Monday, 17 August 2009

Khmer Rouge Trials: Collective Journalism


This year, five senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime are awaiting trial on charges of crimes against humanity. The trials of the former Khmer Rouge leaders has sparked renewed interest in one of the darkest chapters of Cambodia's history. Backpack journalists Anna Sussman and Jonathan Jones travel to Cambodia to find out what ordinary Cambodians think about the trials and the Khmer Rouge era.

Typhoon Relief Aid Arrives in Taiwan

The first shipments of foreign aid arrived Sunday as Taiwan struggled to reach more than 4,000 people still stranded a week after the country's deadliest typhoon in half a century. (Aug. 16)

American Leaves Myanmar After Prison Release

An American man imprisoned in Myanmar for sneaking into the home of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi flew out of the country Sunday after a visiting U.S. senator won his release. (Aug. 16)

'Killing Fields' Trial

Tourists from New Zealand listen to a Cambodian guide while they view photos of former Khmer Rouge prisoners at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, formerly the regime's notorious S-21 prison, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Aug. 17, 2009. Under the command of Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who headed the prison, up to 16,000 people were tortured and later taken away to be killed during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-1979 rule. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian-Muslim men (known locally as Cham) wait in line to attend the trial of Duch on the outskirts of Phnom Penh August 17 , 2009. Duch, a former maths teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, is the first of the five indicted former Khmer Rouge cadres to face trial by a U.N.-backed tribunal. The chief torturer of the Khmer Rouge regime faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian-Muslim men (known locally as Cham) wait in line to attend the trial of Duch on the outskirts of Phnom Penh August 17 , 2009. Duch, a former maths teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, is the first of the five indicted former Khmer Rouge cadres to face trial by a U.N.-backed tribunal. The chief torturer of the Khmer Rouge regime faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian-Muslim women (known locally as Cham) wait in line to attend the trial of Duch on the outskirts of Phnom Penh August 17, 2009. Duch, a former maths teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, is the first of the five indicted former Khmer Rouge cadres to face trial by a U.N.-backed tribunal. The chief torturer of the Khmer Rouge regime faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

US Senator Jim Webb to visit Vietnam


VietNamNet Bridge – In an announcement released today, August 17, the US Embassy in Vietnam said that Democrat Senator Jim Webb will pay a visit to Vietnam as part of a two-week trip to five Southeast Asian countries.

The four other countries on this visit are Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

The senator from Virginia, who serves as chair of the Senate Foreign Relation’s subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs, will stop in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City, where he will meet government officials, business leaders, and friends from his decades of close involvement in US-Vietnam relations.

Senator Webb, who can speak Vietnamese, has enjoyed a continuous personal involvement in Asian and Pacific affairs that long predates his time in the Senate.

In addition to his more recent visits as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Webb has worked and travelled throughout this vast region, from Micronesia to Burma, for nearly four decades, as a Marine Corps officer, a defense planner, a journalist, a novelist, a Department of Defense executive, and as a business consultant.

Webb served as an infantry Marine in Vietnam, and later as Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy in the Pentagon. He also served as an Asia-Pacific regional military planner in Guam, has written extensively on local, national and international issues in Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, and in the 1990’s worked as a consultant for companies wishing to do business in Vietnam. He has served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since joining the US Senate in January 2007.

In addition to Webb’s public service, he has enjoyed a long career as a writer. He has authored nine books. He has worked extensively as a screenwriter and producer in Hollywood, taught literature at the Naval Academy as their first visiting writer, has travelled worldwide as a journalist, and earned an Emmy Award for his PBS coverage of the US Marines in Beirut.

Regime rides above sanctions

Asia Times Online

Southeast Asia
Aug 18, 2009

By Simon Roughneen

BANGKOK - Despite some buffeting by the global economic downturn, revenues from gas, oil, hardwood and gemstones continue to flow into Myanmar's coffers, helping junta leader Senior General Than Shwe to maintain Southeast Asia's largest standing army. An estimated 50% of the state's revenues go towards maintaining the country's 400,000-strong military.

While Western countries impose economic sanctions against the junta, including new measures imposed last week by the European Union against members of Myanmar's judiciary and 58 other enterprises, Asian states are fiercely competing for oil and gas concessions. That promises even greater wealth for the ruling military junta, even as its international reputation plummets in the wake of last week's sentencing of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to three years in jail, later reduced to 18 months of house arrest.

Thailand and China were estimated to have provided US$850 million of the $980 million total that was invested in the country last year, in everything from oil and gas, to roads, along with gems and timber extraction. As of 2007, both countries accounted for over half of Myanmar's exports and imports. Those figures should rise as new hydroelectric projects and a port-pipeline facility linking the Myanmar coast to western China get underway later this year.

When Myanmar has faced intense international criticism, including in reaction to its slow response last year to the Cyclone Nargis disaster, China, its main ally, has provided the regime with political cover through its seat on the United Nations Security Council. This was replicated in China's public response to the Suu Kyi verdict, saying that the international community should respect Myanmar's "judicial sovereignty" and that it would not support any United Nations-sponsored sanctions linked to the verdict.

With China, India , South Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) averse to any form of sanctions on the junta, there is a case to be made that Western restrictions merely drive business elsewhere.

"Chinese investment is imperative for [Myanmar] amid the US and European Union sanctions," said Arpitha Bykere, Asia Analyst at the Roubini Global Economy (RGE) Monitor, a US-based research center. "Economic ties with Asia help [Myanmar] show to the world that despite sanctions, it can attract trade and investment from several countries. This boosts [Myanmar's] political leverage to resist global calls for political reform."

Little of the largesse from recent foreign investments has gone towards much-needed health, education, and agriculture sector spending. A 2006 estimate of the child mortality rate in eastern Myanmar was 221 per 1,000, higher than the 205 recorded in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the nation's health system as the second worst on the planet, while according to UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fun, more than 25% of the population lacks access to potable water.

These abysmal statistics figure largely in the debate over whether Western countries should maintain their sanctions or move towards more engagement with Myanmar's rights abusing regime. Engagement advocates note that Myanmar received 20 times less per-capita from donor countries than other countries with similar poverty levels. According to the US Central Intelligence Agency yearbook, 32.7% of Myanmar's people lived under the poverty line in 2007 while the population endured inflation of 27.3% in 2008.

The junta's foreign minister, Nyan Win, described economic sanctions as "immoral" in a September 2008 address to the UN General Assembly, adding that they "are counter-productive and deprive countries of their right to development". Prime Minister Thein Sein made much the same argument in presentations in February to UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

There were earlier indications of a possible policy rethink in Washington. In the run-up to the Suu Kyi verdict, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered to consider renewed US investment in exchange for the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party being allowed to participate in elections scheduled for next year.

The State Department had earlier said it would consider a review of US policy towards Myanmar, an acknowledgement that past policies and sanctions had failed to influence the junta. That debate was expected to stall after the junta spurned US and UN calls against extending Suu Kyi's detention. However, Than Shwe's meeting over the weekend with US Democratic senator Jim Webb, which also allowed the Amercian an hour-long meeting with Suu Kyi, has raised new questions about diplomatic next steps.

The EU's tightened sanctions added members of Myanmar's judiciary responsible for the Suu Kyi verdict to a list of some 500 Myanmar government officials whose assets in the EU are frozen and who are banned from travel to the EU's 27-member bloc. In contrast, China, Russia, Vietnam and Libya watered-down a US-drafted UN Security Council statement on the Suu Kyi verdict to express "concern" rather than outright condemnation.

The counter-sanctions argument promoted by many Asian nations suggests that restrictions fail to influence the junta and only keep the nation's poor downtrodden. Given that the majority of Myanmar's population - 70% of the people - are employed in the agriculture sector and benefit neither from the regime's resource extraction activities nor its trade and investment links with neighboring countries, the sanctions debate is something of a red herring.

Myanmar economy expert and Macquarie University economist Sean Turnell told Asia Times Online that the majority of Myanmar's people "might never have seen a bank, much less have anything to do with the type of institutions and links targeted by sanctions". Moreover, upgrading the amount of donor aid sent to Myanmar would amount to a free pass for the junta on development-related spending it should be undertaking itself.

The junta's concern about the impact of sanctions suggests either one of two things: Myanmar's military rulers have turned a new leaf and want to help their people, or they do in fact feel the pinch of sanctions and are worried that if replicated closer to home, the impact on the elites would be devastating. If the former is indeed true, it is not reflected in junta policy.

On May 11, the Financial Times quoted an unreleased annual International Monetary Fund report that said Myanmar's foreign exchange reserves are at a record $3.6 billion, but that the ruling junta has not used them to help the impoverished population and that the country's economic prospects remain "bleak". Vigorous rolling of the monetary presses has contributed to an inflation rate of around 30%, the report said.

The junta has boasted that its international isolation would help it weather the global economic downturn, at least compared with its more export-oriented counterparts in ASEAN, such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Other members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam and Myanmar. This hasn't been the case, however. RGE Monitor's Bykere said that "Myanmar has taken a hit due to a global commodity [price] correction. Production and export of natural gas, mining products, food products and several other commodities have been severely affected."

Although the junta's official statistics claim that the economy is growing at around 10% annually, Turnell said that various indicators, including weak domestic energy consumption, suggest that the economy is actually contracting. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit's latest report on Myanmar, the country's real gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 2009 is projected to be only 1%.

According to Turnell, Burma's problems can be traced to the state's commanding control of the economy, which squeezes the life out of private-sector activities. Disproportionate budgetary allocations to the military means that no rural credit is available, even though 70% of the national workforce are subsistence farmers. Meanwhile, foreign revenues are understated on the national accounts because of exchange rate manipulations. For instance, revenue from gas exports is added to the budget at the fixed official exchange of six kyat to the dollar rather than the 1,000-kyat to the greenback floating black market rate.

Recorded at the official rate, Myanmar's gas earnings represent less than 1% of overall budget receipts; if the same gas earnings were recorded at the market exchange rate, their contribution would be more than double total official state receipts.

Turnell says the rationale behind the dual exchange rates "is probably to 'quarantine' [Myanmar's] foreign exchange from the country's public accounts, thereby making them available to the regime and its cronies. This accounting is facilitated by [Myanmar's] state-owned Foreign Trade Bank and some willing offshore banks."

These complicit offshore banks are known to be in neighboring states, implying that a broader Western sanctions regime that hit certain Asian banks might have a greater impact on the junta's finances. The Asian states most critical of the ineffectiveness of Western sanctions are often the same ones that undermine them by offering Myanmar's junta alternative financial, trade and investment options.

If Myanmar were a democratic state, the Myanmar people would be the rightful sovereign owners of the country's resources and revenues and would have some say in how they were spent. But as the country gears up for democratic elections next year, all indications - including Suu Kyi's continued detention - are that the military intends to extend its political and economic dominance via a civilian veneer.

Simon Roughneen is a roving freelance journalist. He has reported from over 20 countries and is currently based in Southeast Asia.

Foreign relatives of victims testify at Khmer Rouge tribunal

Submitted by Mohit Joshi
Mon, 08/17/2009

Phnom Penh - The trial of former Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch heard testimony Monday from a New Zealand Olympic rower whose brother was tortured and murdered in 1978 in Phnom Penh.

More than 15,000 people are thought to have been killed at S-21, the prison that Duch ran in Phnom Penh. Nearly all of those killed were Cambodians.

The tribunal heard earlier from a Frenchwoman whose Cambodian diplomat husband was killed at S-21 in 1977. Their daughter also testified on Monday at the joint UN-Cambodian tribunal.

Rob Hamill told the court that his family was destroyed by the death of his brother, the oldest of five siblings.

"My family's disintegration is my disintegration," he told the court.

Hamill said the family believed that his brother's yacht, which he was sailing around South-East Asia with two friends, was blown off course during a storm in August 1978 on its way to Bangkok.

He said one of the three yachtsmen, Canadian Stuart Glass, was shot and killed when a Khmer Rouge gunboat attacked their sloop. The other two - Kerry Hamill and Briton John Dewhirst - were taken ashore and transferred to S-21.

Both men were tortured to extract confessions that they were working for the CIA against the Cambodian state, and were then executed, the court heard.

Hamill, who appeared at the tribunal as one of a group of 18 civil parties, broke down repeatedly during his testimony.

"It was evident that their testimonies were obtained under torture," Hamill said, adding that brother's confession used joke names for his supposed CIA superiors.

Hamill said one such name was Colonel Sanders, the founder of fast-food chain KFC. Other names were of family friends, and one even referred cryptically to their mother.

Earlier, French national Martine Lefeuvre, 56, told the court how her husband, a Cambodian diplomat called Keth Ouk, returned to Phnom Penh in 1977 and then disappeared.

Keth Ouk, who was the third secretary at the Cambodian embassy in Senegal, had received a letter in early 1977 from the Cambodian government asking him to come back and help rebuild the country. He left behind his wife and two young children, aged four and two.

Lefeuvre never heard from him again. In late 1979, she met a Cambodian friend in a refugee camp on the Thai border who told her that her husband had been murdered two years earlier in S-21, the camp that Duch ran.

The friend told her that after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in early 1979 he had spent several months researching documents at S-21, the Khmer Rouge's main prison.

"He explained that it was an extermination camp," she testified. "He said he had found my husband's name on a list (of people murdered there)."

She returned to France and to break the news to her children.

"I had to tell my children that they must grow up without their daddy," she said breaking down. "My son, who was seven, and my daughter, who was four and a half, asked me every day: 'Have you seen Daddy? Will we see Daddy again?' I had to tell them, no, they will never see their daddy again."

The daughter of Lefeuvre and Keth Ouk also appeared as a civil witness Monday. Neary Ouk, who is now 34, said she last saw her father when she was 2 years old, and told how her only memory was of looking at his hand.

She told the court her father would always remain "a beautiful page in our history" but that the knowledge of what had happened to him was her "journey into hell."

"He returned to work on the reconstruction of Cambodia," she said. "He went back, and I grew up without a father."

Speaking of her visit to the former school in 1991, she told of her revulsion.

"They changed a school into a machine to crush humans. The sole purpose of S-21 was death," she said.

Given the chance to respond by the judge, Duch - whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav - asked for forgiveness from Lefeuvre "and all others who have lost loved ones in this regime."

"I do not deny my responsibility," he said.

As many as 2 million people are thought to have died from murder, illness and starvation under the Khmer Rouge regime from, known as Democratic Kampuchea, which ruled Cambodia between 1975-79.

Vietnam, Cambodia strengthen border security


A delegation from the south-western steering committee led by its deputy head Son Song Son has paid a week-long visit to Cambodia.

During its stay from August 11-18, the delegation worked with the Cambodian Council of Ministers and the General Department of Public Security to discuss security along the borderline between the two countries.

The two sides agreed that the planting of border markers between the two countries should be completed in early 2012 as scheduled to build the borderline into one of peace, security and friendship and create favourable conditions for cross-border trade activities. Cambodia was committed to closely working with Vietnam to control and deal with reactionary forces.

While meeting with Khmer people and bonzes in Phnom Penh, the Vietnamese delegation said that Vietnamese Party and State always attach much importance to ethnic minority people, including Khmer people. They also visited Kompong Chhnang, Siem Reap, Pursat, Battambang, and Kompong Spur provinces.

Malaria deaths, infections in Cambodia on rise

People's Daily Online

August 17, 2009

The reported number of fatal malaria cases almost doubled in the first half of 2009 compared with the same period last year, while the overall number of infections rose more than 58 percent, local media reported Monday, citing the figures from the Ministry of Health officials.

Tol Bunkea, chief epidemiologist at the Ministry of Health, was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying that the number of malaria deaths this year stood at 130 out of a total of 32,638 registered malaria cases. Dr Bunkea said that in the first half of 2008 there were 67 fatalities out of 20,563 reported cases of malaria.

Duong Socheat, director of National Center of Parasitology, Entomology, and Malaria Control, said the increase of infections was due to the early rains and the fact that the government had distributed mosquito nets too late this year.

Dr Socheat said the increasing number of people migrating to remote, forested areas on the Cambodian-Thai border, such as in Pailin and Oddar Meanchey provinces, was also leading to a rise in malaria cases.

"People are moving there to work, clear the forest and do farming in areas that have a lot of mosquitoes. Then they come back with malaria," he was quoted as saying, and adding that, "this migration is still the major cause of this disease."

Dr Socheat said the government is also increasingly concerned about the effectiveness of medicine for malaria treatment, as recent international studies found strains of drug resistant malaria in western Cambodia "Before it took 48 hours to kill the parasite, but now [in some cases] it takes 80 hours," he said.

In February, the World Health Organization started a 22.5 million U.S. dollars cross-border project to contain the drug-resistant malaria strains.

Source: Xinhua

“Every Khmer citizen shall be equal before the law”

Posted on 17 August 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 625

Article 31 of the Constitutioon of the Kingdom of Cambodia is one of the important reference texts which describe the legal basis for life in society:

- The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights.

- Every Khmer citizen shall be equal before the law, enjoying the same rights, freedom and fulfilling the same obligations regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religious belief, political tendency, birth origin, social status, wealth or other status.

- The exercise of personal rights and freedom by any individual shall not adversely affect the rights and freedom of others. The exercise of such rights and freedom shall be in accordance with law.

During the last couple of weeks, a number of confrontations led to court cases – some led to the imposition of monetary fines, some to imprisonments in jail – some cases are under appeal, some people withdrew their former statements or went abroad trying to avoid to have to face the court.

We did mirror also the wave of disappointments, criticism, and protests which have been reported in the media, including about the joint expression of critical concerns by representatives of several embassies and of the European Union. And we have mirrored the rejection of such criticism by representatives of the Royal Government of Cambodia. Among the different statements was also a call by the Prime Minister – in a speech at a graduation ceremony – not to deny him the right as a citizen who has, as everybody else, the right to ask a court to take legal action:

“Do you recognize that I am a citizen? Why do I lose my rights?”

While nobody will deny that high ranking representatives of the government have these same rights, criticism against the recent serious of legal actions when feeling defamed – perceived as intimidation and curtailing of the freedom of expression – continues in different ways. Some such criticism tries to reflect on the recent actions in view of the text of the Constitution, including with reference to the different international covenants and other agreements with which the Cambodian government has identified itself. But some of the concerns expressed may not even refer directly to legal text, but they are based on the perception that justice is not done.

We have repeatdly referred to the importance of perceptions in the public life of a society in The Mirror, starting with a report from Malaysia: “When Dato Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi was inaugurated as Prime Minister of Malaysia in 2003, he pointed to the important role of perceptions held by the public – which may or may not conform to reality, but are nevertheless extremely important for the political situation of a country.” In the following elections in 2004, he won 92 % of the parliamentary seats, and with this support he announced plans for a new start in Malaysia: delivering reforms to create a clean, incorruptible, accountable, trustworthy, efficient, and people-oriented administration. But in April 2009, the public perception was that he had not succeeded with his vision of a renewed society, and he had to step back.

In spite of the assurances of the Constitution and of the reported statements in a Note by spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when he met a group of concerned diplomats mirrored last Wednesday, several events – maybe small events, not even the court cases – create the perception that we are still far away from a state of the rule of law. We mention some from last week:
- One Hundred and Seventy Disabled People Ask Samdech Hun Sen and the Provincial Governor to Remove the Head of the Department of Social Affairs [for taking the pension of disabled persons and retired veterans – Banteay Meanchey]

- The Chi Kraeng Forestry Chief Released Two Trucks Loaded with Kronhoung Luxury Wood in Exchange for US$1,000 [Siem Reap]
- Military Police Arrested a Drunken Man Who Pointed a Gun at Other People, but in the Morning Bodyguards [of an unknown high ranking official] Came to Intervene to Release Him [Phnom Penh]

- Communities Suffering from Land Disputes from 19 Provinces Come to Lodge Complaints at Different National Institutions

- Forestry Administration Chief Scolds Provincial Authorities Countrywide over Forest Destruction

- The Minister of Justice Calls to Be More Careful, Not to Lose Case Documents, and Not to Impose Overly Harsh Jail Sentences

- Civil Society Said that Courts in Cambodia Sentence Poor People without Defense Lawyers

- New Dragon Bridge of the Council of Ministers Worth More Than US$2 Million Was Demolished though It Had Never Been Used – [no clear explanations given for the destruction, and for a plan to construct a separate office building – contradicting information about position in national budget – Chinese loan or grant of US$32.9 million? – chairperson of the construction committee does not want do share information, but the spokesperson of the Coucil of Ministers refers cournalists' questions to the chair of the construction committee. However, a Chinese source explains that US$35 million was granted to Cambodia. And the Prime Minister had previously praised the Chinese government for granting unconditional aid, different form the annual Donors' Meeting grants of around US$500 million which come with conditions how to account for their use]

- The Prime Minister Calls On Drivers of Motorbikes That Have Not Paid Tax to Pay It at Police Stations – and – Within 11 Days, Police Stopped Nearly 10,000 Motorbike Drivers to Educate Them (but many big new luxury cars without license plates continue to drive unconcerned about being stopped past the police)

A state of law does not only mean that every Khmer citizen shall be equal before the law. It means also that every Khmer citizen shall be equal under the law, whatever the position and power in society may be.

Please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

Firms advised to focus on Cambodia market

Economic deals sealed during Phnom Penh talks

Vietnamese and Cambodian businesses signed a host of economic deals and Investment agreements worth more than US$400 million during talks in Phnom Penh on Friday.
The talks brought officials from Cambodian ministries, sectors and localities where Vietnamese invested projects are located together with the leaders of 20 Vietnamese groups and corporations which were interested in investing in Cambodia.
Cambodian Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam On was present at the talks, which ware jointly held by the Council for Development of Cambodia (CDC) and the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam (BIDV).
CDC Secretary General Sok Chenda pledged that the Cambodian Government would do its best to provide assistance to Vietnamese businesses when they invest in Cambodia.

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese enterprises should pay more attention to traditional markets and establish a solid network of agents and distributors to further penetrate the Cambodian market.

Mai Thi Duyen, senior official of the Department of Information under the Ho Chi Minh City Investment & Trade Promotion Centre, offered this advice at a seminar in the city last Friday.

The seminar, organised by the the centre, aimed to show Vietnamese enterprises how to seize business opportunities in the Cambodian market.

Duyen said traditional markets account for 60-70 per cent of the retail sales system in the country.

Vietnamese enterprises should seek and expand the agents and distributors located in Cambodia to market the products to local people aiming to increase sales and turnover in the market, said Duyen.

Cambodia does not limit the number of foreign enterprises participating in trading and distribution of goods.

Local agents and distributors play an important role in promoting Vietnamese products because they fully understand business regulations, customs, and habits as well as the demands of consumers.

Duyen also said trade fairs were the most effective way to market and advertise Vietnamese products. Television commercials and colourful newspaper advertisements were also favoured by local consumers, she said.

Middle class consumers in Cambodia liked to buy products of high quality rather than products at cheap prices but of low quality, she added.

Huynh Tan Phong, deputy director of the centre said language was a barrier for Vietnamese enterprises. They need to be trained in the local language and advised to sell their products in Cambodia using Cambodian-language labels.

Yeav Kim Hean, commercial counsellor at the Cambodian embassy in Viet Nam, provided an overall view of the Cambodian potential market with the focus on its economy.

Since the beginning of this year, many foreign banks from China, Japan, South Korea have established their presence in Cambodia, he said, while Viet Nam's Sacombank and Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam have inaugurated their representative offices.

Thus Cambodia can be seen as a promising market for banking activities.

The country has been developing robustly over the past years with average growth rate exceeding 10 per cent per year in the 2003-07 period.

Pet capita GDP last year was $818 despite the global economic crisis and is expected to rise to US$853 this year.

Hean said Cambodia offered several investment incentive policies to attract the foreign investors, including those from Viet Nam.

In the future, the customs departments of both countries will co-operate in implementing a policy on joint inspections of goods in transit. It will be applied first at the Moc Bai-Bavet international border gate located between Viet Nam's Tay Ninh and Cambodia's Svay Rieng provinces.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Vietnam, Cambodia vow to reach two-way trade of $2 bln in 2010

People's daily News

August 17, 2009

Vietnam and Cambodia expressed their strong will in reaching the bilateral trade of two billion U.S. dollars in 2010, the local newspaper Vietnam Investment Times reported Monday.

The target was made at a conference on opportunities for Vietnam to do business in Cambodia. The conference, which was recently-ended in Ho Chi Minh City of Vietnam, drew participation of relevant agencies of both Vietnam and Cambodia.

Cambodia will be a potential market for Vietnam as Cambodian people has turned their eyes on consuming Vietnam's goods and products instead of Thailand's ones, said Yeav Kim Hean, a commercial counselor of Vietnam-base Cambodian Embassy.

Cambodia is calling for foreign investment in its key sectors of hydropower, mining, cultivation of industrial plants, and telecommunication. This opens more opportunities for Vietnam's businesses to invest in Cambodia, said Huynh Tan Phong, vice director of Ho Chi Minh Trade Promotion Agency at the conference.

To reach the target, Vietnam will conduct a wide range of trade promotion activities in Cambodia from now on. These activities include market surveys, conferences on trade cooperation and trade fairs, said Phong.

In 2008, the two-way trade between Vietnam and Cambodia was 1.7billion U.S. dollars, up 31 percent year-on-year. Of which, Vietnam's exports to Cambodia earned about 1.45 billion U.S. dollars, according to Vietnam's Ministry of Industry and Trade.

With 513 businesses having operations in Cambodia, Vietnam ranks 8th among foreign investors in Cambodia, said Yeav, the Cambodian commercial counselor.

Source: Xinhua

NKorea agrees to resume joint projects with SKorea

South Korean protesters wearing masks of U.S. President Barack Obama, right, and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak perform during a rally denouncing Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a joint military exercise between South Korea and the U.S., in front of the South Korean and United States' War Command Center TANGO, Theater Air Navy Ground Operation, in Seongnam, south of Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Aug. 17, 2009. North Korea said it was putting its army on 'special alert' because of South Korea's joint military drills with the United States this week, a sign that hostility and distrust between the rival countries remain high. The white card reads: 'War Exercise' and the green card reads: 'Two Faces,' implying Obama has two faces of war and peace.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated press Writer

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Monday it will resume largely frozen cross border exchanges with South Korea and the communist country's leader Kim Jong Il promised that incidents such as the shooting death last year of a South Korean tourist that helped stoke inter-Korean tensions will not recur.

The North's surprise announcement followed a meeting Sunday between Kim and the chairwoman of Hyundai Group, the biggest South Korean investor in the North, who traveled to Pyongyang last week to secure the freedom of a company employee and discuss restarting joint business projects. North Korea released the Hyundai worker on Thursday.

But in a sign that significant tensions remain, North Korea's military said in a statement Monday that the country's army was on "special alert" because of joint military drills between South Korea and the United States this week.

North Korea, via the state Korean Central News Agency, said it would restart Hyundai-run tours to the scenic Diamond Mountain resort on North Korea's east coast and ancient sights in the northern city of Kaesong, less than an hour's drive from Seoul, as well as allow reunions of families separated by the heavily fortified border with South Korea.

The tours were suspended in the rising tensions that followed the inauguration of South Korea's conservative President Lee Myung-bak early last year. Lee angered Pyongyang by taking a tougher line than his predecessors on keeping North Korea accountable to its commitments on nuclear disarmament.

The suspension has been a major financial burden to Hyundai, which poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the projects aimed at promoting ties with the North. Hyundai Asan said the suspension of tours caused more than $130 million in financial losses for the company.

Kim "told me to tell him of any difficulty this time and I told him everything and he resolved them all," Hyun told reporters after crossing the border to return home Monday.

Hyun said she held four hours of talks with Kim at Myohyang Mountain, northeast of Pyongyang.

South Korean officials said Hyun was not a South Korean government envoy and the agreements made on the trip require further government-level talks between the two Koreas.

Still, the Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, said it considered the development "positive" and said the government will actively seek to achieve an agreement with North Korean authorities to allow the tourism trips to resume.

"Kim Jong Il clearly showed his intention to improve South-North Korean ties and he is strongly demanding that the South Korean government change its North Korea policy," said Paik Hak-soon, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute think tank near Seoul.

The North Korean report did not give exact dates for resumption of the tours, but said it was decided the Diamond Mountain trips would start "as soon as possible."

North Korea suspended tours to Kaesong late last year. South Korea earlier halted tours to the mountain resort after a North Korean soldier fatally shot a South Korean tourist, who allegedly entered a restricted military area next to the resort in July last year. South Korea called for a joint investigation but the North refused.

"Such a thing will never happen again," Hyun quoted Kim as saying, referring to the shooting.

Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University, said the North appeared to be using the resumption of the tour programs as a way to resolve its economic woes aggravated by international sanctions imposed following the country's missile and nuclear tests earlier this year.

Koh also said improved relations with Seoul are also necessary to promote ties with Washington, the North's coveted goal.

KCNA said the North also agreed to resume reunions of families separated by one of the world's most heavily armed borders at the Diamond Mountain resort on this year's annual "Chuseok" autumn harvest holiday that falls on Oct. 3. Chuseok is one of the two biggest Korean traditional holidays celebrated in both Koreas and is equivalent to Thanksgiving in the United States.

The family reunions first took place in August 2000 and have reunited about 20,000 separated Koreans with their long-lost kin across the border before last being held in October 2007.

The North also said it agreed to ease restrictions on border traffic and "energize" the operation of a joint factory park in the border city of Kaesong — the last remaining key joint project between the Koreas. The future of the industrial complex was thrown into doubt after the North significantly restricted border crossings and demanded a massive increase in rent and salaries for North Korean workers at the complex.

About 110 South Korean-run factories employ about 40,000 North Korean workers at Kaesong. Both the industrial complex and the tour projects are key sources of income for North Korea.

On Thursday, the North freed a Hyundai worker whom it had detained for months for allegedly denouncing the communist country's political system. His return home came about a week after the North's release of two jailed U.S. journalists, following a surprise trip to Pyongyang by former President Bill Clinton.

Cambodia: Appointment Of Judges

Scoop New Zealand

Monday, 17 August 2009

Press Release: Asian Human Rights Commission

Cambodia: Appointment Of Judges And Prosecutors Is Unconstitutional

Lately there has been a hectic time within the Cambodian judiciary with the actual and planned retirement and appointments of many judges and prosecutors. The government has retired and replaced half of the members, two ex-officio and two appointed, of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy (SCM), the supreme judicial body responsible for the nomination and discipline of judges and prosecutors. A further 27 are also to be retired. In the meantime, some 32 judges and prosecutors, including four who are the de facto age of retirement of 60, have been appointed to new positions.

In a statement dated 7 August 2009 (see CAMBODIA: Law on the statute of judges, not their retirement, is the right end from which to tackle judicial reform), the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has already pointed out the unconstitutionality of the government’s infringement upon the jurisdiction and independence of the SCM when it had bypassed it and retired and replaced those four SCM members. According to the country’s Constitution, the nomination, including appointment, retirement and transfer, as well as the discipline of judges and prosecutors are the responsibility of the SCM, and not that of the government. The SCM is the supreme body of the judiciary which is chaired by the country’s king and which also has the responsibility of ensuring judicial independence.

The AHRC has also urged the Cambodian government to enact two long-overdue laws which the country has specifically stipulated (Art.135 of the Constitution) and which would provide the legal background and framework for the judiciary as required under Art.14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right to a fair trial by an independent, competent and impartial tribunal established by law. With the law on the statute of judges and prosecutors, the age of retirement would be officially fixed and known, and actual retirement could be set without arousing any suspicion of favouritism for those who wish to remain in active service.

The AHRC has further noticed that the appointment of judges and prosecutors, as shown in the king’s successive appointment decrees, has not respected the principle of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary as enshrined the country’s Constitutions (Arts 51 and 128). In these appointments, the Minister of Justice, a cabinet member and also a member of the SCM, has made nomination proposals, received the approval of the SCM and submitted them to the king for signing. For some appointments, the SCM has been bypassed altogether and the proposals directly submitted to the king for signature.

This practice contravenes Art 134 of the country’s Constitution which says, among other things, that “The Supreme Council of the Magistracy shall make proposals to the King on the appointment of judges and prosecutors to all courts.” It should be declared unconstitutional when, according Art. 150 of the same Constitution, “Laws and decisions by the State institutions shall have to be in strict conformity with the Constitution.”

The Cambodian government and its ministry of justice in particular seem to have exploited the absence of the constitutional review or any other forms of judicial review of their decisions and have tried to rule by decree, at least in appointment and retirement of judges and prosecutors. The constitutional review of laws seems clear cut when a specific number of public figures and even ordinary citizens may request for it. However, there is almost a complete silence over the constitutional review of decisions of state institutions, the government and its ministries included. Only a litigant who feels his or her rights are affected by such a decision could raise the issue of its unconstitutionality with the Constitutional Council through the Supreme Court. Unlike in the case of promulgated laws, neither any public figure mentioned above nor any concerned citizen may request for the constitutional review of decisions of state institutions. Nor is the Constitutional Council habilitated to do this constitutional

The AHRC strongly urges the Minister of Justice to respect the principle of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary and the SCM, refrain from infringing upon the jurisdiction of the SCM, and let this supreme judicial body fully exercise its full constitutional authority over the nomination and discipline of judges and prosecutors. The Minister of Justice should relinquish its control of the SCM Secretariat and transfer it back where it belongs, that is, to the SCM. It should instead secure for the SCM adequate resources to enable it to fulfill its constitutional duties in the nomination and discipline of judges and prosecutors, and in the independence of the judiciary.

AHRC further urges that all decisions of state institutions, including those of the government and the Ministry of Justice regarding the nomination and discipline of judges and prosecutors as well as the independence of the judiciary, should be in strict conformity with the Constitution as specifically stipulated under its Art 150. The Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Constitutional Council should therefore be amended in order to subject such decisions to the same constitutional review as all laws.

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Out of the fire

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009

American citizen John Yettaw, sentenced to seven years' hard labour for swimming to the lakeside home of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, gestures at a military airport in Bangkok on following his release from military-ruled Myanmar. The 54-year-old's release was secured by US Senator Jim Webb, who is due to visit Cambodia this month. Suu Kyi remains in detention, despite growing international calls for her release.

Kingdom is defiant over Thai warships

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Cheang Sokha

Govt says Gulf deployment over gas deal OK if kept in Thai waters.

MARINES and warships from the Thai navy's 1st Fleet have been deployed close to disputed areas in the Gulf of Thailand to monitor Cambodian oil explorations in the area, according to Thai media reports, prompting warnings from Cambodian officials that the country reserves the right to defend its sovereignty against any naval incursions.

On Saturday, the Bangkok Post reported that the forces have been deployed at Koh Kut, close to the 27,000-kilometre overlapping claims area (OCA), to monitor a recent exploration deal between the government and French petrochemical giant Total.

"We have to send our royal warships on patrol to proclaim our territory and warn Cambodia against initiating any action in the overlapping area," the newspaper quoted an anonymous Thai naval source as saying.

"If we let Total explore in the overlapping areas, it would mean we admit the area belongs to Cambodia."

Cambodian officials said that the Thai deployment was legitimate so long as it took place inside Thai territory, but warned that Cambodia would move to protect its sovereignty in the Gulf if Thai forces made incursions into the overlapping area.

"If their deployment moves into the [overlapping claims area] or into Cambodian waters, then we will defend our nation," said Var Kimhong, Cambodia's top border negotiator.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the deployment was Thailand's decision, but that it would do little to resolve the maritime boundary dispute.

"[The deployment] will not scare Cambodia," he said.

"Thailand cannot use its forces to threaten Cambodia's security. Cambodia will defend its rights as an independent, sovereign state."

He added: "[We] will still keep [our] stance of resolving the dispute peacefully."


During Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to France in July, officials announced an agreement offering Total the exploration rights to a 2,430-square kilometre block - known as Area III - that sits inside the OCA.

The deal prompted complaints from the People's Assembly of Thailand (PAT), a nationalist advocacy group, that the Total agreement was a violation of Thai sovereignty.

The group wrote to Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on July 30, criticising the government and armed forces for not taking action to head off the deal.

A copy of the letter was also reportedly sent to the French Embassy in Bangkok.

Matters are complicated by the fact that Bangkok also allocated the zone - which it refers to as B10 and B11 - to US oil company Chevron and Japan's Mitsui in 1971.

Var Kimhong said that Thailand's claims about the Total deal were "unreasonable", adding that Cambodia had not complained to Bangkok when it granted oil exploration rights in the OCA to Chevron and Mitsui.

Var Kimhong added that Cambodia was always open for negotiation on the two countries' maritime border, which has never been fully demarcated.

In Sokhemra, chief of the Cambodian coast guard stationed in Preah Sihanouk province, said that he had not heard of the naval deployment at Koh Kut, but that the Cambodian navy conducts regular patrols near the OCA and would be immediately aware of any Thai incursions.

Chum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, could not be reached for comment on Sunday, and Jean-Pierre Labbe, general manager of Total EP Cambodge, said he was out of the country and did not wish to comment over the phone.

Govt requests aid to pay for malaria drugs

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Sam Rith

Plan would subsidise the cost of quality medicine for the poor.

CAMBODIA has requested US$9.5 million from Global Fund to help finance a new campaign to fight the spread of malaria, a health official said.

Duong Socheat, director of the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, said Sunday that the scheme was intended to make quality anti-malaria treatment cheaper and more accessible for Cambodia's poorer communities.

"Nowadays, poor people can only get anti-malaria treatment from public health centres and hospitals," he said. "If they were to go to private clinics, they wouldn't be able to afford it because they cost up to US$3 per tablet. We want to lower that cost to less than $0.50 per tablet."

Malaria is a potentially deadly disease that kills more than a million people each year. It is caused by malaria parasites injected into the bloodstream by infected mosquitoes.

The number of malaria-related deaths in Cambodia almost doubled during the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2008, the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control announced earlier this month. Between January and June last year, there were 25,033 reported cases, of which 65 proved fatal. Between January and June 2009, a similar number of cases were reported - 27,105 in total - but the number of fatalities had risen to 103. The report attributed the increase to the early arrival of the rainy season and a delay in distributing mosquito nets.

A study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine warned that malaria parasites in western Cambodia have become resistant to artemisinin-based therapies, the first-line treatment for malaria. Resistance to the drugs makes them less effective and could eventually render them obsolete, putting millions of lives at risk.

The new proposal includes plans to tackle the emergence of treatment-resistant parasites, eliminate the market in fake malaria treatment and provide affordable, quality medication. The centre said it will know if its application has been successful by the end of this year.

Artemisinin-based drugs have been in use in western Cambodia for about 30 years. In 2001, the country became one of the first to switch to artemisinin-based combination therapies, now recommended by the World Health Organisation as the first-line treatment for uncomplicated falciparum malaria. However, the majority of patients in the country receive their medication from the private sector, which is less well-regulated.

Council of Ministers mandates warning labels on cigarettes

Photo by: Im Soneath
Posters depicting warnings about the dangers of smoking cigarettes are displayed at the National Centre for Health Promotion last month. Cambodia’s warning labels will be text-only, an official said.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Chhay Channyda

THE Council of Ministers approved a sub-decree on Friday that will require health warnings to be printed on the outside of cigarette packages.

Under the presidency of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the council released a statement saying that the purpose of these warnings will be "to educate people, especially children and housewives, about the consequences of smoking, and to counter any deceiving advertisements from tobacco companies".

The sub-decree was created by the Ministry of Health in pursuance of the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an agreement ratified by 166 countries including Cambodia.

Lim Thai Pheang, director of the National Centre for Health Promotion, said Friday that the Ministry of Health sub-decree had originally called for anti-smoking photos to be printed on packaging in addition to warning messages, but that the Council of Ministers requested that the warnings be text-only.

He added that he was not sure when the messages would begin being printed on packages, and that further discussions are necessary before the decree can be enacted.

"We must inform tobacco companies before we start to put health warning messages on cigarette packages," he said.

According to a 2004 survey by the National Institute of Statistics at the Ministry of Planning, 54 percent of male Cambodians over 20 years of age are smokers, compared with just 6 percent of women over 20, along with about 10 percent of Cambodians aged 10 to 14.

NEC plans registration update

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Vong Sokheng

THE National Election Committee (NEC) is scheduled to start its annual update of voter registration lists at the end of September, NEC officials said Sunday.

Tep Nytha, secretary general of the NEC, said that voter lists from 2008 will be posted in a total of 1,621 communes across the country, where voters will be asked to confirm their names. New voters will have the chance to register, and voters who have moved or died will be removed from the lists, he said. Voter lists will be posted on September 29, and registration will run October 1-20.

A group of local election-monitoring NGOs, including the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free and Fair Elections, released a survey in July reporting that there are roughly 350,000 Cambodians who, having reached 18 years of age, will be eligible to register as new voters this year.

Traffic Law nets 60,000 vehicles in Kingdom

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Khoun Leakhana

SINCE August 1, when authorities began stepping up enforcement of the Land Traffic Law, more than 60,000 vehicles have been temporarily impounded, police officials said Sunday.

Hem Ya, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Police Commissariat, said that vehicles have been held in order to educate owners who break the law.

"I think that so far, 80 percent of Cambodian people respect the traffic law. The other 20 percent, mostly teenagers under the age of 25, don't seem to respect the law and don't want to wear helmets," he said. Of the 60,000 vehicles seized, cars accounted for 300, he added.

Rather than fining drivers stopped for violations, Hem Ya said, police send their vehicles to police outposts, where drivers are forced to buy helmets or replace missing mirrors.

Sem Panhavuth, manager of the Cambodia Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System of Handicap International Belgium, said Sunday that he was pleased with enforcement of the Traffic Law thus far, though he, too, was concerned about younger drivers, who he said were the "most vulnerable" to accidents.

Model stalls provide vendors from Preah Vihear an array of options

Photo by: AFP
A soldier stands in the ruins of the Preah Vihear market days after it was destroyed by border fighting.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Thet Sambath

Displaced families will begin selecting stalls this week, although there is still no word on when the market will be fully rebuilt and operational.

BEGINNING this week, vendors at a market near Preah Vihear temple that was demolished by Thai rocket fire in early April are to have the opportunity to choose from new stalls designed by the Preah Vihear National Authority (PVNA).

"We finished construction of the model stalls over the weekend," said Hang Soth, the PVNA's director general. "We will allow people to choose whichever stall they want, and later there will be a ballot so they can choose a location."

The stalls come in three sizes: 2-by-4 metres, 4-by-12 metres and 4-by-20 metres. Hang Soth said vendors would need to pay for the stalls themselves, adding that a 4-by-12-metre stall would cost roughly US$2,000.

About 319 families who lived and worked at the market were displaced during an exchange of gunfire between Cambodian and Thai soldiers on April 3 that destroyed all 264 stalls, according to accounts from Cambodian military officials.

The Cambodian government in May demanded US$2.1 million from the Thai government to pay for the damages, though there has been no response from Bangkok.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said last month that he wanted to see the market completely rebuilt by late July.

Thailand's border communications office wrote on July 30 to its Cambodian counterpart, claiming that the construction of new stalls at the market violated a memorandum of understanding on border demarcation signed between the two countries in 2000.

Cambodian officials rejected that claim, saying the market reconstruction had nothing to do with the continuing standoff over contested territory.

Sor Thavy, deputy governor of Preah Vihear province, said Sunday that he did not know when construction of the market would be complete.

"We have tried to get this work finished because we want people to get their businesses running and begin serving tourists in the area," he said.

"I hope people can start building their stalls soon."

Wat Lanka crematorium razed

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Workers prepare to tear down Wat Lanka crematorium on Sunday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Khouth Sophak Chakrya

PHNOM Penh municipal authorities began demolition on Saturday the dilapidated crematorium at Wat Lanka, in the capital's Chamkarmon district, after discussions between officials from the Ministry of Cults and Religions and Non Nget, supreme patriarch of Buddhist monks in Cambodia.

Prum Somkhan, deputy governor of Chamkarmon district, said Sunday that the workers began dismantling the crematorium after meeting with monks, abbots and about 200 families who live near the Wat Lanka pagoda.

"We need to demolish it to protect the environment, improve human health and reduce traffic jams in the area," he said.

Traffic jams often occur as people walk the nearby roads on their march to cremations in the pagoda, Prum Somkhan said, and noxious smoke from human remains is a hazard for residents who live near the crematorium.

The demolition of Wat Lanka's crematorium comes just one month after city officials ordered the demolition of the crematorium at Wat Ounalom in Daun Penh district. After Wat Lanka, the city plans to demolish crematoriums at Wat Koh and Wat Preah Puth Mean Bon, said Kham Kimsou, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Department of Environment.

Officials defer Boeung Kak eviction plan

Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009

CITY Hall has agreed to temporarily delay the eviction of 160 families from the Boeung Kak lakeside after an impromptu meeting with municipal officials on Friday.

Community representative Sai Natreth said that officials promised to push back a Monday eviction deadline and meet to discuss the commercial and housing development planned for the lake.

"They promised that the eviction deadline on Monday would be postponed," she said Sunday, adding that residents would raise concerns about the compensation packages offered by the city.

In a statement dated August 10, city authorities ordered families living in the lakeside's Village 2 and Village 4 to vacate the site by Monday, or face "administrative measures".

It also gave residents three options for compensation: US$8,000 plus a sum of 2 million riels ($484) to cover the cost of dismantling their houses; a flat at a relocation site at Damnak Trayoeng, about 20 kilometres from the city, plus 2 million riels; or new on-site housing with temporary relocation. Sai Natreth said the residents wanted to accept new housing at the lake but did not wish to relocate until the on-site apartments were complete.

A 'middle way'
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said the government had delayed the eviction in order to find a peaceful solution to the dispute.

"We are trying to find a way to avoid using administrative measures, so we have delayed [the eviction]," he said Sunday, adding that he did not know when the eviction would happen if residents and officials fail to reach an agreement today.

Boeung Kak residents have been slowly leaving the site since last August, when little-known developer Shukaku Inc began filling the lake with sand pumped from the Tonle Sap. Around 4,000 families are ultimately expected to make way for the 133-hectare development

Families protest arrests in land fight

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
May Titthara

THE relatives of two men who were arrested last week in connection with a land dispute in Sen Sok district staged a small protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen's home in Takhmao town, Kandal province, Sunday morning.

"I would like to ask the prime minister to help us release my husband from prison," said Nhem Sokhim, 50, whose husband, Lak Oun, is being held in Prey Sar prison along with Nhem Sokhim. "I believe he will help us because we are the victims of a tycoon."

The families are involved in a dispute with CVKHA, a local developer that has argued that the families are growing crops on land it purchased in 1993. The families say they have been farming on the 3-hectare plot of land since 1983.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Sunday that his officers were complying with a court order when they carried out the arrest. Municipal Court officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Am Sam Ath, of the rights group Licadho, said at least 60 people had been jailed in connection with land disputes in Cambodia this year.

Foreign S-21 victim's brother set to testify

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Robbie Corey-Boulet

AN Olympic rower from New Zealand whose brother was sent to Tuol Sleng after his yacht drifted into Cambodian waters and a woman who was still in the womb when her father was sent to the torture facility are among a group of 18 civil parties expected to testify at the Khmer Rouge tribunal over the next two weeks as the trial of prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, begins to hear from people who claim to have lost relatives to the regime.

The seven civil parties who have already testified claimed to be survivors and were called to offer evidence. By contrast, several civil party lawyers said in recent interviews that they would use the coming sessions to illustrate what Alain Werner, who has four clients appearing, termed "the trauma of the second generation".

Referring to the woman whose father died before she was born, Werner said, "What we hope to show with this testimony ... is that the entire life of our client was so deeply affected, even if she never actually met her own father. This absence completely changed her life."

Silke Studzinsky, another civil party lawyer, said the testimony would also provide more information on some of the regime's "direct victims".

"I think this can shed light on some of the direct victims who cannot speak anymore and who were killed," she said.

She said she also planned to ask them whether Duch's confession and oft-repeated apology served as any consolation for the losses they sustained, a question that she said could influence whatever sentence is handed down.

In a memorandum dated August 5, the Trial Chamber announced that civil party lawyers would drive the questioning for this phase of testimony, marking a change from the first seven civil parties, who were mainly questioned by judges.

Several civil party lawyers said they thought the decision made sense, though Hong Kim Suon said he was worried that lawyers would still not have enough time to sufficiently demonstrate a link between their clients and the established facts of the Duch case.

The credibility of several of the first civil parties was called into question by the defence team, which in some cases pointed out inconsistencies in their statements over time and in others challenged the fundamental premises of their recollections.

Kar Savuth, Duch's Cambodian defence lawyer, said he believed only some of the civil parties' recollections were truthful.

"I think some of them are not the real victims," he said, adding that the defence would likely challenge some of the upcoming civil parties, though he said no set number had been decided.

"We will wait to see the process of the testimony," he said. "Then we will decide how many of them we will kick out."


Cambodian soldiers head to Mongolia

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Vong Sokheng

FORTY-FIVE Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) troops left the country on Friday to participate in a mutlinational peacekeeping training exercise in Mongolia, with the aim of improving the army's peace support operations.

Suong Khunny, deputy director of the RCAF's National Centre for Peacekeeping Force, Mine and ERW Clearance, said that this is the second time Cambodian soldiers have taken part in the Khaan Quest exercise.

"The goal of the course is to train participants to better support their respective nations' peace operations around the globe," he said Sunday.

"This time we are conducting field exercises, such as manning checkpoints, escorting envoys, disarming and humanitarian training."

Suong Khunny said that RCAF soldiers had also participated in multinational peacekeeping exercises in Bangladesh and Indonesia since 2007.

"We have participated in humanitarian land-mine clearing in Sudan and expect to have more roles in UN peacekeeping operations," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that joining in peacekeeping exercises was one of the government's strategies for increasing international cooperation.

More than 700 military personnel from Mongolia, India, the US and South Korea are also participating in Khaan Quest, which runs August 3-26.

Garment exports plummet 18pc over first half of year

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Garment Manufacturers Association head Van Sou Ieng says industrial disputes like the one in this file photo are to blame for the garment-sector downturn, as new figures show first half exports fell 18pc.

It is difficult for us to estimate the total value for long-term exports of apparel in Cambodia ...

The Phnom Penh post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Chun Sophal

Commerce Ministry figures show a smaller drop than over the first quarter as manufacturers group head blames industrial unrest, not economic crisis

Exports of garments, footwear and other textile products dropped 18 percent year on year over the first half to US$1.27 billion, Ministry of Commerce figures released at the weekend show.

Exports to the United States, Cambodia's key market, were down 30 percent. Canada took 13 percent less by value, while European purchases were down 5 percent over the period.

The figures were released by the ministry's Trade Preferences Systems Department and account for all exports under the generalised system of preferences (GSP) and most favoured nation (MFN) programmes.

Cambodia exports almost all its garments, textiles and shoes through these schemes, which allow the world's least-developed nations to avoid quotas imposed by rich countries on exports from other developing countries.

Looking for a rebound
Department Director Mean Sophea said he expected a rebound would begin to be seen in September.

"It is difficult for us to estimate the total value for long-term exports of apparel in Cambodia because the situation of the world's economy has not recovered yet," he said.

Month-by-month data was not available at the weekend, but the figures suggest the rebound may have already started. In the first quarter of the year, garment exports fell 26.41 percent year on year across to $534.6 million, suggesting a better second quarter.

In March alone, exports were down 38.03 percent year on year to $164.3 million.

Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told the Post in May that export orders for that month and June would provide a strong indicator of the sector's prospects for the rest of the year. The two months coincided with the start of the "hot season" in the US and Europe, he said.

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), told the Post Sunday that the decrease in apparel exports could not be blamed entirely on the global economic crisis.

Cambodia's garment products are more expensive than those of China, Vietnam and Bangladesh, and the country was clearly losing to its more efficient competitors., he said.

"I believe at least 100 factories have been closed down and suspended so far because there has been no orders," Van Sou Ieng said.

Industrial unrest
He also revised a prediction he made in May that exports would fall 30 percent for 2009 on the previous year. He said Sunday he anticipates a 40 percent decline for the full year, claiming that buyers were being scared off by strikes and demonstrations.

Sector representatives have also blamed high electricity prices, customs inefficiencies and a poorly trained workforce for the garment industry's low competitiveness.

Ath Thun, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, admitted that factories were closing and that there is pressure on the sector, but said Sunday that GMAC exaggerated the number of closures to scare unions. Factory owners are using the global economic crisis as an excuse to close factories without paying workers' wages properly and to frighten workers from protesting or negotiating, he said.

"I think Cambodia's garment sector would have collapsed already if 100 factories were really closed because the country's total number of factories is only around 300," he said.

Industrial census set to roll in 2011

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
May Kunmakara and Ith Sotheouth

The Council of Ministers gave the go-ahead Friday for the first complete census of the country's industrial sector.

A sub-decree needed to be passed before the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) could begin preparations for the census, which will be conducted in 2011.

NIS Director General San Sy Than said smaller surveys had been done in the past, but that this would be the first complete census the country had attempted.

It would give not only the number of factories and enterprises in Cambodia by province and sector, but also the number of workers, gross output, real estate holdings and even productivity across different firms and sectors.

"It is very important," he said. "The private sector really needs this data to invest."

According to the sub-decree, census data will be used as a baseline for preparing policies, strategies and action plans for Cambodia's economic, social, and human development.

The NIS plans to test census procedures in 2010 before starting the census on March 1, 2011, but San Sy Than did not know when data would be available. "We cannot estimate how long it will take, but [it] should not take so long."

Cambodia began conducting annual industrial surveys in 1993 but discontinued them in 2004 because of a lack of funding. They were started again in February with assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The Nationwide Establishment Listing of Cambodia 2009 showed there were around 375,000 enterprises across the country.

ACLEDA to offer EdC bill payments

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Electricite Du Cambodge's Phnom Penh customers will be able to pay their bills at ACLEDA Bank ATMs from today.

When we have success with this, we will duplicate it in other provinces ...

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
May Kunmakara

Bank to sign pact with state electricity provider that will let ACLEDA's customers pay their power bill via any of its cash-point machines from today, saving a trip to the utility's branches

Phnom Penh customers of Electricity du Cambodge (EdC) who bank with ACLEDA should be able to pay electricity bills at the institution's automatic teller machines from today following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two companies.

The deal is to be signed by Keo Rottanam, the government delegate in charge of managing the electricity supplier, and ACLEDA Bank President and CEO In Channy at Raffles Hotel Le Royal.

Keo Rottanam said Sunday that the service would initially be available only to Phnom Penh customers, as the electric company did not have the resources to roll the service out at its other branches.

However, he said, customers would be able to pay using ACLEDA bank machines across the Kingdom.

"When we have success with this, we will duplicate it in other provinces and cities nationwide - but we can't now because we would need to spend too much money," he said.

EdC has around 200,000 customers in Phnom Penh, or around 80 percent of the total nationwide.

Keo Rottanam said ACLEDA was selected because of its wide branch network, "good reputation" for customer service and the compatibility of its IT systems with those used by the electricity supplier.

ACLEDA Bank has 63 ATMs nationwide and plans to have 105 ATMs by the end of this year, In Channy said.

"Our ATMs are spread over a wide coverage area, which is why EdC selected us as a partner," he said.

Convenience in a card
Customers would be charged 1,000 riels (US$0.24) to make a payment, which In Channy said would be cheaper than travelling to pay at EdC's branches and more convenient.

"From now on, customers don't have to waste their time to directly pay their electricity bill at EdC's branches. And if they go somewhere outside of Phnom Penh, they can still pay their electricity bills using our ATMs."

In Channy said it was a win-win arrangement.

"This will draw more customers in Phnom Penh to use ACLEDA's ATMs, which will make it easier for us to manage our flow of riels than if everyone withdrew riels to pay their bills," he said

Payments will be automatically changed into riels, meaning there will be no difficulty for those with US dollar bank accounts.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Vietnam delegation signs 'biggest ever' investment deal: CDC

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

A Vietnamese delegation signed what is believed to be the country's largest-ever investment package with Cambodian government representatives Friday afternoon.

Eight deals worth a combined US$420 million were announced following a meeting between the 60-strong delegation and Cambodian ministry officials at the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC)

"This is the biggest-ever investment from Vietnamese investors in Cambodia," Ngo Anh Dung, Vietnam's ambassador to Cambodia said. "Vietnamese investors like to do business in Cambodia because we are both members of ASEAN and we are very close neighbours. In addition, investors from both sides have received support from the leaders of the two countries."

Delegation leader Tran Bac Ha, who is the board chairman at the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), said all the projects would be started within six months.

BIDV would finance the projects, he added. BIDV entered Cambodia last month by buying Prosperity Investment Bank, renaming it the Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia (BIDC).

The deals took the value of Vietnam-funded projects approved by the CDC to around $540 million, and Tran Bac Ha said he expected more approvals to follow.

"I hope that investments from Vietnam to Cambodia will reach $700 million by the end of this year," he said.

It was not clear Sunday whether those figures included Vietnam Airlines' $100 million investment in Cambodia Angkor Air, which began flying late last month. State-owned Vietnam Airlines took a 49 percent stake in Cambodia's new national carrier as part of a 30-year agreement. The Cambodian government holds the remainder.

Sok Chenda, CDC's secretary general, told reporters after the meeting that the investment focused on agriculture.

Projects included a factory to process rice and agricultural products for export, a sugar-cane factory and 10,000-hectare sugar-cane plantation in Kratie province, a bio-ethanol factory, a rubber plantation in Ratanakkiri province, a plywood-processing factory and a fertiliser factory.

The investors would also fund an electricity plant and a factory to produce building stones for the domestic construction sector.

"Now it's time that Cambodia harnesses the benefits from its favorable natural resources," Sok Chenda said.

Ngo Anh Dung said around 100 small, medium and large Vietnamese companies were currently operating in Cambodia. Sectors included banking, telecommunications, agriculture, electricity and mining.

Pitch for Sokimex
At the meeting, Sok Chenda also asked Tran Bac Ha to grant a loan to Cambodian conglomerate Sokimex for its Bokor mountain-top development in Kampot province.

"I convey the suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen to you," he said. "The prime minister suggests that the bank consider financing tourism investment projects, especially the Bokor mountain-top development project."

Tran Bac Ha said he would take into consideration the request for a $150 million loan for the project.

Bank reports slump in remittances

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Slumping volumes through Cambodia’s ports have led to a 24.6 percent drop in ACLEDA Bank’s remittances business.

The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 17 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

ACLEDA counts 25 percent drop in trade transactions over first half of year compared with 2008, but expects an uptick before the end of the year after flows showed signs of recovery in June

Cross-border money remittances through ACLEDA Bank dropped 24.6 percent year on year in the first half from US$727.34 million to $547.83 million, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer So Phonnary said.

The fall was due largely to exports and imports, she said.

"The major decline was due to the drop in garment exports, so money transferred into the country was down," she said. "Because demand for imports of automobiles, machinery and goods and commodities into Cambodia also dropped, the amount of money transferred out of Cambodia was also down."

Outgoing remittances fell 16.4 percent to $284.29 million, and inbound remittances dropped 31.8 percent to $263.54 million.

Even as total remittances fell, the number of transactions increased by roughly 1,500 to 28,000. "Due to the crisis, cross-border trades became smaller in size," So Phonnary said.

So Phonnary said the most severe drop was in January when $39.7 million was transferred out of the country and $40 million in. By June, outbound remittances through ACLEDA had rose again to $54 million, and money coming into the country had increased to $42 million.

"Based on these figures, we expect business activities are going up in the second half of this year, but it's a slow recovery," she said.

Local money transfers through ACLEDA were more stable, dropping 5 percent from $1.24 in the first six months of 2008 to around $1 billion in the first half of this year. Average transaction sizes also fell domestically as the number of transactions rose 145,000 to 526,000.

Transfer fees are 0.1 percent of the total for inbound remittances and 0.17 percent for transfers out of the country.

Figures were not readily available Friday for remittances at other banks, but Union Commercial Bank CEO Yum Sui Sang estimated that cross-border remittances had dropped about 15 percent to an average of around $44 million per month.

"Business slowdown is the main factor," he said. "Exports slowed down, especially garment exports, so the money remittance declined."

Cambodian Public Bank country head Phan Ying Tong said remittance figures were unavailable. "I don't have the figures to compare, but I think the volume is quite stable.... It hasn't dropped dramatically or increased dramatically.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, said Friday that the central bank did not directly supervise remittances and did not have figures to hand.

"[The crisis] has definitely reduced business activities between Cambodia and foreign countries," she said. "I hope the global economy recovers; when the economy recovers the banking industry will recover, too."