Thursday, 27 August 2009

Burial Plans Finalized for Sen. Edward Kennedy

The Kennedy family has finalized burial plans for Sen. Edward Kennedy. Starting today, Kennedy's body will lie in repose at the JFK Presidential Library in Boston. The Senator will be buried at Arlington Natl. Cemetery on Saturday. (Aug. 27)

Cambodia pulls back troops from disputed temple

PHNOM PENH, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Cambodia began a partial withdrawal of troops from its disputed border with Thailand on Thursday, a move likely to ease tensions between the two over a 900-year-old Hindu temple.

"This shows the positive position of Cambodia, that we want to live in peace, and is something the two nations will benefit from," said General Chea Dara, deputy commander in chief of Cambodia's armed forces.

"At the same time, we still have enough troops to defend our own territory," he told Reuters by telephone from the border.

The regional commander on the Thai side of the border said there were no plans to follow suit.

"There will be no withdrawal from this side," Major-General Chawalit Chunprasan told Reuters.

The Preah Vihear temple, which is perched on an escarpment that forms a natural border between the two Southeast Asian neighbours, has for decades been a source of tension and nationalist fervour.

The two countries have been embroiled in a series of standoffs over the temple in the past year, resulting in border skirmishes that claimed the lives of seven troops.

Thailand is challenging a United Nations decision to make the temple a world heritage site under Cambodia's sole jurisdiction.

Cambodia was awarded Preah Vihear in a 1962 international court ruling, but the court did not determine the ownership of 1.8 square miles (4.6 sq km) of scrub next to the ruins.

Thailand wants joint development and supervision of the temple, which could one day become a lucrative tourist site.

The two countries are also in dispute over parts of the Gulf of Thailand, where oil and gas deposits have been found.

Military representatives from both sides agreed on Monday to exercise restraint at the border. The Cambodian pull-back is due to end on Sunday.

(For a Q+A on the Preah Vihear temple dispute, click [ID:nBKK227352]). (Reporting by Ek Madra in Phnom Penh and Panarat Thepgumpanat in Bangkok; Editing by Martin Petty)

Review: Sleepwalking Through the Mekong - all weekend long at the Red Vic!

August 26

Sleepwalking Through the Mekong chronicles the journey of the band Dengue Fever as they travel through Cambodia playing their version of Cambodian rock tunes from the 60s and 70s. The viewer is treated to snippets of Cambodian culture, fun interactions between the band members, and panoramic views of the countryside.

As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that Sleepwalking Through the Mekong is more than a documentary about rock band Dengue Fever - it is a poignant celebration of Cambodian music and culture. The joy of the music created in Cambodia in the 60s and 70s is interwoven with the tragedy that cut it short - the Khmer Rouge. The film captures not only Dengue Fever's live shows in bars, schools, and festivals, but also people's reaction to hearing this music again. One interviewee who lived through the Khmer Rouge goes so far as to say it is good to hear old songs being played because it has a healing effect.

Other moments in the film show the depth of the damage done by the Khmer Rouge. In one scene it is explained that most masters of different Cambodian arts and musical instruments were killed, meaning that Cambodia could lose most of its culture very soon.

Mixed in throughout Sleepwalking Through the Mekong are anecdotes and interviews with the band members that show the depth of this group's passion for the music they play. One of the most touching elements of the film is the way in which two vastly different cultures (Cambodian and American) are able to find common ground through the music of Dengue Fever.

This is not a film you want to miss out on - you can find a screening near you by going to the website for the film - ".Sleepwalking Through the Mekong.""

Or, if you're here in San Francisco you can see them all week long at the Red Vic:

Red Vic Movie House - Screenings of Sleepwalking Through the Mekong
August 30, 2:00, 4:00, 7:15, 9:15
August 29, 2:00, 4:00, 7:15, 9:15
August 28, 7:15, 9:15
August 27, 7:15, 9:15
1727 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 668-3994

Cambodia to crack down young gangsters

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- With an aim to keep good social order in the Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh Municipality has advised relevant authorities to crack down and trace both male and female Cambodian gangsters including those are under 16 years of age.

Touch Narouth, chief of Phnom Penh Police said on Thursday that until recently, his authorities had arrested more than 200 young Cambodian gangsters and they were educated before being released.

In a meeting held Wednesday, the Governor Kep Chutema, advised all local competent authorities including the police and the court in Phnom Penh to help curb with gangsters so as to reduce the social disorder and to avoid their disturbance to all residents in the capital.

He said Phnom Penh must be a safe and clean place for both local and foreigners as it is the heart of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Among the new orders, he also stressed that young girl who is under 16 years old must be banned from entering into night clubs, karoke, bars, guest houses or hotels after 8 p.m., especially to those who are not accompanied by their parents.

According to Kep Chutema, most of the young Cambodian gangsters are the children of the powerful and rich people.

In June this year, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive asking his relevant authorities across the nation to warm up their efforts and prevention against the juvenile groups who are involved in public disturbances and drug use.

Keat Chantharith, spokesman of the National Police said the police has recorded the name list of about 7,000 delinquents around the country and each or in group of the individuals are being targeted.  

Editor: Lin Zhi

The Economic Crisis Has Impacts on Education and on Child Labor in Cambodia – Wednesday, 26.8.2009

Posted on 27 August 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 627

“Phnom Penh: Officials said that the economic crisis can block the development of Cambodia, especially it affects the alleviation of child labor and increases obstacles for children to receive education.

“The deputy secretary-general of the Supreme National Economic Council, Mr. Ruos Selva, said during a national consultative workshop on the impact of the global economic crisis on education and child labor in Cambodia on 25 August 2009, that the global economic crisis made the country’s economic growth rate decline to 6.7% in 2008 and to 2.1% in 2009, posing many challenging problems for Cambodia.

“Mr. Ruos Selva added that the economic downturn increases the number of poor people and makes the Millennium Development Goals for Cambodia to get side-tracked – being replaced by people who lost their jobs, which means also having lost other income for the family, which results in a shortage of finance for health, for education, and for social wellfare programs.

“A secretary of state of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Mr. Chey Chab, recognized the decline in the national income and in economic activities; while the goal for the progress of the country remains unchanged, the efforts to reduce child labor, and to remove obstacles for children to receive education, continue.

“In Cambodia, poverty is still a major problem, keeping students out of school. According to education experts, Khmer parents hold the opinion that their children can go to school only if they do not have financial problems. But there are financial problems, many poor families face the situation that the breadwinners do not have jobs or have only insufficient jobs. Because the income is not stable, families have to struggle to feed their children, making the expenses for traveling to school, for school clothes, and for other materials, to be their last priority.

“If the extent of the impact of the economic crisis is not adrressed and reduced, many children will have to leave the education system. Moreover, it will also reduce the quality of the teaching in classroom to become poorer.

“The head of the technical advisors of the international program of the International Labor Organization, Mr. M. P. Joseph, said that regarding the present economic crisis in Cambodian, the encouragement to send children to school, and to keep children to continue learning, is still very strong in this country. Maybe it is because in this modern era, it is thought that children without education are a liability.

“Also, the global economic crisis affects child labor in Cambodia. According to child labor experts, child labor has increased both in cities and rural areas. In populated areas, many children have to beg, some work as scavengers, and some work as house servants, even though they are under the age to do such jobs. In rural areas, agricultural labor at home becomes general for children. Other serious forms of child labor are carrying and selling souvenirs at touristic sites.

“In serious cases of child labor, children are forced to become prostitutes, to sell drugs, and to do other illegal activities. Also, the present difficult time of the economy can crate barrier against two defined goals of the Royal Government: First, to abolish the worst forms of child labor by 2016, and secondly, to reduce child labor of all forms to only 8% by 2015.

“A secretary of state of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, Ms. Prak Chantha, said that due to the economic crisis, child labor and education become worrying problems, and there should be discussions about the extent of the impact, and special attention to children, because they are ‘the young bamboos to replace the old bamboos,’ and the Constitution states also the fundamental rights of children.

“Mr. Chey Chap went on to say that it is the proper time for all relevant sides to cooperate on children’s education and on the reduction of child labor, in order to jointly assess the impact of the economic crisis on education and on labor, to establish policies for the present and for future problems of each sector, and to create immediate responses to solve the challenging problems of children.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2032, 26.8.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Dams menace Mekong River life

Cambodian locals rely on the Mekong River to survive. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

27 Aug 09
by Helen Jacobs

PLANS to build a series of dams on the largest river in South-East Asia are threatening to destroy the livelihoods of millions of people in Cambodia and surrounding nations.

The Mekong River flows through the developing country, providing much of the food and nutritional needs of a population estimated at more than 14 million.

Most live a traditional lifestyle, relying on the river to grow their rice crops, and taking fish from the river - one of the world’s largest inland fisheries - for food.

But if plans by the Cambodian, Thai and Laotian governments to dam the river go ahead, these rural communities could find it difficult to survive.

Footscray resident and Leader photographer Glenn Daniels recently made a journey up the Mekong with international aid organisations Oxfam and Manna Gum as part of a campaign to save the river for the millions of people who rely on it.

“The aim of our journey was to document the livelihoods of people who live on the islands along the Mekong and how they’ll be affected if a dam is built,” Mr Daniels said.

Through his skills with a camera, Mr Daniels is hoping to alert Australians to the plight of these people.

His photos will be shown next year in Melbourne.

It was a highly unjust situation that the people found themselves in, Mr Daniels said.

“The first notification that these people had of the dam proposal was some Chinese officials surveying the land,” he said.

“There have been no talks of compensation ... for the relocation of families.”

Spending time with the villagers, sharing meals with them, observing their daily work patterns and watching children play gave Mr Daniels some insight into a lifestyle far removed from suburban life in Melbourne’s West.

“Most of the people we saw or interviewed technically live on less than $1 a day,” Mr Daniels said.

“In monetary terms they are extremely poor, but they grow their own rice, raise pigs, and they work together, along with taking all the fish that they need from the Mekong, and the family buffalo is like their bank account.

“The value of all that is far more than $1 a day.

“If they are forced to move they most likely won’t be able to farm the land any more. They will have to move to the cities, where, if they’re very lucky, they might earn more than $1 a day, but their expenses will also greatly increase so they would probably find it much harder to survive.”

Mr Daniels learnt a lot about a rich and diverse culture from “friendly and gentle people”, along with seeing the impact organisations such as Oxfam have had, including establishing schools, providing clean water and immunisations for animals.

“If these dams go ahead, they will make all the work that Oxfam has put in for these people a waste of time, it will threaten the diversity and health of one of the planet’s most important river systems, and most importantly it will destroy the lifestyles of millions of people,” Mr Daniels said.

Taiwan's government approves visit by Dalai Lama

FILE-In this file photo taken on April 7, 2001, The Dalai Lama smiles during a press conference before he leaving Taiwan, in Taipei, Taiwan. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou risked angering China with his surprise announcement Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009, that he has agreed to let the Dalai Lama visit the island to comfort survivors of a devastating typhoon.(AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)

By ANNIE HUANG, Associated Press Writer

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan's president risked angering China with his surprise announcement Thursday that he has agreed to let the Dalai Lama visit the island to comfort survivors of a devastating typhoon.

President Ma Ying-jeou's move was unexpected because he has made a priority of seeking better relations with China, and just last December nixed plans for a visit by the Buddhist spiritual leader in what was deemed a move to placate Beijing.

But his government has come under fire over its slow response to Typhoon Morakot, which claimed 670 lives when it hit Aug. 8-9, and opposition politicians in the storm zone pointedly invited the Tibetan spiritual leader to the island to console survivors.

The invitation put Ma into a bind — either risk angering China, or give further ammunition to the opposition, which accuses him of hewing Beijing's line. On Thursday, Ma gave his answer while visiting a school in Nantou County that was destroyed in mudslides triggered by the storm.

"The Dalai Lama could come to Taiwan to help rest the souls of the dead and also pray for the well-being of the survivors," he said.

There was no immediate comment from either China's Taiwan Affairs Office or Foreign Ministry.

Beijing considers the Dalai Lama a "splittist" for promoting autonomy in the Chinese region of Tibet, and opposes visits to foreign countries that raise his profile. Allowing him to visit Taiwan could undermine the rapidly improving relations between Beijing and Taipei, longtime rivals which are developing close business ties after decades of enmity.

China claims self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory, though they split amid civil war in 1949.

On Wednesday, leaders of seven municipalities hit by Morakot issued a joint statement inviting the Dalai Lama to visit storm victims from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. The invitation from the leaders — all from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party — came as Ma faced criticism that he botched the government's response to the island's deadliest storm in 50 years.

The Dalai Lama — who has made three visits to the island over the past 12 years — has accepted the invitation "in principle," his spokesman Tenzin Takhla said Wednesday from Dharmsala, India, home to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Since becoming president 15 months ago, Ma has reversed many of his predecessor's anti-China policies, tightening economic links across the 100-mile (160-kilometer) -wide Taiwan Strait and even speaking of a peace treaty with Beijing.

Presidential spokesman Wang Yu-chi said the Dalai Lama's upcoming visit would be strictly religious, with no political overtones.

"We welcome the Dalai Lama to come to Taiwan to take part in mass prayers," Wang told reporters. He said the visit was approved "for humanitarian and religious considerations ... and we believe it will not harm cross-Strait relations."

Wang declined to say if Ma would meet the Dalai Lama during his stay in Taiwan.

Ma's policy of seeking better relations with China contrasts sharply with the opposition DPP's strong support for formal independence for the island of 23 million people.

That stance infuriates Beijing, which has repeatedly warned that any move to make the Taiwan-China split permanent would lead to war.

Taiwan and Tibet share similar histories. Both are territories that Beijing believes should be under its rule. Despite a failed 1959 uprising that sent the Dalai Lama into exile, China controls Tibet and has refused the Tibetan religious leader's request for greater autonomy.

Cambodian man stabbed to death in fight


Police in South Auckland say they are not looking for anyone else in connection with a brawl that left a man dead.

A Cambodian man in his 30s was stabbed to death during the fight between two rival groups in Papatoetoe.

Police discovered his body in a car in Leith Court, near where the fight broke out.

A number of people are helping police with their inquiries.

A post-mortem examination is expected to be carried out tomorrow.

Civil parties urged to justify their status in Duch’s trial

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 26/08/2009: Ty Srinna, co-lawyer for civil parties, on Day 65 in Duch’s trial at the ECCC 
© John Vink / Magnum

By Stéphanie Gée

The issue of the admissibility of victims’ applications as civil parties in Duch’s trial was unresolved since the initial hearing on February 17th and 18th 2009. Two weeks ago, the Chamber asked the defence to prepare their observations on these applications, should they have any. The defence did. Since Tuesday August 25th, a heated debate started between the defence counsel and civil party lawyers, with the former challenging the legitimacy of some of the civil parties in the absence of adequate relevant documents while the latter protested such a questioning of the civil parties’ word barely a few weeks away from the end of the hearings.

26 civil parties challenged by the defence
Marie-Paule Canizarès, colleague of François Roux, Duch’s international lawyer, announced yesterday that the defence intended to challenge the admissibility* of 26 civil parties, all civil parties who did not request to be heard by the Chamber. These objections related to two elements: it appeared from the case file there was no filiation or other family link established between the civil party and the victim represented, or there was no element proving that the victim represented could have been detained at S-21.

Alain Werner: it is too late for such a questioning
It was time to discuss these contested cases, but Alain Werner, co-lawyer for civil party group 1, intervened to argue that, in light of Articles 23.4 and 83.4 of the Internal Rules, the examination of the admissibility of these civil party applications “at the initial hearing, not after” – even if Article 100 allowed the Chamber to rule on the admissibility of a civil party application in the judgment. “There is a rationale to this: when a civil party application is declared inadmissible, this allows for a means of redress […] for the civil party, who may appeal the decision before the Supreme Court Chamber.” The lawyer “preliminarily” asked the Chamber to “rule on this issue and say precisely whether or not the defence […] is entitled today, a few weeks from the closing of these hearings, to come and question the admissibility of the applications of 26 civil parties.” Alain Werner was immediately supported by the lawyers for the other civil party groups.

François Roux: the defence is responding to a request of the Chamber
François Roux responded for the defence and objected to Alain Werner’s “fallacious and belated” argument. He recalled it was the Chamber that asked them the previous week to state their objections and nobody for the civil parties intervened to protest at that moment. He also reminded that during the initial hearing, civil party applications had been admitted “provisionally” and the defence had asked to retain their right to challenge them, which had been allowed.

Alain Werner persisted: “On what legal basis does the defence come to question the admissibility of civil party applications today?” On Article 100 of the Internal Rules, François Roux retorted, before repeating he had responded to a “request” of the Chamber and observing that, for a number of files, civil party lawyers still had not provided the necessary elements for them to be declared admissible.

The Chamber decided to continue the debate on the contested cases. Before the hearing closed, Alain Werner made another argument: “As for our civil parties, we told them, five or six months ago, after the initial hearing: you are civil parties. […] That a civil party application is admissible gives rights to civil parties and our civil parties have enjoyed these rights for months. […] Yet, today, a few weeks from the close, they are being told: maybe you are not admissible, you are not a civil party?!” François Roux then brandished Article 100 again and added he was still receiving documents from the civil parties, “which is problematic.”

Suggestion for an expanded definition of kinship
The controversy resumed on Wednesday August 26th. Fabienne Trusses, co-lawyer for civil party group 3, launched into a “preliminary and general statement.” She expanded the quality of the relationship between the civil party and the victim represented by introducing a link of “closeness” further to the family link. She thus suggested a definition of a “relative” that may be, according to her, “a family relative, a third party, a person who raised you or even a friend.”

Obstacles to the filing of applications
As for the filing of civil party applications, the lawyer argued it “was not contested that the S-21 archives [were] incomplete” and therefore, someone may have been “smashed” at S-21 without any trace of it remaining today. She inferred that the declaration of civil parties must be examined in light of their “consistency,” their “logic” and “relevant information gathered during the investigation and the hearing.” “We have heard the accused say he did not admit the probative value of a simple photograph from S-21. It is not to the accused to admit it or not,” she rightly objected. She indicated that her group had requested the Tuol Sleng museum (formerly S-21) to certify the origin of the pictures and added she considered it pointless “to demand the accumulation of evidentiary elements,” such as photograph, biography, confession, execution order, etc. Fabienne Trusses called to “take into account the historical, cultural and economic context of this country,” as some civil parties were unable to present civil status records as those never existed or disappeared. She stressed that a further obstacle to these applications was the fact that some victims “may not have been registered under their real name” but that of a father, a grandfather or a revolutionary name unknown to the civil parties.

Co-prosecutor: the Chamber must set a final deadline
International co-Prosecutor Vincent de Wilde intervened: he stated that any evidence could be used in criminal matters and it should be appreciated in a reasonable way according to the consistency of the story. Then, he urged to take into account a number of elements: the facts were more than 30 years old and it was difficult to keep many documents under the Khmer Rouge; the S-21 archives were incomplete and the combined list established by the office of the co-Prosecutors did not reflect the reality of the number of people killed at S-21 and was an “under-estimate;” in the absence of civil status records, “auxiliary documents must be taken into account, like those issued by mayors or even testimonies.” Finally, noting that the Trial Chamber did not give any “deadline” to complete the civil party applications, the co-Prosecutor called for a final deadline to be set.

Civil party participation: “Let’s not spoil this result,” François Roux calls
As for Kar Savuth, Duch’s national co-lawyer, he argued that in order to be admissible as civil party, one must fulfil the following criteria: to be the husband or wife of the victim, his or her son or daughter, his or her father or mother, and that was all. To support a civil party application, it was necessary to produce “at least one element of evidence” and the defence would accept it. After quoting the Latin phrase “Dura lex, sed lex” (the law is harsh, but it is the law), his international colleague recalled it was here the “first international tribunal to accept civil parties.” “We have fought for 15 years to reach this situation today. We have obtained this result, but please, please, let’s not spoil this result! […] Last week, some civil parties came out of their role as civil party in this trial and had to be called to order by the president or the defence. We are making considerable progress, all together, in international criminal justice and we are therefore condemned to excellence.”

François Roux then turned to the civil party lawyers to tell them it was up to them “to provide the legal elements that will allow people to be admitted as civil parties or not.” “Some families may believe in good faith their [relative] died at S-21 and one may realize it was not at S-21 but another prison. What would we have done then? We would have done anything but law! We are here in a place of justice. There are rules […]. I wanted to insist on the necessity of these rules. It is in the interest of law and in the interest of the civil parties themselves, if we want to pursue tomorrow in other international tribunals the progress that was the admission of civil parties in this tribunal.”

Kambol (Cambodia, Phnom Penh). 26/08/2009: Chess game during the debate on the admissibility of civil party applications on Day 65 in Duch’s trial at the ECCC 
© John Vink/ Magnum

The case-by-case review of contested applications
After some civil party groups provided documents on the previous day and the very morning, the defence announced they did not maintain their objections against two plaintive. But they again took offence that documents continued to reach them at this stage of the trial. Then ensued the review of 18 civil party applications challenged by the defence, for which their representatives sought to provide sufficient elements to convince the Chamber. The civil party lawyers were sometimes put in an awkward position by the empty application files and said they left it to the court to appreciate these cases. Such an example was the application of a man who applied as civil party in memory of friends disappeared at S-21, was difficult to contact – as he lived in a remote location in Ratanakiri province – and with whom it was difficult to have meaningful discussions due to his advanced age, Fabienne Trusses argued. In other applications, the evidence of the disappearance of the victim at S-21 was only the sole declaration of the person who applied as civil party in his or her name.

Who to blame?
This debate on the admissibility criteria for civil parties asked the question of the prior examination of their applications. These were sent to the tribunal’s Victims Unit, which forwarded them to the office of the co-Investigating Judges, who ruled on their admissibility until their closing order was published. It then pertained to the Trial Chamber to rule on civil party applications filed after that date. Might judges have failed to take their responsibilities by neglecting to establish clear admissibility criteria from the outset? As for civil party lawyers, it seemed the legal grey area led them to be negligent by taking for granted the admissibility of their clients and not seeking to strengthen their applications. Clarifying the admissibility criteria is crucial, even more so as this issue will also rise in case file no. 2, in which civil parties will experience more difficulty to present elements proving a link between the victims they represent and those indicted. By chance, seventy civil parties in case file no. 2 were in the public gallery to watch the trial this Wednesday.

* The ruling in a lawsuit happens in two steps, on the procedure and the substance: judges first examine its “admissibility,” that is whether pre-conditions to claim a right are met – in the present case, to be a victim and suffer prejudice in connection to S-21 –; then, they look at the “validity” of the claim, that is whether the prejudice is justified and the plaintive can legitimately demand reparation.

An economic air bridge to Cambodia

By The New York Times Syndicate
Thursday, August 27, 2009

Defying the gloom descending on the tourism sector brought about by the global economic crisis, the airport in Cambodia's capital city recently launched a hopeful initiative: a new airline.

Cambodia Angkor Air was launched in Phnom Penh to boost tourism between the capital and Siem Reap, near the famed ruins of Angkor Wat. With tourist arrivals falling sharply since late last year, this may signal a triumph of hope over reality. If anything, the hopes and fears surrounding Cambodia's tourist revenue and garment trade underline how the fortune of the country has become intertwined with the larger world.

Since peace came to Cambodia in the past years of the 20th century, the country has emerged as a poster child of globalisation in Southeast Asia.

And now the country is experiencing the downside of dependence on the world. The sectors most affected by the crisis – tourism and garment export – are the ones that have seen the most development thanks to the integration of Cambodia into the global economy a decade ago, after peace was restored in the country. At this time, the economy was opened to foreign investors, who poured money into the garment industry, taking advantage of supports granted to Cambodia such as the Most-Favoured Nation and the Generalised System of Preferences. This status provided access to the American market and it enabled other Asian investors – Chinese investors in particular – to get around their own quotas or the Least-Developed Country status conferred upon them by the United Nations.

But the happy days are now threatened by the shrinking world market. Of the four major pillars of the Cambodian economy – the garment industry, tourism, construction and agriculture – three are seriously impaired by the global crisis.

The figures released in late July by the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) showed a worse-than-anticipated loss: Exports dropped almost 30 per cent and one garment worker in every six lost her job in the first six months of 2009.

According to Van Sou Ieng, GMAC President, Cambodia is much more severely affected by the crisis than other Asian countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh or China because the industry sector in Cambodia is less competitive. "We need more time to produce than China or Vietnam," he says. Even if the government helps with profit tax exemptions or export charge reductions, there is no miracle cure for Sou Ieng.

Tourism – the second pillar of the economy – has suffered from the economic crisis and the fallout from the swine flu. In Siem Reap, located next to the famed Angkor temples, a spot visited by more than one million tourists in 2008, the situation is described as "catastrophic" by hotel managers. The hotels' occupancy rate has fallen 25 per cent compared to the same period in 2008. Several three- and four star hotels have definitely closed their doors, and the mid-range hotels have been multiplying promotional offers for months. The drop in Western tourist arrivals (down 14 per cent during the four first months of 2009 according to the minister of tourism) has a direct impact on tourism-generated incomes – foreigners spent $1.6 billion (Dh5.87bn) in 2008. The Ministry of Economy and Finance expects a drop in tourism growth of seven to eight per cent this year.

The construction sector is also affected: Many foreign investors have delayed, reduced or slowed their projects. Phnom Penh started to change face in 2008 with the building of huge towers, business centres and shopping malls, but activity slid in the second half of 2008, leaving workers without employment. Such trends have had significant consequences, particularly among the banking sector. The Acleda bank, which has the largest branch network in all provinces, reported a fall in profits in the second quarter of 2009 because of late payments and less lending. Cambodians who speculated on land as investment are now facing difficulties because the prices of land and real estate have plunged and they cannot sell and get cash.

Agriculture, the fourth pillar of the Cambodian economy and the least exposed to global currents, could bolster the country's 2009 growth, which is forecast at 2.1 per cent. The agricultural sector (with 4.3 per cent growth expected in 2009 depending on weather conditions) is essentially based on rice farming and fishing. But the part of agriculture that has drawn foreign interest proves to be a mixed blessing.

In northeastern Mondolkiri province, plans by a French company to set up a rubber plantation have created a conflict that symbolises the double-edged sword of globalisation.

The crisis has forced the government to pay attention to those left behind by globalisation. "We thought that the private sector could solve every problem, but we have to reconsider the role to be played by the state in order to palliate the deficiencies of the market," says Hang Chuon Naron, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Some hopes turn to the mineral, oil and gas resources development. But the revenues from these productions will be mainly derived from exports of raw materials with no local added value, whereas imports of manufactured goods will increase. Even after growth returns, Cambodia will still have to figure out how to hitch its industry to the global economy profitably, rather than be a supplier of garments produced by cheap labor. Cambodia is beginning to learn the challenge of being part of an integrated world.

- With permission from YaleGlobal Online. Courtesy: The New York Times Syndicate's Global Business Perspectives

Public confidence in Cambodian banks is growing


PHNOM PENH, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Public confidence in Cambodia's banking sector is growing and has managed to withstand the onslaught from the global economic crisis, local media reported on Thursday, quoting the director general of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC).

While speaking at a roundtable discussion on banks and public confidence, which was organized by the Club of Cambodian Journalists, Nai Im, director general of the NBC, was quoted by the Cambodia Daily as saying that bank deposits had increased to almost 29 percent of gross domestic product in 2008, up from just 14 percent in 2000.

"The public confidence in the banking sector and financial system is reflected through the increase in deposits, credit and total assets of the banking sector," she said.

Though banks worldwide have declared massive losses as a result of the global economic crisis, total bank assets in Cambodia increased 21 percent to more than 4.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2008and loans increased by a third to 2.4 billion U.S. dollars, according to the National Bank's annual report released last week.

Deposits, however, were hit hardest, increasing only four percent to more than six billion U.S. dollars in 2008, compared to75 percent growth in 2007.

"Although the Cambodian economy is free and open to the rest of the world, the Cambodian banking system did not directly suffer from the consequences of the financial crisis," Nai Im said.

Editor: Jin Shanshan Source: Xinhua

Cambodia withdraws tanks from frontier with Thailand

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has withdrawn several tanks from the frontier with Thailand, the local media reported Thursday

"The withdrawal of the military tanks was ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen last Sunday and those tanks have to go back to their strongholds," Chea Dara, deputy commander-in-chief of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces quoted by the Khmer language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea as saying.

"We want to see border with full security, safety, good development without arm confrontation with neighboring countries," he added.

"We withdrew our tanks starting on August 26," he said, adding that "those tanks moved back to their headquarters but if the situation is changed, we still enable to mobilize as quickly as possible to the border."

Cambodian and Thai troops have confronted with heavy weapons at the border particularly at areas near 11th century khmer Preah Viheat temple since July 15, 2008 and it caused casualties on both sides when armed clashes occurred.

After negotiations including top level meeting of Prime Ministers, Foreign ministers and commanders at regions, they agreed to reduce troops and withdrew subsequently to pave the way for the joint border committees from both sides to measure the land at the areas and plant the border markers.

Editor: Xiong Tong

POLITICS-CAMBODIA: Khmer Rouge Tribunal Keeps the Country Informed

By Robert Carmichael

PHNOM PENH, Aug 27 (IPS) - The ongoing Khmer Rouge tribunal here of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, has heard some highly charged testimony in recent weeks, as civil parties have told the court of how the murders of their loved ones ruined their lives.

On Aug. 17 it was the turn of French national Martine Lefeuvre, who was married to Cambodian diplomat Ouk Keth, to testify.

At the invitation of the Khmer Rouge government, Ouk Keth returned to Phnom Penh in 1977 to help rebuild the nation, but was immediately arrested, tortured for six months and then killed at the infamous Tuol Sleng, otherwise known as S-21, prison that Duch (pronounced Doik) ran.

Duch is the first senior Khmer Rouge cadre to be tried in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, commonly known as the Cambodia Tribunal, which is backed by the United Nations (UN). He faces a life sentence on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, as well as homicide and torture.

Her husband’s fate unknown to her, Lefeuvre told the court how she searched for several years for news of her missing husband. In 1980 a family friend in a refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border told her he had seen Ouk Keth’s name on a list of people murdered at S-21, a former high school that the Khmer Rouge converted into a prison in 1975. Ouk Keth was one of more than 15,000 thought to have been tortured and executed in the Tuol Sleng (which means ‘Hill of the Poisonous Tree’) facility under Duch’s command.

Lefeuvre returned to France and her two young 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."

Much of the testimony from the tribunal is harrowing, and the experiences of many Cambodians explain why many do not talk about what happened under the Khmer Rouge regime that ruled the country between 1975 and 1979. Around two million people are thought to have died under one of the most brutal regimes in recent history.

But telling Cambodians about those terrible years is a key part of the remit of the joint U.N.-Cambodian tribunal, said Reach Sambath, the head of the tribunal’s public affairs office.

That is a challenge here, where around 85 percent of people live in rural areas, and illiteracy is widespread.

For that reason, the court endorses a number of methods of informing the public, Reach Sambath said. One method that his office runs, for example, is to bus in people from across the country to watch proceedings in the 500- seat auditorium. By mid-August more than 17,000 Cambodians from across the country had attended the trial, he said.

The public affairs office, which operates with limited resources, also produces material that is distributed online and by hand at the court itself. But measured in sheer numbers, the most successful way of letting Cambodians know about the proceedings and workings of the tribunal is through the use of television and radio.

The tribunal’s daily proceedings are broadcast live on national television every day. But many people do not have the time to spend four days a week following events, which is where a surprisingly successful television show has come in.

The weekly half-hour TV show, which is mainly funded by the British Embassy, is entirely independent of the tribunal’s public affairs office. It is broadcast by national broadcaster Cambodia Television Network in its prime lunchtime slot on Mondays and repeated the following day.

The show’s producer, Matthew Robinson of independent production company Khmer Mekong Films, said between two and three million people watch it each week – a sizeable proportion of the South-east Asian country’s 15 million population.

The format is straightforward enough. Robinson, an experienced British producer and director who lives in Phnom Penh, says that two presenters and a guest examine the events of the previous week.

Co-presenter Neth Pheaktra said the purpose of the show is to provide a concise summary of Duch’s trial, which began on February 17.

"During the 24 minutes of the programme we have the summary, the diary of the Duch trial, and the key points that the witness, the defendant and the judges reveal in the court," Neth Pheaktra said.

According to Robinson a key challenge when devising the format was to create a show that was relatively simple to make but that would appeal to the target audience of mainly rural and often poorly educated Cambodians.

"Then (we mould) them all together in a fairly fast-moving way in language that our audience could understand and be interested in," he explained, "so that over a short period, you have seen the most important things in the proceedings that week."

Ung Chan Sophea, the other presenter, said the show’s writers ensure that the scripted wording is as simple as possible, even when trying to convey the complicated legal jargon that characterises legal proceedings.

That is something the live feed, understandably, cannot do.

At a small coffee shop in Phnom Penh, Mao Sophea said he loves the analysis the show provides of the week’s proceedings.

"For me this is a good show, and the presenters are excellent too," he said. "But to tell you the truth, I haven’t heard too many people talking about it – most of the people I know prefer to watch the all-day broadcasts."

And not everyone is a convert. Lah Yum, seated at another table, hardly watches it "because I am normally asleep during lunchtime when this show is broadcast."

But some of Lah Yum’s friends do watch it, and as the trial of Duch heads towards its conclusion, they are interested in more than just the proceedings. They want to see what the process and the verdict will mean to those who lost loved ones under the Khmer Rouge regime:

"What they are waiting to see is how the trial will manage to deliver justice for the families of the victims," he said.

Ibis back from the brink


The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Laura Snook

White-shouldered ibis search for insects in Stung Treng province. The critically endangered species was estimated to exist in numbers as low as 50 worldwide, but a recent study identified 310 of these birds in Cambodia, with possibly more colonies yet to be found.

Outlook mixed for garment sector

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
James O'toole and Nathan Green

BETTER Factories Cambodia, a division of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), released a report Wednesday citing continued improvements in labour law compliance among hundreds of Cambodian garment factories, but experts fear these gains are overshadowed by grim overall prospects for the industry.

Though acknowledging that approximately 60,000 jobs have been lost in the Kingdom's garment sector since November of last year, the ILO reported that 99 percent of surveyed factories paid full-time workers at least minimum wage, and that 84 percent of factories had at least one union. Just one underage worker was discovered among the 175 factories visited during the study, which was conducted from January 2008 to April 2009.

Questions remain, however, about how reflective the ILO figures are of the industry as a whole. Of 280 factories covered in the study, 258 were still operating as of July, Better Factories Cambodia manager Tuomo Poutiainen said.

In addition, any survey of the garment industry is complicated by the fact that many Cambodian factories are not registered with the ILO and the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), Michael Smiddy, a senior consultant at the Phnom Penh office of Emerging Markets Consulting, told the Post earlier this month.

"There's a whole lot of subcontracting factories that are not members of GMAC, and how many people they employ and how many jobs have been lost there isn't clear," he said.

Garment factories are only required to register with the ILO and GMAC if they export their goods, and the ILO study was limited to registered factories. Tuomo Poutiainen guessed that there are between 70 and 100 subcontracting factories in Cambodia, but exact figures are unclear.

"That's a problem for the Cambodian economy - that so much of the economy is informal," Smiddy said.

Poutiainen said that this issue will need to be rectified if the Kingdom's garment industry hopes to match the efficiency and quality of competitors such as China and Vietnam, and urged subcontracted factories to sign up with GMAC and the ILO.

"Sooner or later, if they are serious and if they produce quality goods for exports, then they will join," he said.

The increased unionisation reported in the ILO study is another controversial issue for the garment industry. Strikes in Cambodian factories nearly doubled in the first six months of 2009 compared with the same period last year, from 12 to 23, with 17 coming from the garment sector, according to the Phnom Penh Municipal Police.

Roger Phan, secretary general of GMAC, said earlier this month that industry competitor Bangladesh was outstripping Cambodia in part because unions are weaker there and are therefore less likely to disrupt service.

"Whether [workers] understand that or not, we are losing business on account of that," he said.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association (CEA), also suggested that agitation for higher wages could be counterproductive for the industry as a whole.

"I think one of the reasons why the industry has not been very competitive is that [consumers] care more about prices during a low-income period.

They're not willing to pay a high price for labour-qualified products," he said. "I think the immediate future for the garment industry, especially this year, does not look very good."

Seventy-eight factories have closed so far this year, according to the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Ministry of Commerce has predicted that garment exports will fall by "at least" 30 percent in 2009. Even with these challenges, however, factories looking to cut costs would be ill-advised to reduce workers' wages, Tuomo Poutiainen said.

"The key concern remains how competitive the industry can be in terms of quality, price and lag times. The working conditions at the level they are is an added value, a big one," he said.


Kingdom leads Asia in cases of TB: ADB

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Mom Kunthear

CAMBODIA has the highest prevalence of tuberculosis in Asia and the Pacific, according to a new Asian Development Bank report - a fact that has come as no surprise to civil society actors, who say the disease has increasingly afflicted residents of poor rural areas as well as HIV-positive patients.

The 2009 version of Key Indicators for Asia and the Pacific cited a tuberculosis prevalence rate of 665 per 100,000 people. The Philippines had the second-highest rate at 500.

The Cambodia figure has dropped significantly from 1990, when it stood at 928, but other countries that had previously reported similarly high figures have experienced more dramatic drops in the past two decades.

Mao Tan Eang, director of the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (CENAT), said Wednesday that the government was working to address the problem by expanding access to drugs, adding that nearly 2,000 drug outlets had been established.

Kek Galabru, president of the Cambodian rights group Licadho, acknowledged that the government, and CENAT in particular, had tried to lower the rate, but said access to drugs and proper medical care was inadequate, particularly in rural areas. Many public and private health care providers are "incompetent", she said.

She said the situation was particularly "fragile" for HIV/AIDS patients. Citing figures from Medecins Sans Frontieres, she said the prevalence rate for that group had risen from 2.5 percent in 1995 to 7.8 percent in 2007, and could be as high as 15percent today.

HRP cries foul in Assembly

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Meas Sokchea

THE president of the Human Rights Party said Wednesday that his lawmakers are being silenced in the National Assembly because of their minority status and has called for international intervention.

In the disputed July 2008 parliamentary elections, the ruling Cambodian People's Party won a landslide majority, the Sam Rainsy Party became the main opposition party, and the Human Rights Party took third place with 6.6 percent of the vote and three seats.

Speaking Wednesday, HRP President Kem Sokha said the ruling CPP has dominated all parliamentary debate, preventing his own lawmakers from being heard.

"We asked [the Assembly] to listen to us, but they wouldn't allow us to express anything at all," he said. "I have raised this issue with several international diplomats - including US Senator Jim Webb - who were keen to learn about how democracy works in Cambodia."

According to current regulations, the only way a minority party can be guaranteed a voice in the National Assembly is to merge with another party to secure a minimum of 10 seats, Kem Sokha said.

"They want us to join with another party before they will allow us to express ourselves, but we can't do that," he said. "We are an independent party. Why was this regulation created? To provide rights and freedom or to limit freedom?" Kem Sokha said.

He called for the regulation to be scrapped, saying it effecctively gags minority parties and stifles political debate.

They want us to join with another party... but we can't do that.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap dismissed Kem Sokha's comments and said Assembly President Heng Samrin provided more time to opposition parties than the ruling party. He acknowledged, however, that parties holding fewer than 10 seats would struggle to make themselves heard.

"[We] respect the law and internal regulations," regarding minimums, he said, adding that for the HRP to be heard with just three lawmakers "is impossible".

Regulation 'undemocratic'
Koul Panha, executive director of election monitoring group Comfrel, condemned the regulation on Wednesday, describing it as undemocratic.

"They cannot make one party's lawmakers join with other parties," he said. "One party, even if it only has two or three members, must be allowed a voice. Only this conforms to democracy and the system of proportional representation. This internal regulation should be amended."

In January, the HRP and SRP signed an agreement to align under the banner of the Democratic Movement for Change in a bid to balance the power of the CPP. Efforts to realise the opposition merger, however, have since stalled.

Speaking in July, Yem Ponhearith, secretary general of the HRP, said the string of suits against government critics had made the need for unity more urgent than ever.

"We need more dialogue in order to achieve our aim to merge into a single democratic party before 2012," he said.

"We hope that our plan of merging the parties will not meet any obstacles. We want a democratic party that will balance the power of the CPP."

During a meeting with US Senator Webb in Cambodia earlier this month, Kem Sokha said he told him that the US "should continue to monitor democracy in Cambodia because it is still not going smoothly."

CITA calls for lower fees at universities

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Mom Kunthear

THE Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) on Wednesday issued a statement urging the Ministry of Education to lower student fees at universities.

CITA President Rong Chhun said Wednesday that the association wants fees to drop at public and private universities to help students from poor families stay in school.

"If the Ministry of Education really wants to look out for the future of Cambodia's poorer students, this is a way to accomplish that goal," he said. "It would not be difficult. All the ministry needs to do is send a request to all universities."

Rong Chhun said many students decide to suspend studies after high school because of the high cost of university fees, which he said can run as high as US$360 to $400 a year.

He added that a more suitable rate of a $280 would ease the burden on parents who pay for their children's fees.

The recommendation follows a report by the International Labour Organisation on Tuesday suggesting that the global economic recession threatens to move more children into the labour sector as families who have lost jobs or suffered salary reductions found it too expensive to support their education.

Bill Salter, head of the ILO subregional office in East Asia, said a prolonged economic crisis will "erect new financial obstacles in front of children trying to access education" during a national workshop studying the impact of the global recession on child labour.

Tam Sokrey, 21, a second-year student at Phnom Penh International University, said he would have had to quit school next year because of high fees if he had not received sponsorship from a private foundation.

"I really want all universities to discount their fees ... because most of them cost too much money for most students," he said.

Pith Chamnan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Education, said he would look into the matter.

"Once I receive the CITA statement, I will consider taking action. But I have not yet seen it," he said.

Muslim group donates to poor

A German Muslim aid organisation has given the Cambodian Muslim Students Association (CMSA) US$25,000 for loans to be administered to 100 families living along the railroad tracks in Daun Penh district, the district governor said Wednesday. "Each family will get $250 on loan for 10 months without interest," Sok Sambath said. CMSA Director Sous Mousine said the loan programme was part of the student group's effort to reach out to poor residents in the capital, adding that the use of the money would be closely monitored. "They have to do what they promised in a contract to use the money in a good way and to pay the loan back to us on time," he said.


Survey finds numbers up for rare ibis

Several critically endangered white-shouldered ibis roost in Stung Treng province.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Laura Snook

THE first nationwide count of critically endangered white-shouldered Ibis has revealed their numbers have remained higher than previously thought.

Hugh Wright, a PhD student at the University of East Anglia in Britain, has been leading the research. He said: "This is the first time we have achieved a reliable minimum figure for the population size of white-shouldered Ibis in Cambodia. The recent count means the population is almost certainly larger than the IUCN estimate of 50 to 249 mature individuals; however, there is a good chance that the population is even larger than 310 because we expect to find more roost sites and count more birds."

The precise reasons for the population's decline in the past few decades remains something of a mystery, according to BirdLife International, which backed the study. This breeding season, the research team will examine why nests fail and how they can best be protected.

Troops to remain on guard at Thai border

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Vong Sokheng and Thet Sambath

Defence minister says some soldiers must stay and protect Preah Vihear despite warmer ties.

DEFENCE Minister Tea Banh on Wednesday said despite a recent thaw in the Preah Vihear temple dispute with Thailand, Cambodian troops will still be required to guard the border against any violation of the Kingdom's sovereignty.

"We do not need too many soldiers there now. We are currently adjusting the numbers to achieve the right balance for the situation," he said.

Tea Banh would not, however, provide details about how many troops he thought might be required to secure the frontier.

Following a request by Prime Minister Hun Sen last week, Cambodia announced it would begin withdrawing troops from the disputed border region that has seen sporadic fighting and at least seven soldiers killed since October last year.


RCAF General Pol Sareoun and his Thai counterpart, Supreme Commander General Songkitti Jaggabatra, on Monday declared an end to hostilities in a landmark meeting at RCAF headquarters.

Srey Doek, commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces's Division 3, said Hun Sen's request for a troop withdrawal was only the first step, and that the RCAF would officially implement the withdrawal on August 30.

Back to their provinces
He said troops currently at the border would be redeployed to Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces, and that soldiers from Brigade 11 would return to their base in Kampot.

He added that up to half of troops to be redeployed belong to Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit.

Chea Dara, RCAF deputy commander-in-chief, refused Wednesday to specify how many soldiers would be redeployed or how many would remain on the border.

"I cannot say how many will leave or how many will remain," he said.

"But we will keep enough to defend the nation from the loss of even one centimetre of land," he added.

Current hostilities along the border in Preah Vihear began in July last year following the 11th-century temple's accession as a World Heritage site.

Thai troops subsequently occupied the temple complex, sparking the largest buildup of troop and military materiel along the border in years.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, which has vocally opposed the Thai presence at Preah Vihear, said he doubted the wisdom of pulling troops out of the area while Thai soldiers remain.

"We have not seen any positive resolution to this border issue yet, and Thai soldiers are still on our land," Rong Chhun said.

Bridge traffic restricted

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Trucks drive across Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Khoun Leakhana

MUNICIPAL authorities earlier this week issued a directive prohibiting heavy trucks from transporting sand and dirt across major bridges in Phnom Penh in an effort to reduce traffic congestion and help keep the capital clean.

The governors of Russei Keo and Meanchey districts were advised to stop the trucks from crossing the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge, the Monivong Bridge and the Stung Meanchey Bridge, the directive stated.

Heng Chantheary, chief of the municipal Traffic Police, said Wednesday that his officers had already begun implementing the directive.

"We think everyone should join with us and respect this new policy in order to reduce the number of road accidents, limit any further damage to municipal bridges and help keep the city clean," he said.

"We have already sent copies of the directive to all targeted regions of the city in order to carry it out properly," he added.

Insolent Thai jailed for illegal border-crossing

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Thai national Sorlavon Kamsorn at Banteay Meanchey police station on August 10.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Thet Sambath

A THAI national arrested for insulting Angkor Wat and entering Cambodia illegally has been sentenced to three months in prison.

Sorlavon Kamsorn, 39, was arrested earlier this month in Banteay Meanchey province's O'Chrov district after police discovered a cement representation of Angkor Wat that Sorlavon had placed outside a toilet.

"He was arrested because he put the cement picture of Angkor Wat temple outside his toilet and stepped on it every day," Banteay Meanchey provincial police Chief Hun Hean said at the time. "He told us he put the picture there because he loves Angkor Wat, but if he loves Angkor Wat, why would he put a picture of it outside his toilet?"

Nuth Ly, O'Chrov district police chief, said villagers reported Sorlavon's actions to local police, who subsequently arrested him and confiscated the picture as evidence.

Hun Hean said he suspected that Sorlavon's placement of the picture was part of a plot to sabotage Cambodia's archeological prestige, and Chuch Phoeung, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, warned that such insults would not be tolerated within the Kingdom's borders.

"These kinds of foreigners shall be punished according to the law. If they stay in Cambodia and they do something unacceptable, they must be prosecuted," he said at the time. "I can't say how serious the punishment will be. That depends on the legal process."

The charge of insulting the Khmer civilisation's most prestigious temple has since been dropped, however, due to lack of evidence, the court said.

"He was sentenced to three months in prison for illegally entering Cambodia, but he was not charged for putting the Angkor Wat temple picture by his toilet," Ton Seiha Dechas, Banteay Meanchey province's court prosecutor, said Wednesday.

Duch team disputes civil party eligibility

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Robbie Corey Boulet

Tribunal says interim international prosecutor will succeed outbound Petit by September 1.

THE defence team for Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, on Wednesday challenged the applications of 18 civil parties, saying, among other things, that lawyers had failed to demonstrate kinship links between their clients and Tuol Sleng victims.

In her rundown of the objections, international defence lawyer Marie-Paule Canizares repeatedly said the applications lacked documentation proving kinship links, and she challenged multiple applications in part because they were "only mentioning friends".

The objections prompted civil party lawyers to argue that both the Tuol Sleng archives and the family records of many Cambodians were incomplete. Civil party lawyer Fabienne Trusses-Naprous also said civil parties should be able to file applications based on the loss of "close acquaintances". UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said after the proceedings that the Trial Chamber had yet to decide whether such applications are admissible.

Challenges to civil party testimony began Tuesday and were set to continue today. Olsen said the defence team planned to challenge the applications of 24 civil parties who have not yet been heard as well as an undisclosed number of civil parties who have appeared in person or had statements read out before the court.

The Trial Chamber has given no indication as to how or when it will rule on the challenges. If challenges are sustained in formal decisions, civil parties will be able to lodge appeals with the tribunal's Supreme Court Chamber.

Interim prosecutor
A UN court spokesman said Wednesday that neither of the two candidates nominated to replace outgoing international co-prosecutor Robert Petit would be ready to assume the role by September 1, the date Petit's resignation goes into effect, and that the UN had nominated one candidate to serve as an interim replacement.

Olsen said he could provide no information on the candidate. He said the nominee for interim prosecutor would be subject to the same review process as the permanent replacement, meaning he or she must be approved by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy​ (SCM).

Bun Yaynarin, an assistant to Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathna, said the minister would forward the nomination to the council after receiving it from Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, though he said it had not been received as of Wednesday.

Olsen said he expected the interim prosecutor to begin work by September 1.

Petit announced on June 23 that he would be leaving the tribunal "for personal and family reasons".

Also Wednesday, the court announced that the number of visitors to the Duch trial had reached 20,250. During four days of hearings last week, the court received 2,176 visitors, the highest weekly total since the beginning of substantive hearings in late March.

Duch team disputes civil party eligibility

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Robbie Corey Boulet

Tribunal says interim international prosecutor will succeed outbound Petit by September 1.

THE defence team for Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, on Wednesday challenged the applications of 18 civil parties, saying, among other things, that lawyers had failed to demonstrate kinship links between their clients and Tuol Sleng victims.

In her rundown of the objections, international defence lawyer Marie-Paule Canizares repeatedly said the applications lacked documentation proving kinship links, and she challenged multiple applications in part because they were "only mentioning friends".

The objections prompted civil party lawyers to argue that both the Tuol Sleng archives and the family records of many Cambodians were incomplete. Civil party lawyer Fabienne Trusses-Naprous also said civil parties should be able to file applications based on the loss of "close acquaintances". UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said after the proceedings that the Trial Chamber had yet to decide whether such applications are admissible.

Challenges to civil party testimony began Tuesday and were set to continue today. Olsen said the defence team planned to challenge the applications of 24 civil parties who have not yet been heard as well as an undisclosed number of civil parties who have appeared in person or had statements read out before the court.

The Trial Chamber has given no indication as to how or when it will rule on the challenges. If challenges are sustained in formal decisions, civil parties will be able to lodge appeals with the tribunal's Supreme Court Chamber.

Interim prosecutor
A UN court spokesman said Wednesday that neither of the two candidates nominated to replace outgoing international co-prosecutor Robert Petit would be ready to assume the role by September 1, the date Petit's resignation goes into effect, and that the UN had nominated one candidate to serve as an interim replacement.

Olsen said he could provide no information on the candidate. He said the nominee for interim prosecutor would be subject to the same review process as the permanent replacement, meaning he or she must be approved by the Supreme Council of the Magistracy​ (SCM).

Bun Yaynarin, an assistant to Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathna, said the minister would forward the nomination to the council after receiving it from Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, though he said it had not been received as of Wednesday.

Olsen said he expected the interim prosecutor to begin work by September 1.

Petit announced on June 23 that he would be leaving the tribunal "for personal and family reasons".

Also Wednesday, the court announced that the number of visitors to the Duch trial had reached 20,250. During four days of hearings last week, the court received 2,176 visitors, the highest weekly total since the beginning of substantive hearings in late March.

Govt targets youthful 'gangsters'

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Chhay Channyda

National Police plan to crack down on juvenile delinquents across the country through a targeted campaign against suspected "gangsters", police officials said Wednesday.

Kirt Chatharith, spokesman for the National Police at the Ministry of Interior, said that from August 1 to August 15, police from provincial and municipal departments compiled a list of delinquents almost 7,000 names long. Police plan to target these individuals for both enforcement and instruction.

"We have a list of the gangsters' names, so we will ask them and their parents to talk about their bad activities. We want them to be good people," Kirt Chantharith said.

The crackdown stems from a directive issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen in June 2009 asking relevant authorities nationwide to step up prevention efforts regarding drug use and public disturbances by juvenile groups.

US paedophile gets 10-year term

Photo by: AFP
Michael James Dodd, 60, is escorted by police from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday convicted and sentenced American national Michael James Dodd to 10 years in prison on charges of purchasing child prostitution from a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl and ordered him to pay 20 million riels (US$4,824) in compensation.

Presiding Judge Chan Madina convicted Dodd, 60, under Article 34 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.

The court also convicted and sentenced Chan Pallay, 40, the mother of Dodd's victim, to 10 years in prison as an accomplice to human trafficking under Article 4 of the anti-human trafficking law.

Dodd, from Washington, was arrested in October last year after police raided his rented home in Daun Penh district, where he was discovered with the 14-year-old Vietnamese girl as well as a second girl, age 13, from Cambodia.

Uk Phourik, Dodd's defence attorney, said the verdict was unjust and that his client would appeal the conviction.

Peng Maneth, who represented the Vietnamese girl, said Dodd still faces charges for his involvement with the 13-year-old Cambodian girl, adding that a hearing in that case would follow pending further investigation.

Bad loans rising, says NBC

Photo by: Nguon Sovan
National Bank of Cambodia Director General Tal Nay Im said Wednesday that NPLs are rising but would not exceed 10 percent.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Nguon Sovan

Nonperforming loans reached 5.2pc by June and could rise close to 10pc in the coming months, National Bank of Cambodia Director General Tal Nay Im warns.

NONPERFORMING loans at commercial banks rose to 5.2 percent by the end of May, up 1.8 percentage points from the beginning of the year, National Bank of Cambodia Director General Tal Nay Im told the Cambodian Club of Journalists on Wednesday.

The increase came as borrowers struggled with repayments amid declining cashflow in the wake of the global financial crisis, she said, adding that the central bank was not overly worried by the defaults.

"This is the only major concern for the National Bank of Cambodia at the moment regarding Cambodia's banking industry," Tal Nay Im said.

"But the NPL ratio is quite low, and it is acceptable for banks in Cambodia."

She projected that NPLs would fall again as the global economy regained health. In the meantime, the central bank anticipated that NPLs could close in on 10 percent but would not pass this benchmark this year or next.

Her comments come a week after the NBC released its 2008 annual banking supervision report, which showed NPLs at 3.7 percent of total outstanding loans at the end of last year, up from 3.4 percent a year earlier.

The absolute value of NPLs climbed to US$87.44 million at the end of 2008 from $52.95 million a year earlier. The total value of loans soared 54.7 percent from $1.51 billion to $2.35 billion.

The report also showed that 15 of 24 commercial banks had no NPLs as of the end of 2008, a situation described by some people in the sector as unlikely. Another four had NPL ratios under 4 percent, according to the report.

That situation has now changed, Tal Ny Im said: "Last year, some banks had zero NPL ratios because they did not have bad loans when we audited them, but since the start of this year all the banks have NPLs."

ACLEDA Bank's NPL ratio was listed in the NBC annual report at 0.2 percent. However, ACLEDA President In Channy said the bank's NPLs were actually 0.44 percent of outstanding loans at the end of the last year and had increased to 1 percent, largely as a result of loans to large-scale businesses in the construction-materials sector.

"However, it is still at a good level," he said.

Gui Anvanith, director general of the Foreign Trade Bank, told the Post last week that NPL ratios at his bank dropped to 17 percent as of July this year from 28 percent at the end of last year. The central bank recorded its bad loans at 32 percent, up from 30.7 percent a year earlier.

He said he expected the rate to drop to between 7 and 10 percent at the end of 2009.

Tal Nay Im said deposits at all commercial banks - of which there are now 27 in the Kingdom - have increased 11.1 percent year on year to $2.9 billion as of June this year.

Loan disbursements were up less than 1 percent to $2.4 billion, she added.

Asia can't export its way to recovery: ADB

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Nathan Green and Chun Sophal

A NEW Asian Development Bank (ADB) report Wednesday warned that Asian economies are unlikely to be able to export their way out of the global economic crisis and called for an economic rebalancing to spur domestic demand.

Key Indicators 2009, ADB's flagship annual statistical report released Wednesday, also identified the key role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in a return to rapid regional growth.

"In view of the weak outlook for the major global economies, it's unlikely that Asia can export its way out of this slump, as they did after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis," ADB Chief Economist Jong-Wha Lee said in a statement issued with the report. "Consequently, some economies need to accelerate the rebalancing process to increase domestic demand, and to assist that process they need to take steps to unleash the constraints to growth on SMEs, which so many Asians rely on for their livelihoods."

The warning comes as figures obtained from Camcontrol received by the Post Tuesday showed exports in July plummeted 26.4 percent on an annualised basis to US$249.94 million.

The fall dwarfed the 17.5 percent decline in June and took the total percentage drop in exports for the first seven months of the year to 20.9 percent. Exports fell from $1.99 billion in the first seven months of 2008 to $1.57 billion in the corresponding period this year, the figures show.

The ADB report said public policy has a key role to play in helping SMEs grow and become more productive and called for governments to work with the private sector to correct existing market failures, particularly regarding access to finance.

In Cambodia, it identified four key constraints: access to finance; energy; technology and skill; and the market environment, which includes regulations, restrictions, the legal framework, law and order, and discriminatory policies in favour of large enterprises and multinational corporations.

The ADB report noted that there had been improvement in the government's handling of strategies relating to SMEs in recent years, including the creation of a SME Development Framework.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, said Wednesday that the government is scheduled to launch an SME initiative with ADB next year, a project which would see the Manila-based bank send experts to the Kingdom.

According to research by the International Finance Corporation and The Asia Foundation, 90.4 percent of Cambodian firms have fewer than four employees, and 96 percent fewer than 10.

The long-awaited Sheraton in Siem Reap stalls indefinitely

Photo by: Steve Finch
Tourists walk among the Angkor temples in Siem Reap, where the Sheraton had hoped to build a high-end hotel. A company representative said Wednesday that the project is now on hold.

We regret to inform you that the opening of this property is now on hold.

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Peter Olszewski

After an earlier delay that would have seen the Four Points by Sheraton Angkor open January 1, 2011, the parent company now says the project is 'on hold'.

SHERATON'S much-vaunted entry into the Siem Reap market has now been put on hold, a company official said Wednesday, despite a notice on the parent company's Web site that still states the Four Points by Sheraton Angkor, Cambodia, will be opening on January 1, 2011.

The Web site of the parent company, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc, also announces that group bookings are being accepted at the pre-opening office in Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers in Bangkok.

But in a sudden move this week, after much speculation within the regional hotel industry, a Starwood official told the Post that plans for the Siem Reap hotel are now in doubt.

"We regret to inform you that the opening of this property is now on hold," said Narumon Uakaroonchaikul, Starwood's administrative assistant to the regional director of sales and marketing.

"We shall keep you informed if there is any further update," he added.

In May 2007, Starwood said it had signed "its first Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Cambodia and the Indochina region ... scheduled to open in 2009".

The opening date was later rescheduled to January 1, 2011, a company official said Wednesday.

Starwood's Narumon did not offer any reason for the most recent push-back, but added: "Starwood is now operating Le Meridien Angkor in Siem Reap."

Le Meridien was opened in late 2004, but the parent company was in financial jeopardy, and the property was acquired by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in November 2005.

In June 2004, Hotel Asia Pacific Editor Steve Shellum reported that Le Meridien group was "in the process of being recapitalised, following the worst crisis in the history of the travel industry, which brought the company to its knees with debts of more than US$2 billion".

In December 2003, Lehman Brothers acquired the senior debt of the Le Meridien group from a syndicate of banks for about $1 billion.

Hotel Asia Pacific again reported in June 2004 that "Starwood Hotels & Resorts subsequently acquired a piece of the debt from Lehmans - but its investment is subject to completion of due diligence".

Excell eyes expansion of network, financiers

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Ith Sothoeuth

GT-TELL (Cambodia) Investment Company LTD said Wednesday that it is planning to expand its network coverage in the Kingdom and is looking for partners to invest in the plan.

Zarima Z Khodjaeva, assistant to the CEO of Excell, the brand name of GT-Tell in Cambodia that operates under the 018 exchange, said the mobile provider would look to expand to five provinces - Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Svay Rieng, Takeo and Siem Reap.

"We are planning to attract financing for the expansion plan ... partially," she said Wednesday.

"We have received a number of proposals.... The company is in the process of studying [them] to make [the] appropriate decision.

"It is too early to disclose any more information," she added.

She said that the predominantly Russian-owned mobile-phone company had already completed the required site survey, had imported the necessary equipment into Cambodia and was awaiting permission from the government before going ahead with the project.

"This expansion plan ... [is] according to our business plan," said Khodjaeva.

The government is finalising a draft telecoms law that will in part require increased sharing of mobile network infrastructure to avoid the duplication of towers commonly seen across the Kingdom.

"We welcome such a requirement," said Khodjaeva, adding that this provision would reduce capital expenditure on the part of Cambodia's mobile phone service providers, "which will ultimately lead to lower prices for end users".

Competitive mobile market
Excell's expansion plan comes as the company lags behind the current front-runners in Cambodia's crowded mobile sector - the mobile provider currently has about 40,000 users, Khodjaeva said.

This represents about 0.9 percent of Cambodia's market of roughly 4.4 million mobile users at the end of the first quarter, according to the industry publication Mobile World.

"We have put out our expansion plan to provide our services to more subscribers," Khodjaeva said.

"During the first year our growth was better than we expected," she said, adding that the company - which started operations in August 2008 - originally targeted 25,000 users in its first year of operation.

"We will continue working on the gradual expansion of our network and [on] improving our services," Khodjaeva said.

Japanese food giant to invest $6m in PPSEZ

The Phnom Penh Post
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Steve Finch

JAPANESE conglomerate Ajinomoto, which specialises in foods and seasonings, said it will invest US$6 million in a factory at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone (PPSEZ).

Ichiro Nishimura, president of Ajinomoto (Cambodia) Co Ltd, said the Cambodian arm of the multinational company would be established next month, with construction on a monosodium glutomate (MSG) packing factory due to start in October.

"We think Cambodia is an attractive market," Nishimura said Monday by email, citing Cambodia's high economic growth and similarities with Vietnam and Thailand, where the company already has a presence.

For the first phase, Ajinomoto will construct a 2,940 square-metre facility, Nishimura said. It is scheduled to go online in September next year with 150 employees.

PPSEZ Managing Director Hiroshi Uematsu said that Ajinomoto agreed to occupy 31,240 square metres when it signed a contract last month.
Operations will expand into different products and local production in the future, he added.

We think Cambodia is an attractive market [in which to invest].

Producing about one-third of the world's MSG, Ajinomoto has already established offices and production facilities in Asia, North and South America, and Europe.

In the fiscal year to the end of March, the company saw operating income fall 33 percent compared with a year earlier to 40.8 billion yen (US$43.4 million), resulting in a net loss of 10.2 billion yen.

Uematsu said the Japanese food company was the 21st to sign up at the PPSEZ, although he noted that so far only five were operational, with a further four companies set to go online next year.

"The remaining 12 are not sure, some are not performing," he said. "We have to wait for ... recovery of the economy."

Uematsu expressed concern that some companies that had signed contracts to set up at the special economic zone but were not yet operational may be land speculators.

If that were found to be the case, their plots would be retrieved for legitimate manufacturers, he said.

Previously, Uematsu noted that new contracts had dried up at the zone at the beginning of the year, apparently as a direct result of the global economic crisis, but that in the past few months the situation had recovered.

Further new companies were expected in the near future, he added.

PPSEZ Marketing Director Lity Yap told the Post in April that the second phase of the planned 360-hectare zone had been put on hold due to the number of factory closures across the country and the general economic downturn.

"We were supposed to launch phase 2 this year, but instead we will wait and see how it goes," she said at the time.

"We really don't know the ultimate effect of the world economic crisis on Cambodia. Everybody is taking a wait-and-see approach."