Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Council issues a defence of eviction policy

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:03 Meas Sokchea

THE Council of Ministers has issued a letter of clarification in response to charges by human rights groups that the government’s evictions of urban poor communities has violated international legal standards for involuntary resettlement.

Under the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law, the letter states, no one can claim ownership of public land owned by the state, meaning that recent sites of forced eviction in the capital were “illegal constructions”.

“Actions taken by the government against illegal constructions conform to our philosophy of development, which tries to resolve such disputes through the direct participation of these poor communities alongside all the other parties involved,” the letter states.

“Phnom Penh authorities, in cooperation with partnership organisations, have tried to resolve illegal construction issues in more than 300 of the 569 communities in Phnom Penh municipality.”

The letter came after World Habitat Day on Monday, when civil society groups criticised the government’s eviction of urban poor, including the city’s Dey Krahorm and Group 78 communities.

Chan Soveth, a programme officer for rights group Adhoc, dismissed the Council’s response, saying that human rights groups had clear grounds to condemn the government: the confiscation of public land on behalf of private interests.

“We are not just criticising; we want to take real issue with the state agents who are responsible for the forced evictions because this eviction affected thousands of people’s rights,” he said.

“If they had evicted people in order to clear land for public property, we wouldn’t oppose them, but they are giving the confiscated land to private developers.”

According to local housing rights group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, more than 120,000 Phnom Penh residents – approximately one in 10 – have been victims of forced evictions since 1990.

Workers ask for govt action

Photo by: Sovan Philong.
Garment workers take their long-running protest to the Ministry of Labour on Tuesday.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:02 Tep Nimol

REPRESENTATIVES of more than 1,000 Phnom Penh garment workers who claim they were unfairly sacked earlier this summer have urged the government to intervene and bring an end to the long-running dispute.

The workers claim owners of the Sky High Garment Factory, located in the city’s Choam Chao commune, fired the employees in late June after they took part in a strike.

At the time, protesters said the factory owners were firing four or five workers daily without just cause, according to Keo Sarom, who represents the factory’s workers.

The workers want the Ministry of Labour to take legal action against Sky High for allegedly failing to deliver severance payments and other compensation measures under Cambodian labour law, Keo Sarom said.

Employee Thorng Pan was axed after taking part in the July strike, he said, adding that the company fired the workers en masse without any clear reason.

“We were kicked out unreasonably, so we want the company to pay all the fired workers,” Thorng Pan said.

The ministry’s head of labour disputes, Va Yuva Vathana, said the workers should instead take their cases to the courts.

The workers, however, say they don’t have enough cash to bring the case to court. Sky High representatives could not be reached on Tuesday.

Khmer Rouge victims say they endured forced marriage

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Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:02 Sam Rith and Robbie Corey-Boulet

THE Victims’ Unit at the Khmer Rouge tribunal last month received civil party application forms from 10 victims who say they were subjected to forced marriage during the regime, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP).

The release states that the applications, from victims in Kampong Cham and Pursat provinces, “show striking similarities” to four applications submitted last October by victims in Kampot province.

In groups of up to 20, the victims were gathered in community halls and told to marry strangers, according to the release, which adds that “nobody dared to refuse openly for fear of punishment”.

The CDP release goes on to argue that the regime’s “population policy” amounted to a crime against humanity.

The 2004 law establishing the tribunal does not include forced marriage in a list of possible crimes against humanity, though that list is not exhaustive.

UN court spokesman Lars Olsen noted Tuesday that the decision on whether to recognise forced marriage as a crime against humanity would be up to the Trial Chamber.

Failing that, civil party lawyer Silke Studzinsky said it could also be subsumed under crimes against humanity such as rape and enslavement.

She noted, though, that the Special Court for Sierra Leone in February found three former leaders of the Revolutionary United Front guilty of the crime.

Opposition merger now in SRP’s court, HRP president says

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Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea

THE Human Rights Party has announced it is ready to join forces with the Sam Rainsy Party as soon as its prospective partner makes the decision to go ahead with the long-anticipated merger.

At a press conference Tuesday, HRP President Kem Sokha said the party was ready to join with the SRP in a single opposition front, and that people inside and outside the two parties want to see a united democratic movement.

“People have asked whether democrats can merge into a single party,” Kem Sokha said.

“The answer that has been given to us is that if democrats do not merge into one party, the result will be defeat.”

However, Kem Sokha said the party was maintaining three conditions for the merger, including a term limit for the party president, a change in the new party’s name and joint decision-making between officials from the two sides.

He acknowledged that the SRP and HRP have met eight times already to discuss the merger, with no result, and said that if the SRP leadership is unhappy with the terms, it should come to discuss them.

The SRP’s deputy secretary general, Mu Sochua, said Tuesday that she met with an HRP representative on Monday to speak about the merger, adding that the three conditions set by Kem Sokha were acceptable to the party leadership.

“We have not changed our will because we have made these announcements to the public already,” she said, adding that both parties had been too busy to consider the merger in recent months. “Our stance is the same – we do not dispute these” points.

She added: “We do not reject the change of the party’s name.… The new party must change its name, but we just will change it when we have the time,” she said.

Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, expressed his congratulations over the merger plans but said the CPP was not scared of the threat posed by a unified democratic front.

“They cannot merge forever. They will have conflict together and be separated … because Kem Sokha has different ideals from Sam Rainsy,” Cheam Yeap said.

“Even if they merge, they can’t win against us because we have served the people for so long.”

Bangkok Air travellers to, from Cambodia fall

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A Bangkok Air flight lands at Phnom Penh International Airport last month. The airline said it will maintain flights to Cambodia despite losing its only domestic route and slashing flights to other countries.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

Airline sees Q3 decline in passenger numbers on Siem Reap and Phnom Penh routes as rising fuel prices squeeze profits

BANGKOK Airways carried 11 percent fewer passengers into and out of Cambodia in the third quarter compared with the same period a year earlier, according to Deputy Director Ekkaphon Nata-o-sot.

The Thai-based carrier flew 75,824 passengers on its flights between Bangkok and Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in the three months to the end of September, but Ekkaphon said in an email Tuesday he expected the downturn to be short-lived.

“As soon as the kingdom gets to see a rebound in the tourism sector, I believe the airline business will thrive again,” he said. “All in all, Cambodia definitely has a lot of opportunities for the airline business to grow in years to come.”

According to figures from the Ministry of Tourism, air arrivals were down 13 percent year-on-year across the first eight months of 2008. Figures are not yet available for September.

The airline announced recently that it lost 1.05 billion Thai baht (US$31.49 million) over the 18 months to June this year and would suspend four international routes to cut costs – Bangkok to Guilin, Xian, Hiroshima and Ho Chi Minh City.

Ekkaphon confirmed that routes to Cambodia would not be affected. The Cambodian government’s decision to not renew the airline’s permit to fly domestic routes in the Kingdom also would not jeopardise the routes’ future, he said.

Bangkok Airways began non-stop services between Bangkok and Phnom Penh on September 19, 1997, and between Bangkok and Siem Reap on January 9 the following year. It currently operates three flights daily between the two capitals and five flights between Bangkok and Siem Reap.

“Our service to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap will remain unaffected,” Ekkaphon said.

Domestic route temporary
However, Bangkok Airways will cease service between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap on October 25, when its temporary permit for the routes expires. The permit was issued on November 22 last year when the airline’s Cambodian subsidiary, Siem Reap Airways, was grounded amid concerns over safety standards and financial irregularities after an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Several representatives of Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) said last month that the carrier’s permit would not be renewed, giving a boost to the fledgling domestic carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), which made its maiden flight on July 28.

The SSCA has since softened its stance, saying the permit was always meant to be temporary, and that Siem Reap Airlines can apply to take over the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route when Bangkok Airway’s permit expires.

Ekkaphon has supported the government line. “We had that service in place because after the Siem Reap Airways wasn’t able to operate there was no other airline operating on the route, and it was the beginning of the high tourist season,” he said.

Ekkaphon said flights between the two cities were just 55 percent full on average during the period.

He also said the launch of CAA had not affected the Bangkok Airways’ business.

“Although the new carrier made its debut on this route in late July, the tour operators still booked with us, for they are confident in our service and our commitment to deliver the best to our passengers,” he said.

Trade with Hong Kong down 24pc to end July

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Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

BILATERAL trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong dropped 24.39 percent in the first seven months year on year, the most up-to-date figures available, according to data released Tuesday by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

Trade between the two fell to US$288 million from $380.94 million last year, the figures showed, with Cambodia maintaining a significant trade imbalance with the Chinese territory, despite a 65.3 percent rise in exports over the period.

Hong Kong’s total exports to the Kingdom fell to $279 million from $375.5 million, while Cambodia's shipments in return increased to $9 million from $5.44 million during the year up to the end of July. The figures were released Tuesday at a press conference to attract Cambodian companies to hold trade exhibitions in Hong Kong.

“The drop was because of the global financial crisis. However, now trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong is becoming stable because the economy is not so bad; it may not drop further,” Johnny Wan, senior exhibitions manager at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, said after the event.

Cambodia’s main exports to Hong Kong were food items, garments and footwear, and gemstones, he said, with the territory exporting raw materials for garments and apparel back to the Kingdom along with telecommunications equipment, machinery and motorcycles in particular.

“Cambodia has so many good products, but foreigners may not know much about them, so Cambodia should promote more … through trade shows and marketing,” Wan said.

Investors flock to farmland

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal

Officials say Vietnamese firms are driving an increase in investment in the rural sector as official figures show soaring approvals of agriculture projects

FOREIGN investment in Cambodia’s agriculture sector has been growing rapidly this year, and government officials are banking on the undeveloped sector continuing to draw funds from offshore.

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Secretary of State Kit Seng, who is in charge of planning at the ministry, said Vietnamese companies were driving the expansion and are now growing rubber trees and other crops on “tens of thousands of hectares” across the country, particularly in the east and northeast.

“We believe that investment in the agricultural sector will still continue to grow because it is able to sustain and strengthen business and bring more income,” he said.

For investors looking to grow and process crops, Cambodia was an ideal destination with plenty of land remaining for agricultural concessions, Kit Seng added. “We hope that we can attract more investment to the agricultural sector because Cambodia so far has not had enough investment in the processing industry to process agricultural products for export yet.”

In September, Cambodian officials signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnamese investors to cooperate on the development of 100,000 hectares of agricultural land in the country.

Under the terms of the memorandum, Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun signed agreements on September 25 granting five Vietnamese companies concessions on 36,491 hectares of land in Kampong Thom, Kratie, Mondulkiri, Preah Vihear and Ratanakkiri provinces to grow rubber trees, cassava and jatropha. The companies were BNA Cam Corp, Mondul Agri Resources, Central First Co, An Mang Yang and Leng Rithy.

Figures released last month by the government’s investment watchdog, the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), show it approved agricultural investment projects worth a combined US$499.7 million in the first eight months of 2009, around six times more than the $81.7 million worth of projects approved over the same period last year.

CDC approval is required for applications for investments worth more than $1 million. Smaller projects can be approved at the provincial level or by the relevant ministry.

Yang Saing Koma, director of the Cambodian Centre for Agricultural Studies and Development, or CEDAC, said investment in the sector would create jobs, but that the government should help more by making it easier for farmers to obtain loans to boost output.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted last month that the agriculture sector would grow 5 percent this year as the rest of the economy contracts 2.75 percent.

Makers of eco-lamp hope profits will light up

Photo by: SOEUN SAY
Kamworks Director Jeroen Verschelling fits a light Sunday in Sre Ambel village, Kandal province.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:01 Soeun Say

Kandal Province

CAMBODIA’s first solar energy company plans to capitalise on the countryside’s poor infrastructure development when it launches its MoonLight solar lantern next week.

Produced by Dutch-backed firm Kamworks, the light is being pitched as a safer and cheaper alternative to the widely used kerosene lamp, which is costly to refill and poses a serious fire risk in homes made of wood and straw.

“With roughly 2 million unelectrified households, Cambodia has a home market that is large enough to allow for a modest ... solar industry in the medium term,” Kamworks director Jeroen Verschelling said.

The company, which was launched in 2006, has been producing the solar-powered lamps in Sre Ambel village, in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district, since September.

Verschelling said the device was the first solar-powered product assembled in Cambodia. Homegrown production not only provides Cambodians with jobs that would otherwise remain overseas but also creates a supply of spare parts so villagers can perform their own repairs, creating a sense of ownership and a belief in the technology. In contrast, Verschelling says, “imported products are often of poor quality or poorly installed, thus damaging the reputation of solar energy”.

The MoonLight costs US$20 and pays for itself in less than a year, given that the average kerosene lamps costs 200 riels every day to operate. The lantern is small, lightweight and portable, with a strap.

Leng Sopheap, a 52-year-old Sre Ambel resident, used the MoonLight for two weeks during the product’s test release. He says he was satisfied with the product because it was easy to use, safe and bright, and there was no smoke from burning fuel. But he said the product was a bit expensive.

“It is better to use than the kerosene lamp. I want to use it so much, but I need the cost to come down a little bit,” he said.

Though many Cambodians may still be priced out of the market for the MoonLight, initial orders for the solar lantern appear steady.

Kamworks Managing Director Arjen Luxwolda said the company produces 200 MoonLights a month. “But we can make more,” he said. “We can make 1,000 per month, depending on the customers.”

Microfinance lender Angkor Microfinance Kampuchea bought 100 last month to on-sell in rural areas, he added.

Kamworks’ solar lantern has already won two design awards this year: the Feel the Planet Earth CIFIAL Design Award and the Toon van Tuijl Design Prize.

The MoonLight will be officially launched Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

Joint rice company a first for VN, Cambodia

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:00 May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA’S Green Trade Co signed an agreement Tuesday to set up the first joint venture rice company with Vietnam, Cambodia-Vietnam Foods Company (Cavifoods).

Thon Virak, director general of Green Trade, said the new company with Vina Food II and Investment Development Company of Cambodia (IDCC), both Vietnamese-owned operations, plan to start building a factory and processing plant to produce high-quality milled rice for export by the end of 2009.

“[Cambodia] will gain … more experience in buying and the export process,” Thon Virak said, adding that planning was still under way to set up operations.

This first cooperation on rice production between the two ASEAN neighbours has a total registered capital of US$8 million, said IDCC representative Duong, who only gave his family name.

IDCC holds a 33 percent stake in the new company, with registered capital of $2.64 million, Duong added, with Vina Foods II claiming 37 percent and the Cambodia partner holding the remaining 30 percent.

Vina Foods II was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Thon Virak said that Cavifoods plans to spend $200 million to start buying rice from farmers in November.

“With this capital, we plan to buy 200,000 tonnes of high-quality unmilled rice from local farmers to process for export by the end of the year,” Thon Virak said, adding that the company would use Green Trade’s Phnom Penh facilities while the new plant was being built.

Next year's Sub-National budget to rise 22pc to $100m, says govt

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Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:00 Chun Sophal

THE government announced Tuesday it would boost its allocation of funds in the 2010 budget for spending at the subnational level to US$100 million from $82 million this year.

The money is allocated under the budget line for Sub-National Development Programmes, which is earmarked for spending by capital, provincial, district and divisional administrations.

“With this increase to the budget, we hope that Sub-National Development Programmes such as road infrastructure, irrigation systems and rural sanitation in all provinces and city will bear more fruit,” Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon told a conference on the national budget in Phnom Penh.

The conference was attended by 400 officials from provinces and cities across the country.

Keat Chhon said that $65 million was expected to be financed by 15 development partners through 20 projects. The remainder would come from the state budget.

The ministry is expected to allocate 77 percent of the money to sub-national administrations, 18 percent to national administrations and 5 percent to other programmes. The new budget would boost the money allocated for spending at the commune level by 31 percent compared with 2009. Each commune will receive around $22,300.

The Supreme National Economic Council’s deputy secretary general, Phalla Phan, told a Greater Mekong Sub-region conference on energy last week that the Cambodian government had spent 15.6 percent more in the first seven months of this year compared with the same period in 2008. The extra spending was designed to boost the economy during the economic crisis, he said, without placing an exact figure on the total spent during the period.

The International Monetary Fund predicted last month that increases in the civil service and wage bill this year and higher capital spending would raise the budget deficit to 6.75 percent of GDP, up from 2.75 percent last year and well ahead of the government’s target of 4 percent for the year.

It also said that the bulk of the additional spending was taken up by an increased wage bill for the civil service and military and cautioned the government to avoid any further wage bill expansion and instead direct any extra spending at the priority areas of health, education and rural development.


BIDC Cup launched

Photo by: Sovann Philong
FFC President Sao Sokha displays the BIDC Cup trophy during a press conference at the Phnom Penh Hotel on Monday

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:00 Ung Chamroeun

Cambodian and Laos U23 national sides and two Vietnamese clubs will compete for the inaugural BIDC Cup at Olympic Stadium in November

CAMBODIA and Laos’ U23 national football teams, and professional Vietnamese teams Hoang Ann Gia Lai and Vissai Ninh Binh, will compete for the inaugural Cambodian International Football Tournament BIDC Cup 2009 on November 8-14 at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium.

The event is sponsored by Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia (BIDC) – a branch of the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam – and is organised with cooperation of the football federations from the three neighbouring nations.

The tournament celebrates the 56th anniversary of Cambodian independence and strengthens friendship between Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. For Cambodia, it will be a good technical test for their SEA Games preparation.

Sao Sokha, president of the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC), revealed the format for the tournament at a press conference Monday. The president said that each team will meet each other once, with the top two (from points and goals scored) playing a final for the trophy, while the other two play for third place. Local television network TV5 will broadcast the games live, with the opening and closing ceremonies also screened in Vietnam.

The tournament champions will receive gold medals and US$20,000, with runners-up pocketing $10,000, and third place $5,000. The player of the tournament, the top scorer and the best goalkeeper will each receive $1,000.

Cambodia U23s, who were smashed 6-0 by their Singapore counterparts September 27, are currently in Ho Chi Minh City for training, playing five friendly matches against local opposition before returning home November 4. Laos as host country for the SEA Games are well-prepared, while the two Vietnamese teams have best records in their domestic V-league.

Nguyen Van Hien, executive chief of BIDC, said that this first tournament is important to the development of the football sector in the region. He confirmed the bank’s intention to organise the event every two years and promised prize money of $5,000 to the Cambodia team if they attained first or second place at the 25th SEA Games.

Turning pepper into 'black gold'

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A farmer sorts Kampot peppercorns. Kampot farmers say they should see prices improve further once their crop receives GI status this year.

Of all the pepper sold in Europe under the name, a tiny amount is real.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:00 Jacob Gold and Nguon Sovan

With the launch of Cambodia’s campaign to promote Kampot pepper, farmers and distributors hope its forthcoming geographic indicator status can boost the prices and exports of their crop

APROMOTIONAL dinner at Phnom Penh’s Malis restaurant tonight is to kick off a campaign to seal Kampot pepper’s reception of the first-ever geographical indicator status awarded by the Ministry of Commerce.

Kampot’s farmers, as well as pepper distributors and would-be exporters, hope geographical indicator status (GI) will translate into higher prices for their product by tapping into overseas markets.

Based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) guidelines, GI strictly regulates every aspect of a product’s properties to assure both its high quality and regional distinctiveness – values that have been known among the growers for decades.

Nguon Ly, a 61-year-old farmer from Kampot province’s Kampong Trach district, says he began growing pepper at age 15 during the boom times of the French colonial period.

“At that time, pepper sold quite well. Having pepper was like having gold,” says Nguon Lay. “The soil condition in our coastal province is favourable for the pepper crop.”

According to a brand booklet to be distributed at tonight’s launch event, the mid-20th century saw Kampot producing 3,000 tonnes of pepper annually. Though annual volume had peaked at 8,000 tonnes 50 years before around the turn of the century, the later, smaller yields were “of exceptional quality”, making Kampot pepper “the spice of choice for French restaurants”.

However, like almost every aspect of life in the Kingdom, the recent tragic legacy of war and genocide killed the trade.

“Five years of [Khmer Rouge] terror and the 30 years of civil war that followed put a stop to pepper production in Kampot,” the booklet notes.

When the farmers who had grown Kampot pepper for generations returned to the region during the 1990s, there was no export market to prop up prices and most switched to other crops. Kampot pepper was off the map.

But a few farmers like Nguon Ly continued to grow the pepper, perhaps, as his explanation suggests, out of force of habit as much as the need to restore a tradition.

“We loved this profession because it was what we had left from our parents. On the other hand, we did not have any other skills but growing pepper,” he says.

Angela Westergaard, marketing director of Cambodia-registered agro-business Farmlink, said that beginning in the late 1990s, numerous NGOs tried unsuccessfully to revive cultivation of Kampot pepper. She said that Farmlink, which she founded with Jerome Benezech in 2004, was able to succeed where others failed because, as a private company, it uses a market-directed approach.

“NGOs get big support from international donors – a private company doesn’t. If you don’t have backing, you have to fight harder,” she says.

To distribute and export Kampot pepper, Farmlink needed to work with farmers to ensure a dependable supply. According to Westergaard, the key to achieving this was the development of a farmers’ association that sought to raise crop prices, prompting farmers to return to growing pepper.

“If you buy from the farmers’ association, it’s at a set kilo price … part of that price guarantees a wage for the farmers,” she said. Today the association represents about 130 families who grow GI-ready pepper.

Nguon Lay, president of the Kampot Pepper Farmers’ Association, agreed that prices have returned to a reasonable level: US$10 per kilogram for refined white pepper, $8 for the rarer pink pepper and $5 for the standard black variety.

Nguon Lay says the association will continue to raise prices, despite the economic downturn, when Kampot pepper is finally accredited as a GI product later this year.

“It’s still black gold despite a year of poor sales,” he says.

Once that all-important status is granted, the farmer’s association will become the sole legitimate source of Kampot’s famous pepper, and, as in the days of French rule, the product will be sold for a premium outside of the Kingdom.

Global recognition
According to Jean-Marie Brun of GRET, a French NGO involved in setting GI rules for Kampot pepper, “GI means something to consumers in Europe”, where countries such as France, Spain and Italy all pride themselves on regionally protected goods, with champagne the obvious example.

Though part of GI’s value comes from guarantees, such as fertiliser- and pesticide-free growing methods and fair wages that appeal to the socially and environmentally conscious Western consumer, its most important role for the Kampot pepper brand is to separate imitations from the real thing.

Brun says that only 20 tonnes of genuine Kampot pepper are grown every year, equivalent to just a fraction of the pepper on foreign shelves that now uses the “Kampot” name.

“If you look at France, you will see a lot of counterfeit [Kampot pepper] on the market,” says Brun. “Of all the pepper sold in Europe under the name, a tiny amount is real Kampot pepper.”

But these varieties are also likely to prosper. GI status for the genuine article looks set to boost demand for non-accredited pepper grown in and around Kampot, said Stephane Bourcier, who runs the Senteurs D’Angkor workshop in Siem Reap, a processor of Kampot pepper since 1998.

“[But] I will have much less benefit at first because I will have to buy from the association, whose pepper will now be more expensive to grow,” he said.

Bourcier said that although GI supporters such as himself will be “easy to control”, he has no doubt that many will take advantage of a less-than-discerning marketplace.

Until the GI mark is effectively enforced and production begins to approach potential demand, promoters of Kampot pepper hope that recognition by a handful of elite chefs and food vendors around the globe will safeguard the brand’s core asset: exceptional quality.

In France, renowned restaurateur Olivier Roellinger has championed Kampot pepper, selling Cambodia’s black gold on his Web site.

And in New York Michael Laskionis has created a Kampot black pepper ice cream at Le Bernadin, a restaurant accredited with three Michelin stars, as featured in the promotional material for the GI launch.

In the introduction, Rick Stein of the well-known Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, England, pays tribute to Cambodia’s best-known culinary export. “I can certainly understand how the Kampot pepper, once rated the best in the world by French chefs, will [begin] the renaissance of those lovely pepper farms,” he writes.

Jimmy Carter to visit housing volunteers

OYG volunteers build community housing in Oudong in July this year. PHOTO SUPPLIED

(POst by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:00 OU MOM

Former US president Jimmy Carter is to visit young volunteers building houses for families relocating from the Stung Meanchey dump site, according to aid organisation Habitat for Humanity.

With the help of 300 local and international volunteers, Habitat hopes to build 21 houses in five days at Oudong for 21 families from the former municipal dump site. The work is part of the Habitat’s Mekong Build 2009 project that will take place on November 15-20.

The Outstanding Youth Group of Cambodia (OYG) are looking for young volunteers to take part.

“We will recruit about three or four volunteers in each school so that we can get a diversity of people to work together,” said OYG member Bun Ang.

Habitat resource development and communication officer Melissa Cronin said as well as the presidential visit, volunteers would engage in leadership and cultural exchange activities.

“The former US President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn will visit the Oudong build site in Cambodia after the build to view the houses and meet the families and the volunteers that worked so hard to build them,” Cronin said.

She said the first 10 readers of The Phnom Penh Post to contact Habitat may be eligible for a one-week volunteer sponsorship. To apply, contact Melissa Cronin on 092 763 257 or email and mention this article.

To be eligible, you must be Cambodian, aged 18-25, and willing to build houses in Oudong during the week of the project. No special skills are required.

Police Blotter: 7 Oct 2009

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

A 45-year-old policeman was hacked to death with a machete on Sunday while he was swimming with his wife near his home in Preah Vihear province’s Kampong Pronak commune. The attacker approached the policeman in a boat, and after committing the crime, docked and hired a motorbike taxi, travelling to the police station to confess. In his confession, the man said that he attacked the victim because of an incident several years ago in which the victim threatened to kill him with witchcraft.

A man who allegedly wielded an AK-47 and donned an army uniform in a failed robbery was apprehended on Sunday night in Siem Reap province’s Slor Gram commune. Siem Reap police Deputy Chief Mak Sam On said the incident occurred when a 21-year-old man stopped his motorbike to urinate on the side of the road, returning to find the suspect and two other perpetrators attempting to steal his vehicle. Luckily, the victim was able to fight the thieves off and summon help.

A 21-year-old man was shot to death in broad daylight on Saturday as he was having his motorbike fixed in Kampong Cham province’s Choam Tamao commune. Witnesses at the scene were afraid to identify the perpetrator, but Choam Tamao police said they know the perpetrator’s identity and are now hunting for him.

Police were forced to shoot out the tyres of a Honda CR-V driven by a severely drunk man after the driver tried to escape after running down several motorbikes on Norodom Boulevard in the capital’s Daun Penh district on Sunday night. Witnesses said that after hitting a bicycle and three motorbikes, the rampaging vehicle finally came to a halt when police opened fire, and it crashed into two more motorbikes and a phone shop.

Two young students were severely injured and two others knocked unconscious after a violent crash between two speeding bikes on Monday in Preah Sihanouk province. The four victims, none of whom were wearing helmets, were sent to a private hospital to receive medical treatment.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Brief: Gameweek 8 winner

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:00 Dan Riley

PHNOM PENH – It was all about the class of Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas in last week’s English Premier League games, as our weekly fantasy manager competition winner Art Nolen demonstrated with his team Smart Kick. Selecting the Spanish midfielder as captain of his team last week earned Art a whopping 44 points, which he used to notch an impressive 88 points total. Aston Villa’s Richard Dunne also contributed 11 points to Art’s team, although Hull defender Kamil Zayatte (12 points) was agonisingly left on the bench. So, the Cellcard US$20 phone credit and T-shirt wings it way to Art as we enter another break for international games.

In Brief: Southern Gold's loss

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:00 Nathan Green

AUSTRALIAN miner Southern Gold reported a $3.56 million (US$3.16 million) after-tax loss for the financial year ended June 30 in its annual report Tuesday. The firm, which holds exploration licences for seven sites containing gold and base metals in northeastern Cambodia, lost A$3.10 million in 2008. The report said that “financing constraints delayed progress on a number of the company’s projects” but added that it still made progress that showed great potential. In Cambodia, the first significant gold intersections on the firm’s wholly owned Anchor Prospect were discovered, it said, vindicating its “early mover strategy” here.

In Brief: Telcos feedback ready

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 15:00 Steve Finch

THE mobile-phone sector concluded a meeting Monday afternoon that saw it make minor alterations to feedback on the draft telecoms law, an executive working in the sector said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. The private sector working group is now expected to submit the feedback to the government "in the next couple of weeks", he said. The sector has flagged proposed foreign-ownership caps and the transition phase to the new regulations as potential areas of concern, according to an earlier draft seen by the Post this week.

Cambodia's trade with Hong Kong down 24 pct to end July

(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- Bilateral trade between Cambodia and China's Hong Kong dropped 24.39 percent in the first seven months year-on-year, local media reported Wednesday.

Citing the data released by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the reports said trade between the two sides fell to 288 million U.S. dollars from 380.94 million dollars last year.

Hong Kong's total exports to Cambodia fell to 279 million dollars from 375.5 million dollars, while Cambodia's shipments in return increased to 9 million dollars from 5.44 million dollars during the year up to the end of July.

The figures were released Tuesday at a press conference to attract Cambodian companies to hold trade exhibitions in Hong Kong.

"The drop was because of the global financial crisis. However, now trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong is becoming stable because the economy is not so bad; it may not drop further," Johnny Wan, senior exhibitions manager at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Cambodia's main exports to Hong Kong were food items, garments and footwear, and gemstones, he said. "Cambodia has so many good products, but foreigners may not know much about them, so Cambodia should promote more ... through trade shows and marketing," Wan said.

Editor: Chris

Cambodia and Vietnam Cooperate to Create a Company for Rice Export to International Markets – Tuesday, 6.10.2009

Posted on 7 October 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 633

(Post by CAAI News Media)

“Phnom Penh: The Minister of Commerce and Senior Minister, Mr. Cham Prasidh, said that many private companies in Cambodia still do not have the ability to buy up paddy rice from farmers and to mill it for export to international markets. Therefore, the cooperation between Khmer and Vietnamese companies now is to help Cambodia to create a modern rice milling house to produce rice for export to international markets in the future.

“Mr. Cham Prasidh said that even though Vietnam can export rice of more than 6 million tonnes per year, it has to pay taxes for the exports while Cambodia, a poor country among 49 other similar countries in the world, is allowed by 27 European countries not to pay taxes on exports. Before 1 September 2009, the export quota of Cambodia was still valid, and it allowed Cambodia to export only 6,000 to 7,000 tones of rice to Europe, but now, Cambodia can export up to one million, if it intends to, without paying export taxes. Thus, a Vietnamese company that invests in Cambodia will surely bring great benefits.

“Mr. Cham Prasidh said so on 5 October 2009 while he presided over a signing ceremony between Cambodian and Vietnamese companies to create a new company, the Cambodia-Vietnam Food Company (Cavifoods), to buy paddy rice from Khmer farmers to be milled to produce rice for export to international markets. Mr. Cham Prasidh added that there are very few irrigation system issues that Cambodia needs to address – it is the buying and selling and export problems which are challenges to be solved at present and in the future, because there needs to be much capital to be spent to buy paddy rice from farmers.

“Mr. Cham Prasidh expressed his satisfaction to see that Vietnamese investors had deiced to invest to also create a fertilizer factory in Neak Loeang [Prey Veng], a good strategic location, since Cambodia does not need fertilizer only for rice agriculture, but also for many other crops. Recently, there was also fertilizer imported from Vietnam, but that was no-quality fertilizer, imported by dishonest people, making Khmer farmers to spend double, to have the fertilizers they need, and this affects the friendships between the people of both countries. Thus, establishing a fertilizer factory in Cambodia is a great opportunity, as it will help Cambodia to increase its potential to export more agricultural products.

“Vietnam said that Vietnamese companies have prepared US$200 million to buy paddy rice from Cambodian farmers, and it ensures there will be no shortage of capital to buy paddy rice. This is good news for Cambodian farmers.” Koh

Santepheap, Vol.42, #6771, 6.10.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A Reason for Hun Sen’s Contempt for Thailand

7 October 2009

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Last Friday (October 2), Pheu Thai MP Chalerm Yoobamrung admitted to have given to Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen an audio clip that features Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya criticizing him. He explained that as some people were trying to root out exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, he could do the same to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

What I saw on the news the next day was the picture of the Cambodian prime minister exchanging greetings and pleasantries with the Thai foreign affairs minister in the second meeting of foreign ministers from Japan and five countries on the Mekong River, held in Siam Reap province of Cambodia.

Earlier, Hun Sen said with strong words that he had ordered his troops to shoot Thai trespassers if they illegally crossed the border to Cambodia’s territory. He also threatened to withdraw from the ASEAN summit to be held in Thailand at the end of October.

However, just a few days after Hun Sen’s declaration, a source at the Thai Foreign Ministry revealed that the Cambodian leader would definitely attend the summit.
I recounted these events in order to show how crafty Hun Sen is and that he could use the Preah Vihear dispute as political ploy at will.

And while Chalerm was bragging about his secret delivery of Kasit’s clip, I could imagine Hun Sen sitting on his prime minister chair and enjoying the Thai government and the Opposition fighting each other

In Hun Sen’s eyes, Chalerm is perhaps a bit like a mischievous kid, an image that is a stark contrast to a prior impression that the Thai politician was respectable and, most of all, mature.

Chalerm’s move is quite embarrassing to the nation considering Hun Sen had long gotten his hands on the clip complete with a Cambodian subtitle. It is said that he had ordered his men to check on the background of anyone who spoke about his country.

It is not surprising at all that the Cambodian prime minister would be well informed of what happened in Thailand as he has an embassy and many news sources here.

Can you imagine what Hun Sen would think after he received the clip with the sender’s name of Charlerm?

What would you say if a member of your rival approaches you and offers to sell information to you?

If that occurred to me, as a good citizen who has every conscience to protect the interest of his own country, I would ask myself, how in the world could this guy be disloyal to his country?

And that might explain why Hun Sen is always looking at Thailand with disdain.

From ‘Ka Fae Dum’ column, Krungthep Thurakij newsparper, October 6th, p.2
Translated and edited by Wacharapol Isaranont

Hun Sen, Cambodia's agent provocateur?

Hun Sen: ‘‘I am the leader of Cambodia who was elected by the will of the people, not by robbing power.’’

Published: 7/10/2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

I was caught in the abhorrent situation wherein some 1,000 protesters, mostly students, torched the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh on the night of January 29, 2003. Elsewhere in the capital, the protests grew more aggravated. So-called Cambodian patriots ransacked Thai-owned establishments, including the Royal Phnom Penh Hotel and the office of Thai Airways International.

A few days earlier, Thai actress Suvanand Kongying had been wrongly accused of claiming that Angkor Wat was Thailand's property.

That misquote immediately stirred up a sense of nationalism inside Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen angrily responded: "Suvanand is not even worth a blade of grass at Angkor." Former premier Thaksin Shinawatra reportedly tried for two hours to reach Hun Sen by phone, and it was obvious the Cambodian leader was avoiding a conversation.

Was Hun Sun's anger really about protecting the dignity of the Cambodian nation? The circumstances surrounding the outburst was that a Cambodian general election was around the corner, so a conflict with Thailand could have been used to favour his political allies and undermine his opponents.

If the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) is a master manipulator of Thai nationalism, can Hun Sen be an "agent provocateur" who exploits nationalistic rhetoric to gain political points at home?

Since the flare-up in the Preah Vihear dispute, Hun Sen has never minced his words about the failure of Thai leadership. He has even provoked armed conflict with Thailand.

In referring to the Democrat government, Hun Sen once proudly declared: "I am the leader of Cambodia who was elected by the will of the people, not by robbing power." Recently, he intensified bilateral tensions by ordering his troops to shoot any Thai crossing the border illegally. His encouragement not only served to fulfil a nationalistic need in Cambodia, but also worked in turn to legitimise the PAD's activities.

Over the past years, Hun Sen has been able to strengthen his popularity thanks to the lingering dispute over the Preah Vihear temple. As Southeast Asia's longest serving leader apart from the Sultan of Brunei, Hun Sen has successfully ridden the wave of Cambodian nationalism to further solidify his rule.

At the height of Thailand's domestic crisis last year, Hun Sen suggested that Thailand give up its Asean chairmanship. In so doing, he seemed to declare himself the chief defender of Asean.

When Thailand planned to host the Asean meeting in Hua Hin in March this year, Hun Sen sarcastically said that it would be too costly and difficult for him to attend the gathering. Obviously, he later changed his mind.

Hun Sen has on numerous occasions warned Thai troops to stop trespassing on Cambodian land, calling the contested territory a "life-and-death battle zone".

The PAD has continued to play into Hun Sen's hands by inflating the incident and calling for the Thai military to push back Cambodian "intruders".

As much as the temple issue has been held hostage by Thai politics, it has also been used to preserve the legitimacy of the Cambodian leadership. The successful inscription of the temple on the list of Unesco's World Heritage sites was much publicised to voters as a result of Hun Sen's charismatic leadership. (Cambodia's general election was held on July 27, 2008).

Scenting an ideal electoral opportunity, Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party pushed the hot issues of corruption and inflation into the background while promoting a nationalistic election theme. The party announced that Hun Sen and his close allies were strong but peaceful leaders who were solely responsible for uniting Cambodians against Thai aggression.

After a series of armed clashes, Cambodia had no plans to make peace but demanded Thailand pay compensation for damages resulting from the confrontation on the border. In its diplomatic note, Cambodia stated: "The attack with heavy weapons by Thai troops on Cambodian territory caused much damage and set a Cambodian market ablaze. The material losses to 319 families, who had lost their livelihoods when the fire destroyed their market stalls, amounted to more than US$2.1 million."

The attempt here is not to paint a gloomy picture of the Cambodian leadership, but rather to highlight that the temple issue and the rise of nationalism have their roots deep in the power politics within Thailand and Cambodia. While it is convenient for Hun Sen to condemn the arbitrary use of Thai nationalism, he himself has taken advantage from Cambodian nationalism.

In an interview, Sam Rainsy, a French-educated former finance minister who leads Cambodia's prominent opposition party, described Hun Sen as a politician who succeeds very well in one thing: "Survival at the helm of the Cambodian state." His ability, Mr Rainsy said, is clinging on to power through political intrigues which he then resolves with an iron fist. This has lasted for almost 30 years now. "When you have only this ambition - clinging to power for the impunity it provides - it is catastrophic for the country," Mr Rainsy said.

Professor Chanvit Kasetsiri rightly noted that among the neighbouring countries of Southeast Asia, none seems more similar to Thailand than Cambodia. Both nations share similar customs, traditions, beliefs and ways of life. This is especially true of royal customs, language, writing systems, vocabulary, literature, and the dramatic arts. In light of these similarities, it seems surprising, therefore, that relations between Thailand and Cambodia should be characterised by deep-seated "ignorance, misunderstanding and prejudice". Indeed, the two countries have what can be termed a "love-hate relationship".

Today, this love-hate relationship is being firmly sustained by the incessant use of nationalism, which may offer some political benefits in the short-term but will surely create a long-lasting negative impact on the bilateral relationship.

Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.

Mekong climate change risk, WWF warns

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

by Staff Writers
Bangkok (UPI) Oct 6, 2009

(Post by CAAI News Media)

The World Wildlife Fund called for Asia's first regional climate change adaptation agreement in the Greater Mekong region.
The area -- which comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and southwest provinces of China -- is already strongly affected by climate change, and a lack of immediate action will come at great cost to the Mekong nations, states a WWF report released Monday in Bangkok, while the U.N. climate change talks were still in progress.

The WWF report, "The Greater Mekong And Climate Change: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Development at Risk," says the region, covering an area of 600,000 square kilometers, is to undergo major changes caused by climate change.

"Greater regional cooperation and coordination among Mekong nations is necessary to best cope with the impacts of climate change," said Geoffrey Blate, Climate Change Coordinator for the WWF Greater Mekong Program, Xinhua reports.

Over the last 50 years, average daily temperatures across Southeast Asia have increased between 0.5 and 1.5 centigrade. By the end of this century, the report says, temperatures in the Greater Mekong region are predicted to rise between 2 to 4 centigrade. WWF said that the region's coastal communities are threatened by a rise in sea levels, and changes to the climate are stressing ecosystems.

The region is home to more than 300 million people. Also known for its rich biodiversity, some 1,000 new species were discovered in Mekong during the last 10 years.

Land is being lost in coastal zones of the Greater Mekong, WWF said, and glacial melting in the Himalayas may impact the region's major rivers. Wetlands will either dry up or become flooded out, WWF predicts.

The WWF report calls for implementing a regional climate change adaptation agreement and for a reduction in non-climate stresses such as unsustainable infrastructure.

"There is a leadership opportunity here to champion what would be Asia's first regional climate change adaptation agreement to help Greater Mekong nations prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change," said Blate.

WWF also called for decisive action on a global scale to avoid the consequences of climate change. It urged world leaders to strike an ambitious and fair agreement on a climate treaty at the U.N.-backed talks in Copenhagen in December.

"Rich and developed nations must make deep emission cuts and commit to significant financial help to assist vulnerable regions such as the Greater Mekong," said Kim Carstensen, who heads up WWF's Global Climate Initiative, Xinhua reports.

Go wild in Phnom Penh

Amok frog

Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary entrance

Local selling peanuts

Monkey's roam freely at Tamao

Feeding fish to the otters


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Nestled within the southern jungles of Phnom Penh lies the Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia's leading sanctuary for animals seized from smugglers or traps set up by poachers.

Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary was founded by the father of a famous Cambodian actress and is now sponsored by the government as well as other non-government organisations.

On the 44km drive from central Phnom Penh to the sanctuary, travellers should take the opportunity to visit Or Phea Sang Village Ka Deung Commune located 3km from Tamao Mountain.

The village is dedicated to farming frogs, which are then used to create Amok Frog - a skinned and cooked frog stuffed with lemongrass on a skewer. The main road is lined on each side with local stalls cooking and selling the specialty.

Travellers then only need to drive for another ten minutes before reaching Tamao Wildlife Sanctuary where they will be greeted by locals selling peanuts and bananas that can be used to feed the animals

Local tour guides are also there to assist visitors and take them around the enormous sanctuary which gives ample caging space for its furry residents.

Animals at the sanctuary include yellow-throated martens, mongoose, peacocks, flying squirrels, turtles, tigers, cranes, gibbons and monkeys just to name a few.

The majority of the animals may never be returned to the wild as the price on their head is high.

You can feed almost all of the animals and if you're unsure you can ask the tour guide if the animal is friendly or not - the free roaming monkeys usually come straight up to you to grab a peanut or banana.

For US$1 you can get a bundle of fish or six hard-boiled eggs to feed the otters which literally scream when they see your hand full of food. You can even buy a coconut and feed the elephants or the bears.

It takes less than two hours to see all the animals with the last stop at the elephant enclosure where visitors are given the chance to see an elephant paint.

Zoo lovers will enjoy the close proximity to the animals that the sanctuary allows, with all of its animals kept in above average conditions.

China-ASEAN International Touring Assembly arrives in Cambodia

(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- A fleet of 26 cars with 119 members participating in a 10,000 km-rally through six ASEAN countries on Tuesday arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The Assembly team consists of over 60 racers from Beijing, Henan, Guangdong, and Guangxi of China, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

In the past days, the team travelled through Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. And on Wednesday, they will leave here for Vietnam and finally return to China on October 11.

During their driving from Siem Reap, the gateway of the world famous Angkor Wat, to the capital Phnom Penh, the team held a "Speed Racing".

During their stay in Phnom Penh, the team held meeting with Maikaduo, deputy director of Youth Sports Bureau of Cambodian Education, Youth and Sports Ministry, and also has a party with the representatives from Cambodian government, Chinese Ambassy to Cambodia and Cambodia-China Association.

"We are glad to see that Cambodia has changed a lot and also the improvement of people's livelihood since we have been here in 2007, especially the new roads," said Hankang Cen, deputy director of the Organizing Committee of China-ASEAN International Touring Assembly, adding that "China's Guangxi hopes to further strengthen the cooperation with the ASEAN member countries in various fields."

He also hoped that Cambodian team will join them in next year's rally, saying that Guangxi is willing to offer its help.

Maikaduo expressed his thanks to Chinese friends and hoped to enhance the cooperation between Cambodia and China on the fields of culture, tourism and sports.

The 2009 China-ASEAN International Touring Assembly (CAITA) started on Sept. 20 in Nanning, capital of South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region with theme of "A Tour of Harmony". This is the third race. The last two were held in 2006 and 2007 separately.

The 22-day race is co-organized by China's General Administration of Sport, Federation of Automobile Sports of China, and Guangxi Administration of Sport.

Editor: Zhang Xiang