Saturday, 7 March 2009

Cambodia - Khmer Rouge Terror


A report on Pol Pot's reign of terror in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. It was a hearing impaired programme thus the sub-titles.

Unforgettable Cambodia - TNT & UN World Food Programme - Moving the World Programme


Cambodia left a deep impression on me during my stay there for 3 months working with UN World Food Programme. My love for the people and country can be seen in this video.

RandomKid Opens School in Cambodia

Part 1

Part 2

RandomKid marks the opening of a school in Cambodia that the kids named FOR EACH OTHER. Attending the event are 5 children from the USA representing 70 children from 19 countries around the world who participated in this project. In order of appearance: Talia Leman (IA), Robbye Raisher (NM) and Maddie Lawry (TN). In Part 2, you will see Allison Sant (OH) and Stevie Peacock (FL). The video has multiple cuts, because we edited out the Cambodian translator. This project was made possible by American Assistance to Cambodia, through Bernard Krisher.

Being serious about torture. Or not.


Written by William Blum

March 05, 2009"Information Clearing House" -- -In Cambodia they're once again endeavoring to hold trials to bring some former senior Khmer Rouge officials to justice for their 1975-79 war crimes and crimes against humanity. The current defendant in a United Nations-organized trial, Kaing Guek Eav, who was the head of a Khmer Rouge torture center, has confessed to atrocities, but insists he was acting under orders.1 As we all know, this is the defense that the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected for the Nazi defendants. Everyone knows that, right? No one places any weight on such a defense any longer, right? We make jokes about Nazis declaring: "I was only following orders!" ("Ich habe nur den Befehlen gehorcht!") Except that both the Bush and Obama administrations have spoken in favor of it. Here's the new head of the CIA, Leon Panetta: "What I have expressed as a concern, as has the president, is that those who operated under the rules that were provided by the Attorney General in the interpretation of the law [concerning torture] and followed those rules ought not to be penalized. And ... I would not support, obviously, an investigation or a prosecution of those individuals. I think they did their job."2 Operating under the rules ... doing their job ... are of course the same as following orders.

The UN Convention Against Torture (first adopted in 1984), which has been ratified by the United States, says quite clearly, "An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture." The Torture Convention enacts a prohibition against torture that is a cornerstone of international law and a principle on a par with the prohibition against slavery and genocide.

Of course, those giving the orders are no less guilty. On the very day of Obama's inauguration, the United Nation's special torture rapporteur invoked the Convention in calling on the United States to pursue former president George W. Bush and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld for torture and bad treatment of Guantanamo prisoners.3

On several occasions, President Obama has indicated his reluctance to pursue war crimes charges against Bush officials, by expressing a view such as: “I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” This is the same excuse Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has given for not punishing Khmer Rouge leaders. In December 1998 he asserted: "We should dig a hole and bury the past and look ahead to the 21st century with a clean slate."4 Hun Sen has been in power all the years since then, and no Khmer Rouge leader has been convicted for their role in the historic mass murder.

And by not investigating Bush officials, Obama is indeed saying that they're above the law. Like the Khmer Rouge officials have been. Michael Ratner, a professor at Columbia Law School and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said prosecuting Bush officials is necessary to set future anti-torture policy. "The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it. I don't see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable."5

One reason for the non-prosecution may be that serious trials of the many Bush officials who contributed to the torture policies might reveal the various forms of Democratic Party non-opposition and collaboration.

It should also be noted that the United States supported Pol Pot (who died in April 1998) and the Khmer Rouge for several years after they were ousted from power by the Vietnamese in 1979. This support began under Jimmy Carter and his National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and continued under Ronald Reagan.6 A lingering bitterness by American cold warriors toward Vietnam, the small nation which monumental US power had not been able to defeat, and its perceived closeness to the Soviet Union, appears to be the only explanation for this policy. Humiliation runs deep when you're a superpower.

Neither should it be forgotten in this complex cautionary tale that the Khmer Rouge in all likelihood would never have come to power, nor even made a serious attempt to do so, if not for the massive American "carpet bombing" of Cambodia in 1969-70 and the US-supported overthrow of Prince Sihanouk in 1970 and his replacement by a man closely tied to the United States.7 Thank you Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Well done, lads.

By the way, if you're not already turned off by many of Obama's appointments, listen to how James Jones opened his talk at the Munich Conference on Security Policy on February 8: "Thank you for that wonderful tribute to Henry Kissinger yesterday. Congratulations. As the most recent National Security Advisor of the United States, I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger."8

Lastly, Spain's High Court recently announced it would launch a war crimes investigation into an Israeli ex-defense minister and six other top security officials for their role in a 2002 attack that killed a Hamas commander and 14 civilians in Gaza.9 Spain has for some time been the world's leading practitioner of "universal jurisdiction" for human-rights violations, such as their indictment of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet a decade ago. The Israeli case involved the dropping of a bomb on the home of the Hamas leader; most of those killed were children. The United States does this very same thing every other day in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Given the refusal of American presidents to invoke even their "national jurisdiction" over American officials-cum-war criminals, we can only hope that someone reminds the Spanish authorities of a few names, names like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Feith, Perle, Yoo, and a few others with a piece missing, a piece that's shaped like a conscience. There isn't even a need to rely on international law alone, for there's an American law against war crimes, passed by a Republican-dominated Congress in 1996.10

The noted Israeli columnist, Uri Avnery, writing about the Israeli case, tried to capture the spirit of Israeli society that produces such war criminals and war crimes. He observed: "This system indoctrinates its pupils with a violent tribal cult, totally ethnocentric, which sees in the whole of world history nothing but an endless story of Jewish victimhood. This is a religion of a Chosen People, indifferent to others, a religion without compassion for anyone who is not Jewish, which glorifies the God-decreed genocide described in the Biblical book of Joshua."11

It would take very little substitution to apply this statement to the United States — like "American" for "Jewish" and "American exceptionalism" for "a Chosen People".

Climate change a threat to Metro

By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Filed Under: Climate Change, Environmental Issues, Local authorities

MANILA, Philippines – Metro Manila ranks as the seventh most vulnerable area to climate change in Southeast Asia, a recent study said.

The study, titled “Climate Change Vulnerability in Southeast Asia” conducted by the Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA) over a period of six months, listed Central Jakarta in Indonesia as the most vulnerable.

It is followed by North Jakarta, West Jakarta, Mondol Kiri in Cambodia, East Jakarta, and Rotanokiri area also in Cambodia.

The South Jakarta area came in eighth, the Kota Bandung area ninth and the Kota Surabaya area rounded up the top ten vulnerable areas.

Dr. Herminia Francisco, an environmental economist who authored the study, said these areas would be vulnerable to hazards like tropical cyclones, floods, landslides, drought, and sea level rise brought about by changes in the climate.

Francisco presented the findings of the study, funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) based in Canada, in a press conference Friday in Makati City.

She said the study was conducted to help affected communities as well as decision makers come up with ways to adapt to climate change.

Francisco said the areas were judged on their exposure to hazards, the large sensitivity of the communities there due to population density, and the low adaptive capacity of the community to climate change due to limitations on infrastructure, technology and poverty levels.

“We want to open the eyes of the public and decision makers on the effects of climate change so the allocation of funds could be specific to these areas. The resources could be directed to these areas to help the communities adapt to climate change,” Francisco said.

She explained that they used an index of overall climate change vulnerability for Southeast Asia and ranked the regions accordingly.

“Based on this mapping assessment, all regions of the Philippines, the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam, almost all regions of Cambodia, North and East Laos, the Bangkok region of Thailand and the West Sumatra, South Sumatra, Western Java, and Eastern Java areas of Indonesia are among the most vulnerable regions in Southeast Asia,” Francisco said.

The study also identified other areas in the country aside from Metro Manila as highly vulnerable to climate change.

These areas are Northern Samar, Benguet, Masbate, Batanes, Zamboanga del Norte, Ilocos Sur, Western Samar, Albay, and Lanao del Norte.

In the corner for the defense

Asia Times Online

Southeast Asia
Mar 7, 2009

By Stephen Kurczy

PHNOM PENH - Advocate Jacques Verges was a no-show last week at Phnom Penh's Khmer Rouge tribunal, where he represents the 77-year-old Khieu Samphan, the former head of state of the radical Maoist regime blamed for the deaths of some 1.7 million Cambodians during the late 1970s.

Verges was apparently stuck in Paris tending to a close friend and colleague who had fallen down a staircase. That's according to Khieu Samphan's Cambodian co-attorney, Sa Sovan, who was left to appear alone in the defense section and asked for the court to delay the pre-trial hearing.

Asia Times Online contributor Stephen Kurczy caught up with Sa Sovan at his Phnom Penh law office afterwards to ask what it is like to work alongside the famed French advocate; about allegations of corruption which have dogged the United Nations (UN)-backed tribunal, and why he decided to represent Khieu Samphan, even though 20 of his own family members died under the Khmer Rouge regime. Excerpts follow:
Asia Times Online: Jacques Verges just wrapped up a four-month production of his one-man play at the Madeleine Theater in Paris. Amid his hectic schedule, and now the news that his close friend is in the hospital, how often are you two able to discuss your defense strategy for Khieu Samphan?

Sa Sovan: All the time, almost every day. Otherwise we cannot defend our client.

Asia Times Online: Have you seen Verges' performance in Paris?

SS: Yes. He takes the cases of Creon, the [former] king of Greece, Joan of Arc and the 1962 case of Djamila Bouhired, and he compares the cases. It was very good. We all stood up and clapped for 20 minutes.

ATol: At the tribunal, it has at times appeared as if Verges and you were putting on a performance. Last year I recall you almost got into a fight with one of the civil party victims during a press conference.

SS: They hate me because I defend Khieu Samphan. They pulled on my hands and asked me why I defend Khieu Samphan. But I rejected their questions. I said, "Don't ask me, ask your lawyer." I later complained to the UN to not let these people in the court. I said, "If you do, I will bring 1,000 supporters of Khieu Samphan to the court."

ATol: Do you believe Khieu Samphan is innocent?

SS: My friend lost his wife and four children to the Khmer Rouge. Even he says that Khieu Samphan is not a killer. I could bring 1,000 supporters [of Khieu Samphan to the court]. … If he did wrong, we need to find the evidence. But if there is no evidence, we have to acquit him. My father also died in the regime. So we have to find out the mistakes that were done. If we cannot find the mistakes, we have to acquit Khieu Samphan.

ATol: Do you think the trial, with its many problems, will ever get to a point where he is either convicted or acquitted?

SS: Don't ask me that question. I can't answer it.

ATol: How did you become Khieu Samphan's lawyer?

SS: It was very accidental. My friend, Say Bory, got sick. He was the former attorney for Khieu Samphan … I was hesitant to be Khieu Samphan's attorney because both of my children were born in France and they felt like those people born in France, in foreign countries, were hated by the Khmer Rouge regime.

So they told me that I should not join. You have enough money from your teaching and your retirement, they said, you can do anything else. They see things differently because they are not attorneys. I decided to become Khieu Samphan's attorney even though my children and my wife, also my friends, opposed it.

ATol: Would you have agreed to defend any of the other former Khmer Rouge cadres now held in detention: former Toul Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch; former Brother Number 2 and chief ideologue Nuon Chea; former foreign minister Ieng Sary; or his wife, former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith?

SS: No, only Khieu Samphan. The other four came to me, but I said I was busy.

ATol: Was your decision influenced by growing up in Kandal province, where Khieu Samphan served as your parliamentary representative?

SS: As an attorney, we cannot make a decision based on those things. It does not mean that I love [Khieu Samphan] and hate the others. I have my own difficulties with the others. I think it is difficult to defend them … I know that Khieu Samphan is a man of integrity. He was the parliamentary representative in my area and we knew that Khieu Samphan was not a strong communist. I know he was honest and criticized all the governors for corruption.

ATol: Cambodian staffers at the tribunal claim they were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs. Do you believe corruption exists within the court?

SS: I don't know much about the allegations, because it regards those who receive money from the Cambodian side of the court. I receive my money from the United Nations. … Corruption is not only at the ECCC [Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia], it is throughout Cambodia.

If you want me to find corruption, I can find it. At the municipal courts, judges receive $450 to $500 a month, but they drive a Lexus SUV or Land Cruiser. The clerk in the court only receives $60 a month, but he drives a car to work.

ATol: Is it as easy to find corruption within the ECCC?

SS: I cannot say. Maybe I have heard information, but I have no evidence. Seventy percent of the staff are my former students. But I have no evidence, so I cannot say anything.

ATol: Some staff said they were instructed to pay 70% of their paychecks in kickbacks.

SS: It's too much. If your salary is $5,000 a month, then you're giving $3,500 already. If you give $500, maybe it's believable.

ATol: Regardless of the extent of the allegations, should the Cambodian government investigate?

SS: I cannot answer this. Ask the government. It is related to politics, to the dispute between [national co-prosecutor] Chea Leang and [international co-prosecutor] Robert Petit. One wants to investigate more suspects and the other does not want to investigate. I am worried that the court is under the influence of politics too much.

ATol: What is a bigger issue at the court, the allegations of corruption or the court's failure to translate all documents into French, as Verges has complained about for the past year?

SS: Translation is not an issue. There are not many charges against Khieu Samphan - if you put the translation as the most important issue, it means we are afraid.

ATol: But Verges has repeatedly accused the court of failing to translate all evidence into French, thereby denying him of the ability to defend his client.

SS: He has to say this - it is a strategy for the defense. He has to do that. But for me, if I change my position, I change my position because my client has asked me to. I put the interest of my client first.

ATol: Are you saying the translation issue is a mere stalling tactic?

SS: No. It's a waste of time that the court hasn't resolved it already. I want to do things faster so we can know whether the court will acquit him or not. The reason we have hearings is to release Khieu Samphan.

ATol: Like Khieu Samphan and many of the founding members of the Khmer Rouge, you were educated in Paris. How did this come about?

SS: In 1969 I had a feeling that our country might have a war soon, so I was looking for scholarships to study in France. I liked private law, because my father was a businessman and lawyer. At that time, Cambodian students were not interested in scholarships for private law. Most students only wanted an education in public law so they could become a director or governor somewhere in the country. If I tried to get a scholarship in public law, I wouldn't have been able to because it was so competitive.

ATol: You are one of the few living Cambodians who was educated pre-1975. How did you escape the regime's purge of intellectuals? Did you know you should not return to Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge sacked Lon Nol's government on April 17, 1975?

SS: I wanted to come back. I wanted to return because I am a Khmer national, but I didn't want to be a commune chief for the Khmer Rouge. I just wanted to come back as a commoner and teach at the university of law. But the Khmer Rouge didn't see me that way.

They said I was just an opportunist who wanted to join them when they won power … The Khmer Rouge in Paris asked me to write an essay naming the seven national traitors: [former Cambodian prime minister] Lon Nol, etc. But I could only write down six names. I forgot the name Soeung Gnoc Than. He was the Cambodian prime minister when the Japanese armies came to Cambodia. But because I forgot his name, the Khmer Rouge would not let me come back.

Stephen Kurczy is an Asia Times Online contributor based in Cambodia. He may be reached at

From the Foreign Press: Cambodia's oil resources Blessing or curse?

The New Nation

Phnom Penh

Waiting for the oil (and money) to flow

MANY countries have been afflicted by a "resource curse". Discoveries of oil or other mineral deposits are hailed as offering a way out of poverty. But hopes are dashed as corrupt officials pocket the money or squander it on grandiose projects. Cambodia, giddy at the prospect of an oil boom, hopes not to go the same way.

A recent report, called "Country for Sale", by a London-based NGO, Global Witness, points out that amendments to a 1991 law had the effect of placing the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA), the body administering oil contracts, under the direct control of Hun Sen, the prime minister, and Sok An, his deputy. It alleges that millions of dollars paid to the government to secure oil concessions do not show up in the official annual revenue reports. Meanwhile, unrestrained mining exploration has seen thousands forcibly evicted from their land in the north, and has damaged six of the country's 23 protected wildlife areas.

The discovery of oil and other minerals was a godsend to Cambodia. Despite foreign-aid donors' constant pleas for restraint, logging companies have largely exhausted the country's once abundant forests. Chevron, a California-based oil giant, at first estimated its 2005 oil discovery in the Gulf of Thailand at 400m barrels, enough to earn about $1.7 billion a year, against the government's budget last year of $1.2 billion. Chevron was awarded the largest exploration contract in the block thought to be most productive. But it has found that the oil is scattered in pockets and hard to extract. Despite the recent fall in the oil price, the government still hopes production will start in 2012.

It will be very welcome: aid still makes up half of the government's budget, despite a decade of stalling on anti-corruption legislation that donors want to see. The World Bank consistently ranks Cambodia in the bottom 10% of all countries for controlling corruption. Michael McWalter of the Asian Development Bank, who advises the Cambodian government on oil, argues that the CNPA is underfinanced and ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of the oil business.

In March last year the United Nations Development Programme and the Norwegian government jointly organised a conference to discuss what the government should do. The advice included the creation of an independent, transparent oil fund. This, however, was largely based on the experience of Norway, which has an effective system of checks and balances.

Cambodia does not, and Mr Hun Sen and Mr Sok An have still not come up with a coherent plan for managing the oil revenues. According to Global Witness, the government decided at a meeting with donors in October not to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international coalition that would require full disclosure of oil, gas and mining revenues. Rather, it agreed to endorse only the principles underpinning the EITI, making its rules non-binding.

Government officials have responded to the allegations by lashing out at NGOs. At a conference in February, Mr Hun Sen called NGOs' criticism of his oil policies "crazy". And he has already alluded to the prospect that oil revenues may diminish the influence of aid donors-though he denies they have much anyway, since Cambodia can always turn to China, a generous donor, which, he says, despite its might, treats its partners with respect.

Inside Story - Financial crisis to hit the poorest - Mar 5

Part 1

Part 2


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is warning that the global economic downturn could create a widespread humanitarian crisis in the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries.

Eubanks returning to Vietnam, Cambodia to help children

Mt. Sterling Advocate

By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer

A Mt. Sterling couple is moving to Vietnam later this month on a mission trip to help orphans overseas.

Enoch and Marissa Eubank are making the trip as part of Orphans Voice Ministries, an international adoption program that attempts to match parents in the U.S. with children from countries where adoption is difficult. They leave for Vietnam March 15, but will also spend time in neighboring Cambodia.

The Eubanks say God put in their heart to help children there.

“We felt, and God has confirmed for us, a call that we were meant to go there and help with those children,” Marissa said.

This is not the Eubanks first mission trip.

Last year they spent three months in Vietnam and Cambodia working at local orphanages and promoting Christianity in underground churches. Christians are sometimes jailed or suffer discrimination in communist nations.

The Eubanks served on previous foreign missions in Guatemala and Africa. Here in the U.S. they participated in the relief effort in Louisiana after Hurricane Rita.

That first mission to Louisiana inspired them to seek out more ways to help others and the trips abroad only worked to reinforce that, the Eubanks said .

“I felt I was doing God’s work and I liked that,” Enoch said. “That just kind of started everything. ... The hunger for that just grew. I saw people had a need all over the world.”

Marissa said her desire to be a missionary dates back to elementary school. That’s when a group of missionaries spoke to her class at Mapleton Elementary about their experiences in Africa.

Marissa said she liked the idea of making a difference in the world.

As an adult, Marissa became familiar with Tony Brewer, founder of Orphan’s Voice, while attending church at Mt. Sterling’s Fellowship Christian Assembly. Brewer soon hired her to help parents in the U.S. with the adoption process.

Marissa told Enoch about the calling she felt from God to take things a step further and become an overseas missionary.

Enoch didn’t object and accompanied her on their first mission trip together to Guatemala in 2004. Enoch, who has considered becoming a pastor, said he found the experience rewarding and it planted a seed for further spiritual growth.

“When God brought us together he grew that hunger for (mission work) between us. ...,” Enoch said. “We prayed about it and confirmed it in a number of ways.”

One confirmation of God’s intentions, Enoch said, came during a trip to Lexington before one overseas mission when Marissa was a bit discouraged. About that time a car passed with “Go Now Go” on the license plate, the same message Marissa had felt God telling her.

In Guatemala they worked at an orphanage and handed out food to those in need. They married the next year and participated in another mission, this time to Africa, in 2006.

Last year, in Vietnam and Cambodia, they helped coordinate adoptions with parents in the U.S. Enoch, trained to be a physical education teacher at Morehead State University, also played with children and taught them how to care for themselves.

The Eubanks said many of the children had nothing and lived in squalor until they were taken in at the orphanage.

The orphans often come from broken homes, where the father, the family breadwinner, is dead or unable to work. Some scavenged in local dumps for food and clothing, the Eubanks said.

If they were hurt, the Eubanks said, the children had access to no sort of medical care.

The missionaries bring food, medicine and other supplies to the orphanages. This is critical, the Eubanks stress, because both nations have no system of social services like we have here in the U.S.

On their upcoming trip, Marissa says they will spend six months in language training so they can better communicate with people there before continuing with their efforts to spur foreign adoption and spread Christianity.

Enoch said living in Vietnam and Cambodia on a long-term basis will give them the time they need to make a lasting effect.

“We will be able to get settled in somewhere and not just get a foundation started on a building, pass out some clothes and it’s time to go home,” he said. “We started praying that God would show us a specific place (to serve God).”

They say they will receive financial support during their mission from the church they now attend, Jeffersonville Baptist. Donations can be sent to the church at 145 Ky. Hwy. 599, Jeffersonville, Ky. 40337. In the memo portion of the check you should note “Eubanks support.”

WISCO eyeing overseas iron ore assets

By Tan Yingzi and Jiang Wei (

Wuhan Iron & Steel Group (WISCO) is planning to acquire iron ore assets in Australia and Cambodia, according to its president Deng Qilin.

He made his remarks at the sidelines of the ongoing session of the National People's Congress but declined to elaborate further.

Deng, who is also chairman of the China Iron & Steel Association, said iron ore prices in the long-term agreement must be cut this year from a year ago as demand from steel makers in Europe, United States and Japan have fallen.

The company also urged the central government to increase tax rebates on exports of high-end steel products.

Deng expected the country to speed up restructuring in the steel industry through mergers and shutting down backward capacities.

Cambodian Economy To Contract 0.5% - IMF

PHNOM PENH (AFP)--Cambodia's economy will shrink by 0.5% this year, the International Monetary Fund said Friday, lowering its earlier prediction as the country is hit by the global financial crisis.

In a press statement the IMF said the poverty-stricken country wouldn't make the target set late last year of 4.8% growth in 2009.

"The global economic contraction and financial crisis are increasingly affecting Cambodia's economy," the statement said.

Cambodia has seen sharp declines in garment exports to the U.S. and Europe as well as fewer tourist visits, the financial institution said.

It added that there has been a rapid slowdown in construction and foreign investment as the country's economy is doused after enjoying several years of double-digit growth.

The statement recommended that the Cambodian government help stimulate growth by allowing its budget deficit to rise to around 4.75% of gross domestic product - a significant increase from its 2% deficit last year.

Despite recent growth, underemployment, where someone's work earns only a meager return, remains high in Cambodia, one of the world's poorest countries.

Some 35% of the country's 14 million people live on less than $0.50 a day.

Boom to bust in Cambodia

Asia Times Online

Southeast Asia
Mar 7, 2009

By Tim Sturrock

PHNOM PENH - Potential buyers at the entrance to the Grand Phnom Penh International City pass through a 29-meter-high, 42-meter-wide arched gateway topped with 18 life-size bronze stallions, only to arrive at a moonscape of bulldozed earth and ditches.

When the project was unveiled in 2006, it proposed 4,000 residential villas and apartments at a projected cost of US$500 million. The joint Cambodian and Indonesian developers' promotional material promised the convenience of a shopping center and an international school surrounded by the beauty of ponds and manicured lawns, as well as a golf course and driving range.

Of the 4,000 units in the original plans, only 21 villas will be ready by April, followed by around 100 more units by the end of the year, Grand Phnom Penh marketing director Nhem Sothea said. Only 138 units, including 44 shops, have so far been purchased.

The first phase was to include 500 units, and that goal is unlikely to be met, Nhem Sothea said. Most sales so far, with buyers paying $99,000 for 42-square-meter terraced houses or $138,000 for 92-square-meter townhouses, occurred before the global economic crisis hit late last year. No one has yet purchased any of the properties billed at over $750,000.

"The market is really bad," Nhem Sothea said at his on-site sales office. "The market is not really up to expectation. The future of the project depends on demand."

Grand Phnom Penh is just one of a half-dozen so-called "satellite cities" that property developers once promised would serve as suburban getaways for Phnom Penh's growing affluent and expatriate populations. But those plans, worth a combined $3.5 billion, were conjured when Cambodia's property market was booming; developers now say they may scale back or delay indefinitely their ambitions.

Banks have already restricted loans for real estate as economic growth has slowed and as property prices have dropped - in the city center by about 25% since last July, and in the outskirts by 30%. Cambodia's gross domestic product growth is projected to fall below 5% this year, a sharp decline from the heady double-digit expansion the economy averaged from 2004 to 2007.

The global crisis is taking a toll on Cambodia's main economic growth engines: garments, tourism and property. There were some indications of a property bubble even before the global economic and financial collapse. As local property prices soared, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) in mid-2008 restricted access to loans by doubling banks' foreign currency reserve requirement to 16% from 8%. The NBC also capped the amount of real estate loans banks could make at 15% of their portfolios.

The central bank in February repealed those restrictions in response to a rapid decline in the property market. An International Monetary Fund report last month said Cambodian banks and the NBC needed to improve management of risks and banking supervision to avoid failing loans, which it said appeared to be rising.

Bulls to bears
While developers insist that their projects remain viable and have secure financing, the assertions come against plunging demand and a short supply of lending to potential buyers. Sung Bonna, president of Bonna Realty, said that speculators a year ago were buying up real estate with hopes to sell it later to developers for a profit. "Now even in general property in the city center there is not so much demand."

He predicted that at the most, only 30% of satellite city units could be purchased by Cambodians and urged the government to make Cambodian real estate more appealing to overseas buyers. Foreigners are at present barred from buying condominium units in Cambodia.

Indications of a slowdown are ubiquitous. Along the city's Tonle Bassac riverside, billboards for the satellite city Diamond Island City, planned for nearby Koh Pich island, show a so-far nonexistent metropolis that looks as if it were rendered by utopian cubists or futurists.

When the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC) unveiled Diamond Island City in 2006, during the days of Cambodia's go-go property boom, the plan included a hospital, restaurants, a shopping center, park and series of homes, some with personal swimming pools, that ranged in price from $280,000 to $1 million.

Investment in the Koh Pich project could drop by one-third to $800 million from $1.2 billion, said Touch Samnang, the project's manager and architect. That would likely entail trimming the number of units from 15,000 to 12,000, depending on demand, which he said has been affected by the global financial crisis. OCIC is still building bridges to the island, yet no units are under construction. Touch Samnang admitted pre-sales have not gone as well as anticipated.

Of the 168 units planned in the project's $28 million phase one known as "Elite Town", buyers have purchased only 40% after more than a month of sales, he said. That's a huge drop over the past few years, when units at other OCIC projects sold out in weeks. Elite Town will be delayed at least six months or until mid-2010, and the entire project could be finished in mid-2017, about 18 months behind schedule, he said.

Asia is only too familiar with the damage that can be wrought by a property collapse, seen in Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Stephen Higgins, chief executive officer at ANZ Royal Bank, the country's largest, said he did not anticipate the same problems that Bangkok and other Asian cities faced in 1997 when hundreds of buildings were left half-completed when financing dried up.

"Where Cambodia is fortunate is that a lot of these project haven't been constructed," he said in an interview, nor did most property-owners in Cambodia have mortgages so the market has some residual strength.

The problem now is that so many projects attempted to take advantage of the property boom at once. Higgins says the financial crisis has acted as a correction in some ways, possibly stopping all the projects from happening at once and flooding the market. "It will take a bit longer but that is not necessarily a bad thing," he said.

In northern Phnom Penh, the cranes are still swinging at Camko City, a $2 billion, 120-hectare satellite project that originally boasted plans for 6,000 units. The new economic situation may force a rethink, according to Kheng Ser, a marketing counselor for South Korean project developer World City.

He claims sales at Camko have been better than at rival developments, with 80% of the city's first phase 1,009 units of apartments, small villas and houses sold at prices of up to $330,000. According to Kheng Ser, the villas and houses will be completed this month and the tower blocks by the end of the year. However, designs are not complete on Camko's much larger phases two and three, he said.

Even the country's best-known tycoons are scaling back their property development plans. Sok Kong, president of Cambodian conglomerate Sokimex, said that he would delay plans on a 218-hectare satellite city to be called Beong Chhouk Township, though he said a land dispute was the main reason for the delay.

"We drew the master [plan] a while ago," he said by telephone. "I have to delay three or four years." He said he wants to focus his financial resources on his $1 billion Bokor Mountain development in Kampot and another hotel project on Phnom Penh's Chroy Changva peninsula.

Hard-hit Koreans
Meanwhile, South Korean-financed projects have faced some of the heaviest cutbacks. The global economic crisis, which has hit South Korea particularly hard, has leveled original plans for a proposed $300 million, 953-unit Pharos Mekong satellite city on five hectares of the Chroy Changva peninsula, according to an e-mail from Kheang Piv, a marketing manager for the Korean-owned project developer BK Asia Pacific.

He wrote that after the global financial crisis began, Korean finance dried up and the company could not get the money it needed to move forward. The company planned to start construction in December, but pulled back in November, Kheang Piv said. "It is not the right time for us to sell such kind of luxurious, high-end apartments. Eventually, we decided to keep our project on hold till the desirable time," he wrote.

The International Finance Complex is perhaps the largest South Korean-backed real estate project in Cambodia to feel the financial pinch. Korean firm GS Construction & Engineering broke ground in June on the IFC's seven skyscraper mixed-use complex near the Tonle Bassac. But the entire development has now been postponed until at least 2010, and then only three of the original planned seven buildings will be built. The project, originally projected to cost $1 billion, has been winnowed down to around $500 million.

In September, Korean firm Booyoung Company shelved plans for a development on a more-than-100-hectare expanse of land near Russian Boulevard because of uncertainty in the market, according to Jong-seon Choi, general manager for Booyoung in Phnom Penh. "We stopped because of the financial crisis," he said. "It's very uncertain."

The economic situation has also stifled less ambitious projects. At the proposed 500-unit, five-hectare Dream Town near Phnom Penh International Airport, only 30 units have been sold and its 2012 completion date will likely not be met, said Kong Vannsophy, manager of the project's developer, Cambodia Priority Property Investment.

"If we rush and no people buy, we lose money," he said. "A lot of other projects are facing these conditions."

ANZ Royal Bank's Higgins said the risks have grown regarding demand for Phnom Penh's satellite cities because many are in remote areas. "You would have to expect that the downturn in the property market will have some impact in those projects," he said. "By definition you are setting up in a new area, whereas if you set up in Phnom Penh you know there is going to be demand for it."

He said ANZ will not likely loan money to borrowers seeking to purchase property in satellite city projects. "It's difficult to say. We should not have a big appetite for it. We want to see something built."

Tim Sturrock is a Phnom Penh-based journalist. He may be reached at

Low garment sales, poor tourism to hit Cambodia-IMF

Reuters - Saturday, March 7

PHNOM PENH, March 6 - A slowdown in garment exports and a drop in the number of tourists could cause Cambodia's economy to shrink 0.5 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund said on Friday.

That is a big turnaround from the 4.8 percent growth the IMF had forecast in November.

"Garment exports are under pressure due to sharply lower retail demand in the United States and European Union," it said in a statement after an IMF team ended a mission to the Southeast Asian country. Garments are Cambodia's biggest export earner.

Construction activity and foreign investment were also slow as external investors cut back, the IMF said said.

The World Bank projected foreign direct investment of around $800 million in 2008 and has said it could fall "probably to below $600 million" in 2009.

Monitors Worry Over Tribunal Gag Order

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
06 March 2009

A group of seven Khmer Rouge tribunal monitors expressed concern Friday over court gag order for a Web site managed by one of the defense teams earlier this week.

In a joint statement Friday, the monitoring groups said an order by investigating judges that Ieng Sary’s defense remove documents from its Web site, on the basis of confidentiality, applied “a harsh rule that unnecessarily limits public information.”

“Transparency is an essential condition of all public institutions, including courts, as a foundation for public confidence and a bulwark against corruption and improper political influence,” the groups said.

Investigating judges ordered the defense team to take three documents off its Web site Tuesday, including the refusal of the tribunal to grant a psychiatrist to Ieng Sary, who is 84 and in the poorest health of five jailed leaders of the regime.

The defense team, which took down the documents, has said the pages were not confidential and that the legal reasoning of the judges was flawed. The team has appealed the order.

Meanwhile, the seven non-governmental organizations said the order and its justification of confidentiality were a reflection of a failure by tribunal judges to meet the demands of the public.

“The Office of Co-Investigating Judges has failed to meet public demands and expectations for a reasonable level of disclosure of information regarding the pre-trial phase, and to fulfill their promises to make more information public,” the groups said.

The monitoring groups are the Cambodian Defenders Project, Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, Center for Social Development, Khmer Institute of Democracy, International Center for Transitional Justice, Asian International Justice Initiative and Cambodia Justice Initiative.

Sok Samoeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project and chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, told VOA Khmer Friday the order from the investigating judges came abruptly and without warning.

The monitors “did not see the impact on the confidentiality of the case of the accused,” he said. “We wish that in the future co-investigating judges be patient and find clear measures to avoid controversy.”

Marcel Lemonde, one of two investigating judges who issued the gag order, told VOA Khmer the question of confidentiality was “complicated” and needed much explanation. The decision was made on judicial principals, he said.

“I believe that there are necessities for further explanation from the tribunal side in general and from the co-investigating judges in particular,” he said. “And then we have a wish to organize the discussion with the media and with NGOs on that question of transparency.”

Tribunal Rules Revamped for Expediency

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
06 March 2009

More than two dozen internal rules for the Khmer Rouge tribunal were refined this week, further speeding tasks of the hybrid courts, officials announced Friday at the close of a biannual meeting.

In their fifth plenary session, judges and prosecutors decided on amendments to 27 of the internal rules of the court that “reflect efforts at harmonization,” in an effort “to streamline and expedite court proceedings,” the judicial officers said in a statement.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the amendments were important for improving tribunal proceedings.

“National and international judges and prosecutors passed the amendments in some of the internal rules to work on advancing the success of their work in the court in the upcoming period,” he said.

The jurists met amid lingering concerns the tribunal could see its funding disappear if donors do not contribute more. But that has been made difficult, with allegations of corruption and mismanagement still dogging the court, even as its first trial, for prison chief Kaing Kek Iev, approaches.

Lath Ky, a coordinator at the tribunal for the rights group Adhoc, told VOA Khmer the results of the meeting were not completely acceptable.

“There are some negatives,” he said. “According to the results of the amendments, the Khmer Rouge tribunal does not encourage the participation of civil parties in tribunal process. I am very concerned about the participation of the civil parties, which is likely restricted or reduced.”

The new rules will hasten the accreditation of investigators and the calling of witnesses, among other streamlining procedures, including improving appeals to the Supreme Court Chamber of the special court.

The officers were also briefed on the “trial management challenges” of having so many victims filing for court proceedings, the statement said.

Hun Sen says gambling campaign over

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen says football betting was the cause of many social problems. [Radio Australia]

Australia Network News

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has declared victory in his fight against football betting shops in Phnom Penh.

Last month, the prime minister blamed football betting, along with slot machine games, for causing social disorder, domestic violence, divorce and robbery.

Kyodo news agency reports the prime minister has now announced his campaign to close the shops is over.

CamboSix, the largest football-betting agency in Cambodia, was given a 10-year licence as the only legal operator of football betting in Cambodia in 2001.

But that licence is now said to have been cancelled.

Hun Sen also says he'll set up a panel of legal experts to study other forms of game-related betting.

Cambodia's representative presents credentials to ASEAN

MCOT English News

JAKARTA, March 6 (VNA) - Cambodia's Permanent Representative to ASEAN Kan Pharidh presented credentials to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan on Mar. 5.

"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 Secretary General Surin as saying.

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

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