Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Qld uni to help Cambodia's eco tourism

http://news.smh.com.au/

via CAAI

Tony Bartlett

October 27, 2010

AAP

The University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland will help to develop the vision of the kingdom of Cambodia for a sustainable and responsible tourist industry.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between the two at the Global Eco Asia-Pacific Tourism Conference in Noosa.

Sunshine Coast lecturer and researcher Gayle Mayes says Cambodia is very keen to have a university which can educate students in tourism and hospitality.

Advertisement: Story continues below The country also needs help in developing the skills and knowledge of people in its ministry of tourism, Dr Moyes says.

"They're also looking for assistance in strategic planning in tourism, and the training of tourism personnel in the industry," she told AAP on Wednesday.

"This relationship has been built over about a 12-month period and it began with the Cambodian minister for tourism bringing 13 of his staff to Australia."

Dr Mayes said the minister visited Noosa and realised the area was a fantastic model for sustainable and responsible tourism development.

Thok Sokhom from Cambodia's Department of International Cooperation and ASEAN said the MOU might be with a regional university, and it had national implications for both countries.

"If Australia helps us today, then we will help others in the future," he said.

"Every year the Australian government assists the development of Cambodia by over $100 million in major areas, but not yet in tourism, but from this MOU I believe the government of Australia will see the potential of tourism and the industry's potential role in climate-change mitigation.

"But in terms of capacity building and higher education the ministry of tourism relies heavily on our partners to achieve our goal of establishing a national university of tourism and hospitality in Cambodia."

No third Khmer Rouge trial, says Hun Sen


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L) shakes hands with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phenom Penh
Reuters/Chor Sokunthea

via CAAI

Wednesday 27 October 2010

By RFI

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told UN secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday that a third Khmer Rouge trial would not be held, according to a Cambodian official. Hun Sen "clealy affirmed that case three is not allowed", said Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong after the meeting.

"We have to think about peace in Cambodia," said Namhong.

Hun Sen was a former mid-level Khmer Rouge member himself before leaving the movement.

A second trial is scheduled to start next year, with "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, former foreign minister Ieng Sary, his wife and former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, and former head of state Khieu Samphan in the dock.

The UN-backed court is debating whether to open a third case against other high-ranking Khmer Rouge members, but have encountered resistance from the Cambodian government.

Hun Sen believes that a third trial could destabilise Cambodia, saying he would prefer to see the court fail rather than indict more suspects.

Hor Namhong said Hun Sen told Ban that the second trial would be a "successful prosecution", while a third trial would be a "failure" if more Khmer Rouge members were prosecuted.

The Khmer Rouge regime reigned between 1975 and 1979. During this period up to 2.2 million people died from starvation, overwork or execution.

Building a new Cambodia


via CAAI

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cambodian tourism and foreign investment continues to grow as momentum gathers pace for The Royal Group of Cambodia’s visionary plan to develop Asia's “first environmentally planned resort island”.

The country’s biggest business conglomerate, The Royal Group, with substantial interests in property and infrastructure development is now at the forefront of developing the country’s coastal tourism, with a bold plan to transform the pristine island of Koh Rong (www.kohrong.com.kh), 30 minutes by speed boat from Preah Sihanouk Province, into an eco-resort island set to rival established destinations such as Phuket, Samui and Bali.

The Royal Group headed by tycoon Neak Oknha Dr. Kith Meng has recently unveiled its master plan to create an ecologically sound resort paradise. A comprehensive environmental impact assessment has been completed by Scott Wilson and a detailed master plan developed by MAP Architects. The first phase is set to be rolled out over the next five years.

Growth in Visitors and FDI Sets the Stage for Coastal Tourism Development
Setting the stage for one of the world’s most ambitious luxury tourism initiatives, Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism reported a healthy 9.87 percent growth in arrivals for the first four months of this year. Visitor numbers have topped 2 million a year for the last three years, up from under half a million a decade ago.

Average hotel occupancy across the country is at an all time high of 64 percent, with tourism now earning over US$1.5 billion a year. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also raised its forecast for GDP growth in Cambodia this year to 4.8 percent and 6.8 percent for 2011, with positive recovery in foreign direct investment and rebounding tourism.

The average length of stay is currently 6.45 days, with international arrivals highest at Siem Reap Province, indicating that Cambodian tourism is still largely centred around world famous Angkor Wat. Thailand has shown that most tourists stay longer at beach destinations; therefore Cambodia has significant potential to increase tourism receipts and volume with the development of its 443 kilometres pristine coastline.

Only 7.15% of international visitors in 2009 visited the Kingdom’s undiscovered beaches – even though O’Tres Beach in Preah Sihanouk Province, Ream Beach and Koh Rong are ranked in the top 22 of “Asia’s Best Beaches” by Forbes Magazine.

With Vietnam, Korea, China, Japan, USA and France as the biggest markets, Cambodia now sees a golden opportunity to develop tourism along its relatively untouched coast – and persuade visitors to extend their holidays in the country, rather than proceeding to beach destinations elsewhere in Asia.

“Cambodia is conveniently located within 2 hours of Singapore and Hong Kong, and 1 hour of Bangkok, so a vast tourism market remains untapped,” said Mr. David Simister, Chairman of CBRE Indochina, the exclusive advisor and sole agent for developing the island.

Cambodia’s coastal tourism is set to change with the newly expanded international airport at Sihanoukville ready to welcome regular flights from elsewhere in Asia.

“International travelers are already showing early interest in the concept of luxury tourism on the ‘Indochinese Riviera’ and Koh Rong stands out as one of the region’s most beautiful asset, with the benefit of having a sufficient size for critical mass, an airport, infrastructure and to evolve in the same manner as Phuket, but without the mistakes found in established resort destinations,” said Mr. Simister.

In the Koh Rong archipelago, Song Saa Private Island is already taking shape and is due for completion in late 2011. The project’s success in the first phase of villa sales last year proves there is interest in tourism and real estate in Cambodia’s coastline.

In Preah Sihanouk Province itself, a number of villa projects have emerged since 2007 but the city currently only boasts a limited number of high-end hotels, compared to Siem Reap Province which offers a range of three to five star hotels, totaling 6,500 keys and another 2,800 in the pipeline. High-end groups such as Raffles, Aman and Orient Express all have a presence in Siem Reap and commands rates of up to US$1,050 a night, for a pool suite at Amansara.

The Royal Group Unveils Master Plan for Koh Rong
The Royal Group’s master plan for sustainable tourism development of Koh Rong is based on a 99-year lease in perpetuity on the 78 sq km (30 sq mile) island granted to the company by the Cambodian government.

The unique lease means the island is under the control of a single ownership unlike anywhere else in Asia – and an especially attractive proposition to foreign investors of hotels, residential developments, marina and golf courses and other tourism infrastructure services.

“Since the project is balancing ecological protection with minimum carbon footprint, development will be targeting forward looking investors within the region and globally who share a vision on ecological development” said Mr. Simister.

Chairman & CEO of The Royal Group, Neak Oknha Dr. Kith Meng, one of Asia’s most prominent tycoons, said: “Royal Group is now continuing its contribution to Cambodia’s tourism growth with the vision for development of Koh Rong”.

“Koh Rong is our latest project aimed at lifting the economy by developing coastal tourism which, as Thailand has demonstrated, contributes enormously to overall tourism revenue for a country”.

“Tourism to Siem Reap Province is well developed with world famous Angkor Wat, but the potential of the country's beautiful coastline is the missing link in the overall development of Cambodia’s tourism.”

Former Royal Group Initiatives playing a key role in Cambodia’s development and growth have included bringing in ANZ Bank and upgrading the national rail infrastructure. Royal Group also controls MobiTel, Cambodia’s biggest mobile-phone operator.

Koh Rong a Chance to Invest in a Future Phuket or Koh Samui
Koh Rong is the largest of 22 islands in an archipelago off the coast known as the Indochina Riviera, close to Preak Sihanouk Province, Cambodia’s leading resort destination.

“The Koh Rong story is similar to that of Samui and Phuket 20 years ago,” said Mr. David Simister. It is one of the last undiscovered paradises in South-East Asia with the potential to become the next Asian Riviera.

“As such, it represents a chance to invest in a future Phuket before the air connections and initial wave of tourism drive land demand and prices. By getting in early, investors will benefit from having first preference on site selection and will be able to maximise value on their investments.”

“Development along the Cambodia coastline is just emerging. With the recent expansion of Sihanoukville International Airport, the area is well positioned to handle a growing tourism industry. Koh Rong offers an opportunity to capture Cambodia’s untapped potential.”

Hun Sen limits tribunal's remit, wants rights office shut

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/

via CAAI

Oct 27, 2010

Phnom Penh - Cambodia on Wednesday told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that the international war crimes court would only be allowed to prosecute four Khmer Rouge leaders currently in custody.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said the UN-backed court would not be allowed to try another five suspects currently under investigation.

The government previously said that trying more suspects for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge movement, responsible for an estimated 2 million deaths in the 1970s, could destabilize Cambodia.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also told Ban that he wanted the UN to close its local human rights office and to dismiss country director Christophe Peschoux, Khieu Kanharith said.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters that Peschoux should be sacked on the grounds that he was a 'mouthpiece' for the political opposition.

A UN spokesman was not available to comment on either subject.

Also on Wednesday police dispersed dozens of people facing eviction who had gathered on the roads on which Ban's motorcade was travelling.

Residents from the Boeung Kak lake area in central Phnom Penh had earlier submitted a petition to the UN requesting that Ban meet with them to discuss efforts to evict them from land many have lived on for decades.

The site was leased to a company linked to a senator from the ruling Cambodian People's Party. Hundreds of people have already been evicted, and thousands more have been told they will lose their homes.

Aimee Brown, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Phnom Penh, said Ban knew about requests to meet him, but said his office had not yet decided on whether he would do so.

'He's definitely aware that there are protestors, and he is aware of the petitions that have been received,' Brown said.

Land-grabbing and evictions are an issue in Cambodia, with tens of thousands of people thrown off their land in recent years as values rocketed. On Monday Human Rights Watch called on Ban to address the issue during his visit.

Ban arrived in Phnom Penh late Tuesday and was scheduled to visit the tribunal Wednesday. Earlier this year, the court convicted former Khmer Rouge security chief Comrade Duch of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The UN chief is scheduled to depart on Thursday for Vietnam, where he will attend a summit between the United Nations and the regional Association of South-East Asian Nations bloc. He will conclude his current Asian tour in China.

Cambodia rebuffs UN chief on Khmer Rouge trials

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center, and Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, smile while reviewing an honor guard at the Cambodian Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia will not allow the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal to prosecute former low-ranking officers of the genocidal regime because it would endanger national peace, the country's leader told the U.N. chief Wednesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's comments, made during a two-hour meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, were the government's latest obstruction of U.N. efforts to bring more Khmer Rouge leaders to justice.

Ban was visiting Cambodia as part of a four-country Asian tour.

The U.N.-assisted tribunal, which has a history of contentious relations with the Cambodian government, was a focus of Ban's trip to Cambodia. After meeting the prime minister, Ban headed to the tribunal to hold a town hall-style meeting with its staff.

The 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime was blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.

After 30 years and lengthy delays, the tribunal's first conviction came in July when the Khmer Rouge's chief jailer was sentenced to 19 years in prison, closing what was known as Case 001. Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Case 002 is expected to start next year against the four top surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, who are accused of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

International co-prosecutors at the tribunal have tried to launch a new case — 003 — against lower-ranking officers accused of murder, torture and other crimes. But they say progress has been blocked by political interference from Cambodian officials who oppose more prosecutions.

"Hun Sen has said clearly that there will be no case 003 allowed. We have to think about peace in Cambodia," Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters after the meeting with Ban.

Hun Sen has repeatedly said that bringing more Cambodians to trial could harm national peace and healing and that the nation needs to move on.

Critics accuse Hun Sen of trying to limit the tribunal's scope to prevent his political allies from being indicted. Hun Sen once served as a Khmer Rouge officer and many of his main allies are also former members of the group.

Ban started his Asia tour in Thailand and will also visit Vietnam and China.

AKP - Agent Kampuchea Press


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US’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Visit Cambodia Soon

Phnom Penh, October 26, 2010 AKP -- US Secretary of State H.E. Mrs. Hillary Rodam Clinton will pay an official visit to Cambodia on Nov.1 at the invitation of Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation H.E. Hor Namhong, according to a statement released Monday by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

During her visit in Cambodia, H.E. Mrs. Hillary R. Clinton will receive by His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni and hold official talks with Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen and H.E. Hor Namhong, the statement said.

H.E. Mrs. Hillary R. Clinton will visit Angkor Wat Temple and some ancient temples in Siem Reap province on Oct. 30-31 prior to an official visit in Phnom Penh Capital City.--AKP

(By Théng)

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DPM Men Sam An Meets Chinese Delegation

Phnom Penh, October 26, 2010 AKP -- Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister H.E. Mrs. Men Sam An met here yesterday with Chinese Women Delegation led by Mrs. Meng Shaoxi, deputy chief of Chinese Women Federation of Shanxi.

In the meeting, Mrs. Men Sam An warmly welcomed and thanked China's contribution in Cambodia’s development in all domains, particularly in building the office of the Council of Ministers “Friendship Building”, roads, bridges, irrigation networks and other infrastructures.

She also briefed the guests about Cambodian women association's endeavor to protect and preserve the women and children' honor as well as to avoid trafficking and violence.

In reply, Mrs. Meng Shaoxi praised Cambodia for its rapid development and voiced her support for both countries' cooperation, especially for the cooperation between Cambodian Women Association and Chinese Women Federation.--AKP

(By LIM Nary)

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Ministry of Information Opens Refresher Course on Photojournalism

Phnom Penh, October 26, 2010 AKP -- The Media Training Center of Information Ministry on 25 October opened a two-day

Photojournalism training course to 32 journalists under the chairmanship of Information Minister H.E. Khieu Kanharith.

The trainees were come from AKP and other information departments from 24 provinces and municipality across Cambodia.

Addressing the opening ceremony, H. E. Khieu Kanharith said that the aim of the training is to provide more knowledge on photojournalism to the journalists so as to help improve their works.--AKP

(By Chan Soratha)

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Cambodia to Announce Licensed Firms for Securities

Phnom Penh, October 26, 2010 AKP -- The Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) is scheduled to announce early next month the companies that get licenses as securities as securities firms and securities representatives for the upcoming Cambodia’s Stock Exchange, according to Chinese News Agency Xinhua.

“We have granted the licenses to the qualified companies for these services already,” Ming Bankosal, director general of SECC, which is the regulator of the upcoming stock market, said on Sunday, declining to disclose how many companies were granted the license.

“The names of the companies, which were granted the licenses for securities firms and securities representatives, will be officially released on November 2 by the Minister of Economy and Finance and SECC’s Chairman Keat Chhon,” he said.

Securities firms provide services such as understanding business, trading business and brokering business, and for securities representatives provide services as investment advisory firm and investment advisory representative.

In March, 22 companies, mostly commercial banks, had been short-listed for the licenses by SECC.

According to SECC’s prakas, edict, on the licensing of securities firms and securities representatives, to operate as securities underwriter, the firm must have minimum capital of 40 billion riel, or 9.46 million U.S. dollars. Securities dealer with the minimum capital of 25 billion riel, or 5.91 million U.S. dollars and broker requires 6 billion riel, or 1.41 million U.S. dollars.

And for an investment advisory firm, it needs a minimum of 400 million riel, or 94,600 U.S. dollars, while an investment advisory representative will be required to lodge a securities bond of 20 million riel, or 4,800 U.S. dollars with the National Bank of Cambodia.

The certain requirements such as human resources and professional experience are also a must for the license, said the prakas.

It’s learned that at least four banks have been granted the licenses. Those are OSK Bank of Malaysia, ACLEDA Bank, Canadia Bank and Tong Yang Securities of South Korea.

The Cambodian Securities Exchange is planned to launch by July next year after it has delayed two times already.--AKP

Flood danger stressed


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:02 Cameron Wells

A GREATER portion of Cambodia’s population is vulnerable to flooding than that of any other country in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a report assessing the impact of disasters.

The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2010, released yesterday at a conference in South Korea by the United Nations, cites databases indicating that 12.2 percent of Cambodia’s population is exposed to flooding, followed closely by Bangladesh with 12.1 percent. Vietnam was third with 3.9 percent.

In absolute terms, Cambodia was the fifth-most-affected country, with 1.7 million residents exposed to flooding. Bangladesh topped this list with 19.2 million, followed by India (15.8 million), China (3.9 million) and Vietnam (3.4 million).

The release of the report came as Cambodian officials said 17,648 families faced food shortages as a result of flooding that began on October 10.

Also yesterday, Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said the issues of disaster management and climate change would be “highest on the agenda of ASEAN” as leaders from the 10-member bloc prepared to meet in Hanoi this week.

“We are all suffering from the problems of climate irregularities,” Surin said in a briefing that was broadcast via videolink at the World Bank office in Phnom Penh. “It is now flooded in the dry season and drought in the rainy season, and people are not prepared.

A press release accompanying the UN report noted that it was the first regional assessment of disasters and their effects. “As a region highly prone to natural disasters with disproportionate impacts on human development, and facing new threats from climate change, the Asia-Pacific region has surprisingly lacked a comprehensive regional assessment of disasters,” the statement said.

The report said Cambodia recorded 30 natural disasters from 1980 to 2009, and that these had resulted in 1,969 deaths and affected 16 million people. Damage from these disasters cost US$518 million.

Francis Perez, country director in Cambodia for the international relief agency Oxfam, said yesterday that the report’s findings on the country’s vulnerability to flooding were sound. “A lot of Cambodians live near rivers or basins for their livelihood, and as such are vulnerable to flash floods,” he said. “[The figure] may even be more than that.”

Just 1.3 percent of Thailand’s population was at risk of flooding, and Perez said the difference came down to infrastructure. “There is not enough infrastructure to regulate water levels in Cambodia,” he said. “There are no flood gates, there are some dykes but they only protect Phnom Penh.”

Local officials said yesterday that recent flooding had resulted in at least six deaths by drowning.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE AND BUTH REAKSMEY KONGKEA

Court acquits two in brutal rape-murder


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

PURSAT provincial court yesterday cited insufficient evidence as the reason for acquitting two men in connection with the January 2009 rape and murder of two young girls whose bodies were found hanging from a tree near their homes in Krakor district.

Observers said the court ordered the immediate release of a 43-year-old man and his 23-year-old nephew, who had been detained since their arrest in March last year. The crime took place in Boeung Smuk village.

The bodies of the two girls – one of whom with both of her legs broken and her eyes gouged out, the other with a broken leg and neck – were found on January 6, the day they went missing.

Mary Katherine Olsen, a filmmaker who has documented the case and who attended yesterday’s verdict, said she was “very surprised” that the two men had been acquitted.

“So much important information has not been considered,” she said. “I heard a lot of convincing evidence from the victims’ families.”

She noted that the case against the men had hinged largely on witness testimony because no forensic evidence had been collected from the bodies, which were buried the day after they were found.

“There was no sperm, no samples, no fingerprints collected,” she said.

An Sopheak, the sister of one of the victims, said yesterday that she was “disappointed” with the court’s decision to release the two men.

“They said we don’t have enough evidence to accuse them, but we had witnesses,” she said.

Provincial court officials could not be reached for comment.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said it was common, especially in the provinces, for prosecutions in murder cases to falter because of a lack of evidence.

“Many cases, if they need evidence to prove the killing, our system is not good enough for that,” he said. “The government must pass a law on post-mortems and autopsy.”

He added that “more cases would be prosecuted if we had this law”.

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said 200 cases of rape had been reported to the organisation in the first nine months of the year, 176 of which involved victims younger than the age of 18. He said 12 of the cases had resulted in prosecutions, 170 cases were still under investigation, and 18 had been settled out of court.

Olsen said she had been shocked by the “brutality and violence” of the case in Pursat, and by how little attention it received from both officials and the general public.

“I was just devastated at the lack of attention this case received from all sectors of society,” she said. “They treated the case just like a dog got run over by a car.”

She said three other suspects had been “on the run” since January last year, and that she, along with rights workers, would try to “somehow convince authorities to keep investigating”.

Thai lawmakers delay border vote


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

THAILAND’S parliament discussed the country’s latest round of border negotiations with Cambodia yesterday, though a final vote of approval on the matter was delayed until next week, Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said.

Negotiations on border demarcation have been stalled since last year pending the Thai parliament’s approval of agreements of the bilateral Joint Border Committee. Bangkok has repeatedly delayed the parliamentary vote, most recently in August, prompting allegations of delay tactics from Cambodian officials.

“The agreed minutes of the JBC was tabled in parliament and was discussed. However, as there was not enough time, the meeting was adjourned,” Thani said. “The session will continue next week.”

At the previous three JBC and foreign minister meetings, Thailand and Cambodia agreed to undertake joint demining and demarcation projects along the border near Preah Vihear temple, and to redeploy troops in the area in a bid to ease tensions.

Senior minister Var Kimhong, the government’s top border negotiator, said he would wait to see Thailand approve the JBC agreements before moving forward with further talks.

“I will wait to see until the approval is done,” Var Kimhong said. “They have played games like this before.”

Also yesterday, the Bangkok Post reported that Thai fugitive and antigovernment activist Arisman Pongruengrong had applied for a Cambodian visa at a consulate in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province. Citing “informed sources”, the newspaper said Arisman was hiding in Siem Reap province and had hired someone to file the visa application on his behalf.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reportedly said he had already talked to Prime Minister Hun Sen about Arisman’s extradition.

“We have enough information and evidence that Mr Arisman is in Cambodia,” Abhisit said, according to the Bangkok Post. “The issue of Mr Arisman’s extradition will not create conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.”

Cambodian officials, however, have denied repeated reports in the Thai media that Arisman has taken refuge in the Kingdom. “We have already rejected the reports that Arisman is in Cambodia,” Koy Kuong said yesterday, and added that he had received no information about the Red Shirt leader’s alleged visa application.

Arisman faces terrorism charges at home in Thailand – which carry a maximum penalty of death – in connection with antigovernment protests earlier this year that left 90 people dead and more than 2,000 injured after Red Shirt activists clashed with soldiers and police.

Arisman was cornered in a Bangkok hotel by Thai security forces during protests in April, but he escaped in dramatic fashion by lowering himself by rope out of a third-storey window and fleeing to safety.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

One more flooding death confirmed


Photo by: Will Baxter
A man walks through floodwaters earlier this month in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:02 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

A SCHOOLGIRL in Oddar Meanchey province has been confirmed dead, officials said yesterday, as floodwaters continued to rise in Banteay Meanchey province and more than 17,000 people nationwide were said to face shortages of food.

Keo Vy, director of the National Committee for Disaster Management, said yesterday that the girl was swept away by floods on October 15.

“She was on her way home from school in the morning, when the floods came and swept her away into deeper waters,” he said.

The confirmation of the girl’s death brought the official toll from recent flooding to six: two in Oddar Meanchey, one each in Siem Reap, Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Chhnang provinces, and one in Phnom Penh.

The unofficial death toll now stands at nine, with three other deaths reported by police: one more each in Kampong Chhnang and Phnom Penh, and one in Kandal province.

“So far we don’t have specific numbers of people who have been affected by the floods,” he said. “We think that although there are less people affected by the floods than Typhoon Ketsana last year, it has really affected Cambodia’s economy and national infrastructure. We are still updating our report before it is finalised.”

He said initial estimates indicated that 17,468 families faced food shortages across the country, 86 houses had collapsed and more than 30,000 had been flooded.

NCDM Vice President Nhim Vanda said last week that “preliminary estimations” indicated that “rains and floods may cost almost half of the costs of last year’s Typhoon Ketsana disaster in Cambodia”, in which 43 people were killed and US$132 million worth of damage was caused.

In Banteay Meanchey, provincial cabinet director Om Chantha said yesterday that water levels in flooded areas had increased by roughly 10 centimetres due to heavy rainfall overnight in Sisophon and Mongkul Borei districts, where more than 900 families had been forced to move from their homes to the sides of roads and to local pagodas.

“We are very worried about these people.... Some of them are now faced with diseases and lack of food,” he said. “I would like to appeal to all humanitarians and NGOs to bring food, medical care and other supplies for them.”

Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said floods at the provincial prison had receded only slightly, and that many of the 850 prisoners housed there were still sleeping on tables to avoid water.

Nov Saroeun, chief of the drainage and pumping unit at the Phnom Penh Municipal Public Works and Transport Department, said the recent floods, which began on October 10, had provided a good test for the capital’s drainage system.

“I think the floods have provided us with a lesson learned and good experience in preparing and preventing floods in our cities,” he said. “We will start to improve our drains and pumping systems in the near future.”

He said flooding in Phnom Penh was exacerbated by litter clogging up drains, and that Dangkor district – where 1,021 families fled their homes last week but have since returned – was hit especially hard because “there were no more drains or pumping systems constructed in these areas”.

“We will start to improve our drains and pumping systems in the near future,” he added.

Ban arrives in Cambodia


Photo by: Sovan Philong
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrives at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday evening for a two-day visit.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea and Cheang Sokha

UNITED Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon touched down in Cambodia yesterday evening for a two-day visit amid calls to raise local rights issues in talks with government officials.

During his time in Cambodia – part of a regional tour that also included Thailand, Vietnam and China – Ban is set to hold official talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and pay a courtesy call to King Norodom Sihamoni.

Ban is to be welcomed at a ceremony at the prime minister’s new offices near the Council of Ministers this morning, followed by a visit to the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, where he will meet and talk with court staff members.

He will depart for Vietnam tomorrow after visits to the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, described Ban’s visit as a “high-profile” honour for Cambodia, one that cemented the country’s sovereign status and its “equal partnership” with the UN.

But Ban’s arrival comes amid requests from local and international groups that he publicly address controversial human rights issues during his visit.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch said Cambodia had “continue[d] its precipitous decline” and called on Ban to address the country’s “deeply entrenched impunity”.

In an open letter to the UN head, it noted the lack of judicial independence – illustrated by the 10-year jail term handed down against opposition leader Sam Rainsy last month – and land-grabbing as key issues that should be raised with the government.

HRW’s letter also pressed him to convey concerns about political interference at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, as well as the “arbitrary arrest and detention” of alleged drug users, sex workers and homeless people.

When contacted yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong dismissed the letter from HRW.

“I have not seen the report, but previously we have never given any value to this organisation,” he said.

The visit has also prompted a series of petitions from local groups, including the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and representatives of Phnom Penh residents facing eviction.

Yesterday, police prevented the Cambodian Confederation of Unions from holding a rally ahead of Ban’s arrival, according to group President Rong Chhun.

He said the protest, set to take place outside the old National Assembly building, had to be cancelled after Sothearos Boulevard was blocked to traffic and police were deployed.

Rong Chhun said the group will now try to meet with Ban at some point during his visit in order to hand him a petition containing allegations of breaches of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement and criticisms of a border treaty signed with Vietnam in 2005.

“We think that it is a rare occurrence and our poor country is lucky that Excellency Ban Ki-moon will be present, so we must raise all our problems with him so that he can help intervene over the abuse of the Constitution,” he said.

Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth said the rally was blocked because the CCU had not been granted the necessary permission.

“If he has permission to gather, I will defend him, but if he does not have [permission] I will not allow it,” he said. He also said he would not allow the CCU to “disturb” Ban Ki-moon’s visit, recommending that the petition instead be delivered to the local UN office.

Phay Siphan said it was unnecessary for people to hand petitions to the secretary general, since Cambodia already had the necessary mechanisms to resolve local concerns. The Cambodian Constitution also prevented any outside power from “put[ting] their noses” into the country’s affairs, he said.

He added that the government respected free speech rights. “Everyone has the right to challenge with a high-ranking international official,” he said, so long as they “respect the rule of law”.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO

Garment sector may see additional unrest


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear and James O’Toole

A LOCAL union at the centre of strikes last month in the garment industry threatened yesterday to renew work stoppages if the cases of suspended union representatives were not resolved by the end of the month.

Ek Sopheakdey, the secretary general of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, said the CCAWDU had informed the government and industry representatives of the plan in a bid to aid union representatives suspended pending court rulings on the legality of last month’s strikes.

“We will do the strikes in front of stores and clothing shops, and we will announce to the world that garment factories in Cambodia abuse workers’ rights,” Ek Sopheakdey said.

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We will announce to the world that garment factories in Cambodia abuse workers’ rights.

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Officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Ek Sopheakdey added, had requested that CCAWDU give them more time to resolve the dispute before holding strikes.

Phin Sophea, a union representative at the River Rich garment factory in Kandal province, said 34 representatives at the site had met last week with officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs, who asked them to sign a three-point pledge in exchange for their return to work.

The three points, Phin Sophea said, called for workers to respect company regulations, to respect the Kingdom’s Labour Law and to stop inciting illegal strikes.

“We could not accept this last point in the agreement because if we agree, it seems like we’ve accepted that what we did was illegal,” Phin Sophea said.

Ket Chhoeun, a member of the Committee for the Settlement of Strikes and Demonstrations at the Ministry of Social Affairs who met with the River Rich workers, declined to comment yesterday.

A CCAWDU report released on Friday of last week said there were 94 union representatives who remained suspended in connection with last month’s strikes.

A total of 683 workers were dismissed after they protested the suspensions and then failed to heed a court order asking them to return to work within 48 hours, the CCAWDU said.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said renewed legal action was “definitely on the table” in the event of a new round of strikes. He urged workers not to get involved, citing the negative impact a renewed work stoppage would have on the industry.

“If it comes around the second time, it won’t be simply about reputation – buyers will start to reconsider their operations ... because this would be deemed as a sign of unrest, and more importantly, it would be a sign that even with the government’s attempts at intervention, the unions don’t respect the law,” Loo said.

Tuomo Poutiainen, the chief technical adviser for the International Labour Organisation’s Better Factories Cambodia programme, said new work stoppages “wouldn’t be very helpful” as the parties tried to resolve their disagreements.

“It’s necessary that both sides will take a bit of a step back and try to find those positive steps,” Poutiainen said.

Loo said GMAC figures indicated that just 67 union representatives remained suspended in relation to last month’s strikes, and that 358 had been dismissed.

Temple families resist relocation


Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A woman cooks outside her home in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district in February. Her home is one of hundreds that have been marked for removal.

via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:01 Rann Reuy

MORE than 250 families in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district yesterday rebuffed entreaties from officials to relocate to make way for UNESCO and Preah Vihear National Authority offices.

A notice from the authority dated October 18 said 70 families from Kantuot commune’s Svay Chrum village would need to move by Saturday, with the remaining families expected to clear out not long after.

The families have been offered 2 million riels (US$475) in compensation as well as 50-by-100-metre plots of land in Thamacheat Samdech Techo Village (Samdech Techo Nature Village). The same village has taken in hundreds of other families that have been moved to make way for development at Preah Vihear temple, which was enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.

Residents said yesterday that they had been living on their land since 2000, and that they had previously been promised by local officials that they would never be evicted.

“Samdech Techo village has no market. It is far, it has a dirty road, and the land is small,” said 45-year-old Sao Yat.

Another resident, 43-year-old Keo Nith, said she did not want to part with her 5 hectares of rice fields, which she described as productive.

“They might control this area,” she said of the PVNA and UNESCO officials, “but we are asking to live here.”

Provincial officials yesterday visited the site and attempted to negotiate with the residents, who responded by saying they would not move.
Long Sovann, the deputy provincial governor, said the decision to kick them out had come from higher than the provincial level.

“This is the national principle. It is not the provincial decision,” he said.

He then referred further questions to PVNA General Director Hang Soth, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Kingdom improves in world graft survey


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:01 Sebastian Strangio

CAMBODIA has made slight improvement in an international corruption survey, but remains one of the most graft-ridden countries in Southeast Asia – in spite of recent government efforts to curb corrupt practices.

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2010, released yesterday, ranked Cambodia 154th out of 178 countries in a survey of perceived public-sector corruption, a marginal betterment of last year’s 158 ranking.

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We should look at the concrete actions taken by the government.... Nothing has changed.

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Though the country continued its slow climb in the ranking since dipping to 166th in 2007, it still came in well behind regional neighbours Vietnam, which was ranked 116th, Indonesia (110th) and Thailand (78th).

The Kingdom was rated on par with neighbouring Laos and scored well ahead of military-ruled Myanmar, which TI said was tied with Afghanistan for the worst score in the world.

This year’s index drew from 13 different expert and business surveys conducted between January 2009 and September 2010. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore were seen as having the world’s cleanest governments, while Somalia came in at the bottom of the ranking.

The release of the TI index follows recent government promises to root out graft and increase public-sector transparency in Cambodia.

In April, the National Assembly passed the Kingdom’s long-awaited Anticorruption Law. By September, the National Anticorruption Commission announced that it had established a five-year plan to fight corruption and was in the process of investigating 10 graft complaints against government officials.

NAC staff have also stated that up to 100,000 government workers will be required to disclose their assets to anti-graft investigators.

The new bodies, however, have attracted scepticism.

Earlier this month, international watchdog Global Witness said the government’s anti-graft drive was little more than “reformist rhetoric” designed to pacify international donors.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the situation had clearly not improved.

“[The ranking] is a perception only,” he said. “But we should look at the concrete actions taken by the government. If we look at the political signs, nothing has changed.”

He added that the government’s effort to combat corruption had focused on low-level officials, such as policemen, but ignored high-ranking officials who are embezzling state assets on a large scale.

NAC spokesman Keo Remy could not be reached for comment yesterday, while Om Yentieng, the body’s chairman, said he did not have time to answer questions. But Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, dismissed the relatively low ranking awarded in TI’s index.

“I don’t pay attention that much. It’s not accurate,” he said, adding that it was impossible to compare countries of differing sizes, cultures and economic systems.

Phay Siphan said the new anticorruption bodies demonstrated the government’s commitment to fight graft in partnership with civil society and the Cambodian people.

“Everybody in Cambodia is talking louder against corruption,” he added.

ASEAN gears up for summit


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:01 James O'Toole

LEADERS from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will descend on Hanoi this week for the 17th ASEAN summit, where they will attempt to move past their political differences in order to strengthen regional ties.

Prime Minister Hun Sen will depart for the summit tomorrow, leading a delegation that will join officials from Russia, the United States and other countries before returning to the Kingdom on Saturday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.

In a videoconference with regional journalists and diplomats yesterday, ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said talks in Hanoi would focus on improving inter-regional connectivity as the group pursues its goal of “ASEAN Community by 2015”.

“ASEAN needs to be connected. It doesn’t make sense that shipping cargo from Bangkok to Cebu would cost more than Bangkok to Los Angeles,” Surin said.

At the previous ASEAN summit – in Hanoi in April – leaders proposed the creation of an ASEAN infrastructure fund to support the construction of transportation and communications links in the region.

Surin said yesterday that the bloc was also considering a policy of allowing skilled workers – including doctors, engineers and accountants – to move freely across regional borders.

“Because of the diversity of our economic development, it will be very difficult,” Surin said.

“We can’t say that we want [all] people to move freely within ASEAN like in Europe.”

As is usual at ASEAN meetings, however, concerns about global pariah Myanmar threaten to overshadow the talks.

Myanmar will hold its first elections in two decades next month, though heavy voting restrictions have led many to denounce the polls as a sham aimed only at preserving military rule.

Surin said ASEAN hoped to see the elections serve as “a mechanism of true national reconciliation” that would make Yangon “more confident in engaging with the world”.

“We are all waiting for the election with keen interest bordering on anxiety,” he said.

Mother, daughter hacked to death


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:01 Chhay Channyda

POLICE in Kampong Chhnang province said yesterday that an investigation had been launched into the brutal murder of a mother and daughter in Samaki Meanchey district’s Peam commune.

Choem Bunthoeun, provincial penal police chief, said 69-year-old Chhoeng Sorn and her 43-year-old daughter, Chor Suth, were killed while cutting firewood near their home on Monday.

“It is a cruel murder and police are investigating,” he said before declining to comment further because of the ongoing investigation.

Heng Touch, a neighbour, said their bodies appeared to have been attacked with an axe.

“The mother was chopped on her head badly and one of her child’s arms was cut off,” he said, and added that the women died “in a pool of blood”.

Police said yesterday that they were still searching for suspects involved in multiple homicides in Phnom Penh and Kandal province this month.

Three members of one family were killed in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on Tuesday of last week, and three women were killed in Kandal province’s Takhmao town on October 9.

Iv Chamroeun, Kandal provincial police chief, said searching for murder suspects sometimes “seems like finding a needle in the sea”, but that “police will find the suspects”.

Police Blotter: 27 Oct 2010


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:00 Phak Seangly

Police arrest thieves at post-robbery singalong
Six men have been arrested on suspicion of robbing a taxi driver at gunpoint before heading to a house to sing karaoke in Takeo province on Sunday. Police said the victim’s taxi had broken down when the gang of six hoodlums fired several shots into the air. They then stole roughly US$15 from the driver before heading to the house to belt out some tunes. However, police apprehended them before they could sing a single note, and all six confessed to the robbery.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Beer-loving teens steal pump from governor
Battambang provincial police have arrested three teens on suspicion of stealing a water drainage pump from the Sampov Loun district governor. Police said a total of four suspects sold the machine for 500 Thai baht (US$16), and police arrested three of them after the sale was completed. They confessed, but claimed they had no choice because they needed money for beer. In addition, they noted that this was the second robbery they had committed. Police are on the hunt for the remaining suspect.
KOH SANTEPHEAP

Former monk hangs himself in old pagoda
A former monk who suffered from a mental illness hanged himself at his old pagoda in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district on Monday. Police said the 34-year-old man, who had left the monkhood a month earlier, was found hanging with a copper wire from a water drum inside the pagoda. The pagoda’s chief monk said the man left the monkhood to “have his mental illness cured”. Police concluded the death was suicide.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Sloshed singers smash motorbikes into truck
Three men died instantly when two drunken motorbike drivers crashed into a lorry after a karaoke session in Pursat province’s Bakan district on Saturday. Witnesses reported that the drunken drivers had just finished up at a local karaoke spot when they hopped on their bikes and began driving “like the wind”. They then crashed into a truck coming in the opposite direction, killing themselves and the truck driver instantly.
RASMEY KAMPUCHEA

Man accused of raping 13-year-old sweetheart
Police in Battambang town on Saturday detained a 20-year-old man accused of raping his 13-year-old sweetheart the night before. According to police, the man and the girl went to a local nightclub for an evening of dancing when he invited her back to his house. They reportedly had sex twice, and he was arrested the following morning. The girl’s parents sued the suspect, demanding $4,000, but the suspect claimed that they “loved one another”.
KAMPUCHEA THMEY

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief


via CAAI

Fire destroys 11 homes

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:00 Phak Seangly

A FIRE in Pursat province’s Bakan district has destroyed 11 homes, six shops and a car, causing around US$200,000 worth of damage, an official said yesterday. District police chief Pen Tung said the blaze started on Sunday after a shrine caught fire in a house that doubled as a grocery and gas store at Svay Daunkeo market. “Only a 16-year-old girl was at the house when the fire began at about 1:30pm. She dared not shout for help until the fire became bigger and bigger,” he said.

CPP-aligned students slam opposition party

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:00 Vong Sokheng

IN statements broadcast on the Cambodia Television Network yesterday, three youth associations aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party slammed Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers for sending a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen alleging that the government had violated the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement. Chan Sovuth, president of the Democratic Students’ Intellectual Federation, said the statements condemned “the political nature of the opposition that is serving the interests of Thai extremists who have encroached on Cambodian sovereignty and attempted to take the Preah Vihear temple for their own”.

NPLs fall amid signs of a strong economy


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

A STRENGTHENING domestic economy has driven down the rate of non-performing loans at Cambodia’s microfinance institutions by a fifth at the end of September, compared to the end of June, according to industry statistics obtained yesterday.

Figures from the Cambodian Microfinance Association revealed that Cambodia’s non-performing loans, defined as loans in default for more than three months, had declined to $11.5 million, or 1.9 percent of overall, from 2.4 percent worth $12.8 million at the end of the second quarter.

Association Chairman Chea Phalarin pointed to improvement in the economy as a prime driver behind the growth of profits and stronger loan performance among the Kingdom’s 23 microfinance institutions.

“With a better business environment, more customers are coming for loans,” he said. Chea Phalarin is also the general manager of Amret, the Kingdom’s second-largest MFI.

Thaneakea Phum Cambodia MFI was one institute that reported a major decrease in its bad loans. It recorded an NPL rate of 2.6 percent at the end of the quarter, worth $510,784, down from 4.82 percent at the end of the second quarter.

“The drop came as we wrote off 1.3 percent, or about $280,000, of the bad loans,” said the firm’s General Manager Chuon Sophal yesterday.
“We have also stepped up our collection efforts.”

Thaneakea Phum did a thorough assessment of its clients and aimed to have a bad loan rate of below 2 percent at the end of the year, he said. The firm earned a net profit of $600,000 over the first nine months.

Intean Poalroath Rong-roeurng saw improvement and showed a non-performing loan rate of zero by the end of September. It had recorded a NPL rate of 7.44 percent of its portfolio in April, worth $279,000. The firm’s General Manager Hort Bun Song declined to comment on the drop yesterday.

Samic MFI reported a stable non-performing loan rate at 4.9 percent, or $261,765 of its total portfolio, at the end of September. The firm’s General Manager King Kap Kaylan said he hoped the rate would decline in the last quarter as the economy is recovering.

The Kingdom’s MFIs had outstanding loans totalling US$588 million for the July to September quarter, an 11 percent increase on $529 million for the previous quarter, the figures showed.

The figures include data from 23 MFIs.

Roof-tile factory ready to begin production


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

KHAOU Chuly Group planned to begin producing up to 50,000 roof tiles a day in Cambodia next month, aiming to out-compete imports from abroad, president Khaou Phallaboth said yesterday.

Much of the tiles used in Cambodia come from neighbouring nations such as Thailand and Vietnam, but Khaou Phallaboth said he was optimistic about the US$5 million project’s potential to gain domestic market share.

“We can do it,” he said. “We have ability to produce roof tiles in our country, and I hope that it will be able to reduce imports of roof tiles from abroad.”

Construction on the factory in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district was complete, and machinery was being installed ahead of the start of production, he said.

“We decided to produce roof tiles here because we strongly believe the Cambodian economy is getting better,” he said.

Many investors were interested in coming to the Kingdom – particularly from China, Vietnam and Korea, he said.

With production planned to encompass up to 50,000 tiles every day, he said the rate of $0.30 per tile was similar to what is presently charged for imports, which average $0.35.

The Khaou Chuly Group recognised that the standard of quality of the Cambodian-produced products must be able to compete with imports in order to gain market share.

Cambodian governmental authorities currently do not release separate statistics for roof-tile imports.

Cambodian developers said they were eager to use locally-produced products – provided the goods were made at an acceptable quality level.

“We welcome Khmer production,” said Or Chan Kosal, development project site manager at Grand Phnom Penh International City.

“We will consider using locally produced roof tiles for our projects."

Ten young movie directors chosen for film festival


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:00 Ou Mom

TEN high school filmmakers have been chosen as Cambodian youth ambassadors to compete in the Asia International Children’s Film Contest in Japan this December.

Their three-minute movies were chosen from among entries by 60 secondary school students in Phnom Penh and Kandal province, with the screening to determine the finalists held at the Cambodia Japanese Cooperation Centre at the weekend.

Family love proved a popular topic among many students.

One winner, 16-year-old Chum Buchda from Hun Sen Serey Pheap High School in Kandal province, said her entry was the first film she had ever made.

“Since I was taught how to use the camera on the first day, I spent only one day filming my short story, which took about a week to design,” she said of her entry.

Her film, titled My Wonderful Mother, was shot using family and friends as actors, with a camera donated by the Japanese Embassy.

“Most mothers around the world love their children so I wanted to show how children should be grateful and repay their mother’s kindness by studying hard,” she said.

Another winner, Heng Sang, entered a short film called A Good Son, with the message of using parents and money wisely for study.

Pheoung Sakona, secretary of state from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, said the films could help other Asian neighbours understand more about Cambodian society and culture.

“What we have seen are students’ intelligence in finding out ideas and topics about families living in today’s society.”

Kingdom narrowly misses Suzuki Cup qualfier spot


via CAAI

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

It was a tragic case of a slip between the cup and the lip for Cambodia as the Philippines and hosts Laos shut the Kingdom out of the Suzuki Cup qualifiers at the National Sports Complex in Vientiane in a three-way tie on better goal difference to grab the two slots on offer for the final round of the competition in December.

Cambodia’s sights were clearly set on Laos after a fighting goal-less draw against the Philippines left both sides level on five points each.

But the hosts, well aware of their target, reached it with gusto against tail-enders Timor-Leste, thrashing the novices 6-1 to ensure that they would send Cambodia packing, though only by a nose.

The Kingdom’s silent wish for an upset of sorts gradually turned into despair with every goal Laos struck.

There were murmurs of discontent in Cambodian football circles that these two fixtures should have been played simultaneously for the sake of fairness and to totally eliminate a possibility of a manipulative element.

A team official who wished not to be named said no one was doubting the integrity of the results, but that fair play in circumstances like these demanded that the two matches be played at the same time, as is the practice in other parts of the world.

The host’s near-perfect finish catapulted them to the top of the group ahead of the Philippines.

Laos will now join Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia in Group A, while the Philippines enter Group B alongside Vietnam, Singapore and Myanmar.

Cambodia produced a stout-hearted performance to pull off a goalless draw against the Philippines’ formidable force, an effort that kept their qualification chances alive – though only by a long shot.

The Philippines, ironically, edged out by Cambodia two years ago on a quirky ‘more goals scored’ rule when both had a plus-one goal difference, had their sweet revenge this time.

Carrying a healthy plus-five into the game, the goal-less draw suited their plans to perfection..

“They threw everything they had including the kitchen sink”, said Philipine head coach Simon McMenemy after the match.

“We showed that we will not go down without a fight, and that is the quality we will bring it to the final round”, the coach said, putting all rivals on a notice.

Given the significance of the contest, both sides showed aggressive intent in abundant measure.

Cambodia had several near misses. Midfielder Sun Sophana’s free kick was tipped over in the nick of time.

Striker Keo Sokgnon drove straight to the post from the left edge of the box.

A Sun Sophana shot came to grief on the cross bar midway through the first half.

On several breakaways, the trio of Ian Araneta, Philip Younghusband and his brother James were constant threats in the box.

“We played well even though we couldn’t win,” was Cambodian head coach Lee Tae Hoon’s philosophical line. “It is terribly disappointing we did not qualify, but we will develop these players for the next competition,” the South Korean said.

Lee made several adjustments throughout the game, shifting emphasis to the defence and reinforcing the back line.

The tactic paid rich dividends as a supportive defence helped Ouk Mic to a great degree, especially in the second half.

The stopper produced another bold show to thwart Filipino strikers time and again.