Friday, 20 June 2008

Budget press conference set for Tuesday

The Post . Blogs
Posted by Elena in ECCC

Court officials will release details regarding the tribunal's revised budget at a press conference this coming Tuesday. During the event, held at the ECCC Information Center in Phnom Penh, officials will also discuss the results of donor meetings held this week in New York.

In a joint statement signed June 19, members of civil society called on donors to give generously to the ECCC.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia and the international donors should not let a lack of funds for the ECCC be a barrier to justice or a limitation to judicial independence and the due process of law," the statement reads.

The tribunal has already made significant progress, the statement continues, and Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit has said the court will name new suspects, in addition to the five already in custody.
Moreover, due to outreach from the court and various organizations, around 80 percent of Cambodian citizens are aware of the court's existence and its mission, a recent survey by the National Democratic Institute found.

"This awareness is especially significant given the limited infrastructure and communication systems within the country," the statement reads. "This figure is an indication that the tribunal is really relevant and important to the Cambodian people."

Cambodian activists want more funds for trial

June 20 2008

Cambodian activists on Friday warned international donors that without vital funding for the cash-strapped Khmer Rouge tribunal, justice for two million genocide victims would be put at risk.

The court's officials were meeting with potential donors in New York on Friday, seeking tens of millions of dollars to enable the tribunal to continue its operations.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of local civil society groups, said inadequate funding would "weaken judicial independence and lessen the chances of achieving justice in Cambodia."

"The ongoing participation of the international donors is necessary to ensure that the tribunal meets international standards of justice," CHRAC said in a statement.

International backers have appeared hesitant to pledge more money to the court amid allegations of mismanagement and political interference.

Japan agreed this week to donate nearly three million dollars and France pledged another million dollars in April, but court officials were seeking much more on Friday.

The tribunal, which opened in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and Cambodia, was originally budgeted at 56,3-million dollars over three years.

Once in operation, the tribunal significantly raised its cost estimates to more than 100 million dollars.

Court officials expect the trial of former Khmer Rouge jailer Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, will start by October.

The United Nations this year announced that an audit showed no financial mismanagement. But last year, the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative alleged that Cambodian tribunal staff, including judges, had bought their jobs.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed as the communist Khmer Rouge dismantled modern Cambodian society in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia during its 1975-1979 rule.

- Sapa-AFP

World Bank and Multiple Donors Help Cambodia Achieve its Health Goals


The FINANCIAL -- The World Bank Group on June 19 approved a US$30 million credit to support the implementation of Cambodia’s new Health Strategic Plan 2008 - 2015.

The plan aims to improve health care and preventive health services for Cambodian people, with particular emphasis on women, children and the poor.

The credit will be used to finance the Second Health Sector Support Program (HSSP2) which, over the next five years, will receive a total of US$120 million from six development partners. On the World Bank side, the credit will be provided by the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank that supports the world’s poorest countries. The rest of the support will come from the UK’s overseas development agency, DFID, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), UNICEF, United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) and French Development Cooperation (AFD). Other development partners are expected to join the program during its implementation.

The HSSP2 will use Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) health planning and results monitoring mechanisms and provide for joint management arrangements and pooled resources. The program is designed to help Cambodia improve health outcomes by strengthening institutional capacity and mechanisms by which the Government and development partners can achieve more effective and efficient health sector performance.

HSSP2 is expected to significantly increase resources available to improve health of mothers and children as well as to tackle new health problems such as injuries and chronic disease. It will improve the quality of training of health professionals, including midwives; strengthen health service delivery in health centers and referral hospitals; and, support the Government in its role as the steward of the health system. More poor people will benefit from the program as it intends to scale up support to Health Equity Funds to help the poor access essential health care. The program is also expected to facilitate the role of civil society and non-governmental organization in local health planning and oversight on service delivery.

“There have been notable improvements in the health of Cambodian people over the past decade,” said H.E. Professor Eng Huot, Secretary of State, Ministry of Health. “Life expectancy has increased from 52 to 58 years for men and 56 to 64 years for women; infant and child mortality are on the decline and the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been arrested. But several challenges are still facing us. These include high maternal mortality, slow progress in malnutrition, rising cost for health care; poor quality of health care, and the rise of injuries and non-communicable diseases. We hope that, with this significant support through HSSP2 from the World Bank and our other development partners, we will be able to achieve and sustain progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and improve equity in health. HSSP2 also takes a significant step forward in improving harmonization and alignment of aid in the health sector in line with our commitments under the Paris Declaration and International Health Partnership. ”

The World Bank’s Country Director for Cambodia, Ian Porter said: “The World Bank has been engaged in the health sector since 1996 through our two projects – Disease Control and Health Development Project, and the Health Sector Support Project. We have built strong relationships with the Government and other development partners in the health sector. We are glad to see HSSP2 off the ground in line with our Country Assistance Strategy for Cambodia that was developed in cooperation with DFID, the Asian Development Bank, and the UN system.”

Claire Moran Country Manager for the UK Department for International Development said: “I am delighted that the World Bank with the other funding donors has developed this new program. As well as accelerating progress towards the health MDGs, this new partnership represents an important step forward in aid effectiveness in the health sector. In line with the commitments development partners and the RGC made in signing the International Health Partnership in September 2007, the new program includes plans to pool resources and work in a more coordinated way to streamline how development partners support the Ministry of Health.”

“AusAID is currently expanding its development assistance to Cambodia,” said the head of AusAID’s Cambodia Program, Counsellor Lachlan Pontifex, “We believe that the HSSP2 Partnership will make an important contribution to improving health within Cambodia and in particular to achieving the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals for health. We hope that HSSP2 will also provide an opportunity for all donors and the Cambodian Government to work more effectively together to strengthen the health system and improve access.”.

Alice Levisay, UNFPA Cambodia Representative said: “We are pleased to be part of this ambitious multi-donor program in support of the Ministry of Health’s new Health Strategic Plan 2008-2015. The HSSP2 represents a new way of working for both donors and for the ministry, and will accelerate progress toward Cambodia’s Health MDG targets, particularly for under-funded priority areas such as reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child health and non-communicable diseases.”

IDA is the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries. It aims to reduce poverty by providing interest-free credits and grants for programs that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities and improve people’s living conditions.

Thai protestors storm Government House (1st Lead)

Thousands of People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) members protest outside Foreign Ministry in Bangkok, Thailand Wednesday, June 18, 2008. The protestors accused the Thai government of yielding a disputed border region with an ancient temple to Cambodia, the latest trouble for the embattled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej who has been facing daily protests calling for his resignation.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

M & G, Asia-Pacific News
Jun 20, 2008

Bangkok - Thousands of anti-government protestors surrounded the Thai cabinet's headquarters Friday, demanding the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his ministers.

The demonstrators of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which led similar mass protests against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, broke through police blockades to force their way to Government House which they had surrounded by Friday afternoon.

'PAD protestors have no weapons, so if there is any shooting, it is not by us,' PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang said, urging the demonstrators not to attack police while breaking through their barricades.

The protesters, estimated at 5,000 strong, shouted, 'Put Thaksin in prison,' as they took their places outside Government House, which was closed Friday.

The PAD has vowed to camp outside Thailand's seat of government until Samak and his cabinet resign, accusing them of mishandling the economy and diplomacy, and of acting as 'nominees' for Thaksin and his cronies, who were barred from power by a Constitutional Tribunal ruling last year.

A similar siege on Government House in 2006 when Thaksin was prime minister ended with tanks rolling on the streets of Bangkok. The military staged a coup against Thaksin on September 19, 2006, charging him with corruption, undermining the monarchy and dividing the nation.

After 15 months under a military-appointed government, on December 23, 2007, Thailand held a general election that was won by the People Power Party (PPP), that promised a return to Thaksin's populist policies. PPP leader Samak, a right-wing politician, was chosen to head the party because of his close ties with Thaksin.

'We want Samak and his cabinet to get out,' said Janikha Korkhalong, 45, one of the protestors. 'Just what this government has done on the Phra Viharn issue is enough reason for them to go.'
The Thai government this week backed a Cambodian proposal to list the Preah Vihear Hindu temple, the subject of a bitter ownership dispute more than 40 years ago, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site next month.

The decision has irked many in Thailand who still believe the ancient Khmer border temple - called Phra Viharn by Thais - belongs to their country although the International Court of Justice in The Hague passed it to Cambodia in 1962.

There is a widespread belief that the cabinet approved the Cambodian proposal as part of a Thaksin business deal. Thaksin on Wednesday announced plans to invest in a hotel-casino project on Cambodia's Koh Kong island.

The PAD began its anti-government protests May 25 after the cabinet launched a motion to amend the 2007 constitution, leading to speculation that its intent was to undermine several corruption cases against Thaksin and pave the way for his return to power.

Thaksin, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon, was prime minister from 2001 to 2006 before he was toppled in a bloodless coup.

Thaksin, whose Thai Rak Thai party won widespread backing from the rural poor through a host of populist policies, lost the trust of Bangkok's middle class and political elite in early 2006 and soon found himself the target of a military coup.

Outrage against Thaksin exploded in January 23, 2006, when his family sold its 49-per-cent equity in the Thaksin-founded Shin Corp conglomerate to the Singapore government's Temasek Holding for a tax-free 2 billion dollars.

That sale gave the PAD the ammunition it needed to mount an anti-Thaksin campaign that finally led to the military coup. Now the PAD is back on the streets for similar reasons, accusing the Samak-led government of being a proxy cabinet for Thaksin.

The PAD movement, aimed primarily at uprooting Thaksin's lingering influence in Thai politics, has gained momentum with Thailand's deteriorating economy.

Inflation peaked at 7.6 per cent in May, pushed up by rising fuel and food prices, which have sparked a series of protests and demands for subsidies.

Sacravatoons :" A good friend "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Sacravatoons : " A History teller "

Please click on picture to zoom in
Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Sacravatoons : " A family photo from B32-Hillton of Angkar Loeu "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Sacravatoons : " The Political Intimidation "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon at

Families wracked by rape, sexual abuse

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Friday, 20 June 2008

Thirteen-year-old Srey Mom was repeatedly raped in 2007 by her stepfather.

“I never thought he would rape me because I regarded him as my real father. I loved him,” she said, as she cradled a 2-month-old daughter who is also her stepsister.

“He used to hold a knife to my throat and threaten to cut me if I rejected his advances or if I told anyone what he was doing," the teenager from Kampong Thom province told the Post.

“I told my mother, but she did not believe me."

For Mom, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, and others who have been sexually abused by relatives, the experiences have brought shame and misery on the victims and a shattered sense of trust to their families, say social activists who are calling for the authorities to do more to detect and prevent these crimes.

"Men who rape their children, sisters or other relatives are not human. They’re like animals," said Pol Sovannarom, coordinator of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center monitoring program.

“The government has to pay much more attention to this problem,” Sovannarom said. “The government needs to strengthen law enforcement and to severely punish men who commit these crimes.”

While rapists face 20 years in prison if convicted under Cambodia's current laws, police often fail to recognize sexual abuse within families as a serious crime and frequently ask for money to "mediate" the situation rather than make arrests, social activists say.

“It is illegal for the police or other authorities to not help victims or to ask money from them,” said Kek Galabru, director of the Cambodian rights group Licadho.

“Based on the law, they [the police] must be punished or stopped from doing their work,” she told the Post.

Sim Souyeang, director of the NGO Protection of Juvenile Justice, also expressed concern that the incidence of rapes involving relatives would increase if nothing was done about the issue.

Protection of Juvenile Justice aided 104 rape victims last year, including 10 involving incest. In the first five months of this year, it has assisted 54 rape victims, six of whom were assaulted by a relative.

Licadho's senior children's rights monitor, Pek Vannak, said the group aided 284 rape victims last year, including 13 cases of incest. In the first four months of the year, one of the 42 rape cases handled by the organization involving family members.

Victims also worry that without better enforcement, their siblings are at risk of future abuse at the hands of family members who authorities fail to arrest.

“My younger sister is living at home, and I am afraid that he will do to her what he did to me," said Mom.

Cambodia's top anti-human trafficking police officer, Bith Kim Hong, said he saw incest as an important social issue that was made worse by increasing access to hardcore pornography.

"I think we can stop it if we strengthen law enforcement, eliminate pornography and prohibit the production and distribution of sex videos," he said.

Unesco will be asked to delay listing of old temple

The Bangkok Post
Friday June 20, 2008


The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs will petition Unesco's World Heritage Committee to postpone the registration of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site. Committee chairman Pikulkaew Kririksh said the panel believed the Foreign Ministry has breached the constitution, which requires the House's approval for any agreement which affects the country's territory.

The ministry lacked transparency in dealing with the issue, she said.

In the interests of national security and preserving bilateral relations, the committee suggested the registration of all parts of the ancient ruins _ the temple complex, ancient structures and the natural surroundings.

In so doing, Thailand should register its part of the temple compound with Unesco. The dual registration would guarantee Thai leverage in negotiating the overlapping maritime area claimed by both sides, she said.

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama denied claims that Thailand, by supporting Cambodia's nomination of the temple, had ignored the 1962 verdict of the International Court of Justice, which gave only Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia and not the border area next to it.

Thailand only supported the registration of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site, he said. The kingdom had never accepted the borderline fixed by Cambodia in 1962.

The temple was not a subject in negotiations on the border demarcation between the two countries, Mr Noppadon said.

Thailand had protested to Cambodia about the construction of houses in disputed areas near the temple, he added.

Mr Noppadon said the adjacent area of 4.6 square kilometres was in an overlapping zone where the ownership between Thailand and Cambodia had yet to be determined.

Cambodia has cited the 1904 France-Siam agreement to claim ownership of the area, while Thailand bases its border on the watershed line.

The joint statement agreed between Thailand and Cambodia on the nomination of the temple was not regarded as a bilateral agreement and did not need parliamentary approval, he said.

The Foreign Ministry and its Treaties and Legal Affairs Department could answer all allegations, he said.

The military confirmed that Thailand had not lost any territory in its move to support the nomination of the temple.

The eviction of Cambodian people from the disputed areas will be carried out under a joint management plan in the next two years.

Mr Noppadon said he would open a website,, to reveal the truth and fiction behind the Preah Vihear controversy.

In Si Sa Ket province where the temple partially sits, residents began a ''Dharma walk'' yesterday in a campaign to safeguard the Thai part of the ruins, and to push for the eviction of Cambodian people encroaching on the Thai-owned temple stairways.

The 100km walk will end in a rally on Sunday.

Breaking ground in Cambodia

Asia Property Report

by Meagan Kelly with files from Asia Pulse

Construction has officially begun on what will be Cambodia´s tallest building, a 52-storey skyscraper.

The construction company and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An held a ceremony on Wednesday to commemorate the start of construction on the International Finance Complex (IFC).

"The project will provide hundreds of jobs and contribute to the economic development of our country," said the deputy prime minister.

The skyscraper, a model role from the private sector in developing the country, would become an historic building and the tallest in Cambodia and become a center of tourism, culture and engineering.

GS Engineering and Construction, the largest real estate developer in South Korea, will take 45 months to complete the billion-dollar project near the Tonle Bassac River around March 2012. The 68,461 square meters project includes a 52-story office block, a 32-story residential block with 275 units, aninternational school and a shopping mall with 1,064 units.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok said the construction showed the close relations between South Korea and Cambodia and the confidence of foreign investors in Cambodia.

GS Engineering and Construction president and CEO Kevin Kab Ryul Kim agreed.

"IFC Phnom Penh projects will open the gates to more South Korean companies entering the Cambodian market," Kim said.

Police burn $7.6b worth of 'ecstasy oil'

A stockpile of safrole-rich oil is burned in Cambodia (Australian Federal Police)

ABC News

A joint operation between Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Cambodian authorities has led to the destruction of one of the world's largest illegal stockpiles of the oil used as a precursor to manufacture ecstasy.

AFP officers are overseeing the burning of 33 tonnes of safrole-rich oil in Cambodia.
The oil is taken from the sassafras tree, a rare species which only grows in the Cardamom Mountains.

AFP Assistant Commissioner for Border and International Tim Morris says the oil is worth about $7.6 billion.

"That would have been manufactured into the precursor MDP2P in neighbouring countries, then in all likelihood into the production of MDMA or ecstasy tablets," he said.

"It would have produced, by our calculations, 245 million ecstasy tablets and a lot of those would have made their way onto the Australian market."

Assistant Commissioner Morris says six members of the AFP's Specialist Response Amphetamine Type Stimulants team are involved.

"We've moved [the barrels] to a remote area of western Cambodia in a disused quarry and essentially they're burnt," he said.

"This is the best practice way of disposing of these types of oils."

Assistant Commissioner Morris says the burning is the result of three years' hard work by the Cambodian National Police.

"The Cambodians are also trying to preserve their sassafras tree forests in this part of Cambodia which are actually destroyed while extracting the oil," he said.

"So there's a two pronged reason from the Cambodian perspective - saving the sassafras forests but also preventing the production of this safrole-rich oil."

The burn is expected to finish tomorrow.

The infectious rhythms of Dengue Fever

An inspired marriage of Sixties Cambodian pop and West Coast psychedelia, Dengue Fever are set to rock the festivals this summer, says Tim Cumming

The Independent
Friday, 20 June 2008

The day after a sweaty debut appearance at the Borderline in London, assorted members of Dengue Fever are grouped around a table in the bar of the Columbia Hotel in Lancaster Gate.

Plans are afoot: food for some, for others, music. Senon Williams, the bassist whose home studio is where much of their new album, Venus on Earth, was recorded, is still in the twilit world of jet lag, grazing on Kronenbourg in the shabbily grand confines of London's premier rock'n'roll hotel.

For many US bands, the Columbia is akin to Rick's Café in Casablanca. Since the Seventies, virtually everyone in rock'n'roll has passed through. "It's kind of stinky and damp, and the lights flicker, and there must be ghosts in the rooms because they keep creaking," says Williams, "but we love it here. I could stay here every time I come to London."

The uninitiated might be forgiven for thinking that Dengue Fever is the result of some feverish hallucination in a tropical emergency. But they're the real thing, an inspired combination of soaring Cambodian vocals from lead singer Chhom Nimol, and West Coast psychedelia as seen through the colour-drenched lens of Cambodia in the swinging Sixties.

Picked up here by Peter Gabriel's Real World label, Dengue Fever's latest album, Venus on Earth, is their first UK release, much of it recorded on analogue tape using the same generation of decks that The Beach Boys used in the Sixties at Oceanways Studios. These are songs that cross multiple time zones, with sonic textures ranging freely from psychedelia to surf, mariachi to garage rock, and even Berber rhythms and Ethiopique sax. And as well as the record deal with Real World, they'll be performing at this year's Womad, whose organisers describe them as nothing less than "the grooviest band you don't yet know".

"We're really delighted to have them perform at Womad this year," says festival programmer Nicola Henderson. "They are going to be the must-see band for this summer."

The Dengue Fever story begins with Ethan Holtzman, the man behind the humid, floating sound of the Farfisa organ. After visiting Cambodia in 1997, he returned to LA loaded with vintage Sixties Cambodian pop, a hitherto unknown genre of world music, steeped in the sounds pumped out by the American Forces that were then in Vietnam. A classic case of musical blowback.

Holtzman's brother Zac had become similarly enamoured of Cambodian pop, stockpiling tapes in the Echo Park apartment they shared. It helped that they had Cambodia Town on their doorstep in Long Beach, the West's largest concentration of Khmer-speaking folk. It was there that they tracked down Nimol, one of Cambodia's biggest singing stars, and persuaded her to join forces with this curious band of indie musicians.

Joining them for the ride was David Ralicke, whose damp, rusty sax lines fill out the songs with strong riffs and humid tones; and drummer Paul Smith, who doubles up as sound engineer and producer. Bassist Williams provided the studio, and having visited Cambodia himself in 1995, he had his own stack of tapes with garish covers of singers in Beatles-esque suits and Austin Powers hair, and women in psychedelic dresses and towering beehives.

The few clips of film that survived the murderous ascendance of the Khmer Rouge are poignant, a haunted party music from a time and place that no longer exists. So much was destroyed, of course, and millions killed. Nimol's family escaped to Thailand. Others fled to Paris and the US, and brought the music with them. Decades later, the diaspora had coalesced into the Cambodia Town of Long Beach, where the band went in search of a singer.

"We went to this club where they'd have bands with six or seven rotating singers, and there'd be an artists' table full of food and drinks – Nimol still plays those clubs. Weddings, birthdays, New Years," says Williams. They tried out others before chancing on Nimol: "We had no idea she was from this famous, Michael Jackson-type musical family. The other singers thought we were nuts, saying, 'No way is she gonna come'. I think she was just intrigued by what we were doing."

Their first show was at a tiny indie club in LA, and the response was immediate. "The crowd went nuts. LA isn't a dancing town, especially in the indie scene, but these hipsters were rolling around on stage. It was like a crazy dance party. It got everybody jazzed."

Their album debut in 2003 consisted entirely of Cambodian pop songs from the Sixties. Nimol's vocal ornamentations and improvisations – one of her specialities is the "ghost note", jumping from one scale to another – are embedded like a sixth sense in the band's trippy mix of American psychedelia and surf rock, spinning the music up into the stratosphere.

"Our concept was not to be a Sixties cover band, but to be influenced by the music and to create a band out of it," says Williams. But at the beginning, with Nimol barely able to speak English, and the Americans no better with Khmer, the attempts to record original material ground to a halt.

"We couldn't get enough even to do a set, so we decided to be a covers band on that first album. Nimol brought in songs, and we'd scour the stalls on Long Beach for tunes we liked."

For their second album, 2005's Escape from Dragon House (the name of a Long Beach nightclub where Nimol still performs), Zac Holtzman started bringing in the vocal melodies for the band to work on, while Nimol was often holed up at their Echo Park apartment, turning English lyrics into Cambodian songs. She now she mixes the two languages with ease. Check out the wonderful "Tiger Phone Card" from the new album, a duet of Zac's frail American vocal and Nimol's impassioned and beautiful phrasing, it tells the story of a transcontinental, cross-cultural love affair.

Escape from Dragon House was recorded after a month-long tour of Cambodia – Dengue Fever are the first American band ever to perform in the country. The impact on everyone involved was powerful – even overwhelming – and was captured on film by the cinematographer-turned-director John Pirozzi with a local crew. Due for DVD release in the autumn, Sleepwalking Through the Mekong tells the story of Nimol and the band, and more important, opens the doors on the music and stars of a lost generation of Cambodian music that found its feet – and its soul – in American pop to produce a truly unique, long-lost hybrid.

The day after their arrival, they were filmed for Cambodia's national TV station CTN, a two-hour special mixing interviews with songs. It ended up being broadcast three times every day for the whole month they were there. "I'd never experienced recognition or fame," says Williams, laughing, "until I got to Cambodia."

Nimol's mother and relatives were at the recording session. "They knew she was coming back but she didn't tell them we were playing Cambodian music. They were expecting her to sing Madonna, not pre-Khmer Rouge Cambodian psychedelia. They were blown away with our performance."

They played free gigs across the country, from mountaintop temples using battery-powered amps, to the riverside slums of the Ton La Basae district in Phnom Phen, the improvised stage lighting made up of the tail lights of cars powered on a noisy, churning generator and a higgledy-piggledy tower of randomly assembled speakers on one side of the stage.

"It was one of the most epic shows I've ever played," says Williams. "I had culture shock at first.

It was totally wild, the poorest place I'd ever seen. Heaps of trash, people with bandages, very sick-looking, just hanging out. The crowd was completely still, completely silent, didn't even clap between songs. Crazy faces with crazy expressions."

Given that Dengue Fever are embarking on their first tour of UK open-air festivals – the likes of Glastonbury, Womad, Lovebox and Larmer Tree – a sea of crazy faces with crazy expressions could be the order of the day if the summer conspires to be another washout. For festivalgoers, meanwhile, prolonged exposure to Dengue Fever is likely to bring on delirium and involuntary movements of the legs and arms. You have been warned.

Preah vihear 'success' just a return to the status quo

Fri, June 20, 2008
Published on June 20, 2008

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama tried hard to tell the public that he actually achieved something in his dealings with Cambodia when in fact he only returned the fiasco over Preah Vihear to the status quo.

He wanted the Thais to see him as the hero who stopped Cambodia from encroaching on Thailand's territory - namely the overlapping 4.6 square kilometres at the tenth century Hindu temple of Preah Vihear, known in Thai as Prasat Khao Pra Viharn.

But the harder he tried to paint himself as a man who defended the nation's territorial integrity, the more the Thais doubted him.

First of all, returning to the status quo shouldn't qualify as a success because, essentially, nothing has really changed.

To add to his public-relations nightmare, the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) asked whether his decision to support - or at least not object to - Cambodia's bid to have Preah Vihear listed as a Unesco World Heritage site is linked to the interests of his old boss, Thaksin Shinawatra. The ousted premier is looking to carry out some major investment projects in the Cambodian property market and Koh Kong.

On Wednesday, Noppadon decided to reveal the map to the public after weeks of telling them to hold their horses.

From the map displayed on Wednesday, it was clear the portion of the temple that Cambodia would propose to Unesco is well within Cambodian territory and not part of the 4.6 square-kilometres of overlapping claim.

The decision came just as nearly 3,000 angry protesters were on the ministry's doorstep.

Noppadon came across as a battered man cornered by an angry crowd that was not going to settle for anything less than his head. Nobody wants to listen to technical explanations; nationalist sentiments run deep in this country. The cat is already out of the bag and Noppadon is not entirely blameless for his current predicament.

Noppadon's inability to shape public opinion at this point in time stems from the fact that he and the foreign ministry have consistently held their cards to their chests. Nobody saw the need to come clean with the public because nobody thought the street protesters would make such a stink about it.

The issue about Cambodia's effort to get Preah Vihear listed as a Unesco World Heritage site surfaced during the government of Surayud Chulanont.

The then foreign minister Nitya Pibulsonggram proposed a win-win formula that would have seen both Thailand and Cambodia co-sponsor a bid for the site to be put on Unesco's list. After all, it just does not make sense to have only a portion of the temple listed while other major components, which are located on the disputed territories and within Thai territory, are left out.

No one knows why Cambodia rejected this proposal, but Nitya stuck to his guns because he knew that a psychological partition by Unesco or any foreign or local agency would be like forcing the people of Si Sa Ket, as well as the Thai public, to relive the heartache of May 1962.

It is not clear why Noppadon strayed from this stance when in fact it best served Thailand.

He played up certain aspects of the issue when he did not have to - like the time he went to a Unesco meeting in Paris to represent Thailand rather than send technical or senior officials whose presence would have been more appropriate.

Moreover, Noppadon didn't make any effort to set the record straight as to what was in the making. Instead, he sat idly by and let the street protesters spin the whole thing in all shapes and forms and play up the sovereignty card and raise concerns over territorial integrity.

His performance on Wednesday, during which he tried to spill his heart out, came across as bad acting.

But in reality, he was reacting to the language of sovereignty. He played up the map, brought members of the Royal Thai Survey Department on board when in fact sovereignty was a non-issue from the beginning. In other words, he was dancing to the tune of the protesters and didn't even realise it.

His decision to come clean and open his mouth about the map failed and did little to quell the anger. It came at time when trust was at its lowest.

Last July in Christchurch, New Zealand, during a Unesco meeting, Thailand stopped Cambodia in its tracks when it tried to unilaterally propose Preah Vihear to Unesco.

It remains to be seen what Noppadon or the Thai government will do in the body's next meeting in Quebec, Canada early next month.

Cambodia: Defense Moving Forward

National Defense Ministry FC picked up full points in the Cambodia Premier League this week when they beat Phuchung Neak FC 4-2 at the National Olympic Stadium.

National Defense was all offence at the start of the game and in front of more than 5,000 fans; they took the lead in the fifth minute off Khim Bory before adding their second goal of the afternoon with a Laun Sotheara¡¯s strike with seconds remaining to the break.

Um Komphiak then gave National Defense the best of start in the second half with their third goal in the 51st minute as Phiak Rady made it a comprehensive 4-0 lead on 64th minute.

Well in front, National Defense took their foot off the pedal and this allowed Phuchung to come back with two goals from Lappe Lappe (65th minute) and Hok Sochivorn (66th minute).

But their tenacity failed to result in more goals for Phuchung as the score remained to the end.

In the meantime, two second-half goals from Bou Mesa (66th minute) and M. W. Seyinmi (79th minute) gave Preah Khan Reach FC a 3-1 win over Intry Kraham- Post FC.

The score up to the hour mark was 1-1 with N. Kennet's 47th minute strike cancelling out M. W. Seyinmi¡¯s earlier 39th minute lead for Preah Khan.

EU to deploy election observation mission in Cambodia

BRUSSELS, June 19 (Xinhua) -- The European Commission will deploy an independent election observation mission for Cambodia's National Assembly elections scheduled on July 27 2008, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on Thursday.

The EU Election Observation Mission (EOM), with a total of 113 short and long term observers, will monitor Cambodia's fourth parliamentary elections since the signing of the Paris Peace Accord in October 1991.

The mission will be led by Martin Callanan, member of the European Parliament.

"Over the last decade Cambodia has taken many important steps towards democracy and in particular in the field of human rights," said Ferrero-Waldner.

She said the EU "has been and will remain actively engaged in supporting Cambodia in a wide array of areas including education, judicial reform, fighting corruption and increasing transparency within the government."

"Because of the importance the EU attaches to these elections, I have decided to deploy an EU EOM to support and undertake a comprehensive assessment of the entire election process," she said.

Editor: Yan Liang

Cambodia Using `Subtle' Intimidation, Sam Rainsy Says (Update1)

Motorists are halted in traffic congestion as they begin to cross Monivong Bridge heading into Phnom Penh, May 16, 2008. Photographer: Robert James Elliott/Bloomberg News
By Daniel Ten Kate

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- Cambodia's ruling party is using ``subtle'' measures to intimidate voters before next month's general elections rather than outright violence as in the past, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said.

``Even though there is less violence, less deaths, the ruling party is using more subtle means to achieve the same goals,'' he said by phone from the capital, Phnom Penh. Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith didn't answer repeated calls for comment.

Sam Rainsy, who leads a party named after him, may see parliament lift his immunity so he can face defamation charges for accusing Foreign Minister Hor Namhong of working as a prison official during the rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979.

Cambodia's economic growth over the past four years, including a 9.6 percent expansion in 2007, has bolstered Prime Minister Hun Sen, who last week predicted victory for his ruling Cambodian People's Party in the July 27 election. International human rights groups have accused the CPP of using the justice system to intimidate journalists and opposition members in the run-up to the vote.

The ruling party has also linked Sam Rainsy to the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, a U.S.-based dissident group that made a failed coup attempt in 2000.

``By making accusations against me, they want to create a general panic among my supporters or potential supporters so they are afraid to vote for me,'' said Sam Rainsy, 59.
Assembly Meeting

The opposition leader probably won't be stripped of his immunity and arrested before the election because parliament isn't in session and may not meet again before the ballot, said Hang Chhaya, director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh.

``We can say with a sigh of relief that the democratic climate has changed and improved,'' Hang Chhaya said. ``Political violence is very minimal.''

Dam Sith, a candidate of the Sam Rainsy Party and editor of the Khmer Conscience newspaper, was released on bail June 15 after Hun Sen, 56, wrote a letter to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court calling for his release. He was jailed for printing Sam Rainsy's comments about Hor Namhong.

``I proposed to the authorities that I was willing to go to jail if they free the journalist,'' Sam Rainsy said, referring to Dam Sith. ``If they want to arrest me I am not complaining.''

Sam Rainsy's party won 24 of 123 seats in the previous election five years ago. He spent most of 2005 in exile in France and was sentenced to jail for 18 months in absentia for defaming Hun Sen.

Victory Forecast

The CPP will probably win at least 81 seats, up from 73, and receive 73 percent of the vote versus 64 percent in the 2003 election, Hun Sen told the Mekong Times, a Phnom Penh-based English-language daily newspaper, earlier this month.

About 10 Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers defected earlier this year to join Hun Sen's CPP. Sam Rainsy said it was ``normal'' to lose members of parliament before an election.

``It's common for the ruling party to try to lure and to buy opposition lawmakers,'' said Sam Rainsy, who characterized his chances against the CPP as ``David versus Goliath.''

``The CPP uses both the carrot and the stick to win,'' he said. ``We'll judge our popularity by the actual results on election day.''

Ngor Sovann, a former Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker who left the party to join the CPP, said members of parliament who switched sides lost faith in Sam Rainsy as a leader.

``The Sam Rainsy Party cannot win,'' he said in a phone interview. ``Many of us lost confidence in Sam Rainsy because of injustice and cronyism within the party.''

Economy Grows

Cambodia's economy grew by at least 10 percent between 2003 and 2006, according to data compiled by the World Bank.

Hun Sen wants to develop oil and mineral resources to attract international investment and reduce Cambodia's dependence on clothing exports and tourism for growth. About a third of the country's 14 million people live on less than 50 cents a day and 90 percent live in rural areas.

Cambodia has become a more vibrant democracy in the past five years due largely to advances in technology rather than through government changes, Sam Rainsy said.

``The trends are in favor of democracy because people are more educated with the improvement in communication systems and mobile phones,'' he said. ``People are more aware, less afraid and more critical.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at

Cambodian and Australian authorites seize drug oil

The Australian
June 20, 2008

BARRELS of oil that could have made billions of dollars worth of ecstasy have been destroyed in a joint operation by Australian and Cambodian authorities.

Up in smoke went 33 tonnes of safrole-rich oil - enough to have made 245 million tablets - in the operation conducted at Pursat in western Cambodia this week.

Australian Federal Police said the oil, produced from local trees, was contained in 1278 barrels and could have produced ecstasy tablets with an Australian street value of $7.6 billion.

The AFP says a significant blow has been dealt to the trade of illicit drugs in the region and the operation is an excellent example of federal police working with international policing partners.

"I commend the co-ordinated effort by Cambodian authorities to seize the oil, break the production chain and reduce the dependency on income from illegal drug manufacture," AFP national manager border international Tim Morris said in a statement.

"This oil is not only a precursor in ecstasy production, it also has considerable social and ecological ramifications for Cambodia's people and environment."

Mr Morris said the oil was known to be carcinogenic and mutagenic (capable of inducing genetic mutation) and the people working in the clandestine laboratories where the drugs are manufactured were among Cambodia's poorest farmers.

Safrole-rich oil is derived from the roots of two varieties of the Sassafras tree, classified as a rare species which only grows in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains.

To distill this oil from the roots, the entire tree is cut down with the timber used to fire the clandestine laboratory furnaces.

Much of the oil ends up in Vietnam, China and Thailand, where it is not illegal, for refinement.

The AFP team of four technicians and two forensic chemists from the Specialist Response Amphetamine Type Stimulants team began burning the oil stockpile this week, 170km west of the capital Phnom Penh.

To conduct the operation, the AFP members transported specialist equipment from Australia including chemical suits, breathing apparatus, decontamination showers, air compressors, generators and gas monitoring and analysis equipment.

The operation took several days and was conducted in the early morning and evening because of sweltering conditions.

Cambodian authorities had been working since 2002 to stem the distillation of safrole-rich oil, the AFP said.

They have detected and dismantled more than 50 clandestine laboratories capable of producing up to 60 litres a day.

The single-largest seizure was made in April this year during a three-week operation by the Cambodian National Police, military police, Cambodian prosecutors, forestry and environment officials in an uninhabited area of the western region.

Cambodia's National Authority for Combating Drugs then approached the AFP to assist with the safe disposal of the oil stockpile.


Situation of Women Promoting Beer Does Not Improve

Posted on 20 June 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 565

“In May, Sophea and seven other women promoting the sale of beer [to customers in restaurants – commonly called “Beer Girls”] presented a letter to the management of Cambodia Brewery, located in Tuol Kork, Phnom Penh. The eight women represented other 300 women promoting Tiger Beer. These representatives asked for the increase of their salaries from US$70 to US$100 for women who have worked more than ten years. However, so far, there is no response to their request.

“Sophea decided to protest, because she has worked as a beer promoting woman for thirteen years, but the salary she gets cannot support her son’s study. These women explained that staff who has worked less than six years get US$50 per month, and if they have worked beyond six years, they get US$70. She continued, ‘Because the salary is not enough, some even sell sexual services. Some restaurants have rooms for having sex. I have seen many of my colleges who agreed to do this because of the money.’

“Mr. Ian Lubek, a professor from the University of Guelph in Canada who is an advisor to the Siem Reap Citizens for Health, Educational and Social Issues [SiRCHESI International] has conducted studies about the hazard to beer promoting women since 2000. His latest study had been conducted since April 2008 in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh with 400 women. He explained, ‘Our latest numbers show that the situation of beer promoting women has not improved.’

“Mr. Ian Lubek thinks that the claims by Sophea and her colleagues are right. He stated, ‘The beer producing companies which are members of the Beer Selling Industry Cambodia [BSIC] – including Cambodia Brewery, Cambrew/Carlsberg, Heineken, and Guinness – have increased their sale by 50% between 2006 and 2008.’ He said that each night, women promoting beer can sell an average of 24 liters, equal to three boxes of beer. He concluded that if these women would get US$6 commission per box like at some other companies, which are not members of BSIC, they could be able to earn up to US$400 per month, in addition to their salary. Mr. Lubek calculated that women promoting beer need an average salary of US$132 so that they can live under the present circumstance where the price of goods increase like these days. He added that some companies that are members of BSIC had announced a new system to make more money available, based on work performance, but only a small numbers of women say that they get such money.

“Sophea stressed, ‘Our claim is absolutely justified. The quantity of our sales increased, and the price of beer increased too. In the restaurant where I promote beer, previously Tiger Beer was sold for US$1.50 per bottle, but now it is sold for US$2.90. Therefore, the company has the possibility to increase our salaries.’

“According to Mr. Lubek, only 19% of women promoting beer from the companies that are members of BSIC are currently satisfied with their jobs. As for another group of 34%, they said that they had to force themselves to be prostitutes, and 18% of them sell sexual services at their places of work. He continued that to prevent the sale of sexual services, the companies that are members of BSIC created in 2006 a code of ethics [for the companies], but this code has not been implemented well.

“Ms. Bunny, deputy director of the Men’s and Women’s Network for Development in Cambodia that supports 300 beer promoting women in Koh Kong, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Oddar Meanchey, and Phnom Penh, criticized the working conditions related to companies that are members of BSIC, and she proposed that those companies should provide a minimum salary of US$80 to the beer promoting women. She explained, ‘I do not want to work for those companies, because I want to get a salary of over US$50 per month.’ She, like more than 200 women of her association, gets commissions from the restaurants where she works. The commission she gets is US$8 per box. She said, ‘So I earn more than US$100 per month.’
“Ms. Bunny explained, ‘Doing this job, we have to face a situation of getting tired, of gang-rapes [where a group of men rape one woman], and just simple sexual rape.’ She added that the agreements between some non-government organizations and those companies are not efficient. Four among ten members of her organization had been gang-raped, especially those in Phnom Penh. She went on to say, ‘When a woman negotiates with a guest and agrees to go with that that guest, she often faces two to three more men, and the woman can do nothing against it.’ Each of the beer promoting woman has at least once sold sexual services for US$10 or US$20. She admitted, ‘For me, I have sold sex three times, because I needed money.’ Those who seek more income by selling sexual services are mostly women abandoned by their husbands, who have children as their special burden; but other women agreed to have sex with guests because they had been threatened with weapons.

“Mr. Ian Lubek said that so far, an increase of salaries has not been confirmed, although it is a very important condition to stop the sale of sexual services. He mentioned SiRCHESI International’s work as an example. In 2006, this organization freed 27 women promoting beer from their dangerous work places. This organization has organized training courses for hotel workers and arranged their employment in its eight cooperating hotels, where they can earn US$120 per month. ‘That was the time when they could stop to sell sexual services.’”

Cambodge Soir, Vol.1, #37, 18-25.6.2008

Lawyers Urge Khmer Rouge Victims to File

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

Khmer audio aired 19 June (916 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 19 June (916 KB) - Listen (MP3)

The international group Lawyers Without Borders has made an appeal for more victims of jailed Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch to come forward with complaints for the tribunal, as Duch's trial approaches.

"It is necessary that victims express their rights at this time in order not to be late because the first case [of investigation of Duch] has been closed, and victims have until the end of July, 2008" to file complaints, the group said in a statement Tuesday.

The investigation of charges against Duch closed May 15, the first case of five accused Khmer Rogue leaders to be tried. No trial date has been scheduled.

Victims complaints lend "more credibility" to the process, "by showing that the victims are concerned with the tribunal," said Jean-Baptiste de Seze, coordinator of Lawyers Without Borders in Cambodia. "I believe there are only around 15 complaints against the first case, among 150,000 or 160,000 victims. That means the complaints are not many."

The courts have received more than 1,300 total complaints so far, said Keat Bophal, director of the Victim's Unit of the tribunal. Duch's case has received more than 10 complaints from civil parties, she said.

"The participation of victims as civil parties is very important, because they will not only provide the evidence to the courts, but what they bring will be kept as a historical document related to the Democratic Kampuchea regime," she said.

Lawyers Without Borders, which has 10 French and two Cambodian lawyers in the country, is willing to help victims file their complaints, de Seze said.

NDI Gathers Parties for Debate Introductions

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
19 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 19 June (119 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 19 June (119 MB) - Listen (MP3)

The National Democratic Institute on Thursday gathered representatives from each of the 11 competing parties to encourage them to discuss their policies in a "productive manner" ahead of scheduled debates for July's elections.

NDI is preparing to record and broadcast 22 debates among the parties, including eight on national television, to provide them "the opportunity to articulate their ideas freely and challenge those of their opponents in a fair and equal manner," said Jerome Cheung, Cambodia representative for the US-based group.

"NDI hopes that these debates will demonstrate that, while candidates from different parties have different policies and opinions, they can discuss these differences in a productive manner, free from violence or retribution," Cheung said.

NDI had scheduled a more than 30 debates, some of them only between the major parties, but revamped the format following complaints by minor parties.

In public forums in 2004 and 2005 held by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, ruling Cambodian People's Party supporters were interruptive and Sam Rainsy Party supporters provoked them through negative attacks, said Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party, who was head of the human rights center when the forums were held.

This environment led to the failure of forums, as supporters of the two parties would nearly come to blows, he said.

He supported the view of NDI discouraging the use of attacks or negative words during the debates, Kem Sokha said.

Farmer Poverty Reduction Reviewed

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

Khmer audio aired 19 June (1.14 MB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 19 June (1.14 MB) - Listen (MP3)

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and other government offices met Thursday to discuss the progress of an Asian Development Bank grant aimed at raising Cambodian farmers out of poverty.

The Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, a $1.8 million, five-year program financed by the Japanese government, seeks to give farmers more access to technology, infrastructure and other agricultural resources.

The program targeted impoverished farmers in five provinces in southern Cambodia.
Farmers from 14,200 families have seen changes in their living conditions thanks to the program, said Yong San Koma, president of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture.

"Among those families, about 80 percent earned from 1.4 million riel per year to 2.6 million riel per year," he said.

Farmers earned money by producing rice, raising chickens, pigs and vegetables for sale in local markets and joining community savings programs.

Thursday's workshop was a discussion of the results of the program, where district authorities "learned a lot," Yong San Koma said, because they were shown surprising ways that farmers increased their livelihood.

The government now has a strategy to work with farmers to help them bring their goods to market, Yong San Koma said. The money they earned is recycled into the community, he said.

Such earnings will reduce the government's dependence on donor countries.

The organization is planning courses for the younger generation of farmers to pass on their knowledge to others, he said.

King Sihamoni to Visit Vietnam Next Week

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
19 June 2008

Khmer audio aired 19 June (906 KB) - Download (MP3)
Khmer audio aired 19 June (906 KB) - Listen (MP3)

King Norodom Sihamoni will make his second official visit to Vietnam next week, where he will meet the Vietnamese president and other officials to "strengthen the friendship between the two countries," a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said.

The Cambodian delegation could push for increased investment between the neighbors, the spokesman, Sin Bunthoeun, said, adding that most of Vietnam's current investments in Cambodia are agricultural.

Vietnam's investments in Cambodia are mostly rubber cultivation, said Hang Chuon Narong, secretary-general of the Ministry of Finance.

"Investment of Vietnam in Cambodia is small, but Vietnam is one of the big trade partners with Camboodia," he said.

Two-way trade between the two countries reaches about $600 million per year, he said. Cambodia exports rubber, corn, beans and cigarettes to Vietnam, while importing construction materials, packaged food and other goods.

Independent economist Sok Sina noted predicted the already good trade between the two was likely to increase further, thanks to their proximity to each other and a prolonged period of good relations.

Shortly after he took the throne in 2004, Sihamoni traveled to Vietnam, Vietnamese embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said.

Cambodia tops Chinese textile firms' overseas investment list

China Knowledge Newswire
June 19, 2008 Thursday

Cambodia will take over Vietnam to be the best investment destination for Chinese textile enterprises, said Qing Yu, CEO of China's leading textile firm Hongdou Group.

"The investment environment and condition of Cambodia is better than that of Vietnam," said the senior official in charge of Sino-Cambodia bilateral imports and exports business, adding that many Chinese textile enterprises have extended their business to Cambodia, including those who finally decided to establish textile factories in Cambodia after visiting Vietnam.

Hongdou Group, parent of Jiangsu Hongdou Industrial Co Ltd, chose Cambodia as one its production bases overseas last year after a careful comparison among many neighboring countries.

Jiangsu Hongdou Industrial, the core subsidiary of Hongdou Group, exports its apparel products to many countries, such as America, Italy, France, Japan, Canada, Austral, Russia, etc.

Cambodia started the economic reform since 1998 and many multinational enterprises from South Korea, Japan and Singapore have rushed into the potential market to set up production plants there.

Getting plugged in

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 19 June 2008

A planned power-sharing deal among the six members of the Greater Mekong Sub-region is intended to bring cheaper electricity to Cambodia, where the high cost of utilities remains one of the biggest obstacles to foreign investment, said Keo Rottanak, the director general of the state-run Electricite du Cambodge,

"We hope power trade in the GMS will boost the economy by lowering electricity prices," Rottanak told the Post on June 17.

The Kingdom's lack of a national power grid forces it to rely on small independent producers for much of its electricity, driving up costs, although Rottanak said prices should decrease after the completion of a national grid in 2012.

His comments came as energy officials from the six GMS members – Cambodia, China's Yunnan province, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – were meeting in the Lao capital, Vientiane, to discuss ways of moving the region closer to an integrated power sector.

The officials will discuss performance standards and transmission regulations for cross-border power trade, the first of four stages leading to an integrated power sector, said a statement issued by the Asian Development Bank, which is sponsoring the meeting.

The statement quoted ADB energy specialist and meeting co-chair Yongping Zhai as saying that national forecasts showed demand in the GMS was expected to grow between nine and 15 percent per year over the next decade.

"Regional cooperation in power trading offers efficient use of regional energy resources to meet this rising demand," Zhai said.

The statement said the first phase of the plan was scheduled for completion in 2010 and would seek to only promote country-to-country power transactions where excess capacity of existing cross-border transmission lines is used. This phase will initially involve lines connecting Laos and Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia, it said.

The meeting was also due to launch a joint power-sector database for gathering and sharing information on the region's energy sector and supporting the move to develop a regional power market, the statement said.