Wednesday, 9 December 2009

PM Criticizes Opposition, Ambassadors

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 04:28 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday blasted the political opposition and ambassadors his inimitable style for their criticism of the Cambodian Government.

He lambasted those who “never acknowledge the achievements of the Government,” preferring to claim instead that “Cambodia is destroyed.”

“They are afraid of saying the truth. No one is blinder than the one who has eyes, but does not see, and no one is more deaf than the one has good hearing but does not listen,” the premier said.

“In the eyes of some ambassadors and political persons, they claim that Cambodia is a place of penalty as the government adopts laws against bad persons, but the Government is being criticized by this group,” said Hun Sen during the graduation ceremony for 40 Cambodians and foreigners at the National Institute of Education.

The premier’s remarks were not welcomed by an opposition lawmaker, who claimed the PM was just repeating the same tired criticisms. “I do not want to say something as he says this again and again,” Keo Sovannaroth, Sam Rainsy Party Secretary General, told DAP News Cambodia on Tuesday.

Yem Panharith, a Human Rights Party lawmaker, stated that “We see what the Government is doing and has achieved, but the Government has to proceed transparently with its projects so as not to create corruption.”

PM Hun Sen Joins 25th SEA Games in Laos Today

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 04:27 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a senior delegation to attend the opening ceremony of the 25th SEA Games in Laos today, a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFA) obtained on Tuesday said.

PM Hun Sen was invited by his Lao counterpart Bouason Boupphavanh after his recent visit to Cambodia.

Hun Sen will take part with other ASEAN leaders including Myanmar’s Prime Minister General Thein Sein, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at Wednesday’s ceremony in Vientiane, the Vientiane Times reported.

Cambodia sent 204 athletes to attend the games. A total of 4,869 athletes will vie for 370 gold, 370 silver and 539 bronze medals. The host nation sent 482 athletes and 261 officials; Vietnam 671 athletes and officials; Malaysia 469; Indonesia 465; the Philippines 413; Myanmar 400; Singapore 392; Brunei 79; and East Timor 77, the Vientiane Times said.

Thailand is sending 550 athletes and 292 officials, making it the largest participant in the 25th SEA Games, according to its state-run news.

The December 9-18 games in the Laotian capital will be the largest international event hosted by the land-locked, communist country since the ASEAN summit in 2004. Local and foreign spectators have complained that black market tickets for the Vietnam-Thailand football match were overpriced at 200,000 kip (US$22), a hefty mark-up from the official rate of 50,000 to 70,000 kip per ticket.

Stadium history:

“Laos has enough budget for the construction of 25th SEA Games stadium, thanks to the financial support of Chinese Development Bank worth about US$ 80 million,” the website of 25th Sea game reported. It added that the Laos National Sports Complex is located about 20 km from the centre of Vientiane City and comprises a 20,000 seating capacity main stadium, a 2,000 seating capacity indoor aquatics complex, with a outdoor warm-up pool, a tennis centre consisting of 2,000 seating capacity centre court plus 6 other tennis court, two indoor stadiums each with seating capacity of 3,000 and a indoor shooting range with 50 seats. The sports complex is in a sprawling 185 ha site, with an Olympic Park, adequate parking lots, lakes and open spaces. An archery centre may be constructed in the open space next to the shooting range.

History of the SEA Games:

The Southeast Asian Games owes its origins to the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games or SEAP Games. On May 22, 1958, delegates from the countries in Southeast Asian peninsula attending the 3rd Asian Games in Tokyo, Japan had a meeting and agreed to establish a sports organization. The SEAP Games was conceptualized by Laung Sukhumnaipradit, then Vice-President of the Thailand Olympic Committee. The proposed rationale was that a regional sports event will help promote cooperation, understanding and relations among countries in the Southeast Asian region. Thailand, Burma (now Myanmar), Malaya (now Malaysia), Laos, South Vietnam (now incorporated into Vietnam) and Cambodia (with Singapore included thereafter) were the founding members. These countries agreed to hold the Games biannually. The SEAP Games Federation Committee was formed.

The first SEAP Games were held in Bangkok December 12-17, 1959 comprising more than 527 athletes and officials from Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, South Vietnam and Laos participating in 12 sports.

At the 8th SEAP Games in 1975, the SEAP Federation considered the inclusion of Indonesia and the Philippines.The two countries were formally admitted in 1977, the same year when SEAP Federa- tion changed their name to Southeast Asian Games Federation (SEAGF), and the games were known as the Southeast Asian Games. Brunei was admitted at the 10th SEA Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, and East Timor at the 22nd SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.

In December 2005, the Philippines hosted the Games for the third time, after 1981 and 1991 editions. With its 113 gold medals, it copped the over-all championship for the first time since it joined in 1977.

The 2007 Southeast Asian Games held in Thailand. The next host for the SEA Games is Laos. It is Laos’ first time to host for the biannual games.
Hosting tally

Country Event Hosted Year Hosted

Thailand 6 1959, 1967, 1975, 1985, 1995, 2007
Malaysia 6 1965, 1971, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2015
Philippines 4 1981, 1991, 2005, 2019
Indonesia 4 1979, 1987, 1997, 2011
Singapore 4 1973, 1983, 1993, 2013
Myanmar 2 1961, 1969
Vietnam 2 2003, 2023
Brunei 2 1999, 2017
Laos 1 2009
Cambodia¹ 1 2021
Timor-Leste - -

Royal Family Sends Letters to Chea Sim

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 04:26 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

On December 06, 2009, ex-Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, Queen Moni- neath Sihanouk and King Noromdom Sihamoni sent a letter with best wishes to Cambodian Senate President Chea Sim, who has been resting in hospital.

Chea Sim was sent to a hospital in Singapore by PM Hen Sen and other sen- ior Cambodian Government officials.

In the letter, the ex-Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, Queen Monineath Sihanouk, and King Noromdom Sihamoni wrote that “all of us wish you relief and a speedy return to health.”

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said at a ceremony at a hydropower dam in Kampot province that “Samdech Chea Sim is well. I do hear someone made a fictional story about him to make the country be in turmoil.”

“A few days later, Samdech Chea Sim will depart to Cambodia. Now he is ok,” Chea Sim’s Chief of Cabinet said.

Thai man convicted of spying

Photo by: AFP
Arrested Thai national Sivarak Chutipong (left) leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court after being convicted of espionage. His mother (right) cries in front of the court on Tuesday.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:03 Cheang Sokha and James O’toole

ATHAI engineer was sentenced to seven years in jail and fined 10 million riels (US$2,402) by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday for passing information about the flight schedule of Thaksin Shinawatra during the fugitive former Thai prime minister’s controversial visit to the Kingdom last month.

“Obtaining the flight schedule was very important for the Thai government, but it severely endangered Mr Thaksin,” Judge Ke Sakhan said, reading the verdict against 31-year-old Sivarak Chutipong. “It also affected the national security of Cambodia.”

Sivarak’s mother, who attended the hearing, burst into sobs upon hearing the sentence.

An employee of the Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) for the past seven years, Sivarak was arrested on November 12 and charged with breaching national security in connection with the incident. Cambodia seized temporary control of CATS after the arrest.

During the hearing, Sivarak told the court that Kamrob Palawatwichai, the first secretary of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, called him on the morning of November 10, about 20 minutes after a private jet landed at the military base adjacent to Phnom Penh International Airport. That jet was Thaksin’s, though Sivarak said he was not aware of this when he communicated with the first secretary.

“Kamrob called me once, and I called him back twice, shortly after the arrival of Thaksin,” Sivarak said. “He asked me to give him a copy of the flight schedule, but I did not do that.”

Kamrob was declared persona non grata and expelled from Cambodia for his alleged involvement in the incident, a move that prompted Thailand to expel the first secretary of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok. The two countries had already withdrawn their respective ambassadors in the row over Thaksin’s appointment as economics adviser to the Cambodian government and personal adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Phnom Penh court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said Thaksin’s flight schedule was sensitive information in light of the fact that Thaksin, who went into exile in 2006 to avoid a prison term for corruption, is now a high-ranking Cambodian government adviser.

“His flight schedule is not a simple document like a wedding invitation,” Sok Roeun said.

Khieu Sambo, Sivarak’s defence lawyer, said Thaksin’s flight schedule could not be considered secret, given that all staff at CATS, which employs nine Thai nationals, were aware of the information. The plane’s arrival was also shown on local television that morning.

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said his government would wait to see whether Sivarak lodges an appeal or requests a Royal pardon.

“We will, of course, respect the decision that he would make, and if he chooses to seek a Royal pardon, the government stands ready to seek such a pardon on his behalf,” Thani said.

Khieu Sambo said he and Sivarak would discuss an appeal, which must be filed within one month.

“As a defence lawyer, I will use all my ability to help my client, but appealing or not depends on him” Khieu Sambo said, adding: “I have not yet made plans to request amnesty from the King for my client.”

Observers said a Royal pardon was a likely scenario in this intensely politicised case.

Cambodian Centre for Human Rights president Ou Virak said there were likely “politics being played behind the scenes” for Sivarak’s release. He called the case a “major embarrassment” for the government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and said it presented the opportunity for Hun Sen to either seek rapprochement with Abhisit or lend further support to Thaksin and the opposition Puea Thai party.

“The question is, what message does the Cambodian side want to send, and which side are they going to pick?” Ou Virak said.

Thaksin and Puea Thai chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh have said they are prepared to assist in the case, though they risk a nationalist backlash in Thailand if they are seen as having conspired with Hun Sen, said Puangthong Rungswasdisab, a scholar of Thai-Cambodian relations at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

“Thaksin and Chavalit will try to say that the Abhisit government is sort of incompetent in relations with Cambodia, but whether Thaksin and Chavalit would be able to capitalise on the release of Khun Sivarak is another matter,” she said.

Property seized by police at Kraya

Photo by: May TitThara
A young resident from the evicted Kraya commune prepares a meal at the relocation site 7 kilometres from their old homes.

If they took villagers’ property against their will... that is not voluntary relocation. it’s using force.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:03 May Titthara

Kampong Thom Province

POLICE began confiscating the belongings of villagers in Kampong Thom’s embattled Kraya commune on Tuesday after nearly 1,700 families continued to resist calls for immediate relocation, residents said.

As a small number of families began trickling into the proposed relocation site, rumours circulated that the growing armed force in the commune would begin a forced eviction at any time.

Community representative Pou Kin said that eight trucks carrying around 150 police entered the Kraya commune village on Monday night.

“In the morning they started putting peoples’ property in the trucks and told residents they could get everything back at the new location,” Pou Kin said.

“No one dared to resist because in the village there are only women. All the men have gone to hide on the cassava farms to avoid arrest because we have not agreed to move.”

Pou Kin also said that the police were telling villagers that they would be arrested today if they did not agree to move out.

Kraya villager Meas Sopear said she was among the women whose belongings were seized.

“They put all my packages in the back of a police truck. I couldn’t do anything because there were a lot of police with guns,” she said.

Though residents and rights workers called the presence of armed forces in the village a form of coercion, the provincial and local authorities said that soldiers and police were there to support those willing to relocate peacefully.

Chhun Chhorn, governor of Kampong Thom, said: “Today, all of the families who agreed to leave did so on their own. We helped them bring their property to the new location because many of them are disabled, and it would have been difficult for them to move it themselves.”

Pich Sophea, Santuk district governor, said the authorities were “busy helping people move to the new location, as well as providing food for them when they arrive”.

The resettlement area is in Thmor Samleang commune, 7 kilometres from Kraya. The first wave of villagers to reach the site was a group of 47 people, including children, who had been intercepted as they returned from an anti-eviction protest in Phnom Penh on Sunday and were prohibited from retrieving belongings from their homes.

At the site, they found themselves without shelter, clean water or any food other than sacks of rice, residents said. It was unclear if the influx of new evictees had been accompanied by an influx of new supplies.

According to the terms of the government’s relocation offer, each family will be given a 20-by-40 metre housing tract along with an additional hectare of farmland.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, disputed officials’ claim that Tuesday’s police action was in the residents’ best interest.

“If they took villagers’ property against their will and took it to the new area, that is not voluntary relocation,” he said. “It’s using force to evict people.”

He added: “We haven’t seen any violence or arrests yet because the authorities only dealt with villagers who volunteered to move. But when the volunteers run out, I am worried that things will get violent, because so many people still refuse to leave.”

An association of disabled veterans and their families began settling in Kraya commune in 2004 and received official recognition for their community in 2005. In 2007, however, their land was sold to a Vietnamese rubber company. The 1,750 families living in Kraya commune at that time refused to relocate, initiating a drawn-out dispute that erupted in occasional violence.

A November 16 riot saw villagers burning company equipment before clashing with armed soldiers and police. The village was subsequently blockaded, and plans to hasten the relocation of residents were set in motion. Roughly 50 families were forced to thumb-print compensation agreements at gunpoint on Monday, residents and rights group workers said.

Thais return body of slain illegal logger

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE Thai military on Tuesday sent back to Oddar Meanchey province the body of a 19-year-old Cambodian man who was shot and killed by Thai soldiers Saturday when he tried to log illegally after crossing the border, the provincial police chief said, amid calls for similar incidents to be investigated.

“We contacted the Thai commander in Khantaralak district, Sisaket province, and he offered to send the body of Meas Oun back home,” Keo Sann said.

Men Morn, the deputy chief of Trapaing Prasat district’s Bak Anluong commune, said Meas Oun was among a group of 13 men who travelled to Sisaket province on Friday. All but Meas Oun returned on Sunday, and the other loggers reported that he had been shot and killed after Thai soldiers caught them.

Meas Haily, Meas Oun’s uncle, said that the family had received the body on Tuesday afternoon and was preparing to hold a funeral Tuesday evening.

The case is only the latest violent encounter between illegal loggers and the Thai military. Pouth Nin, 22, also from Trapaing Prasat district, sustained a gunshot wound to his right leg after Thai soldiers reportedly opened fire on him last month, and Oddar Meanchey authorities also say they are convinced that Thai soldiers shot and burned alive 16-year-old Yon Rith when he was on an illegal logging trip in September.

Chan Soveth, a monitor and investigator for the rights group Adhoc, called for the government to demand that the Thai soldiers involved in such shootings be held accountable for their actions. “They should simply arrest the loggers and send them to the court if they are guilty,” he said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday that he had instructed staff at the Cambodian embassy in Thailand to investigate the case of Meas Oun.

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said Tuesday that he was unaware of the case.

“If we do receive any information, we’ll certainly look into it and try to ascertain the facts of the matter,” he said.


Report details social land grants

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Police destroy homes, evicting residents that formed part of a social land consession in Chroy Changvar in October.

… The government has given priority for only the economic land concessions.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:03 Vong Sokheng

Though the government praises use of social land concessions, calling them an essential tool for poverty alleviation, opposition and civil society leaders point out flaws in their implementation.

THE government this year has allocated 34,800 hectares of land in social land concessions that have benefited 14,500 poor families in 12 provinces, according to a report from the Ministry of Land Management released Tuesday.

But opposition politicians and activists say they believe the manner in which the government doles out such concessions is neither transparent nor effective.

Duch Vontito, director of the National Secretariat for Social Land Concessions at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said on Tuesday that the report demonstrated how social land concessions could facilitate poverty alleviation.

“The report shows that the implementation of land distribution by the local authorities has been smooth and transparent, and they have followed the law and sought the participation of all stakeholders,” he said.

He went on to note that the government has plans for another land redistribution project near Preah Vihear temple, in which 14,300 hectares would be allocated to the families of soldiers stationed there. In addition, he said, 1,000 homes would be built on the land.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, called on the government to ramp up its use of social land concessions to benefit poor families, saying that the programme pales in comparison to the use of land concessions for economic projects. He also said social land concessions have not been employed to help poor families facing eviction.

“We found that currently the government has given a priority for only the economic land concessions, while many poor households have been evicted from their land,” Thun Saray said. “I think that implementation of the policy of social land concessions has been slow.”

Sam Rainsy Party Secretary General Ke Sovannroth said that although the party supported the broad idea of the use of social land concessions, it does not believe that parliamentarians have been given enough information regarding how those policies are carried out.

“The lack of transparency in the distribution of state land has repeatedly caused us to voice concern over the political pressure that has been placed on poor villagers,” she said, adding that the party is particularly concerned that poor SRP supporters “face discrimination under the policies implemented by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party”.

Court quizzes doctor over childbirth death

Photo by: Irwin Loy
Ly Kok Meng says court officials are urging him to reach a settlement in a dispute over his wife’s death during childbirth.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun and Mom Kunthear

But man who accused hospital of negligence in wife’s death is told to reach a compromise.

ADOCTOR representing medical staff accused in the death of a woman who died during childbirth testified in a closed session Tuesday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, as officials urged the victim’s husband to settle out of court.

Dr Dark Chanly was questioned for three hours Tuesday, a month after Phnom Penh resident Ly Kok Meng blamed staff at the Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital in the death of his wife.

Dark Chanly said he was not involved in caring for Ly Kok Meng’s wife, but represented the accused medical staff.

“I wasn’t involved in any of the accusations, but I just came here today on behalf of my friends in order to help them and answer any of the court’s questions,” said Dark Chanly, who declined to explain what he told the court.

Court officials, who could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, have said the proceedings were part of a preliminary investigation. No charges have been filed as part of the complaint.

Compromise urged
Ly Kok Meng’s wife, Ban Rany, died in early November while she was receiving care at the hospital. Staff members said she died from an allergic reaction after being given a serum. Ly Kok Meng, however, accused the hospital of negligence.

Ly Kok Meng said Tuesday that a court official urged him to drop his legal case and reach an out-of-court “compromise” with the hospital.

“I think I have to agree to compromise with them because it is useless for me to continue the case,” he said. “My wife will not live again.”

The head of the hospital has previously insisted that medical staff did nothing wrong.

“We were not careless,” Dr Say Sengly said in November. “We tried to help his wife.”

Principal clears suspended teacher

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Students walk through the grounds of Baktouk High School. After protesting last week, teachers on Tuesday agreed to return to the school.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:03 Tep Nimol

Last of five teachers accused of overcharging students agrees to return to school on Friday.

THE head of a Phnom Penh primary school has written a letter clearing a teacher who was accused of overcharging her students, paving the way for the last of five formerly suspended instructors to return to work Friday, school officials said.

Yim Sokheng, the headmaster at Baktouk Primary School in the capital’s Prampi Makara district, said he wrote a letter confirming that officials found no evidence that teacher Yaung Sovannarith broke any school regulations.

The school had suspended a total of five teachers after accusations that they were charging students informal fees of up to 1,500 riels (US$0.36) each day.

The Ministry of Education permits teachers to charge 500 riels per day.

The school reinstated the teachers this week, but Yaung Sovannarith refused to return unless authorities officially cleared her name.

The teacher expressed relief on Tuesday after receiving the letter.

“The letter will prove that I am a pure person and will bring me back my dignity as a teacher,” she said.

The teacher’s sister, however, criticised school authorities for suspending her in the first place.

“They investigated her three times, and the results showed that my sister did not do anything wrong at all,” said Yaung Sovannarin. “But they still suspended my sister, which was an unusual act.”

Demanding money from students is a breach of the teachers’ code of conduct, said Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association. But teachers resort to asking for money because their salaries – $35 to $50 a month – are inadequate, he said.

“Some teachers have been forced to look for other ways of making money, like selling snacks or looking for other jobs for extra income,” he said.

Migrant worker says she was duped

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Kim Yuthana

A WOMAN who moved to Malaysia for what she thought was a promising sales job says she was instead forced to work long hours in a restaurant in a case that labour officials say highlights the dangers of overseas work.

Ary Lina, 23, now wants to take legal action against the Cambodian woman who she says cheated her.

Ary Lina, a widow from Kampong Cham province, said she took the job to earn money for herself and her young son, leading her to trust a friend she knew only as “Sophanna”.

“I really trusted her to give me a job so that I could … support my family,” Ary Lina said.

But when Ary Lina arrived in Kuala Lumpur in July, she said Sophanna took her passport and US$400 in cash and forced her to work in a restaurant for 13 hours a day, earning $175 – less than what she was promised.

At least 200,000 Cambodians find work abroad, both legally and illegally, according to the group CARAM Cambodia.

John McGeoghan, project coordinator for the Phnom Penh office of the International Organisation on Migration (IOM), advises potential migrants to use recruitment firms that have registered with the Ministry of Labour.

“I think lots of people who sign up with unofficial recruitment companies put themselves at risk of exploitation.”

Sen Sok Raid: Cockfighting ringleaders found guilty

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

Sen Sok Raid

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday found 28 of the 38 men arrested in a weekend raid on a cockfighting ring in Sen Sok district guilty of illegal gaming, sentencing them to 25-day jail terms and ordering them to pay fines of 45,000 riels (about US$11) each, Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bunchea said, adding that the jail terms were suspended. The other 10 men were released after Judge Din Sivuthy determined they had not been involved in illegal cockfighting, Hing Bunchea said. More than 50 people were detained during the raid, which was conducted in Khmuonh commune on Saturday, but only 38 were sent to the court for investigation on Monday. Military police explained on Monday that those who were released had either been growing mushrooms on the land or buying mushrooms there. Kith Sophal, the district military police chief who conducted the raid, said Tuesday that he was pleased with the verdict. “I don’t mind the court’s decision to not put them in jail for a longer period of time since it is a minor crime,” he said. “I respect the decision.”

Cambodia expected to seek funding at climate summit

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Children walk on temporary platforms between their houses set up due to excessive flooding in Kandal province last month.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:02 Irwin Loy

FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong will lead Cambodia’s delegation to the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, where analysts say they expect him to press for so-called adaptation funds to help Cambodia meet its climate-related challenges.

The Cambodian delegation, which also includes Environment Minister Mok Mareth, is expected to arrive in Denmark in time for a meeting of heads of state next week, said Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While the discussion leading up to the summit has largely centred on emissions reductions, analysts say developing countries such as Cambodia are more likely to focus on a different figure: the amount of money industrialised countries are willing to commit to help poorer nations adapt to the expected effects of climate change.

“It’s the story for all developing countries,” said Brian Lund, the East Asia regional director for Oxfam. “These countries may not be the main contributors to global emissions, but they are certainly on the receiving end when it comes to consequences.”

The government’s draft position on climate change, in particular, suggests that adaptation funds are likely to be the delegation’s key demand during the summit.

Developed countries “should increase their financial support for adaptation activities in vulnerable countries”, the draft position reads.

“Assistance for implementing climate change adaptation measures in least developed countries should be unconditional … and should not lead to increase in debt.”

Tin Ponlok, project coordinator at the Environment Ministry’s climate change office, said, “The importance for us is that, yes, we hope industrialised countries will commit more to cut emissions, but at the same time we hope they will also commit more to provide more tangible funding support for adaptation activities in developing countries.”

With a majority of the country still reliant on agriculture for both income and food, Cambodia is particularly dependent on international funds.

A report from the WorldFish Centre this year grouped Cambodia among the 30 most vulnerable economies in the world, largely due to the country’s dependence on fisheries as a source of protein and its limited ability to adapt.

Oxfam has said developing countries will need US$50 billion every year in adaptation funds. A World Bank report released this year suggests the annual figure should top $100 billion.

B’bang dispute erupts in violence; 11 injured

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:02 Chhay Channyda

Police question two in conflict over 25 hectares of land sought as a concession, officials report.

POLICE in Battambang province said they had questioned two men from Boeung 5 village on Tuesday about their alleged involvement in an attack on rival villagers in connection with an ongoing land dispute.

The land is located far from our sight, so it is easy for the villagers... to grab.

Eleven people were injured on Friday when villagers from Sthapor 2 and Boeung 5 communes engaged in a fight over 25 hectares of forest during which knives, machetes and swords were used, officials and rights group workers said.

“We could not identify the perpetrators of the fighting, which led to injuries on both sides, but we are investigating and collecting more evidence,” said Kam Reuy, the deputy police chief of Bavel district.

He declined to identify the two men who were questioned.

Kam Reuy said the investigation was prompted by a complaint from Sthapor 2 villager Thuy Vy, who said his mother and two siblings were attacked on Friday when they were making charcoal on the disputed land, according to Yin Meng Ly, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc.

Yim Meng Ly said the altercation began when 190 villagers from Boeung 5 went to survey the land and found the Sthapor 2 villagers there.

“At least six people from Boeung 5 village were also wounded,” Yim Meng Ly said. “It is a dispute of villagers attacking villagers.”

Origins of the dispute
Chhea Ny, a Boeung 5 village representative, said his village had requested that a 7,500-hectare plot of land, including the disputed 25 hectares, be given to it as part of a social land concession in 2008.

“I know it is state land, which is why we asked the government for it to be a social land concession,” he said.

Bavel district Governor Tim Bareth confirmed on Tuesday that the land was state property, though he noted that the government had yet to rule on the request for a social land concession.

“The land is located far from our sight,” he added, “so it is easy for the villagers to try to grab.”

Responsibility for corruption

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

Police refuse to issue a traffic fine to a driver on Sihanouk Boulevard earlier this year, saying they do not have the paperwork for official fines and can only accept bribes.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:02 Jo Scheuer and Gary Lewis

The obligation to curb corruption and its many negative effects does not rest solely on the government and its employees.

CORRUPTION is found in rich and poor countries alike. It comes in different forms. And its magnitude varies. Unfortunately, it also often comes with a perception that nothing can be done to curb it. Sometimes this perception is nearly as pervasive as corruption itself.

Corruption continues to undermine development in many countries across Southeast Asia. It is therefore necessary to dispel this myth and address corruption squarely. Doing this remains the responsibility of us all – from governments, to development partners, to nongovernmental organisations, the private sector and, ultimately, all of civil society.

Today the world marks International Anticorruption Day. And this provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the impact corruption can have on preventing us from reaching the human development targets set out in the Millennium Development Goals.

Evidence confirms that corruption hurts the poor disproportionately and hinders human development by diverting resources away from investment in infrastructure, institutions and social services.

Corruption also undermines democracy and the rule of law – leading to violations of human rights, distorted markets and diminished quality of life. In the worst cases, it allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.

There is a large body of evidence now in place to show, quite clearly, that in those countries with high levels of corruption, immunisation rates are lower and child mortality rates are higher. In the area of education, higher levels of corruption are strongly correlated with fewer children attending schools and higher dropout and illiteracy rates, meaning that corruption blocks key routes out of poverty.

Building infrastructure and extending water, sanitation and electricity supplies are expensive tasks, requiring large-scale investments – yet, according to the UN Development Programme’s 2008 Regional Human Development Report, “Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives:
Accelerating Human Development in Asia and the Pacific”, on average in the Asia-Pacific region, up to 40 percent of these efforts are being dissipated through corrupt practices.

However, in the Mekong sub-region, some positive steps are being taken. Regulatory authorities have improved communication across borders to notify each other about the existence of fake drugs in order to more quickly remove them from circulation.

In Cambodia, the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority has implemented a performance-based pay scheme for its staff. Between 1999 and 2006, the UNDP regional report also noted that access to water in the city was transformed, jumping from 25 percent to 90 percent, while the number of household connections for the poorest people in the city rose from 100 to more than 13,000.

In Battambang and Siem Reap provinces, One Window Service Offices have been opened, which serve as one-stop-shops for public service administrative procedures, where fees for all services are transparently displayed on a board inside the office.

In addition, Provincial Accountability Working Groups, consisting of senior civil servants, representatives of NGOs and commune councils and private contractors have been set up in all provinces. More than 2,000 boxes have been placed in schools, pagodas and council offices, where citizens can express complaints about abuses of power or corruption by civil servants and their institutions at commune, district or provincial levels.

These are steps in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. Globally, UNDP and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have united to develop the “Your No Counts” campaign (, which in 2009 focuses on how corruption hinders development.

Central to this campaign is raising awareness about the UN Convention Against Corruption, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2003. This legally binding convention obliges 142 countries to prevent and criminalise corruption, promote international cooperation, recover stolen assets and improve technical assistance and information exchange. The Royal Government of Cambodia ratified the UNCAC on September 5, 2007.

Through this campaign, and through our work on the ground, UNODC and UNDP are committed to keep working hand-in-hand with the government and the people of Cambodia, in the firm belief that everyone has a role to play, not only governments, but also parliamentarians, businesses, civil society, the media and the average citizen.

Corruption hurts us all, therefore fighting it is a shared responsibility.

Jo Scheuer is country director for the UN Development Programme and Gary Lewis is regional representative for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Pepper industry needs to reform, analysts say

A farmer displays harvested peppercorns in Kampot province. Analaysts say that Cambodia’s pepper industry remains disorganised.

We would like government representation, not just the private sector.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:01 Jeremy Mullins and Jacob Gold

More help could be required as farmers await GI certification

AS delays continue to plague attempts to give pepper growers in Kampot province intellectual property protection, sources within the sector have criticised the government for its failure to provide effective direction.

According to one expert previously involved in attempts to launch a viable pepper export venture, lack of leadership is a major stumbling block to introducing the measures necessary for making Cambodia’s relatively small output of black pepper globally competitive.

“The problem is there is no grading here, and no actual processing plants,” the expert said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If you have correct quality control, you can access the EU or Japanese markets, where they have very high standards.”

For the farmers who grow Kampot pepper and the associations supporting them, these problems were supposed to have been eradicated by year’s end with the awarding of the geographic indicator shared by products such as Champagne.

Jean-Marie Brun of Groupe de Recherche et d’Echanges Technologiques (GRET), an NGO that supports Kampot farmers, said certification is being held up by requests for supporting documents by the Ministry of Commerce. He added that he hopes the repeatedly delayed process will be completed next month.

For the rest of the sector, Cambodia’s shortcomings in pepper production and marketing mirror those identified in a 2005 USAID report that suggested a focus on developing a specific market chain for pepper, “from the quality and sustainability of raw materials to meeting buyer specifications and customer satisfaction”.

“Pepper producers [in 2005 were] mainly responding to informal signals from outside buyers. They have some basic knowledge of production but know very little of the global market structure,” said the report, which sources in the industry said still rings true.

The Kingdom’s pepper – with production centred in Kampong Cham province – still must be shipped to Vietnam for processing, said Jerome Benezech, director of Farmlink, because outside Kampot there are no domestic processing facilities.

He gave a “very rough estimation” of 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes produced annually in Cambodia, a tiny fraction of total global production of some 281,974 tonnes, according to the International Pepper Community (IPC).

Cambodia’s industry remains largely structured on an ad hoc basis. The government has not joined the IPC, which consists of major producers of the product, despite an invitation extended “four or five years ago”, Moh Taufiq, the IPC’s head of statistics, told the Post Tuesday from Jakarta, where the organisation is based.

“We would like [Cambodian] government representation, not just the private sector,” he added.

Officials from the Ministry of Commerce declined to comment on its involvement in the industry Tuesday.

The 2005 USAID report noted that growing in Vietnam’s shadow slowed development of an independent industry in the Kingdom, due to cost incentives to produce the spice domestically and process it at established plants elsewhere.

Vietnam has become the world’s largest exporter of pepper – it sent abroad some 120,000 tonnes in the first 10 months of the year, according to figures released by Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

JSM votes to replace directors after feud

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:01 Nathan Green

SHAREHOLDERS in listed property developer JSM Indochina voted Monday for a cleanout of the board in an extraordinary general meeting in London requested by minority shareholder Passport Capital LLC in October.

Around two-thirds of voting shareholders passed a resolution by the San Francisco-based hedge fund Passport to remove Executive Directors Craig Jones and Rowell Tan and Non-Executive Chairman Michael Tanner from the six-man board.

They also voted to replace them with Passport nominees Scott Verges, Paul Kaju and John Duggan and supported a resolution to accelerate the return of uninvested cash to shareholders after complaining that millions of dollars in capital tipped for Cambodia and Vietnam had sat idle.

The three new appointees still must be approved by the firm’s nominated adviser under the rules of the AIM board, the alternative investment market on the London Stock Exchange, where the company is listed.

However, Numis, the fund’s nominated adviser, also resigned Monday, so the approval will not take place until a replacement is appointed.

The firm’s shares were suspended at US$0.66 due to the resignation of the adviser. Under AIM rules, the new board has 30 days to find a replacement before the company is delisted.

The vote to replace Jones and Tan was symbolic, as the two resigned as executive directors on November 26, though they continued in their roles with JSM Capital Indochina Ltd, which has been contracted by the company to manage the fund’s investment portfolio.

Jones could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Salt industry looks to revive production after bad year

Photo by: Phar Lina
Salt vendors sell their goods Monday in Phnom Penh. Domestic producers say this season looks better than last year, when rain damaged salt fields in Kampot and forced the Kingdom to import for the first time.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:01 Chun Sophal

Producers in Kampot hope to fully supply the nation in the coming year

CAMBODIA’S salt producers are aiming to boost salt production to at least 90,000 tonnes in the upcoming season to fully meet domestic demand after bad weather last season severely curtailed output, the head of the national association said Monday.

Salt Producers Association President Ly Seng said bad weather meant just 30,000 tonnes was produced in the last production season, which ran from November to May, well below the national target of 100,000 tonnes.

As a result, the association imported salt for the first time to meet local demand of around 120,000 tonnes per year.

However, Ly Seng said weather still remained a major concern.

“We have experienced salt shortages since 2007 because production has been smaller than demand,” he said “If we are unable to produce as much salt as we have planned, Cambodia will face salt shortages like in previous years.”

Hot, dry weather is required to produce salt through the evaporation of seawater from salt fields, but early rains last year massively curtailed production. In response to this shortage of salt, the Salt Producers Association sought government permission in June 2009 to import 60,000 tonnes of salt from China.

Ly Seng said 30,000 tonnes has already been imported and that a further 20,000 tonnes will be shipped in at the end of this month to meet peak demand in January as Cambodians prepare to make prahok, a crushed, salted and fermented fish paste.

The import price is around US$110 per tonne, and it can be sold to wholesalers at $120 per tonne, Ly Seng said.

Chhun Hin, director at the Department of Industry, Mines and Energy in Kampot province, where the country’s 4,400 hectares of salt flats are located, said local producers have capacity to produce from 120,000 to 200,000 tonnes of salt per season, weather permitting.

“We hope that salt production will exceed our plans for next year because the weather has been better than it was last year,” Chun Hin said.

He predicted, based on weather forecasts, that Cambodia would produce 120,000 tonnes of salt this season, which he said would be enough for local demand.

Cambodia typically produces around 180,000 tonnes of salt a year, which enables the country to export the surplus. Ly Seng said the association would stop imports next year if Cambodian producers were able to boost production to previous levels.

“We import salt only when production is much lower than demand,” he added.

RDB and BIDC to lend $10m to rice millers

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:01 May Kunmakara

STATE-RUN Rural Development Bank (RDB) said Tuesday it was planning a US$10 million fund in cooperation with Vietnam’s Bank for Investment and Development of Cambodia (BIDC) to make loans to domestic rice millers to help them boost production.

Both parties would invest $5 million in the fund, which would make loans repayable over three to five years on commercial rates, RDB Director Sun Kunthor said.

“We already agreed with each other on creating the fund to support local investors in the rice sector and give them access to financing to improve their milling equipment,” he said. “However, we have not reached an agreement yet; we are still in preparation.”

He acknowledged that the fund would be relatively small, given the size of the rice sector in Cambodia, but said it would support a range of other financing initiatives being fronted by the RDB.

In November, the Ministry of Economy and Finance made $18 million available to rice millers through a fund administered by the RDB. Loans were to be extended at a preferential interest rate of just 7 percent a year, well below market rates in the banking sector.

A consortium of banks also offered the RDB a $23 million syndicated loan last month at a below-market rate of 10 percent to be redistributed to the rice sector. The BIDC put $18 million towards the loan, Canadia Bank $3 million and the Foreign Trade Bank the remainder.

Sun Kunthor said $5 million of the loan was to go to rice millers for medium-term investments, $12 million was to be extended to associations to buy paddy and $1 million to farmers to buy agricultural imports.

“Our priority for financing is for associations to buy paddy to process it for export to foreign markets due to high demand there,” he said, identifying India and the Philippines as two countries likely to require imports of the staple foodstuff this year.

“We need to take this opportunity to export more of our rice yield to the world,” Sun Kunthor said.

According to reports from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia’s paddy production exceeded local demand last year by about 3.16 million tonnes.

The RDB predicted its loans would help millers purchase an additional 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes of paddy during the harvest season, assuming paddy prices at between $200 and $210 per tonne.

Away from the lakeside, business is solid

Sovy Heng, owner of Top Banana guesthouse, says Boeung Keng Kang 1 – an area of Phnom Penh popular with expatriates – is also starting to attract budget travellers.

A lot of future tourism here depends on if Cambodia stays safe.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:01 Jeremy Mullins and Soeun Say

The capital’s budget tourism market has shifted, says the owner of Top Banana guesthouse

Inside Business

AMID rumours of vice, and the ongoing filling in of Boeung Kak lake, Phnom Penh’s most popular backpacker area has seen business suffer this year, a situation that has been exacerbated by the global economic crisis and the subsequent slump in tourism.

One rapidly emerging alternative to the lakeside is the area around Wat Lanka in Boeung Keng Kang 1, and Top Banana guesthouse owner Sovy Heng reckons he is reaping the benefits, with a full house almost every night of the week.

“I hear from customers about junky places at the lakeside, about things they don’t want,” said Sovy Heng.

Those budget travellers trying to avoid the notoriety of the lakeside generally hear about the guesthouse through word of mouth and a positive write-up in the Lonely Planet Cambodia guidebook, he said.

According to the backpacker’s bible, Top Banana has basic rooms but is “designed for ultimate chill-out: lounges, cushions, hammocks and the most welcoming of staff”.

The unusual Top Banana label comes from Sovy Heng’s nickname, which he said he borrowed from a guest. “Years ago I talked to a couple of tourists from England,” he said. “I asked them their names, and one said ‘Easy Tiger’ and the other ‘Top Banana’. That name stuck to me.”

His guesthouse has a problem altogether different to most operators in Cambodia’s present tourism climate – Top Banana has too much business. Guests are staying longer than ever before, and Sovy Heng frequently has to turn away those who do not book ahead.

Part of the problem is the number of tourists who fall in love with the country and decide to turn their short holiday into a long stay, but not long enough to warrant a place of their own.

As a consequence, he intends to limit future long-term stays to keep the atmosphere “fun”, making more rooms available for shorter visits. He also has plans to increase the number of rooms on offer, a project that will require a second location.

However, his expansion efforts have been thwarted by the increasing popularity of the area, which has seen rents soar, making it all but impossible to find a lease low enough to support a budget guesthouse.

The guesthouse was built in 1993 as a boarding house for soldiers from United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) by Sovy Heng’s parents opposite Wat Lanka on Street 278 in Chamkarmon district.

With his personal savings and a loan from his parents, since repaid, he converted the boarding house into its present form seven years ago by joining it with a neighbouring property.

“It took two or three years for the business to become successful,” he said.

He presently charges US$6 a night for a basic room, with rates rising up to $15 for air-conditioning and hot water. The cheap rates are made possible by the relatively cheap rent of $1,500 a month, split between his parents and the owner of the adjoining property. Neighbouring guesthouses pay much more in rent, which means they can’t match his prices, Sovy Heng said. “There is no competition to the Top Banana.”

With 18 rooms to look after, he has six staff, five of whom help out with his small kitchen by cooking or serving. Monthly, he pays $70 for his cleaner, $100 for cooks, and $180 for what he calls the “big chief”. He began the business with four employees.

Mixing with non-natives
For Sovy Heng, success in the guesthouse trade comes down to having fun, which he does by drinking beer with guests and periodically vacationing with them throughout Cambodia, he said. “We go mostly to Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Kep and Rabbit Island.”

Despite the flow of tourists leaving the Lakeside district for other areas of the city, Sovy Heng said he is taking nothing for granted.

“A lot of future tourism here depends on if Cambodia stays safe,” he said. “It’s safe for tourists, but it has to stay safe for businesses, too.”

Troubled times for Vietnamese schools

Parents in Hanoi are aggrieved at lacklustre levels of Vietnamese education – far from meeting international standards for infrastructure, teaching resources, training, student recruitment and curricula.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:01 Roger Mitton

Parents gripe about corruption, delinquency, misconduct and shoddy standards at university

Nothing irritates Vietnamese parents more than having their unflagging interests for their children’s education be exploited by the ineptitude of underpaid state teachers. Worrisome parents fume about having to fork out monthly “tips” to ensure that teachers pay adequate attention to their children.

In theory, education in nominally communist Vietnam is supposed to be at no cost; in practice it costs a bundle, especially if parents want to put their kids in one of the more reputable state schools.

Hanoi insurance agent Nguyen Lan Huong said that when she tried to place her daughter in a high school that had been recommended to her, the principal said it was not possible because the school was already full.

“I paid US$1,000 to get her in. And I still have to give her teacher presents and money on special days, like Tet and the start of the school year,” Huong said.

Not only does this chicanery drive parents mad, the bottomline is the quality of state education remains poor and way below international standards – even after substantial bribes have been paid. And this situation applies across the board, from kindergarten up to university.

An assessment last month by the Education Ministry’s Department of Educational Testing and Quality Assurance found failures and deficiencies in Vietnam’s top universities, including an inability to update course content and unacceptable faculty to student ratios.

Only eight of the 20 varsities surveyed over 2005-2008 were regarded as effective in their management and operations. None complied with all standards set for degree programmes and many still offered courses without having sufficient study or the required reference material.

Several have entered into joint teaching programmes with foreign institutions without verifying their credentials or proving their foreign degrees are worth anything.

With public discontent rising, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was obliged to address the issue last month in the National Assembly (Vietnamese parliament) in Hanoi. He admitted that his government was responsible for the poor quality of “some” schools and universities.

But he claimed that substandard cases were the exception, not the rule. “The shortcomings found at a few schools should not make us forget the achievements we’ve made in higher education,” Dung said.

Many disagree, including teachers and academics, although in authoritarian Vietnam they prefer to remain anonymous. One university professor in Ho Chi Minh City said: “There are 1.4 million university students in Vietnam, but the total staff is less than 48,000. So that’s about 29 students per faculty member, when there should be less than 20. We put in 40 teaching hours a week, which is too much.”

PM Dung conceded that poor state management has hampered the performance of several universities and said he has urged the Education Ministry to take action. But the Ministry has presented only general measures for an overhaul of the system and has failed to satisfy increasingly restive parents.

Education Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said: “Yes, there are many unresolved issues like the need to build more classrooms and to enhance the qualifications of teachers, but the hardest problem is to increase teachers’ wages.”

Earning an average of only US$65 dollars a month, many teachers get extra cash by offering private tutoring and by taking “tips”. Children whose parents do not pay have little chance of succeeding – and teachers who do not get tips have less incentive to teach well or even maintain order.

Indeed, recent incidents of misbehaviour and criminal activity have increased at schools causing alarmed officials and parents. Le Nguyen Huong, vice director of a Hanoi high school said: “Teachers at many schools simply don’t bother to teach pupils about morality, responsibility and good behaviour.”

On the plus side, there has been a sustained effort to ensure that the quality of schooling is similar for all children in Vietnam, regardless of their socioeconomic status. As a result, gaps in school enrolment between the children of rich and poor families have narrowed.

And even in schools in poorer districts, class size is usually kept within an acceptable range. Textbooks are normally in adequate supply, and most schools have all the basic materials, including modest libraries and a reasonable range of teaching aids.

Most teachers do now have at least two years of training and are laudably assiduous in preparing their lessons – with or without the tips.

So, despite growing parental dissatisfaction and exacerbated problems, Vietnam has come a long way from dismal schooling conditions and ill-trained and frequently absentee teachers; a familiar fixture in many other developing countries.

Perhaps the report card should echo the familiar end-of-term assessment given by many teachers: Satisfactory, but could do a lot better.

Police Blotter: 9 Dec 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 09 December 2009 15:02 Phak Seangly

A 38-year-old man was chopped five times after he defecated on a plantation site and stole two sugarcane trees on Saturday night in Tar Ou commune, Kirivong district, Takeo province. The victim was hospitalised and doctors had to remove one eye after the attack, his older brother said. The brother called on local authorities to find justice for his family, saying that the victim did not deserve to lose his eye simply for stealing two trees.

A 30-year-old man was found dead on Friday in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nob district after being attacked with an ax that was found at the scene. Police subsequently arrested the victim’s father, who confessed that he killed his son while they were drinking together and began arguing after the son demanded that he sell the family’s land. The father has been sent to provincial court.

A 22-year-old man was killed on Sunday after he was hit by a bus on National Road 7 in Kratie province. Witnesses said the man was struck after his hat fell off as he was driving his motorbike, and that he chased it into the roadway. The bus dragged the motorbike 100 metres before crashing and bursting into flames, though none of its passengers were hurt.

A 19-year-old craftsman died instantly on Monday afternoon in a mechanical accident in Russey Keo district’s Tuol Sanke commune. The man was wearing a scarf over his face to cover his mouth while working to produce parts for motorbikes. The scarf got caught in the machine at which he was working, however, and he was dragged into it and crushed. Local police said the owners of the business attempted to settle the case by paying US$1,000 to the victim’s family, but police have instead sent the case to Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where the owners stand accused of unintentional manslaughter.

A 17-year-old from Battambang province’s Bor Veng district committed suicide on Sunday afternoon by hanging himself with a piece of rope. His parents said that in the days before his death, the boy had asked them to purchase him a cellphone. They promised to get him one within a few days, but the boy was apparently upset that his request had not been granted as of this past weekend.