Thursday, 28 May 2009

Family of jailed child molester urges tough justice for 'evil past'

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 28 May 2009

Relatives of convicted paedophile Jack Sporich want him locked up in Siem Reap prison for good.

ANGERED family members and victims of a convicted child molester awaiting trial in Siem Reap prison have contacted the Post as part of a campaign to ensure that he is never released again.

The family members of Californian Jack Sporich, 74, told the Post that they are coming forward with damning accusations to "make the world aware of his evil past" and to "keep him in prison, where he belongs".

Sporich was arrested in Siem Reap in February after police said he lured four Cambodian boys to his house, but last week US media revealed sordid details of his "evil past" in the US.

Sporich married a Cambodian woman and began building his Siem Reap house in 2005, a year after he was released from California's Atascadero State Hospital, a maximum security psychiatric centre for sexually violent predators.

During his 39 months in the hospital, Sporich refused treatment, according to reports. Prosecutors estimate that Sporich, who spent nine years in Californian prison for sexual offences against minors, molested as many as 500 children, reports said.

Joe Arbanas, a cousin of Sporich, said that the convictions were just the tip of the iceberg, and revealed that he had been molested by Sporich at age 6.

"Jack is very, very smart. He got away with far more crimes than he was charged with. June Caine, Jack's sister, is contacting everyone to find out how many of us kept silent for years like me. I am now speaking out about what he did to me over 50 years ago, and all the relatives will know what a monster he really is."

Sporich moved to Siem Reap after taking a photography tour through the region. "Jack was quite the photographer," said Arbanas. "In fact, he was pretty good at anything he tried."

But Arbanas claims Sporich was driven by a single motivation. "I believe Jack moved there for one reason. To molest children without detection. Jack has been single all his life. The marriage he is in is a smokescreen to do what he does best, molest children."

June Caine, Sporich's sister, told the Post that after Sporich was released in 2004, the family was willing to give him a second chance. But when she heard about the Siem Reap charges, she doubted whether he ever truly wanted to reform.

"Somehow, deep inside of me, I believe Jack had all this planned," she said. "Perhaps he felt he would not get caught.

"I'm distressed and ashamed of my brother. He is mentally sick. I think he believes he was helping the children in the US and still feels the same way. After all, these children are in poverty and, in his belief, he feels he is helping them."

Siem Reap Scene: 28 May 2009

Artist Ou Vanndy with his wall sculpture titled "Elephant Head".

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Post Staff
Thursday, 28 May 2009

The turnout to the launch of the "Present Tense" exhibition at the Hotel de la Paix Arts Lounge on Saturday was possibly the largest ever.

Arts Lounge curator Don Protasio told Scene that he deliberately planned a larger-than-usual attendance to deflate pessimistic reports that Siem Reap hotels are on the verge of going under due to the economic crisis.

Eleven emerging Khmer artists from the Krousar Selepak arts group are showcasing sculptures and paintings in the exhibition, which will run through July.

The sculptures are crafted from a diverse assortment of scrap metal, including gears, bike chains and AK-47s. Artist Ou Vanndy was inspired to make a scrap metal elephant head after seeing a pile of bike chains. Plus he likes elephants.

"They're a very Cambodian animal," he said.

The exhibition is also stands out because a large part of the hotel's lounge has been purposely flooded. The centre of the gallery area, which is lower than the perimeter, is filled with two inches of water. Protasio said the shallow water was designed to reflect the sculptures.

Protasio said that flooding the gallery was simple, but draining and mopping the water will not be as easy.

Co-curator Sasha Constable could vouch for that, as her art studio was flooded last September, which only cements her status as trend-setter in Siem Reap art circles.

Big city street life comes to Siem Reap in an exhibition of work by Phnom Penh-based photographer Steve Goodman, launching this Friday at Eric De Vries' 4Faces cafe and gallery.

The exhibition, "Unnamed, Undefined, Unclear", features depictions of Phnom Penh's quirky street life.

De Vries said he decided on a Goodman exhibition after a recommendation by Phnom Penh identity Andy Brouwer.

De Vries said, "Steve sent me a lot of proposals, and we went with this street life thing because I really like it."

Goodman, a commercial photographer, has lived in Cambodia for four years.

Outside of commercial work his hobby is portraits, and when he's not taking portraits, he likes to simply walk around Phnom Penh and take photos of everyday things.

"With this exhibition, I decided to get away from portraiture altogether and concentrate on street scenes I have taken.

"Phnom Penh is a funny place, and this series of photos is a metaphor of how Phnom Penh is - a place of stark contrasts, of ambiguity,

The Goodman exhibition will run until June 26

Renowned Siem Reap photographer John McDermott and his wife Narisara are celebrating the birth of their first child, John Mars, who was born on Saturday in Bangkok.

The McDermotts are in Bangkok with Narisara's family, and expected to return in July.

On January 29 this year, McDermott, celebrating his 54th birthday, told the Post that he was about to be a first-time dad.

"We're going to have a baby, that's our new project for the year," McDermott said. "That'll be my eureka moment for the year, and it's my first child ever. I have never felt responsible enough to do that before, but things change when you start getting a little older."

McDermott is now set to deliver his other oft-postponed baby, a book, the quintessential collection of all his early and now iconic temple work.

"That book's been imminent for a long time," said McDermott. "But it's about there now and I'm self publishing it."

Angkor Golf Resort hosted the Cyclo Ryder Cup XXV tournament, organised by FCC Angkor, from May 21-23.

A strong team on paper representing Team World battled futilely against an array of talent representing Team Europe. FCC stalwarts Haywood, Alderson and Jancloes were the mainstay of Team Europe, steering them to a crushing victory.

Angkor Golf Resort's operations manager, Adam Robertson, reported, "Team Europe, displaying a cavalier style of golf and tenacity, bristled with purpose, whilst Team World struggled on the unfamiliar contours of the Faldo-designed greens and the free flow of copious amounts of Transfusion.

"As the weekend wore on, Team Europe pressed home their advantage and won the title by 17 points to 11.

"In the post-match drinks and dinner at the idyllic FCC Angkor, special mentions went to Mike Gebbie, Team World's Most Valuable Player, and the ubiquitous Anthony Alderson, Team Europe's Most Valuable Player."

The Angkor Hospital for Children is hosting a fundraiser and silent auction tomorrow at 6pm at the Friends Without a Border Centre to help combat malaria, dengue fever and typhoid.

These diseases are expected to flare up in the rainy season.

Entrants will pay US$5 and compete for prizes, including one night for two at the Angkor Village Hotel, a hot-air balloon ride, dinner and drinks at FCC, a round of golf at the Angkor Golf Resort and a sunset riverboat cruise.

The night will include presentations by doctors Ngoun Chanpheaktra and Kheng Chheng on malaria, dengue fever and typhoid.

Meanwhile, the Singaporean surgeons who performed open heart surgery on six kids at the Angkor Hospital for Children earlier this month are happy with the results and keen to do more operations, possibly in July.

Temple Watch: Bayon saved from collapse

Written by Dave Perkes
Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Bayon temple has been subject to major work by the Japanese Government Team for Safeguarding Angkor (JASA), UNESCO and the Apsara Authority. The work started in 2005 and will end in April 2010. One of the major problems with the Bayon was that the drainage channels had been blocked. This caused water damage and subsidence to the structure. The southern library was also in very poor condition and near collapse. It needed to be partially dismantled and rebuilt. Major problems with the 41-metre high central tower were identified by extensive measurement and monitoring. The structure could have become Cambodia's Leaning Tower of Pisa without the efforts of JASA. The NGO closed off the area for most of 2008 to carry out work. Visitors will notice measurement gauges and new timber supports to the underside of parts of the tower that recently reopened. The Bayon is sporting new thatched roofs to protect the northern bas reliefs, which are under repair. The thatch looks so much nicer than blue plastic tarpaulins, and are more ecologically friendly too. The JASA Bayon exhibition hut near the north entrance provides information about the restoration.

CAREER SURVEYS: Interning to secure job jump

Tiep Saha learned to relax during his internship at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Thursday, 28 May 2009


Doing an internship while studying is a great way to open up doors to that dream job and ease the daunting transition from classroom to workplace .

Internships have long been a popular pathway to a career for self-starting university students in Cambodia.

Not only are they an effective way to gain experience, make contacts in the industry, and decide whether a chosen profession the right one, they can also improve employment opportunities on graduation.

In the tough job market of today, that can be crucial, Sandra D'Amico, the managing director of HR services firm HRINC said.

"There is a lot to learn from just looking, listening and understanding, and I don't think graduates are provided enough with these intuitive skills at university... and learning to ask critical questions," she said in an email.

"The transition from school to work is not always an easy one for everyone so I think that gaining experience and knowing how to be professional is important, and the more you do it, the more skilled you will become at managing yourself and your time."

Tiep Saha, 24, a fourth-year media and ccommunications student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), has so far served three internships; two months at the Centre for Social Development, three months at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and eight months at Plan International Cambodia.

He was the first Cambodian national to intern at the ECCC, joining the public affairs department from July to October 2008. His duties included media monitoring, preparing communication materials for visitors, going into the field to distribute materials and write reports, and assisting in tours of the ECCC.

"I was very nervous when I first began because I am just a student, and there are so many high-ranking people around me, so it was a great honour," he said.

There is a lot to learn from just looking, listening and understanding.

"But after a while I relaxed because people were very friendly - especially in the public affairs department. We would often have lunch together and ride in the same car when we went on field trips, and this was a good chance to gain knowledge and also build relationships with each other."

Support is key
Tiep Saha wrote his final-year thesis on the Khmer Rouge tribunal, supervised by Helen Jarvis, who until recently served as head of public affairs. He said that both Jarvis and tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath took his internship very seriously.

"They said to me all the time ‘reading is knowledge and knowledge is power', and they always asked me what do I want from my time there and what should they provide me with," Tiep Saha said. "Reach Sambath would take me on tours of the ECCC to observe his work and give me many materials on the ECCC. They were also very understanding when I made mistakes."

Ricarda Rieger, deputy country director of the United Nations Development Programme, is a strong supporter of internships. Each unit of the UNDP is required to take on at least one intern per year, she said, and the placements were highly competitive.

Although managing interns is an added responsibility for staff, the UNDP feels an obligation as an international agency supported by government funding - including from Cambodia's government - to contribute to the training and development of young people in Cambodia, Rieger said.

"I think internships are very valuable because it allows students to find out if development work is something they really want to do - it helps validate their ideas of what the organisation is about, what work means in an international intergovernmental organisation, and how that might differ from other experiences their friends might be having," she said.

Rieger said tasks varied between departments, but most interns did administrative work, such as reviewing budgets, participating in meetings and taking minutes.

"What we are looking for from interns at UNDP is someone who is curious, wants to learn and is extremely eager. A fairly good level of English is also required as we are an international organisation," she said.

"What we don't want is someone who sits in a corner and pushes paper or checks on the Internet. We look for an open mind, and someone willing to contribute."

The organisation takes around 50 interns a year for an average three months each. It currently has five foreign and 10 local interns, including third-year RUPP media and communications student Sok Sokunthea. Serving a six-month internship in the communications department, he said his initial nerves over working with foreigners had subsided. "The first week is hard, but now I have regular work to do it is better and there's not so much pressure. I think I prefer working to studying; I think I learn more than I do at school," he said.

Sandra D'Amico of HRINC agrees. "Any work experience while you are studying is extremely valuable, but it is important to keep yourself structured and occupied in a productive manner," she said.

Standing apart
D'Amico added that many employers in Cambodia were willing to take on interns, but it was important to make your CV stand out from the crowd and be willing to tailor it to individual employers.

"I can say that most graduate CVs look the same - they don't say much about the person,"she said.

"I would encourage graduates to be creative about their CVs and try to show skills, aptitude and abilities rather than copying what your friends do," she said.

Student lawyers go head-to-head

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Thursday, 28 May 2009

Cambodia's third annual mock trail kicked off Wednesday with eight teams competing from seven of Cambodia's law schools.

Pannasastra University of Cambodia and The Royal University of Law and Economics are co-hosting the USAID-sponsored event.

The eight teams were set to debate the fictional contract of a property sale in Siem Reap.

Peng Sokunthea, an event organiser from the East-West Management Institute, said the trial was designed to help improve the quality of lawyers in Cambodia.

"Generally we hope to help improve education, and this is a new and exciting way to learn and practise the law," she said.

"The students participating are polishing skills that will help make them good lawyers and perform their jobs well in the future."

During the competition, student teams play the roles of prosecutors, defence attorneys and witnesses as they enact the criminal cases set by the judges.

The event was scheduled to run for three days, concluding Friday with an award ceremony to crown the National Champion.

The ceremony will be attended by US deputy chief of mission to Cambodia, Theodore Allegra.

Peng Sokunthea hoped in the future the national champions will be able to compete in debating events throughout the Southeast Asian region.

The debates are open to the general public.

The final trial is set for Friday, starting at one o'clock at the Royal University of Law and Economics.

Education reform 'urgent': UN

The ICT sector is hindered by a lack of qualified workers, UN report says.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Nathan Green
Thursday, 28 May 2009

A poorly trained workforce and a lack of skills have reduced Cambodia’s competitiveness to the point where urgent education reform is needed to attract investors, a new UN report says

Cambodia must "urgently" reform its education system to improve workforce productivity and attract the investment needed for economic growth, a UN Development Programme (UNDP) study released Monday said.

"Increasing Cambodia's competitiveness is a necessity, not a choice, if the country is to sustain economic growth, reduce poverty and keep pace with its ASEAN neighbours," the report on Cambodia's competitiveness in the global economy said. "Reform in the education sector must be a priority if Cambodia is to create jobs and compete successfully in the global economy."

The study cited a World Economic Forum (WEF) report ranking Cambodia 122nd out of 134 countries in the quality of primary education. Around 40 percent of Cambodians do not finish primary school.

The country did even worse in higher education and training, ranking 127th in the WEF Competitiveness Report 2008-09. Its ranking in both categories was the lowest of all ASEAN nations, though data from Laos and Myanmar were not available.

UNDP economist Brooks Evans said the study looked at the economy both sector by sector and in comparison to other countries. A lack of skills and a poorly trained workforce were among the most commonly cited constraints by businesses, he said, leading to labour being three times less productive than in Thailand. Vietnam has also opened up a lead on Cambodia in productivity after being at a similar point in 1993.

You must build the capacity of the people to attract businesses to these sectors.

The need for an "urgent overhaul" of human resource policy was a recurrent theme of the study, Evans said. "In terms of higher education and training, Cambodia is the biggest laggard in ASEAN. Cambodia has a serious lack of highly trained workers and this is something that requires urgent prioritisation."

In specific sectors, the report identified a low skill base among Cambodian construction workers and noted that engineers and architects were "overwhelmingly foreign".

In the ICT sector, competitiveness was hindered by the shortage of qualified ICT workers, which acted as a barrier to firm expansion.

In the garment sector, employers had addressed the skills challenge by training their own workers, but higher-wage management positions were still dominated by foreigners indicating a need for better management training.

"There is a very urgent need to train Cambodians to fill these positions," Evans said.

On the plus side, Cambodia scored well on labour market efficiency, which is a broad measure of the ease with which businesses can change their workforce, coming in 33rd on the WEF rankings.

Evans added that the study had been commissioned by the government to provide medium- to long-term policy options to enhance Cambodia's competitiveness but that the economic crisis had raised the stakes. "It is now imperative for these changes to be made," he said. "It is not a choice."

Starting point
The report set out four policy areas that require urgent attention across the economy, including more active government coordination with the private sector in human resource policy.

Among specific policies to boost skills it called for investment in vocational training courses for trade and professional degree courses, along with rationalisation and accreditation of the tertiary sector. Financial incentives needed to be established to direct students towards courses whose skills where in highest demand, and internship and apprenticeship schemes needed to be set up.

The report also called for specific training centres to be established to upgrade skills in textiles and tourism, two key pillar industries.

UNDP Country Director Jo Scheuer said the garment sector had done a good job addressing its skills needs in the absence of cross-sector training initiatives, and that those skills were transferable.

"People are not mono-skilled and they can re-adapt," he said. "But you must build the capacity of the people to attract businesses to these sectors. A more productive labour force is also a more flexible labour force with skills able to be applied across sectors."

Taking your chances

Yi Longdy. MARK ROY

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Yi longdy
Thursday, 28 May 2009


By Yi longdy

We are often told that opportunities are out there, flying in front of us - but they can quickly disappear if not readily grabbed.

They exist in many forms, including scholarships to study abroad, international exchange programmes, international conferences and forums, free local training schemes and seminars, and voluntary work. And if seized, these opportunities can provide the experience, knowledge, and understanding necessary to prepare for a better life, one where the doors are held wide open with ever more opportunities.

Unfortunately, only a minority of Cambodian youth seem to be taking advantage of their chances. Although there are still many openings that come and go without me realising them, I try to benefit from as many that come my way as possible.

It is sometimes annoying to see friends looking regretful once they see others accepted into coveted scholarships. I imagine them thinking, "I should have applied for that; it should have been me to get it."

But it is not so much differences in ability that allows one person to proudly go study in the US on a scholarship, for example, while another remains in the country, clinging onto an ordinary life. What leads people down different paths is that some, when opportunities come, dare to go for it, while others don't.

In 2008, I seized an opportunity to visit and study in the US for 5 weeks; many others were afraid to take the step, apparently feeling the prize was out of their league.

Participating gave me a deeper understanding of American politics, government, culture and leadership, and created many other opportunities, two of which I grabbed firmly.

First, I volunteered to work for the Outstanding Youth Group of Cambodia, which promotes youth interests and social affairs. There I learned to work with others for the good of society, widened my social network, and gained many memories and experience. Second, I became the University of Cambodia's local committee president of AIESEC, an international student group that organises international exchange programs.

As president, I encountered many new challenges as my team and I navigated testing situations, helping me learn effective leadership skills and improve my business savvy - exactly what I needed to complement my undergraduate studies.

As a young person in a developing country like Cambodia, it is not enough to simply live life. We have to go beyond a routine, normal way of life and go for something new, dynamic and challenging - something ambitious that can only come from stepping up to the task.

These amazing opportunities, which can change our lives forever, are there under our nose - if only we start to look for them.

Yi Longdy is a third-year English for education major at the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Institute of Foreign Languages and a second-year business administration student at Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC). He is also PUC’s AIESEC committee president. To share your thoughts on education and careers in Cambodia, email

Cambodian companies to be offered KRX listing option

A KRX employee stands near a display showing the KOSPI stock index in Seoul. BLOOMBERG
Vietnam firm's stock soars on KRX plan

HANOI – Mirae Joint-Stock Co, a Vietnamese apparel producer, saw its shares climb to an eight-month high Wednesday after it announced plans to list in South Korea in December. The shares rose 4.8 percent to 13,200 dong (US$0.74), the highest since September 23 on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange. The benchmark VN Index

was little changed at 425.17. Mirae will submit an application to the Korean Exchange in July to sell $8 million of shares, according to Dang Thanh Thu, the assistant of the company’s director. Meanhile, the KRX said it will start South Korea’s first real-time bond index on June 1 to help develop fixed-income securities market.


The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Steve Finch
Thursday, 28 May 2009

Cambodian firms that list on planned exchange will also be offered opportunity to list in South Korea as part of agreement, says official

CAMBODIAN companies that list on the Kingdom's forthcoming stock exchange will also have the option of listing on the Korea Exchange (KRX) in Seoul, an official from the Ministry of Economy said Wednesday.

The government is due to incorporate a joint-venture exchange company this year that will manage the Cambodian exchange, ministry Secretary General Hang Chuon Naron said Wednesday, with the possibility of a South Korean listing part of the agreement.

"They [Cambodian-listed] companies can have the option of listing in Cambodia and Korea," he told the Post, adding that the initiative would offer Cambodian companies the chance to "increase standards" of transparency and accounting in order to meet the necessary requirements to list on the Korea Exchange.

The dual-listings initiative would "encourage Koreans to diversify their stock holdings", he said.

It would also give Cambodian-listed companies access to a greater number of potential investors, Hang Chuon Naron added.

Inpyo Lee, project director of KRX, said Wednesday that company shares would be listed at the same price on the Cambodian and Korean exchanges, but converted into won, the Korean currency, on the KRX.

[The initiative would] encourage Koreans to diversify their stock holdings.

Foreign companies - particularly those from China - have typically done well on the KRX, he said, although he would not speculate on the anticipated level of demand for Cambodian stock in South Korea.

"We are not sure - it's the first [such] case," he said.

The KOSPI - the index of all common stocks traded on the KRX - has rallied in the second quarter, climbing 29 percent to 1,372.04 on Tuesday after reaching a year low of 1,063.03 on March 2.

This year the KOSPI has gained 18.55 percent from 1,157.40 on January 2.

Listed companies still unclear
Although the Cambodian government has begun preparations to list companies on the domestic exchange - including staff training and measures to meet accounting standards - it has been unwilling to confirm which companies would make the move first.

Hang Chuon Naron would not say which companies were being considered, except to say that it would be "state-owned companies" at first - most likely three - followed by private firms later. He denied reports that Electricite de Cambodge was on the list for consideration.

Lee said that the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority was among potential candidates to be listed.

Other officials have also said that Sihanoukville Autonomous Port was also being considered.

KRX began its involvement with the development of the Cambodian stock exchange in 2007 when it signed a memorandum of understanding with the government.

At the end of March, both sides signed a further memorandum of understanding on the establishment of the Cambodian stock exchange company - the body that will operate the new exchange - which gave the government a 55 percent stake and KRX 45 percent.

GMAC calls for expansion

Written by Chun Sophal and Hor Hab
Thursday, 28 May 2009

Manufacturers group urges rise in orders, production

THE Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) has encouraged factories and buyers to increase production and purchase orders for Cambodian garment products to save one of the country's leading export earners from the effects of the economic downturn.

After a garment industry forum Wednesday morning, GMAC President Van Sou Ieng told reporters that the total global purchase orders made by clothing giants Gap, Nike, Adidas, Levi's, Puma and H&M were about US$143 billion per year, but that they only ordered about $2.9 billion in garments from Cambodia last year.

"I want [Cambodian] factories to increase their production by 50 percent and buyers to increase their purchase orders [with Cambodia] to 5 or 10 percent a year [of total global orders] because Cambodia has good labour compliance," he said.

He said that GMAC was negotiating with buyers, but said purchase orders in the first four months of 2009 had only reached 70 percent of the orders made in the same period last year.

"I want producers and buyers to directly cooperate with each other without any intermediary agencies so they can see the real situation in Cambodia," he said.

On Wednesday, more than 20 representatives from export-oriented garment factories met with eight purchasing companies to discuss strategies to help Cambodia become a more attractive destination for garment production.

Industry insiders said the Kingdom's relatively good working conditions could be a boon for the sector while expressing caution in the shorter term.

We don't want to let our efforts ...turn into a short- lived success story

"Labour compliance in Cambodia is good, and it can be one of the criteria - including price, quality and design - that will motivate buyers to increase their purchase orders," Kanwarpreet Singh, chief representative of Puls Trading Far East Limited, which represents a number of leading brands in Cambodia, said Wednesday. "We will maintain our purchase orders from last year because we know the market well," he added.

Roger Tan, managing director of Thaipore Garment Manufacturers Co Ltd, agreed that working conditions in Cambodian factories were very good, and expressed hope that buyers would consider this and increase their purchase orders. Although he was optimistic for the future, Tan said it was too early to know what would happen.

Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said during Wednesday's forum that Cambodia was the first country to implement a labour-linked trade policy, and that it has gained recognition across the world for its high levels of compliance with labour law established by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). But he said such compliance could not be pursued indefinitely if orders continued to fall.

"If as a result of supporting ILO labour practices [there are] less purchase orders and less business for Cambodian exporters, then our government may have to revisit this policy," he said. "We don't want to let our efforts over the past 10 years to enhance corporate social responsibility in Cambodia turn into a short-lived success story."

According to GMAC, Cambodia currently has 280 export-oriented garment factories employing more than 310,000 workers.

Bank of India opens first branch in the Kingdom

Employees of Bank of India man the reception desk Wednesday at the newly opened branch in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Hor Hab
Thursday, 28 May 2009

Indian lender becomes first bank from Indian subcontinent to set up operations in Cambodia with new Phnom Penh branch

THE Mumbai-based Bank of India launched its first branch in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, becoming the first bank from the subcontinent to set up shop in Cambodia.

RC Baliarsingh, chief executive of the Bank of India Cambodia brand, said he was optimistic about the future of the Cambodian market and confident the bank could translate its long experience into success in the Kingdom.

"The government of India sees a great future for this country because it is now growing up, so we want to be part of this growth and share our success," he told the Post Wednesday, adding that the competitiveness of the local banking sector made it a dynamic place to do business. "Competition happens everywhere; and when there is more competition, it will benefit customers more."

The state-owned Bank of India, founded in 1906, has more than 3,000 branches across India, 28 branches overseas and offices in five continents.

Baliarsingh added that the bank had no set plans for further expansion in Cambodia, but expressed hopes its entry into the market would encourage other Indian firms. He also said the bank was in a good position to weather the international financial crisis, unlike many major banks in the United States.

"[W]e have a strong base and have gone through many crises and both world wars," he said. "There is no problem for us."

Saurav Ray, first secretary of the Indian embassy in Phnom Penh, said the bank could boost the Cambodian economy by giving added confidence to Indian investors and making it easier for them to transfer investment capital. "The opening of [an] Indian bank in Cambodia is a significant sign [of] increasing bilateral trade volume between the two countries," he said. "It is a good sign for Indian investors to come to Cambodia because they can have more confidence," he said.

He said that currently around 30 Indian companies were present in Cambodia along with about 2,000 business people.

In the last year, the Bank of India has seen year-on-year profits rise nearly 50 percent, rising from 2,009 crore Indian rupees (US$422 million) in March last year to 3,007 crore in March 2009, according to the bank's Website.

PM calls for drop in petrol prices

Thursday, 28 May 2009

PRIME Minister Hun Sen called on petrol companies to decrease their prices Wednesday, saying that retailers have taken advantage of global price rises to hike up pump prices but have not dropped them in line with recent decreases.

"If all of you [Sokimex, Total, Caltex, Tela] do not decrease your prices, you should at least stop hiking up the prices," Hun Sen said during the inauguration ceremony of the new Monivong Bridge over the Tonle Bassac river. "I always wonder why, when the world market price falls, you all don't decrease your prices."

Heu Heng, deputy director general of local petrol giant Sokimex, said he would address pump prices again soon, but dismissed suggestions they were inappropriate. He said that recently his company had only increased its price by 50 riels (1.2 US cents) per litre.

"We will have a meeting to discuss this, but I don't think that the prices are too high," he said, pledging that the company would keep the prices stable even if global oil prices rise again. "We will follow [the prime minister's demand] even if global prices increase," he said.

He added that global petrol prices continued to rise because of the weak US dollar and that many other goods had also increased in price.

Kok Tho, 38, a taxi driver who plies the route between Phnom Penh and Takeo province, said that when the price of gasoline increased, it made his business difficult by adding to the current drop off in passenger numbers.

"I want the prices to decrease to between 2,700 riels and 2,900 riels per litre. If they keep increasing like this, I cannot earn enough for my family to survive," he said. "All of the Cambodian people are asking the same as I am."

National Assembly passes financial lease law

Written by Nguon Sovan
Thursday, 28 May 2009

A DRAFT law on financial leases was adopted Wednesday by the National Assembly that officials say will help businesses and enterprises obtain long-term sources of capital from banks or lease companies in the wake of the global economic crisis.

"Currently, banks in Cambodia dare not grant long-term (five- or 10-year) loans to businesses because they are worried about losing their money, and this is an impediment for entrepreneurs to expand businesses and-small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs)," Chea Chanto, governor of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), told the Assembly. "The draft law on financial leases will enable businesses and SMEs in Cambodia to obtain a long-term source of capital from the banking and financial system with limited collateral."

He explained that financial leases refer to the leases of assets and properties over the long term, between a lessor (a licensed bank or lease company) and a lessee (a developer, manufacturer or other customer). He added that financial leases could include properties such as machinery and all kinds of equipment, but excluded land and buildings.

Chea Chanto said that the law passed by the National Assembly set out the legal framework for financial lease agreements, including the items that can be leased, and pricing structures and the periods of lease fee payment.

It will help develop Cambodia's SMEs, which contribute about 65 percent to GDP.

"Commercial banks or lease companies which want to operate as a financial lessor can apply for an operating licence from the NBC," he added.

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Yim Sovann said he supported the law. "I appreciate the government for creating this law, as the country is suffering from the global financial crunch," he said. "It will help develop Cambodia's SMEs, which contribute about 65 percent to GDP and employ 85 percent of the entire workforce."

But Ly Sreyvina, another SRP lawmaker, expressed concerns that the process of applying for a licence to operate as a lessor would be unfair due to corruption and bureaucratic red tape.

"I'd like to appeal for openness in applying for licences to avoid monopolies ... the period of the licence issuance should be stated clearly to facilitate investors," she said.

Chea Chanto said that after the law was passed, the NBC would cooperate with the Asian Development Bank to ensure licences were issued fairly.

ANZ to sell $2bn in shares to fund RBS Asia buyout

Bank clerks work in an ANZ Royal branch in Phnom Penh in this file photo. ANZ’s proposed acquisition of RBS’ Asian assets will increase its regional presence.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Malcolm Scott
Thursday, 28 May 2009

ANZ Bank planning to further expand presence in Asia-Pacific with proposed acquisition of Royal Bank of Scotland’s regional assets

AUSTRALIA and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, the nation's fourth-largest lender, plans to raise A$2.5 billion (US$2 billion) selling shares to fund a bid for Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Plc's Asian assets.

The Melbourne-based bank will sell the shares to institutional investors at A$14.40 each, a 7.5 percent discount to its last traded price, and will not increase the size of the offer, it said in a statement Wednesday.

CEO Mike Smith, who joined ANZ after running HSBC Holdings Plc's Asian operations, is raising funds as Australia's economy sinks to its first recession in 18 years. ANZ is up against HSBC and Standard Chartered Plc in its bid for RBS's Asian assets, which range from trading desks in Australia to bank branches in Pakistan.

"Buying distressed financial assets at a weak point in the market is a good strategy, but you have to have the financial strength to run the business through the remainder of the trough," said Angus Gluskie, who manages about A$260 million at White Funds Management Pty in Sydney.

The placement has been underwritten by Deutsche Bank AG, JPMorgan Chase and Co, and UBS AG.

The bank will also sell equity to retail shareholders and reserve the right to scale back applications under the share-purchase plan if total demand exceeds A$350 million.

In Wednesday's statement, ANZ said its charge for credit derivatives losses had declined by about A$400 million after tax since March 31, reflecting lower credit spreads globally and a stronger Australian dollar. That improvement has been "largely offset" by a reduction hedging gains, it said.

On April 16, ANZ confirmed it had been invited by RBS to participate in the sale process for the lender's Asian assets.

Obtaining the Edinburgh-based bank's Asian businesses may help Smith meet a goal of boosting the portion of revenue earned in Asia to 20 percent at a time swelling bad debts squeeze ANZ's domestic profits.

RBS, Britain's biggest government-owned bank, this month posted a first-quarter loss after writing down £4.9 billion ($7.8 billion) as credit-market investments soured and bad loans increased in all its markets.

The bank serves more than 30,000 retail and commercial customers in China and is one of the ten biggest foreign-owned wholesale banks in the nation, according to its Web site. In India, it serves 1.3 million customers, while in Indonesia, it has 360,000 customers, the site says.

ANZ's capital raising is "a positive thing to do", said Peter Vann, who manages more than A$600 million at Constellation Capital Management Ltd in Sydney. On the RBS bid, Vann said "if it's a sensible price and the deal stacks up, I'm happy. It's a good time to buy something, it's cheap".

ANZ, which didn't say which RBS assets it is pursuing, said an acquisition would initially reduce earnings per share before contributing to profit in the medium term.

The share sales would allow ANZ to fund an acquisition of the selected RBS Asia assets while maintaining its Tier 1 capital ratio, a key measure of financial health, above its target range of 7.5 percent to 8.0 percent, it said.


Police Blotter: 28 May 2009

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Lim Phalla
Thursday, 28 May 2009

Phorn Ratha, 22, a garment worker at a factory in Tuol Pongror village, Dangkor district, Phnom Penh, was stabbed by a co-worker known only as Pouv, 20. The victim died at hospital five hours later, police said, adding that her attacker, with whom there had been a long-running conflict, managed to escape.

Two high school students were injured after being shot by an unknown number of suspects who chased them into an Internet café on Monday in Daun Penh district, Phnom Penh. Police identified the victims as Huy Davin, 17, and Pa Sothea, 18, both 11th-grade students at Preah Sisovath High School. The victims were each shot once, police said, adding that their assailants escaped and the reason for the attack was not known.

Hoy Mary, 30, and her sister Sreylis, 27, were robbed Tuesday after being drugged at their home in Baliley village, Paoy Paet commune and town, Banteay Meanchey province, where they operated a money-changing business. Police said the amount of money stolen was not known and that the victims were taken to hospital for treatment. Three men were arrested at the scene, but their identities were not released as police had yet to determine whether they were involved with the robbery.

One man died and three others were taken to hospital on Monday after they drank a poisoned bottle of gin that was left in front of the home of Chan Sarith, 50, a resident of Tumnub Chrey village, Teuk Thla commune, Banteay Meanchey province. Police identified the deceased as Chhuoy Ous, 60. The injured were Lonh Keat, 32, Mao Raeoun, 29, and Thai Hou, 25. Police said they suspect that the poisoned gin was left by Chhuoy Chim, the dead man's son, who they said believed his wife was having an affair with Chan Sarith.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: UK-Cambodia ties

Written by George McLeod
Thursday, 28 May 2009

The United Kingdom's minister of state at the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office urged greater cooperation between ASEAN and the EU Wednesday, and said that economic ties between the UK and Cambodia were growing. "Cambodia welcomed more than 95,000 visitors from the UK last year.... Cambodia is a good target for UK investors," Bill Rammell said at a meeting organised by the Cambodia Development Resource Institute, adding that the Kingdom needed to make progress on corruption. Rammell is in Phnom Penh for the ASEAN-EU Ministerial meeting from 27-28 May.

In Brief: Flight pre-reservation

Written by George McLeod
Thursday, 28 May 2009

BANGKOK Airways has launched a "pre-reserved seat" service for passengers with business class and full-fare economy class tickets, according to a company statement Wednesday. The service allows passengers to select their seats at least 24 hours in advance. The Thailand-based carrier has increased flights between Bangkok and Phnom Penh to three per day recently and added business class seating.

Swine Flu scare appears to be subsiding

The Erie County Health Department notified News 4 Tuesday that it will no longer contact the local media to update new cases of the H1N1 virus.

Cost of dengue and other febrile illnesses to households in rural Cambodia: A prospective community-based case-control study

7th Space


The average annual reported dengue incidence in Cambodia is 3.3/1,000 among children <15 years of age (2002-2007). To estimate the economic burden of dengue, accurate cost-of-illness data are essential.

We conducted a prospective, community-based, matched case-control study to assess the cost and impact of an episode of dengue fever and other febrile illness on households in rural Cambodia.

Methods: In 2006, active fever surveillance was conducted among a cohort of 6,694 children aged =<15 years in 16 villages in Kampong Cham province, Cambodia. Subsequently, a case-control study was performed by individually assigning one non-dengue febrile control from the cohort to each laboratory-confirmed dengue case.

Parents of cases and controls were interviewed using a standardized questionnaire to determine household-level, illness-related expenditures for medical and non-medical costs, and estimated income loss. The household socio-economic status was determined and its possible association with health seeking behaviour and the ability to pay for the costs of a febrile illness.

Results: Between September and November 2006, a total of 60 household heads were interviewed: 30 with dengue-positive and 30 with dengue-negative febrile children.Mean total dengue-related costs did not differ from those of other febrile illnesses (31.5 vs.

27.2 US$, p=0.44). Hospitalization almost tripled the costs of dengue (from 14.3 to 40.1 US$) and doubled the costs of other febrile illnesses (from 17.0 to 36.2 US$).

To finance the cost of a febrile illness, 67% of households incurred an average debt of 23.5 US$ and higher debt was associated with hospitalization compared to outpatient treatment (US$ 23.1 vs. US$ 4.5, p<0.001).

These costs compared to an average one-week expenditure on food of US$ 9.5 per household (range 2.5-21.3). In multivariate analysis, higher socio-economic status (odds ratio [OR] 4.4; 95% confidence interval[CI] 1.4-13.2), duration of fever (OR 2.1; 95%CI 1.3-3.5), and age (OR 0.8; 95%CI 0.7-0.9) were independently associated with hospitalization.

Conclusions: In Cambodia, dengue and other febrile illnesses pose a financial burden to households.

A possible reason for a lower rate of hospitalization among children from poor households could be the burden of higher illness-related costs and debts.

Author: Rekol HuyOle WichmannMark BeattyChantha NganSocheat DuongHarold Margolis Sirenda Vong
Credits/Source: BMC Public Health 2009, 9:155

Protesters call for Suu Kyi's release as EU-ASEAN meeting starts

Posted : Wed, 27 May 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Dozens of rights activist gathered outside the Myanmar embassy in Cambodia on Wednesday to demand the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as a meeting of European and South-East Asian foreign ministers began in Phnom Penh. The protesters urged the ministers to expel Myanmar from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unless Suu Kyi and other political prisoners were released immediately.

Sok Sam Oeun, chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said the 17th Annual EU-ASEAN meeting presented an opportunity for European and South-East Asian leaders to use political and economic leverage against Myanmar.

"We support the European Union and the Thai government, the ASEAN secretariat, in their expression of grave concern for the Myanmar Government's actions," he said. "But there needs to be stronger action taken and Myanmar needs to be expelled from the EU."

The protest came on the sixth anniversary of Suu Kyi's arrest on charges of threatening national security and the beginning of her detention in her home-cum-prison.

She is currently facing trial in Yangon for allegedly violating the terms of her detention by allowing US national John William Yettaw to swim to her lakeside compound on May 3 and stay there until May 6.

No formal discussions on the trial have been scheduled for the two-day meeting in Phnom Penh, but Cambodian Foreign Ministry officials said earlier this week that some delegates were likely to urge Myanmar to release Suu Kyi.

Foreign ministers from 40 countries held private talks Wednesday and will be welcomed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at an opening ceremony Thursday.

In the Cambodian Judges' Court

MAY 28, 2009

The judiciary has the power to investigate alleged fraud at the war-crimes tribunal

Wall Street Journal Asia.

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia is facing a serious crisis stemming from unresolved allegations of a kickback scheme. Yet the United Nations, the Cambodian government and donor nations aren't dealing effectively with the allegations. That task has been handed to the tribunal judges, who have a golden opportunity to make a difference.

Cambodian government officials are alleged to have received kickbacks from Cambodian employees in exchange for securing them lucrative positions at the court. These are serious allegations. Refusing to address them could deal a fatal blow to the court's credibility. That would be a tragedy for the people of Cambodia, who seek justice for the Khmer Rouge's crimes. It would also be a blow for the international donors who funded this important court.

With the trials now underway, the need to finally address the allegations is urgent. And it's becoming clear that the tribunal's international and Cambodian judges are the court's best option to investigate and clear up the corruption claims. The Cambodian judges have vigorously denied that they have in any way been involved in improper practices. All the more reason, then, for them to investigate alleged corruption at their court with similar vigor.

They have already missed one opportunity. In March, defense lawyers for Nuon Chea, the former chief ideologist of the Khmer Rouge, filed a request asking the two co-investigating judges who are responsible for judicial investigation in the civil law tribunal to obtain the results of a U.N. investigation into possible corruption at the tribunal and to launch a review of the corruption allegations. The lawyers argued that this was needed to "assess what, if any, corrosive effects such alleged corruption has had on the administration of justice thus far at the [tribunal]" and to determine whether their client's right to a fair trial has been compromised. Co-Investigating Judges You Bun Leng and Marcelle Lemonde rejected that request.

The judges said that they lacked the jurisdiction to proceed as the requested information was "totally foreign to the facts covered by the current judicial investigations." They added that they couldn't intervene in response to "speculations as to hypothetical negative effects" of corruption, and that an administrative inquiry "would be superfluous" as the U.N. and Cambodian government were "seised of the situation." The defense teams filed an appeal May 4 with the tribunal's pre-trial chamber asking the three Cambodian and two international judges to reconsider the ruling of the co-investigating judges, arguing that "because exposure of the alleged scheme would likely discredit senior officials and embarrass the U.N., neither institution possesses the requisite impartiality to deal with the matter." Lawyers representing civil parties have since joined the appeal.

If the judges continue to reject requests to investigate the allegations, they risk seeing their tribunal's successes overshadowed by persistent defense claims that corruption renders the trials unfair. Lawyers for civil parties have correctly warned that "arguments in this vein would not only undermine the principle of finality of proceedings, but would render elusive the justice and closure for which the victims of these proceedings have been waiting."

Judges have a responsibility to ensure the proper administration of justice within their court. The claim of the co-investigating judges that they lacked jurisdiction to investigate allegations of corruption involving court personnel was arguably in conflict with this core judicial responsibility. Moreover, a court must satisfy itself that the overall proceedings are fair. Yet the allegations implicate individuals responsible for making legal decisions and administrators and staff responsible for collecting, transcribing, translating and producing the evidence.

The judges' decision is crucial because there are few remaining options if the corruption allegations are ever going to be properly investigated. High-level negotiations between the U.N. and the Cambodian government to produce a credible investigative mechanism failed in April, and donor nations appear unwilling to press the point.

Donor nations have also failed to pressure the court into dealing with the allegations. Last year the U.N. Development Program froze donor funds to the Cambodian side of the tribunal pending a resolution of the allegations, but donors have recently signaled a willingness to support the tribunal regardless. Canberra has asked the UNDP to release Australian funds, stating that it is generally satisfied with the progress being made at the tribunal. When the UNDP refused, Japan provided more than $4 million directly to the Cambodian government -- enough to fund the tribunal through the end of the year.

In an apparent tit-for-tat response to continuing calls for an investigation of Cambodian court officials, Phay Siphan, secretary of state and spokesman at the council of ministers, stated on May 11 that the Cambodian government is currently investigating allegations of undisclosed wrongdoing involving U.N. court personnel. He said: "We have a file of who's the enemy of the [tribunal]. We don't want to expose any wrongdoing of the U.N. side in order to discredit the [tribunal]. We know who's the enemy of the tribunal and we know who's trying to manipulate what's going on. One day, if we feel the need to release it, we will release it." Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consulatant for the defense team of Nuon Chea, characterized this as "the childish, thuggish behavior we have come to expect from the government."

With the U.N. stymied, donor nations lacking political will and leadership, and the Cambodian government stonewalling and raising counterallegations, all eyes are now on the tribunal's judges. Trial Chamber Judge Silvia Cartwright has stated that "one of the major issues that has been troubling for all the judges is that of corruption within the [tribunal]. We welcome all efforts to ensure that the allegations are dealt with fully and fairly and that independent measures are put in place to make sure [that claims] are resolved in a transparent manner." The judges now have an opportunity to put these fine sentiments into concrete action and throw their weight behind a competent, credible and transparent investigation of the allegations. It is time for them to deal with an issue which if left unresolved will expose all future judgments to crippling legal challenges.

Mr. Hall is an associate professor of law and research fellow in the Center for Global Trade and Development at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, California.

UNDP Releases Report on Cambodian Economy – Wednesday, 27.5.2009

Posted on 28 May 2009

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 614

“Phnom Penh: Economists of the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, for Cambodia, said that Cambodia needs more investments in the education and the welfare sectors for the labor force in order to encourage economic growth and alleviate poverty.

“In a press conference to present an UNDP report on Monday, 25 May 2009, Mr. Brooks Evans, an economist, said, ‘Cambodia now does not have workers with sufficient skills, and this is a priority problem that needs the most help to improve the economy.’ The UNDP report, which studied the competitiveness of Cambodia in the global economy, ranks Cambodia below other ASEAN countries.

“Mr. Brooks Evans added, ‘Several regulations and formulas make investors from the USA, from Europe, and from Japan withdraw their operations from Cambodia, which is one of the world’s poorest countries, and Cambodia loses many foreign investors.’

“The report continued to say that 30% of the more than 14 million Cambodian people live with an average income of only US$0.50 per day. The sector of agriculture represents 32% of the GDP in Cambodia.

“Tourism grows also, like in 2008, there were more than 2 million foreign tourists who visited Cambodia. This sector contributes one firth of the national economy, and it is an important sector to boost the economy with income from foreign countries. Also, Tourism creates new job opportunities and a new job market for local people, working to provide different services and gaining benefits.

“Also, the UNDP report shows the competitiveness in information technology and in Information Communication Technology, which grew by 32% per year during the recent five years, and the increase added up to US$429 million. At present, 3.5 million people in Cambodia, or one fourth, are using mobile phones. [The UNDP report criticized, however, that there is no adequate regulation, while the government has already licensed nine mobile phone providers - though some have blocked connectivity to competitors, resulting in problems. 'There appears to be no control over this in Cambodia.']

“There is growth also in the garment sector. But at present, there are many challenges because of the impact of the global economic crisis. Textile factories in Cambodia contributed 12% of the GDP, when the garment export contributed 72% of the overall product export in 2007. This sector employs more than 300,000 workers.

“Another sector, which contributed to improving the economy, is the construction sector, which was growing in recent years and earned US$500 million in 2003 and increased this to US$3.2 billion in 2007. But nowadays, Cambodia pays the least wages to the [construction] labor force among all ASEAN countries, which is only US$4.50 per day, compared to US$7 dollar per day in Thailand.

“The report adds that Cambodia is moving [very slowly] towards global economic competition, moving up one rank to position 109 among 134 countries in 2008-2009; and it moved up by 15 ranks in a trade report of the World Bank among 135 countries. However, Cambodia is still almost at the bottom, compared to other ASEAN countries in the education and in the welfare sectors.”

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #195, 27.5.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Cambodia breaks ground on its first overpass

Drivers are seen on a street in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2007. Cambodia broke ground at its capital's busiest intersection Wednesday for what will be the country's first road overpass.(AFP/File/Tang Chhin Sothy)

Wed May 27, 09

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP) – Cambodia broke ground at its capital's busiest intersection Wednesday for what will be the country's first road overpass.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the start of the project, intended to reduce Phnom Penh's increasing traffic problems, at a ceremony opening another new bridge at the intersection.

"It is will be the first overpass bridge of Cambodia," Hun Sen said at the ceremony.

Officials said construction of the 308-metre (1,010-foot) overpass would cost more than six million dollars and would be finished within one year.

The premier said Phnom Penh had changed from "ghost city, a city that has no people, and a shocked city, into a vivid city."

All residents of Phnom Penh were forced into the countryside during the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime, as the hardline communists enslaved the nation on collective farms.

During Wednesday's ceremony, Hun Sen also called on the people to respect traffic laws, saying that doing so meant they "respect their own lives."

Traffic fatalities have more than doubled in Cambodia over the past five years, becoming the second-biggest killer behind HIV/AIDS.

Better roads and more vehicles have contributed heavily to this toll, but bad driving is the main cause behind most accidents, police say.

Cambodia has finally begun to emerge from decades of civil conflict, but has been hit with gridlock as well as a building boom that has begun to change radically the face of its once-sleepy capital.

CPP Official Winner in Election

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
27 May 2009

The National Election Committee released the official result of this month’s council elections, with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party winning leadership in all councils across the country.

The fractious royalist parties of Norodom Ranariddh and Funcinpec won seats, along with members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

The country’s 11,353 commune council members from the CPP and the Sam Rainsy, Norodom Ranariddh and Funcinpec parties voted for 3,235 council members at the municipal, provincial and district levels on May 17.

The CPP won 302 of 374 seats for Phnom Penh and the provinces, as well as 2,249 or 2,861 seats in other municipalities and districts, the NEC said Wednesday. The Sam Rainsy Party won 61 seats in Phnom Penh and the provinces, followed by Funcinpec with six and the Norodom Ranariddh Party with five.In other municipalities and districts, the Sam Rainsy Party won 518 seats, followed by 55 for Funcinpec and 39 for the Norodom Ranariddh Party.

Sam Rainsy Party Yim Sovann said the elections were tainted by vote-buying from the ruling party, a charge the CPP denies.

Hang Puthea, executive director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said the results were as expected.

Burmese Protest at Phnom Penh Embassy

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
27 May 2009

Around 50 human rights advocates and Burmese citizens demonstrated in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Phnom Penh Wednesday, calling for the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The peaceful demonstration coincided with a meeting of Asean foreign affairs ministers.

“We expect this meeting will discuss Aung San Suu Kyi’s case, and we are pushing the Burmese government to release not only Suu Kyi but also to release 2,000 political prisoners,” said Kek Galabru, president of rights group Licadho.

Police barred protesting from coming too close to the embassy, where they had planned to submit a petition. A police official accepted the petition without the presence of an embassy official instead.

Suu Kyi has been in detention for 13 of the past 19 years. The military junta in Burma, now called Myanmar, is conducting a hearing to decide whether her house arrest will be extended, following the bizarre visit of a US man to her home earlier this month.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the detention of the Nobel laureate was not on the agenda for Asean ministers.

Duch Expert Describes Khmer Rouge Disarray

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
27 May 2009

A US Khmer Rouge researcher told tribunal judges Wednesday the regime’s ministries were not well organized and decisions were made instead by the standing committee of the communist party.

Craig Etcheson, the first foreign expert to be called in the trial of Duch, head of the regime’s notorious Tuol Sleng prison, described an administrative organization in disarray, saying the ministries “were not really ministries.”

Tribunal judges are trying to form a picture of the organization, under which up to 2 million people died. Prosecutors say Duch was responsible for the torture and execution of more than 12,000 of them.

“The ministries did not work as they were,” said Etcheson, author of “The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea. “

Etcheson went on to say that power was in the hands of individuals who had positions in the regime’s communist party. He did not elaborate.

Duch has said all power was in the hands of the standing committee, telling judges that there was no law except that of the party. He has sought to portray himself as a victim of the regime and dedicated revolutionary. But he has also said that those who did not follow the regime perished.

Now 66, Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, began his atrocity crimes trial March 30. He is charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder, for his role as the head of Tuol Sleng, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, and other facilities.

Bombing Suspects Appear in Court

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

Three of six suspects implicated in a bomb plot in Phnom Penh in January appeared in court Wednesday, but judges said the investigation was incomplete.

Reach Samnang,50, former police commissioner of Mondolkiri province , Phy Sa Vong,50, a former researcher in military intelligence, and Sam Ek, alias Ty To, 52, appeared at Phnom Penh Municipal Court Wednesday.

Reach Samnang told VOA Khmer at the court Wednesday he had been set up.

But investigating judge Ker Sakorn said that the court needed more time to investigate, calling it a “big” case. “So we need to be careful,” he said.

No trial date was set Wednesday.

Long Lunn, a defense lawyer for Phy Savong working for the rights group Adhoc, asked the court to have a trial soon, saying his client had been in prison too long already.


Pattaya Daily News

May 27, 2009

Police looking for illegal workers on 26 May 2009 raided a seafood factory in Sriracha and found over 250 illegal Cambodian immigrants working there. The illegal immigrants, without official documentation of any sort, will be processed and then repatriated.

At 9.00 am, on 26 May, Pol.Lt.Col. Pakkapong Sai U-bon, Police Immigration Investigator, and a team of other concerned officials from Bor Win, Nongkam, a total of 50 officials and 40 volunteer officials, raided the Asian Seafood ( Sriracha) Company, located at 211 Moo. 2 Bung, Sriracha, Chonburi, which had been hiring illegal workers from Cambodia for over 2 years, according to complaints received by the police from neighbours.

The police had blocked the factory gates late the previous night. On the following morning, police brought a search warrant from the Pattaya Court and proceeded to search the factory, after having presented the factory manager, Mr. Wanlop Lomlim, with the search warrant. He later conducted the police around the factory.

The illegal Cambodian workers were shocked at the raid and tried to escape by climbing the wall, but the police managed to arrest 126 males and 128 females and took them for investigation onto the empty ground along the side of the factory.

Police asked for their work permits, but none of the workers possessed any form of official documentation, whatsoever. Police then informed them that they would be charged with illegal entry into Thailand and with working in the country without work permits or licences.

The Asian Seafood company is run by Mr. Somsak Amornrattanachaikul , the owner, who will be investigated further and charged with hiring illegal-immigrant workers without correct documentation and also providing accommodation for them.

Police have a total of 253 illegal workers under arrest, who were later sent to Nongkam Police Station for further investigation and processing.

Editor Notes:

There are numerous cases like this in many factories and construction sites in Thailand, where the Thai employers have cheated their illegal workers by withholding their wages for three months and instead of paying them, they or their agents just tipped off the police, who then came to arrest them. In these cases, the Thai employers profit by saving the wages of their illegal workers and only pay small sums to the police.

However, due to the often dire conditions in their own countries, many poor workers would still rather take the risk of working illegally in Thailand, than remain penniless in their own countries.

Cambodia's 1st overpass

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the start of the project to build Cambodia's first overpass. --PHOTO: AFP

The Straits Times

May 27, 2009

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA broke ground at its capital's busiest intersection on Wednesday for what will be the country's first road overpass.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the start of the project, intended to reduce Phnom Penh's increasing traffic problems, at a ceremony opening another new bridge at the intersection.

'It is will be the first overpass bridge of Cambodia,' he said at the ceremony.

Officials said construction of the 308-metre overpass would cost more than US$6 million (S$8.7 million) and would be finished within one year.

The premier said Phnom Penh had changed from 'ghost city, a city that has no people, and a shocked city, into a vivid city.'

All residents of Phnom Penh were forced into the countryside during the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime, as the hardline communists enslaved the nation on collective farms.

During Wednesday's ceremony, Mr Hun Sen also called on the people to respect traffic laws, saying that doing so meant they 'respect their own lives.'

Traffic fatalities have more than doubled in Cambodia over the past five years, becoming the second-biggest killer behind HIV/AIDS.

Better roads and more vehicles have contributed heavily to this toll, but bad driving is the main cause behind most accidents, police say.

Cambodia has finally begun to emerge from decades of civil conflict, but has been hit with gridlock as well as a building boom that has begun to change radically the face of its once-sleepy capital.
-- AFP

Cambodia needs anti-corruption culture

UPI Asia
By Chak Sopheap
Guest Commentary

Published: May 27, 2009

Niigata, Japan — Corruption exists in all countries, but has the most destructive effect in developing economies. In a poor country like Cambodia, rated as a highly corrupt state, it threatens democratic institutions and fundamental rights and freedoms. It undermines socioeconomic development and deepens poverty. It also provokes irrational decision making, disrupts the development of the private sector and undermines sustainable development of the environment.
It is even worse when a vital branch of the government, the judiciary, and its affiliate academic institution, the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions, is corrupt.

Ongoing corruption allegations against the Khmer Rouge Tribunal are still blurred, yet there is no adequate mechanism to respond to this situation. Claims that corruption should be a separate issue if the tribunal is to proceed make no sense, as one of the core expectations of the tribunal is to strengthen the rule of law.

Another recent allegation has claimed that corruption affects the securing of admission to the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions. The two cases are crucial and related, because if young professionals in the judiciary resort to bribes, then it is bound to affect the court system as a whole. The protracted corrupt behavior seen at the very basic judicial level leaves little hope for improvements in the country’s court system.

However, the corruption case involving the academy was resolved in court and a senior student who took the bribe returned the money to the student who was promised a seat in Class Five of the academy. The court case proved that corruption exists in the system. It should be noted that the senior student was not solely responsible in this case, but the student who paid the bribe also abused the law and can be said to be involved in the corruption.

Corruption must be clearly defined and interpreted so that it can encourage people in reporting potential cases. The involvement of the court in settling the case related to the academy is a good example of a corruption suit being lawfully settled, but impunity still persists within the system. Cambodia does not have adequate anti-corruption laws, which clearly state the terms of punishment.

The concerned institutions and stakeholders should not ignore corruption allegations and must carry out sufficient investigations. It is not surprising that most of the concerned and responsible stakeholders harshly deny accusations instead of exploring the evidence and cooperating with other agencies, like the media.

The recent denial of corruption by a leading government lawyer to the well-known Voice of America, which was reporting on an alleged corruption case, is one of the worse scenarios where the press is silenced and government claims of fighting corruption are undermined.

In Cambodia corruption continues partly because the people see it as something “normal” that most are unable to change. Besides, there is a lack of political commitment to encourage people to speak out against it and hold authorities accountable.

Although Prime Minister Hun Sen has declared "war" on corruption and an anti-corruption law has been proposed, with recent promises that it will be adopted soon, questions still linger on how soon and effective it would be.

The government thus needs to show its real commitment to an anti-corruption campaign and encourage a culture of mutual collaboration with the civil society instead of immediate denial and manipulation of charges. Also, people’s attitude toward corruption needs to be changed so that it will no longer be tolerated.


(Chak Sopheap is a graduate student of peace studies at the International University of Japan. She runs a blog,, in which she shares her impressions of both Japan and her homeland, Cambodia. She was previously advocacy officer of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.)

Vietnam attends ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Cambodia

A Vietnamese delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem will attend the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM-17) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on May 28.

The meeting will discuss future cooperation between ASEAN and the EU and the implementation of the Plan of Action on ASEAN-EU Enhanced Partnership which was adopted at an ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Singapore in November 2007.

Delegates will also discuss regional and international issues such as the global and financial crisis, food and energy security, anti-terrorism, disarmament, climate change and epidemics.

The meeting is expected to adopt the chair’s statement and the Phnom Penh agenda on the implementation of the ASEAN-EU Plan of Action for 2009-2010.

Mr Khiem is scheduled to deliver a speech on epidemic prevention, and have bilateral meetings with heads of the participating delegations.

Cambodia receives 400,000 kWh of electricity from Vietnam per day



Cambodia has now received around 400,000 kWh of electricity from Vietnam a day since a 220kV power line linking Chau Doc district in An Giang province to Phnom Penh via Cambodia’s Takeo province was put into operation on May 8.

The Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Do Huu Hao, announced this in Hanoi on May 26 at the signing ceremony of a contract for the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) to sell power to the Electricity of Cambodia (EDC).

At the event, Mr Hao confirmed that the 220kV Chau Doc-Takeo-Phnom Penh power line shows the Vietnamese government’s efforts to fulfil its commitments to help Cambodia ease its current power shortages, even though Vietnam itself faces energy difficulties, especially during the 2009 dry season.

He expressed his hope that Vietnam would increase its power supplies to Cambodia to 200 MW in 2010, with an annual sales output of 1 billion kWh.

Activists in Cambodia urge release of Suu Kyi


Wed, May 27, 2009

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Rights activists demanded freedom for Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday, ahead of a series of meetings between European Union and Southeast Asian ministers in Cambodia.

Dozens of Western, Myanmar and Cambodian rights campaigners demonstrated at the Myanmar embassy in Phnom Penh, urging ministers to pressure the ruling junta to release the opposition leader and other political prisoners.

"We are asking ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) that is meeting with the EU (European Union) to raise this issue to be discussed during the meeting," said Kek Galabru, president of a local rights group.

"ASEAN must push for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi," she added. Asian and European foreign ministers on Tuesday called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other Myanmar political prisoners after two days of Asia-Europe meetings in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

She is on trial in military-ruled Myanmar where she faces up to five years in jail on charges of violating her house arrest after an incident in which an American man swam to her house.

Representatives from the EU and the 10-member ASEAN were scheduled to attend a welcome dinner Wednesday evening, ahead of Thursday meetings intended to focus mainly on cooperation between the two regions amid the global financial crisis.

"According to the official agenda of the meeting, they will not discuss about issues of any specific country," Cambodia's foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told AFP.

"We don't know whether the ministers will raise the issue of Myanmar to be discussed or not. If they do, it will be an unofficial agenda," he added.

Several local diplomats, however, told AFP they expected Myanmar to be at the forefront of discussions.

Myanmar's treatment of prisoners, along with North Korea's recent nuclear test, dominated much of the agenda during Hanoi's ministerial meetings this week.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been in detention for 13 of the past 19 years since her National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in 1990 polls but was not allowed to take power.

The Nobel laureate took the stand for the first time on Tuesday in her trial at Yangon's notorious Insein jail and argued she had not violated the terms of her house arrest.