Tuesday, 21 September 2010

REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea : Frenchman Michel Roger Blanchard, 44 is escorted to a court in Preah Sihanouk Province

Frenchman Michel Roger Blanchard (R), 44, is escorted by a prison policeman to a court in Preah Sihanouk province, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west of Phnom Penh, September 20, 2010. Blanchard was on trial on Monday for sexually abusing underaged boys and the verdict is scheduled to be announced on October 4. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Frenchman Michel Roger Blanchard (C), 44, is escorted by prison policemen to a court in Preah Sihanouk province, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west of Phnom Penh, September 20 ,2010. Blanchard was on trial on Monday for sexually abusing underaged boys and the verdict is scheduled to be announced on October 4. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Frenchman Michel Roger Blanchard (R), 44, is escorted by a prison policeman to a court in Preah Sihanouk province, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west of Phnom Penh, September 20 ,2010. Blanchard was on trial on Monday for sexually abusing underaged boys and the verdict is scheduled to be announced on October 4. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Frenchman Michel Roger Blanchard (R), 44, is escorted by a prison policeman to a court in Preah Sihanouk province, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west of Phnom Penh, September 20 ,2010. Blanchard was on trial on Monday for sexually abusing underaged boys and the verdict is scheduled to be announced on October 4. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Health Inequity Slows Decline in Child Mortality

via CAAI

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Sep 21 , 2010 (IPS) - Cambodia’s partial success in reducing child mortality rates has exposed a fault line of inequity, one that underscores the advantage that the country’s urban population has had over the rural poor.

Yet the South-east Asian kingdom, 35 percent of whose 14 million population live below the poverty line, is not alone in having this mixed record of reducing child mortality, say child rights experts.

Some of the other countries in the region reflect a similar trend 10 years after world leaders committed to meet a set of eight targets to help the world’s poor by 2015. The fourth of the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seeks to achieve a two-thirds reduction in child mortality rates by 2015.

"To be fair to governments in South-east Asia, child mortality rates are going down everywhere," said Ben Phillips, director of strategy at the Asia office of Save the Children, a British-based humanitarian organisation. "But the rate of decline is less than the rate they committed in 2000."

"In South-east Asia, child mortality rates have almost halved from 2000 levels," he told IPS. "But the region is substantially behind from meeting the two-thirds target, which is five years away."

A recent report by Save the Children, entitled ‘A Fair Chance At Life’, shows that Cambodia has seen a 32 percent drop in child mortality figures among the country’s "richest 20 percent", but only an 18 percent reduction in child mortality among the "poorest 20 percent".

Indonesia, the region’s giant where 16 percent of its 225 million people live below the poverty line, has recorded "equitable progress," noted the 37-page report. The poorest 20 percent has seen child mortality figures drop by 29 percent, while the richest 20 percent has witnessed a nine percent decline.

Military-ruled Burma, also known as Myanmar, lags behind all with the worst child mortality figures. It reportedly has 104 children under five years dying for every 1,000 live births. Cambodia, by contrast, has 82 deaths of children under five years of age per 1,000 live births. Laos, the third of this region’s poorest countries, has 75 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Child rights groups have hailed Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam as being well on course to meeting the 2015 targets. The region’s richest country, the city-state of Singapore, has been singled out in a study by ‘The Lancet’, a British medical journal, as leading all countries in the world in child mortality rates, having reduced it by 75 percent since 1990.

The inequity in child mortality rates in countries like Cambodia and the Philippines, which has 32 deaths per 1,000 live births, is "partly an urban-rural divide," said Phillips. "There is no conscious discrimination, but a natural tendency for nurses and doctors to work in cities."

At times, the distance to a health care is a day away, making it costly and time consuming for a family to take a newborn to treat illnesses that lead to child deaths, such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and sepsis.

"If you live more distant from a health centre, you will be reached later unlike those who live closer to health care workers," said Basil Rodriques, regional adviser for your child survival and development at the Asia office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). "The MDGs saw the ‘low hanging fruits’ reached first."

To address this trend, countries in the region are being urged to strengthen community health initiatives in rural areas, including by tapping trained midwives who live in the villages they grew up in. "This is what is going to make the difference," Rodriques said in an interview. "Governments are looking at how to train workers who grow up and return to live in their communities."

Early diagnosis of diseases like pneumonia is key to saving a child’s life, adds Rodriques, pointing to achievements in Indonesia. "There is a growing recognition of a community-focused approach, since community health workers are trained to see the problem and offer prompt care."

Vietnam’s success with a similar community health care programme across its rural regions is also being held up as another model for the region. Its record of child mortality is 17 deaths for 1,000 live births.

"It is really hard to divorce equity from the development paradigm," said Rodriques. "The MDGs have, in a sense, acted as accelerator for governments in South-east Asia to invest more."

Save the Children’s Phillips estimates that the entire Asian region needs two million health workers, ranging from midwives, nurses and obstetricians, to meet the 2015 targets on child mortality. "India will need one million of them and South-east Asia will need a third," he said.

"This requires a dramatic shift in policy and resources made available to strengthen rural health care systems," he explained. "If you are not focused on equity, the outcome will be inequitable."

"Health workers don’t just cure; they also prevent," he said. "Governments need to be putting more people through nursing schools."

Bring on the ATF 2011: Cambodia

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Kingdom of Cambodia was chosen to host the 30th Association of Southwest Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tourism Forum (ATF) in 2011.

The annual event will be held between 15-21 January at the Diamond Island Convention and Exhibition Centre in Phnom Penh with the multicultural theme ‘Wonders and Diversity’, Express Travel World reported.

ATF 2011 Host Committee Chairman Pan Chantra said the event opens up a channel for buyers and sellers to exchange information and learn about the ten ASEAN member countries.

“ATF 2011 will offer a golden opportunity for all participants to discuss the development regional and individual tourism products of ASEAN member countries,” Mr Chantra said.

“It is also a cooperative regional effort to promote ASEAN, a world of wonders and diversity, as a single tourism destination.”

Mr Chantra noted that while the ATF is a great forum for information exchange its main purpose is to attract tourists particularly from countries like India with growing interest to travel in the ASEAN region.

“There is a huge interest among the Indian tourists about the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Vat in Cambodia,” Mr Chantra said.

Vietnam helps Cambodia in drug investigations

via CAAI

09/21/2010

A training programme on drug crime investigation technology and assessment of drug origins has been held in HCM City for Cambodia’s anti-drug police and executive forces.

The five-day programme that will last through September 24 is within the framework of a memorandum of understanding of the bilateral ministerial conference on drug prevention and control that took place in HCM City last year.

During the training programme, representatives from the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security’s Drug Crime Investigation Police Department and Criminology Institute informed Cambodian police of the drug crime situation along the common border and cooperation in investigating drug crimes between Vietnam and Cambodia and among regional countries.

They also spoke of the Vietnamese police force’s typical drug investigation cases and their experiences in information collection as well as methods to analyse drug substances.

Gas tanker explosion


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A firefighter battles one of several blazes caused by a gas tanker explosion in Prampi Makara district, Phnom Penh.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:21 Kim Yuthana and Phak Seangly

A tanker truck carrying 8,000 litres of petrol exploded shortly after noon in Phnom Penh's Prampi Makara district, touching off a blaze that engulfed several nearby buildings and destroyed three vehicles, but left no fatalities, police officials said.

One firefighter was injured when he was knocked down by a water hose as authorities battled the blaze, which took 20 fire engines more than an hour to extinguish.

The blast, on Tep Phorn street, near Preah Puth pagoda, was caused by petrol spilling into the truck's exhaust pipe, Phnom Penh police Chief Touch Naruth said.

"The fires occurred because the gas tanker exploded, setting fire to houses on both sides of the road," he said. ...

read the full story in tomorrow’s Phnom Penh Post or see the updated story in online from 3PM UTC/GMT +7 hours. (New York 4AM, Los Angeles 1AM, Chicago 3AM, Paris 10AM, Toronto 4AM, Sydney 6PM, Bejing 4PM, Tokyo 5PM, London 9AM, Johannesburg 10AM, Riyadh 11AM, Mumbai 1:30 PM)

State must be become transparent


via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:00 Eleanor Nichols

Dear Editor,

Steve Finch is right: The Cambodian government must do more to disclose payments made by companies operating within the country’s extractive-industries sector (“Go further with disclosure and embrace EITI, September 10).

The Ministry of Economy and Finance’s recent publication of revenues from the extractive industry for the first half of 2010 is a welcome first step towards improving transparency within a notoriously opaque sector.

However, it remains unclear whether the 112.21 billion-riel payment received in March 2010 corresponds to the US$28 million payment made by French oil company Total in January for rights to offshore Block 3.

The continued uncertainty reiterates the need for the kind of transparency offered by the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, which if implemented would give public access to such detailed information.

But regardless of how long the Cambodian government takes to endorse the EITI, many of the international petroleum companies currently allocated exploration rights in Cambodia will soon be required to disclose information on all payments they make to the government.

The recently passed United States Financial Reform Bill requires companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to disclose all payments made to foreign governments on a country-by-country basis, as a condition of their stock exchange listing.

Eleanor Nichols
Global Witness


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Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com  or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the authors’ and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Cambodian bourse needs sound foundation


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Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:00 Bashr Kuk

Dear Editor,

I was just sifting through the news story “Taking stock: Cambodia’s exchange” published September 15.

I would like to draw attention to a few other facts regarding the forthcoming Cambodian stock exchange.

First, the country lacks a professional financial-reporting system. There is no agency in the government, or no independent agency, to check accountability.

Furthermore, there is no qualified institution in the country to certify auditing and accounting professionals. Cambodia also lacks any agency that can function as a credit-rating firm.

Company secretaries and chartered/certified public accountants are also unheard of, except for the few professionals who have come to Cambodia to try their luck.

While the Kingdom does have a few high-end financial professionals, such as Ernst and Young and KPMG, it remains to be seen whether they are equipped to maintain the requirements of a fully fledged financial market, or bourse, such as the planned Cambodian exchange.

If the government moves ahead with its plan for a stock exchange in the absence of basic parameters as outlined above, the country will witness rampant manipulation of stocks, and the public will suffer as a result.

This, in turn, would damage the image and credibility of the government as well.

Bashr Kuk
Siem Reap


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Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com  or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the authors’ and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Garment wages and the Spirit of 1862


via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:00 Michael Hansen

Dear Editor,

Steve Finch says, rightly in my view, that few could doubt the moral case for the current strikes in Cambodia’s garment sector (The Bottom line, September 13).

However, it is obviously not a view shared by those who advocate pure market forces dictating wage levels.

Unbridled market forces as an instrument of economic discipline are generally favoured by groups not immediately affected when they come into play.

It is worth remembering that many senior figures in the finance industry were not so long ago taking full advantage of these forces to make money.

Free-market economics that dictate misjudgment of risk incurs the penalty of collapse and ruin, and, just two years ago, that is what happened to Lehman Brothers.

However, in many other institutions huge bailouts by taxpayers meant staff responsible for failure were not penalised in any meaningful way, nor were those who were supposed to regulate them or make a proper assessment of institutional credit worthiness.

Contrast the fortunes of such people with the position of those at the other side of the world and at the other end of the social spectrum.

The poor young men and women of Bangladesh, Vietnam or Cambodia find market forces being used to justify keeping down wages to what are essentially subsistence levels, and for them there are no bailouts, only dire warnings about the effects on competitiveness if their relatively meagre demands are met.

The Phnom Penh Post has over the years published a number of articles sympathetic to the plight of the typical Cambodian garment worker, and it would, perhaps, be useful to produce a flow chart showing the movement of a garment from sewing machine to clothing store.

It would be interesting to see how costs escalate and the profit at each level. The result should not be surprising, but might give pause for thought.

Recently, on a visit to Europe, I saw a shirt, made in Vietnam, on sale for the equivalent of US$60.

This was probably about the monthly wage of the machinist who made it.

I accept there are no easy answers to raising the wages of garment workers, but I wonder if it would it be possible for very large international clothing companies and retailers to join forces and charge a customer a small supplement specifically aimed at raising the wages of those actually producing the goods.

I know such ideas are often labelled impractical, but Western consumers, at least, are by no means impervious to such methods, and individuals might feel rather more inclined to contribute to the alleviation of poverty in this way than through making a contribution to charity.

We hear a great deal about Tea Parties and the spirit of 1773 these days. Perhaps it is worthwhile remembering the spirit of 1862, too.

At that point the United States was involved in a civil war, which lead to a cotton famine in Lancashire, England, due to the Unionist blockade.

Many English working people, living in poverty themselves, rallied to the cause of the Union after Lincoln said in October of that year that the war was to free the slaves and not simply maintain the Union.

Many Liverpool merchants were anxious that the import of slave-grown cotton be continued, and, on the whole, the ruling classes in Britain, including leading politicians like Gladstone, were pro-Confederacy.

Nonetheless, pressure from working-class movements and organisations like the Union and Emancipation societies ensured that there was no intervention by Britain in the transatlantic struggle.

It was this sense of fraternity between the working people of Lancashire and the citizens of the Union and their joint sympathy with the plight of the slaves that helped ensure the British Royal Navy was not deployed to keep Confederate ports open.

Workers in Southeast Asian garment factories are not slaves but, on the whole, not treated particularly well, especially by companies sailing close to the line dividing investment from speculation.

Perhaps a spirit of ’62 movement would make common cause between people at each end of the supply chain, raising sympathy for the cause of the exploited.

And really a few extra cents on the price of a shirt or blouse is as nothing compared with the privations suffered in places like Rochdale or Manchester 150 years ago.

Michael Hansen
Phnom Penh

Cambodia: Controversial mobile phone ad

via CAAI

Posted 21 September 2010

Written by

Sopheap Chak

Cambodia



A recent advertisement of a major Cambodian mobile phone service provider is being criticized by many netizens for promoting bad behavior among the youth. The CellCard ad shows a group of young people taking pictures of another friend’s bottom and distributing the photos to others via the internet. Through the ad, the company hopes to promote its fast internet service. But the company also seems to ignore its social responsibility by encouraging the youth to violate the privacy of their friends.

Piseth Mao, blogger and also communication specialist for Women's Media Center of Cambodia, voices his concern and expresses a strong objection to that advertisement spot by requesting the spot to be banned. He encourages the company to convey a better message to the public particularly to the youth if it wants to promote its products. In his blog, Piseth asserted his right to freedom of expression to push for the removal of the ad:

LET ME USE MY FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: I really want to see the latest Mobitel
(Cellcard) spot banned from all TV Channels. What is the value of the spot? Encouraging the youth to take a picture of a girlʼs ass and share it with a friend as the Internet is fast? The producer of this spot must be somehow unusual.

He continues by giving recommendation to the spot producer:

If you want to promote your good Internet connection, then why donʼt you think of something like “ A friend is at school and taking the picture of the lesson their teacher/lecturer writes on the board and share with a friend who is on mission in the province.”

With his recommendation, Piseth believes that the company, which he applauded for its previous commercial spots like the Angkor Wat promotion, would encourage the building of a better society where friends care for each other and allow people to stay connected and updated through internet accessibility.

Notably, there was also a past concern regarding another advertisement of a motorcycle company which devalues the image of women.

On the other hand, the government has just recently banned a TV series, titled “Strange Lovers”, which features a beautiful woman who will be auctioned for marriage starting with a price of one million dollars. This may be welcomed by those who see the film as negatively affecting the dignity of Cambodian women. However, there are also those who rather view it as a restriction on freedom of expression of film producers. They link it with past government orders banning the production of other cultural performances. For example, a pop song about a Buddhist monk touching and kissing a girl and another rock opera, “Where Elephants Weep,” which have scenes showing monks in bad behavior were also censored. The government justified the ban by invoking the need to respect social tradition and the image of Buddhist monks.

While banning performances may be acceptable in some cases, this action needs to be consistent with the freedom of expression principle and the government should look at the consistency of the content and intention of that content rather than the solely base its justification by citing good social tradition and national security which have been also applied to many critics who have been subjected to arrest or have been charged with defamation, disinformation or incitement due to their dissenting opinion on government policies.

By Sopheap Chak · Posted 21 September 2010

Over 1,000 Pigs Died of Suspecting with Blue Ear Disease

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 09:02 DAP NEWS / VIBOL

CAMBODIA, BANTEAY MEAN CHEY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2010- SOver 1,000 pigs have died of suspecting with the bleu ear disease in Village TaKhom Thma, Thmor Pouk district of Banteay Mean Chey province, the village chief and villagers said on Tuesday.

“We noted that dead pigs have marks with blue and pink on their skins but the health officials in the village could not identify it yet,” said Kol Mon, village chief.

He continued that the pigs have infected with a kind of diseases since august.

A villager, Soeung Tuy said that pigs subsequently have died of the syndromes.

Pov Srun, head of pig famers’ association of Cambodia said that he had not known about the cases. We will investigate the cases soon, he said, adding that bleu ear illness is silent for short period.

Currently, Cambodia imported about 1,000 pigs a day to supply local consumers. The transport of pigs could be a key factor to spread blue ear disease. Thailand and Vietnam are two neighboring countries infecting bleu ear disease.

PM Hun Sen in August appealed to stop importing the pork and live pigs from the neighboring countries to avoid further spread of illness.

Hydropower boosts Cambodia investment

via CAAI

September 21, 2010

Earlier this year, CHD signed an agreement for the construction of a hydropower plant in Cambodia.

The project will be one of the largest investments to date in the country's power sector, said Sun Qingsong, general manager of China Huadian Engineering Co.

The estimated cost of the CHD facility is $558 million. Huadian will finance the project following an agreement with the China Export-Import Bank.

The plant will be located 180 km west of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, and will have a 338 megawatt capacity.

Chinese enterprises fund the bulk of Cambodia's new power generating facilities, said Sun.

The general manager explained Cambodian officials hope to establish 10 hydropower plants by 2019 in efforts to reach set electricity targets.

Between 2010 and 2019, the country will add 2 gigawatts of power capacity to its networks, said Sun.

Cambodia's current power generation capacity is around 200 megawatts. Its electrification rate is 20 percent - the second lowest among large Asian nations, said a recent World Outlook Report.

The country's government has endorsed foreign investment, but low electrification rates are a barrier to entry, said CHD representatives.

Business Monitor International reports real GDP growth in Cambodia is 4.9 percent. That number is expected to rise to 6.9 percent next year.

New power generation will be necessary to buttress projected economic development, said Sun.

Source:China Daily

Pint-sized protesters


Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:00 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Theary, 7 (left), and Sophea, 8 (right), of Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune, take part in a protest staged by residents of the Boeung Kak lakeside outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home yesterday. Children made up about half of the protesters, who gathered to voice concerns about the filling in of the lake and their potential eviction. “My home was flooded by Shukaku Inc because they are pumping sand to fill in the lakeside,” said Sophea, a resident of Village 1, in reference to the company that has been granted development rights in the area. “I will end up homeless and have to leave school if the company continues to pump sand into the lake, and evicts us from our home."

PM lashes out at opposition


Photo by: Pha Lina
Following a ribbon-cuting ceremony yesterday with Prime Minister Hun Sen, pedestrians and motorists cross the Prek Phnov bridge in Russey Keo that connects the town with National Road 6 across the the Tonle Sap river

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 20:52 Cheang Sokha and Brooke Lewis

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has lashed out at the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, criticising it for attempting to attract local and international intervention in cases against exiled leader Sam Rainsy.

The comments, delivered during a ceremony inaugurating a new bridge on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, came three days after Senate President Chea Sim wrote a letter to the SRP’s Acting President Kong Korm, informing him that he would not petition the government to allow Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia under renewed parliamentary immunity.

Sam Rainsy, who is currently abroad, was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail after an incident in October last year in which he helped villagers uproot wooden demarcation poles near the Vietnamese border.

Kong Korm wrote to Chea Sim on September 11, saying that the Senate had a “duty” to try to broker a compromise that would pave the way for Sam Rainsy’s return.

But the premier said yesterday that Sam Rainsy should stop trying to avoid serving time in prison.
“If you don’t come to jail, the prison will go to take you,” he said. “In recent days [the SRP] tested Samdech Chea Sim, but

Samdech Chea Sim responded that [he would] let the court proceed with its job.”

Hun Sen said he believed the SRP had expected him to respond personally after Kong Korm sent the letter to the Senate, and that this expectation was contradictory because the SRP had “cursed me every day as a puppet” of Vietnam.

He said that the opposition party should not expect his help to resolve Sam Rainsy’s case if it truly believed he was powerless.

“I am a puppet, I don’t have a right to resolve it,” he said.

He said the SRP had also sought help from the United States, but that he was unconcerned about the issue being raised during his upcoming visit to America.

“Another test is that they will use international [pressure], including the president of the United States,” he said. “In four more days I will meet US President Barack Obama. What will he say to me?”

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that Sam Rainsy had not formally requested help from the US, but that he had “met with several US congressmen” in recent months, with whom he had discussed his sentence. Yim Sovann said the party had also sought help from the United Nations and the United Kingdom.

“We appeal to all independent countries to put pressure on the government,” he said, and added that, as development partners, the international community had a “duty” to pressure the government to resolve the case.

“Sam Rainsy is the president of the major opposition party. We cannot say that Cambodia is a democratic country when the opposition leader has been sentenced by the court for political reasons,” he said. “Everbody knows that the court in Cambodia is not independent.”

The ceremony marked the opening of the Prek Phnov bridge, which links National Roads 5 and 6A, and is intended to ease congestion around the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge.

The premier said that the Ly Yong Phat Group, which is owned by ruling party senator and business tycoon Ly Yong Phat, invested US$42.5 million in building the bridge.

He noted that while motorcycle drivers and pedestrians can use the bridge free of charge, the company will charge a toll of 5,700 riels (US$1.34) for small vehicles, such as minivans and cars, and 34,000 riels (US$8) for large trucks.

“The LYP Group will have to transfer the bridge to the government [after 30 years] and the government will consider whether to continue charging the fee or not,” he said.

Yim Sovann said that private companies should not finance public infrastructure with the intention of charging for its use.

“In this country people pay taxes for road maintanence,” he said. “People shouldn’t have to pay tolls for national roads.”

The LYP company also owns a toll bridge in Koh Kong province.

Hun Sen to make Obama appeal


Photo by: Pha Lina
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at the inauguration of the Prek Phnov bridge in Russey Keo district yesterday.

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 19:24 Cheang Sokha and Sebastian Strangio

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has said that he would appeal to US President Barack Obama to cancel more than US$300 million in “dirty debt” accrued by the Lon Nol regime in the 1970s.

Speaking at the inauguration of Prek Phnov bridge on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the premier said he would make the request when he meets Obama during this week’s ASEAN-US summit in New York.

“I will tell the US that the 1970-75 debt is considered as dirty debt and ask them to cancel it,” Hun Sen said. “If it is dirty debt how can we pay it? Even the bank will cancel this.”

The debt, which amounts to an estimated $317 million, was incurred by the republican regime that came to power in a 1970 coup backed by Washington, which showered the government with military and economic aid.

Cambodia has long opposed repayment of the debt, which it says fuelled the country’s civil war with the Khmer Rouge.

US officials, however, have said Cambodia is merely being held to the same standards as other countries.

“Our position on that debt is the same as our position on bilateral debt we have with any other country, which is that the government should come to the table, sign the agreement and start making payments,” US Ambassador Carol Rodley said in an interview in July.

An embassy spokesman said that under international law, governments are “generally responsible for the obligations of their predecessors”.

“We have made some proposals that we think would help resolve the issue consistent with our overall commitment to support Cambodia’s economic modernisation,” the spokesman said, and added that such an arrangement would “enhance Cambodia’s creditworthiness and ability to access international capital markets”.

ASEAN leaders are scheduled to meet with President Obama in New York on Friday. As planned, Hun Sen will also hold sideline talks with his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva to discuss the ongoing border dispute between the two nations, before returning to Cambodia on Sunday.

Siem Reap airport given green light


via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 20:14 May Kunmakara

THE Council for the Development of Cambodia has approved plans to build a new US$1 billion international airport in Siem Reap.

Although the project still awaits final approval from Prime Minister Hun Sen, CDC deputy secretary general Duy Thov said the airport had been welcomed by relevant ministries and institutions to proceed as planned.

“I hope it won’t take a long time to approve – I think it can occur as we all agreed,” he said.

He declined to specify a timeline for the project until the Prime Minister made his decision.

Siem Reap province deputy governor Bun Tharith said the $1 billion investment would come from NSIA Company, a joint venture owned by two South Korean firms, Camco Airport Company and Lees A&A Company.

The government would offer about 500 hectares of concession land in Chie Kreng and Sonikum districts, 60 kilometres from the provincial capital, he said.

“We don’t have any problem with the land – now we just wait for the project to begin,” he said.
The investment would be in the form of a Build-Operate-Transfer agreement, he said, meaning the airport would eventually come under Cambodian government control.

Bun Tharith said he expected direct flights to increase with the new airport, as it would have the capacity to accept larger planes.

“About 30 foreign countries proposed direct flights to Siem Reap, but [have been held up] because we don’t have the new airport yet,” he said.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation undersecretary Eng Sour Sdey agreed the airport would offer more opportunities for long-haul flights.

“The old airport is just for short-distance flights, and could land only from the east,” he said.

“It cannot be expanded without impacting the temples.”

Long-distance flights facilitated by the new airport are crucial to attracting more tourists from overseas, particularly from those areas without temples of their own, according to Apsara Authority director general Bun Narith.

“If we have a new airport, there will be more access for direct flights from other countries – an increase in the number of tourists will follow,” he said.

Bun Narith said a lift in tourists would create more local jobs.

Rainsy called back to court


via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 20:42 Meas Sokchea

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has ordered opposition leader Sam Rainsy to appear in court next Tuesday in connection with a two-year-old defamation and disinformation complaint filed by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

The summons, issued on September 9 by investigating judge Duch Kimsorn, did not bear the name of a plaintiff, but ordered the Sam Rainsy Party president to appear for questioning in relation to comments he made about Hor Namhong in 2008.

“If he does not appear as scheduled above, we will issue a warrant for his arrest,” the summons said.

In June, a French court upheld a defamation conviction handed down against Sam Rainsy in response to a similar complaint from Hor Namhong.

The case stemmed from passages in Sam Rainsy’s autobiography, Rooted in Stone, that allegedly accuse the foreign minister of heading the notorious Khmer Rouge prison at Boeung Trabek.

Sam Rainsy has been ordered to pay a token one-euro fine for damages.

Hor Namhong filed a complaint at Phnom Penh Municipal Court after Sam Rainsy repeated the accusation during a speech at the Choeung Ek killing fields site on April 17, 2008.
Before the September 9 summons, the court had not acted on the case.

Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, Choung Choungy, declined to comment in detail on the case, but said he had not decided whether he would appear at the court next week. He said he was curious why the court had not begun processing the case until recently.

SRP secretary general Ke Sovannaroth, meanwhile, said the summons was likely politically motivated.

“It is a political issue, and they will not stop – they will continue this attempt to ban nationalists from gathering to defend the nation,” she said.

Sam Rainsy, who is living in self-imposed exile in Europe, was sentenced to two years in jail in January after being convicted of uprooting demarcation posts on the Vietnamese border last year.

He also faces two other charges relating to maps he released while accusing Vietnam of territorial encroachment. The Municipal Court is expected to hand down its verdict in the latter case on Thursday.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the two-year delay in the case presented no legal problems, but that the political nature of the charges could have influenced the timing of the summons.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said a demand for symbolic restitution would constitute a suitable use of defamation laws.

But he expressed concern that the government was launching an all-out offensive against the SRP leader, using a barrage of state lawsuits to weaken his negotiating position in the event of a political settlement.

“I think the government is doing what it can to add on to its case against Sam Rainsy,” he said.

When contacted yesterday, Judge Duch Kimsorn declined to comment on the case.

WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

New tanks and APCs arrive


Photo by: Pech Sereyroath
Dock workers at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port unload an armoured personnel carrier from Ukraine yesterday.

via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 19:54 Cheang Sokha

A SHIPMENT of 100 tanks and armoured personnel carriers purchased from Ukraine have arrived at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, officials said today.

In Sokhemara, chief of the Preah Sihanouk provincial coast guard office said that according to a report that arrived with the shipment, the government purchased the batch of 100 new tanks and armoured personnel carriers from Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union.

“It will take about a week or so to remove all the tanks and armoured personnel carriers from the port,” he said.

Last week, officials refused to divulge any details about the shipment, including the country that provided the vehicles and how many were purchased.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat, who joined officials in receiving the shipment at the port, could not be reached for comment. Military officials who were responsible for unloading the shipment declined to comment.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong also could not be reached for comment.
He said last Tuesday that the government had recently purchased a second shipment of vehicles, which was expected to arrive “at a later date”.

“I think this is a normal procedure for a country to buy such weaponry to protect its territory from any intentional encroachment from foreign countries,” he said at the time.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Tea Banh returned to Phnom Penh last night after a week in China, where he observed the production of weapons at specialised factories, said Nem Sowath, the minister’s chief of cabinet.

JSM Indochina down $US20 million


via CAAI

Monday, 20 September 2010 18:37 Catherine James

TROUBLED Cambodia-Vietnam investment property fund JSM Indochina reported a US$20.7 million net loss for the half-year to June 30, more than double its loss of $9.2 million for the same period last year.

The company had almost no revenue for the first six months, receiving only $263,485 from rental income, according to a report filed with the London Stock Exchange late last week.

Its expenses included $7.6 million in fees to managers, consultants and directors, and a $7.1 “impairment loss” of cash pledged with banks, according to the interim statement.

The London AIM-listed company is currently selling nine properties across Cambodia and Vietnam. The report said JSM shareholders voted on April 27 to change the company’s investing policy to “an orderly realisation of the company's portfolio over the medium term with a view to maximising returns for shareholders”.

JSM appointed real estate services firm CBRE to sell the properties last week.

The Cambodian properties to be sold – four in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap – are at various stages of investment and construction, according to JSM chairman Scott Verges.

Verges said in the report that JSM has written off a total of $4.6 million since setting up its Siem Reap site and two of its Phnom Penh projects – the Embassy Centre and a property on the Tonle Sap river.

All three have licensing approvals and extensive development pending. Meanwhile the company has also canned its $2.5 million refurbishment plans for Colonial Mansion I, the 44 serviced apartments and retail store space near Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh.

The CBRE-mananged property has struggled in the rental market, hit by low occupancy rates and lower rental charges, the report said. Rental levels were expected to be “adversely affected” for the rest of the year by the ongoing construction work on nearby Colonial Mansion II and Vattanac Tower.

It said that completion of the refurbishment of its 63 serviced apartments, Colonial Mansion II, has been pushed out to “early fourth quarter” 2010.

Remaining costs amount to $3.6 million, Verges said.

The firm’s share price dropped to a 52-week low of US$0.41 when the report was released. Stock value has fallen 30 percent in the past 12 months, during which it also had a complete board and high-level management change.

However, while seeing losses soar, the filing also stated that “based on the external valuations, the portfolio has shown growth when compared to the original cost of acquisition”.

The total value of the company’s assets fell to $84.7 million at June 30, from $91.4 million at December 31 2009, but the drop in value stemmed from losses on two pipeline projects in Vietnam. Officials from both JSM and CBRE did not respond to emailed requests for further comment.

Workers continue to protest


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A loudspeaker is held up to amplify union leader Ath Thun’s speech during a strike at a Meanchey district factory last week.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

GARMENT workers protesting the suspension of union representatives in the aftermath of last week’s coordinated strike continued their demonstrations yesterday despite the fact that they could be dismissed from work.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said roughly 10,000 workers at four factories in Phnom Penh and Kandal provinces had been involved in strikes to protest the suspensions.

GMAC advised its members last week to pursue court injunctions that would require strikers to return to work within 48 hours or face the possibility of having their employment terminated. Loo was unsure whether the 48-hour window had elapsed at the four factories, but said workers still striking at factories that had won injunctions could soon be dismissed.

“Our advice to the factories is, if the 48 hours are due and workers still do not return to work, then please prepare the official notice of termination of the employment contract for violating the court order to return to work,” Loo said. No workers or union representatives have yet been dismissed, he said.

At Kandal province’s Winner Garment Factory, union representative Sim Sokha said roughly 2,000 workers had protested after 10 union representatives were suspended.

“The workers will face more problems when they don’t have representatives to protect them when the factory abuses their rights,” Sim Sokha said.

At the Goldfame Enterprise factory, also in Kandal, unionists said roughly 5,000 workers protested the suspensions of 19 union representatives, whose photos were posted outside the factory.

“We demanded more wages to support ourselves, but now we are not allowed to work,” said union representative Chea Thyda.

Ek Sopheakdey, secretary general of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said labour leaders appealed to the government yesterday to allow the suspended representatives to return to work.

Organisers said at one point that last week’s strike could stretch for as long as one month, though it was called off in its fourth day on Thursday after the Ministry of Social Affairs wrote a letter calling for a meeting next week with union leaders to discuss benefits and other issues unrelated to the minimum wage.

A directive signed last week by Prime Minister Hun Sen authorised government officials to cooperate with garment factories to pursue legal action against alleged masterminds of last week’s strike; law enforcement officials were directed to prevent a resumption of the work stoppage.

Union leaders said 12 garment workers in Phnom Penh and Kandal were injured on Saturday during clashes with police as they protested the dismissal of the union representatives. GMAC said the garment industry lost more than US$15 million as a result of last week’s strike.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

Animal smuggling: Police seize monkeys, lizards


via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:02 Sen David

Animal smuggling

POLICE in Stung Treng province have arrested a 55-year-old man on suspicion of trying to smuggle baby monkeys and lizards into Vietnam.

Pang Lux, a provincial police officer involved in the arrest, said the suspect, Kampong Cham province resident Chey Sithoeun, was caught trying to transport the haul – which weighed a total of 63 kilograms – across the border on a motorbike on Saturday night.

“We seized 63 kilograms of wild animals, including alligators and monkeys, which we suspect were being smuggled [to Vietnam],” he said. He added that the animals had been sent to the Forestry Administration, and that officials had not decided whether to send the suspect to court.

PM blasts SRP’s call for help


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy speaks at a press conference in December 2008.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha and Brooke Lewis

PRIME Minister Hun Sen lashed out at the opposition Sam Rainsy Party yesterday, criticising it for attempting to attract local and international intervention in cases against exiled leader Sam Rainsy.

The comments, delivered during a ceremony inaugurating a new bridge on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, came three days after Senate President Chea Sim wrote a letter to the SRP’s Acting President Kong Korm, informing him that he would not petition the government to allow Sam Rainsy to return to Cambodia under renewed parliamentary immunity.

Sam Rainsy, who is currently abroad, was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail after an incident in October last year in which he helped villagers uproot wooden demarcation poles near the Vietnamese border.

Kong Korm wrote to Chea Sim on September 11, saying that the Senate had a “duty” to try to broker a compromise that would pave the way for Sam Rainsy’s return.

But the premier said yesterday that Sam Rainsy should stop trying to avoid serving time in prison.

“If you don’t come to jail, the prison will go to take you,” he said. “In recent days [the SRP] tested Samdech Chea Sim, but Samdech Chea Sim responded that [he would] let the court proceed with its job.”

Hun Sen said he believed the SRP had expected him to respond personally after Kong Korm sent the letter to the Senate, and that this expectation was contradictory because the SRP had “cursed me every day as a puppet” of Vietnam.

He said that the opposition party should not expect his help to resolve Sam Rainsy’s case if it truly believed he was powerless.

“I am a puppet, I don’t have a right to resolve it,” he said.

He said the SRP had also sought help from the United States, but that he was unconcerned about the issue being raised during his upcoming visit to America.

“Another test is that they will use international [pressure], including the president of the United States,” he said. “In four more days I will meet US President Barack Obama. What will he say to me?”

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that Sam Rainsy had not formally requested help from the US, but that he had “met with several US congressmen” in recent months, with whom he had discussed his sentence. Yim Sovann said the party had also sought help from the United Nations and the United Kingdom.

“We appeal to all independent countries to put pressure on the government,” he said, and added that, as development partners, the international community had a “duty” to pressure the government to resolve the case.

“Sam Rainsy is the president of the major opposition party. We cannot say that Cambodia is a democratic country when the opposition leader has been sentenced by the court for political reasons,” he said. “Everbody knows that the court in Cambodia is not independent.”

Yesterday’s ceremony marked the opening of the Prek Phnov bridge, which links National Roads 5 and 6A, and is intended to ease congestion around the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge.

The premier said yesterday that the Ly Yong Phat Group, which is owned by ruling party senator and business tycoon Ly Yong Phat, invested US$42.5 million in building the bridge. He noted that while motorcycle drivers and pedestrians can use the bridge free of charge, the company will charge a toll of 5,700 riels (US$1.34) for small vehicles, such as minivans and cars, and 34,000 riels (US$8) for large trucks.

“The LYP Group will have to transfer the bridge to the government [after 30 years] and the government will consider whether to continue charging the fee or not,” he said.

Yim Sovann said yesterday that private companies should not finance public infrastructure with the intention of charging for its use.

“In this country people pay taxes for road maintanence,” he said. “People shouldn’t have to pay tolls for national roads.”

The LYP company also owns a toll bridge in Koh Kong province.

Government pooh-poohs poverty stats


via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE government has rejected a recent media report stating that around 30 percent of the Kingdom’s 14 million people are currently living below the poverty line.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit took exception to a Radio Free Asia report, aired on Sunday, that quoted a spokesman from the United Nations Population Fund offering the figure.

“We entirely reject the information,” said Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the PQRU.

“We do not know for sure whether Radio Free Asia quoted incorrectly or if the [UNFPA] official spoke incorrectly, but we reject the information.”

According to yesterday’s statement, the percentage of Cambodians living in poverty fell from 50 percent in 1993 to 30 percent in 2007 and 27.4 percent in 2009.

“Even though Cambodia suffered from the global downturn, the latest figures from the Ministry of Economy and Finance and Ministry of Planning show that Cambodians living under the poverty line dropped to 27.3 percent in 2010,” the statement said.

It added that the Cambodian government expected to reach the country’s Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty to 19.5 percent by 2015.

Pen Sophanara, the UNFPA communications officer quoted by RFA, said the figure she cited was based on a report released by the agency in 2008.

Men in black Also yesterday, the PQRU moved to quash a Thai media report that a group of “men in black” – Cambodian-trained special forces of Vietnamese origin – was “staking out” the home of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The report, carried in The Nation newspaper last week, was based on comments from a Thai government spokesman, who said police were maintaining a close watch on the men.

The PQRU denounced the report as an attempt “to link Thai unending squabbles with Cambodia” and “fan acts of hostility towards the Kingdom of Cambodia”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also rejected the reports Sunday.

Land disputes result in more arrests: Adhoc


via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:02 May Titthara

THE rights group Adhoc has recorded a sharp increase in the number of Cambodians arrested and detained in connection with land disputes, as well as those implicated in complaints stemming from such disputes, according to figures released yesterday.

A total of 55 villagers have been detained in disputes between January and September 19, according to the figures. Ouch Leng, land programme officer for Adhoc, said yesterday that 37 villagers were detained in all of 2009.

Some 269 villagers were named in complaints spanning 14 provinces, up from 135 last year, Ouch Leng said. In addition to the 55 villagers who have been detained, 73 have been arrested and quickly released, according to the figures.

An accompanying report from Adhoc notes that some of these complaints and arrests have stemmed from this year’s most high-profile disputes, including an ongoing row in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district over a land concession granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

Also cited is a dispute between families in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district and the Drugs and AIDS Research and Prevention Organisation, an NGO run by a one-star general who is also an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim. Last week, Preah Vihear provincial court charged and detained three villagers who have filed complaints accusing the NGO of human rights abuses.

Ouch Leng said the 2010 figures were evidence that the courts were working against ordinary Cambodians. “The courts feed the conflict. They do not find a fair resolution or justice for victims. Instead, they arrest and detain them,” he said.

But Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said those arrested had staged illegal protests or otherwise broken the law. “Police have never protected people who have done wrong or have violated the law,” he said.

Prum Sithra, a secretary of state at the Justice Ministry, declined to comment.

Boeung Trabek meeting shot down


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Thaong Khorn, 51, looks out from his home at Boeung Trabek yesterday.

via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:01 Kim Yuthana

REPRESENTATIVES of an estimated 500 families near Boeung Trabek lake in Chamkarmon district said local officials refused to meet with them yesterday to discuss an eviction order set to be carried out later this month.

Suos Namy, 30, a resident of Phsar Doeum Thkov commune, where the families live, said the order – signed by Chamkarmon district governor Lo Yuy – was received last Friday, and that representatives of five villages went to the commune office yesterday to seek more information, including specifics on what areas would be affected.

Upon their arrival, he said, commune officials turned them away, saying that they needed to draft a formal letter requesting a meeting.

“Local authorities should explain clearly about which areas will be impacted” by work on the drainage system in the area, he said.

He added that residents were concerned because of the looming September 27 deadline, and because construction machinery was already standing by.

Lo Yuy’s letter indicates that they have good reason to be concerned.

“If they don’t move away by the deadline, the authorities will take measures through the law, and we won’t be responsible for any destruction or loss of their property,” the letter states.

Resident Om Yorn, 61, said the deadline did not allow residents enough time to relocate.

“I am not against the authorities’ practices, but they should offer the residents proper compensation because citizens living here are poor and unable to move immediately,” she said.

Thong Chhorn, the chief of Phsar Doeum Thkov commune, said he had told community representatives “not to worry” because there would be no “use of force” to remove residents from the lakeside. “The authorities have only asked those living near the lake to move in order to fix the drainage system and avoid flooding,” he said.

He said that at least 150 families were living in “anarchic buildings”, and added that about 500 families would be affected in total.

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said authorities should meet with the representatives and also “pay the necessary compensation to the people”.

Chamkarmon district governor Lo Yuy could not be reached for comment yesterday.

UN diplomat denounces court system


via CAAI

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 15:01 Sebastian Strangio

CAMBODIA’S court system continues to be hobbled by political interference, corruption and a lack of resources, according to the United Nation’s human rights envoy to Cambodia.

In a report released publicly last Thursday, Surya Subedi, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights, recommended sweeping changes to a court system that he said fails to provide justice to the poor and vulnerable.

“Although the Constitution of Cambodia provides for the separation of powers between the three main organs of the State, in practice the distinction between these organs is blurred and the executive branch dominates the judiciary,” he wrote.

In his candid survey of the country’s courts, Subedi recognised the progress that had been made in passing key legal reforms, but said judicial proceedings continued to be “used by the rich and powerful in many cases to dispossess, harass and intimidate the poor” and those representing them.

The problem has been compounded by a lack of legislation to strictly define the roles and responsibilities of judges and allow them to operate impartially. He noted that corruption seemed to be “widespread at all levels in the judiciary”.

The report, which is based on Subedi’s mission to the Kingdom in June, highlighted the recent cases against Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua and Khmer Machas Srok newspaper publisher Hang Chakra as examples of political interference in the courts. He also cited the difficulty of the poor in settling land disputes through the courts, with many villagers bypassing the process altogether by making personal appeals to powerful officials.

Subedi closed the report with a series of recommendations, including new laws banning political party members from being appointed as judges and the decriminalisation of defamation.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said he agreed with the report’s general conclusions, and that steps needed to be taken to secure the courts’ independence.

“In the future, if we do nothing maybe it will get worse, and the space will be very narrow,” he said. But he added that reforms would require more commitment from foreign donors, who he said have recently scaled back support for legal reforms.

Government officials dismissed the report’s conclusions, saying it did not place enough weight on the country’s achievements.

“Now we are taking care to strengthen the system and strengthen the law,” said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers. “[Subedi] doesn’t know what’s going on in Cambodia.”

He pointed to reforms enacted since the civil war ended in 1998, including the successes of the Khmer Rouge tribunal and the passage this year of the Law on Anticorruption, which he said would be used to quash corruption in the courts.

Om Yentieng, chairman of the government-run Committee of Human Rights, could not be reached yesterday. Subedi is to present his report to the UN Human Rights Council next week.