Thursday, 30 April 2009

Mu Sochua-Hun Sen: prime Minister portrays himself as victim, NGOs condemn his threats

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 24/09/2008: Mu Sochua, Sam Rainsy Party MP, during prime Minister Hun Sen’s press conference, after the opening session of the new parliamentary mandate. ©John Vink/ Magnum

By Duong Sokha, with LLG

In a speech he gave on Wednesday April 29th in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s prime Minister presented himself as a victim in the case pitting him against Mu Sochua, the Sam Rainsy Party MP, who lodged a complaint against him on grounds of defamation and insults. Hun Sen particularly reminded his opponent that having her parliamentary immunity lifted would be easy, since a majority of MPs are affiliated to the Cambodian People’s Party and therefore agree with the cause of the head of the executive power. Several organisations from the Cambodian civil society reacted strongly and condemned pressure and threats coming from the ruling power against the opposition.

“I am a simple victim and only wish to defend myself before the Law and find justice”, the Cambodian prime Minister declared loud and clear before an audience composed of brand new graduates. Hun Sen said he did “not despise any woman at all” and said he did not attack Mu Sochua directly. The words he said in Kampot at the beginning of April about a woman behaving in a “provocative way”, who “lunged towards a man to kiss him, so much so that the buttons [of her blouse] popped out”, were not about the SRP MP at all, he said…

The prime Minister insisted on justifying the fact that he filed a lawsuit in turn, against the opposition MP. “On Thursday [April 23], she held a press conference [on that case]. Therefore, I have enough evidence. I signed on Friday [April 24] a complaint [against her] for defamation before the start of the judicial proceedings [launched by Mu Sochua against Hun Sen]”, he declared, adding that his complaint was also aimed at Mu Sochua’s lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, who was with his client at her press conference. The prime Minister is asking each of the concerned persons for a compensation of ten million riels (2,500 USD). He announced he would give the money to charity in favour of orphans.

Hun Sen also said that if justice asked for the suspension of his own parliamentary immunity, he would be ready to accept it, and pointed out that such a procedure against him had few chances of succeeding. “I do not believe that MPs for the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP, going strong with 90 seats out of 123 in the National Assembly] will vote, by a show of hands, the suspension of my immunity. Like for Lok Chumteav Men Sam On [deputy prime Minister, CPP], they will not do it”, Hun Sen bet with confidence. However, Cambodia’s “strongman” did not fail to mention that if justice issued a similar request against Mu Sochua, having it approved would be easy, since the votes of almost two thirds are already secured.

Several Cambodian organisations for the defence of Human rights and the observation of political life reacted strongly, even before this very speech given by the head of government, to the threat to lift the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) deputy’s parliamentary immunity.

“To issue arbitrary threats on the suspension of Mu Sochua’s parliamentary immunity without any evidence she may have committed any crime is a flagrant act of intimidation against an opposition MP”, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) Ou Virak said in a communiqué dated April 29th and co-signed by nine local organisations. “This clearly aims at reducing her to silence and deterring her from claiming her legitimate right to file a lawsuit for defamation.”

For Kek Galabru, the president of the NGO for the defence of Human rights in Cambodia LICADHO, this “threat against Mu Sochua is yet another example of the dangerous milieu opposition MPs are faced with in Cambodia”. “MPs from all parties should be free to exercise their profession, to represent the interest of their voters and to express themselves in public without the fear of being arrested or detained arbitrarily”, she said, while Yeng Virak, director of the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC) stressed that parliamentary immunity was “not something that can be lifted randomly by representatives of the government”.

“If Mu Sochua’s parliamentary immunity is lifted, this will simply prove that what she aims at showing is right: that opposition MPs are not free to do their job without fearing intimidation or persecution”, says Koul Panha, director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL). For her part, Thida Khus, executive director of the Silaka organisation, deplores a “threat that is [...] sad in many ways [...] against one of the rare active female politicians, in a country where women’s voices are frequently silenced or ignored”.

Reached by Ka-set, SRP MP for Kampot Mu Sochua simply indicated that she intended to leave justice to sort that case and that she would accept the eventual suspension of her parliamentary immunity, should judicial authorities decide to lift it. “I trust the will of MPs, of all the parties and I shall respect their decision”, she said. Her lawyer Kong Sam Onn explained that he only acted as he felt he should, as a lawyer, and denied having said any defamatory words about the Cambodian prime Minister.

Cambodia says hello to the BlackBerry

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Telekom Malaysia International Cambodia (TMIC), which operates a GSM-900 network under the brand name hello, has announced what it claims to be the first commercial launch of the BlackBerry solution in Cambodia. The service will allow subscribers to access E-mail, browse the internet, make phone calls, send and receive text and picture messages, and access a variety of business and leisure applications on the move. hello offers its customers the choice between two handsets, the BlackBerry Pearl 8120 and BlackBerry Curve 8320, as well as the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry Internet Service. Based on its distribution agreement with the BlackBerry handset manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM), French vendor Alcatel-Lucent will provide the cellco with the end-to-end implementation, integration, launch, and on-going support services for delivering the solution to the Cambodian market. Syed Azmeer, chief marketing officer for hello, said: ‘We are pleased to offer BlackBerry smartphones and services to both corporate customers and consumers. It is an innovative and revolutionary solution that is already used by millions of people worldwide.’ According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, hello was the country’s third largest cellco by subscribers at the end of 2008, with a total of 590,000, representing a wireless market share of 15.05%.

Ex-Khmer Rouge: Death was certain in his prison


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Incarceration at the Khmer Rouge's most notorious prison was tantamount to a death sentence since not even the movement's supreme leader had the right to release prisoners, the center's chief told a special tribunal Thursday.

Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, commanded the Phnom Penh prison, where as many as 16,000 men, women and children are believed to have been tortured before being sent to their deaths. Only a handful survived.

Duch, 66, is being tried by a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died under the 1975-79 radically communist Khmer Rouge regime from forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and executions.

«When people were perceived as enemies and arrested and sent to S-21, no one was entitled to release them. Even Pol Pot, the most senior person in the Khmer Rouge, acknowledged that he had no right to release any people,» Duch said.

«That was the party line,» he said.

Duch recalled that one prisoner, a dentist, was arrested and later petitioned Pol Pot to keep him alive, so he could treat the Khmer Rouge leaders. He did not say what happened to the dentist.

During the testimony, Duch said that before 1970, the Khmer Rouge had no internal purges and dared not harm people under their control because they needed their support to fight the war against the U.S.-backed central government.

The killings and purges began in 1973, two years before the Khmer Rouge victory in April 1975, he said. Then about a year later, thousands of people were arrested throughout the country and branded as «state enemies.

«It is clear that the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) cannot avoid being prosecuted for the crimes it committed,» he said. «Everyone was involved, including myself, but the senior leaders, they were the direct perpetrators.

Duch said he never refused or failed to implement orders from above and thus was able to survive.

Duch is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial, and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions. Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, who are all being detained, are likely to be tried in the next year or two.

Flu precautions: 10 steps for keeping yourself safe from flu

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by ASEAN Secretariat Working Group for One Health
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Flu precautions

The following are general precautionary measures developed by the ASEAN Secretariat Working Group for One Health to prevent any type of influenza or any respiratory illness, which is spread from person to person.

Wash your hands frequently

- Wash with soap and water several times a day. Dry your hands after washing.
- There is no substitute for hand washing. But when water is not available, you may use alcohol-based disposable handwipes or gel sanitisers.

Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth

- Influenza viruses are often spread when a person touches surfaces that are contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

Avoid close physical contact

- Avoid close contact with anyone who is ill.
- Temporarily refrain from shaking hands with or kissing other persons while there are reported outbreaks of influenza.

Stay home when you are ill

- If possible, stay at home and avoid crowded places when you are ill. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

Cover your mouth and nose

- Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of the flu virus.

- If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
- You may be asked to put on a surgical mask to protect others.
Keep your distance

- When you are ill, keep your distance from others.
Practise good health habits

- Refrain from smoking
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Manage stress levels
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Eat nutritiously

Consult a doctor if you are ill

- Seek medical care when you feel signs of serious illness such as difficulty breathing, confusion or severe vomiting.
Defer travel if you are ill

If you are feeling sick, you should refrain from boarding aeroplanes or other forms of public transport.

Listen to local health authorities

Keep yourself updated on any influenza outbreak or other health alerts and warnings.

Send letters to: newsroom@phnompenhpost.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or P.O. Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

Police Blotter: 30 Apr 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Thursday, 30 April 2009

A US$7,000 diamond necklace was stolen from a general's wife in their house on Street 516 in Boeung Kak 1 commune, Tuol Kork district, Phnom Penh at noon on Tuesday. The victims, Te Vi, 45, and Ngaet Vuthy, 42, were confronted at gunpoint by two robbers immediately after arriving home and exiting their car. The robbers shot twice before they escaped but no one was wounded.

An ax and hoe fight between Kong Chuon, male, 73, and Chan Ry, male, 46, happened on Saturday afternoon in Kraing Daung village, Preah Khlang commune, Tbaeng Meanchey district, Preah Vihear province, because of a conflict over renting land. Kong Chuon was severely wounded with four cuts in the head and the back, and Chan Ry was arrested by the police.

Police Catch underwear thieves
Two garment workers were arrested by Phnom Penh police on Monday for stealing 1,200 pairs of underpants from a factory the previous week. The arrested were Suon Dara, male, 24, and Tob Poeun, male, 27. A third suspect, known only as Sein, evaded arrest. The suspects said they had sold the underpants for US$2 each. About $100 of the money was given to Sein, the one who escaped, and the rest was equally shared between the two detained men.

Sem Pov, 17, living in Kumnor Beng village, Serey Meanchey commune, Sampov Loun district, Battambang province, was arrested by police on Sunday on suspicion of raping a 17-year-old girl, who also lives in the same village, on three separate occasions. The suspect was reported to police by the victim's mother, Chhin Sampach, 47.

Report critiques trial pace

Cambodians who have watched the morning proceedings leave the war crimes court on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Says trial of Tuol Sleng chief Duch could drag on to 2010 if translation and other issues are not quickly addressed.

THE WAR crimes trial of former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav could drag on to 2010 if proceedings continue at their current pace, according to a court monitoring report posted online Tuesday evening that also highlights translation issues.

The delays are of particular concern in light of the court's precarious financial situation, which officials say will render the Cambodian side unable to pay staff salaries this month.

"Despite efforts from [Trial Chamber] President Nil Nonn to move proceedings swiftly to the testimony forming the substantive part of the case ... the initial estimates of the trial completing in 12 weeks now seem somewhat unrealistic," states this week's version of the KRT Trial Monitor, a weekly wrap-up sponsored by the Asian International Justice Initiative and the East-West Centre.

"Given the Chamber is yet to hear an estimated 49 further witnesses, proceedings may continue till at least the end of 2009," the report reads.

The report cites translation issues as a key contributor to delays, describing them as "of a magnitude significantly greater and more troubling than previously experienced by other international justice institutions".

"At points, it was impossible for non-Khmer speakers to understand the meaning of exchanges between the judges and the accused person," it reads.

The report also criticises the court for being slow to bring S-21 witnesses to the stand, noting that the trial was dominated by procedural arguments for much of the day on April 22 and adjourned early April 23 to consider outstanding motions.

"Although the accused began his testimony on the establishment of S-21 during Wednesday afternoon [of last week], after three weeks of trial the KRT is yet to hear any witnesses on S-21," it reads.

Ieng Sary at Calmette
Concerns about delays at the court come as Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary was admitted Wednesday to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh for what court officials described as a routine medical check-up.

Court spokesperson Reach Sambath said the checkup was not conducted because of any "specific health concerns". Ieng Sary has suffered from an array of health problems - including the appearance of blood in his urine - during his pretrial detention.

Brother No 2 Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan will soon receive similar checkups, officials said.

Khmer Rouge victims and court observers have repeatedly expressed concern that the other four detained leaders, who are all older than Duch, will die before facing the dock if the court's operations aren't expedited.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: NEC lay down law ahead of campaign

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Thursday, 30 April 2009

The National Election Committee held a meeting Wednesday to clarify complaint resolution procedures ahead of the 15-day campaign for the May 17 municipal, provincial and district council elections. NEC member Moa Sophearith told political activists, NGOs and journalists that the campaign period will run from Friday to May 15. He added that any election-related complaints can be made to the Kingdom's Provincial Election Committees, with the NEC as a last court of appeal.

In Brief: PM threatens loss of immunity for MP

Written by Meas Sokchea
Thursday, 30 April 2009

To strip Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua of her parliamentary immunity would be "easier than peeling a banana", Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday. The comments, made during a speech at the National Institute of Education, relate to a lawsuit brought by Mu Sochua in relation to what she claims were defamatory remarks made by Hun Sen during a speech in Kampot on April 4. Hun Sen said he would also be prepared to have his own immunity suspended, but said he "did not believe" the majority-CPP parliament would vote to remove his protection.

In Brief: PM calls for early wet season harvest

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on people throughout the country to start planting rice, adding that this year had more rain in the early season and that there was now enough water for farmers to plant rice. "I would like to call on citizens throughout the country to start planting rice in order to increase rice crops ... to ensure food security for our citizens, ASEAN and the world," he said Wednesday. "We can do without other things, but we cannot live without rice."

In Brief: Cambodia 'flu-free'

Written by Kay Kimsong
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Cambodia is still "free from swine flu, pork is safe to eat and tourism is still in good shape", Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Wednesday. "We have no swine flu," he told the Post. He said the Ministry of Health had already installed scanners at airports to screen for swine flu. However, some tourism operators called for measures to prevent flu from reaching Cambodia. Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Government-Private Sector Working Group, said Cambodia should screen any citizens who have returned from Mexico to prevent the virus from spreading.

In Brief: Kuwait flights discussed

Written by May Kunmakara
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday proposed direct flights between Cambodia and Kuwait at a meeting with Kuwait's prince Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah. The meeting took place during the prince's official visit to Cambodia, said the PM's advisor Ang Sophaleth. He said the prince was also pushing forward investment agreements between the two countries. Only 472 tourists from Kuwait visited Cambodia in 2008. Kuwait is increasing investment in Cambodia, particularly in agriculture.

Duo cycles Cambodia for environmental awareness

Richard Ferge and Stani Martinkova in front of Wat Phnom.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Zoe Holman
Thursday, 30 April 2009

With 80,000 kilometres and 45 countries behind them, two determined cyclists take on the Kingdom’s highways

Between the exhaust fumes, colossal Land Rovers and hoards of hell-bent motorbike drivers, Cambodia's roads do not strike the visitor as particularly cyclist- or eco-friendly. Nonetheless, a duo of determined athletes are taking on the Kingdom's highways in the name of environmental awareness, armed only with their bikes, good will and a significant degree of road rage. In fact, with 80,000 kilometres and 45 countries under their figurative belts, "The Velomads", Richard Ferge and Stani Martinkova are taking on the globe.

Their journey started in 1996 in the Alaskan mountains when they embarked on a mission to Argentina with an eco-minded transport policy of travelling only by bicycle and, where necessary, train or boat. But what started as a cycling tour of America quickly evolved into an environmental campaign and an eight-year physical epic in which the pair aimed to traverse 100 countries and 100,000 kilometres.

"While we were travelling, we met so many people who were cycling around the world, that we realised it was quite an easy thing to do," said Martinkova, a Czech-British NGO worker and lifelong cycling devotee.

For her partner, sommelier Ferge, the progression from two legs to two wheels did not come so naturally.

"When I first met Richard, he hated cycling. His last experience of riding was when he used to puncture holes in the tyres of the bike he was forced to ride to school," Martinkova said. However, she quickly indoctrinated the Frenchman with the many economic and ecological virtues of cycling, and it seems he has taken to the pursuit with enormous zeal.

Driving passion
But it is primarily a passion for the environment that is driving the pair, who are using their journey to teach youth in classrooms in each country they visit about the dangers of climate change and environmental degradation.

The pair have had to contend with more than a few linguistic, cultural, political and legal barriers, but as Martinkova explains, the most difficult obstacle "The Velomads" have grappled with has been the degree of environmental degradation they've witnessed.

"The most difficult thing has been the extreme pollution that's going on everywhere. It's really heartbreaking on a daily basis and we get so frustrated," Martinkova said.

The state of the Cambodian roads and physical environment has been particularly troubling.

"Cycling and walking is seen as being for poor people here, so everyone is rushing out to get their own moto or Range Rover without awareness of the long-term consequences," she said. The Velomads will be living up to their name for sometime yet as they peddle their message at an average 80 kilometres a day from Phnom Penh through Southeast Asia and Australasia.

Cambodian artist creates love and peace

Nasy Radet likes to draw peaceful scenes.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Eleanor Ainge Roy
Thursday, 30 April 2009

"Orphan Smiles", a new exhibition by 22-year-old Cambodian artist Nasy Radet, is to open this Friday with a free barbecue and drinks at Equinox Bar and Cafe.

This will be Nasy Radet's first exhibition, with 40 pencil drawings portraying poor or orphaned children from the provinces as well as various temple scenes.

The profits of the exhibition will go towards schooling supplies for poor children in rural areas.

Nasy Radet, an untrained artist, is nervous about her first exhibition but keen for critical feedback to improve her skills.

"I like to draw pictures that are related to feelings, love and temples. When I draw pictures, I have to be feeling calm and quiet within myself. Sometimes I don't eat all day because I am so absorbed in my work. I am always very happy when I am drawing pictures," she said.

The young artist first began drawing when she was 10 years old, and early on did not consider developing her talent into a full-time career.

"As a child, drawing was no more than just an amusement for me," she said.

Nasy Radet thinks her talent is natural and may have been inherited from her mother, who is also an artist. However, despite the family lineage, she doesn't wish to be an artist forever - only as long as she is able to use her artwork to help Cambodia's rural poor.

"I will not draw pictures forever, but in the meantime I will not abandon it. I don't want it to become something I do just for money. I want to always do it for pleasure...and because I love it," she said.

High-end office space goes on sale

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Prime office space to go on the market in capital for first time at 22-storey Phnom Penh Tower

THE Phnom Penh Tower, a 22-storey office building, is set to put its office space up for sale today at a grand opening at NagaWorld, according to Song Sung Young, president of C&D Global, the investor.

Song Sung Young said that C&D Global had invested US$25 million in Cambodia, but refused to reveal how much the company had spent on their first major project, the Phnom Penh Tower.

About 300 guests have been invited to the gala, including some of Cambodia's wealthiest, Song Sung Young said. He added that the space would sell for about $1,800 per square metre, making it the most expensive office space in the city.

Song Sung Young said that he is not worried about the property downturn because the Phnom Penh Tower offers something new to the Kingdom.

"Cambodia does not have high-class office buildings like Vietnam or Thailand. I am confident that many investors are looking to Cambodia for business, and all of them will need a high-class building," he said. The Phnom Penh Tower is constructed by AMCO Construction, a member of South Korea's Hyundai Motors Group.

The office building will be on Monivong Boulevard north of Sihanouk.

Sung Young calls it "the best location in the entire country", because it is surrounded by all the Kingdom's business infrastructure.

Phnom Penh Tower will have large parking spaces, a three-storey shopping mall, 18 storeys of office space and a penthouse restaurant, he added.

Construction started in December 2008 and is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

Im Chamrong, director general of the Ministry of Land Management, said Wednesday that his department welcomed anyone to invest in the construction sector and continue with projects in Cambodia, despite the economic crisis.

He pointed to projects like the Phnom Penh Tower as evidence that the construction sector is showing signs of a rebound.

Hello launches first Blackberry service

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Steve Finch
Thursday, 30 April 2009

HELLO, Cambodia's third-largest mobile phone company by market share, rolled out BlackBerry handsets in Cambodia for the first time on Wednesday.

Cellcard Mobitel told the Post this month it planned to begin sales of the handsets by Canadian company Research in Motion (RIM) within a few months. But in launching sales on Wednesday, Hello became the first network to offer Blackberries in the Kingdom.

BlackBerry handsets have been available in Cambodia for some time but without offering their hallmark push email service, which requires a Blackberry email server.

"As Hello is the first and currently only operator in Cambodia offering the Blackberry solution, we are able to offer our customers a significant advantage," Hello's Chief Marketing Officer Syed Azmeer said in a press statement Wednesday.

Hello accepted presale orders on two Blackberry handsets - the Pearl 8120 and Curve 8320 - with more than three-quarters of stocks already sold out on the opening day of sales, brand manager Gary Foo said at the official launch of the product in Phnom Penh.

Hello plans to introduce 3G Blackberry handsets to Cambodia within the coming months, having established its 3G network a month ago, Foo added.

Alcatel-Lucent will offer a range of services as part of its distribution agreement with RIM, including end-to-end implementation and support services, said the press statement.

Hello, whose network is operated by Telekom Malaysia International Cambodia, holds the No 3 spot among mobile networks in the Kingdom with a 15 percent share of the market, according to private sector statistics at the end of last year. Mobitel was the leading operator with a 55 percent market share.

RIM has managed to weather the economic storm that his hit other major handset manufacturers since the financial crisis hit demand - such as Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson - by expanding into new markets, including Russia this month, Bloomberg reported.

Blackberries are offered by more than 300 operators across the globe, gaining market share of global sales by competing strongly with high-end smartphones manufactured by Apple and Nokia, Bloomberg said.

RIM's stock price has increased more than 60 percent on the Nasdaq exchange this year.

WING gets A$1.5m grant from Australia

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Money to be used for rural expansion project of mobile service

THE Australian government gave a A$1.5 million (US$975,000) grant Wednesday to WING, a mobile payment service and a wholly owned subsidiary of the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), through its Enterprise Challenge Fund.

This grant will help support financial literacy, increase income opportunities and provide millions of dollars worth of savings for Cambodians living in rural areas, said Margaret Adamson, Australia's ambassador to Cambodia.

"With this grant, WING will be able to extend its service to rural areas where it would otherwise not have operated," Adamson said.

"Wing will provide approximately 8 million rural Cambodians with the opportunity to access affordable and convenient payment services."

Brad Jones, managing director of WING, said that WING is available across 17 provinces and hopes to continue its expansion with the Australian grant.

"We will use this grant to extend our services to Laos and other Cambodian rural areas," Jones said.

According to Adamson, WING's technology has the potential to save 100,000 rural Cambodians $3 million in transaction costs when the mobile money transfer technology is used instead of traditional methods of transferring cash, often by taxi.

Currently, Wing has around 200 "Cash X-press" agencies, 120 of which are in Phnom Penh.
Earlier this month, WING partnered with mobile operator Hello.

It is also currently in discussion with other telecommunications companies to extend its services across multiple networks.

Regulatory commission for stock exchange opens

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Finance Minister Keat Chhon opens the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia on Wednesday. The government says the stock exchange launch remains on schedule.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Finance officials say global economic crisis will not prevent country’s first stock exchange from launching by end of year even if listings are minimal

DESPITE the global financial crisis, Cambodia is still committed to launching a securities market by the end of this year, the finance minister said Wednesday at the official launch of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia.

"The launch of the securities market in Cambodia is still on the schedule for 2009, but a suitable date will be determined by the government later," Keat Chhon said during the SECC launch Wednesday.

"We have eight months to launch the stock market. We will launch it, even if at the start only two companies list on it."

He said that only profitable companies that maintain high standards of accountability, transparency and corporate governance will be allowed to make public offers.

"There are tens of thousands of companies in Cambodia, but when we selected around 400 companies with accurate financial reports, there was an instant negative reaction because they worried they could no longer embezzle taxes," he said.

"That's why I always appreciate foreign investors because most of them maintain good governance."

We will launch it, even if at the start only two companies list.

To encourage companies to join the stock market, Keat Chhon said that the government will consider tax incentives that will be provided for the issuing companies, investors and securities intermediaries.

This will in turn push companies towards better business practices, he added.

Inpyo Lee, project director of the Korean Exchange, said Wednesday that the SECC launch was a step towards the stock market, but that Cambodia's stock market launch date could be changed depending on the global economic climate.

"It can be delayed ... but we will try our best to achieve it on schedule," he said.

In mid-February, at the Business Roundtable in Siem Reap, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that the absence of a stock exchange in Cambodia had helped the country escape the worst of the global economic crisis and that opening a stock market in this economic climate could be a mistake.

"If it is born just to die, we shouldn't let it be established at this time," he said.

Pung Kheav Se, president of Canadia Bank, said Wednesday that his bank was still deciding whether to list or not, but added that listing the company would be a good opportunity to build confidence among the public.

"We will discuss with our shareholders and board if we're to list on the upcoming market. Now our bank is sufficiently qualified for the stock market, in capital and profits, as well as in governance," he said.

Garment exports fall 20pc, say new figures

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A garment factory in Phnom Penh. Government officials say exports have fallen sharply.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nathan Green
Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Ministry of Commerce says January-February garment exports tumbled nearly $100 million from last year on softer demand from key importer US

GARMENT, textile and footwear exports fell a combined 20 percent in the first two months of the year compared with 2008, Commerce Ministry figures released exclusively to the Post Wednesday show.

Exports during January and February were worth US$401.06 million, down 19.77 percent year-on-year from $499.88 million for the same period in 2008. Individually, garment exports were down 21.78 percent to $360.86 million, textile exports fell 47.5 percent to $3.92 million, while "other" exports increased 0.39 percent to $16.49 million.

Shoe exports bucked the trend, up 35.17 percent to $19.78 million on 3.92 million pairs of shoes exported.

The figures are for exports under the generalised system of preferences (GSP) and most favoured nation (MFN) schemes Cambodia has access to as a least developed nation, accounting for almost all of Cambodia's garment, textile and footwear exports.

The official figures bring to an end a series of contradictory announcements on the value of garment exports in recent months.

In March, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh told the Post that garment exports fell to $70 million in January this year from $250 million in January 2008. A Commerce Ministry official told Bloomberg the same month that exports in January plunged 25 percent from a year earlier to $185 million. Both figures have been shown to be incorrect.

The latest figures show total exports under all categories in January were $200.85 million, down 18.84 percent year-on year, while February's exports were $200.2 million, off 20.68 percent. Garment exports in January were worth $178.86 million, down 21.87 percent, while February's garment exports were worth $181 million, down 21.7 percent.

The US is a very important market ... but we are trying to open new markets.

According to the official who released the figures, the ministry relied on export figures supplied by garment exporters, which took up to two months to compile. Interim announcements of export values were likely to understate actual exports as they were drawn from incomplete data sets, the official, who asked not to be named, explained.

More timely information was held at customs, he added, but was not shared with the ministry. "Here we do not have eyes," the official said.

The official figures released Wednesday also show that total exports to the US fell 29.28 percent to 240.16 million in January and February, exports to the EU declined 12.28 percent to $89.18 million and exports to Canada fell 6.57 percent to $30.86 million.

In good news, exports to other markets climbed 59.76 percent to $40.86 million. "The US is a very important market for us, but we are trying to open new markets," the official said.

The Commerce Ministry official said export figures from March would not be available until the end of May, but added that early indications suggested the decline would be even greater than for January and February, possibly more than 35 percent down year-on-year.

Garment, textile and footwear exports amounted to $3.15 billion for the full-year 2008, up 5.06 percent from $2.99 billion in 2007. Exports increased every month on a year-by-year comparison with 2007 except April, when they fell 4.24 percent year-on-year, September, down 18.17 percent, and December, down 8.84 percent, indicating the complex relationship between the financial crisis and garment and footwear exports.

Kaing Monika, external affairs manager at the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said the association had not yet seen the official figures. He said that a "quick survey" of exporters suggested exports could fall 35-40 percent for the quarter. "But the actual figures in US dollars we don't know."

Siem Reap Scene: 30 Apr 2009

Photo by: Peter Olszewski Eric
Coronacion, general manager of HanumanAlaya.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Lavish resort planned
Ten hectares of land near the new Siem Reap Lake Resort Golf Club on the outskirts of town have been marked for a large resort that will be unlike anything the town has seen, a real estate source told the Post.

The development is still in the early planning stages but is envisaged to contain 10 bungalows, designed for timeshare leasing, lush garden space and artificially constructed waterways.

French developer Corinne Bourgoin bought the land for the resort two years ago and decided this month to go ahead with the design process.
Sources told the Post that Bourgoin has plans to expand the resort if the bungalows sell.

Good deal for expats
As the tourist dollar dries up in Siem Reap with the onset of the wet season, many local businesses are wooing expat patronage, and hotel manager Eric Coronacion is leading the charge.

Coronacion, residence manager of the HanumanAlaya boutique hotel, is hosting an open-bar barbecue on the first and third Wednesday of every month, starting May 6.

He said "open-bar barbecue" translates as "all you can eat and drink", which indeed is the magic phrase for local expats. The Wednesday night pigouts will also feature live music from the local band, Cambojam.

The HanumanAlaya Hotel is part of the empire of Phnom Penh-based Hanuman Tourism. A hidden treasure at the hotel is the superb antiques store, arguably the best in Siem Reap. This is promoted to high-end guests at Siem Reap's leading five-star hotels, and in good months the antique store's revenue exceeds that of the host hotel.

New school program
Schools for Children of Cambodia (SCC) has "amicably" withdrawn support from Khnar Primary School in Siem Reap after the school's teachers and community members ruled that students will pay teachers for lessons on a weekly basis.

SCC's general manager, Andrea Messner, said this is "inconsistent" with the NGO's values.

This follows the phasing out of teacher sponsorship in February in the final stage of SCC's School Adoption Program, now replaced by a Primary School Development Program.

Four of the schools the NGO supports are encouraged to be more sustainable, with some support provided.

But support now does not include payment of teacher salary supplements, which, according to Messner, "is a big policy change and subsequent discussions with each school and community have resulted in mutually agreed decisions about how best to adapt".

Three of the four Siem Reap schools - Phoum Stung Primary School, Svay Dungkum Primary School and Wat Mon Thyean School - have mostly accepted the new policy changes.

But at the arrangement with Svay Dungkum school is under review for three months.

Teachers at this school need to supplement their low salaries, so are testing a school donation box for community members to optionally and voluntarily contribute for teachers.

The anonymity of a donation box takes away the need for students to pay their teacher each day, which could adversely affect poor students' access to education, officials said.

SCC is providing technical support to monitor the new solution for a period of three months, after which a mutual decision will be made on how to proceed.

Drag queen opening
Management and staff of the Golden Banana Hotel group are planning a pool party to celebrate the opening of their second boutique hotel in Siem Reap on May 9.

General Manager Dirk De Graaff said the new 16-room gay friendly Golden Banana Resort will officially be launched with a traditional Buddhist ceremony, followed by a party for local residents, expatriates, travel industry representatives and media.

The Golden Banana Group is known for its out-there parties and this launch promises to be no exception - it will include traditional dancing, Bangkok-based DJ Friso and a drag-queen revue.

De Graaff said he is proud to be opening another hotel and is confident that the new accommodation house will be as successful as the first.

"We have a steady stream of bookings currently, and I am pleased to be able to employ 17 additional staff members."

Nobel laureate's freebie
Siem Reap's Angkor Palace Resort & Spa has been named as "hotel partner" for the third ASEAN series, Bridges - Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace, organised by the International Peace Foundation, a Vienna-based NGO.

Up to 50 major Bridges meetings will take place in Cambodia from November 2009 to April 2010, jointly chaired by King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Confirmed participants include Nobel laureates for economics, peace, physics, chemistry and medicine.

As well, other eminent speakers and artists, including world-renowned pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy and professor Lord Anthony Giddens from the London School of Economics, will attend the event.

Angkor Palace's ‘partnership' in effect means that the hotel will stump for free accommodation and breakfast for the estimated 10 Nobel laureates and speakers.

They visit Siem Reap sometime between November 2009 to April 2010.

I want to study at ... University of Southeast Asia, Siem Reap

From the halls of the The National University of Management
Oum Chorvy, 21, third-year finance and banking student, Pouk District, Siem Reap:

"When I was in high school, I initially wanted to be a doctor, but when I decided to focus on studying finance, I looked at several different universities. My family thought studying in Phnom Penh would be too far away, so I decided to study here and have been very happy with my decision. Studying at USEA was a good decision for me."

Sinccheng Sean, 24, third-year international business student, Kralanh District, Siem Reap:

"After I finished high school I knew what I wanted to study, but I wasn't sure which university best suited me. I was happy when I found out about USEA because it provided a good alternative to studying in Phnom Penh, which would have meant being a long way from my family. The university offers flexible study patterns and the buildings are big and new."

The Phnom Penh post

Written by Thomas Fearon
Thursday, 30 April 2009

What does it offer?
The University of South-East Asia (USEA) has grown rapidly since opening in 2006 to become one of Siem Reap's largest universities. The university campus, opposite Angkor High School, teems with state-of-the-art technology inside the classrooms and has sleek modern finishes outside.

The private university has 49 lecturers and three faculties: arts, humanities and languages; science and technology and economics; business and tourism.

USEA has more than 800 students enrolled for the 2008-09 academic year, including 70 studying for their master's, a program on the agenda for the first time this year. In 2007 USEA achieved top honours from the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia.

Running the show
Rector Sien Sovanna has been in charge of USEA since 2007. He is the owner of Siem Reap's booming language school chain, Future Bright Institute, and said the university's all-encompassing name aimed to make it famous within the region and internationally.

Vice Rector Rous Bunthy is one of the university's inaugural directors. Rous Bunthy, a Phnom Penh native, said the campus gave Siem Reap people a quality alternative to studying in the Kingdom's capital.

"The perception has changed more and more. People have recognised they can study in a quality learning environment right here without going to Phnom Penh," he said.

"Our aim is to provide education and training to the highest quality to meet national and international labour market needs."

Getting in
Students must have a high school diploma and take a placement test in English to be accepted to an associate's or bachelor's degree program. The two-year associate's degree covers 20 subjects, while the bachelor's degree covers up to 44 subjects over four years depending on the faculty.

Fees, scholarships and grants
An associate's degree costs $340 per year and a bachelor's degree costs $360 per year, but fees for studying English or information technology are slightly higher.

USEA offers students three graded scholarships. An A-grade scholarship covers all tuition fees for the duration of a Bachelor degree, a B-grade scholarship covers 50 percent and a C-grade scholarship 30 percent. USEA has an international student exchange program with Dhurakij University in Bangkok, Thailand.

The university has an incentive system for students who have a perfect attendance sheet for lectures.

Strength to strength
The modern buildings at USEA are fitted with state-of-the-art learning resources, courtesy of the US Embassy and the World Bank. There are two computer rooms in the five-storey classroom complex and a cafeteria.

The resource centre has an employment office, and provides counselling services and studying strategies to help before semester exams.

USEA Vice-Rector Rous Bunthy hinted there were plans afoot to introduce new faculties accommodating agriculture, law and political science some time in the near future.

Text and photos: Thomas Fearon

University of South-East Asia
Phoum Wat Bo, Khom Salakomroek, Srok Siem Reap, Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Fax:/Phone : 063 963 853
Mobile : 016 386 638
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Development and leadership targeted by Oz scholarships

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Australia’s international development agency is calling on Cambodian master’s and PhD students to apply for ‘downunder’ study funds

Applications for the Australian embassy's 2009 leadership and development scholarships opened last month to Cambodian students.

The scholarships, which have been offered since 1994, are funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), whose development priorities in Cambodia include disability, economic growth, education, food security and the environment.

There are currently 63 Cambodians studying on scholarship at Australian universities.

A leg up
The Australian Development Scholarships allow people from developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region to study in Australia to gain skills and knowledge that will contribute to the long term development of their home country.

There are 25 Development Scholarships available and only people applying for master's or postgraduate study are eligible.

The Leadership Scholarships aim to foster partnerships and cooperation between Australia and countries in the Asia-Pacific region. They are offered to high achievers academically to fund their master's or doctorate study.

Applications for the Development Scholarships close on May 22 and the cutoff date for Leadership Scholarship applications is June 30.

More information can be found at

US offers training opportunity for top Cambodian teachers

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khuon Leakhana and Mom Kunthear
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Applications for the Teaching Excellence and Training Program are now open to secondary school teachers with five years' experience

THE US embassy in Cambodia is inviting secondary school teachers to apply for a position in its annual Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program (TEA).

The program provides 156 secondary school teachers from around the world the opportunity to travel to the United States to develop expertise in their subject areas, enhance their teaching skills, and increase their knowledge about the US.

US embassy spokesman John Johnson said they hoped to send four or five Cambodian teachers this year.

"I think that Cambodia's education level, quality and ability are improving every year, and this is something we are keen to support," he said.

The program is open to secondary-level, full-time teachers with five or more years of classroom experience in either English as a foreign language, social sciences, mathematics or science. Applications close on May 22.

Last year, 40 teachers from Cambodia applied and three were selected for a two-month stint in the US.

According to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, there are currently 103,618 teachers in Cambodia.

Soeur Socheata, deputy general director of administration and finance at the education ministry, said he hoped the program would encourage a healthy spirit of competition among teachers, especially those from rural areas.

It encourages teachers to test their abilities both in Cambodia and internationally.

"This program is good because it encourages teachers to test their abilities both in Cambodia and internationally," he said.

Do and see
The program will include coursework and intensive training in teaching methodologies, lesson planning and teaching strategies for the participants' home environment. It will also train participants in the use of computers for internet research, word processing and as teaching tools.

It includes a six-week academic program as well as a two-week internship at a secondary school designed to expose participants to American teachers and students.

Trips to US cultural sites and academic support will be provided for participants throughout the program.

The program is financed by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US Department of State, and implemented by IREX, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organisation.

Art photography taking hold with Siem Reap kids

Robbie Flick, photography instructor.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Five students from NGO Global Child are showing 20 of their best shots in a six-day exhibition at the Old Market McDermott Gallery.

SIEM Reap may be the most photographed province in the country, thanks to professional temple watchers and mobs of snap-happy tourists. But lack of training and limited access to cameras means that few of the photographs are taken by the Cambodians who live here. A new photography exhibition at the Old Market McDermott Gallery shows the town and its people through the eyes of students from NGO Global Child.

The kids were selected to take part in a 10-week photography course led by Global Child volunteer Robbie Flick, and 20 of their best shots are available for purchase in a silent auction that closes tomorrow night. Starting bids are US$10, with a $100 buyout option.

Flick began a camera class when he saw the level of interest the kids had in photography.

"A lot of the kids are used to taking photos with cameras borrowed from friends, but they mainly use it for fun. I wanted to see my passion for photography blossom in other kids."

Using a collection of point-and-shoot cameras and a 15mm lens, Flick took the kids through a crash course in camera use. "At the start, they didn't know about shutter speed, aperture or exposure," he said. But after 10 weeks of classes, field trips and experimentation, Flick said the kids "can speak confidently about their work".

Flick said the photographs provide insight into the life of the young Cambodians: "We get to see how they see the world."

As part of the course, Flick encouraged experimentation, and the result is a wide variety of styles and subject matter.

Marot Bun, for example, is exhibiting a sombre photograph called "Tuol Sleng Light", which shows a dark grim hallway with the sun shining through barred windows, but is also showcasing the less political piece "Interesting Tree".

Other photos show family members, friends and New Year festivities. Soda Chhourn, a 13-year-old student, took a picture of an old woman walking down the street with a basket of goods on her head, after noticing the pattern of the shadows.

Flick believes that photography could add much-needed flair to the Khmer art scene.

"The problem with a lot of Cambodian art is that it's not experimental," he said. "People try to replicate what has come before. But cameras are very easy to experiment with. Photography is great. You can pick it up and go."

Boaters battle for Chong Kneas

Sou Ching Co's recently constructed Chong Kneas port.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Travel agents and boat owners are fighting the Sou Ching Co, which runs the port in Chong Kneas and is striving to regulate tours through the popular lakeside village.

Sou Ching Co's newly constructed port at Siem Reap's lakeside village of Chong Kneas has put an end to the free-roving tour boats that charge their own prices. But as Sou Ching continues its campaign to unify the tour boats under a single system, the resistance from boat operators and the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) increases.

On the waterfront in Siem Reap, a battle is brewing between those who believe that Sou Ching is bringing a desperately needed level of organisation to lake tourism and those who say the company is imposing ill-advised, draconian policies without consulting the people who rely on boat tourism.

Businessman Pany helps manage a tour boat association of 72 families, who were attracted to move to the new port by what he calls the "main idea" of Sou Ching. "The main idea is that there should be one port, one boat association and one price," he said.

On January 28, the families split off from the rest of the tour boats and moved to the Sou Ching port en masse, a decision that has caused them to be labelled as Sou Ching puppets by CATA.

But Pany said that the benefits of cooperating with Sou Ching were clear.

"Before we had a port, the boats were all down a 4-kilometre bumpy road that turned tuk-tuks upside down," he said.

"And there was no security for the boats."

Despite the potential gains, however, many boat owners would rather run the risk of operating solo than submit to the authority of Sou Ching.

"Some people say bad things about Sou Ching," said Eoch So Pa, as he guided a boat to berth in the new port. Eoch So Pa is a boat owner and a member of the boat association that cooperates with Sou Ching. He said that while the regimented new system ensures an equal wage for all, it is a drop in income for many.

"Before the port, some boat owners could earn $200 to $300 per day by doing constant trips," he said. "But now, the boats are rotated, so everyone gets the same number of tours."

Some boat owners are also burned by the fixed pricing system, which prevents them from fleecing tourists.

"They're not losing their livelihood," said a source who works at Sou Ching. "They're losing their corrupt livelihood."

The source claimed that the previous state of Chong Kneas, with low-quality roads, ramshackle boats and predatory prices, was a black eye for Cambodia's tourism. He said that Sou Ching's mission to establish a clear, fair system for purchasing lake tours is a necessary step. But the plan is awry due to rampant mismanagement by Sou Ching.

Jo Crisp, a manager at Intrepid Travel, agreed that tourists were exploited under the old system. "There's no doubt an independent traveller, who hadn't done their research and just went down there, would pay too much," she said. "It's like getting a tuk-tuk."

Crisp believes that Sou Ching's fixed-price system will stop tourists being ripped off, but said the way in which Sou Ching is implementing the system is damaging the large network of tour guides and travel agents who provided safe, reliable and well-priced boat travel.

"We ran a good, fair service with boat operators. We do our costing 12 months in advance and suddenly the prices change," said Crisp.

"There was no consultation with travel agents."

Intrepid Travel is a member of CATA, a group of 170 tourist organisations that have agreed to boycott travel to Chong Kneas until Sou Ching meets with them.

Ang Kim Eang, the president of the association, said that Sou Ching's project is "unfair to the community. They said they were just going to build a port, but they are trying to control all the boats in the area, and that affects the whole community".

Like Crisp, Ang Kim Eang is angry about being left out of the loop.

"They did not inform us about the new pricing; they just implemented it," he said.

Though tour operators could eventually adjust to a new pricing system, many resent having to deal with boat operators through Sou Ching.

"We don't want Sou Ching to be the middle man," said Ang Kim Eang. "How can we determine the quality of the boats?"

While the big idea of Sou Ching was to have "one port, one boat association and one price", Ang Kim Eang mourns the fact that the company has "divided the community".

The once unified association of tour boats is now in two distinct camps, and Sou Ching is in direct opposition with the companies responsible for bringing in tourists.

A scanner brightly


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovann Philong
Thursday, 30 April 2009

An airport official walks past a thermal imaging scanner at Phnom Penh International Airport on Tuesday. The equipment was donated by the Singaporean government in 2003 during the SARS outbreak. There have been no suspected cases of swine flu in Cambodia.

Police detain mobile porn peddlers in Kandal sting

A shop in Phnom Penh shows how to download porn onto a mobile phone on Wednesday - despite a massive police crackdown.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Thursday, 30 April 2009

31 Takhmao market vendors detained and released without charge but police say they will destroy confiscated computers.

POLICE briefly detained 31 market vendors in Kandal province Tuesday after the men were suspected of having transferred pornographic videos onto mobile phones, local authorities told the Post.

Provincial police Chief Eav Chamroeun said local officers arrested the men, all in their 20s, at stalls in Takhmao district's Takhmao market, confiscating their computers for further examination.

"We went to arrest [them] after the court issued a warrant, and we have confiscated 31 computers to check them for pornographic material," he said.

He added that 27 of the computers had so far turned out pornographic videos, but that the four remaining machines had so far turned up nothing. "It might be that they knew we were coming and deleted [the porn] before we arrived," he said.

"We wouldn't have confiscated the computers if they were only putting music onto the mobile phones, but they were sharing pornography through mobile phones, and they were making a business out of it."

Deputy provincial police Chief Roeun Nara said such activities could have a serous impact on the country's social attitudes and were illegal under Articles 38 and 39 of the 2008 Anti-human Trafficking Law, which carry a maximum penalty of 2 million riels (US$486) or a month in prison.

[SUCH IMAGES] seriously impact our culture - especially for Khmer women...

But he said the men were released by police without charge.

"We have educated them to stop doing [these things] and asked their parents to come and sign their names as a guarantee," he said, adding that the seized computer equipment would be destroyed.

Authorities have cracked down on racy and sexually explicit imagery since mid-February, when Prime Minister Hun Sen's wife, Bun Rany, addressed an annual meeting of the National Committee on the Promotion of Social Morality, Women and Family Values, requesting that the Ministry of Information withdraw from sale magazines featuring inappropriate images.

"[Such images] seriously impact our culture - especially for Khmer women - and ... cause a lot of suspected rape cases," said Sok Eun, director of the provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts in Kandal, citing the popular but unproven theory behind the crackdown on such images.

Men Makara, a provincial monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said he agreed there was a link between pornographic videos and rape.

"Because many people are watching these videos, there are a lot of suspects in rape cases. [The videos] give them easy thrills," he said, but added that the occurrence of rape was also affected by drug use and lack of education.

He said there were 10 reported rape cases in Kandal in the first four months of 2009, down from 21 in the same period last year.

PVihear gets govt housing aid

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 30 April 2009

792 nearby households given cash, land and building materials.

NEARLY 800 families living near Preah Vihear temple have received land, cash and materials to help rebuild their homes at a new site near the disputed temple, officials said Tuesday.

Kong Sorphon, director of Preah Vihear province's Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said a total of 4,334 hectares have been set aside for 792 families living near the base of the temple.

Some 319 of the families were vendors at the market at the foot of the temple staircase whose homes were destroyed during border clashes earlier this month.

Kong Sorphon said the remaining 473 are from Ko Muoy village, which lies inside the bounds of the Preah Vihear temple grounds and would also be shifted to Sra Em village, a new settlement around 10 kilometres from the temple.

He said each family would receive 2 million riel (US$490), construction wood and 50 sheets of metal roofing from Prime Minister Hun Sen to rebuild their houses, in addition to a 50- metre-by-100-metre plot of land at Sra Em.

"We have land for 792 families to build houses in Sa Em village, and we are working to draw up a map for road construction and places to build a market, school and pagoda," Kong Sorphon said.

Siv Sophally, a market vendor whose house and property were destroyed in the clashes earlier this month, said she was overjoyed by the assistance given by the government. "We were very happy to hear of Hun Sen's assistance," she said.

One in 10 a victim of evictions

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Local housing rights group claims 120,000 affected since 1990

AT least one in 10 Phnom Penh residents has been displaced or evicted from their home since private land ownership was reinstated two decades ago, a local housing rights advocacy group said Wednesday.

In a report issued Wednesday, Sahmakum Teang Tnaut estimates that 23,831 families - totalling around 120,000 people, or 10 percent of the city's population - have been the victims of land evictions since 1990.

The report also claims the figures, which were gathered from government and NGO sources in addition to the group's own studies, violated articles of the international Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Cambodia is a signatory.

According to the report, 2001 was the most active year for land evictions, witnessing the removal of 6,358 families, followed by 2006, which saw large-scale evictions from the Dey Krahorm and Sambok Chab communities.

Conservative figures
Sahmakum Teang Tnaut adviser Hallam Goad said the total was reached by counting households that were evicted and then multiplying by five - an estimate of the average number of members in each family.

But he said the report was still a work in progress and that the figures quoted were conservative. "No one has a complete list of all the evictions, and I'm sure there are a number of cases we have missed out on," he said Wednesday, adding that the figures also omit besieged urban communities currently facing eviction threats.

"The only direction these numbers are likely to go is up," he said.

Court to examine death of pregnant woman in Pailin

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun and Robbie Corey-Boulet
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Battambang deputy prosecutor says he has summoned six staffers at Pailin Referral Hospital for a hearing to be held next month.

BATTAMBANG'S deputy prosecutor issued summonses last week to six Pailin Referral Hospital staffers for a hearing in connection with the March 16 death of a pregnant woman whose husband says was denied emergency obstetric care because she was unable to pay a US$25 fee.

The staffers include four obstetricians who were at the hospital when the woman, Vorn Yoeub, 37, sought treatment there, said the deputy prosecutor, Koy Chanya, who added that he had also issued a summons to the victim's husband, Mith Rorn.

The hearing is scheduled for May 19 and 20.

In a March 18 interview with the Post, Mith Rorn said he drove his wife to the hospital so she could give birth there on the night of March 15.
When they arrived, he said, obstetricians at the hospital demanded $25 in advance to treat her, a fee the couple could not pay.

He said the obstetricians ignored several additional requests for treatment that night, saying it could wait until the morning. Vorn Yoeub died at 5am on March 16.

Hospital disputes charge
Luy Chantha, head of obstetrics at the hospital, has repeatedly disputed Mith Rorn's version of events and said the hospital never turned away patients who were too poor to pay treatment fees.

She said Wednesday that she had not yet received a summons letter but that she would gladly appear before the Battambang provincial court, which has jurisdiction in the case.

"I don't have any fear or reaction to the allegation, as I didn't commit any crime," she said. "I will be happy to clear up the public's doubts about this."

Ang Neang, deputy director of the hospital, said he had received a summons letter and that he would "not be afraid to answer the court's questions". He declined to comment further.

Past investigations
Luy Chantha said the four obstetricians had been told March 23 that they had been cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with the case after Pailin police officers conducted an investigation. She said Pailin Governor Y Chhien had told them he would "stop this problem" during a meeting in which they explained their version of events.

Y Chhien could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Chhuon Makara, the Pailin provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, told the Post on Wednesday that the case had prompted him to investigate the quality of obstetric care available at Pailin Referral Hospital. He said the investigation had revealed a pattern of "carelessness" and unprofessional conduct, including the frequent use of "arrogant words" with patients.

He commended Koy Chanya's willingness to pursue the case, saying, "I welcome the court's decision to do its work to clear up the public's suspicions about wrongdoing".

Donor Funds: Extra cash for sports

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Donor Funds

On Tuesday, the Olympic Council of Asia gave Cambodia further funding to improve the Kingdom's sporting infrastructure. The body pledged US$150,000, in addition to US$245,000 already being used to construct a new indoor stadium and aquatic centre in Kampong Cham and Kampot provinces respectively. "In 15 or 16 years, I hope there will be very good competition internationally from Cambodian athletes," Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, president of the OCA, said Wednesday. Meas Sarin, secretary general of the NOC, said Cambodia had already began to see marked improvement, and said in popular sports like football, volleyball and boxing,there was potential for Cambodian athletes to win medals.

Talks fail to resolve dispute

Photo by: AFP
Minister of Defence Tea Banh (front right) shakes hands with counterpart Prawit Wongsuwon in Siem Reap on Wednesday

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Thursday, 30 April 2009

Meetings between Thai and Cambodian defence ministers yield some agreements but do not solve border standoff at Preah Vihear temple.

THE sixth annual set of talks between Thai and Cambodian defence ministers ended midday Wednesday in Siem Reap, with agreement on some issues including demarcating their shared border, but no breakthrough on the crucial issue of troop withdrawals from around the contested Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian Defence Minister Tea Banh and his Thai counterpart Prawit Wongsuwan hailed progress made during the meeting, citing agreements to use the Joint Border Commission to find border markers and continue demarcating the neighbouring countries' shared frontier and a decision to resolve overlapping claims in the Gulf of Thailand through existing mechanisms.

"The two sides confirmed that the border issue should be resolved based on the [Memorandum of Understanding] on measuring and demarcating made on June 14, 2000," said a joint statement issued on Wednesday after the meeting, referring to a breakthrough agreement eight years ago.

But solving the standoff around the 11th-century temple will take more time, Tea Banh said.

At least seven Thai and Cambodian troops have been killed in recent months in sporadic clashes between the neighbouring countries on disputed land around Preah Vihear temple.

"The issue of troop pullback ... from the area near Preah Vihear temple depends on the negotiation related to border demarcation that has not been agreed to yet," Prawit told reporters in a joint press conference, adding that he himself was struggling to get up to speed on the issue, having only been defence minister for about four months.

Troop withdrawals will have to wait until demarcation has been completed to both countries' satisfaction, he added.

Tea Banh said that both countries were using all means possible to resolve the border dispute.

Troops from the two countries have been in a border standoff since tensions flared last July, when the temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status.

Ownership of the temple was awarded to Cambodia in 1962, but the two countries are in dispute over 5 square kilometres of land around it that have yet to be demarcated.

Duch talks of Western victims of Tuol Sleng

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha and Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 30 April 2009

KHMER Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav told Cambodia's war crimes court Wednesday that two of the Westerners imprisoned at the S-21 security centre had been interrogated on his orders.

"For the Cambodian cadre, we were instructed by the superiors who was special and who was not. But for the foreigners, I made that decision. I assigned [deputy of interrogations] Comrade Pon to interrogate them," the former jailer, known as Duch, told the court in response to questions from civil party lawyer Hong Kim Suon.

"There was one American, a British, a New Zealander and an Australian," he said, adding that Comrade Pon had interrogated "a New Zealander and maybe a British guy".

He told the court that Western prisoners at Tuol Sleng were kept in a "special prison" away from their Cambodian and Vietnamese counterparts until "the second quarter of 1978".

Waterboarding ‘not used'
Duch on Wednesday also denied using the technique known as waterboarding as a torture method, telling the court he preferred more simple methods of interrogation.

"The first items to be used for torture were whips and electrical wire from a phone cord," he said.

He said waterboarding involving "a scarf and water" was "another technique learned from the Lon Nol police".

But Duch said he questioned the use of techniques that could potentially kill victims and cause confessions to be lost.

PM asks for ASEAN meet on swine flu

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Thursday, 30 April 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen requested Wednesday that the ASEAN secretary general summon all member-state leaders to an emergency meeting to discuss swine flu prevention measures.

In a speech to over 500 students at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said that the regional bloc must work together to fight this new disease.

"I want the chairman of ASEAN, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister of Thailand, to consider a summit to decide on emergency measures to control the spread of this disease in ASEAN countries," Hun Sen said.

"A meeting between ministers may have difficulties making decisions that are responsive to the spread of this disease. But if there is a meeting between the top leaders of each country, accompanied by public health and agriculture ministers, I will support it," Hun Sen said. He added: "We cannot fight the disease alone because it may affect our trade with our neighbouring countries."

Hun Sen also ordered Cham Prasidh, minister of commerce, to meet with Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary general of ASEAN, to discuss a summit on swine flu.

There have been no suspected cases of swine flu in Cambodia yet, but the government has implemented precautions to prevent its spread into the Kingdom.

Chan Sarun, the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said Wednesday that officials from the public health and agriculture departments are setting up checkpoints where pigs are stored and slaughtered to monitor the disease.

"We are cooperating with the Ministry of Public Health to think of measures to prevent the spread of this disease," Chan Sarun said.

Donor 'talk fest' slammed

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tom Hunter
Thursday, 30 April 2009

THE biannual meeting of donors and government officials is nothing more than a "talk fest that has achieved virtually nothing over the past 15 years", one rights group official said, as others agreed and cited glacial progress towards vital reforms in areas such as corruption and responsible governance that is, they claim, threatening to derail the Kingdom's overall development progress.

"We can expect the same old recycled statements from donors this year, followed by the same old promises by the government that will not be worth the paper they are printed on," Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said by email Wednesday.

At the Government Donor Coordination Committee (GDCC) meeting Tuesday, donors noted that in areas such as land rights, corruption and freedom of information, significant progress had not been forthcoming - concerns they have voiced at every similar meeting for the last decade.

In a statement similar to many released at previous meetings, development partners "urged that the four fundamental laws - relating to good governance and corruption - be submitted to the National Assembly for enactment as expeditiously as possible".

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith defended the forum Tuesday.

"These are big laws, and the government needs more time to workshop in order to stream knowledge to both civil and public servants," he said.

But Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of NGO Forum Cambodia, said that it was only the political will of the government that was impeding reform.

"In my view, the level of concern from the donors has not changed between Tuesday's GDCC meeting and the ones held in previous years," he said.

Adams said donors as well as government officials bore responsibility for the lack of progress on these issues, saying they have "never acted in a truly coordinated way to put real pressure on the government to engage in necessary reforms".

Explosive harvest

Roger Hess, Golden West's inspector of field operations, looks at a Russian RBK 250 bomb at their Kampong Chhnang centre. Under his guidance, the Cambodian Golden West team have developed a method of extracting explosives from old, dangerous weapons such as this to make charges that are now being used to clear Cambodia of land mines.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet and Sam Rith
Thursday, 30 April 2009


BETWEEN 1998 and 2007, Seng Doeurn could farm less than half of the hectare she owned in Klang village, located in Battambang's Bavel district.

Warned by neighbours and officials about the likely presence of land mines and explosive remnants of war - left over from the fighting between Khmer Rouge and government forces that did not end in the district until 1998 - she and her family stuck to the small portion of land they deemed safe, remaining ever mindful of where they planted their rice and where they placed their feet.

"In those years, I would just plant rice in places with no trees and no jungle," she said, "because I heard from others that those were probably the places that didn't have mines."

Like many of the 105 families in Klang village, Seng Doeurn, 51, and her husband and children thought they might be forced to perform this type of at-risk farming indefinitely, as they had no other source of income.

Meanwhile, sporadic reminders of the threat posed by the mines cemented what she described as a pervasive fear among the villagers: In 2000, a 40-year-old man was killed when he rode his bicycle over an antipersonnel mine situated at the edge of a road, according to records provided by Ly Khchaopick, the deputy village chief. In 2007, two farmers survived explosions that occurred when they were breaking their soil with hoes.

The family's situation improved only recently, when their plot of land was included in a mine-clearance operation conducted in 2007 by the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC). Since then, the ability to cultivate the entire hectare, Seng Doeurn said, has allowed her family to double its rice production and purchase some long-coveted items, including a motorbike, a bicycle and a television set.

For the 30 families in the village whose land was not part of the operation, however, at-risk farming remains a frustrating and uncertain source of income. The restrictions placed on which land they can use render them less productive than their neighbours, and the attendant dangers are forgotten at their own peril: Last year, a 10-year-old boy tending cows in a field picked up - and began tossing around - a piece of metal that turned out to be an M-79 grenade, according to records provided by Ly Khchaopick. The boy survived the explosion but sustained injuries to his stomach, arms and face.

The attempt to clear land in Klang village is part of the latest focus in the effort to mitigate the damage caused by landmines in Cambodia, which remains one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

Ten years ago, Cambodia became a signatory to the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, committing itself to removing all antipersonnel mines by the end of 2009. As the deadline nears, the Cambodian Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAA) is drafting a formal request to extend the deadline for another 10 years, which UNDP mine action project manager Melissa Sabatier said would provide "an opportunity to take stock of Cambodia's mine action achievements and identify a way forward".
Seng Doeurn.

Between 1992 and February 2009, deminers cleared 479,957 square kilometres of land for development purposes. Landmine experts estimate that fewer than 700 square kilometres of land still need to be cleared, although this figure has not been backed up by technical research, Sabatier said.

An extension of the deadline, which officials expect will be approved, would make donors more likely to fund mine clearance operations, said UNDP mine action communications officer Alex Hiniker.

The extension request, to be presented at a conference in Cartagena, Colombia, at the end of the year, is to include a plan to focus on clearance efforts in the 21 most heavily mined districts - nine of which, Bavel included, are in Battambang, the most mine-affected province.

Noum Chhay Roum, chief of the Battambang Mine Action Planning Unit, said decisions about which sites to clear are based on factors including the wishes of development partners, how many people stand to benefit and whether plans exist to develop the land once it is mine-free.

At present, CMAC deminers can meet less than half of clearance requests submitted by Battambang residents, said Net Nath, deputy manager for CMAC Demining Unit 2, which is based in Battambang.

I would just plant rice in places with no trees and no jungle.

"We can't meet their demands because we have a limited team and a limited budget," he said.

Deminers clear land in half-meter increments in Bavel district, Battambang.

Clearing M12688
On the morning of April 1, some 23 CMAC deminers, donning yellow helmets, light blue CMAC shirts, brown pants and dark blue Kevlar protection vests, began another day of work in Minefield 12688, an 11-hectare plot also in Bavel district. Standing among kapok and jambolan plum trees, they set up 1.5-metre-by-10 metre demining strips, cleared brush in half-metre increments and examined every piece of metal - or piece of debris resembling metal - they came across.

The clearance project began March 17 and was to be completed by April 24. Once cleared, the land was to be turned over to 48 families, primarily for growing rice, bananas, oranges, jackfruit, papayas and mangoes.

As of April 21, the team had found 18 anti-personnel mines, seven pieces of unexploded ordnance and no antitank mines. The team had inspected 99,488 pieces of metal.

Among the villagers who stand to benefit is Pheap Chan, 49, whose left leg was amputated below the knee following a landmine explosion that occurred while he was fighting Khmer Rouge forces in 1990. He said he hoped to plant corn, beans and bananas on a one-hectare plot of land once the CMAC team was finished.

Before the operation began, he said, "I was planting in the farmland, but I was just using half of the land."

He added that he hoped CMAC would be able to clear the land near his house, located in a neighbouring village, once the M12688 project was completed.

"I have landmines near my house," he said. "Right now I just clear them myself."

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
[left and centre] and Heng Chivoan [right] Testing disposable charges, left, on a Bouncing Betty landmine; empty shells, centre, which have had their live charges removed; A CMAC deminer at work in Battambang.


By Tracey Shelton

In a field in Kampong Chhnang province, a Golden West Humanitarian Foundation employee works in one of three modified shipping containers, cutting an antitank landmine in half.

In a process known as explosive harvesting, the mine will be steamed and separated from its casing before being melted and recast. The goal is to extract from dangerous stockpiles of unexploded ammunition disposal charges - small detonators that can be used in the clearing of landmines and explosive remnants. Golden West began work in Cambodia in 2005, the same year it developed the explosive harvesting technique now used here and in Afghanistan.

Golden West Director of Field Operations Roger Hess said the foundation had designed a system of harvesting explosives from old weapons that could be used to clear stockpiles without creating more hazardous waste. Up to 50 disposal charges can be made from one piece of ammunition. In Kampong Chhnang alone, Golden West has processed 40 tonnes of ammunition, creating 100,000 charges and 24 tonnes of clean metal. Before Golden West began explosive harvesting, deminers were dependent on explosives from abroad, said Oum Phumro, deputy director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC).

The process of procuring them, he said, was expensive and difficult.

"At one point, operators were running out of explosives to support demining operations," Oum Phumro said.

Last year, 65 percent of explosives used by CMAC were produced by Golden West, saving them at least US$100,000 on the cost of explosives from abroad. Producing charges locally makes it easier to fill special orders.

Oum Phumro said different pieces of unexploded ordnance require different techniques.

"Explosive charges can now be made for specific mines and tailored to operational needs," he said.

Back in the Kampong Chhnang field, or Elephant Range, explosive ordnance disposal specialist Thong Khean sets charges on three warheads to break open the casings and burn out the explosives before they detonate. "If the bomb is close to a village or house and we can't move it, we need low-order so when it explodes the pieces do not go far," Thong Khean said.

After the explosion, the team inspects the results. Two detonations were successful, but the third did not penetrate the casing. "This one we will try to make again, but a little bit different, and maybe we will have success," Thong Khean explains as he sets a new charge closer to the third rocket, and at a different angle.