Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Khmer media outlets take stock of judgment


Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
A sampling of local papers’ coverage of the verdict against Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 14:02 Thet Sambath

KHMER-language media outlets have struck an ambivalent note following the landmark verdict handed down against Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday. Although some newspapers described the verdict as a historical milestone, most lamented the brevity of the sentence handed down to Duch, who has at most 19 years of his 35-year jail sentence, reduced to 30 years, left to serve.

Echoing the comments of many local and foreign observers, Rasmey Kampuchea, a government-aligned daily, commented that it had received calls from people in the countryside who were dismayed by the verdict. “It is a justice which victims’ families are finding difficult to accept. It is not clear if the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s verdict will be able to promote national reconciliation or heal victims’ families,” the paper said.

The opposition-aligned Moneaksekar Khmer recognised the achievement of jailing the “cruel killer”, thought to have overseen up to 16,000 deaths at the secret torture centre. But it also criticised the verdict, saying that individuals working for foreign governments – including Vietnam, China and the United States – should also be held responsible for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. “Besides these Khmer Rouge men, other people have not been called to be witnesses or accused,” it stated.

Kampuchea Thmey quoted court officials as saying the court had “made important history for the Cambodian people”, but also pointed out that Duch’s sentence was dwarfed by that handed down against former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who was arrested in 2006 and sentenced to more than 90 years in prison on charges including extortion, kidnapping and murder.

Radio Free Asia, meanwhile, broadcast the views of Chum Nuong, a former Khmer Rouge commander living at the movement’s former stronghold at Phnom Voar in Kampot province, who said Duch’s sentence should have been reduced because of his old age.

“He will not have time to meet his children and wife, and he will die before he leaves prison because he is too old,” he was quoted as saying.

“Cambodians killed each other because of foreigners’ influence.”

Public figures weigh in on prison term


via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 14:02 Cheang Sokha and Jame O'Tools

AS coverage of Monday’s verdict at the Khmer Rouge tribunal was beamed across the world, some of the Kingdom’s most prominent political figures weighed in on the landmark ruling.

Speaking at Phnom Penh International Airport upon his return from Singapore with a delegation led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong called the judgment “inappropriate”.

“Thousands and thousands of Cambodian people were tortured at Tuol Sleng and brought to be killed at Choeung Ek,” Hor Namhong said. “This sentence seems light and unsuitable compared with the number of people who have been killed.”

He added that he was only expressing his personal view, as the government’s official stance was to respect the independent judgment of the court.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party agreed that the sentence was lighter than expected, but praised the court’s achievement nonetheless.

“Although falling short of what many survivors and families had hoped for, the verdict today is a first step toward accountability and healing,” the SRP said in a statement. It also said that it supported further prosecutions of Khmer Rouge leaders. Hun Sen has publicly expressed his opposition to prosecutions beyond the court’s second case, warning that they could plunge the country back into “civil war”.

Prince Sisowath Thomico, assistant to King Father Norodom Sihanouk, called the proceedings at the court “politically biased” and “a masquerade”.

“I … would like to warmly praise all the participants, most of all the foreign participants in that media show,” he said in an email. “I just can’t wait to watch the next episode of that prime-time political series.”

Hun Sen himself has not yet commented publicly on the verdict, but Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan called it “a historical point”. He did not comment on the substance of the judgment, but said that the tribunal is “an independent body [that] we have to respect”.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY NETH PHEAKTRA

The verdict and the ramifications


Photo by: ECCC
Observers in the public gallery watch the proceedings unfold at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday, when Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 14:02 James O'Toole

MONDAY’S landmark verdict at the Khmer Rouge tribunal against Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav could have ramifications for the court’s second case, affecting how suspects are tried and how civil parties are accommodated, expert observers said yesterday.

In its judgment against Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, the Trial Chamber said the Khmer Rouge had been engaged in armed conflict with Vietnam as early as 1975, a determination that significantly widened the pool of evidence that may be used to prove that war crimes were committed by the four senior Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial, said Heather Ryan, a court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative.

“Many people argued that international armed conflict did not actually begin until late 1978,” Ryan said. The Trial Chamber’s view, she said, “makes it easier to prove the charges, and that’s probably particularly important in the second case, where the charges depend more on the broad theories and goals and strategies of the Khmer Rouge”.

The judges also validated the use of two forms of joint criminal enterprise – a form of criminal liability under which suspects may be convicted of crimes committed as part of a common criminal plan – in cases at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. But the third and most expansive form of joint criminal enterprise, under which suspects are held liable for offences that are not pre-planned but are “natural and foreseeable” consequences of a common plan, was not addressed.

“I do think that the inclusion of joint criminal enterprise as a form of liability in the Duch case is important jurisprudence for the second case,” Ryan said. “It can allow the prosecutors to demonstrate that crimes were committed through a group of leaders who used others as tools to do the actual dirty work.”

One aspect of Monday’s ruling that observers said they hoped would not be precedent-setting was the judgment on reparations for civil parties.

The judges, empowered by court rules to grant civil parties “collective and moral” reparations, granted requests to have their names listed in the judgment, and to have a compilation of the apologies made by Duch at trial published on the court’s website.

The Trial Chamber ruled that other proposed reparations – including requests to build memorials and a request to establish a national commemoration day – were either insufficiently specific or went beyond the “type of reparations permitted” under the court’s internal rules.

Anne Heindel, a legal adviser with the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said court officials had hemmed themselves in on the reparations issue.

“They draft the rules so that there are no monetary damages, which is the sine qua non of a civil party, and then they say, ‘We can’t give you anything collective and moral, because it’s not specific enough,’” she said.

Heindel and other observers called for rule changes that would allow the court to make recommendations for reparations in cooperation with governments and NGOs.

The judgment also sparked questions about exactly how long Duch – ordered to spend roughly 19 more years in prison beyond time already served – would stay behind bars.

Suspects convicted at the ECCC are to be handed over to Cambodian authorities. Were Duch to be subjected to the same rules as prisoners convicted within the Cambodian legal system, he would be eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

United Nations court spokesman Lars Olsen said yesterday that there were “established procedures in Cambodian law for applying for parole, and it is not within the ECCC’s mandate to enforce those rules”.

Addressing the possibility of Duch’s being paroled following the hearing on Monday, Cambodian co-prosecutor Chea Leang said that the 2004 Law on the Establishment of the ECCC states that the government “shall not request an amnesty or pardon” for anyone convicted at the tribunal.

Deputy prosecutor William Smith said yesterday that this provision excluded the possibility of parole for ECCC suspects, even after the Cambodian government assumed full responsibility for them.

“The law basically advises the Ministry [of Interior] ... how to supervise the sentence, so I don’t think that will be an issue,” Smith said. “The agreement is quite clear from our perspective – that it’s a completely independent and exclusive sentencing regime.”

Smith said that negotiations were ongoing with the government to find a facility for Duch to serve his sentence that met “international standards” and took into account the “security concerns” he may face as a prisoner.

Striking garment workers clash with police


Photo by: Pha Lina
Police charge protesting employees at a factory owned by PCCS Garments Ltd in Sen Sok district yesterday as officers fend off a flying chair. About 50 officers dressed in riot gear and toting electric batons and tear-gas guns scuffled with the workers, mostly women, who retaliated by throwing chairs and fruit.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:04 Kim Yuthana and Sun Mesa

RIOT police clashed with garment workers outside a factory in Sen Sok district yesterday after authorities attempted to break up a weeklong strike that followed the suspension of a union official.

Around 50 police dressed in riot gear and carrying tear-gas guns tried to force an estimated 3,000 workers back into their factory, pushing several to the ground and stunning them with batons. Some demonstrators threw water bottles and plastic chairs in response, but no serious injuries were reported during the 30-minute clash.

Porn Srey Pov, a garment worker who took part in the protests, said that yesterday was the first time police had attempted to break them up after six days of strikes.

“It was an evil activity of the police. The workers have not caused any problem to the property of the factory,” she said.

Workers said they agreed to strike in response to the suspension of Morn Channa, a union representative who was fired last week after she complained about being refused leave.

Som Souphan, another factory worker, said Morn Channa was dismissed after informing management that workers did not need a letter from a hospital in order to apply for time off.

“We dared to make this demonstration because Channa always helped us when the boss invaded our rights,” she said.

Chea Mony, the head of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, was also on hand yesterday, and said the police action was an example of “illegal force”.

Sen Sok district governor Kuong Sreng said the demonstration was broken up because it had choked off traffic, affecting the schedules of senior government officials and international dignitaries.

“I just told the police to push them away from the road into the garment factory because they were causing traffic jams,” he said.

The strike at the factory, which is owned by PCCS Garments Limited, is the latest in a string of protests related to the removal of union representatives and demands for an increased minimum wage for garment workers. Workers say they will continue their strike until their demands are met.

But You Mengtri, a representative of PCCS Garments, said the workers had set a deadline this week for the workers to call off the strike, and added that there will be consequences if they don’t.

“The factory has a deadline for them to go back to work by Thursday this week or the factory will take action according to the law,” he said.

Exam monitors ‘take money’


Photo by: Pha Lina
Students buy sheets advertised as containing answers to Grade 12 exams near Baktouk High School in Phnom Penh yesterday

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

via Khmer NZ

THE head of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association yesterday accused officials in Kandal province of ordering teachers administering Grade 12 national exams to take money from students, part of what he described as worsening corruption surrounding the three-day tests.

Rong Chhun said the chief inspector for the Hun Sen Saang exam centre, in Kandal province’s Saang district, had delivered the order to all

exam supervisors.

“The building inspector at the Hun Sen Saang exam centre ordered the proctors to take money from all of the candidates without exception,” and inspectors at the Prek Anchanh exam centre in Mok Kampoul district had taken money from students directly, Rong Chhun said.

Officials at both centres could not be reached yesterday, the second day of the tests. But Uo Eng, deputy director general at the Education Ministry’s General Department of Education, said the government was taking action against all students and teachers who pay and accept bribes. He said he did not have information about the new complaints.
On Monday, the Education Ministry issued a warning against cheating to the roughly 108,000 students scheduled to take the tests, which yesterday covered physics, morality, history and English.

The exams are set to conclude today with mathematics and earth science.

 
Rong Chhun said that cheating and the paying of bribes were common problems throughout the country during exams, but that the problem seemed to have worsened this year. “Corruption is destroying our education system,” he said.

 
A student at the capital’s Sisowath High School said yesterday, however, that his plan to purchase exam answers for the day’s tests had gone awry. “The answer sheets I brought into the exam room were wrong,” the 20-year-old student said. “But luckily, the proctors are kind, and accepted our bribe to ignore us as we cheated and copied each other during the exam.”

Several students said yesterday that the bribes they paid teachers varied by subject. Those that are considered the easiest, such as history, involve bribes of 5,000 riels (US$1.20), whereas harder subjects, such as physics and mathematics, involve bribes of 15,000 riels (US$3.57).
Sim Vireak, a teacher of eighth grade at Tuol Svay Prey High School, said that bribes were not specific to the Grade 12 exams, and that they were paid at every level of the school system, beginning in primary school.

 
He admitted to having sold study guides to students in the past, and said they had contained information not found in textbooks.

 
“I feel upset and ashamed when I hear parents in my neighbourhood blaming or cursing teachers making money from their children,” he said. “But I have no choice. I have to support my family.”

“It’s better this way,” said one 20-year-old student from Preah Yukunthor High School, also in Phnom Penh. “During the exam, we don’t depend on knowledge. If we did that, we would fail.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY TANG KHYHAY

Chi Kraeng villagers’ case commences



Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap province

SIEM Reap provincial court opened a trial yesterday against nine villagers from Chi Kraeng commune who are accused of attempting to kill armed police officers during a tense standoff last year.

Court officials barred journalists from entering the courtroom yesterday. Deputy court prosecutor Sok Keo Bandith declined to outline the case at length, but he said all nine accused men pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a possible sentence of between 10 and 20 years.

The case is part of a long-running land dispute between villagers in Chi Kraeng and neighbouring Anlong Samnor commune. Tensions bubbled over in March 2009, when military police opened fire on Chi Kraeng villagers attempting to harvest rice on disputed land, injuring four. No charges have been laid against any of the officers. But the court charged the nine villagers after military police accused them of first threatening officers with machetes.

Lawyer Ham Sunrith, who works with the rights group Licadho, questioned why his clients were on trial instead of the police officers involved in the dispute.

“Why did violence erupt and the perpetrators were not charged?” he said.

Ham Sunrith said the court should have sympathy for the accused men, whose families have suffered while they have been incarcerated.

“I think the charges should be reduced because it happened due to a land dispute,” he said.

Security was tight around the courthouse. Around 30 military police officers were stationed around the building, keeping an eye on more than 100 villagers gathered outside. Sok Keo Bandith said the measures were necessary to ensure order. He also said the courtroom was not open to the public because it was too small.

After four hours, officials announced that the trial would continue August 2.

Ham Sunrith said yesterday’s hearing focused on testimony from the accused, and that the court must still hear from witnesses.

Chi Kraeng villagers’ case commences


via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap province
SIEM Reap provincial court opened a trial yesterday against nine villagers from Chi Kraeng commune who are accused of attempting to kill armed police officers during a tense standoff last year.

Court officials barred journalists from entering the courtroom yesterday. Deputy court prosecutor Sok Keo Bandith declined to outline the case at length, but he said all nine accused men pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a possible sentence of between 10 and 20 years.

The case is part of a long-running land dispute between villagers in Chi Kraeng and neighbouring Anlong Samnor commune. Tensions bubbled over in March 2009, when military police opened fire on Chi Kraeng villagers attempting to harvest rice on disputed land, injuring four. No charges have been laid against any of the officers. But the court charged the nine villagers after military police accused them of first threatening officers with machetes.

Lawyer Ham Sunrith, who works with the rights group Licadho, questioned why his clients were on trial instead of the police officers involved in the dispute.

“Why did violence erupt and the perpetrators were not charged?” he said.

Ham Sunrith said the court should have sympathy for the accused men, whose families have suffered while they have been incarcerated.

“I think the charges should be reduced because it happened due to a land dispute,” he said.

Security was tight around the courthouse. Around 30 military police officers were stationed around the building, keeping an eye on more than 100 villagers gathered outside. Sok Keo Bandith said the measures were necessary to ensure order. He also said the courtroom was not open to the public because it was too small.

After four hours, officials announced that the trial would continue August 2.

Ham Sunrith said yesterday’s hearing focused on testimony from the accused, and that the court must still hear from witnesses.

Hor Namhong dismisses Thai rally


Photo by: AFP
Yellow Shirt protesters hold Thai flags and placards during a rally outside UNESCO’s office in Bangkok. Thai nationalists oppose the Cambodian plan for the administration of Preah Vihear temple, which was listed as a World Heritage site in July 2008.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Hor Namhong yesterday dismissed as “out of date” arguments advanced by Thai pro-government demonstrators who rallied in Bangkok to protest UNESCO’s listing of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site for Cambodia.

Roughly 1,000 Yellow Shirt protesters rallied outside UNESCO’s regional office in Bangkok to present a note demanding that the presentation of Cambodia’s management plan for the site – set to take place during a conference that began this week in Brazil – be delayed until disputes about land surrounding the temple are settled.

“The enlistment of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site is already done,” Hor Namhong said yesterday at a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport. “Whatever Thailand is doing, this cannot be changed.”

The government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said it will oppose Cambodia’s management plan. Hor Namhong said yesterday that he had heard that a Thai delegation had voiced opposition to the plan at the meeting in Brazil, but he did not provide any details.

Spokesmen for the Thai government and foreign ministry could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A report in the Thai newspaper The Nation quoted Yellow Shirt leader Chamlong Srimuang, said to have been one of the organisers of yesterday’s protest, expressing doubt that the move to oppose the plan would be successful.

“We are not certain that the government will succeed in opposing the temple administrative plan,” Srimuang reportedly said.

Meanwhile, more than 20 diplomats from seven foreign embassies based in Phnom Penh – Britain, Australia, Cuba, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam – visited the temple over the weekend to observe the situation along the border, a military official said yesterday.

Chea Dara, deputy military commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in Preah Vihear, said yesterday that he had informed the diplomats that Thailand could no longer use “monks and laypeople” to invade Cambodia anymore.

“Thai extremists should stop bothering Cambodia, because we will not welcome them,” he said. “We will welcome them with guns.”

Businessman appeals for bail in wife’s case


via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol

LAWYERS for Phnom Penh businessman Khaou Chuly have appealed against a Municipal Court ruling that denied his second wife bail on an attempted murder charge.

Earlier this month, the court charged Seng Chanda with plotting to kill Suv Chantha, her husband’s daughter by his first wife. Suv Chantha is also the wife of Suv Chanthol, vice chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia and a former minister of public works and transport.

Lim Vanna, Seng Chanda’s lawyer, said the appeal was sent on Friday to the Appeal Court, which is expected to rule within a fortnight.

“According to legal procedure, the Appeal Court has to make a decision on the case within two weeks, but until now I have not heard any information,” he said.

Lim Vanna said earlier that Seng Chanda was suffering from ill health, including “heart problems and blood pressure” while in prison.

Ouk Savuth, prosecutor general of the Appeal Court, said yesterday that he had yet to receive the appeal.

Asbestos imports increasing


Photo by: Will Baxter
A labourer uses a trowel to smooth out a patch of asbestos cement while working on the construction of a cafe in central Phnom Penh.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:02 Will Baxter

NEW United Nations trade statistics have revealed that the import of asbestos cement for use in Cambodia’s construction industry nearly tripled from 2008 to 2009, despite calls for a worldwide ban on asbestos, a known carcinogen.

Thailand, which exports the lion’s share of asbestos cement to Cambodia, provided 11,322 tonnes in 2008 and 33,562 tonnes in 2009, according to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database, which is operated by the UN Statistics Division.

Malaysia was the next-largest supplier of asbestos-cement, exporting 314 tonnes to Cambodia in 2008 and 324 tonnes in 2009.

“It certainly looks like Cambodia is using substantial amounts of asbestos, and that the figures are increasing,” said Laurie Kazan-Allen, coordinator for the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, which is based in London.

“This is really bad news,” she said. “It is absolutely nuts for Cambodia to start using asbestos in a major way when so much is known about the hazards.”

Due to poor monitoring of asbestos imports, the 2009 statistics could represent just a fraction of the total amount imported each year.

Seang Vibol, senior purchasing supervisor for local construction materials supplier Chip Mong Group, said his company imported 30,000 to 50,000 tonnes of asbestos-cement each month from the Thai company Siam City Cement.

Chip Mong Group uses the imported cement to manufacture its brand Camel Portland Cement, the “number-one selling brand in Cambodia”, he said. Cement is of “better quality” when it is made with asbestos, he said.

But Sanjiv Pandita, director of the Hong Kong-based Asia Monitor Resource Centre, warned that asbestos “is one of the most hazardous substances known to humankind”.

Most developed countries have “either banned it or reduced its usage to minimal”, he said.

Pandita said asbestos is “still used widely in Asia” because of a “misinformation campaign” by the industry, which sees Asia as a potential growth market.

Inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause a rare but deadly form of cancer called mesothelioma, as well as a chronic disease that leads to the inflammation and scarring of lung tissue.

Barry Castleman, a US-based expert on asbestos-related health issues, said that in Cambodia “it is likely that no government data exists” on asbestos-related diseases, and that they were likely being “misdiagnosed” by local doctors.

Dr Leng Tong, director of the Occupational Health Department at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said statistics on asbestos-related illnesses in Cambodia were limited. “Actually we do not have much proof on this issue,” he said.

“The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Labour don’t have any policy or reaction set up for occupational diseases, for example … workers who get lung cancer from exposure to asbestos,” he added.

Pandita said construction workers, labourers and warehouse managers likely have no idea that working with materials that contain asbestos can endanger their health. “Workers often think asbestos is only a white powdery substance which may be harmless,” he explained.

Bun Na, 30, who has been working in construction for seven years, said he was aware that “cement dust can be bad for your health, and in the past I have gotten sick from breathing in too much of it”. But he said he didn’t know that some cement mixtures contain asbestos.

“Sometimes I wear a mask to protect against breathing in dust, but sometimes I don’t bother because I am not worried about it,” he said.

Dr Mohd Nasir Hassan, team leader for non-communicable diseases at the World Health Organisation, said labourers who handle products made with asbestos should be told they are working with materials that “could have health consequences”.

“An increase in awareness is crucial at the political and technical levels,” he said.

Health Ministry officials declined to comment on the issue of asbestos-related illnesses.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

Planned dams could threaten fish


Photo by: Photo Supplied
Two men inspect a Mekong giant catfish in a photo supplied by conservation group WWF. The group warns that proposed dams along the Lower Mekong River will threaten such species.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:02 Irwin Loy and Chhay Channyda

PLANS for hydropower dams along the Mekong River threaten the survival of iconic fish species already considered endangered, according to the conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

In a report released yesterday, the WWF highlights giant fish species that live in the Mekong River, using them as examples of what could be lost if dam plans go forward. The fish, already listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, could be driven to extinction if plans proceed on 11 dams proposed by countries around the Lower Mekong, the report says.

Species such as the “car-sized” Mekong giant catfish migrate from the Tonle Sap lake to spawning grounds in Thailand and Laos. Dams will likely obstruct these migration routes, conservationists say.

“No hydropower dam built today is able to handle such a large and diverse fish migration as what the Mekong River has,” WWF-Cambodia country director Teak Seng said.

He warned that Cambodia stands to lose the most from damming the Mekong when compared to its neighbours.

“It is the country the most dependent on wild fisheries for its protein intake. As a downstream country, it will bear a big share of the impacts from hydropower development upstream,” Teak Seng said.

Cambodian officials have said that domestic hydropower is crucial to development in a country with electricity rates that are among the highest in the region. Still, Long Korn, the chief of the Mekong Fisheries Administration Inspectorate at the Ministry of Agriculture, said authorities are well aware of the environmental risks.

“The government is also worried that if we have many hydropower dams, fish may not be able to migrate from one place to another and it could lead to extinction,” he said. Long Korn said that his ministry is holding a workshop this week to discuss the issue.

Studies by the Mekong River Commission have suggested that dams along the Lower Mekong could have a detrimental impact on fish populations, and that existing technology to mitigate such effects may be insufficient.

An MRC report released last December, which studied the effects of dams on migration in the Lower Mekong, suggested that even a single dam would have negative impacts. Three dams could be fatal to five large species analysed in the study, including the Mekong giant catfish.

“No large species are predicted to persist if three dams have to be crossed or if their reproductive potential is low,” the study stated. “With potentially increasing rates of exploration from a growing basin population and the prospect of multiple dam obstructions, fears surrounding the persistence of [Mekong giant catfish] ... appear warranted.”

Medical Fraud: Police seek ‘doctor’ over man’s death


via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

Medical Fraud

Police in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district are preparing to send documents to the provincial court requesting the arrest of a married couple after the wife allegedly posed as a doctor and lethally injected a 70-year-old man with a serum.

Kim Ratana, the deputy district penal police chief, said Hok Setha, 70, died just four minutes after the injection on Sunday, and that the couple promptly fled the scene. “We reached the couple’s house too late, because they left their house during the night after the man died,” he said. Kim Ratana said the couple had recently opened a medical practice in the district’s Dey Ith commune.

Commune chief Suth To said yesterday that the suspects were still at large.

Phan Siha, the victim’s nephew, said the family was visited by someone claiming to be a representative of the couple following his uncle’s death.

“The representative of the suspects came to meet us, and offered to pay us only US$2,000 for the death of my uncle, but we could not accept it,” he said. “A person’s life is not something you can sell or buy.”

Construction to start soon on Phnom Penh port expansion


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
The Phnom Penh Autonomous Port is seen through a window of a guard post on the Japanese Friendship Bridge.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

PHNOM Penh Autonomous Port is to quadruple its loading capacity in the next two years after securing US$68 million worth of Chinese financing for a second terminal 25 kilometres east of the capital, with construction slated to begin in September.

Authorities said yesterday that the second terminal would give Phnom Penh a loading capacity of about 300,000 TEU (20-foot equivilant unit) containers per year, a dramatic increase from the current limit of 60,000 to 80,000 TEUs per year.

The first US$28 million stage of the two-stage build – slated to begin in September and take 22 months to complete – will create a total capacity of 120,000 TEUs per year once complete. That figure will increase to 300,000 TEUs once the second stage is finished.

Hei Bavy, director general of the port, said that after receiving a loan from China last year the new port would be built in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district.

Hei Bavy said that China-based Shanghai Construction had been contracted for the first stage of construction. The first stage will cover an area of 12 hectares, and the second stage will cover another eight hectares.

“We hope that this construction project will enable the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port to ship more and more goods in the future,” he said.

The current port, first established in 1952 and renovated twice so far, has seen demand increase.

Hei Bavy said that if capacity was not boosted, goods shipments would inevitably face delays and obstruction.

“When the new port is completely constructed, we will use it as a place for loading containers so that big trucks will not cause traffic congestion in the capital,” Hei Bavy said.

Hin Theany, Division General Manager of Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), said: “I think expanding the port is a good idea because it will help make freight shipment easier in the future when shipping activities increase beyond their current levels.”

The Cambodian government had been trying since early 2009 to secure the loan from the Chinese government to develop the port.

On October 15, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed deals worth $850 million with the Chinese government to spend on development projects in Cambodia. About $68 million was slated for the development of Phnom Penh’s port capacity.

Hei Bavy said that the second stage of construction might not be funded by the loan from China if the port proved to be capable of earning an income between $6 million and $10 million per year during the period of 2012 to 2015.

“We plan to use the money which the port earns by itself for the second-stage development project because the Chinese loan is too expensive,” he said.

Hun Sen boosts Singapore ties


Photo by: Pha Lina
Hun Sen and Finance Minister Keat Chhon greet each other as the premier arrives in Phnom Penh from Singapore yesterday.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha and May Kunmakara

PRIME Minister Hun Sen returned from a three day diplomatic mission to Singapore yesterday that reportedly dealt with economic ties.

Speaking at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday afternoon, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said bilateral meetings headed by Hun Sen and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had focused on economic cooperation between the two countries.

He said Hun Sen had invited Singaporean investors to visit the Kingdom to explore business opportunities, particularly in the agriculture sector.

“Singaporean investors promised to study investment opportunities soon,” and highlighted the Kingdom’s rice industry as an area of interest, Hor Namhong said.

The prime minister highlighted Cambodia’s new sub-decree – passed earlier this month – allowing foreigners to own up to 70 percent of a building above the ground floor, in a televised speech Monday.

The number of tourists arriving from Singapore is on an upswing, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister said yesterday.

Singaporean-based carrier Silk Air had pledged to expand its flights to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, he said.

Kith Meng, president of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, said that tourism and investment opportunities had been hot topics of discussion during Hun Sen’s mission to the city-state.

“We focused on tourism and investment and to strengthen and promote [ties within] the ASEAN group,” he said.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Singapore declined more than 26 percent to $70.748 million in the first half of the year, compared to the same period of 2009, figures obtained yesterday from the Ministry of Commerce’s Camcontrol department showed.

But Hor Namhong said combined investment from Singapore alongside trade totalled more than $1 billion for the first six months of 2010, up 62 percent on last year.

Camcontrol’s statistics show Cambodia’s main exports to Singapore included sand, semi-manufactured goods, unwrought gold, cigarettes, clothing, and silk, while Singapore largely exported un-wrought gold, diesel, gasoline, lubricants and whisky to the Kingdom.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING JEREMY MULLINS

MFI deposits rise 150pc as loans grow by a quarter


via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

DEPOSITS in Cambodia’s microfinance institutions surged almost 150 percent during the first six months of this year, compared to the same period of last year, in a trend that MFI officials said was likely to continue.

Although the significant growth was measured against a low base, by June this year total MFI deposits hit 71 billion riels (US$16.7 million).

Deposit numbers were taken from the four companies that hold deposit-taking licences, according to statistics released by the National Bank of
Cambodia.

Deposit-taking MFIs were introduced early last year when the NBC issued permits to Sathapana and Amret.

Hattha Kaksekar Ltd and AMK received licences in February 2010.

Chea Phalarin, president of the Cambodian Microfinance Association and Amret’s general manager, said yesterday that deposits in MFIs were on the rise as customers were drawn by higher interest rates than those offered by commercial banks.

Amret’s deposit base had increased to $7.5 million by the end of the June, up from only $1 million a year earlier, he said.

“We offered interest rates higher than the commercial banks,” of 8.5 percent per year for US dollar-denominated deposits and 10 percent per year for riel-denominated deposits, he said.

Bun Mony, Sathapana chairman, said yesterday that deposits with Sathapana had hit $8 million by the end of June, up from $2.2 million a year before.

“There’s been a huge rise in deposits in the last twelve months thanks to our offer of competitive interest rates and our customers’ trust in us,” he said.

“I believe the trust will continue to increase, so we will continue to attract more deposits throughout the year.”

The NBC figures also showed total outstanding loans among the 22 MFIs increased to 1,357 billion riel ($320 million) for the first half of the year.

That represented a 25 percent increase on last year’s corresponding period.

Total borrowers increased 9 percent to 895,404 people, and the number of depositors at the Kingdom’s MFIs increased 15 percent to 186,082.

Real Estate: Residential approvals stabilise


via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

THE value of residential projects approved in Phnom Penh declined only slightly in the first half of this year from the same period last year, according to official figures.

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction gave the green light to 2,253 housing units worth US$150 million in the first half of 2010, a 1.42 percent drop on the 2,352 worth $152 million approved in the first half of last year.

Figures for the whole of 2009 showed a 47.2 percent decline in the number of units approved compared with 2008.

Construction Department Director Lao Tip Seiha said there were positive signs for the construction sector despite the slight decline in approvals in the year to the end of June.

“It’s a good sign that the numbers remain stable,” he said.

A total of 35 large villas and 2,218 houses and flats have been approved this year, according to the ministry, from a respective 189 and 2,163 units granted the go-ahead last year.

Still, Lao Tip Seiha said he was concerned demand would outstrip supply particularly among people in the lower income brackets moving to Phnom Penh.

“We must add another 1.2 million homes in Cambodia by 2030,” he said.

Police Blotter: 28 Jul 2010


via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 Veng Rachana

POLICE PLUCK FAMILY OF POULTRY PILFERERS
Police arrested a man and four of his stepsons after they were accused of terrorising a village in Battambang province with a weeklong spree of brazen chicken thefts. Police opened their investigation after receiving a complaint from 13 families. However, investigators did not have far to look – police found the suspect and his stepsons in an orchard surrounded by chickens running amok. The suspect admitted that he and his stepsons were responsible for stealing 81 chickens in a week. He said he felt forced to do it because his stepsons wanted to take a trip to their hometown but were penniless. The families said that they had lost a total of 114 chickens. Police arrested the suspect, but released two of the stepsons because they were younger than 18.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

MAN ACCUSED OF RAPING YOUNG SISTER-IN-LAW
Police in the capital have arrested a Phnom Penh man after he was accused of raping his 12-year-old sister-in-law. The victim told police she had been assaulted on seven occasions. She also said she had told her sister about the problem, but that the sister had remained silent for fear that police would arrest her husband. Eventually, the 12-year-old girl reported the problem to another sister, who told police. The suspect admitted to the rapes. When police led the man away in handcuffs following his arrest, witnesses said the man’s wife dashed out on to the road in front of the police station in an attempt to kill herself, but police stopped her.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

ACCUSED RAPIST CLAIMS SEX CONSENSUAL
Police have arrested a man who was accused of raping his girlfriend at the back of her home in Battambang province. The woman said the suspect lured her to the back of her house last Wednesday and raped her. The suspect, however, said the two loved each other and agreed to have sexual relations. Police said they believe the two were in a relationship, but they vowed to continue the investigation.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

MOTOBIKE THIEVES SAY BOOZE SPARKED THEFT
Police have arrested two men who were accused of stealing a motorbike in Sihanoukville. The two men, 24 and 28, were arrested three hours after the motorbike’s rightful owner filed a complaint with police. Police found the suspects earlier this month in front of a market trying to sell their newly obtained vehicle. The suspects informed police that they had been drinking heavily and found the parked motorbike “alluring and vulnerable”.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Malls race to be first in Kingdom's second city


The delayed Battambang Shopping Centre was empty when reporters visited this month. Jeremy Mullins

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

DEVELOPERS said yesterday that Borey Thmey Shopping Mall would be Battambang’s first, after the opening of Battambang Shopping Centre was pushed back a year.

The US$10 million four-storey Borey Thmey mall in Svay Por Commune will contain 600 units, its manager of sales administration Neang Nead Thanith said.

“We’re the first shopping mall in Battambang city, and we will allow our tenants to prepare their shops in November.

“We plan to open for business early next year,” she said.

Meanwhile, Phou Puy, the owner of 1,500-store Battambang Shopping Centre, said yesterday that his project would not be completed by the end of 2010, as it was claimed in April.

He revised the target for completion to the beginning of 2011.

“We are rushing to complete the project. Now, we’re doing only interior design,” he said.

The Post has visited the project site twice in the past month, and no work or construction equipment was in evidence on either occasion. Only the shell of the Battambang Shopping Centre was complete.

Borey Thmey Shopping Mall is owned by Lim Chhiv Ho, managing director of Attwood Import-Export.

It has sold about 80 percent of its store locations, Neang Nead Thanith said. “Customers will come here because it will be the first one in Battambang, and it is in a good location,” she said.

“Hopefully we can attract more shops to our mall next year, but realistically we don’t hope to sell out this year.”

Lao Tip Seiha, construction department head for the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the ministry had approved Borey Thmey’s licence in 2008.

“The ministry will be proud to see the first new shopping mall in Battambang. We really do support them,” he said. “Battambang is a city with a lot of potential.”

The new mall will create local jobs and boost the local economy, he said.

TFC bids to host Futures events


ITF Regional Development Officer Suresh Menon has promised grants to help fund the proposed men’s Futures events in Cambodia next month. Photo Supplied

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

THE Tennis Federation of Cambodia is bracing itself to stage International Tennis Federation men’s Futures events, as part of the Asian Tour, early next month.

“We are applying for a three-event package as is the ITF norm,” said TFC Secretary General Tep Rithivit. “We plan to host two tournaments back-to-back in Phnom Penh and pass on the third to one of our neighbours, Thailand or Vietnam. We are holding talks with both Thai and Vietnamese tennis officials and I am confident one of them would accept our offer.”

The federation official said the events would “really put us on the map”, noting the benefits to the development of their young players. “We are in the process of implementing a structured junior tennis initiative. This is possibly the best way of giving our players the much-needed international exposure and a chance to get valuable ATP [Association of Tennis Professionals] points.”

Cambodian number 2 tennis player Bun Kenny plays a shot during his Cham Prasidh Cup men’s singles semifinal against Pel Vanna at the National Training Centre. Kenny will travel to Bangkok on Friday to compete in three back-to-back Futures events.
Photo by Sreng Meng Srun

ITF offers grant for prize money
The TFC’s bid to host US$10,000 Futures events fell in line with recent recommendations made by the ITF’s regional development √≤fficer, Suresh Menon, who has made several trips to oversee ITF-backed tennis development programmes in the Kingdom over the last few years.

In a detailed email, Menon assured the federation that “the world governing body, through its Grand Slam Development Fund, would provide a grant towards the prize money [of the Futures events]”.

The ITF official also made a strong case for the TFC to participate regularly in the ITF U14 Developing Circuit, contending that the newly established performance chart of Cambodian players would help the ITF evaluate the impact of the junior programmes.

Tep Rithivit, meanwhile, revealed a “piece of cheery news” for their number 2 ranked player Bun Kenny, who triumphed in the Cham Prasidh Cup Sunday.

“The ITF Development Officer has sent us a GSDF application form to seek assistance for Bun Kenny to take part in more men’s pro events,” said the TFC Secretary.

Bun Kenny will leave for Bangkok on Friday to take part in three back-to-back Futures events, accompanied by national coach Braen Aneiros. The Thai tennis authorities have given Bun Kenny wild cards for all three qualifiers.

Girls learn from US visitors


The Snohomish United girls team pose for a group photo with Battambang and Pursat teams Sunday in Battambang as part of a nationwide tour by the visiting Americans from Washington State. Photo Supplied

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 Dan Riley

Girls’ football in Cambodia continues to reach unprecedented levels. The Football Federation of Cambodia hosted an international tournament in Battambang featuring guest team Snohomish United from Washington State in the United States.

Led by coaches Sy Reeves and Dan Struk and including eight players who had visited Battambang last year, the team consisted of 15 girls aged 10 to 17.

In the first match, local side Pursat squared off against the American girls. The match was hard fought, but errors put the Cambodians out the game early.

Snohomish United players (white shirts) are welcomed with roses by members of the Battambang first team Sunday. Photo Supplied

The opening goal came from a corner kick by Sarah Tuemmler, which looked to be an easy catch for the Pursat keeper, but popped out of her hands to nestle in the net.

Seconds later, Winter Wirkkala dribbled through to score with a neat left-footed shot. Further defensive frailties hampered Pursat, as a cross from Wirkkala was tapped in by an unmarked Whitney Carter at the back post. Carter then claimed her second with a similar move.

After the final whistle blew on a 4-0 victory for the visitors, the teams walked off exchanging handshakes and hugs.

Sunday’s second fixture saw Pursat battling it out with Battambang. The hosts showed superior passing and technical ability to quickly jump ahead within three minutes.

Battambang controlled much of the game early on, and were in complete control after 15 minutes. Coach Prom Chet decided to rest most of his starters to make the game more balanced, with both teams having their share of opportunities.

Battambang’s left winger Therah squandered both of her one-on-one chances against the Pursat goalkeeper, while 12-year-old teammate Ja missed one shot and had one saved.

Pursat finally broke their deadlock with a dangerous attack forcing a Battambang defender into handling in the area. The Pursat striker stepped up to convert the resulting spotkick and earned a respectable 1-1 draw.

Battambang versus Snohomish was a memorable match, with the advanced skills of the Americans thwarted for much of the game by the defensive might of Battambang.

The sides remained evenly matched until the 16th minute, when the Battambang keeper spilled a Zana Burnett strike to allow Sam Taylor to put her team in front.

Nine minutes later, Taylor cut back to Reimi Pieters who placed her shot past the keeper from eighteen yards out.

Winter Wirkkala picked up an assist in the 31st minute, as her cross from the left bounced off the keeper to land at the feet of the marauding Ashley Hoyt, who made no mistake with her finish.

Seconds before the end, the Americans claimed their third through Wirkkala, albeit controversially, as the linesman’s flag for offside was ignored.

After the game, Snohomish player Hannah Merisko praised the speed and strength of her Cambodian opponents. “They don’t just kick the ball, they run plays and play fast,” she said.

Nicole Salmi, who was one of those making their second trip to the Kingdom, noted an improvement in the standard of the locals. “This team has much better passing skills from last year,” she said.

The US team will travel to Kampong Chhnang to play the provincial side tomorrow, before heading to Phnom Penh to play games at the National Football Center. Matches have been arranged against representatives from Phnom Penh, Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces.

They are slated to attend yet another tournament on Saturday in Kampong Thom with the Kampong Cham team also invited. The Washington girls round off their hectic fixture list with games in Siem Reap on August 1 and Banteay Meanchey on August 2.

The series of friendly games was coordinated by Director of Women’s Football Sam Schweingruber, and will be used to select the best 10 teams for the upcoming inaugural National Women’s Championship in September.

“I am pleased with our girls’ opportunity to play talent from the US,” said Schweingruber. “It has enabled the girls to fine tune their game and will further encourage them to invest in the game.

“Overall, I am pleased with the level of improvement by Cambodia,” he added. “It is great to have partners from overseas who come to help us. The years of experience the young US girls already have will help our girls get better.”

Mobitel project must obtain NBC approval


via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

MOBITEL would need approval from the National Bank of Cambodia to set up its planned mobile money-transfer service, National Bank of Cambodia Director General Tal Nay Im said yesterday.

“If they launch this service, they should ask for NBC permission,” she said. “Money transfers are banking, and fall under the NBC.”

Operations manager for market leader Mobitel, Kay Lot, said last week that the firm’s new money-transfer service – to be launched in the next eight weeks – would not be subject to oversight from the NBC.

“We don’t think this is banking”, he said.

Kay Lot could not be reached for comment yesterday and Mobitel’s CEO David Spriggs declined to comment, saying that it was too early to release specific details of the transfer project.

Mobitel received a grant from the GSM Association Foundation in May to create a mobile money-transfer system aimed at providing services for the Kingdom’s unbanked, with money stemming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

WING, a subsidiary of ANZ Bank, presently operates a similar service in Cambodia, and is overseen by the NBC.

Charles Vann, vice president of the Association of Banks in Cambodia, said yesterday that the NBC was charged with oversight of the industry, extending to any commercial bank conducting its business in Cambodia.

Mobitel has previously declined to specify whether it was looking to a banking partner to secure payments. Its owner, Royal Group, controls 45 percent of ANZ Royal Bank.

ANZ Royal Bank CEO Stephen Higgins declined to comment directly on the issue, but said the bank was not in talks with anyone over mobile payments.

“We naturally can't comment on whether a particular individual or company has an account with us,” he said.

“However we can say that we haven't been approached by any mobile-payments businesses seeking to leverage our network or act as an agent of ours.”

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


via Khmer NZ

South Korean boost

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA’S trade with the Republic of Korea has increased slightly this year to the end of June, with garments and vehicles accounting for the main items shipped, according to data obtained yesterday. The Kingdom sent finished clothing, metal products and unprocessed rubber to South Korea, while South Korea sent fabrics, vehicles, and consumer products in return. Bilateral trade increased 2.8 percent, from US$106 million to $109 million, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

Trade with China surges

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

BILATERAL trade between Cambodia and China surged more than 25 percent during the first half of 2010, Ministry of Commerce statistics obtained yesterday show. Trade totalled US$501 million, a 25.89 percent increase on US$398 million for the same period 2009. Cambodia imported $483 million from the People’s Republic while $17 million was shipped the other way. Exports largely composed of agricultural products.

Hello bills per second

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

HELLO has launched per-second billing, charging US$0.001 per second ($0.06 per minute) for on-network calls, according to the firm’s marketing manager Eric Chong. “We want to stay competitive in the market, and continue to attract customers,” he said, and many of the Kingdom’s providers had been structuring tariffs on a per second basis for several months.

Kirin takes 15pc stake in Tiger, Anchor backer

Wednesday, 28 July 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

TOKYO-based Kirin Holdings has purchased 14.7 percent of Singapore-based Fraser and Neave Ltd, one of the companies behind the Tiger and Anchor beer brands. Kirin intends to complete the US$980 million deal on Friday, it said in a press statement. Fraser and Neave operates Asia Pacific Breweries in a joint venture along with Dutch brewer Heineken International.

Khmer Rouge jailer 'will appeal'

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The former chief jailer of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge will appeal against his conviction handed down by Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes tribunal, his lawyer has said.

Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was sentenced to 35 years in jail earlier this week.

He is the first former Khmer Rouge leader to face trial for war crimes during the group's brutal rule over Cambodia in the 1970s.

Duch ran the S-21 prison where up to 14,000 people were reportedly tortured and killed between 1975 and 1979.

"We will appeal against the [court's] decision," Kar Savuth, Duch's lawyer, told AFP by telephone.

He had said previously that Duch, a former Math teacher, wanted to be acquitted on the grounds that he was not a senior member of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy.

Prosecutors, who had sought a 40-year jail term from the tribunal, have said they are considering whether to appeal against the reduced jail time given by the court.

Passing sentence on Monday the judges in the special court reduced Duch's jail sentence on the grounds that he had been detained illegally for years before the tribunal was established.

Judge Nil Nonn shaved 16 years off the 35-year sentence for time already served and for illegal detention in a military prison.

But Andrew Cayley, an international co-prosecutor, told AFP on Tuesday he thought it was a "logical, well-reasoned judgment".

"You must recall that this is a man who actually acknowledged responsibility and pleaded guilty but still received a sentence of 35 years, which is actually on the high side as far as guilty pleas are concerned," Cayley said.

Led by Pol Pot, the so-called Khmer Rouge "Brother Number One", the movement wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population through starvation, overwork and execution in the notorious "killing fields".

Pol Pot died in 1998 but four other Khmer Rouge leaders, all said to be more senior than Duch, are in custody awaiting trial.

"Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan, the former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was the minister of social affairs, are expected to go on trial next year.