Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Vietnam helps Cambodia build guard headquarters

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Deputy Minister of Defence Sen. Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Van Duoc on January 19 attended the inauguration ceremony of the Cambodian Guard Forces’ Headquarters, which was built with assistance from Vietnam.

At the event, Cambodia Defence Minister Tea Banh thanked the Vietnamese army and people for providing practical assistance to Cambodia.

He said that both countries have built a long-lasting friendship, which was specially demonstrated in the 1970s and 1980s when Vietnam helped Cambodia drive away the Pol Pot genocidal regime.

In his speech, Deputy Minister Duoc affirmed that Vietnam and Cambodia have stood shoulder to shoulder to overcome numerous difficulties and win victories.

This relationship has developed constantly and become a valuable asset of the two nations, said Mr Duoc, adding that solidarity and cooperation is a decisive factor behind the victory of the struggle for national liberation of each nation.

The headquarters of the Cambodian Guard Forces covers 10 hectares in capital Phnom Penh.

Cambodia jails Swede for sex with adopted son
January 20, 2010
via CAAI News Media

A Cambodian court has sentenced a Swedish man to six-and-a-half years in prison for having sex with three underaged boys, including his adopted son.

Judge Chhay Kong says Johan Brahim Escori, 62, was convicted on Tuesday on charges of illegal sexual intercourse with his nine-year-old adopted son and indecent acts with two other boys.

He also ordered Escori to pay a four million riel ($1040) fine and be expelled from Cambodia after serving his sentence.

Lax law enforcement and poverty have made Cambodia a prime destination for foreigners seeking sex with minors. But police working with social activists have stepped up efforts to fight the crime, and several foreigners are serving lengthy prison terms.


Tribunal outreach efforts

Photo by: Pha Lina

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:03 Pha Lina

A guide at Tuol Sleng prison conducts a tour of the facility organised by the public affairs team at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday morning. The court has been leading such outings, which also take participants to the court and to the killing fields at Choeung Ek, since September.

Helmet use spotty at best: experts

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
Cheng Samnang retrieves a checked-in helmet for a shopper Tuesday at Sorya Shopping Centre, where the lot guard said most drivers do not have helmets. One year ago, municipal traffic police began enforcing a law requiring motorbike drivers to wear helmets.

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:05 Cameron Wells and Brooke Lewis

One year after its implementation, the helmet rule is still hindered by spotty police enforcement

LAST month, Chea Mengly, a 29-year-old construction site superviser, was driving his motorbike along Street 63 in Prampi Makara district at night when a car swerved in his direction and cut him off. Minutes before, he had removed his safety helmet to answer his cell phone.

“I had my helmet on at first, but because I had a phone call I took it off,” he said. “I wanted to speed up to pass the car, but instead I crashed into a cyclo. The driver was sleeping in the middle of the street.”

The collision threw him from his bike, and his face hit the pavement when he landed. He fell unconscious, but sustained only minor injuries.
“I got some scratches on my face. I can’t believe that I fell unconscious but was not seriously injured,” he said.

Since then, he has vowed never to go without a helmet when he drives, but not everyone on the roads is so safety-conscious.

As Interior Ministry officials meet this morning to discuss the efficacy of the Land Traffic Law, road safety experts have expressed renewed concern that an amendment adopted a year ago requiring all motorbike drivers to wear helmets has been largely ignored. The amendment calls for violators to be fined 3,000 riels (about US$0.75 ).

Despite the heavy publicity campaigns that were tied to the amendment’s adoption, compliance has been lacklustre, and it has failed to reduce the number of traffic fatalities over the past 12 months, according to government statistics.

The total number of deaths on the Kingdom’s roads climbed from 1,572 in 2008 to 1,654 in 2009, according to Him Yan, the director of the Ministry of Interior’s Public Order Department.

Experts argue that the effectiveness of the helmet amendment has been hindered by spotty enforcement, a trend they say bodes poorly for the prospect of implementing other traffic reforms, such as crackdowns on speeding and drunken driving.

“The key risk factors in injuries are not wearing helmets, drink-driving and speeding, so that’s what [the government has] been focusing on,” said Ryan Duly, a road safety adviser for Handicap International Belgium.

“But a lot more needs to be done. More resources and police are needed long term – the government needs to commit to long-term enforcement and think in years, rather than months. For behaviour to change, that is key.”

The helmet amendment was accompanied by a strong enforcement campaign, at least at first. On January 1, 2009, the day it went into effect, police reported nabbing 120 violators. A few months later, in a speech delivered on May 19 at the Interior Ministry, no less an authority than Prime Minister Hun Sen bemoaned the fact that compliance with the amendment appeared to be on the decline and called for an additional amendment that would empower police to confiscate motorbikes ridden by drivers without helmets.

The attention from government officials seemed to be effective. Helmet use by drivers in the capital – which had already been on the rise, climbing from 9 percent in 2004 to 24 percent in 2008, according to figures from the National Road Safety Commission – skyrocketed, reaching 85 percent in August.

Since then, however, official interest in the amendment has been limited, road safety experts say.

Jeroen Stol, country director for Handicap International Belgium, said the number of drivers wearing helmets had lagged in recent months in particular.

“It looked very promising back in August, but helmet use is decreasing at the moment,” Stol said. “It has to do with enforcement, I believe. People think, ‘I can get away with not wearing a helmet, so why should’I?”

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
Motorbike riders turn the corner from Kampuchea Krom Boulevard north onto Monivong Boulevard on Tuesday.

Full force of law not felt
Even when police have launched crackdowns, violators have not faced all of the penalties outlined in the law. Failure to wear a helmet is defined as a minor offence under Article 88 of the law, along with driving while talking on a cell phone, driving with a defunct speedometer and using a horn “incorrectly”. All minor offences are supposed to result in a one-point violation from a driver’s “score card”, which is supposed to be issued at the same time as a driver’s licence. Each score card, according to the law, should have a total of 12 points, and a deduction of all 12 points should result in revocation of the licence.

But Duly said the scorecard system had not yet been implemented, and that he could not predict when it would begin.

Chev Hak, deputy chief of the municipal Traffic Police, said Tuesday that officials were fully committed to enforcing the helmet rule, adding that night deployments of police officers had been in effect sporadically since August 2009 in part for this purpose.

“Enforcement of the law will continue because people will get back into their old habits if we stop,” he said.

Looking ahead, HIB has been lobbying the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to implement an amendment that would increase fines for drivers caught without helmets, establish minimum safety standards for helmets and force passengers to wear them as well.

The September 2009 Ministry of Health Survey found that only 9.8 percent of passengers on national roads and 8.5 percent of passengers in urban areas were wearing helmets. According to figures from the Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System, passengers accounted for 11 percent of casualties in the first few months of 2009, with children among the most vulnerable.


Jailed villagers visited by SRP

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Police in Svay Rieng province set up a barricade to prevent some Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers from visiting villagers awaiting trial in connection with an October border protest.

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:05 Meas Sokchea

Svay Rieng province

LAWMAKERS from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP)on Tuesday were allowed to visit imprisoned Svay Rieng province villagers accused of helping to tear out border posts along the Cambodia-Vietnam frontier – in what they called a last-ditch effort to draw publicity to the issue ahead of a trial scheduled for next week.

While police had originally pledged to block Tuesday’s visit, three SRP lawmakers and two family members were allowed into the provincial prison.

Party spokesman Yim Sovann said accused villagers Prom Chea and Meas Srey called for their release.

“They have done nothing wrong at all,” Yim Sovann told reporters waiting outside.

“When they lost their land, it meant that they lost their rice fields. I think today the world and Cambodia will be aware of the suffering of the two victims in prison.”

Council of Ministers Spokesman Phay Siphan suggested that Tuesday’s visit was purely a publicity stunt. “It’s so strange to attract the media to talk about these people,” he said.

“Visiting [your supporters] in jail may be the right thing to do. But keeping them from jail in the first place is better. They should not be inciting people to do things that are against the law.”

Prom Chea and Meas Srey are awaiting trial in connection with an October incident in which they allegedly assisted opposition leader Sam Rainsy in uprooting border markers. Sam Rainsy has claimed that the markers were evidence that Vietnamese authorities were encroaching on Cambodian soil.

Svay Rieng provincial court has charged the opposition leader with racial incitement and destroying public property. A total of five villagers were also charged in the case, though three are on the run. Sam Rainsy remains out of the country.

After the visit to the prison, SRP lawmakers brought reporters to a nearby border area where Yim Sovann said Vietnamese officials had removed border markers.

“They’re aware that if they do not remove the markers, maybe more and more Cambodian people will ask the government to investigate,” Yim Sovann said.

“They removed them to eliminate evidence.”

Phnom Trop becomes a flashpoint

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:05 Cheang Sokha

CAMBODIAN and Thai military commanders are scheduled to meet for negotiations today after Thai troops asked Cambodian forces to retreat from a border area near Preah Vihear temple, military officials said.

Yim Phim, the commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 8, said RCAF General Srey Doek will meet with his Thai counterparts to discuss the disagreement and assert Cambodia’s claim to the Phnom Trop area, located adjacent to the temple in the disputed zone claimed by both Cambodia and Thailand.

“Thai troops are dreaming if they think Cambodian soldiers will move away from that area,” Yim Phim said. “We will not move forward or back.”

Yim Phim said Cambodian and Thai troops at Phnom Trop discussed the potential withdrawal of troops from the area this past weekend for about two hours. Though they did not reach a solution, the situation remains calm, he said.

Colonel Meas Yoeun, RCAF deputy military commander for Preah Vihear province, said Thailand has been repositioning its troops recently, but added that the movements are no cause for alarm.

“We have not been surprised by the movements of the Thai troops,” Meas Yoeun said. “Soldiers on the battlefield are like the boxers in the ring – always moving around.”

Om Yentieng, chairman of the government’s Human Rights Committee, told reporters on Tuesday that at a meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Surya Subedi, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, Subedi expressed support for the Kingdom’s protection of its territorial sovereignty.

“[Subedi] assured Samdech Hun Sen that Cambodia is not isolated in this matter,” Om Yentieng said. “The UN will support Cambodia in defending Cambodian territory.”

Subedi also offered his support for Cambodia’s membership in UNESCO, Om Yentieng added.

After talking with PM, UN rights envoy cites human rights progress

Photo by: Sovan Philong
UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi meets with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday at the National Assembly during his second official visit to Cambodia.

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng

THE UN’s human rights envoy to Cambodia said progress had been made on human rights issues in the Kingdom, following talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen at the National Assembly on Tuesday.

“We discussed a wide range of human rights issues. We have been making progress on freedom of expression and the NGO law, land evictions and the cooperation between civil society and the government,” Surya Subedi, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, told reporters after the meeting.

“I will not go into individual specific allegations of human rights violations. We are looking at the total picture of the human rights situation in Cambodia.”

Subedi arrived in Cambodia on Monday for a 12-day visit to examine the functioning of the National Assembly and judiciary, and probe the current human rights situation in the Kingdom, according to a statement released by the UN on Friday. The visit, Subedi’s second, comes following a similar mission in June.

Subedi said that though there are a number of human rights issues that remain a concern in Cambodia, his discussion with the prime minister was cordial.

He described as positive the government’s stated goal of strengthening the country’s human rights mechanisms, ultimately leading to the establishment of an independent Human Rights Commission to monitor human rights issues throughout the country.

Subedi and Hun Sen also both approved of the idea of an election to select a civil society representative who could liaise directly with the government over issues of concern, said Om Yentieng, head of the government’s Human Rights Committee.

“The two sides have opened their hearts in a dialogue about the development of the human rights situation, and Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed with Subedi’s idea of calling on the NGOs in Cambodia to elect their representative in order to facilitate dialogue with the government,” he said.

He added: “I think that Subedi is in a transitional period and wants to get some ideas from Hun Sen in order for the UN to help support Cambodia on human rights issues.”

Attack spurs call for acid laws

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Acid attack victim Yun Sarun, who police say was doused with acid on Monday by his wife, receives treatment for serious injuries he sustained to his face and upper body.

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:04 Mom Kunthear and Tep Nimol

LOCAL rights groups are renewing calls for authorities to regulate the sale of acid in the Kingdom, in the wake of another violent attack that has left a man with serious injuries to his face.

Police have identified the most recent victim as Yun Sarun, 33, who was doused with acid on Monday as he was sleeping. Investigators have accused the victim’s wife of pouring the corrosive liquid over her husband’s face in a fit of jealous rage.

“His wife was very angry with her husband because he loved another woman,” said Khat Khuntith, an officer with the Boeung Kak II commune police.

Yun Sarun was being treated for serious injuries to his face and upper body at Preah Kossamak hospital Tuesday.

“The acid was poured onto his face, and it flowed until it reached his waist. It looks like a burn from a fire,” Khat Khuntith said. “Both his eyes and his mouth are swollen … but he can open his eyes and see everyone around him.”

The policeman questioned how the victim’s attacker was able to buy so much acid, which, in concentrated form, can eat through human skin, muscle and bones.

“I wonder why the acid-seller sold acid to the buyer without asking what she planned to use that acid for,” Khat Khuntith said. “I have often seen people buying acid, but not for their motors or machinery.”

Regulate acid: groups
This week’s attack prompted further outcry from rights groups that have long decried the ease with which people are able to purchase acid in the Kingdom.

“Cambodia has to create a law to control the use of acid,” said Am Sam Ath, senior monitor with the rights group Licadho, who warned that incidences of acid attacks will only increase in the absence of policy changes.

But Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the importance of acid in people’s daily lives – for use in car or motorcycle batteries, for example – makes it difficult to manage.

“It is difficult to create a law to control the use of acid,” he said. “We cannot ask buyers what they are buying the acid for.”

The attack on Yun Sarun added to the recent spate of reported acid attacks, which appear to have increased dramatically in recent months.

The Cambodian Acid Survivor’s Charity counted at least five such attacks nationwide in December alone – a figure that represents roughly half of the attacks the group had tallied for the entire year up until that point.

POLICE KILLING: Three men charged in cop’s death

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun


Three men were charged with premeditated murder in Kampong Cham provincial court on Tuesday in connection with the January 4 killing of a narcotics officer, court officials said. Yuk Rath Mony, an officer for the Kampong Cham provincial Anti-Drug Trafficking Bureau, was shot six times and beaten to death in an unknown location before his body was locked inside his Lexus SUV, found in Choeung Prey district about 100 metres from National Road 6 on January 4. Two of the accused are in police custody: Chhorn Sochea, a nephew of one of the victim’s two wives, and Soam Bolly, the victim’s brother-in-law. Both were arrested on Saturday in Kampong Cham town.

NGOs want larger role in national planning

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio

CIVIL society representatives have called on the government to allow for more input on Cambodia’s national planning process, repeating earlier criticisms that NGOs were not given enough of an opportunity to help shape the draft National Strategic Development Plan Update for 2009-13 (NSDP).

Chith Sam Ath, executive director of the NGO Forum in Cambodia, said the three-week period slated for civil society comment on the NSDP draft, which closed on January 14, was too short to be meaningful.

“Sufficient information should be given before consultations take place,” he said during a workshop in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. “In order to ensure the participation is successful, sufficient time should be given.”

The NSDP for 2009-13 – a key planning document that creates a framework for the country’s development – carries forward a similar plan for 2006-10, though it has been adjusted to account for the effects of the global financial crisis, said Theng Pagnathun, deputy director general at the Ministry of Planning.

He said the government’s consultation process over the new draft began last May with the issuing of a circular and the organisation of workshops for its distribution. “There has been the involvement of NGOs, CSOs [civil society organisations] and donors,” he said. “This is the consultation we’ve been having – it’s not perfect.”

The NSDP draft is due to be signed by the King in May or June, at which point it will be disseminated widely, he added.

Emissary to UK slams Bangkok broadsheet

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:04 Sebastian Strangio

CAMBODIA’S ambassador to the United Kingdom has lashed out at the Bangkok Post newspaper for describing him and other senior officials as being of Vietnamese descent, a claim he described as “totally and utterly false and potentially defamatory”.

In a letter to the newspaper’s editor, Pattnapong Chantranontwong, dated Tuesday, Ambassador Hor Nambora expressed outrage at suggestions that he, his father Hor Namhong, who is Cambodia’s foreign minister, and You Ah, the country’s ambassador to Thailand, were ethnic Vietnamese.

“Publishing such false information as if it is fact does no credit to the Bangkok Post and not only damages the credibility of your newspaper, but also the reputation of Thailand on the international stage,” the letter stated.

The article, published on Monday and authored by academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun, noted that it “has been reported widely and much discussed among diplomats in Southeast Asia that many Cambodian ambassadors are of Vietnamese lineage”.

“They are strong allies of Hun Sen and are formidable forces that help strengthen his regime,” he noted.

In the past year, Hor Nambora has also criticised the Financial Times, the Guardian, the BBC and the UK-based corruption watchdog Global Witness for publishing what he claimed were inaccurate reports about the country.

Swedish paedophile found guilty

Photo by: Pha lIna
A hearing in the case of accused American paedophile Harvey Alexander Johnson, 57, (centre) was delayed Tuesday for lack of an interpreter.

via CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday found a 62-year-old Swedish man guilty of two counts of committing indecent acts and having sex with children, and sentenced him to six-and-a-half years in prison.

Johan Brahim Escori was also ordered to pay a fine of 4 million riels (US$963).

Police arrested Escori last May at a hotel in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district, where he was sharing a room with a 9-year-old boy who he claimed was his adopted son.

The arrest followed nearly two years of surveillance by the child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), which accused the Sihanoukville resident of regularly abusing three underage boys: the 9-year-old found in Escori’s hotel room and two children who sold souvenirs on the beach.

Presiding Judge Chhay Kong said one of the counts for which Escori was convicted was for crimes committed in Phnom Penh, whereas the other was for crimes committed in Sihanoukville.

“This man was convicted of regularly abusing underage boys beginning in 2007, both in Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk province,” he said, adding that Escori would be permanently expelled from Cambodia after serving out his prison term. Escori will be credited for the seven months he has already served.

Samleang Seila, APLE’s country director, said he welcomed the court’s decision, which he said “sends a clear, serious message: ‘Do not commit sex crimes in Cambodia’”.

“For this conviction, we must thank the Swedish authorities for sending over documents showing that as early as 1981, this man had already been accused of sexually abusing boys whom he misrepresented as adopted sons,” Samleang Seila said. “This evidence helped ensure that justice was delivered here in Cambodia.”

American’s hearing delayed
Also Tuesday, the first hearing in the case of a 57-year-old American charged with committing indecent acts against a 12-year-old girl was postponed until February 2 because the court could not find an interpreter.

Harvey Alexander Johnson was arrested on August 9 at his rented home in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak commune after APLE caseworkers presented authorities with statements by 10 underage girls accusing him of sexual abuse.

“Johnson built up his victims’ trust by giving free English lessons in his home and acting like a kind person,” said Keo Thea, chief of the municipal police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Bureau.

Johnson’s defence lawyer, Dun Vibol, criticised the court for the delay.

“The failure to find an interpreter for my client was the fault of court officials, who knew that my client was unable to afford one on his own,” he said. “It was also a waste of my time, as I am already well-prepared to seek justice on behalf of my client, who is innocent.”

Nobel laureate to push PM on school reform

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
Economist and Nobel laureate Eric Maskin speaks at the Hotel Cambodiana on Tuesday.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:03 Ellie Dyer

A NOBEL Prize-winning economist said Tuesday that he intends to discuss the “critical” gap between rich and poor, and emphasise the importance of improving the national education system when he meets with Prime Minister Hun Sen later this week.

Professor Eric Maskin, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2007, is scheduled to meet with the premier on Thursday as part of the International Peace Foundation’s “Bridges for Peace” lecture programme.

In an interview Tuesday, he said he believed the rapid economic growth Cambodia experienced prior to the global economic downturn had left the country with a severe skills gap because the rich had disproportionately benefited from access to education.

It will be necessary to close the chasm that resulted in order to improve the Kingdom’s economic prospects, he said.

“I think education is critically important for Cambodia. I don’t think an economy can truly prosper when an equality gap is too high,” he said.

“It can be a socially and politically disruptive force if people are living in such different circumstances, and I’m afraid the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow.”

He added: “I’d like to raise this with Hun Sen. I feel strongly that on the basis of the evidence and the data that education has to be a priority of the government in development.”

Maskin will deliver a lecture titled “Why Global Markets Fail to Reduce Equality” at the University of Cambodia today at 2pm.

Court Protest: Villagers decry arrest of neighbour

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:03 May Titthara

Court Protest

About 100 people gathered in front of Pursat provincial court on Tuesday to protest the detention of a man suspected of robbery, saying that all witnesses to the crime – even the victim – believed the court had wrongly detained him. District police arrested Hai Ol, 47, in Bakan district on January 16 and accused him of robbing a woman of US$500 worth of gold and 20,000 riels ($5) last week. “I dare say that Hai Ol is a good man in the village, and he has never done anything wrong to his neighbours,” said Kuon Yoeun, the chief of Samraong Prey Khiev village, where Hai Ol lives. “Police arrested him without confirming the reason.” Bakan district police chief Pen Tung said the case was no longer under his jurisdiction because it had been transferred to the court, though he defended the arrest. “What we have done is according to evidence found at the scene,” he said.

Mother seeks restitution for drowned son

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Tha Piseth

A MOTHER who says her only child drowned while fleeing military police in Kandal province during a raid on a cockfighting arena has demanded US$10,000 in compensation, accusing the officers of preventing bystanders from saving him.

Chan Sophea, 23, drowned when he jumped into a canal in Prek Phnau commune, Ponhea Lue district after police raided a cockfighting arena where he was engaged in illegal gambling last Wednesday.

At her son’s funeral in Photraing Sy pagoda on Monday, Chan Sopheap said she would file a complaint against local military police.

“I will file a complaint to the court against the military police next week demanding US$10,000 compensation,” she said.

Several witnesses told her that police fired shots in the air and threatened to shoot them if they attempted to save her drowning son, she said.

She accused police of “cruel inhumanity” for standing by and watching as her son was drowning.

Sau Sokunthea, deputy chief of the provincial military police said he did not know the man had drowned and denied any wrongdoing by his officers.

“No one from the military police threatened people or authorities. Our job is to ensure the people’s security,” he said.

Tan Si Thon, a cousin of Chan Sophea who witnessed his death, said that police beat him with a metal pole and threatened to shoot him if he tried to save the victim. He also demanded compensation for Chan Sopheap.

Falling prices in December capped a year of deflation

Photo by: PHA LINA
A vendor sells seafood this month at a Phnom Penh market. Falling food prices prompted overall deflation in Cambodia last year.

The continued month-on-month fall [in CPI] is more surprising."

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:01 Steve Finch

Consumer prices fell 0.7pc, but rise in fuel costs will prompt inflation in 2010

CAMBODIA experienced full-year consumer price index (CPI) deflation of 0.7 percent in 2009, San Sy Than, director general of the National Institute of Statistics (NIS), said Tuesday.

December CPI capped an unusual year for price trends in the Kingdom, as the index fell 0.1 percent month-on-month but jumped 5.3 percent in December on prices a year earlier due to the low base at the end of 2008 – when the global economic crisis began to affect Cambodia, analysts said.

The rate matched a December projection by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which foresaw a 5 percent annual rise in prices year on year, “mainly as base effects from sharp declines in commodity prices fall out of the consumer price index”.

Still, overall inflation was sharply down on 2008, when prices rose in August and September at rates above 20 percent and the economy boomed, at least for the first three quarters.

Food prices – which dropped 1 percent – were again at the centre of the continued month-on-month fall in prices in December, the third month in a row that CPI declined, according to new NIS figures.

October was the only month last year in which month-on-month and year-on-year CPI moved in the same direction, falling 0.3 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, highlighting the shift in base prices and larger effect of the economic crisis upon the Kingdom over the past year and a half.

“A weak base in late 2008, when global commodity prices fell sharply owing to the financial crisis, partly explains December’s year-on-year rise in Cambodian consumer prices,” Nick Owen, a Beijing-based Cambodia specialist at Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), said by email Tuesday. “The continued month-on-month fall is more surprising, but we’re not talking about large movements here.”

Although Owen downplayed the trend, he said “it may be a sign that demand-side pressures are still weak”.

Market dealers and consumers in Phnom Penh told the Post last month that although they had barely noticed falling food prices, the lack of activity was more tangible as demand had been hit by falling purchasing power.

Monthly versus yearly data paint a conflicting picture
In terms of inflation, 2009 became confusing - were we in a period of inflation or deflation? Overall last year, prices fell 0.7 percent – a year of deflation, but only in October was the annualised and month-on-month figure in the same territory - in the case both were negative. This trend was caused by the base figure, which fluctuated as inflation skyrocketed in August 2008 but slumped spectacularly as the crisis hit in Q4.
Source: National Institute of Statistics

Food prices at the farmer-to-wholesaler level have remained fairly stable since the start of the harvest in November.

“We don’t see [the dealers’ purchase] price changing up to now,” Phou Phuy, president of Cambodia Rice Millers Association, told the Post on Tuesday, referring to the start of the harvest two months ago until this week.

Farmers sold normal rice to dealers at US$214 per tonne in November 2008, he said, which had risen 12 percent to $240 per tonne in November, reflecting the year-on-year CPI increase that continued to the beginning of 2008. But prices have remained static since November, he added.

This month, petrol stations have raised both petrol and diesel prices because of price rises on global markets compared with the crash a year ago. That trend was briefly halted Monday in New York as crude oil fell to its lowest level of the year – at just over $77 a barrel – but many analysts say the blip may be temporary.

“Higher oil prices will put upward pressure on the cost of goods and services in Cambodia,” Owen said. “This additional cost will inevitably be passed on to consumers.”

The EIU said Tuesday it was maintaining its projection of 5.9 percent inflation rate for 2010. This is on par with the IMF, which forecast “mid-single digits” in a report last month, “… although upside risk remains, possibly stemming from a more expansionary fiscal stance, a sharper depreciation of the US dollar vis-a-vis other major currencies, and/or higher oil prices than currently envisaged,” it said.

San Sy Than said the NIS was forecasting a much lower rate – about 1 percent.

“According to our forecasts, [there will be] some price increases in January and February,” he said.


Mong Riththy fires up 'clean' charcoal brand

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

MONG Riththy Group is preparing to put “cleaner” charcoal on the domestic market after a US$10 million investment, its president told the Post Tuesday.

In the coming two weeks, the company is set to introduce between 250 and 1,000 tonnes of Acacia charcoal on the domestic market each month at a price of 1,200 riels (US$0.30) per kilogram, said Mong Riththy.

The special charcoal is thought to be cleaner than the domestic charcoal used normally, as it burns at a high heat and does not produce as much smoke as other varieties.

It has been produced using wood from Acacia trees planted in 2005 on 3,200 hectares of land in the Keo Phos area of Stueng Hav district, Preah Sihanouk province, Mong Riththy said.

“We hope that our company will be successful in putting its clean charcoal into the market because the product is easy to use, burns well, and does not affect the health of users,” he explained Tuesday.

He added that a grinding plant and 50 charcoal kilns have been built to process the wood, which is mixed with palm oil shells to produce the charcoal.

Mong Riththy said he hopes to encourage people to grow Acacia trees to avoid cutting down the Kingdom’s natural forests. One hectare of the crop, which takes five years to mature, could earn about $500 per year, he added.

Government officials welcomed the move to produce cleaner fuel.

Ty Sokun, director general of the Department of Forestry Administration, said Tuesday that people throughout the country cut down around 3.5 million tonnes of wood to use as cooking charcoal each year.

According to a report from the Department of Forest Administration, 70 percent of the firewood people use to cook in Cambodia is cut from natural forest. The other 30 percent is cut from fruit trees.

“We believe that it is a good idea to produce clean charcoal because it will help reduce the demand for firewood from natural forests,” said Ty Sokun.

Women see Facebook as a recipe for business success

A female worker takes a look at the Cambodia Women in Business page on Facebook Tuesday. The group reached 100 members Monday, a figure that is still rising.

Helping women in business have access to information is a good thing."

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:01 Ellie Dyer

Networking site a new forum for Cambodian businesswomen

UNDERREPRESENTED female entrepreneurs in the Kingdom are utilising the Internet in a bid to discuss their problems and encourage business growth.

A group called Cambodia Women in Business has set up on social-networking site Facebook to act as a forum for businesswomen.

It was started by female participants in the Government-Private Sector Forum (G-PSF), a group that facilitates business discussions between the public and private sectors. They found that only 10 percent of participants were women, despite a 2009 study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Asia Foundation which found that 55 percent of private businesses in Cambodia were owned by females.

A spokeswoman for the IFC Coordination Bureau, which organises the forum, explained that participation by women in formal associations and forums may be lower, as many operate small and informal enterprises.

The IFC hopes that for some, the forum will provide an accessible place where gender-related issues can be discussed.

Julie Brickell of the IFC explained in an email Tuesday: “Two things happened to start this off. Women participating in the forum wanted to come together to discuss problems they face as entrepreneurs, and to help each other. They also wanted to reach other women who are not participating in the forum and draw them in.

“Since these women were all using the Internet, they thought setting up a Facebook page would be a good means of facilitating dialogue on this topic.”

Since its launch in November, over 100 women and men have become members of the site. They post links to academic studies, newspaper articles and discussions on gender equality in Cambodia.

The IFC reports the reaction has “been very enthusiastic” so far. It hopes that by promoting women’s empowerment, they can fuel economic growth within the business community and so reduce poverty.

Former women’s minister Mu Sochua of the Sam Rainsy Party welcomed the move, but said she believes that underlying issues causing gender inequality need to be addressed in Cambodia, and that the Internet is an inaccessible resource in much of the country.

She pointed to a lack of education, the pressures for women as carers, societal values and poverty – as well as considerations such as micro-finance interest rates – as factors holding women back in developing small businesses such as tailors, grocery stores and wedding outfitters.

Scholars from the Shinawatra International University in Thailand and Preston University in Cambodia interviewed 61 female entrepreneurs in Phnom Penh in 2009 and reported that 47.5 percent of respondents had a problem balancing work with being a housewife, 14.8 percent reported resistance from their husband’s family and 9.8 percent spoke of the indifferent or hostile attitude of society towards female entrepreneurs.

“Anything that is helping women in business have access to information is a good thing. If women were more educated, they’d be able to use computers and the Internet. In turn, that would help advance their businesses,” said Mu Sochua.

However, she said, gender relations in the Kingdom are changing as female role models – such as radio presenters – reach the public eye.

“But women themselves have to be more confident. Women’s empowerment in all sectors is so important.”

Police Blotter: 20 Jan 2010

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:03 Phak Seangly

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday upheld the conviction of a 35-year-old man found guilty of killing his wife in a guesthouse in Takeo’s Kirivong district in October 2008. Chhey Mao was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison by Takeo provincial court in March 2009. Police said he was arrested a few days after he killed his wife, 30-year-old Nath Saroeun.

A doctor’s lack of experience may have doomed a 55-year-old Chinese man who died in a private clinic in 7 Makara district on Monday, police said. The doctor says the man died of a heart attack, but the victim’s family said he might not have died if the clinic had sent him to Calmette Hospital immediately. Three doctors have been questioned by police in relation to the death.

Police in Battambang province’s Koakrala district said a 35-year-old female street vendor was killed on Sunday. Right before the killing, a customer had wanted to buy some salt from the victim. When the vendor did not return from retrieving the salt inside her house, the customer pushed the door open and saw that the victim had been stabbed to death. Her body was found lying on a bed. Police have no suspects.

Four people were detained in Sen Sok district, Phnom Penh, Monday after police accused them of selling and using drugs. Police said the accused are known for selling drugs to kids in the community, and that neighbours had expressed concerns about their children beginning to use drugs instead of going to school. The four suspects will be sent to provincial court, police said.

Two siblings, a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old from Pursat province’s Kandeang district, drowned in a lake on Monday, according to their parents. Their mother said that the two children swam out into deep water, and that no one had been around to save them. Their bodies were found by the mother and have since been sent to the local pagoda.

Bank assets rose 13.6pc in 2009 on new entries

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

THE TOTAL assets of Cambodia’s commercial banks increased by an annualised 13.6 percent last year, according to the annual report of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC), released Monday.

The study states that assets increased to $4.74 billion at the end of 2009, compared to $4.17 billion in 2008.

Central bank Governor Chea Chanto told the Post Tuesday that Cambodia’s banking industry had developed in both its scope and operational capacity.

In 2009, three new banks launched in the Kingdom. That move brought the total number of commercial banks in Cambodia to 27.

Tal Nay Im, NBC’s director general, added Tuesday that the new arrivals in the sector had pushed total assets up.

“When new banks come to the country, they normally bring in both current assets and fixed assets,” she said.

According to the report, the number of loans paid out last year increased by 3.2 percent to $2.42 billion from $2.34 billion in 2008. The number of borrowers recorded nationally increased by 15.7 percent to 266,299 from 230,114 in 2008.

Deposits rose by 32.7 percent to $3.28 billion from $2.47 billion in 2008, and the number of depositors rose by 38.4 percent to 968,472 from 699,987.

In Channy, president and CEO of ACLEDA, told the Post Tuesday that an increase in deposits had boosted his company’s assets. They increased by a third to $922 million last year, from only $692.8 million in 2008.

“We predict the same growth in assets at our bank this year,” he added.

How do you do?

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:00 Post Staff

Lift is expanding, and we need you to be a part of it! This week we are ramping up our efforts to build an online community of upwardly-mobile young Cambodians. Look on the back page of this issue for details on how you can help lift our magazine online.

We will also be distributing 2,000 extra copies of Lift to universities across the country, making our total distribution of free copies 6,000. If you still can’t find a copy, all of our content can be seen online as well. You can also buy the Khmer or English edition of The Phnom Penh Post every Wednesday with Lift inside.

This week’s issue is about tourism, because we are proud of our country and we want to share it with the world. The Kingdom of Cambodia is home to some of the most beautiful places and beautiful people in the world, making it an ideal tourist destination.

Everything that we need to attract tourists is already here; sandy beaches, untouched islands, pristine jungles and a fascinating history. However, we must build a supporting infrastructure.

We are beginning a discussion of tourism in this issue, but we desperately want you to join in the conversation. Send your reactions to this issue to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or through our online groups, and we will print them in our next issue.

Taking off in tourism

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:00 Rann Reuy and Chan Sovannara

When young people think about jobs in tourism, it tends to evoke images of hotel receptionists and tour guides. However, there are thousands of different jobs related to tourism for students or young professionals in just about every field.

As the tourism industry develops and expands within Cambodia, doors will be opening for capable people to build and manage the supporting infrastructure.

IT skills will be necessary, as the service industry will increasingly rely on computers and the Internet to attract tourists and conduct transactions when they arrive. Language skills and soft-skills are in high demand for any job that involves daily interactions with folks from abroad. Tourism also provides a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurs with aspirations of starting a business, since tourists are generally an affluent group anxious to spend money.

There are an infinite number of opportunities within tourism. But in order to attract foreigners from developed countries such as South Korea, Japan, Europe an nations and the US, it is necessary for Cambodia to build a supporting infrastructure to take care of these visitors while they are here.

This means more jobs for professionals in areas like health care, law enforcement, construction and urban planning.

As the world economy turns around, there will be many more tourism opportunities around the corner in Cambodia. But in order to capitalise on future opportunities schools must engage students in real world situations to prepare them for employment [see bright idea sidebar].

Touch Sopheak, a recent graduate from the National University of Management, said her university focused more on theory, but she had little real-world practice through internships or training programmes. “Students can reach their potential skills in tourism only if they have a chance to practice or intern.”

Kim Sitha

Freelance tour guide and director of sales, Angkor Vacation Travel & Tours.

“Gold and diamonds can vanish one day, but the temples are here to stay,” said Kim Sitha, who has been a tour guide since 2000. “I think that in coming years, visitors will increase.”

“There are some minor problems with being a guide, such as battling the heat under the sunshine all day, but I think the life of a guide is relatively easy and we can continually improve our knowledge of the tourism sector. We can also learn from foreign tourists and experience a different social life.”


Sem Sokhorn

Manager, Banquet of Angkor Centrury Hotel.

“It is difficult to get this position because I need to work hard and continuously learn about food and beverages,” said Sem Sokhorn, who has more than 10 years of experience in the hotel industry, adding that English language is a key to realising success because it is necessary to communicate with foreigners. “Training courses allowed me to improve but also help me to improve the service in my department as I continue to try my best and work hard.”


Kim Sitha

Managing director of sales and tour operations, Travel Loops.

“Everytime I meet a new guest I learn about new ideas,” said Seng Phalkun, who has been involved in the tourism industry since 1996, when he was a driver for three years before becoming a tour guide in 1999. “That’s why I am so interested in tourism sector and the field inspires me to upgrade myself. I will try to expand my service to neighboring countries. Cambodia’s tourism sector is still struggling because there are not many direct flights from overseas,” he explained. “If there are more direct flights, it will mean more visitors and cheaper flights into the country.”

Using tourism to build our future and preserve our past

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:00 Kounila Keo

The past year has been a rough one for tourism in Cambodia, as vacation destinations around the world have been suffering from a lack of visitors due to the world financial crisis. But despite the temporary downturn, tourism remains one of the most promising sectors for development, as the Asian Development Bank predicts that Cambodia’s gross domestic product will grow by 4 percent this year.

As is the case with development in all sectors, tourism projects in Cambodia are often funded by foreign investments, meaning a lot of the profits do not stay in Cambodia. But, by bringing tourists with money into the country, the benefits of tourism investment indirectly benefit everyone. For people who work in the service industry, the benefits are obvious; they have more potential customers with more money. However, more financial resources for tourism can benefit all of Cambodia through an improved physical and social infrastructure.

While tourism has opened exciting opportunities for development in Cambodia, it also has also provided a unique opportunity for the preservation of the Kingdom’s culture and history.

These infrastructures include physical structures such as roads, hospitals and airports, but also societal infrastructures such as better law enforcement. While tourists might provide the economic incentive to create these things, the benefits are shared by native populations as well. Better roads for tourists are better roads for Cambodians and improved law enforcement makes everyone safer.

Cambodia has many of the natural wonders and idyllic locales that attract tourists, and according to Kuch Sopha, general manager of Cambodian Wonders Travel&Tours, the challenge is managing tourist hot spots.

“Cambodian students might have to think again when they overlook tourism, because I am sure that it will bring in lots of money and prosperity to the country,” Kuch Sopha said. “Especially if we know how to manage them well.”

While tourism has opened exciting opportunities for development in Cambodia , it also has also provided a unique opportunity for the preservation of the Kingdom’s culture and history.

The preservation of the forests and temples in Siem Reap has been made possible largely through foreign visitors and foreign aid. Many projects to maintain traditional culture, such as Apsara dancing and puppet shows, have also been undertaken with foreign audiences in mind.

Siem Reap is the most obvious example of how tourism can contribute to cultural preservation. In addition, it can also offer alternative employment for populations in rural areas who are engaging in environmentally-damaging industries such as logging.

Tourism development that integrates native populations into the creation and maintenance of a destination is called community-based ecotourism, and according to the Ministry of Tourism, 30 such organisations have formed in recent years. Ideally, these organisations try to build a tourism infrastructure that capitalises on natural beauty without damaging it, and also returns a maximum amount of the profits back to the community.

In the last two years, the government has begun to market Cambodia to TV viewing audiences around the world as the “Kingdom of Wonder”, helping to build up Cambodia’s international profile.

However, much still needs to be done in the country to make it tourist-friendly. The foundation for a tourism industry has existed for centuries, we just need to build upon it without knocking it down.

Postcard paradise

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:00 Post Staff

Name: Phay Lina (female)
Age: 18
Education: Student at Wat Kosh High School (Grade 12)
From: Phnom Penh
Since I started grade 12 I have been studying a lot to prepare for my high school exit exam. Sometimes I feel want to go on holiday but I don’t know where to go and with who.
On a recent national holiday, my friend asked me take a bus with them to Kirirom Mountain and you know what, when I arrived there I loved it so much. The sight seeing and water falls were fantastic.
I was only there for 4 or 5 hours but it made me feel so good, refreshed and relaxed. And it’s not so far from Phnom Penh, just 70 to 80 Km away.


Name: Chea Mean (male)
Age: 22
Education: Student at Wat Kosh High School (Grade 12)
From: Phnom Penh
I normally go on vacation with my family and friends. I’ve been to a few resorts and tourist places like Siem Reap, Kep and Sihanoukville, but my favorite place is Sihanoukville. I’ve been there 3 or 4 times. It’s a wonderful place to go on holiday. It gives you many choices.
+ The girls are beautiful on the beach
+ The seafood is yummy
+ The sight seeing is nice and beautiful
+ Swimming and relaxing down on the beach is comfortable.


Name: Suy Sovanna (female)
Age: 22
Education: Studying tourism in her third year at Norton University
From: Kompong Thom

On vacation last year, I went to Kep and Veal Puok village with my friends. They are beautiful places.
We swam a lot in Kep. I like the natural sightseeing, and the sea was beautiful. We spent one day in Keb and Veal Puok is not far from Kep. There is a mountain that you can only walk up. There is just a very small path with many kinds of trees. I think it’s an adventure trip but I liked it. We have to bring food along because nobody sells food there. We still wanted to go because the view of mountain and trees is so beautiful. We went by bus with four of us, and we only spent about US$70 to $80 all together.

Climbing the ladder

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010 15:00 Virak Bonnarath

Virak Bonnarath studies tourism purely for the love of it. She said she became interested in tourism when she realised the significance of the sector in Cambodia.

“Tourism is one of the sectors that has the potential to improve Cambodia’s economy. Working in tourism does not mean you’ll work just as a tour guide or in hotels, but you can also work on the development of tourism, such as how to establish tourism plans and policy,” Virak Bonnarath said.

As a student of tourism, Virak Bonnarath thinks that a lack of study materials, English language skills, and computer and Internet competency are holding students back from getting jobs in the tourism industry. At first, she said, she was challenged by courses in which all materials were written in English, and it also took her more time to adopt computer and Internet skills. She explained that Cambodia is filled with tourism resources, but still lacks in human resources.

“In order to succeed in studying tourism, we have to stand on three main points, the major of tourism, the English ability and the volunteer work,” she said, adding that some students give effort in their class, but disregard the importance of English and volunteer work. Virak Bonnarath is involved with volunteer work now at Citizen Action Net for Social Development.

She always tries to join social activities because they make her feel confident and they will help towards receiving scholarships, she said.

After she finishes her undergraduate degree in tourism, she wants to pursue a masters degree in the same subject, with the ultimate aim of working at the Tourism Ministry, focusing on tourism development in Cambodia.

She says the Kingdom’s tourism continues to grow “step-by-step”, despite the crippling effects of the global economic crisis, which saw tourist numbers in Cambodia plunge over the last year.

“I think even now, while facing this crisis, tourism can work. Cambodia is famous as a tourist destination and has many resources for visitors, so it is not a problem,” Virak Bonnarath said.