Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Vietnam, Cambodia combat drug crime together

Thanh Nien

June 10, 2009

Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong assured Cambodia of providing stronger links to combat drug-related crimes during a meeting with the country’s senior narcotics squad in Ho Chi Minh City Tuesday.

Trong told Ke Kim Yan, Cambodian deputy prime minister and president of the National Committee for Drug Control, that the two countries should enhance their channels of information as well as provide each other with regular assistance in drug control, drug detox facilities, rehabilitation and in the management of former drug addicts.

“Vietnam has recorded some achievements in the fight, including successful models of detoxification centers and community-based and voluntary detoxification, vocational training and job placements for former drug users,” said Trong.

In response, the Cambodian deputy PM expressed satisfaction with the assistance Vietnam was providing in the fight against drug trafficking. He said Cambodia was looking for more information and help from Vietnam to train its drug squads and open drug detoxification centers and improve joint initiatives in the fight against cross-border drug crime.

On the same day, Yan, who leads the senior delegation from the Cambodian Committee for Drug Control, met with Major General Lam Minh Chien, deputy general director of the Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security.

Chien briefed Yan on drug crimes in Vietnam, focusing on drug dealers and traffickers from overseas and the country’s experience of tracking down and breaking up drug gangs.

The Cambodian delegation is scheduled to visit several detoxification centers in HCMC and depart Vietnam on June 12.

Source: TN, VNA

Defence documents not stolen

An investigation at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court has concluded there was no theft of documents from a Khmer Rouge leader's defence team. --PHOTO: AFP

The Straits Times

June 10, 2009

PHNOM PENH - AN INVESTIGATION at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court has concluded there was no theft of documents from a Khmer Rouge leader's defence team, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Last week Michiel Pestman, Dutch defence lawyer for regime ideologue Nuon Chea, said he suspected confidential papers had been stolen from his office after he found them floating among waterlilies in a pond at the court.

But spokesman Lars Olsen said a tribunal security report had concluded there was no theft in the incident some local media dubbed 'Waterlilygate'.

'The main conclusions are clear: there is no evidence to substantiate allegations of foul play or theft of documents,' he told reporters at a press briefing.

Mr Olsen said that details of exactly how the documents ended up in the pond would be revealed in the report.

Head of defence office Richard Rogers said Nuon Chea's defence had followed proper procedures to dispose of the documents, so methods must be improved to ensure confidentiality.

'If there are weaknesses in the system, I'm sure they'll be addressed by the (court's) security section,' he said.

The troubled tribunal, which is trying former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch, also faces accusations of political interference by the government and claims that Cambodian staff were forced to pay kickbacks for their jobs.

Duch has stated that he took orders to kill and torture from Pestman's client Nuon Chea, who is commonly referred to as the Khmer Rouge 'Brother Number Two.'

Others in detention awaiting trial besides Nuon Chea are former head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife and minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith. -- AFP

Cambodia, Vietnam set year 2012 to end border demarcation

PHNOM PENH, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Vietnam have agreed that the border demarcation between the two nations will be finalized by 2012, a senior government official said Wednesday.

The set timeframe for the border demarcation was reassured by border experts during the two-day meeting, which took place in Cambodia's northern province of Siem Reap.

Cambodia's chief of border negotiator Var Kimhong said he had held talks with Ho Xuan Son, Vietnam's deputy foreign minister and chief of border commission, during which he said fruitful discussions on bilateral cooperation, especially, the border issues were made in substantive and mutual manners.

In a separate meeting on Monday between Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Ngo Anh Dung, newly appointed Vietnamese Ambassador to Cambodia, Hor Namhong had encouraged Vietnam to expedite its hydropower development in Cambodia's rivers in the eastern part that would provide electricity for local use and for sale to Vietnam, according to Koy Kuong, spokesman of the Foreign Ministry.

Cambodia shares 1,270 kilometers of border with Vietnam to the east and as of today, 109 border poles have been marked and 205 more will be placed by 2012, according to Var Kimhong.

Var Kimhong said as more discussions on border issues need to be addressed, the Cambodia and Vietnam's Joint Border Commission will meet again in November this year in the country's southwest coastal beach of Sihanoukville.

Cambodia is also in the process of negotiations with Thailand and Laos on similar border issues.

Cambodia shares 805 kilometers of border with Thailand to the west and northwest and another 504 kilometers with Laos to its northeast.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Duch’s trial: war crimes recognised before or only after late 1977?

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 09/06/2009: In the middle, the statue of the Lok Ta Dambang Dek spirit (the spirit with the iron stick), who represents justice and before whom witnesses such as Mam Nay, chief interrogator in S-21, took oath at the ECCC. Behind, fire engines hide from sight the entrance of the prison of the five defendants
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

In this day of hearing at Duch’s trial on Tuesday June 9th, there was again a feeling of deja heard and sometimes of ramblings in relation to the issue at stake: the implementation of the policy of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) at S-21. Clearer than ever were the nearly non-existent conduct of debates by the court president and the strategy of an accused who resists going where he does not want to, except to recognise tangible evidence presented to him. The day’s debates proved the minor place of the accused in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy. When the issue of the armed conflict with Vietnam was raised in the afternoon, judge Cartwright attempted, in vain, to make Duch state that he was aware of the armed conflict prior to late 1977, as the accused is also charged with war crimes.

Pol Pot and Mao, different theories
Interrogated by Kim Mengkhy, co-lawyer for civil party group 3, on the genesis of the CPK policy, as to whether it was an integral creation of the Khmer Rouge or a model inspired by experiences in other countries, Duch stated again that the “polpotist theory” did not follow the policy of Mao Tse Tung. “Pol Pot applied the policy of the Gang of Four in China, but in his own way. Are you maybe not familiar with the Gang of Four? They were the ones who led the great cultural revolution. Their names are known all over the world,” he retorted with a hint of irony. He added he had suggested his superior, Son Sen, to organise a system of counter-intelligence based on the French model.

Returning to the various social classes recognised in the Cambodian society, Duch reported that Pol Pot identified four in 1974, in addition to two special ones – the police and soldiers, and the Buddhist monks –, and then only two in 1975: peasants and workers. In contrast, Duch continued, Mao saw four classes: workers, peasants, little bourgeois and capitalists. Moreover, he claimed that the four classes were symbolised by the four stars in the Chinese flag – the biggest one being the working class – while the three towers of Angkor Way on the flag of Democratic Kampuchea represented the two classes officially recognised by the Khmer Rouge and the Party, symbolised by the central tower. The accused concluded that the theories of Pol Pot and Mao were thereby distinct the one from the other, but reminded that the ultimate goal of communism was to reach the existence of only one class in society.

Noting that practice often strayed from theory, Duch – after stressing that Pol Pot only trusted Ta Mok’s group, comprising of peasants – again evoked his state of shock when the first mass purges in the Northern zone, targeted at revolutionaries, took place in early 1977.

Duch, a simple mid-level cadre
When Elizabeth Rabesandratana, co-lawyer for civil party group 3, asked the accused if he considered that the CPK policy was a good policy, Duch acted as if outraged: “How can you say that? It was a criminal policy worse than that of the Gang of Four.” He recognised that his current knowledge on the regime had led him to hold the opinion he has today. He explained later that the only documents he ever had access to under Democratic Kampuchea were mainly the CPK Statute and the propaganda journal The Revolutionary Flag. He then started to detail the four-level composition of the CPK Central Committee: at the bottom, “assistant members”, such as Sou Meth, authorised to attend the training sessions, but deprived of any right to express their opinions; above them, “candidate members” who had the right to make comments; above them, “full members” who enjoyed the right to vote and decision-making power on the party’s policy, such as Ke Pauk; and, heading those levels, the Standing Committee. Which level did Duch belong to? He was a “mid-level cadre,” he explained. “I was not a member of the party centre.”

Duch: no release in S-21, no exoneration…
Responding to questions by Hong Kim Suon, co-lawyer of civil party group 4, Duch again clarified that no law provided for the release of anyone. “I am not going to conceal my criminal behaviour. You cannot hide an elephant in the market. I am not going to say that S-21 had the right to release detainees.”

Time for the defence. Kar Savuth, Duch’s Cambodian co-lawyer, took up the elements of the report of previously-heard expert Craig Etcheson that were recognised by his client. There was a short review of the “principle of democratic centralism” and vertical communication between zones, following the chain of command, in order to foil any attempt of penetration by the enemies. As for the releases he allegedly ordered in S-21, as claimed by the U.S. expert in his report, Duch maintained he did not release anyone. “I have not fabricated a list of individuals to be released in order to escape my crimes. There is no exonerating evidence to be found here.”

“I was the one who had most studied and best understood the party line”
His international colleague, Marie-Paule Canizares, standing in for François Roux in his absence, cited an extract from the statement made by Craig Etcheson during a hearing on May 29th, on obedience and discipline set as priorities by the CPK and the implementation of the party line by cadres to the extent they were able to understand it or its content. Duch’s comment: “Within the internal ranks of the CPK, at each level, each cadre constantly bore in mind loyalty and respect and trusted the leaders. Nobody dared to contravene any rule.” “Can one say that you had a good knowledge and understanding of the party line and its general principles?”, she asked. “[In S-21], I was the one who had most studied and best understood the party line.” Even better than Nath, his predecessor at the head of the centre, he added. Thanks to his knowledge, he implemented the instructions of his superiors in the most faithful possible way, and thereby survived. “First, I did what I was asked to do, no more, no less. Secondly, I never concealed anything. So, my honesty and the fact I did things correctly are the main reasons for my survival.”

The accused not shifting the blame on his superiors or his subordinates
His lawyer then quoted the statement he had insisted on making – during the move to S-21 where a reconstruction was organised on February 27th 2008 – to the co-Investigating Judges, former victims and some of his former subordinates: “I am angry with myself. I had given in to the ideas of the others and had therefore blindly obeyed their criminal orders. I sincerely regret having given in to the ideas of the others and accepting the criminal tasks I was assigned.” The door was thus opened for Duch to discourse again about his remorse, his suffering and his promise not to let his regrets vanish. “I always say that a bad decision results in feeling this remorse for a whole life. I have therefore bowed in this trial so that it can take place before this Chamber, and the issue here is that I be prosecuted for the crimes I have committed. So, I will not place the blame on my superiors or my subordinates. This means I will not shy away from my responsibilities. Although they come under the responsibility of my superiors, these crimes also come under my authority. In S-21, I am responsible for all the crimes. I will not pass the buck to anyone at all. As for the crimes perpetrated across the entire country, as I said in my statement during the opening of the trial in this Chamber, I am responsible ideologically and psychologically. That was the result suffered by the whole Cambodian population. I would like to share this…”

He was interrupted by Silke Studzinsky, co-lawyer for civil party group 2, who observed that Duch’s statement was off the topic at stake, the implementation of the CPK policy at S-21. The objection was overruled by the Chamber. Duch resumed, but he had lost some impetus. “[…] I am to blame partly because I played a role also as a party member. I will not evade my responsibility and the faults I committed regarding the implementation of the CPK policy at S-21. It was an extremely criminal policy […].”

Broadcast of video clips postponed
Later, Marie-Paule Canizares requested the court to watch two clips from the video recording of the reconstruction in Tuol Sleng, in which Duch talked. The judges wondered about the relevance of broadcasting such videos after already hearing in court the accused explain the implementation of the CPK policy at S-21. After discussions, judge Cartwright observed that the clips show witnesses, including civil parties, whose identity is still protected. The lawyer recognised she had not thought about that. It was therefore decided to postpone the broadcast to a later date.

Duch was not aware of the existence of an armed conflict with Vietnam
Debates moved on to the armed conflict between Democratic Kampuchea and Vietnam. The Trial Chamber already heard on this topic journalist Nayan Chanda, author of Brother Enemy: The War After the War (1986), on May 25th and 26th. It was the turn of the accused to be interrogated on the issue. Duch repeated that prior to early 1978, he knew nothing about the severance of the relations between the two countries. Judge Cartwright questioned him. In a first time, Duch seemed not to challenge the facts and recognised that the CPK and the Vietnamese Communist Party had been in conflict “for a long time.” However, it appeared very quickly that the conflict he was referring to before late 1977 was an ideological conflict, not an armed one. He had no knowledge about the armed conflict during the first years of the regime because, he argued, it was kept a secret by both regimes. Moreover, he was not concerned with what was happening outside S-21, where he had too much to do.

By stating he had no information about the existence of the conflict then, Duch made it more difficult to maintain the charges of war crimes for the entire period from April 1975 to January 1979. It remains to be known whether there are documents, for instance, proving that the number of Vietnamese prisoners sent to S-21 was significant since S-21 started being operational in order to try and consolidate Nayan Chanda’s opinion that the state of war existed since April 1975.

Atticus Finch Meets the Khmer Rouge

Skulls from a mass grave of Khmer Rouge victims in Choeung Ek, near Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Francesca Heintz
The American Lawyer
June 10, 2009

Marc Kadish had just graduated law school in 1968 when the Khmer Rouge launched an insurgency that led to its rise to power in Cambodia, culminating in one of the most brutal genocides of the 20th century.

As trial opened in Phnom Penh in late March for the first of five party commanders charged with war crimes, Kadish traveled to Cambodia to teach classes on trial advocacy as part of the American Bar Association's Rule of Law Initiative.

The ABA program, now in its fourth year, drew 150 Cambodian law students who came to learn skills like presenting opening arguments and cross-examining witnesses in a system slowly shifting to a more American style of justice. Kadish, director of pro bono activities and litigation training at Mayer Brown, explains what Atticus Finch can teach lawyers working in any country.

What's the legal system like in Cambodia?

As I understand it, it's based on the French system because that's who colonized Cambodia. The system is still somewhat of a Continental inquisitorial system, as they would have in France or Germany, where they have an examining magistrate. However, they seem to be on the cusp of permitting lawyers to play a more active role in trying cases. The ABA has a liaison who works with Cambodian lawyers and law schools and is gradually introducing the adversarial system of justice and training lawyers to make opening statements and closing arguments and question witnesses.

How did you hear about the ABA program?

I met the lawyer who invited me, Steven Austermiller, on a trip to Croatia with my family, and we kept in touch. He moved to Cambodia to run the ABA's rule of law initiative there and he contacted me earlier this year to ask if I would be the outside consultant to an annual two-day program he puts on.

How did the backdrop of the Khmer Rouge trial affect your experience in Cambodia?

I spent my first day visiting the killings fields and the [Tuol Sleng] Genocide Museum to get myself into what I thought was a proper frame of mind for what I was going to undertake because the Khmer Rouge had murdered most of the lawyers in Cambodia. I graduated from law school in 1968 and was active in the antiwar movement so I tried to remember where my consciousness was when all these things were happening. But turns out we didn't have any discussions about the war tribunals during the teaching course.

What did you teach the students about our system of trial advocacy?

My first lecture was on the nature of the adversarial system and showing the students how to do opening statements, closing arguments and examination of witnesses. Then Mr. Austermiller and I did a simulated drunk driving case. I played the prosecutor and we did openings, closings and I put on one witness. On the second day, the students were assigned to work on a rape case and an aggravated assault. My wife, who is a public defender, was also there and helped critique the students.

You taught criminal law and evidence courses at Kent Law School for 20 years before joining Mayer Brown in 1999. Did you use any of your old teaching tricks?

One of the tools I used was my favorite legal film, "To Kill a Mockingbird." I showed parts of the film to demonstrate an injustice that occurred in the American south in the 1930s when a black man was charged with the rape of a white woman. I explained that 75 years ago a black man couldn't get a fair trial in the South even under the adversarial system. But now we have a young African American lawyer who is president. Therefore, things can change and lawyers can be a vehicle for that change.

How did they respond to your lectures?

They seemed enthusiastic. At the end of the two days, every student wanted to have their picture taken with me or Mr. Austermiller. Then they began privately asking questions about how you pick a jury or what a cross-examination looks like. I was very pleased with their enthusiasm and their interest.

All interviews are condensed and edited for style and grammar.

Sourn's struggle for human rights

June 10, 2009

Nelson Mandela was accused of treason as an anti-apartheid activist and served 27 years in prison. Nevertheless, he supported national reconciliation and negotiation upon his release in 1990. He brought multi-racial democracy to South Africa, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected president of South Africa in 1994.

"There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires," Mandela said.

The same struggle took the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who urged: "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent."

President Grover Cleveland described a world founded on four essential human freedoms: Freedom of expression, and freedom to worship God in one's own way, everywhere; freedom from hunger, and freedom from fear anywhere.

Today, many men and women still fight on for such a world. French romantic poet Victor Hugo said we live by the ideal and exist by the real.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world -- indeed it is the only thing that ever does," said the late cultural anthropologist Margaret Meade. Philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Whatever you do, you need courage. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them."

Change comes with continuous actions. Knowledge and personal and national experiences help map out a course of action; values (meritocracy, hard work, perseverance) and beliefs (in freedom, equality, dignity), help propel a person to action.

Those who want change usually seek out like-minded people or join a group, a movement or a political party; others engage in meaningful individual political actions that draw others. With values and beliefs, courage follows.

The above applies to a 38-year-old Cambodian man, born to a poor farm family in 1970 when the country underwent a regime chang. His father and two uncles joined the Kansaeng Sar (White Scarf) fighting unit of the new republican regime to face the Communist Vietnamese forces that occupied 3,500 square kilometers of Khmer soil. Both uncles died fighting in 1973 and 1974. His father lived under Khmer Rouge rule from 1975-1979, and was a forced laborer for the Vietnamese K-5 plan at the border.

Growing up, the boy lived in a pagoda, walked the streets with Buddhist monks who received food from the faithful. As a young man, he pursued university studies in Phnom Penh, again living in a pagoda.

In the capital, he saw things were not right -- the rich-poor gap, the poverty, the resources mismanaged, the power abused, the rights violated. His political socialization involved him in community development and in building community networks. By 1997 he had become a social activist and gained deeper insights into Cambodia's national politics.

After strongman Hun Sen's 1997 coup d'etat, he became president of the Khmer Students' Movement of Nationalism, an organization which he and his friends reformed to found the Student Movement for Democracy in 1998.

Along the way he earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and a bachelor's of law at the Institute of Law and Economics. He even enrolled in Malaysia's MARA University of Technology in 2004-2006 and was awarded a master's degree of International Policy.

Abroad, he was invited to speak on the rule of law, human rights and democracy in Cambodia at the U.N. General Assembly Hearing in New York in 2005, and was elected executive member of the Southeast Asia Committee for Advocacy at a meeting in Indonesia.

Serey Ratha Sourn became too big a thorn to the government. Threats to his personal freedom and physical being became intense. Invited to speak in the United States in February 2006, Sourn's trip was one of no return: a warrant was issued for his arrest in Cambodia and he was able to remain in the United States.

In November 2006, Sourn found and became chief of mission of the U.S.-based Cambodian Action Committee for Justice and Equity, gathering support from Cambodians in the country and expatriates in the U.S., European Union, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, and pushed for change.

The CACJE has brought attention to the thousands of those involved in the deaths of two million people under Pol Pot who are still walking free today, and has challenged the world community to advocate for the institution of a witness protection program for those who would testify before the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Suorn's story brings to mind President Theodore Roosevelt words, spoken in Paris early in the last century, in which he gave credit to "the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, ... who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

A. Gaffar Peang-Meth, Ph.D., is retired from the Universityof Guam, where he taught political science for 13 years. Write him at

Engineers cycle for charity


Sign up for Vietnam to Cambodia challenge

by Claudia Flavell-While

The Angkor Wat temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

ENGINEERS Against Poverty, an independent charity that fights poverty and promotes sustainable development, has issued its next challenge: it wants a group of engineers to embark on a cycling trek from Vietnam to Cambodia to raise money for its charitable work.

The Vietnam-Cambodia Cycle Challenge will take participants from Ho Chi Minh city through the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta into Cambodia, where participants will head towards the temple of Angkor Wat.

Money raised will support EAP’s efforts to influence corporate and public policy and help improve education, create jobs and develop sustainable enterprises in some of the world’s poorest countries. EAP’s previous challenge in December 2008 saw 17 volunteers climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, raising £20,000 in the process.

PetroVietnam Seeks Oil Investment in Cambodia

Xinhua News Agency
Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Vietnamese petroleum company is seeking an investment opportunity in Cambodia's oil exploration, said a senior government official on Tuesday.

Pen Ngoeun, advisor to the Cambodian government said that Dinh La Thang, chairman of PetroVietnam, on Tuesday met with Sok An, deputy prime minister and minister of the Council of Ministers, expressing his company's interest in investing in oil exploration in Cambodia.

He said Sok An, in response, welcomed the move, but suggested more study and discussions be made with Cambodian National Petroleum Authority before making into any agreement.

Many international petroleum companies, including the U.S. Chevron Corp, Polytec, Medco, Kuwait Energy and CNOOC, expressed their interests in putting investments in the sector after this country had revealed to the public of its available national resources in oil and gas in its offshore in the Gulf of Thailand.

Ho Vichet, vice chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority said last year that Cambodia's expectation of its first oil development before 2010 was unlikely due to the slow submission of a development plan by the U.S. giant Chevron Corp.

He said Cambodia permitted Chevron to exploit the country's offshore Block A, one of several blocks, to do more exploration and appraisal.

According to Vichet, Chevron operates the block A with a 55 percent interest, while Mitsui Oil Exploration holds a 30 percent and South Korea's GS Caltex a 15 percent stake.

Cambodia has earlier estimated its oil production would reach 400-600 million barrels, but have later turned down their estimates saying it was too early to speculate the outcome before a business gets started.

Cambodia dispatches 52 peacekeeping soldiers to Sudan


PHNOM PENH, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia Wednesday sent 52 soldiers to clear mines in Sudan for UN peacekeeping mission to replace the old ones.

This group is the fourth batch of troops that Cambodia has sent for humanitarian affairs under the UN mission to Sudan, said Sem Sovanny, director of National Center of Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and UXO Clearance.
He said that the 52 soldiers will take turns for 135 soldiers who will come back from Sudan on Friday.

"Beside helping mines and UXOs clearance for UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur region, you all have to help other humanitarian affairs in Sudan like purified clean water, digging wells and housing for local people," Pol Saroeurn, General Commander in Chief said in farewell ceremony at Pochentong Airbase.

"You all have to display good image of Cambodia in this operation," he said.

"We all thanked for the Cambodian government that has the strong commitment for this contribution for the peace and stability of the world," said Teruo Jinnai, acting president for UN agencies and representative of UNESCO to Cambodia.

Cambodian soldiers who were sent to Sudan, as well as other ones who are prepared to be sent to Chad and Central Africa in the near future, have been trained with the UN standard by trainers from other countries, mainly the United States.

Cambodia is one of the countries suffered from the unexploded ordnance (UXO) and mines, and last year about 265 people were killed and wounded by the UXO and mines. Millions of mines and UXOs still laid under the ground of the country posting a threat to the lives of the people.

Editor: Fang Yang

RCAF off to Indonesia


Written by Heng Chivoan
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The daughter of Khieu Vansich, 37, peers from between the legs of two RCAF soldiers at Phnom Penh International Airport on Tuesday. Her father is one of 18 RCAF soldiers leaving to participate in a military exercise known as the Global Peace Operations Initiative, which will be held over three weeks in Garuda Shield, Indonesia. Thirty-four more RCAF soldiers will leave on Saturday.

President's cup: Crown look for success in Bishkek

Written by KEN GADAFFI
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

THE 5th AFC President's Cup group 3 fixtures kick off today at Spartak stadium in the Kyrgyzstan capital of Bishkek. Cambodian flag-bearers Phnom Penh Crown will lock horns with Myanmar champions Kanbawza at 2:30pm (local Kyrgyzstan time) and host nation side Dynamo-Dordoi Naryn take on Bhutan's Yeedzin FC later at 6:00pm. Reigning Cup and league champions Phnom Penh Crown left for Kyrgyzstan on Sunday with high hopes, despite their dismal start to the 2009 Cambodian Premier League Season. ‘‘We are ready for the competition,'' team manager Makara Be said, as the team were about to enter customs at the Phnom Penh International Airport. ‘‘We are going with 17 players, and they are all ready to do Cambodia proud. Our first match will be tough, but ... some of my players have shaken off injuries and are now in good shape,'' the manager added with enthusiasm.The AFC has divided the continent's club competitions into three levels with the President's Cup being the third in the pecking order after the AFC Cup and top level AFC Champions League. Hello United represented Cambodia in the inaugural AFC President's Cup in 2005, but failed to pass through the group stage, as did Khemara FC and Naga Corp in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Crown will look to do one better than Khemara, who made the 2006 semifinals but lost 3-0 to Dordoi-Dynamo.

Siem Reap Asides: Otorhinolaryngology and other Siem Reap mysteries

Written by Peter Olszewski
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

SNUGGLED in the shadows of the Angkorian temples, Siem Reap is steeped in ancient mystery. But, as the tourist town transmogrifies into a modern metropolis, modern mysteries are making their mark.

Pi Thnou Street, for example, harbours one of the town's biggest mysteries: A shop with a sign that declares it an outlet for "otorhinolaryngology".

Actually a dictionary proves this to be no real mystery, and the phenomenon indeed could be viewed as a quantum leap for Siem Reap, away from the seemingly suspect traditional Khmer medicine, if you happen to be into the frontiers of modern Western medical wizardry.

Simply put, otolaryngology is head and neck surgery. Practitioners, the head and neck surgeons, are called otolaryngologists or otorhinolaryngologists.

Otolaryngology is one of the most competitive specialities for physicians, and this raises another mystery: Is Siem Reap's very own "otorhinolaryngology" clinic, housed in a small humble building near a strip of notoriously hallucinogenic pizza restaurants, really at the forefront of this most-competitive speciality?

And are the staff really able to perform whiz-bang otolaryngological stuff such as endocrine surgery of the head and neck (thyroidectomy, parathyroidectomy), microvascular free flap reconstruction and skull base surgery?

It could be a boon for moto riders who don't wear helmets, but as I began to delve into the question of how such a small shop can deliver such hi-tech surgery, another modern mystery surfaced near the airport.

'We come from south pole'
A sign, in the form of an antique bicycle with a board attached, declared that a rutted path off the highway leads to Vargo Varman - the real name for mud massage.

But when arriving at Vargo Varman, I was greeted with a large sign saying: "We come from south pole."

This is curious because none of the staff seem to be from the South Pole. Mostly they are Khmer, and the owner, Lee Subo, is from South Korea.

But he says he has as an affinity with the South Pole because, like his mud massage, it "changes spirit of customer".

Furthermore, he said he went with the South Pole analogy because his official mascot is the universally lovable and adorable penguri.

I was mystified about what a penguri is, so Lee Subo showed me a tiled wall emblazoned with stickers of cute Disney-esque critters that to my untrained eye look remarkably like penguins.
"Penguri!" he said. "I'm surprised you don't know them."

Having at least solved the penguri mystery, I'm now pondering more mysteries, like why hairdressers in Fruit Stall Street call themselves New Zealand Hair Cut, and P Kevin Hair Salon Coiffure VIP?

And I'd like to know if the newly-opened No Problem Villa really is problem-free.

Cambodia's homegrown winery is a hit with drinkers

Photo by: Stephanie Mee
Leng Chan Thol at the wine-tasting gazebo.

Written by Stephanie Mee
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Despite the derision of their neighbours, one family’s determination to set up a winery outside of Battambang city marks a first step for modern viticulture


When Leng Chan Thol and her husband Chan Thay Chhoueng decided to grow grapes for wine production just outside Battambang city, people thought they were crazy.

"You would have to be very strong, courageous or foolhardy. Wine grapes are not a profitable Cambodian crop, and they are sure to fail,' were the types of things people whispered," said Leng Chan Thol.

Fortunately, the young entrepreneurs didn't let the idle chatter discourage them from pioneering Cambodia's first valiant attempt at viticulture.

The couple planted their first vines in 1999, and in 2004 the first bottles of Cambodia's only home-grown grape wine were ripe for drinking.

"Our families have always been farmers," said Leng Chan Thol from the small wooden tasting gazebo, set amid snaking grape vines and lush tropical foliage on the Chan Thay Chhoueng plantation, 16 kilometres south of Battambang.

"In the past we grew oranges on this land, but in the late '90s my husband saw ads on television about making wine, and we became interested in the process," she said.

Each day we get anywhere from 10 to 100 tourists tasting our wine ...

"At first, it was not easy, and we faced many challenges with the grapes, like insects, birds, over-watering and disease," she said. "But we are farmers, so we just kept growing them, keeping an eye on them and learning from each challenge."

Leng Chan Thol explained that, although some grapes do grow naturally in Cambodia, they are not necessarily the best variety for wine production.

The grapes grown and harvested at Chan Thay Chhoueng are mainly Shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot varietals imported from France, America, Australia and Japan.

Typically, these varietals take well to warm climates, and the 3 hectares of mineral rich and fertile soil at Chan Thay Chhoueng, combined with plentiful sunshine and adequate rainfall, work together to provide an abundant harvest for Leng Chan Thol and her family.

"November to March is the best growing season for the grapes, but sometimes we can harvest the grapes up to three times a year, unlike Europe or the Americas where you might only get one harvest a year," Leng Chan Thol said.

"Usually it takes about six months to a year after harvesting for the wine to be ready to drink."

After harvesting the grapes, Leng Chan Thol and her family crush them by hand in large plastic containers. They then transfer the wine to stainless steel vats where yeast is added to aid in the fermentation process, and the wine is left to ferment for six months to a year. All bottling, corking and labelling is done on-site.

The most popular product is the 2005 vintage Shiraz-merlot blend, which retails at US$15 a bottle. Typical of young Shiraz and merlot varietals grown in hot climates, the wine is a rich ruby-red colour, with aromas of blackberries, raspberries and chocolate.

Another big seller is the Phnom Banon brandy produced at the plantation and named after the nearby mountain and ancient temple site.

Caramel-gold in colour and 40 proof, the brandy packs a powerful punch but is not harsh, with a smooth, sweet aftertaste reminiscent of tropical whiskeys without the bite. Bottles retail at $12.

The Chan Thay Chhoueng plantation also sells a sweet, blush-coloured rose for $6 and a light, fruity, non-alcoholic grape juice for $1.50 per bottle.

For Leng Chan Thol and her family, the effort and risk has paid off.

Small buyers and wholesalers now come from all over Cambodia and abroad to buy their products, and in 2006 Prime Minister Hun Sen paid Chan Thay Chhoueng a visit, lauding Leng Chan Thol for her pioneering spirit.

"Each day we get anywhere from 10 to 100 tourists tasting our wine," she said.

"So now, all those people who thought I would fail, well, I think they are quite embarrassed about their lack of faith."

And Leng Chan Thol's ambition doesn't stop there. Her plans for the future include purchasing more land to plant different grape varietals and a small restaurant that serves dishes using fresh, organic produce grown on-site.

Chan Thay Chhoueng plantation is located at #72, Bot Sala Village, Banon District, 16kilometres south of Battambang City. For more information call 012 665 238.

Building approvals rocketing skywards

Written by Soeun Say
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Officials approved 618 construction projects worth a combined US$919 million in the first three months of 2009, Lao Tip Seiha, director of the Ministry of Land Management's construction department, said Tuesday.

The figures compare favourably to the 468 projects worth $481 million approved in the first quarter of 2008.

"In just three months I received 618 new projects from both Cambodian and foreign investors, which is a good result for the construction sector compared to 2008 when I got only 468 projects," he said.

The dollar value was boosted significantly by the approval of a $583 million project to build a mixed-use development in a special economic zone in Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone Co plans to build a five-star hotel, business centre, garment factory, supermarket and warehouses in the coastal resort.

But National Valuers Association of Cambodia President Sung Bonna cautioned against getting too excited by the figures.

"It's good to hear that proposed capital investment in the construction sector has increased - but if investors don't actually develop their projects they will remain just as numbers and will not help the economy grow," Sung Bonna said.

He said many developers had asked for construction permits but had no intention to start work."

This is something that we are all worried about," he said.

Figures released previously show the ministry approved 2,156 development projects in 2008 worth a combined US$3.191 billion, down 0.64 percent on 2007 when 1,942 projects worth $3.211 billion were approved.

Only $500 million worth of projects were approved in 2003. More than 30 percent of construction projects may have been placed on hold due to the global downturn, the UN Development Programme said in a report released last month.

Phnom Penh slammed in new liveability assessment

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Poor drainage caused by the city’s location on the Mekong floodplain is one reason Phnom Penh ranks low in "liveability".

Written by Nathan Green and Soeun Say
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A new survey ranks Phnom Penh the worst city in Southeast Asia in terms of health care, stability, culture, environment, education and infrastructure

APhnom Penh deputy governor has rejected a survey released Monday that ranked Phnom Penh as the worst Southeast Asian city to live in.

Only 12 cities out of 140 assessed worldwide scored lower in the Economist Intelligence Unit's EIU's 2009 Liveability survey.

The EIU survey assessed living conditions based on health care, stability, culture, environment, education and infrastructure.

Mann Chhoeun told the Post Tuesday that the survey did not take into account all the relevant factors that made a city liveable.

"We are developing Phnom Penh from nothing, and we are on the right path," he said.

"It is a beautiful city and we are proud of what we have achieved with Phnom Penh today."

Dana Langlois, owner of JavaArts and Java Cafe, who has lived in Phnom Penh for more than 10 years, said she had not seen the survey but thought the city had its good and bad points.

"The biggest problem is the cost and the expense compared to what you get," she said. She referred to homes on the market for a million dollars in a city lacking public transport, a consistent electricity supply and adequate drainage.

I've seen a lot of changes over the years – and most of them are positive.

"But overall the city is great. I've seen a lot of changes over the years - and most of them are positive," she said.

Vancouver was ranked the world's easiest city to live in and Harare, Zimbabwe, the toughest.

Asian and African cities dominated the lower rankings: Bangkok 100th, Manila 108th, New Delhi in joint 114th spot with Cairo, Mumbai 120th, Nairobi 122nd and Lusaka 126th.

Canadian and Australian cities held six of the top 10 spots. Vienna was in second place followed by Melbourne, Toronto, Perth, Calgary, Helsinki and Geneva, with Sydney and Zurich in joint ninth position.

The survey's authors said high-scoring cities tended to be midsized, in developed countries with a low population density, and benefited from cultural or recreational availability but without the crime or infrastructure problems that could be caused by large populations.

"At the other end of the ranking, most of the poorest-performing locations are in Africa or Asia, where civil instability and poor infrastructure present significant challenges," they said.

The liveability ranking is part of the EIU's Worldwide Cost of Living Survey. It is based on a rating of relative comfort for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across the five broad categories.

The survey gives an overall rating of 1-100, where 1 is intolerable and 100 is ideal. Any city with a rating of 80 or more will have "few, if any, challenges to living standards", while any city with a score of 50 or less will "present daily challenges to living standards".

Just 13 of the cities surveyed scored less than 50, including Phnom Penh, Tehran in 129th place, Karachi in 135th and Lagos in 136th.

The authors said the prospect of violence, whether through domestic protests, civil war or the threat of foreign incursion, played a significant role in the poorest-performing cities.

"This can exacerbate the impact of instability on other key liveability categories, such as infrastructure, health care indicators or the availability (or freedom) of certain activities," they said. The Economist Intelligence Unit is a branch of The Economist Group, which publishes the weekly news magazine The Economist in London.

This latest EIU survey follows one in March that claimed Cambodia was the fourth most at-risk country for instability in the wake of the global economic crisis, equal with Sudan and ahead only of Zimbabwe, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report, "Manning the Barricades", was widely condemned by the Cambodian government and business groups.

ACLEDA Bank Vice Chairman John Brinsden, who was among those who condemned the March report, said he had not seen the EIU's liveability rankings, but questioned what they really proved.

"I stopped looking at the EIU's assessment for these liveability type things in the mid-'80s when they were doing a rating on Taiwan," he said.

"They don't even come out here; these guys are sitting overseas just collecting data - so how can they talk about liveability?"

Cambodia EIU researcher Danny Richards said by email from London that the rankings were not necessarily related to the business operating environment, except perhaps in terms of assigning a hardship allowance as part of expatriate relocation packages.

Instead, the ratings quantified the challenges that might be presented to an individual's lifestyle in any given location, and allowed for direct comparison between locations.

The poor result for Phnom Penh was therefore unlikely to have a "major negative impact" on foreign investment, he said, with investors concerned primarily about a host of other factors, such as market opportunities, the quality of the labour force and taxation.

He also noted that Phnom Penh was only a few notches below Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Inside Business: Shoemaker tries to keep apace amid slump

Photo by: SOEUN SAY
Workers make shoes at Ay Sisovann's factory.

Written by Soeun Say
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

A DECADE ago, when Ay Sisovann learned the art of shoemaking from his father, he saw a local market niche ready to be filled. Starting out with untried knowledge and US$100,000 in savings, Ay Sisovann, 42, is now the director of Toul Sleng Shoemakers, a flourishing business he has built from the ground up since 1998.

"I left my family when I got married, and I thought that to make a business out of shoemaking would be a good opportunity," he told the Post. "So I kept my eyes on making shoes and invested over $100,000 in raw materials, a cutting machine and other equipment."

Ay Sisovann's first factory opened in 1998 with five employees to sew shoes and package the finished products. Initially, Ay Sisovann said he tried to hire the best craftsmen in the field, with three workers operating the cutting machinery, while two more were employed to sew and two to glue hand-stitched shoes made from alligator skin, snake skin, and cow and buffalo leather. At the company's small factory in Phnom Penh's Boeung Keng Kang III district, the sounds of weaving machines roar incessantly as the staff - now expanded to a dozen workers - pack hand-made shoes into plastic bags.

Today, Toul Sleng Shoemakers produces between 30 and 40 pairs daily for clients from Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap, Pursat, Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Cham provinces.

"Most of my clients are government officers, students, NGO staff and foreigners," he said.

Priced at $27 to $35 a pair, Ay Sisovann said that his shoes are a good quality product at a price that suits low-income customers, as well as allowing Cambodians to buy Kingdom-made shoes - a relative rarity in a global market flooded with mass-produced Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese products.

"We are Khmer so we must use something made by Khmer people. In order to help Cambodian products grow, we must use local products," he said. "I have bought good quality samples from Vietnam so that I can copy them."

He added that the company can produce show styles similar to those from Italy, Thailand, China and America.

But as with many businessmen, the world financial crisis has hit Ay Sisovann's business hard, cutting 40 or 50 percent from his bottom line since the same time last year.

"In 2007-2008, my business ran smoothly. I earned $400 per day, but now I earn between $100 and $200," he said.

A key challenge, he added, was competing with cheap imported shoes, which are flooding markets and malls and undercutting local demand for handmade shoes made mostly from imported materials.

"Cambodia cannot compete with Thailand, Vietnam and China for raw materials. Some 85 percent of our raw materials are imported from other countries, and prices have been on the rise since 2006," he said.

Another challenge is that the local industry became crowded at the same time as the financial crisis began to pinch.

"The number of shoemakers is increasing by the day, while Vietnamese and Chinese shoes are selling in the local markets at low prices," he said.

Although he says he has lost the chance to bring his products to overseas markets - Ay Sisovann says he lacks the capital to produce the minimum 3,000 pairs per month required to supply US wholesalers - he says he hopes to use proceeds to expand production.

"When I have enough capital from selling my land, I will increase production over the next two years," he said.

Boeung Tompun lake to become new city

Written by Nguon Sovan
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

THE government has given the green light to a joint-venture proposal to develop Boeung Tompun lake into a new residential satellite city, according to officials, with around 200 residents expected to make way for the project.

"A local company in joint venture with a foreign company has been granted in-principle approval to develop Boeung Tompun as a satellite city," Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema told the Post Tuesday, adding that he could not remember the name of the company or the value of the investment. "They do not have a shortage of money to invest, and everything is now on track. It just awaits approval from the CDC (Council for the Development of Cambodia)."

In an interview in September, Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong told the Post that the Boeung Tompun lake area - which encompasses Phnom Penh's Meanchey and Dangkor districts and Takhmao district in Kandal province - is a large natural catchment covering nearly 2,600 hectares, with about 200 families living on the lake, while many other people had purchased plots on or near the shoreline for resale.

When the project materialises, Kep Chuktema said that residents of the lake will be relocated and the resulting development would benefit the city.

"Between keeping it polluted and anarchic or development, we choose development if it benefits the economy and the majority of the people. But we know that the development will affect residents on the site, so we will resettle them properly," he said. "So far, those residents have no land titles, so we won't issue them land titles and we won't allow them to continue constructing anything on that area."

He added that the environmental impact of the development would be studied thoroughly due to Boeung Tompun's status as a natural catchment site.

Sok Chenda, secretary general of the CDC, declined to comment on the investment proposal.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann expressed concern that Phnom Penh will be troubled by increased floods if the lake is developed. "Boeung Tompun lake is the largest lake to store run-off from the city. If there is development, there will be a filling of the lake and the city will be subject to serious floods," he said.

He added that he did not expect that the residents at the site would be offered fair compensation for their removal from the site given past experiences of forced relocations and evictions.

Air arrivals dip 16pc in first four months

Air arrivals fell 16 percent in the first quarter, affecting numbers to both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. BLOOMBERG

Written by Chun Sophal
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Tourism official blames losses on package tours, but says land entries offset drop from airports

THE number of tourists entering Cambodia by air has decreased by 16 percent during the first four months of 2009 compared with the same time last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

A ministry report states that 421,998 foreign tourists entered Cambodia by air during the first four months of this year compared with 503,328 during the same period in 2008.

It stated that 181,479 tourists flew in to Phnom Penh International Airport during this period - 30,045 down on last year - while 240,519 entered Cambopdia via Siem Reap, which was 51,285 down on 2008.

Kong Sophearak, director of the ministry's Department of Information and Tourism Statistics, said the decrease was due to the reduction in package tours stemming from the global economic recession.

The decrease is not only a problem in Cambodia but it is a worldwide concern.

"Many tourists no longer want to spend as much money travelling into our country by air, which is an expensive means of travel," he said, adding that a 15 percent increase in entries by land and waterways had offset losses from air traffic.

Some 329,017 tourists entered Cambodia by land and air from January to April this year, compared with only 282,216 last year.

Chea Aun, director general of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, confirmed that the number of tourists flying to Cambodia had decreased, but that "not one flight" had been cancelled.

Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said Monday that economic instability and political crises in Thailand were the two main causes for the decline.

"We think that the decrease is not only a problem in Cambodia but it is a worldwide concern, and we hope that the problem will improve soon," he said.

Written by Chun Sophal
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

THE Ministry of Planning has released preliminary results from its 2009 listing of businesses in Cambodia, hoping the results will facilitate an economic census planned for 2011.

According to the report, released Tuesday by the ministry's Institute of Statistics and conducted in February and March with support from the Japanese government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Cambodia has 375,095 businesses, excluding agriculture, forestry, fisheries and mobile retail.

The report said that Phnom Penh leads with 55,802 businesses - 14 percent of the total - with Kampong Cham second with 43,787 (11.7 percent). Kep province has the fewest registered businesses: 789, just 0.2 percent of the country's total.

Minister of Planning Chhay Than said the data was of great importance. "The economic census will be useful for the government in its forecasts of future economic growth." he told an audience of government officials and development partners at the launch of the new report at the ministry.

ANZ regional economist sees negative growth for this year

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Agriculture will see a small GDP contraction this year, said ANZ Bank’s chief Asia economist.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Steve Finch and Nguon Sovan
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Chief economist for Asia Paul Gruenwald predicts agriculture also likely to see GDP contraction in 2009 as farming officials say its too early to forecast yields

ANZ Bank's chief Asia economist said Tuesday that Cambodia could expect a small contraction in GDP growth this year, which would also hit the agricultural sector, which the government has touted as an economic safety net.

Speaking Tuesday at ANZ Royal's head office in Phnom Penh, Paul Gruenwald said it remained difficult to forecast the Kingdom's economic prospects given a lack of reliable data, but he noted that the days of near double-digit GDP growth were over, at least in the short term.

"I think we can see perhaps a small negative number this year," he told the Post, endorsing recent predictions from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that foresaw a 0.5 percent GDP contraction. "But certainly the risks are on the downside until we can have more confidence that the financial crisis is abating."

Gruenwald said he was surprised at the severity of the downturn in the garment sector, which has seen exports drop more than one-third in the first quarter year-on-year on the back of falling international demand, particularly from the United States, Cambodia's main export market.

"Clothing and textiles is usually something that holds up well," he said, adding that garments are necessities and discretionary goods.

Gruenwald said that Cambodia should expect tourism to suffer a prolonged downturn given that travel was a luxury, even if Cambodia is considered a less expensive destination.

"Tourism is one where there is probably a fair amount of downside," he said. "We don't expect those types of expenditures coming back until things get a bit more solid [in terms of a global recovery]."

Although Gruenwald acknowledged that there was a marked lack of data on agriculture - given its largely informal nature - he predicted "a mild negative this year" in terms of GDP growth.

The assessment was based on Cambodia's strong agricultural performance last year when a concerted effort was made to up production in the face of rising soft commodity prices. This year, the sector was therefore departing from a high base level, he said, meaning growth - given the economic climate - would be difficult to achieve.

ANZ Royal CEO Stephen Higgins noted, however, that accurate forecasts were problematic.
"With Cambodia, to pick your point number is very difficult," he said.

The risks are on the downside until we can have more confidence that the financial crisis is abating.

Gruenwald also acknowledged that evidence in the agricultural sector was largely anecdotal, a point acknowledged Tuesday by the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC).

"I have inspected various places - more rice crops have been planted [this year] but there are no figures available," said CEDAC President Yang Saing Koma.

"We expect the rice harvest will be higher this year [compared with 2008]," he added, noting, however, that it largely depended on rainfall which had been heavy early this year but was forecast to tail off more than usual towards the end of the wet season in October.

Ministry of Agriculture Secretary of State Chan Tong Yves agreed it was still too early to tell what the agricultural yield would be this year but said there remained potential to sell produce overseas.
The government has previously said that agriculture could absorb workers laid off due to the crisis, particularly from the garment industry, and would spur overall economic growth this year.

"The ministry is still actively helping to diversify agricultural products for foreign markets," said Chan Tong Yves.

Food prices fall
Farming has been hit by a slide in prices since last year when concern grew over inflation. In the first quarter, food commodity prices fell nearly 5 percent year-on-year.

Ministry figures showed that agricultural production as a percentage of total GDP rose from 28 percent after last year's harvest to 34.4 percent this year, said Chan Tong Yves.

The London-based Economist Intelligence Unit this month predicted that the sector would grow 3 percent this year as part of the total economy, which was projected to contract by 3 percent, it said.

The government, by contrast, has projected about 6 percent GDP growth for 2009.

Night on the town


Written by Tracey Shelton
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Reaksmey, 4, an orphan from Kampong Cham, stands in the park by the Royal Palace on Tuesday. His grandmother said they had spent all their money on travel and had to spent the night by the riverside. They were on their way to a children's hospital to treat Reaksmey's throat infection.

Bar council to receive results of Kong Sam Onn probe this week

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Government lawyer Ky Tech in a file photograph.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Meas Sokchea
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Mu Sochua’s lawyer vows to appeal if council finds him guilty of violations

A MEMBER of the Cambodian Bar Association panel investigating a complaint against the lawyer for Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua said Tuesday that he expected a recommendation to be forwarded to the bar's disciplinary council this week.

The 19-member council will then decide whether Kong Sam Onn violated bar rules, for which he could be suspended or disbarred.

Hem Socheat, the panelist, said he did not know how long it would take for the council to reach a decision.

Ky Tech, the lawyer for Prime Minister Hun Sen who brought the complaint against Kong Sam Onn, appeared briefly before the panel Tuesday. He said the panel asked him only whether he had anything to add to his complaint.

"I answered that my stance has not changed," Ky Tech told the Post Tuesday.

The complaint relates to defamation suits - one filed by Mu Sochua, and a countersuit filed by Hun Sen - stemming from an April 4 speech in which Mu Sochua said the prime minister made derogatory comments about her.

Ky Tech alleged in his complaint that Kong Sam Onn violated Bar Association rules by asserting during a press conference held April 23 - three days before Mu Sochua's suit was filed - that Hun Sen defamed her.

Kong Sam Onn said he believed the council was not independent, adding that he would appeal a decision that was not in his favour. Bar Secretary General Suon Visal acknowledged Sunday that two council members - whom he declined to name - held positions in the government, but said this would not affect the final decision.

Resource gaps frustrate midwives

Than Sopheap (third from right), 38, Nuon Srey Mom (second from right), 25, and Pech Leas (far right), 30, wait in the hallway of the Treal Health Centre for midwife consultations.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet and Sam Rith
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

As officials in Phnom Penh mark National Midwife Day by acknowledging their ‘critical role’, midwives in Kampong Thom grapple with resource shortages and limited outreach efforts

Kampong Thom Province

ON MONDAY morning, three neighbors from Kiri Andeith village waited in the hallway of the Treal Health Centre, located in Kampong Thom's Baray district, for midwife consultations. All were pregnant, and all were anxious.

Nuon Srey Mom, 25 and two months pregnant, said she did not have enough to eat, adding that the long days at her job as a farm labourer frequently left her dizzy and short of breath.

Than Sopheap, 38, said she was worried that her age would leave her susceptible to pregnancy complications.

And 30-year-old Pech Leas said she was concerned because nine years had elapsed since she gave birth to her first and only child.

"I'm worried that too many years have passed since I had my first baby," she said. "I want a skilled midwife this time because I'm afraid it will be difficult to deliver."

As a group, they entered the office of Ma Saren, 56, a midwife of 19 years who said she counsels between 120 and 150 pregnant women each month, advising them on issues including diet, the importance of antenatal care and the signs that often foretell complicated deliveries.

She said her job has grown easier in recent years, citing the hiring of a second midwife to help out at the centre, as well as an incentive payment program instituted last year, through which she receives US$15 for every successful birth performed there.

These improvements, however, have not been extended throughout Kampong Thom province, which continues to grapple with resource limitations, said Khiev Pharin, a provincial health officer for UNICEF Cambodia.

Last year 27 percent of births in the province were attended by skilled health personnel, according to provincial health department data. Though this marked an increase of 9 percent since 2007, it remained far below the 2010 Millennium Development Goal target of 70 percent.

The number of births taking place in health centres rose nearly 10 percent to 12.2 percent, but it remained below the national average of 22 percent reported in 2005, the last year for which reliable national maternal health data is available.

Midwife Day
At an event Tuesday morning marking National Midwife Day, Koum Kanal, director of the National Maternal and Child Health Centre (NMCHC), acknowledged that midwives' workloads had increased along with demand for their services: Skilled birth attendants performed 44 percent of live births nationwide in 2005, up from 32 percent in 2000.

In his remarks at the event, held at the NMCHC in Phnom Penh, Minister of Health Mam Bunheng told roughly 100 midwives from all 24 provinces and municipalities that he wanted "to reconfirm that the government and the prime minister recognise that you all have a very critical role".

He said a subdecree currently at the Council of Ministers would establish a midwifery council to work in concert with the Cambodia Midwives Association to advocate for resources and other forms of government support.

Mam Bunheng also called for additional outreach, which, as in other provinces, has proved difficult in Kampong Thom.

Khiev Pharin said the province's 149 midwives are often overworked, meaning they can make only one outreach visit per month.

As a result, he said, they are often unable to reach women in remote areas, who are more likely to turn to traditional midwives, who cannot provide emergency obstetric care if the delivery turns dangerous.

According to World Health Organisation estimates, approximately 15 percent of deliveries require emergency care.

Ma Saren also cited a need for more outreach to women who are inclined to avoid health centres altogether, saying, "For people who live far away from here, it's a bit difficult to get them to come".

To supplement the midwives' outreach work, UNICEF and the WHO launched a pilot programme in March in which two villagers in eight villages have been enlisted to visit pregnant women and encourage them to go to health centres, particularly if they suspect pregnancy complications could arise.

Nao Sinom, 38, who participates in the program in Banha Chhi village in Santuk district, said she visits three families each month. She said many of the women who are reluctant to visit health centers do not have money for medical fees.

"People who cannot afford it, they just say they don't want to go to the centre," she said, adding that villagers had recently decided to pool donations to cover some of the payments.

The Ministry of Health has adopted the goal of deploying at least one trained midwife at each health centre this year.

In Kampong Thom - a province that Pen Sophanara, a communications associate for the UN Population Fund, described as middle-of-the-road in terms of midwife deployment - all health centres have one midwife, but only 26 percent have two.

Treal Health Centre has two midwives, including Ma Saren. It is open around the clock, and both the health centre chief, who lives next door, and one midwife are on-site at all times.

These advantages notwithstanding, sometimes there is little the centre can do.

In the case of Nuon Srey Mom, the 25-year-old pregnant woman who complained of fatigue and lack of food, Ma Saren could tell her only "to have enough food to eat and to stop working". During many consultations, she said, "We just have the ideas for them. We don't have the budget to actually help them overcome the challenges they face."

Talks in Siem Reap lead to demarcation goal with Vietnam

Written by Vong Sokheng
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Infrastructure projects, including hydropower, are also encouraged by Vietnam’s ambassador during discussions on greater cooperation

THE KINGDOM'S top border negotiator said Tuesday that committees from Cambodia and Vietnam agreed during a meeting in Siem Reap province to plant 200 demarcation poles along the countries' shared border by 2012.

"We will strive for border demarcation to be completed in accordance with our master plan, and after that we will have a stable, peaceful border that will ensure the sovereignty of each country," Var Kimhong told the Post.

On Monday, Ngo Anh Dung, the Vietnamese ambassador to Cambodia, met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong to discuss border-related issues, touching on demarcation, as well as projects that would improve infrastructure and promote economic development along the border, said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong.

"In the past few years, Cambodia and Vietnam have enjoyed smooth cooperation on border issues, and both countries have determined to push to resolve any lingering border issues by 2012," he said.

Border projects
Koy Kuong said improving transport links across the border would improve living conditions on both sides.

He added that Hor Namhong told Ngo Anh Dung that Cambodian officials would like to see Vietnam promote bridge construction, in particular a bridge that would link Vietnam to Kandal province's Chrey Thom district.

Officials from the two countries are scheduled to meet in Preah Sihanouk province in November to discuss any unresolved border issues, Koy Kuong said, adding that officials hoped the meeting would lead to improved cooperation on development projects.

Koy Kuong said Ngo Anh Dung encouraged Cambodia to develop hydropower projects on the Sesan and Srepok rivers that would provide electricity for local use and for sale to Vietnam.

HIV/AIDS tests rose 1,233pc over 2007, govt report shows

A newborn child is given a dose of antiretrovirals to prevent vertical HIV transmission.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Khoun Leakhana
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Experts say more testing could lower the prevalence of HIV, which in 2006 infected 0.9 percent of adults in the Kingdom

HIV/AIDS testing increased by more than 1,200 percent in 2008, according to a report released last week, a trend welcomed by health professionals who said it could reduce HIV prevalence - particularly by lowering mother-to-child transmission, which accounts for one-third of Cambodia's new infections.

The report from the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (NCHADS) states that 400,000 people took HIV blood tests last year, up from just 30,000 in 2007.

Of those who opted for the tests, 5 percent were found to be HIV-positive, compared with 7 percent in 2007.

NCHADS Director Mean Chhi Vun said he attributed the jump to a campaign promoting free and anonymous testing.

"Our campaign about free, anonymous testing has been very successful," he said. "We believe that more people will come to have their blood tested in 2009 because people are more aware of the risk of HIV/AIDS."

He added: "That more and more people have their blood tested for HIV/AIDS is a very good sign."
This year, he said, NCHADS hopes to see 700,000 people take HIV tests.

Mean Chhi Vun said health professionals were working in particular to reduce mother-to-child transmission, noting that HIV tests are being offered to more of the Kingdom's expectant mothers when they come in for antenatal checkups at state health centres.

NCHADS is partnering with the National AIDS Authority in targeting expectant mothers.

"We encourage people, especially [high-risk groups such as] sex workers and also pregnant women, to be brave to have their blood tested because we want this problem to be in the open so we can reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS," authority President Tia Phalla said.

"If they are still shy and still try to hide, this will cause two bad effects: They will die sooner than they should, and the disease could spread to others, especially [the partners] and children of infected individuals," he added.

The AIDS Authority and NCHADS provided some kind of HIV/AIDS testing or information to 27 percent of expectant mothers in 2008.

Tia Phalla said he wants to reach 40 percent by 2010.

"According to our research, wives are more receptive to HIV campaigns than their husbands," he said.

Tests are now available at more than 200 private and public clinics, most of which offer free, anonymous testing and follow-up services.

Tia Phalla emphasised that all HIV testing was voluntary, adding that education campaigns have been designed to explain to people the benefits of knowing their HIV status.

Chak Chanda, clinic manager for the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia, said the quality of service available to Cambodians who opt for voluntary tests has improved significantly.

"We do not just test their blood immediately when they arrive, but we also give them counseling and all results are anonymous," she said.

Information on safe-sex practices is given to those who test negative in order to lower the risk of future infections.

Counseling is offered to those who test positive, including information on how to access antiretroviral drugs when necessary, she said.

The estimated HIV prevalence among Cambodian adults in 2006 was 0.9 percent, according to government figures.

HIV families at Borei Keila to be evicted this week, City Hall says

Photo by: Christopher Shay
One of the remaining residents at Borei Keila looks out of her house on Tuesday. Authorities confirmed Tuesday that they would be evicted this week.

The Phnom Penh Post

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

After years in limbo hoping they would be allowed to remain in the city centre and near the antiretroviral drugs they need, the HIV-positive community is told to prepare to move

AFTER weeks of eviction rumours, the forced relocation of a community of families where at least one member has HIV/AIDS will take place this week, according to the Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun.

The HIV-affected families will be moved 20 kilometres away from their current neighbourhood near Olympic Stadium to the outskirts of Phnom Penh, where they will be housed in green, zinc shelters, far from the life-saving medical services they need.

"This week the authorities of Phnom Penh will move 23 HIV families from the Borei Keila community to Tuol Sambo," Mann Chhoeun said.

He added that the Ministry of Tourism has spent 20 million riels (US$4,800) to purchase two tuk-tuks for community members to travel into the city to receive medical treatment.

Right now, the Borei Keila community consists of 32 families affected by HIV.

But Mann Chhoeun said that nine of these families will receive on-site housing after they were able to provide documentation that they had been living at Borei Keila for at least five years.

They move us to tuol sambo ... they want to keep us separate from other people

In Borei Keila, however, families said that the government has not provided anybody with official confirmation that they will receive on-site apartments.

Community members also said they believed 11 families, not nine, would be receiving flats.

Residents despair
Seang Vy, a blind HIV-positive mother who has been informed - though not provided with documents - that she will be receive an apartment remains worried.

"I only have a little hope that I will receive a flat in Borei Keila," she said.

Suon Davy, 42, another HIV-positive Borei Keila resident, said that the government had intentionally separated their community from the rest of Borei Keila and that this discrimination will continue at the new site in Dangkor district.

"City Hall discriminates against us," she said.

"They move us to Tuol Sambo, which means that they want to keep us separate from other people," Suon Davy added.

Manfred Hornung of the Cambodian rights group Licadho said that this separation violates a 2002 AIDS law, which requires a nondiscriminatory approach to combating the virus.

"If you take entire families to an isolated spot where everyone can point at them, it's definitely a breach of the HIV/AIDS law," he told the Post.

Economic crisis fuels human trafficking in Cambodia: officials

Written by Thomas Fearon
Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Men increasingly becoming vulnerable as jobs dry up at home, authorities warn, saying better police training is needed to implement laws

Siem Reap

HUMAN trafficking in Cambodia has surged in the wake of the global financial crisis, an international task force of government and NGOs said Tuesday at the opening of a workshop in Siem Reap.

"The impact of the global economic crisis in Cambodia will be visible [through] an increase in criminality," said Christian Guth, law enforcement adviser for the World Vision project named Law Enforcement Against Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Children.

"Girls and boys who are without work will go to the countryside and work in the rice fields. But once this temporary work finishes ... they return to the town and can fall into prostitution and trafficking," the former French police commander told the Post at the start of the three-day workshop involving government departments, police and officials from the World Vision project.

The opening day's agenda unveiled new strategies on training police and judges to better understand anti-human trafficking laws, how to collect evidence in cases and introduce new interview techniques for victims, especially women and children.

Men in the firing line
Bruno Maltoni, project coordinator for the International Organisation for Migration, said men had become prime targets for human trafficking during the economic downturn.

... They return to the town and can fall into prostitution and trafficking.

"We're seeing more and more cases of Cambodian men being exploited. We've found fisherman who have been exploited for labour in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and even Somalia," he said.

"Since 1992 there has been a focus on protecting women and children, which is important, but now we have to face new challenges to be able to change our approach to tackling human trafficking."

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently pledged US$1.39 million to the project, which will be used largely to support police training.

"Even when you apply training there can be problems with police officers implementing the training on the job due to a lack of communication or resources," Maltoni said.

"We have very good cooperation between the government and organisations providing training, [but the] idea is to have more balanced and widespread training," he added.

National Police Brigadier General Ten Borany praised female police officers for their sensitive work with victims, but said the key to successfully combating human trafficking was more police training.

"The main challenge facing law enforcement is strengthening the numbers of specialised officers and ensuring they follow the provincial prosecutors in building cases," said Ten Borany, acting director of the Interior Ministry's Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Department.