Friday, 8 January 2010

Govt in process of setting up halal certification body

Photo by: ELLIE DYER
A shop sells Cambodia-produced Mee Yeung instant noodles carrying the halal logo. The Kingdom is yet to establish a formal halal certification process.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:02 Ith Sothoeuth

Institute will mean Muslims will not be forced to buy goods on faith alone

CAMBODIA’S government could set up a body to certify halal food in the country as early as this year, the official in charge of the proposed Cambodian Halal Institute said.

The Ministry of Commerce is working in consultation with the Cambodian Muslim Development Foundation under orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen on a certification body, which will most likely be set up by sub-decree, Sop Ra, deputy director general of domestic trade at the Ministry of Commerce said.

No official launch date had been set, and progress has been slow to date due to a lack of resources.

“We have plans to create the body, but now we have only a small taskforce,” Sop Ra said. “We are in a slow process of writing books about the definition of Islam and a directory of Islamic food in Cambodia.”

In the absence of a certification agency, Cambodia’s Muslims have to rely on faith alone to ensure the food they eat is prepared according to Islamic dietary laws, said Othsman Hassan, president of the Cambodian Muslim Development Foundation and a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour.

“Now we don’t have a proper law to certify halal food, which is why some people put the word halal on their products, but sometimes Islamic people still don’t eat their products because they don’t trust the label,” he said.

One of the most widely recognised products made in Cambodia bearing the halal label is the Mee Yeung (Our Noodle) brand of instant noodles produced by Men Sarun Co.

The company produces four varieties of noodles. The chicken, seafood and beef variants are labelled halal, while the fourth – pork – does not carry the label, given that it is not eaten under Islamic law.

A Men Sarun representative said he was not authorised to speak to the media Thursday and referred questions as to the halal status of the company’s products to another company employee who could not be reached.

Sources within the Cham Muslim community say Othsman Hassan was initially charged with setting up the certification body through the Muslim foundation, but Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh successfully lobbied Hun Sen to transfer authority to the ministry.

Othsman Hassan denied there was any conflict between the foundation and the ministry.

Ministry of Culture and Religion Secretary of State Jakya Adam admitted that Cambodia was taking a different approach to establishing the certification body than most other countries, where halal certification was traditionally the role of local Islamic communities.

“In most other countries, this is completely the work of Islam,” he said. “But for Cambodia, we don’t want to do it that way. We want cooperation between Islam and the government.”

Sop Ra said he has attended courses on halal food in Brunei, India, Malaysia and Thailand and was currently researching halal products sold in Cambodia.

“We are searching which companies import those products and which countries certify them,” he said, adding that they are also searching Halal products which are locally made.

Ihab Mattar, general manager and chef of Phnom Penh’s Le Cedre restaurant, which serves halal food, said he imports most of his products from Lebanon. He also sourced meat locally from Cambodian Muslims, trusting them that it was prepared according to halal methods.

“In Cambodia, they don’t know anything about certifying halal food,” he said.

Maybank plans to expand in Cambodia

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:02 BLOOMBERG AND POST STAFF

KUALA LUMPUR – Maybank plans to expand overseas loan growth to 40 percent of its overall portfolio, Chief Executive Officer Abdul Wahid Omar said Thursday, adding that the Malaysian lender would plan to add five more branches in Cambodia.

Speaking at an event to Mark Malayan Banking Bhd’s 50th anniversary, Omar told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that as the bank looks to expand its focus would remain within South and Southeast Asia.

“Our 1,750 branches globally will expand above 2,000 branches over the next few years,” he said. “In the case of Cambodia, the plan will be to increase the branch network from seven to 11.”

Omar did not give a time frame for the expansion.

Maybank would focus on organic growth rather than acquisitions, he added.

“Our primary focus is to strengthen our presence in the respective countries where we already have a presence as we’re able to get traction in those countries,” Omar said. “We’ll then look at other opportunities.

The Kuala Lumpur-based lender operates in 14 countries including Malaysia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Of the firms total lending, 33 percent of loans are issued overseas, while about one quarter of profits are generated outside of Malaysia, Omar said, but “the rate of growth in our overseas operations will be faster than our domestic growth”.

Maybank first began operating in the Kingdom in 1993 although it did not establish its first branch outside of Phnom Penh until June when it announced the opening of a Siem Reap branch.

At the time, new Branch Manager Chou Teong Boon said that Maybank planned to further expand outside of the capital to Battambang and Kompong Cham provinces, as well as Sihanoukville.

Naga agrees new deal on gaming machines

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:01 Ellie Dyer

NAGAWORLD, Phnom Penh’s only licensed casino, will put in play an extra 200 gaming machines in the next six months after a deal was signed with a US-based firm.

On Wednesday, Hong Kong-based magazine Business Wire announced that Elixir Gaming Technology has entered into an agreement with NagaWorld Ltd.

The move will see an extra 200 gambling devices placed in the lobby floor of the capital’s luxury casino over the next six months, raising the total number of Elixir-owned units from 440 to 640.

Around 120 of the extra machines are expected to be operational in the first quarter of this year, with another 80 ready by the second quarter of 2010.

Under the agreement – in which Elixir must pay NagaWorld a US$5.48 million commitment fee and contract amendment fee by January 31, 2010 – the companies will share revenue from the machines. Elixir will take 25 percent of the revenues and NagaWorld the remainder, the report said.

Over time, Elixir is expected to recoup its commitment fee through winnings.

“Given NagaWorld’s position as the exclusive casino licence holder in the Phnom Penh area, and our demonstrated success with our current slot machine operations at NagaWorld, we feel confident that we can continue to drive strong growth in participation revenue and cash flow,” said Elixir Gaming Officials Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Clarence Chung.

The agreement marks a further expansion in the gaming machine business in the capital’s casino – which has exclusive rights to operate within a 200 kilometre radius of Phnom Penh, except for in certain coastal locations like Sihanoukville and Bokor.

According to a September 2009 interim financial report from NagaCorp, NagaWorld’s Hong Kong-listed parent company, NagaWorld only operated 211 gaming and slot machines in June 2008.

In the document, which presented the company’s performance over the first half of 2009, NagaCorp said revenue from slot and gaming machines had risen 1,026.7 percent year on year to $16.9 million. In turn, revenue from the public gaming floor increased by 121.7 percent. That came in a six-month period when net profit decreased by 54.9 percent from $25.5 million to $11.5 million.

A NagaWorld spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Thursday, but a statement from Nagacorp’s chairman Timothy Patrick McNally and CEO Tan Sri Dr Chen Lip Keong, made in the interim report, points to the company benefitting from a government clampdown on Phnom Penh gambling, predicting a rise in the number of gaming machines to be introduced in the future.

“For the period under review, electronic gaming machines or slot machines brought in substantial revenue for the Group on the back of better government regulation,” the statement said. “The closure of many outlets and parlours that offered slot machines has reduced supply of venues offering such gaming activity in Phnom Penh.

The statement said NagaWorld planned to offer 1,000 slot machines.

Irrigation project key to rice output

A villager walks past the new Ponley Water Reservoir in Ponley and Phkorn communes in Banteay Meanchey province, an irrigation project that was completed in August.

There is an obvious potential to raise agricultural production."

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:01 Byron Perry and Soeun Say

Having suffered from a lack of water for years, the agricultural community near a new reservoir in Banteay Meanchey province says it is now planning to harvest up to three crops per year


ARECENTLY completed reservoir in Banteay Mancheay province is set to help almost 440 families in Ponley and Phkorn communes triple their rice harvests this year and boost their incomes.

The Ponley Water Reservoir, a group of 12 waterworks funded mostly by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and completed in August as part of the Northwest Irrigation Sector Project, is key to unlocking the area’s economic potential, said ADB Project Implementation Officer Piseth Long.

“Whilst overall availability of water in northwest Cambodia is limited, there is an obvious potential to raise agricultural production and rural incomes, and consequently reduce poverty where enhanced supply and management of water for irrigated agriculture and protection from flooding can be provided,” he said.

The ADB has contributed around US$20 million dollars to the project since it got involved in 2003 to help the northwest region catch up with development efforts elsewhere in Cambodia, Piseth Long said. The ADB has provided 80 percent of the funding, with the rest coming from the Cambodian government.

Four of the 12 water projects are in Pursat province, three in Battambang province, two in Banteay Manchey province, two in Siem Reap province and one in Kandal province. Together they have the potential to irrigate 10,000 hectares of rice when completed, which Piseth Long said was expected by the end of 2010.

Heng Sovan, 51, chief of an irrigation community in Ponley, said that for the last 20 years villagers in Ponley and Phkorn communes have only been able to produce just one crop of rice per year, and yields have been low.

“Over the last few years, our farmers have produced only one or two tonnes of rice per hectare. Now that we have irrigation, we can produce 3.5 tonnes per hectare,” he said. “We will be able to plant two or three crops this year, so I strongly hope that farmers in this district will be able to improve their living conditions.”

Efforts to boost rice yields and harvest are central to Cambodia’s efforts to improve agricultural output. The sector generates 32 percent of Cambodia’s GDP and employs 4.75 million of the country’s eight million labour force, according to the United Nations. However, while the sector has grown quickly since the early 1990s compared with other countries, at just under 4 percent a year, it has lagged behind the double-digit growth seen in other sectors.

It’s importance to the country’s economic fortunes cannot be overstated, however, with the sector the only one to grow last year according to the International Monetary Fund, as the global economic downturn dragged Cambodia into recession.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen called on the National Assembly to rewrite laws limiting offshore borrowing to $200 million in order that the country could borrow $400 million to finance a massive expansion of its irrigation systems to boost rice output.

Cambodia currently has 2.5 million hectares in paddy, but a lack of irrigation means farmers can typically only grow one harvest a year at average yields of less than 3 tonnes of paddy per hectare.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries estimates that Cambodia produced 7.2 million tonnes of paddy in 2009, of which 3.3 million tonnes was surplus to national needs and available for export.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said this week that Cambodia has the potential to match the 4 million to 5 million tonnes of rice Vietnam exports per year with the right infrastructure development. Training is also essential, he said.

In Banteay Mancheay province, staff from the provincial agriculture department under the guidance of the Northwest Irrigation Sector Project help local families form water user communities and train them in techniques to take advantage of their new irrigation system.

Farmer Chim Hou, 35, says he’s not only left his worries about drought behind, but he’s also learned better rice crop management. “I have high hopes that I can better provide for my family with my new knowledge,” the father of four said.

Police Blotter: 8 Jan 2010

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:02 Sen David

Two men that authorities are calling “gangsters” were severely injured when their motorbike crashed into a bus Wednesday in front of the National Assembly building in Phnom Penh. Police said this was no surprise because the two men were driving very fast and did not obey traffic laws. Witnesses said the two men are lucky to be alive, crediting the quick arrival of an ambulance for saving their lives. Traffic experts said the men would not have been severely injured if they had been wise enough to wear helmets. The people on the bus escaped unharmed, police said.

Police have arrested a pair of accused serial robbers after they found themselves in an accident while making a getaway following their most recent alleged theft. Police said they were able to easily apprehend the men after the most recent incident because of the suspects’ poor driving skills. Residents near a Russey Keo district market rejoiced at the arrests, accusing the suspects of perpetually stealing from people in the market and breaking into people’s homes. However, they warned that other gangsters were still on the loose.

A policeman was injured after a group of “gangsters” threw stones at him. The cop had insisted on paying one-third the price for a room in a Phnom Penh guesthouse. The officer said he agreed to stay in a guesthouse for the price of 15,000 riels, but he paid only 5,000 riels because he decided he did not want to stay there after all. But a group of “gangsters” who knew the guesthouse owner didn’t appreciate the gesture and responded by throwing stones at the officer, who was seriously injured and hospitalised. The policeman will take his grievance to court.

A 24-year-old builder has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for raping his co-worker, a female construction worker. The man was first arrested in March. He insisted he was innocent, but the court found him guilty after considering evidence supplied by a local hospital and the victim.

A 24-year-old man in Kampong Cham province was accused of raping an 8-year-old girl. The girl’s father says his daughter followed him to work, but then wandered away. When he found her, he witnessed the alleged assault.

New $6m terminal opens in Poipet in bid to boost tourism

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:01 Soeun Say

POIPET’S new US$6.5 million International Passenger Terminal opened for business this week and could bolster the Kingdom’s tourist industry, its director told the Post Thursday.

The 3,000-square-metre building – containing five restaurants, a money exchange and an office and built beside National Road 5, about 8 kilometres from the Poipet border checkpoint with Thailand in Banteay Meanchey province, was officially opened on Monday.

Travellers will be charged $1 to enter the terminal, from where they can arrange visas and catch taxis and buses.

It has been built with government approval to relieve pressure from the bustling nearby checkpoint, which sees around 5,000 people cross per day.

Va Chhouda, managing director of Sou Ching Investment Co Ltd, the company that built the centre, said Thursday it was necessary to build an international-standard terminal near the border.

“Tourists get stuck at the noisy border every day. But we want to attract tourists to come to stay in Cambodia for a long time.

“This is why we have created a place where we can provide good services to them,” he said.

Travellers can be picked up by bus from the checkpoint to visit the terminal, which has its own parking and space for 1,000 customers.

It is hoped the centre will safeguard tourists from being exploited by border scams, such as taxi drivers taking them to the wrong place.

Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the government’s Private Sector Forum tourism working group, said Thursday that the creation of a high-standard tourist facility at the border was a good move. He wants the company to ensure a high quality of service to attract more tourists to Cambodia.

“The company must provide a good service to tourists at reasonable prices,” he said.

According to a report released by police at Poipet, last year 323,705 people crossed the land border, compared with 276,349 in 2008.

NGO takes on Apsara Authority

The disputed thatched-roof umbrella at MaD's Bakong Tea Garden.

It's been very draining…having 6 to 10 police invading our property whenever they feel like it."

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:01 Byron Perry and Rann Reuy

Phil Starling, founder of Siem Reap NGO Making a Difference for Good (MaD), says his organisation has been forced to move by the Apsara Authority, a series of “threatening” visits by policemen and the withholding of permits by the authority.

Starling said because MaD was in an Apsara zone, his organisation was subject to “huge issues” with anything deemed “construction”.

“We have had several house building and compost toilet projects stopped,” he said.

The NGO has been headquartered in the Bakong district of Siem Reap province since 2007. Starling said projects for the benefit of local villagers had been on hold for two years. Resentment in Bakong was huge, he said, claiming the Authority had even prevented villagers from repairing damage to their homes caused by Typhoon Ketsana.

Apsara Authority director general Bun Narith said the claim was incorrect.

“We never ban people who have lived in the zone for a long time from fixing their homes,” Bun Narith said. He said Apsara had tightened restrictions on building or fixing new houses two to three years ago because NGOs were buying land in the protected area and bringing in Khmers from outside the zone to live there.

But Starling said the Bakong Technical College had been allowed to do work on a “massive” project in the Apsara zone, seemingly without any hindrance from the Authority.

Starling said the time spent applying and re-applying for permits, plus the constant random police visits had taken their toll.

“It’s been very draining and demanding on the whole family having six to ten police invading our property whenever they feel like it,” said Starling.

The fracas started over an application for a thatched roof to protect the Bakong Tea Garden café at the NGO.

Starling said following the applications, two onsite meetings, numerous renderings and GPS readings, Apsara officials said the roof would probably be approved within 30 days. But in October they blocked the construction.

Starling said MaD had then tried to get a mobile thatched umbrella set-up approved, but Apsara shut down that idea and forced them to destroy the umbrella.

Bun Narith said he can’t remember the specific case because they had received so many applications from NGOs. But he said Apsara always formally answered all applications.

“We’re just afraid the Angkor complex will become anarchy,” he said.

Starling said he was unsure where MaD would end up but that it was likely to be somewhere near Siem Reap, outside the Apsara zone.

Tender loving care helps to save lives

Crew, staff and local volunteers of the TLC-1. The NGO provides free health care to Tonle Sap residents and improves lives every day.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:01 Post Staff

The Lake Clinic (TLC), an NGO that provides free health care to communities living in stilt houses on the Tonle Sap Lake, has expanded its coverage from three villages to seven.

More than doubling the amount of villages covered had stretched the TLC team, said director Jon Morgan.

“We have adjusted our schedule to allow us to reach each of the seven villages twice each month,” Morgan said.

“Our working schedule has the team on the lake three days one week and four days the following week, so we are busier.”

But no one’s complaining.

“Every week brings a new story. Most actually involve us finding patients – both children and adults – who require surgery of some kind. Sometimes we save some lives. Every working day we improve many lives,” said Morgan proudly.

TLC will now treat patients in Borlot, Don S’Dong, Peamband and Pov Voey villages, as well as the three they already cover: Moat Klas, Steoung Chrove and Pek Chikrey.

They usually treat common problems like diarrhoea and gastric complaints, respiratory problems, high blood pressure and wounds of various kinds.

The difference between TLC’s work and that of others is that TLC staff usually see the problems in very advanced states because of a lack of local health care.

“As distance quickly translates into time and money, people can go a long time without seeking help when it is hours away and the cost can be equal to a month’s income,” said Morgan.

At the top of TLC’s wish list for 2010 is a new vessel. Negotiations between donors and contractors were ongoing, Morgan said.

Farewell to an Angkor institution

Christophe Pottier, departing head of the EFEO.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:01 Post Staff

ANGKOR archaeological mainstay Christophe Pottier will leave the Ecole Francais d’Extreme Orient (EFEO) on January 15 after serving as the Asian studies school’s director since 1999. Pottier was involved in opening the centre in Siem Reap in 1992.

The Frenchman will head to Australia to spend a year or two doing research at the University of Sydney’s Cambodia research cluster.

He will remain co-director of the Greater Angkor Project, a joint effort between the EFEO, the University of Sydney and the Apsara Authority.

“I’ll still be in Angkor quite often and be very involved with Angkor studies,” Pottier said.

He arrived in Siem Reap in 1992 with his wife and a 50-kilogram box of belongings on a one-year contract .

“It’s quite funny to be leaving 18 years later,” he said.

So does he feel any sadness on vacating his adopted homeland after so many years?

“I am a stupid, French, archaeologist guy, so I’m not so much into emotions,” he said, cracking a smile.

Pottier restored the Terrace of Leprous King and the northern staircase of the Terrace of the Elephants at Angkor Thom the 1990s. He was also instrumental in discovering the actual enormous size of the ancient Angkor capital, through the use of aerial mapping and spatial analysis. The study of the size and organisation of the Angkor territory was his PhD subject.

Pascal Royere will take over at the EFEO. Royere started work with the EFEO in 1993 and has been supervising the Baphuon temple restoration program since 1995.

From the ground up

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Frangipani Villas are among the many properties around town designed by Sa.La Design.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Tranquility rules at Frangipani.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:00 Bennett Murray

With the old French colonial buildings needing a little TLC and the high rises of the ‘new’ Phnom Penh crying out for a touch of style, work is kinda complicated for an architect in this town.

Thai landscape architect Sarunya Lormaneenoapparat, director of Sa.La Design Landscape and Architectural Group, says it is a challenge to create quality buildings in the city while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing vibe.

So, instead of merely drawing blueprints and setting contractors to work, Sa.La Design plans the entire package from start to finish. This includes coordinating a wide variety of professionals to work together.

“The architecture firm is like a special channel to any area,” said Sarunya. “It’s a large umbrella that includes the landscape architect, the interior designer, flora designer, lighting designer and graphic designer.”

And it seems her approach works well. Sarunya’s company’s jobs have included many high-profile projects, such as CamKo City and the European Commission’s ambassador residence.

“We do design analysis, visual analysis and ecological analysis,” she explains. “Without proper designing, the buildings come out looking like boxes. But if you have an architect who works on beautification, you can add value to the building.”

The trick, according to Sarunya, is to draw beauty from what is required in terms of functionality, and to work with pre-existing structural conditions with an open mind. In one instance, Sa.La Design converted an old clinic into a restaurant complete with a lush botanical garden. And in another a decrepit parking lot was reborn into a recreation site.

In a country that lacks local landscape architects, though, it can be tough selling the service.

“Cambodia doesn’t have any landscape architects yet, so many people think I’m a gardener. It’s hard to explain why they need us,” says Sarunya. In other instances, people find her services overpriced compared to local architects who haven’t caught on to the concept of landscape architecture: “They think they can get the same thing for less. But we provide a different value.”

As a commercial architect, Sarunya’s creative energy is inspired by her clients’ direction as well as her surroundings; both natural and cultural.

In the end, her great success can be attributed to her ability to take leads from both.
“I’m not an artist,” she says.

“I concern myself with the local materials, the local ideas. I talk to the client about what they want, and compromise with them so they’re happy.”

Van Vun aiming for London

Van Vun travels to Geelong in Australia today to undertake 10 days of training with some of the world’s best wheelchair athletes.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:00 Cameron Wells and Tha Piseth

Cambodia’s premier wheelchair racer Van Vun has perhaps the best chance of becoming the Kingdom’s first official Olympian at the 2012 London Games

NO Cambodian athlete has ever qualified for an Olympic or Paralympic event. On the occasions when an athlete has represented the Kingdom, it has been via a wildcard entry. However, in wheelchair racer Van Vun, things may be about to change as he begins his historic quest to officially qualify for the 2012 London Paralympics.

Not that he is settling for anything less. “I expect to go to London in 2012,” he said. “I am getting very anxious.”

To help achieve Van Vun’s Olympic aspirations, he will make a trip to Australia to train among the world’s best wheelchair athletes across various disciplines. Following a formal invitation from Athletics Victoria, he will fly today to Geelong – near Australia’s south coast – for 10 days of intensive training that he believes will prove invaluable. “I may not get this chance again,” he said.

The Cambodian will receive expert advice on which distance to pursue, as well as the gift of a custom-made wheelchair suited to his specific needs.

It has been an amazing turnaround in fortunes for Van Vun. Disabled after a bout of polio when he was just 18 months old, he received his first wheelchair when he was 15 years old. Four years later he started to compete in races, and for the past three years has trained an hour a day, five days a week, paying close attention to any improvements in his performance.

Now 23, Van Vun is the top wheelchair athlete across all distances in Cambodian wheelchair racing. “I like all types of distances, but the one I like most is the 500m,” he said. “Sometimes I prefer the 10-kilometre [race] though.”

Chris Minko, general secretary of the CNVLD – the governing body for local athletes with a disability – has welcomed the invitation of Van Vun to the Wheelchair Sports Victoria Training Camp as the development of such sporting activities in the Kingdom continues to increase.

“I would say it’s another step in consolidating the sporting relationship between Cambodia and Australia,” Minko said. “What we’re hoping to foster is that in 2011, we can hold an international standard short-course wheelchair race here in Phnom Penh, with the focus of possibly getting six to eight of Australia’s elite-level athletes to compete.”

Australia has long boasted success in wheelchair racing. Names such as Louise Sauvage – a multiple gold medallist at the Paralympics – and marathon racer Kurt Fearnley are household names Down Under. Minko hopes there will be a knock-on effect from Van Vun’s training in a country renowned for its excellence in the sport. “We want to develop a similar relationship [with Australia] to the one we have with Germany in the [disabled] volleyball,” he said. “[Van] Vun brings back the expertise, and he can then share that expertise.”

Van Vun is keen to help develop more local athletic talent, knowing that excellence in athletics is only as sustainable as the body allows. “Now I have the ability, but in the future I may not,” he said. “In the future, I want to be a coach or a trainer of wheelchair racing.”

Minko revealed that Van Vun was the recipient of the CNVLD’s only high-tech racing wheelchair, a second-hand model donated by Canada two years ago.

With an eye firmly on qualification to London in 2012, Van Vun is relishing the jaunt to Australia to help realise his dream. “When I go there, I will be able to get experience from other people, as well as new experiences that I’ve never had before in Cambodia,” he said. “I’m very excited.”

PKR pursue first ever trophy

Preah Khan Reach captain Samel Nasa (left) puts in a tackle on Post Tel Club’s Henri Bitga during their 2009 Samdech Hun Sen Cup quarterfinal at Olympic Stadium February 28.

(CAAI News Media)

Friday, 08 January 2010 15:00 Ung Chamroeun

Military Police-backed team Preah Khan Reach are in contention for their first taste of silverware with a formidable line-up of experienced professionals

PREAH Khan Reach (PKR) are one of the favourites to lift this year’s Samdech Hun Sen Cup. The club, which fans and players often refer to as “PM” after their previous name of Police Military, boast one of the best squads in the Kingdom, and head coach Prak Sovannara is optimistic at their chances.

“Based on the experience at the top level, I can say that our team will qualify from the preliminary round,” he said. “But it will be difficult for us to predict the results for the next round in Phnom Penh because we’re sure that we will meet other strong teams such as Khemara Keila, Phnom Penh Crown, National Defence, Naga Corp or Build Bright United.”

PKR open their account at 4:15pm today against Chhma Khmao on Svay Rieng’s Svay Rumpea pitch. Other group H opponents include Svay Rieng province, BB World FC and Kratie province.

For the upcoming tournament, PKR has signed Peas Sothy and Ung Kanyanith, both former national team players. Ung Kanyanith has recently recovered from a year-long injury, which saw him sidelined but active as coach of Khemara Keila.

“We have a first team and a second team, so we needn’t look for more players outside,” said Prak Sovannara. “We can use some of the youngsters from the second team in our squad. It’s enough for us. We have youngsters and older players who put in great performances, and we just strengthen them in both physical and technical ability.”

Preah Khan Reach forward Khuonla Boravy is one of the club’s top scorers and a regular feature on the national team.

Key players with international experiences include goalkeeper Ouk Mich, San Narith, captain Samel Nasa, Khounla Boravy, Lay Rasmey, Prak Monyoudom, Sok Rithy, Tum Saray and Keo Kosal.

Despite their high regard in domestic competitions, PRK have yet to claim either league or Cup titles. In 2005, they finished third in the Cambodian Premier League, but were relegated to the second tier after ending up in sixth in 2006.

The team quickly saved face by earning promotion back into the top division the following season, and steadily rose up the ranks to take fourth place in 2008, and third place in 2009 after beating 2008 champions Phnom Penh Crown 2-1 in the Super 4 playoffs.

For the inaugural Samdech Hun Sen Cup in 2007, PKR were knocked out at the last-16 stage by Khemara Keila, but surprised everyone in 2008 by reaching the finals, where they lost 1-0 to Phnom Penh Crown.

In last year’s Cup, Crown proved once again to be PKR’s vanquishers, with a 4-0 trouncing in the semifinals. However, the military police side picked themselves up to inflict a 3-0 drubbing of Phouchung Neak in the third place playoffs.

Prak Sovannara also revealed a new sponsorship deal for the team from local Internal portal Sabay. “Now it’s at the beginning stage, but I hope that it will be for the long term,” he said. “We will try to do our best to show the sponsors that what they spend on us is useful. It’s just one of the income sources for our club, but it’s a big motivation for us, especially for the players.”

The coach, who handled the Cambodian national team prior to current boss Scott O’Donell, expressed his hope for other clubs to also find permanent sponsors to resolve their financial problems.

Photos by Nick Sells (

News in Pictures

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, talks with U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, left, during a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010. Faleomavaega arrived the capital Wednesday after a short trip to Siem Reap province. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith) (CAAI News Media)

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, shakes hands with U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, center, during a meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010. Faleomavaega arrived the capital Wednesday after a short trip to Siem Reap province. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith) (CAAI News Media)

A vendor prepares rice for sale at market in Phnom Penh January 07, 2010 . Cambodia could export as much as 700,000 tonnes of rice this year, exporters and government officials said on Wednesday, as the country steps up its efforts to become a leading shipper of the grain. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAAI News Media)

A vendor prepares rice for sale at a market in Phnom Penh January 07, 2010 . Cambodia could export as much as 700,000 tonnes of rice this year, exporters and government officials said on Wednesday, as the country steps up its efforts to become a leading shipper of the grain. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAAI News Media)

Cambodian girls carry baskets full of snacks to sell in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday evening, Jan. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith) (CAAI News Media)

A Cambodian girl carries a snack's basket for selling in evening time in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith) (CAAI News Media)

Thai leader seeks to heal divisions

By David Pilling and Tim Johnston in Bangkok

Published: January 7 2010

(CAAI News Media)

The lawns of Government House in Bangkok are immaculate these days and the ornate Thai-Venetian facade restored to pristine condition.

That is not how it was a year ago when thousands of “yellow shirt” demonstrators – self-proclaimed defenders of the monarchy and enemies of the “red shirt” forces loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister, occupied the premises for months, even planting rice on the lawns to symbolise their determination to stay.

In the event, they did not have to. The government of the day, loyal to Mr Thaksin, who had been ousted in a 2006 military coup, was itself brought down by a constitutional court ruling. Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democrat party considered more in tune with the yellow shirts’ conservative agenda, then took the premiership with the backing of a splinter faction from the ousted ruling party.

To his supporters, Mr Abhisit, an Oxford-educated liberal with an eloquent turn of phrase, was just the man to bring Thailand back from chaotic street violence. To his critics, he has been little more than the stooge of a military-backed elite that ousted legitimate, if imperfect, governments through coups and constitutional trickery. (Samak Sundaravej, the late pro-Thaksin prime minister, was removed by the courts on the grounds of conflict of interest for hosting a television cooking show.)

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, associate professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn university, says of Mr Abhisit’s supporters, a loose amalgam of the middle and upper classes and voters from the rural south: “They are not pro-status quo, they are pro-past.”

Mr Abhisit, interviewed this week in the aristocratic splendour of the Government House drawing room, rejects the notion that he serves an establishment agenda. He governs in the interests of all Thais, he says, including those previously marginalised voters from the impoverished north-east who swept Mr Thaksin to power in 2001.

“We have clearly implemented policies that have benefited everybody. If anything, the emphasis has been on the poor, on rural people,” he says, referring to his maintenance and extension of the affordable healthcare and education programmes championed by Mr Thaksin. “People are going to see through this myth, this propaganda, that there is only one party that helps the poor,” he says.

Mr Abhisit, appointed by parliament rather than via election mandate, aims to overturn the assumption that any election would automatically return a pro-Thaksin government. But before he is willing to test his conviction at the polls in advance of the December 2011 deadline, he insists on three conditions: a return to economic health, cross-party agreement on amending a military-imposed constitution, and an end to political violence.

A semblance of economic stability has returned with growth this year expected to reach at least 3.5 per cent after a contraction of a similar size last year. But stalemate over constitutional amendments, and continued threats of red shirt protests mean the other conditions remain unfulfilled.

“The offer of early elections is a compromise,” he says. “But I see no reason why we should call elections if they are not going to [lead to] some kind of reconciliation.” Of the red shirts, who are promising to hold demonstrations from Monday until the Abhisit government falls, he says: “What kind of democracy is it if you have people threatening to use violence? If they are really interested in reconciliation through a process of democracy, I see no reason why they shouldn’t agree to my conditions.”

The opposition rejects the obstructionist label, arguing it has no option but to take its cause to the streets after the banning of its best politicians and the removal of Mr Thaksin’s thrice-elected government in the 2006 coup.

Chaturon Chaisang, one of 111 officials from Mr Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party suspended from politics, says: “Abhisit is trying to stay as long as possible. They are trying to discredit the red shirt movement and preparing to suppress the people.”

The heady rhetoric and sense of a lull before a political storm are exacerbated by the retreat from the scene of two crucial figures: 82-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, convalescing in hospital after a lengthy illness, and Mr Thaksin, in exile to avoid jail after having been convicted in absentia of breaching conflict of interest laws.

Mr Thaksin, who claims his conviction was political, has recently turned up the pressure by becoming an economic adviser to neighbouring Cambodia, giving every impression that he is waiting in the wings for a return to Thai politics. The protracted illness of King Bhumibol, who has often played a mediating role during his more than six-decade reign, has stirred widespread fears that bottled-up social and political tensions may erupt when he leaves the throne.

“We have been very fortunate that His Majesty has been an incredible unifying force, but Thai society has got to mature to a point where we can sort out our own problems,” says Mr Abhisit. Nobody, on either side of the political gulf, would claim Thailand is there yet.

Call for Urgency Resolution on Uyghur Extraditions From Cambodia

Thursday, 07 January 2010
(CAAI News Media)

Graham Watson MEP has called on China to respect the human rights of twenty extradited Uyghurs whose whereabouts continue to remain unknown
Below is a press release issued by the office of Mr. Graham Watson MEP:

"Cambodia's sneaky decision to extradite twenty Uyghurs to China is a disgrace. The UNHCR was still in the process of investigating their cases: it should have had the chance to finish its work.

"China must now agree to allow representatives of the international community to be present at the trials of these poor people. It has a moral responsibility to treat them fairly, and should guarantee that there will be no executions.

"The Cambodian government should give a proper account of why it chose to act in this way. It should also promise that the two Uyghurs who are currently missing will not be extradited when they are found.

"Both Cambodia and China must understand that if they act brutally and by stealth, their own reputations will rightly suffer.

"I am now seeking an urgency resolution in the European Parliament on this matter to show the seriousness with which we treat it."

Note: To download the press release, please click here. (PDF Format, 76kb)


Speaking on hearing of Mr. Watson’s statement, the President of the World Uyghur Congress, Ms. Rebiya Kadeer, spoke of the “renewed strength I have gained on hearing that the European Parliament continues to uphold the human rights of Uyghurs where others have failed - Mr. Watson’s statement and his decision to pursue an emergency resolution sends a unequivocal message to Phnom Penh and Beijing that their actions will not be consigned to the past. I hope that it will also encourage two missing Uyghurs to come forward and tell the world their stories”

Reacting to the latest international response in support of the extradited Uyghurs, Mr. Marino Busdachin welcomed “the first concrete step to be taken that demonstrates the international community’s commitment to upholding human dignity…Mr. Watson’s words – and more importantly – his actions, will I hope spur others to act.”

Mr. Watson joins parliamentarians from all over the world strongly criticizing the extradition decision. Writing on Christmas Eve, New Zealand Member of Parliament, Mr. Keith Locke, urged the government to “join the international condemnation of Cambodia for its callous and illegal deportation of the Uighers.” This was a deportation that “flies in the face of all refugee law” Mr. Locke’s noted.

Mr. Michael Danby MP of the Australian Parliament had earlier condemned the extradition as an “abhorrent decision” and fateful for the Uyghurs who were now trapped in a process “likely [to] end with their execution.” Cambodia’s international reputation had been done irreparable damage by their decision to bow to Chinese pressure Mr. Danby concluded.

Phnom Penh had paid little heed to urgent public appeals from politicians across the political spectrum in North America and Europe that were issued in the hours leading up to the Uyghurs’ midnight deportation.

As fears had grown for their safety, Mr. Wayne Marston MP of Canada had publicized his belief that any extradition “clearly puts these Uyghurs at the severe risk for execution” and that Phnom Penh must “allow time for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to resolve the matter to the benefit of all parties.”

Senator Marco Perduca of the Italian Senate voiced his concern that the extradition “would throw them [twenty asylum-seeking Uyghurs] into the jaws of a judicial system that is acknowledged to be partial, which still supports the death penalty, and which has already led to the execution of at least eight Uyghurs in recent months after seriously flawed trials.”

These fears are growing more real. It is believed that the twenty-two Uyghurs held incriminating evidence of human rights abuses perpetrated by Chinese state security agencies against Uyghur protesters in East Turkestan. Previous trials of Uyghurs have not been considered fair and have followed

Two Uyghurs remain missing after evading the round-up that culminated in the extradition on 19 December 2009 and which preceded the visit to Cambodia of China’s Vice President Xi Jinping and the conclusion of trade and investment agreements totally $1.2 billion.

Cambodia marks liberation under cloud of crackdown

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at Phnom Penh international airport November 8, 2009. Cambodia marked the 31st anniversary of the fall of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime on Thursday in celebrations clouded by the threat of a crackdown on opponents of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea/Files

(CAAI News Media)

Thu Jan 7, 2010

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia marked the 31st anniversary of the fall of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime on Thursday in celebrations clouded by the threat of a crackdown on opponents of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Before the festivities, attended by thousands of people in the capital Phnom Penh, the premier vowed to arrest anyone seen handing out leaflets opposing his rule, the latest in what rights groups say is a growing campaign to silence dissent.

Hun Sen's warning to his critics, who say the government is abusing its power to crush all forms of political opposition, came five days after a court issued an arrest warrant for main opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

The crackdown coincides with trouble in one of Southeast Asia's most impoverished economies after an unprecedented boom which saw economic production expand 10 percent annually in the five years up to 2008. Since then, foreign investment has collapsed, tourist arrivals have plummeted and construction has stalled.

Data this week showed about 30,000 workers in the garment industry, a mainstay of the economy, lost their jobs last year as exports to the United States shrank.

Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, sued by Hun Sen in July after she accused him of defamation, on Thursday called on the public to resist what she said were intimidation tactics by authorities. "We must still continue to express opinions, not back down because of threats," she said. "We must give a clear message that we can't accept the closure of free expression."


Hun Sen on Tuesday announced the threat to arrest anyone handing out leaflets that express opposition to him or his policies. He said he had seen some such leaflets that were printed in neighbouring Thailand for distribution in Cambodia.
"Leaflet distributors be careful, I will arrest," he said.

He also rejected claims he had been using the courts to intimidate his opponents and warned Rainsy to "be prepared" to go to prison, adding that his long-time political rival, who is now in exile in Europe, would not be pardoned.

The threat appeared effective. No opposition leaflets appeared during Thursday's celebrations marking an invasion by Vietnamese forces in 1979 that toppled the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge, blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people.

The National Assembly, dominated by the ruling Cambodia People's Party, passed legislation last year outlawing protests of more than 200 people and tightening existing defamation laws in what opponents said were measures to prevent criticism and keep rival politicians in check.

Risk analysts say despite corruption and concerns over human rights and judicial interference, Cambodia's political and economic stability should remain intact in the foreseeable future, with little threat to the government's grip on power.

South Korea and China, the country's biggest sources of investment, signed agreements late last year to pour more money into Cambodia, which will open its first stock exchange later this year as part of a $2 billion project to build a new financial centre.

Rainsy, who heads a party named after him, is accused of causing criminal damage after uprooting several border demarcation posts to appease farmers.

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Jason Szep)

National Holiday – Victory over Genocide Day – Thursday, 7.1.2010

Posted on 8 January 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 646

As every year, the memory of the 7 January 1979 shows that there is deep disagreement what this day in Cambodian history means. Of course any memorial day may have different aspects. But different statements in Cambodia show that there are fundamental differences in describing what has happened, related to this day.

What follows are some brief reports, reflecting different voices.

The speeches of the representatives of the government and of the Cambodian People’s Party see the significance of the day in what the official name of this holiday says: a commemoration of the victory over genocide. The end of the Khmer Rouge regime brought also an end to the tremendous loss of life and the suffering of the people of a degree never experienced in any other country. It initiated also a decade of Vietnamese presence – a decade of reconstruction after the devastation suffered under the Khmer Rouge regime.

The former King Sihanouk had expressed the meaning of this day some years ago in a very concrete way: Without this event, innumerable more Cambodian people would have lost their lives. This is a factual description.

Other voices state interpretations – this day initiated a Vietnamese presence for a decade. This is also a fact.

What is surprising is not that there are different opinions. Surprising is, when only one of the two elements is mentioned.

“French Indochina turned to Vietnamese Indochina.”

“Tomorrow is the 31st anniversary of the Vietnam invasion on Cambodia which consequently ruled over our country for 10 years and still continues its influence until today.” – There is not one word in this statement which would indicate that this day brought an end to a sequence of murderous years.

An anonymous blogger on the Internet wrote, in response to another voice: “You are stupid to say that: 7 January was an invasion not libration.”

As the former president of the Federal Republic of Germany said 40 years after the defeat of the German state by the allied forces at the end of the Second World War in Europe, initiating the division of Germany and its occupation under military rule of forces from France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America: “First of all, this was a day of liberation.”

It is also surprising that in the different reflections on the 7 January 1979 we did not find any reference to the fact that the Khmer Rouge regime received considereable support from the People’s Republic of China.

Anniversary Marks Division Among Cambodians

By Heng Reaksmey and Kong Sothanarith
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 January 2010

(CAAI News Media)

January 7 has become a contentious date in Cambodia. On the one hand, it marks the beginning of the end of the Khmer Rouge, who were ousted on the date in 1979 by Vietnamese forces and Cambodian defectors of the regime.

The ruling party marks the day as the beginning of victory over the regime and of peace that was formalized in accords in 1991. Opposition members and others say the day should be remembered as the beginning of a decade-long Vietnamese occupation, and not of liberation.

Cambodian People’s Party officials gathered at their headquarters Thursday morning to mark what they term “Victory Over Genocide Day.”

Chea Sim, who is the president of the CPP and of the Senate, told those assembled that the 31st anniversary marked a day that “saved our nation and people from the genocide disaster” of the Khmer Rouge.

Since the defeat of the Khmer Rogue, “our nation has ceased a time in history that is full of internal conflicts, wars, tragedy and the state of being underrated,” he said. “We have got out of this darkness, which actually gave us valuable lessons and experiences.”

The ruling party supports the Khmer Rouge tribunal, he said, “in trying crimes committed by senior leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea regime.” However, he said the party opposed “attempts for using [the court] for ill intention with impact on peace, national reconciliation and development, which have been our hard-won achievements.”

Thach Sitha, a top official of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said Jan. 7 simply “marks the invasion of Vietnamese troops.”

Historically, he said, the Khmer Rogue would not have succeeded without the Vietnamese communists, which initially supported the dissidents that would form the regime.

“If the Vietnamese communist party did not create the Cambodian communist party, there would not have been mass killing in Cambodia,” he said. “They played a double role. That means they killed and they saved after.”

The day that brought real development to Cambodia, he said, was Oct. 23, 1991, the date of the Paris Peace Accords.

Kek Galabru, president of the rights group Licadho, said Jan. 7, 1979, the liberation of Cambodia, was “a fact,” and the peace accords that came much later also brought development. “Leave it to the Cambodian people to judge the events,” she said.

US Congressional Delegation Discusses Trade

By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
07 January 2010

(CAAI News Media)

Prime Minister Hun Sen and three US congressmen discussed an extension of trade relations between the two countries on Thursday, while raising the possibility of debt reduction.

The congressmen—Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat from American Samoa; Mike Honda, a Democratic from California; and Joseph Cao, a Republican from Louisiana—met with Hun Sen, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, Finance Minister Keat Chhon and Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh

“We did touch on the issue of debt obligations, also on questions of trade and tariffs in trying to bring Cambodia’s trade and economic needs [and] better status especially in trade with the United States,” Faleomavaega told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport Thursday afternoon.

The US delegation is scheduled to travel to Laos, having already visited Vietnam. The tour will conclude in Japan.

Cambodia owes the US more than $300 million from the Lon Nol period, a debt Cambodian officials maintain should be erased. Faleomavaega said he told Hun Sen he would take the matter to discuss with other US lawmakers.

Debt forgiveness could help Cambodia, he said. Faleomavaega said he wanted to play a role in bettering the relationship between Cambodia and the US.

Eang Sophaleth, an adviser to Hun Sen, told reporters the premier had thanked the men for continued economic support from the US and was happy to promote a relationship between the two countries.

Cambodia's ruling party warns KRouge court

Cambodia's president of the senate and president of the Cambodian People's Party Chea Sim (L), talks to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) during a CPP ceremony marking the 31th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in Phnom Penh. Cambodia's ruling party warned the country's UN-backed court not to disrupt national progress in its pursuit of Khmer Rouge leaders. (AFP/Khem Sovannara)

(CAAI News Media)

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodia's ruling party Thursday warned the country's UN-backed court not to disrupt national progress in its pursuit of Khmer Rouge leaders, as it marked the 31st anniversary of the regime's ouster.

The court is preparing to give a verdict in its first trial, of former torture centre chief Duch, while four other senior leaders of the hardline communist regime are awaiting trial on war crimes and other charges.

But Cambodian and international prosecutors have openly clashed over whether the court should pursue more suspects, while the Cambodian investigating judge has refused to summon high-ranking government officials as witnesses.

"We oppose any attempts to use the chamber for ill-intentions that would have an impact on peace, national reconciliation and development, which are our hard-won achievements" said Chea Sim, president of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

Addressing thousands of supporters during a rally to mark the anniversary of the toppling of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime by Vietnamese-backed forces in 1979, Chea Sim pledged the party's continued backing.

"CPP offers its support to the current process of (the tribunal) in trying crimes committed by senior leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge) regime," he said.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is also the deputy leader of the CPP, has repeatedly warned that pursuing more suspects from the hardline communist regime could spark civil war.

The process has often been hit by allegations that Hun Sen's administration has attempted to interfere in the tribunal to protect former regime members who are now in government.

After several years of haggling between Cambodia and the UN, the tribunal was created in 2006 to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation or overwork as the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime tried to create an agrarian utopia. After being toppled they continued to fight a civil war until 1998.