Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Flooding in Kampot province, Destroyed Tirk Chhou Bridge

Pictures from Koh Santepheap Newspaper by Neay Keub

Cambodian FM, U.S. Secretary of State to meet at NY for deepening bilateral ties


PHNOM PENH, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong said on Tuesday that he plans to meet with his American counterpart Hillary Clinton in New York during his stay there.

"So far, both sides have plan to meet to strengthen the bilateral cooperation and relationship between the two countries during I stay there to join the UN General Assembly late this month," Hor told reporters at his ministry after signing agreements with the U.S. to receive over 34 million U.S. dollars assistance for health and education improvement.

"I and my American counterpart are busy at the U.N. General Assembly but both sides plan to seek appropriate time for talking to deepen the bilateral relationship," he said, adding that "I have just talked with U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia (Carol A. Rodley) briefing about the time of the bilateral talks."

Hor Namhong said he plans to leave Cambodia on September 22 for New York to join the U.N. General Assembly.

Since 1999, the U.S. has provided over 250 million U.S. dollars for health and education system improvement in Cambodia. "We highly appreciated with the assistance from the U.S.," he added.

"The bilateral relationship between the two countries are getting better and better and moving forwards," Hor Namhong said, citing that "the U.S. sent their Peace Corps to help local Cambodians, lifted Cambodia from trade blacklist and provided military assistance to Cambodian armed forces." Last week, the U.S. offered over 6.5 million U.S. dollars worth of military equipment and technical assistance to Cambodian Royal Armed Forces.

UN says Khmer Rouge tribunal must be independent

By SOPHENG CHEANG Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - The U.N. administrator for the Khmer Rouge tribunal issued a blunt reminder to Prime Minister Hun Sen that the panel is independent, after the Cambodian leader suggested that arresting more suspects for trial could spark a civil war.

The U.N.-backed tribunal ruled last week that prosecutors could pursue further arrests beyond the five Khmer Rouge leaders already indicted, in a decision opposed by the panel's Cambodian co-prosecutor but supported by his international counterparts.

Hun Sen said Monday that he had devoted several years to persuading Khmer Rouge leaders and their soldiers to stop fighting, so he could not allow anyone to drag the country back into a new civil war by putting additional suspects them on trial.

Knut Rosandhaug, Coordinator of the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge trials, subsequently issued a statement that he expects the tribunal to continue to work independently.

"It is a clearly established international standard that courts do not seek approval of advice on their work from the executive branch," he said.

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died in Cambodia from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the communist regime's radical policies while in power between 1975-79.

Critics accuse Hun Sen of seeking to limit the tribunal's scope because other potential defendants are his current political allies. Hun Sen served as a Khmer Rouge officer, before changing sides, and many of his major political allies are also former members of the group.

Brad Adams, Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, said he believes Hun Sen was seeking to protect members of his own Cambodian People's Party, who could be targets for prosecution. But he said it was unlikely more arrests would be made.

Adams pointed out that the Khmer Rouge have been defunct for a decade, and that its former leaders are now more interested in business than war.

The tribunal's long-awaited first trial - of the Khmer Rouge's chief jailer for war crimes and crimes against humanity - opened in March. A joint trial of the four other senior officials - the only others currently in detention - is expected within the next two years.

The Khmer Rouge came to power after a bitter 1970-75 Civil War, and after being ousted from power in 1979, carried out an insurgency from the jungles until 1999.

Hun Sen has dominated Cambodian politics for more than two decades. He ousted his former co-prime minister in a 1997 coup and has since ruled virtually unchallenged.

Flash floods kill eight Cambodians

September 8, 2009

A torrential storm and flash floods killed at least eight people, including six children, Cambodian officials said on Tuesday.

Three girls and a boy, aged between 14 and 18, were killed on Sunday when they were swept out to sea while swimming in a heavy storm in Preah Sihanouk province, in the southeast of the country, said the province's deputy police chief Yim Bunnath.

In nearby Kampot province, two men were killed by flash floods, said the province's deputy governor Soth Ya. Another 1,500 people were evacuated on Monday to higher ground, he said.

In Kampong Cham province in the east, a six-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl drowned on Sunday while swimming in a pond during heavy rain, the Khmer-language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea reported on Tuesday.

Parts of the Cambodian countryside are now flooded because of seasonal monsoon rain.

Prosecutor at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal recommends investigating 5 more suspects

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen gestures at a ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Sep. 7, 2009. Hun Sen renewed his criticism of the country's U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal Monday, warning that arresting more suspects could spark civil war. (AP Photo/Khem Sovannara) (Khem Sovannara, AP / September 7, 2009)

SOPHENG CHEANG Associated Press Writer
September 8, 2009

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A prosecutor at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal has formally recommended that five more suspects be investigated for crimes against humanity and other offenses, setting the legal body on a collision course with the country's powerful prime minister.

A statement from the tribunal Tuesday said the acting international co-prosecutor, William Smith of Australia, submitted his recommendation to the co-investigating judges, who would then decide whether to issue arrest warrants.

Citing the confidentiality of the process, the tribunal announcement did not identify the five new suspects. It said the cases involved at least 32 instances of murder, torture, unlawful detention, forced labor, and persecution that constituted violations of Cambodian and international law.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly spoken out against expanding the list of defendants beyond the one now on trial — Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, — and four others in custody.

On Monday, Hun Sen said such action could lead to civil war, a claim doubted by his critics.

"I would like to tell you that if you prosecute (more leaders) without thinking beforehand about national reconciliation and peace, and if war breaks out again and kills 20,000 or 30,000 people, who will be responsible?" Hun Sen said.

The tribunal's Cambodian co-prosecutor opposed further indictments, but the tribunal last week ruled that his international counterpart could seek them. The tribunal, created last year under an agreement reached in 2003 between Cambodia and the United Nations, employs joint teams of Cambodian and international court personnel.

Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the tribunal, said there was no timeframe for action by the co-investigating judges on Smith's submission, made Monday.

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died in Cambodia from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the communist regime's radical policies while in power between 1975-79.

The U.N. administrator for the tribunal issued a blunt reminder Tuesday to Hun Sen that the panel was independent.

"It is a clearly established international standard that courts do not seek approval of advice on their work from the executive branch," Knut Rosandhaug said in a statement.

Critics accuse Hun Sen of trying to limit the tribunal's scope to prevent his political allies from being indicted. Hun Sen once served as a Khmer Rouge officer and many of his main allies are also former members of the group.

The tribunal's long-awaited first trial — of Kaing Guek Eav, the Khmer Rouge's chief jailer for war crimes and crimes against humanity — opened in March. A joint trial of the four other defendants is expected within the next two years.

The Khmer Rouge came to power after a bitter 1970-75 civil war, and after being ousted from power in 1979, carried out an insurgency from the jungles until 1999.

Hun Sen has dominated Cambodian politics for more than two decades. He ousted his former co-prime minister in a 1997 coup and has since ruled virtually unchallenged.

PAD to oppose charter amendment

Writer: BangkokPost.com
Published: 8/09/2009

The People's Alliance for Democracy on Tuesday reaffirmed its opposition to constitutional amendment and vowed to gather up to 20,000 signatures to back a petition to remove MPs and senators who supported a charter amendment motion.

At a press conference at Kasetsart University, Sondhi Limthongkul, a PAD leader, said he believed the petition with 20,000 signatures seeking removal of the 152 MPs and senators who sponsored the charter amendment motion would be ready for submission by Oct 7, when the PAD would mark the first anniversary of the violent police crackdown on PAD protesters.

On Oct 8 the PAD's political party, New Politics, would hold a meeting to elect a new executive committee.

Pibhop Dhongchai, another PAD leader, said the PAD is firm against any change to the 2007 charter which was designed to deal with corrupt politicians. He demanded that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declare a firm stance against constitutional amendments.

Somsak Kosaisuk, also a core PAD leader, said the amendment motion submitted by the parliament members was clearly for self-interest. PAD protesters would be ready to turn out in force against it, he added.

On the National Anti-Corruption Commission's findings against former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, former deputy prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, police chief Patcharawat Wongsuwon, and former metropolitan police chief Suchart Muankaew, Mr Sondhi said he wanted Mr Abhisit to have the courage to take action against Pol Gen Patcharawat, who he said no longer had the legitimacy to continue in office.

He said the PAD would continue to press for action against other people who had not been charged in connection with the Oct 7 incident.

Mr Sondhi also said he doubted Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya's explanation on Channel 11 on Monday night that the 4.6-square-kilometre area around the Preah Vihear temple is still in dispute and Thailand and Cambodia were trying to resolve it through negotiations.

He said the area had in fact been seized by Cambodia.

The PAD's stand is for Cambodian troops and Cambodian community to be pushed out of the disputed area, Mr Sondhi said.

Exotissimo Introduces an Enriching Charitable Tour in Cambodia

Cambodian Sculptor

This new 6-day program is specially designed for travelers wanting to make a positive and personal impact on the socio-economic development of Cambodia.

Bangkok, Thailand (PRWEB) September 8, 2009 -- Exotissimo Travel, a leading travel company in Southeast Asia, launched a new 6-day Cambodia tour program that combines relaxed sightseeing to awe-inspiring sites and philanthropic excursions to local charities.

By joining this program, travelers will gain a deeper understanding of Cambodia's recent turbulent past and play a part in the country's rebuilding process.

Beginning in Siem Reap, travelers spend the first three days exploring the Angkor Archaeological Park, including established and lesser-known temple sites, with an experienced guide. The program in Siem Reap also include visits to a landmine museum to learn about the country's ongoing de-mining efforts and lunch at a charity-run restaurant that provides delicious Khmer cuisine and vocational training of underprivileged children.

A boat trip along the Tonle Sap Lake and Sangker River leads to Battambang where travelers will visit several non-profit organizations as well as a training restaurant and a handicraft center dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth. On Thursdays, a special circus performance by a children's charity is a fabulous experience that educates the audience about HIV/AIDS, land mines and human rights issues at the same time. A unique bamboo train ride through the idyllic countryside is another highlight in Battambang before travelers return to Siem Reap for further touring.

Throughout the 6-day itinerary, Exotissimo has interspersed many opportunities for travelers to make a difference to local communities in meaningful ways. They can meet and speak to the underprivileged at charities, dine at vocational training restaurants or shop for handicrafts made by locals employed under fair employment terms. A part of the tour fees will go directly to the organizations visited.

"While Angkor is definitely a must-visit for any Cambodia travel itinerary, anyone who tours only the temples is missing out the real Cambodia," said Sibylle Rotzler, Cambodia Product Manager. "By joining this program, travelers will gain a deeper understanding of Cambodia's recent turbulent past and play a part in the country's rebuilding process."

Commenting on the vast number of charities that exist in Cambodia, Sibylle said, "We have conducted extensive research into Cambodia's charity sector to source for credible organizations to partner up with. In this way, travelers with Exotissimo will be assured that their money is apportioned to good causes."

For travelers interested to make positive impacts in greater depth, Exotissimo can also arrange charity challenges for them to raise funds for local charities or their selected causes.

To view the detailed itinerary and pricing of Cambodia Charitable Tour, view: Cambodia Charitable Tour

To discover Exotissimo Travel Cambodia Tours Collection, view: Cambodia Tours

To learn more about Exotissimo's responsible tourism philosophies, view: Responsible Travel Policy

Thai PM Claims Not Lost Land at Cambodia´s Preah Vihear Temple

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 08 September 2009

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva claimed that Thailand has not lost any territory in the disputed Thai-Cambodian border area near Preah Vihear temple, according to Monday’s Bangkok Post.

There have been Thai fears that Bangkok might emerge at a disadvantage in bilateral talks with Phnom Penh.

”The [Thai] prime minister has asked [Thai] Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to explain to the public today the details of the negotiations framework which was passed by the parliament last week,” the Bangkok Post added.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Affair and International Cooperation, on Monday told DAP News Cambodia that the mistake stems from the fact that Thailand uses its own map in the territorial dispute with Cambodia.

“The real solution is to solve by international map, it has not to be used by its own map,” said Koy Kuong, adding that “It is Thai mistake which uses its own map to solve with Cambodia.”

Abhisit was responding to a complaint by People’s Alliance for Dem- ocracy co-leader Sondhi Limthong-kul that Thailand had effectively lost the disputed land area to Cambodia.

Speaking on his ASTV channel, Sondhi said the government’s negligence had allowed Cambodian troops to take control of the land.

Abhisit told his weekly TV and radio program on sunday Thailand and Cambodia used different maps with different border demarcations to argue their case.

However, he said an agreement reached between the two countries in 2000, which said border conflict should be solved through negotiation, should apply in the meantime. ‘’It is just not true that the government has neglected the issue or lost any land or sovereignty,’’ the Thai prime minister said. While the border has yet to be agreed neither side should enter the disputed area or use it in ways which affects the other’s rights, he said.

“The 2000 agreement says we need negotiations and, in the meantime, activities in the disputed area that could affect each country’s rights are not allowed,” the Bangkok Post quoted Abhist´s saying.

The disputed land is a 4.6-square-kilometre border area near Cambodia’s Preah Vihear temple.

Cambodian high ranking officials on Friday last week rejected claims from the People’s Alliance for Dem-ocracy (PAD) in Thailand that Thailand lost 4.6 square-kilometers to Cambo- dia. The Cambodian officials stressed that such a stance is not the official line of the Thai Government.

“This claim is not Bangkok’s government’s stance and [they are] willing to solve with the Cambodian Government,” Koy Kuong told DAP News Cambodia.

“This protest is from only Thai nationalism group to claim Cambodia invaded Thailand,” Koy Kuong confirmed. “If the two governments have not solved the problems yet, they cannot claim it is the sovereignty belonging to Thailand.”

The Thais “often claim to be encr- oached upon and envied by Cambodia, but they base [claims] only on their own map, he added.

Va Kimhong, president of the Cambodian Border Committee could not be reached for comment on Friday.

“Thailand should not say that they lost around 4.6 square kilometers of their land in accordance with an international ruling of June 15, 2009,” he has previously told DAP News Cambodia.

“Thailand cannot say as the area and the surroundings of the area do not belong to Cambodia. When they said they lost land, it is not based in reality or evidence.”

Va Kimhong showed disappointment over Thailand’s slow progress in fulfilling vows to demarcate the border.

The People’s Alliance for Democ- racy networks from 16 southern provinces held a public announcement urging the Government to investigate Thailand’s rights to 4.6 square kilometers in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear Temple, in order to prevent the country from losing the disputed land, according to Thai-Asean News Network on Friday.

Although the World Court ruled in 1962 that the 11th century Hindu temple belonged to Cambodia, the most accessible entrance is from northeastern Si Sa Ket province.

Each country uses different ways to demarcate the border line, but Abhisit said this had not compromised Thailand’s position.

Cambodia uses a French colonial map to demarcate the border but Thailand insists its watershed boundaries be used for demarcation based on a map drawn up with US technical assistance.

PM Claims Cambodia to Disconnect with World Bank First

Cambodian PM Hun Sen warns to anyone suggesting of other leaders of Khmer Rouge regime be put on trial. Five high ranking former cadre are currently on trial.

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 08 September 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday claimed that the Cambodian Government had decided first to discontinue the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), a project financed by development partner the World Bank.

“I clarify that Cambodia decide to end the partnership with World Bank in land titling as it has complicated points,” said the premier during the ceremony of the 2008 population census at Chaktomuk hall.

“It has not reached the deadline yet, but I asked World Bank to withdraw its remaining budget as it has many complicated policies which it is difficult to work with and cooperate,” he added. “Previously, we did not do like this so now we can access with our national budget gradually.”

Hun Sen reiterated that Cambodia decided to terminate the project first, not the World Bank. “Do not act like the prestigious one which confirmed to terminate first; Cambodia terminated first,” he said.

The PM stated that the World Bank should not try to act as a “big brother,” ruling and controlling other institutions.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), on Monday told DAP News Cambodia that he regretted the Cambodian Government’s decision to cease the World Bank’s project.

“[The World Bank] have donated to help Cambodia, but we do not help ourselves,” he told DAP News Cam- bodia. “I suggested the Government rethink its connection with the World Bank again.”

Bou Saroeun, a spokesman for the World Bank, refused to comment on Monday. He referred questions to World Bank HQ.

Following a decision by the Council of Ministers on Friday 4 September to terminate World Bank financing of the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), World Bank Country Director for South-East Asia, Annette Dixon, made the following statement:

“Land security and a fair, transparent approach to resolving land disputes and resettlement are among the greatest challenges facing Camb- odia today. People without land or secure title to land are much more likely to be poor and stay poor,” according to the statement released on Monday.

It’s for these reasons that the World Bank has been working intensively with Government, development partners and other stakeholders since 2002 to put in place a modern and comprehensive land administration system.

This project has issued more than 1.1 million land titles, mostly to poor people in rural areas. However, recent land price increases, which have averaged over 30 percent, have been leading to land disputes, compensation issues, eviction processes and resettlement issues.

As part of our continuing dialogue with Government on these growing challenges, the World Bank undertook a review to find out whether LMAP was still achieving its intended outcomes given the rapidly changing land sector environment.

The review found that LMAP’s successes in land titling in rural areas have not been matched in urban areas where land disputes are on the rise. This was due in part to delays or lack of implementation of some project activities. While originally designed as a multi-pronged approach to addressing a range of land issues, LMAP focused on areas where it could be most successful: titling rural land and building the capacity of the land administration to register and title land and implement policy.

“We have shared the findings of the review with the Government but could not come to agreement on whether LMAP’s social and environmental safeguards should apply in some of the disputed urban areas. For the World Bank, the implementation of these safeguard policies is critical,” said the statement, adding that “However, we are encouraged by the Government’s statement of its commitment to continuing reforms in the land sector and working towards an improved policy and legal framework for resettlement that reflects their commitment to international treaties.”

“We remain committed to working with Government and other development partners through the Technical Working Group on Land to support Cambodia’s efforts to secure land tenure, reduce poverty, and improve economic opportunity for all of its people.”

No more Khmer Rouge Arrests: PM

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 08 September 2009

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday sent a strongly worded warning to anyone suggesting that other leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime be put on trial. Five high ranking former cadre are currently on trial.

Strongly warning on Monday by The premier also referred to Youk Chhang, director of the Documen-tation Center of Cambodia (DC-CAM), who the premier said made the suggestion other leaders be charged last week. Youk Chhang denied having made any such remarks. “If you want to do anything, you have to prioritize safety, peace and reconciliation first; do not push one side without thinking of the other side,” the premier said during a ceremony to mark the release of data from the the 2008 population census.

In a departure from his usual form, the premier warned Youk Chhang by name. “Where is Youk Chhang? You have to explain to me today as what you said in your forum last week related to the Khmer Rouge.”

“You do not interfere in this case,” the premier instructed.

Youk Chhang told DAP News Cambodia that he had not week forum related to any ideas to push charging other leaders in Khmer Rough Regime to be on trial beside the 5 leaders.

“I sent a clarification letter to the premier to check, and whenever he responds, I will explain clearly directly to him,” he said.

The claim that Youk Chhang had suggested other leaders be put on trial was printed in the Kampuchea Thmei Newspaper. Youk Chhang said the report was inaccurate.

However, “I am not willing to file complaint against the writer at this news agency,” he said.

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal has faced increasing criticism at home and in the international community for perceived inefficiency, incompetence, foot-dragging and corruption.

Cambodia Population Rises 1.96 Million in Decade

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 08 September 2009 04:27

The 2008 population census final results show that the Cambodian population has increased by 1.96 million over the late 10 years, from 11.4 in 1998 to 13.4 million in 2008, said the Planning Minister on Monday in the ceremony of 2008 Cambodia Population Census Declaration at Chaktomuk Hall.

“Following the census done in 1962, when the Cambodia population was about 5.7 million, Cambodia had not done any census for more than three decades due to internal political issue taking place,” Chhay Thorn said in his speech.

“The 2008 census covered 2.8 million families in separate areas in Cambodia, with almost all families interviewed in 11 working days,” Chhay Thorn confirmed. “The interviews was done by measure See and Count by our about 28,000 officials including 72 provincials officials, 500 trainee teachers, 370 districts census officials, 1621 commune census officials, and 500 interpreters.”

A Planning Ministry press release on Monday claimed that the population density of the country increased from 64 to 75 persons per square kilometer, but the annual growth rate declined from 2.4 percent in 1998 to 1.54 percent in 2008. However, Cambodia accounted for 2.3 percent of the Southeast Asian population of 8.6 percent of the world’s population of 6.7 billion in 1998 and continues to do so in 2008. “While the total fertility rate has been declined to 3.1, the estimated infant mortality rate shows moderate decrease from 66 to 60 per 1,000 live births during 2005-2008,” said the press release, adding that “However, the maternal mortality ratio has not changed much for the past 10 years which it was estimated at 437 in 2000, 472 in 2005 and 461 per 100,000 live births in 2008.”

It is observed that the number of literate aged 7 and more has spectacularly risen from about 5.78 million to 8.96 million during then ten-years, which is increased from 62.80 percent in 1998-2008; Cambodia is the lowest in the Southeast Asia Region after Laos. The number of children aged 6 and more attending school or educational institution have increased from 36,27 percent during 1998-2008 but the proportion of females attending school continues to be less the corresponding proportion for male both in the urban and rural areas.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday claimed that if Cambodia was unsafe, a census would not have been possible.

“The main basis of doing everything is safety and peace, we cannot do a census if our country is peaceful or stable,” the premier said. “I rose directly that Philippine government could not show a real data of population as some rebels are staying in this country.”

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), claimed that a census was easy. “Census work is very easy if comparing to invent or make polo plane to the moon world,” Yim Sovann told DAP News Cambodia on Monday.

Due to the press release, the 2008 population census results was conducted by National Institute of Statis- tics of the Ministry of Planning, under authority of the National Census Committee and the guidance of the Census Technical Committee and supported by The Royal Government of Cambodia, UNFPA, JICA, the Government of Japan, and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

PM Hun Sen asks US to Cancel Debt

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 08 September 2009

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday once again asked the US to cancel over US$300 million in debt dating to the 1970s Lon Nol periods.

PM Hun Sen made the request directly to Carol A. Rodley, US ambassador to Cambodia, who also joined other foreign diplomats at a ceremony of releasing the final results of the 2008 population census Theater in Phnom Penh.

“The US should stop demanding Cambodia to pay the debt because large amount of bombs were dropped by Americans here on Cambodians victims,” the premier said. “The US should pay compensation for Cambo- dians and the US has to provide more assistance for Cambodians.”

The US was receptive to the Cambodian premier’s request. “This is a longstanding bilateral issue. Under international law, governments are generally responsible for theobligations of their predecessors. We hope that an agreement to resolve Cambo- dia’s debt to the US can be reached soon and believe that such an agreement could benefit Cambodia’s people, while also enhancing Camb-odia’s creditworthiness and its ability to access international capital markets,” said John Johnson, spokesman for the US embassy to Cambodia .

It is not the first time that Cambodian side has asked the US to cancel debts.

Cambodia has lobbied the US many times to cancel its debt both at the Senate and National Assembly (NA) levels, and has raised the issue with US development partners. No concrete answer has yet been forthcoming from the American side.

Cheam Yeap, a ruling party lawmaker and chairman of the Committ- ees of Finance, Banking and Economy of the Cambodian NA, said that “we have been trying to urge US side to cancel debts for several times but the American side is considering and they need approval from the congress. The debt is not a matter of cooperation and relationship between the two sides.”

However, Cambodia and the US have exchanged official visits several times and have recently grown closer.

Bilateral cooperation stretches to fighting against terrorism, and military cooperation and aid.

The US has also helped Cambodia provide security training for Cambo- dian Government officials and soldiers, The US side also sent warships to dock at Sihanoukville port to further strengthen military ties.

Cambodia and the US have a long relationship of cooperation which has provided mutual benefits for both nations. The lion’s share of Cambodia’s garment products have been imported to the US market, although the global financial crisis has sent exports tumbling.

On September 8, the US will hand over US$34 million to Cambodia to improve education and healthcare at a signing at the Cambodian Foreign Ministry. Earlier this week, the US also handed over US$6.5 million of military equipment to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF). The US also provides scholarship for Cambodian students to study in the US at graduate levels.

Last week, Cambodia cooperated with US to deport three sex offenders back to the US where they will face justice.

One recent controversy was the remarks of US Ambassador Carol A. Rodley about corruption in Cambodia. Cambodian government leaders criticized her, calling her comments about the well-publicized scourge of graft in Cambodia baseless.

Cambodian MFAA Spokesperson Koy Kuong said that Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong will join the UN General Assembly late this month in New York “but so far, I do not know exactly about the meeting between he and his American counterpart Hilary Clinton. But the two figures already met in Thailand with other foreign ministers.”

US President Batrack Obama also cancelled the blacklist of Cambodia as a communist country.

A lingering point of friction are the 2,000 or so ‘deportees’—Cambo- dians who grew up in the US but have been deported back to Cambodia after they committed cries in the US.

Women Factory Workers Continue to Faint

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 08 September 2009

Cambodian female garment workers have continued fainting at a factory in the Russey Keo district of Phnom Penh, a local source said on Monday.

Last week, over 100 of the 1,400 workers in the Golden My factory fainted, but no clear explanation has yet been made. A Golden Mile representative said “After this case occurred during last week, the local authority and manager of Golden Mile have discussed and found about this case, but now have no clear confirmation yet.”

Sun Seng Hourt of the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy recently had talks with the manager of Golden Mile. “After all victims came back to hospital, they were controlled. If they were abnormal, they were relaxed and treated again, but some of them were ok,” he said.

The manager apparently agreed to Sun Seng Hourt’s suggestions.

Added Sun Sen Hourt: “We need to join with this manager; if there is evidence of poisoned cloth, the manager should take this away.”

Vice Russey Keo District Governor Ly Rozamy asked the manager of Golden My to ensure a better airflow into the factory. The manager agreed.

One female victim of the fainted had a more supernatural explanation. “It was maybe caused by magic because my boss, he did not pray.”

“This land has a soul woman named Oldest Mao who appeared before we fainted,” she explained. “This soul was very angry at the manager of the company so we started to fall faint like this.”

A doctor said the fainting was likely due to malnutrition, lack of sleep and stress.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Convicts Bank Robbers

Written by DAP NEWS -- Tuesday, 08 September 2009

Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted five Cambodians of robbery, according to Judge Ke Sakhon.

Um Chhivorn and Taing Lun were both sentenced to imprisonment of 9 years and fined CR2 million, and another two of the men, identified as Kim Chan La and Chan Pauv, were sentenced to 10 years and fined CR2 million riel, too. The last man, Ngov Sunra, was fined CR2 million and imprisoned for 12 years, Ke Sakhon added. “We judged them by 6, 69 and 20´ articles, all of accused men must pay US$50,000,” he added. The men were convicted of an aggravated robbery outside a bank on October 7, 2008. The men first appeared in court on August 27, 2009, a court official said.

Taing Lun, one of the robbers, told the court that “I was one of the four robbers and … after we robbed, we shared US$125,000 each.”

The three other men who took part in the robbery, Chan La, Chan Pauv and Smeth, “all carried the hammers to destroy and shoot to victims,” the court found.

One of the men, Um Chivorn, denied all the charges, claiming that “I drove my car to visit my mother at Kampot province before it occurred.”

Prosecutor Heang Sopheak said there would be an investigation into the man’s claims.

Curtain call at Sovanna Phum

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:02 Heng Chivoan

Workers demolish the old Sovanna Phum theatre, where, for many years, tourists would gather to watch traditional dance performances.

ECCC ruling risks unrest: PM

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Hun Sen speaks at the release of the 2008 census results at Chaktomuk Theatre on Monday.

Judicial decisions should be based on evidence, not political considerations.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha and Robbie Corey-boulet

Hun Sen says decision on KR investigations could spark more deadly conflict.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Monday lashed out at the decision by the Khmer Rouge tribunal to pave the way for investigations of more regime figures, warning that doing so risks sparking civil unrest that could claim hundreds of thousands of lives.

"If you want a tribunal, but you don't want to consider peace and reconciliation and war breaks out again, killing 200,000 or 300,000 people, who will be responsible?" asked Hun Sen, speaking at a forum on census results at Chaktomuk Theatre.

The war crimes court's Pre-Trial Chamber in a ruling announced last week opened the door to investigations of suspects beyond the five regime leaders currently in custody.

The decision ended a nine-month dispute between the now-resigned international co-prosecutor, Robert Petit, who wished to file additional submissions for investigations, and the national co-prosecutor, Chea Leang, who cited concerns about national stability in arguing against the filings.

Hun Sen described Petit's push for more investigations as being inconsistent with the UN's past stance towards the Khmer Rouge, who represented Cambodia at the UN General Assembly in the 1980s.

"Before, they all supported the Khmer Rouge at the UN, but now when we try the detained Khmer Rouge leaders they say it is not enough," he said.

He went on to defend his policy - carried out after the Khmer Rouge fell from power - of encouraging high-level cadres to defect to the government, adding that he did not look kindly on threats to a peace he described as hard-earned.

"Finally, I have got peace, so I will not let someone destroy it," he said.

"The people and the nation will not be destroyed by someone trying to lead the country into instability, whether it is a Cambodian or a foreigner."

During a speech in March, Hun Sen made similar claims, saying he would rather see the tribunal fail than more suspects be tried and the Kingdom descend into chaos.

Interference concerns
Though Hun Sen emphasised that he was "not pressuring the court", the New York-based group Human Rights Watch said the premier's remarks amounted to another in a series of attempts to exert influence over the tribunal.

"For Hun Sen to continually insist that the Khmer Rouge tribunal limit the number of people it prosecutes shows once again the Cambodian government's efforts to manipulate what is supposed to be an independent judicial process," said the group's Asia director, Brad Adams.

"It is specious to claim that war will return to Cambodia if a few more suspects are prosecuted," he said.

"Judicial decisions should be based on evidence, not political considerations," Adams added.

The coordinator of the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT), Knut Rosandhaug, said Monday the court would not be influenced by the executive branch.

"It is a clearly established international standard that courts do not seek approval or advice on their work from the executive branch," Knut Rosandhaug said.

"I expect that the [tribunal] will comply with this internationally recognised standard and make its decisions independently."

Acting international co-prosecutor William Smith - Petit resigned before the ruling was made - declined to comment.

Chea Leang could not be reached for comment.

Hun Sen on Monday also took aim at genocide researcher Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam), who was quoted Monday in the daily newspaper Kampuchea Thmey as saying that the tribunal should explain to the prime minister its reasoning for pushing for more prosecutions.

"The [tribunal] should show their reasons for wanting to prosecute further Khmer Rouge suspects to Prime Minister Hun Sen, as previously he showed the stance of not wanting to prosecute more suspects because of fears of social instability," Youk Chhang was quoted as saying.

Responding to those comments, Hun Sen said: "I want to be clear on this point. I am not pressuring the court. Youk Chhang should not interfere on this issue anymore."

Youk Chhang wrote in an email Monday that he only told Kampuchea Thmey that the court "should explain why they want to prosecute more people".

He also said he had sent a letter to the prime minister to clarify his position.

Closing arguments set
The Trial Chamber ruled Monday that closing statements in the trial of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, would commence on November 23. The chamber rejected a request from the co-prosecutors to push them back one week because Chea Leang would not be able to attend.


ECCC judges' plenary to focus on streamlining role of civil parties

THE tribunal's weeklong plenary session is to focus today on the issue of civil party participation, five days after the Rules and Procedure Committee convened an "urgent meeting" to discuss ways to make that participation "more meaningful", Trial Chamber Judge Silvia Cartwright said during an opening speech Monday. "It is well-known that the Trial Chamber has found the process of involving victims as civil parties to be cumbersome, and that it has frequently had the unlooked-for effect of slowing the trial while not providing for the victims' needs, which include achieving timely justice for their suffering," she said. The tribunal has received a total of 2,210 civil party applications, Plenary President Kong Srim said. The vast majority of those applications are for the court's second case, for which Kong Srim said the civil party process "could be an ultimate failure" if changes aren't made. On Monday the plenary was briefed on a budget proposal for 2010 and 2011. UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said the court aims to present a budget proposal to the Group of Interested States by mid-October. Also Thursday, the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) submitted an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief to the Pre-Trial Chamber pertaining to a decision by the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ) regarding the use of "torture-tainted evidence". The OCIJ in July dismissed a request from Ieng Thirith's defence team to deem all such evidence inadmissible. Lawyers for the former minister of social action appealed that decision. In its brief, CCHR called for the OCIJ decision to be overturned.


Heavy storms kill two children

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:03 Tep Nimol

Heavy storms claimed the lives of two children and two others remain missing after the group was swept out to sea in Preah Sihanouk province Sunday.

Hum Khonkhan, 17, and Ngetha Sina, 15, both girls, were found dead. The two missing children have been identified as Deuk Srey Touch, a 14-year-old girl, and Phan Roy, a 17-year-old boy. Rescuers managed to save a fifth child, who has not been named.

Officials blamed intense rainfall and harsh winds for the deaths, adding that ongoing storms hampered search-and-rescue efforts Monday.

"People dare not set out in their boats to look for the bodies because it is too rainy and windy," Yin Bunnath, the province's deputy police chief, told the Post.

The children, from Veal Thom village, Prey Nob district, had been swimming near Ochheuteal Beach in Commune 4, Sihanoukville.

Rough weather ahead
Officials are warning coastal province residents that more severe weather lies ahead and coastal areas should expect to be hit the hardest, followed by the plateau and central plains areas, said Seth Vannareth, director of the Department of Meteorology at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology.

Seth Vannareth warned that residents of Kampot, Kep, Koh Kong and Preah Sihanouk provinces, some of which have already experienced flooding, should prepare for more storms. "Residents and tourists in the coastal area must be on very high alert for unexpected disaster," Seth Vannareth said.

Sweeps to clear streets of beggars sow fear

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Beggars flock to Phnom Penh’s pagodas for the start of the Pchum Ben festival, when temple-goers traditionally give to the poor.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:03 Chhay Channyda

BEGGARS in the capital on Monday said they fear that government "sweeps" to beautify the city for the Pchum Ben festival could see them detained and abused.

Prum Huot, 59, from Prey Veng province, said he had heard stories of abuse at detention centres from other beggars and was resolved to evade police if they came to detain him. "I will never go to a detention centre because we would be beaten and treated like criminals," he said.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Monday that no one had any reason to fear police.

"There is no abuse. The detention centres offer vocational training," he added.

PM cites 'conditions' for ending title project

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:03 Sam Rith and James O'Toole

PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Monday that he ended a government partnership with the World Bank on a land-titling project because it had "too many conditions".

"I would like to confirm that on Friday the plenary council session decided to end the partnership with the World Bank over the issue of land titling," the Prime Minister said during a speech in Phnom Penh, adding that the partnership "was difficult because it was complicated and had too many conditions".

The government had collaborated with the World Bank since 2002 on the Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), a programme designed to provide assistance in land titling and conflict resolution to Kingdom residents, typically poorer members of rural communities. The World Bank contributed a US$24.3 million loan for the project.

Although LMAP funding was set to last until the end of this year, Hun Sen said that any future land-titling efforts will be financed exclusively by the Cambodian government, and invited World Bank officials to reclaim remaining funding.

"There is still some money remaining [for LMAP], so within the next few months, please come take it back," he said.

Bou Saroeun, a spokesman for the World Bank, said that the government informed his organisation of its decision verbally on Friday. In July, the World Bank sent a report on LMAP to the government stating that despite successes in rural areas, the project "has not proved to be an effective instrument so far in helping the Government deal with informal settlements [in land disputes]".

David Pred, director of the Bridges Across Borders rights group, attended recent meetings between the World Bank and the government to discuss LMAP. He said in an email Monday that relations broke down because of inconsistencies in the government's approach.

"A system in which the same provincial and municipal authorities who are handing out land concessions also get to decide which areas get title and which areas don't, because they are arbitrarily defined as 'state land', is clearly problematic," he said. "The state land-management component of LMAP has been an abysmal failure."

Flooding hits homes, raises fears of dengue

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Kong Tang, 35, walks past his apartment that has been flooded for over a week in Boeung Salang, Russey Keo, on Monday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

FLASH flooding caused by heavy rains has damaged more than 20 homes in Kampot province and sparked concerns about a spike in dengue fever in the capital, officials said Monday.

Ros Se, director of Kampot's provincial information department, said the province had been hit by five days of rain. Mao Hak, director of the national Department of Hydrology and River Works, said flooding had also occurred in Kratie, Stung Treng and Kampong Cham provinces.

Ngan Chantha, head of the National Anti-Dengue Programme, said the flooding made anti-dengue precautions more important, adding that 24 children had died of the disease this year.

PM says his critics will be struck by lightning

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea

PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned on Monday that his critics would be struck by lightning if they dared to suggest his leadership was plunging the country into poverty.

Speaking at the announcement of the General Population Census of Cambodia 2008, the premier defended his record.

"[They] say Cambodia is getting poorer and poorer, but aren't they afraid of being struck by lightning?" he said, insisting he had led the country back to wealth since the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

He challenged dissenters to swear their statements were true - or risk the wrath of nature.

"[People] who insult [the January 7 liberation], they are still alive because of who?" Hun Sen said.

"If you dare to say it and be struck by lightning, go ahead."

Opposition politicians dismissed the rhetoric, saying poverty levels could not be ignored.

"We have 14.5 million people [in Cambodia] and 6 to 7 million of them are poor," said Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.

Kem Sokha, head of the Human Rights Party, said the government had failed to provide for its people.

"[Hun Sen's regime] is better than Pol Pot's time, that is true, but it does not conform to people's needs," he said, referring to food, shelter, employment, education and health care.

"These five points, our government has still not met successfully. Let [the prime minister] swear: Can he do it?"

Jail sentence upheld for pill-posting Dane

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

THE Court of Appeal on Monday upheld a 15-year prison sentence against a Danish woman who was jailed for mailing some 10,000 Valium and codeine pills to the United States and United Kingdom for her son, who told her doing so would not be illegal, a court official and her lawyer said.

Johanne Vinther Axelsen, 55, who was sentenced in January, will remain behind bars as her lawyers try to take her case to the Supreme Court.

"Immediately after the court's decision, she was pulled into a car and taken to continue her sentence at Correctional Centre 2 in Phnom Penh," her Danish lawyer, Henrik Olesen, told the Danish Web site politiken.dk.

"In January she was sentenced for having sent 28 envelopes with pills to the United States. The charge is now that she sent 58 envelopes," Olesen was quoted as saying.

Samrith Sophal, one of three judges at the court, confirmed on Monday that Axelsen's appeal had been rejected.

Police told the court that all but one of the envelopes that were used as evidence against Axelsen had been destroyed, Olesen said.

Officials explore Kampuchea Krom

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:02 Vong Sokheng

Cambodian leaders visit Khmer Krom pagodas, but residents say they face government restrictions in practicing their culture.

Tra Vinh province, Vietnam

MINISTER of Information Khieu Kanharith led a delegation of government officials on a visit this past weekend to Vietnam's Tra Vinh province, home to large numbers of ethnic Khmer residents, to celebrate the start of the Pchum Ben festival.

Ethnic Khmer in Vietnam, known collectively as Khmer Krom, have at times reported persecution by the Vietnamese population. The visit of the Cambodian delegation, joined by Vietnamese government officials, was designed to showcase good relations between Cambodia, the Khmer Krom and Vietnam, officials said.

"The Communist Party of Vietnam and I appreciate the Khmer people [living in Vietnam] as the countries of Cambodia and Vietnam continue to improve their relationship," said Soeng Song San, a Khmer Krom who is deputy chairman of Vietnam's Central Communist Party in charge of affairs in the west and south.

Khieu Kanharith echoed the remarks from Soeng Song San, noting that King Norodom Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen have always encouraged good relations between Cambodia and Vietnam. As part of the visit, Khieu Kanharith and the rest of the delegation visited four pagodas patronised by Khmer Krom.

"We are happy to see that our people here are able to preserve their Khmer identity. Cambodian officials will continue to visit in order to link the culture of Khmer people here and Khmer people in Cambodia to have a feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood," he said.

Despite the dignitaries' warm words, alleged instances of Vietnamese discrimination against the Khmer Krom have given rights groups cause for concern in recent years.

This trip will not be of much importance ... because it's an official visit.

In addition to being ethnically distinct from the Vietnamese, Khmer Krom practice Theravada Buddhism, in contrast to the Mahayana tradition that is more prevalent in Vietnam. According to a report released in May of this year by the United States Commission on International Religious
Freedom, Khmer Krom have faced Vietnamese government restrictions on their religious festivals, with five Khmer Krom monks receiving prison sentences for protesting those restrictions in 2007.

In July of this year, Khmer Krom monk and activist Tim Sakhorn flew to Sweden, where he was granted political asylum after having been arrested and jailed by Vietnamese authorities in 2007 on charges of illegally crossing the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Although none were willing to speak on the record, Khmer Krom residents of Tra Vinh province said they faced difficulty in starting their own businesses, and that Khmer language study was discouraged except within pagodas.

Ang Chanrith, the executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organisation, said that though he appreciated the effort of Khieu Kanharith and others to visit the Khmer Krom, he doubted that the trip would do much to improve their situation, as the community struggles with land disputes and discrimination.

"This trip will not be of much importance for Khmer Krom people there because it's an official visit to Kampuchea Krom led by Vietnamese authorities," he said. "The Vietnamese will take [Khieu Kanharith] only to places where there are no disputes between Khmer Krom and Vietnamese."


NagaWorld's profits slide 55pc in first half

Card dealers wait for customers at NagaWorld's gaming tables in Phnom Penh in this handout file photo supplied by the company.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:01 Nathan Green

Phnom Penh's only licensed casino sees drop in revenues as VIP customer spending plummets despite slot machine gains

NAGAWORLD'S first-half profits fell 55 percent year-on-year as falling income from high-rolling gamblers dwarfed a more than 1,000 percent gain in income from slot machines, the owner of the casino and hotel operator said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

First-half profits after tax fell to US$11.5 million, or $0.006 per share, in the six months to the end of June, down from $25.5 million, or US$0.012 a share last year as casino revenues slumped 41.7 percent to $63.6 million from $109.1 million, Saturday's statement said.

The decline came despite a 55 percent year-on-year decrease in costs to $28.7 million from reduced commissions and subsidies on rooms, food and beverages, and air tickets.

NagaWorld divides its casino operations into a public gaming floor, a junket VIP gaming floor and slot machines.

Revenues from the tables on the junket VIP floor, which accounted for 94.2 percent of total gaming revenues in the first half of last year, plummeted 66.8 percent to US$34.1 from $102.8 million in the six months, the statement showed.

NagaWorld Chief Operating Officer Steve Cheng could not be reached for comment Monday, but NagaCorp attributed the loss to the "global financial tsunami".

Its figures showed the number of junket VIP visitors remained stable - around 7,274 in the first six months of 2009, only slightly down on 7,960 a year earlier - but average spending plummeted.

Each VIP visitor bought just $24,500 worth of chips on average in the first half of the year, down from $66,200 a year earlier, and the total amount bet on the tables dropped 62.5 percent from around $4 billion to $1.5 billion for the six months ended 30 June 2009.

But NagaWorld was a big winner from Prime Minister Hun Sen's February decision to close slot machine outlets and sports betting in all venues aside from licensed casinos.

"The closure of many outlets and parlours that offered slot machines has reduced supply of venues offering such gaming activity in Phnom Penh," the company said in the statement. "This has benefitted NagaWorld as it is the only licensed casino in and round Phnom Penh allowed to operate gaming activities including the offering of slot machines."

The company operated 525 slot stations during the first six months of the year, up from just 200 in 2006, earning $16.9 million in revenues, up 1,026.7 percent from $1.5 million in the first six months of 2008. The casino has since increased the number of slot machines to 749 as of the start of September and is aiming to eventually house 1,000 machines, it said.

Revenues from the 65 gaming tables on the public gaming floor were also up, climbing 121.7 percent from $4.6 million a year earlier to $10.2 million.

NagaWorld also increased its non-gaming revenues with the completion of its hotel and entertainment facilities. Revenue from its 508 hotel rooms, 11 food and beverage outlets, karaoke rooms, spa and convention facilities grew 1,050 percent from just $200,000 in the first half of 2008 to $2.3 million.

It is due Wednesday to open a club lounge, swimming pool and health club.

Trade body seen as key to exploring new markets

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

Cambodian officials are eyeing membership of a regional trade body involving China and India as part of efforts to reduce the country's reliance on traditional export markets in the United States and Europe.

Senior government minister Ly Thuch said the Ministry of Commerce was well advanced in discussions with member countries of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA).

"Joining APTA will help us integrate further in the Asia-Pacific region as well as give us more access to the most dynamic markets in Asia," he said, referring specifically to India, China and South Korea.

APTA, previously known as the Bangkok Agreement, is a preferential tariff arrangement signed in 1975 as an initiative of the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to promote intra-regional trade through concessions between member countries.

It is open to all developing ESCAP member countries, but only China, India, South Korea, Bangladesh, Laos and Sri Lanka have joined. Members are currently participating in the fourth round of tariff concessions, which are expected to conclude in October 2009. Ministry of Commerce Undersecretary of State Em Sophoan said admission would help Cambodia boost exports. "If we join with APTA, we can cut down trade barriers and open big markets among the member countries," he said.

Marc Proksch, an economic affairs officer in ESCAP's Trade Policy Section, agreed, saying regional cooperation was necessary to reduce Asia's reliance on struggling export markets in the West.

Crocodile exports plummet

Farmers have been discouraged from exporting live crocodiles. Photo Supplied by Conservation International

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Figures compiled for the first time estimate live-animal sales fell up to 65 percent this season amid export-licensing push

ABOUT three-quarters of Cambodian crocodile farms applied for licences this year to comply with new export requirements, but the number of live young crocodiles and skins exported plummeted during the recent hatching season, according to official figures compiled for the first time.

Cambodia exported just 35,000 young crocodiles to Vietnam and 2,000 crocodile skins to Thailand between May and July, down from an estimated 100,000 live exports last year, said Heng Sovannara, chief of the Crocodile Development Division at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Juvenile crocodiles are typically sold between May and July each year, with the bulk going to Vietnam and Thailand. However, buyers from Thailand stayed away this year, Heng Sovannara said, blaming the economic downturn and political tension between the two countries.

But Nao Thuok, director general of the ministry's Fisheries Administration, said the downturn was also due to ministry pressure on farms to export skins rather than young crocodiles.

"This year, exports dropped because we have restricted exports of crocodile babies," he said. "We want farmers to raise crocodiles for skins rather than export young crocodiles."

Under a new ministry policy, crocodile farmers must register with the ministry before they can legally export. Around 380 out of the estimated 500 crocodile farms across Cambodia registered this year, Heng Sovannara said. "Farmers rushed to have their farms registered after our officials said they would not be able to sell crocodiles overseas if they did not apply for a licence," he said.

The crocodile chief said the new policy would make it easier to track sales.

Falling prices in recent years have devastated local crocodile hatcheries. In 2003, when a juvenile fetched as much as $40, there were nearly 1,000 crocodile farms in Cambodia, but prices dropped as low as $12 last year, leading to the closure of around half of all farms, Heng Sovannara said.

Prices have since risen to around $15 for a high-quality juvenile, though poor-quality specimens still go for just $12, he added.

Kaing Sarin, owner of a 2-hectare crocodile farm in Kandal province's Kandal Stung district, said he sold 7,000 juvenile crocodiles this season, up from around 500 babies last year. "The price this year was much better," he said.

Siem Reap crocodile farmer Khoeu Chhin said he sold 3,000 juvenile crocodiles this year for around $15 each, up from 700 at $13 last year.

Employers' group calls for better negotiating

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal

Training of CAMFEBA members will help end industrial labour disputes, business union says

A MAJOR employers group called on members Monday to improve negotiation to help open communication channels with labour unions and improve industrial relations.

Som Chamnan, executive manager of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations (CAMFEBA), told the Post on the sidelines of a two-day training session for members that it would not be possible for employers to reach agreement with unions if they were not prepared for negotiations.

"We are training them now because we want them to be capable of negotiating effectively on a collective bargaining agreement with unions," he said, referring to an initiative aimed at bringing the more than 1,500 unions in the country under one umbrella.

Under the Kingdom's 1997 Labour Law, employers are required only to negotiate with the union that represents the most workers in the workplace, at least 33 percent of whom pay dues, but the requirement is usually ignored.

However, just three people are required to form a union under the law. According to the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, Cambodia has 1,596 unions, most of which operate in the garment sector.

Some factories have as many as 14 unions advocating separately on behalf of workers.

Cheat Khemara, a Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia labour official, said Monday that employers had been "victimised" by union-led demonstrations and strikes during negotiations.

"I think the government should make unions respect the law properly for the sake of peace in the garment sector because ... forcing or putting pressure on employers can negatively affect entrepreneurs' productivity and make buyers lose confidence," he said.

However, Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said it was employers who did not respect the law. They also frequently bribe officials to decide matters in their favour, he added.

"I think that negotiations about the collective-bargaining agreement would not be meaningful even if employers are well-trained because they have not abided by existing laws," Chea Mony said.

A labour court called for in the Kingdom's labour laws has not yet been established

Govt consults telcos again on draft law

A girl uses a mobile phone in Phnom Penh. Mobile companies are scheduled to submit by Friday feedback on the draft telecommunications law which will eventually regulate the sector.

We'll be looking to put together comments on the draft as it stands.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:01 Steve Finch

Mobile-phone operators to submit feedback in light of new entrants, changes to market

CAMBODIA'S mobile phone companies have said they will give feedback on a draft telecommunications law by Friday after the government agreed to receive comments by the private sector.

Marae Ciantar, a partner at Phnom Penh law firm Allens Arthur Robinson who is chairing the private-sector sub-committee considering the draft, told the Post Monday that not all operators had given feedback yet following an August 27 meeting in Phnom Penh that included a "brief discussion" on the issue.

"We'll be looking to put together comments on the draft as it stands ... on key elements," he said, adding that these would be collated and presented to the government.

The private sector had not been consulted on the latest version of the draft, which had been adjusted by the government during a period in which, Ciantar said, "the market has changed" with the introduction of new companies.

Viettel, Smart Mobile and Beeline have all set up in Cambodia this year.

The government agreed to reopen the consultation process to the private sector at the beginning of last month, said Ciantar, who led the meeting on August 27.

Some companies expressed concern at a number of points in the draft that they said were unclear or went against their commercial interests.

Hello CEO Simon Perkins told the Post Monday it had raised four points in its feedback to the working group, which it had already submitted.

These included rules on foreign ownership, separation of networks, universal service obligations and the transition period once the law has been passed by the government.

Perkins said that in regard to universal coverage, the draft was unclear as to how companies would ensure all geographic areas would be covered - particularly given the lack of mains electricity in remote regions - and whether mobile companies "may be required to put in funds" as part of a pool to cover infrastructure costs.

Other options might include agreements between companies to establish infrastructure in different areas so that overall coverage could be achieved, he said.

Thomas Hundt, the CEO of Smart Mobile, said his company was "more or less OK" with the draft as it stands.
"[There are] no major changes from our side," he said.

Beeline General Director Gael Campan was unavailable for comment Monday, as was market leader Mobitel.

Ciantar said it still remained unclear how long it would take for the draft telecommunications law to be passed.

"[We are] still seeking to confirm with the government their timetable," he said.

Perkins said he has requested the government outline when the draft might be passed but has yet to receive a response.

Regulation and legal recourse has recently come under the spotlight in Cambodia's increasingly competitive mobile-phone sector, with a dispute between Mobitel and Beeline still unresolved.

Mobitel has accused the Russian-owned operator of price-dumping and of "illegally" using its prefixes, while Beeline has countered that the market leader has deliberately blocked interconnectivity between their two networks.

Hello says it will focus on 3G BlackBerry sales

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:01 Steve Finch

HELLO, the mobile phone network operated by Kuala Lumpur-based Axiata, will discontinue sales of its 2G BlackBerry handsets to focus on sales of its 3G model Bold, CEO Simon Perkins said Monday.

The company has sold nearly 1,000 Pearl 8120 and Curve 8320 2G handsets, which are made by Canada-based firm Research in Motion (RIM), since launching at the end of April, Perkins said.

"Sales have been strong," he said, adding that Hello would not ship any more 2G models.

Perkins said Hello imported 200 Bold handsets for the end-of-July launch of its 3G BlackBerry service, and that another 1,000 were passing through Cambodian customs following importation from Canada.

"This model is very popular worldwide, if not the most popular of the BlackBerry smart phone range of products," Hello Brand manager Gary Foo said Monday.

The company sells the Bold handset for US$68 a month as part of a two-year BlackBerry service contract, he said.

Further stock orders on 3G handsets would be placed in the future, Perkins said, but he ruled out the introduction of the Storm model, a touch-screen RIM 3G handset, citing disappointing sales elsewhere in the region.

Credit Suisse last week raised its rating for RIM from "neutral" to "outperform" based on analysts' forecasts on growing demand for BlackBerry handsets.

Creating a glamorous Web tribute to the world of Khmer celebrities

Photo by: Roth Meas and Photo Supplied
Chem Vuth Sovin, above, co-founder of Khmer Celebrity Community, and a screenshot of khmercelb.org.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:00 Roth Meas

A collective of enterprising Cambodian new-media disciples has created a beautifully produced, regularly updated online magazine devoted to the emerging scene of Khmer celebrities

RUN a Web search on "Khmerceleb" and a modern, well-designed Web site is first up in the results.

This Web page, with its plethora of features and photographs concerned with Cambodian celebrities, belongs to the Khmer Celebrity Community (KCC), which was founded by five people: Chem Vuth Sovin and Alex T, both of whom live in Cambodia; Rattanak Tee Leang and Veasna Pors, who live in the US; and New Zealand resident Akong.

Sovin and Alex T got to know their three colleagues by chance, when they chatted on the Internet. As a group, they began building their relationship and sharing personal interests.

They soon landed on common ground and decided to found the KCC, before launching Khmer Celeb, an online magazine, on March 8.

Chem Vuth Sovin explains the reasons behind creating the online magazine were that "we all love art and entertainment, and many people aren't aware of how this scene is developing in Cambodia. We want to support this, so we created a Web page to showcase this newfound confidence and creative upsurge."

Sovin is a former Cambodian student who studied law in Lyon, France, for almost three years. He is also a photographer and owns a shop called SPK Plus Digital Photography. Yet in order to create the Web site, he needed the help of his friend in New Zealand.

Each month on Khmer Celeb, the homepage is designated as a shrine to a different celebrity. That celebrity is the site's "artist of the month" and takes part in a detailed interview, as well as having a fact file composed about him or her, and a number of photographs added.

Khmer Celeb strives to include celebrities from a variety of disciplines, from film stars and singers to painters and boxers.

Sovin is usually the point of contact for the celebrities featured on the site and often arranges the interviews and photo shoots himself.

The staff of KCC generally communicate with one another by Internet or phone because of their great geographical diversity. After all, they do live across three different continents.

The process usually flows as thus: Sovin gathers the information and photos in Cambodia and sends them to his colleagues in the US for editing.

After editing, the articles will be sent on again to Akong, the webmaster, who lives in New Zealand and controls the whole site, He publishes the articles on khmerceleb.org.

However, Khmer Celeb is always keen to diversify its media content and has begun to show video clips about stars, clothes and hairstyles. This is where Alex T comes in, the production director of the site, who produces all of the video content.

Yet there is more, as Sovin explains.

"Khmer Celeb also works as a social networking site, much like Facebook or Myspace, where people can join and then create their own personal page, post their photos or comments and chat with friends," he says.

New sections such as lifestyle, Cambodian food, and tourism are making sure the Web site continues to diversify, and there are other topics in the pipeline which are not yet live.

According to Sovin, the main target audience of Khmer Celeb is people who live outside of Cambodia, including foreigners.

The KCC is certain that many Cambodians overseas regularly access the Internet; it's somewhat odd that the site is more likely to reach those people, rather than residents of its country of origin.

However, Sovin has seen a rising number of Cambodian students using the Internet, and some are already regular visitors to Khmer Celeb. The group hopes to take advantage of this soon and plans to target Cambodian teenagers at the end of this year.

Thus far, the founders have run the group using their own money.

"When we first created the online mag, we were only interested in exposing Khmer entertainment," Sovin explained.

"We never even thought about money, but now, after half a year, some companies are beginning to ask us to advertise their products."

Sovin plans to extend his staff to 14 to help make Khmer Celeb bigger and better than ever.

Seducing youth through style and song

The karaoke hit-maker prepares to deliver a vocal take.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:00 May Titthara

Cambodia's most celebrated karaoke crooner appreciates that style is more than skin-deep

IT would be no exaggeration to say that Preap Sovath has taken Cambodia by storm over almost two decades in the public eye.

Widely hailed as one of the most famous Cambodian singers of his generation, Preap Sovath's personal styling has also made him a fashion icon for today's Cambodian youth.

The 37-year-old started his career in the early '90s, working for Rasmey Hang Meas, perhaps the country's most progressive production company, and has recorded over 2,000 nontraditional Khmer karaoke-style songs to date.

Yet it is perhaps his fashion sense which has left an indelible mark on Cambodian pop culture.

Preap Sovath smiles with pride when he discusses his influence over youths.

"I am so happy. When I see people follow my fashion ideas, it is a great compliment, and they may not know it, but their support encourages me to work even harder," he claims.

Clad in jeans and a black corduroy cap, Preap Sovath details his latest venture.

"I have opened a tailor's shop [at Preap Sovath Beauty Center, 56AB Russian Blvd], which I hope will help me come up with new looks and also do the same for my clients.

"My style has always been largely influenced by my wife, with some ideas from me as well.

"In my profession, I have to feel confident in the clothes I wear, and I think that when you get things right in fashion terms, it gives a great impression," said the Khmer superstar.

Yet life has not always been so easy for Preap Sovath.

Before his musical career took off, there were periods of great difficulty, those times make him appreciate his current success even more.

"Before I was famous, I had a lot of struggles to endure. In 1992, I worked as a soldier during the day and sang at nightclubs in the evening.

"Everyone must push themselves and try their hardest in life, but I know there are many people who have greater struggles than me."

It is this awareness and compassion which marks Preap Sovath out as a true star in the eyes of Chan Kunthear, a 22-year-old student, who proudly proclaims herself one of his biggest fans.

"He is my favourite singer. I like his voice; it is so sweet and romantic.

"I have never heard of or seen him look down on others, even though he is so famous," Chan Kunthear said.

"He always respects people, both young and old, and that is what makes him so special to so many people."

Will Cambodia cut the mustard?

With a plethora of top-class restaurants in Cambodia, such as Le Wok in Phnom Penh, it will be interesting to see how many make it into The Miele Guide.

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:00 Peter Olszewski

The second annual edition of The Miele Guide, featuring reviews of leading restaurants in Asia, including Cambodia, will be launched in Singapore on September 30 at a gala dinner at The Fullerton Hotel.

"We are very much looking forward to unveiling our second edition," said Pauline Ooi, the guide's associate publisher.

"Over the past year, from the moment the inaugural edition was launched, we have resolutely worked towards making The Miele Guide an even more credible and independent system through which restaurants throughout Asia are evaluated.

"This second edition is a strong and diverse showcase of our region's top chefs and restaurateurs, and it is an honest, practical guide to the best of dining in Asia."

As well as featuring 450 restaurants from 16 Asian countries, the new 2009-10 guide rates Asia's top 25 restaurants - last year's rating included only the top 20 Asian restaurants.

This year there will also be a listing of the top five restaurants in each country, with the exception of those with only a very small number of entries under them.

Readers, diners and culinary experts were asked to vote for their top Asian restaurants via a Web site for inclusion in this year's guide.

The Miele Guide Web site was made available in English, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Japanese and Korean to reach a wider pool of Asian voters. Voters came from 98 countries this year, up from 40 last year, with over 19,000 registered voters casting over 98,000 votes.

Last year, no Cambodian restaurant made it into the top 20 rankings, but three Cambodian restaurants were listed: FCC Phnom Penh Kitchen, FCC Angkor Kitchen in Siem Reap, and Hotel de la Paix's Meric restaurant in Siem Reap.

The Miele Guide is published by Ate Media and sponsored by Miele, a German manufacturer of home appliances.

In a statement, Ate Media said: "As an independent guide, The Miele Guide does not accept any advertising, sponsorship or free meals from the restaurants reviewed."

The statement added that while Miele is a sponsor of the guide, it "does not exert any influence over the selection and judging process that determines which restaurants appear" in the guide.

NagaWorld plans gala

The Phnom Penh Post
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 15:00 Ou Mom and Mark Roy

NagaWorld is celebrating the once-in-a-thousand-year date of 9/9/09, with a series of concerts and cultural dances.

In a press release which promotes NagaWorld as "the ideal location for families", the hotel and casino says Wednesday's events will "create unforgettable experiences that people of all ages could enjoy".

However, a spokesperson for NagaWorld said it had no daycare centre, special facilities or playgrounds for children.

The celebrations will feature performances Wednesday and Thursday from top artists such as Sokun Nisa, Nobaya Rith, Sokun Kagna and Chorn Sovanna Reach, alongside international events from around 5pm until midnight.

From Wednesday to Sunday, dancers will feature Angkorian style performances of the traditional Apsara dance, the Royal Peacock Dance and the fast-paced Milk Churning Dance.

There are also food and beverage specials and promotions on spa treatments.

"Cambodia has never seen so much entertainment under one roof," said Steve Cheng, NagaWorld's chief operating officer, in a statement.

The statement also said patrons had the chance to "win up to $20,000 in the 9-9-09 Lucky Draw".

However, it was not clear how patrons could do this, given the total prize money in the first, second and third prize categories added up to $17,558, with $1,588 in cash and the rest in "play value".

The 9-9-09 celebration is organised by NagaWorld, the Ministry of Tourism and Raksmey Hang Meas Production.