Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Obama's words ring true for Cambodians too

By Gaffar Peang-Meth
July 22, 2009

Washington, DC, United States, — U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to a special session of Ghana’s Parliament during his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa earlier this month could well have been addressed to Cambodia’s Parliament and the Cambodian people. “We must start with a simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans,” Obama said. Africa could be replaced with “Cambodia” and Africans with “Cambodians.”

Obama declared, “No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy; that is tyranny. And now is the time for it to end. With strong institutions and a strong will, I know that Africans can live their dreams whether in Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Congo, or in Ghana,” he said.

Referring to those who have stood up for democratic principles despite grave danger, he said, “Make no mistake. History is on the side of these brave Africans, and not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power.”

There is nothing new in stating that a nation’s future is up to its people. Leaders and politicians have said that throughout history. But Obama added, “With strong institutions and a strong will,” people can live their dreams. So can Cambodians.

Two weeks ago, I wrote in my column in this space that the 1991 Paris Peace Accords promised Cambodia a liberal democracy whose citizens could enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms. After being subjected to three years, eight months and 20 days of former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot’s rule and the loss of an estimated 1.7 million lives, the Paris Peace Accords offered Cambodia and its citizens the best anyone could have wished for.

Yet, almost 18 years after the accords were signed, Cambodia is neither a liberal democracy nor do the people enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms.

The 18 signatory states to the Oct. 23, 1991 Final Act had declared “to commit themselves to promote and encourage respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia.” But their commitment has fallen short.

Denial – a defense mechanism to escape from unpleasant reality or a painful truth – is not a monopoly of any group in particular but a general human behavior. But one who accuses others generally seeks to absolve himself from culpability for an unforeseen consequence.

As the signatory states to the peace accords and Cambodia’s faction leaders vowed commitment to liberal democracy in Cambodia and to human rights and fundamental freedoms for the Cambodian people, the unsuccessful attainment of the common goals is a collective failure.

A respected Western commentator said the “international community can assist in creating the opportunity for a more democratic system, but it cannot force the local politicians to behave in a democratic fashion.” True, the accords provided precisely that – the opportunity for a more democratic system.

“Cambodia will follow a system of liberal democracy,” stipulated the accords, which outlined in Cambodia’s Constitution provisions for the powers and limitations of each of the three branches of government – a system of separation of powers and checks and balances – and for conflict resolution through regular channels, among other things.

The architect of the European Union, Jean Monnet, said, “Nothing is possible with men; nothing is lasting without institutions.” And the great forefather of the American Constitution, James Madison, said, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

While Madison saw people as the primary control over government, he counseled the need for “auxiliary precautions” when framing a government “administered by men over men.”

Keeping in mind the warnings of Monnet and Madison, it is nevertheless true that men create, staff, and run admirable as well as corrupt institutions. Consequently, the man or woman at the helm of a political ship will carry sway over the course of the nation.

A leader of high integrity, high values, and strong democratic beliefs would steer Cambodia’s ship to a better shore than those who sell the nation’s natural resources for private gain; evict the weak and the underprivileged from their land to allow development by the wealthy and the powerful; sue and lift the immunity of lawmakers; and jail or run out of the country those whose words and opinions differ from theirs.

One Western commentator wondered if Cambodia ever had the social and cultural basis for democracy to succeed, and a Cambodian commentator spoke of the necessity to empower institutions to enable the country to follow a course of liberal democracy in which the peoples’ constitutional rights were secure.

Indeed, the Paris Peace Accords provide a good foundation for liberal democracy and for human rights and freedom of the Cambodian people. But the bottom line is that Cambodians need to strive toward these goals, and foreign donors need to insist on the application of the framework outlined in the Accords, with a consequence attached for non-compliance.

Man can learn, unlearn, and relearn. Encourage man to think freely, to innovate and not to shy away from risks; dare man to read, write and speak without fear; instill in man hope, which specialists define as “energy and ideas that drive people to change their circumstances,” to reach goals, to have motivation, and to seek improvement. This is the road to a better way for Cambodians.

Cambodian Domestic Investment up 30 Pct in First Half of Year

Web Editor: Hu Weiwei

Approved investment by Cambodian companies in the Kingdom was up 30 percent to 223 million U.S. dollars in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year, the Phnom Penh Post reported on Wednesday, citing latest figures.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), the government's investment arm, said the figure for the first six months of 2008 was 172 million U.S. dollars.

Yun Heng, deputy director at the evaluation and incentive department at the Cambodian Investment Board (CIB), which is an arm of the CDC, said one reason behind the increase was greater local confidence in the stability of the Cambodian political environment.

Another reason cited is the increased sophistication of domestic investors, meaning that they are more confident about pursuing potential opportunities that present themselves.

"The growth in investment that we are seeing is (up and down) like a wave, and we are yet to enjoy stable growth," he said.

Yun Heng said most investment went into the tourism sector as investors put cash into projects, including hotels and guesthouses.

The president of the Cambodian Hotel Association, Luu Meng, said those opportunities had come about because construction materials had become cheaper and because more people are entering the hospitality industry, resulting in a stronger pool of workers.

"The result is that investment in the hotel sector by Cambodians is today worth more than hotel investment from overseas, " Luu Meng said, referring to the report's finding that total external and internal investment in the tourism sector for the first half of the year stood at 354 million U.S. dollars.

Cambodia’s new national airline will be launched Jul. 27: Vietnam Air

The inauguration of Cambodia’s new national carrier will take place at Phnom Penh International Airport (photo), Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation said. (Photo: Tuong Thuy)


Vietnam Airlines said Tuesday that it would inaugurateBold Cambodia’s new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air on July 27 at Phnom Penh International Airport.

According to The Phnom Penh Post, the new national carrier of Cambodia is a joint venture between the Cambodian government and Vietnam Airlines, Vietnam’s national carrier. Cambodia owns a 51-percent stake in the company, and Vietnam owns the remainder.

The Cambodian government has announced that the July 27 inaugural flight of the new national airline will not leave from the newly upgraded Preah Sihanouk International Airport, but will instead fly from Phnom Penh International Airport, The Phnom Penh Post reported.

The newspaper added that Cambodian minister of tourism Thong Khon confirmed the switch, and said the inaugural flights would go from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and to Siem Reap, which is home to worldwide famous Angkor Wat.

The tourism industry is one of Cambodia’s main resources of government revenue and accounts for 15 percent of the national GDP and employs tens of thousands of people, and indirectly benefits many more, according to government figures. Angkor Wat is the World Heritage of Humanity and is the most attractive place for many tourists.

Vietnam took the lead in the number of foreign arrivals to Cambodia in the first five months of the year with 122,000 tourists, accounting for 12.8 percent, Vietnam News Agency reported.

In July, three new Cambodia-Vietnam border crossing gates were opened in a measure designed to attract more tourists.

About 10 years ago, Cambodia’s national airline Royal Air Cambodge went bankrupt. Later on, Prime Minister Hun Sen launched an open-sky policy. At present, Siem Reap Airways, a carrier with Thai roots, is one of airlines flying between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

By Tuong Thuy

Cambodian prime minister seems bent on stamping out all opposition to his rule

Human Rights Watch says Hun Sen uses violence, the courts and money to control the nation's political system

By Jonathan Manthorpe
Vancouver Sun
July 22, 2009 12:04 AM

For 16 years, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has worked to dismantle the democratic institutions established by the United Nations in 1993 and to restore the untrammeled power he enjoyed as Vietnam's proxy leader in the 1980s.

Now, it seems, success is within his grasp.

But his dogged determination to root out even the most insignificant and unthreatening pockets of opposition has led to the publication of three critical reports in the past few days.

At least nine journalists, opposition members of parliament, lawyers and government critics have had politically motivated charges of defamation or the dissemination of disinformation lodged against them in the past few months.

This could be said to be a less drastic fate than has befallen Hun Sen's political opponents in the past. Many have been murdered by unidentified gunmen.

A statement a few days ago from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia warned the use of the courts to silence opposition or critical voices "is a serious threat to democratic development which may undermine the efforts of the last 16 years to rebuild a tolerant and pluralistic environment in Cambodia."

In another report, Brad Adams of New York-based Human Rights Watch said: "Through violence, threats and money politics, Hun Sen already controls almost every aspect of Cambodia's politics. Yet his efforts to silence dissent seem endless. Why does he seem to wake up every day looking for enemies to persecute? Will this ever end?"

And the Cambodian Center for Human Rights said in its report, "The actions of the government in the past few months indicate that it is directly and systematically trying to dissolve the main opposition party [the Sam Rainsy Party] by filing unfounded criminal lawsuits against its leaders or forcing its members and supporters to join [Hun Sen's] Cambodian People's Party."

It is a situation full of bleak ironies. Not least of these is that Hun Sen is squeezing the last bit of life out of Cambodia's democratic institutions as, after years of tortuous negotiations, the trials are proceeding of some of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, which murdered about 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s.

It was the Vietnamese-led ouster of the Khmer Rouge in 1979 that brought Hun Sen to power.

When he failed to win United Nations-imposed elections in 1993, Hun Sen threatened civil war until he was brought into a coalition with the royalist party government of Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

Hun Sen dissolved that coalition in 1997 by launching a bloody coup, and since then his CPP has won overwhelming majorities in 2003 and 2008 elections.

But these victories do not appear to be complete enough for Hun Sen, whose party now has 90 seats in the 123-seat parliament.

Having disposed of the royalists, Hun Sen has mounted a sustained attack on the main opposition party, named for its leader, Sam Rainsy, which has 26 seats.

Rainsy himself fled into exile in 2005 after accusing Hun Sen of being behind the murder of four Sam Rainsy Party members the previous year. He has returned to Cambodia, but was accused of defamation earlier this year.

China's Taiwan holds edge in Cambodian garment investment

PHNOM PENH, July 22 (Xinhua) -- China's Taiwan is the leading investor in Cambodia's garment sector with 68 factories out of 274 in operation, local media reported on Wednesday.

The industry figures were released by the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), an industry body.

Kaing Monika, GMAC's external affairs manager, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying that Chinese mainland is the second-biggest investor in the sector, with 55 factories. China's Hong Kong is third with 51 factories, while South Korea has 32 factories.

The leading non-Asian investor in the garment sector is the United States which is in 7th place with 10 factories.

GMAC President Van Sou Ieng said that although China's Taiwan has the largest number of factories, Chinese mainland brings in 70percent more raw material, worth around 1 billion U.S. dollars.

"Regardless of where the investment comes from, it is good because all investors have capital and experience, and they can provide jobs for the Cambodian people," he said.

A report from GMAC earlier this year revealed that 56 garment factories shut down in the first six months of 2009. About 24,000 workers lost their jobs, two-thirds of whom worked at the 23 factories that were GMAC members.

Figures from the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) show that China's Taiwan invested 7 million U.S. dollars in Cambodia this year, which is around 0.5 percent of total inward investment.

Chinese mainland has invested 242 million U.S. dollars, which is around 20 percent. Last year, Chinese mainland invested 4.3 billion U.S. dollars against Taiwan's 21.5 million U.S. dollars.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

France Promises to Provide Priority Financing to Cambodia during the Visit of Hun Sen – Tuesday, 21.7.2009

Posted on 22 July 2009.
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 622

“A Cambodian high ranking official said that providing financial resources to Cambodia to develop the country is a priority, announced by French leaders during the official visit of Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen to Paris on 13 and 14 July 2009, to attend the National Day celebrations of France, which included the observation of a military parade.

“Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen left Cambodia on 9 July 2009 and returned safely on 19 July 2009. During the visit, he went also to England to attend the graduation ceremony of his eldest son.

“An official of the delegation of the prime minister, Mr. Prak Sokhon, said that the visit of Samdech Dekchor to France is the highest level visit ever where the timing for meetings had been prepared to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister François Fillon ["le blog de François Fillon – la France peut supporter la vérité (the blog of François Fillon – France can support the truth)"], and Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner during the busy time to celebrate the National Day, and the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs also invited the Cambodian Prime Minister to have lunch on 13 and on 14 July 2009.

“Mr. Prak Sokhon said during the press conference at the Phnom Penh International Airport that most French leaders considered the visit and the participation of Samdech Hun Sen and the delegation, and their observation of the military parade celebrating the French National Day, as an honor for France and the French people, and also as a new opportunity for developing both countries’ ties, following the history that both countries have together from the past to the present. Mr. Prak Sokhon added that during the discussions, France promised to provide funds to Cambodia, especially, President Sarkozy confirmed again and again that there will be provision of aid.

“Mr. Prak Sokhon added that Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy said that France is prepared to help Cambodia, and Cambodia can depend on the friendship and support of France. The President added that the promise to provide financing for the development of Cambodia will continue and it is a priority for France.

“According to Mr. Prak Sokhon, both sides expressed agreement during the discussion with the three French leaders, to intensify the ties between both countries, and they agreed to speed up this process towards better cooperation. Samdech Dekchor informed the French leaders about the decision of the Royal Government to provide a concession for Block 3 to the Total petroleum company of France, which, after proper discussions and assessments, was welcomed by France, both by the state and by the private sector, and it is expected that the investment in Cambodia by this French company will benefit and promote new trade and economic ties.

“Regarding the Preah Vihear region, Samdech Dekchor told France that the Royal Government of Cambodia has the position to prevent the current dispute between Cambodia and Thailand from spreading and affecting other sectors of both countries’ cooperation or affecting other regions along the Cambodian-Thai border. Related to the court faced by former Khmer Rouge leaders, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen told the French leaders that it is proceeding smoothly, despite some minor technical problems, adding that to seek justice for the Cambodian people, who are victims of a genocidal regime, must be in line with maintaining the peace that was achieved with difficulties in the past.

“Mr. Prak Sokhon went on to say that responding to questions from the French leaders, whether the Khmer Rouge ideology or Khmer Rouge forces remain in Cambodia, Samdech Hun Sen said the political and military structure of the Khmer Rouge was dissolved through a Win-Win policy, and the Khmer Rouge ideology does no longer exist in Cambodia. But Samdech warned that the court hearings of four Khmer Rouge leaders should be handled carefully to prevent that they threaten the peace that is now in Cambodia.

“Mr. Prak Sokhon continued to say that Samdech Dekchor asked France to continue granting aid like during more than 10 years in the past. Also, he asked France to continue to offer doctorate and master degrees to Cambodian students, and to assist the health sector, the educational sector, and other sectors.

“Mr. Prak Sokhon added that during the discussion, both sides agreed to encourage the creation of a cooperation committee for both countries as soon as possible, in September or October, in order to intensify the ties between both countries. This will relate to technology and to administration, and the private sector and France will send French agencies for development which will provide loans in response to requests from Cambodia, and France will put its major investments into that committee in order to consider and to encourage French investment in Cambodia.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2001, 21.7.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Cambodia and France Sign Conventions on Further Military Cooperation

July 22, 2009 As the Cambodian Ministry of Defence reported today, three conventions on defence cooperation between France and Cambodia were signed formally on Thursday July 15, 2009 by General Moeng Samphan, Secretary of State for National Defence, and Mr. Lemachand Laurent, First Secretary of French Embassy to the Kingdom of Cambodia at the office of national defence ministry in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Under the 1994 agreement between Cambodian and French governments, the Cambodia Defence Ministry has signed a series of conventions on defence cooperation, said Gen. Moeng Samphan. He also stated that France and Cambodia have a long traditional relationship. A recent formal visit by Cambodian Prime minister to France is to increasingly strengthen ties, cooperation and solidarity between the two countries.

In response, Mr. Lemachand Laurent praised for Cambodian Defence Ministry’s effort and cooperation with the French military mission. He said the three new conventions signed on Thursday are added to the previous conventions aiming at continuing to train and build up military skills, especially in gendarmeries skills and the knowledge of the French language for CRAF, among them some of whom will be sent to the training schools and military academy in France.

Open Preah Vihear, business pleads

Published: 22/07/2009

The government should consider quickly reopening Phra Viharn national park, the entrance to Preah Vihear temple, to help the ailing economy of the border province of Si Sa Ket, the provincial chamber of commerce chairman, Sriwan Kiatsuranont, said on Wednesday.

Trade and tourism in the northeastern city had suffered severely since the park was closed because of the tensions over the old Preah Vihear temple and surrounding areas, he said.

“The national park is the only tourism selling point of Si Sa Ket and the southern part of the northeast region. The park’s closure has driven tourists away,” he said.

By contrast, Cambodia had continued to open Preah Vihear temple to foreign tourists and local travellers.

The government should reopen the national park as soon as possible.

The park, including Pha Mor E-Daeng cliff, the only entrance to the ancient temple in Cambodia, was ordered closed indefinitely after Thai and Cambodian troops faced off in the disputed area surrounding the world heritage site.

More women in Cambodia turning to sex trade amid financial crisis – UN report

UN News Centre

21 July 2009 – The global financial crisis has led to signs of an increase in Cambodian women entering the sex trade, says a new United Nations report, which recommends strengthening social safety nets and improving job training and placement to help women avoid such dangerous and exploitative work.

The report, prepared by the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP), is based on research conducted in April and May involving 357 women and girls aged between 15 and 49 currently working in the entertainment sector of the capital, Phnom Penh, including in brothels, karaoke bars and massage parlours.

“The objective of this research was to measure increases in human trafficking and exploitation in Cambodia as a result of the financial crisis, specifically, the trafficking of women and girls into the entertainment sector,” UNIAP says in a news release issued yesterday.

The report shows that during the crisis, women have entered the sex trade coming from situations where there have been declining working conditions, such as in the garment sector, where they experienced long working hours and low pay.

The most common reason given by the women and girls for entering the sex trade was “difficult family circumstances,” followed by “easily earn a lot of money, in good working conditions.”

Most massage parlour workers, 57 per cent, found their jobs independently, while 46 per cent of karaoke workers found theirs through friends. Nearly 80 per cent of direct sex workers also found their jobs on their own.

The report also found that 58 per cent of women who entered the entertainment sector before the crisis were in debt, while the same was true of 42 per cent who entered after the crisis.

“It could be assumed that the shift in women turning from money lenders to sex establishment bosses for loans may lead to more women being vulnerable to the control tactics and violence that are often thought to be associated with debt bondage,” states UNIAP.

However, it was debts to money lenders, and not debt bondage, that was found to be significantly associated with the worst violence and worst restrictions on freedoms among those surveyed.

The report recommends strengthening social safety nets, designed to meet the needs of families with women who are vulnerable to exploitation and degrading working conditions, as well as linking women who want jobs featuring better working conditions with alternative livelihood training and job placement assistance.

Also recommended is the use of targeted awareness raising and outreach to provide specific, clear information to people who may be vulnerable, for example on how to access social services and training that will lead to jobs, the risks of using moneylenders, and how to qualify for and access safer sources of loans and credit.

Japanese appointed as spokeswoman for Khmer Rouge tribunal

Japan Today
Japan News and Discussion

Wednesday 22nd July

TOKYO — A Japanese national who once served with the U.N. Mission in Liberia has been appointed as spokeswoman for the U.N.-assisted tribunal in Cambodia set up to try former Khmer Rouge leaders for crimes against humanity, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. Yuko Maeda, 45, has been appointed by the United Nations as public affairs officer for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the ministry said, adding that Tokyo “heartily welcomes” the appointment that will take effect Friday.

Maeda, a former Kobe Shimbun reporter who served as spokeswoman for the world body’s Liberia mission between 2005 and 2006, is expected to provide information about court proceedings to media. She lived in Cambodia between 1998 and 2001, during which time she worked with the Cambodia Daily newspaper and represented ‘‘Women Against Silence,’’ a nongovernmental organization set up to help rape victims.

Thai force at Preah Vihear pagoda settles into a precarious routine

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Thai soldiers play cards inside Keo Sekha Kirisvarak, a pagoda located in the centre of the Preah Vihear temple complex. For the past year, 10 Thai soldiers have crossed the front lines of an ongoing border dispute unarmed each day to station themselves in the pagoda.

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
A Thai soldier at Keo Sekha Kirisvarak weaves a fishing net he says he plans to use in his village back home.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Tracey Shelton and Thet Sambath

One year after Thai soldiers first established a presence at the pagoda, some say they have befriended their Cambodian counterparts, though others tell an altogether different story.

Preah Vihear Province

EACH morning, as Thai and Cambodian soldiers stationed near Preah Vihear temple awake and begin arranging their camps just 20 metres apart from one another, Major Apichat Poopuak and his men pack their lunches, cigarettes, playing cards, mobile phones and iPods and trek to their post at a pagoda on the grounds of the disputed temple complex.

Hardly a strategic position for the Thai soldiers, the pagoda, Keo Sekha Kirisvarak, lies smack dab in the centre of enemy territory. Nevertheless, this month marks a full year since Thai soldiers first began stationing themselves there, assuming a post that requires them to cross Cambodian front lines and pass armed Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) troops.

"Maybe it sounds dangerous, but it is no problem for my men," Apichat said in a recent interview. "My mission is not to fight. My mission is to communicate with Cambodian commanders to keep the peace."

Though they are unarmed, the men do not betray any concern for their safety. Some lie around in hammocks calling relatives and girlfriends. Others play poker. One man meticulously weaves fishing nets he plans to use when he returns to his home village.

The Thai soldiers remain at the pagoda from 7am to 4pm. In recent interviews, some said they had formed friendships with their Cambodian counterparts, even eating meals or drinking coffee with them on occasion.

"The Cambodian soldiers are like my family," Apichat said as he hugged RCAF Lieutenant Colonel Tith Chhon, whom he called his friend. "I want peace because the Cambodian and Thai people are the same. We are like brothers."

Several RCAF soldiers said, however, that they considered the Thai soldiers' constant presence at the temple to be an insult.

RCAF Brigade 7 officer Ean Pov, who is stationed at the pagoda, said he was frustrated that he had received no orders to try to stop Thai soldiers from entering the pagoda each day.

"They walk around the pagoda's compound as if it were their land," he said. "If my commander orders me to stop them, I will do it. Now I am just waiting for the order."

Sao Socheat, deputy commander of RCAF Military Region 4, said last week that Cambodian officials had been trying to remove the Thai soldiers from the temple using peaceful measures, adding that they would need orders from their superiors to do anything beyond that.

Initial altercation
Ten Mean, 22, was one of three Cambodian monks present at the pagoda when Thai troops first entered it on the morning of July 15, 2008, eight days after UNESCO announced that it had accepted Cambodia's application to have Preah Vihear temple listed as a World Heritage site.

At 11:35am, Tep Mean said he saw around 40 soldiers coming up the road towards the pagoda.

"When I saw them I was not scared. I am a monk. Even though the Thais had weapons, as a monk I am not involved," Tep Mean said.

Sok Chenda, 45, who has worked as a priest at the pagoda for eight years, said the number of Thai troops within the temple had climbed to 400 by the following morning, adding that they blocked the entry of Cambodian soldiers who had arrived in the night and camped inside a nearby temple.

Thai military deminers also arrived and began clearing the area in which the Thai troops now stay.

They may try to poison the monks... so i try to spy on all their activities.

By midafternoon on July 16, around 40 Cambodian soldiers had forced their way through.

Both Tep Mean and Sok Chenda said they feared fighting was about to break out as they watched Thai and Cambodian soldiers point weapons at one another near the entrance to the pagoda.

Ensuing negotiations between the two sides resulted in the agreement that has allowed the 10 Thai soldiers to enter the temple each day.

For the first three months, the Thai soldiers entered the pagoda fully armed.

But at 2:15pm on October 15, fighting broke out along the Thai-Cambodian border at Veal Antri, and the soldiers in the pagoda were taken captive. Their weapons were confiscated, and they agreed during negotiations that followed that they would begin to enter the temple unarmed.

Uneasy calm
Despite the surface calm, an underlying tension has entered the lives of Cambodians who stay at the pagoda.

Sok Chenda said he had not left it since the Thai soldiers arrived.

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Thai soldiers end their day at the pagoda and head back to their camp

"I will never leave it as long as the Thais are here," he said. "I always try to investigate what they are doing. They may try to poison the monks or put poison in the water, so I try to spy on all their activities."

Soeun Ravoeun, 26, who has been a monk at the pagoda for three years, said that while some of the soldiers were friendly and treated the monks with respect, others - either on purpose or inadvertently - had been disrespectful, with some even wearing their hats inside the pagoda.

"At the beginning they would offer food to the monks in keeping with Buddhist tradition, but this only lasted a few days," Soeun Ravoeun said.

"I am a monk, but I am not happy about this Thai presence. This is a Cambodian temple, a peaceful place. I am angry when they are here."

For his part, Ning Buntheang, a 40-year-old RCAF soldier stationed at the pagoda, said he had learned to live with the Thai military presence.

"At first I was angry, but now I am used to them being here," he said.

Sok Chenda was less sanguine, saying, "They are like beggars that many people chase away that just keep coming back. They are not wanted, but they will not go away. It will take a clash for them to stop coming."


City nets 19 in raids near wat

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Chhay Channyda and Katrin Redfern

NGOs decry Wat Phnom sweeps aimed at ending sex work in area.

IN A PAIR of raids near Wat Phnom, police arrested 19 sex workers on Sunday and Monday as part of a campaign to end prostitution in the popular tourist area, drawing criticism from NGOs who said the government's treatment of sex workers would not deter them from re-entering the industry.

The deputy governor of Daun Penh district, Sok Penh Vuth, said local authorities were focusing on preventing prostitution near Wat Phnom because of its value as a tourist site that is of historic importance to the city.

"We will clear prostitution in all areas, but especially at Wat Phnom because it is a place that attracts many foreigners, and it is the birthplace of Phnom Penh," he said. "It is a sacred site, so we do not want improper acts around this place."

Hov Shinith, the Wat Phnom commune chief, said police had arrested 40 sex workers in the commune so far this month.

"We patrol around Wat Phnom every night. We will not allow prostitution," he said.

In addition to the arrests this week, police earlier this month arrested 15 people at Blue Lagoon, a bar located on Street 108 that authorities said offered customers the option of watching women strip naked.

The area around Wat Phnom has been the focus of police sweeps for months. In May, shortly before an ASEAN ministerial meeting, more than 55 people - including a number of sex workers - were picked up by police and brought to government and NGO rehabilitation centres.

Hov Shinith said the 19 suspected sex workers arrested this week were sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Social Affairs.

But Sorn Sophal, the department's director, said they were immediately sent to NGOs because the department did not have the resources needed to help them.

"At the social affairs department, we do not have programmes to train or educate sex workers, so we send them to our partner organisations," he said, though he declined to name the organisations to which the sex workers were sent.

Though Sorn Sophal cited a lack of resources to help arrested sex workers transition to other occupations, San Arun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Women's Affairs, said the government had recognised the importance of economic empowerment for sex workers.

"We understand that to help them we have to come up with something so they can support themselves," she said. "We have women's centres, in different provinces, to train women to do sewing and weaving."

Women's Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi could not be reached Tuesday, though she told the Post in May that the government planned to allocate funds to training programmes for sex workers.

But several NGO workers said Tuesday that the government had continued to focus on short-term sweeps rather than long-term training, a policy they described as ineffective.

"Authorities are wasting their time and energy cracking down on sex workers, because they will go back to their old careers. They are not trained with new skills," said Lim Mony, the women's programme officer for the local rights group Adhoc.

Sara Bradford, a technical adviser for the Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers in Cambodia, said the government's policy of temporarily detaining sex workers would not result in a decline in sex trafficking.

"If the Cambodian government wants to see results in their anti-trafficking campaign, they need to stop arbitrarily detaining sex workers under the guise of ending trafficking," she said.

"It is a waste of government and NGO money to detain and 'rehabilitate' consenting adults who choose to be sex workers."

Kingdom 'not free' in 2008

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Sebastian Strangio

A REPORT released Thursday by the US-based international watchdog organisation Freedom House rated Cambodia as "not free" and claimed that the government had only "paid lip service" to its stated goals of combating corruption and improving governance.

In its 2009 Freedom in the World report, an annual comparison of global political rights and civil liberties, the organisation said Cambodia had earned its rating due to endemic corruption, free speech restrictions and the lack of an independent judiciary in the Kingdom.

"Cambodia is not an electoral democracy," the report stated.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen and the [Cambodian People's Party] dominate national and local politics through their control of the security forces, officials at all levels of government and the state-owned media."

The report also paints a picture of a judiciary "marred by inefficiency and corruption", and claims corruption and abuse of power by high-ranking government officials have "significantly hindered" economic growth.

"Although the economy has been growing as a result of increased investments ... these enterprises frequently involve land grabs by the political elite, top bureaucrats and the military," the report states.

Each year, Freedom House designates countries as "free", "partly free" or "not free". Except for 1993 and 1994, Freedom House has rated Cambodia as "not free" every year since the report was launched in 1973.

Thun Saray, president of the local rights group Adhoc, said the report generally described the situation in Cambodia accurately, though he said the static "not free" rating did not capture the dynamic of transition the country is still experiencing.

Referring to the recent crackdown on government critics, he said Cambodia was certainly in a period of decline.

But he said history showed a pattern of ups and downs.

"Sometimes we see the political space widen, and sometimes we see it narrow down," he told the Post.

"The improvement is that people are more aware of their rights than ever before."

He added: "In a transitional period there are always struggles between democratic and authoritarian forces, and sometimes the authoritarian forces prevail."

A transitional period
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said he had not seen the Freedom House report, but that Cambodia still faces many challenges.

He said the current government had experienced peace and stability only in the past 11 years, providing a narrow window for reform.

"We understand that we do have some flaws, but [I would like to] remind them that we are still in a stage of reform and development," he said.

"Thank God the CPP is still strong, to keep this country at [the stage] where everyone can enjoy work and enjoy seeing human rights and development."

The new Freedom House report echoes an earlier press freedom report from the organisation, which ranked Cambodia 132nd among 195 countries surveyed.

In its 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index, global corruption monitor Transparency International listed Cambodia as the 166th most-corrupt country out of 180 nations surveyed.

Former interrogator recalls blood-drawing at Tuol Sleng

Photo by: AFP
Former Tuol Sleng interrogator Prak Khan, 58, testifies Tuesday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Cheang Sokha

Duch subordinate details torture by electric shock, suffocation.

AFORMER interrogator at Tuol Sleng prison on Tuesday detailed an array of torture techniques used at the secret detention facility, including electric shock, suffocation and blood-drawing.

During testimony at Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court, Prak Khan, 58, said he saw groups of prisoners being taken to get their blood drawn, adding that many of them died as a result.

"I saw detainees who were subject to blood-drawing. One detainee had roughly five bags of blood taken," he said, adding that between 10 and 20 prisoners were subjected to the process at once.

"After their blood was drawn, the prisoners would die," he said. When asked how often prisoners were taken, he said it happened "occasionally".

Prak Khan was called on to testify against his former boss, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who acknowledged earlier in his trial that blood-drawing was among the torture techniques used at the prison.

Answering questions put by Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne, Prak Khan said Duch was the one who gave lectures on how best to torture detainees.

"We were taught to insert a needle underneath the nail, and by doing so the detainee would sustain a wound on their finger [without] affecting their heart," Prak Khan said.

"It was a theory instructed to us by Duch because it was a light technique that did not affect the heart of the detainee."

He told the court that the interrogators at S-21 were forced to follow strict rules, that they were prohibited from beating detainees to death, and that they were told to be sure that no one escaped.

"We were taught how to interrogate prisoners and avoid prisoners dying, otherwise the confession would be broken and we would be punished," Prak Khan said from the dock.

"We were trained on how to whip prisoners with a stick, on how to electrocute[and] on how to use plastic bags to suffocate them."

Female prisoner tortured
Prak Khan, who was assigned to be an interrogator in 1976, said he once served as a guard outside a room in which a female prisoner under Duch's supervision was shocked and suffocated until she fell unconscious.

"They tried to interrogate that female prisoner; however, a confession was not extracted, and at 3am the female prisoner fell unconscious and was taken back to her cell," he said.

He said suicides had also been reported at the prison.

"We were told that some prisoners jumped from the building, some burned themselves with lamps, and some used a pen to prick themselves in order to die," he said.

Prak Khan said he did not want to elaborate on what kind of torture he himself used on prisoners, saying: "I will keep silent on that matter."

Market redevelopment put on ice at PM's bidding: city

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Kandal Market vendors gather at City Hall on Monday to protest a US$12 million redevelopment proposal.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Chhay Channyda

Municipal officials cite June 16 order, asking vendors to refrain from protests a day after Kandal Market vendors met at City Hall in a bid to keep their stores.

CITY Hall said in a statement Tuesday that all redevelopment plans for the capital's markets had been "suspended".

The statement came one day after Kandal Market vendors gathered outside City Hall to protest against a plan to turn that market into an eight-storey business centre.

Vendors expressed concern Monday that they would lose their stalls and businesses once the project was completed.

"Phnom Penh Municipality would like to assure vendors that Prime Minister Hun Sen has officially announced in a government directive dated June 16, 2009, to suspend all market development in Phnom Penh," the statement reads. "This is the highest decision of government."

The statement adds: "City Hall authorities ask vendors to continue doing business normally and not to believe the incitement of a handful of perpetrators."


Vendors' representative Leb Ny said Tuesday that Kandal Market vendors were "happy to hear the statement", though she said she was worried that it was merely a stopgap measure to stave off further demonstrations.

"I am still concerned," she said. "Not this time, but maybe next time, the company will get the green light to build the market. Our feeling is not calm."

Plans for Kandal
The Kandal Market redevelopment proposal was drafted by a joint venture between a South Korean company and the local company PPMD.

Chan Sophal, director of the joint venture, said Tuesday that he believed the statement would discourage future protests. He added that no formal agreements had been signed between the joint venture and the government.

He said Sunday that Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng had agreed in principle to the US$12 million project, which would create 1,000 stores for market vendors.

The plan calls for market stores to be located on the ground and first floors of the business centre.

Chan Sophal said the plan would take roughly five years to complete.

He emphasised on Tuesday that he was interested in gauging whether vendors would react positively or negatively to the project.

"If the majority of vendors disagree with the development, then we will not develop the market," he said.

KR Tribunal: UN appoints new tribunal press officer

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Georgia Wilkins

KR Tribunal

The United Nations has appointed a Japanese national as a public affairs officer for the Khmer Rouge tribunal, a statement from the Japanese Embassy said Tuesday. Yuko Maeda, who formerly worked as a public information officer for the UN Mission in Liberia, is scheduled to join the tribunal on Friday. The Japanese government said it "heartily welcomed" the appointment of Maeda, who has worked in Cambodia as a business editor for The Cambodia Daily. She also founded and represented the NGO Women Against Silence to assist rape victims, according to the statement. UN court spokesperson Lars Olsen confirmed the appointment Tuesday, adding that Maeda would be replacing Peter Foster, a former public affairs officer for the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT) who resigned early in the year.

Journalist sued for fraud

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

Two families in R'kiri accuse reporter of extorting $6,000.

AJOURNALIST from the Cheat Sachak newspaper in Ratanakkiri province is being sued for fraud and extortion by two Bar Keo district families who say they paid him US$6,000 because he promised to intervene on their behalf in a pair of criminal cases.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said the two families, who are ethnic minorities and speak only limited Khmer, came to his office on Monday for help filing the lawsuits. He said they told him that the journalist, Nuon Yuth, first contacted them in early 2008 and promised to secure the release of their jailed relatives.

Pen Bonnar said one of the families paid Nuon Yuth $1,000 to help free their two nephews, who had been held in prison while awaiting trial on a robbery charge. Pen Bonnar said the case has yet to go to trial more than two years after the original crime was committed, and that one of the nephews has since died in prison.

In the second case, Nuon Yuth is accused of taking $5,000 from a family who asked him to press the Ratanakkiri provincial court to retry a case involving four men who were convicted of murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Nuon Yuth denied the extortion and fraud charges on Monday, telling the Post, "I know nothing about the allegations from these families. I would never do that as a journalism professional."

Billboard dispute
Also in Ratanakkiri, an opposition council member was questioned by provincial prosecutors on Monday over a dispute that arose after his party installed a billboard on private land.

Chorng Lip Chhun, a local villager, accused Sam Rainsy Party provincial council member La Bunseng of erecting a billboard on his land without obtaining permission.

Deputy Prosecutor Ros Saram said Monday that he had decided to let the two parties resolve the issue out of court.

CSD staff protest actions of new executive director

Former CSD Executive Director Theary Seng pictured in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
James O'toole

Petition claims Vi Houi blocked access to bank accounts used for salaries and operational expenses and issued warnings to staffers.

AROUND 50 employees at the Centre for Social Development (CSD) have signed a petition protesting the actions of its new executive director, claiming he froze the organisation's bank accounts and issued warnings to four senior staff members who tried to withdraw funds.

On June 9, city authorities removed CSD Executive Director Theary Seng from her post after Phnom Penh Municipal Court approved a temporary injunction filed by Vi Huoi, who was appointed in her place.

But CSD employees said Vi Huoi had prevented access to company accounts used for salaries and operational expenses, adding that they did not know when the accounts would again become accessible.

Staff representative Chan Than said Vi Huoi met with CSD staff on Monday morning and told them that he had the right "to close or open all the bank accounts of the CSD" because he was the organisation's executive director.

Soeurng Chandara, head of the CSD finance unit, said he was one of "around 50" CSD employees who signed a petition of protest against Vi Huoi because they were "upset [with] and afraid" of his behaviour.

"If he closes those accounts, he freezes the whole operation of the centre," said Ang Udom, Theary Seng's lawyer.


He added that four senior staff members had "received warnings"after trying to conduct day-to-day transactions using organisation accounts.

"Nobody has been fired yet, but they have been warned of being fired," he said.

Appeal coming
Ang Udom also said that Theary Seng plans to appeal the injunction filed by Vi Huoi and that he expects to file the documents this week.

He maintained that the Ministry of Interior, not the Municipal Court, has jurisdiction over NGOs and civil society groups, adding that the ministry had already rejected a complaint by Vi Huoi against Theary Seng in August 2008.

"[Theary Seng] is a part of a board which has been legally recognised by the Ministry of Interior," he said, adding that the court had "interfered" with the ministry's ruling.

Theary Seng has called the injunction a "moot issue" because of the ministry's prior ruling.

"This is an issue of harassment and abuse of process and reflects once again the absurdity, the brokenness of the judiciary in Cambodia," she said in an email.

Vi Huoi could not be reached for comment Monday or Tuesday.

Foreign minister to meet with Clinton

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Sam Rith

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Hor Namhong and officials from Thailand, Laos and Vietnam will meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the ASEAN Regional Forum in Thailand, officials said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the meeting, scheduled for Thursday, will focus mainly on health, education and the environment.

The forum will also face the perennial challenge posed by Myanmar, which has sparked international outrage by putting pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on trial over a bizarre incident in which an American man swam to her lakeside house in Yangon.

Clinton said Tuesday that Washington was taking concerns about military cooperation between Myanmar and nuclear-armed North Korea "very seriously".

Speaking after talks with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, she also expressed fresh concerns about the rights record of Myanmar's ruling junta, including allegations that the army was abusing young girls.


Land prices dip by half

A man searches property listings Tuesday at Bonna Realty Group’s Phnom Penh office.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Nguon Sovan

Leading agency Bonna Realty Group says that land prices fell about 50 percent from previous year in first six months of 2009

LAND prices in Phnom Penh have dropped by almost half from the first six months of 2008 according to figures released by a leading realtor.

Sung Bonna, president and CEO of Bonna Realty Group, said commercial land in the city centre was around 46 percent lower in the first six months of this year compared to a year earlier. Prices had dropped from an average US$5,050 per square metre to $2,750, he said.

Prices for residential areas showed a smaller decline, down 38 percent from $2,600 to $1,600 per square metre over the same period.

He said demand had picked up in the past couple of months after dropping to almost zero in the latter half of last year, but he did not expect prices to begin recovering until 2011.

"Our research over the last two months shows that people are again hunting, and asking to buy land or houses," he said. "However, I forecast that land prices will continue going down until they reach the bottom at this year's end."

The cost of residential, commercial and industrial-zoned land on Phnom Penh's outskirts had also dropped around 50 percent in the first half of the year from a year earlier, though prices varied depending on zone or location, said Sung Bonna, who is also president of the National Valuers' Association of Cambodia, though the figures released where compiled by his real estate firm.

Visal Real Estate Co Director Sear Chhailin said his company's figures showed a drop of around 50 percent in land and house prices. Real estate transactions conducted by the company were at only about 10 percent of the level seen in the first half of 2008 as potential buyers continued to wait for prices to drop further, he said.

"We forecast that in the second half of this year, land prices will continue to drop, and buying and selling activity will remain limited because it is the rainy season, making it difficult to either travel or build," said Sear Chhailin.

CPL Cambodia Properties Limited Managing Director Cheng Kheng said that land and house prices had only dropped between 20 percent and 30 percent in the first half of this year.

"For normal real estate trading, it is impossible for prices to drop up to 50 percent," he said. "Declines of a half are only for firesales to repay debts or bank debts," he said.

He said his company had brokered 70 land sales and 160 house sales in the first half of this year. "If compared to the first six months of last year, it's only 10 percent of the volume of real estate buying and selling activity," he said.

Taiwan holds edge in Cambodian garments

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Chun Sophal

INDUSTRY figures reveal Taiwan is the leading nation investing in Cambodia's garment sector with 68 factories out of 274 in operation. The figures were released last week by the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), an industry body.

Kaing Monika, GMAC's external affairs manager, said China is the second-biggest investor in the sector, with 55 factories. Hong Kong is third with 51 factories, while South Korea has 32 factories.

The leading non-Asian investor in the garment sector is the United States which is in seventh place with 10 factories.

GMAC President Van Sou Ieng said that although Taiwan has the largest number of factories, China brings in 70 percent more raw material, worth around US$1 billion.

"Regardless of where the investment comes from, it is good because [all investors] have capital and experience, and they can provide jobs for the Cambodian people," he said.

Van Sou Ieng added that the government ought to help the garment industry, a key segment of the local economy that is experiencing difficulties in the global economic crisis, by cancelling all import taxes on raw materials.

A report from GMAC earlier this year revealed that 56 garment factories shut down in the first six months of 2009. About 24,000 workers lost their jobs, two-thirds of whom worked at the 23 factories that were GMAC members.

Opposition party lawmaker Yim Sovann said the government should improve the business environment to ensure firms are more competitive in relation to those in neighbouring nations.

"It could do this by rooting out corruption and lowering some of the costs of production, especially the price of electricity," Yim Sovann said.

Figures from the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) show that Taiwan invested $7 million in Cambodia this year, which is around 0.5 percent of total inward investment.

China has invested $242 million, which is around 20 percent. Last year China invested $4.3 billion against Taiwan's $21.5 million.

OZ restarts drilling at Cambodia concession

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Steve Finch

OZ Minerals said Tuesday that it had restarted drilling in its main Cambodian concession and noted it was confident of a "promising" gold system in western Mondulkiri province.

In a report announcing second-quarter results, the Australian miner - which in June completed the US$1.35 billion sale of a number of mines to China Minmetals Non-Ferrous Metals Co to pay off outstanding debts - said it recommenced drilling at several prospects in and around its main Cambodian concession at Okvau last month.

Victoria, Australia-based OZ Minerals was also currently interpreting soil sampling results from its nearby Phnom Chi concession, the report added.

In addition, the company is exploring at Ou Anlong, also in northeast Cambodia's Mondulkiri province.

"We have now done a reasonable amount of work [in Cambodia], and I think it is fair to say we have done enough work now to believe that there may well be a gold system there that is of interest to OZ Minerals," acting Chief Executive Bruce Loveday told journalists Tuesday at a press conference announcing second-quarter results, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The report said high-grade samples at OZ Minerals' Area 6 prospect, also in the Okvau concession, had yielded up to 14.75 grams per tical in gold.

A company presentation Tuesday said that the company would spend 17 percent of its A$28 million (US$22.78 million) second-half exploration budget in Cambodia, or about $4.76 million.

"Work programmes, including mapping, sampling and geophysics, continued to generate new drill targets," Tuesday's report said.

Company shares fell 0.49 percent on the Australian Securities Exchange on Tuesday to finish at A$1.015.

OK'd domestic investments up 30pc

Local Investment

- $223m invested in the Kingdom by Cambodians in first half
- Up 30pc from $172m in same period last year
- $354m invested in tourism
Source: CHA and CDC

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Chun Sophal

Govt-approved investment by Cambodians increases to $223 million in the first half of 2009 as investment board cites confidence among local entrepreneurs in a stable political climate

APPROVED investment by Cambodian companies in the Kingdom was up 30 percent to US$223 million in the first half of the year compared with the same period last year, latest figures show.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), the government's investment arm, said the figure for the first six months of 2008 was $172 million.

Yun Heng, deputy director at the evaluation and incentive department at the Cambodian Investment Board (CIB), which is an arm of the CDC, said one reason behind the increase was greater local confidence in the stability of the Cambodian political environment.

Another reason cited is the increased sophistication of domestic investors, meaning that they are more confident about pursuing potential opportunities that present themselves.

"The growth in investment that we are seeing is [up and down] like a wave, and we are yet to enjoy stable growth," he said.

Yun Heng said most investment went into the tourism sector as investors put cash into projects including hotels and guesthouses.

Investment in the hotel sector by Cambodians is ... more than from overseas.

The president of the Cambodian Hotel Association, Luu Meng, said those opportunities had come about because construction materials had become cheaper and because more people are entering the hospitality industry, resulting in a stronger pool of workers.

"The result is that investment in the hotel sector by Cambodians is today worth more than hotel investment from overseas," Luu Meng said, referring to the report's finding that total external and internal investment in the tourism sector for the first half of the year stood at $354 million.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, who used to head parliament's finance committee, said the government ought to devise and publish incentive policies for local investors.

He said most Cambodians want to run their businesses above-board, since doing otherwise benefits corrupt officials.

However, he said, there is not much information available to tell the Kingdom's investors how to operate legally.

"At the moment the government encourages only foreign investors, but if it sets incentive policies for local investors, it can help to solve some of the damage caused by the global economic crisis [we] are facing now," Son Chhay said.

"I believe that the size of local investment is probably much larger than this figure from CDC because most local investment is not officially registered."

Entrepreneur tries to clean up charcoal business

Photo by: SOEUN SAY
Hong Piseth of Khmer Clean Charcoal displays a bag of his new product.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Soeun Say

STARTING a business is seldom easy and always requires plenty of research. In the case of local entrepreneur Hong Piseth it required getting his hands dirty - literally - as he spent three months looking for a better way to make charcoal.

The result is the Khmer Clean Charcoal company (KCC), which the 29-year-old set up last month with US$100,000 of personal savings.

Hong Piseth researched alternative charcoal manufacturing techniques in China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, all of which produce what he calls "clean" charcoal for export.

"I wanted to make a Khmer product to sell in the Cambodian market," he says, explaining his entrepreneurial decision. "I don't want [some countries] saying that Cambodia always imports its products, so I decided to manufacture this 'Khmer Clean Charcoal' myself."

Surely, though, charcoal is charcoal? What is his competitive advantage? Hong Piseth says his product is not only better-quality and cheaper, but is also smokeless, contains no chemicals, and burns hotter and longer.

He says it is also more environmentally friendly than standard wood charcoal because its main ingredient is coconut husks.

"My business helps society because we collect [discarded coconut shells] to make clean charcoal, which means people aren't cutting down trees ... and that's what the government wants," he says.

KCC needs 100 tonnes a month of raw material to make 30 tonnes of clean charcoal. Hong Piseth says the coconut husks come from across Cambodia. The charcoal also contains smaller quantities of rice husks which would otherwise be discarded by rice millers.

With its 50 staff, the Phnom Penh firm produces between 40 and 50 tonnes of charcoal monthly. Sales are lower than that at the moment - around 20 tonnes were sold last month - but interest from a new client makes him optimistic that he can sell 30 tonnes this month.

"Once we are able to sell 50 tonnes a month, the business will be generating net profits of $1,000 a month. So the object over the next six months is to expand production and boost profits through volumes," he says. "In around six months I hope to be able to sell between 100 to 200 tonnes of clean charcoal per month."

Hong Piseth says his clients come from the major population areas: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Takeo, Sihanoukville and Kampong Cham. He sells directly to restaurants, clubs, shops and hotels.

His clients pay 1.5 million riels ($375) per tonne for the charcoal. And although his factory does not yet have the technology to package the charcoal, that will change. When it does, he will target the nation's growing number of supermarkets.

Hong Piseth admits that his marketing strategy is to tap into Khmer identity by encouraging Cambodians to buy local.

"If one local family or one village makes one product, then as a nation we will growth together, and our economy will grow faster," he says, adding that awareness of his brand is growing in the Cambodian market.

And what of plans to target markets outside the Kingdom? He says in six months' time he will look to export once he has secured sufficient reliable supplies of the raw materials.

"We don't yet have enough demand from local users, but once that demand is there, I will start to export," he says.

But expanding for export costs money, and borrowing is not cheap. Hong Piseth says annual interest rates of 12 percent are simply too high to make borrowing viable.

"We lack the capital to manufacture as many products as I would like," he says, mentioning natural fertiliser as a possible future product.

Naga in talks with Hard Rock: sources

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Nathan Green

CEO Steve Cheng refuses to confirm casino's link to international restaurant franchise

NAGAWORLD CEO Steve Cheng said he was "not able to comment" Tuesday on information received by the Post that the firm is in discussions to open a franchised Hard Rock Cafe in its Phnom Penh casino complex.

Sources inside NagaWorld said the hotel and casino operator has been talking to Hard Rock International - owner of Hard Rock Cafe - for several months about bringing the international restaurant chain to Cambodia.

Hard Rock's PR representative did not reply to an emailed request for comment by press time Tuesday.

The company's Web site states it has more than 120 Hard Rock Cafes in 40 countries. In Southeast Asia there are three cafes and a hotel in Thailand, a cafe in Vietnam, two in Singapore, one in the Philippines and one in Malaysia.

Sources inside NagaWorld said the hotel and casino operator has been talking to Hard Rock.

Under the company's area development agreements, franchisees pay an up-front fee for the exclusive right to develop and operate the cafe in a certain region. The fee depends on the size of the territory, the number of locations and the duration of the agreement.

Franchise owners must also pay Hard Rock International 5 percent of gross food and beverage receipts and 10 percent of all receipts from merchandise sales.

The company says that more than 40 percent of its annual revenue comes from merchandise sales.

On its Web site, Hard Rock International estimated the total investment required to start a Hard Rock Cafe was between US$3 million and $5 million.

The first Hard Rock Cafe was opened near London's Hyde Park by Americans Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton in 1971.

The chain began expanding globally in 1982, and Hard Rock International was bought by the Seminole tribe of Florida from then-owner Rank Group in December 2006 for $965 million.

NagaWorld is owned by Hong Kong-listed investment holding company Nagacorp. It owns and operates the only licensed casino in Phnom Penh under a 70-year licence - Asia's longest - that expires in 2065. Under the terms of its agreement with the government, it has a 40-year monopoly on casino operations within 200 kilometres of Phnom Penh.

The licence provides no restrictions as to the size of its casino complex, the number of gaming tables and machines, the types of games or the operating hours.

It pays a fixed monthly gaming tax of $180,202 which is valid until 2018 and subject to an annual increase of 12.5 percent.

Nagacorp Ltd shares opened in Hong Kong on Tuesday at HK$1.05 (US$0.14). They hit a 52-week low of HK$0.51 on March 17 and a 52-week high of HK$2.12 on September
2 last year.

Cambodia not yet ready for gated enclaves, expert says

An artist depicts a villa in the planned L’Artisan Takhmao Villa Development on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. IMAGE SUPPLIED

As soon as we put a road in, people have opportunities to schools and markets.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Soeun Say and Marika Hill

New development on outskirts of Phnom Penh is part of a trend towards luxury gated communities, but benefits could be outweighed by low demand

A planned US$11 million development of 40 luxury villas on the outskirts of Phnom Penh is part of a trend to build exclusive suburban properties, but a property expert has questioned the affordability of these developments.

Bruce Haulley, an internationally recognised property consultant, said demand is not yet there for exclusive developments like the 15,397-square-metre L'Artisan Takhmao Villa Development 15 kilometres from the capital, as most Cambodians cannot afford the high price tag.

"It would be easy to sell this to investors," he said. "The total demand in the market is not there and will not be there for a few years."

A groundbreaking ceremony was held for the L'Artisan site, in Tuol Krasang Village in Kandal province's Sa Ang District, on June 26.

Charles Villar, the sales and marketing manager for Technology Innovation Construction Co Ltd (TIC), which is partnering with fellow South-Korean company Hi Sun Group on the project, said the development promised safety and exclusivity for homeowners.

The L'Artisan villas, which come in three types, would sell for between $238,000 and $344,000, and the complex would include a swimming pool, park, and badminton and tennis courts, Villar said.

Safe behind fences
Security will be reminiscent of the gated communities common to South America and South Africa, where safety is a concern for many wealthy homeowners.

The 24-hour security system will include stationary and roving guards, lighting, gates and security cameras, Villar said. "It will be the only place in Phnom Penh you can leave your car unlocked," he said.

Haulley said developments like L'Artisan could stimulate local economic growth, but that proper city planning is required for them to bring prosperity in the long-term. "The development in general is a good thing, and it creates jobs and opportunities," he said. "But it could be a lot better with [better] planning."

Haulley referred to the multiplying effect, whereby residents' expenditure on local services, such as tuk-tuks, nannies and gardeners, could bring greater economic benefits to the wider community.

Improving roads in the area could also assist the community by providing better transport access for the surrounding rural villages and raising living standards.

"As soon as we put a road in, people have opportunities to schools and markets," he said. "The middle class of Cambodia has an unrecognisable and very powerful effect."

However, Haulley was concerned about the dense housing plan and lack of grass and common areas. "You couldn't build this in America that dense," he said. "They would want to see a common area, a place kids could hang out."

Developers would also need to ensure the villas had proper infrastructure, such as sewage systems, electricity and a reliable water supply. Residents would also need schools, medical centers and shops in the area to eliminate the need to travel long distances to buy their groceries and drop their children at school, he added.

Left hanging
Haulley warned that developments of this nature in Cambodia are often left unfinished, with developers pulling out before finishing the infrastructure such as roads and sewage systems.

Villar agreed that many clients are hesitant about investing in property developments due to fears the project will not be finished, but his company wants to build a reliable reputation.

The group had already completed two residential developments in Phnom Penh, De Castle and De Castle Diamond, and were undertaking five other projects in Phnom Penh, including two on the outskirts and three in the city, he said.

"The main thing here is we at TIC and Hi Sun Group can develop the projects, as proven in our De Castle Condominium projects, where we delivered the units to our clients on time," he said.

Sustainable cities to be focus of first architectural expo

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Soeun Say

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and International Data Group (IDG) announced Friday they would jointly hold Cambodia's first international architecture and construction expo in November.

Land Management Secretary of State Phoeung Sophoan said the three-day Cam Build World Expo 2009 would showcase local and regional architectural firms, building and construction companies, developers, engineering solutions firms, urban planners, suppliers, utilities and training providers, and any other stakeholders in Cambodia's built environment.

Building features and materials that are environmentally friendly will be ... showcased.

"We invite all construction companies, local and international, to join in this event to exchange their experiences in this sector," he said.

There were 52 international architecture and construction firms and 162 local ones registered at the ministry, he added.

Patrick J McGovern, chairman of the board at IDG, a leading technology media, research and event management company, said the event would have a particular focus on the creation of sustainable cities using eco-friendly technologies and services.

As a developing country, Cambodia has a chance to leapfrog the developed world and embrace advanced architectural concepts and technologies to create sustainable cities, he said. "Building features and materials that are environmentally friendly will be prominently showcased as a major part of the exhibits."

Phoeung Sophoan said the expo would also attract attention from local authorities in land and urban planning and management. As Cambodia continued to develop, it is imperative that it have access to modern international architecture codes of practice and construction methods, he said.

Gold Tower on market again after pull-outs

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Soeun Say

The developer behind Gold Tower 42 has launched a renewed marketing effort after buyers of up to a quarter of the units in the planned residential tower tore up their provisional contracts when the bottom fell out of Cambodia's real estate sector in mid-2008.

Sun Hum Lee, the director of developer Yon Woo Cambodia Co, said 55 percent of the residential units in the 42-storey tower were still on the market, despite the company's saying in May last year that between 70 and 75 percent of the units had by then been sold.

"When we opened our show-room in 2008, the economic situation in Cambodia was so good that we sold more than 70 percent of the units at that time," Lee said. "But since the global economic crisis happened, some provisional customers gave up their units, which is why the number of units sold has decreased from 75 to 50 percent."

He added that more than 50 percent of planned office space in the tower had been sold, and almost all of the space in the planned shopping mall.

Ground was broken on the $240 million project in July 2007. Planned to take three-and-a-half years to complete, the tower is yet to make its presence felt in the capital's skyline.

However, Lee said the construction was still on schedule and that the tower would be ready for occupation in 2011.

He said that rumours circulating last year that construction had been halted had no basis in fact, and that the first phase of construction - the foundations and basement levels - had been completed, and that phase two was set to begin.

"There have been a lot of rumours about Gold Tower 42, but none true," Lee said. "Our project is still under construction, and we have not changed anything, including the name, the number of storeys, the capital investment and the size."

The Post reported in October last year that construction was progressing despite the impact of the global economic crisis on Cambodia forcing other South Korean developers to delay projects.

Separating wheat from chaff: a few of Phnom Penh's best guesthouses

Standing out, stark and white and somewhat like an art gallery, from the crumbling facades of its Sisowath Quay neighbours: an exterior view of The Quay Hotel. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Gated old mansions-turned-hotels with saltwater pools dot the city.

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Phnom Penh's French colonial roots coupled with today's plethora of aid agencies based here have conspired to create a glut of accommodation for such a small capital city.

Gated old mansions-turned-hotels with saltwater swimming pools and lush vegetation dot the city, while three backpacker hubs lure the budget-conscious: The riverside has rooms ranging from opulent to gritty, with a multitude of mid-range places between. Shoestring travellers head lakeside to snare US$3 rooms and the Boeung Keng Kang 1 (BKK1) area, commonly called "NGO-ville", offers slightly more subdued low- to mid-range accommodation within walking distance of plenty of bars and restaurants.

The Boddhi Tree-Del Gusto
Of the three Boddhi Tree hotels in Phnom Penh, The Boddhi Tree-Del Gusto is the best. It's much cheaper than Boddhi Tree Aram and bigger than Boddhi Tree Umma, which also deals with touts hanging around due to the genocide museum across the street. Del Gusto, tucked inside a lovely 1930s villa shrouded in greenery, is our ideal place to while away an afternoon in Phnom Penh. A restaurant on the patio serves tasty Khmer and Western fare made from fresh, local produce. Its vaulted ceilings, teak floors and ceiling fans make the place cool even on the hottest days. Eight varied rooms are offered, only one of which has air-conditioning and a private bathroom - the others are fan-cooled with shared facilities. Clean, quiet, tasteful and lovely.
43 Street 95. T: 023 211 396, or 012 565 509.

Top Banana Guesthouse
If you don't want to stay on the lake or the river but still want to meet people and feel centrally located, Top Banana Guesthouse is a great alternative. Former guests rave about Top Banana Guesthouse as a "home away from home". It sounds to us more like the house you lived in with a bunch of college buddies than the one you grew up in with your family.

The Boddhi Tree-Del Gusto: clean, quiet, tasteful and lovely. PHOTO SUPPLIED

For friendly backpackers looking for a lively yet laidback social scene, look no further. It's set on a third-floor terrace, placing it above the city's dusty streets and distancing it from the noise. The street it's located on, however, is one of the prime backpacker strips in town, with an array of restaurants as well as several popular bars. Rooms are clean but basic.
Corner of streets 51 and 278. T: 012 885 572.

Villa Langka
Villa Langka is the best flashpacker option in BKK1, the neighbourhood that boasts close proximity to Independence Monument and its park as well as a multitude of foreign-oriented cafes, bars and restaurants. The hotel itself, located on a quiet side street, might be in the running for one of the greenest spaces in central Phnom Penh. Dense palms surround a 1960s-style French mansion with spacious rooms and a lovely pool. We hear the poolside continental breakfast of pastries, coffee and fresh juices is to die for.
14 Street 282. T: 012 449 857 or 023 776 771.

Bright Lotus 1 Guest House
The Bright Lotus Guesthouse is a great choice for those who want to stay in the popular riverside district. Located away from the road lining the river, you can still catch views of the water from the roof while avoiding the inflated prices and some of the noise of being right on the strip. It has spotless rooms with air-conditioning, TV, private bathrooms with hot water, and shared verandas that overlook an open park and the very picturesque National Museum. Staff are helpful and speak English quite well.

22 Street 178. T: 023 990 446. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Kambuja Inn
For its location and ambiance, Kambuja Inn is perhaps the best bargain in town. For a $20 single, you get all the amenities - air-con, hot water, large TVs with cable, and a fridge - and the atmosphere of a room triple the price. The decor mimics French colonial style, with yellow stucco walls and furniture stained deep brown. Tucked away on a sleepy road off Norodom Blvd, it avoids the noise of the tourist centres while still being central: a 10-minute walk or short tuk tuk ride to the river and a three-minute walk to the (somewhat seedy) strip of bars along Street 51.
8-10 Street 174. T: 023 223 377 or 023 214 218. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Lazyfish Guesthouse & Restaurant
Lazyfish Guesthouse & Restaurant is the best lakefront option in the ghetto-like Boeung Kak lake backpacker district. It's Khmer-owned - which is sadly rare - and of all the guesthouses lining the disappearing lake, this is the cleanest and quietest. An extra $3 gets you one of the best rooms, which are wooden, spacious, overlook the water and have private bathroom and fan. The aesthetics of these rooms sets them apart from the other extremely basic digs lining the lake. The guesthouse's veranda is well-situated with a pleasant view and the standard bunch of hammocks.
15-16 Street 93. T: 012 703 368, 099 370 478, or 016 533 913. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The Quay Hotel
The Quay Hotel stands out among the facades of the many historic, slightly crumbling hotels and restaurants lining the riverside's streets, with its stark white facade giving it an art gallery feel. The rooms are beautiful, with low-slung, modern furniture and big, white beds, and look directly out onto the river. The balconies are cordoned off only by panes of spotless glass, so this is the most uninterrupted riverside view in Cambodia. It's only worth staying here if you opt for the pricier river-view rooms - the others are way overpriced.
277 Sisowath Quay. T: 023 992 284 or 023 224 894.

TAT Guest House
TAT, while away from most of the action, offers a home stay feel at a rock-bottom price. It's the perfect choice for those who want to settle into Phnom Penh for a while and spend some time exploring the city with a "home" to return to in the evening. Its rooftop lounge and the kindness of the family running the place are major selling points. Though the riverside, lakeside and other business districts are a moto drive away, it's just around the corner from O'Russei Market, the biggest and most popular market for Cambodians. Also nearby is Olympic Stadium, where you can catch the occasional football game or pop concert.

52 Street 125. T: 012 921 211 or 099 977 999.

The Pavilion
This estate used to belong to the king's grandmother, and it retains its regal elegance. A solid, white plaster wall surrounds a mansion and a courtyard cooled by lush vegetation. The Pavilion, more midrange lodge than flashpacker guesthouse, is walking distance from the Independence Monument and Palace, and around the corner from upscale Street 240. There's a bar/restaurant, tables and a large swimming pool in the courtyard. Spacious rooms are lovingly decorated and designed with a flourish, some have balconies, and several new bungalows have small Jacuzzis.
227 Street 19. T: 023 222 280.

The Billabong Hotel
The Billabong Hotel's location isn't as quiet as that of Villa Langka, but its pool is nicer, and some of the rooms have more recently updated decor. The deluxe rooms are a better deal than the pool-view standards. Each is decorated in a warm, modern style, with wide memory-foam mattresses and black and burgundy bedding. The ground floor has a pleasant little restaurant, with iron chairs and tables protected by the midday sun by canvas awnings on a patio next to the pool. WiFi is available for a fee. As of early 2009, noisy construction was underway next door; it might be worth passing by to see if that's still going on.

Street 158. T: 023 223 703 or 092 229 306.

Police Blotter: 22 Jul 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Kong Sakun

A 22-year-old rubber plantation worker was hacked to death with an ax by his co-worker Sunday in Kampong Cham province's Memot district after an ugly verbal dispute. The victim was identified as Khom Doung, of Thbong Khmom district's Tonle Bet commune. Police identified the killer as Seth Heang, 30, who resides in Prey Veng's Trapaeng Ampil village. The killer fled the scene and now remains at large. Police said that they are launching an investigation to bring the perpetrator to court.

A 31-year-old teacher and her 3-year-old niece were killed in a traffic accident Sunday as they were driving a black Honda Wave motorbike to distribute wedding invitations along National Road 6 in Kampong Thom's Staung district. Ung Sophea, who planned to get married next month, and her niece, Cheing La, were struck and killed by a black Toyota Camry driven by a man whom police identified as David, a 45-year-old residing in Phnom Penh's Chamkarmon district.

A 29-year-old moto-taxi driver was sent to Kandal Province provincial court Monday after groping his 4-year-old sister-in-law's genitals behind her home in Kandal's Kampong Samnanh commune, police said, identifying the perpetrator as a resident of the province's Lvea Aem district. The victim's mother filed the complaint.

A Poipet district military police officer shot a handcuffed man in the body as police arrested two groups of gangsters on Sunday in Banteay Meanchey's Pa Li Lay village. Chet Samnang shot Ieng Thy, who resides in the district's Kbal Spien village, as the arrested man attempted to steal his gun, Provincial Deputy Military Police Chief Pen Phirom said. The hospitalised Ieng Thy denied snatching the gun along with all other wrongdoing.

A 62-year-old man was sentenced Monday by Phnom Penh Municipal Court to six months in prison and ordered to pay US$1,000 in compensation to You Sok Sothea, a comedian better known as Ka Choy, whom he was convicted of defrauding. Rainsy Chan Dara was paid $4,000 by the comedian on assurances he could get her a job in the National Assembly. His failure to do so upset You Sok Sothea, leading her to demand her money back from the con man.