Friday, 21 November 2008

A very troubled temple

Soldiers look on as the Unesco and Cambodian national flags are raised over Preah Vihear in a ceremony on November 7.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by LAY VICHEKA
Friday, 21 November 2008

No end in sight for standoff over ‘extraordinary’ Preah Vihear

AFTER a 17-year wait, Preah Vihear, along with 19 other sites, was inscribed as a new site on the World Heritage list of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on July 8, 2008, although the inscription excluded the 4.6 square kilometre plot of land adjoining the temple.

The inscription of the sacred site has been one of the most challenging tasks of the Cambodian government. The case has been widely publicised, but many wonder why its inscription is such an important and controversial issue.

Aside from symbolising Cambodia's majestic past, national pride in current Cambodia and optimism for Cambodia's future, one of the foremost benefits of Preah Vihear being inscribed as a World Heritage site is the recognition that the temple has "outstanding universal value".

This should raise global awareness of Preah Vihear temple and bring economic benefit from increased tourist revenues. The concept of World Heritage lies in its universal application of ownership by all peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which it is located.

A backdrop of controversy

The ownership of Preah Vihear temple, located on a dramatic promontory with sweeping views over Cambodia, has long been a point of contention between Thailand and Cambodia. The site has been the centre of diplomatic tension between Cambodia and Thailand since 1902. In 1962, the International Court of Justice ruled in Cambodia's favour stating that the temple indeed belonged to Cambodia, but the court failed to define the border in the area.

Preah Vihear's location is on a promontory of the Dangrek escarpment, over five hundred metres above the Cambodian plain, making access from the Cambodian side difficult. Most tourists visit the temple from the Thai side of the border where the land slopes gently up from the plain of Khorat. The issue of ease of access is one of Thailand's most powerful and oft-argued justifications for ownership over Preah Vihear temple.

Much of the controversy over the temple's inscription is linked to internal politics of Thailand. A military coup in 2006 forced Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from office. Thaksin's party reinvented itself and was re-elected with a new leader, Samak Sundaravej. Prime Minister Samak contended that the agreement to allow the Preah Vihear inscription was initiated by the military government that ruled after Thaksin's ousting and that the new government was acting on promises made by the preceding government.

The opposition party was bitterly opposed to Samak's government and managed to have an Administrative Court invoke an injunction on the government's decision to allow Preah Vihear's inscription as a World Heritage site. Samak claimed in interviews at the time that the controversy was driven by a vendetta against former Prime Minister Thaksin.

Since Somchai Wangsawat took over from Samak as Prime Minister in September 2008, there has been a significant escalation of conflict in the border area, although not at Preah Vihear.

Unique heritage values

A holy site was established on the promontory as early as the ninth century, but most of the temple we see today was built during the reigns of Suryavarman I (AD 1002-1050) and Suryavarman II (AD 1113-1150). The sanctuary is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva in the King's manifestations as the mountain gods Sikharesvara and Bhadresvara.

The temple complex is on a grand scale, stretching 800 metres along the crest of the ridge, although this is the result of centuries of additions and modifications to what was certainly a much simpler original layout.

Preah Vihear is currently in a state of disrepair, so it is incumbent on the international community as a whole to participate in the protection of this heritage site by assisting with its conservation and preservation. Preah Vihear is one of the greatest achievements of Khmer architecture and undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary temples in the world. The site represents an incredible opportunity for both Cambodia and Thailand to benefit from its inscription.

There is no doubt that the temple was built by the ancestors of the Khmer people, and the Cambodian government should be applauded for securing the temple's inscription so that all the world may share in celebrating this ancient monument.

Yet given the current, highly publicised military build-up by both sides at the temple site following the decision by Unesco, it is clear that the controversy surrounding the Temple of Preah Vihear is far from being concluded.

Lake development based on biased impact study: NGOs

ARubbish chokes the fringes of Boeung Kak lake in this file photo. Developer Shukaku Inc says the pollution of the lake is one reason for its reclamation for a housing and commercial project.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 21 November 2008

Rights groups are uncertain controversial Boeung Kak project will meet the standards of its own environmental report

SHUKAKU Inc, the local developer filling in Phnom Penh's Boeung Kak lake as part of a commercial and housing development, has manipulated its own environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) to justify construction, say local housing rights groups.

The Shukaku impact study, a 55-page extract of which has been obtained by the Post, highlights some of the challenges arising from the 133-hectare project but provides broad justification for the decision to fill the lake with sand dredged from the Tonle Sap, a process that has come under fire from urban architects who fear it will increase flooding in the city.

According to the study, the filling of the lake "will not cause any negative effect" since the body of water "does not play a role as a natural lake [or] bio-fishery".

It also states the development will end what it calls "Silent Death" - diseases resulting from vegetables grown in the polluted waters - and argues that the lake was being reclaimed, in either case, by a flood of rural migrants.

Among its recommendations, the report states that "the company has to allocate [a] budget for environmental management implementation".

False logic

However, housing rights advocates have dismissed the argument that filling in the lake constitutes effective environmental management.

"It's a completely false argument," said Hallam Goad, advisor to housing rights advocacy group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut.

"The lake is polluted, for sure - partly through human effluent and partly through other kinds of waste materials - but you need to clean the lake, not fill it in."

Goad also criticised sections of the report that claim the development "will not cause negative impacts to infrastructure systems", or that it "will improve the traffic system in Phnom Penh" and attract up to US$2 billion worth of investment.

"All I can see is that the $2 billion is the value of the real estate they will create by filling in the lake, which will go straight into their own pockets. In comparison to the key open space in the city, it doesn't make any sense at all," he said.

A legal requirementTea Chup, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, said that developers were required by law to conduct an impact study prior to beginning construction on projects, and that the results from the Boeung Kak study has been sent to the ministry for review.

But one of the more contested segments of the study relates to what it refers to as public consultation and awareness, pledging that the company "will conduct public consultations in 2008" and that "project information and [the] ESIA report will be posted on and accessible from the website".

Members of the Save Boeung Kak campaign have long maintained exactly the opposite - that information about the project has been notoriously difficult to obtain - casting doubts on the independence and accuracy of the impact study's findings.

"[The ESIA] was not independent at all," said David Pred, country director of Bridges Across Borders, an international human rights organisation.

"There was no transparent bidding process for the project itself, let alone the ESIA. As far as I know, it was conducted by the company. It has their name on it."

But Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said the study had involved local and international NGOs, and denied that it had been withheld. "It can't be said that we did not release the report," he said in an interview with the Post on September 22.

"It's just that our release was narrow, and it might be that people were not interested at the time."

The reclamation was suspended earlier this week due to flooding in the city's Russey Keo district, but municipal officials denied the filling had anything to do with the floods.

Anger, disillusionment towards war crimes court erupts at forum

Five former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in the custody of Cambodia's war crimes tribunal, but only one so far, former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, is scheduled to stand trial. The prosecution is expected to open sometime next year, but no date is given.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana and Georgia Wilkins
Friday, 21 November 2008

Participants gathered to discuss efforts to try former Khmer Rouge leaders say Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal is not serious about delays

FEELINGS of hopelessness and a sense of mistrust came to the fore Thursday at a forum on justice and reconciliation at which participants said Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal was failing to explain what it was taking so long to bring former regime leaders to justice.

The conference, run by the Center for Social Development and featuring a panel discussion by officials and monitors from the war crimes court, exposed increasing disillusionment with the tribunal, which remains plagued by budget woes and allegations of corruption.

"A significant number of participants expressed growing disillusionment with the ECCC because of delays and a lack of information about what the court personnel are doing," Heather Ryan, tribunal monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative and a participant on the panel, said via email after the discussion.

Ryan said the forum had exposed a new level of disenchantment, not only within the audience but amongst forum participants.

"Many participants at the forum made moving comments about what happened to them during the Khmer Rouge period or what the court meant to them," she said.

Sorng Seng, a 50-year-old villager from Koh Kong, said he was angered that the court did not seem to take seriously delays that continued to go unexplained by officials.

Delays go unexplained

"I have noticed that the tribunal seems to be playful in the way it deals with the delays," Sorng Seng said at the event.


"I feel hopeless and surprised to hear and see the slow process of the trial and to hear that the trials have been delayed because of financial problems," he added.

"It makes me trust the court even less," he added.

Saroeun, a regime survivor from Ratanakkiri, also complained that the court was too slow.

"I want to see the court to speed up its work," he said.

Ryan said she believed that poor communication regarding the court's progress was responsible for people's renewed frustration.

"The court could better serve the needs and expectations of the people of Cambodia by being more transparent in its processes and providing the public with regular factual updates about its work," she said.

"The extreme secrecy behind which the court works is harming its ability to provide a sense justice to Cambodians."

Budget fat to be axed for defence

A lawmaker reads a copy of the new budget at a National Assembly debate on Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 21 November 2008

With an increase in the Kingdom's defence spending due next year, CPP lawmakers are pushing for nonessential costs to be reduced and an improvement in revenue collection

SENIOR parliamentarians have urged the government to trim unnecessary expenditures and improve revenue collection in a bid to fund next year's increased military budget.

The government should reconsider subsidising lawmaker's phone bills and gasoline for state vehicles, Cheam Yeap, senior Cambodian People's Party (CPP) lawmaker and chairman of the National Assembly's Finance, Banking and Auditing Committee, said Thursday.

"If you spend US$100 per month, 20 percent should be cut out of that for military spending," he told fellow lawmakers at an Assembly budget debate Thursday.

The Assembly hopes to eventually allocate about $500 million to military spending in 2009, lawmakers said, although the draft Budget Law now only sets aside $224 million for national defence, equal to 19.5 percent of the budget.

"The increase in the defence budget is necessary," Cheam Yeap said, adding that Minister of Finance Keat Chhon should order customs and tax department officials to improve their tax collection this year.

Another CPP lawmaker, Chheang Von, agreed, saying that while Cambodia should find ways to reduce to the budget, the Ministry of Finance needs to collect all it can.

Military spending has taken a priority following a military standoff with Thailand over disputed border territory that erupted in July.

Strong economy

Despite the global credit crunch, Cambodia's economy in 2009 will be strong, according to Sok Hach, the director of the Economic Institute of Cambodia.

"We predict Cambodia's growth for 2009 to be between five and seven percent, and even though we will feel the impact of the financial crisis, we expect revenue collection to be quite high," he said.

He said he was particularly optimistic about next year's growth in the agricultural, tourism and garment sectors, but that banking and real estate would be more seriously impacted.

Sok Saravuth, the director of the Budget Department at the Ministry of Economy, admitted that there were some challenges ahead, but stressed that with some minor budget changes, the government's plan would be strong.

But Uth Chorn, the general auditor of the National Audit Authority, challenged the Ministry of Finance to combat smugglers and tax evaders.

"I've asked them to fight against huge enterprises that avoid paying taxes," he said.

Violent land eviction leaves poor villagers homeless, starving

The Phnom Penh post

Friday, 21 November 2008

Hundreds rousted by RCAF soldiers in Kampot are in dire need of shelter, rights monitors say, as the government says illegal squatters must go

HUNDREDS of families whose homes were torched and dismantled earlier this week in a violent land eviction near Bokor National Park say they have been left starving and without anywhere to go, local villagers told the Post Thursday.

Up to 300 houses in Anglong Krom, in Kampot's Taken commune, were destroyed during the eviction Monday and Tuesday by RCAF soldiers from Brigade 31, who have been involved in earlier evictions in the same area, villagers said.

Six villagers were injured - three of them severely - while clashing with the troops as their properties were ransacked, rights monitors say.


Hem Da, whose home was torched to the ground, said that villagers were now sleeping under the open air without shelter or food, while being threatened with arrest from soldiers in the area.

"We have nowhere else to go, so we might as well die here," Hem Da said.

"Most of the villagers here are starving, as their food supplies have run out.

"Hem Da said that on Thursday, an environmental police officer from Bokor National Park arrived and ordered villagers to leave within three days.

"If we had a choice we would not stay here," he said. "We are living in fear under the watch of soldiers."

Am Sam Ath, a monitor for human rights NGO Licadho, said that on Thursday his organisation took rice and fish to the villagers.

"The violent eviction by the armed forces is an abuse of human rights," he told the Post while on his way to the site. "These people are very poor, so the destruction of their homes means they are now even poorer."

Am Sam Ath added that even those villagers living illegally on the land should have been informed before their eviction so that they could prepare themselves.

"[The government] should come to investigate how these people are living," he said. "Then look at the possibility of relocating them instead of kicking them out with nothing."

More evictions to come

Chey Uterith, the director of Bokor National Park, said that the army had evicted 192 families and that among those, only 83 owned the homes they were living in. He added that villagers from three other locations nearby will also be evicted in the near future.

"The villagers were not living there legally," he told the Post on Thursday. "We will figure out how many families really deserve new land and will try to provide concessions for them."

A military official in Brigade 31 told the Post that the number of illegal homes being built had increased, and that soldiers were now guarding the area against the squatters.

Bamboo horse victim of modernity

Pheap Bonnary, 23, a Pursat native, has been a lorry driver for three years.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Friday, 21 November 2008

Development of a new national railway will force these cheap forms of transport known as lorries, which have plied the Kingdom's dilapidated rails for more than 40 years, out of business

IT is sunrise in Pursat and the air is cool in the early morning, fresh before the heat of the day. Although it is still dusky, hunched figures can be seen on the breaking horizon, making their way for the rail tracks barely discernible in the bumpy ground.

At 6am the bamboo horse is about to leave the station.

The bamboo horse is a simple two-metre by four-metre platform powered by a boat motor and mounted on the old railway tracks, and they have been serving the Phnom Penh to Battambang line for 40 years. It doesn't have walls, doors or seats, but it's cheap, and more reliable than the infrequent and expensive train, which has not been updated since the days of French rule.

Ouk Sophal has been driving bamboo trains since 1983, and says the local people call them "lorries".

"When I began my business in 1983, I had only a few lorries. Now my fleet is 60 strong. One lorry can carry 15 passengers and we run every day except for when the trains run," he says.

Bamboo horses are illegal in Cambodia, but has refused to be defeated, as it's the cheapest and sometimes only means of transportation available to poor and isolated peoples. Tickets generally sell for between 1,000 riels (US$.25) and 5,000 riels, and the service runs along the edge of the Tonle Sap lake to Battambang.

By demand, services are sometimes extended to Phnom Penh.

"We learned this craft from the old people, and it's a saviour for the poor and those living in rural areas, who could not travel otherwise," Ouk Sophal says.

" We learned this craft from the old people...Who could not travel otherwise "

"Every day I collect people from where roads cannot get to and take them to the markets and town and back. My service is better than the train, and it is the only transport they can afford."

Sign of the times

The railway system in Cambodia was constructed in the 1920s by the French, but quickly fell into disrepair after their departure. Without proper maintenance, tracks rusted and buckled, although some services have continued operation - most crucially between Phnom Penh and the port of Sihanoukville, which is used by the fuel giant Sokimex to transport petroleum.

In its current state, the railway earns only $2 million a year transporting 350,000 tonnes of goods and 500,000 passengers. But this is soon set to change.

The government has contracted maintenance of the railway to an Australian company - Toll Holdings - which is charged with upgrading the system and keeping it in working order for the next 30 years.

The Cambodian government and Toll Holdings will share revenue, and the government hopes to earn up to $40 million a year from the deal, which was finalised this week.

The upgrade will take up to three years to complete and see trains increase their speed from 30km per hour to 50km per hour. The upgrades will allow for Cambodia's inclusion in the Asean rail system, which will eventually run between Kunming, China, and Singapore.

But the planned upgrade spells doom for the bamboo horse and the possibility of cheap travel for those who use the service.

Ouk Sophal is worried.

"We have heard there is a new train system coming, and this will mean the end of our business. This is going to be a big problem for us, I have invested a lot of money in the lorries, probably a total of $1000," he said. "Will I get compensation? I am not against development but I want the government to consider the poor people in this situation. How are we going to get by without this service?"

Choup Veasna, chief of the Rail Department in Pursat province, says despite the bamboo horses being illegal, he turns a blind eye to their operations, as he recognises their importance to the poor, and those living in remote rural areas.

"I like the bamboo horses, I have ridden them myself, but when the new train service begins they will have to stop. The new train service will be fast, regular and cheap; it will be a service for all Cambodians."

KR museum construction stalls

Photo by: AFP
Tourists at Phnom Penh's Choeung Ek killing field. Plans for a Khmer Rouge museum in Anlong Veng are on hold due to lack of funding.

The Phnom Penh Post

Friday, 21 November 2008

Funds for a museum in Anlong Veng housing 1,200 photos of Cambodia during the KR period fail to materialise as businesses fear provoking anger from the local community

PLANS for a museum in Anlong Veng with photo exhibitions from the Khmer Rouge period have stalled as funding for the project shrinks amid fears the exhibit may provoke a negative response from local residents.

Nhem Ein, who survived the regime photographing inmate mug shots at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, bought 27 hectares of land a few kilometres from Anlong Veng's district town with government permission more than two years ago, but says he is now unable to find backers for the project.

"Some Cambodian people were interested in investing at the beginning, but they have hesitated recently, knowing that the Khmer Rouge tribunal is still in process," he said.

"People in the area are worried that it will affect their businesses."

The museum, which was estimated to cost around US$320,000, hoped to receive money from businesses and NGOs.

"Now, I have a large piece of land for a museum but no money to build one," he said.

According to Nhem Ein, his photo archive includes around 1,200 photos of regime leaders Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ta Mok, Son Sen, Ieng Sary and others.

He also has video footage donated by Cambodians and foreigners.

"I am disappointed, and I am very sorry because my project for years has still not come about," he said.

"If no organisations will assist me, I will be forced to sell part of my land."

Besides exhibiting photos of former Khmer Rouge leaders, Nhem Ein has plans to build a canal, dam and cooperative hall with images of farmers to show people what Cambodia looked like under the regime.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said that his centre could assist Nhem Ein administratively once the museum was up and running, but would provide no funding.

"Our centre has no funding to support the building of the museum, but we will help organise seminars and exhibitions once the museum is built," Youk Chhang said.

"This museum is an important step towards national reconciliation and helping people in Anlong Veng," he added.

Nhem Ein said the museum "will give a new generation the opportunity to learn about this time in history".

Anlong Veng, in northern Cambodia, remained a refuge of the final remnants of the Khmer Rouge until the late 1990s.

Flooding forces school to cancel holidays for students missing class

The flooded campus at the Fine Art school in Russey Keo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 21 November 2008

Russey Keo district's Fine Arts school has been closed for two months as high water continues to wreak havoc on the stricken neighbourhood

SINCE the Secondary School of Fine Arts in Russey Keo was flooded two months ago, more than 1,200 students have been forced to partially suspend their studies. As a result, they will be forced to sacrifice their vacations to make up for the lost class time, education officials said Thursday.

"Since the reopening of classes on October 1, 1,224 students at the Fine Art School have not been able to start their general knowledge studies," said Khorn Yay, the school's deputy director.

"Both the entrance road and school are flooded. We cannot drive a moto or car to school. It is a deep, muddy road. The water has not receded because the school is lower than its surroundings, which are primarily construction sites and high roads."

Khim Sarith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, told the Post that with the school flooded, students will not be able to complete their studies and will not be permitted to have vacation next year.

"We will not permit the students to have their vacation next year, as they have not studied enough," he said.

"To complete a study program, we must do this. If they do not study enough, they have no skills," Khim Sarith added.

" We will not permit students to have vacation, as they have not studied enough. "

School official Keo Malis said he was very concerned by the missed class time.

"I am afraid of the decline in my students' artistic skills because the students have not learned enough. They have missed their studies because of the flooding," Keo Malis said.

Kim Chhun, a student of traditional dance, said that she has not studied since the school was flooded.

"I just went to school once since the flood, but I could not enter. I just looked from the outside because I did not dare enter for fear of falling in a hole," she said.

Cambodian Finance Stable But Stock Market Plans May Wait - PM

Easy Bourse
Friday November 21st, 2008

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Cambodian premier Hun Sen said Friday the country's banking sector was stable despite the global financial crisis, but plans to set up a national stock exchange could be delayed. The prime minister said the state of the country's finance industry was "in a stable position which is not worrisome" because Cambodia "has not yet got a stock market."

"If there is no stock market, there is no problem," Hun Sen said during a government meeting with businessmen and investors.

But he said he still aimed to set up a bourse once fears of a global recession had receded.

"When the wind disappears, we will try to establish the stock market," Hun Sen said, while admitting he wasn't entirely sure how the market worked.

"I know only that when the red arrow sign is down it means (the stock) is down...But now I see the red arrow sign is down all the time," he said.

Cambodia earlier this year signed an agreement with representatives from South Korea's stock exchange, the Korea Exchange, Asia's fourth-largest bourse operator, to establish a stock market in 2009.

While still among one of the world's poorest countries, Cambodia has emerged from decades of conflict as one of the region's rising economies.

It has posted annual economic growth averaging 11% over the past three years on the back of strong garment and tourism sectors.

But the International Monetary Fund recently said Cambodia's economy was expected to flounder next year as the world crisis deepened.

Cambodia remains a largely cash-only economy and a high degree of mistrust keeps many people hoarding their money at home instead of using banks.

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The Government and Civil Society Organizations Disagree over Draft Law to Control Non-Government Organizations - Thursday, 20.11.2008

Posted on 21 November 2008

The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 587

“Phnom Penh: Officials of the Cambodian government announced their intention to adopt a law to control non-government organizations during the fourth term government in order to solve problems and irregularities of civil organizations in Cambodia. However, civil society and human rights organizations, that do significant work, are opposed to the intention to create this law, because they think that it will reduce their activities and restrict the rights of these organizations.

“During a workshop about human rights, democratization, and reforms, which were discussed by state and by civil society representatives, that had been organized by the Commission of the European Union in the afternoon of 19 November 2008, Mr. Ouch Borith, a secretary of state of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said that non-government organizations have proceeded with their activities nearly three decades freely since 1980 in Cambodia. The Royal Government recognizes and welcomes the role and the essential involvement of civil society organizations in developing and in restoring the economy and society, and in promoting democracy, human rights, and dignity. The Royal Government always encourages and supports them, and continues to strengthen cooperation with civil society.

In this sense, they serve as a sector of reforms of law and of encouragement for the rule of law; therefore it is time that Cambodia must have legislation (an ‘organization law’) that everyone understands and follows in an open society. “Regarding the draft law to control non-government organizations, an undersecretary of state of the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Sieng Lapresse, presented, in English, during the workshop, the [draft] organization law, consisting of ten chapters and thirty five articles, that has been being drafted since 1995, following laws in the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era as the basis, as well as organization laws of France and of other countries in Asia. But so far, the organization law is still a draft, because it is opposed by some organizations.

“On the other hand, Mr. Sieng Lapresse added that the Cambodian government is already committed that the organization law will be adopted during the fourth term, although some organizations argued with reasons against it. The present draft is the third organization law draft, in which nine articles were corrected at a cost of more than US$200,000 in aid, and it was revised by the Ministry of Interior and other relevant ministries, with the participation by experts of the World Bank.

“Mr. Sieng Lapresse went on to say that the government makes efforts to encourage the adoption of an organization law, so that the government can deal with irregularities of civil society organizations, and also, so that the Ministry of Interior can list statutes of structures for describing goals and intentions, management, roles, and ways to recruit and dismiss staff. Especially also to regulate affairs so that the government can know the resources of civil society organizations.

“As soon as the presenters of the government had finished their presentations about the plan for the creation of an organization law, the president of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC - Mr. Thun Saray, who represented the civil society in Cambodia, said that it has been fifteen years already since civil society organizations proceed with their activities in Cambodia without any problem. During that period, civil society organizations were involved a lot to develop the country. Being partners of the government, civil society organizations provide assistance, paid attention and provided materials as well as training, in all sectors.

“Mr. Thun Saray continued that during these fifteen years, civil society organizations are always under the control by different laws of the country, including the Constitution, the internal criminal law, announcements by the Ministry of Interior, and some other laws, which assured that civil society organizations acted under the control of sufficient laws, so that it is not necessary to have additional laws. In addition, the control of the finances of civil society organizations - through which, as some said that they might become sources for terrorism - are generally and regularly monitored by international audit companies as required by donors. So there is no corruption or irregularity.

“Also joining to listen to the discussion, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, Mr. Son Chhay, supported what civil society organizations stated above. Parliamentarian Son Chhay said that normally, our country does not have national institutions functioning with responsibility; therefore, to provide freedom to civil society organizations to fulfill their duties properly without threats and restrictions is critical. The government should pay more attention to discuss the adoption of an anti-corruption law, so that all institutions can fulfill their work successfully according to the Rectangular Strategy of the new term government.

“Nevertheless, the head of the Royal Government, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen, stated clearly during the opening of the first session of parliament of the fourth term Royal Government on 26 September 2008, that during this fourth term government an organization law will be adopted together with the anti-corruption law.

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.16, #4747, 20.11.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 20 November 2008

Cambodia not to raise Preah Vihear issue at ASEAN Summit in Thailand

November 21, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 21 — Cambodia will not list its dispute with Thailand over the ownership of the 900-year-old Preah Vihear Temple into the agenda of the ASEAN Summit next month in Bangkok, Chinese-language newspaper the Commercial News said on Friday.

"The ongoing world financial crisis will top the agenda of the summit, and we will not raise the Preah Vihear issue there," Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong was quoted as saying here on Thursday at a press conference.

Cambodia needs not to do that because all ASEAN member countries and other nations friendly to Cambodia have said that they expect Cambodia and Thailand to solve their dispute through bilateral negotiations, he said.

According to the outcome of the recent meeting between the foreign ministers of the two Southeast Asian nations, the two sides will start to measure the border line and locate the existing border posts in December, and the Joint Border Committee and both foreign ministers will convene new meetings in January, said the Cambodian Foreign Minister.

Earlier this week, Phay Siphan, secretary of state of the Cambodian Council of Ministers said that Cambodia will not boycott the summit in Thailand, even as the two countries have border dispute.

An armed clash in October killed two Cambodian soldiers and wounded two others, after Thai troops entered the disputed border area over sovereignty claim.

There are now 73 demarcation posts along the 805-km border between Cambodia and Thailand, 50 percent of which are recognized by the Thai side. Cambodia still plans to plant hundreds more posts there in order to specify the border line.

In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the Preah Vihear Temple and its surrounding lands to Cambodia, but Thai nationalists have turned down the decision and used to stir up protests and demonstrations over its ownership. (PNA/Xinhua)

Cambodia holds land deal talks

By Raphael Minder in Hong Kong
November 20 2008

Cambodia is in talks with several Asian and Middle Eastern governments to receive as much as $3bn in agricultural investment in return for millions of hectares in land concessions, according to a senior government official.

Some of the deals would be finalised “in coming months”, said Suos Yara, under-secretary of state responsible for economic co-operation.

The revelation comes as impoverished countries rich in fertile land and water such as Cambodia, but also nations in east Africa, seek agriculture investments from resource-poor but capital-rich countries.

Kuwait and Qatar were “very strongly interested” in securing more farming land, he said, with South Korea and the Philippines, which suffered from rice shortages this year, among potential Asian investors.

“Food prices have recently fallen but that really makes little difference because the food supply issue will be there for the long term,” he said. “With this financial crisis, we need to seize this opportunity to develop our farming and switch [foreign] investment from construction to agriculture.”

Kuwait has already agreed to give Cambodia loans totalling $546m (€436m, £369m) to develop agriculture, the second largest aid pledge ever received by Cambodia, after aid and loans totalling $601m offered by China last year.

This week, Daewoo Logistics of South Korea secured a landmark deal with Madagascar to grow food crops to send back to Seoul on a 99-year lease. Daewoo hopes to farm its Madagascar lease for free but is promising local jobs and infrastructure investments in road and irrigation.

Suos Yara would not detail the terms of the potential deals but said leases would run between 70 and 90 years. He did not say how much investors will pay for the leases, with the $3bn more likely in infrastructure investments than rent.

Phnom Penh calculates that Cambodia has 6m hectares available for farming, of which 2.5m are under cultivation. By comparison, the Korean deal with Madagascar covers 1.3m hectares.

Apart from boosting farming acreage, Suos Yara said the deals would make an equally significant contribution in terms of infrastructure and technology upgrades in a country that has emerged from decades of war and a 1970s genocide.

Last year, Cambodia produced 2.5m tonnes of rice, of which about 1.3m was exported, from a sector that relies on a single annual harvest and family-run farms. “With better technology and irrigation, rice production could double in some areas,” he said.

Cambodia’s farming push comes as the government faces an abrupt economic slowdown after averaging growth of 9 per cent over the past decade, as Korean property developers and other cash-strapped foreign investors start to shelve real estate projects.

Cambodia attracted about $3bn of foreign direct investment in 2007, of which 45 per cent was in real estate projects and 25 per cent in agriculture. Suos Yara said the land deals would help maintain foreign investment at such levels but with about half of the total coming from farming investments.

The country has suffered a food crisis, with the Asian Development Bank providing $35m in emergency food assistance last month. However, Suos Yara said conditions had returned to normal. “It was a distribution problem and not a food shortage problem,” he said.

While most of the potential investors were seeking to bolster their food reserves, Phnom Penh had also been talking to biofuel producers, including Indonesia, about ceding land for crops such as jatropha, a succulent plant becoming increasingly popular in the production of biofuels.

Security forces in Cambodia forcibly evict 300 families

Home destroyed by fire during the forced eviction of 300 families in Anlong Krom village, south Cambodia, November 2008 © Licadho

Cambodian security forces checkpoint, November 2008 © Licadho
Amnesty International

20 November 2008

Security forces in Kampot Province, southern Cambodia this week forcibly evicted around 300 families and burnt their homes to the ground.

Around 100 soldiers, police, military police and Forestry Administration officials took part in the forced eviction in Anlong Krom village in the Chhuk District.

The largest group present belonged to Brigade 31 of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. It has been reported that they were carrying firearms including AK47s and handguns.

Around 130 houses, mostly thatched huts built with straw and leaves, were burnt down on 17 November, leaving homeless families spending the night in the open. Many slept on the ashes of their homes. The security forces burnt down the remaining 170 houses the following day.

“The immediate priority is for authorities to provide emergency relief, including adequate shelter, food, clean water and medical assistance to the homeless families from Anlong Krom village. Then the government needs to ensure they have access to adequate alternative accommodation and compensation, and conduct a full inquiry into how they lost their homes,” said Brittis Edman, Amnesty International's Cambodia researcher.

Amnesty International has learnt that members of the mixed force beat and kicked many of the villagers. Three people had to be taken to hospital for their injuries.

At no time during the two days were villagers or human rights monitors shown any documentation providing for the legal basis for the eviction.

"There was no prior notice, no eviction order, no court decision. This eviction speaks volumes about the state of rule of law in Cambodia," said Brittis Edman.

According to human rights monitors, the local authorities claim that the village is an illegal settlement; poor farmers have settled on the land there, which they thought was vacant. Some families have told human rights workers they moved onto the land up to six years ago, while others have settled there more recently. Many of the settlers are believed to have been landless and the community in Anlong Krom was living in poverty.

At least 3,100 families, or approximately 15,000 people, have been affected by forced evictions in Cambodia so far this year. Some 150,000 Cambodians are known to be living at risk of forced eviction in the wake of land disputes, land grabbing, agro-industrial and urban redevelopment projects.

The Cambodian government has an obligation under international law to protect the population against forced evictions. Whether they are owners, renters or illegal settlers, everyone should possess a degree of security of tenure which guarantees legal protection against forced eviction, harassment and other threats. The prohibition on forced evictions does not, however, apply to evictions carried out by force in accordance with the law and in conformity with international human rights law.

Amnesty International is urging the Cambodian authorities to end all forced evictions and declare and introduce a moratorium for all mass evictions until legislative and policy measures are in place to ensure that evictions are conducted only in full compliance with international human rights laws and standards.

World's poorest nations call for more aid amid global financial woes

Cham Prasidh

SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AFP) — The world's poorest countries on Thursday called on rich nations to continue giving aid despite the global financial crisis.

The appeal from trade ministers and representatives from nearly 50 Least Developed Countries ended two days of talks in Cambodia's tourist hub Siem Reap to discuss trade and the credit crunch.

Jointly organised by the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the meetings discussed the need for an Aid for Trade (AFT) initiative to speed up trade reforms in poor countries.

"The least developed countries appeal to rich countries to continue to give all kinds of aid to them," said Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh.

"AFT can help to strengthen our capacity in producing products that can be exported to the rich countries," he said.

In his opening remarks on Wednesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said the world's poorest nations were already suffering from tariffs and strict controls hampering their access to world markets.

Ministers also discussed the latest "Doha" round of WTO negotiations, officials said.

Attempts to hammer out a global trade pact have repeatedly broken down as the world's poorest nations and economic powers trade blows.

Developing countries have been pressing for greater access to agricultural markets in the industrialised world.

Developed nations are in return seeking a better deal for their manufactured products in developing markets.

Unfriendly neighbors in Southeast Asia


By Mong Palatino
Column: Peripheries

Daly City, CA, United States, — There are numerous border disputes in Southeast Asia. The most well-known case today involves the historic Preah Vihear temple and the four square kilometers of territory around it, which are claimed by both Thailand and Cambodia. Last month, Thai and Cambodian soldiers violently clashed near the controversial temple.

Fortunately the clash produced few deaths and injuries. But unfortunately, it generated ultranationalist and racist sentiments in both countries. Many Thais, including politicians, accused Cambodians of betraying Thailand in the past.

On the other hand, some Cambodians criticized their neighbor for being arrogant. Thailand and Cambodia do not only share borders, they also have a common political and economic history.

The border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia is just one of the many quiet conflicts in Southeast Asia, especially in the Indochina region. There are still unsettled border feuds between Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia today. Recently, a maritime dispute in the Bay of Bengal was reported between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

In other parts of the region, the Philippines has not renounced its claim over Sabah, which is part of Malaysia today. Some Filipino scholars believe Malaysia has been secretly supporting the Muslim insurgents in the southern Philippines to protect its interests in Sabah.

This year Singapore was recognized by the World Court as the owner of a tiny but important island in the Singapore Strait, which is also claimed by Malaysia.

These border disputes are partly colonial legacies. Western powers created artificial boundaries in the past which inflamed ethnic rivalries.

It is also understandable why governments today are asserting their geopolitical interests. Each country has to protect its sovereignty and more importantly, it has to secure the territories with abundant resources. But the aggressive behavior of many leaders in the region may also be a tactic to gather domestic support for their unpopular administrations. Nationalism is being invoked for the wrong reasons.

The border disputes in the region signify the lack of camaraderie among Southeast Asians. Every country believes its people are superior over their neighbors. This form of racism seems to be endorsed by social and cultural institutions of many countries in the region. An editor of the Bangkok Post raised this point when he exposed what Thai schools are teaching his daughter:

“Like most Thais, she feels Burma is fierce and heartless, Cambodia cannot be trusted and Laos is inferior to Thailand – because the history textbooks teach her so.”

Many people in Thailand believe they once owned parts of their neighboring countries, making them feel they are the greatest in the region. In a similar way, almost all Filipinos think that other Southeast Asians have learned agriculture by studying in the Philippines.

Last month, homeowners in a village in Singapore protested the construction of a dormitory for migrant workers, citing security concerns, the migrants’ poor hygiene and the negative impact of the building on real estate prices in the area. They have forgotten that many of their ancestors were also migrants and that most of the migrant workers today in Singapore have come from neighboring countries in the region.

The unfriendliness of Southeast Asians to each other is really disappointing. But this condescending behavior toward fellow Southeast Asians is almost no different to what the people in the region are showing to their fellow citizens in their home countries.

The dominant Buddhist Thais are not on good terms with many ethnic Malay Muslims who are living in southern Thailand. The Catholic majority in the Philippines is denying Muslim Filipinos in the southern Philippines their right to self-determination. Many residents of West Papua are asserting their independence from Indonesia. Racism is again a very serious, if not the most important, political issue in multi-ethnic Malaysia.

The unspoken hostility between Southeast Asians makes it difficult and almost impossible to implement region-wide initiatives. For example, there have been proposals for sending a unified team to the Olympics, the use of a single currency like the euro for Europe, and the issuance of a single visa for the whole region.

A divided Southeast Asia does not benefit the interests of each country in the region. It makes it easy for big countries like China, Japan and the United States to obtain advantageous deals from Southeast Asian countries.

The United States has clinched military basing agreements with several Southeast Asian countries; Japan has been successful in acquiring one-sided bilateral economic agreements in the region; and China is acting like the big brother of Southeast Asian nations.

Things could be different if Southeast Asia were united. Powerful countries would rethink their negotiating tactics if they were dealing with a united Southeast Asia, instead of a small country with little economic and political bargaining power.

But many Southeast Asians do not realize this need for unity. They have overlooked the advantages of creating a united regional bloc since they are distracted by trivial conflicts. It seems they prefer to convince themselves that their neighbors are inferior instead of reaching out to their fellow Southeast Asians.

China, Japan and India are among the big powers in Asia. A united Southeast Asia could alter the balance of power in this part of the world.


(Mong Palatino is an activist and regional editor for Southeast Asia of Global Voices Online. He can be reached at and his website is ©Copyright Mong Palatino.)

Pupils raise £1,000 for kids in Cambodia

SARAH Johnston (left), youth and publicity officer for SAO Cambodia, collects a cheque from students Martin Handley, Tanya Sullivan and Jennifer Amesbury.
Thursday, 20th November 2008

STUDENTS have done their bit to aid children on the other side of the world by handing £1,000 over to charity.

Trinity Academy in Thorne made the donation to SAO Cambodia, which runs a series of life-changing projects in the south east Asian country. The money was raised through a string of sponsored events and activities at the academy throughout the year.

The SAO Cambodia Christian Mission is one of three charities adopted by the academy and a group of eight students recently travelled there to help out in schools and orphanages.

The charity strives to help children at risk in Cambodia, particularly those living on the streets and in orphanages, or coping with AIDS.

Youth and publicity officer Sarah Johnston visited the academy to collect the £1,000 cheque and told of the impact the donation would have.

"Our projects are extremely varied. More than a third of the population of Cambodia are living below the poverty line, with many families surviving on the equivalent of just 50p a day," she said.

"This money will go directly to the projects we are involved in. We are so encouraged and heartened by the donation. It is fantastic and I know that the Cambodian people we work with are always grateful for the help they receive from the UK."

Academy Principal Ian Brew said: "It is pleasing to know that the money will be going straight into areas where it is needed most and our students are to be congratulated for their excellent fund-raising efforts."

Senate Commission Examines Court System

A senator said Thursday his commission had not identified the root of the court system's problems.

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 November 2008

The Senate's legislation and law commission is undertaking an examination of laws and irregularities inside Cambodia's courts, said Ouk Bunchhoeun, head of the commission.

"We just started the survey since the first semester, in Kampong Speu [provincial] court," he said. "We found some irregularities, like verdicts that must be applied to a person though the person refuses to have them applied, and the problem of over-extended provisional detention."

Cambodia's courts are widely accused of bias and corruption, something Ouk Bunchhoeun acknowledged the commission had found.

"But it seems difficult to evaluate clearly the origin of the problem," he said.

The examination will continue throughout Cambodia's 24 provinces and municipalities. The Senate commission is now examining the courts in Kandal province. Next on the block: the provinces of Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Kampong Cham.

The commission is not only surveying the courts but is questioning local organizations that work with them, Ouk Bunchhoeun said.

Chan Saveth, a senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said Thursday that in reality, poor defendants saw swift action from the courts, unlike the rich or powerful.

"If the case is related to politics, the suspect is not easy to catch and the court delays action," he said. "And usually the poor say they lose justice because they have no money to pay the corrupt. Plus, we can note that the court is under the pressure of politics and powerful people."

Among other overhauls, donors have requested a reform of the judiciary.

According to a recent Center for Social Development survey, between April 1 and June 30 this year, 322 defendants failed to show in 137 trials. Of these, 6 percent were in detention but were not brought to court. The other 94 percent were not detained; they were either released or never arrested.

USAID in 2007 began hanging information boards inside court compounds to help the public understand transparently set fines for different crimes.

Ouk Bunchhoeun said the commission's work was ongoing, but at the end of it the Senate planned to write a report with recommendations that will be sent to relevant institutions like the Ministry of Justice.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana said Thursday the commission's work "will help us reform in the future."

Opponents Blast ‘Small’ Budget Allocations

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 November 2008

Shortfalls in the budgeted funding for agriculture, health and education will hurt many of Cambodia’s poor, critics of the 2009 budget say.

Although 80 percent of the population lives in rural, agricultural areas, only 1.7 percent of the $1.9 billion budget has been set aside for the Ministry of Agriculture. Only 10.9 percent of the budget will go to the Ministry of Health, and only 16.1 percent will go to the Ministry of Education.

By comparison, defense and security will get 19.5 percent, including a salary increase of the military and police.

Opposition lawmakers and aid organizations said the government should bolster its funding in sectors that will help the poor. Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha said his party will not support the proposed budget.

Diplomatic Exchanges Heat Up Over Temple

Hor Namhong

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
20 November 2008

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong called the Thai ambassador to his office Thursday, in an escalating war of words between the two countries over Preah Vihear temple.

Soldiers on both sides remain in positions along disputed border regions, and the temple remains a flashpoint between the two countries. At least four soldiers have died in fighting along the border in recent months.

Hor Namhong told reporters Thursday Cambodia did not accept a statement by the Thai foreign ministry that censured the posting of flags and a signboard above the temple earlier this month.

Unesco has declared the temple a World Heritage site under the care of Cambodia, but in a memo last week, Thailand said it disapproved of the flags and sign.

The Thai foreign ministry has also decried Kathin ceremonies held at a pagoda near the temple. Both sides now claim rights to the land.

Khmer Rouge ‘Confrontation’ Postponed

Nuon Chea

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
20 November 2008

A confrontation hearing between jailed Khmer Rouge leaders Duch and Nuon Chea at the Khmer Rogue tribunal was postponed this week.

Duch, who ran the infamous Tuol Sleng prison and is due to be tried early next year, has said Nuon Chea, the movement’s chief ideologue, ordered the more than 12,000 killings at the prison.

Nuon Chea’s lawyer, Son Arun, said he told the investigating judges he “was not ready” and the documentation of the case included thousands of pages.

Investigating judges say they will have the two confront each other in a private hearing.

A postponed date was not announced.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking UN official has canceled his visit, where he was expected to discuss the tribunal’s ongoing corruption allegations.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Peter Taksoe-Jensen was expected to meet Council Minister Sok An, but he said Wednesday the trip was postponed “to find a suitable meeting date with the Cambodian authorities.”

First modern opera to rock capital

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Ieng Sithol performs in the US preview of Where Elephants Weep.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Photo Supplied
Thursday, 20 November 2008

Cambodia's first rock opera, Where Elephants Weep, will premiere at Chenla Theatre in Phnom Penh on November 28, marking Cambodian Living Arts' most ambitious project to date. Conceived by John Burt, with music by Sophy Him and libretto by Catherine Filloux, the opera is a contemporary performance rooted in the Khmer tradition. In August 2007, more than 4,000 people came to Lowell, Massachusetts, for three preview performances of the epic tale, which combines past and present musical styles. In Cambodia, a series of concerts featuring musical selections from the opera have received enthusiastic praise, and next Friday's world premiere is eagerly anticipated.

Young in the City explores visions of Phnom Penh

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thomas Gam Nielsen
Thursday, 20 November 2008

Young Cambodian journalists highlight a variey of lives in Phnom Penh in this collection of 20 short documentaries

FREESTYLE bikers in Hun Sen Park, skate enthusiasts atop Sorya Shopping Centre and alternative rockers looking to transcend ubiquitous love ballads - these are just a few aspects of Cambodia's thriving youth culture explored by a group of young journalists in the new short film collection Young in the City.

The collection originated as a school assignment for nine broadcast journalism students from the Department of Media and Communication at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Chan Soratha, 23, one of the collection's producers, said his professor's instructions were simply to film residents of Phnom Penh under the age of 24. He and his eight colleagues took it from there.

"After seeing the final results, I think it shows that there are many kinds of lifestyles in Phnom Penh and, of course, we have only shown a fraction of them in our documentaries," Chan Soratha said.

The collection of 20 short films debuted at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre last week to an audience of expats and local residents; and while its production quality might fall well short by Hollywood standards, Young in the City does feature incisive narration and keen insight on how young Cambodians view life in their capital.

Eclectic collection

And don't be fooled by the title. These films are much more than a day-in-the-life home movie collection. The filmmakers chose from a broad cross-section of Phnom Penh culture, from athletes and paperboys to garment workers and snail vendors.

" ...It shows that there are many kinds of lifestyles in Phnom Penh. "

In one segment, student Chhin Sothea interviews 17-year-old Yi, the Sorya Shopping Centre inline skate champ for 2007 and a grade 12 student who says many of her friends were inspired to join the Sorya skate club after she took up the sport.

"I wanted to show this story to people because most skaters are guys, and to tell about a young girl who skated would be interesting," he said.

In "Strong as a Man", Chan Soratha profiles Sophora, 19, a member of Cambodia's only female rugby team who says family support and her joy of the game keeps her coming back to Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium for gruelling weekly practice sessions.

Social themes

Social themes also feature prominently in the collection. In "The Snail Boy", student Tiep Seiha tells the story of young Long, a steamed snail vendor from Kandal province. "Sometimes the police throw away my snails, and I have to pay to get my cart back," Long tells Tiep Seiha.

Sun Sat, 17, sells newspapers so that his sisters and brothers won't have to. "The Paper Boy" was the brainchild of student Touch Yinmony.

"I want to become a journalist and thought it would be interesting to show another side of the newspaper industry," he said, adding that he wanted people to understand why some young people do not get a proper education.

At just 44 minutes in length, Young in the City merely scratches the surface of life in Phnom Penh. But what emerges is an eclectic and intelligent portrait of the joys and challenges of youth in the Kingdom's capital city.

Young in the City is slated for a second screening at Bophana, though the date has yet to be fixed. Copies of the collection on DVD can be purchased for US$2 each by calling the Royal University of Cambodia's Department of Media and Communications at 023 884 408.

Government announces civil servant salary increase

Photo by: Kay Kimsong
Finance Minister Keat Chhon speaks to reporters at a news conference in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Thursday, 20 November 2008

Minister of Finance Keat Chhon says the budget for salaries will be increased to boost standards of living

THE government plans to up spending on civil servant salaries by about US$60 million per year to $360 million starting January 2009, Finance Minister Keat Chhon told the Post Tuesday.

"We will dig up all buried treasure from different ministries and institutions to collect more money to support our action," Keat Chhon said, adding that better revenue collection by the government would free up additional finances to fund the spending.

Keat Chhon said that higher tax revenues will allow the government to increase salary spending by 20 percent every year to improve the standard of living of government workers and other civil servants.

But Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), said the salary increases still fall short of civil servants' needs.

"I think the increase is good, but the raises should at least match the rate of inflation if they really want to respond to the exact need of our civil servants," Rong Chhun said.

" We will dig up all buried treasure from different ministries and institutions to collect more money. "

Cambodia's government salaries are about $35 per month, which is barely above the poverty line. Teachers can earn considerably more, but CITA is pushing for monthly salaries of over $100.

International institutions also say the low salaries encourage corruption and poor governance, and have pressed the government to raise pay levels.

More revenues

Government revenues have risen this year with a strong economy in the first half of the year, Keat Chhon said, increasing the likelihood of pay rises.

The Statistics General

Headquarters of the National Treasury said that overtime salary spending would double from $12 million per month in 2002 to about $25 million in the third quarter of 2008.

Transparency needed Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay applauded the government's announced salary increase, but warned that officials should focus on reducing corruption in the tax collection system.

"We really support the strengthening of the government capacity in collecting tax in order to enhance the paying of salaries for civil servants. But to get an accurate idea of how much the government is collecting, the government should adopt a minimum income law, to ensure better tax collection," he said.

He also urged the government to tax agricultural exporters to encourage products to be sold locally.

"The government should collect tax from large farmers who export agricultural products if they want to encourage local products to be produced more," Son Chhay said.

Son Chhay added that 35 percent to 40 percent of taxes have been siphoned off by corrupt officials because the government does not have a mechanism to audit expenses.

"I think that to ensure accurate expenses, the government should collect at least 15 percent of the gross domestic product, not only nine percent like now."

In 2007, Cambodia collected more than $600 million in tax revenues.

Local air carrier says it will beat EC ban

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 20 November 2008

THE State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) hopes to work with Siem Reap Airways to have it removed from an EC blacklist banning it from flying to European airports, officials said Wednesday.

A statement by the authority said it was confident that the European Commission's ban would be lifted through consultations between authorities and the airline.

"The SSCA is confident that, through a good cooperation between the airline and the authorities, in close consultation with EU services, solutions will be rapidly found and implemented to remedy the deficiencies," the statement said.

Failed grade

On Friday the European Commission slapped a ban on Siem Reap Airways from flying to EU countries, saying it did not meet safety standards.

The EU's list contains more than 170 airlines belonging to 16 countries with Siem Reap Airways as the first Cambodian airline earning the dubious distinction.

"The main ... problem is the need for better definition in the sharing of responsibilities between the Department of Civil Aviation of Thailand and SSCA of the Cambodia," said an EC statement.

The ban does not realistically affect the airline's operations because it does not fly to the EU.Lao Santi, Siem Reap Airways general manager, has said the ban does not apply to the carrier's airplanes since none are Cambodian-registered.

Education sector gains to be driven by new technologies

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Participants at a seminar on Wednesday discuss strategies for bringing science and technology to developing nations.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Thursday, 20 November 2008

Development of science and research capabilites key to better teacher training and access to information, but financial constraints keep the bar low

LOCAL officials say the adoption of new technologies could be an engine of growth for Cambodia, following a gathering of representatives from eight Asian developing nations for a science and technology workshop in Phnom Penh this week.

The three-day workshop, organised by the Department of Scientific Research in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and sponsored by Unesco, focused on recent international trends in science and technology, and their potential application in developing countries.

Phoeung Sakona, a secretary of state at the Education Ministry, said the workshop - which included delegates from Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Vietnam and Brunei - would establish a system to monitor technology implementation in developing countries.

"We have to understand that the development of each country is directly in keeping with scientific progress and accuracy in that country," she said.

Chan Roath, director of the Department of Science at the Education Ministry, said science and technology could be of much use in the education sector, where it could reduce teacher-training time and improve the quality of educational qualifications.

He said that Cambodia has already begun to broaden science and technology into the education sector with the support of NGOs, including the Phnom Penh-based Open Institute.

Although the progress has been rapid over the last five years, Chan Roath said introducing technology was still a step-by-step process - starting in the capital and the major provincial cities - and that there was not enough money to pay the high price of new information and computer technologies.

Dang Duy Thinh, vice president of the National Institute for S&T Policy Studies at Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology, said the adoption of such technologies was the main engine of future development - especially for countries lagging behind the developed world.

"I think Cambodians' capacity for S&T will be very good in future, allowing them to use new technologies to spur development," he said, adding that the development of human resources in the sector was an important first step. "In order to master S&T, Cambodia must develop its human resources in this sector and turn imported technology into a sustainable one of their own."

Chea Savuth, an engineering lecturer at the Cambodian Institute of Technology, said that the Kingdom must have better data management and research systems.

"We can't take research from developed countries and apply it in developing countries because [research] can be used differently in each country," he said, adding that Cambodian students still faced severe financial constraints. "Presently, Cambodian students have the ability to run along with modern technology. However, we still have limitations in research due to the lack of financial support and the cost of utilities, which is high."

Teruo Jinnai, Unesco representative in Cambodia, said the workshop was an excellent opportunity for policymakers to share ideas and strategies to promote science and technology development in emerging economies.