Thursday, 29 January 2009

Harmful effects of tobacco consumption soon to be illustrated on cigarette packs in Cambodia

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 10/08/2002: Former soldiers enjoying some beer.
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Duong Sokha

With the ratification of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on November 25th 2005, Cambodia committed to implementing on its territory, by February 15th 2009 at the latest, a series of measures against tobacco consumption. Therefore, the Cambodian government only has two weeks to begin the necessary reforms, which among other ones, state the obligation to mention more clearly the risks linked with tobacco use on cigarette packs. In order to show their will to enforce the international treaty, the Cambodian Ministry of Health elaborated the project of a Circular imposing new regulations on tobacco distributors, namely requiring large labels to appear on packs, with not just health warnings in small print but also images showing the consequences of the consumption of tobacco products. The text is soon to be signed by prime Minister Hun Sen but strangely enough, the government have not said a word about it, not even to the factories it concerns.

A governmental Circular elaborated to comply with Article 11 of the FCTC

Article 11 of the FCTC obliges the 162 countries who have ratified it to this day (out of 168 signatories) to display health warnings, preferably images representing the visible consequences of tobacco use-related diseases, on at least 30% of the surface of cigarette packs. The treaty also provides states with clear indications on the nature of measures to take to effectively fight tobacco use, either in terms of taxation, regulation of products or the fight against cigarette smuggling.

In May 2008, an interministerial meeting was organised with the WHO to reflect on the content of a Circular on cigarette packs, the drafting of which is now supposed to be over. The text draft, which Ka-set obtained a copy of, goes further than what is stipulated in the FCTC: indeed, all packs will have to display, on at least 50% of their surface, an insert consisting of a colour picture and a warning message. In all, there will be six alternate illustrations and each of them will explicitly show the main health problems related to tobacco use: lung cancer, emphysema, heart diseases, strokes, tooth decay and the harmful effects of passive smoking on others.

Authorities' silence

In theory, those currently trying to denounce the harmful effects of the tobacco industry in Cambodia should be pleased. But, despite our repeated requests, authorities do not seem disposed to say anything about the Circular. Lim Thai Pheang, director of the National Centre for Health Promotion (NCHP) at the Ministry of Health and in charge of this dossier, refused outright to communicate any information to us. Phay Siphan, the spokesperson and Secretary of State at the Council of Ministers, did not answer our letter dated January 21st, whereas he asked us to formulate a request in writing, the core of which was to know when the bill for the Circular would be adopted by the Council of Ministers. As for representatives at the Cambodian government Secretariat General, they claim not knowing anything about the text, thus passing the buck onto the Ministry of Health.

However, associations working against tobacco consumption like ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) prove more talkative. Keo Krisna, project manager for the Tobacco Or Health programme (TOH) in this NGO, reckons that a priori, the preventive pictures mentioned in the Circular will have a real impact on the public and will contribute to a decrease in tobacco consumption. “Whatever its mode of production might be, tobacco contains at least 4,000 chemical substances. But the current warning message showing on packs of cigarettes [“Cigarettes are harmful to your health”, a message in small print which first appeared in July 1998] is tiny and does not catch the attention of smokers”, Keo Krisna points out. Moreover, some illiterate citizens do not understand it and are therefore still unaware of the fact that tobacco contains toxic substances.”

Doctor Yel Daravuth, a national officer for the WHO Tobacco free initiative and health promotion programme, is also pleased about the perspective of this measure, which he sees as a strong sign on the part of the government to have the FCTC law respected by all... provided it is indeed adopted. “Singapore and Thailand already impose health warnings on packs of cigarettes, and this allows citizens to be informed of the harmful effects of tobacco and therefore reduce their consumption”, says the long-term campaigner for tobacco controls, “Mister anti-tobacco”, who works together with the Ministry of Health on this issue.

Several thousand deaths every year

The measure is far from being of small importance: it should allow direct campaigning with some 1.9 million smokers (out of whom 1.2 million men, i.e. 40% of the adult population of men), present in Cambodia, according to a survey carried out in 2005 by ADRA, the WHO and the National Institute of Statistics and the Loma Linda University (USA). “Tobacco is a murderer which does not speak its name, unlike road accidents. According to our estimations, in 2007 in Cambodia, 73,500 people died of the consequences of tobacco use”, Keo Krisna stresses. Yel Daravuth agrees with this alarming report and assures that 90% of lung cancer cases are caused by cigarettes.

Prevention is therefore more important than ever, Keo Krisna says. According to him, some measures enforced by NGOs and Ministries such as the creation of “smoke-free areas” in public places, hospitals, pagodas and schools in several towns and provinces, have already contributed to reducing tobacco consumption.

Tobacco industry: ready to collaborate

The bill for the Circular, however, hardly raises the eyebrows of company representatives producing and selling tobacco on the Cambodian market. They claim to be ready to submit to another regulation concerning the packaging of their products. Speaking on behalf of the multinational giant British American Tobacco (BAT), present in Cambodia via a joint venture with a former state company initiated in 1996, Lim Kun, Corporate and Regulator Affairs Director in Cambodia and Laos, says the company “fully” supports the will of the Cambodian government to include the FCTC's general dispositions in its national legislations and regulations. The representative yet stressed that he would like to be informed by authorities and the WHO of such a Circular bill, to make sure that all representatives of the tobacco industry in Cambodia are involved in its elaboration... if it is not too late.

“The position of BAT in the world does not go against any disposition made by such or such country, nor does it go against such or such WHO treaty... But since this rule applies to the tobacco industry, [the BAT] must be invited to provide its recommendations, even if simply means informing of the time it needs to enforce it”, Lim Kun suggests, adding that up to the present day, his group has not been invited to take part in discussions on that text with the WHO and the Ministry of Health.

The absence of information and consultation makes Lim Kun doubt about the efficiency of the enforcement of such a measure. “Once the text is enforced, we need six months to a year to comply with such a decision, sell all our products which are already on the market and order packaging machines. But if the whole of the tobacco industry takes part in it, BAT will be first in the line there”, the director stresses, yet adding that he does not intend to express any criticism towards the government.

As for representatives of Texas Tobacco, they did not seem to mind the measure whatsoever. Kim Chhourn, in charge of administration for the company, reckons: “Our sales might go down slightly, but we will not worry about it, because the main market where we sell our products is not Cambodia but Singapore, and there, our exportations already have to be stamped with this type of health warning”.

And from a legal point of view, nothing, even after the Circular is enforced, will prevent companies from continuing to promote of their products, either via advertisement or commercial actions directly targeting Cambodian consumers.

Some advice to say no to tobacco

As part of its works, the NGO ADRA launched an awareness campaign among people who wish to quit smoking. An essential prerequisite: determination. Then, as explained by Keo Krisna, the organisation's representative in Cambodia, smokers must try to progressively delay the time of the day when they usually start smoking. “If they are used to smoking at ten in the morning, they must delay the consumption of their first cigarette by fifteen minutes. Then, they gradually reduce their consumption from one pack a day to half-a-pack a day. And finally, they must throw away any pack they have already started and stay away from cigarette smoke as it causes them to go back to smoking. If someone offers them a cigarette, they should simply thank the person and clearly tell them they have quit smoking”, Keo Krisna details. This process can take more or less time to complete: between a week and three months, according to smokers.

Dey Krohom : Cambodian opposition condemns the attitude of Phnom Penh municipality


By Ros Dina

In a joint communiqué released on Wednesday January 28th, MPs of the Cambodian political opposition, members of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Human Rights Party (HRP), condemn the attitude of the Phnom Penh municipality authorities and the “grave violences” exerted towards Dey Krohom inhabitants during their eviction and the destruction of their houses on the morning of Saturday January 24th.

In the declaration, SRP and HRP elected representatives assert that these violences constitute a grave violation of Human rights and housing rights, and point a finger at the responsibility of the Phnom Penh municipality in the operations conducted by henchmen of the 7NG company, under the approving, not to say encouraging eye of police forces and firemen.

“The role of authorities is to make sure that the law is abided by, and to take care of citizens' security and interest. But on the contrary, the authorities in place use their power to order armed forces to destroy dwellings and torture the population in the sole interest of traders, unlawfully”, they write, thus calling the Cambodian government to take urgent measures to put an end to “illegal actions” committed in land conflicts, and to condemn the authorities who give orders for them..

Finally, the elected representatives of the Cambodian opposition ask the municipality of Phnom Penh to distribute foodstuff, provide healthcare, accommodation and compensations to former Dey Krohom dwellers, evicted on Saturday January 24th.

FARMS makes headway on Cambodia self-sufficiency project

FARMS has similar programs in 10 other countries, including the Philippines as shown above.

Mission Network News
29 January, 2009

Cambodia (MNN) ― After years of living in refugee camps, many Cambodians who now are free are unsure of how to handle life on their own. Vietnam occupied Cambodia from the 1950's until the 1990's and held many of its people in camps for at least that long.

"[Cambodia] is probably one of the more difficult areas I've seen in the world: the skills, the background, and the history of most Cambodians revolves around being refugees. Now they're being relocated back into their own country without the history that's normally there with a people like this," says FARMS International's Joseph Richter. "I think one of the big challenges is the dependent mentality, which is just the result of living in a camp for 20 or 30 years."

Years ago, FARMS took notice of the need in Cambodia, especially as it related to native Christians, and they began to seek out ways to start a program there. FARMS plans to help people on their way to financial and vocational independence.

"The whole idea of self-help is new to people," Richter explains. On Richter's most recent trips to the area, however, Christians have seemed receptive. "People there were very encouraged, I think, about the FARMS idea of helping people locally so that they could help their own churches."

FARMS is currently raising funds in preparation to officially launch a program in Cambodia alongside two or three other organizations within the next few months. The program will be run through local churches and will provide micro-loans, as well as help with technical and managerial skills, in order to get people on their feet again. Distribution of aid in these forms also provides a platform to share the Gospel.

"FARMS believes that the church is the center for development in any community," says Richter. "It's a very natural thing that people can share what God has done in their lives through the program and through their belief in Jesus. This is the way FARMS really accomplishes evangelism: through the changed lives of the people involved in the churches."

While FARMS is preparing to launch the program, Richter asks for prayer that native believers' hearts will be open to a new way of living, and there will be progress made toward independence.

If you would like to help begin this important new ministry in Cambodia,
click here

Hun Sen warns councillors

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks Wednesday at a decentralisation conference in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 29 January 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has warned that future district, provincial and municipal councillors - to be elected through indirect nationwide elections in May - should not meddle in foreign affairs, despite the impending devolution of political power to the sub-national level.

Hun Sen, speaking to more than a hundred high-ranking government officials at Chaktomuk Theatre Wednesday during a decentralisation conference, highlighted the Taiwan-China dispute as one in which council members should hold their tongues.

"After the election, if the councils become independent and recognise Taiwanese independence, it will be wrong, as there is no such law," Hun Sen said, referring to Beijing's commitment to a "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan.

"Cambodia recognises the one-China policy," he said.

Cheam Yeap, spokesman of the ruling Cambodian People's Party , said that the prime minister was merely expressing concerns that the new councils may become confused about central government policy.

"The premier's message was to repeat government policy so that the new councils understand our foreign policy," he said.

On May 17, Cambodia will hold its first elections for positions on district, provincial and municipal councils as part of the government's drive to transfer more decision-making powers to the local level.

Hun Sen said also that the central government does not have sufficient ability to effectively provide public services in the Kingdom's remotest areas, and that it was preparing local administrations by equipping them with staff, finances and other resources.

"We hope that the reform will provide better services and bring about a reduction in poverty," he said, adding that after the May elections, councils will be able to remove local officials if their performance falls below a certain level.

But Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said that since the only eligible voters were sitting members of the country's commune councils, local people would have no hand in electing new officials.

"People are not able to express their rights to elect their leaders in their districts and provinces," he said. "The SRP will participate in the election. We will have our representatives, who will act as a watchdog over local developments."

Rainsy gets guilty verdict

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Brendan Brady
Thursday, 29 January 2009

French court fines opposition leader just €1 for defamation

A FRENCH court Tuesday ordered Sam Rainsy and his publisher to pay a symbolic €1 fine to Foreign Minister Hor Namhong for defamatory and misleading comments made in the opposition leader's autobiography, which identified the minister as a high-ranking Khmer Rouge cadre.

In Rooted in Stone, published in May, Sam Rainsy accused Hor Namhong of heading the Boeung Trabek "re-education" camp, where diplomats and government officials from the Lon Nol and Sihanouk regimes were detained.

On Tuesday, Paris's Tribunal Correctionnel ordered Sam Rainsy's publisher Calmann-Levy to remove a passage in any reprinted copies of the book calling the foreign minister a "collaborator... suspected of causing the death of several people".

It also required that Sam Rainsy and his publisher post notices in two newspapers of their choice stating the court's ruling and pay €5,500 (US$7,272) in legal fees to the state.

Despite not coming to a resounding decision in his favour, Sin Bunthoeun, press spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said Hor Namhong was "happy to receive justice from the court and have his name cleared".

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kouy Koung added that Hor Namhong may now use the French court's ruling to pursue further legal action in Cambodia.

In April, he filed a lawsuit in Phnom Penh's Municipal Court following similar remarks made by Sam Rainsy in a speech at the Choeung Ek "killing fields".

In May, the Phnom Penh court summoned Sam Rainsy to appear, but Hor Namhong shelved the case, awaiting the verdict from the French court.

But Sam Rainsy remained unrepentant and denied the French court ruling would have any implications for the pending local trial.

"The legal basis would be very weak since this case isn't over," he told the Post Wednesday.

"This is just the beginning. I will lodge an appeal, and if I lose that, I will go to the Supreme Court, so I'm not even sure I will pay," he said.

"I don't have any regrets. I would not change a word."

City gets medical incinerator

Phoeun Sopheak, deputy supervisor at the new medical incinerator at Choeung Ek, demonstrates how waste is incinerated.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Thursday, 29 January 2009

But some city hospitals and clinics are already complaining about high monthly fees for new equipment, located at Choeung Ek dumpsite.

THE city's first medical incinerator, a project financed by municipal officials and the Phnom Penh branch of the Red Cross, became fully operational this month.

The project, located at the new Choeung Ek dumpsite, cost US$700,000 - $30,000 for the incinerator itself and $670,000 for the building it sits in and the roads that lead to it, said Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong, who is also president of the city's Red Cross chapter.

"I called for private companies to pay for the incinerator but no one could," he said.

He said he expected the incinerator to service hospitals and clinics in every municipal district and to bring health and environmental benefits to city residents.

In constructing the incinerator, project leaders received materials and technical assistance from Germany. The body of the incinerator came from Holland, and pipes for the incinerator came from Vietnam.

Though Pa Socheatvong has currently hired only four trucks and 30 workers, he said he plans to have one designated truck to collect medical waste in each district, noting that the incinerator can dispose of between one and two tonnes of medical waste per day.

Veng Thai, director of the Municipal Health Department, said city hospitals and clinics produce approximately three tonnes of medical waste each day.

Exposure to medical waste - which includes items such as needles, scissors and bandages - can cause headaches, diarrhoea and vomiting in addition to a range of diseases.


"Although the cost of the incinerator was very high, it is very important for our health," Veng Thai said. "Other countries already have them."

Pa Socheatvong said all hospitals and clinics would need to pay a fee to use the incinerator, adding that he had already heard complaints that the service was too expensive. He said small clinics would need to pay $5 per month, while medium and large clinics and hospitals would need to pay anywhere between $20 and $300 per month. He said more than 1,000 hospitals and clinics, including dental clinics, operate in Phnom Penh.

Worth the fee?

He said he had promoted the project out of humanitarian rather than profit-oriented goals.

"We don't force those clinics to pay for our service, but we already asked approval from the Ministry of Health to dispose of medical waste in the city," he said.

Heng Taikry, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health and the director of Calmette Hospital, said the hospital currently uses the incinerator and expects to dispose of around 500 kilograms of medical waste each month.

He said he knew of other hospitals and clinics that wanted to use the service but found the cost prohibitively expensive.

Heng Pouv, general manager of the Naga Clinic emergency room, said he supported the creation of the incinerator and had not yet decided whether the fee was too expensive.

"It depends on whether they service us well," he said.

Group 78 asks if it will be next

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda and Brendan Brady
Thursday, 29 January 2009

IN the wake of the forced removal Saturday of scores of families from Dey Krahorm, residents of another riverside shantytown community, Group 78, worry the gaze of urban development will fall on them next.

The city has planned a road through the small neighbourhood as part of its plan for a new bridge spanning the Bassac river.

"Eighty-eight families live in Group 78, community representative Lim Sambo said Wednesday, but "our story is different from the people from Dey Krahorm", he said.

"Their own community leaders cheated them. We are not a community in the same way, so no one person can do that."

But anxiety prevails in the community, which is less than a kilometre from Dey Krahorm.

Sim Pov said he and his neighbours thought their neighbourhood would be evicted the same day hundreds of police and workers moved in to demolish homes in Dey Krahorm.

Tan Khem Ny, 29, said City Hall had offered residents a house in Trapaing Anchanh village - more than a dozen kilometers outside the city - as well as US$5,000 to leave, but homeowners demanded $3,500 per square metre.

With the help of the Cambodian Legal Education Centre (CLEC), residents have crafted a plan to remain onsite by building and moving into a concrete building in a corner of their neighborhood, allowing the rest to be bought and developed by the municipality.

Man Vuthy of CLEC said Group 78 had already proved an adept negotiator through proactive planning. He also said it stood on sturdier legal ground than did its besieged neighbor, as the majority of its residents hold multiple documents - including family books, voting cards and citizen IDs - proving land ownership.

7NG makes one final offer

Former Dey Krahorm residents on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Saga continues as families evicted from Dey Krahorm by private developer 7NG are offered housing in relocation site 16km outside Phnom Penh.

PRIVATE developer 7NG delivered an ultimatum Wednesday to residents evicted from Dey Krahorm community, saying they had until the end of the month to accept compensation or they would receive nothing, according to a statement from the company.

In a statement by Managing Director Srey Chanthou obtained by the Post Wednesday and dated Tuesday, 7NG urges residents to contact authorities before Saturday if they want to receive a house at the new relocation site in Damnak Trayoeng village, saying there were enough houses for 85 families.

Rights groups claim around 150 families were forcibly evicted from the city-based community Saturday and relocated to Damnak Trayoeng village, 16 kilometres from the city.

An additional sum of 777,700 riels (US$189) was also available along with housing supplies for each family applying, Srey Chanthou wrote.

"Residents and vendors must rush to contact the company and authorities before January 31, 2009. If they are late to accept a house or stalls, the company will not be responsible to provide anymore," Srey Chanthou announced in the statement.

The company also said that the 113 market vendors who had stalls at Dey Krahorm that were also demolished in the eviction could register for new stalls at the relocation site. They are now staying under the car park of Damnak Trayoeng office, the letter added.

He added, however, that individuals renting in the original community would not be eligible to apply for a house. "The company will not be responsible for renters," he said.

Leng Kim Rady, 52, an evictee now living in Damnak Trayoeng, said his family had set up a tarpaulin in a parking area.

"The deadline to receive a home is too early for us to have a chance to think - with a family - whether or not to take a house," he said. "I still want US$20,000, as was the promise by the municipality and the company before eviction."

Chan Vichet, a Dey Krahorm representative, said the number of houses offered would not cover everyone. "Only 85 families can receive a house. What about the others who had a house before the eviction?"

PM says opposition remains too critical

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Thursday, 29 January 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen Wednesday again blasted the opposition over their criticism of government activities, saying whether the government is right or wrong, they always criticise.

Responding to opposition comments that the ruling Cambodian People's Party leaders (CPP) have the "same faces", Hun Sen said: "The same opposition has opposed us since the beginning .... We do right or wrong, they always oppose."

Chea Vannath, an independent political analyst, said that in a democratic system if there were no criticism it would not be good governance, as the government would then judge what is right or wrong itself.

Opposition renews calls for $500 million stimulus package

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith and Sebastian Strangio
Thursday, 29 January 2009

SRP and HRP claim falling agricultural prices are hurting Cambodia's export economy, but govt officials say they have $3 billion in reserve.

OPPOSITION lawmakers have made renewed calls for the government to prepare a US$500 million economic stimulus package, claiming the Kingdom's export-oriented economy is being hit hard by falling global prices for agricultural produce.

In a letter sent Tuesday to Prime Minister Hun Sen, 18 parliamentarians from the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and Human Rights Party (HRP) restated a request that $500 million be set aside to protect the economy against further degradation.

"Due to a dramatic drop in the price of agricultural produce ... the income as well as the livelihoods of millions of Cambodian farmers has worsened dramatically," stated the letter.

"We hope that the government will prepare measures to help our farmers maintain their livelihoods."

In particular, the letter called for government support of agricultural prices and the provision of low-interest loans to those in financial need, reiterating the contents of a letter SRP President Sam Rainsy sent to Hun Sen on January 16.

‘Lucky' economy

But CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap dismissed opposition claims, saying Cambodia had been "lucky" to avoid the worst impacts of the crisis and that it has large funds set aside that would cushion the country against financial instability.

"We have prepared things in advance," he said. "Each year we have a reserve budget of between $200 and $300 million. Now we have almost $3 billion in the National Treasury that has not yet been used."

In response, Sam Rainsy dismissed the government's claims it was ready to weather the storm.

What the government has actually set aside for the fiscal year 2009 as "unplanned expenditures" - $144 million compared with $132 million for 2008 - is not adequate to cope with the deteriorating situation," he wrote in a January 26 letter to the Post.

Export woes

Economist Sok Sina agreed with Sam Rainsy that falling prices would harm the Cambodian economy, saying that grass-roots benefits - such as cheap petrol and rice - were outweighed by the overall decline in prices of agricultural produce.

"The price of petrol has declined, but not much else," he told the Post.

"Low prices benefit many rice consumers, but not if you look at the economy as a whole. Cambodia is a rice-exporting country, and if the price of rice is low, the Cambodian economy will not benefit."

He said that the opposition's call made economic sense, although it lacked details.

"I think it's a good idea. If you look at the budget plan for 2009, you can see [it] has increased compared to 2008. Credit and aid has also increased," he said.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay called for the Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon to answer concerns set out in the letter when the National Assembly next convenes.

"It is necessary for the public to know about the government's program," he said.

Budding scientists embrace nature

Students from the Royal University's conservation master's program on a field trip last year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady
Thursday, 29 January 2009

New master's program at the Royal University of Phnom Penh is creating generation of conservation-savvy scientists keen to help protect the Kingdom's natural resources.

CAMBODIA'S wildlife benefits from a new team of passionate, well-trained guardians, and a new generation of scientists who are advancing Cambodian biological research, thanks to a master's degree in conservation now on offer at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

"In the future, we will be included in the decision-making process for policies to conserve our resources," said student Kannitha Lim.

In 2005, the master's of science in biodiversity conservation course opened its doors as the first postgraduate program at the Royal University.

The program has been a runaway success. All current graduates have received jobs with the government or major local conservation groups, including Flora and Fauna International Conservation International, and the WWF.

Student Va Vuthy, who recently submitted a thesis on bat habitats in the province of Mondulkiri, said he loves the fact the program allows him to participate in his country's nascent scientific research community.

For Kannitha Lim, the program "is more demanding and strict compared to other programs at the university", but it will, she says, allow her to advance Cambodian biological research.

"I would really like to be a scientist. If we don't have local researchers, it will be difficult to do good conservation work. This is the first time we had to do research on our own. It's a challenge but we enjoy it."

It is not just aspiring scientists who are attracted to the course. In 2004, Danish government development agency DANIDA tested government conservation officials and found gaps in their fundamental knowledge of the field. The master's program is specifically shaped to address those gaps, and some old hands are showing humility by enrolling.

You Liang, who has already been a lecturer of undergraduate biology at the Royal University for more than a decade, is in her first year. "My knowledge in some areas was still limited, and I wanted to improve my understanding," she said.

What makes it work?

Luise Ahrens, an American Maryknoll nun who arrived in Cambodia in 1991 as an adviser to the Ministry of Education and is now an administrator at the Royal University, said the program showed unusual discipline in restricting its numbers.

"The best thing they are doing is controlling their numbers, so there isn't an oversupply of students. That's why they've all gotten jobs after graduating."

The program spans two years - a year of classes and a year to write a thesis in English - and currently has 35 students enrolled.

Australian Callum McColloch, an official from Cambodia's Flora and Fauna International office who heads the program, said around 30 percent of the students drop out, mainly due to strict attendance policies and the requirement that all assignments and courses be conducted in English.

But he says Royal University is an ideal home for the program given its higher academic and merit-based standards compared with most other universities in Cambodia.

"We try to educate not just on the subject but on critical thinking skills as well," said Callum.

Most instruction comes from guest lecturers from the US, Europe and Australia, typically PhD students doing research in Cambodia, such as two - from England's Cambridge University and Australia's University of Queensland - who are currently teaching.

"There is a strong focus on research in our program, and that attracts inquisitive minds," Callum said.

Field research includes overnight trips to various wildlife habitats in Cambodia.

At US$250 a semester, tuition is heavily subsidised by a number of research and conservation organisations, including the Darwin Initiative and US Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as a private American donor.

For Ahrens, who is widely regarded as a pioneer for her role in resuscitating Cambodia's higher education, the program stands out due to the dedication of its students.

"They have to really want this because it's not easy. They see themselves as doing something good for the future of their country."

New anti-trafficking law reducing paedophile sentences: civil society

SLASHED Jail terms
- Philippe Dessart Original 18-year sentence for sexual abuse of a 13-year-old boy reduced to three years on appeal after his charges were reclassified under the new law.
- Nikita Belov Charged with abusing three boys aged seven to 13 years, was released in July after having his three-year sentence suspended by Sihanoukville Municipal Court, which ordered him to pay $250 in damages to each victim.
- Alexander Trofimov Had a 13-year sentence slashed to seven on appeal in October.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Sam Rith
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Last year’s law reclassifying sexual crimes has ushered in climate of leniency, say rights groups

THE lengths of prison sentences given to convicted paedophiles have fallen since the passage of the Kingdom's new anti-human trafficking law, according to civil society groups, who say the new legal classifications of underage sex crimes make it easier for the guilty to avoid lengthy prison terms.

On Monday, Preah Sihanouk provincial court prosecutors filed an appeal seeking a harsher sentence for twice-convicted paedophile Alexander Trofimov, following his sentencing January 20 for further child-sex charges involving 18 underage victims.

Trofimov was handed an 11-year term by the court, which rights groups decried as "unbelievable" and grossly out of proportion to his crimes.

"On behalf of all human rights organisations, we find the verdict difficult to accept," said Pork Sabon, an investigator for the rights group Licadho in Preah Sihanouk province.

According to anti-paedophile groups, the passage of the new Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in February last year, which replaced Cambodia's old debauchery law - applied in almost all child-sex cases - with a series of sex-related offences, has contributed to a growing tendency towards leniency in paedophile cases.

"Under the old law, sexual exploitation was usually prosecuted under charges of debauchery, which carried a sentence from 10 to 15 or 20 years," said Samleang Silea, executive director of anti-paedophile group Action Pour Les Enfants.

"But under the new law ... each case of sexual exploitation can fall under specific articles. If sexual exploitation does not reach intercourse, then it can fall under ‘indecent acts'."

He noted that old charges of debauchery carried a 10-year minimum, while some articles in the new legislation - such as the "indecent acts against a minor" charge - carry penalties of between one and three years.

Growing leniency

The new law previously came under fire from rights groups after Philippe Dessart, a Belgian national arrested in April 2006 on child-sex charges, had an 18-year sentence reduced to three years by the Phnom Penh Court of Appeal on July 26, after having old charges retroactively retried under the new charge of "indecent acts".

Trofimov also had a 13-year paedophilia sentence slashed to seven years by the Court of Appeal in October.

Samleang Silea said the new law, while being more precise and targeted than the old one, had little deterrent effect on would-be sex offenders.

"Technically, this new law is much better than the old law because each article and each crime is clearly defined. But in terms of punishment, it is giving opportunities to sex perpetrators to continue their immoral behaviour," he said.

Bith Kimhong, head of the Ministry of Interior's Department of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection, said that both Trofimov and Dessart had their charges changed from Article 34 ("purchase of child prostitution") to Article 43 ("indecent acts"), but could not comment on the reasons for the courts' reconsideration of the charges.

"I disagreed with the sentence. It was very light," he said of the Trofimov verdict, but added that problems were not with the letter of the new law, which was "a big improvement" over the previous one, but in its application.

"The punishment of perpetrators remains almost the same. The most serious ones have to be sentenced to around 20 years in prison," he said. "Now the [Trofimov] prosecutor is appealing the verdict."

Pisey Ly, a technical assistant at the Women's Agenda for Change, a local rights group, was unable to comment on recent paedophilia cases, but said the focus on sentences could draw attention away from the underlying causes of human trafficking and sex crimes.

"[Seeking to] sentence people for a very long time does not address the issue. Trafficking is related to many issues: poverty, the economic situation, information," she said. "We have to look at the root causes."

Accused rapist returns to taunt victim while out on bail: family

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Thursday, 29 January 2009

A MAN accused of rape who was released on bail by Pursat provincial court went back to taunt his victim saying he bribed his way out of jail, family members say.

"He drove a motorbike past my house and teased my sister and me, saying that now he is free from jail and that he paid money for the court rather than paying money to us," said Ken Vuthy, the victim's cousin.

Provincial monitors from the rights group Licadho say the rape took place on October 2, 2008, in Bakan district in Pursat province. The victim, 18, was walking home from a VCD shop approximately 100 metres from her home at 7:30pm when Nov Mal, 24, attacked her.

The victim's mother immediately lodged a complaint with the village chief and the commune police and, on October 3, police arrested the accused, Licadho said. He was sent to court on October 6 where he was detained temporarily on a rape charge.

On January 21, the court released Nov Mal on bail, and he allegedly turned up at the victim's house the following day.

"It is very unjust and shows real corruption exists in the court if they can release a rapist on bail after three months in detention without having a hearing," Kem Vuthy told the Post Wednesday.

"I will travel to Phnom Penh to complain to the Ministry of Justice to seek justice for my sister and to send the rapist to jail to be punished and to pay compensation of eight million riels," she added.

Pursat court Judge In Bopha was unavailable for comment, but his clerk Heng Bun Nin told the Post Wednesday that the suspect had only been released on bail temporarily and that it had no impact on the charge against him, which still stands.

Culture of impunity

But Adhoc and Licadho officials said allowing a criminal out on bail without a hearing negatively affected society's respect for the law.

"Normally in criminal cases the accused cannot be released on bail. This is the first time in Pursat that the court decided to release a rapist on bail," Doeun Sokhim, a monitor for local rights group Licahdo said. "If in all criminal cases this happens, the culture of impunity will increase," he warned.

Free iron fights maternal mortality

A pregnant woman walks out of a Phnom Penh clinic following a checkup on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Khoun Leakhana
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Ministry of Health says it plans to distribute twice as many iron tablets to pregnant women throughout the Kingdom this year in fight against rising maternal mortality rate.

IN an effort to combat high maternal mortality, the Ministry of Health plans to distribute free iron tablets to between 85 percent and 90 percent of pregnant women in 2009.

The ministry will launch a new advertising campaign and double the number of iron tablets it imports from Denmark in an attempt to reach this goal, said Ou Kevanna, manager of the National Nutrition Program at the National Maternal and Child Health Centre.

Last year, the ministry imported 30 million iron tablets from Denmark and distributed free tablets to an estimated 65 percent of pregnant women, Ou Kevanna said. This year, the ministry will import 60 million tablets from Denmark as part of the initiative, which will be carried out in conjunction with Unicef.

"This is not a new government program, but this year we plan to broadcast the campaign much more than before because we want to promote a greater understanding amongst women of the importance of iron tablets," Ou Kevanna said.

He said the increase in the number of mothers dying during childbirth in the Kingdom prompted officials to try to provide more iron tablets.

Citing data compiled by the Ministry of Planning, Ou Kevanna said there were 473 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005, the last year for which data is available. A 2005 Unicef briefing note on maternal health in Cambodia reports that there has been "no recorded reduction in maternal deaths since 2000".

" if mothers don't take iron vitamins, their babies will be weak and pale. "

Ou Kevanna also cited a Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey that found 57 percent of pregnant women in 2005 looked pale on account of an iron deficiency.

Both of these statistics, he said, could be improved with the wider distribution of free iron tablets.

Maternal mortality goal
Ou Kevanna said the plan to distribute more free iron tablets was also designed with an eye towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goal pertaining to maternal mortality. In order to comply with the goal, he said, Cambodia must reach a rate of 140 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015.

Veng Thai, director of the Municipal Health Department, said iron tablets are very important for pregnant woman because they can help them produce more blood cells, which are necessary if a lot of blood is lost during delivery. The vitamin also helps ensure that women have a sufficient amount of oxygen in their bodies, he said.

The pills can also influence the health of their unborn children.

"If mothers don't take the iron vitamins, their babies will be weak and pale and will have difficulty growing," he said. "The women have to take 90 tablets over a span of three months."

Meas Sreytey, 25, who is six months' pregnant, said she went to get iron tablets from a doctor as soon as she found out she was pregnant.

"I took the iron tablets in the second month because the doctor told me about the importance of iron during pregnancy," she said. "I have already taken 90 tablets during my pregnancy. It makes me stronger and I don't look pale, even though I work hard."

She added: "It is also good for my baby. When I went for a checkup with the doctor, they said my daughter is strong and in good health."

Ou Kevanna said consumption of the tablets combined with a diet rich in meat and dark green vegetables - which contain high concentrations of iron - could ensure a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery.

Meas Sreytey said she recognised the need to mix the tablets with a healthy diet.

"We not only need to take iron vitamins, we also need to eat well and take care of ourselves," she said. "This will ensure that our children have enough physical strength and will also help the mother to avoid health risks during delivery."

Im Sithe, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said the ministry would continue to cooperate with the Ministry of Health on issues relating to the health of pregnant women.

Off Down Under


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tracey Shelton
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Phon Kong Kea of Sunrise Children's Village says goodbye Saturday to Geraldine Cox, the president of the children's centre where he grew up, ahead of his departure to Australia to study on a scholarship. Phon Kong Kea left Phnom Penh with another student at the children's village, Horm Narith, who will begin his second year of study under a similar scholarship program in Adelaide.

Exercising our consumer rights to stop injustice

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mu Sochua
Thursday, 29 January 2009

Dear Sir,

The Phnom Penh Post article "We Have No Home, Say Evictees", published on January 26, 2009, is a story that is becoming a weekly, if not daily front-page feature in local and international news.

As a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and other international treaties that prohibit forced evictions and related human rights violations, Cambodia is obligated to protect its citizens and stop illegal evictions. According to reports from international and local human rights organisations, over 150,000 Cambodians were victims of forced evictions and land grabbing in 2007 alone. This number is increasing daily. In addition to these grave violations, over 150 villagers and land-rights activists have been sent to prison. In most cases, arrests are executed without any court order. If and when trials are conducted, the courts will be influenced by powerful companies and authorities, including the military and the police, who have full interests in these land disputes.

The majority, if not all, of Dey Krahorm's residents have full right to ownership according to the 2001 Land Law. Furthermore, the prime minister declared before the 2003 elections that the residents of this particular community and 100 other slum communities in Phnom Penh could stay and be part of development of their communities. The facts and evidence of their rights are plain, simple and clear.

Let us think of the costs Cambodia and her society have to pay when families are destroyed and separated, when our children must grow in violence, deprivation and despair, when our youth fall into the hands of human traffickers and drug dealers, when our parents living with HIV/Aids leave behind children with HIV/Aids.

Let us think of what we can do as a sign of solidarity to the victims of land grabbing and forced evictions. A very simple step is to identify the companies that won these land deals and reveal their investments in other economic activities. We can demand business with social responsibilities. We can exercise our consumer rights.

Mu Sochua
SRP lawmaker

Thailand to push regional rice stockpile role

Monsters and
Business News
Jan 29, 2009

Bangkok - Thailand will propose at an upcoming South-East Asian summit to set up a regional rice reserve in the kingdom to ensure food security, media reports aid Thursday.

The draft proposal will be presented at the 14th summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to be held in Hua Hin beach resort, 130 kilometres south-west of the Thai capital, from February 27 to March 1, the Bangkok Post newspaper said.

Under the proposal the 10 ASEAN states plus their three main trading partners - China, Japan and South Korea - would agree to stockpile 350,000 tons of rice in Thailand to serve as an emergency stockpile for unexpected events such as natural disasters.

Thailand is the world's leading exporter of rice, with exports amounting to nearly 10 million tons last year.

Operating costs for the programme will require an estimated 1.36 billion baht (40 million dollars) per year, expected to come from the World Bank or Asian Development Bank.

Thailand has been operating a pilot rice reserve project since 2002, which has delivered emergency supplies of rice to Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Myanmar, said Monchon Jiumcharoen, deputy secretary of the Office of Agricultural Economics.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

From the bloodied ruins of Angor Wat emerge steps of grace

Transmission of the Invisible at the PuSH Festival.
Photograph by: Handout, PuSH

The Vanvouver Sun

By Kevin GriffinJanuary
28, 2009

VANCOUVER - Five years ago, Peter Chin saw something at Angkor Wat he couldn't forget.

At the time, he was in Cambodia on a five-month residency studying classical Khmer dance and music. This style of movement and sound dating back more than 1,000 years that nearly disappeared during the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970s.

One day, Chin saw history in the making. He watched as an aged Cambodian dance teacher instructed her student in a classical work that had nearly been lost. Chin looked on and realized that something unique was going on between student and teacher.

Somehow, they had transformed themselves so they could transmit the invisible elements that made Khmer dance essentially Khmer.

"This altered state of transmission must have come to the fore stronger than usual . . . given that there was something of ultimate value at stake," Chin said.

"This heightened state of soul- and spirit-sharing that brings us together, as parts of something larger than ourselves, transcending cultural differences and clashes and bridging ruptures in our history is what I hope Transmission of the Invisible can embrace."

Chin's Transmission of the Invisible is being performed three times during the PuSh Performing Arts Festival starting this evening at 8 p.m. at the Scotiabank Dance Centre.

As artistic director of his company, Tribal Cracking Wind, Chin spent three years creating the 70-minute work. It was developed in association with Yim Savann and Phon Sopheap, two Cambodian classical dancers from Phnom Penh's Amrita Performing Arts.

As well, the work was created with various community partners in Cambodia who were incorporated in the projected video. They included a child psychologist and social worker who helps traumatized children, a community of Buddhist monks, a young man and his younger brother taking care of their dying grandmother and dance teachers instructing younger students.

Given Cambodia's recent fractured history, one of the dominant themes in Transmission of the Invisible is fragmentation - portrayed in abrupt changes in choreography and movement and heard in sudden shifts in the score. It also works its way into the costumes.

"Two gowns are made out of silk organza," he said in a phone interview. "They're distressed or tattered - like the history which has been interrupted and fragmented."

Dance in Cambodia is linked directly to its history.

Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat was was the centre of the Khmer empire that was the dominant power in the region for about 500 years starting in the 9th century.

Shortly after it was built, Angkor Wat was sacked by the Siamese - the Thais. The Siamese took Khmer dancers to the ancient capital Ayuthaya where it subsequently influenced the development of Thai dancing.

Khmer classical dance has been compared to ballet because of the years of training required. Cambodian dancers are famous for being able to bend their hands back so far they can almost touch their wrists.

UNESCO considers Cambodian classical dance as part of the world's intangible cultural heritage.
Over the years, Khmer classical dancing became associated with the Cambodian royal court.

When the Maoist Khmer Rouge took control of the country in 1975, classical dancing and dancers were seen as symbols of the country's feudal past. An estimated 90 per cent of the dancers and teachers were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

Transmission of the Invisible, however, isn't about the trauma caused by the genocide. It's about what comes after.

"It's about rebuilding - not so much about the trauma but where we go after the trauma," he said.

"I want to focus on the wordless and ineffable, on the kind of energetic emanation that we can't see, but that we communicate to each other at that hard-to-define level."

In addition to the choreography, Chin has designed the costumes and created the music with Garnet Willis. The soundscape includes natural and street sounds recorded in Cambodia.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Chin is based in Toronto where he's known not only as a dancer/choreographer, but also as a musician/composer, performance artist and designer.

He is a three-time recipient of the Dora Mavor Moore Awards for outstanding new choreography.

Chin performed in Vancouver two years ago at the Dancing on the Edge Festival. He danced in BODYGlass, a work he co-created with Alvin Erasga Tolentino.

Transmission of the Invisible will be going to Singapore later this year and, if funding can be arranged, to Cambodia.

Transmission of the Invisible is at the Scotiabank Dance Centre tonight to Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets at or 604-684-2787.

The Waiting to Receive Justice in Cambodia - Wednesday, 28.1.2009

Posted on 29 January 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 597

“Banteay Meanchey: Aunty Im Savoeun [now a member of the National Assembly, elected as a member of the Cambodian People's Party] remembers what hurt her the most - it was when she lost her husband after he was tortured by the Khmer Rouge. Her husband had stolen a potato because he had been starving, and then he was beaten to death.

“She was quoted by Mr. Denis D. Gray, writing for the of Associated Press, as saying, ‘I could not help my husband, because there was no medicine. What could be done was only sympathy, and to shed my tears.’

“This 64-year-old woman, like many other women in Cambodia, who suffered half of their lives, is waiting to receive justice. This waiting continued since after the end of the Khmer Rouge politics [in 1979], which had destroyed the law and the judicial system.

“The United Nations supported court, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, had recently announced to bring the first of five Khmer Rouge leaders for prosecution: on 17 February 2009, the first hearing will be held to try one of the Khmer Rouge leaders who held high responsibility. That person is accused of crimes against humanity. Hearings of four other persons to find justice and peace of mind for victims are not expected to begin before 2010. 504 seats are prepared for observers to listen to the hearing of Duch (Kaing Gek Eav), the former chief of the Torture Center Tuol Sleng. As for the others - such as former head of state Khiev Samphan, former deputy prime minister Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, the former minister of Social Affairs and the former strict ideological leader of the movement Nuon Chea - they will be put in prison for the maximum period; there are many countries involved in the process of this tribunal which has been awaited for a long time and which is now finally in progress. Even though it is facing challenging difficulties, it will help to identify what happened, and to close the history of those dark activities of the past.

“Aunty Savoeun said that in these hearings, at this tribunal, there are only 5 to 10 accused - there is no balance, because the Khmer Rouge killed millions of people. She lost four members of her family, and many other families lost some of their members. She said, ‘My beloved husband and son will never return to see me, but they have to receive justice.’

“Highly agitated by communism, the Khmer Rouge’s vision was to damage and to destroy Cambodian traditions and society, until there was nothing left besides falling back to year zero. The Khmer Rouge turned the country into a place of slaves and into a desert without freedoms and rights. At least 1.7 million people, some say more than 2 million, died of killings, starving, and illnesses.

“An official of New-York-based Human Rights Watch, Mr. Brad Adams, said, ‘When more than two million people died, it is not enough to try five to ten perpetrators and then say: Now everything is finished.’

“What we want is that victims and members of thousands of families who died receive acceptable justice; that is, at least between ten and twelve Khmer Rouge leaders should be brought for prosecution.

“Mr. Adams is an American who observes the progress of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia since even before this court was created, he has worked 13 years related to Cambodia, but the progress is slow. It is very important as the clock’s hands move. Some accused died, are ill, and old.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4806, 28.1.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Development of Dey Krahorm ?

On January 23, 2009 at 2am, mixed forces surrounded Dey Krahorm - the community with the longest, resistance to unlawful eviction. Just after 6am, more than 250 armed forces and 300 breakers attacked the villagers in a brutal show of force, despite their legal entitlement to their land. This video is a compilation of footage captured by human rights monitors on the inside. Video footage courtesy of Platapus, LICADHO, BAB, and Karl Bille

Japan pilots Mekong development plan


By Hiroshi Yamazaki
UPI Correspondent

January 28, 2009

Tokyo, Japan — Japan is looking toward five countries along the Mekong River as potential partners and investment opportunities amid the shifting economic and political dynamics of the region and the world. Japanese Foreign Minister Hirobumi Nakasone visited Cambodia and Laos earlier this month to deliver development assistance and strengthen ties with these two countries.

In Cambodia Nakasone handed over Japan-made demining machines, used to locate and destroy anti-personnel landmines, and offered assistance to fight infectious diseases and renovate irrigation facilities. In Laos, he offered financial aid of 1.2 billion yen (US$13.5 million) for clearing unexploded landmines and helping flood disaster victims.

It was former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who decided to prioritize the Mekong region for Japanese assistance for three years starting in 2007. This will be the final year of that program.

In addition to Laos and Cambodia, the other three countries are Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

Apart from Thailand, these countries are less developed and politically less democratic than the other members of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations, to which they all belong.

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, though showing high annual growth rates ranging from 8 to 13 percent, remain the least developed among ASEAN states in terms of per capita gross domestic product. Top of the four, Vietnam's US$836 per capita GDP is roughly half that of the Philippines, according to ASEAN statistics.

Vietnam tops the four in other indexes as well: annual GDP is US$71 billion, more than five times higher than the second, Myanmar; Vietnam’s total trade volume of US$110 billion was ten times higher than Myanmar's.

It is therefore not surprising that many Japanese firms favor Vietnam, after China and India, as their preferred destination for foreign direct investment. They cite low costs and good quality labor as the main attractions for investors in Vietnam.

Politically the Mekong countries have little in common. Vietnam is ruled by the Communist Party and Laos by its peculiar brand of socialism, while Myanmar is dominated by the military junta. Thailand and Cambodia have different degrees of democracy, both under the titular reign of kings.

The five countries each have their own national language and ethnicity as well.

At a seminar held last week in Tokyo, Toshihiro Kudo, senior researcher at the Institute of Developing Economies, described three “economic corridors,” cutting east/west and north/south across the Mekong area that includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, as well as Malaysia and Singapore.

Kudo said he expects commercial traffic to increase through these corridors. But countries without significant industrial bases, such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, are concerned that business passing through their borders may not benefit them. Kudo has suggested promoting border trading posts and manufacturing bases to exploit the economic disparities and social diversity between these nations.

Masayuki Takashima, director of Asian Logistics Inc., has reported a not-so-seamless road network connecting the main cities in the region, however. In the 1,400-kilometer stretch through Hanoi and Vietnam into Bangkok, Thailand, his investigative team had to deal with six customs checkpoints.

"Any additional transportation time would become a logistic burden on business," he said.

In the longer term ASEAN should consider a joint infrastructure development scheme involving not only roads and rails but also communications, electricity, and water and sewage systems, advised Shinji Asanuma, visiting professor at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo.

According to Asanuma, “soft power” approaches are also necessary among these diverse regimes. To reach their full cooperative potential, they need to share a long-term vision and common standards – a tall order given the present divisions.

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand do have one thing in common with each other and with many Japanese – Buddhism. Compared to other ASEAN nations, whose predominant cultures include Christianity in the Philippines and Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia, the five Mekong region nations are traditionally oriented toward Buddhism.

In addition, many senior Japanese citizens are sentimentally connected to this region based on their experiences in World War II, when the Japanese army operated in the region under the national slogan of building a "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere” aimed at supplanting European colonial powers. During the war this came to be seen as a euphemism for Japan’s military expansion.

Contemporary calls for East Asian integration fall under the growing shadow of influence from China, which is rigidly ruled by the Communist Party. Japan is attempting to demonstrate a different model of success based on democratic principles and less authoritarian rule.

The ASEAN nations have acknowledged that Japanese money, technology and markets contributed significantly to the economic success of the "Asian Tigers" through the 1990s. In similar fashion, Japan's involvement in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam could help their economies and lay the foundation for a more closely integrated East Asia.

Cambodia Reports Increase in Antiretroviral Treatment Access
Jan 28, 2009

More than 92% of people living with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia had access to antiretroviral treatment in 2008 -- a 7% increase in the number of people who had treatment access compared with the previous year -- Xinhuanet reports. The increase in treatment access brings the country closer to reaching its goal of making antiretrovirals available to almost all people living with HIV/AIDS by 2010, according to Mean ChhiVun, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs. No-cost treatment was provided to 31,989 people in 2008 -- including 3,067 children -- in 77 government-run health entities and partner organizations in the country, according to ChhiVun. Cambodia has reduced its HIV prevalence to 0.9% from 3.3% in 1991, according to Xinhuanet (Xinhuanet, 1/26).

Hun Sen Warns Local Officials Off Taiwan

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 January 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned local government officials on Wednesday they would not be allowed to travel to Taiwan, nor any Taiwan officials to Cambodia.

“We cannot make any political or diplomatic relations with Taiwan,” Hun Sen said in public remarks to launch new decentralization legislation. “But we can make trade relations with Taiwanese people.”

Cambodia officially recognizes a one-China policy, which considers Taiwan a rogue province. There is no official office here for Taiwan, though there are some businesses.

“Businessmen will be allowed to come to Cambodia, and civil airlines company, private airline companies from Taiwan, EVA Air and China Air, can fly from Taipei to Phnom Penh, but not planes with Taiwanese flags,” Hun Sen said. “We won’t allow Taiwanese national flights into Cambodia.”

Cambodia has passed the Law on Administrative Management for Provincial, District and Municipal Councils, which allows commune councils to elect other councils for the three other levels of sub-national government. The first election will be held May 17.

Hun Sen’s speech was a warning to would-be members of these councils that though they would have some power outside of the central government, the central government would control foreign policy.

“Cambodian politicians will not be allowed to go to Taiwan,” he said. “And Taiwanese political officials will not be allowed in Cambodia, including members of parliament and presidential advisers.”

Sihanouk Laments Loss of Former Minister

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
28 January 2009

Former king Norodom Sihanouk expressed condolences to the family of deceased former statesman Chau Senkosal, who died Thursday at the age of 104.

Sihounk wrote on his Web site that Chau Senkosal had been a son of the nation, a nationalist, and a “Sihanoukist,” and pledged $10,000 for his funeral.

Chau Senkosal served as prime minister and president of the National Assembly between 1959 and 1968, under the government of Sihanouk.

Sam Rainsy Fined for Libel of Foreign Minister

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
28 January 2009

A French court on Tuesday fined opposition leader Sam Rainsy and a French publisher $12,500 for public defamation of Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

The court found libelous one passage in a book written by Sam Rainsy and published by Jean-Etienne Cohen-Seat in May 2008, “The Roots in the Stone,” which accused Hor Namhong of collaboration with the Khmer Rouge and the deaths of “numerous” people, to a court announcement.

The costs include more than $5,000 for publishing a correction in two French newspapers.

The court order also included the deletion of one page of the book, which includes the sentence, “A few years later, the Minister of Foreign Affairs would be a collaborator of Khmer Rouge power, suspected for having caused the death of numerous persons, among them members of the royal family.”

Sam Rainsy said he lost the case because the French courts were not able to properly examine the case in Cambodia, and he planned to appeal.

“This is just a first step,” he said. “We will appeal and send more evidence to the court.”

During the April 2008 anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh, Sam Rainsy said both the Minister of Finance, Keat Chhon, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hor Namhong, had been members of the Khmer Rouge.

The editor of an opposition newspaper, Dam Sith, was jailed for one week in June 2008 for publishing Sam Rainsy’s remarks. Dam Sith was released on bail and later met with Hor Namhong, who then said he was dropping his suit against the editor to prevent clouding the upcoming national elections.

“This is the second round of justice given to me in France, and for the second time in Cambodia,” Hor Namhong told VOA Khmer.

New fibre-optic cable will connect Cambodia to China
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A USD18 million infrastructure project is set to connect Cambodia to China’s Yunnan Province in April 2009 through a new high speed fibre-optic cable. Construction of the cable has recently been completed, with help from a Chinese loan, by project implementer Cambodia Telecom. So Khun, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, said the project will improve the quality of internet and telecoms services, and help to cut-prices, increasing the country’s business competitiveness.

Bricks, walls but no money: revision of the compensations promised to Dey Krohom evicted families

Damnak Trah Yeung (Cambodia, Phnom Penh). 25/01/2009: Dey Krohom residents after their eviction, waiting for 7NG to allocate them one of the houses promised by the company
© John Vink/ Magnum


By Ros Dina

Finding inspiration in the many ubiquitous dormitory towns springing up relentlessly one after the other on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the Cambodian company 7NG built its “City of Peace II” (Borey Santepheap II) in the working district of Chom Chao. There, rows of simple 4m x 12m shophouses [official surface area offered by 7NG: 48m2] form several parallel lines. At the front, red-brick buildings shoot up from the ground. These are for selling. At the back, apartments. Their construction is partially complete. They are painted in white and have a side folding metal grille at their entrance. These are the houses that the company 7NG promised to give to holdout families who have been fighting against the company since 2006, refusing to let go of their land at Dey Krohom (Bassac settlement, Phnom Penh). These same families were savagely evicted at dawn, on Saturday January 24th.

Anarchical distribution of food

Borey Santepheap II, Monday January 26th. Filmed by a public television channel camera crew, bags of rice and boxes of dehydrated noodles are given out to evicted families. The distribution, organised by 7NG company officials and attended by representatives of the municipality, suddenly looks like a very official ceremony. Off-camera scenes: women crying out of hunger, exclaiming their incomprehension on the reasons why they are not allocated these same donations, promised as compensations by the concessionary company. “We haven't eaten anything for two days. But we too, lived in Dey Krohom...”, one of the women says, showing a sad and exhausted face.

We then walk away from the scene to look for the office where “coupons” are given out, entitling families to emergency food kits. The municipality of Phnom Penh encouraged the last 150 families living in Dey Krohom – i.e. the 91 families officially acknowledged by the company and entitled to a house or some money, and the 59 other families – to claim this property, to which they are allegedly all entitled. But instead of a clear written list of all beneficiaries, a man, presented as Dey Krohom's former village chief, points at those who will be given a coupon. When he claims not to know the face of someone, that person has to miss their go... Very quickly, complaints started coming out here and there. “But it is impossible for you to know all of our faces!”, some say in protest. The gathering soon turned into vast disorder and people had to be dispersed.


Makeshift camps made of bits and pieces provide shelter for some of the families who were not recognised by 7NG, and dream about a house on this site while others, duly registered on the list, are still asking 7NG for financial compensation rather than being allocated a dwelling there. They ended up on the site and are here “temporarily, waiting”, having nowhere to go to, they explain. For their everyday needs, they have a canal with water looking more than cloudy, and vast ricefields. “There is nothing here, apart from mosquitoes! It is scorching hot here, the state school for our children is located about 3 miles away from here and security is not good! Last night, there was a fight, a woman called for help and nobody budged...”, an elderly, former resident at Dey Krohom, reports. She used to live off selling half-hatched eggs in Hun Sen Gardens.

Many families would indeed have here housing structures made of permanent materials, better than the wooden shelters most of them lived in at Dey Krohom. But, as it often happens, families are rehoused before the site is complete, prepared and ready, and, in that particular case, just before Chinese new year celebrations... and far from the centre of Phnom Penh where they used to work.

An idealised village?

On Saturday, the day of the eviction, 7NG director Srey Chanthou and the vice-governor of Phnom Penh, Mann Chhoeun, painted in front of journalists an idyllic picture of the City of Peace, where everything was supposedly ready to welcome them... However, a few details undermine the picture. First, the zone is indeed connected to the electricity and clean water networks... but not the houses. And the price for individual installation goes about USD140 for electricity and USD150 for water. Then, after a rough inspection, it looks like not enough houses are ready. Builders are still at work. And “because of the Chinese new year”, as we were told, only a dozen inhabitants from Dey Krohom obtained their keys to an apartment.

Mann Chhoeun's viewpoint is that many will yet find something to suit them: “Before, inhabitants even refused to come and see what the area looks like, they imagined it was pandemonium. When they discover the place, they change their mind! Here, there is no fire hazard like there was in Dey Krohom and a micro-finance agency [belonging to 7NG] is here to help them buy means of transportation and launch small businesses. 7NG has already paid on Monday [January 26th] 100 millions out of the 700 million riels reserved for these small loans...”

In those times of resettlement, keeping it to oneself seems important. We interviewed a resident who had recently arrived on site and was busy putting a few of his belongings in his new home. He was explaining that he had “had no other choice but to accept”, when two men turned up on their motorcycles. The men, two former representatives for the Dey Krohom community who left three years ago, stationed themselves behind us to pointedly follow the conversation. Our interviewee, all of a sudden chilled by this way of intimidation which does not speak its name, was reduced to silence.

Negotiations ended

It is hard to gather figures that tally. 7NG manager Srey Chanthou assures that apart from the eight families who accepted the USD20,000 offer before the ultimatum was given, “50% already”of the remaining 83 families, entitled to compensation, according to his company's criteria, have reportedly accepted to take accommodation at Borey Santepheap II, and claims that “the regulation of papers is being dealt with”. As for the others, they are struggling to receive financial compensations, a choice which had until now been offered to them but is not valid any longer. “The company does not give money any more but just accommodation”, Srey Chanthou announces. However, on the day of the eviction, vice-governor Mann Chhoeun declared that principles established by 7NG should be strictly followed: a house or financial compensation... His memory has since become confused. Reminded of his words on Monday, the vice-governor claimed he was only a “middleman” in this case and that the ultimatum was indeed over... “Too late!”, Srey Chanthou said. Now that families have been evicted, there are no negotiations any more!”

Residents said they tried, a few days before the eviction, to obtain the 20,000 dollar-compensation, but were told they first had to dismantle their house to receive half of the sum; nothing was said as to when they would receive the rest... On the municipal side, Mann Chhoeun openly accuses inhabitants of being manipulated, which would explain their stubbornness in asking for money...

As for the 59 families who are not listed by 7NG, their fate does not come under his responsibility, Srey Chanthou explains. However, he adds that the fifty inhabitants who were registered as sellers in Dey Krohom will be entitled to a small stand at the local market, which is still struggling to take shape.

A meeting held at the Phnom Penh municipality offices between Mann Chhoeun and a dozen family representatives did not result in anything satisfying for the latter, who decided, out of desperation, to march towards the National Assembly with some forty other residents to urge Members of Parliament to support their claims, namely receiving compensation in dollars rather than bricks. Chan Vichet, their representative, also acted as a spokesman for the 59 families ousted of the lists but who, according to him, were for sure put down on the lists checked by local authorities in 2006 when the Dey Krohom population was estimated to include 1,465 families, before they disappeared from 7NG's latest lists.

Final recourse: the National Assembly

Following a long and tiresome lopsided fight, a representative for families, exhausted and desperate, struggled to find his words in front of some sixty inhabitants gathered outside the National Assembly. “All hope seems to have vanished, and what is left with us is the bitter feeling of being tossed about with contempt by the municipality and 7NG. We have been wronged”, Chan Vichet explains. Yet, this last resisting group will not give up. Late on Tuesday January 27th, residents were preparing to camp in front of the National Assembly - with a risk of being evicted by the police - since no representative of the legislative power came to meet them.

Among representatives of Human rights who came to back them up, Yeng Virak, director of the CLEC (Community Legal Education Centre) made a list of the many violations committed in this case. “Firstly, pursuant to a decision made by prime Minister Hun Sen to turn Dey Krohom into a social concession, inhabitants should have become the owners of their plot of land. Secondly, the contract signed between 7NG and representatives of residents was absolutely illegal because the latter acted in their own interest. Thirdly, the company was not allowed to evict families before a Court ruled on this case. Fourthly, the destruction of residents' personal property during the eviction must be condemned and give way to compensations. Finally, such an act is seen as a violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Cambodia did ratify.”

To this day, the tough eviction of Dey Krohom inhabitants has been condemned by important local organisations (Housing Rights Task Force, ADHOC, LICADHO, CLEC, CCDH, Bridges Across Borders South East Asia and COHRE) as well as Amnesty International. They particularly urge the government to address the needs of these families and understand their claims, especially their request for financial compensation.

UN criticises violent slum eviction in Cambodian capital


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

PHNOM PENH: The violent eviction of about 150 families from a slum in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh was an abuse of the country's law, the United Nations human rights agency said Wednesday.

Authorities used tear gas, rubber bullets and batons to evict residents from Dey Krohom slum Sunday after they failed to reach a deal to sell their property to a construction company planning to build a business centre on the site.

A statement by the Cambodian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the eviction was "a breach of residents' right to their land" and "abuse of the land law."

"All families were brutally taken out of their houses and those who resisted and attempted to protect their property were beaten and pulled away," the UN human rights office said.

"This is the latest in a far too long series of violent evictions in the capital," it added.

The Cambodian government is facing mounting criticism for forced evictions throughout the country at the hands of army and police, which have increased as land prices have risen over the past few years.

Last year over 20,000 people were reported affected by forced evictions from their homes, according to human rights groups Amnesty International.

Capital's tallest building on track

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Developer says skyscraper is scheduled for completion by June, despite property slump

AT 111.75 metres tall, Canadia Tower is set to become in June Phnom Penh's tallest structure, developers Canadia Bank and Mega Asset Management told the Post. The company says that the development is secure from the financial crisis that has stalled or brought down so many other projects.

The company building the tower - WEN Construction Holding Co Ltd of Thailand - has 500 workers and 100 technicians working until late at night, project manager Chea Vuthy told the Post.

"Our project hasn't been delayed or stopped by the world financial crisis. We have enough money ... so, we must complete on deadline," he said.

On June 9, Canadia Bank is scheduled to relocate to its new high-rise headquarters on the corner of Ang Duong Street and Monivong Boulevard. Office and retail space is priced at an average US$30 per square metre.

It's a project that has been welcomed by the Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh Mann Chhoeun as a sign of Phnom Penh's move towards modernisation. Once completed, the tower will comfortably overtake the five-star, 15-storey InterContinental hotel, currently the tallest building in the city.

However, with the property market slowing and similar high-rise developments hitting financial problems, Canadia Tower is nearing completion at a time when property demand has weakened.

Conceived in 2004, the project was originally scheduled to cost US$15 million until the developer decided to increase the building size from 24 to 29 storeys, thereby doubling the estimated cost to $30 million.

Su Si, director of Mega Asset Management Co, says Canadia Tower is aimed at the top end of the market. Featuring serviced apartments, a penthouse, high-end shopping units and a rooftop helipad, the lowest-priced office space will be $27 per square metre.

"Many companies and NGOs are interested in renting office space and shopping units," Su Si said.

In the developer's favour is undoubtedly the iconic status the building will enjoy as the tallest in the capital. But as Mann Chhoeun points out, as Phnom Penh develops, Canadia Tower may not remain the tallest for long.

$70 million earmarked for Sihanoukville terminals

Photo by: Kay Kimsong
The Sihanoukville Autonomous Port entrance. A US$70 million facelift will add two new terminals at the country’s main port.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Japanese government loans to go toward construction of two new terminals, adding natural gas storage and increased container capacity at main port

SIHANOUKVILLE Autonomous Port is planning a US$70 million upgrade to boost capacity for shipping containers and natural gas, the authority said Monday.

Lou Kim Chhun, chairman and CEO of the port, said the project involves two new terminals and would be financed by Japanese loans.

"We hope that the new ports will help increase the number of containers and increase gas stocks by millions of tonnes every year," he said.

"The two new ports will create jobs for over 200 people ... they will also help facilitate Chevron's oil extraction efforts," Lou Kim Chhun said.

Energy giant Chevron Corp is exploring off the Cambodian coast, but recent reports have cast doubt on its plans to extract oil and gas from the area known as the Khmer Basin. Chevron is partnered with Mitsui Japan.

Lou Kim Chhun added that he expects port traffic will increase five percent every year for three years, despite the economic crisis.

The expansion plan calls for construction to start in 2011 and finish by 2014. The first terminal will occupy a 260-metre stretch of waterfront land at a depth of 13.5 metres, he said.

" The two new ports will create jobs for over 200 people and benefit the country. "

The terminal will be capable of handling about 450,000 containers every year.

The second terminal will be equipped to store two million tonnes of natural gas on a 200-metre stretch with a water depth of 7.5 metres.

Cambodia has six official ports in operation. Three are run by private companies with natural gas storage capability, said Hei Bavy, general director of the Phnom Penh Port.

Thean Tithdara, logistics manager of Chevron Cambodia, welcomed the move by Sihanoukville Port, but would not comment on whether Chevron plans to use the facility.

"Chevron will only use ports that ensure safety, a suitable price and proper environmental-protection technology," he said.

"We already have safe ports for storing gas in Sihanoukville," he added.

Mong Reththy, chairman of Mong Reththy Group, which operates a seaport in Koh Kong province, said that the new investment was questionable in the current economic climate.

"I do not object to the development project, but I think they will have trouble getting back their money because of the economic crisis," he said. "At the moment, shipping volumes at my port are down 40 percent."

Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, said the port would play a role in strengthening regional integration.

"I think that the new port is a good project because it creates new opportunities for sea transportation," Kang Chandararot said.

"We need to improve our services to compete with Vietnam and Thailand," he added.Sin Chanthy, general secretary of the Cambodia Freight Forwarders Association, said that the upgrade could cut business costs.

"We are ready to use the services of the new ports. It will improve competitiveness," he said.

Getting relocations right

These children face an uncertain future as their families try to rebuild their community in Damnak Trayoeng village some 16 kilometres from their previous home in Dey Krahorm after accepting a relocation package from 7NG. Those who refused the package were forced out.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Efforts to move residents from the site of a planned inner-city development turned nasty last weekend as efforts to reach a solution suitable to developer and evictees foundered

THE sudden blitz operation to evict residents from Phnom Penh's slum community of Dey Krahorm in the early hours of Saturday morning has refocused attention on development in Cambodia and the effect it has on the people it inevitably displaces.

The eviction brought to an abrupt and violent halt ongoing negotiations between private developer 7NG and local families that dated back to 2005 when the company bought the central city site from village leaders in what many contend was a shady deal signed and delivered without community consent.

During the eviction operation, rights workers say some 140 families that had held out against a compensation and relocation offer in hope of a better deal were bundled onto trucks by police, many of them armed, and removed to Damnak Trayoeng village some 16 kilometres from Phnom Penh.

Instead of the new life promised by the developer, most found empty fields. Of the scores of families evicted, fewer than 30 were assigned homes at the relocation site, where families that had earlier accepted relocation were already trying to build a new community.

It doesn't need to be this way said Din Somethearith, a project manager at the UN Human Settlements Program (UN- Habitat), pointing to the resettlement of 128 families to Akphiwat Meanchey in 1999. "The community leaders were able to choose the site themselves," he said. "And the municipality brought the community to the site and they prepared better living conditions."

" Cambodia's laws and policies do not adequately address resettlement issues. "

However, he conceded it was a rare bright spot in the municipality's relocation record. In recent years the government has drawn heavy and repeated criticism from rights groups for what they say is a patent lack of concern for the rights of residents. A 2008 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said many evictions had been "carried out with excessive force, using armed police and military police, resulting in injuries and the destruction of property.

"Many evicted families have been rendered homeless or relocated to distant sites on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, which lack basic services and are far removed from their usual livelihoods," the report added.

A rock and a hard place

Chean Dara, the project manager on the Happiness City development on Phnom Penh's Chroy Changvar peninsula, in Russei Keo district, said he had sympathy for both parties to the dispute.

"If our company faced the same problem as 7NG, we would not use any violence against the evictees," he said. "We would offer good compensation based on the current market value of the land.

"But if the evictees were unreasonable in their demands, we would be forced to go to the government for help."

However, according to Brittis Edman, a Cambodia researcher with Amnesty International, if a company does need to enlist the help of the government, the government has an obligation as a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to protect the population against forced evictions.

Under the covenant, all alternatives must be explored in consultation with those affected before any planned eviction, he explained in a statement released Monday. Evictions may only occur if they do not render individuals homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights. They also must occur in accordance with the law and in conformity with international standards, including genuine consultation with those affected, adequate notice and information on the proposed eviction, and legal aid for those affected.

Unfortunately for developers, and communities in their way, there are no laws or guidelines in place in Cambodia for compensating families who lose their homes to new developments. "Cambodia's laws and policies do not adequately address resettlement issues," Sim Samnang, deputy director of the Resettlement Department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, told a workshop on involuntary resettlements last week. "There is a need for a national resettlement policy," he said.

Such a policy is actually in existence, at least in draft form, where it has been under consideration since 2006. Nhean Leng, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance and chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee, said the so-called Expropriatory Law "to resolve socioeconomic impacts caused by government development projects" will be in place in "the near future".

Developer responsibility

In the absence of legal guidance, Din Somethearith said the developer needed to take responsibility for a peaceful and fair resolution to disputes.

"Both the private developers and government should work together in facilitating relocations in Phnom Penh", he said. "It is the developer's responsibility to think about the living conditions, access to running water and well-being of the residents [they are relocating] before concentrating on the profits of the development.

"There should be communication with the communities before, during and after developments in Phnom Penh by the government and the developers."

UN-Habitat launched an Urban Poverty Reduction Project in November 2000. At a conference in 2002, which was attended by more than 500 community representatives, the project developed a list of recommendations on relocations, which it delivered to City Hall. The recommendations included ensuring relocations were to nearby areas, or that the land be shared.

Despite its suggestions, City Hall has still not developed national guidelines to guide the relocation process. "The workshop has shown what should happen and what should be considered when developing," Din Somethearith said. However, in my opinion the government believes that if it follows the guidelines for resettlement, it will lose money."

Sok Visal from the Urban Development Fund said land sharing, as suggested by UN Habitat, was preferable to relocations. "The best way [for relocations] is to put developments on site. By land sharing, a compromise can be met between the people, government and proprietors serving all interests," he said.

Sung Bonna, president of the National Valuers Association of Cambodia, agreed, saying that neither relocating evictees to a new home nor offering market-based compensation were suitable solutions. Given the relatively high price of land in Cambodia relative to the potential return on investment, being forced to pay current market value would hamstring developers and lead to a halt in any new projects in the city.

He said a creative solution was needed to ensure existing residents would be better off after development than they were previously. He said that his recommendation to developers was that if they planned to develop in inhabited areas that they set aside land on any development site to house existing residents. "This is the best way for the people," he said.

"They don't need to leave their residence and go far away and they can continue to live and work in the city centre."