Friday, 26 December 2008

China moves to make yuan global currency news

26 December 2008

Armed with a staggering $1,89 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, the Chinese government announced the first step towards making the yuan, its currency, an international currency, by allowing it to be used as a mode of payment in business deals with some neighboring countries. The move would also curb the effect of the volatility of the dollar on trade settlements.

With trade settlements being done mainly with the dollar and also the euro, the yuan, currently not a freely convertible currency, this pilot project will be first tested by allowing the yuan to be used to settle trade payments between the delta regions of China's Pearl and Yangtze rivers and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and Yunnan province will be allowed to use the yuan to settle trade payments with ASEAN countries like Thailand, Laos, Burma, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Brunei, Vietnam and Indonesia.

However, the Chinese government did not specify how and when the pilot project would start.

The recession in the US, Japan and many EU nations, led to decline of China's exports declined by 2.2 per cent in November, the first decline in more than seven years. Chin now plans to boost its sagging export sector by allowing the yuan to settle trade payments with neighboring countries along with a series of other measures.

After a meeting of China's State Council yesterday, the cabinet released a document announcing a raft of more measures to encourage domestic spending by doling out more subsidies for buying household appliances and other merchandise to the rural people and increasing the number of stores and distribution centres in the hinterland.

The government will also renovate the urban food markets, provide more variety of goods, build new second-hand markets, encourage distribution companies to merge and consolidate by giving them more incentives, and shore up small and medium-sized business.

Export tax rebates for high-technology products will be hiked, foreign investment will be encouraged and lower the inspection fee for exports.

As ASEAN countries, Hong Kong and Macau constitute 20 per cent of mainland China's total trade volume and has reached $402.7 billion last year, Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the central bank said last month that trade settlements using the dollar is not feasible due to the high volatility of the dollar and once the yuan is accepted in Asia, then it would be easier for China to make the yuan an international currency in the future.

In its effort to boost the appeal of the yuan among other countries as a currency to hold as foreign exchange reserves, China had already signed trade settlement agreements with Mongolia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Russia among others to voluntarily use the yuan as a currency of choice to settle trade payments and had let Chinese banks issue yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong earlier this year.

With China's foreign exchange reserves rising at a rapid pace and standing at $1.89 trillion, the yuan had been getting greater acceptance from its neighbours in recent years and there has been many Chinese economist who were advocating making the yuan an international currency, with the weakening dollar having caused a decline in China's foreign exchange reserves.

China is now looking towards expanding the yuan to other financial markets by make the yuan fully convertible and giving yuan holder's investment channels and also allow the currency to enter the country freely for investment in stock or real estate.

Some Chinese experts are hesitant on fully converting the yuan citing the Asian crisis of 1998 where the country came unscathed because the yuan was not fully convertible under capital accounts and was also the main reason why it has not been affected fully in the current global financial crisis.They also believe that by liberalizing the fund flow, the economy will be susceptible during regional or global economic crisis.

Travel: Ambel Surprise

2008-12-26 16:56

Sre Ambel, Cambodia, has become a memory I hope to retrieve some day. It’s name is washed-out in the limelight of its popular surroundings such as the Cardamom Mountains and the more distant neighbour Sihanoukville. Contrary to travel descriptions of the place, I have found my stay there nothing but friendly, an adjective still too weak to justify the people’s warmth and graciousness.

Two college friends and I spent three days there, though not much in retrospect. These were the days that saved our backpacking trip to Thailand and Cambodia from being just another guidebook travel – to me a kind that has created a touch-see-and-leave image, the drunken, often over-exposed dressing and sometimes boisterous mass. Exciting nonetheless. At times it seemed a ‘lonely’ travel experience, set apart from the country’s people I was visiting and it got Very lonely when I walked down Kao San or visited convenient suggestions. Conscience pinched at the thought of being part of those able to travel the region “on a shoestring” when others were trying to live. I felt as if I was gawking at my surroundings. In this midst, Sre Ambel came to be a surprising engagement.

With gratitude to a study-service trip our college organized, two of our college-mates had been posted at a peace-based NGO in Sre Ambel for a month. We heard about it and were determined to get there despite travel guides’ unfamiliarity with it. In the end, quite expectedly, if you spoke in the “dallah” (USD) you’d get a ride. If not, you better be Cambodian. Speaking the “dallah” we arrived at the NGO and managed to receive an invitation to sleep on the porch. Those two volunteers were indeed well-behaved forerunners to our arrival.

We ventured the long stretch of red gravel and visited the market. An austere restaurant provided us with dinner, and it was a culinary experience I couldn’t forget. With my broken and freshly learnt Khmer, I tried to make orders and exposed the fact I wasn’t my companions’ interpreter; I too was a tourist. The owner invited me into the kitchen where my somewhat Chinese-ness aided in the knowledge of ‘strange foods’. At least I could play a food guide to the bamboo shoots and the satay sold outside that I was certain smelled like genuine marinade of asam jawa and kicap manis. Everything, everthing, proved delicious.

For dessert, it was a stop at what looked like an English shop. They sold English to a bunch of students and two monks seated on the benches. A big black board stood in the front, creating the teacher’s backdrop and a divider that separated the class from the prayer altar. Peeping in, we were spotted and my companions were found to be Americans. “Ah, they speak the Original English”, like the fried chicken I thought. My degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and art were revealed and thus the public questioning began for conversational purposes. Later, I was asked to teach in the remaining time. It turned out to be a lovely post-meal event, and we were invited the next day to which we agreed.

In our full day there we met another employee, whom I spent a day with. She was a lady just two years older than me and knew a significantly more English than I did with Khmer. My phrase dictionary became the mediator while mutual patience to befriend beyond spoken words broke the ice and bonded a friendship. She became a kakak. Never have I had so much meaningful time not talking all that much, chit-chatting through motions and the few words, going on her motor and being taken arm in arm through the aisles of the wet-market to buy mee soup, local style. Later we also met a mother and child who sat around but not in the stance of waiting; the guard on his motorbike plucked the stubble of his beard, one by one. All of us became lounging friends and the little boy a smiling playmate. The town air had a lovely sense of timeless-ness while we feasted on watermelon, boiled corn and fruits from the trees in the garden.

After the evening class we received an invitation to the teacher’s house, where we used games to communicate. I had wondered if they knew how to play batu seremban and as guessed, they did. We proceeded to teach my American friend. By that time the adults had made a fence around us, amused at both how a Malaysian could look like them, and at this mat salleh playing such games. One of the students, S__ whom I had talked the most to in class lives next door and invited us for dinner. I asked to help in the kitchen and got a whole session that puts Anthony Bourdain’s ratings in my book, very low. Preparing a meal was sibling event I gratefully participated in. We stirred, chopped, fanned the flames and practiced pronouncing food nouns in both English and Khmer. S__ had trouble with “soogar” and I, with how they said ‘oil’ – something impossible to phonetically translate. Her mom went on to play American karaoke videos that our American friend had never heard of. Cautious to prevent overstaying their kindness that offered a place to sleep, we made our way out in the dark. That night I saw what I had read about in the Bible – the poor lady that gave all her coins though amounting to less than a fraction given by the rich.

S__ then tied a homemade bracelet around my wrist before we left. I had to restrain tears as she said “Thank you. I feel very happy tonight”.

I acquired the teacher’s contact in hope one day my travels will mean to live in a place for a committed time, perhaps in Sre Ambel itself. I’ve come to ask what does traveling mean? More so how will I choose to travel from now on especially when thinking what the backpacking spots in this region, more so in a ‘West meets East’ situation, tend to carry. What is the “Lonely Planet” intended to mean? Why ‘Lonely’? What does it mean to backpack? A noun so strong, now also a verb. To travel light; to travel cheap? Descriptions are constantly changing as the paradigm of travel is, joining in the momentum of the Wheelers (founders of the Lonely Planet) and globalization. With all the factors it comprised how we travel, how much and especially Who travels are put in place according to leisure time and relative wealth. Tourism is celebrated economically, yet is also suspiciously viewed in what additions it might bring into a locale. How does one become a ‘backpacker’ that would fulfill what the Wheelers consider “Responsible Travel”? And to more importantly fulfill what it means to be caretakers of the earth and to love one another. I would like my travels to be more than a mere touch-see-and-leave because that would be lonely. Perhaps in approaching the question of travel is to explore the conditions of life. At least for now, I’d want to embrace the courtesy of engagement in any travel I make.

(By MIRIAM LOH/ MySinchew)

She is a recent graduate involved in teaching and learning of new languages and art.
MySinchew 2008.12.26

Indian investor plans to open pharmaceutical plant in Cambodia

The Hindu

Friday, December 26, 2008

PHNOM PENH, (Xinhua): An Indian investment group has tabled a plan at the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce to recruit private partners to build a new pharmaceutics manufacturing plant in the kingdom, national media said on Friday.

The investors prepared to devote some 1 million U.S. dollars to the new facility in a push to help curb counterfeit drugs in Cambodia, said English-language newspaper the Phnom Penh Post.
"They are interested in this sector because they don't want to see Cambodia rely on imported drugs," said Nguon Ming Tech, the group's local representative.

Yim Yann, president of the Pharmacists Association of Cambodia (PAC), said that "a new pharmaceutical factory will bring new technology to Cambodia and will be able to take advantage of local resources."

"Thousands of pharmacies in the country offer imported medicine, much of which is counterfeit," he added.

Cambodia has about 1,000 registered pharmacies, with an additional 1,000 pharmacies operating illegally, according to PAC.

Ex-Cambodian king fighting cancer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk is fighting his third bout with cancer but is optimistic he will recover and return to his homeland from China, according to a message on his Web site.

The 86-year-old Sihanouk, in a statement dated Wednesday, said he was being treated by Chinese doctors in Beijing for lymphoma B cancer and would not return to Cambodia as planned in February.

Sihanouk, a dominant figure in Cambodian politics for six decades, abdicated in 2004, citing poor health. He was succeeded by one of his sons, Norodom Sihamoni, and has since spent much of his time in China.

In recent years, he has suffered from a number of ailments, including colon cancer, diabetes, hypertension and two strokes.

Sihanouk is also one of the world's great survivors having lived through wars, the Khmer Rouge terror and fierce political struggles beginning with his quest for independence from France in the early 1950s.

On the Web site, Sihanouk said he would return to Cambodia several months after his scheduled arrival when he was well again. He successfully battled two earlier bouts with the disease.
"In this regard, they (doctors) are optimistic," he wrote.


On the Net:,

Palm Springs man helping to clear Cambodia of explosives

Bill Morse, who helped set up the Landmine Relief Fund in Cambodia, holds a Cambodian sign telling people to stay away from land mines. Morse used to own a marketing and sales consulting business, but now focuses his efforts on helping to clear land mines. (Omar Ornelas, The Desert Sun)

Stefanie Frith • The Desert Sun • December 26, 2008

The humidity is intense. More than 80 percent, on top of the 90-degree weather. He uses a kroma — a thin scarf — to wipe the sweat out of his blue eyes and over his closely cropped gray hair. He carries rice, water, Spam, Cup of Noodles, coffee and tea on his back. Maybe tonight there will be something else to eat with it other than rat.

Ahead of him in the Cambodian jungle, one of the metal detectors goes off with a “wow, wow” sound. A land mine has been found. Palm Springs resident Bill Morse never thought he would be running a charity to help clear the unexploded bombs and land mines in Cambodia.

He owned a marketing and sales consulting business, which he closed last year to focus his efforts in Cambodia. Now he spends up to eight months a year working in Cambodia, in the Landmine Relief Fund office or in the jungle, clearing land mines, eating whatever he can catch, and sleeping in huts or on the ground.

“There is a perception that Cambodia is handling it,” Morse said recently, sitting in his living room, surrounded by artifacts from his trips around the world. “Our objective is to clear land mines in low-priority villages.”

The land mines and bombs are from when the United States infiltrated the country and when the Khmer Rouge was in power in the 1970s, Morse said.

More than 500 people were injured from exploding land mines in Cambodia last year, Morse said. An estimated one in every 250 Cambodians has been injured since the 1980s, he said.
Finding Aki Ra

Five years ago, Morse traveled to Cambodia. He had heard of a man named Aki Ra from a friend who had raised money to buy him a metal detector so he didn't have to search for land mines by hand.

Aki Ra has cleared 50,000 land mines — and still has all his limbs. By age 5, he was orphaned. By age 10, he was fighting with the Khmer army, laying the land mines he would later seek to eliminate. When he was a soldier, he could lay 1,000 land mines a day. “Nobody kept a record,” Morse said.

He survived the genocide that killed 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979 — more than 20 percent of the country's population, according to Yale University's Cambodia Genocide Program.

It wasn't easy finding Aki Ra. He ran a land mine museum on a dirt road, but the hotel concierge either didn't know of it, or wouldn't tell Morse where it was. When he did find him, Morse said he was overwhelmed by this man, and knew he had to help.

Morse not only set up the Landmine Relief Fund and became its director, but he returned to Cambodia to help Aki Ra with international certification. He joined Aki Ra in the jungle, hunted for meals as they looked for land mines, and stood by his side as he located them in the ground.

“You dig the hole at an angle, so if you hit the land mine, you hit it on the side,” Morse said.

Land mines were never designed to kill, said Morse, who spent a year in the U.S. Army. Injuring people was more effective in the war — as the injured had to be carried by at least two people. This is not to say the mines haven't killed.

Recently, Aki Ra was clearing land mines in a village when the government ordered him to stop. Shortly after, five people were killed when their truck went over one.

Morse spends several months a year in Cambodia, working in the Landmine Relief Fund office and in the jungle with Aki Ra and a five-member crew. When land mines are found, the area is roped off and the devices are blown up. Morse said he used to stand next to Aki Ra as he did his work.

Now, with recent government accreditation, Morse said he goes into the area last and documents what the team does. It takes a team of five to clear the mines — four people are needed to carry a stretcher — he said.

There are several land mine clearing organizations in Cambodia. The issue gained prominence when Princess Diana campaigned for the clearing of devices. There are also several groups affiliated with the cause. Project Enlighten provides educational opportunities for children in Cambodia, including those living at the Landmine Museum run by Aki Ra.

Project Enlighten Founder Asad Rahman knows Morse well and said he is one of the “most honest and driven men” with whom he has worked.

“His vision and passion to help eradicate the land mine issue is unparalleled. He is a saint,” Rahman wrote in an e-mail from Laos to The Desert Sun.

Morse only wishes he could do more. Donations have dribbled recently and he said he would like to have a celebrity step in as a spokesperson to help gain publicity for the cause.

He wants to raise $45,000 to put another team of five into the Cambodian jungles. “I couldn't think of a better way to spend my money and my time. We are going after the stuff we left there. I'm (just) a janitor.”

Cambodia faces problems enforced new sex trafficking law

Prostitutes wait for business outside a bottom-end brothel in Phnom Penh. The Cambodian government began prosecuting a new "Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation" in February after years of pressure from the United States to clamp down on sex trafficking

Cambodian sex workers in Phnom Penh. Chantha says there was nothing else she could do in Cambodia but become a prostitute

by Kounila Keo – Thu Dec 25,

PHNOM PENH (AFP) –Chantha said there was nothing else she could do in Cambodia but become a prostitute.

"If you don't even have a dollar in your pocket to buy rice, how can you bear looking at your starving relatives?" she said.

"You do whatever to survive, until you start to realize the consequence of your deeds."

Chanta, in her early twenties, was working in a small red-light district west of the capital Phnom Penh several months ago when she was arrested under Cambodia's new sex-trafficking law.

Police nabbed her in a raid and charged her with publicly soliciting sex, fining her nearly two dollars. Then, Chanta claims, the arresting officers gang raped and beat her for six days in detention.

Bruises covered her body, but none of her assailants were brought to court, she said.

The Cambodian government began prosecuting a new "Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation" in February after years of pressure from the United States to clamp down on sex trafficking.

Since then, authorities have conducted brothel raids and street sweeps, but rights groups complain the new law has in many ways worsened the exploitation of women.

"The law allows police of all levels to arrest and punish sex workers," said Naly Pilorge, director of local human rights group Licadho.

"The sex workers are arrested to police stations and rehabilitation centres and then they are abused."

More than 500 women were arrested for soliciting sex in the first nine months of 2008, according to anti-trafficking organisation Afesip, with many of them forced into rehabilitation centres.

Rights groups say the new law makes women easier prey for traffickers, and could increase rates of sexually-transmitted infections as prostitutes stop carrying condoms out of fear they will be used as evidence against them.

They also allege that detainees are regularly abused at the two rehabilitation centres controlled by Cambodia's ministry of social affairs, Prey Speu and Koh Kor.

Koh Kor has the added grim reputation of being on an island which was the site of a prison and execution camp under Cambodia's murderous 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

Despite Chanta and others testifying to instances of rape, beatings and extortion at the hands of police in the rehabilitation centres, authorities have repeatedly denied the abuses.

Major General Bith Kimhong, director of the interior ministry's anti-trafficking department, said he does not believe anyone has been abused under the new law because he has received no complaints from victims.

More than 100 people were arrested this year, as human trafficking prosecutions increased by 50 percent, Bith Kimhong said.

The raids on brothels and streetwalkers proved a commitment by the government to end sex trafficking, he said, vowing they would continue.

"We'll continue to cooperate with local authorities to enforce the law," Bith Kimhong said.

The new law is one of several moves by the Cambodian government over the past year to show that it is cracking down on sexual exploitation.

In March it imposed ban on foreign marriages amid concerns of an explosion in the number of brokered unions involving South Korean men and poor Cambodian women, many of whom were allegedly being set up for sex slavery.

There have also been a string of arrests of alleged foreign paedophiles, as Cambodia seeks to demonstrate sex tourists are not welcome.

Pich Socheata, deputy governor of one Phnom Penh district, leads "clean-ups" of prostitution on the streets but said she empathizes with sex workers.

"They are female and I am too, so I do understand no girls want to do that job. But we are only practising law," she said.

But Keo Tha, a staff member at sex workers' rights group the Women's Network for Unity, says many more Cambodian women are still being forced into prostitution as jobs dry up amid the global financial crisis.

A more sensible law, she said, would legalise prostitution.

"We are sandwiched right now -- we are oppressed by the police, the law and rising living costs," she said.

Crackdown on Poipet touts

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Poipet Deputy Tourist Police Chief Prum Chandy says after recent complaints, his department has targeted tourist harassment.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Friday, 26 December 2008

Tourism Ministry issues new guidelines for tour operators

CAMBODIA'S Tourism Ministry this week reached an agreement it hopes will end aggressive tactics by private tour operators at the Poipet border checkpoint that have tarnished the Kingdom's image and led to complaints by tourists.

Problems first arose in late November after political unrest in Bangkok led to the closure of Thailand's two principal airports, increasing the number of tourists passing through the Poipet checkpoint by more than 11 percent, said Chhung Lim, director of the Tourism Bureau in Banteay Meanchey.

The increase in border traffic led to rival tour operators fighting for business, which escalated earlier this month with tourists being shouted at, having their luggage snatched from them and being forced into vehicles by five competing tour companies, border officials told local media at the time.

Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the new agreement would require private tour companies to operate on a fixed schedule that would eliminate unruly competition for clients and provide transparent fares and fixed visa prices in US dollars.

"I have offered them a schedule whereby tour associations work in shifts - one per day - to avoid problems and improve their image among foreign tourists," he said.

Prum Chandy, deputy chief of the Poipet Tourist Police, said he has seen tourist security and services increase dramatically in his three years of service, and complaints from tourists overall have decreased nearly 95 percent.

The frequency of the once daily complaints of pickpockets, visa and money changing scams, as well as hassles from transport companies, have dropped to an average of less than one per month, he claimed.

But Prum Chandy said the increase of tourists in late November posed a threat to safety and order at the crossing, so his department has been working with immigration police to get rid of pickpockets and the forceful tactics of private tourism companies.

"We completely cracked down 100 percent," he said. "This doesn't happen anymore."

Groups seek freedom for labour killers

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay and Cheang Sokha
Friday, 26 December 2008

Advocates say Chea Vichea's murderers were framed, seek Supreme Court dismissal

THE International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Amnesty International have demanded the release of two men convicted of murdering outspoken union leader Chea Vichea, ahead of their final appeal before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The groups urged the court to impartially consider the evidence against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, who are widely believed by human rights advocates to have been framed for the crime.

Chea Vichea was assassinated in broad daylight in Phnom Penh in January 2004.

Six days later, police arrested Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang. Despite a lack of evidence, the men were sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Amnesty has demanded that the Supreme Court dismiss the case, saying in a statement: "In view of the human rights violations perpetrated during their detention and trial ... [a dismissal] is the only fair and just outcome for this case".

An ILO report from the Switzerland-based Freedom of Association Committee also blasted the Kingdom's judiciary as "unable to exercise its functions in an impartial and independent manner" and said that the "emerging climate of impunity cannot effectively be remedied without first addressing this underlying problem".

International NGOs, as well as Chea Vichea's family, saw the hearing as an opportunity for Cambodia to prove to the world that it has taken steps towards establishing a truly independent judiciary.

Sara Colm at Human Rights Watch said that a dismissal "would put Cambodia's judiciary on the road to international recognition that it could be unbiased and fair".

Chea Vichea's brother, Chea Mony, also said he hoped the two men would be freed. "Otherwise, it would bring shame from the international community.

"The Supreme Court's mandate was to review the court proceedings at the municipal and appeal court levels, and Colm said that even a cursory glance at the case will reveal "a prime example of a miscarriage of justice in Cambodia".

For example, the prosecutor relied on a confession from Born Samnang that rights group Licadho says was extracted under torture.

Doctors see spike in TB rate

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Bith Se, a 36-year-old tuberculosis patient, receives medicine Wednesday at the National Centre for Turberculosis and Leprosy Control in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana and Mom Kunthear
Friday, 26 December 2008

Doctors disagree whether the increase in tuberculosis cases means more people are seeking help or more are becoming infected with the disease

THE number of tuberculosis patients in Cambodia has jumped five percent since last year, with 28,000 cases in the last nine months of 2008, said Dr Mao Tan Eang, the director of the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control.

While some doctors say this spike is the result of a successful campaign to treat people who would not otherwise have sought medical care, others simply say the epidemic is growing.

Health professionals, however, can agree that seeking proper medical treatment for tuberculosis is more important now than ever.

"We are very happy with this number because it follows a new strategy to find more patients," Mao Tan Eang said. "When we find more patients, we can give them medicine and reduce the spread of the disease."

Mao Tan Eang says Cambodia is well-equipped to fight tuberculosis for years into the future.

"We have enough tuberculosis medicine in our warehouse to support patients for two years, and we have the funds to buy the medicine for three or four years after that," he said.

But Dr Leng Saroeung, the head of the Tuberculosis Department at Ang Roka Hospital in Takeo province, told the Post, "The national anti-tuberculosis program has reported a remarkable increase [in cases] and that makes us worried".

"We have conducted careful research that has shown us that the number of people who are affected by tuberculosis has increased," he said.

" Resistance can happen when patients use inappropriate medicines. "

As the number of tuberculosis cases increases, so has the number of drug-resistant patients. The threat of resistant tuberculosis further underscores the importance of seeking professional medical help.

"Sometimes resistance can happen when patients use inappropriate medicines from private clinics or stop taking medicines in the middle of the treatment," he said.

Ros Samart, 47, who has had tuberculosis for almost a year, stressed the importance of hospital care.

"I didn't know I had tuberculosis, so I bought the medicines near my house, but I did not recover," he said. "I have been at the hospital for more than a month."

Teang Sy Vanna, the deputy director of the National Anti-tuberculosis Centre at the Ministry of Health, said that due to new multi-drug treatments, the amount of time it takes to cure tuberculosis has halved to only six months - if patients get the proper treatment.

"We know that the medicines we are using at moment are more effective than those we used before. Now, one tablet is made from a combination of two or three different drugs," he said.

It is not just better drug cocktails, but also improved training that has made the nation's hospitals better at fighting the deadly disease.

"Many international partners have given us advice about how to use of the new multi-substance medicine. The medicines have few adverse side effects because now we are properly trained," he said.

Land fight prisoners released in Kampot

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 26 December 2008

FOUR villagers suspected of robbing and damaging property in a land dispute with military Brigade 31 have been released from a Kampot provincial prison, a defence lawyer told the Post.

Chin Lida, a defence lawyer from the rights group Licadho, said the Kampot provincial court dropped charges against three Chey Sina villagers on December 15. A woman charged with damaging property was sentenced to six months but released Tuesday after finishing her term.

"All suspects involved with the land dispute case are now free," Chin Lida said Wednesday. "They should have been released because they were innocent."

Nhek Chantha, 52; Vong Ma, 46; Moeu Sopheak, 19; and Noeu Kak-Kada, 18, were arrested and incarcerated on June 23 after protesting the seizure of their land by Brigade 31.

Nhek Chanthol, daughter of Nhek Chantha, confirmed that her mother returned home and said the court should not have detained her.

"She spent six months in prison without being found guilty," she said. "She should have been released a long time ago."

Sun Saroeun, the commander of Brigade 31, told the Post that the villagers could return home and make a living as they did before. He placed the blame for the dispute on seditious ringleaders.

"If they recognized their mistakes, then they should be released," Sun Saroeun said Wednesday. "I do not want them to be in jail, but they need to stop listening to others' provocation."

Presiding Judge Pech Chhoeurt, who ordered the release, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

City Hall dismisses critical Boeung Kak report as biased

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A protestor demonstrates against evictions from Boeung Kak lake in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Friday, 26 December 2008

Housing rights group released report calling lake lease agreement illegal, says development does not justify evictions

THE municipality has called a report that condemns the development of Boeung Kak "one-sided", saying that its authors have made no attempt consult with the government over the lake's privatisation, which will result in the eviction of thousands of people.

The report, "Legal Analysis of the Boeung Kak Lake Case", was prepared by the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions and determined that the lease agreement between Phnom Penh and the developer Shukaku Inc is illegal.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said he was never given a copy of the report.

"The group should send us a copy and ask for a discussion," he said Wednesday. "They studied this alone according to their own feelings and it is one-sided."

The lake, which is under a 99-year lease to Shukaku, is currently being filled in by the company in preparation for development that will eventually displace some 4,000 families.

Those set to lose their homes argue that they are not being fairly compensated. Rights groups, meanwhile, say the evictions are symptomatic of a general disregard for property rights.

"Evictions in Cambodia fail to respect the law. The government has failed to ensure access to adequate housing," said the Center for Housing Rights' legal officer Natalie Bugalski. "Access to alternative livelihoods and compensation and relocation offers have been generally insufficient," she added.

Bugalski said her organisation would consider meeting with municipal officials at a later date.

Lawyers for lake residents contend that the evictions violate the Constitution and highlight the power the government has over the judiciary

Cambodia, Malaysia reach agreement on anti-trafficking pact

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Friday, 26 December 2008

A forthcoming Memorandum of Understanding is expected to improve cooperation between both countries to combat human trafficking

CAMBODIA and Malaysia have pledged to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will allow them to better combat human trafficking, according to Bith Kimhong, director of the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department at the Ministry of Interior.

"We are in the process of drafting an MoU now, and we hope that it will improve cooperation between the two countries," Bith Kimhong told the Post on Wednesday.

San Arun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, told the Post the Cambodian government has already signed MoUs about human trafficking with six countries in the Mekong basin.

But last week's repatriation of 17 Cambodian trafficking victims who escaped Thai fishing vessels in Malaysia re-emphasized the global nature of the human-trafficking trade and demonstrated the importance of international cooperation, specifically between Cambodia and Malaysia, to prevent and respond to human trafficking.

Male trafficking

The recent trafficking legislation in Cambodia and Malaysia covers both male and female trafficking. Though it has not received the same media attention and the exact numbers of trafficked men are unclear, Malaysia has become an important stop in the male trafficking network, according to Manfred Hornung at the rights group Licadho.

As in the case of the 17 returnees, Cambodian men who have been trafficked onto fishing boats often jump ship in Malaysia. Many of these men end up working illegally on Malaysian plantations, afraid to contact authorities, Hornung said.

One of the issues that make both legal and illegal migrants prime targets of exploitation is that many of them are not aware of their rights abroad or how they can assert them.

If someone, regardless of gender, gets classified as a trafficking victim in Malaysia or Thailand, then that country's authorities are not supposed to treat the person as a criminal, but rather help facilitate their return home. But most human trafficking victims simply do not know that they can be classified as victims, Hornung said.

Rights education

The Ministry of Women's Affairs held a conference last week on how migrants can assert their rights abroad.

"We are working to encourage people to understand the legal process before they migrate for work to other countries, so they will not take unnecessary risks," San Arun said.

Oum Mean, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said that while illegal workers "will face a lot of problems with the authorities", legal migrants "will have the Cambodian embassy and authorities to help them".

A recent report said that currently 13,324 Cambodians work legally in Malaysia, but Oum Mean said that though the exact number of illegal workers is unknown, they eclipse the number of legal workers.

Additional reporting by Christopher Shay

Controversial artist fights back

A controversial erotic graphic depiction of an female Khmer Rouge fighter.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith and Cornelius Rahn
Friday, 26 December 2008

The mysterious artist whose depictions of bare-breasted Apsara dancers and Khmer Rouge soldiers unleashed a public outrage has fought back in a series of pointed attacks on critics

AFTER generating a firestorm of criticism for depicting topless Apsara dancers and scantily-clad Khmer Rouge soldiers, the Khmer-American artist who calls himself Reahu lashed back at his detractors in a series of web postings.

"If this brings down the Khmer culture, then your Khmer culture is still under the Khmer Rouge," he wrote in a recent message posted on his website,

Reahu's nude images have struck a nerve with conservative Cambodians, prompting scathing messages on his website and government calls for an outright ban of his website.

Among the critics is noted Cambodian painter Vann Nath, one of the few survivors of Tuol Sleng prison who called the paintings of a bare-breasted female Khmer Rouge soldier disrespectful.

"I am concerned because [Reahu] took the sadness of millions of Cambodian people who suffered during the Khmer Rouge regime and joked around with it like this," he said.

Ing Kantha Phavi, minister of Women's Affairs, said she has requested that the website be blocked in Cambodia, claiming that 70 percent to 80 percent of Cambodian women were offended by the paintings.

"At that time, if [people had been naked] in such a picture, they would have been killed by Khmer Rouge cadres," she said.

But the artist is standing defiant in the face of the public backlash.

"Please enlighten me: [How can] a picture destroy Khmer culture?" he challenged critics. "Unless there is something wrong with the culture. If the culture is strong and you have confidence, you shouldn't worry," he wrote in response to often angry comments on his website.

"Judging from the complaints, I wonder how we as Khmer will be able to make it in the 21st Century. Please be open-minded, you must be able to see beyond the four walls surrounding your hut."

Youk Chhang, director of the Document Center of Cambodia, said that many artists expressed their anger at the Khmer Rouge through art.

"Artists use emotional resistance and provocative design, painting what was impossible in the regime in order to reflect their cruelty back at the former Khmer Rouge leaders," he said.

"This is like [artists] pointing an AK-47 into the mouths of former Khmer Rouge leaders."

Reahu's work has also attracted support from many viewers, who accused critics of ignorance of Cambodian art.

"All Apsara women on the walls of our temples reveal the beauty of Khmer women the same way," one person posted on the site. "Are Khmer saying that our Angkor artists were bad too?"

Another user suggested that critical comments should be kept on the website. "It will [show] the contrast between what is art and what is ignorance about art, history and culture."

On his profile, Reahu describes himself as a "pure-bred Khmer" and a college graduate from Chicago.

Fire ravages 3rd floor of Angkor Trade Ctr

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Erica Goldberg
Friday, 26 December 2008

Siem Reap

A FIRE Tuesday night devastated the third floor of the Angkor Trade Centre in Siem Reap, causing a large crowd to gather and watch as firemen doused the building with water.

The fire began at about 8:30pm and was caused by an electrical malfunction on the centre's third floor, which has recently undergone substantial extensions and renovations, sources in the Siem Reap Fire Department told the Post.

Meas San, chief of the Fire Unit at the Siem Reap Police Department, said seven firetrucks were called to the scene, and efforts to extinguish the blaze were coordinated by authorities from the commune, province and the governor's office.

A woman who owns a shop inside the centre, which includes a supermarket and a Swenson's ice cream shop, was caught in the fire and suffered emotional trauma after fleeing the burning building, Meas San said, adding that the woman was taken to a clinic but suffered no physical injuries.

Future uncertain

The Angkor Trade Centre remained closed on Wednesday, and its reopening will depend on individual shop owners, Meas San said.

Ke Sovannipsey, a local resident who arrived on the scene as flames erupted on the centre's third floor, said he saw fire officials shoot their guns at windows on the third floor so that water could be sprayed into the building.

Cold snap

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Friday, 26 December 2008

A man huddles in a blanket just after sunrise on National Road 5. A cold front is expected to descend today over Cambodia's north, with temperatures dropping to the low teens, said Seth Vannareth, director of the Department of Meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology. "It will be windy and colder, so we have to be careful," she said.

Journalists only part of the graft problem

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chheat Sreang
Friday, 26 December 2008

Dear Editor,

I read the Post's article "Journalists heap scorn on their own ranks at meeting", published on Tuesday, December 23, with great interest. But I regret that the issue the meeting raised is not put into perspective because it is undeniable that without journalists' risky efforts, Cambodian people will find it hard to enjoy their right to receive information.

Throughout the year 2008, we have observed a dozen accusations of journalists allegedly taking bribes and extorting money. Several lawsuits are lodged against journalists, accusing them of defamation and disinformation. On December 23, The Phnom Penh Post published another article on Prince Norodom Ranariddh's threat to sue Moneaksekar Khmer for defamation. Khmer-language Koh Santepheap published on December 22 an article linking a journalist to a robbery case in Kampong Chhnang province's Chhnuk Tru. All these incidents raise concern about journalists' professional codes of ethics. But it should be warned that any move to address this concern must be crafted in a way that press freedom is fully guaranteed.

I completely agree that lack of professional training is part of the reason of their poor performance. But training alone will not solve the problem. Very often, journalists resort to taking bribes and extorting money just to feed their families. All these acts are committed at a cost, of course. Journalists could face lawsuits and threats, including death threats by those who could not succeed in bribing them and others, or even murder. It is advisable that all these issues should be looked at from a holistic approach in order to see the correlation between them and address them accordingly.

Everyone is seeking how to regulate journalists' performance while the same effort should be equally invested in how to protect their specialised veracity. The regulatory 1995 Press Law should be amended for the latter purpose. Moreover, apart from raising professional codes of ethics for journalists up to the standard, increasing their wages/salaries is a necessary step to address their poor performance.

Without enough food to feed their families, it is hard to imagine that they will uphold those ideal codes of ethics. Moreover, the codes of ethics must be observed by their readers, not by any state agency or those that have close tie with the government. Their freedom of expression and professionalism will be at risk otherwise.

Chheat Sreang
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Phnom Penh

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

Police Blotter: 26 Dec 2008

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Friday, 26 December 2008


Heng Pheap, 23, from Veal Thom village in Kampot province, was arrested by police on December 18 in Sihanoukville for stealing a motorbike belonging to Eang Bonath, 39, his boss. The suspect confessed that he had attempted to steal the motorbike for a long time by secretly copying the key and waiting for the right opportunity.


A group of about 20 gunmen in five modern cars attacked three people in their home, causing them serious injuries before they escaped. The attack took place in the Boeung Keng Kang 3 neighborhood of Phnom Penh in the evening of December 21. The victims reported the incident to police the next day, but they refused to reveal the attackers' indentities to journalists.


Police in Tuol Kork arrested one of two robbers in the early morning of December 23 who were riding a stolen motorbike near Stung Meanchey Bridge in Phnom Penh. The two men had used a fake gun to threaten the owner, 19-year-old high school student Bun Chan Rasmey, who was riding along Street 156 on the evening of December 22. The man arrested was Dam Huor, 20, who lives in house number 22 on Street 255, in Tuol Kork. The motorbike was given back to the victim.


Some US$2,800 and a phone was stolen from a foreigner at dawn on December 15 in the Tuol Kork neighborhood of Phnom Penh. Three suspected robbers were separately found and arrested on December 22. Khim Sokna, 28, Chem Sin, 27, and the ringleader, Sak Sophearun, 42, were all living in Tuol Kork. Police did not know the victim's identity, except that he is from the Philippines, because he did not report the robbery.


At 9:30 in the morning on December 23 on National Road 56 in the Thmor Puok district of Banteay Meanchey province, two women around the age of 30 died after the taxi sedan they were in collided with an oncoming truck, which was fully loaded with 33 tonnes of rice, because the road was very dusty and smoky. Police did not know if the drivers were injured because both fled after the crash. Police confiscated their vehicles.

Cost of Helmet a Small Price: Expert

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
25 December 2008

As many as 90 percent of fatalities in road accidents are caused by head injuries, highlighting the importance of helmets, a safety expert said Thursday.

A helmet might cost $10, but it is worth it, said Sann Socheata, manager of the road safety program for Handicap International Belgium.

"There should be thorough thinking, that is it $10 that can cure one's head if there is an injury by road accident," she said, as a guest on "Hello VOA."

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday urged motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, calling traffic deaths a worse tragedy than AIDS or land mines and reiterating a no-exception helmet law.

Sann Socheata said Thursday that riders who are ticketed by police, who often impose unofficial fines, should obtain a receipt.

Sihanouk Delays Return From China

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
25 December 2008

Former king Norodom Sihanouk will not return to Cambodia from Beijing until after February, due to a resurgence of his cancer and doctors orders to rest.

"Because of my cancer, my return, which was supposed to be in February 2009, will be after February," Sihanouk wrote in a statement.

Sihanouk, who is 86, was diagnosed with cancer in 1993 and travelsevery three to six months to Beijing for treatment.

Royal adviser Prince Sisowath Thomico told VOA Khmer that Sihanouk's cancer was not serious and the former monarch, who abdicated in 2004, would return by Khmer New Year, in April.

Doctors have advised Sihanouk to rest and reduce stress by declining visitation, letters and messages, the prince said.

New Thai Government Prompts Border Questions

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
25 December 2008

[Editor's note: A new Thai administration was sworn in Monday,including a prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, but a monthslong border dispute centered around the Preah Vihear temple area remains unresolved. VOA Khmer spoke with Cambodian Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan about expectations for Thailand's new government.]

Q. Do you think the new Thai leadership will bring even more obstacles to Cambodia in the process of negotiating the border issue?

A. I would like to tell you that this is the third prime minister following the conflict over the Preah Vihear temple area. What is happening now is that the new Thai prime minister has just made his vows in front of the Thai king, as well as in the Thai parliament. We see a [chance] to practice two goals. One is what we call international relations between Cambodia and Thailand, with an agreement we had already reached in 2000 through a memorandum, saying that we need to resolve the border issue peacefully and legally.Altogether, we had respected this, depending on the treaty and pact in1904 and 1907 between the French republics and Siam at the time. If we look up to now, for Cambodia, the new Thai foreign minister said this is a [situation] between Cambodia and Thailand that continues to need solving. This is not just a Thai but an international obligation.

Q. Near Preah Vihear temple, there is a mountain with a guardhouse built by the late Khmer Rouge commander Ta Mok. Now that mountain is controlled by Thai soldiers armed with rifles. The Thais are even building a new road across the mountain. If border negotiations were based on a 1904 and 1907 map, would Cambodia be able to bring back that mountain and some other land that is currently occupied by Thailand?

A. Cambodian Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong has already stated during discussions that the basis of the treaty and pacts during 1904and 1907 by the French border committee and Siam at the time can be a basic principle to consider. So the negotiation is based on three basic principles, and one is a political principle. That political principle is that the Cambodian party and the Thai counterpart agreed to end the border disputes by setting border demarcation, since we've already agreed on this in a memorandum in 2000. So this is a political solution to the border dispute. Second, because the dispute over the Preah Vihear temple area, as well as border disputes between Cambodia and Thailand, are in a new political situation, the Thais are using this to gain Thai political popularity. So Cambodian land and a Cambodian temple are becoming hostages of internal Thai politics.Prime Minister Hun Sen obeys three principles, and one is that the dispute between Cambodian and Thailand, and the land territory situation, needs to be quickly ended through meetings from the low levels and up to the level of foreign minister.

Q. Has Thailand deployed new soldiers around two contested areas, Eagle Field and the Keo Sikha Kiri Svarak Pagoda?

A. Yes. There was a small number of Thai soldiers there, but Cambodiansoldiers there already pushed them out. They are withdrawing now. Weare waiting for the working group of the joint border committee for Cambodia and Thailand to go to that area to re-examine, so at thattime we can find the exact border that we've already had for the last 100 years.

Amnesty International Asks the Supreme Court to Release Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun without Any Condition - Thursday, 25.12.2008

Posted on 25 December 2008
The Mirror, Vol. 12, No. 595

“On 31 December 2008, the Supreme Court plans to hold a hearing for two suspects who are plastic murders who shot dead the president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Mr. Chea Vichea, on 22 January 2004 where the Appeals Court kept the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicting each of them to serve 20 years in prison.

“In the meantime, Amnesty International released a statement asking the Supreme Court of Cambodia to release the two suspects, Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun. While they are being held in prison, the real murderers and colluders are still free from being brought to be convicted according to the law regarding the murder of this trade union leader.

“Amnesty International said in its statement that the Supreme Court must release the suspects Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun immediately. Both of them were arrested by the authorities a few days after Mr. Chea Vichea was killed by unidentified murderers in the morning of 22 January 2004 at a newspaper stall at the west of Wat Langka; the two suspects will be before the Supreme Court on 31 December 2008,after the Appeals Court upheld the conviction verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to send them to jail for 20 years, even though prosecutors had claimed that there was not enough evidence to convict both of them.

“Amnesty International added that there was tortures to extort confessions from the suspects Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, intimidations of witnesses, and intervention of politics into the implementation of the law. Also, in the detention, there were illegal activities conducted against the two suspects. The Amnesty International suggests for independent investigations in order to bring the real murders to be convicted.

“A researcher of the Amnesty International, Ms. Brittis Edman, said that confessions of the suspects Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were obtained by beating in detention by police, and the promise of awards was used to provide evidence for the court to sentence them to serve 20 years in jail unjustly.

“She added that the two suspects, Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, withdrew their fake confessions and the court cannot considers their confessions as evidence to convict them because they were obtained by force.

“Ministry of Interior spokesperson Khieu Sopeak denied these accusations and said that the court has not rejected to continue investigations by the authorities, and the authorities wait to follow the court’s decision.

“Local and UN human rights organizations in Cambodia went to conduct investigations in a village in Neak Loeang – where Bon Samnang’s girlfriend’s house is – during the Chinese New Year, and villagers asserted that Bon Samnang was at that happy time among them and with his girlfriend, and that he is not the murderer who shot Mr. Chea Vichea to death.

“Also, the former King had said that Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun are not the murderers who killed Chea Vichea. Every year, officials of many human rights organizations regularly gather for a prayer according to Khmer tradition, like releasing birds and floating balloons, to give signs of the demand to the court to release the suspects Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, to be free like other Khmer citizens.

“Mr. Chea Vichea’s younger brother, Mr. Chea Mony, had called on the court to release the suspects Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, saying that they were not the real murderers. A woman who was a newspaper seller at the west of Wat Langka, where Mr. Chea Vichea was murdered on 22 January 2008, had written to the Appeals Court from Bangkok in Siam [Thailand] before she left to a third country, after receiving the right to asylum, saying that she had seen the murderers clearly, and Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, who are being detained, are not the real murders who killed Mr. Chea Vichea. But she could not say it immediately when the event had happened, because the police prohibited her from making a statement, and they made her to say what police planed for her to tell journalists and officials of national and international human rights organizations [before she fled abroad in fear].

“Heng Pov, who is the former Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief, now a prisoner convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to have been involved in many crimes, to serve more than 60 years in prison, is considered by officials of human rights organizations as an important witness to help Bon Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun be free from the 20-year prison term conviction [because Heng Pov, who arrested the two suspected during his power, had said that both of them are not the real murderers]. Officials of human rights organizations ask the judges and prosecutors to allow the authorities of the government to call Heng Pov as a witness in the hearing of the Supreme Court, which is planned to happen on 31 December 2008 next week.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.15, #3648, 25.12.2008
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 25 December 2008

Thailand, Cambodial to cooperate on Preah Vihear: Kasit

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on December 26, 2008

A return to Thai ownership of the Preah Vihear Temple is not an option, new Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday. But Thailand would maintain cooperation with Cambodia over the historic and controversial Hindu temple, he said.

The Preah Vihear case would be handled in line with the 1904 and 1907 Siam-Franco treaties, the 1962 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling and the 2000 Memorandum of Understanding on boundary demarcation, he said.

The ICJ ruled in 1962 that the Preah Vihear belonged to Cambodia but the surrounding land - and access to it - have remained in dispute.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajava said in June - while he was opposition leader and in debate with former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama - that the ICJ had decided only the ruined temple building belonged to Cambodia. The piece of land on which the temple sat was Thailand's.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) demanded recently the foreign ministry recall ownership of the 11th century Khmer sanctuary.

Its call was unlikely to succeed as the foreign ministry has been examining boundary demarcation and provisional arrangements for the area.

The new minister Kasit, an active member of the PAD before taking the office, said he would not change previous foreign ministry resolutions with Phnom Penh.

Vasin Teeravechyan would retain his position as co-chair of the Thai-Cambodia Joint Commission on Demarcation for Land Boundary, Kasit said.

"In general, it is our intention to cooperate with Cambodia and the Unesco (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation), he told reporters.

The minister said Thailand should have a representative in the International Coordinating Committee (ICC) to protect and develop Cambodia's Preah Vihear.

However, Thailand would have a problem in taking up this position since the PAD opposed the idea, saying it meant recognition of Cambodia's sovereignty over the temple.

"We have to weigh between presence and absence in the ICC," said the ministry's Permanent Secretary Virasakdi Futrakul.

With a representative in the body, Thailand would have access to the temple's administration, he said. But, by the same token, Thailand could also be outvoted.

However, Thailand's national world heritage committee would make the final decision on the ICC, Virasakdi said, noting the foreign ministry would send a representative to the committee.

Kasit said his previously provocative stance in the PAD over the Preah Vihear conflict would not jeopardise relations with Cambodia as its leaders, notably Prime Minister Hun Sen, were familiar with him since they worked together on the Paris Accord on Peace in Cambodia in 1989.

Hun Sen was the first to send congratulations to Prime Minister Abhisit, he said.

BBC reporter faces jail in Thailand
Dec 25 2008

Thai police have been urged to drop complaints against a BBC reporter accused of slandering the country's king.

BBC correspondent Jonathan Head has been accused of insulting the monarchy, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Three complaints were lodged by police Lt Col Wattanasak Mungkandee, who said he was acting in a personal capacity.

Authorities have yet to decide whether to formally charge Mr Head.

Bob Dietz of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called on Thai authorities to halt complaints against the BBC journalist.

He said: "It is time for prosecutors and investigators in Thailand to immediately drop these outrageous and punitive charges against our colleague Jonathan Head."

"Head's reporting has raised important questions about Thailand's deteriorating political situation and he should be allowed to report without fear of official reprisals."

One complaint is related to a December 3 article in which Mr Head speculated about the relationship between the palace and the anti-government protest group that took over Bangkok's main international and domestic airports for eight days.

In the earlier complaint in May, Mr Wattanasak submitted as evidence 11 articles from the BBC website, even though some were not written by Mr Head. He also submitted a photograph of Mr Head shaking hands with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra before an interview in late 2001.

Mr Thaksin, accused of corruption and abuse of power, was ousted by a September 2006 military coup. His critics also accused him of trying to usurp royal power and being disrespectful to the king.

Businesses and entrepreneurs from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam to be honoured

VOV News

An awards ceremony for outstanding businesses and entrepreneurs from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam will be held on January 18, 2009, according to the Vietnam Association of Small and Medium-sized enterprises (Vinasme).

According to the organizing board, the awards will be presented to successful businesses and entrepreneurs from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam for their remarkable achievements in production, business, services and social welfare activities.

The awards will contribute to strengthening exchanges between enterprises to explore business opportunities in the three countries.

At present, more than 100 businesses and entrepreneurs have entered the contest as candidates for the award.

The event was co-organised by Vinasme, the Economics Department under the Ministry of National Defense, and the Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia economic and development association.