Tuesday, 3 March 2009

SBS Cambodia For Sale


Video Journalist David O'Shea reports from Cambodia, where locals are now faced with a new peril - rampant land developers literally smashing entire communities, leaving thousands homeless.

The threat of legalisation of job insecurity makes trade unions react

Toul Sangke, Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 18/09/2008. Clothes sellers, in front of a garment manufacturing factory, in the Cambodian capital
©Vandy Rattana

By Duong Sokha

Several important union confederations mentioned yet again their categorical opposition to a project presented by the Cambodian Ministry of Labour about the amendment, soon, of Articles 67 and 73 of the Labour Law regarding employment contracts. This reform was originally requested by employers in garment manufacturing factories who wish to reduce, in these times of global economic crisis, the cost of workforce by advocating, like in the rest of the region, a wider flexibility of the labour market.

Fears of serious infringement of trade union freedom
Leaders of the Cambodian labour Confederation (CLC), of the Confederation of Khmer Unions (CKU) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC-Asia Pacific) reminded at a press conference held in Phnom Penh on March 2 that those amendments, which communicated to them in December 2008 by the Ministry of Labour, notably stipulate that fixed duration employment contracts (FDC) can be renewed indefinitely.

For Noriyuki Suzuki, secretary-general at the ITUC, which is said to gather 19 million members coming from 49 trade unions in 24 different countries in the Asia-Pacific region, this measure means no less than a restriction of the freedom of trade unions, since unionists will not dare speaking up for fear of being punished with a termination of their contract renewal. “It would be negating the established interpretation [...] that employees who have worked for an employer for two years must be treated as permanent employees” and would weaken job security, the Japanese unionist said, giving the example of his own country: there, in order to face economic recession, the government had resorted to similar measures, which had resulted in 13,000 job losses among workers.

For his part, Ath Thun, who leads the CLC, predicts that if MPs adopt such amendments, workers will not dare assert their rights any more for fear of seeing their contract terminated by their employer. And trade unionists will be the first ones to be targeted by those short-term contracts. Discrimination might also affect pregnant women, according to him. “When they come back from a three-month maternity leave, they might not be able to have their job back. In other words, employers would be fully free to terminate contracts whenever they like,” he warned.

Going backwards
As explained by the Cambodian NGO CLEC (Community Legal Education Centre), this would mean destroying social guarantees. Indeed, CLEC reminds that the Arbitration Council, created and supported by the International Labour Organisation, had interpreted Labour Law in the following way in several decisions it rendered: Any fixed duration employment contract (FDC) will legally become an undetermined duration employment contract (UDC) when the total length of the renewals exceeds two years.

Chuom Momthol, president of the CKU, a trade union considered to be close to the government, aligned itself with the position adopted by its peers, and proves as concerned and critical about the reform, “neither urgent nor compulsory” but just good enough, according to him, to be enforced in communist countries like China, Vietnam, Laos or Myanmar. “Protest is so strong among big international unions and among financial backers that I think the government will have to backpedal”, he says, while warning that if the government keeps turning a deaf ear to their calls, workers will launch an important strike – their only available weapon.

Trade Unions calling to government
Noriyuki Suzuki echoed the dissatisfaction of trade unionists in front of representatives of the Ministry of Labour on Monday March 2nd. Unionists promised they would bring their call all the way up to the government, until new negotiations are started again between the authorities, trade unions and employers.

Mid-February, Neil Kearney, general secretary at the International Textile, Garment & Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF), which brings together some 10 million members in 110 countries, wrote to prime Minister Hun Sen to ask him to “desist from its efforts to extend the use of temporary contracts and instead take measures to ensure security of employment”. He added that from what he knew, several major garment manufacturers had already “switched from permanent to temporary contracts”. This trend, if it is to be confirmed, “would make Cambodia less competitive from the point of view of corporate social responsibility,” the unionist warned.

Politics delays international justice

Toronto Star
Mar 03, 2009

Martin Regg Cohn

Tomorrow, all eyes will be on Khartoum if the International Criminal Court indicts Sudan's controversial president, Omar Hassan Bashir, for war crimes over the genocide in Darfur.

Later this month in Phnom Penh, a special court is set to begin the first trial for Cambodia's genocide, three decades after the Khmer Rouge were ousted.

And this past Sunday, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon officially got underway, tasked with prosecuting the killers of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, in Beirut four years ago.

Each of these three major prosecutions will be breaking new ground this month, but the fact that each has taken so long is a testament to the painstaking delays and political difficulties of international law.

When it comes to prosecuting deadly acts in Sudan, Cambodia and Lebanon, the intersection of justice and politics makes for a difficult balancing act.

The Sudanese genocide has been going on for six years. And there are signs the UN Security Council may use the indictment as leverage to extract concessions from the Sudanese government, rather than follow through with a prosecution.

In Cambodia, it took 13 years to establish a special court because of domestic political resistance. A Canadian lawyer, Robert Petit, is acting as the influential co-prosecutor.

Another Canadian, Daniel Bellemare, is playing a similarly key role as chief prosecutor for the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The case doesn't involve genocide, but rather the political survival of a people under threat from outside forces for three decades.

It is being conducted under Lebanese law, but because of the volatile political and security situation in Beirut, it is being largely outsourced to a suburb outside The Hague where the Canadian lawyer and his international team have based themselves.

In 2005, a massive truck bomb demolished Hariri's motorcade in downtown Beirut, killing the former prime minister and 22 others. The unseen hand of Syria had slain Hariri, but also sown the seeds of the "Cedar Revolution" – a popular uprising that finally forced Damascus to withdrew all its uniformed troops.

When I first met Hariri in the late 1990s, his country was occupied by Israeli forces in the south and 40,000 Syrian troops everywhere else. Official portraits of Syria's then-president, Hafez Assad, were ubiquitous. I asked Hariri about Assad's domineering presence, but he fingered his prayer beads and fixed an exasperated glare on me, as if to say: What shall we do?

Years later, he acted. Assad had died in office and been succeeded as Syrian president by his son Bashar. Hariri challenged Syrian hegemony, but paid for it with his life.

Now, Bellemare describes the hybrid court as "the first international anti-terrorist tribunal." Indictments are expected within two months, drawing on three years of painstaking investigations.

But the biggest barriers lie ahead. There are signs of a rapprochement between Damascus and Washington that could lead to political trade-offs, especially if the tribunal needs help from the Security Council to extradite suspects. Syria is refusing any extradtions.

Lebanon's fledgling anti-Syrian government is also facing parliamentary elections in June. The country's divided parliament squabbled bitterly over the prosecutions, and if pro-Syria Hezbollah MPs make electoral gains, they could stonewall the tribunal.

Bellemare has vowed to maintain his judicial independence: "We will go wherever the evidence leads us. We will leave no stone unturned."

But political obstacles could yet block his path, just as they stand in the way of other international prosecutions.

Martin Regg Cohn's column appears Tuesdays.

Cambodia to host ASEAN-U.S. military exercise in 2010


PHNOM PENH, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will host a large-scale ASEAN-U.S. military exercise in 2010, Khmer-language newspaper the Deum Ampil said on Tuesday.

"It is an honor for Cambodia to be chosen by ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and superpower U.S. as the location for such a large-scale international military exercise," Pol Saroeurn, Commander-in-Chief of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), told the paper.

"We will take efforts to make it a success," he said, adding that he will also instruct all his subordinates to be careful with the work.

The Sihanoukville port will be used as the maritime location ofthis military haul, the paper also quoted a governmental official as saying on condition of anonymity.

Cambodia once joined international military exercises respectively in Bangladesh and Mongolia and also sent peacekeepers to Sudan for de-mining operation under the U.N. umbrella.

In April 2008, 40 Cambodian soldiers participated in a three-week multi-national peace-keeping exercise in Bangladesh.

The U.S.-led mission was named "Ambassador of Peace" and involved some 400 soldiers from 12 countries, including Bangladesh,India, Indonesia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Nepal, Brunei,Mongolia, Tonga, Cambodia and U.S.

In July 2007, 43 Cambodian soldiers took part in a military exercise for UN peacekeeping mission in Mongolia.

In addition, Cambodia sent 135 deminers to Sudan in 2006 for UN peacekeeping mission, and then 139 in June 2007 to replace the oldones. The deminers were renewed again in 2008.

Editor: Du

Construction Bidders: US$17 Million to Construct Health Buildings Is Stalled because of Foreign Advisors - Tuesday 3.2.2009

Posted on 3 March 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 602

“Phnom Penh: A US$17 million loan from the World Bank to build referral hospitals at provinces as well as many health centers and posts has been stalled for two years, because of a lack of management competency of foreign advisors from LBG [unclear what LBG stands for in the original - maybe the quantity surveyor company LBG-NGT Corporation from Tuas/Singapore – but maybe not]. This was stated by construction bidders who attended biddings to implement this project.

“Construction bidders criticized that for two years, there has been no construction, but there were one or two biddings. Because of this slowness, the construction of up to 10 referral hospitals and many health centers and posts in most provinces, worth more than US$10 million, has been stalled until now.

“The same source added that though recruitment for the construction project was transferred to IPA [unclear what IPA stands for in the original – maybe the recruitment company Independence Procurement Agency – but maybe not] by the Ministry of Economy and Finance recently, this project still faces the possibility of failure. It is said that the trouble originates from the LBG advisors .

“The source blamed that the technical advisors of LBG are incompetent to do the managing, and furthermore, in the plans, there are no calculations based on standard formulas and on proper construction standards. This is a major obstacle for the construction bidders, and even though many companies had protested against the mistakes of the LBG technical advisors, there was no action taken by the Healthcare Services Specification Project of the Ministry of Health.

“According to the bidders, the project was put for bidding again for a second time at the end of 2008, but still there were not many bidders attending. There will be a third bidding, and this may be continue forever.

“Bidders know well that even if one or two more biddings are held, there still will be no bidders.

“Moreover, the rushed delivering of contracts for two projects, the Kampot and the Stung Treng referral hospitals, worth more than US$2 million, in mid February 2009 by IPA, leads to a loss of tens of thousands of dollars, because the price of the bidding for this project was 60% to 80% higher compared to the formerly calculated price.

“The source went on to say that the construction processes at most places have been stalled for years, which makes the expenses for technical advisors to increase by more than 20%, which is most highly problematic. Bidders criticized this and also requested that leaders of the Ministry of Health should check the contracts between the ministry and LBG advisors urgently. At the same time, they have to recheck the management system at the secretariat supporting the heath sector.

“Bidders still remember Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen’s former words, saying that substantial expenses for foreign advisor services were right. Bidders emphasize that this is not acceptable. Everyone knows that better health services in rural areas are desperately needed by citizens almost everywhere, and also in this priority sector of the Royal Government, which is to be strengthened. Thus, the above source calls on the Ministry of Health to thoroughly check and take action against any negative points, or any individual who wastes a lot of national resources, because all money to support the health sector comes from all Cambodian citizens who will have to repay the loan to the World Bank in the future.

“Regarding what is mentioned above, Rasmei Kampuchea tried to contact the secretariat of the Ministry of Health, and LBG, for explanations, but could not reach them.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4835, 3.3.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Cambodia KRouge defence warned over website

Tue Mar 3, 2009

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - The defence team of a Khmer Rouge leader has been ordered to remove confidential documents from Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court from a website, the tribunal's investigating judges said Tuesday.

Lawyers for former foreign minister Ieng Sary "face sanctions" if they do not remove all documents relating to judicial investigations within 48 hours, the court's co-investigating judges said in a press statement.

Ieng Sary, 83, is one of five leaders from the late 1970s regime charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, but details of the investigation ahead of his trial are kept confidential.

Investigating judges said they needed "to guarantee the protection of privacy of those persons mentioned in the case file and the presumption of innocence, as well as to promote efficiency in investigations."

But the website containing defence filings and letters has also posted a letter to court officials saying that no documents on the site relate to the current investigation of Ieng Sary.

The letter by defence lawyers Michael Karnavas and Ang Udom goes on to allege that judges suppress filings "which may be embarrassing or which call into question the legitimacy and judiciousness of acts and decisions."

Ieng Sary has been rushed to hospital nine times since he was detained by the court in November 2007, and last week had an appeal for release from the Khmer Rouge court delayed after he said he was too ill to appear in court.

As the top Khmer Rouge diplomat, Ieng Sary was frequently the only point of contact between Cambodia's secretive communist rulers and the outside world.

He has denied any involvement in atrocities but he was one of the biggest public supporters of the regime's mass purges, researchers say.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork, or were executed, as the 1975-1979 regime emptied Cambodia's cities in its drive to create a communist utopia.

The long-awaited first Khmer Rouge trial started last month when the regime's notorious prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, better known by the alias Duch, went before the court.

Food prices tax urban poor

Photo by: AFP
A young boy stands outside his home in a central Phnom Penh slum.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Bobbie Corey-Boulet
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

A NATIONAL survey conducted late last year indicates that rising food prices have fuelled an increase in acute malnutrition among poor children in urban areas.

The Cambodia Anthropometrics Survey, initial findings of which were made public two weeks ago by the National Institute of Statistics, found that acute malnutrition among poor urban children under the age of five had increased from 9.6 percent in 2005 to 15.9 percent in 2008.

Viorica Berdaga, chief of child survival and development at the United Nations Children's Fund, said via email Thursday that the increase in acute malnutrition among the urban poor "is large, likely to be significant, and very logical considering that high food prices have the largest effect on those that have to buy all of their food".

The survey also found that acute malnutrition among children under five had increased from 8.4 percent to 8.9 percent between 2005 and 2008. But Berdaga said the survey was designed to measure changes of at least two percentage points, meaning that this finding might not be statistically significant.

"It is possible that acute malnutrition has increased nationally over the last year, but we do not know this," Berdaga said. "What we can say with some confidence is that gains in acute malnutrition seen from 2000 to 2005 have stopped in 2008."

Berdaga said that if the results do, in fact, point to worsening child nutrition, then the Kingdom could have difficulty meeting Millennium Development Goal No 4: to reduce child mortality.

The mortality rate for children under five fell from 124 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1998 to 82 deaths in 2005, far surpassing the target of 105. The 2015 target is 65 deaths per 1,000 live births.

"If nutrition begins to worsen and if no action is taken to address malnutrition, it would be logical to expect child mortality might follow the same path," Berdaga said.

Unicef representative Richard Bridle said via email that the preliminary results of the survey were "not surprising" and that conditions were not likely to improve without a "concerted effort" to apply tested nutrition interventions, backed up with sufficient resources.

ECCC says no pay for nationals

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Judge says insufficient funding has left Cambodian side insolvent.

A JUDGE at the Khmer Rouge tribunal has announced that Cambodian staff will not receive their salaries this month, as donor funds dry up amid concerns of corruption.

Kong Srim, president of the tribunal's Supreme Court chamber, told participants and media at the opening of the judge's fifth plenary Monday that the court's long-standing funding problems would now materialise into bankruptcy.

"Unfortunately, the national side of the court will not have sufficient funds for the staff salaries for this month," he said.

"I see this as our most important challenge, as it hardly seems reasonable for judicial officers and staff to be expected to continue working without remuneration," he added.

He said, however, that he was confident the problem would be resolved "before such a situation arises".

Trial chamber Judge Silvia Cartwright, speaking after Kong Srim, said resolving the issue of corruption is the only way to quash donor concerns.

"The problems mentioned by [Kong Srim] concerning funding can be resolved once the international community is confident of a corruption-free environment in which to hold trials," she said.

"International judges have said clearly and repeatedly that they will not allow corruption to interfere with the tribunal's delivery of justice for the people of Cambodia," she added.

The UN Development Program, which was administering donor funds to the Cambodian side of the court, decided to withhold funding after allegations arose in July, leaving hundreds of staff members without salaries for two months.

To date, neither side of the court has confronted previous allegations, and a review made in September by a UN oversight body has yet to be made public.

Court spokesperson Reach Sambath was unsure whether the more than 200 Cambodian staff would continue to work unpaid again.

"It's too early to say.... Our greatest concern is the translators. If it affects translators, it affects the whole court," he said.

The court began its first trial last month, with testimonies to start after March 30.

Video connects Asean states

Participants at the Phnom Penh video conference watch Surin Pitsuwan speak from Bangkok on Monday morning.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith and Cat Barton
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan spoke to groups in eight of 10 member states during the weekend summit.

THE video conference had an informal air with the resolutely cheerful moderator joking with the Indonesian team about their batik shirts and maintaining a running commentary on which traffic jam the Asean secretary general was stuck in. But when Surin Pitsuwan did eventually arrive - some 45 minutes late - his speech was, participants concurred, worth waiting for.

Emphasising the shift in the regional body's attitude - from being a talking shop for regional leaders to a participatory, people-orientated organisation - Surin Pituwan spoke, via video link, to groups of students, journalists and civil society representatives in eight of the group's 10 member states - Brunei and Myanmar did not participate.

He hailed the "Herculean task" achieved by the drafters of the body's new charter, saying they had a difficult task to accommodate the bloc's "tremendous diversity".

"It [charter] is a good beginning," Surin Pitsuwan said, speaking Monday at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

"It includes the ideal of a human rights mechanism [which will function] independently and efficiently."

The Asean charter, which emphasises the "protection and promotion" of human rights, has laid good foundations for a proposed human rights mechanism and could ensure the group's future human rights body is independent, accountable and effective.

However, whether this happens will depend on the readiness of member states and the pressure that people will put on their respective governments.

Local support for rights
Nay Vanda, head of the advocacy section of the rights group Adhoc who attended the Phnom Penh video conference, said in Cambodia there remain many human rights issues that require government action - and he singled out the need to pay more attention to the rights of the urban poor and land dispute victims.

Asean should do more to ... actually intervene and investigate.

"The most serious human rights issue in Cambodia now is land disputes," he said.

"Their rights are losing sway, their protests get less and less attention from the government, and many are arrested and detained [unfairly] in connection to land disputes," he said.

Nay Vanda said thatcompared with other Asean countries, with the exception of Myanmar, Cambodia was lagging in terms of human rights.

"Asean should do more to ... actually intervene and investigate, not only say it will protect and promote," he said.

Surin Pitsuwan also discussed the bloc's response to the economic crisis, saying the body must put up a "united and brave front" in the face of a mounting global economic turmoil and resist sliding into protectionism.

Gov notes bettors' end

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

PHNOM Penh Governor Kep Chuktema has announced the closure of the city's gambling centres in line with a government order issued to municipal authorities Thursday.

Speaking during the municipality's annual congress Monday at City Hall, Kep Chuktema said police and military police had cracked down on all forms of gambling - including slot machine parlours, sports betting and illegal casinos - in each of Phnom Penh's eight districts.

"Lotteries may look like a simple thing, but this gambling causes poor people to become poorer and poorer," he said, adding the current crackdown had four aims: to get signatures from gambling operators promising to cease their operations; to force Cambo Six and Sporting Live Group outlets to remove their logos and shut up shop; to force lottery owners to cease business within a week; and to shut down illegal gambling centres and send their owners to court.

Nuon Samet, chief of the Municipal Cabinet, said at the congress that authorities had previously "lacked control" of slot parlours and football betting, which he said were a "significant cause" of robberies.

He added that City Hall had created a 2009 plan to enforce the closure of gambling centres, in addition to karaoke bars and video sex cafes close to schools.

The municipal crackdown comes following a February 24 order by Prime Minister Hun Sen for the closure of Cambo Six sports betting outlets and slot machine parlours across the country.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth said that 44 slot machine venues, 29 Cambo Six outlets and 12 Sporting Live Group outlets had been closed since Thursday, and said that on the whole, operators had complied with government orders.

New provincial courtrooms to deliver efficient justice

Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vananna in a file photograph.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Proposed courts would prevent residents of Pailin, Kep and Oddar Meanchey from having to travel to hear court cases.

AUTHORITIES from three newly established provinces that lack provincial courts have asked the Ministry of Justice to set up new courthouses to help deliver justice more efficiently to residents.

Currently, Oddar Meanchey province and the recently created Palin and Kep provinces have justice offices, but these can deal only with civil cases where the parties are not in dispute. All other cases fall outside their jurisdiction, which means suspects and victims must travel to adjacent provinces to be heard.

Koeut Sothea, deputy governor of Pailin, said that this caused significant problems.

"It is time to establish a court here so that we can provide legal services to local people," he said Monday.

"We face lots of difficulties in transporting suspects and criminals to other provinces."

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana could not be reached for comment, but a ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity said senior justice officials were actively discussing setting up courts in the provinces, although he could not give a timeline for delivery.

"The decision will be made by higher-level officials in the ministry," he said. "The main problem is finding the budget to build courtrooms, and to pay judges and prosecutors."

The official said the current status was that Pailin forwarded cases to Battambang, Oddar Meanchey sent its cases to Siem Reap and Kep sent its cases to Kampot.

Chhoun Makkara, Pailin coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said generally weak law enforcement and slow progress in hearing cases were further hindered in his province by the lack of courtrooms, forcing people to spend time and money travelling to Battambang, around 100 kilometres away.

"Many people complain about the difficulties of travelling. It is also difficult for us to reach police and court officials when we intervene in cases."

Villagers say court ordered them to compensate trafficker

Rights group says human trafficking remains pervasive, and largely unpunished, in Cambodia. Some 141 human trafficking cases were reported last year, but only 15 were heard by the courts, according to a February report by the Cambodian National Council for Women.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Prey Veng villagers protest court order, arguing they were given false promises of work abroad and should not be forced to honour contract.

VILLAGERS in Prey Veng province's Mesang district filed a complaint Monday with local rights group Adhoc over a court decision demanding they hand over their property to a man they say is a human trafficker who duped them to work in Thailand.

Vi Savoeun, 21, said he was promised a job in Thailand by Len Own in 2005, but was put in prison when arriving there because he did not have immigration documents.

"I was promised a job in Thailand with 20 other men. We are poor and had hoped to earn money, but we were arrested and put in jail for four days and then sent back to Cambodia."

I was promised a job in thailand with 20 other men... we were arrested and put in jail for 4 days and sent back to Cambodia.

He said he had mortgaged his land title to Len Own in exchange for a promise of employment across the border.

Another man, Khin Sat, 21, said he also faced property seizure, including his house and motorbike, following a broken promise of employment from Len Own. He also said he was promised 400,000 riels (US$96.95) as an upfront bonus, but he did not see the money.

Scared to speak up
Several families are facing property seizures from the court, but only two families have filed a complaint with Adhoc, according to the group's provincial monitor Nget Nara, who said the other families feared reprimands from local authorities if they came forward.

He said the court flaunted the law and made its ruling "without any investigation".

"The is a typical case of human trafficking where we see villagers cheated because they are very poor" and easily lured with promises of money, he added.

He said two cases of human trafficking in Prey Veng had been reported to Adhoc last year, and this was the first case it received this year. He said people should inform authorities before attempting to work abroad in order to avoid falling victim to exploitation.

March 11 is the deadline for Prey Veng's provincial court to seize the homes in Sramor village, Prey Rumdeng commune. Nget Nara saidt he would write a letter to the court to delay the seizure and open further investigation.

Provincial prosecutor Yam Yet said that it was not his role to solve villagers' complaint, but to follow the court's decision.

But he added: "I know they are poor and have nowhere to live if we seize their property, so I will check all possibilities of helping them."

Len Own could not be contacted Monday.

R'kiri game hunting park approved

Banteng, or wild cows, in Ratanakkiri province last month. These animals may soon be the target of big game hunters when a planned game park gets off the ground.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Michael hayes and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Government claims controlled hunting of big game species in remote northeast can provide a framework for conservation and social development - and be a cash cow into the bargain.

FOLLOWING internal debate within various government departments that has been ongoing for the last four years, the Council of Ministers approved Friday the establishment of a new protected area in Rattanakiri Province.

Comprising around 100,000 hectares, the O'Yadav Protected Forest (OPF) is slated to become the Kingdom's first hunting reserve, where big-game trophy hunters will be allowed to pay thousands of dollars to shoot wild animals including gaur, banteng, wild boar and deer.

According to the government, revenues would be used to protect the area, manage sustainable wildlife levels, provide funds for social development and generate income for the national budget.

"If we calculate several gaur and banteng [per year] in the next five years - gaur, a maximum of 20, and banteng about 40 - with that and other small pigs and deer, we can generate about US$4 million," said Chheang Dany, deputy director of the Wildlife Protection Office (WPO) at the Forestry Administration.

"And from royalties and licences [we could earn] about another $600,000."
Based on recent field surveys conducted in the OPF, the wildlife office estimates that there are between 50 and 80 gaur and between 250 and 350 banteng currently in the area.

The project will reduce forest clearing and illegal hunting.

A Spanish company, NSOK Safaris, has been working with the government on the reserve. Chheang Dany says several of their executives visited the area in 2006 and that an investment proposal had been submitted to the Council of Ministers.

He did say, however, that NSOK's proposal included plans to build a hunting lodge, a small airport so hunters could fly directly from Phnom Penh to the protected forest, and that they were committed to build a school and a health clinic - probably in a local village.

In theory, the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) would have to approve any final investment proposal.

A controversial strategy
Trophy-hunting as a method of managing and preserving wildlife is a controversial issue that has seen hunting organisations and conservation NGOs go head-to-head for decades.

"I support the concept with the caveat that it has to be done right," said Hunter Weiler, a technical adviser to the WPO.

Seng Teak, Cambodia country director for the global conservation group WWF, said that the decision to designate the area as a protected forest was "good news" but that any hunting had to be based on "scientific information and sound management".

"This can help produce results for managing the site and help improve the livelihoods of the people," Seng Teak said.

"Otherwise, it could ruin the [animal] population. We need to ensure the population of species needed to take off is available there. It must be studied very thoroughly."

The local provincial government seems optimistic that the project will benefit Ratanakkiri.

"I strongly believe that the project will reduce forest clearing and illegal hunting," Deputy Governor Bou Lam told the Post Sunday.

Pen Bonnar, Adhoc's provincial coordinator in Ratanakkiri , said the project was better than economic land concessions that he has seen destroy forests without much benefit or compensation to local villagers.

The majority of the OPF is presently covered with deciduous forest, meaning forest cover is sparse and water is very scarce during much of the year.

The area east of the O'Tang River, which flows from the Vietnamese border southwest into the Srepok River, and north of the O'Leo River - an area of about 80,000 hectares - is too dry to sustain agricultural settlements.

"This is the best [area] of unprotected dry forest in the lower Mekong," said Weiler.

There are a few remote police posts along the border, but the area is generally open for poachers and illegal loggers.

Chheang Dany says that he has heard rumours that poachers are coming across the border and taking out wildlife trophies secretly. He also says that off-duty soldiers and hunters from the Cambodian side are taking out one banteng a week just so they can eat some meat and sell the rest to buy a few drinks to help wash it down.

But don't expect to see rifle-toting big-game hunters kitted out in safari suits passing through Phnom Penh any time soon, as a raft of regulations still remain to be passed.

The Ministry of Interior will have to decide regulations for importing and carrying weapons; the Ministry of Finance needs to determine the exact trophy and licensing fees; and the Forestry Administration will have to determine annual quotas for each species.

Moreover, the global economic downturn may for the time being take the wind out of the sails of any guy who needs to come up with the $50,000 required to walk around the jungle looking for a wild cow to shoot.

Officials to investigate prison break

The Kingdom's provincial prisons have long been notorious for overcrowding and poor conditions. A study of 18 prisons conducted by local rights group Licadho found that the jails' combined population rose from 3,282 prisoners in 1999 to 9,315 in April 2008.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Authorities to launch investigations into a breakout that saw two convicted criminals fashion a replica jail key and escape from a recently built prison in Preah Vihear province.

THE governor of Preah Vihear province has ordered the provincial court prosecutor and prison officials to open investigations into the escape of four men on Friday from the province's new prison.

Governor Preap Tann told the Post Monday that the error lay squarely on the shoulders of prison officials.

"This prison was constructed in late 2008, and it is a strong building," he said. "I will not excuse any prison officials if they are found to have made a mistake. I have told the court prosecutor to issue arrest warrants for these criminals and return them to jail."

The four men broke out of the cell they were sharing around midnight Friday, said prison chief Krouch Bundil. He said it appeared they had fashioned a replica key from iron sourced from their cell and used it to unlock the door.

Krouch Bundil said two of the men were convicted criminals, while the other two were in pretrial detention. He named the four as Yoeun Chhoeun, who was convicted of raping his daughter; Sao Sovanna, convicted of robbery; Bun Boeun, is charged with murder; and Sor Toth, who is charged with raping an 18-year-old woman and killing another woman who tried to help the victim.

Given the slip
Ros Chanthy, the chief guard at the prison, said the escape was not his fault, blaming three prison wardens who handled the keys, saying they had been careless in their actions.

Krouch Bundil said a series of errors had led to the breakout.

"There were three errors made: My men didn't check the prisoners in their cell; my men didn't check their keys; and the criminals unlocked their door and fled," he said.

"I have talked with the provincial governor to recommend a timetable to improve procedures for overseeing cells and to punish prison officials for their carelessness," he said, adding that photographs of the four escapees had been sent to district police.

However, Krouch Bundil said he was not optimistic the men would be caught since two of them were repeat offenders.

Provincial prosecutor Keo Shim said Monday that he sent a formal letter to the Ministry of Justice's prosecutor general and summoned the three prison guards in charge of the keys, as well as other involved parties, to explain themselves. He said procedures had not been followed and confirmed that arrest warrants had now been issued for the four men.

Govt moves raise censorship fears

Photo by: Sovann Philong
A computer user looks at some of controversial artist Reahu's work.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

A series of recent orders by the government to restrict access to online content have critics concerned that a more comprehensive campaign against the internet may be on the way.

WHILE the vice squad in Cambodia set its sights on racy magazines in recent weeks, the more concerning trend for local observers has been government-directed blocks of controversial websites through a haphazard, piecemeal campaign that has left them uncertain who is calling the shots on censorship and how.

Access to reahu.org, the website of the Khmer-American artist Koke Lor, has been blocked since the end of January for users of domestic internet service providers Angkor Net, Mekong Net, Online and qb.

The website stirred up controversy after a major Khmer-language newspaper published pictures from the website of bare-breasted Apsara dancers and a woman scantily dressed in the clothing of a Khmer Rouge cadre.

The government and some social observers condemned the work as lewd and insulting to Cambodian culture, while others defended the artist's right to freedom of expression.

The artist, in an email to the Post, accused the government of using him as a "scapegoat" to project contemporary social ills onto his work, and, in a posting on his website, cautioned: "If this kind of basic freedom is denied God knows what will happen next."

Minister of Post and Telecommunications So Khun at the time confirmed that he sent a letter to the internet providers but said he did not know what effect it had.

Moral decay
Sy Define, a secretary of state for the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said her office cooperated with the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications to have the reahu website banned domestically along with "some other websites that show sexy pictures ... such as websexplace.com and thomsunder.com."

"Apsara images like those in the reahu website have a bad effect on our culture," she said. "The Aspara is supposed to show women as being gentle, not looking very sexy."

The ban on reahu divided Pan Sorasak, a secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry who has spearheaded the government efforts to promote e-commerce.

"The internet can be a doubled-edged sword. It can help promote business, but it can also lead to problems," he said. "We are trying to promote the better half."

"To block the website was a bit strong," he added. "It's a fine line - the Ministry of Women's Affairs was against the website, and I support them."

Phu Leewood, secretary general of the National Information Communications Technology Development Authority (NIDA), the government's main internet body, said he was unaware of an official internet ban on reahu or that local providers had filtered out content.

But he said he would respect the Ministry of Women's Affairs decision if they had called for a ban on the reahu website - although he was adamant his office "supported freedom of information."

While he said it would be a long time coming before Cambodia had internet-specific regulations, the laws of other mediums can be applied to the internet, he explained, adding that since pornography in magazines is illegal, it is illegal online as well.

Official enforcement of anti-pornography laws, he said, can come from the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Women's Affairs because "pornography offends Cambodian culture and Cambodian women" - although Sy Define of the Women's Affairs Ministry said monitoring online pornography was not the domain of the Culture Ministry.

Not a censorship policy
The moves follow denials from the Ministry of Information that new legislation it is drafting for audiovisual media will bear on content or online material altogether.

In mid-January, first reports of the proposal, the details of which have not been publicly disclosed, drew a sharp response from local media who cautioned it would be used as a tool of state censorship against online material critical of the government.

But Information Minister Khieu Kanharith has since said the draft law is widely misunderstood, insisting that it would regulate the platforms of radio, TV and print media, but not their content - and would not apply to the internet.

But Sam Rithy Doung Hak, a monitor for the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said the ministry was simply backtracking following public condemnations of its plans.

Despite the ministry's claims, he believed the government intended to rein in popular websites and online cartoons critical of the government.

"The government said it wouldn't regulate internet content, but it has already broken that promise," he said, referring to blocked access to the work of reahu.

"They didn't do it through proper channels. They did it discreetly, behind the scenes."

Local leaders of Cambodia's online community remain deeply cynical of any government efforts to govern the internet given its shaky track record with media. Cambodia is currently ranked 128th - or "partially free" - on the US-based Freedom House organisation's 2008 press freedom list.

Tharum Bun, a leader in Cambodia's blogging community who headed the country's first major blogging conference, said the disparate sources of would-be internet regulators here stemmed from the government's lack of tech savvy: An offended office, wishing to shut down a site,
contacts another office, hoping they know what to do, and the process spirals.

"When the Ministry of Women's Affairs wanted to shut down the website of reahu, they spoke about the internet as if it were the radio or television," he said. "It was clear they don't understand how the internet works."

And while the lack of legislation related to the internet in Cambodia allows users to post material that may be banned in other mediums, it also allows the government to censor it without rules to guide how and under what circumstances, he added.

Norbert Klein, who is also editor of the online Cambodian Mirror, put the online blocks in the context of a larger censorship campaign by "self-appointed groups that act to clean society without the authority to do so."

Last month, Information Ministry officials removed from Phnom Penh newsstands a Khmer-language magazine Sameiy Thmei, or Modern Magazine, which included lifted online images of nude women. The street raid came a day after first lady Bun Rany - a long-time crusader against people, places and things deemed by her to compromise the Kingdom's social mores - railed against the proliferation of racy images of women in Cambodia and blamed the Ministry of Information for failing to stamp them out.

Legal limbo
What most disturbed Klein about the online blocks was the lack of accountability: "We need clarity: Who has done what and on what legal basis?" he said. "The government is supposed to operate in a state of laws. but there isn't transparency with this."

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights, said the government-directed blocks were twofold in purpose: to steer attention away from the real social ills it claims to be addressing and to remind would-be critics of its power to control them.

"Reahu is not pornography, while actual pornography - including child pornography - is available throughout Cambodia at the markets, at vendor stalls," he said.

He said an overwhelming victory at the polls in last July's general election gave the ruling party a strong mandate, "one aspect of which is censorship of things they don't like, whether it's an NGO report or something cultural."

Instructing internet service providers to block websites, he said, is intended to have a discreet, but resounding, ripple effect. "It's a way of saying, ‘We control you'."


Reahu breaks silence

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Koke Lor has found fame and notoriety difficult to deal with. His controversial art depicting semi-naked Apsaras has angered the Ministry of Women's Affairs, resulting in Cambodian access to his website being shut down alongside an inbox full of hate mail that included threats "to hunt him down". The 38-year-old graduate from the Chicago Art Institute sells his art mainly online. Koke Lor recently spoke with Luke Hunt.

Would you define your art as erotic, pornographic or neither?

A little bit erotic but definitely not pornographic. My art is quite tasteful. The women are sensual, but they are basically covered up.

Who is your intended audience?

Adults. This is not for children. It's for anyone who appreciates the female form.

Are you surprised the Cambodian government has taken such an active interest in you?

Very surprised. It's a form of art that is acceptable the world over. Look at the bars and prostitution here - people seem to find that acceptable, yet they block my website.

Do you intend to petition the block?

No. I could simply switch the IP address so locals can view it, but it's not worth it.

Critics say your art is insulting to Cambodian women and Cambodian culture.
Look at Angkor Wat - this is all I'm doing. I'm just putting colour on stone.

If you had an opportunity to sit down with the Ministry of Women's Affairs and make a case for the value of your art, do you think they would change their opinion of you?

No. Judging from their response so far, they would not change their opinion of me in a million years. They are unreasonable and can't be spoken with.

You have said the government has used you as a scapegoat. For what?

I am a scapegoat for the purists who want to draw attention away from issues they can't deal with, like the sex trade and prostitution. But I really don't want to get into Khmer politics because here you can go missing in the middle of the night.

Can any good come of the controversy your work has raised?

I have pushed the artists and their boundaries and exposed my techniques to local artists, and it is up to them.

Have you benefited from the controversy? You weren't famous before. Now you have been the subject of numerous articles and online debates.

In a sense, I have accomplished change. It's part of the art exchange I set up online through my websites, exchanging art ideas and techniques. So, in a sense I have accomplished my intention.

'Building bridges' in Kep

Photo by: ............

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christophe Loviny
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Participants compete in a bike race on Saturday in an introductory event preceding the 2nd annual Kep half-marathon. Eighty riders from 18 countries rode in the event, sponsored by the NGO Bridges Across Borders. Following Sunday's half-marathon, the bikers donated their bicycles to local children in the community who need transporation to school during a ceremony attended by Kep Governor Has Sareth. The event raised more than US$55,000 in donations and pledges to support the Chamcar Bei development centre in Kep.

Unions warn of strikes over legal amendment

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A garment factory outside of Phnom Penh. Labour unions warn that employees will be liable to dismissal according to legal changes that extend temporary contracts.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Labour unions send letter to the government warning of industrial action over changes in law on temporary contracts

CAMBODIAN labour unions have issued a joint statement to the government opposing a proposed Labour Law amendment that would extend the use of temporary employment contracts and warned of nationwide strikes if it did not back down.

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodia Labour Confederation (CLC), told a press conference at the International Labour Organisation's Phnom Penh office Monday that the change would result in workers losing legal protection.

"Workers will lose a lot of advantages such as year-end benefits, maternity leave and other benefits," he said. "There will be strikes once the law has been passed."

The joint statement was signed by the Cambodia Confederation of Trade Unions (CCTU), the CLC, the National Union Alliance Chamber of Cambodia, the Cambodian National Labour Confederation, and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Asia Pacific. The unions represent more than one million workers across Cambodia in a range of sectors.

Workers will lose ... advantages such as year-end benefits, maternity leave.

Officials said they hoped the statement would force the ministry to discuss the issue at a public meeting scheduled for Thursday.

Under the Cambodian Labour Law 1997, any employee that has worked with a company for more than two years is automatically considered a permanent - or undetermined duration - employee. The unions say the amendment would allow temporary contracts to be extended indefinitely making it easier for employers to hire and fire workers.

Noriyuki Suzuki, general secretary of ITUC-Asia Pacific, which sponsored the statement, said the main concern was over proposed amendments to Articles 67 and 73 governing contract durations and notice on the renewal and expiration of contracts. He said the changes would enable employers to terminate contracts without justifiable reasons and that they would also have serious consequences for normal trade union activities and the employment of union activists and pregnant women.

"It would make employment extremely unstable by allowing the companies to easily adjust employment according to normal fluctuations of the business cycle," he said.

CCTU President Chuon Mom Thol said the proposed amendment would be a big loss for workers.

"Government should take one or two steps back during the current crisis and should not be too rushed to pass this law unless it has been discussed or widely supported," he said.

Oum Mean, secretary of state of the Labour Ministry, told the Post last month the proposed changes have been on the table since 2007 and that officials had consulted widely with NGOs and other stakeholders.

SRP calls for wages reserve

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

THE government should require garment factory owners to set up reserve accounts equivalent to three months' salary for all employees, opposition leader Sam Rainsy wrote in a letter sent to National Assembly President Heng Samrin on February 24.

Such a move would ensure that factory workers would receive a financial cushion should factories shut down, the president of the Sam Rainsy Party argued in the letter, which Heng Samrin forwarded Friday to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"I hope the government will require all factories nationwide to deposit a reserve to pay the salaries of garment workers if factories go bankrupt or close down," the letter reads. "This will help the factories avoid demonstrations and riots, which could lead to anarchy."

Sam Rainsy said the global economic crisis had led to an increase in factory closings.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, told the Post last week that 30 garment and footwear factories employing 27,000 workers closed in 2008. He said Sunday that 10 had closed thus far in 2009 and that only one had offered severance payments.

He expressed his support for Sam Rainsy's proposal, saying it was necessary for factories to protect workers' salaries.

But Kaing Monika, external affairs manager for the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said the proposal would put an undue financial burden on the industry. On top of pressures stemming from the economic crisis, this burden could lead to further factory closings, he warned.

Cassava farmers advised to delay harvest

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Banteay Meanchey Governor suggests delay to allow demand to pick up following Thai block on imports along border

THE governor of Banteay Meanchey province told the Post Monday that he has been advising cassava farmers to delay harvesting the crop on account of low domestic demand for it.

Ung Oeun said he has been encouraging farmers to hold off on the harvest because he believes Thailand will eventually open up its market to Cambodian cassava farmers, thereby allowing them to charge higher prices.

The sugar-rich root - which is used in ethanol fuel, food products and bioplastics - was in high demand last year. But farmers said last month that prices had crashed to 90 riels per kilogram from 300 riels per kilogram in February 2008.
Officials have blamed this in part on the fact that Thai buyers are favouring local products.

"The price of cassava is down because the Thai government only allows its businessmen to buy from Thai farmers," Cheam Chan Saphon, director of the Battambang agriculture department, told the Post last month.

Cambodian Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said Sunday that he had discussed the issue of market access with Thai Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai during the weekend's Asean summit in Cha-am, Thailand.

I have to wait and see when Thai authorities will open the gates to allow cassava into the Thai market.

Cham Prasidh also blamed Thai protectionism for the price decline.

He said the Kingdom's border provinces produce "around 100,000 tonnes of cassava" per year.

Te Haing is among the Banteay Meanchey farmers who have put off harvesting the crop. He owns a 1,000-hectare farm in Svay Chek district, and this year he spent US$400,000 on cassava trees and workers' salaries, among other expenses. Last year his farm earned him $200,000 in profit, but this year he said he doubts that he will be able to keep paying his 20 full-time employees.

"I am in a difficult situation when it comes to paying my workers' salaries because we are not allowed to transport cassava into Thailand, so its price is very cheap," he said. "I have to wait and see when Thai authorities will open the gates to allow cassava into the Thai market. If they don't open up the market and the price remains the same, I will decide to leave the crop in the ground until next year."

Keo Narin, who runs a 70-hectare cassava farm in Svay Chek district, said he was "very worried" about the current price of cassava because he had spent more than $550 per acre readying his farm for harvest.

"If I decide to sell [the cassava] now, I would basically lose that money," he said.

He said he planned to take the governor's advice and leave the crop in the ground in the hope that the price will rise.

WiMAX set to launch nationwide

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Wireless technology will target businesses across the country after official opening in the middle of 2009 allowing users to go online in rural areas without internet cabling

CHUAN Wei (Cambodia) Co Ltd is hoping to provide internet services to 80 percent of the country's businesses and organisations within two years of the planned launch of a WiMAX wireless broadband network, it said last month.
It is estimated there were around one million such customers in Cambodia.

The network, which is set for launch in mid-2009, will be deployed by Alcatel-Lucent in a deal announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on February 17. The French firm will provide a complete turnkey solution for WiMAX, including integration, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance.

Chuan Wei's president, Alan Khov, said in a press release announcing the deal that the network will support high-quality voice telephony (VoIP) in addition to broadband access. "The network will provide significant infrastructural support to Cambodia's economic growth, improving communications for local businesses and multinationals," he said.

Alcatel-Lucent declined to comment on the financial details of the contract, and Chuan Wei officials could not be reached for further comment.

Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said the ministry welcomed any telecoms operator that wished to set up in the country as competition would lead to lower prices for customers.

"We are one of the World Trade Organisation members, so we wish that many [telecoms firms] come and compete with each other," he said, adding that he did not expect the new network to threaten existing providers of VoIP services.

The network will provide ... infrastructural support to Cambodia's ... growth.

Revenue from overseas calls made via VoIP amounted to around US$40 million last year and would likely be the same this year, he said.

Chuan Wei, part of the Thai Boon Roong Ltd conglomerate, was established in June 2008 and has been awarded the sole licence to operate a nationwide WiMAX network in Cambodia. However, it has been deployed in Cambodia on a local basis.

WiMAX, meaning Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, enables the delivery of "last mile" wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL. It shows particular potential in bringing lower pricing to both home and business customers and in making broadband access available in places where it has been economically unavailable.

The network will use the WiMAX Rev-e (802.16e-2005 standard) wireless broadband standard, which Alcatel-Lucent uses in 10 of its 35 WiMax networks worldwide.

Alcatel also built a mobile phone network for Mobitel.

Another mobile company launches

The Phnom Penh Post

Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Smart Mobile becomes services provider number eight in growing Cambodia market

CAMBODIA'S eighth mobile service provider, Smart Mobile, launched on Friday with an unspecified investment from its parent company in Russia, the company said.

Owned by Latelz Co Ltd, a subsidiary of international telecommunications holding firm Timeturns Holdings Ltd, Smart Mobile will operate with the 010 and 093 prefixes.

The company owns telecommunications licences in Southeast Asia and Africa.
Thomas Hundt, chief executive officer of Latelz Co Ltd, said that even with so many players in the market, Cambodia's mobile sector has room to grow.

"Despite the financial crisis, mobile phone service is a basic need for people, especially in developing countries," said Hundt. "Only around 24 percent of the Cambodian population has access to mobile phones."

He said Smart Mobile is 100-percent owned by Timeturns Holdings.
"We cannot reveal the size of the investment, but to start a mobile phone network, it costs millions of dollars," said Hundt, who added that the company's coverage includes Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said at the launch ceremony that more competition would benefit the sector.

If we don't grant them a licence, we will be in violation of WTO rules.

"Smart Mobile will contribute to the development of the telecommunications sector," he said. "I hope other mobile telecommunications providers will cooperate with Smart Mobile for interconnection ... to ensure fair competition and grow together for a win-win situation."

He said he expected continued growth in the sector despite the global economic slowdown.
"The telecom market in Cambodia is growing so quickly and the trend is expected to continue," So Khun said.

But he told the Post that the market could become saturated if too many companies launch.

"We have granted 11 network licenses so far, and eight of them have been operating," So Khun told the Post Sunday. "But I think Cambodia only needs three mobile service providers."

"We have told investors about the market, but they still want to invest in this field," said So Khun. "If we don't grant them a licence, we will be in violation of WTO rules."

So Khun also said he applauded Smart Mobile's plans to invest in infrastructure, and he reassured companies that telecom regulations would be strictly enforced to ensure fair competition among service providers.

Cambodia's mobile companies include Mobitel (012, 092, 017, 089), Hello GSM (015,016), Mfone (011, 099, 085), qb (013), Star-Cell (098), Excel (018), Metfone (097) and Smart Mobile.

Officials said a ninth player may be set to launch in Cambodia. In December, Sotelco - the Cambodian subsidiary of Russia's VimpelCom - announced plans to build a nationwide GSM system over the next five years.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Brief

In Brief: Vespa rally for women's rights day

Written by Mom Kunthear
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

More than 20 Vespa riders are expected to participate in the Vespa Rally Tour de Phnom Penh on International Women's Rights Day in the capital on Sunday. Tong Soprach, the tour organiser, said: "Everybody can participate since this is a public campaign. I want to tell men they must stop being involved in domestic violence and rape, and stop considering women as things for their pleasure," he said. The Vespa Rally Tour de Phnom Penh starts at 10am on Street 13 near Wat Phnom and will head along Sisowath Quay, Norodom Boulevard and then Monivong Boulevard, before finishing at the Independence Monument.

In Brief: Ministry calls to protect heritage

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

The government has urged the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and all local authorities to work together to preserve the nation's cultural heritage as a way of boosting tourism. Thai Naraksatya, a secretary of state at the ministry, told the Post Monday that this policy would help to alleviate rural poverty. "Digging up ancient graveyards and temples damages our nation's cultural heritage and the world's heritage."

In Brief: Three foreigners on drug charges

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

Three foreign citizens and one Cambodian were questioned Monday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in connection with what police said was a drug raid. None of them has been charged, and court prosecutor Sok Kolyan confirmed they would be questioned again today. The foreigners include one citizen from France, an Australian, and one from Vietnam. The four were arrested Saturday evening on suspicion of dealing drugs out of a rented house in Wat Phnom commune.

In Brief: US tourism request

Written by May Kunmakara
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

CAMBODIA has asked the United States for help in improving its tourism sector in the face of the global downturn, said Tourism Minister Thong Khon. The request was made last week during discussions with US Ambassador Carol Rodley in Phnom Penh. Thong Khon asked the US to provide an expert to improve the redrafting of the tourism law which is at the National Assembly awaiting a vote. Cambodia last year received 2.125 million visitors, 5.5 percent higher than 2007 but lower than the ministry had expected. Tourism receipts were US$1.6 billion, up 14 percent.

In Brief: New Mine program

Written by George McLeod
Tuesday, 03 March 2009

AUSTRALIAN mining company Southern Gold has begun a three-year gold and base metals drilling program at its three concessions in Cambodia. The US$4.5 million project is funded by the Japanese government through JOGMEC, a Japanese body tasked with securing stable supplies of natural resources. Two of the properties are in Kratie and one is near Snuol, northeast of Phnom Penh. The Japanese would receive a 51-percent stake in the company, according to a Southern Gold statement. The stock is trading at AU$0.072 on the Australian Stock Exchange.

In Brief: EU meet in Siem Reap

Written by Nguon Sovan
Tuesday, 03 March 2009
COMMERCE Minister Cham Prasidh said Cambodia would host an Asean-EU-US ministerial retreat in Siem Reap province from May 4 to May 6. The meeting is to encourage cooperation between the two regional bodies and the US. "We will invite representatives from the EU and the US to negotiate improved cooperation. And to set up a free trade agreement between Asean and the EU," he said at a press briefing Sunday after returning from the 14th Asean summit in Thailand.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said that up to 40 delegates will join the meet, which will include the signing of a cooperation agreement between Asean and the EU.

Opinion: 'Progress' means trash the poor in Cambodia

A Decent Life Charity
In Cambodia, even the smallest children are put to work, scavenging for 14 hours a day for plastic, glass, metal. These children are at incredible health and safety risk and earn barely a penny an hour. These children are exploited and abused in the extreme - the victims of overpopulation.
Digital Journal

It’s called progress, anyway. Most crimes have at least some euphemisms. Teams of workmen arrive at a residential location near Phnom Penh. They’re carrying axes. At 6AM they move in and start demolishing the houses. With the people still in them.

The idea? High rises. You know, those obvious essentials to people whose annual income would perhaps buy a week’s rent in the average Western home.

Bulldozers move in, and hit people trying to find their possessions. At least one woman is hospitalized. The residents react, and throw things at the bulldozer. Fire extinguishers are turned on them. A cat is killed in the process, and people wander around what looks like Stalingrad.

The land, as you will have guessed, is prime land. The residents were offered compensation of about $20,000. They said it wouldn’t buy them another place to live, and they knew their land was worth more.

Australia’s SBS current affairs show Dateline got a first hand view of this blatant violation of human rights and property laws.

*** Please note, this is a pretty infuriating, upsetting video.

A moment of farce was achieved by an interview with the Australian ambassador, who was asked if she was embarrassed that was happening practically on the doorstep of the new Australian Embassy. She was diplomatically not embarrassed.

As an Aussie, I, however, was embarrassed. We led a peacekeeping mission in the 90s to try and get Cambodia back into the current part of human history. We, like many other countries including the US, donate a lot of money to support Cambodia.

It turns out that as usual with international aid, we’re supporting the rich, not the majority of the population. Obviously, Cambodia’s poor have no rights, and less future. We’re clearly not supporting human rights, international law, or anything resembling sanity.

Cambodia is a mirror of the truth of all the international aid. That’s progress, folks. If you happen to remember all the visions of global development, pulling the Third World out of poverty, building a better world, this is what happened to it, just about everywhere on Earth.

This is where 50 years of talkfests has got the human race. Four billion people living in the Middle Ages with cell phones. Wars, revolutions, genocides, political and business babble, followed by what is basically oppression in another form. It’s infallible. One collection of corrupt vermin is replaced by another. Aid becomes a matter of protecting people from the following sets of disasters.

All the good intentions seem to be paving others’ roads to hell.

The world needs to start setting standards for international aid. Things have to be achieved, not just said to be achieved. It’s not enough to simply allow another pack of vultures to set up shop in disaster areas. The message has to be, “Do the job right, run the place according to law, or we pull the plug on you.”

My guess would be that we don’t need saints running aid programs. We need cynical bastards who wouldn’t trust their own grandmothers with a baby.

I don’t think you can be simultaneously determined to save the world and equally determined to look under every rock to find out who’s causing what’s wrong with it.

Then maybe we'll see some real progress.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com

Day in pictures

Cambodian legs amputee Pov, 48, smokes marijuana at his home in Prey Tapork village, Kandal province, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, March 2, 2009. Pov was amputee in 1994 while he was a soldier fighting with Khmer Rouge. Cambodia's genocide tribunal is scheduled to hold its full trial on March 30, 2009, of Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch, over the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime more than three decades ago.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian farmer waters his vegetables on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, March 2, 2009. Cambodia is the agriculture country has 80 percent of population are the rural farmers.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Containing artemisinin resistance


2 Mar 2009
Paul Chinnock
Source: World Health Organization (
see original article)

A technician of the Government Pharmaceutical Organization in Thailand works on the production of antimalarials containing artemisinin, but resistance to the drug has been reported along the Thai-Cambodia border. WHO/TDR/Crump.

The World Health Organization will receive a $22.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which will be devoted to finding ways to hold back the spread of resistance to the key antimalarial drug artemisinin.

The drug has become the mainstay of the recommended treatment for malaria, older treatments now being ineffective. Appropriate treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) succeeds in more than 90% of cases. However, surveillance systems and research studies supported have provided evidence that parasites resistant to artemisinin have recently emerged along the border between Cambodia and Thailand. This could seriously undermine the success of global malaria control efforts.

“If we do not put a stop to the drug-resistant malaria situation that has been documented in the Thai-Cambodia border, it could spread rapidly to neighbouring countries and threaten our efforts to control this deadly disease,” said Dr Hiroki Nakatani, Assistant Director-General of WHO.

“We know that malaria can be treated and prevented,” said Dr Regina Rabinovich, Director of Infectious Diseases Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “and if we lose the key treatment available at this time, it’s like living in a house with a half a roof.”

WHO says it will use the Gates grant to meet the following key objectives:

- eliminate artemisinin-tolerant parasites by detecting all malaria cases in target areas and ensuring effective treatment

- reduce exposure of the parasites to artemisinin to limit emergence of resistance

- prevent transmission of artemisinin-tolerant malaria parasites through mosquito control and personal protection

- limit the spread of artemisinin-tolerant malaria parasites by mobile populations;

- support the containment and elimination of artemisinin-tolerant parasites through comprehensive behaviour change, communication, community mobilization and advocacy

- undertake basic and operational research to fill knowledge gaps and ensure that strategies applied are evidence-based

- provide effective management, surveillance and coordination to enable a rapid and high-quality implementation of the strategy.

WHO says it will work in collaboration with several partners including the National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control of the Cambodian Ministry of Health, Bureau of Vector-Borne Disease of the Thai Ministry of Public Health, Faculty of Tropical Medicine of Mahidol University Bangkok, Institut Pasteur Cambodia, Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Bangkok and the Malaria Consortium.

ASEAN members agree to improve transport to boost tourism

PHETCHABURI, Feb 28 (TNA) - Government leaders of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), agreed Saturday to boost their tourism industries despite the global economic recession, a Thai government spokesman said.

Agreement was achieved during the 4th Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) summit by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who chaired the meeting, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The IMT-GT session was held to follow up progress of the 2007-2011 roadmap, designed to strengthen food and energy security, reduce global warming and balance food production in the region for the long-term, which would also help the three countries to survive the prevailing economic crisis, he said.

The agreement reached by the three leaders included improving marine and air transport to stimulate tourism in the region.

The IMT-GT is the newest growth triangle in Asia. It includes the geographic areas of North Sumatra and Aceh in Indonesia; the northern states of Kedah, Perak, Penang and Perlis in peninsular Malaysia; and the southern provinces of Satun, Songkhla, Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani in Thailand. Collectively, these areas cover 200,000 sq. km. and have a population of 21 million.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are now holding a three-day summit in Cha-Am, near the Thai resort of Hua Hin. The meeting ends Sunday. (TNA)

U.S. State Department report on status of Human rights in Cambodia not very flattering


By Duong Sokha

The American State Department released its annual report on the status of Human rights in 196 countries of the world. In a communiqué dated February 26th, the United States embassy in Cambodia reported that the authors of the document considered that the Human rights record in the country “remained poor”, and among the reasons cited for Cambodia's poor rating were security forces that act with impunity, the abuse of detainees, concerns related to land disputes and forced evictions, endemic corruption, the remaining challenge of a weak judiciary and the denial of the right to a fair trial.

A positive note is yet pointed out in the chapter about Human rights in Cambodia in 2008 : the enforcement of a law against human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The report does not fail to mention the “overall peaceful atmosphere” of the July 2008 legislative elections, “with a process that was generally an improvement over past elections”. And although some irregularities persisted on Election Day, “they were low in number and did not appear to affect the outcome or distort the will of the citizens”. However, it is reported that “observers noted the elections did not fully meet international standards, according to the report”.

Asked to react on the report, the Minister of Information and spokesperson for the Cambodian government Khieu Kanharith declared on Friday February 27th that the United States were not “masters of Human rights”, and that according to him, bad conditions of detention in the American camp of Guantanamo, Cuba, proved it. Having said that, he did not describe the report as incorrect, since “no country can pride itself on perfectly respecting Human rights on its territory”.

For him, although mistakes are inevitable, they are often the result of action taken by individuals and do not reflect in any way the will of the Cambodian government, which is “to encourage democracy and the respect of Human rights” in Cambodia. “If we compare [Cambodia] with other ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asia Nations] country-members, we have managed to put an end to the [civil] war [in 1998] and we are the last country who joined the ASEAN [in 1999]. We can be proud of the status of Human rights in Cambodia, it is a lot better than in other ASEAN countries”, the Cambodian Minister of Information estimated.

Paedophile gained child nurse job

Police said no blame should be attached to the hospital


Monday, 2 March 2009

A convicted paedophile has been arrested while working as a children's nurse in a north-west London hospital.

Lars Gellner, 37, was arrested at work at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow.

He had been convicted in his absence in Cambodia for attacks on boys but was able to get through security checks as he has no European criminal record.

A Home Office spokesman refused to comment on the case but it is believed Gellner is being held at a remand centre while his future is decided.

Gellner, who is German, had been arrested in October 2008 after applying for a UK visa for a 14-year-old Burmese boy he wanted to bring here.

Sex offenders register

A British embassy official recognised his name from reports about him fleeing Cambodia.

He had been placed on the sex offenders register by a magistrate after his arrest and charged with fraud for his failure to include his criminal record on his job application.

But the case against him was thrown out on Thursday by a judge at Aylesbury Crown Court because of a problem with documents sent from Cambodia.

But the government can deport him to Germany because he had been sentenced to more than 12 months in prison for his original offence.

" This highlights the gaps and weaknesses of international sex offender management which puts children at risk here "

Det Sgt Sam Hayward said: "Our team have stopped this man creating more child victims in this country.

"But no blame should be attached to the hospitals. They did everything they could to carry out the criminal checks on him and they came back showing nothing."

A spokeswoman for North West London Hospitals Trust said Gellner had worked a small number of shifts at Northwick Park Hospital last October.

She added: "He was employed through an agency and we can confirm that they conducted an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check.

"Our contracts with employment agencies stipulate that CRB checks must be carried out on staff supplied to us."

Christine Beddoe, director of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking, said: "This highlights the gaps and weaknesses of international sex offender management which puts children at risk here.

"If the home secretary is serious about getting tough on sex offenders who travel abroad, she should be making all efforts to close loopholes and work more closely with counterparts in Europe and Asia."

Cambodia Khmer Rouge

Suomen Kuvalehti
Kuvaaja: Heng Sinith

Cambodian legs amputee Pov, 48, smokes marijuana at his home in Prey Tapork village, Kandal province, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, March 2, 2009. Pov was amputee in 1994 while he was a soldier fighting with Khmer Rouge. Cambodia’s genocide tribunal is scheduled to hold its full trial on March 30, 2009, of Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch, over the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime more than three decades ago.