Thursday, 9 July 2009

Cambodian editor gets pardon in return for apology and closure of his newspaper

9 July 2009

The case against Dam Sith, editor-in-chief of the " Moneaksekar Khmer" newspaper, has been dropped by order of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, after the editor issued a letter of apology on 8 July 2009 to the premier and agreed to stop publication of his newspaper, media sources said.

"Khmer Sthapana" said Dam Sith was jailed in 2008 after he quoted in his newspaper a speech by opposition Sam Rainsy alleging that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was a former Khmer Rouge leader. He was released as a result of international pressure and an apology he issued to the minister.

Despite his release, however, criminal charges against Dam Sith remained. The editor was charged of violating Articles 62 and 63 of the Cambodian Penal Code.

Both "Khmer Sthapana" and "Deum Ampil" quoted Dam Sith in his letter of apology to PM Hun Sen as saying, "I have nothing else to depend on to escape the court charges against me," hinting at the hopelessness of his case in Cambodian courts.

Both publications said political analysts in Phnom Penh predict that the editor will be forced to join the ruling party.

Not only media but civil society is also feeling the pressure in Cambodia. Human right groups have expressed concerns over a recent surge in legal actions against members of civil society and opposition activists.

Cambodian Opposition-affiliated Journalist Jailed for Disinformation

July 9, 2009

On June 26, 2009, opposition-affiliated Khmer Machach Srok newspaper director Hang Chakra was convicted in absentia of disinformation, sentenced to one year in prison, and fined 9 million riel (USD $2,250). Hours later, Hang Chakra was arrested in Cambodia's Northeast Battambang province and taken to Prey Sar prison.

Hang Chakra had originally been summoned to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on June 3 to answer questions regarding controversial articles published in his newspaper. During Chakra's interview, details of informants inside the Council of Ministers who were the source for the stories remained anonymous with Hang Chakra refusing to identify them to the court, as allowed under Article 2 of the Press Law.

His questioning came after the government filed a complaint in response to the articles published by Khmer Machah Srok in April and May 2009 about Senior Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, also head of the Council of Ministers.

The articles in question detail the alleged demotion and firing due to corruption of officials who worked with Sok An in the Council of Ministers. Upon filing the complaint, the government claimed that the articles could affect political stability in the country.

This was not the first time that Hang Chakra and his newspaper, one of the few media outlets not controlled by the ruling party, have come under fire from the government in recent years:

• In July 2008, an opposition defector and government advisor Sok Pheng threatened to sue Hang Chakra after the paper published an article alleging that Sok Pheng was involved in corrupt activities.

• In January 2008 Hang Chakra was questioned by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court after Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh filed a defamation lawsuit against him in relation to an article that alleged Cham Prasidh had had an extramarital affair.

Restricting Freedom of Expression
The government and the courts have been criticized repeatedly for resorting to the use of defamation and disinformation charges under the UNTAC Criminal Code (Articles 63 and 62, respectively) to restrict the freedom of expression. Courts' judges also continue to ignore the more recent 1995 Press Law, a civil law that was specifically enacted to regulate the print media; it contains less severe penalties than the UNTAC Criminal Code and offers the media some protections.

Although in May 2006 the UNTAC Criminal Code was amended to remove prison sentences for the charge of defamation after broad national and international pressure. It however still remains a criminal offense for which suspects can be arrested: a person convicted of defamation may still be imprisoned should they be unable to pay the fine, which can be as high as 10 million riel (USD $2,500) – a sum most Cambodians would have little hope of being able to pay.

After the amendment to the UNTAC code, the courts favored disinformation over defamation against government critics, the former still leading to imprisonment. While disinformation requires a high standard of proof – requiring the prosecution to prove that false information is published with malicious intent and poses a real threat to public peace – the reality is different and the courts freely convict journalists with little or no evidence when asked to do so.

LICADHO urges the government to remove both criminal defamation and disinformation charges entirely from the UNTAC Criminal Code as well as insuring the absence of such charges in the new draft of the Criminal Code currently before the National Assembly.

The government is also urged to cease pressuring the courts to restrict the freedom of expression in Cambodia. In particular, the court needs to cease its misuse of the UNTAC Criminal Code in favor of the Press Law to prosecute members of the media, and to do so independently.

As the Cambodian Constitution guarantees, all Cambodians have the right to express their opinions and to freely participate in debate about government policies and practices.

Cambodian police sell dogs for meat after deadly attack


Asia-Pacific News
Jul 9, 2009,

Phnom Penh - Cambodian police killed and sold three German shepherd guard dogs for meat after they fatally attacked a man as he walked home from work, national media reported Thursday.

Police in the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk captured and drowned the dogs Wednesday before selling their bodies to a meat vendor at a local market, The Cambodia Daily reported.

A local police chief said the three dogs mauled to death a 22-year-old man early Monday.

He said the dogs were sold to the vendor for 30 US dollars each.

Cambodian former King Norodom Sihanouk arrives home from China

PHNOM PENH, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Queen Monineath Sihanouk arrived home Thursday afternoon after they had spent almost a year in China for medical treatment.

Soon after arrival at Siem Reap International Airport, the former King Norodom Sihanouk and his wife proceeded straight to his royal residence in Siem Reap town where he will stay for a while.

Norodom Sihanouk and his wife left for China on August 1, 2008 and he had stayed there for medical treatment as advised by his Chinese doctors.

The ex-King Norodom Sihanouk, 86, has said that he had suffered a number of illnesses including diabetes and cancer.

But two weeks ago, he said he has recovered from his third cancer of its kind after treatment by his Chinese doctors.

On June 27, Sihanouk issued a statement saying his doctors had informed him of being able to return home, but suggested him to fly back to China in September and stay in China at least until the end of the year.

Welcoming the former King's arrival were his son King Norodom Sihamoni, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol, the country's police chief Neth Saveoun, royal family members and other government officials.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Retired king returns to Cambodia for two-month visit

Posted : Thu, 09 Jul 2009
Author : DPA

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's retired king Norodom Sihanouk returned to his homeland for a two-month visit Thursday after spending almost a year in Beijing receiving treatment for cancer. The 86-year-old king-father and Queen-Mother Monique landed at Siem Reap International Airport about 3 pm and immediately traveled to a royal residence in the northern town.

Sihanouk last month announced he would return to Cambodia for two months after being successfully treated in Beijing for B-cell lymphoma, which attacks blood cells crucial to the body's immune system.

It was his third bout of cancer since 1993.

But Sihanouk said at the time he would have to return to Beijing after two months to continue his medical treatment.

Sihanouk abdicated and was replaced by his son Norodom Sihamoni in 2004, but he remains an influential figure in Cambodian politics.

He was appointed king by Cambodia's French rulers in 1941, but in 1955 Sihanouk abandoned the throne to become prime minister.

After being overthrown in a military coup in 1970, Sihanouk sided with the Maoist Khmer Rouge, who came to power in 1975 and oversaw the deaths of up to 2 million people until Vietnam invaded in 1979.

He was forced out of office again and remained virtually imprisoned in the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh during most of the Khmer Rouge's rule.

Sihanouk returned to the throne in 1993, but frequently traveled to Beijing for treatment for a range of illnesses.

Exit polls show Yudhoyono winning re-election

Photo by: AFP
An election official holds up a ballot paper for observers during the counting at a polling station in Jakarta on Wednesday. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for calm and respect for democratic processes after exit polls showed him reaching an unassailable lead to win a second five-year term in office, only the second direct presidential election since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in May 1998. Official poll results from Wednesday's election are not expected for several days.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009

JAKARTA - Exit polls gave Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono an unassailable lead Wednesday as voting closed in only the second direct presidential election since the fall of the Suharto dictatorship.

A poll broadcast by MetroTV gave the liberal ex-general 58.51 percent of the vote, compared to 26.32 percent for opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri and 15.18 percent for outgoing Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

Another "quick count" poll broadcast by TV One gave Yudhoyono 60.10 percent, with Megawati at 27.33 and Kalla at 12.58.

Final official results are not expected for several days, but the unofficial figures suggest Yudhoyono will avoid a second-round run-off in September.
He needs more than 50 percent of the vote and 20 percent in all 33 provinces to win in the first round.

"The vote count hasn't finished yet ... but the poll surveys in their quick counts show the success of my comrades," he said at his residence in Bogor, south of Jakarta, after polling closed across the archipelago.

Megawati and Kalla complained before the election about incomplete voting lists and missing polling booths, but Yudhoyono called on his rivals to resolve any objections peacefully.

"Let's work together to maintain a peaceful situation in this country. If there are objections or protests, please do it through mechanisms and procedures in line with our law," he said.

Megawati, the daughter of independence hero Sukarno and an ex-president who lost to Yudhoyono in 2004, has made no comment, and a spokesman said she was not ready to concede defeat.

Kalla said he was "shocked" at his poor performance but offered his congratulations to Yudhoyono, his boss in the outgoing administration and running mate in 2004.

"Based on the quick count result I congratulate SBY, but I'm still waiting for the official results," he said in an interview with TV One, using Yudhoyono's nickname.

Some 170 million people were eligible to vote in the world's largest Muslim-majority country, from eastern Papua province to Sumatra island in the west - spanning three time zones and 17,000 islands.

Yudhoyono has promised to boost growth and clean up the corrupt bureaucracy, but has been attacked as a "neo-liberal" by his rivals who championed populist policies of "self-reliance".

The 59-year-old is the most popular Indonesian leader in the democratic era despite a reputation for indecisiveness and his background as a Suharto loyalist.

His centrist Democratic Party almost tripled its vote in April general elections to become the largest in parliament, allowing him to pack his new cabinet with hand-picked technocrats instead of political appointments. AFP

Defamation suit looms for second publisher

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009

Moneaksekar Khmer publisher Dam Sith is to appear in court for questioning on Tuesday.

A second pro-opposition newspaper publisher has been sued in as many months for defamation, disinformation and incitement by a senior government official and has been summoned to appear at Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning on Tuesday.

Dam Sith, publisher of the Sam Rainsy Party-aligned Moneaksekar Khmer newspaper, said Wednesday that he had received a summons from court deputy prosecutor Sok Kalyan, but did not know the reason for the lawsuit.

"I received the citation [Tuesday] but I don't know at all why they are suing me. I just knew that a government lawyer filed the complaint against me," he said, adding that he was looking for a lawyer to study the case.

I don't understand why the government created a press law, but doesn’t use it...

Dam Sith, who was imprisoned briefly at Prey Sar prison last year after printing controversial comments made by opposition party chief Sam Rainsy, expressed fears he could end up back in prison in connection with the charge.

On June 26, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Heng Chakra, publisher of Khmer Machas Srok News, to a year in prison and fined him 9 million riels (US$2,156) on similar charges.

Hang Chakra was sentenced under the UNTAC penal code, drawing criticism from rights groups who say he should have been tried under the more liberal 1995 Press Law, which does not carry a prison term.

Sok Kalyan said Wednesday he served papers to Dam Sith after a defamation filing by Long Dara, a government lawyer.

Long Dara did not go into detail about the nature of the accusations against Dam Sith, except to say his newspaper had published defamatory material that affected government officials and that he would learn about the charge when he appears in court.

"We sued him for three offences in his publishing. The first is defamation, the second is disinformation and the third is incitement," he said.

"When he appears in court, they will have evidence to show him. There is no problem if he has proof for his published material to clarify to the court. This is the legal procedure."

A rigged 'game'
But human rights groups question whether the procedures in place are sufficient.

In a statement released Tuesday, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada expressed concern about what it termed the "persistent reluctance" of the government to ensure judicial independence.

"Executive control over the judiciary, prosecutors and the legal profession is accomplished through slow-paced and selective law reform, control over appointments and dismissal of judges and prosecutors," the statement said.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders Project, said he had not heard about Dam Sith's case, but that the government should not use the outdated UNTAC penal code against journalists.

"I don't understand why the government created a Press Law but doesn't use it to resolve problems with journalists," he said.

Defamation suit looms for second publisher

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009

Moneaksekar Khmer publisher Dam Sith is to appear in court for questioning on Tuesday.

A second pro-opposition newspaper publisher has been sued in as many months for defamation, disinformation and incitement by a senior government official and has been summoned to appear at Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning on Tuesday.

Dam Sith, publisher of the Sam Rainsy Party-aligned Moneaksekar Khmer newspaper, said Wednesday that he had received a summons from court deputy prosecutor Sok Kalyan, but did not know the reason for the lawsuit.

"I received the citation [Tuesday] but I don't know at all why they are suing me. I just knew that a government lawyer filed the complaint against me," he said, adding that he was looking for a lawyer to study the case.

I don't understand why the government created a press law, but doesn’t use it...

Dam Sith, who was imprisoned briefly at Prey Sar prison last year after printing controversial comments made by opposition party chief Sam Rainsy, expressed fears he could end up back in prison in connection with the charge.

On June 26, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Heng Chakra, publisher of Khmer Machas Srok News, to a year in prison and fined him 9 million riels (US$2,156) on similar charges.

Hang Chakra was sentenced under the UNTAC penal code, drawing criticism from rights groups who say he should have been tried under the more liberal 1995 Press Law, which does not carry a prison term.

Sok Kalyan said Wednesday he served papers to Dam Sith after a defamation filing by Long Dara, a government lawyer.

Long Dara did not go into detail about the nature of the accusations against Dam Sith, except to say his newspaper had published defamatory material that affected government officials and that he would learn about the charge when he appears in court.

"We sued him for three offences in his publishing. The first is defamation, the second is disinformation and the third is incitement," he said.

"When he appears in court, they will have evidence to show him. There is no problem if he has proof for his published material to clarify to the court. This is the legal procedure."

A rigged 'game'
But human rights groups question whether the procedures in place are sufficient.

In a statement released Tuesday, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada expressed concern about what it termed the "persistent reluctance" of the government to ensure judicial independence.

"Executive control over the judiciary, prosecutors and the legal profession is accomplished through slow-paced and selective law reform, control over appointments and dismissal of judges and prosecutors," the statement said.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders Project, said he had not heard about Dam Sith's case, but that the government should not use the outdated UNTAC penal code against journalists.

"I don't understand why the government created a Press Law but doesn't use it to resolve problems with journalists," he said.

Challenges to civil parties

Civil parties Phork Khan (top) and Ly Hor (bottom) testify at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. Both have had their testimonies challenged.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Robbie Rorey-Boulet

While the surfacing of a Tuol Sleng document has appeared to vindicate one witness, testimony from civil parties continues to receive intense scrutiny.

ONE survivor appeared to be vindicated while another had his testimony challenged by lawyers at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Wednesday, continuing a week in which civil party testimony has repeatedly been called into question.

Before testimony began, the prosecution asked to submit a biography of the mother of Norng Chan Phal, a former child detainee at Tuol Sleng who testified last Thursday about escaping from the prison.

Prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, challenged the testimony at the time, saying there was not enough evidence to prove that Norng Chan Phal had ever been sent to the secret detention facility.

The prosecution argued Wednesday that the biography clearly showed that Norng Chan Phal entered the prison with his mother. After viewing the document, which the prosecution said was provided by the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) last Friday, Duch appeared to backtrack from his initial sceptism, saying that he recognised the document as having been produced by Tuol Sleng staff.

"So through this court I would like to seek forgiveness from Mr Norng Chan Phal," he said. "Now I would accept it entirely."

The court then returned to Phork Khan, who on Tuesday said he escaped from the Choeung Ek killing fields by pulling himself out from underneath a pile of corpses.

Duch's defence team attacked the validity of his story Wednesday, pointing to inconsistencies between what he said this week and what he reportedly told a representative from the rights group Adhoc in 2007. In a complaint submitted with the rights group's assistance, Phork Khan said, among other things, that Duch personally threatened to kill him and his wife, according to Duch's lawyers.

Phork Khan refuted much of the statement Tuesday, and on Wednesday he said he had not been allowed to review it before it was submitted on his behalf.

It's obvious that we don’t have too much experience [with civil parties].

"I did not complete the whole reading of the document because I was told it was urgent to send the document back," he said.

Latt Ky, who coordinates tribunal outreach for Adhoc, said in an interview that he could not comment on Phork Khan's case specifically but said Adhoc workers were trained to make sure statements are reviewed before submission.

"We read the statements to them before we ask them to thumbprint, and when we read it if they object to some points, we take those points out," Latt Ky told the Post.

In addition to contradicting the Adhoc statement, Phork Khan appeared to contradict what he said Tuesday when asked about whether he had ever gone by names other than Phork Khan. He told the Trial Chamber on Tuesday that he had not, but on Wednesday he listed two other names he had previously used. He said Wednesday he had not understood the judge's question the day before.

Parts of his testimony were consistent with what other witnesses and civil parties have said - for instance that he was accused of having collaborated with the CIA and the KGB and that his cell at S-21 contained an ammunition box.

He also said that he had viewed testimony from at least four separate witnesses and civil parties, including Norng Chan Phal.

The use of civil parties
Phork Khan was the third civil party this week to have his testimony called into question.

Asked about the trend, Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for the defence team of former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea, said: "It's not uncommon for witnesses to change their stories from the time of giving a complaint to being put on the stand. I think what's strange to us is that it's happened three times now in one week. The fact that it's happened three times in a row raises questions about the vetting process."

During the court's weekly press conference Wednesday, UN court spokesman Lars Olsen highlighted the differences between witnesses such as Norng Chan Phal and civil parties such as Phork Khan.

He said civil parties, unlike witnesses, are not summoned by judges and do not take an oath before testifying. Rather, he said, they appear at the request of civil party lawyers.

Court spokesman Reach Sambath said witnesses, unlike civil parties, were technically prohibited from observing court proceedings prior to sitting in the dock themselves, though he noted that there was little the court could do to prevent them from watching live broadcasts.

Olsen said, "The stories and information [civil parties] share with the court does not have the same weight as people who testify under oath."

He added: "It's obvious that we don't have too much experience" with the civil party process.

Also Wednesday, the court heard the beginnings of testimony from Chin Meth, 51, a civil party who worked with various work units during the regime and who Duch said he believed had been held in a divisional detention facility before being sent to Prey Sar.


Officials announce further delay on cluster bomb ban

A cluster munition is shown at an ordnance disposal facility in Kampong Chhnang.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009

GOVERNMENT officials said Cambodia will fulfill its promise to sign an international treaty banning cluster bombs, but that they may need more time to consider its impact on the country's defence capabilities.

Prak Sokhon, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said Tuesday that due to the current border tensions with Thailand, the country had to delay signing.

"This does not mean that Cambodia has turned away from its promise," he told local and international participants during a conference on the government's national mine clearance strategy Tuesday.

"We still sign on to this treaty ... even though our two big neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam, have refused to sign [it]."

He added that the Ministry of Defence had requested more time to determine how many cluster bombs the army possesses and how long it will take to replenish its defence capabilities after stockpiled bombs are destroyed.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, signed in Oslo, Norway, in December, requires signatories to cease their use of cluster munitions, and not to "develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [them] to anyone, directly or indirectly". It also obliges nations to destroy stockpiles within eight years.

But officials say it is unclear how long the Ministry of Defence will take to complete its study into the army's cluster bomb stockpiles.

Oum Phumro, deputy director general of the Cambodian Mines Action Centre, estimated that it could take "this year or until the middle of next year" to prepare the study, but did not elaborate further.

Leng Sochea, deputy secretary general at the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, also declined to put a timeframe on the signing of the treaty, but denied the border conflict with Thailand was behind the delay.

"The tensions between Cambodia and Thailand have not affected the signing of the Cluster Munitions Convention ... because the tensions are only at Preah Vihear," he said.

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat said Wednesday that the ministry was currently studying the likely impact of the convention, and "needed time" to consider the issue.

CSD dispute: Civil society group to be shut down

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Georgia Wilkins

CSD dispute

Police were expected to carry out an injunction order against the Centre for Social Development today, following a leadership dispute at the civil society group that last year resulted in the dismissal of the organisation's executive director, Theary Seng. Vi Houi, former CSD board president, filed a complaint against Theary Seng last year claiming that she should be removed from her position, as she failed to turn up to meetings. A resulting injunction order was appealed by CSD, but a letter on Tuesday informed the organisation that it would ultimately be enforced. "The local authorities sent us a letter on very short notice, and the accused is not even in the country," said Im Sophea, CSD's deputy executive director, adding that Theary Seng was currently in France. "Mr Vi Houi has no standing to request an injunction order [and] we as staff have nothing to do with this. We have to operate this public institution. When contacted Wednesday, Vi Houi said he hoped the injunction ran "smoothly" and that the court designated a new person for the position.

Group 78 call on PM for intervention

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
May Titthara

Residents ask Hun Sen to help them get fair compensation.

Residents of Group 78 have sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen's house in a desperate attempt to get compensation for their soon-to-be demolished houses.

A week after City Hall cancelled a meeting scheduled to settle relocation terms, residents say the prime minister's conscience is their only remaining hope.

"We would like to ask the prime minister to help us receive fair compensation as residents of Group 78," said Lim Sambo, a community representative.

According to Lim Sambo, families have been told that their houses will be bulldozed on July 17, with or without compensation.

"Now we are worried about our situation because City Hall threatened to evict us without fair compensation," he said.

"We would to like to say again and again to the prime minister that we are not living on Sour Srun Company's land but rather on the public road, and we have all the documents to prove it," he added.

City Hall offered families from Group 78 two optional compensation plans - US$8,000 without land or $5,000 with a 5-by-12-metre plot of land in Trapaing Anhchanh village, Dangkor district.

According to Khat Narith, Tonle Bassac commune chief, none of the 70 families had taken City Hall's offer of land, located outside of the city.

"There are currently eight families who agreed to take City Hall's compensation of $8,000 to each family without land, and they promised to pull their house down five days later," he said.

"I don't know about the other families who are trying to protest to get more compensation, but the last eviction deadline for them is July 17," he added.

National Assembly in Thailand foiling demining efforts: officials

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
RCAF soldiers conduct demining operations on the roadside near Preah Vihear temple on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009

Cambodian government says it needs Thai approval to demine border.

CAMBODIA is unable to demine the border with Thailand because a key bilateral agreement has yet to be approved by the Thai National Assembly, and not because the Cambodian government wants the mines to stay, Cambodian officials said at a conference on Tuesday.

"Cambodia, as a signatory country to the Ottawa Treaty, respects its regulations and fulfills its obligations ... to clear mines without reluctance," .

Prak Sokhon, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, told an audience of international demining experts at the end of a two-day conference on Cambodia's mine clearance strategy on Tuesday.

"Mine clearing along the border will be permitted after there is a [demarcation] agreement," he said.

Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator, told the Post Wednesday that the agreement made last April to demine from Choam Srangam to Ta Moan temple in Oddar Meanchey province has not been implemented, but that the fault lies with the Thai government.

"We have not yet implemented [the agreement] ... because [the Thai Commission on the Demarcation of the Border is] waiting for approval from their National Assembly," he said.

To clear the remaining mines in Cambodia, the government is preparing their National Mine Action Strategy for the next 10 years, a final draft of which is to be finished in September and approved by the government in December, said Chum Bunrong, secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA).

Muslim body appoints leaders in Cham, Khmer Islam villages

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
A Muslim woman enters the mosque at Boeung Kak lake last year.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009

Officials say newly appointed imams will aid economic development and strengthen the teaching of the Koran in Cambodia's Muslim communities.

THE country's leading Muslim community body has appointed more than 400 imams in an effort to strengthen the moral fabric of the Cham and Khmer Islam communities, communtiy representatives said this week.

The Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs in Cambodia (HCIRAC) made the appointments at a conference Tuesday and Wednesday to counteract the loss of religious dedication among Muslim youth.

"Our youth are overjoyed with materialism, and some of them have committed evils against God," Sos Kamry, the Grand Mufti of Cambodia, said Wednesday during the second annual conference, attended by 585 Muslims from across the country.

"The imams' role is to educate people about the social morality as contained in the Koran. We believe that these imams will not only improve the Cham people's and Khmer Muslims' morality, but will also cooperate with all the activities of the authorities to develop and reduce poverty in our country," Sos Kamry added.

Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An said that despite the fact that Buddhists and Muslims had different religious beliefs, they have the same obligation to defend the country and help in its development.

"We live in the same country and under a National Constitution, so we need to make an effort to develop ties of friendship in order to develop [it],"

she said, calling on the newly appointed imams and Muslim community leaders to implement government policy in the rural areas.

Sos Mousine, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Cults and Religions, said that HCIRAC organised the conference to disseminate the government's development strategies.

"A country can be developed when the participants join together without discrimination on the basis of race, colour and class," he said. "Khmer Islam and Cham people have contributed in all sectors to the nation's development."

Cambodia is currently home to around half a million Muslims, 70 percent of whom are fishermen, farmers and craftsmen, Sos Mousine said.

Terror fears
But with Cambodia's weak border controls and growing links with the Middle East, there have been fears that Cambodia's Muslim population could become a target of foreign-born Islamic radicals.

Othsman Hassan, president of the Cambodia Muslim Development Foundation, rejected the idea that Cambodian Muslims had "contributed to the al-Qaeda movement", but said the government would remain vigilant.

"We should be cautious about the issues and must report them immediately to the authorities if we know anything because [radicals] might attempt to separate us from the government," he told participants at the conference.

Strip club raid poses warning for other 'exploitative' venues: police

A child walks past the Blue Lagoon Bar, which police and local authorities closed down this week on suspicion that female staff members were being exploited by the owner, who is accused of offering patrons the option of watching the women strip.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

Police say a crackdown on a strip club Tuesday is part of a broader effort to eliminate illegal and exploitative venues, but one rights group says officials are enforcing the law selectively.

ASTRIP club near Wat Phnom faces closure after police and local authorities made it the target of a recent crackdown on human trafficking.

Some 15 workers, mostly female, were arrested in the raid on the Blue Lagoon Bar on Tuesday night on suspicion of working in a bar that offers men the option of watching women strip naked, commune Chief Hov Shinith told the Post.

"Our commune police suspected a few months ago that the club had women who would strip naked, so we informed the district governor to crack down on the bar and arrest the 13 women and two men, including the bar owner," he said Wednesday.

"Our commune police regularly check about 15 bars in the area, and they will also face closure if they do not follow the agreement between the bar owners and police on eliminating illegal and exploitative acts," he said.

Hov Shinith said that the bar was being closed temporarily until a final decision from the municipal governor was made.

"We are now preparing documents against the bar owner, Deam Sovanny, for allegedly [running a strip club] and will send them to the Municipal Court on Thursday," said Keo Thea, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Anti-human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection bureau.

"We are going to release the other 13 women and two men after they complete a contract with our police officials saying they will never work like that again because they are victims," he said.

Bribery impeding action
Lim Mony, the women's programme officer for local rights group Adhoc, told the Post Wednesday she welcomed the recent intervention by authorities but said police were still turning a blind eye to places in which they personally benefited.

"There are still a lot of illegal and exploitative activities going on in restaurants, karaoke bars, night clubs and hotels in Phnom Penh that local authorities and government officials are not taking seriously because they profit from them," she said.

Bayon TV raises $300,000 for PVihear

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Vong Sokheng

CAMBODIANS pledged about US$300,000 to the conservation of Preah Vihear temple on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site, said Tith Thavarith, executive director of the Bayon television station.

"We have only collected about 10 percent of the total so far, and the donors kept calling into our station on July 7, so we cannot say exactly how much we raised," he said.

Tith Thavarith said all the money would go directly into the conservation of Preah Vihear temple but that details of the project needed to be discussed with Hun Mana, president of Bayon TV.

The amount estimated to have been raised in a day is tenfold UNESCO's monetary contribution for preservation of the temple's architecture, said Chuch Phoeurn, chairman of the National Preah Vihear Authority (NPVA) and secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

He said UNESCO has given $30,000 for daily preservation efforts and another $50,000 to restore a market that was damaged by Thai rocket fire during fighting earlier this year. In total, the Cambodian government has budgeted 3.5 billion riels (about $833,000) for the temple, Chuch Phoeurn said.

"We have to preserve and develop the temple ... in accordance with the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee," he added.

Future bright for hospitality school

Photo by: Peter Olszewski
Chefs in training, above, at the Paul Dubrule hospitality school. At right, Director Beatrice Baranger in the school’s training kitchen. Baranger’s departure from the school later this year coincides with an agressive expansion plan that includes teacher training programs, new classrooms and a 300-capacity amphitheatre.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
KYLE SHERER and Peter Olszewski

Rising student placement numbers, an ambitious three-year expansion plan and increasing international partnerships are recipe for success with Paul Dubrule's Ecole d'Hotellerie.

PAUL Dubrule's hospitality school, which has provided cooking and language training to over 1,000 Cambodians since 2002, is set to double its capacity for students by 2012, school officials say, adding that the three-year expansion plan was agreed on by the school and the government in February and will involve teacher training and the construction of 10 new classrooms and a 300-seat amphitheatre.

Ecole d'Hotellerie et de Tourisme Paul Dubrule takes in 200 students a year, many of whom receive support from a scholarship fund. The school provides one- and two-year programmes in restaurant service, wine and bar, cooking, pastry and bakery, front office and housekeeping, and tourism, as well as short courses geared towards small hotels and guesthouses, or locally run restaurants.

All programmes include computer classes and language training in French and English. The school boasts a 91 percent employment rate in the hospitality and tourism industries for its graduates, and its aim is to contribute to the sustainable development of tourism in Cambodia.

Student placement numbers have fluctuated over the last several years, but the trend is decidedly upward.

Some 116 students were placed in hospitality jobs in 2002-03. Between 2004 and 2005, placement dipped to 90 and 82, respectively, but picked up in subsequent years, with 160 students from the 2008 graduating class moving into hospitality employment.

The school opened its 2008-2009 academic year last October with 249 students, who are set to graduate on July 24 in a ceremony that is expected to attract VIPs from the tourism industry and the government. The school also plans to host a Career Fair on July 13.

Change of directors
But this year's 200-plus graduates aren't the only people leaving the school. Director Beatrice Baranger has also announced she intends to move on.

"I have been here for five years," Beatrice said. "In that time, we have transferred many of the teaching posts from expats to newly trained Khmers. Apart from the language teachers, I'm the only expat left."

She credits the high standard of the school's facilities to the "will of Paul Dubrule, who is very demanding at times and insisted that we have an internationally standardised hospitality school".

Taking the reigns from Baranger is Gerald Hougardy, general manager of Hotel Novotel Bangkok, which is owned by the French Accor Group.

Hougardy has also worked in hotels in Algeria and France.

The school was founded in April 2002 by a collaboration involving Paul Dubrule, chairman and founder of the leading multinational hotel group Accor Group; the mayor of Fontainebleu, France; and the Cambodian government. This followed a visit by the hotel tycoon to Siem Reap earlier in 2002 - Dubrule, then 68 years old, undertook an eight-month bicycle ride from his home in Fontainebleau to Siem Reap, a journey that spanned 15,000 kilometres and included a three-month side excursion through Tibet.

Dubrule personally donated US$1.2 million to get the school up and running, and he officially inaugurated the school on October 24, 2002.

Baranger said the Accor Group has been fundraising for the school for two years, and just two weeks ago Hougardy held a Paul Dubrule charity fundraiser at the Novotel that netted 400,000 baht (US$11,730). This year, the school is also receiving four Australian hospitality workers, who will train students and prepare a VIP dinner at Bayon temple in December.

Don Hancey, an Australian donor to the school, is helping organise the dinner and has promised it will use all Australian products. "There will be prawns, scallops, western rock lobster, lamb, Aussie beef, and a selection of Australian wines." Hancey said that Australian food is gaining in popularity in Siem Reap hotels, a trend he attributes to the expat community and the calibre of the food. "Australian beef is pretty damn good," he said.

Global partnerships
The school has partnerships with several French professional institutions, including the Saint Quentin School for Hospitality and Tourism in Yvelines, the Santos Dumont School in Saint-Cloud, the Lenotre School, the Merieux Foundation and the Paul Bocuse Foundation as well as the Accor Group.

Going forward, the school hopes to expand its relationships with other French schools, as well as leading culinary institutions in Asia.

Just over 55 percent of the school's funding comes from donors, but the school also runs a revenue-accretive small four-room hotel on school grounds and two student-operated restaurants.

Le Jardin des Delices is in a tropical garden setting on school grounds, can cater for up to 150 people and is open for a set menu lunch Tuesday through Friday, plus certain evenings for special events and by private request. Le Cafe, next to the French Cultural centre in downtown Siem Reap, serves salads, pastries and coffee Monday through Saturday from 7:30am to 9pm.

Income from the hotel and restaurants, and other sales brings in 28 percent of the school's funds, while school fees earn another 17 percent.

A fund is also available to finance scholarships for disadvantaged youth, and after annual normal admission procedures, the school conducts a "social research inquiry" among the families of candidates seeking scholarships. A special committee then appoints the beneficiaries of the grants.

Chicken farm spat boils over as property confiscated

Photo by: Kyle Shearer
The dispute is focused on a chicken farm, shown above.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009

New Hope Community Centre says farm plan conforms to Apsara Authority regulations, but organization continues to withold official permission.

A SIEM Reap-based NGO's six-month standoff with the Apsara Authority over the construction of a chicken farm near Bakong temple reached the boiling point last week when authority officials confiscated more than US$1,000 worth of equipment from the farm's proposed site.

Kerry Huntly, director of the New Hope Community Centre, said she is trying to reclaim the equipment, which includes a generator and 26 lengths of steel, as well as securing official permission to build the farm.

The New Hope Community Centre works in Mondul 3 village, one of the poorest tracts in the province. In January, Huntly said she developed plans to start a chicken and fish farm on land owned by Kem Sour, the managing director of New Hope. The plan was to send unemployed Cambodians to work on the farm, bring produce back to Mondul 3 to feed impoverished families, and sell additional eggs and fish to raise money for the NGO.

But the land earmarked for the chicken farm falls within a designated Apsara archaeological zone, and any construction must conform to rigid government regulations. Huntly said plans produced by New Hope met these demands.

"We applied through all the proper channels. We filled out what seemed like hundreds of forms, and we got the agreement of the commune chief.

She added: "All we wanted to do was put a big wire fence inside the property, not even on the boundary. "

When New Hope took the plan to the Apsara Authority in January, Huntly said she was told there would be no problems, but soon after Apsara blocked the proposal.

Huntly said she also refused to pay a $500 fee that she characterised as a bribe.

Four months ago, New Hope began construction on the farm despite the authority's objections.

"We thought we'd just build it." But she said on the third day of construction, when a row of fencing and concrete posts had been erected, Apsara officials pulled everything down.

She then sent complaint letters to UNESCO and claimed that two months ago, the Apsara Authority contacted New Hope with a tentative go-ahead and the promise that permission to restart construction would be provided within a week. That permission never materialised.

After a month of delays, New Hope began work, once again, on the chicken fence. Two weeks ago, the chicken farm was on the verge of completion. But just as the final work was being done, Huntly said, an Apsara representative came to the farm and told them to halt construction.

Then, last Monday, Apsara officials again dismantled the fence and confiscated equipment.

New Hope Community Centre is now meeting with Apsara Authority to discuss the problem, and also hopes to be able to dicuss the issue with the provincial governer.

The Apsara Authority declined to discuss the issue with the Post.

Tevy gears up for funding drive

William Merchant poses with a box of his trademark Magic Cool Khmer ties.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Peter Olszewski

THE owner of a Siem Reap-based US-incorporated non-profit enterprise, The Tevy Foundation, is now preparing a major funding drive among the elite of the US computer industry.

The driving force behind the foundation is a former Nevada Microsoft business owner, William Merchant, who worked in pioneer Silicone Valley IT industries and owned a Microsoft business.

After a successful career in the computer industry in the US, Merchant and his wife moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, almost four years ago.

In 2007 the couple moved to Phnom Penh, where Merchant taught information technology at the CIST school and at universities in the capital, and was also senior adviser for the Cambodian Computer Society.

But, after a visit to Angkor Wat he decided to call Siem Reap home and moved here in 2008.

He now runs his non-profit business from Siem Reap and his main revenue earner is the "Magic Cool Khmer Tie", devised by his wife.

The magic ties are styled on a traditional Khmer krama and use crystals and water to become a body cooler. Merchant says that "cool ties are used by UN forces for soldiers in extreme heat conditions".

Material for the cool ties is produced in weaving villages in Kampong Cham, mostly by women with infants or young children who can't work in the garment factories.

Merchant also has the support of several major Siem Reap hotels, where his ties are sold and in some cases given as gifts to guests.

But his philanthropic ambitions are bigger than his magic ties revenue, and in October he will return to the US to tap the consciences and pockets of wealthy computer pioneers, such as Bill Gates.

"I know Bill Gates, and the owners of Google, and others who are all connections from my computer days, and I want to convince theme how important it is to support the Cambodian people."

Non-citizens' daily struggle to provide schooling for kids

Photo by: MARK ROY
Volunteer teacher Le Nguyen Dung Hanh helps a student from the village with her handwriting skills.

They have to show up with the immigration documents to the school so that the school can calculate their terms and qualifications.

The phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Holly Pham AND Mark Roy

Like Cambodian nationals living in Vietnam, Vietnamese families living in the Kingdom without citizenship papers have to find alternatives to state schools

ON the far banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, communities of Vietnamese live in boats and shacks, eking out a living.

And as with other poor communities across Cambodia, their families struggle to provide their children with food, shelter - and that most crucial of commodities, a good education.

But more often than not, kids who should be in a classroom learning the skills they need to make their way in the world are instead labouring to help their families make ends meet.

To make things even more difficult, those residents who do not have citizenship papers cannot pursue further education in Cambodian state schools.

This is despite the fact these children may be born and raised in Cambodia.

And the situation is reciprocated for Khmer people who live in Vietnam without immigration papers or citizenship rights.

Pok Thavin, director general of the higher education department at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports told the Post Wednesday that state schools in Cambodia will not allow "illegal immigrants" to study.

But since its inception in 2005, the Queen of Peace church in Arey Ksat village, about two kilometres from Phnom Penh on the far side of the Mekong River, has been providing Vietnamese and Khmer language lessons to Vietnamese children living in that community.

Despite the fact that the church and its school are funded by the Catholic villagers and Catholic communities overseas, the school welcomes Vietnamese children regardless of their religious backgrounds.

For volunteer school teacher Le Nguyen Dung Hanh, it's a long day with little reward.

The teachers at the school work on a voluntary basis and are provided with food and shelter by the community.

Le Nguyen Dung Hanh said she taught Vietnamese reading and writing skills to about 100 children, from grades one through four, from 109 families in the village.

"Some are Christian, but some are Buddhist," she said.

"There are about 50 students here in the afternoon, and around 50 here in the morning, as well as a class of about 30 from 5 to 8 in the evening," she said.

Photo by: MARK ROY
Vietnamese kids from Arey Ksat village play outside the Queen of Peace church, which sponsors their early education.

Le Nguyen Dung Hanh, who came from Ho Chi Minh City less than a week ago, said the students' families paid 5000 riel per month for the lessons.

However, for students with poor circumstances, the school fees were sometimes waived.

But since students have to go to Khmer-speaking schools to pursue education beyond grade four, Khmer language skills are also emphasised along with the Vietnamese lessons.

"This is to help integrating Vietnamese children into Cambodian society at large," said a resident, who said he did not wish to be named.

However, according to the same source, it was very hard for Vietnamese students to pursue high school or even to complete middle school.

This is because most didn't have Cambodian household cards or citizenships, he said.

Even those who were born and bred in Cambodia held only Vietnamese nationality, he said, which made it harder for them to seek public services in the Kingdom.

Pok Thavin said any foreign nationals living in Cambodia who intended to study at a state school were required to show the documents of their living address, as well as proof of the period they had lived in Cambodia.

"They have to show up with the immigration documents to the school so that the school can calculate their terms and qualifications," Pok Thavin said.

"If they live here temporarily, they are also able to study in Cambodia, then take the results of their study here to continue in their country," he said.

"But they must also have proof with proper documents of their living in Cambodia.

"If they provide all required documents we will not ignore them."

At the moment, the biggest challenge for the school in the small village of Arey Ksat is the lack of human resources.

It is difficult to meet the community's demand with only two permanent teachers, both of whom are currently visiting home in Vietnam for a month.

So despite the fact that the school will be open throughout the summer, students will only have access to Khmer language lessons.

For Vietnamese lessons, the school uses textbooks imported or donated from Vietnam. The curriculum is aligned with the Vietnamese Ministry of Education standards.

Similarly, Khmer-language lessons are based on the same textbooks Khmer students use in public schools.

According to residents at the community, language education has been consistent since the Vietnamese government initiated Vietnamese-language classes in the early 1990s.

Later in the decade, though the government stopped formal support and funding, the Catholic community in the village still strived to maintain the classes at community houses up until the Queen of Peace church was built.

Meanwhile the Vietnamese children, like their fellow Cambodians, struggle to fit in their education between working and finding the time to play that every child needs.


Cambodia's finest secure chance to study at European universities in new program

Chan Boramey, 20, says she has high hopes for her communications studies in Romania.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Keo Kounila and Ung Kim Oan

Cambodian students from a variety of backgrounds are to leave to study at universities in eight European countries in August this year.

The 34 students are the first to be offered the chance to study abroad through the European Union's Erasmus Mundus Mobility with Asia programme (EMMA).

According to Phal Des, EMMA coordinator in Asia and IT dean at the Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP), the programme aims to strengthen and bridge the knowledge gap between Europe and Asia.

"Europe is full of old wise people; Cambodia full of young but inexperienced people, so they need to go and learn from them," Phal Des said.

"This is part of globalisation - we want to learn from the developed countries a lot.
"These students will come back and become human resources for our country."

Phal Des added that in Europe, students who qualified for the EMMA program were admired and sought after by many employers.

Looking to the future
Chanthy Somela, 22, is a junior of agriculture at the Royal University of Agriculture and in his third year of Information Technology at RUPP. He finished his bachelor's degree in forestry in 2008.

He said he found out about the program through friends, Internet and brochures, and felt proud to be one of the Cambodians selected for the program.

"I'm very happy and feel very proud of myself,"Chanthy Somela said.

"I will try more to get my master's degree in forestry in Europe in a year.

"I am sure I will encounter new experience, thinking, new concepts, and a new environment.
"When I come back, I will help develop my country in the sector of forestry."

Chan Boramey, 20, will go abroad to study journalism and communication in Romania for one year.
She said she was leaving with a big hope in her heart.

"This is a great chance for Cambodian students to get exposed to a civilised culture, and it will open again for any student who is interested," she said.

"I am going to make the best out of every moment I have being there."
Addressing disadvantage

The other international EU scholarship programme was highly prestigious, said Phal Des, and was aimed specifically at Asian students from a disadvantaged but academic background.

The first phase of the program was finished early this year when 112 students from Cambodia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and the Philippines were accepted.

The number of students from Cambodia made up almost one-third of the students from the five countries in the programme.

The students will study in Romania, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Turkey and the Netherlands.

"I am very proud that a lot of Cambodian students have been selected, and this precious opportunity will keep their lives well-equipped," said Phal Des.

EMMA offers scholarships on undergraduate studies, graduate studies of master's and doctorate degrees, post-doctorate and research, Phal Des added.

The second phase will happen again in October this year in five different countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia and Myanmar.

EMMA's contact in Cambodia is Phal Des at RUPP.

Making mentoring work

Photo by: MARK ROY
Having a mentor can help you make better career decisions and evaluate your work performance and career goals.

A good mentor is somebody who facilitates and supports

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Sean Power and Sandra D'Amico

By Sean Power And

The practice of "mentoring" is a bit like eating healthy food - everybody says it is good for you, but few people actually do it.

Many employers talk enthusiastically about introducing mentoring systems for their staff, but they never seem to get around to it.

Many young professionals have only a vague idea of what mentoring actually involves.
In simple terms, having a mentor is a bit like having your own personal coach or advisor.

A mentor is someone - usually more senior or experienced than you - who is there to offer you advice and support in all aspects of your professional development.

They might work in your organisation or they might work somewhere else. They might be appointed by your employer or they might be someone you have chosen yourself.

There are plenty of benefits from having a mentor. Most importantly, you are more likely to reflect on how things are going in your job and your career.

Mentoring encourages you to evaluate yourself, in terms of your work performance and career goals. If we are left to our own devices, we tend to push these matters to the background and not give them the attention they deserve.

Having a mentor can also help you to make better career decisions, as you can benefit from your mentor's wisdom and experience. Mentors often have good insights about things such as part-time study options, applying for promotions and considering job offers.

If your mentor works for the same organisation as you, then they are a great source of knowledge about how the organisation really functions - how the systems and procedures work, who the key decision-makers are and how best to deal with certain individuals.

You can ask them all those "silly" questions that you don't want to bother your manager with.

You may be lucky enough to work for an organisation that has a formal mentoring programme, where a mentor is appointed to you. More likely, however, you will have to seek out a mentor on your own initiative. So the big question is: How do you find a mentor?

First of all, think about what you want to achieve out of a mentoring relationship.

For example, do you want to learn about how your organisation functions or are you looking for more of an "outside" perspective where you can talk about sensitive issues such as changing jobs?

This will help you decide whether to look for a mentor within or outside your organisation.

Try to find somebody whom you admire and respect, who is a good listener and with whom you can talk openly and frankly.

Don't pick somebody who is always too busy to make time for you, or who is known as the office gossip. It isn't appropriate to choose your supervisor as a mentor, since you might need advice about sensitive issues that directly involve your supervisor. In football terms, that would be a bit like asking the opposition captain to be your coach!

Most importantly, a good mentor is somebody who facilitates and supports, not somebody who commands and controls.

Beware of potential mentors who might indulge their own ego by turning you into a copy of themselves.

Once you have made your selection, ask the person if they would be kind enough to be your mentor. Explain what you want to achieve from the relationship, why you think they would be a good mentor and how you envisage the arrangement working.

The arrangement can be as simple as going out for coffee or lunch every so often.

Don't become a burden to your mentor, and don't let your mentor make all your important decisions. You are still responsible for the choices you make.

If you have been working for a few years, you may actually be in a position to mentor a junior staff member.

This is a great way to develop your own people skills (or "soft skills"), which will help you become a successful manager when you get the opportunity one day.

It will also broaden your own perspectives by making you aware of the views and challenges of other staff. More simply, it can be a nice feeling to help someone else achieve their own career goals.

Sean Power is a consultant to HRINC, one of Cambodia’s leading HR services firms, and Sandra D’Amico is the managing director. Contact

Call for ministry to crack down on exam cheats

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Khuon Leakhana

THE Cambodian Independent Teachers Association has appealed to the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports to strictly grade tests from the national junior high school examinations.

Rong Chhun, president of the teachers union, told the Post Tuesday the ministry needed to act to prevent bribery facilitated by middlemen.

"We would like the Education Ministry to be strict on criteria of grading tests," he said. "I think that bribery may begin on Friday this week when the grading period starts. If the ministry does not have the proper means to control such wrongdoing, our country will be full of disqualified students and poor students will be desperate, with no hope of justice."

Keu Naileang, director general of the ministry told the Post Wednesday the ministry had not heard anything about middlemen because they were "too busy to think about it".

"People who spend money to buy a certificate for their children are cheated because the examination and grades are done strictly," Keu Naileang said. "Punishment will be put on teachers or inspectors who violate the regulation."

But Rong Chhun said the middlemen were no different from last year.

The exam was done as usual, neither too strict nor too loose. The teachers under-stand and let them cheat.

"Every year is the same, though the number of case of bribery is varied. This year, it is a hundred percent sure that bribery will take place," he said.

"I think that the middlemen are government officers who take this opportunity to earn money."

Up until now, the association has not uncovered bribery cases by middlemen yet, however they say it is well known that it costs US$50 to $80 to pass an exam.

According to Rong Chhun's claims, the association received many phone calls during the three-day examination from students' parents negotiating the price of a certificate.

Among those parents, some called to complain that they were too poor to afford to buy a certificate for their children.

"A letter from the association was sent to the Education Ministry in mid-June, urging them to put their effort into preventing some officer from seeking clients for their under-the-table business," He said.

"Middlemen are everywhere, and they are usually paid $20 commission."

Lim Theng, a glass shop owner from Boeng Keng Kang 3, told the Post it was a simple matter.

"As parents, we are always concerned about our children's examination," he said.

"We are afraid that they will fail. We have spent a lot of money throughout their academic year. If they fail the exam, it would be a waste of time to start over again.

"My son and nephew are in the same examination room at Tuol Tompoung high school. They told me that the exam was done as usual, neither too strict nor too loose. The teachers understand and let them cheat."

Lim Theng said his son gave money to the teachers, but his nephew did not because he was an outstanding student and able to do the test.

"I have also heard about bribery between my neighbours and an officer at the Department of Education," he said. "They discussed quietly behind doors, so I could not hear the detail.

"My son said that he was not worried, because my nephew threw the completed answer sheet to him. They are close and helping each other.

"Even if bribery is commonplace, I would never bother myself and waste my money on such thing," he said.

Lim Theng said whether there was bribery or not, he only wanted examiners to give scores fairly to all students.

"Not different from my sons - other people's children also want to pass exam, have higher education and a bright future. Without fair grading, some students would fail the exam and end up in despair."

According to the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association, the examination was done a little better than in the previous year.

"As we observed during the three-day examination, the situation around exam buildings was just a little better than last year," Rong Chhun said.

"Despite the normality around the buildings, the examination room still filled with anarchic atmosphere. Money was collected and given to teachers to buy their permission to allow cheating in class."

He said it cost between 3,000 and 5,000 riel per student for one subject teacher, and on the second day at math session, the rate rose up to 10,000 riel.

Keu Naileang said he thought the teachers were not so thoughtless that they would barter their dignity and pride for such little money.

"I do not accept that teachers are bribed. Those who claimed like this should have proof to back up their words. They should not defame teachers on groundless rumour," he said.

"Concerning to the case of middlemen, please do not point your fingers at the ministry officers unless you can identify the person exactly so that I can easily deal with the matter."

Siem Reap Scene: 9 Jul 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Post Staff

Pimp my tuk-tuk
Four garishly decorated tuk-tuks drove through town last Thursday night in a Globalteer "Pimp my tuk-tuk" fundraiser rally that earned US$278 for Globalteer Community Development Centre, New Hope Community Centre and Anjali House. The tuk-tuks were decorated with recycled materials to represent Australia, Cambodia, England and the US, while similarly costumed volunteers shook donation buckets. The procession was the brainchild of English Globalteer volunteer Pamela Jackson, who previously took part in a "Pimp my wheelbarrow" fundraiser at her UK university.

Trixie O'Sullivan, office administrator at Globalteer, said the group came up with the idea last week and started work on the tuk-tuks on Wednesday. They decided to model them on the home countries of their volunteers. O'Sullivan said the night was a success despite their attempts to march down Pub Street being thwarted by zealous security.

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Tuk-tuks participate in Globateer’s “Pimp my tuk-tuk” fundraiser last Thursday.

Boutique boom
Siem Reap's boutique hotel scene is swelling with two new accommodation houses set to open in the next few weeks. The Cockatoo Resort and Restaurant is expected to launch by July 22, and the Suites and Sweet Resort is scheduled to open at the beginning of August. Both hotels are removed from the town centre, with the Cockatoo on the dirt track that forks off past Quad Adventure Cambodia, and the Suites and Sweet about 500 metres past the Angkor Golf Resort. Suites and Sweet Resort General Manager Janwillen Van Ver Kolk said that the detached location was a deliberate part of the plan. "We didn't want to be on National Road 6. We wanted to be in the countryside, away from the noise. But we're still kind of central." The Suites and Sweet is modelled on a floating village, with 18 villas bordering a snaking man-made lake. Van Ver Kolk said that the plan is to introduce two small boats for the guests. The seven-room Cockatoo Resort and Restaurant is owned by Peter Oxley and Virgilio Calaguian. Oxley said that after two final Balinese-style villas are constructed behind the pool, the hotel will be ready to open. He has also clinched one of the more unique selling points for the hotel - live Cockatoos.

Strictly for the birds
Staff at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa are becoming decidedly twitchy as they learn about the secret obsession of their new general manager, Hanno Stamm, formerly of the Victoria Phan Thiet Resort and Spa in Vietnam. He is an avowed twitcher and, armed with binoculars, he already rounded up a crew to go bird-watching at Bantei Chmar.

Stamm confesses that he was "infected by the birding bug" as a young lad in Kenya, and of course having moved to Siem Reap, he is now in a bird-watchers paradise. Ironically, while devoted to the cause of observing and identifying flying critters, Stamm reveals that he himself is "pretty scared" of flying. He also harbours a further obsession: saving the environment. To this end, shortly before he moved to Siem Reap last month he gave a talk at a seminar hosted by The Vietnam Economic Times, held to mark World Environment Day. He told seminar participants that travellers were more likely to include the state of the environment in deciding where they would spend their time and money. "Many of our guests come from countries where the environment plays a large role and they will not accept coming to a destination that shows little concern for the environment," he said.

Poetry in motion
Australian poet Adam Aitken, who last year did a volunteering stint with Siem Reap NGO Sirchesi, has a new book of poetry on the market that draws on his recent Cambodian experiences. Aitken, who has a Thai mother, spent some of his childhood in Thailand and also attended a Malaysian college, was commissioned to write a poem for the birthday of the King of Thailand in June 1996, sponsored by Department of Foreign Affairs and the Australian embassy in Bangkok. His new book, published by trendsetting indie Aussie publisher Giramondo, is titled Eighth Habitation, the name of the Buddhist notion of purgatory, a mystic realm where the meaning of a human life is judged. In a glowing review in MC Reviews: Culture and Media, critic Alison Clifton writes: "Reading Aitken's work is like listening to a favourite album of songs which could all be singles, although this is not jangly synth-pop by any means. This is serious reading, emotionally charged and socially critical, if not political in its nature."

Angkor's decline
Every year, it seems, a new theory is posited about the decline of the Angkorian civilisation. In recent weeks, climate change has become the latest culprit, wreaking havoc on a city already weakened by urban sprawl. The climate change theory is driven in large part by the July issue of National Geographic magazine, the first major piece in the magazine on Angkor Wat in 30 years. The article reveals that studies of annual growth rings on po mu trees, a rare cypress, shows that the Angkor region suffered "back-to-back mega-droughts," from 1362 to 1392 and from 1415 to 1440, while in other years, "megamonsoons" lashed the region. According to National Geographic the "extreme weather could have been the coup de grace" to an already tottering kingdom.

Temple Watch: The hole truth

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Dave Perkes

There has been controversy surrounding damage supposedly caused by the installation of the fixed lighting at Angkor Wat for the Angkor Light Show. I had no objections about the lighting, provided it was installed in a non-damaging way, and I visited Angkor on the weekend to see what visual impact the lighting had. I looked closely above the cornices opposite the bas-reliefs. The lights have recently been taken down, revealing regular oblong holes about 10 cm long above each pillar. Some holes had rough patches of concrete surrounding them. Tour guide Ta Elit said that many rectangular holes had been cut for support beams during French restorations last century. I looked at photos I had taken of these areas within the last five years, and I could see old areas of poor repairs above these cornices in some of my images. But no rectangular holes. It's possible the lighting contractors removed the rough cement repairs to expose the older holes when they installed the wood to attach the lights. I cannot say for certain whether any additional holes had been cut, but I can see how people could get the impression that serious damage had been done.

Govt rejects design for stock exchange

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Construction workers take a rest at Camko City on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the proposed site of the Cambodian Stock Exchange.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009
Souen Say

Contractor World City Co Ltd of South Korea was told that designs were not sufficiently Khmer in style, it says

THE Ministry of Economy and Finance has rejected designs for the forthcoming Cambodian stock exchange, the South Korean company responsible for the building's design and construction said Wednesday.

Kheng Ser, assistant to World City Co Ltd Vice President Duk-kon Kim, said the plans were rejected by the Cambodian government because they were not considered sufficiently Khmer in architectural style.

"They [the ministry] have asked us to redesign it again because they want a Khmer-style design," he said.

Officials at the Finance Ministry were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Kim said last month that the ministry had already seen a draft version of architectural plans and had submitted adjustments to World City to include in the final plans.

Hang Chuon Naron, secretary general at the ministry, said at the time that finalisation of plans for the four-storey, 6,000-square-metre exchange building "should be soon".

However, a final decision now looks to have been delayed.

Kheng Ser said that architects in South Korea will again adjust the designs for the building, which are to be constructed at Camko City on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Original plans placed the trading floor itself on the first floor of the building, Kim said, adding that all necessary infrastructure - water and electricity supplies included - had been in place for some time.

"We don't know when they [architectural plans] will be finished or when they will be submitted to the Ministry of Economy and Finance to take a look," he said.

Kim said Tuesday that World City still planned to begin construction on the US$6 million building by the end of the rainy season this year.

However, Ming Ban Kosal, director general of the Cambodia Securities and Exchange Commission, said Wednesday that rejection of the architectural plans would undoubtedly lead to further delays in the opening of Cambodia's long-awaited stock exchange.

"It will affect our work to open the stock exchange because when we do so, we must have an office ... or how could we run the stock market?" He said Wednesday. "Given these problems, the government must make a decision on whether to look for a temporary location.... We don't know yet."

While the Stock Exchange Company - a joint venture between the Ministry of Economy and Finance and Korea Exchange (KRX) - is still thought to be on schedule for incorporation before the end of the year, prior to the recent delay in designs, the building itself had not been scheduled to go online until about August next year at the earliest.

Construction will take about eight months, Kim said last month, and once the building is complete, system checks will take a further three months.

"I think it [the opening] will be 2010," Hang Chuon Naron said in June.
The government had previously said it had scheduled to open the Cambodian stock exchange in December.


Cambodia to receive $3.45m to diversify

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced Wednesday that Cambodia will receive a US$3.45 million technical assistance grant aimed at boosting the skills and incomes of people living in and around the Tonle Sap basin.

The money is to be used to help low-income groups in the area to diversify their vocational skills with the help of training programmes, demonstrations on modern farming techniques and Internet-based communication facilities, ADB said.

"The technical assistance will helpdiversify and improve the incomes of small land holders, marginal farmers and poor households in the Tonle Sap basin by increasing their access to good agricultural practices, technologies and information," Giap Minh Bui, rural development economist in ADB's Southeast Asia Department, said in a statement released Wednesday.

The Finnish government is providing the lion's share of the money - $2.7 million - with the Republic of Korea e-Asia and Knowledge Partnership Fund offering $500,000. The ADB, which will manage the funds, will give a $250,000 grant and the government will make up the remaining $200,000, ADB said.

The money will be used in four provinces around the lake - Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap.

ADB said that the project will include a pilot communication project using Internet linked e-kiosks to provide up-to-date information on agricultural practices to be passed on to locals.

Axiata makes bid for Mobitel

Photo by: Sovann Philong
A Mobitel-branded vendor sells mobile phone cards in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 09 July 2009

COMPETITION for control of Cambodia's mobile phone market has intensified with news that Axiata - the Malaysian company with the controlling stake in local operator Hello - may have bid for Millicom's International Cellular SA's Asian assets, which include a majority share in the Kingdom's market leader Mobitel.

Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that Kuala Lumpur-based Axiata may have bid US$500 million for the controlling share in Mobitel after Millicom announced July 2 that Goldman Sachs had been appointed to advise a strategic review of its assets in Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka.

"If there are opportunities which make financial and strategic sense, the group would certainly consider them," Bloomberg reported an Axiata official as saying.

Millicom was unavailable for comment on Wednesday but the Post understands that the Luxembourg-based mobile operator may have received up to eight offers for a combination of its Asian assets after it first announced it would consider selling at the end of last year. It owns a 58.4 percent stake in Mobitel.

The Royal Group, which owns a 38.5 percent share in Cambodia's leading operator by users, made a bid for Millicom's stake earlier this year, meaning that it is effectively now competing with Axiata for the market leader - Mobitel held a 55 percent share of the market at the end of last year while Axiata's Hello, the No 3 operator, had a 15 percent market share.

The Royal Group on Wednesday confirmed that it was still in negotiations to purchase Millicom's stake in Mobitel, adding that a successful bid by another company for the stake - including by Axiata - would require a level of cooperation.

Anyone who wants to come in has to have our [Royal group's]say so.

"We have got shareholder protections," Chief Financial Officer Mark Hanna told the Post. "Anyone who wants to come in has to have our say so."

Other bidders for the Milllicom stake remain unknown. Millicom's Luxembourg office was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

The possible permutations of a deal for Millicom's Cambodia assets create intriguing possibilities given the dominant position of Mobitel in the market and the competitive nature of the Kingdom's mobile sector.

There are already nine operators in the country, a situation most analysts agree is untenable in the long term.

Should Royal Group be successful in its bid - the details of which it has not disclosed - then it would secure a commanding position in Cambodia with a 96.9 percent stake in Mobitel.

Former Millicom employee Muhammad Akhtar Zaman controls the remaining 3.1 percent share of the company.

In the event of an Axiata acquisition, the Malaysian company would then hold a controlling stake in both the No 1 and No 3 operators in Cambodia with a combined market share of 70 percent at the end of 2008 and would conceivably have to receive the green light from Royal Group CEO and Chairman Kith Meng, as acknowledged by Hanna.

According to Millicom's financial results for the first quarter, Mobitel added 52,620 users this year up to the end of March, a 16 percent year-on-year increase that brought its total number of users to 2.17 million.

Millicom's performance in Cambodia was outstripped by its Asian assets when combined, which saw a 34 percent annualised increase in users in the same period. Revenues for Millicom's three Asian assets climbed 7 percent in the first quarter year-on-year

"There's a lot of interest [in the Millicom stake]," Hanna said.

Simon Perkins, Hello's newly appointed CEO in Cambodia and a former Millicom employee, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Perkins, as a Millicom employee, was previously on Mobitel's board of directors from 2002 to 2005 and is understood to know Kith Meng well.

"We haven't had discussions with anyone else," Hanna said, referring to other mobile operators in Cambodia.

Hanna added that Royal Group had only made a bid for Millicom's Cambodia stake, while Axiata looks to have bid for Cambodia and Sri Lanka - the Malaysian company owns an 85 percent stake in Dialog Telekom Plc, Sri Lanka's largest mobile phone operator.

Asset split unknown
Although Millicom has said it is ready to sell its assets in Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Laos, it remains unclear whether these would be sold separately or as a package, or whether a bidder would be in a stronger position were it to make an offer for multiple country assets, as appears to be the case with Axiata, according to reports.

"I don't think it's got any bearing on that [a possible decision by Millicom] whatsoever," Hanna said, adding that Royal Group would not be in a position to take on assets in Laos or Sri Lanka.

The expected length of time required to complete the process remains unclear, although Hanna predicted that a Royal group acquisition would speed up the process.

Despite the apparent level of interest in Millicom's Asian assets, its Nasdaq shares fell 1.4 percent to $56.27 on Tuesday at the close of trade. On the Nordic OMX exchange its stock climbed 1.11 percent Wednesday.