Wednesday, 25 November 2009

CEDAC Appeals for Good Rice Seeds

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 03:56 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC) on Tuesday appealed for local people to select the right rice seeds for planting next season to increase the harvest.

Whilst Cambodian farmers are just beginning this year’s main rice harvest, CEDAC has said that farmers still not yet understand well the importance of rice seed selection, a CEDAC press release said. CEDAC President Dr. Yang Saing Koma said that good rice seed selection can increase yields by up to 20 percent.

CEDAC is calling for some urgent technical measures for farmers and other stakeholders so that the rice yield can be increased, Yang Saing Koma said. “It is a good time for local farmers to choose good rice seeds and a piece of rice seeds will help provide good prices of rice seeds and provide high product,” he said.

“We envision a Cambodian society where small farming households enjoy good living conditions and strong mutual cooperation, with the right and power to determine their own destiny, as well as playing an important role in supplying healthy food for the whole society,” he said, appealing to local people not to burn down the straw stubble left after the rice harvest because it can help provide fertilizer for rice seedlings and transplants. Local people should plough the rice paddy fields after they have harvested, he added.

PM Claims Commitment on Anti-corruption Law

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 03:53 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PM Hun Sen on Tuesday once more again showed his strong commitment to hand the long-awaited anti-corruption law to the National Assembly for debate.

The anti-corruption law has been eagerly anticipated by an increasingly frustrated public and development partners for over a decade since the first mandate of the legislature.

The Cabinet will raise the anti-corruption law for debate in December 11, 2009 and then it will be handed to the NA to pass, he told hundreds of NGO officials at the 30th anniversary of NGO engagement in Cambodia the National Institute of Education.

PM Hun Sen has said on several occasions in the past few years that even though Cambodia lacks a specific law to combat corruption other laws to punish corruption cases. Cambodia already passed the new penal code paving the way to pass the anti-corruption law.

Yesterday at the ceremony, Pm Hun Sen said that Ngos should not worry about the upcoming law of NGO management as the law will provide transparency for capital sources of NGOs, he said. The anti-corruption law will provide the transparency for the government as demanded by NGOs and the general public. “This is not a measure of retaliation from the Government,” he stressed. “The Government does not retaliate with NGOs through law of NGO Manag- ement … We all need transparency.”

The Cambodian Government has rejected previous estimates of the cost of corruption to Cambodia. Corruption is a sensitive and was controversial issue for Cambodia but seems to be receiving more attention. Om Yen Teing, head of the Government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, has said he will resign if the anti-corruption law is not passed after the penal code.

Prey Veng Vendors Complain over Taxes

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 03:53 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian vendors have complained over import-export controls they claim are much more stringent than in other provinces.

Da, a vendor in the Kamchay Mear district of Prey Veng, told DAP News Cambodia that 4-5 police officers check the area.

“In other provinces, there is only one post to check—why does our province have so many?
The police at the posts ask for at least US$10 per goods consignment, he added.

Kamchay Mear District Governor Prak Sovann denied the allegations of unofficial tax posts.

Cambodia, Lao PMs hold talks on border demarcation, bilateral ties


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and visiting Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh on Wednesday held talks on the border demarcation for the two neighboring countries and bilateral ties.

"We have signed the agreement of border demarcation and we determined that the temporary demarcation markers that border committees from both sides already planted will become the real demarcation markers," Hor Namhong, Cambodia foreign minister told reporters after over two-hour talks between the two leaders at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

"We remained about 12 percent of planting border demarcation between the two countries and we are boosting for 100 percent for planting border markers to end it soon," he said.

Cambodia and Laos will exchange more students for scholarships respectively, and Lao Prime Minister also invited Hun Sen to attend the opening ceremony for upcoming SEA Game (South East Asian Games) in Laos, Hor said, adding that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen would be attended that ceremony, set to officially start on Dec. 9.

Moreover, both sides are also expanding economic cooperation, and will hold the meeting on multi-cooperation between the two countries in the future, Hor added.

According to press release from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, Bouasone pays the two-day official visit here and he will be received in Royal Audience by King Norodom Sihamoni and will also pay courtesy calls on Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

Editor: Han Jingjing

South Korea To Airlift Supplies To Storm-Hit Cambodia

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

SEOUL, Nov 25 (Bernama) -- South Korea will airlift about seven tonnes of supplies this week to Cambodia, as part of its pledge to help the Southeast Asian country bounce back from recent storm damage, Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday.

A C-130 transport aircraft carrying tuna cans, powdered milk, soap and other supplies will depart Thursday after the leaders of the two countries agreed last month on joint recovery efforts, the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul said in a statement.

South Korea will contribute US$200,000 worth of supplies, half of which will be carried on the aircraft while the other half will be delivered by local suppliers in Cambodia, the ministry said.

Typhoon Ketsana killed at least 18 people in central Cambodia in September, injuring 100 others and destroying scores of homes, according to news reports.


Thais Endorse PM’s Handling of Cambodia Row

November 25, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Most people in Thailand think Abhisit Vejjajiva has handled recent tensions with neighbouring Cambodia well, according to a poll by ABAC. 51.9 per cent of respondents say the prime ministers calm attitude has been appropriate, while 39.4 per cent say his response to Cambodia should be harsher.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democratic Party (PP), has been in office since December 2008.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia have become increasingly tense as, in early November, the Cambodian government announced that it had named former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, is a polarizing figure in Thailand. His supporters and critics have clashed on the streets since his departure from the country, and Thaksin has called for a "revolution" against the Abhisit government. The former prime minister has been convicted in cases of conflict of interest and would serve two years in jail if he returns to Thailand.

On Nov. 10, Thaksin arrived in Cambodia. The Thai government called for his extradition, which the Cambodian government rejected. Both countries have recalled their respective ambassadors and top diplomats over the Thaksin appointment.

On Nov. 17, Panitan Wattanayagorn, deputy secretary-general to Thai prime minister Abhisit, confirmed that the Thai government is looking for ways to curb aid to Cambodia over the Thaksin issue, declaring, "Most of the projects discussed are aid and loans for infrastructure projects, which might be delayed or cancelled."

Polling Data

Do you think the actions of Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva regarding Cambodia were appropriate or inappropriate?

Appropriate, he stayed calm in spite of provocation 51.9%

Inappropriate, he should take harsher measures in light of these developments 39.4%

Source: Assumption University of Thailand (ABAC)
Methodology: Interviews with 1,344 Thai adults in 17 provinces, conducted in November 2009. Margin of error is 2 per cent.

Lao PM visits Cambodia

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh arrived here on Wednesday to pay a two-day official visit at the invitation of his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen.

During his visit, Bouasone will be received in Royal Audience by King Norodom Sihamoni and hold talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen. And an agreement on border issues is planned to be signed by the leaders of the two countries.

Besides, the Lao prime minister will also pay courtesy calls on Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

Editor: Han Jingjing

Cambodian court to rule on spy charges against Thai engineer on Dec 8

November 25, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A Cambodian court is scheduled to deliver a ruling in the case against a Thai engineer, who was arrested on an espionage charge, on December 8, a senor Thai Justice Ministry official said Wednesday.

Thai News Agency quoted Thawee Sodsong, deputy permanent secretary for Justice, as saying that the court was scheduled to deliver a ruling on the case against Siwrak Chutipong on December 8.

Thawee arrived at the Suvarnabhumi Airport Wednesday morning after meeting the Cambodian justice minister and Siwarak in Phnom Penh, Thai News Agency said.

Thawee said the Cambodian justice minister promised to ensure that Siwarak would receive justice and he would make arrangement for Siwarak's mother to visit him in the prison.

Thawee said Siwarak was being detained in a 5 x 5 metre cell along with four other suspects.

The Nation

Khmer Rouge tribunal prosecutors seeking 40-year prison term for Duch

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:04 Robbie Corey-Boulet and Cheang Sokha

Prosecution says former Tuol Sleng prison chief abandoned "all respect" for human life at regime's most notorious torture centre

Prosecutors at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday requested a 40-year sentence for Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, saying the lengthy term behind bars would “reflect his conscious and free choice to abandon all respect for human life” while overseeing the torture and execution of more than 12,000 detainees during the regime's 1975-79 rule over the Kingdom.

The decision not to request a life sentence – the maximum allowed under Cambodian law – was prompted by several factors, including by the unlawful nature of Duch’s pre-trial detention, prosecutors said.

Duch was first apprehended in 1999 and held in a Cambodian military court until 2007, when he was transferred to the UN-backed tribunal's custody. The maximum length of time he should have been held under the Law on Duration of Pre-Trial Detention, adopted by the government in 1999, was three years.

In a June ruling, the tribunal's Trial Chamber determined that the period Duch spent at the military court had been “an error of application of procedural law”.

Acting international co-prosecutor William Smith said Wednesday that “the conversion of a life sentence to 45 years” would be an “appropriate remedy” for what he termed a “serious” violation of Duch’s rights.

In addition, Smith asked the judges to reduce Duch’s sentence by five years for his “general cooperation, limited acceptance of responsibility, his conditional remorse and the possible effect it may have on national reconciliation”.

The prosecution's sentencing request angered at least one survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime: Civil party Chum Mey, one of only a handful of inmates who survived the prison who in June told the court how he endured beatings and electric shocks while being held at Tuol Sleng.

“Forty years is not acceptable,” he said.

“I am not happy with the prosecutor’s request. For me personally, I think the court should sentence Duch for at least 70 or 80 years or the whole life sentence imprisonment. And in my heart, Duch should be punished by hanging. But we do not have the law that allows that.”

Duch is the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders in tribunal custody to be tried for crimes committed by the regime, under which an estimated 1.7 million people died of starvation, illness or execution.

Samak dies at 74

Photo by: AFP

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:03 AFP

Then-prime minister of Thailand Samak Sundaravej gives a traditional greeting after a press conference at the Government House in Bangkok in February 2008. Samak, who was forced from office in 2008 for paid appearances on television cooking shows, died of liver cancer Tuesday at the age of 74, associates said.

NGO law is on the horizon

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:03 Sebastian Strangio and Khouth Sophak Chakrya

PRIME Minister Hun Sen announced Tuesday that the government has moved ahead with drafting a law to regulate the activities of NGOs, prompting fresh concerns that the proposed legislation will be used to clamp down on the activities of advocacy groups.

At a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the cooperation between NGOs and the government, Hun Sen said the presence of 3,000 NGOs in Cambodia requires new rules to weed out groups engaged in “opposition” politics.

“NGOs demand that the government shows transparency, but they can’t show the same to us,” he said.

“We respect the local and international NGOs whose activities serve humanity and help the government of Cambodia.... They will not be threatened by this draft law. But we believe that some NGOs whose activities seem to serve the opposition party will be afraid of it.”

Hun Sen also said that after the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, very few NGOs came to Cambodia’s assistance due to an aid embargo among Western nations, but that now there were thousands of groups, some of which used their NGO status as a cloak to “play politics and support the opposition party”.

The premier’s comments echoed statements made at a cabinet meeting in September last year, in which he expressed concerns that NGO funding could come from “terrorist groups”.

Despite Hun Sen’s assurances that the new law will not restrict the scope of NGO activities, some civil society activists are concerned it could conflate advocacy with political affiliation.

“Some associations and NGOs are mandated to do national and international advocacy on human rights and other issues, but it should not be concluded that these groups are affiliated with any political parties,” said Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho. “NGOs are by nature nongovernmental and non-political.”

She said that from communications with the ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs, Licadho had learned that the draft law will cover both international and local associations.

“I do not understand why a law for associations and NGOs needs to be drafted to combat terrorism and other crimes when existing laws already cover such crimes,” she added.

Sin Somuny, executive director of Medicam, a national umbrella organisation for health-sector NGOs, said it was fair to ask that NGOs practice what they preach in terms of transparency, but that the potentially broad definition of “political interference” made the new law a hazard for advocacy groups.

“In America, NGOs advocate for policy change – are these kinds of things considered ‘politics’? If they are, what kind of role can civil society play?” he said.

Sin Somuny, a speaker at Tuesday’s ceremony, said that though NGO activists and opposition politicians often fall on the same side of arguments, their relationship is “ambiguous” and did not indicate any allegiance.

Chith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said he “welcomed” the premier’s comments that the law would not restrict the NGO activities but could not comment further, as he had not read the draft law.

Lengthy sentence sought for Duch

Photo by: AFP
Buddhist monks attend the trial of former Khmer Rouge chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, on Tuesday. Duch is expected to deliver his closing statement today.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:03 Robbie Corey Boulet

A LENGTHY prison sentence for Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, would serve as a resounding repudiation of the facility he ran and the sadistic policies he so zealously promoted, prosecutors told the Khmer Rouge tribunal in their closing statements Tuesday.

“There are some crimes that are so serious, which involve the suffering of so many victims, which shock the conscience so profoundly, that the only response can be a lengthy prison sentence,” said national co-prosecutor Chea Leang.

Her counterpart, acting international co-prosecutor William Smith, said such a sentence would have a deterrent effect on “others who may be tempted to commit crimes like this against their fellow human beings”, adding: “It’s the Cambodian and international community’s way of saying S-21 should never have happened and it should never happen again.”

Due to technical difficulties with the court’s audio system, however, the prosecutors’ statements were cut short by about a half-hour, meaning they did not have the chance to tell judges the specific sentence they were seeking. Both Smith and Chea Leang said afterwards that they were planning to do so Wednesday morning.

As they have throughout the trial, the prosecution sought to refute the defence lawyers’ claim that Duch was a reluctant servant of the Communist Party of Kampuchea who had no choice but to carry out the arrests, torture and executions ordered by his superiors.

Rather, Chea Leang said: “He was the personification of ruthless efficiency. He was totally indifferent to the suffering of the victims. He was the perfect candidate to run S-21.”

Smith pointed out that judges were offered two wildly different descriptions of the accused during six months of evidentiary hearings. Whereas the defence routinely portrayed him as “a prisoner and a hostage forced to kill and torture human beings on a daily basis against his will”, the prosecution, he said, believed Duch was “a crusader who was prepared to sacrifice everything for his cause, prepared to torture and kill willingly for the good of the revolution”.

Smith accused Duch of having shaped every aspect of Tuol Sleng and its operations, describing the prison as a product of his devotion to Khmer Rouge ideology.

He said Duch “played a central role” in ordering the arrests of perceived enemies of the party, and that he coached and participated in violent interrogation sessions. The only reason Duch had not participated in executions, Smith added, was because he had determined that it “would not have been the best use of his time”.

“We do not suggest that the accused is a monster, nor do we say he is pathologically inhumane,” Smith said. “However, we reject any suggestion that he was a prisoner of the regime and a less-than-willing participant in the crimes. Based on the evidence, this claim is completely unfounded.”

From arrest to execution
Chea Leang outlined the specific crimes prosecutors contend have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In all, she said, Duch is liable for eight specific crimes against humanity: imprisonment, other inhumane acts, enslavement, torture, murder, extermination, persecution and rape.

She also referred to five grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and two violations of the 1956 Cambodian penal code.

Far more affecting, though, was her description of the typical Tuol Sleng prisoner’s journey from arrest to execution, which drew on the experiences of three Tuol Sleng survivors who provided some of the case’s most memorable testimony – two painters, Vann Nath and Bou Meng, and a mechanic, Chum Mey.

She reminded judges how Vann Nath told them in June of being tortured in district and regional security offices before he was finally taken to Tuol Sleng, where he was taunted by guards as his personal details were recorded and his photograph taken. Chea Leang also recalled how he wept from the dock as he asserted that prisoners “were treated more as animals than as humans”.

Though most prisoners were interrogated, Chum Mey, a civil party, “was treated particularly badly”, Chea Leang said. The day after Vann Nath’s testimony, Chum Mey told judges how interrogators gave him electric shocks and pulled his toenails out, at one point taking off his sandals to show his scarred feet.

Chea Leang also reminded judges how civil party Bou Meng had been “taken to a room and invited to choose which implement his interrogators should use to beat him”, and how Duch had personally instructed him to fight with another detainee “for his own cynical amusement”.

“But from surviving S-21 documents, and from prison staff who gave testimony or statements before these chambers, we know that there were even worse torments,” Chea Leang said, citing as examples how prisoners were forced to eat excrement and were subjected to medical experiments.

Though they obviously suffered, Vann Nath, Chum Mey and Bou Meng were lucky in that they were afforded the opportunity to describe crimes committed against them in open court, Chea Leang said.

In an overwhelming majority of cases, she said, “only the prison guards and the accused himself are able to describe the fate that awaited the victims”.

“At what point,” she asked, “did the victims know they were about to be executed? Was it when they were sitting on the trucks en route to the killing fields? Was it as they were taken down from the vehicle and let out into the darkness, or when they were kept waiting in the small hut, the noise of the generator attempting to drown out the screams of those ahead of them? Surely, they must have known as they were led out one by one and forced to kneel beside the execution pits that their lives were at an end.”

KCF chairman’s conviction upheld in Municipal Court

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Lighting installed inside the Angkor Wat temple ignited controversy earlier this year.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:03 Meas Sokchea

Phnom Penh Municipal Court upheld its verdict against Khmer Civilisation Foundation (KCF) chairman Moeung Sonn on Tuesday, ordering the absent defendant to serve two years in jail and pay a fine of 15 million riels (US$3,598).

In a retrial of a case originally decided on July 14, deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot and government lawyer Pal Chandara argued that Moeung Sonn, currently living in France to avoid imprisonment, was guilty of disinformation for comments he made at a press conference in May that a light installation at Angkor Wat would damage the 11th-century temple. The KCF chairman subsequently appealed the decision.

“The accused has filed a complaint contesting the original verdict, but he does not have the confidence to show up here today, so I would like the court to uphold its decision,” Ek Chheng Huot said.

Sam Sokong, Moeung Sonn’s lawyer, told the court that his client had not engaged in disinformation, but had merely voiced valid concerns also aired elsewhere.

“He just said that the company [that installed the lights] did not perform its work properly. My client’s comments were not disinformation, and he had no intention to degrade the government’s reputation,” Sam Sokong said.

Sam Sokong added that he planned to lodge an appeal on Moeung Sonn’s behalf, and that Moeung Sonn would write new letters of apology to the government in hopes of securing an acquittal. Moeung Sonn had previously written a letter of apology to deputy Prime Minister Sok An, head of the Apsara Authority.

Pal Chandara said that Moeung Sonn’s comments were tantamount to incitement and defended the need for government action in the case.

“Moeung Sonn is not the only one who loves Angkor. We all love Angkor together,” Pal Chandara said. “Moeung Sonn’s allegations caused a strong reaction from the people, so if the government had not intervened on time, unrest would have occurred.”

Judge Chhay Kong said the hearing had done little to change his opinion from July’s decision, and reaffirmed the original prison term and fine levied in the case.

Speaking by phone from France, Moeung Sonn said there was no chance for him to receive a fair trial because he could not attend the hearing without fear of being arrested upon arrival in Cambodia.

“I did not attend because I was afraid of being arrested, but I do not have the intention to harm the government’s reputation,” he said.

Thailand Row: Govt control of Thai firm temporary

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:03 Sam Rith and James O'toole

Thailand Row

Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) will return to its original management upon the conclusion of the trial of CATS employee Siwarak Chotipong, who was arrested earlier this month for allegedly stealing the flight schedule of fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a government adviser said.The Cambodian government took control of Thai-owned CATS last week, installing a government care-taker and barring the nine Thai employees of the company from discharging their duties. Government adviser Tith Sothea, however, said these measures would be in effect only for the duration of Siwarak’s trial. “The government will implement the same structure as the firm had previously, and there will be no changes made from the original agreement between the firm and the government following the conclusion of the case,” he said. Siwarak’s defence attorney, Kao Soupha, said Tuesday that a Thai government delegation had arrived to assist in preparations for Siwarak’s trial, the date of which has not yet been set.

Villagers voice defiance as eviction nears

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:03 May Titthara and Jacob Gold


ON the eve of the expected eviction of Kraya commune, besieged by police since a long-running land dispute flared into violence last week, villagers said they were bracing for another clash with authorities.

“If they want to talk, we will talk. If they want to use violence, we will welcome it,” said Pou Kin, a representative of the community in Kampong Thom’s Santuk district.

Other villagers vowed a repeat of the unrest that erupted on November 16, when 200 demonstrators torched several police vehicles and four excavators belonging to a Vietnamese rubber company that has laid claim to land villagers say belongs to them.

Afraid to sleep in their homes in case the authorities arrive before dawn, some villagers elected to sleep instead in the cassava fields just outside town. Many congregated in the close quarters of a village pagoda. Others locked themselves in their homes – which after today could be reduced to ruins.

A few villagers made an early escape. With the eviction looming, four of the 13 people still sought for their roles in last week’s riot successfully broke through the police cordon on Monday night, escaping into the forest.

“The four men fled the commune last night after seeing their names on an anonymous letter, which called them ringleaders and urged other villagers to turn them in,” said Prom Saroth, a commune resident.

“Tonight our worries are doubled. First, for our own security during tomorrow’s eviction. Second, for the safety of our people who fled into the forest. We don’t know whether or not they were arrested, or what might have happened to them.”

The letter was part of the authorities’ overall tactic of using threats to coerce villagers into accepting land compensation offers, he said.

Ek Mat Muoly, Santuk district police chief, said: “We’re not concerned with this supposed anonymous letter because it was an unofficial letter. We were keeping quiet and waiting for orders from our high-level officers.

“I think these people were afraid because they burned down police and private property and [Wednesday] is the deadline for them. I think we will get our orders to move out today.”

Seven people have so far been arrested in connection with the dispute, which centres on 8,000 hectares of land bought by rubber firm Tin Bean in 2007 but has been home to hundreds of families since 2004.

They have been charged with the destruction of private property after last week’s riot, during which villagers say military police charged them with clubs and axes. The authorities eventually withdrew, but surrounded the commune and lay down a dragnet for 20 villagers they say masterminded the incident.

Today “we will go enforce the eviction deadline if they do not agree to get our compensation policy, because we need to respect the government’s decision”, Santuk district Governor Pich Sophea said Tuesday.

Villagers have been offered land and a house in exchange for leaving the disputed property.

Fire levels three Tuol Kork homes

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Locals extinguish the last flames of a fire that destroyed three homes and a car in Boeung Salang on Tuesday.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:02 Chhay Channyda and Sen David

A FIRE in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district Tuesday destroyed three homes, and one official warned that the destruction could have been much worse if fire crews had not used all the city’s fire trucks to battle the blaze.

“We were lucky because the fire trucks were able to stop the fire easily,” said Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth. “It did not spread to other houses.”

Yesterday’s fire was sparked by faulty electrical wires in the home of a resident, officials said.

The blaze erupted less than a week after a massive fire tore through a village in Russey Keo’s Chraing Chamres II commune, forcing almost 2,000 people from their homes. On Monday, a smaller fire 3 kilometres away in Svay Pak commune razed three houses to the ground.

Residents displaced by Thursday’s fire still lack medicine, said commune Chief Van Thorn.

Authorities now plan to station at least two fire trucks in Russey Keo district, said Yun Chhun Ny, the National Police deputy chief in charge of fire.

However, the head of Phnom Penh’s Fire Department said previous calls for firefighting equipment have been met with silence.

“Right now, we only have 10 fire trucks, which is not enough to serve the whole city,” said Neth Vantha, director of the Municipal Fire Department.

“We have asked the ministry for help many times, but they ignored us.”

Killer of SRP activist still at large: police

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:02 Tep Nimol and Kim Yuthana

THE lead suspects in the murder of a Sam Rainsy Party activist from Kampong Thom have gone into hiding in the remote northwest of the country in order to avoid arrest, local authorities said Tuesday.

Huoth Bunhua, a police official in Steung district’s Chamnar Leu commune, said authorities had already identified the suspects and were hunting for them, but that the perpetrators found out about the plan in advance and managed to escape.

“We have enough documents and evidence to arrest those perpetrators and send them to face trial,” he said.

Chou Song, 23, the son-in-law of the victim, said his father-in-law, Touch Hot, 45, was shot dead by unidentified men on September 3 while eating dinner with his family.

After the incident, the SRP issued a statement condemning the murder and called for authorities at all levels to launch investigations into the killing.

After initial investigations, officials said the shooting was not politically motivated.

“We think that this killing is not related to a political issue,” Steung district police Deputy Chief Van Sophan said.

He said the suspect accused the victim of being a sorcerer. Witchcraft-related killings have been occasionally reported in Cambodia and have been condemned by the government.

Dutch investors mull $300m solar project

Two Dutch businessmen are looking into building acres of solar panels in Cambodia to create an electricity-generating plant like this one near Boulder City, Colorado. BLOOMBERG

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:01 Jeremy Mullins

Businessmen backed by international financiers say scheme has government support but is still years away from launch

Two Dutch businessmen said Tuesday they were considering investing up to US$300 million to build acres of solar panels in Cambodia to generate electricity, though they warned that completion of the project could be “three to four years” away and posed several challenges.

The businessmen, Peter Wijnans and Frans Marchand, said the solar project would be backed by international investors interested in the environmentally friendly aspects of alternative energy development, they said, but declined to name the investors.

“Cambodia is a country of young people; they know that this is the right thing to do,” said Wijnans.

The group considering either one giant solar array or four or five smaller individual sites. It would resemble large international solar projects presently operating in Spain and the United States, Wijnans said.

The solar proposal already has the full support of the government, he added.

Energy demand in Cambodia is expected to grow 3.7 percent per year from 2005 to 2030 as manufacturing industries are established and more households are connected to the electricity grid, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) released earlier this month.

Just 20 percent of households are currently connected to the national grid, which is fragmented into isolated power systems centred on provincial towns and cities.

Because of the high cost of extending that grid, the report said, renewable energy technologies such as solar heating, biogas for cooking, and solar and wind power generation are potential options for extending energy to rural areas.

Trade mission
The pair were among more than 20 Dutch businessman in Phnom Penh taking part Tuesday in a trade mission organised by the embassy of the Netherlands in Thailand and the Netherlands-Thai Chamber of Commerce.

The two-day event, which concludes with a presentation by Cambodian officials, was designed to introduce Dutch businessmen to the Kingdom.

“If you’re serious about investing, it’s good to be informed and to do your own investigation,” said Wijnans, adding that he had already researched the Kingdom extensively.

Tuesday morning saw three speakers discuss the realities of doing business in Cambodia. Leopard Capital CEO Douglas Clayton, the first of the presenters, said Asia was recognised as the centre of global growth.

“Cambodia has been overlooked and it provides an opportunity to latecomers,” he said.

“Asia is blossoming, and Cambodia plays its part. It comes down to being in the right place at the right time.”

He also downplayed the country’s high-profile spat with Thailand over Preah Vihear temple and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s decision to appoint fugitive Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

“People serious about investing here take the time to realise Preah Vihear is carefully controlled, and will not be allowed to impede economic growth,” he said.

Sjaak de Klein, country general manager of TNT Express Worldwide, said the poor domestic transportation network remains a potential pitfall to doing business in the Kingdom.

Serious road improvements are under way, but railway construction and repairs are approximately five years away from becoming a viable option for shipping goods, he said.

First of 11 job centres opened in capital city

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal

The first of 11 job centres planned for Cambodia was launched in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to help bring job seekers and recruiters together.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training Secretary of State Pich Sophorn said the centres would better match the skills of job seekers with the needs of employers to boost workplace productivity.

“Labour market information made available through the centre will not only coordinate job seekers and recruiters but also help the government develop effective labour market policies” he said.

He also said it would help break a culture of nepotism in employment practices and provide transparency in hiring by making information on vacancies available to a wider pool of job seekers. “I think all Cambodians should be fairly informed about labour markets through the centre,” he said.

Carmela Torres, a senior skills specialist at the International Labour Organisation, which provided technical and financial support, said the centre would be an important tool for helping workers laid off during the ongoing economic crisis. “The ILO will give further support to establish more centres in the future, as they are an important institution for providing job and career services to Cambodian people,” she said.

Pich Sophorn said the ministry will also launch a job centre in Battambang this year and 9 next year to help job seekers and provide the ministry with labour market information.

“We hope the system of providing information on labour markets through the centre will help the government compile data and set up targets for specific training,” he said.

Dispute passes border brothers by

Photo by: Nguon Sovan
Tourists wait in line to enter Cambodia at Koh Kong province’s Cham Yeam border checkpoint.

The people of Trat consider the people of Koh Kong their brothers, so there is no enmity at all....

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Trade across the Koh Kong border crossing has been relatively unaffected by rising tension between Cambodia and Thailand, though locals say tourists appear more easily scared off

Koh Kong

Despite the escalating political spat between Cambodia and Thailand in recent weeks, officials said Tuesday that cross-border movement of goods and labour between Cambodia’s Koh Kong province and neighbouring Trat province in Thailand remained normal.

However, tourist numbers have declined, said Suos Sokdara, chief of Cambodian immigration police at the Cham Yeam crossing between the two provinces.

“This is normally peak season, with roughly 100 tourists crossing the border each day,” he said. “But in recent weeks it’s been quiet, only about 20 tourists a day, due to safety concerns set off by all the political tension.”

Prathip Chongsubthum, vice governor of Thailand’s Trat province, said that the two provinces’ relative immunity to political turmoil was long-established.

“The people of Trat consider the people of Koh Kong their brothers, so there is no enmity at all between the two provinces,” he said.

“Because once, in the past, Koh Kong was Thai people and Thai people were Koh Kong – it’s different from other border provinces.”

Prathip Chongsubthum said there were no official trade figures between the two border provinces, but that, generally, Trat exports fruits, vegetables and consumer goods to Koh Kong, while in return, Koh Kong exports a smaller volume of foodstuffs, mostly fish, to Trat.

Prasoet Siri, chairman of the Trat Chamber of Commerce, said that despite the ongoing dispute between the two governments, Cambodian and Thai merchants at the border market get along well.

“They are like brothers. There is never a fight,” he said. “However, both sides have been buying goods to stockpile because the merchants are waiting to see what will happen, lowering market activity by 30 percent over the last few months.”

Bun Na, a 45-year-old Koh Kong resident who has navigated a boat transporting goods from Trat province’s S Kittawan Port for 10 years, said there was no noticeable change in shipping patterns.

“I do not see any decline in goods shipments from this port over to Koh Kong,” said Bun Na. “Thai merchants here told me that Cambodians are nearly their sole prospects. If they do not do business with the Khmer, there will be no one to do business with.”

Bun Na said that trade with Koh Kong was only active on the Thai side because there were few products exported to Thailand from Koh Kong.

“Anytime I ship consumer goods or construction materials from Thailand to Koh Kong, my boat returns empty,” he said.

Thailand’s exports to the Kingdom were worth just over US$1 billion in the first eight months of the year, a drop of 30.29 percent on the same period last year and more than 25 times Cambodia’s exports in the other direction.

Up to the end of August, the Kingdom exported just $39 million in goods to Thailand, according to figures from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh – mostly garments, unprocessed agricultural products, fish and recyclable metal.

Discussing the possibility of border closures in a November 8 speech, Prime Minister Hun Sen said, “People from both sides will lose benefits [from closing border gates], but Cambodia will not face a huge income loss like Thailand,” adding that such a move by Bangkok would be against the will of its own people.

Chan Ra, a jewellery vendor at the Hadlex market on the Thai border with Koh Kong, said: “95 percent of customers are Thais, and they still do shopping in the market as normal; we do not see any hostility among the people,” he said.

Prasoet Siri said that Hadlex market on the Thai side of border had 60 stalls, and that 70 percent of vendors there were Cambodian.

Interning seen as bridge to work

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Young graduates today are aware of the need for having practical professional experience - many without hands-on training are uncertain about securing a job in their chosen specialisations.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:01 Channy Chheng and Tristan Chan

The practical importance of professional internships is being increasingly recognised by more Cambodian undergraduates – many of whom lack the relevant real-life work experience

As the number of students graduating from university every year continues increasing rapidly, opportunities for fresh graduates seeking employment become slim and exceedingly competitive, often requiring candidates with experience of a high calibre.

“They will ask about our experience once we apply for a job,” said audiovisual technician Lach Vannak, 24, who is now working at the Open Institute.

Vannak recalls his experience of doing two internships during his time as a student and how that has helped him to work at a professional level now.

“It does allow me to apply from what I learn at school,” said Vannak, explaining the advantages of internships that have provided him with many practical skills while he was studying. “Sometimes, we can learn in an internship what we miss in school,” he said.

Saray Samadee, 22, a media studies student, is doing her internship as a communication assistant at ActionAid, a non-profit organisation working to end poverty. She says, “Just knowing what you have learnt is not enough, you have to practice and apply it.”

As a senior year student, Saray Samadee is fully occupied with the demands of her schoolwork and classes. However, she still accepts internships that she is offered, as she is aware it will strengthen her resume while increasing her options and chances when applying for a job in the future.

“My internship will last for five months, and I am so satisfied with what I have been doing and learning at the organisation. “I am standing on the right way and getting ready for the job,” Saray Samadee said.

Even though her position’s tasks are relevant to her major at school, Saray Samadee admitted that throughout the first month of her work she has encountered many obstacles – many of which are tasks or problems that she never came across in her lessons.

“At times, real work is different from what we learn at school,” she said. But those difficulties are no longer her concerns.

Some educational institutions seem to ignore internship opportunities for their students, but Tieng Sopheak Vichea, head of the Department of Media and Communication at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, says it is part of the school’s strategy in making the university a highly prestigious and qualified education provider.

“Internships are compulsory for the students during their academic year.”

“Students in the department are strongly encouraged and technically supported to find internships and any training courses,” he said.

Moreover, he aims to make students in his department equipped and fully functional for the future workforce.

The department ensures students receive equal grounding in theoretical and practical works. Students are required to do internships at least twice during the course of their studies.

Internships are uncommon to some Cambodian students – many puzzled by what it involves or requires of them.

Some admitted that they do not know what internships are and the methods or measures of obtaining one.

“I have sent applications responding to many job announcements upon graduating in the middle of this year, but received no reply,” said undergraduate Sros Savoeun, 26, who has never done an internship.

Job opportunities are inaccessible and tough to find, partly because most jobs require suitably trained applicants with experience.

According to the Department of Higher Education, there are more than 130,000 students, studying at Cambodian universities this year alone.

But only a few of them have done any formal training or internships to get professional work experience before their graduation.

This leaves behind many inexperienced students who have to surmount huge barriers when they are looking for jobs in the future – inadequate experience becomes a hindrance usually resulting in them not being able to secure a job in a field they had studied or trained for.

Tieng Sopheak Vichea is also concerned about the state of internship providers, “Most of these internships are provided by non-governmental organisations rather than government institutions, which are not responding to the number of students.

A survey by the Youth Star, an international youth organisation, reveals that only one out of every nine students can find a job after they graduate.

Therefore, seeking internships or jobs in relevant fields is seen to be problematic for fresh graduates without professional experience, amid the recession and a saturated job market.

Education officials move to establish foundation courses

Photo by: Pahr Lina
Ty Socheata absorbing more cultural history and current events to better understand her country’s problematic past.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:01 Colin Meyn and Paph Syna

The Ministry of Education aims to broaden university curricula by providing more instruction on social and cultural topics

The Accredidation Committee of Cambodia (ACC), overseen by the Council of Ministers, has informed deans and directors of the Kingdom’s higher education institutions that part of the committee’s review of university programmes will include the introduction of foundation courses on Khmer cultural studies and Khmer Rouge history in the official curriculum.

The review will also ensure that courses and extracurricular activities cover social topics such as trafficking, illegal drugs and HIV/AIDS. Students at the Kingdom’s public and private universities say they are adequately informed about many of these subjects, but are anxious to know more and use their knowledge to improve their country.

Kim Meng, 19, studying finance and banking at Pannasastra University, said he has already learned about the Khmer Rouge from his family and a bit in school. “But we need to learn more about the problem,” he said. “If we want to stop these things from happening in the future, we must understand everything about the past.”

Today’s university students also say they want to learn about their country for the future. “We need to learn about the history of our country so that we can teach our children and they can teach theirs,” said Hor Ang Sim, 23, a dentistry student at the University of Health and Science.

“I want to know more about my culture, and also cultures abroad, so that we can find out what is the best and make it happen in Cambodia,” said Chhay Leang Sim, a second year student at the National University of Management.

The ACC has asked universities to invite experts and lecturers to speak about social ills, and while students say they do not think these problems directly impact them, they want to have a hand in turning the situation around. “It’s not a big problem for the people I know,” said Voeun Sarath, an English literature student at Pannasastra University. “But if we want to help eliminate the problem, we need to learn about why it is happening and how we can stop it.”

The ACC originated in 2003 as a watchdog organisation in charge of creating regulatory standards by which all licensed higher education institutions must comply. Thus far, they have focused their efforts only on the first year of study, but they will begin full institutional assessments in the coming years with the aid of a multi-million-dollar grant from the World Bank.

Pen Sithol, director of the ACC’s Department of Standards and Accreditation, is aware that students may have already learned about these historical and social topics, culling perceptions from television depictions, music, television and from accounts from their families, “but there are students coming from all over the place with very different experiences”, he said.

“We want to make sure they all have enough information before beginning their higher studies.”

Heading West in the search for scholarship

Photo by: Jet Odrerir
Studying abroad on an exchange programme in America has radically changed Puth Sopherk’s (above) cultural outlook and made him rethink his beliefs and attitudes.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:01 Jet Odrerir

Puth Sopherk shares his enthusiasm about studying abroad at Avondale High School in Detroit. Finer moments of his exchange include eclectic classes, refreshing festivities and unusual travels

What prompted you to study abroad?
My uncle had been to California and he wanted me to study in the US, so I applied at my school to study there.

What did you need to do to become an exchange student?
I got the information from the administration at my school. The first step is you take a test and if you pass they will show information about families that want to host students and I could check information on the Internet about what it would be like. I could send emails to my host family and know about them.

How was the transition to living there?
The host family didn’t have any kids of their own, but they had hosted an exchange student from Germany about five years previously.

They were waiting for me and they had seen pictures of me so they called my name.

I was so tired so I didn’t talk much. The flight was more than 24 hours. I flew from Phnom Penh to Taipei, Los Angeles and then Detroit. It was my first time flying.

I was there just one week and I started school. The first week I went to the school to sign up, I got my books and things and then it started.

Did it affect your perception of America when you were there?
No. It looked the same as on American movies.

The other students were quiet to me for the first week. Then they made small talk after that, asked about me. There were some of Asian students there, students from other countries. I went to the public school so they had the general population there.

What classes did you take there?
Trigonometry, art, gym, science, US government, principals of business management. In English class we studied the tragedies.

How were classes different there?
In Cambodia all of the students stay in one classroom. In America we have to go to different classrooms for different subjects.

There were a lot of lockers for the students everywhere in the halls.

They had a swimming pool and a big gymnasium, a library and science labs.
The size of classes were about the same.

How did you benefit from studying in America?
The first month was hard to study but I got some tutoring from some teachers, and my host family spent time with me at night to help me with my studies.

It was different having classes in English all day. It really helped my English, and it was a great experience to see another culture.

Did you have time for fun while you were there?
During Khmer New Year I cooked for my host family. I found the ingredients at an Asian market.

It was the first time I cooked but it was good. I made eggplant curry soup.

In the winter we all went to Florida for a holiday one week. We went to DisneyWorld, Sea World and Universal Studios. We went to the beach.

Florida was beautiful. It had sunshine and a lot of lights at night.

It was too exciting for me to get homesick.

Interview by Jet Odrerir

Student gets scholarship hat-trick

Photo by: Roth Meas
Keo Bonoeun clinched three scholarships from Kosomak Polytechnic University, Mekong University and Veang Chan City University in Laos.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:00 Roth Meas

Keo Bonoeun says he feels lucky to have received so many awards, but choosing the right programme was difficult

Scholarships are difficult to come by for students in Cambodia, where school officials say competition remains fierce. However, one enterprising young scholar has managed to win three awards – two from Cambodian universities and a third from the Laotian government.

Keo Bonoeun, 21, a freshman from Takeo province studying at Kosomak Polytechnic Institute, said he won sponsorship from the government to cover the costs of his student fees for four years of study. But this year, he decided to submit applications for additional scholarships, at Mekong University in Cambodia and Veang Chan City University in Laos.

“I was excited to see if I could win more scholarships, but I didn’t think I would be lucky enough to win,” he said, adding that he knew the odds were against him because of the sheer numbers of students seeking financial aid for their studies.

Keo Bonoeun was one of 90 students out of about 2,000 applicants awarded a scholarship from Mekong University, he said. The award covers all school fees for four years of study.

But he also applied, and won, one of six scholarships granted this year by the Laotian government, which provides a more comprehensive award package that includes school fees, accommodation, food and miscellaneous expenses, Keo Bonoeun said.

Continuing his studies in Cambodia poses several challenges, Keo Bonoeun said, because despite the scholarship, he would still be responsible for paying his living expenses in Phnom Penh. So, the choice of which scholarship to accept proved difficult.

“If I take one, I have to give up the rest. It was hard to decide.”

But decide he did, and the lucrative nature of the Laotian award tipped the balance, though the required course of study at Veang Chan City University is not exactly to his liking.

In his first year, he is required to study the Laotian language – something he looks forward to. But in successive years, he must pursue a degree in information technology.

“Actually, I didn’t want to study IT, but I had already chosen it when I applied for the scholarship. I think after I complete the one year of language study, I will ask the university to change my major to agriculture and rural development,” he said, adding that he is interested in pursing a range of subjects that will offer him better job prospects in the future.

As for the one-year language requirement, Keo Bonoeun said it might eventually help him secure a job at the Cambodian embassy in Laos – one of many career paths the young scholar said he is considering.

Keo Boneoun also takes pride in his proficiency in mathematics and social morality, which he says figures heavily in the scholarship application process, in Cambodia, as well as neighbouring countries.

“Actually, all Cambodian applicants are able to score well in mathematics, but many have difficulty with their social morality exams,” he said, adding that preparation for such tests require a deep commitment of time and focus.

“I know how to meditate well,” he said, describing his methods of approach to examinations. “Before I start to take a test or study by myself, I have to do meditation in order to bring my mind back into focus and to concentrate on what I am about to do.”

Police Blotter: 25 Nov 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009 15:02 Bun Tharum and Phak Seangly

A mother of 10 children died unexpectedly after taking medication in Ratanakkiri province’s Banlung town on Saturday. The 52-year-old had been receiving treatment from a local clinic for an arthritic hand. The woman’s husband, however, sent her to the hospital when he saw that she was not getting better despite taking the medicine. When he checked in on her later, he found that she had died. Police say they are investigating the death.

A 24-year-old man was arrested after he allegedly tried to rape his neighbour in Kampong Cham province’s Suong town on Sunday. Police said the attack happened when the 19-year-old victim came home after helping her parents at a local market. When she entered her home, she was attacked and lost consciousness after the suspect allegedly used “brute force” to restrain the girl. The girl was saved when bystanders heard the commotion. The suspect told police he wanted to have sex with the girl because he was in love with her, authorities said.

A 27-year-old man has been accused of raping and killing his 23-year-old sister-in-law while her husband was out at sea. Police in Koh Kong province’s Dang Tung district say the suspect went to the victim’s house Thursday night when her husband was away on a multi-day fishing trip. The suspect is currently in custody. Police say he has not admitted to the crime.

Brothels are flourishing near the border with Thailand in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district, area residents say. Some in the area expressed concern about the growing number of brothels and beer gardens, saying that authorities have paid little attention to the trend. Residents said they fear that such businesses will increase the crime rate in the area because the establishments could attract dodgy characters.

A man who rammed a borrowed car into a motorcyclist in Phnom Penh’s Chey Chamneah neighbourhood has not been charged because he was not drunk and he has offered to pay compensation. Police said the 50-year-old victim sustained only minor facial injuries after the Saturday collision, although his helmet broke when he hit the ground.