Friday, 9 October 2009

Lenovo officially launches in Cambodia

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 09 October 2009 15:01 JEREMY MULLINS

THE world’s fourth-largest computer manufacturer, China’s Lenovo Group Ltd, officially launched its personal computers in the Kingdom on Thursday, announcing partnerships with two local resellers for its Think and Idea range.

The firm, which took over IBM’s personal computer division in 2005, will retail its desktops and laptops in Cambodia through Anana Computer Co and PTC Computer Technologies, Howie Sin, general manager of Lenovo ASEAN, said at the launch. The companies would offer Lenovo customers sales and support, he added.

“We strongly believe in partnering with local business because they understand the local market, so we can grow that market,” Sin said.
Commenting on Lenovo’s unusual strategy of starting out in the Kingdom with two partners, Sreang Tito of Anana said: “We’re going to compete in the areas of capacity and service.”

“We’ll develop the practice of fair competition. That’ll bring a better opportunity for the customers,” he added.

Tapping into local demand
Though acknowledging the challenges caused by the global financial crisis, Sin said he was taking a positive long-term view on the Cambodian computer market.

“The way we look at it is there’s lots of potential in the market as a whole. There are lots of young people [in Cambodia] who are very proficient with mobile phones and who are drawn to the Internet. What about notebooks?” He said, adding that Lenovo would aim to add Khmer-language solutions in the longer term.

Forex reserves up to $2.52bn

Photo by: Tha Piseth
A money changer exchanges foreign currency in Phnom Penh. Cambodia’s forex reserves have risen this year, beating analysts’ predictions of a

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 09 October 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Prime Minister Hun Sen says National Bank of Cambodia, which celebrated 30 years in operation Thursday, has weathered the global financial crisis

PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Thursday that Cambodia continued to increase its foreign exchange reserves to the end of August reaching a near-record high of US$2.522 billion, while beating analysts’ forecasts of a sharp drop for 2009.

Speaking at the 30th anniversary ceremony for the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), which was re-established after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime, Hun Sen said forex reserves had climbed 21.48 percent so far this year.

“Despite Cambodia suffering from the global financial crisis, we have still been able to ensure international reserves,” the prime minister said during the event at Chaktomuk Theatre in Phnom Penh.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) data shows that reserves reached a record high of $2.594 billion in May after climbing steadily at the beginning of the year from $2.076 billion at the end of 2008, a figure quoted by Hun Sen Thursday.

“Today, the banking industry is growing both in scope and operations, attracting large foreign banks to open, and the amount of deposits and loans have consistently increased – this reflects confidence from the public in this industry,” he said, encouraging banks to list on the long-awaited Cambodian stock exchange.

The IMF’s country representative, John Nelmes, told the Australian Business Association of Cambodia in Phnom Penh last week that the Kingdom in August was allocated $108 million in Special Drawing Rights, an IMF international reserve asset. The NBC used the facility to increase forex reserves, Nelmes added.

The latest figures represent strong growth in forex reserves for 2009 contrary to forecasts made by international analysts, including the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) which as recently as June was predicting a steady decline this year to just over $2 billion by the end of December through to about $1.5 billion by the end of 2010. It based the assessment on falling foreign investment and repeated intervention by the government to strengthen the riel.

However, the EIU has since revised its forecast, predicting in September that forex reserves would reach $2.951 billion by year’s end with a slight decrease to $2.861 billion by the end of 2010. In its October outlook, the London-based organisation said reserves would climb again to $2.983 in 2011.

“But [the NBC’s] international reserves position remains precarious, and the [riel] has … resumed its depreciating trend,” the EIU said in its September outlook, referring to “heavy dollar selling” in August.

Following a consultation with the government last month, the IMF recommended in a statement that the government limit intervention in the riel rate – namely, selling US dollars for local currency, adding that such moves would limit volatility in the exchange rate.

This “would help protect international reserves, deepen the foreign exchange market, and allow the exchange rate to play a greater role in facilitating external adjustment”, the IMF statement said.

Meanwhile, in his speech Thursday, the prime minister rounded on international agencies, including the IMF, for what he termed an overly controlling approach to assistance to the Kingdom.

“It is said I was Vietnam’s puppet, but when Vietnam was in Cambodia, I was more independent,” he said referring to international agencies such as the World Bank and IMF.

“We welcome your assistance, but do not intervene or put pressure on us, or there is no need to help.”


Jatropha oil refinery ready to go

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 09 October 2009 15:01 Soeun Say

Japan-Cambodia joint venture to start production after ministry approval

NCT Jacam Energy Co is set to begin producing jatropha oil this month once approval from the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy is received, according to company President Chheuy Sophors.

The Japan-Cambodia joint venture plans to produce 100 litres of the oil, which can be converted into biodiesel, daily when the plant opens. It will raise capacity to 5,000 litres a day within a year, he said.

The company planned to present documents to the ministry Thursday, having already received permission from the Ministry of Commerce.

Permission appeared to be a formality, with ministry Secretary of State Sath Samy telling the Post Thursday that he welcomed all entrants to the sector. “I haven’t seen the permission letter yet, but I will support them if they can produce jatrapha oil in our country and reduce our need to import oil from outside,” he said.

Chheuy Sophors said the US$400,000 factory in Kampong Speu province would be the first in the country. The company had been developing the technology for around four years, he said.

It would source around 5,000 tonnes of jatropha from local growers every year, he said.
The oil would be priced at 3,500 riels per litre, around the current price of crude oil.

Rubber prices rise on back of more demand

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 09 October 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal

CAMBODIA’s rubber price, which fell sharply at the beginning of the year, is now rebounding with producers and analysts predicting stronger growth for the sector.

Cambodia’s Directorate of Rubber Plantation said on Wednesday that prices climbed 37.4 percent in October from the beginning of the year, when rubber had fallen to a low of just US$1,419 per tonne.

Ly Phalla, director general of the General Department of Rubber Plantation, said Wednesday that rubber prices will likely continue to rise as global demand begins to recover.

“We do not know the cause of the increase in rubber prices, but I presume it may be because of a recovery in the US economy resulting in an increase in demand,” he said.

Rubber climbed to the highest price in three weeks on international markets Thursday, with futures up 2.1 percent on the back of record gold prices, Bloomberg reported.

March-delivery rubber climbed as high as 212.6 yen per kilogram ($2,408 a tonne) on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange before closing at 211.6 yen.

Although Ly Phalla could not provide figures on Cambodian rubber exports for the first nine months of this year, anecdotal evidence from the industry suggests 2009 is likely to see a rise of about 25 percent in total overseas shipments.

Rubber exports to rise
Exporters estimated this week that at least 50,000 tonnes would be shipped this year compared to a reported 40,000 tonnes in exports for 2008, mainly to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Germany and France.

Cambodia has 110,000 hectares of rubber under cultivation, Mak Kim Hong, president of the Cambodian Rubber Association said, 50,000 hectares of which is in production.

“I believe the increase in rubber prices at the moment will encourage farmers to grow more,” he said, adding that at current rates of growth the Kingdom would have 160,000 hectares in five years.

The more conservative national strategic plan is for 150,000 hectares by 2015.

TNT in fast lane despite slowdown

TNT Express Worldwide (Cambodia) Country General Manager Sjaak de Klein says road transport stands to benefit from economic slowdown as firms look for cheaper substitute for air freight.

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 09 October 2009 15:00 Nathan Green

TNT Express Worldwide (Cambodia) Country General Manager Sjaak de Klein talks about the impact of the economic slowdown on the transport sector and TNT’s prospects for growth

CEO Talk
By Nathan Green

The So Nguon Group has reported a 40 percent decline in freight volumes over the first nine months of the year. How is TNT doing?
We are lucky in that we have a diverse portfolio of customers, including mining, oil and telecoms. We also have imports by land and air as well as exports, while So Nguon obviously had a strong focus on connecting with the export shipping lane in Sihanoukville. Our Asia Road Network, which we extended into Cambodia this year, is also really starting to see some success because the crisis is encouraging people to look for a cheaper option than air freight. And it’s much faster than moving goods by sea from Bangkok through Sihanoukville, which can take up to 15 days. We drive overnight, so there is a tremendous opportunity for customers to get their goods shipped quickly. The garment slowdown has affected us because we import accessories and fabrics and export documents and garment samples, but we have not been as adversely affected as the freight forwarders that focus on exports of ready-made garments to the US.

What import sectors are proving resilient?
Consumer goods, especially consumer electronics and computers, are holding up as the middle class is rising and people have more spending power. There is also a lot of imports of baby stuff. The telecoms industry is very dynamic, and they are bringing in a lot of equipment to build towers. We are also seeing a pickup in garments, with many factories receiving new orders and showing interest in bringing in fabrics and accessories.

There was a Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) meeting in Phnom Penh recently where GMS ministers pledged to accelerate economic corridor development. Is enough being done in Cambodia?
Cambodia is lagging behind in GMS development, which is unfortunate as building a strong economic corridor will not only stimulate the economy but also provide jobs in the transport sector and increase economic productivity near those roads. Some countries are picking it up faster than others. For example, Laos realised very quickly that as a landlocked country they had to do something, much like Switzerland did in Europe. They got proper funding to build a bridge across the Mekong and built some extremely good roads across the southern part of Laos. They also have incentives for companies to register trucks there. In Cambodia, the government doesn’t have special incentives for the transport industry, which is a pity.

What incentives are needed?
What the industry most urgently needs is incentives to bring in proper equipment instead of having all these local companies with secondhand trucks that are 10, 15, 20 years old. If you import a truck now, you pay a 40 percent import tariff, including duty, special tax and VAT. We would like to become a showpiece for the transport industry, but at the moment its is expensive to bring in a good fleet.

ASYCUDA (Automated SYstem for CUstoms Data) is being rolled out and TNT has introduced e-invoicing. What impact will electronic data interchange have on the sector?
ASYCUDA is only used at the port in Sihanoukville. They are still trying to roll it out at the international airport, but I have heard nothing about a rollout plan at land border crossings. But in general, we are embracing IT technology and like to exchange data with customs electronically. It will speed up our clearance processes as long as the government starts using electronic data interchange and applies risk management profiling to that data. For our express products, that’s important. Electronic data exchange also benefits our customers, and the bigger customers are definitely interested in that.

The economy is expected to contract this year and begin expanding again next. What’s your growth projection for TNT?
We haven’t really seen that contraction and are still growing year on year. And we are optimistic about the future. There is still an opportunity to develop a domestic network, and I am convinced that special economic zones (SEZs) will be successful in attracting new investments like Ajinomoto, which is setting up in the Phnom Penh SEZ. I’ve been here three years and I fell pretty comfortable about the buzz here. The economy has perhaps not been affected quite so much by the global economic crisis as believed because it is cash-based, and we still predict to grow our revenue by a substantial percentage.

All set up for the Nations Cup

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 09 October 2009 15:00 Adam Robertson

FINAL preparations are being made for the 2009 FCC Nations Cup at Siem Reap’s Angkor Golf Resort over the weekend.

This inaugural team golf event in the Kingdom will challenge a total of 40 golfers who represent the nations of Australia, France, Britain and Ireland, Thailand, Canada and hosts Cambodia.

Teams of up to six will play a stableford scoring system, with the best four scores counting on each day. However, every member of the team must contribute at least one score over the two days.

The team with the highest points tally Sunday will be deemed the champion nation.

There will be some entertaining traps along the way, with the FCC staff plying golfers with their signature drink, the Transfusion, as they tackle the championship course.

Angkor Golf Resort also welcomes back a number of golfers who competed during the Angkor Amateur Open. Notable course stalwarts include Brendan O’Driscoll, Rob Matteo, Chris Poniah of Malaysia, and big-hitting South African Chris Boshoff, who will represent his adopted country of Cambodia.

Play is due to commence at 12:30pm Saturday, with the final round starting at 8:30am Sunday. A buffet lunch and prize giving will be held at the Angkor Golf Resort clubhouse.

Police Blotter: 9 Oct 2009

(Post by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 09 October 2009 15:02 Chhay Channyda

Police say they didn’t step in when bar patrons allegedly beat on a group of karaoke parlour employees in Kandal province Tuesday because no officer dared to intervene at the establishment known for fighting and shootouts. The three karaoke girls were injured when one client, angry after falling off a sofa, started hitting the girls. Police say they feared the girls would be threatened if they filed a complaint against the men. The police, from Takhmao town, said their policy of dealing with violence at this particular karaoke bar is to wait by the fence outside the parlour.

Police say a man in Pursat province hanged himself Tuesday after his parents blamed him for the loss of 5kg of cable wires meant to be installed at a pagoda. The family had been in charge of constructing the Baksei Chamkrong pagoda in Pursat’s Phnom Kravanh district. Police said the 24-year-old man took the blame when the wires went missing. His body was found Wednesday.

The Appeal Court has affirmed a lower court decision sentencing a motorbike taxi driver to nine years in prison after he was convicted of dealing in prostitution in August. Phnom Penh resident Chheng Chhoeun had insisted he was just a regular motodop. However, a Phnom Penh court ruled the man lured three girls to live with him as house workers on promises of a US$100 salary. Instead, the girls were forced to have sex with other men for cash.

Police in Battambang province are blaming “the power of wine” after a man was seriously injured when his friend allegedly beat him with a wooden stick. It happened Tuesday in Battambang’s Sampov Loun district when one man asked his friend, the eventual victim, to take him home. The victim refused, however, saying he was busy watching boxing, before cursing the suspect’s mother. The suspect grew angry and beat the fan of televised pugilism with a stick.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

(Post by CAAI News Media)

In Brief: Meeting on recovery

Friday, 09 October 2009 15:00 Steve Finch

ECONOMISTS and government officials are to meet in Siem Reap today for a conference on overcoming the financial and economic crises. The event, which ends Saturday, is to include a keynote address from Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon and will include group discussion sessions as delegates share ideas on the economic fallout that escalated since Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in September 2008. Held annually, this year’s conference will focus on current methods for market governance, an announcement for the event says. Delegates gathered Thursday evening for a welcome reception ahead of the two-day discussions.

In Brief: Oz Minerals legal feud

Friday, 09 October 2009 15:00 POST STAFF

AUSTRALIAN miner OZ Minerals, which operates a gold concession in Mondulkiri province, has announced that a class-action suit has been filed against it at the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne. The claim, which was launched by shareholders Wednesday, it said in a statement, was filed over allegations it had failed to disclose debts, reports said, which were due last November. The firm said in the statement it “will vigorously defend the claim”. Despite the announcement, the firm’s share price climbed 2.87 percent Thursday in Sydney to A$1.25 (US$1.13).

Cambodia's reserves top $2.5 bln: PM

Cambodia's reserves top $2.5 bln: PM
AFP - Friday, October 9
(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - – Cambodia's foreign currency reserves have topped the 2.5 billion dollar mark despite forecasts that the country's economy will contract this year, the premier said Thursday.

Hun Sen revealed in a speech that the country has increased its international reserves by 21.48 percent since the end of last year, when they stood at just over two billion US dollars.

"Despite receiving the impact of the global economic and financial crisis, we can ensure international reserves will continue increasing remarkably," he said.

"As of the end of August 2009, calculated international reserves had reached 2,522 million US dollars," he added, in the speech marking 30 years since Cambodia rebuilt its national bank that was destroyed under the Khmer Rouge.

After several years of double-digit growth fuelled mainly by tourism and garment exports, Cambodia was buffeted by 2008's global economic downturn.

Last month the International Monetary Fund predicted Cambodia's economy will contract 2.75 percent this year amid the slowdown, but praised the national bank for its supervision of commercial banks hit by non-performing loans.

Cambodia remains a largely cash-only economy and a high degree of mistrust keeps many people hoarding their money at home, but Hun Sen said that confidence was growing and more people were using banks.

Nearly one third of Cambodia's 14 million people survive on only 50 US cents a day or less.

Tribunal Summons Six Government Officials

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday questioned the tribunal summonses for six government officials as witnesses, claiming they should instead be treated as plaintiffs.

“Why do they call the plaintiffs to be witnesses?” Hun Sen said at a ceremony in Phnom Penh celebrating the 30th anniversary of the National Bank. “Because those people are known to have toppled Pol Pot, and they are also the ones who approved the laws to try the Khmer Rouge.”

The court’s French investigating judge, Marcel Lemonde, sent summonses to Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Finance Minister Keat Chhon and senators Sim Ka and Ouk Bunchhoeun.

They are being asked to testify in the upcoming case against four jailed leaders of the regime, the second trial of the UN-backed court.

Both investigating judges declined further comment Thursday.

Government adviser Tit Sothea called the summonses “wrong,” saying to call senior leaders of the ruling party to court could weaken social safety and political stability.

“This summon is against people’s will, because we don’t want to do that,” he said.

Long Panhavuth, project officer for the Open Society Justice Initiative, which monitors the tribunal, said Lemonde’s summonses were a positive step for the court.

“This is a good means, by which [Lemonde] informed the public about who knows about the Khmer Rouge,” he said. In his role as investigating judge, “he should summon all people who know about the killing fields of Democratic Kampuchea.”

Khmer Preservation Group Praised in US

Hem Heng, Cambodia ambassador to US

By Im Sothearith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Maryland
08 October 2009
(Post by CAAI news Media)

Friends of Khmer Culture, Inc., is, according to its motto, “dedicated to supporting the artistic and cultural heritage of Cambodia.” And judging by a recent fundraiser of the US-based preservation group, in the state of Maryland, it’s a motto with a lot of support.

The group “was founded to address these areas that have been neglected by the major donors,” Franklin Huffman, well-known author of “Modern Spoken Cambodian”and an English-Khmer dictionary, told VOA Khmer at the fundraising gathering. The group was established in 2000 by people concerned about the survival of Cambodia’s artistic and cultural heritage.

The group supports training programs for the restoration of the temples of Banteay Chhmar, in Banteay Meanchey province, and of young Cambodian students for conservation work.

While everyone has heard of Angkor Wat, Huffman said, Cambodia has hundreds of other temples and archeological sites across the country.

Hem Heng, Cambodian ambassador to the US, who attended the fundraising ceremony, said he was please to see Cambodians and the US get together to help Cambodia’s temples, which were damaged by the war.

“This is a pleasant opportunity for me to participate in this important fundraising, to help conserve and restore our Khmer temples,” Hem Heng said. “This organization not only helps restore and conserve temples, but also trains people, which is a good gesture.”

Narin Seng Jameson, a member of the group’s advisory council and organizer of the gathering, told VOA Khmer she was happy to see so many supporters. The money from fundraising will support the publication of Khmer arts and culture.

“This proves that we Khmer love our culture and our country very much,” she said.

Friends of Khmer Culture works with Cambodian institutions to support “all forms of Khmer cultural expression and work with Cambodian and international scholars, artists, and institutions to preserve past achievements and encourage new vitality in art, literature, scholarship, and the performing arts.”

The hope, the group says, is to “rebuild civil society and enhance awareness and appreciation of Khmer culture both within and beyond Cambodia.”

At Islamic School, a Separation of the Sexes

By Pich Samnang, VOA Khmer
Original report from Kandal province
08 October 2009
(post by CAAI News Media)

Classes are underway at the Cambodian Islamic Center in Kandal province, and at the nearby Al Rahmani mosque, a group of female students waited for their instructor on a recent day.

It is not by chance that the classroom was empty of men. Here, young women and girls are separated from their male classmates, in a bid to help them study, officials say.

“It is common that female and male students have love relationships, and this makes it difficult for us to control,” said Pich Solin, director of the Islamic Center’s secular studies.

Segregation helps earn the trust of parents and helps students concentrate on their studies, he said.

Cambodia has around 500,000 Muslims, many of whom are descendants of a lost kingdom in today’s Vietnam. Over the decades, they have lived side-by-side with their Khmer neighbors, but Muslim leaders maintain traditions in schools like the Islamic Center, underscoring the difference in cultures.

The Islamic Center has strict rules regarding relationships between its students.

“They don’t allow us to sit in the same class [with boys], as we may woo each other,” a shy, 15-year-old girl named You Sali said. This is for the best, she said.

The center has around 200 female students, who leave their homes across the country to study here, 20 kilometers outside Phnom Penh. Nearby, on the main grounds of the Islamic Center, 500 male students undertake secular and religious courses.

Kimri Safert, 18, said he wanted to study in a classroom with female students.

“I want to, but how can I if the tradition won’t allow it?” he asked with a sigh.

Nos Sles, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, said the separation of students does not affect quality of education.

“They just put female students in one place and male students in another, but the curriculum is the same,” he said.

Still, some students look forward to a day when they can mingle in a classroom.

Kimri Safert, a male student at the center, said he must wait three more years to graduate the school. “Then I will go to university with mixed sexes.”

Draft Penal Code Risks Freedoms: Group

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

A coalition of 30 civic organizations warned on Thursday that National Assembly debate over a new penal code appeared to erode civil liberties while skimming over clarity on criminality.

The National Assembly has approved more than 400 of 672 articles in the new law, as more debate remains ahead.

Groups have warned the draft law is damaging to freedoms of expression and assembly, at a time when the executive branch of government has been slammed for its own attacks on dissent, with opposition parliamentarians and journalists shouldering punitive lawsuits from senior government officials.

The penal code, drafted with the help of the French government, seeks to update a combination of 1995 laws, tradition, the constitution and principles of international law.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee said it was concerned that public officials “will be able to use some articles in the penal code to shut the rights and freedoms of demonstration and assembly.”

The group has sent recommendations to the National Assembly voicing these and other concerns.

Yim Sovann, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, called the recommendations “very positive.”

“The penal code has some good points, but some points are obstacles to rights and freedoms of expression,” he said.

Under the draft law, he said, “if someone makes an improper expression, someone will be guilty of defamation, insult, incitement, or falsifying information.”

“More seriously, if someone dares to make a lawsuit against any corrupt man, and if that man cannot find evidence, and the court understands that the complaint is not true, that man will face punishment,” he said.

However, Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said the draft code “respects the rights and freedom of expression and the principles of UN fundamental human rights.”

Last week, the National Assembly voted against amendments to the new code that opposition proponents said would increase freedom of expression and improve justice and democracy.

Former King Laments the ‘Weight’ of Old Age

By Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
08 October 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)'

Former king Norodom Sihanouk, who is 87 years old and has survived several bouts with cancer, said on his Web site this week he would like to die “as soon as possible,” as the years weigh upon him.

The gloomy statement comes as the lawyer for jailed Khmer Rouge chief Nuon Chea insist the former monarch be called to the UN-backed tribunal to give testimony.

Sihanouk has said he will not agree to a summons, and on his Web site Wednesday said his old age had become “an unsupportable weight.” Sihanouk abdicated in 2004, raising his son, Norodom Sihamoni, to the throne. He is currently in China, for cancer treatment.

“What I want is to die as soon as possible,” Sihanouk wrote, in French, on his Web site Wednesday.

Royal Palace officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but Kek Galabru, head of the rights group Licadho, said Sihanouk’s remarks reflected “the attitude of an aging person.”

She declined to say whether the comment was likely due to his struggles with cancer or with political pressure. “We would prefer that he says he will stay with us for a long time,” she said.

Son Arun, a defense attorney for Nuon Chea, the chief ideologue of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s lieutenant, said the former king’s testimony at court would be beneficial for his client.

Tribunal investigating judge Marcel Lemonde sent a request to the Royal Palace last month seeking Sihanouk’s testimony, but Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol has said the palace did not open the request.

Youk Chhang, director of the Cambodian Documentation Center and an expert on the regime, said the former king had written two books from which the tribunal can draw information.

Sihanouk is expected to return to Cambodia in February 2010.

Thailand to propose dispute-settling mechanism at ASEAN summit

(Post by CAAI News Media)
BANGKOK, Oct 8 (TNA) - Thailand's Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasit Piromya on Thursday said Thailand will propose establishing a mechanism to settle conflicts among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during the group’s upcoming summit scheduled for later this month in the Thai seaside resorts of Cha-am and Hua Hin.

Mr Kasit made his remarks during a speech in the Thai capital Thursday on the problem of land sovereignty along the Thai-Cambodian border.

The Thai foreign minister expressed hope that the mechanism will help sort out border disputes between Thailand and Cambodia.

Thailand will host the 15th ASEAN Summit and related summits in Phetchaburi's Cha-am district and Prachuab Khiri Khan's Hua Hin district October 23 to 25. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has confirmed that he will attend the summit despite the renewed tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

Mr Hun Sen earlier announced that he had ordered his troops to shoot any intruders from Thailand who stepped on Cambodian soil, after protesters led by Thailand's Peoples’ Alliance for Democracy (PAD) rallied in Si Sa Ket province last month to oppose Cambodia's plan to build new structures in the contested 4.6 square kilometres zone surrounding Preah Vihear temple.

The PAD protesters clashed with local police and local residents there.

Mr Kasit said that the government has negotiation frameworks which adhere to peaceful approaches and avoid any use of violence.

"I affirm that we have not yet lost the contested 4.6 square kilometers land and negotiation is the best way to solve this conflict," said Mr Kasit.

The minister added that rumours sometimes have been unleashed with an aim to benefit internal politics.

"I met Mr Hun Sen last week and everything sounds fine. I clarified the issue with all parties concerned," the Thai foreign minister said.

Mr Kasit reaffirmed that there is no conflict of interest, nor secret, in tackling the border dispute. He insisted everything can be examined and urged the public to trust the government's sincere intention to solve the dispute.

"I urge everyone not to stir up troubles which could lead to international conflict," said Mr Kasit.

The border disputes between Thailand and Cambodia flared up when former Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama signed a joint communique with Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sok An in June 2008 to support Cambodia's sole application to list the 11th century temple as a World Heritage site, while the question of sovereignty over the land has never been clearly resolved. (TNA)

Cambodia calling

(Post by CAAI News Media)

It appears University President Bruce Speck is finally in favor of international travel.

The only problem is he wants to send everyone to Cambodia.

In an interview this week with a local television station, the president - yet again - likened himself to a CEO of a business, saying that "in any other kind of industry" a vote of no confidence in a leader is unheard of.

"What would happen is the CEO would say 'you're gone, you're gone, you're reassigned, you, you're going to Cambodia," Speck said. "That's how it would operate because it wouldn't be tolerated."

So that's what we've been reduced to. A business -- just another kind of industry. A diploma mill.

Mr. President, we're a school.

Sure, we have budgets, accountants and cash reserves. But a university is much more than that. The president's comments are a slap in the face to students and employees alike, and they ignore the reason this school even exists: education.

The president's remarks come on the heels of a Faculty Senate vote of no confidence and vague directives from the Board of Governors for the president to improve relations with faculty. This isn't going to help.

The President even attacked the idea of tenure during his interview, saying it leads to "outspokenness" and can "strain collegiality." He added that a faculty senate can bully, operates according to its own rules and is not accountable to anyone.

But a faculty senate isn't the only entity that can behave that way. So can a university president. And so far, the president has not identified one error he has made. It is always someone else who didn't provide enough information or the fault of the previous administration. That's not accountability, either.

"You can have a faculty member come up and say things to me that would be unconscionable in other contexts," he said. "If there was a leader in another context he would say 'clean out your desk, I don't tolerate people talking to me that way.'"

Unfortunately, this strained faculty-administration relationship is getting worse, not better. The Faculty Senate issued its report and the president responded. Now the faculty awaits the Nov. 2 vote while the president hits the airwaves and the Internet taking shots at the people at the lecterns. That is hardly collegial.

A full faculty vote on confidence in the president looms. The Board meets next week. The president doesn't seem to be mending any relationships.

Something has got to give.

Otherwise, we might all end up in Cambodia.

Cambodia PM questions Khmer Rouge court summonses

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen

(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH — Cambodia's premier on Thursday questioned why a UN-backed Khmer Rouge war crimes court had summoned six top government and legislative officials as witnesses, describing the move as "strange".

In a move opposed by Cambodia's administration, French investigating judge Marcel Lemonde has called the officials to testify in the court's second case against Khmer Rouge leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said he found it "strange" that the six had been asked to testify as witnesses, as he considered them plaintiffs due to their roles in bringing the late 1970s Khmer Rouge regime to justice.

"Why do they call the plaintiffs to be witnesses? Because those people are known to have toppled (Khmer Rouge leader) Pol Pot and they are also the ones who approved the laws to try the Khmer Rouge," Hun Sen said.

He made the comments in a speech marking 30 years since the national bank was rebuilt after the Khmer Rouge.

The process has been hit by allegations that Hun Sen's administration has attempted to interfere in the tribunal to protect former regime members who are now in government.

Senate president Chea Sim, national assembly president Heng Samrin, foreign minister Hor Namhong, finance minister Keat Chhon and senators Sim Ka and Ouk Bunchhoeun were called last month to testify, the court revealed Wednesday.

The tribunal's second case is expected to try detained former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith.

As the court has sought to investigate other suspects, Hun Sen has made fiery speeches warning further prosecutions could plunge Cambodia back into civil war. Such suggestions have been denied by critics.

Final arguments in the court's first trial of prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known by the alias Duch, are scheduled for late next month.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied Cambodia's cities in a bid to forge a communist utopia between 1975-79, resulting in the deaths of up to two million people from starvation, overwork and torture.

Cambodian PM questions Khmer Rouge tribunal action

Associated Press
(Post by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday he doubts whether summoning six of his colleagues to testify at the country's Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal will help the cause of justice.
The U.N.-assisted tribunal announced Wednesday that it was calling the country's current foreign minister, finance minister, national assembly president, senate president and two other senators to testify before the tribunal's investigating judge.

All are top members of Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party but also exercised some authority when the communist Khmer Rouge held power in 1975-79. Hun Sen himself once served as a Khmer Rouge officer and many of his main allies are former members of the group.

The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died in Cambodia from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition as a result of the group's radical policies.

Hun Sen has repeatedly expressed his sharp dissatisfaction with any efforts by the tribunal to expand its scope and possibly include his political allies.

The prime minister questioned the court's decision Thursday, saying his colleagues had already proven they were interested in seeing justice done.

"They (the court) know that these people helped to topple the regime of (late Khmer Rouge leader) Pol Pot from power, and moreover, adopted the law to try the Khmer Rouge leaders as well," Hun Sen said.

He appeared to question why his colleagues would be called as witnesses at the request of the defense, saying their testimony would only increase their punishment.

"Therefore how will justice be done?" he said.

The tribunal is currently trying its first defendant, Kaing Guek Eav _ also known as Duch _ who commanded S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, where up to 16,000 people were tortured and then taken away to be killed. He is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture.

Also charged are Nuon Chea, the group's ideologist, Khieu Samphan, its former head of state, Ieng Sary, its foreign minister, and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was minister for social affairs.

Hun Sen questions summonses

Prime Minister Hun Sen

Oct 8, 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA'S premier on Thursday questioned why a UN-backed Khmer Rouge war crimes court had summoned six top government and legislative officials as witnesses, describing the move as 'strange'.

In a move opposed by Cambodia's administration, French investigating judge Marcel Lemonde has called the officials to testify in the court's second case against Khmer Rouge leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said he found it 'strange' that the six had been asked to testify as witnesses, as he considered them plaintiffs due to their roles in bringing the late 1970s Khmer Rouge regime to justice.

'Why do they call the plaintiffs to be witnesses? Because those people are known to have toppled (Khmer Rouge leader) Pol Pot and they are also the ones who approved the laws to try the Khmer Rouge,' Mr Hun Sen said. He made the comments in a speech marking 30 years since the national bank was rebuilt after the Khmer Rouge.

The process has been hit by allegations that Hun Sen's administration has attempted to interfere in the tribunal to protect former regime members who are now in government.

Senate president Chea Sim, national assembly president Heng Samrin, foreign minister Hor Namhong, finance minister Keat Chhon and senators Sim Ka and Ouk Bunchhoeun were called last month to testify, the court revealed on Wednesday.

The tribunal's second case is expected to try detained former Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea, head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, minister of social affairs Ieng Thirith. -- AFP

Vietnam food firm ties up with Cambodian partner for EU export

Thursday ,Oct 08,2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

The Southern Food Company (Vinafood 2) has set up a joint stock company with a Cambodian firm to process and export rice to the European Union to take advantage of the tax exemption the EU has offered to Cambodia from September 1.

In the first nine months Vietnam exported 4.975 million tons worth $2.2 billion

The EU has classified Cambodia in a list of the world’s 49 poorest countries and waived tariffs on its exports to block members.

The new joint stock company, Cavifoods, has a capital of US$17 million.

Last year Vinafood 2 set up Saigon Food (Pte.Ltd) in Singapore to capitalize on the advantages Singaporean firms in negotiations with companies around the world, especially in Africa.

The Vietnam Food Association also said that it is determined to keep rice export prices at not lower than $400 per ton. Since the beginning of the year foreign buyers have pressured Vietnamese companies to lower prices to up to $360.

Undercutting by Vietnamese exporters has helped the buyers as the exporters regularly negotiate with them to sell the grain at prices lower than regulated by the association.

At the beginning of this month foreign importers agreed to a price of $400.

In the first nine months Vietnam exported 4.975 million tons worth $2.2 billion.

It has signed deals to export 5.798 million tons this year, with high-quality rice making up 38 percent of this, a 78 percent increase over last year.

The major markets are Asia -- including the Middle East -- who account for 61.3 percent of the exports, followed by Africa with 27.7 percent.

By Cong Phien-Translated by Viet Trung

ITPC promotes Vietnamese goods in Cambodia

Thursday ,Oct 08,2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)
The Ho Chi Minh City-based Investment and Trade Promotion Center said October 7 it would organize an exhibition of high-quality Vietnamese products in Battambang Province in northwestern Cambodia from November 25 to 29.

A busy street in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. With a population of 14.7 million and a per capita income of US$600, Cambodia is a promising market for Vietnamese goods.

Fifty companies from the processed food, furniture, cosmetic, clothing, household plastic product, agricultural materials, and electronics sectors will take part in it.

Vietnamese goods are the second most popular in Cambodia after Thai.

More than 400 Vietnamese companies have a presence in the country in sectors like trading, finance, and manufacturing.

Vietnam’s major exports to Cambodia include instant noodles, plastic products, tobacco, confectionary, household products, and vegetables.

Economists said to penetrate the Cambodian market, Vietnamese businesses should establish a distribution network, promote their trademarks, ensure business prestige, and introduce more products to retailers.

Bilateral trade has been rising by 40 percent every year, touching US$1.7 billion in 2008. It is expected to top $2 billion in 2010.

CB Richard Ellis to open Phnom Penh affiliate office

by Staff Writer
(Post by CAAI News Media)

CB Richard Ellis has announced that it is opening a new office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The establishment of an office in the Cambodian capital is the most recent development in CBRE’s Southeast Asian expansion, which already includes offices in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The new office will capitalise on market opportunities arising from the growing demand for professional real estate services from both international and local organisations within the country.

The office in Phnom Penh will provide a variety of services such as market research, valuation, investment sales, consulting, agency and leasing, and property management. Its goal will be to provide a competitive edge for clients in the fast changing real estate market in Cambodia, via a differentiated services portfolio, as well as to establish CBRE as a key player in the development of Cambodia´s real estate market.

“The opening of an office in Cambodia will strengthen our broader platform in South East Asia,” said Chris Brooke, president and CEO of CBRE in Asia. “Our presence in the market will facilitate the provision of professional property services by CBRE, whilst also supporting regional clients who have an interest in this unique emerging market.”

“With the establishment of the Phnom Penh office, CBRE will be able to develop local market intelligence into measurable results for clients in this expanding market,” said Marc Townsend, managing director of CBRE Vietnam.

Previously, work relating to Cambodia was handled out of the Vietnam office, which will continue to support the team in Phnom Penh.

“Phnom Penh has become a major focal point for economic and business development over recent years. The real estate market in Cambodia is expected to continue its growth momentum, particularly the resort property market along the coast line of Cambodia,” Townsend said.

“CBRE has already established a successful track record in Cambodia and has been servicing clients in market research and consultancy, valuation, and land transactions, as well as property management, even prior to the establishment of an office,” said Townsend.

Daniel Parkes will oversee the operations of the Phnom Penh office. Prior to relocating to Phnom Penh, Parkes was previously based in the United Kingdom where he worked in a real estate firm in the south east of England. He has a wide range of experience in property marketing, valuation and consultancy across residential and commercial sectors.

Khmer Rouge tribunal summons Cambodian gov't leaders to testify+

Chea Sim

(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 8 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal has for the first time summoned six senior government and legislative officials to testify against former Khmer Rouge leaders, against the wishes of the Cambodian government.

The summons, copies of which were released late Wednesday, were sent to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Keat Chhon, Senate President Chea Sim, who is also head of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, and senators Ouk Bunchoeun and Sim Ka.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday he was puzzled at the tribunal's move to summon his people who had worked together with him to destroy the Khmer Rouge movement and bring its leaders to justice.

All six of those summoned to testify were members of the Khmer Rouge when the radical group came to power in 1975.

Chea Sim, for example, was a district party secretary, while Heng Samrin was a political commissar and army division commander. Hun Sen himself was a former Khmer Rouge cadre before he defected.

Keat Chhon has publicly declared in the past that he was willing to take full responsibility for his part in the Khmer Rouge regime and was willing to testify if he were to be summoned for questioning.

The tribunal is now trying Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, the former chief of infamous torture center known as S-21 or Tuol Sleng prison. His verdict is expected sometime early next year.

The four others in custody awaiting trial are Nuon Chea, better known as Brother No. 2 in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy after late supremo Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan, who was head of state, Ieng Sary, who was the regime's foreign minister, and Ieng Sary's wife Ieng Thirith, who was its social affairs minister.

Last month, Hun Sen ruled out allowing for more suspects to be tried by the tribunal, saying more prosecutions could lead to a renewal of civil war.

He made the statement a day after the tribunal said the international co-prosecutor on the U.N. side wanted five more suspects to be investigated for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Khmer Rouge are blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians in late 1970s.

Cambodia's monarchy quietly evolves

Southeast Asia
(Post by CAAI News Media)

By Sebastian Strangio

PHNOM PENH - Five years on from King Norodom Sihanouk's intricately-scripted departure from the political stage, Cambodia's new monarch Norodom Sihamoni is quietly and finally emerging from his father's shadow.

Enthroned by French colonial authorities in 1941, Sihanouk grew into a national symbol and wily political operator, entrenching himself at the center of the country's political life through his Sangkum Reastr Niyum, or People's Socialist Community, which ruled from 1955 to 1969. Unpredictable to the last, the often tempestuous monarch announced his surprise abdication on October 7, 2004, ending an era that spanned six decades and countless political and royal titles.

The monarchy was officially re-established under Sihanouk in 1993 as part of a United Nations-sponsored peace process and the country has since been governed as a constitutional monarchy. However, Sihamoni, Sihanouk's son and hand-picked successor, was always going to find it hard to live up to Sihanouk's colorful and often controversial legacy.

Born in 1953 to Sihanouk's wife Norodom Monineath, he was cut from an altogether different cloth: a dance instructor and actor, the new monarch had only a fleeting contact with political life. He served a brief spell as his father's personal secretary while he was exile in the early 1980s as well as Cambodia's ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris.

Despite the vast gulf in charisma and political style, observers say since Sihamoni's coronation in October 2004 there has been a subtle re-invigoration of the monarchy. Diverging from his father's hands-on style, the new king has managed to reshape the monarchy's role coincident with a changing political landscape, withdrawing it from the fray of day-to-day politics while advancing the institution as a symbol of national reconciliation.

At the same time, the five years of Sihamoni's reign have been tough for Cambodia's royalist political movement. Popular support for the kingdom's royalist political parties, Funcinpec and the Norodom Ranariddh Party, has fallen precipitously. Even before 2004, Funcinpec - first founded by Sihanouk in 1981 with the aim of opposing the Vietnamese military occupation - was on a steady electoral decline.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh, another of Sihanouk's sons, led the party to a stunning victory at the UN-backed 1993 elections, the first multiparty polls held in Cambodia in over 20 years, clinching 45% of the popular vote and 58 seats in the then 120-seat National Assembly. But the party has lost ground at every election since, dropping from 43 seats in 1998 to 26 seats in 2003. The party lost 24 of its remaining seats in 2008, winning just 5% of the national vote. In addition to electoral defeats, last year also saw the retirement of royalist stalwarts Ranariddh and Prince Norodom Sirivuth.

The royalist movement's electoral failures have coincided with the mounting successes of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which won 58% of the vote and 90 seats in the 123-member National Assembly at 2008 elections. In a fiery October 2005 speech, following years of constant and sometimes violent conflict between the CPP and Funcinpec, Hun Sen hinted at the possibility of abolishing the monarchy - as done under the Republican Lon Nol regime in 1970 - and suing members of the royal family for libel.

The following year, national television and radio aired strong criticisms of the King Father, a position Sihanouk was granted after stepping down, broadcasting Republican-era songs that accused him of ceding land to the Vietnamese communists during the 1960s. (Hun Sen has notably come under similar criticisms in recent years, leading to a crackdown on journalists and commentators that made the claims.) The government also banned the use of Sihanouk's image in campaigning for the 2008 national election.

'Eternal' symbol
But despite these challenges, Cambodia's monarchy continues to flourish. Unlike Sihanouk, who bucked against the constitutional requirement that the King "reign but not rule", royalists say Sihamoni has grown into the role of figurehead, presenting himself as a less volatile symbol of the Khmer nation and national reconciliation. According to Cambodia's constitution, the King is both head of state and symbol of the unity and "eternity" of the nation.

Prince Sisowath Sirirath, Funcinpec's second deputy president, said that between the monarchy's abolition in October 1970 and its re-instatement in 1993, Cambodians had forgotten what previous monarchs were like. After the darkest years in Cambodia's modern history, he said, Sihamoni had reestablished the monarchy's traditional role as an "umbrella" under which Cambodians could unite. "His Excellency King Sihamoni is doing his very best to renew that respectable position both for the nation, the people of Cambodia and the members of the royal family," he said.

Julio A Jeldres, Sihanouk's official biographer, agreed that despite the attempt of successive governments to "diminish" the central role the monarchy, the new king has proven a worthy successor. "King Sihamoni has followed up on his eminent father's example and has adopted the same way of dealing with present circumstances in Cambodia as well as establishing close links with the more disadvantaged of his compatriots," he said.

Despite the evolution of the monarchy and continual losses of its aligned parties at the polls, royalist politicians believe they still have a future in Cambodian politics. "Given a fair and honest chance in the elections, Funcinpec will regain its position," said Prince Sirirath. "We believe in democratic values, we believe in respecting human rights [and] we believe whatever we sign with our partners is of great value. Things like this continue to be in the mind of the Funcinpec leaders."

He added that Cambodia's peace and stability could best be secured by royalist leaders that established continuities between the past and the present. "The people of Cambodia need a member of the royal family to lead them," he said. "The love of the monarchy, the love of the King, is there in the hearts of the Cambodian people, and [if you] shake the monarchy you will be shaking the roots of the people's support."

Others, however, think the decline of royalist politicians stems from increasing voter disillusionment with their aims and intentions. Funcinpec won the 1993 election thanks to its clever use of Sihanouk's image, but countless missteps in the years since have alienated its supporter base. Jeldres said that although rural support for the monarchy remained strong despite electoral defeats, generational changes had possibly made royalty less relevant to younger Cambodians. While older peasants remained loyal to the institution, new generations "do not seem to have been given much knowledge" about the monarchy's past role in Cambodian affairs and thus were "less inclined" to see it as a national institution, he said.

Outspoken royal Prince Sisowath Thomico, who formed the short-lived Sangkum Jatiniyum Front Party in 2006, said the withdrawal of royals from politics - and the de-politicization of the monarchy more generally - was a vital step in ensuring their ability to act in the country's best interest. "If the royals are not involved in politics their actions cannot be seen as political actions aimed at gaining political support. It is a fundamental part of the problem: if the royals are suspected of getting involved in politics then whatever they do will be limited," he said. "[Withdrawal from politics] is the sine qua non condition for them to succeed."

The fear, he added, was that the presence of "royalist" parties - however successful - implied that all competing parties were anti-royalist, an assumption that could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By creating a perceived link between the royalist opposition and the throne, royalist politicians have dragged the institution into its conflicts with Hun Sen and the CPP. "These threats were done in a context in which Funcinpec pretended to be royalist," Prince Thomico added. "If Funcinpec is seen as a royalist party, then the other parties competing against Funcinpec are not. And the future of the monarchy [will be] seen to rely on the success of the party, which is not true."

Ros Chantraboth, deputy director of the Royal Academy in Phnom Penh, agreed that Sihanouk's domination of political life the 1950s and 1960s had unwittingly dragged the monarchy into the political fray, culminating in its eventual abolition in 1970. "I think Sihanouk's politics contained the seeds of their own destruction, because he made some mistakes, and it pushed some people without any real power to overthrow him," he said. But Sihamoni's turn away from his father's hands-on style, he said, had established a firm basis for the long-term survival of the monarchy.

"If the king stands above the Cambodian people, I think it will bring Cambodia political stability," he said. "This is the new evolution of the monarchy."

Sebastian Strangio is a reporter for the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia.

'I want to die soon'

King Sihanouk went on to thank compatriots who have wished that he lives to be over 100 years old, but asked them to refrain from wishing him a long life. -- PHOTO: AFP

Oct 8, 2009
(Post by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH - CAMBODIA'S elderly former king Norodom Sihanouk said he has lived too long and wishes to die as soon as possible, according to a personal handwritten note on his website on Thursday.

In a royal message, King Sihanouk said his father, King Suramarit, died at the age of 64, and his great-grandfather, King Sisowath, died at the age of 83.

'But for me, who sincerely wants to die as near in the future as possible, I have lived too long,' wrote the former king, who will turn 87 at the end of this month.

The ex-monarch, who has been in Beijing since last month for routine medical treatment, went on to say in his message, dated October 2, that the 'lengthy longevity bears on me like an unbearable weight'.

King Sihanouk went on to thank compatriots who have wished that he lives to be over 100 years old, but asked them to refrain from wishing him a long life. 'What I want is to die as soon as possible, without having to infringe on the teachings of the (esteemed) Buddha who forbade suicide,' he wrote.

King Sihanouk has suffered from a number of ailments, including cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Despite abdicating, King Sihanouk remains a prominent figure in Cambodia and often uses messages on his website to comment on matters of state -- AFP