Friday, 11 December 2009

King pardons Thai man jailed for spying

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 16:42 AFP

King Norodom Sihamoni has pardoned a Thai man jailed for seven years for spying on fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra during a visit to Phnom Penh, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Friday.

Sivarak Chutipong, 31, an engineer who had been working in Phnom Penh for seven years at Cambodia Air Traffic Services, will be released from prison Monday to his family and a delegation from Thailand's main opposition party, Puea Thai, with which Thaksin is associated.

"The king just signed it this morning," Khieu Kanharith said, explaining that the royal pardon was issued after Prime Minister Hun Sen requested it Thursday.

"This morning Hun Sen said that if the man wants to continue working in Cambodia, he is welcome," he added.

Sivarak received a seven year jail term and a 10 million riel (US$2402) fine in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday for passing Thaksin’s flight schedule to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh. At his trial, Sivarak denied stealing any documents and told the court that although he had informed the Thai embassy's first secretary by telephone of a flight arrival, he had not been aware that Thaksin was on board.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told reporters the pardon was a "good sign" for relations between the two sides.

"I have received an initial report of a royal pardon, which was an internal matter for Cambodia, but the Thai government congratulates Sivarak's family," Panitan said.

"The pardon is a good sign as Thai people have been very focused on this case and it could ease bilateral relations with Cambodia," he added.

Thai diplomats and the defendant's mother, seen crying in court, had attended Sivarak's trial.

Cambodia expelled the first secretary of Thailand's embassy in Phnom Penh after alleging that Sivarak had passed information to the diplomat. Thailand expelled the first secretary of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok shortly afterwards, with the countries having already withdrawn their respective ambassadors in the dispute over Thaksin's appointment as government economics adviser.

Thaksin was deposed in a 2006 coup. His visit to Cambodia last month was the closest he has come to his native country since fleeing last year to avoid a jail term for corruption charges.

UN official addresses rights rally

Photo by: AFP
Ethnic minority dancers perform Thursday during the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day in Phnom Penh.


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:04 Post Staff

CAMBODIA celebrated International Human Rights Day on Thursday amid a stark warning from the United Nations’ top rights official in the Kingdom that land disputes and a crackdown on dissent represented “worrying trends” in the development of the country.

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 of thousands of people to mark human rights day.

He mentioned people being forcibly evicted from their property in 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, [ethnic minorities] 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.

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,” Peschoux said.

Other rights advocates reminded the audience that the trafficking of women and children and discrimination against the disabled remain significant violations of human rights, and opposition politicians – conspicuously absent from the event – still “issued a statement to congratulate and support” the activities.

Government spokesman Tith Sothea, however, accused activists of manipulating the holiday to promote their own interests.

“They said respect for human rights in Cambodia was narrower than before. We do not accept this. What they said is not true. It’s just a way for them to benefit their groups,” he said by phone.

Elsewhere in the country, a network of grassroots rights groups calling itself the Friends of December 10 held nearly 70 events in 17 provinces and, despite fears that authorities would prevent celebrations, reported that most of the activities took place without incident.

Monks at Kraya end resistance peacefully

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:04 May Titthara

THOUSANDS of Kraya commune villagers continued Thursday to hold their ground against authorities trying to evict them.

But for the monks in this community at the centre of a land dispute that has flashed several times into violence, acquiescence to the loss of the village wat – set to be demolished along with the homes of those who once eked out a living farming cassava and other crops in this settlement for disabled veterans – signalled an end to a struggle that has played itself out for months as the government prepares to clear the land for private development.

“If we move to the new location now it will take a long time to construct a new pagoda, and I’m not sure we will have the money to do it,” Kin Ly, the pagoda’s chief monk, said Thursday as families from Kraya continued to trickle onto a patch of scrubland 7 kilometres away in Thmor Samleang commune, where 20-by-40-metre plots with a hectare each of farmland have been set aside for their new homes.

Pou Kin, a village representative who has so far refused to leave his home, said that residents were continuing to abandon their land under threat of violence.

“Today the authorities continued to force out people who refused to move,” Pou Kin said. Others said that they were unsure of how many of the original 1,700 Kraya families remained after the government earlier this week began a long-threatened eviction.

Authorities, however, continue to dispute the idea that they have invaded the community and effectively frogmarched residents to unfamiliar, inhospitable ground.

“We did not force them to agree to move – they volunteered to move,” said Ek Mat Muoly, chief of the Santuk district police. “We have no plans to arrest anyone because we are only here to help.”

The community was established in 2005, when an association of disabled veterans and their families began moving in and later received official permission to settle there.

In 2007, however, villagers’ land was included in an 8,000-hectare concession to Tin Bien, a Vietnamese rubber company.

In recent weeks, Kampong Thom provincial authorities began pushing in earnest for the community’s relocation, and a November 16 confrontation turned violent as villagers set fire to four company vehicles and 11 police motorbikes.

The community has since been blockaded: Around 100 soldiers and police arrived on Monday and forced 50 families to thumb-print relocation agreements at gunpoint, residents and rights workers said.

With two monks having already fled the pagoda under threat that they would be defrocked, the Kraya pagoda committee agreed Thursday that there was nothing to do but to move to the new location and allow the destruction of the wat and its dining hall.

“I really regret losing the wat, because we celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for it here, and we spent a lot of time constructing it,” said 67-year-old Kara resident Chork Samoeun.

But Ek Mat Muoly tried to downplay these concerns.

“This location is an anarchic area – the destruction of the pagoda will be no impact to Buddhism because it doesn’t even look like a real pagoda,” he said, adding: “We will demolish it when all the clergymen move to the new location, and we will provide new land for them to construct a pagoda, a health centre and a school.”

Logger killed at border: police

Photo by: Robbie Corey-Boulet
The parents of 16-year-old Yon Rith speak to journalists about the death of their son, who was allegedly burned alive by Thai soldiers.

... Now [the thai soldiers] are shooting our people. it’s very cruel.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:04 Khouth Sophakchakrya

A55-YEAR-OLD man from Trapaing Prasat district, Oddar Meanchey province, was killed by Thai soldiers Tuesday night while on a logging expedition – the second time this month that an illegal logger from the district has been slain after crossing the border into Sisaket province, police said.

Phlok Lai was one of 10 men on the expedition, Trapaing Prasat district police chief Keo Tann said Thursday. A second man, Cheng Channy, 30, sustained serious injuries, and a third, Phal Sokha, 20, fled as the troops opened fire and is still missing in Thailand. The other seven men made it safely to Cambodia, Keo Tann said.

“The Thai officers at the border said they would find the missing man if we ordered people to refrain from going to Thailand to log illegally,” Keo Tann said.

Phlok Lai’s body was returned via the Chom border crossing on Thursday, and his family planned to hold a funeral service that afternoon. Phal Sokhorn, the son-in-law of Phlok Lai and the older brother of Phal Sokha, said he planned to cross the border into Thailand to look for his brother after his father-in-law’s body was cremated.

“I don’t know if my younger brother is alive or not, because no one has any information on him,” he said. “But he has never left home and his family for such a long time. I will try to find him, whether he is dead or alive.”

Meas Oun, a 19-year-old man from Trapaing Prasat, ventured into Sisaket province on Friday as part of a group of 13 illegal loggers, and was shot and killed the following day.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Thursday that the border attacks had caused him “great suffering”.

“In previous years, the Thai military would just arrest our people who were illegally crossing into the border and sentence them to jail, sometimes for six or nine years. But now they are shooting our people. It’s very cruel,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested that the Ministry of Interior instruct villagers not to venture into Thailand because of the
recent wave of attacks, the most notorious of which came in September, when 16-year-old Yon Rith was reportedly shot and burned alive.

Oddar Meanchey Governor Pich Sokhin said he had repeatedly tried to advise people in the province not to log illegally in Thailand, but that economic imperatives often led them to ignore his advice.

He also said many of the illegal loggers were from other provinces. “Most of these people are from provinces such as Kampong Cham, Kratie and Kampong Speu,” he said.

Also Thursday, Heng Chenda, 35, a villager from Trapaing Prasat district’s Preah Pralay commune, died after stepping on a land mine while trying to cross the border to log illegally, commune Chief Yun Ny said.

Public transport on the way: city

Photo by: AFP
Peak traffic clogs Norodom Boulevard. The Phnom Penh governor has pledged to set up a public transport system in the capital within the next five years in a bid to ease congestion.


Traffic police across the country will begin to check that drivers have licences in a bid starting January 1 to phase in a national system of driver registration, police officers announced on Thursday. Him Yan, director of the Department of Public Order at the Ministry of Interior, said that if a person is found to lack a valid driver’s license, the police will educate the driver on the importance of learning traffic laws and encourage obtaining a licence. The police will not be penalising drivers for failing to have a licence because more than 90 percent of drivers on Cambodian roads have yet to obtain these, said Chum Thany, the traffic police chief of Kampong Cham province. He added, “I think it will take a long time for the public to acquire driver licences. But once drivers are educated about traffic laws, then this would reduce accidents significantly.”


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:04 Chhay Channyda

PHNOM Penh Governor Kep Chuktema has pledged to create a public transport service within five years in a bid to ease traffic congestion in the capital.

“In five more years, if we do not have public transportation, the capital’s land traffic will become increasingly congested,” Kep Chuktema said Thursday at a City Hall meeting.

Between 300 and 400 new motorbikes hit the capital’s streets every month, the governor estimated.

“Now, we are thinking that if we create a bus system, people will travel by bus,” Kep Chuktema said, adding, however, that “Cambodian people do not like to walk, and they like to use their own vehicles to travel quickly to their destinations. This is an obstacle to creating a public bus system”.

In 2001, the Phnom Penh Municipality and Ho Wah Genting Transport firm signed a contract allowing the company to provide bus service within the city. After a month-long trial period, however, the project was shut down due to lack of funding.

Initially, bus fares were set at 500 riels (US$0.12) per trip, though they later were raised to 800 riels. The service proved popular, attracting more than 5,000 passengers per day before ridership tapered off to between 2,500 and 3,000 passengers.

Chan Sophana, general manager at Phnom Penh Sorya Transportation, formerly Ho Wah Genting Transport, said he welcomed the idea of resurrecting the bus system.

He cautioned, however, that the municipality would need to take a different approach to the project than it did in 2001.

In other countries that contract public transport to private companies, Chan Sophana explained, the government helps to defray losses sustained by the companies as a result of keeping fares low. This was not the case in Phnom Penh, however.

“We could not make any profits running that service here. We had to charge such low fees that we could not even pay for gasoline,” he said.

Twenty-eight-year-old Tith Theakun, who works at a local travel agency and drives her car to work every day, said Thursday that she would welcome a renewal of the public bus system, as traffic congestion in the capital has become an onerous aspect of her daily commute.

“I’ve been waiting for a bus service so that I do not have to take my car to work. I’ll save money and I will arrive on time,” she said.

Spy Scandal: No appeal in Thai spying case: lawyer

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:04 Cheang Sokha and James O'toole

Spy Scandal

ATHAI national convicted of spying in Phnom Penh Municipal Court this week has decided not to appeal the ruling and will instead seek a Royal pardon, his attorney confirmed on Thursday, as delegates from the opposition Puea Thai party planned a visit to Cambodia to expedite their countryman’s release. “We have decided not to lodge an appeal, and we are discussions about seeking a Royal pardon, but we have not yet made an official request,” said Khieu Sambo, defence attorney for Sivarak Chutipong. Sivarak, a 31-year-old Thai engineer, was arrested in Phnom Penh on November 12 for leaking the flight schedule of Thaksin Shinawatra during the fugitive former Thai premier’s visit to Cambodia. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 10 million riels (US$2,402) on Tuesday. A source close to the Puea Thai leadership said Thursday that a party delegation “most likely” including Puea Thai chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and members of parliament, will be traveling to Cambodia next week to advocate on Sivarak’s behalf.

Capital’s poor drifting to the edges: survey

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:03 Sebastian Strangio

THE past decade has seen a gradual shift of urban poor settlements from the centre of Phnom Penh to its outskirts, where communities lack easy access to employment, schools and health services, according to a new report.

“The 8 Khan Survey”, released by local housing rights advocacy group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) on Thursday, shows that the number of settlements in the city’s four inner districts – Daun Penh, Chamkarmon, Tuol Kork and Prampi Makara – has more than halved since 1997, while districts on the outskirts of town have swelled with urban poor.

The report also shows that in 2009, 69 percent of urban poor settlements were in Russey Keo, Meanchey, Dangkor and Sen Sok districts on the outskirts of the city, compared with just 32 percent in 1997.

“We hope that this survey will provide a point of reference and provide a point of debate on issues related to the urban poor,” said Nora Lindstrom, an adviser for STT. “We want the numbers to speak for themselves.”

While poor residents have spread to the city’s outskirts, infrastructure and other vital public services in the new settlements remained “largely inadequate”, the STT survey found. Just 39 percent of the settlements in the outer districts had drainage systems, compared with 73 percent in the inner areas, and nearly a quarter lacked road access. The state provided affordable water to 36 percent of outer district settlements and electricity to 41 percent.

The report comes following a year that saw the well-publicised evictions of the Dey Krahorm and Group 78 communities, both in Chamkarmon district. An information sheet released by STT in April reported that nearly 120,000 Phnom Penh residents – more than one in 10 – have been displaced or evicted from their homes since 1990.

The report also comes as the government readies its Draft Circular on the Settlement of Illegal Temporary Buildings in Cities and Urban Areas, which is set for formal consultations on December 18.

According to a copy of the draft, the circular will oblige local authorities “to collaborate with relevant ministries/agencies, and be completely responsible for preventing any new illegal temporary buildings in the capital city” and in the rest of the country. Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Preah Vihear site set for restoration

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Morning fog creeps over Preah Vihear temple July of this year.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:03 Sam Rith

CONSERVATORS are at work restoring Preah Vihear temple and are set to plant about 2,000 hectares of forest in the surrounding area, officials said Thursday.

The 11th-century temple complex, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in July of last year, has long been a source of tension between the Kingdom and Thailand, which disputes Cambodia’s ownership of land around the site. At least seven soldiers have been killed in border skirmishes near the temple since July 2008.

However, the recent tension has not stalled preservation efforts at the temple, according to Chuch Phoeurn, the chairman of the National Preah Vihear Authority (NPVA).

“The process of preserving Preah Vihear temple is unrelated to the border issues – we’re still continuing our work,” he said.

Thus far, Chuch Phoeurn said, the NPVA has rebuilt the market near the temple that was destroyed during clashes between Cambodian and Thai troops this April, in addition to renovating local roads and relocating villagers living near the site.

UNESCO has contributed US$50,000 to these efforts, Chuch Phoeurn said, but he added that his organisation may need more than $200,000 to rebuild the gateway to the temple and complete the tree-planting project. He said he hopes these funds will come from the government, private donors, and the Bayon Foundation.

Sar Thavy, Preah Vihear deputy governor, said the number of tourists visiting the province’s eponymous temple had markedly increased in recent months, from around 300 in July to nearly 1,000 a month now. Between 50 and 100 of these tourists are foreigners, he added.

Missed deadline
Chuch Phoeurn said, however, that Cambodia may lack the time to submit proposals to UNESCO requesting that two of the country’s other temples be recognised as World Heritage sites next year, and that he has not had the time to start writing the listing proposals.

“If we can not apply next year, we can apply the year after,” he said.

Cambodia plans to ask that Banteay Chhmar temple in Banteay Meanchey province and Sambor Prey Kup in Kampong Thom province be recognised as World Heritage sites.

Abandoned workers hold anniversary vigil

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:02 Mom Kunthear

AROUND 100 garment workers gathered in front of the PDC factory in Sen Sok district’s Teuk Thla commune on Thursday to mark the passing of one year since their employer skipped town and left them without compensation.

Samnang Sytan, 36, a workers’ representative from the factory, said although the factory closed on August 10, 2008, the group chose December 10 to highlight their plight.

“We don’t want to create insecurity in the capital, but because we are suffering so much we decided to celebrate this anniversary on Human Rights Day; it is a day for our rights, too,” she said.

The factory closed after the owner, a Chinese national, fled the Kingdom without warning his employees.

Workers said they are still in need of assistance, and that members are still angry. Worker Sok Dina, 29, said the gathering was intended to send a message to the government in the hope of receiving help.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said the message was “meant to show the government how difficult it has been for these workers. But the government still allows these companies to invest in the country even though some have cheated the workers”.

In November, a Chinese employer from a factory represented by the FTUWKC skipped town with workers’ back pay.

Government officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Freelancers need support

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Phnom Penh journalists rush to take photos earlier this year.

The role of freelance journalists should not be ignored if we want to promote a healthy democracy.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:02 Moeun Chhean Nariddh

Grassroots journalism is key to a healthy democracy, and freelancers must be given the pay and training they deserve.

DO you want to be a journalist? Probably not – especially a freelance journalist in Cambodia.

In a country where unemployment is an endemic problem for new graduates from high schools and universities, a career in the media is still among the jobs considered as a last resort for many Cambodians who cannot find another livelihood. Many people who decide to enter journalism may opt to become freelance journalists if they cannot find a full-time job.

Like other media professionals in general, freelance journalists can play an active role in enhancing good governance and social accountability, as well as promoting a healthy democracy as a whole. Freelance journalists can help fill in the gaps when mainstream media outlets don’t have the resources to cover a story. Due to a lack of staff or sufficient means to report on events in the provinces, many newspapers, radio and TV stations depend on stringers or freelance journalists to help fill in this information vacuum.

Unfortunately, their efforts are not rewarded in the way they deserve. On average, freelancers are paid US$2.50 per story by a black-and-white newspaper and $5 if the story is published by a larger newspaper. It is hard to make ends meet with such a low income, which can discourage people from joining the profession. Facing this financial dilemma, many provincial freelancers have to write two or three stories every day in the hope that at least one of them will be published.

Many mainstream media outlets are making quite a handsome profit thanks to the hard work of these freelance journalists. Now, it’s time to give something back.

We know some media outlets are able to pay reasonable salaries to their staff. Other successful media organisations should do the same. If a full-time reporter is paid at least US$200 a month and a freelancer can receive $15 or $20 per news article, they will be able to produce quality stories (at most, a freelance journalist will have only about 10 stories published or broadcast each month). With the improved quality of the news products, media outlets can also attract the attention of more advertisers as their audience increases.

Another common problem among freelance journalists is the fact they usually enter the profession with little or no proper education or training. This makes them vulnerable to criminal lawsuits for defamation or disinformation due to mistakes they’ve made in their stories. If they are properly trained in the required professional skills, they will not only be able to produce better stories and draw a higher salary, but they will also be able to minimise the risks of being sued for making mistakes.

The role of freelance journalists should not be ignored if we want to promote a healthy democracy. A healthy democracy needs to start at the grassroots level. In order for this grassroots democracy to flourish, we need the media to function at the grassroots level through the use of civic, or citizen, journalism.

This is where freelancers come into play. If young people can be trained to become freelance journalists at the district or commune level, they can represent the voices and interests of their community while keeping them informed of what is happening elsewhere. Ultimately, freelance journalists can help Cambodian citizens fully participate in Cambodia’s democratic process. The future of our democracy starts here.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh is director of the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies and teaches about the media at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Parkson plans to open store in capital: report

A woman enters a Parkson department store in Beijing. The Malaysian retail group is reportedly planning to expand by opening a store in Phnom Penh. BLOOMBERG

Embassy Centre WILL absolutely change the face of retail in Phnom Penh.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:02 Nathan Green and Jeremy Mullins

Outlet is likely to locate in JSM Indochina retail development

Malaysian shopping chain Parkson Group plans to open its first Cambodian outlet in Phnom Penh by early 2011, according to a report Wednesday in Malaysia’s Star newspaper.

The paper quoted Parkson Retail Group Managing Director Alfred Cheng as saying the company would launch a flagship retail store as part of an overseas growth plan in which it aims to expand its retail space by 15 percent each year in the countries where it operates.

The retail group currently has 35 stores in Malaysia, 44 in China and five in Vietnam, occupying more than 1.6 million square metres of retail space.

Neither Cheng nor Parkson Corp Chief Operating Officer Toh Peng Koon responded on Wednesday or Thursday to a request for details on its proposed Cambodia venture.

However, the most likely location for the new store is in a mixed-use development planned for Phnom Penh by JSM Indochina Ltd, an AIM-listed closed-end fund focused on retail and residential real estate investment and development in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The fund announced in December 2007 it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Parkson Vietnam Co Ltd, a subsidiary of the Parkson Group, to take on a long-term lease agreement as the anchor tenant for its proposed Embassy Centre development.

Embassy Centre will feature 30,515 square metres of retail space, along with 100 high-rise serviced apartments from one to three bedrooms. The property is situated near Central Market, the US embassy, Wat Phnom, the governor’s house and Raffles Hotel Le Royal.

Under the terms of the proposed lease agreement, Parkson will lease 20,000 square metres of the gross lettable area for a term of 20 years. The proposed lease agreement had not been finalised at the time, and was subject to further negotiations and due diligence by Parkson, JSM said in 2007.

Craig Jones, the chief executive officer of JSM Capital Indochina, which manages the investment portfolio of JSM Indochina, could not be reached for comment this week.

However, he told the Post in late October that the Embassy Centre would “absolutely change the face of retail in Phnom Penh”. It would be up to Bangkok standards but on a scale to meet Phnom Penh’s needs, he said.

JSM was close to finalising a contract with a construction company to push ahead with the development, which was a cornerstone of the company’s AIM listing in 2007, Jones said.

The centre will be on a “big transportation corridor”, Jones said, meaning it is unlikely to cause traffic congestion as expected with other developments planned for the capital.

The development would also contain ample parking, which Jones said would help develop the city centre. “The community needs parking. We are providing 700 parking spaces in the central city, which is beneficial to the shopping centre and beneficial to the Phnom Penh community,” he said.

Jones recently resigned as executive director of JSM Indochina ahead of a vote on a leadership challenge by San Francisco hedge fund Passport Capital LLC. JSM Capital Chief Financial Officer Rowell Tan also resigned as executive director from the six-man board.

Non-executive Chairman Michael Tanner was ousted in the vote Monday, which also called for a return to shareholders of uninvested capital and a review of the listed fund’s investment strategy.

Hong Kong trade drops in line with textile woe

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:02 May Kunmakara

BILATERAL trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong fell 24.1 percent year-on-year during the first 10 months of 2009 to US$403 million, figures released Wednesday by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) show.

Cambodia’s exports to Hong Kong grew 33.9 percent to $11 million, and Hong Kong’s exports to Cambodia fell 25 percent to $392 million, leaving the Kingdom with a $380 million trade deficit.

Most trade between the two countries consisted of re-exports. More than half of Cambodia’s exports to Hong Kong were re-exported, and just $17 million worth of goods imported from Hong Kong were actually produced there.

HKTDC Director Tina Phan was not available for comment Thursday.

Ministry of Commerce Secretary of State Ok Boung said the decline in imports from Hong Kong was in line with falling exports from Cambodia to its major trade partners, particularly the US. “Frankly, this downturn has occurred with all countries due to the affect of global economic crisis,” he said.

Aside from telecommunications parts and equipment, the bulk of Cambodia’s imports from Hong Kong are raw materials for its garment sector, which has been hit hard by falling consumer demand in the US and EU. Cambodia’s garment exports fell 21.66 percent over the first nine months of the year to $1.78 billion, according to the latest available figures from the Ministry of Commerce.

Two-way trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong reached a peak of $631 million in 2007 before declining slightly last year, HKTDC figures show.

It comes as a great surprise to many expatriates that Siem Reap actually has a cinema, but it’s less of a revelation that the movie house, which shows only Khmer movies, is suffering from lack of patronage and could be forced to close.

Photo by: Rann Reuy
An electric car shares the patch with tuk tuks at Angkor Thom

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:01 POST STAFF

An item in this month’s Southeast Asia Globe magazine revisited the story that Siem Reap’s tuk-tuk drivers are angered over the use of electric cars in the Angkor temple complex, and fear they will be banned from the temple precinct.

But Run Serey Ratha, general manager of the 7Makara Electric Car unit at Apsara Authority, told 7Days there was no plan to ban any vehicles, particularly tuk -tuks, from taking guests to the temples.

And Siem Reap tuk-tuk drivers 7Days spoke to seemed more concerned about the decline in tourist numbers and hence their lowered income.

The notion of angry tuk-tuk talk about electric vehicles at Angkor was first mooted in November 1999 when news reports stated that taxi drivers and motodops in Siem Reap had protested in front of Angkor Wat against an electric car project, saying it will cause them to lose their jobs.

Then in September 2006 came more news about tuk -tuk protests over electric vehicles.

According to a news report at the time, “A Chinese-owned private company that now operates 40 electric vehicles has sole rights to take tourists around the [Angkor Archaeological] park.”

The same report said around 200 angry tuk-tuk drivers blocked the entrance to Angkor Archaeological Park because they were no longer permitted to take tourists directly to the temples inside the park, but must remain in a parking lot near the entrance.

Meanwhile, in January 2008 the 7Makara Electric Car Project was established, with Chinese financial assistance.

Mey Marady, deputy director of Apsara Authority, said that as part of this project 23 electric cars are now managed by the Apsara Authority, and operate mainly in the Angkor Thom temple complex.

7Makara Electric Car’s general manager Run Serey Ratha, said, “These cars are very helpful in protecting the environment in the Angkor park complex because they do not produce smoke.”

He said tourists like the cars, and that that some tour operators abroad had introduced 7Makara Electric Cars into their tour packages.

He said the eco-friendly rides set tourists back $3 for a three kilometres distance in the Angkor Thom temple complex, but guests were welcome to hire the cars for longer trips and would be charged accordingly.

Cinema in danger of closure

Getting ready for the afternoon matinee showing at the cinema.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:01 POST STAFF

It comes as a great surprise to many expatriates that Siem Reap actually has a cinema, but it’s less of a revelation that the movie house, which shows only Khmer movies, is suffering from lack of patronage and could be forced to close.

The Baray Andet Cinema in Charles De Gaulle Street on the edge of downtown Siem Reap was opened in mid 2005, and is owned by Touch Bora.

Housed in a fairly nondescript building, the picture house has one screen which runs two daily screenings, at 2.30pm and 7pm, and tickets cost 5000 riel.

On average, about 20-30 people attend a screening but lately that figure has dropped to 10 – or even less.

Cinema manager Hean Kimsak blamed the audience decline on the deterioration of production values and quality of the Khmer films available for screening.

He said many films now only take about a week to complete, with budgets as low as US$3000-$5000.

He compares this to the economic growth periods of 2007 and early 2008, when producers were able to spend $40,000 or more on a production.

Hean Kimsak said, “At that time, the films were very good, and many films attracted audiences of over 100 at our cinema. But recently some customers complain bitterly after having seen a movie.

Originally he was a Pouk Market vendor, but quit his business to help his brother, Touch Bora, the cinema’s owner.

He said that if business doesn’t pick up, the cinema will be forced to shut, adding that foreign films were not the answer because they didn’t attract Khmer customers.

Surely, though, this is an opening for a savvy barang to feed movie-starved expats.

Pizzeria has roots in a famous family

Photo by: Lily Partland
Sieng Tan, owner of La Volpaia Pizzeria.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:01 POST STAFF

The son-in-law of legendary Khmer-American journalist Dith Pran, whose work during the civil war was immortalised in the hit film The Killing Fields, is now running an Italian restaurant in Siem Reap.

Sieng Tan, owner of La Volpaia Pizzeria, which opened in May, is married to Dith Pran’s daughter Hemkarey and said he has many fond memories of his famous father-in-law.

“Even though he worked full time for the New York Times until he died last year, he still found time to make speeches about his experiences and I admire him for that.

“He really liked food, every time he came to visit us he just wanted to go to a nice restaurant.”

Sieng Tan left Cambodia in 1972 at the age of 17 to study in the US and avoid being drafted into the army. He lived mostly in Maryland, working in accounting, but recently decided to return to his homeland and set up a restaurant.

The Siem Reap branch of La Volpaia is the fourth to open, following others in Tokyo, Seoul and Phnom Penh. The organisation is something of a family affair, with the Seoul and Phnom Penh outlets run by Sieng Tan’s sister-in-law and brother, respectively.

Police Blotter: 11 Dec 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:02 Sen David

A 45-year-old man in Phnom Penh was engulfed in flames after the petrol he had just bought caught fire. The incident happened Wednesday after the man bought 30 litres of petrol at a local gas station. But one of the bottles exploded, sending flames into the air, burning the man and part of his bike. Police blamed the accident on the searing midday heat and the man’s carelessness. The man was saved after bystanders rushed him to hospital.

Police are on the lookout for eight party-crashing gangsters after a group of men burst in on a Chamkarmon birthday party. The men smashed down the front door of the house and shouted loudly, disturbing neighbours. Witnesses said the gangsters often cause disturbances in the neighbourhood. Police arrested two of the gangsters, who are awaiting trial, but eight managed to escape. “We will catch them so they will not disturb others again,” officials vowed.

Three men were sentenced to 16-year prison terms and fined 10 million riels (US$2,402) each on Tuesday after being convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl in Kandal province. The attack happened in April after the group met at a party. The men agreed to bring the girl home because she attended the party alone and did not have a motorbike. On the way home, they raped the girl by the side of the road and escaped into the night. The men were arrested and confessed to the rape.

A 20-year-old Battambang woman hanged herself this week because her mother would not allow her to marry her cash-strapped fiance. Police said the woman was angry with her mother for forbidding her to marry her lover of 10 years, because the man was too poor. “I told her to split up because he didn’t have enough money to marry her,” the woman’s mother said. Police found the woman’s body hanging from a tree behind the local pagoda.

A woman tried to jump to her death – along with her two young children – because she was distraught after her husband left her for another woman, police said. The woman tried to leap from Chroy Changvar bridge with her 3-month-old and 8-year-old children, but police, alerted by a witness, quickly arrived and stopped her. Authorities detained the woman and her children at the police station for three hours before sending them home.

Hunting an elusive beast: decent grilled steak in Siem Reap

Nest’s impressive outdoor restaurant area.

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:01 Peter Olszewski

How difficult, dammit, is it to char-grill a steak in the American or Aussie manner? On paper it seems simple: grab a slab of good meat, chuck it on the barbie with heat high, sear one side, flip it, sear it, eat it.

In practice, it seems not so simple in many Asian hangouts, including Siem Reap.

Good steaks can be had in Siem Reap, but they are mostly prepared in what I call European style, which inevitably means on an inadequate heat. The result is a piece of beef that’s more stewed than grilled.

I love the smell of charred meat in the evening, and I still hanker for a decent grilled steak that has that slightly-burnt, charcoal tang on the outside and tender, juicy meat on the inside.

There is, of course, the downside that char-grilled steaks can be a tad carcinogenic, but at times life has to be lived dangerously and, let’s face it, a cow died to provide the steak, and that must mean something on the Karmic wheel.

Nest Angkor Cafe Bar chef Sothea Send.

Then chance, fate, destiny, whatever, drew me back to the trendy Nest Angkor Café Bar. I regarded Nest simply as a good bar and was intrigued when, on October 1, it won Cambodian Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural Tourism Alliance Awards 2009 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

I hadn’t viewed Nest as a serious restaurant previously and I discovered a new addition to the menu upon my return: a steak selection with US prime rib eye at $17; US prime strip loin $16; US prime short rib $16; Australian tenderloin $16; Australian strip loin $15.

Hopes were raised by a little line under the steak listings which said, “Cooked according to your desired temperature.”

Okay, let’s sear that sucker. I opted for top shelf, the US prime beef rib eye, and the cooked steak looked good. I wielded the knife and it cut good. I chewed and it tasted good. It was heaven on a plate.

Let’s skip superfluous description: suffice to say that in the grill stakes, this was the real deal. So how come? I made enquiries and was intrigued to learn the chef responsible was a young Khmer, Sothea Seng.

He started as a kitchen hand in Siem Reap’s Sofitel in 2001, then moved to other top hotels in town, worked the Caribbean, and in 2005 cooked at the Grand Hyatt, Dubai.

I met the chef briefly and we chewed the fat about things pertaining to steak. He said he’d learnt the art of grilling steak during his Dubai sojourn, in the hotel restaurant called Manhattan Grill.

Sothea Seng talked about steak as steak should be talked about. He pondered choosing the best steak from the best supplier, realises the importance of marinating and good salt, and discussed how essential good thawing techniques are in Asia, where most prime Western beef arrives frozen. Good thawing is leaving the meat out overnight; the expediency of microwaving is a crime as it kills the steak, robbing it of flavour.

I liked what this man was saying. I loved what this man was grilling. Enough said really.

Cambodia triple up in taekwondo

Luong Minh Dat of Vietnam (left) fights with Marlon Avenido of the Philippines in the 80kg category of the men’s taekwondo final Thursday. AFP

Che Chew Chan of Malaysia waves her national flag to celebrate her 73kg gold medal victory. AFP

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:00 Dan Riley

CAMBODIA added two silvers and a bronze to its medals tally Thursday, with successes in the taekwondo competition at the Booyung Gymnasium of Vientiane’s National University. Cambodian top fighter Sorn Elit made the final of the men’s heavyweight (over 87kg) class, but lost out to Alexander Briones of the Philippines. The 22-year-old Sorn Elit went one better than his bronze medal in the same division at the 2007 SEA Games, but came up against the 25-year-old Filipino who is the reigning ASEAN Taekwondo Federation champion.

Sorn Elit wasn’t the only member of his family to find glory Thursday, with 17-year-old younger sister Sorn Davin taking bronze in the women’s middleweight (67-73kg) class. She was beaten in the semifinals by eventual champion Che Chen Chan of Malaysia, who beat Vietnam’s Ha Thi Nguyen in the final.

Meanwhile, So Naro grabbed a second silver for the Kingdom in the men’s middleweight (80-87kg) division, losing to Vietnam’s Nguyen Trong Cuon in their final. The 25-year-old Cambodian also improved on his previous best result of a bronze from the 2007 Asian Championships in Vietnam.

Tennis teams fall at first hurdle Thursday

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:00 Ung Chamroeun


THE Cambodian tennis federation suffered a huge disappointment Thursday morning, when both their men’s and women’s team saw their medal hopes ended in the team events by losses in their quarterfinals matches. The men’s team took a 2-0 savaging by Indonesia on the tennis courts of the National Sports Complex in Vientiane, while the women were also dispatched 2-0 by opponents Malaysia.

20-year-old Tan Nysan, the Cambodian No 1 and bronze medallist in singles at the 2007 SEA Games, pushed hard but succumbed 4-6, 4-6 to Indonesian star Christopher Rungkat, who has a half-Cambodian mother. Teammate Bun Kenny was outclassed by Indonesia’s Sunu Wahyu Trijati 0-6, 1-6, to deny a third match doubles rubber to decide the tie.

Meanwhile in the women’s event, Cheng Chornay was unfortunate to lose a close match with Malaysia’s Neesha Thirumalaichelvam 4-6, 5-7.

However, luck had little to do with the demolition of older sister Cheng Srey Pich, who took away “double bagels” (she lost 6-0, 6-0) from her match against Jawairiah Noordin.

The players were too distraught for comment, but assistant coach Yi Sarin noted that Tan Nysan had pressured his opponent well, but didn’t really stand a chance against Rungkat. The coach also applauded the efforts of Cheng Chornay, whom he said started well, “but her rival knew her weakness by playing the high ball. Both girls need more training”, expressed Yi Sarin. The team now have their schedules clear to concentrate on preparation for the singles and doubles competitions which start Sunday.

For the men’s team semifinals today, Vietnam face favourites Thailand – who received a bye into the second round – while Indonesia meet the Philippines. Meanwhile, the women’s team event sees the Philippines face Thailand – again with a bye into the semifinals – and Malaysia take on Indonesia. Finals for both team divisions are on Saturday.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Brief: Boys and girls tourney

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:00 Ken Gadaffi

The Phnom Penh International Schools football tournament plays out this Saturday at the Northbridge International School playing field. Boys and girls teams from International School of Phnom Penh, Cambodia International Academy and Hope, LOGOS and Northbridge international schools with compete in a round-robin league format, with seven-a-side games of 30 minutes each way. Games start from 7:30am through to 1pm, with the boys and girls playing simultaneously on half pitches.

Singapore simply too good

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:00 Dan Riley

VIENTIANE – Singapore stormed to a predictable sweep of the men’s and women’s teams table tennis golds, smashing Thailand 3-0 in both finals Thursday at the Convention Hall of the National University in Vientiane. The men’s team had been worked hard by the Vietnamese in their semifinal earlier in the day, but won the tie 3-2. The women’s team had no such troubles, brushing past Malaysia 3-0 to make their semifinals. The players have a day’s rest before the doubles competitions begin Saturday, followed by the singles rounds Sunday. Singapore are on course to equal their perfect seven golds from seven events at the 2007 SEA Games.

Business expo starts

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:00 May Kunmakara

Around 70 local businesses, government departments and ministries are expected to showcase their products and services at a business expo today at NagaWorld Hotel and Casino today. The one-day event has been organised by local event management firm International Event Management (IEM). IEM Senior Business Manager Chhoun Angkea Peakdey said the expo gave businesses an opportunity to exchange ideas with government officials and seek business partners for future ventures.

PM pledges support for Vietnam investors

Friday, 11 December 2009 15:00 Nathan Green

Vietnam’S Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung thanked Prime Minister Hun Sen Wednesday for his government’s creation of a favourable environment for Vietnamese enterprises to investment in Cambodian aviation, banking, telecoms and agriculture, according to Vietnamese media reports. Ahead of the opening of the 25th Southeast Asian Games in Laos, he said he wanted to enhance cooperation with Cambodia in economic, trade and investment matters, the Vietnam News Agency reported. Hun Sen pledged to continue facilitating Vietnamese firms’ business activities in Cambodia, according to the agency.

Council asks for governors to stay on

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Friday, 11 December 2009 14:04 May Titthara

THE Council of Ministers has requested that the Ministry of Interior allow five provincial governors – including Prime Minister Hun Sen’s brother Hun Neng, the governor of Kampong Cham – to remain at their posts despite being past the government’s mandatory retirement age.

In a letter released November 26, Chak Leng, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, requested that Interior Minister Sar Kheng allow the five senior officials to stay in their posts despite being over 60 years old. The five listed were Hun Neng, Kham Phoeun from Kratie, Kang Heang of Kampong Speu, Chhun Chhorn of Kampong Thom and Loy Sophat of Stung Treng.

In the letter, Chak Leng asked that the five officials be allowed to continue working until the end of the first provincial council mandate in 2014.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, declined to comment on Thursday, saying he had not seen the letter. Chak Leng could not be reached for comment.

Vietnam Expands Global Energy Role


(Posted by CAAI News Media)

HANOI—Vietnam's state-run oil company said it has signed an oil and natural-gas cooperation agreement with Sudan's national oil producer and plans to do the same with an Angolan oil company later this month as it moves to raise its profile overseas.

The agreement with Sudan's Sudapet Ltd. will enable the two companies to jointly invest in oil and gas projects in Sudan, Vietnam and in third countries, according to Vietnam Oil and Gas Group, or PetroVietnam. The Vietnamese company said it will sign a similar agreement with state-owned oil company Sonangol in Angola later this month with more detailed oil and gas contracts expected to follow early next year.

"The agreements are part of our plan to expand oil and gas exploration and production to Africa," said PetroVietnam Deputy Director Nguyen Van Minh. "We are also focusing on expanding investment in oil and gas projects in other countries, especially in Russia and South America," Mr. Minh said.

Although many details of the projects remained unclear, many analysts say it is only a matter of time before Vietnam's oil company attempts to become a more important competitor in global energy markets.

It has maintained a relatively low profile in recent years, especially compared with other energy powerhouses in emerging Asia, such as China National Petroleum Corp., China's Cnooc Ltd. and Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd., or Petronas, which have invested huge sums to land major assets in Kazakhstan and elsewhere.

PetroVietnam, by contrast, has focused mainly on developing domestic fields in conjunction with foreign investors such as ConocoPhillips.

One reason is that Vietnam remains a net exporter of crude oil, meaning it hasn't faced the same urgency to locate more oil elsewhere. It currently produces about 330,000 barrels of oil a day and consumes 320,000, according to FACTS Global Energy, a consulting firm.

But Vietnam's domestic production is expected to taper off by the middle of the next decade, and its economy continues to grow rapidly, boosting incomes and demand for energy. It also will need more supply to feed its 130,000-barrel-a-day Dung Quat oil refinery, Vietnam's first oil-processing plant, which became operational earlier this year.

"Certainly the leadership in Vietnam seems to be more outward-looking than it was in the past, and since these are state companies, that may correspond with some move overseas" in oil production as well, says Jeff Brown, a Singapore-based analyst at FACTS.

PetroVietnam said it has so far joined more than 20 oil and gas exploration and production projects abroad, including in Algeria, Iraq, Peru, Iran, Myanmar and Venezuela. Many were signed during the past 12 months.

Last month, PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corp., a production unit of PetroVietnam, signed an agreement with the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority for oil exploration and production at Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake.

Write to Patrick Barta at

ADB provides $30.7M to Cambodia’s livelihoods, microfinance program

Thursday, December 10, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Microfinance Focus, Dec. 10, 2009: The ABD will assist Cambodia develop microfinance institutions and rural livelihood service providers in Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Basin region by providing $30.7 million in loans and grants program to aid a new Cambodia new initiative to boost income and food security in the region.

Two of ADB’s development partners in Cambodia, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Government of Finland will also contribute a further $19.1 million. 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.

It 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, the ABD said in a statement.

It also includes a gender action plan to ensure women are able to participate fully and to benefit equitably from the project. Cambodia’s economy has grown between 6%-10% in recent years, driven by the construction, garment and tourism industries. However, growth in the agriculture sector, which provides livelihoods for up to 85% 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 Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is the executing agency for the project, which is due for completion around August 2017.

Poor Filipinos on the rise despite growth — ADB

Cheryl Arcibal, GMANetwork.TV

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

The number of poor Filipinos has been increasing despite relatively steady economic growth in recent years, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

In a study titled ‘Poverty in the Philippines: Causes, Constraints, and Opportunities,’ the Manila-based lender said the Philippine yearly poverty reduction rate of 0.47 percent between 1990 and 2005 was slower than in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Only in the Philippines has the overall number of poor people increased during that period, it added.

The number could further rise as a result of the global economic crisis and recent increases in the poverty incidence, the ADB warned.

“Because of the current global economic crisis and recent increases in the poverty incidence, the goal of reducing the proportion of people living in extreme poverty may not be achieved," it said.

The poorest provinces in the country are mostly located in Mindanao. These are Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Misamis Occidental. The ther poorest provinces are Apayao, Masbate, Northern Samar and Abra.

Poverty trap
“For the Philippines, given the main assumption of gross domestic product growth rate of 1.6 percent and considering three scenarios, the poverty incidence will still be in the range of 21.1 percent to 28.7 percent by 2020. Unless the Philippine economy is able to shift to a higher growth trajectory, it might be stuck in a poverty trap," the ADB said.

The Manila-based lender traced rising poverty to low to moderate economic growth for the past 40 years, high population growth, weakness in job generation and low-quality jobs, failure to fully develop agriculture, recurrent conflicts and natural disasters.

The study noted that the poverty incidence among households had increased from a fourth to 26.9 percent in 2006, while the number of poor families rose from 4 million in 2003 to 4.7 million three years ago.

Meanwhile, the headcount index went up to 32.9 percent in 2006 from 30 percent in 2003, while the number of poor people jumped from 23.8 million in 2003 to 27.6 million three years ago.

The ADB said, self-rated poverty has ranged from 50 percent to 52 percent for most of 2008, peaking at 59 percent — an estimated 10.6 million Filipinos — in the second quarter.

Large families
The poor usually have large families — up to six or more members. “Family size is also positively correlated with poverty incidence and vulnerability," the bank said.

Less than a fifth of households with four members or less are poor, and the percentage doubles to more than 40 percent when the household size is six or more, the ADBsaid.

To ensure better anti-poverty efforts, the ADB said the Philippines needs a more coordinated response to attain higher levels of sustained growth and bolster the country's overall development.

“Poverty reduction will not only benefit the poor themselves but society as a whole. It is in everyone's interest to make poverty reduction a priority," said Camila Holmemo, a poverty reduction specialist at ADB"s Southeast Asia Department.

Key priorities should include strengthened social protection, improved human development, more efficient population management, job creation, infrastructure investments, and continued economic reforms for sustained and inclusive growth, the ADB said.