Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Cambodian police official forces youths to cut hair

Wed, 03 Jun 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - A high-ranking Cambodian police official detained a group of teenage boys for having long hair and forcibly cut their stylish locks to a "more appropriate length," national media reported Wednesday. Thol Yuthear, chief of anti-trafficking police in the north-western town of Battambang, said he detained the three high school students aged 15 to 18 outside after spotting them outside the local police station, The Cambodia Daily reported.

He said he cut a section of hair from each students' head, forcing them to head to a barbershop to have their new haircuts evened out.

"Morals in society nowadays are becoming difficult because school standards and parental care is limited, and that has caused students to act like this," Thol Yuthear said.

He said the boys' long locks and coloured highlights were inappropriate and school students should be forced to wear their hair closely-cropped.

Weak Dollar Lifts Cambodia's Gold Price to 3-month High

Web Editor: Hu Weiwei

Gold prices climbed to a three- month high this week on the back of speculation that the U.S. dollar will continue to weaken, local media reported on Wednesday.

Gold traded on Tuesday for 892 U.S. dollars per ounce in Phnom Penh, up from 785 U.S. dollars in mid-May, Seang Lim, a gold trader, was quoted by English newspaper the Cambodia Daily as saying.

"We are noticing that the price of commodities like gold and oil has continued to rise since May," Lim said, adding that the principal reason people are investing in gold is that the U.S. dollar is dropping in value against the euro and the Japanese yen.

In Cambodia, most gold traders take their prices from the stock markets in Hong Kong and Singapore, where, as in Europe and the U. S., gold is measured in ounces.

Some analysts and investors said the depreciation of the dollar meant that investors' asset value in areas such as property and government bonds had grown smaller, persuading them to have more confidence in the safety of gold.

Journey to diploma starts in Cambodia

Carol Hoglen/The Dishpatch
Roth Prom, A Cambodian-born immigrant, sits in front of a computer in the yearbook room at Lexington High Senior High School. Prom has earned a full scholarship to Wake Forest University in the fall.

The Dispatch

Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2009

By the time she was 2 years old, Roth Prom had experienced more than most people do in an entire lifetime. But her exceptional story has only fueled her determination to succeed.

To escape political unrest, Prom's family fled their native Cambodia when she was still in diapers.

Remembering most of her story through photos and accounts given by her father, Prom, now a senior at Lexington Senior High School, described in detail how her mother carried her through the Cambodian jungle to the border of Thailand.

"The journey to Thailand is dangerous because the government can turn you back, and you can possibly get killed," she explained.

Even though her family was robbed at gunpoint and lost the Cambodian equivalent of $100,000, she still says, "We were lucky."

In Thailand, Prom lived in multiple refugee camps where her family experienced the hardships of forced emigration.

"There were a lot of families there in the same position as we were," she said. "We had to ration, and we had to fight for food."

Prom and her family finally made it to the U.S. in 1992. They first lived in Seattle, Wash., and moved around a lot before settling in North Carolina. At one point, Prom said, she lived in a two-room apartment constantly filled with family members.

Now, the self-described rambunctious child is preparing to attend Wake Forest University on $46,000 worth of renewable financial aid. She plans to major in pre-med.

"I used this story to help me," Prom said, describing the application and interview process. "When they asked, 'What could you talk about all day?' I said, 'My parents.'"

She credits them with instilling in her a drive to excel in all areas of her life. One of the most important lessons she ever learned, Prom said, came from her mother: "If you know what you want, go after it, you can't just sit back and wait for it to come to you."

That's just what Prom, who will graduate June 13, has done in her four years at Lexington Senior High. In addition to completing five Advanced Placement courses, she has been a member of the Environmental Club, Quiz Bowl and the basketball, volleyball and track teams. Prom was also the business manager of the yearbook this year, helping raise more than $10,000 in advertisements.

"We're (Prom and her siblings) so thankful to our parents to have brought us here, and I'm just trying to give back to what they gave me."

Prom describes herself as very family-oriented. Each week, she helps care for her four nephews, taking them to karate practice and to school functions.

"It's a great family. You can't help but be family-oriented going through that kind of stuff," she said, referring to their decision to leave Cambodia for a better life.

Though she has lived in the U.S. for the majority of her 18 years, Prom is proud of her Cambodian roots. She hopes to visit family there someday soon.

"It's been quite a journey," she said. "I think it's only done us good to come here."

Ryan Jones can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 227, or at

Huge illegal drug haul burned

Photo by: AFP
An Australian Federal Police officer walks past burning ephedra herbs during a drugs destruction ceremony on Tuesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Titthara
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Officials used event to warn Cambodia's youth about dangers of illegal substances.

THE National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) on Tuesday burned more than 2,800 kilograms of ephedra and other psychoactive ingredients on Tuesday that could have been used to make millions of methamphetamine pills, at an event at the Orkas Khnom drug rehabilitation centre on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The materials had been confiscated from Takeo, Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh on March 21, said Kep Chuktema, governor of Phnom Penh, who added that drug trafficking in Cambodia had dropped as a direct result of a government crackdown that netted 80 suspected drug producers.

"Drug trafficking decreased because our authorities are fighting against it vigorously," he said.

Margaret Adamson, the Australian ambassador, attended the ceremony and congratulated the "government for their continued vigilance in the fight against drug production, distribution and drug trafficking".

She assured the audience that Australia would provide further financial and technical support to the NACD. "No society benefits from a thriving narcotics trade, but developing countries are particularly vulnerable to these negative consequences."

Though the new chairman of the NACD, Ke Kim Yan, said the recent busts had been an important step towards disrupting the drug trade, he acknowledged that the NACD could not afford to be complacent.

"Even though we have cracked down on drug production places, they will thrive again if they have the chance, so our authorities must keep their eyes open all the time," he said.

"A drug is not medicine or food or a game that we should want to test. In fact, it is a serious substance," Ke Kim Yan warned young Cambodians. "All the youths should remember that there is no way that drugs can help make your life better."

Court to revisit tribunal graft case

Written by Georgia Wilkins
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court prosecutors are considering reopening a criminal case into alleged kickbacks at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, defence lawyers said after a meeting with court officials Tuesday.

"They said they were going to move [the case] forward," Michiel Pestman, co-lawyer for Nuon Chea said, adding that prosecutors had "promised" to obtain a copy of a report on graft claims by the UN's oversight body, which was done in September but never made public. Pestman also said they were likely to summon director of administration Sean Visoth, who has been absent from the court for six months.

Ouk Savuth, deputy prosecutor at the Court of Appeals, said that he had received the case, but hadn't decided whether to reopen it.

The lawyers tried to meet with government officials Tuesday, but said the officials had declined to hold talks.

They also expressed concern about recently surfaced documents affiliating Helen Jarvis, a former press officer at the court and its current Victims' Unit head, with a Marxist political faction in Australia.

"[Her political beliefs] could have an influence on the fairness of the procedures," Pestman said. Jarvis and Richard Rogers, chief of defence, declined to comment Tuesday.

KRT suspect hearing cancelled

Photo by: Courtesy of Documentation Centre of Cambodia
Cambodia's "informal" Truth Commission in the 1980s.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Georgia Wilkins and Neth Pheaktra
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

A decision by judges to scrap a hearing on further prosecutions at the war crimes court has raised concerns that a resolution to the row has again been delayed.

ADECISION on the politically charged issue of whether Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal will investigate more suspects could be delayed by judges, prompting calls by civil society groups to consider substitutes such as a truth commission in place of the war crimes court.

Judges cancelled a hearing to announce whether further prosecutions could move forward, set for Friday, said international co-prosecutor Robert Petit, who added that he believed the judges had decided to publish their decision "on paper" rather than orally. He said he did not know when a ruling would be made.

"But in the case of Cambodia [a truth and reconciliation commission] certainly cannot be a substitute for the current cases, nor for the [additional] ones I seek to prosecute," warned Petit, saying that calls for additional mechanisms of justice should be used as a complement to, not substitute for, legal justice.

The judges' decision would resolve the months-old legal wrangle between Petit and his Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, who has sought to block further prosecutions, citing concerns for national stability.

Five former Khmer Rouge leaders are already in the tribunal's custody. Petit has proposed a second list of suspects that is believed to contain six lower-ranking cadres.

Legal monitors say the judges' decision would be a litmus test for the hybrid court, saying the tribunal, already battered by long-standing allegations of corruption, must demonstrate its independence and allow the second submission to move ahead.

Pre-trial Chamber President Prak Kimsan could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. The court's legal communications officer, Lars Olsen, said the chamber was "still seized" by the issue. But he could not specify when a decision would be made.

Political claims
If the judges do make their decision this week, it will come against a backdrop of escalating public statements from government officials who warn more submissions could plunge Cambodia into chaos.

Speaking at a summit between South Korea and ASEAN on Monday, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told the Associated Press that "we have to seek justice for our people" while considering the "peace and stability in the country".

Government comments on the issue have observers concerned about political pressure being put on judges.

We need to know that the decision [by judges] is a legal one, not a political one.

"We need to know that the decision is a legal one, not a political one," said Long Panhavuth, a court monitor for the Cambodia Justice Initiative.

His group, attached to the Open Society Justice Initiative, condemned government officials in May for wielding too much influence in the court.

Officials have staunchly denied having any involvement in judicial decisions.

"I hope the decision promotes justice," is all Petit would say on the issue.

Truth commission
Despite the absence of a decision, rights groups say they are already floating alternative ways to bring "complete" justice to victims.

The idea of a truth and reconciliation commission, similar to ones employed in South Africa and Sierra Leone, has been suggested, and Long Panhavuth affirmed that other mechanisms needed to be explored.

"The role of the court is not enough," he said, adding, however, that there would be legitimate challenges to building an effective commission.

"For a truth and reconciliation commission, you need money. You need political will. Otherwise, you will only get one corner of the story," he said.

Petit said Tuesday that a truth and reconciliation commission could complement the work of the court, so long as it wasn't treated as a substitute for legal justice.

"Impunity, generally, is too much of a problem not to be addressed to the full extent possible by this court. ... However, I do think that a [truth commission] or similar mechanism could be the logical continuation of our work," he added.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM), said a commission "was great idea", but one that shouldn't excuse a poorly working court.

"The ECCC is not a history department, library or NGO forum. It is a court, and a court is an important element of any human society and we need to give it complete independence to perform."

Police uncertain over fines for helmetless motorbike passengers

A motorbike driver wears a helmet in compliance with the traffic law on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Vong Sokheng and Robbie Corey-Boulet
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

A municipal order that went into effect Monday requires motorbike passengers to wear helmets, although the Land Traffic Law does not stipulate that helmetless passengers can be fined.

ABOUT 75 motorbike passengers caught riding without helmets have been stopped and "educated" by Phnom Penh Traffic Police so far this week in response to a municipal order that went into effect Monday, the deputy chief of the Traffic Police told the Post Tuesday.

El Narin said 48 helmet-less drivers had been administered fines of 3,000 riels (US$0.75) as part of an effort to ramp up compliance with the Land Traffic Law, which stipulates that drivers - but not passengers - are required to wear helmets.

Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur said Monday that the decision to enforce helmet regulations was prompted by remarks delivered May 19 by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who in a speech at the Ministry of Interior proposed an amendment to the traffic legislation that would empower police to confiscate motorbikes ridden by drivers without helmets.

Tin Prasoeur said he had launched a weeklong pilot program in which officers were warning passengers caught without helmets about the importance of complying with the municipal order, which requires motorbike drivers to carry extra helmets and passengers to wear them.

He said officers would begin fining helmetless passengers next week, but El Narin noted Tuesday that the Land Traffic Law does not include any mention of fines for passengers, adding that officers would continue to "educate" passengers about the municipal order after the conclusion of the pilot program.

Sam Socheata, road safety program manager for Handicap International Belgium, said she had been coordinating with the National Road Safety Committee to push for an amendment to the Land Traffic Law that would allow officers to fine helmetless passengers.

She said Handicap International "fully approved" of the municipal order, noting that the organisation's survey data suggests that motorbike drivers and passengers sustain similar injuries in accidents.

Handicap International's most recent data, from February 2009, indicated that 56 percent of drivers wore helmets compared with only 11 percent of passengers, Sam Socheata said.

The organisation's annual report for 2008, which has yet to be released, recorded 1,638 traffic fatalities, 1,107 of which occurred in accidents involving motorbikes, she said, adding that 70 to 80 percent of traffic fatalities involve head injuries.

Enforcing the rules
Ty Nath, a 40-year-old motorbike driver, said Monday that he was forced to pay 50,000 riels (about $12) after officers caught him driving without a helmet near Central Market. His two passengers weren't wearing helmets either.

He said the police did not bother to explain the specifics of the law or the municipal order.

"They just told me the fine was a compromise," he said before the officers returned and interrupted an interview.

Asked about the incident Tuesday, El Narin said those who feel they have been treated unfairly by Traffic Police officers are encouraged to file a complaint.

Reports on SR projects 'unfounded'

Written by Kyle Sherer
Wednesday, 03 June 2009


DEPUTY Prime Minister and Apsara Authority Chairman Sok An on Tuesday encouraged 300 delegates at the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC) to share information in order to dispel disingenuous media reports about the management of the ruins.

"Imprecise or incomplete information, sometimes completely unfounded or lies, is circulating," he said in remarks made as part of a two-day conference. "It falls to us to give, regularly and clearly, information on the works in progress."

He added, "In this way, we can avoid all risk of dissemination of baseless judgments or remarks on the protection and development of Angkor".

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the conference was convened to pool information and generate discussion about development projects in Siem Reap.

Sok An also said, "However satisfied we are, the common objective remains to do better."

Opposition MPs face wage cut after boycott of Assembly session


In a statement Friday, SRP lawmakers claimed the new Law on Disabilities fails to provide "full measures to protect women and children with disabilities from violence" and "the rights to own land and provision of decent employment, housing and free health care".

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Ruling party says 26 lawmakers could be ‘fined' for walkout, which opposition says was sparked by rejected changes to disabilities legislation.

RULING party lawmakers have warned that the National Assembly could slash the salaries of opposition Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party lawmakers for walking out of a parliamentary session in protest Friday.

CPP lawmaker Sman Teath said Tuesday that during the boycott, National Assembly Chairman Heng Samrin had told the secretariat to write down the names of opposition parliamentarians who left the meeting and that the body would consider cutting their salaries.

"The chairman said that, based on parliamentary regulations, parliamentarians who leave meetings without asking permission can be fined by a reduction in their salaries," Sman Teath said.

"Whether they are fined or not depends on a meeting [Heng Samrin] is holding with the committee to decide this. He cannot decide by himself."

Lawmakers make a base monthly salary of US$1,050, although it is unclear by how much this could be cut, he said. Sman Teath added that Heng Samrin has always tried to understand the positions of opposition lawmakers but lamented that they still did not follow the Assembly's regulations.


Opposition groups boycotted Friday's session, saying that they did so in protest against Heng Samrin's decision to reject their request for amendments to the Disabilities Law, which was passed without their recommendations.

SRP lawmaker Ho Vann said that the party had sent its request to CPP lawmaker Ho Naun, president of the Assembly's Special Committee for Public Health, Social Work, Labour and Women's Affairs Wednesday, but they were not called for follow-up discussions.

"Our boycott was undertaken because we had asked for changes to the law in the interests of disabled people, but when [CPP lawmakers] did not listen to our requests, we decided to leave the meeting," he said.

"We do not care about salary cuts. We have not seen any law stating that our salaries would be cut ... but whether they cut our salaries is up to them."

Committee President Ho Naun, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Hang Puthea, executive director of election monitoring group Nicfec, said that the threat of salary cuts was not technically correct because the law was not clear on the point.

"I think that both the ruling party and opposition parties should resolve this properly ... so that people can have confidence in them," he said.

Court questions the plaintiff in botched plastic surgery case

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Ex-schoolteacher says 2 Phnom Penh surgeons were careless during ear operation that disfigured the right side of her face.

A MUNICIPAL Court deputy prosecutor on Tuesday questioned a former schoolteacher who claims two Phnom Penh surgeons disfigured the right side of her face during botched ear surgery last year.

Nhem Tyhem Marin, 59, filed a complaint May 11 against Ly Bunchhoeun, a nose, throat and ear surgeon at Preah Ang Duong Hospital, and Duong Chheak, a surgeon at Calmette Hospital, seeking US$100,000 in compensation.

It's completely their fault for not fulfilling their... obligations.

"It's completely their fault for not fulfilling their professional obligations to treat my client in a careful way after receiving $500 to conduct ear surgery," said her lawyer, Som Chandina.

‘Careless' work
The complaint alleges that the surgeons were "careless" during the August 2008 operation, which Nhem Tyhem Marin says left her mouth, right eye and right ear disfigured. According to the complaint, her mouth "was not straight" and her eye "was unable to close" immediately after the operation, though the surgeons, she said, told her she would recover fully within one week.

Som Chandina stated in an interview that the surgeons later said it would take six months for her to recover, then paid her $2,200 to pursue treatment in Vietnam on the condition that she would not bring her complaint to Cambodian courts.

He said his client travelled to Vietnam in March and was told by doctors there that they could do nothing to help her and that the affected eye and ear would likely be paralysed forever.

Calls placed with both hospitals in an attempt to reach Ly Bunchhoeun and Duong Chheak went unreturned Tuesday. Both have been summoned to appear Monday before Deputy Prosecutor Heang Sopheak in Municipal Court.

Wildlife busts down across region: ASEAN watchdog

An illegal hunter of wildlife displays a turtle - which will be cooked and eaten - in Battambang province last week

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Christopher Shay And Sam Rith
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Experts says animal seizures have decreased in Cambodia since 2005 but that illegal wildlife trade remains active.

IN the first three months of 2009, some 5,410 animal seizures and 38 arrests were made by wildlife law enforcement agencies across Southeast Asia - a sharp decline compared with last year, according to recently released statistics from ASEAN's Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN).

With 24,175 animal rescues in the region in the second half of 2008, the number of wildlife enforcement actions in Southeast Asia lags far behind last year's pace.

In Cambodia, the number of seizures has been steadily dropping since 2005 when there were 6,294 seizures, compared with 2,933 in 2008, according to a Forestry Administration document obtained by the Post.

But Nick Marx, a Wildlife Alliance adviser to the Forestry Administration's Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT), says there could be multiple reasons for the apparent drop in Cambodia's wildlife trade, saying the WRRT and increased fines could have deterred many people from entering into the wildlife trade, or that traders had gotten one step ahead of enforcement and were not being caught.

Finally, he said, "There could just be less wildlife around."

ASEAN-WEN, which claims to be the largest wildlife law enforcement network in the world, highlighted one major animal trafficking bust in Cambodia when the WRRT rescued 150 live animals from traders in Pursat province on March 30 after a high-speed car chase.

"That might be the biggest rescue, but there have been many other smaller ones," said Marx.

Meng Sinoeurn, a Military Police officer who participated in the March bust in Pursat, said that partnerships between Cambodia and its neighbours had improved Cambodia's ability to uncover international trafficking networks.

"Good cooperation with neighbouring countries can preserve the wildlife in Cambodia because we can respond more quickly to protect the animals," he said.

Before Cambodia worked with other countries to combat the illegal wildlife trade, it had never successfully raided traders at the borders, Meng Sinoeurn said.

"But this year, due to international cooperation, we have discovered cases of illegal wildlife trading before they reach the border," he said.

The director of Forestry Administration, Ty Sokhun, said Cambodia has been sharing information about illegal wildlife trading with other countries for the last five years but emphasised that actual arrests are made by Cambodian authorities.

30 questioned in land dispute, groups say

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

KAMPONG Chhnang officials questioned 30 residents from Kampong Tralach district's Lor Peang village over a long-running land dispute that has pitted villagers against local authorities, rights groups said Tuesday.

Lor Peang residents claim the village chief and commune councilors forced them to thumbprint documents in February that signalled their agreement to hand 145 hectares of land to KDC, a local developer.

Tot Kim Sroy, provincial coordinator for the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), which filed complaints on behalf of the villagers in March, said Tuesday that Kampong Tralach district Deputy Governor Pich Khorn questioned over 30 villagers about their complaints.

"I think it is very good that the authorities have conducted an investigation into their complaints," Tot Kim Sroy said. "I observed that there was really a threat [against the villagers]."

Tot Kim Sroy added that Pich Khorn let the villagers return home and will now report back to provincial Governor Touch Marim.

KDC first laid claim to the land in 2006, prompting villagers to file their initial complaint in the provincial court, which rejected it.

Villagers and rights groups involved in the case say KDC bought part of a 512-hectare plot of land in 2006. KDC claims to have purchased the entire plot, including the disputed 145 hectares, and produced legal titles for it in August 2007.

"At the present time, the 64 families that have handed over farmland are now in a dispute with the company," said resident representative Om Sophy, who added that 14 houses have been destroyed by bulldozers since September 2008.

Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said he "welcomed" the investigations into the dispute, but said the process should have been completed long ago.

"The authorities should have conducted the investigation on this long-simmering dispute from the beginning, so as not to extend it until now," he said.

Govt slams US envoy over corruption claims

Written by Post Staff
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

GOVERNMENT officials have lashed out at recent comments by US Ambassador Carol Rodley, who claimed that Cambodia is losing US$500 million every year to corruption.

Rodley made the comments in a speech at the "Clean Hands" anti-corruption concert on Saturday night, during which she also called on the government to adopt its long-awaited Anti-corruption Law.

In a statement Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected Rodley's comments, labeling them "politically motivated and unsubstantiated".
"It is very much regrettable that a representative of a foreign government has made such an allegation based on a biased assessment and without any proof," the statement said.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia wishes to remind all members of the diplomatic corps that they must maintain their neutrality and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of Cambodia."

Om Yentieng, head of the government-run Committee of Human Rights, also rejected the comments, claiming they showed a political bias.

"I don't think madame ambassador would consider herself as opposition [to the government] because we have an opposition party already," he said at a press conference at the Ministry of Information on Tuesday, adding that he would resign his post if the Anti-corruption Law is not adopted in the near future.

US embassy spokesman John Johnson said Tuesday that the embassy declined to comment on the matter.

Publisher accused of defamation

Embattled Pro-Sam Rainsy Party newspaper Khmer Machas Srok News on newsstands Tuesday.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sam Rith
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Opposition publisher to face civil and criminal charges during Municipal Court hearing today.

A GOVERNMENT lawyer said Tuesday that he had filed defamation charges against the publisher of a daily Khmer-language opposition newspaper, one week after the publisher received a Municipal Court summons to answer to criminal charges filed in the same case.

Suong Chanthan said he filed the defamation charges against Hang Chakra, publisher of the Pro-Sam Rainsy Party newspaper Khmer Machas Srok News, during a May 21 meeting with prosecutor Sok Roeun, who is handling the case. The civil complaint asks for compensation totalling 10 million riels (US$2,415).

The criminal "false information" charges were filed May 11. According to the Press Law, the court may impose a fine of between 1 million riels and 5 million riels for publishing false information.

Corruption coverage
Hang Chakra told the Post Tuesday that the charges stemmed from three articles - published on April 5, April 7 and May 2 - that he said.

uncovered corruption on the part of officials working under Deputy Prime Minister Sok An.

Suong Chanthan declined to discuss the details of either complaint in advance of a hearing scheduled for today.

Hang Chakra said he planned to answer to both complaints at the hearing.

"In order to ensure widespread journalistic freedoms in Cambodia, I am going to the court on June 3 to answer to the charges, which are serious," he said. "I hope that the law will protect me."

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee issued a statement Tuesday in which 21 NGOs expressed concern about the charges, calling them a "threat to journalists".

Border camps, Buddhism and building a mission

Sister Denise Coughlan, director of the Jesuit-backed NGO Jesuit Services, at the group's office in Tuol Kork district.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Jesuit Services head Sister Denise Coughlan speaks about life in the refugee camps, ‘rice Christians' and the challenges of reconciliation.

How did you first end up in Cambodia?

I started off working in the refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border. We had this discernment process, to see if by staying in the camps were we just looking after one particular political faction and not really involved with the development of the whole [country]. The decision we finally came to was that some people would stay in the refugee camps and stay with the refugees until the end, that another lot would work completely outside with the Buddhist monks in advocacy work, and a third group would come into Cambodia. So I was one of the four original people who came into Cambodia from the refugee camps [in 1990].

Which faction was in charge of your camp?

The camp that I was in was controlled by the KPNLF [Khmer People's National Liberation Front]. There were Khmer Rouge camps further down the borderline, but of course they were mostly just civilians who were part of the Khmer Rouge escape route. Then there was the royalist camp, the Sihanoukists. What happened is the people set up schools for themselves and they were helped by aid agencies, and quite a lot of education went on. The people who took their chances, and especially the ones who learned English, did well, but as in Cambodia the great mass of people were still pretty badly off. People lived on the rations: Rice came in on trucks and water came in on trucks, so if you didn't join the education group or get involved with some craft, it was a pretty boring life. There were quite a few who had a dream to get to a third country. Then there was the mass who were sitting in no-man's-land.


How did your experience in the camps differ from what you encountered inside Cambodia?

Inside the refugee camps, you had a prison city: It was the second-biggest city in the country. There was a life that went from 9 to 5 in the daytime, when the international people were there, and then from 5 until 9 again the next morning when it was just the Cambodian leaders and the Thai guards [in charge]. There was a lot of shelling when I was in the camp. When I came [to Cambodia] in 1989, there was a very controlled freedom. NGOs had to get permission to go anywhere. We were fairly lucky because we were allowed to set up in the countryside.... But here, at least, there was some sense of the future. Cambodia had a chance for people to start forging a future for themselves.

Since then, what has been the biggest change you have noticed in Phnom Penh?

The superficial change has been the change in the roads, the buildings and the physical infrastructure. I think the gap between the rich and the poor is worse now than when I came in 1990. That's my analysis of the situation. I think a lot of the people who are poor are probably a lot less poor than they were when I first came. But the gap is incredible now. I wonder if this city-versus-country class conflict will grow up again, which was the basis for the Pol Pot revolution.

Have you seen this city-country divide affect aid work here?

[Jesuit Services] started in the countryside in 1990, and then we went to Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom quite early on. Probably the people who are most articulate in having something to say about the gap between the rich and the poor are some of the city folks, the more educated of the city who are talking about it through opposition politics or through social networks, like the coalition for housing rights. But among the student population, I don't see that much awareness. To me, they seem to think they've got it pretty good, and they're not going to rock the boat.

What is the history of the Jesuits in Cambodia, and what work do you now do here?

Well, the Jesuits first came here in 1450, but ... the stable Jesuit group has been here since 1990. When we came in, we had three goals. One was to work among people with disabilities. Then we had rural development, and we tried different ways to promote some sort of reconciliation. Eventually, we started a school for people with disabilities at Banteay Preap, about 25 kilometres from Phnom Penh, [which] produced wheelchairs and got deeply involved in the campaign against land mines and cluster bombs. We wanted to address the root causes of disability. The government actually invited us to take in students from Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap, and that meant that we had in the same workshops people from the four different factions. It was a symbolic reconciliation. We didn't harp on it, but we had KR, KPNLF, Funcinpec and the Procheachon party [CPP] working together and making wheelchairs for one another.

I imagine that religious organisations run a fine line between performing charity work and proselytising - of producing "rice Christians". How do you perceive this challenge?

I am absolutely and utterly opposed to that sort of approach. We say in our mission statement that we're here for the people of Cambodia, especially those in greatest need. We've made a definite effort to include on our staff Buddhists and Christians, women and men, refugees and nonrefugees, people with disabilities and those without. We don't proselytise at all. Sometimes people are attracted to [Catholicism] and I'm happy if they are, but we certainly don't have any mass baptisms.

How do you perceive your work as an aid organisation?

You don't have credibility defending human rights or advocating if you don't have some grassroots involvement. I think you need to do the two things simultaneously. Not everybody can do both, but the grassroots will give credibility to the advocacy, and advocacy without grassroots support comes from the sky, and people can make noises about things that don't really affect the lives of the people. So we see ourselves as addressing the needs of people at different levels, at the grassroots, the national level and the international level.

Do you see your role here as permanent?

I see the role of the Catholic Church in Cambodia as permanent. I mean, it has been here since the 1400s. And to keep some international people in the country will act as an umbrella for human rights monitoring, and the whole notion of a global universal society is a good thing. But all our programmes here are run by Cambodian people.

Do you see more people being attracted to the Catholic Church? What role do you see it playing in the future?

I think the Catholic Church here will always be small. Cambodia calls Buddhism the state religion, but to be Cambodian is almost to be Buddhist - the two things are very closely entwined. But the two basic tenets of Buddhism are compassion and wisdom, and I think compassion is something the Cham [Muslims] at their best and the Christians at their best can unite over. "Loving kindness" we call it, which is the heart of Buddhism, the heart of Christianity and part of the heart of the Islamic tradition.

Based on your experiences, do you think the Khmer Rouge tribunal will offer some sense of closure or reconciliation to Cambodians?

I've gone back and forth on this over the years. Nearly all my staff older than 30 experienced the KR, and they are still traumatised from losing people and losing their own chances for a future. I think the truth has to be told. We can't have impunity. If the trial does allow some things to be written about the KR that haven't been heard before, it will at least put some closure on the past. I honestly don't see in the majority of Cambodian people a great need for revenge against Duch.

In Buddhist conceptions of justice, there is an emphasis on forgiving and forgetting. Do you think Western forms of justice have much of an analogue in Cambodian culture?

Well, many Cambodians will think that these people will come back in their next life in a very bad form. Maha Gosananda, who is a Buddhist I really like, always preached that "hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed", and that's basically Buddhism at its heart. But a just love would have to have the truth told as well.


Banteay Meanchey eyes huge yearly rice export

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Banteay Meanchey Governor Ung Oeun says he hopes to cooperate with hundreds of rice millers to complete the proposed deal.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by May Kunmakara
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Provincial governor negotiates 500,000-tonne-a-year contract with Singaporean traders, prompting scepticism

SINGAPOREAN rice traders have discussed a deal with Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities requesting to purchase 500,000 tonnes of milled and unmilled rice per year to sell to the Philippines, Governor Ung Oeun told the Post Tuesday, despite scepticism that the deal could fall through.

Discussions on the proposal - which would represent 25 percent of Cambodia's total rice exports for 2008 - took place on Thursday, the governor said.

"I promised them [the Singaporeans] that I can offer 500,000 tonnes of rice to sell every year," he said, adding that this year his province registered a 270,000-tonne surplus for export.

The governor said that he would make up any shortfall by sourcing rice from Battambang province.

"We just finished our discussions on exporting rice, and now we are working out the price and means of transport - they [the Singaporeans] have offered to buy a number of different strains of rice," said Ung Oeun, refusing to name the traders in question.

The Kingdom produced 7 million tonnes of rice last year, exporting the surplus 2 million tonnes, meaning that the Banteay Meanchey deal - if realised - would account for more than 7 percent of Cambodia's total annual rice production.

Ung Oeun said he was working hard to cooperate with more than 200 private rice millers and 20 state millers to procure rice from farmers.

"I am trying my best to ... negotiate setting the price with them," said Ung Oeun. "They have the market but they cannot increase prices when we buy from them."

The governor said he hoped to gain permission from the Ministry of Commerce ahead of concluding an export agreement by the end of the year.

I would be happy ... However, I have never seen such an export deal materialise.

Another Banteay Meanchey official said he had seen numerous similar deals collapse.

"I would be happy if they could export rice from my province," said President of Banteay Meanchey Chamber of Commerce Ly Uttny. "However, I have never seen such an export deal materialise."

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said rice exports had suffered from poor quality - Cambodia has a lack of milling and drying machines, meaning grains are too often broken - and more competitive prices from neighbouring countries, particularly Vietnam and Thailand, among the world's largest exporters of the crop.

"If we could sell large amounts of rice to them [the Singaporeans] that would be good because the ministry is trying hard to find a market for agricultural exports," said Mao Thora. "But we need to give the buyers a fair price."

Grade-1 milled rice prices have dropped 1.6 percent this year to an average of 2,460 riels (US$0.59) per kilogram on Phnom Penh markets Tuesday. Unmilled rice has climbed 8 percent in the same period to 1,080 riels per kilo.

Building of exchange to start in November

Written by Steve Finch
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

CONSTRUCTION of Cambodia's stock exchange is set to begin in November, the contractor responsible said Tuesday, as South Korea's World City Co Ltd finalises architecture plans with the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

"After the rainy season we will start [building]," said Duk-kon Kim, vice president of the project management team at World City, which is building the stock exchange at Camko City, a satellite city on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
The structure is estimated to cost US$6 million to build, Kim said.

Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said last week that finalisation of the design for the four-storey, 6,000-square-metre exchange building "should be soon". Kim added that the ministry had recently made adjustments to designs submitted by World City architects that are now being incorporated.

He said that construction is scheduled to take eight months from November, with a further three months required for "testing and commissioning", after which it would be handed over to the Finance Ministry. All water and electricity infrastructure was already in place, he added.

The government said previously that it planned to open the stock exchange in December. But while the incorporation of the stock exchange company would probably happen by the end of the year, the opening of the exchange itself would likely come later.

"I think it will be 2010," said Hang Chuon Naron.

Govt to offer $1m in loans to laid-off garment workers

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Garment workers strike outside a Phnom Penh factory in this file photo. Laid-off garment workers will be offered a total of US$1 million in concessionary loans to help start up new businesses.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Chun Sophal
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Financial package – which offers loans at 1.5 percent interest – will come with certain conditions for unemployed workers, says Labour Ministry

THE Ministry of Labour announced Tuesday that it has earmarked US$1 million in financial aid for garment workers made redundant by the downturn in the sector, enabling them to apply for small loans to help them kick start small businesses of their own.

The micro-loans will be available to laid-off workers who complete short vocational training courses organised by the ministry, labour officials said.

Heng Suor, administrative and financial director at the Labour Ministry, said workers would be lent between $100 and $1,000 at an interest rate of 1.5 percent per month if they present a clear plan for their business, a certificate issued by the ministry and at least three references from other workers.

"We hope that workers will be able to increase their income through our loans ... and we hope that they will become independent in their living," he said, adding that the loans would be available from September.

He said that local villagers would benefit from these small businesses, too, as they will gain access to more local services.

Last month, the Cambodian government provided $7 million in special scholarships to provide short vocational training courses to 40,500 garment workers who had lost their jobs at garment factories, helping them to retrain themselves during the economic downturn.

According to ministry reports, 10,000 of the 40,500 workers were trained in skills such as make-up art, radio and television repairs, mechanics and weaving. The rest have been trained in agricultural skills.

Som Aun, president of the National Federal Chamber of Unions of Cambodia, which represents a total of 190,000 garment workers, said Tuesday that the act of financing garment workers to run new businesses and abandon their jobs in the garment sector could be a step towards improving workers' lifestyles.

"I think the fund is of great importance to help workers in the garment sector, but the Ministry of Labour must try its best to get those workers to learn skills that respond to the needs of the present job markets," he said.

However, Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, was less optimistic, saying that corruption would prevent the government's financial support plan from fully benefiting workers.

"I believe that the workers will receive at most only 30 percent of the total for their new businesses, and the other 70 percent will go into the hands of corrupt government officials," he said. "In my opinion, the $1 million that the government plans to lend to workers is a figure only."

ASEAN due to hold copyright meeting

Written by Ros Dina
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

ASEAN will hold a meeting on copyright protection on June 15 in Thailand to streamline procedures and reduce piracy, a statement by the bloc said Tuesday.

Var Rath San, director of the Intellectual Property Department, said the meeting would aim to find common ground on patent certification for the 10 ASEAN member states. The talks will focus on harmonising the language and paperwork for each ASEAN member.

"If someone from Thailand wants to use their brand name in Cambodia, he will only have to register in Cambodia ... the application for patents can be done in one place because under current rules, an applicant has to file in each ASEAN country," he said, adding that under current rules, patent applicants must hire 10 lawyers if they wanted patents to apply to all ASEAN states.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said the proposed system would protect brand names, cut fraud and reduce piracy.

1st cassava processing plant to be built

Written by Thet Sambath
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

A DRY cassava processing plant is under construction in Banteay Meanchey's Svay Chek district, which local businessmen say will help cassava farmers and boost the domestic industry.

The 6-hectare facility, which began construction a week ago, will be the first of its kind in the Kingdom that is able to dry and store cassava, according to businessman Te Haing, who is funding construction of the plant.

"Cassava farmers will be happy when this factory is up and running because it will help dry their cassava and store it for the market," said Te Haing, who owns 1,000 hectares of cassava farms in Banteay Meanchey.

Previously, he added, Cambodian farmers have sold cassava directly to Thai businessmen who have dried cassava for export overseas.

Lacking processing facilities of its own, Cambodia was hit hard when the Thai government blocked the import of Cambodian cassava at the beginning of 2009 in order to protect Thai farmers. Only last month was the blockade lifted.

"I am very disappointed with Thai officials banning the export of Cambodian farmers' cassava into Thailand. It taught me that I should build this factory to help our farmers export their goods to other countries," he said. "When we have this factory, we can dry and pack cassava for export to China, South Korea and other countries."

He added that the plant would be completed in two or three months at a cost of US$1 million.

Banteay Meanchey provincial Governor Ung Oeun welcomed the construction of the factory, calling it "good news" for the province's cassava farmers.

"Before, farmers expected Thai businessmen to buy cassava, but the Thai government has banned Cambodians' cassava," he said. "Soon, they will not need to wait for Thai businessmen; they can dry cassava in Cambodia and pack it to sell overseas."

He said there were 20,000 hectares of cassava farms in Banteay Meanchey, capable of producing 750,000 tonnes of cassava crop. In addition, Battambang and Pailin provinces had the potential to produce another 1 million tonnes.

Farmer Seng Lida, who owns around 10 hectares of cassava fields in Pailin province, said the factory was an excellent idea and called on the government to build more processing plants - including canning factories - to help bolster the agricultural sector.

"When there are factories, people will plant trees and crops for them to produce. But there is not yet any factory for canning fruits," he said. "If the government wants to reduce poverty inside the country, they must find investors and build factories."

Inside Business: Tuk-tuks drive local entrepreneur

Workers weld together the latest tuk-tuk to roll off the production line at Loun Vanna’s Phnom Penh factory Tuk Tuk Craft.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

After years of expansion and tuk-tuk-building expertise, businesman sees downturn hit production

LOVE them or hate them, tuk-tuks have become a permanent fixture on Phnom Penh's streets, doing everything from zipping tourists around the city's sites, to carrying chickens and building materials.

Local entrepreneur Loun Vanna says he had a lot to do with the introduction of the three-wheel vehicle to Phnom Penh, and that he learned about them on visits to Vietnam and Thailand.

"I noticed in 1998 that my country was not making any tuk-tuks, so I decided to learn how to make them. When I came home from Vietnam and Thailand, I started a small business with an initial investment of US$10,000," he said.

Loun Vanna, 30, decided to take a risk by closing his construction materials shop and launching Tuk Tuk Craft, rolling out the first vehicles in 2000.

Now, Loun Vanna says his customers come from around the country where the tuk-tuks are used as taxis or for personal transport.

"Tuk-tuks are more popular than motorcycle taxis because they are safe and they can carry cargo," he said.

His business started with only three employees, and now employs 10, paid between $150 and $250 depending on experience.

The factory builds about 10 units per month, which sell for between $500 and $550. Each tuk-tuk takes 3-4 days to finish, and most of the raw materials are imported from Vietnam, including welding machines, dying machines, metal cutters, cast iron machines and chisels.

But even Tuk Tuk Craft is not immune to a global financial meltdown that started thousands of miles away, and Loun Vanna estimates sales have dropped 30 to 40 percent since late 2008.

"In 2007 and 2008 business was good, and we were working nonstop. We had no time for breaks. Cambodia's property market was strong, and many Cambodians had a lot of money from selling their land," he said.

He recalls that that in 2007-08, his company earned between $1,500 and $1,800 per month, but that profits have since dropped below $1,000 per month.

"It is very hard to make a good quality tuk-tuk - we must take time and make them correctly," he said.

Even with sales slumping, Loun Vanna says he plans to borrow money to expand the factory and boost quality. He said that the government and banks could play a part in making small businesses like his grow and succeed. At the top of his list is credit, which he says is too costly in Cambodia.

"Banks should offer fair interest rates," he said, adding that low-cost loans would allow him to expand.

Another priority, he said is cutting Cambodia's prohibitive energy prices, which he says cost his company $250 to $300 per month.

"I want the government to encourage all SMEs in Cambodia - the key is cheaper credit and lower electricity prices," he said.

Residential rentals reduced

Rentals are dropping on apartments in Phnom Penh amid low demand and high vacancies.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Soeun Say
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Figures released by the National Valuers Association of Cambodia show rental rates are down – but agents say the actual decline is more dramatic

Rentals have fallen on top-end residential units in Phnom Penh following a decline in the number of home seekers.

Meanwhile, new vacancies increased in the fallout from the depressed global economy, apartment owners and agents say.

Kong Vannsophy, assistant to the CEO of Cambodian Priority Property Investment Co, said apartments that his company was asking just $2,500 per month for now were renting for $3,200 early last year, while average villa prices had dropped from $3,500 a month to $3,000, including furnishings, water, electricity and security.

"There are a lot of apartments to rent now because no new investors are coming and many have left," he said.

"Cambodia's business environment is now too unstable."

But with few new investors setting up in Cambodia, lower rentals were not necessarily helping landlords find tenants in what has rapidly become a renters' market.

Visal Real Estate Director Sear Chilin said his company had 50 apartments and 40 villas available for rent in prime locations around Phnom Penh.

"The owners of apartments call me every day asking, ‘What is going on with my apartment now, do you have clients to rent my apartment yet?'," he said.

Some clients had dropped their asking rentals for villas by as much as $1,000 from the $2,500 asked for before the global economic crisis began derailing the local economy last year, he said.

Moung Sitha, the owner of a three-bedroom furnished apartment on Street 310 in Chamkarmorn commune, said slashing his rental price had not helped him find tenants.

"Potential tenants said the asking price of $2,500 a month was too expensive - so I reduced my rental to $1,700, but still nobody has taken the place," he said.

He said he had decided to look for tenants himself as real estate agents had set the price higher than he believed was realistic for the market.

Official figures
Numbers released by the National Valuers Association of Cambodia at a conference in Vietnam in late April also show rentals are down, although not by as much as agents spoken to the Post are claiming.

The association said rentals were down around 15 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to a year earlier.

Rentals began decreasing in the second half of 2008 after increasing between 25 and 30 percent from 2005 until the beginning of 2008, its figures showed.

Valuers Association President Sung Bonna told Prime Location average rentals on a three-bedroom apartment in the central city were US$2,500 per month on average over the first three months of 2008 but dropped to between $2,000 and $2,200 per month over the same period this year.

In Boeung Keng Kang I district, apartment rentals had dropped to between $1,600 and $2,000 per month from as much as $2,500 last year.

"Because of the impact of the global financial crisis, rentals for apartments, villas and flat have dropped, just as rentals for commercial premises have dropped," Sung Bonna said.

Landlord Por Em said he refused to drop the rent further on an apartment after already dropping the price from $1,500 last year to only $1,200 a month now.

"Renters want me to discount the price in the same way that rentals on other apartments in Phnom Penh have decreased, but I refused so they have all gone to look for another place," he said.

Classic Khmer food served in an intimate bistro setting

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Phnom Penh’s Kravanh restaurant serves artfully prepared and inexpensive Khmer dishes.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Stephanie Mee
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Phnom Penh’s Kravanh restaurant serves reasonably priced mix of popular Khmer dishes and more unusual regional fare in comfortable surroundings

When foreign friends of Toan Sophie would ask her where to find good Khmer food in Phnom Penh, she was always hesitant to make a recommendation. Which place would be comfortable, clean, reasonably priced and representative of classic Khmer dishes? It was her lack of an answer to this question that eventually led her to open Kravanh with her sister and brother-in-law.

"When my sister and her family moved back to Cambodia from Southern France, they approached me with the idea of opening a restaurant," said Toan Sophie, while simultaneously greeting the flood of hungry lunchtime patrons pouring through the door. "I told them that what is missing here is typical Khmer food in a nice setting, but at reasonable prices."

Located in the Hong Kong Centre on Sothearos Boulevard, the intimate bistro-like setting exudes good taste, with dark wooden chairs and tables, original paintings depicting Cambodian daily life and elegant reed place mats.

At first glance, the restaurant might seem to be quite high-end, with its smooth lines, crisp air-conditioning, sleek modern plates and wine glasses at each place setting; but the artfully prepared Khmer dishes are actually a steal at only US$4-$6.50 a plate.

"My plan was not just to make money, but also to promote Khmer food," said Toan Sophie. "I want more people to taste Khmer food, and so I want to offer dishes at prices that everyone can afford."

My plan was not just to make money, but also to promote khmer food.

Mixed cuisine
The fare at Kravanh is a mix of popular Khmer dishes that can be found all over Cambodia, as well as a few dishes that are not commonly served in most Khmer restaurants.

Starters include Neang Lao, a mixture of sauteed ground pork with peanuts, wrapped in steamed sweet potato leaves, and served with crispy golden sheets of fried sticky rice, or the more commonly known pork spring rolls with vegetables, although grilled rather than deep fried.

"Normally spring rolls can be quite greasy, so we decided to grill them instead to cut out all the fat and make them healthier," said Toan Sophie.

She explained that while some Khmer food is fried, most dishes are actually very natural and healthy, as they are made with fresh herbs and vegetables.

"If you freeze or refrigerate your ingredients, you lose about half of the taste, and then you don't get the true Khmer tastes and smells," she said.

Main courses at Kravanh rely heavily on fresh ingredients, as is evident with the popular nom banchok curry, a steaming bowl of rice vermicelli noodles topped with sizable chunks of sweet potato, eggplant, crunchy green beans and bean sprouts, julienne cucumber, and tender, juicy chicken literally falling off the bone, all swimming in a mild yellow curry broth.

Toan Sophie says that the most popular dish with Khmer visitors has been the Soup of the Forest, a spicy and hearty soup with sliced beef and fresh green morning glory in a slightly sour and tangy tamarind-flavoured base.

"In the future, I hope to include more regional dishes," said Toan Sophie. "For example, in Battambang they make a dish with fried honeycomb and bananas that is very delicious, and in Siem Reap and in some parts of the west, coconut cream is used quite often in curries and soups. But for now, we're just testing out popular Khmer dishes you might find anywhere in Cambodia."

Although the menu at Kravanh is truly Khmer, evidence of the time that Toan Sophie and her family spent in France is apparent from the simple yet discerning wine list, and the aesthetically pleasing, cosy wooden bar that offers a collection of fine spirits and aperitifs, freshly brewed coffee and various sodas and juices.

As snippets of jovial French conversation audibly blend with Khmer and English in the background, Toan Sophie reiterates her love for Khmer cuisine.

"I love to cook and our family loves to eat, so I hope that people will visit us and enjoy the true Khmer tastes that we love so much," she said.

Enjoy traditional Khmer cuisine in the elegant yet reasonably priced Kravanh at 110 Sothearos Boulevard.

Land ministry will enforce new disabled law, director says

Written by Soeun Say
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

THE government's construction office has not yet assessed the impact on the sector of a new disability law passed last week but a senior ministry official said the law would be enforced.

"We must be responsible," said Im Chamrong, director general of the construction department at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

"The Ministry of Land Management will require that all buildings have disabled access for disabled people."

He acknowledged Monday that he was not aware the law had been passed Friday by the National Assembly but said he was confident that most developers already considered disabled access. It was also among the criteria considered by the ministry when approving developments, he said.

However, Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People's Organisation (CDPO) told Prime Location last month that 95 percent of public buildings in Cambodia did not have disabled access. There are more than 550,000 persons with disability in Cambodia, according to the CDPO.

The law, which was passed after more than 10 years of discussion, requires equal access to public places, including buildings, for people with disabilities.

Public places are defined as "areas, buildings, premises and transportation means owned by state, public or private entities which are open to general public such as ministries, departments, institutions, roads, resorts, cultural centres, sporting places, recreational places, educational establishment, hotels, hospitals, health centres, restaurants, transportation systems, etc".

Handicap International said in a media statement it was pleased to see the goverment was taking its responsibilities to protect and promote the rights of persons with disability seriously.

"This legislation is a landmark accomplishment that will serve to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Cambodian persons with disability and, by extension, improve the lives of all Cambodian people," the statement read.

Ngin Saorath said CDPO would keep a close eye on the government to ensure the law would be followed.

"We will observe the government to ensure it implements the law," he said.

"If not, we will give the government more ideas for protecting the rights of disabled people to a better life."

Kao Roomchang steps it up

21-year-old Kao Roomchang of Battambang scored the biggest win of his career May 24 by outpointing 60-kg titlist Lao Sinath at TV5 boxing arena. ROBERT STARKWEATHER

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robert Starkweather
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

Rising young kickboxing star Kao Roomchang will face his toughest test yet against legendary fighter Nuon Soriya Sunday at TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao

KAO Roomchang will take another big step up Sunday when he faces Nuon Soriya, one of boxing's most durable veterans, in the main event Sunday at TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao.

The 21-year-old rising star from Battambang enters the ring coming off the biggest win of his career, a decision victory over Lao Sinath, the 60-kilogram champion.

Nuon Soriya will be the most experienced fighter he has ever faced.
Kao Roomchang began fighting in 2007, and has notched up a record of 25-5-2 in his relatively brief two-year career.

Nuon Soriya has fought for nearly two decades, answering questions about his record in number of years rather than number of fights. "Eighteen," he said.

Nuon Soriya, who gives his age at 29, expects few problems from the younger Battambang fighter Sunday. The experience quotient comes down heavily in his favor, with the pair similar in height, reach and size.

"He will be easy for me," Nuon Soriya said.

Maybe. Kao Roomchang's unrelenting style gives many of his opponents problems, as they struggle to keep up with his furious pace. A natural southpaw, he fights comfortably and carries power from both sides.

Kao Roomchang claims victories over many top-notch opponents, but his pedigree as a champion remains unproven. Nuon Soriya, who is not only strong but well-versed in the science of the sport, will likely prove one of his hardest tests.

Nuon Soriya will drop down to 63 kilograms, Kao Roomchang's typical fighting weight, for the match Sunday.

A native of Kampong Cham, Nuon Soriya fights for the Ministry of Interior Boxing Club. He also has his own club, Samrek Reachsey Bangkrab Kroeung-Nhean, which literally translates to Lion's Roar Bans Drugs, under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior's anti-drug division.

Kao Roomchang, a soldier with Brigade 43, fights for Club Anlong Veng.

Fights start at 3:30pm Sunday at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao

Phnom Penh Aside: Chilling in Kampot

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
View of the river from a guesthouse just outside Kampot town.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Kevin Britten
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

WE think of Kampot as a pretty little town with nothing to do for good reason. It's true. There are no sights of any interest, no ruins and Bokor is closed, which isn't really a big loss - a hill can be seen from the bottom as easily as it can be seen from the top.

The beaches around Kampot are pretty miserable - mud and stones, mostly - but the upside is that crabs thrive here, so although you can't frolic on golden sand, you can get a damn good crab lunch.

The rock crabs are usually better than the blue and are at their best cooked in black pepper.
On the beachfront in nearby Kep, they will cost around US$11.50 a kilogram.

Phnom Penh's residents go to Kampot to get away from the noise and stress of the city and to laze around in hammocks watching the river flow past. Well actually, it doesn't flow past - it's tidal, so it just swirls around most of the time.

The setting of river and hills is an unbeatable combination for relaxation.

As there is so little light pollution, you can see the stars at night, and guesthouses generally have gardens to hang out in.

The town market is of little interest, as the only things worth buying - pepper and fruit - can also be found elsewhere.

The Kampot durian is of the highest quality, and squeamish foreigners who have taken a dislike to durian without ever trying it should take the opportunity to sample the pleasures of this special fruit.

For several reasons, durian should be enjoyed at point-of purchase, be it on the roadside or in a market. Foreigners have neither the correct tools nor appropriate skills to open it without loss of blood. Transporting it on a motorbike also involves the risk of serious injury, as it is sharp all over and comes with only the flimsiest of built-in handles.

The necessities
There is a small community of foreign restaurant and bar operators in the town supplying visitors with food and drink, and there is also a thriving back-packer guesthouse trade.

Many of the guesthouses supply backpackers with wireless Internet and friendly, agreeable staff for them to argue over the minutiae of the bill with, but they do not supply hot water or air-conditioning - these necessities are seen by backpackers as frivolous luxuries that would merely eat into their beer budget and restrict their appreciation of local culture.

One Kampot eatery that makes the bone-shaking journey down Highway 3 worthwhile is The Rusty Keyhole.

The restaurant's simple barbecue is the best in cambodia and the ribs are divine.

While the Keyhole could be mistaken for just another simple riverfront bar/restaurant - sports on TV inside the bar, chairs and tables outside - it is worth a closer look.

The restaurant's simple barbecue is the best in Cambodia, and the ribs are divine. The quality of the meat, the care in preparation, the "secret recipe" basting sauce and the size of the portion make it not only the best value you'll find in Cambodia but may bring a barbecued-ribs gourmand to orgasm.

It's the kind of meal that makes you pity those who didn't order it, makes you give withering looks towards those who ordered some other item on the menu and makes you shake your head in sadness for those who arrived too late to order it (sometimes the ribs run out as early as 6:30pm).

But is there more to do in Kampot than eat ribs? Well, not much more.

For the visitor from Phnom Penh, there really is only one other stop and that is Bar Red, a friendly hole-in-the-wall kind of bar, simple but an enjoyable latenight drinking place.

Like most Cambodian towns, Kampot goes to bed around 9:30pm, but Bar Red is open late and has great Indian food for those who, by some horrifying oversight or omission, didn't get the ribs earlier in the evening.

The other alternative is Mea Culpa, which has a wood-burning oven in the garden and offers great pizzas in a smart and simple garden-bar setting.

Like Bar Red, Mea Culpa has rooms that cater to the crowd from Phnom Penh who appreciate a good place to stay.

Police Blotter: 3 Jun 2009

Written by Lim Phalla
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

After four years on the run, Tonh Tey, 23, was arrested by the police at his house in Krasaing village, Tameun commune, Thma Koul district, Battambang province on Sunday afternoon. The arrest was made following the release of two warrants by the Battambang provincial court. The first warrant accused him of a murder, which occurred on October 2, 2005; the second warrant accused him of being involved in a robbery on November 9, 2006.

Elderly german dies in rental home
An elderly German man died in his rented house in Village 5, Commune 4, Preah Sihanouk province on Sunday evening. According to the police, the man died of an illness caused by old age.

Three drug users arrested in B'Bang
Three people were arrested in a house in Kabkor Thmey village, Ou Char commune, Battambang town and province on Friday evening by province police for allegedly using and dealing illegal drugs. Twelve pills of yama were found on them.

Malai district police arrested one of three thieves on Saturday afternoon for stealing a motorbike at a mosque in Nimith 3 village, Poipet town, Banteay Meanchey province. The robbery occurred on the previous day while the owner was praying in the mosque. The motorbike was returned to the owner.

Ten days after being released from a six-month imprisonment in Battambang province, Hum Manith, a 29-year-old male from Tuol Ta Ek village and commune in Battambang province, was sentenced to 20 years in jail at Prey Sar prison by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for smuggling illegal drugs. The verdict was released on Thursday, one day after he had been arrested by the Phnom Penh police. He was the eighth among nine members of his drug trafficking group to be arrested.

Three men from Baliley village, Poipet commune and town, Banteay Meanchey province, were arrested for allegedly wounding and robbing a 33-year-old Belgium man of US$180 on May 26 while the victim was standing at the Poipet bus stop.

Khek Ravy attends 59th FIFA Congress

FIFA president Sep Blatter announces the host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup during a press conference in Nassau Sunday. AFP

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by DAN RILEY
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

KHEK RAVY, vice-president of the Cambodian Football Federation (FFC), travelled to Nassau in the Bahamas Sunday to represent the FFC at the 59th FIFA Congress. According to FIFA's official website, the two-day event, which began Tuesday, aims to provide the opportunity for the 208 Member Associations to discuss a number of hot topics and to make decisions.

The "6+5" rule - a rule adopted by FIFA at last year's congress which involves a club fielding at least six players eligible for the national team at the start of each match - will be examined, as will the protection of minors, for which an amendment of the Statutes is proposed. Some of the other items on the agenda include the eligibility of players for the Olympic tournaments, with delegates to also be informed about the level of preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

FFC vice-president Khek Ravy travelled to Nassau, Bahamas, Sunday to represent the FFC at the 59th FIFA Congress. NICK SELLS

FIFA's executive committee held meetings in the Caribbean over the weekend, with the announcement of the 12 venue cities for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil being announced by FIFA President Joseph Blatter Sunday.

As expected, five major cities will host games, including the capital Brasilia (Mane Garrincha Stadium), Rio de Janeiro (Maracana), Sao Paulo (Morumbi), Belo Horizonte (Mineirao) and Porto Alegre (Beira-Rio).

Three cities where the stadia must be built were also selected: Natal (Estrela dos Reis Magos), Recife-Olinda (Arena Recife-Olinda) and Salvador (Arena da Bahia).

In another announcement Sunday, Blatter said the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had confirmed that "FIFA's disciplinary code and FIFA's anti-doping code is totally in compliance with the WADA code". The lone exception, he said had to do with when suspended players can resume training with their clubs.

FFC look to O'Donell to prepare team
Regarding Cambodian matters, Khek Ravy told the Post by email Monday, that the FFC's executive committee, led by president Sokha Sao, decided to appoint Australian Scott O'Donell to prepare the under-23 national team for December's SEA games in Vientiane, Laos. "His one-year contract will be renewed based on the progress of the team's performance during his tenure," said Khek Ravy.

The vice-president assured that O'Donell would receive the full support of the FFC, adding that there are scheduled trainings and test matches in Korea and Vietnam starting in October in preparation for the games.

However, Khek Ravy noted that mental and physical fitness as well as tactical changes will be a must going into this intense competition.

One interesting development Khek Ravy mentioned was a draft by the FFC for a club team composed of national U23 players for next season's CPL. The idea submitted by president Sao Sokha during the last FFC council meeting argues that a competitive team must play in a competitive environment to be cohesive and united under a professional management. "This emulates the concept of the Young Lions team in Singapore," stated Khek Ravy.

O'Donell will be asked to submit a plan for the inception of the team to be approved by the FFC's executive committee.

The Phnom Penh Post News In Briefs

In Brief: City hall blocking public forum: group

Written by May Titthara
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has slammed city authorities for failing to approve a public forum planned by the group at Boeung Kak lake on June 12. In a statement released Tuesday, it said City Hall has "consistently and repeatedly" sought to prevent the forum, designed to give residents a chance to speak with officials and elected representatives. "They have forbidden our request twice already," CCHR Project Coordinator Chhim Savuth said, referring to a previous plan to hold it on May 20.

In Brief: Appeal court to rule on group 78

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

The Phnom Penh Court of Appeal will consider an appeal today filed by lawyers representing the city's Group 78 community, which is seeking to overturn an April 20 eviction notice giving them until May 5 to accept a City Hall compensation package and vacate their homes. An injunction filed by residents was rejected by Judge Duch Kimsan, on May 18, as City Hall claims the community is living on state land and land belonging to Sour Srun Enterprises, a local developer.

In Brief: Kampot acid attack trail opens

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

A Kampot man will go on trial in Kampot provincial court this morning, charged with the killing of Thom Saroeun, 46, and her 3-year-old granddaughter, Thai Srey Thim, in an acid attack in January 2008. Mon Ton, 27, was arrested on January 9 this year for the two killings, which took place in Angkor Chey district's Dambaeuk Khpuos commune. Mom Ton's mother, the wife of a village chief, and another relative are also wanted in connection with the case, but both remain on the run.

In Briefs: Cambodia beat India

Written by Ray Leos
Wednesday, 03 June 2009

CHONBURI, Thailand - The Cambodian women’s national rugby team defeated India, 7-5 Saturday for their only victory in the International Rugby Board (IRB) Asian Women’s Rugby Sevens tournament, held this past weekend at the Royal Thai Navy Stadium. Cambodia competed in the Second Division of the two-day tournament, along with India, Iran, Laos, and Malaysia. The Cambodian women were defeated by Malaysia twice 17-5 and 22-0, lost to Iran, 24-0, and were edged in the final seconds by Laos, 7-5. China won the First Division, beating host Thailand, 24-14 in the Cup Final. In the Plate Final, the United Arab Emirates beat Guam, 12-7, while in the Bowl Final, Singapore topped Iran, 10-7. Teams representing Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan also took part in the tournament.