Friday, 24 July 2009

Prime Minister Urges Training of Traditional Wisemen – Thursday, 23.7.2009

Posted on 24 July 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 622


We would like to mirror an article originally written and published in Khmer in Deum Ampil – but two pages in English were also included there, which we mirror here. Even though the arrangement of the paragraphs of this article in Khmer and in English is a bit different, both articles still keep the same content. Below is the original English version of the article from Deum Ampil:

“Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday urged both the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Ministry of Cults and Religion to train traditional Khmer wisemen. These respected and revered semi-mystic figures are experts in Khmer culture and folklore, and are an integral part of the many religious ceremonies that form much of the practice of Khmer Buddhism.

“This is not the first time the premier has asked authorities to train Wisemen, known in Khmer as Ajar [ អាចារ្យ ]. He also raised the topic recently during a speech in Kandal province.

“‘The wiseman tradition is in deep crisis in our country so that training Wisemen should be arranged by having teachers,’ Hun Sen said at the close of the National Forum of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts at Chaktomuk Hall.

“‘This is not an insignificant issue we have to think about because in the future the number of wisemen in our country will decrease,’ the premier added. ‘Some say that Hun Sen thinks about small thinks like this wiseman crisis, but it is a big story so we all must rethink.’

“The premier urged both ministries to arrange programs of training wisemen.

“‘In one year, if we have 5,000 weddings, we also need 5,000 wisemen, so our need for these people is very crucial,’ the PM stated. Criticizing the influx of foreign influences into traditional Khmer ceremonies, the premier remarked that ‘the cake cutting ceremony held at wedding parties is not our traditional manner, it is foreign culture and manners.’

“At the same time, the premier urged Cambodian artists, especially writers, to hone their craft and to try to use more locally relevant themes. ‘If they are able to do so, copying foreign stories should not be allowed – like two stories shown on Bayon Television which were not Cambodian themes, they were foreign themes.’

“During his speech, the PM also called on the Ministry of Information and affiliated media agencies to better promote Cambodian culture. By Sorn Sopheak

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #243, 23.7.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 23 July 2009

Vietnam invests into Cambodia in banking and airline

BIDV chairman Bac Ha and Vietnam Airlines General Director Ngoc Minh (two in the middle) declare their investment in Cambodia at the press conference.

Nhan Dan

July 24, 2009

Nhan Dan Online- The Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) will start its operation in Cambodia from July 26. In the meantime, Vietnam Airlines will also announce its co-operation in establishing Cambodia Ankor Airlines.

Speaking at a press conference held in Hanoi on July 23, Chairman of the BIDV’s Boards of Directors, Tran Bac Ha said BIDV has invested to establish the Investment and Development Company (IDCC), Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia (BIDC), the Cambodia – Vietnam Insurance Company and BIDV representative office in Cambodia.

With an initial capital of US $100 million, the company’s activities cover the banking and finance, trade and insurance sectors.

IDCC is finishing all procedure for the purchase of the Prosperity Investment Bank, a private bank of Cambodia as well as for the establishment of Cambodia – Vietnam Insurance company.

The bank, after being purchased will be renamed the Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia. “Cambodia now has only 24 commercial banks with not many services, so this is an opportunity for Vietnam to penetrate the market. Around 400 Vietnamese businesses which are now investing in Cambodia are the potential customers of BIDC,” said Ha.

“In the future, BIDC will open its branch in Ho Chi Minh City and later in Hanoi,” Ha added.

The BIDV chairman also revealed that BIDV has got the agreement from the Cambodia National Bank on opening BIDV representative office in Phnom Penh. The representative office is expected to officially open early next month with the aim of providing information for Vietnamese businesses which desire to invest in Cambodia.

Also in the press conference, Vietnam Airlines announced its co-operation in setting up the Cambodia Ankor Airlines.

Vietnam Airlines General Director Vu Ngoc Minh said Cambodia Ankor Airlines will have the initial capital of US $ 100 million. Cambodia Ankor Airlines will launch its inauguration on July 27.

By Dieu Thuy

High-level handholding

Photo by: AFP

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009

(From left) Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win, Brunei Foreign Minister Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Cambodia Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan reach for one another's hands during a group photo at the start of the 42nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) ministerial meeting at the resort island of Phuket. Hor Namhong and other ministers were to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday.

Evictees seek border housing

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
May Titthara

HUNDREDS of families from Phnom Penh's former Dey Krahorm community that are currently eking out an existence in the outskirts of the city have asked to be relocated to areas along the Thai border in Preah Vihear province, residents told the Post Thursday.

Long Dara, a community representative, said hundreds of families from Dey Krahorm were living in shelters at the Damnak Trayoeng relocation site in Dangkor district, and that local developer 7NG had yet to provide them with satisfactory housing.

He said the villagers had decided to push for a move to Preah Vihear after hearing the prime minister announce the availability of land in the province.

"They were happy after hearing Prime Minister Hun Sen say on local television that he has land to provide to poor families," Long Dara said. "After that, they came to talk with us about presenting a plan to ask the government for land. Now they want to live in Preah Vihear."

Long Dara said the Damnak Trayoeng site, located about 16 kilometres from the city, is home to 578 families that were evicted from Dey Krahorm, including more than 100 that were kicked out in a violent eviction in January.

"We are preparing the documents to present to the authorities, and will ask that they pass them along to Prime Minister Hun Sen," he added.

Kem Yan, another community representative, said 85 percent of the residents were willing to make the move north and had thumbprinted documents that were submitted to authorities in Dangkor district's Choam Chao commune.

In addition to land, he said, residents are also requesting that authorities provide them with transportation to Preah Vihear and enough food to last them for the first month.

"They want to go because they want to get real land and a house. They don't want to live like they do right now," Kem Yan said.

"They have been evicted for nearly a year, but they still live in a shelter along the road."

At dawn on January 24, hundreds of police and construction workers forcibly evicted the remaining families from the Dey Krahorm community in central Phnom Penh.

The residents were evicted to make way for a commercial and residential development to be built by 7NG. Six months later, the land remains undeveloped.

Former Dey Krahorm resident Horn Sar said the families were tired of living in constant limbo and wanted to settle somewhere for good.

"We don't want to live somewhere a short time and move again and again like this, to live forever worrying about being evicted," he said.

But he said he was not confident that the government would make land in Preah Vihear available, adding, "I don't know how long we will wait to get a result from the authorities."

Move in the works?
Choam Chao commune Chief Soth Sath said he had heard that residents were considering a move, but had not yet received the request in writing.

He said, "I will help them to pass the documents to senior officials if I receive their documents, but I don't know if they will agree or not. It is up to the government."

But Soth Sath questioned the figure of 578 families, calling it a "fake number" designed to obtain extra land in Preah Vihear. He said the real number was around 380.

Asked about the proposed move, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said Thursday that he would "think about it", though he expressed concern that the residents would simply sell the land and move back to Phnom Penh.

"If we give them the land they will take it to sell and come back again and again.If we give them the land we must find a way to lock them into the deal," he said.

Freed woman wants money

Photo by: Courtesy of Adhoc
Rights group workers discover Svay Yi Pho, who was chained to her bed in her Sen Sok district home for weeks.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
May Titthara

A WOMAN who was reportedly chained to a bed in her Sen Sok district home for weeks told the Post Thursday that she had not received the US$23,500 that was taken from her by relatives including Chea Savoeun, an assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"I felt very angry when they put that shackle on my leg, because I am not crazy," Svay Yi Pho said in an interview. "I just want to get my money back. I can manage my money."

Workers for the rights group Adhoc discovered Svay Yi Pho last Thursday after receiving a tip from an RCAF soldier that she had been forcibly detained in her home in Dong village, Teuk Thla commune, Sen Sok district.

Adhoc investigator Ouch Leng said he believed the 37-year-old had been held for three months by relatives who wanted to take from her the $23,500 she had recently pocketed when she sold her Central Market bookstore.

Chea Savoeun, the assistant to the premier who is also Svay Yi Pho's cousin, confirmed in an interview Monday that he and several other relatives had detained her against her will, though he said this had been done because she suffered from an unspecified mental disorder and was prone to neurotic and destructive behaviour.

He said she had only been held for two weeks.

He also acknowledged taking her money, arguing that she could not be trusted to spend it responsibly.

In an interview Thursday, Chea Savoeun said he stood by his actions.

"As I said before, I didn't want to keep her money, and she could come and take it from me as she needs, but we cannot give all of it to her because she has a sensitive nerve problem," he said.

"I keep records of how much she takes from me. For example, this morning she came and took about $50, and we needed her thumbprint so that we can make it clear."

He added: "I want to give all the money to her because I don't want to have contact with her, but some NGOs and government officials told me not to because she can't look after her money."

Ouch Leng and Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, have said that Adhoc and Licadho doctors examined Svay Yi Pho shortly after she was discovered and concluded that she did not suffer from anything other than stress.

Chea Savoeun said Thursday that other NGOs would soon release test results proving that Svay Yi Pho suffers from a "sensitive nerve problem", though he declined to specify which ones.

Mann Sotheara, a doctor for the rights group Licadho, said Thursday that he would continue to monitor her for the next two months.

Chea Savoeun also defended his relatives' decision to chain her to the bed, which he described as "nothing new".

"Her husband did this for 10 years already after she got her sensitive nerve problem, and we followed that process after they got divorced because we wanted her to take her medication," he said.

Meas Sam Oeun, who Svay Yi Pho divorced one month ago, acknowledged Thursday that he had chained his ex-wife in the past.

Looking ahead
Svay Yi Pho said Thursday that she wanted to use the $23,500 she got from the sale of her bookstore to purchase a new bookstore, but that she had been unable to persuade Chea Savoeun to give it to her.

Chiv Paly, deputy director of the Interior Ministry's anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said earlier this week that the case had been sent to Municipal Court but declined to answer questions about whether an investigation had been conducted or charges filed.

Chiv Paly and Municipal Court President Chiv Keng declined to comment on the case Thursday. Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan said the case was being handled by Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.

HRW bashes Hun Sen on ECCC stance

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Georgia Wilkins

Rights group reports tribunal's autonomy could be in jeopardy.

HUMAN Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of interfering in the Khmer Rouge tribunal, saying comments he reportedly made to French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week "call[ed] into question the court's independence".

Prak Sokhon, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said Sunday upon Hun Sen's return from France that the premier told Sarkozy he considered the start of the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders to be a positive development, though he said it was also important for the country to remain "peaceful".

Hun Sen has no role in this court, yet he keeps trying ... to interfere.

And according to an HRW statement issued Thursday, a senior Cambodian aide present at the meeting between the two leaders said Hun Sen told Sarkozy that the court should only try the five Khmer Rouge leaders who have already been indicted.

"Hun Sen has no role in this court, yet he keeps trying to use his hold over its Cambodian personnel to interfere," Brad Adams, HRW's Asia director, said in the statement.

"The UN and international donors need to put their foot down so that the court can get on with its work in an independent and impartial manner," he added.

The international and national co-prosecutors are divided on the issue of whether to prosecute additional senior regime leaders, and the trial chamber has yet to reach a decision regarding a formal statement of disagreement filed in December.

International prosecutor Robert Petit, who has argued that more prosecutions are justified, resigned last month and will leave the court at the beginning of September.

National prosecutor Chea Leang claims more indictments could jeopardise national stability, a stance Hun Sen echoed in public statements in March, when he said he would "prefer to see the court fail than for war to come back to Cambodia".

The court denied HRW's claim of political interference Thursday and said a decision from the trial chamber was expected "in due course".

"We have noted the report from Human Rights Watch, but the court enjoys judicial independence and will make its decision [about new prosecutions] in due course based on facts, evidence and applicable law," UN court spokesperson Lars Olsen said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan and Minister for Information Khieu Kanharith were both unavailable for comment Thursday.

Street sweep nets 23 in Daun Penh district

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Mom Kunthear

DAUN Penh district authorities picked up 23 adult "vagrants" and five children on Wednesday in an effort that the district's deputy governor said was designed to make popular tourist areas such as Wat Phnom and the Royal Palace safer and more beautiful.

"They are vagrants who sleep anywhere," said Daun Penh Deputy Governor Sok Penhvuth. "They can cause damage to our national reputation because ... it affects our city's security."

He said district authorities sent the detained "vagrants" to the municipal social affairs department to encourage them to learn job skills.

"Just because we collect them does not mean we're ... violating human rights. We want them to become good people and have suitable jobs," he said.

Sorn Sophal, director of the social affairs department, said authorities had sent 150 people to the department in 2009, adding that he believed the city's efforts had successfully reduced the number of people living on the street.

"I think the number of vagrants has decreased because we don't see them in some places, like in front of Wat Botum," he said.

But Sok Penhvuth said he was growing frustrated because arrested "vagrants" had repeatedly returned to the capital's streets.

"They give me headaches every day.... They tell us and the social affairs officers that they've decided to return home, but a few days later, they come back again," he said.

Radio show for KR survivors faces lack of operating funds

Photo by: AFP
The Khmer Rouge tribunal is seen from the public gallery. Past in Present, a radio show designed to help people cope with memories “reawakened” by the trials, faces a funding shortage.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Mom Kunthear

Money for the call-in programme could run out within six months, hosts say.

FOR more than two years, the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO) and the Women's Media Centre of Cambodia (WMC) have broadcast a call-in radio programme aimed at helping survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime deal with mental health issues. Questions about funding, however, may spell the programme's demise by the end of this year, its co-hosts said in recent interviews.

The programme, titled Past in Present, airs on the Radio WMC, 102 FM, on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 3pm to 4pm. It is hosted by Muny Sothara, a psychiatrist at Preah Kossamak Hospital and technical consultant for TPO, and co-host Khuon Kovisokha, a radio producer and presenter for the WMC.

"We are broadcasting this programme at the same time as the Khmer Rouge trials because we expect that the trials have reawakened painful memories for many people in Cambodia," Muny Sothara said. "This programme is meant to help them cope with their pain on their own, without medication if possible."

Many people with painful memories of the Pol Pot regime have few forums in which to discuss them, which causes them to hide or try to forget their pasts, he said. The goal of "Past in Present" has been to give those people an opportunity to discuss those memories openly and to receive advice on how to cope with them.

"The callers who talk about their problems are not only helping themselves, but also others, especially those listeners who are afraid to share their own stories," he added.

Khuon Kovisokha said the number of listeners had increased since the show began broadcasting in early 2007, though she could not provide statistics.

Prak Siphann Narath, 51, said his call to Past in Present had enabled him to speak at length about memories of the regime for the first time.

"Whenever I tried to talk about what happened to my family under the Khmer Rouge, I would always start crying, and I couldn't speak," said the survivor, who lost his parents and all 10 of his siblings to the Khmer Rouge. "After I listened to this radio programme, I dared to speak because the psychiatrist encouraged me."

Past in Present was supported initially by a handful of groups, including AusAID, the aid arm of the Australian government. AusAID funding expired last year, which both Khuon Kovisokha and Muny Sothara said could prevent the programme from operating after the end of 2009.

Belinda Mericourt, senior programme manager at Aus-AID, said funding for Past in Present had come from Aus-AID's short-term small grants fund, and that it expired last year at the end of the original contract. She said TPO and the WMC didn't apply for an extension of the grant, but instead submitted a different proposal, which was rejected.

The hosts said they were unsure whether other organisations would provide funding for future programming, though they said they were hoping they could keep Past in Present on the air.


Gun Control: Kampong Cham police seize 140 guns

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

Gun Control

POLICE confiscated 140 homemade guns from hunters, gang members and gun-makers in Kampong Cham's six main districts between February and July, the Kampong Cham provincial police chief told the Post. "I've ordered my men to search for homemade guns and confiscate them since February. We bring them in and educate them so they stop making or using homemade guns," said Nuon Samin, the Kampong Cham police chief. He said the guns would be dangerous if they were to fall into the hands of drug users or gangsters. "Those homemade guns can kill people. They can break sheet metal," he said. Neang Sovat, provincial coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, said he welcomed the confiscations, but that any effort to crack down on the distribution of homemade guns will be futile if the police presence in the province is not bolstered. "I am sure that the police will not be able to stop people from using those homemade guns if they don't also improve security," he said. Nuon Samin said police had yet to send someone to court for possessing a homemade gun.

More laymen needed for traditional ceremonies: PM

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A layman lights candles in preparation for a ceremony at Wat Lanka.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Sam Rith

Hectic schedule of weddings, funerals is taxing Cambodia's achar.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that the Ministry of Cults and Religions and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts should cooperate to address the shortage of Buddhist laymen by improving training and recruiting practices, particularly given the abundance of weddings and other ceremonies that take place throughout the Kingdom each year.

"Nowadays, the shortage of laymen [in Cambodia] is a serious crisis," Hun Sen said during his closing remarks at a workshop on Cambodian culture Wednesday.

Buddhist laymen, known in Khmer as achar, are responsible for presiding over and administering blessings at traditional ceremonies, including weddings and funerals.

In his speech, Hun Sen estimated that there are at least 5,000 wedding celebrations around the country each year.

Minister of Cults and Religions Min Khin said Thursday that the ministry conducted meetings with monks and layman committees to research the problem after Hun Sen first mentioned the layman shortage in May.

He said a workshop on the issue was scheduled for August.

To solve the problem, Min Khin said officials needed to establish national standards for the training of laymen and to distribute educational materials throughout the country.

Also Wednesday, Hun Sen criticised the practice of cake-cutting at wedding celebrations, a practice he said was more appropriate for foreigners than for Cambodians.

Regional rail plans
In the same address, Hun Sen called on ASEAN member states to contribute financial support to the Cambodian stretches of the projected ASEAN railway project.

"Other countries say it is an ASEAN railway ... why should it be only Cambodia who pays for it?" he asked.

"It is true the railway will be built on Khmer territory, but it will benefit all ASEAN nations, so they should pay to help build it," he said.

Much of Cambodia's rail system is in disrepair, so renovations could prove expensive.

Hun Sen said he would need to consider the costs of any proposed railway project before approving it, adding that it should be profitable in the long term.

New homes in Kandal for scavenger families

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Christopher Shay

With Habitat for Humanity's help, 21 families from dump are to receive homes in November.

DURING the launch of its Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project on Wednesday, Habitat for Humanity Cambodia announced plans to build 21 homes for city residents who used to make their living scavenging from garbage at the Stung Meanchey dump before it was closed earlier this week.

The new homes will be built near Udong mountain in Kandal province, where an Australian couple, Paul and Aileen Munn, purchased a 3,000-square-metre plot of land for the community.

Construction work for the project, called the Mekong Build, will take place in November at sites in five countries, including Cambodia's Udong site. Over five days, hundreds of volunteers from around the world will work with the communities to construct new homes.

Former US president Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, will volunteer their time for the build, but they have not disclosed the site at which they plan to work.

Habitat for Humanity Country Director Bernadette Bolo-Duthy said the organisation would not be giving away new homes, as families will be required to pay US$15 per month for five years and put in at least 250 hours of construction work.

Bolo-Duthy said the houses would be built with local materials.

Chea Chandy, the leader of the community, which has been named the "New Life Community", said the proximity to Udong mountain, a popular tourist destination, and to a number of garment factories would the give the community ample employment opportunities.

Chea Chandy said he believed the new homes near Udong mountain would give the community a new lease on life.

"I hope the new generation will have bright opportunities for their lives," he said at the launch event.

Mu Sochua prepares to face Hun Sen lawsuit

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Meas Sokchea

SAM Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua was set to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court this morning to defend herself against a defamation lawsuit filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May.

Mu Sochua said Wednesday that she would appear alone to answer the charges, given that her lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, had resigned and defected to the ruling Cambodian People's Party earlier this month.

The opposition lawmaker has repeatedly said she would rather go to jail than pay a fine if convicted, though SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Thursday that the party would happily pay any fine levied against her.

"Mu Sochua's stance is different from the party," he said. "The SRP sees that the court is not independent or fair. Even if we continue the case to the top, she will still lose it. We do not want go on. We want to take time to help people who are facing difficulties."

But Mu Sochua said she was still willing to go to jail.

"I haven't changed my mind, but if the party wants to say this, then it is up to the party," she said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said he believes the SRP should take the case to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court if Mu Sochua is found guilty of defamation today.

Plotting an NGO 'exit plan'

Philippe Berneau, the last Cambodian country director of Medecins sans Frontieres Belgium

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Sebastian Strangio

AT the end of the month, Med-ecins sans Frontieres (MSF) Belgium will close its Cambodian office after more than two dec-ades in the country. Outgoing MSF Belgium country director Philippe Berneau spoke with the Post about his four years in the country and what the future might hold for health NGOs working in Cambodia.

Could you elaborate on why MSF has decided to withdraw from Cambodia?
The main reason is that our mandate at MSF focuses on unstable contexts, where people are victims of either natural catastrophes or conflicts. And today Cambodia does not fit much with this. We have embarked upon some projects that we could not leave after six months - like HIV/AIDS projects - and at the time we started them it was really an emergency, and the problem was amongst the greatest in Asia. So we had to finish it, and hand it over properly to the Ministry of Health. Otherwise, I think we would have left earlier.

What challenges do you think still exist in Cambodia, and does the government have the capacity to deal with them?
Definitely. Cambodia today is not a country where you have a gap in terms of the health labour force, compared with countries like Malawi and Mozambique, where the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has affected the health labour force. There are not enough nurses [and] doctors in those places. We have enough doctors [in Cambodia]; it's not like 20 years ago. What we hope the government has is a willingness now to deal with remaining health challenges, and for us one of the biggest ones is mother and child health. If you look at the health indicators for the past 10 years, it is one of the few that has not improved. It's even a bit worse compared with 10 years ago, which is unacceptable when you see that Cambodia today has the capital to deal with diseases like HIV/AIDS.

In addition to your HIV/AIDS programmes, what else was MSF Belgium involved in?
The first 10 years was the rehabilitation of the system: training the staff, providing drugs in 10 to 20 hospitals. We built more than 200 structures in 20 years, which is quite impressive. This was until the end of the '90s, [when] there was a basis to start more elaborate projects. We focused on three main issues. The first was malaria in [Pailin, Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap] where we launched the idea of early diagnosis and treatment of plasmodium falciparum in very remote places. From 2003 to 2006, the prevalence went from 7.8 percent to something like 1.6, so the strategy was very successful.

Then we started HIV/AIDS [programmes] in 2002. And like in many places, there was a reluctance from the Ministry of Health to start providing anti-retroviral therapy to the patients, because it is a treatment for life and at that time was very expensive. The second [objective] was to address new public-health challenges, and diabetes is really a big one at the moment in Cambodia: You have a 10 percent prevalence in urban areas, and in the countryside you have a prevalence of 5 or 6 percent, which is much bigger than HIV/AIDS, which is 0.9 percent.

How do you see the role of health NGOs in Cambodia?
We were able to start the anti-drug-resistant tuberculosis programme very easily here, but we've been trying for three years in China, where it's really an emergency and thousands of people are going to die, and we weren't able to manage it.

There is also a tendency now in many countries ... to have a more structured approach regarding the humanitarian needs in a country. I have to confess that sometimes we come in and say "we want to do this", and we don't even bother asking if this is what [Cambodians] want. It is true that we are very arrogant - sometimes too much. To streamline the action of the NGOs and really try and tackle the challenges of the Ministry of Health is very positive. What is not positive for me is that we need to keep some space for creativity, for initiative. The problem with the NGOs today is that they are funded by donors, so what they do, and I cannot blame them, is follow where the money is going. It's very tricky.

Do you think Cambodia is in danger of aid dependency?
It's a danger, sure. I don't know if it's so much a danger for the government itself, but rather for the people. Our diabetes patients would often say "I wish I had AIDS", because then they would get money for rice and transport to the hospital. It sounds crazy, but this is the reality, and I understand them.

I could see it especially in projects where we stayed 15 years, because after 15 years people think that you are here for life. In a few places where we had to build the capacity for HIV/AIDS, we said we'd do it only for one year. We evaluated those projects after one or two years, and they were functioning. For me it has been very interesting to compare this experience to the experience of [the] hospital where we stayed 15 years - I don't think that the quality of care is what we achieved after one year [in the HIV/AIDS project].

Do you think it makes sense for health NGOs to have an exit plan?
Ideally, yes. But I think that it creates a constructive dynamic to say that you will stay one or two years, then withdraw. Maybe you will come back after that, but at least you are making people responsible, and this is something that we don't do ourselves very often. At the same time, I think that there are some countries where you just can't have a strategy, and HIV/AIDS is a good example. Anywhere where we started HIV/AIDS projects around the world, at the beginning we didn't have an exit plan because there was nobody else. So the exit strategy was built along the road, as the price of the drugs decreased, and it became possible to say we could handle all those patients.


Ethanol plant planned

A farmer stands in his cassava field in Preah Vihear province

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
May Kunmakara

China's largest oil and gas company CNPC is looking to invest $58m in a plant that would process cassava, says govt source

AN official at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) is looking to invest US$58 million in an ethanol plant that would use cassava as its raw material to generate fuel.

CNPC is China's largest oil and gas producer.

The official, who would not allow his name to be used, said the ministry has not decided on the proposal since the factory would require 40 million to 50 million tonnes of cassava annually - about 15 times current domestic production.

"It would be a great benefit for our farmers who are struggling to find markets for their cassava yields," the official said, adding that the CNPC project would be funded by a Chinese government loan.

The project would require a huge amount of land, he said, and because concessions are contentious, the ministry needs to discuss the proposal with other ministries and government officials.

"So far we haven't identified a concession area because it would be so big, and also [CNPC] hasn't yet received the money from its government," he said. "So we are not sure about the project - they have simply come to ask for permission."

Cambodian law states that a land concession cannot be larger than 10,000 hectares.

Khem Chenda, the ministry's administrative director, said that, in the past, cassava was exported to Vietnam and Thailand. However, since the global economic crisis hit, most buyers have stopped purchasing. As a result, prices have halved from $100 per tonne last year.

"Cassava farmers are only able to sell to neighbouring countries at a very low price, so I would be happy if we could find a new market that would generate a more suitable price," Khem Chanda said.

Cambodia has 180,000 hectares of land producing 3.7 million tonnes of cassava, he said, with both figures up two-thirds since 2007.

Extrapolating those figures means the country would need to turn over a further 2.25 million hectares to cassava production. That represents an unrealistic 12.5 percent of Cambodia's entire land area, so buying cassava from outside Cambodia would be the only feasible option for the factory at its proposed size.

Lann Chhorn, deputy governor of Kampong Cham province, many of whose farmers grow cassava, said prices are so low that villagers are selling cassava in the markets and to buyers in Vietnam for just 200 riels [$0.05] per kilogram.

"I will be really pleased if we can get more markets for our local farmers and better prices as that will encourage them in this business."

Police Blotter: 24 Jul 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Kong Sokun

A mugger was caught by Sen Sok district police after he used his helmet to smack a civil servant in the head when he was urinating along National Road 2 in Sen Sok district. Police identified the perpetrator as Sreong Ly Heang, a 24-year-old construction worker, living in the district's Toeuk Thla commune. Seriously injured Seng Sokthy, 58, residing in Chamkarmon district, said he was robbed of US$480 and several important documents.

A group of five dishonest merchants all residing in Prey Veng province were arrested by Svay Rieng provincial police on July 18 for illegally transporting reptiles and fish from the provincial Fisheries Department. Police confiscated a pickup truck carrying 79 kilograms of snakes, 54 kilograms of eels and 5 kilograms of fish. Police officials claimed that the perpetrators - of whom one is Vietnamese, Lu Thy, 32 - used the name of a high-ranking government official to threaten police.

Three monks from Kra Soum Por Thiram pagoda and a student were nabbed by Siem Reap provincial police for escorting a 22-year-old woman to drink gin in a beer garden on Tuesday. Police identified the monks as Tep Sophoan, 40, Ghean Savuth, 27, and Ghov Sok, 19, who is the boyfriend of Kin Bun Phin, residing in Svay Dangkum commune. Ghov Sok and his girlfriend confessed to police that they used to exchange kisses in the pagoda and in public places after drinking wine and returning from a karaoke parlor.

An editor-in-chief of unknown newspaper Sangkum Cheat was arrested by Tuol Kok district police Tuesday for plotting a murder and robbing a doctor of a black Honda Wave and Nokia cell phone on April 17. The suspect was identified as Tum Chouk Veasna, 43, living in the district's Phsar Depo II commune. After the arrest, the perpetrator confessed that he had exchanged the motorbike for three packages of methamphetamine, US$40 and a cell phone.

Reon Yein, 18, a young monk at Battambang's Sla Ket pagoda, committed suicide by hanging himself Wednesday. Police and other monks at the pagoda in Battambang's Sla Ket village, claimed the suicide likely stemmed from personal hopelessness or family problems, as the monk was a poor student.

Construction projects approvals fall this year

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Chun Sophal and Soeun Say

FEWER construction projects were approved in the first half of 2009 than a year earlier, but the value rose by a third on the back of a spate of requests to build business centres, shopping centres and upmarket hotels, a senior official told the Post.

Lao Tip Seiha, director of the construction department at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the ministry approved 1,142 projects worth US$1.14 billion in the first six months of the year. The number of projects approved was down 61 on the corresponding period for 2008, but the value was up 33 percent from $855 million, he said.

The increase in average value was due to an increase in "enormous construction projects" approved, he said, but declined to release a detailed list.

"We hope that capital investment for construction projects will keep going up, so people will stop fearing the ... world economic crisis and pay attention to their opportunity to construct buildings," Lao Tip Seiha said.

He added that approvals of locally funded projects had increased, while approvals of projects from offshore financers had decreased. He again declined to provide figures.

National Valuers Association of Cambodia President Sung Bonna warned that not all of the projects approved would see the light of day. Investors were still hesitant due to ongoing concerns over the impact of the global financial crisis, he said, and many who had sought approval were merely testing the waters and had not committed to developments.

"The government has not actually received any capital investment, and there have been no financial transactions," he said. "They have simply received registered construction projects."

A controversial financial edict from the Ministry of Finance requiring developers to deposit 2 percent of the cost of planned projects with the ministry is still to be enforced. It was due to come into effect last September but was delayed amid an outcry from developers over some aspects of the proposed prakas.

Ministry figures show 2,156 projects worth $3.191 billion were approved in 2008.

New national airline to fly to HCMC daily

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Kay Kimsong

THE Kingdom's new national carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), announced Thursday its first international route with its newly published flight schedule. CAA revealed it will fly to Ho Chi Minh City effective from July 28.

CAA is a joint venture between the government and state-owned Vietnam Airlines. Prime Minister Hun Sen is to preside over CAA's official launch Sunday at the Hotel InterContinental.

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon told the Post Thursday that the launch is a key part of the government's tourism promotion strategy.

"The aim is to provide flights from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap because large cruise ships now dock in Sihanoukville," he said.

CAA will eventually link both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap with Sihanoukville International Airport, which was recently upgraded.

Thong Khon said flights would not use Sihanoukville International Airport until it officially opens later this year.

Prime Minister Hun Sen invited French President Nicolas Sarkozy to attend the opening of the airport, which is operated by French firm SCA, during his official visit to France last week.

Thong Khon announced that CAA will fly the Siem Reap-Bangkok run too. In the long term, the minister said, CAA would look at flying to Europe.

CAA's released schedule shows it will fly four daily return flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, as well as one daily return flight between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh, and a separate nonstop return flight between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap.

Ho Vandy, co-chair of the Private Sector Working Group on Tourism, said Thursday he is pleased to see a national carrier with domestic air fares as low as the promotional fee of US$8 one way.

"Once CAA is up and running, then this will help to ensure its competitors lower their air fares, too," he said.

Malaysian bank HwangDBS opens Cambodian branch

National Bank of Cambodia Governor Chea Chanto (second from left) opens the first HwangDBS branch in Cambodia with the bank’s senior executives.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Nguon Sovan and Ith Sothoeuth

Kuala Lumpur-based lender becomes 28th commercial bank to launch in the Kingdom with official opening of new branch in Phnom Penh

THE nation's 28th commercial bank - Malaysia's HwangDBS - launched in Phnom Penh on Thursday. Chea Chanto, the governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, told attendees at the opening ceremony the new entrant reflected increasing confidence by Malaysian and Singaporean investors in the banking system.

"HwangDBS Commercial bank is the fourth Malaysian bank to have invested in Cambodia so far, and its equity is 100-percent held by Hwang- DBS Berhad, composed of Malaysian and Singaporean shareholders," said Chea Chanto.

The NBC is Cambodia's central bank and also acts as the banking regulator.

"The central bank continues to support a culture of free and fair competition to ensure reasonable interest-rate levels on loans for both borrowers and lenders," he said.

Alex Hwang, the CEO of HwangDBS Investment Bank, told a press briefing after the launch that the bank would target loans to individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises. The bank has US$20 million of initial capital.

Other bankers said the increasing number of foreign banks was bringing tough competition, as they typically have access to large amounts of capital.

Pung Kheav Se, president of Canadia Bank, told the Post on Thursday he does not expect the influx of foreign banks will affect local banks to a great extent, but agreed loan rates would be dragged lower.

"Most importantly, [foreign banks] bring in fixed capital, and Cambodia lacks capital for economic development. Cambodia's economy is still emerging," he said. "[Foreign banks] don't expect to earn money at the present time - they are just building up their positions and envisaging future potential."

Chhay Soeun, the executive vice president and chief financial officer of ACLEDA Bank, said foreign banks see the Kingdom as a good opportunity.

"Economically speaking, interest rates are low in their own countries with few opportunities to invest. But in Cambodia, an emerging market, businesses and investors need capital to expand, and interest rates here are high compared to developed countries, so they can make more profit," he said. "Also, they see political stability, and that boosts the confidence of foreign investors."

Chhay Soeun said ACLEDA raised its annual fixed-deposit rate to 7 percent from 6.5 percent last year, while cutting loan rates by 2 percent to between 10 and 14 percent for large and medium-sized loans.

"Competition means we need to lower our loan rates," he said.

Kingdom's car dealers running on empty in economic downturn

Photo by: Kay Kimsong
Narita Motorcare Cambodia Managing Director Narith Long.

PROFILE Narith Long

Career With no previous experience in the car industry, he decided to launch Narita in 2006 on the advice of friends and family and based on the belief that vehicle sales would increase in Cambodia. As head of the new Nissan dealer, Narith Long hired 16 staff. He now manages 25 employees.

The slowdown that hit the nation's three major sectors ... left car dealers facing a big challenge.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Seng Sovan

Narith Long, managing director of Cambodia’s official Nissan dealer, says sales are still stale


By Kay Kimsong

How much has the global economic crisis affected the automobile business in Cambodia?
It has seriously affected sales. Vehicles sales tracked the growth in the real estate industry, so the decline in real estate has seriously affected us.

Some customers are awaiting the arrival of new business trends. They have cash, but they are holding on to it for now.

Does your firm offer financing for its customers?
We don't, but we do cooperate with some of the commercial banks.

However, the banks are being more restrictive with vehicle loans these days and tend to ask a lot of questions.

The banks provide financing for a few of their best customers - they are very selective.

Despite that, we continue to import models that meet local demand, and we are strengthening our sales strategy and the quality of management.

We have to make sure that we serve people as well as we possibly can.

Who exactly is your target market?
It is mainly the middle class and wealthy, and those people who are about to make the transition to the middle-class.

They are mostly businesspeople who want a pickup that combines the convenience of a family car with that of a vehicle that can carry goods.

How do sales in the first six months of this year compare with those for the same period last year?
The slowdown that hit the nation's three major sectors of agriculture, tourism and real estate left car dealers facing a big challenge.

Our sales are down 50 percent. [In the first half of 2008] there was no impact from the economic downturn, but between January and June this year we have been seriously affected.

That said, I have noticed this month signs of an upturn in the car industry, and I expect sales will pick up by 2010.

You have just launched the new Nissan Navara model. What features does this vehicle have that you think will help attract buyers?
The Nissan Navara is produced in one factory and distributed around the world.

The vehicle is tough and needs less fuel than its predecessor, and it's comfortable.
It also emits less pollution.

If the current conditions continue for another four or five years, how will your business cope?
It's hard to believe that the economy will be on hold for the next five years.

As a car dealer we retain confidence in the automobile market even when the economy slows - people still need old or new cars to get around in.

I am not that negative about the economy. As long as people have food to eat, there will be demand for cars.

I recall the Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh announcing that the government would consider a policy forbidding the import of cars manufactured before 2000. Do you consider that to be a good policy?
If this policy is put in place and properly implemented, then it would certainly help car distributors.
It is also the case that secondhand cars are not as good quality [as new vehicles] and can be more dangerous.

Used cars also pollute the environment more.

The streets of Cambodia - especially Phnom Penh - are very busy. Is there anything that vehicles dealers can do to help minimise accidents in the Kingdom?
We are talking to our international partners about helping society by educating people to respect the traffic laws.

That is a long-term plan, but it will help to cut traffic accidents.

How difficult is it for licensed dealers like yourself to compete with smuggled vehicles?
We do have a problem with this. As a company operating legally, we pay a 100 percent import tax on the vehicles we bring in.

If the government can completely ban vehicle smuggling, then both distributors and the government will benefit.

Finally, what is your marketing strategy for the next five years?
We are focusing on our retail outlet. Our sales are built on three strategies: dependability, reliability, and maintenance.

Those are the key basic services. We are also focused on providing a quality product.

This interview was conducted, condensed and edited by Post staff.

Forte to celebrate anniversary

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Kay Kimsong

DOMESTIC insurer Forte Insurance will mark its 10th anniversary at a reception on Saturday at the NagaWorld Hotel and Casino.

Managing Director Carlo Cheo said Forte had increased its gross premium income 33 percent annually since 2000, outpacing the double-digit annual growth seen across the domestic insurance sector as a whole.

The sector was starting from a low base but is growing strongly and has a bright future, he said.

"The recession doesn't really impact the insurance industry," he said. "If you look at the infrastructure and construction activity going on, this will help the sector grow rapidly. We are pretty excited about the future of Cambodia."

He added that the discovery of oil and gas also augured well for the sector's prospects.

According to a statement issued by Forte to mark the anniversary, 14 local staff had received insurance certificates from the Malaysian Insurance Institute or the Chartered Insurance Institute of the UK over the last decade.

Forte provides six classes of insurance products including automobile, casualty, property, engineering and marine cargo.

Tennis federation to host Kids Day

Tennis coach Robert Davis (centre) gives expert tuition to members of the Cambodian national tennis team at the Cambodian Country Club Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009

Media event at the Cambodia Country Club aims to promote the development of local talent through the Tennis Federation of Cambodia's Mini-Tennis programme to teach youngsters

THE Tennis Federation of Cambodia (TFC) is holding a Kids Day today at the Cambodia Country Club (CCC) in order to promote the sport in the country and continue their search for talented youngsters to represent the national team in the future. The event is sponsored by local garment manufacturers Amnig, and benefits from free use of the facilities at the CCC.

TFC have received a huge boost to their development from the CCC, which has donated a plot of land next to their existing tennis courts for the construction of a national training centre.

The CCC have offered a five-year lease on the land, of which the Federation will only be eligible to pay rent on during the last two years, with three hard courts and a temporary clubhouse scheduled for construction to be completed by early 2010. A permanent clubhouse and dormitory for players is also planned to begin construction at the end of 2010.

"This is a great deal," said TFC General Secretary Tep Rithivit of the CCC's pledge. "It's easily enough to kickstart our junior development programme. The TFC is very excited to be associated with responsible Cambodian companies that are giving back to the community."

Tep Rithivit, the driving force behind the development of Cambodian tennis, is the son of former Cambodian No 1 player Tep Khunnah, the late tennis legend of the 1950s and 60s, who competed in the Davis Cup. He is remembered each year by means of a weeklong tournament entitled the Tep Khunnah Memorial Cup, which will be held for the 14th time this year in November.

The TFC is also busy organising its second edition of the Cambodian Open, to also be held at the CCC from August 21 til the final August 30.

Cambodia's greatest tennis achievement in recent times came in the 2007 SEA Games in Korat, Thailand, with Nysan Tan capturing the bronze medal in the men's singles. The 20-year-old Nysan Tan has since moved to France, his birth country, to continue his training. He plays for Levallois Tennis Club in Paris. Another promising talent is Kenny Bun, 19, who is also training in his birth country of France, playing for AS PTT club in Metz. Both players are under contract with the TFC, which will see them return to Southeast Asia in November to compete in the Tep Khunnah Memorial Cup and then the Southeast Asian Games in Laos in December.

Robert Davis joins the cause
The 2007 SEA Games also sparked a close friendship between Tep Rithivit and American Robert Davis, who at the time was coaching the defeated Thai opposition of Nysan Tan. Davis was inspired by Tep Rithivit's emotional response to his player's winning the bronze medal, and has since pledged to help the TFC by volunteering his services as international consultant specialist, which will see him dedicate 20 weeks a year to coaching here.

Davis has a proven track record of developing players and producing gold medal-winning teams, having coached at Grand Slam level and men's and women's teams in the Davis Cup and Fed Cup. His 19 years of coaching experience has seen him travel to countries such as Peru, Panama and Indonesia. The TFC hopes to learn invaluable lessons from him, including the latest coaching techniques and how to control groups of children.

"I am very excited to be a part of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia," said Davis on Thursday. "Cham Prasidh [resident of the TFC] and Rithivit Tep have created an incredible synergy here. From sponsors to volunteers, coaches and players alike are full of enthusiasm for tennis.

"Cambodia tennis has the ability and desire to make great improvements. What they have lacked in the past are the opportunities. Now, thanks to Cambodia Country Club they have a permanent training site."

Davis also paid tribute to the clothing donations from Amnig. "National team uniforms have given the kids and coaches a sense of pride," he noted. "They are working very hard on the mission to compete at their very best for the upcoming SEA Games."

Mini-Tennis brings in youths
The TFC hopes to attract and nurture future talent through its grassroots Mini-Tennis and Education programme, started in 2005 and which already collaborates with 20 public schools across Phnom Penh and 5,000 enrolled students to teach basic tennis skills and encourage competitive playing.

Mini-Tennis is a scaled-down version of the sport played with plastic rackets and soft balls, which the TFC provide to introduce young players to tennis, with Cambodian children encouraged to practice further at the schools to polish their skills in preparation for any of the three annual tournaments organised by the TFC.

Today's schedule kicks off at 10am with a training session for the national team coached by Robert Davies. Then at 11:45am, 30 children from the Mini-Tennis programme will showcase their skills to the public and media with the TFC keen to stress the importance of such a programme as key to the future of tennis in Cambodia. Plans to extend the number of participating schools in Phnom Penh to 30 are underway through newly appointed TFC Technical Director Eric Delacollette, who also aims to improve the standard of youth coaches.

At 12:45pm, a short press conference with federation officials will be followed by a sportswear presentation by managing director of Amnig Sportswear Colin Y H Cheang. Amnig are making a multifaceted contribution to tennis in Cambodia, most notably dressing the entire national team in their brand of sportswear, including training suits and tennis shoes for both players and coaches, as well as supplying official attire for the upcoming Cambodian Open.

Malaysian-born Cheang has also sponsored 10 of his staff members to take up tennis in Cambodia, in the hope that their interest will inspire others to take up the game. "Cambodian tennis suffers from a lack of exposure," he said. "In Malaysia, it is compulsory for housing estates to have sporting facilities, and these often consist of tennis courts. My hope is that one day Cambodia will have tennis courts spread all over the country."

Tennis is anyone's game
Cheang noted that despite its reputation as an elitist sport, tennis is not especially expensive to play once facilities have been built. "It's a good sport," Cheang remarked. "It can be played by old and young, fast and slow, and it's a healthy activity. If everybody puts in the effort, tennis will be popular in Cambodia."

Judging by the relentless efforts of Tep Rithivit, Robert Davis and other members of the TFC, as well as the generosity of sponsors, the future of tennis in Cambodia looks brighter than ever.

Young players to get feeder league

Photo by: NICK SELLS
FFC Vice President Khek Ravy has announced plans to form a reserves league.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Ken Gadaffi

The Cambodian Football Federation proposes establishment of a youth league parallel to the Cambodian Premier League to allow inexperienced players to gain extra match practice

FFC plan to create reserves league
Khek Ravy, vice president of the Cambodian Football Federation (FFC), has announced plans for an additional league to the Cambodian Premier League (CPL) to help develop young and emerging talent of the clubs. "We are happy with the progress we are making [with the CPL]," said Khek Ravy. "But we need to set a benchmark for our league to be more professional. We are looking into setting up a youth or feeder team league, because in the 2009 season teams were requested to register at least 30 players, and with that most teams have younger players who don't get to play [regularly]."

The FFC is hoping that this extra league will provide the younger players an opportunity to play week in, week out, mirroring the practice in Europe, where there are reserve leagues and youth competitions to help players gain match experience despite being left out of the first team.

Khek Ravy, who doubles as the CPL organising committee president, also noted the federation's awareness of some players' concerns over breach of contract. "From 2010, there will be a tripartite contract arrangement between clubs, players and the FFC," he asserted. "Thus if a club breaches the contract, players can bring complaints to the FFC for arbitration, and any club who does not adhere to this will be taken to the world soccer governing body FIFA."

Meanwhile in a separate interview, the spokesman of the soccer federation, Deputy General Secretary May Tola, stated that the federation is looking into having a full- time executive board in their secretariat. Currently, nearly all the members of the executive committee are working for the federation part time, which seems to be impeding the work of the federation. It is hoped that by 2010, nearly 80 percent, if not all, will be working full time.

Ministries play volleyball match
Cambodia's Ministry of Interior volleyball team will head to Vietnam next week to play a friendly against their Vietnamese counterparts. The Cambodian team defeated the Vietnamese Ministry of Interior side last year by three sets to one, and are looking to repeat the feat in the match scheduled for Tuesday.

The Cambodian ministry team smashed past the Cambodian national team in straight sets in a warm-up match, scoring 24-23, 25-17 and 25-23. The ministry side, coached by Ky Mengham and Bun Chunkim, played the Cambodian national team at the indoor hall of the Olympic Stadium Wednesday morning. Spokesman of the Ministry of Interior team Ky Sethy revealed that the game coming up in Vietnam is to foster a good relationship between the two countries. "The [Cambodian] team is getting stronger and has confidence to win in Vietnam," Ky Sethy said after their victory at the Olympic Stadium.

Photo by: NICK SELLS
Cambodian national team coach Scott O’Donell watches the CPL game Wednesday at Olympic Stadium.

O'Donell summons 40 for selection
Cambodian national team coach Scott O'Donell has called up 40 players to a training camp next week in preparation for the forthcoming Southeast Asian Games in Laos this December. Players have been drawn from CPL teams and a few youth sides across the country.

"We have invited 40 players for the first phase to be screened to 25 later," O'Donell said. "All the players are notable, so I cannot tell you any player [selected] now, but I will surely have a hard time screening to the final 25."

The coach revealed that the Ministry of Defence team is the main contributor with nine players invited.

After the conclusion of next week's session, O'Donell said he will publish the selected 25, who will train twice a week with him until the end of the Cambodian Premier League season September 26, after which they will train full time.

The coach is also working with the FFC to organise tune-up matches to perfect strategies ahead of the SEA games. International friendly matches both at home and away will be played after the CPL has drawn to a close.

Kirivong crisis still looming
Him Salam's dramatic stoppage time equaliser for Kirivong Sok Sen Chey last Saturday against Post Tel may have saved their coaching staff's jobs for another week at least, but after a week of crisis meetings with Chairman Leang Khoun yet to follow through on a threat to walk out on the club, things still rest on a knife edge.

Claims of divisions within the club have done little to appease the situation, with rumours of rifts between foreign and local players, Muslim and Buddhist members and even Phnom Penh- and Takeo-based management.

There appears to be numerous places to point the finger for their recent slide down the table. Vice Chairman Ing Kimleang stated that the problem lies with Vietnamese coach Lou Foekten not being respected by the players due to a lack of authority. Director of Administration Somay Sokhea noted that some players were found to be drinking out late on the eve a match, thus leading to a string of bad results. However, a source from within the Kirivong camp, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said that these same players were out drinking until late during the early part of the season, when they were winning matches.

Other players who also refused to be named have denied allegations levied against the squad member, deflecting the blame to the division in the technical crew and the incessant changes of coaching staff. Kirivong have had a high turnover of coaches in the last 12 months, with players not given time to adapt to a coach's system before he is booted out.

"Its true that we have changed coaches more frequently, and that may be part of the problem, but we are going to steady the ship soon," declared Somay Sokhea.

Former Kirivong coach Andrew Ehiwarior, who had an exemplary record of saving the team from relegation on more than one occasion, has expressed his exasperation with the management. "Kirivong have simply refused to learn from their past mistakes," he stated, noting that the club's past record with Vietnamese coaches is not encouraging.

Ehiwarior, who is favoured by Ing Kimleang and Somay Sokea, remains optimistic that if called upon, he will do his utmost to salvage the team. "My heart has always been with Kirivong," he remarked. "You never say never in football, so lets see what happens at the end of the day."

All photos by Nick Sells

Pitching baseball to Cambodia

Joe Cook (centre, holding photograph) poses with his Cambodian national baseball team. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 24 July 2009
Bruce Baskin

Joe Cook, a Cambodian refugee brought up in America, has made it his goal to establish the sport he loves so much in the land of his ancestors

WHEN Joe Cook managed the Cambodian National Baseball Team to its first win ever last month against Malaysia at the Asian Games in Bangkok, he did what managers are supposed to do. He made out the starting lineup, ordered pitching changes and talked strategy with coaches during the game. Nothing unusual about that, except that Cook was managing the Cambodian team thousands of miles away in the United States, where his job as a chef at a restaurant forced him to prepare meals with one hand whilst running his team via a mobile phone in the other. An entirely unlikely scenario ... unless you know Joe Cook.

Cook, whose real name is Jouert Puk, was born in Cambodia in 1970, and his earliest years were spent during the final days of the Vietnam War and the horrific Pol Pot regime. His life was made more difficult during the Khmer Rouge period, because his father had been a Cambodian military officer, marking Cook and his family for harsh interrogation. Finally, in 1978, Cook, his oldest brother and their mother fled the country barefoot - one of Joe's legs was mangled by a trip mine during the exodus - and the next four years of Cook's life were spent shuttling between various Asian refugee camps before a Christian mission settled the 12-year-old with an American family in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Joe Cook was penniless, spoke no English and only had the clothes on his back when he arrived in America in 1982. The lonely youth happened upon a baseball game among other kids one day, and through mime and gesticulation was able to convey his desire to try playing this strange new sport. He was let into the game, and a love affair with baseball was spawned.

Cook eventually learned English, graduated from high school, got married and landed a job as a chef in a Japanese restaurant in Dothan, Alabama, where he picked up the name "Joe Cook". Life went on until he got the news in 2002 that a sister he'd believed had been murdered by the Khmer Rouge was alive and living in Cambodia. They arranged to meet near the Thai border, and during the visit, he promised his sister's children that he'd return someday and teach them this strange American game called baseball.

That promise has since blossomed into the Cambodia Baseball Federation (CBF), which Cook runs from his home in the US. His tireless efforts over the past seven years have led to thousands of gloves, bats, balls and other baseball equipment being shipped into Cambodia, where they are distributed among schoolchildren. In 2005, Cook spearheaded the drive to build Cambodia's first real baseball field in the village of Baribo, 110 kilometres west of Phnom Penh in Kampong Chhnang province. Cook also formed the Cambodian National Team in 2007, and hopes to organise a Cambodian baseball league with teams of the country's top players this winter.

However, Cook's remarkable success at building a sport so far from his residence has come at a cost. The hours he spends managing the CBF are daunting enough, but he has also spent over US$300,000 of his own money to keep the nonprofit organisation alive, big bucks for a chef in Alabama. It's nearly cost him his marriage, and the stress brought on by a combination of distance, lack of funds and bureaucratic red tape has led to many sleepless nights for the 39-year-old father of two. Even so, he pursues his version of the field of dreams with a deep passion.

As baseball slowly grows in popularity amongst kids in Cambodia, plans to install a feeder system for the National Team, who coming off their historic win over Malaysia in June, are under way.

Now Joe Cook's dream doesn't look so impossible after all.

Children earns about US $2 per day, while skipping school classes to collect scraps at a dam site of Steung Meanchey

A 15 year-old Phan Vuth, center, eats cooked corns at a dam site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 23, 2009. Those children earns about US $2 per day, while skipping school classes to do it. Cambodia's capital authority on early this week has moved the garbage dam of Steung Meanchey to a new location on the capital's outskirts, said authority official.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A 15 year-old Phan Vuth makes his way to collect scraps at a dam site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 23, 2009. Those children earn about US $2 per day, while skipping school classes to do it. Cambodia's capital authority on early this week has moved the garbage dam of Steung Meanchey to a new location on the capital's outskirts, said authority official.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
Cambodian boys make their way to collect scraps at a dam site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, July 23, 2009. Those children earn a bout US $2 per day, while skipping school classes to do it. Cambodia's capital authority on early this week has moved the garbage dam of Steung Meanchey to a new location on the capital's outskirts, said authority official.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Clinton: NKorea running out of options on nukes

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pakistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi address the media prior to a bilateral meeting Thursday, July 23, 2009, at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket, Thailand. (AP Photo/David Longstreath, Pool)

Associated Press

North Korea refused to re-enter talks to terminate its nuclear weapons program Thursday despite a united front of Asian nations spearheaded by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to get it back to the bargaining table.

Warning that Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions could spark an arms race in the region, Clinton said the U.S. will continue to vigorously enforce tough U.N. sanctions, insist that it "irreversibly denuclearize" and press for a return to so-called six-party negotiations.

But she held out the prospect of restoring U.S. diplomatic ties and other incentives _ actions the Obama administration would be willing to consider if the North Koreans dismantle their nuclear program.

Clinton said the communist regime had "no friends left," citing near unanimity among Asian nations, including China, on fully enforcing the latest U.N. sanctions against North Korea for its repeated nuclear and missile tests.

"We urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks, look beyond the past and join others in finding the way forward," said Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who hosted the ASEAN Regional Forum, a security conference among 27 countries and organizations that ended Thursday.

Clinton, who trumpeted Washington's renewed involvement in Asia during the conference, departed the resort island for Washington, wrapping up a weeklong trip to India and Thailand.

"North Korea's continued pursuit of its nuclear ambitions is sure to elevate tensions on the Korean peninsula and could provoke an arms race in the region," Clinton told a news conference before her departure.

Just moments before she spoke, a spokesman for the North Korean delegation said his government will not return to talks with the U.S., Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, citing the "deep-rooted anti-North Korean policy" of the United States.

"The six-party talks are over," Ri Hung Sik said, calling any proposed U.S. incentives "nonsense."

North Korea's Foreign Ministry, reacting to an earlier Clinton comment likening the regime to "small children" demanding attention, described her Thursday as "a funny lady" who sometimes "looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping."

While voicing sharp criticism of Myanmar, the military-ruled Southeast Asian nation also known as Burma, Clinton also praised it for committing to enforce the U.N. sanctions against North Korea, calling it important in light of Myanmar's suspected secret military links to the North.

Earlier, Clinton called on Myanmar to unconditionally release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest and faces a five-year prison term.

On North Korea, Clinton stressed a point she has made repeatedly _ that a fully nuclear North Korea might compel other countries in Asia to follow suit. She mentioned no names, but Japan and South Korea are thought to be among those that might go nuclear under circumstances in which they felt threatened by the North and less than fully confident of protection under a U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Clinton also said, "I wanted to make very clear that the United States does not seek any kind of offensive action against North Korea." She said a North Korean delegate at Thursday's meeting complained of being subjected to U.S. nuclear threats, but she said this showed a disconnect with reality, given that U.S. nuclear weapons were removed from South Korea nearly 20 years ago.

She said the world _ including China, which has been North Korea's most loyal supporter _ has made it clear to Pyongyang that it has "no place to go."

"They have no friends left that will protect them from the international community's efforts to move toward denuclearization," she said.

Clinton, who had no face-to-face meeting with the North Koreans in Phuket, said she was disappointed when the North Korean delegate refused to "recognize that North Korea has been on the wrong course" in his address to the conference.

"The question is: Where do we go from here?" she asked.

"The bottom line is this: If North Korea intends to engage in international commerce its vessels must conform to terms" of the U.N. sanctions, "or find no port," she said. "Our goal in enforcing these sanctions and others proposed earlier is not to create suffering or destabilize North Korea. Our quarrel is not with the North Korean people."

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said that the North's negotiating partners agreed in Phuket to "open the door for a dialogue" with Pyongyang while "faithfully" enforcing the U.N. sanctions.

Clinton said the Obama administration would soon send Philip Goldberg, its coordinator for implementing the U.N. sanctions that were approved by the U.N. Security Council in June, back to Asia for a new round of consultations on a joint enforcement strategy.

And, in what she called an illustration of U.S. concern about the welfare of North Korea's people, Clinton said the administration intends to appoint a special envoy to focus on North Korean human rights.

During her Thailand visit, Clinton repeatedly stressed that "the United States is back in Asia," seeking to intensify its involvement with the region on a wide range of issues after years of neglect by the former administration.

She wrapped up a flurry of meetings here with talks about the future of the Mekong River basin _ increasingly beset by environmental problems _ with Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

As a sign of its deepening commitment, she said Washington would soon open a mission to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, which hosted the conference. The mission, to be based in Jakarta, Indonesia, will be headed by an ambassador.


AP National Security Writer Robert Burns, and Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Mike Casey contributed to this report.

U.S. Collaboration with the Lower Mekong Countries on the Environment, Health and Education

US Department Of State
Bureau of Public Affairs
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC

July 23, 2009


On July 23, the first-ever group meeting of the U.S. Secretary of State and the Foreign Ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam took place in Phuket, Thailand to highlight the increasing cooperation between the United States and the Lower Mekong countries in the areas of the environment, health and education. Some activities currently underway include:

Environment: The U.S. will spend more than $7 million in 2009 on environmental programs in the Mekong Region. Programs in this area include:

- Development of “Forecast Mekong,” a predictive modeling tool to illustrate the impact of climate change and other challenges to the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin.
- An agreement between the Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission to pursue a “sister-river” partnership to improve the management of trans-boundary water resources.
- Support for projects that promote the sustainable use of forest and water resources, preserve the tremendous biodiversity of the Mekong Basin, and increase access to safe drinking water.
- The U.S. is seeking Congressional approval for an additional $15 million in 2010 for assistance related to improving food security in the Mekong countries.

Health: U.S. assistance to the Mekong countries in the health field will total over $138 million in 2009, and focus on the following areas:

- HIV/AIDS – working in partnership with Mekong countries, ongoing U.S. assistance has contributed to the 50% reduction in HIV/AIDS infection rate in Cambodia, and provided treatment and prevention services to over 2 million people across the region.
- Pandemic influenza – the U.S. has provided $95 million since 2006 to support ongoing programs in Mekong countries to prepare for, and respond to threats from, outbreaks of pandemic influenza.
- Malaria and tuberculosis – U.S. assistance supports the tracking, identification and treatment of multi- drug resistant malaria and TB in the Mekong region.
- Plans to hold a “U.S.-Mekong Conference on Integrated Approaches to Infectious Disease” in the next 6-9 months.

Education: U.S. assistance in the area of education for 2009 totals $16 million, including:

- Support for more than 500 student and scholarly exchanges with Mekong countries each year through the Fulbright Program and other educational programs.
- Support for increasing basic education enrollment and expanding broadband Internet connectivity in rural communities.
- Plans to hold a “U.S.-Mekong Forum on the Internet, Education and Development” to promote best practices and regional collaboration on the use of internet connectivity to foster development.

US in key environment meeting with Mekong countries

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

PHUKET, Thailand — The United States held an unprecedented meeting Thursday with countries from the lower Mekong basin in what Washington said showed its commitment to combating climate change in Asia.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the foreign ministers of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in the Thai island of Phuket during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.

Each country in the meetings pledged to set up working teams to discuss further cooperation on water resources, education and human resources development, Thai foreign ministry spokeswoman Vimon Kidchob said.

Low-lying areas around the Mekong, Southeast Asia's largest river, are considered some of the world's most vulnerable to climate change and there is concern over pollution levels in the water.

During their meeting, the five nations pledged to hold annual ministerial meetings to discuss progress.

"The US told Mekong countries it has had similar environmental problems with the Mississippi river, which resulted from natural and man-made causes," Vimon told reporters.

On Wednesday, Clinton said the meeting would discuss "our shared interests and our emerging partnership on issues related to water, health and the environment".

She also announced the US administration's "commitment to deepen our engagement in Asia on the critical issue of climate change".

They had asked Congress for a seven-fold increase in funding for climate change aid in the region, she said.

The Mekong is a vital source of protein for 60 million people who live along its lower basin and is the world's largest inland fishery.

The WWF said in June that pollution in the Mekong has pushed freshwater dolphins in Cambodia and Laos to the brink of extinction, sparking a furious Cambodian government denial.

The conservation group, which is investigating how environmental contaminants got into the Mekong, said it suspected that high levels of mercury found in some dead dolphins came from gold mining activities.

Thai Parliament Chief Pays a Visit

By Chiep Mony, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 July 2009

Thai Parliamentary President Chai Chidchob will pay his first official visit to Cambodia Thursday, in a tense political environment over contested border issues.

During his two-day visit Chai Chidchob is scheduled to see King Norodom Sihamoni and hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian counterparts, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Senate President Chea Sim.

Thai Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The visit, at the invitation of Heng Samrin, will hopefully strengthen cooperation between the two neighbors, said Cheam Yiep, a ruling party lawmaker.

Heng Samrin will seek a solution to the long-running border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, where soldiers on both sides have been engaged in a standoff for more than a year, Cheam Yiep said.

“We want the border issue to be resolved urgently and peacefully,” he said.

Heng Samrin will ask his counterpart for the return from the Thai government of artifacts stolen from Cambodia, Cheam Yiep said.

Investigations, Not Reactions: Global Witness

Original report from Phnom Penh
23 July 2009

Responding to public government criticism, the environmental watchdog Global Witness said in a statement Thursday it was disappointed the government had not investigated more of the group's claims.

"Over the past five years, Global Witness has collected evidence of deeply damaging exploitation of the country's forests, minerals, oil and gas," said Eleanor Nichol, a campaigner for Global Witness, referring to two reports currently banned by the government, "Cambodia's Family Trees" and "Country for Sale."

The group found "high-level corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, kidnapping and at least two cases of attempted murder," Nichol said in an e-mail to VOA Khmer. "To date, however, we have seen no credible investigation or public enquiry into our reports."

Nichol was responding to public criticism by government officials, including the Cambodian ambassador to the United Kingdom, who called on donors to the organization to hold it more responsible for information in its reports.

Global Witness has pointed to high-ranking corruption in timber, oil and minerals as causes for concern, but its reports are routinely denied by the government. Earlier this month, Global Witness called on the British government to revoke a visa for Prime Minister Hun Sen, who planned to visit.

Nichol said Thursday the group was "deeply disappointed that the goernment has chosen to react in this, rather than investigate issues so central to the public interest."

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declined to comment further.