Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Property meeting

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Some 100 property developers are to meet with the government today to discuss contested new rules that aim to tighten licensing requirements and establish reserve requirements for new construction projects. The prakas, or edict, would force developers to set aside capital in case they go bankrupt, while setting tighter licensing requirements. Government officials say the prakas is aimed at protecting buyers, but some developers oppose the rule, saying it will hurt the real estate market. The meeting starts at 2:30pm at the Hotel Cambodiana.

Growing computer use leads students to favour IT training

Computer students in Phnom Penh. Demand for computer specialists is increasing in Cambodia as the IT sector grows.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Universities say companies are keen to recruit skilled graduates, but with computers becoming popular business tools in the Kingdom, demand often outstrips supply

WITH more Cambodians using computers at home and work, thousands of young people are turning to computer training as a strong career choice for the future.

One of the country's top computer training schools, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said that strong demand means many of its students are recruited before graduation.

"The country is developing and applying IT in more and more sectors," said Ouk Chhieng, head of the computer science department.

The university says it has trained more than 3,500 undergraduate students and 100 postgraduates since 1997, with an average of more than 500 per year over the past few years.

Ouk Chhieng said between 25 percent to 30 percent of graduates find jobs in the government and with NGOs, about 20 percent working part time or on temporary contracts. Most of the remaining graduates go on to run businesses themselves.

More than 2,400 students are enrolled in computer science at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, according to the department.

"Our students are very competent compared to others," said Ouk Chhieng.

Graduates needed

The job market for IT has softened with the economic downturn, but Ouk Chhieng expects that demand will pick up soon.

"If in this country we continue on the right track for IT growth, there will be more job opportunities," he said.

Sous Sakal, business manager at software designer Blue Technology, said the quality of local graduates has improved, but the lack of large companies in Cambodia acts as a glass ceiling for further development.

" Local universities can produce quality students, but they need to be ... trained. "

"I think local universities can produce quality students, but they just need to be trained to understand business. Smart students from schools are like diamonds that have not been polished," said Sous Sakal.

Blue Technology employs 23 Cambodians, with 13 working as permanent software designers. Most graduated from the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

"I think locally produced software is more applicable here than overseas software because [the latter] sometimes does not work with Khmer characters," said Sous Sakal.

With more IT companies setting up in the Kingdom, Blue Technology is diversifying into different businesses and plans to expand regionally, he said.

"The Cambodian market is very small, but we see more opportunities to grow and take on more staff."

The company caters to local accounting firms, and said it charges between US$300 and $20,000 for a program, depending on the size of the business.

"We spend about one year writing a standard accounting program priced from $300 to $20,000 ... but the most popular software is about $1,000," said Sous Sakal.

A promising market

Erya Houn Heng, president and CEO of First Cambodia, a company specialising in system integration, said that Cambodia's low computer penetration rate makes it a promising market for future growth.

Only about five percent of small and medium-sized enterprises in Cambodia are using computer systems, said Erya Houn Heng.

"We employ about 180 people in our two offices in Cambodia and Laos - most of them specialise in IT.

"All are local graduates of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Royal University of Law and Economics or SETEC University."

But he said that a lack of practical experience means the company spends heavily on on-the-job training.

"We spend about $500 recruiting each staff member. We have a five-step selection process with a standardised test, but they are required to have English competency as well," said Erya Houn Heng.

"We only hire three or four out of every 100 candidates, and fresh graduates without any experience will get $150 per month. Experienced staff earn $200 to over $4000," said Erya Houn Heng.

He said that a shortage of managers means that many employees rise from entry-level positions to management in less than five years.

"Our staff receives up to 18-and-a-half-months of salary in bonuses if they perform well," said Erya Houn Heng.

He said the company's success in Cambodia is prompting it to expand regionally.

"We plan to open offices in all Asean countries in the future," said Erya Houn Heng.

He said that the expansion plans may require the company to look abroad for talent.

"We need about 30 new graduates each year to match our growth, but higher education institutions in Cambodia cannot produce enough qualified graduates."

Economic forum aims at global crisis

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

ABOUT 100 participants are gearing up to attend this year's third annual Cambodia Economic Forum (CEF), with the global economic crisis topping the agenda.

The conference is organised by UN Development Program and the Cambodian government, and will attract delegates from the public and private sector.

"The question of what Cambodia can do to mitigate the effects of this crisis is becoming increasingly urgent as tourism numbers taper off and garment factory orders dwindle," wrote a UNDP spokesman in an email response.

The UNDP says that an important theme will be the impact of the crisis on poverty alleviation. CEF is focusing on "increasing Cambodia's competitiveness for growth and poverty reduction in the face of the global financial crisis", said UNDP.

A range of policy options to improve Cambodia's competitiveness and sustain its economic growth will be presented to the government, the private sector and development partners.

Discussion will focus on policies to diversify the economy, increase productivity, expand market access and enhance trade while reducing poverty.

Four major studies will be presented, including one by UNDP and one by the World Bank, said conference organisers. The conference starts Thursday at the Raffles Le Royal Hotel.

Rubber exports down 15 percent

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

CAMBODIA'S rubber exports dropped 15.2 percent last year, caused by falling demand amid oversupply in China, an industry official said.

Ly Phalla, general director of the General Directorate of Rubber Plantation, also said that domestic plantation yields had been disappointing, ruling out the effects of the global economic downtown, a factor others have blamed for the drop in exports.

Cambodia exported 36,000 tonnes of latex rubber resin at an estimated value of US$43.2 million last year, Ly Phalla said, 15.2 percent down compared with 2007.

The main markets for Cambodian rubber are Malaysia, Vietnam and China.

There are 108,000 hectares of rubber trees in Cambodia - of this number, only 34,000 hectares can be tapped for resin, "the rest are too young to start producing", he said, confident that the rubber industry would bounce back next year by producing "at least 60,000 tonnes" in 2010.

Total rubber production is expected to grow to 150,000 hectares by 2015, he added, but sharply decreased prices also damaged the rubber export market.

Latex rubber resin for Standard Malaysia Rubber is down sharply to $1,480 a tonne from a high of $3,200 a tonne last April.

Opposition lawmaker Yim Sovann disputed the claim that the global downturn had not been a factor, arguing that the industry would only recover once the global economy does so.

Royalists unite for elections

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Royalist parties close ranks ahead of May council polls.

FUNCINPEC and the beleagured Norodom Ranariddh Party signed an agreement of cooperation Monday, pledging to set aside their differences and unite for upcoming council elections.

Funcinpec Secretary General Nhek Bun Chhay said that both parties were cooperating in order to maximise their share of seats on the new district and provincial councils, which will be chosen by commune council members in elections May 17.

"If we cooperate and help each other on both province and district councils, we will secure a lot of votes," he told reporters after the meeting, adding that both parties were planning a proper merger in future.

NRP Secretary General You Hockry reinforced his message, saying cooperation was in the interests of both the royalist parties, who performed badly at last year's national elections.

"A district needs five seats to vote for one council position, so if one party has three and the other one has two, we can win a seat," he said.

"This is a big aim of the agreement we signed today."

But internal divisions continue to plague the two royalist parties following last week's high-profile defections from Funcinpec to the ruling CPP and the NRP's expulsion Saturday of 17 officials linked to an affiliated student group that has been vying with senior leaders for control of the party.

Suth Dina, one of those ousted, said the NRP was "not allowed" to cooperate with Funcinpec, and that the party has "no validity" following the resignation of Prince Norodom Ranariddh as president, a claim You Hockry denied.

But Keo Sovannaroth, acting secretary general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said that the party was less concerned about the royalist alliance than the problems of having its new commune councillors approved by the Ministry of Interior.

"We are not worried about this nationalist collaboration," he said.

"But our proposals to change some of our commune council members are late and had been blocked in the provinces and in the Ministry of Interior."

Crime rate down 23 percent: official

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

THE national crime rate dropped 23 percent in 2008 compared with the previous year, Keat Chantharith, a spokesman for the National Police, told the Post Monday.

Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh police commissioner, said crime in the capital had dropped even further, falling 29 percent in 2008.

The officials cited these figures on the same day that 164 high-ranking police officials from across the country gathered at National Police headquarters in Phnom Penh for their annual assembly, which was presided over by Commissioner Neth Savoeun.

"For the coming year, our government will try very hard to fight against any crime and terrorism in order to keep the whole nation secure," Keat Chantharith said.

He said officials discussed three main points at the assembly: strengthening national security and counterterrorism, with particular emphasis on cooperating with the Defence Ministry to improve border security; reducing the crime rate further and maintaining public order; and improving the relationship between the police and the public.

With regard to the last goal, Keat Chantharith said officials wanted people to feel less "inconvenienced" by their interactions with police officers and also "to feel trust and love as we cooperate to protect social security".

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the local legal NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, said the statistics cited by the officials were difficult to evaluate.

"It is very difficult for me to assess whether the statistics reflect such a dramatic increase in public safety because they do not divide minor crimes from serious crimes," he said.

German government announces freeze in KR tribunal funding

Members of a German parliamentary delegation, led by lower house Vice President Wolfgang Thierse, greet CPP, Funcinpec and NRP parliamentarians Monday at the National Assembly.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brett Worthington
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Funds held back until corruption allegations addressed; Berlin delegation also stresses democratic role of Cambodian opposition.

A DELEGATION from the German parliament, or Bundestag, said Monday that the German government will not donate more cash to the Khmer Rouge tribunal until lingering allegations of corruption are resolved.

"We will continue supporting the KRT provided corruption allegations are cleared up," said lower house Vice President Wolfgang Thierse, who led the delegation that met with representatives from the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Earlier Monday, the delegation met with all the Kingdom's major political parties. The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), its junior coalition partner Funcinpec and the beleaguered Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) met the delegation at the National Assembly.

In a late change to the announced schedule, the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC) - composed of the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties - declined to attend the National Assembly meeting and met with Thierse late Monday, a move Thierse described as "fair" at a press conference.

Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) Deputy Secretary General Mu Sochua said the National Assembly was an inappropritate place for her party to meet with Thierse.

"We are not part of any parliamentary commissions [at the assembly], so we would rather not be involved with that meeting," she said.

Human Rights Party (HRP) President Kem Sokha said that the CPP had invited his party to attend a meeting at the National Assembly but the HRP wanted their own separate meeting.

"There was going to be no chance for discussion," he said. "The government and opposition parties should have separate meetings."

Thierse said that during his meeting with the prime minister Monday, he raised the importance of opposition in a democracy, especially in parliament, citing the example of the German house, where the opposition controls key commissions, meaning all parties have to work together.

The delegation will stay in Cambodia for five days, flying to Siem Reap today where they will meet with members of the German Apsara Conservation Project, the group working to restore Angkor Wat.

There's a hole in my bucket


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sovann Philong
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

A woman hurls buckets of water at the dying embers of a house fire that destroyed 25 homes in Russey Keo district's Tuol Sangke commune Monday. Residential blazes are an annual occurrence during the hot season, with similar fires leaving thousands homeless across Phnom Penh's crowded outer suburbs in 2008.

KR cadres to lodge appeal

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Neth Pheaktra and Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Lawyers pleased with public hearing, plan to ask for release.

FORMER Khmer Rouge leaders Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith will face the Khmer Rouge tribunal later this month to publicly appeal their continued detention, court documents released Monday said.

The husband-and-wife duo, who were the regime's foreign affairs minister and minister for social affairs, respectively, will argue their release on February 24 and 26.

Last month, co-prosecutors requested that the appeal be determined by written submissions only, as they argued the appeal "raises no new factual or legal arguments that need to be addressed in an oral hearing".

But judges have rejected the request, claiming that as it related to the "liberty of the charged person", it deserved to be heard publicly.

Ang Oudom, Ieng Sary's Cambodian co-lawyer, said he was pleased with the decision, as he would now be able to campaign for a change in his ailing client's detention.

"I would like my client Ieng Sary to be under house arrest or under protection in hospital because of his health problems. He is very old and has been attacked by three serious illnesses," he told the Post.

Ieng Sary was hospitalised last month for kidney-related illnesses and has spent the most time in hospital among all the five ex-regime leaders in detention at the hybrid court.

Can court find evidence?

Phat Pouv Seang, Ieng Thirith's Cambodian co-lawyer, also welcomed the decision.

"In the hearing, I will insist the Pre-Trial Chamber to think about the prolongation of my client's detention. She has been arrested and detained for one year already, so can the tribunal find the evidence to accuse Ieng Thirith or not? If not, the court must release my client," he said.

Both leaders have been in detention for more than a year.

Most Dey Krahorm evictees given new homes: City Hall

The deserted relocation site for Dey Krahorm residents in Damnak Trayoeng.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Evicted residents say they've given up hope of cash, while City Hall pledges to help residents yet to be compensated.

THE majority of families evicted from Dey Krahorm in Phnom Penh have accepted relocation homes, according to City Hall, following the passing of the compensation deadline imposed by private developer 7NG.

The company delivered an ultimatum Wednesday, saying residents had until Saturday to accept compensation.

Phnom Penh deputy governor Mann Chhoeun said more than 70 families of those still holding out for compensation who were forcibly removed on January 23 are now residing in homes in Damnak Trayoeng village, the relocation site built by 7NG 16 kilometres outside the city.

"The deadline set by the company is over, but I will help to reach a compromise between the remaining families and the company so they can get a house too," said Mann Chhoeun.

City officials and 7NG allege fewer than 90 families remained in Dey Krahorm on the day of eviction, while residents and rights workers put the number closer to 150 families.

"I am tired of trying to resist," said Ly Yuleng, a representative of the community. "I've stopped protesting for US$20,000. There's no way the company will give it to us, so a house is the only option now."

Leng Kim Rady, 52, also said the deadline forced him to accept a home against his will.

"We had no choice.... We would have ended up on the street," he said.

Like other residents, he said the home he was assigned at the relocation site was in poor shape, with no toilet and a roof that was already leaking. It would require a few thousand dollars to renovate, he added.

Srey Sothea, the chairman of 7NG, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Land dispute drags on despite Siem Reap governor's ruling

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Siem Reap villagers refuse to accept a decision granting disputed farmland to residents of a neighbouring commune, despite assurances.

LAND dispute negotiations between villagers from neighbouring communes in Siem Reap province remained deadlocked Monday after one of the parties disputed the decision of the provincial governor, who promised the aggrieved party a social land concession.

The meeting was called by Governor Sou Phirin on Monday to find a peaceful solution in a land dispute between villagers in Siem Reap's Chi Kraeng and Anlong Samnor communes who have disputed the ownership a 92-hectare swath of farmland abutting the two regions.


"We cannot accept the provincial governor's decision, which allowed [Anlong Samnor villagers] to settle and farm on the disputed land, and his request to the government asking that it prepare social economic concession land for us," said Kim Savoeun, a representative of the Chi Kraeng residents, after the meeting Monday.

He also reiterated accusations that Anlong Samnor residents acquired the land after conspiring with District Governor Ke Sophoan.

"We will keep protesting for our land to be returned from Anlong Samnor commune, which Ke Sophoan conspired to steal from us."

Sou Phirin said Monday that the meeting delivered a fair outcome on the case.

"It was a big meeting between both lawyers and the communes concerned to show documents certifying who owns the land legally, and many government officials participated," he said.

He told the Post that it was decided following the meeting that the Anlong Samnor villagers would be allowed to continue farming the land, as officially recognised by the government since 2005, and that he would lodge an application for the remaining villagers on the Chi Kraeng side to be granted a social land concession that they could farm as they choose.

"[I will] prepare a social and economic land concession for the 175 or more families who lack land for farming. They will just make a list for me, and then I will lodge their request with the government."

Final settlement?

But Sou Phirin warned Chi Kraeng residents to respect the decision reached at the meeting, saying that it is "illegal and unacceptable for Chi Kraeng commune to fight for land legally owned by Anlong Samnor commune".

"To farm on their land is a violation that must be faced before the law."

Sar Vannara, a monitor with local rights group Licadho present at Monday's meeting, said that she was prepared for the dispute to continue, despite the governor's promise of an application for a social land concession.

"I will keep investigating the land dispute between the two communes, since this morning's solution was unsuccessful and Chi Kraeng commune residents were unhappy with the decision," she said.

Frenchman shot and robbed in Ratanakkiri

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

A FRENCH national was shot and robbed while on the back of a motorbike with his wife in Ratanakkiri province Monday, police told the Post.

Henri Georges Rostaing, 63, who arrived at Ratanakkiri's Chheng Lok hotel on Sunday, was lightly wounded in the stomach when shot by two young unidentified robbers who also stole his camera, said Rir Ray, Ratanakkiri's provincial police commissioner.

Rir Ray added that the Frenchman was immediately taken to the provincial referral hospital for treatment before being flown to Phnom Penh.

"It is the first time that a robbery has occurred against a foreigner in Ratanakkiri," Rir Ray told the Post by telephone on Monday.

He added that the couple were touring the province by motorbike and were on their way to see the Cha Ong waterfall when they were followed by the two unknown men.

Shot near tourist spot

Tra Nutsean, director of tourism in Ratanakkiri province, said the man was shot just near Cha Ong waterfall, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area, located about nine kilometres from Banlung town.

"[Rostaing] was shot with an AK47 rifle. The shooters were young, around 20 years old," Tra Nutsean said. "He lost a Canon camera, but his other belongings were safe."

Fabienne Mansancal, spokeswoman for the French embassy in Phnom Penh, said Rostaing was currently undergoing further treatment at Calmette Hospital.

Govt to seek 'input' on NGO law

NGOs run a variety of programs in Cambodia, including this hand-washing day last year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brett Worthington
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

The author of the draft law tightening NGO funding restrictions says civil society concerns will be taken into account before its passing, but rights groups remain unconvinced.

THE government has vowed to include nongovernmental organisations in the consultation process for drafting new legislation regulating their activities, but this has done little to assuage the fears of civil society groups who see the impending law as a threat, government and NGO officials say.

"We have the draft legislation in our hands. We are in the process of sending the legislation out to NGOs asking them for their views," said Sieng Lapresse, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Interior.

As the government official in charge of organising the new law, Sieng Lapresse said that after NGOs have had an opportunity to review the document, the government would meet with them to discuss their concerns.

"We will hold a seminar and ask NGOs to contribute, but the final legislation will be determined by the government," he said.

If passed, the bill is expected to require all NGO funding to pass through the Ministry of Economy and Finance in an attempt to prevent terrorist groups acting as, or financially supporting, such groups.

Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, told the Post he believed the legislation would be a disaster for local NGOs.

"This will delay NGO operations and restrict them," he said. "Money cannot go through the ministry because we would not be willing to pay a bribe to ensure we get our money."

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the independence NGOs currently cherish could be in jeopardy if the draft legislation were enacted.

"I hope we don't go bankrupt. We must not criticise the government because, if we do, maybe we will get no funds," he said.

One particular concern is the restriction on NGOs from partaking in any activity serving the interest of a political organisation, which Sok Sam Oeun labelled an attempt by the government to muzzle criticism.

"We do not understand what is meant by political interest," he said, adding that it could potentially allow anyone who is a member of a political party to take an NGO to court for speaking out against them.

Ou Virak said the nature of NGO work was to express political views and ensure the rights of Cambodians are protected.

"They say NGOs cannot be involved in politics," he said. "But politics is about pushing for better policy or direction, and this is what NGOs do."

Sieng Lapresse said claims that it was an attempt to control NGOs were merely the "opinion of some".

The NGO law, first proposed in 1995 by the Council of Ministers, is set to enter the National Assembly before the anticipated penal code and anti-corruption bills, with Sieng Lapresse saying NGO legislation was a "priority" for the government.

But Ou Virak said that if the government needs an anti-terrorism law, it should pass it.

"The law is always changing ... it was to control NGOs ... but now they are using terrorism," he said. "We need a comprehensive anti-terrorism law, not an anti-NGO law."

Young workers stand to gain from rule on retirement age

Workers who remain in their jobs for 30 years receive 80 percent of their salaries upon retirement, said Meas Monika of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. Workers who leave their jobs before the 30-year mark receive only 70 percent.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Supporters of Hun Sen's directive in favour of the rule say its enforcement will lead to new ideas and reduce civil servant corruption.

WHEN Hun Sen issued a directive last month calling for stricter enforcement of the civil servant retirement age, it was warmly received by a range of officials, in particular those who represent younger workers and graduate students.

In the directive, issued January 12, Hun Sen called for the retirement of all male officials over the age of 60 and all female officials over the age of 55, in accordance with laws that have been on the books in some form since 1994.

Chea Se, a secretary of state for the Secretariat of Public Function, said the government employs around 200,000 civil servants. Though he was unable to say how many civil servants would be retired as a result of Hun Sen's directive, he did say that "many old men and women" are currently on the government payroll.

At the Ministry of Public Works and Transit, the government's largest, 157 workers out of 700 would need to retire to comply with the policy, said Meas Monika, the ministry's human resources director.

Meas Monika said some older workers want to stay in their jobs to maximize the size of their pensions when they actually do retire.

Others, he said, simply wouldn't know what to do with themselves if they retired. "Some people over the age of 60 still feel fit and strong," he said. "If they stay home and do nothing, they will get bored or sick and could die sooner."

Benefits of the directive

But supporters of Hun Sen's directive said some older workers want to keep their positions for reasons less innocent than their love for the job.

"Our vision is to fight against corruption," said Sieng Rithy, chief of the education and advocacy unit for the Khmer Youth Association.

He said he has heard of cases in which employees have bribed their superiors to alter their recorded ages so they would not be forced to retire.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said more opportunities for corruption materialise the longer employees stay in the same job.

Sieng Rithy said enforcement of the directive would enable a new generation of employees to shape policies.

"Youths are full of energy, and they bring fresh experiences that will help power the nation," he said.

Hiring more young employees will also make government institutions responsive to the needs of the Kingdom's younger residents, Rong Chhun said.

Budapest halves Soviet-era debt in bilateral agreement

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap at the National Assembly on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Half of Cambodian debt to former-Soviet bloc country to be cancelled, half to be directed into local development projects.

THE Hungarian government has agreed to write off half of Cambodia's Soviet-era debt to the country, with the remaining half to be diverted to local development, officials in Phnom Penh said.

"Hungary will cancel 50 percent of the debts that Cambodia incurred under previous regimes, while the other 50 percent will be diverted to help develop Cambodia," Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the National Assembly, confirmed Sunday.

He said that the debt relief package was announced last week during a Cambodian parliamentary delegation visit to Budapest.

"There will be an upcoming meeting with Cambodia's government to consider which sectors are priorities for the diversion of the rest of the debt," he told the Post, but added that he "could not confirm" the exact amount owed.

You Phirom, deputy director of the Ministry of Finance's Department of Investment and Cooperation, said Sunday that he was unaware of Hungary's decision, but added that the amount was likely small.

"I do not remember specific figures, but it is not much - just around $1 million or $2 million," he said.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's Special Commission on Economy, Finance, Banking and Audits, said he was also unsure of the exact amount, adding that it was likely a small fraction of the US$3 billion debt the royal government owes abroad. He nevertheless welcomed the move: "We applaud the debt relief that Hungary has offered us, just as the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and China have done," he said.

In September, Russia also agreed to cancel around 70 percent of the $1.5 billion debt Cambodia has owed Moscow since the 1980s.

Appeal ruling due today on convicted German paedophile

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun and Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Boys reiterate German paid for sex over several encounters, while accused says their visits to his house remained strictly platonic.

AFTER hearing fresh statements Thursday from the defence and prosecution, the Court of Appeal in Phnom Penh is expected to deliver a ruling today on German national Alexander Moritz Watrin, who is three years into a 10-year prison sentence on paedophilia charges.

The 38-year-old computer designer was arrested by Preah Sihanouk provincial police in February 2006 on charges of engaging in sexual acts with four boys between aged 12 to 15 at his rented home in Mittapheap district.

A provincial court in October 2006 sentenced Watrin to 10 years in prison for debauchery and ordered him to pay US$5,000 in compensation to the victims.

Testimonies questioned

Three of the four boys were present at the hearing. According to their testimony, Watrin had met them on the street and brought them to his home, where - over the course of three separate meetings - they exchanged oral sex and he sodomised them.

They added that he paid them a total of $50 over the course of their encounters.

Taking the stand in response, Watrin denied any sexual acts took place between them, saying he allowed the boys to eat, bathe and sleep at his home on two occasions because he wanted to give then a reprieve from life on the street.

His defence lawyer, Pich Sorya, told the court that the boy's testimony did not match their comments given after the charges were filed, and he petitioned for a review of court records.

"There are not enough elements to charge my client because the boys' answers are contradictory and unclear," Pich Sorya said.

Meanwhile, Teng Maneth, the lawyer provided to represent the victims by NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, asked the court to pursue an additional charge of soliciting sex with a minor that falls under recently revised sex crimes and anti-trafficking legislation. If charged, Watrin would be banned from Cambodia after serving his sentence.

Lack of foreign funds delays launch of first agriculture census

The Ministry of Planning originally planned to begin an economic census after completion of the agriculture census, said Chhay Than. The economic census is still planned to go ahead as normal despite delays to the agriculture survey, he said.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Minister of Planning Chhay Than says foreign donors failed to respond to government requests for funding bulk of national survey.

CONTRARY to an earlier estimation, the first agriculture census in the Kingdom will not take place this year because of a budget shortfall, Minister of Planning Chhay Than told the Post last week.

Chhay Than said officials had secured only US$1.1 million of the projected $4.2 million necessary to conduct the census. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation had committed $400,000, while the government planned to spend $700,000.

The ministry had expected to secure the rest of the funding from foreign donors but was unable to do so, Chhay Than said, adding that foreign donors had not responded to his requests for additional funding.

"We will not be able to conduct the census with only $400,000 in outside funding, so we will delay it until next year," he said.

Behind schedule

At a meeting at the Council of Ministers in September, Chhay Than said that his ministry had planned to begin the census this year.

Kith Seng, director of the Statistics and Planning Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said officials will now work with potential donor countries in an attempt to begin the census by early 2010.

He said the census, once completed, will help reduce poverty and improve the daily lives of Cambodian farmers, as the information it could provide would be used to improve existing government policies and enact new ones to help farmers use their land more efficiently.

Hundred pillar pagoda

Photo by: Brendan Brady

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady
Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Wat Sarsar Muoy Rouy, or the 100-Pillar Pagoda, near the Mekong River in Sambor district, Kratie province, is the Kingdom's largest temple. But "actually, it has 116 pillars", clarified one of the many elderly guardians who preside over the famous religious site.

Boy: Mom's boyfriend beat me daily

The Eagle-Tribune

By Jim Patten

LAWRENCE — A hospitalized 9-year-old boy told investigators yesterday that he suffered daily beatings by his mother's boyfriend.

The boyfriend, Thoun Rin, 31, was ordered held without bail yesterday pending a court hearing later this week on whether he poses a danger to the public and should be jailed pending trial on child assault charges.

The child was hospitalized Friday with two black eyes, a cut on the back of his head, and bruises about his body. Photos showed the boy's eyes were nearly swollen shut.

Rin was arrested Friday at their 15 Packard St. home, and held over the weekend on $250,000 cash bail. He was not supposed to be in the house, police said.

Speaking to detectives in the hospital yesterday, the boy said that the last beating happened Friday. He said Rin had asked him where the baby wipes were and when he told Rin he didn't know, Rin chased him upstairs into his room and beat him.

"He told the investigators he kind of fell asleep. He may have lost consciousness. We don't know," police Chief John Romero said yesterday.

"He struck him at least 10 times about the head," Romero said.

The boy initially told his mother he was injured when he fell while jumping up and down on his bed with his little brother, and that is the story his mother told police Friday.

"She told us she did not believe her boyfriend did it," Romero said.

But Saturday, the boy admitted the truth to her while she visited him in the hospital, and she called police and told them she had more information.

"She said her son told her Rin did it and she believes him," Romero said. "This kid is traumatized."

Rin had previously been ordered to leave the house by the state Department of Social Services, now the Department of Children and Families, because of previous alleged incidents of abuse involving the boy.

"We believe he has been back in the house since about Christmastime," Romero said.

Rin was charged with assault and battery on a child under 14 causing bodily injury and assault and battery on a household member.

Yesterday, Lawrence District Court Judge Thomas Brennan ordered Rin held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing Thursday.

Assistant District Attorney Jessica Strasnick told the court that although Rin had no criminal record in Massachusetts, he had been arrested on drunken-driving charges in Nashua, N.H., and also had been arrested on drug and gun charges in North Carolina.

Police were attempting to learn more about Rin and those arrests, Romero said.

Kenneth Witham, the court-appointed lawyer for Rin, told the court "for the record, my client denies the charges."

Rin faces five years in prison or two and a half years in the house of correction if he is convicted on the assault and battery on a child causing bodily injury charge, and two and a half years in the house of correction and up to a $1,000 fine for conviction on the charge of assault and battery on a household member.

The boy's biological father left for Cambodia on the day of the last beating, but has been contacted and is returning as soon as he can get a flight back, Romero said.

The Department of Children and Families has taken custody of the boy and his 3-year-old brother, Romero said.

He said police were not aware of any other family members living in the area.

Temple dispute talks to resume

Asiaone News
Tue, Feb 03, 2009


BANGKOK,THAILAND - NEGOTIATORS from Thailand and Cambodia on Tuesday resumed talks aimed at resolving a border stand-off which last year boiled over into a military clash, a Thai official said.

The last meeting of the Joint Boundary Commission in Cambodia's tourist hub Siem Reap ended in November with the two neighbours failing to reach agreement on any of the key points.

Since then, a new government has come to power in Thailand, inheriting the long-standing territorial dispute over the land surrounding Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple, where troops clashed in October, leaving four dead.

'This meeting is expected to further discuss the topics that we failed to reach agreement on at the last meeting, involving the name of the temple, troop deployment and demarcation,' a military official told AFP.

Thailand's new Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya last month made his first official visit to Cambodia.

At the time, his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong said the two ministers agreed to begin demarcating their disputed border.

Thai and Cambodian officials on the commission agreed in principle last November to reduce the number of troops at the disputed border and to form a border task force, but there has been no concrete progress since then.

Thailand's defence minister is expected to visit Cambodia on Friday to discuss withdrawing troops from territory around the 11th century Preah Vihear temple, which sits on Cambodian land just on the border.

The Cambodia-Thailand border has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of civil war in Cambodia.

Tensions between the neighbours flared last July when the cliff-top temple was awarded United Nations World Heritage status, rekindling the long-running disagreement. -AFP

Disruptions within the Norodom Ranariddh Party: the party gives its explanations


By Duong Sokha

On the occasion of the signature on Monday February 2nd of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the FUNCINPEC and the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) in Phnom Penh, NRP leaders went back over the tensions currently shaking the party's ranks. On Friday January 30th, members of the Khmer National Front party (KNF), which has been incorporated within the NRP, came to demonstrate outside the NRP headquarters and caused damage, as a sign of protest against the firing of one of their members, Mrs Meas Sokun. Other dismissals concerning KNF members came about in the meantime. Here are the explanations given by the NRP and Prince Ranariddh.

Reasons for the firing of Mrs Meas Sokun

NRP secretary-general You Hokry sees in this situation the result of a “personal conflict within the party”. During a meeting of the Governing Council meant to resolve internal issues, he explains, “some mentioned the case of Mrs. Meas Sokun, whose husband burst into our party headquarters carrying a fire weapon with him, with the intention of threatening a person who was in an open conflict with his wife”. He adds that this misconduct cannot be tolerated, and “this is why the Governing Council asked our member to explain her husband's attitude”.

This incident, You Hokry continues, was followed by another: Mrs Meas Sokun, a member of the NRP Steering Committee, allegedly spoke to Prince Ranariddh with disdain. “Even though the Prince has left the party, it continues to bear his name and still displays a portrait of him. We asked Mrs Meas Sokun to write an apology letter for Samdech Krompreah. We gave her some time but never saw any such letter! We gathered she does not support the NRP. In any event, two thirds of Governing Council members decided on her dismissal from the party. The decision was made on January 24th but because of the Chinese new year, we preferred to only make it public on January 30th.”

The NRP wants to files several complaints against KFP members

After reminding that the Khmer National Front party had been disbanded after the holding of a Congress at the NRP, the NRP secretary-general said: “Looking at the NRP and at the KNF, which one is legal? Our own party is registered at the Ministry of Interior and we have already taken part in several polls and won MP seats in the Assembly!” He then mentioned Suth Dina, official spokesman and deputy secretary-general of the NRP and a former member of the KNF who took the side of Mrs Meas Sokun. You Hokry naively asked himself: “Can a deputy secretary-general throw the secretary-general out?” Suth Dina was sacked from the party.

“We are filing a complaint with Justice against those who vandalised the NRP headquarters, with the Ministry of Defence against Mrs Meas Sokun's husband for illegally carrying a weapon, and with the Bar of Cambodia against this woman, who is herself a member of the Bar”, You Hokry announced.

Usurpation of power, according to Suth Dina

Suth Dina, reminding of his dismissal by the NRP on January 31st – the decision did not “surprise” him – also explained for his part that the Steering Committee of the former Khmer National Front party sent on February 2nd a letter to the Ministry of Interior, to the Royal Palace, to the Constitutional Council and to the government to denounce “the lack of legality in the NRP administration”. According to him, the NRP “usurped power”. “On November 16th 2006, at a Congress, the Khmer National Front party handed its power over to Prince Ranariddh, and not to its vice-president [Chhim Siek Leng] or even its secretary-general [You Hokry]!, he pointed out.

Norodom Ranariddh does not want his name to be used any more

Since he took up the new position of chair of the Supreme Council of King Sihamoni, Prince Ranariddh launched his [new website http://www.norodomranariddh.org/] and decided to take part in the debate raging on in his name. In a message dated January 31st , posted on his website and addressed “to citizens and members of the NRP”, he demands that his name and portrait stop being used in the field of politics so as to preserve the neutrality of the Royal Palace where he now works.

“Recently, incidents have tarnished my honour and my name and much criticism has arisen, accusing me of continuing to interfere in matters of the [Norodom Ranariddh] party. I asked NRP representatives to launch a procedure to remove my portrait and my name, in order to avoid criticism. But party representatives asked me to let them keep them until the elections of new councils in May.” Prince Ranariddh adds that he acceded to their request. Complaining about “unfair attacks which his name and portrait are subjected to”, he reminds at the end of his message that he “continues to serve the Nation, the Religion and the King” of Cambodia, with the new responsibilities he now holds.

Paedophile gets sentence cut

Asiaone News
Tue, Feb 03, 2009


PHNOM PENH,CAMBODIA - A CAMBODIAN court on Tuesday upheld a paedophile conviction against a German national but cut three years from his prison sentence, citing a change in child abuse laws.

Cambodia's Appeal Court ruled that Alexander Moritz Watrin, 38, was guilty of sexually abusing children, but reduced his sentence from 10 years to seven years in jail.

Watrin was originally found guilty in October 2006 of debauchery, the term Cambodian authorities used for sexual abuse before laws were changed last year.

He was arrested in 2006 in the beach town of Sihanoukville, 140 miles (225 kilometres) southwest of the capital Phnom Penh, for allegedly abusing four homeless boys as young as seven years old.

The German, who was also ordered to pay a total of US$5,000 (S$7,563) to the families of the boys, maintains he is innocent.

'I did not commit the crimes,' Watrin told the Appeal Court during his hearing last Thursday, while the four boys testified he had repeatedly molested them.

Dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia push in 2003 in a bid to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators. -AFP

Royalist parties of Cambodia want to approach May elections hand in hand

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 2/02/2009: Leu Lai Sreng, former Minister of Rural Development and current First Deputy President at FUNCINPEC, with NRP president Chhim Siek Leng, toasting after the NRP (Norodom Ranariddh Party) and FUNCINPEC MoU ceremony at the FUNCINPEC headquarters. ©John Vink/ Magnum


By Duong Sokha

After the creation on January 15th of the Democratic Movement for Change by the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party, it is now the turn of the FUNCINPEC and the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) to come together, with, in perspective, the next Cambodian local elections in May. The leaders of both parties met on Monday February 2nd at the FUNCINPEC headquarters in Phnom Penh and signed a royalist Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between their political formations, after which the parties' respective leaders, Keo Puth Rasmey (FUNCINPEC) and Chhim Siek Leng (NRP), duly celebrated with a toast.

“Brotherly” parties

After signing the MoU, FUNCINPEC president Keo Puth Rasmey, caught by journalists, explained that the parties had been like two “brothers” ever since the creation of the NRP, the most recent formation out of the two. He presented this unity of strength as a strategy to better establish their position in the May elections for new councils in the capital, municipalities, provinces and districts of Cambodia, which will be conducted on the basis of indirect suffrage. “This is a cooperation, not an alliance”, he insisted, putting forward the fact that their formations were realistic and did not aim, by uniting, “to compete with other political parties”.

Expecting better results in the elections

FUNCINPEC secretary-general Nhek Bun Chhay called for his part to learn a lesson from the past. “We have in the past been divided: it is an experience that we must think through. If our two parties had got together in the last legislative elections, we would not have got two seats each but 17 altogether! Having said that, this new cooperation does not affect in any way relations between FUNCINPEC and the CPP...” And to him, there is no doubt that this cooperation will pay off. According to his projections, FUNCINPEC and NRP together could score three times better in May than if the FUNCINPEC presented an election list under a single name.

Not a reaction to the opposition

Movement NRP secretary-general You Hokry emphasised the same line of argument and offered his own projections for the elections, explaining that each party had something to gain from this MoU. Each party had as a matter of fact set up a technical group to discuss the terms of the cooperation, he detailed. “I do not want to see that cooperation die before the elections!”, he stressed, claiming that the new bonds tied by the two parties claiming to be royalist were in no way a “response” to the recent creation of the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC).

Tini Tinou: Cambodia’s circus extravaganza!

e-Travel Blackboard
Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Tini Tinou 2009, Cambodia’s circus extravaganza now in its sixth year and bigger than ever, which attracts artists from around the world, will take place in both Phnom Penh (the country’s capital) and Battambang this coming March & April.

The spectacle is arranged and hosted by Phare Ponleu Selpak, whose roots are in the 1980s Thai refugee camps, caused by helpless people fleeing Cambodia as a result of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s. Phare’s initial aim was to utilise visual arts to help children and young people overcome the Regime’s and subsequent 20 years of civil war’s torments. Today Phare Ponleu Selpak (meaning Light from Arts) is based in Battambang and goes from strength to strength, now providing fresh beginnings for disenfranchised and disaffected youth.

From March 10 to 26, prior to the festival officially commencing, their will be two weeks of workshops held by professionals and senior artists from around the world, such as France, Canada, Romania and Japan, to train the younger Cambodian artists.

The festival will officially open in Phnom Penh on March 28 with a colourful and exciting parade through the streets of the city, featuring all the invited artists, over 120 from 10 countries. Later that evening in the capital’s Olympic Stadium there will be a stage show, continued the following morning, with a cabaret afternoon; rich moments, unique & unmissable!

The international troupe then moves on to Battambang, where from 2 to 5 April the 12 companies from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Japan, Romania, Germany, France, Belgium, Canada and Australia, will entertain the public with feats of acrobatics, juggling, trapeze flying, tightrope displays, contortionists, tumbling, and of course everyone’s favourite the antics of the clowns…

For people wishing to visit Cambodia during this time and experience the lively atmosphere, Asia Adventures Co. Ltd. - a Cambodia tour operator, is putting together a number of itineraries that will allow people to experience the event from start to finish, or just parts of it whilst visiting other destinations in the country such as the magnificent ancient temples of Angkor Wat. ‘This is truly a unique event in South East Asia, and it is a great time to visit Cambodia where not only can you experience the ancient cultural heritage of the country, but also witness the vibrancy of contemporary Cambodia’, explained Mark Ellison, Asia Adventures Managing Director. ‘The work Phare is doing with these youngsters, lifting them off the streets and filling them with hope, seeing how much they enjoy performing, shouldn’t be missed by anyone who is in the c! ountry during this time,’ he added.

Cambodia to reform commune-level policing, border security in 2009


PHNOM PENH, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun has pledged to reform commune-level policing and border security in 2009, said English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily on Tuesday.

One such reform would be establishing telephone hotlines to take complaints at municipal and provincial police headquarters and "national police will check up on the situation of the network and system of administrative police across the country," he told the annual national assembly of Cambodian police here on Monday.

In addition, boxes have been set up at all 76 commune police stations in Phnom Penh to accept comments and criticism from local residents, he said.

The system is still in trial phase, but will expand to all 24 provinces in 2009, he added.

Villagers must provide more feedback to both commune police and border police about illegal activities to help improve security, he said.

"We have to strengthen the border police and provide them with reasonable uniforms, camp equipment and training. We also need participation of villagers," he added.

During the meeting, it was made public that the kingdom's crime rate dropped by 23 percent in 2008 compared with the previous year, due to political stability, economic development and hard work of the police.

Editor: Bi Mingxin

Officials of the United Nations Criticize Serious Human Rights Abuses in Cambodia – Monday, 2.2.2009

Posted on 3 February 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 598

“Recently, human rights officials of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, issued a report denouncing that there were serious human rights abuses in the forced eviction of thousands of Khmer poor citizens from their houses in order to grab land. The report of the UN Human Rights Council noted that the number of evictions of citizens has increased throughout Cambodia.

Reference is made available to several UN resources here, including steps to access them.

UN Office for Human Rights

Select: Forced evictions in Cambodia make thousands homeless: UN expert

Press Release: : Forced evictions in Cambodia make thousands of people homeless. 30 January 2009.

The following statement on the latest in a series of forced evictions in Cambodia was issued today by the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik.

“More than 130 families were forcibly evicted during the night of 23 and 24 January 2009 from Dey Krahom, in central Phnom Penh to make way for a private company to redevelop the site.

“The forced eviction was carried out in the middle of the night, without prior notice and the shelters belonging to this poor community were torn down and destroyed. This situation has grave consequences for all the victims, but particularly the women and children. Reports also state that prior to the eviction, the community suffered intimidation and community representatives and members were also subjected to criminal charges.

“It is regrettable that the ongoing negotiations with the residents were abandoned, casting aside a valuable opportunity to reach a just and lawful solution to this longstanding dispute. It is now of utmost importance that the rights of the residents to fair compensation for their lost homes and property and the provision of adequate alternative housing are fully respected.

“Unfortunately this is by no means an isolated case, and the increase in forced evictions throughout Cambodia is very alarming. Reports indicate that tens of thousands of poor people have been forcibly evicted and displaced, pushing them into homelessness and further destitution.

“In Cambodia, a consistent pattern of violation of rights has been observed in connection with forced evictions: systematic lack of due process and procedural protections; inadequate compensation; lack of effective remedies for communities facing eviction; excessive use of force; and harassment, intimidation and criminalization of NGOs and lawyers working on this issue.

“Forced evictions constitute a grave breach of human rights. They can be carried out only in exceptional circumstances and with the full respect of international standards. Given the disastrous humanitarian situation faced by the victims of forced evictions, I urge the Cambodian authorities to establish a national moratorium on evictions until their policies and actions in this regard have been brought into full conformity with international human rights obligations.”

The former Special Rapporteur on adequate housing conducted a mission to Cambodia in 2005 and presented a mission report on his findings and recommendations (E/CN.4/2006/41/Add.3). Concerns on forced evictions in Cambodia have been shared through a large number of communications by the Special Rapporteur with the authorities. These communications remain unanswered to date.More information on the work and reports of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, including a series of pictures, is here; to see them, select Photographs of the evictions (PDF) at the end of the text.

“The report of the UN Human Rights Council condemning the Cambodian government for human rights abuses was made after the eviction of the Dey Krahom residents in the Tonle Bassac commune, Chamkar Mon district, Phnom Penh, on 24 January 2009. In that event, citizens of more than 100 families were beaten wildly and machinery was used to demolish their houses brutally. These activities seriously violated the citizens’ living rights, and violated also human rights conventions of the United Nations.

“Through a statement on Friday, 30 January 2009, an expert officials of the United Nations [the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Raquel Rolnik] asked the Khmer authorities to suspend evicting residents from their houses, because it is against international human rights obligations. But the Phnom Penh authorities and the Hun Sen government do not care about the report of the UN Human Rights Council, and the corrupt Phnom Penh authorities still collude with the 7NG company of Oknha Srey Sothea to grab citizens’ land impudently. At present, the Dey Krahom residents victimized by the eviction require shelters and need urgent aid from national and international organizations, as well as from generous individuals.

“Local human rights officials observing the collusion between the municipal authorities and the 7NG company evicting the citizens from the Dey Krahom region, said that most citizens have not yet received proper compensation. In contrast, the 7NG company of iniquitous businessman Srey Sothea had set an ultimatum for getting compensation from the company.

“Local human rights organization officials said that the criticism by human rights expert officials of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, is in line with the real situation in Cambodia. In fact, that the municipal authorities collude with the 7NG company and ordered armed forces to evict the more than 100 families from their houses in the Dey Krahom region is a problem that cannot be glossed over. Therefore, the government, headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, the vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, must consider how to respect human rights, in order to avoid criticism from all directions.

“Land dispute observers in Cambodia criticized the fact that during these last six months, abuses of citizens’ land, and evictions of citizens, happened more than before the fourth-term national elections on 27 July 2008. Even though the president of the National Authorities for Solving Land Disputes was changed, the number of land disputes could not be reduced. On the contrary, after Prime Minister Hun Sen, the vice-president of the Cambodian People’s Party, appointed Bin Chhin as the president of the National Authorities for Solving Land Disputes to replace [Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Council of Ministers] Sok An, land disputes grew more severe.

“Many said that after the Phnom Penh authorities colluded with the 7NG company to evict the Dey Krahom residents, citizens of the Group 78 in Tonle Bassac and citizens in the Boeung Kak region are very frightened, because they may soon face the same injustice like the Dey Krahom residents. Residents of the Group 78 in Chamkar Mon district’s Tonle Bassac and of the Boeung Kak region, appeal to local and international human rights organizations to help find solutions for them, so that they will not suffer human rights abuses like the Dey Krahom residents.

“Previously, important international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, frequently released reports criticizing human rights abuses in Cambodia, especially evictions of citizens. Reacting against such criticisms, the not trustworthy man Om Yentieng, the chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the government and senior advisor of Prime Minister Hun Sen, frequently denies the facts, claiming that the respect for human rights in Cambodia has improved. However, after the events on 14 January 2008, Om Yentieng could no longer conceal the fact, because victimized Dey Krahom residents gathered to protest at the residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Tiger Cave Tuol Krasaing headquarters.

“Human rights organization officials observing land violations in Cambodia assume that during the fourth-term government, set up through a unified and comprehensive vote, headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, land disputes will not decrease, and what Hun Sen said about the possibility of a land revolution, is said as a kind of an empty predictiion. If Hun Sen were really willing to settle land disputes, this strong man of Cambodia will not allow senior officials, dishonest oknhas, wicked businessmen, and the armed forces to use execute power to grab citizens’ land as they liked and do at present.”

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #3676, 2.2.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 2 February 2009

B.C. man died in motorcycle crash: Cambodian police


Doug Ward and Bethany Lindsay, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, February 02, 2009

VANCOUVER -- Cambodian police officials say a B.C. humanitarian worker died of injuries from a motorcycle crash - not the violent robbery previously reported.

Cambodian authorities say Jiri Zivny was fatally injured after a moped motorcycle he was riding collided with another moped.

Mr. Zivny died Jan. 15 after being injured in the coastal resort town of Sihanoukville, where he was vacationing after doing aid work in Vietnam for the International Hope Society.

Officials from the society, based in the B.C. Interior city of Kamloops, have said Mr. Zivny, 46, died from injuries he suffered after being clubbed on the head by assailants who stole his cash and clothes and left him in a coma.

This version of events has been disputed by Sboang Sarath, the Sihanoukville governor.

"I want the [Canadian] websites to review the case and correct it, since it contaminates Cambodia's fame," Mr. Sarath told the Cambodia Daily newspaper in Khmer, the native language of Cambodia.

Cambodian police have even produced a witness to the crash. Teing Ngeoun, 24, claimed to be a passenger of the moped that collided with Mr.. Zivny's moped.

Ket Sopheak, chief of Sihanoukville's traffic police, has said he considers the case closed.

Mr. Zivny's colleagues at the International Hope Society said their understanding of his injuries came from Reid Sheftall, an American doctor who treated Mr. Zivny at a hospital in the capital city of Phnom Penh.

Monty Aldoff, a friend of Mr. Zivney's, said Mr. Sheftall told the society he believed Mr. Zivny had been beaten and his injuries did not appear to be from a motor vehicle collision.

But a recent article in Asia Sentinel, a web-based publication, carried interviews with other doctors who backed the Cambodian police's view of Mr. Zivny's death.

"His injuries were not unlike those of other motorbike accident victims," said Dr. Phak Dararith, in the Sentinel article.

"The swelling was internal," he said. There were no bruises or lacerations on his head that would indicate he had been struck by an assailant, he and other doctors at the hospital said.

The confusion over Mr. Zivny's death has left some of his friends wondering if they will ever find out what happened.

"No truth will ever come from this. It will remain a mystery forever," said Mr. Aldoff.

Lisa Monette, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, declined to discuss any details of Mr. Zivny's death, citing federal privacy legislation.

"We continue to give support to the family and are in contact with the local authorities who are responsible for the investigation," said Ms. Monette.

Vancouver Sun

Malaysian audit firm opens office in Cambodia

The Star Online


It targets jobs from companies planning to go for listing

PETALING JAYA: Local audit firm Baker Tilly Monteiro Heng Sdn Bhd (BTMH), which launched its first accounting office in Phnom Penh on Jan 16, expects to capture a portion of the auditing work for companies planning to list on the Cambodian stock exchange which commences trading in December.

Partner Lock Peng Kuan said in view of the global economic slowdown, the company regarded its foray into Cambodia as a good strategy.

“We feel the time is right to invest in developing markets like Cambodia,” he told StarBiz.

Lock added that since early 1990s, Cambodia had enjoyed an average economic growth of 7.1% per annum, driven largely by the construction and tourism sectors.

By the late 90s, the country had a rapidly emerging garment sector and greater private investment, in response to the improved business climate and government’s positive reforms.
From right: Baker Tilly MH Audit Ltd executive partner Andrew Heng, Hong Panharith, Lock Peng Kuan, a Cambodian government official and Baker Tilly MH associate partner Joe Heng

Currently, there are only 21 approved audit firms in Cambodia and BTMH is one of the international firms that have successfully set up an operation there.

Associate partner Joe Heng said in a statement that in view of the market potential in Cambodia, BTMH was pleased to have its office set up at this time.

The new office was also expected to help multinational corporations operating there.

Meanwhile, three of BTMH partners have been admitted and recognised as certified public accountants and approved auditors by the Kampuchaea Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Auditors.

They are executive partner Andrew Heng; Lock and Joe Heng.

Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry Inspector General Hong Panharith said in the statement: “We hope BTMH’s presence would contribute to the growth of our country’s corporate governance.”

BTMH offers a full range of professional services which include audit, taxation, corporate advisory, forensics and investigation, corporate recovery, restructuring and insolvency.

Slain Long Beach woman was well-known in Lao-Cambodian community


The body of Leam Sovanasy, 76, a devout Buddhist and grandmother of 25, was found at her home Saturday. She was stabbed to death.

By Corina Knoll
February 2, 2009

A 76-year-old woman stabbed to death in her Long Beach home was a well-known figure in the Cambodian and Laotian communities, her son said Monday.

The body of Leam Sovanasy, who lived with relatives in the 1400 block of Peterson Avenue, was discovered by a relative about 11 a.m. Saturday, police said. She had been stabbed multiple times in her upper body. Sovanasy was ethnically Laotian but born in Cambodia, said her son, who asked not to be named.

She arrived in the United States with seven children more than 20 years ago. Many other families from her village have since immigrated to Long Beach, forming what Sovanasy's nephew, Sam Bunlot, called a local Lao-Cambodian community.

"Most of us, we know each other," said Bunlot, 40. "She's one of the elders, so she's very popular."

Grieving family members said they had no idea why Sovanasy, a grandmother of 25, would be attacked in her home. Investigators are trying to determine a motive for the killing, said Lisa Massacani, a police spokeswoman.

Sovanasy attended services at Cambodian Buddhist Temple in Long Beach four to five times a week, monks said through a translator."She devoted her life to Buddhism," Bunlot said. "All she did was try to be a good person."

Long Beach police ask that anyone with information about the case call homicide Dets. Russ Moss or Teri Hubert at (562) 570-7244

Human trafficking increases

Monday , Feb 02, 2009

Human trafficking is on the increase. Several human trafficking networks to various provinces have been uncovered, according to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs.

The number of people found being trafficked through the Vietnam – China border was 65 percent of last year’s total finds. Through the Vietnam – Cambodia border 10 percent and through the Vietnam – Laos border 6.3 percent.

Some were trafficked by air to Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Russia, Germany, France, Ukraine and some African countries.

The traffickers also shipped people to Hong Kong and Taiwan through Quang Ninh and Hai Phong ports and to Cambodia through ports in southwest territorial waters.

Women and children are mainly sold to brothels in Cambodia. Some were sold to Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan.

More than 2,500 trafficked people were rescued in 2008.

By Q.Phuong – Translated by Thuy Doan

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Regional forum warns climate change will affect millions


VietNamNet Bridge – Up to 150 government officials and experts from the Mekong region attended the Regional Forum on Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) Climate Change and Adaptation Initiative, which opened in Bangkok, Thailand, on Feb. 2.

The two-day forum, organised using financial and technical assistance provided by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), is expected to assist the MRC member countries in formulating plans and strategies to help them cope with the challenges posed by the effects of climate change.

Speaking at the forum, the Chief Executive Officer of the MRC Secretariat, Jeremy Bird, stressed that climate change is likely to result in less rainfall during the dry season, yet more during the rainy season, increasing the threat of seasonal droughts and floods and having a negative impact on the region’s ecosystems, aquaculture and agriculture.

Any changes in weather conditions or the flow of rivers would seriously affect the lives of millions of local residents, who rely on the natural resources provided by the Mekong River and its tributaries, Bird said.

Whilst stressing the close, interconnected relationship between climate change, water sources and human lives, the official called for tighter coordination between the MRC and other organisations to help member nations identify strategies to effectively respond to the threats posed by climate change.

According to Le Duc Trung, Acting General Secretary of the Vietnam National Mekong Committee (VNMC) and head of the Vietnamese delegation, the VNMC is assisting local agencies in setting targets and drawing up plans of action to adapt to this natural phenomenon.

The MRC was established on April 5, 1995 by the governments of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam to promote joint management of their shared water sources and to exploit the economic potential of the Mekong River. It has since expanded to include two dialogue partners - China and Myanmar.


Reserve Tribunal Judge Selected

By Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
02 February 2009

The Supreme Council of Magistracy has named a Zambian judge to serve as an alternate at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, officials said.

Florence Mumba, who has experience working at the International Criminal Court in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, will serve as a reserve judge for the Pre-Trial Chamber, following her nomination by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Friday’s unanimous approval by the Council.

The Council also approved the nomination of Yeth Charya to chief prosecutor of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in an eight-to-one vote. The Council had previously split on the decision, four to four, with King Norodom Sihamoni, its head, remaining neutral.

Journalist Recounts Flight After Death Threat

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
02 February 2009

[Editor’s note: Lem Pichpisey, a 40-year-old reporter for Radio Free Asia, arrived in Norway under UN protection last month following reported death threats and a flight with his family from Cambodia last year. The government and spokesmen for Prime Minister Hun Sen have repeatedly denied allegations of involvement in illegal logging, a subject of Lem Pichpisey’s reporting ahead of the threat. Lem Pichpisey spoke to VOA Khmer by phone.]

Q. Can you tell us briefly about why you fled to Norway?

A. I decided to leave my beloved Cambodia because I received a death threat, when someone put a bullet outside my Battambang house to scare me. My daughter found the bullet when she was sweeping dirt in front of the house. We thought this was the last sign and that we had to leave Cambodia, and I should give up on the profession of journalism.

Someone had threatened my life before the bullet in front of my house. The first death threat I received was while I was investigating and reporting about massive illegal deforestation at Prey Long, in Tum Rinh commune, San Dan district, Kampong Thom province. After that, I received a death threat while I was reporting this issue for Radio Free Asia, and it was exactly the same as the [government-banned] Global Witness report published June 1.

When I verified my investigation with that report, it was exactly the same on illegal deforestation, which involved Prime Minister Hun Sen’s family members and high-ranking military officials of Military Division 70 and a group of Hun Sen’s bodyguards, and especially Hun Sen’s in-laws. They were involved in this destruction, according to my investigation and the Global Witness report.

Q. When you first received a death threat, where did you go? You then returned to Cambodia. Why?

A. I escaped to Thailand, because I thought that at least Thailand had more democracy than Cambodia. The reason I came back to Cambodia was that I had committed myself to work fighting for democracy and the rule of law after I received the knowledge from US-provided training about international journalism and media management. After that training, I wanted to show my gratitude by sacrificing myself to training and bring about human rights, democracy and real freedom of expression to the Cambodian people.

Because I still loved the profession of journalism, I left Thailand and came back to Cambodia and told my boss at Radio Free Asia in Washington that I could not live in Thailand anymore, that I needed to go back to Cambodia. Some people had asked me why I had to come back to Cambodia, didn’t I feel scared? I told them that I felt scared, but I needed to ask the International Human Rights organization to pressure the government, and when the situation calmed down a bit, I could go back to Cambodia and continue my journalism.

Q. What happened with the second death threat? How many threats were there? And where did you flee for you life?

A. I received another death threat early in November 2007. I escaped to Thailand again because I had published Free Press Magazine, a compilation of many reports about illegal logging, the death of dancer Piseth Pilika and the report of Global Witness. That was a legal magazine, because I had permission from the Ministry of Information already. The police came to my office in Phnom Penh to confiscate more than 2,000 magazines without telling me ahead of time.

We knew that the police had come to my office to copy some documents, and I was also told by some friends working in the government that the government sent secret agents to investigate me. We knew that the police came to check my background at my home in Battambang province. At that point, I was scared, forcing me to leave Cambodia.

Q. In Thailand, which organization protected you?

A. I received a lot of support from international human rights organizations, including [UN High Commissioner for Human Rights] in Cambodia. I want to clarify that the protection is not against the Cambodian government. But it is a sign that the freedoms of expression and media in Cambodia are still weak, and journalists still suffer from death threats, persecution and intimidation.

So those international organizations issued press releases or statements of protection and urged the government to end human rights violations against activists and journalists. Some of the international organizations that issued press releases to support me were the Asian Human Rights Commission, based in Hong Kong, Licadho, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Adhoc, journalism clubs and the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance and others. That meant there was a spirit of support from national and international non-governmental organizations.

Royalists Join to Gain Council Seats

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
02 February 2009

Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party signed an agreement Monday pledging joint cooperation in local elections set for May.

The declaration between the two royalist parties comes amid internal strife for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, as two factions vied for control of the party over the weekend and 18 people were fired.

The agreement with Funcinpec President Keo Puthreaksmey was signed by NRP President Chhim Seakleng.

“Unity and cooperation between the two parties is very interesting for our two parties in the May election, and the cooperation will increase the [council] seats of the two parties,” Keo Puthreaksmey told reporters Monday.

The two parties vowed to set up a joint working group to prepare cooperation in structure and strategy to add votes from commune council members for decentralized district and provincial councils, as well as a Phnom Penh council.

“We strongly believe that cooperation will go smoothly toward the May election,” Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bunchhay said.

By joining support, the parties will have more sway over the May elections because they can combine commune council votes.

If the parties did not join for the election, he said, Funcinpec would only win three council seats in the provinces and only 35 in the districts. But by joining, the two together would win 13 provincial seats and 105 district seats.

“We can gather the votes from commune councils,” said NRP Secretary-General You Hokry said.

The announcement comes after a major shake-up within the NRP over the weekend, when 18 members were fired for insulting the party’s founder, Prince Norodom Ranariddh. The prince, meanwhile, has asked the party to no longer use his name or image. You Hokry said Monday the internal problems were resolved following the law.

Germany's Thierse calls for end to corruption during Cambodia visit

The Earth Times

Mon, 02 Feb 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - The Vice-President of Germany's Parliament, Wolfgang Thierse, used his visit to the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on Monday to tell the country's leaders they must bring an end to corruption and promote democratic pluralism. Thierse met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, members of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, opposition parties, civil society groups and religious leaders and visited Cambodia's UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, where four former leaders of the genocidal regime are currently facing trial for crimes against humanity.

"During discussions with the prime minister I reiterated our concerns about the state of democracy in Cambodia and the worrying level of corruption," Thierse told reporters.

"Corruption is a major concern because it prevents the law from being properly applied. There is not a lack of laws in this country, but rather a lack of law enforcement."

Thierse said his meetings with opposition parties - which hold just a handful of seats in Cambodia's parliament - highlighted the need for a range of political parties in Cambodia's burgeoning democracy.

"Having an effective opposition is extremely important for any democracy. In Germany, for example, a member of the opposition heads the treasury committee, which is the most important parliamentary committee," he said.

Thierse confirmed that Germany would continue to contribute funding to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, but said the government needed to satisfactorily investigate allegations of corruption on the Cambodian side of the court.

Extraordinary Congress at the Sam Rainsy Party: closing ranks ahead of May 2009 local elections

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 31/01/2009: Sam Rainsy, leader of the Sam Rainsy Party, joining his party members at a congress ahead of the May 2009 municipal, provincial and district council elections.
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Duong Sokha

On Saturday January 31st, the Sam Rainsy Party held an Extraordinary Congress at the SRP headquarters in Phnom Penh, thus gathering more than 2,000 members with a view to strengthen the Party's network for the upcoming elections concerning new councils for the capital city and all provinces and districts of Cambodia. The Congress was mainly attended by the party's commune councillors, who will in May be in charge of electing members of the new councils. The event was the opportunity for the political opposition formation to reassert its position... and the solidity of the Democratic Movement for Change.

Sam Rainsy's instructions

Sam Rainsy opens the round of speeches and first expresses his respect for SRP members working at the local level. “You are my eyes, my ears, my brain and my heart! I need your information to know how inhabitants live.” He encourages them to “communicate and collaborate closely” and announces that he asked the SRP secretariat to set up a way that would allow them to “contact party representatives directly”, and notably himself.

According to SRP secretary-general Ke Sovannroth, as of December 31st 2008, the party counted 747,131 members and intervened in 48 cases of Human rights violations (murders, illegal arrests, intimidation, etc.) committed in the past year against SRP members, she detailed.

After this call to strengthen the party's network, the leader hands out a bulletin “to be studied and presented to citizens”, dealing with the question of decentralisation, a process which the council elections are a direct part of. The booklet was created by the Association for Decentralisation in Cambodia, established and directed by a SRP member, also a neighbourhood chief in the O'Russey district in Phnom Penh. “Today I want to show that there are long-standing loyal supporters at the SRP, people who did not join another party even though that other party attempted to buy them before the [July 2008 legislative] elections”, Sam Rainsy pointed out, before having a go at the TVK television channel for having brought SRP dissidents in the limelight. “I regret that defections are more emphasised than the loyalty of party supporters!”

A party under reform

The reform promised by the SRP is on the way. Indeed, Sam Rainsy announced that the party status had been amended together with the party's internal rules, “in order to reinforce and prevent any external attempt aiming at dividing”, he explained succinctly.

Shortly afterwards, SRP MP for Battambang Eng Chhay Eang went back in details over a particular aspect of the reform concerning the appointment of the secretary-general. Up until now, the latter was due to be elected by Board members. “From now on, the SRP president will appoint the secretary-general, after having however consulted the Board. “And if the secretary-general, three months after taking his/her post, does not work correctly, from the point of view of the Board, then the Board will be able to dismiss him/her via a petition.” Nothing more was revealed concerning the amendments adopted by the SRP.

The Democratic Movement for Change retorts to Hun Sen

On January 20st, i.e. five days after the SRP and the Human Rights Party (HRP) created their Democratic Movement for Change, prime Minister Hun Sen, then in the Oddar Meanchey province, said that he could break up this Movement whenever he wanted to. The head of government then took delight in reminding the series of defections of SRP members toward his own party, the CPP, not long before the legislative elections... “There is no need trying to defeat the CPP!”, he warned.

The SRP Congress was an occasion for leaders of both opposition parties to reply to Hun Sen's mockery. Kong Korn, vice-president of Sam Rainsy's political formation, was the first to open fire. “A few days ago, words were said and meant to undermine the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC). These were words expressed by Hun Sen. However, it is impossible to achieve this goal because voting citizens follow us, our loyal supporters stay by our side. In this regime, the judicial power is now used to arrest us...”, he commented.

HRP president Kem Sokha, who had been invited to take part in the SRP Congress, then took the floor and hammered home the solidarity of the bonds which bind the SRP and the HRP within the DMC. “We are not afraid! No one can buy us or defame us. We keep working together. As soon as 1993, my attention was drawn on the solid positions that Sam Rainsy held. And today, the time has come for us to collaborate.”