Monday, 15 February 2010

Fees for taxis reduced

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

A CAR park owner in Banteay Meanchey province who infuriated 20 taxi drivers when he raised parking fees this month backed down after the drivers held a protest last week.

The Plong Chamroen Company, which manages parking at the market in Thmor Pouk district, had doubled fees for cars and almost tripled them for vans.

But the company’s owner, Plong Chamroen, said last Thursday that he would revert to the original fees of 3,500 riels (US $0.85) for vans and 2,500 riels for cars, adding that he depended on the drivers to make the car park profitable.

He said he would also ask provincial authorities to reduce his annual payment on the car park to make up for lost revenue.

Govt rejects comments on PVihear plan

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng

THE Council of Ministers issued a swift rebuke to Thailand’s environment minister on Friday, after the official was quoted as saying that Cambodia’s UNESCO World Heritage application for Preah Vihear temple was incomplete.

According to Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper, Thailand’s minister of environment, Suwit Khunkitti, said Thursday that officials from UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee had informed him that because Cambodia has not yet submitted site-management plans, the status of the Preah Vihear application remains unfinished.

“The uncertainty on Preah Vihear Temple listing will be resolved pending on the Thai-Cambodian cooperation to demarcate the borders,” Suwit reportedly said. Cambodia and Thailand have been working bilaterally to demarcate their shared border under the auspices of the Joint Border Commission.

On Friday, the Council of Ministers said in a statement that Suwit was “completely wrong for not fully updating the legal process of both the World Heritage Centre and the World Heritage Committee”.

“We deeply regret that Minister Suwit had made this pretentious and misleading statement regarding the inscription of the Temple of Preah Vihear with the purpose of poisoning the international community’s good will and cooperation, and tarnishing the positive image and good reputation of UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee,” the statement read.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Sunday that Cambodia submitted its site-management plan for Preah Vihear temple on January 28.

“Cambodia has filed the plan to meet the deadline of the World Heritage Committee, but Thailand continues to lie and manipulate information about the issue of Preah Vihear temple and the surrounding border,” Phay Siphan said. “There is no area of uncertainty about the listing, and this inscription is undoubtedly irreversible.”

Teruo Jinnai, representative of UNESCO in Cambodia, said Sunday that he believed the Preah Vihear application was complete.

“We were informed by the government that they had submitted their documents,” he said.


Sex offender may be free soon after trial

Photo by: Pha Lina
Convicted child sex offender Scott Alan Hecker arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his hearing on Friday. The court found Hecker guilty of committing indecent acts against two underage Cambodian girls.

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

A 44-YEAR-OLD American man convicted of committing indecent acts against two underage sisters over a period of several years might serve fewer than 10 more days of his seven-month sentence due to the length of his pre-trial detention, Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruled on Friday.

Judge Seng Neang said that though he may have technically sentenced Scott Alan Hecker to two years in prison, the defendant was only required to spend seven months behind bars before finishing out his sentence on probation.

Those seven months, in turn, would be measured “from the time of [Hecker’s] arrest on July 23, 2009”, nearly cancelling out the prison term entirely. The judge also ordered Hecker to pay 4 million riels (around US$963) as a fine.

Peng Maneth, a lawyer provided for the plaintiffs by anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), condemned the sentence as far too lenient.

“We intend to bring this case before the general prosecutor of the Appeal Court, and will seek high-level means of expelling the man from Cambodia for fear that he might resume sexual abuse against other girls,” Peng Maneth said.

Meanwhile, the lawyers for the defence insisted that the lack of proof outside the uncertain testimony of his victims meant that Hecker should have been acquitted outright.

Scott Alan Hecker was arrested in the capital’s Daun Penh district after he was found with two underage sisters, who claimed to have been in some form of relationship with the man since meeting him in Preah Sihanouk province in 2006.

No complaint filed in violent land dispute: Preah Sihanouk court

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:01 May Titthara

A PREAH Sihanouk provincial court official on Sunday said his office had not received a complaint accusing guards for a Chinese development company and members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces of injuring villagers during a protest last month against land-grabbing.

Representatives of the families in Prey Nob district say they filed the complaint on January 29, three days after four villagers were rushed to hospital following the altercation.

“We did not receive any complaint filed by villagers in Prey Nob district. We have a lot of judges, and none of them received the complaint,” said Kim Eng, deputy director of the provincial court.

But Tak Vanntha, the Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief, confirmed that he had received the complaint from villagers involved in the protest and had passed it on to the court.

“We heard that there were members of an RCAF military unit from Brigade 31 involved, who were using violence [against villagers] with the company guards,” he added.

In a statement issued January 27, the rights group Licadho also accused Brigade 31 of involvement in the standoff between the families and the Yie Chea Company, and called “for an immediate end to the illegal land-clearing and military violence against families in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nob district”.

RCAF officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Lam Ra, the father of a 25-year-old man who says that security guards beat him severely during the protest, said he suspected the court had received the complaint but was reluctant to bring the case to trial.

“I think that police have already brought this case to the court, and I don’t know why they are still keeping quiet,” he said.

He said his son, Lam Ravy, had been injured while trying to assist a 68-year-old woman, Chum Heang, who was hospitalised after the protest and also says that security guards severely beat her.

Lam Ra said his family was not seeking compensation and merely wanted to see the guards brought to court.

OPPOSITION: HRP to raise possibility of SRP merger

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:01 Meas Sokchea


The Human Rights Party is set to hold a press conference today to discuss the prospect of merging with the Sam Rainsy Party, a goal the parties announced in January 2009. HRP spokesman Yem Ponharith said Sunday that little progress had been made towards making the goal a reality, and called on the leaders of both parties to have “an open mind” during future negotiations. “For us, the definition of an alliance is to create something new,” he said. “It does not mean that one party will defect to the other one.” HRP President Kem Sokha said in October that he was awaiting a response from the SRP regarding three conditions the HRP laid out for a possible merger: a term limit for the party president, a change in the new party’s name and joint decision-making between officials from the two sides. SRP spokesman Yim Sovann could not be reached for comment on Sunday. SRP leaders have said previously that they were open to the idea of a merger but lacked sufficient time to iron out the details.

less risky Valentine’s Day

Photo by: Pha Lina
Flowers replace a wing mirror of a motorbike as a couple sits together on Sisowath Quay on Valentine’s Day on Sunday.

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:01 Kim Yuthana

Government and NGO officials work to curb casual sex, preserve tradition

He spent five minutes Sunday selecting from an array of colours and negotiating a price before settling on a small bouquet of pink roses tied together with ribbon.

“I chose pink roses for her because I want to express my great love for her, and I want her to know how much I adore her,” said Som Sopheakvichet, who said he is “in his 20s” and that his girlfriend is 19.

Asked about his plans for the day, he said he and his friends would probably keep things simple, perhaps going for lunch near the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge.

Then, without being asked, he added that, once alone, he and his girlfriend would keep things simple, too.

“Though I celebrate this foreign culture, my girlfriend and I never go too far and never forget Khmer tradition,” he said.

“Everything we will do today will be to increase our understanding of each other. We are exchanging bunches of flowers and gifts only to demonstrate our trust and our feelings for each other.”

His assurances aside, government officials and NGO workers have expressed concern that young Cambodians increasingly regard Valentine’s Day as an occasion for casual sex.

“In confusion about the meaning of the day, some young people agree to have sex to demonstrate their trust and love for each other,” said Yang Kim Eng, the former president of the Khmer Youth Association, a local NGO.

SOM Sopheakvichet, a young man dressed in stylish white jeans and a tight pink T-shirt, drove his motorbike behind Sisowath High School and stopped at a flower stand, eager to find the right Valentine’s Day present for his girlfriend of two years.
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A man passes out free condoms in Phnom Penh on Valentine’s Day on Sunday.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has also decried what it describes as the loose morals sometimes associated with Valentine’s Day. It unveiled three five-minute advertisements Saturday that expound on “the true meaning of the day”, said Sivann Botum, a secretary of state at the ministry.

Sivann Botum said in a recent interview that the ads were an attempt “to reach out to young people because we want to make them understand that most teenagers do the wrong thing on Valentine’s Day, which can impact the respect people have for Cambodian women”.

Beyond concerns for national morals, Yang Kim Eng said he was also worried about the spread of sexually transmitted illnesses that could accompany a rise in casual sex.

“Such behaviour can lead to the spread of AIDS,” he said.

“We want to raise awareness among young people about the spread of HIV and how to use a condom correctly.”
This goal is not his alone.

In an attempt to encourage safe sex, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation sent more than 100 volunteers out on the streets of Phnom Penh over the weekend to hand out 200,000 free condoms.

Chhim Sarath, the director of the foundation, said the volunteers had in part been targeting sex workers in bars and nightclubs.

Sivann Botum said she hoped the efforts of the NGOs and the government would lead to more tasteful and less risky celebrations of the holiday.

She added that she had been encouraged by feedback the ministry had received from people who had seen the advertisements.

“The five-minute spots show the meaning of Valentine’s Day, educating Cambodian youths to express their love towards their families, teachers and friends,” she said.

Still no opening date chosen for renovated Sihanoukville airport

The front door of a travel agent in Phnom Penh displays the logos of Asian airlines. No carriers have yet signed up to fly to the newly renovated Sihanoukville Airport.

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

Though renovations were finished last year, officials say they don't know when flights to the hub will resume, as airlines have failed to sign up amid downturn

THE OFFICIAL opening date of Sihanoukville’s recently renovated airport has yet to be determined nearly two months after it was due to open for flights, according to aviation officials.

However, discussions about the inauguration of Sihanouk International Airport (SIA), formerly known as Kang Keng airport, are under way, they said, as the new hub continues to suffer from a lack of demand on the back of a global aviation recession that caused air arrivals in the Kingdom to fall last year for the first time on record.

Director of SIA, Tith Chantha, said Friday that he hasn’t received any information about the launch of his airport yet, following its upgrade to comply with international standards overseen by Société Concessionnaire des Aéroports (SCA), the French company that has an agreement with the government to operate Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport and Sihanouk International Airport.

SCA managers have previously said that the official launch of SIA was scheduled for sometime in February or March.

Work on SIA began in 2006 with US$30 million of investment as its runway was extended to 2.5 kilometres. SIA was scheduled to officially launch on November 17.

“I don’t know the exact date [to launch SIA] because it has been delayed,” Tith Chantha said. “Perhaps SCA wants to wait until their top officials can join us.”

Mao Havannall, sectretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), also said he did not know the opening date, adding that officials had not told him when he posed the question to SCA.

Chief Operating Officer of SCA Paul Cheung A Long declined to comment on the issue.

Khek Norinda, communications and marketing manager for SCA, did not give a schedule either, instead referring to discussions with the government regarding the airport's future.

“We believe that the discussions that the Royal Government and SCA are having with airlines should bring a positive outcome and regular flights starting this year,” he said in an email.

It is hoped that new national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air will run the first flights at the new airport, said Tith Chantha, adding that he would like SIA to become Cambodia’s primary international airport.

Tourist arrivals by air declined 10.3 percent in 2009 compared to 2008, according to Ministry of Tourism figures.

$100m casino to open near Vietnam border

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

A NEW US$100 million casino is set to open near the Cambodia-Vietnam border at the end of this month, its owner has told the Post.

The four-star, eight-storey Titan King Resort and Casino has been built on 6 hectares of land in Bavet City, Svay Rieng province, about a kilometre from the international border with Vietnam and will be inaugurated at the end of the month, said owner Kith Thieng, vice president of the Royal Group and brother to its president, Kith Meng.

It will employ 1,500 people, has 200 rooms and is the ninth casino to be built in the area.

“We started to build our casino when the world economic crisis had not yet struck. Construction took three years to complete, but now it is complete, and the grand opening will be on February 26,” Kith Thieng said.

Casinos closed and decreased income because of the global financial crisis only.

He added that although the economic crisis had hit the casino industry, he hopes that Chinese, Malaysian and Vietnamese customers would be attracted to the new resort.

“In my view, I don’t expect the world economy to recover in the next two years,” said Kith Thieng.

Titan King Resort would cooperate with other casinos to promote the industry to foreign visitors, he said.

Cambodia’s border casinos – mostly at Poipet on the Thai side and Bavet next to Vietnam – have seen profits slump since the economic crisis hit the Kingdom. Ministry of Finance revenues from gaming tax were down between 7 and 8 percent last year to about US$17.5 million, Ros Phearun, deputy director of the ministry’s Department of Finance Industry, said Thursday.

King’s Crown Casino and Hotel in Bavet and Caesar Casino and Hotel in Poipet both closed last year due to the downturn, he added.

“Some casinos closed and decreased income because of the global financial crisis only,” he said.

All casinos have been affected, said Mey Vann, director of the finance industry department on Thursday, because of the downturn in tourism.

However, the Vietnamese border has been one of the few areas to escape the worst of the slump as Vietnamese became the most numerous visitors to the Kingdom last year, mostly across land borders, overtaking South Koreans, according to Ministry of Tourism figures.

With the opening late last month of top Diamond Casino in Kirivong district, Takeo province, there are 32 licensed casinos in Cambodia, said Deputy National Police Commissioner Sok Phal.

Insurance industry starts recovery

Traffic passes a billboard late last month advertising Infinity Insurance on Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh. The industry is projecting double-digit growth again this year after a small contraction in 2009 due to the economic crisis.

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

Figures show 2.86pc drop last year as final two months signal vast improvement on rest of 2009

THE country's fledgling insurance industry saw revenues pick up at the end of the year to record an annualised 2.86 percent drop in premiums, officials said.

Chhay Rattanak, chairman of the General Insurance Association of Cambodia (GIAC), said that total premium revenues for 2009 fell to US$20.07 million.

“The global financial crisis is impacting on all sectors, including the insurance industry,” he said.

Nevertheless, the drop is a marked improvement on figures for the first 10 months of last year, which saw an 11.5 percent fall on premiums – to $14.16 million from $16 million compared with the same period in 2008.

“The results from December last year are better because of a new player [Cambodia-Vietnam Insurance Co], which brought premiums from risk regarding aviation and others into the market.”

He forecast that the industry is expected to expand by at least 10 percent in 2010.

“The increase is expected to follow an expected economic recovery in Cambodia,” he said, adding that new companies are likely to boost the sector.

Cambodia has six insurance companies: Forte Insurance, CAMINCO, Asia Insurance, Campubank Lonpac, Infinity Insurance, and new arrival Cambodia-Vietnam Insurance. There is also one domestic reinsurance company.

Cao Minh Son, chief executive officer of Cambodia Vietnam Insurance Co Plc (CVI), wrote in an e-mail Thursday that from mid-November until the end of the year, CVI earned around $160,000 in premiums for aviation, property, third-party liability, personal accident and motor insurance.

“This year, we are planning for a minimum target of $1 million,” he said.

Infinity Insurance Chief Executive Officer David Carter said that, despite the drop in the industry as a whole, his company saw growth of about 20 percent to slightly over $4 million last year from $3.277 million in 2008, crediting new business growth and the retention of existing customers.

Government statistics on the insurance industry will be completed in March. But Mey Vann, director of the Finance Ministry’s financial industry department, said last week that GIAC’s figures were accurate.

GIAC statistics for the amount of claims made in 2009 are not yet available. But Chhany Rattanak said that in the first 10 months of 2009, $11 million was paid out – almost 400 percent higher than the $3 million paid out in 2008. Of that, $9 million was paid in one claim by Forte Insurance to Suntex Pte Ltd for a fire that destroyed its garment factory in Phnom Penh's Dangkor district in April last year.

Domestic insurance firms – not including Asia Insurance, which declined to comment, and Cambodia-Vietnam Insurance Co, which had only just started operations – said in October that they had received six claims for damage caused by Typhoon Ketsana, which struck mostly in the northeast of the Kingdom at the end of September.

Govt hand out cash prizes to medal winners

SEA Games Petanque gold medallist Sok Chanmean (right) receives 24 million riels (US$5,776) from Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam Orn (left) during a ceremony Friday at the National Institute of Education.

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Monday, 15 February 2010 15:00 Ung Chamroeun

Cambodian SEA Games medallists, coaches and assistants collected their government granted cash prizes from Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An Friday during a ceremony at the National Institute of Education.

The Kingdom claimed a total of 40 medals at last December’s regional sports event, held from December 9-18 in Vientiane, including 3 gold, 10 silver and 27 bronze. In accordance with a government sub-decree, petanque gold medallists Sok Chanmean and Heng Than, and Chov Sotheara – Cambodia’s first ever female wrestling gold medal winner - each received 24 million riels (US$5,776).

The ten silver medallists were awarded 16 million riels each, with wrestler Chum Chivin doubling up thanks to his two silvers in different categories.
Each bronze medal earned a respectable 8 million riels, much to the delight of shuttlecock trio Chea Srey Meas, Chhin Vitou and San Sophaon, who grabbed three bronzes in three events despite failing to win a single game in their weeklong campaign. The athletes were given bronzes by default, in accordance with the rules of the SEA Games, with Laos, Thailand and Vietnam being the only other nations competing.

Shuttlecock players Heng Rawuth and Soeu Vannak, and wrestler Dorn Sao also took home double rewards for their two bronze medals each.

Head coaches received cash prizes equivalent to the highest single medal won by their athletes, and assistant coaches received 70 percent of the coach’s reward. One such example was Em Heang, head coach of petanque, who was given 24 million riels due to the golds of Sok Chanmean and Heng Than, while assistant coaches, Hor Vannara, Sok Mong and Kim San acquired 16.8 million riels each.

At the same ceremony, 29 medalists from other international competitions were also granted cash prizes by the Deputy Prime Minister, with six gold medalists receiving 1 million riels each, five silver medalists earning 750,000 riels, and eight bronze medalists amassing 500,000 riels.

During her address, Men Sam An stated that the government respects its promise to honour sporting achievements, which it hopes will help encourage a higher standard amongst Cambodian athletes. “The sports sector has developed a lot in the Kingdom over the last few years,” she noted. “However, we are still only ranked ninth out of eleven [countries] in the region.”

The Deputy Prime Minister also noted the need for good cooperation between related sport institutions and private investors to improve training facilities for local athletes, and expressed a desire to kick out corruption in sport. “We should also increase the number of domestic competitions, especially on Independence day [November 9] or the January 7 anniversary [Liberation day]. We should work together against nepotism to allow the youngsters show their talents,” she asserted.

China New Year migration hits peak

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February 11, 2010

The Chinese Year of the Tiger starts on Sunday , and so in China, millions of people are heading home to be with their families for the holiday.

Trains, planes, and buses are packed with travellers, and some will have to journey for days to get home.

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley sent this report from a train heading south from Beijing (12 Feb 2010)

Valentin’s Day 2010 – Sunday, 14.2.2010
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Posted on 15 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 651

Year after year, it is interesting to observe that Valentine’s Day gets more public attention and controversy, especially in a number of Asian countries. A Cambodian blogger, Ms. Chak Sopheak, collected a number of different voices under the title Cambodia: Valentine’s Day Sparks Controversy. She refers also to a public appeal of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, which “initiated five-minute spots educating the teenagers about the ‘meaning of the Valentine’s day’ in order that the young will be encouraged to expresses their love to family first, followed by teachers and then friends.”

Of course everybody is free to try to give their own interpretation of Valentine’s Day. But to say that it is about “to expresses their love to family first, followed by teachers and then friends” has no basis in the history of this celebration. Valentine’s Day – historically – celebrates the love between man and women, against the rules of the the society represented by the state. To declare Valentine’s Day not to be about lovers, man and women, but about some wider family and friends relations, is just another attempt of the nature against which the original Valentine is said to have fought.

There are hardly any explanations of Valentine’s day which clearly say: The original message is that Valentine was against the regulations of the authorities to prevent men and women to commit themselves to each other, against the law.

It is about this love. This is the message.

But as it is with old traditions, it is not always possible to verify them in detail. A holiday to remember a person of this name was established already in the year 496, more than 1500 years ago. But his story became more widely known only after the technology to print books by using movable individual letters – not only to copy books in handwriting – was invented around the year 1450 in Germany, and the Readings of the Saints (a Latin book Legenda Sanctorum) was reprinted often. I contained also the story of Valentine.

According to this, Valentine was a Christian monk who defended his belief even when he was made to appear before the emperor Marcus Aurelius Claudius who ruled only briefly in the years 268 to 270), but he was imprisoned as he was not prepared to compromise his positions, and was arrested and later executed.

Later reports say that he did not agree with the government’s rule to restrict solders to get married. The government thought that their romantic relationships would make them not good members of society as assigned by the government to be soldiers. But Valentine secretly organized their marriages, against this rule and breaking the law, as he considered it a basic right not to remain single. A case of an ealry human rights advocate.

The tradition says that while he was already in prison, he befriended the daughter of the prison guard, and on the day before his execution he is said to have written to her a note “From your Valentine.”

To reflect about Valentine’s Day is to reflect about this story. It is not “to be nice to everybody” but it is about a person who defended the right of men and women to be together, even defending and maintaining his positin to the end of losing his life for not complying with the law, but supporting love.

It is obviously a complete misuse of the tradition of Valentine when this day is now used by boys to persuade and force their girlfriends to have sex as if this would be the meaning of Valentine’s Day, or even to rape one woman by a group of men. But it is also a misuse to this tradition to use it and to say it is a day of general friendship and love with family first, then teachers, and friends.

To do so is to close one’s eyes from the fact that – quite obviously in many countries – young people are not prepared to accept traditional restrictions imposed on their relations between men and women. And that such changes are not just the result of westernization we tried to show at last year’s Valentine Day with pictures from the People’s Republic of China and from North Korea – two countries really not know to be inclined to “Western” ideologies.

In a different cultural context – to give another example – also the society in Pakistan is without broad orientation in this context:

“Our homeland the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is also deeply influenced by events like Valentine’s Day which were unknown in the sub continent before but now after so many years of celebrating it, it seems like it has merged with our culture.

“In Pakistan the day is celebrated equally to many different countries of the world our youth celebrates it with more intensity and passion than our Independence Day, or any of our historic days which means so much for the whole Nation but our youth and our teenagers seems to have been so captivated by the Western ways and laws that they actually give more preference to celebrating these holidays then our own. Obviously it’s not just the youth which is to be blamed, but our society has created an image which is identical to the West.

“Every year in Pakistan people are getting more enthusiastic, energetic and more passionate to celebrate Valentine’s Day. If we talk about the outcome of celebrating this day we will get to know that there are two possible outcomes of this day, one is enjoyed by the participants while the other is enjoyed by the businesses and owner of different businesses.”

So what?

In spite of all the confusions which become obvious at this day, it is a challenge to face the question seriously: How are we, in our different societies, going to find solutions which the events and feelings and activities of each Valentine’s Day pose about the relations between women and men in our times and societies. Just to appeal to the traditions does not lead to solutions accepted by many people.

In Cambodia, there is the Chbab Srey, a traditional code of conduct for Cambodian women. The response I often receive: I am very much in favor of keeping our Khmer traditions, but I do not accept that the Chbab Srey says: “Don’t speak in a way as if you consider him as equal… My dear, no matter what your husband did wrong, I tell you: to be patient, don’t say anything without the husband being present.” Such partial, selective acceptance will hardly prevent that for many people Valentine’s Day may result in negative memories, because an open discourse on where to find new ways and new relationships is hardly happening.

Even so, Valentine’s Day provides every year a new impulse to think ahead. To boldly think, and to find way to live what is found to be right. Like Valentine, who was rather prepared to face death than to give up what he was sure was right.

Cambodia: Valentine's Day Sparks Controversy

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Sunday, February 14th, 2010
by Sopheap Chak

Celebrating Valentine's Day is relatively a recent phenomenon in Cambodia. It was only in the past decade when Valentine's Day was celebrated in the country. Though Valentine's Day has gained much popularity among the younger generation, its definition and practice remain controversial. They spark an alarming attention especially on the wrong practice associated with this global occasion.

Many writers regret that the meaning of Valentine's Day has been misinterpreted. Chhay Sophal, in his article on ” ប្រយ័ត្ន​ទិវា វ៉ាឡិនថាញដេ ក្លាយ​ជា​ទិវា​ស្នេហ៍កម្មជា​ទិវា​នៃ​ក្តី​ស្រឡាញ់” [Be Warned of Valentine's Day to Become a Regrettable Eve], emphasized that the youth have confusingly transformed the meaning of Valentine's day:

ដោយ​ឡែក​នៅ​កម្ពុជា ​វប្បធម៌​នេះ​ក៏​មាន​ប្រជាប្រិយ​ផង​ដែរ​ចាប់តាំង​ពី​ឆ្នាំ ២០០០ មក​ពិសេស​ក្នុង​ចំណោម​យុវវ័យ។ អ្វី​ដែល​គួរ​ឲ្យ​កត់​សំគាល់ គឺពួក​យុវវ័យ ​មួយ​ចំនួន​បាន​យក​អត្ថន័យ​នៃ​ទិវា​នេះ​ទៅ​ជា​ទិវា​មួយ​សម្រាប់​គូស្នេហ៍​ទៅ​វិញ ដោយ​បក​ប្រែពាក្យ វ៉ាឡិនថាញ ដេ (valentine day) ថា​ជា​ទិវា​សង្សារ​ទៅវិញ ដែល​ធ្វើ​ឲ្យ​ពួក​យុវវ័យ​ខ្មែរ​យល់​ខុស​វក់​នឹង​សង្សារ មិន​បាន​គិត​ពី​មិត្តភក្កិ​ដទៃ ពិសេស​ឪពុក​ម្តាយ​បង​ប្អូន​របស់​ខ្លួន។

Valentine's Day has become popular among young generations in Cambodia since 2000. Strikingly, some young people have wrongly defined this Valentine's Day as the “Eve for Lovers” instead of “Eve for Love” with the latter referring to love for parents, relatives and friends in general.

Sophal also highlighted the negative impact resulting from the misinterpretation of Valentine's Day. This includes sexual misconduct among young lovers, which is a violation of Cambodian culture, especially for unmarried couples. Another impact is the possible harm on the reproductive health of young women.

ជា​ការ​ពិត យើង​មិន​ទោមនស្ស​នឹង​ក្តីស្រឡាញ់​របស់​យុវវ័យ​នោះ​ទេ ប៉ុន្តែ​អ្វី​ដែល​យើង​ព្រួយបារម្ភ​នោះ​គឺ​ស្រ្តី​វ័យ​ក្មេង​អាច​បាត់បង់​កិត្តិយស អាសោច​កេរ្តិ៍ដោយ​តែ​បាត់​បង់​ភាព​បរិសុទ្ធ។ ជាង​នេះ​ទៅ​ទៀត ពួកគេ​អាច​ប្រឈម​នឹង​ការ​មាន​ផ្ទៃពោះ​ដោយ​ចៃដន្យ ប្រសិន​បើ​ការ​រួមភេទ​ជា​មួយ​បុរស​ជាសង្សារ​នោះ​មិន​បាន​ប្រើប្រាស់​ស្រោម​អនាម័យ​ឲ្យ​បាន​ត្រឹមត្រូវ ហើយ​ការ​មាន​ផ្ទៃ​ពោះ​នេះ​គឺ​ឈាន​ទៅ​ធ្វើ​ការ​រំលូត​កូន ដែល​ប្រការ​នេះ​ពិត​ជា​ធ្វើ​ឲ្យ​ស្រ្តី​វ័យ​ក្មេង​ប្រឈម​នឹង​បញ្ហា​សុខភាព​បន្តពូជ​ទៅ​ពេល​អនាគត។

Though we do not mind about the youth's love affairs, we are much concerned about young women whose dignity will be damaged given the fact of their lost virginity. Even worse is that they may be pregnant and it may lead to abortion. This will be harmful to women reproductive health.

Sophal further emphasized that young women are more prone to HIV/AIDS if their sexual partners do not use condoms. They can also be victimized by pornography scandals that may jeopardize their future and the reputation of their family. Thus Sophal warns young women to be careful not to fall into the love trap during this Valentine's Day. He advised that the youth will be in a better position to celebrate this occasion with their beloved parents, relatives or friends in a proper manner.

These observations have been shared by Vutha Morn who questioned the link of culture identity and cultural preservation while Sidaroth Kong wrote in her Facebook status that “Valentine's Day and Controversy Khmer Culture: Is sleeping with your partner the only way to show that you love him?”

According the a cross-sectional research on “Love and Sexual Relationship: Experiences and Plans of Middle Class Young People Regarding the Upcoming Valentine's Day In Phnom Penh in 2009″ done by Soprach Tong, who surveyed 458 youths aging from 15 to 24, majority of them do not understand the background of Valentine’s Day. Asked if the middle class young people in Phnom Penh plan to be sexually active on the upcoming Valentine’s Day, Soprach found that:

“In the results, 12.4 percent of all respondents answered that they expect to be able to have sex on the upcoming Valentine's Day, and more than 14.3 percent of young people in a couple answered that they expect to be able to have sex with their sweethearts on that day too, and a few couples plan not to use a condom. Meanwhile, more than a third (39.5%) of the young people in a couple surveyed (n=38) stated that it will be the first time for them to have sexual intercourse. And the other two thirds (66.6%) of young males in couple (n=25) will pressure or force their girlfriend on having sex using many devices, if they do not agree. And at least seven percent of young males who answered that they expect to be able to have sex are open to being involved in Bauk [Gang rape, a slang term occurs after one (or two) youth(s) negotiate a price with a sex worker, or solicit a woman’s affection and arrange a proposed destination for sexual intercourse. Then the woman is taken to a hotel or guest-house, where numerous other young men are waiting, or will soon arrive] on the upcoming Valentine’s Day”
From this result, the author urged for attention on sexual consent, sexual reproductive health and HIV/AIDS programs which target young people in the urban areas of Cambodia.

Given these alarming facts and concerns, the Cambodian Ministry of Women's Affairs, initiated five-minute spots educating the teenagers about the “meaning of the Valentine's day” in order that the young will be encouraged to expresses their love to family first, followed by teachers and then friends. This educational spot which aims to warn Cambodian teenagers against engaging in promiscuous sex has been welcomed by majority of students, teachers, and bloggers.

China puts 20 asylum seekers on trial
via CAAI News Media

Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010
New York Times News Service

BEIJING — The Chinese Foreign Ministry has indicated that 20 Uighur asylum seekers who were deported from Cambodia to China in December are being or have been put on trial for what China considers criminal activities.

“China is a country ruled by law,” Ma Zhaoxu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a written statement to The New York Times. “The judicial authorities deal with illegal criminal issues strictly according to law.”

Ma’s statement came last week in a brief reply to a list of detailed questions The New York Times sent to the Foreign Ministry inquiring about the fate of the Uighurs.

Chinese officials promised to deal with the Uighurs in a transparent manner when they were returned to China in December, but the Chinese government has so far refused to release any information on the whereabouts and well-being of the Uighurs. After the Uighurs showed up in Cambodia late last year, Chinese officials said they were being investigated for possible crimes related to deadly ethnic rioting that broke out in the western region of Xinjiang in July.

The Uighurs had applied for asylum at a U.N. office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Since the rioting erupted in Xinjiang, a desert region that the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim ethnic group, call their homeland, Chinese authorities have been detaining Uighurs, trying them and on occasion sentencing them to death. The regional government of Xinjiang is doubling its security budget this year compared with 2009.

Even before the unrest last year, many Uighurs in Xinjiang had been complaining about intense discrimination by the Han, who dominate China.

In the rioting on July 5, when Uighurs rampaged through the streets of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, nearly 200 people died and at least 1,700 were injured, most of them Han, the Chinese government said. Han vigilantes took to the streets after July 5 to seek revenge.

A group of 22 Uighurs arrived in Cambodia in November with the aid of a Christian network in China that helps North Koreans get to countries where they can apply for asylum.

The Cambodian government deported 20 of them right before Vice President Xi Jinping, expected to be the next top leader of China, arrived in Cambodia on a visit. China is the biggest investor in Cambodia. The two Uighurs who were not sent back to China had somehow disappeared, Cambodian officials said at the time. No word has emerged of their fate since.


“The case of the 22 Uighurs further demonstrates China’s misuse of its growing influence over poor or weak countries in Asia and elsewhere to force those countries to ignore or even breach their international commitments,” Nury A. Turkel, a lawyer and Uighur advocate in Washington, said in an e-mail message on Friday. “It’s an alarming trend.”

Turkel added: “The fate and well-being of those 22 Uighurs raise a series of concerns because of China’s abysmal human rights record of torture and arbitrary detention of Uighurs, particularly since the unrest in July 2009.”

Virtually all the Uighurs who arrived in Cambodia were men or boys. At least two were infants. Most are believed to have come from desert oasis towns in southern Xinjiang.

Human rights advocates and diplomats, including American officials, vigorously protested Cambodia’s deportation of the Uighurs at the time. But a spokesman for the Cambodian government, Koy Kuong, said the Uighurs had entered Cambodia illegally, without passports and visas, and so were being expelled in accordance with the country’s immigration laws.

The region of Xinjiang, which makes up one-sixth of China’s surface area, still remains largely cut off from the outside world because the Chinese government has blocked or severely restricted Internet and cell phone service since the violence last summer.

Thai PM says government wants to ease tension with Cambodia

via CAAI News Media

Posted : Sun, 14 Feb 2010
By : dpa
Bangkok - Thailand's prime minister on Sunday said his government is taking diplomatic measures to ensure tension with neighbouring Cambodia does not worsen. Thailand does not want to confront Cambodia and is doing what it can to prevent harm coming to people living on both sides of the border, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said, adding that both countries need to take upmost caution.

Tension has centered on the 11th-century Preah Vihear Temple, which the International Court of Justice awarded the to Cambodia in 1962. But it did not rule on the surrounding land, which both countries claim.

The relationship between the two nations has been tense for more than a year with sporadic clashes between troops near the disputed area surrounding the temple. Much of the border between the two countries has yet to be demarcated.

Over the past 18 months, Thai nationalists have used the Preah Vihear issue to stoke tensions, which last erupted in late January when troops from the two countries fired on each other in the disputed area. Neither country reported casualties.

Then early this month Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Preah Vihear in a politically charged trip.

At the time Abhisit played down Hun Sen's visit, and on Sunday continued to state that diplomacy was the best way to approach the issue.

The relationship between Cambodia and Thailand worsened markedly last October when Cambodia appointed Thailand's fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra to be a government adviser.

Cambodia appointed Thaksin, who has a two-year jail sentence still to serve in Thailand for abuse of power, as an economic adviser to the government and to Hun Sen.

Bangkok considers the appointment of Thaksin, the de facto opposition leader, as interference in its internal politics.

Thaksin was prime minister of Thailand from 2001 to 2006 before being toppled in a bloodless coup. He fled the country and has live in self-imposed exile, mostly in Dubai, since August 2008.

Catching Cambodia on the cusp of development

via CAAI News Media

By Elaine Moore

Published: February 14 2010 10:26 | Last updated: February 14 2010 10:26

Douglas Clayton, founder of frontier market fund manager Leopard Capital, has a habit of relocating to the country he believes is on the cusp of development. Right now, his home is Cambodia.

“It’s fun to be in countries that are changing rapidly,” he says. “Cambodia is where Thailand was 30 years ago, and where Vietnam was 15 years ago. There is a lot going on.”

Leopard Capital manages funds in what it calls “overlooked, transitional economies”. It boasts contrarian investor Marc Faber, author of the Gloom, Boom and Doom newsletter, as a non-executive director and seeks to invest in start-ups as well as existing businesses in South East Asia.

In April 2008 it launched the Leopard Cambodia Fund, which closed in January 2010 with more than £34m (€39m $53m) to invest in a variety of multi-sector Cambodia projects. Mr Clayton says a second Cambodian fund is planned for later in 2010.

Investors tend to have some knowledge of Asian developing economies and tolerance for the idiosyncrasies that investment in these countries involves.

Cambodia’s economy is, at around $8bn (£5bn, €6bn), smaller than some multi-national companies, and with per capita gross domestic product of less than $800, it is still one of the poorest countries in the world.

Another obstacle to investment is the lack of transparency and endemic corruption in the country. The 2008 Transparency International survey ranked Cambodia 166 out of 180 countries.

“The legal system in Cambodia is a work in progress but it gets better every year,” says Mr Clayton. “Cambodia is no worse that any other south-east Asian developing country and most importantly, the government wants to attract foreign investment.”

In fact, Mr Clayton rates Cambodia alongside Hong Kong and Singapore as one of the most open countries to do business in. Corporate income tax is 9 per cent and there are no laws against 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies, although land can only be fully owned by Cambodians.

After it was ravaged by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s Cambodia has experienced 30 years of remarkable growth and has attracted a steady stream of investors lured by the country’s political stability under long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, and the potential for its undeveloped natural resources.

The capital city may still lack a coherent public transportation system or large shopping centre, but its transformation from ghost town to thriving city is used to illustrate Cambodia as a post-war success story.

Between 2000 and 2007 the country’s economy grew by 9.5 per cent a year, second only to China.

When the Cambodia fund was launched by Leopard Asia in April 2008, the founders planned to raise $100m, with a projected investment return of 30 per cent.

But as the global recession took hold across Asia, interest in frontier funds such as the Leopard Cambodia Fund, which require investors to tie in their money for relatively long periods of time, dwindled, and the group decided to close the first fund and invest the money.

So far the largest investment made has been $5m to CamGSM, which operates Cambodia’s largest mobile phone network. As with many developing countries, landline coverage in Cambodia is fairly sparse, but mobile phones are widely owned.

The fund has also invested $2m into Kingdom Breweries, a Cambodian beer brewery, which aims to produce high quality beer in a microbrewery in Phnom Penh; over $1m in Greenside Holdings to construct a rural power distribution system; and $1.5m for 24 per cent of a property project in downtown Siem Reap, near the tourist attraction of Angkor Wat.

The fund will also invest up to $4m into Cambodia Plantations to lease approximately 3,000 hectares of land to grow rice. The first harvest is expected in 2011.

Agriculture remains one of the dominant industries in Cambodia and a number of countries such as Malaysia and Korea have taken advantage of the cheap price of land to lease thousands of hectares to grow rice.

The second Cambodian fund is expected to continue investment in agriculture, as well as potentially including investment in Laos.

Before this is launched the group will focus on two new Sri Lanka funds. The private equity Leopard Sri Lanka fund aims to raise $100m, while the Leopard Sri Lanka Value fund will seek to raise $30m to invest in listed equity. Although Sri Lanka is a more sophisticated and larger economy than Cambodia, it has lacked investors while in the grip of a brutal civil war. Leopard Capital plans to invest in industries that were already well developed but came to a halt during the war, such as tourism, retail and agriculture.

“We are the first wave of money coming into the economy,” says Mr Clayton. “Once the world realises that this country is safe again this economy is going to take off.”

The Preah Vihear Authorities Sold More Than 70 Cubic Meters of Luxury Wood Seized from Illegal Wood Traders – Saturday, 13.2.2010
via CAAI News Media

Posted on 14 February 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 651

“Preah Vihear: The Preah Vihear authorities decided to sell 76 cubic meters of luxury wood, including wood of the second quality type, on 10 February 2010, without putting it up for pubic bidding. The wood had been seized by combined provincial forces [where forestry administration forces, military police, and police may cooperate] from illegal wood traders in 2009.

“In the afternoon of 10 February 2010, it was seen that more than 20 wood traders and forestry administration officials were collecting Beng, Kronhoung, Neang Nuon, and Thnung wood and 8 cubic meters of second quality wood onto nine trucks.

At 15:36, civil servants of the Preah Vihear Municipality said that they saw three trucks coming into the Preah Vihear Municipality compound to take the wood. Those trucks [made by the Korean company] Hyundai, were each loaded with 30 cubic meters of wood. At that time, journalists came to ask about compliance with the law regarding the permission for the transport of such wood, but the Tbaeng Meanchey district forestry administration chief, Mr Mom Sophal, said that journalists should not publish anything about it, and he would not provide a legal document from the forestry administration showing that it is allowed to sell the wood.

“Journalists continued to ask where the wood was being transported to. A wood trader appeared to claim that journalists did not need to ask such a question. He seemed to have appeared just to protect the wood by saying a few words, and then he became silent.

“After that, the head of the Tbaeng Meanchey district forestry administration strongly warned the journalists, saying that if they wanted to know whether the sale of the wood had been legalized or not, they should ask the Preah Vihear forestry administration chief, and he then stopped saying anything more.

“At the same day at 16:33, journalists contacted the Preah Vihear forestry administration chief, Mr. Pol Khamnara by phone, to clarify the case that wood traders had come into the Preah Vihear Municipality compound to take the wood away, but he said he was in Phnom Penh to attend a court hearing related to the case of the deputy governor Mr. Meas Saroeun, and as far as he knew, the Municipality allowed the wood to be transported to Prey Veng, and he suggested that if the journalist wanted to know more, they should ask the district forestry administration chief Mr. Nong Khemarin. When journalists approached Mr. Nong Khemarin, he said that those wood traders had received a legal permission to take the wood away. But when journalists asked him about the related legal document, he said that he had not yet seen it, so he had nothing to show. As for the Preah Vihear governor, Mr. Oum Mara, he could not be reached for comment as phone calls could not get through.

“It should be noted that during the last four years, there have been more truck transports by nearly 10 trucks loaded with Beng, Kronhoung, Neang Nuon, and Thnung wood. Whenever journalists asked for legal documents, the forestry administration chiefs claimed that the wood transports had been permitted by the law, but they never allowed journalists to see the documents.

“They frequently used the names of ministers [claiming that the ministers supported them] to warn the journalists.

“At 17:00., the journalists received a phone call from an official of the Preah Vihear court who said that he had not seen any legal documents. That official explained that the seized wood can be sold only after the court issues a permit allowing the forestry administration to put it up for bidding first.

“In Preah Vihear, luxury wood is being transported by wood traders all the time, and every time when they transport luxury wood out of the province, the phones of the relevant officials are all switched off, or nobody answers the phone calls. Kronhoung wood is being transported on various routes. Some goes through Nation Road 62 [towards Phnom Penh], and more than half of the remaining wood is transported by the wood traders from Sra Em village to Trapeang Prasat district and on to Oddar Meanchey, crossing Siem Reap, Kompong Thom, and Kompong Cham, to be sold at the Vietnamese border.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5125, 13.2.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Saturday, 13 February 2010