Saturday, 16 May 2009

29th ASEAN Police Chiefs Conference concludes

May 16, 2009

Lieutenant General Pham Quy Ngo, General Director of the General Police Department of the Ministry of Public Security and chairman of the 29th ASEAN Police Chiefs Conference (ASEANAPOL) announced a joint communique about the conference outcome in Hanoi on May 15.

Lieutenant General Ngo said the 29th ASEANAPOL conference, with the theme “Building ASEAN police forces for stability and development in the region”, concluded successfully. He added that the 30th ASEANAPOL conference will be held in Cambodia in 2010.

During the three-day sitting, nearly 300 representatives from the police forces of 10 ASEAN member countries and representatives of their dialogue partners from Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand, held two plenary sessions and a number of other sub-committee meetings.

The conference agreed to set up a permanent secretariat for ASEANAPOL, which will start operating on January 1, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It agreed to carry out a number of co-operation projects between ASEAN countries and their dialogue partners to combat crimes.

The participants pledged to step up moves to prevent drug-related crimes, terrorism, arms smuggling, human trafficking as well as financial, hi-tech and drug-related transnational crimes. ASEAN police forces will provide each other with judicial assistance in penal matters and establish a criminal database.

Next month, Singapore’s police will begin a pilot course in foreign language training for ASEAN police officers.

A seminar on the establishment of a criminal database system will also take place in Vietnam later this year.

Replying to reporters’ questions, Tan Sri Musa Hassan, Commander of the Malaysian Police, praised the success of the 29th ASEANAPOL conference, especially a Vietnamese initiative to work together to train the polices forces in ASEAN countries. This aims to enhance the capacity of police forces in ASEAN countries and meet the region’s demand for co-operation to prevent crimes during the process of global integration.

He highly valued the Vietnamese police force’s experience in criminal investigation and international co-operation and confirmed that co-operation between the Malaysian and Vietnamese police forces had obtained many excellent results in recent years. (VNA)

Orang Kampong Products To Enter Sri Lankan And Cambodian Markets

MELAKA, May 16 (Bernama) -- Herbal-based drinks and products entrepreneur Orang Kampung Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd,will enter the Sri Lankan and Cambodian markets before the end of the year, managing director Habibul Ajmi Manggar said.

He said the company, famous for the Long Jack and Kacip Fatimah drinks, found through a market survey, that its products had good prospects in both countries.

"For a start, the products to be marketed in Sri Lanka and Cambodia are the Kacip Fatimah coffee and Long Jack coffee," he told reporters after presenting prizes for its Bonanza OK 2009 contest at Menara Taming Sari here Saturday.

Formed in 1975, the company now markets 60 types of products, namely drinks and various halal guaranteed herbal products, which are also sold at pharmacies and big supermarkets.

Habibul Ajmi said at present, his company's products are being marketed in Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

"The domestic market is still the biggest, accounting for 70 percent of sales with the balance being overseas," he said.

According to Habibul Ajmi, the company has target to increase sales by between 15 and 20 percent this year from the RM25 million recorded in 2008.

"To increase sales, we are stepping up promotional and advertising activities by allocating 20 percent of the annual sales value," he said.

Last month, the company introduced its latest product, the Orang Kampung Post Natal Care set.

Habibul Ajmi said it is an old natal care treatment which society at present can adopt without any apprehension.

"It is based on natural resources and products approved by the Ministry of Health with Halal certification," he said.

He said the company will also produce pharmaceutical products from a new RM8 million factory being built at the Merlimau Industrial Area near here.

The factory is expected to be completed early next year.

Orang Kampung Corporation now has two factories operating on a 24-hour basis at the same industrial area.

Habibul Ajmi said to guarantee the supply of herbs in future, the company has opened a four-hectare herbal farm at Bukit Lintang and Umbai near here.


Cambodia’s Royal Oxen Forecast Poor Rice Crop

Agence France-Presse — Getty Images No rice, please. In Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Cambodia’s royal oxen ate corn and beans, but no rice, during an ancient ceremony said to predict the year’s harvest of various crops.

The New York Times, News Blog

By Robert Mackey

Add Cambodia’s royal oxen to the list of economic pessimists predicting hard times ahead. Reuters reported this week that Cambodia’s version of Groundhog Day went poorly this year, as the King’s oxen enjoyed offerings of corn, green beans and soy beans, but ignored a large plate of rice, “an omen the royal astrologer said boded ill for the harvest of the country’s biggest crop.” As the Chinese news agency Xinhua explained, the ancient ritual marks the traditional beginning of the rice-growing season in the region.

Cambodian farmers were reportedly “dismayed” at the forecast of a poor rice crop. Reuters noted that while the “annual ritual, in which oxen plow a field near the royal palace before being given offerings, is taken seriously by many of Cambodia’s superstitious, and largely poor, farmers if not by most of the politicians and diplomats who attend it.”

After the oxen passed on the rice course, the presiding astrologer, Kang Ken, emphasized the positive, telling the crowd of several thousand onlookers that “beans and corn will enjoy better yields this year.” According to The Phnom Penh Post, the astrologer later tried to spin the press corps, telling reporters that the rice crop would in fact be a good one and that there would be no drought.

Despite this, the Post reported, farmers who came to the capital for the ceremony were disheartened by the prediction. The Post also noted that Cambodia’s government is “encouraging people to plant as much rice as possible,” no matter what the oxen say. At the same time, Agence France-Presse reported that Prime Minister Hun Sen, who did not attend the ceremony, had also “rebuked royal astrologers for not predicting the deadly 2001 floods that claimed 59 lives.”

The ceremony also includes a symbolic plowing of some land near the Cambodian royal palace. This year, the oxen pulled a plow steered by the president of the country’s supreme court, Dith Munty, who performed the act flawlessly and was not required to do it again later.

The president of Cambodia’s supreme court, Dith Munty, using a plow pulled by the country’s royal oxen during a ceremony in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

FM calls on Unesco to act transparently on temple

Published: 16/05/2009

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya yesterday called on Unesco to act transparently when deciding what it would do with the area near the Preah Vihear temple.

His comments came after reports that Unesco officials had inspected parts of the 4.6 square kilometres of disputed land near the World Heritage site.

As an organisation which responds to the need of its members, Unesco should carry out its activities with transparency and respect Thai sovereignty, he said.

The Foreign Ministry would send official letters to the Unesco headquarters in France and its two offices in Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

In March, the Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Unesco to inform the organisation that it should seek permission from the Thai government if it wishes to conduct any activities in the area surrounding the temple. The World Heritage Committee's approval of Cambodia's proposed listing of Preah Vihear covers only the temple, not the surrounding area, the ministry said.

Army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda said yesterday Unesco officials must ask Thailand for permission if they were to enter the territory claimed by both countries.

He said the army has asked the Foreign Ministry to make sure that both Cambodia and Unesco strictly follow the agreements.

"It would be unacceptable if Unesco staff entered the overlapping territory claimed by Thailand," said Gen Anupong.

On Cambodia's demand for 70 million baht compensation for damage following border clashes which destroyed a market near the ancient temple ruins, Gen Anupong said it was hard to prove which side started the fire that destroyed the market.

Any compensation claim should be pursued by private businesses affected, not the state sector, he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Tharit Charungvat earlier said the incident on April 3 took place on Thai soil where some Cambodians were staying illegally.

Because Thai and Cambodian troops in the border areas remained on good terms, the lawsuit should not fuel any new border tensions in the disputed area, said Gen Anupong.

Red Cross helping Cambodian family separated by war reconnect

So Sophan, sister of So Chhim. (Stephen Carr/Staff Photographer)

Inside the Long Beach Red Cross offices, Cambodian refugee So Chhim,left, his daughter Bo Oum, and his grandson Brandon Oum, 3, get a first look at small photo of his sister and her aunt, So Sophan. The Red Cross is beginning a process that will help them reunite with So s sister, who became separated from her brother during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. (Stephen Carr/Staff Photographer)

By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 05/15/2009

LONG BEACH - So Chhim sat quietly with an international envelope and a passport-sized photograph of his sister clutched between his fists.

In a nearby seat, Mike Farrar, a volunteer case worker with the Red Cross' Tracing and Location services, explained the process for So to reconnect with his sister, So Sophan, in Cambodia.

The two have not seen each other since 1968 when So Chhim was a soldier in the Cambodian army. They have not had any contact since 1991 when they were able to communicate through an intermediary. When the go-between disappeared, so did any chance at communication.

In the 17 years since, So Chhim has gone about the business of making a living, raising his four children and seeing five grandchildren added to his family.

He buried the memories of his surviving sister along with those of the family he lost to the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, which was responsible for the deaths of upwards of two million Cambodians from execution, starvation and disease.

In August 2008, So Sophan reached out to the Red Cross, which offers a global free service to help reconnect families that have become separated by disaster, natural or man-made.

Red Cross officials say the service is offered whereever there is need.

After an exhaustive search, So Chhim was found through a brother-in-law at a liquor store in Norwalk.

Coincidentally, it was learned that So Chhim works at an airplane parts manufacturer just across the San Diego (405) Freeway from the Long Beach offices of the Red Cross.
It was joked that if the Red Cross had put his name on a balloon, he could have seen it from work and walked over.

Although So Chhim maintained a stoic exterior when Farrar first made contact, his daughter Bopha Oum said he later "teared" in his room.

"He tried to pass it off as something in his eye," Oum said.

As So Chhim talks about contacting his sister and as he recalls the harrowing circumstances of his escape from Cambodia and the slaughter of his family, there is no feigning a lack of emotion.

"It's very important to reconnect," he said through translation. "Now, even though physically we can't be close, emotionally and spiritually we can be connected."

So Chhim doesn't know if he will ever return to Cambodia. A military man trained in special forces, he was intensely sought by the Khmer Rouge.

Even though So Chhim and his wife, Chandy Ma, escaped to Thailand, the Khmer Rouge tried to have So Chhim turned over. They even sent family to try to cajole him.

So Chhim knew better. He says his name was posted on a kill list and that he was to be tortured for seven days before being put to death if caught.

He later learned that his three brothers and their entire families were executed by the Khmer Rouge. Only the younger sister, who was forced to marry a Khmer Rouge soldier, and an older brother, a simple farmer, survived.

Although So Chhim got in touch with his sister after the war, because of his notoriety he did not contact her directly for fear she might face reprisals. When the friend disappeared, so did their only connection.

On Friday, So Chhim drafted a simple letter to his sister.

Oum looks forward to learning more about the aunt she's only heard about.

"I'm very excited. I was in shock," she said. "I mean, we've grown up with the stories, but it never came to mind that we might contact her."
Farrar said he was thrilled to help reconnect the family.

"It's rewarding that we can do humanitarian work like this," Farrar says. "A lot of people think we only do blood work, but it's so much more."

In the case of the So family, it's about bring blood relatives together again., 562-499-1291

Cambodia Tribunal Monitor

11 May 2009:
Pre-Trial hearing of Ieng Thirith - Rejection of appeal to be released on bail


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

Live rats are awaiting transport to Vietnam at Chrey Thom district in Kandal province

REFILE - ADDITIONAL CAPTION INFORMATION A boy shows off a rat he caught at Khos Thom district in Kandal province, 65km (40 miles) south of Phnom Penh near the Cambodia-Vietnam border, May 15 ,2009. Rat meat was eaten in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and for some time afterwards when little else was available, and the poor took to it last year when the price of other meat soared, but younger Cambodians turn their noses up. In Vietnam, in contrast, it is something of a delicacy.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA ANIMALS SOCIETY IMAGES OF THE DAY)

REFILE - ADDITIONAL CAPTION INFORMATION Live rats are stored awaiting transport to Vietnam at Chrey Thom district in Kandal province, 65km (40 miles) south of Phnom Penh near the Cambodia-Vietnam border, May 15, 2009. Rat meat was eaten in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and for some time afterwards when little else was available, and the poor took to it last year when the price of other meat soared, but younger Cambodians turn their noses up. In Vietnam, in contrast, it is something of a delicacy.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA ANIMALS SOCIETY)

Duty-free supermarket set to open on Cambodia border

Thanh Nien Daily
Friday, May 15, 2009

Thien Linh Company’s new duty-free supermarket will open this weekend on the Cambodian border in Tay Ninh Province.

Set up at a cost of VND100 billion (US$5.5 million), the 7,200-squaremeter Winmart in the Moc Bai Economic Zone will serve local residents and tourists traveling over the border.

It is expected to stock 20,000 items, including food and foodstuffs, alcoholic beverages, cosmetics, garments and home appliances, 30 percent of them Vietnamese High Quality Goods that are popular in Cambodia.

The government has licensed 60 businesses to trade duty-free in the area.

Reported by Minh Quang

'Cambodian Stories' kicks off Novel Dance's 10th anniversary

The 60-year-old Japanese Koma, left, dances alongside the dancing painters, dressed in traditional Cambodian clothes. (Courtesy of Novel Hall)

The China Post

Friday, May 15, 2009

By Paul Nieman, Special to The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Tonight Cambodian Stories, the first performance of the tenth anniversary of the Novel Dance, will take place in the Novel Hall in Taipei. The performance will run through the weekend.

The dance's choreography was created by Japanese dancers Eiko and Koma, who feature in the play along with several dancing Cambodian painters. They are painters, so they have already had the 'inward eye,' Eiko explains, so it wasn't that hard for them to use their knowledge of the human body to perform well with the dancing. Cambodian Stories is about love, loss and hope, three topics that are very recognizable for the players of the piece, of whom most are affected by the low standards of life and the troubled history of Cambodia.

The painting dancers have only performed abroad in the United States so far. Taiwan is the second country in their international campaign. The dancers will paint on stage during their performance, making it a unique combination between painting and dancing.

“These young artists are full of dreams, just like everybody else. Everybody has dreams, even old people such as Eiko and me, and we are 57 and 60,” Koma said. Since participating in the performances, they do not only paint the traditional style that they have learned to paint, but just whatever they want to paint. Later on in the novel dance series there will be Wayne McGregor's Random Dance in Entity from May 22 through May 24 and the 10-year-old El Yiyo, who will star in the New Flamenco Generation from June 5 to 9, both at the Novel Hall in Taipei City.

Cambodia denies spying on foreign staff at Khmer Rouge tribunal

Australia Network News

Robert Carmicheal

Cambodia's government is denying reports it is spying on foreign staff at the Khmer Rouge tribunal underway in Phnom Penh.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told Radio Australia that earlier media reports had misrepresented his comments.

He said his office had received files over the past three months naming some foreign tribunal staff as being involved in corruption and wrongdoing - but he stressed the allegations were solely related to professional misconduct.

"That one is the professional working area only.

"We don't want to go to the private life of the people," Mr Phay Siphan said.

He said his first step would be to verify the accusations and hopes to reinstall faith in the trial.

If the allegations are verified, he said the government would share the files with its partners in the tribunal process.

Mr Phay Siphan said he would also look at other allegations that named some people and organisations as 'enemies' of the tribunal.

The two sides have had a difficult relationship in the years-long effort to establish the tribunal.

But Mr Phay Siphan stressed Phnom Penh wants a good partnership in its efforts to try and find justice for the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge.

Area students discover Cambodia

The 23rd annual World Community Workshop was held Thursday evening at Defiance College, sponsored by Defiance Rotary, Rotary District 6600 and the McMaster School for Advancing Humanity. Participating in the event were, from left: Ken Wetstein, DC dean of students; speakers Renee Chaffee and Jennifer Creighton; and Ian MacGregor, chairman of the workshop.
Defiance Crescent News


Two young alumnae of Defiance College on Thursday shared their experiences in Cambodia with a group of area high school students and Rotarians.

"Despite their poverty, the people of Cambodia were so gracious. I never felt threatened at all," said Renee Chaffee, a 2007 DC graduate. "They just wanted to tell their stories."

"They have the same emotions as we do," added Jennifer Creighton of Evansport, who graduated last weekend. "They still love and care for each other. They were some of the nicest people I've ever met."

Their poignant remarks were made as co-keynote speakers at the grand banquet for the 23rd annual World Community Workshop, which runs through Saturday at Defiance College.

The workshop is sponsored by Defiance Rotary Club, Rotary District 6600 and the McMaster School for Advancing Humanity. It provides young people with an opportunity to learn about history, customs and economic and political issues of a selected area of the world.

Chaffee and Creighton reflected on their experiences in Cambodia as part of the McMaster School for Advancing Humanity program. Chaffee worked at the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center, where she addressed domestic violence as it relates to women and children to assess whether they were receiving adequate services.

"I interviewed women one-on-one," said Chaffee, who will receive her master's of social work degree next week from Case Western Reserve University. "That was the part of my life when I knew I wanted to work with women and children who had been victimized."

Chaffee also discussed "the Killing Fields," a number of sites in Cambodia where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the totalitarian communist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-79. These locations were the subject of a 1984 movie of the same name.

"It was very surreal being there," she said. "It's scary to know this happened in my lifetime."

Creighton's project involved the natural forms of birth control, since Cambodia's past unrest has made the use of and methods of obtaining medicinal forms of birth control difficult.

Her research took her to CycleBeads, developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University.

"I wrote training materials about how to use the beads," said Creighton. "They have a 95 percent effectiveness with correct use and 88 percent effectiveness with typical use."

She said she observed a wide disparity of wealth and poverty in Cambodia, often right next to each other.

"On the streets you would see people pulling carts and others driving Land Rovers. The middle class were the people that had huts with shutters."

The workshop resumes today, when students will break into small groups and develop a presentation covering a certain aspect of Cambodian history, customs, economics and politics.

All presentations will be held Saturday morning.

"Rotary is in many countries and our mission is world peace and understanding," Rotary 6600 district governor David Daugherty told the students.

"I'm glad you are here. Make the most of it."

China, Australia to Build Final Leg of Asian Railway

Man drives homemade wooden cart on railroad in Kampong Chhnang province some 50 kilometers north of Phnom Penh (2008 file photo)

By Luke Hunt
Phnom Penh
15 May 2009

Chinese and Australian engineers are gearing up to build the final stretch of track in the Trans-Asian Railway, which will link Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand with Vietnam and China through Cambodia. The Cambodian government has divided the country's railway system in two. Australia's Toll Holdings takes control of old French-built lines in the east, which run from the capital to the Thai border and south to Sihanoukville, home to one of the largest ports in the Gulf of Siam.

The China Railway Group has the contract to carry out a feasibility study that will link Phnom Penh with Snoul near this country's western border with Vietnam.

This 255-kilometer stretch will complete the Singapore-to-Kunming line, a railway connecting southeast Asia to the heart of China.

Paul Power is an advisor to the Cambodian government and team leader for the Asian Development Bank's involvement in the reconstruction of Cambodia's railways. He says the railway's economic benefit for the region and Cambodia will be enormous.

"It makes Cambodia the hub of transportation between China and Singapore and you would have a port link, you would have a link to Thailand, you'll have a link through to Vietnam," Power said, "and the implications for that, for Cambodia in the region, are that Cambodia becomes the hub."

He says freight will provide the greatest economic benefits, particularly for shipping bulk goods like rice. The railway will be a cheaper alternative to ships and trucks.

However, the contractors first must deal with the thorny issue of resettling people living along the route. In Cambodia, poor landholders often are pushed out with little compensation to make way for commercial developments, causing considerable public anger.

Power says the companies working on the railway are aware of the problems that have afflicted other construction projects and thinks they can avoid similar difficulties.

If the resettlement issues are resolved quickly then authorities hope the first passengers from Singapore to China and beyond as far as London, will start boarding within the next two years.

PHI GROUP, INC. Changes Trading Symbol, Updates on Subsidiary's Mining Business

May 15, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA and PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA--(Marketwire - May 15, 2009) - PHI GROUP, INC., formerly Providential Holdings, Inc. (OTCBB: PHIE) (FRANKFURT: PR7) (WKN 935160), a company engaged in mergers and acquisitions, real estate development, mining, and investing in special situations, today announced its new trading symbol and recent development regarding PHI Mining Group, Inc., a majority-owned subsidiary of the Company (PINKSHEETS: PHIG).

As a result of the change of the Company's name to PHI GROUP, INC. and the par value of its common stock to $0.001 per share, as approved at the annual shareholder meeting on April 10, 2009, PHI GROUP's common stock will begin trading under the new symbol "PHIE" starting May 15, 2009. These changes will not affect the rights and privileges of the Company's shareholders in any way.

On another note, the Company's majority-owned subsidiary PHI Mining Group has recently entered into a joint venture agreement with Phnom Penh-based Paul Cham Group Co., Ltd. to engage in mining of limestone in Cambodia. According to the agreement, PHI Mining Group will own 60% of the joint venture company, which will be operating in Cambodia.

PHI GROUP's CEO Henry Fahman said, "We are excited to announce our new trading symbol and to update on the recent development with our partner Paul Cham Group in Cambodia. We will continue to report further progress on this new business opportunity, which we believe will generate extraordinary results for our shareholders in the near future."


PHI GROUP, INC., formerly known as Providential Holdings, Inc., focuses on M&A and consulting services, real estate development, mining and investing in special situations. The Company assists companies to go public and raise capital, develops "Pointe 91," a luxury resort and premium residential community in Chu Lai, central Vietnam (, and engages in mining in Southeast Asia ( The Company's main web site address is

Safe Harbor: This news release contains forward-looking statements that are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected on the basis of such forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are made based upon management's beliefs, as well as assumptions made by, and information currently available to, management pursuant to the "safe-harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.
Henry Fahman
Tel: 714-843-5455

NEC Dismisses Vote-Buying as Campaign Ends

By VOA Khmer reporters
Original report from Phnom Penh
15 May 2009

The Phnom Penh Election Committee said Friday it would not pursue allegations of vote-buying by the ruling party, as campaigning ended for district- and provincial-level council elections.

Two commune councilors of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party say they were offered bribes of up to $1,000 to vote for two members of the Cambodian People’s Party, Ly Raman and Leng Phaly, in Sunday’s election.

The committee said it found no evidence money had changed hands and it was dropping the case.

Ly Nhok, a representative for the accused, called the decision “just.”

“This decision is very fair following the procedures and provides much justice for my clients, because the hearings were made in conformity with the law,” he said. “My clients did not commit vote-buying at all, and the plaintiffs had no clear evidence.”

Ly Sovichea, an attorney for the Sam Rainsy Party’s Var Sam and Bun Kheth, said the election committee had not considered the evidence and statements of witnesses. He would appeal to the National Election Committee, he said.

The dismissal came at the end of a 15-day council election campaign period, where three parties hope to earn more than 3,000 seats in provincial, municipal and district councils.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has around 9,000 commune council voters; the opposition Sam Rainsy Party has more than 2,000; and the party of Prince Norodom Ranariddh has around 400.

“Apart from the 2,660 commune council members from the Sam Rainsy Party, I have met with commune council members from other parties who told me they supported my party’s stand in helping the Cambodian people,” opposition leader Sam Rainsy said. “So they will support Sam Rainsy although they do not show up in public.”

Cheam Yiep, a CPP lawmaker, said the result of the election was obvious, given his party’s overwhelming majority.

Sout Dina, spokesman for the Norodom Ranariddh Party, said he felt optimistic about the result of the election.

“We can’t predict the result, as the voters are free to choose who they like,” he said.

Tep Nitha, secretary general for the National Election Committee, said the four parties campaigned only within their headquarters. No violence occurred during the election campaign, he said.

Investigators Finish Blast-Site Training

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
15 May 2009

Police and counterterrorism forces completed a week of explosives investigation training Friday put on the by the US FBI.

The course was designed to instruct Cambodian security personnel in properly investigating a post-blast crime scene involving bombs or improvised explosive devices.

Twenty-eight students from the police, military police, national counterterrorism committee and counterterrorism special forces attended the course.

Cambodia is a willing participant in the US’s regional counterterrorism efforts. The country has a small Muslim population, and in 2003 was found to have harbored Hambali, the former head of Jemaah Islamiyah, the Islamic extremist group responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings.

The FBI maintains a legal office at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Laro Tan, the FBI’s legal attaché in Cambodia, told reporters after closing training that the US investigation agency had provided technical training on researching evidence of blasts.

Hav Lay, a police officer at the counterterrorism office in Phnom Penh, said he had learned to gather evidence and intelligence at crime scenes.

Better training can improve prosecutions based on evidence obtained at crime scenes and would help Cambodian investigations meet US court standards, the embassy said in a statement.

Government Praised for Ban on Sand Export

By VOA Khmer, Sothearith Im
Original report from Washington
15 May 2009

While the Cambodian government is often criticized for poor management of its natural resources, it earned praise this week for a ban on the export of sand.

Even Global Witness, an environmental watchdog that has been sharply critical of the government’s exploitation of timber and minerals, welcomed the ban.

Cambodia was exporting sand to Vietnam and Singapore, but the practice can have a devastating impact on coastal environments. Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive May 8 that would halt the export of sand, while allowing dredging for local demand.

More than 120 sand-dredging companies are estimated to be operating in Cambodia, removing thousands of tons of sand from coastal and river bottoms.

Global Witness spokeswoman Amy Barry said the ban was a good measure, but it was only the first step toward sustainable management of Cambodia’s natural resources, including forests, minerals and, potentially, oil.

“We want to make sure we call on the prime minister, Hun Sen, to ensure that his decree is implemented and to monitor the sand-dredging and export,” Barry said.

Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said the ban followed complaints by citizens and a report from the Sand Resource Management Committee.

“That’s why recently [Hun Sen] issued a decree to stop sand-exporting operations,” he said.

The ban was imposed for three reasons, he said. First, sand export was not benefiting the government; second, it was damaging personal property; and third, it was harming rivers and marine areas that legally belong to the government.

Private companies violating the ban would be sued, he said.

“We already have a law,” he said. “When the prosecutor files a complaint, the investigative judge will make a decision accordingly.”

Chan Yutha, chief of cabinet for the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said the ban was put into effect immediately following the order by Hun Sen. Now all sand-dredging will be re-examined, he said.

“I just want to clarify that sand-dredging operations have either positive or negative effects,” he said. “If they follow technical standards, it is a good impact, but if the technical standard is violated, it has a negative impact, such as the collapse of riverbanks.”

Dredgers in violation of the standards are warned or fined, their tools and equipment confiscated, he said.

Even with this ban in place, critics say law enforcement and policy implementation in Cambodia remain weak. The government has sold many of its assets in the past, including sand, beaches, and historical buildings, to private companies.

Global Witness has issued detailed reports on deforestation undertaken with impunity and the stripping of the country’s mineral resources. With potentially lucrative offshore oil deposits under exploration, the worry is that income from state resources will benefit only a handful of powerful elites.

Former Ambassador Given Heritage Award

By Poch Reasey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
15 May 2009

One of the most prominent Asian-American organizations in the US has honored a Cambodian-American from Texas who served in the administrations of both Bush presidents.

Sichan Siv was awarded the 2009 George HW Bush Heritage Award by the Asian Pacific American Heritage Association of Houston at a ceremony in Texas on May 8.

The president of the association, Alice Lee, told VOA Khmer by telephone from Houston that the award is typically given to “an individual who not only has served the community but also exemplified greatness to both the Asian culture and also the mainstream culture."

Sichan Siv told VOA Khmer by telephone from his home in Texas that he was honored to accept the award, not only for himself but for all Cambodian-Americans.

"Public service is the most important work,” he said. “As President George HW Bush has said, nothing is more important and more rewarding than public service."

The award comes with a personal letter from the 41st president and the former first lady, congratulating the former ambassador for his outstanding public service.

Sichan Siv served from 1989 to 1992 as deputy assistant to president George HW Bush from 1989 to 1992. He also served president George W Bush as the US ambassador to the United Nations’ Social and Economic Council from 2001 to 2006.

Scholar Highlights National Environmental Risks

By Nuch Sarita, VOA Khmer
15 May 2009

Chak Sopheap, who was awarded a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in International Peace Studies in Japan, told “Hello VOA” Thursday she was concerned about two things: the environment and the health of Cambodians.

“The current practice of the Cambodian government, which neglects or bypasses regulations in approving forest concessions or filling in lakes, is not only harmful in natural resource depletion, but also to the environment, to human life, and to the survival of the whole community,” said Chak Sopheap, who studied at the International University of Japan.

She cited Japan’s outbreak of “minamita” disease, a form of methyl-mercury poisoning that affects the central nervous system, as a warning against polluting developments at Bokor mountain in Kampot province and Boeung Kak lake in Phnom Penh.

Bokor mountain has been authorized by the government for private development of palm oil and cassava plantations and livestock farms, and Boeung Kak lake was filled in before an environmental impact assessment had been approved, she said.

Chak Sopheap said she wasn’t against development projects, but she encouraged the government to provide means for interested parties to take on duties for the public interest and to avoid future risks.

Japan’s failure at risk management led to damaging side-effects in an anti-diarrhea drug containing Clioquinol in the late 20th Century, she said. The drug has since been banned in some countries.

“This [illness] should be an influential case to relevant stakeholders, including the government, policymakers, doctors, as well civil society, to be cautious about the safety and effectiveness of medical usage and other supplies which may result in harm,” Chak Sopheap said.

Border damages claim 'can be settled'

Published: 15/05/2009

Army chief Anupong Paojinda is confident that Thailand can negotiate with Cambodia over its demand for about 75 million baht compensation for damage caused to a market during the violent border clashes last month.

Gen Anupong said he believed the demand originates from the private sector, not from the Cambodian government.

He said the Thai and Cambodian officers commanding troops on the border can work together, and this would allow the issue to be settled.

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry has demanded US$2,150,000 on behalf of 319 Cambodian families it says lost their livelihood when 264 stalls in the border market were completely destroyed.

The clashes on April 3 took place on disputed ground near the ancient Preah Vihear temple. Three Thai soldiers were killed and a Cambodian market next to the temple ruins was burned down when hit by Thai rockets.

Thailand has previously insisted the Cambodian vendors were in Thai territory.

Trade fair offers many opportunities in Cambodia

10:17 AM, 05/15/2009

An investment, tourism and trade fair is currently underway at the Tinh Bien International Border Gate in the Mekong delta province of An Giang, attracting a large number of Cambodian businesses.
At the opening of the fair on May 14, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Thanh Bien said that the event along with a number of trade promotions, aims to help Vietnamese businesses increase their market share in Cambodia.

He expressed his hope that the fair running till May 19 will assist businesses in the Mekong delta to connect with neighbouring areas, especially Ho Chi Minh City, to stimulate the region’s development.

More than 200 Vietnamese and Cambodian businesses are exhibiting their products in 500 pavilions, with goods ranging from farm products, seafood, machinery, chemicals, construction materials and consumer items to furniture and handicrafts.

Taking part in the fair are businesses, coming from the Mekong delta and also from the Central Highlands and Ho Chi Minh City.

Home to several international and national border crossings, An Giang is a gateway for farmers from the Mekong delta to reach other markets in the region and promises to become a busy trade zone in the future.


Cambodia's rats welcomed by Vietnamese gourmets

May 16, 2009
China Daily

PHNOM PENH - Vietnam has become the main importer of Cambodia's rats with 50 tons of rats being imported through the checkpoints along the border everyday, local media reported on Friday.

"We are working in the rice fields during the day and catching the rat at night. We can catch about 10 kg to 20 kg rats every night, " the Chinese language newspaper Cambodia Sin Chew Daily quoted a young rat trader as saying. The rat traders could sell them at border for about 3,000 riel (about 75 cents) to 4,000 riel (about $1.00) per kilo.

At the Chrey Thom border checkpoint, immigration police officer Roeun Narin said there was regular stream of middlemen in the rat-meat trade crossing the border, and he knew of more rat-trading at other checkpoints along the border.

Leh, the rat trader in the town of Chrey Thom, by the Vietnamese border, said she buys about one ton of rats per day during April and May from middlemen who bring the rodents from Cambodia's Kandal, Kompong Cham and Takeo provinces. From November to March the haul usually drops to between 300 and 400 kg per day, she said.

Every day there are more than 30 Vietnamese middlemen waiting at the border checkpoints to purchase the rat from Cambodia, an online Vietnamese media outlet reported. The rat sales at the checkpoint of Vietnam's An Giang province alone has reached to about 50 tons in recent days, the officials of Vietnam were quoted as saying.

"Most Cambodians only know a few ways to cook it, but in Vietnam they know many dishes, such as soups, curries and fried rat," Chhoeun, another middleman said. Vietnamese enjoy the small rice-field rats, as they think they are natural.

Polls expected to be muted

A Sam Rainsy Party commune councilor speaks at party headquarters Thursday about allegations of CPP vote buying.

The Phnom Penh Post

Friday, 15 May 2009

Vote-buying claims further diminish hope for council elections

OBSERVERS are predicting few surprises when Cambodia's 11,353 commune councilors go to the polls to elect the country's first district, provincial and municipal councils Sunday.

But election monitors and government officials remain divided on the utility of the "indirect" elections, amid a fresh wave of vote-buying claims by the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Two local election monitors - Comfrel and Nicfec - say they will boycott the elections, claiming the results are a foregone conclusion and that the US$1.6 million in administrative costs are not justified.

"We are boycotting because of the election system itself," said Koul Panha, Comfrel's executive director, adding that the number of district and provincial councilors should simply be calculated in proportion to existing commune councils.

Nicfec Executive Director Hang Puthea said the cost of last year's national election, in which around 8 million Cambodians cast their ballots, was around $2.60 per voter, while the May 17 poll will cost around $140.

"We know who will vote for whom, so we don't want to waste more money on this election," he said.

Meanwhile, election officials said preparations for the elections were progressing "smoothly", and that the new councils would advance the government's much-mooted decentralisation and deconcentration program, shifting more decision-making power to the local level.

"This election is very important because [the new] provincial, district and municipal councils will govern within their territory according to the government's policy of promoting democratic development," said Tep Nytha, secretary general of the National Election Committee (NEC).

Koul Panha agreed the presence of opposition parties at the provincial and district level would infuse a fresh political voice into local government, but that this influence and decision-making power would likely by "limited" by the Cambodian People's Party's large majority at the commune level.


"[The opposition] might not have effective power, but they will have a voice and they can access local authorities' planning and decisions," he said.

The CPP holds 7,993 seats at the commune level, with the Sam Rainsy Party a distant second with 2,660. Funcinpec holds 274, the Norodom Ranariddh Party 425, and the Hang Dara Democratic Movement has just one seat.

Cash for votes?
Despite the prospect of long-term gains, Koul Panha said the elections had created "problems" in the short term, citing fresh opposition allegations the CPP has engaged in vote-buying in an attempt to divide its opponents and snatch a crucial few extra votes.

At a press conference Thursday, the SRP screened a video clip containing testimony from around 40 of its commune councilors who say ruling party officials offered them money to vote against their own party. The cost of a vote, councilors said, was between $500 and $1,000.

Sean Sear, a commune councilor from Phnom Penh's Russey Keo district who was present at the press conference, said Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema had promised to provide him with "a plot of land and money to build a house".

Long Sophal, a councilor from Prampi Makara district, also claimed CPP officials offered to resolve a housing dispute in exchange for his vote.

"I think that when the SRP holds seats on the provincial, district and municipal councils, the CPP will be concerned, [because it] will be difficult for them to take part in corruption and other illegal activities related to natural resources," SRP President Sam Rainsy said.

"The CPP is concerned there will be a decline in its decision making power, and they have therefore used a strategy of buying votes from the SRP."

He said the party would file complaints to the NEC outlining its allegations, including one against Kep Chuktema. The governor could not be reached for comment.

But senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap rejected the accusations, saying the party had "never advised" them to buy votes from the opposition.

"We have no money to buy votes, but we have had a clear political strategy to persuade voters, and we hope that commune councilors from other parties will vote for us on Sunday," he said.

He added that the new councils would actually be a boon for the opposition parties, giving them a voice at the local level and a forum for airing new ideas.

Tep Nytha said the NEC had so far received three complaints from the SRP relating to vote buying, and that the Municipal Election Committee was currently conducting investigations.

"During the election campaign each political party has tried to persuade the voters to vote for their party, which is not a problem so long as the promises did not violate the law," he said.

He said any party found guilty of buying votes or breaking other election regulations would be forced to withdraw candidates from consideration in the elections.

Suu Kyi arrested, to be tried

Written by AFP
Friday, 15 May 2009

YANGON - Myanmar's military junta charged pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday with breaching the terms of her house arrest over a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside house.

The 63-year-old goes on trial Monday on the charges, which carry a jail term of up to five years and would stretch her detention past its supposed expiry date this month and through controversial elections due in 2010.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and her two maids appeared in court at the notorious Insein Prison near Yangon, hours after police whisked her from the residence where she has been detained for most of the past two decades.

"The authorities have charged Aung San Suu Kyi and her two maids" under the Law Safeguarding the State from the Dangers of Subversive Elements, one of her lawyers, Hla Myo Myint, told reporters outside the prison.

The law governs the conditions under which Aung San Suu Kyi is held under house arrest. Legal sources said she was accused of violating the law by communicating with foreigners.

US national John Yettaw, who was held last week for sneaking into her house and staying there for two days before he was caught, was also charged with breaking the security law and immigration conditions, Hla Myo Myint said.

Yettaw, 53, apparently used a pair of homemade flippers to swim across a lake to her crumbling residence in an apparent show of solidarity, but Aung San Suu Kyi's main lawyer Kyi Win said they had asked him to leave.

"We have to blame him," Kyi Win said. "He is a fool."

Aung San Suu Kyi would not be allowed to return home, but would be held at a special house on the grounds of the prison while proceedings were under way, Kyi Win added.

The charges against her provoked international anger, with the US State Department describing them as "troubling" and European Union special envoy Piero Fassino saying that there was "no justification".

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "deeply disturbed" by the "unlawful" detention.
Dozens of Myanmar protesters meanwhile rallied in front of the country's embassy in Tokyo. AFP

Suit to proceed: Mu Sochua

Written by Neth Pheaktra
Friday, 15 May 2009

SRP lawmaker urges objectivity in Bar’s investigation into lawyer

OPPOSITION lawmaker Mu Sochua maintained Thursday that she would not withdraw her defamation suit against Prime Minister Hun Sen, but urged the Cambodian Bar Association to act objectively in its investigation of her lawyer for misconduct, saying that she feared no one else would represent her if the organisation banned him from practising law.

"If Kong Sam Onn is disbarred, I don't know who I have confidence in and who would dare defend me in court," Mu Sochua said, referring to her lawyer, who is the subject of a complaint from Hun Sen's own counsel and former Bar Association president Ky Tech.

The Bar has said it will investigate Kong Sam Onn on accusations that he defamed Hun Sen. It said that he could be disbarred in a move that many see as politically motivated.

"Ky Tech made many comments about me that could be seen as an attempt to exert influence on the court. The Bar must show its independence.... This case is not about Mu Sochua; it is about justice," Mu Sochua said.

"I do not intend to withdraw my case from the court. Please rest assured that I intend to go all the way," she said.

"I will not apologise to Prime Minister Hun Sen in order to conclude the case. If I apologise to him, it means I accept that I am at fault.... Do not think that I will leave my pursuit for justice."

Bar Association spokesman Ly Tayseng said Thursday the investigation had not started because of the public holiday. "We expect to review the work after the public holiday next week," he said.

Mu Sochua is suing Hun Sen, saying that he called her cheung klang, a term that when literally translated means "strong leg".

She says the term can be derogatory when applied to women.

In response, Hun Sen is countersuing Mu Sochua for defamation, as well as asking that her lawyer be disbarred for violating the Bar Association's code of ethics.

Buoy away


Written by Tracey Shelton
Friday, 15 May 2009

Phnom Penh port crew prepare to drop the first of 57 buoys that will mark a safe passage for river transport from Phnom Penh to Kampong Cham. In his speech during the lauching ceremony Thursday, Minister of Public Works and Transport Tram Iv Tek said this program is vital for Cambodia's economic development.

More illegal workers being repatriated from Thailand

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Cambodians walk near the Poipet border crossing in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Friday, 15 May 2009

As many as 500 Cambodian labourers being returned each day through the Poipet border crossing alone, police say

POLICE at the Thai border say they are seeing greater numbers of Cambodian migrant workers being repatriated by Thai police.

Hun Hean, the police chief for Banteay Meanchey province, told the Post that 200 to 500 illegal migrants are being returned through Poipet's border gate by Thailand each day.

That follows the news that Thai police in Sa Keo province bordering Banteay Meanchey arrested more than 130 Cambodian illegal migrant workers on Tuesday.

Hun Hean said that previously his officers used to see between 100 and 200 Cambodian workers returned daily.

"We have seen the number of migrant workers going to Thailand has increased," Hun Hean said. "But these illegal workers are arrested by the Thai police when they cross through these gates looking for work."

Hun Hean said many residents living along the border in provinces such as Battambang, Oddar Meanchey, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey head to Thailand looking for short- and long-term work.

"Most of them go with ring-leaders," he said, adding that some of those arrested are injured by Thai soldiers and their money confiscated.

Last September Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to illegal Cambodian workers in Thailand to come home, saying they would earn more money and would avoid the risk of being mistreated by Thai employers.

"I see that currently labour wages in Cambodia are higher than those in Thailand," Hun Sen said at that time.

"If they work in their own country they will not be looked down on by [Thai] employers or guilty of working illegally."

Thai problem
Hem Bunny, the director of the Employee and Manpower Department at the Ministry of Labour, said it is legal for Cambodians to work as day labourers in Thailand.

However, he said many Thai employers wanted illegal workers.

"This problem is caused by the Thai employers themselves - they want to use illegal workers because it costs them less money," Hem Bunny said.

"That is why the seasonal workers head to Thailand."

Hem Bunny estimates that 70,000 Cambodian workers who went illegally to Thailand are still working there.

But he said 40,000 of those have since been granted work permits, which ensures they get equal pay and are protected under Thai labour laws.

He said his department had pre-registered and sent 3,662 workers legally to South Korea in the past two years, 15,444 to Malaysia in the past decade, 8,930 to Thailand since 2006 and 42 to Japan since 2007.

Preah Vihear market money row not part of border talks: official

Written by Sam Rith
Friday, 15 May 2009

Government seeks to keep two issues separate

CAMBODIAN officials said Thursday that a row over compensation for damages inflicted during border clashes with Thailand last month should not be part of the larger negotiations on the disputed territory between the two countries.

"We are just demanding compensation from the Thais for damage caused to the property of Cambodian citizens," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said, referring to a US$2.1 million claim made by the government on Monday for the destruction of 264 market stalls near Preah Vihear temple during the fighting.

Talks over the border have lurched along with no clear resolution in sight, as both sides wrangle over a few square kilometres of ground amid a massive military buildup on both sides of the frontier.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told the Post Wednesday that Cambodia's patience would eventually run out, but Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya was quoted by the Bangkok-based daily newspaper The Nation on the same day as rejecting Cambodia's demands for money.

"We have to understand it was a military clash, and there are rules of engagement for the fighting. We have already made clear the buildings are in Thai territory," Kasit said.

Koy Kuong declined to comment on Kasit's remarks Thursday, saying that Cambodian officials were still waiting for an official response. "It is their right to refuse our demand, but we want to know what reasons they have," he said.

Phay Siphan disputed Kasit's assertion that the damaged buildings were in Thai territory.

"They have no reason to say that the area is in Thai territory, because the International Court of Justice already judged that Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, and the market is part of the temple."

A fortified breakfast


Written by Tracey Shelton
Friday, 15 May 2009

A group of Cambodian deminers enjoy shots of animal blood mixed with rice wine during breakfast on Sunday as they prepare for a hard day’s work in Anlong Veng province. The mixture of spirits with animal blood is believed by some to enhance the drinker’s strength, vitality and overall health.

Cambodia to hold first jewellery expo

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Cambodia is due to hold its first jewellery expo in a bid to compete with Thailand, which has suffered from political turmoil.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 15 May 2009

Kingdom will hold first gems exposition next week, amid tight security, as the Kingdom looks to attract foreign buyers

THE country's first jewellery expo is to run Monday to Wednesday at the Hotel InterContinental in Phnom Penh, with more than 100 security personnel and security equipment deployed to protect exhibits.

Seun Sotha, director of the Ministry of Commerce's Trade Promotion Department, which is organising the event, said the aim is to promote the Kingdom's jewellery market to foreign investors who might be wary of ongoing political instability in Thailand, one of the largest markets in the world.

"Between 30 and 50 large local companies with experience in manufacturing and exporting jewellery will display their goods," Seun Sotha told the Post on Thursday. "We found that expos in Thailand attracted local and international clients, but the political crisis there seems to have caused foreign customers to lose interest. So we are looking at this as an opportunity to get them to come here."

And, although he does not expect the first expo to get many foreign visitors, he said it represents a long-term vision.

"We are encouraging high-class people and businesspeople to visit." he said. "Our vision is to create an international jewellery market. We want our people to make jewellery for the international market, not just the local market."

He said local precious stones are comparable in quality to those found in neighbouring countries. Seun Sotha said Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh would open the expo, which will host a jewellery fashion show on its first two days at 9am and 3pm.

Exhibitor Taing Kim Chheng, who owns the Hong Kong Jewellery Company near Central Market in Phnom Penh, said she was hiring two booths. "Each year we display our jewellery at expos in Thailand, but now that the Commerce Ministry has organised it here, we have an easier way to show our products," she said.

Taing Kim Chheng said her shop exports jewellery to the United States, Australia and France.
"We buy gems from Pailin and Ratanakkiri provinces as well as Thailand," she said.

Chheng Hak, owner of Chheng Hak Stone and Diamond Shop near Central Market, is also taking two booths.

"We are keen to promote handmade jewellery to foreign visitors," said Chheng Hak, whose shop processes gems, gold and diamonds for the local market and for export.

Govt eyes 2nd bridge to peninsula

Written by Kay Kimsong
Friday, 15 May 2009

THE government wants to build a second bridge north of the existing Japanese-Cambodian Friendship Bridge in Phnom Penh, it said Thursday.

The Minister of Public Works and Transport, Tram Iv Tek, said a Korean firm was close to completing a feasibility study.

"The study on the building cost and fee structure for users is almost finished," the minister said during the handover of 57 buoys by the Mekong River Commission on Thursday to be used to improve river navigation. "They are not yet sure when they will start to build."

He added that the bridge would cost between US$50 million to $80 million.

Two bridges are currently under construction on the Tonle Sap river, at Prek Phnov and Prek Kdam in Kandal province. A third bridge is being built at Prek Tamak over the Mekong.

Tram Iv Tek also announced that Japan had approved enlarging the bridge under construction at Neak Leung. The redesigned structure will be 13 metres wide and 37.5 metres high, allowing medium-sized ships of 10,000 tonnes to pass underneath. He said the government was looking for a $100 million loan from Japan to pay for the structure.

He said the government also wanted to build new bridges in Takhmau town in Kandal province, and at Stung Treng in north Cambodia to link Stung Treng with Preah Vihear province.

So Nguon, co-chairman of the government-private sector transport working group, said bridge-building would boost trade. "Bridges, roads and waterways are essential - we need cheaper and faster services," he said.

Coordinating Cambodia’s recovery plan

Cambodia must sort out its infrastructure problems if it hopes to unlock growth potential.

Infrastructure spending means jobs now, and later

Previously a textbook example of how a country could export its way out of poverty, China is now showing the world how shifting to an investment- and infrastructure-heavy growth model can take up the slack from falling demand for exports. While Cambodia’s small economy means it is unlikely to shake a reliance on export markets, its relatively poorly developed infrastructure provides plenty of room for new investment. And it won’t be wasted. According to ANZ Royal CEO Stephen Higgins, high electricity costs are a major business constraint in Cambodia, costing 18 US cents or more per kilowatt-hour in Cambodia compared to just 5.4 cents in Vietnam. Transport costs are also another obstacle, costing around $15 to move one tonne of agricultural produce 100 kilometres in Cambodia, compared to less than $8 in Vietnam and less than $4 in Thailand. In part this is due to the country’s poor road network – just 5 percent of Cambodia’s roads are paved, compared to more than 20 percent of Vietnam’s and almost all of Thailand’s. The question of how to fund the investment required is a difficult one. Although the government has shown it is open to private investment in infrastructure, it is likely to have to do the bulk of the heavy lifting itself, say analysts. As Higgins points out – and as China has so capably demonstrated – government borrowing to invest in infrastructure provides a win-win opportunity. “Building infrastructure will create jobs now,” he said. “Actually having it will encourage business to set up here in the future and provide jobs on an ongoing basis.”

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nathan Green
Friday, 15 May 2009

Cambodia’s small economy means it will continue to be reliant on exports for economic growth, but needs to do a much better job diversifying its economic base and boosting production

AS new data coming out around the world begin to point cautiously towards early signs of a global economic recovery, debate is intensifying about the merits of export-led development.

This month the International Monetary Fund (IMF) urged Asia to "rebalance" its growth model to reduce its reliance on exports and instead focus on boosting domestic demand. The call came as the fund slashed its growth outlook for Asia after the region's merchandise exports fell at an annualised rate of 70 percent between September 2008 and February this year, substantially worse than during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Although the fund noted that economies with a heavy reliance on high-tech exports had been hit hardest - it singled out Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand as the most affected economies in Southeast Asia ­- Cambodia has not escaped unharmed.

In the wake of the global downturn, a decade of nearly 10-percent GDP growth per year has come screaming to a halt. Some international institutions have predicted a 2 percent contraction this year.

"It is apparent that the country's economic boom did not have a solid grounding, with the origins of growth being narrow and restricted to four sectors - garment exports, agriculture, real estate and construction, and tourism," Danny Richards, the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) Cambodia analyst, said Thursday by email.

The most recent official figures available show garment, textile and footwear exports dropped almost 20 percent in the first two months of this year compared with 2008.

Tourism, another key export earner, was also hit hard. Figures from the Ministry of Tourism show arrivals fell 1.2 percent in the second half of 2008 after growing 12.6 percent over the first six months. Cambodia Association of Travel Agents President An Kim Eang told the Post last month that tourist arrivals dropped 6 percent in the first two months of 2009.

If Cambodia was to follow the IMF's advice and attempt to rebalance to get away from a reliance on export dollars, it would do well to look at China.

Previously a textbook example of how a country could export its way out of poverty, it has led the way since the crisis began by boosting domestic demand on the back of a $580 billion stimulus package announced in November.

But as Stephane Guimbert, the World Bank's chief economist for Cambodia, points out, Cambodia's small domestic economy will prevent it following China's lead. "In Thailand or China you can rethink your model because you can live on your domestic market, but we don't think it is a viable option for Cambodia," he said. "The model might be adjusted somewhat, but at the end of the day exports will remain key for Cambodia's growth in the future."

The model might be adjusted somewhat, but at the end of the day exports will remain key for Cambodia’s growth in the future.

Beyond garments
Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal Bank, agreed that exports were the future but said Cambodia needed to develop an industrial policy to expand its manufacturing base beyond garments.

Over the last decade, manufacturing contribution to economic output in Cambodia has increased from 10 percent to around 30 percent today.

However, it still lags far behind neighbouring Vietnam and Thailand, where manufacturing accounts for between 40 and 45 percent of GDP. Worryingly, the garment sector accounts for 70 percent of Cambodia's manufacturing activities and exports, while food manufacturing accounts for just 10 percent, despite the country being at the centre of the Mekong Delta food bowl.

"Focusing on areas like the garment sector has been fantastic in building up Cambodia's economy, but it is very important for Cambodia to diversify and broaden its economic base," Higgins said. "Countries like Vietnam have used the sector to build up their economies, but as they have developed, they have broadened successfully into other manufacturing, especially light manufacturing."

Boosting manufacturing capacity would also reduce the country's reliance on imports, he added, further helping balance the economy.

Diversification will not be easy. A senior official within the Ministry of Commerce, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the government had recognised the need to diversify well before the economic crisis hit.

He said the end of the Multi-Fibre Arrangement in 2004, which limited garments from developing countries like China while benefitting the poorest countries, such as Cambodia, should have been a watershed moment for diversification. However, the sector proved resilient and no major changes to the country's economic structure were seen.

"The government had this idea years ago, but as a poor country it is hard for us," he said. "Even if we have good ideas, we need assistance from development partners to help us realise our goal."

Guimbert said the key to success was to diversify in stages. In the short-term, Cambodia needed to try to capture a larger share of existing value chains, such as by moving beyond the most basic cut-make-trim (CMT) stage of garment production, he said, adding that the country should also try to capture the value-added component of the agricultural sector by processing food rather than exporting it raw.

The key to diversification within sectors was coordination, both between businesses within a sector, and between business groups and the government, he said, pointing to the rapid growth of the garment sector as an example.

Governance arrangements between the government and the garment sector had removed many obstacles to growth, Guimbert noted, such as customs barriers. World Bank statistics showed that getting containers in and out of the country was much faster for the garment industry than for the agriculture sector or any other industry.

"The bottom line is that these sectors managed to get better governance arrangements and that generated growth," Guimbert said.

Diversification into new sectors was a longer term goal, he said. "These short-term improvements are within reach, but further diversification requires much more," he said, pinpointing infrastructure development, mobilisation of savings and capital, and workforce skills as central.

Invest in people
Susanna Coghlan, director of training at AAA Cambodia, an HR firm, said the educational system needed to prioritise vocational training over higher learning to better match skills to labour-market demands.

"Vocational training has the potential to make a big impact on the labour market in Cambodia and will become increasingly important as the Cambodian economy diversifies and expands," she said.

Provincial training centres were needed to boost skill levels outside of main centres and to provide a workforce for special economic zones being built around the country. Apprenticeship and internship programs were needed to boost on-the-job training, she added.

But Sandra D'Amico, managing director of HR firm HRINC Cambodia, said the development of a vocational training system was held back by the lack of a strategic vision for the workforce in Cambodia.

"Where are we going with our labour force?" she asked. "India decided it wanted to dominate in IT, and they have done a good job of developing that sector. But I don't think Cambodia yet has a vision."

Industry associations like the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia and the Cambodian Hotel Association have worked independently with the education sector to develop training programs meeting their own specific needs, but a coordinated response to the skills and education challenge was necessary to diversify the country's economic base.

"It has to run through the entire education system so that everybody is moving towards one goal," D'Amico said.

But Richards doubted the government had its priorities in the right place when it came to education, pointing out that it planned to raise defence spending in its latest budget rather than spending more on education and health.

"Cambodia has a young and expanding population, and this could turn into a demographic liability if insufficient jobs are provided," he said.

Money needed
Ultimately, diversification and future growth boiled down to attracting investment, Richards said. The country had done a tremendous job of attracting foreign capital over the last few years, but stricter capital markets would make that more difficult over the next few years. meaning the country had to do a better job of mobilising domestic savings.

"The present investment ratio in Cambodia is too low," he said. "Savings need to increase and more has to be channelled into productive investment."

To mobilise savings, Guimbert said the business environment had to be streamlined to raise the chance of success and provide incentives for investors to take risks. This could be done by making business entry easier, improving bureaucracy, opening up access to credit and - given the importance of exports - streamlining customs procedures.

"If all this happens, there is a sense that you could make much better use of existing savings," he said.

"We suspect a lot of people will be willing to invest in rice or crop processing if only they had the confidence that they would be able to export without unnecessarily high fees on the road or the border," he said.

Rights of sex workers must be considered

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Mu Sochua, MP
Friday, 15 May 2009

Dear Editor,

I wish to congratulate The Phnom Penh Post for its article "Sex workers face more risks in global downturn", published on May 13, 2009.

The article gives a human face to sex workers whose choice is close to none in terms of finding "reputable and legal jobs", as suggested by the minister for women's affairs.

I recognise the efforts of the government in providing economic alternatives to our women.

But I also strongly believe that the government must also be responsible for the impact the global economic crisis has on women who are in the sex trade because of the great exposure to high risks of exploitation, gender-based violence, the loss of power to negotiate with their clients to use condoms and violations of their human rights.

Sixty thousand young women from the garment sector have been laid off in the past year.

This number alone should ring a very strong alarm bell to the Women's Affairs Ministry that our women are at risk of exploitation, as they are desperate to replace the income they have just lost due to the economic crisis.

It is well-recorded that each garment worker supports at least four other members of her family.

It is unrealistic and irresponsible to simply ask them to return to their land or to wait until the government develops the agricultural sector.

Does the Commerce Ministry have openings to absorb the 60,000 women in its skills training program?

Would they have left their farms if they had a choice to make it in their villages?

We know very well what social stigma female factory workers, women who serve beer or work in the entertainment industry must suffer.

If we recognise the role of women as breadwinners, then we must recognise that women in the sex trade have the same economic value.

They must be protected and have the same rights, and need protection when their human rights are violated.

If the income of the sex workers decreases because of the global crisis, it is our problem as well as theirs.

The impact is manifold because sex workers are also mothers to their own children.

Mu Sochua, MP
Sam Rainsy Party

Police Blotter: 15 May 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 15 May 2009

A group of seven men equipped with AK-47 rifles and an ax robbed a family of four in Prasat village, Banteay Meanchey province Monday, leaving Pich Saly, 16, with a severe wound to the head. Police say the robbers shot five times in the air to scare the family and took US$1,000 in cash, two platinum rings and two pairs of earrings before attacking Pich Saly. After an investigation, suspect Heng Chivoan, 36, from the same commune was arrested but denied any involvement in the robbery.

A football betting ring operating out of a flat in Siem Reap province was raided on Wednesday, leading to on-the-spot arrests of 10 people. Equipment such as computers and printers were also seized, said Om Mara, deputy governor of Siem Reap, who led the raid. He said the "boss" of the ring had already fled the scene.

Te Chhruy, 25, was arrested on Monday for stealing a pistol, a radio transmitter, five mobile phones and US$100 from Samrith Virak, the deputy police chief of Mok Kampol district, Kandal province, while he was sleeping. Only the pistol was found on the suspect when police caught him, and police believe the rest of the stolen possessions were sold. The suspect also lives in Mok Kampol district.

A Toyota Camry transporting illegally logged timber from Pailin province to Kratie province was intercepted in Battambang on Wednesday. The driver, Thu Leng, 49, was arrested for being in possession of 8 pieces of wood. The suspect confessed to police that he had bought the wood illegally for US$100 to make furniture. Police said the man would be sent to court and the wood and car kept as evidence.

A worker from a rubber plantation in Kampong Cham province hanged himself Tuesday while being detained at a police station in Stung Treng district. Police said Naing Mab, 36, had been arrested for destroying 36 bowls that had been used to collect resin from the Boeung Ket rubber plantation where he worked. The police had detained him only to teach him a lesson but after one night, he had killed himself.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: govt 'may' attend postponed summit

Friday, 15 May 2009

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said Thursday that Cambodian officials would "need to check their schedules" before committing to attend the upcoming ASEAN summit in Thailand, which has been pushed back for a third time and will likely be set for October. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced on Wednesday that the summit - scheduled for June 13 and 14 on the southern tourist island of Phuket - would need to be rescheduled so all leaders would be able to attend. The summit will bring together leaders from the 10 ASEAN countries and six regional partners. Koy Kuong, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said he expected the summit would be held in October, but that he had not received proposals for any specific dates.

In Brief: GE to provide hospital equipment

Written by Nguon Sovan
Friday, 15 May 2009

General Electric (GE) last week announced plans to expand its Developing Health Globally program to include six unnamed sites in Cambodia, as well as an additional donation of medical equipment for 23 public health facilities. A GE country representative confirmed Thursday that Kampong Speu, Phnom Penh Municipal and Kossamak National hospitals will be the first of the 23 recipients of resources, including ultrasound equipment, mobile X-ray machines and patient monitors, with product installation and training expected to be completed by late August or September.