Monday, 4 May 2009

Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Cambodia Tribunal Monitor

30 April 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

29 April 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

28 April 2009: Trial of Kaing Guek Eav (alias "Duch")

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

Council campaign begins

CPP supporters rally Saturday ahead of May 17's provincial, district and municipal council election. AFP

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 04 May 2009

CPP fires first salvo with thousand-strong march through city.

SEVERAL thousand supporters of the Cambodian People's Party marched through the capital Saturday to kick off the two-week election campaign running up to May 17's provincial, district and municipal council polls.

Just four parties - the CPP, Sam Rainsy Party, Norodom Ranariddh Party and Funcinpec - will take part in the election, with voting restricted to the country's 11,353 commune councillors.

"The general political environment during the early part of the election campaign has been calm, and we haven't received any complaints from the political parties," said Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee.

But he said that due to the indirect nature of the election, many campaign activities were being conducted within the country's 1,621 commune offices rather than in public.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said the CPP would hold additional rallies as the campaign unfolds in order to educate people about its political program and encourage other parties' councillors to vote for the CPP.

But the opposition raised criticisms the campaign would make no difference to the election results, and that its "indirect" nature made it irrelevant for the Cambodian people.

"The SRP is holding campaigns at its commune councillors' offices to strengthen their determination not to sell their consciences to the CPP," said Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann, referring to its recent allegations of vote-buying by the ruling party.

Party President Sam Rainsy told the Post Thursday that the party would also run a "highly visible" campaign that would disseminate the SRP's message, despite the May 17 poll being a foregone conclusion.

"This is more than a campaign limited to the action voters. It is intended for the 8 million potential voters in the next election," he said.

Local election monitor Comfrel has said it will boycott the elections, claiming that since the poll is restricted to party representatives it will not reflect the will of the people.


Press less free in '08: monitors

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Monday, 04 May 2009

Violence, courts used to silence local press, say media observers.

THE state of the Cambodian media worsened in 2008 due to an increase in threats and violent attacks against journalists, local and international media monitors say.

In its annual press freedom survey released Friday, the US-based Freedom House rated the Kingdom 132 out of 195 countries for press freedom, downgrading it from "partly free" to "not free".

"Cambodia slipped into the ‘not free' category as a result of increased violence against journalists, particularly ahead of the July elections," the organisation said, highlighting the daylight killing of Moneaksekar Khmer journalist Khim Sambo during last year's national election campaign - the first slaying of a journalist since 2003. Cambodia's media was judged "partly free" in both 2006 and 2007.

In advance of World Press Freedom Day Sunday, local organisations also highlighted the Khim Sambo killing, as well as an increase in threats against journalists, as the source of a decline in press freedoms last year.

The Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ) said threats against journalists doubled in 2008 - from seven to 14 - while journalism-related arrests rose from six to 10. CCJ also cited figures from Reporters Without Borders, which rated Cambodia 126 out of 173 countries in 2008, down from 86 in 2007.

The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) said that last year saw 61 human rights abuses against journalists and media workers, including 15 threats, 14 "spurious" arrests, and five defamation and disinformation lawsuits aimed at silencing the media.

In addition to Khim Sambo's killing, CCHR pointed to the June 8 arrest of Dam Sith, Moneaksekar Khmer editor-in-chief and a Sam Rainsy Party election candidate, for reprinting controversial comments about Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

"The arrest of Mr Dam Sith... was a good example of how political motivations often lie behind charges of defamation and disinformation brought against journalists," the group said.

CCHR also said it has documented eight cases of human rights abuses against journalists so far in 2009, and called on the government to take "appropriate action" to address press freedoms.

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People's Party, dismissed the findings of international observers, saying the Cambodian government routinely exposed itself to criticism.

"I regret any organisation that scores press freedom in Cambodia poorly while the governments of some other countries do not allow journalists to report anything critical of the government," he said.

"The Cambodian government is wide open for all the people to criticise."

He added, however, that although people had rights and freedoms, those rights were constrained under domestic and international law.

Abuse of the law
Local media observers, however, said freedoms in Cambodia fell well short of those guaranteed in law.

"Press freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution, but in practice journalists still face challenges in reporting about sensitive issues like corruption, land grabbing and high-ranking government officials," said Moeun Chhean Nariddh, a veteran journalist and director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies.

He added that although there had been undoubted improvements since the 1990s - when daylight killings were relatively commonplace - the silencing of reporters now took place through the courts.

CCHR President Ou Virak agreed there had been some improvements, but said freedoms had been eroded since the consolidation of power by the ruling CPP after last year's national election.

He also cited more subtle constraints, including the difficulty of obtaining broadcast licences and the increasing use of quasi-legal means to silence the media.

RCAF, police plates targeted

RCAF plates on vehicles parked outside Phnom Penh's Sorya Shopping centre on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 04 May 2009

Hun Sen says cars with unauthorised police and military number plates could become property of the government.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned last week against the use of police and military licence plates by civilians and low-ranking officers, saying the government would seize vehicles bearing unauthorised plates as part of a crackdown set to go into effect this month.

"Officials who put RCAF and police plates on their personal cars have to take them off immediately," he said during the inauguration of a granary at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

"Otherwise, the vehicles will become the property of the state."

National Police Chief Neth Savoeun wrote a letter to officers in February instructing them to begin enforcing in May a law already on the books that outlaws the unauthorised use of police and military registration plates.

Article 91 of the Land Traffic Law, which went into effect in March 2007, gave the drivers of private vehicles bearing police and military plates one year to switch to private plates, meaning drivers who continue to drive with unauthorised plates have been flouting the law since March 2008. Under the law, violators face two to five years in prison and a fine of between 4 million riels and 10 million riels (US$970-$2,424). The law does not stipulate that violators can lose ownership of their vehicles.

Enforcement disconnect
Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur said he viewed Hun Sen's remarks as a "notice that we have to start implementing" the law.

"We immediately started implementing it after the prime minister's speech," he said, although he said this "implementation" involved only the recording of registration plate numbers that appeared to be in violation of the law.

"We just take the plate numbers down. We do not fine them," he said.

[right now] we just take the plate numbers down. we do not fine them.

El Narin, deputy traffic police chief, said he believed Hun Sen's remarks would prompt violators to make the switch to private plates.

He said officers were in the process of trying to educate violators about the law and that they would begin assuming possession of their cars "later on".

Hun Sen said the drivers of cars bearing police and military plates are more prone to drive recklessly, a point echoed by opposition Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay, who said such drivers "do not respect traffic lights".

"Officials have to respect the law, but in Cambodia it is very hard to have officials respect the law," Son Chhay said.

He added that he believed the ministries of defence and interior had done little to curtail the use of unauthorised plates.

Touch Chankosal, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, also called on the ministries of defence and interior, which issue the plates, to focus on the problem.

New Malaysian labour laws could aid Cambodian workers


Migrant domestic workers in Malaysia are explicitly excluded from most of Malaysia's 1955 Employment Act. Under the law, domestic workers are not considered "workers" have no right to regular time off and no guarantees about working conditions.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khuon Leakhana And Christopher Shay
Monday, 04 May 2009

But migrant labour groups say they were not consulted about the draft legislation and have been unable to receive copies

VAT Srey, 32, went to Malaysia as a domestic worker six years ago to try to support her family; but the moment she landed, it became clear that domestic work in Malaysia was not what she had hoped for.

"The agency [that brought me to Malaysia] deprived me of my passport as soon as I arrived," she said.

Her employers threatened her and forced her to work long hours, leaving her exhausted and frightened.

"I had to get up and start work at 3am ... and then continue until midnight," she said. "Before they [the family I worked for] left for work, they would always threaten to cut my fingers."

Vat Srey isn't alone. The country employs about 400,000 migrant domestic workers, according to Malaysian migrant labour group Tenaganita, and they still do not enjoy the same rights as other foreign workers.

Accurate statistics about the number of Cambodian domestic workers in Malaysia are unavailable, but the Coordination of Action Research on Aids and Mobility (CARAM) says there are about 10,000 Cambodian migrants in Malaysia, many of whom are domestic workers.

But Malaysia is drafting new laws aimed at protecting this vulnerable population.

"We have proposed three new provisions in law to deal with sexual harassment, wages and their working conditions," said Sabri Karmani, the deputy director general of the Malaysian Labour Department told AFP last week.

Ivy Josiah, the executive director at the Women's Aid Organisation in Malaysia, said a law protecting domestic workers would be a welcome step.

"If we have a specific law," she said, "it would heighten awareness among employers and agents that all of those people [exploiting domestic workers] are breaking the law."

But Tenaganita is not yet convinced that real solutions to domestic worker abuse are in the pipeline.

Glorene Dass, a program officer at Tenaganita, said that though the organisation had heard about new laws, it had not been able to obtain a copy and that it and other relevant groups had not been consulted by the government.

"We are not aware of the status nor the progress of the legislation ... we have not been called for any dialogue by the relevant agencies before drafting the legislation - therefore we are a little concerned," she wrote in an email last week.

Yath Navuth, the executive director of CARAM, welcomed protections for domestic workers and said Cambodia should make similar strides.

"The Cambodian government should consider making similar laws so that Cambodian domestic workers who come from the provinces to Phnom Penh households can be protected by the law."

Two men jailed for paying teachers with counterfeit money

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 04 May 2009

The deputy director of a Kandal province school suspected of paying his staff in fake 10,000 riel notes could face up to 20 years in jail: police.

A SECONDARY school official and his associate were arrested by district police in Kandal province Sunday on suspicion of paying teachers in counterfeit 10,000 riel notes, police said.

"Vann Vong Reaksmey, 55, the deputy director of Cheung Kerb secondary school, and his partner, So Pha, a 60-year-old vendor, were arrested after receiving complaints from teachers that they had been paid in fake money," said Seung Seng Ly, chief of the provincial Minor Crimes Department.

The two men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of fraud, said Eav Chamreun, the provincial police chief.

Police confiscated 5.53 million riels (US$1,341.90) in counterfeit 10,000 riel notes, Seung Seng Ly said.

The two men said they had three other accomplices who remain free, said Seung Seng Ly.

The teachers only discovered their wages were fake when they tried to buy gasoline, he said, suggesting that it was not immediately obvious to the teachers that the notes were counterfeit.

Choung Sam On, chief of the Kandal Stung Education Department, said that he gave Vann Vong Reaksmey the money to pay his staff in 100,000 riel notes, not 10,000 riel notes.

"I don't know how he exchanged all that money and got fake money like this," he said. "When he gets back from the prison, I cannot allow him to work in this school again because his staff has lost confidence in him."

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), said events like these dishonour Cambodia's teachers.

No review of KRT graft claims aired on CNN

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Monday, 04 May 2009

CORRUPTION allegations against the Cambodian side of the Khmer Rouge tribunal aired by the American news network CNN on Friday will not be investigated, a court official told the Post on Sunday.

"There is nothing in the report that is new, or that I haven't heard before," said public affairs chief Helen Jarvis. "There are no specific complaints that are identified or clear enough."

The report included interviews with two court staffers, their identities hidden, who claimed Sean Visoth, the court's chief administrator, took kickbacks totalling US$40,000 a month from staff salaries.

Jarvis said Sean Visoth is no longer on the court's payroll.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, told the Post on Sunday that the corruption allegations were not only unfounded, but were made with malicious intent.

"These are just accusations from people wanting to discredit the court and bring it down," he said. "We have had seven international audits of the court already and none has found solid evidence."

The kickback allegations were the subject of an earlier UN review, the results of which have yet to be made public, despite calls for their release from defence lawyers at the tribunal.

Phay Siphan rejected calls for another investigation, saying the UN "is not perfect. They are not God. They did not come from heaven".

Study Abroad: A year in Hawaii - on the farm

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie corey-boulet
Monday, 04 May 2009

Study Abroad

Five former volunteers for Youth Star Cambodia will head to Hawaii on Sunday for a yearlong Worldwide Farmers Exchange program designed to expose them to modern farming techniques and business practices. The program will mark the first time that Youth Star, a youth service organisation, will send volunteers overseas, said Catherine Cecil, its communications and policy adviser. Each of the five volunteers - four men and one woman - has a bachelor's degree in agriculture or business, as well as some type of farming experience. Cecil said the volunteers will, upon their return, help Youth Star establish a training program so that the skills they learn abroad can be transferred to young Cambodians. Like his fellow volunteers, Seng Saramany, who has never been out of the country, said he was looking forward to learning "everything about Hawaii, but especially about agriculture". Youth Star Executive Director Eva Mysliwiec said the volunteers will learn, among other things, quality control techniques that will improve crop presentation.

Australian benefactor gets new homes for dump families

Photo by: TOM HUNTER
Residents of the Stung Meanchey dump visit their new houses near Udong mountain.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Tom Hunter
Monday, 04 May 2009

With closure of the Stung Meanchey dump, 21 families facing eviction will move near Udong mountain with help of Australian and Habitat for Humanity.

PAUL Munn's cane sank into a mountain of Phnom Penh waste; losing his balance and about to fall into the refuse, Munn was saved by a young boy who grabbed his palm to steady him.

This simple act last year proved a pivotal moment for a community of 21 Stung Meanchey dumpsite families facing eviction.

Munn returned to Australia to raise money for the community to purchase a small plot of land at the base of Udong mountain for them to be relocated.

The French NGO Pour un Sourire d'Enfant estimates that around 400 Stung Meanchey dump families will be displaced when the site closes later this year, having been declared a blight on the expanding capital.

Munn used to visit the dumpsite regularly, taking children food and other aid. Following his near collapse into the city's rubbish, Munn found himself being guided through the trash hills by the son of community leader Chea Chandy.

Munn met with Chea Chandy that afternoon and discussed the future of his small community. Chea Chandy took a holistic view of the dump's closure, but voiced concerns about the eviction.

"The dumpsite is my home, and it is my source of income. Evicting me from my home is wrong, but I am also a human being, and I realise that this is not how I should live," he told the Post Friday.

"Living at the dump, I have no dignity.... Closing the dumpsite and moving to Udong is going to be better for my children and better for the environment," he added.

Upon his return to Australia, Munn raised about US$15,000 for 3,000 square metres of land near Udong in Kandal province.

Munn approached Habitat for Humanity to construct 21 new houses at the site, and now there are plans to aquire an additional 7,000 square metres of land adjacent to the housing project for agricultural production.

The move to Udong has inspired Chea Chandy to rename his community "The New Life Community", saying that it represents the hopes he holds for his new life.

"At Udong, we'll have to adapt by seeing what other villagers do and do something similar," Chea Chandy said, adding that he was not sure how the would make a living.

Habitat for Humanity plans to build 21 houses in five days with the help of 300 volunteers as part of the annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

"We've now built a community centre in five days with 14 US Peace Corps volunteers, community leaders and skilled labourers," Melissa Cronin, the resource development and communications officer for Habitat for Humanity Cambodia, said Friday.

Increase water supply: Hun Sen

A water treatment plant in Phnom Penh's Chroy Changvar district.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 04 May 2009

Tells officials to expand access during launch of new supply station.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen last week urged the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority to increase service to the outskirts of Phnom Penh, saying that the expansion of access to clean water would allow for the construction of new factories and would also benefit the poor.

"I recommend that [the authority] try to supply water to the remaining 10 percent of people who are left without it and to connect areas that lack water," he said last Monday at the launch of a new water supply station in Chroy Changvar district.

Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem said at the launch that data from 2008 indicated that 90 percent of Phnom Penh residents had access to clean water, compared with 51 percent of Cambodians living in all cities and provincial towns.

The new Chroy Changvar station is expected to double water production - from 65,000 cubic metres to 130,000 cubic metres per day - at the site, which already has one supply station.

Hun Sen praised the water authority for its efforts to reach out to the poor, citing its efforts to administer US$400,000 in water subsidies to 17,590 families since 2001. He said the authority should continue cooperating with development partners to bolster production capacity and services.

New station on the way
Hun Sen also said the recently announced Niroth Water Supply Project - funded in part by a loan that was secured in March - would be completed in 2013.

"I am not sure whether it will be finished before the National Assembly's mandate or after the 2013 election in July," he said. "I admire the [authority] and development partners for their help in making this possible."

Authority Director General Ek Sonn Chan said the Niroth project - to which the Japan International Cooperation Agency donated $35 million and the French development group AFD donated $20 million - would allow the site to serve some settlements on the outskirts of Phnom Penh as well as districts in Kandal province.

WBank to put US$15m towards improving higher education

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khuon Leakhena
Monday, 04 May 2009

THE World Bank is to inject US$15 million to support tertiary education in private and public universities and institutes in Cambodia, the Ministry of Education has said.

The money will be spent over five years and will be aimed at boosting standards and providing scholarships for needy students, while improving academic research and financial management.

Pith Chamnan, a secretary of state at the ministry, said last week that the funding would be a significant boost in addressing weaknesses in the sector.

"Fifteen million US dollars is enough to support the higher education sector across the country," Pith Chamnan said.

"It is a small sum, but we consider it a start. We must ensure the four areas of spending reach their goals so that education quality will improve."

He said the ministry hoped for further funds if the project was successful, adding that the initial tranche of money had not yet reached the ministry. The cash will be spent between 2010 and 2015.

"The World Bank has previously shown interest in the education sector, but that was predominantly at the primary and secondary education level," he said.

"Tertiary education is very important for development - studies show that an economy improves once a country has people with good-quality higher education."

Pok Thavin, director general of the ministry's Tertiary Education Department, said the Kingdom currently has 77 higher education institutions and 130,000 tertiary students.

But standards are mixed. A recent ministry report noted that some institutions provide little benefit to students, while Prime Minister Hun Sen told attendees at the National Education Congress in March that some master's and PhD candidates were unable even to type on computers.

Pith Chamnan said the World Bank had provided US$3 million for three higher education projects in 2006 and 2007.

One-third had gone to the higher education sector, another third to the accreditation committee that develops educational standards in the Kingdom and the final third to enlarge the Hun Sen Library at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

A report written by the Education Ministry in January showed that the number of scholarships on offer at state higher education institutions now benefits just 12 percent of students, whereas previously, higher education at all public institutions was free.

A total of 10,000 students have benefited from scholarships in the three years since 2006.

Wheel of a time


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Heng Chivoan
Monday, 04 May 2009
Participants in an annual cycling competition organised by the Cambodian Bicycle Federation race past Independence Monument on Sunday. The federation says it hopes to expand the competition to include racers from overseas next year.

Phnom Penh SEZ still on schedule: officials

Photo by: Kay Kimsong
Workers prep the site of the Phnom Penh SEZ in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Monday, 04 May 2009

Special economic zone official says project is moving ahead with construction, despite the recent economic downturn

THE Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone (SEZ) announced Saturday that it has attracted 12 enterprises, despite worsening economic conditions in the country.

The announcement comes following an impassioned speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen last week in which he lashed out at the Sihanoukville SEZ for persistent delays.

"Seven companies are operating and five are still building and waiting for additional investment at the Phnom Penh special economic zone," Samrith Eang, assistant to the chairman of the Phnom Penh SEZ, said at a celebration for international Labour Day.

"We have been successful in attracting additional investors," he said.

He added, however, that two of the companies were not yet registered with the Council for the Development of Cambodia.

The SEZ offers companies a number of benefits, including a nine-year tax break, unrestricted repatriation of profits and 99-year leases on property.

Samrith Eang said that construction was proceeding on schedule despite the economic downturn.

Tough market
Chea Vuthy, deputy secretary general for the Council for the Development of Cambodia, told the Post Saturday that although the first phase had been smooth, progress would depend on a recovery this year.

"We cannot force anyone to develop; it depends on market conditions," he said.

"But it's no problem. We will provide facilities to make it straightforward ... once companies register to invest in the zone," he added.

Samrith Eang said the SEZ hopes to employ more than 8,500 workers in 2010, including more than 5,600 female workers and 210 foreign workers.

We cannot force anyone to develop, it depends on the market conditions.

He said the SEZ would also try to employ people laid off as a direct result of the global economic crisis.

PM pressure
The prime minister last week accused planners of the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of delaying construction and costing the government in interest payments.

The government took out a US$3 million loan in 2006 from the Japanese government that was earmarked for design work on the SEZ, but no progress has been made, Hun Sen said.

"I have told the [Japanese government] to begin building the SEZ.

"We already signed an agreement in 2006, but we are still waiting," Hun Sen said.

He added that the delays are also deterring Japanese companies from investing in the SEZ.

Cambodia has 21 registered special economic zones, but many have delayed construction due to the economic slowdown.

Last month, the Duong Chhiv Group announced that a major SEZ in Takeo province was only 10 percent completed, despite receiving a government licence in 2006.

The Manhattan SEZ near Phnom Penh also said it is behind schedule.

Hun Sen threatens to abolish ministries

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 04 May 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned he may dismantle the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Finance because of an ongoing dispute between the Department of Customs and Excise and Camcontrol, which falls under the Ministry of Commerce.

The disagreement centres on control of the country's customs committee, he said.

"The two men have bad blood," said Hun Sen, referring to Pen Simon, chief of the department of customs, which controls tariffs; and Mok Pichrith, chief of Camcontrol, which controls food safety.

The premier lashed out at the officials during a ceremony to inaugurate a new crane at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port at the end of last week.

"Why are they negotiating an agreement between the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Finance? It is like the two ministries are independent states," said Hun Sen. "There should be an inter-ministerial announcement, not an agreement. If this continues, I will dismantle the two ministries and combine them."

The customs department has the role of chairman and Camcontrol appoints the deputy to the government committee for customs control.

"If the chairman does not give the order, the deputy cannot do anything," said the premier.

He said the two units have joint responsibility for imports. "We created a one-stop service to let the two units work together. The two must harmonise."

Neither Pen Simon nor Mok Pichrith could be reached for comment.

Economist predicts recovery in garment sector by end of 2009

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON A woman sells designer-label garments made in Cambodia Sunday at the Central Market.

Garment expo set for Wednesday

A GARMENT machinery exhibition will be held at the Hotel Cambodiana on Wednesday to boost exports, said organisers. Tep Mona, director of the Garment Industry Productivity Centre (GIPC) which is running the event, said it will target small and medium enterprises (SMEs). “This is the first exhibition of machinery used by our garment factories and small and medium enterprises,” she said. “Five garment and SME machinery companies will display their products.” She said the occasion was to show investors the machinery available and to push for export-focused production. NGUON SOVAN

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 04 May 2009

One of country’s leading economists says that international organisations have been too pessimistic about Cambodia’s economic outlook for this year

AN independent economist has predicted Cambodia's beleaguered garment sector could recover as early as late 2009, noting that orders have stabilised since the early part of the year.

Kang Chandararot, president of the Cambodia Institute for Development Study, said Sunday that assessments by international institutions were too pessimistic, and they ignored the fact that new factories had opened in 2009.

The Economist Intelligence Unit and World Bank have projected that Cambodia's economy will contract this year, largely based on a huge drop in demand since the start of the global economic crisis.

"I think that [national] GDP growth will be about 5 percent higher than predictions by international institutions," Kaing Chandararot said, adding that the garment sector will recover this year. "Tax subsidies are one measure the government initiated to boost the garment industry because it can maintain economic stability by focusing on domestic markets," he said .
"Our garment industry will improve this year because factories have received orders and new factories have opened this month," Kaing Monika, external affairs manager for the Garment Manufacturers' Association of Cambodian (GMAC), said Sunday.

But Kaing Monika said that the sector still faces downward price pressure and that more layoffs were possible. He said about 20 factories had closed this year and about 13,000 people were made jobless.

"I don't think working conditions in the sector are getting worse - they are still good compared to regional countries, according to the ILO (International Labour Organisation)," he said.

He said the government had suspended its 1 percent advance profit tax until 2012, and reduced employer contribution to social security to 0.05 percent of gross salary, from 0.08 percent, for 2009 and 2010.

The government has allocated US$6.5 million to vocational training for jobless garment workers.

Cambodian People's Party parliamentarian Cheam Yeap said the government has tried to offer agricultural training.

"The government has proposed ... to offer loans with lower interest rates to people to increase their farming capacity and offer more opportunities for people to work in agriculture," he said.

2008 water revenues up to $20m

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 04 May 2009

WATER supply revenues increased in 2008 to US$20 million from $17 million the previous year after a 15 percent increase in sales, Ek Sonn Chan, director general of Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA), said last week.

The municipality sold 85 million cubic metres of water in 2008, up from 72 million cubic metres the year before following the improvement of the capital's water-pipeline infrastructure, Ek Sonn Chan said, adding that water sales would likely continue to rise.

"Our revenue has increased every year because we have increased water connections by more than 100,000 every year," he said. "In 2009, we will start treating water at a new supply station in Chroy Changvar, which can produce 65,000 additional cubic metres of water per day."

Water prices have remained stable at about $0.24 a cubic metre, while 90 percent of Phnom Penh families have access to water, he said.

The PPWSA has worked with development partners to enlarge capacity, he added. By the end of 2009, the authority says it will be able to produce 235,000 cubic metres of clean water per day for 178,200 families.

Local rate control

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by James Lowrey
Monday, 04 May 2009

While Western rates hit rock bottom, depositors can get more than 7 percent in Cambodia

Although the dollar is widely used in Cambodia, interest rates for deposits and loans bear no reflection to US interest rates in major trading centres around the world.

The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) manages dollar and riel money supply but does not set cash rates for the dollar, leaving interest rates to the market.

The majority of bank deposits and loans are denominated in dollars, but money changers, foreign currency dealers and microfinance institutions are prolific in their riel-lending.

So what drives interest rates in Cambodia?

Interest rates are deemed the "future price of money". Supply and demand play a large role in determining prices, which are affected by economic and investment activity.

In many countries, central banks control official cash rates to influence the demand for money, thus inflation, through manipulating consumption. As the NBC has no influence over US monetary policy - and is limited in its ability to influence local rates - here they have increased.

The US Federal Reserve has lowered its benchmark target rate to between zero and 0.25 percent, a move that left it no room to cut rates further.

At the other extreme, the Central Bank of Zimbabwe increased rates for borrowing to 800 percent in 2007 to try to tackle hyperinflation!

But the central bank here is not completely hamstrung.

In early 2008, property activity led to increasing inflation.

To stem economic activity - and cut inflation - the NBC required commercial banks to double their reserve ratio requirements from 8 percent to 16 percent. This reduced the availability of surplus deposits to fund new loans.

As property activity and price growth cooled, inflation also fell. In response to the market conditions, the NBC cut the reserve ratio from 16 percent to 12 percent. The additional liquidity represents about one month of lending.

Local liquidity is related to M2 - or broad - money supply as regulated by the NBC. While the NBC can manage supply of riels, the control of dollars is not easy. Key sources of dollars have included foreign direct investment (about US$800 million in the past two years), foreign aid and private remittances, largely from Cambodians living abroad.

As banks raise most of their funding for dollar loans in Cambodia from domestic dollar deposits, and deposit interest rates are a function of the demand for liquidity in the country, the rates paid on dollar deposits have continued to rise in the past 12 months by as much as 3 percent per year.

As such, local depositors can enjoy very high interest rates on their dollar deposits in Cambodia compared with low rates paid in most of the world.

So, although central banks around the world are lowering official cash rates to stimulate business activity, because of the unique monetary system in Cambodia, interest rates have remained high.

There is, therefore, a need to improve monetary policy options to enable the country to respond to the extreme economic conditions it is currently facing.
James Lowry is head of corporate and institutional banking at ANZ Royal Bank Cambodia.

Book Review: Failure of style and execution leaves novel short of breath

Timothy Hallinan. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Timothy Hallinan has lived in Southeast Asia off and on for more than 25 years. Breathing Water, to be published in August, is his latest novel. The author taught a writing seminar last week at the Australian Centre for Education.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Monday, 04 May 2009

Hallinan’s forthcoming Breathing Water rarely strays from the trite and ordinary

The first sentence of Timothy Hallinan's forthcoming novel Breathing Water seems to mark the beginning of an ambitious piece of fiction: "The man behind the desk is a dim shape framed in a blinding light, a god emerging from the brilliance of infinity."

As he describes it, Hallinan's objective for the novel, the third in a series about the Bangkok-based travel writer Poke Rafferty, was in fact ambitious. He said in a recent interview that he wanted to produce a convincing portrayal of Thai politics, one involving a hero who must "find his way through this minefield of huge invisible gravitational fields of power".

Breathing Water begins with Rafferty winning, in a poker game, permission to write the biography of Pan, a billionaire with political aspirations who was born a poor northeastern villager. Rafferty and others suspect that Pan has a complex criminal past, and the writer finds himself caught between those who don't want that past revealed and those who do.

Escorting the reader through "this minefield" is a tall order, one for which Hallinan is poorly suited.

That overwritten first sentence, the reader discovers, masks the author's lack of ambition both as a stylist and as a recorder of anything beyond trite observations touching on the usual themes: income inequality, corruption and the plight of street children.

What is most frustrating about Breathing Water's shortfalls is that they are of little concern to Hallinan, a point driven home during a seminar he led Thursday night at the Australian Centre for Education titled "Happy Endings: Finishing Your Novel".

At the seminar, he distributed a handout containing his 10 "rules of finishing", the last of which was particularly instructive for someone trying to grasp his approach to fiction: "Remember - it's only a book".

Style flaws
Back to that first sentence, which displays one of two habits that undo Hallinan as a stylist: his commitment to describing the light in every scene.

He approaches these passages with an attention to detail so clinical that they read more like the notes of a theatre lighting director than lines in a novel.

At one point, he writes: "The morning light pours in through the sliding door to the balcony, bouncing off the glass top of the coffee table to create a rectangle of sunlight on the ceiling." This is a fine sentence, but Hallinan can't be bothered to do anything with the light besides place it - and leave it - up on the ceiling, where it becomes a distraction rather than a device.

Hallinan's other destructive habit is his dependence on similes. We are told, for instance, of a man who is "as lean as a matador and as dark as a used tea bag"; of a mouth that is "as unsettling as the underside of a starfish"; and of "a moment shaped like a vague question". These are either overdone - why can't that man just be lean and dark? - or, in the case of the "vague question" moment, outright puzzling.

At times, these two habits collide, resulting in a cringe-inducing combination of light references that fail to illuminate and similes that obscure: "There is enough city light reflecting off the low clouds to dilute the blackness of the hall into a kind of darkness in suspension, like a glass of water in which a writing brush has been dipped repeatedly." To which the only justifiable response is: What?

Plot hits and misses
Perhaps to fault Hallinan on style is to miss the point. He is interested, after all, in writing thrillers that work, and he excels at writing snappy dialogue that moves the story forward and at stringing many developments together to construct a plot with few holes.

But he gets carried away with the details. Of Poke, he told me, "I knew that I could write him because he didn't actually understand Thai culture." The implication being that Hallinan doesn't either.

While this self-awareness is commendable, Hallinan's attempt to circumvent this problem involves inflating what he does understand about Thai culture - income inequality, the nouveau riche, the usual themes - to unwarranted extremes.

He writes at length, for instance, about a benefit held at Pan's Greek Revival mansion "roughly the size of the Taj Mahal". To get there, guests travel "through a flaming gate" towards a garden that contains artificial apple trees, with apples covered in precious stones.

And then comes the incongruity, the curve ball designed to induce a guffaw. In front of the mansion sits "a small, rickety, blow-the-house-down northeastern farm village".

Said Hallinan: "It made sense to me that a guy like Pan would want to stress the ways in which he was different from, rather than similar to, his economic peers."

He's right: The concept makes sense. The problem lies in the execution, which is neither artfully embellished nor innocently fantastical.

The passage makes the reader cry out for Hallinan to abandon altogether his attempt to describe "this minefield of huge invisible gravitational fields of power" and instead get back to the plot. Because as a thriller, and only as a thriller, Breathing Water works.

Photographer finds inspiration in urban poor

Stung Meanchey dump. ©TONE ULLAND

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by David Gainsboro
Monday, 04 May 2009

THE intense heat radiated from the smouldering garbage below her, and the fetid smell permeated the air all around her. Amidst the refuse, a little girl climbed onto the lap of her mother whenever she stopped working: a strong mother-daughter bond clearly evident.

This is how photographer Tone Ulland spends her days in Phnom Penh: following the urban poor.

In her exhibition "Dignity", on display at Cafe Living Room, Ulland explores the daily lives of marginalised Cambodians in beautifully composed, but often graphic, pictures from her wanderings in the Stung Meanchey dump, and along the streets of the capital.

The photos capture the people who make up Phnom Penh's lower class: from street children to the middle aged and the elderly, to garbage collectors and street cleaners.

Last year, when walking the streets of Phnom Penh, a street cleaner caught her eye.

"Sometimes you just stop and stare deep into the eyes of someone and have so many questions," she said.

In this case, it was a woman and her daughter, picking up garbage. Enthralled, Ulland wondered: "We're both the same age, both mothers. Do you feel the same about your children as I do? Do you have the same hopes and dreams?"

She quickly realised that the only way to find an answer to this question was to spend numerous days following these "down and out" Cambodians. And the more she learned, the more she admired and respected these people.

She developed a deeper connection with a few of the children and was further inspired to write a children's book The One-Eyed Teddy of Stung Meanchey.

The book was co-written and authored by two of the children she photographed, Narath Un and Naran.

The book is filled with photographs of a girl and her teddy bear and follows the story of how her teddy bear loses its eye and the quest through the dump for a suitable replacement.

"Dignity" runs at Cafe Living Room until May 24.

Police Blotter: 04 May 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Monday, 04 May 2009

Mom Bunly and her driver, Heng Eang Chiv, were shot dead Friday while driving to Phnom Penh from Steung Thmey village in Pursat province. Police have arrested Mom Bunly's son in connection with the attack, which policesay was caused by a family business dispute. A third person who was travelling in the car was also severely wounded and taken to hospital by police.

Heang Bun,18, was arrested in connection with a motorbike theft last Thursday, during which the victim, Eng Saes, was severely beaten. Police have returned the motorbike to the victim and are still pursuing one man thought to have been involved in the robbery in Prek village, Preah Sdach district, Battambang province.

Police have captured Snguon Seiha, 20, two years after he assaulted a man, leaving him severely wounded. A warrant had been issued for the arrest, which was made Friday in Beng village, Sangke district, Battambang province.

A Vietnamese national, Saing Sin, has been sentenced to seven days in jail and slapped with a 150,000 riel (US$37.50) fine for playing pornographic videos in her cafe in Choam Chao village, in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district. Saing Sin was arrested on Thursday and sentenced the following day.

A long-running family dispute has resulted in a brutal fight between two men in Chbar Ampov village, Teuk Chhou district, Kampot province. It is believed that Keang Kea and his brother-in-law Eum Kim had been on bad terms for a long time before the incident. Police arrested both men, who were severely wounded during the fight.

A man was killed for attempting to leave a party because "he was already drunk and could not drink anymore", witnesses said. Chhun Bunthon, 38, was fatally stabbed on Wednesday by Nob Ny, 26, after he attempted to leave the event early in Srah Chak village, Kampong Tralach district, Kampong Chhnang province.

Newly promoted stun Naga to draw

Written by Ung Chamroeun
Monday, 04 May 2009

NEWCOMERS Spark FC made a dream start to the Premier League season following promotion from Division A1 to force a 2-2 draw against Hun Sen Cup runnersup Naga Corp Sunday at Olympic Stadium.

Spark's Justine Prince blasted his team in front in the 15th minute after some selfish play, shunning the opportunity to pass to teammates.

Naga struck back to level the score through national team midfielder Sun Sovannarith with 7 minutes to go in the half. Just 3 minutes after the restart, Naga took the lead through club captain Om Thavarak. The national team defender directed his header past the Spark keeper off a Kim Chanbunrith freekick.

Spark kept playing with determination, and Justin Prince found his way through the Naga defence to net his second goal on the hour mark.

With the scoreline locked at 2-2, Spark players did their best to run out the clock while their opponents unsuccessfully pressed for the win.

Preah Khan Reach (PKR) went top of the CPL after beating Phouchung Neak 3-0 in a result that mirrored their third-place playoff match in the recent Hun Sen Cup on March 21. PKR striker Khoun Laboravy, who also stars in the national team, scored just before the interval and Alex Ikeduba scored twice in the second half with the defence keeping a clean sheet after Phouchung attackers missed their attempts.

The crowd attendance was depleted after fans were annoyed Saturday by the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) introducing a new admission price of 4,000 riels (US$0.97). "One dollar is so expensive for me. If the FFC continue to do this, I think that the match will be played without visitors. I'll [only] pay 1,000 riels," complained one visitor.

The FFC said that they are selling tickets to generate more income for organising tournaments.

Tickets for weekend matches cost 4,000 riels with Wednesday games priced at 2,000 riels.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: US reviews CAmbodia terror risk

Written by Vong Sokheng
Monday, 04 May 2009

Porous borders, endemic corruption and "disaffected elements within the Cham Muslim population" are among the factors that make Cambodia vulnerable to terrorism, according to a report released last Thursday by the US State Department. US embassy spokesman John Johnson said the report, which lauds Cambodia's "political leadership" and "strong commitment to aggressive legal action against terrorists", was based on "information provided by the embassy".

In Brief: Group asks for Sok An's approval

Written by Cheang Sokha
Monday, 04 May 2009

The Khmer Civilisation Foundation (KCF) is to send a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, asking him if the KCF is allowed to actively pursue compensation from Thailand or if it is interfering in government affairs. " What I have done is on behalf of Khmer citizens ... but if it is wrong, I will stop," Moeung Sonn, the president of the KCF, said. KCF is asking for US$9 million in compensation from Thailand after Thai soldiers opened fire on a market near the Preah Vihear temple complex on April 3.

In Brief: Mu Sochua to appear in court

Written by Meas Sokchea
Monday, 04 May 2009

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua is to appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Thursday to clarify the details of her defamation lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen, a court official said Sunday. "Mu Sochua had been called to explain her case for suing the prime minister," said court prosecutor Hing Bun Chea, adding that another prosecutor was in charge of Hun Sen's countersuit. Mu Sochua said she was ready to defend herself in court. Prosecutor Sok Roeun, who will be in charge of Hun Sen's case, would not comment on when the prime minister would be in court.

MTI minister at Asean retreat

Minister for Trade and Industry Kim Hng Kiang (left) and other ministers will discuss how to fast track the agreements and implementation of obligations and initiatives to further facilitate business operations in the Asean region. -- ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG


May 4, 2009

TRADE and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang will attend the 15th Asean Economic Ministers' (AEM) Retreat in Siem Reap, Cambodia this week.

The meeting on Monday and Tuesday comes after the February signing of the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), the Asean Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA), and the Protocol for the 7th Package of Commitments under the Asean Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS-7).

Ministers will discuss how to fast track the agreements and implementation of obligations and initiatives to further facilitate business operations in the Asean region.

They will also review the progress of implementation of the economic integration measures under the Asean Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint.

In addition, the ministers will consider ways to further enhance external relations with Dialogue Partners so that Asean continues to be well linked to global economies.

Global economic issues, such as the importance of being open to trade and investment and the avoidance of protectionism, also figure on the agenda.

'What's Hot!' columnist Tim Grobaty, photographers Gritchen, Smeltzer win Best in the West awards

Press-Telegram Best-in-the-West honorees Tim Grobaty, Jeff Gritchen, Scott Smeltzer.

By John Canalis, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/02/2009
Updated: 05/03/2009

LONG BEACH, Calif. --The Press-Telegram won three awards in a newswriting, photography and multimedia contest that recognizes journalistic excellence in the Western United States.

Two current staffers and one former member of the P-T newsroom staff won first- and second-place awards in the annual Best of the West contest, which recognizes print and online media outlets in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. About 2,000 entries produced in 2008 competed.

Columnist Tim Grobaty took first place in column writing for what the judges called "laugh-out-loud columns full of telling observations and wonderfully expressive language."

Jeff Gritchen's multi-media storytelling followed the triumphant story of little Davik Teng, from Cambodia to Long Beach to successful surgery in Los Angeles and back to her homeland. (Jeff Gritchen / Press-Telegram)

Grobaty won for a body of work that included five columns, including one in which he walked from his Eastside home to the downtown Press-

Telegram building after Long Beach was ranked one of the most "walkable" cities in the country.

"Grobaty displays a sure hand that invites the reader to follow along with his fevered train of thought and he possesses a commendable commitment to sacrificing shoe leather in the service of a good yarn," the judges wrote.

In reference to Grobaty's walk-through-the-city piece, one judge wrote, "He had me at, `Don't go where the hookers go."'

Staff photographer Jeff Gritchen took second place in the category for multimedia storytelling for his visual and electronic work

on the series, "Davik's Heart," which followed a young girl who traveled from a poor village in Cambodia to Los Angeles for heart surgery.

"This project offers a compelling portrait of a little girl who is being given a chance at life and her heart-wrenching journey to take it," the judges wrote. "The video component of this project is particularly gripping."

In the news photography category, former P-T photographer Scott Smeltzer won second place for his image of a grief-stricken mother leaning against the casket of her 17-year-old son, who was shot to death by unknown assailants.

"The image of a melancholy woman sitting in the grass and leaning against a white, flower-laden coffin at a sunny cemetery captured the moment simply and nicely," the judges wrote. "Clean and simple, with nothing to pull you way from the emotion. Private, yet dignified."

Executive Editor Rich Archbold said the three winners "underscore the Press-Telegram's commitment to covering local news in the greater Long Beach area."

"Tim Grobaty has been entertaining Press-Telegram readers for years with his humor and unique literary style," Archbold said. "It's gratifying to see his talent recognized by his peers.

"Jeff Gritchen and Scott Smeltzer also produced quality journalism in this prestigious competition.", 562-499-1273

EU donates 1 billion in food security to Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines

By Charlotte Lund Dideriksen
Created 2009-05-04

April the 29th the European Commission adopted a € 394 million package of projects to support agriculture and improve the food security situation in 23 developing countries – among them Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia. This is the second financing decision in the framework of the € 1 billion Food Facility which was adopted at the end of last year as a response to the growing food security problems in many developing countries - including Cambodia, Laos and The Philippines.

Louis Michel, Commissioner responsible for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said: "This package shows how serious Europe is to assist developing countries to get agriculture back on its feet and to help poor people to improve their food security. In these tough global economic times, agriculture can provide good growth potentials in developing nations and be one source of their economic recovery. That's why Europe's support to this sector is so vital."

On 18 December 2008, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a Regulation establishing the € 1 billion 'Food Facility', which constitutes the main EU response to the worsening global food security situation in 2007/08. The financing decision has now been approved by the European Parliament and the EU Member States.

The financing decision by the Commission provides support of a value of € 194 million to projects and programmes in 23 developing countries: Benin, Bolivia, Burundi, Cambodia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Laos, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Palestinian Territories, Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Togo, Yemen and Zambia.

Five of these countries - Kenya, Burundi, Palestine, Philippines, Mozambique - are also covered under the first financial decision Funding will be channelled through International Organisations: the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Bank, UNICEF and specialised agencies like the International Bureau for Animal resources (IBAR, for livestock in Somalia) and UNRWA (in Palestinian Territories).

A second part of the overall € 394 package – amounting to € 200 million – will be channelled through non-state actors, like NGOs and private sector. In May, the Commission will officially invite them to submit funding proposals for projects. 35 developing countries are eligible for projects under this scheme.

Cambodia: Big Boys Start Season Well

The 2009 top-flight season is now underway, with the usual suspects leaping to the head of the queue...

4 May 2009

Related LinksBoth Kirivong Sok Sen Chey and Build Bright United got off on the right foot in their opening matches of the Cambodia Premier League 2009 at the National Olympic Stadium yesterday.

Kirivong blasted Khemara Keila 4-2 while Build Bright edged Post Tel Club 1-0.

But it was Khemara who started the match on a bright note against Kirivong, when Kuoch Sokompheak opened account as early as the third minute of play before A. Anthony then gave them a 2-0 advantage with the second goal in the 53rd minute.

However, Kirivong did not lose shape and they kept up the pressure on their opponents before nailing their first goal through In Vichhka two minutes later.

They continued to press and equalised through Ly Ravy in the 72nd minute. From there on it was one-way traffic, as they claimed full points off J. Chukwumeka in the 81st minute and then Him Salam five minutes to the end.

On the other hand, Build Bright had just the solitary strike from O. O. Adeseye in the 31st minute to thank for the win over Post Tel Club.

How to Promote Good Governance? - Sunday, 3.5.2009

Posted on 4 May 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 610

Since we lost, in mid 1996, the former financial basis for the production of the Mirror and the Khmer version, the Kanhchok Sangkum, which had been published also on paper since 1997 and 1998, when others started to use the funds that had originally been requested and granted for these two publications, we had to cut down the volume of full length translations to one third or one quarter of what it had been before for the Mirror, and to discontinue the Kanhchok Sangkum’s printed more than 2,000 copies per week for readers in the provinces. I was often concerned that the small number of only 10 to 15 headlines per day, which we normally present, might not be widely appreciated – but I am happy to say that I get, from time to time, also quite positive feedback especially for the headlines section, which “allows the readers to have a regular, good overview over developments in Cambodia.”

At present, while I am bound to be away from Cambodia for some weeks because of a medical emergency in the family, and I am working based more than usually and mainly on the good cooperation with colleagues, I feel now to be also more in the situation of a normal reader from a distance who cannot have a quick look into the text and context of the headlines, to understand better what they mean.

Reading the headlines is therefore more of a challenge. For example, I am asking myself now, how to understand the following headline:

“Australia Grants Aid - US$3 million - to the National Radio Station to Implement a Local Good Governance Project”
How does one create “good governance” by spending a lot of financial resources? During the same week we have also another headline which reads:

“Senior Officials and Members of Parliament from the Cambodian People’s Party Avoid to Attend an Event of Releasing a Publication: a Book on the ‘Rule of Law’ [organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation of Germany]”
Is this book, which was researched and compiled and produced probably for much less than the amount granted to the National Radio Station, not also an effort to contribute to good governance? But persons in important leadership positions in the country seem to avoid getting publicly in contact with it, in spite of the fact that this organization is normally working in fairly close contact with public institutions including those of the government.

There are other reports which may be considered to relate to “good governance” in a wide sense of this term: when the Capital Market Institute of Cambodia trains, together with the Paññasastra University of Cambodia, people who will be working at the stock exchange to be opened at the end of 2009, this aspect of professionalization is surely very important. But to be relevant in society, it is necessary that this aspect is also widely accepted and not pushed aside by other, powerful interest – like personal economic gain. The international banking crisis was not caused by people not trained sufficiently: the global economic problems are the result of leaders of big financial institutions looking for short terms big profits, instead of looking responsibly for long term stability.

The related report about training for the Cambodian Stock Exchange closes with a remark by the deputy director of the Cambodian Stock Exchange Committee, warning that success will depend not only on a professionally created structure, but also on something else: “There is no progress unless there is involvement.”

Without such positive participation, there is not much hope.

And how are we to understand the following headline:

“At the Cambodian-Laotian-Vietnamese Triangle Zone, Twelve Mining Companies Are Summoned”
The related article says: “According to information from the Mondolkiri governor, so far, some companies do not communicate to deliver reports, and some others hold expired licenses and have not come to ask to extend their licenses at the ministries in charge.” How comes – giving this record of reported remarkable irregularities – that the Minister of Commerce called such a meeting only now? The newspaper reported also: “…these companies, at present in Mondolkiri, seem not to be afraid of anything. Some activities of some companies are illegal and are carried out openly, and the authorities from relevant sections do not touch them. They seem to benefit from these mining operations, and they do not even care to deliver reports of the results [of these mining operations].”

Can “good governance” be achieved by financing “good governance projects”? Probably not, if there is not a strong, visible commitment in the fabric of society, especially its leadership, to promote good governance. With funds or without.

Norbert Klein

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A Kiwi's plastic-bag initiative in Cambodia

Ruth Yoffe with an example of Reloop Designs' work.

Ruth Yoffe would be the first to admit that Reloop Designs won't end poverty and save the world from drowning in plastic. But it is making a small difference.

While her fellow New Zealanders grumble about the cost and environmental impact of supermarket bags, the Aucklander has been quietly hard at work in an impoverished corner of Cambodia, leading an initiative that turns waste plastic into beautiful, colourful handicrafts.

Each basket, belt or pot is also proof of the way that Reloop Designs has offered a better life to poor and disabled Cambodians.

Yes, it is heartwarming, says Yoffe, who turned her back on a career in product design in New York to do something worthwhile with her skills.

And on the surface, the process seems so straightforward. Crochet needles turn rubbish into artwork for sale in eco-boutiques in the United States, ticking all the feel-good boxes along the way environmental benefit, economic independence and Kiwi can-do.

Heartwarming yes. Straightforward, never.

The story of Reloop Designs has been a saga of continuing frustration, starting from the very first day she arrived in Kampot 18 months ago, thinking she was helping out with an existing project, only to discover that she was starting from virtually nothing.

"I decided I could either have a nervous breakdown or make the best of it," she says from New York, where she is currently organising sales and trying to attract funding. (And yes, approaching a certain former New Zealand prime minister who has just arrived in town as the new head of the United Nations development programme could be one tactic).

For Yoffe, that first day in Kampot was a nightmare. She could not speak Khmer, and hardly anyone in the town could speak English. On the other hand, poverty and waste plastic were everywhere.

It wasn't as if Yoffe had no experience in development issues. After all, she spent her childhood in nations as diverse as Botswana and Indonesia because her father worked for the UN programme that Helen Clark now leads.

But in Kampot his daughter had no United Nations team, just a pitiful budget, her own initiative and crucially, it turned out her computer with an internet connection.

Finding a translator, she went to the town market to buy crochet needles and yarn in preparation for teaching the group of disabled Cambodians who, she had learned on arrival, would be turning up the next day.

She also urgently had to find help providing the crochet training this group would need, and the search for people with these skills demonstrated the depth of Cambodia's problems.

"I've seen incredible poverty around the world, but people in those countries still had their textile skills," she says.

However, the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s destroyed an entire generation of skills and knowledge.

"Cambodia is like a computer with its hard drive wiped out. The education system is truly appalling. And nobody talks about their history. They haven't even told their children what they lived through.

"On the outside, they're the warmest, welcoming people, but underneath, there's a lot of stuff. They lost their heritage of handicrafts."

Even if no one discussed the Khmer Rouge, its legacy was all around. The vacuum of knowledge meant a tragic ignorance of medicine until recently, polio was rampant, and treatable conditions such as ear infections progressed to permanent deafness and a life on the margins of society.

The day after Yoffe arrived, the two dozen such people who assembled to meet her were incredulous at the idea that anyone could see value in plastic rubbish, but also appreciative that someone had come so far to help them.

THAT WAS when, at last, things began to improve. Yoffe's crochet mission had turned up two elderly women with some basic skills, and she had brought some ideas for designs with her from New York. Plastic bags were collected, washed, turned into yarn and crochet instruction began.

"In that first week I was so touched at how hard everyone worked. They were so enthusiastic, I was taken aback I'd never seen that sort of tenacity. Within about three weeks, the results were quite amazing."

This was the best thing that had ever happened to them. Amid the heat, mosquitoes, poverty and noise an enormous pig occupied a stall close by in the building where they worked Reloop Designs started turning rubbish into handicrafts that would eventually go on sale in eco-boutiques in New York, Wisconsin and Maryland, and in private sales (one last week raised $US800).

The nature of the project means mass production will never be an option, but to Yoffe, that's a selling point. Each bag, belt or basket comes with the artisan's name, "every piece of work comes with a story".

But even though Yoffe was working at a manic pace, creating designs to match the levels of expertise and keeping transparent financial records, she faced her next exercise in setback-management the money was running out.

Fair wages were important. "I want them to have a life. The average wage there is $2 a day they're not surviving on that, everything has gone up. The people who work for the big retailers making jeans are like indentured slaves."

The shipping costs from Cambodia to the US were also horrendous.

That was where the computer came in. "It wouldn't have been possible without the internet," she says, describing her appeal to family and friends for funds to keep the project going. They responded and it was a rewarding moment to realise that yes, something good was happening.

Even success brought its own problems. Yoffe was gratified when other development organisations showed interest in the concept, because she had not planned to stay long-term and it would have eased the pressure on her "I'm not Wonder Woman".

But it quickly became clear they would have hijacked the idea and abandoned her team. Yoffe and the artisans would have none of that.

By this stage, her visa was also running out, and she decided she could not keep approaching friends and family for money. She describes a quite heartbreaking meeting with the Reloop workers when she left them the remaining funds before returning to stay with her boyfriend in New York, exhausted and unemployed, where she is now keeping the project going from a distance.

But in New York, it was like the clock had stopped. Friends were out of work. Retailers were not buying. Charities had no money. Just when she was confident that Reloop could offer consistent quality and a catalogue, the global financial meltdown had arrived.

She says many people are having to re-evaluate their lives, just as she did when she left New York in November 2007.

Despite the constant stress since then, and the financial cost to her personally, Yoffe has no regrets, and she is constantly aware of how successes and setbacks affect the lives of the team in Cambodia.

"I'm very motivated, in a way I had not felt about my work previously. This means everything to me, this is a turning point."

Anyone with organisational/information/contacts/skills that could help the project can contact Ruth Yoffe at Reloop Designs: or (for shipping prices to New Zealand)

Yoffe has a PayPal account for purchases/donations. All revenue goes to the artisans.

Fire kills 4 karaoke workers in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – A police officer says four Cambodian women who worked at a karaoke parlor were killed and two other people injured as a fire swept through their room while they slept.

Maj. Thuch Ra said the four, aged 15 to 22, died early Sunday in the northwestern city of Battambang. Another woman and a 25-year-old man were in critical condition from the blaze, which was believed to have started from faulty electric connections.

He said the victims were believed to have been drunk and at least initially were not aware that a fire had broken out.
Princess Eugenie is on a gap-year trip

UK, Monday May 04, 2009

Princess Eugenie and her friends were targeted by muggers in Cambodia, it has been reported.

A bandit grabbed a purse belonging to a friend of the younger daughter of the Duke of York during a night out in Phnom Penh, The Sun said.

Royal protection officers tackled the robber, only to have rocks thrown at them by another bandit, the paper added.

Eugenie, 19, and her friends were then whisked away to safety by the police.

Princess Eugenie, her mother the Duchess of York and her sister Beatrice

A Buckingham Palace source told the paper: "(Police) feared the incident was escalating out of control and took the decision to focus on the safety of their principal."

It is the first time in a decade that SO14 Special Branch officers have stopped a direct threat to a royal.

The princess - who is sixth in line to the throne - is on a gap-year trip which has already included visits to Thailand and South Africa.

There has been criticism of the cost of police protection for Eugenie during the trip, said to be in the region of £100,000.

Labour Day in Cambodia: Trade unions authorized to demonstrate in the streets

Phnom Penh (Cambodia). May 1st 2009: Over a thousand garment factory workers gathered in front of the former seat of the National Assembly, before heading for the news stand where union leader Chea Vichea was assassinated. 
©Vandy Rattana


By By Duong Sokha and Stéphanie Gée

Some 1,500 workers of the Cambodian capital, spearheaded by garment factory workers, answered the call of seven trade unions to take their demands to the streets on this 123rd International Labour Day, over which the global economic crisis cast a gloom as its effects have started to be felt in the Kingdom. Exceptionally, security forces stood back and were armed less than usual. Under a scorching sun, the colourful crowd of demonstrators was able to march without a hitch from the former seat of the National Assembly towards the new building where the parliamentarians meet, before heading for the junction of Boulevard Sihanouk and Street Pasteur where they paid tribute to the “workers' hero”, Chea Vichea, who was shot by unidentified men on January 22nd 2004.

Labour Day celebrated at last

For the last two years, the celebration of Labour Day in Cambodia went almost unnoticed as it was reduced to press releases and meetings held in union offices. The frequent suppression of public gatherings by the authorities and the deployment of important police operations in the capital on every May 1st deterred unions from calling for mass demonstrations.

In 2008, discouraged by an important police presence, opposition leader Sam Rainsy abandoned the idea of organising an impromptu big march as he had first announced. Together with a hundred supporters, he managed to reach the news stand where Chea Vichea was assassinated, before deciding to withdraw to its party headquarters.

In 2007, the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), formerly led by Chea Vichea, decided not to celebrate May 1st with a traditional march, for fear it would be repressed, its leaders explained. Only the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union (CCAWDU) organised a modest gathering at the heart of the capital, which took place under strict police surveillance.

In 2006, workers defied a ban of the Phnom Penh Municipality and turned up in trucks at its gates, where they usually met with impassable police roadblocks. Chea Mony, who succeeded his brother Chea Vichea at the head of the FTUWKC, was detained for breaking the peace and interrogated for two hours in a police station. All the ploys were used to challenge police vigilance and the crowd of demonstrators increased. They were finally authorized to march.
The year 2009 was therefore an exception. 

Demands include the creation of a labour court

Speaking on the microphone under the cheers of the demonstrators, the organising trade unions, including the powerful CCAWDU and the Cambodian Union Federation, which comprises of the FTUWKC and the CITA (Cambodian Independent Teachers Association), listed ten demands. A few new themes featured in the list of calls usually made by the workers' representatives.

For instance, the unions asked the government to set up as soon as possible a labour court to “defend the interests of the workers” because, as Chea Mony explained in his speech, “we do not trust the regular courts.” They also highlighted the necessity that labour disputes be judged “in a prompt and fair manner.” Another request to the authorities which they supported was to prevent any attempt to amend Articles 67 and 73 of the Labour Code related to labour contracts, which would, according to them, infringe on the rights of the workers. Finally, in light of the economic recession climate, they called the government to stimulate the employment market and improve working conditions in all sectors. 

Among more “classic” demands: that the title of “workers' hero” be awarded posthumously to Chea Vichea and a statue of him be erected at the very location where he was killed, that the working week be decreased from 48 to 44 hours to be brought more in line with existing practices elsewhere, that entrepreneurs be obliged to pay a guarantee deposit that would be used as a compensation fund for workers in case of closure, that abusive dismissal of unionists be stopped, and that the government put an end to discrimination against unionists and respect freedom of association.

Context of economic crisis for the gathering

The countless banners held by young demonstrators conveyed the concerns of the main sectors, be it the garment industry, agriculture, construction or transport. 

Once the destination was reached, the unions entrusted their grievances to the opposition lawmakers. Three key opposition figures spoke the one after the other on an improvised platform at the back of a van: Sam Rainsy, his party's parliamentarian Mu Sochua and Kem Sokha, the president of the Human Rights Party. The first made sure to remind the demonstrators that he had asked the government to take urgent steps against the economic recession and suggested passing a 500 million dollar package to stimulate the job market “whereas others encourage workers to go back to their homes to cultivate their lands,” he said in a barely veiled reference to a speech made by Prime Minister Hun Sen.