Friday, 6 February 2009

Cambodia-Thai border talks

Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (left) met with his counterpart Tea Banh for talks aimed at withdrawing soldiers from disputed land around Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple. -- PHOTO: AP

Feb 6, 2009

PHNOM PENH - THAI and Cambodian defence ministers met on Friday in Phnom Penh to attempt to broker a deal to defuse a troop stand-off at their border that erupted in a deadly clash last year, officials said.

Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon met with his counterpart Tea Banh for talks aimed at withdrawing soldiers from disputed land around Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple, said General Neang Phat.

'The meeting will discuss troop pullbacks in order to return the situation to normal,' the Cambodian general told AFP shortly before the meeting began.

Mr Prawit was also scheduled to meet with premier Hun Sen at Cambodia's foreign ministry and other top officials during his day-long trip to the capital, Gen Neang Phat said.

Tensions over the long-disputed territory flared in July last year after 11th century Preah Vihear was granted United Nations world heritage status, and soldiers clashed there in October leaving four troops dead.

Subsequent talks between Cambodia and Thailand have not reached a resolution to the dispute.
The most recent talks ended on Wednesday in Bangkok with negotiators unable to agree on a common spelling for the temple's name, agreeing only to set up a working committee to look at legal issues and to begin mapping the border area.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia. -- AFP

PM lashes out at developed world, donors over crisis

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks Thursday at the Third Cambodia Economic Forum in Phnom Penh.


A look at the key initiatives proposed at Thursday's 3rd Cambodia Economic Forum

Stimulus package

Exact figures were not provided, but the government says it will boost spending on infrastructure, social programs and agriculture.

Reserve requirements

The bank reserve requirement will be reduced further in 2009 from 12 percent.

Tourism reform

No additional funds will be given to the sector, but a working group is meeting to recommend policy changes. Garments industry

One-percent profit tax has been eliminated and export promotions are under way.

Budget reform

Government to cut spending on petroleum, and the prime minister pressed petrol companies to reduce pump prices in line with oil slump.

Agriculture spending

The government hopes to boost agriculture yields and processing capacity through loans and grants. The Rural Development Bank received US$12 million in 2008 and is set to get $18 million in 2009.

The Phnom Penh Post

Friday, 06 February 2009
Kay Kimsong

Hun Sen blames corruption and mismanagement in developed world for current global downturn at forum aimed at addressing economic problems.

HUN SEN lambasted Western countries Thursday for the economic crisis, blaming them for corruption and mismanagement at an economic conference in Phnom Penh.

"Rich countries are only blaming poor countries for corruption - they never blame one another," he said at the Third Cambodia Economic Forum at Raffles Le Royal hotel.

Donor organisations were not spared from the attacks, with Hun Sen singling out the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) for making the crisis worse.

"Powerful nations no longer have the right to advise small countries," he said.

He announced a series of measures to cut wasteful spending and provide additional funding to support the local economy.

"We won't spend money buying cars for government officials," said Hun Sen

Among the cost-cutting measures was a 50 percent cut in fuel spending for government cars in line with lower petroleum prices.

"We are changing our policy. Before we approved US$7.5 million for each ministry to buy gasoline, but now we will provide only $3.75 million," said Hun Sen.

He said that cutting government waste would be a key part of the 2009 budget.

"We cannot just spend. If the prime minister does not manage the budget, the economy will be dead."

Slowdown coming

Development organisations recommended a range of reforms and crisis-fighting measures.

World Bank Country Manager Quimiao Fan warned that the slower economic growth in 2008 was "just a warning" before an even sharper downturn for 2009.

He pressed for deeper regional integration, better management of natural resources and more infrastructure investment.

" Rich countries are only blaming poor countries for corruption."

"Cambodia should look to neighbouring markets in Asia, where the contraction may be less pronounced," he said.

ADB Country Director Arjun Goswami highlighted increased poverty as a side effect of the crisis, saying about two million people in the Kingdom were close to the poverty line.

"This new external shock will sharply curtail, at least over the next two or three years, three of the four Cambodian sources of growth: garment exports, tourism and construction," he said.

Hun Sen rejected opposition demands for a $500 million stimulus package.

"That request is not logical - it is opposition logic," he said. Opposition lawmakers were barred from the event.

UN Development Program Resident Representative Douglas Broderick said Cambodia has achieved remarkable economic growth, but that wealth had not trickled down.

"We are grateful for the substantial gains made toward sour shared goal of reducing poverty.... Clearly we want to see those gains preserved, while protecting the most vulnerable 1.8 million Cambodians from the combined effects of poverty and this continuing crisis," he said.

Mobitel head office surrounded by police: stories and the official version

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). 05/02/ 2009: Police at Mobitel office on Sihanouk boulevard.
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Duong Sokha

Customers of mobile telephony company Mobitel were surprised on Thursday February 5th when activity at the company’s head office in Phnom Penh was offhandedly suspended. Indeed, some ten military police officials deployed at dawn outside the office and forbade staff to come in. On site, it was impossible to obtain any information whatsoever. The company could not be reached in the morning through either of its helpline numbers (812 and 012 812812).

Rumour s started spreading, according to which the company allegedly incurred debt towards the state or that there might have been an internal conflict at the head office.

In the middle of the afternoon, a company employee in charge of answering customers’ questions explained on the phone that the morning disruption was caused by “the visit of eminent persons who came to observe the functioning of the company”... yet empty of its staff. “This is why we suspended our activity… ”

Refusing to reveal the identity of these distinguished guests, she added that “the deployment of police forces was meant to protect the security of these persons in the same way high-ranking government officials are protected by siren-equipped cars opening their convoy”. She declared that rumours heard were unfounded and added that the company had resumed normal service at 1pm the same day.

The telephony company Mobitel, which reaches the largest number of customers in Cambodia, belongs to oknha Kith Meng, CEO of the powerful Royal Group (the group includes Mobitel and the ANZ Royal bank, of which the company is a shareholder) and also chairman of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce. Considered as close to prime Minister Hun Sen, he could not be reached on Thursday.

Evictees protest outside 7NG

Former Dey Krahorm residents gather in protest Wednesday outside the 7NG office in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Chhay Channyda

ABOUT 40 former residents of Dey Krahorm and other communities facing eviction in central Phnom Penh protested Wednesday outside the Tonle Bassac commune office of local developer 7NG, demanding US$20,000 in compensation for those violently evicted from Dey Krahorm last month.

Ex-residents played a recorded speech of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in which the premier instructed authorities to protect people and restrain themselves from using violence in a land dispute in Preah Sihanouk province last year.

“Governors, deputy governors and authorities must not forget the problem until it leads to the arrest of villagers. It hurts me that I could not educate all of you to be good people,” Hun Sen said of the Preah Sihanouk land dispute, which involved an unnamed company and led to the arrest of four people.

At the time, Hun Sen flew by helicopter and ordered the land be given back to the people.

Former Dey Krahorm resident Cheng Srey Vann, 22, said that Hun Sen’s speech made people confident that no one would be evicted from their land.

“We played the prime minister’s speech outside the 7NG office because we want the company to know that we have lived under threats and that they used violence to evict us from our land,” she said.

Resident Horn Sar, 42, said that 53 families are asking for the $20,000 cash compensation originally offered, even though the 7NG’s deadline for accepting compensation has passed.

He said that residents had also submitted complaints to the prime minister on January 29, five days after the forced eviction that led to the demolition of the Dey Krahorm community.

“There has been no positive result for us. Lim Leang Se, the premier’s deputy Cabinet chief, just advised us to get homes or continue negotiations with 7NG,” he said. “There has been no help.”

Lim Leang Sen could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Mann Chheoun, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said 79 out of 91 listed families have agreed to accept homes offered by 7NG in Dangkor district’s Damnak Trayoeng village, adding that municipal officials had recently delivered bicycles to children of families recently arrived at the site.

“We have many humanitarian projects for this relocation site,” he said.

Investment in 2008 passed $10b: govt

Photo by: Heng chivoan
Workers at a South Korean building project in Phnom Penh. South Korea was the second-largest foreign investor in 2008.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Kay Kimsong

But critics say figures do not represent real cash injection

The government approved more than US$10 billion in fixed-asset investment in 2008, up more than $8 billion over 2007 figures, according to Cambodia Investment Board documents obtained by the Post Tuesday.

CIB figures say 101 investment projects were approved by the Council for Development in Cambodia in 2008, representing fixed-asset investments of $10.89 billion, compared with 129 projects worth $2.6 billion in 2007.

Fixed-asset investments for 2008 accounted for 36.1 percent of total investments in the Kingdom, the said CIB.

But the figures have raised questions about the actual substance of the fixed-asset investments. Cambodia Economic Association President Chan Sophal told the Post Wednesday that fixed-asset investments represent pledged dollar amounts rather than actual foreign investment capital.

"Fixed assets represent only figures registered with the government, but they don't mean actual capital that will be spent in Cambodia," he said.

"The real FDI capital flow in Cambodia was about $700 million to $800 million [in 2008]," he said, adding that only an estimated 20 percent of the $10.89 billion in fixed assets represented actual investment in the economy. The World Bank put Cambodia's FDI in 2008 at $821.7 million.

Chap Sotharith, a senior researcher at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, agreed that CDC investment capital figures do not represent actual dollar amounts invested in the country.

"We don't really have a clue about the actual amount of FDI unless we know how much money investors have actually transferred into the country," Chap Sotharith said.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann claimed that as much as 50 percent of foreign investments fail due to corruption and unfair competition.

The largest projects approved last year were the Union Development Group Co's Koh Kong Sea Coast Development (China), with $3.8 billion, followed by Evergreen Success and Asia Resort Development (Cambodia), with $1.84 billion.

By sector, Cambodia approved $8.77 billion in tourism investments, $1.29 billion in service sector investments and $715 million in industry, the CIB figures show.

Marriage 'agency' explained

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
May Titthara and Robbie Corey-Boulet

Ministry of Foreign Affairs says agencies cannot charge

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement Tuesday to explain the role of the newly established Association of People Protection (APP) in facilitating marriages between Cambodians and foreigners, stating that foreigners need not become members of the association or pay any money “in order to be eligible for marriage with Cambodian citizens”.

The statement, addressed to accredited diplomatic missions, does not name APP explicitly but states that any intermediary agency accepting money in exchange for processing foreign marriage applications would be in violation of government regulations.

Koy Kuong, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said ministry officials sent the release to foreign embassies to clear up any confusion stemming from the actions of APP. He said that late last year, after the lifting of a seven-month ban on foreign marriages, APP falsely advertised itself as the only association through which foreign marriage applications could be processed.

But Ha Tai Jun, adviser to the APP, said the association’s original licence from the Ministry of Interior, issued December 12, 2008, stipulated that it actually was the only association that could process foreign marriage applications and that any foreigner looking to marry a Cambodian needed to join.

In an interview with the Post Wednesday, he said Minister of Interior Sar Kheng issued APP a “corrected” license on January 15 stipulating that joining the association was not a prerequisite for processing a foreign marriage application and that it could not charge for its services.

Ha Tai Jun said he believed the licences were changed after South Korea’s embassy in Cambodia took issue with the original arrangement. No one at the embassy was available for comment Wednesday.

In a letter Friday to the Post, a Ministry of Interior official cited an article of the subdecree dealing with foreign marriages that prohibits any marriage arranged through an agency, broker or commercial enterprise.

PM reissues call for civil retirements

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Thet Sambath

Exceptions undermining earlier ministerial directive

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has reissued orders for civil servants who have reached the official retirement age to step aside, according to Council of Ministers officials, amid a flood of special requests to extend individual tenures beyond the age limits laid down in law.

In a directive issued January 12, Hun Sen called for the retirement of all male officials aged 60 and above and all female officials aged over 55. But with a string of prime ministerial exceptions generating jealousy in the halls of government, officials say over-age employees must step down.

“All civil servants must retire when they reach the retirement age. They are not allowed to continue their work,” said Hong Chham Chhan, deputy secretary general of the Council of Ministers’ Council for Administrative Reform.

“Some have requested to Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow them to continue their work … but those who didn’t get permission are jealous of those who are allowed to continue working.”

Special allowances

He said that “more and more” officials had been lodging special requests to the premier, and that officials in the Council of Ministers had became jealous of colleagues who had been granted extensions.

“Because of this problem, Hun Sen issued an order to all of them to retire when their time comes, except those requested by the government to resume their duties,” Hong Chham Chhan said, adding that 7,000 to 8,000 civil servants required replacement every year due to retirement, death and resignation.

“Some want to continue because they are thinking of their own interests and reputation. Some are used to being officials, and they don’t want to become simple civilians,” he said.

Bun Uy, a secretary of state in the Council of Ministers, said Wednesday that the prime minister’s new order would not just apply for 2009, but would be applied consistently in future.

“Hun Sen has ordered all [civil servants] to retire in order for things to be equal among them,” he said. But Yim Sovann, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, said many talented people had no chance to work in government because appointments were tainted by nepotism and corruption.

“Those who do not resign think only of their personal interest and nepotism. Their acts do not help the country develop and give the young no chance to serve the nation,” he said.

“I see many old-age officials still working. They keep those who are not against them and those who are against them are put into retirement.”

Dream shoeshine team


The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Post Staff

A husband-and-wife shoeshine and repair team are hard at work on Wednesday at their streetside stall near Doeum Kor Market on Mao Tse-tung Boulevard.

How to marry a foreigner: Ministry

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
May Titthara and Robbie Corey-Boulet

AFTER months of legal confusion, a Ministry of Interior official told the Post Wednesday how foreigners can comply with Sub-Decree No 183, which governs marriages between foreigners and Cambodian citizens. The subdecree was issued in November following the lifting of a seven-month ban on such marriages.

Ten Borany, deputy director of the Anti-Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department at the Ministry of Interior, told the Post that foreigners wishing to marry Cambodians need to go through the following process: First, they need to apply through their own embassies, which will pass forms on to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That ministry will then pass the forms to the Ministry of Interior. If both ministries approve the forms, they will then be sent to the appropriate commune officials. The forms will then be taken to the Phnom Penh Municipality for final approval.

New role for APP

Ha Tai Jun, adviser to the Association of People Protection, said the association is designed primarily to help Cambodian women looking to marry Korean men. The association maintains an office in South Korea and an office in Phnom Penh.

He said the association plans to do its best to protect Cambodian women from abusive and exploitive relationships.

“Our association does not allow crazy people, drunks, people who are already married or drug users to marry Khmer women,” he said. “We try to help Khmer women when they get married.”

Tuol Sleng victims prepare to participate in Duch trial

The main courtroom at the ECCC, where Duch’s trial will start February 17.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Neth Pheaktra and Georgia Wilkins

Almost 100 victims of the Khmer Rouge’s most brutal torture centre have applied to become civil parties at the upcoming trial

UP to 94 people who were victims of, or bore witness to, the atrocities that occurred at Tuol Sleng, the Khmer Rouge’s most notorious prison camp, will participate in the upcoming trial of the torture centre’s former chief, Kaing Guek Eav, officials said.

According to a statement from the court’s Victims Unit, 66 new applications in addition to an original 28 have been received from victims wishing to be legally represented in the trial as a civil party, which allows them to submit evidence and have access to the case file.

The statement added that the recent influx of applications was due to the court’s outreach programs, which encouraged victims to take advantage of the court’s unique and largely experimental rules – ones that allow greater victim participation than any other tribunal of its kind.

“As a result of outreach activities ... an additional 66 Civil Party applications were received. The Trial Chamber of the ECCC is in the process of admitting the newly received applications,” the statement said.

Keat Bophal, head of the Victims Unit, told the Post Wednesday that applications would likely be submitted to the trial chamber by the end of the week, and that those seeking to become civil parties included the “brothers, sisters and children” of people tortured and killed at the regime’s Choeung Ek “killing fields”.

“Generally speaking, DC-Cam-assisted civil parties are primarily relatives of detainees at Tuol Sleng, with the exception of one survivor who barely escaped death,” a statement released by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia this week said.

According to Keat Bophal, almost all applicants have access to a lawyer.

American lured kids in with toys and gifts, victim's mother claims

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

NGOs say the 75-year-old American is a serial offender - four under-15 victims have so far come forward, with the possibility of more


Paedophilia sentences have shrunk under Cambodia’s 2008 Law on Anti-Human Trafficking, according to some rights groups, who say reclassifications in the law are responsible for a recent series of successful appeals by convicted offenders.

SIEM Reap provincial court has charged an American national with committing indecent acts against two underage boys, as government investigators claim more young victims may be involved.

“I charged American Jack Louis Sporich, 75, with indecent acts against two boys, and he is now being questioned by the investigating judge,” court prosecutor Nuon San told the Post Wednesday.

Under new Cambodian sex crimes legislation, each charge of “indecent acts” carries a penalty from one to three years in prison.

Sun Bunthorng, chief of the provincial bureau of Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection, said that police arrested Sporich on Monday at his house in Siem Reap town on suspicions that he had sexual relations with at least four boys aged under 15 years.

“We are continuing to investigate the case,” he said. “We have now received complaints from four victims, and we believe there might be more boys involved in the case.”

SunBunthorng said that Sporich, who is retired, entered Cambodia in 2005 and was married to a Cambodian woman.

Serial offender

Samleang Seila, executive director of anti-paedophile group Action Pour Les Enfants, that helped in the arrest, said his team had been watching the man since late 2007 and that the suspect had toys at his villa which he used to attract children aged between nine and 13.

Ny Ty, 36, the mother of one nine-year-old boy involved in the case, who runs a street stall close to the American’s villa, said Sporich had lured children to his house with gifts and sweets and that she had never suspected his intentions.

“My son told me that he always bathed him, bought nice clothes and a new bicycle for him, and asked whether he could come and live with him,” she said, adding that the request seemed innocent enough at the time.

“I agreed to allow my son to live with the American for almost a year after seeing his generosity to the other boys, giving them cakes and money frequently.”

After her son went missing February 2, Ny Ty said she searched for him at local NGOs, eventually coming across him at a local shelter, where he had been taken by staff working for Action Pour Les Enfants after Sporich’s arrest.

“Now I feel relieved knowing he is now being taken care of,” she said. “I am coming here to seek compensation for my son like the other three boys’ mothers would do as well.”

In recent years, the Kingdom has struggled to shed its reputation as a haven for child molesters, putting dozens of foreigners in jail for child sex crimes.

Maritime institute on track to open

The Phnom Penh Port near Wat Phnom. A new maritime institute is set to open later this year, officials say.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Hor Hab

Launch of degree-offering school could come this year

THE Cambodian Maritime Institute, the first school in the Kingdom to offer associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in maritime studies, could potentially open in time for the 2009-10 academic year, said Hei Bavy, director general of the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port (PPAP), in an interview with the Post Monday.

Hei Bavy declined to say how much it would cost to open the school, which will be operated by the PPAP with assistance from the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (SAP) and under supervision from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. But he said officials had thus far received 60 percent of the money and equipment necessary to begin operations.

Funding for the school will come from the two ports, the ministry, student fees and donor countries, Hei Bavy said, adding that the European Union, for instance, had already provided financial support and plans to supply the school with a navigation simulator by mid-2009.

“If we get more support from development partners on time, I think we can start our first academic program this year because we are ready,” he said.

Need for workers

Hei Bavy said rapid growth in the domestic maritime industry had created a high demand for workers and, concurrently, an institute in which to train them.

Presently, the only domestic maritime courses on offer are those at the Cambodian Maritime Training Centre, which offers short courses – ranging in length from four to 12 weeks – on skills such as navigation, Hei Bavy said.

He said ships looking to fly the Cambodian flag are required to have a crew that is 20-percent Cambodian. He said he expected one-quarter of all licensed ship captains in the Kingdom to be interested in attending the institute because of the many employment opportunities in the industry.

Lack of interest?

But a 2008 report released by the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations found that only one percent of university and vocational training students wanted to work in the shipping and airlines industries.

Lou Kim Chhun, chairman and chief executive officer of the SAP, said the increase in qualified maritime workers the institute would likely generate could help him fill positions at the port, which employs 1,160 people.

“There are many jobs available on the ships for Cambodians, but right now they have no chance to get them,” said Zew Min Win, general manager of Mong Reththy Port in Koh Kong province.

Diplomacy: Embassy in Poland closes

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Vong Sokheng

Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a sub-decree dated December 4 to close the Cambodian embassy in Poland per the request of Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, Koy Kuong, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the Post Wednesday. Koy Kuong said both the Cambodian and Polish governments had mutually agreed to close their respective embassies. He said the Polish embassy in Phnom Penh closed last September. “The two countries decided to close their embassies to reduce spending, but they have continued to maintain diplomatic relations,” Koy Kuong said. “This has had no effect on their diplomatic relations.” Sam Rainsy Party lawmkaker Yim Sovann, lamented the decision to close the embassy in Poland, saying that Poland had for decades supported Cambodia. Vong Sokheng

Smoking graphics 'under review'

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Cigarettes on sale in boxes with no health warnings on them in Phnom Penh this week. The government is moving to add graphic pictoral warnings to such packages this month.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Chhay Channyda and Mom Kunthear

The govt is reviewing six possible graphics that will be introduced as health warnings on cigarette packages, as it tries to align tobacco control with the international standard by mid-February

CAMBODIA'S many smokers will soon face large, graphic health warning labels on the back of their cigarette packets as the government looks set to meet a looming World Health Organisation deadline, officials have announced.

According to the Ministry of Health, the government is now working to select its choice out of six possible images to be displayed on packets as part of its commitment to meet the WHOs convention on tobacco control deadline in 10 days.

"As a party to the World Health Organisation convention, Cambodia is required to place large labels and images showing the consequences of the consumption of tobacco products on cigarette packages," said Secretary of State at the Ministry of Health and director of Calmette Hospital, Heng Taykry.

Cambodia ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2005, alongside approximately 12 other countries, requiring them to take a series of measures to reduce tobacco consumption by February 15.

"We have to implement warning labels on cigarettes packets if we want to respect the convention," said Heng Taykry."

The pictures will be clear enough for even illiterate people to understand the harmful effects of smoking," he added. "People will fear smoking when they want to smoke.

"Lim Thai Pheang, director of National Centre for Health Promotion, said that the "six pictures planned for cigarettes packets are still just drafts" that are currently being viewed by the Ministry of Health and awaiting approval by the Council of Ministers.

"We are now busy viewing the labels and our government is willing [to implement them]," he saidAccording to Lim Thai Pheang, the deadline set by WHO was not final but a way to hasten discussion between governments and organisations over how best to reduce tobacco consumption.

"February 15 is not a definite deadline for ratified countries like Cambodia to produce warning labels, but was set by WHO to encourage governments to work as quickly as possible," he said.

He said that the labels would not appear on packets straight away, but after at least five or six months of discussions with tobacco companies.

" The pictures will be clear... People will fear smoking when they want to smoke."

Warnings should be gradual

Kun Lim, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at British American Tobacco (BAT) Cambodia, said Tuesday that he supported the government's decision to place warning pictures on cigarette packaging, but said that the new labels should be introduced gradually, rather than jumping from small, written warnings to large, graphic ones.

"I really support putting six different illustrated health warnings on cigarette packets, but it is not easy for us to do straight away. We need more time to practice with written warnings," he said, adding that his company had so far felt excluded from discussions between WHO and the Ministry of Health.

"I want them to introduce laws gradually so that we can increase the labels from a five percent text box to a 30 or 40 percent one, before we move to putting pictures on the package," he added.

Smoking ‘biggest problem'

According to Keo Krisna, project manager of the Tobacco or Health program (TOH) at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Cambodia (ADRA), more than 70,000 people died from tobacco-related illness in Cambodia in 2007.

"I think it is good that the government is paying attention to the control of tobacco in Cambodia. It is a good step in reducing the amount of people who die from smoking," he said.

"Smoking is one of the biggest problems in Cambodia. We are worried because we think that the danger from smoking is worse than the danger from traffic accidents, because one smoker can kill many people around them," he said.

According to a 2004 Tobacco survey by the National Institute of Statistics at the Ministry of Planning, smoking prevalence among men 20 years and older is 54 percent (in rural areas it is 56 percent) and women 20 years and over just six percent.

It also showed that the average age of smoking initiation is 20 for men and 26 for women, but up to 10 percent of Cambodians began to smoke between the ages of 10 and 14.

But despite the government's preliminary enthusiasm to reach international standards of cigarette packet warnings, long-term smokers said they were unlikely to feel the blow of new graphic labels.

Meas Touch, a 45-year-old smoker in Kampong Speu province, said that his 10-year addiction to smoking two packs a day meant that the warning labels would seldom affect him.

"I cannot stop smoking even though I try my best, and I know it is dangerous for my health and people around me," he said.

"I don't know about other smokers, whether they are afraid or not, but for me I don't care," he said.

However, he felt that the images could help prevent young people in the future from picking up the habit.

"The pictures will perhaps change the next generation of smokers, but for people who have smoked for a long time already, it will not impact them," he said.

Three new schools under way in Chanleas Dai commune

Photo by: Kyle Sherer
Maryann Bylander, managing director of PEPY.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Kyle Sherer

VILLAGERS, contractors and volunteers from Protect the Earth Protect Yourself (PEPY) laid the foundations for a strong educational system in Preah Leah last week, completing the ground excavation and concreting for the base of a new school. The PEPY project involves the construction of three US$57,000 schools in Siem Reap's Chanleas Dai commune, with funds coming from Dubai Cares.

The project will replace small thatch and wooden schoolhouses with tiled structures that contain toilets and shelving for libraries. Books for the libraries will be provided by PEPY and Room to Read. Construction began on the schools in early January and is scheduled to end in late April.

Maryann Bylander, managing director of PEPY, told the Post that "very few NGOs work in the Chanleas Dai commune. Most of them are focused more closely around Siem Reap town".

Realising the district was sorely in need of an upgraded education system, PEPY approached the government to determine where infrastructure was most needed, before deciding on Tramkong, Ruu, and Preah Leah.

In addition to working alongside the government, PEPY also strives to involve local communities. "For each school, there is a support committee made up of local officials, the school director, teachers and community members. These committees participated in the choice of contractors and also helped decide the design and style of the school," Bylander said.

"We are using ministry guidelines, but small choices like colours, wood or steel doors, etc, are chosen by the support committee. They also volunteer their time to be trained in construction supervision by our site engineer, and then go regularly to check the quality of the construction."

Bylander hopes that by taking a hands-on role in building the schools, the villagers will be more invested in running the schools. "It's exciting to see the community engagement," she said.

"We haven't done school construction like this before. We're really excited to have the funding to do this."After the schools are completed, PEPY will initiate a follow-up program, which involves training teachers, sending in evaluators and strengthening the parent-teacher associations.

Temple watch: Evolution be damned...

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
Dave Perkes

One of the mysteries of Angkor is a carved figure of a dinosaur that looks suspiciously like a stegosaurus. There is some speculation as to its origin. I have seen photos of it, and even a restaurant in Siem Reap, Goodysaurus, was named after it.

Some say it's an original carving, but I don't believe the ancient Khmers would have known about stegosauruses. Was it carved by a temple restorer as a bit of a joke, or has Cambodia got the equivalent of the Loch Ness monster? I had never seen this carved figure in situ, so I asked one of my lead guides, Ta Elit, exactly where it was. He told me that it was in a quiet part of Ta Prohm and is easily missed by the casual visitor. With the aid of a detailed plan of the temple, I found the carving on the east side of the West Gopura to the right of the entry tower. It certainly looked like a dinosaur and appeared very authentic. I did some research and found fanciful accounts on the web of humans existing with dinosaurs that I found quite amusing. My conclusion about this carving is that it may be a Sumatran rhino or even a pangolin, which have a similar shape.

China top investor in 2008, ahead of SKorea

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
George McLeod

CHINA was the No 1 foreign investor in 2008 in terms of approved projects, with nearly four times the capital as second-placed South Korea, say new government figures.

A Cambodian Investment Board report for 2008 says China had 40.14 percent of new capital, with South Korea a distant second, at 11.39 percent. Last year's figures put Malaysia as the No 1 investor, followed by China and Korea. Chinese projects in 2008 were in a range of sectors, including garments, hydropower, agribusiness and biodiesel.

Sok Chanda, secretary general of the Council for Development of Cambodia, said political will in Beijing was behind the increase. "The PRC leadership encourages investors to come to Cambodia. ... the Chinese government is pushing investors to come here," he said.

China expert Michael Sullivan said close government-private sector ties give Chinese firms an advantage. "This is all occurring within the context of emerging bilateral ties between China and Cambodia," said Sullivan, who is conducting research for the Association of Southeast Asian Studies UK Research Committee.

But opposition leader Sam Rainsy said that many of the investors coming from the People's Republic are here for the wrong reasons.

"Chinese companies aren't required to provide information with as much detail as companies from other countries ... Asian companies are not as transparent [as Western companies]," he said.

Ernst & Young poised for relaunch in Cambodia

Photo by: Sovann Philong
The building of Ernst & Young’s new headquarters in Phnom Penh. The company hopes to tap the growing demand for internationally- certified accounting services in Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Thursday, 05 February 2009
George McLeod

Soaring demand for accountants and auditing services is driving company to expand operations in Cambodian market

FROM its brand new office on Norodom Boulevard, Ernst & Young’s Phnom Penh Director Mai Phuong Nguyen says the company has big plans for Cambodia.

The company is setting up a full practice here Friday, hoping to tap into the Kingdom’s growing demand for internationally accredited auditing. Its services include accounting, auditing, business consulting and tax planning.

“We see a lot of opportunity in Cambodia.... There is huge demand.... We will be investing heavily in training and skills for local accountants,” she said.

“Cambodia is a member of the WTO ,and the Cambodian government is putting efforts into improving the quality of its institutions,” she said.

US-based Ernst & Young is one of the world’s biggest financial services companies, offering auditing, accounting and business consulting.

The firm has increased its presence in the developing world, eyeing the Asia-Pacific region which has seen high growth in recent years.

Even with local markets facing problems, Ernst & Young says it is expanding from 19 local staff to 22 in the first quarter of 2009.

“With the downturn, businesses are looking at their internal operations. This is the ideal time for companies to fix their problems.”

Cambodia is moving to adopt international accounting standards, and the need for recognised auditors and accountants is rising.

The planned launch of the stock exchange for 2009 has been a big boost for auditing firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young.

“We have a lot of experience from exchanges in China and Vietnam, and there are a lot of lessons we can share with local companies,” said Nguyen.

Local talentBut recruiting local talent in Cambodia remains a major challenge for auditing firms. “This is always an issue for us. The local education system is still unable to provide us with the staff we need ... so we are having to invest in training for our staff.”

According to Sok Chanda, secretary seneral of the Council for Development of Cambodia, the need for accounting and auditing in Cambodia far outstrips supply.

“I think Cambodia still lacks professional accountants, and especially when firms want to be listed, they need to have professional auditing services,” said Sok Chanda.

“There are a lot of local accountants, but its a matter of standards.”

Efforts are under way to improve the standard of local accountants, with Cambodia’s accounting watchdog, the Kampuchea Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Auditors (KICPAA), working to bring local universities up to international standards.

Since it was established in 2003, the KICPAA has trained about 800 accountants and has won a World Bank grant to certify local university courses.

The agency was accepted into the US-based International Federation of Accountants in November.

“There is going to be a lot of demand for professional accounting because local companies are still too informal – they don’t have proper procedures.” said Sok Chanda.

The Ernst & Young launch is set for Friday and will be presided over by Ngy Tayi, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Cambodia to launch arbitration court later this year

People's Daily Online
February 06, 2009

Cambodia's first informal court to resolve business disputes is moving forward for launch in 2009, with about 200 business and legal professionals already under training, said national media on Friday.

"A business dispute is not a good way to spend your time" and domestic and international disputes can be drastically shortened with an arbitration court, Renato Ganeo, manager of the training project, was quoted as saying by English-Khmer language newspaper the Cambodia Daily.

Uncertainty, inefficiency and high costs in the judicial court system, not only in Cambodia but around the world, have led a number of countries to create alternative dispute resolution procedures that allow parties to bypass the formalities of the legal system, said Ganeo.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Cambodian Ministry of Commerce, said that the ministry is completing a sub-decree to create the new business arbitration council, which will save business the time and money that courts absorb.

"It can be a big expense, going to the normal court," he added.

Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, said that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is giving 500,000 U.S. dollars for the new National Center for Business Arbitration, which will be in Phnom Penh and cost about 1 million U.S. dollars to build.


Thai defence minister visits Cambodia

MCOT English News

BANGKOK, Feb 6 (TNA) - Thai Defence Minsiter Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan left Bangkok Friday morning for Phnom Penh for his first official visit to Cambodia after assuming his post in December, but he has asserted that he would not raise ongoing border disputes in his introductory talks with Cambodian military leaders.

Gen. Prawit told reporters before leaving the Thai capital that his trip was intended as his introduction to Cambodian military leaders, and that he expected also to introduce the Thai commanders who are responsible for the Thai-Cambodian border talks.

However, he said that no discussions would take place regarding the border disputes, as the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) is working to resolve the outstanding issues. The boundary commission met in Bangkok this week without making any headway. Thailand and Cambodia could not agree on the name of the surveillance group to be stationed in the area or an official name for the temple.

The JBC will next meet in the second week of April in Cambodia.

The Thai defence minister was accompanied by Defence Permanent Secretary Gen. Apichart Penkitti; Supreme Comander Gen. Songkitti Jaggabatara and military top brass including the Burapa and Suranaree Task Force commanders.

Cambodian Deputy Defence Minister Gen Neang Phat was scheduled to welcome when the Thai defence minister and his entourage arrived.

Gen. Prawit wil meet his Cambodian counterpart Gen. Tea Banh who is also deputy prime minister, and will make a courtesy call on Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Cambodian Foreign Ministry.

In the evening, Gen Tea Banh will host dinner for the Thai delegates before they return to Bangkok.

Tension at the Thai-Cambodian border rose after Preah Vihear was awarded heritage status by the United Nations last year. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the 11th-century temple belongs to Cambodia, but the demarcation of the surrounding land remains in dispute. (TNA)

Cambodia and Thailand meet on troop withdrawal

The News

Friday, February 06, 2009

PHNOM PENH: Thai and Cambodian defence ministers met Friday in Phnom Penh to attempt to broker a deal to defuse a troop stand-off at their border that erupted in a deadly clash last year, officials said.

Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon met with his counterpart Tea Banh for talks aimed at withdrawing soldiers from disputed land around Cambodia's ancient Preah Vihear temple, said General Neang Phat. "The meeting will discuss troop pullbacks in order to return the situation to normal," the Cambodian general told shortly before the meeting began.

Cambodia 55th Independence Day!


Cambodian, Taiwanese clubs team up for clean water

Rotarians from Cambodia and Taiwan, including Chin-Hsien Lee and Bunthai Prom (front row, fourth and sixth from left), celebrate a Matching Grant water project in Cambodia.
Photo courtesy of the Rotary Club of Panchiao North, Taiwan

By Peter Schmidtke
Rotary International News
5 February 2009

A US$22,700 water project is giving more than 350 households in northwestern Cambodia clean water from 80 hand-operated pump wells. Fourteen clubs in districts 3350, 3460, and 3490, which cover parts of Cambodia, Taiwan, and Thailand, and a Rotary Foundation Matching Grant have supported the effort.

Villagers using the wells, the last of which were drilled in December, previously obtained water from rivers and ponds. Less than 40 percent of rural Cambodians -- and less than 10 percent of the poorest half of the country's rural population -- have access to clean, potable water, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Planning.

Bunthai Prom, past president of the Rotary Club of Siem Reap Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia, which led the project, says villagers use the well water for vegetable gardening, drinking, and cooking. Households without well access received 80 water filters through the effort.

The project also taught villagers how to maintain the wells and educated them about the health benefits of clean water. The Siem Reap Angkor club provided training through radio broadcasts and direct visits. This month, the international sponsor clubs are holding a free medical service camp, which means that District Governor-elect Chin-Hsien Lee, of the Rotary Club of Panchiao North, Taiwan, and other Rotarians will spend a long day bouncing along remote roads to reach a dozen wells built through the project. When the driving becomes too rough, they will hike.

For the two-year-old Siem Reap Angkor club, which supervised a local drilling company's work during construction, the effort brought both challenges and rewards. "During the rainy season, we had difficulty transporting equipment to villages, but we all did our best," Prom says. "Our members are very committed."

The connection between clean water and child survival

-Unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene kill 5,000 children under age five around the world every day, or more than 1.8 million each year. Eighty-eight percent of diarrheal disease is caused by contaminated water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene.
- Globally, diarrhea kills more people than tuberculosis or malaria. Five times as many children die of diarrhea than HIV/AIDS.
- The number of children who die around the world every year from diarrhea is equivalent to the number of children under age five living in London and New York combined.
- For every US$1 contributed to water and sanitation projects, the expected return is between $3 and $34.

Sources: UNICEF, World Health Organization

UN-backed forum aims to help Cambodia continue growth in face of economic crisis

UN News Centre
5 February 2009 – The effects of the global financial collapse and market meltdown may threaten impressive gains to Cambodia’s economic growth and poverty reduction over recent years, delegates at a United Nations-supported forum heard today.

As numbers of tourists to the South-East Asian country drop and orders to garment factories dwindle, the policymakers looked at steps it could take to mitigate the affects of the crisis at the Third Cambodia Economic Forum.

“As Cambodia takes its place on the international stage – with its accession to the World Trade Organisation, taking a stronger role in the UN and sending peacekeepers to Sudan – it also grows more susceptible to the economic shocks affecting the rest of the world,” said UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative Douglas Broderick.

“Integration with regional and global economies exposes Cambodia to new risks along with new opportunities,” he added at the event hosted by the Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC) in collaboration with UNDP.

A range of policy measures aimed at improving Cambodia’s economic competitiveness and sustain its rapid growth in the face of the global crises were presented to delegates, who include senior Government officials, the representatives from the private sector as well as development partners.

“The Government is fully committed to systemic measures to limit the impacts of the global financial crisis on Cambodia’s financial system and its economy,” said Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen in his keynote address.

With the support of UNDP, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), SNEC drafted and presented four groundbreaking studies focused on Cambodia’s global competitiveness, potential growth sectors and the impact of the financial crisis on economic development, among other topics.

“A rigorous assessment of the vulnerabilities the Cambodian economy experienced as a result of the economic shocks of 2008 can help provide a sharper focus on the priorities which need to be addressed for Cambodia's future competitiveness and sustainable growth,” said ADB Country Director, Arjun Goswami.

NGO: Cambodian leaders have squandered rich natural resources
Submitted by Mohit Joshi
Thu, 02/05/2009

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's political elites have put the country's economic future at risk by squandering its rich natural resources, an international environmental and anti-corruption group said Thursday.

A report released by London-based Global Witness said international donors had turned a blind eye to the widespread corruption, mismanagement and nepotism that has positioned political elites as the only beneficiaries of Cambodia's oil, gas and coal reserves.

The report accused Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People's Party of allocating contracts "behind closed doors" to members of the political elite and their families.

"The Cambodian government does not have a process for allocating resources outside of patronage," Global Witness campaigns director Gavin Hayman said in a statement.

"The same political elite that pillaged the country's timber resources has now gained control of its mineral and petroleum wealth," Hayman said. "Unless this is changed, there is a real risk that the opportunity to lift a whole generation out of poverty will be squandered."

The report called on the government to enforce a moratorium on further mineral and petroleum contracts and launch a review into the environmental, financial and technical credentials of existing contractors.

More than 75 companies, including multinationals Chevron Corp and BHP Billiton PLC, are currently working in Cambodia's resources sector, and according to the report, some have already made undisclosed, upfront payments to the government.

"Companies need to come clean on what they have paid to the government to secure access to these natural resources or risk becoming complicit in a corrupt system," Hayman said.

The report also called on international donors - which in December last year pledged a combined 1 billion US dollars of aid - to use their funding as leverage to "demand new governance measures for the industries."

It argued Cambodia's mineral reserves could be the key to the country's economic future and help end its reliance on foreign aid.

The group said its findings were based on fieldwork and interviews with industry insiders.

Global Witness representatives were expelled from Cambodia in 2005, and in 2007, the government banned the publication of one of its reports that accused a "kleptocratic elite" of illegal logging and corruption.

Government spokesmen were unavailable for comment Thursday, but Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem was quoted in The Cambodia Daily newspaper as saying that mineral-exploration licenses were subject to competitive bidding and open to all companies.
"There is no principle to charge any companies money before exploitation," he said. "The company won't pay before they find minerals."

Although still in its infancy, Cambodia's resources sector has flourished since 2003 when investors from Australia, Thailand, China, South Korea and the United States were lured by the country's rich mineral, oil and natural gas reserves. (dpa)

Thai PM: Thai-Cambodian talks on ancient temple must continue

BANGKOK, Feb 5 (TNA) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva reiterated on Thursday the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC) talks would continue under the "existing framework" despite unfruitful results in the latest meeting on Wednesday in Bangkok.

Admitting that the Preah Vihear temple problem was "sensitive", Mr. Abhisit said negotiations between Thai and Cambodian officials would continue to resolve the border conflict over areas adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple.

The Thai-Cambodian JBC held a two-day meeting here, which ended Wednesday without making any headway as officials of the two neighbouring countries disagreed on the name of the surveillance group to be stationed in the area around the ancient temple and the official name of the temple.

Thailand proposed "the military monitoring group" which was opposed by Cambodia. They preferred to use the name "the temporary coordinating team" for joint operations in the 4.6-square-kilometre area claimed by both countries.

The joint meeting also had yet to settle on a name for the site, as Cambodia refused Thailand's proposed official name of the Temple of Phra Viharn instead of The Temple of Preah Vihear as Cambodia preferred.

The next JBC meeting is scheduled for the second week of April in Cambodia.

Reiterating that future talks on the problem are needed, Mr. Abhisit said negotiations on the problem, however, must be based on the peace process. It was not a problem if it took time.

Tension rose after Preah Vihear was awarded heritage status by the United Nations last year. The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the 11th-century temple belongs to Cambodia, but the demarcation of the surrounding land remains in dispute.

Thailand insists on using the watershed as the border, while Cambodia maintains that demarcation of the area must be based on a map drawn in 1908. (TNA)

Next stop: urban development


The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Tracey Shelton

Children hitch a ride as one of Cambodia's colonial-era trains lumbers its way through Tuol Kork district on Tuesday. A strip of land running alongside the city's decrepit railway tracks has caught the interest of a local developer, now awaiting municipal approval for a commercial and housing development on the site. But plans have triggered local concerns about the compensation being offered.

Related Story

Jurists face forced retirement

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Chrann Chamroeun and Thet Sambath

Official cites list of 40 ageing civil servants to be replaced.

FORTY justice officials from across the country could soon be forced to retire in response to a directive issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen calling for the mandatory retirement age for civil servants to be respected, Hanrot Raken, a member of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, told the Post Tuesday.

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

Kampot court Judge Pech Chhoeut said he had seen the list of the 40 officials in question, adding that roughly 20 of the names were those of judges and prosecutors.

There has not yet been a royal decree calling for the officials to retire, Hanrot Raken said.

Judge Chuon Sunleng, deputy president of the Court of Appeal, said he had heard rumours that he would be forced to retire.

"But I am waiting to see a formal royal decree," he said.

He expressed concern that there might not be enough judges and prosecutors to fill the vacated positions that would result from enforcement of the retirement age, but rights groups officials said this should not be an issue.

Chan Saveth of the rights group Adhoc said "there are many good students" qualified for justice positions.

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the legal NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, said a potential shortage of judges and prosecutors would not make the ministry dramatically less efficient, arguing that other problems - including a shortage of hearing rooms at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court - were holding up operations.

Chan Saveth said healthy judges who are not corrupt should not be forced to stop working, even if they are of retirement age. Only judges who are "not active" and involved in corrupt dealings should be forced to retire, he said.

Insurance sector bucks worldwide downturn

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
The Infinity Insurance head office in Phnom Penh. The industry expects strong growth despite the economic crisis.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Nguon Sovan

Revenues for the industry grew 18 percent for 2008

Cambodia's fledgling insurance industry grew 18 percent last year, despite global declines in the sector, said a finance official on Monday.

"Premium insurance revenues increased to US$20.5 million in 2008 from $17.5 million in 2007 - up 18 percent," said In Meatra, head of the Financial Industry Department's Insurance Division at the Ministry of Finance.

In Meatra said that Cambodians have begun to understand the advantages of buying insurance, especially for personal accidents and automobiles.

"Despite the crisis, we expect the insurance industry will at least stabilise or increase in growth this year, but we cannot say by how much," he said. Cambodia has five insurance companies: Forte Insurance, Caminco, Asia Insurance, Campubank Lonpac and Infinity Insurance, said the ministry. Two new companies are expected to enter the market this year - one local company and another from Malaysia.

David W Carter, chief executive officer of Infinity Insurance, said he expects the insurance sector to grow this year, despite the crisis. "We anticipate the insurance market to outpace Cambodia's GDP growth over the next year. So, if GDP grows by five percent, we expect the insurance market premiums will increase by 10 percent minimum," said Carter.

"This is mainly due to rising demand, as more awareness towards the advantages of buying insurance grows." He said that the discovery of oil and gas off the coast could dramatically boost the sector.

He estimates that between one and two percent of Cambodia's estimated 14 million population can afford the insurance.

Youk Chamroeunrith, director of Forte Insurance, Cambodia's largest insurer by market share, said Monday that the industry is growing but that more marketing is needed.

"Generally, in less developed countries the proportion of people buying insurance is very low compared to the developed world," he said.

"Cambodians are not interested in buying insurance, and they have less knowledge about the importance of buying insurance.

"He said that most insurance buyers are foreign investors, adding that Forte's premium income was $8.8 million, for a 50.31 percent market share in 2007. Revenues were up about 15 percent in 2008, he said.

The city at night: a quick guide to eating after dark

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Chhin and Phy man their posts at the Midnight Train food stall on Street 51. Late-night revellers can relieve their hunger with the stall’s ever-popular hot dogs and all the fixings.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009

As world capitals go, Phnom Penh has slim pickings for late-night eaters, but there are several options available for sating those after-dark hunger pangs

There are places around the world described as “cities that never sleep”. Phnom Penh is not one of them.

But nightime revellers need not despair. While choice may be limited after 2am, there are bars and restaurants open at all hours to satisfy those post-midnight munchies.

The most obvious place for food after hours is Street 51, as vendors there have learned to cater to party animals spilling out of the Heart of Darkness bar at four in the morning.

With various stalls selling everything from chicken feet to noodle soup to chips and onion rings, most night owls’ more immediate urges can be satisfied here for very reasonable prices.

The stalls draw customers from further afield too. “The hotdogs at [Midnight Train] are brilliant and well worth the money,” said Eddie Newman, who, due to his job at Pontoon Bar & Lounge, ends up having quite a few late ones each week.

“We probably go there about three times a week. The chicken wings at Howie Bar are also good,” he added, while bemoaning the lack of similar stalls on the riverside.

Street 51 also caters to those looking for more civilised sit-down meals.

Dumplings and Def Leppard

Zeppelin Cafe, better known as The Rock, serves up its renowned dumplings for US$1.50 per plate, as well as a small selection of other Asian and Western dishes, until about 4am. The music thumping in the background will make sure you don’t nod off over your food.

A few doors down, Walkabout has a full and relatively extensive menu available 24/7. The restaurant used to have delivery service, but due to some problems (customers passing out before the food arrived, perhaps?), this service is no longer available, although drivers can be sent to pick up orders.

Unless you’re into girlie bars, you might want to opt for takeout.Some of the other establishments on the strip also serve food into the wee hours. Try Chilli’s a bit further south if neither Zeppelin nor Walkabout suits your taste.

Further afield

Beyond Street 51, night food is available at various bars and restaurants spread around the city. Candy Bar & Restaurant, at the corner of Street 136 and Street 5, is one of the more centrally located all-night eateries. As the name suggests, it’s a proper girlie bar, but the menu is extensive, if not cheap.


For more exotic flavour, Korean food can be had until about three in the morning at O Deng Bar on Sothearos Boulevard, south of Sihanouk Boulevard.

This little eatery, favoured by Koreans living in the area, is nicely decorated in red and black, and serves great food and complimentary snacks.

Heading east, Heng Heng, at the corner of Monivong Boulevard and Street 278, is open all night and serves a variety of Khmer and Chinese dishes with an emphasis on seafood (from $3).

For the more daring, the restaurant’s management also recommends braised pork legs, stomach and intestines “that go really well with Chinese porridge”. Although not exactly on the Golden Mile, it’s not too far away should hunger strike at 5am.

Further north on Monivong, across Sihanouk Boulevard, is a branch of the fast-food chain BBWorld, also open 24/7. Burger plates here are reasonably priced, in the $2 to $4 range, but no alcohol is served.

Still further north, close to the crossing with Street 214, the Mekong Village restaurant used to be popular with night prowlers, but staff have advised that the eatery is now closed for the immediate future.

Eddie of Pontoon recommends the casinos. “Naga Casino has the best breakfast in Phnom Penh,” he said. “You go there and spend money, or at least look like you’re spending a decent amount of money, and then around five am they start handing out coupons for complimentary buffet breakfast,” he said.

Late night lakeside

Up in backpacker-land at lakeside, the #9 Guesthouse also remains open 24/7 with a full menu available. The food is cheap but thoroughly unremarkable, an advantage being that you can lie down in comfortable chairs and watch a DVD, or sit by Boeung Kak lake (while it still exists) as night turns into morning. Should you suddenly crave a bed, these are available for $3 to $5.

Finally, there are the 24-hour shops. Simon Shaw, also of Pontoon, swears by the shop by Wat Phnom. “They even add hot water to your noodles, so it really is a ready-made meal,” he said. Other all-night shops and garages around the city offer this remarkable service, too.

Unfortunately, no bar or restaurant that deliveres food past 2am could be found. Though, perhaps there is no need for that, as most people at home at three in the morning are likely to be fast asleep anyway.

The wrong side of the tracks

A Village 17 resident relaxes along disused railway sleepers Tuesday, but a new development could force the community's removal.

Land in Village 17 was originally granted to state employees working at the nearby Central Train Station in the 1980s before additional residents shifted to the area following a blaze at the Dey Krahorm community in the late 1990s.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009
May Titthara and Sebastian Strangio

More than 200 families living along Phnom Penh's decrepit railway lines are facing eviction and remain wary of developer's promises of compensation.

More than 200 families living along old railway lines west of Phnom Penh's central train station are facing "peaceful" eviction from their homes, according to local authorities, but affected residents say they are concerned compensation packages offered by the city may leave them empty-handed.

Village 17, which sits on a strip of land along railway lines in Tuol Kork district's Boeung Kak II commune, is slated for development by local company Phourng Phu Real Estate Co Ltd, pending municipal approval.

Phath Sambath, president of the League of Poor Communities at Toul Kork and a member of Prime Minister Hun Sen's bodyguard unit, told the Post the community's 247 families had agreed to leave the area voluntarily and had been offered a choice of either cash or replacement housing as compensation.

"We are not forcing them to move. We have asked them to volunteer to move," he said, adding that each family would be offered a flat in Choam Chau district or a one-off cash payment of "over US$10,000".

Village 17 - also known as the Sammaki, or Solidarity Community - was first settled in the late 1980s when municipal authorities granted plots of land along the train lines as housing for railway workers.

Meas Kimseng, a coordinator for housing rights advocacy group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said further settlements were created in the area after a fire tore through the Dey Krahorm community about a decade ago, but could not comment further about plans to develop the site.

A spokesman for Phourng Phu Real Estate Co said it had plans for a residential and commercial complex on the site, but was still awaiting planning approval from the municipality.

"We will develop this site into flat, apartment and business centres," the spokesman said. "For compensation, we will provide them housing, and most of them are happy to accept it."

Residents sceptical

While some residents said they were willing to take compensation in return for their land, others were sceptical of promises coming out of City Hall following the violent eviction last month of the Dey Krahorm community in central Phnom Penh.

"We are afraid that the authorities will cheat us, that they take us to see a beautiful house and when we agree to move, they will give us a different one," said local resident Kim Tich.

"Nobody wants to live on disputed land because we have seen what happened at Dey Krahorm."

" We are not forcing them to move. we have asked them to volunteer to move. "

Ouk Thy, another Village 17 resident, said that the authorities came to visit the community in January, saying the land was needed for development as green space and asking them to choose either housing or cash compensation.

"When we asked how much money they were offering, they said they were not sure," she said.

"[If] the government needs to develop this place as a garden, I will agree to move," she said, but added that people were likely to accept City Hall's offers, since "at the final decision, they will still move us".

Villager Mao Sophorn, who has lived in the area since 1979, said that because of the transient nature of the early railway settlements, the land grants had never been formalised by the issuing of land titles.

When asked about the legal status of the land, Phath Sambath said the situation was "very complicated" and that land titles had been withheld to Sammaki villagers because they were "temporary residents".

Following a closed-door meeting at City Hall Tuesday morning, at which Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema met with company representatives to discuss plans for the site, Phath Sambath reiterated the governor's hopes that the villagers would peacefully accept the compensation packages offered.

"The governor agreed with the company's compensation offer, but we need the villagers to agree so we don't have to force people," he said.

Village 17 chief Pen Yuthnea declined to comment Tuesday.

Car fines 'illegal', drivers say

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Thet Sambath

PM threatens govenors who allow fines

CARS carrying more than the legal limit of five passengers are being fined at checkpoints in Battambang province, which drivers claim is illegal.

"They have fined us 5,000 riels (US$1.21) for putting six people in my car. So I have to pay 10,000-15,000 riels a day in Battambang province at two or three checkpoints," Kong Nuon, who drives a taxi from Phnom Penh to Pailin, told the Post Monday.

Kong Nuon said that Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered checkpoints in the provinces be shut down, but provincial authorities had kept checkpoints to extort money from people.

"If I follow traffic regulations, I can't run my car. It would be better to stay at home," he said.

Other drivers in the province also said they were being fined between 5,000 and 15,000 riels for carrying more than five people.

Only Battambang extorting

Om Phat runs a taxi through five provinces but said that only Battambang province had set up checkpoints to extort money from drivers.

But Sath Kimsan, chief traffic officer for Battambang province, said that police were just following the law.

"Our police are just carrying out the law. If any car carries over the load ... we will fine them. If it has more than five persons, we have to fine them," he said.

Prach Chan, governor of Battambang province, said Monday that he will investigate the issue with his officials.

Hun Sen last week threatened to sack any governors or officials whose provinces have illegal checkpoints.

NEC opens poll registration for May council elections

The NEC met on Tuesday to discuss voter registration for the May poll.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Vong Sokheng

Registration to open Feb 16, amid complaints opposition appointments have been held up by Interior Ministry.

THE National Election Committee (NEC) has called for the Kingdom's 11,353 commune councillors to register for voting in the May 17 district, municipal and provincial council elections, giving those eligible from February 16 to March 9 to register with the election authority.

But lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party appealed to the NEC during a meeting Tuesday, asking it to take action to expedite the recognition of about 200 commune councillors by the Ministry of Interior - a necessary step in order for them to be registered as voters.

According to electoral law, councillors who resign their seats can be replaced by candidates of the party's choosing, but must first be approved by the ministry.

"We need the NEC to guarantee that the SRP's eligible voters will be on the voter lists in May," said SRP lawmaker Kuoy Bunroeun.

"The legal process to gain the approval of [the Information Ministry] is supposed to take only four days, but we are concerned that the continuing delay will cause eligible voters to lose their rights at the polls."

NEC Vice President Sin Chum Bo informed all political representatives at the meeting to be careful during the period of registration, saying all eligible voters must comply with the regulations and the directives of NEC.

"We are here to get feedback from all participating political parties and are ready to help resolve the problem via the legal process," she said.

Nearly 30,000 police are expected to be deployed during the council election campaign, which is scheduled from May 1 to May 15, following a security report drafted last month by NEC Chairman Im Suosdey and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng.

Corruption probe to continue, but joint sessions inconclusive

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Georgia Wilkins

The criminal investigation into corruption at KR tribunal continues apace, but court's joint sessions to address graft move slowly.

PROSECUTORS in charge of a criminal investigation into corruption at the Khmer Rouge tribunal have summonsed foreign co-lawyers of former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea to Phnom Penh's Municipal Court, as joint attempts to resolve ethical issues at the UN-backed court look to be at a standstill.

Co-lawyers Michiel Pestman and Victor Koppe, who are currently in Amsterdam, will not be present to attend the court, leaving legal consultant Andrew Ianuzzi to submit a letter to the court in their absence, Ianuzzi said Tuesday.

"It's coming up to a month since we filed the complaint, and they only have two months to decide whether to open a judicial investigation," he said, adding the letter would reiterate earlier requests by the foreign defence team to investigate unresolved allegations of corruption at the court.

No agreement over ethics

The summonses come shortly after it was made public that the two sides of the court have so far failed to reach an agreement over how to resolve future ethical concerns.

A two-page report released by the Cambodian side of the court Monday said they were "awaiting a response of the UN team" to approve a suggested ethics model by the Cambodian side.

According to the statement, the UN team, made up of officers appointed by the UN assistant secretary general for legal affairs, had proposed new mechanisms that would include "an independent international Ethics Officer", which was opposed by the Cambodian side.

"We thought that it was against the spirit of the agreement and the joint statement to establish new mechanisms," public affairs officer Helen Jarvis told the Post Tuesday.

She added that the two sides were still in negotiations, despite the Cambodian side releasing their own report. "We felt obliged to meet the January 31 deadline," she said of the unilateral release.

At present, there is no spokesperson for the international side of the tribunal. Officials from the appointed UN team were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

NRP to press charges against student group following party purge

Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party agreed Monday to unite for May's district and provincial council elections, with representatives from both parties hoping a united royalist front can regain votes lost at last July's national election.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Meas SokChea

17 officials expelled from party for their links to breakaway faction accused of illegal trespassing and destruction of property.

THE Norodom Ranariddh Party will press charges against 17 officials ousted by the party Saturday, accusing them of destroying property and provoking turmoil at the party's headquarters in Tuol Kork district.

"Our party is preparing to lodge complaints," said NRP Secretary General You Hockry. "The complaints refer to people who entered the property illegally and destroyed party property."

He added that complaints will be lodged with the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior and the Cambodian Bar Association.

"We will file a complaint to the Ministry of Defence about staff of the ministry who came to provoke us illegally, and we will lodge them with the Bar Association about [ousted official] Meas Sokun because she is a lawyer and she also acted illegally," he said.

Following the resignation of former party president Prince Norodom Ranariddh last October, the NRP has split between the party mainstream and a splinter group linked to the Democratic Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals.

On Saturday, the NRP central committee expelled 17 officials linked to the student group, which had sought to wrest control of the party from senior officials.

But former NRP spokesman Suth Dina, who was among those ousted, said that according to the law, the complaints would not stand. "I would like to emphasise that in a legal sense, You Hockry's group has the right to lodge complaints, but they will not succeed" he said.

"What You Hockry is doing is to merely relieve his group's anger," he added.

B'bang waste is going 'green'

Photo by: Photo Supplied
COMPED workers at the new dumpsite in Battambong province watch as biodegradable waste is unloaded from a truck.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 04 February 2009
Khuon Leakhana and Sarah Whyte

Waste management group COMPED has announced plans to help turn some of Battambang's garbage into compost that can be sold to farmers as fertiliser.

BATTAMBANG waste is soon to turn green under a new initiative that will transform garbage into biodegradable compost, organisers have announced.

The new green scheme, run by the Cambodia Education and Waste Management Organisation (COMPED) and funded by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, is estimated to cost about US$200,000 and aims to increase the production of compost in Battambang by six tonnes per day once the program begins in early April.

"Development of the waste management program in Battambang city started on January 1, with the goal of improving living conditions of those living on the site," said Chau Kim Heng, director of COMPED.

"We are building permanent housing for waste-pickers, two classrooms for the families of waste-pickers and three sanitation blocks on the site," he said.

Some 16 familes, totalling around 80 people, work on the Battambang site, said Danial Haas, first secretary for development cooperation at the German embassy in Phnom Penh.

"The aim of this project is to improve the living and labour conditions of the waste dump workers, increasing their income by 250 percent by the end of 2010," he said.

Public awareness of waste

Chau Kim said that the Battambang program would also try to raise public awareness of the importance of waste management through education projects.

"Our program in Battambang will educate farmers on the environmental advantages of proper waste management and build partnerships with the local Battambang municipality," he said.

COMPED, which also runs a waste management program at Phnom Penh's notorious Stung Meanchey dumpsite, has been working to reduce waste buildup in the capital since 2000. In 2004, the German Ministry of Agriculture began funding the project, coinciding with the European Union's funding of a waste and water management program that helped develop guidelines for the disposal, treatment, collection and transport of solid waste between 2004 and 2006.

Uk Vong, Battambang deputy governor, told the Post that he was happy new modes of waste management were being introduced.

"As I am aware, the use of compost is still not very common among farmers because most farmers in Battambang province still trust chemical fertiliser," he said.

"[But] if there are experts coming to explain and train people about how to make compost by processing garbage, and if they can persuade people to participate in this effort, it will be a big success for us all," he said.