Monday, 13 April 2009
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted Thai prime minister, is leading the ongoing anti-government protests in Bangkok.
Sean Boonpracong, the group's international spokesman, tells Al Jazeera what the 'red shirts' protesters want.
Thai soldiers sprayed automatic weapons fire into the air and threw tear gas to clear demonstrators blocking roads across the capital in a major escalation of anti-government protests Monday. (April 13)
Posted: 13 April, 2009
Cambodia (MNN) ― In North America, it is estimated that there is one trained and competent Christian leader for every 1,300 people. In Asia, that ratio is 1:600,000. Because the pastors are the frontline advance of the Gospel, they need to be well grounded.
Asian Access (A2) Country Resource Person PoSan Ung has a heart for Cambodia where "the church in Cambodia is a very young church, I would say, still in nascent stage."
That presents its own conflict. Add to that official opposition. "There's a law out there that is against public evangelism. Then, for you to organize a public event, you need to apply for permission from the government, and that's tricky."
Cambodia is still struggling to heal from a bloody past. Mistrust has proven divisive, but through the training programs, unity has been growing stronger, and the foundation is being laid for kingdom building.
Having lived through the Cambodian Holocaust and grown up as a Cambodian refugee, Pastor Ung is uniquely in touch with the Cambodian experience and has forged ministry from it.
The leadership training program he and national director Pastor Meng Aun Hour launched creates a strategic network that encourages both awareness and the efforts among Cambodian churches.
Today, the training has been called a "diaspora ministry" back to Cambodia where Posan and others are teaching, supervising, and developing curricula to aid in the training of Cambodian pastors in Cambodia.
According to A2, the key to the effectiveness of their program is the careful selection of twelve emerging leaders on an annual basis. These leaders are then invited to be a part of a class that meets four times a year, for a week at a time, over a two-year period.
When the twelve meet together, they are working through an established curriculum that accelerates their growth as spiritual leaders, as well as organizational leaders.
The pastors are beginning to work together and share their resources. "They're able to visit each others' church and go on mission trips within Cambodia itself to the countryside together and train the church leaders in the provincial area. Within the capital, there is a fellowship of pastors."
If you'd like to support the ministry or would like more details, click here.
Web Editor: Qin Mei
Despite the current instability in his country, Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva will visit Cambodia as scheduled on April 18, national media on Monday quoted official source as saying.
The prime minister has insisted on his visit here later this month, Chinese-language daily newspaper the Commercial News quoted officials at the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as saying.
It is a custom for an ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) government leader to pay courtesy visits to the other nine member countries, after he steps in his occupancy, added the source.
Sry Thamrong, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's personal advisor, told reporters last week that at least 7 out of 24 pieces of ancient Khmer artifacts will be returned to Cambodia, when Abhisit Vejjajiva visits Cambodia.
These Khmer artifacts were stolen and trafficked out of Cambodia, but finally arrested by the Thai authorities.
Local media also reported that Hun Sen and Abhisit Vejjajiva will discuss the border disputes between the two countries during the Thai premier's visit Cambodia.
AP Photo - Kong Sam Ath, 51, lights incense and offers prayers as he and other traditional Cambodian musicians prepare to perform for tourists, Friday, March 6, 2009, near Bantay Srey temple on the outskirts of Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Sunday, Apr. 12, 2009
By DENIS D. GRAY - Associated Press Writer
SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- By the walls of ancient temples, just as the morning sun dapples the jungle floor and birds sing, survivors of Cambodia's killing fields and minefields drop their crutches, put aside their artificial limbs or blindly grope for their instruments - and then play music that can break the heart.
A tentative, mournful melody floats from a two-stringed "tro" bowed by Kak Vy, whose right leg is gone. He is joined by a zither plucked by Khieu Sarath, who lost his parents and sisters to Khmer Rouge murderers and whose mine-shattered leg was amputated without morphine. Phun Ath, blinded by a rocket, taps a drum softly.
Now, the first tourists arrive at the wondrous temples of Angkor, and the 20 musicians - amputees, blind, scarred, all destitute - hope that by dusk their playing will have earned them enough to sustain their families for another day. Together, they support more than 100 children and wives.
The musicians' lives mirror Cambodia's agony: 3 million dead in three decades of a savage war, American bombing, the Khmer Rouge reign of terror, a civil conflict and now coping in a country where a third of the people earn less than one dollar a day.
Several members of Ankor's two orchestras say they teetered on the verge of suicide before finding hope by banding together to play the music of their ancestors.
"When I lost my leg, I didn't want to live on this earth anymore," says Khieu Sarath. "Before I lost my leg my friends called me 'friend,' but when I became a disabled man even my close friends would call out, "One legged-man, where are you going?'"
Like almost all the musicians, Khieu Sarath describes his trials beginning during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in the mid-1970s when some 2 million of his fellow Cambodians perished.
The fanatic communists executed his father because he allowed cows he was tending to stray into a cornfield, and his starving mother because she stole a cup of porridge from the communal kitchen. His two sisters were killed for taking a nap after grueling hours building a dam.
In the civil war that followed the Khmer Rouge fall in 1979, Khieu Sarath set off a land mine during a firefight, writhing in pain for 16 days in a remote jungle until help arrived. Then they tied his hands to a tree.
"My leg was cut like raw meat with a hack saw, without any injections," says the 48-year-old former soldier.
"Life was difficult for a disabled man. At the beginning I did not particularly want to be a musician. But I had no choice. I had to find something that was not difficult for a disabled man and this job fits a lot of people like me," he says.
Khieu Sarath gathered some of the disabled in 1997 and now seven of them play at Angkor's much-visited Ta Phrom, a monastic complex where gnarled roots and soaring trunks of ancient banyan and silk cotton trees intertwine with crumbling, dusky temples - a scene out of Hollywood's "Tomb Raider," which indeed was partially filmed here.
"Victims of Landmines," reads a sign in five languages. If every passing tourist who clicked a camera donated, the group would be rolling in cash, but as it is they're very lucky to earn several dollars apiece, plus $4 daily saved in a communal pot for any among them in distress.
This help is also extended to the second orchestra, which plays at Banteay Srei, the "jewel of Khmer art," a 10th century temple of pinkish sandstone famed for its delicate wall carvings.
Here, the 13 musicians sit at the temple's edge on a blue plastic sheet spread over a forest floor strewn with winter's withered leaves. The buzz of cicadas and the wind's rustle accompany their sometimes bouncy, sometimes elegiac melodies played on instruments very like those depicted on the centuries-old friezes of Angkor.
By Dune Lawrence
April 12 (Bloomberg) -- China plans to create a $10 billion investment cooperation fund and offer $15 billion in credit to its Southeast Asian neighbors, extending its influence as the region attempts to weather the global financial crisis.
The investment fund will promote infrastructure development linking China with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, while the loans will be offered over three to five years, according to a statement on the Foreign Ministry Web site today citing an interview with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
The measures from the world’s third-largest economy, and one of the few forecast to maintain growth this year, may help speed recovery from the global financial crisis and cement China’s leadership in the region. The nation has already signed currency swap agreements with Indonesia, South Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia this year to help ease foreign-exchange shortages and aid bilateral trade and investment.
“China is going to take the opportunity of this crisis to further establish itself in Asia,” said Huang Jing, a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. “All this will have a huge political and diplomatic impact in the region, in addition to the economic impact.”
Other planned measures include 270 million yuan ($39.5 million) in aid to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, and donation of 300,000 tons of rice to an emergency East Asia rice reserve to boost food security, the statement said.
Premier Wen Jiabao was to announce the proposals at the Asean summit that was canceled in Thailand this weekend.
“Asean leaders hope China could play an important role in pushing forward cooperation in East Asia, and with other countries overcome the difficult times,” Yang said, according to the statement. Wen’s proposals reflect a resolve to “realize the Chinese government’s sincerity, responsibility and confidence in pushing forward Asean cooperation,” he said.
Macquarie Securities Ltd. and China International Capital Corp. estimate that China’s economy will expand as much as 8 percent this year. The World Bank expects 6.5 percent growth.
China’s proposals give Asean countries “another option” besides going to the International Monetary Fund or the Asian Development Bank for funding, Huang said. That may aid China’s standing with Asean, where memories are still fresh of the painful conditions imposed by the IMF in exchange for rescue packages during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, according to Huang.
“Southeast Asian countries will welcome the proposal,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dune Lawrence in Beijing at email@example.com
Monday, April 13, 2009
Fresh gunfire and explosions have been heard in the Thai capital as troops and anti-government protesters engage in another standoff after earlier clashes left more than 70 people injured.
Al Jazeera's Tony Cheng, reporting from the Din Daeng area in Bangkok on Monday, said protesters were trying to regain ground shortly after being pushed back by advancing troops firing machine guns into the air.
Moments earlier, just as Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister, was giving a televised address saying that the government was taking all steps to ensure public safety, soldiers advanced against protesters.
A large number of troops moved forward, using water canons to push protesters back and firing their machine guns, apparently into the air, our correspondent said.
The so-called Red Shirt anti-government protesters placed gas canisters just outside a bus, set the vehicle on fire and retreated slightly before trying to regain ground.
The two sides were locked in a standoff and tensions remained high, our correspondent said.
In his address, Abhisit said the state of emergency declared on Sunday was only to restore calm and would remain for now.
He said that troops would only use force in self defence and warned that protesters had seized three cooking gas trucks and were threatening to blow them up.
Our correspondent said that while protesters had placed several cooking gas canisters in the middle of the road in an effort to keep troops at bay, he had not seen any gas trucks at the scene.
Hours earlier, at the the same intersection, shots were fired and petrol bombs and stones hurled as soldiers and demonstrators clashed.
Peeraphong Saicheau, the director of the Bangkok Medical Centre, said 77 people had been injured, with 19 admitted to hospitals.
Four people had gunshot wounds - two civilians and two soldiers – he said.
An army spokesman said that soldiers, who were trying to clear the intersection, were shot at by protesters before dawn and had fired back.
Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd told local radio that troops would "start with soft measures and proceed to harder ones", but added: "We will avoid loss of life as instructed by the government."
Sean Boonpracong, the international spokesman for the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, the group that has been leading the Red Shirts' protest, criticised the military's "aggressive tactics ... shooting at unarmed civilians".
"If things get any worse, there will be more blood and the government will be responsible"
Sean Boonpracong, United Front for Democracy Against DictatorshipBut he admitted to Al Jazeera that "some of us have to fire back in defence with handguns".
The spokesman demanded the army to stop its operations immediately and that Abhisit resign, dissolve parliament and call fresh elections.
"If things get any worse, there will be more blood and the government will be responsible," he said, adding that if the army started shooting at protesters, they may occupy Government House for their "safety".
Panitan Wattanayagorn, a spokesman for the government, said troops had successfully cleared the busy intersection near the capital's Victory Monument landmark where about 100,000 people had gathered late last week to demand Abhisit's resignation.
"The operation is complete, and a number of protesters have been detained in safe places. The operation is in line with the law, accountable and reasonable," Panitan said on national television, soon after the military crackdown.
But our correspondent said protesters had returned to the intersection hours afterwards.
'No martial law'
Panitan told Al Jazeera that Abhisit had "delegated power in terms of operations" to a committee led by several military officers who were "handling the emergency situation".
But he said that the prime minister remained in charge of the country and that there was "no martial law".
He also said that the military had been given live ammunition but were "under strict orders not to aim at the people or not to shoot at the people".
Keen to show that he still commanded the loyalty of the armed forces and the police, Abhisit appeared on television in the early hours of Monday, flanked by commanders of the army, navy, air force and the deputy police chief.
"I can confirm that the government and security agencies are still unified. You can see all the heads of the armed forces meeting with me right now," he said.
But the loyalty of the police force has been questioned after some policemen were seen putting on red shirts and joining protest rallies
Thailand has seen weeks of protests by the Red Shirts, who support Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister ousted in a military coup in 2006.
Thaksin, who continues to wield considerable political influence in the country, despite being in exile since September 2006, called on Sunday for his supporters to overthrow the government, promising to return if the government moved to crack down on protests.
T Kumar, the Asia and Pacific director at Amnesty International USA, told Al Jazeera that the military's action against Thaksin supporters on Monday contrasted sharply against its inaction against anti-Thaksin demonstrators who held protests last year against two successive governments filled with Thaksin allies.
"It was a very calculated move to support the current government, which the military did not do when the current prime minister was in the opposition," he said.
Those protests eventually led to court rulings that deposed the pro-Thaksin governments and ushered in Abhisit's government.
"The best way to control this situation is to have an election at this moment," he said, warning that if Thailand's Southeast Asian neighbours and the international community did not press the government to hold elections, the country would "go downhill", Kumar said.
Written by Post Staff
Monday, 13 April 2009
A man sits atop a vehicle queuing up for the Neak Leung ferry along National Road 1 southeast of Phnom Penh, where an estimated 10,000 motorbikes and 6,000 cars were backed up for more than 4 kilometres, waiting hours in the heat to cross the Mekong River towards Prey Veng province. Officials warned earlier this month that traffic at the ferry crossing would face long delays leading up to Khmer New Year.
Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 13 April 2009
SEVEN Angkorian artefacts smuggled into Thailand almost a decade ago will be returned to Cambodia, a Ministry of Culture official said Sunday, adding that negotiations are under way with Bangkok for the repatriation of dozens of other pieces.
The artefacts - seven severed stone heads - are expected to be handed over during Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's visit to Cambodia, which is to begin Saturday.
They were among 43 pieces seized in 2000 as they were being smuggled into Thailand, said Srey Thamrong, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
"The Thai culture minister will return seven pieces ... to Cambodia, and we will welcome [the artefacts] with a traditional ceremony before taking them into the National Museum," said Chuch Phoeun, a secretary of state at the Culture Ministry.
He added that Thailand had asked for detailed evidence that the pieces belonged to Cambodia, and the talks were ongoing for the return of the remaining artefacts.
"We are in a difficult situation because we have more than 2,600 temples, and at the time of the civil war there was no registration," Chuch Phoeun said.
"We did not know at the time what we were losing or where they were stolen from." Chuch Phoeun added that the return of the artefacts would help to improve ties between the two countries.
Written by Vong Sokheng and Kay Kimsong
Monday, 13 April 2009
TALKS between Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva are still scheduled for later this week, when the embattled Thai premier is expected to visit Cambodia despite worsening unrest in his own country, a Foreign Ministry official said Sunday.
"Up to now there is no information that the schedule has changed," said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong Sunday evening.
"The Thai prime minister's personal security will be well-protected here in Cambodia," he said, referring to attacks against the premier by anti-government demonstrators who stormed Thailand's Interior Ministry as they brought much of Bangkok to a standstill Sunday.
"There is a big difference between the situation in Cambodia and Thailand," he said.
Koy Kuong added that the official agenda for the talks between the two leaders had yet to be set, but that further talks over disputed territory on the border were likely.
"I hope that this is a good opportunity for high-level discussions on the border issue [and] that Prime Minister Hun Sen will urge the Joint Border Commission to move forward to resolve the issue."
Recent clashes between Cambodia and Thailand were the result of a "misunderstanding" and will not harm long-term bilateral relations, Abhisit said following talks Friday with Hun Sen.
The two leaders met on the sidelines of the weekend's aborted ASEAN summit in Pattaya, Thailand, in their first encounter since three Thai soldiers died in fierce gunbattles over disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple earlier this month.
"During our bilateral talks we discussed the latest incident," Abhisit told reporters following his meeting with Hun Sen.
"It happened because of a misunderstanding. The incident will not affect our relations and we will use channels of communication if anything happens in future."
Abhisit said that the leaders had also discussed cooperation on their overlapping maritime zones and talked about improving the road networks linking the two countries.
But Thailand's political troubles threaten to derail agreements reached during talks last week, when the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Commission hammered out a deal to place markers along the countries' 805-kilometre shared border as early as next month.
The agreements have to first be approved by the Thai parliament before they can be implemented - a step that has been delayed by previous political upheavals in Bangkok.
Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand have been high since July, when the UNESCO listed the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site, angering Thai nationalists.
Meas Yoeun, a deputy military commander at Preah Vihear, said the front lines remained quiet, but that the upheavals in Bangkok were worrying.
"We are paying attention to the border because of the turmoil in Thailand," he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP
Kong Yu village in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district has been fighting for 450 hectares of ancestral land since 2004.
Written by May Titthara and Sebastian Strangio
Monday, 13 April 2009
Ratanakkiri prosecutor rejects two criminal filings in dispute between ethnic Jarai and Keat Kolney, sister of finance minister
ARATANAKKIRI provincial court prosecutor has dismissed two criminal complaints relating to an ongoing land dispute between an ethnic Jarai village and a Phnom Penh businesswoman, but lawyers involved with the case say they remain in the dark as to the reasons for the dismissals.
Prosecutor Mey Sokhan's rejection of the two complaints is the latest event in a protracted land dispute that has pitted residents of Kong Yu, a village in Ratanakkiri's O'Yadav district, against Keat Kolney, the sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon.
Keat Kolney says she purchased 450 hectares of land from the Kong Yu villagers in August 2004 for a rubber plantation, but lawyers from the Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC) filed a criminal complaint on behalf of the village in January 2007, saying Keat Kolney tricked them into thumbprinting transfer documents.
In June, Keat Kolney's lawyers brought a counter-complaint, accusing the CLEC of incitement and the villagers of illegally occupying the land.
Although both complaints were dismissed on February 2, Pen Bonna, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said Kong Yu residents were not informed until Friday.
"They should have sent a letter to villagers when the court prosecutor dropped the lawsuit," he said.
"It's a sensitive point. It's very hard for the court to find justice for the people."
No reason given
Despite Friday's notification, CLEC lawyer Sourng Sophea, who is helping represent the village in court, was unaware of the reason the case had been dismissed but said it could only be based on firm legal and factual grounds.
"I don't know the reason. According to Article 41 of the Criminal Procedure, the prosecutor has to give a reason [for the dismissal], but I haven't yet received a letter," he said.
When contacted Sunday, Mey Sokhan said he had been reassigned to Stung Treng provincial court and declined to comment on the Kong Yu case, while new court prosecutor Lou Sousambath could not be reached for comment.
But Thar Saron, the Ratanakkiri provincial judge presiding over the case, said the cases had been dismissed in February because lawyers from both sides were "busy" and that the villagers and Keat Kolney would come together for a meeting early next month.
"The aim of the face-to-face talks will be to ask both sides to come to an understanding [so that] neither side will win or lose," he said Sunday.
Sourng Sophea said he knew nothing about the proposed meeting but that the villagers would make a decision on whether to appeal the dismissal of criminal complaints after the Khmer New Year.
A civil case relating to the disputed land is still set to come before the provincial court, but Sourng Sophea said no date had yet been set for its next hearing.
Prime Minister Hun Sen leaves U-Tapao military airport in Thailand on Saturday. Cambodia’s leader returned to Phnom Penh early after the planned summit in Pattaya was cancelled due to protests.
Written by Martin Abbugao
Monday, 13 April 2009
Instability in Thailand that led to cancellation of the ASEAN Summit means regional leaders were unable to talk on how to fend off economic turmoil
THE dramatic cancellation of an Asian summit after rampaging Thai protesters stormed the venue has set back a regional effort to tackle the global downturn, analysts said.
ASEAN was to have hosted two days of talks with the leaders of China, Japan, South Korea and other allies in the biggest international gathering since the G20 summit in London this month.
But the 16-nation meeting was aborted Saturday when anti-government protesters broke through cordons of troops and riot police - forcing presidents, prime ministers and a monarch to be evacuated by helicopter from the rooftop.
"The opportunity to work out collective measures has been set back. It is a setback to Asia's contribution to the global economic recovery," said former ASEAN chief Rodolfo Severino.
"I hope they can meet soon and work it out because Asia has a lot of potential to help in the global economic recovery," said Severino, head of the Singapore-based ASEAN Studies Centre.
The meeting was to have discussed ways to further open up markets, ditch protectionist measures and flesh out the details of a US$120 billion crisis fund for countries under financial stress.
"It is not easy to gather leaders of this magnitude, including the leaders of China, Japan and India. It would have been an opportunity for Asia to let its voice be heard," said an unnamed Southeast Asian diplomat.
The scrapping of the summit shows how the 10-nation ASEAN has become a hostage to the political dramas of its members - a diverse group of democracies, a military dictatorship, a monarchy and communist states, analysts said.
"The main effect is on perceptions of Thailand, [but] indirectly ASEAN's image is affected," said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia specialist at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
"That all are safe and unharmed is good, but it points to one of the underlying challenges for the organisation - how to deal with the dynamics within countries in the region," she said.
While military-ruled Myanmar's iron grip and human rights abuses have been perennial thorns in ASEAN's side, political instability in democracies such as Thailand and the Philippines have also hurt the regional grouping.
"Thailand's instability is a persistent blow for democracy in the region. It used to be a model, and now it is so polarised that it cannot even hold a regional meeting in a remote stronghold for the governing party," said Welsh.
"The protests feed governments who opt for more draconian measures to address crowds, rather than dialogue and legitimacy through elections."
Welsh said that until ASEAN's five core members - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand - can serve as an "anchor" for the bloc, "nothing substantial will get done".
It was not the first time summits have become victims of domestic problems within ASEAN, which also groups oil-rich Brunei and developing nations Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The Philippines postponed its hosting of the annual ASEAN summit from December 2006 to the following month, publicly citing an approaching typhoon but with speculation rife that it was due to a security threat.
In July 2007, Myanmar passed its chance to host the summit and related meetings after the United States threatened to boycott ASEAN gatherings if it took up the group's revolving leadership.
Seah Chiang Nee, a Singapore-based veteran political commentator, said any impact on ASEAN's international reputation would be temporary.
"The big impact will be on Thailand. I don't see how they can live down this reputation of publicly being disgraced in the eyes of the world," he said. AFP
An attendant fills a car with petrol in Phnom Penh. The weighting for petrol under the new CPI methodology has doubled.
The Phnom Penh Post
Written by Hor Hab
Monday, 13 April 2009
Consumer Price Index inflation fell from 8 percent in January to 6.2 percent in February month-on-month according to new methodology employed by National Institute of Statistics
THE National Institute of Statistics (NIS) on Friday said it had revised its methodology for calculating Consumer Price Index (CPI) data in a press conference in which it also announced new figures for the first two months of the year that showed a decline in inflation month-on-month.
The institute, which is under the Ministry of Planning, said that prices increased 8 percent in January, and 6.2 percent in February, compared with the same periods the previous year, data that was produced using the new methodology.
"The inflation is expected to drop further to the lowest point this year," said Khin Song, deputy director general of NIS.
As of January 1, the NIS has calculated CPI based on Phnom Penh prices to represent the whole country when previously an aggregate of the capital, rural and urban areas and an average of these figures combined was used, said San Sy Than, director of the NIS. The institute had also changed the base-year figure to 2006, it said, from 2000 previously. The base year will be changed again for 2013, he added.
Similarly, the weighting for different commodities has also been modified, said the NIS.
The new base year 2006 is calculated according to the prices of 259 items that are classified into 12 groups, while there were only eight groups used previously, most of which were based on goods from five markets in the capital.
The weighting of the Phnom Penh CPI figure has also been adjusted, said San Sy Than. Previously food represented 42.7 percent of the overall figure which has been changed to 44.8 percent in Phnom Penh, he said, and 58 percent for the whole country.
"The new methodology is very good and it's accurate and timely," said San Sy Than, adding that "price changes and the weight attributed to commodity items are the two factors that impact[calculating] inflation".
According to February's CPI report, prices of foods and non-alcoholic beverages increased 8.5 percent, rice was up 32.1 percent and beef prices rose 13.9 percent. The cost of medical products increased 2.9 percent, and clothing and footwear prices climbed 5.3 percent between February 2008 and February 2009.
An Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) update last month projected that inflation in Cambodia would slow sharply to an average of 0.5 percent this year before increasing again to 4.7 percent for 2010 in response to rebounding demand-side pressure.
"The prices for rice and petrol have fallen sharply since mid-2008, and we forecast that they will continue to do so in 2009 as domestic prices decline in line with projected global trends," said the report.
A lower oil price in 2009 will put downward pressure on inflation in Cambodia, the EIU added.
The NIS has doubled the weighting for petrol to 5 percent, it said.
Written by Hor Hab and Chun Sophal
Monday, 13 April 2009
New Year bookings strong, say provinces, as ministry expects growth in domestic travellers
DOMESTIC tourism could increase by as much as 15 percent in 2009 as more Cambodian tourists shun international destinations in favour of local ones, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said at a press conference last week.
Thong Khon said he had based his prediction on reports from provincial tourism departments.
He attributed the expected trend to political unrest in Thailand as well as the prospect of further violence with Thai troops near Preah Vihear temple.
Thailand and Vietnam are the two most popular international destinations for Cambodian tourists, he said.
He also said the economic downturn had made relatively cheap domestic trips more attractive than trips abroad.
Cambodia weathers crisis
He said Cambodians were generally less affected by the downturn than people in other countries, adding that many were still looking to travel, particularly during holidays such as this week's Khmer New Year.
"Our people still have money in their hands because they are not affected by stock markets like people in other countries," he said. "So they continue to go on holiday."
Thong Khon's prediction follows a Ministry of Tourism report released in February that found that the number of Cambodians travelling abroad fell by 21 percent last year, from 995,763 in 2007 to 785,896 in 2008.
Our people still have money ... because they are not affected by stock markets.
New Year rush
Thong Khon said he expected Khmer New Year to be a boon to domestic tourism, citing anecdotal reports that many guesthouses and hotels in Sihanoukville, Kep and Koh Kong were fully booked.
He said roughly 70 percent of Phnom Penh residents would visit their home provinces for the holiday.
"It is good for provincial economies because they [the urban population] bring money from the city to spend in all places and to make the rural economy work."
Som Chenda, director of Preah Sihanouk's tourism department, said his office plans to throw a "special event" at Occheuteal Beach to celebrate Khmer New Year and to "promote our Kingdom of Wonder to attract more tourists".
The event, to be held Wednesday, will include a concert, beach sports and popular Khmer New Year games, he said.
"With this event, we expect more than 100,000 tourists to visit the province during the Khmer New Year, and they will continue to come in the future," he said. "People are not bored with nature."
Koy Sang, director of the tourism department in Siem Reap province, said he expected about 210,000 tourists to visit Kulen Mountain during Khmer New Year, in part because his office had organised events to welcome tourists.
Written by James Lowrey
Monday, 13 April 2009
Cambodia’s reliance on the greenback may not be the best path to a stable economy
THE function of money in Cambodia is served by the national currency, the riel, and a handful of foreign currencies, including the Vietnam dong, the Thai baht and the US dollar. In fact, approximately 90 percent of all transactions today are conducted in greenbacks.
Cambodia is not on its own as a heavily dollarised economy. Many countries have adopted the US dollar either officially or unofficially, and in the Asian region it is widely used in Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Some say the arrival of UNTAC forces in 1992 and 1993 led to the dollarisation of Cambodia's economy with an estimated $1.7 billion brought in over the period. This represented a substantial proportion of money supply, with annual gross domestic product estimated at between $2 billion and $3.1 billion through the early to mid-1990s.
A large proportion of the dollar deposits in the country were via net private transfers from abroad. Up until 1996, the annual private US dollar inflows exceeded the country's official foreign exchange reserves.
Monetary dollarisation is often viewed as favourable for economic growth because it can help firms and households protect the value of financial assets from depreciation in local currency terms. However, not all people view it as positive, with critics saying it introduces a mechanism for capital flight from domestic to foreign currencies.
An uncertain or weak currency limits the usefulness of money
It can also make an economy more vulnerable to both domestic and external shocks and can restrict the ability of local authorities to manage monetary policy. If dollarisation is entrenched, manipulating the local currency or interest rates has little effect on money supply.
One key advantage of dollarisation is a reduction in transaction costs for international trade. Being able to domestically on-sell imported goods paid for in US dollars nets out foreign exchange risks. Or does it?
Even when a country is completely dollarised, it is still exposed to foreign exchange risk when exchange rates fluctuate among international currencies. For example, if the US dollar depreciates against the currencies of trading partners, it erodes the purchasing power of the dollar abroad, exposing Cambodia to the risk of importing inflation. Imports to Cambodia are diverse in terms of country of origin, but around 90 percent are paid for in dollars.
On the flipside, a stronger US dollar may hurt exporters. Tourism is a key growth sector for Cambodia, generating much-needed foreign exchange. But as tourists are faced with US dollar expenses, if their currency weakens against the US dollar, a non-dollarised country may become a relatively more attractive holiday destination.
In Cambodia, dollarisation is not an official policy. The government has retained the Khmer riel as the currency of choice for utility payments, government fees, charges and taxes. Riels are also widely used in everyday markets and provinces where the engine room of the economy resides.
However, the US dollar is the predominant currency for business transactions. Imports, exports, retail purchases and property transactions are all conducted in US dollars.
Time for a change?
The question being asked today is whether Cambodia benefits from unofficial dollarisation and whether it should move to official dollarisation. Many would suggest not and would like to see riels more widely used.
It is claimed that dollarisation helps reduce uncertainty and country risk, which in turn reduces interest rates and inflation. Not so in Cambodia where interest rates remain high compared with the US and other main trading partners. Dollarisation also does not necessarily help keep inflation low.
While dollarisation infers the opportunity to share the stability of the dollar with countries that adopt it, this can be a dangerous assumption. The ability to remain flexible and change currency of trade to match the country of origin, in order to maintain purchasing power and deliver better priced goods to market is paramount and can help the government better serve its people.
The benefits of maintaining a flexibile currency position will be measured not just in terms of GDP, but in terms of fulfilling human potential. An uncertain or weak currency limits the usefulness of money, limiting choice, innovation and investment. The accumulation of wealth that a trustworthy currency permits enables children to have better educations, families to take out longer-term mortgages for home ownership and provides retirees protection for their accumulated savings.
Taking leadership to manage a strong currency is imperative to the long term economic prospects of this country.
James Lowrey is head of corporate and institutional banking at ANZ Royal.
San Vannak tells the fortune of a customer on the riverside Sunday. The soothsayer said that this week his customer numbers have doubled as many people seek to know their fate for the Year of the Ox.
Written by Mom Kunthear
Monday, 13 April 2009
While traditional almanacs predict the Year of the Ox will be inauspicious for Cambodians, many say otherwise
The Year of the Ox will be ushered in this Tuesday at 1:36am, and Cambodians are busy preparing fruits and flowers to offer to the angel Reaksadevi.
According to traditional almanacs, this year is an inauspicious one for Cambodia, bringing suffering and loss. However, officials argue that such predictions are rarely true and should be ignored.
The Year of the Ox is symbolically begun by Reaksadevi, a female angel who, according to legend, rides into Cambodia on the back of an ox, said religious adviser Prom Din.
"This year the angel is to drink blood, so Khmer people are afraid that there will be problems in our country. It is my prediction that we won't have any problems, and we shouldn't be worried," Prom Din said.
The Moha Sangkran Almanac, a traditional almanac adorned with pictures of the Buddha and published in time for Khmer New Year, agrees that this year will not be a good one for Cambodians.
The almanac predicts that farmers in particular will face many problems, as it anticipates a large flood. According to the almanac, only half of the crops will be available for harvest, and the other half will be destroyed.
"This year there will be storms, with rain early and in the middle of the year, but less rain at the end of the year. The people will face chaos throughout the country. They will not have enough food and will be afraid of death," the Moha Sangkran predicts.
This year the angel is to drink blood, so khmer people are afraid that there will be problems...
Chea Kean, deputy secretary general of the National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals, disagreed with the Moha Sangkran predictions.
"Some people are afraid because this year the angel drinks blood, but I think they shouldn't worry about it.... I think sometimes the predictions of fortune-tellers are wrong," Chea Kean said.
It remains to be seen whether this year's Moha Sangkran prediction, and the ominous blood-drinking of the angel Reaksadevi, are accurate prophesies for the year ahead. In the meantime, Prom Din says: "This year, we all just have to do good and help each other in order to avoid bad things happening to us."
Written by Lim Phalla
Monday, 13 April 2009
PORNO COFFEE SHOP RAIDED, 13 ARRESTED
District police and members of the Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau on Thursday raided a coffee shop suspected of showing pornographic films in Chamka Loeu district, Kampong Cham province. The shopowner and 13 patrons were arrested, and police confiscated pornographic materials and 13 motorbikes. Provincial deputy police Chief Chem Seng Hong said the raid was the result of a long investigation, adding that the closing of the shop would help promote human dignity and social morality.
SMOKER ATTACKED AT SWORD-POINT
Kong Bunthoeun, 24, was savagely attacked Wednesday while smoking a cigarette on the street in Kakab commune in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district. The attacker, Mas Shou, is said to have accosted the victim with a sword before beating him. The victim, who is being treated at Kosamak Hospital, told police that while he was being beaten, his attacker said he was exacting revenge.
MAN RAPES GIRL, THEN PROPOSES
Mith Ratana, 18, was arrested for the suspected rape of a girl on April 6 who he said he had been in love with for a long time, following a complaint by the victim. The suspect later confessed to the crime during interrogation by police from the Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau, saying he was very drunk and tried to comfort the young woman afterwards by asking her to marry him. She refused and reported him to police.
ARMED BANDITS NICK MOTORBIKE
A man was robbed of his motorbike on Wednesday by two men with guns while driving with his girlfriend on Cekong bridge in Stung Treng province. Duong Sivutha, police chief of the Serious Crimes Bureau, said the victim was Sen Ratha, 21, who told police two unidentified men chased him on a motorbike, firing a warning shot in the air to get him to pull over. Neither the victim or his girlfriend were injured in the theft.
The Phnom Penh Post
Written by Kyle Sherer
Monday, 13 April 2009
THE rooftop of Siem Reap's X-bar is now home to the province's first miniramp - a U-shaped ramp, or halfpipe, used by skateboarders and BMX bikers to perform tricks.
X-bar co-owner Carlo Tarabini, who built the miniramp almost entirely by himself and has stocked his bar with BMX bikes and skateboards for willing patrons, told The Post that he hopes the structure will spark a skateboarding craze among local Cambodians.
The madcap behaviour of motorbike drivers shows a natural Cambodian flair for extreme sports, but skateboarding has not yet caught on in Khmer culture.
Tarabini believes the problem lies in a lack of infrastructure.
"Cambodians are already picking up on the Rollerblades because it's easy to set up Rollerblade rinks. But the kids just sort of roll around on a track. It's completely different to skateboarding," he said.
However, Tarabini thinks that if halfpipes are built, the skaters will follow.
"Kids are fairly resilient [to injury] around here," he said. "There's a large population of them, so I can see it happening. Look at Thailand and Indonesia. It's what kids in the world are doing these days, if they've got access to it."
Tarabini came up with the idea to build the miniramp two years ago.
"We talked about it as something that can help kids," he said. "We had it growing up and it was a good release for us. Kids over here don't really seem to have a lot to occupy their time. They've got some kick-a-thong-around-type sports, but not a lot. I saw the potential."
Labour of love
The ramp took six months to build, with work being done by Tarabini in his spare time and others when needed.
"A couple of local expats helped me put the wood down," he said.
The result is a "smooth and fast" 2-metre-tall ramp that overlooks Siem Reap's popular Pub Street.
The halfpipe is open to customers during the day, and plans are under way to install lighting so it can be used at night. Tarabini also hopes to start skateboarding classes for Khmer kids and is approaching organisations that could help him get this off the ground.
"We're talking it out with a couple of local NGOs. We're also looking into organisations like the Tony Hawk Foundation. When Tony Hawk came to town ... it was something he wanted to do."
Written by Christopher Shay
Monday, 13 April 2009
Tan Tepi Kanika, 20, and Theng Tith Maria, 19, from the Royal University of Law and Economics, reached the semi-finals at the International Client Counseling Competition, an English-language legal tournament held earlier this month in Las Vegas. The pair beat out teams from Canada and New Zealand as only the second-ever Cambodian team in the tournament.
In Brief: New whiskey launched
Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 13 April 2009
CAMBODIAN palm wine producer Confirel this month launched a palm juice whiskey, the company said, adding it hoped to export the product abroad. After three years of product development, Jaya whiskey - named after Angkorian King Javaraman - is available for US$6 per 500ml bottle, Confirel Manager Chea Ravuth said. "We plan to distribute nationwide ... in order to gain a segment of market share among people who would usually buy imported whiskey," he said, adding that 1,000 bottles would be distributed for sale in the beginning.
In Brief: Ministry defends Cambodian Embassy
Written by CHRISTOPHER SHAY AND KHUON LEAKHANA
Monday, 13 April 2009
The Foreign Ministry shot back at criticism from a Cambodian NGO that accused Cambodian embassy officials in Malaysia of turning their backs on a family of six Cambodians who found themselves in legal limbo after losing their jobs.The ministry said that, despite a lack of cooperation from the family, the embassy was still able to ensure their return to Cambodia. "If the Cambodian embassy did not pay attention and help them, how could these people have returned to Cambodia? They would surely have been condemned over illegal immigration in Malaysia," a recent press release said. Ya Navuth, the executive director of CARAM - the NGO critical of embassy - said on Sunday it was CARAM's efforts, not the government's, that helped the family return home.
In Brief: Heng Pov sentenced to 18 more years
Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Monday, 13 April 2009
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced Heng Pov, the capital's former police chief, to 18 years in prison for conspiring to murder the editor of Koh Santepheap newspaper, court officials said. Already serving 74 years for various murder, extortion and kidnapping convictions, Heng Pov's total jail time now stands at 92 years, but could top the century mark if he is convicted in a 10th case that is now being investigated.