Friday, 13 June 2008

Remand in custody for paua ring accused
The Dominion Post
Friday, 13 June 2008

Saravuthy Mao, 49, a Wellington takeaway bar owner, made his second court appearance in Lower Hutt District Court yesterday and was remanded in custody till July 4.

Mao, who lives in Upper Hutt, was arrested last month after a Fisheries Ministry campaign.

He allegedly bought 2.5 tonnes of paua meat from an undercover fishery officer in 17 separate transactions for $60,615.

The ministry claims that quantity of paua had a commercial retail value of about $324,000.

Mao faces 16 charges under the Fisheries and Crimes Act, each of which carries a fine of $250,000 or five years' jail.

Ministry lawyer David Fordyce said Mao recently transferred US$50,000 (NZ$66,000) to Cambodia and $50,000 had been transferred to a family member in the Auckland region.

Defence lawyer Paul Paino said the money transferred to Cambodia was from $85,000 paid to Mao as a result of a legitimate property settlement, but it was extremely difficult to refute allegations about money transfers without specific information about the dates and amounts of money involved.

Cambodia faces challenge of oil
James Norman, Cambodia.
June 13, 2008

HERE in Siem Reap, in northern Cambodia, there is a sense of optimism that after decades of brutality, corruption and endemic poverty, better times are finally on the horizon.

Cambodia has struck oil off its southern coast, near the town of Sihanoukville, but no one knows exactly how much is there.

According to Marvin Yeo, who left the Asian Development Bank to establish a Cambodian venture-capital company, it is the only country that has untapped oil and gas reserves and land available for agriculture.

Yet there is good reason for concern that Cambodia's energy reserves might prove to be a poison chalice. In countries such as Nigeria and Chad, the people have been left worse off after big resource booms dragged them further into poverty and corruption. Today, 70% of Nigerians live on less than $1 a day, despite the country earning $450 billion from oil over the past 35 years.

The discovery of oil in Cambodia has attracted significant international investment, and exploration rights are divided between American (Chevron), Chinese, Indonesian, Hong Kong and Singaporean investors. As an indicator of regional enthusiasm, China reportedly gave a $600 million donation to Cambodia, just as Chinese companies were fighting for a larger share of the exploration rights.

During an international oil and gas conference in Phnom Penh in March, Cambodia was told by regional government and energy sector representatives to eradicate corruption or risk losing out on sustained investment. It was also urged to sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative that requires governments and companies to disclose their financial records relating to oil, gas or mining deals.

Cambodia remains deeply traumatised by the "killing fields" of the Khmer Rouge, when 1.7 million people died between 1975 and 1979. In a country where 60% of the land is forested, 82% of Cambodians still live without electricity or proper irrigation, and 35% live on less than 50¢ a day.

Moreover, a recent tourism boom — evident in Siem Reap, with its opulent French cafes and bakeries — is having a negative impact on Cambodia's ethnic minorities. There has been a rush of foreign investment in real estate, often cutting into traditional tribal land, with no tangible benefit to the people living there.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People's Party, buoyed by the tourism boom, last year smoothed the way for investors to form 100% foreign-owned companies that can buy real estate outright.

"Neither the central government nor local officials consider the impacts on minority groups when awarding land concessions to local companies," said Pen Bunna, the Ratanakkiri co-ordinator for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc. Attempted protests by ethnic minorities over the past month have been effectively made illegal by regional authorities.

Lee Tan, the Asia-Pacific region co-ordinator for the Australian Conservation Foundation, said it did not take "rocket science" to work out what was ahead for Cambodia if its oil resources were exploited when corruption remained such a problem. "The governance track record of Cambodia is a problem," she said. "As long as there is no political will or effective governance, oil revenue can be abused.

"Unfortunately, the hunger for oil will see that such resource is exploited — often with support from development banks like the World Bank (which facilitated logging in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and other forested nations that fuels corruption) and the Asian Development Bank or even AusAID."

The question for Cambodians is closer to home. Prime Minister Hun Sen has said explicitly that "we will try our best to make sure that the oil income is a blessing, not a curse. These revenues will be directed to productive investment and poverty reduction."

But many observers remain wary. Will the revenue be used to improve the appalling road and transport infrastructure, to build clinics and schools and irrigation channels, to raise the standard of living and to provide affordable power to its rural communities?

Or will it be sucked up by a powerful elite, again condemning the 14 million people in this damaged country to continue to suffer?

Sadly, history would indicate the latter to be the more likely outcome.

James Norman, a former Australian Conservation Foundation communications adviser, is writing as an independent journalist.

Phnom Penh serves authentic Cambodian food

The beefsticks, served with a spicy green papaya salad, are a signature appetizer.

Saroeun Trou, owner of Phnom Penh restaurant, shows off a bowl of Phnom Penh machu soup, a citrusy, tamarind-flavored broth filled with catfish and vegetables.
Posted on Wed, Jun. 11, 2008

The Kansas City Star

Like all Cambodians of a certain age, Saroeun Trou has stories to tell of the horror the Khmer Rouge inflicted on his country.

But Trou and his mother, Tuoch Keo, were among the lucky few who survived the slaughter that was later chronicled in “The Killing Fields.”

They escaped Cambodia and lived in refugee camps along the Thai border from 1979 to 1981.

While in the camp, Trou worked for the American Embassy. In 1982 the two of them made their way to Kansas City. He has not been back since, although his mother has made a few trips home.

Instead, he’s paying homage to his country through food.

In March Trou opened Phnom Penh Restaurant. He’d owned a Chinese restaurant years ago but had never included food from his homeland on the menu.

And I’d never had Cambodian food. It reminded me a little bit of Thai and Vietnamese food, although it was lighter than Thai and not as spicy as Vietnamese.

An exception was the Phnom Penh beefsticks, chewy, bite-size nuggets of beef threaded on a stick and served as an appetizer. Lacquered with a sweet, earthy sauce, the beefsticks were served with a shredded green papaya salad dressed in a bitingly spicy dressing.

Two of us shared three entrees, not knowing just how generous the portions were. The cha kreung was a mess of beef slices, green peppers and yellow onion slices spooned over white rice.

The mee ka-thaing reminded me of pad Thai, without the fish sauce aroma and lime juice bite of the Thai dishes. The wide rice noodles were tossed with chopped Chinese broccoli, eggs and beef.

The favorite was the Phnom Penh machu, a tamarind-based brothy soup seasoned with crispy garlic pieces and loaded with pan-fried catfish hunks, lotus root slices, tomatoes, pineapple, Thai basil and chunks of some sort of Asian gourd. The tamarind gave the broth a snappy citrus taste.

The lotus root, threaded with tiny holes, looked like pasta and had a vegetal crunch. The gourd pieces, which looked like cucumber, were slithery but al dente, while the pineapple gave the soup a tropical sweetness. It was fabulous.

Trou has two Cambodian desserts: sarai, a Cambodian-style gelatin made with coconut milk and loaded with jackfruit and longan, and loat, a dessert soup made with cooked tapioca flour bits stirred into a sweet cane sugar and coconut milk syrup.

A couple of things to keep in mind: Trou was waiting on the credit card machine to arrive, so take cash. And service can be slow; dishes are prepared to order. Although he does much of the cooking, two of his children, Julie and Jimmy, help out.

Phnom Penh Restaurant: 3537 Independence Ave. 816-231-1700. Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

In 2009, ILO Will Assist Child Scavengers with Health Problems

Posted on 12 June 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 564

“Phnom Penh: A technical advisor to the International Labor Organization [ILO], Mr. M.P. Joseph, said that from 2009 to 2020, ILO will implement a project assisting child scavengers with heath problems who are in the worst forms of child labor.

“Some years ago, ILO focused on children who were in the worst forms of child labor by assisting them to attend school, so that they can be free from this serious labor. In this project, ILO cooperates with the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training.

“The Secretary of State of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, Ms. Prak Chantha, said that in Cambodia, 1.5 million children are child laborers, among whom 250,000 children are in the worst forms of child labor. She added that in the first step from 2001 to 2004, more than 4,000 children were taken out from the worst forms of child labor. In the second step from 2004 t0 2008, 18,000, children were taken out from the worst forms of child labor, which was more than the goal set by ILO to assist 16,000 children.

“Mr. M.P. Joseph said that in the third step from 2009 to 2012, ILO will assist in helping child scavengers with their health problems, because previously, ILO has assisted children who are in the worst forms of child labor by helping them to attend school, but ILO had not implemented any heath project for those children yet. Children who are in the worst forms of child labor are those who work at brick kilns, those who are house servants, those children working at salt fields [see an old, 13 May 2005, related report here], at rubber plantations, and those who are child scavengers.

“The elimination of child labor is complicated and it relates to the children’s education. However, in many countries, including in Cambodia, children who are not cared for regularly have no access to go to school. Many poor families do not have the possibility to pay for school fees and for other learning materials at schools. Those families depend on children to help find income for the whole family; and such work is more important for them than the children’s education.

“If those families can send their sons or daughters to school, they choose their sons, while daughters mostly lose the opportunity to go to school.

“Mr. M.P. Joseph said that the removal of children from all forms of child labor is very important in developing the country, because children are very important resources, and if children cannot attend school, the country will not develop.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.7, #1665, 12.6.2008

Oil Contracts Remain a 'Mystery': Lawmaker

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report of Phnom Penh
12 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 12 June (755 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 12 June (755 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Cambodian National Petroleum Authority denied to comment on media reports Thursday that two companies were close to signing drilling contracts for onshore oil exploration.

France's Total and the government Chinese national Offshore Oil Corp near deals for onshore exploration, the Cambodia Daily reported Thursday.

Petroleum authority chief Te Doung Dara would not confirm the report.

Sok Sina, an independent economic analyst, said the government should show the contracts to the public for consideration before signing them.

Eng Chhay Ieng, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, called the agreement a "mystery" related to corruption.

"Because we are the MPs, want to know the agreement," he said, "and the government must show us what they will do and what the meaning of the agreement is."

Donors to Meet on Tribunal Funding

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
12 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 12 June (1.40 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 12 June (1.40 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Donor representatives are expected to meet in New York next week to examine a final proposal for increased funds for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, a spokesman said.

"We don't need to have the funds in the bank, we just need the pledges, and that is enough for us to proceed," tribunal spokesman Peter Foster said.

Tribunal officials have been reworking their initial request of $114 million, and officials said Thursday that figure was likely to be around $48 million for the trials of the five arrested Khmer Rouge leaders. That figure could increase if more are arrested and charged.

Lawmaker Demands Kratie Radio Reopen

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer

Original report from Phnom Penh
12 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 12 June (665 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 12 June (665 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay has written a request to the Ministry of Information asking that a provincial radio station be allowed to return to the airwaves.

Angkor Ratha radio was shuttered by the ministry May 28, for breach of contract.

It had sold airtime for five political parties competing in July's elections, contrary to its initial agreement with the ministry.

Rights officials say such agreements inhibit press freedom, in an environment where the ruling party controls much of the media.

In his letter to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, delivered through National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin, Son Chhay said he would seek to administratively discipline the minister for violation of the press law and constitution if the radio was not allowed to begin broadcasting within a week.

Failure to allow the station to reopen by then would result in a commission hearing, where the minister would be required to defend his decision, Son Chhay said.

Angkor Ratha station owner Keo Chanratha acknowledged Thursday he had broken his contractual agreement, which required he request from the ministry permission to broadcast political party messages.

Kuol Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the closure of the radio station would cause the voters to lose information about the competing political parties.
Khieu Kanhrith said Thursday he stood by his decision to close the station.

Land Dispute Families to Lobby Hun Sen

By Mean Veasna, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
12 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 12 June (1.53 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 12 June (1.53 MB) - Listen (MP3)

More than 100 people arrived at Adhoc's Phnom Penh headquarters Thursday, seeking redress from Prime Minister Hun Sen in land disputes.

The families, from Koh Kong, Battambang, Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap provinces, as well as Phnom Penh, plan to sit in front of Hun Sen's house Friday.

"I tried to get resolution from the authorities, even those I go to the National Authority of Land Dispute Resolution, the office of Sok An, and provincial authorities, but no result, and now we think about Hun Sen's help," said Khem Rann, a representative from Sna Sang Kream village, in Siem Reap province.

Khem Rann said 88 families lost 254 hectares of land allegedly taken by a former adviser to Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

The villagers at Adhoc traveled with thumb-printed documentation of land ownership, and some of them brought their own rice for the trip.

"We represent 65 families who lost 2,460 hectares to an oknha. We want to meet Samdech Hun Sen because we think he is the only one who can resolve our problem, which we've met with for two years," said An Haya, a representative from Koh Kong province.

Phnom Penh resident Lim Ly Kien, from Village 78, said he'd been in front of Hun Sen's house six times, but received only promises. He cannot live in safety in the village, he said, so he'd joined the provincial representatives.

"It shows there's been no resolution from local authorities; that's why these people came to try to meet Hun Sen, because they think Hun Sen can help them," said Chan Saveth, an investigator for Adhoc.

"If the problem of land grabbing continues, there will be a serious problem for the current government and the next government, and people will not live in security," he warned.

Adhoc estimates these families have lost about 6,000 hectares of land.

Chum Bunrong, spokesman for the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, said the arrival of these villagers did not mean the authority cannot resolve their problems, but they came because they think they will get some gift from Hun Sen, and they were incited for political means.

"The best way for them is to stay at home and try to go from step to step, district and province, for resolution," he said.

'Big Mistake' in Temple Application: Expert

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
12 June 2008

[Editor's note: Cambodia and Thailand agreed in a May 22 meeting in Paris that Cambodia would be allowed to forward an application for the controversial Preah Vihear temple to be listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. The temple rests on a disputed northern border region, and Cambodia has agreed only to apply for the temple grounds to be listed and not the land surrounding it. VOA Khmer asked Sean Pengse, director of the Paris-based Cambodia Border Committee, for his thoughts. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.]

Q. Recently, Cambodian government and Thai government agreed to take only the temple itself on the mountain to put into the list of world’s heritage. Is the decision not to include the areas surrounding the temple into the list of world’s heritage right? Please give your comment.

A. Putting Preah Vihear temple as the world’s heritage by Unesco without putting the surrounding areas is a big mistake. First of all, it is against the verdict of the international court in the Hague in 1962. The court decided that the temple and areas surrounding belonged to Cambodia. Secondly, not putting the surrounding areas will cost Cambodian integrity because Cambodian land including Preah Vihear since the 1991 Paris Peace Accord has to be preserved and treated as Cambodian land. This is the Paris Peace Accord in 1991. If we refer to the international treaty which was signed by France and Thailand in 1904 and 1907, it is also the same. The decision is against both the former and the later treaties. Therefore, we lose our land, and it is against the Paris peace treaty and the 1904 and 1907 treaty between Thailand and France.

Q. What did Thailand gain from the latest agreement?

A. I would like give a small footnote. Initially, in 1998, after Cambodia got out of Pol Pot’s dictatorship power, Preah Vihear was put as a region for joined business with Thailand. Therefore, Thailand made a lot of income, and Thailand now wants to continue this further. Responding to your question that Thailand and Cambodia with Unesco as a coordinator decided to put only Preah Vihear temple in World’s Heritage is not correct. But why did they decide so?
I would like to inform people that last month the Thai Prime Minister came to meet [Prime Minister] Hun Sen, and they made a decision to put Preah Vihear temple, but not the areas surrounding it. The Thai Prime Minister came to meet Hun Sen in Phnom Penh last month.

Therefore, the decision by Sok An and the Thai Foreign Minister as well as a referee from Unesco was the decision on the decision of the prime ministers. It is not something to be surprised about. The decision of the prime ministers was against the decision of international court. They never put the temple alone. This act was against the decision of the international court, and this was the first time in the world that one country erased the decision made by the international court.
Thailand forced Cambodia to work against the decision of the internationa
l court. This is the first time in the world, and it is the biggest mistake of the Royal Government of Cambodia.

Q. Why does Thailand strongly wants to own the areas surrounding Preah Vihear temple?

A. Preah Vihear is small. But I want to say briefly that the Cambodian Border Committee in Cambodia, the Cambodian government, sets up border markers with Thailand and Vietnam.

They set up new border markers and drew a new map because the old map is not clear.

Thailand also called the Cambodian ambassador to meet them and told Cambodia to tell France that the map is old. Therefore, the other maps are also not clear. Therefore, when Thailand saw that Vietnam gained a lot from the border issue, Thailand wanted to set up new border markers with Cambodia.

Making a new map is just an excuse. The Cambodian government falls into their tr
ap. We already have a map recognized internationally, and the international court in the Hague decided on the Preah Vihear issue attached with the map.

Why didn’t we work on the existing map? Why do the new map? We don’t know the reason why they make new map. This is such a regretful a mistake. On behalf of the Cambodia Border Committee in France, I condemned the Royal Government. This is the incompetent government, and we call on the government to revise the border again, both land and maritime border.

Q. Unesco requires that Cambodia submit the application to put Preah Vihear as the World Heritage and requires that Cambodia draw a new map. Does Cambodia have to draw a new map? Do we have enough time? If they draw new map, do they do with correct standard?

A. This is a good question. I would like to say that we don’t have time. If we make a new map, we not only draw the map around Preah Vihear. Why do I dare to say so? Why do we need a new map? We already have a map. And the decision on the temple was decided with the existing map. The map was attached to the decision of the international court in the Hague. Why do we need to draw a new map? If we want to do, we can put border markers according to the decision of the international court. We should not draw a new map.

If we draw a new map, we don’t have time. What map do they base it on? We already have a map. In 2000, according to the memorandum of understanding, they established “white areas,” so we already fall into their traps. That’s why our committee does not agree on the idea to draw new border map because we have a clear map, and we have a decision from the international court in the Hague, and the decision was decided with the map. If they want the map, come meet me; I have it.

Q. In the end, do you have any appeal to the Cambodian government and Cambodian people about Preah Vihear temple?

A. First of all, I would like tell the government that putting only Preah Vihear temple and not the surrounding areas is against the decision of international court in the Hague. Cambodian people have to make sure that Cambodian government respects only one which is to respect the decision made by international court in 1962. Cambodian won the case on Preah Vihear temple. They did not decide on only the temple, but the areas surrounding with map attachment. I call on the government to respect this decision.

Journalists to Visit Jailed Opposition Editor

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
12 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 12 June (860 KB) - Download (MP3) Khmer audio aired 12 June (860 KB) - Listen (MP3)

Members of the Club of Cambodian Journalists on Friday will visit jailed opposition editor Dam Sith, who remains in Prey Sar prison despite calls for his release.

Seven members of the club will visit Dam Sith in his cell at Prey Sar prison, Pan Samitik, chairman of the association, said. The courts had granted permission for the meeting, he said.
The purpose of the visit is to see Dam Sith's conditions in jail, he said.

Phnom Penhn Municipal Court Judge Chhay Kong said had agreed to allow the visit.

Rights groups and an international journalist organization on Thursday condemned the arrest as an assault on press freedom and an act of intimidation ahead of general elections in July.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong filed suit against the editor April 25, claiming a story he published in Moneaksekar Khmer, a daily newspaper, defamed him by quoting accusations from opposition leader Sam Rainsy the minister was a member of the Khmer Rouge.

WFP resumes School Feeding Program in Cambodia

June 12, 2008

The UN World Food Program (WFP) has resumed to provide free meals for some 450,000 primary school children across Cambodia, after obtaining new contribution to ease its financial strain, said a WFP press release Wednesday.

"The last minute contribution of 5.4 million U.S. dollars came at a time when WFP was forced to suspend its School Feeding Program (recently) in Cambodia because of rising food prices and lack of corresponding funds," it said.

The contribution was part of a WFP corporate fund established to help the organization's Country Programs continue to provide food assistance despite higher food procurement costs, it added.

Students in 1,344 schools are to benefit from the resumption which will continue until July 5.