Thursday, 24 March 2011

SRP expels Mao Monyvann

Former Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mao Monyvann speaks to reporters outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh yesterday. He has now been expelled from the party.

The opposition Sam Rainsy Party has expelled former lawmaker Mao Monyvann, one day after he held a press conference criticising the SRP and accusing two senior parliamentarians of monopolising control over the party.

Mao Monyvann, who resigned from his position as a lawmaker representing Kampong Cham province earlier this month, told reporters outside the National Assembly on Tuesday that he was frustrated that the families of SRP parliamentarians Yim Sovann and Eng Chhay Eang appeared to wield excessive control over the party. While he said he preferred the leadership of the Human Rights Party to that of the SRP, he denied having plans to defect.

Yesterday, however, the SRP distributed a press release stating that its leaders had decided to ask Mao Monyvann to resign from the party following a meeting held via videoconference with party leader Sam Rainsy, who currently lives abroad to avoid a pair of criminal convictions handed down last year.

“Mao Monyvann’s action is not a request or suggestion to reform the leadership of the party, but on the contrary, his action is against the interests of the party,” the SRP said.

Mao Monyvann said in his press conference on Tuesday that even Sam Rainsy “cannot liberate himself from the grasp” of the families of Yim Sovann and Eng Chhay Eang, accusing the pair of making decisions without consulting the rest of the party. The former Kampong Cham MP, who had also served on the SRP permanent committee, said his expulsion had come because the SRP was unable to accept criticism.

“The party has forced me to resign just because I asked the party to reform internally,” he said.

“I understand that this party does not have real democracy.”

The Human Rights Party said in a statement yesterday that 14 other members of the SRP had decided to defect along with Mao Monyvann, including Loch Pavy, a member of the SRP central committee, and Heng Chanthoun, the SRP president for Pursat province.

Yim Sovann said the SRP was better off without Mao Monyvann, and suggested that the former lawmaker may ultimately be planning to defect to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, an allegation Mao Monyvann has denied.

The HRP and SRP have been in talks for the last few months to discuss a possible merger prior to the national elections in 2012 and 2013, though talks are currently stalled due to a disagreement over the proposed leadership structure of the unified party.

HRP president Kem Sokha called Mao Monyvann’s defection “a good decision”, and said he thought more such moves from the SRP could be coming.

“If the parties cannot merge, a large number of SRP members who want a democratic movement for change will come to join,” Kem Sokha said.

US coup leader to do more time

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Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:03 James O'Toole

Chhun Yasith, a Cambodian-American man who received life in prison in the United States last year for attempting in 2000 to overthrow the Cambodian government, has reportedly had an additional 37 months added to his prison term for tax evasion.

The Contra Costa Times reported on Tuesday that Chhun Yasith “admitted operating a service that filed false tax returns for numerous taxpayers, resulting in a loss [for the US government] of more than US$400,000” in addition to his role as leader of the “Cambodian Freedom Fighters” militia group.

Chhum Yasith received his original sentence last year after being arrested in 2005 for organising a November 2000 attack on Government buildings in Phnom Penh that left at least eight dead and 14 injured.

Government troops quickly quelled the CFF’s ill-coordinated coup attempt, code named “Operation Volcano” and planned from Chhun Yasith’s California accounting firm.

In April 2008, a court in Los Angeles found him guilty of violating the US Neutrality Act, which outlaws military operations against nations with which the US is at peace.

Cambodian officials praised his sentencing last year, with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong branding the CFF plot “a clear terrorist act”.

In January, military police arrested Brigadier General Samith Virak, charging him with forming an illegal armed force and trafficking weapons. At the time, national military police commander Sao Sokha said Samith Virak had also been arrested in 2001 on suspicion of being involved with the CFF, but had been released on bail and never brought to trial.

Army hasn’t nixed talks: Thais

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Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:03 Cheang Sokha

The Thai Foreign Ministry has denied reports that senior Thai military leaders have backed out of attending a proposed meeting with Cambodian officials in Indonesia next month aimed at resolving the countries’ ongoing border dispute.

The Bangkok Post reported on Tuesday that Thai Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon had decided not to attend the meeting because they believed the 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 was quoted as saying.

“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 on Tuesday evening that he was still in the process of “verifying the report” and could not comment further. Yesterday, however, he said the article in question “appears to be a misquote”.

“We verified the report with the Ministry of Defence and the army,” Thani said. “The report that came out was premature.”

“The Thai General Border Committee is still in discussions with the Cambodian side about the details of the meeting,” he added.

The proposed talks, scheduled to be held in Indonesia on April 7-8, follow four days of fighting between the two sides in early February along the border near Preah Vihear temple that left at least ten people dead, dozens injured and thousands of civilians displaced.

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

Yesterday, Thailand’s MCOT state news agency reported that Prayuth had expressed reservations about delegations of unarmed Indonesian military observers that Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to host on their respective sides of the border. Prayuth reportedly said the observers should not be allowed to enter a stretch of territory near Preah Vihear temple that is claimed by both sides.

“If the observers will really enter at the borders, I don’t want them to enter the disputed area, as it’s a dangerous zone and will make it more difficult to solve the conflict,” Prayuth was quoted as saying.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Thai officials are wary of third party involvement because they do not want outsiders to see their “bad tricks”.

“They don’t want to resolve the dispute peacefully,” Koy Kuong said. “They want to talk bilaterally because they want to use their military to threaten Cambodia.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

Oil increase hits Cambodia

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Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:03 May Kunmakara

Rising global oil prices could increase the rate of inflation and slow Cambodia’s economic growth this year, according to a highly respected international financial expert.

The Kingdom’s economic recovery has been export-led, particularly through improving the tourism and garment sectors, and therefore could be vulnerable to a global economic slowdown caused by high-cost oil, says International Monetary Fund Asia and Pacific Department senior economist Olaf Unteroberdoerster.

“If the global oil prices stay at current levels, Cambodia’s trade deficit would worsen by about 1.5 percent of GDP relative to our October 2010 forecasts,” he told The Post via email.

Ministry of Commerce statistics show petrol was sold at about US$1.28 a litre at Phnom Penh petrol stations yesterday, up from $1.23 at the end of February, and roughly $1.07 six months ago.

Brent crude traded north of US$115 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe Exchange yesterday.

It traded near its highest price in two weeks as the alliance enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya prepared to attack Muammar Gaddafi’s ground forces.

Rising oil prices could dampen the Kingdom’s growth prospects, particularly if the increase is protracted and leads to a global economic slowdown, according to Unteroberdoerster. “Higher fuel costs tend to spill over to other prices, notably food and transportation, which make up a significant share of consumption in Cambodia,” he said.

Inflation stood at about 3 percent year on year in January – a low level historically, he said. However, higher oil and food prices were likely to become more apparent in coming months.

“Against this background, it will be important for policy makers to maintain prudent monetary and fiscal policies and move away from the current easing bias in the event that inflation pressures firm,” he said.

Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia Secretary General, Ken Loo, said the industry would be hit by rising fuel prices, as would any large importing or exporting sector.

Suzuki Hiroshi, CEO at the Business Research Institute for Cambodia, also raised concerns that rising oil costs could lead to price inflation.

“Inflation is one of the important points for the Cambodian economy this year,” he said. However, he added that Cambodia faced lower inflationary pressure than other nations such as China, India and Vietnam.

National Bank of Cambodia Director General and spokeswoman Nguon Sokha said inflation rates were manageable compared to neighbouring countries. “Presently, we are very carefully checking changes [in global oil prices] and how they will impact our inflation and economy,” she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JEREMY MULLINS AND BLOOMBERG

More than 80 detained in Siem Reap sex raid

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Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:03 Kim Yuthana

Seventy-two women and nine supervisors working at a karaoke parlour in Siem Reap town were arrested in a raid on Tuesday under suspicion of prostitution and illegal sex trafficking, police officials said yesterday.

Siem Reap provincial police chief Suot Nady said the operation to arrest girls working at the karaoke club Wonder was conducted by expert authorities in cooperation with provincial court prosecutors.

“It is so illegal that the parlour owner who has a license for operating karaoke but he runs his business on sexual service and sex trafficking,” said Suot Nady.

“[There were] rooms for having sex as well when local authorities searched.”

Sun Bunthorn, chief of the provincial anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said that 12 of the women were under the age of 18 and three were Vietnamese.

“This is the fourth case of cracking down on sex trafficking in early 2011 in Siem Reap province,” said Sun Bunthorn.

He added that the supervisors and the club owner were suspected of taking advantage of the women.

Sun Bunthorn said that the women would be questioned by provincial police and handed over to the provincial department of social affairs, while the supervisors would be interrogated and a report sent to the provincial court.

Suot Nady said that the raid was the biggest crackdown on sexual exploitation in Siem Reap province so far this year following a similar raid on a club in Siem Reap town last year.

Narcotics bust: Drug lab targeted in Poipet town

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Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:03 Vong Sokheng

Narcotics bust

Three people were arrested and more than 7,000 yama pills seized during a raid on a drug laboratory yesterday in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town. Military police deputy commander Om Phearith said yesterday that the raid was conducted by a collaborative force of military police and provincial court officials and came on the heels of another large-scale bust in Poipet town on Sunday. Om Phearith identified those arrested as the 38-year-old owner of the residence, his 18-year-old Thai wife and a 36-year-old man. He said police were still counting the number of drugs and other related drug materials confiscated during the raid, a task they would finalise today. The three suspects are being detained at military police headquarters in Banteay Meanchey for questioning and further investigation, he said.

Peschoux says government sidelined him

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Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:03 Thomas Miller

The ministry of Foreign Affairs last year asked other ministries to cease cooperation with the country head of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Christophe Peschoux, who will take a new position in Geneva in May, he said yesterday.

Peschoux, who has researched human rights in the Kingdom for OHCHR since the 1990s and took the office’s head spot in 2007, said the government made repeated requests to the UN last year seeking his ouster.

“There was a request last year by the government to replace me. That request was made to the [UN] high commissioner [for human rights Navi Pillay] in August and she declined on the grounds that there was no sufficient grounds,” he said.

That same request was made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in October to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was visiting at the time.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs later sent a notice “to all government institutions that requested all of them to stop cooperating with me, and since then I have not had any access to government officials”, Peschoux said.

OHCHR sent a letter, obtained yesterday by The Post, informing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week that he would take up a new “senior position with global responsibilities” in Geneva, and be replaced on an interim basis by deputy representative James Heenan on May 2.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declined to comment yesterday on Peschoux’s departure.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the move and expressed admiration for Peschoux.

“The contempt in which Christophe Peschoux is held by members of the Cambodian government is reflective of their general contempt for anyone bold enough to offer criticisms of their policies, acts and omissions,” Ou Virak said in a statement yesterday.

“While it seems that the UN human rights office in Cambodia will remain open for the time being, its independence is undermined when the government can have such a say in determining its make-up.”

Oil increase hits Cambodia

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/

via CAAI

Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:03 May Kunmakara

Rising global oil prices could increase the rate of inflation and slow Cambodia’s economic growth this year, according to a highly respected international financial expert.

The Kingdom’s economic recovery has been export-led, particularly through improving the tourism and garment sectors, and therefore could be vulnerable to a global economic slowdown caused by high-cost oil, says International Monetary Fund Asia and Pacific Department senior economist Olaf Unteroberdoerster.

“If the global oil prices stay at current levels, Cambodia’s trade deficit would worsen by about 1.5 percent of GDP relative to our October 2010 forecasts,” he told The Post via email.

Ministry of Commerce statistics show petrol was sold at about US$1.28 a litre at Phnom Penh petrol stations yesterday, up from $1.23 at the end of February, and roughly $1.07 six months ago.

Brent crude traded north of US$115 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe Exchange yesterday.

It traded near its highest price in two weeks as the alliance enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya prepared to attack Muammar Gaddafi’s ground forces.

Rising oil prices could dampen the Kingdom’s growth prospects, particularly if the increase is protracted and leads to a global economic slowdown, according to Unteroberdoerster. “Higher fuel costs tend to spill over to other prices, notably food and transportation, which make up a significant share of consumption in Cambodia,” he said.

Inflation stood at about 3 percent year on year in January – a low level historically, he said. However, higher oil and food prices were likely to become more apparent in coming months.

“Against this background, it will be important for policy makers to maintain prudent monetary and fiscal policies and move away from the current easing bias in the event that inflation pressures firm,” he said.

Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia Secretary General, Ken Loo, said the industry would be hit by rising fuel prices, as would any large importing or exporting sector.

Suzuki Hiroshi, CEO at the Business Research Institute for Cambodia, also raised concerns that rising oil costs could lead to price inflation.

“Inflation is one of the important points for the Cambodian economy this year,” he said. However, he added that Cambodia faced lower inflationary pressure than other nations such as China, India and Vietnam.

National Bank of Cambodia Director General and spokeswoman Nguon Sokha said inflation rates were manageable compared to neighbouring countries. “Presently, we are very carefully checking changes [in global oil prices] and how they will impact our inflation and economy,” she said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JEREMY MULLINS AND BLOOMBERG

Energy giant Chevron to establish Cambodia office

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Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:00 Cheang Sokha and Jeremy Mullins

CHEVRON will establish a permanent office in Cambodia on May 1, a move government officials welcomed as the Kingdom eyes oil production slated for 2012.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An met with representatives from the United States firm on Tuesday, where Chevron officials reaffirmed their commitment to working with Cambodia, according to Ek Tha, Council of Ministers Press Department Deputy Director.

According to Ek Tha, Sok An said: “We have been working together for years but Chevron has yet to have a permanent office. We can now achieve a new phase by establishing an office in Cambodia.”

Chevron owns a 30-percent stake and is the operator of 485,000 hectare offshore oil Block A.

Last July, Sok An said Cambodia hoped to have the first drop of oil produced on December 12, 2012.

Singapore-based Chevron spokesman Gareth Johnstone confirmed the company would open an office in Cambodia yesterday.

He also pointed to a recent statement from Chevron claiming an investment decision for the offshore Block A would be made this year. A 30-year production permit is expected to be approved by the government in the first half of 2011, it said.

“A final investment decision for construction of a wellhead platform and a floating storage and offloading vessel is expected in 2011,” it added.

Sok An – who is also Chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority – said the office would increase cooperation between Chevron and the CNPA, partially by offering increased training opportunities for Cambodians, said Ek Tha.

“It is very good timing. And you know very well that we need skilled people to work on Chevron’s offshore project,” Ek Tha quoted the Deputy Prime Minister as saying at Tuesday’s meeting.

The Ministry of Education has been working with the Ministry of Labour and the National Vocational Training Centre to prepare Cambodians for working on Chevron’s production platform and other facilities, he said.

Steve Glick has been appointed as head of Chevron’s new office. The firm is also the owner of the Caltex network of petrol stations across Cambodia.

Business Focus: Licensed pawn shop starts to thrive

A display case containing jewellery is seen at Cash-U-Up pawn shop in Phnom Penh yesterday. The shop has seen great success, since launching last August. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

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Most of our customers are simple people.
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Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:00 Tom Brennan

THE largely empty shelves and relative quiet yesterday in Cash-U-Up, a pawn shop at PGCT Center on Phnom Penh’s Street 274, betrays what has become a thriving business in the few short months since it first opened.

Between last August and now, the company has managed to grow its loan portfolio to US$1 million, and management is shooting for between $3 million and $4 million by the end of 2011.

Those are strong numbers for an industry that became licensed in Cambodia only in 2010. Cash-U-Up was the fourth pawn shop to be licensed in the Kingdom.

Cash-U-Up seems to have capitalised on the Kingdom’s need for pawn services that operate in a regulated environment, but management insists that profit is not its top priority.

“We don’t think it is the major driver that motivated us to operate the business,” said Puthkiry Kim, Chief Executive Officer of Cash-U-Up owner, Vestal Holdings.

“To help the economy as a whole, to help the low-income people in Cambodia” is the company’s goal.

Altruism aside, the numbers don’t lie. There is money to be made in the legal pawn industry, money enough to possibly lure unlicensed shops out of the shadows.

That, along with a general discouragement of trading in stolen goods, was the goal when a law was passed back in January of last year demanding that all pawn shops be licensed, the government has said.

Cash-U-Up is a joint venture between Singaporean investor Steven Lam and Cambodia-based Vestal Holdings, which operates a wide variety of businesses in the Kingdom. Its primary function is to loan smaller amounts of money to customers in return for holding collateral of some sort, whether electronics, jewellery, motorbikes or cars, though the shop is licensed to sell the items once people renege on their loans.

People trade valuable goods for temporary credit and later reclaim their possessions when they’ve raised the initial loan amount – plus interest – for Cash-U-Up. Largely, these are people who may not have access to bank or other kinds of financing.

As Cash-U-Up Operations Manager Vong Tith Phearoka said, “Most of our customers are simple people.”

Still, that hasn’t prevented him from loaning large sums of cash. The law states that pawn shops loans are capped at 20 percent of a company’s capital investment. Given that Cash-U-Up started with $500,000, that means Vong Tith Phearoka can hand out as much as $100,000 to borrowers. And he said he has.

Faced with competition from unregulated shops, Puthkiry Kim said two important things keep customers coming through his doors: a low interest rate and the promise of security.

Cash-U-Up offers loans at 2 percent to 3 percent, depending on the client, while illegal pawn brokers might ask for 4 percent or more.

And Operations Manager Vong Tith Phearoka emphasized the pains his company goes through to guarantee the collateral being offered is not stolen.

He offers the same guarantee that borrowers’ belongings will remain safe until they return for them.

For Hak Mony, that was a selling point. The 28-year-old graduate of the National University of Business has no full-time job.

Instead he works as a part-time researcher, which doesn’t pay enough to cover his living expenses. As a result, he was forced to pawn his motorbike for $800 at a 3-percent interest rate. He plans to reclaim the bike before Khmer New Year, though, and knows that he can trust Cash-U-Up to hold it.

“Confidence is very important for the pawn company. We put [our valuables] here because they can keep our things very well and with safety and security.”

“Just pay the money back, and you can take it back.”

Cash-U-Up hopes to expand through an “associate programme” that would pay people who referred business to the company. They are looking to recruit everyone from students to even other pawn brokers to participate.

The company also planned to add locations in Phnom Penh, CEO Puthkiry Kim said, before moving on to Battambang and Siem Reap provinces.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

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Pailin factory planned

Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:00 SIEAM BUNTHY

PBCK Development will spend US$2 million to build an animal-food factory in Pailin province starting in August. Company President Chea Kea said the project would be built on 20 hectares of what he described as a resource-rich area, would take about five months and 40 workers to finish. Local produce such as potatoes, corn and bran would be used to make the feed, while other materials and technical equipment would be imported from Thailand. The company is also set to spend $4 million to $6 million to open a separate farm on which about 30,000 pigs would be raised, as well as expand a stock factory for dry farm products.

Organic rice loan offered

Thursday, 24 March 2011 15:00 Chun Sophal

THE Rural Development Bank has offered a US$2 million loan to the Cambodia Center for Study and Development in Agriculture to buy un-husked organic rice. CEDAC will mill the grain for export to the international markets this year. Sun Kunthor, general director of Rural Development Bank, said yesterday: “This loan could help CEDAC, as well as community, to increase production of organic rice for export in order to reduce people’s poverty.” While Yang Saing Koma, president of CEDAC, said that this year his organisation planned to buy 3,000 tonnes of the grain for export to the United States.

UNICEF Concern Prompts Cambodian Investigation of Orphanages

Robert Carmichael
Phnom Penh March 23, 2011

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Photo: AFP
Cambodian orphans play together as they wait for adoption at Kien Klaing orphanage center in Phnom Penh, (File)

The Cambodian government has begun investigating the country’s orphanages; just days after the United Nations Children's Fund expressed its concerns that nearly three out of four children in the country's orphanages have at least one living parent.

Earlier this week, UNICEF said most of the 12,000 children in Cambodia’s orphanages are, in fact, not orphans. Nearly three-quarters of them have one living parent, yet the number of children in care has more than doubled in five years.

UNICEF said the number of orphanage centers has nearly doubled, to 269 facilities in the same period.

Just 21 of those are run by the government. The rest are funded and run by foreign donors and faith-based organizations.

Tourism

UNICEF country head, Richard Bridle, told VOA he is concerned many centers have turned to tourism to attract funding and that, by doing so, they put children at risk.

Bridle says even the best-intentioned tourists and volunteers are funding a system that is helping to separate children from their families.

International studies have shown that children are better off in a family or community setting.
That also happens to be a much cheaper way of caring for them, says Sebastien Marot, the founder of Phnom Penh’s respected street kids organization called Friends International, which was established 17 years ago.

Money-making venture

Marot says the figures from UNICEF indicate a serious problem: Either there is a misconception about stability in Cambodia in the 21st century, or "unscrupulous people" are engaging in a charity business and using children to make money.

"We have been working 17 years and we haven’t placed kids in an orphanage. And, we are working with the most marginalized kids that have the most difficult families. We haven’t placed any in an orphanage in eight years, except for heavily disabled or very, very sick, because the families are really in no capacity for taking care of them. And, that is the real situation," Marot said.

Marot acknowledges that most tourists going to orphanages are acting out of pure motives when they visit the children and give money.

But he says there is little doubt that some Cambodian orphanages have been set up to make money from foreign tourists.

Visitors to Cambodia’s tourist centers of Phnom Penh, the temple city, Siem Reap and the beach resort, Sihanoukville, are regularly bombarded with pleas to visit orphanages.

Marot’s advice is that tourists should behave as they would at home.

"The real question is: Would you do this in your own country? No. Have you ever visited an orphanage in your own country? No. Why? Because an orphanage is a safe place for kids and has to have a child protection system - it is to protect those children," Marot noted. “They are already totally vulnerable. Having people coming from outside is just not acceptable."

A spokesman for the Social Affairs Ministry, which is carrying out the inspections, admitted this week that the government does not know whether the thousands of children in care are being treated well or badly.

The spokesman says it is unclear how long it will take to inspect all 269 orphanages, but promises that those found to be sub-standard or in contravention of the law will be closed.

Uncertainty over Thai-Cambodian meeting in Indonesia

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By The Nation
Published on March 24, 2011
A meeting between Thailand and Cambodia on boundary affairs in Indonesia next month is in limbo as the Thai military and Foreign Ministry remain deeply divided over the issue.

Meanwhile, the government is struggling to have Parliament pass the documents necessary for the meeting to take place.

Indonesia, as the chair of Asean, called meetings of the Thailand-Cambodia General Border Committee (GBC) and Joint Boundary Committee (JBC) on April 7-8 in Indonesia.

The arrangement was part of a deal to settle the boundary conflict between the two neighbours. The agreement included a plan to dispatch Indonesian observers to the disputed area adjacent to the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha set a prerequisite that Thailand would not allow the observation before a discussion between Thailand and Cambodia in the GBC.

However the army chief said the GBC should take place in Cambodia as initially planned, rather than in any third country.

"We have proposed that Cambodia should call the GBC meeting as soon as possible. If Cambodia cannot host the meeting in Cambodia, the meeting should be held in Thailand," Prayuth told reporters.

Co-chaired by defence ministers of the two countries, the GBC is a bilateral mechanism to handle general border affairs, including security arrangements.

Reports have emerged that Prayuth and Defence Minister Prawit will boycott the GBC meeting in Indonesia, though Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi has claimed such reports are false. The foreign ministry is coordinating over details of the meeting with the military, he said.

The JBC, which takes care of boundary demarcation, has its own problems.

Parliament has not yet passed three documents to enable it to have the next meeting.

The House is scheduled to consider the JBC's meeting minutes on Friday, according to House Speaker Chai Chidchob. The meeting will go on as scheduled, although the nationalist People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has threatened to surround the Parliament compound on the day, he said.

The yellow-shirted PAD has vowed to block consideration of the JBC's documents as it does not want the JBC to resume its negotiations on boundary demarcation.

Thailand will lose territory, notably around Preah Vihear, if the JBC negotiates with Cambodia based on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in 2000, the PAD says.

They are concerned that the MOU recognised a French-made 1:200000 map of the area, which indicates Preah Vihear and its vicinity are under sovereignty of Cambodia.

Based on the map, the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear is situated in territory under sovereignty of Cambodia.

Thailand complied with the ruling but returned only the ruined temple to Cambodia, claiming the surrounding area belongs to Thailand.

The PAD wants the government to scrap the MOU and use military force to kick Cambodians out of the disputed area.

Thai and Cambodian troops clashed from February 4-7 near the Hindu temple. The border skirmish claimed at least 10 lives, including three civilians on both sides.

Cambodia subsequently succeeded in bringing the issue to the attention of the United Nations Security Council and Asean.

Cambodian Students Recount Japan Earthquake

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Wednesday, 23 March 2011

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Photo: AP
Police officers carry a body during a search and rescue operation in the earthquake and tsunami-devastated city of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan, March 23, 2011.

"I tried every means to get through to her, but there was no answer.”

Tea Seang Houng had just been shopping for dinner with a friend in a mall in Sendai city, Miyagi prefecture, when the earthquake began.

“When we were out of the shopping mall and got to the car park, our car was shaking, along with others. It was a tremendous shake,” Tea Seang Houng, a linguistic student, said Monday, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

“My friend told me it was an earthquake, but I thought she was just joking,” she said. “Only when it kept shaking did I start to realize it was definitely a strong earthquake.”

It was Tea Seang Houng’s first experience with such a powerful earthquake, which was later measured up to 9.0 on the Richter scale and set off a massive tsunami. So far, the March 11 disaster has killed more than 9,000 people.

During the quake, goods fell from the shelves. People ran for cover. Power and water supplies were cut off. Telephone communications closed.

“I was worried, realizing that Seng Houng was in Sendai when the earthquake occurred,” said Chea Poleng, who was in Tokyo, where the earthquake was also felt. “We could not reach her on the phone. I tried every means to get through to her, but there was no answer.”

Chea Poleng, who is a student at Hitotsu Bashi University and vice president of the Cambodian Students Association in Japan, used Facebook to look for Tea Seang Houng and other members.

With many means of transportation destroyed, Tea Seang Houng was stuck for one week before she could leave Sendai. She traveled from place to place before she reached her home in Tokyo.

Japan is still coming to grips with the disaster, and now officials are hoping to quell a mounting nuclear crisis. The Cambodian Embassy has advised residents to stay out of the capital and other cities close to nuclear reactors that have overheated in the days since the tsunami.

Tea Seang Houng has moved to stay with a family in Hiroshima.

“I will stay here until the situation in Tokyo has returned to normal,” she said.

Army chief: Indonesian observers will make situation more difficult


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BANGKOK, March 23 - Thai army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday said resolving the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia will be more difficult if Indonesia sends observers into the disputed areas claimed by both neighbours.

The Thai army commander-in-chief expressed his disagreement following reports that Indonesian observers will enter the contested zone to observe the situation.

Tension along the Thai-Cambodian border was renewed with several clashes between soldiers of the two countries near the ancient Preah Vihear temple in early February, leading to casualties among the troops and civilians on both sides, as well as forcing the evacuation of villagers in the areas.

Indonesia, as the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said it will send a team to observe the borders of Thailand and Cambodia, but not as a peacekeeping or peace enforcement team.

Gen Prayuth commented that he disagreed with the observer team, no matter from which country, but it depends on the decision of the government and the foreign ministry.

The army chief reasoned that the border conflict should be resolved at the bilateral level, adding he has no objection if the observer team will stay at the border but their location must be fixed first.

"I earlier said the Thai-Cambodian General Border Committee (GBC) meeting should be held first so that the defence ministers of two countries will talk and find a solution as to whether the ASEAN observers should enter the area or not," Gen Prayuth said.

"If the observers will really enter at the borders, I don't want them to enter the disputed area as it's dangerous zone and will make it more difficult to solve the conflict."

Gen Prayuth reiterated that the Defence Ministry, the Royal Thai Army and the commanders of Thailand three branches of the armed forces also disagreed with the move regarding ASEAN observers.

Regarding the possible GBC meeting, the army chief said Thailand has proposed to its neighbour to hold the meeting as soon as possible and that Thailand is ready to host the event if Cambodia is not ready.

Gen Prayuth added any agreement regarding the border dispute cannot be achieved by either country alone but with mutual agreement by the two countries.

In a related development, Thai foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said on Wednesday the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh has already submitted letters seeking royal pardons from the Cambodian monarch for two convicted Thai activists of Thai Patriots Network on Mar 14.

Mr Thani said he has been informed that Cambodia is considering letters of Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, while reaffirming that any political change in Thailand will not affect the royal pardon request of the two Thai nationals.

The spokesman added he cannot tell when the royal pardon request process will be completed as it depends on the consideration of Cambodian authorities case by case.

A Cambodian court on Feb 1 ruled that the two were guilty of espionage, illegal entry, and trespassing in a military zone. Mr Veera was sentenced to an eight-year jail term while Ms Ratree was handed a six-year jail term. Mr Veera's health is reportedly deteriorating as he has congenital diseases and has not been given appropriate medical treatment and nutrition while serving his jail term there. (MCOT online news)

Thai army chief rejects border observers

A Cambodian soldier walks past the Preah Vhear temple

via CAAI

BANGKOK — Thailand's powerful army chief on Wednesday said Indonesian observers were not wanted in a disputed area on the Thai-Cambodia border, despite an earlier agreement between the neighbours.

"Regardless of where the observers are from, we don't want them.. in the disputed area because it's dangerous and will complicate the problem", General Prayut Chan-O-Cha said.

The Thai defence ministry, armed forces and military commanders reject the idea of outside monitors in the territory, he said, before conceding that it was up to the government to decide.

A simmering border dispute over a small piece of land around an 11th century temple erupted in early February and heavy fighting between the armies of both sides claimed at least 10 lives and displaced thousands.

Prayut said the longstanding General Border Committee, chaired by Thai and Cambodian defence ministers, should be convened as planned in April to help the countries decide whether observers were wanted in the area.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn denied a split between the government and military view of the situation.

"There's no change in position," he said, adding that the GBC meeting would be held first to iron out details such as location and agenda before observers would be allowed in the territory.

"I asked Khun Prayut... he said he did not reject the principle. They have to be clear on the conditions and in order to do that the GBC should resume first," he said. Khun is a Thai term of respect.

Thailand and Cambodia have each accused the other of starting the border clashes, which erupted around the Hindu temple of Preah Vihear.

Ties between the neighbours have been strained since Preah Vihear was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

The World Court ruled in 1962 that the temple belonged to Cambodia, but both countries claim ownership of a 4.6 square kilometre (1.8 square mile) surrounding area.

The initial deal to allow observers into the area came in late February during a meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Indonesia, which holds the current chair of the 10-member block.

At the time Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, speaking on behalf of ASEAN, said it was a "unique arrangement" for the grouping, which devotes most of its time to trade and avoids conflict resolution.

The observers, including soldiers and civilians, were expected to be embedded with armies on either side of the disputed border and report to the governments in Bangkok and Phnom Penh on any violations of the ceasefire.

Cambodia Appreciates Cuban Support, Says Foreign Minister

HAVANA, Cuba, Mar 23 (acn) The Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hor Namhong, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, expressed the gratitude of his country for the Cuban support during several decades.

http://www.cubanews.ain.cu/

via CAAI

Hor Namhong, who was received by the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, affirmed that the bilateral relations between these two countries are in excellent conditions; whereas, his Cuban counterpart agreed by saying that such links are “historical and deep-rooted”.

The Cambodian diplomat noted that Cuba has supported this Asian nation in different fields, and mentioned that this cooperation dates back to the most tragic period in the history of Cambodia, referring to the US aggression against Viet Nam (1959-1975), which involved Laos and Cambodia.

Rodriguez appreciated the solidarity of Cambodia with Cuba, essentially in the struggle, within the United Nations, against the US economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed against Cuba for more than five decades.

Namhong, who was the Cambodian ambassador to Cuba from 1973 to 1975, is in official visit to Cuba for the second time. The first one was in 2006, when he headed the Cambodian delegation to the 14 th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Cuba has cooperated with Cambodia, with more than 14 million inhabitants, in the field of education for several years.

via CAAI

U.S. Thanks Cambodia for Supporting the U.S. Search for American Soldiers’ Remains

Phnom Penh, March 23, 2011 AKP – Mrs. Ann Mills Griffith, executive director of U.S. National League of Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action (POW/MIA) Families profoundly thanked the Cambodian government and people for their active support in searching the remains of the American soldiers missing in Cambodia during the war time.

Cambodia has been recognized by its efforts and high standard in this issue, Mrs. Ann Mills Griffith said here today during a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.

Mrs. Griffith also would like to have a joint meeting between Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and the U.S. to cooperate in searching the remains of the American soldiers who lost their lives during the Indochina war, Ieng Sophalet, assistant to the Cambodian premier told reporters after the meeting.

In reply, Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen expressed Cambodia’s irreversible stance since 1994 to actively cooperate in this humanitarian work even though Cambodia and the U.S. have not yet reestablished their diplomatic relations at that time.

He further encouraged all sides to cooperate in looking for new information sources and urged the U.S to speed up the search because the people who have known this issue are getting very old now. –AKP

Article in Khmer by CHEY Phum Pul
Article in English by SOKMOM Nimul

______

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

Indonesia not wanted, Prayuth insists


via CAAI

Published: 24/03/2011
Newspaper section: News

Observers from Indonesia are not needed to solve the Thai-Cambodian border dispute, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha insists.

Thai military leaders have also proposed that Thailand and Cambodia set up joint checkpoints to secure the disputed area.

"A third country or any other country must not get involved. Thailand and Cambodia can talk.

He repeated the stance taken by Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and armed forces chiefs. They want the Foreign Ministry to tell Cambodia they do not want any observers from Indonesia, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), to get involved in bilateral border issues.

"I do not reject observers but I do not think they are necessary because we can solve the problem ourselves.

"If observers finally come, I will keep them on the outside.

"Why should they enter the strategic area? That is dangerous. If observers are there, can they prevent Cambodia from violating the 2000 MoU?

This is the point," Gen Prayuth said, referring to the Thai-Cambodian memorandum of understanding on bilateral demarcation.

Indonesia proposed a compromise solution on Feb 22 to try to solve the border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia by sending 15 of its observers to each side of the border near the Preah Vihear temple.

The army chief also insisted that the next meeting of the General Border Committee (GBC) would happen in a bilateral manner. He said it was the turn of Cambodia to organise the GBC but if Cambodia was not ready to host it, Thailand could do so.

Meanwhile, the world heritage body Unesco is sending an urgent mission to examine Preah Vihear temple after it was damaged in border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia.

"I intend to send a mission to the area as soon as possible," Unesco's head Irina Bokova said on Tuesday.

Ms Bokova called for "calm and restraint" around the Preah Vihear temple, which suffered damage during recent fighting.

"World Heritage sites are the heritage of all humanity and the international community has a special responsibility to safeguard them," she said.

Fuel Smuggling Grips Region

AFP
A motorcyclist passes a line of vehicles waiting to fill their gas tanks in Rangoon, Feb. 22, 2011.

http://www.rfa.org/

via CAAI

2011-03-23

A gasoline and diesel black market thrives in Burma, while an illicit border fuel trade haunts Vietnam and Cambodia.
People in Burma are grappling with a serious fuel shortage on the back of surging gasoline and diesel prices, but the commodity is being smuggled into China for higher prices there.

Compounding the problem is a black market for fuel in Burma itself, with residents having to wait for hours and dig deeper into their pockets to pay for daily supplies.

The higher fuel prices have sent food costs soaring, hurting average consumers in this impoverished military-ruled nation.

"Diesel is being smuggled out to China from Burma, because the oil price in China is going up. Three months ago, gasoline was smuggled to China, but it is diesel now," said a resident from Muse, a Burmese town along the porous border with China.

He said that only people "who have connections to the authorities" can transport the fuel across the border, suggesting corruption is driving the illicit trade.

Fuel is a sensitive issue in Burma. In 2007, when gas prices soared, monks took to the streets of Rangoon to protest in what became known as the "Saffron" revolution, drawing thousands of people. The revolt was put down by security forces who killed at least 31 people and beat and detained hundreds.

Burma's neighbors are also reeling from higher fuel prices that have led to smuggling amid concerns that sweeping unrest in the Middle East and Africa will limit oil production and send oil prices even higher. Some countries provide subsidies to cushion costs.

Queue up

A truck filled with gas tanks passes a roadside gasoline stand in Rangoon, Feb. 22, 2011.

In the former capital Rangoon, the country's key commercial center, motor vehicles often have to queue up for miles overnight to get gasoline.

"You have to be in line for at least three hours to get gasoline from the gas station. Because of the gas price hike, all commodities prices are skyrocketing," a Rangoon resident said.

A street vendor selling fried rice said, "I sell fried rice for 300 kyat (about 30 cents) per plate. Trishaw [motorized three-wheeled cab] drivers told me they can't buy my food anymore, as they can't afford it."

A resident in Mandalay, Burma's second-largest city, said gasoline prices shot up from 4,000 kyat to 4,800 kyat (U.S. $4.00 to U.S. $5.00) within a week. Street vendors who buy and sell gasoline are being pursued by police."

A resident from Maubin in the rice-growing Irrawaddy division said that gas stations open at around 8 a.m.

Half an hour later, he said, prices rise far above official levels.

"We have to pay street price after 8:30 a.m. All gas stations in Maubin are owned by Ayeyar Shwewah company, a company run by two sons of Shwe Mann, who is a current Parliamentary chairman, so nobody dares to complain."

Vietnam, Cambodia

Map showing fuel smuggling routes.

In Vietnam, fuel is siphoned off and smuggled across the border to Cambodia to cash in on the higher prices, while gasoline smuggling from Thailand to Cambodia is also common.

A Vietnamese man calling himself Chi, who has long done business in Cambodia, said gas smuggling is a "daily business" in Cambodia.

"They smuggle gas to Cambodia via sea, then on land. That is for big business. But for small shipments, people smuggle over the land border, so much that we don’t know how much gas is smuggled to Cambodia every day."

Xaymun, a Cambodian woman, said gas prices jumped recently.

“I have heard that gas is brought here from Vietnam. I heard that the authorities could catch the smugglers, but then they get bribed and they let the smugglers go.”

Operating hours

Vietnamese authorities plan to limit the operating hours of filling stations along the border to only 12 hours beginning from 6 a.m. to combat smuggling.

Vehicles traveling from Vietnam to Cambodia will be allowed to buy enough fuel to travel only 50 to 100 kilometers (31 to 62 miles) under the plan, according to the VietNamNet Newspaper report.

Reported by the RFA Burmese, Cambodian, and Vietnamese services. Translation by Khin May Zaw, Viet Ha, and Sum Sok Ry. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

The Finnish Women’s Bank Women in Cambodia


via CAAI

24 March 2011
news Newsdesk
 
These Cambodian women have received training in savings and loan operations, and are now managing the local village bank themselves.

These Cambodian women have received training in savings and loan operations, and are now managing the local village bank themselves.

In Asia, Women’s Bank is active in Cambodia and Nepal, operating primarily by financing village banks. Village banks operate in rural communities where financing services with reasonable interest rates are frequently out of reach for poor families. Village bank members are local women who, after receiving basic training in savings and loan operations, manage the bank themselves. The interest rate for loans is low and the local area benefits. Women have proved to be trustworthy clients: almost 100 percent of the loans are paid back on time.

Village bank projects are accompanied by educational programs: People are offered both counseling in financial skills and practical training such as farming cash crops or tailoring. “Merely handing out money is not a solution to poverty’, stresses Hanna Kallio, the head of communications group, "we believe that giving advice, education and a small start-up loan in the beginning will be much more effective in the long run."
Shanti Lama, in Nepal, has received vocational training to become a tailor and now has her own shop. She’s happy she can afford school supplies for her children with her own income.
Women's Bank was founded upon a vision of helping such women put their ideas into action – learning a vocation or even setting up a business. This meant providing direct, tangible help at grass-roots level: small loans, education in entrepreneurship and vocational training.

Attitudes also had to be changed, since in many countries women are not thought of as independent entrepreneurs and leaders. According to the Women's Bank ideology, gaining approval for women's entrepreneurship is the most efficient way of decreasing poverty in the world, as women and girls often form a forgotten resource.

Today Women's Bank is active in 12 countries on three continents, receives donations from corporations and private citizens, and is managed in cooperation with volunteers and Finn Church Aid.

Kong Sam An in Cambodia was a member of the local Village Bank for two years. With the skills and resources acquired during the membership, she has managed to expand her small kiosk into a general store.

Thailand rejects Indonesian observers in disputed border area

http://channel6newsonline.com/

via CAAI

23 March 2011
BY: BNO News

BANGKOK, THAILAND (BNO NEWS) -- Thailand on Wednesday rejected allowing the entrance of Indonesian observers in the disputed area on the Thai-Cambodian border, the Bangkok Post reported.

Thai Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said that the decision was made by Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon as Thailand intends to solve the conflict with Cambodia without outside involvement.

Both countries have disputed the 4.6 square kilometer area near the ancient Preah Vihear temple on the Thai-Cambodian border. Cambodia requested Indonesian observers to mediate in the conflict.

"Regardless of where the observers are from, we don't want them. Thailand and Cambodia, can reach a settlement through negotiations, especially between the soldiers," said Prayuth.

General Prayuth said that if the Cambodia government insisted in having foreign observers, they should be allowed to perform their duty outside the disputed border area.

According to the Army chief, the Thai Foreign Ministry submitted a proposal to Cambodia to establish joint checkpoints in the disputed area as well as a coordination center to monitor the operation.

However, Prayuth remarked that the checkpoints and the center must be operated by Thai and Cambodian soldiers only. The General Border Committee, chaired by Thai and Cambodian defense ministers, is scheduled to meet in April to discuss the proposal.

Tensions first escalated between the two countries in July 2008 following the build-up of military forces near the Preah Vihear temple. The United Nations Security Council urged both sides to establish a permanent ceasefire after at least 10 people were killed.

Clashes resumed in February as both nations claim the lands surrounding the Hindu Temple of Preah Vihear. The border conflict has damaged the temple which dates back to the 11th century and is located on the Cambodian side of the border. UNESCO sent a mission to asses the situation.

In 2008, the Preah Vihear temple was inscribed on the World Heritage List in recognition of its outstanding universal value. It is considered an outstanding example of Khmer architecture and consists of a complex of sanctuaries linked by pavements and staircases on an 800-metre-long axis.

Asean Border Mission for Ceasefire Only: Cambodia

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Washington, DC Wednesday, 23 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: AP
A Cambodian army soldier takes photographs of the damaged section of Cambodia's famed Preah Vihear temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

"Cambodia has already elected 15 different sites for the border monitors."

Cambodian officials say an Asean observer mission to the Thai border will only seek to regulate a ceasefire and will not be involved in solving outstanding border issues that have plagued both sides and led to deadly violence.

An observer mission from Indonesia, the current head of Asean, hopes to put teams on both sides of the disputed border area once both sides agree to the terms of the mission.

Var Kimhong, head of Cambodia’s Border Committee, told VOA Khmer Tuesday that the mission would be in place to enforce a voluntary ceasefire agreed to by both sides in the wake of deadly clashes in February.

The underpinning dispute over ownership of land near the border is a separate issue, he said.

While Thailand is still considering the terms of reference for the mission, Var Kimhong said Cambodia has already elected 15 different sites for the border monitors. “There is nothing to conceal,” he said.

Meanwhile, Thai and Cambodian officials have yet to fully agree on an upcoming meeting, which Indonesia wants to host later this month or early in April.

The Bangkok Post quoted a Thai military official as saying military members of Thailand’s General Border Committee are insisting on bilateral talks.

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh told VOA Khmer he was waiting to hear whether he will meet his Thai counterpart in an Indonesian meeting.

Lawmakers To Open Session With Corruption Law Amendment

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Phnom Penh Wednesday, 23 March 2011

via CAAI

Photo: by VOA Khmer
The removal of Article 57 would put the anti-corruption law in line with the new penal code passed in December.

“The amendments to the anti-corruption law’s three articles are aimed at speeding up the work of the Anti-Corruption Council to be more effective for various corruption offenses.”

National Assembly lawmakers are preparing to approve an amendment to the anti-corruption law when their next session opens next week that would give more power to the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit and other minor adjustments.

The proposed amendments would allow the head of the ACU to appoint and remove members of the unit who are now there by appointment.

The proposed amendments also include moving the funds for the unit from the Council of Ministers to the national budget and the elimination of an article holding up legal implementation of the anti-corruption law. The removal of Article 57 would put the anti-corruption law in line with the new penal code passed in December.

“The amendments to the anti-corruption law’s three articles are aimed at speeding up the work of the Anti-Corruption Council to be more effective for various corruption offenses,” said Sik Bunhok, deputy chairman of the National Assembly’s legislative committee.

At least senior government officials are facing charges under the new law, for offenses related to drug trafficking and corruption.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a recent statement to the National Assembly that the amendments are needed to improve the speed and effectiveness of the law.

Mam Sitha, president of the Cambodian Independent Anti-Corruption Committee, said the amendments were an improvement to the law, but that its implementation was up to the will of members of the Anti-Corruption Council and the Anti-Corruption Unit.

The council, which currently appoints members of the unit, provides overall management of the law, while the ACU is in charge of investigations.

The changes to the law come as officials work to bring it into full effect, including a declaration of assets by public servants.

Keo Remy, a spokesman for the council, said more than 100,000 officials so far have submitted their declarations, with more working toward a deadline of April 7.

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