Thursday, 5 November 2009

Thailand recalls envoy to Cambodia over Thaksin job: PM


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK — Thailand recalled its ambassador to Cambodia Thursday after Phnom Penh gave a job to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, further raising tensions between the countries.

The Cambodian government said on Wednesday night that it had appointed Thaksin as an economics adviser, riling Bangkok, which is trying to bring Thaksin home to face justice three years after he was ousted in a coup.

"We have recalled the ambassador as the first diplomatic retaliation measure to let the Cambodian government know the dissatisfaction of the Thai people," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters.

"Last night's announcement by the Cambodian government harmed the Thai justice system and really affected Thai public sentiment," Abhisit said.

Abhisit said aid to Cambodia would also be halted, but checkpoints on the disputed border between the two countries would remain open and "people-to-people relations would not be affected."

A government official said earlier that the ambassador to Phnom Penh would be recalled by Thursday evening in retaliation for Cambodia's "interference" in Thai politics.

"The reason is that the appointment of Thaksin is considered interfering in our internal politics because Thaksin is still actively involved in politics," Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Thailand's foreign affairs minister, told AFP.

Thaksin remains a hugely influential figure in Thailand, where he has stirred up mass protests by the so-called "Red Shirt" movement against Abhisit's government in the past year.

Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have been difficult since July 2008 amid an ongoing border conflict over land surrounding an 11th century temple which has claimed several lives

Thailand recalls ambassador to protest Cambodia

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thailand on Thursday recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh in protest at Cambodia's appointment of convicted ex-Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser to Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government.

The Thai government will demand reviews of bilateral agreements and commitments signed between Thailand and Cambodia by both present and past governments, according to the statement issued on Thursday.

Thai Ambassador to Phnom Penh Prasas Prasavinitchai is scheduled to arrive in Bangkok at 3pm.

The Cambodian government appointed fugitive Thaksin as economic adviser to Hun Sen and the Cambodian government in an order signed by Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni on Wednesday.

Hun Sen announced upon his arrival in Thailand in October to attend the Asean Summit that he had offered Thaksin, who he regards as a friend, a residence and a job as his economic adviser.

The Thai Foreign Ministry's decision to recall the ambassador is the strongest protest made in years.

The statement also mentioned that the ongoing cooperation between the two countries would be put on hold for the time being.

Foreign Minister's secretary Chavanont Intarakomalsut said the appointment of Thaksin as Hun Sen's adviser was considered as intervening in the Thai justice system.

"The appointment of Thaksin as the adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is regarded as an intervention in Thailand's internal affairs and an insult to the Thai justice system," he said in a press conference.

The appointment clearly showed that the Khmer premier failed to distinguish between his personal interests and the mutual interests of the two countries, he said.

Thailand recalls envoy to Cambodia over Thaksin

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) – Thailand recalled its ambassador to Cambodia on Thursday after Phnom Penh appointed fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser, a senior official said.

"We are recalling our ambassador to Cambodia by this evening," Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Thailand's minister of foreign affairs, told AFP.

"The reason is that the appointment of Thaksin is considered interfering in our internal politics because Thaksin is still actively involved in politics," he said.

Thailand says Thaksin job may harm Cambodia relations

05 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK - Thailand said Thursday that Cambodia's appointment of fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser may cause relations between the two countries to further deteriorate.

The Cambodian government announced the move on state television late Wednesday, two weeks after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen first riled Bangkok by offering the job to the billionaire Thaksin.

Twice-elected Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption.

The Thai government, now led by his opponents, wants to bring him home to face justice.

"It will hardly help. It is more likely to make things worse," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters Thursday when asked if Thaksin's appointment would improve relations.

Suthep said Thailand would also press for Thaksin's extradition if he ever goes to live in Cambodia, saying that a treaty between the two nations would cover the former premier's case.

"If they refuse to hand him over then we consider that a breach of an international agreement," he said.

Thaksin, who is believed to spend much of his time in Dubai, said in a Twitter posting that he thanked Hun Sen for the appointment but still wanted to work for Thailand's well-being.

"I thank His Excellency Hun Sen and I just received a copy which was signed by King Sihamoni. It's an honour. But it's not going to be fun like working to help Thai people out of poverty," Thaksin said.

Thaksin remains a hugely influential figure in Thailand, where he has stirred up mass protests against the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in the past year.

His own allies were driven from government in December 2008 after anti-Thaksin protesters occupied Bangkok's airports. - AFP/vm

It's an honour to be Cambodia's advisor

Thu, Nov 05, 2009
The Nation/Asia News Network

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

"I would like to thank (Cambodia's Prime Minister)'s Hun Sen for appointing me as his economic adviser," Thaksin said in his twitter (Thaksinlive).

Cambodia has already sent him a copy of the appointment that signed by Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni.

However he said he would enjoy more doing the job for Thai people.

King Sihamoni signed the Royal Decree of the appointment of Thaksin Shinawatra on Oct 27. The appointment was made in accordance with the country's constitutions and at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

As Hun Sen arrived in Hua Hin to attend Asean Summit in October, he declared "Thaksin can stay in Cambodia as a guest of Cambodia. He can also be my adviser on the economy".

The Cambodian leader repeated an earlier invitation to Thaksin to stay in Cambodia and rejected Thai claims that Phnom Penh would have to extradite the tycoon.

"Our concern is for humanitarian reasons, it is friends helping friends. The internal affairs of Thailand would be left for Thai people to resolve, I am not interfering," said Hun Sen.

Cambodia also issued a statement, saying it will not extradite Thaksin at a request from Thailand if he comes and stays in Cambodia. Meanwhile, it said that the Royal Government will continue its policy of having friendly relations with Thailand.

Cambodia appoints Thailand's Thaksin as economic adviser

04 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia said on Wednesday it had appointed fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra economic adviser to premier Hun Sen in a move that adds to tensions between the countries.

The appointment was announced on state television almost two weeks after Hun Sen first riled Thailand by offering safe haven to Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption.

"Thaksin has already been appointed by royal decree... as personal adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the adviser to the Cambodian government in charge of economy," said a government statement read on television.

"Allowing Thaksin to stay in Cambodia is virtuous behaviour...good friends need to help each other in difficult circumstances," it added.

File photo of Cambodian PM Hun Sen (R) with former Thailand's premier Thaksin Shinawatra in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The statement went on to call charges against Thaksin "politically motivated" and vowed not to extradite him if he "decides to stay in Cambodia or travels in and out of Cambodia in order to fulfill his duties".

Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have been difficult since June 2008 amid an ongoing border conflict over land surrounding an 11th century temple, which has claimed several lives.

Hun Sen stoked up tensions with Thailand in late October when he first offered Thaksin refuge in Cambodia and then marred a summit of Asian leaders by saying he had offered him the job as economic adviser.

Thailand said that the appointment was an internal matter for Hun Sen's government but it would push for the extradition of billionaire Thaksin if he sets foot in Cambodia.

"It's a Cambodian matter," Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban told AFP. "We don't have to analyse anything, the appointment is a private relationship between Cambodia and Thaksin. It hasn't had any impact on us."

"It's not a surprise. Cambodia has previously hired other foreigners as advisers and it did not cause us any problems. We don't have to worry too much," added Suthep, who is in charge of national security.

"But if Thaksin happens to be in Cambodia then we have to ask for his extradition."

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

The Thai government announced last month that it would strip Thaksin of his royal awards and his official rank from his time in the police force.

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/ls/de

Cambodia Appoints Thaksin as PM’s Economic Advisor

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 05 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Government on Wednesday revealed that Thai former Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra was appointed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s economic advisor on October 27.

“Thaksin was really appointed as the Premier Hun Sen’s economic advisor done on October 27 by King Norodom Sihamoni,” Keo Ramy, secretary of state of the Council of Ministers (CoM), told DAP News Cambodia.

The appointment as economic advisor comes after Hun Sen declared he would welcome Thaksin if he wishes to enter Cambodia. Bangkok leaders retorted angrily, threatening to extradite Thaksin. Cambodia said it would block any such extradition.

Hun Sen has said that he will offer a new house in Cambodia to Thaksin if he wants to pay a visit to Cambodia.

The premier’s remarks followed a visit from former Thai Prime Minister Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, who is very close to Thaksin and visited Cambodia.

However, Cambodia’s cozying up to Thaksin has raised the hackles of some Thais. Suthep, a Thai deputy prime minister, noted Cambodia and Thailand have an extradition agreement, which he said will be enforced to apprehend Thaksin and return him to Thailand to serve a two-year jail term.

“I am not surprised about friendship between Hun Sen and Thaksin but Thailand will make the extradition request if Thaksin is provided with a permanent shelter in Cambodia,” Suthep told the Nation. Thaksin thanked Cambodia’s PM Hun Sen in his twitter feed for welcoming him to the country and having offering to build a home for him.

“I have to express deepest thanks to Prime Minister Hun Sen for saying in public that I am his friend. I also would like to thank him for arranging me a house,” Thaksin said on twitter.

Gen. Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, leader-in-waiting of Thailand’s opposition Puea Thai Party, has already visited Phnom Penh at the invitation of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Gov´t Rejects Criticism over Military Spending

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 05 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A Government spokesman on Wednesday rejected criticism over the defense budget for 2010, which is up to US$277 million from US$223 million in 2009.

The statement comes after some NGOs expressed dissatisfaction with the Government's increased spending on the army compared to agriculture and rural development.

The Government has approved a 24 percent increase in defense spen- ding, an approval made while Cambodia has ongoing border disputes with Thailand.

Ou Virak, Cambodian Human Right Center president, said that military spending was not balanced with agriculture or rural development, which received around a 5 percent budget increase.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith brushed aside such critics. "Do they wish Cambodia's soldiers to fight with Thailand using sling shots?" he asked. "When our soldiers wore flip flops and used old guns, they said that the Government did not pay attention, but when we turn to support the soldiers, then they said like this."

"The Government does not ignore other sectors, but we would like to reduce some spending," Khieu Kanh- arith told DAP News Cambodia on Wednesday. "As Thailand realizes Cambodia has missile-fired weapons and modern guns, they do not encroach illegally anymore." Ou Virak confirmed that he supported more military spending but suggested the Government focus on reducing so-called 'ghost soldiers' to provide more money to real and well-trained soldiers. The Government spend more on agriculture and rural development sector, he added.

Mu Sochua, an opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, declined to comment, saying she wanted to first examine the budget in detail.

Corpse Found Near Himawari Hotel

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 05 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

After the Water Festival was finished the local authorities found a corpse flooding behind the Himawari Hotel in the Chaktomuk district of Phnom Penh, a police officer said on Wednesday.

During the second day of the Water Festival Ceremony on November 2, a Cambodian racing boat sank and racer was lost.

The local authority confirmed that the corpse found at the Himawari Hotel is the miing Cambodian racer from Kampong Cham province.

Li Thea, 43, a farmer from Koh Sotin district of Kampong Cham province, fell into the water at around 4pm.

Mam Leangyany, a cabinet chief, told DAP News Cambodia that the incident occurred when two boats crashed into one another. “Unfort-unately, the Boat No. 296 was sunk and one member fell into the water.”

The corpse was sent to Chak Ang Rel pagoda to be cremated with Buddhist rites. The boat which crashed into Boat No. 296, Boat No. 300, came from Svay Rieng, Leangyany added.
Water Festival usually sees at least one fatality by drowning among boat racers.

Cambodia to Build Nine-Storey Hospital

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 05 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Government will build a nine-storey hospital building offering high standard health services with help from Denmark, TVK reported on Wednesday.

That building will be built near the Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh as Minister of Economy and Finance (MEF) Keat Chhon already met with Calmette Hospital staff and donors.

“We plan to transfer Calmette Hospital as administrative public enterprise into an economic public enterprise,” Keat Chhon was quoted as saying by TVK television.

Health Minister Mum Bun Heng told DAP News Cambodia yesterday that he did not know when construction would begin, referring questions to Calmette Hospital. Cheang Ra, director of Calmette Hospital could not be reached for comment yesterday. Calmette Hospital is seen by many as leading hospital, though its health services are limited, with most especially wealthy Cambodians travelling abroad for medical treatment. Bun Tee, president of Phnom Penh Tourist Association, said the new hospital would hopefully provide high standard healthcare for both Cambodians and foreign tourists.

“Even though the Calmette Hospital will become an economic public enterprise, I hope it will provide a good service for the poor too,” he added.

Sok Hay, a soldier, said that recei- ved free healthcare from Calmette Hospital although he had to wait for administrative processes.

Banteay Meanchey Monk Electrocuted

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 05 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A monk was electrocuted in Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet City while making his daily rounds begging for alms, police reported on Wednesday.

Monk Ra Vidang, 19, died near a casino in Kbal Spean village, Poipet.

Ra Vidang and Mak Pisith, 18, both monks at Sreoh Trach’ pagoda, were together at the time. Mak Pisith recalled that both were taking shelter under the lee of a house roof when Vidang walked near a wall and was electrocuted. “I tried to pick him but there was no way,” he said.

He was unsure why the electric cable was live and bare and dangling in a pool of water. Some local Poipet residents have appealed for an investigation by local authorities. Electrifying properties is sometimes used to deter thieves, especially in the provinces. Poipet district Department of Cults official Suy Leang told DAP News Cambodia that “Vidang’s family is very poor so they depend on the Committee of the Sreoh Trach’s pagoda.”

Another two electrocutions have occurred recently, one in Phnom Penh and one on November 4 in Banteay Meanchey province.

Chemistry Nobel Laureate to Give Speech Today

Written by DAP NEWS -- Thursday, 05 November 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Prof. Aaron J. Ciechanover, a 2004 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry and a distinguished research rrofessor at the Faculty of Medicine of the Techno Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa and a Member of the Advisory Board of the International Peace Foundation, will give a speech for peace at the University of Cambodia (UC) today.

The keynote speech and dialogue at UC in Phnom Penh begins at 2 pm, a UC official said yesterday. According to the schedule, Ciechanover planned to deliver his speech on November 4 but was delayed. On Friday, Nove-mber 6, 2009 at 2 pm, he will have public dialogue with researchers at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia in cooperation with the Royal University of Phnom Penh, a press release said. Ciechanover here is to promote a culture of peace and share experience with Cambodian students and other officials.

Aaron Ciechanover was Born in Haifa, Israel and received his Masters of Science in 1970 and his M.D. in 1975 from the Hadassah Medical School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received his doctorate in medicine in 1981 from the Technion and has been a Distinguished Research Professor at the Center for Cancer and Vascular Biology and the Director of the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in Medical Sciences at the Technion. In 2004 he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Professor Avram Hershko and Professor Irwin Rose for the discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation, a mechanism by which the cells of most living organisms cull unwanted proteins.

Ciechanover, Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose at the beginning of the 1980s discovered one of the cell’s most important cyclical processes, regulated protein degradation. For this they were rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Baphuon temple rises

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A man appears dwarfed by the famed Baphuon Temple at the ancient Angkor complex. The temple was dismantled during the 1960s because it had fallen into disrepair, and its remains have been painstakingly pieced back together by a team of architects in an ambitious restoration project that is finally nearing completion.

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

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:04 Patrick Falby

One of Angkor’s most complex rebuilds nears completion.

Siem Reap

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, the reconstruction of the 11th century Baphuon Temple is now astonishingly close to completion. “This is not easy to plan like a construction project is,” said 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. Before the French-led team of archaeologists could reassemble the 34-metre-tall temple, the Khmer Rouge swept to power in 1975.

As the regime dismantled modern Cambodian society, even the records of its past – including those instructing researchers how to put Baphuon back together – were lost.

“The archive of the numbering system [for scattered stones] was stolen and destroyed by the Khmer Rouge,” Royere said.

“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 “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.

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
The famed Baphuon Temple is being rebuilt by architects after it was dismantled after falling into disrepair in the 1960s.

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

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

After the 1991 peace agreement to end Cambodia’s civil war, French architect Jacques Dumarcay, 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 fit.

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 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.”

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Pieces of Baphuon’s reclining Buddha about to be moved into place by crane last weekend.

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 – stabilising Baphuon so it doesn’t collapse – is now complete. Recent work has focused on a 22-metre-high pile of rubble that 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 said. “When you take one brick, you have to take care another doesn’t collapse. It took double the time we thought.”

Last year, King Norodom Sihamoni presided over a ceremony marking the restoration of a 70-metre long reclining Buddha. Now, Royere’s 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 Buddha.

“Now it’s the most interesting,” he said. “We have now the picture because we worked for a long time.”

Thaksin appointed adviser

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:03 Sam Rith and James O’Toole

THAI former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was formally appointed economics adviser to the Cambodian government and “personal adviser” to Prime Minister Hun Sen by a Royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni and released Wednesday.

Thaksin was deposed as prime minister in a 2006 coup and self-exiled last year to avoid a prison term for corruption. Hun Sen caused a stir last month when he offered refuge in Cambodia to the fugitive billionaire, and the Thai government responded that it would pursue extradition should he arrive on Cambodian soil.

In a statement accompanying the decree, however, the Cambodian government reiterated its position that it would refuse extradition of Thaksin because he was prosecuted for “political reasons”. “This statement is to show our government’s position related to Thaksin’s case,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said. “He has a right to come any time he likes. Cambodia welcomes him.”

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said that by prolonging the Thaksin imbroglio, the government is seeking to distract the Cambodian public from the many domestic problems that plague the Kingdom. “We need to solve our own problems before we think about politics outside our country,” he said.

Last week, Thaksin denied rumours that he will travel to Cambodia to take up Hun Sen’s offer, fearing such a trip would cause further problems between Thailand and Cambodia, according to the Bangkok Post.

Asked Wednesday how Thaksin could fulfill his advisory responsibilities without travelling to Cambodia, Phay Siphan pointed to the possibility of telecommuting. “With the information superhighway, [Thaksin] can work anywhere around the globe in helping Cambodia develop the country,” Phay Siphan said.

World Bank cuts growth forecast

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:03 Nathan Green

The World Bank predicted Wednesday that Cambodia’s economy would contract 2 percent this year as a result of the global economic slowdown, leading to a reversal in some of the human development gains of the last decade.

The forecast, in the bank’s twice-yearly “East Asia and Pacific Update”, came as it predicted a 6.7 percent recovery for developing East Asia and the Pacific on the back of projected growth of 8.7 percent in China.

However, with China removed from the picture, the region was set to expand just 1 percent this year, more slowly than South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and only slightly faster than sub-Saharan Africa.

The World Bank predicted in April’s update that Cambodia’s economy would contract 1 percent this year.

The report estimates that 14 million people who would have emerged from $2-a-day poverty if the region’s economies had kept growing at pre-economic crisis levels, will remain in poverty in 2010. Developing East Asia includes China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and the island economies of the Pacific.

“Cambodia has been very hard hit,” Ivailo Izvorski, the report’s lead author said via videoconference from Washington. The report projects that the economic crisis could add between 1 and 4 percentage points to the poverty headcount between 2007 and 2010, even though only one-fifth of all households had jobs in sectors directly affected by the crisis.

“There is currently limited data on human development outcomes, but preliminary indications and experiences in other countries suggest that the impact will be a reversal of the very encouraging trends of the past decade,” the report said.

Govt eyes inclusion in APEC

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:03 Sam Rith and James O’toole

CAMBODIA is angling for membership in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, an international organisation that promotes trade and economic ties among member states, a move that could expose the Kingdom to greater investment opportunities.

Business and political leaders, including US President Barack Obama, will join APEC’s 2009 summit starting Sunday in Singapore. Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said a Cambodian delegation led by Prime Minister Hun Sen would also travel to the island state for a meeting between Obama and ASEAN leaders on November 15, the first since 2007.

Cambodia is one of three ASEAN countries, alongside Laos and Myanmar, which do not belong to APEC, but Cambodian People’s Party parliamentarian Cheam Yeap said Cambodia is considering applying for membership in the hope of broadening its diplomatic and economic horizons. “We are a developing country, so we need support and resources to be invested in our country,” he said.

Though the establishment of an APEC-wide free trade area has been discussed intermittently in recent years, the organisation does not impose binding commitments on member states, simply encouraging dialogue and cooperation among its constituents. Comprising 54 percent of world GDP and 44 percent of world trade as of 2008, however, APEC members wield formidable economic clout.

Kith Meng, the CEO of Royal Group and an economic adviser to Hun Sen, said APEC membership would enable Cambodia to engage with powerful nations and build its international reputation as a business destination. “The benefit is that our leaders, especially Samdech Hun Sen, would be able to meet with a lot of APEC leaders,” Kith Meng said, adding that the organisation would enhance Cambodia’s appeal to international investors.

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal Bank, noted that though the dividends of APEC status might not be immediately apparent, the intangible advantages must not be discounted. “From a trade perspective, there may not be huge direct benefits, but it gives Cambodia a seat at a very powerful table,” he said.

Developing countries like Cambodia must take every opportunity to widen the scope of their export markets and foreign investment sources, said Ren Yi, director of the Office of Research and Higher Degrees at Australia’s University of Southern Queensland.

Yi added that APEC membership would likely spur increased investment in the Kingdom from powerful bloc members such as the US, Australia and China.

PM to lead delegation to Japan for summit

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A girl balances on poles above the mud left by receded floodwaters outside her home in Kandal province last week. The Mekong-Japan summit will address water-resource management.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen is to lead a delegation today to take part in the first Mekong-Japan Summit in Tokyo, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Held between November 6 and 7, the summit is designed to strengthen inter-regional ties and address common issues, such as management of the Mekong region’s water resources and address climate change.

Cambodia’s delegation will include Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Cham Prasidh, minister of commerce.

“This forthcoming summit clearly demonstrates the political commitment at the highest level of the Mekong countries and Japan for a comprehensive development of the Mekong region, including management of the Mekong River,” the statement said.

During his stay, Hun Sen is scheduled to meet Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito at his royal palace; Takahiro Yokomichi, speaker of the house of representatives; and Eda Satsuki, president of the house of councillors. The premier will also hold bilateral talks with Yukio Hatoyama, Japan’s new prime minister.

At the end of the summit, Hun Sen will attend a joint press conference and signing ceremony on the Tokyo Declaration on a “New Partnership for the Common Flourishing Future” of Japan and the Mekong-region countries, appended to the Japan-Mekong Action Plan.

Sri Thamrong, an adviser to Hun Sen, said full details of the agenda would be made public immediately before the premier departs Phnom Penh today.

Suspected logger shot by soldiers in Thailand

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:03 Thet Sambath

A 22-year-old Cambodian man accused of illegal logging in Thailand’s Sisaket province was shot by Thai soldiers Monday, continuing a recent string of attacks on Cambodian loggers along the border, officials said.

Pouth Nin, from Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasat district, sustained one gunshot wound to his right leg and is recovering in a Sisaket hospital, said Touch Ra, deputy chief of the Thailand-Cambodia Relations Office at the Chom border gate.

Touch Ra said the Thai soldiers involved in the incident claimed that the loggers had been the first to open fire.

“I do not believe this information,” he said. “They probably just want to put the blame on the victim.”

Seven men who were with Pouth Nin at the time of the attack escaped unharmed, said Leu Chandara, another deputy chief at the Chom office.

“We are working to find the seven men who ran from the Thai military’s crackdown,” he said. “We want them to tell us who masterminded the effort to cut trees along the border, and to stop them from entering areas that Thailand claims.”

The Thai ministry of foreign affairs and the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment. Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Koung was not available for comment Wednesday.

Touch Ra also said Cambodia would appeal sentences handed down last Friday to 12 Cambodians accused of illegal logging after being arrested in Thailand in August. Six of the men were sentenced to eight years and four months in prison, five were given terms of five years and seven months, and another received a 15-month sentence.

Villagers critical of Apsara Authority

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:03 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap Province

VILLAGERS in Kork Chak commune plan to submit a petition requesting Prime Minister Hun Sen’s intervention after officials from the Apsara Authority tore down a house officials said had been built in a “protected area”, in part of what they call a broader effort to crack down on illegal construction.

Lim Enghav, a 36-year-old Military Police officer and owner of the dismantled house, said the petition contained nearly 200 thumb prints and would be sent to the premier’s cabinet today. He said he hoped Hun Sen would protect villagers’ rights to build new homes, as well as additions to existing ones. He had just finished his 20-square-metre corrugated tin home – which was torn down on Sunday by around 30 people – last Friday. “It is like robbery,” he said.

Bun Narith, director general of the Apsara Authority, which manages the Angkor temple complex, said the homes were located in a protected area, and that the organisation had already instructed them not to build new homes or additions.

“In general, we are doing this only for illegal houses,” he said. “And before we tear down homes, we ask the villagers to move their illegal constructions. If they do not listen, then this is the last stage.”

Kork Chak commune chief Seng Suth confirmed Apsara had ramped up enforcement, but several Veal village residents said the regulations were too restrictive. Tom Voeun, 57, said: “I thumb-printed this petition to support the right for people to build small houses to live in. If they do not allow people to construct homes, where will people sleep?”

New charges for traffic gunwoman

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Khay Dara is escorted by an official from the Court of Appeal, where her conviction for reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a weapon was upheld last month.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

AUTHORITIES in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district have filed new complaints against a woman who was imprisoned last month after firing a gun during a traffic incident, accusing her of intent to kill and trespassing on private property, officials said Wednesday.

Men Heng Tith, deputy chief of Meanchey district police, confirmed Wednesday that police were requesting investigations into the two additional charges against Khay Dara, 30, following an incident on September 28 in which she fired a gun into the air after a Honda CR-V sport utility vehicle cut across her lane of traffic, triggering a four-hour standoff with police.

On September 30, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced her to 18 months in prison and fined her 1 million riels (US$240) on charges of reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a weapon.

In an attempt to avoid arrest, Khay Dara had falsely claimed she was an adviser to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, the niece of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and an acquaintance of National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun.

Men Heng Tith said the two additional complaints were lodged with the court last week in relation to Khay Dara’s invasion of a clinic owned by the other driver during the dispute.

“I lodged two complaints against Khay Dara … [accusing her] of premeditated murder and violation of a person’s house at night without permission,” he said.

Rambunctious relatives
The new complaints came after Prime Minister Hun Sen highlighted Khay Dara’s case in a speech on October 27, describing her sentence as “light” and calling on authorities to impose additional charges for her reckless outburst. He also warned government officials to rein in rambunctious family members who use their influence to avoid the law.

“The culture of intervening in favour of [gangsters] should be eliminated,” Hun Sen said.

“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.” The next day, the Appeal Court rejected Khay Dara’s appeal.

Khay Dara’s defence lawyer Luong Sokha had not heard of the new complaints when contacted Wednesday.

Following Hun Sen’s speech, Khay Dara’s husband, Hang Mong Heng, wrote a letter of apology to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema and other local officials, apologising for his wife’s mistakes and calling her a “good and gentle” woman.

“I apologise for my wife’s behaviour before the local authorities, journalists and public and accept the court’s conviction,” he said in the letter, dated Friday.

The letter also rebuts a letter sent by Hang Mong Heng to the governor on October 2, accusing local journalists of trying to extort thousands of dollars from Khay Dara in order to keep the story out of the press.

Govt to ask Moscow to forgive Soviet-era debt

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

NATIONAL Assembly President Heng Samrin is to urge the Russian government to cancel US$1.5 billion worth of Soviet-era debt during an upcoming visit to the country, officials said.

Heng Samrin, who will visit Moscow and St Petersburg during his November 4-10 visit, is expected to meet with Sergey Mironov, chairman of the Russian federation council’s federal assembly.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Heng Samrin plans to request the cancellation of loans used for the purchase of weapons during the 1980s. Cambodia requested debt-cancellation from Russia in 2006 and 2008, but was unsuccessful both times.

“We don’t want to remind them again, but we do not need to pay back the loan because we borrowed the money from the ex-Soviet Union [which no longer exists],” said Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association, said that cancellation of the debt would benefit every Cambodian.

“Currently, each person in Cambodia has at least $2,000 of debt,” he said.

Cheam Yeap said that Heng Samrin will also try to encourage more Russian investors to do business in Cambodia and will present a medal to Sergey Mironov for promoting friendship ties between the parliaments of Cambodia and Russia. In 2008, Mironov invited Cambodian
parliamentarians to visit Russia for a cultural exchange tour.

Teen accused of rape, murder of 12-year-old

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:02 Chhay Channyda

A BATTAMBANG teenager stands accused of raping a 12-year-old girl from his own village before leaving her to drown in a water canal, court officials said Wednesday.

Phat Seng, 17, was charged with murder Tuesday, said deputy prosecutor Uy Samphea.

The parents of victim Pheng Phalla found her body Sunday lying in a shallow water canal 3 kilometres away from their home in Toul Snuol village, said Mong Russei district police Chief Kith Hean.

Investigators say they believe the girl was tending cattle in a rice field with her two brothers on Saturday before she was attacked. It is alleged that Phat Seng lured the victim’s brothers away by offering them 500 riels (US$0.12) to buy snacks.

Police say that Phat Seng then raped Pheng Phalla before throwing her body into a metre-deep canal, where she drowned.

Krouch Chan Pov, provincial monitor for human rights group Adhoc, said Wednesday that child rape in rural areas is a pressing concern.

“Parents like to allow their female children to go out alone,” she said. “It gives a chance for bad people take advantage of victims.”

If found guilty, Phat Seng faces a prison sentence of 15 to 20 years.

Water Festival comes to close

Photo by: Heng Chivoan/Sovan Philong
Left, a worker dismantles a light boat, which illuminated the river during this year’s Water Festival. Right, a woman’s head is silhouetted against the dazzling display.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:02 May Titthara and Kim Yuthana

A sense of normality returned to the streets of Phnom Penh on Wednesday following the conclusion of the Water Festival as officials credited tight traffic controls in and outside the capital with holding traffic accidents to a minimum.

The municipality enforced a 10am-to-10pm no-vehicle zone encircling the main staging area of the three-day festival, as well as blockades outside the city to limit incoming traffic.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said stricter traffic controls created a drop in road accidents Kingdomwide.

“During the Water Festival, there were 68 traffic accidents across Cambodia,” he said, adding that the numbers were marginally lower than last year, though he was unable to provide exact figures.

Restricted traffic zones, however, created snarls in surrounding neighbourhoods, where slow-moving tuk-tuks, motorbikes, cars and countryside trucks brimming with goods and people clogged the city’s major boulevards.

Meanwhile, Justice Ministry officials said that King Sihamoni would shortly issue a decision on the round of Royal pardons and sentence reductions that traditionally follows the Water Festival.

Pov Buntheoun, director of the Criminal Department of the Ministry of Justice, said that “there were about 160 prisoners around the country nominated for a reduced sentence and 30 nominated for a full pardon.” The list does not include Hang Chakra, the editor in chief of opposition Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, he added.

Heng Hak, director general of the General Department of Prisons at the Ministry of the Interior, explained that candidates are nominated by the prison chiefs themselves. To be eligible for a pardon, Heng Hak said, “prisoners must have already served two-thirds of their sentence, and prisoners nominated for a reduced sentence must have already served one-third of their sentence”.

Hang Chakra is serving a one-year sentence for disinformation and is technically ineligible. In August, however, a group of journalists unsuccessfully petitioned the King to grant him a special pardon, fuelling speculation that the King might use the Water Festival as an opportunity to free him.

Laymen face expulsion over border post row

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea

TWO Buddhist laymen who arranged a ceremony for opposition leader Sam Rainsy in Svay Rieng province late last month face expulsion from their pagoda after a controversy in which Sam Rainsy Party officials uprooted posts marking the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

Pov Pheap, second deputy chief of Chantrea district’s Samraong commune, said the two laymen – Chak Sovann and Mom Poy from Ang Romdenh pagoda – would both be removed from their posts on the pagoda’s layman commission and questioned by district religious officials over the organisation of the October 25 ceremony.

“The district office of religious affairs called them to meet and the meeting ordered the organisation of a new commission and to remove Chak Sovann and Mom Poy from the commission,” he said. During the October 25 ceremony organised to mark the Kathen festival, Sam Rainsy, along with villagers and other SRP lawmakers, uprooted six posts marking the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. The villagers had complained to him that the Vietnamese had illegally planted poles on their rice fields.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the officials behind the removal of the two men should face criminal charges.

Nget Dara, a Svay Rieng-based coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the move against the men was motivated by politics. “This removal is a case of political discrimination,” he said. “I wonder why they are acting like this – the pagoda is a place for Buddhist ceremonies.”

Sam Rainsy is also likely to face repercussions for his part in the ceremony. A statement released by the SRP this week said the government had filed a lawsuit against Sam Rainsy for the border stunt, following complaints from Vietnam that his actions threatened to disrupt the two countries’ joint border demarcation.

Chantrea district Governor Chea Yeang would not comment on the removal of the two laymen.

Hornets kill man after failure to seek doctor

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:02 Mom Kunthear

A MAN in Prey Veng province died hours after hornets stung him up to 20 times because neither he nor his family realised the stings could be lethal, district and police officials said Wednesday.

Yi Pov, 40, was found dead in his home in North Baray village Monday morning, said Baray police Chief Chan Narith.

Yi Pov was attacked Sunday after he tried to remove a hornets’ nest he had found in a bamboo thicket near his home.

“He wanted to remove it because the hornets posed a potential danger to villagers who walk past it,” Chan Narith said. “He also wanted to make food out of it.”

The victim’s family knew he had been stung but didn’t seek medical attention because they did not realise his injuries were so serious. Family members believed he had only been stung once or twice, said Chan Narith. In reality, hornets had stung him between 10 and 20 times.

Yi Pov fell asleep in pain and was dead by morning.

“If people knew how many times he was stung and sent him to the hospital on time, he would not have died,” Chan Narith said.

Yi Pov’s death was the first of its kind in Baray district, said district police Chief Hul Seng.

“We can say it is the carelessness of the victim’s family to assume that being stung by hornets poses no harm,” Hul Seng said. “But they were wrong.”

In late September, a 9-year-old boy died in Kampot province after he was stung more than 30 times by hornets. The boy and his mother were walking on a trail when a gust of wind knocked down a hornets’ nest from a nearby tree and the swarm of hornets attacked them.

Counting the cost of carbon

The newly designated Seima Protected Forest in Mondulkiri, viewed from the O’Rang station, could allow Cambodia to generate millions of dollars by selling carbon credits.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:01 Tom Evans

A new biodiversity reserve in Mondulkiri will enable Cambodia to exploit the nascent international market for carbon credits.

Recently, the Post reported the Cambodian government’s decision to create a large new reserve in Mondulkiri.

The Seima Protection Forest will safeguard threatened species and vulnerable indigenous communities, but the new twist was that this is also the first reserve Cambodia has created with the explicit aim of conserving carbon stocks.

New economic opportunities from carbon-offset trading almost certainly helped to convince the Council of Ministers to add another to Cambodia’s already long list of reserves and sanctuaries. It comes hot on the heels of a decision to try carbon-trading from community forests in Oddar Meanchey.

Trading in forest carbon is still in its early days but may well become a multi-billion-dollar sector worldwide, creating strong positive incentives to keep forests standing and bringing new hope to embattled conservationists in sites like Seima all around the world.

However, dealing in this new financial arena raises many questions for the practice of conservation and brings risks as well. Learning by doing at Seima will help the government and its NGO and donor partners prepare for national-scale implementation and also feedback into the development of the still-embryonic global carbon-governance systems.

The concept of trading in “avoided deforestation” is not new. It was shelved during negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol a decade ago, but key technical issues have now been overcome, and, just as importantly, most decision makers now believe that it is right.

Some vocal critics still hold that paying for carbon offsets overseas lets polluters in the developed world off the hook, but the centre position is now that this either/or distinction is irrelevant, and deep cuts will be needed in both deforestation and industrial emissions if runaway climate change is to be averted. Tonne for tonne, emissions from deforestation are cheaper to deal with than many others, so it makes little sense to focus only on the more expensive solutions.

World leaders decided back in 2007 that forest carbon would be included in the successor to Kyoto, but with only a few weeks to go until the decisive Copenhagen summit, major political wrangles continue. While we await clarity, a voluntary market in carbon credits has grown up, driven by organisations wishing to demonstrate their green credentials now and perhaps reap the benefits of being early adopters in the future compliance market.

A carbon credit is a seemingly insubstantial thing, a document certifying that something that could have happened did not, so great pains are being taken to raise the confidence of buyers that they represent something concrete. Seima and the Oddar Meanchey project will be audited against the Voluntary Carbon Standard, a globally accepted framework for proving that avoided deforestation claims are real. The requirements are complex, expensive and onerous, since the authors were anxious to avoid the loopholes that have reduced trust in other forms of carbon offset trading. Accurate measurement is mandatory. For the past six months, survey teams from the Cambodian Forestry Administration and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have crisscrossed Seima, measuring trees, bamboo and dead wood on hundreds of forest plots, then felled and weighed several entire trees to determine total carbon content. At the same time, analysts have studied a decade of recent satellite images to allow prediction of future deforestation rates in the absence of the carbon project. This provides a baseline against which we can, in future, compare the real results of the project and calculate what damage was avoided – and so can be claimed in credit. It is as counterintuitive as it sounds, but the alternative – simply paying for standing stocks of carbon – would mean paying for protection of large areas under no risk of deforestation; a questionable use of funds.

Additionality and permanence are two other key requirements. Additionality means proof that the emission reductions would not otherwise have occurred. In Seima, deforestation rates have been reined in but continue to rise, despite the best efforts of a conservation team limited in part by funds and in part by some doubt regarding the long-term legal future of the forest. The latter has been resolved with the declaration of the protection forest, and carbon funds will soon enable patrolling, community outreach, titling of indigenous lands and direct incentives to villagers to be implemented fully across the whole reserve for the first time. To back our arguments showing the permanence and durability of project design, the Voluntary Carbon Standard will also require Seima to place a large percentage of its credits, unsold, into a buffer reserve, pooled across many projects globally, which acts as an insurance policy if any sites should fail through mismanagement or misfortune.

Although this certification is hard, in a sense it is the easy part. Trading the resulting credits will take the government of Cambodia and partner organisations into uncharted waters where millions of dollars are at stake. WCS has useful prior experience to share, since it assisted the government of Madagascar to set up the Makira Protected Area as a carbon project in 2004 and has since helped to broker sales of 140,000 tonnes of credits. Many of the buyers are major financial institutions accustomed to driving hard bargains, and there are difficult choices to be made between holding out for the best prices and forming long-term agreements with for-profit brokers or buyers who offer the investment capital needed to get a project started. The greatest risks are perhaps on the upside, since speculators might make high profits that could have accrued to the country if currently low forest-carbon prices soar when large compliance markets open.

After sales, there will be a new series of challenges to overcome. To ensure a flow of fresh credits and sustain investor confidence, the state needs to ensure that enough of the revenues are spent on permanent forest protection and community incentives, and that the net revenue is spent in a transparent way. Environmental and social safeguards also come into play.

For its part, Cambodia has signalled through its choice of pilots that community protection and benefits will remain a top priority. There are concerns, however, that in countries where no such commitments have been made, unscrupulous governments and private companies will wrongly displace poor forest dwellers to generate easy credits. While the Voluntary Standard guards against this, compliance markets might not. It is a positive sign that price premiums already exist for credits that go beyond carbon to include net benefits for community and wildlife; the Cambodian pilots will aim to certify this added value under the standard of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, so helping Cambodia to leverage the greatest possible benefits from its finest forests.

Cambodia stands to benefit significantly from forest-carbon markets. If they work as planned over the coming decades, the country will be able to develop and industrialise without having to liquidate most of its forest for capital, as today’s industrialised countries once did. To make it happen, government and other stakeholders are going to need to learn quickly, keep learning as policies evolve and, above all, cooperate in forest protection and revenue management in as transparent a manner as possible. The first key steps have been taken on this road, but there is a long way to go.

Tom Evans is country programme director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia.

Structural problems causing garment woes: World Bank

A cassava farmer sorts his stock in Battambang province last week. Agriculture remains the driver of Cambodia's GDP, the World Bank said Wednesday, as the garment sector has lost US clients.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 05 November 2009 15:01 Nathan Green

Forecasting 2 percent contraction in GDP this year, Washington-based lender says Cambodian garment sector has seen United States market share slide

THE World Bank pointed towards structural problems in Cambodia’s garment industry Wednesday as it released a report predicting the country’s economy would shrink 2 percent this year.

Speaking by videoconference from Washington, Ivailo Izvorski, the lead author of the bank’s latest East Asia and Pacific Update, titled “Transforming the Rebound into Recovery”, said Cambodia’s market share in the key United States garment market had fallen from 3.2 percent last year to 2.8 percent in mid-2009.

All countries in the region had been hit hard as US demand for garments plummeted in the midst of the economic and financial crisis, but Cambodia was hit hardest.

“We see a very negative development, where Cambodia’s garment exports are losing market share in the US, suggesting that perhaps there are deeper structural problems with competitiveness,” he said. “Whether that will be reversed is very hard to say, but the fact they lost position is something that they have to think about … given how large the garment sector looms for the economy.”

Total garment exports fell 26 percent over the first six months of 2009, according to World Bank figures, leading to the closure of 18 percent of garment factories and the loss of around 65,000 jobs. Cambodia Ministry of Commerce figures show the US takes around 70 percent of the country’s garment exports.

The garment industry was identified as one of three key sectors hit hard by the global financial crisis. A decline in tourist arrivals and construction activity was also dragging down the economy, which grew 6.7 percent last year and by double digits in each of the preceding four years, the report said. Only agriculture, which accounts for 27 percent of GDP, was performing strongly, with continued improvement in paddy production.

World Bank Senior Country Economist for Cambodia Stephane Guimbert said agriculture looked set to grow around 5 percent this year and next, providing the bedrock for a 4 percent expansion in 2010 when combined with a slight recovery in other sectors, he said.

Crisis hits home hard
Along with Malaysia and Thailand, Cambodia was rated among the worst-performing economies in developing East Asia and the Pacific, which was set to grow 6.7 percent this year on the back of projected growth of 8.7 percent in China.

The report labelled the economic rebound “surprisingly swift and very welcome” but noted the regional outlook was “less rosy” if China was removed from the picture, expanding just 1 percent this year, more slowly than South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and only slightly faster than Sub-Saharan Africa.

Izvorski warned that Cambodia was not likely to benefit directly from China’s growth, as much of its demand was for imports of commodities, parts and components for processing, and whiteware, none of which were sourced from Cambodia.

However, other countries including South Korea and Japan would benefit, indirectly boosting Cambodia.

“As the rising tide lifts all ships, I think you can expect to see Cambodia benefiting from a return of tourism, a return of demand for garments, but I don’t think there will necessarily be any direct relationship between China and Cambodia,” Izvorski said.

Praise for stimulus
Guimbert said Cambodia’s use of a fiscal stimulus “was very appropriate to support the economy”, but warned that the government could not afford to maintain an expansionary fiscal position indefinitely.

He said the deficit was expected to expand to 6.7 percent of GDP this year, well above the budget target of 4 percent, mainly due to a larger wage bill and an increase in capital expenditure.

Cambodia entered the crisis after years of budget surpluses in which it built up government deposits, giving it the fiscal space to increase spending, but Guimbert warned that maintaining the stimulus too long could create systemic problems in the economy, as it would eventually need to borrow to fund spending.

However, tightening too quickly could derail growth.

“That’s the tough call that the government has to make this year,” he said. “How to maintain the very prudent fiscal stance that was achieved over the last 10 years or so but on the other hand how to continue supporting the economy.”