Friday, 4 September 2009

Cambodia in Pictures

China invests $80 mln in Cambodian power sector

04 Sep 2009

PHNOM PENH, Sept 4 - Cambodia has signed an $80 million deal with China National Heavy Machinery Co to build a power transmission network in areas around the capital where factories have mushroomed in the past decade, a power official said on Friday.

Keo Rattanak, director general of Cambodia's Electricite du Cambodge, said the project, which would start next year and take three years to complete, was part of government efforts to address complaints by foreign investors.

The loop line transmission network will bring in electricity from various sources, including hydropower plants built by China in the northwest and southwest provinces, as well as a $160 million, Malaysian-funded coal-fired power plant in the south, he said.

Foreign investors, many of them with factories making garments on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, have complained about the high cost and unreliability of utilities.

In response, the government wants to attract $3 billion of foreign investment to build six hydropower plants and a coal power plant by 2018.

Cambodia currently produces an estimated 300 MW of electricity and aims to meet current demand of about 500 MW with the help of supplies from neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam.

In Soklyda Recounted Events about the Acid Attack Related to Chea Ratha – Thursday, 3.9.2009

Posted on 4 September 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 628

“Phnom Penh: In Soklyda, known to have had a relation with former Military Police brigadier general, Ms. Chea Ratha, participated in a press conference organized by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO).

“In the evening of 2 September 2009, LICADHO held a press conference at its headquarters with Ms. In Soklyda, Ms. Ya Soknim [her aunt], and her mother, where the three of them recounted in detail events related to the previous acid attack against Ms. In Soklyda’s aunt, Ms. Ya Soknim, and they accused Ms. Chea Ratha to be the person responsible for the attack.

“Ms. In Soklyda said, in between sobs, that Ms. Chea Ratha is a person involved in many previous cases of acid attacks including against [CTN commentator] Mr. Tith Polen and against her aunt, Ms. Ya Soknim.

“She added that there is much evidence to prove that Ms. Chea Ratha was involved in those cases, including voice recordings of phone calls; however, the court had decided to drop the charges against her, due to a lack of evidence. In the meantime, Ms. In Soklyda expressed concers about her own safety when Ms. Chea Ratha is now freed from charges and can return home.

“Ms. In Soklyda’s aunt, Ms Ya Soknim, who is the victim of an acid attack, said in the conference that she is worried about her safety, after the court had decided to drop the charges against Ms. Chea Ratha.

“Also, both Ms. In Soklyda and Ms. Ya Soknim, asked for intervention by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, over this case, and called for support to offer her asylum.

“Kampuchea Thmey could not reach Ms. Chea Ratha for comment in the evening of 2 September 2009, but her lawyer, Mr. Keo Ya, had claimed that his client was not involved in that acid attack, and that she can return back [to Cambodia] soon. Also, Mr. Keo Ya hopes that the Royal Government will offer the position of Military Police brigadier general back to his client.

“The president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Mr. Chiv Keng, could not be reached for comment by phone in the evening of 2 September 2009.

“Regarding the announcement of the verdict by the Municipal Court, Ms. In Soklyda, LICADHO, and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, released a joint statement in the evening of 2 September 2009, calling the decision to drop the charges against Ms. Chea Ratha and her accomplices a display of impunity in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“It should be remembered that on 21 August 2009, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced to lift the accusations against seven suspects involved in the acid attack against Ms. In Soklyda’s aunt, claiming that there was insufficient evidence to put the burden on them.

“After Ms. In Soklyda’s aunt had been attacked with acid, the authorities had arrested two people for involvement in the attack and they said that Ms. Chea Ratha was the most important person of this case. After that, Interpol had issued a red warrant in 180 countries to arrest Ms. Chea Ratha.

“Since then, Ms. Chea Ratha has hidden herself, and recently, after the court decided to drop charges against her, a news source said that she will return home soon.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8,#20,.9.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 3 September 2009

Human rights, human wrongs

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Mu Sochua joins a march through the streets of Phnom Penh to celebrate Human Rights Day earlier this year.

Friday, 04 September 2009
Mu Sochua

Dear Editor,

I write to comment on the concerns expressed by the government of Cambodia regarding the upcoming hearing on human rights in Cambodia by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, reported by The Phnom Penh Post on September 2, 2009 ["US hearing 'absolutely unfair': govt"].

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission - formally the Congressional Human Rights Commission founded in 1983 by the late Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress - is an eminent commission co-chaired by congressmen from both the majority and minority parties.

The eight members of the executive committee of the commission are also equally divided and represented, and the rules of a congressional hearing ensure mandatory consultations with the minority party. Unfortunately, such practice and respect for democratic principles is not the case in the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia, where all nine commissions are chaired and represented solely by the Cambodian People's Party through the practice of winner-takes-all.

The September 10 congressional hearing is organised to address concerns of US lawmakers over the widespread crackdowns on critics of the Cambodian government and the use of the judiciary as a tool to silence the voice of the opposition.

It is also because the Cambodian government has demonstrated insignificant acknowledgment to recommendations issued by the US State Department, UN bodies, donor governments, civil society and the opposition for democratic, legal and just resolutions to conflicts.

As mandated by the US Congress, the commission is nobly fulfilling its mission by holding hearings that are open to the public. Educating members of Congress and their staff on human rights is part of the mission of the commission, and it is through these public hearings that the US has made improvements on its human rights records; and, as in other countries, this mechanism of checks and balances helps prevent serious forms of human rights violations, including corruption in the state system.

The US contribution to Cambodia is more than US$50 million per year. The US Congress should be aware of how this aid is benefiting the people of Cambodia. The US government, through its embassy, communicates with the government of Cambodia on a regular basis. Congressional delegations also visit Cambodia on a regular basis.

It is rather interesting to note the comment of the spokesman of the Foreign Ministry in Cambodia, calling the hearing "absolutely unfair" while the ministry officially warned all governments providing assistance to Cambodia against interfering in the "internal affairs" of Cambodia following recent public remarks, made by the US ambassador to Cambodia, on corruption.

Furthermore, the Foreign Ministry attacked the US State Department's 2008 annual human rights report as "hypocritical and politically motivated" because the report outlines US concerns over Cambodia's poor human rights record. The labelling and unresponsive statements to outside reports are a practice of the government and, at times, even go beyond respect for world leaders renowned for their commitment to the defence of human rights.

The statement of the president of the Cambodian National Committee on Human Rights, in this quote by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur in 2000, illustrates the attitude of the Cambodian government: "It is simply not true. Cambodia is not like he says. It is beneath Cambodia to respond to people like this," he said, referring to professor Yash Ghai, former envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It should also be remembered that the Cambodian government even failed to send a high level delegation to meet with the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva this past May.

Sustainable solutions for sustainable development to a post-conflict nation such as Cambodia cannot be achieved with technical and financial assistance alone. The rights of the people to receive basic services such as health care and education, decent housing, titles to land and their freedom to express opinions are part of development principles and ethics and the code of conduct for civil servants and public figures to accept and to uphold. Effective mechanisms of accountability and political will for reforms have been lacking in Cambodia and the chance of dialogue for constructive resolutions almost entirely shut.

When elected representatives of the people are pursued in court or publicly humiliated or denounced by using state institutions, including the courts, to protect wrongdoings of the state, with no venues to remedy these malpractices, Cambodia as a whole is the victim. The systematic denial of the violations of human rights hurts the people and the interests of the nation while providing total protection and reinforcement to violators of human rights, whether they be private individuals, civil servants or politicians.

Finally, it is regrettable that the Foreign Ministry spokesman sees no chance that the situation on human rights will improve after the hearing. Does he mean there are violations of human rights in Cambodia after all?

Mu Sochua, MP
Sam Rainsy Party

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

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

Jury says man competent for trial in wife's killing

Published online on Friday, Sep. 04, 2009
By Pablo Lopez / The Fresno Bee

A 69-year-old Fresno man who police say has confessed to killing his wife in October is legally competent to stand trial, a Fresno County Superior Court jury has ruled.

Pech Sok is an uneducated Cambodian refugee who knows little English and has lived a miserable life, lawyers told jurors this week during Sok's competency hearing. He was tortured in Cambodia and his first wife died there, the lawyers said.

He hasn't fared much better in Fresno. In August 1998, Sok's second wife, Eng Ath, and two of the couple's children, Sophan and Sopheap, drowned in the San Joaquin River while fishing.

Now, Sok is charged with killing his third wife, Bouen Say, 61, who was stabbed to death at the couple's home in the 400 block of South Woodrow Avenue on Oct. 1. After the attack, police said, Sok cut himself with a knife.

Prosecutor Jeff Dupras told jurors that it was OK to feel sorry for Sok "but it can't cloud your judgment."

Sok has already confessed to police that he killed his wife because she was leaving him, Dupras said. "He knows what he did and he expects to be punished," Dupras said.

The hearing in Judge Gary Orozco's courtroom, however, wasn't to determine whether he was guilty of the crime, Dupras said. It was to determine whether he could understand the court proceedings and assist in his defense.

Psychologist Laura Geiger and Harold Seymour testified that they examined Sok in jail and determined he was legally incompetent because he had problems with his memory and signs of dementia.

His problems stem from being tortured in Cambodia and knocked out several times, attorney Manuel Nieto, who represented Sok, told the panel. Nieto argued that Sok should be sent to a Atascadero State Hospital for treatment.

Dr. Julian Smith, a psychiatrist, however, testified that Sok declined to be evaluated by him, but nevertheless showed enough signs of competency to stand trial.

Dupras told the panel that Sok doesn't have a diagnosed mental disorder. He also said that just because Sok doesn't want to assist his counsel, that doesn't give him the legal grounds to be declared incompetent.

Since his wife's killing, Dupras said, Sok's attitude has been: "Just put me in jail and leave me alone."

After hearing the legal arguments, the jury deliberated about an hour before announcing late Wednesday that Sok was legally competent. Sok's preliminary hearing is now scheduled for Sept. 30.

The reporter can be reached at or (559) 441-6434.

The child sex trade in Cambodia

By Cassandra Clifford
Wednesday, September 2

Children around the world are forced into the sex trade, very often by their own families, mislead by promises of economic opportunity or pushed by desperation. The commercial sex industry is fueled by poverty, but driven by demand and while the issue of poverty must be addressed, so must the those who prey on women and children such as through the sex tourism industry.

One of the many countries ravished by sex trafficking is Cambodia. Organizations such , as UNICEF, ECPAT and Save the Children, estimate that there are anywhere from from 50,000 to 100,000 women and girls in the sex trade in Cambodia. Of those in the commercial sex industry in the country many are children, some as young as only a few years old. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) “the majority (52.2%) of female sex trafficking survivors identified were under the age of 17 at the time of trafficking”.

As the global recession continues, children are increasingly vulnerable to sex trafficking. In Phnom Penh, which has about a quarter of the countries sex industry, children who are begging and peddling are increasingly at risk. Many children roam around the city’s Riverside were pedophiles and human traffickers are also known to prey on their innocence.

Little girls who should be giggling and playing with dolls are offering sex in child like terms with happy smiles, “yum-yum, boom-boom”. The normality of it all what is more shocking as children, some as young as four or six, who know nothing other than a life of sex and exploitation. A child who knows more about sex than toys, who think that grown men everywhere desire little girls as their play things…this is the sad reality that is life for many children in Cambodia and across the globe.

In February 2008 the Cambodian government enacted a “Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation”, which was done mostly after years of pressure from the United States. One such form of pressure coming from the US was the country’s low ratings on the State Departments notorious TIP Report, the 2009 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, placed Cambodia on the Tier 2 Watch List. Following the country’s first step to use legal means to impact and deter trafficking, they imposed ban on foreign marriages, in March 2008. The ban was enacted largely in response to a sharp increase in marriages between South Korean men and poor Cambodian women, many who were not destined to newly wedded bliss, but a life forced into sexual slavery. Since the law was enacted Cambodian authorities have conducted numerous raids and cracked down on street prostitution, however the crack down according to many non-profits, has done little to help the actual situation, let alone the victims.

For more eye opening incite into the Cambodian sex trade and those whom it takes as its victims in its unrelenting path, see the following video:

Women and girls are not the only victims of trafficking and slavery in Cambodia, nor is the sex industry the only exploitative industry the country has to a great deal of work to do in order to combat. One such area is labor, such as seen in the recent SIREN case analysis: Cambodian men and boys exploited on long-haul fishing boats, English PDF

Koh Pich Island Gets the Go Ahead

Koh Pich´s skyscrapers are soon to be completed

Written by DAP NEWS
Friday, 04 September 2009

Phnom Penh’s development is continuing apace with investments in local and international companies, in high rises and other developments. Koh Pich (diamond island) is the latest.

The island originally appeared in the river near NagaWorld in 1984 and has become bigger and bigger since.

Formerly covered only with grass and anarchic ramshackle dwellings, the island is will see a major investment after the Cambodian Governm- ent’s sub degree approval to OCIC of Pung Kheav Se to make develop it into a new suburb.

Kep Chutema, Phnom Penh governor, told reporters that the island, formerly a den of iniquity and crime, now will be developed by the OCIC company.

“This island investment is author- ized properly by the Cambodian Government and this is to become a new city in Phnom Penh of which we are so proud as it is helping promote Cambodian livelihood in the near future,” said Kep Chutema.

Some questions have been raised over residents of the areas who have been evicted, environment concerns, especially the water flow which has changed.

The Environment Impact Assess- ment (EIA) was apparently deemed to be very important.

Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology officials accompanied Phnom Penh authorities along with Investment company directors on Thursday had a tour for checking and following the process of developing the island.

Following investigations, Lim Kean Hor, Lake, River Limitation Committee head and Cambodian Mekong River Committee head, confirmed that “This company has not developed and invested in abuses of the Cambodian Government’s authority.”

However, the minister asked the company president to build bank protections to avoid erosion that could affect other local residents.

“Two years ago, my investment faced some problems with the citizens who lived along the river bank as we had to need their some part of land size to build bank protection so that all of them were unhappy,” Pung Kheav Se told reporters. “We have to keep wide face of water flow and if some part of land is occurring, we have to cut it off in order to avoid flood which leads to river bank collapse.”

“This bank protection is to be built for 3 km soon,” Lim Kean Hor said. “The water flow from Mekong through Bassac River is very narrow so that some part of land has to be taken off.”

The investment company head also confirmed that his companies has so far spent around US$55 million on the island, though progress has slowed due to the impact of the global economic crisis.

“Some expert officials working in Environment Impact Assessment from China and Vietnam showed their similar result of EIA with Cambodian expert officials.”

Cambodian expert officials must now be careful to follow the assessment of this island investment as it could have major implications for the Mekong River.

Cambodia Still Keeps Using its Own Resources with A/H1N1 Curbing

Written by DAP NEWS
Friday, 04 September 2009

Cambodian Health Ministry officials on Thursday confirmed that the Cambodian Government is still using its own and other related agencies’ resources. The confirmation comes after rumors that the Camb-odian Government has officially requested US$2 million from the World Bank (WB) to buy vaccine to help curb the spread of A/H1N1 in Cambodia.

“So far, we have not had an official request to any agency to add more resources in order to curb A/H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, spreading in Cambodia,” Morm Bun Heng told DAP News Cambodia on Thursday.

“We still use our existing resources from our government and some other related agencies,” he added.

Sok Touch, director of the Health Ministry’s Department of Disease and Communicable Control, also confirmed that the ministry is still using only its existing resources.

“We have not had a request to ask to add more resource to buy vaccine at all … we only focus on A/H1N1 protection,” he said.

The official confirmed that the ministry is currently implementing protection measures to avoid the spread of A/H1N1. The Singaporean Government on Tuesday donated a third scanner to Cambodia’s Health Ministry in order to curb the spread of A/H1N1, commonly called swine flu.

This is the third scanner that the Singaporean Government has provided to the Cambodian Health Ministry, Sok Touch told DAP News Cambodia on Monday.

According to the official, the number of A/H1N1 infections currently stands at 31 cases.

Cambodia began scanning passengers for fever at its two international airports on April 28, 2009 to stem the spread of swine flu. Staff at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports began screening passengers with thermal-imaging equipment then.

The onset of Cambodia’s cool season, rather optimistically termed a ‘winter’ by many locals, has prompted the Health Ministry to ramp up measures to prevent the spread of A/H1N1, a Health Ministry official told DAP News Cambodia on Friday.

Cambodia’s Health Ministry and the World Health Organization issued a statement on June 24, 2009 to document the kingdom’s first case.

The first infected person was a 16-year-old US citizen visiting Cambodia as part of a student group, arrived in Phnom Penh on June 19. She developed symptoms the following days.

The Cambodian Ministry of Health, in cooperation with World Health Organization (WHO), is striving to control the A/H1N1 situation, working to curb the spread of the virus and keeping the public well informed with updates.

Cambodia is the latest nation to be hit by A/H1N1 virus epidemic, after neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos all confirmed cases.

The ministry again called on the public to practice good personal hygiene at all times to prevent the spread of Influenza A/H1N1.

30-Floor Skyscraper to Open in October

Written by DAP NEWS
Friday, 04 September 2009

The building located on the corner of Monivong Boulevard and Russia federation Boulevard, which will become the largest occupied building in Cambodia, will officially open in October this year, the owner said on Thursday.

This building has 30 floors and is 119 meters high; it is the first skyscraper in Phnom Penh and also in the kingdom,” said Pong Khieu Se, director general of Canadia Bank. He did not elaborate about the amount of Canadia’s investment.

This building will be divided into three parts: the lower section for banks, a second floor for office rentals, and a third section with a high quality market, fitness clubs and other services.

This trade building took 5 years to construct and helicopter pad on top of the building, he said. Pong also is the developer of Koh Pich (Diamond island) near NagaWorld.

Banking in Cambodia Increases

Written by DAP NEWS
Friday, 04 September 2009

Despite the ongoing economic downturn, which has adversely affected Cambodia just as elsewhere, the banking sector seems so far to have escaped relatively unscathed, the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) said on Thursday. There 27 banks in Cambodia.

NBC Treasury Secretary Chea Chanto noted that banks in Cambodia hail from the US, Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and India.

Current assets and deposits have increased compared to December 2008, he added.

Director of the Cambodia Institute of Finance (CIF) Chan Sophal said that “It is a new output for Cambodia.”

“The banking sector in Cambodia is better, because we have various investors from abroad.”

The economic situation in Camb- odia should continue to improve as long as outside conditions do not change, experts said.

In the first semester 2009, the world economy contracted about 13 percent compared to 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen addressed that “In 2009, we will try to catch the at least 6 percent economic growth, deal with deflation, support finance and stabilize the exchange rate.”

In 2010, all private banks must increase capital from US$13 million to US$37 million to strengthen the Cambodian banking system.

The Ministry of Finance and Economy has been instrumental in organizing such regulation and legislation.

Cambodia, JICA Plans Sustainable Development for Coast

Written by DAP NEWS
Friday, 04 September 2009

The Cambodian Government and the Japan International of Cooperation Agency (JICA) will cooperate to develop the beaches of the southern coast, according a Government official said on Thursday.

Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction Im Chhun Lim said on September 3 that the PM asked his ministry to join with JICA to make a plan to develop beach areas in four provinces Kampot (including Kep), Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk provinces to ensure sustainable development.

“JICA wants to enhance some sectors as social activities, develop areas, reduce poverty and build capacity.” JICA will provide loans to develop some beach areas, especially in the already popular Preah Sihanouk region, he said. “Each of four provinces should have a master plan to improve the town by the determination to develop till 2030 the agricultural sector, manufacturing, tourism, a protected environment, infrastructure and natural resources.”

JICA representative in Cambodia Suzuki Yafujiro said that “JICA is a key supporter for this project to many developments´ sectors, to improve sustainability in Cambodia and to enhance the economy.”

“Preah Sihanouk province is the best for the project,” Yafujiro stressed.

He said that Preah Sihanouk International Port, the only deepwater port in Cambodia able to handle large vessels, will be improved by ODA of Japan to insure efficient porcessiing of imports and exports.

“Preah Sihanouk is both a manufacturing city and an attractive destination for of international foreigners to visit because it is close to the Vietnam border and can be reached from Siem Reap,” he stressed.

Cambodian Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Sboung Sarath told DAP News Cambodia that, “I am not sure for this project yet.”

Stock Exchange Commission Warn about Illegality of Bond Issuers

Written by DAP NEWS
Friday, 04 September 2009

The Security and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) has informed publics about the illegal bonds which have advertised to sell shares, a statement from SECC obtained on Thursday said.

“We have found recently that some companies advertised on media by invitation of clients to buy bonds and security shares of their companies without permission from the SECC,” it said, adding that this activity has been opposed by Cambodian authorities. According to article 16 of the law of Publishing and Public Bond Exch ange, “any sale of the bonds or selling security share publicly in Cambodia needs to have permission in adva nce from SECC.” SECC manages and controls the bond and securities field in Cambodia. “We would like to inform general publics who is aiming at buying bonds and security share of any companies need to check clearly about the legitimacy of the publishing of bonds of those companies,” said an SECC statement.

Reports of wrongdoings should be made to the legal affairs department of the SECC at house 99, street 598, Sangkat Phnom Penh Thmei.

Verdict of Borey Keila Land Dispute

Written by DAP NEWS
Friday, 04 September 2009

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday ruled a dispute over the ownership of a valuable area of real estate between two well-connected Cambodians.

Suy Sophan denied selling some flats and land—a block Borey Keila —for US$4.9 million, but Siv Kong Triv claimed she sold it to him, a court official said.

Kong Triv filed a lawsuit to Phnom Penh Municipal Court to protect what he claims is his asset, saying that Sophan sold the real estate to him, though she plans to rent or sell it to someone else.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chey Sovann announced the real estate would be awarded to Kong Triv because Suy Sophan had sold the real estate to him on December 05, 2007, the officer stressed. “To the protests of Sophan, the court did not agree,” the court official added.

Kong Triv apparently heard Sophan would sell to the real estate to another customer so he decided to file a case at court.

Suy Sophan asked DAP News Cambodia not t publish details of the story.

DAP News Cambodia could not contact Chey Sovann of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. A court clerk claimed to have no knowledge of the case.

Pig Fly Out of Markets for Chinese Ceremony

Written by DAP NEWS
Friday, 04 September 2009

A Chinese celebration held in Cambodia on Thursday needed five tons of pork.

Cambodian-Chinese and Chinese immigrants both were very busy preparing food for their ancestors as the Chinese ceremony dictates.

“Today, I have 5,000 pigs to be sold, but we usually sell only about 3,000 normally,” a pork vendor told DAP News Cambodia on Thursday.

Srun Pov of the Cambodian Pig Farmers Group said that only businessmen benefit from the Chinese ceremony while pig farmers “do not gain benefits this season.” “Many pigs are exported from Thailand and Vietnam which disheartens us.” One housewife said pork vendors did brisk trade in the capital’s markets.

“I saw a crowd of people buy pig meat in markets,” Yan Lin told DAP News Cambodia on Thursday. Cambodian Government officials allowed the import of 800 pigs, but Srun Pov claimed there were clearly many more pigs imported.

“Careful pig checking is not implemented by the officials so it can affect human health,” he added.

Kao Phal, a health ministry official, could not be reached on Thursday to comment on these allegations.

Many complained of perceived price gouging, with a 5kg pig fetching the nearly US$60.

Land mine victims face bleak prospects: survey

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Double amputee Chhay Sorn, 47, who lost his leg in 1981 while serving as a soldier, begs along the riverside on Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Chrann Chamroeun and Robbie Corey-Boulet

DISCRIMINATION and poor education are among the factors preventing land mine victims from finding jobs, depriving many of access to basic necessities such as food, water and housing, according to a new survey of land mine survivors.

Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents said they believed land mine survivors were the last to be chosen for jobs, according to a report on the findings from Handicap International titled "Voices from the Ground: Landmine and Explosive Remnants of War Survivors Speak Out on Victim Assistance".

The report, released Wednesday, was tied to the launch of a campaign calling on an upcoming mine action conference to increase assistance to amputees and other land mine survivors. At that conference, to be held in Cartagena, Colombia, Cambodia will present its national strategy for clearing all antipersonnel mines, a requirement under the 1997 Ottawa Treaty.

Whereas Cambodia has made marked improvements in the medical care and physical rehabilitation of land mine survivors, economic integration and employment opportunities are still lagging, according to the report, which drew on the responses of 78 survivors.

Chhay Sorn, a 47-year-old land mine survivor, said in an interview Thursday that the bleak job outlook prompted him to move from his native Kandal province to Phnom Penh five years ago. He now earns between US$1 and $2 each day begging money from tourists on Sisowath Quay.

He said he was injured in a land mine explosion in Pailin while fighting the Khmer Rouge in 1981. After he recovered, an NGO trained him to make artificial legs and wheelchairs, he said, but the money he was able to earn with that training was insufficient, even though he was unmarried and had no children.

"It was very difficult for me to find a job because there is discrimination against crippled men in this society," he said.

More than two-thirds of respondents said they believed economic reintegration opportunities had not improved since 2005, according to the report. Only 17 percent said they had seen some improvement.

But the report noted some progress on the discrimination front: 73 percent said they believed educational and professional discrimination had decreased.

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Double amputee Chum Sokhorn, 46, sells books on the riverside Thursday.

Thong Vinol, executive director of the Disability Action Council, said Thursday that he had also seen a decrease in discrimination, adding that disability legislation adopted and approved earlier this year would be "a key instrument" in reducing it further.

That said, the survey found that discriminatory hiring policies remained in place in government schools, and that the Ministry of Social Affairs,

Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation continued to insist that job applicants be "able-bodied". Officials from the ministries could not be reached for comment Thursday. The report noted that the Education Ministry was "revising its policies".

The survey yielded a particularly dismal assessment of the government pension system, with delayed payments and bribery among the issues reported.

The report warned several times that Cambodia's dependence on external support for disability services might not be sustainable: "Donor fatigue and prospects of reduced aid were considered as challenges to continuing the current level of service provision."

Heng Ratana, director general of the Cambodian Mine Action Centre, said he had not seen the report, but that Cambodia had "limited resources" and would need to rely on external support for the foreseeable future.

This view was echoed by Chum Bunrong, secretary general of the Cambodian Mine Action and Victims Assistance Authority.

"Cambodia is poor. That's why it needs NGOs to help," he said.

The Phnom Penh office of Handicap International Belgium declined to comment in advance of a forthcoming press conference to announce the report's findings.


A soldier speaks out

Former soldier Chum Sakhorn, 46, said he lost both legs in an explosion in Kampong Speu province in 1989. His inability to find a job led him to move from his hometown in Takeo province to Phnom Penh, where he sells books along Sisowath Quay. He said he earned $5-$7 per day, which he said allowed him to rent a house and support his seven children. "I like it better than being a street beggar, which is looked down on in society," he said. He said he wanted the government to bolster pensions for former soldiers, adding: "We were disfigured for the motherland's protection."

Ducks for the dead

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Heng Chivoan

Vendors prepare roast ducks to be offered to dead relatives during the Chinese festival of Sen Kbal Teuk that commenced Thursday. In addition to three meals a day, paper goods including clothing, shoes and fake money are burned as gifts for dead loved ones.

Find the pot of gold and win

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Uong Ratana

Not a rainbow, but a ring known as a 22-degree halo shines around the sun above Phnom Penh on Wednesday. These colourful rings are usually formed by ice crystals in the clouds that act like prisms for the sun's light.

Sochua refuses to pay PM, fine

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Meas Sokchea

SAM Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua maintained Thursday that she will not pay 16.5 million riels (US$3,937) in penalties imposed on her after she was found guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, even if her defiance risks landing her in jail.

Speaking ahead of today's deadline to hand over the cash, Mu Sochua said that it is she - not the prime minister - who is the victim following a round of lawsuits that has drawn sharp criticism from the international community, which has accused the government of using the courts to silence political dissent.

"My stance is the same. I will not pay. If I pay the fine, it means I agree to recognise my mistake. Even if I was imprisoned, I would not pay," Mu Sochua told the Post from New York, where she is receiving medical attention.

Mu Sochua was convicted August 4 of defaming Hun Sen and ordered by Phnom Penh Municipal Court to pay 8.5 million riels in fines and 8 million riels in compensation to the prime minister, who said that her defamation accusations against him damaged his reputation.

The conflict stemmed from a speech Hun Sen gave in Kampot province in April, during which Mu Sochua said he made derogatory references to her, prompting her to file defamation charges.

The premier said that he never referred specifically to Mu Sochua in his comments, and his lawyers countersued. Mu Sochua's case was dismissed June 10 by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Mu Sochua said that to pay the fine would be an admission of guilt.

She also questioned the premier's motivation, pointing out that he did not file his lawsuit until after she had lodged her own legal complaint.

"Hun Sen did not complain the first time this was raised," she said. "He only raised his complaint against me when I held a press conference to complain about him. If he wasn't speaking about me, who was he speaking about?

"He should admit his mistake, but instead of doing so, he continues [to exacerbate the problem]. Who created the problem in the first place?" she added. "He should be open about who he was speaking about. I'm a woman; I need my reputation. No other country in the world would say something that impacts female parliamentarians."

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party backed Mu Sochua's decision to defy the court ruling. "She has said that she will not pay [the fine and compensation to Hun Sen]. She is the victim here," he said.

Chan Soveth, an investigating official with human rights group Adhoc, said it was wrong of Mu Sochua to refuse to pay, but that the courts should first prove that she was guilty. "I need law enforcement for all people," he said.

Last month, the Court of Appeal postponed a hearing on the dismissal of Sochua's lawsuit against the prime minister due to her absence from the court.

Hun Sen's lawyer Ky Tech said Thursday he did not wish to comment until after the hearing. "Let the Appeal Court decide first and ... then we may [rethink our strategy]," he said.

Mu Sochua is due to return to Cambodia on September 23.

Police presence to rise for holiday

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Chrann Chamroeun

NATIONAL Police will increase security around the country during the 15 days of the Pchum Ben festival, National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said Thursday.

Pchum Ben, the festival of the dead, runs Saturday to September 20. During that time, the Kingdom's residents will deliver food to monks at temples, travel to visit other provinces and offer food for the spirits of deceased relatives at funeral stupas.

On Monday, National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun issued a directive to police around the country calling on them to bolster their presence around temples and other areas that will see large gatherings of people during the festival. "This is just our annual reminder to police to operate carefully and responsibly during the festival," Kirt Chantharith said. Security forces at temples must be increased for the holiday, particularly in more remote areas, and large public areas must also be protected, he added.

Nuon Samin, the provincial police chief for Kampong Cham, said Thursday that he had received the directive and was preparing for the ceremony accordingly.

"We are ready to crack down on any crime that might occur during Pchum Ben, and we plan to deploy police from district offices to improve security at temples and other gathering places," he said.

No help for Hang Chakra from council

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Vong Sokheng

SENIOR officials at the Ministry of Justice said that the Supreme Council of the Magistracy has no power to intervene in the case of jailed newspaper publisher Hang Chakra, despite a letter sent by King Norodom Sihamoni to Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana asking that the council reconsider the publisher's conviction.

Hang Chakra, the publisher of the Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, was convicted in June of defamation and publishing false information in connection with a series of articles published in April and May accusing officials working for Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption. He was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 9 million riels (US$2,187). The Court of Appeal rejected his case on August 11.

In a letter dated August 24, a group of local media and civil society groups wrote to the King, urging him to request that the Supreme Council of the Magistracy reconsider Hang Chakra's case. The King then forwarded the request to Ang Vong Vathana.

"We considered the request of the King, but based on our analysis, we do not believe that the Supreme Council of the Magistracy has the power or obligation to examine the conviction of the court," a Ministry of Justice official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Tuesday. "I think that the publisher should use his right to appeal to the Supreme Court to reconsider the conviction."

Touch Naro, the president of the Cambodia Journalist Watch Association and one of the signatories of the letter, argued that according to the 1995 Press Law, Hang Chakra's conviction should never have occurred.

"We need an explanation about the legal process that put Chakra in jail, because he did not commit any crimes," he said.

Choung Chou Ngy, Hang Chakra's lawyer, told the Post that he visited his client in jail on Wednesday, finding him in poor health and unsure of whether he will appeal his conviction to the Supreme Court.

Ang Vong Vathana could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Pesticide blamed for fainting spells at factory

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Mom Kunthear

THE Ministry of Labour on Thursday said overuse of a pesticide at a garment factory in Russey Keo district was to blame for workers fainting on the job last week.

About 130 workers mysteriously fainted at Maurea Garment Corp in Svay Pak commune. Pok Vanthat, director of the Labour Health Department, said Thursday that the workers fainted "because of overuse of a chemical pesticide employed to protect their clothes from insects", adding that general weakness among some of the workers was also to blame.

"[Today] I will verify whether conditions at the factory are safe enough for workers to return," he said. "I will allow workers who did not faint to enter first, and if they are not affected, then those who fell ill will be allowed to return to work," he said.

Va Rithy, a health officer at Maurea Garment Corp, questioned the ministry's conclusion.

"I don't think we can say that it was because of overuse of a pesticide," he said, adding that prior to the fainting spells, firefighters had deployed simulated smoke in a training exercise that might have caused the fainting.

Civil parties start boycott of KR tribunal

Photo by: AFP
Khmer Rouge survivor and Cambodian civil party Nam Mon points to a photo of her brother, a victim of the Khmer Rouge, Monday at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Chean Sokha and Robbie Corey-Boulet

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal lost some familiar faces this week as a group of civil parties - some of whom had been attending almost daily - launched a boycott protesting a decision they said unfairly restricted their participation.

The Trial Chamber last week ruled that civil party lawyers would not be allowed to question character witnesses, prompting criticism that judges were reneging on their promise to allow for "enhanced recognition of victims" in proceedings, which is billed on the tribunal's Web site as one of its "major innovations".

During a press conference Monday, 28 civil parties complained that the tribunal was weighing the interests of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, over their own. An open letter to Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn listed examples of this "unbalanced" treatment, including the fact that Duch has been able to respond to all civil party testimony. Civil party Chum Sirath said Monday that the group would boycott until the chamber reconsidered its decision.

Court spokesman Reach Sambath said Thursday that the Trial Chamber had given no indication as to when it would explain the decision.

Civil party lawyer Kong Pisey said Thursday the decision was indefensible, adding that he had been hoping to ask questions about Duch's thinking and motives that had not been covered in earlier testimony.

Asked to provide an example, he said: "Duch converted to Christianity, so we want to ask him whether he thinks that cleared him of all the crimes he has committed."

Chum Mey, 79, a civil party who has attended nearly every day of the proceedings, also said he wanted to ask more questions about Duch's motives.

Nil Nonn this week repeatedly stonewalled efforts by civil party lawyers to raise the issue in court.

On Tuesday, for instance, civil party lawyer Alain Werner requested to read the open letter out for the judges. That request - along with three separate attempts by lawyers to explain to witnesses why the civil parties were not present - was denied, and by the end of the day Nil Nonn seemed to have grown tired of entertaining them.

"Alain Werner, you seem to have made the repetitive statement," he said. "We are not repetitious on this matter, and we will not allow you to raise this matter again."

The decision has effectively been finalised for the Duch trial. According to a press release issued Thursday, victim participation will be discussed during next week's plenary session, though only with respect to the court's second case. Civil party lawyers could file an appeal with the Supreme
Court Chamber, but this would not be processed before character testimony in the Duch trial concludes.

Long Panhavuth, a monitor for the Cambodia Justice Initiative, said Thursday that the dispute over civil party participation reflected widespread confusion about what their role should be.

UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said he did not believe there had been much confusion, though he noted that the system was new and thus led to "new experiences every day".

He said there is "always a balance between the rights of the accused and the rights of the victims", though he noted that "there is no other court in the world that has granted civil parties rights to the extent that this court has".

He added: "The court will welcome back the civil parties to attend the proceedings anytime."

Tuol Sambo community decries vote

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
May Titthara

VILLAGERS at the Tuol Sambo resettlement site, which is home to more than 60 HIV-positive individuals, are locked in a dispute with City Hall and the community's former chief over the appointment of a new leader after a vote Wednesday.

Residents say City Hall put forward five candidates from the community, but Khum Khoeun, chief of Tuol Sambo village, proposed a sixth - Sao Vanna - former chief of the community before its relocation from Borei Keila.

Khum Khoeun said he included Sao Vanna - named the new chief with 48 out of 62 votes - after Sao Vanna complained about not being a candidate to City Hall, which ultimately sided with him.

Suon Davy, another resident of the Tuol Sambo community, charged Sao Vanna with bringing others who live in Borei Keila to the new community to unfairly influence the vote. "Sao Vanna caused many problems for us during his leadership of the community while it was at Borei Keila," Suon Davy said, adding that he showed interest in the community only recently after NGOs and government officials had visited the site and offered donations.

Sao Vanna could not be reached comment Thursday.

No word on tax leniency

Photo by: Thun Sophea
Motorists call for a 50 percent reduction in motorcycle taxes in Poipet last week.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
May Titthara

Motorists say the government hasn't clarified any plan to reduce penalties for unlicenced, undutied vehicles.

MOTORISTS who gathered last week in provinces around the country to protest fines for unlicensed vehicles, enforced as part of the Land Traffic Law, are still awaiting resolution of their grievances by government authorities.

On August 12, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech at the graduation ceremony for Phnom Penh's Royal University of Law and Economics that traffic police and customs officers should begin imposing fines on those who had not paid import taxes or lacked licencing for their vehicles.

Under Article 79 of the Land Traffic Law, drivers of unregistered vehicles that lack licence plates may be subject to fines from 25,000 to 200,000 riels (US$6 to $48).

After thousands of people gathered last week in Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Preah Sihanouk and Battambang provinces, provincial authorities in these areas suspended fine collection and vehicle confiscation indefinitely, saying that they would consider a reduction in fine levels.

In the week since, however, those who protested have yet to hear any more on the matter from provincial officials.

"The police stopped fining us temporarily, but we are still waiting for a definite result before we pay the import taxes," said Phan Lavorn, a representative of protesters in Banteay Meanchey province.

Vor Vorn, a 31-year-old motorbike taxi driver from Siem Reap province who claimed to be a representative of the protesters there, said that drivers in his province would resume their demonstrations against the fees if the government does not provide them with a resolution by the end of this week.

"We really want to get a resolution so that we can go about our work with confidence," he said. "The government should help us by not delaying any longer ."

Sam Dy, a motorbike taxi driver from Preah Sihanouk province, said drivers there would also renew their protest if they do not hear from government officials soon. "Now we feel like thieves because we can't do our work without breaking the law," he said.

Meas Vuthy, deputy governor of Preah Sihanouk province, did not anticipate further problems in his province. "We have followed instructions from the General Department of Customs and Excise, as we are not fining the drivers for lacking licence plates, though they still have to pay the import tax," he said Thursday. All 117 motorbikes confiscated for lacking licence plates in his province have been returned, he added.

Pen Siman, director of the General Customs and Excise Department at the Ministry of Economy, could not be reach for comment Thursday. Nor could provincials officials from Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey.

Potential for price war looms over mobile sector, govt says

Hello promotes its new flat-rate tariff on Tuesday. MPTC has said competing mobile firms should monitor one another's prices.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Steve Finch

MPTC warns after meeting over still-unresolved price dispute that operators should be monitoring their competitors' tariffs

THE Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) has warned mobile-phone operators to monitor one another's prices amid a continuing disagreement over the tariffs offered by Beeline, citing "remarkably" declining revenues in the sector.

In an official account from a meeting of mobile operators, MPTC departments and Telecom Cambodia in Phnom Penh on August 14 obtained by the Post, the ministry recommended that companies report sector misdemeanors to the government.

The document refers in particular to below-cost pricing, the illegal use of other companies' prefixes - charges Mobitel has brought against Beeline - and blocking of network interconnectivity, a counter-accusation by the latter in a dispute that thus far remains unresolved.

"All companies were encouraged to monitor the service tariff offered by other companies and should not offer illegal services because the annual income generated has remarkably declined," the document notes.

It notes that these recommendations came from MPTC Minister So Khun following the meeting, which was chaired by MPTC Director General Mov Chakrya.

Figures released from various companies this year show that revenues in the sector have declined sharply.

Axiata, the parent company of Hello, said last month that revenues for its Cambodian operations fell 17.4 percent in the second quarter, citing aggressive promotional activities in the industry, including the distribution of free SIM cards.

Millicom International, the Luxembourg-registered telecoms multinational that currently holds a majority stake in market leader Mobitel, cited over-competiveness in the Kingdom's mobile sector for its decision to withdraw. It is currently finalising a deal that would see the Royal Group buy its stake for US$346 million.

However, one industry insider, who declined to be named, noted that penetration and users were increasing across the sector, and that growing revenues were being redistributed from early entrants to the newer arrivals.

Moscow-based Vimpelcom, the parent company of the Beeline brand through its local subsidiary Sotelco, announced 28 million rubles (US$884,468) in revenues for its Cambodia operations since its launch in May. It noted "initial sales have been strong".

It has been accused by Mobitel of pricing its services, at $0.05 a minute, at below cost, a charge it denies. The company on Tuesday stopped taking new customers on its "Boom" tariff but has promised existing customers they will continue to benefit from its low rates.

Simon Perkins, CEO of Hello in Cambodia, said Thursday that even $0.06-a-minute calls were "not sustainable".

"Only the larger players can generate sufficient revenue to meet their operating costs at these levels because they have the critical mass of total customers," he told the Post by email. "Once the revenue drops below certain levels, operators have to cut back on capital investment."

Mark Hanna, chief financial officer of Royal Group, accused Beeline on Thursday of "damaging the industry" through its pricing policies.

"Selling below cost in order to gain market share is irresponsible in any industry," he said.

Beeline defended itself this week, arguing that charging $0.05 a minute on certain tariffs didn't represent below-cost price overall because it was still making money on other mobile-phone services. Industry insiders say that it costs all mobile firms in Cambodia $0.0595 for a one-minute call. Beeline added that it charges users by the second, whereas it pays interconnect charges by the minute or part thereof, meaning it did not necessarily lose money on the calls.

Beeline was unavailable for further comment on Thursday.

A number of mobile companies have revised their tariffs in recent weeks.

Mobitel has recently announced it will charge by the second on calls and not by the minute. Hello this week announced a flat rate of $0.07-a-minute calls to all networks, and Beeline is scheduled to announce its new pricing policy today following the discontinuation of Boom on Tuesday.

SECC tells public to shun bogus securities

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Nguon Sovan

THE Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC) warned the public Thursday to be wary of companies trying to sell securities or bonds without approval.

Some companies had taken out advertisements inviting the public to buy their financial instruments in violation of the law on the issuance and trading of nongovernmental securities, the SECC said in an announcement Thursday.

Seang Thirith, director of the SECC's Department of Legal Affairs, identified SMCB Service Corporation Berhad as an offender Thursday, He told the Post the company had advertised in Nature Magazine that it was looking to sell shares from April until June.

According to the advertisement, the firm was selling bonds to the public on a seaweed plantation on Kep province's Rabbit Island. The company claimed it would provide a 30 percent return on the first year, 51 percent in the second year and 75 percent in the third year.

Mei Ratha, a representative of the company in Cambodia, was in Hungary on Thursday. A woman claiming to be his wife confirmed the company intended to sell bonds for the seaweed plantation, but it was not clear if it owned a plantation.

"This is my husband's plan, but as far as I know he has not bought any seaweed plantation in Kep yet," she said.

Seang Thirith said he had twice invited the company for talks, but that it had failed to appear. "For the first step, we just inform the public to be careful they are not cheated by this company," he said. "If the company continues to advertise in order to cheat the public, we will take legal action against them."

EdC signs electricity line deal with China

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Chun Sophal

Electricite Du Cambodge signed an agreement Thursday with China National Heavy Machinery Co (CHMC) to build a US$80 million electricity transmission loop line around Phnom Penh.

The project, which is due to commence next year and be completed in 2012, is to be financed with a soft loan from the Chinese government.

The Phnom Penh Loop Line Transmission System would connect to transmission lines bringing electricity from all over Cambodia, including hydroelectric dams in Kamchay, Stung Tatay, Russey Chrum Krom, Cheay Araeng and Sesan Krom II. It would also connect to lines bringing electricity from coal and gas power plants in Vietnam.

CHMC has already completed a 36-month feasibility study on the project.

EdC Director General Keo Rottanak said the transmission project would improve the electricity supply in Phnom Penh.

"We hope that the project will bring stability to the country's electricity supply," he said.

Ministry still mulling plans for exchange

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Soeun Say

Architectural plans for the building to house Cambodia's first stock exchange will be finalised before the end of the month, a Ministry of Economy and Finance official said Thursday.

But Mey Vann, director of the ministry's industrial financial department, said it was unlikely the building would be completed before the stock exchange was launched.

"We will be looking for a temporary place to open the stock exchange, but we don't know yet when it will officially open," he said. "We know it cannot be launched on September 9, but we don't have another date yet."

Initial designs for the building, which will be located in the Phnom Penh satellite development of Camko City, were sent back for modifications in July for not being Khmer enough.

Duk-kon Kim, vice president of World City Co, the South Korean company building Camko City, declined to comment Thursday. He earlier said it would take eight months to complete the US$6 million project and a further three months to test electronic equipment on-site before the building could open.

EIU upgrades Cambodian economic growth estimate

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Garment factory employees at the Modern Dress Sewing Factory in Phnom Penh work on Wednesday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Nathan Green and Ith Sothoeuth

Think tank says better-than-expected global recovery will lessen effects of economic crisis on the Kingdom, slashes projected GDP contraction by half

THE Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has revised its 2009 growth forecast for Cambodia upwards from a 3 percent contraction to a smaller 1.5 percent decline, citing changes to its global forecast.

"The main reason we have revised up our Cambodia GDP forecast is that the global recession is likely to be less severe than we had previously expected, mainly owing to the impact of fiscal stimulus in the world's leading economies," EIU economist Nick Owen said by email from London on Thursday.

"There's certainly no change to our view that Cambodia is highly exposed to the global recession, as shown by the decline of about 20 percent in garment exports in the first six months of the year."

In the report, the EIU noted that a 1.5 percent contraction would still be the "worst performance" since records began in the mid-1990s. However, it projected that growth will resume in 2010, when gross domestic product will expand by 3.3 percent. It previously predicted a 2.2 percent expansion for next year.

The EIU, which is part of the London-based Economist Group, the publisher of The Economist magazine, projected at the beginning of the year that the Cambodian economy would grow 1 percent through 2009, but downgraded that estimate in April.

At the time, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank separately predicted a 0.5 percent contraction, and the Asian Development Bank forecast 2.5 percent growth.

The Cambodian government rejected these forecast in April, saying that a strong agricultural and informal sector will lead to growth of more than 6 percent.

Cheam Yeap, a senior Cambodian People's Party lawmaker and chairman of the National Assembly's Finance and Banking Commission, rejected the EIU's latest projection Thursday, saying growth would slow but the economy would not contract.

"I think growth will still be positive, not negative," he said. "Maybe it will drop to 1 percent in the worst-case scenario."

He also cast doubt on the ability of foreign organisations to accurately predict Cambodia's economic fortunes. "They have been wrong since 2005," he said.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the government had left Cambodia at the mercy of external economic conditions by not doing enough to stimulate the domestic economy.

"[Cambodia] cannot get out [of the crisis] because they haven't taken any action. If they have, it is just very little," he said. "If Cambodia has a recovery, it's only because of the effects of the world economy," he added.

Crises still prove hard to forecast

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Kenneth Rogoff



Kenneth Rogoff

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts - Everyone from the Queen of England to laid-off Detroit autoworkers wants to know why more experts did not see the financial crisis coming. It is an awkward question.

How can policymakers be so certain that financial catastrophe won't soon recur when they seemed to have no idea that such a crisis would happen in the first place?

The answer is not very reassuring. Essentially, there is still a risk that the financial crisis is simply hibernating as it slowly morphs into a government debt crisis.

For better or for worse, the reason most investors are now much more confident than they were a few months ago is that governments around the world have cast a vast safety net under much of the financial system. At the same time, they have propped up economies by running massive deficits, while central banks have cut interest rates nearly to zero.

But can blanket government largesse be the final answer?

Government backstops work because taxpayers have deep pockets, but no pocket is bottomless. And when governments, particularly large ones, get into trouble, there is no backstop. With government debt levels around the world reaching heights usually seen only after wars, it is obvious that the current strategy is not sustainable.

If the trajectory is unsustainable, how long can debt keep piling up? We don't know. Academic economists have developed useful tools to predict which economies are most vulnerable to a financial crisis. But although we can identify vulnerabilities, getting the timing right is virtually impossible.

Our models show that even an economy that is massively overleveraged can, in theory, plod along for years, even many decades, before crashing and burning.

There is still a risk that the financial crisis is simply hibernating.

It all boils down to confidence and coordination of expectations, which depend, in turn, on the vagaries of human nature. Thus, we can tell which countries are most vulnerable, but specifying exactly where and when such crises will erupt is next to impossible.

A good analogy is the prediction of heart attacks. A person who is obese, with high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol, is statistically far more likely to have a serious heart attack or stroke than a person who exhibits none of these vulnerabilities. Yet high-risk individuals can often go decades without having a problem. At the same time, individuals who appear to be "low risk" are also vulnerable to heart attacks.

Of course, careful monitoring yields potentially very useful information for preventing heart attacks. Ultimately, however, it is helpful only if the individual is treated, and perhaps undertakes a significant change in lifestyle.

The same is true for financial systems. Good monitoring yields information that is helpful only if there is a response. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the political and regulatory system is often very weak and shortsighted.

Indeed, no economy is immune to financial crises, no matter how much investors and leaders try to convince themselves otherwise, as Carmen Reinhart and I show in our new book, ironically titled This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.

Right now, the latest "this time is different" folly is that, because governments are taking all the debt on their shoulders, the rest of us don't have to worry.

We are constantly reassured that governments will not default on their debts. In fact, governments all over the world default with startling regularity, either outright or through inflation. Even the US, for example, significantly inflated down its debt in the 1970's, and debased the gold value of the US dollar from US$20 per ounce to $34 in the 1930s.

For now, the good news is that the crisis will be contained as long as government credit holds up. The bad news is that the rate at which government debt is piling up could easily lead to a second wave of financial crises within a few years.

Most worrisome is America's huge dependence on foreign borrowing, particularly from China - an imbalance that likely planted the seeds of the current crisis.

Asians recognise that if they continue to accumulate paper debt, they risk the same fate that Europeans suffered three decades ago, when they piled up US debt that was dramatically melted down through inflation.

The question today is not why no one is warning about the next crisis. They are. The question is whether political leaders are listening.

The unwinding of unsustainable government deficit levels is a key question that G-20 leaders must ask themselves when they meet in Pittsburgh later this month.

Otherwise, Queen Elizabeth II and Detroit autoworkers will be asking again, all too soon, why no one saw it coming.
Kenneth Rogoff is Professor of Economics
and Public Policy at Harvard University and
was formerly chief economist at the IMF.

CTN announces tournament of 8 Kun Khmer champions

Fighting for a top prize of 5 million riels at CTN boxing arena (from left to right): Sam Ounluong, Poy Neurn, Phan Sothy, Cheam Adam, Ei Kosal, Khun Makara, Sok Ratha and Seung Kangsan.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Robert Starkweather

Eight finalists from the Kun Khmer Champion reality television series will fight in a single-elimination tournament for a total purse of 10 million riels

THE top eight fighters from CTN's reality television series Kun Khmer Champion will face off in a sudden-death tournament for a total of 10 million riels (US$2,409) in cash prizes, the network announced Thursday.

The tournament begins September 9 at the CTN boxing arena and includes the top four winners from both season one and season two of the show.

In the tradition of Kun Khmer Champion, fighters will represent their home province in the tournament, instead of their clubs.

In the first round Wednesday, Khun Makara will face Ei Kosal, and Phan Sothy will face Cheam Adam. Sok Ratha will face Seung Kangsan, and Sam Ounluong will face Poy Neurn on September 26.

Winners from the first round will compete in the semifinals, scheduled for October 10. Losers will be eliminated.

Winning semifinalists will fight for first and second place, while losing semifinalists will have a third/fourth place bout Saturday October 24.

Prizes are 5 million riels, 2.5 million riels, 1.5 million riels and 1 million riels for first, second, third and fourth place, respectively.

Produced by CTN, Kun Khmer Champion concluded its second season in June. The series put 12 fighters together in the same house to live and train. Through weekly bouts, the dozen were whittled down to a single champion over the course of the show.

In season two, Sam Ounluong from Prey Veng knocked out Poy Neurn of Siem Reap to take first place, and Battambang's Phan Sothy beat Kampot's Sok Ratha in the fight for third and fourth.

In season one, Cheam Adam from Kampong Cham beat Ei Kosal from Kratie, to become champion, and Seung Kangsan from Kandal beat Khun Makara, also of Kandal, in the contest for third and fourth.

In his last outing, Cheam Adam fought Sam Ounluong as an undercard attraction to the international bouts held August 20 at CTN. Cheam Adam came back from a second-round knockdown to score a third-round knockout.

Season one concluded in July 2008, and except for Cheam Adam, who has fought once every month since, other season-one finalists have drifted away from the sport over the last year

Police Blotter: 4 Sep 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
May Titthara

One person died and 10 others were severely injured in a traffic accident in Ansar Chambak commune in Pursat province's Krakor district on Tuesday. Traffic police said a speeding taxi carrying seven passengers caused the wreck after crashing head-on into a second vehicle carrying four people. The taxi driver's wife died at the scene, police said, adding that the injured were taken to an area hospital and that the two vehicles were impounded.

Police in Sampov Meas commune, Kampong Cham province, said two men were arrested last week on suspicion of stealing a car in early August. The two men, Touch Sony, 17, and Suon Kimseng, 24, were arrested after the owner of the vehicle filed a complaint and police found them driving the car through Kampong Cham city on the way to a garden.

A construction worker died last week in Kakap commune, Dangkor district, police said, after touching an ungrounded electrical wire at a job site. The body of the victim, Lim Pao, 19, from Prey Veng province, was to be returned to his homel for a family funeral, police said.

Police in Kandal province's Kandal Stung district said they arrested a 41-year-old man after he was accused of raping his daughter about 20 times. The suspect, who has been placed in temporary detention pending further investigation, said he only raped his daughter seven or eight times, but never forced her to have sex. He told police he always asked and would not have done anything if she did not approve.

A wealthy businessman in Dangkor district who is said to be known for luring other men's wives to a local hotel met his match on Tuesday when the husband of a potential conquest followed the couple to their rendezvous, police said. When confronted, the amorous entrepreneur fled, leaving an assistant to negotiate compensation, which police said amounted to US$5,500.

CNVLD receive trophies

Four of the six trophies made by the Armed Art project, one of which will be given to the winner of the 2009 CNVLD tournament. CNVLD

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009
Ken Gadaffi

Volleyball league and World Cup winners to get 'Armed Art' sculptures

THE Cambodian National Volleyball League (Disabled) organisation has been donated six trophies by the Armed Art project of the Don Bosco Technical School of Phnom Penh.

Australian business volunteer to the CNVLD, George Friml, along with students of the Armed Art project, produced six stunning sports trophies manufactured entirely from the barrel shrouds of Soviet WWII-era PPSh-41 sub-machine guns, which were exported to Soviet client states following their retirement from military service in the 1950s.

CNVLD Secretary Christopher Minko announced that one of the trophies will be presented to the winners of the 2009 Cellcard CNVLD tournament at the final awards ceremony October 16.

Minko stated that another would be used as the World Organisation Volleyball for Disabled (WOVD) World Cup trophy for the upcoming 2009 WOVD Standing Volleyball World Cup to be hosted at the Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium from December 14-22.

Exhibition to feature trophies
Meanwhile, George Friml will return to Australia to complete production of the World Cup winners' medals, before returning to Cambodia in December to attend the tournament and to continue hiswork on Armed Art sculptures destined for an CNVLD exhibition called "To Be Deter-Mined".

The exhibition, which will feature the remaining trophies, will be on display for the second time at the Cambodian Korean Friendship Exhibition Centre in Phnom Penh in December, to coincide with the 2009 WOVD World Cup. The exhibition will also visit Australia, the US and Europe.

Ninth Angkor 10s tourney

ANZ Royal Bank CEO Stephen Higgins (left) presents the last year’s championship trophy to Phorn Bophan of Les Piliers d'Angkor.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009

Cambodian Federation of Rugby hosts its annual 10-a-side tournament

THE Cambodian Federation of Rugby announced Wednesday that ANZ Royal Bank will again serve as the major sponsor for the 2009 Angkor 10s Rugby Tournament, which takes place on October 23-24 at Olympic Stadium.

"We are pleased and honored to be associated once again with the great folks at ANZ Royal," said Angkor 10s tournament Co-Chairman Ray Leos.

"Their sponsorship has been vital to the success of the tournament down through the years, and we value their support."

Now in its ninth year, the Angkor 10s has become one of the most popular club rugby tournaments in Asia, attracting scores of club teams from across the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

Besides serving as the unofficial kickoff of the 2009-10 Cambodian rugby season, the tournament is the major annual fundraising event for the Cambodian Federation of Rugby (CFR), a nonprofit organisation devoted to national rugby development.

The tournament employs a 10-a-side format, as opposed to the 15-a-side format of the standard rugby union match. "It's a faster, more wide-open game, which makes it more exciting and fun to watch, especially for first-time spectators," remarked Leos.

In addition to the 10s competition October 24, the tournament will also feature a 15-a-side Veteran's competition for players 35 and over on October 23.

Teams from Australia, Dubai, France, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand; and two sides from Cambodia have been confirmed for next month's tournament.

In last year's Angkor 10s, Les Piliers d'Angkor, an all-Khmer side primarily composed of players from the Cambodian national rugby team, won the cup title, marking the first time an all-Khmer side had captured an Angkor 10s tournament championship.

Leos hopes that the number of Khmer players participating in the Angkor 10s will continue to grow.

"When the tournament began [in 2001], we had no Khmer players participating," he said. "The next year we had two, and last year we had over forty. We're hoping for a lot more this year."

CPL enters last round

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 04 September 2009

Cambodian Premier League teams enter the last round of fixtures this weekend, with the top two places still to be determined along with the four-way race for fifth place. Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, Spark FC, and National Defence Ministry will all attempt to steal the coveted fifth-place position from Build Bright United, who place just a point ahead with all their games completed. Meanwhile, Phnom Penh Crown are favourites to take the top spot once again, needing just one or two draws from their remaining two games. Preah Khan Reach will avoid Crown in the Super 4 semifinals having guaranteed second position, but will need results to go their way if they are to claim their first-ever top-place finish in the league.

Court Lambasted for Dropping Acid Attack Case

In Soklyda breaks into tears during a press conference on Wednesday as she begs forgiveness from her aunt Ya Soknim for having a relationship with Chea Ratha that she believes led to the disfiguring acid attack on her aunt.

In Soklyda Recounted Events about the Acid Attack Related to Chea Ratha – Thursday, 3.9.2009

Posted on 4 September 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 628

“Phnom Penh: In Soklyda, known to have had a relation with former Military Police brigadier general, Ms. Chea Ratha, participated in a press conference organized by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO).

“In the evening of 2 September 2009, LICADHO held a press conference at its headquarters with Ms. In Soklyda, Ms. Ya Soknim [her aunt], and her mother, where the three of them recounted in detail events related to the previous acid attack against Ms. In Soklyda’s aunt, Ms. Ya Soknim, and they accused Ms. Chea Ratha to be the person responsible for the attack.

“Ms. In Soklyda said, in between sobs, that Ms. Chea Ratha is a person involved in many previous cases of acid attacks including against [CTN commentator] Mr. Tith Polen and against her aunt, Ms. Ya Soknim.

“She added that there is much evidence to prove that Ms. Chea Ratha was involved in those cases, including voice recordings of phone calls; however, the court had decided to drop the charges against her, due to a lack of evidence. In the meantime, Ms. In Soklyda expressed concers about her own safety when Ms. Chea Ratha is now freed from charges and can return home.

“Ms. In Soklyda’s aunt, Ms Ya Soknim, who is the victim of an acid attack, said in the conference that she is worried about her safety, after the court had decided to drop the charges against Ms. Chea Ratha.

“Also, both Ms. In Soklyda and Ms. Ya Soknim, asked for intervention by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, over this case, and called for support to offer her asylum.

“Kampuchea Thmey could not reach Ms. Chea Ratha for comment in the evening of 2 September 2009, but her lawyer, Mr. Keo Ya, had claimed that his client was not involved in that acid attack, and that she can return back [to Cambodia] soon. Also, Mr. Keo Ya hopes that the Royal Government will offer the position of Military Police brigadier general back to his client.

“The president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Mr. Chiv Keng, could not be reached for comment by phone in the evening of 2 September 2009.

“Regarding the announcement of the verdict by the Municipal Court, Ms. In Soklyda, LICADHO, and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, released a joint statement in the evening of 2 September 2009, calling the decision to drop the charges against Ms. Chea Ratha and her accomplices a display of impunity in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“It should be remembered that on 21 August 2009, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced to lift the accusations against seven suspects involved in the acid attack against Ms. In Soklyda’s aunt, claiming that there was insufficient evidence to put the burden on them.

“After Ms. In Soklyda’s aunt had been attacked with acid, the authorities had arrested two people for involvement in the attack and they said that Ms. Chea Ratha was the most important person of this case. After that, Interpol had issued a red warrant in 180 countries to arrest Ms. Chea Ratha.

“Since then, Ms. Chea Ratha has hidden herself, and recently, after the court decided to drop charges against her, a news source said that she will return home soon.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8,#20,.9.2009
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Thursday, 3 September 2009