Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Cambodia Takes to the Roads in Building Spree

Published: January 18, 2010
via CAAI News Media

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA — Bullet by bullet, workers removed the detritus of Cambodia’s past. They pulled 300 land mines and 30,000 rounds of ammunition from the red dirt and then laid down a thick layer of asphalt. Today, what would pass for a very ordinary road in wealthier parts of the world is precious pavement for a country motoring toward prosperity and trying to leave its bloody past behind.

Last month, the government inaugurated the newly refurbished Routes 5 and 6, both built during the French colonial era to connect the capital, Phnom Penh, with the Thai border.

Western Cambodia was the last holdout of the Khmer Rouge, the brutal regime toppled three decades ago. Rebel units held onto remote areas into the 1990s, skirmishing periodically with government forces and leaving the roads in total disrepair, a moonscape of potholes and mud that gave travelers sore backs and made for a crater-dodging, head-bumping ride.

Now enjoying the dividends of peace, Cambodia is halfway through a road-building spree with 10 projects totaling 1,173 kilometers, or 730 miles, of pavement still under way, said Prime Minister Hun Sen, who presided over the ceremony on Dec. 28. A further 11 major roads are under negotiation, he said.

The new roads make the storied temples of Angkor Wat a comfortable drive from the Thai border — and a short day’s drive from Bangkok. The roads also put more remote historic sites — in a country filled with them — within easy reach for tourists.

Roads are a big deal in Cambodia, and more than 5,000 villagers were summoned to attend the road’s official inauguration — farmers who arrived by bicycle, monks with freshly shaved heads, children in school uniforms. Organizers stenciled messages onto large banners strung across the canopy that gave shade from the searing sun: “Where there are bridges and roads there is hope.”

Cambodia’s road-building program is now taking “elephant steps, not mouse steps,” Mr. Hun Sen told the crowd.

Like the North-South Expressway in peninsular Malaysia, the American-built Friendship Road across Thailand’s northeast and the vast network of roads built by China over the past decade, roads are a key milestone of development in Asia.

For Cambodia, in particular, good roads help bring together a country fractured by civil war.

“This section was a very heavy battlefield,” said Pheng Sovicheano, the project manager of the road to the Thai border.

Mr. Pheng Sovicheano, who is also Cambodia’s deputy director general for public works, knows firsthand how bad the road was. During construction his driver drove into what looked like a large muddy pothole but turned out to be a small pond, flooding the car up to his chest.

Now, as a measure of Cambodia’s national reconciliation, some of the 360 workers Mr. Pheng Sovicheano hired to build the road were former Khmer Rouge soldiers.

Roads are expensive — $350,000 per kilometer for the road to the Thai border. But with many countries jockeying for influence in Cambodia the government appears to have no trouble finding financing. China is building a number of roads here, including one that passes through the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin.

Route 5 and Route 6 were financed with a low-interest, 32-year loan by the Asian Development Bank in Manila, an institution whose largest shareholders are Japan and the United States. South Korea is financing other road projects.

Mr. Hun Sen seems to enjoy playing these donors off each other. In his speech he chided the Asian Development Bank for its sluggish and bureaucratic two-year bidding process and praised the speed of Chinese projects.

“I compliment the way the Chinese companies work — very fast,” Mr. Hun Sen said, pointedly glancing over at the representative from the Asian Development Bank.

Political ties between Thailand and Cambodia have been strained by a territorial dispute near a 900-year-old mountaintop temple, Preah Vihear, but officials made no mention of the troubles.

Economic ties endure: By the end of this year western Cambodia will have three good roads leading to Thailand, connections that the government hopes will increase trade and investment. Western Cambodia gets most of its electricity from Thailand, and the company that built the road to the border, S.P.T. Civil Group, is based in Thailand. (The company has ties to Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai prime minister deposed in the military coup of 2006 who last year was named Mr. Hun Sen’s economic adviser.)

The new roads will make it easier for Thai companies to sell more cement, instant noodles and other products across the border. For Japanese companies, the roads will link the supply chains of factories in Bangkok and in Ho Chi Minh City.

And for villagers in western Cambodia, it may help lift rock-bottom incomes.

Yong Da, a 39-year-old deliveryman in the town of Kralanh, has more than doubled his income because of the new road. “The road was bumpy, and I could not take much stuff on my motorcycle,” he said. He now makes $2.50 a day, up from a dollar a day.

The sheets of dust that enveloped the roadside are also gone, and villagers say their children no longer have trouble breathing.

Good roads and the end of the civil war have allowed villagers to take back the night. Travel after dark was discouraged two decades ago because of poor security and the perils of bad pavement.

But with modernity comes another type of danger. Mr. Pheng Sovicheano says he was driving to Phnom Penh one night recently when he came upon a road accident.

A young man had been killed on his motorcycle when he rammed into the back of a poorly lighted truck. The boy’s distraught mother blamed the good road, Mr. Pheng Sovicheano remembers.

“She said, ‘Before, when there were bad roads, he never drove this fast.”’

Cambodia mission to help needy

Melinda Cousins and Dan Newton, of the Blackwood Hills Baptist Church, have led overseas missions.

19 Jan 10
by Alice Monfries
via CAAI News Media

MELINDA Cousins is leaving the comforts of her Blackwood home to lead a volunteer group through impoverished Cambodia.

“We’ll be visiting orphanages and rehabilitation centres, as well as churches and an AIDS hospice,” she says.

“It will be good for us to get that perspective ... most of the world don’t live like us.”

The Blackwood Hills Baptist Church member, 34, will lead the group of 10 through Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh for a month, starting this week.

The group has raised more than $5000 through a quiz night and garage sale to donate to victims of land mines and poverty.

Fellow church member Dan Newton, of Coromandel Valley, spent two weeks leading a group of nine through Hong Kong and China last month, handing out literature and bibles.

Team member Tait Moore says it was “a rewarding experience to help out people who aren’t as fortunate as us”.

“Unlike here, people in China have no freedom.”

Cambodian fortune-teller foiled in reverse alchemy swindle

Jan 19, 2010
via CAAI News Media

Phnom Penh - A fortune-teller who turned gold jewellery into tin foil to dupe villagers has been warned by police not to repeat the scam, national media reported Tuesday.

Bun Srey Neang was arrested after persuading villagers in Kandal province near the capital that they should leave their jewellery in a jar with her for 15 days. She said all of their wishes would come true when they came back and opened the container.

However the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported that villagers got much less than they hoped for when they found that their jewellery, worth around 200 dollars, had been replaced with tin foil.

The district police chief said the fortune-teller had been warned that she would be arrested if she repeated her scam.

'This magic is used to cheat honest people who are uneducated, especially those who believe in magical fortune-tellers,' said police chief Pa Som Eth, adding that Bun Srey Neang had since returned the jewellery to the villagers.

Cambodia is a predominantly Buddhist country, but belief in magic and the supernatural remain widespread.

Freedom comes to Cambodia on many levels

Mission Network News
via CAAI News Media

Cambodia (MNN) ― Cambodians are celebrating the second birth of their nation this month. Last week, many marked the freedom that followed the end of the Khmer Rouge and the fall of Pol Pot. The government prepared a big celebration in the major cities.

It was a showcase for the tourists as well as for the citizens. Tourism is a major source of income, as people from all over the world come to visit Angkor Wat, home of the largest Buddhist temple.

Even so, the majority of the 13 million citizens are farmers and many live in poverty. Because the poverty young people find themselves facing creates disillusionment, many turn to drug use.

With a bloody history as recent as Cambodia's, it is surprising that young people in Cambodia have a poor knowledge of the bondage of the Khmer Rouge years.

Teen Missions International says the new generation needs to know that real freedom is found in Jesus Christ. Their team works tirelessly to share this, but there's still a long way to go to make this freedom known.

Teen Missions in Cambodia is located in town of Siem Reap in northern Cambodia, home of Angkor Wat. This base is one of the only Teen Missions bases located inside a town. It is a small compound with a two-story building that is in the process of being built.

Each summer the staff run a national Boot Camp in an alternative location, since the base is too small to hold the Boot Camp. The first Boot Camp was run in 2004 and has run every year since. The base also runs a BIBLE, MISSIONARY & WORK (BMW) Training Center.

Fort Gibson grad to share stories of Cambodia

Darcie Dieman enjoyed spending time in Cambodia and shares her story Thursday at Bethany Presbyterian Church.

via CAAI News Media

Darcie Dieman will give a PowerPoint presentation on Cambodia at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 2000 E. Haskell Blvd.

She spent eight weeks in Cambodia last summer, teaching English and mentoring at-risk youth of Phnom Penh.

Dieman received a service grant from Harvard University to be a volunteer at Tiny Toones, Cambodia. Tiny Toones is a hip-hop community center offering English, Khmer literacy, dance, art, mathematics, HIV/AID harm reduction, and computer classes. She served as an English teacher, dance instructor, office assistant, and positive mentor.

The mission of this community center is to provide a safe, positive environment for at-risk youth to channel their energy and creativity into the arts and education, and offering opportunities and a second chance to kids coming off the streets, Dieman said.

Dieman is a Fort Gibson High School graduate, and second year student at Harvard University, majoring in psychology – social and cognitive neuroscience.

New Hope - Barclays fundraiser

New Hope fundraising video for Barclay's Bank. For singular use, may be taken down after 1 week

Student nurses make a difference in Cambodia

UQ students complete a hand washing demonstration with children in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Image: Peta Crompton

18 January 2010
via CAAI News Media

A group of UQ nursing and midwifery students have realised a unique New Year's resolution – using their studies to assist those in need in Cambodia.

The 13 final-year students and two staff members left Brisbane on January 2 with donated medical supplies, clothing and toys for a four-week placement in Siem Riap in a village known as Mondul 3.

Clinical lecturer Peta Crompton said the students had completed almost 500 health checks to date in just over a week.

“The students are loving it here and are really getting into the placement both from a professional point of view and also on a personal level culturally,” Ms Crompton said.

The experience counts towards the students' clinical coursework and was organised as part of the School of Nursing and Midwifery's International Community Health Placement program.

Students are currently referring and transferring patients to a number of hospitals and clinics in Siem Riap, assisting and observing local nursing and medical staff in a number of different environments including the New Hope Community Clinic and Orphanage.

The students are working as interns for New Hope, a group who provide free medical assistance to the local population.

Mondul 3 was originally the home of the Cambodian army, and illnesses including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, typhoid, tuberculosis and dengue fever are prevalent.

Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery Professor Catherine Turner said the program was providing participants with a greater insight into international health practices while providing enhanced practical experience.

“The International Community Placement is an extension of our clinical schools model and provides students with an invaluable opportunity to experience life and health care practices in a country and clinical setting foreign from their own,” Professor Turner said.

As part of the trip, students are learning about Cambodian culture and history, visiting sites including the S-21 Tuol Slang Museum – a former prison under the Khmer Rouge regime.

School of Nursing and Midwifery International Coordinator Dr Anthony Tuckett said the trip was the first planned under the program and delivered unique experiences for those involved.

Before leaving Brisbane, UQ staff and students collected gifts of soft toys, surgical supplies, pens, pencils and children's clothing that has since been donated to local communities and orphanages in Siem Reap. The nursing students and UQ Ipswich staff further fund raised in excess of $US4000 to donate to New Hope.

The supplies have also come in handy for community health and medical centres, which bear the cost of providing medical equipment within the smaller towns and villages.

The group returns to Brisbane on January 29.

Media: Dr Tuckett (07 3720 5405, a.tuckett@uq.edu.au) or Lya McTaggart at the School of Nursing and Midwifery (07 3365 5084, lya.mctaggart@uq.edu.au) or Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, c.pegg@uq.edu.au)

Child porn charge for man in Cambodia

Selling snacks in front of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo / AP

Tuesday Jan 19, 2010
via CAAI News Media

Cambodian police say they've arrested an American man on charges that he drugged a 12-year-old girl and took pornographic photos of her.

Chor Heng, deputy police chief of Preah Sihanouk province, said 51-year-old Ronald A. Adams was arrested at his home Friday after a complaint from the girl's mother.

Provincial prosecutor You Tith Vattanak said Adams was charged Sunday with illegal drug use and possession of child pornography, and could face rape charges if medical tests confirm he physically abused the girl.

He could be jailed for at least 10 years on the initial charges, he said.

Police said Adams has lived in the seaside province — about 185 kilometres southwest of Phnom Penh — for at least two years and operates a small restaurant there.

They say his passport says he is from New York.

- AP

Five-star service

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:02 Heng Chivoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen and senior military officials attend the inauguration of the newly completed headquarters of the Royal Cambodian Navy in Phnom Penh on Monday.

Vendors fight for access to customers

Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI News media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:01 Chhay Channyda

About 100 vendors from Chhouk Market, in Kampot province’s Chhouk district, gathered at Wat Botum on Monday to protest the construction of stalls in parking areas, a practice they said was driving customers away.

Taking cover in Kabul

Photo by: AFP

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:03 AFP/MASSOUD HOSSAINI

An Afghan policeman takes cover near a burning building where clashes between Taliban-linked militants and security forces occurred in Kabul on Monday. Five people were killed and 38 others wounded in the fighting, the public health ministry said.

No charges of genocide of K Krom

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:03 James O'Toole

KRT judges’ Case 002 decision based on procedural factors

GENOCIDE charges specific to the Khmer Krom will not be brought by the Khmer Rouge tribunal against the regime leaders awaiting trial, judges have ruled, sparking accusations that the suffering endured by the ethnic minority group has been overlooked by the court.

Co-investigating judges You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde ruled last week that investigative requests related to the Khmer Krom submitted earlier this month and in December by prosecutors and civil parties fell outside the scope of the court’s investigation in Case 002, as the factual situations and crime sites they mentioned were not included in the prosecution’s July 2007 introductory submission, nor in subsequent supplementary submissions.

“There will be no genocide charges in that respect, as targeting the Khmer Krom as a group itself,” UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said, adding:

“The question of whether or not individual members of the Khmer Krom may fall within the Vietnamese group will be decided in the closing order.”

“Khmer Krom” is a term for ethnic Khmer from the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.

In December, the court announced that the four Democratic Kampuchea leaders currently awaiting a first round of indictments were facing genocide charges in connection with the regime’s treatment of Cham Muslims and Vietnamese. Judges intend to issue a closing order – which will take the form of indictments or dismissals of the case – by September.

Olsen noted that the judges’ decision did not reflect a historical judgment that the Khmer Krom were not victims of genocide, but rather was made for procedural reasons: Crimes against the Khmer Krom were not formally named in the prosecution’s introductory or supplementary submissions.

The prosecution and civil party filings related to the Khmer Krom were termed not “supplementary submissions” but “investigative requests”, which the judges ruled were insufficient on their own to widen the scope of the investigation.

Mahdev Mohan, the head of a team of lawyers representing Khmer Krom civil parties, said the decision “leaves a really bad taste in the mouths of our clients”.

“That’s a really pontificating legal distinction – it’s a very, very, small legal distinction without a significant difference,” he said.

Devil in the details
Mohan said prosecutors and civil party lawyers had hoped to use their recent submissions to rectify the fact that the Khmer Krom were not mentioned as a group in the prosecution’s 2007 introductory submission.

“What’s especially difficult is to explain to [Khmer Krom civil parties] the arbitrariness of how this came to be, and that for some reason they are not within the scope of the investigation, despite the submissions that we have put forward, and even despite the submissions that the prosecution has put forward,” he said.

Anne Heindel, a legal adviser for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said that given the rules of the court, the judges’ decision “makes sense that it would be limited in that strict a way”. The sheer volume of potential evidence in the case, she added, made the prosecution’s initial omission of the Khmer Krom understandable.

“There’s so many documents…. As [prosecutors] come across new information, they’re constantly refining their views on this stuff,” she said.

Mohan said there was nothing to suggest the omission had been deliberate.

“From what I gather from the prosecution, it was a completely inadvertent omission. The prosecution just didn’t quite realise that they were an ethnic minority at the time,” he said, adding that in the judges’ recent decision, he was “very sure that the prosecution wouldn’t have expected this kind of outcome to turn on such a semantic difference”.

Judges announced last week that they considered their investigation in Case 002 concluded, meaning that supplementary submissions are no longer being accepted.

Prosecutors said little about the Khmer Krom decision as they contemplated their options going forward.

“We are currently in the process of reviewing all of these decisions to determine the course of action we will take,” deputy co-prosecutor William Smith said Monday.

Historians have debated whether the Khmer Rouge were guilty of genocide according to its legal definition: criminal acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. Newly appointed international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley said last month that in his judgment, however, the Khmer Krom had clearly been singled out for their ethnicity by the regime.

“These people were targeted because of an ethnic quality. This is the basis of genocide. When you target a group for total and partial destruction for the reason of their ethnicity and nationality – you know, a certain characteristic that identifies them as a group of people – if you can identify them as a group, and then that group is basically targeted for total or partial destruction, that’s genocide,” he said.

Mohan planned to appeal the judges’ decision, saying the Khmer Krom deserved legal recognition of the suffering they experienced because of their identity.

“They’ve been completely erased from the historical and legal record, and we’d hoped to kind of remedy that,” he said.


RCAF OK’d to demine locally

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
RCAF de-miners return from participating in a clearance mission in Sudan last year.

I would imagine that RCAF would give greater support to government priorities.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:03 Sam Rith and Jacob Gold

A PLATOON of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces mine-clearance specialists has for the first time received accreditation from the Cambodian Mine Action Authority (CMAA) to clear mines within Cambodia, RCAF and CMAA officials confirmed on Monday – a move that could bolster a national clearance effort that the government has said is in danger of falling short of its goals.

The company to which the platoon belongs, Demining Company 315, has already completed demining operations as part of a UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan.

But it had not been formally accredited for domestic humanitarian clearance prior to a CMAA-led review, which was completed in December.

Leng Sochea, permanent deputy secretary general at the CMAA, confirmed on Monday that his organisation had certified the 24 soldiers of the company’s Third Platoon on December 29 of last year.

“From now on, this RCAF platoon has the right to participate in bids for demining projects in Cambodia,” he said.

The troops attributed the speed with which their CMAA certification came through – their review began just at the end of August 2009 – to their level of international training.

“Even though we have our licences from the UN, we also want to be recognised locally,” said Company 315 commanding officer Mey Sophea.

Parties to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty in November formally approved Cambodia’s request to push back the deadline for clearing all antipersonnel mines by 10 years, though the government’s formal extension request asserted that “current productivity levels will not be sufficient” to meet the revised goal.

“However, with a 38 percent increase of financial resources made available to the sector and a greater involvement of RCAF in addressing the remaining challenge, productivity rates can be increased,” the request asserted, “which may make completion of clearance of all known minefields within the extension period possible.”

Prum Sophakmonkol, an adviser to the CMAA and director of its regulation department, said Monday that the platoon was seeking funding for demining projects and had no projects planned in the immediate future.

Jamie Franklin, the country programme director for the Mine Action Group, one of three organisations that was already accredited for humanitarian clearance, said he welcomed the contributions the RCAF team could bring to the national clearance effort.

He noted, though, that an RCAF-led clearance operation would be more likely to take its cues from the government.

“I would imagine that RCAF would give greater support to government priorities,” Franklin said.

“There’s a lot of work to be done in Cambodia, but not enough capacity.… The fact that this RCAF unit has been accredited by CMAA means they are clearing at international standards, and that can only be a good thing.”

He added that the heavy participation of militaries in clearance efforts was common in other mine-ridden countries, and that they had been able to accomplish a great deal.

Other responses to the accreditation news were similarly hopeful.

“It is a sign of great progress that Cambodian troops are employing their expertise both here and abroad to help make this a world free from the threat of land mines and explosive remnants of war,” UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Broderick said in a statement. “These indiscriminate weapons that have continued to kill and maim long after hostilities ceased seriously hinder Cambodia’s development. RCAF’s humanitarian demining accreditation is more evidence that the Royal Government is committed to working on this problem until it is solved.”

A Cambodian delegation attending the November summit said clearance efforts for the next 10 years will cost approximately US$330 million.

Province officials put an end to Siem Reap Night Market

Photo by: Byron Perry
The Siem Reap Night Market drew outcry from neighbouring businesses in part because it blocked a major thoroughfare next to Pub Street. Provincial officials have ordered its closure.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy and Byron Perry

Siem Reap province

THE divisive new Siem Reap Night Market has been ordered to close by provincial officials following a public outcry, town officials said.

The night market – which opened about two weeks ago – caused an uproar among nearby businesses and others who claimed it blocked a major thoroughfare next to Pub Street and siphoned business from existing markets.

Tep Bunchhay, Siem Reap town governor, said Siem Reap provincial officials have ordered the Siem Reap Night Market to shut because it doesn’t have official permission to operate.

“Since there is protesting, we have to close the market because they don’t have formal permission,” he said. “I am not sure whether this market can be reopened and when.”

Siem Reap province Deputy Governor Bun Tharith put things more bluntly. “I think it will not exist again because there were so many reactions,” Bun Tharith said.

He said that provincial Governor Sou Phirin never granted permission for the market to operate, and that Tep Bunchhay had allowed it to open only temporarily.

More than 500 thumbprints in opposition to the Siem Reap Night Market were submitted to provincial authorities last week by Seng Phalkun, owner of the Noon Night Market.

Market owners disagree
Huy Leng, owner of Siem Reap Night Market, said he had already closed the market temporarily to wait for a solution from the authorities. He proposed a “win-win” solution in which his stalls would be open only three nights a week.

Huy Leng said that some vendors from other markets have come to rent his stalls because they’re cheaper.

“This conflict is between [market] owners. It is not between vendors and vendors,” he said. He also pledged to donate US$10,000 yearly to the Cambodian Red Cross and offer jobs to people with disabilities.

“I acknowledge that my market will absorb almost all the customers if I run it the whole week, but we should work together and share the benefits,” he said.

Seng Phalkun rejected this solution, though, saying that other businesses will then ask to operate other days of the week. “If they are a real competitor, they can find a proper site to rent stalls,” he said. “The public street is not for business.”

Khmer Krom migrants appeal to UN envoy as conditions deteriorate

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

A GROUP of ethnic Khmer Krom who say they are fleeing persecution in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region are making a public appeal to a UN-appointed rights watchdog, claiming Cambodian officials have not been receptive to their pleas for citizenship.

Thach Soong, a representative of 19 Khmer Krom still seeking asylum after fleeing to Phnom Penh following their deportation from Thailand on December 5, said the government has ignored their repeated requests to formally recognise them as Cambodian citizens.

The group now hopes the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, who began his second official visit to the Kingdom on Monday, can step in.

“We know he is visiting Cambodia, so we want to ask him for help,” Thach Soong said.

“If he doesn’t help us, then we will die.”

The group has remained in limbo since arriving in December. They have asked for formal identity cards, food, housing and official recognition as Cambodian citizens.

They had no confidence in the government’s ability to help them.

Officials have so far brushed aside requests for identity cards and housing, causing alarm among the asylum seekers.

Already, five among the group – a woman, two men and two girls – have returned to Thailand in another attempt to seek asylum there, Thach Soong said.

“They had no confidence in the government’s ability to help them,” he added.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, could not be reached for comment Monday. But he has previously said that any Khmer Krom is entitled under the constitution to live in Cambodia.

Accused monks hiding
Also, five Khmer Krom monks who claim police are accusing them of distributing anti-Vietnamese leaflets that have outraged senior government officials remain in hiding.

“We dare not show our faces, because we fear arrest,” said Liv Phally, one of the five, who believe authorities have targeted them.

Interior Ministry officials, however, have stated that they have never threatened to arrest the monks.


Police pledge to block SRP prison visit

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

SVAY Rieng provincial police will move to block any Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians who try to visit two villagers detained at the provincial prison today, one officer said on Monday, after the Ministry of Interior rejected a visitation request filed by the party last week.

“If the [SRP] comes with permission from the court, it does not matter, but if they come without permission and don’t respect the law, I will take action,” said provincial police Chief Prach Rim, citing the importance of ensuring prison security and public order.

Last Tuesday, the SRP requested permission for 26 of its lawmakers, including one senator, to visit Meas Srey, 39, and Prom Chea, 41, both of whom were detained last month on charges stemming from an October incident in which they joined SRP president Sam Rainsy in uprooting wooden border posts. Villagers said the posts were planted in their rice fields by Vietnamese authorities.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Interior rejected the SRP’s visitation request, prompting the party to submit a request to Koam Chhean, president of Svay Rieng provincial court, the next day. On Monday, court prosecutor Keo Thea would not comment on whether the court had made a decision about the party’s request.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the threat to block SRP lawmakers from visiting the prison was politically motivated.

“If they do not want us to enter [the prison] for political reasons, they should say it,” Yim Sovann said. “As people’s representatives, who have immunity, we understand what public order is, what the national interest is.”

Yim Sovann added that the SRP would proceed with the visit. “They are not criminals; they were accused of daring to protest about the grabbing of their land,” he said of the two suspects.

Meas Srey and Prom Chea will be tried along with Sam Rainsy, who is overseas, on January 27, while three more villagers remain on the run.

Court president Koam Chhean could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Convicted US paedophile faces new child sex charges

Photo by: Pha Lina
American Michael James Dodd leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a hearing on Monday. Dodd, who was convicted in a separate case in August, told the court he was not guilty of purchasing child sex.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Monday heard the case of a convicted American paedophile facing a second round of charges of purchasing underage sex, this time based on a complaint from a 12-year-old Cambodian girl.

Michael James Dodd, 60, was arrested last August in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district and charged with purchasing child sex in two separate cases, one involving a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl and the other a 12-year-old Cambodian girl. He was convicted later that month under Article 34 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. The court sentenced him to 10 years in prison and ordered him to pay 20 million riels (US$4,824) in compensation.

Judge Chhay Kong said Monday that a verdict in the case of the Cambodian girl is expected January 28.

Reporters were barred from attending Monday’s hearing. “We decided to hold a closed-door hearing due to the fact that the girl is 12 years old,” Chhay Kong said.

In interviews after the hearing, however, lawyers for the victim said the court had yet to confirm the victim’s age, a factor that will weigh significantly on the sentence handed down in the case of a guilty verdict.

One of the victim’s lawyers, Peng Maneth, provided by the child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said judges were relying on a police document stating that the victim is 12, but that other documents indicate she is older.

“Our organisation has found her age to be over 15 years old, as she was born in 1992, according to birth and family documents certified by local authorities,” Peng Maneth said. If the court determines that the victim was older than 15 at the time of the crime, he said, Dodd “will be convicted and sentenced from two to five years in prison if found guilty”.

The victim’s other lawyer, Nuon Phanith, also from APLE, said Dodd claimed he had been friends with the girl but was not guilty of the charges facing him.

The victim, Nuon Phanith said, told the court that Dodd had abused her on two separate occasions at a guesthouse in Daun Penh and a third time at his rented house in Boeung Keng Kang I commune, adding that he had paid her on each occasion.

Dodd’s lawyer, Meng Sotheary, said after the hearing that his client was innocent.

Disabled veterans locked in aid dispute

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng

MEMBERS of a community of disabled veterans in Kampong Speu province say the head of a local aid organisation for the disabled has threatened to assault them and destroy their property if they continue to complain about the termination of a vocational aid programme last year.

The Association for the Relief of Disabled Cambodians (ARDC) had been running the vocational training programme, which was geared towards manufacturing jobs, until last June, when the Ministry of Women’s Affairs opted to cut US$120,000 in funding in response to allegations of corruption levelled by some of the association’s members. The corruption allegations were detailed in a June 2009 audit conducted by the ministry that was recently obtained by the Post.

The programme, which benefited families living on a social land concession in Veal Thom village, Phnom Srouch district, has not been operational since then, despite villagers’ attempts to have the head of the ARDC replaced and the programme reinstated.

The ARDC was charged with administering the social land concession, which was allocated in 2000. A total of 2,000 families received plots of land measuring 50 metres by 300 metres.

Individuals who dared to protest ... were met with violence....

Ou Yon, a 52-year-old representative of the villagers, in an interview last week, accused ARDC President Touch Seour Ly of threatening villagers who had raised complaints against him with local officials. He said Touch Seour Ly had hired workers to go from home to home, threatening individual families. He also said that since 2006, the ADB had seized the land of 30 families living on the social land concession.

“Individuals in the village who dared protest against Touch Seour Ly were met with violence, intimidation and threats of the seizure of their houses and land,” Ou Yon said.

Touch Seour Ly denied the intimidation allegations when reached by phone last week. He said the families that had lost their land or had been threatened with the loss of their land had violated the rules of the social land concession, which require families not to vacate the land for a period of 60 days or longer.

Chuch Kong, the chief of Treng Trayeng commune, in which the social land concession is located, said he did not know anything about the dispute when reached by phone on Monday.

Officials with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs either could not be reached or declined to comment when reached by phone late last week and on Monday.

Meanwhile, Ou Yon said villagers have received no word regarding when the vocational training programme might resume. He said, though, that they were planning to send a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen in the hope that officials in Phnom Penh might step in and resolve the dispute.

HUMAN RIGHTS: UN envoy arrives for inspection

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng


Surya Subedi, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, arrived in Phnom Penh on Monday for a two-week mission to the country, said Koy Kuong, spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Subedi is set to meet Prime Minister Hun Sen for talks this morning, he said, followed by meetings with Ek Sam Ol, head of the Constitutional Council, on Thursday, and Om Yien Tieng, head of the government’s human rights committee, on January 26. “The previous visit by Subedi has promised cooperation which won’t be an attack on the government,” Koy Kuong said. “His visit is to determine the priority in the field of human rights in order to establish a plan to help support the improvement of the human rights situation and the reform of the National Assembly and the judiciary in Cambodia.”

Municipal garden workers seek severance pay in face of layoffs

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Laid-off municipal garden workers pray to ghost spirits for good luck as they submit a complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet demanding one year’s worth of severance pay on Monday.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol and May Titthara

A GROUP of 50 laid-off municipal garden workers filed a complaint with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet on Monday demanding one year’s worth of severance pay from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

In compliance with an order for a reduction in contracted and temporary staffers throughout the government, the ministry plans to reduce the roughly 1,000 temporary workers charged with maintaining the capital’s gardens by half in 2010, and 271 garden workers were told that their jobs had been terminated last month. The layoffs went into effect on January 1.

“The firings have led the workers to face a lot of problems, as we cannot afford to pay rent and to support our daily living because we have not been saving money,” said Sek Phaly, who has tended gardens in Phnom Penh for the past 10 years. “Our salaries are only 250,000 riels (US$60) per month.”

Chan Tha, who said she has served as a garden worker for some 30 years, said representatives of the laid-off workers had submitted their request to city officials four times but had been told that they would not qualify for severance pay because they were not considered full-time workers.

“The state has not helped us at all,” she said. “And when we finished our work here, we did not have the money to start our own business.”

Sam Samoth, head of the city’s garden office under the Public Works Ministry, said the city had no choice but to lay off half of all overtime staff for 2010.

Lim Leang Sen, the deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said Monday that he had received the workers’ complaint. “I will send this letter to City Hall by the evening to find a resolution,” he said.

Evictions: 50 Dangkor families lose property

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol and May Titthata


As many as 50 families in Dangkor district’s Kakab commune have been given two weeks to tear down all or part of their homes as authorities increase the size of a drainage system designed to prevent flooding in the area, residents said Monday. Approximately 30 families received a letter of eviction on January 15 notifying them that the drainage system would be expanded to 15 metres in width. A letter sent last week said the system would only be 8 metres wide, and that 20 families would need to move. Deputy District Governor Kith Sopha said the families would not receive compensation.

Otres owners move to postpone eviction

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:01 Sen David and Kim Yuthana

BUSINESS owners on Sihanoukville’s Otres beach who were told they would be evicted within the month have sent a letter to Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities begging them to delay the evictions by at least three years.

About 100 business owners were told by Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities at a meeting on January 9 that they would have to close their businesses and leave the beach to make way for a new garden.

Vendor representative Ek Vithen said that on Monday vendors sent a letter to provincial authorities appealing the decision because the time frame of the evictions did not give vendors time to relocate.

“We want the government to delay the date of these evictions by more than three years because we want to have enough time to make money from our businesses, and we want the government to develop an alternative beach for us,’’ he said.

Preah Sihanouk Deputy Governor Phai Phan, who is in charge of the issue, said it was impossible for him to delay the planned evictions because they had come as a directive from the Council of Ministers and the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

“As soon as possible – by the end of the month – authorities will move vendors from the seaside following a directive from the CDC and the Council of Ministers so the company can start developing the beach,” he said.

Phai Phan confirmed that the Lou Sokun Company would develop the beach garden.

Another vendor, Sok Heng, said vendors were already feeling the impact of the decision and plan to organise a protest at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Takhmao residence once they know the schedule for evictions.

“Customers know Otres beach will be developed by the government, so no one is selling much food,” he said.

Jakarta looks to reopen ASEAN-China FTA

An Indonesian shopper browses fabrics Friday in a textiles store in Jakarta. The textiles industry is one of many sectors that the Indonesian government says has expressed concerns regarding an ASEAN free trade deal with China that came into effect on January 1. AFP

We have also held some informal communication to get a win-win solution."

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:01 Yoga Rusmana and Achmad Sukarsono

Indonesia says it has sent letter on trade deal to ASEAN nations


INDONESIA notified its ASEAN partners that it wants the group’s free trade agreement with China to be revised, Trade Minister Mari Pangestu said Monday.

In a letter to the ASEAN secretariat, the Indonesian government sought to “renegotiate” some parts of the accord, which took effect at the start of the year, Pangestu said.

“We have also held some informal communication to get a win-win solution,” she told reporters in Jakarta, without saying when the letter was sent.

ASEAN chief Surin Pitsuwan said Thursday that Indonesia's trade ministry had sent the other nine bloc members a letter expressing some “difficulties”.

But, speaking at an ASEAN meeting in Danang in Vietnam, he said there had been “no appeal for any change or any renegotiation” of the pact.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters at the event that the country is committed “to respect and abide by any international agreements that we have reached, including the ASEAN-China FTA”.

He said Indonesia's trade ministry had passed to the bloc’s secretariat some business-sector concerns to see how they could be addressed within the existing trade deal.

China’s agreement with the 10 members of ASEAN scrapped tariffs on about 90 percent of goods, and duties must be cut to no more than 50 percent on “highly sensitive” items by 2015.

Opposition has been loudest in Indonesia, where industries including textiles, food and electronics said they will suffer from the inflow of cheaper Chinese goods. Indonesia is ASEAN’s largest country by geography, population and size of the economy.

China’s trade with ASEAN has jumped sixfold since 2000 to US$193 billion last year. China’s share of Southeast Asia’s total commerce has increased to 11.3 percent from 4 percent in that time, whereas the US portion fell to 10.6 percent from 15 percent, ASEAN statistics show.

Indonesian Industry Minister Mohamad Hidayat said Friday there were 228 items that the government wants to delay from including in the free-trade accord, including steel and textile products. Negotiations within ASEAN might start this month, and Indonesia was ready to open previously protected items as a concession, Hidayat said without elaborating.


Kogid set to buy $7.35m of red corn this year

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

SOUTH Korean company Kogid Cambodia Co Ltd expects to buy about 7.35 million of red corn from Cambodia this year, the firm’s manager said Monday.

Manager of the organisation, Oung Savuth, told the Post Monday he wants to buy 70,000 tonnes of the crop during 2010.

According to government estimates, this accounts for around 10 percent of Cambodia’s expected annual red corn yield.

Around $3.15 million will buy 30,000 tonnes of grain in the rainy season, which starts in May. The remaining $4.2 million will be used to buy dry-season corn, said Oung Savuth.

He added that the company bought red corn from farmers for US$105 per tonne last year. The price offered to growers in the competitive corn market for this year has yet to be determined.

“We have only just got our money ready and set the amount to buy,” he said.

In June, Kogid invested $150 million in farms in Battambang, Pailin, Kampong Cham and Kandal provinces to grow and buy between 70,000 and 150,000 tonnes of red corn to process into animal food.

The company is in the first phase of its business plan up to 2012, a period in which it plans to invest $38 million in the venture.

Kith Seng, undersecretary of state of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Monday that Cambodia is able to harvest about 700,000 tonnes of red corn per year.

He added that companies offering to pay a higher prices will succeed in buying more of the grain.

“I believe that this company will manage to buy enough corn, as it plans, if it is prepared to offer a competitive or higher price compared to other companies,” he said.

Cheam Chansophorn, director of Battambang province’s Department of Agriculture, said farmers might grow more corn this year because the crop is starting to penetrate new overseas markets while gaining a better price. Historically, farmers have sold across the border in Vietnam and Thailand.

“Many companies are getting ready to compete to buy corn in the coming harvest season,” he added.

Baitang Kampuchea Plc reported Monday that last year it bought 4,000 tonnes of red corn from farmers to be sold to Vietnam-based companies.

CATS forecasts revenues of $30m

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

CAMBODIA Air Traffic Services owner, Samart Corporation, on Monday forecast revenues of US$30.4 million in 2010 from operations in the Kingdom.

Kanokwan Chanswangpuvana, vice president of corporate communications at Thai company Samart, told the Post that the business, which owns Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), predicted 1 billion baht ($30.4 million) in revenues.

Earlier this month, the Cambodian government officially returned operation of CATS to Samart.

It had taken away control after Siwarak Chutipong, who worked as an engineer at CATS, was arrested in Cambodia in November and convicted of stealing classified information about flights made by Thai ex-premier Thakshin Sinawatra. He was pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni last month.

While talking to the Post from Bangkok, Kanokwan did not disclose Samart revenues from Cambodia for 2009. She said that the annual financial report had not yet been approved by the board of directors and, due to the company's being listed on the stock market, she could not release information early.

“The revenue report will be revealed in February,” she added.

The vice president of corporate communications explained that Samart has no concern over its business in the Kingdom.

“I think we have a lot of confidence in the Cambodian government, so we do not see any problems with doing business in Cambodia.

“We also have confidence that we will increase our investment if other opportunities arise,” she said.

The government’s decision to allow CATS to continue operations pushed up Samart shares on the Thai Stock Exchange last week. The stock rose 4.3 percent, closing Friday at $0.184.

Police Blotter: 19 Jan 2009

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:01 Phak Seangly

Five masked robbers stole thousands of US dollars from a gas station in Kamrieng district, Battambang province, police said. Armed with three AK-47 rifles and a cleaver, the robbers tied up five workers before turning a gun on the gas station manager’s wife and demanding that she hand over all the money. Police said no one was shot during the crime, and that they were looking for the robbers.

Police chased and arrested one of five men accused of snatching the mobile phones of two victims who were watching a soccer game at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district on Friday. The arrested 24-year-old man was taken to a police station for questioning, and police said they were looking for the other four suspects.

A 35-year-old Chinese-Cambodian man was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for using and trafficking illegal drugs in Prampi Makara district. The man was caught purchasing drugs in 2009, and police said he may also have been manufacturing drugs. The man admitted to use but not to trafficking.

Tuol Kork district police on Saturday arrested a 31-year-old construction worker accused of killing a 50-year-old farmer in December 2009 in Samlot district, Battambang province. Police said the man, who was arrested in Phnom Penh, killed the victim with a wooden stick and then concealed the corpse in a nearby canal after the two men began arguing while drinking together.

Sa’ang district police arrested a 30-year-old Cham Muslim man on Saturday after his wife told police he had raped his 10-year-old stepdaughter in Svay Brateal commune, Kandal province. Police said that an examination at the provincial hospital found that the girl had been raped. The man admitted to raping his stepdaughter once. He has been accused of raping the girl five times in January 2010 while his wife was not home.

Viettel starts tests on new Cambodian 3G network

Photo by: Pha Lina
A mobile-phone vendor sells Metfone-branded handsets Monday in Phnom Penh. The Vietnamese telecoms provider says it hit revenue targets in the Kingdom in 2009, but declined to break down its financial performance for the year.

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010 15:00 Ith Sothoeuth and Steve Finch

Vietnamese telecoms provider says it will install 1,500 3G stations this quarter

MOBILE-phone company Viettel, which operates under the brand name Metfone, is already testing 3G services ahead of a planned launch this year, according to Nguyen Duy Tho, the firm’s managing director in Cambodia.

The Vietnamese firm plans to install 1,500 3G stations in the first quarter, he said by email Monday, and will later extend coverage to all districts, although no time frame was given for the launch or the schedule for upgrading coverage. Nguyen Duy Tho told the Post at the end of October that the service would be launched at the beginning of this year.

“Currently, we are testing 3G to prepare for [an] official launching [of] this service in 2010,” he said.

Viettel launched its 3G network in Laos in October.

The firm will also add a further 3,000 2G stations and 13,000 kilometres of cable during the first quarter, said Nguyen Duy Tho. The company had met its Cambodia revenue target for 2009, he added, without giving further details.

Vietnam’s Than Nien News.com reported Saturday that the firm generated US$70 million in revenues from Cambodia and Laos last year. Vietnamese media reports in September said Viettel was expecting revenues of $50 million in Cambodia for 2009, without citing a source for the information.

Viettel recorded total pre-tax profits of more than 10 trillion dong ($541 million) last year with users increasing 50 percent, according to Deputy CEO Nguyen Manh Hung, Bloomberg reported Friday.

Viettel’s mobile-phone service was its strongest source of revenues in 2009, said Nguyen Duy Tho – the firm also operates an Internet service in the Kingdom – however, “in terms of return on investment, mobile has not” shown the most potential.

The firm has invested $250 million in Cambodia and Laos, Bloomberg reported without breaking down the investment that went to the Kingdom.

Nguyen Duy Tho declined to set a revenue target for 2010, but gave Viettel’s ambitious targets for Cambodia in the longer term. The Vietnamese operator is aiming to capture 40 percent of the overall mobile market, he said, 80 percent of the broadband Internet market and 80 percent of the telecoms landline market.

Viettel, which is owned by the Vietnamese military, officially launched its mobile-phone service in February and began distributing SIM cards at the end of 2008.