Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Famlies ask land case be sent to K Chhnang

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:03 Tep Nimol and Kim Yuthana

ABOUT 50 villagers representing 64 families from Kampong Chhnang province came to Phnom Penh on Tuesday to deliver a letter to the Ministry of Justice seeking intervention in a land dispute.

The families travelled from Kampong Chhnang’s Lor Peang village, Ta Cheist commune, Kampong Tralach district, in an effort to have their legal dispute with KDC, a private company, transferred from Phnom Penh Municipal Court to Kampong Chhnang provincial court.

Um Sophy, a village representative, said the families were seeking the change of venue because they could not afford to make frequent trips to Phnom Penh to monitor legal proceedings there.

The villagers’ thumb-printed letter also requested that Kampong Chhnang provincial court shelve incitement charges that were brought against three Lor Peang residents last year in connection with the dispute and focus instead on the civil case with KDC.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Bunyai Narith said he was not sure whether the ministry’s Department of Administration had received the letter, but that if it was submitted properly, the department would forward it to the minister of justice for evaluation.

Villagers said, however, that their letter had been rejected by the Ministry of Justice because it lacked the proper documentation.

Som Sokong, the villagers’ lawyer, said he had already sent a letter to Phnom Penh Municipal Court requesting a change of venue to Kampong Chhnang, but was still waiting for an official reply.

Bullets’ remark a ‘warning’

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Cambodian soldiers guard the border at Preah Vihear earlier this year. Earlier this week, Hun Sen controversially ordered troops to “use bullets“ against Thais venturing into disputed territory.

we have stored enough ammunition to shoot them, and we will follow... orders.
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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:03 Thet Sambath and Robbie Corey-boulet

PM’s instruction for Cambodian soldiers to ‘use bullets’ against Thai soldiers and civilians was intended to frighten ‘extremists’, foreign affairs official says.

PRIME Minister Hun Sen’s order for Cambodian soldiers to “use bullets” against Thai soldiers and civilians who venture into disputed border territory was intended as a warning to “Thai extremists”, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

“The Thai extremists must know the consequences that will happen if they insist on entering Cambodia illegally with the intention of occupying any piece of land in Cambodia,” Koy Kuong said when asked about the premier’s comments, made Monday during a speech at the new Ministry of Tourism.

Koy Kuong added, though, that the government was still hoping for a peaceful resolution to the border dispute.

“Right now, we still hold the position on solving the problem with Thailand peacefully, bilaterally and amicably,” he said.

When asked whether he believed Hun Sen’s comments were consistent with the government’s hopes for a peaceful solution, Koy Kuong said
again that the remarks were merely “a warning”.

The Bangkok Post reported Tuesday that Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban would meet with Hun Sen to discuss the border row.

The report did not specify when and where the meeting would take place, and Koy Kuong said he knew nothing about it.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva downplayed the significance of Hun Sen’s comments, telling AFP: “Whenever he gives interviews to the foreign media, he always has this attitude where he wants to make headlines.”

Abhisit also said Hun Sen’s comments were likely an attempt to retaliate against Thai protests held on September 19, during which 5,000 yellow-shirted protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) gathered in Thailand’s Sisaket province to protest the Thai government’s border policy.

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) soldiers stationed near the border said Tuesday that they were ready to carry out Hun Sen’s order should Thai soldiers or civilians try to enter disputed territory.

“We will not use dogs, electric bats or shields to prevent them. We have stored enough ammunition to shoot them, and we will follow Prime Minister Hun Sen’s orders,” said Srey Doek, commander of RCAF Division 3. “We will not make him disappointed on this problem.”

He said Thai military officers sent a letter Tuesday asking RCAF officials to stop workers from making repairs to Wat Keo Sekha Kirisvarak pagoda, which is located near the temple, because it was in territory they said was disputed. Srey Doek said he had told the workers to continue with the repairs.

A spokesman at the Thai ministry of foreign affairs in Bangkok declined to comment Tuesday, and officials at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached.

K Cham girl becomes latest victim in area’s gang rape epidemic

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:03 Chhay Channyda

(Post by CAAI News Media)
Kampong Cham has seen alarming increase in violent sex acts, local human rights workers say.

A SUSPECT in the rape and killing of a Khmer Muslim woman in Kampong Cham province remains in custody while police gather evidence for his trial.

Provincial police Chief Nuon Samin said Tuesday that a 36-year-old Cambodian man was arrested Sunday for allegedly raping and killing a 22-year-old woman last Saturday after finding her alone on a coffee farm in Tonloung commune.

“The suspect is being detained by the police, and we are now collecting more evidence to bring against him in court.”

Nuon Samin said that on Saturday morning the victim left home for a farm a kilometre away, where she is believed to have been attacked by the suspect sometime between 7am and 8am.

The victim’s parents became worried when she did not return home later that day.

“When her parents came to the farm that evening, they found her body stripped naked, with wounds around her neck,” Nuon Samin said.

“This was the second rape-murder in the province this month, after the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl,” he added.

Thov Chinda, provincial investigator for human rights group Adhoc, said Monday that in the first nine months of 2009, Adhoc recorded 20 rape cases in Kampong Cham, and that prior to this case, all of them were committed against girls under the age of 18.

“Rape is a very serious danger for girls in rural areas,” Thov Chinda said, adding that drugs and pornographic videos contributed to the perpetrators’ outbursts of sexual violence.

Nuon Samin said police in Kampong Cham handled six rape cases in September and agreed that incidents of rape were on the rise.

Just one week before the rape and murder of the most recent victim, an 11-year-old girl was gang-raped and killed by what is now believed to have been as many as 10 men. The alleged leader of the gang was a man who said he had fallen in love with the victim but thought himself too poor to marry her.

Both crimes occurred in rural areas of Kampong Cham and were committed in isolated locations close to the victims’ homes. In each case, the body of the victim was found by her family.

Help sought in war on drugs

Photo by: Christopher Shay
A man smokes heroin in Boeung Trabek commune in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district late last year.

Traffickers have been using new routes to smuggle their drugs into cambodia.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Ke Kim Yan tells ASEAN officials at a meeting in Phnom Penh that the Kingdom needs support to meet the regional body’s goal of complete eradication by 2015.

DESPITE recent progress in the fight against illegal drugs, Cambodia needs help from the international community if it is to meet the regional goal of eradicating illegal drugs by 2015, the Kingdom’s drug tsar said Tuesday.

Speaking at a conference of ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters (ASOD) Tuesday in Phnom Penh, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan said Cambodia suffers from its position as a transition point for the international drug trade.

“Cambodia is currently facing attempts to use the country to manufacture drugs for exporting to outside markets,” said Ke Kim Yan, who chairs the country’s National Authority for Combating Drugs.

Recent trends have seen the Kingdom used as a site for large- and medium-scale narcotic production, Ke Kim Yan said, pointing to crackdowns on three major production and storage sites, including two in Phnom Penh, earlier this year.

“We would have fallen into grave danger if our law enforcement had not suppressed these manufacturing locations in time,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of people inside and outside of Cambodia could have suffered.”

The government believes it still faces threats from drugs seeping in through northeastern borders, according to Cambodia’s report on its internal drug situation given to ASEAN members at this week’s ASOD conference.

Although heroin and methamphetamine are seen as the main drugs circulating in Cambodia, the country is also increasingly worried about a surging cocaine trade.

“The drug traffickers have been using new routes to smuggle their drugs into Cambodia and to export internationally,” Ke Kim Yan said.

Recent statistics, Ke Kim Yan said, suggest overall drug use has been on the downswing since 2005. Drug treatment in the Kingdom’s 14 private or state-owned treatment centres, he acknowledged, is another matter.

“The centres only isolate the addicts from drugs,” he said. “There is no model or standard guideline for treatment.”

Ke Kim Yan warned that Cambodia will need help if it is to become drug-free by 2015, a goal previously set by ASEAN member nations.

“Cambodia is in great need of technical experience and material assistance and support from … the international community,” he said.

Some observers, however, are sceptical that the government will reach its objectives. Previous crackdowns, said Him Yun, vice president of the Khmer Youth Association, have not produced sustained results, as youth drug use remains widespread.

In 2001, the United States dropped Cambodia from its annual list of “major illicit drug-producing or major drug-transit countries”, upgrading the Kingdom to a “country of concern”.

Govt to address Poipet crossing corruption

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:02 Kim Yuthana

GOVERNMENT officials said Tuesday that they were planning a crackdown on corruption and illegal taxing at the Poipet border crossing, a pledge that came one day after Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed concern about corruption at the key checkpoint.

Koy Soum Saroeurth, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism, said officials would investigate allegations that cart-pullers were being unfairly charged for crossing the border and that bogus policemen were setting up fake toll booths.

“We must clear these bad acts completely,” Koy Soum Saroeurth said after an inter-ministry meeting Tuesday.

Banteay Meanchey deputy Governor Sar Chamrong said bureaucracy at the checkpoint should be streamlined to ensure that the crackdown will be effective.

“We need to reduce checking by the authorities, reduce their checkpoints, meaning [people who cross the border] have only one joint checkpoint,” Sar Chamrong said.

The province’s police chief, Hun Hean, said his officers would work to instil order at the crossing.

“We will start a cart-pullers association to keep order, so that they will be easy to control,” Hun Hean said.

On Monday, Hun Sen demanded that allegations of illegal taxing be addressed immediately.

“The act of forcibly taking money from the residents is a corrupt act,” the premier said.

His concerns prompted Poipet Governor Try Narin to convene yesterday’s meeting.

“Samdech is upset about the payments, and he says it is illegal,” Try Narin said Monday. “So whatever [Hun Sen] says, I agree.”

Sam Rainsy travels to France for appeal

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea

OPPOSITION leader Sam Rainsy flew to France Tuesday in advance of an October 8 appeal court hearing during which he will ask judges to overturn a defamation and disinformation verdict handed down early this year.

The Tribunal Correctionnel in Paris on January 27 ordered the president of the Sam Rainsy Party to pay a symbolic 1 euro (US$1.43) fine to Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, who filed his lawsuit following the May 2008 publication of Sam Rainsy’s autobiography, Rooted in Stone.

Hor Namhong said the book accused him of heading the Boeung Trabek “re-education camp”, where diplomats and government officials from the Lon Nol and Norodom Sihanouk regimes were incarcerated by the Khmer Rouge. He asked for damages of 100,000 euros.

During a press conference held Tuesday before he left the country, Sam Rainsy acknowledged having levelled the Boeung Trabek accusation in interviews, but said it was less direct in the book.

“I had not referred to Mr Hor Namhong by name,” he said. “I just said some leaders after the Khmer Rouge, but Hor Namhong got angry.”

He said he expected to have the verdict overturned for that reason, adding that the appeal court was unlikely to take into account the verbal accusations.

He added that only three lines in his 302-page book had anything to do with Boeung Trabek.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he did not know whether Hor Namhong would also appear for the October 8 hearing.

Moeung Sonn seeks a retrial

Photo by: Photos Supplied
Modern lights (inset) installed at the Angkor temple complex (above) caused a stir when it was said that they might damage the ancient structures.

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

Chairman of Khmer Civilisation Foundation, currently in exile, to ask municipal court to re-examine disinformation conviction.

The exiled head of the Khmer Civilisation Foundation (KCF) has asked for a retrial of his July conviction on disinformation charges, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Moeung Sonn, who is currently in France, was tried in connection with comments he made in May suggesting that a light-installation project at Angkor Wat could damage the 11th-century temple. He was found guilty by Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chhay Kong and sentenced to two years in prison, fined 7 million riels (US$1,680), and ordered to pay an additional 8 million riels in compensation to the Apsara Authority, the body that manages the temple complex.

Last week, Moeung Sonn requested that his lawyer, Sam Sokong of the Cambodian Defenders Project, write a letter to the Municipal Court urging them to re-examine the case.

“I wrote a draft today, and I will send a formal letter to Phnom Penh Municipal Court within the week asking that my client’s case be retried, as it has been two months since we appealed the conviction,” Sam Sokong said Tuesday.

Chhay Kong said that upon receiving Sam Sokong’s letter, he would fix a time for a retrial. He added, however, that the scheduling of this event should not be taken to mean that Moeung Sonn will be acquitted.

“A retrial doesn’t mean that [Moeung Sonn] has been exonerated, but only that his defence lawyer has appealed his conviction,” the judge said.

Sam Sokong said that though the procedure for retrial scheduling is not spelled out clearly in Cambodian law, retrials are an important element in the protection of defendants’ rights.

Speaking from France on Monday, Moeung Sonn said that he was seeking help from a variety of sources in an effort to overturn the verdict against him.

“I am now seeking intervention from UNESCO and other organisations from the international community, and I have already apologised to the Cambodian government,” he said. “I have requested that the Phnom Penh Municipal court lift the charges against me in order to pave the way for my return to my beloved country.”

Speeding journalist causes two deaths in car crash, police say

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:02 May Titthara

Officials say suspect was chasing a truckload of illegally felled trees when he hit a motorbike.

A JOURNALIST chasing a truck he believed was loaded down with illegally felled logs crashed into a motorbike Monday night in Siem Reap province, killing the driver and one passenger, police said.

Min Chantha, police chief of Prasat Bakong district, said his officers were still trying to identify and locate the journalist, but witnesses said they believed he worked for the newspaper Khmer Amatak.

Bun Tha, editor-in-chief of the tri-weekly paper, identified the journalist involved in the accident only as Bora.

Min Chantha said he would send the case to provincial court Tuesday.

“When the crash happened, the two people on the motorbike died immediately, and the truck loaded with the logs was allowed to escape,” he said.

He added that witnesses claimed the journalist removed the licence plate from his car before fleeing the scene.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies, said the accusations against the journalist were serious.

“Journalists need to think about the value of the story they are chasing,” he said.

“They are trying to get information to readers, but if they also cause people to die, which is more important? They can find other ways to get the information, such as trying to get it from NGOs.”

He added: “No story is worth your life, and no story is worth another person’s life.”

On the other hand, he said, journalists would not need to pursue such reckless reporting tactics if officials were more forthcoming.

“I accept that some journalists make mistakes, but some mistakes happen because of the authorities, too. They are trying to hide information, and so journalists try to find other ways to get it themselves,” he said.

Nou Puthyk, provincial coordinator for the rights group Licadho, said his group had received a steady stream of reports about journalists attempting to extort money from people caught breaking the law, but that he could not comment on this particular case.

Bank says govt should cap pawnshop lending

Photo by: Tha Piseth
A woman counts US dollars this month at a money changer in Phnom Penh. Shinhan Bank has warned that pawnshops could compete unfairly with banks unless their lending is properly regulated.

Some large pawnshops are owned by rich and powerful figures.

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

New draft law under consideration to regulate pawnbrokers must not allow them to compete unfairly on lending: lawyer.

ALAWYER for a mid-sized Cambodian bank has called for the government to put a cap on the amount pawnshops can lend and prevent them from taking property as collateral for loans.

Ros Monin, managing partner at Sewha-Cambodia Law Group, which represents Shinhan Khmer Bank, said that a draft prakas, or edict, on regulating pawnshops could pave the way for them to compete with banks in the lending market if passed in its current form.

“Banks could lose their customers to these pawnbrokers because there are complicated procedures involved in borrowing money from banks,” he said.

“Pawnbrokers have quite quick and simple procedures so customers will not borrow from banks when they need money just for a short time.”

The Ministry of Finance prakas is currently before the private sector for feedback.

Ros Monin called on the government to limit the amount pawnshops can lend to US$100,000 and prevent pawnshops from taking fixed assets such as house and land titles for collateral.

“Some large pawnshops are owned by rich and powerful figures, so they have a lot of money to lend to customers,” he said. “If there are no limits to the maximum loan pawnshops can offer, they will offer large loans.”

Fellow lawyer Phon Panha, a member of the Bar Association of Cambodia, also said that a failure to put controls on pawnshop lending could affect the banking sector.

The draft prakas, which would be the first set of regulations governing pawnshops in Cambodia, sets a minimum capital requirement of 200 million riels (US$48,123) for pawnshops, caps monthly interest rates on loans at 5 percent and limits loan contracts to four months, with an option to renew.

Pawnshops must deposit 10 percent of the minimum capital requirements in a Finance Ministry account at the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC).

Mey Vann, director of the ministry’s Department of Industrial Finance, said the concerns would be taken into consideration and the prakas would be amended if it was discovered pawnshops were competing with banks.

However, he said the scenario was unlikely as banks had access to customer deposits for lending and tended to offer lower lending rates.

Legitimate borrowers would also be unlikely to put a house or land title up as collateral at a pawnshop when they could use the same collateral to borrow from a bank at a lower rate of interest, he said. “If they need a large amount of money and they borrow from a pawnshop, it may be that they are using the borrowed money for dishonest purposes rather than a legitimate business activity.”

Hou Samnang, deputy director of the Supervision Department at the NBC, said that there was no ceiling on interest rates at commercial banks, but said most charged less than 2 percent a month, well below the proposed cap for pawnshops.

No competition, says NBC
“Licensing the pawnshop business is to legalise pawnbrokers in Cambodia and to prevent theft; there is no intention of enabling them to compete with the banks,” he said.

Other terms of the prakas include a fixed $250 annual operating license and a 15 percent tax on revenues from loans.

The International Monetary Fund said last week that banks were facing profitability risks given the high interest rates they were paying on deposits and the difficulty they were facing in finding attractive lending opportunities in the wake of the general downturn in the economy.

Shinhan Khmer Bank had $34.08 million in deposits and $24.73 million in loans at the end of last year, according to NBC figures, ranking it 11th among commercial banks in Cambodia on both counts.

So Nguon sees freight volumes slide 40pc

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal

DOMESTIC transport firm So Nguon Group reported a 40 percent decline in freight volumes over the first nine months of the year and warned Tuesday that further declines were likely as purchase orders continue to fall in the garment sector.

Company President So Nguon said the company would launch a new route from October 15, carrying goods between Thailand and Vietnam via the international border crossings at Poipet on the Thai border and Bavet at the Vietnam border in an attempt to boost revenues.

The company sent just 10,800 shipments by truck during the first nine months of 2009, down from 18,000 a year earlier, according to documents seen by the Post. The shipments were worth US$6.48 million to the company, also down 40 percent from $10.8 million in the first nine months of 2008.

So Nguon Group gets the bulk of its income from transporting garments from factories in Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville Autonomous Port or to Vietnam where they are loaded onto cargo ships for destinations further afield, he said.

“We don’t expect that our services will be used a lot like last year because the world economic crisis, which still continues to be felt, has reduced the amount of goods transported in and out of Cambodia,” he said.

Cambodia Economic Association President Chan Sophal said he expected a slow recovery in the transportation sector before too long in line with an uptick in the Cambodian economy.

This month international organisations including the Asian Development Bank have predicted GDP would contract between 1.5 percent and 2.75 percent in 2009.

Energy remains in short supply

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A pump attendant fills a car with fuel at a Tela petrol station in Phnom Penh this month. Energy multinationals remain locked in talks with the government over oil and gas concessions in the Kingdom.

We’re on the way to finishing the negotiations, it is going smoothly.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:01 administrator

CAMBODIA remains years away from realising its energy reserves and is still one of the least-connected in terms of energy supplies in the region, government officials and energy company executives said Tuesday.

During the first day of a conference on energy in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) organised by the US embassy in Phnom Penh, participants said that the Kingdom continues to suffer from inadequate energy resources and emphasised the need to improve supplies in order to boost economic growth.

“Energy prices here are among the highest in the region, and connectivity among the lowest,” US Ambassador Carol Rodley said in an opening address.

The sub-region as a whole – which includes Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and the Chinese provinces Guangxi and Yunnan – would require “billions of dollars of investment” in energy to meet demand in the near future, she added.

The Asian Development Bank’s Dr Yongping Zhai, a lead professional in energy for the Southeast Asia Department, said the GMS region would see demand for energy increase between 9 and 20 percent in the coming years, with Vietnam the most power-hungry member of the Mekong region.

In Cambodia’s case, experts said that energy production remained minimal, with littleto suggest the situation would be rectified soon without relying on imports.

“Cambodia has diverse resources, including hydropower and natural gas, but [it has] yet to fully develop,” Yongping said in his presentation to delegates, which included US energy giants Chevron, General Electric and ConocoPhillips.

Once Cambodia develops its resources, it will have “much greater scope” for interconnection with other GMS members such as Thailand, he said. The spread of energy resources within the GMS region was one of the main themes of the conference, which ends today.

In highlighting Cambodia’s energy deficiency, Phalla Phan, deputy secretary general of the Supreme National Economic Council, reiterated that “the electricity price is very high” in Cambodia compared to that in Vietnam and Laos.

Last year, Cambodia imported 57 megawatts, he said – 73 percent of which was from Thailand, with the remainder from Vietnam – and plans to increase imports in the coming years as demand increases. Cambodia also plans to import electricity from northern neighbour Laos in the longer term, he added.

Cambodia suffers from a fragmented power grid, with most resources concentrated in Phnom Penh, said Phalla Phan. Outlying areas suffer from low connectivity rates or rely largely on imported fuel to fire generators to produce electricity, he added.

The result is a costly supply. The average price of Cambodian electricity is $0.16 per kilowatt/hour but that can rise as high as $0.90 per kilowatt-hour in remote rural areas, said Phalla Phan, resulting in among the highest electricity bills in the Mekong basin.

Vietnam in May agreed not to raise the price of its electricity exports to Cambodia before 2011, but fuel prices continue to soar on the back of a rebound in global crude prices.

Petrol prices are up 33.9 percent in Cambodia this year, according to Ministry of Commerce figures obtained by the Post Tuesday, while diesel is up 21 percent over the same period. Both products are imported, mostly from Singapore and Thailand.

Analysts agree that there is little prospect of Cambodia realising its fossil-fuel deposits in the short term, as major energy companies remained locked in negotiations with the government over concessions that remain years from production.

US-based Chevron, which says it has spent US$125 million on seismic data in the Gulf of Thailand and has drilled 15 exploratory wells in offshore Block A, indicated Tuesday there was still no sign of an end to its negotiations with the government for a contract extension.

“Our position is unchanged. We’re still in discussions,” said the company’s regional spokesman, Gareth Johnstone, declining to disclose more information because of the commercially sensitive nature of the ongoing talks in Phnom Penh.

In its promotional material at Tuesday’s event, Chevron said it expected to drill more exploratory wells in the future.

French oil and gas company Total said Tuesday it was also still locked in slow negotiations with the government.

Total to sign soon
Jean-Pierre Labbe, the firm’s head of upstream operations in Cambodia, said, however, that the end was in sight regarding talks to sign over offshore Area III and Block 26, which occupies an area in the southeast of the Kingdom.

“We’re on the way to finishing the negotiations; it is going smoothly,” he said. “It is a problem of technical delays and the date [on which to sign the deals].”

He added that Area III, which lies in a disputed area with Thailand, would be signed first followed by Block 26.

With no news of a settlement between Phnom Penh and Bangkok over the overlapping area, Cambodia still potentially has 27,000 square-kilometres of offshore concessions that cannot be explored.

Although Cambodia first began exploration for oil and gas in the 1950s and first drilled wells between 1972 and 1974 courtesy of French company Elf, it has never produced its own supply.

The latest estimate by the government suggests the first reserves – almost certainly from Block A – are unlikely to start production until 2013 at the earliest.

Carving a market from a traditional snack

Photo by: Soeun Say
A vendor sells the traditional snack nem at a small shop on the outskirts of Battambang town last week.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:01 Soeun Say


KIM Houy, 27, learned how to make a traditional Khmer food called nem from her parents when she was 15 years old.

The trade is something of a village tradition, she said. But though she faces strong competition for sales in Prek Kpob commune, in Battambang province’s Ek Phnom district, an extensive distribution system ensures her products are bought far and wide throughout Cambodia.

The network reaches all the way to south coast in Kampong Som province, but clubs, shops, restaurants and local markets in Phnom Penh are her most lucrative sales points.

In all, the business, which she set up in 2004 with US$3,500 of her own money, brings in between $400 and $500 in profits every month, Kim Houy said.

The traditional Cambodian food, which is a signature dish from Battambang province, is made from hashed fish meat wrapped in banana leaves.

It also contains toasted rice, ginger, star gooseberry leaves, chilies, sugar, salt and seasoning. They tend to be bought in bulk, with 100 nems
going for around 10,000 riels ($2.50).

Nem from Battambang province is perhaps the best known in the country, though it is also a popular product of Kratie province, Kim Houy said.

“Many Cambodian people love to eat nem, and foreigners too,” she said. “If they come to Battambang province they never forget to buy nem to send to their family and friends.”

Public and religious holidays often lead to a bump in sales of nem, like other traditional Khmer products. During these periods, staff are worked off their feet to boost production from between 10,000 and 15,000 nems per day to as many as 25,000 nems a day. “If they [Cambodian people] think about Battambang province, they also think nem because its good taste,” Houy said.

When she launched the business, she had enough funds to employ three workers, but the team has expanded to seven as demand has grown.

These include three employees to package the finished products and dispatch to customers, two business-development managers who scour the country for new markets, a machine operator and a dedicated fish buyer, who buys fresh fish daily from the Tonle Sap river.

He needs to buy somewhere between 80kg and 100kg of raw fish daily to meet demand.

Staffers earn between 140,000 riels and 180,000 riels per month ($35 to $45) depending on experience, but also receive free food every day they work.

Kim Houy has big expansion plans for the business, but recognises it is a tough market. One of the key limitations to expansion is the shelf life of the product, which tends to perish after one week in the open, forcing the company to wait for orders to come in before it churns out a batch.

She is now looking to introduce refrigeration to extend the shelf life to one month and enable the company to smooth over peaks and troughs in production, maintaining a constant output. She is also looking at techniques used in Thailand to keep traditional foodstuffs fresher for longer. With stock on hand, she reckons it’ll be easier to win new customers.

However, her immediate goal is simply to boost orders enough to increase her income and employ three new staffers.

“I will expand my business as soon as I get enough money to do so,” she said. “But if we want to beat our competitor we must ensure quality and taste first.”

Thai firms discuss jatropha plant plans

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

THAI investors met with officials from Banteay Meanchey province last week to discuss a plan to build a jatropha processing factory and plant 1,000 hectares in the crop, which is considered a key candidate for biodiesel production.

The director of the Banteay Meanchey Commerce Department, Kong Bunly, said he met with nine representatives of private firms from Thailand Friday to discuss their plans.

“We told them that we already have 500 hectares of farmland in Thma Puok district they could plant with the crop, and that we would help them find the rest, or they can cooperate with locals,” he said.

He said total investment figures were not discussed but assumed it would be less than US$1 million, meaning the project could be approved locally rather than having to be sent to central government.

No timetable had been determined, but Kong Bunly said he hoped work on the project would commence within a month.

Heng Bunhor, director of the provincial Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Department, said the investors were not looking for concession land but were instead seeking to cooperate with landowners in the area to produce the cash crop.

He expected the investors would purchase additional jatropha from surrounding areas, as the proposed capacity of the plant would require more raw material than could be harvested from 1,000 hectares under cultivation.

Around 3,000 hectares in the province have been planted with jatropha out of a total of 30,000 hectares of upland set aside for agriculture, he said. Farmers have planted 26,000 hectares of cassava, he added, which can also be used as a biofuel feedstock.

Kong Bunly said the project would provide jobs and boost the standard of living in the area.

Wedding ctr’s rush to the altar

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Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:01 Soeun Say

Marriage season looms for Koh Pich developer.

The developer of a conference centre on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich Island is racing against time to complete a portion of the under-construction building in time for the start of the wedding season at the end of October.

Prak Chan Long, general manager of Diamond Island Convention and Exhibition Centre, said 130 couples had already booked the centre for their wedding celebrations. The wedding season runs from late October to March.

“We will open the door for customers who want to have their wedding ceremony here at the end of October, and hopefully a lot more couples will come because we have a good location and the centre is bigger than others,” he said.

Touch Samnang, project manager and architect for the centre, admitted the whole building would not be ready by the time the first couples arrived for their wedding celebrations.

However, construction was 80 to 90 percent complete and the interiors were almost finished, he said, meaning some portions of the building would be suitable for hosting weddings from the end of October. The whole project would be finished in November, he added.

The Overseas Cambodia Investment Corp (OCIC), which has the same owners as Canadia Bank, has spent over US$4 million on the centre, which will consist of two buildings when completed. It is on a 6-hectare site and will also have parking for 2,000 cars.

The centre will be open on the sides in a traditional Khmer style, meaning less work will be required to fit out the building.

Construction began in May of this year, Touch Samnang said, by Diamond Island Construction Co. The centre is part of a larger $200 million OCIC development on Koh Pich, or Diamond Island, which will occupy 75 hectares when completed. The island is on the Tonle Bassac River in Chamkarmon district, near the National Assembly.

The project was slated for completion by 2016 when approved in 2006.

Khmer youths get their teeth into fashion

Photo by: Tha Piseth
A smile revealing a ‘skyce’, a gem-like implant on a tooth

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:00 Tha Piseth and Kounila Keo

As Phnom Penh is quickly becoming a material world, some material girls are putting extra style in their smile.

In the last couple of years, dental clinics in the capital have seen a rise in youths, mostly girls, requesting that a diamond-like white gem, called a skyce, be implanted in their teeth.

Upgrading your ivories with gold or gems has been popular in Europe and America for many years, and for girls like Him Sokunthea, the benefits are obvious.

“After I installed it, I feel happier. It makes me more popular and attractive,” says the 21-year-old language school student.

“Of course I follow Cambodian film stars and my friends. After I had it done, my relatives and friends came and asked me about it.”

The price of the procedure ranges from US$15 to $50, depending on the dentist, the procedure and the size of the stone. Some choose to have the stone glued on, a practice that is much cheaper but also more temporary, as the stone can easily come loose.

Tep Navy, executive director of Pachem dental clinic, says that there is no danger in implanting a skyce into a tooth, but that it will likely fall out after two or three years.

For those who desire would prefer a real diamond set in their teeth, the process is a bit more tricky.

As opposed to a skyce, which has a flat back that is easy to stick on your tooth, a diamond has a pointed tip that requires a deeper hole to be drilled into your dentures.

Chav Bun Heang, a post-graduate periodontal student the University of Health and Science, said that all of these procedures present a risk of permanent damage or rotting.

“The problem could happen if the dentist is not careful when they remove the diamond or skyce,” he said.

Others are not convinced that the risk is worth the extra sparkle in your smile.

“I don’t think people become handsome just because of a diamond tooth,” 19-year-old Ly Rathanak, a student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

“There are more factors to determine the beauty of one person.” But it still seems to some that beauty is in the teeth of the beholder.

Cool refreshment in our southern forests

Photo by: Prum Seila
A tourist walks a pathway at the Mangrove Forest Resort in Koh Kong on Cambodia’s south coast.


(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:00 Lim Seang Heng and Prum Seila

Phnom Penh city dwellers are taking time out to explore the wilderness of Koh Kong.

The unforgettable landscape impresses before you even reach the town.

Tall, lush forests sigh under a light drizzle, while fluffy mist cools the air of Botum Sakor national park in Koh Kong province.

The scenery encountered on the approach makes light of the 5- to 6-hour bus journey from Phnom Penh; it is well worth the ride when your destination is Koh Kong.

Mangrove Forest Resort is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the province.

It is also relatively easy to access from the provincial capital, Koh Kong.

Travel just 7 kilometres out of town, and a sign on the left-hand side directs you towards the resort, another 30 minutes or so down a picturesque path to a new world of beautiful forest and a never-ending chorus of birdsong.

There is an entry fee, but at 3,000 riels (US$0.75) for Khmer residents and 5,000 riels for foreigners, it is nominal to say the least.

Plus, as you wander through the spectacular natural environment, you realise a ticket at five times the price would still represent good value for money.

While we walked among the mangroves, feverishly snapping away with our cameras, a feeling of intimacy with nature certainly engulfed us.

Crabs and fish were ubiquitous, while the plethora of birdlife provided a perfect theme song to our stroll in the forest.

We soon came across a stone bridge, which measures an impressive 666 metres.

At this juncture, we were given the option of continuing further into the wilds, or relaxing at a shelter custom-built for weary tourists.

While having lunch with his wife under the hut, a tourist from Phnom Penh, Hem Pov, 24, explained how, despite this being his second visit, he cannot get enough of the area.

“I work in the city and it is so crowded; yet when I come here I feel so fresh and rejuvenated.

“I always have a good time with my family,” he said, while feeding his son.

“Cambodia has plenty of forests, but few compare to this. When I come here with my boy, I enjoy teaching him to love nature and the environment.”

After an enjoyable lunch, we set off across the stone bridge and eventually reached a viaduct, which, we were told, is the main landmark of the forest for tourists.

We were also encouraged to climb a lookout in order to feast our eyes on a fascinating, panoramic view of the forest and the streams surrounding it.

All of this natural beauty passes before your eyes in something of a blur, and it can be difficult to give it the time it deserves, especially if you are on a short trip to the area.

Long Man, deputy chief of the resort, explained that, with this in mind, the community will soon be creating guesthouses and restaurants to encourage tourists to see more and stay longer.

Eagles face Scorpions in final

Photo by: Luke Duggleby
The Siem Reap Globe Eagles (left) play against the Kampong Speu Global Giving Scorpions during their 2009 Cellcard National Volleyball League match July 25.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:00 Dan Riley

The Kampong Speu Global Giving Scorpions book a date with the formidable Siem Reap Globe Eagles to contest the league championship and a $3,000 prize.

THE Siem Reap Globe Eagles will face the Kampong Speu Global Giving Scorpions in the 2009 Cellcard National Volleyball League Grand Finals at 7pm Friday October 16. In the third-place playoff at the earlier time of 4pm, current league title holders Kampong Speu CTN Koupreys square up to six-times champions Phnom Penh ANZ Royal Dragons.

The top four teams are vying for one of the largest purses in Cambodian sports. The National League Champions will take home US$3,000, with runners-up pocketing $2,000, and third place grabbing a cool $1,000. Though the cash provides an adequate incentive, there is little doubt that provincial pride is what’s truly at stake.

After sensationally trouncing every other team in the league, Siem Reap Globe Eagles perched at the top of the table with an impeccable record of nine wins, losing just three sets on their storming flight to the finals.

Kampong Speu Global Giving Scorpions clinched second place, with losses coming only against Siem Reap and third-place team Kampong Speu CTN Koupreys. Third in last year’s competition, the Scorpions sealed their finals berth by the narrowest of margins over their hometown rivals, standing equal on games won but having lost one set fewer. The Scorpions dropped a set in a tight match against sixth placed Takeo ISPP Templestowe Falcons on Friday, but held on to ensure their place in the finals with a comprehensive 3-0 thrashing of Prey Veng Kingmaker Cobras later that day.

Current title holders Kampong Speu CTN Koupreys square up to six-times National League Champions Phnom Penh ANZ Royal Dragons for third-place spoils. The Dragons managed to halt their abrupt slide down the rankings on the last day of competition by defeating newcomers Kampong Cham Bartu Bulls and narrowly overcoming Kratie Nike Changemakers Dolphins.

The fourth-round fixtures held at the Olympic Stadium last Friday and Saturday once again witnessed some fierce competition, with Battambang MOSVY Tigers missing out on a playoff spot by two lost sets to Phnom Penh. Dragons coach Kim Horn is now planning a radical overhaul of his team through an injection of new young athletes into his ageing squad after their worst performance in years.

At the tail end of the table, Kratie Nike Changemakers Dolphins battled through a 5-set marathon against Phnom Penh to narrowly lose out 2-3, before being given a swift lesson in net work by the dominant Eagles to lose 0-3. However, victory over Kampong Cham, Prey Veng and Pailin over the course of the season leaves Kratie in a respectable seventh.

Close behind are newcomers and surprise of the year Kampong Cham Bartu Bulls, who genuinely impressed everyone with their team spirit, morale and love of the game. Led by national team spiker Sang Veasna, the Bulls have quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, and even took a set off Phnom Penh on the final day of the season. Next year will see former national team player Pin Ty take the coaching reins in Kampong Cham, with Sang Veasna given the task of establishing a new team in Kandal province.

Prey Veng Kingmaker Cobras and Pailin Frechen Lions prop up the foot of the ladder, with 1-8 and 0-9 records respectively. Prey Veng could consider themselves unlucky after a number of very close matches, and they remain one of the most consistent and tightly knit teams in the league, hindered only by a distinct lack of height at the net with the departure of 6-foot Met Mean to Kratie.

It’s back to the drawing board for Pailin, though, who had their most disastrous season since joining the National League in 2006. Coach Khem Pheng Tong had no excuses for his underachieving side, once feared nationwide for their aggressive style of play. Expect a rejuvenated team to enter the court in 2010.

With the 2009 Cellcard WOVD Cambodia World Cup just around the corner in December, selection for the Cambodian National Team is dominating team talks, and national team coach Christian Zepp has the potential to pick a dream team with a real chance of grabbing the world No 1 position.

The CNVLD wishes to thank Cellcard and all the team sponsors in the 2009 Cellcard National Volleyball League, as well as R O Water and the volunteer team from DDD and ANZ Royal Bank, for helping this year’s national league reach its potential.

Interested parties are invited to Olympic Stadium on October 16 to see who will be crowned 2009 Cellcard National Volleyball League Champions. Entrance is free.

Kao Roomchang stays on top; Vung Noy escapes by decision

Photo by: Robert Starkweather
Kao Roomchang hangs on to first place in the lightweight tournament following a win Sunday over Song Saruth.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:00 Robert Starkweather

Vung Noy narrowly escaped a loss to underdog Nuon Mony Sunday in the CTN lightweight tournament while Kao Roomchang cruised past Song Saruth.

IN lightweight tournament action at CTN Sunday, first-place Kao Roomchang outpointed sixth-place Song Saruth, and fourth-place Vung Noy squeaked past last-place Nuon Mony.

The outcomes did not affect tournament rankings and, with two fights left, Kao Roomchang remains in first place with a record of 5-0. Van Chanvey stays in second place with a record of 4-1 (3 knockouts), while Long Sophy is third at 4-1 (1 knockout), and Vung Noi lies in fourth on 3-2 (2 knockouts).

The eight-man, round-robin tournament began July 19, and the winner, as determined by wins and knockouts, will earn a shot at the lightweight title against Commando 911 fighter Lao Sinath.

With the victory Sunday, Kao Roomchang moved a step closer towards clinching the first title shot of his short, two-year career. Turning in a playful yet workmanlike performance Sunday, he wowed the crowds with some flying kicks, easily doing enough to earn the victory.

“I can’t run with him,” Song Saruth said before the fight, with a quick shake of his head and a vague look of resignation despite producing a fine effort, landing hard kicks to the body and scoring with knees through all five rounds. He neutralized Kao Roomchang in the clinch and finished the fight with a spirited, final-round charge.

Still, it wasn’t nearly enough. Except for parts of the final round, Kao Roomchang stalked Song Saruth around the ring and dictated the pace of the fight. He landed a couple of clean elbows in the second, and twice landed flying front kicks to Song Saruth’s face in the fourth.

In the fifth round, as Song Saruth came charging, Kao Roomchang effortlessly raised his game, landing head-snapping punches and powerful kicks to the body to keep the fight out of reach.

Kao Roomchang faces Naem Chenda on October 1, and Long Sophy on October 28.

Photo by: Robert Starkweather
Nuon Mony, winless in five tournament fights, has struggled to find the offense necessary to earn a victory.

Nuon Mony denied
In the second match of the afternoon, Nuon Mony countered well and stayed elusive to frustrate Vung Noy, who struggled to cut off the ring and catch his opponent. But after five rounds, it was Nuon Mony who left discouraged.

“I though I won,” Nuon Mony said afterward.

Speaking in the changing area after the bout, Nuon Mony appeared the fresher fighter. “I’m not hurt,” he said, raising his arms to reveal a relatively unbattered body, as Vung Noy limped past to a nearby bench muttering “Oh, my leg hurts.”

The two fought back and forth for five rounds, and the fight could have easily gone either way. In the third round, Vung Noy landed a huge knee to the head, followed by a clean elbow, and he clearly appeared the stronger fighter.

But in trying to unload the power shots, Vung Noy often missed badly, ending up off-balance or on the canvas. As Vung Noy charged forward, Nuon Mony scored with counters and slipped away.

“I tried to catch him with elbows, I tried to land knees, but I couldn’t,” Vung Noi remarked afterward.

Nuon Mony remains winless in five tournament fights. Vung Noi faces Long Sophy on October 11.

Police Blotter: 30 Sep 2009

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:01 Vong Sokheng

A 37-year-old Phnom Penh man has been arrested after being suspected of bashing a beer-garden singer in the head with a bottle during a drunken bender. Police arrested Leng Srun on Saturday, two days after the incident at Boeung Chhuk restaurant on National Road 6. Police say that Leng Srun hit beer-garden singer Ing Bunleap in the head with a beer bottle. However, the suspect denied having hit the singer, saying he instead struck a colleague of his who was sitting with him at the table.

Police arrested two people, including a 13-year-old boy, in Preah Sihanouk province’s Koki village after the pair were accused of stealing 520,000 riels (US$125) from a local pagoda. The pair were arrested after a Buddhist monk lodged a complaint with police. Police say Chheoun Chhay, 19, and Chheoun Vanak, 13, confessed after their arrests.

Three market workers from Banteay Meanchey province were arrested Sunday, suspected of murdering a local resident for money. Police say the suspects, Vorng Tuy, 20; Van Sophanith, 22; and Veoung Sokheang, 25, had been working in Rong Khleour Market, Sakeo district. The men were allegedly paid a total of 4,500 baht (US$135) for doing the deed. The trio are detained in Banteay Meanchey court.

A 38-year-old man was arrested in Ream commune, Preynop district, Preah Sihanouk province, on Sunday on suspicion of raping his 10-year-old daughter, police said. Police said the man was drunk when he attacked his daughter. The victim’s mother told police that she had engaged in a quarrel with her husband a day before the incident, and that she came to rescue her daughter because she was worried that the girl could be in danger.

Police and military police arrested three men last Thursday in connection with a robbery in Kampehn commune in Preah Sihanouk province. Cheng Chan, 21; Ing Korn, 17; and Chhay Sambath, 17, were arrested and detained as police waited to file the paperwork to send the case to provincial court.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

In Brief: $1.69m trade grant

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:00 Nguon Sovan

Cambodia has been granted US$1.69 million over five years for trade policy development under a multilateral scheme launched to help least-developed countries improve trade processes. The financing under the Enhanced Integrated Framework was announced Tuesday during a three-day meeting of trade representatives from 12 least-developed countries that are seeking access to the World Trade Organisation. Cambodia, which became a member in 2004, hosted the meeting, which also included representatives from fellow member countries Cape Verde and Nepal.

In Brief: SSCA clears the air

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:00 May Kunmakara

The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) confirmed Tuesday that Siem Reap Airways has met local aviation regulations and will be allowed to take over domestic routes currently run by parent firm Bangkok Airways. In a statement to “clarify” reports in the press, the SCAA also said the decision to not renew an interim licence allowing the Thai-based airline to fly between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap was not politically motivated. As first reported in the Post, Bangkok Airways will not be allowed to continue flying domestic routes after the current agreement expires on October 25.

In Brief: Kimber crushes week 7

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:00 Dan Riley

PHNOM PENH – Take a bow Matt Kimber, after a truly stunning Fantasy league weekly score of 95 points secured the Cellcard US$20 phone credit and T-shirt with his team the Cambodian Crushers. Matt’s team featured the popular choice of Liverpool’s Fernando Torres as captain to earn 34 points, and also scored big with Sunderland’s Daren Bent (18 points) and Man United’s John O’Shea (15 points). The week’s top performer was unsurprisingly Spurs’ Robbie Keane (21 points) due to his fabulous four against Burnley. Also of note was a slight clerical error last week which ignored the efforts of young Jakamo Sharpe with his team Chiswick FC, who equaled Joel Conkle’s winning haul of 82 points. Jakamo also receives the weekly prize. Next week’s deadline is Saturday October 3 at 5:30pm. Bring it on.

Firms focus on Cambodia market

(Post by CAAI News Media)

HCM CITY — Vietnamese companies should focus on their strong points to improve their position in the Cambodian market, heard a meeting held last Friday by the Viet Nam-Laos-Cambodia Association for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Speaking at the meeting held in HCM City to discuss improving Vietnamese business prospects in Cambodia, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Le Danh Vinh said: "Viet Nam should increase investment in tropical agricultural produce like coffee, rice, pepper and cashews which are the country’s strengths."

"Besides, rubber and garments are also Viet Nam’s key areas," he said.

Compared to other countries in the region, Viet Nam has an abundant labour force thanks to its young population and it should export labour to the neighbouring nation.

Yeav Kim Hean, commercial counsellor at the Cambodian Embassy in Viet Nam, was delighted at the recent expansion in bilateral co-operation in various areas.

More than 100 Vietnamese companies have a presence in Cambodia, including some big ones like the Viet Nam Rubber Group, Vietnam Airlines, Electricity of Viet Nam, the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam, and the Military-run Telecom Corporation (Viettel).

"The Cambodian Government facilitates investments by foreign companies, including from Viet Nam, in areas like agriculture, small- and medium-sized enterprises, energy, mining, transport and tourism." Hean said.

Phuong Huu Viet, vice chairman of the association, said: "Vietnamese businesses should possess up-to-date information about Cambodian laws, financial and tax policies, and local habits and customs."

Le Minh Dien of the Ministry of Planning and Investment said as of last February, Viet Nam had invested US$211.2 million in 39 projects in Cambodia, $115.9 in the argo-forestry sector, $59.5 million in services, and $35.8 million in the industrial sector.

Vinh said last month the two countries signed a large number of contracts for investment of over $460 million into Cambodia. —VNS