Thursday, 10 December 2009

Human Rights Day in Phnom Penh

Cambodian Buddhist monks lead a march appealing for more freedom of expression to mark Human Rights Day in Phnom Penh December 10, 2009. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Photos by DAP News

Inquest jury calls death a homicide

But no recommendations in shooting

December 10, 2009
Barbara Brown
The Hamilton Spectator

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A coroner's jury made no recommendations yesterday about the police killing of a disturbed man with an axe and a knife who lunged at two officers outside a Parkdale Avenue North pool hall.

Soun Saing, a 46-year-old Cambodian refugee, was shot and killed by two Hamilton police officers responding to an emergency call from the owner of M & J Billiards, who had just been attacked by a man with a hatchet.

Saing, who lived on the third floor of the same building, entered the pool hall shortly before closing at 2 a.m. on April 6, 2007, and without provocation, attacked the owner, Gord Tekatch, then 62.

As Tekatch, who was bleeding from his hands and forehead, spoke to the 911 operator, Saing could be heard that Good Friday morning to shout: "I am the holy king."

Hamilton constables Ryan James and Ryan Tocher arrived at 2:09 a.m. to find Saing trying to get into Taps Tavern on the ground floor.

Saing turned and raised the hatchet in his left hand. The officers drew their guns and ordered him to drop the weapon. Saing then reached inside his jacket, pulled out a knife, and charged at James.

The three-day inquest presided over by coroner Dr. John Carlisle heard each officer fired three rounds from his Glock pistol. Two bullets hit Saing in the torso and another grazed his back.

The deceased man's sister, Puch Saing-Ly, said she does not believe her brother had to die that morning. She believes the two officers were younger, bigger and stronger than him and could have overpowered and disarmed him.

However, John Weiler, a use-of-force instructor at the Ontario Police College in Aylmer, testified that new recruits are taught to never grapple with a person who has a sharp-edged weapon. It's too difficult and risky to grab a knife from someone, he said. Officers are trained to draw their firearms and shoot, if necessary.

Saing-Ly said she and her brother came to Canada as refugees in 1986 to escape the violence in Cambodia that continued after the Vietnamese drove the Khmer Rouge from power.

"We tried to get away from the killing and the suffering but when we got here we again met killing and suffering," she said.

The jury ruled out natural causes, accident and suicide and classified Saing's death as a homicide, meaning someone caused his death.

Coroner's counsel Karen Shea had urged the finding of homicide but said it was non-culpable, which means the officers met lethal force with lethal force and were, therefore, not blameworthy in the death.

Shea argued there were no deficiencies of policy, procedure or training that could be pinpointed as causing Saing's death.

She said the lives of James and Tocher, as well as two nearby civilians, were in danger and the officers acted according to their judgment and use-of-force training. Shea suggested no recommendations were warranted from the jury.

Marco Visentini, legal counsel for Hamilton police, and Gary Clewley, the lawyer for the two officers, agreed that no recommendation could prevent another death in circumstances such as this one.

The only lawyer to disagree was Graydon Sheppard, who represented Saing's widow, Kien Phann, and her children, a daughter who attends McMaster University and a son at Mohawk College. Sheppard suggested the officers acted too hastily and might have saved Saing's life had they put "time and distance" between him and themselves. He suggested the officers could have disengaged the armed man until backup units arrived.


Puea Thai MPs in Phnom Penh Monday petitioning Cambodian PM for royal pardon

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Dec 10 (TNA) – Several members of the Thai parliament from the opposition Puea Thai Party will go to Phnom Penh Monday to submit letters seeking a royal pardon for the Thai engineer sentenced to seven years prison on espionage charges to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, said party spokesman Prompong Nopparit Thursday.

Fugitive ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra is liaising with the Cambodian premier to help gain the Thai national’s early release.

A Cambodian court earlier sentenced 31-year old Siwarak Chutipong to seven years prison and fined him 100,000 baht (US$3,000) for releasing flight details for Mr Thaksin, when he visited Phnom Penh last month on his first assignment as economic adviser to the Cambodian government and personal adviser to Mr Hun Sen.

The Puea Thai spokesman said that the party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh signed a letter Thursday morning asking Mr Hun Sen for a royal pardon for Mr Siwarak, while another letter was signed by three Puea Thai MPs.

Mr Prompong said the last letter will be given to Mr Siwarak's mother for her signature. She is now in the Cambodian capital.

Those travelling with this trip include the spokesman himself, other two Puea Thai MPs, as well as representatives from the party's foreign affairs and legal departments, said Mr Prompong, adding that all of them will hand in the three letters to a representative of Mr Hun Sen at Cambodian Government House on Monday.

Mr Prompong said his group will return to Thailand Monday evening, but may stay in Phnom Penh for another three or four days to take Mr Siwarak home if there is a good sign from the Cambodian government.

The spokesman however said that Gen Chavalit advised that representatives of the Thai Parliament’s House Committee on Foreign Affairs should travel with them to avoid charges the issue has been set up beforehand.

Mr Prompong added that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra has used his personal ties to liaise with Mr Hun Sen in helping Mr Siwarak. (TNA)

Vietnam and Cambodia sign MoU on hydro-electric power study

December 10, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Urban and Industrial Investment and Development Corporation (IDICO) of Vietnam has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on feasibility study on a 980 MW hydro-electric power project in Cambodia.

Under the MoU, signed in Phnom Penh on December 9 in the presence of Cambodian Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem, the project will be located in the Cambodian northeastern province of Stung Treng close to the Vietnam border. The area is expected to generate some 3.76 billion kWh of electricity a year.

The investor group includes the Song Da Corporation, the Vietnam Machinery Assembly Corporation (LILAMA), the Construction Corporation I (CCI), the Infrastructural Construction and Development Corporation (LICOGI) and the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV).

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Construction Bui Pham Khanh said at the signing ceremony that all the investors have experiences in developing a number of major hydro-electric power projects in Vietnam and Laos.

The IDICO said its intensive surveys in Cambodia since 2006 have shown that provinces bordered with Vietnam possess great potential in hydro electricity, estimated at 5,000 MW. The Mekong River stretch running across the Stung Treng province has the greatest potential, said an IDICO representative.

The Stung Treng hydro-power project is considered to be of important significance to the socio-economic development in Cambodia and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. (VNA)

Chinese vice president to visit four Asian nations


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BEIJING, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will pay official visits to Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Cambodia and Myanmar from Dec. 14 to 22.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu told a regular press conference that Xi would exchange views with leaders of the four countries on bilateral relations and issues of common concern.

Xi's visit to Japan is the first by a Chinese leader since the new Japanese government was formed. He will have broad contacts with the Japanese government and major political parties.

"We hope the visit will enhance political mutual trust between the two countries, expand cooperation, promote friendship between the two peoples, and push forward the China-Japan strategic relationship of reciprocity," Jiang said.

During Xi's stay in the ROK, the second leg of his tour, Xi will talk with ROK President Lee Myung-bak, Prime Minister Chung Un-chan and Speaker of the National Assembly Kim Hyong-o. He will also meet economic groups and major political party leaders.

Besides the capital, Seoul, Xi will also visit Gyeongju.

"China and the ROK have seen the smooth development of exchanges and cooperation. The two countries also maintain good communication and coordination on international and regional issues. We hope the visit will further promote the good-neighborly relationship," Jiang said.

Xi was invited by the governments of Japan, ROK and Cambodia, as well as Vice Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar Maung Aye.

Editor: Deng Shasha

Cambodia faces worrying human rights trends: UN

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Dec 10 (AFP) - Rising land disputes and crackdowns on government critics are "worrying trends" in Cambodia, a UN representative said Thursday in a speech marking international human rights day.

Christophe Peschoux, head of the UN's office of the high commissioner for human rights in Cambodia, said there had been some improvement in human rights but urged the government to behave in a "tolerant manner" towards the issue.

"We have also observed some worrying trends in recent years," he said in his speech at a rally where thousands of people gathered to mark international human rights day.

He mentioned people being forcibly evicted from their property in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh as well as ethnic minorities who have been robbed of their land in northeastern areas of the country.

"As land has become a new source of wealth, they (minority people) are being dispossessed of their lands," Peschoux said.

"And day after day villagers are robbed of their land by powerful economic interests, often with the support of the authorities," he added.

The Cambodian government has faced mounting criticism for a spate of forced evictions throughout the country over the past few years at the hands of army and police.

The Cambodian administration has also been heavily criticised by rights groups over the past year for launching a number of defamation and disinformation lawsuits against critics and opposition members.

Peschoux's speech also criticised recent crackdowns on government critics who have been sentenced to jail or fined for their comments.

"In a tolerant political environment, differences of opinion should not be dealt with through threats, intimidation or criminal action, but through public debate," he said.

In a joint statement marking international human rights day, 18 local rights groups also called on the government to open more space for the freedom of expression and to stop forced evictions around the country.

Vietnam PM meets with Lao, Cambodian leaders

Thursday ,Dec 10,2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met with leaders of Laos and Cambodia in Vientiane on Dec. 9 before he attended the opening ceremony of the 25th Southeast Asian Games there.

During a meeting with the Lao Party General Secretary and State President, Choummaly Sayasone, PM Dung wished SEA Games 25 a success and said Vietnam already did and will do its utmost to help Laos successfully host the sporting event.

Lao President Choummaly Sayasone (R) receives Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Vientiane Dec. 9, 2009 (Photo: Vietnam News Agency)

Vietnam attaches great importance and gives priority to developing special friendship, solidarity and comprehensive cooperation with Laos, said PM Dung, who has been in Laos as a guest of his Lao counterpart, Bouasone Bouphavanh.

He proposed the Lao government to continue creating favorable conditions for Vietnamese companies to invest in the fields of transport, energy, finance and banking on the basis of mutual benefit.

The PM congratulated Laos on its 34th National Day as well as achievements it reaped in recent years, especially in 2009 when the country maintained political stability, high economic growth, expanding foreign relations and improved its position in the region and the international arena.

Party General Secretary Sayasone thanked Vietnam for assisting Laos in hosting SEA Games 25, describing it as evidence of the Vietnam-Laos special solidarity and between Southeast Asian nations.

The Laos leader said he was delighted at the progress in bilateral economic, trade and investment ties, and stressed that the flow of Vietnamese investment created a momentum to foster Laos’s economic development.

At the talks with Lao PM Bouphavanh, the two prime ministers agreed that their respective countries hold huge potentials for further cooperation, particularly in hydroelectricity, mining, transport, industrial crops growing and processing.

Despite the impacts of the global financial-economic crisis, this year’s two-way trade forecasts to be kept at the same level of 423 million USD as last year.

Vietnam has emerged as one of the largest foreign investors in Laos with 48 projects totaling 1.4 billion USD licensed in 2009 alone, the prime ministers noted.

PM Dung thanked the Lao government for 1,000 cu.m of wood it granted to residents in Vietnam’s central region, who were heavily affected by typhoon Ketsana.

For his part, PM Bouphavanh affirmed that the Lao government will try its best to step up cooperative relations between the two nations.

PM Bouphavanh thanked Vietnam for its support during the SEA Games 25 and expressed his belief that the Vietnamese athletes will bring home many medals from the event.

While receiving President of the Lao Front for National Construction Sisavat Keobounphan, PM Dung spoke highly of Keobounphan’s role in developing the Laos front and believed that Laos will fulfill this year’s socio-economic targets.

Keobounphan said exchanges and seminars held in recent years contributed greatly to improving public awareness of the valuable heritage of the loyal relationship between Vietnam and Laos.

Also on Dec. 9, PM Nguyen Tan Dung met with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen to discuss ways of further promoting bilateral ties, especially in the areas of economics, trade and investment.

PM Dung thanked the Cambodian government for its creation of favorable conditions for Vietnamese enterprises to make successful investments in aviation, banking, telecoms and agriculture.

He applauded progress in the two countries’ border demarcation and marker planting towards the completion of the job in 2012 as agreed upon by senior leaders of Vietnam and Cambodia.

As neighbors and Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) members, Vietnam wants to join hands with Cambodia to enhance cooperation in all spheres, especially in economics, trade and investment for development in each country and the whole region, PM Dung said.

PM Hun Sen noted with pleasure promising results in bilateral cooperation as well as the increasing flow of Vietnamese investment in Cambodia.

The Cambodian leader lauded effective cooperation in aviation, telecoms and energy and pledged to continue facilitating Vietnamese firms’ business activities in Cambodia.

Source: Vietnam News Agency

ADB Provides US$30 Million for Tonle Sap

Thursday, 10 December 2009 03:23 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday announced that it will loan Cambodia just over US$30 million for sweeping new measures to boost incomes and livelihood opportunities for thousands of poor households in the Tonle Sap Basin region, in a bid to broaden the country’s economic base and address growing income disparities between urban and rural areas.

The ADB’s Board of Directors approved a loan totaling US$30.7 million for the Tonle Sap Poverty Reduction and Smallholder Development Project. Two of ADB’s development partners in Cambodia, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Government of Finland will also contribute a combined US$19.1 million, according to a press statement obtained Wednesday.

ADB noticed that Cambodia’s economy has grown between 6 and 10 percent in recent years, driven by the construction, garment and tourism industries. However, growth in the agriculture sector, which provides livelihoods for up to 85 percent of the population, has been uneven because of weak infrastructure, low productivity, a lack of access to markets and poorly developed rural financial services. The result is persistently high levels of rural poverty and food insecurity, with almost a third of rural households lacking sufficient food during each year.

The project will spur agricultural productivity and increase incomes for up to 2.5 million people in 630,000 households in the poor Tonle Sap Basin provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom and Siem Reap. It will fund new or upgraded infrastructure, which is likely to include small-scale waterworks for irrigation and flood control systems, and improved farm-to-market roads. In addition, the project will help to establish commune-based livelihood improvement groups that will provide revolving funds to members to buy agricultural supplies such as seeds and fertilizers. Support will be given to build up the capabilities of microfinance institutions and rural service agencies, to train farmers in modern agriculture technologies, and to boost access to information through internet centers or e-kiosks that can be utilized by commune members.

“The project will deliver a broad range of benefits including increased crop productivity and output, improved post-harvest management, market access and prices, greater access to rural financial services, and increased knowledge of agriculture technologies, all of which will help raise living standards, boost incomes, and provide livelihood opportunities for poor households,” said Ian Makin, senior water resources management specialist with ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

The project is also part of a broader ADB-led initiative to develop the Tonle Sap Basin, and complements the work of other development partners in the agriculture sector, including IFAD.

The project is strongly focused on providing grass roots support for individual communities,who will be fully involved in identifying priority investments that reflect their specific needs. It also includes a gender action plan to ensure women are able to participate fully and to benefit equitably from the project.

ADB’s funds from its concessional Asian Development Fund make up 55.5 percent of the total
project cost of US$55.3 million and include a loan equivalent to US$3.4 million, and a grant of up to US$27.3 million. The loan has a 32-year term, including a grace period of eight years, with interest charged at 1 percent per annum during the grace period and 1.5 percent for the rest of the term. IFAD’s loan and grant of up to US$13.38 million, and Government of Finland’s grant of US$5.75 million equivalent will be administered by ADB, with the Government of Cambodia providing US$5.47 million to make up the balance of the total.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is the executing agency for the project, which is due for completion around August 2017. ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration.

JICA, MoP Announce New Stats

Thursday, 10 December 2009 03:22 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

JICA, and the Cambodian Ministry of Planning have announced there were about 376,761 “establishments” in Cam bodia at the Release of the Final Results at the National Institute of Statistics on Wednesday.

Chief Representative of JICA for Cambodia Yasujiro Suzuki said that “I would like to congratulate the Cam-bodian Ministry of Planning on the release of the final results of the Nation-wide Establishment Listing of Cambodia 2009.”

Yasujiro said that JICA supported to the National Institute Statistics (NIS) since 1999.

“JICA provided training to more than 600 statistical staff through technical cooperation,” he added.

Senior Minister, Minister of Planning Chhay Than said on the release that “The NIS has stopped to conduct the establishment survey since the Asia Development Bank (ADB) project has finished in 2003.”

Chhay Than added that through JICA support, NIS has conducted establishment surveys and the 2009 nation-wide establishment listing of Cambodia.

He said that “In 2011, the NIS will produce the master frame of the establishments for the economics surveys and produce census frame for economic census of Cambodia.”

If data is not used properly, value for the qualified and updated official statistics will be lost, Yasujiro stressed.

“I am looking forward to an intense discussion among participants to make the maximum usage of the Nation-wide Establishment Listing,” he said.

“We will improve our knowledge, skills, and capacities of both the NIS and provincial staff to support 2011 economic census,” Than continued.

“For Cambodia, we need the results of the establishments, because it gain the information to current situation of economics, it will provide the benefits such as policy makers, NGOs, private sectors, researchers, and other development partners.”

Cambodian Director General of the NIS San Sy Than said that JICA project assistance has helped improve official statistics gathering in Cambodia.

No Official Meet Between Hun Sen, Ahbiist

Thursday, 10 December 2009 03:17 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

A​ Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs official on Wednesday said that there will be no meeting between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in Laos during the opening ceremony of the 25th SEA Games.

Hun Sen led a senior Cambodian delegation on Wednesday morning to attend the opening ceremony of the 25th SEA Games in Laos. The Premier was invited by his Lao counterpart Bouason Boupphavanh after his recent visit to Cambodia.

Though the leaders would not meet at the opening ceremony, “we are not sure whether the both partners may meet or not,” Koy Kuong, MFA spokesman, told DA​P News Cambodia.

Hun Sen will take part in the opening ceremony 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 Wedne-sday’s ceremony in Vientiane, the Vientiane Times reported.

Thai Leaders Claim to be Ready to Help

Thursday, 10 December 2009 03:15 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thai leaders claimed their government is ready to help the recently convicted Sivarak Chutipong appeal or seek a pardon from Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni.

The Thai leaders´ claims come after a Phnom Penh court on Tuesday afternoon sentenced Sivarak to 7 years in prison, and a fine of CR 10 Million for stealing fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra’s flight plans during his visit to Cambodia in November.

Sivarak was ruled guilty in accordance with Article 19 of the 2005 Archives Law which covers information on national security and social order.

The Thai Foreign Ministry is ready to file an appeal or seek a royal pardon for convicted Thai spy Sivarak Chutipong, but it is up to his family to decide, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post on Wednesday.

Kasit said before visiting the three southern border provinces with visiting Malaysian cabinet ministers in the morning that Sivarak’s mother and other family members will decide whether they want the Thai government’s assistance.

“We have Thai diplomats in Phnom Penh who are ready to help Sivarak,” he claimed.

Sivarak, 31, an employee of Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), was arrested on Nov 12 on charges of stealing state secrets, the flight information of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra when he visited Phnom Pehn, and giving the information to a Thai diplomat.

The mother of Sivarak Chutipong is pinning her hopes on the Puea Thai Party and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra getting her son a royal pardon from Cambodia after he was sentenced yesterday to seven years in jail on spying charges.

After the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruling, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom called the opposition party from the Cambodian capital and appealed to party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and Thaksin to step in, the Bangkok Post added.

Simarak consulted her lawyer Khieu Sambou after the verdict and both agreed not to appeal the case in order to start proceedings for a pardon.

Pal Chandara, the Government’s lawyer, told reporters after the court’s ruling that “It is right the court prosecutors ruled him to be guilty, 7 years imprisonment, and CR10 Million.”

However, Khiev Sambo, the convicted man’s lawyer, did not go into details, saying only that, “It is the court’s right to decide but being as I am his lawyer, I will do my best to defend my client.”

Interior Ministry Approves NGO March

Thursday, 10 December 2009 03:12 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The Interior Ministry has allowed 18 NGOs to march through the streets of Phnom Penh today to celebrate Human Rights Day, an official said on Wednesday.

The Interior Ministry´s approval has pleased NGOs officials. The march will start from the Wat Phnom area, moving along the Sisowath Quay to Wat Botum pagoda near the Royal Palace.

“We are happy we got the approval from the government to march on Thursday without any violence, but it is difficult for us to prepare the document as this is very close to the marching day,” said Suon Saret, a representative for 21 NGOs organization in Cambodia.

Chan Soveth, an Adhoc investigator, said all organizations are happy with the ministry approval as it shows freedom of speech for citizens.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the ministry, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

New Minimum Prices for Calls Unveiled

Thursday, 10 December 2009 03:09 DAP-NEWS

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Cambodia’s Ministries of Finance and Telecoms on Wednesday announced the new official minimum tariffs for mobile phones and landlines. The approval comes after some phone companies in Cambodia had disagreed over prices.

Minister of Posts and Telecoms So Khun said at a press conference on Wednesday that from call prices are limited with minimum prices of 4.5 cents per minute for calling to the same network and 5.95 cents per minute for calling to another network.

The minister confirmed that the calling price from Cambodia via mobile phone to oversea via immobile phone is to cost at least 2 cents per minute. “The price calling from immobile system to the another in the same area is to be limited to 1 cent per minute. The price calling via immobile phone from Phnom Penh to different areas is to be 2 cents per minute,” the minister stated.

According to the minister, calling from Cambodia to different international gateways is also to be limited.

Economy remains in peril: IMF

Customers wait to be served last month at the head branch of Canadia Bank in Phnom Penh. The IMF warned Tuesday that banks are still hiding bad loans, which are exacerbating structural risks in the financial sector.

The outlook for Cambodian garment exports is clouded by structural changes.

Growth on the slide
The following data gives the change in GDP:
2006 + 10.8pc
2007 + 10.2pc
2008 + 6.7pc
2009 - 2.75pc*
2010 + 4.25pc*
* indicates a projection
Source: IMF

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:03 Steve Finch

Banking and garment sectors must evolve, organisation says

THE International Monetary Fund issued a stark warning to Cambodia’s struggling garment industry and financial sector in a report late Tuesday that highlighted persisting structural problems. The organisation said that in 2009, Cambodia will experience its first recession in years.

Following consultations with the Cambodian government that ended on November 18, the IMF reported that the Kingdom’s banking sector remains vulnerable despite increasing liquidity after a credit squeeze that started a year ago.

“While banks’ liquidity has improved, staff noted that bank balance sheets have further weakened and credit risks have risen sharply over the past year,” the report said.

The report pointed to rising rates of non-performing loans (NPLs) – which hit 5.25 percent in June – as a continuing concern for the industry, “but the figures officially reported by banks likely fail to capture the true extent of the problem”, it added.

The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) has increased oversight of the sector and conducted spot checks to complement more-stringent classification rules, the IMF said, but a shortage of resources has prevented adequate supervision.

More damning was the report’s suggestion that the central bank has not shown sufficient willingness to clamp down on the banking industry, a sector that has continued in some cases to report zero NPLs.

“While the authorities agreed on the need to deal firmly with problem banks, they preferred a more gradual approach,” the IMF said, without naming the lenders that continued to underreport bad loans.

“The NBC has taken measured steps to deal with problem banks, with much more forceful action needed to reduce systemic risks,” it added.

NBC officials were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal, agreed with the IMF that the central bank had made progress, adding that banks in Cambodia remain well-capitalised compared with other markets, a factor that helps to combat the threat of bad loans.

“The NBC has already been quite strict in enforcing the new asset-classification regime, and I think there is no doubt that their supervision capacity is stronger,” he said Wednesday. “I think the NBC should be applauded for the steps they are taking.”

The IMF said that profitability of banks will continue to be adversely affected while increasing deposits remain with the central bank instead of being offered to lenders, but Higgins said demand remains low and quality borrowers lacking.

ACLEDA Bank profits soared more than 72 percent in the third quarter compared to the previous period, and ANZ Royal saw profits rise 25 percent in the same quarter over the period from January to March.

But the persistent lack of openness in the sector means other banks have not broken down their financial results in public.

The IMF maintained its prediction of a 2.75 contraction in GDP for this year, citing the continuing problems facing the tourism industry, property sector and, most notably, garment exports in what is set to be the worst economic performance by the Kingdom in recent years. Cambodia saw double-digit GDP growth in 2006 and 2007, and 6.7 percent last year.

The garment sector, the country’s primary export industry, remains mired in a downturn with little sign of recovery given the underlying structural issues that have kept costs high and maintained an enduring “productivity gap” with the rest of the region.

“The outlook for Cambodian garment exports is clouded by structural changes in the market, in addition to lagging competitiveness,” the IMF said. “The global recovery is not expected to be consumer-led, dimming prospects for 2010.”

Statistics compiled by the US Office of Textiles and Apparel show that Cambodia’s garment downturn in the first eight months – a 23.1 percent decline in exports to its primary market the United States – was more severe than the global industry average of a 14.3 percent drop, showing that the Kingdom had failed to compete during the global economic crisis.

Bangladesh, by contrast saw exports rise 4.7 percent, and neighbouring Vietnam’s shipments to the US dropped just 1.2 percent over the same period.

“We have always tried to address the issues of costs and productivity; however … some of these issues, such as infrastructure deficiencies, are not within our control and take a long time to resolve,” Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), said Wednesday. “The issue of the price of electricity is a case in point.”

The IMF report noted that Cambodian electricity cost US$0.22 a kilowatt-hour versus just $0.07 in Vietnam.

Garment bulk buyers in Taiwan and Hong Kong, for example, sourced from “the most cost-efficient” factories first, the report said.

“Declining orders [during the crisis] have left fewer allocated to garment manufacturers with relatively high unit costs and compress profit margins for all.”

Cambodia is unlikely to benefit from reduced tariffs on its garments exported to the US anytime soon, the IMF predicted, given that relevant free trade agreements are currently stalled “due to political considerations”, including the Doha round.

The Kingdom is subject to average tariff of 16 percent on shipments to the US.

Loo said that although GMAC continues to work with the government and relevant stakeholders in a bid to fix underlying weaknesses in the sector, the future remains unclear.

“Without … cooperation from all parties, it would be extremely difficult for us to recover from this current economic crisis,” he said.

Fear forces out more Kraya families

Photo by: May Titthara
Residents evicted from their homes in Kraya commune sit among their belongings at a relocation site on Tuesday.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:03 May Titthara

Kampong Thom Province

SURROUNDED by armed soldiers and told their homes would be put to the torch, a further 200 families from Kampong Thom’s Kraya commune – the scene of a bitter two-year land dispute – caved to official pressure to relocate on Wednesday, community representatives said.

More than 80 soldiers and 30 military police officers descended on the commune for a second day, loading family belongings onto trucks bound for the relocation site 7 kilometres away in Thmor Samleang commune.

“Today a lot of our villagers agreed to accept the authorities’ policy because police threatened to arrest us, burn down our houses and destroy our cassava farms if we refuse,” said villager Muong Sinat.

“We must force our minds to accept their compensation, even though we know it is a small plot of land in a flood-prone area, because there are at least 100 police with guns and we women are unarmed.”

The disabled veterans – to whom the land was originally granted in 2005 – and their families had been defying eviction orders since the property was sold by the state to a Vietnamese rubber firm two years later.

“They asked us to agree to move, gave us a list to register and then took our property to the new location, even though we did not agree to go,” Muong Sinat said.

Community representative Pou Kin, wanted by police in connection with the burning of four vehicles owned by rubber firm Tin Bien when villagers clashed with police on November 16, said he was heartbroken.

“My name is on their list of people to arrest,” he said.

“If I agree to accept [compensation], I will not be arrested, so the last choice I have is to accept. We are poor and weak. We always lose. The rich people with power always win.

“The prime minister gave us permission to live here, but still we get evicted because the company has a lot of money to pay the authorities. No one is stronger than money.”

Neang Sinat, one of the villagers who agreed to accept the government offer of a 20-by-40 metre housing tract with a hectare of farmland, called on the authorities to postpone the eviction by one month in order to allow the families to harvest their cassava.

The families have been told they can return to Kraya to collect their crops in the morning, but must be back in the new location by nightfall – an offer villagers say is unrealistic given that they must travel the 14 kilometres on foot.

On arrival at Thmor Samleang, families were given little more than tents – and no clear indication which plot of land would be theirs.

“We don’t have food to eat, and we did not see any authorities come to talk with us yet,” said Prak Many.

“I need to know exactly where my new land is, and then I will cut trees to construct my house. I don’t want to live in bad conditions like this.”

On Tuesday, the same day one of the seven arrested in connection with the November 16 altercation was released on bail, Kraya’s pagoda was destroyed and the clergy forced to leave.

“In name they are Buddhists. They should respect monks, not speak bad words to me and force me to defrock,” said Chief Monk Kin Ly.

The version of events given by officials contrasted starkly with the villagers’ testimonies.

Ek Mat Muoly, chief of Santuk district police, said: “Our officials did not threaten people – we just went to help them.”

Asked to explain why the government had sold the 8,000-hectare site at Kraya to a private enterprise after granting the families permission to dwell on the land, Kampong Thom Governor Chhun Chhorn – who insisted families at the relocation site had been given food – would only say that the matter was “difficult to talk about”.

Human rights activists offered a scathing assessment. Mathieu Pellerin of Licadho said: “The use of armed soldiers against civilians is totally illegal.”

The remaining families at Kraya, who total about 1,000, have been invited by officials to visit the relocation site today.

If they again refuse, human rights groups fear a forced eviction could be less than 48 hours away.

Pardon sought for jailed Thai

Thai national Sivarak Chutipong, who was sentenced to seven years in prison on spying charges, is led from court Tuesday.AFP

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:03 James O'toole and Cheang Sokha

THAILAND’s opposition Puea Thai party is working to secure a Royal pardon for a Thai man convicted of breaching national security and sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison, Puea Thai officials said.

Sivarak Chutipong, 31, was found guilty in Phnom Penh Municipal Court under the Law on Archives and imprisoned after leaking the flight schedule of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh during Thaksin’s visit to Cambodia last month.

Sean Boonpracong, an associate of Puea Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit who spoke on his behalf, said Wednesday that the party is “working tirelessly on Mr Sivarak’s behalf”.

“We working in every possible way to help free him, and that will manifest itself soon,” Sean said, adding: “The goal that we are working for is the pardon.”

Thai media reported Wednesday that Sivarak’s mother, Simarak Na Nakhonphanom, said she planned to seek assistance from Thaksin and Puea Thai party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh in light of the strained relations between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

“I don’t know where and from whom to seek help, but, former prime minister Thaksin and General Chavalit, please help my son to get freedom,” Simarak was quoted as saying by Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper.

The Thai News Agency reported that Thaksin legal adviser Noppadon Pattama said he had already consulted with Deputy Prime Minister Sok An about a pardon for Sivarak.

Khieu Sambo, Sivarak’s defence attorney, declined to comment on the prospect of a pardon, saying he and his client were still in the process of deciding how to proceed.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Wednesday that the government had not made plans to intervene in the case. “For the time being, I think that the court system will make its own decision.”

No changes at CATS
At the time of his arrest on November 12, Sivarak was working as an engineer in Phnom Penh for Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), a subsidiary of Thailand’s Samart corporation.

On November 19, the Cambodian government took control of CATS, installing a temporary caretaker to manage the firm and banning the company’s nine Thai employees from the premises, pending the outcome of Sivarak’s case.

Samart vice president of corporate communications, Kanokwan Chanswangpuvana, said Wednesday that CATS remained in the hands of the Cambodian government.

“Right now, the company’s status is still the same. We haven’t been further informed by the Cambodian government yet, because we have to wait to until the case of [Mr] Sivarak is final,” she said.

Soy Sokhan, undersecretary of state at the Civil Aviation Secretariat, declined to comment on when CATS would be returned to its original management.

Chamber dismisses Lemonde bias charge

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:03 Robbie Corey Boulet

JUDGES at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday rejected a request for the disqualification of International Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde in response to bias allegations.

The request was filed in October by defence lawyers for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary after Wayne Bastin, a former chief of the Intelligence and Analysis Unit of the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges, provided a witness account of an August meeting during which, he said, Lemonde expressed a preference for inculpatory rather than exculpatory evidence.

Lemonde said in November that he did not recall the remarks to which Bastin referred, and said that if he had made them, he would have done so “in jest, as would have been obvious to everyone present”.

The Pre-Trial Chamber ruled Wednesday that the evidence supporting the Ieng Sary team’s request was “not very strong”. The rejection of the request cannot be appealed.

Michael Karnavas, Ieng Sary’s international lawyer, vowed on Wednesday to press on with an additional request for Lemonde’s dismissal, filed Monday, based on a December 2 statement in which Bastin accused Lemonde of compromising the confidentiality of his office’s investigation, among other things.

“The additional information was obviously not considered,” Karnavas said. “We accept the [Pre-Trial Chamber’s] reasoning, but in light of Mr Bastin’s second statement we would be acting contrary to our client’s best interests if we did not pursue these matters.”

ECCC judges agree to apply controversial legal doctrine

Ieng Sary appears at the ECCC. AFP

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:03 Robbie Corey Boulet

JUDGES have ruled that joint criminal enterprise, a controversial form of liability under which suspects can be found responsible for crimes committed as part of a common plan, could apply at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, setting the stage for further debate on the issue between prosecutors and lawyers for the four regime leaders awaiting trial.

In a decision dated Tuesday, the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges determined that all three forms of joint criminal enterprise (JCE) could apply for international, but not domestic, criminal charges.

The first form of JCE exists when participants share intent to commit a crime, the second form exists when a criminal plan is implemented in “a common concerted system of ill-treatment”, and the third, or extended, form concerns crimes considered “natural and foreseeable” consequences of a common plan.

Deputy co-prosecutor William Smith praised the decision Wednesday, saying it would ensure “that the full extent of the charged persons’ alleged criminal behaviour is brought to account” by the tribunal.

But Michael Karnavas, international co-lawyer for former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary, who filed a motion against the application of JCE in July 2008, called the jurisprudence on which the decision was based “dubious” and said his team would “most definitely” appeal.

“JCE is by far the most controversial piece of law to have been legislated from the bench,” he said.

Parties on notice
Anne Heindel, a legal adviser for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said the decision served primarily as a way of informing parties that JCE “could be an issue”, thereby avoiding some of the confusion that plagued the tribunal’s first case, that of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch.

Co-investigating judges did not include JCE in the Duch closing order, and the Pre-Trial Chamber later ruled that Duch had not been informed of the JCE allegation in time, effectively leaving the issue unresolved. The Trial Chamber is expected to rule on the applicability of JCE in that case when it issues a verdict.

“It’s good to have this decision now, so that the parties have notice that this could be part of Case 002,” Heindel said. “The problem with the Duch case is, we still don’t know what the Trial Chamber is going to do, so they were arguing in a vacuum.”

As for the substance of the doctrine, she said: “This sidesteps every controversy that’s been raised about the issue by any of the parties. The reasoning is not very useful here. It’s not pointing to any new reasoning, and it’s not offering any new insight into the legal issues.” These issues, she added, include the size, scope and nature of an alleged JCE.

Heindel noted that the third, extended mode of JCE concerning “natural and foreseeable crimes” was the most controversial.

“The classic example is a bank robbery,” she said. “Everyone goes in with guns, robs a bank, and shoots someone. Under [the third mode of JCE], everyone could be responsible for the death of that person even though they only agreed to rob the bank.”

She added: “JCE allows you to kind of tie everybody up together so that nobody can escape responsibility.”

Andrew Ianuzzi, a legal consultant for Khmer Rouge Brother No 2 Nuon Chea, said that the defence team was “not at all surprised by the decision” and would “consider exercising our appellate rights”, though he noted that other chambers would have the chance to weigh in on whether JCE should apply in the second case.

Heindel said it was conceivable that the issue would be debated all the way up to the Supreme Court Chamber.

Because Wednesday’s decision was not specific to the second case, JCE could also be applied in additional cases. Prosecutors filed introductory submissions for five more suspects in September.

“If the [co-investigating judges] feel that JCE applies before the ECCC, then it applies potentially in any case,” Heindel said.

Corruption: Groups urge citizens to report graft

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:03 Khuon Leakhana and Sen David

THE freedom of citizens to report corruption is crucial if Cambodia is to tackle its graft problem, advocates said Wednesday during a celebration of International Anticorruption Day, adding that draft anticorruption legislation that comes before the Council of Ministers on Friday should be immediately approved as a sign of the government’s will to combat the problem. Cambodia is perceived as one of the world’s most graft-plagued countries, according to the German group Transparency International, which this year ranked the Kingdom 158 out of 180 nations polled. “It is better than last year, but it is not enough. The government should approve the draft anticorruption law as soon as possible,” said Chea Vannath, an independent analyst. Corruption is a daily issue, said Mom Sitha, executive director of the Cambodia Independent Anti-Corruption Committee. “Even our children know corruption,” Mom Sitha said. However, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, brushed aside references to corruption, accusing some NGOs of also being corrupt.

Freelance journalism a more dangerous profession: group

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Publisher Hang Chakra arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this year.

In the current situation, all cambodian journalists are under threat.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:02 James O'toole and Meas Sokchea

FREELANCE journalists are increasingly at risk worldwide of official persecution, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said this week, a trend Cambodian media experts said is already evident here in the Kingdom.

In its annual census of imprisoned journalists, the committee noted that freelancers make up about 45 percent of the at least 136 journalists currently incarcerated worldwide.

This, the organisation argued, is because the Internet has lowered the barriers for freelance journalists, and professional news outlets are increasingly reliant on freelancers and stringers in place of full-time staff as they search for ways to cut costs.

“The days when journalists went off on dangerous assignments knowing they had the full institutional weight of their media organisations behind them are receding into history,” the committee’s executive director, Joel Simon, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Today, journalists on the front lines are increasingly working independently,” Simon added.

“The rise of online journalism has opened the door to a new generation of reporters, but it also means they are vulnerable.”

This worldwide trend can be clearly seen in the Cambodian press, said Moeun Chhean Narridh, director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies.

“The number of freelance journalists has increased in recent years because many newspapers, particularly Khmer-language newspapers, cannot afford to send their reporters to the provinces to cover stories,” he said, adding that freelance journalists often lack the training and expertise of their professional counterparts.

Pa Nguon Teang, the director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, said opportunities are limited in the current media market for journalists who are not well-connected.

“TV, radio licences – all of these are in the hands of the government,” he said.
“It should be free for all to get these licenses, but actually it depends on your relationship with the government.”

Both Pa Nguon Teang and Moeun Chhean Narridh said, however, that whether they have the protection of a professional institution or not, all journalists are at risk if they dare to criticise Cambodian elites.

This past June, as the CPJ noted, Khmer Machas Srok newspaper publisher Hang Chakra was sentenced to one year in prison for running a series of articles accusing officials working under Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption.

Opposition newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer, meanwhile, ceased publication following the June arrest of editor Dam Sith.

“In the current situation, all Cambodian journalists are under threat and intimidation because of the criminal lawsuits,” Moeun Chhean Narridh said.

Don't enter Thailand illegally, govt warns

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:02 Cheang Sokha

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a note to the Ministry of Interior on Wednesday ordering it to urge villagers not to risk crossing the Thai border illegally, following a wave of reported arrests and shootings at the hands of Thai soldiers.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said local authorities in border areas should warn villagers against crossing into Thailand because Cambodians have been arrested and, in some cases, shot.

“We have received reports from our consulate in Sa Kaew province in Thailand that our people are crossing the border seeking jobs,” Koy Kuong said.

“But Thai soldiers have opened fire and accused them of illegal logging. This is why we are warning our citizens not to enter anymore.”

District and police officials in Oddar Meanchey province said that Thai soldiers shot and killed a 19-year-old Cambodian logger Saturday after he apparently ventured into neighbouring Sisaket province. Thai soldiers sent the man’s body to provincial authorities Tuesday, the officials said.

Diplomatic channels
Koy Kuong said his ministry is considering sending a diplomatic note to Thailand asking the country not to shoot Cambodians when they venture into Thailand looking for work.

So far this year, Thai soldiers have opened fire four times on Cambodian villagers, said Keo Sann, Oddar Meanchey’s provincial police chief. Two villagers have been killed, he said.

“We warned them hundreds of times already not to cross the border,” Keo Sann said.

In September, the parents of 16-year-old Yon Rith said their son was shot then burned alive by Thai soldiers after he crossed the border with a group of loggers. In the same month, a Thai court sentenced 16 villagers to lengthy prison terms on charges of illegally entering the country and destroying forestry.

Foreigners arrested on suspicion of fraud

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

POLICE arrested two foreigners on suspicion of credit card fraud in Svay Rieng province on Sunday, said Loeuk Vannak, deputy chief of the Ministry of Interior’s Penal Department.

The two men, Igrah Dennis Choice, 40, and Gospel Arthur, 34, were both arrested at Svay Rieng’s Bavet border crossing, allegedly en route to Vietnam, said Loeuk Vannak, who led the police operation that seized the men.

After the arrests, police confiscated a computer that had information of customer bank accounts in France, Italy and other countries.

The men were held temporarily at the police station for interrogation and were to be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for further questioning on Wednesday afternoon.

Loeuk Vannak said the two men had denied any involvement in fraudulent activities, but that there was enough evidence to substantiate charges against them.

“We have enough evidence to present to the court to press charges against them,” he said.

The Penal Department has been conducting investigations for two months after receiving orders from the ministry to search for suspects that were involved in credit card irregularities in Cambodian supermarkets.

He added that the case was “complicated” and that the police chief had requested technical assistance from the FBI.

NGOs worried by draft law on seizure

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:02 Vong Sokheng

ABOUT 20 local and international nongovernmental groups have voiced concerns about the government’s new Draft Law on Expropriation, saying the legislation, which gives the government the right to seize land for projects deemed in the “public interest”, should be modified to protect residents’ rights.

Kong Bopha, head of the good governance programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, said the government should make sure the confiscation of properties is conducted properly, and that fair compensation is provided in return.

“We want to see the properties’ owners and the government seek an agreement before expropriation procedures take place, so no villagers become victims after the implementation of the law,” she said during a public debate held on Wednesday to discuss the law.

The draft Law on Expropriation, approved by the Council of Ministers last week, aims to define the principles, mechanism and procedures of official land expropriations for any construction, rehabilitation or infrastructure that benefits the public interest.

At the end of Wednesday’s session, NGOs issued a series of joint recommendations highlighting concerns in 16 of the draft law’s 39 articles.

Chhith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, said that the expropriation law must be modified to ensure that it meets international human rights standards.

“We see that the draft law on expropriation has not yet been the subject of a public awareness campaign, and there has been little discussion with civil society and development partners,” he said.

Im Chhun Lim, minister of land management, said that if there were no expropriation law, it would be hard to determine fair compensation. “We would be killed by compensation if there was no appropriate land-management law,” he said.

Trafficking in spotlight at weekend

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:02 Meas Sokchea

NGOs and governments hope to put a cross-border spotlight on human trafficking this weekend as part of a campaign aimed at drawing attention to the issue in Banteay Meanchey province.

Authorities from both Cambodia and Thailand, as well as children’s advocacy groups Border Issue Group for Children (BIG C) and COSECAM, are launching a campaign Saturday in Poipet aimed at combating human trafficking along the loosely demarcated border between the two nations.

“Along the border there are plenty of issues involving women being trafficked, as well as migrant workers,” said Chhea Manith, secretary general and Poipet transit centre manager for BIG C.

The campaign is meant to coincide with Cambodia’s second annual Anti-Human Trafficking Day.

Pregnant inmate's health flags

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thursday, 10 December 2009 15:02 Tep Nimol and Mom Kunthear

THE husband of a pregnant woman who was detained in connection with a land dispute in Oddar Meanchey province late last month says her health has deteriorated since she has been in custody.

Huoy Mai, 46, who is five months pregnant, was arrested on November 28 after being accused of illegally cutting down trees on land at the centre of an ongoing dispute with the Angkor Sugar Company, owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat. She has been held in a detention centre in Siem Reap since November 30.

“She told me she cannot eat and she is bleeding a lot. I am very worried about my wife and my child. I cannot visit her because I fear authorities will arrest me,” An Sean, Huoy Mai’s husband, said on Wednesday,

“I don’t trust the doctors in the jail, as they don’t take good care of my wife. I want to treat her at a hospital outside, but I cannot,” he added.

Chhang Sophos, provincial monitor for human rights group Licadho, said that when he visited the prisoners last week, he did see that Huoy Mai’s health had deteriorated.

“I did not request the prison director to send her to the hospital because I think they will not do as I ask,” he said.

“But on [Human Rights Day], doctors from Licadho will come back to check her health,” he added.

Noun San, Siem Reap’s provincial deputy prosecutor, said that the woman was sent to a hospital last week for treatment.

“She is better now and we sent her back to the jail after the doctors tried their best to help her and her child. Both mother and child are well, and the prison staff are looking after her in the prison because of her pregnancy,” he said.