield said his company first provided coverage in 2008, and was one of Cambodia’s smaller providers by active subscriber numbers, but he disputed Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications figures depicting it as the smallest GSM provider.

“It depends on how you count active subscribers. The standard is commonly someone who has made calls in the last 90 days,” he said.

Value-added services also play a large part in qb’s strategy, and Sinfield highlighted user-generated content as an area of interest.

“Value-added service penetration is very low in Cambodia. However, we see this differentiation by qb as an area we can provide opportunities,” he said.

“From a marketing standpoint we do lots of studies, including of international trends. We also do a lot of mystery shopping. Also, plenty of studies of international trends.”