Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Ranariddh answers to court over ’06 divorce

Prince Norodom Ranariddh stands outside court Tuesday.

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:03 Meas Sokchea

FORMER First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh appeared in Phnom Penh Municipal Court Tuesday in response to a summons relating to a divorce complaint filed in 2006 by his ex-wife, Princess Mary Ranariddh.

Liv Sovanna, Norodom Ranariddh’s lawyer, said his client agreed to appear in the spirit of reconciliation, but that he did not want to get back together with his ex-wife.

“Ranariddh said he wants to remain separated forever because they do not have sentimental feelings for each other,” Liv Sovanna said.

Norodom Ranariddh ended his marriage with Mary Ranariddh in 2006 after he fell in love with Ouk Phalla, with whom he now has a son.

A security official at the court who would give his name only as Chantha said he saw Norodom Ranariddh walk through the front entrance of the court at about 10:30am.


Railway residents brace for eviction

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:03 Mom Kunthear and Kim Yuthana

TWENTY-EIGHT families living along rail lines in Tuol Kork district are set to be evicted by municipal authorities on Thursday after receiving an official notice from City Hall, according to community representative Chea Samhong.

“City Hall sent a directive letter to us last week telling us to move out of the area, and that they will pay US$15,000 per family [in compensation],” he said on Tuesday.

He said the families would not leave, and that authorities had used a “fake” document to force them to leave. Families were not allowed to see
the original directive, he said.

Chea Samhong suggested the eviction – the result of plans to upgrade the Kingdom’s rail lines for integration into the Trans-Asian Railway – was another example of a community being uprooted.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said Tuesday that local authorities would take measures on the date laid out in the notice. “We have enough rights to evict them … because before, we have told them already about it,” he said.

Corruption counsel’s role at ECCC unclear

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:03 Robbie Corey-Boulet

Some say auditor’s NAA record is concerning.

AS the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s independent counsellor prepares to face the media for the first time today, observers say the effectiveness of the new position, created in part to resolve corruption complaints, remains an open question.

Beyond noting that few details of Uth Chhorn’s role have been made available, some observers expressed concerns about his work as head of the National Audit Authority (NAA), an ostensibly independent body that has made none of its reports public — even though this is required under the 2000 Law on Audit.

The government and the UN announced Uth Chhorn’s appointment on August 11, more than two years after allegations first surfaced that Cambodian staffers had been required to give a percentage of their salaries to top tribunal officials.

A release hailed the appointment as a measure to strengthen anticorruption measures.

But Michelle Staggs Kelsall, a court monitor for the Asian International Justice Initiative at the East-West Centre, noted that officials had yet to disclose how Uth Chhorn would be specifically empowered to resolve corruption complaints.

“I think at this stage it’s very difficult to assess whether this is going to be effective at all, regardless of who is in the position,” she said.

Sophal Ear, a professor at the US Naval Postgraduate School in California whose father died during the Khmer Rouge regime, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this month that the selection of Uth Chhorn in particular was troubling.

In an interview with the Post Monday, he said the NAA’s lack of transparency had robbed it of all credibility, adding: “Since the auditor general and the independent counsellor will be one and the same, this does not bode well for the credibility of the ECCC.”

The NAA, which began its work in 2002 and is tasked with auditing all government bodies, is officially independent under the Law on Audit.

But a 2008 review by the nonprofit Global Integrity stated: “The NAA is believed to not be politically independent, even by law.”

The review expressed concern about Article 37 of the Law on Audit, which bars the auditor general from disclosing information deemed by the government to be “contrary to the public interest”, including information that “would prejudice the security, defence, integrity or international relations of the Kingdom of Cambodia”.

Uth Chhorn declined to comment before a press conference scheduled for today. Chea Sophat, deputy chief office at the NAA, said Tuesday that there had been no government interference in the authority’s work.

He did say, though declining to elaborate, that Article 37 had been a factor in the delayed release of the 2006 national budget audit. Earlier this year, Uth Chhorn said that specific audit would be released in June, but the release never happened. Chea Sophat said the document might be released this month.

An August OSJI report said transparency would be important for the independent counsellor, and that Uth Chhorn should be required to issue public reports in his new role.

Court spokesman Reach Sambath declined to comment on whether Uth Chhorn would issue public reports, referring all questions to the press conference.

At villagers’ request, chief pledges to preserve Khmer Rouge canteen

Photo by: Photo Supplied
The Rong Bay canteen in Sray village, which residents want to preserve for younger generations, is an example of Khmer Rouge-era architecture and cultural practices.

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:02 Sam Rith

A VILLAGE chief in Banteay Meanchey province has agreed to preserve a Khmer Rouge-era canteen that has recently shown increasing signs of deterioration.

Vy Chhloun, the chief of Svay village, Thmar Pouk district, said he planned to raise money from the more than 400 local families that had specifically requested repairs earlier this month.

The 7-by-10-metre communal canteen is currently missing several wooden panels. Pieces of the zinc roof have also fallen off in recent months, villagers said.

“Now we want this canteen to be preserved so that the younger generation will be able to see something left over from the Pol Pot regime,” said Tum Chhick, 52.

He said the canteen had been built in 1976.

Another villager, Sean Chhoeum, 60, said the canteen was “a place that reminded hundreds of people of the hunger they felt when they were not given enough food by the Khmer Rouge”.

Since the regime fell from power, however, villagers have used the canteen for religious festivals and other ceremonies, he said.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam), said Tuesday that he could not provide the total number of canteens that had been built by the Khmer Rouge, but he noted that communal eating had been widespread. He said he supported the preservation of the canteen to remind people of the suffering of those who survived the regime.

Fishermen to assist in poaching crackdown

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

FED up with the threat of losing their livelihoods to poachers, more than 100 fishermen in Battambang province plan to launch a crackdown on illegal fishing today, partnering with government officials to try to put an end to the practice.

“We plan to crack down on illegal fishing for a week to protect fish resources for improving the livelihood of communities in this province,” said Ngeth Soeu, chief of Kampong Prieng commune in Sangke district.

The move comes after the fishermen appealed to the commune on Monday. Fisherman Soeung Saran, 38, said his community has had a major problem with poachers, who set up nets in a flooded forest area that serves as a spawning ground for fish.

“If there is no crackdown on illegal fishing, the natural fish resources will be extinguished soon,” he said.

Fishermen saw illegal nets set up in many places in local fishing grounds during a patrol last week, but the authorities did little after the community complained, he said.

However, Ngeth Soeu said officials confiscated seven rolls of illegal netting – each between 1 and 2 kilometres long – in an operation last month.

CITA enters school row

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:02 Tep Nimol

THE Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in a dispute between the University of Health Science and 1,000 first-year students who claim the school is unfairly preventing them from continuing their studies.

The students, who have been protesting since September 10, claim that the university has cheated them, as only 850 of some 2,000 students will be allowed back for second year following exams in August.

The university maintains that the students failed their exams, though it has not released exam results. In a letter to Hun Sen, CITA requested that the university admit 70 percent of the students into the second-year programme, and that remaining students be able to repeat their first year’s courses.

CITA President Rong Chhun said the university should exceed its usual admission quota this year to compensate the protesting students.

Garment makers urge retailers to keep buying

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Workers manufacture garments at Modern Dress Sewing Factory.

CAAI news Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal and Steve Finch

Outlets such as H&M and Gap say they would like to purchase Cambodian garments but cannot guarantee purchase quotas.

ABUYERS forum for Cambodian garments ended in Phnom Penh on Tuesday with manufacturers and unions urging the likes of H&M and Gap to maintain orders amid a decline that has seen overseas sales of the Kingdom’s leading export industry fall about 25 percent this year.
Ken Loo, director general
of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said he told buyers Monday evening that they should maintain orders in support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)-led initiative Better Factories Cambodia that attempts to guarantee labour standards.

He conceded, however, that “some buyers do not want to order garment products from Cambodia because they think that Cambodian [garments] … are too expensive”. Official figures show that exports to Cambodia’s leading buyer the United States fell 31 percent in the first seven months year-on-year, while those to Europe were down 10 percent over the same period. Lou acknowledged that Vietnam and Bangladesh in particular had faired better during the economic downturn, but added they were less reliant on the US market.

Gap, estimated by Lou to be the No 1 purchaser of Cambodian garments, acknowledged it had decreased its orders as demand has dropped in the US, said sourcing manager Agnes Bulahan-Lagrosa.

“[However,] we are determined to place more orders in Cambodia,” she said.

Still, no buyers committed to increasing purchases of Cambodian-made garments, Lou said, citing the nature of the seasonal fashion industry and increasing uncertainty following the global economic crisis.

“It’s become even more difficult [to purchase against future demand,” he told the Post.

Kanwarpreet Singh, a Puls Trading Far East Ltd buyer on behalf of H&M, estimated to be the second-largest purchaser of Cambodian garments, said his company had made no commitments to future orders from the Kingdom.

“We have already bought at the same level [this year] as last year,” he said.

H&M is one of the few buyers that has kept orders steady in 2009, Lou said.

Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (CCAWDU), urged buyers to increase purchases from Cambodia even if they are sometimes more expensive than the likes of Vietnam, citing the attractions of the Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) standard.

“If orders do not increase, factories cannot produce more products, and as a result, workers will lose their jobs,” he said.

Cambodia first started the BFC initiative on the basis of increased quotas from the US Department of Labour in 2001, becoming the first country to do so. The project was extended from 2005 to 2008 despite the Kingdom's loss of preferential treatment from the world’s largest economy, and was further extended from 2008 through next year.

Better Factories revisited
In May, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh publicly raised the possibility of reassessing the scheme “if as a result of supporting the ILO labour practices [there are] fewer purchase orders and less business for Cambodian exporters”.

Lou said Tuesday that the ILO was looking at how the scheme could be refined for the benefit of Cambodia in the future.

“It is time to look at the driving forces behind BFC.” he said.

The second half is traditionally better for garment orders, Lou added, due to the Christmas season in the West.

“I think its going to get better,” he said. “[But] I think the buyers are very concerned about sales at Christmas.”

Cambodia, Vietnam ink deal on rubber

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA and Vietnam have jointly agreed to build a rubber processing plant in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed Tuesday, a government official said, adding that the initiative would help boost the Kingdom's exports.

“This MoU will ... help increase productivity of Cambodia’s rubber plantations, creating more jobs and higher profits to help alleviate rural poverty,” said Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Chan Sarun.

A location for the plant had not yet been decided, he said, but it would be developed alongside a rubber plantation by the Vietnam Rubber Group, a consortium.

In the MoU, Cambodia offered Vietnam a 100,000-hectare rubber concession likely to be distributed over sites in Mondulkiri, Rattanakkiri, Kampong Thom, Kratie and Preah Vihear provinces.

Cao Duc Phat, Vietnam’s minister of agriculture and rural development, said Tuesday morning that the deal would offer Vietnamese companies a chance to invest in Cambodian rubber.

This year Vietnam has already planted 10,000 hectares of rubber trees in Cambodia, he added, and plans to add 20,000 hectares in 2010, 30,000 hectares in 2011 and 40,000 hectares in 2012.

Chan Sarun said seven Vietnamese companies had already received government authorisation to claim rubber concessions, but that he hoped the number would soon grow to more than 10.

“This is a big project ... right now we lack an exact mechanism for accelerating this process, so we should form a committee to discuss the issue annually,” said Cao Duc Phat.

Pawnshop legislation ​discussed

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

THE Ministry of Finance brought a draft prakas, or edict, regulating pawnshops before about 100 Phnom Penh pawnshop owners for discussion on Tuesday.

Debate over the prakas, which would be the first set of regulations governing pawnshops in Cambodia, centred on two proposals – the minimum capital required to open a pawnshop and the maximum time period for loan contracts on pawned items.

According to the draft prakas, to open a pawnshop, an operator must have a minimum capital of 200 million riels (US$48,123), with 10 percent of the minimum deposited in a Finance Ministry account at the National Bank of Cambodia.

The prakas would also cap monthly interest rates on pawnshop loans at 5 percent, as well as limit loan contracts to four months with an option to renew. The measures raised concern in the industry Tuesday.

“The minimum is suitable for only the biggest pawn business – it will squeeze out small- and medium-sized pawnshops,” said Bun Sron, a pawnshop owner at Kandal market. “Minimum capital should be lowered to just $25,000.”

Growth forecast slashed by ADB

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:01 Nathan Green

CAMBODIA’S reliance on exports, tourism and foreign direct investment has led the Asian Development Bank to slash its 2009 growth projection for the country, even as it says developing Asia as a whole will lead the world’s emergence from its deepest recession since the 1930s.

The country’s economy will contract 1.5 percent this year, compared with a March estimate of 2.5 percent growth, the Manila-based institution said in a report Tuesday. Asia, excluding Japan, will expand 3.9 percent, up from an earlier estimate of 3.4 percent, it said.

“A sharper-than-expected downturn in clothing exports, construction activity and tourism arrivals has prompted a downward revision in the GDP forecast [for Cambodia],” the ADB said in its Asian Development Outlook 2009 Update.

Recovery expected
In the “Asian Development Outlook 2009” and the corresponding update, also released annually, the ADB predicted that growth would resume in Cambodia in 2010 at about 3.5 percent as a gradual recovery in the global economy stimulates clothing exports and tourism. The expected recovery was a little over half the 6.4 percent growth the ADB predicted across Asia next year.

“That should provide support for growth in incomes and consumption,” the report said, adding that inflation has decelerated faster than expected in Cambodia, owing to lower international oil and food prices and weaker domestic demand as the economy contracted.

The ADB forecast Cambodia’s inflation rate for 2009 at just 0.8 percent, though it expected it to quicken to about about 5 percent next year, reflecting higher prices for imported oil and an improvement in domestic demand. Inflation across Southeast Asia was forecast at 2.5 percent, while prices in Asia, excluding Japan, were expected to grow 1.5 percent before accelerating to 3.4 percent next year as growth strengthened.

The ADB’s latest projection of a 1.5 percent contraction for Cambodia puts it in line with a forecast by the Economist Intelligence Unit earlier this month.

Better than expected
ANZ Royal CEO Stephen Higgins said a 1.5 percent contraction was optimistic given the hit the economy had taken in the first half of the year, but added that the forecast “shouldn’t really ring alarm bells”, as the worst looked to be over for the domestic economy.

“I couldn’t specify a particular number, but I would expect something lower than [negative]1.5 percent, reflecting the depth of the downturn in the first half of the year, perhaps more in line with Malaysia or Singapore,” he said. “In fact, we are already seeing signs of a turnaround in the economy ... so I’m optimistic about the medium-term outlook.”

Half of the economies in Southeast Asia were expected to shrink this year, the ADB said, including Malaysia and Singapore.

It predicted that Malaysia’s economy would shrink 3.1 percent this year after contracting 5.1 percent in the first half when the impact of a plunge in exports spread to fixed investment and private consumption. It forecast a 5 percent contraction for Singapore, saying an increase in pharmaceutical production would help counterbalance a 6.5 percent contraction in the first half of the year.

Only gains in Indonesia and Vietnam, whose economies were expected to grow 4.3 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively, on the back of expansionary fiscal policies, looked to keep economic output in the region from contracting.

Still, the ADB projected output would remain virtually flat at 0.1 percent, marking Southeast Asia’s weakest performance since the Asian financial crisis in 1997–’98 when GDP fell.

“The more positive outlook for Indonesia and Vietnam failed to offset the deteriorating prospects for the more open (Malaysia and Thailand) and smaller (Brunei Darussalam and Cambodia) economies in the subregion,” the report said.

Closer to home
The bank used its projections to repeat earlier warnings that developing Asia needed to promote closer intra-regional economic links to reduce its dependence for economic growth on exports to the developed world.

“Recognising that globalisation and openness underpinned global growth and prosperity in the last 60 years, the region must continue to embrace them,” ADB Chief Economist Jong-Wha Lee said in a media release accompanying the report.

“However, mechanisms must be put in place to safeguard developing Asian economies against excessive and unbalanced openness.”

Strengthening intraregional trade depends on boosting domestic demand, removing “behind-the-border” obstacles to freer trade in goods and services, and promoting regional cooperation, he said.

Slow transition
ADB Senior Country Economist for Cambodia Eric Sidgwick said the short-term recovery of the Cambodian economy still depends on a recovery in its main markets but acknowledged the need for the country to “expand the narrow sources of growth on which it is too dependent so that the economy becomes more resilient to exogenous shocks.

“A broader economic base would also help make growth more inclusive and help accelerate the progress made in reducing poverty over the last decade or so,” he said.

He added that the projections did not explicitly take into account Cambodia’s informal economy, aside from some estimates of subsistence activity in agricultural output.

The bad news for Cambodia and the Southeast Asia region comes even as the ADB says other parts of developing Asia are proving to be more resilient to the global downturn than was initially thought.

Asia, excluding Japan, is leading the world’s emergence from its deepest recession since the 1930s after governments boosted spending, cut taxes and slashed interest rates.

The ADB warned that withdrawing these measures too early might derail the global recovery and lead to a protracted slowdown. It also noted that recovery in Asia still hinged on the revival of growth in Europe and the United States stimulating the region’s export-dependent economies.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last week the recession in the US has probably ended.

“Any slippage in the major industrial economies’ recovery would delay the region’s return to its long-term growth path,” the ADB said.


Riding out tourism slump a memorable affair

Photo by: Lily Partland
Frenchman Herve Nicole demonstrates one of 12 quad bikes he rents to tourists looking for a different way to see Siem Reap.

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:00 Lily Partland

The owner of Siem Reap’s only quad bike tour business reckons that providing an unforgettable activity is the key to loosening wallets when tourists are starting to watch what they spend.

Siem Reap

THE global financial crisis has led to fewer visitors to Siem Reap and, therefore, big financial losses for many businesses that rely on the tourism trade.

Some, however, have never been busier, including French expatriate Herve Nicole’s quad bike tour business, the only one of its kind in town.
Nicole’s theory is that, although tourists are happy to cut costs when it comes to where they stay or what they eat, they are not ready to cut back on activities that make their trip memorable.

“If they are bored visiting temples or bored at their hotel, they will make an effort to spend money to have activities, for sure. If they don’t have a lot of money, instead of staying in a US$300-per-night hotel they may sleep in a $30- or $40-per-night hotel and will be able to afford the quad bike to have a good time.”

It was Nicole’s boredom with Siem Reap’s temples that helped spark the idea for his business. After running the Sala Bai Hotel School in the town for two-and-a-half years, he was ready to try something new.

“I wanted to do something that nobody had done, and I had the idea of the quad bike because I remembered the first time I came to Cambodia … I was bored after one day.

“So I said to myself ‘maybe it would be a great idea to take … people to see the villages and the children in the Siem Reap area, through … tracks that they can’t reach by normal transport.

“So I imported the quad bikes from the United States, and that was the beginning of the story.”

This is now
That was over two years ago, in May 2007.
After a modest campaign including online ads and flyers placed in a select few local businesses, the tours immediately proved popular. His client base includes tourists from all over the world, with most customers between 30 and 45 years old, Nicole said.

“I don’t want people who want to race and be dangerous in the villages. Everybody is so happy to see the bikes because we have a lot of respect for the locals. For people that use the quad bikes, it’s more a mode of transport, and it’s a fun way to go to see something interesting.”

Following rave reviews, word-of-mouth is now the chief way of attracting customers, he said: “Maybe 80 percent of my customers come to my tours now because they have a friend who came already.”

He now has a fleet of 12 quad bikes, and plans to buy another eight vehicles next year. Nicole believes the upfront costs of the business, and the “nightmare” of maintenance, may have kept away competitors.

“I imported these bikes. There is no warranty and, if something breaks, I have to fix the problem by myself. I have to buy new spare parts, which are very expensive. I have to pay the custom duties. I have to pay for the transport. I have to pay for everything. It’s really very expensive. You can buy the same model in China for much cheaper.”

So why did he opt to import from the US? It’s a trade secret, he said, declining to give details of his reasoning.

Though he still hasn’t recouped his investment, Nicole hopes to be profitable within the next three years – he will raise prices next year, he said, to help cover costs.

“When I have my money back I will buy some more bikes – I will invest.”

Mondulkiri resort construction to finish early

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:00 Nguon Sovan

THE developer behind a US$6 million tourism development in Mondulkiri province says it is aiming to finish the project a year earlier than initially planned to take advantage of rising tourism arrivals in the area.

Ngin Sroeun, deputy director general of Cambodian infrastructure group Sar Lar Co, said construction of the resort, which is being built around the province’s Boo Sra waterfall, was behind schedule, but that efforts would be redoubled at the end of the rainy season to finish the project ahead of the original 2013 end date.

“Due to the tourism potential in the province and the shortage of modern accommodation, we will push the project to finish a year ahead of schedule,” he said.

Construction began on the 60-hectare development, which is being billed as an eco-tourism destination, last December.
The company has a 99-year lease on the site from the government.

Ngin Sroeun said the construction of stairs up the side of the waterfall was almost complete, and that work on accommodation, restaurants and retail shops featuring souvenirs from local ethnic minorities would soon commence.

Strong demand
Mondulkiri Tourism Department head Ngin Sovimean confirmed construction had begun on the site but expressed concerns about lack of progress. “Since the start of construction, our inspections show that development is going a little bit slow,” he said. “So far, only the gardens and the stairs down to the waterfall from the top are under construction. However, I think that the company is committed to fulfilling this project.”

The province currently has only two hotels and 21 guesthouses, Ngin Sovimean said, leading to a shortage of decent accommodation and dining options for tourists in the province.

Tourist numbers grew 25 percent year-on-year in the first eight months of the year to 16,000 due to better road conditions and promotion efforts, he added.

“We expect that when this eco-tourism project is finished, it will meet tourist demand for accommodation and will be of great benefit to the indigenous people in the area,” he said.

Building a new concept of art

CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:00 Jet Odrerir

Artists and architects blur distinctions by focusing on the ways that we – and art – occupy space.

The first buildings were purely functional. A layer of branches propped up as a lean-to probably didn’t inspire any of our ancestors into song, and the decor may have been a dead rabbit and some wild onions.

The years in between have seen artists beautifying buildings, a process that has in turn influenced art in ways that most of us may not understand.

This transformation of architecture as art forms the basis of a lecture, “Artistes et Architectes”, held tonight at the French Cultural Centre by local curator Erin Gleeson.

Gleeson will present a slideshow of artwork that illustrates how social and structural principles used by architects also influence much of the visual art being produced today.

“We think of an architect as being a creator with the freedom to think about their practice in any way they want, but they have to think about many external influences, such as how people will move through and interact with the building,” said Gleeson.

“Modernism allowed artists to remain relatively free from these constraints and to see art as object, whereas contemporary artists are often acting like architects.”

German artist Tobias Rehberger transformed this pavillion into a cafe, designing each element – from the flooring to the bar. The artist was awarded the prestigious Gold Lion at the Venice Bienniale 2009.


Venetian models
Most of the slides to be displayed in the lecture were taken when Gleeson attended the 53rd Venice Biennale an event held in August that represented contemporary art trends from more than 100 countries.

“Venice has an impressive backdrop of religious pre-Renaissance buildings whose architects and artists are mostly anonymous, partly because there was not yet separation of church and state,” she said.

“Just down the canal are relatively smaller and non-ornamented modern pavilions designed by some of last century’s most celebrated architects.

“These pavilions act as galleries to exhibit visual artists who are celebrated as significant to our time.”

This Italian architectural landscape can be compared with any culture with impressive religious structures that remain anonymously constructed, until a more secular sector takes hold.

This was the case in Cambodia for the most part, up until the last decade – with the notable exception of the 1950s and 1960s.

The master Molyvann
“We don’t know the names of the architects or artisans who built the temples,” said Gleeson, “but we know the name Vann Molyvann, and we also trace the development of contemporary visual art with names of artists.”

Vann Molyvann began creating new building designs in the early 1950s.

Photo by: Jet Odrerir
Erin Gleeson, curator at the French Cultural Centre, will host a slideshow on art and architecture tonight at the French Cultural Centre.

“Molyvann would act as both architect and artist. He made the light work to set off the building. He picked out the tile and chose the paint colours.”

Now, there are so many different people involved that, many times, art is something that is put in after the building is done and the tenants realise all of the walls are blank and there’s nothing to draw the eye.

Although all of the works that Gleeson will be showing are by foreign artists, she hopes that there will be many Cambodian artists and architects in attendance. She added that the arts movement is being redeveloped here but still needs all the encouragement people can give it.

One example of this movement is artist Kong Vollack’s Pillar, currently on display at Java Cafe and Gallery.

The piece is over three metres tall and is formed using approximately 128 small pictures to create a three-dimensional pillar that is meant to be viewed from all sides.

Kong Vollack has summed up Pillar this way: “This work of art has been created to reflect the current boom in architectural constructions in Phnom Penh as well as all over the world.”

Artistes et Architectes begins at 7pm tonight at the French Cultural Centre. Admission is free.

PKR win China tourney

Photo by: Nick Sells (
Preah Khan Reach’s Khuonla Boravy netted twice for his team in the Shenzhen international tournament last week.

CAAI News Media
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:00 Ken Gadffi

Preah Khan Reach flew to Shenzhen last week and won all four games.

AFTER losing to Khemara Keila in the semifinals of the Cambodian Premier League playoffs, Preah Khan Reach (PKR) bounced back to win an international tournament in Shenzhen, China last week. The competition featured teams from Thailand and Laos, and two teams from China, who took part in a five-team mini-league format.

The Cambodian club, playing without their foreign squad members in accordance with competition rules, won all four of their matches over the week.

In their first game September 15, PKR defeated Thai club Chiang Rai 3-2. The Cambodians took a two goal lead into the break thanks to winners from San Narith and Lay Raksmey, only to see the Thais fight back in the second half to level the scores, before PKR’s Khoun Laboravy won it for his side.

The second match last Thursday was a walkover for PKR, defeating Mekong River Team from Laos 2-0, with captain Samel Nasa and teenage star Prak Monyoudom finding the net.

The host city of Shenzhen provided two teams for the tournament, who both fell to the fire power of PKR.

Keo Kosal’s solitary goal for PKR proved the difference in a highly competitive match against a Hishang Bao’an selected side Friday. Then, in the final match, Hishang Bao’an Youth Team pushed PKR hard, but lost 4-3 in a thrilling game that saw Cambodians Lay Raksmey, Samel Nasa, Khounla Boravy and Suon Thuon make the scoresheet.

Photo by: Nick Sells (
Preah Khan Reach’s teenage star Prak Monyoudom scored against Laos team Mekong River during the tournament in China.

PKR Technical Adviser Prak Sovannara, who led the team in China, was clearly elated after returning to Phnom Penh Monday with the trophy and a cash prize of US$1500.

“I am happy for the victories,” he said, after returning to Phnom Penh Monday. “It was a good experience for us, and has helped to put the league disappointment behind us.

“We went there to represent Cambodia, and we are delighted to have done our country proud. The players are happy and have regained their confidence back, as we look forward to this weekend’s fixture with Phnom Penh Crown [in the third place playoff of the CPL].”

Cambodia’s Bokator resurrected

Photo by: Nick Sells (
Two black krama Bokator fighters demonstrate moves at the Cambodia Bokator Academy in Phnom Penh.

CAAI News Media
Wednesday, 23 September 2009 15:00 Dom Field

The martial art of Bokator has been rescued from near extinction thanks to the relentless efforts of grandmaster Sam Kim Sean and the promotions of American Antonio Graceffo.

SO important was the longbow to English armies of the Middle Ages that successive kings banned the playing of football and made weekly archery practice compulsory by law. The legislation was “proved” effective at Crecy in 1346, and again in 1415 when a numerically superior French force was defeated on the fields of Agincourt near Calais.

The Englishmen who fought that day had removed their ‘trousers’ due to the dysentery that afflicted them, and archaeologists suggest that they would have walked with a rather strange gait due to the overdeveloped muscles of the right shoulder and upper arm, caused by the repeated drawing of their bows. A handsome sight, indeed.

Their near contemporaries in the East would have presented a very different image, as depicted in bas relief stone carvings at the Angkor temples today. The armies of Angkor had a different weapon too – Bokator.

Bokator is a wholly Cambodian martial art, and it was very nearly lost forever. Between 1975 and 1979, the teaching of the discipline was forbidden, and grandmasters were persecuted resulting in many fleeing Cambodia while others denied their abilities and went into hiding. During the Vietnamese occupation, the ban continued.

In 1995, Cambodian martial arts expert Sam Kim Sean returned to his homeland following exile in the United States, and attempted to persuade the remaining masters to teach again. His appeals were based around the argument that, with the passing of his generation, Bokator would disappear completely, leaving the youth of Cambodia no choice but to turn to other, foreign martial arts. This patriotic pledge to save the national identity paid off, and by 2001, with the support from the Ministry of Youth, Education and Sport, Bokator was being formally taught in the Kingdom once more.

Bokator comes under fire
Since then, Bokator and Sam Kim Sean have met with controversy. Following the inaugural national championships in 2006, observers noted the disproportionate number of medals awarded to Phnom Penh-based fighters, and duly complained.

More recently, Sam Kim Sean has been questioned on the legitimacy of the techniques being taught. Critics feel that many of the techniques and movements of Bokator are a hybrid of other martial arts, citing Sam Kim Sean’s expertise in hapkido as a source of his “inspiration”.

Photo by: Nick Sells (
Grandmaster Sam Kim Sean refuted claims that Bokator featured techniques taken from other martial arts.

Sam Kim Sean is articulate in his denial. “You have two legs,” he says. “You have two arms. You have a brain. We all work out our own techniques. If they are similar, they are gut techniques. They are instinct.”

The ageing Cambodian explains that the “greatest grandmasters” are nature and the animals. “That is where the techniques come from,” he said.

It is accepted that there are more than 10,000 techniques in Bokator, and as students master them they are awarded different-coloured krama (scarves) to signify their progress. A beginner wears a white krama before progressing through green, blue, red, brown, and then ten degrees of black. A gold krama is worn by a grandmaster who has dedicated his life to Bokator. Sam Kim Sean is currently the only wearer of a gold krama.

Ten thousand techniques seem rather a lot for one man to remember, but Sam Kim Sean makes a careful comparison in explanation. “Some people learn the alphabet, and that is their literacy,” he notes. “Others may learn a whole vocabulary. Bokator is the same. Some people learn a basic technique, but it is possible to be fluent in the language.”

Sam Kim Sean is the Dr Johnson of Bokator, and his “Short Course” book is almost complete. A masterpiece will follow.

Photo by: Nick Sells (
American martial arts journalist Antonio Graceffo (centre) makes a fighting stance flanked by two Bokator students at the Cambodia Bokator Academy.

Foreign influence welcomed
Sam Kim Sean’s motives are rooted in his patriotism and sense of the importance of preserving a truly Cambodian art. He is striving for an era of education reform that will enable all of the Kingdom’s schools to teach a Bokator curriculum. He is also aware of the importance of international recognition, and devotes a large proportion of his professional time training students from abroad at his centre on Street 161, just off Charles de Gaulle Boulevard. Should these students complete their training, they can take their black krama back home, usually to France or the USA, and open their own school. In this way, Sam Kim Sean says the “world’s eyes are opened to Bokator”.

Sam Kim Sean still works very closely with his first student, Antonio Graceffo. Graceffo is a Brooklyn-born banker who left New York for Asia following the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001. Since then, he has dedicated his life to learning the languages and arts of the continent.
He is widely published in the world’s martial arts press, penning five books on his Asian experiences, and has produced and starred in numerous fighting films and documentaries.

Bokator: The Great Angkorian Martial Art was directed by Australian-Cambodian film maker Tim Pek, and stars both Graceffo and Sam Kim Sean. It was filmed in 2007 but, due to Pek’s other commitments, the release date was put back. It is finally slated to open at cinemas in Cambodia and Australia in December this year.

In the lead-up to the film’s release, Graceffo has released a web-based documentary in seven half-hour parts called Martial Arts Odyssey:

Bokator Fighting. The history of the discipline and the myriad techniques are explained and illustrated, and some incredible fighting footage is displayed. All seven episodes are currently available online.

The eyes of the world are now keenly trained on the progress of Bokator, and Cambodians are helping it thrive. With the December release of the movie, and the continued dedication of master Sam Kim Sean, Angkor’s armies could become mighty once more.

News in Pictures

In this picture taken on Sept. 9, 2009, Irish journalist Kevin Doyle, 41, the editor-in-chief of the well-known local English newspaper Cambodian Daily, enters the Phnom Penh Municipality Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the court found two journalists, including Doyle, guilty of defamation for publishing an article in which an opposition leader criticized dozens of high-ranking military officers.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith) CAAI News Media

In this picture taken on Sept. 9, 2009, Irish journalist Kevin Doyle, 41, second right, the editor-in-chief of the well-known local English newspaper Cambodian Daily, enters the Phnom Penh Municipality Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the court found two journalists, including Doyle, guilty of defamation for publishing an article in which an opposition leader criticized dozens of high-ranking military officers.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith) CAAI News Media

Defense Secretary Robert Gates walks out to greet Cambodia's Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tea Banh at the Pentagon in Washington, September 21, 2009.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst. CAAAI News Media

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (R) walks with Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Tea Bahn (2nd R) at the Pentagon in Washington September 21, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst . CAAI News Media

Manteca pair arrested in mortgage fraud scheme

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

PDT Manteca, Calif. (AP) -- The FBI has arrested a Manteca mother and daughter accused of defrauding lenders of about $5 million from home sales.

Prosecutors say 49-year-old Helen Sotiriadis and her daughter, 23-year-old Irene Sotiriadis, sold 30 residential properties to Cambodian nationals between March 2006 and November 2007. But a complaint filed Monday alleges the women inflated the buyers' incomes on loan papers and promised them refinancing would drop their monthly payments.

Prosecutors say the women never did any refinancing and the homes went into foreclosure.

FBI agents arrested the pair Sunday after they got a tip that the Sotiriadises were planning to relocate to Greece.

Attorneys for the woman insist their clients were not trying to flee prosecution.

Cambodia Has Not Achieved to Produce Enough Silk to Meet the Demand – Tuesday, 22.9.2009

Posted on 23 September 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 631

“Phnom Penh: To develop silk production of Cambodia, which is still weak, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) had decided to support a two-year project with US$470,000 (2009-2011). This project aims at improving the technical capacity to produce silk, to reproduce silk worm eggs and mulberry trees to feed the silk worms, to organize training courses, and to introduce new techniques to farmers. The signing ceremony for this project was organized on 17 September 2009 at the Council of Ministers, and the documents were singed by the Minister of the Council of Ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, and the FAO representative to Cambodia, Mr. Ajay Markanday.

“Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said during the signing ceremony that the raising of silk worms to produce silk in Cambodia has not been successful so far, as Cambodia uses 400 tonnes of silk per year, while only 50 tonnes of silk are produced in the country. Therefore, Cambodia has to import up to 350 tonnes of raw silk per year. Mr. Sok An added that each year, Cambodia exports more than 200 tonnes, and the remaining 100 tonnes are used in Cambodia.

“Mr. Sok Ann went on to say that, globally, there is not much silk from silk producing countries such as Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Each country tries to produce silk by offering its achieved products, with quantity and quality. Thus, it is seen that most silk is costly and has good quality, making the demand of silk to increase, like in Cambodia, where 400 tonnes of silk are used, but the local production of raw silk is only 50 tonnes. The production of silk is a production which already has markets and buyers, and it is related to other sectors such as agriculture, industry, and commerce which create more jobs for the citizens.

“The secretary-general of the National Committee One Village One Product, Mr. Son Kunthor, said that Cambodia has the potential for silk production and has a tradition to produce silk since the Angkor era, but this tradition was lost. According to studies in other East Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam, the Cambodian government recognizes the silk sector as a really important strategic field to help increase income and to create jobs in rural areas. Therefore, the government considers the development of silk as a priority.

“The demand for raw silk countrywide is about 400 tonnes per year, while at present less than 50 tonnes can be produced in the country. Thus, Cambodia has to import silk from China and Vietnam with a price of US$25,000 per tonne. To sum up, Cambodia is losing about US$10 million per year to foreign farmers. At present, some development partners have helped providing technical assistance in Cambodia only about the methods to improve silk weaving, and to develop the silk markets. In 2001, there were about 10,000 silk-weaving families in Cambodia.

“The major problems in the silk sector relate to the production of the raw material – raw silk; they include: 1. Diseases of silk worms; 2. Low productivity of silk worm cocoons; 3. Not-so-good quality of the silk due to a lack of proper systems to untangle silk threads; and 4. technical shortages.

“This project will support the creation of a Silk Egg Center which can produce 5,000 cases of disease free silk eggs per year (with 20,000 silk worm eggs/case), the development of improved measures to untangle the silk threads from small silk cocoons using more efficient modern techniques and testing, and the creation of eight farms at the existing areas and at other potential regions, to introduce new technologies to study silk thread production, which includes also land for mulberry cropping (in Banteay Meanchey, Kampot, Kompong Cham, Kompong Speu, Pursat, Siem Reap, and Takeo, and we will expand it to other provinces if we have more resources). The training in techniques will help build up the capacity of officials and of producers, in order to enlarge productivity and to improve the quality of silk cocoons and threads for future stages of expansion.

“The silk sector is really important for the rural economy and for reducing poverty in Cambodia, because first, it helps to achieve higher prices compared to other crops such as rice; second, it creates more jobs for women; and third, it forms a regular flow of income for rural families.

“To assure the long term benefits, the import of 400 tonnes of silk will be replaced by local production, where 5,000 mulberry plants are planned to be planted, creating jobs for about 25,000 people in rural areas, and Cambodia can earn US$10 million per year. The silk sector provides an important support for the government policy to diversify the agriculture, which is currently focused mainly on paddy rice.

“As for the implementation, the National Committee One Village One Product is administered by an office of the Council of Ministers, it has sufficient qualification to coordinate the sharing of knowledge and to check the quality of silk. This office is administered by the project director, and it will check the implementation of the whole project, to share knowledge about silk, and monitor the progress of the project, together with other relevant ministries and agencies that work with the silk sector.

“The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery is the project leader, because it is in control of basic measures to be applied, and it has expert officials who can offer training for very cheap fees. This project will be implemented by the director-general of agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture, closely cooperating with the project director.

“The implementation of the technical assistance project of the FAO has begun its first stage towards a long term effort to develop the silk sector, and this project specifically focuses on the exchange of techniques.”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6759, 22.9.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 22 September 2009

In US, Defense Minister Drops by a Pagoda

By Taing Sarada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Washington
22 September 2009

Cambodian Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh said he was happy to see Cambodians in America adhering to old traditions, as he visited a pagoda in Maryland on Sunday for Pchum Ben.

Tea Banh is in Washington for talks with his counterpart, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in meetings unprecedented since the 1970s. He was scheduled to meet Gates on Monday, to strengthen to growing ties between the two militaries.

However, the visit has been darkened by concerns from US congressmen that US military aid could benefit the bodyguard unit of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which Human Rights Watch has accused of rights violations.

On Sunday, though, the general was celebrating Pchum Ben along with Cambodians at home.

“This is a first time for me to see such a big gathering of our Cambodian people in a very good pagoda like this,” the general said. “I am so proud to see our Cambodian people, who are living away from home, still organizing such a big ceremony. It is very impressive.”

Pchum Ben is an annual celebration of deceased ancestors in Cambodia, and the US pagoda visit was arranged by Cambodian Ambassador Hem Heng and other diplomats.

“I am so happy to be here with our Khmer people,” Tea Banh said. “I am so excited to be in time for the last day of Pchum Ben. The ceremony here is like in Cambodia.”

Book Planned To Probe Tribunal So Far

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 September 2009

The Documentation Center of Cambodia is set to launch a new book recapping the last three years of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, detailing the politics behind the UN-backed court, challenges to administration and providing a wrap-up of the trial of Duch.

The Documentation Center has the largest collection of Khmer Rouge documents in the country, amassed over years of research. The book, “On Trial: The Khmer Rouge Accountability Process” details each stage before and after the Duch trial, as well as the arrests of the five suspects.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, has undergone the first trial, for atrocity crimes committed as head of Tuol Sleng prison and other sites, and his trial is expected to end next month.

“Over the past three years, we’ve had a unique trial for Duch,” said Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center. “We wanted to close this page and review what we have done regarding the trial, investigation, reconciliation, and so on…and after that review, [to ask whether] the three-year plan is enough or not, and what we have to continue to do.”

The English-language text runs to 352 pages, with authors examining the influence of politics in the UN-backed court and the challenges it now faces, including the controversy over further indictments. It will be available Oct. 3.

The front cover of the book shows now-detained former foreign minister Ieng Sary at the airport, receiving well-dressed Cambodian visitors, without the black uniforms that would come to typify the revolutionaries. The back cover depicts each of the five detained leaders, including Ieng Sary, his wife, Ieng Thirith, head of state Khieu Samphan, ideologue Nuon Chea, and Duch.

Inside the book, authors conclude that the court’s decisions have thus far been soundly based in international law and that overall the decisions of the court’s organs have surpassed the expectations of many.

The hybrid court has a complex structure and took years of wrangling between the UN and Cambodia to come to fruition. Cambodian judges, meanwhile, have shouldered concerns that they might act politically. But Youk Chhang said the court has served some purpose so far.

“Those who died have their value,” he said. “We honor them even though they died. We are still insisting on justice for all of them. And the survivors must hear, understand and see steps forward for reconciliation. The book is dedicated to all the victims who died or survived.”

Tribunal trial chamber judge Silvia Cartwright wrote that the book provides a “useful historical and intellectual context” for the trials, and Khmer Rouge researcher David Chandler hailed the work as “a wealth of information” about the court.

Vietnam To Plant 100,000 Hectares of Rubber

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
22 September 2009

The governments of Cambodian and Vietnam signed an agreement Tuesday allowing the development of 100,000 hectares of rubber plantations in five provinces, which will add to the 400 Vietnamese companies already operating here.

The new concessions would come into effect by 2015, according to the agreement, signed Tuesday between Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun and his counterpart, Cao Duch Phat.

“This [agreement] will create more jobs for local people and thus alleviate poverty,” Chan Sarun told reporters following a signing ceremony in Phnom Penh. “Our [Cambodian] people in remote areas, who used to depend on forests, will become rubber processors.”

Cao said the agreement would serve as a basis for other rubber companies to follow in the future. Vietnamese companies planted 10,000 hectares in Cambodia this year and are preparing to plant another 20,000 in 2010; 30,000 the year after; and 40,000 the year after that.

Seven Vietnamese companies are operating in five Cambodian provinces: Ratanakkiri, Mondolkiri, Kratie, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear.

“We will have leased all 100,000 hectares of land to Vietnamese companies by 2012, three years before our plan,” Chan Sarun said, explaining that Vietnam plans to send more rubber companies to Cambodia.

The two ministers also said a rubber processing factory would be set up in Cambodia by 2012. Rubber and timber are Cambodia’s biggest exports to Vietnam, the Vietnam News Agency reported.

Ruling on Preah Vihear charge deferred

BANGKOK, Sept 22 (TNA) - Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on Tuesday postponed its ruling on the previous government's resolution which supported Cambodia's listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

It agreed to reconvene and decide the issue next Tuesday.

The NACC decided last November to press charges against 44 persons including 28 Cabinet members in the Samak administration and state officials in connection with the signing of a joint communique with Cambodia without seeking parliamentary approval as required by the Constitution.

The joint communique was signed by the Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on June 18, 2008.

NACC Commissioner Klanarong Chantik said the NACC agreed to consider the case on two separate issues: impeachment and criminal prosecution following the Constitutional Court's ruling that the joint communique was unconstitutional.

He said the anti-graft commission would tackle whether each of the 44 was intentionally involved in malfeasance that caused damages to the country.

The commission, he added, has finished its investigation on 12 people while the other 32 would be scrutinised and disclosed next Tuesday.

Of the 28 accused ministers, four are members of the Abhisit government. They include Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart, Deputy Finance Minister Pradit Pattaraprasit, Information and Communication Technology Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suvit Khunkitti.

The accused were charged with negligence of duty and violating Article 190 of the 2007 Constitution which imposes that any treaty affecting Thailand's society, economy and integrity of its borders must be approved by Parliament. (TNA)

Thaksin: I'll be back to Thailand

September 22, 2009

The convicted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Tuesday he is ready to return to Thailand to be the prime minister again as long as it is "the people's wish", Thai media reported.

The self-exiled ex-premier, talking through a video link, also called for the incumbent Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to dissolve the House to return power to the people, Bangkok Post online reported.

Thaksin made the remarks to the seminar "Three years after the Sept. 19 coup", organized by the 111 Thai Rak Thai Foundation, which was set up by the 111 former executives of the dissolved political party Thai Rak Thai, whose leader was Thaksin.

"Many people ask whether I want to return to be prime minister. If it is the people's wish, I would be ready to do so," said Thaksin, adding he was grateful to the red-shirts who had done considerably for him.

The pro-Thaksin red-shirts movement held a mass rally on September 19 to mark the third anniversary of the military coup that toppled Thaksin's administration. More than 20,000 red-clad supporters of the anti-government United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship came up to the Royal Plaza in Bangkok, calling for Abhisit to dissolve the House and to call a new election.

Thaksin, who was sentenced in absentia in 2008 by Thai court to two-year in jail before he managed to flee abroad, said the coup created a few new rich who hold the rank of general. After the coup, Thaksin said, the people got a dictatorial 2007 constitution and a weak politics; the country has been indebted and more divided; the military became stronger but the police weaker; the judicial system has apparently applied double standards.

Yongyuth Wichaidit, the leader of opposition Puea Thai party, said the 2006 coup has caused the severest damage to the country. The people are living in the hope to see Thaksin's return, he added.

Earlier this month, Thaksin at his Twitter page expressed his patience on waiting to talk to the Abhisit, before the latter, in his probably first twitter interview, saying Thaksin must return to Thailand to serve his jail term to make a talk possible.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodian court convicts 2 journalists, including Irish national, of defaming army officers

By Sopheng Cheang (CP)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A Cambodian court found two journalists, including an Irish national, guilty of defamation Tuesday for publishing an article in which an opposition leader allegedly criticized dozens of high-ranking military officers.

The ruling was the latest in a series of legal judgments this year that human rights groups charge are part of a campaign of intimidation against critics of the government.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sin Visal ordered Cambodian Daily Editor-in-Chief Kevin Doyle and Neou Vannarin, a Cambodian reporter at the same newspaper, to pay a total of 8 million riel ($1,927) in compensation to a group of senior military officers about whom the paper reported.

"The article published in their paper caused confusion among the Cambodian people and damaged the dignity of the military officers," Sin Visal told the court.

Doyle, 41, refused to comment when leaving the court after the ruling.

Last month, the same court convicted outspoken opposition legislator Mu Sochua of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and ordered her to pay 8.5 million riel ($2,000) to the state and another 8 million riel ($1,882) in compensation to Hun Sen.

In July, the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch called on Hun Sen's government to "end its campaign of harassment, threats, and unwarranted legal action aimed at consolidating its rule by silencing the political opposition and peaceful critics."

It said senior Cambodian government leaders and military officials had filed "at least nine politically motivated criminal defamation and disinformation cases against journalists, opposition members of parliament, lawyers, and government critics."

"The Cambodian government is imposing its most serious crackdown on freedom of expression in recent years," the group quoted its Asia director, Brad Adams, saying.

Tuesday's case began after The Cambodia Daily ran a story in April in which opposition lawmaker Ho Vann was cited describing as useless military certificates received by 22 well-connected officers in a yearlong program in Vietnam.

The officers sued Hor Vann for defamation. He insisted the newspaper had misquoted him and said he had repeatedly asked it to run a correction but it failed to do so.

Sin Visal on Tuesday dropped the defamation charges against Hor Vann.