Wednesday, 6 January 2010

575 Phnom Penh City Anniversary

Photos courtesy of DAP News

Cleghorn won't die in jail - official


(CAAI News Media)

A Cambodian prison official says a former Wellington man jailed for rape will not die behind bars despite fears for his health from his supporters.

Prey Sar prison director Mong Kim Heng told the Phnom Penh Post that Graham Cleghorn "is strong and healthy, and I see him almost every day in prison, he can run better than you".

Cleghorn, 57, is serving a 20-year term in the Phnom Penh jail, for raping five of his employees - aged between 14 and 19 - in Siem Reap, about 300km northwest of Phnom Penh.

Cleghorn, a former temple tourist guide, faces the prospect of an extra 10 years being added to his sentence because he is unable to pay reparations to his victims.

He was jailed for 20 years in 2004 and the judge said he would serve an additional two years for each victim if he failed to pay $US2000 ($NZ2726) to each girl's family.

The Cambodian Court of Appeal has rejected two appeals by Cleghorn since then.

The New Zealand embassy in Bangkok monitors Cleghorn's wellbeing, and was in regular contact with his daughter in Australia.

His New Zealand lawyer, Greg King, told The Dominion Post Cleghorn's health was deteriorating.

Cleghorn has claimed that he was framed by the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre (CWCC), which he alleged fabricated the story to get foreign aid money.

A spokesman for the CWCC has denied the accusation and said the group had all the documents related to the case.

Cambodia and Vietnam sign treaty to boost river cruising

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

(CAAI News Media)

Cambodia and Vietnam has signed a treaty that will allow freedom of navigation on the Mekong wat.

The treaty was signed on the first day of Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh’s three-day visit to Cambodia.

The new treaty legally binds Cambodia and Vietnam to reducing the official restrictions that have existed for cross-border navigation, according to the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

“The Mekong and a range of other tributaries between Cambodia and Vietnam are now officially open.

“Now no one may legally stop river trade,” Mr. Mom Sibon, Secretary of State, Ministry of Public Works and Transport was quoted by the MRC.

Hei Bavy, Delegate of the Royal Government of Cambodia, Chairman and CEO of Phnom Penh Port, said, “This agreement, along with the recent development of Cai Mep Port in Vietnam, provide exciting opportunities for economic growth in Cambodia and development of Phnom Penh Port.”

“We can now realize the full potential of the Mekong River by transporting goods directly to the United States, Europe and Australia through Cai Mep Port.”

According to the MRC, the new treaty will open up Mekong waterways to a range of new possibilities for generating trade revenue.

“Through this treaty, the Governments of Cambodia and Vietnam have agreed to allow all waterway users to freely cross borders for the transport of cargo and passengers,” said Jeremy Bird, CEO of the MRC.

Mr. Bird added “This will help all vessels, including, river cruise ships by allowing better access to ports in the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and many more sites that attract tourists.”

The new regulations cover the Mekong River, the Tonle Sap, Bassac and Vam Nao rivers, in addition to a number of canals in Vietnam.

Both countries have agreed to grant to each other’s vessels “most favoured-nation treatment,” according to the wording of the treaty.

A Mekong Navigation Facilitation Committee will be established to implement and monitor the agreement

Cambodian police say labourers killed Aussie

Wed Jan 6 2010
By Henri Paget, ninemsn

Police are hunting a gang of construction workers who they believe bashed an Australian man to death with tree branches in Cambodia.

John Edward Thompson, 47, was found dead early last week near a construction site on a deserted road leading to the five-star Sokha hotel in Sihanoukville.

Staff from a kiosk at the construction site told police they saw a small group of labourers drinking together in the hours leading up to the late-night killing, the Phnom Penh Post reports.

Chrann Chamroeun, a journalist for the newspaper, told ninemsn the area where the NSW man was killed was a strange place for a foreigner to be at night.

"It's very quiet around that area ... police have said travelling there at night-time there is not safe."

Thompson had been in Cambodia for more than a year before his death and had reportedly owned a bar in Sihanoukville's popular nightspot Victory Hill.

Various Cambodian news reports have quoted police as saying he ran into debt with the bar and was homeless and living in a Buddhist pagoda before the murder.

Mr Chamroeun told ninemsn that Thompson's 22-year-old Cambodian girlfriend Van Lina said "he was carrying just 2000 riels (A$0.52) at the time of his death".

The deserted location of the murder has raised questions over what Thompson was doing on the road alone at the time.

Unconfirmed reports on Cambodian internet forums, including Sihanoukville Online, claim he was killed over long-standing debts.

Local police are reportedly unsure whether the killing was part of a robbery or an act of revenge.

"Earlier, police told me the suspects were involved with drugs," Mr Chamroeun said.

"I haven't been able to get any confirmation that he owed money."

The case has captured the attention of the Cambodian media, with one news website releasing a graphic photograph of the crime scene.

The Australian Embassy in Cambodia was unable to provide information on the killing when contacted last night.

Opponents voice their fears over Cambodian land law

By Tim Johnston in Bangkok
Published: January 6 2010

(CAAI News Media)

Cambodian lawyers, human rights activists and opposition politicians are warning that a new law will weaken safeguards against expropriation of land in a country where evictions are already stoking discontent.

The law, passed last week, allows the government to seize land for developments that are deemed to be in the public interest. The government said the law will allow it to fast-track infrastructure and other projects.

But opponents say the definition of public interest is too vague and puts too much power into the hands of the government.

"This is a huge step backwards," said Mu Sochua, a prominent member of the opposition Sam Rainsy party, who failed to stop the passage of the bill through a house where the party of Hun Sen, the prime minister, has 90 of the 123 seats.

The law takes force against a backdrop of longstanding accusations that powerful members of the government and security forces have exploited the chaotic state of Cambodia's land title system.

"Our experience is that when the government has a project it always undervalues the land, and those who do not have full title are particularly vulnerable," said Khoun Son Muchhim, a lawyer who has acted on behalf of clients who believe they have been shortchanged in land deals with the government.

The attempt by the Khmer Rouge to create an agrarian utopia in the 1970s involved not just abolishing land title but destroying all records of past land titles. Mrs Mu Sochua said less than 30 per cent of people had enforceable land deeds.

Under a law passed after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, people who have lived on the same piece of land for five years should qualify for title. But petitioners are often moved off their land by well-connected developers, particularly around Phnom Penh where land values have risen as the economy has gathered strength.

"If land is expropriated, this law is not going to protect those without full title, they will not be able to get compensation," she said.

"This is not just a matter of the poor being affected, it also means a business opened by a foreign company can be subject to expropriation."

A court recently issued a summons against Sam Rainsy, the opposition leader, who is accused of damaging property and inciting racial hatred for pulling up markers set out by a border commission to demarcate the boundary between Cambodia and Vietnam.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

(CAAI News Media)

Pandemic Threats to Public

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 06:01 DAP-NEWS

Diseases like Foot and Mouth Disease, Erysipelosis, Salmonella, Diarrhea and Parasites are a public concern, the Depar- tment of Animal Health and Production (DAHP) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said on Tuesday.

DAHP Director Kao Phal said in seminar at the Sunway Hotel learning about the Swine Fever, Reproductive and Respiratory Syndromes is at the heart of the DAHP´s strategies.

“We plan to destroy to all infections in the Animal Heath and Production sector,” he said.
A report said that in 2009, swine production were decreased 4.2 percent.

Vice DAHP Director Sourn Sothoeun said that the plans and strategies should eliminate pandemics from Cambodia.

Gov’t Spokesmen to Connect to Press: Minister

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 06:01 DAP-NEWS

Ministry spokesmen will now have direct contact with the press, the Information Minister said on Tuesday at a ceremony to distribute books explain the role of spokesmen.

Cambodian Government Spokesper- son and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said at at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh that “Cambodian spokesmen are the government’s heart to send information to the press.”

All must understand about the word ‘Why’, said the minister. “It should explain back to the questioners,” Khieu Kanharith added.

He expressed admiration for Chhay Sophal, a journalist and a part-time journalism lecturer at the Department of Media & Communication of the Royal University who wrote the spokesmen guides.

The spokesman guidebooks will be distribute to all Cambodian government departments and international and domestic press in Cambodia, he said.

Chhay Sophal said that the original source of the guide material was in English, so he had translated it with supporting from Germany’s Konrad Aden-auer Foundation. The book has 13 points to help readers understand how to be a good spokesman, he said, as well as press and other guidelines.

Konrad Adenauer Foundation Fund Director Um Sivan said that “The funds to contribute to strengthen democracy policy, economic development, reduce poverty and connect all information sectors in Cambodia.” She added that Konrad focuses on human resources, providing capacity building.

Cambodia to Borrow US$400 M for 2010 Development

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 06:01 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said that the country will borrow US$400 million to speed development projects for economic growth.

The development projects will focus on irrigation systems and infrastructure to reduce poverty among, he told the opening ceremony for part of National Road 1 in Kandal province.

“If they do not have [the money], it will be difficult for us,” he said.
Only the Ministry of Economy and Finance may borrow money with the petrmission of the National Assembly, he noted. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will coordinate, he added.

The two top priorities will be reducing poverty and expanding agriculture through expanding seasonal planting, the PM continued. The loans from partners are concession loans with very low interest rates, he said, though he expressed dissatisfaction for borrowing to provide scholarships to primary school students. He said that such a practice is unnecessary. “But we have to borrow loan to serve the economic growth that is key factors for the country’s development” he said”. The government has never touched the loan and grant aid from our partners because loan’s owners need to deal the projects by themselves.”

The Cambodian debt to foreign countries has been worth billions of dollars since the 1970s. Cambodia owes the U.S about US$300 million and Russia US$1.5 billion. Cambodian has asked the US and Russia to cancel or transfer the funds to development projects.

A large of amount of debt was already cancelled or transferred to other projects. The IMF cancelled Cambodian debt worth about US$80 million. Other previous creditors include the Czech Republic and China.

Gov´t Registers 24 Khmer Kampuchea Krom

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 06:03 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian government officials registered 24 ethnic Khmer Kampuchea Krom after were declined being granted refugee status in a third country by the UNHCR, an Interior Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Ministry spokesman, Khieu Sopheak told DAP News Cambodia that the Cambodian government "does not discriminate against any races, especially Khmer Kampuchea Krom." "All of them are our families. We registered them officially with full rights."

Kampong Chhnang Governor Touch Marin said that the Khmer Kampuchea Krom will not be persecuted.

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom were sent by Thailand to Siem Reap.

Former Security Director for the KKK Association Ang Channrith told DAP News Cambodia that all 24 are currently living in Phnom Penh.

"Although the Cambodian government has never cared well about these problems, I hope the government will help them to seek legality and ensure their security for living in Cambodia," he said.

All 24 Khmer Kampuchea Krom were handed a Cambodian identity card, a family record and birth certificates.

PM Rejects SRP Lawmaker Japan Bridge Allegations

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 06:03 DAP-NEWS

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday rejected an opposition party lawmaker’s claims that the Japanese Government halted funds for the construction of the Nak Loeung bridge.

The premier said that funds must be carefully spent after a similar project in Vietnam, bridge donated by Japan, later collapsed.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) lawmaker Ly Sreyvina claimed in a recent National Assembly debate that Japan halted the funds allocated for the bridge construction. Her remarks were published by the Cambodia Daily newspaper.

“Japanese Prime Minister confirmed that the study period would be end at the end of November and at the beginning December, 2009 and to construct this bridge, it needs more times as it is related to technical matters,” the premier said during the inauguration of a second section of National Road 1, and the beginning of repairs to the 3rd section of the same road in Kien Svay district, Kandal province.

Keo Sovannaroth, another SRP Lawmaker, declined to confirm the original statement, saying she does not wish to cause further confusion.

Ly Sreyvina could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. She told DAP News Cambodia that she was busy.

PM Threatens to Arrest Pamphleteers Criticizing January 7

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 06:04 DAP-NEWS

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday threatened to arrest anyone planning to distribute leaflets criticizing Cambodia’s January 7 Victory Day celebrations.

The PM´s warning came following rumors that a group plans to distribute leaflets critical of January 7 after printing them in Thai- land and sending them to Phnom Penh.

During the inauguration of a second section of National Road 1, and the beginning of repairs to the 3rd section of the same road in Kien Svay district, Kandal province, the premier indicated that he already knows the identity of the groups that plan to distribute the leaflets. He said that he will order immediate arrests if such actions take place. He said looking down on January 7 is tantamount to look- ing down on him personally and also looking down on the entire ruling CPP party. “Be careful with distributing leaflets, I will arrest quickly as I know the faces already. Yesterday I saw leaflets cursing Hun Sen,” the premier added.

Keo Sovannaroth, opposition Sam Rainsy Party secretary-general, declined to comment.

Hun Sen also called on all Cambo-dians to cooperate, claiming that no country in the world could have developed during the chaos of the Khmer Rouge years. “It’s shamed for these bad persons who refused to recognize historical reality that we are not able to teach them, as they neither wish to know nor listen,” the premier said during the inauguration of the International Children’s village built by the SOS organization in Battam- bang on Monday.

“Do not lie to yourselves,” the PM instructed, “for those who used to dig and carry the land during that time now do not recognize January 7.”

Cambodia lectures Lao officials on temple dispute with Thailand

Posted : Wed, 06 Jan 2010
By : dpa

(CAAI News Media)

Vientiane - Cambodia's deputy foreign minister visited Laos to provide a background briefing on Preah Vihear, an 11th-century Hindu temple on the Thai-Cambodian border that has sparked a nasty diplomatic spat between the two countries, news reports said Wednesday. Long Visalo on Tuesday gave a lecture to more than 200 Lao Foreign Ministry officials on the history of Preah Vihear and the border dispute it has created between Laos' southern neighbours, the government-run Vientiane Times reported.

The ongoing diplomatic rift between the two countries has raised serious questions about the cohesiveness of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Cambodia, Thailand and Laos are members.

Cambodia has attempted to involve ASEAN in resolving the border dispute, but Thailand has refused, arguing that it is an issue that should be settled bilaterally.

Long Visalo noted that the International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that Preah Vihear was under the sovereignty of Cambodia and in July 2008 UNESCO listed the temple as a World Heritage Site.

Thailand objected to the UNESCO listing on the grounds that a plot of land adjoining the temple is still subject to a border dispute.

A diplomatic spat over the listing escalated into a tense standoff last year between the two countries' armies near Preah Vihear, which left several soldiers on both sides dead.

Bulldozer crushes 400,000 pirated CDs in Cambodia

January 6th, 2010

(CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh, Jan 6 (DPA) Cambodian authorities used a bulldozer to crush 400,000 CDs and DVDs in a crackdown on piracy, national media reported Wednesday.

Police drove the machine over the pile of counterfeit discs that were stacked on the road outside Wat Phnom, the capital’s landmark Buddhist temple.

The Cambodia Daily newspaper reported that the discs were either pirated copies of local music and films, or foreign pornographic movies. Most were confiscated from shops in and around Phnom Penh.

Kong Kantara, an under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, told the newspaper that the authorities have stepped up efforts to combat piracy of intellectual property.

“In 2008 we destroyed only 100,000 CDs and DVDs, but (in 2009) we cooperated closely with the Ministry of Interior to raid every pirating place that steals content from film companies,” he said.

“We did not arrest offenders, but we fined them according to the copyright law because they pirated the CDs and DVDs from the (rightful) owners,” Kong Kantara added.

Under Cambodian law vendors who sell counterfeit discs face fines of around $2 per disc if they are caught. The authorities said they plan to expand the crackdown across the country.

Movie and music piracy is commonplace in Cambodia, and many shops openly sell copies of both foreign and local movies and CDs for between $1 and 2 apiece.

Cambodia encourages more investment in rubber

Posted 01/05/2010

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Jan 05, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The Cambodian government is urging more investment in rubber plantations in the country to take advantage of high prices on global markets, local media reported on Wednesday.

Ly Phlla, director general of the General Department of Rubber under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying that rubber was now fetching around 2,800 U.S. dollars per ton, up from 1,000 U.S. dollars per ton early last year.

"There is high demand for rubber on the global market, so we need more investment in the sector. Whoever wants to plant, we welcome them," he said, adding that investment in rubber plantations has no negative impact on local farmers.

Prices for rubber in Cambodia have soared in the latter half of the year, reaching 1,918 U.S. dollars per ton in October, 2,435 U. S. dollars per ton in November and about 2,800 U.S. dollars at the end of December 2009, Ly Phalla said.

The increase came as demand for robber soared on the global market amid expectations that manufacturing may recover from a slow 2009 as the U.S. economy began to "sing" in recovery, he said, adding that rising oil prices also contributed.

Cambodia currently has 123,000 hectares of rubber plantations and is expected to have 150,000 hectares under rubber by the end of this year, according to Ly Phalla.

However, Cambodian Rubbet Association President Mak Kimhong said he expected the area under plantation to exceed government estimates, with Vietnamese investors in particular beating a path to the country.

Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding in November with the Vietnam Rubber Group in Cambodia, a consortium of 14 Vietnamese firms that plan to invest 600 million U.S. dollars in Cambodia's rubber sector by 2012.

Mok Kimhong, who has 15,000 hectares in rubber in Kampong Cham province, 7,000 of which is currently producing, said most rubber exports already go to Vietnam. The rest goes to Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, with some bought by Germany and France. Mok Kimhong said he exported around 9,000 tons of natural resin to Vietnam last year.

Official export figures of resin were not available Tuesday but Ly Phalla previously said Cambodia exported 50,000 tons last year and 40,000 tons in 2008.

Trade between Cambodia and Vietnam down 26 per cent

Posted : Wed, 06 Jan 2010
By : dpa

(CAAI News Media)

Phnom Penh - The global economic crisis caused a 26 per cent slump in trade between Cambodia and Vietnam through November, but officials in both countries expect a strong rebound this year, national media reported Wednesday. Two-way trade between the south-east Asian neighbours stood at 1.175 billion dollars, statistics released by the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh revealed. Vietnamese exports to Cambodia made up the lion's share, worth 1.017 billion dollars.

The commercial attache at the Vietnamese embassy told the Cambodia Daily newspaper that trade would likely double between the two nations this year. That echoed earlier comments made by Cambodia's commerce minister.

"The economic (ties) between Vietnam and Cambodia in investment and trade are growing," said the embassy's Le Bien Cuong, predicting improved figures in a number of areas particularly commodities and construction materials.

Vietnam, a close political ally, is also a key investor in Cambodia with significant interests in agribusiness, telecoms and banking. Last month the two nations signed an agreement that could result in investments worth billions of dollars, including one for a bauxite mining concession.

Exports of fuel and steel products totalling 560 million dollars made up more than half of Vietnam's exports to Cambodia. Bilateral trade stood at 1.64 billion dollars in 2008, up from 1.2 billion dollars the previous year.

Cambodian hotel is a poster child for responsible tourism

By Michael Wuitchuk, For the Calgary Herald

(CAAI News Media)

Think of Egypt, and the great pyramids come to mind. With France it is wine and the odd surly waiter, while London and Big Ben go together like a pint and fish and chips.

OK, now think of Thailand and Cambodia; do you think of beaches and the Angkor temples? Perhaps, especially if you stay within the tourist bubble. Look a little closer and it's not difficult to get the impression that Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam have an apparently endless supply (and demand) for massage parlours and poorly disguised brothels.

The Calgary-based NGO, Future Group, has reported that the most conservative number of prostitutes and sex slaves in Cambodia alone is between 40,000 and 50,000, and higher estimates range between 80,000 and 100,000.

Many of the children are from communities so poor that girls and boys as young as six are actually sold to brothels by their own families.

The dark underbelly of southeast Asia is all the more reason to take responsible tourism seriously. If you go, consider taking a proactive approach.

On a recent trip to Cambodia, my son Daniel and I discovered that you can be an active witness to the magnificence of the region and still leave a positive footprint. Amazingly, we accomplished this not by joining an aid organization, but by staying at a hotel.

The Shinta Mani Hotel and Hospitality Institute is a lovely 18-room boutique hotel in Siem Reap. Facilities include spacious and well-appointed rooms, an atmospheric outdoor restaurant and air-conditioned indoor dining room, and a spa with the elegance and serenity one would expect of a five-star property.

Although the Shinta Mani is loaded with class and charm, there is a heart and soul to this place that was apparent from the moment we were greeted by the smiling young staff.

As responsible tourism goes, this hotel is a poster child.

Owner Sokhoun Chanpreda founded the Hospitality Training Institute in 2004 -- the first class of 21 young people selected from the poorest of families graduated in 2005.

Students, all of whom were considered "at risk" due to extreme poverty, can choose between cooking, serving, housekeeping, reception and spa services -- each are taught in nine-month modules.

The school is funded entirely with hotel funds and donations from guests and others from overseas.

We were so impressed with the Hospitality Training Institute that we extended our stay to accompany Theany, the hotel's "community liason officer," on one of her forays into the many poor villages around Siem Reap.

We drove in the hotel pickup truck loaded with treadle sewing machines, backpacks filled with school supplies, bags of rice, vegetable seeds and a bicycle -- and watched Theany and her staff do aid work, Shinta Mani style.

The model is simple -- use the labours of salaried hotel staff (who are dedicated to giving their time -- the communities are, after all, their own communities), donate $5 from every guest night to the community program, and provide an opportunity for guests to both see the program in action and donate to specific projects. Among the range of options, guests can contribute a mechanical water well ($100), a pair of pigs ($80) or even a small concrete house ($1,250).

We visited villages that had been working with the Shinta Mani staff for some time, and some that were new to the community program.

The villages that had received water wells had well maintained vegetable plots and a few small concrete houses -- in these communities the women and children turned out in numbers, their hands extended in prayerful thanks.

In a village new to the Shinta Mani program, we met a family that had been recently chosen to receive a well -- their entire worldly possessions were the clothes on their backs and a tired set of cooking pans.

These people and their neighbours seemed both desperate and skeptical -- they were clearly not used to receiving aid or good news of any kind.

Later, while sitting in the hotel's lovely outdoor restaurant, general manager and Sri Lankan ex-pat Chitra Vincent told us that Shinta Mani means "the gem that provides for all" in Sanskrit -- the place could not be better named.

Lao-Cambodia Governments Discuss Cooperative Ties

(CAAI News Media)

VIENTIANE, Jan 6 (Bernama) -- High-ranking officers of Laos and Cambodia met here on Tuesday to further discuss bilateral ties, Lao news agency (KPL) reported.

The 11th Lao-Cambodian Bilateral Cooperation Committee meeting, as its report stated, was scheduled from Jan 5 to 6, 2010, amid many challenges, positive and negative impacts, and to further enhance more cooperative ties.

The two-day meeting started with Lao-Cambodian senior officials meeting on Tuesday, while the 11th Lao-Cambodian Bilateral Co-operation Committee meeting to take place on Wednesday. It was co-presided by Bounkeuth Sangsomsak, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ung Sean, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The bilateral talk is part of the effort to continue to fine tune the cooperative framework, especially in areas like political stability and economic ties.

During Tuesday's meeting, the matters raised were linked to border demarcation, drug trafficking along the long and porous border of the two countries and exchange of two officers from two ministries, ministry of defence and ministry of public security.

On the same day, the two countries also agreed to cooperate on matters related to fishery, forestry, industry, mining, energy, trade, tourism, banking, finance, investment and labour affairs.

The other topics discussed were on culture, social issues, public health, education, sports, and regional economy, especially on the Development Triangle Zone Project.

On the trilateral cooperative project, they saw the need to develop linked roads in response to the need to build more basic facilities to facilitate trade, investment and tourism.

Cambodia hopes to bolster food security by boosting crop yields


(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will spend 21 million U.S. dollars this year to boost rice crop yields in a move aimed at bolstering food security in the Kingdom, local media reported on Wednesday.

The funds from the Ministry of Agriculture will go towards irrigation systems and developing drought- and flood-resistant hybrid rice seeds in an effort to boost production, the Phnom PenhPost quoted Chan Sarun, agricultural minister, as saying.

"We have prepared more than 21 million U.S. dollars for new hybrid rice seeds that can endure drought and flood," Chan Sarun said.

Officials are also aiming to expand cultivated land by five percent.

Cambodia's rice production suffers from one of the lowest yields in the region, according to statistics compiled by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

Ouk Saren, director of the Khmer Community for Agriculture Development, said farmers in lowland and coastal areas worry about unpredictable floods, while farmers in highland areas are more concerned with droughts.

"We need more modern techniques to help us resolve this problem," he said.

Cambodia expected to produce an estimated 7.286 million tonnes of rice for 2009/2010 of which the country expects to have about 3.3 million tonnes surplus for export, according to the agricultural report on Tuesday.

Editor: Lin Zhi

Silk village struggles to survive

Photo by: ELLIE DYER
Van Chan Thoeu weaves among the last of her silk creations Tuesday at Lvea Krom village, Koh Dach in Kandal province. The 48-year-old widow says she will be the latest silk weaver in the village to shut up shop next month.

About 80 percent of silk makers in Koh Dach commune have shut down their silk weaving businesses."

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:04 Ellie Dyer and Nguon Sovan

Weavers say their livelihood is disappearing due to high costs

WEAVERS in one of Cambodia’s most famous silk villages say they face severe food shortages after the price of raw silk traded to the Kandal community doubled within a year.

Representatives from leading silk organisations and residents of Lvea Krom village, Koh Dach, in Mok Kampol district, Kandal province, estimate that up to 80 percent of weavers have ceased work after the tradition became unprofitable.

A walk down the main street of Lvea Krom reveals empty looms in nearly every home. Some are being used as make-shift washing racks, ending generations of Cambodian textile production.

Van Chan Thoeu, 48, a widow who has an elderly mother and two children to support, is using up the last of her silk reserves before shutting up shop in one month’s time.

“We are in a very difficult situation and some people here are starving,” she explained on Tuesday.

While the cost of buying a traditional skirt from the weavers has remained steady – at US$10 – the price of raw thread, imported from Vietnam and China, has soared from $40 per kilogram to $80 per kilogram since 2008.

Although they are still selling all their goods, weavers report making either no money or operating at a loss in the last year thanks to reduced profit margins.

Some of the worst off have had their houses seized and are now homeless.

Muom Lon, 58, stopped weaving in November after 43 years. Her family members, like many, are now working in Phnom Penh garment factories.

She estimates that the family of four’s income has dropped from $300 to $400 a month to just $100.

“We are living hand to mouth now,” she said. “Before the crisis, you could see women weaving and hear the clack of the looms. But now Koh Dach is very empty.”

Traders are deserting the island. Would-be weavers must now travel to Phnom Penh to buy raw silk.

Experts throughout Cambodia are considering the fallout from rises in raw silk on the international market.

According to the Cambodia Handicraft Association (CHA), the Kingdom is dependent on Vietnam and Cambodia for around 98.7 percent of the 350 tonnes of raw silk yarn needed by the industry each year.

Men Sineoun, executive director of the CHA, which represents 50 producers, enterprises and NGOs, said Monday that raw silk prices have increased by 42.5 percent in the last two months, from $27,000 a tonne in October to $38,500 a tonne.

He believes that demand for thread from a recently launched Vietnamese silk-processing factory coupled with floods in mulberry producing areas could have contributed to the hikes, adding: “I expect that about 80 percent of silk makers in Koh Dach commune in Kandal province and Takeo province have shut down their silk weaving businesses.”

Men Sinoun said he believes the global financial crisis has affected Cambodia’s exports of silk products, which he said have declined by an estimated 30 percent year on year.

“We’ve seen a decline in purchase orders. Producers are still able to sustain their operations at the moment, but it’s rather difficult,” he said.

Hor Chamnap, marketing manager at Khmer Silk village, which represents 1,500 silk worm breeders and silk weavers in Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, Kandal, Prey Veng, Siem Reap and Takeo, said that the increase in prices remains in line with foreign markets.

He said the price hikes could be good for the limited number of domestic raw silk producers. Cambodian raw silk sale prices have risen 10 percent in recent months, to $33,000 per tonne from $30,000 a tonne last October.

Interest groups are encouraging the Kingdom’s farmers to become less reliant on foreign markets by cultivating mulberry trees, worms and thread.

In September, the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said that if the silk industry developed to meet domestic demand, it would generate employment for some 25,000 additional people and result in import savings of about $10 million per year.

Despite several projects, including a $475,000 FAO drive to set up silkworm production centre, domestic production of raw silk has declined to around 3.5 tonnes in 2009 from an estimated 4.5 tonnes in 2008.

“Khmer raw silk production is very low but demand is still high. However, some farmers have abandoned growing mulberry trees to feed silk worms, because they are difficult to take care. They are growing cassava or corn instead,” said Hor Chamnap.

Along the production line, some businesses that have diversified their silk products are weathering the storm.

Janne Ritskes, of Tabitha Cambodia, an NGO based in Phnom Penh, has plans to expand her company – which employs 3,000 weavers – despite silk price hikes.

She said that Koh Dach may be suffering because the weavers are offering traditional products, such as patterned skirts, and missing out on more marketable products such as plain silk bed covers and furniture.

“The silk here is very, very good, and that is valuable. But you also have to produce something that will to appeal to people,” she said.

When contacted by the Post, several representatives from the Ministry of Commerce declined to comment.

Investigation opened after drugs officer gunned down

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

Amurder investigation has been launched following the death of a provincial drug squad police officer in an apparent robbery in Kampong Cham, police said on Tuesday.

Yuk Rath Mony, 41, was an Anti-Drug Trafficking Bureau officer from the Boeung Kok commune in Kampong Cham.

Police said they believe he was shot and beaten in an unknown location before his body was dumped and locked in his personal black Lexus in the Choeung Prey district, around 100 metres from the national road, on Monday. He was shot six times, police said: four times in the chest and twice in the hands. Investigating officers have ruled out the possibility that the crime was related to his role with the anti-drug trafficking squad.

Provincial Police Chief Nuon Samin said his department had concluded the murder was part of a robbery.

“We have some leads to identify suspects,” he said, adding they believed Yuk Rath Mony was attacked by a group of two to three people, who have yet to be formally identified by the police.

“We cannot disclose who they are,” Nuon Samin said.

Sor Ros, a provincial police chief of the Anti-Drug Trafficking Bureau, confirmed the victim was a subordinate at his department. “We have primarily concluded his death was [part of] a robbery due to testimony from his family,” he said.

The victim’s wife told police he was driving to an appointment with a land broker to purchase more land and was carrying a large amount of cash at the time of the killing.

Noun Samin said the victim had recently sold a plot of land in Siem Reap.

“We don’t know how much [of the victim’s] cash has disappeared from the robbery. We are investigating,” he said.

Police were informed of Yuk Rath Mony’s death by local villagers at around noon on Monday after noticing the victim’s body locked inside his Lexus.

When police arrived they found little cash in his pocket, but the victim’s jewellery – including a necklace, bracelet and ring – had not been touched.

“His death may be related to his business as a fruit importer from Vietnam, or it could be related to a partner in his buying and selling of land,” Sor Ros said.

“We haven’t received any factual information yet and the investigation is ongoing. I am very regretful for the loss of my man. I firmly hope that we can start arresting suspects very soon for prosecution,” the police official said.

“He didn’t come to work regularly to help crack down on drug crime, as he was too busy with his outside business which makes more money.”

The victim had never had problems with his fellow officers within the police team, Sor Ros added.

Authorities destroy counterfeit discs

Photo by: Phar Lina
Tens of thousands of pirated CDs, DVDs and VCDs are destroyed by the authorities in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:04 Mom Kunthear

POLICE in Phnom Penh on Tuesday destroyed hundreds of thousands of copies of counterfeit movies as part of a renewed anti-piracy campaign.

In the public demonstration, trucks were used to crush an estimated 300,000 counterfeit CDs, VCDs and DVDs seized from vendors around Phnom Penh.

Khim Sarith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said it was the fourth time authorities had confiscated large quantities of counterfeit discs in order to destroy them.

“The total number of CDs and VCDs that we destroyed this time included more than 1 million items collected only in the city,” he said.

Plans for counterfeit disc seizures will soon spread to other provinces, he said.

Vendors found selling pirated films risk fines of 7,500 riels (US$1.82) per CD or DVD, while cafes caught screening illegal pornographic DVDs can be fined up to 20 million riels and sent to court.

Chhun Daraoth, 31, who sells both counterfeit and legitimate discs, said he congratulated the authorities on their move to confiscate fake CDs and DVDs, but he didn’t think the measures would work.

“I am not afraid of a crackdown because I have never seen the authorities do it well. Despite their crackdown, myself and many vendors can still sell fake CDs and DVDs,” he said.

60 disabled veterans go back after eviction

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:04 May Titthara

A GROUP of 60 disabled veterans and their families among hundreds forcibly evicted from Kampong Thom province’s Kraya commune in December have returned to their former cassava fields, saying authorities failed to provide them with the land promised under their terms of compensation – a charge officials have denied.

“When we arrived, the authorities showed us a piece of land they said we’d be getting, but they neither measured it out nor gave us a title. So now I’m back in my old village to harvest my cassava and earn some money. I’m living in the cassava fields, hiding from the authorities,” said villager Chhun Chhorn. “If the authorities find us, I will go back to the relocation site, but in the meantime, I want to harvest my cassava, because unless I can earn some money I won’t have any land on which to grow food next year.”

Prum Roth, another Kraya fugitive, said the poor quality of the area reserved for the 60 eventual returnees had as much to do with their departure as the uncertain boundaries. “We were so disappointed when the authorities pointed out the land, because it was at the end of the village and surrounded by forest,” he said.

Pich Sophea, Santuk district governor, insisted the evictees had been given plots. “Now we have provided land for all people in the new area – about 602 families, equal to 602 land titles,” he said.

Kraya commune was cleared of its last family on December 15, the final chapter in a two-year dispute between the association of disabled veterans and Vietnamese rubber company Tin Bien.

PM dismisses possible pardon for Sam Rainsy over VN border charges

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prime Minister Hun Sen laughs with a colleague during the inauguration of a stretch of National Road 1 on Tuesday. In his keynote speech, the premier called for opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s arrest.

Now who are the foreigners and embassies that support such an action?"

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:04 Meas Sokchea

PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned Tuesday that he will not request a pardon for Sam Rainsy if the opposition leader is found guilty in a pending criminal trial stemming from an October protest against alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory.

“This time I would like to declare … there is no [pardon]. After the court convicts, let it be,” Hun Sen said during an inauguration ceremony for a stretch of National Road 1 in Kandal province.

“There are no more chances [for Sam Rainsy] to write a letter of apology to me. This time, there is no more [chance for pardon], sorry. Prepare yourself. We don’t regard him as guilty yet – [we] just say that if he is, do not rely on Hun Sen.”

The premier also defended the current demarcation of the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, and noted that foreign embassies and international organisations have not sprung to Sam Rainsy’s defence.

“Now who are the foreigners and embassies that support such an action?” Hun Sen asked the audience.

Sam Rainsy was charged last week with racial incitement and destruction of property by the Svay Rieng provincial court after he led villagers in the province’s Chantrea district in a protest last year.

During the rally they uprooted wooden posts on the Vietnamese frontier at border marker 185.

The court issued an arrest warrant for Sam Rainsy, who is currently in Europe, after he failed to appear for questioning at a hearing last week. Two Svay Rieng farmers have already been arrested in connection with the protest, while warrants have been issued for three more.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann on Tuesday defended Sam Rainsy’s actions in the protest, saying that Hun Sen should focus on other problems facing Cambodia.

“As I listen to [Hun Sen], it seems that he is influencing the court,” Yim Sovann said.

The SRP released a statement on Tuesday alleging that Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities had conspired to remove other border posts placed near the site of Sam Rainsy’s October protest. In the statement, the opposition party claimed that the posts’ removal proved they had been installed illegally.

“Sam Rainsy pulled out six wooden poles at border marker 185, but subsequently similar wooden poles at nearby border marker 184, 186 and 187 have also been removed by the authorities themselves,” the statement read. “At marker 184 even the concrete foundations under the wooden poles have been dug out, put into a tractor and taken back to Vietnam.”

This action, the SRP claimed, demonstrated that officials from both countries knew that the border posts had been illegitimately placed on Cambodian farmland.

“Now realising they are on weak legal ground in the prosecution of Sam Rainsy and the concerned farmers, the authorities have surreptitiously resorted to do the same thing as Sam Rainsy did, ie removing illegally-imposed border markers, which is leading to a judicial imbroglio illustrating the political nature of the charges levied against Sam Rainsy,” the statement said.

Pov Pheap, second deputy chief of Samrong commune in Chantrea district, said Tuesday that the border markers in question had in fact been removed by Vietnamese authorities on November 16, the same day that Sam Rainsy’s parliamentary immunity was lifted, paving the way for the charges against him.

“Sam Rainsy just pulled out six wooden border poles and they accused him of destroying public property, but when Khmer and Vietnamese authorities came to pull out the others nearby, that was not illegal,” Pov Pheap said.

Var Kimhong, senior minister in charge of border affairs, rejected the claims made by SRP authorities but declined to comment further.

Authorities reject petition for the release of Bos village residents

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol and Mom Kunthear

BANTEAY Meanchey provincial authorities rejected a petition requesting the release of four villagers imprisoned in Oddar Meanchey province in connection with a recent land dispute on Tuesday, officials and villagers said.

On Tuesday, Vath Paranin, Banteay Meanchey’s secretary general, dismissed the request, made by a group of about 100 families from Bos village in Kaun Kriel district, which was forcibly cleared in October to make way for a sugar plantation.

The petition also requested local authorities halt the impending arrest of another four villagers wanted in connection with the clashes.

“I didn’t see the letter yet, but the authorities will still seek to arrest the other villagers who are now on the run,” he said, adding that he does not have the right to release the four people who are in jail.

Fear of further arrests
The four detained villagers, including a pregnant woman, were arrested during a land dispute with the Angkor Sugar Company, owned by Ly Yongphat, a senator with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Chheng Sophors, provincial coordinator of human rights group Licahdo, said that he received the petition from the villagers and sent it to authorities on Monday.

“They did not send the request letter directly to the provincial official because they were afraid that the authorities would arrest them; that’s why they asked us to send their letter to the provincial official,” he said.

Since the eviction, many of the families have since gone into hiding from authorities, including village representative Huy Chhuy.

“I have stayed far from my house and family for a few months now because I am the one that the Oddar Meanchey authorities are following in order to arrest me,” he said by phone, adding that he does not want his former land anymore.

HRP denies link to text threats

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:03 Kim Yuthana and May Titthara

THE head of the Human Rights Party has denied that a man arrested on suspicion of sending threatening text messages is affiliated with his party, despite claims from the target of the threat that the man identified himself as an HRP activist.

“The man who was arrested by Ministry of Interior police accused of sending death threats by text message does not have his name on my list of activists,” HRP President Kem Sokha said Tuesday.

“If one of my party’s activists did what the authorities have said, they could punish them according to the law, but we have never told our activists to threaten or mistreat people.”

Nheak Vannara, the government adviser who was thought to be the target of the message, said he received two English messages from the man on Sunday evening, threatening he would be “the 90th to be killed”. Earlier, he said the message had identified the sender as an HRP member.

Despite his rumoured connection to the HRP, Yem Ponhearith, an HRP parliamentarian, called on the authorities to conduct a balanced investigation to determine the facts of the case.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he did not yet know the details of the case.

PM vows to have leaflet gang jailed

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen vowed Tuesday to have arrested the distributors of 600 anti-Vietnamese leaflets found on the grounds of a high school in Takeo province the day before, adding that he believed the perpetrators had fled to Thailand but were plotting future leafleting missions.

“To the group of leaflet distributors: Be careful, I will arrest you,” the premier said before an audience of several hundred at the inauguration of a stretch of National Road 1 in Kandal province. “I have already determined that the leaflets cursed January 7, and if you distribute more I will order your arrest,” he added.

A copy of one of the leaflets obtained Monday asserted that January 7, 1979, the day the Khmer Rouge regime was overthrown, should be remembered as the day Cambodia was invaded and occupied by the Vietnamese.

“January 7 is the day that Khmers fell into the iron grip of the communist [Vietnamese] who abused and occupied Cambodia,” the leaflet reads.

“The communist dictatorship regime of Hun Sen is a puppet of the communist [Vietnamese], since they were installed by the [Vietnamese] when they came to power on January 7, 1979.”

Hun Sen said Tuesday that he knew who distributed the leaflets and had been informed that they had fled to Thailand, where he said the leaflets had been produced. “I know who they are,” he said, without elaborating.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said the authorities in Takeo were continuing to investigate the distribution of the leaflets but had yet to identify any suspects.

“We have no sign of the suspects yet because we have been investigating for just one day,” he said.

“We are monitoring other places, but no other leaflets have been scattered.”

About 10,000 supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party are expected to gather at the party’s central headquarter in Phnom Penh on Thursday to celebrate the January 7 holiday.

City Hall says Tuol Kork families must move by end of the month

Photo by: Phar Lina
Members of Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 1 commune gather on Tuesday outside their homes, which they have been told by local officials they must vacate to make room for development

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:03 Chhay Channyda

THIRTEEN families in Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 1 commune have been told they will be evicted from their homes this month to make way for a road upgrade through their land.

Authorities have told the families to consult with Phnom Penh Municipality about receiving new land in Dangkor district by the last week of January, accusing the residents of living on a public road.

But resident Im Veasna, 33, said the municipality’s land offer is inadequate.

“They said they will give us a plot of land, but they will not give us any money at all,” Im Veasna said.

“The new relocation site is like a big field where there is no access to basic infrastructure.”

He said the families would be willing to leave if City Hall paid them “fair compensation” – a figure he pegged at US$4,000 per family.

But Tuol Kork District Governor Seng Ratanak insists the relocation site – where 100 families previously displaced from Tuol Kork have been living since 2004 – is adequate.

“It is not isolated,” Seng Ratanak said. “There are villages, and villagers can grow vegetables.”

The 13 families, he said, were demanding too much money.

“They have no land titles to the land they live on,” Seng Ratanak said.

“If they request land titles, authorities will not approve them because they live on the road. They have to move.”

Cambodia hopes to boost 2010 crop yields

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

AUTHORITIES will spend US$21 million this year to boost rice crop yields in a move aimed at bolstering food security in the Kingdom, officials said.

The funds from the Ministry of Agriculture will go towards irrigation systems and developing drought- and flood-resistant hybrid rice seeds in an effort to boost production, Minister Chan Sarun said.

“We have prepared more than $21 million for new hybrid rice seeds that can endure drought and flood,” Chan Sarun said.

Officials are also aiming to expand cultivated land by 5 percent.

Cambodia’s rice production suffers from one of the lowest yields in the region, according to statistics compiled by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Ouk Saren, director of the Khmer Community for Agriculture Development, said farmers in lowland and coastal areas worry about unpredictable floods, while farmers in highland areas are more concerned with droughts.

“We need more modern techniques to help us resolve this problem,” he said.

Fishermen air fresh dredge fears

A sand-dredging worker sits aboard a barge owned by LYP Group in Koh Kong province in November.

(CAAI News Media)

Wednesday, 06 January 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng and Sebastian Strangio

VILLAGERS in Koh Kong province say they continue to suffer from large-scale sand-dredging operations in coastal estuaries, which they add have reduced fish catches and threatened the livelihoods of thousands of local fishermen.

Un Thanann, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that 1,200 families from Village 4 in Koh Kong’s Dong Tung commune had filed two complaints with local authorities since October, but have yet to receive a response.

“In all the fishing areas along the Tatai, Trapaing Roung and Sre Ambel rivers, there have been complaints by the fishermen that there are no more fish, and villagers need more petrol to travel farther to fish,” he said, adding that local authorities had appeared to ignore their complaints.

Set Vannak, a coordinator for the rights group Licadho, said that in numerous interviews with fisherman in different villages, he heard complaints that dredging had churned up the riverbeds and polluted the water. Oil from ships had also polluted the surface of the water, he said, forcing fish to seek cleaner habitats.

Fisherman Matt Sen, 46, from Village 4, said that two years ago he could net 100 kilograms of fish in just two hours, but that now he regularly spends up to seven hours on the water for catches of 2 kilograms or less.

“Our villagers here have been seriously impacted by the sand dredging,” he said. “Our daily living condition depends on the sea, and when the sea becomes polluted we will die.”

In March 2009, the Post reported that sand-dredging operations in Koh Kong were under the control of LYP Group – owned by CPP Senator Ly Yongphat – in partnership with the Hong Kong firm Winton Enterprises, which exported the sand to Singapore.

According to a 2009 sector profile published in a government-run online investment guide, three other local companies – Udomseima, Dany Trading and Regapo – have also been granted concessions to mine sand in Koh Kong under what the site says are tight government regulations.

“While sand-mining operations in Koh Kong province’s extensive salt-water estuaries remain small-scale, they are expected to have little impact on the local environment,” the Web site states.

Pech Siyon, director of the provincial Department of Industry, Energy and Mines, said authorities were aware of the villagers’ concerns and were “preparing a licence for a local company to clean oil from the surface water”.

He added that Winton wound up its operations last month, having fulfilled its export agreement with the government, and was “awaiting the renewal of [its] licence”. Only two companies – LYP Group and Udomseima – are now operating in the area, he said.

Singapore bound
However, photos taken in Koh Kong in November and obtained by the Post show a recent flurry of dredging and transport activity in Koh Kong.

According to international shipping registries, several of the tug-boats and barges pictured are owned by Singapore-based shipping companies – including IMC Shipping and the Marco Polo Shipping Co – while others bear Malaysian and Vietnamese markings. One barge is marked with the names of HSC, a Phnom Penh-based dredging firm, and Cambosand, a small company based in Singapore.

Cambosand’s representative in Singapore could not be reached on Tuesday, while HSC staff in Phnom Penh had not responded to requests for comment Tuesday.