Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Japan agrees to help preserve Tuol Sleng prison archives

Participants listen to a presentation about Japanese efforts to protect the Tuol Sleng torture centre's document archives.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by AFP and Neth Pheaktra
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Cambodia-Okinawa ‘Peace Museum' Cooperation Project will also see the training of Cambodian conservation experts

JAPAN has signed a three-year agreement to help preserve Tuol Sleng genocide museum, the former central prison camp for Khmer Rouge detainees.

The Cambodia-Okinawa "Peace Museum" Cooperation Project will begin working this month to preserve the remaining remnants of the prison, known as the S-21 security centre under the regime.

"This is very useful because Tuol Sleng has key documents [from the regime], but we do not have tools to preserve them," Cambodia's deputy minister of culture, Chuch Phoeurn, said Tuesday, adding that under the deal, museum staff would go to study in Japan every year to learn particular preservation methods.

Representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, Cambodia's Ministry of Culture and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum signed the preservation agreement.

"The agreement focuses on the management of the museum, preservation of documents and education. Right now we are mostly concerned about the preservation of the building and of documents for the future," Chey Sopheara, director of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, told the Post.


"With [the agreement], we hope that Tuol Sleng museum will be preserved and saved because our museum's building is old," he said.

A long time coming
The Cambodian government last year asked the UN's cultural agency to register the prison and its archives.

The museum was also registered by UNESCO's Memory of the World for Asia and the Pacific region in February last year in a bid to gain international recognition.

"The agreement with Japan is a response to lots of waiting. The first step of agreement will focus on capacity building for Tuol Sleng museum staff and afterwards focus on preservation of documents and other necessary material," said Chuch Phoeurn.

However Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), questioned the need for outsider help.

"Cambodia should take responsibility to persevere its own history, which it has been doing for over three decades now. Toul Sleng has been established, preserved and managed by Cambodia and it should continue to do so," Youk Chhang said.

The former prison, which was originally a high school, was run by Kaing Guek Eav or "Duch", who is on trial at the country's UN-backed war crimes court for overseeing the torture and extermination of some 15,000 prisoners detained at the camp.


Angkor Wat visitor fees adjusted in bid to encourage more tourism

Written by Peter Olszewski
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Siem Reap

After much deliberation, the Apsara Authority has chosen July 1 to launch a new ticketing structure designed to keep tourists longer.

LONG-AWAITED changes to the Apsara Authority's rigid Angkor temple ticketing structure are to become official on July 1, according to a letter sent by the authority to organisations, including the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents.

The new ticketing will allow US$40 passes to be valid for a week instead of a three-day period, while $60 tickets, once weeklong, will be valid for use over a month.

The letter, signed by Apsara Director General Bun Narith, said the changes have been introduced to "reduce the influence of the world economic problem" and to get tourists to stay longer.

Tourism groups have intensely lobbied for a change to the ticket structure, saying giving tourists an incentive to extend their stay in the Kingdom would be a significant economic enhancement and stimulus to the tourism sector.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon announced in March that he had agreed to a proposal by the private Tourism Working Group to extend Angkor temple tickets in a bid to attract more tourists.

He said he had made the decision following a recent meeting with the Apsara Authority, adding that the ministry had been thinking about the idea for some time.

He also said that the new system would begin "next week". But Bun Narith told the Post at the time of the meeting that he had not heard of the decision and that anything more than a one-month visit would be "hard to manage".

Tourism operators and travel organisations have welcomed the recent progress.

"From a hotelier's perspective, it's a great initiative and allows us to actively promote to guests to get them to stay longer," Nick Downing, general manager of Siem Reap's Hotel de la Paix, and one of the original lobbyists to change the ticketing structure, said.

"The greater flexibility also encourages guests to travel to other parts of the country."

Maternity death not my fault: midwife

Written by Mom Kunthear
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

AN OBSTETRICIAN at Pailin's provincial referral hospital has denied responsibility in the death of a woman who died while giving birth at the centre two months ago.

Yin Buntha, one of five obstetricians currently being questioned by a Battambang provincial court over the incident, said Monday that she had simply followed hospital procedure.

"I told them what I did and what I did not do according to my role as an obstetrician. I don't know if they believe me or not, but I have only four words to reply to the court, and they are, I-did-nothing-wrong," she said.

Mith Rorn, the dead woman's husband, accused hospital staff of refusing to help his wife give birth because he was unable to give the clinic a US$25 fee.

However, a prosecutor in the case told the Post last week that Mith Rorn no longer blamed hospital staff for his wife's death, and as such, a case against them may not be grounded.

"It is difficult to mount a case against the five hospital staff because, after being questioned, they all said they did not cause the woman to die, and I asked the woman's husband again if he blamed the obstetricians, and he said he did not," Koy Kannya, a Battambang court prosecutor, said.

Koy Kannya was unable to be reached for comment on Monday or Tuesday but said last week that the woman's husband had only accused the hospital staff of asking for money, not with negligence.

Case closed: hospital
Seng Rorn, director of Pailin provincial's health department, said Tuesday that he believed the case had closed.

"I think that they have stopped investigating the case because they have been working on it for a long time and my staff have never done anything wrong. They are good people," he said.

"We have never taken money from poor people. We help them free of charge, and charge only $12.50 for rich people," he said.

Duch: “Pol Pot was the father of Cambodia's murder”

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 26/05/2009: The court building on day 21 of Duch's trial at the ECCC©John Vink/ Magnum

By Stéphanie Gée

The hearing of Tuesday May 26th was marked by a statement from the accused Duch aimed to explain, among others, that the personal conflict between the secretary general of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Le Duan, and Brother nº1, Pol Pot, degenerated into a bloodbath. Indian journalist Nayan Chanda, specialist on political issues in Indochina, finished his testimony, not without recalling Vietnam's dampened hopes in relation to its Khmer Rouge comrades. After him, Craig Etcheson came back to the stand, once again more as a matter of form...

The fate of the “Hanoi Khmer”
Nayan Chanda recalled that in 1975 and 1976, Vietnamese officials made visits to Cambodia, in what were as many attempts for negotiations that all failed. At the most, as the Indian expert remembered, local agreements were made in the months following the Khmer Rouge victory in April 1975, which allowed for the forced repatriation to Cambodia by the Vietnamese authorities of Khmer nationals who had taken refuge on their soil. In some cases, these repatriations were carried out on the basis of one person being exchanged for one head of cattle.

Nayan Chanda then read a relevant section taken from David Chandler's book “Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison”: “He wrote that the accused was able to elaborate a very sophisticated concept of treason, between 1972 and 1973. It discussed chains of traitors and a secret operation that was then implemented by the Khmer Rouge to purge those who were called the 'Hanoi Khmer', who had come back in 1970 after years of exile in Northern Vietnam to help the revolution there. In 1973, hundreds of them were arrested and assassinated in the utmost secrecy, after Vietnamese had withdrawn most of their troops from Cambodia. Some managed to flee to Vietnam after their detention, others were arrested after April 1975, many were arrested in the special zone. The stealthy and pitiless aspects of this purge campaign may have answered to the emerging administrative style that was specific to Duch. This campaign already foretold the operating mode of S-21.”

Vietnam's disappointed hopes
Before an open conflict broke out between Cambodia and Vietnam, the latter long believed that it could count on friends in the Khmer Rouge ranks, before gradually opening their eyes. The Indian journalist recalled a “tactical alliance between the Vietnamese communist party and the Cambodian communist party in 1974.” “Back then,”he pursued, “it was patent that the United States were going to withdraw from the region and the Khmer Rouge would be able to take power in Cambodia. At that time, the Vietnamese were ready to help the Khmer Rouge. On April 17th 1975, the Khmer Rouge victory was made possible thanks to the considerable amount of weapons and trainings provided by the Vietnamese to the Khmer Rouge in late 1974. The Chinese had then not been able to give such assistance, because they had no means available. […] It was therefore the Vietnamese communist party that provided a very valuable assistance to the Khmer Rouge to allow them to reach victory in 1975. So, there is aberration somewhere in what is otherwise a fundamentally conflictual relationship. I have the feeling that the Vietnamese hoped that, by helping the Khmer Rouge in this way, they could win them over to their own way of looking at things. But their reckoning was erroneous, as it was realised subsequently. As soon as victory was theirs, the Khmer Rouge declared they had obtained it on their own, without any foreign assistance. […] Vietnam understood immediately that there was no gratitude to expect from the Khmer Rouge.”

The expert added that the Vietnamese misinterpreted the situation as they seemed to think they had more friends than they really did within the Khmer Rouge revolutionary ranks. “I have recently read a research paper written by a Russian on the relations between Cambodia and Vietnam, on the basis of Soviet diplomatic materials recently made public. The author wrote that Nuon Chea [ex-Brother nº2 and indicted by the tribunal] was the person appointed by Pol Pot to go and ask for help in Vietnam on the eve of Phnom Penh's fall. He was the party's Mister Vietnam... […] Until 1978, the Vietnamese thought that Nuon Chea was a moderate and a friend of Vietnam!”

However, Nayan Chanda believed that from late 1977, “Vietnam seemed to have understood it was not an issue of misunderstanding or resolution of some territorial disputes, but that the conflict with Cambodia pertained to the Khmer Rouge policy towards Vietnam. The problem was therefore to be solved through a political change in Phnom Penh or a change of the people in power in Phnom Penh. In other words, if there were changes within the Communist Party of Kampuchea [CPK], that was fine, but if that was not the case, it was necessary to take Phnom Penh to ensure peace and stability.”

Duch: the personal conflict between Le Duan and Pol Pot resulted in bloodshed
When his turn to interrogate Nayan Chanda came, Duch's international lawyer requested that first, the accused be given the opportunity to respond to the expert's testimony. Duch then started a long statement, in which he lashed out at Brother nº1:

“It was part of the implementation of Hô Chi Minh's theory, which said that the only main cause was the fight against the French. Consequently, there could only be one party in power, the Communist Party of Indochina: one party, one soldier, one government and one country, that is the Indochinese Federation. This was his theory. It was the source of life and death, and the hostility between Le Duan and Pol Pot. Le Duan was secretary of the Vietnam Workers' Party, which later became the Vietnamese Communist Party. […] The conflict between the two men was a mortal conflict, a long-standing one, that started as early as 1954. Le Duan saw himself as the father of Indochina, even if there was a Geneva Conference. Both tried to overthrow the other. […] Although the armed conflict existed, Le Duan wanted Pol Pot to follow him... […] The dispute led to the open armed conflict in 1978, which came to the attention of the international community on December 31st 1978. I want to say that Pol Pot and Le Duan were having a personal dispute. Each had his own party, his own soldiers, and this resulted in a bloodbath and had a disastrous impact on the lives of the civilian population. What I am saying is that Pol Pot was not a great patriot of the country, but he was a murderer. He was the father of the murder of Cambodia. […] So, I maintain my view, that it was a dispute between Pol Pot and the Indochinese Federation which was at the origin of the conflict in which Pol Pot was a murderer. More than a million people lost their lives. In this context, in S-21, my hands were stained with the blood of the people who lost their lives there... I do not deny my responsibility for this crime. However, I want to show that […] Vietnamese and Cambodian blood was shed again and again because of the dispute between these two persons.”

What is at stake with Nayan Chanda's summoning, according to François Roux
Rather than interrogating the expert, François Roux explained to him that the meaning of his presence was fully realised in light of the attempts of the office of the co-Prosecutors to demonstrate and obtain a decision from the Trial Chamber saying that [with reference to the final submission of the co-Prosecutors made at the end of the investigation phase] '[T]he evidence on the Case File [...] establishes that an international armed conflict existed between the armed forces of Democratic Kampuchea (DK) and the armed forces of Vietnam from April 1975 and continuing until 6 January 1979.' This question, which is not only political but also legal, could bear consequences as, if it is considered that an armed conflict existed since April 1975, this would mean that all the Vietnamese prisoners sent to S-21 from that time were victims of war crimes. That is what is at stake here. This does not yield a great interest for Duch, since he has always recognised he knew since September 1977 there was an open conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam. He also admitted that, at least for the whole year of 1978, the Vietnamese prisoners who had arrived were victims of war crimes that came under his responsibility. […] The dispute bears little impact on Duch's guilt. However, I have drawn the Chamber's attention to the responsibility that the co-Prosecutors wanted to place upon international criminal justice. That is, until now, we have always heard the official view according to which the international armed conflict had started from December 31st 1977, when diplomatic relations were severed, and now, the co-Prosecutors are asking the Chamber to take the heavy decision to contradict, through a decision of justice, that date. […] The co-Prosecutors have asked you to come here to see if you would confirm this simple sentence: an international armed conflict existed between the armed forces of Democratic Kampuchea and Vietnam from April 1975 to January 6th 1979. I note that you have not confirmed that sentence. On the contrary, I note that you have indicated there were many clashes and occasional fighting of the military, and you have said 'I have the feeling that, in late 1977, the Vietnamese had concluded it was not a misunderstanding.' You also said yesterday [Monday May 25th 2009] that until late 1977, the Vietnamese government had tried to prevent the conflict from deteriorating. Have I heard correctly, Mister Chanda?”

Nayan Chanda confirmed while wondering: “However, I am not a jurist. I do not know how war is defined in law. Must it be declared? Can war exist without any declaration? If it is not necessary to have a declaration, then the two countries were at war since 1975. If it is necessary, then war effectively started only on December 31st 1977.”

This was the end of the questions to the former correspondent of the Far Eastern Economic Review, who was replaced by Craig Etcheson, whose examination resumed after being interrupted on Thursday May 21st.

Craig Etcheson's examination resumes on an air of “deja vu”
International co-Prosecutor Alex Bates then resumed where he had stopped, and started again the reading, tedious due to translation difficulties, of the minutes of a meeting which Duch attended and during which S-21 and the divisions were ordered to collaborate in the implementation of the purge policy. There was like an air of “deja vu” and the translation issues drowned the co-Prosecutor's demonstration, which some thought had already been made on May 21st...

Alex Bates then sought to interrogate the U.S. expert on nine letters from Sou Meth, the former commandant of division 502 of the Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea, sent to Duch between April and October 1977. His endeavour was interrupted by François Roux, on the basis of the same arguments that Duch's lawyer had made the previous Wednesday [May 20th]. This had already brought the debates to a standstill and resulted in a decision of the Chamber the next day [May 21st], which appears to have been partial in light of the continuing debate. The co-Prosecutor called the defence's objection an “absurdity” and recalled that “all the pieces of evidence are free and once presented, their value can be assessed.” The civil party lawyers, one after the other, joined him, which led Roux to observe that, each time the defence made an objection, they had “not only one but many opponents.” “I end up wondering where the equality of arms is in this trial?” He explained again that it was not the nature of the documents that bothered him and that his client was quite ready to comment on them. For him, the problem was that Craig Etcheson be presented with documents he became aware of after July 2007, that is after the start of the investigation procedure against Duch, as the expert worked as an investigator at the office of the co-Prosecutors and his testimony could therefore be flawed with lack of partiality. Finally, Roux wondered that the co-Prosecutors did not summon Sou Meth before the co-Investigating Judges or the Chamber to confront him with Duch... A misunderstanding seemed to settle regarding the substance of the defence's objection. Judge Lavergne then suggested as an arrangement that the expert's answers be taken with caution, in light of his current post.

Once more, Craig Etcheson was little heard. The final word went to a Cambodian civil party lawyer, Hong Kim Suon: “We have already lost a lot of time not so wisely. […] To revive the same debate is to reopen the same Pandora box. I feel like we are going round and round.” The president then adjourned the hearing...

19 New Garment Factories Open in Cambodia in Q1

Web Editor: Cao Jie

Nineteen new garment factories opened in Cambodia in the first quarter this year, creating job opportunities for workers who lost employment due to the world financial crisis, local media reported on Wednesday.

These new factories, on the outskirts of the capital Phnom Penh, will employ 6,069 people, helping to offset the closing of 46 garment factories that led to the loss of 21,400 jobs in the first three months of this year, according to official data from the Ministry of Labor.

"We welcome newly opened factories, because they help create jobs for workers who lost employment when previous factories closed," Oum Mean, secretary of state at the ministry, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Bun Var, general manager of Jit Textile, one of the factories that reopened, said that he will provide 1,600 jobs this year, but adding that the future of the sector was generally unknowable given current uncertainty. "No one can predict the business lifespan of a new factory," he said.

Meantime, Cheath Khemara, a labor affairs official for the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) predicted that the garment sector's woes would continue indefinitely. "It will be difficult to attract new factories to Cambodia given the current situation," he said, blaming labor strikes for scaring off investors.

Cambodia's garment exports dropped 35 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Exports to the United States were worst hit, down 47 percent compared with same period last year, while those to the European Union (EU) fell 22 percent, according to the earlier figures obtained from the Ministry of Commerce.

High flyer

Written by Chrann Chamroeun nd Mark Roy
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A police officer tries to offer a shirt to a woman who stripped off her shirt and climbed a billboard on Sothearos Boulevard Tuesday morning after witnesses say she assaulted another woman with a glass bottle in Kandal Market. The woman, who police say is addicted to drugs, was detained and sent to the government's Social Affairs Department for "re-education", said commune police Chief Preap Kha.


PM's lawyer says he will withdraw suit if Bar punishes Kong Sam Onn

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

LAWYER Ky Tech, who is representing Prime Minister Hun Sen in his lawsuit against Sam Rainsy Party official Mu Sochua, said he would be willing to drop a separate suit against the opposition lawmaker's own attorney, Kong Sam Onn, if he is thoroughly investigated and punished by the Cambodian Bar Association for misconduct.

"It depends on the Bar's decision," Ky Tech told the Post in the latest twist in a dispute between Hun Sen and Mu Sochua, who have each filed suit accusing the other of defamation.

"I would agree to drop my lawsuit if the Bar found that [Kong Sam Onn] committed a mistake and punished him justly," Ky Tech added.

Kong Sam Onn was accused of defaming the prime minister in comments he made during an April press conference by Ky Tech, who then urged the Bar to suspend him.

While the move was met with criticism from legal experts who said politics were mixing unfairly with the judicial process, the Bar opened an investigation into whether Kong Sam Onn breached the organisation's code of conduct.

Kong Sam Onn's first hearing before a Bar inspection team was postponed Monday after two of the five members failed to show up, with one saying he did not want to participate in the probe because he felt the lawyer had done nothing wrong.

But Ky Tech - a former Bar Association president - said Tuesday the inspectors were obligated to carry out the investigation.

"If Kong Sam Onn committed some fault, but the Bar does not acknowledge this mistake, I will not withdraw my suit against him," Ky Tech said.

At least three of the Bar inspectors appear hesitant to be involved in what they say is a politically charged case, but say they had no choice but to put Kong Sam Onn under scrutiny, one team member said.

"I cannot escape this work," said Hem Socheat, one of the inspectors who failed to show up for Monday's hearing, adding he did not want to participate in the probe because he felt Kong Sam Onn did nothing wrong.

He said that the other two inspectors agreed with him.

Arrest made in child rape, killing

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A MAN accused of raping at least one girl and killing her older sister in Kampong Chhnang province has been arrested and his case sent to court for further investigation, police officials said Tuesday.

"We sent the suspect to the provincial court Sunday for allegedly raping a 7-year-old girl. ... We also suspect the man may be involved in the murder of her older sister on May 17, but the man has only confessed to raping the younger sister," said Prak Sao Ny, chief of Kampong Chhnang provincial Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau Police.

She added the case had been handed over to the province's serious crime unit, which was now investigating the incident.

According to Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, the rape of the younger sister occurred while the suspect, a neighbour, helped search for the older girl, who was lost in their commune in Samaki Meanchey district.

When the older girl's body was found two days later in a nearby forest, police arrested the neighbour in connection with both crimes.

New Monivong bridge opens

Photo by: Sovann philong

Written by Sovann Philong
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A woman walks in front of the newly constructed Monivong bridge on Tuesday ahead of an ceremony to officially open the span, which runs parallel to the existing bridge and will help to alleviate traffic congestion, city officials say. The opening ceremony was presided over by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema.

Australian man held for extradition

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A PHNOM Penh Municipal prosecutor on Tuesday said an Australian man arrested last week at the request of the Australian embassy for suspected child pornography offences in his home country is to be detained pending extradition.

Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan said the man, Robbie Neils Derry, 53, was arrested Sunday after a request by the Australian embassy was submitted to Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a warrant was issued through the Court of Appeal by the Ministry of Justice to municipal authorities.

"I received the arrest warrant last week and then passed it to the general commissionaire of police to be enforced under the authority of the Appeal Court's general prosecutor," Sok Kalyan said.

He added: "[Derry] ... is detained temporarily in PJ prison and awaiting extradition," a process Sok Kalyan said could take up to two months as the two countries follow the formal procedures of their extradition agreement.

Officials set deadline to remove RCAF tags

A police officer checks confiscated police plates during a crackdown last week.

Traffic Police will launch a new effort on June 1 to enforce helmet regulations, according to a municipal press release issued Monday. El Narin, deputy chief of the Traffic Police, told the Post on Tuesday that officials believed compliance with existing rules was insufficient. He said 75 percent of motorbike drivers were wearing helmets, along with only 25 percent of passengers. The fine for not wearing a helmet is 3,000 riels (US$0.75). El Narin said the number of drivers and passengers not wearing helmets tended to increase at night, when "most road accidents happen". He said some drivers had complained that helmets made it difficult to breathe and caused headaches.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Thet Sambath
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Official says last week's ultimatum marked beginning of one-month compliance window

AN RCAF official said Tuesday that the drivers of vehicles bearing unauthorised military plates had three weeks to exchange them for civilian plates before the vehicles would be registered as state property.

"We have informed all persons whose vehicles have unauthorised RCAF plates to take them off," said Chao Phirun, director general of RCAF's Technical and Material Department.

He said Prime Minister Hun Sen's May 19 speech at the Ministry of Interior, during which he said the drivers of vehicles with unauthorised RCAF plates were flouting the Land Traffic Law, had marked the beginning of a one-month window for violators to change their plates.

Article 91 of the law, which went into effect in March 2007, gave the drivers of private vehicles bearing unauthorised military and police plates one year to switch to private plates.

The law stipulates that violators face two to five years in prison and a fine of between 4 million riels and 10 million riels (US$970 and $2,424).

Hun Sen said in an April 30 speech at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port that the government would register as state property the vehicles of people who did not comply with the law.

The law does not stipulate that violators can lose ownership of their vehicles, though officials have in recent weeks cited this as a likely punishment while omitting any mention of fines or incarceration.

Rush to comply
Chao Phirun said Hun Sen's April 30 speech and subsequent warnings had prompted 90 percent of violators to remove their unauthorised military plates.

Chao Phirun added that there were 2,000 vehicles authorised to bear RCAF plates.

As for police plates, Luy Thhin, director of the Ministry of Interior's Traffic Office, said the office had in recent weeks received on average of 10 and 15 police plates per day from drivers who had decided to register for civilian plates.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said police officers had removed plates from 40 cars found to be bearing unauthorised tags so far this month.

"If drivers do not respect the law, they will face the consequences," he said.

He said there were 1,000 vehicles authorised to bear police plates.

PM calls for intl help on maritime security

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Urges nations to fight piracy, drugs and human trafficking.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday called on nations all over the world to cooperate with Cambodia in strengthening maritime security and to recognise that piracy, drug smuggling and other issues plague the oceans everywhere.

"This is not the time for countries to increase their military's strength to fight over islands or areas of ocean," Hun
Sen said at a seminar on maritime security on Tuesday. "It is the time for countries to collaborate with each other to fight against piracy, drug smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism."

Hun Sen also requested that the ambassadors of the United States, Australia and other countries help Cambodia by providing new patrol ships to strengthen its ability to crack down on maritime crimes. He said if Cambodia did not strengthen its maritime security, Australia could suffer from human trafficking and drug smuggling that originates in Cambodia.

"We have not forgotten that even though our maritime area is small, it could become a place where [drug smugglers, human traffickers or terrorists] are sheltered," he said. "So we have to strengthen our forces' ability not to allow these activities."

Confronting the past

Written by Pung Chhiv Kek
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Why should the Cambodian people support the Khmer Rouge tribunal?

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal remains the subject of intense debate, among both Cambodians and foreigners, over such matters as relations between the Cambodian and international judges, corruption, independence of the tribunal, and whether there should be further prosecutions of other former Khmer Rouge cadre.

Today I would like to look at the larger picture and focus on the reasons why we, the Cambodian people, as a nation should support the process of justice in general and especially the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Some people, even prominent leaders in Cambodia and abroad, advocate that it would be better to bury the past. They also pretend that the Cambodian people in general, who are now more and more disconnected from nightmares of the Pol Pot times, are not interested in the tribunal and would like to go forward, instead of looking back to this frightening period.

They may be right from a short-term perspective. This trial raises issues which dig deep into the structure of our political power, into our culture of internal fighting and violence and into who is ultimately responsible for the massive killings experienced by our population. It digs deep into the historical, political and perhaps psychological reasons for this aberrant and inhuman episode of our history. It digs deep into our national conscience and prompts difficult questions. It is indeed a painful process, which could awaken resentment and hatred.

However, I believe that, from a long-term perspective, it is wrong to close our eyes, plug up our ears and shut our mouths. Cambodia is not the only country having experienced mass murder. After the Second World War, Germany and Japan had to face their history in order to turn the page and go forward. Indeed, nightmares cannot be buried; the souls of the victims cannot be silenced. The anger and resentment of the survivors will not fade away easily. Even when all those connected to this dark period have disappeared, the tragic burden of shame and horror will still hang over our national conscience and collective memory.

It is wrong to close our eyes, plug up our ears and shut our mouths.

Our Cambodian people know that.

In the recent past there has been some evidence of their quest for justice. That includes a rally of 5,000 people during the visit of a UN delegation to Phnom Penh in August 1999. A number of surveys have been conducted after the UNTAC operation: surveys by the Khmer Journalists' Association in 1996 and by the Institute of Statistics and Research on Cambodia in 1999. Both of these surveys reported that over 80 percent of Cambodians wanted the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders to be prosecuted. In 1999, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee presented the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, with a petition signed by nearly 85,000 Cambodians that called on the UN to establish an international tribunal.

Being able to confront our past is a matter of dignity and refers to the sense of responsibility of our generation. If we do not seek truth and justice, we will be regarded as a failed generation, unable to deal with our own contradictions and unable to overcome the huge trauma inflicted by some of our compatriots on our people. This inability to confront our past - which can be seen in various forms, for example in the way our school books fail to describe the Khmer Rouge period in an objective and comprehensive manner - will provoke disdain from our future generations and from the international community.

Some people argue that Cambodians should not be alone to bear this burden, since some neighbouring countries and great powers have been more or less involved in the catastrophic Khmer Rouge period. This is true. Some countries may, in another historical and ideological context, have used Cambodia for broader strategic purposes and strongly supporting the Khmer Rouge from behind the scenes.

But we cannot force them to confront their own past and their conscience. What we can do is set an example for them and for future Cambodian generations. This example will be in accordance with our desire for dignity and peace of mind, and our everlasting quest for international respect.

There are two different ways to do that.

One is the South African way through truth and forgiveness in order to achieve national reconciliation. It could have been attempted in Cambodia with the involvement and the support of Buddhism and other religions, provided there was a true and sustainable commitment for the sake of truth and genuine reconciliation. Unfortunately, the time was not ripe for this kind of process in Cambodia. We were not ready to follow the example of South Africa, a country which went from being regarded as a place of cruelty and injustice - under apartheid - to being today a model of reconciliation and generosity for the world.

The other way is a criminal tribunal, to seek fair and independent justice for the sake of the millions of souls who have suffered. In this way, some peace of the mind may be offered to the relatives of the victims and the survivors, and some dignity restored to our people and the Cambodian nation as a whole. In this regard, the Khmer Rouge tribunal in process - which can also set an example for fair and independent justice in Cambodia - may be our last chance to really confront our past and overcome the nightmares in order to look into our future with a new frame of mind and renewed hope. Only if we do that, can we get rid of the burden of the past, accommodate our national contradictions, respect ourselves and get respect from others.

That is the reason why I deeply hope the Cambodian government and the international community will be wise and generous enough to cooperate with each other in order to clear the tribunal from the current suspicions of corruption and political interference, which discredit the whole process.

Pung Chhiv Kek is the founder and president of the Cambodian human rights group Licadho.

Cambodia plans launch of export-import bank

An export-import bank would help finance economic development, particularly export industries such as commercial agriculture, officials said Tuesday at an SME finance conference in Phnom Penh. BLOOMBERG

Written by George McLeod
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

New bank would help finance small-business development as well as expansion of Cambodia’s narrow export base, say government officials

CAMBODIA may launch its first export-import bank to stimulate trade and support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), officials said at a Tuesday conference on small-business financing in Phnom Penh.

Details of the bank have not been worked out, but officials said it would provide financing and other support to SMEs, particularly in the agriculture sector.

Farmers have had difficulty accessing inexpensive credit to upgrade technology and build processing facilities, even from micro-credit institutions, which often charge more than 12 percent interest.

"There really is a capital shortage for farmers, for products such as cassava," said Sorasak Pan, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce.

"Though Cambodian small businesses provide jobs, generate income and contribute to the country's economic development, SMEs lack formal financial support they need to expand their businesses," said a joint statement by conference organisers.

The project is backed by the Ministry of Commerce, in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance and the National Bank of Cambodia, as well as a number of international agencies including the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

The government plans to conduct a feasibility study this year, and a budget for the bank could be ready by 2010 for possible launch in the same year, Ministry of Commerce officials said.

The feasibility study would be financed by the UNDP at an estimated cost of US$60,000 to $80,000. Officials have not determined the budget for the export-import bank.

Siphana Sok, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, said the bank would focus on agriculture businesses struggling for capital.

"This is a first step towards getting trade finance... The bank will play a role in trade finance and will help to diversify the country's trade," he said.

The government is focusing on agriculture as a potential growth sector for Cambodia, and has identified 19 products for export promotion.

It says that boosting agriculture would have a strong impact on poverty reduction because 85 percent of the workforce is employed in the sector and it contributes 65 percent of GDP.

But a spokesman from the Pailin Agribusiness Association said that the government should focus on opening up markets and reducing transport costs.

"We are paying $20 per tonne to export cassava, which is too expensive.... The government also needs to put pressure on the Thai government to open its borders to Cambodian products," he said.

Cambodia required to import salt

Written by May Kunmakara
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

AFTER early rains damaged local production, Cambodia will need to import salt for the first time in recent memory. The government plans to purchase 60,000 tonnes of salt from China's Guangdong province after domestic production was set to fall by more than two-thirds to only 30,000 tonnes this year, officials said.

"We plan to import 60,000 tonnes of salt from countries in the region to fulfil market demand. We are confronting a salt shortage because our production has been so little this year," Ly Seng, president of the Kampot-Kep Salt Production Association, said Tuesday.

Chhun Hinn, Kampot's director of the Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, said that given the poor season, if Cambodia did not import salt, it would "face serious problems ... so we need to prepare".

The shortage has already hit salt wholesalers.

Uy Sen, a Kampot wholesaler, said he does not have enough to sell and may have to close.

"We don't have white salt to sell," he said, adding he had dark salt which would sell at a loss.

Inside Business: Juice maker struggles to turn healthy profit

Photo by: Souen Say
The Khmer Mekong Foods processing factory in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

PICH Chan, general manager of Khmer Mekong Food Enterprise, walked into a supermarket in Phnom Penh in 2003, and he was dismayed.

He counted 90 different products that had been imported from neighbouring countries that could have been made in Cambodia.

"I wanted to see a Khmer product at markets," he said. "My friends and my relatives said my juice was good, so I started to think about producing juice for the market."

In late 2005, Pich Chan invested US$40,000 in a fruit-juice processing enterprise, and now four years later, his business produces juice from mangoes, pineapples, tamarind and guavas.

With eight workers, Khmer Mekong Foods is a small business only producing about 50 cases of juice a day. A case, which holds 24 bottles, is sold to retailers for $7, according to Hok Sovanna, Khmer Mekong Food's marketing manager.

But Hok Sovanna says Cambodians are starting to acquire a taste for fruit juice after initially shunning it.
"Now Cambodians have started to accept its flavour with up to 80 percent natural fruit," he said.

But despite increasingly positive feedback about the product, in 2007, Khmer Mekong Food lost $60,000.
Pich Chan blames the losses on his own lack of marketing expertise.

"I only have skills at producing not at selling, that's why poor marketing is our weak point" he said.

Also, as a small enterprise, Pich Chan says it has been impossible for his company to break into the international market because he cannot produce enough bottles to fill a shipping container, which is necessary to supply countries like the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the United States.

"I was sad to hear that they need one big container per month. I regret that I could not meet their demands," he said, adding many other Khmer agricultural products face the same limitations.

In the next one to two years, Pich Chan hopes to expand his company so he will be able to export his product overseas.

But the economic crisis has hit his company hard. Since late 2008, sales have dropped between 30 and 40 percent from the same period last year. Nevertheless, Pich Chan says that by continuing to improve the quality of his juices and diversifying his product line he will be able to increase Khmer Mekong Foods' market share in Cambodia.

In order for him to follow through with his expansion plan, however, Pich Chan says the company will need to borrow money. But, he says, Cambodian interest rates are too high at up to 12 percent per year.

"There are a lot of things to produce, but I don't have the capital. I need to find which bank has a low [interest] rate," he said.

Pich Chan said that he wished Cambodia had a bank with an especially low rate for small and medium-sized enterprises.

"I need a chance to borrow money to improve my business," he said.

Inside Business is a new section every Wednesday that will profile Cambodian small and medium-sized enterprises.

Opposition calls for greater transparency in tendering

Written by Kay Kimsong
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

After Royal Group is awarded exclusive 15-year contract for new limousine service, opposition lawmaker calls for greater openness in contracting process

THE opposition has renewed calls for the government to increase the transparency of contracts and licences issued to the private sector following the launch of a limousine service on Monday by the Royal Group under an exclusive 15-year contract.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Tuesday that such agreements between the government and private sector are nothing new, citing similar contracts in the past that have seen Sokha Hotels receiving a licence to part-manage Angkor Wat, and another for operating road tolls on National Road 4.

"We have to have some sort of law or regulation to force government officials on how to make a decision on contracts ... with transparency, we have to do something to change government practice," he said.

The UN Development Program - among other organisations - has pushed the government for years on this issue, he added, but to no avail.

"I think that donor countries must stop talking, and take action instead," said Son Chhay.

The government on Tuesday defended allocating the exclusive contract to the Royal Group, saying that such a service necessitated a large initial investment - estimated at more than US$10 million - and therefore the company in question should be permitted a certain amount of protection.

"If any ministry needs a limousine service, they must hire from Royal Cambodian Limousine [Service Co] and the Ministry of Finance will pay for the service," said Nguon Meng Tech, director general of the Cambodian Chambers of Commerce, reiterating the exclusive nature of the licence awarded to the Royal Group subsidiary.

The contract relates to the provision of vehicles for government ministries, dignitaries and delegations from overseas.

In a press release, the Royal Group said: "Royal Cambodian Limousine Service will look to find a niche for a high-end chauffeured driven car service in addition to servicing the government."

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodia Economic Association, said Tuesday that the government singled out certain companies for some contracts where potential investors were lacking, particularly where the investment capital required was large.

"Whenever service costs are high, the government will give an exclusive contract," he said, adding that for this kind of agreement the government needed to know the company and its level of expertise.

"I think sometimes exclusive licences could be an advantage for investor opportunity if the government is capable of limiting the service to a fair cost to pay for such a service," he said, warning that unregulated pricing structures in a monopoly market can mean artificially high prices for the consumer.

Royal Group signed an agreement with the government in March that will see the company operate a fleet of 100 Mercedes E280 sedans, 40 of which have already arrived in the Kingdom. Royal Cambodian Limousine Service Co will begin its first assignment this week with the EU-ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh beginning today.

"I think with EU members in town, we should raise this [transparency] issue," said Son Chhay.

Report blasts builder burden

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Cambodia’s highly bureaucratic licensing process is potentially behind delays in some building developments, according to a new UNDP report.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

But land management minister rejects UN agency findings that bureaucracy is holding up construction projects and causing some developers to pull out

Cambodia's highly bureaucratic licensing process for construction projects is potentially costing the country significant sums in foreign direct investment by lowering the sector's competitiveness, a new study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) says.

According to the "Cambodia Country Competitiveness: Driving Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction" study, it takes approximately 710 days to get all construction permits required to complete a project in Cambodia, compared with 200 days in Thailand and about 150 days in Vietnam.

Each procedure takes 31 days to clear in Cambodia, the study found, compared with around 15 days in Vietnam and Thailand and just 7 days in Laos.

The report also said that construction companies often claim they need to resort to paying unofficial charges in order to shorten timescales for regulatory approval.

Uncertainty over the implementation of laws and regulations has also led to some investment plans being abandoned, the study found, citing foreign investors and chambers of commerce.

"The key is the opacity of rules and regulations," UNDP economist Brooks Evans said. "They may be clear at the top level, but the specifics are often unclear leading to a major obstacle to businesses setting up."

I pay money in order to get permits on time otherwise it takes more than three months to get permission to build.

Im Chamrong, director general of the construction department at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, rejected the report's findings.

"We follow Cambodian construction laws," he said. "It takes approximately 45 days to get all the construction permits required to complete a project in Cambodia, even large and small projects.

"I don't know where the UNDP report gets the information from, but it's not true because the UNDP does not know how complex the rules are to apply."

He added that mistakes in required documents could delay the process. "Some companies receive permits late because something is wrong with their documents, but it's not late like 710 days but perhaps one or two months," he said.

He also denied that construction companies had to pay unofficial charges.

"I don't know about that; I know that our charges only depend on the size of the project," Im Chamrong said.

However, Seng Thora, 53, a construction company manager, said he had complained to land management authorities about corruption. "It is very difficult to apply for a permit to build a house," he said. "I pay money in order to get permits on time otherwise it takes more than three months to get permission to build."

On hold
Evans said between 30 and 40 percent of construction projects were currently on hold, though he did not specify the proportion thought to have been derailed by regulatory uncertainty as opposed to other causes, particularly the effect of the global financial crisis.

Figures released by the Im Chhun Lim, the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, at the ministry's annual meeting last month showed the book value of major construction projects approved by the ministry fell just 1.14 percent last year to $2.96 billion from a little over $3 billion in 2007. In all, the ministry approved 181 projects last year, up from 167 the year before.

However, the ministry figures do not detail money actually spent on projects or the progress made.

A number of high-profile projects were abandoned or scaled back in the latter half of last year, many involving South Korean companies, after the US subprime mortgage crisis spiralled out of control last year into a global financial meltdown.

At the time, lawyers representing several South Korean developers told Prime Location that the global economic crisis was not the key factor in delays. Instead, they said, the botched implementation of new regulations controlling housing development deposits was responsible. If passed, the new rules would make it impossible for their clients to continue with projects due to concerns of financers at home.

The new rules, or prakas, were delayed amid the outcry and the Ministry of Economy and Finance has promised to redraft them in consultation with the private sector.

Message repeated
The UNDP findings were supported by a new study of Cambodia's investment climate by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The Second Investment Climate Assessment, which surveyed 500 entrepreneurs in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Battambang and Kampong Cham, found that regulatory uncertainty was the fourth biggest concern of businesses in Cambodia. Corruption was ranked the highest concern, followed by macroeconomic uncertainty and anti-competitive practices.

World Bank Country Manager Qimiao Fan said at the report's launch Monday that the global financial crisis made it even more critical that business environment problems were addressed. "[N]ow with the global economic crisis significantly impacting Cambodia, continued problems in the business environment may force firms to go out of business, and investors may choose to postpone investment or move to more business friendly countries," he said.

The IFC released a second report Monday, this time in conjunction with the Asia Foundation, that ranked Phnom Penh behind all of the country's 23 provinces in terms of the ease of doing business. Kampong Cham province was rated the top area to do business in the Provincial Business Environment Scorecard (PBES), which surveyed business owners across the country.

In an indication that reform could be successful in easing the regulatory burden on business, both Sihanoukville and Siem Reap town moved from near the bottom of the inaugural survey in 2006 into the higher ranks by making significant advances in four areas, including the time and cost of starting a business, property rights, and transparency of regulations.

Veronique Salze-Lozac'h, regional director of economic programs for the Asia Foundation, said it was critical government officials were aware of the problems businesses faced.

"Over the next two months, when PBES results are presented in a number of provinces, entrepreneurs will be able to compare their province with others and engage government on reform," she said.

"When the PBES and the ICA are repeated in a few years, officials and business people will be able to see whether their efforts have been successful."

Siem Reap meeting to discuss aid for trade

Written by Kay Kimsong
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

FINANCE leaders from around the globe are to converge on Siem Reap on Thursday and Friday to discuss aid, trade and the economic meltdown.

The event, co-hosted by the Ministry of Commerce, the Asian Development Bank and the World Trade Organisation, is expected to feature 100 invited participants including Pascal Lamy, the WTO director general; Haruhiko Kuroda, president of ADB; and trade ministers from all ASEAN countries.

The meeting aims to help Asia's least developed countries (LDCs) compete on international markets by evaluating the impact of the economic slowdown on export-led growth strategies, discussing new approaches to infrastructure development and strengthening regional cooperation, according to an ADB press release.

Chan Sophal, president of Cambodia Economic Association, said that wealthy countries should provide more aid aimed at promoting global trade to LDCs like Cambodia.

"With aid for trade, poor nations like Cambodia can have the opportunity to absorb that aid for trade and spur development," said Chan Sophal.

But opposition lawmaker Son Chhay says that Cambodia has gained nothing from being a member of the WTO and is sceptical that helpful ideas will come out of the meeting.

"We joined the WTO, but we gained nothing by becoming a WTO member," he said. "We are allowing other WTO members to invade our market."

He pointed to a trade imbalance with Thailand - Cambodia imports about US$2 billion in goods from its neighbour but only exports $80 million.

"Our market belongs to other countries. Farmers lose their jobs every day.... The conference's concerns are only on paper. It never works in practice with measurable results," he said.

Outcomes from the event will be presented in July at a Geneva Global Aid for Trade Review.

Promesses promises luxury

Promesses, an upscale lingerie shop, which opened last month, hopes that its seductive wares will find a steady market in the capital.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Joel Rozen
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

An upscale boutique, opened last month, hopes its top-shelf line of lingerie will appeal to women looking for something beyond average undergarments

Phnom Penh's fashion elite may have already discovered designer bags and rhinestone belts, but the latest emerging style trend is harder to spot.

Upscale lingerie store Promesses opened in mid-April and word is spreading fast about its shimmery bras and lacy panties. Some say launching the small boutique on Street 282 has meant a wealth of new luxury options for local ladies. For others, it marks a revolution in the way underwear is perceived.

Hung with chandeliers and located beneath a boutique specialising in pret-a-porter, Promesses offers imported undergarments from designer companies like Aubade and Raphaela Magica. The items are pricy; most pieces start at US$50. But according to the store's owner, Cambodian women are ready for an upgrade.

"When you speak to the girls here about what's missing, lingerie comes up almost automatically," said Soreasmey Ke Bin, a Phnom Penh resident who was raised in France. "The quality's low, the design old-fashioned. Many say there are no shops for expats or even locals."

Ultimately, the 32-year-old entrepreneur felt it was time to answer their call. With the help of his Avanti trading company, which he co-founded last January to introduce new products to Cambodians, he started consulting top underwear brands in France and Thailand.

"The quality is better, the cloth is better," he said. "The difference is self-evident."

The problem, though, at least from a business standpoint, was Soreasmey Ke Bin's gender. While he already had experience dealing in whey protein shakes and had invested in both an IT engineering firm and a design studio, nothing could have prepared him for the niche world of bras and panties.

"It's complex," he said, adding that in France the high-end brands housed an overwhelming array of collections, some more risque than others. Higher quality would also mean significantly higher prices than what most locals were used to paying. And sizes, generally targeting the larger European physique, were another matter entirely.

For an accurate assessment of what women wanted, Soreasmey Ke Bin surveyed 200 potential clients: wealthy Cambodians who had experienced luxury labels overseas and expatriates who couldn't find the right fit - or the right privacy - at the market. His new shop stocks sizes "from A to E", he said. Privacy comes in the form of a VIP changing room, furnished in back with comfortable chairs.

Out in the open, though, shopkeepers are not sure the need for pricy garments is quite so widespread. Expensive underwear may be fulfilling for a privileged client base, they say. But most Khmer working girls are still happy with the cheap stuff.

"Women are more educated now and want higher quality," said Kee Naim, whose Thai wares at the Natural Fresh underwear stand in Soriya shopping centre rarely cost more than $10. Rose brand panties from Taiwan cost $5. "Usually, those girls want to be in style."

For Chang Sreytol, a men's shoes vendor in Central Market, however, style can wait. Her underwear need only last a year. "I'm looking for just a normal medium price," she said, glancing over the Calvin Klein panties at Natural Fresh. "Not a lot of us have money, lately."

"Most women come looking for good quality, but it needs to be cheap," said Sop Lien from behind her stand at Central Market. Her bras hail from Vietnam and China. "Earning is difficult."

Soreasmey Ke Bin understands these concerns but maintains that a globalising Phnom Penh will soon need the better bras.

"Cambodian girls are moving really fast," he said. "Ten years ago, you saw only [Toyota] Camrys. Now [Mercedes] Benz. Obviously they're willing to invest in things people can see. So what we are trying to do is convince the middle-class working woman that good lingerie is also an option."

It's what's on the inside that counts

Two girls put the finishing touches to a shelving unit at a store on Sothearos Boulevard.

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Thinking of indulging yourself with a spot of home decorating? Phnom Penh’s plethora of homewares stores offer paper photo frames through to custom-designed-and-built furniture

The furniture industry took a beating two years ago, when the cost of Cambodian timber doubled.

The price hike was further compounded by the pressure of the economic crisis. Since midway through last year, furniture makers in Phnom Penh have reported a 20 to 60 percent loss in business.

But what this means is prices are now coming down across the board, as manufacturers and importers work hard to move stagnating stock.

Below is a list of hard and soft furnishing choices in Phnom Penh to deck out your home.
But keep in mind prices vary greatly, and upmarket furniture stores may inflate the price of a simple piece of locally made wooden furniture.

Shop around, take your time and have fun. There are still some gems out there waiting to be discovered.

Sothearos: a good start

The section of Sothearos Boulevard between the Russian Embassy and Norodom Boulevard is a good place to begin your hunt.

Here you will find a range of options, from upmarket and custom-made furniture to simple, durable rattan.
There are half a dozen rattan furniture shops trailing up to Norodom Boulevard, all offering similar prices and quality. But be sure to bargain, as most prices are negotiable.

IChing Decor
#85, Sothearos Boulevard
This stylish store, opened in late 2003 by Belgian architect Stephane Dawant, has earned a reputation for producing high-quality furnishings.

IChing offers ready-made and custom designs, with prototypes on display in their showroom. Everything from desks to beds can be built in their workshops, and a trained team of Cambodian workers will complete a sofa or desk in two to three weeks.
IChing uses high-quality timber, and the workmanship is fine, with attention to detail and finish. Their unique desks and coffee tables rate a special mention, with their interesting yet discreet designs.

Smaller goods such as glasses and cotton linens are imported from Thailand and Vietnam. Director Dawant says there is no production market for such goods in Cambodia.

And the prices? A three-person custom-made couch takes two to three weeks to build and costs US$650. A coffee table is $300, while a wooden double bed without a mattress is $750.

Items such as vases, kitchenware and candleholders can be bought for as little as $1, and storewide discounts are available on selected items through the Coupon Book.

IChing also offers complete interior home design.

99 Sothearos Boulevard
La Deth inherited Moonlit from his parents and opened this branch of the store eight years ago.
He says trade has decreased by 60 percent in the last year, and while timber prices doubled in the last two years, he has only raised the price of his goods a little.

"This is a hard time for the furniture industry, but there is nothing for me to do but wait for change to come," he said.
La Deth described his furniture as of ‘European design' and has a good selection of wooden desks, beds, cabinets, bookshelves and dining room furniture.

While his work is of a high quality, it lacks the flair of IChing's designs. But for standard pieces the prices are more reasonable. A standard desk will set you back around $250, as will a fine, tall chest of drawers. A dining room table and six chairs costs $650.

Moonlit also offers custom design services.

Cambodia Modern Rattan
#11, Sothearos Boulevard
Lip Cheang's large, modern shop has a wide selection of rattan and wicker furniture and household goods.
The staff speak excellent English, and prices are reasonable, with all sofas and chairs coming with cushions included in the price.

Prices have increased in the last year as the shop has found it difficult to secure materials.
Small goods have increased by $1, and larger items such as chairs by $5. Since the economic crisis business has decreased 5 percent, but Mr Lip's daughter says the loss has not been significant.

A wicker, glass-topped coffee table costs $35, while a wicker armchair with cushions is $60. A large wicker bookshelf costs around $75.

National Centre of Disabled Persons Retail Outlet Store
3 Norodom Boulevard, on the corner with Street 110.
Established in 1995 with the assistance of the Canada British Fund, NCDP works with Cambodians with disabilities to produce a range of small homewares such as lamps, cushions and silks.
Of particular note are the cheap and pretty paper photo frames, priced between $1.30 and $2.50, skillfully carved wooden lamps from $15-$18, and delicate wall hangings from $20-$22.
A few small items from here would brighten up any home, and a made-to-order service is available.

Chez Artisan
42D Street178
Chez Artisan is a crammed, lively little store offering furniture, lamps, home interiors and framing services.
The lamps, priced between $50-$70, are truly unique, and can also be commissioned.

Crafted out of china pots, statues - anything really - the lamps have the merits of an artwork. A range of pretty, china pots, vases and statues can be purchased for as little as $5, although furniture such as bookshelves and chairs is expensive.

Photo by: ELEANOR AINGE ROY , Beyond Interiors offers products for ecologically minded customers.

Beyond Interiors

#14, Street 306
Opened at the end of 2008, Beyond Interiors aims to produce long-wearing, eco-friendly and stylish furniture.

The shop is an interior designer's dream, with eye-catching imported rugs, textured walls and complete mock-ups of the interior of a small apartment, with bed, sofa, dining table, chairs and a coffee table in a range of styles such as Scandinavian, classic or Italian.

The shop has been designed with a nod to Khmer architecture of the '60s and '70s and is an inviting space in which to browse. Managing Director Bronwyn Blue says her shop hasn't been affected by the economic crisis and business has remained steady.

She says Phnom Penh offers a range of furniture options, but there was a hole in market for those shopping for ecologically produced furniture.

"Our products are for ecologically minded clients with an interest in buying products made from plantation-sourced woods that don't skimp on style and versatility," she said in an email.

Much of Beyond Interiors furniture is sleek, and modern, but despite its simplicity, prices are high, as many items are imported.

Some of the woods featured include English oak and Indonesian teak. A coffee table imported from Vietnam is $800, while bookshelves range from $675-$885.

Poverty’s Two-Way Street

The New York Times

Published: May 26, 2009

The world is agog with tales of the “nouveau poor.” The well-to-do are tightening their belts: Wealthy women are reappearing in the same designer dresses, shoppers are shyly pulling coupons from their pockets, and flying commercial is back in style.

But the rich and the middle class are not the only ones losing money. Millions of poor people around the world have been plunged even further into deep poverty. For them this means taking children out of school to help scavenge for food; praying instead of seeing a doctor; selling the last of the gold earrings so that the family can eat for a few more weeks. For the poor, there is nothing “nouveau” about tumbling deeper into poverty.

The common perception about poverty is that we are slowly pulling people out of it. The truth is otherwise: Though the world pulls many millions out of poverty each year, it counteracts those gains by sending millions who were not poor into poverty. We must understand this two-way highway if we genuinely aspire to end poverty. A study we conducted at the World Bank, “Moving Out of Poverty: Success from the Bottom Up,” sought to survey this two-way highway, investigating who escapes poverty, who falls in, and why. Among our diverse findings, two striking truths stood out.

The first is that poor people, contrary to their image in the developed world, are born capitalists in the Horatio Alger mold, more capitalist than the average New Yorker or Londoner. They believe in the power of their own effort — they try and try, and even if they are foiled or cheated, they try again. Though the poor are commonly believed to be fatalistic, our conversations with 60,000 poor people in 15 countries showed this to be patently untrue.

When the world meets the hopeful poor halfway, people rise out of poverty. They open shops, move to big cities to work as cooks or chauffeurs, send their children to learn new skills and languages. They ask little of their governments. They take matters into their own hands.

But as millions rise out of poverty, millions fall in — partly because “free markets” are not free enough, and partly because of the lack of healthcare.

In the recession-battered West, governments are moving to insulate citizens from excessive exposure to markets. But for the poor, being cut off from markets is the problem. In fishing communities in Cambodia, fishermen get lower prices for their fish and are forbidden from fishing where large trawlers go; in the coffee-growing region of Tanzania, cheating in the weighing of coffee beans is so institutionalized that it has a name, Masomba; in West Bengal traders without political connections have no hope.

Unable to access markets, poor people lurk on the fringes, work for low wages, sell in small quantities at low prices, unable to compete, accumulate assets or make tomorrow any different from today. And, because they hover so closely above the poverty line, a sudden shock — typically a death or illness — can wipe out years of modest progress.

The story of Jehangir, one of the thousands of people we interviewed, illustrates the tragic collision of dogged effort against a world of banks and laws that seems to plot against the poor.

He is a chronically poor man in Uttar Pradesh, in northern India. He worked for decades as a laborer on other people’s land, augmenting his earning by selling vegetables. His dream was to own a bicycle, land and a house without a leaking thatched roof.

He managed to get the bicycle. Then the sudden death of both of his parents threw his savings plan off track. He had to borrow for the funeral from a local money lender at an exorbitant interest rate, since banks do not cater to people like him. His wife started working to repay the money lender, as did his two young sons. Pulling a child out of school may be a good way to quickly help repay a loan, but it’s a dubious long-term investment decision in a country where education determines everything.

Jehangir at last saved enough to build a house. But the wall collapsed, breaking his hands and legs. Because there is no reliable system of public clinics, no system of medical or homeowners’ insurance for people like him, Jehangir had to take out another loan for his treatment and another to fix the roof and a third to build a temporary room for his family.

Though he went right back to work, he was paid less than the able-bodied workers. His conclusion after years of trying to make his own way? “Now I am losing my trust,” he said.

Jehangir’s story echoes around the world. Even after years of hard work, poor people have few permanent assets. A shock blows them under, as they borrow what they can from a local money lender who is also the landlord, who happens to run the local shop and who is in local politics as well.

Wealthy countries are clamping down on markets and centralizing government programs. The poor need something quite different: bigger, better access to free markets designed to work for them. They do not need centralized government, but active local government that provides basic services — particularly affordable healthcare — government that helps rather than hinders.

Deepa Narayan is director of the World Bank’s Moving out of Poverty project.

Southeast Asian Politicians Urge ASEAN to Suspend Burma, Consider Sanctions

Handout photo taken on 13 May 2009, provided by Myanmar News Agency shows US Citizen John William Yettaw in Rangoon

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (File)
By Daniel Schearf
26 May 2009

A group of Southeast Asian politicians is urging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to suspend Burma's membership if it refuses to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Aung San Suu Kyi testified Tuesday against charges that could put her in prison for five years.

Aung San Suu Kyi said she was innocent when she was called Tuesday to testify in court.

"The Lady," as she is known by her supporters, is on trial for breaking the terms of her house arrest.

The trial has been widely condemned as an excuse to keep the Nobel Peace Prize winner locked up and pressure is growing for her release.

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus on Tuesday called for tougher actions against Burma, including suspending its membership in the regional bloc.

Charles Chong, a Singaporean lawmaker and member of the caucus, told journalists in Bangkok that dealing with Burma has bogged down ASEAN, making it harder for them to accomplish anything.

"More and more parliamentarians within ASEAN are beginning to lose their patience with Burma. And, we are calling upon our governments to do more than just expressions of dismay, regret, grave concern and so on, and seriously look at suspending Burma's membership of ASEAN," he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to be sentenced to from three to five years in prison for allowing an eccentric American man, who snuck into her house, to stay there for two nights without official permission.

She admitted in court Tuesday to giving the man, John Yettaw, temporary shelter but denied breaking the law.

Burma's military-run government has kept the democracy icon under house arrest for 13 of the last 19 years.

The detention has long been criticized and was set to expire on Wednesday.

But a Burmese government spokesman on Tuesday told journalists and diplomats the house arrest would not expire for another six months.

Also on Tuesday, Burma rights campaigners say they have collected more than 600,000 signatures from 220 countries calling for the United Nations to get tough on Burma.

Khin Ohmar is with Forum for Democracy in Burma.

"The voices are calling Mr. Ban Ki-moon [is] that he must accept nothing, nothing less than the immediate and unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners including all ethnic nationalities' leaders," said Khin Ohmar, who is with Forum for Democracy in Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won Burma's last elections in 1990 but was never allowed to take power.

The Burmese military then placed the NLD leader under house arrest and has only let her out on rare occasions.

A new election is scheduled for 2010 as part of Burma's "roadmap to democracy" but is thought to be a sham to keep the military in power.

The ASEAN legislators say ASEAN has failed to move Burma and may need to consider targeted sanctions to pressure them for democratic change.

The group includes lawmakers from ASEAN members Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

Burma - Trial: Aung San Suu Kyi set to testify in court


IN THE FIELD: Opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi testified at her trial Tuesday, saying that she did not violate her house arrest when a man swam to her house. Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail if convicted of the charges.

From the Cambodia Mission Team

Pictured L to R are Scott Mehren, Taylor McQuilliams, Troy Dean, Josh Sway, Samantha Jessup, Elizabeth Bernados, Jason LaFarge, Nancy Trifilo, Kaleasha Johnson, Joni Johnson, Ciandra Kouklis, Glen Gibson


By smhaut

This is the first in a series of reports from a Cambodia Mission Team working over in Battambang, Cambodia. The team consists of students from William Jessup University as well as three members of One Life Church in Lincoln.

"After 24 hours of travel – starting in Rocklin and ending in Battambang, Cambodia – not counting layovers, our team has settled into life and ministry in Cambodia. Even though our afternoon activities were rained out today we have already visited two local churches in the Battambang area where we shared testimonies, sang, prayed, made some crafts, and just had fun and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. Their stories are inspiring to us and we hope we have been an encouragement to them.

After church on Sunday we climbed 358 steps to visit the ruins of a Buddhist temple on top of a local mountain. We were glad to learn more about the beliefs of the Cambodian people but we were also reminded of the hopeless situation of those many people who have yet to put their trust in Jesus Christ.

A great deal of time has also been spent at the Hope Bible Institute over the last three days. There we have played with (simple games, soccer, volleyball, etc), prayed with, and talked with (as much as we can with the language barrier) the students and leaders at the Institute. Yesterday we witnessed more than 50 people be baptized in the pond behind the Institute. Today a Leadership Training Seminar started with over 300 people attending. It is exciting to see the growth of the church in a place that was in such a desperate situation just 25 years ago (Remember the Killing Fields). We have met many who survived that horrible time – from all sides of the conflict. It is wonderful to see how God has brought them together in Jesus Christ. Now they serve him side by side!

Over the next three days we will continue to spend time with the people attending the seminar. Glen and Troy will be teaching in the afternoon sessions. We will also visit more churches seeking to encourage and learn from them."

Fighting the Vietnamese "crocodiles"

Wednesday, the 26th of May 2009
Posted by Elena in ECCC, Duch

Journalist and expert witness Nayan Chanda testified at the tribunal Monday and part of Tuesday about armed conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam during the period of Democratic Kampuchea. Throughout the late 1970s, the Khmer Rouge waged repeated "nibbling" attacks across the border into Vietnam, often massacring Vietnamese civilians, he told the court.

While those associated with Vietnam were purged internally, Khmer Rouge leaders called on their people to kill all 50 million Vietnamese. In the end, this virulent hatred led to the regime's downfall.

Convinced that the Khmer Rouge were pawns of the Chinese, the Soviet-backed Vietnamese eventually decided to hit back hard, Chanda said. They drove the Khmer Rouge into the jungle and took control of the country for a decade.

Yet it was the Vietnamese Communists who had initially trained and equipped Cambodia's revolutionary fighters. How had such an enormous schism between the two Communist movements come about?

As Chanda explained, Vietnam and Cambodia have "had a pretty tormented relationship." Cambodian folk tales even describe the cruelty of the Vietnamese to Khmers. Yet there have also been numerous periods of collaboration between the two peoples.

But recurrent tensions, prompted by fears of Vietnamese "expansionism" and an undeniable strain of paranoia, undermined pre-Democratic Kampuchea Communist cooperation. Cambodians saw their eastern neighbors as "swallowers of other countries' territories."

This was compounded by the fact that, according to Chanda, the Khmer Rouge took an "openly racist" stance toward the Vietnamese.

"The Black Paper," an anti-Vietnamese manifesto created by DK in 1978, describes "the Vietnamese nature as aggressive," Chanda said. While it is "a mixture of fact and fantasy" that allegedly chronicles the history of Cambodian/Vietnamese relations, the document can offer insight into Khmer Rouge ideology, he added.

The issue of anti-Vietnamese racism in Cambodia has intrigued me for some time and, unfortunately, I think many of the same stereotypes (in a less extreme form) exist today. So I tried to find a copy of The Black Paper online.

I was not successful in this endeavor, and was only able to find other articles that quoted from The Black Paper. I've included several interesting Black Paper excerpts below that I pulled from the essay "The Ingratitude of the Crocodiles: the 1978 Cambodian Black Paper," published by the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars in 1980. (It should be noted that one of the essay's authors, Serge Thion, has come under fire for polarizing comments he has made about the Holocaust.)

* In The Black Paper, the Vietnamese are described as even more ungrateful than crocodiles.

* The paper refers to the annexationist nature of Vietnam, which has never stopped trying to devour Cambodia.

* Yuon is the name given by Kampuchea's people to the Vietnamese since the epoch of Angkor and it means "savage." The words "Vietnam" and "Vietnamese" are very recent and not often used by Kampuchea's people. (The essay goes on to discredit this explanation, saying that the word "Yuon" exists in both Thai and Cham. Interestingly, "Comrade Duch" still refers to Vietnamese as "Yuon" when he speaks at the tribunal.)

* As they had made the revolution, the Vietnamese enjoyed some prestige in Southeast Asia. At that time, the international community gave them aid and support. Europe supported them. China helped and supported them. The Vietnamese have taken advantage of this support and used it as political support in order to carry out their scheme of expansion and annexation. They wanted to dominate all of "Indochina" . . . They want to take possession of Kampuchea in order to use her as a springboard for their expansion in Southeast Asia . . ."

* The Vietnamese even wanted to teach Kampuchea how to cook rice!

Following Chanda, scholar Craig Etcheson once again began testifying Tuesday afternoon, but was interrupted by defense objections. He may continue his testimony tomorrow.