Monday, 22 June 2009

Toll Group to operate Cambodian railways

Transport Intelligence


The Toll Group, one of the Asian region's leading providers of integrated logistics services, has signed an agreement with the Royal Government of Cambodia to operate the country's railways under a thirty year concession.

Under the concession agreement with the Cambodian Government, a joint venture between Toll, the majority partner (55%) and the Royal Group (45%), will become the operator of the Cambodian rail network and related freight logistics.

The Royal Group is a Cambodian conglomerate with successful operations in a range of businesses in Cambodia including banking, telecommunications and the media.

"This agreement complements Toll's existing presence in Cambodia through its oil and gas logistics operation. As the operator of the railways, we now have a strong strategic partnership with the Government of Cambodia that will see future benefits for Toll and the Cambodian people," said Paul Little, Managing Director of the Toll Group.

"The Cambodian Government has committed in our agreement to seeing more freight transported by rail. They have acknowledged that an efficient intermodal rail and integrated logistics operation will underpin Cambodia's economic development both locally and across the Asian region.

"Over time, the Cambodian railways are likely to become a vital part of the planned rail link between Singapore and China which will include Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. As the long term operator of the Cambodian railways through its involvement in the joint venture, the Toll Group will be excellently placed if the planned expansion occurs," said Mr Little.

Former Louisvillians find needs of Cambodian kids outweigh financial rewards

A child being treated for malnutrition after being given a donated American toy.
(Photo courtesy of Bill and Lori Housworth)

By Laura Ungar •
June 22, 2009

One mother after another carried weak, dehydrated babies across an arid landscape in rural Cambodia to a tent where Drs. Lori and Bill Housworth were treating patients.

The babies had been sickened by polluted water after their families were displaced and left to live in tarp-covered shacks without toilets or running water.

The Housworths did what they could as volunteers, doctoring and helping build outdoor sanitation facilities. But this visit in 2002, and others, convinced them that they needed to do more.

"It was an experience that really impassioned me for the needs of the Cambodian people and the desperation many of them face," Lori Housworth, 39 said during a visit to Louisville.

The couple's calling eventually led them to leave two jobs in Louisville, move to Cambodia with their three small children and devote themselves to easing the suffering of children on the other side of the globe. Today, Lori, who used to work at Family Health Centers, volunteers her time holding medical clinics. And Bill, 41, directs the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap, where he earns less than a quarter of what he did as an emergency room physician at Norton Audubon Hospital.

The experience has been difficult, even harrowing. They sleep beneath mosquito nets, and one of their daughters was once almost snatched by a zoo elephant. But the Housworths say they've gotten as much as they have given in their new lives.

In Cambodia, children are more than 10 times more likely to die before age 5 than in the United States. About two-thirds of Cambodians live on less than a dollar a day, and 45 percent of children show moderate or severe stunting in growth because of malnutrition. And there are only two doctors per 10,000 people, compared with about 26 per 10,000 in the United States.

"Thousands of children suffer and often die from preventable and treatable diseases: malnutrition, malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhea and diseases practically eradicated in the more-developed countries," said Danielle Hilson, chief executive officer of the non-profit Friends Without A Border, which runs the Angkor hospital.

While the Housworths can't fix every problem, they can ease some children's pain, said Steven Hester, a friend and chief medical officer for Norton Healthcare.

"We don't realize how many people we touch. I think impacting people one at a time is what Bill and Lori do," he said If they help save a kid, you never know what that kid is going to do, how they are going to improve their country."

The Housworths, who have been married almost nine years, met as medical residents at the University of Louisville. Rotations abroad reinforced for them the vast health-care disparities between the developing and the developed worlds.

After their residencies, they continued international volunteerism in various countries, sometimes in missions through Springdale Community Church.

"As we worked in more places, we had a growing interest in this type of work," Bill said.

Back in Louisville, both treated the uninsured and felt they were doing good. But they realized they could easily be replaced because there are so many other doctors. As they began thinking about full-time work abroad, they also built an international family, adopting two babies from Russia, Rachel and Will, in 2003. About two years later, Lori gave birth to Caroline.

Around the same time, they briefly moved to Massachusetts to earn master's degrees in public health from Harvard University.

All the while, Cambodia came into sharper focus, partly because they connected with the late Dr. Mickey Sampson, a Louisville native who created Resource Development International, a non-profit supporting water treatment and health initiatives.

"We fell in love with the people and the place, Lori said.

One day, Bill turned to Lori and expressed a wish that predicted the future: "I would like to run a pediatric hospital in Cambodia."

The opportunity soon arrived.

A job came open through Friends Without A Border, a secular, global non-governmental organization. Its 50-bed hospital, which operates on a budget of $3 million a year, treated more than 107,000 children in 2007, including nearly 4,000 inpatients.

Bill interviewed in New York, visited the hospital in Siem Reap and loved it. Lori realized they had good friends in the area and that their children could get a good education. It seemed a perfect fit.

So in February 2008, they moved halfway around the world — surprising none who knew them.

"It's completely in character," said Tammy Ackerson, a nurse at Audubon who worked with Bill.

Living and working in Cambodia, the Housworths are reminded each day of why they are there.

The terrible legacy of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime remains. According to Friends Without a Border, 1.5 million people were executed, starved or died as the result of forced labor at their hands in the 1970s. "The genocide left the country's infrastructure decimated and her people orphaned," the organization wrote. "Today, many Cambodians still struggle to reconstruct their lives, while battling abject poverty."

Children suffering everything from dengue fever to heart defects come to Angkor from 60-190 miles away, often coming by ox-cart and motor scooters and selling belongings or borrowing money for travel expenses.

Bill recalled a girl who fell out of a tree. As her chest filled with blood, her family traveled 60 miles down a bumpy dirt road to the hospital, where she spent a week, but survived.

Bill said the hospital sees 400 children a day, and every evening the staff must make hard decisions about who is sickest and can stay. Many families set up camp on the grounds while children are treated, cooking food rations the hospital gives them.

Bill spends about a fifth of his time doctoring and the rest teaching residents and overseeing a mostly-Cambodian staff of 240, including 30 doctors and 100 nurses. Under his leadership, the hospital recently launched a heart surgery program in which donors pay for congenital defect repairs costing about $6,000. Six surgeries have been done so far, one on a little girl named Mey who had a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of her heart.

"Through a one-time surgery, she's fixed," Bill said.

Angkor is now building a satellite clinic about an hour away, where Lori plans to work In the meantime, she volunteers at mobile clinics throughout the area, often seeing 40 people in three hours.

Outside of work, family life has been an adventure. The Housworths live in a Cambodian neighborhood, where they have befriended local families. They have a three-bedroom house, which is extravagant by local standards but still lets in bugs. The family jokes that it's like camping all the time.

In the past year, their house was burglarized and 6-year-old Rachel was grabbed by an elephant as she tried to feed it through a zoo cage with widely-spaced bars. As the trunk began to reel her in, two family friends saved her.

Their life has been much tamer since early June, when they returned to the United States for a month-long visit. On a recent afternoon, they stopped by Audubon, where Bill's former colleagues shrieked with delight and offered hugs.

Bill and Lori said they miss family and friends in Louisville. But for now, Cambodia is home — and living there is no sacrifice.

"When you give yourself away, you really do get so much back," Lori said. "You have so much joy."

Reporter Laura Ungar can be reached at (502) 582-7190.

Cambodian PM warns foreign diplomats not to meddle in politics

About 20 military and police blocked the public road in front of the National Assembly and barred reporters and others from watching the parliamentary vote.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned foreign diplomats not to meddle in Cambodian politics on Monday after envoys were barred from a parliamentary session that voted to remove the legal immunity of two opposition lawmakers.

Mu Sochua of the main opposition Sam Rainsy party now faces a charge of defaming the government and risks a hefty fine. Another lawmaker, Ho Vann, is accused of spreading false information and risks a three-year jail sentence if found guilty.

"Foreigners, do not interfere in Cambodian laws. We choose the way of the court to solve problems because we want to avoid violence," Hun Sen said in a speech aired on national radio.

Turning to the lawmakers, he added: "Although you are MPs, when you act wrongly, you will be punished by the court".

About 20 military and police blocked the public road in front of the National Assembly and barred reporters and others from watching the parliamentary vote.

"There has been no reason given why today this is not a public session," German Ambassador Frank Mann told reporters outside the gate to parliament, where he stood with diplomats from the United States, Britain and France.

Critics and human rights activists have accused the government of using the courts to muzzle the opposition.

Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla, has dominated Cambodia for more than two decades.

His party won a landslide victory in the last general election in July 2008 and although European Union observers found some irregularities in the polling, they said these were not enough to alter the result.


Cambodia lawmakers, stripped of immunity, protest

Taiwan News
Associated Press

Cambodia's Parliament stripped immunity Monday from two opposition legislators who face defamation lawsuits by the prime minister and senior military officers. The two accused Parliament of serving the prime minister's interests as colleagues staged a walkout.

The National Assembly stripped immunity from prosecution from Mu Sochua and Ho Vann, both from the Sam Rainsy Party, pending a court investigation of the defamation lawsuits.

Mu Sochua told reporters the immunity was lifted to serve the political interests of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling party, which dominates Cambodia's political scene. Immunity protects lawmakers from both criminal charges and civil suits.

All 26 members of the legislators' party walked out of the lower house of Parliament after the vote, wearing masks to express that their rights of free speech had been blocked.

The case against Mu Sochua came after her attempt to sue the prime minister for what she says were defamatory remarks made about her during two speeches.

In early April, Hun Sen referred to an unnamed lawmaker as a "strong leg," a term seen by some in Cambodia as particularly offensive to women. Mu Sochua has said the speech clearly referred to her. She also denounced his remarks in another speech.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court rejected her lawsuit earlier this month, saying it was groundless, but it moved ahead with the prime minister's countersuit.

Close military allies of Hun Sen filed a lawsuit against Ho Vann after a local newspaper quoted him as allegedly saying in April that 22 senior military officers had received meaningless awards from Vietnam.

Last week, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia and New York-based Human Rights Watch criticized the lawsuits against the lawmakers.

"The lawsuits undermine the constitutional freedom of opinion and expression," the U.N. said in statement.

Human Rights Watch said Hun Sen had "a long history of trying to muzzle Cambodia's political opposition and undermine the independence of the legal profession."

Cambodia strips MPs of immunity

Mu Sochua faces a defamation charge from Prime Minister Hun Sen

BBC News

Monday, 22 June 2009

Cambodia's National Assembly has voted to strip parliamentary immunity from two opposition members.

The vote means the two politicians, Mu Sochua and Ho Vann, can be prosecuted on defamation charges.

The UN's human rights organisation has criticised the government's increasing use of the courts against its critics.

The government has defended its use of the courts, saying in one case a critic had attempted to cause "chaos and confusion" with inaccurate remarks.

The ruling Cambodian People's Party has a large majority, so the vote against the two members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party was never in doubt, says the BBC's Guy DeLauney in Phnom Penh.

The two politicians are among at least six critics of the government who have been the subjects of recent legal action.

Mu Sochua had originally launched a defamation suit against Prime Minister Hun Sen. That was dismissed and the prime minister counter-sued.

Ho Vann is being sued for defamation by senior military officials, over allegations that he insulted the quality of their university degrees.

The UN's human rights office in Phnom Penh recently issued a statement expressing concern about the use of defamation and disinformation laws to silence government critics.

But the government has consistently defended its human rights record, pointing to the success of several democratic elections since the return of peace in the 1990s.

Cambodia FM: Thailand threatens Cambodia and UNESCO over Preah Vihear temple

People's Daily Online

June 21, 2009

Top Thai leaders are using the words to threaten Cambodia and UNESCO over listing Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple as World Heritage Site, a senior Cambodian official said on Saturday.

Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation told reporters at a press conference at the ministry that Thai prime minister, deputy prime minister and foreign minister are using words of lack of thoughts on the matter of the belongs of Cambodia's Preah Vihear temple and sending a threaten message to UNESCO before the meeting of World Heritage Committee to be held in Spain on June 23.

UNESCO agreed to register Perah Vihear temple as World Heritage Site of Cambodia in July 7, 2008. But since then from July 15, troops from both Cambodian and Thailand have confronted at the border near Preah Vihear temple.

Hor added that Thai leaders wanted to review about registering Preah Vihear temple (of Cambodia) with the Committee of World Heritage of UNESCO and also wanted to register jointly for Preah Vihear temple. "Preah Vihear temple and land surrounding areas belongs to Cambodia not Thailand according to the verdict of World Court's rule in 1962," Hor stressed.

"It is big mistake and serious one that were created by Thai leaders," he said, adding that they have spoken without thoughts.

"If they want to have armed conflicts for third time, we welcome," he said, adding "today we have known that Thai command for second region put their troops on alert, our troops also is ready for fighting, but so far the situation there is calm."

Moreover, Hor Namhong said "the border tension was caused by Thai side. We (Cambodia) want to resolve the border issue peacefully and friendly. But our effort made no result."

"Military tension has not occurred yet today, but tomorrow I do not know," Hor said, adding that Preah Vihear temple already registered as cultural and humanitarian matters for all people.

"We are ready to deal border issue with Thailand by using peaceful resolution, international law, military, or diplomatic ways," he noted.

According to Thai newspaper The Bangkok Post on Wednesday, that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit would request that UNESCO's World Heritage Committee review last year's decision to register Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site when the body convenes its annual meeting later this month in Spain. He would also request that the temple be registered jointly as a World Heritage Site by Thailand and Cambodia.

Source: Xinhua

Thai Premier hits back in Cambodia temple squabble

Border tensions: Cambodian soldiers standing guard nearby the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province, around 540 kilometres north of Phnom Penh in this picture taken in April. Cambodia on Saturday rebuked Thailand for reopening a debate over an ancient temple on their disputed border that has led to seven soldiers being killed in recent months. Picture: AFP

The Brunei Times


Monday, June 22, 2009

Soldiers from both countries continue to patrol the border

THAI Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva refused to back down yesterday after reopening a debate over an ancient temple on the disputed border with Cambodia which has provoked bloody clashes.

Bangkok this week asked world heritage body Unesco to reconsider its decision to formally list the 11th century Preah Vihear temple in Cambodia, as ownership of land surrounding the ruins is still in dispute.

Cambodia on Saturday rebuked Thailand for raising the matter, saying that its soldiers would defend their land again if necessary following outbreaks of violence in the past year which have left seven dead.

But Abhisit who made a one-day visit to Cambodia last week in an attempt to push forward border talks said the Unesco move itself was to blame for the tensions.

"We are concerned that the moves by Unesco may speed up conflicts, tensions or a border clash," the Oxford-educated Abhisit said on his weekend television programme.

He said Thai deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban would soon travel to Cambodia to explain Thailand's position, but said that Bangkok still believed all border issues should be solved by peaceful measures.

Cambodia and Thailand have been at loggerheads over the land around the Preah Vihear temple for decades, but tensions spilled over into violence last July when the temple was granted UN World Heritage status.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that it belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance to the ancient Khmer temple with its crumbling stone staircases and elegant carvings is in northeastern Thailand.

Soldiers from Cambodia and Thailand continue to patrol the area, with the last gunbattle in the temple area in April leaving three people dead.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said in Phnom Penh on Saturday that his country "welcomes Thailand militarily, diplomatically, internationally or through peaceful negotiations".

"(But) it (border fighting) has happened twice... (so) if they want to send their troops to Cambodia a third time, we will welcome them too," he said.

The border between the two countries has never been fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of war in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Abhisit will make a one-day official visit to Singapore today, he said on his weekly radio address yesterday.

The visit will centre on improving economic cooperation and strengthening ties in the aftermath of the global economic slump that saw the economies of both countries contract.

Abhisit said he hoped to increase joint investment between the countries. He will meet with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President SR Nathan and return to Bangkok tonight.


War and conservation in Cambodia

Jeremy Hance
June 21, 2009

The decades-long conflict in Cambodia devastated not only the human population of the Southeast Asian country but its biodiversity as well. The conflict led to widespread declines of species in the once wildlife-rich nation while steering traditional society towards unsustainable hunting practices, resulting in a situation where wildlife is still in decline in Cambodia, according to a new study from researchers with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Although many biodiversity hotspots have seen their share of conflict—the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Vietnam—the relationship between war and conservation has rarely been studied. Social scientist Michael Mascia with WWF and Colby Loucks, Deputy Director of the WWF's Conservation Science Program interviewed Cambodian villagers to understand the impacts of war on village’s surrounding wilderness.

Bokor National Park, Cambodia. Heavily armed forestry rangers and their Australian security consultant arrest a poacher with an endangered Hog Badger during a night patrol. TRAFFIC Asia 2006. Photo by: Adam Oswell with WWF.

“Armed conflict is a social phenomenon often detrimental to wildlife and wildlife habitat, but the legacy of armed conflict for wildlife in post-conflict settings remains unexplored,” Loucks and Mascia, along with other authors, write in their paper published in Conservation Letters.

Since scientific data for wildlife abundance in Cambodia was lacking, Loucks and Mascia depended on the knowledge of locals in the Sre Chis commune, a collection of six villages in eastern Kratie province. Asking the interviewees about 18 different species, the researchers found that the decades-long conflict in Cambodia caused deep-declines in wildlife abundance, the loss of some species altogether, and moved the society from subsistence hunting to commercial exploitation.

“We looked at how conflict directly and indirectly shaped people’s use of wildlife – during and after conflict. The influx of guns, the emergence of new markets, the forced hunting teams – all were directly related to conflict. It was the conflict, lastly, for well over two decades that created the environment for permanent shifts in livelihoods to the dependence on the trade of wildlife,” Loucks and Mascia told

The Kouprey Bos sauveli, a species of wild ox. Illustration by: Helmut Diller.

Wildlife declined from pre-1953 (when the conflict began) to 2005, but the most measured declines occurred in the 1970s—when the conflict was at its worst. The researchers found that 14 of 18 species declined, while five disappeared altogether, including the Asian elephant, the kouprey, Eld’s deer, hog deer, and Siamese crocodile. Before the conflict arrived in Sre Chis, the villagers only sold one species to outside markets—the guar—but by the 1970s seven more species were being trafficked: elephants, banteng, Eld’s deer, hog deer, tiger, leopard and sun bear.

“It is clear to [the villagers] that there are fewer individuals of the species…and that they need to go further from the villages to find them,” Loucks said.

Shockingly every one of these species (or subspecies) is threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List, except the Indochinese leopard which hasn’t been surveyed. The sun bear is considered Vulnerable, while the Indochinese tiger, Asian elephant, Eld’s deer, and hog deer are all listed as Endangered. The Siamese crocodile, the banteng, a species of wild cattle, and a wild ox known as the kouprey are each Critically Endangered.

The Asian elephant has been hunted out of the forest around Sre Chis. Photo by: Rhett Butler.

As related by Loucks and Mascia, these declines consistently followed societal changes brought on by war: additional firearms, the beginning of a wildlife trade for international markets, and a Khmer Rouge policy that actually mandated hunting. Prior to the 1970s villagers hunted with the crossbow, since guns were either illegal or difficult to obtain, but when the Khmer Rouge came to Sre Chis they handed out guns to locals and paid them to hunt. During the conflict, wildlife meat went to soldier on the front lines.

The conflict in Cambodia ended in 1991, but the interviewers discovered that wildlife declines continued due to the technological and social changes brought on by war. Instead of hunting for soldiers, the villagers had now begun to hunt for commercial sale in markets both in Cambodia and abroad.

“Documenting these impacts and the subsequent ripple effects in post-conflict society – shifting livelihood strategies and the decline of wildlife – allow us to understand the links between conflict and wildlife decline,” Loucks and Mascia said. “This sheds light on the importance of re-engaging with communities, empowering them to manage their resources, and providing economic opportunities soon after the cessation of conflict. With this information, we can design more effective conservation strategies, tailored to local conditions.”

Importance of conservation to postconflict society

The UN has drafted important guidelines for ‘disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration’ of combatants (known as DDR), but they don’t take into account the conservation of natural resources, according to Loucks and Mascia. Even though many conflicts begin with—or in some way involve—over-exploitation of a nation’s resources.

Critically Endangered Siamese crocodile in Thailand: the species has disappeared from the Sri Chis forests. Photo by: Rhett Butler.

Therefore the authors suggest “that conservation investments in postconflict societies should be integrated within and support broader peace-building efforts targeting combatants, noncombatants, civil society organizations, and the state”.

Mascia goes on to say that “many conservation strategies are consistent with current approaches to peace-building, such as capacity-building for government agencies and local communities, fostering good governance and rule of law, and promoting alternative livelihoods and income generating activities. In societies where natural resources are a source of conflict, strengthening civil society and good governance in the environmental sector is necessary not just for effective conservation of biodiversity, but for peace-building generally.”

Loucks and Mascia see conservation as a tool to aid with disarmament in postconflict society by justifying confiscating weapons when used for illegal hunting. In addition, conservation organization act as important support for newly formed governments by “promoting rule of law; encouraging participatory and transparent decision making; and supporting other activities that foster good governance within the conservation sector and beyond,” according to the paper.

While tigers still reside in the forest around Sri Chis, their population has declined according to interviews. Photo by: Martin Harvey with WWF.

Furthermore, the authors argue, conservation groups have the capacity to monitor postconflict efforts to make certain both individuals and large-scale investments are not engaging in unsustainable natural resource exploitation. Instead of handing such postconflict countries over to international corporations for large-scale monoculture plantations, industrial agriculture or mining—which may degrade the environment and stoke further conflict—conservation organizations could manage environmental restoration projects.

Such restoration projects “would serve multiple purposes” the authors write, including “employment of both ex-combatants and noncombatants, enhanced delivery of ecosystem services to resource-dependent communities, critical habitat for wildlife, and reduced wildlife trade by providing alternative sources of income.”

Finally, the authors recommend that conservation groups be allowed to perform capacity-building at the community level in order to reach out to remote areas, places where a new government may not have influence or even means of communication. According to the paper, such programs “can empower local actors and strengthen local governance regimes, absorb ex-combatants into the labor force, and provide legal economic opportunities for ex-combatants and noncombatants alike.”

The people—not just the wildlife—of post-conflict nations would benefit greatly from increased conservation and environmental awareness, according to the paper.

“We believe that the UN, governments, civil society, and NGOs all have a role they can play to integrate natural resource conservation, biodiversity protection, and peace-building efforts from the local to national or global scale. To design conservation strategies that are both ecologically and socially sustainable, we need to build tailored solutions that bridge the traditional divide between security and the environment.” Loucks and Mascia told

Phnom Penh, Cambodia. An anti-wildlife trade billboard outside a local school. Part of a government education program that aims to educate Cambodians about the country's wildlife laws. TRAFFIC Asia 2006. Photo by: Adam Oswell of WWF.

Birthday in absentia

Photo by: AFP

Written by AFP
Monday, 22 June 2009

Around 30 Myanmar activists and civil-society members light candles in celebration of the 64th birthday of jailed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday evening. The celebration was held at the office of the Community Legal Education Centre, a local legal aid group, after monks prevented the group from meeting at Wat Lanka. "They didn't give us a reason for disrupting the event," said a spokesman for the Myanmar activists who organised the event. "We are praying for someone who deserves freedom."

Tensions mount on border

Monday, 22 June 2009

Thai PM refuses to back down over Preah Vihear comments.

THAI Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday defended his request that UNESCO reconsider its listing of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site after being harshly criticised by Cambodian officials and accused of bolstering Thai military forces along the border.

"We are concerned that the moves by UNESCO may speed up conflicts, tensions or a border clash," Abhisit said during his weekend television programme.

But Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said that if UNESCO's World Heritage Committee decides to de-list the Preah Vihear temple complex, it would heighten border tensions, where gunbattles between Thai and Cambodian soldiers have left at least seven people dead over the last year.

"We don't understand these comments, whether they want to threaten Cambodia or want to send a message to the UNESCO committee, which will meet on June 23 in Spain," Hor Namhong told reporters at a press conference on Saturday. "I do not understand whether these speeches were made with a lack of thought or out of ignorance or because they want to cause trouble."

Cambodia and Thailand have never fully demarcated their 805-kilometre-long shared border, in part because the area is littered with land mines.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told Thai media Saturday that Thailand's objection to the unilateral World Heritage listing of the 11th-century temple is an issue between Thailand and UNESCO, and does not involve Cambodia.

Abhisit also said on Friday he would send his deputy prime minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, to meet Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to explain their objections.

Hor Namhong said that the Thai comments have been backed up by a Thai military buildup, and that if the border dispute requires a military solution, Cambodia is ready.

"I heard that the Thai commander of Region 2 added more troops along the border, and they are on alert. I would like to stress that Cambodia is also prepared. If they want to seek a political resolution peacefully, if they want to use international laws, or if they want to seek a military resolution, we are already prepared in all ways." he said.

"Border fights have occurred twice, and if they want to send their troops to Cambodia for a third time, we welcome it," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An departed for Seville, Spain, on Saturday to attend the UNESCO meeting.

Colonel Om Phirom, chief of Heritage Police for Preah Vihear temple, said Sunday that tensions were growing along the border as Thai soldiers prepared heavy weapons and tanks.

"We can't conclude what will be happen at the front line because both sides are full of heavy weapons and ammunition. We are concerned that the explosions will be bigger this time, if a clash does occur," Om Phirom said.

"We are worried about the temple's safety because it was damaged by Thai soldiers' bullets in many places in the clashes between Thailand and Cambodia over the last year," he added.

Sao Socheat, deputy commander of military Region 4, said the activity started about two weeks before Abhisit's request to delist the temple.

"The Thai military right now at the front line and behind their front line is busy in their territory. Their activities for the last two weeks have been strange in this area, but we know what they want to do here," Sao Socheat said.

The World Court in 1962 ruled that Preah Vihear temple belonged to Cambodia, but 4.6 square kilometres of land surrounding the ruins remains in dispute.


NGOs look to graft law as Penal Code OK'd

Written by Sam Rith
Monday, 22 June 2009

THE Council of Ministers has approved the new draft Penal Code, which observers say they hope will pave the way for the passage of the government's long-delayed Anti-Corruption Law. During a plenary session Friday, the Council formally approved the 672-article draft law, which will now be sent to the National Assembly for adoption.

If passed, the new Penal Code will replace the UNTAC Law, which has provided the Kingdom's penal framework since 1992, adjusting it to new legal demands and updating it to "ensure freedom, prestige, social security and public order", according to a statement by the Council.

Civil society groups said the passage of the Penal Code left no excuses for the government not to pass the anti-graft legislation.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People's Centre for Development and Peace, an NGO, said that if the Penal Code is adopted, it should provide the supporting legislation government officials have long claimed is lacking.

"Very often, the government has promised that after adopting the Penal Code, [they] would send the draft Anti-Corruption Law to the National Assembly for approval. That is why we are observing this closely," he said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed Sunday that the draft Anti-Corruption Law was at the Council and waiting for the Penal Code - which contains articles related to corruption - to be adopted by the National Assembly.

But he said that if the Assembly objects to some points in the draft, they could send it back to the Council for amendment.

"So the fate of the Anti-Corruption Law is linked to the fate of the Penal Code," he said.

PM halts market development

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Vendors at the Russian Market open their stalls for business on Sunday.

Written by May Titthara
Monday, 22 June 2009

A directive signed last week temporarily bans market projects amid protests by vendors fearing eviction, but not all are happy.

FOLLOWING a string of high-profile evictions of inner-city market vendors, the Council of Ministers has issued a directive temporarily halting all market-development projects in the capital, earning a mixed response from vendors, some of whom say they are happy with the move, while others remain fearful of future evictions.

The directive, signed on June 15 by Prime Minister Hun Sen, says both he and City Hall call for a halt to market developments, allowing vendors to continue their operations.

"I was very happy when I got this news. Now I am dancing," said Lay Silo, a vendor at Serei Pheap Market in Prampi Makara district.

"By doing this, it means he [Hun Sen] cares about us, and that he wants us to have good feelings when we do our business."

Lo Yuy, the governor of Chamkarmon district where the Russian Market is located, said he was also relieved to hear about the government's decision.

"It will be very comforting for vendors when they are doing their business," he said.

On June 12, vendors from the Russian Market went on strike after rumours circulated that the popular tourist site would be turned into a 12-storey shopping mall. The district governor had to promise the protesters that City Hall had no plans to rebuild and modernise the site.

After initial scepticism, Russian Market vendor Chhun Leng said, vendors are now more optimistic that the market is not slated for development.

"Now I feel confident to do business because I am not afraid I will be moved. When my district chief promised us, I didn't believe it 100 percent, but now, I believe it 100 percent," he said.

However, according to an Olympic Market vendor, doubts remain with some stall owners.

Muth Phong told the Post that Hun Sen's decree was designed to stop people from protesting market-development projects, which he says are inevitable.

"Developing countries can't keep their old markets ... so they will continue," he said.

"The reason they stopped the market-development project was because vendors always protest when authorities want to develop.

"I do not believe the news [that development of markets has been stopped]. They just do this to make us feel confident for a while and later, they'll start [developing] again," he said.

In 2009, vendors have protested at Serei Pheap Market and Russian Market and at Boeung Chhouk Market and Mong Russey Market in Battambang after hearing about development plans.

Khmer Krom in asylum talks

Khmer Krom monks at a ceremony on June 4, marking 60 years since the loss of Cambodia's southern territories to Vietnam.

Monday, 22 June 2009

62 refugees arrested by Thai police on June 12 say they are holding discussions with UN officials and Thai authorities in order to avoid deportation .

KHMER Krom detainees languishing in a Thai detention centre since their arrest last week say they have held meetings with officials from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Thai immigration officials in an attempt to avoid being deported back to Cambodia.

On June 12, Thai authorities arrested 62 Khmer Krom who claim they were seeking political asylum after fleeing persecution in southern Vietnam.

"At the moment, UNHCR is interviewing Khmer Krom people who are detained at the Thai immigration centre," said Soeun Savang, 50, one of the detainees captured in the June 12 sweeps.

Originally from Vietnam's Ca Mau province, Soeun Savang took refuge in Takeo before fleeing to Thailand in March 2007, after being accused of fabricating legal documents in an attempt to form a Khmer Krom group in the province.

"I have already received refugee status from UNHCR, and I am looking for a third country that will grant me political asylum. But the Thai authorities don't recognise the UNHCR letter - they still arrested and detained us."

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Krom Human Rights Association, said he would travel to Thailand in July to speak with Thai authorities and UNHCR officials about the detainees.

"We will request that the Thai authorities do not deport these people to Cambodia or Vietnam," he said Sunday.

"If they do, these people will not feel safe. They fled from Kampuchea Krom because of political pressure and human rights violations ... by the Vietnamese authorities."

Buddhist monk Tim Sakhorn, who fled to Thailand in April after being briefly released from his Vietnamese house arrest, said he was still awaiting the result of his own refugee application amid the crackdown by Thai immigration officials.

"After a mass arrest of Khmer Kampuchea Krom by Thai police, I am concerned about my security even though I have a grant from UNHCR to stay in Thailand. I am living under Thai law," he told the Post.

Kitty McKinsey, public information officer for UNHCR Asia, could not comment in detail, except to say that the Bangkok office was "closely following up this issue with the Thai government".


City authorities ban samurai swords after upswing in violence


Foreign gangster flicks, particularly Hong Kong triad movies, are being blamed by authorities for the rising popularity of samuri swords among Phnom Penh's youthful thugs. Police call the swords the second-most-deadly weapon on the streets these days after firearms.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Police say the swords, widely available in the capital, are the weapon of choice for student gangs, featuring in recent brutal attacks.

SAMURAI swords have been banned from sale at markets across Phnom Penh in a bid to reduce gang violence, municipal authorities said last week.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said a recent spate of sword attacks, some of which have been fatal, is forcing authorities to crackdown on the weapon, widely available throughout the capital.

"A sword is not used by people in their homes or on their farms, it is used by Cambodian youths looking to start a fight," he said.

"We have banned them to reduce gang killings, and we will confiscate all swords around the markets in Phnom Penh," he added.

Touch Naruth also said that any factories found to be making the swords could be shut down unless they start producing knives for kitchen-use only.

Chou Makly, a market vendor at Olympic Market who sells swords, said she would be impacted by the ban. But she said that it was not youths or "gangsters" who came to buy swords from her stall.

"My clients come to buy swords for wedding ceremonies because in a Cambodian wedding ceremony they need a sword for the groom," she

"We cannot ignore the authorities, though, and I will stop my sword business to avoid being punished with fines," she added.

Suom Sopheak Na, an 18-year-old student at Sisowath High School, said he welcomed the ban, as he believed the sword had become the weapon of choice of many student gangs.

"All students groups, when they have a problem with other group, get samurai swords to fight each other, and sometimes they cause serious injury. Often we don't know if they will come and fight us, too," he said.

"I think it will be very positive if authorities can introduce this ban. It will make me feel safer and less scared of student gangs," he said.

Touch Naruth said a spike in sword violence had influenced the decision to outlaw the weapon. Last month, police arrested two suspects believed to be part of a group of 12 responsible for slaying Aom Samnang, 22, with samurai swords.

In March, a second-year student at Pannasastra University was severely wounded by two attackers while sitting in front of his house in the city's Tuol Kork district.

"Some gangsters carry them along public roads, and some use them to rob people," Touch Naruth added.

Dangkor district police chief Born Sam Ath said Sunday that he was "ready to comply" with the municipal police order.

Growth threatens highland livelihoods

Monday, 22 June 2009

RAPID economic development poses a threat to the traditional livelihoods of Cambodia's indigenous minorities, according to a six-month assessment conducted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The report, conducted in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces, found that deforestation, climate change and other developments are making the area "prone to natural disasters", including floods, drought and insect infestation.

"Large areas have been logged, weakening the ecological balance and removing [indigenous] control over land and access to natural resources," the IOM said in a press briefing Friday.

UK agency to end bilateral funding

Patients wait for medical care at the Treal Health center in Kampong Thom earlier this month.

Written by Robbie Corey-Boulet
Monday, 22 June 2009

British ambassador says decision motivated by desire to fund countries with fewer donors.

AUK department that seeks to curb global poverty informed government officials on Friday that it would cease to provide bilateral funding to Cambodia after existing commitments expire in 2013.

The Department for International Development (DFID) had previously planned to provide funding after its Cambodia office closes, which is likely to happen in 2011.

But the desire to funnel aid to nations with higher populations of poor people and fewer donors largely prompted the decision to phase out bilateral aid, British Ambassador Andrew Mace said Sunday in an interview.

Richard Erlebach, acting country manager of Cambodia's DFID office, said independent evaluators produced an assessment of the office's operations at the end of January. The decision to cease bilateral funding was made by Douglas Alexander, the UK's secretary of state for international development.

Mace said the assessment, which has yet to be released, highlighted concerns about providing aid to a country in which there would not be a DFID office to oversee its distribution and administration.

"Delivering aid is more that just giving out money," he said, adding that evaluators ultimately concluded that "you can't rely on other people for technical input".

Erlebach said the decision was also fuelled by overall DFID budget constraints, though both he and Mace said the desire to target countries with more poor people and fewer donors was the main factor in the decision.

Mace said DFID Regional Director Sue Wardell met Friday with officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and Finance Minister Keat Chhon. Wardell also met with donors and NGOs to deliver the news, which Erlebach said was greeted with "disappointment".

DFID provided £18 million (US$29.7 million) in bilateral aid during the last fiscal year, which ended in March. Erlebach said he expected a similar amount to be provided this fiscal year.

Mace said DFID's three main initiatives in Cambodia involved programmes related to decentralisation and local governance, rural livelihoods and access to health services, focusing in particular on maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS.

Erlebach said aid to the government's decentralisation effort, which involves the transfer of administrative duties from Phnom Penh to sub-national entities, would likely be phased out by the end of the year.

The health services programme, which evaluators determined was among DFID's most successful efforts, will continue until 2013, he said, adding that timing decisions were based on commitments already in place.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Sunday that he had not heard of the announcement and referred questions to Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong, who also said he did not know anything about it.

Thida Keus, executive director of rights group Silaka, which is involved in the decentralisation reforms, said she believed the phase-out of support from DFID would cause "a limited disturbance to policy implementation".

But she said she saw DFID's decision to close its Cambodia office as "part of a trend" in which donors shut down country offices and instead administer aid multilaterally. Erlebach and Mace said DFID would continue to provide multilateral funding through organisations such as the UN and the Asian Development Bank.


Children's village uses sustainable initiatives to cut costs, teach kids

Photo by: PHOTO supplied
A child at the ‘Our Village‘ community in Kampong Speu province.

Written by Lucy Kinder and Marika Hill
Monday, 22 June 2009

NGO New Hope for Cambodian Children in Kampong Speu province is using renewable energy to make it less reliant on donations.

AS the global financial crisis threatens the budgets of international aid groups and NGOs, one organisation is trying to meet the market meltdown head on by turning to renewable energy as a way to mind its bottom-line as donor funds dry up.

New Hope for Cambodian Children, founded in 2006 by John and Kathy Tucker, aims at expanding assistance to children living with HIV/AIDS through a self-reliant and economically sustainable housing project.

Our Village, a community based on a 24-hectare plot of land in Kampong Speu province, houses 160 children who have all found themselves, one way or another, without family, housing or support networks of their own.

Some still have families, but ones that are simply unable to care for them.

Some children are used to having only one meal a day, but here they get three.

While the group helps HIV-positive children to remain with their families, some have no alternative but to be cared for at Our Village, employees there say.

"Although the children love their families, they often have a difficult life with them," the project's program director, Sok Phalla, told the Post.

"For instance, some children are used to having only one meal a day, but here they get three," he said.

Planning for the future
Sok Phalla said that the village's many sustainable initiatives, such as a biodiesel generator that provides electricity in the evenings and solar panels that generate electric power during the day, help prevent the organisation from relying too heavily on donations.

The village also uses methane-powered stoves, which reuses the waste collected from pigs raised in the village's own barns.

The children are taught how to look after the pigs and other animals, which are sold to raise revenue for the upkeep of the village.

Sok Phalla admits the economic crisis has had an effect on the income from livestock.

"We do not receive as much money as we previously did from the sale of our animals," he said.

But he believes the village's approach to sustainable and renewable projects means it is more protected from the fluctuation of the market than other organisations.

On the mean streets of Poipet

One of an estimated 850 children working in Poipet collects cans to recycle earlier this month. NGO workers are struggling to help the burgeoning population of street children in the border town.

Written by May Titthara and Eleanor Ainge Roy
Monday, 22 June 2009


Rising numbers of street children are turning up in the once-lawless border town, lured there by lax law enforcement, gang protection and easy pickings.

THE sun had not yet risen over the border town of Poipet in northwestern Cambodia, when Sous Veasna, 10, began his daily march to Thailand. With him were a dozen other children, still rubbing the sleep from their eyes as they passed the gaudy Las Vegas Casino and the faded Tropicana.

This gang, made up mostly of children less than 15 years old, is one of many operating between the porous border of Poipet and Aranyaprathet, Thailand.

"The town is getting a reputation as a good place for orphans and street children to live," said one border officer who has been living in Poipet for 15 years and identified himself only as Mr Cham.

"There are so many now that they take safety in numbers, and local residents are afraid of them because they steal and take drugs," he said, adding that most border officers turn a blind eye to the children crossing every day through the "black routes" because they know they have no other means of earning a living.

In total, there are around 850 Cambodian street children operating in and around Poipet, said Yan Sam, project co-coordinator of the drop-in centre Damnok Toek.

An estimated 200 to 300 Cambodian street children cross the border to work illegally in Thailand every day, mostly informal work at the Loung Kloeu market, Yan Sam said.

Authorities and NGOs say it is impossible to verify figures. While some of the children spend the occasional night in an NGO drop-in centre, the majority do not, as night is their most profitable time.

"In the night if I have money, I go to buy drugs because they are cheap and they stop me feeling hungry," said one gang member, identified only as Mao, 15.

The Poipet children themselves say the rising number of street kids in the flush casino towns of Aranyaprathet and Poipet is due largely to the fact that street children can fare better there than in other parts of Cambodia. On a good night they might pull in 100 baht to 200 baht (US$2.91 to $5.82) from a generous punter with a lucky hand.

More typically, street children earn between 20 baht and 40 baht per day, 50 percent of which they must give to their gang leader.

"If I don't earn enough money, the older gangsters will beat me," says Sao Sreyny, 7. Despite the threat of physical abuse, she says she stays with the gang for want of any route out of the marginalised existence she has fallen into.

"I know the things I do are bad for society, but society does not care about me, and the big gangster will give me drugs, so I regard him as my father."

Gangland rules
According to Kheav Bory from the rights group Adhoc, most of Poipet's street children are organised into gangs, which are usually about 50 to 60 members strong. The older gangsters, generally aged between 20 and 25 years, make their living "leading" the group, and the younger members pay the older members to take care of them.

I know the things I do are bad for society, but society does not care about me.

In return they are offered protection from rival gangs, food and often drugs - usually glue or metamphetamine - to feed their addictions, which Adhoc claims many gang members actually encourage as a means to control the children.

Drug use is endemic, while physical and sexual abuse is common and likely to go unpunished, Kheav Bory said.

"The local authorities largely ignore the gangs of street children, as they have no way to make money off of them," Kheav Bory said.

"They will only act when the gangs turn violent towards each other, or robberies become too frequent."

Young gang members say they avoid authorities by targeting houses and property outside of the busy Poipet town, meaning they are less likely to get caught.

Because the majority of the child gang members are very young, they benefit from a certain legal immunity - no one under the age of 15 is meant to be sent to prison in Cambodia.

If caught, the children are instead sent to the Poipet Transit Centre, a re-education centre run by the Ministry of Social Affairs. But according to the centre's director, Chheang Maneth, her facility caters mostly to trafficked women and children and has no authority to detain children against their will.

Chheang Maneth also said her centre lacks the resources to deal with violent, drug-addicted children with a history of criminal activity. As a result, the task of looking after the street children's welfare often falls to NGOs such as Damnok Toek and Krousar Thmey, which have been set up specifically to work with them.

Both organisations send their staff members out at night several times a week to try to persuade the children to stay in their facilities.

But by their own admission, they are only reaching a fraction of Poipet's street-kid population. In June, Krousar Thmey received only 23 children at their drop-in centre. The concern is that Poipet is gaining a reputation as a street child's paradise, with lax authorities, easy access to drugs and numerous options for begging and stealing.

"The government needs to put pressure on the authorities to force these street children into our drop-in centres," says Sin Bunyang, a peer educator at Krousar Thmey.

"They are getting more powerful and no one can be bothered to deal with them," he said.

Though NGOs like Krousar Thmey blame the authorities for not doing enough, immigration officer Sao Bunrith says the Poipet authorities are working hard to tackle the problem of rogue children.

"We don't know how many children cross the border daily, but if we catch them we send them to the Poipet Transit Centre for re-education." he said.

But for many of the street kids, like Mao, 15, the lack of support from the government or NGOs condemns him to continuing with his life on the streets.

"I don't want to do this, but I have no choice. I feel like I am in hell now, I am not a person and also not a ghost," he told the Post.

CITA: Govt needs to fight exam corruption

Written by Khuon Leakhana and Lucy Kinder
Monday, 22 June 2009

AHEAD of secondary school exams scheduled for July 6-7, the president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association has issued a call to the Ministry of Education urging it to combat new graft allegations levelled at government officials.

Endemic corruption amongst teachers is widely acknowledged, with unions, donors and the government recognising that staff may be forced to resort to bribery to support their meagre incomes.

But now ministry officials have also allegedly been seeking bribes from students, using brokers to extort the money, union President Rong Chhun said. The brokers receive 20 percent of the bribe, while the rest goes to the officials, he added.

"A few days ago, we heard information from some towns and provinces that students have to pay US$50 in order to pass the examinations," he said.

"It is an outrage.... It means the examination becomes useless and students from poor families have to suffer an injustice. This kind of corruption has a negative effect on the development of our country," Rong Chhun added.

"The government must provide justice to hardworking students from poor families," he said.

Rong Chhun said that while he would continue to raise awareness about the increase in corruption, it was political will that would be the most important factor in determining how the exam system worked.

"Whether or not the [government] admits to corruption is of the utmost importance," he said.

When confronted with Rong Chhun's claims, the director general of the ministry's Education Department, Keuth Nayleang, was reluctant to respond.

"The Cambodian Independent Teachers Association always makes such claims during examination periods. I do not want to speak about this matter over and over again," he told the Post last week.

He added, however, that the ministry was improving its ability to combat corruption.

"We are in the process of implementing stricter and more effective measures to prevent corruption from being a problem," he said.

Bird feed


Written by Tracey Shelton
Monday, 22 June 2009

A family feeds pigeons by the riverside in front of the Royal Palace. Seventy-four-year-old seed seller Yeay Soy says she works from sunrise to dusk selling corn and beans at 500 riels (US$0.12) for three small bags, and on a good day can take home 5,000 riels.

Confusion surrounds plans for 700MW coal power plant

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Charcoal is a popular form of fuel in Cambodia, but there are not yet any coal power plants in the Kingdom. As many as three such coal facilities appear to be planned for Sihanoukville.

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 22 June 2009

Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem denies plans for Sihanoukville station despite Malaysian firm’s announcement to Kuala Lumpur stock exchange

Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has denied there are plans to build a 700-megawatt coal power plant in Sihanoukville, despite confirmation from another ministry officials as well as a statement to the stock exchange in Kuala Lumpur that Malaysian firm Leader Universal Holdings Berhad has been in talks to invest and build in the project.

In a statement to Bursa Malaysia on June 11, the company - which wholly owns subsidiary Leader (Cambodia) Ltd - said it had been in talks with the ministry regarding a joint-venture agreement with Cambodia International Investment Development Group Co Ltd (CIIDG) to build a number of coal power stations.

This included a previously agreed 200MW coal power station that would now be split into two 100MW facilities which look set to be the first coal power plants in Cambodia.

"The JV agreement also sets out the agreement reached between the parties [Leader, CIIDG and the Ministry of Mines and Energy] in respect of the planning and development of a future 700MW coal-fired power generation facility in Sihanoukville, Cambodia," said the Leader statement.

If we rely on our own power plants, we will be much better off.

However, Suy Sem and a number of other government officials have denied existence of any such project.

"I am not really aware of this project," Suy Sem told the Post before hanging up the telephone.

Governor of Preah Sihanouk province Spoang Sarath said he was also unaware of such a project, although he confirmed that two 100MW coal power stations would be built, adding that a larger-capacity power station would require undergoing an environmental pre-planning process.

"We are short of electricity, but we need to consider the impact on the environment as well," he said.

Victor Jona, deputy director of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, also denied knowledge of plans to build the 700MW power station, although he estimated such a project would require an investment of about US$1 billion. Ministry of Mines and Energy Secretary of State Ith Praing also said he knew nothing of the project.

But Heng Sun Leng, director of the Energy Department at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, did confirm plans for a 700MW coal power plant in Sihanoukville but declined to name the company responsible, saying there was no confirmed foreign involvement so far.

"The 700MW [power station] is not with a Malaysian company; it is from a local company that is seeking a partner. We don't know which company will be the partner - we are studying that," he said.

According to the statement by Leader, it is already in a joint-venture agreement with CIIDG, called Cambodian Energy Limited, which has already won a concession to build one 100MW coal power station in Sihanoukville after plans to build a 200MW facility were split into two separate projects.

Another 100MW will be built by Power Synergy Corporation, a 50-50 joint-venture between Leader and MKCSS Holdings, a Cambodian company, the statement added.

Uk Bunseng, a MKCSS Holdings manager, declined to comment Sunday.

Company dispute
Heng Sun Leng said without elaborating further that the change had been the result of a company dispute, and that the original contract with Electricite du Cambodge had been cancelled.

New contracts for both power stations would have to be signed, most likely in October or November, he said.

Heng Sun Leng said both projects would be completed by 2012, adding that the 700MW power station would not be completed until after 2015. A pre-feasibility study is currently being conducted, he added.

"If we rely on our own power plants, we will be much better off than relying on imports [of energy]," he said, adding that the Cambodian government plans to build a national grid.

Cambodia would utilise "clean coal technology", which has little environmental impact and would remain within World Bank and ministry standards, he said.

The first two 100MW coal power stations would service Sihanouk, Kampot, Kampong Speu and Phnom Penh provinces, said Heng Sun Leng.

GMS OKs energy road map

Written by Nathan Green
Monday, 22 June 2009

MINISTERS from the six Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) nations committed to expanding cross-border energy trade at a major regional meeting organised by the Asia Development Bank (ADB) Friday.

In a joint statement following the 15th GMS Ministerial Conference in Thailand's Petchburi province, the ministers - from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam - also called for broader integration in the power sector beyond electricity.

Cambodia was represented by Finance Minister Cham Prasidh at the conference, which also discussed transportation, trade, telecommunications, agriculture, tourism and environmental programmes.

The ministerial statement set out a road map for extending modern energy access to all GMS communities through rural electrification schemes and off-grid power systems, and by greater sharing of the sub-region's diverse energy resources, which includes hydropower, oil, gas and coal.

PM pushes for property law to boost foreign investment

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the Ministry of Land Management to speed up drafting of property legislation.

Written by Kay Kimsong
Monday, 22 June 2009

Hun Sen says that draft legislation allowing foreigners to own apartments will – once completed – give momentum to other sectors of the economy

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Friday urged the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to expedite the drafting of new rules that would permit foreign ownership of property in Cambodia.

In a press release issued by the Council of Ministers, Hun Sen said implementation of the rules would lead to an influx of foreign capital investment in the real estate and other sectors.

"The law will make foreigners feel confident in investing in other sectors in Cambodia," he said.

In an interview Sunday, Sung Bonna, CEO of Bonna Realty Group and president of the National Valuers Association of Cambodia, said he welcomed the premier's comments, calling them "a highly valued answer to help the real estate industry survive".

He added, "Samdech [Hun Sen] made a good decision with this law. This law is a positive law that will benefit the country's economy."

The NVA is to meet today with a working group of government officials and private sector representatives to give input on the new rules.

The law will make foreigners feel confident in investing in other sectors in Cambodia.

Existing rules prohibit foreigners from owning property, which supporters say prevents speculation and price volatility. The proposed changes would allow for foreign ownership of houses, apartments and condominiums above the ground floor. Foreigners would also be able to inherit property.

Sung Bonna said all 15 members of the NVA fully supported the changes, though he said they would put forth two recommendations during the meeting today.

First, he said foreigners should only be able to buy property that costs $50,000 or more so that cheaper apartments would be available to Cambodians.

Second, there should be some limit as to how much property any one foreigner can purchase.

Senior Cambodian People's Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap also called for some limits to the law, noting in particular the government's view that foreigners should not be able to buy land located near the border so as to prevent foreign ownership of property in disputed areas.

Cheap Yeap said he did not know when the draft would be completed or when it would be sent to the National Assembly.

Im Chamrong, director general of the construction department at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the rules were still being drafted and would be the subject of debate at an inter-ministerial meeting to be held "soon". He said it was not sure when the draft would be sent to the Council of Ministers.

Sung Bonna dismissed concerns that foreign ownership would lead to undue increases in property prices, saying it would instead provide a much-needed jolt to a sector that has been battered by the economic crisis.

He said he believed the rules would prompt foreigners to consider purchasing second homes in the Kingdom.

"Our country is the best place for second homes where foreigners can relax and stay when they retire," he said. "Our country is a destination with intact natural resources and good weather, and this is the right time to absorb capital flow into Cambodia."

Cambodia to import rice-grading machine

Written by May Kunmakara
Monday, 22 June 2009

THE Cambodian Rice Millers Association plans to import a machine from South Korea that would enable farmers to sort rice by grade and, consequently, sell it for higher prices.

Association head Phou Puy said the machine, to be purchased next month and sent to Battambang province, would cost more than US$100,000.

"We have seen that our rice output is increasing each year, but we still don't have the machine to classify the grade of milled rice," he said. "Once we have the machine, it will be easier to access export markets."

Last year, Cambodia produced more than 7 million tonnes of rice on approximately 2.4 million hectares of land. There was a surplus of more than 2 million tonnes of rice intended for export.

Phou Puy said the absence of a sorting machine in Cambodia was one factor driving down the price of Cambodian rice on export markets, which tends to be lower than the prices paid for rice from Vietnam and Thailand.

Yang Saing Koma, director of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said farmers presently looking to sort their rice by grade must do so by hand.

Phou Puy said the sorting machine would be able to process "thousands of tonnes" of rice per day.
Yang Saing Koma seconded the view that sorted rice would fetch higher prices on export markets.

"It is necessary for us to import the machine if we want to export milled rice to rich or European countries, which require high-quality milled rice," he said.

A commodities report dated June 19 priced higher quality Grade-1 milled rice at 60 US cents per kilogram, while Grade-2 milled rice was priced at 50 cents per kilo.

ACLEDA to handle funds in state transactions

Written by Nguon Sovan
Monday, 22 June 2009

THE Finance Ministry will launch a pilot programme next month in which ACLEDA Bank Plc will handle funds used for revenue and expenditure transactions, including the payment of government salaries, a National Treasury official told the Post Sunday.

Vong Bunintreavuth, deputy director of the National Treasury of Cambodia, said a memorandum of understanding about the programme would be signed today by the ministry and the bank.

He said the pilot programme would be implemented in Kandal and Banteay Meanchey provinces beginning July 1.

Revenue and expenditure transactions are currently executed through the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC). Vong Bunintreavuth said the decision to switch to ACLEDA was intended to "make public financial management accountability more effective, especially in relation to national revenue and expenditures management".

He said the ministry went with ACLEDA because of the size of its branches and its ability to reach remote rural areas.

In Channy, ACLEDA's president and chief executive, said the bank has 229 branches and 6,900 employees.

NBC Director General Tal Nay Im acknowledged Sunday that ACLEDA had a much wider network, as the NBC only has branches in provincial towns. "It will be easier than to do the transactions with the central bank," she said.

Vong Bunintreavuth said the project, if successful, would be extended to five other provinces and potentially nationwide. He said he did not know when the first phase would be completed.

In Channy said Sunday that the move was an expression of the government's confidence in the bank.

"ACLEDA Bank Plc has wide experience, good governance, sufficient human and strong financial resources, the best risk management system, and it was rated as stable by the international rating institutes," he said.

Investing remains a matter of time

Written by Trevor Keidan
Monday, 22 June 2009

The financial crisis hit many hard, but the biggest losers are those who stopped investing entirely

PUTTING off a savings plan by as little as one year can cost investors thousands of dollars. It can mean the difference between a happy and unhappy retirement.

Someone who saves US$200 per month at an average rate of return of 6 percent for 10 years can look forward to accumulating savings of $32,653. By putting off saving this monthly amount by as little as one year could cost $4,185.

While it is true that the global stock markets have suffered over the past 18 months, perhaps the biggest losers are the regular investors who have veered from their original investment plans and have stopped investing. Those who have put their investment plans on hold have lost the one commodity that they will never be able to replace - time. Remember most of us only have a certain amount of time in which to earn money and, thus, save money.

With recent rebounds some of these investors are now looking to resume where they left off. Some are also eager to try and make up for the time they might have lost sitting on the sidelines.

As ever, when it comes to financial planning there is no ‘one-size-fits-all' approach. However, there is some advice that needs to be heeded dependant on how much time one has to save and invest.

Anyone under the age of 40 can effectively return to where he or she has left off. After all it is a safe assumption that the stock market and other forms of investment will - over time - stage a recovery and return to higher levels. It is also safe to assume that anyone taking a long-term view will also benefit from compounding. There is also the added bonus that certain stocks appear undervalued right now.

Those aged 40-55 should really continue to save as much as they can reasonably afford. People in this age bracket should avoid the temptation to halt or reduce their investments based on what stock markets are doing. They should also resist the urge to change their strategy.

For those aged 55 and over the options are somewhat more complex because the time remaining to earn a wage is limited. Those whose life savings have been affected by the volatility of the markets over the past 18 months should seek the advice of a finance expert who might advise a re-balancing of the portfolio or even a low-cost annuity that pays a set amount over a period of time.

Whatever the circumstances and stage of each investment, time is the common denominator. Given enough time almost any investment portfolio can be fixed.

Those who have lost the most in this volatile market are those who have stopped investing entirely. They should immediately restart where they left off.

Trevor Keidan is managing director of Infinity Financial Solutions. Should you wish to contact Trevor send an email to