Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Army: Indonesian observers not wanted


Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha

via CAAI

Published: 23/03/2011 at 05:10 PM
Online news: Local News

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and commanders of all the armed forces have resolved not to allow Indonesian observers to enter the 4.6 square kilometre dispute area on the Thai-Cambodian border, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday.

Gen Prayuth said the top brass wanted the Thai-Cambodian conflict to be solved by bilateral negotiations between the two countries, without outside involvement.

He said the army had made a proposal to Cambodia through the Foreign Ministry that if there were to be joint checkpoints in the disputed area, then a special centre should be set up to coordinate their operation.

The coordination centre must be manned by Thai and Cambodian soldiers only. It was not necessary to have Indonesian observers.

If Cambodia insisted on having Indonesian observers, they should be allowed to perform their duty only outside the disputed area, Gen Prayuth said.

"Why do they want to enter the disputed area? It's not safe there. The question is, if Indonesian observers come, will they be able to order Cambodian soldiers not to violate the Memorandum of Understanding?" he said.

The army chief was firm in his stand that the Thai-Cambodian conflict over the ancient Preah Vihear temple area was a matter to be solved by Thailand and Cambodia, and that Indonesia or any other third country should not be involved.

"Thailand and Cambodia, can reach a settlement through negotiations, especially between the soldiers," he said.

Gen Prayuth reaffirmed the Thai top brass would not attend the General Border Committee (GBC) meeting in Indonesia on April 7-8.

"The 8th GBC was initially to be hosted by Cambodia. If Cambodia cannot host the meeting, we would offer to host it in Thailand. We are contacting Gen Tea Banh, the Cambodian defence minister, over this matter," he said.

Asked what would happen if Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen insisted on not holding bilateral talks, he said: "If the meeting cannot be held, it will not be held."

Talks must be bilateral and foreigners should not interfere, Gen Prayuth said.

Regarding the map to be used in talks to settle the border conflict, Gen Prayuth said Thailand stands firm on using the 1:50,000 map, not the 1:200,000.

"Fighting will not bring anything good, only losses. Problems must be solved through negotiations," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh has submitted a petition seeking a royal pardon on behaldfof Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkwamkid and his personal secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon.

Mr Thani said the petition, signed by Mr Veera and Ms Ratree, was submitted through the Cambodian Foreign Ministry on March 14.

The petition had been forwarded to the proper agency and was being considered, he said.
Detained yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid

Asked Mr Veera's reported illness, Mr Thani said the Thai embassy reported that his condition had improved.

Asked if a change of government after the general election would affect the petition for a royal pardon, Mr Thani said he did not think so.

No matter what the politics may be, the Foreign Ministry is duty-bound to help Thai people in trouble, he said.

Mr Thani had no idea how long the pardon process would take.

Mr Veera and Ms Ratree were among the seven Thais arrested by Cambodian soldiers on Dec 29 for illegal entry.

The five other Thais were sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to nine months in jail for illegal entry. They were freed after the remaining eight months in jail was suspended by the court.

The pair was additionally charged with spying. Mr Veera was sentenced to eight years in jail and Ms Ratree six years in jail.

Did you

U.S wants joint meeting with Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos on search for U.S remains

via CAAI

March 23, 2011

The United States wants a meeting together with Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos to speed up searching for the remains of American soldiers missing in the Vietnam War, said Ann Mills Griffiths, head of the National League of POW-MIA Families, on Wednesday.

She made the suggestion during a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and she also thanked Cambodia for helping the U. S search for American soldiers' remains in Cambodia, the spokesman for the Prime Minister, Eang Sophalleth, told reporters after the meeting.

Meanwhile, the premier reiterated that Cambodia will cooperate actively on this issue.

Gen. Pol Saroeun, commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), has also urged the U.S to speed up search as people who have known this issue are very old now.

According to the U.S. POW/MIA (Prisoner of War/Missing in Action) Office, at the end of the Vietnam War, there were 81 U.S. personnel missing in Cambodia.

Cambodia has also allowed Vietnam to search the remains of its troops who had lost their lives in the country.

Source: Xinhua

Former sex slave turned activist to speak at MTSU

http://www.wrcbtv.com/

via CAAI

Associated Press - March 23, 2011

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) - Somaly Mam, an internationally acclaimed anti-human trafficking activist, is going to be this year's keynote speaker at the Middle Tennessee State University Women's and Gender Studies Program's Interdisciplinary Conference.

Born into extreme poverty in Cambodia, Mam was sold into slavery as a child and forced to work in a brothel. She was tortured and raped daily, and finally escaped from the life after her best friend was murdered.

She started the Somaly Mam Foundation in 2007 to end human trafficking. Mam has won numerous awards for her work and was named of the 100 Most Influential People of 2009 by Time magazine.

She will be speaking at 3:15 p.m. Friday in the Tom H. Jackson Building. The event with Mam is free and open to the public.

Improving Rural Sanitation and Hygiene in Rural Cambodia


via CAAI

Phnom Penh, March 23, 2011 AKP – When the world community was celebrating the World Water Day, the Ministry of Rural Development and Plan International Cambodia on Mar. 22 launched the Cambodia Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Improvement Program funded by the Global Sanitation Fund at Cambodiana Hotel, Phnom Penh, under the chairmanship of H.E. Try Meng, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Rural Development.

The 5-year sanitation and hygiene improvement programme of US$5 million will expand the collaboration between Plan International Cambodia and the Ministry of Rural Development in a manner that will significantly contribute to addressing deprived basic sanitation among 200,000 rural Cambodian households.

“The living standard of our people has been remarkably improving with the decline of poverty rate from 35 percent in 2004 to 27.2 percent in 2010; however, the number of households who invests in their latrine remains low,” addressed H.E. Try Meng to approximately 100 participants in the launch, adding that to overcome this, there is a need to bring about positive behavior change among the rural Cambodian households. The change of people’s behavior to stop open defecation demands their personal commitment that will walk hand-in-hand with the collective effort by the Ministry of Rural Development, local authorities and partner organizations. In so doing, we will be able to achieve the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and the National Policy for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation by 2025.

“The lack and/or poor sanitation facilities and personal hygiene practices are major causes of diarrhoea death. Diarrhoea contributes to about 17 percent death for the Children U5 Mortality Rate. As a child centred organization, we are therefore concerned that children die before reaching their fifth birthday and even the first birthday. I am sure this is also a concern of many organizations and institutions as well as individuals in Cambodia. The Global Sanitation Fund programme is a fundamental force to bring about the realisation of the very basic children, especially the right to survival,” said Plan International Cambodia’s Country Director Supriyanto, continuing that the programme will be implemented in five provinces across Cambodia where basic sanitation is most challenging.

According to Barry Jackson, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council’s Programme Manager for the Global Sanitation Fund, Cambodia is a prime place for the GSF to add value. Recent work by the government and national and international non-governmental organizations, for example, have helped encourage some Cambodians to move from open defecation to consistent use of latrines. The GSF will build upon these successes by providing additional funding that supports efforts to raise awareness of sanitation and hygiene practices and to change individual behaviours. –AKP

By MOM Chan Dara Soleil

Join Habitat for Humanity in Cambodia

http://www.issaquahpress.com/

via CAAI

March 22, 2011

By Staff

Help build houses in Cambodia alongside Habitat for Humanity of East King County employees.

Emily Fortman, director of family services, and bookkeeper Kathy Davis plan to lead 12 adventurers on a Global Village trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, from June 10-18.

Global Village trips consist of volunteers and a local family working side by side. The family then lives in the home.

In addition to the project, volunteers can experience authentic Cambodian meals and cultural activities.

Volunteers age 16 and older can apply for the slots. Contact Fortman at efortman@habitatekc.org  or 869-6007 to learn more. Because space is limited, participants should make reservations as soon as possible.

Since Habitat for Humanity International registered a branch office in Cambodia in January 2003, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia has built more than 1,000 homes and served more than 3,000 families through housing and community development programs in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kandal and Battambang.

Cambodian government to investigate orphanages after UN concern

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/

via CAAI

Mar 23, 2011

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian government has started inspecting hundreds of orphanages after the UN children's agency UNICEF said it was worried children were at risk, in part from 'volunteer tourism.'

The Cambodia Daily newspaper reported Wednesday that a spokesman for the Ministry of Social Affairs had confirmed action commenced out of concern for children at orphanages.

'We are conducting the inspections because we don't know how the children are treated,' said spokesman Lim El Djurado, adding that those orphanages which fell short would be closed.

Earlier this week UNICEF said there were now 269 orphanages in Cambodia, almost double the number in 2005. The number of orphans had also risen to nearly 12,000 from 5,751 over the same period.

But nearly three-quarters of 'orphans' still had at least one surviving parent, which raised questions as to why so many children were being institutionalized.

UNICEF country head Richard Bridle told the German Press Agency dpa that just 21 orphanages were state-funded. The rest were predominantly 'overseas funded and faith-based.'

'Overseas donors are the main funders of residential care,' Bridle said. 'Many residential care centres have begun to turn to tourism to attract funders, and in doing so, are putting children at risk.'

Bridle said that so-called volunteer tourism, where foreign nationals help out at orphanages for a few days or weeks at a time during their travels, was problematic.

'Even with the best intentions, tourists and volunteers, who make significant contributions towards orphanages, are funding a system that is contributing to the separation of children from their families,' he said.

International studies have shown that care by a parent is far preferable to institutional care, and is also much cheaper.

Bridle said putting children in care 'should be a last resort.'

Rights organizations have long been concerned that some orphanages are simply thinly disguised businesses, allowing unscrupulous people to earn money from children.

Last week, the US special advisor for children's issues, Susan Jacobs, was in Cambodia to research whether the country's regulations were sufficiently stringent to allow inter-country adoptions to resume.

The US was among a number of Western nations that banned adoptions from Cambodia in 2001 after compelling evidence emerged that some children were being trafficked and sold to foreign parents.

Cambodia is looking to resume international adoptions in April under a new law that it says will accord with the Hague Adoption Convention.

Prawit rejects GBC meeting in Indonesia


Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha greets a boy as he presides over the opening ceremony of two 20-floor condominiums in the background built for families of soldiers. The 2.1-billionbaht residence is located in the compound of an old military prison at the 11th Military Circle in Bangkok’s Kiakkai area. WASSANANANUAM

via CAAI


Defence minister wants bilateral talks

Published: 23/03/2011 
Newspaper section: News

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha will not attend the 8th General Border Committee meeting with Cambodia.

Referring to the meeting, scheduled for Bogor, Indonesia, on April 7-8, Gen Prawit said: "No, I'm not going. Why should I go for the meeting in a third-party country? [Thailand and Cambodia] know each other well enough and don't want any other party to get involved."

A military source said Gen Prawit had also decided not to attend an earlier GBC meeting in Indonesia proposed by Cambodia and the Asean chair.

Gen Prawit cited the same reason then, saying relations between the Cambodian and Thai armies were good enough for the border dispute to be resolved through bilateral mechanisms, said the source.

According to the source, Gen Prawit said he would seek to have talks with his Cambodian counterpart, Gen Tea Banh, but was concerned the latter would not agree, since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had made it clear he would not allow any new bilateral discussions with Thailand.

Gen Prayuth also said Cambodia's proposal to set up 15 joint border checkpoints in the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre area near Preah Vihear temple was unnecessary, as he believed the dispute could be solved through military talks.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that Unesco would push for Thailand and Cambodia to attend a meeting on border issues in May.

He was speaking after a meeting with Unesco director-general Irina Bokova.

The May talks are aimed at improving the understanding between the two countries before Unesco holds its World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Paris a month later.

There, the WHC will discuss Cambodia's management plan for Preah Vihear.

The meeting was scheduled for Bahrain but switched to Paris when political unrest erupted there.

Mr Abhisit also said bilateral talks through the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) remained crucial to deter attempts to turn the border issue into a multilateral matter.

To allow the JBC mechanism to move forward, the parliament's endorsement on the three JBC memos under the 2000 MoU regarding border issues was needed, he said.

Meanwhile, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) said it would petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate Mr Abhisit and the other concerned people over allegations they had violated Sections 157, 119 and 120 of the Constitution by not revoking the MoU.

PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said the alliance would also petition the Constitution Court to interpret if the MoU was in breach of the charter.

The health of Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkhwamkid, jailed for eight years in Cambodia after being found guilty of espionage and illegal entry to the country on Dec 29, is said to have vastly improved.

His younger brother, Preecha Somkhwamkid, visited Veera at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh on Monday and reported that his condition was much better after a recent bout of ill health.

AKP - The Agence Kampuchea Press


via CAAI

Cambodian PM Asks for Chinese Investment in Rice and Cassava Processing Facilities in Cambodia

Phnom Penh, March 23, 2011 AKP – Cambodia’s Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen has asked Chinese ambassador to Cambodia to help encourage Chinese investors for the investment in rice and cassava processing facilities in Cambodia.

While presiding over a ceremony to break ground for the construction of Road 57B in Thmar Korl district of the northwestern province of Battambang, the Cambodian premier said this to boost Cambodia’s economy and to promote rice exportation to China and other countries.

He also presented huge potentials for agricultural development in the area, saying that the cultivated area in the region covers more than 25,000 hectares, as a big rice stockpile and agricultural centre of the country. As planned, he said, it will be an agro-industrial centre of the country in the future.

The Cambodian prime minister called on Cambodian laborers not to leave their home to work illegally in Thailand because they could face many risks happening to them.

He also expressed profound thanks to the government and people of China for their financial support for the road construction in Cambodia.

The road with a length of 176 kilometers is constructed with a fund of US$89.9 million financed by China’s soft loan. It will take 48 months to complete.

When completed, the road will provide huge economic benefit to the Cambodian people to truck their agricultural produce to markets and facilitate them in traveling easier and faster. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHIM Nary
Article in English by THOU Peou

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Permanent DPM Asks Ministry of Labor to Further Enhance Work Conditions

Phnom Penh, March 23, 2011 AKP – Cambodian Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Mrs. Men Sam An has asked the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training to pay more attention to further enhance the work conditions of workers.

The deputy premier told the participants here on Mar. 22 while she was presiding over the opening ceremony of the ministry’s annual meeting to review the works of 2010 and set forth new goals for 2011.

According to the reports presented at the meeting, in 2010 there were some 77 new enterprise establishments with 22,776 workers while 51 enterprises with 17,141 workers were shut down and four others with 1,280 workers reportedly postponed their activities.

The report further pointed out that the royal government had permitted over 30 companies to arrange for Cambodian laborers to work in foreign countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Japan. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHIM Nary
Article in English by LIM Nary

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Minister of Education: More Challenges Remain Despite Development in Education

Phnom Penh, March 23, 2011 AKP – Cambodia’s education has been developing rapidly, but many challenges remain, especially the education quality from the basic to the higher level, said here yesterday Minister of Education, Youth and Sports H.E. Im Sethy.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the ministry’s annual meeting, the minister further stressed the priority and strategic actions such as improvement of education quality by strengthening teachers’ capacity, management, good governance, inspection, and by increasing equal opportunities for all children, youth and people.

According to the ministry’s report, over 3.5 million students are currently attending 4,114 kindergartens, 6,767 primary schools, 1,596 lower secondary schools, 407 higher secondary schools and 91 higher education institutions.

This figure shows that out of four Cambodians, one is in school, said H.E. Im Sethy.

Rafael Dochao Moreno, deputy head of Education Working Group and the chargé d’affaires of the EU Delegation to Cambodia, said 95.2 percent of Cambodian children attend primary schools.

This is a great achievement, he said, adding that this also shows the importance of continued attention to encourage the remaining 5 percent to go to school.

For her part, Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Mrs. Men Sam An, who presided over the opening ceremony of the three-day meeting, focused on equitable access to education, improvement of education quality and efficiency in order to enhance the country’s educational field. –AKP

By KHAN Sophirom

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New Information Director of Mondulkiri Province Appointed
Phnom Penh, March 23, 2011 AKP –

The new director of Information Department of Mondulkiri province took office in a ceremony held there yesterday under the presidency of Information Minister H.E. Khieu Kanharith.

Speaking at the ceremony, the minister asked the provincial information officials to improve their capacity in this technological era.

The minister said that the equipment together with the freshly-trained officials will help accelerate the news broadcasting in the province and the sending of news from the province to the National Television of Cambodia, the National Radio of Cambodia and the Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP).

H.E. Khieu Kanharith also provided a video camera, a photo camera, a laptop and US$2,500 to the provincial information department.

For his part, the newly-appointed director of Provincial Information Department Mr. Son Saroeun told the participants in the ceremony that he will try his best to maintain a good cooperation and coordination with the government institutions and NGOs for the national and social interests. –AKP

By Théng

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Cambodia’s Real Estate Is Recovering

Phnom Penh, March 23, 2011 AKP –The price of lands and houses in Cambodia has started to rise after it bogged down to the bottom, but this takes time to be on the full recovery, according to the president of National Valuers Association of Cambodia Mr. Sung Bonna.

As compared with the price in 2009 and 2010, this year the price of lands and houses show a good sign of recovery although it is slow, Mr. Sung Bonna who is also President of the Bonna Realty Group and Vice-Chairman of Real Estate Developers Association, told a two-day training seminar on Real Estate Valuation held here last Friday.

Representatives from various real estate companies, banks and micro-financial establishments attended the seminar, the third of its kind. Mr. Sok Siphanna, economic adviser to the Royal Government of Cambodia was also present on the occasion.

The training seminar is very important for it can tell the evolution of the real estate in the world as well as in Cambodia and its evaluation, the obligation of property owners for both Cambodian and foreign citizens and the process of the request for ownership and its impacts, Mr. Sung Bonna said.

For his part, Mr. Sok Siphanna said the seminar is in line with the government’s policy to promote the progress in all fields for the sustainable national economic development. –AKP

By Noeu

Thais decline talks: report

Photo by: Reuters
Thai army tanks are unloaded at a camp in Si Sa Ket province, Thailand, during a period of heightened tension on the Thai-Cambodian border in February.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

via CAAI

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:02 Cheang Sokha

Thai Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has reportedly backed out of attending a proposed meeting with Cambodian officials in Indonesia next month aimed at easing tensions between the two countries following their deadly military clashes in February.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Prayuth said he and other military leaders had decided not to attend the meeting because they believe the ongoing border dispute with Cambodia should only be settled in a bilateral forum.

“We won’t go. We don’t want the meeting to be held in a third country,” Prayuth reportedly said. “Soldiers of the two countries are very close to each other. Talks should be between soldiers of the two countries only, and a third party should not be involved.”

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said yesterday evening that his office was in the process of “verifying the report” with the military, declining to comment further.

The proposed talks, scheduled for April 7-8 in Indonesia, follow four days of fighting between the two sides in February along the border near Preah Vihear temple that left at least 10 people dead, dozens injured and thousands of civilians displaced. Cambodia and Thailand subsequently appeared before the United Nations Security Council and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in relation to the dispute, with both bodies ultimately endorsing mediation by current ASEAN chair Indonesia.

Earlier this month, Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva reportedly expressed support for the talks in Indonesia, which Cambodian officials had already agreed to attend.

“I hope the meeting will help ease tension between the two countries,” Abhisit said, according to the Bangkok Post.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, said Prayuth’s reported rejection of the talks showed “the unfaithfulness of Thailand”.

“We will wait to see the stance of Indonesia, the chair of ASEAN,” Koy Kuong said.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said Cambodian officials were “disappointed” by the Thai military’s announcement.

“This shows that they do not respect the decisions of the United Nations and the ASEAN foreign ministers,” he said.

Thai defence minister Prawit Wongsuwon has also decided not to attend the meeting in Indonesia, the Bangkok Post said, citing an anonymous source within the ministry.

The reported moves raise questions about the control the current Thai government has over its military following Abhisit’s recent announcement that national elections will be held within the next few months. The issue is especially sensitive in a country that has repeatedly been subject to military coups over the past few decades, most recently in 2006.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH AND JAMES O’TOOLE

Ex-lawmaker criticises SRP

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Mao Monyvann, a former Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian who represented Kampong Cham province, speaks to reporters yesterday in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

via CAAI

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:02 Meas Sokchea

Former Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mao Monyvann has blasted the SRP leadership one week after announcing his resignation from parliament, charging that a handful of opposition leaders have monopolised control of the party.

Mao Monyvann, formerly an SRP parliamentarian representing Kampong Cham province, stepped down from his post last week, citing “personal reasons” and a promise he said he had made to his supporters that he would leave his post if he failed to increase support for the party in other provinces.

At a press conference held yesterday morning in front of the National Assembly, Mao Monyvann told reporters that the families of lawmakers Yim Sovann and Eng Chhay Eang had taken an excessive amount of control of the party in the absence of SRP president Sam Rainsy, who fled the Kingdom in 2009 to avoid a court case against him and remains in self-exile.

“Sam Rainsy has national ideals and bravery, but this cannot liberate him from the power of these two families,” Mao Monyvann said. “Do we have any hope at all if Sam Rainsy cannot liberate himself from the grasp of these two families?”

Yim Sovann’s wife, Ke Sovannaroth, is also an SRP lawmaker and serves as secretary general of the party. Eng Chhay Eang’s brother-in-law, Kuoy Bunroeun, is currently a lawmaker representing Takeo province who is set to replace Mao Monyvann in Kampong Cham as part of a parliamentary reshuffle announced earlier this year by the SRP.

Mao Monyvann was set to move to Takeo as part of the reshuffle, which was originally supposed to go into effect on Thursday but has since been postponed indefinitely. Mao Monyvann rebuked the party for this postponement, calling on it not to “return the words to its tongue”.

Mao Monyvann strongly denied having plans to defect to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party or any other party, though he said he preferred the leadership of the opposition Human Rights Party to that of the SRP.

Yim Sovann denied yesterday that his family wielded inordinate control over the party.

“In the SRP, a few individuals cannot do whatever they want,” he said. “There are millions of supporters – a few people cannot do whatever they want without a collective decision.”

Yim Sovann added that Mao Monyvann was within his rights to raise complaints, but that the SRP was confident in its strategy to take on the ruling party.

“It is normal that every decision will not make everyone happy,” he said.

'Labour firm took my son'

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

via CAAI

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:02 Mom Kunthear

A former labour trainee said she has filed a complaint with the local rights group Adhoc accusing the company of holding her son for ransom after she accepted their offer to care for him while she worked abroad in Malaysia but then fled abusive working conditions there.

Seang Ly, 28, said yesterday that the Service Recruitment Company offered to take care of her child without charge while she worked in Malaysia after her mother brought the child to visit her while she was working in a training centre in Russey Keo district.

“I went to work in Malaysia in May 2010 and I stayed with my boss for only eight months, and then I escaped from the house to ask for help from the police because I could not live with them anymore,” she said.

“My house owner used violence against me almost everyday such as hitting me, throwing heavy things at me and sometimes pouring hot water on me.”

She said that after she fled the abusive conditions in Malaysia and returned back to her home province in Kratie province in January this year, the company refused to give her son back.

Instead, she said, the company threatened to have her arrested and imprisoned.

“I went to visit my son after I arrived in Cambodia in order to take him back home, but the company refused to give him back to me if I didn’t pay them US$1,100,” said Seang Ly.

She added that this prompted her to file a complaint in January.

Ya Ly, chief of Thma Kre commune in Kratie province where Seang Ly resides, said the company had no right to separate a child from its parents and prohibit them from meeting.

“The company does not have the right to keep a child from their parents,” he said.

He added that the company could be accused of human trafficking violations if the allegations of holding the child for ransom were true.

Staff members from the Service Recruitment Company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Speeding melon truck claims two

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

via CAAI

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:02 Mom Kunthear

Two people died and eight were injured when a truck crashed into a shopfront on Monday in Kampong Thom province’s Baray district, police said yesterday.

The driver was transporting watermelons when he lost control of the truck while trying to pass a car in Triel commune.

“The driver tried to overtake a car while speeding and crashed into a store full of villagers,” said Keo Hour, Baray district deputy police chief.

He said the district police are searching for the driver of the truck, who fled the scene of the accident.

Chhreb Soth, 23, and Pum Ngeb, 22, died at the scene and the injured were taken to a local hospital.

This was the first major traffic accident in the commune, according to Heng Chihear, deputy police chief of Triel commune.

He added that the truck was being held at the district police station.

Tram Iv Tek, minister of public works and transportation, said last week that there were approximately 8,000 traffic accidents resulting in 1,800 deaths in 2010.

Stepfather arrested for rape

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

via CAAI

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:02 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea and Phak Seangly

A 36-year-old man was arrested in the Santepheap commune of Battambang’s Som Pov Loun district on Monday, over allegations that he raped his 12-year-old stepdaughter on Sunday.

Anh Kamal, district military police deputy commander, said that the stepfather allegedly raped the victim at least twice according to her testimony, yet he said the number could be as high as six times.

“Every time after raping the girl, the stepfather always threatened to kill both her and her mother if she told her mother or anyone else what happened to her,” he said.

Anh Kamal added that the suspect lured the girl to pick vegetables near a stream and then raped her on Sunday, but the girl was too afraid to tell her relatives until Monday, who then told military police officers.

“Our military police arrested the stepfather on Monday at about 5pm and immediately sent him to the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau of the provincial military police after he pleaded his guilt,” he said, adding that the suspect has since been sent to provincial court.

In a separate case yesterday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court concluded the trial of a 24-year-old man charged with the rape of a 19-year-old garment worker last year in the Trapaing Thloeung village of Dangkor district’s Choam Chao commune.

Presiding Judge Duch Kimsorn said that Pho Sopheak, a 24-year-old employee of the Suntex Pte Ltd garment factory was charged with the rape of a 19-year-old garment worker on April 19 of last year, after a complaint was filed by the victim.

“Pho Sopheak caught the victim and brought her into his rental room and forcibly raped her successfully. After the raping, he threatened to kill her if she told this to her family members,” he said, adding that the verdict will be announced on April 8.

Pho Sopheak denied the rape allegations in court yesterday but said he had a relationship with the victim previously and had consensual sex with her.

“I think that the reason why I was [arrested] was because her family, especially her brothers, do not like me. They wanted to separate her from me.”

Police arrest 23 for illegal land clearing

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

via CAAI

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:03 May Titthara

Twenty-three villagers were arrested on Monday in Kratie province’s Prek Prasap district by district and provincial officials for clearing destroyed forest land for plantations.

Villager Vi Reak said that the 23 villagers had arrived recently in Prek Prasap commune from Kampong Cham province.

“Villagers who clear the land for farming to feed themselves face arrest, but when powerful people clear over 100 hectares to sell to a private company, nobody takes action,” said Vi Reak.

Vi Reak said that the villagers had seen district officials, the provincial governor and an official from Phnom Penh clearing the land to sell it to businesses.

“It is unjust for the poor,” said Vi Reak. “Our villagers dared not help them because they are newcomers.”

Provincial Police Chief Choung Seang Hak said the villagers were arrested by the district governor and provincial environmental and forestry officials.

“This case did not involve us,” said Choung Seang Hak. “We just accompanied them to avoid violence.”

Prek Prasap District Police Chief Soum Sokhim, said that the villagers had been sent to provincial police headquarters.

“I don’t know why they were arrested,” said Soum Sokhim. “I just got unclear information that they cleared the forest to take the land.”

Prek Prasap First Deputy Commune Chief Ben Born said that the government had granted the land as a social concession for villagers in Prek Prasap.

“I don’t know whether those villagers are mine or coming from elsewhere,” said Ben Born, adding that he did not know what was behind the arrests.

Provincial prosecutor Mak Tany declined to comment, saying that he had not yet receive the case.

Provincial Forestry Administration officials could not be reached for comment.

Four dead in lightning strikes

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:03 Khouth Sophak Chakrya

At least four people were killed, along with 18 head of cattle, in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces during heavy rainstorms that also destroyed two homes on Monday evening, police officials said.

Sot Dina, head of provincial police in Siem Reap, said yesterday that three people and 18 cattle were killed in Siem Reap province.

Teng Tak, 18, from Pakpann village in Puok district’s Sososdam commune, and Mao Chey, 22, from Kbalkrapue

village in Roeul commune, were killed by lightning on Monday night while they were rounding up their cattle to return them to their stables, Sot Dina said.

A 55-year-old woman identified as Phan Vich from Khnar Roveas village in Banteay Srey district’s Khun Ream commune, was also struck and killed by lightning while in her home Monday night, Sot Dina said.

He added that the 18 cows belonging to villagers in Bakong and Angkor Thom districts died in lightning strikes, and the storm destroyed two villagers’ homes in Angkor Thom district’s Peaksneng commune.

“We can fight illegal gambling, human trafficking and drug smuggling to keep our people safe, but we cannot fight lightning,” Sot Dina said.

A fourth person, identified as Khun Chea, 53, from Kabau village in Banteay Meanchey province’s Preah Netr Preah district, was killed by lightning, according to Phnom Leab district police Chief Lim Yung.

“I am very sad that he died because he was a good man,” Lim Yung said, adding that the victim was a family member.

Chi Kraeng villagers free

Nine Chi Kraeng villagers are given food and water prior to their hearing at Siem Reap Provincial Court yesterday. The court found them not guilty of stealing rice in 2009 and released them.

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:03 May Titthara

Siem Reap

Provincial Court yesterday released nine villagers from Chi Kraeng commune after acquitting them on charges of stealing rice harvests in neighbouring Anlong Samnor Commune in 2009.

Earlier this month, the provincial Appeal Court had upheld three-year sentences for the same nine villagers, on a separate charge of stealing rice harvests from Anlong Samnor commune

“The nine Chi Kraeng villagers were released at 6:50pm [yesterday] and have been returned to their homeland,” said Am Sam Ath, a technical coordinator for the local rights group Licadho.

“They are all in good health,” he said.

Am Sam Ath added that none of the nine villagers were facing additional charges.

The villagers had been imprisoned since their arrest on March 22, 2009.

Luon Savat, a monk and village representative, suggested the villagers were never guilty of stealing rice harvests to begin with.

“The court should not have detained the villagers from one year to the next,” he said. “It is an injustice for them. They were planting rice, so why accuse them of stealing it?”

The stolen property case was part of an ongoing land dispute between villagers in Chi Kraeng and Anlong Samnor communes, both of which are located in Chi Kraeng district.

A total of 12 villagers from Chi Kraeng have been arrested in the dispute. Three remain behind bars on charges related to the land dispute.

In March 2009, military police fired on Chi Kraeng villagers attempting to harvest rice on the disputed land, injuring four in the process. A total of 46 villagers, including the nine released yesterday, were arrested and detained for questioning in the altercation.

Repatriation: Remains of migrants returned

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:03 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

Repatriation

The bodies of four Cambodian migrant workers killed in an car accident in Thailand last week were returned to their families on Monday via the Poipet border crossing.

Sum Chankea, a coordinator for the local rights group ADHOC in Banteay Meanchey province, identified the four Cambodians as Nov Saban, 27, and his wife Nguon Sophy, 21, and Tun Thorn, 29, and his wife Nov Sabo, 23.

He said the two couples, from Svay Chrum village in Svay Rieng province, died when a taxi they were passengers in crashed en route to Ranong province in Thailand.

“These two families illegally entered Thailand via illegal brokers,” Sum Chankea said. “They were on their way to Ranong to find work but were severely injured when their taxi crashed.”

He said they were taken to a hospital following the crash and later died from their injuries.

Sum Chankea said that at least 200 Cambodian nationals are detained by Thai authorities each day and returned to the Kingdom at the Poipet international border checkpoint for illegally entering Thailand, according to data compiled by the rights group.

SRP slams lack of labour oversight

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:03 Vong Sokheng and David Boyle

Members of the opposition Sam Rainsy party yesterday accused officials in the Ministry of Labour of deliberately ignoring the alleged illegal detention of trainees by the T&P Co Ltd labour firm and called on the prime minister to take legal action against them.

During a press conference held at the National Assembly yesterday, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said the Ministry of Labour’s failure to regulate the industry had allowed labour recruitment companies to commit serious human rights violations.

“We see that the relevant government ministries and local authorities are conspiring with the company to allow all forms of human rights violations to occur and the industry is also linked to human trafficking and international crimes,” he said.

“These issues have been found in both Cambodia and Malaysia and may be linked to many other labour recruitment agencies.”

Son Chhay said he had previously sent a letter to Hun Sen urging him to order Minister of Labour, Vong South, to take proper action against labour recruitment companies that illegally detained workers, but that no such action had been taken.

Senior officials from the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Foreign affairs all declined to comment on Son Chhay’s allegations or said they were unaware of the details yesterday.

A 19-year-old woman who said she was a trainee at T&P Co Ltd but refused to be named also appeared at the press conference and recounted conditions of severe abuse she had witnessed and endured while working in Malaysia.

“I got to the work place in Malaysia, where the employers did not give us enough food, and some of the trainees were beaten and raped by the employers, who sometimes poured hot water on their bodies,” she said.

Over a four-year-period that began when she was 16 years old, she said other abuses she had witnessed included force-feeding maids toilet water or chili while making them stand still for entire days at a time.

Aegile Fernandez, anti-human trafficking coordinator of Malaysia-based NGO Tenaganita, said her organisation had rescued 50 Cambodian maids from abusive working conditions since April last year and that the problem had escalated recently.

“[There have been] a lot of Cambodian cases, for the last couple of months; [it’s been] on the rise and there has also been a lot of children being brought in as maids to work,” she said.

Study underway for direct flights to United Kingdom

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:01 May Kunmakara

A feasibility study paving the way for direct flights between the United Kingdom and Cambodia is under way, officials said.

A Secretariat of State of Civil Aviation official said yesterday that increasing numbers of tourist and business visitors sparked the move, and parties are also investigating the possibility of flights between the Kingdom and Turkey. Deputy Cabinet Director of SSCA, Long Chheng, said that the three sides concerned were working together.

“We are conducting the feasible study, which started last week, with the United Kingdom and Turkey on a memorandum of understanding on opening the direct flight to our country,” he said.

“They plan to meet with many other relevant ministries on the issue. I think we will reach the MoU soon because they are interested flying to us.”

An official at British Embassy to Phnom Penh confirmed the plan yesterday.

“The UK’s Department for Transport and the Cambodian Secretariat of Civil Aviation are in the process of discussing a standard Air Services Agreement between the two countries,” said Neng Vannak, political affairs and press officer at the embassy.

The co-chair of the private sector’s tourism working group applauded the possibility yesterday

Ho Vandy said: “We welcome Western countries to have to direct access country because they [visitors from the West] spend longer here and spend more than [tourists from] regional countries."

Tourists from the United Kingdom slightly increase 3.3 percent in January of 2011 to 10,617, compared to the same month of 2010. Turkish tourists numbered a modest 322 in January.

Long Chheng said that SSCA hopes paperwork on the issue would be finalised by mid-2011.

Neng Vannak did not know of any specific airline set to operate the routes. But another Western airline has upped its presence in Cambodia.

Air France’s first flight on its Paris-Phnom Penh route, via Bangkok, is set to launch next week.

Koh Kong banks on tourism

This scenic view across Koh Por river towards Koh Kong city shows two of the province’s fish farms.

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:01 Soeun Say and Jeremy Mullins

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There are a lot of things being allowed to be done that are very anti-ecotourism
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Koh Kong province

Koh Kong may be without the spectacular temples or much-improved tourist infrastructure of other areas of Cambodia, but officials say they are counting on tourism to develop the southwestern province.

Tourists are expected to increasingly taking advantage of the eco-tourism opportunities the province’s natural beauty provides, while officials are also anticipating a US$5 billion large-scale Chinese tourism development now under way, according to Koh Kong Deputy Governor Sun Dara.

However, visitors to Koh Kong – which shares a border and economic ties to Thailand – have dwindled in recent months, with officials blaming reasons such as violent clashes between Thailand and Cambodia in Preah Vihear province last month.

Koh Kong Tourism Department statistics provided to The Post show 2,076 tourists – including 97 foreigners – stayed in the province’s hotels and guesthouses in February 2011.

In the same month last year, the province saw 10,619 tourists, including 852 foreigners – representing an 80.4 percent year on year decrease, the statistics show.

One notable decline was in the number of Thais visiting the Cambodian province.

Seven Thai tourists stayed in Koh Kong province in February 2011, from 141 Thai visitors in the same month in 2010, according to statistics from the Koh Kong Tourism Department.

“It’s been so quiet since the border clash,” said Kong Ratana, Deputy Chief of Cambodian Immigration Police at the Cham Yeam crossing between Koh Kong and Thailand’s Trat province.

“We’re seeing only 30 to 40 foreign tourists entering Cambodia each day,” he said. “It’s due to safety concerns set off by all the political tension – but it has not affected trade between the two countries.”

Some government officials said unofficial fees collected at the border were also keeping tourists away from the province’s seven hotels and 19 guesthouses.

Koh Kong Tourism Department Director Bun Beav said reducing fees and hassles at the border would increase the number of tourists.

Eco-tourism also offers strong potential to further local tourism, he said, because it plays to the province’s strengths – its natural beauty.

“I am hopeful tourists will increase again. The province has a lot of areas tourists can visit,” he said.

Janet Newman, owner of Koh Kong province’s Rainbow Lodge, which lies in a rural setting near Tatai village, agreed it was a hassle crossing the border, with officials routinely demanding 1,200 baht (US$39.68) for a tourist visa, when the official price was $20.

“It’s a big problem,” she said. “The first experience [for tourists] in Cambodia is crossing that border.”

She said the province was doing well in promoting eco-tourism and was seeing an increase particularly of Cambodian tourists to the area, but added the province ought to take a more sustainable approach to development to ensure the long-term viability of eco-tourism.

“There are a lot of things being allowed to be done that are very anti-ecotourism,” she said.

Large sand dredging operations on provincial rivers were of major concern to Rainbow Lodge, causing pollution and dirtying the river, she said, though added Ministry of the Environment had to some extent helped mitigate the concerns over noise pollution.

Tourism – particularly eco-tourism – is expected to play a central role in Koh Kong’s development, along with sectors such as mining and energy.

Work on the $540 million, 246-megawatt Stung Tatai hydroelectric dam began in January.

At the groundbreaking, Prime Minister Hun Sen described Koh Kong as “a battery province” that could help the Kingdom to satisfy its rising energy needs.

Some officials have downplayed any potential conflict between eco-tourism and environmentally damaging development. Sun Dara claimed the province’s eco-tourism plans had not been affected by wider economic development, which was necessary to improve the lives of its residents.

A man in Koh Kong city prepares squid traps for a night of fishing in the Gulf of Thailand.

“Most Koh Kong residents are fishermen, while a few sell goods at the market,” he said.

Some local hoteliers are also hopeful of the future.

Chim Sokheng, administration officer at Koh Kong City hotel, said tourist arrivals had been on the upswing until the February clashes.

While Deputy Governor Sun Dara said there were large tourism developments underway in the province, in addition to eco-tourism.

Chinese firm Union Development Group is building an announced $5 billion tourism development in the province’s Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.

The project is slated to eventually cover 36,000 hectares, and consist of five separate developments including an airport, a port, a golf course, and a large commercial area, according to Sun Dara.

“This is a major tourism development in Asia – it will be the second largest attraction for tourists to Cambodia after the Angkor Wat temples,” he claimed.

The company’s investment was approved in 2009 and is scheduled to take 25 years to develop the project, but Sun Dara said he doubted it would take so long.

“They have already built an office building in Kiri Sakor district and a port for transporting construction materials to develop the site, and they are preparing the infrastructure to build roads and residential buildings,” he said.

Still, some 20 families await compensation for their land, which was located on the development site, according to Kim Chit, Koh Kong Coordinator for rights group Licadho.

“The company is providing lower compensation than market prices demand,” Kim Chit said.

Trading places: Trade with Thailand resilient in province

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:01 jeremy Mullins and Soeun Say

Trading places

Trade between Koh Kong and Thailand’s Trat province has remained robust despite February’s border dispute, even as tourism statistics dropped, local businesspeople claim.

“Thai merchants told me that Cambodia was nearly their sole market. If they do not do business with Cambodians, there will be no-one to do business with,” said Chreb Thy, a 52-year old Koh Kong resident, who earns his income shipping goods between the countries by boat.

Koh Kong Deputy Governor Sun Dara said Thai imports to Koh Kong generally outpaced the Cambodian province’s exports.

Trat province exports fruit, vegetables, and consumer goods to Cambodia, while Koh Kong exports a much smaller volume of food – largely fish – in return, he said.

Official trade statistics between the two provinces were not available but Chreb Thy reckons Trat province exports about 80 percent more to Koh Kong than the other way around.

“I ship consumer goods, fruits, vegetables, and construction materials from Thailand to Koh Kong,” he said. “My boat returns empty.”

Yang Synath, a 34-year old fruit and vegetable vendor, said she had lost a large amount of income during the border clashes, but trade quickly picked up again following the end of hostilities.

“I had to throw out my vegetables daily when the Cambodian and Thai troops fought. But now, everything is back to normal,” she said last week.

Figures obtained from the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh earlier this year show Cambodia and Thailand’s bilateral trade reached US$2.557 billion in 2010, from $1.658 billion a year earlier – representing growth of 54 percent.

Cambodia’s exports to Thailand increased an annualised 176 percent to $215 million, compared with a 48 percent increase in Thai exports to $2.342 billion in 2010 over 2009.

Peninsula project planned

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:01 Sieam Bunthy

Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation is preparing to submit its planned US$3-billion development on Chroy Changvar peninsula for Government approval, according to the firm’s Project Manager Touch Samnang.

The Chroy Changvar, or “City of the Future” project is slated to stand on more than 300 hectares of land, including a national standium and a 60-hectare park alongside housing and commercial buildings.

The firm is preparing to submit the required paperwork to receive the Council for the Development of Cambodia’s green light, though it has already received an initial blessing from the government, he said.

“The plan is to start construction in 2011,” he said.

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The project will build confidence for more investment, [and] increase national economic potential

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Work was slated to take 10 to 15 years to complete, and would employ between 5,000 and 10,000 workers, he said.

Sung Bonna, president of the National Valuers Association of Cambodia, welcomed the project, saying that it was likely the satellite city would be completed successfully, given the time and location were right and OCIC carried a strong reputation.

“The project will build confidence for more investment, increase national economic potential and create more jobs for Cambodian people,” he said.

“It will also show the progress of [the real estate] sector.”

Phnom Penh municipal officials could not be reached for comment on the project.

Meanwhile, Chroy Changvar is home to an increasing number of large-scale developments.

Construction is ongoing at the $100 million, 16-storey Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel project at the penninsula’s southern tip. The project is set for a launch in the beginning of 2012.

South Korean-owned Booyoung Khmer Company plans to construct a commercial development beside the Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel, though work has not yet begun, Chroy Changvar Commune Chief Pich Saroeun said earlier this month.

Swiss culinary school for Cambodia agreed

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:01 Chun Sophal

A culinary school that Cambodia had hoped to open with help from Switzerland will soon be a reality, the Ministry of Tourism said on Monday.

Minister Thong Khun told reporters he had secured an agreement to open a training centre in May.

The school, which will fall under the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia, will teach Cambodian food-service workers how to cook various international cuisine, something that is increasingly important as the tourism industry here continues to grow.

According to official figures, foreign tourists to the Kingdom in 2010 jumped 16 percent to 2.5 million from the year before.

“We hope that Cambodia will have human resources with better skills thanks to the opening of a new school to give services to tourists,” Thong Khon said. The minister last week had said that he hoped to sign a memorandum of understanding with Switzerland during his visit there last week in order to open the school. He did so on March 16.

The first crop of students will number between 200 and 300. Going forward, students who perform especially well will be granted scholarships for further study in Switzerland.

Ang Kim Eang, president for Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, welcomed the school, saying that tourists' culinary experience here is just as important as the Kingdom's cultural and environmental destinations. And tourists would be more likely to come, and stay longer, if there were a wider breadth of food choices for them.

“We think that training on subjects in cooking food will help Cambodia increase attraction from foreign tourists,” said Ang Kim Eang.

Families near palace make home on boats

Fish dealer Marn Kor, 68, (centre) chats with other fisherwomen on the river near Phnom Penh's Royal Palace.
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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:00 Roth Meas

With the Royal Palace at their backs and the Tonle Sap river as their front yards, about 30 families from the Cham Muslim minority have made their homes on board fishing boats in the centre of Phnom Penh.

Some have lived their for 20 years or more, while others have joined the community as they have lost land in Cambodia’s race towards development.

After collecting their fish traps, men and women get together on the boats to chat in their own language. One of them, Tin Maitom, 45, has lived for 20 years on her wooden boat, about 1. 5 metres wide and 8 metres long.

This tiny space is her living room, bedroom, kitchen and fishing platform. Though she was born on nearby Chroy Changvar peninsula, Tin Maitom says she has no land so is forced to live on the boat.

She bathes in the river water and drinks water she boils from the river, claiming the river is her backyard. “This is our home. We wouldn’t know where to go if someone chased us away from here.”

Tin Maitom earns her living by casting her nets twice a day in front of the Royal Palace, Chaktomuk Conference Hall or the Cambodiana Hotel.

However, she says she only gets about a kilo of tiny fish each day – which she sells in order to buy rice and vegetables.

Children who live on the boats learn how to swim at an early age.

“It’s not easy to catch fish on the river here because the currents and water movements are always changing. It’s fine in the daytime, but at night we have to be careful with the flowing water because it can tear down our nets,” she says.

After catching her fish, Tin Maitom sells it to dealer Marn Kor, 68, who used to be an angler herself. Marn Kor has lived on her boat in front of the Royal Palace for 16 years after losing her land in her hometown in Kampong Cham province.

She buys fish from her community to sell at the market in Phnom Penh. But business is down over the past six years, she says, as fish becomes scarcer in the river. For a day’s catch, she buys about five or six kilogrammes of fish from seven families.

“I don’t know whether it’s the sand dredging or if the tourist boats affects our fishing, but I’ve noticed fish has become harder to find after they filled in land, which shelters young fish, to construct buildings on Diamond Island.”

It’s a hard life, with the risk of boats being sunk by bad weather, but Marn Kor remains philosophical. “Life is not so good, but no rice to eat is also not good,” she says.

Fisherman Leb Lim, 34, explains that his boat sank last year and he had to rush to save his two daughters, one aged three and the other just a baby, leaving his wife to save herself.

However, he has now taught his elder daughter to swim and will teach the baby once she reaches three years old. "All of our children can swim very well. If they cannot swim, we buy them swimming jackets to wear, so they soon learn to swim,” says Leb Lim.

Hotels go green by recycling garbage

Sofitel’s Phnom Penh Phokeethra has planted 1,300 trees in its grounds as part


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Wednesday, 23 March 2011 15:00 Post Staff

With the dry season approaching its zenith, at least in Southeast Asia, much of Indochina turns to a yellow dustbowl. Yet in three environmentally progressive hotels in the region, the predominant hue is undoubtedly green.

As the price of crude oil surges toward US$100 per barrel and beyond, some hotels are doing what many of the major United States car makers did not: retooling and building anew with conservation uppermost on the agenda.

In Cambodia, the new Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, due for its official opening on March 29, has wasted no time in establishing its eco-friendly credentials.

The hotel, which became the first five-star property to open in Phnom Penh in more than a decade with a soft opening in December last year, has adopted a range of policies designed to reduce its carbon footprint.

The property recycles 80 percent of its garbage every month to produce the biogas methanol, which is then used to provide energy for the staff canteen, the hotel kitchen and one of the property’s boilers.

Other initiatives undertaken by the hotel include the recycling of its wastewater and a carbon offset programme where 1,300 trees have been planted on the hotel’s grounds.

“You can’t open a hotel in 2011 without significant investment in green technologies. The world just doesn’t work that way any more,” says Didier Lamoot, Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra’s general manager. “No one can afford to have soot all over their footprints.”

Meanwhile, over the border in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, older properties like the iconic Caravelle Hotel are belying their venerable status by promoting cutting-edge green policies. In December, the Caravelle completed installation of a wastewater treatment facility that recycles 40 percent of its water.

The innovation was a central plank of the hotel’s efforts to achieve ISO certification, which it did in February.

Other green policies adopted by the Caravelle in recent times include reducing electricity consumption by switching to energy-saving light bulbs and installing a high-efficiency chiller to power its air-conditioning system.

Over the next year, the hotel aims to reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions by 4 percent by replacing its current diesel boiler with a high-efficiency heat pump.

Another ambition is the attainment of Green Globe certification, widely regarded as the premier standard for environmental sustainability development worldwide.

“We view environmental best practice as an imperative, not an option,” says John Gardner, Caravelle general manager. “Nothing could be more important than the future of our planet, which is why our commitment to environmental best practices is non-negotiable.”

Gardner’s view is shared by Scott Hodgetts, general manager of the Sheraton Nha Trang. The hotel, which opened in Vietnam’s premier beach resort last year, has adopted stringent environmental policies. It uses solar power to run its hot water system and has been proactive in encouraging guests to save on water and energy usage.