Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Vietnam and Cambodia build border markers

Nhan Dan

November 5, 2008

The Vietnamese province of Long An and the Cambodian provinces of Prey Veng and Svay Rieng on November 4 started building two landmarks on their borderline.

The construction of border markers No. 230-1 and 230-2, which is expected to be completed by mid-December this year, is part of an agreement of the Vietnam-Cambodia Joint Committee for Border Demarcation and Landmark Planting.

Long An and the two Cambodian provinces share nearly 138.000 kilometres of borderline on which they agreed to plant 62 landmarks. (VNA)

Party, State leaders welcome visiting Cambodian PM

Party General Secretary Manh receives Cambodian PM Hun Sen

Vietnam always attaches importance to and will do its utmost to strengthen and develop the fine neighbourliness, traditional friendship and comprehensive and long-term co-operation with Cambodia.

Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh made the statement while receiving Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Hanoi on November 4, the first day of his visit to Vietnam as guest of his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung.

The Party leader spoke highly of the result of PM Hun Sen’s earlier talks with PM Dung as well as measures they agreed upon in order to accelerate the implementation of high-level agreements.

He warmly congratulated the great achievements recorded by the Cambodian people in recent years, particularly the successful organisation of the fourth national assembly elections.

General Secretary Manh said he hoped that the Cambodian people, under the reign of King Norodom Sihamoni and leadership of the Royal Government, would obtain greater successes in building Cambodia into a country of peace, independence, neutrality, non-alignment and prosperity, and having friendly ties with all nations, especially with its neighbours.

For his part, PM Hun Sen asserted that the government and people of Cambodia would make every effort to consolidate and develop the solidarity, traditional friendship and comprehensive co-operation with Vietnam.

The PM said he was glad to visit Vietnam on his first trip abroad since he took office for the fourth tenure, and to witness Vietnam’s important achievements during the renewal process.

On this occasion, PM Hun Sen thanked Vietnam for its valuable support and assistance during Cambodia’s past struggle for national liberation to escape from the former genocide regime, as well as its current cause of national construction and development.

The same day, PM Hun Sen was received by President Nguyen Minh Triet who said that Vietnam and Cambodia should strengthen comprehensive co-operation and increase mutual trust in political ties for greater results in the aspects of trade and investment.

The two countries also need to beef up relations between their ministries, sectors and agencies, in addition to the exchange of high-level visits, the President said.

PM Hun Sen informed President Triet about the result of his talks with PM Nguyen Tan Dung, stressing that the two sides agreed to boost the economic and trade relations in an effort to reach the target of US$2 billion in two-way trade value by 2010.

While speaking of rapid development in bilateral economic, trade, investment, health and energy co-operation, the PM said Cambodia advocates tightening co-operative ties with Vietnam and Laos for the prosperity of the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia development triangle. (VNA)

Asians uneasy over Obama trade stance

BEIJING (AP) — Asian businesspeople and analysts expressed hope Wednesday that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama can tackle the financial crisis but anxiety over whether Washington will embrace more protectionist trade measures.

"The financial crisis has a great impact on the world. If Obama can reverse the tide, then certainly it's good," said Liao Yi, deputy general manager of CHiNT Electronics Group, one of China's biggest producers of power-transmission equipment.

Japanese investors are hopeful that Democrat Obama's win, as well as his party's bigger majorities in the U.S. Congress, will help speed along further measures to lift the U.S. out of its economic woes, said Toshikazu Horiuchi, equity strategist at Cosmo Securities in Tokyo.

"There are expectations now for prompt economic stimulus measures," he said.

Most Asian stock markets rose Wednesday, partly on relief that the next U.S. leader was chosen, lifting months of uncertainty. Japan's Nikkei index jumped 4.5 percent to 9,521.24 and Hong Kong's benchmark rose 3.2 percent to 14,840.16.

Still, Kazuo Mizuno, chief economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities Co. in Tokyo, cautioned that a new president could not deliver a quick fix for U.S. economic problems, which are dragging on global growth. He said the United States will likely need foreign financing — from Japan, China and the Middle East — to pay for bailouts of financial firms saddled with bad debts and other measures.

"Changing the president is not going to be enough to save the American economy," Mizuno said. "Even the president is not going to be able to change America without help from the world."

Many expressed unease about Obama's pledges to vigorously enforce trade laws and criticism of a pending trade pact with South Korea that he says fails to address an imbalance in auto shipments. The Democrats, traditionally viewed as more protectionist on trade than Republicans, now control the presidency and Congress.

Obama has said he is in favor of free trade agreements if they benefit the United States. He has criticized the one with South Korea, saying it does not adequately address an imbalance in auto trade. South Korean automakers sold 772,482 vehicles in the United States in 2007, while the U.S. sold 6,235 in South Korea, according to industry statistics.

"He appears to be a protectionist," said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers in Cambodia, which has an export-driven textile industry. "I am quite concerned about that because most of our clothing products are exported to America."

In an Oct. 24 letter to the U.S. National Council of Textile Organizations, Obama pledged "strong enforcement" of trade remedy laws, which can include added tariffs on imports that are deemed to hurt American businesses. Obama said he would include labor and environmental standards in free trade agreements — a measure that many in Asia view as a possible pretext to shield U.S. companies from foreign competition.

Obama also has said he would pressure China to end what he calls the manipulation of its exchange-rate system. Washington and other trading partners say Beijing's currency, the yuan, is kept undervalued, giving its exporters an unfair price advantage and adding to China's multibillion-dollar trade surplus.

Frank Gong, a Hong Kong-based managing director for JP Morgan Securities, warned of possible conflict if Democrats in Congress try to support American businesses and workers by curbing Asian imports.

"That could mean trade friction and the risk of rising protectionism," Gong said.

Analysts said, however, that despite Obama's pre-election comments, he was likely to follow the example of previous U.S. presidents and take a moderate line in office to preserve important trade relations with Asia.

"I'm not worried about what might happen after Obama's win," said Qiang Yongchang, a professor at the Economy Institute at Shanghai's Fudan University. "He may have talked tough, but based on past experience, that's just a tool to win over voters. Every candidate does that."

Chinese expect that the change Obama speaks of might involve some shift of policy on financial markets, and that would not necessarily hurt trade, Qiang said.

"I think Mr. Obama will soon find out how important China's economy is, not just for the U.S. but for all the world," Qiang said. "Obama will need us, as the U.S. needs China."

Politiktoons : " Not only America...the World votes for OBAMA "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons : " Truh Today "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons : " Organic Law "

Courtesy Sacravatoon

Obama by a (mock) landslide


The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 05 November 2008

A Pannasastra University student holds up her ballot paper after voting in the university's mock presidential election Tuesday, which handed a landslide win to Democratic candidate Barack Obama, who polled 292 votes to Republican nominee John McCain's 72. The mock election takes place at Pannasastra every four years, with the support of the US embassy.

PM mulls Somchai meeting

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith and Cheang Sokha
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Hun Sen may meet Thai PM for private talks in Vietnam

PRIME Minister Hun Sen is considering holding private talks with Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat during his upcoming visit to Vietnam, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary of State Koy Kuong said Tuesday.

He added that the meeting, which would come as the two countries grapple over a territorial dispute, would not be on Hun Sen's official itinerary.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen has not scheduled an official meeting with Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, but [he] may set his own schedule to meet in private with the Thai prime minister for discussions," Koy Kuong said.

Somchai told reporters late Monday that he might have a chance to see Hun Sen during the Ayeyarwady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) meeting, to be held in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday and Friday.

The two prime ministers last met in China to discuss tensions along their shared border that erupted in violence last month when Cambodian and Thai troops opened fire on each other near the famed Preah Vihear temple.

A long-standing row over contested border land escalated in July after Preah Vihear was listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, angering Thai nationalists who consider the 11th-century monument as part of Thailand.

Since then, thousands of troops from both sides have massed on the border. Previous negotiations have done little to ease the standoff.

Hun Sen and a high-level Cambodian delegation flew to Vietnam on Tuesday for a five-day trip, which includes the ACMECS strategy session with Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.

Hun Sen adviser Sri Thamarong said Cambodia is also expecting to sign five bilateral agreements with Vietnam, including accords on visa exemptions and trade.

Plans for a railway running between Singapore and Kunming, China, will also be discussed.

Spike in street-based prostitution pitting authorities against pimps

Sex workers wait for customers in Phnom Penh's Wat Phnom district.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cat Barton and Khoun Leakhana
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Months of police raids on brothels have driven prostitutes onto the streets and into conflict with local authorities; but despite the nightly arrests, the situation is not improving

MONTHS of brothel busts have led to a sharp spike in street-based prostitution, pitting gangsters and pimps against local authorities in a battle for control of the capital's streets and parks.

But as local authorities struggle to maintain public order, nightly arrests and well-publicised rights abuses at detention centres are making prostitutes and their pimps fight back with an unprecedented vengeance.

"I have become the target of the pimps. They sometimes want to murder me," said Pich Socheata, Daun Penh district's deputy governor who leads street patrols to crack down on public soliciting.

The Kingdom's new anti-trafficking legislation came into effect in February, and punishes soliciting sex with one to six days in detention or a 3,000 to 6,000 riel (US$0.75 to $1.50) fine.

But rights groups claim the legislation has been used by police as a licence to rape and rob. Two Ministry of Social Affairs detention centres - the Phnom Penh Social Affairs Centre and Kos Romdoul Centre - have been singled out for the abuses of detainees there.

Rights groups add that the detainees have not been charged with a crime.

"I was arrested while I was out walking with some friends," said Srey Ni, 27, a sex worker who was held at the Ministry of Social Affairs-run rehabilitation center Prey Speu for four months.

"The conditions were horrible, like I'd imagine it was at Tuol Sleng. I received no education and was only let outside once during the time I was there, to cut the grass with scissors. I was released when the staff felt I had finished my sentence," Srey Ni said.

Ineffective approach

Authorities say the crime problem leaves them overstretched and with no choice but to hold offenders in detention centres.

" The conditions were horrible, like I'd imagine it was at tuOl sleng. "

"Robbery and prostitution have increased by two percent in our area compared with last year," said Deputy Governor Pich Socheata.

According to Daun Penh district statistics, a street patrol last year - which in Daun Penh cover streets 108, 106 and the area around Wat Phnom - would net between 10 and 15 cases of robbery and prostitution. This year they are arresting about 30 prostitutes per night.

Despite the number of arrests, the authorities acknowledge the current approach isn't working as a long-term solution.

"We send those women to different organisations whose programs support women's basic rights. But they just return to their old jobs after two or three months," said Pich Socheata.

But the spike in crime caused by the rise in street-based prostitution leaves them with little option but to continue with nightly arrests.

"We would like NGOs to come with us when we try and arrest these girls so they can see how difficult it is," she added.

Too much to handle

Even the five NGOs mandated to work with Social Affairs Ministry on the rehabilitation of sex workers admit the approach is a problem.

According to Nop Sarin Sreyroth, secretary general of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre, moving the battle over prostitution onto the streets has failed.

Already overstretched local authorities have no choice but to try to remove the sex workers from the area due to the public order implications of their soliciting.

In the process, the sex workers themselves are made far more vulnerable to theft and gang rape.

For the month of October, CWCC received 19 people who were sent from the ministry and all of them returned to the street, said Muong Mearadey, head of CWCC's Phnom Penh office.

"We offer counseling and vocational training programs, but most girls do not want to stay in the organisation so we send them back to the streets," she said.

According to Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho, the government needs to radically change the way it deals with homeless people in Phnom Penh's streets.

"Arresting them and locking them up in so-called social affairs centres, where they are at high risk of physical and sexual abuse by the staff, does nothing to address the real issues of why people are living or working on the streets," she told the Post on Tuesday.

Mu Sochua, the Sam Rainsy Party's deputy secretary general, also said that the government needed a clear strategy if it were serious about curbing street-based prostitution.

"I think the government has not had any proper solution to the problem because it has existed for 10 to 20 years already," she said.

A total of 537 women were arrested for soliciting in the first nine months of the year, according to statistics from the anti-trafficking NGO Afesip.

Vitamin A campaign launched

A doctor feeds a child vitamin A tablets. About four million tablets are handed out each year in Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

The National Nutrition Program says vitamin A deficiency in children under the age of five is making them more vulnerable to disease

ANEW national communication strategy to raise awareness about the dangers of vitamin A deficiency in children under five was launched on Tuesday by the National Nutrition Program. The program includes posters, as well as cartoons and TV spots aimed at educating parents.

"I want to tell all parents ... about the importance of vitamin A [and how] it can protect their children against many diseases," said professor Koum Kanal, director of the National Maternal and Child Health Centre. He hopes that the new strategy will get more parents to make sure that their children get the free supplement that is provided twice a year.

Vitamin A supplements for young children and postpartum women began in Cambodia in the mid-1990s as a part of the National Immunisation Days.

Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient to vision, growth and protection against disease, according to Dr Ou Kevanna, manager of the National Nutrition Program. The vitamin is found in breast milk, fish, eggs, papaya and dark-blue vegetables, but supplements are still important.

"We distribute about four million tablets of vitamin A every year," he said In 2007 the Health Ministry provided vitamin A to 87 percent of children under the age of five and to 60 percent of postpartum women.

In a bid to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals and further reduce child mortality, the ministry aims to cover 90 percent of young children and at least 80 percent of postpartum women.

Kuy Sreymom, 40, is already aware of the importance of vitamin A. Her four-year-old daughter has been receiving supplements since she was six months old.

"Before I started using [vitamin A] my daughter often got sick, but after I started using it she rarely gets sick," she said. "I take my daughter to the doctor to get vitamin A twice a year."

BK lake residents to hold protest

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

BOEUNG Kak residents will protest outside the US embassy here in a bid to draw attention to the severe flooding to their homes caused by the filling in of the lake, community representative Be Pharom said.

"The United States is not involved in the development of Boeung Kak, but we want the US embassy to know about our plight and help us," Be Pharom told the Post on Monday. He said that residents are frustrated with the lack of government acknowledgement of their concerns.

The exact date of the protest has not yet been decided. The Boeung Kak development plan affects around 4,000 families.

Kratie rice farmers fear drastic crop losses due to drought, then flood

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A framer in Kratie province stands in front of his home.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Rice harvests expected to be down as much as 35 percent in some districts as farmers say they will not have enough to eat during the year

RICE farmers in Kratie province say severe drought in the early planting season will dramatically reduce crop yields this year, even threatening farmers' personal rice stores.

Youk Sat, 38, a farmer from Da village, said yields this year may not be enough to supply food for his family until the next harvest, as delays in planting due to drought have affected the growth of rice seedlings.

"I am very worried that I will lack rice to eat in the middle of the year," he said.

The farmer, with six children and no other source of income, said each year he averages about 78 sacks of unhusked rice, at about 50 kilograms of rice per sack, but this year he expects only about 40 sacks.

"Last year, I had enough rice to eat and also earned 2 million riels (about US$500) from selling my surplus rice," he said. "It is much more serious this year compared with previous years."

Seng Moeurn, 27, also a farmer from Da village, expected only 15 sacks of rice from this year's harvest but said her family needs at least 30 sacks to last the year.

The drought has affected rice farmers throughout the province.

Sras Mani, chief of Kapo village, said about 80 percent of the 464 families in his village could face shortages in rice crops this year.

Nhean Puyphirun, O'Russei commune chief in Kratie district, said five villages in the commune - comprising about 60 percent of the 2,234 families in the commune - feared severe rice shortages.

"People throughout the commune and throughout the district are worried about the harvest this year," she said. "Many families could face severe food shortages by the middle of the year.

"he added that farmers this year were not prepared for unusual shifts in climate this year."

We had no rain in the early planting season, but now the harvesting season has come, there is too much rain that threatens to destroy rainy season crops and the dry season crops that farmers have now begun to plant," she said.

Sam Tra, O'Russei commune deputy chief, said out of the commune's 843 hectares of rainy season rice, 16 hectares have been damaged by drought and another 45 hectares have flooded.

"In general, the rice crop this year will not be good," he said.

Kapo village chief Sras Mani said rice farmers' livelihoods "depend on the rain".

"We have no irrigation system for the rainy season rice. We only have irrigation for the dry season rice," he said.

Central Market vendors threaten second protest at Hun Sen's house

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

As plans for the renovation of the market press ahead, vendors say they will resist attempts to force them to move to smaller stalls

VENDORS at Central Market have warned they will stage a second protest at Prime Minister Hun Sen's house if their concerns over renovations that will affect the location and sizes of their stalls remain unresolved.

Nearly 30 vendors demonstrated in August at Hun Sen's home at Takhmau in Kandal province. They submitted a petition from 400 vendors demanding the government intervene to preserve the size and location of their stalls.

Market vendor Bun Na said three other vendors were invited to address a Cabinet meeting about their complaints.

"Officials said they would give us their response in three days," she told the Post Tuesday.

"We will protest again if we do not get a solution," she said.

However, Bun Na said that since the August protests, city and market officials have resolved disputes by vendors located in the wings of the market.

"Many vendors at the edges of the market will actually get larger stalls," she said, adding that not all vendors had accepted a settlement.

Renovations at the market, principally to repair the roof, are being carried out with support from the French government and Kosan Engineering, market chief Sok Kimheng said. "On November 15, the market will build temporary stalls outside on the north and south ends," he said.

"When vendors move to the temporary stalls, we will start repairing stalls beginning December 15."

The market currently has 2,849 vendor stalls, but the renovations will likely increase the number, he said.

Sok Kimheng said many vendors have withdrawn from protests after accepting assurances from city officials. He disputed claims that 30 vendors demonstrated in front of Hun Sen's house, saying that only 10 had attended.

Hats off to the Melbourne Cup

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Wednesday, 05 November 2008
Guests enjoy a barbecue lunch to celebrate the famous Melbourne Cup horse races on Tuesday at Raffles Hotel Le Royal. The main race was shown on a big-screen TV in the Elephant Bar with raffles, prizes and Champagne followed by an Aussie-style barbecue in the garden.

Muddy waters

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by GS Sekhon
Wednesday, 05 November 2008
Phnom Penh

Dear Editor,

I am a foreigner who has been in Phnom Penh for nearly a year and have had the opportunity of seeing some aspects of development in Cambodia. I feel I have no right in passing judgement on the happenings but I feel pain when I see human beings suffering from inadequacies resulting from poor construction, corruption and wanton neglect.

I am not sure if you have in the last six weeks travelled along Hanoi Road and Road 598 and seen the situation the people are living in today. The roads, or parts of them, have literally disappeared and the water level is at roof-level. I have stopped travelling along Hanoi Road because at times the vehicles are either stuck in the deep hollows or just dare not move. Only two months ago, a major part of Road 598 was in pretty good condition.

GS Sekhon
Phnom Penh

Pre-festival crackdown nets 40

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khuon Leakhana and Cat Barton
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Rights groups condemn the government's latest roundup of homeless

THE Phnom Penh Municipality has launched a pre-Water Festival crackdown on homelessness that has seen at least 40 people detained, including two children in its first day.

"We arrest them only for big national celebrations to keep order and create a good atmosphere during the celebrations, especially the Water Festival," Pich Socheata, Daun Penh district deputy governor, told the Post Tuesday.

"We start to collect the street people one week before the Water Festival. In 2007, we arrested 70 people before the festival started. If we add up the number of people we arrested last year, there were 200 or 300," she said.

The roundup, which began Sunday and ends Friday, focuses on 11 Phnom Penh communes. Those detained are kept at Ministry of Social Affairs rehabilitation centres, Pich Socheata added.

But rights groups and the United Nations have lashed out at the crackdown.

"It is not by rounding up poor people from the street that one struggles effectively against poverty," said Christophe Peschoux, head of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

"This is done in the name of beautification, but there is no beauty in collecting poor people from the street and sending them to so-called rehabilitation centres - which are de facto detention centres," he added.

The Water Festival, which runs next Tuesday to Thursday, is expected to attract millions of visitors from Cambodia and abroad.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth said at a conference last Thursday that NGOs were unfairly criticising the pre-festival dragnet.

"We always hear the accusation from civil society groups when we arrest people in public places. They say we violate their freedoms and we never give them skills, but through this conference, I would like to deny that we ever do what they are accusing us," he said.

"If we really did what they say we are doing, there wouldn't be homelessness in Cambodia ... those street people are not willing to stay in the centres that we offer," he added.

He said the government faces serious resource shortages but was making a genuine effort to help street people find alternative ways of life.

One Phnom Penh resident complained that her son had been falsely detained for a drug offence.

"Last night they arrested my son and daughter, who are under the age of 25, by accusing them of using drugs. But I believe that they do not use drugs at all," said San Heang, 53.

"They said they arrested my children to make order for the city. Please, I would like to get them back," she said.

"I understand that having beggars is really not good for the city. But what can be done?" she asked.

Petrol companies slammed

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A supply truck pulling into a Sokimex station in Siem Reap. Sokimex is Cambodia's largest petroleum supplier.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Nguon Sovan
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

The minister of finance says local petroleum suppliers are keeping prices artificially high, but companies say they're just taking a practical approach

THE government has lashed out at Cambodian petroleum companies, accusing them of price gouging as a Monday deadline for petrol prices at the pump to drop to 4,000 riels (US$1) a litre passed unmet.

"Buyers should buy oil from suppliers that sell at cheaper prices," Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the Post, adding that he felt companies were colluding to keep pump prices artificially high.

Oil suppliers agreed during a meeting with finance officials Thursda7 to drop prices to 4,000 riels per litre by Monday if international crude prices dropped to $70 per barrel or lower.

On Tuesday, international crude closed at $63.80 per barrel, and petrol prices in Cambodia remained above 4,000 riels.

Keat Chhon said companies were employing dubious marketing gimmicks - such as claiming that their oil was higher quality than the competition - to dupe consumers.

"I'd like to send a message to all consumers not to be cheated by suppliers because their oil has been imported under inspection," he said.

"The price and quality are the same as other oil suppliers. So, if they say their oil is higher in quality than oil from other suppliers, this is incorrect," he said.

Despite their promises last week, Caltex and Total were both selling petrol at 4,200 riels per litre for regular and 4,300 per litre for super, as of Tuesday - higher than competitors Sokimex and Tela, which were charging 4,100 and 4,200, respectively.

The Total advantage

Stephane Dion, managing director of Total, wrote by email on Monday that Total offers high-quality fuels from reputable suppliers.

"Quality is consistent and smuggled products are absent from Total service stations. Total also prides itself in delivering the exact quantity of fuel (ie, one litre is exactly one litre) and superior service."

He added that despite this product and service offer, pump prices at Total service stations are not materially different from competitors' prices.

"Based on our daily price checks, since the beginning of 2008 the average price differential between Total and local companies has been lower than one percent."

He said Total pump prices are clearly displayed on totems and pumps at all times, and customers are free to select their service station or brand, adding that Total has been continuously passing over to customers drops in the international oil prices.

Nay Chamnab, a communications specialist with Caltex, declined comment on the quality of Caltex petrol compared with that of other companies, but told the Post Tuesday that "the fluctuation of international crude and finished product prices will inevitably affect the local retail pump prices."

Nay Chamnab said the timing of pump price adjustments depends on a combination of factors, including currency exchange rates, inventory levels, freight rates, product quality premiums, refined product prices, market demand and competitors' reactions to market forces.

"We firmly believe in offering our products to our customers at fair and reasonable prices," she said.

Heu Heng, deputy director general of Sokimex, said Monday that his company will keep prices at 4,100 riels per litre for regular petrol until Friday this week, after which the company will reconsider dropping to 4,000 riels.

"I can't explain further the company's decision to keep prices where they are, as this is an internal matter," said Heu Heng. "We will try to adjust to revenue and not take advantage of consumers."

Chhon Oun, managing director of Tela, said Monday his company is currently watching the international oil market closely.

"We can't drop oil prices too fast because prices on the international market have changed quickly and are difficult to predict," he said. "We will drop prices based on practical considerations."

Obama clinches mock poll

Pannasastra University's Ray Leos sits with ballot boxes at the Norodom Boulevard campus.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Pannasastra University students throw their weight behind Barack Obama, delivering him a landslide victory in this year's mock US election

FAR from the chaos of Washington, DC, students at a small university on the other side of the world have voted for Obama in a mock election held to raise public awareness of the American electoral process and what the US presidential choice means for Cambodia.

At Pannasastra University's mock election, held Tuesday in the campus library, Democratic candidate Barack Obama was victorious with 292 votes over Republican John McCain, who won 75.

Cann Sothet, 22, a student of international relations, offered his explanation for Obama's popularity among the student population: "I think most people at the university support Obama because they think he is interested in other countries and that he can understand them".

"McCain has the unfortunate pressure of being associated with the Bush administration, which is hugely unpopular," he added.

The mock election was organised by the US Embassy, which sponsors a corner of Pannasastra's library, providing copies of magazines, including Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, and the satellite news channels CNN and Bloomberg.

Ray Leos, a professor of media and communications at Pannasastra, helped to organise the event. "It was an opportunity for students to learn more about world affairs, which is vitally important in this age of globalisation," he said. "The election will have, in some way, an effect on Cambodia."

" It is becoming clear to students that america’s choice does matter. "

Librarian Sok Vanna, who took part in the ballot counting, thought the event was a good opportunity for students to exercise their right to vote.

"This was a vote of the heart, as students were not obliged to cast their ballots," she said.

She added that many students in the university are excited about the election and that it is being widely discussed, especially in light of news that the financial crisis is beginning to impact Cambodia. It is becoming clear to students that America's choice does matter, Sok Vanna said.

American professors explained the significance of "battleground states", the impact of party finances on the campaigning process, and some of the major differences between American and Cambodian elections.

Students were given the choice to vote for either Obama or McCain, but not for minor candidates. Leos said he was disappointed by their exclusion and has voiced a complaint to the US Embassy.

But embassy spokesman John Johnson said the minor candidates were excluded for simplicity's sake, adding that most Cambodians only knew about Obama and McCain.

"We run mock elections every election as a way to inform people about America and the process of participatory democracy," he said.

"It's very interesting that students voted so overwhelmingly for Obama, I look forward to talking to some of them after the election."

Students will gather today from 7:30am onwards in the university library to watch the election results with their professors.

Lower global demand hits rice prices, threatening incomes

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A woman farms rice in Takeo province. Lower rice prices may depress the incomes of Cambodia's farmers.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya and May Kunmakara
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Cambodia's rice farmers may see their incomes drop as the price of rice falls on lower international demand, amid a worsening global economic crisis

RICE prices have dropped 30 percent from its peak in March due to falling demand and the slowing global economy, local analysts say, potentially pushing more Cambodian rice farmers below the poverty line.

"The high price of foods and the decrease in global oil prices has caused the cost of rice to fall, forcing farmers to sell their rice at a lower price," said Yang Saing Koma, president of agricultural research organisation CEDAC, adding that the lost profits would have a marked impact on rural living standards.

Winfried Scheewe, CEDAC's marketing adviser, said that the falling prices, which reflected global trends, could make the commodity more affordable for Cambodia's poor, but would impact rural people who depend on rice for their living.

"Presently, rice prices are falling while farmers are starting to harvest their crops," he said. "This makes us afraid for this year and we are not sure whether things will continue dropping next year, since other commodity prices, such as fish and meat, are still high." He added that the actions of the government in April and May - when spiralling rice prices forced a ban on rice exports - had successfully stabilised the market.

Independent economist Sok Sinna said that the drop in prices derived from recent decreases in global demand and the after-effects of the global financial crisis, dismissing ideas that the distribution of rice by the Asian Development Bank and the UN's World Food Program has depressed domestic demand for the staple.

"The recent drop in rice prices is not connected to the ADB's rice donation. We are just helping the poor who can't afford rice because of recent high prices," said Vong Sandap, deputy secretary general in the Ministry of Economy and Finance and project director of Cambodia's Emergency Food Assistance program.

Rom Sareoun, 50, a representative of the Organic Rice Producers Association in Kampong Thom's Kampong Thmor commune, said rice brokers played an important role in the determination of rice prices.

But she said he hoped prices would soon be on the increase.

"We hope that our rice will be sold at a high price when we harvest. However, it makes us disappointed that rice brokers have reduced the price of our rice," she told the Post Tuesday.

"The government should have a program to buy our rice harvests at a higher price than the brokers to keep market prices stable."

But Som Vann, 60, an organic rice producer in Doungtong commune, Kampot province, said that rice brokers are taking advantage of the low prices, buying up rice from farmers and waiting for prices to increase before selling.

"We have lost our profits, but the brokers are the people who are making profits by doing businesses on us. They have money so they just buy our rice to stockpile and then sell it for a high price."

Yang Saing Koma said organic rice producers were in an advantageous position since they do not have to spend money on chemical fertilisers, widening their profit margins.

To encourage more farmers to produce organic rice, CEDAC has prepared a budget to buy rice at a higher price than what the market is offering, he said.

"We have proposed to borrow US$1.5 million from OLKO Credit of Holland to buy 4,000 tonnes of organic rice and 300 tonnes of regular rice from farmers to stockpile our supply, so that when the rice price increases we can export it to foreign countries," he said.

"We hope that rice prices will start increasing again in mid-2009."

Aids group seeks help from local businesses

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Wednesday, 05 November 2008

AS Cambodia's sex industry moves underground, the National Aids Authority (NAA) wants to enlist private businesses in its fight against unsafe sex industry practices.

Teng Kunthy, the secretary general of the NAA, told the Post that Cambodia needs to alter its strategy as the sex industry moves from the brothels to the karaoke bars and beer gardens.

There needs to be a new focus on making sure private businesses provide sex education and are better integrated into health services, the NAA says.

"We think that the change of behaviours is a new challenge, as high-risk behaviours become associated with beer promotion and mobile work. As a result, we need to make connections with the private sector," Teng Kunthy said.

"Although Cambodia adopted the HIV/Aids law in 2002, enforcement and implementation in workplaces and the private sector is weak," an NAA report said.

"This is especially important to gain access to businesses where there is a high reluctance to implement HIV preventive measures."

Teng Kunthy said that the construction sector in Cambodia poses a particular problem for the NAA.

Construction in Cambodia is typically based on small companies that hire male workers for short-term construction projects. The highly mobile nature of these workers makes it hard to ensure that the private sector is supplying the necessary HIV/Aids education, making workers aware of the dangers of sex with prostitutes.

The report said that Cambodia's HIV rate for people aged 15 to 49 fell from 1.9 percent in 2003 to 0.9 percent in 2007.

Cambodians are not just for McCain

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Moeun Chhean Nariddh
Wednesday, 05 November 2008
Phnom Penh

Dear Editor,

It's interesting to read about the different schools of thought regarding the future president of the United States of America in Kay Kimsong's story, "McCain comes out on top in Cambodia" (Monday, November 3).

Cambodians will support any US president who can help us build our democracy and free economy.

However, like many other Cambodians, I would prefer Senator Barack Obama to Senator John McCain because of his own history and the history of Cambodia.

As a nation ravaged by decades of civil war and on the brink of another cross-border war, we would support Senator Barack Obama for his less war-oriented policies. With his anti-war stance in Iraq and elsewhere, we hope Senator Obama will help Cambodia avoid the possible war with Thailand.

In addition, Senator Obama will be the first black US president if he is elected. As a black man whose grandparents experienced suffering and injustice under discriminatory US policies in the past, Senator Obama would know well the suffering of other peoples in the world who are deprived of justice and dignity.

Senator Obama would cherish in mind the words of the late black US civil rights leader Martin Luther King, who said: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".

Therefore, we believe that Senator Obama would not want injustice to happen to peoples in other nations.

Last but not least, we would support the younger Senator Obama as the next president of the United States as he will set the precedent for other nations to give opportunities to young people to become leaders and lead their nations with fresh talent and innovations.

The danger of trade agreements

Jagdish Bhagwati, an economics professor at Columbia University, is one of the world's most distinguished scholars in the field of trade theory. He is a staunch supporter of free trade, but in his new book, Termites in the Trading System, he explores how FTAs undermine the prospects of creating a real multilateral free trade system.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Jagdish Bhagwati is one of the world's foremost trade experts. The author and professor at Columbia University is a free-trade proponent and former advisor to the World Trade Organisation

What are the dangers of a country not having a systematic framework for free trade agreement negotiations?

The lack of a systematic framework in negotiating an FTA - or what everyone now calls a PTA, or preferential trade agreement since FTAs reduce trade barriers preferentially for their own members only - is particularly dangerous when the FTA is being negotiated by a developing country like Cambodia with a "hegemonic", powerful country like the US.

The reason is, not so much in regard to the trade provisions as the "trade-unrelated" provisions, extraneous to trade, which are inserted by the lobbies that dominate the US scene.

Thus, FTAs with the US extend into WTO+ requirements on intellectual property protection that go beyond what the WTO agreement on TRIPS [the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] requires, labour standards that go beyond what even the US conforms to - the US has not even signed all the core ILO [International Labour Organisation] conventions, breaks strikes more easily than European law requires, has less than 10 percent of its labour force unionised, etc - environmental standards when in fact the US had not even signed the Kyoto protocol, has violated human rights standards more drastically in its war on terror and in Iraq than Colombia has in its fight against narco cartels.

There are appropriate agencies such as the UNHRC [United Nations Human Rights Council], UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] and ILO, which deal with these issues with the necessary symmetry of obligations between rich and poor countries, and with necessary nuances that take into account the needs and priorities of the poor countries, rather than in a bilateral FTA framework which winds up with the hegemonic partners imposing self-serving demands on the weaker partners.

So, my recommendation is that, when Cambodia negotiates an FTA with a hegemonic power, it must use a template which confines the negotiations to trade matters only.

On the trade-unrelated issues, Cambodia should merely say that they will reaffirm whatever is negotiated at the WTO on matters like labour standards, intellectual property rights, dispute settlement, etc, and no more.

I would also urge Cambodia to enter into an FTA with Japan - a major power that does not insist on trade-unrelated issues being mixed up with the trade issues that alone belong in a trade treaty. That way, Cambodia can also develop a template with a major rich country that is free from the extraneous, trade-unrelated issues.


As for trade issues in the FTAs such as with Korea, the most relevant question is whether the FTA will lead to diversion of imports into Cambodia from cheaper non-member countries to more costly producers in South Korea who are within the FTA.

Such diversion implies that imports become costlier and this raises the prospect that Cambodia would lose from the FTA.

I usually recommend that, if your external tariff - which is called the MFN tariff - is not low, beware of signing on to FTAs.

Can countries pursue bilateral FTAs without undermining global multilateral agreements? If so, what would this strategy be?

For small countries like Cambodia, the question of their FTAs undermining the multilateral trading system is not relevant.

FTAs are as WTO consistent as Article 24 permits them. If an FTA or a partial FTA is signed by developing countries only, then even Article 24 does not apply and we have the Enabling Clause which imposes no discipline and the developing countries can indulge in any preferences in trade among themselves.

What Cambodia does, however, is not important for the world trading system. What the big powers do, on the other hand, is.

These big powers, by proliferating FTAs, have undermined the world trading system, drowning it in what I call a "spaghetti bowl" of preferences so that what trade barrier an imported good faces depends on where arbitrary rules decide a product is produced.

What effect has the economic crisis had on FTA negotiations?

When macroeconomic conditions worsen, politicians find it difficult to move with trade liberalisation.

The important question is: Will countries move backwards into protectionism? I doubt it.

Policymakers today remember that the 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff accentuated the Great Crash of 1929; they will not repeat that mistake. Besides, the East Asian financial crisis of 1997 illustrates that policymakers understand that the trade baby does not need to the thrown out with the financial bathwater. The East Asian economic miracle was based on outward orientation in trade; the crisis was due to premature financial liberalisation. East Asia was smart enough to make that distinction.

So, the prospect for trade liberalisation for the next year will be: neither movement forward nor sliding backward. The proper analogy may be the Cambodian bullock cart during heavy rains: The cart is stuck in the mud and moves neither forward not backward.


Chinese warship pays first visit to Cambodia

File photo shows a Chinese PLA Navy honour guard standing at attention in Beijing. The Chinese navy's Zheng He became the first warship from the country to dock in Cambodia when it arrived Wednesday, signalling deeper military cooperation between the two nations.(AFP/File/Peter Parks)

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (AFP) – The Chinese navy's Zheng He became the first warship from the country to dock in Cambodia when it arrived Wednesday, signalling deeper military cooperation between the two nations.

The ship, which carries more than 400 military personnel, will remain at Sihanoukville in the former communist country until the weekend, said a Chinese embassy statement after the Zheng He docked in Cambodia's main sea port.

The visit is intended to boost "the good relationship" between Phnom Penh and Beijing, Qian Hai, third secretary of the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh, told AFP.

Chinese officials plan to hold talks with Cambodian naval and defence officials, and the two countries' marines are scheduled to play volleyball and football matches against each other during the visit, the embassy said.

Cambodian officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but Cambodia has in recent years become the focus of attention from both Washington and Beijing.

China, a former patron of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime, eclipses many of the impoverished country's other donors with hundreds of millions of dollars in largely-unconditional aid and a number of naval patrol boats.

At least three senior commanders and four warships from the United States have also visited Cambodia over the past few years, and the superpower has donated military trucks as the country has emerged as a partner in Washington's "war on terror."


President-elect Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and daughter Sasha, 7, wave as they take the stage at his election night party at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2008.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President-elect Barack Obama and his family walk onto the stage at his election night party at Grant Park in Chicago, Tuesday night, Nov. 4, 2008.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Vietnam, Cambodia vow to boost ties

Vietnam and Cambodia Tuesday agreed to lift their friendship to new heights in the years to come.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung stressed the significance of the visit by his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen, saying it would help strengthen neighborliness and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.

The two prime ministers agreed to give priority to cooperation in human resources development, trade and investment, energy, mining, oil and gas, industrial crops and transport.

The two sides aim to increase two-way trade to more than US$2 billion by 2010 and encourage cooperation between localities.

They also agreed to continue close cooperation in security and defense, as well as the fight against terrorism, transnational crimes, smuggling, drugs and human trafficking.

The two sides reaffirmed their principle of preventing hostile forces from using the territory of either country to harm the other and undermine Vietnam-Cambodia ties.

The two PMs highly valued the achievements made in the planting of border markers and affirmed their determination to accelerate the work so it can be completed within the first six months of 2012.

Following the talks, the two PMs witnessed the signing of five agreements, including pacts on visa exemptions for ordinary passport holders, transit of goods and railway cooperation.

Other cooperation agreements were reached between the Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications and the Cambodian Information Ministry and between the Radio Voice of Vietnam and the Cambodian National Radio.

Hun Sen also met with Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh and President Nguyen Minh Triet in Hanoi Tuesday.

Source: VNA

Party, State leaders welcome visiting Cambodian PM


VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam always attaches importance to and will do its utmost to strengthen and develop the fine neighbourliness, traditional friendship and comprehensive and long-term cooperation with Cambodia.

Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh made the statement while receiving Cambodian Minister Hun Sen in Hanoi on Nov. 4, the first day of the latter’s visit to Vietnam as guest of his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung.

The Party leader spoke highly of the outcome of PM Hun Sen’s earlier talks with PM Dung as well as measures they agreed upon in order to accelerate the implementation of high-level agreements.

He warmly congratulated the huge achievements recorded by the Cambodian people in recent years, particularly the successful organisation of the fourth national assembly elections.

General Secretary Manh said he hoped that the Cambodian people, under the reign of King Norodom Sihamoni and leadership of the Royal Government, will obtain greater successes in building Cambodia into a country of peace, independence, neutrality, non-alignment and prosperity, and having friendly ties with all nations, especially with its neighbours.

For his part, PM Hun Sen asserted that the government and people of Cambodia will make every effort to consolidate and develop the solidarity, traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation with Vietnam.

The PM said he was glad to visit Vietnam on his first trip abroad since he took office for the fourth tenure, and to witness Vietnam’s important achievements during the renewal process.

On this occasion, PM Hun Sen thanked Vietnam for its valuable support and assistance during Cambodia’s past struggle for national liberation to escape from the former genocide regime, as well as its current cause of national construction and development.

The same day, PM Hun Sen was received by President Nguyen Minh Triet who said that Vietnam and Cambodia should strengthen comprehensive cooperation and increase mutual trust in political ties for greater results in the aspects of trade and investment.

The two countries also need to beef up relations between their ministries, sectors and agencies, in addition to the exchange of high-level visits, the President said.

PM Hun Sen informed President Triet of the outcome of his talks with PM Nguyen Tan Dung, stressing that the two sides agreed to boost the economic and trade relations in an effort to reach the target of 2 billion USD in two-way trade value by 2010.

While speaking of rapid development in bilateral economic, trade, investment, health and energy cooperation, the PM said Cambodia advocates the tightening of cooperative ties with Vietnam and Laos for the prosperity of the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia development triangle.

(Source: VNA)

Sen increases Cambodia's military budget
Pacific Daily News

November 5, 2008

It takes two to make a quarrel and two to find a solution. As we see and do things differently, conflict cannot be avoided, but "we are able to manage and solve it by using necessary skills," asserts Cambodia's Youth Resource Development Program, a non-governmental organization. Maybe one of its cost-free courses, Conflict Resolution, should be mandatory in Cambodia's educational system!

It has been said that heaven ordained Cambodians, Thais and Vietnamese to live side by side until the end of time. They cannot move their respective countries elsewhere, but they have a choice: live harmoniously as neighbors or hurt one another as enemies.

Sadly, they have fought over land ownership throughout history. Nationalists from the three lands have displayed incredible eagerness to make "supreme sacrifices" to fight the transgressors -- the "bad" guys on the other side of the border. It's the "we, us, ours" versus "they, them, theirs" problem in human nature. Nationalist leaders have seized opportunities to incite the ready, able and willing in the name of the flag against their neighbors, and it has taken little provocation for the sentiment to be returned.

But beware, today's heroism may be tomorrow's foolishness, as memories fade, human thinking evolves, events are rewritten and brave heroes' names lost in a pile.

Some readers in Cambodia enlightened me after my column, "Soldiers' deaths could've been prevented." Oh, no, war deaths could not have been prevented. Premier Hun Sen, who threatened a "life-and-death battle" and a "death zone," was "right" to play hard ball with the Thais. Would the loved ones of the three Cambodian soldiers, and one Thai, who were killed on Oct. 15 agree?

If, from the cradle to the grave, man lives in the midst of politics, and if war remains an instrument political leaders will use for a political end, there are worries for the future of the three peoples condemned by destiny to be neighbors.

Who would find disagreement with the July 7 decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to inscribe the 9th century Preah Vihear ruins as a World Heritage site?

The Temple, built by Khmer kings, is viewed by both Thais and Cambodians to hold "outstanding universal value." It was awarded in 1962 to Cambodia by a 9 to 3 verdict of the International Court of Justice, which also voted 7 to 5 for Thailand to return to Cambodia antiquities it had removed.

UNESCO's decision brought military tensions that broke out in armed fighting. On the one hand, there is Thailand's five-month-old street protest by the People's Alliance for Democracy that seeks to bring down the Somchai Wongsawat government, elected by the rural and urban poor but opposed by Bangkok's powerful elites. PAD accused Wongsawat of surrendering Thai sovereignty to Cambodia. To show it wasn't so, Wongsawat beefed up Thai forces at the border.

On the other hand, the Thai troop buildup was opportune for Cambodian Premier Sen, who wanted votes in the July 27 national elections. His "death zone" talk showed an uncompromising strongman fighting to protect the Khmer heritage. Cambodians rushed to the colors and gave Sen their votes to rule as well.

The Khmer Empire once encompassed current Thailand to the west, the whole of Laos to the north, the former South Vietnam to the east, and a portion of Malaysia to the south. Today, the 181,035 square kilometers called Cambodia is all that's left of the Empire.

So, up to 1,000 armed men dug in and eyeballed one another. The first armed clash of Oct. 3 resulted in injured soldiers. On Oct. 15, the fighting broke out in different locations. Yet, both Sen and Wongsawat are aware that a war between their forces is a no-win for them. Except Sen knows and executes his game plan better than Wongsawat.

Sen's twist-and-turn maneuver saw Sen first wanting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore involved. Then he made noises about taking the matter to the United Nations Security Council. On Oct. 17, Sen changed tactics, dubbed the fighting "a minor armed clash," and assured, "People should understand that there won't be any large-scale war."

On Oct. 24, Sen met with Wongsawat in Beijing. They agreed to avoid future conflict and maintain peace. At the border, their generals met for the 11th time and vowed "utmost restraint" to avoid future fighting. Continued bilateral talks are planned for Nov. 10.

Meanwhile, Sen's military recruitment process has added some 3,000 "volunteers" to troops at the border. And, despite foreign donors' concerns over Cambodia's increasing military expenditure, the Sen administration seeks legislative approval for a 2009 budget of $2 billion, an increase of 28 percent from last year, with an increase of almost 70 percent in a military budget that totals $500 million.

Yet the areas of health care, education, rural development, agriculture, women's affairs and social affairs are budgeted for an increase of about 5 percent.

What's wrong with this picture of Hun Sen's Cambodia?

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the University of Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years.

MTV, New England Rockers And Angkor Wat Unite

November 4, 2008

What do a hipster band from Boston and ancient temple ruins have in common? Apparently, something. On December 7, MTV will host a rock concert featuring the pop phenom The Click Five in front of the world’s largest religious monument, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.
Organizers picked the band because they’re touring the region and have a particularly avid fan base in Southeast Asia. The concert will attempt to draw attention to the country’s human trafficking problem.

Whether you consider it sacrilege or humanitarianism, at least MTV is doing something other than creating faux-reality TV shows for once. Not that we don’t enjoy those--it’s just good to change things up from the evil wrought by Spencer Pratt to look at some of the real ills plaguing the world. If we can’t have music videos and Loveline back, at least we can watch a band of attractive, floppy-haired musicians churn out some catchy tunes in front of a kick-ass backdrop.

Cambodia's first oil to be delayed, official says

Oil & Gas Journal

Eric Watkins
Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 4 -- Cambodia is unlikely to produce its first hydrocarbons until 2010, according to a senior government official.

Ho Vichit, vice-chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, said his country has been anxious to tap its hydrocarbon resources, but the Chevron Corp.-operated Block A is unlikely to be on stream before that date at the earliest.

"Chevron is planning to do more exploration and appraisal. By the end of the year, they will submit a development plan," Ho told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Singapore.

"It's premature to speculate how much oil or natural gas can be pumped from offshore Block A," Ho said at the Asia Oil and Gas Investment Congress.

"It must be recognized that hydrocarbons shows alone do not make…an oil or gas field, let alone an oil or gas field that might be viable for commercial development," said Ho.

Ho said there are some "technical challenges" to overcome and that "based on exploration results, it's most likely that a mix of low-sulfur waxy crude and some gas will be produced."

Hopes about the field's prospects were raised last year when the International Monetary Fund forecast recoverable reserves from Block A at 500 million bbl, with the first of three fields expected to start production in 2011.

The IMF predicted a $15 billion windfall for the Cambodian government from royalties and taxes over the life of the fields.

In March of this year, Chevron downplayed speculation about start-up dates for the field.
"As of early 2008, Chevron and the Block A participants are still evaluating development options for Block A, and therefore it would be too early to speculate on costs or schedules for the project," said Chevron spokesperson Nicole Hodgson.

In 2002 the Cambodian government awarded Chevron Overseas Petroleum (Cambodia) Ltd. a concession for the exploration and production of oil and gas offshore on Block A.

In 2005, COPL discovered oil in four exploration wells on Block A. Oil pay logged in the wells was 41-139 ft. Analysis of crude samples indicated the oil to be 44°.

A 5-well exploration and appraisal program was completed in 2006 and was followed by the exploration and appraisal of four more wells in 2007.

Chevron last year issued a downbeat assessment of the block, after its second drilling campaign revealed challenges, with hydrocarbons being dispersed rather than in one core field.

The company said it planned a third drilling campaign for late 2008-09.

Chevron operates Block A and holds a 55% interest, while Mitsui Oil Exploration holds 30%, and South Korea's GS Caltex has 15%.

Contact Eric Watkins at

Border Standoff Hurting Trade: Economist

Chap Sotharith, president of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
04 November 2008

The lingering military standoff on the Thai border is likely hurting trade between the two countries, an independent economist said Monday.

“Conflict between two neighboring countries does not bring any benefits,” said Chap Sotharith, an economist and president of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. “Firstly, there’s a loss of lives, and secondly, there’s the economic loss when trade decreases.”

Trade between the two neighbors had steadily increased over the past few years, but the border dispute, which was inflamed by the July entry of Preah Vihear temple onto a Unesco World Heritage list, has hurt that progress, he said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Much of the trade along the border is unreported, so it was difficult to estimate the amount of trade damage the standoff is causing, but traders on the border were being the most severely affected, he said.

Cambodia runs a large trade deficit with Thailand. In 2007, Cambodia exported about $40 million in goods to Thailand, but imported about $1.4 billion in goods.

Island’s Education Suffers Under Isolation

Parents often pull their children out of primary schools on Koh Rong, preferring they help fish or farm.

By Vohar Cheat, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
04 November 2008

Behind the voices of students, the noise of the sea spread over high grass, the classroom and a nearby pagoda. Surrounded by beaches and mountain forest and imbued with fresh air, Prek Svay, one of only five primary schools on the island of Koh Rong, would seem like an ideal place to study. Unfortunately, the island’s education system is poor.

The schools here in fact lack both teachers and students. Teachers are hard to find, and students are hard to keep.

Third-grade teacher Pho Sokhem, 26, said he spent $200 of his own money to build a small hut on the school grounds, where he lives with his wife and two-year-old son. Other teachers live in the houses of local officials and villagers, or with monks.

“I spent my own money to buy timbers and peeled-skin trees to build a hut,” Pho Sokhem said. “That is my hut.” He pointed to a small cottage. “Some [teachers] stay at the pagoda and some stay and eat with me.”

Ing Bunna, deputy chief of Sihanoukville’s education department, said the government had asked local authorities to put up some teachers, free of charge, because it lacked the money to build them accommodation. The government also pays a 40,000 riel allowance, about $10, to supplement the 200,000 riel wage, about $50 a month.

Teachers on this island say the 40,000 riel is not enough to assuage the loneliness of the outpost, where some live without the company of family and must spend a lot of money to visit the mainland.

“It is hard to live with little salary here,” said Set Tik, 26, another teacher. “We live far away from home. The transportation cost to visit home is expensive. The food here is expensive. I stay with a nun, and we share meals.”

Schools are up to 40 kilometers apart. Some are inaccessible by roads. The isolation has caused some teachers to renege on their contracts, Ing Bunna said. It has also made it impossible to establish a secondary school. For that, students must travel to Sihanoukville or beyond.

If it is hard to keep teachers here, it is also hard to keep students. Parents often pull their children out of school in order to help them make a living.

Teachers on the island estimated 35 percent of students quit school in 2007, a year when there were only 374 to start with.

“I wish I could have studied as high as possible,” said Kou Moykea, 18, who was among those who quit last year. “But my parents forced me to help them farm and fish, and baby-sit besides.”

Cassava Prices Fall Hard in Kratie Province

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Kratie province
04 November 2008

Farmers of the cassava tuber in Kratie province have seen prices cut more than half this year, and some of them have vowed to stop growing it.

Prices for fresh cassava fell from 200 riel per kilogram to 80 rile per kilogram, but farmers say they don’t know why. There is virtually no market for dried cassava, farmers said, a commodity that drew 600 riel per kilogram in 2007.

Fifty-six-year-old farmer Voeung Chhun, who owns nine hectares of cassava in Snuol district, implored the government to help farmers find foreign markets.

Leang Seng, chief of Kratie’s agriculture department, said at least half of the province’s farmers were growing the plant on 12,000 hectares of land. The plant produces between 15 tons and 20 tons of cassava root per hectare.

Commerce officials met last week, he said, in an effort to find markets for the root. He was unsure why the prices had fallen so far this year.

Sum Sinamen, Kratie’s commerce department chief, said cassava from the province was exclusively exported to Vietnam, through Cambodian brokers. About 169,000 tons were exported in 2007, up from 118,000 tons in 2006.

Chevron Is Not Clear about Oil Exploitation - Tuesday, 4.11.2008

Posted on 5 November 2008

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 583

“Phnom Penh: Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, the minister of the Council of Ministers, reported to the International Monetary Fund – IMF – that the government has not received any answer from Chevron about which year the oil exploitation will start.

“In the morning of 3 November 2008 at the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An met with a delegation from the IMF, led by Mr. David Cowen, Senior Economist, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific of the IMF.

“During the meeting, Mr. David Cowen asked about oil exploration and exploitation in Cambodia, and about the concessions granted for other mineral resources.

“Mr. Pen Ngoeun, an advisor of the Council of Ministers, reported to journalists after the meeting that the IMF does not know the quantity of oil and of gas in Cambodia, and they wanted to know when the exploitation will start.

“Mr. Sok An told the IMF that there are some positive points related to oil exploitation in the Cambodian sea. A concession has been granted to the US company Chevron, and we expect that oil will be extracted in the future. However, after Chevron will have an estimate of the expected quantity of oil , it has to negotiate with the Ministry of Economy and Finance regarding the tax system – how much benefit Cambodia will receive, and how much Chevron. An agreement has not yet been made. Mr. Sok An added that the Royal Government will try to encourage the negotiations in order to reach an agreement, but this negations are really complicated.

“When an agreement is reached with the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Chevron must produce a basic plan how to develop the oil exploitation.

“Mr. Sok An went on to say that Chevron has not responded to questions about the specific time for the exploitation; it had informed the government that it will start in 2010, then maybe in 2011, and then maybe in 2012.

“Related to concession for other minerals, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said that there are two stages, and some companies have reached the second stage. The first stage is to sign a memorandum of understanding between the Royal Government and an investing company to conduct an exploration, and to check with air plane mounted cameras which areas might have mineral resources; at present, there are five big companies operating such investigations.

“At that occasion, there was also discussion about the meltdown of the world economy and its effects on the Cambodian economy.

“Mr. Sok An asked the IMF delegation for their forecast about the effects on the Cambodian economy. According to the IMF, Cambodia has three leading sectors contributing to economic growth: the textile industry, tourism, and agriculture. The textile sector and tourism will be affected by the global economic crisis. As for the agriculture, the IMF assessed that there might be two effects – first, the rising price of the dollar makes purchasers from Cambodia to face a crisis, so that more expensive products will be less purchased from Cambodia which might reduce foreign investments. Therefore, according to this estimation, the Cambodia economic growth might be only 7% this year and next year.

“Also, the IMF delegation expressed interest in the salaries of civil servants, which are smaller than in other countries, which results in the inability of Cambodian civil servants to achieve a higher productivity. The IMF suggested that Cambodia should reform the administration, so that civil servants can achieve a better productivity when receiving higher salaries.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4723, 4.11.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Cambodia's first ever rock opera to premiere this month

Cambodian rock fans attend a concert. Cambodia's first-ever Broadway musical-style rock opera, which will incorporate Cambodian lullabies and Khmer Rouge propaganda songs, will premiere later this month, organisers said Tuesday.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)
Tue Nov 4

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia's first-ever Broadway musical-style rock opera, which will incorporate Cambodian lullabies and Khmer Rouge propaganda songs, will premiere later this month, organisers said Tuesday.

"Where Elephants Weep," a modern take on a traditional Cambodian love story that merges pop and rock music with more traditional and historical Cambodian tunes is scheduled to open in Phnom Penh on November 28.

"It will be the first time in the kingdom's history that a Broadway-ready contemporary opera of this scale and calibre has ever been staged and represents a turning point in the creative and cultural revival of Cambodia," organisers said in a statement.

The show will use instruments ranging from modern synthesizers to folk drums to perform music composed by Russian-trained Cambodian maestro Him Sophy.

It will tell a love story similar to "Tum Teav," a Cambodian version of "Romeo and Juliet," said Him Sophy during a press conference.

Organisers said the show had a successful preview in the United States last year and after its run ends in Cambodia next month it is expected to tour South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan before returning to the US.

The Khmer Rouge destroyed a vibrant Cambodian rock music scene as it sought to construct a Communist utopia, evacuating cities and forcing people to work on collective farms where they were made to sing propaganda songs.

Some 1.7 million people were executed or killed through overwork, starvation and torture during the 1975 to 1979 rule of the Khmer Rouge.

UTA alumnus speaks about his life as a Cambodian refugee

Alumnus Saroeurn “Sonny” Soeun talks about his life as a Cambodian living in Texas. Soeun will speak as part of Asian Heritage Month on Wednesday at the Universtiy Center Rio Grande Ballroom. (The Shorthorn: Laura Sliva)


Written by Anna Katzkova
Monday, 03 November 2008

In a quiet Arlington neighborhood, in a two-bedroom house with a small green yard, sits a man watching football on a big-screen TV.

Saroeurn “Sunny” Soeun’s home does not reveal anything about his Cambodian refugee background, but the scars left from sickness, his escape and his 20-year maturing path, do. He shares those memories in his book Scars of a Lifetime, which he will discuss at noon Wednesday in the University Center Rio Grande Ballroom.

Soeun, who earned a history degree at UTA, originally wrote his story to share with his daughters, 4-year-old Jocelyn and 2-year-old Madelyn. When his wife, Marissa, was pregnant with Madelyn, he spent nights he couldn’t sleep writing.

“I wrote it but not to be a book,” he said. “I’m one of those guys who thinks the worst is always going to happen, and if I die, my kids won’t know who I was and what I went through.”

Soeun’s wife urged him to publish the book.

“He was very scared,” she said. “He did not want to publish it. It was something to do, a new accomplishment.”

Born in Oddar Meancheay, a Cambodian province, Soeun lived through the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The party eliminated free markets, enslaved people, enforced free labor and executed more than 1.5 million people.

As a child, Soeun got sick often, once being near death, but traditional medicine and God’s grace saved him, he said.

“When I was growing up, they really withheld a lot of medication,” he said. “In our culture, we have a lot of remedies — alternative medication — and they had to burn me.”

He sustained more than 30 scars from the burn. Later, a missionary doctor brought his aunt’s family to America. There, his aunt asked the doctor to help Soeun’s family.

So after a frightful escape through the Cambodian jungle, his family made it to Thailand, and later America. Soeun’s family arrived in Texas in 1981 and settled in an Abilene duplex.

After 15 years, Soeun attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where he met his wife and discovered his love for helping abused adolescents. Now Soeun teaches world geography and economics at Nimitz High School in Irving.

“One of the biggest joys in the world is that I get to mold young men or women and really inspire them,” he said. “It’s a lower socioeconomic school, and I can relate to that.”

Soeun teaches about diversity and interaction and helps his students explore their potential. He advises them about their goals and problems.

“You can’t use that as an excuse to not try anything, to not have a goal and not be successful,” he said.

Seoun has left an impression on his students and his friends. His college roommate Bruce Buchannan said he was always impressed with Seoun’s internal strength and experience.

“I’ve known him for several years, but there’s always something new,” he said. “He seems like somebody that’s going to accomplish anything.”

Seoun said he wants to visit Cambodia after the country becomes safer and his girls grow up.

“As Cambodia is part of my culture, America is also,“ he said. “It has given me the opportunity to live and to raise a family.”

Rainsy only quoting others

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Geoffrey Cain
Tuesday, 04 November 2008

Phnom Penh

Dear Editor,

Sam Rainsy could lose his salary over politicised charges for citing the Global Witness report in his speeches. But Global Witness's report is thoroughly well-documented - much to the dismay of a not-so-eloquent prime minister who resorts to personal insults than intelligent rebuttals.

How can Rainsy face such charges when he cites documentation far better than the horrifically researched reports produced by the government?

In my work as a reporter, I have never come upon a government-produced document that is compelling and rigorous in its methodologies, aside from those carried out in tandem with multilateral organisations.

Global Witness has effectively filled a knowledge gap that farcical authorities leave out; I certainly hope more of Cambodia's leaders cite the report in the future.

The wonders of Cambodia

The South African

It is often said that when you least expect it, something amazing will happen. The same happens with countries. PETRA WITOWSKI found that Cambodia - the land of Pol Pot, landmines, orphans and Angkor Wat - exceeded all expectations.

It’s a country where a 175km journey takes 7 hours by road, everyone works in US dollars, and you can shoot a gun without a license or ID. Where orphanages regularly appear on a backpacker’s itinerary and you can pick up sapphires for next to nothing. It’s a small country, surrounded by Thailand, Laos and Vietnam and has been ravaged by war over the past 30 years. Struggling and poverty-stricken, it’s an amazing place to visit and there’s no better place to start than Phnom Penh, the inland capital of Cambodia.

While expensive hotels straddle the riverfront near the Palace, the cheapest place to look for accommodation is down by the lake. The guesthouses sit over the water on wooden stilts, competing with each other for sunset views and menus. You can find DVD’s, drinks, hammocks, anything to make your stay enjoyable and relaxing. After a long day out at the Killing Fields, all you want to do is lay back, watch the sunset over the lake and sip a cold beer.

Nowhere can you see the atrocities committed by Pol Pot’s regime better than the Killing Fields. Just outside of town on a dusty road lies a large field, bordering a local school. Here lie mass graves - shallow pits really - where the bodies of thousands were buried.

During Pol Pot’s reign of terror, people were kidnapped and murdered for not agreeing with his regime. Men, women and children were beaten to death, photographed and buried. While most of the pits are now empty, bone fragments and torn clothing still poke out of the ground. A memorial was set up on-site, and filled with the skulls of the dead. It’s difficult to leave without tears in your eyes and complete dismay.

If you can stomach it, the S-21 Museum in town explains the horror in further detail, filled with photographs and video footage of the massacres. It’s hard to relate this horror with the people, who are so cheerful and pleasant. It is the most crucial tourist attraction in Phnom Penh, which may seem strange. However, it proves how strong the people are, knowing they survived these horrors not so long ago.

Just down the road from the Killing Fields, tuk-tuk drivers will constantly try to take you to the shooting range. This is an experience. You sit down at a table and peruse the menu. 25 rounds on an AK-47 or M-16 will set you back 20 US dollars. Throwing a hand grenade will cost another 30 dollars. If you’re cashed up, you could go for an anti aircraft missile for 200 dollars, or even a rocket launcher. Just like a restaurant, you choose what you want, put down the money, get a jacket and earplugs and step into the shooting range. Shooting a machine gun is terrifying and not something I want to experience again in my life.

In need of a pick-me-up? Grab some fruit, some rice, a few toys and head down to an orphanage. Thanks to Angelina Jolie, the plight of the Cambodian orphans has become a worldwide issue and it’s now common for tourists to visit the local orphanages and bring supplies. And it’s worth it, just to see the smiles on their faces. They’re all delighted to see people, and constantly run up to you with hugs, kisses and gorgeous little laughs. You can see traditional dances performed by the kids and join in some games or teach them English words. No matter what you do, you won’t want to turn away and walk out the door. It’s hard to resist their smiling, hopeful faces.

By boat or bus, you can’t miss Siem Reap, the base for Angkor Wat. It’s on the flags, on government buildings, and on all the currency. This is the symbol of Cambodia, and it’s truly majestic. Cambodia is a Buddhist country, and the Angkor temples are sacred to the religion. ‘Wat’ is the word for temple, and ‘Thom’ means city. As impressive as Angkor Wat is, Angkor Thom is littered with temple ruins. Hire a tuk-tuk or motorbike driver to guide you around the various ruins. Make sure you rise early to capture sunrise at Angkor Wat, and close your eyes, listening to the soft chanting of the monks nearby.

Guide books recommend you spend three days exploring the temples of Angkor. It can all be done in one day, but it’s exhausting. There’s enough time in the day to spend an hour or so at each place. Unlike other historic sites, you’re actually allowed to clamber over the temples. Feel free to climb those unbelievably high steps, peer out through the arched windows, and walk the windowpane to that gorgeous little spot right on the edge of the temple.

Bayon is amazing, with giant statues featuring the different faces of Buddha. Ta Prohm is famous for the trees which have grown over the ruins.

Vandalised over the years and left to decay, the temples are slowly being restored. See the children selling souvenirs, they’re extremely persistent. And watch the monkeys - if they even smell food anywhere around you they will not hesitate to jump on you, trying to get into your bag. Sunset is a beautiful way to finish off, perched high upon a temple, watching the sun slowly sink below the surface.

Battambang is a dusty stop on the road from Thailand to Phnom Penh. It’s the last stop on the sole train journey in Cambodia, when it’s running. Taking 14 hours to travel the 275km to Phnom Penh, travellers take this opportunity to ride on top of the carriages. Not hard, considering the train never goes over 20 km/h!

Battambang is more useful as a step to Pailin, home of sapphires and ex-Pol Pot commanders. Pailin is close to the Thai border and it’s possible to cross, but in this region there is no bus service. The only way to travel is by shared taxi or private car, which can be costly.

There are so many hidden gems in this country, off the beaten track. The southern beaches may not compare to Thailand, but they are warm and relaxing. The northern countryside remains unexplored, and here you can visit traditional villages, explore temple ruins for free and experience the worse roads Cambodia has to offer. Don’t go too off the beaten track in the north though – undiscovered landmines are still buried throughout the countryside, a legacy of Pol Pot.

Cambodia truly has something for everyone and it’s difficult to leave. People try to scam you, but always with a smile on their face. And you won’t be able to leave without a smile on your face too.