Thursday, 11 June 2009

PM to visit Cambodia Friday


Published: 11/06/2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will make an official visit to Cambodia on Friday for bilateral talks, including discussions on the continuing border dispute near Preah Vihear temple and the sea border in the Gulf of Thailand.

It will be hisd first trip to Cambodia since taking office in December.

Mr Abhisit said on Thursday he had to cancel his planned visit to Cambodia on April 18 because of the anti-government riots in Bangkok.

He will meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss expansion of bilateral cooperation, such as the construction of roads connecting the two countries, the development of water resources, electricity sales and tourism promotion.

Thailand will offer low-interest loans to Cambodia, and will return seven Khmer artifacts smuggled into Thailand by thieves about 10 years ago and later seized by police, he said.

Mr Abhisit said he will also meet Thai businessmen in Phnom Penh to discuss their problems and try and help them if possible.

Duch’s trial loses its track in upside-down hearing

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 10/06/2009: Richard Rogers, head of the Defence Support Section, during a joint press conference with the ECCC spokespersons who said that an investigation was carried out regarding the confidential documents found in a ditch, but the report was still being drafted…
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

There are days at the court when the substance of the case is pushed so much to the background and repetitions are so countless that the scenario of a lengthy trial appears difficult to dismiss. Debates on the armed conflict between Democratic Kampuchea and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam erred in unforeseen meanderings, with a sluggishness of the judges to bring discussions back to focus. The whole day of Wednesday June 10th was again necessary to exhaust the topic, although the two witnesses invited to testify on this issue did not have the opportunity to show their faces. As a trial management meeting in camera is scheduled for Thursday, the hearing will resume on Monday June 15th, with the examination of the functioning of the S-21 security centre and the mass grave of Choeung Ek, which were both under Duch’s responsibility.

The Vietnamese prisoners: enemies like others
Judge Cartwright continued the examination of the accused on the issue of the armed conflict, started on the previous day. Duch explained that the Vietnamese prisoners were classified into three categories: fighters, civilians and spies. However, these statutes did not affect the fate they were reserved. As long as they were sent to S-21, Duch reminded, they were considered as enemies and therefore had to be smashed in accordance with the policy of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK). The accused recognised he had annotated their confessions, easily managed to spot in a list of S-21 prisoners identified as Vietnamese those who were arrested in Vietnam, and admitted that some of their confessions were read on the Khmer Rouge propaganda radio, the Voice of Democratic Kampuchea.

The judge recapitulated: “Since S-21 started working until January 6th 1979, there were 345 Vietnamese sent to S-21, where they were interrogated, often tortured and eventually killed. Is that correct?” “Yes, it is,” Duch replied. “But I do not want to use the adverb ‘often’ next to ‘tortured’ and I would like to rephrase it as: ‘tortured when that was inevitable.’” Was Duch aware of the existence of international conventions relating to prisoners of war? No, he had never studied issues of international law and later said he discovered the illegal nature of these acts by reading the introductory submission of the co-Investigating Judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. He claimed that when Vietnamese were arrested, he was only executing orders.

When judge Lavergne asked him whether some of these Vietnamese prisoners sent to S-21 were considered as enemies because they were Buddhist monks or Khmer Krom, Duch answered that they were perceived first and foremost as spies. Such was the case for the Khmer Krom, whose resistance movement was, according to Pol Pot, affiliated with the United States, which automatically made them enemies. Each time he gave a Vietnamese name, Duch loosened the syllables and insisted on correcting the interpreters’ pronunciation.

Meandering debates
Before the floor was given to the co-Prosecutors, president Nil Nonn reminded that “the court proceedings had taken more time than planned” and invited the parties not to stray from the issue and not to repeat questions already asked by the judges.

The Cambodian co-Prosecutor started. A few questions later, judge Cartwright deemed useful to recall the president’s warnings: to remain focused on the current topic, that is the armed conflict, and avoid repeating questions which the accused has already answered… The international co-Prosecutor, William Smith, continued, without any more success. Duch repeated: the Vietnamese who ended up in S-21 were not transferred there because of their nationality, but because they had committed an offence or were labelled as spies, similarly to Chinese or Khmer whose fate was decided in the death antechamber, whether the charges against them were valid or not. It was the “routine”, he said in French.

Then, the co-Prosecutor evoked a film shot in S-21, which created confusion among the judges, who claimed they did not know what he was referring to. Finally, the accused was asked to shed some light. He recalled that on the very morning, he mentioned this film shot for purposes of propaganda by a nephew of Pol Pot, who had received special film training in China. The movie shows defeated Vietnamese soldiers, jailed in S-21, making confessions. Granting William Smith’s request, a short clip of the film was broadcast, with a voice-over stating that one of these prisoners disclosed the Vietnamese Communist Party’s plan to install a puppet government at the head of Kampuchea and force the country to join an Indochinese Federation… The interest of this long endeavour by the prosecution was difficult to grasp.

A technical meeting to “make the fastest possible progress in the trial”
As the last quarter of the trial started, the judges announced the agenda for the next day’s trial management meeting, aimed to manage as best as possible the court proceedings and establish mechanisms to work faster: assess the length of the trial, examine the issues related to the availability of the party lawyers as well as administrative and staff issues, determine the schedule of proceedings for the Trial Chamber, and court recesses, review a draft amendment of internal rule 87, relating to rules of evidence, determine a speaking time for civil parties so they can speak directly, without the intermediary of their lawyers, and debate various other issues which may be raised by the parties.

Fast-forward for the end of the hearing
The Cambodian co-lawyer for civil party group 4 resumed his examination, without any direct link with the issue or any relevance. Relief was felt in the audience when he finished and the co-lawyers for civil party groups 2, 3 and 4 explained they did not want to lengthen the debates unnecessarily and therefore had no questions to ask, as the issue of the armed conflict had already been scanned properly. The defence counsel followed the move and added that enough questions had been asked to the accused. The president seemed taken by surprise by this sudden acceleration and asked Duch, as a matter of form, three questions devoid of interest before adjourning the session.

Sudan calling


Written by Heng Chivoan
Thursday, 11 June 2009

A monk blesses members of a 52-member team of Cambodian deminers who left Wednesday for Sudan, where they will offer their services as part of a multinational UN peacekeeping force for one year. The team was the country's fourth since 2006 to travel to Sudan. Chan Dararith, deputy director of human resources for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said that so far Cambodia had sent a total of 468 deminers to Sudan. The new team will relieve 139 deminers, who will return Friday from their one-year tour of duty in the northeast African nation.

Court rebuffs defence criticism

Richard Rogers, head of the ECCC Defence Support Section, speaks at a press conference at the court Wednesday.

Pol pot dismantled buddhism: duch

Former Khmer Rouge jailer Kaing Guek Eav told the UN-backed war crimes court Wednesday that the regime's party line forced Buddhist monks to disrobe or otherwise be killed as part of a plan to slowly dismantle the national religion. "Pol Pot opposed all religions as a general principle ... [But] they never sent anyone to [my] office because of their belief in religion," the former leader, known as Duch, said. The accused former leader also told judges that hundreds of Vietnamese war prisoners were killed because of suspicions that they were spies. "No one could escape, all of them were ordered to be smashed," Duch said. "Vietnamese who came from Vietnam in any form - civilians or combatants - they were arrested and sent to S-21 accused of being a spy." Duch commanded the notorious Tuol Sleng prison in which 16,000 men, women and children were tortured and killed. Two surviving staff members of the prison were expected to testify this week; however, judges said Wednesday that their appearance in court had been delayed due to repetitive or off-topic questioning by the parties.


Written by Georgia Wilkins
Thursday, 11 June 2009

A CONFIDENTIAL document found floating in a pond outside the Khmer Rouge tribunal last week was not stolen, and the political affiliations of one prominent official will not compromise her work at the court, tribunal officials said Wednesday at a press conference during which they addressed a series of concerns recently raised by two defence teams.

Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea claimed last week that the confidential document had been taken from their office and called for an investigation into the alleged security breach. But spokesman Lars Olsen said a report by security officials had concluded that no theft had occured.

"The main conclusions are clear: There is absolutely no evidence to substantiate any allegations of foul play or theft at the tribunal," he said, declining to explain how the document got into the ditch until the report was finalised.

The document was a draft of a letter from defence lawyers to the newly appointed Victims' Unit head, Helen Jarvis, expressing concern over an open letter - to which Jarvis was a signatory - written by members of the Leninist Party Faction (LPF) of Australia's Democratic Socialist Perspective.

Concern over the appointment was also voiced by the lawyers for Ieng Sary as well as civil society groups.

Olsen read a letter from Deputy Director of Administration Knut Rosandhaug to the Ieng Sary defence team that stated in part, "Every member of staff has the right to their personal, political views."

The comment upset lawyers, who said their concerns had not been addressed properly.

"At best this is a case of negligence," Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for Nuon Chea, said, referring to the alleged security breach.

"Documents were placed in a box for shredding and signed over to someone to take them to the shredder," he said.

He added that the comments regarding Jarvis "completely missed the point".

"Of course everyone has the right to their own political beliefs, but as a matter of fact, sometimes people's political beliefs are incompatible with their professional responsibilities," he said.

Michael Karnavas, co-lawyer for Ieng Sary, called for any indication of impartiality to be investigated.

"It is fundamental that the people occupying public and important positions at the ECCC ... are completely impartial in the exercise of their duties. Any factor which may affect this impartiality must therefore be investigated," he said.

Judges ‘offend' lawyers
Chief of Defence Richard Rogers, also speaking Wednesday, said that it was a misconception that the recent spate of concerns by the defence teams were slowing down proceedings.

"Lawyers have the professional obligation to raise issues of fair trial if and when they arise," he said, adding that lawyers were "offended" by recent comments by a judge accusing them of impeding investigations by allowing the defendants to exercise their right to silence.

He also addressed repeated concerns about political interference at the court, which lawyers now claim to be a matter of fact.

Nuon Chea's defence team said last week that it had been "reliably informed" that investigating judges and prosecutors were taking instructions from the government on whom to interview and prosecute.

In a series of letters last week, the lawyers demanded the four individuals confirm or deny the accusation in writing. Rogers said Co-investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde is the only person to have responded so far.

"If prosecutors decide who to prosecute based on political affiliations and not evidence, there is no equality before the law," he added.

Forum backs UN report

Written by Sebastian Strangio
Thursday, 11 June 2009

A COALITION of civil society representatives on Wednesday expressed its support for concluding observations issued last month by a UN human rights body, which found that government implementation of laws designed to protect basic human rights was lacking.

At a public forum Wednesday, more than 120 civil society activists, community representatives, trade unionists, teachers and health workers released a joint statement in "strong support" of the recommendations issued by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights following Cambodia's review on May 11-12.

"The Committee has accurately described the real situation in Cambodia, which we experience in our daily lives," the statement said.

"We ... recognise that there are many problems with the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights that still need to be addressed."

The committee's observations, released May 22 in Geneva, criticised the government for its lack of action on issues including land rights, gender equality, conservation, unemployment and labour rights.

The report was greeted with hostility from the government, with senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap saying it was "usual for UN human rights bodies to blast the ruling party".

But Chan Vichet, a representative of Phnom Penh's Dey Krahorm community, the members of which were forcibly evicted by city authorities in January, said the recommendations were not designed to attack the government unfairly.

"These recommendations do not mean the UN is reproaching the government for not having political principles, but on some points the government has not fulfilled [its promises]," he said at the forum.

Wednesday's statement, based on a Khmer translation of the recommendations, expressed its support for the committee's call for a moratorium on land evictions "until the proper legal framework is in place and the process of land titling is completed".

In addition to recommendations relating to gender, disabilities, health and education, it requested the passage of the government's long-awaited Anti-corruption Law and the establishment of a national housing policy. It also highlighted judicial independence as a key factor in ensuring basic human rights.

David Pred, director of Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia, who helped organise the forum, said its intention was to disseminate the UN's observations among as many Cambodians as possible.

"This is really the first chance for a cross-section of Cambodian society to have a look at these recommendations and think about what they mean and whether they agree with them," he said.

"The message that came out today is that people here strongly support what the UN committee has said, and they can let the government know they can use these recommendations as a platform for some important reforms."

Mu Sochua's lawsuit rejected

SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua speaks with reporters at a recent press conference at the National Assembly.

Written by Meas Sokchea
Thursday, 11 June 2009

No explanation given for dismissal of opposition lawmaker's defamation case against Hun Sen, which follows out-of-court testimony from the prime minister.

THE lawyer for opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua learned Wednesday that his client's defamation lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen had been thrown out of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, though he said he had received no explanation for the dismissal.

Kong Sam Onn said he received a letter informing him of the decision Wednesday.

"They sent me a letter at 10am to tell me that the prosecutor would not take action over Mu Sochua's suit," he said. "They did not give a reason."

Following news of the dismissal, Mu Sochua told the Post that she would appeal it, adding that she wanted an outcome that she considered fair.

"The court has rejected my lawsuit, and I have enough proof to make my case," she said.

"I still respect Hun Sen, but I need justice. I want people to see a just system."

Deputy prosecutor Hing Bun Chea declined to comment Wednesday afternoon, saying he was busy.

No jurisdiction
Mu Sochua also criticised a court decision allowing Prime Minister Hun Sen to appear at the Council of Ministers to answer questions relating to her lawsuit Monday, arguing that the council had no legal jurisdiction in the case.

"The court does not belong to the Council of Ministers. If a poor person or I am forced to go to the court, the prime minister must go to the court as well. If the court is just, it must be balanced," she said.

Hing Bun Chea said earlier in the day that the court had summoned Prime Minister Hun Sen to the Municipal Court, but that the procedure had been moved to the Council of Ministers following a request from Hun Sen's attorney Ky Tech.

Ky Tech said the questioning session had been moved for security reasons, adding that the appearance of Hun Sen's bodyguards at the court could have led the public to believe that the court could not reach an independent ruling.

Mu Sochua filed her suit against Hun Sen in late April, alleging he made insulting references to her during a speech in Kampot province on April 4. Hun Sen then countersued Mu Sochua for defamation, claiming the comments did not refer specifically to her.

EVICTIONS Land-related arrests on the rise in '09

Written by Thet Sambath
Thursday, 11 June 2009


The number of people arrested and detained in cases related to land disputes more than doubled in the first five months of 2009 compared with the first six months of 2008, according to a report released Wednesday by the local rights group Adhoc. The report states that 69 people have been arrested and detained so far this year, with 35 of them remaining in prison. Warrants are still out for an additional 66 people. In the first six months of last year, only 30 people were arrested and detained, said Ny Chakrya, the head of the monitoring section of Adhoc. "More people have been arrested and detained, while others are on run to escape from police's arrests over land issues," he said.

Anti-trafficking work suffers from poor coordination: experts

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 11 June 2009

Siem Reap

UN official says similar missions are creating a situation in which efforts such as training are being duplicated by several NGOS.

A lack of coordination among anti-trafficking NGOs is leading to inefficiency, as police officers increasingly report having received the same training from different organisations, a UN official said Wednesday at a workshop for anti-trafficking organisations in Siem Reap.

"You could find 10 organisations giving the same training to the same group of people," Matt Friedman, regional project manager of the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (UNIAP), said during the second day of the three-day workshop.

"In other sectors, like HIV/AIDS, organisations have been working together for years. There's no reason why we can't harmonise in trafficking," he added.

Many participants at the workshop, which concludes today, echoed the call for improved communication among different agencies in the field.

"There's a need for coordination and collaboration between all organisations that are conducting any training to law enforcement," Patrick Stayton, field office director with the International Justice Mission (IJM), an organisation that trains Cambodian police in anti-trafficking techniques and assists them in operations, told the Post.

"There needs to be a clear and consistent message and better sharing of information, so that everyone's not hitting the same locations and officers, so there's no duplication."

He added, "Because of the transnational nature of trafficking, it's not a static crime. It's something that moves across borders and boundaries, it's something that moves between provinces, and there are so many different nationalities involved that it demands that kind of cooperation."

Front-line challenges
Despite increasing attention and resources being directed towards anti-trafficking efforts, police on the front line still face enormous challenges, and training alone will not overcome them, workshop participants said.

"We can train the police to handcuff suspects, but if the police don't have handcuffs, then how can this be implemented?" said Naomi Svensson, a legal project coordinator for IJM.

"We also train police to separate victims and suspects, but sometimes it isn't possible because the police have only one car."

Another major problem is the lack of safe houses for rescued sex workers, Stayton said.

"You can train police on how to conduct victim-friendly brothel raids, where they communicate a message to the women being removed that they are victims, and they're not going to be treated like they're being prosecuted," Stayton said. "But if the police lack places to put the women for the next 24 to 48 hours while they're being processed and interviewed, if the only place they have is a jail cell where they shut and lock the women in for the night, the message ‘You're a victim' falls very flat."

The last line of defence for wildlife

A member of the WRRT holds up the carcass of a rare marbled cat, found in a restaurant in Koh Kong province.

Written by Tracey Shelton
Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team have been battling the illegal wildlife trade for eight years - and with huge success. Experts say they are a model for other conservation initiatives.

ON a Thursday morning last month, workers at restaurants near Thmor Roung Waterfall in Koh Kong province relaxed in hammocks as they waited for the lunch crowd to trickle in.

Late in the morning, two vehicles containing five military police officers and two Forestry Administration (FA) officials suddenly arrived on the scene, and restaurant owners were informed that their establishments would be searched for illegal wildlife products.

The team was part of a government task force known as the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT). Run by the FA with support and training from the conservation NGO Wildlife Alliance, the 12-member WRRT works to stop the illegal trade that conservationists say is decimating the Kingdom's wildlife population.

A search of four restaurants recovered five kilograms of wild boar meat and the carcass of a marbled cat. Referring to the boar meat, Heng Kimchhay of the FA said its texture, as well as the lack of fat directly underneath the skin, were clues that it was not from a domestic pig.

After interviewing restaurant owners and drafting reports, the WRRT issued fines to two restaurant owners and moved on to the next location.

Since its founding in 2001, the WRRT has regularly patrolled restaurants, markets and major wildlife trade routes throughout the Kingdom.

Nick Marx of Wildlife Alliance, who advises the WRRT, said the "fantastic government initiative" has evolved "into a highly accomplished, professional and extremely hardworking team".

He added, "Their animal-handling skills have reached a level of excellence so high that animals almost never die during confiscation or transportation, despite the poor conditions they are often found in."

By April 2009, the WRRT had rescued 38,709 live animals, confiscated 5,824 kilograms of wildlife meat and apprehended 1,801 wildlife traders. Live animals are typically released back into the wild or brought to FA's Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) in Takeo province. Confiscated meat is either destroyed or fed to animals at the rescue center.

David Emmett, deputy regional director for Conservation International, said many conservation groups concentrate on areas with high populations of species that are globally rare but common in Cambodia, whereas the WRRT focuses on species that are "highly valued and rare everywhere" because they are "difficult to protect". He cited as examples bears, tigers, pangolins and turtles.

"Through their links to the PTWRC, they can also ensure that confiscated high-value species have a chance to form an assurance colony - a captive breeding colony that ensures the species will not go extinct even if totally hunted out in the wild," Emmett said, adding that the eventual release of these animals into the wild would in some cases offer the only chance for their survival.

Marx pointed to progress in curtailing the wildlife trade in recent years, saying that "wildlife and body parts were on sale everywhere throughout the country" when the WRRT was formed. Big confiscations took place daily, he said, and traders and restaurants selling wildlife meat were put out of business.

Eight years later, he said, wildlife meat is no longer listed on menus and live animals are no longer openly sold in markets.

But conservationists said there is still an active underground animal trade in Cambodia.

....wildlife and body parts were on sale everywhere.

Meng Sinoeun, a military police captain on the WRRT, said traders constantly adjust their tactics.

Whereas they used to store and transport large quantities of wildlife at once, they now move smaller quantities, making transactions harder to detect. He said the animals are often transported in cars or tourist buses - citing an example in April in which the WRRT found half a tonne of snakes and turtles in a Chevrolet, and another in which the team recovered five pangolins from a tourist bus bound for Poipet.

When poverty drives trade
On the same day that the WRRT raided the Thmor Roung Waterfall restaurants, the team also visited Srey Ampel market, also in Koh Kong.

Two women were discovered trading three wild ducks, and one tried to flee approaching military police officers. Across the market, she approached Heng Kimchhay, not realising that he was also part of the team.

Heng Kimchhay quickly calmed the woman down and convinced her to cooperate. Again, the team drafted reports and confiscated the contraband, but this time the women were not fined.

"I can see how they are living. It's obvious they are poor," Heng Kimchhay said. "But we have their details on record and have warned them that if caught again they will be charged."

Marx, who is clearly proud of the team, said its job is both emotionally taxing and dangerous, in part because of the sometimes-violent reactions from traders and the animals they confiscate.

Matt Hunt, the CEO for the international organization Free the Bears, said the WRRT could be an example for other conservation groups in the region.

"Within ASEAN, Cambodia stands as a fantastic example of what can be achieved with a dedicated task force committed to tackling the illegal wildlife trade," Hunt said.

"WRRT form the final line of defence for animals which have been stolen from the wild."

Lawyer calls on KCF head to pay for criticism of Angkor Wat lights

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Thursday, 11 June 2009

KCF President Moeung Sonn, who has fled to France, maintains that the government is to blame for public outcry over installation work.

Government lawyer Pal Chan Dara answered questions in Phnom Penh Municipal Court Tuesday regarding his June 2 complaint accusing the president of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation (KCF) of inciting the public and spreading false information.

Moeung Sonn, the KCF president, held a press conference in Siem Reap last month during which he claimed that the installation of new light fixtures had damaged Angkor Wat.

Pal Chan Dara said Tuesday that he asked the court to make Moeung Sonn pay 10 million riels (US$2,400) for severely damaging the government's reputation.

The lawyer criticised Moeung Sonn's "rubbish press conference in Siem Reap", which he said "was absolutely wrong ... and made tourists fearful and unwilling to visit the temple".

Moeung Sonn, who fled to France to avoid arrest, defended his actions in an interview with the Post, saying much of the blame for the outcry over Angkor Wat's new lights lies with the government.

"Government officials [should have] informed the public in advance that the installation of the lights designed to attract more visitors at night ... will not cause damage," he said from France, adding that he had asked Prime Minister Hun Sen, King Sihamoni and King Father Norodom
Sihanouk to intervene on his behalf.

The Cambodia Watchdog Council (CWC) condemned the government's use of the judiciary to silence critics in a June 9 press release, and the CWC representative singled out Moeung Sonn's case as typical of the government's attacks on free speech.

"The government shouldn't have sued Moeung Sonn for his concern over the lights at Angkor Wat - which surely damaged the temple, but the government rejected the truth and sued him," Rong Chunn, the CWC representative said. "Government officials are now using the court system to discourage all critics."

Traditional attitudes, alcohol drive abuse

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A participant holds up a new report on domestic violence released Wednesday.

Written by Mom Kunthear and Khouth Sophak Chakrya
Thursday, 11 June 2009

A new report also describes a lack of will on the part of authorities to address the problem.

THE majority of Cambodians see alcohol as a key contributor to instances of domestic violence, suggests a report on the issue released Wednesday.

In addition to alcohol abuse, cultural norms, traditional attitudes and widespread gender-based discrimination are hindering efforts to prevent domestic violence, the report, which is part of an EU-backed project to reduce violence against women, claims. It also suggests that these factors contribute to repeat attacks by discouraging victims from leaving abusive relationships.

"As we carried out research, we found that a large majority of all target groups ... believe that alcohol is the main contributing factor to domestic violence," said Jo-Ann Lim, a research consultant who worked on the report.

The findings suggest that many Cambodians recognise that domestic violence can take several forms - such as verbal, physical or sexual abuse. However, skills or knowledge within communities about how to resolve violent situations and prevent further violence was found to be lacking.

"The survivors of domestic violence lack understanding about their rights," Lim said.

The report, titled "Out of court resolutions of violence against women: practices and issues in Cambodia", is based on data from more than 300 interviews conducted in five different communities in Phnom Penh and Kampong Cham province.

The project is co-funded by the European Union and the Danish International Development Agency, with help from local rights groups, including Adhoc and the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre.

Authorities part of problem
Adhoc President Thun Saray said the report highlighted the lack of will on the part of local authorities to protect those in danger.

"Local authorities ... are corrupt and discriminative," he said, referring to a tendency to broker deals between victims and abusers. "Now, it is only NGOs addressing this issue, when it is really the role of the local authorities."

Lim, who said the aim of the report was to examine perceptions of domestic violence at the community level, argued that women in Cambodia who suffer from domestic violence "are not only suffering from the effects of violence, but are also suffering from the resolution process itself".

Protest at Kang Keng Airport ends peacefully, villagers say

Written by Chrann Chamroeun
Thursday, 11 June 2009

MORE than 100 families facing eviction from Preah Sihanouk province's Prey Nob district protested Tuesday, expressing frustration with how the expansion of the province's Kang Keng Airport is being handled.

A mixed force of police and military police were deployed to prevent possible violence after protesters attempted to stop three trucks from entering a 1.5-hectare plot of land that has been requisitioned for construction of a new air traffic control tower.

Chan Chamroeun, local investigator for the rights group Adhoc, told the Post Wednesday that he and other NGO staff observing the demonstration saw it end peacefully, despite fears on the part of villagers that violence might break out.

Lin Sarin, the chief of Ream commune, where the 1.5-hectare plot is located, told the Post Wednesday that the villagers had returned to their homes after the family that owned the plot in question was offered US$30,000 in compensation from the development company.

However, the other families facing eviction said they haven't been offered any compensation since the airport expansion plans were announced in 2006. According to Kang Keng community representative Seng Meng, their land is surrounded by the projected expansion and will likely be swallowed up by the project, which aims to increase tourism and commercial revenue for the area.

"We are not opposed to Kang Keng Airport's project, but we just want the company to pay a fair compensation to us so we can afford to buy other land for living," Seng Meng said.

"We haven't received any resolution from government representatives or company representatives."

Need for expansion
The airport expansion may become more pressing as progress is made towards a new national carrier. According to Mau Havannal, secretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, an "anonymous private local company" was preparing documents to apply to run flights out of Kang Keng Airport. He told the Post Tuesday that further details on the company were unavailable.

Keep on your toes...


Written by Tracey Shelton
Thursday, 11 June 2009

Men play sepak takraw, a popular Asian game similar to volleyball in which only the feet and head can be used to hit the ball over the net, on the riverside Tuesday morning.

Lighting project part of broader push for Angkor entertainment

An assortment of lighting equipment used for the Angkor Wat Night Festival is stockpiled on the grounds of the temple.
Written by Peter Olszewski
Thursday, 11 June 2009


A series of entertainment projects have been proposed at Siem Reap's temples in recent years, including a three-day festival on the backburner and an operational night festival.

THE ONGOING light installation project at Angkor Wat temple - which in recent weeks has sparked allegations of temple damage and a defamation lawsuit - is the latest in a series of projects intended to transform Siem Reap's temples into major entertainment venues.

Though some of these projects have not moved past the proposal stage, one of them - the Angkor Wat Night Festival - is fully operational and has the backing of both UNESCO and the government.

The most recent plans for an entertainment project were presented by the Russian company Rise Entertainment during a meeting of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC) held last week in Siem Reap.

The Moscow-based company, which in 2007 pitched a series of concerts as part of a festival to be titled "Angkorica", now aims to host a three-day concert festival at Bayon temple.

The "Angkorica" proposal, which included plans for an appearance by the Icelandic singer Bjork as well as elephants covered in white-and-gold cloth, was priced at between US$3.5 and $5 million and would have been staged at Angkor Wat and other temples.

Vladimir Meshkey, general producer for Rise Entertainment, told the Post earlier this month that the company had been advised by the Apsara Authority, the body that manages Angkor Wat, to consider a more modest festival at an alternate site.

"We're trying to work it out," Meshkey said. "We'll see in another year."

Lighting tours
The Sou Ching Co, the company implementing the light installation project at Angkor Wat, hosts "Night Lighting" tours of the Kingdom's flagship tourism complex.

The project sparked controversy when the company began inserting lights into holes in the walls of the temple to replace lights placed on the ground. The company said the holes were pre-existing, though tourists and others said they suspected that the holes had been carved out specifically for the project.

Photos of Angkor that showed lights placed at regular intervals in part fuelled the allegations, though Sou Ching has denied causing any damage to the temple.

We have our mandate from the government... we need visitors to be visiting more.

The government and the Apsara Authority have also rejected claims that Angkor Wat sustained damage as a result of the installation project.

"The accusations of people that the light fittings were carved into the wall of Angkor are just not true," Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, told the Post last week.

Earlier this month, the government filed a suit in which it charged Moeung Sonn, president of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation, with spreading false information and inciting the public in connection to his claims that holes had been drilled deep into the temple's walls. Shortly after the suit was filed on June 2, Moeung Sonn fled to France to avoid arrest.

In an interview from France Saturday, Moeung Sonn said, "If the trial starts, let it be done by international courts because Angkor Wat is a World Heritage site."

Angkor Wat Night Festival
During the dry season, Sou Ching also hosts the Angkor Wat Night Festival in conjunction with the Apsara Authority and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. The nightly production, which features more than 150 performers, 45 lighting technicians and engineers and 50 support staff, is massive, moving across the interior of Angkor Wat and culminating in a traditional dance show held on a stage with light gantries that have been erected on the site.

The entire temple interior is lit up and wired throughout for sound, and a dining area provides an up-market Khmer dinner for guests.

Jamie Rossiter, former director of marketing for Sou Ching, told the Post in March that UNESCO, which granted Angkor Wat World Heritage site status in 1992, approved of the project, and that there had been no resistance to it.

Unesco officials, including Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai, president of UNESCO's Executive Council, joined government officials on a visit to the site in March, during which they dined at the restaurant and watched the show.

"There has been no controversy over the show, absolutely none," said Rossiter, who has since left Sou Ching.

He said, "We have our mandate from the government. It was Apsara, Unesco and the government together which said we need to use the temple more, we need visitors to be visiting more and enjoying it more and there is more we can be doing with these temples."


Zap! Pow! The Khmer Batmobile

Photo by: Kyle Sherer
Srey Chhay, aka Mr Batman, in his modified tuk-tuk.

Written by Kyle Sherer
Thursday, 11 June 2009

A SIEM Reap tuk-tuk driver who calls himself Mr Batman, has taken on the mantle of Gotham City's brooding caped crusader and transformed his machine into a Khmer-style Batmobile. Rather than fighting criminals, he's using his hero identity to fight rival drivers for the tourist buck, and the shtick works.

Mr Batman, aka Srey Chhay, started his tuk-tuk gig last week and said the idea of channelling the costumed hero came after watching the Batman movie on TV. Acting on impulse, he searched for a Batman logo on the Internet and sent his girlfriend to a tuk-tuk upholstery shop with the printout.

The result is a stylish black tuk-tuk adorned with six Batman logos, including a large one on the roof. Srey Chhay said that up to 30 tourists photographed the tuk-tuk in his first week, and others sing the theme song from the '60s Batman TV show as he drives by.

He said the hubbub makes him feel good. "Like Batman, I help people. I take them from temple to temple."

While he harbours no plans of fitting his tuk-tuk with machine guns or smoke bombs, he does want to work on his driving clothes. "In one or two months, after I save some money, I want to get a cape. And maybe modify my helmet."

Srey Chhay is not the only driver who has adopted a gimmick to distinguish himself from the pack. Mr Rock touts a "luxury" tuk-tuk around town, though apart from the words "Rolls Royce" painted on the side, it seems no more lavish than a standard model. There is also the infamous karaoke tuk-tuk, which allows travellers to plug their iPods into mounted speakers and sing while they ride around town.

Philip Starling, founder of NGO Making a Difference for Good and mastermind behind the quad-bike driven medical tuk-tuk that brings health care to rural villages in Siem Reap province, said that he has plans for another unique tuk-tuk. "It's very private at the moment, but I want to build a luxury model. One of the things that's a big delay is I want air-con in it."

Siem Reap Scene: 11 Jun 2009

Siem Reap’s NYDC Cafe and Restaurant, managed by Sharon Soldner.

Written by Post Staff
Thursday, 11 June 2009

Sharon Soldner, manager of Siem Reap's NYDC Cafe and Restaurant, has spun in various showbiz circles for most of the seven years she has spent in Cambodia. After appearing in multiple films shot in Phnom Penh, she moved to Siem Reap to distance herself from showbiz by running a restaurant.

But the day the restaurant opened, December 29, 2008, a movie she starred in, Where the Lotus Blooms, had its Siem Reap premiere during the CamboFest film and video festival.

Soldner said her role in the movie had loose parallels to her own life when she moved to Siem Reap.

She told Scene, "In the movie I play a white chick whose parents divorce, and she becomes a badass and gets sent to live in Cambodia with an aunt who works with an NGO for orphans."

In real life, Soldner manages the NYDC Cafe and Restaurant for her parents, Alex and Ann Soldner, who founded the establishment to raise funds for Family Care Cambodia, which works with orphans.

"I'm babysitting the restaurant for my parents and Family Care, which is a PVO, a private volunteer organisation," she said.

Since the premiere of Where the Lotus Blooms, the performance bug seems to have struck Soldner yet again, as she is now considering performing in concerts in the US over the Christmas holiday.

Soldner's first movie role came in 2003 in a Khmer ghost movie called Vinean. She has also performed as a singer and dancer, hosted her own music show two nights a week on TV3 and worked at Black Pearl, a dance centre for disadvantaged kids in Phnom Penh.

Prime Minister Hun Sen will preside this Saturday at a groundbreaking ceremony at Bellus Angkor Resort and City, a US$470-million project undertaken by the Korean developer Intercity Group (ICG).

The project will be built on a 265-hectare site located 22 kilometres north of Angkor Thom.

ICG is a real estate company headquartered in Seoul.

The company acquired the concession for the site in October 2008. It has permission to construct a casino as well as resort facilities including 1,500 hotel rooms, a golf course, a water park, shopping malls and a culture and entertainment centre.

On December 10, Korea's Maeil Business Newspaper reported that the Cambodian government "requested to arrange various facilities in order to prevent the resort from being degenerated into a casino-centred facility".

A big feature of the park is the golf course, which will be Siem Reap's fourth.

The first phase of the project, to be completed in November 2011, includes two restaurants, a spa, a wine bar, a karaoke bar and a live jazz bar. It also includes an "event fountain (with lighting show)", according to the company's Web site.

The project's second phase will include a convention and performing arts centre, an indoor theme park, condominiums and other residential units.

The Web site also mentions that the company is in talks "to lease 180 hectares of additional land owned by the government, which is neighbouring our site to the east side". This land would be used to expand the golf course.

A two-year project to develop the land in front of Banteay Srey temple - which includes the construction of a visitor centre and a cafe - is nearing completion, the project manager said in a recent interview.

Chau Sun Kerya, director of the Department of Cultural Development Museum and Heritage Norms at the Apsara Authority, the body that manages Angkor Wat, told Scene that the last remaining tasks involve erecting souvenir stalls and moving in vendors, a process that she said would take between two weeks and one month.

The development is situated on 32 hectares of land around the temple and is designed to ease congestion by providing tourists with areas in which to shop, eat and relax. In addition to the visitor centre and cafe, the project also includes a ticketing booth. Chau Sun Kerya said the project was designed so as not to detract from the natural beauty of its surroundings.

"We want to integrate the environment, like the nearby pond and rice fields," she said.

The Provincial Teacher Training College took the champion's trophy at last Sunday's under-12 junior football mini-tournament, sponsored by the Centre for Khmer Studies.

The five teams competing in the tournament were from Anjali House, Green Gecko SC, Sangkheum FC, the Provincial Teacher Training College and the Siem Reap International School.

Each nine-player team played all the others in the first stage of the tournament. Provincial Teacher Training College and Sangkheum FC secured the first and second slots, setting up a showdown in the final match.

Sangkheun FC played well during the first half and was leading 2-0 at halftime. However, in a dramatic reversal, Provincial Teacher Training College fought back to win the game 4-2.

The Golden Boot, given to the top goal-scorer, was jointly awarded to Van der Lux of Provincial Teacher Training College and Choy Chet of Sangkeum FC, who both scored six goals during the tournament. Van der Lux also bagged the Player of the Tournament Award.

Next Sunday, teams will compete in an under-16 junior football mini-tournament.

Temple Watch: Ancient wheel turns again

Written by Dave Perkes
Thursday, 11 June 2009

The old stone bridge, Spean Thma, is near the temple of Ta Keo and near the metal bridge on the road to Ta Prohm. The bridge was originally constructed in Angkorian times, but it has suffered badly through the centuries. Huge trees grow out of the stones with much of the masonry severely damaged.

Travellers who stop and look can see the corbelled arches and the remains of a stepped embankment. The Siem Reap River flows about five metres below it. The river was originally canalised by the ancient Khmers and took a straight route north to south. The river eventually cut a deep ravine and turned at right angles to the bridge, leaving it high and dry. Upriver from the bridge is a large waterwheel which has just been replaced after being removed for repairs. It's about 10 metres in diameter and an impressive sight in its own right. Yet it is ignored by most tourist groups, which focus on the ancient stones. The waterwheel is a marvellous example of industrial archaeology, and it is still used to pump water to the Takeo nurseries. Now that the rainy season is here, it is fascinating to watch the huge wheel working again.

Students seen as primary medicine for neglected, ailing health system

Bith Sok Tepy is studying medicine to follow in her parents’ footsteps.

Written by Keo Kounila and Hay Phirum
Thursday, 11 June 2009

Removing obstacles in educating the next generation of medical professionals is critical step to closing health care gap with ASEAN neighbours, students and university officials say

Meas Sreyleak, a 23-year-old nursing student, is one of an emerging generation of medical professionals hoping to play her part in bringing Cambodia's health sector up to international standards when she graduates from her four-year degree.

However, the senior at International University, the country's first private medical university, acknowledges the goal will not be easy. Not only is the sector itself starting from a very low base, but a shortage of education options and high fees for study are hindering efforts to churn out the high-quality graduates the country needs.

"Where I study, we learn so much about how to help our patients get better, assist doctors and more," she said.

"But everybody understands that, in order for the health sector to flourish, like in neighbouring countries, both the quality and quantity of graduates should be considered at school."

Cambodia has just two state universities and one private medical institution - not enough to produce the thousands of medical students needed each year. It takes eight years to become a general doctor and another two years to get a medical specialist degree. Dentistry takes seven years, pharmacy five and nursing four.

Years of neglect
During the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, schools, hospitals and many other social institutions were abolished. While these institutions are returning, many are still marred by corruption and poor quality.

The University of Health Science, which was originally established in 1946, was revived in the 1990s following the civil war years.

Tort Borany, a 22-year-old fourth-year dentistry student, one of around 5,000 at the institution studying medicine, nursing, pharmacy or dentistry, said she hoped to work in a dental clinic when she graduated.

She had few complaints about the long years of study she needed to complete, but, like Meas Sreyleak, said high university fees were a matter of concern for students looking for a career in medicine.

Heng Sopanha, vice dean of the university's Odonto-Stomatology faculty, said a medical career was a good option for students.

"Students who study here can become general doctors, a nurse, a dentist or a pharmacist," he said. "They can work in clinics, hospitals, and in public health sectors, like the ministry or NGOs."

Most could expect to earn at least $300 per month as a starting salary, while outstanding students could apply for scholarships to study abroad in countries like Australia, Thailand, France and Japan.

Bith Sok Tepy, a 21-year-old medical student at International University in Phnom Penh, said she was following a family tradition.

"My parents own a clinic and they want me to run it after them, so when I finish my education I will work there," she said.

But she also revealed an independent streak, saying her personal goal was to work for an NGO or in the public health sector.

Heng Sopanha said there was no reason Cambodia's health education sector could not meet international standards and provide the skills needed in the country's hospitals and clinics, though he acknowledged there were high hurdles to overcome.

"We have many problems to fight if we want to better our health education system," he said, including the lack of modern equipment and facilities, including decent laboratories, to train students."

Another particularly damaging issue was that people have lost faith in modern Cambodian medical practitioners due to past wrongdoings. Stories of doctors leaving patients for dead or women in labour alone have been etched in Cambodians' memories, Heng Sopanha said.

To overcome this perception, he said the school tried to stress the importance of ethics in every class.

"Some Cambodian doctors have left a bad image behind for other good doctors to inherit, which has scared patients away from the country," he said.

"Many go abroad for medical checkups or treatments."

Moving toward 2010
A better future awaits Cambodian medical students if discussions with Cambodia's ASEAN counterparts on regional medical education lead to action. Member countries have made a commitment to ensuring an equal level of educational quality is offered in all ASEAN nations by 2010.

Heng Sophana said the aim of the project was to ensure medical students from each member country felt confident enough in their own abilities to work anywhere in the regional block.

The University of Health Science was committed to meeting the goal set by ASEAN, he added.
In 2005, an independent committee was established to ensure the rights and legitimacy of all medical practitioners - foreign and national - in Cambodia.

"We want to value the quality of our education," says Heng Sopanha, "and we have proposed that the Ministry of Health effectively pushes the independent body into practical use, so that medical graduates become confident about finding jobs to help Cambodia".

Writing in Mark Twain's shoes

Photo by: Eleanor Ainge
ROY Mak Vann (left), Secretary of State in the Ministry of Education, and US Ambassador Carol Rodley present Tuol Tompong High School student Lai Chhoeng with a certificate for winning the inaugural Mark Twain Essay Writing Contest.

Written by Eleanor Ainge Roy
Thursday, 11 June 2009

A student from Phnom Penh’s Tuol Tompong High School has been crowned the inaugural winner of an annual essay-writing contest named for the famed American novelist

Authorship is not a trade - it is an inspiration." So said Mark Twain, the 19th-century American author of the classic works of fiction The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and the role model for the first annual Mark Twain Essay Writing Contest organised by the US Embassy.

Tuol Tompong High School student Lai Chhoeng was announced the winner of the competition for her story Hopeless Life, the tale of a young wife struggling with domestic violence and a husband infected with HIV/AIDS.

The award was presented at a ceremony at the US Embassy last Saturday morning. Five other entrants were also selected for certificates and prizes, and a further 11 received certificates of honourable mention.

I just wanted to express an important issue, so that people can be educated about its impact.

"The audience for literature is vast," US Ambassador to Cambodia Carol Rodley told competition entrants at the ceremony.

"Therefore, the stage for young Cambodian authors is limited only by their imaginations."

Rodley said that readership was on the rise in Cambodia. "I hope that you continue to pursue the craft of writing in the future, and that for some, this contest is the first step in a career as an author," she said.

Entrants were asked to write a fictional story with a moral lesson in Khmer, between three and seven pages in length. More than 130 essays were submitted.

Local flavour
US spokesman John Johnson said the stories were judged on how they reflected the reality of life in Phnom Penh.

Lai Chhoenh said her winning entry was not based on personal experience. "I just wanted to express an important issue, so that people can be educated about its impact," she said.

The first-time writer said that if she could go back she would tweak her story a little, as she was only able to work on it for four days instead of the month allowed by the competition guidelines.

"My grandmother fell ill, and I had to take care of her," she said. "If I had more time I would have liked to make the husband character in my story confess to his wife his HIV status."

Lai Chhoeng said she would like to pursue more writing in the future, but that it would have to take a back seat to her main job because writers in Cambodia do not earn enough to make it a viable full time career option.

Mak Vann, a secretary of state in the Ministry of Education, was also on hand at the prize-giving ceremony. He told the entrants that they struck him as the type of students who didn't just sit back to let opportunities pass them by.

"Charles Garfield, in his book Peak Performances, observed: ‘Some people make things happen, some people watch things happen, and some wonder what happened,'" Mak Vann said.

"But you 130 all make writing happen. By your efforts during this contest program, you have clearly identified yourself as part of the group that makes things happen."

He also urged young Cambodian writers who wanted to be successful to follow the example set by Mark Twain. "He did what all good writers do ... write what you know," he said.

Consumer prices fall 5.7pc in May compared with last year

Photo by: STEVE FINCH Customers shop at Central Market in Phnom Penh. CPI inflation stood at just 1 percent in May compared to the previous month, with prices dropping 5.7 percent compared to May 2008.

CPI 2009

The following data represent annualised CPI changes for the past six months:
May +1pc
April +1pc
March +1.3pc
February - 0.1pc
January - 1.5
December -3.9pc

Source: National Institute of Statistics

Written by Ros Dina
Thursday, 11 June 2009

Annualised drop in prices masks slow rise in inflation since February as Cambodia moves from deflationary pressure to 1pc rise in prices in May

CAMBODIA'S consumer price index (CPI) dropped 5.7 percent year-on-year in May, latest government figures showed Wednesday, following a decrease in oil and commodities prices in the Kingdom in the interim period, analysts said.

CPI inflation was 1 percent in May compared with the previous month as prices continued to creep up for the third consecutive month after a decline of 0.1 percent in February.

The National Institute of Statistics (NIS) found that food and soft-drink prices fell 6.7 percent year-on-year, with rice falling 21.2 percent and pork 15.7 percent since May last year. Cooking oil was down 31.1 percent.

Transportation costs fell 15.8 percent in the same period, the figures showed, on the back of lower oil prices - petroleum and gas prices declined 42 percent.

The month-on-month 1 percent increase came as food items spiked 1.6 percent compared with April and transportation costs rebounded 1.5 percent as gasoline climbed 5.9 percent.

A small increase in gasoline prices is a good sign for GDP growth.

"A small increase in gasoline prices is a good sign for GDP growth," said San Sy Than, director general of the NIS, adding that the low level of oil prices meant that world inflation had stalled, including in more developed regional economies such as Japan, Taiwan and Thailand.

Crude oil has climbed beyond US$71 a barrel on international commodity markets this week, the highest level in seven months.

Director of the Cambodia Economic Association Chan Sophal said that year-on-year deflation was generally a bad sign, particularly for agriculture, Cambodia's main economic sector.

"If those main goods remain at a very low price, it will not be good for farmers because ... farmers will lose revenue," he said, adding that it was good news for consumers nevertheless, especially given the high commodity prices last year.

This year's CPI inflation in Cambodia represents the lowest in years. Annualised inflation rates mostly stayed close to 5 percent from October 2005 until November 2007, when they began to climb significantly. They reached more than 25 percent in July and August last year when CPI inflation reached its recent peak in the Kingdom, official data show.

The London-based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has forecast 0.5 percent CPI inflation this year compared to 19.7 percent last year.

Its report attributed a decrease in inflationary pressure at the beginning of 2009 partly to the slowdown in the growth of money supply, with broad supply, or M2, increasing just 0.5 percent in February year-on-year, according to EIU figures. In contrast, six months prior M2 growth stood at 30 percent.

This year's contraction of the money supply was influenced by a reduction in foreign investment, it added, which reduced the supply of foreign currency entering Cambodia.

"A fall in the supply of US dollars entering the economy as a result of a drop in foreign direct investment in the construction sector will also reduce the rate of money-supply growth," said the EIU. "As a result, inflation will slow to an average of 0.5 percent in 2009."

In its June economic outlook for Cambodia, the EIU forecasts CPI inflation will begin to speed up again next year to 4.7 percent.

"Consumer price inflation will accelerate in 2010 in response to the gradual re-emergence of demand-side pressures as economic growth begins to recover and global commodity prices edge higher," it said.

Recovery focus of July finance conference

Written by Marika Hill
Thursday, 11 June 2009

MEMBERS of the finance sector will converge for the first Cambodia Finance International Conference on July 17 and 18 to be held at NagaWorld Hotel and Casino, organisers said Wednesday.

The event, which organisers hope will attract about 2,000 people, will bring together national and international business leaders, as well as investment bankers, venture capitalists, fund managers and senior ministry officials.

The highlight is expected to be a leadership forum about preparing for economic recovery.

Speakers will also discuss strategic financial issues and best practice in the public sector.

More than 30 local and international companies will showcase their latest products, services and technologies at the expo, said organisers.

The event will be run by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, National Information Communications Technology Development Authority and International Data Group Indochina, said a statement.

Vietnam's deepwater port expected to have knockon effect in Cambodia

Sihanoukville Autonoumous Port may see reduced traffic, analysts said, due to higher-priced handling costs and competition from Phnom Penh’s port, but overall Cambodia is expected to benefit from Cai Mep.

Written by Hor Hab
Thursday, 11 June 2009

New port outside Ho Chi Minh City will see rerouting of region's sea routes, analysts say, giving Cambodia greater role in links to North America and reduced shipping cost

THE June 1 opening of Vietnam's first deepwater port in Cai Mep, outside of Ho Chi Minh City, will benefit Cambodia's sea transportation by reducing transit periods and cutting costs, the shipping industry says.

MOL America, one of the world's largest transportation companies, said Monday in a press release that it would ship via Phnom Penh to Cai Mep instead of going to Singapore to cut North American shipping times by up to 10 days.

"Direct barge service to Ho Chi Minh [City] will reduce intermodal travel, while completely eliminating the need for feeder services and trans-shipping in Singapore," it said. "In addition to reduced transit times, customers will also experience cost savings."

As well as increased through traffic, the main benefits for Cambodia, said Hei Bavy, general director of Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, is that exports from the Kingdom would also no longer have to rely solely on Hong Kong and Singapore - vessels can now travel directly from the southern Vietnamese port to North America, while large vessels will also be able to dock closer to Cambodia, also cutting costs for domestic businesses.

There will be some effect ... but the level of impact is not yet known.

"With the new deepwater terminal in South Vietnam, we can save about three to four days [in travel time] and US$300 per container by not transiting through Singapore Port, instead leaving directly from Vietnam Deepwater Terminal to the United States and Europe," Hei Bavy said.

Phnom Penh Autonomous Port would likely see an upswing in traffic as a result, he added - due to its status as the capital and centre for the transportation of goods - while Sihanoukville Autonomous Port could be expected to see a drop in activity. Sihanoukville also has higher handing fees than competing ports, analysts said, including the new Vietnamese deepwater port.

Phnom Penh sees about 15 percent of Cambodia's container traffic with Sihanoukville accounting for 75 percent and the remainder passing overland. Sihanoukville port offers roughly double the capacity of Phnom Penh.

Lou Kim Chhun, director general of Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, said Cai Mep could result in a drop in traffic at Cambodia's busiest port - admitting he was concerned - but that preparations had been made to boost cooperation and competitiveness.

"We have also shipped containers to Ho Chi Minh City, so it won't affect us much because we can transit to Ho Chi Minh City instead of going through Singapore or Hong Kong," he said.

Lower costs and faster services would likely prove an incentive for more companies in Cambodia to use shipping services overall, said Hei Bavy.

Phnom Penh Port had aimed to increase traffic by 20 percent in 2009 year-on-year on the 50,000 containers that passed through the capital, he said. With the opening of Vietnam's port, Hei Bevy said he hopes that this target will be surpassed.

Port expansion
Phnom Penh is planning to expand capacity by targeting a loan from China to develop a new port location that would see just 25 percent of traffic going through the capital housed at the original Phnom Penh port, he said, adding that it was a five- to 10-year plan to bring port services closer to businesses in Cambodia in a bid to boost economic activity.

Overland transport would also rise as Cambodia sees an increase in through transit due to its strategic position close to the Cai Mep port, So Nguon, director of So Nguon Group and So Nguon Transportation and Service Import-Export, said Wednesday.

"Imports and exports - especially garment raw materials and products - will increase considerably," he said, adding he expected overland traffic to rise by up to 15 percent.

Cambodia and Vietnam this year agreed to facilitate cross-border trade by permitting the checking of cargo on just one side of the frontier.

"We can save about five days ... if we compare the period of transiting from Sihanoukville Port to Singapore before heading to US markets, but we do not yet know the costs," said So Nguon.

He said he did not expect Sihanoukville port to be significantly affected due to the realignment of trade routes in the region following the opening of Cai Mep.

Sin Chanthy, general secretary of Cambodia Freight Forwarders Association, said that in the current economic climate, the opening of Cai Mep was good news given that it would cut costs and increase efficiency.

It was still to early too tell how significant the new Vietnamese port would be for Cambodia, however, he said.

"There will be some effect on Cambodia's seaports, but the level of impact is not yet known because we have to wait and see what will happen in the next two or three months," said Sin Chanthy.

New rail accord effective today to link Cambodia to the region

Written by Holly Pham
Thursday, 11 June 2009

THE Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) Network, which aims to link the railway systems of 28 countries in Asia and Europe, is to go into effect today, moving Cambodia closer to establishing its first rail links with Vietnam.

"There's never been a rail line that connects Vietnam and Cambodia," said Paul Power, the team leader at the Railway Restructuring Project for Canarail who is working with the Cambodian government on this project.

The 2005 TAR agreement became enforceable 90 days after the eighth country, China, ratified the treaty. Cambodia, India, Mongolia, South Korea, Russia, Tajikistan and Thailand had previously signed the agreement.

In Cambodia, the main railway line, which requires intensive repair work, will run from Poipet to Sihanoukville with junctions in Bat Deng, in Kampong Speu, and Phnom Penh.

Another border station will branch off from Bat Deng to Kratie and then to Loc Ninh province in Vietnam.

Experts estimate that it would cost Cambodia US$700 million to build the rail lines. Efforts to upgrade have been in place since February 2008, when the Asian Development Bank announced a US$71 million loan package to restore and develop Cambodia's railway system.

Together with funding from Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Companies ($13 million), Malaysia ($2.8 million) and the Cambodian government ($15.2 million), the first phase of the project, which involves repairing Cambodia's existing railways, is not scheduled to be completed until 2012, reports said.

The project has been outsourced to Toll Holdings of Australia.

Despite the possibility of being behind the schedule with other signatory countries, Paul Power told the Post that the government is "completely committed" to the TAR agreement.

The capital's man drought: sad reality or urban legend?

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
As female expats complain of a “man drought”, this Western man faces the opposite problem.

Written by Zoe Holman
Thursday, 11 June 2009

Is Phnom Penh really plagued by a crisis of nature, or does the perceived calamity arise from failure of pheromones, fortunes or fastidiousness?

The rainy season may have come early this year, but the Cambodian capital seems to be suffering a severe drought. In bars across urban Phnom Penh, a host of stylish, educated, articulate, politically savvy young women forlornly swivel their olives as they glance around at the myriad manifestations of Mr Wrong.

Between the aged and the incoherent, the sexually unavailable, sexually unappealing and more alarmingly, the sexually unclean, there seems to be little on offer for the discerning, attractive, informed 20- to 30-something bachelorette.

And while it may be the stuff of urban myth, the alleged "man drought" seems to be inciting real-life tragedy amongst many aggrieved and more than a little aggravated female expats.

"I thought my standards were low at home in Bristol, but then I came to Phnom Penh and realised there was even less on offer," said Therese, a 29-year-old NGO worker.

Her friend, UN employee Sarah, agrees. "I love living here, but this place seems to attract weird types," she said. "Either they're alcoholics, mildly Asperger's or have a thing for girlie bars."

Such a qualifier has almost become a standard clause in appraisals of the capital by single foreign residents, the majority of whom are drawn to Cambodia by vocational opportunities and cultural interest.

The perceived "man drought" has been a concern for many women, particularly those mid-30s, career-oriented professionals, to whom Cambodia is such an appealing destination.

The general perception is that Cambodia attracts restless personalities, often escaping personal or social problems in their home country.

This theory is consistent with the more common criticisms of the archetypal, middle-aged adrenalin-seeking Phnom Penh expat male, and yet, the dissatisfaction and disparagement may be bilateral.

"I think there's a lot of really ambitious, high-achieving women in Phnom Penh," said Brian, a 27-year-old American aid-worker who has been single for two of his three years in Phnom Penh. "They're often very successful and perfectionistic, and sometimes that translates to them not being willing to make any sacrifices or compromises, to accept anything outside of their ideal in men."

So too, 29-year-old Richard, who has worked as an advertising agent in the capital for the last six months is cynical about the clarion cries of "drought".

"I have a decent job, didn't fall out of the ugly tree, don't smoke, drink or do drugs [or prostitutes], yet I don't see any single ladies banging down my door", he said. "You'd think with all the whinging going on, I might have had at least one woman ask me to dance or say ‘hi' or something. Maybe it's my fault for not going up and ‘cracking on' to them, which, call me old-fashioned, but just isn't my style."

So is the country really plagued by a crisis of nature, or does the calamity just arise from a grievous failure of pheromones, fortunes or fastidiousness?

The facts certainly indicate a dearth of testosterone, with the preliminary results of the first national census, released in September 2008, suggesting an imbalance of some 400,000 women across the country.

While comprehensive data on the capital was due to be published this week, a similar study by the Planning Department of Phnom Penh Municipality in 2004 also found that 291,063 of the city's total 558,095 residents aged 18-64 years were female.

Yet the studies do not account for the fluctuating but vocal foreign population, nor can they reflect the many nuances of age, and sexual or cultural preference amongst either the expat or Khmer populations.

So where do all these statistical and anecdotal vagaries leave your average single woman come 2am on another steamy Saturday night in the capital?

In the absence of hard facts, it seems that it may take some hard evidence, or perhaps just a few more martinis, to renew hope amongst Phnom Penh's lonely hearts.

Using the Facebook networking tool, Phnom Penh’s Most Eligible Bachelor 2009 kicked off to an underwhelming response, posing the question: Can you really find love in Phnom Penh?

In a last-ditch effort to put the bachelor controversy to bed, as it were, once and for all, The Post put out a wide-ranging call to eligible young men to show themselves or risk eternal damnation - or worse still, celibacy.

The inaugural Phnom Penh's Most Eligible Bachelor 2009 competition sought to identify and award general excellence in single male residents between the ages of 25 and 40.

The contenders were judged in accordance with the key selection criteria, the four fundamental ‘Q's': IQ (Intelligence Quotient), EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), SQ (Style Quotient) and HQ (Handsome Quotient).
And the findings were pleasantly astonishing.

And after surveying the range of talent on their very doorstep for a top three (equal) winners, the panel of judges believe they may have sufficient evidence to divest - figuratively if not yet literally - the myth of the man drought.

If you would like to let us know what you think, you can comment or contact the panel at the Facebook group Phnom Penh's Most Eligible Bachelor 2009.
Bachelor number one: The Renaissance man

Name: Eric
Age: 27
Nationality: American
Vocation: NGO worker
Email: eric.v.bodge@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

From the panel
The chai-latte drinking man existed only in the realm of fantasy and hippy-festival - until we met Eric.
Not only does he order this tellingly sensitive beverage, but he also presents sans dreadlocks, freshly shaved, washed, pressed and with impeccable table manners.
Clean-cut, well-spoken and hailing from the heart of wholesome America, Washington state, Eric is the ideal take-home-to-parents accessory.
He speaks of good values, good breeding and chivalry in just the right quantities - and in English, Khmer and Japanese among other languages.
For those not sold, Eric also roasts his own coffee beans, derives enjoyment from cooking for people (couscous and Japanese no less) and names Rubies wine bar as among his favourite Phnom Penh hangouts (swoon).
Yet, should you also require a dose of Alpha with your male, Eric is no pushover. In fact, at 2-metres-something-very-tall, he is imposing in stature. And will happily offer you a lift in his four-wheel-drive vehicle, barbecue you a whole pig or light you a campfire in the woods.
Moreover, he is equally versatile in his taste in women.
Upfront about his dislike of game-playing (hallelujah!), Eric is drawn to individuals who are independent, motivated and and passionate about life. Hell, with eligibles of this calibre, it seems women have good reason to be excited.

What Eric says
To be honest, I've never been good at selling myself - it always seemed too narcissistic. In order to answer the selection criteria, then, I asked several female acquaintances (all non-bachelorettes) to respond to some of the questions, and am using that as the basis for my submission.
"I would describe Eric's intelligence as multidimensional ... a self-aware person who can read others as well ..."
"Can hold a conversation with anyone - professors, CEOs, farmers, truck drivers, grandmothers...."
I can hold my own in any dinner-party conversation, from politics to wardrobe malfunctions, but I refuse to speculate about what Britney might do next.
"Eric totally cares. Down to earth. Capable of having platonic relationships with females.... Asks follow-up questions. Displays compassion, diplomacy and very good communication skills. Unflappable. Solid. Positive attitude."
"Not metrosexual, which is out anyway.... Eric's comfortable in his own skin, and that's the best style there is."
I'm not a hipster, but I like to feel comfortable and look good. I don't like people whose style is covered in too many layers of irony.
"Classic, clean-cut American looks."
To that generous statement of my qualities, the only thing I could possibly add is that I'm also available.

Bachelor number two: A (very) suitable boy

Name: Achaya
Age: 27
Nationality: Indian
Vocation: Advertising Agent
Email: achaya.bc@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

From the panel
From Bangalore coffee plantation to ashram to national badminton team to elite university to sweaty kitchen to luxury car, Achaya's life story is like something out of that Booker-prize-winning post-colonial epic you're reading.
But gripping as that tome may be, Achaya will no doubt be more fun to stay up all night with, as he will regale you with the tale in person, with equal amounts of wit and eloquence, a winning smile and a mandatory glint in the eye.
And all the while keep you happily plied with alcohol, professing the inability to let a girl pay for a drink - a narrative also available in Urdu, Hindi or any other of the some nine languages in which the lad is fluent.
He may be a man of many words, but Achaya is also a man of action, equally nimble in the face of a practical challenge as an intellectual, political or cultural one, and between stovetop, massage table, dancefloor and turntable is likely to press at least one, if not all, the right buttons.
And while it may not be the stuff of high-romance, after four years' high-schooling in an all-boy ashram, the man can verily claim to have mastered the art of toilet-cleaning.
An apparently adaptable creature, Achaya is attracted to women who like himself are not picky (vegetarians need not apply). He likes eyes, hair and women who dance, drink and read.

What Achaya says
I'm a small-town boy who didn't want to grow old feeling that way, so I packed my bags and left.
Am I better than the others in this competition? I sure hope not - I'd like to think that there are always others out there that are in some way better. Keeps one sharp!
There are probably two things in this world that I love more than women: food and music.
When I say food, I mean the art of putting normal ingredients together to conjure a masterpiece ... and the best part is that the appeal is almost universal.
As a kid I think I spent all my money buying tapes, had about 2,000 of them when technology orphaned them with the CD player.
I live, breathe and sometimes smoke music.
I think I have a song for every situation, every person and every moment that I experience.
I also love motorcycles (just bought a Ducati Monster 800), sport and theatre, though reading is probably my oldest passion.
I'm an ad man and in layman's terms I take something that's good, dress it up to look even better than it is and tell you that your existence depends on the purchase of what I'm selling.
The worst part is, most of the time people listen.
So since I do this every day I'm not going to do it in now...
As I said, I'm just a small-town boy with big, big dreams.

Bachelor number three: The humanist

Name: Pheaktra
Age: 28
Nationality: Khmer
Vocation: Journalist
Email: pheaktra.neth@phnompenhpost.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

From the panel
If sensibility is a long-extinct characteristic of the modern male, then Pheaktra is an archaeological goldmine.
Impeccably groomed, discreetly stylish and calmly comported, he is refined in appearance and attribute, and seems to personify that old-world adjective, so rarely (woefully) applicable to the Phnom Penh male: distinguished.
He may not speak in the same quantities as your local barfly-cum-suitor, but his words are guaranteed to issued with a greater forethought, humility, insight, wit and pertinence (not to mention good taste) than the numerous inebriates encountered in a night out, whether it be in his native Khmer, fluent English or flawless French.
So too, Pheaktra embodies a seemingly long-lost trinity of traditional virtues: education, hard work and family values. As well as his irrefutably erudite understanding of history and current affairs, he is a picture of humble industriousness and professionalism.
While it may be difficult to extract him from the office on weekends, he is likely to apply the same devotion to those in his personal life as his workplace.
In contrast to the many peripatetic Western individualists who populate the capital, Pheaktra maintains a strong connection with his family in Kampong Cham and is attracted to women with, regardless of their nationality, the same reverence for this commitment. (Here, here!)

What Pheaktra says
I am a calm, peaceful man. I don't like to argue with people and always try to reduce conflict. Whenever I have a problem, I try to solve it with peace - not to win an argument, but to resolve it with a solution that is acceptable to all parties.
I'm also a bit sentimental, and like to read books about society, though most my attention is devoted to politics and history.
In my free time, I choose to listen to music and information programmes. I am generous with those who are generous with me and have no attachment to social class or status and try to practise the theory that all people have equal rights. Accordingly, I always listen to people's ideas before reacting or responding to them.
I'm looking for a woman with similar interests to me, but also, importantly, someone who understands me and my job. I have a lot of friends in my homeland, university and workplace who are very important to me, and I am ready to love back the woman who loves me, my family and appreciates the difficulties of my work. I am passionate about succeeding in my work and seeing those I love achieve the same success in their lives.
To me, mutual respect and understanding is the most attractive thing in a relationship and the trait I value most highly in a woman.