Friday, 6 March 2009

KPNLF commemoration

Prince Norodom Ranariddh inspects a monument to KPNLF resistance fighters Thursday in Kandal province.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Brendan Brady and Kouth Sophak Chakrya
Friday, 06 March 2009

Former border resistance leaders stand by antagonism towards Vietnamese.

A WHO'S who of anti-Vietnamese leaders of the 1980s gathered at a stupa in Kandal province Thursday to commemorate resistance fighters who had died as part of the movement's effort to expel the foreign power.

The Khmer National Liberation Front (KPNLF) was one of the main resistance groups to emerge along the Thai border following the fall of the Khmer Rouge by Vietnamese forces and their subsequent administrative takeover of Cambodia.

Former KPNLF army and political leaders inaugurated a monument with inscriptions of the names of resistance fighters who died between 1979 and 1991 at a ceremony in Kien Svay district.

Chuor Kim Meng, who had been a lieutenant general for the movement's military wing, said the resistance helped push the Vietnamese out and forced the local officials it had installed to accept multiparty democracy.

"If not for these fighters, Vietnam may have continued to occupy Cambodia," he said.

Dien Del, former chief of staff of the group's army, said the event "preserve the memory of those who died expelling the Vietnamese occupiers".

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the guest of honour, praised the resistance. "I have never forgotten its fighters who died," he said. He, too, described the Vietnamese troops in Cambodia at that time as "invaders" and "occupiers".

While there was no official condemnation from the government, the commemoration should have proved controversial as the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) evolved from the People's Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea (PRPK), the regime that governed Cambodia under the control of Vietnamese forces.

Photo by: Brendan Brady
Son Soubert (left), son of the Front's founder, prays as Ranariddh lays a wreath on a monument to the movement's fallen soldiers.

KR alliance necessary
Son Soubert, son of Son Sann, founder and former president of the KPNLF and himself a participant in the movement's administration, said he had sent a letter of invitation to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate President Chea Sim and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An. Only Chea Sim responded, saying he had other obligations.

Cheam Yeap, a senior CPP lawmaker, criticised the KPNLF for characterizing the Vietnamese as enemies.

"Vietnamese troops did not invade Cambodia," he told the Post by phone. "They came to help Cambodia from the Pol Pot regime - we should be thankful to the Vietnamese."

The exit of Vietnamese forces in 1989 came about not from resistance pressure from the border but because the PRPK was ready to rule on its own, he contended.

Opposition party representatives present at the ceremony, however, insisted the Front's cause was righteous and attributed the exit of Vietnam to its efforts.

"They fought for our freedom and sovereignty - that represents Khmer nationalism at its purest," said Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Son Chhay had been the KPNLF's representative in southern Australia, where he was based then. "Without the resistance from the border, we would not have had the Paris Peace Accords," he said.

Nationalism first
The KPNLF started in 1979, recruiting some of the hundreds of thousands of Cambodian refugees seeking sanctuary along the border with Thailand.

Its key figures had held prominent positions in the administrations of Sihanouk and right-wing general Lon Nol, and were unified in their opposition to communism and to the presence of Vietnamese forces in the country.

The Front was seen by the US and other Western allies as the most reliably anti-communist and pro-Western group in Cambodia.

In its effort to drive out the Vietnamese, the Front struck an awkward alliance with remnants of the Khmer Rouge. In 1982 the KPNLF entered the tripartite Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea.

The new coalition included the Party of Democratic Kampuchea, a splinter group of the defeated Khmer Rouge led by Khieu Samphan, and the royalist resistance movement known as Funcinpec, and represented Cambodia at the United Nations.

For the former leaders of the Front, the alliance with their ideological counterparts was a necessary evil.

"Son Sann always said the country is more important than the party or faction," said Pol Ham, who had been the Front's Information Minister.

"We hated the Khmer Rouge, but at that time we had to prioritise - and the foreign occupiers were the first enemy. We formed a coalition but kept our own identity."

Son Soubert was adamant the Front had never "joined" the Khmer Rouge.

"We were forced to enter a temporary coalition to achieve our goals," he said.

Funcinpec Senator Sabu Bacha, a former general of the Front's army, said the dire circumstances required divisions among Cambodians be put aside "so first we could expel foreign troops from our soil".

Focus in demining shifts to victim aid

Land mine victim Soeun Ngeo works on a container oven at Development Technology Workshop in Phnom Penh. Experts say more job opportunities for land mine victims are needed to meet Cambodia's demining MDG.

A four-part look at cambodia's mdgs
Last year marked the midway point for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, benchmarks for developing countries established in 2000 that cover everything from poverty to environmental sustainability. Last year also marked the five-year anniversary of the adoption of Cambodia's Millennium Development Goals, the localised versions of the global goals. In a four-part series, the Post looks at the progress made and the challenges that remain in achieving targets set for 2010 and 2015, drawing on government data as well as interviews with officials, NGO workers and Cambodians who stand to benefit from the effort. Part Three focuses on a goal unique to Cambodia: demining, UXO and victim assistance.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Friday, 06 March 2009

Fall in casualties prompts push for more land mine victim aid

Despite recent gains, experts say it remains unclear whether the Cambodia-specific Millennium Development Goal related to demining will be achieved by 2015.

NOUN Samoeun, 44, took a roundabout route to fulfilling his boyhood dream of operating massive machines for a living.

The Prey Veng province native served as a soldier in the army until, in 1995, he stepped on a land mine in Oddar Meanchey's Anlong Veng district and lost the bottom half of his right leg in the ensuing explosion.

He spent the next three years earning US$20 per month playing guitar at various army compounds, a job he left when a friend told him about a company recruiting land mine victims in Phnom Penh.

In the 10 years since he was hired by that company - a design and engineering nonprofit called Development Technology Workshop (DTW) - Noun Samoeun has learned how to drill, weld, shape metal with a lathe and operate the three-tonne Tempest, an all-terrain land mine clearance machine designed to slash through vegetation and trip-wire.

"Yes, I like this job very much," Noun Samoeun said with a laugh during an interview Tuesday on the floor of DTW's 1,000-square-metre workshop. He now earns $200 per month, enough to support his wife and three children, and said he plans to stay at DTW "as long as possible".

Chea Sophal, DTW's production manager, said the Phnom Penh office has hired and trained at least 30 land mine victims since it opened in 1998. The company's website notes that it strives to prepare disabled employees such as Noun Samoeun to compete for a range of metalworking jobs.

In recent interviews, several land mine experts called for a concerted effort to increase the number of job training and employment opportunities for victims of land mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Cambodia's recent success in lowering the incidence of land mine and ERW injuries and fatalities, they said, means more resources should now be allocated to victim assistance.

Such an effort could help Cambodia meet the social integration component of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) pertaining to demining, they said, giving voice to the now widely held view that victim assistance must encompass more than physical rehabilitation.

"The understanding of what victim assistance means has considerably evolved since the development of the MDG" in 2003, said Hugo Hotte, a humanitarian mine action program manager for Handicap International Belgium, who argued that vocational training and psychological support are forms of assistance that should be provided. "It is now understood in a more holistic way."

The casualty drop
Between 1994 and 2005, the number of land mine and ERW casualties - a statistic that includes both fatalities and injuries - fell from 2,966 to 875, according to data provided by the Cambodian Mine/UXO Victim Information System (CMVIS).

Though this amounted to a decline of more than 70 percent, the total was still higher than the 2005 interim target of 500. Moreover, it had increased from 772 in 2003, the year Cambodia's MDGs were adopted. As a result, the Ministry of Planning, in its 2005 assessment of MDG progress, cited the statistic as one of the chief shortfalls of the entire MDG effort.

But the following year, the casualty total dropped by nearly half, from 875 to 450, marking the beginning of a trend that has continued: Only 266 casualties were recorded in 2008.

Fatality statistics provide perhaps the most dramatic indication of recent progress. Between 2000 and 2005, 962 people died in land mine or ERW explosions. Between 2006 and 2008, that number fell to 173.

Asked to explain the gains, Leng Sochea, deputy secretary general of the Cambodia Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority (CMAVAA), highlighted the increased involvement of villagers in the planning of mine clearance efforts. As the result of a subdecree implemented in 2005, Mine Action Planning Units (MAPUs) appointed by provincial governors have been established to consult residents of mine-affected communities to identify those areas most in need of clearance.

The other main reason for the casualty decline, said Plong Chhaya, child protection project officer at Unicef, has been an improvement in education and awareness efforts. He said these have become more effective at targetting high-risk groups such as scrap-metal dealers and scavengers.

Plong Chhaya pointed out one example from 2006 in which police formed a UXO Working Group designed to educate scrap-metal dealers and scavengers about the Law on the Management of Weapons, Explosives and Ammunition. The law outlines clear penalties for those caught violating its restrictions on the handling of explosive material.

Hotte also said law enforcement deserved credit for its contributions to the casualty decline, but he noted that certain factors - such as the drop in the price of scrap metal, which he said has pushed its collection "more and more to the margins" - could not be directly influenced by police, government officials or civil society groups.

Because so many different factors can affect the overall casualty rate, he said, "it's really hard to make the call" as to whether Cambodia will achieve its MDG target of eliminating casualties by 2015.

Clearance efforts
Another target under the demining MDG is to clear all contaminated land. Cambodia came within less than a single percentage point of meeting the 2005 interim target of 51 percent, and Melissa Sabatier, mine action project manager for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), said clearance practices have become even more effective since then.

Between 1992 and 2008, more than 476 million square metres of land were cleared, according to statistics compiled by humanitarian demining operators and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. In that same period, 814,198 anti-personnel mines, 19,109 anti-tank mines and 1,740,831 ERWs were found and destroyed.

Lay Khim, the leader of UNDP's environment and energy cluster team, said his office has been working "to make the best use" of cleared land, which he said could aid efforts to meet some targets under Millennium Development Goal No 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. In particular, he said, his office has funnelled small grants into projects such as water sanitation, the improvement of which is a target under the goal, in heavily mined provinces such as Battambang, which experiences far more land mine and ERW casualties than any other in the Kingdom.

Help for victims
As with casualties and clearance, steps have also been taken since 2005 to meet the two targets related to victim assistance.

The first is to develop and implement a comprehensive victim assistance framework. That task has been delegated to the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation and to the Disability Action Council, said CMAVAA's Leng Sochea, to ensure that efforts to assist landmine and ERW victims are integrated with government strategies to assist all people with disabilities.

Last year the Council of Ministers approved the Kingdom's first law designed to promote and protect the rights of disabled people. In addition, said Hotte, a national action plan for disabled people, including survivors of land mines and ERW, was finalised last month. Leng Sochea said the plan would be presented to Prime Minister Hun Sen's office later this year.

The other assistance-related target deals with the number of land mine and ERW victims receiving an assistance package and being "integrated into the society". As of the 2005 Ministry of Planning assessment, the target had not yet been set. Chhiv Lim, project manager at CMVIS, said however, that the Cambodian Red Cross, in conjunction with CMVIS, is currently collecting information on services given to land mine survivors and plans to make that information available this year.

Ny Nhar, a spokesperson for Jesuit Service Cambodia, which advocates on behalf of land mine victims, said those providing assistance packages need to take into account the needs of individual victims.

Existing assistance packages "do not always work for victims living in the countryside", he said.

Soeun Ngeo, 38, who works with Noun Samoeun at DTW, said many mine victims in his home province of Kampong Speu have been unable to find work and have not benefited from the type of medical and other services he receives in Phnom Penh.

A former soldier, Soeun Ngeo lost part of his left leg when he stepped on a land mine in 1988 in Kampong Speu. He spent 10 years repairing motorbikes in Phnom Penh before landing a job at DTW, which pays him just enough - $170 per month - to support his wife and four daughters.

He said he enjoys the work, which on Tuesday involved the assembly of a container oven, but said he wants to learn, like Noun Samoeun has, how to operate machines.

Also like Noun Samoeun, Soeun Ngeo said he wants to stay at DTW as long as he can, adding that he knows he is lucky to have found a job that offers decent pay and the opportunity for career advancement.

An ever-present threat
As officials work toward the social integration of more land mine victims like Soeun Ngeo, several experts said they must remain mindful of the casualty rate, as the threat of an increase has not yet been eliminated.

And 2009 got off to a bad start. The monthly CMVIS-produced casualty report recorded 34 victims in January, including nine deaths and three injuries serious enough to require amputation. This was up from 22 casualties in December 2008 and 26 in January 2008. It marked the first time in at least two years that a monthly casualty total exceeded the total for the same month in the previous year.

Despite this setback, Leng Sochea said he believes further coordination of clearance efforts will lead to a continuing drop in the number of casualties. In concert with victim assistance, he said, these efforts can ultimately minimize "the impact of landmines on Cambodia's development".

Ke Kim Yan to combat drugs

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath and Tom Hunter
Friday, 06 March 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen confirmed Thursday the elevation of former army head General Ke Kim Yan to the post of deputy prime minister in charge of anti-drug trafficking.

"In the near future, General Ke Kim Yan will be appointed deputy prime minister, and he will be the chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs," Hun Sen said at the closing session of the Ministry of Interior's annual meeting.

"This network for combating drugs must be strong, [so] I am bringing in a general of RCAF to fight against drugs."

The authority's Deputy Secretary General Chan Ven said the request for the promotion was received Tuesday by the National Assembly, but that the body's Permanent Committee, currently in recess, had not yet been called to convene an extraordinary session to discuss the issue.

"We need two or three days' notice to invite them to attend an extraordinary session", he said, adding that the Assembly's recess will wind up at the end of the month.

Permanent Committee member Cheam Yeap said Thursday there had so far been no call for an extraordinary session to consider the appointment of Ke Kim Yan, who was removed as head of the army in January.

Poverty to be targeted by USAID program

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Friday, 06 March 2009

THE United States this week launched a US$21 million program aimed at helping to alleviate poverty by helping farmers and others in Cambodia's impoverished countryside increase their earnings, the US embassy said Thursday.

The economic growth initiative, which will unfold over four years, also aims to create a better investment climate between entrepreneurs and local or national government offices, the embassy said in a statement.

"This program is built on the idea that if you provide the Cambodian people with the tools they need to succeed, they will do great things," US ambassador to Cambodia Carol Rodley said at a reception to kick off the new program.

The launch comes amid growing ties between the US and Cambodia, which has been the beneficiary of an increasing amount of aid - including military assistance - from Washington.

Previous economic development programs, administered through USAID, have helped more than 1,600 small businesses increase their sales by as much as 500 percent, generating new revenues of $6.5 million on an initial investment of $1.5 million, the embassy statement said.

More than a third of Cambodians still remain mired in poverty, according to government statistics.

The effects of the global financial crisis are thought to have dramatically lowered the standard of living for hundreds of thousands more, international financial institutions like the Asian Development Bank have said.

Opposition activist 'accidentally' shot, killed by policeman

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Friday, 06 March 2009

SRP activist Ven Veth was killed by a police officer Wednesday, with family of the victim treating the circumstances as suspicious.

AN activist with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party was shot dead by a policeman on Wednesday in Kampong Cham province. But the victim's family and the police dispute the circumstances surrounding his death.

The victim, Ven Veth, who was 45, was killed by In Pheang, a policeman in Battalion 617, using an AK-47. The incident took place in Por Phlam village, Cham commune, in Memot district.

Ven Veth's father-in-law, Bin Bao, said he witnessed the killing Wednesday afternoon. He told the Post Thursday that In Pheang had arrived at the victim's house on a motorbike and called for Ven Veth to come out of his house. In Pheang asked Ven Veth whether Ven Veth knew him, and when he said he did, in Pheang immediately shot him, he said.

"He shot him at a distance of just one metre from me," Bin Bao said. "And then I was shaking with fear. There was no conflict before this."

However the commune police chief, Bien Pom, disputed Bin Bao's account, adding that the incident was not related to politics or the upcoming polls for district and provincial councils. He said his investigation showed that Ven Veth was drunk at the time and had brandished a hoe at In Pheang when he crossed in front of his house. He claimed that In Pheang warned Ven Veth not to shake the hoe in case it hit him, but Ven Veth ignored that.

Bien Pom said that In Pheang had gone on the run.

The SRP commune chief in Cham, Prak Vanny, said the victim had been drunk at the time but rejected the police's version of events, and said Bin Bao's account was correct: that the killer had asked the victim if he knew him, and after the victim said he did, he was shot.

The party's MP for Kampong Cham province, Mao Monyvann, said Wednesday the incident was politically related and was a way of intimidating the opposition ahead of the upcoming poll.

"I notice that when elections are looming, intimidation always occurs," Mao Monyvann said. "The killer is well-known and the authorities must arrest him and punish him."

The district governor for Memot, Chek Sa An, said that Ven Veth was drunk and started to pull down the roof of his house. When the police went to intervene, Ven Veth was accidentally shot in the left thigh.

Imprisoned former top cop says he will not attend trial

Disgraced former police chief Heng Pov shown here in a file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 06 March 2009

Heng Pov, facing murder and extortion charges, will not attend his own trial over inability to pay legal fees, attorney says.

THE disgraced and imprisoned former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov will not attend his own trial, scheduled for March 10 at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, citing an inability to pay his defence fees, his attorney said.

Heng Pov's defence lawyer, Kao Soupha, said his client had written a letter to the court stating that he would not appear until funds frozen by the state were released back to him, allowing him to pay his lawyer's fees, three of his daughters' study fees and medical treatments.

Heng Pov, who used to be an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, wrote the PM a letter in early February requesting that Hun Sen intervene to release around US$940,000 held in five accounts at Canadia Bank.

"The money in his account is legal, but the court has barred him from withdrawing it," Kao Soupha said Thursday. "We are waiting to see whether the intervention persuades the prime minister to allow the withdrawal or not."

Kao Soupha, who has defended Heng Pov since last year, said he had not been paid for his services, adding that three of Heng Pov's daughters had been forced to suspend their studies.

"We are requesting to withdraw just some of the money, not all of it," Kao Soupha said.

The judge hearing the case at the Municipal Court, Iv Kimsry, told the Post Thursday that he had not heard of Heng Pov's request to be absent, adding that "it is his right to do so" before hanging up the phone.

The former police boss, much feared during his time in power, was arrested in 2006 and is currently serving a 58-year prison sentence for a raft of murder, kidnapping and extortion convictions.

Asean rep sworn in

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Friday, 06 March 2009

KAN Pharidh, Cambodia's permanent representative to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, presented his credentials Thursday to the Asean secretary general, Surin Pitsuwan, in a ceremony at the Asean secretariat.

"Ambassador Kan [has] many years of experience in Asean affairs. ... I look forward to working with him on building our Asean community," Surin said, according to a press release.

The permanent representatives of four member states - Singapore, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia - have now presented their credentials.

Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand are expected to follow soon, and Surin said he hopes the Committee of Permanent Representatives will be able to meet for the first time at the end of this month.

Remaining railway residents brace for forced evictions

The Train B community, which lies along colonial-era railway lines, faces an uncertain future.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Friday, 06 March 2009

Residents say they fear a repeat of the Dey Krahorm eviction after three local representatives are convicted in absentia.

RESIDENTS remaining in the Train B Community in Tuol Kork district say they fear forced eviction from their land following the conviction in absentia of three community leaders, accused of falsifying documents relating to a property compensation claim.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on February 23 convicted Chea Samhong, May Thonak and Sok Kimchan Mealea of forging the thumbprints of 34 community families seeking compensation from local developer Hassan Cambodia Development Limited, which plans to develop the 2.5-hectare block of land.

Yok Sambo, the residents' lawyer, said the three - currently in hiding - were sentenced to three years in prison and fined US$20,000 each.

"It is unjust for the residents. The court has no evidence to prove their forged thumbprints," he said Thursday.

Resident Chea Srey Na, the sister of suspect May Thonak, said the three had been convicted merely because they had fought for the small community, and that she now feared forced eviction like the city's Dey Krahorm community.

"We have been living here since 1990, and like Dey Krahorm, the government granted [us] a social land concession in 2003, but still the company wants to develop our community and give us low compensation," she said.

"The three leaders did everything for the sake of the people, and then this happens to them. I know we will end up like the Dey Krahorm community, where poor people lost out to the rich."

Official warnings
Othsman Hassan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and chairman of Hassan Cambodia Development, said that police were hunting for the fugitives, but that he had no hand in the court's decision and that it was residents themselves who lodged complaints about the three leaders.

He said that in 2000 the government granted his company the right to develop the 10-hectare area encompassing the Train A and B communities into office space and commercial centres, but that work was delayed because of 25 families who were yet to leave the site.

Othsman Hassan said the company had previously offered residents replacement housing but that the offer was no longer valid, and that the company was offering $20,000 cash for the remaining residents.

"People must accept that they are living on state land, so that when the government wants it for development they should leave because they do not legally own the land," he said.

"People are demanding high prices which we cannot accept."

Othsman Hassan also warned that authorities would take administrative action "like at Dey Krahorm" if people did not agree to leave.

Nouth Bopinnaroath, monitor for the rights group Licadho, said the three accused had served the community since 1995 and that residents had filed complaints with the Appeal Court to overturn the warrants.

Economic meltdown

Amelita King Dejardin, a gender expert for the International Labour Organisation.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by amelita king dejardin
Friday, 06 March 2009

The financial crisis that continues to tighten its grip on global markets has a hitherto unacknowledged gender bias.


Amelita King Dejardin

THE current economic crisis is unravelling before us faster than even the most pessimistic of experts predicted just a few months ago.

The effects are already trickling down to ordinary working people. In the Asia Pacific region, the International Labour Organisation has projected that as many as 27 million more people could become unemployed this year. Some 140 million others in the region's developing economies could be forced into extreme poverty.

The numbers are staggering and, without a doubt, everyone will be touched by this crisis. Yet what is so far lacking from many of the debates on how countries should respond is a realization that this crisis has a gender bias. Here in Asia, working women will be affected more severely, and differently, from their male counterparts.

For policymakers, failure to take into account this gender dimension, especially at the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, could be a critical miscalculation, worsening the working and living conditions of millions, deepening economic and social inequalities, and wiping out a generation of hard-won gains in pay equity and workplace equality.

Why are women affected differently? One reason is that women workers are concentrated in labour-intensive export industries that feed into global supply chains. In contrast, male workers tend to be distributed across a wider range of economic sectors. Women are also concentrated in the lower levels of these global supply chains, in casual, temporary, sub-contracted and informal employment, where work is insecure, wages low, working conditions poor and workers least likely to be protected by conventional social insurance systems. It follows that shrinking global demand for clothes, textiles and electronics (as well as for related business services like hotels and restaurants) means that women will be the first to lose their jobs.

Asia's experience during the 1997 economic crisis provides evidence to back this projection. In Thailand, 95 percent of those laid off from the garment sector were women - in the toys sector it was 88 percent. In Korea, 86 percent of those who lost their financial services and banking jobs were female.

The consequence of losing a job also affects women differently, and more severely. Research shows that the poorer the family, the more important the woman's earnings are to the family's subsistence, children's health and education. And because women workers in Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam - among other countries - are concentrated in lower-paid jobs they tend to save less; so a small pay cut or price rise can severely damage them and their dependents.

The region's experience in 1997 supports this concern; a survey in the Philippines found that when a male worker lost his job, 65 percent of households reported a fall in income, but when a woman worker was retrenched, 94 percent of households had less money.

Poorer households also rely more on unpaid care work (for children, the elderly or sick family members), which is almost always provided by women. So in tough times, women tend to be stretched more between their conflicting responsibilities.

Since the 1990s, the governments of many Asian countries have strengthened their social protection schemes. This is a welcome move since a social floor is a vital tool in fighting poverty (and designing a social floor that meets women's needs is one of the themes of the current ILO Global Gender Campaign). However, in many countries women do not get equal access to social protection.

In some cases, this is because of the nonstandard, low-wage and informal economy jobs they have, which are less likely to come with such social benefits. In others, policymakers assume women can rely on men, or because benefits are directly linked to keeping your job - for example, most maternity protection systems in Asia are paid solely by employers.

Of course, this is not a simple black-and-white issue. In some areas or sectors, men will bear the brunt. For example, demand for female workers could rise as regular workers are replaced by casuals. Among migrant workers in developed economies, better-educated, skilled women who work as nurses, doctors or in other specialist health care jobs, or as domestic workers, are less likely to be laid off than their male migrant worker counterparts - who are mostly in construction, manufacturing and agriculture.

It is therefore critical that when governments, employers and workers organizations sit down to discuss policies to combat the social and economic effects of the crisis, they do so from the perspective of women as well as men.

For example, public infrastructure and investment programs are common components of national crisis-response packages. However, the bulk of jobs created by these programs could easily go to men because construction, engineering and technical jobs are dominated by and seen as more suitable for men. This is what we saw in 1997.

Not only should efforts be made to ensure that these jobs are open to women, but the concept of what are public works should be expanded to incorporate social services, health care, education, child and youth development.

When it comes to the social aspect of policy responses, basic health care, maternity, and education must be included.

Finally, special attention is needed to ensure that women's own views and opinions are heard. In 1997, women were not properly included in the social dialogue because - even in businesses that employed mostly women - the leadership of workers and employers organisations was dominated by men.

This week brings International Women's Day (Sunday), a regular and natural opportunity to focus on the situation of women in this region. We should mark the day with a commitment not to repeat the mistakes of 1997 by ensuring that crisis-response measures reach all those who need help, equally.

Amelita King Dejardin is a senior technical
adviser in the Police Integration and Statistics
Department of the International Labour Organisation.

Credit crunch hits MFIs

The ACLEDA head office in Phnom Penh. MFIs say credit has tightened this year.

Falling loan growth
- ACLEDA 48pc in 2008, 30-35pc growth expected in 2009
- MFI Sathapana 61pc in 2008, 10-20pc expected in 2009
- AMK Finance 124pc in 2008, 56pc expected in 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Friday, 06 March 2009

Microfinance institutions say that a reduced willingness to lend among foreign entities is squeezing domestic market

MICROFINANCE organisations said they expect slower growth and higher interest rates as the credit crunch hits foreign lenders who had been a key source of funding to local MFIs.

The main threat, sources said, stems from the decrease in available capital as foreign backers trim their emerging market investments, leaving microfinancers less able to serve local demand.

Prior to the global economic downturn about 50 foreign banks were lining up to lend to local MFIs, said Bun Mony, a member of the board of the Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA) and general manager of the MFI Sathapana Limited.

But since the onset of the crisis, he said the number had fallen to zero.

"A large number of microfinance institutions have been seriously affected by the global financial crisis because 80 percent of our capital is from abroad," Bun Mony said.

We may have to raise local rates more to make up for our higher costs.

He said portfolio loans to customers increased by 61 percent last year, "but we forecast that growth will slow from 10 to 20 percent this year".

Other MFIs, including AMK Microfinance and ACLEDA, told the Post they also expect some growth in 2009, albeit below original expectations.

Bun Mony also warned that interest rates - currently at two to three percent per month - could rise in response to loan restrictions by foreign creditors.

"If we want to take out new loans, we have to pay one or two percent more per year, so we are hesitating to borrow. We may have to raise local rates more to make up for our higher costs," he said.

CMA Chairman Hout Ieng Tong said the number of MFI borrowers hit one million last year, up from 970,152 in 2007. He said loans totalled US$740 million, consisting of $438 million from 17 microfinance institutions, with the rest from ACLEDA Bank.

Hout Ieng Tong said the number of depositors rose to 529,789 last year from 355,956 in 2007, with $492 million in deposits, excluding ACLEDA.

"The portfolio risk is still very low," he said, estimating 0.67 percent risk, or $2.95 million.

Bun Mony said there had been instances of collateral such as land and houses being seized for auction to repay debts, but he said less than one percent of loans were nonperforming.

ACLEDA President In Channy said Thursday that local deposits at ACLEDA Bank had increased to $512 million, with $463 million in loans outstanding.

"Nonperforming loans at ACLEDA were 0.4 percent last year," he said. "We lend to farmers without requiring land or houses as collateral, but third parties insure the borrowers."

But Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said she was worried that farmers were at risk of losing their assets if they defaulted. "They risk being deprived of their houses, but it is their only choice if they want to borrow money," she said.

Cambodian tycoon works on Asean reform

Asean File Photo
Cambodia's representative to the Asean Business Advisory Council Kith Meng [back row, far right] stands behind Prime Minister Hun Sen [front row, second from right] with the rest of the region's leaders at the Asean Summit in Cha-am, Thailand, at the weekend.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by STEVE FINCH
Friday, 06 March 2009

Royal Group CEO Kith Meng says Asean talks on integration are progressing, despite critics of the bloc's inaction

THE financial crisis and economic integration dominated talk at the Asean Summit in Cha-am, Thailand, which ended Sunday. While Prime Minister Hun Sen was the public face of the Cambodian delegation, behind the scenes it was the country's best-known tycoon that played chief economic adviser.

Kith Meng, as the Cambodian representative to the Asean Business Advisory Council (BAC) and president of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, is driving the Kingdom's economic discussions on Asean and therefore plays a key role in developing a single market, the bloc's goal.

"The talks in Cha-am were very productive," the Royal Group chairman and CEO said by email on Thursday. "The aim is much greater economic cooperation and integration using the strength of Asean to weather the current global economic downturn and emerge together as an economic powerhouse."

As Kith Meng and others present in Cha-am acknowledged, the recent summit was perhaps the most important in the past decade, amid the current economic crisis that has begun to hit the region.

Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew said Thursday the city-state could experience a 10 percent drop in GDP growth this year, AFP reported, and Vietnam is forecasting its lowest economic growth in years.

Asean's export-driven economies are facing the biggest challenge since the 1998 financial crisis, analysts say, but at the same time Asean is beginning to see itself as a catalyst for a world recovery. Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij told AFP before the summit that Asean is "increasingly the focus of the rest of the world".

Cambodia will play a central role in the development of some of these initiatives.

With Asean aimed at a European Union-style single market by 2015, the question remains how the bloc can reach its ambitious target.

An Asean fund "to allow companies ready to go regional and global to have access to affordable financing and investment" is one such initiative planned, stated an Asean BAC press release following the summit.

An Asean joint venture company was also proposed that would focus on using the strength of the region in agricultural and biofuel production "to meet demand for food security and alternative energy sources".

"Cambodia will play a central role in the development of some of these initiatives, particularly around the establishment of an Asean fund and public-private joint ventures," said Kith Meng.

An Asean Green Line designed to streamline the movement and transport of goods within the region is being piloted between Singapore and Malaysia, with Singapore and Indonesia also planning to roll out the project. And an Asean-wide brand was also discussed at the summit.

"The initiatives coming out of the meeting will establish an integrated economic bloc of almost 600 million people in one of the highest growth areas of the world," said Kith Meng.

But there remain question marks as to whether the talk in Cha-am will result in concrete practice that can fend off the worst of the global economic crisis and lead to economic integration in the vein of the EU.

"The gathered leaders made a lot of noise about deepening the integration of their economies to minimise the adverse impacts of the global financial crisis. But they failed to come up with any concrete measures," said an Economic Intelligence Unit report this week.

Kith Meng insists that the Asean BAC meeting at the weekend "was the most co-operative and focused" thus far. He will now largely be responsible - at least on the Cambodian side - for proving the Asean doubters wrong.

Labour law amendment delayed

The Phnom Penh Post

Friday, 06 March 2009

OFFICIALS decided Thursday to delay an amendment to the Labour Law that would extend the use of temporary employment contracts, but a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said he still believes the law needs to be amended at some point.

The decision was made during a meeting of ministry officials, union leaders and representatives from the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia.

Union leaders, who earlier this week warned of nationwide strikes if the proposed changes were enacted, have said that the changes would allow temporary contracts to be extended indefinitely, making it easier for employers to hire and fire workers.

Under the 1997 Labour Law, any employee who has worked with a company for more than two years is automatically considered a permanent employee.

Oum Mean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, told the Post after the meeting that officials had opted to put the changes on hold so they could solicit additional feedback about them.

It is not … an amendment but rather a clarification to make it clear because ... the law is not clear.

"We also want to convince all parties about what we plan to do," he said.

Officials called for the formation of a task force led by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to amend the law in a manner that would appease all parties.

In the long run, he said, "it is a must that we amend these two articles because they have resulted in many labour disputes over the years". He was referring to Articles 67 and 73, which govern contract durations and notices for contract duration.

Roger Tan, acting secretary general of GMAC, said the association welcomed all discussion of the Labour Law. He also said the proposed change was actually more of a clarification than an amendment.

"It is not really an amendment but rather a clarification to make it clear because right now the law is not clear and people can interpret it differently," he said.

Ath Thorn, president of Cambodian Labor Confederation, said he did not see a reason to amend the Labour Law.

"I think this delay is a good thing for all parties to reconsider what they want to achieve," he said.

Lamp auction lights the way

One of the lamps on auction at the Living Room Cafe this Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Friday, 06 March 2009

Proceeds from Ray of Light Committee auction to support children living in prison with their incarcerated mothers

This Sunday is International Women's Day, and across the globe 54 countries will be marking the occasion with 853 events planned worldwide.

In Vietnam, Russia, Bulgaria and China, the day has been declared a national holiday.

In Phnom Penh, at Living Room Cafe a lamp auction organised by the Ray of Light Committee will be held to raise money for human rights organisation Licadho's Adopt-a-Prison program, particularly for children living in prison with their incarcerated mothers.

In February 2008, there were 50 children living in 18 of Cambodia's 26 prisons, with many facing the denial of basic human rights such as reliable access to clean food and water, quality medical care, as well as overcrowding in prison cells and violence from prison staff and other inmates.

Creative solutions
Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho, says her organisation is very excited about the lamp auction and hopes to have more involvement with such "creative" events in the future.

"I would never have thought of a lamp auction. Licadho is not very creative. We have some skills, but creativity might not be one of them," she said. "What's important for us is the engagement of different people in social issues.

"NGOs, mothers, artists and the media have all been brought together by this event, and we hope to have more like it in the future," she added.

The one-of-a-kind lamps have been specially made by Cambodian and international artists, and each of them are highly individual and carefully constructed works of art.

Some of the Cambodian artists involved include Chath Piersath, Sopheap Pich and Mony Reth.

The Ray of Light Committee organising the auction is made up of a small group of three friends who heard about the children in prison and felt compelled to act.

In 2007, two of the committee members were involved in the Glitz and Glamour Fashion Show, which raised over US$45,000 for charity.

Ray of Light Committee member Deirdre Smith says the choice of lamps for the auction was significant, as they signify light, hope and a future for the children in prison.

Making a difference
Smith says the committee decided to give the money raised from the auction to Licadho because they were familiar with their work and have seen them in action.

"We trust them and we know they will put the money to good use for the children in prison."

Through the funds raised for the children in prison, the committee also hopes to help their mothers, many of whom face additional difficulties in prison as single women with children to support.

"We're pretty sure that for a woman - poor, middle-class or incarcerated - if you help her take care of what is closest to her heart, her children, then you make her stronger to face other challenges." said Smith.

The event will feature a cocktail party this Sunday at 6pm at the Living Room Cafe.

Retrospective of Taiwan's David Huang to open

David Huang's painting of Cambodian street life.
The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Anita Surewicz
Friday, 06 March 2009

WHILE Phnom Penh's Two Fish Gallery Cafe is well known for hosting contemporary art shows by up-and-coming young artists, this month it is the establishment's Taiwanese owner David Huang who is utilising the cafe's exhibition space.

His "Recollections" exhibit comprises 25 paintings reflecting back on Huang's early school days in Taiwan as well as the last four years of his life in Cambodia.

"Last year has been a year of a lot of change. It has also been a time of reflection. This exhibition has been born out of that reflection. A dear school friend died, and so there are two paintings from early school days in Taiwan," said Huang.

The hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh's busy street life features prominently in Huang's paintings, and the artist is quick to admit that Cambodia holds a special place in his heart and is an enormous source of inspiration.

"Cambodia has been quite a different experience for me. I've travelled to many countries in Asia, but this [place] feels different. I love the colour and the bustle around me," Huang said.

Huang opened the Two Fish Gallery in 2006 to support Asian art by providing exhibition space for work produced by artists living or working in the region.

Prior to settling in Phnom Penh, Huang's artistic inclinations took him around the world from a very young age.

He was sent to Hong Kong to study calligraphy at the tender age of 7, studied art in the United States and worked in Japan for five years.

Having led what can be described as a transient life, Huang says that he finds artistic inspiration in the changes taking place around him.

"I like travelling and absorbing things I see. My humour is a little odd, so lots of things make me laugh. I enjoy my surroundings."

"Recollections" opens at Two Fish Gallery today at 6:30pm and runs until April.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Brief

In Briefs: Military sides faceoff

Written by DAN RILEY
Friday, 06 March 2009

PHNOM PENH - The remaining quarterfinals of the Samdech Hun Sen Cup 2009 will be completed at Olympic Stadium on Saturday with the military battle of Navy-affiliated Phuchoung Neak against the National Defence Ministry team at 2pm and a rematch of the 2007 Cup final that sees Naga Corp face Ranger FC at 4.15pm. Admission is free and games can be viewed live on TVK.

In Brief: Naga case planned

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 06 March 2009

THE MINISTRY of Labour will investigate a labour dispute at NagaWorld Hotel and Casino after 15 employees were recently laid off, the Ministry of Labour said on Thursday. Sok Narith, head of the workers union at NagaWorld, said his colleagues demand their jobs back, not compensation. A letter from the Cambodia Tourism and Service Workers Federation to the Labour Ministry on Monday accuses NagaWorld of violating an International Labour Organisation treaty and the Kingdom's labour laws.

In Brief: Cambodia ranked 121st

Written by STEVE FINCH
Friday, 06 March 2009

CAMBODIA has been ranked 121st in the world in an ICT development index report by the International Telecommunication Union, a Geneva-based organisation linking governments and the private sector. The ranking marks an improvement on Cambodia's position in 2002, the first year of the survey, when it made 126th. The latest figures, which are for 2007, place Cambodia the lowest within the Asean region. Cambodia was placed 119th on access to ICT, 149th on usage and 123rd in terms of ICT skills.

In Brief: US agrees on military attache

Written by Sam Rith
Friday, 06 March 2009

The United States has agreed to the establishment of a military attache at the Cambodian embassy in Washington, according to government officials. The agreement was made on January 29 at the embassy, said Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. He said the establishment of a military attache would improve the US and Cambodia's military relationship and help coordinate training programs. "This shows a better relationship and confidence in one another," said Koy Kuong. According to officials at the US embassy in Phnom Penh, US military attaches had not existed in Cambodia since the beginning of the Khmer Rouge regime, but began again in 1993.

In Brief: Landmark building proposed

Written by Ngoun Sovan
Friday, 06 March 2009

A French expert has suggested that Phnom Penh's landmark building should be constructed in the Chaktomuk river intersection area. Frederic Mauret, the city's French technical expert for the 2020 municipal master plan, said Tuesday "we recommend the establishment of a cultural highrise at Chaktomuk river area. It is a unique and invaluable location and would provide an identifiable international landmark for the city, like the Sydney Opera House in Australia". Mauret further proposed the development of highrise buildings along the river in the Chaktomuk and Chroy Changvar areas. Mab Sarin, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, said that the 2020 master plan has been finalised and submitted to the Council of Ministers. "We hope the Phnom Penh municipal master plan will be approved by the government soon".

Ieng Sary's lawyers adjust their website but remain combative


By Stéphanie Gée

Lawyers for Ieng Sary responded to the order on breach of confidentiality of the judicial investigation issued by the Office of the co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ) on March 3rd, which followed the publication of official documents on the Internet website they created... on their website !

They explained that in order to “promptly comply” with the judicial decision, they had “temporarily removed from the website the allegedly 'confidential' documents pending the confirmation by the OCIJ or Pre-Trial Chamber [of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal] that these submissions are, in fact, public.” However, attorneys Ang Udom and Michael G. Karnavas then specified they removed from their website three documents, whereas co-Investigating Judges referred to nine case file documents “the publication of which had at no time been authorized by the Judges” that had been posted on the website on January 26th.

In addition, the lawyers considered that it was “extremely unfortunate” that the co-Investigating Judges waited until international lawyer Karnavas had left Cambodia to make their order public.

In their defence, they argued that “only one [of the documents posted on their website which were deemed by the co-Investigating Judges to have breached the confidentiality of the investigation] has actually been declared to be confidential by either the Pre-Trial Chamber or OCIJ” although their client had authorised the document – related to his health – to be made public, they added. Finally, they considered it was “ironic” that the order on breach of confidentiality of the investigation was “considered to be public even though it made extensive reference to elements of the investigation which were allegedly confidential.”

For their part, co-Investigating Judges explained that the legal consequences resulting from their March 3rd decision will be dealt through legal proceedings, not through the media.

Pre-Angkor temple civilization found in Malaysia may be oldest in region

Thaindian News
March 6th, 2009

Kuala Lumpur, March 6 (ANI): Archaeologists in Malaysia have discovered the main site of an ancient kingdom that predates the Angkor temples of Cambodia and could be the oldest civilization in the region.

According to a report in Taipei Times, archeological team leader professor Mokhtar Saidin said the find, which could lead to a rewriting of history books on the region, was made in two palm oil plantations in northern Kedah State last month.

He said that buildings found at the site indicate it was part of the ancient Hindu kingdom of Bujang which existed in the area some time in the third century, predating the Angkor civilization of Cambodia which flourished from the 12th to 14th centuries.

We have dated artifacts from what we believe are an administration building and an iron smelter to 1,700 BP (250AD), which sets the Bujang civilization between the third and fourth century AD, Saidin said.

We have only one date so far so we can say it is one of the earliest civilizations in the region, but with more dates, we will be able to verify whether it is the oldest civilization in the region, he added.

Mokhtar said the iron smelter was a surprise find as it showed that such an early civilization was already quite advanced technologically.

We have 30 more mounds at the site that have to be excavated and we are hoping to also find the port area for the kingdom as it was near the sea, he said.

This will give us a clue to how the civilization was trading and influenced by China and India, who would have been the two main powers back then to have influenced development in this region, he added.

Malaysian archeologists last month also announced the discovery of stone tools they believe are more than 1.8 million years old and the earliest evidence of human ancestors in Southeast Asia.

The stone hand-axes were discovered last year in the historical site of Lenggong in northern Perak State, embedded in a type of rock formed by meteorites. (ANI)

Death of Keng Vannsak: an intellectual who left a deep imprint on Cambodians

Paris (France), 2005. Keng Vannsak
© Khim Hoc Dy

By Stéphanie Gée

Professor Keng Vannsak died after a long illness on December 18th at the age of 83, at the Montmorency hospital in Paris, France. He influenced generations of Cambodian intellectuals and leaves behind him a legacy including two drama plays, many poems and his research work. A true admirer of Khmer civilisation, he stood up all his life for these values. Strongly opposed to the Cambodian monarchy, he was also well-known for his role as a mentor for young Saloth Sar, later to be known as the sanguinary Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

Keng Vannsak was born in 1925 in a village in the Kampong Chhnang province. After obtaining his baccalaureate in Philosophy in 1946 in Phnom Penh, he continued his studies in Paris with a scholarship and worked as a Khmer-language assistant at the National School of Modern Eastern Languages (Ecole Nationale des Langues Orientales). During the course of his studies, in the capital he took two years out to go to England and teach Khmer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

He married French national Suzanne Colleville, who shared with him a passion for Eastern languages: she held diplomas in the Cambodian, Lao and Thai languages but also obtained a degree in Physical Science at the University of Caen, as revealed by Khing Hoc Dy, a former student and friend of Keng Vannsak's, in an article soon to be published. In 1952, he returned to Cambodia with his wife and a brand new B.A. Degree which he obtained at the Faculty of Literature and Human Science University of Paris in 1951. He took up the position of teacher at the prestigious Lycée Sisowath in Phnom Penh and stayed there from 1952 to 1958.

A mentor for Cambodian students in Paris
Keng Vannsak became one of the key-figures of the Cambodian student community in Paris. As reminded by historian Philip Short in his book entitled Pol Pot – Anatomy of a Nightmare[*], during the winter of 1950, more exclusive student meetings took place several times every month at Keng Vannsak's Paris flat “to discuss political issues and more precisely about the future of Cambodia, a country which, for the first time, was directly affected by the war in Vietnam”. The historian explains that these meetings “marked the beginning of [Saloth Sar's] political training”.

At that time, Philip Short details, communism was not their main worry. The historian recalls that “Keng Vannsak himself, however more aware of political reality than most of his fellow-students, involuntarily offended a young Frenchwoman of the high bourgeoisie by offering her, a year before, to go and spend the afternoon at the Fête de l'Humanité, organised by the French Communist Party. 'I had no idea it was a Communist do', he protested. 'I thought it was just a celebration for humanity, that's all'...” Keng Vannsak's studies Circle, as summarised by the historian, “stayed away from political labels”, since its members considered themselves more as part of a “progressist” trend.

Very quickly, however, the most radical of his friends began distancing themselves from him. He covered for the president of the Cambodian Students Association when the group was invited to attend “youngsters' world peace celebrations” in Berlin but was eventually asked not to go with the group just before they were due to leave. “Half a century later, Vannsak still fulminated” at the simple idea of it, Philip Short says. Keng Vannsak explained to him that the other ones wanted to get rid of him. He quotes him: “They knew that I was not the tough kind like them. I thought too much... I was not a stubborn person and did not act with fanaticism nor like an extremist. ..] Ieng Sary [a former high school classmate who later became Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Khmer Rouge government] himself told me later: 'You are too sensitive. You will never be a politician. In order to make politics, you have to be tough... You will not get there, brother. You are too sentimental'”.

A Khmer culture lover
In 1958, Keng Vannsak went to teach at the national Pedagogical Institute, and was in the meantime a member of the Secondary Education Khmer Language and Literature Programme. He then took up the position of Professor of Khmer Literature, Culture and Civilisation at the Buddhist University of Phnom Penh, where he worked until 1968 before being in charge of the Khmer inscriptions department at the University of Fine Arts from 1969 to 1970, applying himself to dedicating his work to the promotion and defence of the Khmer language and culture. In the 1960s, he campaigned for the simplification of the Khmer language, thus spurring a decisive will for reforms. The necessity for such change appeared to him in 1952 as he was developing the first typewriter keyboard with Khmer signs.

In April 1970, Keng Vannsak went back to France to prepare a PhD Thesis entitled “Recherche d'un fond culturel khmer” (Research on a Khmer cultural inventory), which he presented the following year in Paris. Like many other researchers, Khing Hoc Dy sees Keng Vannsak as a “great scholar, one of the rare intellectuals in Cambodia – if not the only one - who had a long-term, universal vision and concept of our Khmer culture and civilisation”.

A staunch anti-monarchist
In 1952, as he was in Paris, Keng Vannsak had strongly criticised Norodom Sihanouk who had just granted himself extraordinary powers and had launched a “Royal Crusade” as a response to troubles caused by Son Ngoc Than and his followers. The exiled teacher wrote a series of poems and published them in 1954 under the title “Coeur Vierge” (Virgin Heart), in which he “used Buddhist metaphors to launch encrypted attacks against the monarchy”, Philip Short observes, adding that the intellectual became, from then on, one of Norodom Sihanouk's “bêtes noires”. Under his regime, Keng Vannsak was sent twice to prison.

At the end of 1954, Kang Vannsak became a member of the Democratic Party, aiming at launching an internal reform of the Party. Being the leader of the Democratic Party and representing it in the 1955 legislative elections, “He was openly against the throne and especially and directly opposed Samdech Norodom Sihanouk, founder of the Sangkum Reastr Niyum Party”, Khing Hoc Dy details. After the the Democratic party failure in the elections, he was sent to prison by the Sangkum government from September 13th to October 10th 1955. After his release, he published poems he had written while in jail, which had a very strong influence on Khmer writers at the time.”

"Keng Vannsak never supported Communist ideas; however, he always opposed monarchical power. All the political currents which later opposed the Throne found their inspiration in Vannsak's ideas; and afterwards, each one of them reformulated them with their 'idealogical touch'. This goes for the Khmer Rouge but also the Republican anti-monarchical trend”, Nasir Abdoul-Carime writes in an article published in the AEFEK Bulletin (Association for Khmer Studies Exchanges and Training).

In 1968, after the Samlaut uprising, followed by severe reprisals, he was placed under house arrest with an interdiction to teach after being accused inciting sedition among his students. When his house was searched, Khing Hoc Dy reports, policemen found in his personal library books about Marx, Mao Tse Toung, Lenin and magazines about China... The discovery led to his arrest.

The Jayavarman VII controversy
In an interview given in early February 2007 with Radio Free Asia, Professor Keng Vannsak revisited the generally laudatory portrait of Jayavarman VII, and somehow darkened it. He is said to have declared that the great King at the origin of the building of many temples including the highly-revered Bayon temple, had Cham blood running in his veins, and that he had lent part of the Khmer territory to the Siamese... These assertions gave rise to a vigorous outcry and anger on the part of many.

Following the outcry, Keng Vannsak explained that he only aimed at re-establishing a certain historical truth, and certainly not destroying national unity by attacking one of its main symbols.

The intellectual retained a certain aura even in exile
Keng Vannsak was only rehabilitated after Lon Nol's military coup in March 1970 and took up the leadership of a Khmer-Mon Institute, founded by Lon Nol, “in order to make Khmer citizens proud of being Khmer and reunite all Khmer around this cultural inheritance serving as a weapon capable of opposing Vietnamese communist imperialism”, Khing Hoc Dy points out.

Appointed in 1971 as deputy representative of Cambodia's permanent delegation to UNESCO and chargé d'affaires of Lon Nol's Khmer Republic in France, Keng Vannsak never left Rfrance from then on. When the Khmer Rouge came to power, he instantly sensed, with amazing precision, the extent of the disaster befalling his country. In a long poem written in French, he was one of the first to denounce slaughters and purges, without however managing to break the silence on the situation of Cambodia. He tried to publish the poem in Paris, without success.

He lived on the outskirts of Paris until his death, and although he never returned to his homeland, he never forgot it.

In a last eulogy, Keng Vannsak's friend, Khing Hoc Dy described him as a person filled with kindness and always ready to answer all the questions of his Cambodian and foreign former students, colleagues and researchers about Cambodian history and civilisation [...], the memory of a welcoming man who spoke with energy and with a voice as pleasant as the sound of water running on rocks. A true linguist, he could speak for a whole day without ever stopping”.

PM: Ex-chief of Cambodian military forces to become deputy PM

PHNOM PENH, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Prime Minister Hun Sen has confirmed that former commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Ke Kim Yan will soon become deputy prime minister in charge of anti-drug trafficking, said English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post on Friday.

"In the near future, General Ke Kim Yan will be appointed deputy prime minister, and he will be chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs," the premier told the closing session of the annual conference of the Interior Ministry here on Thursday.

Once on Tuesday, Tea Banh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense, told local media that "the government will send the request (of the appointment) to the National Assembly. When the National Assembly approves it, you will know."

If approved, Ke Kim Yan will become the government's 10th deputy prime minister.

The general has been without a position since being removed as RCAF chief by a Royal Decree on Jan. 22.

Editor: Xiong Tong

TMD Bangkok reaches branding milestone with launch of Smart Mobile in Cambodia

TMD Bangkok, Thailand’s integrated marketing and brand development firm, hit a recent milestone with its launch of Cambodia’s newest telecoms industry contender Smart Mobile.

In Phnom Penh last week, the launch of Smart Mobile was presided over by H.E. So Khun, the Honorable Minister of Posts and Telecommunications for the Royal Government of Cambodia, along with local and international media.

TMD’s unique narrative branding approach helped the company win the much sought after brand development contract over a host of other local and international marketing agencies. TMD then created and designed all aspects of Smart Mobile’s distinct new imprint under the banner, “Welcome to the smart life”.

In creating the brand with telecommunications firm Latelz Co., Ltd., TMD creative staff produced the name, the logo, the distinct green colour palette, all marketing communications in both English and Khmer, plus all print and outdoor advertising – including 31 billboards. The initial launch campaign also includes three innovative television commercials and radio spots airing on all channels in Cambodia.

As the driving force behind the development and marketing of the new Smart Mobile brand, TMD also conceptualized and designed a unique flagship Smart Store on Preah Monivong Boulevard in the heart of Phnom Penh. “As part of the Smart life experience, we wanted to showcase the brand’s fusion of intelligence, community, technology, and ecology,” said Kirk Bentham, TMD’s founder and Managing Director. “We believe the future-thinking Smart Store embodies the Smart life with its bright and brilliant interior design and the use of cutting-edge technology to deliver mobile users in Cambodia a unique and ground breaking customer experience.”

At the visionary Smart Store, customers can shop for the latest Smart Mobile products and learn about Cambodia’s newest mobile service provider. Inside, they can find free Internet and gaming kiosks as well as a large video screen set up for multi-media presentations – including seminars on ‘Smart living’. There is also a stage designed to feature local performing artists and DJs, and a T&C coffee shop where customers can relax and take it all in. An entire wall of the store is a tribute to local Cambodian art and design, and there is a Green Booth set up for local organizations and NGOs to demonstrate how they are helping the environment and the community—and what Smart Mobile customers can do to help.

Adding to their hi-tech approach, TMD partnered with CineSky Films to produce three trendsetting digital television commercials for Smart Mobile. CineSky’s ultra-modern production and post-production visual effects studio in Bangkok was used to shoot the ads entirely on the revolutionary RED camera, a high-performance digital cinema camera with the quality of 35mm film and the convenience of pure digital imaging.

“TMD wanted to deliver the best visual experience possible, and with our world-class professionals and state-of-the-art equipment we were able to make it happen,” said

CineSky founder Mr. Chum Lelayuwa. “The Red camera is rarely used in Thailand, but you’ll see more and more of this amazing technology in the future.” The actors for the commercials were cast in Phnom Penh but brought to Thailand for the shoot. “It was great to see Thais and Cambodians working together on a cool new hi-tech creative venture,” added Mr. Lelayuwa.

The project’s success has seen TMD expand further into the Asian communications market with the opening of a new office in Phnom Penh staffed with a strong Cambodiabased team. Following on the heels of its recent Tokyo office opening, TMD intends to offer a full range of marketing services to its growing number of regional accounts.

“Today's announcement extends the success of our expertise in launching and managing full-scale, international brand creation projects," says Mr. Bentham. “It places TMD as the way forward for businesses in the region that are looking to bring practical know-how and high technology together on branding and marketing strategies,” he concluded.

TMD Communications Co. Ltd.

Located in the hearts of Bangkok, Tokyo, and now Phnom Penh, The Marketing Department (TMD) was borne from the vision of creating a company that can handle all aspects of marketing: from brand strategy, design and creative to public relations, advertising and special events - using one team of specialists with a unified understanding of the client's brand and objectives.

For more information, please contact
Mr.Kirk J Bentham, Ms. Pemika Wongaiyara
TMD Communications Co. Ltd.
Tel. 0-2661- 6848

Tini Tinou Festival: no money at Phare Ponleu Selpak but the show goes on

Battambang (Cambodia). 13/01/2004: Phare Ponleu Selpak circus school.


By Stéphanie Gée

The circus school ran by the Cambodian organisation Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) really is into acrobatics: there, artists reach nirvana through light and agile aerobatics, air circus, intermingling humour, tricks, wit and poetry while walking on a very tight rope… when it comes to finances. March 27th will mark the kick-off in Phnom Penh of the 6th edition of the Tini Tinou Circus Festival, organised by PPS, which will then reach Battambang in North-West Cambodia, where the organisation has its stronghold as tradition has it, but this time, they will have to do with only half the amount of funds they usually have available. It does not matter: the cheerful and committed acrobats have decided that their show had to go on...

Rising success
Over the years, the International Cambodian Circus Festival, better known as Tini Tinou (“from here and elsewhere”) has won acclaim and distinction in the region thanks to an innovative schedule, a quick opening and legions of guests coming to watch air circus from all over the world. Last year, their show attracted between 1,500 and 2,000 viewers under the big top.

Launched in the Cambodian capital in November 2004 by the French Cultural Centre (CCF) in Phnom Penh, this event was conducted by the local NGO Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), where the main circus school in the Kingdom can be found. Settled in the third town of Cambodia, the organisation naturally decided to move the event there in 2006. When in 2007 the French Association of Artistic Action (AFAA) ceased to provide financial support, the CCF considered putting an end to the Tini Tinou event. But Phare did not see things like that and decided to take over the responsibility of the running of the festival and became its organiser, on its own: more than ever, the focus was put on international and intergenerational exchanges to stimulate creation.

Age-old tradition
One could say that the commitment to this scenic art is almost a question of genes for Khmer people. At Angkor, the Bayon temple gives early evidence of the existence of acrobats at the time of construction in the 13th century: they are represented in full swing on the bas-reliefs of the site. After the Khmer Rouge tragedy, it was not until 1986 that a National Circus School opened, at the Royal Fine Arts University, thanks to Vietnamese cooperation. It is 12 years later that Phare established its own school in Battambang, with the help of the National Circus School; the goal was then to familiarise street children or kids coming from underprivileged backgrounds with the subtlety of acrobatics and squirming, with hints of farcical clowning... Today, 150 students, all aged from 14 to 25 years old, attend the course. They are the fourth generation of artists and comedians looked after by Phare.

A circus to serve the community
The choice made by Phare Ponleu Selpak – which means “Light of the Arts” in Khmer – to organise a social circus makes sense when we get to know more about the genesis of the association, which emerged in 1986 in Khmer refugee camps at the Thai border. The idea was then to resort to arts and expression to help youngsters get over the trauma generated by the war. The first initiative launched by the six young co-founders of the programme was the creation of visual art workshops. Repatriated in 1994 to Battambang, they decided to continue the experience and expand the project by founding PPS, to heal the wounds of a generation torn apart by war and offer youngsters the opportunity to blossom and flourish.

That story calls to mind that of the Pa-Ra-Da Foundation in Romania, honour guest at this year’s Tini Tinou festival. Miloud Oukili, a French clown from the Fratellini Circus School in Saint-Denis, France, initiated in 1996 a programme to introduce street children of Bucharest, these little ghosts who haunt the sewers of the Romanian capital, to circus arts, and teach them the rudiments of his own profession.

What’s on in the 2009 edition
The 6th edition of Tini Tinou offers some tight-wire walking, a flying trapeze, aerial silk performing, a Hula Hoop here, martial arts there... the show will be a mixture of pantomiming, juggling and conjuring, performed by artists coming from Cambodia, Romania, Germany, Canada, France, Belgium, Japan, Vietnam, Laos and Australia. This array of red noses promises to be impressive enough to make one see stars...

The novelty this year at Tini Tinou is the organisation at PPS of two weeks of training courses and workshops, just before the festival, from March 15th to 26th, which will be the occasion for the festival’s multicoloured guests to share and learn together. The second new thing, adopted with much reluctance, is that for the first time, performances and shows will be subject to fares. Artists accept symbolical fees in exchange for their performances but all their personal and travel expenses are taken care of by Phare. To this day, the association has barely raised half of the funds needed.

“The circus must live on!” The appeal was voiced by Khuon Det, one of the co-founders of Phare, who is also the association’s artistic director. If the festival is to leave serious unpaid bills on the desk of the NGO, there is no doubt that the latter will have to ponder over the future of Tini Tinou, Khuon Det says. Let us simply hope that those who have still kept the child in them alive will rush to the aid of the Cambodian organisation.

Tini Tinou : more information
The festival will be held in Battambang from April 2nd to 5th, every day from 5pm till 11pm with, as a prelude in Phnom Penh, a show subject to fares at the French Cultural Centre (CCF) on Friday March 27th at 7pm and a parade on Saturday March 28th at 4.30pm followed by a public show at 6.30pm. More information is available on the Tini Tinou website.

Fares for a 4-day pass (all shows) in Battambang:
- 20 dollars for foreigners (8 dollars for under 16 years old and free for those... shorter than 1.20 metre)
- 3 dollars for Cambodians

Puppies trained for landmine clearance


A new litter of puppies, born in Cambodia, are being used as the first mine-clearing dogs in Southeast Asia. Cute as they are, these puppies are being prepared for a deadly serious purpose. They are being trained to sniff out the explosive commonly known as TNT (trinitrotoluene). Cambodia is littered with tons of unexploded munitions left over from decades of war. The Landmine Monitor report 2007 says that in Cambodia between 2006-2006 there were 61 fatalities, of which 12 were children, and further 389 casualties, of which 128 were children.

WWF to make Indochina rattan more competitive

A woman walks past a motor cycle and a motor scooter made of rattan
HANOI (AFP) — The WWF on Thursday launched in Vietnam a three-year project to make Indochina's rattan industry more competitive while also maintaining the fast-developing region's resource-rich forests.

The initiative, Establishing a Sustainable Production System for Rattan Products in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, "can create a win-win situation for communities, business and the environment," said WWF's Tran Minh Hien.

Hien, Vietnam Country Director, said the region's rattan stocks were being depleted "at an unsustainable rate and degrading the forests".

More than 90 percent of rattan processed in the three countries comes from natural forests.
Rattans are climbing palms that have tough stems which can be used for a variety of wicker or cane products, including furniture.

The 2.4-million-euro (three-million-dollar) project aims to have half of rattan processing in the region environmentally cleaner, more competitive and producing better economic returns by 2015, said WWF's Thibault Ledecq.

WWF would provide training and support along the supply chain as part of the initiative, which is partly funded by the European Commission, said Ledecq, the project manager.

The global rattan trade is worth four billion dollars, the WWF said, adding that Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are "playing an increasingly significant role" in that.

Khmer Rouge-related files removed from website

(File Photo) Picture shows former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary (L) in a court room in Phnom Penh on October 17, 2008.


Thu, 05 Mar 2009

Lawyers of a former Cambodian leader in a UN-backed war crimes trial have deleted confidential files posted online after receiving a warning.

The Thursday move comes two days after judges warned the defense team of former foreign minister Ieng Sary that failing to remove the 'confidential documents' from their website within 48 hours would have legal consequences including sanctions and breach of confidentiality.

The online files documented an appeal for a psychiatric evaluation of 83-year-old Sary and two filings that questioned the legitimacy of the investigation, hinting at possible conflicts.

Sary is one of five detained ex-leaders of the late 1970s Khmer Rouge regime charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The lawyers also posted a signed statement that they would not allow future "attempts, deliberate or inadvertent" to limit their right to speak out publicly.

Up to two million people were executed or perished of starvation under the communist regime.

Prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, was the first of the five to face trial since the much awaited Khmer Rouge proceedings began last month.


ASEAN receives credentials from Cambodia's Permanent Representative

JAKARTA, March 5 (Xinhua) -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan received the credentials from Cambodia's Permanent Representative to ASEAN, KanPharidh, on Thursday.

"Ambassador Kan's many years of experience in ASEAN affairs will, no doubt, contribute positively to the Committee of Permanent Representatives, now being formed. I look forward to working with him on building our ASEAN Community," a press release issued by the ASEAN Secretariat quoted Surin as saying.

Ambassador Kan is concurrently Cambodia's Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia.

So far, ASEAN has received credentials from the Permanent Representatives of four ASEAN member countries. They are Singapore, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Editor: Sun

Co-Judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal Release Search Warrant after Confidential Information Leaked - Wednesday, 4.3.2009

Posted on 5 March 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 602

“The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – ECCC – released an announcement yesterday, 3 March 2009, about a violation of the confidentiality of investigations, after there was information about confidential documents published by defense lawyers on their website.

“The announcement said that responding to clear and repeated violations against the instruction of the co-investigating judges, the co-investigating judges ordered defense lawyers to stop immediately their publication of documents related to investigations, except for documents that had been published already on the website of the ECCC, and take off those documents from the website of the defense lawyers, otherwise they will be punished for a new offense.

“In the meantime, the co-investigating judges sent copies of the documents of the warrant to the Professional Unit, which relates also to the Defense Protection Unit, to consider measures to be implemented.

“The announcement added that this decision was made based on Regulation 56.1 of the internal regulations of the ECCC, which states, ‘To protect all sides’ rights and interests, investigations must not be made public. All individuals taking part in investigations have to keep confidentiality.’ This regulation must by applied to all individuals joining investigations, especially to lawyers of all sides, and to all types of evidence. The internal Regulation (56.1) adds that only co-investigating judges have the authority to decide to publish information regarding investigations being conducted, or permit any media or any third parties to receive information about investigations.

“In the case that they do not abide by the different conditions defined by judges, Regulations 35 to 38 will be implemented. The co-investigating judges would like to explain the different reasons leading to this decision.

“Before there are public hearings, all procedures of the court always start with short or long investigations, depending on the extent of work. The confidential characteristic of this stage is crucial for the quality of the court process, especially to guarantee the protection of privacy of individuals, whose names are included in case documents, and to guarantee the presumption of innocence, and also the investigative efficiency.

“Co-investigating judges know that the stages of confidential investigations will not allow observers outside of the court to know much of the the process of that procedure. Thus, co-investigating judges try to limit the duration of investigations to make them as short as possible. The co-investigating judges recalled that in Duch’s case, the duration of the investigation was less than one year (the concluding warrant, sending the case for a hearing, with detailed clarifications about the different accusations, was published on 8 August 2008), which cannot be considered to be too long, looking at the complexities of the case. Likewise, the co-investigating judges try as much as possible to work speedily, so that the present investigation of a second case will proceed without delay.

“In order to promote public awareness as much as possible, the co-investigation judges reminded the public that every month, they produce bulletins, briefly describing the activities of different units of the ECCC . In addition, to guarantee the efficiency of all policies above, the co-investigating judges will make more publications than before about their different activities and publish more documents related to the investigations.

“The co-investigating judges would like to remind the public that though all decisions of the court might be opposed by appeals complaints, the respect for decisions has to be upheld.”

Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, #30, 4.3.2009
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Wednesday, 4 March 2009