Monday, 9 March 2009

IMF: Cambodian economy set to contract sharply


Special Report:Global Financial Crisis

PHNOM PENH, March 9 (Xinhua) -- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has made its most gloomy economic outlook for Cambodia, or 4.25 percent of growth in 2009, English-language daily newspaper the Phnom Penh Post said on Monday.

IMF blamed Cambodia's increasing exposure to the global financial crisis and warned the contraction could be even worse.

The revision marked an obvious downturn from the body's December forecast of 4.75 percent for 2009.

The review followed the visit on Wednesday of an IMF mission from the organization's head office in the United States.

"Real GDP (gross domestic products) is now projected to fall by about (half a) percent in 2009. Given the rapidly evolving global situation, a larger-than-usual degree of uncertainty exists around this projection and risks remain titled to the down side. The outlook for 2010 is also highly uncertain," the paper quoted a statement of the mission as saying.

Meanwhile, the mission concluded that the economic environment would remain "extremely challenging" into next year.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen once vowed to maintain a 6 percent GDP growth rate in 2009, while the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) predicted a 5 percent growth.

The World Bank was only confident of a 4.9 percent GDP growth rate for Cambodia in 2009, and the Asian Development Bank 4.7 percent, according to their press releases.

Official figures show that the GDP growth rates of the country respectively stood at 10.3 percent in 2004, 13.5 percent in 2005, 10.8 percent in 2006, 10.2 percent in 2007 and 7 percent in 2008.

Thaksin supporters rally in northeastern town in Thailand


Monday, Mar 09, 2009

Up to 1,500 supporters of ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra gathered in his northeastern stronghold yesterday as part of a protest campaign to topple the government, police and organizers said.

The group known as the “Red Shirts” have vowed to take their movement across the kingdom until they force out new Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who they accuse of being a puppet of the army.

Police said about 1,500 protesters, all dressed in red, had gathered on the main streets of Khon Kaen, a town in the northeast region where Thaksin drew the bulk of his support with policies targeting the rural poor.

“They are listening to speeches from their leaders. Everything is under control, there is no violence,” said Major General Pattanee Siriwatanee, chief of the provincial Khon Kaen police.

About 900 police officers were patrolling the streets, he said.

Thaksin, who lives in exile abroad to avoid jail, might address the rally by telephone later in the evening to air his views on the economic crisis, protest leader Nattawut Saikuar said.

“We are also preparing people to be ready to gather for later protests in Bangkok,” he said.

The kingdom remains polarized between supporters and detractors of Thaksin, and the deep rift has been playing out on the streets since early last year.

Thaksin was overthrow in a military coup in September 2006, but elections just over a year later brought his allies back to government, angering elements of the army, palace and bureaucracy.

Within months of taking power, the Thaksin-backed People Power Party (PPP) was beset by protests by the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which seized Bangkok’s two airports in late November and early December.

They only gave up their siege when a court dissolved the PPP, opening up a power vacuum which Abhisit’s Democrat Party filled in a parliamentary vote on Dec. 15.

Private property sector slowly opens up to foreigners living in Cambodia

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 10/01/2009. A Cambodian Buddhist monk standing for alms not far from a future branch of Canadia Bank, a skyscraper like many others in Phnom Penh
©Vandy Rattana


By Duong Sokha

Building sites suddenly brought to a standstill or extremely slowed down and stricken by the global financial tornado-crisis, desperate plummeting of land prices … The incredible property frenzy that hit the little Khmer Kingdom and rampant prices now belong to the past. In order to try and reflate the sector, the Cambodian government got out of its drawers an idea they already mentioned earlier: opening the private property market to foreign residents. A Draft law, currently under preparation, will indeed allow them to buy a flat or a condominium in their own name. Real estate agencies had been hoping for such a measure to come up.

Following the example of neighbours
Since the end of 2008, the Cambodian Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has been working on a Draft law which is the result of the government’s political will to make things easy for foreigners, and more particularly for investors who have settled in Cambodia, says Sek Setha, under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management and in charge of the project. “The government started working on the Draft law a long time ago and were inspired by the neighbouring countries and those in the region who have already authorised foreigners to become owners”, he says, adding that the measure will above all benefit non-nationals who bring their contribution to Cambodia, whether in terms of economic growth, the protection of the country’s environment and natural resources or social development.

The Draft law is a subject to the expectations of the main real estate agencies in the country. The director of the Bonna Realty Group , one of the leaders in the property sector, claims he has been urging the government for the swift adoption of the law at the National Assembly for two years. “In these times of economic crisis, more than ever, the government must accelerate the establishment of that legislation since the point is to attract foreign investors and diplomats, who will be the first to be potentially interested in that. It will be easier to persuade the first ones to invest, without, from now on, having to rent, especially if they are planning to live in Cambodia for a while. And this will help boost the market again!”, Sung Bonna says.

Such a scenario is equally part of the hopes of Thorng Vichheka, marketing representative for the South-Korean De Castle Royal development and construction company, currently working on a condominium project in the heart of the Cambodian capital. “Foreign investors have been waiting for the Draft law for a long time and it should have been adopted before the economic crisis broke out”, he reckons.

A flat: yes. Land: no.
The principle stipulated by the Land law, promulgated on August 30th 2001 and according to which only natural or legal persons bearing the Khmer nationality can have access to ownership of land in Cambodia, will remain valid. The under-secretary of state Sek Setha insists on the fact that foreigners will be able to obtain title deeds for flats and condominiums, but not for plots of land. They will therefore not be allowed access to ground-floor accommodation. This security measure was taken to make sure that the Cambodian territory does not end up in the hands of non-nationals.

This restriction, according to Sek Setha, appears in the legislation drafted by other neighbouring countries like Singapore, where foreigners are only entitled to buy flats located on the sixth floor and above. “We are still undecided as to the floor we will choose to allow them to buy accommodation. We have to define it according to the current state of property in Cambodia”, the jurist explains. He adds that for its part, Thailand allows foreigners to buy land, but under certain conditions. As for the examination of the Draft law by MPs, it is still difficult to establish a schedule, the under-secretary of state indicates.

Foreigners entitled to inheritance tax
Future foreign owners “will be entitled to sell, bequeath or pawn their property assets; the only requirement for new owners will be to respect internal rules aiming at ensuring the good management and maintenance of the building”, Sek Setha says. The internal rules are currently being elaborated by his Ministry, and will determine the rights, duties and responsibilities of foreign owners.

Risky leases for investors
Up until now, foreigners who wished to buy land or accommodation of any sort in Cambodia teamed up with a Cambodian national, who acted as a frontman for them. Most of the time, that person would then have the would-be owner sign a lease which cannot exceed, according to the law, a duration of 99 years, as part of a land concession. The law does not stipulate any limit of time for flat or house renting. According to estate agent Sung Bonna, this is a highly risky practice since foreigners are not protected from the loss of their assets in case of death, divorce, fraud or if their frontman goes bankrupt. “With the new law, investors will feel more secure, especially those with small budgets.”

Among foreigners who invested in the De Castle condominiums – where a square metre costs between USD1,300 and USD1,800 – 10% did so on behalf of their company via a partnership with a Cambodian national, and plan to live there, when 60% plan to establish their offices. The motives of the remaining 30% are unknown, Thorn Vichheka details.

For the time being, it is still impossible to know the practical details of foreign access to private property, which are still said to be the subject of talks.

Vespa cavalcade

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Monday, 09 March 2009

The Kingdom's Vespa enthusiasts gathered on Sunday for Le Tour de Phnom Penh to mark International Women's Day. Participants attached their own country's flag to their Italian scooters, manufactured by Piaggio, and set off from the main Post Office near Wat Phnom, driving down Sisowath Quay, Norodom Boulevard, streets 271, 598 and 273, and Monivong Boulevard before arriving at the Independence Monument.

Kidnap prompts manhunt

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 09 March 2009

Military police chief exchanges money, detainee for daughter

AMANHUNT is on for the men who abducted and exchanged for ransom the daughter of a high-ranking military official in Siem Reap province, provincial Governor Sou Phirin told the Post Sunday.

Morn Chakriya, daughter of the province's military police chief, Morn Samon, was released after a group of men abducted the high school student from the street and sped off in a car last Friday afternoon, said Prak Chantoeun, the province's deputy military police chief. He said he could not release more information as the investigation was ongoing.

Morn Samon confirmed that his daughter had been returned to him but would not offer more details on the case.

Governor Sou Phirin said a ransom - including money and the release from custody of a man suspected to have been involved in the abduction - had been negotiated privately between the family and the kidnappers.

He would not disclose the amount of ransom paid but said the kidnappers had changed the location of the ransom exchange several times in order to keep authorities on their heels.

Khmer language press reported that the kidnappers had demanded US$150,000 from the father, as well as the release from custody of a co-conspirator, in return for his daughter. The newspapers later reported that the father had negotiated the ransom payment down to $80,000.

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said it was within the law to release a suspect in order to protect the life of a victim.

Sou Phirin said it is unlikely the kidnappers have fled the country.

"We will not let the kidnappers go free from punishment," he added. "We are hunting for them."

He downplayed the implications of the incident for security in the area.

"It's not a big issue - it's just a private issue that should not affect security or tourism here," he said.

Economy set to contract sharply: IMF

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by STEVE FINCH
Monday, 09 March 2009

THE International Monetary Fund has produced its most gloomy economic outlook to date for Cambodia and predicted the country's economy will contract half a percent in 2009. It blamed Cambodia's increasing exposure to the global crisis and warned the contraction could be even worse.

The revision marks a sharp reversal from the body, which only in December forecast growth of 4.75 percent for 2009. The review follows the visit on Wednesday of an IMF mission from the organisation's US head office.

"Real GDP is now projected to fall by about [half a] percent in 2009," Friday's press statement said. "Given the rapidly evolving global situation, a larger-than-usual degree of uncertainty exists around this projection and risks remain tilted to the downside. The outlook for 2010 is also highly uncertain."

The mission concluded that the economic environment would remain "extremely challenging" into next year.

The IMF's review marks a continuing slide in GDP projections for 2009. Prior to the IMF revision, the Economist Intelligence Unit predicted 1 percent GDP growth, just a week after Prime Minister Hun Sen maintained that he expected 6 percent growth.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodia Economics Association, told the Post that contraction appeared realistic. "More and more information shows that Cambodia is going to be adversely affected [by the global economic crisis]," he said on Sunday. "It is reasonable [for the IMF] to revise downwards."

The IMF estimates that Cambodia achieved 6.5 percent growth last year.

Women behind bars face harsh conditions: report

A female prisoner at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison holds her baby during an NGO circus performance on Saturday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear and Eleanor Ainge Roy
Monday, 09 March 2009

A survey of 18 of the Kingdom’s 26 prisons finds that women are often subject to abuse and denied access to medical care

CORRECTIONAL Centre II, which houses women incarcerated at Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison, was filled with laughter Saturday afternoon as the rights group Licadho hosted an event for NGOs, prison staff, inmates and the media to mark International Women's Day.

The event coincided with the release of Licadho's latest report, titled "Prison Conditions in Cambodia 2008: Women in Prison", which paints a picture of the daily lives of women behind bars that is decidedly less cheery.

Licadho has access to 18 of Cambodia's 26 prisons, and its human rights officers regularly visit to interview inmates about their living conditions.

According to the report, women are routinely denied access to clean food and water and adequate medical care. In addition, prison facilities are often overcrowded, and women often suffer physical abuse at the hands of prison staff and other inmates.

Of particular concern to Licadho are the 40 children incarcerated with their mothers in the 18 prisons surveyed. The report states that these children do not have access to "nutrition, provisions and education vital for proper development" and that they are also vulnerable to abuse from guards and other inmates.

We like to make sure it’s fun, and for a few hours get them to laugh ...

According to the report, there were 627 women imprisoned in 18 of Cambodia's 26 prisons at the end of 2008, compared with 286 in 2001. By comparison, there were 9,262 men imprisoned in the monitored prisons at the end of 2008.

The report cites "trafficking of humans (sexual exploitation)", "trafficking of drugs (acting as drug mules)", "killings (domestic violence - often in self-defence)" and "robbery (stealing with violence)" as some of the most common reasons women are incarcerated.

A day of light relief
Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said the event held Saturday was designed to provide some light relief for the Prey Sar prisoners and their children, who were entertained by popular comedians Chab Chean and Khat Sokhim.

"We like to make sure it's fun," Pilorge said. "And for a few hours get them to laugh at the comedians."

Khin Tikun, deputy chief of Prey Sar prison, said the prison cooperates with the government and NGOs to improve conditions and give prisoners training to bolster their job prospects ahead of their release.

Horm Keng, vice president of the Ministry of Interior's Prison Department, said he hopes to reduce the number of women imprisoned in Cambodia, adding that he thinks incarcerated women can reform themselves through education and jobs.

Ministers review ethnic minority land rights, development

Policies designed to promote ethnic minority development were first put in place by the Ministry of Rural Development and the United Nations Development Program in 1994, but these did not address issues such as land rights.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chhay Channyda
Monday, 09 March 2009

In a plenary meeting, the Council of Ministers also pushes for use of the term 'indigenous minority' rather than 'ethnic minority'

TWO policies designed to improve the plight of the Kingdom's ethnic minorities were discussed Thursday at a plenary meeting of the Council of Ministers, Minister of Rural Development Chea Sophara told the Post Thursday.

During a meeting presided over by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, the council reviewed draft policies addressing development in areas heavily populated by ethnic minorities as well as land registration and land use rights for ethnic minorities, Chea Sophara said.

Also Thursday, the council agreed to replace the term "ethnic minority" with "indigenous minority", Chea Sophara said.

The Department of Ethnic Minority Development at the Ministry of Rural Development estimated last December that 1.5 percent of Cambodia's population - around 220,000 people - is composed of highland minorities concentrated mostly in Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear and Kratie provinces. The policies discussed Thursday would affect minorities in all provinces.

According to a statement issued Thursday by the council, the development draft policy is designed in part to encourage ethnic minorities to produce more products while simultaneously preserving their cultural traditions and languages. It is also aimed at improving living standards among ethnic minorities and enhancing their ability to access formal education and vocational training.

Thousands of hectares of ethnic [minority-owned] land have been grabbed.

The policy pertaining to land registration and land use rights is similarly designed to contribute to poverty reduction and economic development, in part by ensuring that ethnic minorities can make use of the natural resources found on their land. In particular, the policy addresses land-grabbing, stating that forested areas in the possession of ethnic minorities "will not be taken by outsiders", according to the statement.

Pervasive landgrabbing
Pen Bonnar, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said Thursday that he approved of the draft policies. He said land ostensibly belonging to ethnic minority groups has been regularly claimed and exploited by "mostly powerful and rich people".

"Thousands of hectares of ethnic [minority-owned] land have been grabbed, especially forested land, which those people are now living off of," he said. He added that ethnic minorities are routinely threatened by local authorities working on behalf of those looking to take their land.

CPP must cooperate in power-sharing: Sar Kheng

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng speaks at a meeting Thursday last week.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 09 March 2009

DEPUTY Prime Minister Sar Kheng has told representatives of the ruling Cambodian People's Party that they must work together with other parties' officials to ensure power is shared across party lines at the local level after May's indirect council elections.

The country's 11,353 commune councillors will vote on May 17 to select the members of newly created district, provincial and municipal levels of government - key planks in the government's decentralisation efforts.

Sar Kheng, who is also minister of the interior and head of the government's decentralisation committee, told provincial governors and police officials that the success of decentralisation would require the participation of all four political parties.

"Mixed composition at the local level will bring new ideas.... Fourteen days after the council elections, the new councillors from the four political parties will take their positions, and therefore we should not make any obstacles for any reason," Sar Kheng said at the gathering at the Interior Ministry onThursday. "A dark corner will remain if there is just one party operating."

The National Election Committee has said four political parties will contest the council elections: the CPP with candidates in all 24 provinces, the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party with candidates in 23, the Norodom Ranariddh Party with candidates in seven, and Funcinpec with candidates in five.

In his speech at the ministry, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government had last year spent US$57 million on commune council development projects. He said $82 million was earmarked for the reform program in 2009.

"Although we were flooded with work in 2008, we were still able to deliver support to communes and sangkats, and to coordinate the projects of various development partners through the smooth implementation of the decentralisation and deconcentration policy," Hun Sen said.

Ke Sovannroth, the secretary general of the SRP and an MP, said decentralisation had transformed local government across the Kingdom since the first commune elections five years ago, but said political discrimination - particularly against the SRP - remained an obstacle.

She said some CPP activists put their party's political interests ahead of their willingness to cooperate with SRP councillors.

Ten new appointees to get plum govt posts

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 09 March 2009

Appointments to be approved by the NA Thursday

TEN government officials including former army chief General Ke Kim Yan will be appointed to new posts when the National Assembly's Permanent Committee meets for an extraordinary session later this week, officials said Sunday.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said the body would meet Thursday to formalise the recent appointments of 10 new officials, including a number of opposition defectors and the former army commander-in-chief, who is to be elevated to the post of deputy prime minister in charge of anti-drug trafficking.

"The Cambodian government will nominate its new members including deputy prime ministers, senior ministers and secretaries of state," he said. "The National Assembly will approve this list on March 12 during its extraordinary session."

Fresh arrivals
Khieu Kanharith confirmed that among the new appointees would be a series of defectors from the opposition parties, but downplayed their origin.

"These new appointments have the objective of harmonising the work of the government. We all work for the Khmer nation, so we don't have political tendencies," he said.

Cheam Yeap, senior lawmaker and member of the committee, confirmed that among the appointees would be former

Funcinpec official Serei Kosal, Muslim advocate and former Sam Rainsy Party member Ahmad Yahya, and Keo Remy, originally from the Human Rights Party.

Serei Kosal, who defected to the ruling CPP last year and is set to be appointed senior minister, said he had not yet heard of his appointment.

"If this information is true, I am very surprised and thank the CPP, and especially Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen, to have confidence in me to serve the nation," he said.

Former HRP Vice President Keo Remy - who has been bumped to a secretary of state post in the Council of Ministers - said similarly that he hoped the new position would give him "the full right and opportunity to serve the Cambodian people and work for Cambodia".

Immunity for SRP head

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 09 March 2009

OPPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy will have his parliamentary immunity restored when the National Assembly's Permanent Committee meets for an extraordinary session Thursday, officials said Sunday.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the committee would hold a preliminary meeting Tuesday to prepare the agenda for an extraordinary session, at which the SRP president's immunity was expected to be addressed.

"Sam Rainsy's immunity is one of seven agenda items for the Permanent Committee meeting," he said.
"I expect that the Assembly will vote to restore Sam Rainsy's immunity on March 12."

Sam Rainsy has been without his constitutional immunity since February 26, when the committee voted to suspend it to force him to pay a 10 million riel (US $2,500) fine to the National Election Committee, imposed for comments made during last year's national election campaign.

SRP lawmaker and spokesman Yim Sovann said that during recent International Women's Day celebrations, National Assembly President Heng Samrin confirmed the leader's immunity would be restored in the next few days.

"What I have heard so far is that the Ministry of Justice prepared a letter to be sent to the Permanent Committee [asking them] to restore his immunity," he said.

Women evictees join hands

Photo by: SAM RITH
Ex-residents of the former Dey Krahorm community gather at the central Phnom Penh site on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 09 March 2009

Evictees from around Cambodia assemble at Dey Krahorm community on International Women’s Day to address land rights of women and children

MORE than 100 people evicted from Phnom Penh's Dey Krahorm community and others who are facing eviction elsewhere gathered with provincial land activists and NGO workers Sunday to celebrate International Women's Day.

The ceremony was held near the site of a "sacred ... Banyan tree" at Dey Krahorm where villagers once prayed and made offering to the gods before the tree was knocked down during the eviction. On Sunday, balloons were released to draw attention to the plight of the women and children victims of land-grabbing.

Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, said it was a symbolic day to consider the union between all women who fight for their rights.

"Today is an example that, whatever you do, it's all interlinked, whether you work on human rights, unions, land rights...we are all affected by the lack of implementation of law, and all have the ability to assemble to express our concern."

"[Evictions] are very serious. We've been getting calls from [people] in Phnom Penh and the provinces almost daily about people being threatened with eviction or evicted," she added.

Sadly, there is nothing special about this day for many cambodian women...

Orn Channa, one of the evicted Dey Krahorm villagers, told the Post that her family found it difficult to live at the relocation site, Damnak Trayeung, as there were no schools available for her two children to continue their education and no water, electricity, health care centres or employment opportunities.

"It is very difficult to live there," she said. "[Developer 7NG] transported us to live in the rice fields where there is nothing," she added.

She said her husband had become a motorbike taxi driver but did not earn enough money for her children's transportation costs to school in Phnom Penh. She said that per day, these costs were around 20,000 riel.

Long Khom, 45, another former Dey Krahorm villager, said her family's living standards had also significantly worsened after moving to the new site. She told the Post she had nothing left, not even a mosquito net, as all of her assets were destroyed by 7NG workers during the eviction.

"Sadly, there is nothing special about this day [International Women's Day] for many Cambodian women ... because they have been evicted from their homes or are living in fear of eviction. It is just another day of hardship and suffering," said Licadho President Kek Galabru, in a press release issued Sunday.

Orn Chhanna called on the United Nations to help preserve the rights of evicted villagers.

"I would like organisations ... to help people who are evicted from communities such as Dey Krahorm to have better lives," she said.

Lim Sambo, a representative of neighbouring Group 78 community, which lives under threat of eviction, said he and others on the land welcomed any government proposal for development, but insisted that fair compensation is given to those who are impacted.

"We need negotiation, not violent evicting ... the government must offer proper compensation to people before handing out any plot of land to a private company.... The government must also have its own reserved budget to offer affected people," he said.

Sy Define, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, acknowledged that moving people far away from the city affected women and children who needed to travel to the city. However, she said the government will help build schools near relocation sites.

Lack of sanitation hinders development of rural areas

A girl in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Chhouk village takes water from a small pond to wash with. The World Bank estimates some 10.7 million Cambodians live without proper sanitation.

A ccording to the World Bank study, more than 10.7 million rural Cambodians live without proper sanitation, while the World Health Organisation has found 12,000 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhoea-related illnesses in rural areas each year.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sarah Whyte and Mom Kunthear
Monday, 09 March 2009

More than 10 million Cambodians lack access to proper sanitation, spreading disease and inhibiting economic development, according to the World Bank

OVER 400 families call Takeo province's Trapaing Chhouk village home, eking out livings in makeshift thatched huts that have fallen into disrepair. Plastic wrappers, cloths and empty food containers litter the floors of these improvised shelters, of which only 20 percent have electricity.

The village has just one source of water, which is used for cooking, cleaning, washing and drinking. Toilets consist of holes in the ground - now filled with human waste - that were dug by City Hall nearly a year ago. When the rains arrive, villagers will be awash in putrid, knee-deep water.

Conditions in Trapaing Chhouk, a relocation site for villagers made homeless when a blaze ripped through their community in Phnom Penh, belie its presence in urban Phnom Penh: Village huts stand in the shadow of a 10-metre-long advertising billboard and five-storey modern Khmer houses are scattered around them.

But the village's squalor is the rule rather than the exception in Cambodia, where a lack of sanitation and access to toilets in both urban and rural areas costs the country an estimated US$190 million annually, according to a study conducted by the World Bank in December.

Neglected issue
Trapaing Chhouk village Chief Chhum Phaneth said 10 percent of the children in the village have become sick with diarrhoea and water-borne diseases since being relocated to the new site.

"I am worried for the children who live here because of the lack of sanitation. Some of them have coughs [and] diarrhoea," he said.

"Nowadays, we have to use plastic bags as our toilet and we throw it away as waste."

Chek Kimthoeun, 16, said he and the six members of his family went to the toilet in the forest "every night".

"I don't want to go there and I get frightened at night, but how can I avoid it? My house does not have a toilet," he said.

In rural provinces, the story is much the same. Viey Savet, 12, from Chong Kneas village in Siem Reap province, gets all his water from the same lake.

In a "water diary" provided by the Red Cross, he describes his day: "I wake up and wash my face and brush my teeth using water from the lake. I go to the toilet. Our latrine goes straight into the lake. My parents both bathe in the lake. To make dinner my parents boil water from the lake to use for cooking. I bathe three times each day in the lake with soap."

According to the World Bank study, Cambodia sustained the highest per capita losses due to poor sanitation in the region.

"Poor sanitation and hygiene will cost $190 million annually, as a result of water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, skin disease, malaria, respiratory infections," said Kov Phyrum, a World Bank water supply and sanitation analyst.

"Health costs include treatment, travelling costs, medical costs and the loss of economic value due to premature deaths."

Despite the government pledging increased funds late last year, Kov Phyrum said the situation has since worsened.

"Sanitation is one of the most neglected areas in the government," he said.

"An increase of funding from both the government and international aid needs to be given in order to find a solution to this problem."

Chea Samang, director of the Department of Rural Heath Care, agreed that the increased funding was inadequate to address the lack of sanitation.

"The national budget is not enough, but we cannot solely rely on the government for more funding. We also have to work closely with NGOs such as UNICEF and USAID to improve sanitation," he said, adding that it was also the responsibility of the rural communities to increase awareness of health issues.

By 2015, the World Bank hopes to improve rural sanitation, in achieving the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals, which pledges the country to extend improved sanitation services to 30 percent of the rural population.

"There needs to be a long-term approach to improve the current situation," Kov Phyrum said.

"It's not just a matter of providing toilets. It's about bringing awareness to rural communities on the importance of sanitation and health and for these communities to then demand sanitation in their provinces."

Two hydro plants open in M'kiri

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Monday, 09 March 2009

TWO micro hydropower plants began supplying electricity to underserved rural areas in Mondulkiri province late last month, an official at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy told the Post last week.

The two plants, funded by a US$10 million grant from Japan, operate around the clock and can produce 180 kilowatts of electricity per hour, said Victor Jona, deputy director general of the ministry's General Directorate of Energy.

"In the future, we will build more of these hydropower plants in the country to expand the electricity available to rural people," he said.

Jona said they had identified hundreds of places in the Kingdom where hydropower plants that could produce at least 100 kilowatts of electricity per hour could be built, and 30 places in which plants that could produce between 20 megawatts and 2,000 megawatts of electricity per hour could be built.

Jona said officials hope to supply electricity to 70 percent of the rural population by 2030 and cited plans to build between 20 and 30 plants.

"Currently, only 20 percent of rural people have access to electricity, whereas the other 80 percent are accessing battery power," he said.

Kong Pisith, director of Mondulkiri's Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, said the opening of the two plants last month would enable 1,600 households to access electricity costing 1,600 riel ($0.40) per kilowatt.

He said the demand for electricity would be significant in the long term and called for investors to finance the construction of more hydropower plants.

Rattan production to be made more sustainable

A furniture dealer in Phnom Penh’s unofficial rattan row on Sothearos Boulevard, where multiple shops make rattan furniture to order, shows off a table made with rattan palm wood.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia wilkins
Monday, 09 March 2009

THE emblematic Southeast Asian rattan palm is soon to be protected under a new WWF project that aims to make the industry more sustainable and more "green", the global conservation body said Thursday.

The cane, which is used throughout Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to make popular wicker furniture, has been overexploited throughout the region, leaving villages that rely on the trade vulnerable, WWF said.

"At the moment, rattan resources are decreasing because of overexploitation. The implementation of sustainable harvesting and cleaner production will provide long-term livelihood security to local people," Thibault Ledecq, rattan program manager at WWF's Greater Mekong Program, said in the statement.

The US$3 million project will give economic incentives to communities, government bodies and industries to conserve forests. It will also target small businesses to make them clean and safe manufacturing points so as to allow them to compete in the global market.

"By the end of the project, at least 40 percent of targeted small and medium enterprises in the supply chain will be actively engaged in clean and safe manufacture of rattan products, and 15 percent will export sustainable and environmentally friendly products to Europe and worldwide markets," the statement said.

Although Vietnam exports the majority of finished products, most of the pre-processing takes place in Cambodia and Laos.

Preserving ASEAN's relevance

Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand, during the 14th ASEAN Summit in the resort town of Cha-am on February 27.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Roger Mitton
Monday, 09 March 2009

Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan says the bloc’s new charter has transformed it from leader-driven to people-driven

Last year, Surin Pitsuwan, 59, the former foreign minister of Thailand, became the new ASEAN secretary general. Articulate and Harvard-educated, Pitsuwan has often ruffled feathers around the region and continued to do so when he took over the helm of the ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta. Often speaking off the cuff, he had a tendency to express views that were not entirely to the liking of many ASEAN members. Things have improved, although many feel the sting has gone out Surin's pronouncements. He has, in short, become a true ASEAN man. When pushed, however, he cannot resist slipping in deft provocations. He was interviewed by Roger Mitton in Bangkok shortly before the 14th ASEAN Summit in Cha-am, Thailand.

Cambodia was the last member to join ASEAN. Do you think its inclusion in the group has helped it become more stable and democratic?

The inclusion of Cambodia has been mutually advantageous. Certainly, ASEAN has benefitted from the membership of Cambodia. Indeed, on some issues, Cambodia has played a very constructive role. And Cambodia itself, while it took some time to join, has also benefitted from the support and the cooperation of ASEAN, even in the settlement of its own internal affairs.

Regarding disputes between members, like that between Cambodia and Thailand over Preah Vihear, ASEAN seems rather toothless.

I don't think so. In that particular case, ASEAN encouraged the parties to reach a resolution amicably and bilaterally. And ASEAN members were, and continue to be, standing by, making phone calls, making visits, making representations. I appealed to some members to get involved, positively, to express concern and to encourage caution and restraint. Many of them did so without my nudging or appeal. In the end, the issue did not play up. So, I think that the restraint and caution that was urged by their ASEAN colleagues had some impact.

You said the Myanmar government has cooperated well with ASEAN in the Nargis relief effort. Can we build on that cooperation to engage Myanmar more?

Ten years ago, there was a need to encourage more candid and more open discussions about problems between us in ASEAN. Because, while some of those problems might be domestic in nature, others could affect the neighbourhood. Now, of course, globalisation has done away with the notion that you can have absolute control of your own problems. I think that has been realised across ASEAN. So that in Myanmar, what they are doing now is more like flexible engagement. In fact, they have even gone beyond that. They are very, very open and candid about their engaging. And on some of the matters sensitive to them, they volunteer to give a briefing to their ASEAN colleagues. I think that is progress.

The new ASEAN charter has provisions for safeguarding human rights and democracy. Do you think all the members will adhere to them?

We are a diverse group in ASEAN. We go every which way, including in the implementation of economic goals, governance, the way in which the societies are governed. We are very diverse. The good thing that the charter brings is to clearly specify and spell out these things. I don't think the power of the charter should be underestimated. It spells out the mission that every member must aspire to and must try to achieve.

So you don't think the diversity will deplete the force of the charter?

I think the various elements in the whole spectrum of ASEAN, including the people of all member states, will have to take a look at the charter and seek ways to really enforce it. For the last four decades, ASEAN has been a leader-driven organisation. The new charter now provides for people to participate and make a contribution. If people take that seriously, we'll have a chance to help drive and shape the region and the organisation. If they don't, then you can't blame the leaders. They have made their commitment. They have opened up the space. Now it's for the people of ASEAN to seize the opportunity.

Getting the charter ratified was not easy, especially in Thailand with all the unrest last year.

That's right, the most difficult part was in Thailand. But also in Indonesia and the Philippines, which have their own rhythm, their own processes to go through. It was a lesson for all of us, that in the open systems, you can't take anything for granted. And if you want democracy, you have noises. You have a lot of people who want to be part of the process. So it was a good learning experience. And the charter has certainly given us a boost. People around the world are taking ASEAN much more seriously because of the charter.

You're an optimist?
Well, I don't see it as unusual that some ASEAN members may be reluctant, or may interpret the words of the charter differently. It's really up to the people. My hope is that they will make a contribution and they will drive the organisation onward. Perhaps bit by bit, perhaps slowly. But the space is there. Seize it.

Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is pushing for a European Union-style Asian community. Won't that diminish ASEAN?

The role of ASEAN will only be diminished by the activities of ASEAN, not by any other architectures outside. Even without those architectures, if ASEAN, as an organisation, does not deliver on the promises in the charter, then it's going to be diminished. My commitment is to make sure that does not happen, to make sure that ASEAN is relevant and continues to be relevant. But in doing that, we cannot restrain anybody from exercising imagination. It is for the good of the region. I told Mr Rudd that we need to know more about his vision. These challenges help keep ASEAN's momentum going.

You were foreign minister in the last Democrat Party-led government in Thailand. Now the Democrats are back in power, do you not regret leaving to become ASEAN secretary general?

No. I was asked by the leadership of the Democrat Party to come back, but I declined. I said I've made my decision, thank you very much. I'll come back and serve when I'm free. But for now, I'm committed to this job. I'll give it my best five years. It's extremely challenging. Often very inspiring. Often very much under pressure - but I think that's to be expected. I have said that I would give my full measure to the job, and I think ASEAN needs someone with a very strong commitment in order to drive it forward under the new charter.

Lasting recession could set in: IMF

A farmer plants rice in a paddy field outside of Siem Reap. Agriculture was seen as the one sector that has showed better-than-expected promise, but the IMF warned that fallling prices could curtail growth in 2009.

IMF recommendations
IMF recommendations In its statement released on Friday, the International Monetary Fund made a number of recommendations to the government:
- Larger fiscal stimulus than previously planned should be enacted
- 4.75 percent of GDP should be level of budget deficit to allow for increased spending
- Pro-poor social outlays and safety nets should be the focus of spending
- High-quality infrastructure should receive funding to strengthen competitiveness
- Tax administration should be maintained at the same level to guarantee revenue base
- Enforcement of regulations in the banking sector to safeguard the system Source: IMF

-0.5% the IMF’s growth forecast for Cambodia in 2009
The International Monetary Fund has revised its GDP growth forecast downwards for 2009 from 4.75 percent, made in December, to a contraction of 0.5 percent.

The Phnom Penh Post

Monday, 09 March 2009

Forecast points to recession in 2009 and the possibility of economic uncertainty extending to 2010 depending on the state of the global economy, as world crisis bites deeper locally

IN predicting negative growth for 2009, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Friday that adverse economic conditions would likely continue into next year, with Cambodia turning in a worse economic performance than it did during the Asian financial crisis more than a decade ago.

Having predicted 4.75 percent gross domestic product growth in December, the economy is now expected to contract half a percentage point, the IMF said in a statement following a mission to Phnom Penh that ended on Wednesday.

"Negative incoming data from all regions of the world, coupled with a further erosion in investor and consumer confidence and continued turmoil in global financial markets, point to an extremely challenging growth environment in 2009 and 2010," the statement said.

Cambodia has not experienced such low growth for more than a decade, even managing to maintain 1 percent GDP growth in 1997 and 1998 during the Asian economic meltdown, IMF data shows.

Previously, the lowest forecast for 2009 was 1 percent growth, made by the Economist Intelligence Unit last month, a prediction the ruling Cambodian People's Party rejected at the time. Prime Minister Hun Sen a week prior insisted that Cambodia could reach 6 percent GDP growth this year.

Government rejection
Ministry of Finance Secretary General Hang Chuon Naron refused to comment on the IMF's prediction on Sunday. However, Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's Finance, Banking and Audit Commission, rejected the IMF forecast.

The Cambodian economy is very dependent on the world economy.

"As a Cambodian, I no longer trust what the IMF says," he told the Post Sunday. "They always exaggerate ... only trust what Samdech Hun Sen says.

"They [the IMF] don't know how to count correctly," he added. "Cambodian people know better, I think."

But Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodia Economic Association, said he thought the IMF's forecast was realistic based on the increasing evidence that the global crisis had reached the Kingdom.

"There is so much uncertainty ... the Cambodian economy is very dependent on the world economy, especially the US," he said, referring to the garment and tourism sectors in particular.

Citing Cambodia's exposure to the global economy, the IMF pointed to a decrease in garment orders from abroad - particularly from the United States and the European Union - a declining tourism sector, reduced Cambodian competitiveness following currency appreciation and a slowing construction sector as the main reasons behind the gloomy forecast.
Agriculture a positive

Agriculture was seen as a sector that had overperformed last year, but the IMF warned that falling prices "may limit further gains".

Commodity reports produced by the Ministry of Commerce show agricultural products have fallen in price this year. Grade-one milled rice has dropped 3.2 percent on the domestic market since January 1, figures showed on Thursday, while mung beans have dropped 5 percent and peanuts more than 25 percent over the same period. Meanwhile, paddy has increased 12 percent.

Agriculture has also been badly affected by border tensions with Thailand and a blockade on cassava and rice that hit traders on the border recently.

The IMF conceded on Friday that "a larger-than-usual degree of uncertainty exists around this [GDP growth] projection" given the global situation. The "highly uncertain" outlook for next year is "hinging critically on global and regional growth prospects", it added.

Revise GDP calculation: PM

Prime Minister Hun Sen called for GDP growth figures to include the rural microeconomy.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 09 March 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen called on GDP growth statistics to include the rural microeconomy, a measure he said would make information more accurate

PRIME Minister Hun Sen wants national economic growth to include the domestic output of women in individual families and small-scale agriculture, criticising recent estimates for therefore being incorrect in omitting such information.

The premier requested that the National Institute of Statistics consider incorporating "home-garden yield" into national growth estimates.

"We haven't calculated GDP per capita correctly. ... If a family has grown two papaya trees and two banana trees and plants four or five eggplants for a daily living, this is a type of growth," Hun Sen announced Friday in a speech ahead of the 99th Anniversary of the International Women's Day.

The premier said Cambodia's gross domestic product would be much higher if the small or micro-scale economies of individual families were included, and said that such economies have prevented Cambodia from being exposed to the full brunt of the global financial crisis.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Studies and Agricultural Development (CEDAC), agreed that home-garden yield does contribute to the national economy by creating jobs while reducing the cost of family income in rural areas. He urged the government to take measures to help villagers plant more crops, fruit trees, vegetables and plants for individual family food security.

If a family has grown two papaya trees ... this is a type of growth.

"It is hard to know how much the microeconomy has shared in the scale of national economic growth, but it is quite a lot," he said.

"Sources of income for villagers are very small. If villagers are able to grow their own vegetables at home, their expenditures will be reduced," he added.

Yang Saing Koma also called for the government to provide financial and technical assistance to slow the importation of fruits and vegetables in order to protect national output.

"If the government is able to limit the amount of imported agricultural goods from neighbouring countries, Cambodian farmers will be able to meet growing domestic demand," he said.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodia Economic Association, said he welcomed the idea of encouraging individual families to grow their own products, but including it in GDP would not alter the standard of living.

"If we counted home-garden yield in the official economy, we will see GDP increase, but living conditions will not change," he said.

He added that micro-scale economies did not generate much revenue in rural-level economies, and if it were included in national GDP growth, the number would likely remain unchanged.

"This year a family raises five chickens and next year they keep raising five chickens, it is not growth," said Chan Sophal.

Hun Sen's comments were made the same day that the International Monetary Fund forecast that Cambodia's GDP this year would contract half a percent.

US firms discuss investment

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 09 March 2009

EXECUTIVES from seven major American companies, including General Electric and Time Warner, have expressed strong interest in investing in Cambodia, government officials told the Post Sunday.

The business group, led by Frances Zwenig, head of the US-ASEAN Business Council, and United States Ambassador Carol Rodley held a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An Friday to discuss investments in oil and gas, medicine, telecommunications, entertainment, IT and education.

"They see Cambodia as having high potential as it is peaceful and secure, with social order, human resources and people working together," Pen Ngoeun, an adviser to the Council of Ministers, said.

He said the US-based firm Time Warner has expressed interest in film production in the Kingdom and has plans to invest in a high-end cinema. Pen Ngoeun said that Chevron and partner ConocoPhillips would continue work in offshore Block A, and would also look at other locations.

"With Chevron, negotiations are getting close to a final [decision]," he said, adding that a third location onshore is being discussed in an area located around Tonle Sap Lake but the government is unsure about the environmental impact.

"We are paying attention to environmental concerns as we have to protect the next generation's interests," he said.

"What the US firms put in front of us was their [potential] investments having links to [Corporate Social Responsibility]," he said, adding that information about Cambodia's potential will be distributed to more than 100 US firms.

The US embassy was not available for comment on Sunday.

Liquidity to stay tight: IMF

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
An ATM in Phnom Penh. Liquidity remains restricted, the IMF said.

12% Cambodia's banking reserve requirement
The National Bank of Cambodia cut the rate from 16 percent to 12 percent effective from February 1 in a bid to increase liquidity among private lenders following the credit crunc

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by STEVE FINCH
Monday, 09 March 2009

Economy will continue to see restricted bank liquidity despite options to improve the situation, says IMF, as lack of overseas capital remains problematic

THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday said banking sector liquidity would remain tight for the rest of the year in a statement on the Cambodian economy following a routine visit to the Kingdom that ended Wednesday.

The IMF blamed "slowing external inflows" for the reduction in free capital in the banking system despite recent efforts by the National Bank of Cambodia to ease the liquidity situation, including a reduction in the reserve requirement from 16 percent to 12 percent from February 1.

"The [IMF] mission and authorities also agreed that some scope remained for further monetary easing in 2009 as inflation pressures ease," said an IMF statement.

Banks have been running more liquidity than they normally would.

The main liquidity adjusting option available to the central bank, sector sources say, is to bring down the reserve limit further in a bid to reduce redundant capital in the system.

"They [the authorities] could go back to eight percent," said John Brinsden, vice chairman of ACLEDA Bank, referring to the central bank's reserve requirement prior to late July, when it was doubled to 16 percent to stave off inflation and excessive lending.

Anthony Galliano, head of corporate and institutional banking at ANZ Royal, wrote in the Post last week that "a further [reserve rate] reduction would be greeted positively by banks that would welcome additional liquidity to lend into the economy".

This is one of the few options available to increase liquidity in a dollarised economy such as Cambodia's, he added.

Measures limited
While the IMF described January's lowering of the reserve requirement to 12 percent from as an "improvement", Brinsden said that in practice the change had resulted in few practical benefits due to other liquidity-curtailing measures imposed by the central bank.

Private banks are now required to maintain a certain level of liquidity on individual currencies, he said, rather than an overall liquidity ratio, meaning that banks cannot offset different currencies against each other.

Also, "banks have been running more liquidity than they normally would to be on the safe side", Brinsden said.

The central bank at the end of January enacted a measure affording banks with short-term liquidity problems a new overdraft facility that the IMF welcomed as a "substantive" action to help address Cambodia's liquidity concerns.

Finding purpose in song

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Heng Sovann Reaksmey performs outside Pencil Supermarket in Phnom Penh in January.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mom Kunthear
Monday, 09 March 2009

Heng Sovann Reaksmey turned to music as a way of overcoming despair of his disabilities. Now, he hopes to help others transform their lives with music

Making music has never come easy to the Reaksmey Band, but a love of performing and a strong dedication to its members have helped the group overcome a variety of challenges, not the least of which are physical.

Formed in 2000, the Reaksmey, or "disabled", band now comprises 12 members with physical disabilities ranging from blindness to withered or missing limbs.

Heng Sovann Reaksmey, 29, the namesake and founder of the band, lost his sight in one eye and suffered a broken leg that never properly healed when he was 12. He first made something of a name for himself as a solo performer.

"I worked hard to create the band because I love music. I can sing and play music. Many audiences supported my performances. They liked to listen to me, so I decided to put together a band," he told the Post.

In 2000, the newly dubbed Reaksmey Band began performing in front of Wat Botum. City officials later forced the group to move, and they began performing nightly from 6pm to 8pm outside Pencil supermarket off Sothearos Boulevard.

From the start, Heng Sovann Reaksmey said, sustaining the band was difficult because of lack of funds and because they were limited to performing only in the dry season.

But he persisted for the sake of his fellow disabled musicians.

"I formed this band for disabled people because I didn't want them to have to beg for their survival," he said, "even though we don't make much money from our performing".

He said on a good day, the band can earn as much as US$25 in donations from their performances. "We share it equally among everyone in the group. Sometimes we get $2.50 each. Other times, we might only get $0.25 each," he said.

The Reaksmey Band has drawn interest beyond their gigs at Pencil supermarket. Beginning in 2004, the band was invited to perform at local television stations and also went on tour in Siem Reap, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kampot, Battambang, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces.

"I wanted to die after I became a disabled person, but my mother encouraged me to continue my life. Then I told myself that I had to live, though I didn't really know what to live for," Heng Sovann Reaksmey said.

Helping others find purpose
The band provided the necessary focus, and now Heng Sovann Reaksmey hopes it might provide support for other disabled people struggling to find a purpose for their lives.

"If I can raise enough money, I will transform the band into a local organisation for training disabled people to play music and sing, and to give them jobs," he said.

Ouk Solavy, 38, a member of the Reaksmey band, was born blind and struggled as a young man with his disability.

"When I was young, I felt hate and hopelessness because I could not do anything," he said. "I hated when I heard someone call me a blind person."

Ouk Solavy was encouraged to study at a Maryknoll school, part of a US-based Catholic mission movement, where he learned to read braile in both Cambodian and English, and where he studied music and massage.

"I want to tell all disabled people to struggle against hopelessness because they can do the same things as other people," he said.

For the last five months, Chhang Chantha, 25, has sung with the Reaksmey Band. Blind since birth, she previously performed for weddings in her home province of Kampot.

She sees her disability as a strength. "I think that some people cannot do what we disabled people can do, so don't look down on us," she said. I am only physically disabled. My mind, my ability and my heart are good. I can do anything."

The Phnom Penh Post News In Brief

In Brief: Children to draw gender equality

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Monday, 09 March 2009

The European Commission on Sunday launched a drawing competition that "calls on children all over the world to express their vision of gender equality", according to a commission press release on Friday. The third-annual launch was timed to coincide with International Women's Day. Contestants have until May 15 to submit their drawings, and in June a jury of European children working "in the presence of Princess Mathilde" of Belgium will select two winners from each region to receive a prize equivalent to US$1,264.

In Brief: Old batteries bound for belgium

Written by Mom Kunthear
Monday, 09 March 2009

Twenty tonnes of old batteries collected from schools, markets and hotels over the past two years will be sent to Belgium for recycling, City Hall announced Thursday. The effort is intended to reduce the environmental impact of the improper disposal of batteries. "Battery waste affects people's health and the environment," said Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun.

In Brief: Ieng sary counsel remove more FILES

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 09 March 2009

Ieng Sary's defence team have removed all documents from its website after ECCC judges said they represented a breach of confidentiality. "It is with deep regret and disappointment that the Defence ... has been forced to remove all documents from its website that do not appear already on the official ECCC website," a press release posted on the website said. "Although the Defence submits that this is an incoherent and overly restrictive interpretation [of confidentiality], it is obliged to comply" it added. The lawyers added they would appeal the matter.

Blair roars to Motocross gold

Photo by: MARK ROY
Two-time championship winner James Robinson (right) launches a desperate bid to regain the lead from fellow New Zealander Larry Blair Saturday during the Expert Class final at Preak Leap motorcross track.

Final Race Results
Total International Motocross Championship 2009 Class A: Motocross Experts
1st – Larry Blair(New Zealand)
2nd – James Robinson(New Zealand)
3rd – Nuttakit Bootprawat(Thailand)
4th – Pierre-Yves Catry(France/Cambodia)
5th – Siam Tiencharoenphol(Thailand)

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mark Roy
Monday, 09 March 2009

Saturday’s Total International Motocross Championship 2009 saw both New Zealand riders take top two podium places in Expert Class grand final

LOCAL and international riders put in some gritty performances in sweltering heat at the Total International Motocross Championship 2009 on Saturday.

The huge crowd that turned out at the Preak Leap motocross track six kilometres outside of Phnom Penh were rewarded with a freestyle motocross display, a day of trail bike and motocross action, and the sight of ten Cambodians challenging each other in a mountain bike race.

The main highlight of the day was undoubtedly the nail-biting conclusion to the ten-lap Experts class final. Having comprehensively won his first heat, defending champion James Robinson got down to business with a clean start, leading fellow New Zealander Larry Blair at the first turn.

Spectators cheered as time and again the two riders became airbourne almost side-by-side, as Blair brought pressure to bear on defending champion Robinson.

The 25-year-old was barely holding his lead, and had a third consecutive championship in his sights, when a spray of dirt from Blair's rear tyre filled his visor after a tight corner in the sixth lap.

Blair raced ahead, glancing over his shoulder as Robinson rode desperately to try to close the ever-widening gap. Ultimately Blair held on to his nerve, the 29-year-old roaring through to take the chequered flag.

After the race, Blair expressed his surprise at the result.

"I had a crash in the first race and had to come back through, so I wasn't really sure how fast James was going," he said.

"I just sat behind him and figured he would get tired. He hasn't been racing much in the past six months."

Blair said he had planned to pass Robinson about halfway through the race without running him off the track.

"It's hard to do it politely on this track, it's very tight and you can only really make a passing move in the corners," he said.

"You have to be pretty aggressive, a little physical, to make your pass."

The motocross expert noted that coping with the heat had been a battle.

Photo by: MARK ROY
James Robinson performs freestyle tricks Satruday during the warm-up show.

"It was really hot out there, which made it hard to breathe," Blair said.
A competitor in the novice race, Alti Magnusson, agreed.

"I'm from Iceland, so at first it was a bit cloudy. But in the last race it was really hot," Magnusson said.

Event organiser Pierre-Yves Catry, who placed fourth, said in future they would try to run the event in a cooler month, such as January.

"This land is flooded in wet season, so we can only build a track at the end of December," said Catry.

However, Blair had nothing but praise for the event organisers.

Having competed in numerous events in SE Asia, the race winner said the Cambodian event was the best organised by far.

"The sponsors have really turned it on. They threw in lots of money and Pierre is great. He's really the driving force behind the event," Blair said.

Robinson, who lives in Malaysia, said the motocross scene in Cambodia is building every year.
"This is my third year of racing here and every year it is getting bigger and better," he said.

Yuman is 'slaver,' 'rapper'

Yuma Sun

March 8, 2009 - 4:22 PM

Kenn LaChapelle isn't a Cambodian sex slaver, but he's played one in a movie.

The aspiring actor from Yuma recently played that unique role in a movie project and is now portraying a rapper in another film project.

Those are some challenging roles, and both film projects have demanded a challenging commitment of time and energy. But the big-dreaming performer says he's loving the chance to dive into his artistic calling.

"I can't complain," LaChapelle said with a big grin. "I'm doing my thing and I'm having fun. I'm gone pretty much every weekend, but when you enjoy something, you're willing to put in the time."

Both movie projects have taken place in Phoenix.

In "Life," LaChapelle plays a bodyguard working for a Cambodian mafia
organization that kidnaps and sells child slaves. That film is currently in post-production, after which it will be sent to various film festivals around the country.

For the film "Cultivated," LaChapelle is playing Larry Love, one of four rappers experiencing the thrills and trials of sudden fame.

LaChapelle last made headlines in The Sun when won a fistful of medals at the World Championship of Performing Arts. The international event was hosted by TV personality Bob Eubanks and was held in Los Angeles. LaChapelle competed in the categories of acting, modeling and rap.

For his day job, the young performer works on computer systems for a local school district. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps. That latter experience served him well when he worked as an extra in the movie "Jarhead."

He travels to Los Angeles quite often for auditions, several of which have been for national reality shows.

LaChapelle has performed in some community theater in Yuma and has sung locally, too.

"I'm excited about what I'm doing, but I'm always wanting more. It really hurts me being in Yuma," he said, admitting that a move to L.A. may be in his future long term.

LaChapelle works for a Phoenix-based modeling agency that lines up auditions for him, but he heard about these current movie projects through friends.

"Life" was shot in downtown Phoenix at a warehouse facility that's rented out for movie projects. The director is a young woman from Cambodia.

"She wants to help the children of Cambodia," LaChapelle said, describing scenes of children being forced to fight each other in cages. "I know she really wants to bring this story to people's eyes."

The actor chuckled when asked about playing such a bad guy in a movie, but he stressed that it's all acting and it's all worth doing well.

"You've got to tell the story, regardless of whether you're the bad guy or not. I got to hold a lot of guns, drive the getaway vehicle to kidnap kids. It was actually kind of fun."

"Life" is currently a short film, but LaChapelle said the director hopes that it's enough to ignite the interest needed for a full-length feature film.

LaChapelle is still working on "Cultivated" up in Phoenix, where the feature-length film is being shot in private homes and local nightclubs. The movie is being produced by a Phoenix-based company called Omuseo. As with "Life," this film is the director's first.

"I'm playing a rapper that's all about the ladies," LaChapelle said, laughing. "But the show is actually a drama, about show business and how it can affect your life. I don't want to give too much of it away."

For filming, LaChapelle spent a full week in Phoenix and now travels up every other weekend. He's working double duty, too. That's because he's not only acting, but singing as well. He said he looks forward to his music being featured on the soundtrack for "Cultivated."

"I think it's a really great story. A lot of people think it can go very far, it just depends on the exposure it gets. I would really love to see it in a movie theater."

Cambodia: Phouchung And Naga Make Last Four Of The Cup

The Cambodia Cup is reaching its climax...John Duerden
9 Mar 2009

Phouchung Neak FC and Naga Corp FC completed the cast for the semi-finals of the Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen Cup 2009 where they will join Phnom Penh Crown FC and Preah Khan Reach FC in the last four.

But the quarter-finals were anything but easy with both Phouchung Neak and Naga Corp being forced to play in the decisive penalty shoot-outs before they were able to book their places in the next round of the championship.

Phouchung Neak were held to a 1-1 draw at the end of regulation and extra-time with Silva Sunday’s early 15th minute strike being erased by Sin Dalin’s equaliser in the 64th minute for National Defense Ministry FC.

In the shootout, Pao Ratha, Heng So Ly, Tuy Sam and Pao Sam Nang all scored for Phouchung Neak to steal the 4-2 victory over National Defense as Samrith Seyha and Lorn Sotheara made the only successful conversions.

Naga Corp FC were also made to sweat in the final moments of the game as a resilient Ranger FC side forced them into extra-time after the score stood at 1-1 at the end of regulation with Ty Bun Vichet’s 58th minute strike being erased by Chimm San Aun nine minutes to the end.

But Ranger almost scored an upset when Neang Chenla’s strike in the 108th minute of play gave them the lead for the first time in the match - only for Naga’s Sophal Odom to deliver the equaliser three minutes later.

In the shootout, Neang Chenla, Pok Chanthan, Teap Vatanak and Chhim Sambo all scored for Naga while Ranger only managed two penalty conversions off Kuoch Sokomphiak and Sann Narith.

In the semi-finals, Phonm Penh Crown FC will square off against Preah Khan Reach FC while Phouchung Neak will take on Naga Corp FC.

Cuban Cinema Exhibition to be presented in Cambodia

Cuba Headlines

by nesy on Sun, 2009-03-08

Cuban cinematography became here this week one of the main cultural attractions, within the program of activities for the 50th anniversary of the Revolution in the Caribbean island.

Since evening there was much public filling the screening room of the Metahouse Culture House, the venue of the event, conceived like an event that includes movies such as El Benny, Memories of underdevelopment, Viva Cuba (image) and the documentary Nadando contra la marea (Swimming against the tide).

In the opening of the movie exhibition, the cultural attaché of the Cuban Embassy in Cambodia, Orlando Torres, highlighted the development of the seventh art and the movie industry in his country, with achievements of great impact also in productions such as news reports.

The Cuban diplomat also highlighted the International Movie School from San Antonio de los Baños in the province of Havana, a center that receives hundreds of students from different nationalities.

She also referred to the success of the International Latin American Movie Festival, which is celebrated every year in the Cuban capital and which is assisted by important personalities from Latin American and from all over the world.

In the opening ceremony there was much public including many Latin Americans living in Phnom Penh and it included the presence of the director of the Metahouse, Niko Mesterharm.

Hong Kong and Thailand drafting treaty that could send Thaksin home

The Earth Times

Sun, 08 Mar 2009 02:23:51 GMT
Author : DPA

Hong Kong - Hong Kong is close to agreeing on an extradition treaty with Thailand that could be used to send ousted prime minster Thaksin Shinawatra back home, a news report said Sunday. Talks are at an advanced stage over the wide-ranging treaty which could affect regular visitor Thaksin, facing a two-year jail sentence for corruption in Thailand, according to the Sunday Morning Post.

News of the discussions comes as Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva threatened to seek China's help to extradite Thaksin when he announced plans to deliver a speech last month at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong.

Thaksin cancelled the appearance, saying he did not want to damage Sino-Thai relations, but plans to deliver his address Thursday from outside Hong Kong via a satellite video link.

China has an extradition treaty with Thailand but Hong Kong, a British colony until 1997, has no such arrangement, effectively making the wealthy city of 7 million a safe haven for Thaksin.

Talks have been continuing for some time over a possible treaty, however, and have been speeded up in the past year, according to legal sources quoted by the Post.

A draft treaty has already been finalized by Thailand, the sources said, and would have clear implications for Thaksin although the treaty does not relate to any specific case.

The Thaksin family owns a 308-square-metre home in Hong Kong bought three months ago in his youngest daughter's name for almost 6 million US dollars but so far unoccupied, according to the newspaper.

Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006 and later sentenced to two years in jail for corruption in a prosecution he claims was politically motivated.