Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Thailand to strip Thaksin of awards, police rank


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Oct 28 (AFP) - Thailand said Wednesday that it would strip fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra of his royal awards and his police rank as the government presses on with a campaign against its arch-foe.

The announcement came amid tensions over an offer of shelter from neighbouring Cambodia for Thaksin, who was toppled in a coup in 2006 and is living in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail term for corruption.

The billionaire remains an influential figure on Thailand's turbulent political scene, stirring up mass protests from abroad against the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Abhisit said the government's legal advisory body, the Council of State, had recommended that the National Police Office should revoke Thaksin's rank of lieutenant colonel from his days in the police force from 1973 to 1987.

It should also confiscate the two highest royal awards given to Thaksin -- the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant and the Most Illustrious Order of King Chula Chonklao, Abhisit said.

"The National Police Office had sought the recommendation from the Council of State and the recommendation has come out, so it must act to comply with the ruling," he told reporters.

Abhisit denied that the government was trying to tarnish Thaksin's image after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen angered the Thai government last week by offering Thaksin refuge in Cambodia and a job as his economic advisor.

Thai and Cambodian forces have fought several deadly battles in the past year and a half in a row over disputed land around an ancient temple on their border.

Twice-elected Thaksin fled Thailand last year before he was sentenced to two years in jail in a corruption case. His allies were driven from government in December after anti-Thaksin protesters occupied Bangkok's airports.

Abhisit has said Thaksin, who has several passports and divides his time between a number of countries, must return to Thailand to face justice. (AFP)

MySinchew 2009.10.28

Cambodia, UN mark 64th anniversary of UN Day

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Cambodian government and the United Nations country team on Tuesday jointly marked the 64th anniversary of UN Day, focusing on reviewing common priorities, said a press released from UN Resident Coordinator in Cambodia on Wednesday.

The discussion with Prime Minister Hun Sen and 11 UN Representatives focused on the excellent working relationship between Cambodia and the UN.

"The United Nations brings around 100 million U.S. dollars of development assistance to Cambodia each year but our support stretches beyond the dollar value of this contribution. We have a long-standing history of promoting peace and human development in Cambodia and we are extremely proud to serve the Cambodian people" expressed UN Resident Coordinator to Cambodia, Douglas Broderick.

Topics raised during the meeting included climate change, the global economic crisis, drug awareness, disaster management and Cambodia's support to international peacekeeping.

Among the highest priorities for the UN Country Team is helping Cambodia to achieve its Millennium Development Goals including improving maternal health, the goal currently requiring the most attention.

"The United Nations believes that no Cambodian woman should die giving life. We are committed to assisting the government to scale-up the quantity and quality of midwives and to improve access to emergency obstetrics care and reproductive health services as part of our joint effort to advance maternal health" Broderick assured the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister shared UN concern that the Millennium Development Goals could be endangered by the combined impacts of the global economic crisis and climate change but was grateful to the UN system for its assistance in helping compile information on the goals' progress at sub-national level.

Regarding the global economic crisis and its impact on the local economy, both sides recognized the importance of coordinating closely to maintain focus on the most vulnerable groups.

"We have been pleased by Cambodia's active response to the global economic crisis especially the attention given to social protection and the progress made towards an integrated Social Safety Net strategy. The UN will work with the government to maintain efforts in this area of social protection to ensure that as the world moves out of this crisis, the poorest people are protected from current and future economic shocks"

In closing the meeting, the Prime Minister congratulated the UN on its 64th anniversary and vowed to continue the UN Day meeting tradition.

United Nations Day (October 24) marks the signing of the United Nations Charter in 1945. Cambodia joined the United Nations on 14 December 1955.

The United Nations Country Team in Cambodia consists of 23 agencies, fund and programmes operating in the country.

Editor: Lin Zhi

Cambodian court upholds politician's sentence for defaming premier

Oct 28, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's Appeal Court on Wednesday upheld the fine levied by a lower court on opposition parliamentarian Mu Sochua in her legal wrangle with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Mu Sochua, a prominent member of the Sam Rainsy Party and a former minister of women's affairs, lost a defamation case brought by Hun Sun earlier this year.

She had originally sued Hun Sen for defamation after comments made by him in 2008 that she said referred to her. The courts threw out her case but allowed the prime minister to countersue on the basis that her lawsuit had defamed him.

Hun Sen won his case in early August with the lower court fining Mu Sochua around 4,100 US dollars.

Mu Sochua told the German Press Agency dpa that she was disappointed by Wednesday's verdict.

'The Appeal Court did not take this opportunity to prove to the people of Cambodia as well as to the world that they had the chance, but did not take the chance, to fix the irregular and bad image that the judicial system has in the eyes of the public,' she said.

Mu Sochua, who was present in court, said proper procedure was followed, but insisted that she was disadvantaged because she could not find a lawyer to represent her.

Her attorney in the original case quit and joined Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party after he came under intense political pressure and was threatened with disbarment for representing her.

'I will file to the Supreme Court to have today's decision rejected,' she said. 'I am not guilty of any crime. I will not pay the fine and no one else will pay the fine.'

The case against the opposition legislator was one of several brought this year by the Cambodian government as it moved controversially against its perceived critics in politics, media and civil society.

Cambodian temple puzzle nearly complete

Workers are finally close to completing an astonishing reconstruction of the fabled 11th century Baphuon Temple

Fact file on the 11th century Baphuon temple in Cambodia's Angkor National Park

By Patrick Falby (AFP)

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

SIEM REAP, Cambodia — On a muggy afternoon in Cambodia's ancient Angkor complex, workers in hardhats hunch over the world's biggest jigsaw puzzle, painstakingly assembling sandstone blocks.

Walled-off from camera-toting tourists, they are finally close to completing an astonishing reconstruction of the fabled 11th century Baphuon Temple.

"This is not easy to plan like a construction project is," says architect Pascal Royere from the French School of Asian Studies, who is leading the rebuilding team.

Restorers dismantled Baphuon in the 1960s when it was falling apart, laying some 300,000 of its stone blocks in the grass and jungle around the site.

But before the French-led team of archaeologists could reassemble the 34-metre (112-foot) tall temple, the hardline communist Khmer Rouge swept to power in 1975.

Up to two million people died from overwork, starvation and torture as the regime tried to re-set Cambodia to "Year Zero" by eliminating reminders of its past -- including the records to put Baphuon back together.

"The archive of the numbering system (for scattered stones) was stolen and destroyed by the Khmer Rouge," Royere says.

"We had to face a kind of jigsaw puzzle without the picture how to rebuild it."

Chinese envoy Zhou Daguan, who visited the Khmer kingdom in 1226, described Baphuon as a "an exquisite site" with a bronze tower.

Baphuon was the largest monument in the Khmer empire when it was built under King Udayadityavarman II as a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Shiva.

In the kingdom which at one time spanned parts of modern-day Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia, Baphuon's size was only eclipsed by the famed Angkor Wat temple.

"I believe that when the restoration of the temple is done, a lot of visitors will climb to see it," says Soeung Kong, deputy director general of the Apsara Authority, which oversees Cambodia's ancient temples.

"It is high, so they can have nice views of surrounding temples."

After the 1991 peace agreement to end Cambodia's civil war, French architect Jacques Dumarcay, who was in charge of Baphuon's restoration from 1964 to 1970, rushed back to the site and appointed Royere to do his old job.

Despite invaluable input from Dumarcay and others who worked on Baphuon in the 60s and 70s, reconstruction required measuring and weighing each block, as well as numerous drawings to figure out how each part fits.

When Royere began work on the project in 1993, grass and jungle had grown over most of Baphuon's blocks. He spent much of 1994 trying to figure out how to approach the complicated job.

"Each block has its own place. It can't be replaced by another one because there's no mortar between them and you will not find two blocks that have the same volume and the same dimensions."

It was first estimated Baphuon would be rebuilt by 2003 or 2004. Now Royere says it will take until the end of next year, but adds the hardest task -- stabilizing Baphuon so it doesn't collapse -- is now complete.

Recent work has focused on a 22-metre (72 foot) high pile of rubble which collapsed in 1971, covering a quarter of the monument.

"It was a kind of landslide mixed with blocks. In 2008 we started to dismantle it, taking care of each block and building a concrete retaining wall," Royere says.

"When you take one brick, you have to take care another doesn't collapse. It took double the time we thought."

Last year Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni presided over a ceremony marking the restoration of a 70-metre (230-foot) long reclining Buddha statue along one of Baphuon's walls.

Now, Royere says, his project is entering its final stage, matching parts of intricate ornamentation altered in the 16th century when stones were shifted from the top of Baphuon to build the reclining Buddha.

"Now it's the most interesting," Royere says. "We have now the picture because we worked for a long time."

Thaksin is Cambodia-bound

Ex-PM wants to thank Hun Sen for job offer

Published: 28/10/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra insists he will go to Cambodia to thank Prime Minister Hun Sen for laying out the welcome mat for him.

Demonstrators, led by People’s Alliance for Democracy core member Chaiwat Sinsuwong, gather yesterday in front of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok to protest against comments made by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at last weekend’s Asean summit in support of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. SURAPOL PROMSAKA NA SAKOLNAKORN

Thaksin confirmed his plan yesterday via a video link to a meeting of the Puea Thai Party amid a simmering conflict that has arisen between Thailand and Cambodia over his status.

Thaksin said he would fly to Cambodia soon to thank Hun Sen, a party source said.

Thaksin said he and Hun Sen had been friends for a long time.

Thaksin also thanked Puea Thai's new chairman, Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, for "doing the right thing".

He denied having any businesses in Cambodia, saying he had sold them all before entering politics, the source said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday claimed he had cleared up Hun Sen's misunderstanding of Thaksin's situation.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of national security, said he told Hun Sen Thaksin had not been bullied. He had broken the law and the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions had jailed him for two years after a proper judicial hearing.

He explained Thaksin was not living in exile because of the 2006 coup.

Mr Suthep said Thaksin was fielding members of the political party he controls in elections and they had won. But two party prime ministers had to step down because they had violated the law.

"It's too late to say he has been unfairly treated. If he accepted the constitution and had not fielded candidates in the general election, it would be another story," Mr Suthep said.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen understands this point well."

The Cambodian prime minister was told that if he allowed Thaksin to live in exile in Cambodia, Thailand would use international law to seek his extradition.

"I said it was fine because the law will not be interpreted by me and Mr Hun Sen alone. There is an extradition process, and the court might be the one ruling on the extradition," he said.

The Cambodian premier said on his arrival at the Asean summit in Thailand last weekend that his government would allow Thaksin to take refuge in Cambodia and work as his economic adviser. Cambodia would not extradite him if asked by Thailand as Thaksin had been unfairly treated, he said.

The Foreign Ministry is preparing to issue a statement explaining the facts relating to Thaksin's status in response to the remarks by Hun Sen. The statement will be sent to the Cambodian government as the ministry believed the remark was a result of misinformation, said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

Army chief Anupong Paojinda yesterday insisted Hun Sen's stance on Thaksin had no effect on the situation along the Thai-Cambodian border.

Thailand's fugitive former premier to visit Cambodia "soon"

Asia-Pacific News
Oct 28, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Bangkok - Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra plans to visit Cambodia soon after being offered refuge and a job as an economic adviser by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, media reports said Wednesday.

Thaksin said he would be paying a visit to Thailand's neighbour 'soon to thank Hun Sen,' the Bangkok Post reported, citing an unnamed source in the Puea Thai opposition party, which has the financial backing of the former prime minister.

Hun Sen last week threw a monkey wrench in Thai-Cambodian relations by claiming that Thaksin, who faces a two-year jail sentence in Thailand and is living in self-imposed exile, was his good friend and would be granted refuge and a job as an economic adviser should be come to Cambodia.

He added that Cambodia would not extradite Thaksin to Thailand, even though the neighbouring countries have signed an extradition agreement.

The former Khmer Rouge cadre went on to compare Thaksin with Myanmar pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house detention and was recently sentenced to another 18 months of house arrest.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon turned populist politician, was sentenced last year for abuse of power for allowing his wife in 2003 to bid on a plot of land at a public auction when he was still prime minister.

Thaksin was premier from 2001 to 2006 before being toppled in a bloodless military coup on charges of corruption, dividing the nation and undermining democratic institutions.

Thaksin's close ties to Hun Sen date back to when he was still the chairman of the Shinawatra Corp, which won several telecommunications concessions in neighbouring Cambodia.

Hun Sen's open support of Thaksin, made upon his arrival in Thailand Friday to attend a summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, was seen as a diplomatic slap in the face to current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who came to power in December after the downfall of the previous pro-Thaksin coalition government.

Thailand and Cambodia have a long history of animosity and border spats, the latest one being over joint claims to land adjacent to the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on their border.

Dong Thap boosts trade cooperation with Cambodia


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Almost 30 Vietnamese businesses from southern Dong Thap province and Cambodian companies have discussed how to boost opportunities for trade and investment cooperation between the two sides.

At a workshop on trade and investment promotion held in Phnom Penh on October 27, participants introduced each other to areas of potential and opportunity for cooperation, and ask questions on legal issues, customs, finance and banking.

Sharing a common borderline with Cambodia, Dong Thap province is ideally suited to boost trade promotion, expand into the market and consume products in Cambodia, said the Chairman of the Dong Thap Provincial People’s Committee, Truong Ngoc Han, at the workshop, which was held by the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce and the Dong Thap Provincial Trade and Investment Promotion Centre.

A memorandum of understanding on enhancement of investment and trade was signed right after the workshop by senior officials of Dong Thap province and the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce.

Additionally, companies from both sides agreed trade contracts worth US$1 million at the workshop.

Earlier, at a meeting with Cambodian Vice Prime Minster Men Sam On, Chairman of the Dong Thap Provincial People’s Committee Truong Ngoc Han pledged to push up activities at gates along the borderline between Dong Thap province and Cambodia’s Prey Veng province.

Dong Thap province has helped build infrastructure for provincial road 102 in Cambodia, linking from the Dinh Ba-Bontea Chak Krey border gate to the trans-Asia highway.


EU, MAFF Discuss €11 Million Food Fund

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 28 October 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Inception Workshop of the €11.2 million Food Facility Project will be held this morning at Cambo- diana Hotel, a press release from the European Union’s the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), said on Tuesday.

The food facility project is funded by the EU and is being implemented by the UNFAO in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (MAFF) General Dire- ctorate for Agriculture. The project is the EU’s rapid response to soaring food prices in Cambodia and is in support of the Government Strategy for Agriculture and Water.

The Inception Workshop on the European Union Food Facility project is entitled “Improve the food security of farming families affected by vola- tile food prices.” Presentations and group discussions will take place on agronomy, irrigation, aquaculture, post-harvest, livelihoods and nutrition. Participants will detail specific needs of the 9 target provinces and recommend the best way forward. Speakers include MAFF Undersecretary of State Kith Seng, Chairman of the National Project Steering Committee, Rafael Dochao Moreno, Charg├ęd’ Affaires of the European Commission Delegation to Cambodia and Etienne Careme, UNFAO Emergency Programme Coordinator.

Thailand Assures Cambodian Embassy Will Not Be Burnt

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 28 October 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh has reassured that no-one will be permitted to burn the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok.

The declaration by the Thai Em-bassy officials came following rumors that PDA protesters in Bangkok would set alight the Cambodian Embassy over growing tensions.

“The People’s Assembly of Thailand condemn the Cambodian prime minister for taking the opportunity during the ASEAN Summit to tell reporters that Cambodia would not hand over Thaksin if Thailand sought his extradition,” he said, according to the Bangkok Post. “This is an insult to Thailand, the Thai government and the Thai people, and it destroys good relations between the two countries.”

Security in front of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok was tightened on Tuesday after members of the People’s Assembly of Thailand led by Chaiwat Sinsuwong announced they would protest there against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s offer of a home for fugitive politician Thaksin Shinawatra to Cambodia. A company of police were deployed to guard around the embassy and metal barriers placed around the entrance.

Chaiwat said in a radio interview in the morning that he would led a demonstration in front of the embassy and read a statement condemning Hun Sen and Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who met him in Phnom Penh last week.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, told DAP News Cambodia that so far Cambodia’s embassy in Bangkok is protected safety by Thai police.

The Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry will issue an official response to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, because he may have obtained incorrect information about former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai foreign minister’s secretary said on Tuesday. The premier Hun Sen expressed sympathy for Thaksin during the ASEAN summit last week. The Cambodian leader said Thaksin was treated unjustly and was homeless as a result.

He also said Thailand had allowed Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy, his political rival, to attack him from Thai soil.

Chavanont said the Foreign Ministry’s statement will outline the facts about Thaksin because Hun Sen might have been given incorrect information, leading to a misunderstanding and uncomfortable feelings between Thailand and Cambodia.

Chavanont said the government had nothing to do with Sam Rainsy being invited to speak at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand. Moreover, Sam Rainsy, unlike Thaksin, was not a convicted criminal and could enter the country as an ordinary tourist. Thai army chief, Anupong Paochinda, said the so far the situation at Cambodia-Thai border is normal. One Cambodian soldier told DAP News Cambodia that so far the situation on the Cambodian is still normal. “We have not seen the irregular situation and action of Thai army at the border.”

However, the Cambodian forces confirmed that Cambodia is ready to fight back if the Thais attack.

PM to Attend Japan-Mekong Cooperation Meeting

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 28 October 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Tuesday that he will attend the Japan-Mekong cooperation meeting in Tokyo, Japan.

The premier said he will travel to Japan on November 5, with the meeting to be held November 6-7 in Tokyo, Japan, during a speech to over 2,000 students at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh

“At the moment, I am so busy with foreign relationships,” he said. “On November 15, I will leave Cambodia for Singapore to attend the ASEAN-US cooperation meeting. American president Obama Barack also will attend this meeting. Last week I went to China to attend the Economic and Trade Fair in Sichuan province.”

He held bilateral talks with his Chinese counterpart PM Wen Jaibao and agreed on a US$30 million loan to build a new Chroy Chiangvar bridge.

Cambodia also recently received a state visit from South Korean president Lee Myung Bak. Lee, who agr- eed to provide US$200 million loans and “I also attended ASEAN summit in Hua Hin in Thailand,” the PM said.

Phnom Penh will celebrate the water festival November 1-3 and the 56th anniversary of freedom from France on November 9’s Independence Day, he noted.

Parliament Holds Budget Seminar

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 28 October 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Parliament on Tuesday held a Processing Budget Monitoring (PBM) seminar presided over by President of the Cambodian Parliament Heng Samrin.

Director of Economic Committee and Auditor for Banking and Financ- ing Cheam Yeap stated in the seminar that there were three main strategies to process planning: preparation budget planning (from March to May), Packing Budget (from June to September) and Adopted Budget (from October to December).

The seminar was a tool to promote democracy, better public accountancy standards, fight against corruption and reduce poverty, Cheam Yeap said.

In the 30 years Cambodia has had to recovery from the Pol Pot regime, “we have full right to live and work as well as to rebuild our country to be developed,” he added.

He stressed that all ministries related to budget planning should summit proposal and earning and expenditure records to the Ministry of Finance and Economics before July 15.

US Export-Import Bank Open

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 28 October 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) announced Tuesday that it is open to provide financing for purchases of US exports by private-sector buyers in Cambodia on repayment terms of up to 7 years.

Ex-Im Bank is opening in Cambo- dia in the private sector only for financing of short-term (repayment up to one year) and medium-term (repayment from one to seven years) export sales, the press release from the US embassy here said, adding that Ex-Im Bank’s support in this market typically will be limited to transactions with a commercial bank functioning as an obligor or guarantor. However, Ex-Im Bank will consider transactions without a bank undertaking on a case-by-case basis.

“The Bank also can consider financing arrangements for US exports to Cambodian private-sector buyers on longer repayment terms under certain conditions,” it said. Examples of potentially acceptable transactions include structured-finance transactions that earn revenues off-shore and are held in a bank or trust account acceptable to Ex-Im Bank and asset-backed lease and financing structures for equipment exports such as US-manufactured commercial aircraft.

“President Obama has opened the door wider for US exporters in Cambodia , and Ex-Im Bank stands ready to assist them, it added. We are pleased to announce that the Bank will consider financing for short-term and medium-term US sales to private-sector buyers in this growing Asian market,” said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg.

US Government agencies, inclu-ding Ex-Im Bank, have participated in an interagency process to review the country risks of Cambodia and Laos and have assigned a country-risk rating for the private-sector in Cambodia. Laos is still under review, and Ex-Im Bank remains closed in Laos except for certain structured-finance transactions (described below) until the process is completed. That announcement follows the determination by President Barack Obama in June 2009 that Cambodia and Laos are no longer considered Marxist-Leninist countries as defined under section 2(b)(2B)(i) of the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended (Ex-Im Bank charter). Prior to the presidential determination, Ex-Im Bank had been prohibited from providing financing in Cambo- dia because of this designation.

For fiscal year 2009, which ended September 30, Ex-Im Bank’s authorizations totalled more than US$21 billion in support of US exports worldwide.

Ex-Im Bank is the official export -credit agency of the US. The independent, self-sustaining federal agency, now in its 75th year, helps to create and maintain US jobs by financing the sales of US exports, primarily to emerging markets throughout the world, by providing loan guarantees, export-credit insurance and direct loans.

Phnom Penh Plans to Build ‘Skytrain’

Written by DAP NEWS -- Wednesday, 28 October 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh will boast a state-of-the-art solar powered ‘skytrain’ similar to the elevated trams of Bangkok if plans discussed in a meeting on Monday are put into action. The developer claimed the new skytrain could carry over 600,000 people per day, with a possible capacity of over 1 million people by 2043.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) held a meeting presided over by MEF Minister Keat Chhon with the GREENCAMECO Company, according to MEF reports.

About 39 km of rail would be built around Phnom Penh, Richard Rory of GREENCAMECO said.

An addition 34 km would be covered by buses and solar power would be integral to the project, he added.

The four year project would take until at least 2014, with the first stage from 2011 to 2013. The total budget will be over US$3.6 billion, GREENCAMECO said. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the MFE Keat Chhon recommen- ded that “Before starting project, the company should survey extensively first, to protect any impact to the related railways of Cambodia.”

All designs and planning should be clear and support ease of access for all disabled Cambodian people, as well as children,” Keat Chhon added.

Rory said the project would support Cambodian development, inclu- ding public transport, road safety and less traffic jams.

The company should cooperate with the Ministry of Land Manage- ment, Urban Planning and Construc- tion together to better serve the public, Keat Chhon added.

Market makeover

Photo by: Vinh Dao/ Melon Rouge

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:03 Vinh Dao/ Melon Rouge

Workers tear down remaining sections of the old Central Market structure in preparation for the second stage of the market’s makeover last week.

Getting ready for company

Photo by: Steve Finch

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:05 Steve Finch

Workers build a path at Sambo Prey Kup temple in Kampong Thom on Friday. The 1,400-year-old temple is one of two for which Cambodia requested UNESCO World Heritage status in September.

Thais to send letter clarifying Thaksin status

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:05 James O'Toole

THAILAND will send a diplomatic note to Cambodia to “clarify” the legal status of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday as about 100 Thai protesters converged outside the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok to decry Prime Minister Hun Sen’s show of support for the exiled former leader.

Hun Sen last week offered a safe haven in Cambodia to Thaksin, suggesting that the fugitive billionaire serve as his economic adviser. Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and self-exiled to avoid a jail term on corruption charges.

The Thai government, which hosted Hun Sen and other regional leaders at the 15th ASEAN summit in the resort town of Hua Hin, said it would pursue extradition of Thaksin if he sought refuge on Cambodian soil. The Cambodian government, however, responded on Friday by issuing a statement that it would not comply.

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said Bangkok suspects Hun Sen is “misinformed” about Thaksin and will therefore send a letter clarifying the ex-prime minister’s legal status “hopefully by the end of this week”.

“We just wanted to make sure that the Cambodian side and Hun Sen have all the relevant facts at hand,” Thani said, explaining that the communique will consist of “an information paper detailing all the facts and the latest status of the legal cases related to the former prime minister for the information of the Cambodian side”.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban met with Hun Sen on Saturday at the ASEAN summit to “update him on the situation” regarding Thaksin, Thani added.

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Thailand was welcome to communicate further about Thaksin through diplomatic channels.

“It’s up to the Thai side if they want to send a note or more information about that,” he said, declining to comment on whether the Cambodian government felt it had been misinformed about Thaksin.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, the deputy secretary general to the Thai prime minister on political affairs, said Sunday that his government has a duty to ensure that cases involving Thai nationals in Cambodia are handled according to bilateral agreements, adding that Thai authorities are unsure of Thaksin’s present location.

“For the time being, we are not able to confirm the whereabouts of this particular person,” he said.

‘Insulting to all Thais’
At the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, protest leader Chaiwat Sinsuwong, a leading member of the anti-Thaksin Yellow Shirt movement, told the crowd that Hun Sen’s remarks had “shown hostility” to Thailand and had interfered in the country’s internal affairs. “His comments were insulting to all Thais and destroyed bilateral relations,” Chaiwat said.

Thai police tightened security around the embassy, placing about 150 officers on guard for the rally, which dispersed without violence after two hours, district police commander Samit Choensa-ard said.

Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said Thaksin’s presence in Cambodia would prompt further demonstrations of this sort and “may harm the Cambodians living and working in Thailand”.

Diplomatically, however, there would be little recourse for the government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to pursue Thaksin if Cambodia were to deny his extradition, said Josh Kurlantzick, a Southeast Asia expert with the Council on Foreign Relations.

“I don’t think Abhisit really has many options here, if Thaksin is on Cambodian soil,” he said Saturday.

In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh sought to quash speculation that the morning’s protest had gotten out of control.

“The Thai embassy in Cambodia would like to dispel the rumour that there was a demonstration in which Cambodia’s embassy in Thailand was burned down,” the statement read.


Eviction coming in Koh Kong: observers

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:04 May Titthara

OFFICIALS moved one step closer to forcibly evicting 43 families in Koh Kong province Tuesday when a provincial court judge divided a swath of disputed land between two feuding businessmen, and villagers who stand to be affected complained that they had been excluded from all discussion concerning land they have lived on for more than a decade, residents and rights workers said.

Sre Ambel district officials had earlier signalled the eviction would be carried out Tuesday, and residents said more than 200 villagers gathered early Tuesday morning and prepared to obstruct any attempt to remove the families.

Instead, 50 police officers escorted Deputy Judge Meas Vatanea to the site, where he read aloud a June Supreme Court ruling that awarded the land to the two businessmen, Sok Hong and Heng Huy, residents said.

They said Meas Vatanea then marked off how the land would be divided, with most going to Heng Huy.

In a surprise move, they said, Meas Vatanea also ruled that some of the 43 families were living in Chi Khor Leu commune, headed by Chhay Vuth, and not Chi Khor Krom commune, headed by Toav Vann.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said this was significant because Chhay Vuth was known for being “very sympathetic” to Heng Huy, who has said he plans to convert the land into a cassava farm.

Chhay Vuth could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
They are completely changing my village. how can they do that?

Am Sam Ath said the Supreme Court ruling, combined with Meas Vatanea’s demarcation amounted to “a green light for [Heng Huy’s] company to do basically whatever it wants”.

He added that he expected the eviction to be carried out within “a matter of weeks”.

Villagers said the actions taken by Meas Vatanea had left them confused, and several said they were increasingly concerned that they would be powerless to stop the eviction.

“I am really not sure about my family’s situation now, because they said they would come to evict us, but now they have just given our land to someone else, who can evict us at any time,” said Phav Nheung, a representative for the families.

Tep Hai, another villager, said, “Now we are even more worried about our land because it is no longer located in Chi Kor Krom. We now live in Chi Kor Leu.”

“They are completely changing my village. How can they do that?” Tep Hai said.

Am Sam Ath said court officials had made no attempt to engage the villagers, and had instead spent the day “ignoring the villagers as if they were not there”.

When Meas Vatanea first arrived and addressed the assembled villagers, he told them that the ruling had nothing to do with them, Am Sam Ath said.

He added: “Sure, the [Supreme Court] verdict has to do with the businessmen, but this land is where these people are, and it affects them in the sense that it brings them one step closer to being forcibly evicted.”

Am Sam Ath said police officers had tried to block the villagers from following Meas Vatanea as he surveyed the area and consulted with Heng Huy and Sok Hong.

Meas Vatanea, for his part, said he had engaged the villagers by reading the Supreme Court verdict to them, adding that all decisions made Tuesday concerned the dispute between the businessmen.

“I did not go there this morning to get into an argument with the people,” he said.

He also accused the villagers of “trying to push our car and not allowing us onto their land”, a reference to a scuffle that occurred shortly after the verdict was read.

Am Sam Ath acknowledged that the villagers had “tried to block the car”.

He said, however, that the altercation was nothing more than “a little bit of pushing” between villagers and police officers.

Royal request
The case of the Sre Ambel villagers has recently drawn the attention of King Norodom Sihamoni, who on Saturday wrote a letter to Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana asking him to investigate the case.

Kim Sophorn, inspector general at the Justice Ministry, said the ministry had not yet received a letter from the Royal Palace.

Chan Mono, chief of cabinet at the ministry, said Ang Vong Vathana was in Vietnam.


Two Chi Kraeng men sent to prison for land-dispute row

Photo by: Tom Hunter
Chi Kraeng villagers recover in Siem Reap Hospital from bullet wounds received during eviction clashes with police in March.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:04 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap Province

TWO men in Siem Reap province were sentenced to one year each in prison and ordered to pay a combined total of 3 million riels (US$722) in compensation after the provincial court on Tuesday found them guilty of injuring two men in a March altercation stemming from an ongoing land dispute. The court acquitted seven other men arrested in the same case.

All nine accused – who were charged with robbery and causing injury – are from Chi Kraeng commune, the residents of which have been tangled in a five-year imbroglio with villagers in neighbouring Anlong Samnor commune over 475 hectares of land.

Judge Sous La said Tuesday that he had rejected the robbery charges against Chheng Saveoun and Chan Noun, the two convicted men, but that evidence presented by the prosecution indicated that they were guilty of punching two Anlong Samnor residents in the face. Each was ordered to pay 1 million riels in compensation to Em Sophea, who Sous La said was punched “in the eyebrow”, and Chheng Saveoun was ordered to pay an additional 1 million riels to Chey Sovann, who was punched in the face.

Kek Pung, president of the rights group Licadho, said outside the courthouse that she was thankful that the judges had decided to acquit seven of the villagers, though she said the convictions of Chheng Saveoun and Chan Noun were baseless.

“We want to see the court drop the charges against them and let them go to live with their families, because their children and wives need them,” she said.

This view was echoed by John Coughlan, communications manager for the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, who said: “CCHR views the verdict as a welcome one as far as the seven are concerned, and we hope that the additional two find justice should they choose to appeal.”

Questions over shootings
The nine men were arrested after a March 22 protest during which 100 armed police opened fire on 80 villagers caught harvesting crops on land that Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin had previously ruled belong to families from Anlong Samnor.

In that attack, four villagers sustained gunshot wounds. No one has been charged in connection to the shootings.

Ham Sunrith, Licadho’s deputy director of human rights monitoring and protection, said Tuesday that the authorities should launch a “deep investigation” into the shootings.


Thai court tries Cambodian loggers

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:04 Thet Sambath

TWELVE Cambodian men appeared in a Thai court Monday on charges of illegal logging, said Leu Chandara, deputy chief of the Cambodia-Thailand Relations Office.

Leu Chandara, who attended the trial in Thailand’s Sisaket provincial court, said on Tuesday: “I believe the Thai court will try them fairly, and they will receive a reduced sentence. We’ve been working closely with the Thai side on this issue.” The court is expected to deliver its verdict on Monday.

Chhoun Ra, the mother of one of the 12 suspects, was among the parents of the accused allowed to attend Monday’s trial. “I hope my son will be released because he told the Thai court he didn’t even know how to cut wood. He was just taking food to the loggers,” she said.

Chhoun Ra also said that her son told the court that he did not see the demarcation poles marking the Thai border because the area was too densely forested.

The men were arrested by Thai soldiers during an August crackdown on illegal logging at various points along the Cambodia-Thai border in Prasat district, Oddar Meanchey province.

The same crackdown is believed to have triggered an incident in which Thai soldiers allegedly opened fire on a group of Cambodians, killing two and injuring several others.

Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry sent a diplomatic note to Thailand on October 16 condemning the incidents but has yet to receive a formal response.

“We are still waiting for a reply from the Thai side on the fatal shooting of a Cambodian man by Thai soldiers,” said Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Cambodia elected to heritage body

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A soldier rests at the World Heritage-listed Preah Vihear temple as the Cambodian and UNESCO flags fly together behind him.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:04 Sam Rith

CAMBODIA has been elected to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for the first time – a move that some say could pave the way for more of the Kingdom’s ancient ruins to attain coveted World Heritage status.

“This is a cause for happiness for all Cambodian people.… It is the honour and pride of Cambodia to have been elected as a member of the World Heritage Committee,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday during a speech at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen thanked all the member states that supported Cambodia’s bid for the six-year term, promising that the country would make an effort to undertake its role on the World Heritage Committee “without bias”, a thinly veiled reference to the recent dispute with Thailand over the heritage listing of Preah Vihear temple.

“We have never interfered with anyone, but the [Thais] have interfered with us,” he said.

The prime minister added that 30 countries had been competing to fill 12 vacancies on the 21-seat committee, and that Cambodia was the second country to be voted in during the first round, following Switzerland.

Cambodia won its seat on the committee Monday night after a vote by UNESCO’s 186 member states during the organisation’s 17th congress in Paris. This is the first time Cambodia has sat on the committee since it joined UNESCO in 1951.

Chuch Phoeung, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and chairman of the Preah Vihear Authority, said that committee membership would make it easier for Cambodia to get its national treasures recognised as World Heritage sites.

“In the past, listing heritage sites such as the Preah Vihear temple was more difficult because we did not have representation on the committee,” he said.

Chuch Phoeung also said that committee membership would make it easier for Cambodia to draw on the expertise of other countries to improve its methods of heritage site preservation.

Son Chhay, a Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, said it was an “honour” for Cambodia to take up membership of the committee, but that the country had benefited little from the international organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation, to which it belongs.

“Too often, we lose out on the potential benefits of membership due to a shortage of human resources and a lack of specific policies,” he said.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, also welcomed UNESCO’s decision and hoped that Cambodia would now be in a better position to bring in more World Heritage listings.

Chuch Phoeung said Cambodia had over a thousand heritage sites across the country, and that the first sites to be brought before UNESCO for recognition would be the Banteay Chhmar temple complex in Banteay Meanchey province and the pre-Angkorian Sambo Prey Kup temples in Kampong Thom.

The Angkor temple complex was listed as a World Heritage site in 1993. Preah Vihear temple, on the border with Thailand, was awarded the status in July 2008, triggering a yearlong military standoff between Cambodia and Thailand, which claims the territory around the temple.

SRP pursues King’s help to free editor

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:04 Meas Sokchea

PARLIAMENTARIANS from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party met with King Norodom Sihamoni on Tuesday to request that he grant amnesty to jailed newspaper publisher and editor in chief Hang Chakra.

Hang Chakra, who runs the opposition paper Khmer Machas Srok, was convicted in June of defamation and publishing false information in a series of articles that appeared in his newspaper accusing officials working for Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption.

The publisher was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 9 million riels (US$2,187). The Court of Appeal rejected his case on August 11.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said that an 18-member delegation met with the King on Tuesday to report on the legislature’s recent activities and to request amnesty for Hang Chakra.

The King did not offer a definitive statement on the case, Son Chhay said, though the monarch has already written a letter to Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana asking that the Supreme Council of the Magistracy examine Hang Chakra’s situation.

“The King is waiting for the government’s response. He promised that he will do what he can,” Son Chhay said, acknowledging that he was unsure of whether the King’s attention would be enough to free Hang Chakra.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government has no power to intervene in this case, particularly because it was the original plaintiff against Hang Chakra.

“The government cannot play both plaintiff and judge,” Phay Siphan said. “The court has given Hang Chakra a verdict – it is the court’s case.”

The government’s duty, Phay Siphan said, is to enforce the law rather than to interpret it, and as such, he was unsure that any government body would have the power to grant amnesty to Hang Chakra.

Anglers oppose new fishing law

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A fisherman prepares his boat in a fishing village on Ochheuteal Creek in Sihanoukville.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:04 Khouth Sophakchakrya

A PROPOSAL to limit the size of small-scale fishing gear could severely impact the catches of fishery communities who rely on the industry to survive, critics said Tuesday, as officials continued to hammer out a law on fishery regulations.

Fisheries Administration officials are proposing to limit the size of fish nets used for subsistence fishing to 30 metres. The fishermen would also be limited to 300 crab traps.

However, one fisherman argues the constraints could cause dependent communities to face food shortages.

“We will not catch enough fish to feed us with this draft law,” said Hout Hor, a fisherman from Kampot province.

He said the dire situation for fishery-dependent communities is compounded by the rise of illegal fishing and controversial sand-dredging .

“We demand that the Fisheries Administration allow us to use fish nets at least 50 metres long and 350 crab traps,” he said.

Even a 50-metre limit may not be adequate, said fisheries advocate Choun Bunra, programme coordinator for the Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT) in Sihanoukville.

“One severe threat comes from [fishermen’s] inability to make a decent living with gear determined to be illegal” under the draft law, he said.

Doung Samath, director of the provincial Fisheries Administration in Preah Sihanouk province, said the proposal is merely a draft at this stage.

“We need to hear the concerns from fishery families before” the draft becomes finalised, he said.

The government hopes to finalise the draft next year. Cambodia passed its Fisheries Law in 2006, but critics charge that the exact regulations governing fishing gear have not yet been clarified.

Groups say reliance on hydro may be harmful

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:03 Vong Sokheng

EXPERTS from the private sector met with community representatives in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to discuss the country’s energy needs, and NGO officials warned that the government was relying too much on large hydropower projects to handle future power demands, calling for alternative energy sources to be found.

Access to cheap power remains one of the largest obstacles to development in Cambodia, which has some of the highest electricity costs in the region.

Pok Panha Vichet of the NGO Forum, which organised the discussion, reviewed the various forms of alternative energy that exist and are plausible for Cambodia, and presented a cost-benefit analysis of the government’s current strategy, which includes a heavy reliance on hydropower development.

“The government has approved five hydropower plans within the last four years ... but the dams will affect the living conditions of a million Cambodians in rural areas,” she said.

Bun Narith, deputy director at the Ministry of Industry’s Department of Energy, could not be reached on Tuesday.

Rein in relatives, PM warns

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Hun Sen arrives at the National Institute of Education on Tuesday morning.


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:03 Uong Ratana

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has again demanded that high-ranking officials rein in their rambunctious relatives, warning he will demote any officials who shield friends or family who have committed crimes from facing the full force of the law.

“The culture of intervening in favour of [gangsters] should be eliminated,” Hun Sen said in a speech during a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education.

“I would like to state publicly that even if my children were gangsters, [the court should] put them in jail, and I would take rice to them at Prey Sar prison.”

Hun Sen also advised authorities to take action immediately with people committing offences and using the names of powerful people to evade the consequences of the law.

“No one is an exception. Everyone has to be equal before the law,” he said, adding that both poor and rich should be held to the same standard.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said last month that from 2006 until September this year, police across the country detained 8,689 suspected criminals, including 71 women, sending 454 to court to face charges.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said that despite the prime minister’s previous appeals for government officials to control their relatives, a culture of impunity still reigned in Cambodia.

The request “will only be effective for a short period”, Son Chhay said, adding that the roots of juvenile gangsterism should also be addressed.

“There should also be a mechanism or a specific law to eliminate drug use among the youth because when they use drugs they don’t respect the law.”

The premier’s comments came after a 22-year-old woman, Khay Dara, fired a gun into the air after a minor traffic dispute on September 28, triggering a four-hour standoff with police. In an attempt to avoid arrest, Khay Dara – whose case was referred to by Hun Sen – falsely said she was an adviser to Assembly President Heng Samrin, the niece of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and an acquaintance of National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun, Phnom Penh Municipal Court was told earlier this month.

Although the court sentenced Khay Dara to 18 months in jail and fined her 1 million riels (US$240) on charges of reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a weapon, Hun Sen called for tighter penalties.

“The punishment [against her] was not enough. I think it was a light sentence,” Hun Sen said. He also ordered the local authorities to file two additional weapons charges against Khay Dara and warned that a three-star general who intervened in her case could be stripped of his rank.

“If you dare to intervene in this case with Hun Sen, your stars will be dropped,” he added. Chuon Sunleng, deputy president of Appeal Court said that Khay Dara will appear before the court to appeal her case today.

In his speech on Tuesday, the premier also called for vigilance during this week’s Water Festival, in order to prevent the spread of A(H1N1) influenza, commonly known as swine flu, and HIV/AIDS.

“If possible, people should wear masks in order to protect themselves against [flu] transmission,” he said.

“AIDS is also an important issue. Please be careful not to bring AIDS back home. The authorities should look at the street girls or close the brothels.”


WELL-BEING: Cambodia ranks low in prosperity

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:03 Sebastian Strangio


Cambodia remains the second-least prosperous country in Asia behind Pakistan, according to an annual ranking released in London on Monday. The 2009 Legatum Institute Prosperity Index, which combines economic growth statistics with measures of happiness and quality of life, ranked Cambodia 93rd out of the 104 countries measured. The country was given a “weak” ranking on the performance of its democratic institutions and for “entrepreneurship and innovation”, and an “average” rank on personal freedoms and “economic fundamentals”. “Cambodia has a parliamentary democracy, but its institutions and processes are not democratic in practice,” the report stated. Cambodia fell below neighbours Thailand (44th), Vietnam (77th) and Indonesia (61st) in the index. Laos and Myanmar were not included in the 2009 report. Phay Siphan, spokesman of the Council of Ministers, said such rankings did not take into account the challenges facing the country. “The ranking is an opinion based on other information,” he said. “We are working towards the happiness and the needs of the people.”

Broadcast execs suspended

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009 15:03 Chhay Channyda

FOUR senior managers at a prominent radio and television network have been suspended from their positions on suspicion of being involved in the embezzlement of millions of dollars of investment funds.

Southeast Asia TV & Radio (SEA) General Manager Mam Rasmey, sales director Huot Sovann, administration manager Ou Vanna and technical director Uy Thuon were relieved of their duties earlier this month after the network’s deputy general director, Sem Sovandeth, was charged with breach of trust.

The charges were brought after Sem Sovandeth’s business partner, Kao Kim Hourn, accused him of embezzling US$7 million from Japanese financiers – money that had been earmarked for the group’s radio station and TV programming.

Speaking Monday, Kao Kim Hourn said: “I ordered the suspension of the four because they are all involved in the case. The court will take legal action against those who are involved.”

On Tuesday, Mam Rasmey denied the allegations but confirmed that he and three colleagues had been suspended indefinitely and called for a thorough investigation.

“My job at SEA TV has been suspended,” he said. “I am waiting for a solution from the station, but I am not involved with the case. The arrest of Sem Sovandeth was hasty, so there should be a deep investigation.”

Kao Kim Hourn, who is also a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a dean at the University of Cambodia, entered into a business partnership with Sem Sovandeth in 2007. The two men found a Japanese investor to fund a network of television and radio stations.

Southeast Asia Radio, on FM 106, opened in July of that year. Kao Kim Hourn said he later transferred the bulk of the money and responsibilities to his partner, including the oversight of hiring staff and constructing suitable office space to house the new operation.

When Sem Sovandeth was charged earlier this month, Mam Rasmey dismissed the allegations as libelous and said the two businessmen should have resolved the matter internally.

Investigating Judge Chhay Kong confirmed Tuesday that Sem Sovandeth was being held in pretrial detention.

“Sem Sovandeth is being held in Prey Sar prison, and the breach of trust case is under investigation,” he said, adding that a date for the hearing has yet to be set.