Thursday, 11 September 2008

Business climate better

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 12 September 2008

Improved credit access one of key reforms

IT has become easier to do business in Cambodia, according to the World Bank, which ranks the Kingdom 135 out of 181 countries surveyed in its "Doing Business 2009" report released Wednesday.

While acknowledging that much more work needs to be done, the World Bank said Cambodia was one of the top reformers in the areas of access to credit and opening new enterprises.

"These are very encouraging results," said Stephane Guimbert, senior country economist for the Bank in Cambodia, "especially when you consider that many other countries are also making reforms."

The assessment is based on reviews of laws and regulations, as well as interviews with area businesses.

"The business climate is much changed today," said Kang Chandarot, director of the Cambodian Institute for Development Study.

"This shows that government officials are improving services and gaining more experience from their daily jobs," he said.

He added, however, that transparency remains a problem in Cambodia, especially in the area of awarding contracts.

"Many qualified people fail to successfully bid for projects," he said, adding that contracts are often given to friends and family rather than the most competitive bidder.

"Transparency means that people are able to understand why they lost or won" a contract, he said.

Officials fear Aids on the rise

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana and Mom Kunthear
Friday, 12 September 2008

Anti-trafficking law could reverse drop in infection rates

THREATS to a successful Cambodian condom campaign have raised fears the country could experience a second HIV/Aids epidemic, health officials said Wednesday at the start of a three-day national Aids conference in Phnom Penh.

Tia Phalla, of Cambodia's National Aids Authority, said the country's so-called 100 percent condom use program, which provides sex education and distributes condoms to sex workers, "is facing difficulties" because of a new anti-trafficking law and lack of financial support.

Police launched a crackdown on brothels after the new law was passed in February, which has reportedly pushed sex workers to abandon safe sex practices or risk arrest and imprisonment.

"Enforcement of the [new] anti-trafficking law harms the 100 percent condom use in brothels," Tia Phalla told the conference.

Before the condom program began, Cambodia's overall HIV rate was the worst in the region, peaking at 3.7 percent of the population in 1997. Rates among sex workers were estimated at 40 percent.

The percentage of sex workers who consistently used condoms with clients had already begun to drop to 94 percent in 2007 from 96 percent in 2003, according to National Aids Authority data.

Progress has been made in the treatment of the disease, according to Erin Soto, mission director for USAID Cambodia, who said more than 29,000 Cambodians are now taking antiretroviral medication compared with only a handful that had access to the life-saving drugs a few years ago.

"These gains are significant, but they are fragile," she told the conference. "Our challenge is to continue to achieve success without becoming a victim of it."

The aggressive condom and sex-education campaign is believed to have helped reduce Cambodia's overall HIV prevalence to 0.9 percent.

But lack of funding and the enforcement of the anti-sex-trafficking law has threatened to reverse those gains.

Only six of Cambodia's 24 provinces and cities currently have funds to carry out the condom program, Tia Phalla said.


Feast or famine for rice farmers?

HENG CHIVOAN; Yen Bunlung, 10, stands in his parents’ parched rice field in Takeo province.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Brendan Brady
Friday, 12 September 2008

Despite requesting a $38 million emergency food aid package, the government is confident it will meet its rice export quotas as the global price of the commodity continues to rise

WELL before rainfall shortages struck this year, the Kingdom was preparing to reap the windfall of sky-high global rice prices through lucrative export deals with foreign governments.

But as harvest time draws near, the government is sending mixed messages about the country's anticipated food stocks - or lack thereof.

Despite last week's request for a US$38 million food security aid package from the Asian Development Bank, the government maintains it has the food security situation under control and will go ahead with its rice export plans.

Even as drought grips large swaths of the country, the Agriculture Ministry optimistically expects nationwide rice production to reach seven million tonnes this year, a slight increase from the 6.7 million tonnes it reported last year.

"Some areas are facing drought, but we are optimistic that our export deals signed by the government will not affect our ability to meet local demand," Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun told the Post.

"I am not concerned about having a food shortage this coming year even if the government increases its volume of rice exports because these contracts are signed only after a thorough evaluation of domestic surplus.

"This year's harvest is expected to yield a surplus of one million tonnes, according to Phou Puy, president of the Cambodian Rice Millers Association.

With such overflowing stores, the government's request to the ADB for emergency food assistance served only to secure a safeguard against sudden, unexpected shocks, such as those brought about by natural disaster, Chan Sarun said.

" We are optimistic that our export deals ... will not affect our ability to meet local demand. "

Blame the futures market

The global commodities crisis that has lifted the price of everything from petrol to gold didn't spare rice - the staple food for half of the world - also created new opportunities and problems related to the grain's trade.

Rising rice prices create a potential boon for farmers and investors, and have attracted nontraditional players, such as hedge funds, into the market.

But they have also raised humanitarian concern over the diminished purchasing power of poor consumers.

Cambodia has gained a host of new suitors this year eyeing the fruits of its fertile farmland.

The Gulf states Kuwait and Qatar initiated plans to lease Cambodian farmland to secure rights to its produce, while the government inked a deal to export 120,000 tonnes of rice to Guinea. Other West African countries have followed suit, with Senegal, for example, ordering 6,000 tonnes of broken rice, the low-quality residue from successive sortings between broken and intact rice grains.

Mao Thara, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, told the Post that the government has not yet calculated its anticipated volumes of rice exports. He said contracts were still being negotiated, adding that a team was headed to Senegal on October 20 to discuss a new deal with the West African country.

A contradiction in terms?

The government stands by its plan to ink major agriculture export deals with foreign governments, despite the ADB's announcement last week of a proposed US$38 emergency food assistance project to address what its country manager described as "an unprecedented emergency" in Cambodia's food security.

"The food security concern in Cambodia is not whether the country is capable of producing sufficient food to feed its own population, which it is capable of for many years already, but whether basic food commodities would remain accessible to the rural and urban poor under the current environment of unprecedented global increase of food and fuel prices," Arjun Goswami, the bank's country director, told the Post.

Worldwide price hikes for food and fuel have pushed traders to sell their rice to neighbouring countries, thus driving supply down and prices up, he explained.

Long Vou Piseth, the ADB officer in charge of the food project's implementation, said it would address the needs of both suppliers and consumers, distributing food rations to those most in need and selling seeds and fertilisers to farmers at a subsidised rate.

According to Kang Chandararot, head economist at the research institute Cambodia Institute of Development Study, the price of rice at markets in Phnom Penh has risen by around 50 percent since the beginning of the year, a dramatic price hike that he attribute largely to inflationary pressures caused by rising world demand and higher input costs.

"Helping out Cambodia's farmers to boost their output could stabilise the supply and price of rice in the region," he said, referring to why the ABD would want to plough millions of dollars of food aid into a country that is exporting rice commercially.

CPP senator to fund import of Yorkshire breeding pigs

VANDY RATTANA; CPP senator and business tycoon Mong Reththy speaks to reporters at the Swine Business Forum in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Friday, 12 September 2008

Officials hope the breeders will help ease Cambodia's reliance on pork imports and provide greater sustainability for local farmers and traders.

A PRIVATE company is set to import pigs from a breeder in Yorkshire, England, in a move that aims to improve agricultural production in Cambodia and satisfy increasing demand among consumers.

Mong Reththy, a Cambodian People's Party senator and co-chair of the Agricultural and Agro-Industry Working Group, said he will spend US$5 million to purchase and import the Yorkshire breeders.

"The only solution for meeting local demand for pork in the future is to import genuine breeders and distribute them to local pig raisers," said Mong Reththy, who heads the agribusiness company Mong Reththy Group.

The company is funding the purchase, Mong Reththy told a meeting of the Swine Business Forum on Wednesday.

"We will import 600 male and female breeders starting from December this year to February 2009," he said.

He added the breeding program would only be successful with the cooperation of local pig farmers.

The Swine Business Forum is sponsored by the Cambodia Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) project, a joint effort between the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy and USAID that works with pig raisers to improve cooperation, production methods and health standards.


Chris Hundley, chief of party for Cambodia MSME, said the project's educational efforts have produced dramatic results.

"The pig mortality rate used to be about 50 percent prior to taking them to markets," he told the Post Wednesday.

"Farmers lacked the necessary technical skills. They did not know what medicines to use or how to take care of their stocks.

"The current mortality rate is below 10 percent, he said.Kao Phal, director of the Animal Health and Production Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, welcomed the announcement of the breeding program and said it was an important step towards greater sustainability.

The current mortality rate is below 10 percent, he said.

Kao Phal, director of the Animal Health and Production Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, welcomed the announcement of the breeding program and said it was an important step towards greater sustainability.

"It will help us better develop the livestock sector and reduce our need for imports from other countries," Kao Phal told the Post.

"Cambodia currently needs about 7,000 pigs per day for domestic consumption, and Phnom Penh alone needs 1,600 per day," he said.

Kao Phal said Cambodia currently imports about 800 pigs each day from Thailand.

"We are cooperating with the private sector and USAID to find the best solution for a sustainable pork supply in Cambodia," he said.

"We want participants in the swine value chain to see that pigs are a worthwhile and profitable enterprise," said Reed Aeschliman, director of general development for USAID.

Siem Reap Scene...

PETER OLSZEWSKI; Danny Jump of Bees Unlimited sees limited honey harvest.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Friday, 12 September 2008

Khmer studies centre expands

The Centre for Khmer Studies is embarking on a building project to expand its Siem Reap headquarters, tucked away within the atmospheric, somewhat exotic and extensive Wat Damnak grounds.

The centre is planning a new research building for international and local scholars studying Cambodian culture and politics, as well as to expand its library.

Chief operating officer Michael Sullivan said the architect drawing and specs are now being finalised, and the plan is to break ground and start construction in October or November, with a scheduled completion in April or May next year.

Sullivan is particularly excited about the library extensions - the Siem Reap centre already has a large repository of books available to the public, making it the largest library of its kind outside of Phnom Penh.

But the plan is to use the new extension over the next five years to house up to 20,000 books.The centre has also just wrapped up its 2008 Junior Resident Fellowship Program which began with an orientation on June 26 and was formally completed on August 22.

The program allows 15 US, French and Cambodian students to come to Siem Reap to live for two months to broaden their understanding of Cambodia, to study Khmer history and contemporary Khmer issues and to undertake small in-field research projects.

Sullivan told Scene, "With this program we built on the successes of the previous year, and once again the students enjoyed the experience of mixing with other students from completely differing backgrounds in what is very much a multicultural environment."

Staff at the centre are now concentrating on the current project, which is a series of fellowships for PhD and post-doctoral candidates. A number of candidates are already in Cambodia, and the rest are expected to arrive early next year.

One of the more interesting papers to result from this program will be an examination of Chinese investment in Cambodia, a topic that is of particular academic interest to Michael Sullivan.Dry year takes toll on honey harvest

Daniel Jump, a consultant with Siem Reap's Bees Unlimited, reports that the rainy season wild honey harvest on Tonle Sap this year will be limited, and production will be well down on previous years.

This, says Jump, is mainly due to lower seasonal water levels at this time of year, due to low rainfall this year.

"One of the problems is that the water wasn't high enough for the honey hunters to access the bee colonies on Tonle Sap," he said.

The honey hunters had to subsequently turn to other revenue-raising ventures to keep the family income rolling in, and now that the water levels are rising, and some honey gathering is possible, the hunters are committed to their other jobs.

While the rainy season honey, as it's called, is only for local Khmer consumption, the storage of this honey is a major business in Siem Reap, and the collapse of this year's harvest will hurt many pocketbooks.

Galleries offer food for thought

The John McDermott art gallery opening of Sandy Shum's Bhutan photo exhibition was the customary well-attended, be-and-be-seen bash, and opening nighters were quite entranced by Shum's "painterly" photographs.

Her technique is essentially to use the old Polaroid instant print cameras that were popular in the 1980 and swirl and mix the inks while the Polaroid print is still wet, creating a mystical effect.

Mysticism and Bhutan, of course, go hand in hand, and there was a dash of mysticism at the opening night in Siem Reap, with a contingent of monks in attendance and a display of Bhutanese prayer flags. Coloured swatches of cloth and clutches of felt pens were on hand, so that people could write messages, creating their own prayer flags and these were hung in the gallery to "infuse" the prayers into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, another less mystical but equally moving exhibition was mounted last week at the Alliance Café. This features work by the renowned

Battambang artist, Mao Soviet and indeed it is a tad controversial because it features naked studies of Cambodian women, some battered and bruised, some circled in symbolic barbed wire.Cafe owner and curator Olivier Muzard explains that these vulnerable nudes are heartfelt representations of the degradations visited on Cambodian women who go to South Korea as wives and are often physically and emotional mistreated by brutal husbands.

Soviet's anguished nude paintings are based on the true story of a local woman whose story featured in the national press.

Finally, The French Cultural Centre ventures into politically correct territory on September 18 with the launch of an exhibition of artist Kchao Touch's sculptures rendered from waste paper. This, according to the centre, has been inspired by "outrage of piles of paper thrown by Cambodian people without thinking."pub launches managers' night

Siem Reap's population of expatriate professional and business people has increased considerably during the year, as the city moves away from just being a tourism industry town.

But with the influx of the suit-and-tie brigade, there's been an increasing call for a watering hole where business people can get together to exchange news and notes and to network.

Bertrand Prestaut of L'escale des Arts & des Sens has talked about creating a venue to meet such needs, as has Pascal Deyrolle, the general manager of La Residence d'Angkor.

But Philip Set Kao, general manager of Borei Angkor Resort and Spa, has beaten everyone to the punch with his newly opened Horizon-Blue Pub.

On Saturday night he held a managers' cocktail evening from 7-10pm and was rewarded for his endeavor with good response - he sent out 70 invites and 60 people turned up.

"It turned out to a great night and it was obviously people enjoyed the opportunity to get together," he said. "In the past it has been difficult to find such a meeting place here in Siem Reap and our new pub, with its views of the Royal Residence, creates the right sort of atmosphere."

Festivities mark launch of second Cambodian Open

PETER OLSZEWSKI; Bayon CM organiser Ladda Patthanun Chaiprasert gets ready to put on a show.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Peter Olszewski
Friday, 12 September 2008

But rumours abound whether spirit of Jerry Garcia will move Bryan Saltus to defend title

DETAILS of the second Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open 2008 golf tournament to be held at the Sofitel Hotel's Phokeethra Country Club golf course in Siem Reap from December 8 to December 14 were unveiled at an extravagant launch earlier this week.

The launch kicked off with a welcome dinner in the Sofitel ballroom on Monday evening, followed by a press conference at Angkor Wat on Tuesday morning, followed by an official lunch, followed by a round of "friendship" golf for supporters, sponsors and the media.

Dignitaries present included Hor Sarun, deputy director of the Ministry of Tourism; So Mara, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Tourism; Bun Tharith, deputy governor of Siem Reap province; and Chau Sun Kerya, director of the Department of Cultural Development Museum and Heritage Norms.

Heavyweights from Thailand included Sofitel Southeast Asia vice president Christophe Caron and Suttiluk Samranyoo, deputy managing director of Thai Nakorn Patana Co Ltd, the Bangkok-based pharmaceutical giant that developed the hotel.

The Cambodian Open is the kingdom's only international golf tournament and is part of a record 2008 Asian Tour schedule of 30 tournaments with almost US$40 million on offer.

Asian Tour is the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia and is a member of the International Federation of PGA Tours, the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia.

The prize purse at this year's Cambodian Open is a handy $300,000, and the format is a 72-holes stroke event played in accordance with the Asian Tour regulations.

There will also be a pro-am event on the Wednesday before the tournament, in what is billed as "tournament week".

Asian Tour senior vice president Gerry Norquist was also at the launch and he said that, through the Cambodian Open, "this emerging nation will once again be showcased to the world. As the only professional golf tournament in Cambodia, the Asian Tour will greatly enhance the landscape of professional golf in Cambodia and hopefully unearth new home-grown talents."

While last year's inaugural Open didn't unearth a wealth of local talent, it did launch an American oddity into cult figure status on the Asian golfing circuit, in the guise of Bryan Saltus, a veteran attendee of 150 Grateful Dead concerts which, while in itself has nothing to do with golf, has everything to do with him playing golf. He said he had a "religious experience" at a Dead concert in Las Vegas in 1993 in the form of a dream that he would one day win the US Masters.

On August 9, 1995, Grateful Dead's leader Jerry Garcia died, and Saltus' reaction was to immediately turn pro.

He's been hacking around golf courses ever since, with his awkward style gaining him a modicum of recognition in Golfweek, which wrote, "It's hard not to be amused by his golf swing. Unorthodox hardly begins to describe it."

He surprised everybody, probably including himself, by winning the first Cambodia Open after edging out Australian Adam Groom.

He celebrated his maiden Asian Tour win by jumping into the lake near the 18th green, crediting the unlikely victory to a new putter, after tossing his previous putter into another lake after missing the cut by one shot the week before in Vietnam.

And, of course, he dedicated the win to the Grateful Dead.

Can he do it again in Cambodia this year? Will he even appear? The Cambodia Open 2008 press release states he will "undoubtedly be amongst the contenders again." When pressed whether "undoubtedly" means there is doubt about whether he will front, Sofitel clubhouse manager Maximilian Kaendler said Saltus has signed on and would play if there were no preventive misfortunes such as ill health or injuries. Or perhaps a Grateful Dead concert.

Cambodian prime minister tells schools to allow Muslim headscarves

M&C Asia-Pacific News
Sep 11, 2008

Phnom Penh - Cambodian public and private schools have been advised by Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow Muslim students to wear headscarves if they so wish in an official decree published widely in national media Thursday.

'They can wear uniform according to school's internal regulation or their traditional Muslim clothes,' the directive said.

Hun Sen's directive to allow Muslim students to wear the hijab, or headscarf, was in the national interest, it said.

Cambodia's Cham Muslim minority, which is estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands, is generally well integrated into the majority-Buddhist society and Cambodia has avoided religious tensions such as those in neighbouring Thailand's restive south.

However the failure of some schools to be flexible in their dress codes has reportedly led to some Muslims, especially females, dropping out of school rather than going against their beliefs.

The Cham, descendents of the once-mighty Champa kingdom which reached its peak in the 9th century, suffered systematic and terrible abuse at the hands of the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, with an unknown number slaughtered for their beliefs.

But Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party, which has governed in one form or another since 1979, has gone to great lengths to grant the nation's Muslims equal rights and mainstream acceptance under a constitution which enshrines freedom of worship.

New line of ATMs launched in Cambodia

Vandy Rattana; Matthew Heap, NCR’s marketing director for Asia Pacific, demonstrates one of the company’s next generation of automatic teller machines that have been introduced to Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Friday, 12 September 2008

Machines expected to make self-service banking more convenient

THE US-based NCR Corp Wednesday launched a next-generation line of automatic teller machines (ATMs) in Cambodia that it says will broaden the range of automated banking options available to customers.

"We believe that ATMs are a very cost-effective way for banks in Cambodia to rapidly increase their distribution around the country to better offer services to many customers," Matthew Heap, NCR's industry marketing director for Asia Pacific, said at the product launch.

The company already services several Cambodian banks, including ANZ and Mekong Bank, and hopes to place its new ATMs throughout the Kingdom.

Better customer service is key to the success of Cambodia's nascent banking sector, and easy access to cash has become increasingly important as bankers become more sophisticated, Heap said.

"The key challenge for banks is how to grow the number of customers, the number of ATM cards [issued] and the number of deposit products such as credit cards, because the banking industry in Cambodia is quite new," Heap said.

"Clearly, consumers want self-service banking to be convenient, easy to use, secure and always available," he said in a separate statement.

Several of Cambodia's top banks recently established an integrated ATM system that allows customers to withdraw funds from cash points of competing banks.

Cambodia patient over Thailand's turmoil and temple talk delays

The Earth Times

Thu, 11 Sep 2008
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia is content to wait for as long as it takes Thailand to settle its political upheavals and resume talks over disputed border territory, its government said Thursday.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said by telephone that it was the least Cambodia could do to give Thailand breathing room to get its internal affairs in order.

"The dispute over the border has been around 100 years," Kanharith said. "A few more weeks can't hurt."

Cambodia closed the border at the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on its northern border in June. On July 7 UNESCO declared the temple a World Heritage Site over Thai objections, and a week later, Thai troops moved into nearby areas that it said are disputed but that Cambodia said is its territory.

Cambodia claimed Thai troops also moved into the Moan temple complex 150 kilometres to the west soon after - claims Thailand denied, saying it has had a troop presence near there for years.
Several rounds of talks have failed to resolve the deadlock with both sides vowing not to back down. Further talks are now on hold.

Thailand's Constitution Court on Tuesday found embattled Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej guilty of violating the national charter for hosting a television cooking show after he assumed office on February 6, forcing him out of his job.

Although the court's ruling immediately deprived Samak of the premiership, the constitution allows him to return to the post if members of parliament vote him back into power.

Prime Minister endorses the veil

Cambodge Soir


Young Chams will be able to wear the veil in schools.

In a memorandum dated September 10, a few weeks before school starts, Prime Minister Hun Sen asked the Minister of Education, public and private institutions and affected bodies to officially recognise Cambodian students’ right to wear Muslim attire.

Article 31 of the constitution provides that the kingdom recognises and respects the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and relevant treaties regarding the rights of women and children.

“All Cambodians are equal before the Law, without any racial, skin, gender, language, political or belief discriminations" recalled the Prime Minister.

Although each institution has its own rules on student clothing, Hun Sen noticed that Article 31 states that Muslim Khmer students and in particular girls should be allowed to wear their traditional clothing at school and can freely take part in religious ceremonies.

Agricultural census to start

Cambodge Soir


On Wednesday September 10, an official ceremony attended by the Minister of Planning was organised to mark the launch of the huge task of undertaking an agricultural census.

The project is supported by the United Nations (UN) Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and will be implemented in 2009. A year-long planning phase, prior to the census, will last 20 months.

It is the first time that such a census has been carried out in Cambodia. It is in line with the plan to fight poverty in the agricultural sector which aims at sustainable development in rural areas.

The FAO finances US$ 399,000 out of a total of US$ 4.28 million of the project’s budget. The government finances 16.1 percent of the overall budget or US$ 689,690. The government is looking for donors to finance the remaining US$ 3.2 million.

The agricultural sector represents 30 percent of Cambodia’s GDP, employing 70 percent of the country’s workforce. But rural areas, where 80 percent of the Cambodian population live, are still stricken with poverty. A 2006 report from the World Bank stated that development of agricultural production is vital to reach development goals set by the government. This report also mentioned that the poverty rate in Cambodia decreased from 47 percent in 1993 to 35 percent in 2004. With annual agricultural growth of three percent, this rate could fall to 28 percent in 2015, even to 21 percent if the growth rate were to reach four percent.

To reach this goal and be within the framework of a development policy, there is a need to gather viable and global data in this industry. The census will include lands, their use, irrigation systems and yield assessments. The aim is to decrease food insecurity in order to eradicate poverty and better allocate national and international funds for rural development. “These data are important for investors as they can only inject money if they are able to understand the operation of Cambodia’s agricultural industry” explained Chan Tong Iv, Secretary of State for agriculture.

The 2006-2010 nationwide strategy of the Cambodian government for the development Plan estimates that the country needs US$ 3.5 billion for the public sector, of which US$ 350 million are earmarked for agriculture and land planning and US$ 350 million for rural development.

Boeung Kak: the resistance gets organised

Cambodge Soir


14 representatives from the Boeung Kak area met on Tuesday September 9 to defend the interests of locals threatened with eviction. Chuong Chou Ngy, a lawyer will act as their legal representative.

The lawyer declared to have filed a complaint before Phnom Penh municipal court. It challenges the agreement between town hall and the Shukaku Investment Company regarding the real-estate project to develop the 130 hectares of Boeung Kak Lake. Chuong Chou Ngy also requested an immediate halt to sand pumping operations. The complaining party shall leave a deposit of riel 160 million to the municipal court. The municipality should pay this deposit, whereas the Housing Rights Task Force is responsible for the Lawyer’s fee.

Chuong Chou Ngy explained his legal approach: “the land surrounding the lake belongs to the State but for the past years, the locals have developed this area. Therefore according to the Land Code, this land shall now be given to the dwellers. As for the lake’s submerged area it is a natural property of the State. Therefore according to Khmer Law it cannot be leased”. He says that the state is trying to turn public property private, something which is illegal. He based his defence on a sub-decree published in 2006 and on two articles that defend the dwellers’ interests during investment activities. Article 18 also provides that the State cannot lease land for longer than a fifteen-year period.

The lawyer agrees that the complaint is rather late as the investment contract was signed in February 2007. But the villagers did not know how to organise swiftly or how to find representatives. He therefore thinks that this case file--now widely covered by the media--should be dealt with rapidly.

Following some representative dispersions which did not really seem to adequately support the villagers’ complaints, the next step is legal action. A real campaign is being set up including T-shirts and stickers stating: “Support Boeung Kak’s safeguarding campaign!”.

More gas stations found flouting price, measurement regulations

Inspections of gas stations across the country by Ministry of Science and Technology officials have found hundreds of cases of meter tampering and fuel doctoring.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Of 1,312 gas station inspections conducted since June, 255 outlets – or 19 percent – were caught using dodgy gas pump meters or selling substandard fuel.

Ministry of Science and Technology Chief Inspector Tran Minh Dung said fewer violations were found in the most recent inspection than in previous sweeps. However, Dung said gas station operators were becoming more devious in their attempts to rip off their customers.

“As well as cases of gas pumps not having valid authorization stamps and certificates, gas stations were also found in breach of measurement and quality regulations,” he said.

“Electronic metering systems of many gas pumps [which gauge the volume of fuel being pumped and display prices] had been tampered with,” he said. “Customers might get up to 9.3 percent less fuel than what was displayed on doctored gas pumps in the provinces of Dak Lak, Nghe An, Quang Nam, Phu Tho and Nam Dinh.”

The Ministry of Science and Technology last month issued an urgent dispatch to provincial authorities to crack down on gas stations in September.

Inspectors were told to focus on ensuring the correct amount of fuel was delivered by gas pumps.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade will later this week announce what action it will take against gas stations caught breaking business registration and price regulations.

Deputy Chairman of the Vietnam Standards and Consumers Association (Vinastas), Ho Tat Thang, said: “Vinastas is ready to file lawsuits on behalf of customers against offending gas stations.”

Thang said the penalties for breaking fuel price and measurement rules were not tough enough.

“There should be stricter penalties against such violations, including revoking business registration certificates and even criminal charges,” he said. “Those gas stations should be asked to compensate customers’ losses.”

Rampant violations

According to inspection results from the Ministry of Science and Technology, there were 71 dodgy gas stations in Gia Lai Province, who were fined a total of VND225 million (US$13,607). Another 36 offending gas stations were found in An Giang Province, 24 in Hung Yen Province and 20 in Dak Lak Province.

Inspectors from the Department of Science and Technology of Dong Nai Province on Tuesday announced eight gas stations had been caught breaching measurement and quality regulations.

In Long An Province, local inspectors also found four cases of gas stations breaching regulations.

In Ho Chi Minh City, of 201 gas pumps at 31 gas stations assessed by HCMC government inspectors since June, 45 did not meet standards, the municipal Department of Science and Technology said last week. Four out of 18 samples of gas also failed to meet the advertised octane content, inspectors said.

The offending gas stations were scattered through HCMC’s outlying districts, such as Binh Chanh, Binh Tan, Hoc Mon and Cu Chi.

In the north-central province of Nghe An, inspectors conducted 118 inspections and found 28 gas stations flouting measurement requirements, according to a report released Friday by the province’s Department of Science and Technology.

These gas stations had also tampered with their gas pumps, using electronic devices to pilfer up to 8 percent of petrol meant for customers, according to inspectors.

Cambodia: US Warship Gives Rare Tour To Cambodian Officials

An U.S. aircraft flies from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on Wednesday, 10 Sept 2008. (Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Cambodian government and military officials took a rare tour of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier when it sailed through the region on its way home from Iraq, embassy officials said Thursday (11 Sept).

It was the first tour by Cambodian officials of a U.S. aircraft carrier and "another step in the growing military to military relationship" between the two countries, said embassy spokesman John Johnson.

The Cambodian delegation was flown by a U.S. military aircraft from the capital, Phnom Penh, for a four-hour visit Wednesday (10 Sept) on the vessel, which was about 250 miles off the Cambodian coast, Johnson said.

Cambodia's army commander, Gen. Meas Sophea, called the tour "a very special occasion," in a prepared statement.

Mao Has Vannal, head of Cambodian's civil aviation authority, said he'd only seen such military capabilities on television.

"On the return flight, we took off under the force of the catapult system shooting the plane up into the air," he said Thursday. "It was so real compared to what we used to see on the Discovery Channel."

The tour was the latest sign of growing relations between the two countries.

In February, the USS Gary, a guided missile frigate with 200 officers and crew, was the first American military vessel to dock at a Cambodian seaport in more than 30 years.

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military heavily bombed suspected communist guerrilla strongholds in Cambodia.

The U.S. backed Cambodia's 1970s military regime led by General Lon Nol until it was toppled by Khmer Rouge rebels. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed fighting Khmer Rouge forces on Koh Tang, a Cambodian island in the Gulf of Thailand, in May 1975. (AP)

Cambodia - News : Beijing Paralympics

Cambodia - News : Boeung Kak Lake

Cambodia, U.S. to sign trade, agriculture, industry deal

PHNOM PENH, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and the United States will sign a trade, agriculture and industry deal on Sept. 15 when the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte visits here on Sept. 14-16, a senior official said Wednesday.

Negroponte's visit will make the two countries move a step forward for bilateral ties, said Sok An, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Negroponte will preside over the signing ceremony of a grant aid project for 24 million U.S. dollars in health sector, he said, adding that the fund of the health project will be operated by NGOs but monitored by the Cambodian government.

During his trip, Negroponte will meet with government officials, opposition leaders and representatives of Cambodia's civil society, a press release from the U.S. embassy said earlier this week.

As the centerpiece of the visit, the deputy secretary of state plans to meet with Hun Sen, it said.

Cambodia's apparel exports to the U.S. totaled 1.16 billion U.S. dollars in the first half of the year, up from 1.13 billion U.S. dollars in the same period of 2007, according to official statistics.

Editor: yan

The King Summons the 123 Parliamentarians for a Session on 24 September

Posted on 10 September 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 577

“Phnom Penh: The King, Preah Boromaneath Norodom Sihamoni, summoned the 123 parliamentarians for the first session of the fourth term National Assembly on 24 September 2008.

“Mr. Yem Bonharith, the secretary general of the Human Rights Party, said in the evening of 9 September 2008 that the Human Rights Party had received three letters from the King, summoning the members of the National Assembly to attend the session on the coming 24 September 2008. He added that regarding the first session of the fourth term National Assembly, the Human Rights Party follows the order of the King. However, he said that the Human Rights Party is waiting for the King’s response regarding a letter of the party dated 4 September 2008 about a separate swearing-in ceremony and about irregularities of the elections. The Human Rights Party still maintains the position not to accept the irregularities during the elections. The party president, Mr. Kem Sokha, is in Europe to present evidence related to the irregularities during the elections.

“Mr. Cheam Yeap, a member of the Cambodian People’s Party, said that based on Article 76 of the Constitution, the King will summon the 123 members of the National Assembly for the first session of the fourth term National Assembly. If parliamentarians of the Sam Rainsy Party and of the Human Rights Party boycott to attend the first session of the fourth term National Assembly, it is their own responsibility. He continued that having received invitation letters from the King, the 90 members of the Cambodian People’s Party will attend this session.

“According to the Constitution, after the King has opened the session, the fourth term National Assembly will proceed under the presidency of the eldest parliamentarian, Mr. Chea Soth, 85, assisted by the five youngest members as secretaries of the National Assembly.

“Ms. Mu Sochua, the Sam Rainsy Party secretary general, affirmed the position of the Sam Rainsy Party in the evening of 9 September 2008, demanding a separate swearing-in ceremony, separate from the Cambodian People’s Party and from other parities that had recognized the election results. She went on to say that if the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians could not receive a separate swearing-in, they will not attend the first session of the National Assembly on 24 September 2008. She added that a separate swearing-in ceremony does not need to be a big event. A small one is also acceptable, and it can be celebrated anywhere. If the King would not be able to attend it, he can also assign a representative.

“The Sam Rainsy Party had written to the King requesting a swearing-in on 25 September 2008 in order to have it on a different day from the Cambodian People’s Party parliamentarians. Ms. Mu Sochua continued to say that the Sam Rainsy Party is waiting for the King’s response.

Concerning the invitation letters by the King, she said, ‘We will write a letter in response to the King to affirm that our position remains unchanged.’

“The Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians do not want to swear together with the Cambodian People’s Party parliamentarians, accusing the Cambodian Peoples Party of stealing ballots during the elections on 27 July 2008. Nevertheless, every complaint by the Sam Rainsy Party and by the Human Rights Party had been rejected by the Constitutional Council, and the time for protests has been closed.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4690, 10.9.2008

PAD celebrates but will fight on

The Bangkok Post
Wednesday September 10, 2008


The People's Alliance for Democracy yesterday vowed to continue its anti-government rally even though Samak Sundaravej was stripped of the premiership by the Constitution Court.

''The PAD will continue its rally until all dishonest politicians under the Thaksin regime are rooted out,'' core PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk told the demonstrators minutes after the charter court handed down its verdict.

The PAD also warned parliament, which will convene on Friday to vote for a new prime minister, not to propose ''any person with a blemished record or who violated the constitution to head the government.''

The group also condemned the ruling People Power party's resolution to support Mr Samak again as prime minister.

If Mr Samak returned, it would be like ''bringing a corpse back to politics,'' said PAD coordinator Suriyasai Katasila.

In its statement released yesterday, the PAD said Mr Samak's breach of the charter proved he and his ''puppet cabinet'' were no longer fit to run the country.

The PAD will maintain its mission to guard the constitution and support all attempts to bring about political change by any groups which intend to protect the 2007 constitution and to solve problems caused by the Thaksin regime and its proxy government via the judicial system, the statement said.

The PAD will join these groups to call for the judicial process in corruption cases against Mr Thaksin and his associates as well as lese majeste charges against Jakrapob Penkair and Veera Musikapong to be speeded up.

They also demanded the abrogation of the joint Thai-Cambodian communique that, they said, compels Thailand to give up the Preah Vihear temple and its surrounding area to Cambodia.

Undeterred by heavy rainfall at Government House, PAD supporters stood in ankle-deep water to listen to the verdict on Mr Samak.

Loud cheering and applause broke out when it was announced that the court had decided to disqualify Mr Samak, who was found guilty of violating the charter.

People rushed out of their tents, shook each other's hands, clapped and danced.

''I'm deeply satisfied today. The verdict shows the court is still what we can rely on,'' said Nantapong Ranjuan, a 46-year-old resident of Surin, who travelled hundreds of kilometres from his home town to join the rally, which has lasted more than 100 days so far.

The cheering lasted for around 20 minutes. It went on for so long that PAD leaders had to try to calm them down and even asked them to stop.

''Please don't be glad that Mr Samak is gone,'' core PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk told the demonstrators.

He was advising caution because it was still unclear whether the House would vote for Mr Samak to come back.

Sondhi Limthongkul, another PAD core leader said: ''We've come too far to back off.

''We saw a sign of victory today when Mr Samak was disqualified.''

Cambodian orphans share in cultural exchange

Sep 10, 2008

By Howard Dashefsky

KAIMUKI (KHNL) -- A few Hawaii high schools had a first hand lesson on life in Cambodia.
The teachers were 30 young orphans from Cambodia who had visited Hawaii this week. They represented the largest group of Cambodian orphans to ever visit the United States. The Email Foster Parents International Program brought them here to take part in a cultural exchange in Hawaii.

It was all part of the 2008 Cambodian Children's Cultural Tour in Hawaii. As part of their curriculum, they learned Hawaiian traditions and shared their own traditional Khmer dance and music.

"It works both ways, the Hawaiian families learn so much about life in Cambodia and what it's like now that it's trying to get back on its feet," said coordinator Rob Hail.

The Khmer dance is an art that nearly became extinct under Cambodia's brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge, which saw the execution of approximately 1.7 million Cambodians. "During the 1970's, about 90 percent of dancers were slaughtered and they're native dance was almost lost.
So this is a chance to revive it," said Hail.

One of the orphans, Reaksmey Chan, marveled at the freedom American students enjoy. "It's really great because the schools get to learn whatever they want to learn. It's not like Cambodia. They have a chance to enjoy everything, it's really good" Chan said.

For some of the orphans, the experience was almost like celebrating a birthday for the first time. "I want to thank uncle Rob and auntie Susan for making my trip and my dreams come true," said orphan Napha Po.

Museum Exhibit Explores Hope For Cambodia’s Future After A Tragic Past

New America media
Sep 10, 2008

CHICAGO — The Cambodian American Heritage Museum has launched its latest show, "Cambodia Born Anew," a major exhibit on Cambodia's remarkable recovery following years of civil strife and genocide. The exhibit examines Cambodia's core economy, folk arts, education and Theravada Buddhism, the faith tradition of over 90 percent of Khmers, as well as performances of traditional Khmer music and dance.

The Cambodian American Heritage Museum and Killing Fields Memorial, opened in October 2004, is the first museum of its kind in the United States. The museum features Cambodian and community artists and Cambodian art; promotes genocide education and awareness; and preserves the memory of over two million Cambodian people lost during the Killing Fields through healing and arts.

Charles Daas, museum director, noted that, "'Cambodia Born Anew' is a snapshot of Cambodia today as its people wrestle with how to preserve ancient traditions in the wake of a new global economy.

"The exhibit examined Cambodia's core economy, folk arts, education and Theravada Buddhism, the faith tradition of over 90 percent of Khmers, as well as performances of traditional Khmer music and dance.

The Cambodian American Heritage Museum and Killing Fields Memorial, opened in October 2004, is the first museum of its kind in the United States. The museum features Cambodian and community artists and Cambodian art; promotes genocide education and awareness; and preserves the memory of over two million Cambodian people lost during the Killing Fields through healing and arts.

Charles Daas, museum director, noted that, "'Cambodia Born Anew' is a snapshot of Cambodia today as its people wrestle with how to preserve ancient traditions in the wake of a new global economy."

Inflation sparks exodus of workers from Cambodia's garment industry

International Herald Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: September 10, 2008

PHNOM PENH: Soaring inflation and stagnant wages have prompted thousands of workers in Cambodia's garment industry to quit and look for better-paying jobs or return to the countryside, labor union leaders said Wednesday.

The exodus raises concerns about the future of the country's main dollar-earning industry.

"Their factory wages could no longer cope with rising food prices," said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which had 80,000 members at the start of the year.

So far this year, 27,000 employees have quit, Chea Mony said. Many are now working in entertainment clubs like karaoke parlors, where they can earn more than at their previous jobs, while others have returned to their homes in the countryside, where living costs are lower.

In April, garment manufacturers raised wages by about $6 to an average of $50 a month.

But union leaders said the raise had done little to help the workers cope with the high costs of living in and around Phnom Penh, where most of the factories are located.

The consumer inflation rate rose to 22 percent in July, up from 18.7 percent in January, the last time the figure was released.

High food prices are hitting Cambodia's poor, who spend approximately 70 percent of their total household consumption on food, according to a recent World Bank analysis.

Chhay Than, the Cambodian minister of planning, said inflation in July was the highest rate recorded in 15 years and had been driven mainly by the high price of oil.

The consumer rate remained at 22 percent for August, though that figure will be officially released only next week, said Khin Song, deputy director of the planning ministry's price index department.

Factories have been having difficulties trying to hire new workers to fill the empty slots in their assembly lines, said Chuon Mom Thol, president of the Cambodian Union Federation, another labor group.

The garment industry is the country's major export earner and employs about 350,000 people, mostly women.

Kaing Monika, the external affairs manager of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said the country's clothing exports in the first six months of this year were worth about $1.35 billion, a 4 percent increase over the period in 2007.

But he said the profit margin, calculated to have been around 2 percent in the first half, was becoming thinner or nearly nonexistent for most factories because of high production costs caused by skyrocketing prices for oil and other raw materials.

"The buyers did not pay higher prices, and the workers are demanding more wages because of the inflation that makes it really hard to cope with the current cost of living," Kaing Monika said, adding that the outlook for the industry was "getting very tough."

Cambodia faces new HIV threat as 'condom campaign at risk'

A Cambodian woman holds a wrapper from Number One Plus condom

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Threats to a successful Cambodian condom campaign has raised fears the country could experience a second epidemic of the disease, health officials said Wednesday.

Tia Phalla, of Cambodia's National AIDS Authority, said the country's so-called 100 percent condom use programme, which provides sex education and distributes condoms to sex workers, "is facing difficulties" because of a new anti-sex trafficking law and lack of financial support.

Police began a crackdown on brothels after the new law was passed in February, which has reportedly forced prostitutes to leave condoms behind as they move from place to place.

"Enforcement of the anti-trafficking law harms the 100 percent condom use in brothels," Tia Phalla told a three-day national AIDS conference in Phnom Penh.

The percentage of sex workers who consistently used condoms with clients had already begun to drop to 94 percent in 2007 from 96 percent in 2003, according to AIDS authority data.

Additionally, only six of the country's 24 provinces and cities currently have funds to carry out the programme, Tia Phalla said.

"The main risk of a second wave of HIV infections occuring in Cambodia is from female sex workers, their clients and sweethearts," said a statement by the AIDS authority.

Before the 100 percent condom use programme began, Cambodia's overall HIV rate was the worst in the region, peaking at 3.7 percent of the population in 1997. Rates among prostitutes were estimated at 40 percent.

The aggressive condom and sex education campaign is believed to have helped drop Cambodia's overall HIV prevalence to 0.9 percent.

Iraqi landmine delegation visits Khmer Rouge sites in Cambodia

Wed, 09/10/2008

Phnom Penh - A delegation from Iraq's national landmine authority is touring some of Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge strongholds as part of a bilateral effort to share expertise, a senior Cambodian government official said Wednesday.

Cambodian Mine Action Authority deputy director-general Heng Ratana said the Iraq delegation would visit former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin on the Thai-Cambodian border, about 400 kilometres from the capital, as part of a fact-finding mission.

"We hope to arrange an exchange programme so each country can experience conditions in the other and we can share information and all our lessons learned," he said by telephone.

"They will visit Pailin as well as a number of other sites to see what demining projects Cambodia has in place and talk to people involved in the process," he added.

In August, Iraqi government sources estimated up to 25 million landmines remained as a legacy of war in that country. In Cambodia there are still up to 6 million landmines after nearly three decades of a civil war which only ended around a decade ago.

The Iraqi visit is scheduled to end September 16, Ratana said, but no date has yet been set for the exchange visit.

The National Iraq Mine Action Authority was established in 2003 to remove landmine contamination in Iraq after decades of war in the country. (dpa)

Documentation Center Outlines 2009 Efforts

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
10 September 2008

In an effort to continue national reconciliation, the Documentation Center of Cambodia is planning two projects in 2009: the establishment of a research center in Phnom Penh and continued efforts to teach students more about the history of the Khmer Rouge.

"The teaching of history and the building of this center is a chapter for Cambodia to walk away from hell and walk away from the killing fields, and to step forward toward national reconciliation," said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center.

A team for Columbia University, in New York, will work with Education Ministry officials to build the research center and prepare teaching programs and texts for more than 3,000 teachers.

The new curriculum will be based on the book "A History of Democratic Kampuchea," written by Documentation Center researcher Khamboly Dy.

The research center will be the largest of its kind in Asia.

Vendors Seeks Hun Sen's Help in Eviction

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
10 September 2008

More than 100 market vendors held a demonstration in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen's Kandal province residence Wednesday, appealing to the premier to intervene in their forced removal from an old market in the province's Takmao district to a new one nearby.

Protesters say the new market is in a quiet part of the district, far from the bustle of the old market, and is surrounded by buildings that make it difficult to set up shop.

The new market was completed in January, under the management of a company owned by Phnom Penh tycoon Mong Reththy, but management of the old market told vendors last week they would have to move.

Protesters said the old market is being emptied so that it can be sold.

On Wednesday morning, an adviser to Hun Sen told vendors he would take their complaint to the prime minister, and by Wednesday afternoon the protesters had returned to their stalls at the old market.

Manhunt Underway for Two Escapees

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
10 September 2008

Kampong Cham provincial police are searching for two convicts who escaped from a hospital last week and are suspected of killing a five-year-old girl in a botched ransom scheme on Sunday.

Vaing Binh, 31, who was imprisoned for attempted murder in 2006, and Yin Noeurn, 21, who was serving a 10-sentence for robbery and murder, both fled a Kampong Cham hospital together on Sept. 1.

Both men are from Punhea Krek district, police said, and police suspect they fled to the home village of Yin Noeurn, Trapaing Phhlong.

There, they are suspected of abducting a five-year-old girl and attempting to extort $20,000 from the family to fund their continued escape, police said. When the family was not able to pay, the two men allegedly killed the girl, Hoeurn Chivmeng.

Police have been looking for the men since the killing, after the parents of the victim complained, Keo Daraphy, deputy police chief of Punhea Krek, said Wednesday.

However, search efforts have been hampered by the thick jungle and numerous canals of the area, he said.

Seng Sokim, deputy chief of Kampong Cham provincial police, said the family of the victims recognized the men, and their descriptions matched those of the escapees.

Opposition Requests Second-Day Swear-In

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
10 September 2008

Two opposition parties have declined an invitation by King Norodom Sihamoni to join in a swearing-in ceremony for the new government scheduled later this month and have asked to have their newly elected parliamentarians sworn in a day later.

King Sihamoni issued his royal invitation to all 123 newly elected members of the National Assembly, but officials of the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties, representing 29 seats, have maintained their position that July's election was illegitimate and say they will not swear in next to the ruling party.

The opposition has instead requested an alternate date to swear in, a day later, according to top officials from both parties.

Neither party is willing to be sworn in next to the ruling Cambodian People's Party, said Kong Kom, acting president of the Sam Rainsy Party, and Yem Ponhearith, secretary-general of the Human Rights Party.

Party leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha are currently out of the country, seeking support from the international community for claims July's election was fraudulent and a new vote should be conducted.

Both party leaders have said in the past they would boycott the swearing-in ceremony altogether.

A royal official warned Wednesday the request for a second swearing in was not likely to be granted.

"The king, as the head of state, invited all 123 elected parliamentarians to the swearing-in ceremony on [Sept. 24]," Um Daravuth, a member of the Royal Cabinet, said Wednesday. "If any party does not respect the king's orders, I say that party is wrong under the Cambodian constitution."

"In no country in the world does a National Assembly swear in two times," Um Daravuth said.

An independent analyst said Wednesday it was up to the king to bring the parties together.

"The king should use his cleverness to bring all the parties to join the swearing-in together for national unity," said Lao Monghay, a researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission.

PM appoints own daughter to assist him in new govt

HENG CHIVOAN; Hun Mana, shown in a file photo, has just been made assistant to the PM.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 11 September 2008

Hun Mana, the director general of Bayon Television and Radio, will help her father to make 'proper reports'

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has appointed his daughter, Hun Mana, as an assistant to his office in the new government, one of her colleagues at Bayon TV said Tuesday.

Rith Chetra, deputy director general at Bayon TV who was also appointed an assistant to the prime minister, said that during the fourth mandate of the government, Hun Sen "will have a lot to do and needs more assistants".

"I don't know what kind of job I will help him with until the new government is formed," he added.

The new government is expected to be formed on September 24.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said that the appointment of Hun Mana was based on her position at Bayon and that she would help the prime minister in writing "proper reports".

"The public dare not comment to government officials, so they use radio and TV [to] bring their issues to the prime minister," Khieu Kanharith said.

Cambodian People's Party ministers have in the past appointed their relatives as assistants. Both Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong and Social Affairs Minister Ith Samheng sent their sons to work at the Ministry Cabinet offices.

Hun Sen has previously come under fire for appointing multiple advisers and assistants - the distinction between titles pertains to whether the appointee helps with idea generation or workflow.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Son Chhay said that the ruling party wastes a lot of state budget on advisers and assistants, adding that Hun Sen has roughly 1,000 people helping in those positions.

He claimed that most of them do little for their official capacities.

Ho Sothy, Hun Sen's Cabinet chief, declined to comment.

Blind artist sings to be free

TRACEY SHELTON; Su Biroth earns enough to support his wife and child by singing karaoke in Phnom Penh restaurants and beer gardens.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thomas Gam Nielsen
Thursday, 11 September 2008

Karaoke singer Su Biroth earns a living and self-respect in Phnom Penh's beer gardens

KARAOKE rings out every night in restaurants and beer gardens around Phnom Penh. Su Biroth, 28, sings his way through the darkness from one place to other and earns whatever guests give for his performances.

He doesn't look at the beer girls, the karaoke girls, the Yamaha synthesizers or the neon signs. Su Biroth is blind.

"When I was young I loved to sing, and my dream at that time was to be a singer. I kept on learning how to sing," Su Biroth said.

Tragic childhood

Born in Battambang province in 1980, he was the first of three boys in his family. He began losing his sight when he contracted measles at the age of seven and a year later was completely blind. In 1993, his mother committed suicide to escape life with an abusive husband, and three months later Su Biroth's father died in an auto accident.

The 13-year-old orphan decided then to try to support himself as an artist and came to Phnom Penh to study with the Blind Music Association.

He described his next twelve years living with the association as "difficult".

"In the association they did not help me at all, just gave me a place to stay, and I worked in the kitchen for them and cleaned the house. When I sang at an event, they just paid me a little bit of money," he says.

At 25 he left the organisation for a job as a blind masseur. After three years of giving massages, the massage business folded, and Su Biroth started singing karaoke full-time.

He now gets around town with his motodop-driving neighbour, living on the tips he earns from singing. A good night can earn him about 60,000 riels (US$15). The income covers rent and utilities for a household of four, including his wife, their newborn child and Su Biroth's younger brother.

"My living conditions aren't good yet but are a lot improved. I have freedom to get around," he said. "I can earn money for myself. I sing every night. The problem is that some restaurants and beer gardens still discriminate. They don't all allow blind people to sing, but I keep on going from one place to another.

"A handful of money doesn't make me happy. To be free, to get support from people and not suffer discrimination, that makes me happy."

Tiny designs make little nail art salons into big business

VANDY RATTANA; A customer gets her nails done at Sun Heang’s Christina Beauty Shop in
Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Stephanie Mckay and Mom Kunther
Thursday, 11 September 2008

Nail artists like Phnom Penh's Sun Heang can paint and decorate your nails with jewels, flowers and hundreds of exquisite designs

THE fingernails of Cambodian woman have never looked so good thanks to the burgeoning trend known as nail art.

Glitter, diamantes, three-dimensional flowers and intricate hand-painted designs now adorn the fingertips and toes of ladies (and ladyboys) looking to stand out from the crowd.

Christina Beauty Shop director Sun Heang said nail art was increasingly popular with woman of all ages, especially brides-to-be.

"Many customers come to my shop to ask me to design their nails for wedding ceremonies or parties, or they just do it for pleasure," Sun Heang said.

Sun Heang has a repertoire of more than 200 nail designs after studying in Thailand, Vietnam and China.

"I studied for three months in each country to be an expert nail designer. In Thailand and Vietnam, they taught me their own traditional nail designs, but in China they taught me all designs," she said.

At her Sihanouk Boulevard premises, Sun Heang passes on her knowledge and skills to more than 300 eager young students, and it's her diverse course of study that makes her successful as both a nail artist and teacher, she said.

Doing nail art, she added, was not terribly difficult, but each artist had to have some creative flair.

"Besides learning from experts outside the country, I had to find my own designs, and I always learn by myself. I have many nail models for my customers to choose from, but if they don't like them, they can tell me to design what they like. I can do it all for them."

" I studied for three months in each country to be an expert nail designer."

Shine like diamonds

Popular colours and designs often parallel seasons and major holidays such as Valentine's Day and Christmas, Sun Heang said. "In the hot season, they like bright diamonds because, when they go out, they will shine."

Rose Chansynat, 25, a student at the Institute of Foreign Languages, said she usually spends 30 to 90 minutes getting her nails designed.

"If I have to go to a wedding or party ... I have to get my nails done because I'm afraid that my friends or other people will laugh at me when they see my nails are bare," she said. "I go to the nail art shop once or twice a month to get my nails done with things like flowers or rubies on them. They can last for one or two weeks."

Chansynat acknowledged that it can cost a lot of money, but said "it makes my nails look good and attractive because my friends usually look at my nails and say they look nice, which makes it worth it."

One-of-a-kind nails can cost as little as US$5, but customers should expect to pay up to $50 for the most elaborate designs.

Inflation driving women out of the factories into beer gardens

TRACEY SHELTON; Despite the risks of the job, which include sexual harassment and even rape, increasing numbers of women are becoming beer girls.

Trend towards beer halls short-lived
According to Om Mean, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Labour, the main factor driving young Cambodian women out of the garment factories and into beer gardens is inflation. "[Inflation] has increased 37 percent since early 2008. Everything costs more, including water, electricity and food. People can't support themselves anymore on a small salary," he said, referring to the US$60 to $120 salary per month that garment workers can earn. According to Om Mean, the migration of garment workers appears to be a short-lived trend and government efforts to strengthen the garment sector will lure women out of the beer halls. "It is normal that people would look for jobs with better incomes when the economy has problems, but I don't think the women who become beer girls will stay in those jobs for very long," he said. "The government is working hard to strengthen the garment sector and ensure fair competition in terms of the World Trade Organisation, and with regard to Vietnam and China."

The Phnom Penh Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Chrann Chamroeun
Thursday, 11 September 2008

Over 27,000 women have quit their jobs in the garment sector since March this year and found more lucrative work as 'beer girls' in the capital’s booming entertainment business

Cambodia has attracted hordes of new business investors as economic indicators improve, but one of the Kingdom's largest and most reliable sectors, the garment industry, stands in peril as a new generation of young women, faced with runaway inflation rates, turns to a more lucrative trade to support themselves and their families.

Hun Danet, 23, left her home in Kampot province two years ago and moved to Sihanoukville. She became a garment worker like so many other young women looking for a better life. Now she works as a "beer girl" in Happy Happy beer garden in Phnom Penh.

"I've worked in a beer garden for six months and I can earn more money here than in a factory," she said. "At the factory, I earned between US$60 and $120 per month. I get $300 as a beer girl. I'm happy because the work doesn't make me tired," Hun Danet said.But her move to one of the capital's ubiquitous beer halls has not come without a price.

"I hate myself for being like this, but I don't have any other choice. I haven't told my mother or my other relatives that I work as a beer girl because they would be unhappy and look down on me," she said.

"My customers used to ask me to have sex with them, but I told them that I sell beer, not my body."

She said many of her friends and customers judge her harshly for selling beer at the beer garden. "I'd rather be doing something else, but I can't get any other well-paying job because I don't have the right knowledge or skills."

Hun Danet hopes to leave the beer halls as soon as she earns enough money to give her family a better life.

"When I worked in a factory, I rarely sent money to my mother. Now I can send her $100 every month," she said.

"I think all factory workers who decide to become beer girls or karaoke girls force themselves to do it because they can't get any other job that pays as well. Some might think $300 is a small amount of money, but for me it's a huge amount."

There are about 350 garment factories in Cambodia employing some 350,000 workers, according to the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) - up from 220 factories and 250,000 workers in 2004. Most of the workers are young Cambodian women who have left lives in rural provinces where they lived on less than $1 per day.

Factories losing workers

Chea Mony, president of Cambodia's Free Trade Union, estimates that more than 27,000 women across the Kingdom have left factory jobs for employment in nightclubs, beer gardens and Karaoke clubs since March 2008.

"Salaries in the garment sector have not kept pace with rising consumer costs, and corruption is everywhere in the factories. So, more women are forced to look for better-paying jobs," he said.

"The loss of workers could devastate Cambodian factories. We're worried because as factories have been trying to recruit new workers, the government tells us there's no problem. Everything is going smoothly," he added.

"The government has to be willing to eliminate corruption in the factories and also among government officials."

Vantha, 28, spends her nights working in a beer garden and her days in a garment factory. She's trying to save money to pay fees for building a new house.

" I don't care what other people say about me or my job because they're not paying me or feeding me. "

"I've worked in the beer garden for just five days, so I'm not that good," she said."It is very different from factory work. I get a lot of money and I work less hours. I earn about $300 per month. I plan to work here until I'm at least 30," she said.

Vantha knows the risks that working in a beer garden holds for her reputation but remains defiant."I don't care what other people say about me or my job because they're not paying me or feeding me."

Growing trend

A Phnom Penh-based NGO says the departure of garment workers for beer halls and nightclubs is a growing trend.

"Through my work, I see more and more factory workers quitting their jobs because of low salaries and taking jobs as beer girls because they need money to pay the rent, buy food and send money to their families," said Nop Sarin Sreyroth, director of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center (CWCC).

"The main problem is poverty. As women from the countryside come to Phnom Penh to work in factories, they soon learn that they can make much more money as a beer or karaoke girl," she said.

"They know these jobs are not considered respectable, that people will think they are worthless and men will look down on them as prostitutes. But many women see it as their only option."

Some women might be willing to risk their reputations for the sake of a better paycheck, but Nop Sarin Sreyroth knows the dangers can be far more perilous.

"What they don't consider is that they could become victims of sexual assault by men who will try to have sex with them, or rape them if they refuse."

Om Mean, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Labour, credits the high cost of living with driving more women from factories to beer halls and says the inflation rate is staggeringly higher than other government officials have been willing to admit.

"Young women must find alternative employment that will provide an adequate income," Om Mean said.

Victims in emotional, legal limbo over participation at the KR Trial

TRACEY SHELTON ; DC-Cam’s Terith Chy speaks to a civil party in Svay Rieng province.

TRACEY SHELTON; Rin, a civil party to the Duch trial at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, holds a photograph of her sister who died during her incarceration at Tuol Sleng.

How to file as a civil party
1- Fill out a Victim Information Form available at the ECCC information center (House 6A, Street 21, Tonle Bassac I, Chamkar Mon, Phnom Penh) or the ECCC website (

2- Send the application to the Victims Unit via email (
or by post to the ECCC, National Road 4, Choam Chau, Dangkao, Phnom Penh, or the ECCC Information Centre.

3- Include details verifying your status as a victim, and have any evidence of the crime(s) attached.

4- Completed applications will then be transferred by the Victims Unit to the greffier of the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges or the Chambers, as appropriate, through the Case File Officer, together with all necessary information concerning common representation.

5- If applicable, the judges will decide on the admissibility of the Civil Party application and such decision shall be open to appeal before the Pre-Trial Chamber or the Supreme Court Chamber depending on the stage of the proceedings.

Victims must have suffered physical, material or psychological harm, including suffering psychologically from the death of a family member, during the period under jurisdiction.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 11 September 2008


After calling for unprecedented levels of victim participation, the KR tribunal is struggling to accomodate civil parties and has even reneged, some claim, on their initial rights in court

When Rin saw the man who organised the killing of her sister calmly escorted into a Toyota Land Cruiser on national television, she wanted to club him to death the way her sister had been years before.

"I respect the law ... but I can no longer hold back my anger," the 52-year-old said.

As a civil party to the trial of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, who is also known as Duch, Rin has a healthy respect for the judicial process.

But even so, "we've been waiting too long for justice", she said.

Rin is not the only person troubled by the mixed emotions of participating in the trial of the man who allegedly ordered the death of so many, and her frustration is symbolic of the ongoing antagonism between speed and scope at the UN-backed tribunal.

The tribunal's Victims Unit is now flooded with applications from people seeking legal recognition for their suffering under the 1975-79 regime - up to 1,800 victim and civil party applications have been received and are now waiting to be processed.

But ongoing delays, coupled with what critics call an erosion of the legal rights of civil parties at the pretrial stage, have many wondering whether victim participation on the scale previously planned is still a priority for the near-bankrupt court.

Untested ground

Cambodia's Extraordinary Chambers is the first hybrid tribunal in history to encourage victims like Rin to play a central role in the proceedings. For the first time ever, victims as civil parties are legal participants in the criminal proceedings. A civil party has most, if not all, of the rights as the prosecution and defense, including access to documents and the ability to produce evidence in court.

Terith Chy, head of the Victims Participation Project at the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), is facilitating the applications of several civil parties and says that civil parties are often uncertain of their role.

"They want to tell the court what happened, everything they saw," he said. "But they are worried about how long the process has taken and will take."

The extent to which victims will be able to participate in the trials has been a contentious issue ever since the inception of the tribunal two years ago.

Cecile Aptel, who is in charge of the International Center for Transitional Justice's Cambodia program, describes it as a case of push-and-pull for the court.

"When victims play an active role in legal proceedings, they feel directly involved in the judicial process and empowered," she said. "But this also creates a challenge for the ECCC: to ensure that a potentially large number of victims can participate effectively in the proceedings."

Despite continuing calls for more applicants, the court has, in practice, made repeated attempts to backpedal on the rights initially given to parties, some observers claim.

" They want to tell the court what happened, everything they saw ... but they are worried about how long the process has taken. "

In July, civil party Theary Seng was denied the chance to address the court directly during Ieng Sary's appeal against his pretrial detention on the basis she had legal representation. When she then dismissed her lawyer, she was again denied the right to speak.

Written amendments were pushed through last week at the fourth plenary session of judges requiring parties to apply at least 10 days ahead of the initial hearing if they want to speak and giving the court the power to force them into groups with a single lawyer representing them.

Setting a precedent

As the tribunal is the first of its kind to offer victims the chance to participate as legally recognised parties, observers will be looking to it as a case study.

"Decisions made by the ECCC judges may have a significant impact on choices made by other mass crimes courts about whether or not victims should play an active part in proceedings and the appropriate scope of their participation," said Anne Heindel, a legal adviser to DC-Cam.

According to Aptel, the court could potentially "lead the way and create tremendously important precedents in international criminal law".

But a major flaw in the right of KR victims to participate is that currently no legal representation is provided to parties willing to seek civil party status.

"The court needs to get money for representation so their part [in the trials] will be meaningful," said DC-Cam's Terith Chy.

Court spokesperson Helen Jarvis said that the court's new budget, for which funds are now being sought, has provisions for more staff and support activities, and for "a modest level of legal assistance to support those approved to become civil parties".

But observers, who are concerned it might be another year until other defendants are even indicted, are warning that the court's legitimacy is at stake.

"Victim participation is important for the court's legitimacy because it is the best way of making a few trials of a handful of persons relevant to survivors 30 years after the fact," Heindel said. The Victims Unit declined repeated requests for comment.

Drive to educate kids about KRT continues

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 11 September 2008

MORE than 400 Kandal and Kampong Speu high school students are set to visit the ECCC to learn about the crimes that took place under the Khmer Rouge regime in a move facilitated by an outreach office of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam).

Sayana Ser, DC-Cam team leader, said that prior to their visit, which has been scheduled for September 25, the students will be briefed about the regime that killed approximately 1.7 million Cambodians by Youk Chhang, director of DC-Cam, and Vann Nath, a survivor of Tuol Sleng prison.

Learning experience

"Our aim is to make the young generation understand the KR tribunal process and the history of the genocide," Sayana said. "We believe that many high school students lack knowledge about KR history so we will also take them to visit Tuol Sleng (S-21) and Choeung Ek Genocide Museum."

Reach Sambath, spokesman for the ECCC, told the Post that more than 20,000 national and international visitors have come through the doors of the ECCC under the support of DC-Cam since February 2006.

"We found that there was a big gap in knowledge about the regime between the young generation and the old generation," he said. "We consider that the ECCC is their court, therefore, they need to know about it."

Kaing Geuk Eav, or Duch, the former director of S-21 who has been charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, is expected to stand trial at the ECCC in October.