Tuesday, 16 February 2010

WWF enforcement team cracks down on wildlife crimes in Mondulkiri province

via CAAI News Media

Posted on 16 February 2010

February has been a busy but successful month for WWF’s enforcement team in Mondulkiri’s Eastern Plains Landscape. After a weekend of day- and night-patrols, members of the mobile team – a flexible enforcement unit working throughout the whole province – had just arrived at the office when an informant called them about wild meat for sale at the market in Sen Monorom, the province’s capital. Mr Tan Seron, Ranger with the Cambodian government’s Forestry Administration, quickly mobilised his team members to head for the market, where they confiscated 6kg of wild boar meat (Sus scrofa).

This success follows several crackdowns on illegal logging in the beginning of the month when the patrolling teams of Namram and Trapeag Thmear in Mondulkiri Protected Forest confiscated seven chain saws from four villages in the protected area.

“Cutting trees inside the protected area is a crime under the Forestry Law of Cambodia, and we issued warning letters to the chainsaw owners,” said Mr Keo Sopheak, Manager of Mondulkiri Protected Forest. This is part of the legal procedure, where first-time offenders face non-jurisdictional punishment and are given warning letters to scare them from repeating their offence. Criminals caught for the second time risk serious penalties of jail and/or fines.

Besides the chainsaws, rangers also confiscated large amounts of rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchiensis, locally known as Keinung). This luxury wood can fetch up to several thousand US$ per cubic metre on international markets – prices that unfortunately continue to motivate illegal loggers in the area.

The recent confiscations reflect the effective effort of the enforcement team in Mondulkiri Protected Forest. At the same time, they also demonstrate an increase in illegal activities that puts pressure on one of the last remaining dry forest habitats for tiger in Cambodia.

“Our team is working hard but we need to take more action against illegal activities. We have started vehicle checks at different points around the protected areas to monitor trade routes”, Mr Sopheak said. “We are also expanding our informant network. This will surely help us in curbing illegal wild meat trade in the area.”

Illegal logging as well as selling and buying of wild meat are punishable offences and can be charged under the Forestry Law of Cambodia. If you see or hear of any such misdoings, contact WWF’s Wildlife Crime Hotline Number at 012404143. It will be a small step for you but a large step for the animal kingdom.

Home of aroma

February 14, 2010


Graham Simmons follows his nose - and his taste buds - to a workshop keeping local arts alive.

Graham Simmons follows his nose - and his taste buds - to a workshop keeping local arts alive.

Idon't know which is more intense - the flavour of amok frog or the fragrance of the spices used to prepare the dish. The former has more of an impact but the aroma-memory is certainly longer-lasting. And in few places are the arts of flavours and scents more highly developed than in Cambodia. In the village of Aw Phea Sang in Takeo Province, about 40 kilometres from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, a whole cottage industry has grown up, with amok khong-khaeb (as it is locally known) being the main product.

Frogs are raised to maturity and then, after being slaughtered, their legs are removed and diced. The diced legs are mixed with pork mince, lemongrass, chilli, garlic and amok spices, the mixture placed in the frog's stomach and the stuffed frog is skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled over charcoal.

The result is unexpectedly tasty, with the lemongrass being overwhelmingly the most distinctive flavour. Travelling to Siem Reap, I wanted to find out how amok spices are prepared - and there could be no better place to start than at Stephane Bourcier's Senteurs d'Angkor workshop. Starting 10 years ago with a shop in Siem Reap's Old Market area (Psaar Chas), Bourcier built a self-supporting artisan network making herbal soaps, incense and candles, essential oils and organic packaging products for Khmer spices.

The shop soon outgrew its site, so new premises had to be found. Opened in September last year, the new Senteurs d'Angkor workshop now employs more than 100 people - 80 per cent of them disadvantaged rural women.

"The objective of this workshop is to showcase Cambodian crafts made by Cambodians from local raw materials," Bourcier says. "We strive to provide good working conditions for our employees and to allow visitors to discover crafts that are truly local, unlike a lot of things in the shops here that are imported."

I'm shown around the workshop grounds by a gracious young lady who speaks excellent English. She first points out the area where packaging products are made from sugar-palm bark. The bark strips are vividly dyed, then hung on racks to dry before being hand-woven into little boxes, packing tubes and so forth. Other strips are used to make quiver-like containers for the prized Kampot pepper.

The Chinese explorer Zhou Daguan first made mention of pepper being grown in Cambodia way back in the 13th century. But by the late 1800s, war was raging in another key pepper-growing area - Aceh in Indonesia.

Spice importers turned to Cambodia's Kampot region, where production reached more than 8000 tonnes a year by the year 1900. The volume dropped to about 3000 tonnes a year by the 1950s but the product was of exceptional quality, making Kampot the pepper of choice in top French restaurants.

Tragically, the five years of Khmer Rouge terror and the ensuing civil war put an end to pepper production in Cambodia. Finally, in about 1998, former growers started to return to the district.

Now, some 150 families are growing pepper around Kampot. But production is still only about 20 tonnes a year and it will take years for output to rebound fully. In the meantime, Kampot pepper remains the world's finest and most expensive "Black Gold".

Many other products are also made and processed at the Senteurs d'Angkor. I visited the spices room, where the ingredients for amok - lemongrass, turmeric, galangal, dried garlic, green chilli and shredded coconut - are blended carefully. The nearby incense-making room is also a cornucopia of different aromas.

But I couldn't help thinking of those poor little frogs at Aw Phea Sang. I sincerely hope their demise was as humane as possible. Maybe their fate derives from the influence of the French, who taught the arts of both cuisine and perfumery to a people who, it seems, were only too eager to learn.

Super Casino Set for Vietnam Boarder

via CAAI News Media

A new $100 million super-casino is set to open near the Cambodia-Vietnam boarder by the end of this month, a statement released by owners Royal Group has revealed.

The property – which will be the ninth casino built in the area in recent years – is a four-star, eight-storey gaming Mecca boasting over 200 rooms spread across a six hectare site in the Svay Rieng province.

Dubbed the Titan King resort, the casino resort will employ over 1,500 workers and provide a significant boost to the local economy in what has been a very difficult time for the area given the impacts of the global recession on trade and tourism.

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

The recession has already seen two of Vietnam’s most popular casino resorts shut down due to falling revenues, but the Royal Group are hoping their new project can re-ignite the industry by attracting foreign visitors from both China and Malaysia.

News of Titan King’s grand opening at the end of the month follows on from the successful launch of Diamond Casino in the neighbouring Kirivong district, Takeo province of Cambodia, taking the total number of casinos in the area up to 32.

Cambodia to launch $100 million casino complex

via CAAI news Media

By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH Feb 16 (Reuters) - A Cambodian tycoon will launch a $100 million casino near the country's border with Vietnam this month to attract foreign tourists and develop the country's fast-growing entertainment industry.

The Titan King Casino will open its doors on Feb. 26 in Bavet, a town in Svay Rieng province, about 120 km (75 miles) from Phnom Penh, covering 2.5 hectares of land and employing some 6,000 people, its owner, Kith Thieng, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Kith Thieng, whose business interests include hotels, fast food restaurants, a mobile phone operator and stakes in a bank and television station, said he wanted to help Cambodia's entertainment sector rebound after the global economic crisis.

"Most gamblers will be Vietnamese but my goal is also to attract people from other countries," he said. "I want to promote the fact that Cambodia has enough places for entertainment."

Tourism is the impoverished country's second-biggest earner after its agriculture sector.

Cambodia generated revenues of $19 million from its 29 casinos in 2008, according to Finance Ministry data.

That fell to $17 million last year, with the decline attributed to a fall in tourist arrivals and rising border tensions with neighbouring Thailand.

(For a Q+A on the dispute: [ID:nBKK17999])

Thais are a vital part of Cambodia's casino industry. Most forms of gambling are forbidden in Thailand, but thousands of Thais regularly visit massive casino complexes located along their shared border.

In a posting on the new casino's website (titankingcasino.com), Kith Thieng said Bavet was fast becoming a regional centre for entertainment "much like Las Vegas and Macau".

Hear Sopheaktra, an assistant to Kith Thieng, said the casino would list on the Cambodian stock market, which was due to open later this year. [ID:nBKK492057].

NagaCorp (3918.HK), is currently the only casino operator in Cambodia, with a licence to run any number of casinos within 200 km (124 miles) of Phnom Penh until 2065.

The company said last week it expected revenue in 2010 to grow by 30 percent as the global economy recovers, and forecast future growth would be driven by a surge in Chinese visitors. [ID:nTOE61906E] (Editing by Martin Petty)

Around the World, February-March 2010

Baptism in Cuba - Edelto Villa baptizes a new believer near the historic city of Santa Clara, Cuba.

The Christian Chronicle

Winning souls, planting churches in the heart of Cuba

Santa Clara, Cuba, founded in the late 1600s, sits near the geographic center of the island and was the site of the final battle of the Cuban Revolution in 1958. Minister Edelto Villa has helped plant seven churches in Santa Clara and the surrounding region. He also works with about 25 Cuban evangelists — some in the extreme eastern city of Guantanamo.

“God has allowed through his grace that many folks in the center (of Cuba) are worshipping Jesus — and in the right way, the way he intended for us in his covenant,” Villa told The Christian Chronicle.

Villa is one of 34 Cuban evangelists supported by the Gulf Shores, Ala., Church of Christ with assistance from the White Rock Fund in Texas. To help support the work or for more information, see www.gulfshoreschurchofchrist.org.


PHNOM PENH — After serving a Cambodian Church of Christ in Texas, Sokhom Hun and his wife, Phaline, have returned to their home country to spread the Gospel and train church leaders.

Sokhom Hun spent the first 23 years of his life in Cambodia and suffered near-death experiences at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, the totalitarian regime of Pol Pot. He and other members of the Cambodian church in Balch Springs, Texas, have made mission trips to Cambodia.

The Walnut Hill Church of Christ in Dallas sponsors the work. The church “feels this is a unique opportunity to develop an effective mission work because of Sohhom’s and Phaline’s understanding of the language, culture and history of Cambodia,” the congregation’s elders said in a news release.

Australia Loans Poverty Reduction Project.

via CAAI News Media

PR Log (Press Release) – Feb 15, 2010 – Cambodia and Australia have agreed to form a private enterprise fund to provide loans to any firm contributing to poverty reduction in Cambodia , the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) announced yesterday, reports Khmer-language Rasmei Kampuchea. “Keat Chhon, deputy prime minister and CDC first president, and Margaret Adamson, Australian ambassador to Cambodia, inked a Private Enterprise Fund Project memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Tuesday at the CDC,” according to a CDC statement.

The fund project will give credit to private enterprises whose investments are primarily aimed at combating poverty in Cambodia , the statement read. The loans mainly target agriculture, industry, transportation, physical infrastructure, telecommunications and the financial and tourism sectors. Private business owners may only request loans of between 100,000 AUD [around US$67,875] and 1.5 million AUD [around US$1,018,139] if they can match the borrowed amount with their own capital, the CDC explained.

The Australian government has already introduced the project in nine countries, including Cambodia and Laos , the CDC said, adding that it has allocated 20 million AUD [around US$13.5 million] for the poverty reduction project.

PM Hun Sen orders preparation of legal documents for Preah Vihear case

Thai Border Post on the Thai/Cambodian Border / Image via optusnet.com.au

via CAAI News Media

Feb 15, 2010 According to web media sources in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is preparing legal documents to lodge with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague complaints relating to long-standing border disputes with Thailand.

Mr. Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Cambodian Foreign Ministry, said the ministry has received orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen to prepare the documents for the Preah Vihear case. He also said that Cambodia will take the border case with Thailand to both the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) and to the UN Security Council.

The spokesman said Cambodia has not lodged the legal complaints with the IJC yet, but it had already informed the court of its intention to lodge the complaints.

In the meantime, Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday said his government is taking diplomatic measures to ensure tension with neighboring 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, adding that both countries need to take the utmost caution.

Tension has centered on the 11th-century Preah Vihear Temple, which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarded 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.

A quick rinse before selling

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:00 Uy Nousereimony

A man emerges from a lake in Siem Reap province after rinsing water lilies for sale last week. Water lilies are often used in soup or eaten fresh with prahok.

Acid attacks could earn life in prison

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Nita (right) sits on swings with the relatives of other acid attack victims at a recovery centre.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:02 Mom Kunther and Irwin Loy

Panel weighs limiting acid sales, tougher sentencing for misuse

AUTHORITIES will explore legislating stiff new punishments for perpetrators of acid crimes as part of measures aimed at quelling an apparent jump in reported incidents of the violent attacks, officials said Monday.

The proposal, issued earlier this month after a string of acid attacks, is among options being evaluated by a new government committee charged with decreasing acid attacks by controlling its use.

Ouk Kimlek, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and deputy director of the committee, said authorities will discuss parts of a draft 20-point law during a meeting Thursday, including life sentences for those convicted in the most severe attacks.

“In drafting the law, the important point that I noted is punishment on people who use acid against someone to make them become handicapped, damage their beauty, or kill,” Ouk Kimlek said. “They will be sentenced to jail for their whole lives. If the victim is just lightly injured, then there will be a sentence of five or more years in jail.”

Cambodia currently lacks a law that specifically deals with acid crimes. It is a situation, Ouk Kimlek said, that sees perpetrators get off with light punishments or none at all.

“Because we don’t have a law to punish those who use acid against other people, that’s why it is difficult to punish people, so we see most perpetrators or suspects have never been punished,” he said.

The committee will also explore regulating the sale of acid, which he said is so widely available that even children can buy it.

“We can see very young people also buying acid, so we need to create a law on using acid as soon as possible,” said Ouk Kimlek, who added that instituting a minimum age for buying acid may be beneficial.

But at this point, the terms of the law are merely suggestions that need to be debated, Ouk Kimlek said.

He added that the committee also plans to invite acid vendors in Phnom Penh to meet with officials – “in order to ask them where they import acid from and who do they usually sell it to”.

‘Weak law enforcement’
Acid attacks are seen as particularly violent crimes, often aimed not at killing, but scarring victims for life. Victims can suffer severe, disfiguring injuries from common acid capable of dissolving skin, tissue and even bone.

The pending discussions represent an about-face for the government, which as recently as last month rejected calls to regulate the sale of acid as too difficult to implement.

Acid is widely used in the Kingdom to maintain motor vehicles, clear clogged drains and clean jewellery.

After a string of reported attacks in January, however, the Interior Ministry shifted its position, announcing the formation of the committee.

Rights groups and advocates who work with acid attack victims have lauded the government’s new direction, but also warned that it will take more than new legislation to reduce acid violence.

“There is weak law enforcement, and the powerful can get away with almost anything,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

Violent acid attacks often go unpunished, most notably in the recent case of Chea Ratha, a former Military Police official who has escaped imprisonment despite having been convicted last year for her role in attacking her former partner’s aunt.

“People will look at it and say, ‘I can get away with it,’” Ou Virak said. “I think cases like Chea Ratha’s could have been used to set a precedent, but unfortunately it wasn’t. She’s still on the run.”

Until new legislation is in place, perpetrators can and should be punished under standard criminal laws, said Am Sam Ath, technical superviser for the rights group Licadho.

“We have the law, but the practice of using the law is not strict, so it can be useless to have it,” Am Sam Ath said. “But I believe that if we all join together to strongly practice this law, then the use of acid to kill will be reduced.”

Despite the government’s intentions, new legislation could still be far away, Am Sam Ath warned.

“It could take from one to two years to improve the law, so I think the government should reinforce punishments on acid users now, while we are waiting for the changes,” he said.

The Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity recorded at least 194 separate acid attacks between 1985 and 2009, a figure that is believed to be short of the actual total.

IN DATES: developments in acid attack policy

Cambodia eyes int’l border mediation

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio and Vong Sokheng

CAMBODIA has again hinted at its intention to seek international arbitration in its ongoing border dispute with Thailand, a day after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rejected the idea of a multilateral solution to the 18-month-long row.

At a press conference on Monday, Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the government was examining how to put the issue on the international agenda – with or without Thai support.

“Our legal experts have been studying and examining the procedures for filing a complaint to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the UN security council,” he said.

Khieu Kanharith restated Cambodia’s willingness to engage with Thailand both bilaterally and multilaterally in a bid to resolve the dispute, which has soured relations between the two countries.

On Sunday, Abhisit again rejected the involvement of outside mediators in the ongoing dispute.

“We’re trying to prevent the Thai-Cambodian conflict from affecting people living along the border areas of both countries by using diplomatic means while avoiding other measures,” the Bangkok Post quoted Abhisit as saying. Applications for arbitration by the ICJ, which handed Cambodia sovereignty over Preah Vihear temple in 1962, must be backed by both parties to a dispute.

Khieu Kanharith said that Thailand opposed international arbitration simply because it knew the weight of evidence was on Cambodia’s side.

“Thailand has realised that it will lose the case if it agrees to raise the border issue at the ICJ and the UN security council because we have enough evidence of the border demarcation,” he said, referring to French maps drawn in 1904 and 1907.

The border dispute dates back to July 2008, when UNESCO listed Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site, triggering Thai protests and a rapid military buildup. Both countries claim a 4.6-square kilometre area adjacent to the 11th-century Angkorian temple.

Khieu Kanharith also slammed the Thai government for milking the border issue for political capital, thereby preventing a bilateral solution.

“Thailand continues to manipulate information about Preah Vihear temple to resolve its internal affairs. We don’t want Thailand to exploit border issues politically,” he said.

“The problem remains as to whether the Thai government has the goodwill to resolve the border issue or not.”

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, added that the Thais had shown “no real intention” of solving the issue in state-to-state talks. “This is why Cambodia is trying another approach,” he said.

When contacted on Monday, Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, repeated Abhisit’s claim that a multilateral solution to the border dispute was not appropriate.

“Thailand’s position remains pretty much unchanged – that the border issue should be solved bilaterally,” he said.

The two countries’ Joint Border Commission (JBC) has yielded results, but progress has been derailed by Cambodia’s appointment of fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as a government adviser in October, he said.

“That’s what the essence of the matter is.... It has made our bilateral relations a little more complicated,” he said.

One local observer said the move into an international forum such as the ICJ would be a “positive strategy” for the Cambodian government, citing the apparent lack of progress in bilateral talks. “I think this is very welcome in Cambodia,” said Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. “Only the [ICJ] can bring justice and a fair resolution.”

But he warned that even if Bangkok agreed to an international settlement, the case could take up to three years to run its course, with no guarantee of bilateral tranquility in the meantime.

Govt asks for release of border trespassers

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:02 Tep Nimol

THE government has appealed to Thailand for the release of three women who were arrested in Surin province last month and charged with surveying the forest to help illegal loggers, a border official said Monday.

Nhan Sovann, head of the Cambodia-Thailand relations office at the O’Smach border crossing in Oddar Meanchey province, said his staff went to Surin province last week to negotiate the release of the women, two of whom are pregnant and one of whom has three small children.

The women are among six Cambodians who were arrested and await their second Thai court hearing, which has been delayed twice, Nhan Sovann said.

“We suggested that they release the three [women] only, and we’d try to help the other three afterwards. However, we still haven’t heard a response from Thailand,” he said.

The Surin provincial court charged the Cambodians with four crimes, including border trespassing.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong confirmed that another hearing had been delayed, adding that Thailand had refused to provide the women with a lawyer.

“Before Cambodia and Thailand pulled out their ambassadors, the Thai court was very cooperative and the lawyers used to help Khmer people, but now they refuse,” he said.

Thai foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said on Monday that he was not aware of the most recent developments in the case and could not comment until he checked on the current situation.


Release sought for Ieng Thirith

Photo by: ECCC Pool
Ieng Thirith, Khmer Rouge social action minister and the wife of foreign minister Ieng Sary, sits in the dock at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Monday.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:02 James O'Toole

FORMER Khmer Rouge social action minister Ieng Thirith appeared on Monday before Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal, where her lawyers argued that there was not sufficient evidence to justify her continued detention.

In an appeal against Ieng Thirith’s provisional detention, defence lawyer Phat Pouv Seang said “hardly any connection” could be made between his client and the crimes for which she has been investigated.

“The overall evidence does not support the finding that there are well-founded reasons to believe that the charged person may have committed the crimes described in the introductory submission,” Phat Pouv Seang said. The introductory submission, filed by prosecutors to the co-investigating judges in 2007, contains a list of suspects and potential crimes for investigation.

Karlijn Van der Voort, a legal consultant for the defence team, called for Ieng Thirith’s provisional release to the home of her daughter in Phnom Penh, citing “the absence of real power and responsibility on her side” for the crimes under investigation.

International prosecutor Vincent de Wilde countered that substantial evidence against Ieng Thirith has been gathered thus far, including “at least 80” interviews “involving her”.

“If you analyse the evidence in the case file, you will notice that the vast majority of the evidence is inculpatory,” he said.

Monday’s hearing perhaps offered a preview of the strategy that Ieng Thirith’s defence team will use at trial, said Anne Heindel, a legal adviser at the Documentation Centre of Cambodia. Lawyers, Heindel said, may seek to distance the Khmer Rouge “first lady” from decisions made by more senior regime figures such as Nuon Chea, who is also awaiting trial.

“I’m sure that they must think there’s less direct evidence tying her in,” Heindel said.

De Wilde told the court that there was a substantial risk of witness intimidation by Ieng Thirith should she be released, citing a court hearing in February of last year in which she said those who accused her of murder would be “cursed to the seventh level of hell”.

De Wilde characterised the tirade as one of “violence” and “cynicism”, prompting Van der Voort to interrupt him on Ieng Thirith’s behalf.

“The prosecution’s statements may provoke [Ieng Thirith] to go against her own wish not to speak,” Van der Voort said. “I would like to ask the prosecution not to make any unnecessarily inflammatory statements.”

Judges declined to admonish the prosecution on this point, and Ieng Thirith showed little of the aggression she displayed last year. De Wilde noted, however, that Ieng Thirith has been continually disruptive while in detention.

“She regularly and violently, on at least 70 occasions, threatened co-detainees at the detention facility and also threatened guards at the detention facility,” de Wilde said.

Ieng Thirith sat impassively for most of the hearing, aside from a brief statement at the conclusion of the proceedings discussing her family background.

Under questioning at the outset of the hearing, she appeared to have difficulty recalling her children and said she had forgotten the name of her husband, fellow defendant and former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary.

But despite lingering concerns about her mental health, Judge Ney Thol said a recent medical examination had found Ieng Thirith fit to appear before the court.

“In relation to her psychiatric health, the experts found that Ms Ieng Thirith has not suffered mental disorder, and her cognitive function … was largely consistent with her age, and that she is able to stand trial,” Ney Thol said.

Institute confirms more cases of cholera

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:02 David Boyle and Khouth Sophak Chakrya

THREE more cases of cholera were reported on Monday by the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh, and health officials continued to urge the public to wait for more data before speculating about the prospect of an epidemic.

Muy Sovann, director of administration at the Pasteur Institute, said the institute had been receiving between three and five positive samples of cholera from medical facilities in Phnom Penh every day for the past two weeks.

“We don’t know the number of patients who have died from this disease, because we only receive samples from the hospitals and private clinics, not detailed information about patients,” he said.

Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Health Ministry’s Communicable Diseases Control Department, said most Cambodians did not understand the technicalities of epidemics and should refrain from speculation.

“At this time we need to educate the people to understand how to treat their health problems and believe scientists,” he said.

HRP repeats call for opposition merger

Photo by: Pha Lina
Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights party, speaks at party headquarters on Monday about his recent visit to the US.

viaCAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:01 Meas Sokchea

HUMAN Rights Party (HRP)President Kem Sokha has again called on the country’s opposition parties to join forces in a bid to challenge the dominance of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party at future elections, expressing hope that a merger could happen later this year.

“The HRP wants to call on all nationalists and democrats to open talks to create this alliance urgently in 2010,” Kem Sokha said at a press conference on Monday. He also chided the Sam Rainsy Party – the country’s largest opposition group – for not taking the initiative in the push for a merger.

“The ball is in the SRP’s court, so we will wait to see whether SRP plays or not,” he said.

Kem Sokha was “100 percent” certain of a merger between the HRP and other opposition forces, but said the SRP’s involvement in the plan was still uncertain. “If the SRP wants to merge tomorrow, the HRP will merge tomorrow,” he added.

Kem Sokha said that during his recent visit to the United States he noted support for a united opposition party that would secure Cambodia’s territorial integrity and bar illegal immigration. “They want to see democrats merge on a democratic basis,” he said.

Mu Sochua, deputy secretary general of the SRP, said the party’s stance on the merger had not changed, and that an alliance must be based on democratic change.

“We have the will to merge, but only a merger that would prompt change and strengthen human rights and democracy in Cambodia,” she said.

CPP officials mocked the notion of an opposition merger, saying the parties’ track record for cooperation did not bode well for the plan.

“The CPP is fearless,” said senior party lawmaker Cheam Yeap. The opposition parties “cannot live together for a long time. They have talked about a merger for a long time and so far they are still the same, it still hasn’t appeared”.

When contacted on Monday, Pen Sangha, spokesman for the Nationalist Party, would not respond to Kem Sokha’s appeal for a merger, saying that his announcement for a union of “democratic and nationalist” groups did not refer to any specific parties.

“Kem Sokha should be clearer than this: He should write a letter stating specific names,” Pen Sangha said.

73 SRP defections reported

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:01 Khouth Sophakchakrya

A GROUP of 73 SRP activists has defected to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in Kampot in the past week, the provincial CPP president said Monday, bringing the total number of opposition defections since the 2008 elections to more than 700 in that province alone.

Koy Kun Hour, the CPP president in Kampot, said he viewed the defections as an endorsement of the ruling party’s policies at the local level.

“We strongly believe that the defectors will work with us to reduce poverty in this province, as well as in [the rest of] Cambodia,” he said.

Koy Kun Hour said most of the defections had come from Funcinpec and from the Nationalist Party, formerly the Norodom Ranariddh Party, and that 30 percent had come from the Sam Rainsy and the Human Rights parties.

Mu Sochua, an SRP parliamentarian who represents Kampot, said Monday that she was not concerned by the defections.

“In a socio-democratic society, anyone can join other parties if they like. It’s normal,” she said.

She added that she believed defections to the SRP since the last elections had also swelled her party’s numbers both in the province and nationwide.

She also said she believed the CPP was promoting news of the defections in an effort to exaggerate its popularity.

“This is a CPP strategy, to make this big news,” she said.

“But for us it is not news. I think maybe CPP leaders are afraid to lose their popularity or lose the next election.”

The CPP won 90 of 123 seats in the National Assembly during the July 2008 parliamentary elections.

The SRP was the first runner-up, taking 26 seats in the National Assembly.

Fired casino staff file complaint

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

SIX former staff members at a casino in Banteay Meanchey province who are protesting the Thai owner’s decision to sack them have taken their case to the provincial Labour Department, a representative of the group said Monday.

The workers had originally filed a complaint with the rights group Adhoc last month, but decided to take it to the government last Thursday in an attempt to resolve the dispute more quickly.

The workers have said that the casino owner locked them in a room at the casino before accusing them of colluding with guests to cheat him out of winnings, allegations they have vehemently denied.

A casino representative, Tea Chhang, said Monday that the casino had not yet heard anything from the Labour Department, but reiterated the casino’s argument that the firings had been justified, adding that there was more than enough evidence to prove that the workers had stolen winnings.

“But we pity them,” he said. “That’s why we don’t want them to pay us back.”

Touch Sophal, one of the six workers who was laid off, said the allegations from Tea Chhang were unfounded. “If I wanted to cheat, I wouldn’t have waited until now, because I have worked at that casino for many years,” he said.

Lim Sothet, director of the Labour Department, confirmed that he had received the complaint, adding that he planned to speak with the group and representatives from the casino this week to broker an agreement between the two sides.

Street sweeps shine a light on Thailand’s begging problem

Photo by: AFP
A Cambodian beggar carrying her sister walks in a market in search of alms in Phnom Penh. Beggars who travelled to Bangkok were the targets of recent sweeps by Thai authorities.

As long as there is money here and few alternatives in Cambodia, [migrant beggars] will come.”--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:01 Erika Fry


ON January 11, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Major General Sanan Kachornprasart, in a suit, tie and face mask, gave a press conference at the National Immigration Bureau. He was joined by Immigration Bureau Commander Police Lieutenant General Wuthi Liptapallop, also in a face mask; Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) Minister Issara Somchai; and 557 Cambodians, some who had lost their legs and were the apparent cause for face masks.

The officials, standing before the cameras and a table piled high with crutches and prosthetic limbs, said the day kicked off their campaign against human trafficking and smuggling gangs.

The 557 Cambodians – a group of 220 men and 337 women, many elderly or severely disabled – were deported as illegal migrants and dumped unceremoniously at the border the next day.

The Cambodians were said to be beggars. They had been rounded up in a sweep of Bangkok streets in the four days before the press conference.

According to subsequent news reports, the operation was spearheaded by the Immigration Bureau and the National Operation Centre on Human Trafficking, which are targeting the traffickers and smugglers that bring beggars to Thailand.

“Beggars disturb foreign tourists and damage the tourism image of Thailand,” Wuthi said at the time.

Although an anti-trafficking effort provided the pretext for the crackdown, Thailand’s anti-trafficking policy, which has taken many agencies, many years and many baht to craft, seemed to have been summarily dismissed.

Though no one disputes Thailand’s right to follow its own immigration laws – indeed, hundreds of illegal Cambodian migrants are deported each day – the action troubled a number of observers and organisations that say the Cambodian beggars were deported in violation of Thailand’s own Anti-trafficking in Persons Act, without the screening to identify trafficking victims or individuals entitled to protection.

Cambodian beggars are often vulnerable to trafficking, and Thailand has a well-established policy to deal with the population more discriminately.

In the days following the deportation, the Mekong Migration Network, an affiliation of 35 civil organisations in the region, issued a statement protesting against the “deportation of Cambodian beggars without due process”, and called for appropriate screening mechanisms and respect for the rights of migrants, saying they should not be treated as criminals.

Weeks after the much-publicised roundup, questions remain regarding the handling of the group. Neither the Foundation for Women nor Friends International, NGOs with Khmer speakers that usually assist the Immigration Bureau in the screening process, interviewed members in the group of 557. The groups didn’t know whether anyone had. Several UN outfits and a handful of anti-trafficking organisations in Cambodia are also curious, but unaware of the circumstances or whereabouts of the deported group.

The Immigration bureau declined to comment or even provide basic statistics regarding the deportation, saying that responding would threaten the integrity of the deported beggars and its own reputation.

The MSDHS deferred comment to the immigration authorities, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern but said it was “still in the dark” about the situation.

The unusual, high-profile handling of the group, at a time when Thai-Cambodian relations are particularly heated, has led to speculation that the deportation was political theatre.

Regardless of the government’s motives, NGO workers who interact with those begging on the streets have noted fears and increasing movement underground among Cambodian beggars, who worry they will be mistreated because of the political situation between the two countries.

Photo by: Stive Finch
A man leans against the Cambodian side of the border gate with Thailand at the Poipet crossing in Banteay Meanchey province.

New sweeps
In the days since the mass deportation, the police have continued their sweeps. Following the scrutiny of human rights groups, however, they have been holding the rounded-up beggars – a group of 70 individuals ranging in age from less than 1 to 77 – at the immigration detention centre.

The Foundation for Women has been given access to the group and conducted screening interviews with select women and children among the beggars. Their testimony suggested the beggars had come to Thailand voluntarily, and it’s impossible to reach a firm conclusion regarding the involvement of traffickers. At the same time, they cautioned that children signalled to each other and gave rehearsed answers during questioning, making it difficult to ascertain whether their answers were accurate. Some in the group were unwilling to give testimony, and others were evasive and pretended to not understand, despite the presence of a Khmer speaking translator.

It was also noted that although these vulnerable groups may qualify for social services and a spot in Thailand’s government shelters, they may not understand or want them. They often want only a steady income and to return to work, the foundation noted.

For these reasons, and many others, it is difficult to identify trafficking victims.

Handling beggars
To resolve Thailand’s issue with Cambodian beggars, the foundation has suggested DNA tests for parentage, better cooperation between Thai and Cambodian authorities, and more channels to access and assist vulnerable populations.

Under the present system, when beggars are apprehended, they are interviewed by Khmer-speaking staff members of the MSDHS or affiliated NGOs who have been trained to identify victims of trafficking.

Those who are identified are sent to either Ban Kred Trakarn, the women’s shelter, or Ban Phumvet, the men’s, where they are provided with various forms of assistance, compensation and support in prosecuting their traffickers.

Those not identified as trafficking victims, but who have been rounded up by the police for the first or sometimes second time, will be sent to the Nonthaburi Reception Home for Destitutes, a shelter where they are interviewed about their migration and provided shelter and vocational training for the several months it takes to ready them for repatriation. In these first instances of begging, Thailand’s Bureau of Social Welfare and Cambodia’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation work together to gather information about the migrants, locating family members and home villages, and creating a repatriation plan.

Beggars who have been rounded up by the police multiple times will be sent to the Immigration Detention Centre and deported. Many social workers and NGO staff members comment that this is the preferred fate for most of the beggars, as they waste no time or money cooped up in shelters. They often return to Thailand a few days later.

The stream of Cambodian beggars into Bangkok can seem endless; there are children who claim to have been to Thailand on 20 separate occasions to beg. The Thai and Cambodian governments struck a deal in 2008 to better manage the repatriation and migration of the begging population, but Somjit Tantivanichanon, the superintendent of the Nonthaburi Reception Home for Destitutes, says the formal process is still slow and lacks the follow-up services to make repatriation effective and permanent.

Not trafficked
Recent research also suggests that most Cambodian beggars are not victims of trafficking. According to a 2006 study by Friends International, an NGO that was founded in Cambodia and now works with street children on multiple continents, most children claim to be begging in Bangkok with a parent who has made the journey voluntarily. About 20 percent of the children were begging under more dubious circumstances, with a non-blood relative often identified as a family friend.

“It came out very clearly – they may be exploited when they arrive, but they come because they believe they can make much more money here,” says Tamo Wagener, international coordinator for Friends International.

The organisation’s research shows that begging in Thailand is almost always a more lucrative pursuit for Cambodians than working in their homeland or migrating to Thailand, legally or illegally, for minimum-wage work. The same study found that begging works in Thailand – more than 80 percent of 400 Thais interviewed frequently gave to beggars.

The research also seems to largely debunk the widespread belief that beggars are highly organised networks operated by Cambodian gangs.

Though Friends International staffers said gang-run begging rings may exist to a limited degree – there was some evidence to suggest this is the case for street children selling flowers, sweets and small goods – the overwhelming number of cases they encounter involve Cambodians who come to Bangkok voluntarily to beg. They found beggars enjoy freedom of movement and working hours, and live independently in rented rooms.

They also found no evidence that beggars were deliberately mutilated for the purpose of begging.

Still, the research also found that 80 percent of child beggars did not want to continue begging, and Chalermrat Chaipraser, Friends International’s country programme director, emphasised the importance of identifying alternatives.

“No one likes to beg. It’s not socially rewarding,” he said. “But as long as there is lots of money here and few alternatives in Cambodia, they will come.”


Two more summoned in Siem Reap land row

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:01 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap Province

SIEM Reap provincial court has issued a fresh round of summonses in connection with a land dispute between families in two communes, Anlong Samnor and Chi Kraeng, that led to armed intervention by police officers last year, villagers said.

La Mao, 21, one of two men who have been asked to appear before the court, said he received his summons letter on January 27, and that the court date was February 23.

“I have not decided yet whether I will show up at the court or not because I am so afraid,” he said. “They have dared to arrest many people, and this time I think they will dare to arrest me.”

Nine people – including seven who were acquitted in a trial held in October – are currently behind bars because of their alleged involvement in a March 22 incident in which 100 armed police opened fire on 80 residents of Chi Kraeng who were caught harvesting crops on land that Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin had previously ruled belongs to families from Anlong Samnor.

They want to shut up villagers who continuously demand their land.

In December, opposition politicians and rights groups staged a rally in Chi Kraeng demanding that the nine detained people be released.

Loun Sovath, the other man who was called to the court in the most recent round of summonses, said he planned to seek advice from a lawyer from the rights group Licadho, adding that he refused to appear before the court without representation.

“It is a threat and intimidation over the land-dispute case,” he said, adding: “They want to shut up villagers who continuously demand their land.”

Ham Sunrith, deputy director of human rights monitoring and protection for Licadho, said Tuesday that he was not sure whether the rights group would be able to provide a lawyer for Loun Sovath.

Villagers from the two communes have been fighting over a 92-hectare swath of farmland since 2005. When Sou Phirin handed down his ruling, he also offered the Chi Kraeng families a social land concession, an offer they rejected.

Four villagers were shot during the March altercation, though no police officers have been brought to court.

After being criticised by opposition politicians in September, court officials said the investigation was ongoing, but that some of the relevant parties – including residents of the communes involved in the altercation – had been difficult to locate.

Touch Sakal, the Chi Kraeng district police chief, said Monday that as far as he knew, the court was still pursuing complaints against villagers and police officers.

Sok Leang, the investigating judge at the provincial court who issued the summonses, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Police Blotter: 16 Feb 2010

via CAAI news Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:00 Sen David

A police officer was severely injured after a gunfight with another officer in Kampong Speu’s Samrong Tong district. District police say the victim was swimming in a pond near a road when the accused saw him in the water. The victim objected to the glares from the accused, at which point a heated argument erupted and guns were drawn. Both officers were detained for questioning. Police condemned the shootout, saying officers should act as an example to society.

A female cook was stabbed to death at a noodle shop during a robbery in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district on Sunday. Police said four masked burglars entered the shop while the owner and staff members were resting. They then proceeded to tie up the staffers, demanding property and cash. The victim was stabbed as she tried to escape. Police are still on the hunt for the four men, who were unable to steal anything before fleeing the scene.

Preah Vihear provincial police arrested a man on Friday on charges of drug trafficking. Police say the 30-year-old man was carrying a kilogramme of unidentified drugs and was selling it to young boys. Officials had become suspicious of increased activity on a particularly quiet street. The accused was sent to court, and some of his customers were sent to a local NGO for drug-related education.

A 47-year-old man was severely injured after his wife threw boiling water at him in Pursat’s Kandeang district on Sunday. Police said the wife was jealous of her husband’s new girlfriend and threw a boiling pot at him. The children wanted to send the man to hospital but couldn’t because of financial constraints. Neighbours said the woman was crazy, and that despite his finding a new girl, she shouldn’t have injured him, as he is the home’s only source of income.

A house was severely damaged in a fire in Battambang city on Sunday. Police said the blaze occurred because the owner was careless in lighting firecrackers while celebrating the Chinese New Year in front of the house, as some of the fireworks made contact with electricity lines while alight. However, the owner of the house says an electrical fault started the fire. Authorities have warned people not to play with firecrackers at Chinese New Year, since they cause many accidents.

Govt seeks funding for first census of agriculture sector

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Farmers harvest dry season rice in Kampong Cham province earlier this year. A new agriculture census aims in part to count the number of farmers in the Kingdom.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

Ministry would improve development planning by providing more accurate data

The Ministry of Planning’s Committee for City and Provincial Enterprise on Monday announced that it would seek US$5 million from development partners and international organisations to conduct a census on agricultural production in the Kingdom, the results of which would be available in 2012.

Following a meeting of the committee in Phnom Penh on Monday, Minister of Planning Chhay Than said that the ministry would ask for technical and financial support to conduct
the survey, which would provide accurate data on agricultural capacity.

“We hope to get funding from partners soon to carry out the agricultural census because it will help shape the economic direction we take for correct and effective development stimulus,” he said.

The agricultural census is part of a broader programme to create reliable statistical data on population, the economy and agriculture under the Statistics Law passed in 2005 in order to better assess national economic growth, Chhay Than said.

Cambodia conducted its last population census in 2008. The survey, which cost $7 million, found that the Kingdom’s population had risen to 13.4 million people, up from 11.4 in 1998, the year that the government conducted its first postwar national census.

In December, the Ministry of Planning announced that it would begin research on the country’s first economic census. San Sy Than, director general of the National Institute of Statistics within the ministry, said at the time that a large pilot survey would begin in March, with a total budget for the project set at $3.5 million and results expected by March 2011.

San Sy Than said Monday that if the Ministry of Planning secures funding this year for the agricultural census, then surveys could begin in 2012.

“We can conduct the census on agriculture in the country after we finish the census on enterprise,” he said. The enterprise, or economic, census, is expected to run through March 2011, according to the ministry.

Yang Saing Koma, head of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said that if the government can conduct the agricultural census, it will know the exact number of farmers and amount of available farmland, allowing it to estimate output for each year.

“I think that it’s time the government started conducting the census on agriculture because this is an important work to reduce the divide between probability and practicality,” he said.

Koroki Mosafomi, Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia, said the Japanese government had provided substantial funding and technical support in an effort to enhance the Cambodian government’s ability to gather and analyze data, and to produce reliable statistics with which to improve national development strategies.

“I believe that only valid data can serve as the foundation for the effective planning of national development,” he said.

Koh Kong’s Phon Phana puts lightweight division on notice

Photo by: Rebert Starkweather
Former national champion Van Chanvait (left) was the latest veteran to fall to Phon Phana (right), who is now 5-0 since returning to Phnom Penh last December.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:00 Rebert Starkweather

In recent weeks, 23-year-old Club Koh Kong fighter Phon Panna has emerged as the lightweight division’s hottest new prospect, yet he is anything but green

TWO months ago, few boxing fans had ever heard the name Phon Phana. The 23-year-old from Club Koh Kong Province had not fought in Phnom Penh since he was a teenager.

On Sunday, he scored an easy decision victory over Van Chanvait, a former national champion, in a tune-up match at the TV5 boxing arena in Takhmao.

It was Phon Panna’s fifth victory in nine weeks. The biggest of them came in early January against 2008 national champion Eam Vutha, who at least had the skills to turn in five sturdy rounds. The others hardly stood a chance.

Chanta Sarim, a scrappy veteran from the Takhmao Meanrith camp, was the first to greet the Koh Kong native upon his return to Phnom Penh. The two met at the Bayon TV boxing arena December 20 last year. Bloodied and knocked down twice in the third round, Chanta Sarim declined to continue in the fourth after catching a vicious spinning back elbow in the teeth.

Then came Eam Vutha. And after him Sung Sovan, who went down twice in the fourth but managed to hang on until the final bell.

The prospects of Eam Vichet, a top-notch veteran from the highly touted Krud Meanchey stable, lasted less than six minutes. A knee to the stomach late in the second round doubled him over. An elbow to the head flattened him.

And like that, in the short space of four fights in just seven weeks, Phon Phana had emerged from provincial anonymity to stake his claim as the brash new king of the lightweight contenders.

A product of the famous Koh Kong fight scene, Phon Phana spent most of his early 20s fighting in Thailand, largely in the rural areas around Pattaya. He says he has fought in Bangkok too, nearly a dozen times, with three fights at the storied Lumpini stadium.

Phon Phana decided to return home late last year, when diplomatic ties between the countries began to sour.

His emergence in the lightweight ranks energises an already red-hot division and sets up at least half a dozen tantalizing prospective bouts – Long Sophy, Chan Virea, Eam Litho, Seun Chanvireak, Kao Roomchang and Lao Sinath, to name but a few.

Sunday’s match against Van Chanvait might have been more competitive under different circumstances. Both fighters are scheduled to appear in international bouts this weekend, and neither man wanted to jeopardize the prospect of a lucrative payday.

Still, Phon Phana’s dominance was evident early. In round two, easily his best round, he kicked Van Chanvait around the ring with apparent ease, displaying lightening-fast hand speed, impressive stamina and nearly impenetrable defence.

Van Chanvait showed remarkable durability but landed little of substance.

“He didn’t dare fight too hard,” suggested Van Chanvait’s corner man, Khum Pichchenda. “He was afraid of hurting the other guy.”

Said in jest, apparently, there was still some truth to the crack.

“I hurt my hand with those punches in the third round,” Phon Phana said, referring to three consecutive straight right hands that landed flush to the head.

A disappointed Van Chanvait shrugged off the loss. “I didn’t really use my knees well,” he said. “But nothing is hurt; my body is fine. I can fight again next week no problem.”

Van Chanvait faces a Spanish fighter listed only as Arturo, and Phon Phana takes on a Japanese fighter named Yuki, this coming Saturday at the TV3 boxing arena. Fights start at 3:30pm.

Garudas sweep past Siem Reap in 86-0 rugby rout

Photo by: Cameron Wells
A Siem Reap player (fourth from right) runs with the ball during their match Sunday against PSE Garudas.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 16 February 2010 15:00 Cameron Wells

LOCAL rugby team PSE Garudas obliterated an understrength Siem Reap squad 86-0 Sunday at the Navy base ground, serving notice to their next opponents, the Sisowath Knights, in the process.

The winners of the last four Premierships opened the rout with a swerving, angled run down the middle by lock Lim Bun Pov through tissue-paper Siem Reap defence, to touch down beneath the posts. Halfback and captain Pich Rattana converted his kick for a quick-fire 7-0 lead.

The try was a clear sign of things to come, with the speed of the PSE line and the accuracy of their passing game proving simply too much for the visitors, who travelled with only 13 players due to players’work commitments. Eventually some players filled in from an under-20’s match played earlier, but the lack of combination and familiarity was telling as the Garudas line was never really troubled.

Winger Bros Sophan crashed over moments later, despite ignoring a huge overlap, to double their advantage. Newcomer Tom Elvin was then almost thrown out of the front-rower’s club when he scored following a quick tap kick. Winger Vanak Vireak drew two defenders and offloaded to Ut Vuthy for a streaking breakaway try, which put Garudas 28-0 up at the first 20 minute drinks break.

The powerhouse club effectively ended the match before half time, with tries from Phorn Rawitt, Pich Rattana and a second by Bros Sophan to bring up an unassailable 43-0 half-time lead.

The cakewalk continued in the second half as a further seven tries were scored, including a second for Elvin, and a brace for both Vanak Vireak and spectacular winger Nheb Rata. His second try was the play of the match; darting towards the line and avoiding defence with a commando roll, before hopping up and superman-diving over the line in the one motion. Pich Ratana made good on eight of his 14 conversion attempts.

Garudas coach Brad Jones said the lopsided score allowed them to perfect their own style heading into next week’s match against Sisowath. “I’m very pleased with the boys, the way they’re actually starting to play a much wider game,” he said. “We’re moving away from trying to kick the ball past the defence, and we’re actually starting to use the hands to score tries. So it was a very good lead in for us against Sisowath next week.”

Vank Vireak started for the Garudas, as did big Kiwi prop Elvin, who stepped off a plane from New Zealand just two weeks ago and dominated, despite struggling with the Cambodian heat in his debut match.

“The new recruit did very well,” Jones said of Elvin, who has signed on until the end of the season in April. “I think his fitness levels were found wanting, but I’m very pleased to have him on board and not in the hands of Sisowath.”

Garudas currently sit on top of the Premiership, but only due to a superior points scored difference over Stade Khmer, who upset them earlier in the season. Sisowath are third by points difference over Siem Reap, but take on the leaders next weekend with their squad at full strength.