Sunday, 31 August 2008

Sacravatoons : " Thai-Circus "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Politiktoons: "Sondhi, PAD Movement's Leader"

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Vietnam’s National Day celebrated abroad


VietNamNet Bridge - The Overseas Vietnamese Association (OVA) in Cambodia held a ceremony in Phnom Penh on August 30 to mark the country’s 63rd National Day (Sept. 2).

Speaking at the ceremony, Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia Nguyen Chien Thang affirmed that the Party and State always consider the overseas Vietnamese community an inseparable part of the Vietnamese nation.

He also reminded overseas Vietnamese in Cambodia to strengthen solidarity, preserve the national identities and respect the host country’s law, thus helping consolidate and develop the traditional friendship between the two nations.

OVA President Chau Van Phi affirmed that the Vietnamese community in Cambodia always stand side by side with their compatriots in the country to promote national construction and defence.

On the occasion, the Vietnamese Consul General in China’s Hong Kong and Macau organised a meeting with overseas Vietnamese on August 29.

At the meeting, Consul General Pham Cao Phong spoke highly of Vietnam’s economic achievements in the first six months with two-way trade between Vietnam and Hong Kong reaching 1.6 billion USD and Hong Kong arrivals to Vietnam increased to 46,000.

The Governor of the US’s California State, Arnold Schawarzeneger, on August 28 sent a message of greetings to the Vietnamese Consul General in San Francisco, expressing his thanks for the Vietnamese community’s contributions to the state’s development.

California is now home to more than 700,000 Vietnamese-Americans.

(Source: VOV)

Of Cloth And Gold

(Photo courtesy: ANDREW NETE/ IPS Asia-Pacific/ AsiaNews)

"When you talk about increasing women’s participation in the labour force, you have to be very specific about what kind of participation you are talking about."


Getting decent jobs for women in Cambodia is a challenge.

“Women are cloth, men are gold.” This traditional Khmer saying is quoted by many studies on gender in Cambodia as emblematic of the different value accorded to men and women in this country of 14 million.

But it takes on a different perspective in Cham Choa district and other areas of Phnom Penh, the heart of the country’s garment industry.Rooming houses, shacks and apartment blocks intermingle with large nondescript factory buildings. Legions of mainly young female workers mill around stalls selling produce, toiletries and clothing.

These women are part of a major shift in the Cambodian economy over the last decade as employment opportunities slowly move from agriculture to new industries such as services, garment export and construction.

Cambodia’s women are at the forefront of this transition.

According to the soon to be released Cambodia Gender Assessment (CGA), produced by the ministry of women affairs, Cambodia’s female labour force participation rate is high by regional standards, at 71 per cent of the working age population over 15 years of age.

This is compared to 64 per cent in Thailand, 56 per cent in Laos and 87 per cent in Viet Nam. “More than 50 per cent of the active female population contribute to the economy of their country,” said Dr Ing Kantha Phavi, minister for women’s Affairs, in an interview with IPS. “The problem is that this (contribution) is still mainly in the informal sector.”

“The challenge Cambodian women face is not just to access employment, but decent, better paying employment.”

While the majority—83 per cent —remain self-employed or unpaid family workers, new employment opportunities for women have opened up, particularly in the garment industry, which accounted for 1.4 percent of total female employment in 1998, rising to 5.5 per cent in 2004.

This is part of what many believe has been a gradual positive shift in the situation of Cambodian women over the last decade. “Positive trends towards greater equality include increasing girls enrolment in primary education (and resulting rises in female literacy) and expanded employment opportunities,” the World Bank’s 2007 Cambodia Report noted.

Observers believe much of this progress is the result of sustained, if highly uneven, economic growth over the last few years. Poverty levels fell, according to the Bank, by 47– 5 per cent between 1994 and 2004.

At the same time, years of war and civil conflict have left Cambodia’s health, social and economic indicators among the worst in Southeast Asia.

As part of this, women continue to face serious economic, legal and social barriers, which the Bank says are part of a broader institutional bias against the poor and marginalised.

“Significant traditional inequalities persist and new ones are emerging,” said the Bank, reinforced by lower standards of education and prevailing attitudes regarding what are ‘appropriate’ occupations for women.

The plight of the garment sector illustrates the broader challenge in creating sufficient employment for Cambodia’s rapidly growing labour force.

According to the CGA, approximately 62 per cent of the total population and 44 per cent of the labour force is under 25 years of age. Of this group 55 per cent are women.

It also demonstrates the difficulties of safeguarding the economic gains made by Cambodian women, which remain fragile.Approximately 90 per cent of employees in the garment industry are women.

Despite maturing since the 1990s, the sector remains plagued by lower levels of productivity than its key competitors. The largely untrained female workforce is overseen by mainly foreign middle managers.

The recession in the US—the market for 70 per cent of Cambodia’s garment exports—is only one of many problems. Others include skyrocketing power prices, poor infrastructure and high compliance costs.

In developing countries like Cambodia, the garment sector often kick-starts industrialisation and is the precursor to the arrival of other manufacturing such as food processing, before itself relocating to other, lower-cost countries. Even a minor downturn would have major economic implications.

“If textiles goes, you’ll have 300,000 people employed today on the road tomorrow, not to mention supporting businesses large and small, including mine, that would also be in trouble,” said Paul Thomas, director of the freight company, Flow Forwarding Cambodia.

Some estimate up to a million people are either directly employed in the industry or depend on the pay packets of those who are.

Despite generating billions in foreign investment, Cambodia’s weak regulatory and legal frameworks and corruption are significant barriers to long-term sustainable growth.

According to Thomas, the government has given little thought to investment in alternative industry in Cambodia beyond garments and agriculture that could provide sustainable employment opportunities.

“The attitude is very much ‘let foreign businesses come and do it’, but no work has been done on paving the way and targeting what investment they want,” he said.

“To raise their participation in formal employment and decision-making institutions, women need skills and information about how markets and the law function,” said Phavi.

“When you talk about increasing women’s participation in the labour force, you have to be very specific about what kind of participation you are talking about,” said Chea Vannath, a regular commentator on social and political affairs.

“Are you talking about the informal sector where women are already heavily represented? Or 8am to 5pm professional jobs?”

“We are not going to increase women’s participation in professional jobs until we have things like adequate child care facilities, care for older people and salaries that keep up with the cost of living.”

Two of the most significant barriers to increasing women’s participation in the workforce are their education and health status.

While Phavi maintained the government had made progress, the Cambodian Gender Assessment said Cambodia continues to have some of the weakest health indicators in the region.

“In order to participate in economic activity and contribute to the economy you have to be healthy,” she said.

“The high rate of maternal mortality, while declining, is a real concern and a real challenge. We need to look at why, with all the aid we have received, this has not decreased more in the past.”

“This is also a cultural problem. The woman is the last to get medical attention after the children and the father. They are in bad shape by the time they come (to the doctor).”

More immediate and obvious implications for the future employment and earning capacity of women is their educational status.
While the CGA noted progress at attaining gender parity at the primary school level, overall levels of education remain low for the nation generally and women in particular.

Although enrolment rates and gender parity “have improved at all levels of education … the female share of enrolment drops at each higher level of education”, it said.

Approximately 40 per cent of women aged 25-44 are illiterate (vs 22 per cent for men). Although improving in younger age groups, 23 percent of young women aged 15-24 are illiterate (vs 16 percent of young men).

“The Cambodian government is committed to increasing education opportunities for women at all levels, from primary school to university, during the next five year mandate,” said Phavi.A particular focus is on increasing access to vocational education.

“We have some vocational training centres now but not enough and they are not responding to demand. This is important in the context of the garment industry, which we not only want to stay (in Cambodia), but to value add and not just use labour.”

In the absence of job opportunities in Cambodia, increasing numbers of Khmer women are choosing to work overseas, mainly in Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea.

“We are not sure about the exact numbers but they are significant,” said Phavi. “Although we are concerned about the conditions some of these women face overseas, we (the government) encourage labour migration due to the level of local unemployment.”

(By ANDREW NETTE In Phnom Penh/ IPS Asia-Pacific/ AsiaNews)

Khmer Authorities Cooperate with the US FBI to Investigate Murder of Moneaksekar Khmer Journalist

Posted on 31 August 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 575

“Regarding the brutal murder of Mr. Khim Sambo, a journalist of Moneaksekar Khmer and his [21-year-old] son Khat Sarinpheata, on 11 July 2008, so far the Phnom Penh authorities have not arrested the murderer or those who are behind to be convicted according to the law. The weakness of the authorities to find the murderer to be prosecuted makes the general public and some local and foreign civil society organizations strongly criticize the Phnom Penh authorities, because so far, the murderer still lives freely and is staying outside of the net of the law.

“Civil society officials and the general public have requested the Phnom Penh authorities to speed up the investigations to seek the murderer who shot dead the journalist of Moneaksekar Khmer and his son, and also those who are behind the murder to be punished, and also to know the clear reasons why the father and the son were murdered; is it for political reasons or other reasons? - so that the general public and civil society organization officials know the root of the story that led to the brutal murder.

“The reasons for the shooting of Mr. Khim Sambo and his son Khat Sarinpheata to death near the Olympic Stadium on 11 July 2008, while they were returning from their exercises, is not known yet, though it is being investigated by the authorities. Unless the murderer is convicted, the real reasons of the murder cannot be revealed. However, the authorities have not had any clear light that can lead to identify the murderer, as it is not easy.

“Because of complications to look for the murderer, the authorities decided to cooperate with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation – FBI – in Cambodia, to cooperate to seek the murderer and those who are behind them to be convicted according to the law. It is hoped that this cooperation will lead to arrest the real murderer to be sentenced soon, because the FBI has high skills in investigation and can provide ideas to the Cambodian authorities to look for the murderer who shot dead Mr. Khim Sambo and his son.

“A high ranking police official who asked not to mention his name said that yesterday, on 29 August 2008, the FBI in Cambodia met for the first time with the Cambodian authorities to discuss the cooperation to seek the murderer and those who are behind the murder of Mr. Khim Sambo and his son. The first time meeting between the Khmer authorities and the FBI was attended by Mr. Touch Naroth, the head of the Phnom Penh police, and some other officials, and by Mr. Laro Tan (a Cambodian-American), the head of the FBI office in Cambodia. Both sides focused on the murder of Mr. Khim Sambo and his son by anonymous persons.

“A police official said that during the meeting between Mr. Laro Tan, the director of the US FBI office in Cambodia, and the Cambodian authorities yesterday, Mr. Touch Naroth reported in detail about the murder of Mr. Khim Sambo and his son Khat Sarinpheata, how the Cambodian police had investigated before cooperating with the FBI office. Also, Mr. Laro Tan was satisfied with the report about the investigation by the Cambodian authorities, and the FBI agreed also to cooperate with the Cambodian authorities.

“The police official continued to say that Mr. Laro Tan responded that he will also ask the director of the FBI in the United States to offer two experts – one for investigations, and the other for drafting a ‘wanted’ circular with a sketch of the face of the suspect, and he is also an expert in performing autopsies

“The cooperation between the Phnom Penh authorities and the US FBI to investigate the murder of Mr. Khim Sambo and of his son Khat Sarinpheata was welcomed by civil society organization officials and by the general public, and it is hoped it will help to find the murderers and those who are behind them to be convicted soon.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3552, 30.8.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Saturday, 30 August 2008


The Bangkok Post
Sunday August 31, 2008

The late Maha Ghosananda of Cambodia proved the healing power of wisdom and compassion


There was some inexpressibly cool and unhurried sense of peacefulness that exuded from the man. The year was 1997, November 5 to be exact. I was attending an inter-faith conference at a small town about an hour's drive from Phnom Penh. He was there among the crowds who came to give their blessing to the opening of the auspicious event. I felt something special about this frail but ever-smiling monk although I couldn't tell why. "Oh, that is Venerable Maha Ghosananda; he is very famous in Cambodia," whispered Buddhist scholar Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, urging me to interview him.

So I did. But as obliging as Maha Ghosananda was with a then green-horn journalist like me, I found it extremely difficult to write an article on him. He talked very little about his personal life, which Acharn Chatsumarn (who was later ordained as Bhikkhuni Dhammananda) said was so fascinating. Throughout the brief conversation I had with him, Maha Ghosananda would make extensive references to "dharma" - the importance of keeping oneself aware of the rising and ebbing away of mental phenomena, pleasant or not, how to constantly cultivate loving-kindness toward every sentient being, and last but not least, how not to cling to anything. I accept the truth of the adages, but they were, well, (given my ignorance at the time) hard to put in a newspaper.

His name, and that mysteriously cool aura, has however been an enigma for me. Every now and then I would come across some mention about or by him. He has been called the "Gandhi of Cambodia", the "Buddha of the Battlefields", and in the words of the late Dith Pran (whose life inspired the film The Killing Fields), the "dreamkeeper" of his homeland. In the 1990s, King Sihanouk conferred on him the special title of "Leader of Religion and Peace", and later "International Patriarch". He received numerous awards for his peace activism, including being nominated a few times for the Nobel Prize. His dharmayietra (literally "Pilgrimage of Truth") movement, which he initiated in 1992 with friends from different denominations, has since been carried on in his homeland, and later adopted elsewhere, including in Thailand (albeit totally different from the one recently staged during the dispute over the Preah Vihear world heritage site). In the late '70s, he helped set up hut temples at the refugee camps along the Thai-Cambodian borders, and later to rebuild temples and provide education to hundreds of monks and nuns in Cambodia (it was estimated that of about 65,000 monastics, only 3,000 survived the Khmer Rouge era). He also founded over 30 home-based temples in North America, Europe and Australia for the Cambodian migrant communities there.

The more I learned about Maha Ghosananda's biography and the tortuous history of Cambodia, the more I appreciate and marvel at his ability to remain unperturbed, so refreshingly serene in the midst of raging fires.

I would have the same question once raised by Benedictine monk James Wiseman: "Looking at the Venerable Ghosananda, one has the impression that not only his smile, but his whole body is radiant. It seems as if his skin has been washed so clean that it shines. One can only wonder what this man has seen, what he has experienced of the terrible killing fields in his home country (considering that all the members of Maha Ghosananda's family died under the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot).

"One thing however is obvious: Whatever his experience has been, it has brought forth extraordinary growth in the spiritual life."

Of his early years, there is sketchy, rather scattered information. His date of birth varies - it was some time in the 1920s - depending on the source. It was reckoned, though, that Maha Ghosananda's potential may have been recognised not long after his ordination, for he came under the tutelage of Venerable Chuon Nath, later appointed to be the Supreme Patriarch and a key leader of the reformist movement in Cambodian Buddhism in the early 20th century.

In 1951, he left for a study at Nalanda University in India (where he would be eventually granted a PhD which he jokingly translated as "Person Has Dukkha" - suffering). Importantly, while in India, Maha Ghosananda had an opportunity to learn about the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence with Nichidatsu Fujii, a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and the founder of Nipponsan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist order dedicated to world peace.

After his time in India, Maha Ghosananda reportedly travelled extensively to different temples throughout Asia, returned to Cambodia briefly before a long spell of residence in Thailand (the exact number of years is not known). It was said he studied Vipassana (insight) meditation with Ajahn Dhammadaro in Nakhon Si Thammarat, but an obituary written by his long-time friend Sulak Sivaraksa last year also mentioned reformist monk Buddhadasa as another mentor of Maha Ghosananda.

It was at this very juncture in Thailand where all the years of dharma practice came to fruition. At a forest monastery in the South, Maha Ghosananda heard news about the series of tragedies that beset his homeland: The American bombing raids, which dropped over 2.7 million tonnes of bombs and killed an estimated 600,000 Cambodians, the successive changes of regimes and ensuing bloodshed, the brutal genocide of the Khmer Rouge ...

A biography written by American monk Venerable Santidhammo described the tenacious struggle the Cambodian monk had to go through:

"He learned that his parents and all his brothers and sisters had been murdered. He was told, over time, of the death of many of his fellow monks and nuns. And of course, he said, he wept for so many losses. He wept for his country. He wept, he said, every day and could not stop weeping. But his teacher urged him to stop. Don't weep, he was told, Be mindful.

"Having mindfulness, his teacher said, is like knowing when to open and when to close your windows and doors. Mindfulness tells us when is the appropriate time to do things - you can't stop the fighting. Instead, fight your impulses toward sorrow and anger. Be mindful. Prepare for the day when you can truly be useful to your country. Stop weeping, and be mindful!"

We will never know how and for how long before the inner battle came to an end. By 1978, Maha Ghosananda embarked on a mission to bring peace to his fellow Cambodians. In an introduction to his only book, titled Step by Step - Meditations on Wisdom and Compassion, editors Jane Sharada Mahoney and Philip Edmonds related the monk's visit to a refugee camp in Sakeo. Amid the bleak and dilapidated atmosphere, Maha Ghosananda's presence was like a glowing candle that rekindled the spiritual warmth long suppressed by the protracted wars.

"In that moment," Mahoney and Edmonds write, "great suffering and great love merged.

Centuries of Buddhist devotion rushed into the consciousness of the refugees. Waves of survivors fell to their knees and prostrated, wailing loudly, their cries reverberating throughout the camp. Many say that the Dharma, which had slept gently in their hearts as the Bodhi tree burned, was reawakened that day."

Maha Ghosananda himself would later stress the duty of socially-engaged Buddhists: "We must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to the Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else.

The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettoes and the battlefields will then become our temples."
There is no discrimination either between ideologies or on the basis of past conflicts. Maha Ghosananda's temple huts catered to all refugees alike, including former Khmer Rouge soldiers. "We have great compassion for them because they do not know the truth," he later told film producer Alan Channer. "They suffer so much; they burn themselves. They want peace; they want happiness and Buddhism gives them peace and happiness.

"I do not question that loving one's oppressors - Cambodians loving the Khmer Rouge - may be the most difficult attitude to achieve. But it is a law of the universe that retaliation, hatred, and revenge only continue the cycle and never stop it. Reconciliation does not mean that we surrender rights and conditions, but rather that we use love in our negotiations. It means that we see ourselves in the opponent - for what is the opponent but a being in ignorance, and we ourselves are also ignorant of many things. Therefore, only loving-kindness and right mindfulness can free us."

It is a message that he would repeat the rest of his life. During the top-level talks between different Cambodian warring factions in France, Switzerland, and Indonesia, Maha Ghosananda led his contingency of monks, "the fifth army of peace", to open daily sessions with prayer and meditation; they implored the leaders to recall their Buddha nature, and reminded everyone of the power of non-violence. Sulak recalled the monk had personally asked him to seek holy water from the Supreme Patriarch at Wat Bowon Niwet in Bangkok to sprinkle on the Cambodian representatives - an initiative that was unanimously welcomed by all parties.

In her article on the dharmayietra movement in Cambodia, Kathryn Poethig wrote: "For Maha Ghosananda, the essence of Buddhist dharma is the practice of peacemaking. It requires skilful means, the ability to listen with compassion to the perspective of the one who has done you and others harm, and being mindful and selfless in negotiating a peaceful resolution to conflict."

Ingenuity and patience are certainly key. Maha Ghosananda often talked about how "wisdom and compassion must walk together. Having one without the other is like walking on one foot; you will fall. Balancing the two, you will walk very well, step by step."

In 1992, as the refugee camps were preparing to close with the planned repatriation of some 350,000 Cambodians, Maha Ghosananda and his friends from various faith groups launched the first dharmayietra. Over a hundred Cambodian refugees, escorted by international walkers including monks from Thailand, Sri Lanka and Japan, did the arduous 450km trek from the Thai borders back into their homeland. Every day, the returning Cambodians found their long-lost family members. By the time the band reached Phnom Penh, their number had swollen to more than a thousand.

The first few walks have been wrought with great difficulty. For the inaugural walk, most of the senior monks invited declined to join; it took a while to get permission from the Thai, Cambodian, and UN officials for the refugees to cross the borders. The subsequent ones fared no better; landmines and exchanges of gunshots and grenades between the Khmer Rouge and government troops were still the norm. During the third walk, in 1994, a skirmish caused by a misunderstanding ended with a monk and a nun killed, a few participants injured, and some taken hostage (though they were later released).

But the peace walkers did not waiver. For Maha Ghosananda, the dharmayietra was not a political demonstration - they discouraged any effort by public figures to co-opt the event - or a new innovation into Cambodian Buddhism. It was simply following the example of the Buddha, he cited, who long ago had walked right onto the battlefield in an effort to end a war and bring reconciliation to two hostile factions of his own clan.

The suffering of Cambodia has been deep.
From this suffering comes Great Compassion.
Great Compassion makes a Peaceful Heart.
A Peaceful Heart makes a Peaceful Person.
A Peaceful Person makes a Peaceful Family.
A Peaceful Family makes a Peaceful Community.
A Peaceful Community makes a Peaceful Nation.
And a Peaceful Nation makes a Peaceful World.
May all beings live in Happiness and Peace.

In Venerable Santidhammo's biography, moving accounts of those who participated in the walks reveal the beauty of humanity, if given a chance to grow. The dharmayietra heralded the end of the war, reunited families, inspired new vision. A number called the experience Dhamma Teak Tong, or "Dhamma Contact". For at that very moment, all the boundaries melt; any notions of "us" versus "them" are tossed away.

One local woman said: "We Khmer haven't seen peace for so long. We've never known it. Now seeing the monks and all these people walking makes me think they've come to teach us to love one another, to unite. When I see them I feel speechless. Maybe we will have true peace after all."

Due to his fragile health, by 2000, Maha Ghosananda could no longer attend the dharmayietra walks, which have since been done on more localised scales, with the themes ranging from environmental to human rights, Aids, and youth issues. According to Peter Gyallay-Pap, founder and executive director of the Khmer-Buddhist Educational Assistance Project (KEAP), the spirit of the monk has been carried on by his followers who seek "change in terms of actively following the middle path, not in social or political confrontation".

But will true transformation ever come? To Cambodia and the rest of the world? On the last page of his book Step by Step, Maha Ghosananda expressed his faith in the practice of mindfulness as "the only way to peace".

"Slowly, slowly, step by step," he urges. "Each step is a meditation. Each step is a prayer."
On March 12, 2007, Maha Ghosananda passed away at a temple in Lowell, Massachusetts, one of the many sanctuaries he had built for his fellow Cambodians around the world

Cambodia visits cruelty on weakest citizens

Joel Brinkley
Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cambodia - Well past the city limits, beyond the sign that says "Bon Voyage; See You Again," after the paved roads end, down a rutted dirt track, Un Thea sits in the mud outside her shanty, peeling bamboo shoots - and seething.

Two years ago, soldiers and police showed up in the middle of the night to throw her family and more than 1,000 others out of their homes on a plot in central Phnom Penh. The soldiers torched the crude houses before Un and the others had time even to retrieve their meager belongings. All of the residents were herded onto buses and ferried out to Andoung, about 15 miles away, and dumped in a rice paddy without so much as a bottle of water or a tarp for cover.

Then the soldiers left - although a few stayed to turn away the aid groups that came to drop off emergency rations.

Un's case is among several thousand more or less similar land seizures across Cambodia in the last three years.

"Out here, it is hard making business," Un complains with considerable understatement. She is 25 but already looks decades older. "They dumped us here and gave us no money, no land title. Nothing."

Cambodia is a democracy. The modern state grew out of a United Nations peace conference in 1991 intended to create a free nation from the rubble the Khmer Rouge left behind.

Since then, the government has purported to manage the country according to the rule of law. Every democratic country, including the United States, fails at times to live up to its democratic ideals.

But the cruelty the Cambodian government visits upon its weakest citizens can be breathtaking. You expect this in North Korea or Zimbabwe. But Cambodia? In late July, Cambodians voted in national elections that were generally peaceful, but with scattered complaints. Government leaders tolerate human rights groups that regularly castigate them and, within limits, critical stories in the news media.

Still, stories like Un's can overwhelm the positive developments in Cambodia. Chum Bon Rong is secretary of state in the National Land Authority, which is supposed to arbitrate land disputes like the Andoung case. Last week he told me that his agency has received more than 3,000 land-seizure appeals in the last 2 1/2 years.

Of those, he admitted, only about 50 have been judged in favor of plaintiffs, the impoverished people whose land was seized. Even among those 50, he acknowledged with a rueful grin, "sometimes the cases disappear" after referral to another agency that is supposed to implement the National Land Authority's findings.

In 2001, under pressure from the West, Cambodia enacted a Land Law that was supposed to set clear rules for property disputes. Seven years later, the government has yet to write the regulations implementing that law and the seizures continue unabated. Phnom Penh is booming, and when a developer spots a choice piece of land, he simply pays off the proper official to gain a newly minted land title. All that's left is to rid the property of its pesky residents - almost always poor, uneducated people such as Un.

Once the residents have been disposed of, they are forgotten. Licadho, a local human rights group, noted in a new report that Un and the others dumped out in Andoung suffer from "malnutrition, typhoid, dengue fever, hepatitis A or B, hypertension, respiratory tract infections, gastro-intestinal illnesses including stress-related ulcers, depression," and last in this litany, "anger management problems."

Un and her husband built a one-room shelter on stilts from scrap wood, bamboo matting and plastic tarps.

Ten people now live in and under the house. She has no electricity or running water. No one in this community has a phone; there's not a single toilet. "We have to buy water from the water seller," she says, nodding toward an earthen cistern beside the house.

Mosquito larvae seem to roil the water surface. Tacked to her shelter's front wall, a poster warns of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness. Un says she can make about 5,000 riel selling her peeled bamboo shoots at market. That's $1.22. She sends her young sons into Phnom Penh "to shine shoes for the people. They go and stay for a month."

A few months ago, the United Nations issued a report saying the government here always "tilts in favor of businesses" that want to develop land, "pitting poor farmers against developers."
Even though his own agency's numbers show the very same thing, Chum says complaints like that from abroad are "a case of propaganda."
Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times. E-mail Insight at E-mail Brinkley at

Thai protesters defy orders to end siege


Agence France-Presse

BANGKOK - Thousands of Thai protesters trying to bring down the prime minister again defied orders Thursday to end their siege of government offices, forming human shields to protect their leaders from arrest.

The courts have ordered them to clear out of Government House immediately and issued arrest warrants for nine of the protest leaders, but the alliance against Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej remained defiant.

"If nine of us are arrested, you must continue to rally here," said 73-year-old Chamlong Srimuang, one of the key figures in the months-long campaign by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to force Samak to resign.

Rumours spread overnight that the thousands of police massed outside the compound in downtown Bangkok were preparing to enter and force the demonstrators out.

"It's our victory that police did not storm and arrest us last night," Chamlong told cheering protesters, who have spent two nights and a day camped out sheltering from the rain and sun under umbrellas.

The PAD movement, which has been protesting since May, says Samak is a mere figurehead running the country on behalf of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and is barred from holding office.

PAD protests helped lead to the putsch that unseated the populist Thaksin, and the entry to government of his ally Samak has infuriated the country's old power elites in the military and palace.

Samak, who was elected last December, has said he will use a "soft and gentle" approach with the group, and despite tense moments overnight police standing guard around Government House kept a low-key presence.

"At this moment there are more than 10,000 protesters inside," deputy government spokesman Nuttawut Saikua told AFP.

An AFP correspondent at the scene said many police appeared to have left the enclosure overnight, while the PAD has installed their own checkpoints with volunteer guards searching everybody trying to enter the rally site.

The government's patience with the group appears to be wearing thin, and a poll Wednesday showed that the majority of Bangkok residents were also fed up with the antics of the group claiming loyalty to the revered monarchy.

The crisis began early Tuesday when up to 35,000 anti-government demonstrators stormed a state-run TV station and surrounded at least three ministries before finally invading the grounds of Government House.

A senior police officer, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media, said the Metropolitan Police top brass were planning their next steps.

"They will prepare documents and hopefully by early afternoon police will enter Government House with a court injunction and arrest warrants to meet with protest leaders," the officer told AFP.

The Criminal Court on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for nine people, including the five PAD leaders, on charges including treason -- which carries the death penalty -- and illegal assembly.

Guide on traveling like a local in Cambodia

by Jamie Rhein
Aug 30th 2008
No, I haven't traveled like a local in Cambodia, but from how Tim Patterson describes it at Jaunted, my local travel in The Gambia sounds close. His line about both butt checks falling asleep at the same time brought back memories.

As one of his entries for the Embedded Travel Guide to Cambodia, a series where he blogs about his experiences staying in a guest house in Sihanoukville, Patterson describes the various ways one can get from point A to point B in that country. The emotions he highlights are shock, misery and exhilaration--perfect word choices for capturing the flavor of many of the experiences I've had while shouldering my way into a bush taxi, or bobbing along in ramshackle boat without a life jacket and the shore almost too far away to see.

For anyone heading to a place where transportation is an assortment of tuk-tuks, fishing boats, buses, bamboo rafts, regular boats, motorcycles, cyclos, regular taxis, pick-up trucks, or heaven knows what else--ox carts, for example, Patterson's guide is a great way to familiarize yourself with what's out there and how to play it safe as best you can.

Patterson's idea is you jump on, have fun, but know the risk. I second his emotions. Besides, you'll end up with some great tales to tell and you won't even have to embellish the details to make the stories more fantastic.

Cambodia introduces new regulations for developers and real estate agents

Property Wire
New regulations are being introduced in Cambodia to protect property investors from fraud as the country's real estate industry booms.
Developers will be required to deposit a sum with the National Bank of Cambodia before being allowed to begin construction on a project under new regulations aimed at curbing fraud.
Payments from buyers will be held in this account with the aim of making the whole payment system more transparent and avoid developers using money illegally. It will also allow the government to intervene if developers fail to honour their contracts.
Real estate agents and developers will have to obtain a licence from the Ministry of Economy and Finance to sell projects and face legal action and even closure if they fail to do so.

The new rules mean developers and agents must comply by the end of September, a spokesman for the Economy and Finance ministry said.

There will be costs to the developers and agents involved but officials believe this will deter cowboys. 'Real estate developers will be required to deposit 2% of the projects' total value at the National Bank of Cambodia,' said Mao Pao deputy chief of the ministry's real estate division.'We will require a developer to open a housing development account at any commercial bank to enable buyers to make payments through the bank,' he added.

The price for the new licences for selling or renting will depend on the scale of the project. Until now developers only needed a letter of permission from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and an investment licence from the Council for the Development of Cambodia.

There are estimated to be around 100 developers currently operating in Cambodia, many of them quite small. Some said the new regulations will be too costly and put them out of business.

Capital Phnom Penh has undergone an unprecedented construction boom over the last several years, including a number of residential and commercial mega-projects that are set to transform the capital from a sleepy backwater.

Sri Lanka envoy for Cambodia genocide tribunal

The Sunday Times

From Neville de Silva in London

Sri Lanka’s new High Commissioner to London Nihal Jayasinghe left for Cambodia to sit on the UN-sponsored tribunal trying former leaders of the dreaded Khmer Rouge regime for crimes against humanity.

Nihal Jayasinghe, a former Justice of Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court is one of three international judges sitting in the Supreme Court chamber, the highest tier of the three- layered tribunal.

Nihal Jayasinghe was sworn in as a member of the tribunal when he was a Justice of the Supreme Court and this is the first time he will be attending a meeting of the tribunal since his retirement from the Sri Lankan judiciary and his appointment as High Commissioner to Great Britain.

The other two international judges are Motoo Naguchi of Japan and Agnieszka Klonowiecka-Milart of Poland while four Cambodian judges make up the seven-member Bench that will hear appeals against convictions by the Trial Chamber.

High Commissioner Jayasinghe, who is due to return to London at the end of this week said that he is not due to present his credentials to the Queen until the first half of October. However he said that he has called on officials of the British Foreign Office and met with British parliamentarians and journalists besides members of several Sri Lankan organisations and associations here.

“My message to them has been that there is no quarrel or conflict between the Sinhala and Tamils communities. The conflict is with the LTTE, with a terrorist group,” Jayasinghe told The Sunday Times. He said that there is a misconception here that the Government and the Sinhala people are against the Tamil community and this had to be corrected.

Cambodia, UN-FAO launch emergency project for farmers

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) of Cambodia and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are launching an emergency project through its Technical Cooperation Program (TCP) in Cambodia to help impoverished farmers boost agricultural production, said a joint press release received here Saturday.

The project is part of the FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices (ISFP) started in December 2007 and aims to boost the local food supply to soften the blow of soaring food prices, it said.

The FAO is focusing on immediate activities during this rainy season from July 2008 to Sept. 2008 and within the dry season from Nov. 2008 until Jan. 2009, so that by the next harvests there will be more food available locally at lower prices, it said.

In addition, the project is providing fertilizers, which are petroleum-based and thus out of reach of poor farmers as oil prices break new records every day, it said.

As the latest step of the project, a rice seed distribution ceremony to vulnerable farmers was held on Aug. 28 at Bati district, Takeo province, with the attendance of Chan Sarun, Cambodian Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as well as Omar Salah Ahmed, FAO Representative in Cambodia, said the press release.

For the medium and long term plan, the FAO aims at a more comprehensive assistance program towards agricultural development by focusing on increased productivities, irrigation and improving the storage, it added.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Stop illegal lake filling

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by David Pred
Friday, 29 August 2008

Dear Editor,

After a decade of rumours, the so-called 'development' of the Boeung Kok lake area is now under way. The contract for the development was negotiated in a shroud of secrecy without even the pretense of open bidding or participation from the tens of thousands of the residents and business owners who will be directly affected. Senator Lao Meng Khin appears to have won the no-bid contract on the basis of his connections to the highest levels of the Cambodian political hierarchy.

The lease agreement that his company Shukaku Inc signed last February with the Municipality of Phnom Penh violates numerous provisions of Cambodian Land Law. The agreement calls for the filling in of Boeung Kok lake - a crucial natural reservoir for excess rainwater - which threatens to significantly worsen the flooding that Phnom Penh has already seen. An environmental impact assessment - required by law before the commencement of any major development project - has not been made public or approved by the Ministry of Environment, yet the filling of the lake has already begun.

The senator's contract strips away the land and property rights of more than 4,000 families. The contract transfers interest in land that is already legally possessed by local families under the 2001 Land Law to a private company. While the lake itself is state public property, many surrounding families have demonstrated legal claims to their property through lawful possession. Recent precedents by the municipality and the abysmal track record of Senator Lao Meng Khin's other company Pheapimex suggest that those families who do not accept the proposed compensation or resettlement offer will be forcibly evicted.

The Kingdom of Cambodia has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In doing so, it has committed itself to respect the right to adequate housing of its citizens and refrain from forced evictions, which are prohibited under international law.

The Cambodian government will be presenting its first report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) this October. It will be required to explain to the committee how it has implemented the covenant in Cambodia. Surely, the Cambodian delegation will not want to face questions from the committee about why it has permitted the Municipality of Phnom Penh to uproot the lives of more than 20,000 citizens in the name of "city beautification" and embark on the largest single displacement of people in Cambodia since the Khmer Rouge evacuated the capital city in 1975.

It is not too late to stop this terrible mistake. When the Boeung Kok residents file their legal complaint to halt these illegal actions, let us hope that the Cambodian judiciary surprises us for a change and defends the rule of law.

David Pred,
Cambodia Country Director
Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia

Thailand: Postponement of the Second Meeting

Thailand: Postponement of the Second Meeting between the Head of the Cambodian Temporary Coordinating Task Force and the Head of the Thai Regional Border Committee


Reference is made to the agreement reached during the Second Foreign Ministers Meeting between Thailand and Cambodia regarding the border area adjacent to the Temple of Phra Viharn, held in Cha-am, Phetchaburi Province on 19 August 2008, to convene a second meeting between the Head of the Cambodian Temporary Coordinating Task Force and the Head of the Thai Regional Border Committee (RBC) on 29 August 2008 in Cambodia to discuss the second phase of redeployment of their respective troops. Given media reports of the said meeting's postponement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wishes to provide the following clarification:

1. Contrary to media reports, the said meeting has been postponed, not because of Thailand's domestic political situation, but because both sides still need to complete their relevant internal procedures. Both sides therefore agreed to postpone the meeting and reschedule it as soon as possible.

2. Thailand is committed to resolving outstanding issues through negotiations within existing bilateral mechanisms and firmly believes that, with the friendship that has long existed between both Kingdoms, a solution can be found that is acceptable to both sides.


Pattaya Daily News
August 30, 2008

Banglamung police arrested motorbike thieves and confiscated 10 motorbikes to return to the owners. Suspects confessed of dividing them to sell in Cambodia.

At 2pm, on August 29th, 2008, Pol.Col. Sarayut Sa-gnuen-bpo-kai, Banglamung superintendent, Chonburi, Samrit Khunchit, deputy suppressing superintendent, Pol.Maj.Kamol Thaweesri and investigation team, joined to release the news on the arrest of 4 suspects in a motorbike theft and a theft shop gang.

Mr. Art and Mr. Phong (Alias), (16), were arrested for motorbike theft. Mr. Nak Sosude (27), from Pijit province, the owner of a motorbike repair shop in Chonburi and Mr. Weerachai Pholdaharn or nickname "Tong", (42), from Nakornrachasima province, were arrested for running a motorbike theft shop with the evidence of dismantled tools, 10 motorbikes and many motorbike parts.

Pol.Col.Sarayut Sa-gnuen-bpo-kai, Banglamung superintendent, declared that police had found two suspects, Mr. Art and Mr. Phong (Alias), riding on a black and white Honda Click, license No. 306, Bangkok, coming into Nantha Apartment, Moo 13, Nongprue, Banglamung, Chonburi. Both of them looked suspicious then police had inspected, and found the motorbike that they were on, was stolen from Poi Pet market, Soi Nern-plub-warn, Moo 5, Nongprue.

Police arrested Mr. Art and Mr.Phong and extended the case to find out that they had joined with Mr. Chachawan Suthina or nickname "Lek" (22), Mr. Tong and Mr. Gap (no real names were identified and they had escaped), going around to steal motorbikes in Pattaya and Banglamung area. They sold the stolen bikes to Mr. Nak Sosude and Mr. Weerachai Poldaharn or nickname "Tong" for 1,800 – 2,000 each. The stolen motorbikes would be resell through Thai-Cambodia border , Sra-gaew province.

Those Who Live at Boeng Kak Lake Go to Give Their Thumbprints to Get Money and New Housing

Posted on 30 August 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 575

“Phnom Penh: On 27 August 2008, from morning to night, many citizens, including husbands, wives, and children 18 years and older, went to the headquarters of a company [the writer of this article, focused on this company, surprisingly does not name the company or give any related information] that has received a legal permit to develop the Boeng Kak region, so some residents start to go and give their thumbprints, to leave the Boeng Kak region, getting compensation money or new housing.

“Mr. Man Chhoeun, the Phnom Penh Municipal deputy governor and the person in charge of this task with a Boeng Kak regional developer company, said that 500 families had agreed to receive the compensation money of US$8,000 and Riel 2 million [approx. US$490] or new housing with Riel 2 million [approx US$490], costly solutions for the developer company.

“As for citizens who agree to take the compensation money or new housing, the company will continue to offer this, until no more family is left outside of this scheme.

“At the company headquarters, the citizens who went to accept the compensation money or new housing in order to leave the old region, said that they took the money because they want to run their businesses and live in the new places with a good environment, and they do not want to live above the sewage at the lake which affects their heath.

“The new housing that they agree to receive can be constructed one floor above the ground, and it is in Cham Chao, Dangkoa. After leading their families to see [models of] those new housing, they agreed to give their thumbprints to accept the new housing, because they are satisfied with the new housing. All the citizens said that they want to see the company develop the Boeng Kak region soon, requesting that the company has to act very quickly and make good development, so that the area is not left it unused or sold to another company.

“While this exchange process is going on - [citizens accept money or housing while the company gets the thumbprints in exchange, showing that the citizens agree the leave the region], it is seen that the company had prepared documents very carefully, including fair lucky draws, and thumbprints are taken from husbands, wives, and children who are 18 or older, and the company explained clearly the statutes of the contracts, in order to avoid any future complicated problems.

“In the meantime, the company also informed about another good news: that the company offers Riel 100 million loans [approx. US$25,000] with a very low interest rate, to help the citizens from the Boeng Kak region who agree to live in new locations, to run small businesses.

“Now, the citizens living at the Boeng Kak Lake gradually go to give their thumbprints to receive the compensation money and new housing; as for the company, it is trying to prepare everything for the citizens without delay.

“Most of the citizens agreed to take US$8,000 and Riel 2 million, because they want to choose a new location by themselves where it is easy to run their everyday living businesses.

“As for the development of the Boeng Kak region, it is seen that the company has started to pump sand into lake, gradually, since 26 August 2008.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #1680, 29.8.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:Friday, 29 August 2008

APB names new general manager for Cambodia Brewery

Drinks Business Review
29th August 2008
By Staff Writer

Asia Pacific Breweries has appointed Koh Tai Hong as general manager for Cambodia Brewery, the company's operations in Cambodia, effective September 1, 2008.

As the new general manager of Cambodia Brewery, Mr Hong will be responsible for its overall management of strategic and operational matters including sales, marketing, technical and business development.

Previously, Mr Hong joined Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) for 14 years from 1990 to 2004, following his stint at McCann-Erickson. During his first 12 years with the brewery group, Mr Hong led the sales and marketing of APB's beer brands in China, Singapore and Vietnam.

Mr Hong led the key Tiger brand campaigns and launch of Baron's Strong Brew in Singapore; established Tiger in the Chinese market; as well as introduced and enabled the penetration of locally-brewed Tiger in Vietnam in the early 1990s when the brand was still relatively new to the market. In 2002, he assumed the position of general manager of Cambodia Brewery.

Little Cambodian flute player makes big noise

LILI SISOMBAT PANHLauv, 8, performs on the flute and (below) speaks with his teachers Hou Gongneng and Anton Isslehardt.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Karen London
Friday, 29 August 2008

Talented eight-year-old PANHLauv comes from a musical family and took to the flute at the age of six, despite being told he was too small to play itost

Little eight-year-old flautist PANHLauv was once told he couldn't play the flute because it was too long.

But his performance with two of his teachers at the Art Cafe on Wednesday night showed he has become accomplished on the instrument.

In a country where western classical music is not well-known or widely practised, PANHLauv has been privileged since the age of six to study under Chinese teacher Hou Gongneng - who is visiting Phnom Penh for the first time - and Art Cafe owner and flutist Anton Isslehardt.

PANHLauv met Hou, a flutist from the Wind Instruments Orchestra of Sichuan, when he was based in China during his summer holidays while his mother, Dr Lili Sisombat, worked there for two years.

PANHLauv began his studies in the summer of 2006 and could blow steadily and play three compositions within less than three weeks. The younger brother of BosbaPANH, a promising Khmer coloratura soprano - both siblings opt to style their names in uppercase letters - and nephew of filmmaker Rithy Panh, PANHLauv comes from a talented family and, according to his mother, has always had a very good ear for music.

"He didn't know how to read the notes but could play music just by listening. During a concert by his sister last December, he could play all the songs," Sisombat said.

"He grew up with his sister singing and musicians always coming to the house, and he was always observing them. When he first tried a flute, the Khmer teacher said he couldn't play the flute as it was too long. But when we were in China, they had a special flute he could easily use and hold."

It has taken a lot of discipline and determination to get to where he is, and, when based in China, PANHLuav practised for four hours a week with his master teacher, the director of the Sichuan symphony, and with Hun for two hours a day.
When at home in Cambodia, he practises four hours a day during the school holidays and one-and-a-half to two hours a day during the school term.
According to his mother, PANHLauv is also learning to read and write music and likes to play the drums.
"I like music and what I like about the flute is playing with the fingers. I have learned how to put my lips on the flute, place my fingers and lots of songs from my teachers. I want to one day be a conductor like my teacher in China," said PANHLauv.
There is little opportunity for students in Cambodia to study with European teachers, said Sisombat. "PANHLauv is of Cambodian roots but lucky enough to have been exposed to international musicians and disciplines," she said.
With support and appropriate training, however, PANHLauv's talent gives his dream of becoming a conductor a real possibility of coming true.

Cambodian banks partner with Visa to launch integrated ATMs

VANDY RATTANA; National Bank of Cambodia Governor Chea Chanto in a file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by George McLeod and Nguon sovan
Friday, 29 August 2008

System to allow customers to use cash points at competing banks, raising the number of available ATMs and making banking easier

FOUR of Cambodia's key banks have partnered with Visa to launch the Kingdom's first integrated ATM system that bank officials say will allow customers to make withdrawals and check balances at competitor banks without facing international charges.

"[The system] will make it easier to perform financial transactions ... and provide greater convenience," said Truong Minh Ha, the country manager for Visa, which set up the Easy Cash system with Canadia Bank, Mekong Bank, SBC and Union Commercial Bank.

Visa operates VisaNet, the world's largest retail electronic payment network, connecting 16,000 banks and 1.6 billion cards, with access to 29 million merchants and one million ATMs around the world, the company said in a statement.

"The VisaNet system will increase the number of ATMs available to our customers ... we are looking to have up to 126 ATMs connected under VisaNet before the end of 2008," said Luis Chen, vice president of Canadia Bank, in a statement.

Many Cambodian ATMs are already linked to the international Plus system, which allows for cross-bank withdrawals and balance checks. But Plus requires customers to pay international rates.


"Easy Cash will be priced for the local market ... this system is for Cambodia and has a different set of relations," said Stuart Tomlinson, Visa's Malaysia country manager.

A latecomer to the ATM market, Cambodia has seen an explosion in the machines in the past two years, with their numbers quadrupling since January 2007.

More than 600 ATMs are available throughout the country today, according to National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) Governor Chea Chanto.

"The [Easy Cash] system will allow for rapid, safe and cheap money, and increase integration of our bank system," Chea Chanto said.

Acleda Bank, Cambodia's largest bank in terms of the number of branches, said that the new system is a major step for electronic banking.

"Location and coverage [of ATMs] will increase. We are already nationwide, so it won't affect the number of provinces we are in, but it will increase access and convenience," said Acleda CEO In Channy. Acleda is an observer, but not a member of the network.

Acleda is not part of the Easy Cash system, but has launched its own aggressive ATM campaign, issuing more than 130,000 cards for its branches around Cambodia, according to In Channy.

The fees for the service have not yet been established and are subject to negotiation between individual banks, officials said.

New licensing rules to be set for property developers

TRACEY SHELTON; Workers pull a cart at the CamKo City construction site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
2% of total cost
This is the amount developers will be required to deposit with the National Bank of Cambodia before being allowed to begin construction on projects under new regulations aimed at curbing fraud.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 29 August 2008

Regulations meant to provide more government control over builders as capital construction boom leaves investors vulnerable to fraud

Real estate developers in Cambodia must now obtain licences from the Ministry of Economy and Finance or face legal action for unauthorised projects, according to a ministry announcement dated August 19.

"Legal and physical entities who develop real estate such as the construction of houses, flats, and the parceling of land plots for sale or rent must apply for a real estate development licence from the Ministry of Economy and Finance," said the announcement, signed by Minister of Finance Keat Chhon.

Developers who fail to get a licence by September 30 will be subject to closure and legal action, the announcement added.The price of the licence will depend on the scale of the project, officials said.

Mao Pao, deputy chief of the ministry's real estate division, told the Post Wednesday that developers had before only needed a letter of permission from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, as well as investment licences from the Council for the Development of Cambodia.Developers also face changes in the financing of projects.

"Real estate developers will be required to deposit two percent of the projects' total value at the National Bank of Cambodia," Mao Pao said.

"We will require a developer to open a housing development account at any commercial bank to enable buyers to make payments through the bank," he added.


He said that developers would not be able to withdraw money from development accounts without approval by the bank and relevant ministries and that the government could intervene if companies failed to honor their contracts.

Mao Pao said the new regulations were part of a move by the National Assembly to tighten the Kingdom's oversight of real estate developers in the wake of a 2007 project involving the Chinese-owned Long Chhin (Cambodia) Investment Ltd.

The company had filled in Kob Srov Lake on the outskirts of Phnom Penh for a luxury housing complex.

The government charged the company with illegally developing the lake and demolished the estate, while company officials fled the country and buyers lost millions of dollars.

Mao Pao said licensing fees would be determined based on the scale of the development.

He added that there are an estimated 100 developers currently working in Cambodia.

Some developers strongly oppose the new regulations.

Small operators upset

Kong Vansophy, general manager of Dream Town in Dangkor district's Choam Chao area, told the Post the new regulations would put pressure on small contractors.

"It is likely [the regulations] could make small companies with no reserve capital go bankrupt," said Kong Vansophy, whose Dream Town project comprises 50 flats and an investment of US$1 million.

"This announcement is unacceptable," said a representative of Grand Phnom Penh International City, who asked not to be named.

"It is unreasonable and violates the freedom of developers and customers."

He said companies should not be penalised over the Long Chhin case, because the government had also approved that project.

"The government should check its internal irregularities first before problems come up and not make others suffer," the representative told the Post.

Phnom Penh has undergone an unprecedented construction boom over the last several years, including the start of at least five satellite cities - residential and commercial mega-projects that are set to transform the capital from a sleepy backwater.

However, progress has been slow, developers admit, saying the rising cost of construction materials has hindered work on large-scale projects. Despite this, demand remains high, they say.

US deputy secretary of state plans visit

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by AFP
Friday, 29 August 2008

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is to travel to Vietnam, Cambodia and Hong Kong for talks with his counterparts, the State Department said Wednesday. The September 10-18 visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's top lieutenant to the region is "for discussions with his counterparts on a broad range of bilateral and global issues", the department said in a statement. No specific topics were identified. Negroponte's trip "is an opportunity to deepen our engagement in a region that is growing in peace, prosperity and freedom", the statement said, citing strong ties with and enduring US interests in Asia.

Conviction catches up with Kiwi sex offender

Saturday August 30, 2008
By Jarrod Booker

New Zealand Herald

A New Zealander who made legal history when convicted in Great Britain of child sex offences committed in Southeast Asia has returned home, but discovered he cannot escape his past.

Heavy vehicle driver Peter Swale returned to New Zealand last year after serving a jail term in Great Britain for abusing an 11-year-old boy and taking 584 indecent photographs of children in hotel rooms during trips to Cambodia and the Philippines from 2001 to 2004.

He was caught downloading other indecent images at an internet cafe in Ipswich, in Suffolk, England.

A total of 3865 were found by police on his home computer in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

Swale, then 49, was jailed in 2005 for three years and nine months by Ipswich Crown court. He was also banned from working with children for life.

At the time, prosecutor Robert Sadd said: "It's believed to be the first time offences committed in the Philippines and Cambodia have been tried in the United Kingdom."

Since his release, Swale has spent time in Australia.

More recently, he has been living in his former hometown of Dunedin, where he rejoined the town's Pitlane Slot Car Club and featured on its website being welcomed back.

A concerned Australian, who followed Swale's movements, emailed the club to alert members last week.

Club spokesman Graeme Mitchell told the Herald Swale was a member of the club during the 1990s, and while some unusual photographs he kept on his computer had created suspicions, his criminal convictions were a shock.

Swale mostly came across as "just a typical bloke".

Mr Mitchell was thankful the club no longer had young members who might have been exposed to Swale.

After members of the club began exchanging emails on Swale's past, he got wind of it and in an email said he wouldn't return to the club.

"Obviously he volunteered without any prompting from us," Mr Mitchell said.

Detective Senior Sergeant Kallum Croudis of Dunedin said he was not aware of any specific alerts in relation to Swale. International criminal databases "don't talk to each other", he said.

A legal ethics expert warned this week against naming and shaming child sex offenders.

"If we victimise one person and create them as outcasts, we aren't addressing the risk," Christchurch crown prosecutor Kathryn Dalziel told a privacy issues forum in Wellington.

Embedded Travel Guide Cambodia: Sex, Drugs and Orangutan Boxing



This week, our Cambodia embed, Tim Patterson, is giving us the inside scoop on the country, live from a guesthouse in Sihanoukville.

A window to depravity opened last Saturday afternoon in Koh Kong, a boom town on the Thai border. My buddy Jon had to catch a flight home from Bangkok at seven the next morning. How to cap off his Cambodian adventure?

"Theoretically, we could hire half a dozen prostitutes, load up on cocaine, watch orangutans beat each other up in the boxing ring at Safari World and cap it all off with an all-night drunken flight to Bangkok," I mused.

"That would be memorable," said Jon.

In the end Jon and I settled on a farewell beer instead. I've never slept with a prostitute, snorted cocaine or condoned blood sports involving endangered species, and I sincerely hope I never will.

Still, the possibility of debauchery is very much alive in Cambodia, whether that involves drugs, sex, endangered wildlife or any combination of the three. Plenty of assholes travel to Cambodia expressly to take advantage of the country's booming black market. Please don't be one of them.

Prostitution in Cambodia:
A man is like a jewel. If you drop a jewel in the mud you can wipe it clean. A woman is like a silk scarf. Drop a scarf in the mud once and it's ruined forever.

The saying sums up the Cambodian attitude to sex: The virgin or whore paradigm is very strong in this socially conservative nation. Men are expected to sleep with prostitutes, and women are required to remain virgins until marriage.

But the availability of cheap sex here attracts men from around the world. The government has begun to crack down on pedophilia, but plain old prostitution remains common. It's a sad scene, as young professionals in Phnom Penh can't go on casual dates. "We fuck the prostitutes," a Cambodian friend told me with a resigned shrug.

Drugs in Cambodia:
Not long ago marijuana was sold by the kilo in Phnom Penh markets, but the government has started making arrests for possession. It's still easy to score pot at the backpacker ghetto on the lake in Phnom Penh, but these days you're taking a serious risk. I've got no moral qualms about smoking pot, but the possibility of Cambodian prison isn't worth a couple joints.

Other drugs are also widely available, including heroin, opium, cocaine and cheap methamphetamines called yaba. Don't go there: You don't know what you're getting, for one, and there's a very real possibility that hard drugs will land you in prison.

The Wildlife Trade:
Orangutan boxing in Koh Kong is promoted on billboards across the country, but the sick "sport" is only one example of animal mistreatment in Cambodia. The Cambodian forests are a refuge for many endangered species, but their numbers are dwindling due to loss of habitat and surging demand from the trade in exotic pets and traditional medicine. Needless to say, supporting the fights doesn't help.

Better factories for Cambodia

NIC - New Island ClothingWorkers at NIC receive a starting monthly salary of 45 US dollars, as well as a five-dollar a month attendance bonus. After a year, they are entitled to a two-dollar a month seniority bonus.According to general manager Adrian Ross, "We still have a very large proportion of our workforce who've been with us from the start, five years ago. The average wage in the factory is about 98 dollars a month, a fairly decent salary by Cambodian standards. The workforce appreciate that we look after them. We see ourselves not as a big factory but as a working family."In February 2005, NIC received a corporate citizenship award from the International Finance Corporation, a branch of the World Bank, and the Mekong Private Sector Development Facility. Four awards were given, and NIC won in the category of employment and labour practices.

27-year-old San Su Pung (pictured above) began working in the garment industry four years ago. She is married and has one child. Her first job was in a sweatshop.
"I was forced to work overtime, up to 9 p.m. every day. The premises were dirty too. I only earned 50 dollars a month. I decided to leave the company after a year because I didn't earn enough to feed my family and I couldn't even pay for transport."
"I had never heard about New Island Clothing. All I knew was that it was a foreign factory. So I decided to apply and I passed the test."
"I plan to stay here as long as I live. I'm earning more than my husband because he's a farmer, and that makes me quite proud."
by Eric Beauchemin
In 1994, Cambodia began to emerge from decades of instability, war and genocide. Companies started setting up garment factories, which today account for 80 percent of Cambodia's export earnings. Initially, most of the factories were sweatshops, but since 2001 the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has been running a unique programme to improve working conditions in the industry.
The Better Factories programme is the result of a trade accord signed between the United States and Cambodia in 1999. Washington agreed to give the Southeast Asian nation quotas in return for an improvement in working conditions in the garment sector. Neither side knew how to measure whether that was actually happening, so they approached the ILO. Poor conditionsInitially, says Ros Harvey, the Better Factories' chief technical advisor, the conditions were quite poor. "But over the past five years," she says:

"We've seen a significant improvement. For example, wages are now regularly paid, as is overtime, and women get maternity leave. However there are still problems. It's not a perfect world in Cambodia, but we are engaged in a process of improvement that is delivering real benefits to working people." The Better Factories programme doesn't only monitor the garment industry. It also helps factories improve working conditions. Over half of the Better Factories' budget is spent in training and education.

GATTIn 1995, GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, decided that industrialised countries had 10 years to open their textile and garment industries. It gave developed countries some breathing space, forcing companies in developing countries, such as China and India, but also Cambodia, to pay extra to export their products to countries in the European Union, North America and elsewhere.
Experts predicted that the phasing out of quotas would decimate the garment industries of countries like Cambodia because they wouldn't be able to compete. But that hasn't happened, says Ros Harvey. "The government, employers and unions have agreed that they're trying to pursue a market niche, where compliance with labour standards matters. As a result, both the quantity and value of Cambodian garment exports have increased.""I think that this creates a degree of optimism that there are companies that care about this. It shows that a developing country can capture the benefits of globalisation for its workers by insisting that the labour laws are respected."
Success story One of the success stories in the Better Factories programme is New Island Clothing (Cambodia) Limited, which was set up five years ago by a British group on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. It employs nearly 600 people and manufactures clothes for companies around the world. The company has committed itself to exceeding government and international employment and labour standards. General manager Adrian Ross (photo) says: "Our intention was to bring to Cambodia a factory that would be considered to be of a world-class standard and to create a good environment for our potential Cambodian employees. We believe that a good factory is well-organised, creating the products and environment for good quality work. When customers come along and see that the place is properly structured and looks right and feels right, they're confident to put their product in with us."
Corporate social responsibilityCambodia is the only country in the world where the ILO publishes the names of factories and their progress in making improvements. Ros Harvey: "This is very unique, particularly in the context of corporate social responsibility or CSR. It means that international companies that are sourcing in a developing country should try to ensure that working conditions in their supply chain comply with the law. In Cambodia, we're actually monitoring that and also providing information in a transparent manner. This ensures that CSR is not just window-dressing."
Unexpected results Most of the workers in the garment sector, which represents 80 percent of Cambodia's export earnings, are women. On average, they earn 60 dollars, compared to the average monthly salary of 20 dollars. It may not seem like much, but it can make a huge difference in the lives of these women and their families. Many of the employees send up to half the wages to their families in the countryside.

The Better Factories programme is having unexpected results, says Ros Harvey. "The status of women has improved significantly in their families, where they are the principle breadwinner. In Cambodia, that is a very important thing. Women have very low status compared to men. There are very worrying trends in terms of domestic violence and the attitude of men to women. If this sector of the economy and these opportunities can correct some of that and create a better status for women, I think that is a really positive impact as well."
Child labour The Better Factories programme is also helping eliminate one of the major problems in Southeast Asia: child labour. Most of the women working in factories today are over 18. According to Ros Harvey, "The ILO puts a lot of lot of emphasis on maternity protection and the right to breast-feeding, which is protected by Cambodian law, to ensure that women really do have those options so that they can combine their family and their working life. Because this is one of the few opportunities for what are relatively good incomes in Cambodia, you're seeing more women staying in the work force rather than just leaving when they get married."

All photographs © RNW/Eric Beauchemin

Group discovers large threatened monkey populations in Cambodia

Black-shanked Douc

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — There are "surprisingly large" populations of two globally threatened monkey species in a protected area in Cambodia, a conservation group said Friday.

The US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) counted 42,000 black-shanked douc langurs and 2,500 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons in a study of Cambodia's Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, the group said.

"At present all evidence does suggest that Cambodia has the largest populations in the world of both the black-shanked douc and the yellow-cheeked crested gibbon," Edward Pollard, a WCS scientist who worked on the census in the northeastern protected area, told AFP.

The two populations started to recover in 2002 when the Cambodian government established the Seima conservation area, and numbers have remained stable since 2005, said WCS in a statement.

Before the recent discovery, the largest known populations were believed to be in adjacent Vietnam, where black-shanked douc langurs and yellow-cheeked crested gibbons hover at 600 and 200 respectively, WCS said.

"The total population of the two species remains unknown," the organisation said.

WCS attributed the Cambodian monkey boon to several factors, including successful management of the area, cessation of logging activities and a nationwide gun confiscation programme implemented in the 1990s.

However the group warned the protected area is still at risk from growing plantations and commercial mining operations.

Crackdown on illegal fishing

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya
Friday, 29 August 2008

Seven fishermen have been arrested and 22 fined for illegal fishing during spawning season in a protected area, Fisheries Administration Director Nao Thuok told the Post Wednesday. "The arrested fishermen were sentenced to one year imprisonment, and 22 others were fined 27 million riel (US$6,750)," Nao Thuok added. The National Assembly in 2006 adopted a law prohibiting fishing during the spawning season, which runs from June to October, to preserve fresh water natural resources. Nao Thuok said that this year the Fisheries Administration, in collaboration with provincial authorities, has cracked down on more than 600 cases of illegal fishing across the country. To date, fisheries officials and authorities have burned 73,162 metres of fishing nets and other equipment. More than two million fish have been confiscated from fishermen and released back into the sea, Nao Thuok said.

Foreign student service centre receives Cambodian, Lao honours


VietNamNet Bridge – The Centre in Services of Foreign Students in Hanoi has been rewarded by the Cambodian and Lao governments for the assistance it provides to their students over the past 20 years.

Cambodian Ambassador to Vietnam Vann Phal presented the centre with the Cambodian Royal Government’s Sahametrei Order while Lao Deputy Minister of Education Lytou Bouapao handed over the Lao President’s Labour Order, second class, to the agency at ceremonies in Hanoi on August 28.

Over the past 20 years, the centre under the Ministry of Education and Training has accommodated thousands of students from various countries with about 80 percent from Cambodia and Laos ’ training courses in Vietnam.

The centre has received other rewards, including the Vietnamese President’s Labour Order, third class, Cambodia’s Gold Medal for National Construction, and the Lao President’s Labour Order, third class.

(Source: VNA)

Cambodia: Records Reveal Survivors Of Ex-Khmer Rouge Prison

Tourists view portraits of former Khmer Rouge prisoners as they tour in Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, 28 Aug 2008. (Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Visitors are seen in the Tuol Sleng genocide museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, 28 Aug 2008. (Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Newly analyzed documents indicate that as many as 177 prisoners were released from a notorious Khmer Rouge torture center where it was previously believed that there were only 14 survivors, Cambodian researchers said.

However, at least 100 of those found to have been released from S-21 prison were Khmer Rouge soldiers taken to the facility and released after only three days. It was not immediately clear why they were detained there.

The prison in Phnom Penh was the largest prison facility run by the Khmer Rouge when they were in power in the late 1970s. It was a highly secretive center where thousands of supposed enemies of the regime were tortured before being executed.

But a prison record The Associated Press obtained from the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent group researching the Khmer Rouge crimes, shows the names of 100 former Khmer Rouge soldiers aged 17 to 38 who were brought to the prison on 23 Nov, 1977, and released three days later. The record did not give the reason for their arrest or release.

Prisoners at S-21 were usually held for weeks and months for grueling interrogations before they were taken out for execution. Many of the prison's population included Khmer Rouge members who were arrested and killed in the regime's internal purges of its own ranks.

Youk Chhang, director of the center, said his group's findings proved that the long-held belief that no one had ever been released from S-21 and that only 14 had survived their time there was inaccurate.

"Research shows that people were released, so for public knowledge, it's important for the Cambodians, for the (Khmer Rouge) survivors to understand that," he said late Thursday (28 Aug).

He said the enormous scale of the Khmer Rouge killings and other atrocities may have made it easy for historians, scholars and the public at large to overlook the records.

"That's why this detail didn't come out," he said late Thursday. "But to understand the whole history, you have to look at both sides of what happened."

The prison is the focal point of the investigation into alleged atrocities for which its former director, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, has been indicted to stand trial by a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal.

Concluding their yearlong probe into Duch's case early this month, the tribunal's judges stated that the vast majority of evidence showed that no prisoners had been released from S-21.

"This is confirmed by testimony that prisoners brought to S-21 by mistake were executed in order to ensure secrecy and security," they said in their indictment.

The judges said more than 12,380 prisoners were executed or died from inhumane treatment at the prison, a number lower than the 16,000 previously estimated by genocide researchers.

"The facility served primarily as an anteroom to death," David Chandler, an American scholar, wrote in his book "Voices from S-21." He, too, said no one had been released from the prison.

Youk Chhang said his group found other records that indicate another 77 inmates had been released from S-21. He said the records have been around for the past 30 years but had been largely overlooked by the public and scholars.

Dara P. Vanthan, the group's senior researcher, said his team determined that one of the inmates on the list is still alive but he has yet to meet with him.

"Many other families did not even know their loved ones were released and today still do not know where they are, dead or alive," he said.