Thursday, 20 August 2009

The Phnom Penh Post in KHMER language

Cambodia offers farmers fund to fight against drought

People's Daily Online

August 20, 2009

Cambodian government has already activated a 12-million-U.S.-dollar emergency package to help farmers fight a drought taking hold across the country, localmedia reported on Thursday.

"We hope that through this measure, our agricultural sector will still be able to achieve high yields and we will be able to ameliorate declines in the living standards of our farmers," Kong Vibol, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance,was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as telling the National Assembly.

Around 42,414 hectares of the 2.26 million hectares of rice hadbeen hit by drought this year, and 517 hectares of rice crops had been destroyed, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Drought had affected 13,706 hectares of rice paddy in Battambang province, 12,379 hectares in Pursat province, 8,527 hectares in Prey Veng province, 5,528 hectares in Kandal province,2,502 hectares in Takeo province and 172 hectares in Kampong Thom province, the ministry said.

Ministry of Agriculture Secretary of State Teng Lao said the ministry and provincial authorities have already deployed resources to help farmers save their rice crops, but that damage remained unavoidable in some areas.

Drought is a particular problem for Cambodia, as the proportionof land irrigated is among the lowest in the region. That means most areas produce only one crop a year, during the wet season.

Agriculture generated around 29 percent of gross domestic product in 2007, and 59 percent of the population relies on the sector for their livelihoods, according to the World Bank.

Output has been growing at 4.4 percent per year over the past decade, lagging other sectors of the economy but out-pacing neighboring Laos and Vietnam, whose agricultural sectors grew 3.9 and 4 percent, respectively, over the period.

Rice covered 2.6 million hectares in 2007, accounting or two-thirds of arable land and 90 percent of cultivated land, and production grew from 3.4 million to 6.8 million tons from 1997 to 2007, according to the U.N. Development Program.

Yields are low at around 2.6 tons per hectare, compared to regional average between 3.5 and four tonnes per hectare, the Postreported quoting the World Bank.

Source: Xinhua

Scientists develop high-yield deep water rice


TOKYO — A team of Japanese scientists has discovered genes that enable rice to survive high water, providing hope for better rice production in lowland areas that are affected by flooding.

The team, primarily from the University of Nagoya, reported their findings in Thursday's issue of Nature, the science magazine.

The genes, called SNORKEL genes, help rice grow longer stems to deal with higher water levels. Deep-water rice generally produces lower-yield rice plants. But the researchers report they have succeeded in introducing the genes to rice varieties that are higher-yield.

According to the report, as water levels rise, accumulation of the plant hormone ethylene activates the SNORKEL genes, making stem growth more rapid. When the researchers introduced the genes into rice that does not normally survive in deep water, they were able to rescue the plants from drowning.

Motoyuki Ashikari, who headed the project, said his team is hoping to use the gene on long grain rice widely used in Southeast Asia to help stabilize production in flood-prone areas where rice with the flood-resistant gene is low in production — about one-third to one-quarter that of regular rice.

"Scientifically, the gene that we found is rare but clear proof of a biological ability to adapt to a harsh environment," he said. "It's a genetic strategy specifically to survive flooding."

Ashikari said his team already successfully tested the gene on a Japanese "Japonica" rice, and his team now plans to create a flood-resistant long grain rice in three to four years for use in countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Cambodia.

High water levels in paddies can be a serious problem. In some areas, rains can cause water levels to rise dangerously high during the growing season and flash flooding can fully submerge plants for days or even weeks.

Rice is a staple food for billions, and while productivity has increased dramatically since the 1960s, yields must be doubled to meet projected requirements by 2050. More than 30 percent of Asian and 40 percent of African rice acreage is cultivated in either lowland paddies or deepwater paddies.

Laurentius A. C. J. Voesenek, at the Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, who was not part of the research team, said the study is significant because high-yield rice varieties cannot survive extremes of inundation.

"The introduction of (these genes) into high-yielding varieties, using advanced breeding strategies, promises to improve the quality and quantity of rice produced in marginal farmlands," he said in a review of the paper, also published in Nature.

Q+A-Will Cambodia's economic woes affect stability?

BANGKOK, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is facing pressure from rights groups and foreign donors while he battles to minimise the damage to the country's fragile economy from the global financial crisis.

Foreign governments, rights groups, non-governmental organisations and political rivals continue to hound the former Khmer Rouge soldier over his authoritarian leadership style and his attempts to muzzle critics.

However, analysts say neither the criticism of Hun Sen's government nor the effects of the slowing economy are likely create instability in the near future.


Hun Sen's government has filed a series of lawsuits against journalists and opposition lawmakers for defamation or "disinformation", which rights groups and foreign diplomats say are attempts to silence critics and strengthen his grip on power.

Two opposition MPs critical of Hun Sen and his party were recently stripped of parliamentary immunity, effectively unseating them from the national assembly. Other cases have included a young political activist jailed for painting anti-government slogans on his house and an advocate of cultural preservation who criticised lighting plans for the ancient Angkor Wat temple.

"Hun Sen does not know how to respond to criticism and the fear is he will respond with an iron fist through more suppression, which would undermine Cambodia's democratic progress," said Ou Vireak, president of the U.S-funded Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.


Tens of thousands of people have been evicted by force from prime land in the capital, Phnom Penh. Rights groups say as many as 250,000 people have been affected nationwide. The government says the dwellers are land-grabbers who refuse to accept their offers of compensation.

The World Bank and other donors say the evictions are hampering efforts to tackle poverty in a country where 35 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day. The ruling party's control over the police, military and the courts means those made homeless have limited power to fight the evictions.

The government has also come under fire for failing to deal with rampant corruption, which the United States says costs the country $500 million a year. Cambodia, which anti-graft watchdogs rank as one of the world's most corrupt countries, has dismissed the claims as foreign interference. An anti-corruption bill drafted in the 1990s is also yet to be approved.

Analysts say the failure to tackle graft will restrict the amount of foreign investment in the country.


Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) enjoyed a landslide election victory in 2008 on the back of four years of double-digit growth driven by pro-investment policies, which helped create jobs and improve infrastructure and public services.

Analysts say that after decades of war and political strife, Cambodians are better off under Hun Sen. Although he is criticised for his authoritarian style, people are largely supportive of his nationalist and conservative approach to running the country.

"He has a desire to maintain Khmer traditions and morals and that maintains some strong fabric on which to base policy decisions. That's good for political stability," said Ian Bryson, a specialist on Cambodia at Control Risks in Singapore.


A boom in the garment manufacturing industry in the 1990s helped lift many rural people out of poverty, but the global financial crisis has hurt tourism and slashed demand for Cambodian-made clothes in countries like the United States.

Analysts believe victims of lay-offs are unlikely to blame the government or protest against factory closures. They say stability rests on the government's future handling of inflation, diversifying its economy and improving its investment climate.

"The government should invest more in agriculture and other industries and reduce its reliance on garments and tourism," said Pou Sothirak, a senior research fellow at Singapore's Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS). (Compiled by Martin Petty and Ek Madra in Phnom Penh; Editing by Alan Raybould and Bill Tarrant)

Cambodia's Hun Sen looks safe despite some unease

Trouble is mounting for Cambodia's long-serving prime minister, Hun Sen, with rising unemployment and an economic slowdown on top of growing criticism from diplomats, rights activists and political rivals.

But analysts see little threat to his power or the long-term investment outlook in a country that has made great strides after decades of poverty, brutalilty and instability.

"Things are far from perfect in Cambodia, but democracy is a slow process and we have to see the bigger picture," said Pou Sothirak, a senior research fellow at Singapore's Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS).

"Hun Sen's priority has been the economy, social order and the avoidance of conflict, and the current situation is a significant improvement from the past."

Hun Sen's government has come under fire recently, accused of corruption, abuse of power, and undermining the judiciary, raising concerns about future stability and its sincerity about carrying out long-awaited reforms.

Tens of thousands of people have been driven out of their homes in a slew of land seizures, while critics have blasted Hun Sen for filing lawsuits they say are merely attempts to intimidate journalists, activists and political opponents.

However, Hun Sen gets plenty of plaudits as well, and some analysts say the firm hand of the undisputed strongman is exactly what Cambodia and its economy needs.

"It's easy to criticise Hun Sen as a single-party ruler, authoritarian and totalitarian, but he's a pragmatist -- he does what he needs to do," said Ian Bryson, a regional analyst for Control Risks.

"There's no reason to forecast any instability in the near future. Cambodia's pretty rock solid. Hun Sen is healthy and he really is quite well-regarded."

Given the steady turnaround in Cambodia's fortunes since Hun Sen came to power 25 years ago, the popularity of the Khmer Rouge defector and former farmer and monk, comes as no surprise.


Six years after Vietnamese invaders ended the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 "killing fields" reign of terror, Hun Sen became premier and cultivated a reputation as a moderate, investor-friendly democrat, which helped put Cambodia on the road to recovery.

Until the global economic crisis struck, Cambodia had seen four straight years of double-digit growth fuelled by Hun Sen's pro-business policies, which created new jobs and infrastructure and raised living standards among the rural poor, many of whom live on less than $1 a day.

With backing from the poor, his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) scored 73 percent of the vote in 2008 elections, which observers said had only minor irregularities, to win its first outright majority after years of bickering coalition governments.

"I see no party that can challenge the CPP. They've improved the livelihoods of the poor and boosted their hopes and expectations for the future," said a Cambodian political science lecturer, who asked not to be named.

"The criticism Hun Sen has received does not reflect the overall situation. I can see the ruling party will continue to hold power ... and foreigners will continue to invest here."

Analysts say complaints about graft, cronyism, lawsuits and forced evictions from donors, rights groups, diplomats and financial institutions have irked Hun Sen, but will have little impact on his popularity.

The biggest challenge for the CPP, they say, is to revive the economy and ensure jobs are created to minimise the threat of social problems or civil disorder that could undermine its grip on power.

Foreign direct investment has slowed since the global financial crisis took its toll. Economic growth slowed to 5.5 percent in 2008 and the economy is forecast to shrink by 0.5 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

With a slump in demand from key markets like the United States, at least 130 garment factories have closed since late last year, prompting an estimated 50,000-60,000 lay-offs in an industry that brought in $3.8 billion in 2007.

But analysts say workers have accepted this is not the fault of government mismanagment, and that it looks unlikely to pose a threat to Cambodia's stability.

Neither, they say, will long-running diplomatic disputes with traditional foe Thailand over border demarcations, near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple and in the Gulf of Thailand, where oil and gas deposits have been found.

Both sides have beefed up their military presence in the areas and seven soldiers died in skirmishes over the past year. But too much is at stake for both countries, and that is preventing the disputes from escalating significantly.

"It's been a bumpy ride for Cambodia, but stability is, and will remain, very much intact," added Pou Sothirak of ISEAS. "And for that reason, I expect foreign investors will return when the global economic situation improves." (Writing and additional reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould and Bill Tarrant)

Khmer Rouge court vows 'fair and just' verdict

Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, the former Khmer Rouge prison chief of the notorious S-21 torture centre

A general view of the court in session during the trial of infamous S-21 torture centre chief Kaing Guek Eav

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court Thursday promised a "fair and just" verdict in the trial of the Khmer Rouge prison chief, after days of emotional testimony from the relatives of victims.

Jail supremo Duch, 66, is on trial for overseeing the torture and execution of roughly 15,000 people at the notorious Tuol Sleng detention centre during the hardline communist regime's 1975-79 rule.

Several foreigners and Cambodians have come to the court in recent weeks to testify about the effects on their lives of losing loved ones in the "hell" of the high school-turned-prison.

Head judge Nil Nonn warned them on Thursday to only give evidence and not to use the hearing "to take revenge", after some witnesses spoke out harshly against Duch.

"At the end, the chamber would consider all this information and evidence, and then we would issue a judgement which is fair and just and is acceptable by all the parties to the proceedings," Nil Nonn added.

New Zealand Olympic rower Rob Hamill, whose brother Kerry was murdered by the Khmer Rouge after his yacht was blown off course and into Cambodian waters, told the court on Monday how he had sometimes felt like killing Duch himself.

Court officials have said Duch's trial is expected to wrap up in October, with the judges likely to issue a verdict some months later.

Duch, a former maths teacher whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, has previously accepted responsibility for his role in governing the jail under the regime and begged forgiveness from the families of the victims.

The jail chief last week asked for the "strictest level of punishment" -- even death by stoning -- for his crimes against the Cambodian people.

But he has denied that he played a leading role in the Khmer Rouge's hierarchy, saying that he obeyed orders from the top because he feared for his own and his family's lives.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Khmer Rouge verdict expected in early 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A verdict in the trial of the Khmer Rouge's chief jailer — its first senior leader to face justice — is expected early next year, the tribunal's spokesman said Thursday.

Kaing Guek Eav — better known as Duch — headed the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, where up to 16,000 people were tortured and later taken away to be killed. He is charged with crimes against humanity and his trial began in March, more than 30 years after the ouster of the ultra-communist group, whose 1975-1979 reign left an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians dead.

"We expect that Duch's hearing can finish by the end of September or early October and a verdict will be announced early next year," tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said.

The U.N.-assisted tribunal has been dogged by delays caused by internal disputes and corruption allegations that repeatedly forced it to push back the start of proceedings.

The tribunal is a legal hybrid, operating under the framework of Cambodian law but with mixed teams of Cambodian and U.N.-selected foreign prosecutors, defenders and judges.

Duch (pronounced DOIK), 66, is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions.

Senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Ieng Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, are detained and likely to face trial in the next year or two.

Relatives killed “for nothing,” survivors doomed to living with ghosts

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 18/08/2009: Duch listening to Antonia Tioulong, 56 years old and civil party in the name of her sister executed at S-21
©John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

Relatives of victims whose lives ended brutally in S-21’s hell evoked with courage, before the Chamber and the accused, a beloved face gone forever, a broken family bliss, an unspeakable distress and the anguish sprung from the ignorance about the fate of those persecuted and imagining the most inhumane torture they must have endured. They stressed the powerlessness in the face of these individual tragedies that unfolded without them. Mrs Antonya Tioulong, sister of opposition party leader Sam Rainsy’s wife, shared on Tuesday August 18th a testimony filled with restraint that struck the right chord. By late afternoon, farmer Neth Phaly paid an impassioned tribute to his brother, “smashed” at S-21, and whose only remains consisted in a portrait he presented to the court, firmly holding it in his hands, to bring the latter’s soul back to his side while he testified in his memory.

Finding the disappeared relatives at any cost
Antonya Tioulong, chief of the documentation service at the French weekly L’Express, came as her family’s spokesperson – first, the two daughters of her older sister Raingsy who was assassinated, but also her mother, “who found the courage to come and stand in the same room as the accused,” and her five other sisters. She also presented herself as a voice for Raingsy, “no longer here to speak,” to defend her and to “say who she really was and how much her family desperately misses her.”

Raingsy was the second of seven daughters and worked as representative for a German laboratory and radio presenter. Her husband, Lim Kimary, was a senior executive at the Cambodian Commercial Bank. In March 1970, Lon Nol’s Republic decreed that the Tioulong family was banished due to the bonds of loyalty between its patriarch and Norodom Sihanouk, Antonya recounted in a trembling voice. Tioulong Raingsy and her husband took no notice and they were the only ones in the family who decided to stay in the country, as they clung to their jobs fearing a “downgrading” in France, where their relatives took refuge. In 1973, as civil war intensified and the Descartes high school attended by their children closed its doors, the couple sent the latter to Paris, in the care of their grandparents. As the situation deteriorated, it was planned for them to reunite with the rest of the family in the summer of 1975. That did not happen.

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 18/08/2009: Photograph of Tioulong Raingsy shown on a screen in the ECCC press room
©John Vink/ Magnum

On April 17th 1975, the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh. In Paris, the Tioulong were not alarmed, as the newspaper headlines sported a “pink victory in South-East Asia.” Then started a long silence, a wait, that became increasingly worrying. The mother launched investigations, she was ready for anything: she requested assistance from international organisations based in Thailand, she paid “crooks to go and look for [her daughter] in the country.” She lost fortunes, duped by unscrupulous people who claimed they had seen Raingsy. All in the family sought to protect the couple’s three children entrusted to their care. In 1979, Vietnamese boat-people flocked everywhere in Europe and their fate moved public opinion, unlike that of Cambodian refugees despite their rapidly increasing number.

A hunger strike for Cambodian refugees
“Using my rights as a citizen, together with two other Cambodians, I carried out a hunger strike for some twelve days at the Buddhist pagoda of the Vincennes Forest to draw the attention of French authorities to the necessity to welcome many more Cambodian refugees than the quota initially set by the French government,” Antonya reported. “I don’t have the arrogance to claim that my action influenced then Prime Minister Raymond Barre. But a few weeks later, the quota for Khmer refugees noticeably increased. I believed I had led that action as a citizen calling to my fellow citizens, but I understood later that I had done it for my sister and I wanted her to be among the refugees. It was my way to help her the way I could. I did not know she had already disappeared. I have thought about her constantly for all those years. Her thought has never left me.”

A devastated family
The civil party, in her fifties and living in France for the last 40 years, could not envisage the worst and thus imagined that her brother-in-law, an accomplished athlete, would succeed in organising their escape from the country. “It was very naïve from me.” The Tiouleng responded to the call for help from cousins who survived the Khmer Rouge and managed to get out of the country. These relatives gave them a terrifying account of what they experienced and bluntly told them that Raingsy and her husband had died at S-21. They did not hide that Raingsy was subject to “particularly rough torture.” The announcement was a “devastating shock” and the family was plunged in grief. The father – who, mandated by Norodom Sihanouk to whom he consistently proved “unfailingly loyal,” had signed the Geneva Convention on Indochina in 1965 – ended up sitting at the negotiation table with the Khmer Rouge, including Khieu Samphan. He showed nothing of his grief, overcome forever by a feeling of guilt.

Antonya evoked her nieces and nephew, who grew up “as best they could,” without their parents by their side. Raingsy’s two daughters were “so devastated they did not have the strength to come and testify before the Chamber,” although they also joined as civil parties, while the son died prematurely in 1999. Still today, the memory of the couple was kept alive. “We talk about them in present tense.”

Probably dead for being too honest
Antonya eventually learned at least partly what happened to her sister. After Phnom Penh’s fall, Raingsy was very soon assigned to “the hardest work in the fields.” As she often spoke French, she drew suspicions. She and relatives of hers were subjected to an interrogation that demanded the truth from them. And she told the truth: her name was Tioulong Raingsy, daughter of Nhiek Tioulong, former commander of the armed forces, whose return as well as that of Norodom Sihanouk she was waiting for. When she said those words, she felt the Khmer Rouge tensing up. But it was too late. It was a sadly ironic twist as Raingsy had never put forward her aristocratic ancestry and never used her maiden name, as she preferred a simple life, her sister said. The only time when she declined her real identity, it cost her life.

When Antonya set foot again in Cambodia in 1994, her steps quickly led her to S-21, where she discovered a photograph of her sister, displayed on the wall. “As soon as I entered that room, it was as if I had immediately caught her eye.” She also recovered her biography, which established she died in April 1976 and bore the mention: “beaten to death.”

“Why so many inhumane methods?”
In the confession unearthed from the archives, it was written that Raingsy “led a CIA network,” that she was “in charge of spying,” etc, while she was a French-speaker and never had any links with Americans. Faced with such coarse inventions mixed with reality – “it was machiavellic, […] it was a refinement to decree until the end that the victims were guilty” – and the idea that her sister endured long months of torture, Antonya exclaimed: “She must have survived her wounds too long. We are revolted and wonder why such cruelty? Why so many inhumane methods? How could what happened under the Nazis have recurred in an even worse way because here, it was Khmer who killed Khmer, with no reason! They caused suffering day after day and they were not content with simply killing their fellow countrymen with a bullet in the head. They delighted in and enjoyed making them suffer. My sister and brother-in-law endured that and that thought is unbearable!”

Guilt and powerlessness
A distressed Antonya explained that what continued to torment this family was that “the whole time they were still alive, they must have wondered why their family did not help them. […] They must have wondered why the French, who were so present until then, who were our closest friends, did not manage to come and chase the Khmer Rouge away. It was a terrible feeling of guilt and powerlessness. I can only imagine the psychological distress of my sister and the incomprehension of my brother-in-law. It is unbearable for their children and I believe it shows through their disquiet and illness still now. My sister was killed for nothing.”

The need for justice
Antonya had been waited for a trial for a long time. She filed a complaint in France, after 1999, for “sequestration followed by torture and war crimes against Duch, Khieu Samphan, Chea Sim, Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary.” Two years later, her complaint was dismissed on the grounds that the victim was not French. She argued that the victim was born under French protectorate, but to no avail. She then turned her hopes – and legal naiveté – to The Hague tribunal. Of course, nothing came out of it. The family was able to hope again only when the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia were created. It was relief. Doubly so, she noted, because the tribunal allowed for the participation of civil parties and Cambodia would show the example.

“My family or myself will never forgive Duch”
“We have to teach future generations and Khmer young people, who are not enough informed, that this type of absolutely intolerable crimes cannot stay unpunished. It is not enough to say “I apologise” to be absolved. There must be a ruling […] that measures up to the crimes perpetrated by the accused.” After showing one of the last pictures taken from her smiling sister, she talked indirectly to Duch: “I do not believe in his apologies. I do not believe in his remorse. My family or myself will never forgive him. I know he doesn’t care. I know that in February, when he made his apologies officially, he said “I present my apologies to the tribunal. Now, the court can do whatever it likes with them.’ […] I simply want to say that, in light of the horror he inflicted upon my sister and brother-in-law, I will never forgive him. If he does feel one centimetre of remorse, I wish him that this remorse become as tall as all the physical and mental suffering he inflicted upon his 17,000 victims. That is the punishment he would deserve. I think the accused is quite lucky: he is appearing in a fair international trial. His victims were not as lucky. […] The accused sleeps every night on a mattress, he has adequate clothes and food, and he lives reasonably well. He will probably spend the rest of his life in decent conditions. These victims went through agonies. So, never, ever, ever, will I forgive him.”

Duch sings the same song
When Antonya interroged Duch about the fate of her sister and brother-in-law, the accused remained evasive. Tioulong Raingsy arrived at S-21 when he was still only the deputy director, he said. He believed she had died “of illness” and as for her husband, he did not know… Why were they eliminated? “Any person sent to S-21 was eventually eliminated,” Duch repeated on a curt and mechanical note. When he finally spoke to share his observations, he eagerly expressed his respect to Raingsy’s mother. “It is an honour.” As for each of these testimonies, he repeated that he considered the statement to be “a historical document” that would be useful for future researchers studying the impact of the Khmer Rouge on the families.

Growing without a father or any hope for his return
Hao Sophea, a 33-year-old farmer, did not know her father, a Khmer Rouge cadre who returned from Hanoi. The S-21 killing machine got him just before she was born. Her mother raised her in the memory and respect of this adored man, whose return she waited for until 1996, when all her hopes vanished. She learned through the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) that he died at S-21 and she went into depression. If the daughter was at the stand today, it was because the mother refused to be faced with the accused, Hao Sophea explained. Her father’s absence meant a daily struggle, “financially, physically, emotionally,” tempered by the mother’s certainty that everything would improve upon the father’s return. To her despair, the young woman had to end her studies, for lack of money. She had wanted to become a Khmer literature teacher.

On April 17th 1975, the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh. In Paris, the Tioulong were not alarmed, as the newspaper headlines sported a “pink victory in South-East Asia.” Then started a long silence, a wait, that became increasingly worrying. The mother launched investigations, she was ready for anything: she requested assistance from international organisations based in Thailand, she paid “crooks to go and look for [her daughter] in the country.” She lost fortunes, duped by unscrupulous people who claimed they had seen Raingsy. All in the family sought to protect the couple’s three children entrusted to their care. In 1979, Vietnamese boat-people flocked everywhere in Europe and their fate moved public opinion, unlike that of Cambodian refugees despite their rapidly increasing number.

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 18/08/2009: Antonia Tioulong during her testimony on Day 60 in Duch’s trial
©John Vink/ Magnum

After learning that her husband was executed at S-21 – where he was sent after passing through the Boeung Trabek camp –, the mother travelled to Phnom Penh in January 2007, with Tuol Sleng museum as her sole destination. “She was in a state of shock. Her eyes were filled with tears,” her daughter recounted. When she arrived near the pile of former prisoners’ clothes, she wanted to search it to find the last clothes worn by her late husband. The guards prevented her from doing so. After that visit, the daughter decided to join as a civil party. After that visit, the same dream started haunting her: she saw this father whose living face she never knew escape from S-21.

Duch again recognised his responsibilities and concluded his observations by saying he referred to the Chamber as to whether Hao Sophea was the daughter of the one she called her father, who bore a different name.

A testimony in the memory of a brother-in-law
Mrs So Song, 55 years old, came to testify in the name of her older sister, whose husband allegedly died at S-21 and was like a father to her after the separation of her parents. Her sister, ill for a year, was unable to take such step and it was therefore legitimate for So Song to do it instead, her lawyer justified. A debate then started on her family relationship with the victim, proved by only one certificate by the older sister’s commune chief. The defence remained to be convinced. The civil party, guided by her lawyer’s questions, evoked the grief caused by the loss and the economic struggles encountered as the family was deprived of support. So Song only had one photograph of her brother-in-law, found at S-21, to affirm he was detained there. Duch would only accept the picture as evidence if it was corroborated by other documents.

“Let my brother know that justice is being given"
Neth Phaly, a 52-year-old farmer, was there for his older brother, Neth Bunthy, imprisoned and killed at S-21. The last time he saw him was in 1978, at the April 17th hospital where he treated his wounds. At the fall of the regime, he started looking for him and searched districts for ten months. He found no trace of him, but was convinced he was still alive. He lost all hope only in June 2004, when DC-Cam provided him with a copy of his brother’s biography found at S-21. He fell into depression. He knew that in that cursed place, detainees died after great suffering. “How could someone as loyal as him, him who had devoted his life to the revolution, have been executed at S-21? My father never got over it and died a few years later. […] I myself participated to the military activities but in the end, we were betrayed. My brother met with death and there is nothing left except sadness and grief.”

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 18/08/2009: 52-year-old Neth Phaly testifying in memory of his brother Neth Bunthy
© Stéphanie Gée

Neth Phaly appeared dull when he spoke, and yet, anger was consuming him inside, he said. He finished his testimony with magnificent words, while holding a portrait he showed to the Chamber: “I would like to show a picture of my brother. A little as if he is sitting next to me and I hope he is now with me and he knows that the accused is being judged. I believe my brother would find peace again if he knew that justice is being given here by this court. So, I make the wish for the soul of my brother who died at S-21 to know that justice is being given. […] He was taken to S-21 where he was blindfolded and he was blindfolded again when he was taken for execution. Today, we are revealing the faces of those who committed these atrocities. I invoke my brother’s soul to be present here with me. May homage be paid to him with this picture. We will never find his body. There is only this picture left, which represents the ashes and body of my brother.”

(translated from French by Ji-Sook Lee)

Thailand to protest Cambodian patrol in disputed area

Published: 20/08/2009

The Defence Ministry plans a strongly-worded protest over a Cambodian patrol entering a disputed maritime area near Koh Kut in Trat province, a source says.

The protest will be lodged through the Foreign Ministry.

Two Cambodian warships were seen patrolling in the disputed area last week.

The patrol was in breach of an agreement on disputed and overlapping areas which requires the two countries to inform the other of any plans for a patrol and for the patrol to be a joint operation.

The source said the Cambodian patrol was probably in response to the Thai navy's move to set up a new base on Koh Kut to reinforce its patrol missions following a report that Cambodia had allowed a French oil company to carry out surveys in the disputed area.

Meanwhile, the navy has apologised to Cambodia after a patrol plane strayed into Cambodian airspace.

The Phnom Penh Post yesterday cited Cambodian general Bun Seng as saying the commander of the Chanthaburi-Trat airbase had written that the incident was due to bad weather affecting the aircraft's navigation system."We accepted the letter of apology by the Thai military but we have warned Thailand's airbase that we will not take responsibility for a second repeated airspace violation," Gen Bun Seng said.

Navy spokesman Prachachart Srisawat said it was not unusual for planes from Thailand and Cambodia to accidentally cross over into each other's territory.

Police scramble to confiscate leaflets critical of premier

Submitted by Mohit Joshi
Thu, 08/20/2009

Phnom Penh - Police in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh scrambled to gather up hundreds of photocopied leaflets critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen that were scattered around the capital, local media reported Thursday.

The leaflets, which were left at a number of locations in the capital around 2 am on Wednesday, accuse the prime minister of being a dictator, of being politically subservient to Vietnam, and of "selling the nation."

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that Cambodians would not be influenced by the leaflets.

"This has happened many times before, but the result is always the same at the elections [with victory for Hun Sen]," said Phay Siphan.

Police are investigating the origin of the leaflets. (dpa)

Cambodia announces plan to build country's biggest prison

August 20, 2009

Phnom Penh - The government has approved a plan to build Cambodia's largest prison, capable of holding 2,500 inmates, national media reported Thursday.

Cambodia currently has 24 prisons with a combined capacity of 12,500 prisoners. Many jails are overcrowded.

Heng Hak, the general director at the Ministry of the Interior's prisons department, told the Cambodia Daily that inmates would learn skills such as farming and animal husbandry.

"One of the most important functions in government prison reform is to make a big change in prisons from a place of punishment to a place of education and vocational training centres for prisoners," he told the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

Heng Hak said the grounds of the new centre, called Correctional Centre 4, or CC4, will cover 846 hectares in Pursat province.

"It will be the biggest prison (in Cambodia)," he said. "We expect that CC4 will be a key tool in resolving the matter of overcrowding."

Australia is providing support for CC4 through its government aid programme. The project's corrections adviser, Cheryl Clay, told the Cambodia Daily that the new prison would have five sections capable of holding 500 inmates each.

Clay said the vocational training programmes would help to cut violence and aggression.

"This is a way for providing some meaningful skill development and meaningful activity, and is an accepted way of creating an avenue for more income for the prison," she said.//dpa

Leaflets knock prime minister

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A man examines copies of the anti-government leaflets that accuse Prime Minister Hun Sen of destroying the Khmer nation’s once-great reputation.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Meas Sokchea

Unsigned paper circulated across capital accuses Hun Sen of diminishing Kingdom's glory

HUNDREDS of anonymous anti-government leaflets condemning Prime Minister Hun Sen as an "absolute leader" and a "puppet of Vietnam" appeared around the streets of Phnom Penh in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The leaflets, bearing a small picture of the premier, warned Cambodian citizens that their present leader was single-handedly responsible for reducing the once-great Khmer nation to ruins.

Partly handwritten and partly typed in Khmer, they accuse the prime minister of "selling the nation" and called on the people of Cambodia to oppose Hun Sen's "puppet regime".

"I am so proud that I was born Khmer," reads one, a copy of which has been obtained by the Post. "The Khmer race built Angkor. I remember the time when Khmer glory was well-known all over the world. We were feared and admired for our civilisation, culture and fine arts, but all that has now disappeared because of the absolute regime of the present government."

The leaflets were printed on A4 paper and appeared in prominent public places across the city - including Wat Phnom - before sunrise, but were swiftly taken down by police, witnesses said.

The government played down the leaflets' significance on Wednesday, insisting that Cambodians would not be swayed by acts of political subversion, and that the real test of their loyalty would be the ballot box.

"This is not the first time such a thing has happened," Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said. "This has happened many times before, but the result is always the same at the elections."

Police confirmed on Wednesday that they were investigating the incident, but said the allegations made in the leaflets were "out of date" and failed to take into account the government's current rate of development.

Kirt Chantharith, chief of general staff and spokesman for the commissioner general of the National Police, said: "[They] should not use words like this to insult the leader, but the leaflet is out of date. This game is very old and hasn't worked. National development has been thinking ahead."

Phnom Penh police Chief Touch Naruth echoed the sentiments. "Some people had burned it already because it is saying the same old thing, but they know the true situation," he said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, was critical of the language used in the leaflets, warning that the use of such openly inflammatory rhetoric could be counterproductive.

"Insulting someone is not necessarily freedom of expression," he said. "Writers should have clear morals and avoid insulting the government."

Duch faces professor's wife

Photo by: AFP
S-21 chief Duch said Wednesday that he did not know how his former professor died.

Kickback scheme

THE Pre-Trial Chamber on Tuesday effectively ended an attempt by Nuon Chea's defence team to have the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges look into allegations of corruption at the tribunal. The defence in March asked the judges to obtain the results of a UN graft review prompted by allegations of a kickback scheme, as well as "anything else suggesting an organised regime of institutional corruption". The judges said in April that they did not have jurisdiction to launch an investigation. The Pre-Trial Chamber ruled Tuesday that an appeal from the defence was inadmissible.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Cheang Sokha

S-21 prison chief maintains he knows nothing about his former teacher's fate.

THE wife of Phung Ton, a respected law professor who at one point taught Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, told Cambodia's war crimes court Wednesday that her grief had only intensified in the more than 30 years since her husband was detained at the torture facility and later executed.

"I have never been happy," said civil party Im Sun Thy, 70.

"I have been terrified and living with trauma."

She added that her grief had at times driven her to contemplate suicide.

Im Sun Thy, who had asked to be accompanied by a court-provided medic during her testimony, said she had not come to the court to seek revenge, but rather to find out the truth about what happened to her husband, who was detained in December 1976.

Phung Ton's daughter, Phung Sunthary, 53, who also testified Wednesday as a civil party, said she did not believe Duch's past claims that he had no idea what happened to the professor after he disappeared into Tuol Sleng.

"How could the chief of the secret police unit not know what happened to my father?" she asked. "Was the chief of S-21 a puppet?"

She went on to say that she would not accept Duch's apology if he refused to specify how her father had been killed.

"I will close the door for the accused person to apologise" if Duch does not reveal the true story of Phung Ton's death, she said.

Duch said again Wednesday that he did not know at the time that the professor had been held at Tuol Sleng, adding that he had not issued the order to arrest Phung Ton.

"For my professor, I did not know of his detention or that he was suffering from insufficient food or bad living conditions," he said, adding that he had been upset himself when he learned of Phung Ton's fate.

Also Wednesday, UN court spokeswoman Yuko Maeda announced the UN had nominated a replacement for international co-prosecutor Robert Petit, whose resignation goes into effect September 1.

Maeda said the UN had submitted the nomination to the Supreme Council of the Magistracy and was optimistic that the candidate would be approved. She declined to provide any information about the candidate.

Sam Pracheameanith, Cabinet chief at the Ministry of Justice and assistant secretary general of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, said Wednesday that the body had not yet received the appointment request. He declined to say how long the approval process might take, though the UN has said it hopes to have the replacement in place before Petit departs.

P Sihanouk residents protest illegal fishing

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Fishermen get ready to cast their net on Queens Beach in Sihanoukville.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
May Titthara

AROUND 450 fishermen in Preah Sihanouk province's Stung Hav district have filed complaints with district and provincial authorities relating to illegal fishing operations in the area.

Fishermen said Tuesday that about 60 big boats were trawling in shallow waters off the coast, wiping out fish resources and threatening local livelihoods.

"Big boats with 300cc engines don't only impact our fishermen - they also affect marine resources, sea grass and baby fish," said fisherman Touch Vanna, 45.

Meas Vutha, a 50-year-old fisherman, said locals could not compete with larger boats.

"We borrow money from the bank to buy boats and fishing gear, but when we fail to catch many fish we have no money to pay back," he said.

Oum Deng, chief of the Stung Hav fishing community, said he had no authority to take action.

"It might be that they have paid bribes to the authorities already," he said. "One of these boats costs about US$120,000, so they are rich people."

Duong Sam Ath, chief of the Preah Sihanouk Fisheries Administration, confirmed he had received complaints from the fishermen, and that three boats were detained.

"Large boats must only fish in areas where the water is 20-30 metres deep. If they come to fish at shallower depths, we will confiscate their boat," he said, adding that boat owners would be arrested on their second offense.

High maternal mortality rate blamed on lack of outreach

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A newborn boy, Ravith, takes a deep breath 15 minutes after his birth at Pursat Provincial Hospital in late March.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Mom Kunthear

EFFORTS to reduce the number of women in Cambodia who die during childbirth have been dogged by a lack of outreach on the part of public health officials as well as rural villagers' preference for traditional midwives, say parliamentarians.

"The rate in Cambodia is still higher than in other countries in the region because more women in remote areas don't have the information or skills to take care of themselves during pregnancy and right after childbirth," said CPP lawmaker Ho Naun, who chairs the National Assembly's public health committee and was one of three MPs who attended a regional conference on the issue in Bali, Indonesia, last week.

Along with Min Sean and Krouch Sam An, Ho Naun worked to devise a new national action plan for addressing maternal mortality. The MPs declined to elaborate on what the strategy entailed, saying they were scheduled to meet with UN Population Fund officials on Friday to formalise it.

The issue of maternal mortality has long confounded health officials and development partners. The 2005 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey (CDHS), the source of the most recent reliable maternal health data, reported a nationwide rate of 472 deaths per 100,000 live births - the third-highest rate in the region behind Laos and East Timor.

At a March parliamentary forum on the Millennium Development Goals, UN resident coordinator Douglas Broderick said the UN was "especially concerned" that Cambodia would not meet the maternal health goal and encouraged MPs to take a more proactive approach.

That same month, Minister of Health Mam Bunheng, speaking at the launch of a five-year USAID-sponsored health programme, also spoke of the importance of reducing the maternal mortality rate.

He said a government goal to place midwives in all the Kingdom's 900 health centres, which it plans to accomplish by increasing midwife training and providing incentives to encourage work in rural areas, could make pregnancies much safer.

Te Kuyseang, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said Wednesday that the nation has more than enough midwives to place one in each centre.

He estimated that there are 3,000 trained midwives currently working, but said it might be difficult to convince rural women that they should enlist professional help.

"We have to change rural women's habits and encourage them to come give birth at the health centre, not at home," he said.

The Bali conference was sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund and the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development.

Cambodians accused of illegal Thai logging

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Thet Sambath

Eleven Cambodian men were arrested in Thailand on Monday for illegal logging, and nine more are missing in connection with such cases, said sources in Oddar Meanchey province.

The logging is allegedly taking place in Thailand's Khun Han district, Sisaket province, across the border from Oddar Meanchey's Trapaing Prasat district in Cambodia, a provincial official said.

"Thai military officials told me that 11 Cambodian men were arrested by Thai authorities as they were logging in Thai territory, and a number of other men have gone missing since the start of the logging crackdown," Touch Ra, deputy chief of the Thailand-Cambodia relations office at the Chom international border gate, said Wednesday.

Bun Pin, a member of the Trapaing Prasat district council, was angry with Thai soldiers who are rumoured to have shot at Cambodian loggers.

"Thai armed forces should not use guns to shoot unarmed people," he said. "They should use the law to punish them when they are arrested and found guilty."

Chhoun Ra, 41, of Trapaing Prasat said her son, 20-year-old Pov Poy, is among the missing.

"I am very worried for my son's safety," she said. "I don't know whether he is alive, dead, injured or arrested."

Officials at Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that they were unaware of this situation and unprepared to comment.

Families in Dangkor deny bribing official

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Chhay Channyda

A group of 120 Phnom Penh families denied paying a government official US$200,000 to intervene on their behalf in a land dispute in a letter released to local media.

The thumbprinted letter, dated Monday, came from families living in the capital's Kakab commune, Dangkor district.

In March 2008, the Council of Ministers issued a directive ordering that the families be allowed to remain on 6 hectares of land in Kakab. This land was also claimed by a woman in the area, 60-year-old Huot Sarom.

Controversy emerged when Seng Yean, deputy director general of inspection at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations, was accused of accepting a bribe from a local woman, Di Prem, on behalf of the families.

Seng Yean was removed from his position on July 31 by an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen, and the two were officially charged by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on August 7.

In their letter, the families wrote that they "do not have enough money" to raise the sum allegedly paid to Seng Yean, and that while Di Prem offered them assistance in filing their complaint against Huot Sarom, she was not paid any money.

The letter added that Huot Sarom had not respected the government directive granting the 6 hectares of land to the families.

We are the owners, but we are also the victims.

Representatives of Huot Sarom, however, rejected the families' denials, reiterating their claims that Seng Yean had been bribed.

Kao Ty, the lawyer for Huot Sarom, said on Wednesday that his client has worked in the rice fields around Kakab commune since 1979, and that the families' letter was "unjust" toward Huot Sarom.

"The 6 hectares of land belong to Huot Sarom. Those people have land in the same village nearby," Kao Ty said. He claimed the letter was written only to cover up the bribe.

Kong Kimly, Huot Sarom's 30-year-old son, said Wednesday that his mother had not seized anyone's land, echoing Kao Ty's claim that the families reside in a different part of the village.

"We are the owners, but we are also the victims," he said.

Seng Yean and Di Prem were unavailable for comment. Local media reported on Saturday that the two fled the country after being charged by the Municipal Court, though these reports have not been substantiated.

Sin Visal, a judge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, told the Post on Wednesday that he was looking into the bribery charges, but that a resolution would take time.

"I have just received this case, so I will have to investigate it," he said.

Govt to replant coastal forests

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries plans to replant about 200 hectares of coastal forest on beaches and other lowland areas, officials said Wednesday.

Nao Thuok, director of the Fisheries Administration at the ministry, said that since early July, his department has planted more than 20 hectares of mangroves and other trees that can grow with their trunks submerged in water. So far, the ministry has focused replanting efforts in 12 provinces on the coast and around Tonle Sap lake, planning to complete the project next year.

"In the beach areas, we planted mangrove trees in order to maintain natural shelters used by sea creatures," Nao Thuok said. "In inland areas, we planted [other] varieties of trees ... to protect the natural shelter of freshwater creatures."

Replanting coastal forests is essential to maintaining biodiversity, Nao Thuok said, particularly because so many of Cambodia's forests have been torn up or logged recently.

Others within the maritime community applauded the ministry's reforestation efforts. Kong Chhoy, a fisherman from Kampot province's Boeung Touk commune, said that in addition to helping fishermen by preserving marine life, the ministry's reforestation project is important for other reasons as well.

"Mangrove forests not only provide shelter for sea creatures - they are also used by birds and other animals, and they could be attractive for tourists as well," he said.

Fresh calls for liberal drug law

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Drug users smoke a mix of methamphetamine and heroin in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Trabek neighbourhood in this file photo.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Khoun Leakhana

DRUG law enforcement efforts should draw a clear distinction between those who traffic in drugs and those who use them, the head of the National Anti-Drug Authority (NADA) said on Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan, president of NADA, said he will push for amendments to a new draft Drug Law before it is submitted to the Council of Ministers, in an effort to encourage the rehabilitation of the country's drug addicts.

"We want to make sure the law clearly differentiates between criminals who traffic, smuggle and deal illegal drugs, and victims who need to be educated and treated," Ke Kim Yan said at a meeting on the draft law at the Minsitry of Interior on Tuesday.

He added that between 30,000 and 40,000 people, most aged 15-35, were now involved with drugs in Cambodia.

"Without our treatment and rehabilitation services, the above-mentioned people will become a big illegal drug market in Cambodia because they cannot stop using drugs."

The NADA president's comments came following recommendations made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in his address on June 26, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, when he asked that "all involved institutions join forces to build drug addict-rehabilitation centres and be active in taking measures to reduce the number of drug addicts".


Hun Sen also announced plans for a new rehabilitation centre in Kampong Speu province, emphasising the need to treat drug users.

Ke Kim Yan said that under the current system of rehabilitation, addicts often relapse, burdening the system.

"To respond to Hun Sen's calls for an effective resolution on this problem, we need a law that clearly mentions rehabilitation and treatment for these people because most of the ... drug addicts are jobless street children."

He added that there are currently 13 drug rehab centres across the country but expressed hopes that improved rehabilitation would mean the number would not increase after the law is approved.

He said it was not clear when the draft law would be sent to the Council of Ministers.

A report from NADA released on July 25 revealed that 733 drug addicts have gone through rehabilitation programmes at the 10 state-run drug rehabilitation centres during the first half of 2009. The figure decreased compared to the same period last year, during which time 1,005 victims were rehabilitated.

Mok Dara, NADA's secretary general, said the number of drug addicts had decreased because authorities had implemented five measures in line with government policies, including reducing supply, reducing demand, strengthening law enforcement officials and strengthening international cooperation on anti-trafficking efforts.

Teaching college staff fear school land sale

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Khuon Leakhana and Mom Kunthear

STAFF at the provincial teacher training college in Takeo province have sent a letter to the Ministry of Education seeking clarification about the status of a pond on the college grounds that they fear has been sold off without their consultation.

Buth Nol, 26, a teaching instructor at the college, said that the staff wanted clarification about the status of the pond, which is currently being filled.

"The prime minister has ordered that no one can sell or exchange public property such as school land," he said. "[We] just want the provincial governor or the director of the education department to stop the landfill and tell us the reason for [it]."

He added that the staff have planned protests to stop the filling if authorities do not give them a convincing reason.

Kong Pov, director of the college, said that the filling of the pond began a month ago, but that he had never been told by local authorities about the reason for the activity.

"I think it is a mistake to do this without informing me," he said, adding that the workers may have the backing of the provincial governor.

When contacted on Wednesday, Takeo Governor Srey Ben said he did not wish to speak over the phone.

Sihanouk feeling well

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Neth Peaktra

KING Father Norodom Sihanouk remains in good health despite a recent declaration that he will cease publishing messages on his personal Web site, palace sources said.

"The health of King Father and Queen Mother is good, but the King Father feels very tired as he is busy with myriad programmes and activities," said Prince Sisowath Thomico, an adviser to King Norodom Sihamoni.

In a press statement released on Saturday in Siem Reap, where he is currently residing, Sihanouk said said he is ageing both physically and mentally, and no longer has the energy to fulfil his full round of personal duties.

"The reason is because my poor health and the loss of my intellectual faculties," the 86-year-old King said.

Sihanouk and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath returned to Cambodia on July 8.

Vietnam investors in talks to build cashew nut facilities

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A shopkeeper arranges imported cashew nuts at a convenience store on Monivong Boulevard.

I applaud the Vietnamese investors for setting up a factory in our country.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
May Kunmakara

Two processing factories will each have capacity to process 5,000 tonnes a year, but owners say they will buy 60,000 tonnes and export the remainder to Vietnam

Cambodia's reliance on Vietnam for its cashew nut exports could be reduced next year if negotiations between officials from the neighbouring countries to build two cashew nut processing plants in Cambodia come to fruition.

Mao Thora, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said Wednesday that authorities from Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces were discussing the venture with counterparts from Vietnam's Binh Phuoc and Dong Nai provinces.

"They have reached an agreement and now need to sign a [memorandum of understanding] to take to the government to get permission to build the factories," he said.

He did not name the companies involved in the proposal; nor did he disclose the anticipated cost of the two projects, which would be based in special economic zones in Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham provinces.

Mao Thora said warehouses to store the raw cashew nuts would be completed in the fourth quarter of this year, and that he "hoped" construction of the two factories would begin by mid-2010.

Each factory is to have the capacity to process 5,000 tonnes of raw cashew nuts per year, he said.

Le Bien Cuong, commercial counsellor at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said he expected the agreement to be signed next month and hoped construction could begin early next year.

He said the factory owners would talk to the government to secure land for cashew cultivation, as they also hoped to export raw cashews.

"We will not only buy cashews to supply our Cambodia production, but also to export for processing in Vietnam," he said.

Mao Thora said the Vietnamese side promised to buy 60,000 tonnes of cashews from local farmers every year: 10,000 for processing locally and 50,000 tonnes for export to Vietnam. Raw cashews fetch around US$800 per tonne, he said.

Vietnam is Southeast Asia's biggest cashew producer.

Help welcomed
The director of the Cambodian Centre for Agricultural Studies and Development (CEDAC), Yang Saing Koma, said that the majority of Cambodia's agricultural products, including cashew nuts, were exported to Vietnam for processing.

"We lack the technology needed for processing and packaging," he said.

"I applaud the Vietnamese investors for setting up a processing factory in our country because we will be able to process and package cashews to sell locally and to export to foreign markets," Yang Saing Koma said.

No figures were available Wednesday on Cambodia's raw cashew exports.

However, the Economic Institute of Cambodia estimated annual production at between 30,000 and 50,000 tonnes in March 2007, or roughly 1.3 percent of total world production.

It said that less than 5 percent of Cambodian cashew nuts was processed domestically, with the remaining 95 percent exported informally to Vietnam.

Cambodia has around 80,000 hectares under cashew cultivation, according to Commerce Ministry figures.

Around 20,000 additional hectares were recently planted with cashews, but they were recently converted into a rubber plantation, Mao Thora said.

Malaysian chain to raise its presence in Cambodia by multiple boutique hotels

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Nathan Green

LEADING Malaysia hotel chain Holiday Villa Hotels and Resorts expects to open two properties in Cambodia over the next eight months and is scouting locations for "four or five" boutique hotels, regional manager Charles Bain said.

The company will open a hotel in Kampot province in around six weeks, but a three-star hotel originally slated to open in Sihanoukville next month will now open next February, he said. He would not give the reason for the delay.

Construction on a second hotel in Kampot province will begin in "two to three months", he added.

The company. which currently operates one hotel in Cambodia on Phnom Penh's Monivong Boulevard, is looking to capture a growing market for boutique hotels in Cambodia.

The "four to five" boutique hotels would all be located "around coastal areas", Bain said.

Bain was speaking to the Post after an article in Malaysia's Business Times Monday said the chain plan to open a hotel in Sihanoukville and another in China's Henan province.

The company is owned by Malaysian-listed Advance Synergy Group. Bain refused to disclose further details on the company's Cambodia plans, citing disclosure requirements on the Malaysian bourse.

The company has 3,390 guest rooms and suites in 18 hotels and resorts worldwide, according to its Web site.

Its latest, the Holiday Villa Hotel and Residence City Centre in Doha Qatar, opened on July 20, and the company also opened properties in Halong Bay, Vietnam, and Shenzhen, China, this year.

The company's current Cambodia property, Holiday Villa Hotel and Suites Phnom Penh, has 74 rooms.

Microfinancier backs high rates

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

Industry representative says high interest rates reflect lenders’ borrowing costs in offshore markets plus costs incurred managing loans

A senior industry representative defended Cambodia's microfinance institutions (MFIs) Wednesday over the high interest rates charged.

Speaking on the sidelines of an industry conference, Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA) board member Sim Senacheert said that the rates reflected the borrowing costs of the lenders.

"If the rates are too high and the market did not accept them, then we wouldn't be able to disburse the loans," he said.

Between 60 and 70 percent of all capital disbursed by microfinance lenders in Cambodia is borrowed from international partners who charge between 10 and 11 percent per annum, said Sim Senacheert, who is also the general manager of the Prasac Microfinance Institution.

The Cambodian lender then calculates the interest rates it will charge based on the borrowing costs and expenses, such as wages, rent and transport, he said.

These account for around 15 percent of the value of loans, and a further 1 or 2 percent is then added to hedge against default risk.

"After these expense calculations, we add 5 to 7 percent into the loan for profit," he said, adding to an interest rate anywhere from 28 percent to 34 percent per annum.

Subsidies needed
Cambodia Economic Association President Chan Sophal said Wednesday that interest rates across the sector were too high, but he stopped short of accusing the sector of profiteering on the loans.

"The interest rates charged by MFIs in Cambodia are higher than rates charged in Vietnam or Thailand, but that is because Cambodian MFIs must pay high interest rates themselves when they source financing," he said.

He called on the government to subsidise MFIs to ensure they could offer low rates.

"In some countries, governments subsidise MFIs so those MFIs can lend to customers at lower interest rates," he said. "But in Cambodia, there is no subsidy for MFIs."

Free market
National Bank of Cambodia Director Tal Nay Im said Cambodia is a free market, and that the central bank would not intervene. Rates should be set by lenders and borrowers, she said.

However, rates have come down drastically in recent years to a little over 29 percent per annum on average across the sector, she said.

"Before 2003, the interest rates were very high, ranging from 70 percent to more than 100 percent per annum, but it has gradually declined to 40.2 percent in 2003 and to 29.16 percent last year," she said.

Lending rates at major banks in Cambodia range from around 12 percent to 16 percent, depending on the terms of the loan, she said.

CMA figures released earlier this month showed outstanding microcredit loans dropped 2.7 percent quarter on quarter to US$426.1 million in the second quarter of the year.

Non-performing loans increased from 1.75 percent to 3.39 percent over the same period.

NBC Governor Chea Chanto said there were 20 licensed MFIs in Cambodia as of the end of June, two of which were licensed to take deposits; 25 registered rural credit operators; and more than 60 NGOs offering unofficial credits in rural areas.

He said the sector was expanding its presence in rural areas and had disbursed $274.3 million in rural credits to 857,000 customers as of mid-2009, up 25 percent and 24 percent, respectively, on a year earlier.

$12 million rescue package deployed to fight drought

Yem Bunlong looks across a drought-ravaged paddy in Takeo province around this time last year.

I believe that we can save the drought-stricken rice crop.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Chun Sophal

Dry weather has already afflicted large tracts of the country, but government meteorologists say rains will come in September

The government has already activated a $12 million emergency package to help farmers afflicted by a drought taking hold across the country, a Finance Ministry official said Tuesday.

"We hope that through this measure, our agricultural sector will still be able to achieve high yields and we will be able to ameliorate declines in the living standards of our farmers," Kong Vibol, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, told the National Assembly.

The money would be used to irrigate rice fields hit hardest by the drought, he said.

Around 42,414 hectares of the 2.26 million hectares planted with rice this year had been hit by drought by August 12, and 517 hectares of rice crops had been destroyed, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Drought had affected 13,706 hectares of rice paddy in Battambang province, 12,379 hectares in Pursat province, 8,527 hectares in Prey Veng province, 5,528 hectares in Kandal province, 2,502 hectares in Takeo province and 172 hectares in Kampong Thom province, the ministry said.

Ministry of Agriculture Secretary of State Teng Lao said the ministry and provincial authorities have already deployed resources to help farmers save their rice crops, but that damage remained unavoidable in some areas.

"I believe that we can save the drought-stricken rice crop if the disaster does not last long because this year our farmers grew 'light' rice, which takes a shorter time to be ready for harvest than 'heavy' rice", Teng Lao said.

Seth Vannareth, director of the Meteorology Department at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, said the drought would not last long, and that rain would soon fall.

"Cambodia has lacked rainfall this year, as you can see, but from September onwards the problem will vanish," he said.

Drought is a particular problem for Cambodia, as the proportion of land irrigated is among the lowest in the region. That means most areas produce only one crop a year, during the wet season.

Agriculture generated around 29 percent of gross domestic product in 2007, and 59 percent of the population relies on the sector for their livelihood, according to the World Bank.

Output has been growing at 4.4 percent per year over the past decade, lagging other sectors of the economy but outpacing neighbouring Laos and Vietnam, whose agricultural sectors grew 3.9 and 4 percent, respectively, over the period.

Rice covered 2.6 million hectares in 2007, accounting for two-thirds of arable land and 90 percent of cultivated land, and production grew from 3.4 million to 6.8 million tons from 1997 to 2007, according to the UN Development Programme.

Yields are low at around 2.6 tons per hectare, compared to a regional average between 3.5 and 4 tonnes per hectare, the World Bank has said.

Police Blotter: 20 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Lim Phalla

Sing Chreung, 26, was arrested on Monday after his 22-year-old girlfriend, who had been living together with him five months, reported to police that he had raped her and demanded US$1,000 dollars compensation from him. They are both garment workers renting an apartment in Chaom Chao commune, in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district.

A young girl was caught and taken to the police by villagers when she stole two necklaces and two bracelets from 28-year-old Lim Davy's gold shop on Sunday morning. The crime took place at Veal Rinh market in the Veal Rinh commune of Preah Sihanouk province. The girl was identified as Sok Chantha, 19, from Kampot province.

Seven people were arrested by Poipet police after they had been reported to the police for not having money to pay Ponleu Neak Tip Karaoke, where they had been enjoying themselves with nonstop drinking, eating and singing for two days, from Sunday through Tuesday. Their bill at the end of the binge totaled US$750. The seven men, Pen Chetra, 25; Eng Sito, 26, Tim Piseth, 26; Ly Pros, 40; Cheng Sokkhoeun, 24; Ang Sok Eng, 29; and Son Ratha, 26, all live in Banteay Meanchey province's Poipet commune and told police they had been waiting for money to be transferred from Thailand.

The body of a man was found in a river on Sunday evening by villagers in Tuol Neang Sav village, in Kampong Thom province's Kampong Svay district. According to the police, the dead man was called Peng, 31, and was killed on Saturday night, cut to death with a machete by his friend Lim Ban, 22, who was helped by Chreung Chein, 29, and Chhot Suy, 20, when they had a conflict after they got drunk together. The three suspects, who were arrested by the police, were all from Siem Reap province.

One of two thieves was arrested by Brampi Makara district police for snatching the handbag of 20-year-old Khiev Channy, a singer at Phnom Leu Phnom restaurant, on Sunday while she was riding a motorbike taxi along Monivong Boulevard. The bag, which contained US$80 and a cell phone, was retrieved and returned to the victim. Nothing was lost.

Courting TV audiences

Dramatic tension: The WMC production crew prepare to shoot a scene for Scales of Justice. PHOTO SUPPLIED

We hope that making a law-based drama will make it easier for cambodians to engage with the subject.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Roth Meas

The third series of a televised courtroom drama hits screens this weekend with hopes that its messages will educate viewers about the legal process

LIFE imitates art. At least that is what the people behind Scales of Justice, a television courtroom drama produced by the Women's Media Centre (WMC), hope will occur as audiences tune in to the ongoing saga of lawyer Pich Sotheary and police official Meas Chamnan, which begins its third instalment this weekend.

Wary of its notorious corruption, impenetrable language and labyrinth of procedures, Cambodians often find their own judiciary inaccessible - something WMC hopes to change by presenting the courts as entertainment, said 29-year-old production manager Uch Thavy.

"This story details court procedure, which many people find difficult to understand," she said.

"We hope that making a law-based drama will make it easier for Cambodians to engage with the subject," Uch Thavy added.

The original Scales of Justice, which is supported by USAID and AUSAID, was shot last year and gained widespread popularity.

Uch Thavy hopes this third instalment will continue in the same vein - presenting viewers with situations that they might encounter in real life.

Several of the six, 30-minute episodes delve into the realm of domestic discord that may be familiar to audience members who have ever battled their brethren over money.

One episode follows characters as they try desperately to gain control of an inheritance following the death of the family patriarch.

The second also features a family fight over money, but this time the characters are faced with dividing an inheritance after a messy divorce.

The producers of Scales of Justice focused on these scenarios because they are the most common to come before the Kingdom's courts, Uch Thavy said.

"People should pay a lot of attention to their childrens' birth certificates, which are often used to clear up disputes in the event of a death," she said.

The same holds true when marriages fall apart and families begin squabbling over who gets what.

"The judges often consider dividing some of the inheritance, even though the parents may have been divorced," Uch Thavy added.

The third episode is driven by the classic whodunit: a dead body and a murderer somewhere on the lose.
Leading man: Famed Cambodian actor Tep Rindaro adds kudos and star power to the production. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Producers admit that they diverged from the more complex but common civil disputes as a way to keep the audiences interested in their message.

"The entertainment aspect is there to keep people watching it, but our main intention is to put across the messages of law that are woven into the story," Uch Thavy said.

Uch Thavy said court officials from Phnom Penh and Kandal province were consulted before the scripts were penned to lend an air of credibility to the drama.

The often contrived movie sets of traditional dramas were also abandoned for real courtrooms, judges' chambers and prosecutors' offices in an attempt to bring a level of gritty realism to the series, Uch Thavy said.

The series was shot in Kandal, Kampong Cham and Kampong Chhnang provinces, she added.

Star power
Also keeping audiences tuned in should be the return of Cambodian actor Tep Rindaro as policeman Meas Chamnan.

Along with dedicated young lawyer Pich Sotheary, played by Keo Sereyrath, Tep Rindaro's honest cop Meas Chamnan will "work hand-in-hand to fight for the victims and even find romance along the way", according to the WMC's Web site.

Though the pair will feature less prominently in the third instalment - the action will instead centre on Meas Chamnan's sister - they still remain the soul of the programme, producers said.

Uch Thavy said she was reluctant to guess how the latest episodes would fare among Cambodian viewers.

But she said that a test screening won rave reviews from Women's Media Centre presidents, donors and the Ministry of Culture's Film Art Department.

Copies of previous instalments were also requested by the Senate, Uch Thavy said.

The first episodes, which cost US$122,845 to produce, will be screened Saturday on TVK and Sunday on TV3, at 6pm and noon, respectively.

Local academics to go to Europe

This year's group of Cambodian students and teachers will head to various educational institutions around Europe. PHOTO SUPPLIED

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Joel Quenby

Thirty-six Cambodians are jetting off to study and teach abroad as a result of EU programme that makes it one of the Kingdom’s major scholarship donors

IT is a chance that thousands of Cambodian students surely dream about: the opportunity to study and teach at European universities in far-flung countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and Turkey.

Sometimes dreams come true. And, according to a press release from the European Commission delegation last week, in the 2009-10 academic year, 36 Cambodians will study or teach in degree programmes from undergraduate to postdoctorate level in Europe, courtesy of the EC's Erasmus Mundus scholarship programme.

"I'm delighted to see that the number of Cambodian students and academic staff selected under this year's programme has been increased seven times compared to last year, which brings the EU to one of the biggest scholarship providers in Cambodia," said Rafael Dochao Moreno, charge d' affaires ad interim of the EC Delegation to Cambodia.

"Cambodian students and academic staff will have the opportunity to study and teach in Europe between three months and three years, which, I am sure, will be a very enriching experience, both from an academic and personal perspective."

"One of the most important subjects that we opened for this year programme is journalism.

"By completing their course in journalism, I hope our Cambodian students will bring back to their home country valuable experiences and insights on European approaches to freedom of the press as well as the best practices of how the media play an important role in contributing to the development of European social, economic and democratic values," added Dochao.

In addition to fields related to communication and information sciences, the fortunate Cambodian students and teaching staff will pursue degree programmes in numerous other fields.

As part of the educational exchange programme, 1,561 European students and academic staff will visit partner institutions in countries outside Europe while 6,063 of their respective counterparts from outside the EU will visit European establishments.

Doco award to be hosted in Cambodia

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Joel Quenby

Group seeks work by women in radio, video

THE International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) has announced the opening of entries for its 2009 Awards for Excellence in Documentary Making.

The biennial IAWRT Awards celebrate outstanding documentaries made by women and are open to all female producers, directors and journalists working in radio and television anywhere in the world.

Documentaries must be about women who are making a difference, in their own lives or on the lives of other women.

Entries must be between 20 and 90 minutes long for television, or 15-60 minutes for radio, and have been broadcast during the period November 2007 to October 2009.

An international panel will judge the entries, and the winners will be announced at the IAWRT's 33rd biennial conference in Phnom Penh from November 17 to 21.

Entries close October 16, and a cash prize of US$750 will be awarded to the most outstanding documentary in each medium.

IAWRT President Olya Booyar said this year's awards would help to set the scene for the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on equality and opportunity for women.

"The awards provide a unique opportunity to share the accomplishments of women working in broadcasting from around the world," Booyar said.

The most recent awards took place in Nairobi in 2007.

Entry forms and rules and regulations can be downloaded from the IAWRT Web site at