Thursday, 6 August 2009

Cambodia, malaria emergency: in six months 103 deaths and 27 thousand infections

08/06/2009 10:18

Deaths increase by 58% since same period in 2008. Spread of parasite caused by the early start to rainy season and a delay in the distribution of mosquito nets. A recent study shows the emergence of a drug-resistant strain of the disease.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Cambodia has declared a malaria emergency. The National Center for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control has reported over 100 deaths and more than 27 thousand cases of infection in the first six months of the year. The rapid spread of the parasite has been provoked by the advance start of the rainy season and a delay in the distribution of bed nets.

Cambodian officials speak of a 58% increase in deaths since the same period last year. Doung Socheat, director of the Center, reports that between January and June, 103 people have died while the cases of malaria are now 27,105. In the first six months of 2008 there were 65 deaths and 25,033 infections. He adds that around 400 thousand bed-nets have been made available, but only 200 thousand delivered to households.

The publication of official data in Cambodia comes a few days after the publication of a study that shows certain varieties of malaria have become much more resistant to medical treatment. The research appeared in the scientific New England Journal of Medicine, and shows that some parasites are resistant to artemisin, the most common drug for the treatment of malaria. "It is not 100% resistant," says Arjen M. Dondorp, Thai researcher, “but it is still a very worrying because it is the first major step towards full strength. "

Cambodia to lift entry visa restrictions

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, right, and his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhongafter signing a prisoner exchange agreement inBangkokyesterday. JETJARASNARANONG

Bangkok Post

Published: 6/08/2009

Thailand and Cambodia have agreed to waive visa requirements for each other's citizens starting next year to mark 60 years of diplomatic relations.

The agreement was reached yesterday at the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission meeting led by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. The meeting was the first by the commission since talks were suspended three years ago.

The agreement to waive the visas for holders of ordinary passports is expected to be signed next year as part of activities celebrating the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries 60 years ago.

The decision leaves Burma as the only member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations requiring Thais wishing to enter the country to apply for a visa.

Hor Namhong said Thailand and Cambodia also agreed to strengthen cooperation on tourism by jointly promoting the sector under the Two Kingdoms, One Destination project and would expedite the single visa policy between the two countries.

He said the two sides would hasten the next Joint Boundary Commission meeting, chaired by former Thai ambassador to Seoul Vasin Teeravechyan and his Cambodian counterpart Var Kim Hong, and resume the Joint Technical Committee meeting on overlapping maritime claims which has been suspended since 2006.

Mr Kasit said all obstacles to border negotiations would soon be resolved.

In a joint statement, the two ministers said they would work together to identify the area bridging Sa Kaeo province and Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province before setting up a new international checkpoint.

An Emerald Triangle meeting would be held soon to help develop human resources, Hor Namhong said.

Mr Kasit and Hor Namhong yesterday also signed an agreement that would allow some prisoners, after serving minimum periods of imprisonment, to be transferred in order to serve their remaining sentences in their own country.

Cambodia's literacy rate among youngsters reaches 84.7%

People's Daily Online

August 06, 2009

Cambodia's literacy rate among people aged 15-24 has reached 84.7 percent after years of efforts by the government, khmer newspaper reported on Thursday.

"If we consider 15 years old upwards, it has 73.6 percent of literate people. However, among this figure, there are still 26.4 percent of illiterate population, " the Kampuchea Thmei quoted Phon Hon Sin, director of informal education system of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, as saying.

And among the illiterate people, 60 percent of them are women. "Each year we helped 55,000 people to eliminate illiteracy," he said.

"The most of illiterate women have abandoned their education since the beginning of primary. Their dropout rate from primary and secondary schools is about 10 percent across the country and at the higher education, the women enrollment rate is so low and it has about 30 percent only," he said, adding that poverty is mainly the reason why they abandon education.

"Education sectors of the government opened 1,000 literacy classes and another 1,000 literacy classes were set up by organizations with supports from partners," he said.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodia Says No Plans to Grant Oil Concessions in Disputed Area

BBC Monitoring via Comtex
Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has given assurances Phnom Penh has no plans to grant petroleum concessions to private companies in a maritime zone disputed with Thailand.

Hor Namhong's assurance yesterday came amid media reports that Cambodia had given Total, a French firm, a concession to explore for oil in a 27,000 sq km area claimed by the two countries.

The deputy prime minister, who met with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at Government House yesterday, made it clear Phnom Penh's position was not to disturb the disputed maritime area claimed by both countries in the Gulf of Thailand, said acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn.

The Cambodian foreign minister will lead his delegation in talks with his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya, and Thai officials at the Thai-Cambodian Joint Commission meeting today. Panitan quoted Hor Namhong as saying the Cambodian government was looking forward to solving the dispute over the overlapping maritime zone through all existing mechanisms.

Abhisit and the Cambodian deputy prime minister also discussed future cooperation between the two countries.

The cabinet recently approved a loan of 1.4 billion baht for Phnom Penh to improve a road linking Samrong with O'Smach, near Thailand's Aranyaprathet district in Sa Kaeo province.

The Thaksin Shinawatra government earlier helped Phnom Penh improve a road linking Koh Kong with Sre Ambel, near Thailand's Klong Yai district in Trat province.


Photo by: AFP

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009

Journalist Lisa Ling (left) smiles Wednesday as she talks with sister and journalist Laura Ling, who along with Euna Lee arrived in Burbank, California, after being released by North Korean authorities.

Groups ask donors to intervene

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Sebastian Strangio and Meas Sokchea

FOREIGN donors have been accused of failing to hold the government to account by rights groups who have called on the international community to ensure aid payments support reforms and do not go towards strengthening a corrupt system of government. In the wake of opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua's conviction on defamation charges Tuesday, rights groups said donors were taking no action in the face of an escalating crackdown on government critics.

Sara Colm, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, called the Mu Sochua verdict a "slap in the face" for international donors and the Cambodian people.

"Donors who've been supporting the rule of law and judicial reform programmes in Cambodia need to take a long hard look at the actual lack of progress and good will on the part of the government," she said. "It's really a sham to continue funding judicial reform, rule of law [and] democracy-building programmes."

Others said that if foreign governments are going to provide yearly aid to Cambodia, conditions should be set. "This is taxpayers' money from different countries, and with the financial crisis it's even more important that countries are held accountable," said Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho.

A report released by the UK-based corruption watchdog Global Witness in February said that the donor community appeared "ill-prepared or reluctant" to hold the Cambodian government to international good governance standards despite pledging nearly US$4 billion in aid since 2002."The lack of public response from donors is another example of a failure on the part of the international community to confront this culture of impunity," said Amy Barry, a Global Witness spokesperson. "Donors must use the influence and leverage they have to promote good governance and hold the Cambodian government to account. Freedom of expression is a crucial element of this."

During a press conference at Sam Rainsy Party headquarters after her court hearing, Mu Sochua called on international donors to ensure foreign aid payments were not poured into a corrupt system. "We call on the international community not just to take note, but to take action," she said.

"We cannot let aid come into Cambodia and go into this system, which provides no justice for the poor."

A spokesman for the US Embassy said the country would continue to "monitor closely cases of defamation and disinformation" to see that proper judicial processes are followed. "The Cambodian constitution provides for free speech, and we hope that the Royal Government will seriously consider the effect that decisions on defamation have on this guaranteed right," the spokesman said.

British Ambassador Andrew Mace declined to comment on the Mu Sochua case Wednesday, but said that representatives of EU governments would be meeting with the government on Friday to discuss the recent crackdown. Officials from the French and German embassies in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Mu Sochua, who was ordered to pay 16.5 million riels (US$3,937) in fines and compensation for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, is the fourth government critic to have been convicted on defamation or disinformation charges since June. "These recent convictions and sentences seem inconsistent with [international] standards," the Phnom Penh office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement Wednesday. "Their cumulative effect risks stifling public debate on important issues of public interest and reduces the space for the exercise of the most core of democratic values: freedom of expression."

Mu Sochua flew to the United States on Wednesday, after filing an appeal against the verdict. She has said she will refuse to pay the fine. "She has not fled the country. She flew to meet with American representatives to tell them about human rights, the judiciary, land disputes and corruption," SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Wednesday. "There is nothing to flee."

KRT hears of burnt foreigner

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Cheang Sokha

A former guard tells the tribunal he witnessed a Westerner being burned alive outside Tuol Sleng.

A FORMER security guard at Tuol Sleng prison told Cambodia's war crimes tribunal on Wednesday that he witnessed a Western prisoner being burned alive inside a pile of car tyres.

Chiem Soeu, 52, who was assigned to a guard post outside the S-21 prison, said three guards took the foreign detainee to a street outside the compound, where they made him sit and put his head and body through the tyres.

"At that time, they burned off the body, but the body was not completely burned because they did not use extra car tyres," said witness Chiem Soeu, who now works as a palm-tree climber.

"I saw the remains of the body the next day, and nobody touched it or took it away," he added.

Chiem Soeu, who was called to testify in the trial of his former boss, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, did not mention the nationality of the prisoner in his testimony.

"I saw the black torso and the black, burnt legs," Chiem Soeu said, adding that he was standing about 20 metres from the site.

"For the time that I stood guard, the car tyre was still burning. I think everything was burned off during the next shift."

Duch, who commanded the torture centre during the regime, has previously admitted to the court that four Westerners were detained at the prison - an American, an Australian, a Briton and a New Zealander.

He said on Wednesday that it had not been his orders to burn the Westerners alive, but rather burn their bodies.

"I was ordered by [Brother No 2] Nuon Chea that the foreign prisoners should be taken out and burned to ashes so as not to leave any remains behind," he said.

"So what he said regarding the burning alive of the prisoner seems to carry no weight. It is hard for me to believe that the prisoner was burned alive."

Jarvis says she has support
Separately, the head of the tribunal's victims' unit, Helen Jarvis, said Wednesday that she believed she still had the support of victims at the court despite her membership in a Leninist party faction in Australia.

Speaking at her first press conference since her appointment in June, Jarvis responded in Khmer - chas - for "yes" when asked if the victims she was representing supported her.

Concerns about Jarvis's appointment were first raised by defence lawyers at the court, who singled out a 2006 statement signed by members of the Leninist Party Faction (LPF) including Jarvis. It proclaimed: "Against the bourgeoisie and their state agencies, we don't respect their laws and their fake moral principles."

Victims and civil parties expressed their concern over the appointment in a letter in June, asking her to explain how a person who subscribed to Marxist-Leninist ideals could represent victims of the same ideals.

"The victims' unit is for victims to speak their voice, and they've said that they're not happy [with Jarvis's appointment]. What else can they do?" director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, Youk Chhang, said Wednesday.

Hun Sen praises ECCC staff
Hun Sen praised the Cambodian nationals working at the tribunal, saying that they had "no less" capacity than foreigners working there.

"We should be proud of our judges, prosecutors and lawyers who [have the capacity] to work [there]," he said on Wednesday.

"I do not degrade foreigners, but as a Khmer national, I must be proud of [Khmer] officials at this tribunal," he added.

Lawyers for detained former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea sent a letter to the prime minister this week, however, urging him to explain why his signature was on a memorandum about the selection of tribunal judges.

"What role, if any, did you play in the selection and appointment of the jurists?" lawyers asked in a letter dated Monday. Lawyers are concerned that the memo, which was given to them by a "reliable source", could indicate that the independence of the court was compromised.


'Planthoppers' ravage rice

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A boy shows one of many brown ‘planthoppers’ that ruined his family’s rice crops in Takeo last season.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Tha Piseth

PESTS have ravaged about 4.500 hectares of rice crops in four provinces near the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, agriculture officials said on Wednesday.

Rithi Kun, deputy director of the Agriculture Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Wednesday that brown "planthoppers", small pests that eat rice seedlings and thrive during the rainy season, have infested thousands of hectares of paddies in Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Kandal and Takeo provinces.

Rithi Kun said his department was conducting extensive outreach efforts in the affected provinces to contain the problem. "We are working to educate farmers about how to disperse the brown planthoppers from their rice fields," he said.

The ministry is also offering payment to farmers who catch the planthoppers, thus preventing them from spreading to neighbouring farms. Farmers earn US$1.20 for every 10 kilograms of planthoppers they bring to their provincial agriculture office, said Thach Ratana, director of the agriculture department in Svay Rieng province.

Ngik Sron, director of the Department of Agriculture in Takeo province, said the brown planthopper population has flourished as farmers rely increasingly on chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which kill many of the planthoppers' natural predators.

Bilateral talks with Thailand hailed by FMs

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Vong Sokheng and Sam Rith

Officials say border row won't hinder warming of relations.

FOREIGN ministers from Cambodia and Thailand resumed joint policy talks for the first time in three years Wednesday after months of fractious relations over a border temple dispute.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and his Thai counterpart Kasit Piromya met at a Bangkok hotel to discuss the spat and deeper economic ties.

Clashes near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple have left several soldiers dead since July 2008, when the temple was granted UN World Heritage status, and tensions have also arisen over disputed waters where both countries have granted oil and gas exploration rights to private companies.

High-level delegations have met at various times over the past year in an attempt to heal the rifts, but Wednesday's meeting is the first time since 2006 that ministers have convened their joint policy commission.

The body had previously met once a year to oversee relations between the two countries.

Hor Namhong hailed the meeting for promoting "progress" between the two countries after his return from talks, adding, however, that he urged Thailand's parliament to approve recommendations from previous border talks that are hoped to speed a resolution to the dispute over territory contested by the neighbours.

"The agreement should be approved as soon as possible ... so that the Joint Border Commission can begin demarcating the border," he said.

The foreign ministers said earlier that they would resume the joint technical committee on the maritime dispute and vowed the disagreement would not be an obstacle.

"Our problems will not trouble our relations. Whatever our troubles are, we will solve them," Kasit said following the two-hour meeting.

Whatever our troubles are, we will solve them.

The pair also reached agreements on efforts to fight human trafficking and an arrangement that will allow some prisoners, after serving minimum periods of imprisonment, to be transferred in order to serve their remaining sentences in their own countries.

The discussions took in economic ties, as well, with Hor Namhong saying the pair had discussed opening a new border crossing in Banteay Meanchey province.

"[Prime Minister] Abisit Vejjajiva agreed to study this and push to open [the new border crossing] soon," he said, adding that Cambodia had also urged Thailand to ease restriction on the purchase of produce from Cambodian farmers along the border.


PM warns opposition of citing 'autocracy'

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Sam Rith

PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that any opposition member who calls Cambodia an "autocracy" will be met with a lawsuit by the Cambodian People's Party.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh, the prime minister told opposition members to exercise "caution" when describing the Kingdom.

"Be cautious about using [the] improper language of dictatorship, for sometimes there will be legal action," Hun Sen said.

"This regime rules according to the constitutional monarchy and the principle of liberal democracy and pluralism," he said.

Hun Sen did not name particular opposition members, but referenced opposition in the Sam Rainsy Party.

Yim Sovann, a lawmaker and spokesperson for the SRP, said that the prime minister's comments amounted to another threat against members of the SRP and its parliamentarians.

He said that housing evictions by armed forces of the ruling party and the suppression of peaceful demonstrations "has never happened in a democratic country".

"I am not accusing the prime minister, but he may very well realise himself: What is the country's rule? Is it democracy or autocracy?" Yim Sovann said.

"Look at Thailand, whose citizens have enough rights to express their opinion by holding peaceful demonstrations. Such a culture is not allowed in Cambodia."

Enemies, foreign and domestic

Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
Former prime minister Pen Sovan at his residence in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio

An old political player speaks out about communism, justice and the country's current political trajectory.

PEN Sovan played a prominent part of the Cambodian resistance against the Pol Pot regime during the late 1970s. After rising through the political ranks, he was appointed prime minister in May 1981, but was arrested in December and imprisoned in Hanoi for his criticisms of the Vietnamese military occupation. Now a member of the Human Rights Party, Pen Sovan spoke with the Post about his experiences in power and the current political situation.

When you became prime minister in 1981, the country was still ravaged by the rule of the Khmer Rouge. What were your main priorities as leader?
The main goal was to set up a system of law and make sure that the first people who respected the law were the leaders, so that the people had something to follow. The second issue was to create a court system that was recognised by the people as a court that handed down fair justice.
Thirdly, leaders must have a clear idea what their goals are. In my time it was very clear.

You were arrested after just six months in power and imprisoned in Vietnam. What led to this turn of events?
In the past I was always opposed to foreign invaders, including the French colonists, and I had only one wish: I wanted Cambodia to have independence, freedom, democracy, territorial integrity and real sovereignty. When I became a leader in the People's Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea (PRPK), I still continued to fight for the national cause. Since then, I have gotten older, but my ideals have not changed.

The influence of [KR] doctrine is linked to trends in the current leadership.

And why did I quit the political scene? I quit politics for one reason: I did not want to see Vietnam controlling the Cambodian government. Vietnam helped to demolish the Khmer Rouge regime, but they were not honest with their help and sought to turn Cambodia into a colony. When I saw this happening and demanded that Vietnam must respect our independence, freedom, democracy and territorial integrity, they did not respect it and they are still violating this today. My struggles against the Vietnamese influence prompted some politicians who are currently in power and are allowing Vietnam to control Cambodia, to arrest me and imprison me in Hanoi for 10 years and 52 days.

What is your view on the recent crackdown on the government's critics?
The crackdown originates in the fact that the top leaders in Cambodia were influenced by the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge regime only took the title of "democratic". The influence of this doctrine is linked to trends in the current leadership. They are under the sway of some of the same doctrines, which preached absolute power - not democracy.

King Father Norodom Sihanouk recently said that Hun Sen's government was the "younger brother" of his own rule of the 1950s and 1960s. Do you see any similarities between the two regimes?
I don't think the two governments are very similar. I see the regime led by Samdech Sihanouk as being led by a doctrine of royalism, under which there was a constitution that was implemented fairly. But nowadays, under the government led by Hun Sen, the constitution only exists on paper. It is not implemented for the people, and they do not know what the government has done for them. The government is not aware of the people's needs.

What made you decide to join the Human Rights Party?
Since UNTAC came to Cambodia, I have not joined any party or opposed any party. At that time, there were 20 parties who were strong on verbal commitments to enforce democracy in Cambodia, most of which were from Western countries. But I think they were only good at speaking, and that they could never manage to implement democratic ideals.... We tried to implement external laws in Cambodia, and we could not achieve it.... Khmers did not understand these foreign ideas. That's why I joined with the Human Rights Party. I have seen that [HRP president] Kem Sokha was prominent in the border resistance and has gone in a democratic direction. I have seen that his actions are good, educating people about democracy. I see that the HRP's platform is similar to the ideas I developed after I left communism.

What is your view on the Khmer Rouge tribunal? Do you think the court will achieve justice?
I don't think it will achieve much, for three reasons. Firstly, the head of government does not really want a Khmer Rouge tribunal. The second is that the court has been created 30 years after the Khmer Rouge were overthrown in January 1979, which is much too late. Thirdly, the court has been disturbed by corruption, and the head of government has not allowed investigations of these allegations, so I don't think it will achieve anything.


Korsang joins NGOs seeking end to harassment of AIDS groups

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Nathan Green

Bali, Indonesia

THE Cambodian NGO Korsang has called on the UN's joint programme on AIDS and HIV, UNAIDS, to tackle government restrictions on non-governmental organisations in Asia working to address the disease.

Korsang, along with 32 international AIDS NGOs, made the demand in a letter sent ahead of the this year's International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP), which begins Sunday in Bali, Indonesia.

The letter, signed by Korsang Executive Director Holly Bradford and academics from around the world, called on UNAIDS Director Michael Sidibe to "issue a strong public statement urging governments to lift restrictions on AIDS NGOs and to stop jailing our colleagues in Asia".

"UNAIDS and international donors have kept quiet in public while our colleagues are imprisoned, threatened and beaten," the letter said.

The China-based AIDS NGO Asia Catalyst organised the letter.

Sara Davis, executive director, told the Post it was triggered when an unnamed Chinese AIDS advocate had his passport seized by police to prevent him from travelling to the congress.

"He was told that if he spoke to international organisations or media, he would face the same fate as Hu Jia," Davis said, referring to the Chinese activist and dissident sentenced to three years and six months in jail in April 2008 for inciting state subversion.

The letter also cited the forcible eviction of Korsang by Cambodian police six times in the past five years as evidence of abuses.

The arrest and detention without charge for five days of a Korsang harm-reduction outreach worker in June 2008 was also highlighted.

Bradford said she signed the letter to help call attention to the persecution that many harm-reduction NGOs in Asia face and to improve cooperation between groups.

"If the harm-reduction community doesn't stick together, we're going to get bullied," she said.

"I'd like to see the harm-reduction world work with the police. We need each other."

Bradford is due to speak at an ICAAP satellite session on Monday regarding restrictions on AIDS NGOS in Asia.


Police Blotter: 06 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Kong Sokun

An owner of a karaoke parlour in Kratie's Snuol district was arrested by provincial police Sunday on suspicion of slaying her jealous husband, who slapped her while she was drinking, singing and dancing with clients the previous night. Pon Peng, 30, was found dead at around 4am, hanging from the bar of a window with a white T-shirt. Neighbours said that after killing her husband, Ke Chhanboth, 43, yelled for help and told them her husband had committed suicide. However, police said that it was a murder.

Two foreigners were nabbed Monday on suspicion of stealing at least 300,000 riels (US$72) from a vendor in Kampong Chhnang's Chhnok Trou market, as they were buying a $0.50 pair of underwear. Hok Chanda, 30, told police that a 20-year-old Brazilian, Amra Ta Tak, and a 28-year-old Iranian, Abul Phul, stole the money when she was busy changing notes for them. After the arrest, the suspects, who fled the scene via their rented car before being nabbed, denied pocketing money from the seller and threatened legal action, claiming that they lost some money during the police search.

A young Buddhist monk from Svay Rieng's Tuol Takeo pagoda took off his loincloth and replaced it with civilian dress to take his girlfriend for a ride on a black Honda motorbike borrowed from a gullible chief monk on Monday night. Police said Meas Sok, 18, drove so speedily on his way back to the monastery that his motorbike hit a railing of a bridge at around 4am. Police said that the girlfriend, Meas Dy, 20, sustained severe injuries in the nighttime accident and that the monk's legs were broken and his right eye sustained a bruise.

Russei Keo district police arrested one of three armed thieves on Sunday after they robbed a civil servant, Tous Saphoeun, 37, of a Toyota Highlander at around 8pm along National Road 6A in the district's Chroy Changvar commune. Police identified the perpetrator as Ghen Pisan, 32, residing in Kampong Cham's Krouch Chhmar district. After the arrest, the suspect denied perpetrating the crime but confessed that he had just been released from prison in May after completing a five-year jail term. Police are hunting for two other suspects, whose names were not disclosed.

Police warned to wear helmets

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Post Staff

PRIME Minister Hun Sen called on the police and military to set an example for the Cambodian people and respect the Traffic Law in a speech at a Build Bright University ceremony Wednesday.

The police implementing the new law, he said, needed to wear helmets and have mirrors on their motorbikes.

"Now, we have started the implementation [of the traffic law]. If you don't have a helmet and mirrors, your motorbikes will be confiscated."

The prime minister called the traffic situation in Cambodia "horrible" and urged everyone to follow the law and reduce accidents, even if there are no police around.

Uk Kimlek, the deputy director general of the National Police, admitted Wednesday that many police on motorbikes do not wear helmets or have mirrors but said that police will improve after Hun Sen's speech.

In the last four days, police temporarily confiscated about 20,000 motorbikes from drivers without helmets or mirrors. The police release motorbikes after drivers show proof they had purchased them, Uk Kimlek said.

Govt blocks meeting with contestants

Photo by: Gorm K Gaare / Miss Landmine 2009
Miss Battambang, Dos Sopheap.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
James O'Toole

THE organiser of the ill-fated Miss Landmine pageant still wants to show his appreciation to the contestants, despite being told by government officials that a meeting with the women would be "absolutely out of the question".

The Ministry of Social Affairs issued a decree on Sunday banning organiser Morten Traavik from staging the event, which had been intended to celebrate land mine survivors.

Traavik said the ministry has since instructed its provincial offices not to assist any of the women in travelling to Phnom Penh to meet with him, where he was planning to host a dinner and give each of them a gift of US$200.

"If they refuse to let me meet with Cambodian citizens ... as a private person, that is an even more blatant example of an authoritarian system," Traavik said.

Despite these frustrations, Traavik plans to comply with the government decree, although the Miss Landmine Web site, hosted on foreign soil, will remain online.

"I'm a Norwegian citizen.... But for my Cambodian friends and partners, I have to put their well-being in front of everything else," he said.

On Wednesday, the Cambodian Disabled People's Organisation (CDPO) issued a statement in support of the government ban. CDPO officials had previously collaborated with Traavik on the pageant.

"We would like to express our gratitude for the valuable recommendations of ... [Minister of Social Affairs] Ith Sam Heang, who offered his timely advice to the CDPO," the statement read.

CDPO's executive director, Ngin Saorath, said that the organisation works closely with the ministry on a variety of projects and must maintain good relations. "What the government decides, we have to respect," he said.

Traavik was unsurprised by the CDPO's reversal, saying that their statement was written "in full understanding" with him.

Ngin Saorath, however, downplayed the significance of the controversy. "It doesn't mean this is the end of the rights of people with disabilities," he said.

Retrial in unionist's killing set for Aug 17

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

THE Court of Appeal has scheduled the retrial of Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang, convicted of the 2004 murder of labour leader Chea Vichea, for August 17, Chan Socheat, lawyer for Sok Sam Oeun, said Wednesday.

Sok Sam Oeun, who is now working as an English teacher, said Wednesday from his hometown in Takeo that he had received a summons to the Appeal Court to stand trial on August 17 at 7:30am.

"I am quite sure I will be on trial on that day even though I am innocent," he said.

The initial verdict was widely condemned by Cambodian and international rights groups who said the pair were scapegoats.

Late last year, the Supreme Court ordered the provisional release of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun citing contradictory evidence. The pair had been imprisoned for nearly five years.

Born Samnang was unavailable for comment, but his mother Keo Chanta said that he had received a summons to appear at court this month and that he was planning to attend the trial

WING works with Smart Mobile

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A customer walks into a WING branch in Phnom Penh. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of ANZ Bank, is set to launch its money transfer service on Smart Mobile.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Steve Finch

MOBILE phone firm Smart is set to become the latest mobile phone service in Cambodia to use WING, a payment service owned by ANZ Banking Group.

WING's business-performance manager, Lee-Anne Pitcaithly, said Wednesday that the firm will launch the service for Smart customers at 9am Friday after an event in Phnom Penh.

WING's managing director, Brad Adams, said deals with other mobile phone providers are also planned.

"It's likely we'll have another couple of big announcements in the next few months," he said Wednesday.

The service allows payment by mobile phone using the WING Tinh Card, a top-up system starting at US$1. WING launched on the Hello network in April.

It also allows non-users to receive money through its WING Wei Luy service using a security code that translates into cash at WING Cash Xpress points.

WING said Wednesday it has no plans to work with Mobitel, Cambodia's leading mobile company by market share, despite ANZ's existing relationship with the Royal Group through local bank ANZ Royal. Kith Meng's Royal Group holds a 38.5 percent share in Mobitel.

"It's unlikely we will work with Mobitel," Adams said, adding that Mobitel has expressed plans to develop its own money-transfer system.

Meeting to examine bourse regulations

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

Securities and Exchange Commission plans to deliberate on its proposed exchange laws

THE Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) is to hold a public meeting today to consult on two draft edicts, or prakas, that regulate aspects of the proposed stock exchange.

Huot Pum, the deputy director general of the SECC, which will operate as the country's securities regulator, said Wednesday that one prakas covers the granting of licences to securities firms and their staff.

The other outlines the steps for granting approval to the operator of the securities market, the operator of a clearance and settlement facility, and the operator of a securities depository.

"This will be the first public consultative meeting on the drafts in order to get feedback and constructive ideas on the prakas before they will be issued," he said.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9am at Raffles Hotel le Royal.

The first draft prakas outlines the rules for organisations wanting licences to deal in securities, whether on their own accounts or on behalf of clients, or those looking to act as underwriters.

The licences would be valid for two years, but could be renewed for a further three years.

This will be the first public consultative meeting on the drafts.

The prakas proposes minimum capital requirements for such firms and the size of the bond they must lodge with the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC). The requirements differ depending on which of the three categories they wish to operate in.

Firms wishing to register as underwriters would need minimum capital of US$9.52 million, with net capital of at least $500,000 and a securities bond lodged at the NBC for $1 million.

Those looking to register as dealers would need minimum capital of $6 million, with net capital of at least $300,000 and a bond lodged at the NBC of $600,000.

And those wanting to act as brokers in the new stock exchange would need minimum capital of $1.42 million, with net capital of at least $71,000. They would be required to lodge a bond of $240,000 with the NBC.

Huot Pum said the minimum capital requirements listed in the draft prakas are not fixed at this stage.

"The [levels] we have set are just to get a reaction from the private sector or companies which wish to register as securities firms about whether they are too high or too low - this is the draft," he said. "We will gather the input and feedback from the meeting and take it into consideration so that the edict benefits all the participants in the upcoming stock market."

Han Kyung Tae, the chief representative of South Korea's Tong Yang Securities Inc, said that he cannot comment on the two drafts since he only recently learned about them.

"The minimum capital [requirement] is not the central question," he said. "There are many other aspects that need to be taken into account, such as competition, profitability, the size of the market and its growth."

Han Kyung Tae said his firm would decide whether or not to apply once it had finished looking into the edicts.

In Channy, the president and CEO of ACLEDA Bank, described the prakas as a positive step for the upcoming stock market.

"We are not looking to become a securities firm in the short or medium term because our business is banking," he said. "But ACLEDA Bank is preparing itself for a listing in the event that we need to raise capital."

Prime minister calls on petrol companies to stop raising prices

Photo by: Sovan Philong
The prime minister on Wednesday criticised foreign petrol companies for raising prices above those of locally based companies.

Total and Caltex – these two always increase prices. ... we should encourage local ... companies.

The Phnom Penh Post
, 06 August 2009
May Kunmakara

Hun Sen singles out foreign companies for criticism in speech at graduation ceremony

PRIME Minister Hun Sen delivered brickbats and bouquets to petrol retailers on Wednesday as he asked them to either lower pump prices or hold them steady.

Speaking at a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen praised two local fuel companies and criticised two international firms for their different approaches.

"I am still calling on [fuel companies] not to increase their prices or to hold them, and I admire Sokimex and Tela because they have helped us a lot," he said at the graduation ceremony for Build Bright University students.

Referring to Total and Caltex, the PM said their prices rise when international prices go up.

Despite global trends, he said, Sokimex and Tela managed to hold prices steady.

"Total and Caltex - these two always increase prices in Phnom Penh because they say their partners are abroad and they are listed on foreign stock exchanges," he said. "The companies that have a large share in foreign countries are too difficult. We should encourage local petroleum companies and do business with them because they are easy to talk to."

However, Ministry of Commerce figures obtained Wednesday show that Tela and Caltex sell their fuel at the same price - both companies offer gold brand at 4,050 riels (US$0.96) per litre and silver brand at 3,850 riels a litre.

Foreign oil firms silent
The prime minister's comments were avoided by French firm Total. The company's country Managing Director Stephane Dion told the Post that he could not comment having not heard Hun Sen's speech.

Sokimex Deputy Director Heu Heng was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

However, Bin Many Mialia, the business division manager for Thai energy firm PTT, said his company sells at a fair price compared with other firms, with its premium gold petrol retailing at 3,950 riels per litre.

"I can't control the precise price because we are beholden to fluctuations in the global market - when the price on the foreign markets goes up, we raise our prices too," he said.

"I don't mean to imply that I am opposing or denying the premier's words, but it is the way we do our pricing."

The Cambodian government regularly holds meetings with petroleum companies operating in the Kingdom in which both sides regularly discuss pricing and ways to reduce costs for the consumers as well as methods for addressing Cambodia's dilapidated public transport system.

Kampot SEZ port delayed by six months

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

CONSTRUCTION of the international port at the 1,000-hectare Kampot Special Economic Zone (KSEZ) is running six months behind schedule after a design change, said KSEZ President Vinh Huor. The port is now scheduled to open in the middle of 2011.

"The delay is because we redesigned the port's master plan to increase the depth from 9 metres to 19 metres," he said. "For the time being, despite the economic crisis, we have no problems with capital, but I am not sure about the future."

Vinh Huor said around one-quarter of the work at the SEZ development is finished.

"We are now constructing the embankment and building roads," he said.

"After the rainy season we will start work on the 19-metre-deep port, which will be the Kingdom's deepest."

He said the cost of the port is budgeted at US$18 million.

The entire KSEZ project is expected to cost $80 million.

The KSEZ is located in Koh Toch commune in Kampot, close to the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville railway.

The location will prove cheaper and quicker for freight, said Vinh Huor, adding that he signed agreements with five factories earlier this year to set up in the zone.

He said the factories, which will start operating once the port is finished, are a shoe factory, a garment factory, a car tyre plant from China, a cassava factory from Hong Kong, and a car-assembly plant, which is a joint venture between a Chinese firm and an Indian company.

Provincal development
Kampot Governor Khoy Khun Hour said Tuesday the province will see a huge economic change in the coming years, as a number of projects are completed in a bid to develop the coastal province.

Other than the KSEZ and the port, he listed tycoon Sok Kong's $1 billion Bokor resort project, which is currently under construction and has been off-limits to tourists since work began last year; the redevelopment of National Highway 3, funded by $40 million in funding from South Korean; and the Kamchay hydropower dam.

"The province will be bustling when these mega-projects are simultaneously completed over the next two or three years," he said.

$2m rice deal agreed with Vietnam

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Chun Sophal

THE provincial Rice Millers Association (RMA) in Svay Rieng announced Wednesday it will sell a total of 3,000 tonnes of high-quality rice to a Vietnamese company in a US$2 million deal.

Tauch Tepich, the president of the RMA's branch in Svay Rieng province, which borders Vietnam, told the Post the deal should help cut cross-border rice smuggling.

He said the RMA has secured half of the funding needed for the deal with the Saigon Trading Group (SATRA). Tauch Tepich said his RMA will provide $500,000, and that the same amount will be loaned by the Rural Development Bank.

The process increases job opportunities for Cambodians and boosts the local economy.

"Our plan to export rice to Vietnam will be successful if we are supported with a loan by the government [for the remaining $1 million]," he said.

Svay Rieng's RMA will buy the phka rumduol rice once the harvest starts in October, and will supply it between October and early 2010 to the Ho Chi Minh City-based buyer at around $650 a tonne.

Son Koun Thor, chairman and chief executive officer of the government-controlled Rural Development Bank, said the bank will this year lend $18 million to RMAs to buy and store unmilled rice.

He said Svay Rieng is ideally positioned to benefit from exporting to Vietnam, which is why the bank has increased its loan from $320,000 last year to $500,000 this year. It charges monthly interest at 0.5 percent.

"We are increasing the loan because we want to encourage the export of milled rice rather than paddy rice, because the process increases job opportunities for Cambodians and boosts the local economy," he said.

Cross-border smuggling of rice has long been a problem. Earlier this year Vietnam reported that 1 million tonnes of unmilled rice were smuggled into Vietnam in 2008.

Repatriated king of fashion returns to design scene, too

Photo by: Johan Smits
Maknorith Oum, known in the French fashion press as "Mister No Button".

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009
Johan Smits

A Khmer purveyor of high couture hopes to assist the local fashion scene by importing foreign teaching talent to guide the new generation of designers

Afew years after Mak-norith Oum returned to his native Cambodia from France, in 1996, his friends often asked him when he would open a fashion boutique in Phnom Penh.

They had every reason to do so. At one point, the autodidact haute couture designer had no fewer than 50 points of sale in France and 17 more abroad, from Berlin to Tokyo.

A series of French press clippings from the 1980s and '90s put him on par with the likes of Daniel Hechter and Guy Laroche.

Calling him "Mister No Button", they rave about his buttonless and zipless avant-garde designs that elegantly drape around the body.

But back in Cambodia, Maknorith Oum didn't feel the time was right. "I wasn't ready morally, and the country wasn't ready either, because my clothes are a little unconventional," he says of the late '90s.

Debut line
Fashionably late, Maknorith Oum will finally launch his first collection in Cambodia next month.

To that purpose, he recently opened Pavot - naming it after the French word for poppy.
Despite bearing the words "Tapas Lounge" on its sign, this elegant establishment is not pigeonholed so easily.

My aim is to get professionals from europe to come here and teach fashion.

It is neither a bar nor a lounge, nor a boutique. The villa itself, with its sober geometrical shapes and lines, is a great example of perfectly preserved 1960s Khmer architecture.

But when you enter Pavot, you might be excused for thinking you have mistakenly wandered into someone's private home.
Maknorith Oum's family pictures adorn the walls, and Clementine, one of the house's dogs, begs for attention.

The ground floor features a cosy garden and a stylish indoor salon with pastel-coloured rattan sofas of
Maknorith Oum's own design.

Everything screams '60s Cambodian decoration. At the elegant bar you can sip your coffee or savour a glass of white, while browsing the Khmer tapas on the menu.

The choice of food is limited, but the taste is refined and delicate.

Photo by: Johan Smits
Pavot: An oasis of elegance.

Artistic bent
The space upstairs currently exhibits paintings of Khmer artist Sovann Tan and will later house Maknorith Oum's limited edition of men's and women's clothing.

The designer explains how he likes to work with organic, natural materials but must rely on foreign supply as there isn't enough production locally.

"The materials I use - linen, cotton, wool - come from abroad.

"The collections I create here are based on the four seasons because I want to participate in the Paris fashion shows and show them to the buyer's office."

It's been 10 years since Maknorith Oum left the European fashion scene, and during that period he's been designing silk-based decorative items in Cambodia.

"It's still the same material - threads - only, I wasn't making clothes," he laughs.

The first-floor space will also offer young Cambodian designers the opportunity to exhibit their wares, be it jewellery or shoes; anything that complements Maknorith Oum's clothing range.

However, his ultimate dream is to open a fashion school in Cambodia and transfer what he learnt in Europe to the new generation of local designers.

"There's a lot of training which still needs to be done, especially in the area of making patterns.

"My aim is to get retired professionals from Europe to come here and teach fashion, art design and so on," he says.

According to Maknorith Oum, local fashion designers need to open up and be "educated" if they want to stand a chance of exporting their creations and competing with Europeans and Japanese designers.

"We have the Internet now, which is a great way to discover what's happening in the world in terms of fashion - entire collections are available online.

"But many just look in Thai magazines or copy creations from successful local shops like Ambre," he laments.

Maknorith Oum hopes to use the school to discover and nurture new Cambodian talent and encourage them not to be afraid of taking risks by being original.

Oasis of elegance
"They should learn about the history of fashion, too. Only then can they create something of their own, by blending Western and Khmer foundations to arrive at something that is only theirs," he explains.

To help finance his project, he said he hopes to receive aid funding. But Maknorith Oum admits he lacks the know-how to put together a professional project development plan and is looking for help with this.

Meanwhile, Pavot remains an oasis of elegance for people to enjoy, which Maknorith Oum hopes will attract "anyone who appreciates beauty, whether they are families or youngsters, who have an enquiring mind and are respectful".

Pavot: #57 St 57
Open daily: Noon - 11pm

Kirivong crisis still cuts deep

Kirivong Sok Sen Chey’s Julius Chukwumeka battles with Naga Corp captain Om Thavarak during their Cambodian Premeir League game Wednesday at Olympic Stadium

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 06 August 2009

Internal strife at Takeo-based CPL club Kirivong Sok Sen Chey is made worse Wednesday as they receive a 4-2 drubbing by top-four aspirants Naga Corp

THE return Wednesday of Kirivong Sok Sen Chey Chairman Leang Khon, who boycotted the club's last three Cambodian Premier League (CPL) matches, did little to inspire crisis-hit Kirivong.

After Kirivong recorded two consecutive 3-3 draws in their previous two games, the chairman returned to see his side lose 4-2 to a rejuvinated Naga Corp team in the CPL midweek fixture.

Naga, who lost their last match against BBU and needed the win to climb back into the top four, came out firing from the off.

The first 10 minutes saw Naga pressing deep into opposition territory, although failing to create any clear-cut chances. The absence of Kirivong's defensive stalwart Samuel Oseika due to suspension was obvious, as Naga attackers Yemi Oyewole, Pich Sina and Chen Chhum cut through the defence like a hot knife through butter.

Naga confined Kirivong to their own half, forcing them to give away the ball too easily and isolate their lone striker Julius Chukwumeka.

It was no surprise when the opener came for Naga inside 15 minutes, after a good interchange of passes between Sun Sovanrithy and Oyewole that kept the Kirivong makeshift defence napping,

Oyewole's exquisite touch put the ball on his favoured left foot, but before he could pull the trigger, Chen Chhun came from nowhere to slot the ball home.

Naga seemed inspired, and quickly bagged a second when an inch-perfect cross from Chen Chhum found Pich Sina, who exquisitely chipped the ball over Kirivong keeper Kem Makara.

The second half saw Kirivong fight back after Chairman Leang Khoun and his entourage had given the side a fiery pep talk at the break. It appeared to pay off, as Chukwuemeka pulled one back with a shot that marginally crossed the line but was ruled a goal by the assistant referee on the near side.

Kirivong were slowly clawing their way back into the game, but against the run of play Naga made it three with 15 minutes left on the clock, when Sun Sovanrithy's shot proved too much for Kem Makara. Two minutes later, Kem Chanburith made it four for Naga to silence the Kirivong supporters who has remained positive despite the scoreline

With barely two minutes left, Chukwumeka broke the offside trap to go one-on-one with onrushing Naga keeper Oum Chandara. Chukwumeka hit into the keeper, but collected the rebound to send it across for teammate Nhek Troueng to stylishly put away with a back heel for a final consolation.

Naga manager Lam Tiny said after the game: " We are very happy to win today, we used so many of our reserves in other to change our strategy and it paid off. We are now confident to go on to finish among the top four."

Photos by Nick Sells (

Khmer Rouge trials - will they heal or exacerbate affects of trauma

As leaders of the former Khmer Rouge regime testify in a human rights tribunal, in harrowing detail, for the killing of more than a million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979 a central medical question remains unanswered: will the trials help a society heal or exacerbate the lingering affects of widespread trauma?

A new study offers insight, but sustains the paradox: more than 75 percent of Cambodians believe the Khmer Rouge trials, formally called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, will provide justice and promote reconciliation, but more than 87 percent of people old enough to remember the torture and murder during the Khmer Rouge era say the trials will rekindle "painful memories."

"Cambodians have high hopes that the Khmer Rouge trials will deliver justice. However, they also have great fears of revisiting the past," says Jeffrey Sonis, M.D., MPH, an assistant professor in the departments of Social Medicine and Family Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, lead author of the study that appears in the Aug. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We just don't know how tribunals affect a society, whether they increase mental and physical disabilities or relieve them," Sonis says. Sonis and colleagues are now conducting a longitudinal study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, to measure the effects of the trials on Cambodians over time.

Preparation for the trials, co-sponsored by the Cambodian government and the United Nations, began in 2006, 26 years after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge under its leader, Pol Pot. The first public trial, of Kaing Guek Eav, leader of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, where thousands were tortured and killed, began earlier this year. Accounts of the genocide estimate between 1 million and 2 million people were killed to create an "agrarian collectivism" a communist concept for an ideal society.

Between December 2006 and August 2007 Sonis and an international team of colleagues, including researchers from the Center for Advanced Study in Phnom Penh, conducted a national survey of more than 1,000 Cambodians age 18 and older; 813 were 35 and older and would have been at least 3 years old when the killings began.

More than 14 percent of respondents over age 35, and 7.9 percent of people 18 to 35, suffered from "probable PTSD" (respondents met criteria on a common questionnaire, but did not receive an official clinical diagnosis), which resulted in significant rates of mental and physical disabilities. Previous studies have reported higher rates of PTSD in Cambodians, but were mostly conducted among Cambodia refugees. The rate (11 percent) of probable PTSD among all Cambodians over the age of 18 was more than 5 times the rate among U.S. adults, based on the National Comorbidity Survey.

Among the older group, half said they were close to death during the Khmer Rouge era and 31 percent reported physical or mental torture.

Respondents who did not believe justice had been served, up to the time of the survey, and those who felt the need for revenge were more likely to have PTSD. Also, people who had more knowledge of the trial had higher rates of PTSD. Yet most Cambodians had highly positive attitudes about the trials.

Another paradox emerged from the respondents: Almost half of the respondents in this overwhelmingly Buddhist country thought the trials "go against the teachings of Buddha." However, when asked about attitudes toward the Khmer Rouge, 63 percent of respondents strongly agreed, and 21 percent agreed with the statement, "I would like to make them suffer."

Tribunals to assess crimes of war and crimes against humanity are becoming more common. In June, Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, answered questions in an international courtroom in Paris about his alleged role in genocide in Sierra Leone in the 1990s. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, a UN-sponsored trial, has been underway since 1993 and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda since 1995. The Nuremberg Trials is perhaps the most well known.

The Khmer Rouge trials offer the opportunity to better gauge the efficacy of these trials, and those lessons hold relevance across a spectrum of injustice.

"The larger question raised by our study is whether attempts to promote justice for survivors of violence - whether en masse or inflicted by one individual to another - can help lessen its psychological toll," Sonis says. "We simply don't know the answers yet."

Six new border crossings between Vietnam and Cambodia

Aug 06, 2009

Cambodia and Vietnam have agreed to open six new border crossings that serve citizens from other nations to boost trade and travel. Currently there is just one such gate at Bavet in Svay Rieng province.

Mom Sibon, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said the agreement was reached last month during the visit of a delegation led by Vietnam's transport minister.

"These [new gates] will boost the economy at the border and cut the time spent by people looking to trade or travel," he said. "It will also help to reduce smuggling, which usually runs through small corridors."

Mom Sibon said Vietnam wanted to double the current limit of 150 vehicles per day that can cross between the two nations.

"But for now we have agreed to 150 vehicles," he said. "We will discuss the possibility [of increasing that number] later."

He said Vietnam wanted the six gates to be border crossings that allowed only nationals of the two countries to cross.

"But we proposed that we open them [to other countries' citizens] to facilitate trade and tourism," he said. "Because we are ASEAN members we don't need visas - we just use border passes."

Le Bien Cuong, commercial councillor at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said the new crossings were part of the bid to boost trade between the two countries to US$2 billion by next year.

"Both governments have recently taken steps to strengthen relations and increase trade with their neighbours," he said. "The new border gates will attract Vietnamese investors to invest in Cambodia, and will assist Cambodian businesspeople looking to export to Vietnam."

He said total trade flows between the two nations reached $637 million in the first six months of this year. Cambodia's share totalled $95 million, most of which were agricultural products.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, welcomed the initiative as a boon for traders.

"The more border gates we open, the more we benefit," he said

John Dewhirst, victim of Pol Pot's killing fields, may have been burned alive

By Richard Shears
05th August 2009

A Briton captured and held in a notorious Khmer Rouge torture camp in Cambodia may have been burned alive in a chilling necklace-style execution, it has emerged.

A former security guard in Pol Pot's feared S-21 prison told a war crimes tribunal that one of four Westerners captured on a yacht while sailing in Cambodian waters was picked out for the horrifying murder.

British teacher John Dewhirst, 26, from Newcastle upon Tyne , was with an American, an Australian, a Canadian and a New Zealander in 1978 when their yacht was intercepted by one of Pol Pot's patrol boats.

A photographer takes pictures of Cheam Soeu, former guard of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, on a screen at the U.N.-backed tribunal

The Canadian, Stuart Glass, was shot, and Mr Dewhirst and the remaining crew were taken to the grim prison - a place of interrogation, torture and execution.

Former security guard Cheam Soeu, now 52, told the tribunal in Phnom Penh that he was a youth when he joined the Khmer Rouge and helped the communist regime take power. He was a guard at S-21 for two years - and during that time the four Westerners were among the prisoners.

He recalled being outside the prison late one evening and saw one of the Westerners -he does not know which - being led by three security guards to the street.

Pol Pot, Communist ruler of the Khmer Rouge, is said to have ordered the execution of the four Westerners

'The prisoner was still alive. They asked him to sit down and they put a car tyre over his body,' he told told the hushed court.

Then, he said, the guards set the tyre, and the body, on fire.

'I saw the charred torso of the body and black burned legs.'

If the victim was Mr Dewhirst, it would be the first time his actual fate has become known.

It had always been assumed that he and the other Westerners had been given the usual death sentence handed down to thousands of other prisoners who were marched into the notorious prison.

They would be tortured with beatings and electric shocks, interrogated and then shot, their bodies dumped in what became known as the killing fields. Many of those executed were burned.

Earlier this year, the commander of the S-21 prison, Kaing Guek Eav - also known as Duch - told the tribunal that it was Pol Pot, who died in 1998, who personally ordered that the four Westerners be executed and then burned.

Khmer Rouge torture victim was starved to the point he 'dreamed about eating human flesh'


'I received an order from my superiors that the four Westerners had to be smashed and burned to ashes,' he said. 'It was an absolute order from my superiors. Pol Pot, not Uncle Nuon' - the regime's second in command - 'personally ordered to burn the bodies.'

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, at his trial on the outskirts of Phnom Penh

But yesterday, after the detailed claim was made that one of the Westerners was still alive when a tyre was put around his neck and set alight, Duch denied that the prisoner had met such a fate.

'It's hard for me to believe that the prisoner was burned alive,' he said.

'I believe that nobody would dare to violate my order. They had to be killed and then burned to ash.'

Before his capture and execution, Mr Dewhirst was on a dream voyage with his friends cruising the Gulf of Thailand.

Then they were captured at gunpoint by a Khmer Rouge gunboat when they strayed too close to the Cambodian coast and were accused of being spies.

Mr Dewhirst was forced to make a signed confession that he was a CIA agent, having been recruited by his father at the age of 12.

His father, he was forced to erroneously claim, was a CIA agent whose cover was that of a secondary school headmaster.

In signing the confession, he had also signed his own death warrant.

The only Briton to die in the killing fields, Mr Dewhirst was executed just a few weeks before Pol Pot's regime was overthrown by invading forces from Vietnam.

Kaing Guek Eav has told the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal that he wanted to apologise for his actions under the Khmer Rouge, whose radical policies while in power from 1975 to 1979 left an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians dead.

The hearing began in February.

New lifestyle insert does Cambodia a 'disservice'

The Phnom Penh Post
Wednesday, 05 August 2009
Catherine McConnell

Dear Editor,

I thought I would write and give feedback on the Post's new 7Days insert (July 31-August 6, 2009).

I was quite disappointed. Much of it contains the kind of Western trash that I was happy to have gotten away from when moving here from the West.

I certainly won't be purchasing it again after reading comments like those from Perle D'Asie, who wrote in the "Sex Talk" column: " could spend any reasonable amount of time here and not happen across at least one or two people you find...even downright shaggable".

The Post is doing this beautiful country a real disservice and has ruined its reputation.

Catherine McConnell
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

The views expressed above are solely the author's and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Clipping: Leopard Capital buys majority stake in Kingdom Breweries (Cambodia)

Cambodian private equity firm Leopard Capital buys majority stake in beer brewery for $2m

Leopard Capital, a Cambodian private equity firm, has completed the fourth deal from its $27m debut vehicle Leopard Cambodia Fund by investing $2m in Kingdom Breweries.

LCF will acquire a 55.5 per cent share of the brewery for its investment.

The company, a Cambodian beer brewer, believes that with half the country’s population under the legal drinking age limit, consumption should shoot up over the next five to ten years.

Kingdom Breweries aims to secure a foothold by producing high-quality craft beer in a microbrewery in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.

The fund’s previous transactions include a $1m investment in Greenside Holdings, which is part of a consortium of investors that is refurbishing, designing, constructing and commissioning a rural power transmission and distribution system.

LCF has also put $1.8m into Cambodia Plantations, a Singapore-based company which serves as an offshore finance vehicle for agricultural investments in central Cambodia.

The Leopard Cambodia Fund was launched in March 2008 and is targeting sectors in the financial services, agriculture, food and beverage production, building materials, tourism, and property development in the south-east Asian country.

In Cambodia, Proximity to Wildlife Sparks Influenza Fears

Please click to watch

Fred De Sam Lazaro reports how Cambodians' proximity to wildlife is sparking new concerns about the spread of avian flu.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: On the street outside Phnom Penh's most prominent Buddhist temple, the merit bird business is brisk. It's an age-old ritual in many parts of Southeast Asia based on the belief that freeing a caged bird brings merit to one's soul.

But in recent years, these wild birds have come to symbolize something very different to public health workers: potential carriers of H5N1, the avian flu virus.

PRISCILLA JOYNER, Wildlife Conservation Society: Sellers are very interested in whether or not these birds do have avian influenza. And so they're interested in knowing about the health of the wildlife and how this impacts their health, as well.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And their livelihood, too.

PRISCILLA JOYNER: And their livelihood, too, yes.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Priscilla Joyner is with the Wildlife Conservation Society. Its staff regularly tests samples of wild birds across East Asia for any signs of flu.

PRISCILLA JOYNER: A big concern here in this area is the very close proximity of people living with domestic animals and interacting with wildlife. And this can either be in the home or this can be in the market or in merit bird training. And this close proximity can be enough pressure to allow a pathogen to jump from one species to the next and then lead to a disease that otherwise may not have occurred.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Although so far merit birds have been free of avian flu, Joyner says Cambodia is in many ways an ideal Petri dish for its spread. People are always around wild birds and domestic animals and poultry in the markets and in backyards of this mostly rural country still recovering from decades of war.

H5N1 is common but harmless in ducks. It is lethal in chickens. And it's deadly when it does make the cross-species leap to humans. Two-thirds of the 400 people who've contracted bird flu have died.

Cambodia has seen just eight human cases since 2005. Almost all had very close contact with infected chickens. So far, the virus has not spread from human to human.

Still, Dr. Sirendes Vong of the Pasteur Institute says bird flu remains a concern, especially if it infects someone who already has another form of flu, including swine flu that spread widely in recent months.

Deadly Combination

DR. SIRENDES VONG, Pasteur Institute, Cambodia: Once humans are infected, if they're infected with seasonal flu, that's a possibility for H5N1 to mix with the seasonal flu and to come up with a new virus that would have the potential to be a pandemic one.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: To spread like seasonal flu.

DR. SIRENDES VONG: Exactly. How deadly? I don't know. But there's a potential to get a virus that is as deadly as H5N1 and as transmissible as...

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The bird flu?

DR. SIRENDES VONG: ... as seasonal flu or the current swine flu virus.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says Cambodia doesn't have the resources to check on every case, but with agencies like Pasteur, it is monitoring selected sites across the country for any signs of flu in chickens and responding to major outbreaks.

DR. SIRENDES VONG: If there is something, there's a team from the Ministry of Agriculture, from the veterinary services, that would go to the field and investigate the phenomenon. And the difficulties, again, is to come at the early stage so that you would be able also to test at the early stage of the outbreak.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: And they are hoping the message gets out on how to lower the risk of an outbreak, separating chickens from ducks, for example, keeping kids away from ponds where ducks swim, and improved hygiene around the backyard. It's a message that's gotten through to small farmers like Khieu Nyim.

KHIEU NYIM, farmer (through translator): I heard the news from the TV and radio. I heard that swine flu makes the pigs sick first and also infects human beings. First, I heard that it spread in Mexico, and then it also spread in America.

I take precautions for myself. I clean the pigs and make sure I wear a mask when I enter the cage.

Risk of Inter-Species Diseases

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: No one's sure whether most farmers are adopting such practices or whether most farmers can afford protective gear. And even though there's fear of the bird flu and swine flu viruses mixing, no one's sure when or if such a super-bug might emerge.

Dr. Michael O'Leary heads the World Health Organization office in Cambodia.

DR. MICHAEL O'LEARY, World Health Organization: I think it's largely a theoretical concern at this point, because we have, you know, many kinds of viruses around us all the time. And so while we have to say that it's possible that these two or other viruses may mix and result in a new virus, that's essentially always the case. We can have such a scenario any time.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: He says the risk of diseases that jump from one species to another has risen in recent decades with dozens of examples, from Ebola to Lyme disease.

DR. MICHAEL O'LEARY: The destruction of forests or the urbanization of people, that's created new opportunities, I think, for new kinds of interaction between humans and animals. Another is the ease with which people move around the world now.

There have been so many emerging diseases in the last few decades. We've seen dozens of new diseases, HIV being only one, most of which did result from a spread of an organism from the animal world to the human world.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: O'Leary says it will be important to strike a balance, watching for early signs of outbreaks while avoiding socially disruptive measures, like shutting down the merit bird trade or shutting down markets.

GWEN IFILL: For more on how viruses are transmitted from animals to humans and for Fred's reporter's notebook on Cambodia, visit our global health Web site at

Cambodia to host ASEAN summit in 2012: PM

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that his country will host ASEAN summit and ASEAN plus dialogue partners' meeting in 2012.

"Now we are building the meeting center and conference hall near the new office of the Council of Ministers. It will be used for the meeting. The new facilities will be opened in November 2010," he said in a graduation ceremony of a University in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen said that "in past years when we had international meetings, we always went to hold them at the hotels."

"We will also host the top level meeting of the leaders of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (CLV) in the near future which will also be conducted in the new building," the premier said.

ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Editor: Wang Guanqun

Why old-school journalism needs to make a resurgence

An inmate at the notorious S-21 prison

The Times

5 August 2009,

Yesterday, I read another incredible piece of reportage in the American issue of GQ. It spoke about the prosecution of war criminals in Cambodia, three decades after the terrible violence of the Khmer Rouge. In the space of four years, nearly two million people were murdered by their fellow citizens, in an orgy of cruel, inhuman violence that left deep, dark fingerprints on the soul of the nation. It’s a breathtakingly sad piece; one that is important for everyone to read – South Africans, perhaps, in particular.

In one paragraph, the author, Michael Paterniti, detailed a meeting with another editor – and it said so much about the sorry, rotten state of journalism today. I had to share it. (You can read the complete article online here).

not long after returning from Cambodia that first time, I had coffee with an editor in Manhattan. As happens at such meetings, an air of false importance hovered over the proceedings as we discussed “big stories” that seemed to have been overlooked by the media, even though we were the media. When I brought up the untried Khmer Rouge leaders, pointing out the 1.7 million dead from nearly thirty years ago, his eyes glazed. Yes—but no: More than that, he wanted to talk about Hollywood. “What people tend to miss,” he said, “is that George Clooney’s much more than an actor.”

I should add, this mirrors in many ways my own experience, trying to get South African media interested in covering the continued political and humanitarian crisis in Burma. Nine years ago, I interviewed detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon; only one local magazine was interested in publishing the story (the now defunct Style), and local radio and TV were, and remain, disinterested (aside from a brief “blip” last year when monks were being massacred – the interest waned, immediately, as the murders dropped off news headlines). Suu Kyi has always asked that we use our liberty to promote democracy in Burma. The truth is, the media cares more about Octomom than it does about detention without trial, censorship, and an illegal military dictatorship.

If anybody reading is interested in 45 minutes of recorded interview with one of the world’s most important freedom fighters, you know where I am…

Ms. Mu Sochua Rejected to Pay Money to Mr. Hun Sen and Will Not Apologize – Wednesday, 5.8.2009

Posted on 5 August 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 624

“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced a verdict on 4 August 2009, ordering Ms. Mu Sochua to pay Riel 8 million in compensation to Mr. Hun Sen, and Riel 8.5 million in fees to to the government, corresponding to Riel 16.5 million in total [approx. US$4,100]. But Ms. Mu Sochua said that she will neither pay the compensation according to the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, nor apologize to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“The president of the Sam Rainsy Party, Mr. Sam Rainsy, announced recently that the Sam Rainsy Party had prepared money to pay to Mr. Hun Sen to end this case, but he then changed his position and agreed to leave the decision to Ms. Mu Sochua, because the Sam Rainsy Party is a democratic party and does not use pressure.

“Speaking to journalists in the presence of many diplomats and national and international observers after hearing the verdict, Ms. Mu Sochua said that in spite of the Khmer judicial system which has never been just, her struggle will contribute to change it.

“She said, ‘As for the court verdict of today, the judge did not use consciousness and the law to hear me. It is a decision showing plainly that it is a decision following orders of politicians, and it makes us, innocent people like me, to become victims…’ She added, ‘This is absolutely political, and I regret it that the judge ruled that I am the loser and I must pay to the state Riel 8.5 million and to Prime Minister Hun Sen Riel 8 million. I do not receive justice, because the judicial system in Cambodia is not independent and neutral, and it suffers from strong interference by the power of politicians; I have to say that the whole policy of this hearing was not just.’

“She went on to say that the verdict was not based on the hearing, but on a politician’s order. Thus, the sentence which made her lose is not acceptable.

“During yesterday’s verdict, court officials disclosed that if she wants to be free, she has to apologize to Prime Minister Hun Sen. In response, Ms. Mu Sochua stated in a press conference at the [Sam Rainsy Party] headquarters yesterday that she will not apologize or negotiate for power, and she called for an end to this policy of apologies requested by political leaders. She said there can be justice only if the government leaders are changed.

“The president of the Sam Rainsy, Mr. Sam Rainsy, said that he supports Ms. Mu Sochua’s decision. Mr. Sam Rainsy added that the Sam Rainsy Party is a democratic party; therefore, no members and no leaders are pressed.

“On the day when the verdict was announced, the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party released a statement calling ‘For Justice and Democracy.’

“The statement says that parliamentarians of the Sam Rainsy Party and of the Human Rights Party totally reject the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict of 4 August 2009, making Ms. Mu Sochua a victim.

“The parliamentarian Ms. Mu Sochua should not have been made to face such an incompetent, dependent, and biased court, while Ms. Mu Sochua’s court case against the Prime Minister for defamation, with evidence, had been rejected by this court, and Ms. Mu Sochua was made the victim; her immunity had been withdrawn by the National Assembly, and she was not given the right to be defended.

“Ms. Mu Sochua was heard by this court without a defense lawyer, because her first lawyer had been sued by the government and then resigned from defending her case, and her second lawyer was rejected. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court did not use the facts from the videos of Ms. Mu Sochua’s press conference as the basis for the complaint against Prime Minister Hun Sen, as those videos do not show any evidence that she intended to defame the prime minister. As a parliamentarian elected by the citizens, the parliamentarian Mu Sochua has the full right to demand justice when threatened and defamation is used to restrict the right of a parliamentarian and also of a woman.

“The use of the judicial system by the government as a tool to muzzle opposition parliamentarians is a significant blow to our right and role, as stated in the Constitution and in international law, allowing us to play our role and do our activities without fear of political threats and intimidations.

“Critics must condemn the absence of judicial reform in Cambodia, and the use of the court system for intimidation by the Royal Government, and there must be immediate measures taken so that judges and lawyers can fulfill their roles independently and the policy of judges and lawyers must also be independent.

“Threats and intimidations, or the withdrawing of parliamentary immunity with no other reason besides political interests totally ruins democracy, which includes the public freedom of expression and the understanding that there can be opposing ideas.

“We, parliamentarians, notice and respect the presence of the German and American ambassadors, of high ranking officials from the British and Danish Embassy, and of many local and international human rights organizations during the court hearing of Ms. Mu Sochua’s case on 24 July 2009.

“Finally, the statement stressed that the Sam Rainsy Party and the Human Rights Party parliamentarians call on the international community to keep on observing the situation and preventing the use of defamation and the court system against opposition politicians, and to encourage the Royal Government to achieve results from judicial reform, and to vow to implement all policies which exist in democracy.

“It should be noted that yesterday morning, also Human Rights Party parliamentarians went to listen to the verdict, and then released the statement immediately together with Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians, as an alliance against this unjust verdict.”

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #461, 5.8.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 5 August 2009