Thursday, 30 July 2009

Cambodia, Vietnam to step up inspectorate cooperation

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Increased cooperation between the government inspectorates of Vietnam and Cambodia would help the latter upgrade its system from central to local levels, said a Cambodian official.

This would in turn contribute to the successful implementation of the second phase of Cambodia’s 2006- 2010 economic development strategy, Minister of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection Sam Kim Suor said while receiving a delegation led by Vietnamese Inspectorate General headed by Vice Inspector General Nguyen Van San in Phnom Penh Wednesday.

The Cambodian minister spoke highly of the practical assistance that the Vietnamese Inspectorate General has given to its Cambodian counterpart, especially in human resources training.

Both parties briefed each other on the political and economic situation in their respective nations, exchanged information on the role inspectors play in helping the government deal with complaints from citizens, and discussed measures to enhance bilateral cooperation between both countries’ inspectorates.

Cambodian FM to visit Thailand in early August on border issues 2009-07-30

PHNOM PENH, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia and Thailand will have a meeting of multi-committee in Bangkok to push the measurement for border demarcation, a senior official said on Thursday.

"I will go to Thailand for the meeting of multi-committee on August 3 and 4," Hor Namhong, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation told reporters after the signing ceremony of receiving over 33 million U.S. dollars grant aid from Japanese government at his ministry.

"I will require Thai side to continue discussion on the border issues and the Border Committee from both countries will meet soon to discuss on the measurement of the border to plant border posts," he added.

"The situation at areas near Preah Vihear temple is calm now, and Thai troops are deployed on there soil," Hor Namhong said. "There are no tension at the border, not like the media reported," he stressed.

At the same time, Hor also thanked Thai government cabinet for its approving on Tuesday to provide 41.2 million U.S. dollars for road improvement projects in Cambodia. The fund will be used to build Road 68 near border with Thailand, which will help facilitate the trade and tourism between the two countries, he noted.

Moreover, Cambodia and Thailand will open more border gates to push and facilitate the trade and tourism, he said.

Cambodia and Thailand share over 800 km-long borders. The troops from both sides have some confrontation since July 15, 2008, mainly near 11th century Preah Vihear temple.

Editor: Anne Tang

Fighting Cambodia’s Goliath: Mu Sochua (MSW ’81)

While working with Cambodian refugees in San Francisco as part of her MSW degree in the early 1980s, Mu Sochua never imagined herself a key political figure in the country of her birth. But now the activist turned politician is in the midst of a political standoff with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in a case that has attracted the attention of Human Rights Watch and the UN High Commission on Human Rights.

Sochua (pronounced Soc-Hua) fled from the growing violence in Cambodia in 1973 when her parents put her and her sister on a plane headed for France. She then came to the U.S. to attend San Francisco State, and enrolled in the MSW program at Berkeley in 1979. As a student she did field work working with the Cambodian refugee community – first with Alameda County Health Care Services, later with the Cambodian Project at the YMCA.

“It is a very Cambodian way of thinking not to be egotistic,” Ms. Mu told the SF Chronicle in an article about Cambodian refugees in 1979. “Once you are safe, you have to think of the people who suffer…It is a common feeling that we all share.”

Sochua intended to use her newly learned social work values to help Cambodians, and in 1989 she returned home. With her social work background she founded Khemara, an NGO dedicated to fighting for women’s rights, and later became the nation’s first female Minister of Women’s Affairs in 1998. After witnessing government corruption, she joined the opposition party, and in 2002 Sochua helped organize 25,000 women to run for election throughout the country, with over 900 women elected. Today she serves as an MP with the Sam Rainsy Party in the National Assembly.

In a series of events that began last year, Mu Sochua took a stand against Prime Minister Sen, a man who has held power in Cambodia since the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. Sochua sued the Prime Minister for defamation after he made remark in a televised speech given in her district. In retaliation, Sen countersued, claiming MP Mu and her lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, were in fact the ones responsible for defamation.

Mu Sochua’s case against the Prime Minister was thrown out by the courts, while the Prime Minister’s counter suit against her and her lawyer has now gained momentum. A legislative vote stripped Sochua of her parliamentary immunity, a right, Hun Sen recently told a gathering, Sochua might never regain. “Lifting is possible, and restoring is – in many cases – impossible,” Sen is reported saying in the Phenom Phen Post. Sen also warned NGOs and foreign governments not to meddle in Cambodia’s affairs, saying that NGOs talking “nonsense” would also be brought to trial.

“The strong warning against foreign involvement by the Prime Minister, sounds more like Burma or Iran to me – a dictatorship,” says Sochua in a recent phone interview. “Cambodia receives over $1 billion in foreign aid each year. But where is the monitoring? Where are the reforms that are supposed to be part of receiving aid?”

The Cambodian Government is increasingly using the courts to silence opposition leaders, journalists and human rights groups, says a recent Asian Human Rights Commission report, citing six similar cases currently filed in the Cambodian courts. In 2008 Cambodia was ranked among the nations with the highest corruption in the world according to Transparency International; USAID stated in a 2004 report that corruption in Cambodia has “reached “pandemic” proportions.” The case of Sochua’s lawyer, Onn, also has international implications. Over the past four years the American Bar Association (ABA) has been working closely with the Cambodian legal system to promote democratic ideals and receives USAID funding for the program. Onn’s case brings up questions of how and why money is being spent for legal training in Cambodia. Sochua hopes the ABA will be vocal in speaking out in the case of her lawyer. On June 19th he was found guilty of violating Bar Association rules and could be disbarred for his involvement in her case.

Mu Sochua has been in touch with the School of Social Welfare throughout the months of her legal ordeal and requests interested parties send letters to the Cambodian National Assembly and to the U.S. Ambassador to the Cambodia, Carol Rodley. Vital Voices ( will also be helping with Sochua’s case and will keep updates on their web site. She also plans to visit UC Berkeley in September to speak about politics in Cambodia and the ways in which social work values inform her work as a politician.

Mu Sochua anticipates the defamation trial against her is scheduled to begin July 24th. If found guilty, Sochua faces imprisonment, but says that she will appeal the decision to the highest court “to put the Cambodian Judicial System on trial.”

The temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia in mind

Ann told her experience and feeling in Angkor temples as well as in Siem Reap, Cambodia when she took part in an eighteen day travel through Asia with her husband.

Independent travel has been great, but after 4 months on the road all the planning and organizing was getting a bit tiresome. We booked an 18-day guided tour that would take us from Bangkok all the way through Cambodia and Vietnam with the luxury of nearly everything being planned for us.

In Bangkok we met up with our group of 11 fellow travelers, as well as our guide and a new trainee. As it turns out, everyone has been great and our group is getting along quite nicely.

The first part of our tour took us into Siem Reap, our first stop in Cambodia. Before I get any further, I’d like to go over some shocking statistics. The average age in Cambodia is 57. About 50% of the population is under the age of 18. Their literacy rate is said to be between 40-50%. And about 1/3 of their population lives on less than $1 USD per day. Another interesting fact??? 80% of all visitors to Siem Reap are either Japanese, Korean, or Chinese.

Getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap involved a 12 hour bus ride across the boarder, of which the last 160 kilometers were on a very bumpy and unmaintained gravel road. At one point our bus had to stop for repairs as we had 3 flat tires. As we crossed from Thailand to Cambodia the changes were immediate. Garbage was everywhere you looked, piled high in fields and ditches. At the boarder we had to get off the bus, walk through customs, and wait on the Cambodia side to be picked up again. Brian managed to get robbed in the first 5 minutes in Cambodia, luckily it was only his bottle of water. A young barefoot and filthy boy walked very slowly up to him, looked him in the eye for a few seconds, bent down and grabbed the bottle sitting near Brian’s feet, and ran off. Everyone in our group just watched in a combination of amusement and sadness…then clutched their belongings a little tighter.

Day two, and three, and four brought us on a guided tour of the famous Angkor Temples which were built between the 8th and 13th centuries and are spread out over about 40 miles around the village of Siem Reap. Some were in nearly complete ruin, some in the middle of restoration, and some in surprisingly great condition considering they are a tiny bit old. For you movie buffs, the Angelina Jolie movie Tomb Raider was filmed in one of the jungle temples there.

While in Siem Reap we also took a boat ride on lake Tonle Sap which is home to a floating village of houseboats, floating stores and churches, even a boat that serves as a basketball court. We did some shopping around the temples and in Siem Reap, because every few feet there are children surrounding you begging you to buy there bracelets/scarves/books /etc. We’ve also done a lot of eating - Cambodian Khmer food is very tasty.

Lots of pumpkin, coconut sauce, and fresh fruit.

So far our travels in Cambodia have surpassed our expectations. Next stop? Phnom Penh. Stay tuned…..

Author: Anne
Source: The Hallgrens’ Blog - Realtravel
They are traveling as a couple in their 30s from Belle Plaine. They decided to quit their jobs, sell their house in the suburbs, and spend time exploring the world.

New Book Hammers Judicial System

By Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh

Post-war Cambodia has failed to produce a strong, independent judiciary, but instead has produced a system where judges move cases around according to bribes and potential earning power, a new book concludes.

The book, “Beyond Democracy in Cambodia: Political Reconstruction in a Post-Conflict,” edited by two professors from Sweden’s Gothenburg University and written by a number of Cambodian and international researchers, launched Friday.

Its authors, Cambodian and international researchers both, found weaknesses in the courts and other sectors of Cambodia’s burgeoning democracy.

Specifically, researcher Un Kheang, who wrote a section of the book on the judicial system and democratization, found a court without the confidence of the people.

“If you ask people whether or not the regime is legitimate, the general answer is, ‘yes,’” Un Kheang said at the book’s launch in Phnom Penh Friday. “But if you ask people if the court is legitimate, if the court is independent, the overwhelming is, ‘no.’”

Major donors to Cambodia, including the US, France, Australia and Japan, have provided millions of dollars in aid to help Cambodia reform its rule of law, but the courts remain heavily criticized by independent monitors and the public.

Joakim Ojendal, a professor of peace and development research at Gothenburg, who edited the book with fellow professor Mona Lilja, told VOA Khmer in an interview Friday that when a judiciary is compromised, it impedes the deepening of democracy and hurts investment.

People lose their confidence in the legal system as well as other political institutions, he said.

Government officials say the book doesn’t accurately portray a system that is under reform.

“One has the right to write a book, but before we start writing, we have to do a deep survey with balance,” said Cheam Yeap, a CPP lawmaker. “If the book mentions all bad things about our management, it will affect what were are trying to seek in foreign investment.”

“Democracy in Cambodia” highlights a number of irregularities in the court system, at a time when the judicial system is under heavy scrutiny for political bias and favoritism.

“Very often judges manipulated those who came into contact with the judiciary to ensure the maximum bribe,” Un Kheang wrote. “On some occasions judges employed delaying tactics in their rulings in order to extract more bribe money from litigants.”

Low salaries made judges and other court officials “susceptible to compromise and bribery,” Un Kheang wrote. “Corrupt and incompetent judges are able to maintain their jobs because of the extensive corruption within the judicial system and the entrenched patron-client network. Meanwhile, appointments and promotions are based on patronage and bribery.”

This “widespread corruption” hurts the poor, who don’t have the money to pursue their cases, he wrote. “It also creates injustice for the poor when they face legal battles with the rich.”

The courts are also open to interference from the executive branch and powerful officials. Judges and prosecutors who go against the status quo can lose their jobs.

“Although there was no threat involved, we judges have to follow, because we know in advance the dimension of their power,” one judge told Un Kheang.

Un Kheang also found that in political cases, judges delivered verdicts that followed the guidelines of the government, led by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

As an example of the court system at work, Kheang Un pointed to the ongoing court battle between opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, who sued the premier for allegedly derogatory remarks in the 2008 election campaign, and Prime Minister Hun Sen, who then countersued.

Mu Sochua’s case has been dropped, but a verdict in Hun Sen’s countersuit is expected Aug. 4.

“With the argument between the prime minister and Mu Sochua, you will see the role of judiciary in the country,” Un Kheang said Friday.

The researcher pointed to a shortage of resources hampering an independent court system.

“The judiciary faces a severe shortage of material resources and human resources, including judges, prosecutors and lawyers,” he wrote. “Lawyers are either fearful or inexperienced in challenging prosecutors or judges during trials. Cambodian lawyers are not competent, and they didn’t present solid evidence.”

Money from the budget was “significantly lower” than that for defense and security, the author found, “and usually arrived at the court late and irregularly.”

The findings in the book met with favorable review from Adhoc rights investigator Chan Saveth.

“This independent study is good and accurate, and I support it,” he said. “The Cambodian government has to accept it and make changes accordingly.”

Tuk-tuks warned of new ban

Photo by: Sovann Philong
A Traffic Police officer prevents a tuk-tuk driver from heading down Norodom Boulevard Wednesday morning.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Chhay Channyda

Police begin telling drivers to steer clear of Norodom Boulevard.

ONE week after Phnom Penh Municipality issued a statement announcing its plan to ban tuk-tuks and motorbike-pulled trailers from Norodom Boulevard, police officials on Wednesday began informing drivers about the ban, prompting concern from some who said they were being unfairly targeted.

Luos Seyha, director of the Cambodian Association for Informal Economy Development, which represents tuk-tuk drivers, said he supported the July 23 City Hall statement, but questioned why the ban was not also being applied to larger vehicles.

"We support City Hall's idea because it is to promote safety and public order in the city," he said.

"But not only tuk-tuks cause disorder. There are other kinds of big vehicles that cause such problems, too."

Prak Touch, a 45-year-old tuk-tuk driver, said Wednesday that police had stopped him that morning on Norodom Boulevard and instructed him that he would soon be banned from the road.

"They are not fining us because they have only started to inform drivers today," he said. "They say we are anarchic and cause disorder in the city.

What about other large vehicles?"

Heng Chantheary, chief of Phnom Penh's Municipal Traffic Police, said Wednesday that it was important for drivers to understand that police were simply doing what they had been told to do.

"When we inform tuk-tuk drivers of the ban, we also give them a copy of City Hall's statement to show them that we're not just banning them, but following orders," he said.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said Traffic Police would not start implementing the ban until police had fully informed drivers. He said some other large vehicles would also be affected by the ban.

"On Norodom Boulevard, we have confiscated many big vehicles travelling along the road. For tuk-tuks, we have educated them a lot, but never confiscated them. Do tuk-tuks have licences? They are too anarchic. So we must have this policy," he said.

Ex-workers accused of incitement

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Sam Rith

NGO worker also summoned in separate incitement complaint.

AT LEAST five laid-off workers received summonses on Wednesday to answer to criminal defamation, disinformation and incitement complaints, and one NGO provincial coordinator was summonsed to answer to a separate incitement complaint, continuing the recent spate of complaints that NGOs and other observers have criticised as aimed at curtailing free speech in the Kingdom.

Gregory Goh, the human resources director at NagaWorld Hotel and Casino, on July 20 filed a complaint accusing 14 employees involved in an ongoing labour dispute with criminal defamation, disinformation and incitement.

Five of the employees have been summonsed to Phnom Penh Municipal Court between today and Monday, and union leader Sok Narith, who was among the five, said they planned to appear.

"We did nothing wrong," said Sok Narith, head of a union that represents 1,000 Naga workers. "We have just made peaceful demands for the freedom of the workers. And so far we have not yet held any public protests."

The dispute stems from the layoffs of 14 Naga employees in February, which union leaders said resulted from a dispute over annual bonuses.

Naga management has blamed the economic crisis for the firings. The union has pushed for the reinstatement of the employees and in recent weeks has threatened on several occasions to strike.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bunchea told the Post Wednesday that he issued the summonses so as to investigate the complaints.

Goh could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Hay Voleap, Naga's deputy human resources manager, said he could not comment on the case.

Also Wednesday, Adhoc's Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator said he had received a summons to appear in provincial court in connection with an ongoing land dispute between the DM Group and ethnic minority villagers in Kanlaeng commune.

Investigating Judge Thoang Saron declined to say who had filed the incitement complaint against Pen Bonnar.


Govt campaign turns back the clock on press freedom

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A man walks past newsstands on Street 51 in Phnom Penh.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Sebastian Strangio and Sam Rith

PRESS freedom is in its worst state in Cambodia since the early 1990s, say reporters for the country's independent and opposition newspapers, who argue that the current crackdown against government critics risks bringing the country full circle to the repressive environment of the 1980s.

Despite having a press that is freer than Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, journalists say the current campaign against "disinformation" - which has already forced the closure of one paper and imprisoned the publisher of another - could set the country back 15 years.

"I used to write 100 percent of the truth, but now I've reduced it to about 30 percent," said Tes Vibol, the publisher of Khmer Student News, an independent and self-funded weekly newspaper.

Tes Vibol said he had been sued before, but that the courts had always cleared him of the charges because his stories were fair and objective.

"Those charges were all dropped because I had documentary evidence," he said.

Curbing 'misinformation'
The government's recent crackdown has netted some large catches. On July 10, opposition daily Moneaksekar Khmer ceased publication after its publisher and editor-in-chief, Dam Sith, was charged with defamation and apologised to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Hang Chakra, the publisher of the remaining opposition daily, Khmer Machas Srok, languishes in prison after being convicted on similar charges.

The opposition daily Sralanh Khmer was neutralised during a similar crackdown in 2006, when its editor, Thach Keth, switched its allegiance to the government.

Officials claim that all three papers were guilty of publishing material that defamed senior government officials or otherwise spread false information.

Sek Rady, the editor of New Liberty News, which restarted publication in April after a long hiatus, said the current media environment was no better than when he entered the industry in 1995.

"Now it is difficult to express ideas that criticise the government - not only for journalists, but also for citizens," he said.

Khmer Machas Srok reporter Boay Roeuy said he now lives with daily worries about his security and fears that the opposition press will disappear, but he vowed to continue reporting as objectively as possible.

"I will not abandon my work as a reporter for the opposition media because I want to inform people, as well as the top leaders of the government," he said.

A free press arrived in Cambodia virtually overnight with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in October 1991 and the subsequent arrival of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia.

While the coming of the UN mission prompted a flowering of media freedom, it also brought the means to curb it: Articles 62 and 63 of the UNTAC Criminal Code, designed to guide the country through its post-conflict transition, have been used to prosecute recent defamation cases, raising questions of whether the government's commitment to freedom of the press was ever more than skin-deep.

Shallow roots
Lem Piseth, a former Radio Free Asia journalist who now edits the online Free Press Magazine from Norway, said that even before the current crackdown, the country had been "moving steadily towards the restrictions on the free press that existed under the communist regime before 1993".

As a reporter, Lem Piseth knew he had crossed a line when his two young children roused him on the morning of April 10, 2008, to show him six AK-47 rounds they had found outside the gate to his rented house in Battambang province.

During the previous year, Lem Piseth claims to have received a series of threatening text messages, phone calls and letters from unknown senders, but it was the bullet incident that eventually forced him to flee the country.

The incident followed his investigation of a drug trafficking and murder case with alleged links to high-ranking officials, but he claims the threatening phone calls and letters started earlier, with a series of broadcasts on illegal deforestation in Kampong Thom province allegedly involving close allies of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

"The new threat with bullets worried me constantly, and I admit that I lost all courage as a strong reporter," he said.

"Working as an investigative journalist in Cambodia is not easy," he said.

Cycles of freedom
Lao Mong Hay, a researcher at the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong, said the overall pattern since 1993 had been one of "overall decline", with "spurts of freedom over short periods of time".

The period to 1996, he said, saw greater degrees of press freedom than today, despite being marked by more acts of violence against

"The government is now much less tolerant of the diversity of opinion, especially of criticism. The loss of another newspaper is ... another fetter for its activities," he said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, also spoke of the "cycle of freedom" that has marked the years since 1993, but he expressed optimism that, as with previous crackdowns, the country was nearing the bottom of the "curve", and that the long-term trends were positive.

But he said that any press environment that can swing so wildly between freedom and repression could not be described as truly free.

"People can easily be jailed. This would be ridiculous in the US or anywhere in Europe," he told the Post.

He said that there is no guarantee that the current crackdown will end, especially if the government manages to cripple the opposition press altogether.

"If it continues, it could reach a point of no return, and that will ultimately mean that there are enough mechanisms to silence just about anybody," he said.

"The question is when it will reach the point of no return."

Forest agent caught with rare timber

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Cheang Sokha and Christopher Shay

But NGO says he may have been doing his job.

A HIGH-ranking member of the Forestry Administration who also works for Conservation International was arrested at 2am on Saturday on suspicion of trying to smuggle two truckloads of luxury timber to Vietnam, military police and government sources said Wednesday.

Ouk Kim San, who has been responsible for protecting the central Cardamom forests in Pursat province, was arrested in Takeo province near the Vietnamese border with three Vietnamese nationals as they were unloading timber worth tens of thousands of dollars, a military police officer involved in the arrest said.

"If this were a legal operation by this company, why was Ouk Kim San accompanying the shipment in the dead of night?" a source close to the issue said, adding that Ouk Kim San's permission letter was improperly completed and allowed for the transport of only 20 cubic metres of timber, not the 70 cubic metres that were confiscated.

David Emmett, deputy regional director for Conservation International, confirmed that Ouk Kim San had been arrested, but said he had been working to ensure a company that had legal permission to cut and sell timber did not log outside its designated boundaries.

"Past evidence has showed he's had many years of opportunities to cut down high-value timber, but he's done the opposite," Emmett said.

Sea Sambath, chief of the mil-itary police criminal investigation office, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Ouk Kim San was released from jail but could not be reached for comment.

Tuol Sleng footage will not be shown at trial: judges

A still from a film of S-21 that judges said Wednesday could not be used as evidence.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Georgia Wilkins and Cheang Sokha

Controversial footage filmed by Vietnamese troops after the Khmer Rouge fled the capital will not be permitted as evidence.

JUDGES at Cambodia's war crimes court on Wednesday decided against allowing the use of footage of Tuol Sleng prison shot by Vietnamese troops in 1979 as evidence in the trial of the prison's former chief, Kaing Guek Eav, citing time restrictions and concerns that the footage would be repetitive.

Defence lawyers for the accused had previously argued that the authenticity of the footage, which was donated in December by the Vietnamese government, has never been verified.

Prosecutors have said they believe the footage, which shows infants and children in poor health being removed from the compound, is necessary to demonstrate inhumane conditions at Tuol Sleng.

"It is undisputed that the conditions of detention at S-21 were inhumane," judges said in a filing Wednesday.

"The footage is likely to have little impact upon the trial and is in substance repetitious as a means of establishing these facts."

Judges added that "a number of supplementary investigations" would be necessary to prove the credibility of the footage.

"The chamber considers that verification of the reliability of this footage, a precondition for its use as evidence, is unlikely to be obtained within a reasonable time," they said.

Footage 'superfluous'
The footage is purported to show the prison immediately after it was discovered by Vietnamese forces.

Prosecutors had hoped to use the footage to prove that children had been detained with their parents, but judges said the testimony of a man who claimed to be one of the boys in the footage provided sufficient evidence of this.

"In view of the testimony of [child survivor Norng Chan Phal] and other witnesses ... this footage is superfluous to establish that children of arrested cadre were also brought to S-21," the judges said.

Defence lawyer Kar Savuth told the Post Wednesday that he believed the court had made the right decision.

"The reason I do not want to use this video [in the trial] is because most parts of it have been invented," he said. "The trial should be based on real facts, not invented ones."

Spencer Cryder, a legal associate for the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which first obtained the archival footage, said Wednesday that the decision reflected the general tendency of tribunal judges to resist supplementary investigations.

"The trial chamber's decision on the S-21 video did not address the root issue - the investigative inertia that exists during the [tribunal's] trial phase," he said.

"Only the trial chamber can order additional investigations during the trial phase. However, the chamber did not order such an investigation."

NYC Bar presses PM on reports of lawyer intimidation, threats

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Georgia Wilkins

Hun Sen told to investigate reports that lawyers are being threatened with criminal charges.

THE New York City Bar Association has urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to investigate reports that lawyers defending opposition members and calling for an investigation into corruption allegations at the Khmer Rouge tribunal are being intimidated and harassed.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister dated July 17 and obtained by the Post Wednesday, the association outlined concerns that attorneys working in Cambodia, including three international lawyers, were being threatened with criminal charges.

"The Association is alarmed by recent criminal charges levied against attorneys in Cambodia following their public commitments to provide legal services to certain individuals," said Patricia Hynes, the association's president.

"We urge you to take appropriate action to guarantee that those lawyers ... are not subjected to threats, intimidation, prosecution or disciplinary action for practicing their profession," she added.

The association said the lawyers facing particular harassment included those "offering legal assistance to opposition members of the National Assembly and to indigenous communities disputing land claims", as well as international lawyers representing former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea at the Khmer Rouge tribunal who have repeatedly called for an investigation into kickback allegations at the court.

"We ... request that you immediately investigate these reports of intimidation and harassment to ensure that all lawyers are free to represent their clients," Hynes said.

Defence team 'troubled'
Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for the Nuon Chea defence team, said he hoped the prime minister responds to the letter, which he said addressed serious claims.

"Like the New York City Bar, we're troubled by the recent increase in the use of the Cambodian judiciary ... to silence legitimate criticism of the current government," he said.

Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan said Wednesday that he had not seen the letter and was unable to comment.

Lightning devices strike nation

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
May Titthara

But the anti-surge technology may be prohibitively expensive for rural residents.

APRIVATE company has begun importing products to protect people and property from lightning strikes following an increase in electrical storms in recent wet seasons.

Ret Chantha, managing director of Dynamic E-Group Limited (DEG), said a reported increase in lightning deaths had prompted him to begin importing lightning protection devices.

"I am importing the products to prevent lightning deaths, which are higher than expected," he said Wednesday.

He said DEG's Voltage and Surge Protection Systems, imported from Spain, were designed to be installed in buildings to prevent lightning strikes within a radius of about 120 metres.

He said they could also protect electrical equipment from surges.

"These products don't impact the environment and are not dangerous for people and animals," he said.

"We can use them anywhere: in buildings, houses, schools and offices. They can prevent lightning 100 percent."

But the new devices don't come cheap. Prach Meanith, product manager at DEG, said the price would depend on the size of the building in question but noted that a device for a three-storey building measuring 6 metres by 12 metres would cost around US$2,000.

"We have a lot of clients, especially the high-level building engineers [who] know this product well and trust in it," he said.

Rising toll
Ros Sovann, a consultant at the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), said lightning killed 107 people in Cambodia while injuring 43 in just the first six months of 2009. The figures marked a dramatic increase from last year, in which lightning strikes led to 95 deaths and 22 injuries the entire year.

Kampong Cham, Prey Veng and Kampong Speu have been the provinces most heavily hit by lightning in the first half of the year.

Ing Heng, deputy dean of the faculty of science at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said lightning injuries had increased in the past 20 or 30 years due to the clearance of large trees, which tend to attract strikes.

"Before we had lightning in the forest. Empty rice fields haven't got big trees, so it is happening to people," he said.

Ros Sovann added that the lightning protection devices coul play an important role in heading off deaths and injuries, but he said people in the most affected areas might not be able to afford the new devices.

"I think that if we use those products as a standard we could avoid lightning problems altogether, but it might take a long time for people in rural areas," he said.

CRACKDOWN: Brit charged with child sex crimes

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Chrann Chamroeun


Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday charged Gareth Ashley Corbett, a 51-year-old British national, with committing indecent acts against a minor, following his arrest in Preah Sihanouk province a day earlier. If convicted, Corbett, who is suspected of abusing a 12-year-old girl, faces between one and three years in prison and a fine of up to 6 million riels (US$1,432). Corbett's arrest came in connection with the investigation of an American man, 44-year-old Scott Alan Hecker, municipal juvenile protection police chief Keo Thea said. Hecker was also arrested last week and charged for abusing the same 12-year-old as well as a 14-year-old girl, Keo Thea added.

Bangkok OKs funds for road near border

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Sam Rith

Thailand to provide $41 million for repairs to road linking Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap.

THAILAND's Cabinet has decided to allocate 1.4 billion baht (roughly US$41 million) for the repair of National Road 68, which stretches for 115 kilometres from Samraong district in Oddar Meanchey province to Kralanh district in Siem Reap province, government officials said Wednesday.

Kem Borey, director general of public works at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said he had been informed of the Cabinet's decision on Tuesday by Thailand's Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (NEDA).

"I am going to Thailand now to have unofficial talks with NEDA in order to speed up the process of beginning construction soon," he said.

He added that the repairs - which will include extensive paving - will likely begin at the end of this year or early in 2010.

"Now that we have the budget, we will choose a consultant to study the details, and then we will make a public announcement to have companies bid for [the] construction [contract]," he said.

Yit Bunna, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, said the money would come in the form of a 30-year soft loan.

A Thai government spokesman was quoted by Dow Jones as saying that the loan would carry an annual interest rate of 1.5 percent.

A boon to trade?
The funding commitment came less than one month after Prime Minister Hun Sen, speaking at the July 4 inauguration of National Road 67 in Siem Reap, urged the Thai government to speed up the approval of funding for National Road 68, which he said would bolster bilateral trade between the two countries.

Ageing to impact Kingdom

Photo by: Sovann Philong
Chea Yun, 76, Lim Kim Eang, 73, and Long Hean, 68, clean the house they share in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Mom Kunthear And Christopher Shay

As Cambodia ages, its already strained support networks for the elderly will face added pressure, officials and experts say.

ARECENT report from the US Census Bureau concluded that, in fewer than 10 years, seniors will outnumber children worldwide for the first time, creating burdens for families, communities and health and social service providers.

Though Cambodians are relatively young, the Kingdom's elderly population will also rise sharply, taxing an already strained support network of pagodas and commune councils, NGO and government officials said Wednesday.

Pay Sambo, deputy director of retirement and pensions at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said the population of people aged 60 and over was 3.4 percent in 2007.

By contrast, 17.8 percent of Western Europe and 6.8 percent of Asia are 65 or over, according to the US Census Bureau report.

Pay Sambo said he expects 6 percent of Cambodians to be 60 or over by 2050, a statistic that underscores an ageing trend that could in coming years put tens of thousands of seniors at risk.

Pay Sambo said a lack of funding had hindered his department's goals to prepare the country for the future.

"We haven't done research on old people in recent years because we don't have the money," he said.

A 2004 University of Michigan survey of the elderly in Cambodia concluded that Cambodia's seniors are the least healthy in Southeast Asia, and that endemic poverty has left more than half without a toilet.

Guy Clarke, the Cambodia country manager for HelpAge International, said elderly Cambodians were often called on to provide - rather than receive - support from their families.

"In times of food insecurity, the middle generation often leaves the villages," he said, adding that this means the elderly are often left to look after their grandchildren.

He added that pagodas and commune councils, which have traditionally been sources of support for the elderly, are already under some strain.

Keo Chanta, director of the Cambodian Elder Support Organisation (CESO), said the government had failed to support its elderly population.

"For the elderly who do not have families, they will face difficult lives," he said. "I used to talk with government officials about helping old people, and they said they don't have money. They want the NGOs to help, but how can we do it all if the government does not help?"

Police Blotter: 30 Jul 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Kong Sokun

A teenage boy was jailed after molesting a 4-year-old girl on July 23 at around 7pm in Kratie's Snuol district, police said. They identifed the boy as a 16-year-old from Svay Chreas commune. The mother of the victim told police that the boy was invited to accompany her daughter to watch TV at a neighbour's nearby home, and that he raped her on a pile of hay. He admitted his guilt upon his arrest, police said.

A monk at a pagoda in Meanchey district has been defrocked after he was found guilty of having been involved in a group that was planning to steal two computers from the monastery. The monk, identified as Chan Thy, 20, has been sent to the Stung Meanchey commune police station for further questioning.

An intoxicated man was hacked to death with a cleaver Monday by his brother-in-law over a property dispute in Daun Penh district's Phsar Kandal I commune. Police identified the victim as Kuy Sary, 29, and the killer as Kuy Sareth, nicknamed Huout, 37. Sok Vichea, the wife of the deceased man, told police that her husband had wanted to sell a house left to him by his late father, but that his brother-in-law always visited the house and wanted to share the money resulting from any sale. The suspect remains at large.

l Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday sentenced the owner of Holiday Hotel and a Pakistani man to 20 years in jail for drug trafficking and ordered them each to pay a fine of US$1,000. Victor Chau, 55, the hotelier, and Sahan Aman Khan, 50, were arrested at the hotel in Daun Penh district's Srah Chak commune.

Five men were sent to Kampong Cham provincial court Monday after they allegedly vandalised a restaurant and injured its owner and a customer who declined to engage in a toast with them. The incident happened on July 24 at Golden Triangle restaurant in Kampong Cham's Ponhea Krek district. Thong Chong, 22, a customer, sustained serious injuries in the head and neck after being beaten with a glass by one of the perpetrators, Sem Krem. Police said the restaurant owner, whose named was not revealed, was beaten by the gang with a chair when he tried to intervene.

Emergency measures required to alleviate effects of crisis: UN

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
James O'Toole

IN response to economic forecasts that have been "continually revised downwards", the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) released a report last week announcing a series of initiatives intended to provide immediate support for laid-off factory workers and other Cambodians struggling during the global economic crisis.

The report, released Friday, was a follow-up to a conference that took place on July 15 and 16, during which UNIAP and a variety of other organisations met to analyse the effects of the crisis in Cambodia and formulate a coordinated response.

UNIAP National Project Coordinator Lim Tith said UNIAP had decided to put initiatives into action as quickly as possible.

Without special effort to expedite the process, he said, "Plans may only be approved after the crisis is finished."

UNIAP and its partners concluded that though the effects of the economic crisis will be felt across the economy, workers in sectors driven by exports and foreign investment are especially at risk. These sectors include tourism, construction and the garment industry.

Several initiatives discussed at the conference have already been put in place. This month, UNIAP and its partners, including the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), launched a magazine titled Precious Girl, which was distributed to factory workers and includes information on job training, financial literacy and avenues for reporting exploitation and abuse.

Lim Tith said plans were being developed to make microfinance lending and vocational training more widely available for laid-off workers, though no dates have been set for those programmes.

Times are rough
The UNIAP report estimates that anywhere between 20,000 and 60,000 garment industry workers have recently been laid off due to the economic crisis and low-cost competition from countries including Bangladesh and Vietnam.

Ny You, a communications officer at the International Labour Organisation, praised UNIAP's efforts to help those workers, but said they required more comprehensive protections.

"[Workers] need social protection - benefits and care," he said as he called for stricter enforcement of labour laws and the establishment of job centres and retraining programmes.

Trade drops 30pc with Thailand and Vietnam

Photo by: Holly Pham
Traders at the border with Thailand bring goods back into Cambodia at Poipet. Trade with Thailand fell 31 percent in the first five months compared with the same period last year.

TRADE In free fall
31pc decline in trade with Thailand in first five months
$633.17m in trade recorded
30pc drop in trade with Vietnam during same period
$520m in trade up to May
Source: Vietnam and Thai embassies

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
May Kunmakara and Nguon Sovan

Trade with bordering nations falls sharply in first five months compared with last year, say embassies in Phnom Penh

TRADE volumes between Cambodia and each of its larger neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam, dropped sharply in the first five months of 2009 compared with the same period last year.

Figures obtained by the Post from the trade desks of the Thai and Vietnamese embassies in Phnom Penh show overall trade was down around 30 percent in each case. Cambodia runs a trade deficit with both nations.

"In the first five months of 2009, Cambodia-Thailand trade volume was worth US$633.17 million - if compared to the same period of last year of $922.89 million, it dropped 31 percent," the Thai customs report stated.

Trade between the two nations consists almost entirely of imports by Cambodia, with just $18.9 million of the total this year comprised of exports. Those exports were primarily agricultural products, secondhand garments, recyclable metals and fish.

Cambodia's imports of $614 million from Thailand were petrol, consumer products, building materials and cosmetics.

Jiranan Wongmongkol, the director of the foreign trade promotion office at the Thai Embassy, predicts that exports to Cambodia from Thailand will drop 40 percent over the year to $1.2 billion from $2 billion last year.

She said the decline has nothing to do with tensions between the two kingdoms over Preah Vihear temple.

"The drop is not due to the border dispute, but to the global financial crisis that has cut consumer demand due to lower incomes," she said.

The commercial councillor at the Vietnamese Embassy, Le Bien Cuong, said trade between Vietnam and Cambodia was down 30 percent to $520 million from $745 million.

"During this period, Vietnam exported only $437 million to Cambodia's markets, and Cambodia exports of agricultural products to Vietnam dropped from $114 million to $83 million," Cuong told the Post on Wednesday. "This is normal, as it is due to the global economic slump. It is affecting trade between Cambodia and Vietnam and others, too, and it is why Vietnamese businessmen have cut their production."

He said trade volumes between the two countries reached $1.6 billion last year, up from $1.2 billion in 2007. He does not expect trade this year to rise above the 2008 level, but said the figure should reach $2 billion next year.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, pointed out that the global economic crisis has affected trade in most countries around the world.

"Our exports [to these two countries] are not really affected because we are exporting mostly agricultural products," he said." Imports are far more affected since people are cutting their spending."

The decline in imports has had a significant effect on Customs and Excise, which reported a 22 percent drop in the tax take to $280 million in the first six months of 2009. Earlier this month Pen Siman, the director general of Customs and Excise's general department, told the Post that the drop was due to the impact of the global economic crisis.

Bank group backs up institutions under fire

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Nathan Green

THE Association of Banks in Cambodia (ABC) said in a press statement late Wednesday that Canadia Bank and the Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia (FTB) both had "strong and healthy financial positions".

The release came a day after the banks were singled out on news blog KI Media as being in an "alarming situation" and in "serious trouble", respectively.

KI Media's unsourced entry said "the two financial institutions have been able so far to avoid bankruptcy thanks to a massive fund injection from the National Bank of Cambodia" and that "the fall of Cambodia's two leading and intertwined commercial banks would lead to the collapse of the whole banking system".

The ABC represents 19 commercial banks, six specialised banks and the Cambodia Microfinance Association, according to its Web site. Canadia Bank General Manager Pung Kheav Se was listed as ABC chairman in 2008.

It declined to comment further Wednesday, as did Canadia Bank. FTB General Manager Gui Anvanith could not be reached late Wednesday, and National Bank of Cambodia Director General Tal Nay Im did not return a request for comment.

According to the press release, Canadia Bank had $207.8 million in cash and cash equivalents as of June 30, $618.7 million in total assets and $486.1 million in deposits.

FTB had $150.1 million in cash and cash equivalents at the end of the first half, almost $250 million in total assets, and just over $208 million in customer deposits.

Gaming revenues in free fall, pulling down tax revenues

Phnom Penh locals sit out side the front of NagaWorld. The capital’s sole casino has added 200 slot machines as gaming outlets along the borders with Thailand and Vietnam have suffered.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Kay Kimsong

Casinos in border areas see steep fall in takings, say owners, as Phnom Penh’s NagaWorld invests in 200 new slot machines

AFINANCE Ministry official said gaming revenues this year have dropped sharply at Cambodian casinos on the borders with Thailand and Vietnam. He said that has reduced the government's tax take.

Chea Peng Chheang, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, also told the Post late Tuesday that NagaWorld casino recently signed a deal to add 200 gaming machines.

NagaWorld's operator holds the only licence to operate a casino away from the country's border areas.

"Since NagaWorld was granted an exclusive casino licence in Phnom Penh, revenues at NagaWorld have increased, which means more tax revenue for the government account," said Chea Peng Chheang.

He said the government last year collected US$18 million in tax revenues from the gaming industry, but admits the tax take has dropped this year "although not too much". But he acknowledged that the dozen casinos at Poipet on the border with Thailand, and those at Bavet near Vietnam's border, are facing a significant challenge.

Those difficulties were echoed by casino tycoon Phu Kok An, a senator with the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP). He owns two casinos - one in Kandal near the Vietnam border, the other at Poipet - and told the Post that business is "really slow". Customer numbers have halved, and he has retrenched 50 percent of his staff.

Phu Kok An said the global economic crisis and the threat of a global flu pandemic are the two most intractable problems.

"At this stage it is difficult to describe the general situation, but it has been seriously affected," he said. "There hasn't been much development in the way of tourism, and the garment sector and construction sector have both slowed."

The Hong Kong-based Business Wire reported on Monday that Elixir Gaming Technologies Inc had agreed with NagaWorld to operate 200 more gaming machines at the Phnom Penh casino.

Elixir currently operates 237 machines at NagaWorld.

NagaWorld's senior manager for gaming and events, Tan Kenghong Lawrence, declined to comment on the deal.

Stock exchange needs $9m in IT equipment

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Soeun Say

KRX says that necessary computer software is being developed now in South Korea

CAMBODIA'S forthcoming stock exchange will require at least US$9 million in computer equipment, according to estimates by the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX), the body that will operate the Kingdom's new bourse.

Hong Sok Hour, general director of the CSX, told the Post Wednesday that the Korean side of the joint venture would pay for the necessary IT equipment.

"So far we have not yet finalised the total official cost, but we have estimated at least $9 million," he said, adding that it was still also unclear from which company the equipment would be sourced.

Korea Exchange (KRX) will hold a 45 percent stake in the Cambodian stock exchange with the Ministry of Economy and Finance taking the remaining 55 percent.

If we don't have this, no one will trust the stock market in Cambodia.

Inpyo Lee, project manager of KRX, said Wednesday that the "software [was being] developed by [South] Korea right now", without elaborating further as information on the project "is confidential".

IT infrastructure is a vital component in the development of the exchange, he added.

"We must have a strong information securities network system," said Phu Leewood, secretary general of the National Information Communications Technology Development Authority (NIDA). "If we don't have this, no one will trust the stock market in Cambodia."

NIDA has already dedicated a team to work on this system as a support structure ahead of the launch of the exchange.

"We have cooperated with the Japanese government and [South] Korean government to prepare IT infrastructure for the forthcoming stock exchange," he said, adding that NIDA would start a training course on the new IT equipment.

In February, the KRX with the government launched a mock trading computer system to help train Cambodia's future traders in placing bid and offer orders on the exchange. The $10,000 system was specially designed for Cambodia.

Hong Sok Hour said Wednesday that despite the February launch of the system, training using the program had only started a month ago.

New figures show large decline in tourism arrivals to Cambodia

Tourism Decline

H1 tourist figures by country:

Vietnam - 147,700, up 40pc
SKorea - 106,300, down 34pc
Japan - 70,100, down 14pc
China - 62,100, down 11pc
Thailand - 50,800, down 25pc
Australia - 38,900, down 10pc

Source: Ministry of Tourism

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Chun Sophal and Ith Sothoeuth

Ministry releases full data for arrivals for first six months with Vietnam the only country to see increased tourist numbers among top six nations

THE Ministry of Tourism on Wednesday released its full figures for the first six months of the year, showing an overall decline in the numbers of foreign visitors.

The number of South Koreans visiting Cambodia dropped more than any other, down one-third from 160,400 to 106,300.

The numbers of tourists from other key visitor nations such as Japan, China, Thailand and Australia were also down between one-quarter and 10 percent.

On Tuesday the ministry released partial figures showing that Vietnamese nationals now comprise the largest number of foreign tourists, with numbers up 40 percent to 147,700, while also issuing data for tourist arrivals from South Korea, previously the No 1 visitor to the Kingdom.

The ministry warned that the effect on employees in the industry was pronounced. In a survey of 72 hotels the ministry determined that between a third and a half of jobs had been cut at 12 hotels, and that working hours had been reduced by the same proportion at the remaining 60 hotels.

We expect that the number of tourists ... will leap later this year.

Around 300,000 Cambodians work in the tourism sector, with "between 50 and 60 percent" employed at hotels, guesthouses and other tourist accommodation.

Tourism Ministry Secretary of State So Mara said Wednesday the main factor in the lower numbers is the global economic crisis.

But he is optimistic the clouds over the sector will lift, and said the government and private sector are working on strategies to reverse the decline.

"We expect that the number of tourists from these five countries will leap later this year because we already preparing to hire airtime in those countries to woo tourists," So Mara said.

The ministry spent around US$340,000 on its "Kingdom of Wonder" ad campaign that aired on CNN in July 2008. So Mara said the ministry would replicate that and buy airtime from TV channels in South Korea, China and Japan.

The ministry's campaign was welcomed by Luu Meng, the president of the Cambodian Hotel Association. He said television advertising and this week's launch of national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air would both help.

"And we hope the number of tourists visiting Cambodia will pick up from the end of September, because that is the start of the tourism season," Luu Meng said.

Cutbacks necessary
He added that moves by hotel operators to cut staff numbers and working hours was understandable as a short-term solution to the problem of lower visitor numbers.

"There will be nothing to worry about provided they don't actually close down their hotels," he said.

For emotional counsel, all you need is Dr Love

Photo by: Lim Seang Heng
Sathya Pholy returned to Cambodia from the US after receiving international therapist certification to become radio's "Dr Love".

Hopefully, my radio show can begin to help them resolve their issues.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Lim Seang Heng and Vandeth Vararoath

Meet a popular local radio broadcaster who returned from exile overseas to make his living as a relationship therapist and all-around dispenser of advice

With radio an extremely popular medium in Phnom Penh, a great number of the city's youngsters regularly tune in to Love FM 97.5.

While listening, they will no doubt have heard the voice of the station's resident self-help guru, Dr Love. But, they may well ask, just who is the man behind the pseudonym?
Listeners are familiar with his voice and may have seen his logos or stickers, but they probably don't know much about his ordeal under the Khmer Rouge.

As a 14-year-old son of a Khmer Rouge survivor, Love was desperate for a better life and education.

He managed to escape Cambodia and emigrated to the US in 1984 via Thailand.

Nowadays, he could equally be described as an adviser, a counsellor, a lecturer, a radio producer and a presenter, yet the man himself remains a mystery to most of his fans.

Firstly, Love's real name is Sathya Pholy, and he is the first Khmer-American to receive an international certificate in Alcohol & Drug Abuse Treatment.

He spent over two decades living in America and undoubtedly achieved what was originally referred to as the "American Dream": Namely, access to education and the chance to build an economically sustainable life through hard work and commitment to his job.

Here, the Post attempts to get to the bottom of Sathya Pholy's hopes, thoughts and ambitions now that he has returned to his homeland.

First, though, let's clear up that moniker.

Why do you call yourself Dr Love?
"It is quite simple really; I graduated with a degree in psychology and also hold a PhD in educational psychology from Capella University, which means I am a doctor. Love simply stems from the fact I broadcast on Love FM."

When can any prospective new listeners catch your show?
"The programme airs every Thursday night, and I aim to help solve the love and relationship problems of young Cambodians. Furthermore, I have another show called Family, Community and Relations, which is broadcast on FM 99.5 and also targets Khmer listeners."

Why do you choose radio as your means?
"Mainly because many Cambodians don't want to read, and the illiteracy rate in this country is high. Overall, the education people receive is still poor, but most people can speak and understand the language, which is why radio is the best way to educate them."

So far, what are the main problems listeners cite?
"Cambodians follow the motto 'actions speak louder than words' and never seem to show love, sympathy or forgiveness to their loved ones or people around them. There is a lack of communication between parents and children, husbands and wives, employers and employees. In Cambodian culture, to express love in public is a new phenomenon, and they don't feel comfortable saying it out loud.

"If someone's son has done a good job or succeeded at school, the parents will never praise or encourage him, as they think he may become egotistical. However, if their son makes a mistake, they will quickly reprimand him or use bad language towards him.

It contrasts with Western culture, where most parents show a great deal of love to their kids and are more patient when they make mistakes. Normally, this helps the child's development and they do not feel upset as often."

You have received US citizenship, so why did you come back to Cambodia?
"I came to share what I have learnt, and know that Cambodian people need experts to help solve their problems. Many of them experienced the trauma of living through the dark regime, which resulted in deep-rooted psychological distress. Hopefully my radio show can begin to help them resolve their issues."

What do you hope to achieve through the show, and what will you be focusing on?
"Firstly, from what I understand, most Cambodians are emotionally and physically traumatised, even the younger generation. They saw their parents use violence to solve problems, so when they face problems of their own, they will follow in their parents' footsteps.


If you have any questions regarding love and relationships you can contact Dr. Love via: or call Love FM every Thursday night from 9-10pm.

"The two main problems I want to address are education and the lack of communication between people. In terms of education, each individual should be positive. Even if something goes wrong, they should stay optimistic and think, 'If other people can do it, I can too.'

"More importantly, love and communication between people is so important.

"We have to sit and talk to one another, discuss our problems and use non-violent solutions to sort it out. Love and relationships can bring happiness to even the sternest people, and the country as a whole."

Van Chanvey ready for Kao Roomchang

Battambang lightweight fighter Van Chanvey.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Robert Starkweather

Two of the most explosive fighters in the lightweight division will face each other Sunday when Kao Roomchang takes on Van Chanvey at the CTN boxing arena. The match is part of an eight-man, round-robin tournament to determine a challenger for the 60-kilogram title.

"I'm 80 percent certain I can win," said Van Chanvey, sipping on a bottle of Cola after a recent workout session. Both natives of Battambang, Van Chanvey, 23, and Kao Roomchang, 21, are widely regarded as the No 2 and No 3 fighters in the tournament, respectively, behind top-ranked contender Long Sophy.

Van Chanvey says he began fighting at the age of 15. After two years on the village circuit, he moved to Phnom Penh in 2003, where he settled in at Club Preah Khan Reach under the tutelage of head trainer Trueng Sossay.

In his first fight of the tournament July 19, Van Chanvey, known for dangerous elbows and a hard-charging fighting style, stopped fellow Battambang native Bheut Bunthoeun in the third round.

In the second round Van Chanvey had opened up a long, deep gash under the left eye of Bheut Bunthoeun with an elbow, and a devastating knee to the head early in the third round prompted cornerman Nuon Soriya to throw in the towel.

"That guy could fight anywhere in the world," said Paddy Carson, president of ISKA Cambodia, who was watching the fight ringside, adding that the top domestic fighters are at international standard.

Van Chanvey's opponent on Sunday, Kao Roomchang, is just as dangerous.

He came into the tournament riding a wave of top-notch wins, including decision victories over No 1-ranked lightweight contender Long Sophy, lightweight titlist Lao Sinath, and all-star veteran Nuon Soriya.

In his first fight of the tournament, Kao Roomchang put Vung Noy on the canvass twice, once in the second round and once in the fourth, during an electrifying victory performance.

Kao Roomchang and Van Chanvey share very similar fighting styles, and both are known for their superb fitness, incredible work rates, and knockout power. Their collision in the lightweight tournament easily carries the potential for fight-of-the-year status.

Fights begin at 2pm Sunday at the CTN boxing arena.

Post Tel keep Navy team sunk

Phouchung Neak's Tuy Sam (left) puts in a challenge on Post Tel’s Touch Sokheng during their Cambodian Premier League match Wednesday.AFP

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 30 July 2009
Ken Gadaffi

Post Tel sneak a 1-0 win Wednesday over relegation zone companions Phouchung Neak

CAMEROONIAN Henri Bitga's 67th-minute penalty was all Post Tel needed to record their second win of the season during the battle of the bottom two against Phouchung Neak at Olympic Stadium Wednesday.

With the teams deadlocked past the hour mark, the game looked destined for a goalless draw before referee You Vereak gave Post Tel what looked to be a controversial penalty when Phouchung goalkeeper Thay Sinath was judged to have brought down Onyeahiri Amarachi in the box as he dribbled past.

Phounchoung Neak started on a brighter note, with the knowledge that a win would lift them off the bottom for the first time since the season's start in May. Indeed, the Navy team could've opened the scoring after just three minutes when Gafar Durosinmi broke the offside trap to set up a one-on-one, but his shot trailed wide.

Phouchung continued to pile on the pressure, creating a host of chances but failing to convert any, with Yom Sarumthan the worst culprit.

The best chance of the half fell to Post Tel's Touch Sokheng, who failed to connect with a beautiful cross from Phim Pheara five minutes before the break. Moments later, Post Tel captain Khun Khoun was saved from what would have been an embarrassing own goal, when his wayward back pass to goalkeeper Ly Sokheng was scrambled away for a corner kick.

Post Tel came into the second half with more purpose, and tried to dictate the pace but still couldn't find the breakthrough. The Phouchung defence were well-marshaled by Christian Okeke and stood their ground.

The introduction of Navy team substitute Wilson Mene did offer some attcking bite, but once again they flopped in front of the sticks to sum up why they are bringing up the rear of the CPL.

Then, against the run of play, Gafar Durosinmi won the ball just inside the centre circle, squeezed himself past two Phouchung defenders and made a through pass to Amarachi Onyeahiri. The Nigerian forward's touch guided the ball round the onrushing keeper, before he fell to the ground having failed to knock the ball to the empty net.

Referee You Vereak wasted no time in awarding the penalty and booking Thay Sinath, while Navy players stood akimbo, believing the referee had blown for simulation against their player. After Onyeahiri had received medical attention, Post Tel's Henri Bitga stepped up to what would prove to be a decisive goal, hitting his shot onto the bottom of the crossbar before it crept across the line.

Despite Post Tel's confidence, Phouchung fought back and Mene could have grabbed an equalizer inside injury time, but he failed to make contact with a telling cross from You Saruth.

Post Tel recorded their second win of the season to move within seven points of escaping the dropzone; Phouchung remain rooted on two points

The Quality of Education at the Council of Ministers Is Asleep – Wednesday, 29.7.2009

Higher Education Institutions Care Only about Profit while the Accreditation Committee of Cambodia for Assessing the Quality of Education at the Council of Ministers Is Asleep

Posted on 30 July 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 623


The Accreditation Committee of Cambodia is to be a national independent higher education quality assessment body. It was established in March 2003 under the supervision of the Council of Ministers, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, to develop standards of education in Cambodia.

“Khmer Amatak had conducted research at state and private higher education institutions after the Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Mr. Hun Sen, had voiced his concern that higher education does not have much quality, but the institutions are more concerned with quantity, and he blamed some universities to have poor management, especially over the quality of education required and set up by the Ministry of Education.

“Khmer Amatak noticed that the quality of education at universities is still a major problem, even though there is a directive from Prime Minister Hun Sen. Khmer Amatak found some specific problems: most universities do not require their students to do assignments, and graduate assignments are written by hiring other people to do it, sometimes students are not required to defend their assignment results, lecturers offer the students’ test answers in advance, some students, especially those who are civil servants, attend classes irregularly and use different means to bribe their lectures so that they understand them, some lecturers do not have enough experience and teaching skills, some lecturers do not have sufficient time to do research, as they work also as civil servants, or they have to teach many sessions at different universities. Khmer Amatak found some other problems, like that the Ministry of Education does not conduct regular educational quality assessments at different higher education institutions, or pretends not to see the problem.

“A student of the Norton University of Law, who asked not to be named, told Khmer Amatak that lecturers give students’ test questions before the exam, so that the students can prepare the answers. This student complained that they are not happy with such activities of their lecturers, because at the end there are no real exams, but just copying of lessons. This student added that they are hard working, obey discipline, and want to show their real ability through fair exams, because the results will prove their real ability and pride. Most students of this university are disappointed with the management committee, and especially with the rector for not taking any thorough measures to ensure the quality of education. They asked the board of directors of this university to strengthen the quality of education by checking the lecturers’ capacity, and posing strict discipline on lecturers and on students.

“The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, Mr. Rong Chhun, issued a statement expressing serious concerns over the quality of the recent Grade 9 examinations. In this 2009 Grade 9 examinations, more than 91% of students passed. Mr. Rong Chhun criticized that this results does not reflect real quality. He blamed the Ministry of Education for lowering the passing scores from 250 points to only 230 points; moreover, the examinations were conducted poorly, like the contents of some exam papers were known and distributed ahead of the examinations, and observers were bribed by students. He asked to abolish the poorly conducted Grade 9 examinations, and requested to take only the semesters’ results and the students’ attendance records instead. To do so would save more than US$2 million, which could be used to increase the teachers’ salaries. What he had requested had been rejected by officials of the Ministry of Education.

“Khmer Amatak is also observing the Grade 12 examinations [at present in their third day]. Mr. Rong Chhun said that there have been many irregularities. Students are allowed to bring with them papers they use for cheating in their examination rooms, students bribe examination observers, so that their cheating papers are not seized and that they are allowed to call outside to ask for help or for answers for their examinations, the bribes are low or high, depending on the subjects etc… He added that the Ministry of Education does not strictly implement the ordinances and the laws about the education system, and on education officials or observers. So far, there has not been any reaction from the Ministry of Education over what he has mentioned.

“Retired education officials voiced their opinion to Khmer Amatak, saying that Cambodia is encountering an education slowdown, since the quality of education in Cambodia has not responded to the quality standards required by the international labor market. According to a report by the United Nations International Labor Organization in 2007, among 10,000 Khmer graduating students each year, only 10% can find jobs. The same report showed that between 300,000 and 400,000 young graduating students are seeking jobs. According to the observation of the UN program and the national development strategic plan of Cambodia for 2006 to 2010, there is the highest rate of graduating young people ever, creating specific opportunities and challenges in Cambodia. Cambodia will have to face severe problems at the labor market for young people seeking jobs, and it is estimated that within five more years, the number of young people hunting for jobs will increase over 300,000. While Cambodia is already encountering serious problems at the labor market to absorb the young people, the number of young unemployed people will be more than the total growth of the labor force. Therefore this is a potential contributing to social instability, if there are no solutions.

“Does the Royal Government of Prime Minister Hun Sen have specific measures to strengthen the state and the private higher education? Education analysts expressed the concern that if the Royal Government does not take strict actions, the quality of education in Cambodia will fall into a deep crisis, and it will be difficult to restore the situation to normals as most educational institutions care only about profits. This analyst asked the Royal Government to check the operation of the national Accreditation Committee of Cambodia for educational quality assessment administered by the Council of Ministers, which so far does not take any action. In addition, the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport has to conduct a thorough assessment of the education programs of all universities.

“A civil society official said that the Royal Government should consider the appointment of leaders of educational institutions, especially of those from the private sector, with persons of high positions in the government, making it difficult to do any real assessment.”

Khmer Amatak, Vol.10, #630, 29.7.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Sondhi calls on PM to sack Patcharawat

Sondhi: Says PM is ‘acting like a child’

Published: 30/07/2009

Sondhi Limthongkul has taken Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to task for failing to dismiss national police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon.

Mr Sondhi's People's Alliance for Democracy blames Pol Gen Patcharawat for the slow progress in the investigation into the attempted murder of Mr Sondhi on April 17.

Mr Sondhi yesterday told reporters that if the police could not arrest a suspect in the attempted murder of a person of his profile, the nation might be in trouble.

He said Mr Abhisit and other people in important positions could also become assassination targets.

The PAD leader criticised Mr Abhisit for lacking the maturity of a leader by failing to remove Pol Gen Patcharawat as police chief.

If the prime minister decided not to transfer Pol Gen Patcharawat to strike a compromise with the military and political groups, the decision would probably backfire on his future, Mr Sondhi said.

"Mr Abhisit acts like a child who has no leadership at all," he said.

Mr Sondhi also questioned why Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who supervises national security, did not support the removal of Pol Gen Patcharawat.

He said Mr Suthep knew well that police had remained idle while red shirt demonstrators stormed the venue of the the Asean summit in Pattaya in April, forcing its postponement.

Mr Sondhi said the team assigned to kill him in Bangkok consisted of 13 officers from the special operations unit Task Force 90 in Lop Buri and one policeman.

The murder attempt was a collaboration between the military and the Department of Special Investigation, he alleged.

PAD coordinator Suriyasai Katasila said his group feared the Sondhi case was being deliberately delayed while scapegoats were being sought.

The alliance believed the investigation was being manipulated.

He said the PAD had hoped Mr Abhisit would help remove obstacles in the investigation.

But it could well turn out Mr Suthep himself was the obstacle, he said.

PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan yesterday also urged the government to put up a fight against Cambodia's attempt to claim petroleum deposits worth 4trillion baht in the Gulf of Thailand near Koh Kud in Trat province.

He said Cambodia based its claim on a map attached to a joint communique signed by convicted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra with Phnom Penh on June 19, 2001.

The PAD found that instead of the entire deposits belonging to Thailand, they have now become part of an overlapping territory which Cambodia could claim.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya yesterday defended Mr Suthep's role in the Thai-Cambodian Joint Technical Committee on Maritime.

He said Mr Suthep had what it takes to defend the national interest.

Another airline for Cambodia

Image via

By Luc Citrinot, eTN Staff Writer Jul 29, 2009

Since the bankruptcy of Royal Air Cambodge in 2002, Cambodia has struggled to get a new national carrier. Many failed joint ventures or dubious and corrupted businessmen launching their own airlines have naturally failed to offer Cambodia a credible air transport alternative. Cambodia then relies exclusively on the good will of foreign carriers to be linked to the rest of the world. It remains an unsustainable position, especially as the kingdom has large ambitions for its tourism.

Welcome now to Cambodia Angkor Airlines, which might open a new chapter in Cambodian aviation history. The airline is backed by Vietnam Airlines, which sent two ATR 72s to the new joint venture owned 51 percent by the Cambodian government. The agreement between Vietnam Airlines and Cambodia stipulates that CAA will acquire two Airbus A320s and A321s for regional routes, with delivery due by the end of the year or early 2010.

The airline will start flying with four daily flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and will rapidly open a flight between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. In parallel, Cambodia is officially opening the new Sihanoukville Airport, officially renamed Preah Sihanouk International Airport, after the former Cambodian King.

Malaria Strain Resists Drugs, May Threaten Millions, Study Says


By Simeon Bennett

July 30 (Bloomberg) -- Malaria is becoming resistant to the most powerful drugs available in Southeast Asia, as the World Health Organization races to stop the spread of the strain that could be “disastrous” for global malaria control.

Treatments derived from artemisinin, the basis of the most effective anti-malaria drugs, took almost twice as long to clear the parasites that cause the disease in patients in western Cambodia as in patients in northwestern Thailand, according to a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The delay in parasite clearance times shows the drugs are losing their power against the disease in Cambodia, the study said. The failure of artemisinin-based treatments would be “disastrous” for global efforts aimed at curbing the death and disease wrought by the malady, said Arjen Dondorp, who led the study at the Mahidol Oxford Research Unit in Bangkok.

“There is no question that this is resistance to artemisinin,” Carlos Campbell, a malaria expert with the Seattle-based Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, or PATH, wrote in an editorial accompanying the study. “History warns us that it will intensify and spread unless containment steps are taken.”

Scientists have known for decades that Pailin, near Cambodia’s border with Thailand, is a breeding ground for drug- resistant malaria. Chloroquine and Roche Holding AG’s Fansidar started to fail there in the 1950s and 1960s, before becoming ineffective elsewhere, according to the study. The WHO, with $23 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is coordinating efforts to prevent artemisinin-resistant malaria from spreading to Africa, which has 90 percent of the world’s cases of the disease.

Delayed Clearance

Delayed parasite clearance times have been observed in southern Cambodia since the study’s completion, a sign the resistant strain has already spread within the country, Dondorp said in a phone interview.

Dondorp and colleagues treated 40 people in Pailin and another 40 in Wang Pha in Thailand, with artesunate, a form of artemisinin.

In Pailin, the drug took a median of 84 hours to clear the parasite from patients’ blood, compared with 48 hours, the standard, in Wang Pha, according to the study. After three days, artesunate failed to clear the parasite in 55 percent of patients in Pailin, compared with 8 percent in Wang Pha.

Widespread artemisinin resistance “would cause millions of deaths, without exaggeration,” Dondorp said in an interview in January.

Deadly Disease

Malaria strikes about 250 million people each year and kills more than 880,000, mostly children under 5, according to the WHO. It’s the world’s third-deadliest infectious disease, behind AIDS, which results in about 2 million deaths each year, and tuberculosis, which kills 1.6 million people annually, the Geneva-based WHO said.

Malaria is caused by a tiny parasite called Plasmodium, carried in the saliva of female mosquitoes. When an infected insect bites a person, the bugs travel to the liver, multiply and enter the bloodstream. There they invade red cells, leading to fever, chills, nausea and diarrhea. Unchecked, they cause red cells to stick to the walls of capillaries, slowing blood flow. Sufferers can die from organ failure without treatment.

The latest findings confirm those of earlier, inconclusive studies that suggested artesunate was losing potency in the region. Until now, researchers weren’t sure whether slowing cure rates were due to the failure of artesunate or another less powerful drug, mefloquine, that’s usually given with it.

No Alternative

Campbell noted that there isn’t an alternative class of malaria drugs to replace artemisinin derivatives. Artemisinin- based medications work by giving malaria a short, sharp shock, clearing most of the parasites from the blood within hours. The drawback is they don’t remain in the body. The WHO’s guidelines recommend combining the drug with one of several less-powerful, longer-lasting medicines that eradicate stragglers.

Those other drugs, such as mefloquine, may cause adverse effects including nausea, vomiting and nightmares. When the two drugs are sold side by side, rather than combined in a single pill, some patients take only the artemisinin to avoid unpleasant symptoms, paving the way for relapses and drug resistance.

Counterfeit drugs containing suboptimal amounts of artesunate may also have contributed to the development of the resistant strain, Dondorp said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Simeon Bennett in Singapore at
Last Updated: July 29, 2009