Friday, 27 November 2009

Army Rejects Thai Digging Rumors

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:59 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A senior Cambodian army officer at Preah Vihear on Thursday rejected claims and reports that Thai soldiers at the border were digging many holes.

The rejection made following some reports and rumors from Thailand that Thai soldiers stationed at the border dug 350 holes.

Chea Dara, Cambodian Preah Vihear army chief, said that the situation is still normal and that the two sides’ soldiers very often meet one another and play games of football or volleyball to reduce tension.

“The report raised that Thai solders dug holes was not true as this event took place since 6 or 7 months,” Chea Dara told DAP News Cambodia on Thursday.

However, Chea Dara confirmed that all soldiers are ready to ensure security as directed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has vowed not to lose even one millimeter of land.

“All citizens in Thai provinces bordering Cambodia support the premier Hun Sen´s policy as they confirmed that the Premier Hun Sen does not want to encroach illegally upon Thailand sovereignty at all,” he said.

These citizens are apparently furious with the Bangkok government led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who caused the problems between the two countries, Chea Dara stated.

According to the army chief, this season has been so cold so that some soldiers station there have become afflicted with diseases such as malaria. However, Chea Dara confirmed that the premier and his wife, Bun Rany Hun Sen, had provided a lot of donations and sent health officials to cure the soldiers.

Trade between Thailand and Cam-bodia will fall at least 20 percent short of last year’s US$2.13 billion due to their the ongoing political conflict, a new study shows, according to the Nation on Thursday. “Trade will decline 20 percent … if the two countries respond to each other only by diplomatic means,” Anusorn Tamajai, dean of Rangsit University’s Faculty of Economics, as quoted by the Nation.

“But if the situation grows more intense until they end up closing the border, the trade loss will rise to 50 percent. In the most serious scenario, in which the two countries go to war with each other, 90 percent of the trade will disappear.”

Cambodia Welcomes to Talk with Thailand

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:57 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Government official on Thursday confirmed that Cambodia is ready to hold talks with Thailand to reduce tensions. Cambodia suggested bilateral discussions with ASEAN or the international community as a mediator.

The appeal comes after a former Thai foreign minister urged Bangkok leaders to talk with Cambodia to lower tensions.

The Thai Government should make the first move to open talks with Cam-bodia on resolving the dispute between the two countries, Surakiart Sathirathai, a former Thai foreign minister, said on Thursday, according to the Bangkok Post.

Speaking at a seminar on Cambodian issues at the faculty of political scie

nce of Chulalongkorn University, Surakiart said there were many factors contributing to the continuing rift between the two countries. These included past conflicts, overlapping maritime areas, a border dispute around Cambodia’s Preah Vihear Temple and Thailand’s myriad political problems, especially the activities of former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, said that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has confirmed that Cambodia is ready for discussions at any level if Thai leaders agree.

“Cambodia welcomes at all levels to find solution whether in ASEAN or inter- national community if Thailand wishes,” Koy Kuong told DAP News Cambodia.

Nationalistic tensions on both sides should be reduced and the Thai Govern- ment should revise its strengths, weaknesses and bargaining power in analyzing the Cambodian Government’s next move, Surakiart was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post on Thursday.

The two countries’ diplomatic ties have slipped after Cambodia appointed fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra as premier Hun Sen’s economic advisor and a Government advisor.

The Thai Government has recalled its ambassador to Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, Laotian Prime Minister Bouason Boupphavanh has expressed concern that the Thai-Cambodian conflict could affect ASEAN unity and the body’s reputation in the international arena.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation earlier this week, the Laotian leader said, if asked by parties concerned, his government would be “ready” to coordinate efforts by Thailand and Cambodia to negotiate a settlement.

BTA Alleges Unofficial Taxes in Siem Reap

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:57 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Siem Reap Municipality and Depart- ment of Tourism have been accused by the Boat Tourism Association (BTA) of asking for a tax of 50 percent

A representative of the Chung Khneas -based BTA on Thursday told DAP News Cambodia that Siem Reap Municipality and Department of Tourism asked for the payments since September, and “if we did not agree to pay the entire contribution amounting to 50 percent to them, they would arrest us and send us to prison.”

But without any official documentation, the BTA refused to pay, he added.

Siem Reap Provincial Department of Tourism Mann Seng Kak rejected the complaints.

“It not our obligation to determine on this, it is referred to the Siem Reap Municipality because we have a committee to purify our environment and ensure security only at Chung Khneas commune,” Seng Kak said

He added that the case had already been passed over to the vice provincial governor.

Vice Provincial Governor Bun Thavrith said only that “It is our internal file,” giving no further details.

The BTA representative said that the association was established since 2003, but in February 2009, we agreed to create the BTA to contribute US$1 per member.

Science & TV Documentary Workshop

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:56 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Ministry of Information’s Media Training Centre and UNESCO and the Goethe Institute will hold a workshop concerning science and TV documentaries at the Information Ministry from November 30 until December 9, the press release from the ministry said on Thursday.

The workshop is part of a new initiative to improve the quality of TV documentaries and science programming among Cambodian TV stations, it added.

The participants will learn the basics of science TV documentary production.

The workshop will stress collaborative and team-based learning, aiming to build working relationships between the participants that will help form a future professional network. The workshop is organized by the Media Training Center, the Ministry of Information and sponsored by UNESCO, JICA and the Goethe Institute.

Bun Rany to Preside at World AIDS Day

Friday, 27 November 2009 03:55 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Over 600 people from different fields will join to mark World HIV/AIDS Day at Chaktomuk Theater Hall. Bun Rany Hun Sen, Cambodian PM Hun Sen’s wife, will preside, Teng Kunthy, secretary general of National AIDS authorities told reporters on Thursday.

Bun Rany also is the chairwoman of the Cambodian Red Cross to celebrate the event under the theme of joining together to prevent AIDS.

“It showed us that the top Govern-mental leaders care about AIDS after we lost human resources and social trouble,” he said. “We have many AIDS programs in the country with effective work to achieve our Millennium Development Goals.” “We are optimistic in reducing AIDS in the country after the Government and all partners have continued to actively join AIDS projects in preventing, educating and promoting awareness of the disease.”

Local authorities will mark the event in communities to raise awareness among local people about the disease, he said.

Currently, about 60,000 people are HIV/AIDS positive, half of whom are treated. Most are adults aged between 19 and 45.

“We hope it is continuing to reduce to 0.6 per cent in upcoming to meet our commitment for reducing AIDS. We have conducted a lot of education campaignsand we thank the media for their contribution; it played a key to spread education.” The current infection rate is 0.9 percent.

Kraya villagers fear health crisis

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Villagers from the beseiged Kraya commune in Kampong Thom province say they have been forced to hide in cassava fields for fear of arrest and now face increasing health risks from a lack of medicine and the threat of malaria from sleeping outdoors. Authorities blockaded the commune following a violent protest last month over their impending eviction, during which equipment belonging to the Vietnamese-owned rubber company Tin Bean was set on fire.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:04 May Titthara

Kampong Thom

THE ongoing seige at Kraya commune threatens to create a health crisis, villagers warned on Thursday.

“Now we have health problems such as diarrhoea because we don’t have any rice to eat, so we have to resort to dried cassava,” said Lam Leoung, 52.

Medical supplies in the besieged village have also become a problem, villagers said. “We still have some medicines that NGOs have given us, but we need more medicine for treatment. People’s health is worse now because of the cool season,” Lam Leoung said.

Pleas to lift the blockade, which has penned residents in since a clash with military police on November 16, have fallen on deaf ears. The blockade was set up after villagers torched vehicles in protest of their looming eviction by Tin Bean, a Vietnamese rubber firm that was granted the 8,000-hectare plot in 2007. Seven people have been arrested.

Many villagers have sought refuge in the nearby cassava fields, fearing their homes will be burned to the ground. The date for the eviction has been delayed until next week, but supplies are increasingly scarce. Mong Saroeun, 45, usually sells medicine from home. “Before, people in this village could depend on my house for soup and medicine, but now I’ve had to close because the supplies are gone and I can’t go buy any more,” she said.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

The scorched remains of an excavator belonging to the Tin Bean rubber company in Kraya commune, where villagers facing a land eviction set company equipment on fire during a protest last month. HENG CHIVOAN

Am Sam Ath, a Licadho researcher based in the village, said: “Even thought they have a conflict with the authorities, the authorities still have to allow doctors to treat them because health is the first priority.”

Pich Sophea, Santuk district governor, refused to respond to calls for lifting the blockade on Thursday, saying only: “I don’t know yet.”

Duch defence split on verdict

Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, prepares to deliver his closing statement at the ECCC on Wednesday.

There are two very completely different positions being put forward...

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:04 Robbie Corey Boulet

THE international and national lawyers for Tuol Sleng prison commandant Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, offered conflicting defence strategies in closing statements this week: The former called for a lenient sentence, and the latter demanded Duch’s acquittal and release.

French co-lawyer Francois Roux argued Thursday that Duch’s sentence should be mitigated because he was forced to follow orders issued by top Khmer Rouge leaders while serving as prison chief, and because of his frequently expressed remorse.

Though consistent with the defence strategy employed throughout the trial, Roux’s portion of the defence team’s closing statement contrasted markedly with that of his Cambodian counterpart, Kar Savuth, who on Wednesday challenged the tribunal’s right to try Duch and asked for his acquittal.

“Yes, there was a disagreement in the defence team,” Roux said when reached by phone Thursday evening.

“This disagreement is because Kar Savuth asked the court for Duch to be acquitted. This would mean that Duch is not guilty. However, Duch is guilty. I said to Kar Savuth that this was not in the best interests of our client. The interest of our client is, to me, to consider the remorse and apologies of Duch in the court.”

But Kar Savuth stood by his position, telling the Post: “We are defence lawyers. We are simply protecting the interests of our client by asking the court to free him.”

In their rebuttals, which came after Roux wrapped up the defence’s presentation Thursday afternoon, several civil party lawyers expressed frustration with the seemingly incoherent strategy.

Karim Khan, who represents Civil Parties Group 1, accused Duch of trying “to ride two horses”.

“The events of yesterday cannot be easily swept under the carpet,” he said, referring to Kar Savuth’s remarks on Wednesday. “At the last possible moment yesterday, things changed. In place of what was viewed as a guilty plea in material respects, we heard that, in fact, the accused is seeking to be let free.”

He added: “Your honours, there are two very completely different positions being put forward by the defence that is sitting opposite. This is unfair. It is unfair to the people of Cambodia. It is unfair to the victims. And it is unfair to the search for the truth.”

Silke Studzinsky, who represents Civil Parties Group 2, said Kar Savuth’s remarks amounted to “a slap in the face of the civil parties and, I dare to say, all victims of the regime”, adding that her clients were “shocked”and “stunned” at the request for Duch’s release.

“After the accused and his defence tried to convince the civil parties that his partial admission amounts to a truthful, sincere and genuine confession, civil parties now became even more convinced, beyond any doubt, that the accused was, and is, playing a game.… The time has come to shed the sheep’s clothing,” she said.

Michelle Staggs Kelsall, deputy director of the Asian International Justice Initiative, said the “schism” had cast a cloud of uncertainty over the defence’s entire case.

“It’s obviously a shame, at the end of what was a very coherent and well-argued defence case, to be confronted with a schism in the defence arguments at the eleventh hour that throws their whole case into question,” she said via email. “Obviously, [Duch] cannot essentially plead guilty and expect to be acquitted at the same time, and it is difficult to understand why Kar Savuth thought this strategy would be helpful for his client.”

Heather Ryan, a trial monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative, also said the conflicting statements posed a challenge for the defence team.

“At this point, having inconsistent arguments from the two counsels about the theory of the case and the request regarding the final judgement, it is a problem for the defence, and I think it undercuts their credibility for the court,” she said.

She noted, though, that it was too early to tell how the split might affect the verdict, which is expected early next year.


S-21 chief’s attorney seeks lenient sentence

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:04 Robbie Corey Boulet

Roux urges judges to see Kaing Guek Eav’s humanity; pronounces end of the name ‘Duch’.

FRENCH defence lawyer Francois Roux on Thursday scolded prosecutors for describing Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, as a driving force behind Khmer Rouge-era executions, saying his client was guilty only of the “crime of obedience” and should not be made into a scapegoat.

“Has Duch become Pol Pot?” Roux wondered aloud before noting that the prison chief had accepted responsibility for 12,380 of the estimated 1.7 million deaths that occurred at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

“That means that S-21 is responsible for less than 1 percent of the deaths in Cambodia, and you’re telling the chamber that Duch started the network of terror that bathed Cambodia in blood. How dare you?”

Roux challenged judges to bring Duch back “into the fold of humanity” by offering a lighter sentence than the 40 years requested by prosecutors Wednesday, citing as possible mitigating factors Duch’s professed contrition and his cooperation with the tribunal.

Though Roux did not specify what he viewed as an appropriate sentence, he compared Duch to Dragan Obrenovic, the Bosnian Serb army brigade commander who was tried for war crimes in connection with the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were killed.

Obrenovic received a 17-year sentence after apologising for his role in the massacre. Roux on Thursday showed a video clip of prosecutor Peter McCloskey speaking at a sentencing hearing in that case.

“He did not do the right thing,” McCloskey said of Obrenovic. “He chose instead to do what his superiors had ordered him to do, and what unfortunately had been a part of this war ever since 1992. But he brings to us today, and to the former Yugoslavia and to this tribunal, some hope that reconciliation can happen, that soldiers of his rank can tell the truth and will come forward and will provide some basis for reconciliation.”

Roux also compared Duch to Albert Speer, the German architect and minister of armaments and war production under Adolf Hitler, who avoided a death sentence at the Nuremberg trials by apologising for his crimes.

Roux seemed to take offence at challenges to the sincerity of his client’s emotional apologies. Civil Party lawyer Kong Pisey on Monday accused Duch of shedding “crocodile tears” before the Trial Chamber.

“Who is in a position to dispute and challenge the tears that have been wept by the accused?” Roux asked.

“We, the defence, meet with the accused person in his prison cell in private moments, where he is able to speak openly, where he is able to speak freely from the heart,” he said. “We see an accused person who tries to hide himself discreetly, and when he collapses in tears, there is no one other than his own lawyers who are able to witness the tears that he sheds on the graves of the children who died. That is what we bear witness to.”

Roux, who prefaced his remarks by saying that the Duch case would be the last of his 37-year career as a lawyer, showed the flair for high drama that he has exhibited throughout six months of evidentiary hearings.

After pleading with judges to “look Duch in the eye and see him for the fellow human that he is”, he proclaimed: “One last word. One final word.

Duch is dead. Today his name is Kaing Guek Eav. He is no longer the Duch of the revolution.”

Botched surgery spurs probe

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:04 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE Ministry of Health and judicial police from Russey Keo district have opened investigations into the death of a pregnant woman after an operation at the Russey Keo clinic. Sim Harn, 37, died at Calmette Hospital on Tuesday after undergoing an operation to remove a miscarried child from her womb.

Chan Sahuth, deputy police chief of Russey Keo district, said Thursday that authorities questioned the clinic’s owner and staff at their premises in Russey Keo’s Kilometre 6 commune after he received a complaint from the victim’s family.

Clinic staffers, he said, “admit they received US$120 from Sim Harn and her husband to remove their dead 4-month-old foetus and save the mother’s life”. Sim Harn bled to death after she was sent to Calmette for emergency treatment.

The victim’s relatives say the death was a result of negligence. Sim Harn’s husband, Buth Vuthear, 33, said staff at the Russey Keo clinic were guilty of misconduct. “I don’t think they have skills for these operations, but they tried to operate on my wife anyway to remove my dead baby from her body,” he said.

After his allegations reached the Ministry of Health, the clinic offered him $1,000 to withdraw the complaint, Buth Vuthear said. “We had no choice. Because we are poor, we agreed to take it to make my wife a funeral ceremony,” he said.

Clinic owner Hong Sok Heng and doctor Em Sokhom, who performed the surgery, could not be reached on Thursday, but one doctor who asked not to be named said staff had fought to save Sim Harn’s life.

“We are very sorry for the victim’s family,” the doctor said, adding that the clinic’s staff members had done all they could to save the mother and adhered to all necessary “health regulations and professional ethics”.

Som Sophorn, chief of the Russey Keo Judicial Police office, said that although the victim and the clinic owner had reached a financial settlement, the case had already been sent to prosecutors at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, who will continue the investigation.

Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said the ministry would investigate the case thoroughly as part of its crackdown on unregistered private clinics and unprofessional medical practice.

“We will close all private clinics in Cambodia that lack licences from the ministry and other relevant departments, as well as fining any doctors and nurses in cases where they treat patients without obeying professional health ethics and cause the loss of the patient’s life,” he said.

“We cannot save 100 percent of patients’ lives, but we must not cause patients to die through negligence.” He said that he was awaiting a report on the incident.

Police Blotter: 27 Nov 2009

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:02 Sen David

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A 32-year-old Vietnamese man was arrested after he allegedly raped a 16-year-old Cambodian girl in Kratie province’s Sambo district on Monday. Police said the suspect worked as an auto mechanic near the victim’s home and attacked her when she was alone. The suspect has denied the charges and said he was just sitting outside the victim’s home. However, the victim’s parents said that medical examination of their daughter proves that she was violated.

A 47-year-old woman on a motorbike died after a drunken driver slammed his car into her in Battambang province’s Sangke district on Tuesday. Witnesses say the driver was intoxicated and lost control of his vehicle. “Traffic accidents always occur when alcohol is involved and people become careless of road safety,” a police officer said. “So people should always be careful.”

A fire gutted one home in Svay Rieng province’s Svay Teap district on Tuesday night. Witnesses said that it was fortunate the fire did not spread to nearby residences. One bystander said authorities had difficulty putting out the blaze because the province lacks fire trucks. The owner of the house said the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction and started when he was asleep at night. Police said that no one was injured, but that everything in the house was damaged.

A 35-year-old man stabbed himself to death with a knife in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town on Monday. Police confirmed that it was a suicide, and that no foul play was involved. A doctor said that if the victim had been sent to the hospital earlier, he could have survived. The victim’s wife said that she was not at home when her husband stabbed himself but found his body in their bed when she got home. She added that her husband had hinted before that he would take his own life.

Officials check for factory pollution

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:04 Bun Tharum and Phak Seangly

INSPECTORS from the Ministry of Environment visited the Lim Hong and Kenetic garment factories in Phnom Penh’s Stung Meanchey district on Thursday, following renewed complaints from families in the area that polluted exhaust from the factories was affecting their health.

“This pollution problem has been going on for more than two years. Smoke pours out of the factories in the early morning and late afternoon, continuously for one or two hours,” said a 47-year-old civil servant living next to the Lim Hong factory. He said he wished to remain anonymous, citing safety concerns.

Srey Chenda, a 27-year-old mother who lives near the factory site, said she and her neighbours frequently suffer headaches and coughing attacks.

“I’m always getting headaches. The Lim Hong and Kenetic factories are burning garments and polluting the air. I’m concerned for my children and afraid of the long-term effects,” she said.

Not first complaint
An earlier pollution complaint failed to produce a response.

“My deputy received the complaint from the villagers on July 22, but nothing has been carried out yet,” said Sorn Suy, Damnak Thom’s village chief.

Heng Naroath, director of the pollution control department at the Ministry of Environment, said the inspection was only a preliminary visit, and that a full report would be released after further investigation.

Appeal set to begin in Chea Ratha acquittal

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Prominent beauty queen In Soklyda speaks at a press conference after the aquittal of Chea Ratha in September.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:03 Chhay Channyda

AN appeal against the acquittal of a former Military Police official accused of involvement in a brutal acid attack against her lesbian lover’s aunt is due to be heard today, a lawyer confirmed Thursday.

The appeal, which has been delayed several times, was lodged after Chea Ratha, former deputy chief of staff of the Military Police, was found not guilty of masterminding a May 2008 attack that left Ya Soknim, the aunt of prominent beauty queen In Soklyda, scarred for life.

The verdict, announced on August 31, was condemned by human rights groups Licadho and the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR). Licadho director Naly Pilorge condemned the verdict in a statement released to the media in early September.

“What is so shocking in this case is the judges’ apparent total disregard of evidence against Chea Ratha and her alleged accomplices,” he said.

Evidence given to the court during the investigation included recorded phone calls in which Chea Ratha threatened to kill In Soklyda’s relatives, phone logs for Chea Ratha and her co-defendants on the day of the attack, and a report confirming acid was found in the home of one of Chea Ratha’s associates.

Chea Ratha’s lawyer, Pich Vichheka, confirmed the hearing would take place, but would not say whether his client – believed to be abroad – would appear in person.

AIDS still an issue, NGOs say

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:03 Kim Yuthana and Chhay Channyda

CAMBODIA has shown success in reducing overall rates of HIV/AIDS, but infection rates among sex workers, injection drug users and gay men remain troubling, government and NGO officials warned Thursday.

Figures from the National Aids Authority (NAA) suggest the infection rate among injection drug users stands at 24.4 percent. The infection rate for men who have sex with men is pegged at 5.4 percent, NAA officials said Thursday at a press conference ahead of World Aids Day on Tuesday.

Teng Kunthy, the NAA’s secretary general, said authorities were troubled by an apparent rise in so-called “entertainment clubs” that have become an alternative to traditional brothels.

“We are worried when there are increases of entertainment clubs,” Teng Kunthy said.

Up to 20 percent of women working at the clubs have sex with customers, he said. However, police crackdowns on sex workers have not helped infection rates, one advocate said.

Sou Sotheavy, director of the Cambodian Network for Men’s and Women’s Development, said sex workers are frequently targeted for arrest, pushing them to unsafe sex.

“They dare not keep a condom in their pocket because they are afraid that police will accuse them of being sex workers,” said Sou Sotheavy.

However, officials note that Cambodia has been relatively successful in fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS. The overall infection rate has dropped from 2 percent in 1998 to 0.9 percent in 2006, Teng Kunthy said.

There are an estimated 71,100 adults and children infected with HIV/AIDS in Cambodia today, according to government data.

NGO wants green power for villages

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:03 Irwin Loy

APROPOSAL from a French NGO would extend power to thousands of rural Cambodians living without electricity, group officials said Thursday.

The proposal is part of an ongoing effort to fill energy-poor Cambodia’s electricity needs.

The NGO, Fondation Energies pour le Monde (Fondem), says the plan would bring green power to 27 villages in Kampong Thom through a combination of solar generators and biomass-gasification systems.

“We believe climate change is our challenge,” said Catherine Bourg, a project manager with Fondem.

The proposal highlights the difficulties of bringing electricity to the Kingdom.

Less than 20 percent of Cambodia is hooked up to the country’s fragmented grid, which consists of isolated systems powered largely by costly diesel generators.

The figure is even lower in rural areas, government figures show. However, the government is exploring hydroelectricity and coal projects – in order to meet a goal of 70 percent electrification by 2030 – which have come under fire from environmentalists.

The Fondem project, its proponents say, could provide power for thousands before then.

“Do we wait maybe 10 to 15 years for the grid to reach these villages?” Bourg said.

“Or do we try to promote local energy uses that will be cheaper?”

A more immediate barrier is the project’s US$5 million start-up cost, which Fondem hopes to pay with the help of a coalition of foreign and local investors, donors and subsidies.

“It’s a huge amount,” Fondem director Yves Maigne acknowledged during a presentation of the proposal Thursday in Phnom Penh to industry and government officials.

“But renewable energy has to be promoted. That requires financial efforts.”

Fondem officials say they expect it will take months to secure approvals and financing.

LAND DISPUTE:Battambang man to be freed from prison

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:03 Chhay Channyda


A Battambang resident arrested in relation to a local land dispute should be released from prison in two months with a five-year suspended sentence, the Appeal Court ruled on Wednesday. The court upheld the one-year prison sentence handed to community representative Chim Keo, but said it had already been fulfilled by a year of pretrial detention. The decision is the latest chapter in a land dispute that has dragged on since the 1990s, when businessman Eang Oeun lodged a complaint against 38 families he said were illegally settled on a 124-hectare plot of farmland he owned in Battambang’s Bavel district. In 2002, authorities evicted the families, and since the eviction there have been five incidents in which former villagers have been arrested for trespassing. Chhim Chan Sathyanon, a lawyer from Legal Aid of Cambodia representing Chim Keo, said his client was detained for nearly one year from November 2006, charged with violating private property. Chim Keo was re-arrested on October 2 after the Appeal Court handed him a one-year sentence in absentia this September.

Education key to reducing violence: govt

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:03 Lily Partland

Siem Reap

CAMBODIAN society – young people and men in particular – must modernise attitudes to combat increasing rates of violence against women and children, Minister of Women’s Affairs Ing Kantha Phavi said Thursday.

“There are some concepts that should be reviewed and modernised in order to meet the changing culture of the country. The role of men must change; they should work in the home as well,” she said at the conclusion of a two-day conference in Siem Reap.

“We need to financially and educationally empower women. In rural communities, I have seen the education of daughters prevented by mothers because they think higher education is not important. They must hold the same values for their sons and daughters.”

Education is vital if domestic violence is to be reduced, she said. “If we are able to change [young people’s] perceptions, then we can work with the older people. The majority of men are committed; we must engage them and build cultures of nonviolence.”

Ellen Minotti, facilitator of the conference, said education should target the young. “Youth seems to be hungry for information about relationships. Through television and books we can show models of how relationships can be positive.”

Franziska Boehm, with the German development group GTZ, said awareness is improving but lamented the lack of accurate data. “There have been more reports in the media of domestic violence and rapes, particularly against underage girls. Our latest survey shows the level of awareness of this illegal and unacceptable behaviour has been improved, but we have a lack of reliable data ... as often victims will feel ashamed and not report it.”

Recommendations coming out of the conference, which was organised by the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, will be used to shape the National Action Plan to Prevent Violence against Women 2009-12.

Task force to target illegal arms

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Phnom Penh Municipal Police officers near the riverside conduct late-night checks earlier this year on drivers suspected of carrying illegal weapons in their vehicles.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea

PHNOM Penh municipal authorities have established a special task force that will patrol the city to crack down on shootings and possession of illegal weapons.

Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief, said Thursday that the patrolling task force, comprised of existing officers of the municipal and military police, would mark a departure from the former strategy of relying on district checkpoints to seize illegal explosives and firearms.

“We will go on patrol and seek out anyone who possesses or anarchically fires an illegal weapon,” he said. “We will crack down on anyone who causes anarchy.”

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema authorised the initiative during a meeting on Monday, telling the capital’s district governors that the new force must be permitted to patrol their neighbourhoods at will rather than simply set up checkpoints.

Chan Soveth, a programme officer for the local rights group Adhoc, said the establishment of the force was a positive sign, but added that operating it would be more challenging.

The establishment of the task force follows an address by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month in which he called on government leaders to rein in the “gangster” activities of their relatives.

Hun Sen was responding to the case of 30-year-old Khay Dara, who was arrested for firing a gun into the air during a minor traffic incident before claiming to have government connections.

In June, Hun Sen issued a directive asking authorities nationwide to step up prevention of drug use and public disturbances by juvenile groups.

Debtors illegally detained

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:02 Kim Yuthana

BANTEAY Meanchey military police are hunting for a man who illegally detained five foreigners in order to force them to pay gambling debts, officials said Thursday.

Provincial Military Police Commander Roth Sreang said three Thai nationals had been detained over the incident, but that the apparent leader of the group remained on the run.

“Three Thai accomplices were arrested, and now we are hunting for their leader,” he said.

Roth Sreang said Military Police rescued the five foreigners after raiding a property in Poipet commune’s Kbal Spean village on Sunday. The detainees – three Thais and two Chinese – were imprisoned by their creditor and his men after borrowing money to gamble in Poipet border casinos.

Banteay Meanchey provincial court prosecutor So Vath said he had questioned the three men arrested and sent a transcript of the interviews to the investigating judge. He said the men were sent to Banteay Meanchey provincial court Wednesday to be charged with colluding in an illegal detention.

Reducing maternal deaths

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A woman holds her newborn baby at her home in Stung Meanchey last week.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:02 Dr Niklas Danielsson

The keys to lowering Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate are training additional attendants and improving emergency care.

Dr Niklas Danielsson

IN 2000, Cambodia, together with 189 other countries, signed the UN Millennium Declaration. By doing so, the government committed to achieving Millennium Development Goal 5 (MDG 5), which calls for a three-quarters reduction in maternal mortality between 1990 and 2015.

Maternal mortality is measured as the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), or the number of women who die from pregnancy-related conditions per 100,000 live births.

Cambodia’s MMR has not improved over the past 15 years. The 2008 national census estimated MMR at 461, one of the highest in the region and not significantly better than in 2000 or 2005. Every year, some 1,800 Cambodian women die from preventable and treatable complications of pregnancy. That is more than the number of women who die from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV combined.

Maternal deaths are concentrated around the time of childbirth and in the period after an unsafe abortion. Four conditions – post-partum haemorrhage, eclampsia, obstructed labour and infection – are responsible for the majority of deaths. The number of deaths can be rapidly reduced if new resources are made available and if concerted efforts are focused on preventing and treating these four conditions together with providing better access to modern contraception.

Post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) is the No 1 cause of maternal death. It is an acute bleeding from the uterus after the birth of the baby. A woman can bleed to death within two hours unless properly treated. Appropriate routine care around delivery, including an injection of a drug that stimulates the uterus to contract (oxytocin), and early initiation of breastfeeding, considerably reduces the risk of PPH. A timely blood transfusion can mean the difference between life and death.

Eclampsia is a condition where a pregnant woman’s blood pressure rises to life-threatening levels and causes kidney failure, heart failure and seizures. Eclampsia is rare but can lead to the death of both the mother and the unborn child if not treated urgently and correctly. It is a medical emergency that every skilled birth attendant must be able to recognise and manage.

Obstructed labour is an important cause of maternal deaths in communities in which undernutrition in childhood is common, resulting in small pelves in women, and in which there is poor access to health facilities with the capacity for carrying out caesarean sections. It is also an important cause of infections and long-term disabilities such as obstetric fistulas and incontinence. Untreated obstructed labour often leads to asphyxia and stillbirth.

Infections after delivery (puerperal fever) and after unsafe abortions can develop into sepsis and lead to death unless promptly treated. Prolonged labour and poor infection control increase the risk of puerperal fever. Unsafe abortions are a common cause of infection leading to infertility and sometimes death.

The best chance for Cambodia to achieve MDG 5 is to adopt a strategy for quickly increasing the number of deliveries assisted by skilled birth attendants with a focus on health centres, and to fast-track interventions that will make emergency obstetric care available to all women. There are no shortcuts to good delivery care. The concentration of deaths around the time of delivery from bleeding, eclampsia and infections means that access to skilled attendants at birth, and timely referral for emergency care, constitute the only realistic approach to rapidly reduce the number of maternal deaths in the short term.

Women are today deprived of good quality delivery services because of financial barriers including official and unofficial fees. Simply the fear of anticipated and unknown costs can deter women from using health facility services. Improvements in financial and geographical access to good-quality care around birth should be at the centre of efforts to eradicate poverty and create fair health-financing mechanisms.

Mother and child health outcomes are intimately linked. The most direct effect of a maternal death on child survival is in the newborn period. Risk factors around birth are more important for perinatal death than pre-pregnancy or antenatal factors. A newborn child who survives her mother’s death at birth is extremely vulnerable. It has been estimated that if nine out of 10 women were to give birth in a health facility, the newborn death rate could be reduced by 23-50 percent. The high maternal mortality in Cambodia contributes substantially to the high newborn mortality.

The failure to reduce maternal mortality in Cambodia is of grave concern, particularly in view of the impressive improvements in other health indicators during recent years. Reaching the target for MDG 5 is a formidable challenge for the government of Cambodia. But the high maternal mortality rate also represents a unique opportunity to adopt a new approach and justifies extraordinary measures.

The government proved with HIV that it could reverse a catastrophic increase in infections over just a few years by focusing on the most essential interventions. The same approach should be adopted for reducing maternal deaths. Studies, reviews and experience from across the world clearly indicate that it is possible to dramatically reduce maternal deaths by providing universal access to three critical health services: skilled attendance at birth (SBA), emergency obstetric and newborn care (EmONC) and safe abortions.

The recently introduced incentives to health centres for deliveries have demonstrated that it is possible to rapidly increase skilled attendance at birth. This incentive represents an innovative and effective way of quickly increasing the proportion of women who deliver in health centres. It deserves wider recognition. Other innovative solutions must be urgently identified to ensure that all women have access to EmONC. The current situation in which women are denied life-saving procedures, such as blood transfusion, caesarean section and treatment for eclampsia because they are unable to pay hospital fees in advance, is unacceptable. Immediate solutions must be found, not only for increasing availability of EmONC services at referral hospitals, but also for eliminating financial barriers to such services. One option would be for the government to reimburse hospitals for EmONC procedures and remind hospital directors that denying women emergency obstetric services because of failure to pay will not be tolerated.

International partners in health must rise to the challenge of reducing maternal deaths in Cambodia. Controlling HIV and malaria, and responding to pandemic threats has been widely supported without concern for sustainability. Reducing maternal deaths deserves the same pragmatic approach. It has been shown over and over again that women and their families prefer modern delivery care over traditional unskilled practices when the quality of care is good, when they are treated with respect and when they can afford the services.

Once change in behaviour has been achieved and new society norms have been established for delivery care, the practice of seeking skilled attendance around birth will be sustained. This would require a large initial investment over a five- to 10-year period, which is currently beyond the means of Cambodia. Unfortunately, international support for maternal health is at present dwarfed by the hundreds of millions of dollars that bilateral donors and international organisations invest in HIV, the flu pandemic and malaria control in Cambodia.

Commitments to gender equality in development aid will remain lip service as long as women in Cambodia are denied basic health services, including family planning, safe abortions, skilled birth attendance, and emergency obstetric and newborn care. Cambodia needs an emergency plan to make these services available to all women. International partners have an obligation to support such a plan.

Dr Niklas Danielsson is the maternal and child health team leader at the World Health Organisation office in Cambodia.

S'ville port revenues sag 20pc

A crane loads containers at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port on Wednesday. Revenues are down 20 percent for the year to date following an 11 percent drop in throughput.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Deputy director general pegs losses to global slowdown, Cai Mep competition


Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS), Cambodia’s largest shipping facility, reported a 20 percent decline in revenues for the first 10 months of the year compared to the same period in 2008.

The port has brought in US$19.2 million so far this year. Total revenue in 2008 was $28.8 million, according to statistics released by PAS.

The port’s gross throughput dropped 11 percent, and the number of containers handled declined 23 percent, nearly identical to cargo traffic figures reported by PAS in September.

Though not directly correlated, the 20 percent drop in revenues at PAS closely follows the Ministry of Commerce’s reported 22 percent decline in garment export revenues for the first 10 months of 2009 compared to the same period last year, another sign of the Cambodian export economy’s dependence on the garment sector.

“The drop in revenues can be attributed in part to the global economic crisis, but also to the launch of the Cai Mep deepwater port in southern Vietnam, which has been operating since June,” PAS Deputy Director General Va Sonath said.

Va Sonath said that Cai Mep, linked directly to Phnom Penh via the Mekong River, was absorbing import shipments from East Asian countries such as China, Taiwan and South Korea. Cambodian exports bound for the same countries, mainly garments manufactured in Phnom Penh and farm products from the Vietnam border area, ship from Cai Mep as well, he said.

“On the other hand, we believe that most goods shipped to European countries probably still go through PAS, and enterprises in Preah Sihanouk province are still using our port,” he said.

Norng Soyeth, director of marketing in the Special Eonomic Zone Department at PAS, said PAS is building facilities for a neighbouring special economic zone to push up the volume of traffic through the port.

Japanese contractor Dai Ho Co broke ground on the 70-hectare project in October. The work is expected to be completed sometime in 2011.

The $33 million investment by PAS was made possible by a soft loan from Japan.

At the end of September, the government announced that PAS would be one of three state-owned firms to list on the forthcoming stock exchange. The other two firms were the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority and Telecom Cambodia.

The presence of these companies on the exchange is intended to have a stabilising effect on the new market, a role that PAS says it can still fulfill despite the decline in revenues.

“Despite the revenues decline, the port’s annual profit is still stable, the same amount as last year, because we have minimised expenses as much as possible in order to avoid losses.

“So this should not affect the plan to list on the bourse,” said Va Sonath, adding that he could not remember the exact figures for annual profits.

Malaysian, Korean airlines mull S'ville routes

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Airline operators from Malaysia and Korea have expressed interest in flying direct routes to Sihanoukville, a spokesman for the operator of the newly refurbished Sihanouk International Airport (SIA) said this week.

“As we know, the aviation industry is facing a crisis,” Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports (SCA) Marketing Manager Khek Norida said. “However, we are in talks with a Malaysian and a Korean airline to use the airport, and we think the Korean airline will be the first to sign up.”
He declined to name the airlines involved.

SCA recently completed a $30 million upgrade of the 118-hectare airport that began in 2006. The upgrade included improvements to a 2,500-metre runway that can now accommodate aircraft as large as Airbus 320s, Khek Norida said. The airport will be able to handle 700,000 passengers a year, equivalent to the annual capacity at Siem Reap International Airport, he added.

The opening of the sole airport in the coastal resort town was set for this month but was pushed back to next year at the French embassy’s request to allow top French officials to attend the opening.

SCA has a concession to operate the Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanouk International Airports until 2040.

Royal Group completes full buyout of Mobitel

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:01 Nathan Green

THE Royal Group has completed the purchase of its joint-venture partner’s 61.5 percent stake in mobile-phone company Mobitel, also known as CamGSM, through what sector officials say is Cambodia’s largest-ever corporate acquisition deal and debt-leveraged buyout.

The purchase of Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA’s stake in Cambodia’s leading mobile- service provider by users was announced by the Nasdaq-listed global telecoms operator late Thursday.

The deal, which gives the Royal Group 100 percent control of Mobitel, the operator of the Cellcard network, was financed through a US$421 million senior debt facility arranged by Standard Bank Plc and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited, according to Cambodia-based investment firm Cambodia Capital.

The firm, which is an affiliate of Indochina-focused financial services provider Lotus Capital, acted as financial adviser to Royal Group on the acquisition and associated financing.

The loan covers the $346 million cash purchase of the Millicom stake and refinances debt held by Mobitel, including a $100 million syndicated loan arranged by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in July 2008.

The loan, which was to upgrade and expand the company’s cellular network, had not been fully drawn.

Royal Group Chief Financial Officer Mark Hanna declined to comment on the deal Thursday.

Cambodia is now on the radar for international investors.

Andrew Ranken, a founding partner in Cambodia Capital, described the deal as a landmark transaction for Cambodia.

“The acquisition and associated financing are the largest ever in Cambodia and demonstrate that Cambodia is now on the radar for international investors,” he said.

“The financing sets an important benchmark for the market and should help to improve access to capital for quality Cambodian issuers like CamGSM.”

An international group of investors including Cambodian fund Leopard Capital invested in the facility, Ranken said.

Leopard Capital, founded in 2007 by Douglas Clayton, manages almost $31 million in committed capital from global investors, according to the fund’s Web site.

Standard Bank’s head of Asia telecoms and media, Tom Fuller, said it was a breakthrough transaction for Cambodia.

“Successfully arranging this facility for Cambodia’s number one telecom operator is evidence of Standard Bank’s continued commitment to being a leading financial institution in the emerging markets,” he said.

According to data provider Thomson Reuters, only eight syndicated loans had previously been completed in Cambodia, including the IFC loan to Mobitel.

The deal also includes Millicom’s 61.5 percent stake in Royal Telecam International Co and Cambodia Broadcasting Service Co, which operates television network CTN.

It values the telecommunications and television broadcasting assets at an enterprise value of $605 million, or 7.1 times estimated 2009 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, Millicom said in announcing it had reached a deal to sell the stake to Royal Group in August.

Sources in the industry have said the sale price, which was agreed amid heavy interest from rival operators, including Japan’s cash-rich NTT DoCoMo, was a good deal for Royal Group.

Millicom has partnered with the investment and development firm in Cambodia for 14 years but announced in May that it planned to divest its Southeast Asian assets to concentrate on emerging markets in Africa and Latin America.

Millicom has also sold its Sri Lankan operations to UAE-based telecommunications company Emirates Telecommunications Corp, or Etisalat, for $155 million and has agreed the sale of its Laotian operations to Russia’s JSC VimpelCom for $65 million.

ANZ and Royal Group are partners in ANZ Royal Bank in Cambodia, which was not involved in the syndicated loan.

Work slated to begin on Samrong Station

A woman cycles past a railway carriage at the central train station in Phnom Penh. Work is slated to begin on a second station for the capital in 2010 once financing is secure.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:00 Soeun Say

Construction to start once ADB funding secure

THE Ministry of Public Works and Transport plans to begin work next year on a new railway station intended as a major node in Cambodia’s revamped rail network.

Samrong Railway Station, which will be built on 98 hectares in Dangkor district on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, will cost US$64 million and be partly funded by a $42 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Ministry Undersecretary of State Yeuth Bonna said.

The project had been approved by the ADB, but the government was waiting for funds to be allocated before it began construction, he added.

“Once the ADB approves our loan proposal, we will start on soil studies at the site, aiming to begin the construction in mid-2010 with the goal of completing the project in 2012,” he said, adding that the government would pay $22 million.

An older station of the same name presently occupies part of the location, at the junction of two major rail lines, one stretching towards Thailand and the other to Sihanoukville. However, the improved facilities would allow for up to 70 train cars at a time, Yeuth Bonna said.

Cambodia has signed the Trans-Asia Railway agreement intended to link the countries of Asia and Europe by rail. Cambodia is to host a key segment of a line from Kunming, China, to Singapore via countries in the Mekong Delta.

Repair work intended to return regular train service to the Kingdom is to be completed by 2013, though a proposed line to Vietnam is still in the earliest planning stages.

Yeuth Bonna said Australian company Toll Holdings, designated concessionaire of the revamped railway, is gradually emplacing administrative structure to ease the eventual transition to operation. Toll Holdings did not return requests for comment.

Some of the land earmarked for the new station was not under the control of the railroad, said Touch Phin, Chief of Samrong Krom Commune. “We are negotiating with villagers to make the land available, but the problem has not yet been solved,” he said.

Tree grows ever greener under new proprietors

Photo by: Lily Partland
Singing Tree Cafe managers Michael Batura and wife Fin Sovanny with new manager Maureen Chen.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:00 POST STAFF

Siem Reap’s haven of all things alternative, the funky Singing Tree Café, officially changed hands on Tuesday, with Maureen and Tom Chen of Raja Yoga taking over from husband-wife founding team Michael Batura and Fin Sovanny.

Batura said he and his wife had mixed emotions about handing over the cafe and community centre they have run since December 2005.

“We’re sad but happy at the same time,” he said. “We feel we’ve taken it as far as we can and we’re not really doing it justice. That we found like-minded people to keep it going and take it further is actually really exciting.”

Maureen Chen said she’ll continue the Singing Tree’s noble legacy, and add more community programmes and activities.

But the big change is to the café menu.

“We will be going completely vegetarian for the menu, so we’re removing the fish. It’s what we feel is environmentally appropriate. Also, alcohol won’t be on the menu any more,” announced Chen.

The proud new proprietors have already installed a meditation hut and plan to set up an environmental training centre for Khmers to increase awareness of environmental issues by doing things such as growing vegetables and using solar panels.

Batura and his wife will partner with Raja Yoga to open a vegetarian sandwich and juice bar next month, called Singing Tree Corner, in the West Alley near Pub Street.

Children leading the argument for change

Photo by: Jani Alaloukusa
Jonathan Hill, project coordinator at The Global Child, delivering instructions for the debate.

We have the goal of creating community leaders.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 27 November 2009 15:00 POST STAFF

The Global Child NGO has been selected by non-profit debating website Debatewise as Cambodia’s country coordinator of the Global Youth Panel.

Debatewise aims to involve 1,000 young people in 100 countries, and it will give them the opportunity to debate online about climate change during the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen from December 7-18.

As part of its educational curriculum, The Global Child has taught debating for more than 18 months, and its students began training their counterparts in other NGOs this week.

These NGOs include Sangkheum Centre for Children, Green Gecko project, This Life Cambodia, and Anjali House.

The Global Child project coordinator Jonathan Hill said the children would help plan the topics of the debates.

“We have the goal of creating community leaders, so they have to understand how to debate issues and that’s why it’s part of the curriculum,” Hill said.

After several practice runs, students will participate in two interactive public debates at Singing Tree Cafe during the first week of the December Copenhagen conference.

During that week they will also be involved in testing a new programme called Google Wave, essentially an online forum in the form of a document that can be simultaneously edited by participants.

“It’ll be part of their classes, so they’ll be uploading things all week,” Hill said.

“The final Google Wave document will be presented at Copenhagen as the world’s youth contribution to the debate.”