Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Construction investment down 12.5pc from last year

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Construction workers on a site in Phnom Penh. Investment in the sector is declining, leading to job losses and stalled projects.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Hor Hab
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The once-booming sector has seen a double-digit drop in growth to November, ministry officials say, as pullouts and layoffs are reported across the sector

THE global property crisis is taking its toll on Cambodia's construction sector, with the latest government figures showing new investment down 12.5 percent in the first 11 months of 2008, compared with the same period last year.

Construction investment fell to US$2.8 billion for the first 11 months of 2008 - down from $3.2 billion in 2007, according to the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

The decline is part of a global recession in the construction industry fuelled by plummeting property prices and a worsening global economy.

The international construction industry has been hit especially hard by the downturn, with the Dow Jones Construction and Materials Index - a broad measure of the industry - down 44 percent this year, or about two percent more than the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

In Cambodia, more than 30 percent of construction jobs have evaporated as projects are cancelled or scaled back, unions said. At its peak in mid-2008, the construction sector employed 45,000 to 50,000 people nationwide, earning $60 to $1,200 per month, according to the Ministry of Land Management's Department of Land and Construction.

Foreign investment

Minister of Land Management Im Chhun Lim said Wednesday the drops are sharpest in projects funded by foreign direct investment, with more declines expected next year.

"I think FDI in the construction sector may drop further if the financial crisis worsens," he said.

"All major construction sites, such as Camko City, Gold Tower 42 and IFC Tower, are progressing, but at a slower speed," he said.

Cambodia had 1,869 construction projects countrywide in the first 11 months of 2008, compared with 1,942 in 2007, according to ministry figures.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said Thursday that construction investment from the second half of 2008 until early next year will be hard-hit by the economic slump.

" I think FDI in the construction sector may drop further if the crisis worsens. "

"I think it will be hard for Cambodia to maintain its construction boom because the world is facing difficulties and the local real estate market has remained stagnant," Chan Sophal said.

He said the government's restrictions on bank loans for construction have added pressure to the already battered sector, and he urged the government to reconsider the rules.

"I still think that investment in construction will be lower than 2008," he said.

Lower costs
The declines come despite falling construction materials prices that have significantly cut building costs.

Building companies report that materials costs have dropped by 30 percent to 40 percent since their peak in June, with steel selling for about $650 per tonne, down from about $1,100.

But lower feedstock prices do not compensate for a market with fewer investors to finance projects or buyers looking to mop up excess supply, industry players say.

Sung Bonna, president and CEO of Bonna Realty and president of the National Valuers Association of Cambodia, said the construction sector's health depends largely on government policy.

"I think that investment in construction can be strong as long as the government relieves the bank loan restrictions and the prakas on housing development and foreigners are given the right to own condominiums and apartments," Sung Bonna said.

"What I see at the moment is that the investment in construction is no longer strong, including local and foreign direct investment, because they have lost their financial power and confidence," he said.

Yun Hong, project manager of Kang Meng City, told the Post that construction has slowed down because of a fall in speculator capital.

"We are just finishing our old construction projects at the moment," Yun Hong said.

"If the situation of the property market stays like this, we will stop all construction."


In central Jakarta, ruins of Indonesia's colonial past

Old buildings at Kali Besar Timur, Kota Tua in Jakarta

The resstored National Archive building in Kota, Jakarta

JAKARTA (AFP) — In the middle of Jakarta there is a place more reminiscent of the ruins of Cambodia's Angkor than the heart of a historic capital seeking to promote itself to the world.

Trees grow through the crumbling ceilings of derelict buildings, while thick vines reach out into the sun through dark windows and cracked walls.

Jakarta's historic "Old Town" of Batavia, the centuries-old centre of Dutch colonial trade and administration until only about 60 years ago, is in ruins.

What could have been the centrepiece of Jakarta's tourism drive in "Visit Indonesia Year 2008" is instead being left to the elements and vandals, while investors spend billions of dollars on new shopping malls instead.

"This is actually one of the best and most complete old towns in Asia," said architect Budi Lim, who has been involved in efforts to revive the area, known as Kota Tua or "Old Town," for more than two decades.

"The anatomy of the original town exists in full form. The old port and warehouses are still there."

But unlike other Asian cities that have preserved and celebrated their historic sites, such as Singapore's Boat Quay and Malaysia's Malacca, Jakarta's modern caretakers have left Batavia to rot.

West Jakarta Mayor Djoko Ramadhan recently conceded that "some old buildings" had not survived the capital's rapid growth into a city of more than 12 million people dotted with skyscrapers and slums.

"We realise that the Old Town's infrastructure is far from adequate," he said, referring to a lack of parking spaces which discourages visitors in the absence of public transport.

Kota Tua was declared a heritage site in the early 1970s and town planners have promoted several schemes to revive it over the years, all of which have failed.

About two years ago the city spent more than seven million dollars on a facelift for the European-style Fatahillah square in the centre of Kota Tua, and in the 1970s the 18th century city hall was turned into a museum.

Two other Dutch colonial buildings on the square have been repaired and converted into museums of puppetry and fine arts. The well-known Batavia Cafe occupies what used to be a colonial-era warehouse on the square, but otherwise the area is derelict.

Of more than 284 buildings in Kota Tua which are on the city's heritage list, 19 are abandoned ruins and many more have been stripped bare with no thought for their historic importance.

"People chopped off the historic parts of their buildings, such as the teak from the 1800s, with no regrets. Many antique aspects of the properties have been vandalized or stolen," said Kota Tua property owner Ella Ubaidi.

A law supposed to protect historic buildings says violators face six months' jail and a fine of 100 million rupiah (9,200 dollars). But it has rarely been enforced.

"Law enforcement is weak because we don't have a solid investigation team yet," said Kota Tua development agency head Candrian Attahiyyat.

Abandoned and neglected it may be, but history still echoes throughout Kota Tua's narrow streets.

Leading off the square are alleys and lanes lined with crumbling old shopfronts, warehouses and offices that formed the epicentre of the region's spice trade for about 300 years.

Asian luxuries such as Chinese porcelain, silk and tea were packed and shipped off to Europe from Batavia's markets, along with "spice island" delicacies such as cinnamon, pepper, cloves and nutmeg.

The port of Batavia was established on the northwestern coast of Java island by the Dutch East Indies Company in the mid-1600s and remained Indonesia's capital until it was renamed during the Japanese occupation in World War II.

Since independence in 1945, the mainly Muslim country of 234 million people has naturally celebrated its resistance to the Dutch occupiers and built monuments to its freedom fighters.

The thought of restoring and caring for the remnants of Dutch rule is anathema to many Indonesians.

According to the development agency, most of the 19 heritage-listed buildings which have fallen into total ruin in Kota Tua are state owned.

"The high cost of renovating a building, about 10 billion rupiah (920,000 dollars), has discouraged many investors," said Robert Tambunan, manager of the state-owned Indonesian Trading Company, which has 22 buildings in the area.

Long-term resident Henry Leo said it was time to restore the historic centre of old Batavia, if not for the preservation of Indonesia's colonial history then at least as a tourist attraction to boost the incomes of local people.

"I was born here. We're angry and saddened that the government's lack of action has caused many buildings to deteriorate," he said.

"I once brought US visitors to the area. They've never come back."

HEALTH-ASIA: Harried by Sporadic Bird Flu Outbreaks

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Dec 21 (IPS) - New cases of avian influenza across Asia in recent weeks confirm warnings that the deadly virus still lurks in the region and raise questions of gaps in efforts to contain it in affected communities.

For now, the only comfort is the speed at which the cases are being reported for local authorities to respond, say experts. Tightening of the information flow from farms and chicken coops to veterinary officials was part of the programme implemented in the region since there was a major outbreak of bird flu in the winter of 2003.

Hong Kong is grappling with an outbreak of the H5N1 virus that struck chickens last week. The infected poultry, kept in a farm equipped with modern biosecurity measures, resulted in the culling of close to 80,000 chickens in nearby farms and even at a large market known for its wholesale trade of the birds.

Chinese authorities also confirmed this week that the virus has been reported in the eastern province of Jiangsu, resulting in the culling of over 350,000 chickens. In addition, local authorities have increased vaccinating poultry in local farms, state media reports.

Cambodia has turned its attention to infected chickens and ducks in an area south of Phnom Penh, the capital. Authorities have ordered poultry to be slaughtered in the infected smallholder farms, in addition to imposing a 30-day ban on the selling and transport of poultry to the Kandal province.

Cambodian authorities confirmed that a 19-year-old man from Kandal has tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, the local media reported. He is the first person reported to have contracted the virus and the eighth Cambodian diagnosed with avian influenza since it struck one of South-east Asia’s poorest countries.

Last week, authorities in India’s West Bengal state announced the sealing of large sections of its border with Bangladesh after tests confirmed a new outbreak in Malda district, through which ducks and chickens are regularly smuggled in.

Outbreaks were reported, last month, from two other Indian states that shares borders with Bangladesh -- Assam and Meghalaya.

Although no recent outbreaks have been reported from Bangladesh, that impoverished country was the victim of a major epidemic in 2007 when millions of birds were culled.

‘’Our analysis shows that this season is when we will get cases of avian influenza,’’ says Subash Morzaria, regional manger of the Bangkok-based emergency centre for trans-boundary animal diseases at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). ‘’Countries have to be prepared for bird flu outbreaks during the winter season.’’

The latest outbreaks follow a pattern that began in 2003 are still linked to causes that were singled out five years ago. ‘’The main reasons are still because of poor bio-security and the movement of birds due to trade,’’ Morzaria told IPS. ‘’Bio-security is still not adequate in some communities despite the high awareness for its need.’’

Such measures seek to keep poultry in a confined environment to limit contact with wild birds. Bigger farms have implemented bio-security measures on an industrial scale, where workers have to be sprayed with disinfectant and must also shower, shampoo and wear protective clothing before going into the long, low-rise sheds covered with black fabric where the poultry are raised.

Yet even such controlled environments failed to prevent the recent outbreaks in Hong Kong. It has also raised concerns about the vaccines being used to inoculate poultry from the H5N1 virus.

‘’The vaccine failure is something that they are investigating in Hong Kong,’’ says FAO’s Morzaria. ‘’Vaccines are a very important control option if delivered properly and at the right time.’’

The U.N. food agency sees better success in its awareness campaigns aimed at getting rural and urban communities to raise the alarm and secure prompt responses when there is an outbreak. ‘’We are getting more reports than before, and they are reporting it fairly early,’’ says Morzaria. ‘’The training at grassroots levels has contributed to this change.’’

The success of the international efforts to contain avian influenza is reflected in the number of countries that have managed to eliminate it, stated a global study released in October. ‘’The success of the control efforts (has been) reflected in the fact that 50 of the 63 countries affected by the virus have managed to eliminate it.’’

That is an improvement from December 2005, when an assessment was made at a major international meeting held in Beijing, added the global study, published by the World Bank, the FAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO), among other agencies. ‘’It was recognised that the world was unprepared for the rapid spread of the virus.’’

‘’H5N1 has already cost over 20 billion US dollars in economic losses,’’ the study revealed of the virus that began in China in the winter of 2003 and spread across South-east Asia and thereafter to Europe and Africa.

According to the WHO, 247 people have died from this strain of the virus out of 391 people infected since 2003. Indonesia tops the list of fatalities, with 113 deaths out of 139 confirmed cases, followed by Vietnam, with 52 deaths out of 106 confirmed cases.

Public health and animal health experts have been monitoring the virus to study signs of mutation, given concerns that if H5N1 acquires the capability to be passed between humans, it could result in a global pandemic, killing close to 180 million, according to some estimates.

Such projections are based on the 1918 Spanish Flu, which claimed 50 million human lives after a bird flu strain crossed over into the human population.

Indonesia’s lead has become central in the global efforts. Jakarta announced this week that intensive measures to curb the H5N1 virus between 2009 and 2011 will lay the foundation for the set goal of eradicating the virus by 2014.

‘’If all goes well, the nation will be free of the highly pathogenic bird flu virus by 2014,’’ Tjeppy D. Soedjana, a ranking official at Indonesia’s agriculture ministry, was quoted as having told the ‘Jakarta Post’ newspaper.

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal Has to Open Access to Information Broadly - Monday, 22.12.2008

Posted on 23 December 2008.
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 592

“To be a model for the world, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, created by the Phnom Penh government and by the United Nations, should have a broader access to information, or make it at least comparable to the tribunal, supported by the United Nations which convicted the initiator of the genocide in Rwanda.

“Early last week, some civil society organizations, observing the process of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, had presented strong recommendations, asking for open and broad access to information at this tribunal, emphasizing, ‘The public should be aware of the progress of the confidential investigations carried out by the tribunal.’

“This recommendation, one among four recommendations presented by civil society organizations, including the Cambodian Defenders Project, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association – ADHOC, the Khmer Institute for Democracy, the Cambodian Justice Initiative (which is a section of the Social Justice Initiative ) is said to help improve the potential of the tribunal.

“The civil society organizations said, ‘The fact that the accused are still in custody during the investigation processes results in a demand for public information about the status of the investigation processes.’

“This statement added, ‘If the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia have to provide positive examples for the judicial system in Cambodia, this court has to guarantee transparency immediately, and strengthen the involvement and discussion with different non-government organizations again.

“Other recommendations relate to the monitoring by the United Nations side of the court, by the UN law office which brings the leaders of both side, Cambodia and the United Nations, together at the administration of this court, and finally, pointing to the important role of donors for the management of the funds provided to the court.

“The head of the Public Affairs Office at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Ms. Helen Jarvis, said that recently, the court conducted two events published through television, about the decisions of two hearings of the court and also a joint statement by the co-prosecutors was issued.

“She added, ‘It is absolutely surprising that they talked about a lack of transparency.’

“The coordinator of the Cambodian Justice Initiative, Mr. Long Panhavuth, said that the long process of investigations by the tribunal make the publics tired, as it is still not possible to predict what the court really continues to do, especially when the rest of the hearings will start.

“Mr. Long Panhavuth asked, ‘How many witnesses have the co-prosecutors interviewed during this month? How many times did the investigators travel to investigate something at other places during this month? The publics want to know these things.’

“’A good experience for Khmer compatriots and for the Khmer Tribunal will be the trial of the former Tuol Sleng Prison chief Kaing Gek Eav, called Duch, early in 2009. We would like to show the activities of a tribunal supported by the United Nations that convicted a man, who is accused to be the initiator of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, which led to the killing of around 800,000 people, to spend the rest of his life in prison.’

“On Thursday, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda – ICTR – announced that Théoneste Bagosora was convicted for ‘genocide, crimes against humanity, and for war crimes.’

“If the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is really independent, we believe that information about the different investigations by the co-prosecutors and by the co-judges should not be hidden further, but it must be rather be broadly open, so that the public can know it.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.309, #, 21-23.12.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 22 December 2008

Petrol prices to drop sharply, or else: PM

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A Sokimex employee fills a motorbike with petrol at a station in Phnom Penh on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal and Hor Hab
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Prime Minister Hun Sen threatens to summon petroleum company heads, saying falling oil prices are not being reflected at the pump

OIL companies are facing renewed pressure to cut pump prices in line with falling international crude following another scathing speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday.

The premier lashed out at oil importers and threatened to summon company heads unless he saw immediate action being taken to bring prices down at the pump.

"I have had enough with the high petrol prices, and I will meet with all companies at once," said Hun Sen.

He accused the companies of price-gouging in a speech that at times sought to portray the prime minister as the sole impetus behind falling prices.

"I wonder about the oil price. When I tell petroleum companies to decrease the price, they decrease it, but when I don't, they don't decrease it," Hun Sen said.

International crude oil has fallen drastically from a record US$147 in July to about $43 on weaker demand and a slow global economy.

Local pump prices have fallen as well, albeit at a slower rate, from a record 5,750 riels in July to 2,950 currently at Sokimex and Tela, and 3,050 at Total and Caltex.

" I have had enough with the high petrol prices, and I will meet with all companies. "

"We understand that [the companies] have stocks of imported oil, but companies should not use this as an excuse to keep the price high," Hun Sen said.

High petrol prices helped drive the Kingdom's inflation rate to more than 30 percent this year. Since July, the prime minister has twice called on companies to cut prices in an effort to curb inflation and reduce countrywide transport fees.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance has met with the companies six times since July to press for price cuts, but the declines have been small.

The Opec factor

Heu Heng, deputy director general of Sokimex, welcomed the prospect of a face-to-face meeting with the prime minister.

"We respect the government's stance and we will cut the price if the international market price stablises," Heu Heng said.

But he warned that market interventions by Opec could boost prices, pointing to the oil cartel's decision to cut output by 4.2 million barrels per day in an effort to meet its target price of US$65 to $75 per barrel.

"Sokimex is the leading imported oil company that sells oil at the lowest price [2,950 riels per litre], and prices will decrease more in the future," Heu Heng added.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Monday he supports Hun Sen's efforts and hoped oil companies would heed the government's calls.

"The government should not allow imported oil companies to sell based on their self-interest. They have a history of increasing the price abruptly when it is high, while failing to cut it when it declines," Son Chhay said.

Kang Chandararot, director of the Cambodia Institute of Development Study, said he is not sure what pump prices should be but said they should correlate with the international oil price.

"The government must try to curb the local price to match with world crude oil price," he said. "We need more documents from the oil companies."

Govt targets chewing tobacco

Photo by: Cat Barton
An ethnic minority woman in Ratanakkiri province displays the hallmark bad teeth that come from a lifetime of chewing tobacco, as she puts another wad into her mouth.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Officials warn that tradition could be an enemy in the fight to change attitudes towards chewing tobacco, a popular activity among Cambodian women

WHILE the government prepares to tighten its control over cigarettes through new laws on their promotion and labeling, tradition appears to be winning the battle to discourage a different type of tobacco addiction.

"I have never heard that chewing tobacco causes mouth cancer," said Oum Touch, 87, a nun who lives at Wat Lanka who picked up the habit of chewing tobacco from her mother.

Roughly 600,000 women in Cambodia, most middle-aged or older, chew tobacco, while the majority of men prefer to smoke it, according to Dr Yel Daravuth, national officer for the World Health Organisation's Tobacco Free Initiative.

But while most women are aware that smoking is unhealthy, knowledge about the adverse effects of chewing tobacco is still thinly spread.

"Research by the WHO shows that chewing tobacco can cause women to develop lung and mouth cancer," Yel Daravuth said during a workshop earlier this month, calling on the government to initiate education campaigns that warn against the habit.

"Tobacco control that focuses only on cigarettes will not necessarily address the health risks from other forms of tobacco that are in widespread use among women and ethnic minorities and that are part of long-standing cultural, familial and traditional medicine practices," he said.

Dr Lim Thaipheang, director of the National Center for Health Promotion (NCHP), told the Post that while chewing tobacco does not cause harm to others, "chewing and smoking have the same bad effects".

" ...I have never heard that chewing tobacco causes mouth cancer. "

He said that because only a small number of women smoke and chew - and due to limited financial resources - the government has not yet started to focus its campaigns on women.

As party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Cambodia has been working on a draft law on tobacco control that is currently awaiting approval. The law includes a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, the addition of warnings labels on packaging and the creation of smoke-free areas, but it does not refer to tobacco chewing.

But it is the potential risks of chewing tobacco, alongside other traditional habits, that needs promotion.

Wat Lanka nun Oum Touch said she knows nothing about the risks of chewing tobacco but "would never smoke cigarettes because they go straight into our bodies and affect the health of others around us", she said.

The areca nut, better known as the betel nut, is another stimulant that enjoys widespread popularity among older Cambodians and is considered to be carcinogenic. As with tobacco, knowledge of its health effects among Cambodians is often shrouded in folklore.

"I do not know if [it] affects our health, but betel leaf and areca are important in curing typhoid", said Neth Thos, 63, who has run a betel nut shop at Boeung Keng Kang market since 1993. "They are Cambodian traditional medicine."

Lim Thai Pheang said the NCHP had not yet studied the health effects of betel nut.

Journalists heap scorn on their own ranks at meeting

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Participants at the first congress of the Press Council of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The first congress of the Press Council of Cambodia addresses abuses of the press as delegates call for new code of ethics

CAMBODIAN journalists decried reporters who abused their positions to extort others and called for a professional code of ethics on Monday at the first congress of the Press Council of Cambodia.

"There have been a lot of journalists who were arrested because they tried to extort loggers, businessmen and politicians. All the journalists wanted was money," said Theang Phalla, director of the Cambodian Journalist Council Organisation.

Rights organisation Licadho has reported that this type of extortion can be quite lucrative, with bribes of up to US$1,000 for not publishing a negative story.

"In 2008, there was a whole stable of cases where journalists were brought to court," said Nouv Sovathero, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Information.

But he appealed to audience members not to betray their morals.

"It is true that people need to earn a living, but this shouldn't make them forget about their professional ethics. You must think that you are working as a representative of all journalists," he said.

Too many journalists in Cambodia do not think about their central role in Cambodian society, and this can result in abuses, Than Vutha, with the Cambodia National Journalist Association for Peace, told the congress.

"As a professional journalist, you have an obligation to think about the effects of your work before it's published," he said.

Many journalists at the event advocated for more training as a way to raise awareness about the importance of ethics while also improving skills.

"Because most journalists never have time to train or attend workshops, they lack many journalistic skills and knowledge of ethics. How can you expect them to work professionally? It is up to the editor-in-chief to give them chances to learn," said Oum Chandara of the Khmer Journalist Association.

Oum Chandara also pushed for a formal code of ethics.

"Journalists need to be responsible. They must write a story with a code of ethics in mind," he said.

PM urges govt officials to be 'model' citizens by wearing helmets

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

With a new law requiring all motorbike riders to don helmets poised to come into force, Hun Sen says officials should be first to comply

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Monday called on government officials to be "model" citizens by wearing helmets when riding motorbikes even before the law requiring it comes into effect in January.

"I would like to appeal to all officials of the government and armed forces to set a good example by wearing helmets," he said during a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, adding that he expected even low-level officials, such as village chiefs, to respect his request.

"If you do not wear a helmet, how can we enforce the law?" he said.

He also urged all government ministries to keep tabs on how many of their staff members comply with the upcoming regulations.

Vendors should not exploit the rising demand for helmets that will follow the new traffic law by raising prices, he said.

Hun Sen insisted vanity should not prevent commuters from protecting themselves.

"For ladies, please do not think about your hair becoming untidy. Even if you drive without a helmet, there is wind."

Ung Chun Hour, director general of transport at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said three-quarters of all road accidents involved motorbikes, and half of all traffic deaths could be prevented by wearing a helmet.

According to the Ministry of Interior, less than a quarter of commuters wear helmets. It also reported earlier this month that the number of fatalities from traffic accidents was up in 2008 by 1.8 percent from last year.

Prince threatens to sue local newspaper

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

PRINCE Norodom Ranariddh on Monday threatened to take local newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer to court for defamation, claiming the broadsheet published false information about him last week.

"[We] reject the information that [Ranariddh] requested King Norodom Sihamoni to nominate 200 officials for the Royal Cabinet of the King," Chea Chanboribo, Ranariddh's Cabinet spokesman, told the Post Monday.

Chea Chanboribo requested that the newspaper present written evidence signed by the Prince proving that this accusation was true, or expect to be sued.

"In the event that the newspaper doesn't present evidence, we will take legal measures to bring justice to Ranariddh," he said.

Liv Sovanna, Ranariddh's lawyer, told the Post that suing the paper was a last resort, but one they would be willing to pursue.

"If the newspaper doesn't present evidence, legal measures will be practiced," he said.

Dam Sith, publisher and editor-in-chief of Moneaksekar Khmer, said he had done all that was required of him by law already.

"I have already published the letter of [Ranarridh's spokesperson] in the newspaper and explained where the source for the article was from. This affair is finished," he said.

Chasing the gibbons' call

Channa Phan hard at work in the Bokor Mountain area.

In August 2008, the Wildlife Conservation Society counted 2,500 yellow-cheeked crested gibbons in Cambodia's Seima Biodiversity Conservation Area, an estimate that represents the largest known population of this endangered species in the world.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Anne-Laure Poree
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Cambodia's first Khmer primate expert on why he's chosen a life researching the Kingdom's endangered yellow-cheeked, crested gibbons

IN the depths of Cambodia's tropical forest, Channa Phan wakes up at 4am. The air is cool and wet, and he puts on clothes that have not been washed for days in order to neutralise his smell. He loads his bag with rice and beef or pork - never fish, because the smell would betray his presence.

Sometimes he brings some alcohol because if the night is cold, he likes to drink it for warmth. He takes his flashlight and waits for a call - the call of the gibbons.

Unlike poachers, Channa Phan will not follow just any gibbon song. It took one month for this young Cambodian researcher to recognise the song of "his" gibbons, a family of four he has been following.

"Each of them has a specific song, just as each human being has his own voice," he said.

When he hears the male, he follows the voice and walks quickly for a few kilometres along old elephant roads in this remote section of Ratanakkiri.

Equipped with modern GPS equipment, he is not afraid of getting lost, but he does regularly come across wild animals.

"I met a bear one day. I was so surprised that I ran away and the bear did the same on the opposite side. Local people say there are king cobras and leopards, too, but I have never seen one."

As a scientist writing his master's degree thesis at the Royal University of Phnom Penh with funding from the government and Fauna and Flora International, Channa Phan thinks only about his goal of observing the gibbons in their daily lives and creating a database of their actions. The yellow-cheeked crested gibbons are an endangered species native to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Scientists know very little about the lives of these blonde or black monkeys in the wild.

" I tell them The forest is yours. if it is cut you will lose the wildlife "

"I want to know their activities because in the future, if some gibbons are in captivity and we want to release them, we have to know what their life in the wild is like."

Channa Phan records their activities: When they call, what their call sounds like, how they take care of their young, how they eat, how they mark their territory, when they sleep, how they travel, etc.

After so much time following the gibbons, he is confident that he can figure out their actions.

"Sometimes you can just guess why they are doing things. I like to work with them. They are so funny."

These short moments of understanding are the result of long, hard work. Channa Phan will sometimes spend an entire month in the forest without seeing his gibbon family. Last July, he saw them for only a few days and even then sometimes it was just for half an hour. In August, he did not see them at all.

Nowadays, Channa Phan thinks the gibbons are comfortable around him.

"I think the gibbons recognised me after a few months. If I was with someone they did not know, they escaped."

The love he has for the forest has helped him remain patient and hopeful. In the early morning, he is filled with wonder at the flying hornbill, the peculiar gait of wild pigs or the playful games of munjacks.

He shares these observations with his friends in Phnom Penh, and as a result, his friends have nicknamed him Gibbon. Many of them are interested in business and think he has gone bananas, but he always offers the same response: "Different people, different favourites".

He knows his friends and family worry about his safety. He tries to reassure them, which means he avoids telling them too much about the day he called the police to stop illegal clear-cutting. Nothing happened to the loggers, except they became angry and stole Channa Phan's food. He was forced to return to Phnom Penh for money.

The villagers respect him and sometimes call him for help. He is honest with them, wears the same clothes as them and joins their ceremonies at the pagoda.

"I tell them, ‘This forest is yours. If it is cut, you will lose the forest. You will lose the wildlife for the next generation. You will not be able to collect food anymore. I think they listen to me. Cambodia has very good species that the world does not have. This is our [environmental] capital. We need to use it carefully."

At the age of 28, Channa Phan plans to do his PhD on primates. Next month, he will start a new job as researcher and monitor for the global conservation group WWF. He is still quietly resisting the social pressure from people who would like him to live in town. His passion for the wildlife occupies his life and makes young Cambodians realise that they, too, could have a role in this kind of research.

Cambodia lacks funds for wildlife network

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

AN increase in the number of wildlife seizures in Southeast Asia attests to the success of the region's collaborative approach to stamping out the black market wildlife trade, according to a press release from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (Asean-WEN).

Cambodia, however, is still largely left out of this approach, as it lacks the funding to fully participate in the anti-wildlife trafficking group.

Asean-WEN, of which Cambodia is a member, is a network of law enforcement agencies seeking to improve communication between various government authorities in the 10-member bloc.

Sharing is caring

Suon Sovann, deputy chief of the Forest Crime Monitoring and Reporting Unit at the Foresty Administration, told the Post on Monday:

"Wildlife crime is not a Cambodian issue. It's a global issue. We need funds so we can share information about wildlife crime."

In order to abolish the illegal wildlife trade, governments have to address both the supply and demand sides. This involves many different branches of government in multiple countries, said Mark Gately, the country program director at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

"Improved communications between Southeast Asian countries means that if reports are made of wildlife leaving Cambodia illegally, authorities in the neighboring countries can be alerted," a Wildlife Alliance spokesperson said Monday.

"At present, animals can be rescued within Cambodia, but once they cross the border, nothing can be done."

Teak Seng, country director of the the global conservation group WWF, said: "One specific country cannot be effective at curtailing wildlife trade. It requires international cooperation."

Flood-struck high school reopens

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Students at Russey Keo's Chea Sim Cham Reoun Rath High School raise the flag their first day back after school reopened.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Students in Russey Keo return to class after three months amid conerns that they are not prepared to take their end-of-semester exams after being denied extra hours to catch up

MORE than 1,400 students have returned to their studies at a Russey Keo district high school that was closed for three months due to severe flooding.

The Chea Sim Cham Reoun Rath High School was just one of more than 20 schools in the area that closed their doors in October after a series of downpours inundated their campuses.

Some of the schools began to reopen last month as floodwaters subsided.

But the relief of being able to return to class has been tempered by the knowledge that the long absence from school has left many students woefully unprepared for upcoming exams, students and educators say.

"Now that we've returned to classes ... we've got to face the end-of-semester exams," said Loy Leakhana.

But the 17-year-old, who had previously paddled to school twice a week to ask when it would reopen, said she was happy to be free of the boredom of staying at home.

"I was so happy when I saw the floodwaters coming down and saw a sign telling us a date to come back," she said.

Fellow student Sok Visith said he had forgotten nearly all of his lessons during his unexpected holiday.

"I want to be have a future as an architect, so I am very happy to be able to get back to my studies," he said.

Some 300 students were able to study at nearby schools, but one, 19-year-old Seth Vuthy, said classroom performance generally deteriorated in the new environment.

"My studies seemed to get worse and worse because most of the teachers came late," he said. "But now it's getting better and I'm happy to be studying in my old school."

More classes denied

Many students have asked for extended daily lessons to make up for lost time as first semester exams approach.

But the school's director, Dy Tep Kosal, said that he lacked the resources for additional class time and was still struggling to repair the school's facilities damaged by the flooding.

"We are pleased the students want more classes, but we can't do it because our school has a shortage of classrooms and we can't pay the teachers for overtime," he said.

Residents blamed the flooding on local development projects, including the filling in of Boeung Kak lake. Amid pressure, city officials last month temporarily suspended the private development, but allowed work to resume shortly thereafter.

Police Blotter: 23 Dec 2008

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Tuesday, 23 December 2008


A group of 15 students from Veal Rinh High School in Sihanoukville attacked students from Hun Sen Prek Tnaot High School while they were having class. One Prek Tnaot student, Ror Maeth, 19, was severely injured with a cut on the head from a blade. According to the attackers, the fight was revenge on the students, who had ridden motorbikes in very disorderly manner near their school the day before and chased them. They have now been arrested by police. KAMPUCHEA THMEY


Police clashed with a motorbike driver in Phnom Penh when he refused to pull over. The police chased the bike, and the driver and passengers, who shot two times at the police. When the police shot back, two of the passengers jumped off the motorbike and escaped. Pich Thea, who was the driver, could not escape and was arrested by the police. After the inquiry, he confessed that he had been involved in three robberies. KAMPUCHEA THMEY


Kim Chivorn, 25, was arrested by police after he burned down his house in Pursat province because he had been angry with his mother. According to Kim Chivorn, his mother had scolded him when he was drunk with drinking too much palm wine. At the request of his wife and mother, the police did not detain him. They just educated him and let him go back home. KAMPUCHEA THMEY


A widow was killed and her body dropped into a well near her house in Kampong Chhnang province. The body was found by her daughter when she drew water from the well on Wednesday morning. According to police, the victim was Nuon Saman, 47. who had had a conflict with her neighbours about a land boundary, which had not yet been resolved. KAMPUCHEA THMEY


Dout Seleh, 42, from Sihanoukville, was arrested by the police for allegedly killing and robbing a woman three years ago. He called himself a love magician and was colluding with his wife when they killed and robbed Dul Veu, 42, on June 22, 2005. Dul Veu was staying at the magician's house so that he could make the love magic work for her, as she was worried that her husband was having an affair. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Cambodian comedian takes rural sanitation to the Kingdom's TVs

Comedian Chab Chean, shown here in a file photo, will promote rural sanitation.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

TV personality Chab Chean has been chosen as the government's spokesperson in a push to promote sanitation throughout the countryside

THE government is hoping a little toilet humour will go a long ways in bringing its pro-sanitation message to the countryside, where millions live without access to running water and the nearest rice field often passes for the bathroom.

Well-known television personality and comedian Chab Chean has been enlisted as the Kingdom's pointman on hygiene to work with the government on this particular aspect of rural health, officials said last week.

"He is a star who knows a lot about sanitation," Chea Samnang, director of the Department of Rural Health at the Ministry of Rural Development, told the Post.

Only about 16 percent of rural Cambodians have access to toilets, according to the World Bank-sponsored Water and Sanitation Program.

In some parts of the country, that figure can drop below five percent.

Diseases caused by poor sanitation account for more than 10,000 deaths each year, the program said in a recently-released report.

Old habits

"In the village, old habits die hard, so many Cambodian people prefer not to use toilets.

But Chab Chean has done a good job changing that mindset and getting people interested in proper sanitation," said Rural Development Minister Chea Sophara during a national sanitation workshop last week.

" [local comedian chab chean] is a star who knows a lot about sanitation. "

"Many people in the countryside come around when they see Chab Chean educating them about the program, which is different from being told by local authorities," he said.

Chea Samnang said that the comedian's previous experience makes him the perfect face of rural development.

"As a local TV comedian and presenter, Chab Chean has been considered an excellent model in encouraging Cambodian people to cooperate with local authorities so that they know how to live in a clean environment and how to use toilets," he said.

"We have many methods of encouraging people in the countryside to help spread knowledge about rural sanitation. We show them through our jokes so that they are interested and happy, and they will never get bored," Chab Chean said.

Central Market renovation

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

A member of a construction crew works on the renovation of Phnom Penh's Central Market on Sunday. The work has partly blocked the streets surrounding the market for some weeks, but workers say the disruption is temporary and they will eventually be moved inside the historic building.

Khmer Muslims must protect themselves

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Moeun Chhean Nariddh
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Dear Editor,

When I was at primary school, I made a good friend with a classmate named Sophal. With a Khmer name, not many students and teachers at school knew that Sophal was a Cham Muslim.

(Almost no Khmer names, like my friend's, indicate any religious identity. But, many Muslim Khmers and Chinese Cambodians chose to use Khmer names instead to avoid social discrimination and political persecution during the Khmer Rouge period and the later communist regime.)

Some 20 years later, I met my friend again. But he was not Sophal anymore.

He had changed his name to Ibrahim in conformity with his Muslim faith. Like Ibrahim, the Muslim Khmer community has been integrated into the world of Islam as Cambodia was opened up in the early 1990s, following decades of self-imposed isolation.

While the Khmer Muslims have reached out to the rest of the world, it has come with both good opportunities and the fear of radical Islamic indoctrination by Islamic extremist groups.

As Muslims and Buddhists in Thailand and Sri Lanka have engaged in bloody conflicts, and the Islamic militants have attacked Mumbai and elsewhere, it has shone a spotlight on Cambodian Muslims and how they can protect themselves from radical Islam.

Fortunately, Cambodian Buddhists and Khmer Muslims seemed to have gotten along well with each other. Over the past centuries, both Khmers and Chams have rejoiced together and suffered together. This harmonious relationship can be attributed to the common history of both ethnicities.

However, the religious conflicts between Buddhists and Muslims in the region can also expand across the borders into Cambodia. As they were opened up to the world of Islam, extremist Islamic groups can spoil the harmonious and peaceful co-existence of Khmers and Chams.

Nevertheless, we believe that our Muslim brothers and sisters have only brought with them the good and progressive Islamic faiths from different Muslim communities throughout the world.

Like the case between me and my friend, Sophal or Ibrahim, we have remained good friends as a Buddhist and a Muslim.

We hope that other Muslim Khmers will also continue to maintain their good friendship and solidarity with their Buddhist Khmer compatriots and protect themselves from Islamic extremism.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.com or P.O. Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

In Brief: Gambling directive not aired, says PM

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Prime Minister Hun Sen blasted national and private television companies on Monday for not broadcasting his directive on the regulation of gambling machines. "I issued the directive on December 5, but broadcasts only started on December 19," the premier said Monday during a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education. The directive states that all Cambodians are forbidden to play slot machines and that all stand alone machines must be fully licensed and kept only in private rooms at hotel and leisure complexes.

In Brief: Foreign arrivals up 7.4 percent

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

According to new figures from the Ministry of Tourism last week, Cambodia received 1.89 million international arrivals between January and November this year. "[Arrivals] increased 7.4 percent compared with the same period last year," said Kong Sophearak, director of the Statistic Department at the Ministry of Tourism. He said the majority of tourists were from Korea, Vietnam, Japan, the US and China.

Thai cabinet line-up could anger Thaksin's allies


By Tim Johnston in Bangkok
December 22 2008

Thailand's king approved a new cabinet yesterday but political turmoil could persist as many of its members supported the protests that paralysed air transport and government.

The high-profile positions taken by protest backers could spur demonstrations by supporters of the administration ousted this month by the courts. Supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister linked to that administration, demonstrated violently outside parliament last week when the new government, led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, was voted into power.

While Mr Abhisit offered support for the People's Alliance for Democracy, the group that occupied the prime minister's office in August and Bangkok's two airports in November, Kasit Piromya, his new foreign minister, was more active. The PAD's protests cost the economy at least $2.8bn.

Mr Kasit, a regular speaker at PAD rallies, once described the airports occupation as a "new innovation for public protests".

Last week Mr Kasit told the Financial Times: "This was a protest against an elected government that had become abusive and corrupted. The PAD was part of the whole democratic process. People should be happy that for once the military wasn't involved."

Mr Kasit had earlier taken a hard line on the border dispute with Cambodia, which centres on an ancient temple and led to low-level skirmishes this year. The PAD rallied anti-government support by saying ministers gave Cambodia too much leeway because of alleged business interests of Mr Thaksin across the border.

In the interview, Mr Kasit was more conciliatory, saying Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister, had been the first foreign leader to congratulate Mr Abhisit on his win. "I think this is a great sign of friendship," he said. "We have a common heritage; we have to use that to bring us together," he said.

Thailand holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Mr Kasit said he was hoping to reengage Burma in dialogue.

"We will talk across the board on all issues," he said. Asean last week adopted a new charter which calls for a regional human rights body. Burma's human rights record will pose one of the biggest challenges to the new charter but Mr Kasit said human rights would be high on the agenda.

Cambodian opposition unite against Hun Sen

The opposition's Sam Rainsy (L) shakes hands with the prime minister, Hun Sen. [Reuters]

Australia Network News

Cambodia's two main opposition have again proposed a merger to contest the next general election.

The Phnom Penh Post reports the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party say they will run for the 2012 poll under the one banner.

President of the Human Rights Party, Kem Sokha, says the alliance has been struck at an opportune moment for rallying a growing number of people rejecting the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

He says, however, the merger will not be immediate or comprehensive.

Alleged Arms Smuggler Viktor Bout

Alleged Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout arrives at the criminal court Monday, Dec. 22, 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. Bout, 41, has been indicted in the U.S. on four terrorism-related charges. He was arrested in Thailand on March 6 but denied any involvement in illicit activities.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout stands behind the bars at criminal court Monday, Dec. 22, 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. Bout, 41, has been indicted in the U.S. on four terrorism-related charges. He was arrested in Thailand on March 6 but denied any involvement in illicit activities.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Alleged Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout arrives at the criminal court Monday, Dec. 22, 2008 in Bangkok, Thailand. Bout, 41, has been indicted in the U.S. on four terrorism-related charges. He was arrested in Thailand on March 6 but denied any involvement in illicit activities.(AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout (centre) at the Crime Court in Bangkok on December 22. The alleged Russian arms dealer dubbed the "Merchant of Death" has told the Thai court that he had been framed and should not be extradited to the United States.(AFP/Pornchai Kittiwongsakul)

Sacravatoons :" Thai-Reconciliation "

Courtesy of Sacravatoon

Sacravatoons : " Man's Law,Kep Chutema "

Courtesy Of Sacravatoon

Colin James: Hope for humanity most tangible in a young boy's smile

New Zealand Herald, New Zealand

Tuesday Dec 23, 2008
By Colin James

Airports are not pretty. But one October afternoon Hamilton airport was for me for a moment a place of beauty.

A young man with the moonish face of intellectual disability waited impassively alongside an elderly woman for a traveller to arrive. He was a reminder of human sadness, the unfairness of chance.

Then his face disappeared into a big, round smile. The person he waited for came into view, then into his hug.

Unfair chance became a huge warmth, an instant of hope, a Christmas story 10 weeks premature.

The message of Christmas is often a "no", a Christianity of what must not be done, the wrongness of humanness. And there is much that is wrong.

The good news of Christmas is a "yes", a Christianity of what can humanly be done, the rightness of humanness. There is much that is right.

The wrong is so big that it questions the very notion of "civilisation".

Greens are mistaken to insist we must act now to save the planet. The planet will be here long after humans have run our ephemeral course. The right green message is to act to save humans from our uncivil instincts.

At the macro level there is the evil of Muslims who revel and die in the slaughter of innocents. Mumbai is the latest large example. No god which mounts such missions can be good.

There is the tyrant of Zimbabwe whose self-glorification demands his captive people starve and die of disease. There is in 2000s Congo a reminder of the 1990s Rwanda genocide across the border.

And lest Europeans slip into the sin of superiority, the 1990s in the Balkans were a reminder of their two great tribal wars and mass killings of the 20th century, the great pogrom against the Jews, the starving and killing of tens of millions in Russia, replicated later in China and then Cambodia.

We are a step away always from barbarity, even in the freest societies. A departing United States President approved torture. Can the new President expunge that obscenity from his once free, now paranoid, nation?

In this society, at the micro level, there is the Rotorua man who maltreated a toddler whom his two sons in turn tortured to death. What did he do to his sons? What did his father do to him?
They were an item in a long menu of humanity's inhumanity served in our courts and in our salivating media this year. It is a horrific litany of the scarcely imaginable.

So we have turned away to the looking-glass world of celebrity. The vacuous is made real so that the real can be veiled and we can slip into innocence. We cannot look in the mirror.

Celebrity is the fame of being famous. David Beckham is no longer a footballer admired for transcendental skill. It is his fame that is celebrated now; impresarios hunt easy profits in that fame; local politicians crave circuses to polish ratings.

But vacuity is not a refuge. Celebrity is a thin veil. Aucklanders, to their credit, rejected the Beckham boondoggle - or, perhaps, were just short of credit after their long debt binge. Perhaps they were redeeming their balance sheets rather than their essential balance.

Redemption in the broader sense is a "yes" message of Christmas. The word "inhumanity" presumes, or at least reflects, a hope that killing and violence and greed are not human, that there is civilisation, that much more is right than wrong with humans.

There is a branch of science which is disassembling humans into puppets of our brains. That reflects humans' astonishing capacity to inquire into and, bit by bit, make sense of ourselves and our environment and our consequential capacity, if we wish, not just to exploit and destroy but to construct and generate.

Those capacities are among the many things that are right with humans.

But humans can't settle for being brains running bodies. That leaves us without free will and without an explanation for the improbability of life.

So humans still hunt for gods. The downside is that humans often divide according to their gods: gods against gods, humans against humans. The upside is that good, big things are done in the name of gods. That is one of the many things that are right in humans.

But most of what is right in humans is writ small, not large. Large always teeters on the brink of hubris and hubris divides. Small goes unnoticed except between giver and receiver. It is there the Christmas message is to be found.

The latest Economist magazine, in an article about angels (standard fare for business magazines, of course), quotes this response of a man asked who his angel was: "The good in people, that's always there, in some little way."

Some exceptional humans make exquisite music and images that add a dimension to our existence. But humans also do multitudinous, small, humdrum acts that make the everyday better and thereby counterpoint the brutal and vicious and destructive with warmth and hope and beauty.

It is the small betterments that civilise and undo unfair chance and are the beauty of Christmas. The huge smile in the airport told that story.

Fundraising slows after record year

EMERGING MARKETS: Many first-time private-equity funds sprang up in developing countries like India and China, which appear ‘less severely’ affected by the meltdown

BLOOMBERG Tuesday, Dec 23, 2008, Page 10

Private-equity investors raised a record US$63.5 billion this year to buy companies in the developing world, especially in Asia, even as the pace of fundraising slowed amid the global financial crisis.

Private-equity funds focusing on emerging markets raised 7 percent more money this year, compared with the year-on-year increase of 78 percent last year, the Washington-based Emerging Markets Private Equity Association said.

“We’re seeing a leveling off in growth after several years of very dramatic increases, but have yet to see a decrease in capital being raised,” Sarah Alexander, president of the industry group, said an e-mail to Bloomberg News.

Private-equity investors have pushed into new markets as credit dried up after the US subprime mortgage market collapsed, slowing deal-making in the US and Europe. Announced private-equity deals, excluding aborted transactions, shrank to US$207 billion worldwide this year, less than a third of the US$674 billion last year, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

The funds focusing on Asia, excluding Australia, New Zealand and Japan, have raised US$37.1 billion since Jan. 1, accounting for 58 percent of total fundraising in emerging markets, said the industry group, whose members include private-equity fund managers and institutional investors.

Investors putting money in emerging-market funds “still have capital to commit in 2009,” Alexander said.

Investors see higher growth potential in developing markets, she said.

Funds that have come to the market in the last six months, particularly first-timers, will likely face a “much more challenging fundraising environment” amid the worst financial turmoil since the Great Depression, Alexander said.

“It’s reasonable to assume that the fundraising cycle will grow longer — potentially taking 18 months or more to achieve a final close on a fund,” she said.

Leopard Capital Ltd, which is targeting a US$100 million fund to invest in Cambodia by March 31, has raised only about a quarter of the amount this year.

“Next year, the world’s investment pie will be smaller and investors will be more discriminating on what fund strategies they back,” Phnom Penh-based Douglas Clayton said.

Many of the funds that managed to raise money in the second half of the year have already drawn commitments from investors “for some time” as they have been attempting to raise capital for at least a year, Alexander said.

Dhaka-based Asian Tiger Capital Partners, which aims to raise a US$50 million Bangladesh-focused private-equity fund, and Frontier Investment & Development Partners, which is seeking to raise US$250 million to invest in Cambodia, postponed their plans till next year.

Morgan Stanley Capital International’s Emerging Markets Index, a benchmark for equities in 24 developing nations, tumbled 53 percent this year.

Many of the first-time funds in emerging markets have sprung up in India and China, the world’s two fastest-growing major economies, and are seeking capital from local institutional investors that have been “less severely” affected by the global equity rout, Alexander said.

Actis Capital LLP, based in London, raised US$2.9 billion for an emerging markets private equity fund, which will allocate US$1 billion to India and US$600 million to China. New York-based Citigroup Inc said in May it raised US$500 million to invest in roads, ports and utilities in India.

Hun Sen Warns of Strict Helmet Policy

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 December 2008

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday called on motorcycle riders to wear helmets “100 percent” to avoid the hundreds of traffic fatalities that occur each year.

“If you want to drive your motorcycle without a fine, you must wear your helmet from now on,” he said during a graduate student ceremony in Phnom Penh, “to protect your life and to avoid road accidents as well as property damage.”

More the 1,500 people were reported killed in traffic accidents in 2007, nearly double the number in 2003. An Asian Development Bank survey in 2003 counted 824 dead in road accidents, estimating a $116 million cost to the country.

“The traffic law will be fully implemented and fined from Jan. 1, 2009, because the road accidents causes the loss of human life more and more,” Hun Sen said, calling traffic fatalities a “bigger disaster” than AIDS and land mines.

The prime minister also called on civil servants, police and commune and village leaders to wear helmets as an example, while urging helmet vendors to keep prices low.

Travel on Cambodian roadways without a helmet is punishable by a 3,000 riel, or $0.70, fine. By contrast, a helmet can cost between $10 and $20.

Meas Chan Dy, coordinator for helmet safety at Handicap International Belgium, called helmets “a very good measure for reducing road accidents,” and he urged strong implementation of all traffic laws for all vehicles.

Brig. Gen. Tho Khan, director of traffic order for the Ministry of Interior, said Monday police would strengthen the traffic law “with efficiency and effectiveness.”

“More importantly, we must introduce people to understanding the law and help protect their lives and property,” he said.

Bird Flu Patient Released, Healthy

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 December 2008

Teng Sopheak, the 19-year-old man diagnosed this month with avian influenza, was released from Calmette hospital Saturday with a clean bill of health, officials said Monday.

An X-ray of his lungs showed no sign of the H5N1 virus, which is prevalent in wild and domestic fowl and can occasionally spread to humans.

“Now Teng Sopheak has departed for his hometown in Stung Trang district, Kandal province,” said Heng Taykry, director of Calmette hospital and secretary of state for the Ministry of Health.
Avian influenza has killed seven Cambodians since 2005, but the wider concern is that the virus could mutant into a more contagious form for humans.

Teng Sopheak was hospitalized earlier this month after falling ill in late November. His illness, which followed the consumption of poultry during the annual Water Festival, led to the discovery of avian influenza in Kandal province’s chicken population.

More than 300 chickens have so far been culled, and health officials have since been working to educate residents in the area on the safe handling, preparation and cooking of poultry.

Professor and Students Play Key Role in Preparation for “Killing Fields Trials”

News Wise
Mon 22-Dec-2008

In just a few months, five leaders of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime will go on trial before the U.N.-established war crimes Tribunal in Cambodia (known as the ECCC). Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s globe-trotting professor Michael Scharf and two of his students recently traveled to Phnom Penh to help the ECCC prepare for the historic “Killing Fields Trials.”

Newswise — In just a few months, five leaders of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime will go on trial before the U.N.-established war crimes Tribunal in Cambodia (known as the ECCC). Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s globe-trotting professor Michael Scharf and two of his students recently traveled to Phnom Penh to help the ECCC prepare for the historic “Killing Fields Trials.”

Scharf, who directs the School of Law’s Frederick K. Cox International Law Center and its War Crimes Research Office, has helped establish war crime tribunals in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. He was assisted by third-year law students Margaux Day(East Grand Rapids, MI) and Niki Dasarathy (Bridgewater, NJ). The students spent six months (August through December) as legal interns at the ECCC.

The trials of the accused, allegedly responsible for the deaths of 1.7 million people, are set to begin in late January or early February.

Last summer, the International Prosecutor of the Tribunal Robert Petit of Canada asked Scharf to spend part of his fall sabbatical working with the Tribunal. The two met in 2006 when Scharf was in Cambodia to lead the first training session for the ECCC’s judges, prosecutors and defense counsel. With the pre-trial proceedings ramping up, “this is a particularly critical time for the tribunal and your presence could make a huge difference to us,” Petit wrote Scharf in June.

Specifically, Petit asked Scharf if he would draft the prosecution’s brief in reply to the defense’s motion to exclude joint criminal enterprise (JCE) liability from the Tribunal. Because it would be difficult to obtain convictions of the former Khmer Rouge leaders without this form of liability, “this could be the most important of the pre-trial decisions the Tribunal will render,” Petit told Scharf.

Scharf arrived in Phnom Penh in early November with several binders full of Nuremberg-era cases and the relevant decisions of the Yugoslavia and Rwandan Tribunals and the Special Court for Sierra Leone. These were assembled with the aid of Case Western Reserve law students.

Scharf, Day and Desarathy produced a 30-page brief by working around the clock for several weeks. Deputy Prosecutor Bill Smith of Australia said it was “one of the best pieces of legal argument” he had seen. The brief will be submitted to the judges before the court’s December 30, 2008,deadline, and a decision should follow shortly thereafter.

Scharf is the only law professor in the world to have been invited to serve as Special Assistant to the Prosecutor of the Khmer Rouge Genocide Tribunal. In addition to drafting the brief on JCE liability, the prosecutor asked Scharf to provide a lecture to the entire staff of the Tribunal, including its judges and defense counsel, on “Avoiding Chaos in the Courtroom.”

Nearly 90 members of the Tribunal attended the presentation, which was the subject of front-page article in the Cambodia Daily, the country’s leading newspaper, on November 26.

“Members of the tribunal need to expect the unexpected, be prepared for disruptive defendants and defense counsel, and don’t avoid inflating public expectations, as war crimes trials have traditionally been among the messiest of the great trials in history,” said Scharf.

These themes are developed in Scharf’s critically acclaimed book, Enemy of the State: The Trial and Execution of Saddam Hussein, published this fall by St. Martin’s Press.

Scharf warned that maintaining control of the Khmer Rouge trials is likely to be especially challenging since the lead defense attorney is Jacques Verges. Verges is known for his unconventional defense tactics in a string of high-profile cases involving accused terrorists and war criminals.

When one of the defense lawyers in attendance asked sarcastically if the title of Scharf’s book, Enemy of the State, referred to defense counsel, Scharf surprisingly answered that in a way it did. He proceeded to tell the story of how Saddam Hussein had threatened the life of the public defender, who had stepped in to give the closing argument for the defense when Saddam’s retained lawyers were boycotting the end of his trial.

He described how Saddam roared at the diminutive Iraqi lawyer: “If you give the closing argument, I will consider you my enemy and the enemy of the state”-- meaning that Saddam’s followers who were watching the broadcast of the trial would have the lawyer killed. But Scharf told how the visibly shaken defense lawyer proceeded to give a four hour closing argument, which was good enough to acquit one defendant, led to relatively light sentences for three others, and a life sentence rather than death for one of Saddam’s principal co-defendants.

Scharf noted that the British Bar Association nominated this brave Iraqi public defender, whose identity has remained a secret for his safety, for the prestigious “Rule of Law Award.”

After a short stay in the United States, Scharf currently is in Kampala to help the government of Uganda establish a domestic war crimes tribunal and truth commission.

Thailand's new cabinet sworn in

Abhisit Vejjajiva's cabinet has some controversial faces

BBC News
Monday, 22 December 2008

Thailand's king has sworn in a new cabinet, with an appeal for peace and order following months of protests.

The cabinet includes some controversial appointments by the new prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The new foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, was an open supporter of anti-government protests that shut down the country's main airport last month.

Other key ministries have gone to those who defected from the old government, allowing Mr Abhisit to take power.

Mr Abhisit was selected as prime minister by parliament last month, becoming Thailand's third leader in as many months.

He managed to win power after some supporters of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by the military and remains in exile overseas, defected to side with Mr Abhisit's Democrat Party.

'Bringing back harmony'

The deeply revered 81-year-old Thai king spoke slowly and with a hoarse voice as he presided over the swearing-in ceremony.

"If you help each other you can give the country peace and order, and make the country get through the current situation," King Bhumibol Adulyadej said in a televised address.

After the ceremony, Mr Vejjajiva said he would heed the king's words and "bring back harmony" to Thailand.

He has pledged to ease political tension and revive the economy.

But Mr Abhisit has already come under criticism from business leaders and even some members of his own party for his cabinet appointments.

Two powerful ministries - interior and transport - have gone to the faction whose defection from the previous government swung the balance of votes in Mr Abhisit's favour.

That faction is led by a notoriously mercenary local politician, says the BBC correspondent in Thailand, Jonathan Head.

He adds that it is also difficult to deny deals were done with the smaller parties who joined the coalition; for example the important commerce portfolio has been given to the politically-inexperienced owner of a large massage parlour.

But the biggest controversy surrounds Mr Abhisit's choice of foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, our correspondent says.

Mr Kasit is an unapologetic supporter of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest movement, and still defends its occupation of Bangkok's international airport last month.
He is a very experienced diplomat - he was ambassador to Germany, Japan and the US - but observers have voiced concern about how his links with the PAD will influence his job as foreign minister.

Mr Kasit may, for example, find it difficult to improve ties with Cambodia, given the PAD's vitriolic attacks over the disputed temple along their common border.

One Thai newspaper accused him on Monday of displaying abysmal judgment.

Hun Sen vows to secure premier candidacy for next general election


PHNOM PENH, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday made oath that he would join the next general election in 2013, once again as premier candidate of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

"In 2013, I will be only 61 years old and still firm," he told the graduation ceremony of a university.

"Even now, I have already become the longest ruling prime minister in Asia and made historical record," he added.

Hun Sen has been premier of Cambodia since 1985.

His CPP just won 90 out of the 123 seats of the National Assembly in this year's general election on July 27.

The current government has been the fourth one since the kingdom ended its civil war at the end of last century.

Editor: Sun

Cambodian PM regrets death of Khmer typewriter keyboard inventor

2008-12-22 22

PHNOM PENH, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his deep regret here on Monday over the death of Keng Vannsak, inventor of the Khmer typewriter keyboard.

Vannsak just died at 83 years old of pneumonia in a hospital at the outskirts of Paris, where he had lived since the 1970s. His funeral will be held there on Tuesday.

"I was so regretful that we lost a famous intellectual of our country," Hun Sen told the graduation ceremony of a university.

"Grandfather Keng Vannsak told me in a recent letter that he had the plan to visit Cambodia," he said, adding that he had never returned to Cambodia since the 1970s.

Vannsak invented the Khmer typewriter keyboard in 1952 and was also known as a politician, Khmer-language teacher and scholar, poet, composer and historian.

Editor: Sun

Local Airline to fly Taipei-Siem Reap route

Taiwan News
Central News
Agency 2008-12-22

Taiwan's TransAsia Airways is slated to launch its first direct charter flight Friday between Taipei and the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, the gateway to the world renowned temple complex of Angkor Wat.

Joe Chu, the airline's sales manager, said that the new service will fill a gap in market demand left by the previous airline that flew the route. It will also save travel time to the famous Cambodian tourist attraction, which is listed as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Far Eastern Air Transport, which in cooperation with the Cambodia-based Angkor Airways used to provide regularly scheduled flights on the route, canceled the service in May due to financial difficulties.

Chu said that TransAsia Airways, which will be the only airline serving the route, will fly 15 charters a month, serving only tour groups and travelers that join foreign independent travel (FTI) packages offered by the travel agencies.

The initial response to the charter scheme, which will continue for at least for one year, has been good, with the first two scheduled charters already fully booked, he added.

Phnom Penh's meaning of Christmas

Photo by: Anita surewicz
One of the stores at Phnom Penh's Sorya Center.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nora Lindstrom
Monday, 22 December 2008

As globalisation sneaks up on Cambodia, Christmas trees and tinsel are becoming an increasingly common sight, but some worry the true meaning of Christmas may be lost

In a country where only around one percent of the population is Christian, it comes as no surprise that Christmas is not a big public celebration, or even a national holiday. However, as the forces of globalisation penetrate Cambodia, Santa Claus, tinsel and Christmas trees are becoming an increasingly common sight, at least in the capital.

Prach Chantheun, 24, works at a popular cafe serving locals and expatriates alike. He explains that for Christmas, his foreign employers will organise a party for all staff members.

"With my friends, we also go shopping, exchange cards and buy presents, as well as go eating, drinking and clubbing," he said.

He describes Christmas as a happy time, acknowledging that the concept is foreign but adding that many Cambodian high school students, in particular, like to celebrate the event.

"Last year, I went to church with my friend who is a Christian, so I know about Jesus and why Christmas is celebrated," he said.

Others are less aware.

colleague of Prach Chantheun said, "I know Christmas because of Santa Claus. It is a happy time but no, I don't know anything about Jesus or the religious aspect," Chantheun's colleague said.

" The commercial idea has really picked up, though mainly in Phnom Penh. "

Catholicism in Cambodia The Roman Catholic Church in Cambodia has approximately 20,000 members, of which around 5,000 live in Phnom Penh.

According to Father Bob, parish priest at St Joseph's Parish in northern Phnom Penh, Christmas is now much better known than before, when only one or two hotels catering to foreigners would mount celebrations.

"Commerce is taking over everything, " he said. "Though I suppose that's part of the modern mentality - make more money. I am worried that we are losing the real meaning of things and that we miss the deep message [of Christmas].

"Members of his congregation are less concerned. Uch Maly, who joined the Catholic faith some 15 years ago, acknowledges that many Cambodians celebrate Christmas merely as a happy occasion, but he sees no problem with that.

"It's good, it develops people and encourages them to think about others," she said. "Since I became a Christian, there has been a big opening of minds about the celebration, and Christmas is now featured in hotels, stores and on TV."

Fellow believer Duong Savong, Catholic since 1995, stresses the responsibility the church has in explaining the true significance of Christmas. "At a general level, it is good that people celebrate, as they want peace in their hearts. But the church must enlighten them to what it is all about, that God sent his son to the earth to save us," he said.

At the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Tuol Kork, pastors Lim Pheng and Pech Sopheng describe Christmas as a time for spreading the good news, reminding believers of the birth of Jesus and his second coming.

"At our church, we will celebrate with a meal, the nativity play, Bible games and an exchange of gifts," Lim Pheng said. "We expect around 300 people to come, some bringing non-Christian friends along as well."

Like Father Bob, Lim Pheng and Pech Sopheng worry that the meaning of Christmas is being lost amid its popularisation. "Many connect Santa Claus with the Christian message," said Lim Pheng. "In the past five years, I have seen a big change in popular attitudes towards Christmas. The commercial idea has really picked up, though mainly in Phnom Penh and other bigger cities."

"At home, we prepare the tree, decorate it and buy presents," said Lim Phousimalis, coordinator of nurturing Christian commitment at faith-based NGO Hagar.

While most of Lim Phousimalis's family is Christian, she explains that even non-Christian members of her family, as well as neighbours and friends, join in the celebrations. "I think the message of Jesus is powerful, even if you don't know about him. He was born in poverty and had a difficult life. I think many Cambodians can relate to that," she said.

Christmas celebrations

As Christmas carols bellow out in malls around town and shops such as IBC and Peace Book Centre stock a wide array of trees, glitter, human-sized Santas and other Christmas paraphernalia, it is clear the holiday is becoming increasingly established in Cambodia. Even local markets and small corner shops sell Christmas-related items.

Unlike Christmas traditions in many Western countries, however, there are no customs of serving particular foods to top off the party. At the Adventist church, pastor Lim Pheng says they usually serve special Christmas curry with French bread. At Lim Phousimalis's house, the big spread includes beef lok lak and seafood.

Mass in Khmer will be held at St Joseph's parish on the 24th at 6pm, and the 25th at 8am. Some 1, 500 members of the congregation are expected to attend. In the run-up to this climax of the Christian calendar, more spiritual activities have also been arranged to prepare the faithful for the event.

"At our church, we also raise money for the poor. This year, the money will go towards building houses," explained Duong Savong. "The most important message is to tell people, not just through words but actions as well, that their lives are valuable, that despite all the corruption and other problems in our country, there is value to our lives."