Tuesday, 16 December 2008

ASEAN ministers sign three economic agreements

Monsters and Critics.com
Dec 16, 2008

Singapore - The economic ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Tuesday signed three trade agreements in Singapore.

Ministers from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, and Singapore, and the ASEAN secretary-general attended the event, the Singapore Trade and Industry Ministry said.
This was a landmark occasion for ASEAN, sealing key work towards achieving the first pillar of the ASEAN Economic Community,' the statement said, referring to the goal of a single market and production base in the bloc.

The pacts aim to liberalize the flow of goods and services among member states, reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers and provide protection for investors.

'The signing of these agreements signals ASEAN Member States' dedication towards economic integration, a significant step at a time when ensuring the economic stability and vibrancy of the region is crucial,' Singapore Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said.

The ASEAN economic ministers who were not able to attend would sign in their respective capitals where the agreements would be brought to them.

Cambodian vessel detained for poaching in Russia's Far East

VLADIVOSTOK, December 16 (RIA Novosti) - A Cambodian trawler with 14 Russian crew members onboard has been escorted to the Russian port of Nakhodka, in the Primorye Territory, after being detained for poaching crab, a regional coast guard chief said on Tuesday.

"The crew members did not obey border guards' instructions to stop the vessel. The captain tried to sink the vessel and twice ordered the crew to open the Kingston valves," said Vladimir Lakizo, who heads the region's Border Guard Service for the Russian Federal Security Service.
Kingston valves allow sea water to enter a boat's fuel, water and ballast tanks, and can be used to scuttle a vessel.

The border guards discovered more than 5,000 crabs onboard the vessel, which had already been detained in early 2008 for poaching, although at that time there was not enough evidence to impound the vessel, Lakizo said.

A total of 19 boats, including 11 foreign vessels, have been detained by Russia since the start of the year, he added.

This year, Russia has launched a crackdown on the illegal export of crab and other seafood. Since January, Russia's border guards have returned to the sea more than 246,000 live crabs, with an estimated commercial value of over 170 million rubles ($6.1 million).

Milton Students Visit Cambodian School

Students from Milton mingle withstudents from the school theyhelped to build in Cambodia.

Watch Video

Dec 16, 2008

By Jim Hamill

High school students from central Pennsylvania are back from Cambodia. The teens saw first hand the school they helped build by raising thousands of dollars for the cause in Northumberland County.

In a little more than four months Milton's Team Cambodia raised more than $30,000. Every penny went to a struggling village in the poor Asian country, creating a place for hundreds of children to learn.

"We did it. It took us four and a half months and we made a huge impact on a small village," senior J.C. Reich said.

Reich and fellow senior Larissa Luu talked about their recent trip to Cambodia and their part in Team Cambodia's major accomplishment; the brand-new school.

"When we saw all the kids there it just made everything so much more worthwhile because they were so happy to just have this little school building," Luu said.

Reich, Luu and about 30 other students devoted practically everything to making the Cambodian school a reality. It was their teacher's idea but the students made it their mission.

Finally last week, a group from Milton went to Cambodia for the school's dedication.

It was, no doubt, a life-changing event for both students from Milton and that tiny village in Cambodia.

"For generations to come, hopefully that school will make a difference in lives of this very, very poor community," teacher Mike Conn said.Name: clip 51

Team Cambodia raised thousands of dollars by selling hundreds of t-shirts and students said now that the school in Cambodia has been built, it could not have been done without a lot of support from the local community.

"Thirty-thousand dollars, it was a huge community project. It was a group effort had a large impact for the effort that went into it," Reich added.

Both Reich and Luu hope Team Cambodia's work goes far beyond the three-room school, teaching children in the war-torn country how to help others and, in turn, themselves.

"Walking through the children, they were clapping and applauding. It was basically a heroes' welcome and it was something that will be engrained in my mind forever," Luu added.

With all that money from Team Cambodia the school now has a well for fresh water. It also has solar panels to power computers and internet access so Mr. Conn said his students will be sure to email back and forth.

Experts predict Cambodian real estate market to recover by 2010


PHNOM PENH, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Economists said that the nearly one billion U.S. dollars in foreign aid pledged to Cambodia by donor nations last week could boost the country's sagging real estate market as early as 2010, national media reported Tuesday.

Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, told the Phnom Penh Post that he expected the real estate market will rebound in two years, largely on the strength of foreign aid.

"If the government uses the aid to develop the country...then I think real estate may begin to stabilize," he was quoted as saying by the Post.

But he cautioned that aid would not boost prices to the unprecedented levels seen last year.

Local real estate peaked in 2007 and 2008, partly driven by South Korean investment.

The market started to drop in September, although low transaction volume and scant figures make the depth and impact difficult to assess.

Kang Chandararot said foreign investment would be key to rebuilding the sector, but that other factors, such as the global economic crisis and border tensions with Thailand, could remain obstacles to growth.

Hang Choun Naron, secretary general for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, agreed that the sector was poised to recover.

"I (think) the real estate market will return to normal within the next two or three years," he told the Post.

Editor: Wang Hongjiang

Bird flu threatens poultry sales in Cambodia at New Year

Vendors in Phnom Penh told the CambodiaDaily that their sales has not yet beenaffected by the announcement Friday.(File photo)

Source: Xinhua
12-16-2008 14:39

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian poultry vendors feared the latest case of bird flu would once again hit demand for chickens and ducks, just weeks before the Chinese New Year when they traditionally make their biggest sales, national media reported Tuesday.

Vendors in Phnom Penh told the Cambodia Daily that their sales has not yet been affected by the announcement Friday that a 19-year-old man from Kandal province was found to be infected with the H5N1 virus.

But they expressed concern about their business, which has been adversely affected by the seven previous bird flu cases found in humans in Cambodia, all of which were fatal, the newspaper said.

"My business went down for about a month after the bird flu first occurred in Cambodia but after that, it became normal again for Cambodians to buy chickens," said Huy Say, who sells ducks and chickens at O'Russei market.

He added that a similar pattern has repeated every time after a bird flu case was revealed.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said Monday that people and animals were being tested and that no new infection had yet been found.

From streetside to the retail market, the journey of trash

Sculpture installations made out of recyclable materials by school children on display during arts week at ICAN.

Phnom Penh Recycling Tips
- Ask your landlord or neighbours about the general garbage collection service, or ask your maid to give/sell recyclables to the neighbourhood etjai
- Bring Tetra Paks, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, recycled paper and straws to Smateria
- Contact Smateria if you run a hotel or restaurant and are interested in recycling materials
- Contact Friends if you have a business or organisation and you would like to give them materials for recycling, such as paper
- Order take-aways from places that do not use Styrofoam boxes

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nora Lindstrom
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

While it may appear that little effort is put into recycling in Cambodia, the reality is that everything of commercial value is scavenged from rubbish piles by local etjai within hours

IT'S an almost a perfect system here, there is a market for everything, said Elisa Lion, co-owner of Smateria, a shop selling products made with recycled and reused materials. Glass and plastic bottles, cans, cardboard, paper and rubber materials are all of value. "Your bin bag is likely to be checked at least four times before ending up at Stung Meanchey [rubbish dump]," she said.

In Phnom Penh, recycling works through the etjai, a term that means "recycle" in Vietnamese, hinting at the origins of the system. The etjai men and women, sometimes also called waste pickers, walk around pushing their carts shouting out, "etjai, etjai", after which residents in the area come forward to sell their recyclables. The going rate for two cans is 100 riels (US$0.02), while plastic bottles are bought at around 300 riels per kilogram. The etjai then sell the material to a recycling station for a slightly higher price, after which most of it is sold abroad, mainly to Vietnam and Thailand.

Cintri, the company in charge of rubbish collection in Phnom Penh, also removes recyclables from household waste. However, if your bin was left on the street awaiting collection, it is likely to have been foraged through before the company gets to it.

Despite evident demand for recyclables, there is a drawback to the market-based system, a so-called market failure. Styrofoam (which many take-aways are delivered in), plastic bags and boxes, PVC, Tetra Paks, yoghurt tubs, batteries, as well as other hazardous waste are some of the materials that are traditionally not re-sellable and hence not recycled, despite their detrimental effect on the environment. These materials end up discarded on the roadside, in lakes, at landfills, or they go up in smoke. Plastic, in particular, is a favourite fire starter, polluting the air.

"[Around] 75 percent of waste in Cambodia is organic," said Heng Yon Kora, director of the Community Sanitation and Recycling Organisation (CSARO). The organisation works with waste pickers and the poor and marginalised communities they come from. Heng Yon Kora said that if household waste was effectively sorted, much of it could be used for compost, but that it is of no use when mixed with non-organic and hazardous waste. "We need to teach people about waste management, and also educate waste pickers about the hazards of their work," he said.

Waste not, want not

Among its many activities, CSARO mobilises waste pickers into groups that collect solid waste and safely sort it at one of the organisation's centres. Recycled materials are used inventively to make other products, from envelopes to hats, while organic material is made into compost. "Demand for our compost currently exceeds the amount we can supply," Heng Yon Kora said.

Other organisations and businesses in the capital also work with disadvantaged groups to bring value to waste. At the NGO Mith Samlanh, or Friends, expatriates and foreign tourists can purchase products made using recycled materials. These range from purses and necklaces to shopping bags.

" Your bin bag is likely to be checked at least four times before ending up at stung meanchey. "

Friends' business and marketing adviser, Dennis Barbian, explained that the project started with trying to encourage street children to attend school.

The kids had to contribute to the family income, so we realised we had to help the parents, as well, in order to keep the kids in school," he said.

And so a home-based production program was started in which parents, mainly mothers, are trained to produce products sold by Friends on their behalf. "They have to source the raw materials themselves. They could buy the items needed, but surely it's better to use what is available?" he said. Many products sold at Friends are made from used rice bags, cigarette cartons, paper, cardboard, Tetra Paks and even cans.

Similarly at Smateria, the product range features wallets made with Tetra Paks, bags made from plastic bags, as well as several different products made from mosquito netting for animals. The mosquito net is not recycled; the material used is generally off-cuts and is essentially reused. Owners Elisa Lion and Jennifer Morellato, however, warn that while they aspire to be frank about the mosquito netting not being recycled, other producers may be less forthright. "You can buy new rice bags in the market, and add value by making them into other products," Lion said.

University student Thon Saykhim, 20, who coordinated events for the recent Environment Week, said that even if many households sell recyclables to the etjai, throwing rubbish around is a common problem that contributes to bad smells, flies and the spread of disease. "We need to change people's mentality about the environment. It's a very hard thing to do, but I hope the younger generation will lead by example," she said. CSARO's Heng Yan Karo called also for government leadership. "The government has to commit to recycling and waste management. We need not just talk, but real action."

For further information visit Friends at www.friends-international.org, Smateria at www.smateria.com and CSARO at www.online.com.kh/users/csaro.

Vietnam steel plant set for construction: reports

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Steel beams in Phnom Penh. Media reports say a Vietnamese company is set to build a steel plant in Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Local media say a Vietnamese company is planning a $70 million steel plant in Cambodia capable of producing 5,000 tonnes per month

A STEEL manufacturer based in Ho Chi Minh City is set to invest US$70 million in a steel plant in Cambodia, local media have reported.

"We want the steel factory to begin production in two or three years," Tran Totu, chairman of the Thep Viet Steel Corp, told Kampuchea Thmey last week, adding that the investment would help fill a vital need for the Kingdom's rapidly developing infrastructure.

Thep Viet Steel exports 5,000 tonnes of steel per month to Cambodia, Kampuchea Thmey reported.

Cambodia is reported to have large iron deposits, and Vietnamese companies have been granted concessions to explore for the mineral - a major feedstock for steel production.

Trinh Ba Cam, spokesman for the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh, said Vietnamese companies could play a major role in future development in Cambodia.

"Vietnamese investment will help fill a need in Cambodian markets because the country is badly in need of steel," he said.

Tann Kin Vin, secretary of state for the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, said he had no information about the plant.

"We know nothing about the plan, but we think it could not be implemented that quickly because no evaluation study on the availability of iron ore has been conducted," he told the Post on Tuesday.

"If they do their research, they will be able obtain ore and earn a lot of profit," he said.He said that Japan is providing technical training on ore extraction.

"Iron ore will be a big source of income if the country is able to utilise this natural resource," Tann Kin Vin said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last year called on foreign investment to take advantage of Cambodia's iron resources.

"I think Cambodia may have enough iron ore to sustain operations in a number of provinces in the centre and in the north of the country," said Mom Sambath, executive director of Development and Parntership in Action, an organisation that conducts research on mining operations in Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri provinces.

He added that Cambodia could also support large-scale bauxite production.

Trade expo opens as commerce minister predicts strong growth

Ministers Khieu Kanharith (left) and Cham Prasidh at the One Province, One Product Exhibition.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Foreign trade could remain largely unaffected by global market instability if Cambodia boosts the production of goods for export, Cham Prasidh says, predicting growth of 9pc

THE global economic downturn has not severely impacted Cambodian trade, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told the One Province One Product exhibition, which opened Monday in Phnom Penh to spotlight locally-made goods.

"The speed of economic growth will be lower, but if there are efforts to produce goods that meet market demand and to tailor agricultural output for the market, I believe that growth will not be much lower - at least nine percent," Cham Prasidh said.

Last week, government officials revised down their growth projections for 2009, saying they expected a drop to five percent after the IMF, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank all predicted a significant slowdown.

The expected dip in growth, though slight, could be mitigated if farmers join together to bolster production of export goods, Cham Prasidh said.

He said the agricultural sector could be a major source of growth through the establishment of a trade surplus.

"The expo is a golden opportunity for rural producers to introduce their products to consumers and investors, as well as a chance for businesspeople to look for business and investment partners," Cham Prasidh said.


The expo, he said, aims to address export promotion and greater market access.At its heart, though, is the idea of "one province, one product", where entire communities focus on producing a single, unique item for sale.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state for the Commerce Ministry, said that the expo, which runs through Thursday, would showcase 135 companies from 10 countries, including Thailand, China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, India, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States and South Africa.

Goods displayed at the expo would range from agricultural products and related services to information technology services, Mao Thora said.

The expo also highlights key Cambodian agricultural exports, such as rice, cashew nuts, pepper, corn, beans, potatoes and silks, he added.

Tuesday's events will include a special forum on business and investment and a seminar and trade meeting for potential business partnerships, followed on Wednesday by a series of cultural concerts, Mao Thora said.

"The expo will provide an opportunity to promote indigenous and forest-based community products - truly Cambodian-made products," said Seng Teak, country director for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, who led communities from Mondulkiri, Kampot, Ratanakkiri and other provinces to display non-timber forest products at the expo for the first time.

"Three main non-timber forest products - wild honey, resins and handicrafts - will be featured at the expo," Seng Teak said.

Cambodia's foreign trade reached US$8.4 billion in 2007, including exports of $4.6 billion and imports of $3.8 billion, according to the Commerce Ministry, which told the Post trade projections for 2008 were not currently available.

"The crisis has not severely impacted foreign trade. Trade with Vietnam and Thailand is still on the rise, and we expect that Cambodia's imports and exports will increase this year," Mao Thora said.

"But we have not yet calculated current figures compared to 2007," he added.

Experts predict real estate market recovery by 2010

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A 'for sale' sign in Phnom Penh. Experts say a foreign aid boost may boost property values.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

But one analyst says the industry is headed for a worse slowdown next year as construction projects go bust and the global economic crisis deepens

THE nearly US$1 billion in foreign aid pledged to Cambodia by donor nations last week could boost the country's sagging real estate market as early as 2010, economists and brokers told the Post.

Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, said he expected the real estate market will rebound in two years, largely on the strength of foreign aid.

"If the government uses the aid to develop the country ... then I think real estate may begin to stabilise," he said.

But he cautioned that aid would not boost prices to the unprecedented levels seen last year.

Local real estate peaked in 2007 and 2008, partly driven by Korean investment. The market started to drop in September, although low transaction volume and scant figures make the depth and impact difficult to assess.

Kang Chandararot said foreign investment would be key to rebuilding the sector, but that other factors - the global economic crisis and border tensions with Thailand - could remain obstacles to growth.

Hang Choun Naron, secretary general for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, agreed that the sector was poised to recover. "I [think] the real estate market will return to normal within the next two or three years," he said. He also blamed global market turmoil and a slowdown in Cambodia's construction sector for the sluggishness.

" Two years ago, [INVESTORS] were GUNG-HO, now they're retreating. "

"We will face a long-term recovery of the real estate market, but the current standstill won't affect the economy because the government has limited bank lending for real estate projects," he said.

Cambodia allows commercial banks to allocate a total of only $2.5 billion each year for real estate lending, he said.

Sung Bonna, president and CEO of Bonna Realty, said the growing gap between buyers and sellers has cut growth.

He said five to 10 percent of potential buyers are looking for land, while between 90 and 95 percent of sellers are feeling pressure to sell quickly.

"I don't see [many] people starting to look for land, but there are many trying to sell off land in a hurry," he said.

Meas Tola, managing director of Angkor Real Estate of Cambodia, expected a recovery in 18 to 20 months.

"Many businesspeople who regularly invest in real estate have decided to keep hold of their money."

A tough year ahead

But Naim Khan-Turk, the director of research and consultancy with CB Richard Ellis, said that the aid would have little impact on real estate.

"Unless the government is bailing out companies to re-start construction, I can't see it having a huge impact. Most of the construction firms are foreign, and why would the Cambodian government bail out foreign companies?"

Naim Khan-Turk expected 2009 and 2010 would be tough years for real estate. "Everyone is going to be hit. We will see delays in construction ... two years ago, [investors] were gung-ho, now they're retreating to their rabbit warrens."


Complaints here, please


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Heng Chivoan
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Got a gripe? Concerned citizens are encouraged to leave their complaints in this special box, which was placed outside the entrance to the Council of Ministers at the beginning of December. Long-time observers say, however, that few, if any Cambodians have taken advantage of it.

More work needed to encourage young people to vote: report

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A new study finds that the government must do more to remove obstacles to participation for Cambodia’s growing youth population

THE government has failed to generate much interest in political participation among Cambodia's growing youth population, according to a new report that evaluated youth participation in July's national polls.

"In general, political parties in Cambodia have not paid attention to encouraging youths, especially girls, to become effectively engaged in politics and have no specific policy for youth," said the report, which was published by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) on Thursday.

The report found that "youths are keen to participate in the elections but face obstacles, as they have no identity documents to use to vote.

"Participation of youths in elections is crucial for increasing voter turnout," the report said, adding that it could strengthen Cambodian democracy on many levels.

"Political participation among youths is still very low even though their demographic is growing rapidly," said Mar Sophal, head of Comfrel.

The report said that 250,000 to 300,000 reach voting age every year, and young voters between the ages of 18 and 30 constitute more than 30 percent of the country's estimated population of 14 million.

In the absence of official statistics, Comfrel estimates that youth turnout is only 60 to 65 percent, compared with a national average turnout of 75 percent.

Meanwhile, the report also notes that voters aged 18 to 30 are less receptive to vote-buying.

Mao Pouthyroth, program coordinator for the Youth Council of Cambodia said: "Participation is vital to help youths strengthen themselves to become future pillars of politics and democracy".

Howver, Phay Siphan, secretary of state for the Council of Ministers, said Cambodia's youth are simply not interested in politics.

"Nine out of 10 youths that we interviewed were not interested in politics. So, the government's focus now is economic policy in order to create jobs for young people," he said.

Storms make life miserable for Koh Kong fishermen

Snails used to live in abundance in mangrove forests, but scavanging options have decreased this year due to bad weather.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Residents struggle with poverty and rising unemployment as blustery winds and driving rain ground the island's fleets

Severe weather on Cambodia's Koh Kong island has grounded fishing vessels and left residents of Pack Khlang village struggling to secure food supplies, commune chief Chea Kimseng told the Post Monday.

"Between 60 and 70 percent of the 2,400 families living in my commune will soon be too poor to eat. The lives of fishermen are becoming miserable," he said.

Pack Khlang village is on the outskirts of Koh Kong's town centre. With 60 percent of the jobs in the village sea-based, the village is largely supported by subsistence fishing. There are currently no jobs available at construction sites or in factories, Chea Kimseng said.

Since May, the villagers of Pack Khlang say they have been unable to go fishing or crabbing because the weather has been too severe to launch their small boats, with heavy rains and wind flagging their efforts.

Sreng Pin, 38, said he has never seen such big waves.

"The big waves have prevented us from fishing. Because we only have small boats, they would tip in such swells," he said.

Sreng Pin, who has been a fisherman for ten years, said his family's quality of life has been getting worse. Since the beginning of the rainy season in mid-May, he has had no income.

"I am currently forced to borrow money to buy food and support my five children's [school] lessons," Sreng Pin said. "I have to wait two more months before I can go fishing and earn money to pay them back."

Villagers also complain the price of food has doubled since last year. saying that cabbage has jumped to 4,000 riels (US$1) per kilogram from 2,000 earlier this year.

In an attempt to compensate for increased staple food prices, fishermen have raised the price of crab from 5,000-25,000 riels per kilogram to 8,000-30,000 riels per kilogram. But with smaller catches due to bad weather, the price jump has not made a difference.

Chea Kimseng said he has tried to help villagers feed their families but fears he will not be able to continue without substantial government support.

"I have been commune chief for two years now, and I have spent between $5,000 and $7,000 each year providing rice to the poorest families. I cannot afford to keep doing that much longer. I want the government to help create jobs in my commune by attracting investors to this area," he said.

New border crossings in Banteay Meanchey on schedule: officials

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A soldier with rolls of ammunition on his shoulder in Veal Intry in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The provincial governor says the gateways are vital to Thailand's cross-border trade and will proceed despite tension in other areas

SIMMERING border tensions have not affected plans to open new border gateways in Banteay Meanchey province, a local businessman told the Post Sunday.

Sam Phannarith, director of the Sam Phanrith Development Company Ltd, said construction is progressing on roads and border checkpoints leading into Thailand's Srah Keo province from Boeung Snor village, Sla Kram commune and Prey Chan village, O Bei Choan commune, both in Banteay Meanchey province.

The new crossings were approved by the government in January, Sam Phannarith said.

"The gateways ... will be open in about three months or more. We're not concerned about the project. Our work has continued without interruption," he told the Post.

He said that while other border areas continue to face uncertainty in the wake of violent clashes between Thai and Cambodian soldiers in October in Preah Vihear province, villagers in Boeung Snor and Prey Chan have good relations with their cross-border counterparts.

"The Thais have already arranged for the opening of the gateway.... When it comes to the economy, we cannot let events in other places affect what is happening here," Sam Phannarith said.

The roads that will connect the two provinces are still being built, he said, adding that people have already been crossing the border without incident.

'They need us'
Ung Oeun, governor of Banteay Meanchey, said more work needs to be done but that nothing would stop the opening of the new border crossings.

"Thai authorities have not been able to focus on it because the government has no leader at the moment. But in February or March, it will open because the Thais need us more than we need them," he said."In terms of economics, they need us. They need to export goods to us," he added.

Ung Oeun said the atmosphere from Sam Pov Lun district in Battambang to Oddar Meanchey and Banteay Meanchy has remained calm, and residents are not worried about lingering border conflicts elsewhere.

"On January 7, the governor of Srah Keo province [in Thailand] will visit us, and I will talk to him about the opening of the gateways," he said.

Stall holder protest wins reduced rent

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

OWNERS of a shopping centre in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kork district have agreed to reduce the rental charges on their stalls by 10 percent after vendors froze all business to protest escalating costs last week.

More than 200 vendors at Sovanna shopping centre protested Thursday and Friday, demanding stall rents be reduced by 30 percent, said a bag vendor, who identified herself only as Phea, on Sunday.

She said that after two days of halting trade, vendors and the centre's management had come to a resolution. "They are giving us a 10 percent discount from our current stall costs," she said.

But Phea, who has now returned to run her businesses as normal, said that despite the recent "success", vendors continue to struggle to meet spiraling utility and lease costs.

"Sovanna is not located in an area where people have a lot of money to buy expensive things," she said, adding that she pays over US$700 a month for a 23-square-metre stall.

A vendor of children's clothing who declined to be named said that often it was hard to break even. "I do not make a profit some days," she said, adding she has to earn at least $25 per day to keep up with her $462 per month rental payment to Sovanna.

"People just come to window shop at Sovanna because it's comfortable," she said. "Customers complain of expensive things," she said, adding that if her business does not improve, she will have to close.

Negotiate, don't protest

Pung Kheav Se, director general of Sovanna shopping center, said by phone Sunday that the company had recently decided to give a 10 percent discount to vendors and in six months would review the situation if vendors could still not make a profit.

"Our policy is that profit must go to vendors first," he said. "We do not want vendors to protest. We want them to negotiate with us if there is something they disagree with, and we will find a solution," he added.

Fire destroys Kandal market stalls

A firefighter at Kandal market on Sunday night.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Firefighters say an electrical device left on overnight is the most likely cause of the blaze

FOUR stalls at Phnom Penh's Kandal market burned to the ground late Sunday night before firefighters finally extinguished what officials called an "unintentional" blaze likely caused by a fan or rice cooker left on overnight.

"I went to meet with the market chief again this morning [Monday] to discuss the main reason for the fire, and we assume that it was caused by an electric device that was left on," said Dy Eav, a deputy with the Municipal Fire Department, adding that nobody was injured.

"It is careless for sellers not to turn off their electrical devices," he said.

Local staff first responders
The fire was detected by market security guards, who first fought against the flames with the market's own small firetruck. Municipal firefighters arrived 20 minutes later with 11 trucks and prevented the blaze from spreading.

"The other guards and I were very frightened when we saw the fire coming from inside one of the shops," said a market security guard who requested anonymity, adding that he found a rice cooker and fan still plugged in at the shop.

But the owner of the stall, shop 158, told the Post that she had turned off all her electrical equipment.

"It is not right that I did not turn off the rice cooker because I had not used it [that day], and the electricity is always turned off at night in the market," she said.

After just one week in the position, market chief Sun Dany said she would do her best to determine exactly what happened.

"We normally turn off the electricity of every shop after 7pm, but sometimes it does not happen," she said.

Officials search for, catalogue rogue slots

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

PHNOM Penh officials say they have begun to catalogue slot machines following a directive by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The premier ordered municipal police on December 5 to remove all stand-alone slot machines from unauthorised locations and relocate them in approved areas within the next six months.

The directive also reminded municipal officials that it is illegal for Cambodians to use slot machines.

Touch Naruth, chief of municipal police in Phnom Penh, said there are more than 60 slot machine parlours in and outside hotels throughout the city and that the municipality has asked each district to get an exact count.

"Any slot machine parlour that does not obey the order to move will be shut down," he said, adding that officials have begun investigating hotel parlours to determine which ones are illegally making them available to Cambodian patrons.

Police already closed one slot machine parlour at the Washington Hotel in Russey Keo district, Touch Naruth said.

Kob Sles, the district's deputy director, confirmed the closing. But a hotel employee told the Post the slots are still operating.

"The authorities have just instructed us not to allow Cambodians to play," said Ly Pov, a human resources official at the Washington Hotel. "The club is still open."

New study suggests Cambodia's condom program is broken

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The 100 percent Condom-Use Program has not improved the rate of infectious diseases among sex workers in the Kingdom

DESPITE wide implementation of the government's 100 percent Condom-Use Program (CUP), from 2001 to 2005, the rate of sexually transmitted infections among female sex workers has remained constant, according to a recent study of more than 1,000 Cambodian sex workers.

The study, published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases, found that female sex workers often switch between brothels and beer halls or karaoke bars, and vice versa. Non-brothel-based sex workers represent more than half of the sex worker population and are not "significantly covered ... by the 100 percent CUP".

This high turnover of sex workers in brothels "disrupts the continuity of the prevention program exposure", the study said.

Another hole in the condom plan is that, though 80 percent of sex workers claim to consistently use protection with clients, only 25 percent of sex workers use condoms with their sweethearts, making their nonpaying customers potential "reservoirs for re-infection".

Govt inconsistency

In addition, the study pointed to the contradictory attitudes of the government as another obstacle to the condom plan.

With some parts of the government endorsing programs to make sex work safe and others raiding brothels, it can make sex workers and brothel owners wary of government motives, the report claimed.

"Some brothel owners and female sex workers may be uncomfortable collaborating honestly and participating in the 100 percent CUP because of the involvement of local police," the paper said.

Watchdogs call for further action on troubled tribunal

The UN delegation during a meeting with Sok An last week. Civil society groups have called for greater transparency at the court.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Civil society groups warn officials at Cambodia’s war crimes court that there are still many problems to resolve post-talks

MONITORING groups at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have appealed to the Extraordinary Chambers to take "action", claiming high-level talks between the government and the United Nations last week washed over issues critical to the survival of the hybrid court.

"[A]s members of civil society who are deeply engaged with the larger Cambodian public, we are still concerned about the delays, the allegations of corruption and the continued lack of public information on the progress made by the ECCC," a joint statement by NGOs said Monday.

A meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and a UN delegation disbanded abruptly Wednesday, with both sides agreeing in a joint statement to strengthen anti-corruption mechanisms. Highly-publicised claims of graft at the court were not raised, however, and a press conference was cancelled at the last minute.

"Lack of transparency and inadequate access to information continue to be a problem," the NGO statement said.

"[T]he Court needs to immediately amplify transparency and reinforce engagement and dialogue with NGOs.

"The groups also expressed a need to address "leadership shortfalls that have plagued the court over the years", and criticised the court's ability to provide the public with information.

Problems risk snowballing

Long Panavuth of the legal monitoring group Cambodian Justice Initiative told the Post Monday that the issues raised were now causing problems of their own.

"If the recommendations had been addressed earlier, we would not have the problems we see now at the court, such as the divisions between international and national sides of the court, and allegations of corruption," he said.

He warned that time was now of the essence, as new tribunals gain momentum.

"There are new tribunals coming up in Burundi and Lebanon. If the court does not improve now, it may risk losing donor funding to these tribunals."

Thailand's turmoil delays border work

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

ONGOING political turmoil in Bangkok has obliged the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission - charged with marking the neighbouring countries' 805 kilometres of shared border - to delay demarcating and de-mining the contested area near the Preah Vihear temple, officials said.

"We cannot do anything right now until we receive approval from the Thai parliament," the head of the border committee, Var Kimhong, told the Post on Monday. "We do not know when the approval will be made."

On November 12, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart agreed during a meeting in Siem Reap to reduce the troop buildup along the shared border and allow the JBC to commence its work in the area by mid-December.

"The current situation in Thailand does not in any way affect Thailand's firm commitment to pursuing peaceful settlement of the matter through the existing bilateral framework and boundary mechanism," said a December 9 statement issued by the Thai Foreign Ministry through its embassy in Phnom Penh.

Meas Yoeun, deputy military commander stationed at Preah Vihear, told the Post that he had received no recent orders pertaining to the work of the JBC.

"The situation along the border near the temple is normal, and troops on both sides have reduced [levels] to 30 troops each at the front line near the temple," Meas Yoeun said.

Phay Siphan, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said there is no schedule set for the next meeting of the JCB and this will not change until newly appointed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva takes office.

Defamation suit drags on

Sam Rainsy, left, and Hor Namhong are set to face off in court over claims Raisy made in his autobiography.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady and Neth Pheaktra
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Hor Namhong contests statements by Sam Rainsy linking him to the Khmer Rouge detention center at Boeung Trabek in a French court last week

A FRENCH court last week heard arguments in a case filed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accusing opposition leader Sam Rainsy of defamation and disinformation.

In his autobiography, Rooted in Stone, published in May, Sam Rainsy accuses Hor Namhong of heading the Boeung Trabek "re-education" camp, where former diplomats and government officials from the Lon Nol and Sihanouk regimes were detained, some on their way to gruesome deaths at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

"[T]he Foreign Affairs Minister could be a former collaborator of the Khmer Rouge regime suspected of having caused the death of many people, including members of the royal family," he wrote.

The court is scheduled to decide the case on January 27. Officials from neither side were available to comment on the court proceedings or the exact terms of the case.

Hor Namhong has enlisted as a legal precedent a 1991 defamation ruling by a French court against former king Norodom Sihanouk.

In 1989, Sihanouk was quoted in a French newspaper as saying: "Mr Hun Sen's team is made up of former arch-criminal Khmer Rouge officials. For instance, Hor Namhong, ex-commander of a Khmer Rouge concentration camp, is responsible for the death, after atrocious torture, of many former members of the anti-American resistance...."

Hor Namhong instead insists that he himself is a victim of the regime, having lost family members under its rule.

Nuance not the same

According to officials in his party, Sam Rainsy has distinguished his comments from those of the former king and argued that the legal precedent therefore does not apply.

Hor Namhong first filed the lawsuit in April at a court in Phnom Penh after the opposition leader alluded to Hor Namhong's involvement in the leadership of the Khmer Rouge in a speech at the Choeung Ek "killing fields", during a ceremony to mark the regime's seizure of power and to commemorate those who died under its rule.

Hor Namhong that month also filed a defamation suit against a pro-opposition journalist who had reported on Sam Rainsy's comments.

In May, a Phnom Penh court summoned Sam Rainsy to appear, but later shelved the case, awaiting the verdict from the French court case, which revolves around the more explicit comments Sam Rainsy made in his book.

Defamation and disinformation are misdemeanor offenses in Cambodia, each carrying a maximum prison sentence of six months and the possibility of a fine, according to Sok Sam Ouen, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project.

Hor Namhong told reporters in June that he filed the case in France, where Sam Rainsy holds a passport and where his book was published, because: "Some people claim the Cambodian courts are not independent, so I am taking legal action in France".

Hor Namhong has been linked to Boeung Trabek in past media reports, including a 2001 interview published by the Post in which Keo Bunthouk, then a Funcinpec senator, alleged Hor Namhong had been the "director" of the re-education camp.

Asean members approve new charter

Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Surin Pitsuwan delivers his speech during the ceremony of “Welcoming the Entry into Force of Asean Charter” in Jakarta on Monday.

The Phnom Penmh Post

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

But local and international rights groups lament its failure to include sufficient provisions to protect and promote human rights


THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations took a major step towards becoming an EU-style community Monday with the passing into force of a new charter setting benchmarks for democracy.

The charter sets out rules of membership, transforms Asean into a legal entity and envisages a single free trade area by 2015 for the region of 500 million people.

It came into force with a meeting of Asean foreign ministers at the bloc's Jakarta secretariat, 30 days after Thailand became the last member to deposit its ratifying documents.

"This is a momentous development when Asean is consolidating, integrating and transforming itself into a community," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said.

"Southeast Asia is no longer the bitterly divided, war-torn region it was in the 1960s and 1970s."The charter was supposed to have been activated at a summit in Thailand this month, but that meeting was postponed by the domestic political crisis. Thai Information Minister Mun Patanotai presided over the presentation ceremony as representative of the bloc's current chair, as the country lacks a foreign minister to do the job."

In spite of the political setback in Thailand, which is now the ... chair country, I believe Asean will not and cannot be slowed down," the bloc's Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan told reporters.

The charter will give the bloc, often dismissed as a talking shop, greater clout in international negotiations, but critics argue that some member states will continue to get away with gross human rights abuses.

The bloc's proposed new rights body has no teeth, and the charter has no provision to sanction members such as Myanmar, where the junta has kept democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for most of the past 18 years.

"[We] have long been calling for Asean [to] include human rights protection into their charter," said Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho.

"We, human rights NGOs, want to see the Asean Human Rights Body become real and independent within their charter ... but this is not easy for Asean to accept because some of the countries would not approve."

No date has been set for the creation of the planned rights body, but a first draft of its terms of reference will be handed over to a meeting of foreign ministers in Thailand in July, officials said.

Bird flu threatens poultry sales in Cambodia at New Year

People's Daily Online
December 16, 2008

Cambodian poultry vendors feared the latest case of bird flu would once again hit demand for chickens and ducks, just weeks before the Chinese New Year when they traditionally make their biggest sales, national media reported Tuesday.

Vendors in Phnom Penh told the Cambodia Daily that their sales has not yet been affected by the announcement Friday that a 19-year-old man from Kandal province was found to be infected with the H5N1 virus.

But they expressed concern about their business, which has been adversely affected by the seven previous bird flu cases found in humans in Cambodia, all of which were fatal, the newspaper said.

"My business went down for about a month after the bird flu first occurred in Cambodia but after that, it became normal again for Cambodians to buy chickens," said Huy Say, who sells ducks and chickens at O'Russei market.

He added that a similar pattern has repeated every time after a bird flu case was revealed.

Meanwhile, Cambodian Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said Monday that people and animals were being tested and that no new infection had yet been found.

Source: Xinhua

First-Ever Rock Concert at Angkor Wat Temple Raises Awareness about Human Trafficking

Broadcast Newsroom
By PR Newswire

SIEM REAP, Cambodia, Dec. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An international line-up of rock musicians took a stand against human trafficking at a recent concert at the Angkor Wat temple sponsored by the MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking) campaign, a project supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This was the first rock concert ever performed at the massive 12th-century temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was bathed in floodlights for the event.

More than 1,200 fans spilled from the bleachers to the edge of the jungle to hear The Click Five from the U.S., Placebo from the U.K., Grammy Award-winner Duncan Sheik, Australian pop star Kate Miller-Heidke, Cambodian hip-hop legend Pou Klaing, and Cambodian pop stars Sokun Nisa, Meas Soksophia and Chorn Sovanrech.

"We're here to call attention to human trafficking, a form of slavery that is as big a problem today as perhaps anytime in history," Placebo lead singer Brian Molko told the invitation-only audience. The concert also featured traditional Khmer dancers and clips from Traffic: An MTV Special, a documentary about human trafficking that was funded by USAID.

USAID is supporting the MTV EXIT campaign in Asia, an on-air, online (www.mtvexit.org) and on-the-ground drive to raise awareness about and prevent human trafficking. The project is run by the MTV Europe Foundation, a London-based charity, with additional support by MTV Networks Asia/Pacific. Local donors are assisting the Cambodian campaign in four major cities throughout the country.

U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Piper A. Campbell told the crowd to be wary of job offers that seemed too good to be true and urged them to report suspected traffickers to authorities, community leaders or non-governmental organizations. Volunteers distributed MTV EXIT anti-trafficking bracelets and wallet-sized leaflets in the Khmer language with hotline numbers to concert goers.

MTV EXIT Director Simon Goff said, "millions of people are currently living in slavery as a result of being trafficked. This is a grotesque human-rights abuse and we must all act to stop it." For more information about USAID and its programs in Cambodia, visit www.usaid.gov.

SOURCE U.S. Agency for International Development

Cambodian King meets with senior Chinese legislator

People's Daily Online
December 16, 2008

Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni here on Monday met with visiting Chen Zhili, vice chairperson of the Standing Committee of National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body.

Sihamoni highly praised the achievements of China's 30 years of reform and opening-up, as well as the developments of bilateral relations.

The Cambodian royal family has been committing to strengthen Cambodia-China relations, Sihamoni said, adding that the friendship between the two countries is increasingly striking root in the hearts of the people.

The royal family, the Cambodian government and people appreciate the precious supports and aids provided by the Chinese government and people for Cambodia's national construction, he said.

Cambodia will work together with China to advance bilateral relationship unceasingly, he added.

Sihamoni reaffirmed that the royal family, the Cambodian parliament, government and people would adhere to the one-China policy and support the great cause of peaceful reunification of China.

For her part, Chen said that in the past 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Cambodia, the friendly relations jointly created by leaders of the two countries have sustained the fierce test of international drastic changes, and keeps consolidated and developed, becoming valuable treasure of the two sides.

She said that the comprehensive cooperative partnership between China and Cambodia is enjoying sound development, which serves the fundamental interests of both sides.

She believed that with joint efforts, China and Cambodia will advance the cooperative partnership to a new high. Chen also said the Chinese NPC would like to strengthen cooperation and exchanges with the Cambodian National Assembly and Senate, so as to contribute to the bilateral relations.

Chen is on a five-day visit to Cambodia starting last Friday.

During this visit, she also met with Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and other senior officials.

Source: Xinhua