Monday, 1 March 2010

Markets of Cambodia

Tribunal staff officers distributed more than 4,000 books about the tribunal in regards to Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide to the high school students to promote awareness about the court

Reach Sambath, Cambodian chief of the Public Affairs Section of the U.N,-backed genocide tribunal, offers booklets about the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) during an outreach program at a high school in Phnom Penh March 1, 2010. Tribunal officers distributed more than 4,000 books about the tribunal in regards to Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide, to promote awareness among the high school students about the court, court officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Reach Sambath (R), Cambodian chief of the Public Affairs Section of the U.N,-backed genocide tribunal, speaks to a high school student during an outreach program at a school in Phnom Penh March 1, 2010. Tribunal officers distributed more than 4,000 booklets about the tribunal in regards to Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide, to promote awareness among the high school students about the court, court officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodian high school children participate in an outreach program organized by the Public Affairs Section of the U.N,-backed genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh March 1, 2010. Tribunal officers distributed more than 4,000 books about the tribunal in regards to Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide, to promote awareness among the high school students about the court, court officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

Reach Sambath, Cambodian chief of the Public Affairs Section of the U.N,-backed genocide tribunal, shows a picture of former Khmer Rouge Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, during an outreach program at a high school in Phnom Penh March 1, 2010. Tribunal officers distributed more than 4,000 books about the tribunal in regards to Khmer Rouge leaders accused of genocide, to promote awareness among the high school students about the court, court officials said. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

SKorea to fund new road at Angkor temple complex

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By SOPHENG CHEANG,Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – South Korea has provided $9.2 million to Cambodia to build a new road that will circle the famed Angkor temple complex and reduce traffic in the area, officials said Monday.

The 13-mile (21-kilometer) road will be closed to trucks to reduce pollution, noise and vibrations that could damage the ancient ruins, said Soeung Kong, vice secretary-general of the Apsara Authority, the government agency that oversees the temples.

Construction will start this year and take three years to complete, he said.

It will be the second road in the Angkor area funded by South Korea, connecting with existing roads to the north and northwest of the temples, said South Korean Embassy official Son Sungil. The first road extended south from the temple complex.

Tourism is a major foreign currency earner for cash-strapped Cambodia, which hosts nearly 1.5 million foreign tourists each year, mostly from South Korea, Japan and the United States. More than half of the tourists visit Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwestern Siem Reap province.

The temples were built when Angkorian kings ruled over much of Southeast Asia between the 9th and 14th centuries.

Conservationists have long expressed concerns about tourism's impact. They say uncontrolled pumping of underground water to meet the rising demand of hotels and residents in the nearby town of Siem Reap may be destabilizing the earth beneath the temples.

Premier threatens to shut military-owned TV for lack of enthusiasm
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Mar 1, 2010

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has threatened to close down a television station part-owned by the country's military, saying it had failed to broadcast sufficient army-related material, national media reported Monday.

Hun Sen told troops in the country's north-western province of Battambang that the TV5 channel ought to broadcast more 'military encouragement songs.'

He also chastised TV5 for failing to televise his speeches to the troops during last month's high-profile visit to units based along the Cambodian-Thai border.

'It uses the military logo, but this TV channel does not disseminate the military work often,' the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported Hun Sen as saying.

Relations between Cambodia and Thailand have worsened in recent months, increasing tensions along areas of their disputed border.

Hun Sen said TV5, which is part-owned by Thai firm Mica Media Limited, should either remove the armed forces logo and go private, or close down.

And he had harsh words for station director Lieutenant-General Neang Phat, a senior figure in the defence ministry, saying the director did not watch television.

'I let you wear the stars (representing the rank of a general), but the stars are not working - you don't know how to do it,' he said.

Neang Phat told the newspaper that the station would immediately ensure the premier's advice was followed.

'We will follow his ideal advice, we'll insert more programmes concerning military tasks,' he said. 'Starting from Monday we'll play the songs and the talk concerning the military.'

A review of the country's media last year by local human rights group Licadho noted that each of Cambodia's eight TV stations is aligned with the ruling party 'and all news bulletins are politically biased.'

A survey conducted in 2003 found that 90 per cent of Cambodians get their news via TV and radio broadcasts.

Will there a wall around Preah Vihear Temple
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According to reports from some agencies in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is planning to build a "Berlin-style" wall to shut-off Thailand and develop tourist facilities around the still disputed Preah Vihear Temple by its own.

PR Log (Press Release) – Feb 28, 2010 – According to reports from some agencies in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is planning to build a "Berlin-style" wall to shut-off Thailand and develop tourist facilities around the still disputed Preah Vihear Temple by its own.

The Cambodian government will build a series of walls at "complicated border areas," while still calling for talks to mark and properly demarcate the frontier, Camdodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith and a government spokesman told reporters at a press conference.

"Both sides should start to discuss to plant border markers from undisputed border areas to the complicated border areas and some complicated border areas will be built with border markers or concrete walls," Khieu Kanharith said.

"Cambodia will allow private companies to invest at least $2 million dollars at the Preah Vihear Temple to set up cable cars for tourists," he explained, adding that the government is also trying to rebuild an existing road to the temple.

It seems that the Preah Vihear border gate to Thailand will only be opened again, when the situation there is stable, but foreign tourists could visit the temple from the Cambodian side. At the moment, authorities have closed the temple grounds to visitors. For decades, the only way to get to Preah Vihear was through Thailand, because the temple is situated atop a sharp cliff on the Cambodian side

Cambodia and Thailand share a border of over 800km with only 73 demarcation markers, the Cambodian official said on Sunday. At a meeting on Aug 18-19, Cambodian and Thai foreign ministers agreed to arrange second-phase troop redeployment at the disputed border area near the temple.

They agreed to a meeting of the Cambodian Temporary Coordinating Task Force and the Thai Regional Border Committee on Aug 29 in Cambodia to discuss the troop redeployment.The two foreign ministers also agreed to recommend to their governments that the next meeting of legal experts and the Thai-Cambodian Joint Border Committee be convened in early October, to discuss the issues related to border survey and demarcation of the relevant frontier sectors.

On July 15, Thai troops went into the border area to fetch three trespassers who had intended to claim Thai sovereignty over the Preah Vihear Temple. The incident triggered a military standoff, as troop strength on each side grew to more than 1,000 soldiers. In 1962, the International Court of Justice (or World Court) in Den Haag/Holland decided that the 11-century temple belongs to Cambodia

Lightening Up

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:02 Rick Valenzuela

An Olay truck advertising skin-whitener stops on Street 130 near Street 5. The slogans near the woman’s face read, from top to bottom: “Make your skin more white. Your skin is very white and smooth. You will really enjoy your white smooth skin.”

Thais extend migrants’ deadline

Photo by: AFP
A migrant labourer from Cambodia at work on a fishing boat in Mahachai, a settlement on the outskirts of Bangkok. According to rights activists, more than 1 million migrants in Thailand face deportation if they fail to meet a deadline this week to register with the authorities. Thailand has ordered all citizens from Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos to register and verify their nationality or risk deportation, part of an ongoing crackdown on immigration.

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:05 James O'Toole

THE deadline for Cambodians and other migrant workers in Thailand to initiate a process of nationality verification in order to renew their work permits has been extended to Tuesday, a Thai rights group said, though concerns remain about the threat of mass deportations potentially facing thousands of workers.

Sunday was to have been the deadline for Thailand’s 1.5 million registered migrant workers to submit documents expressing their intent to participate in nationality verification, allowing them to extend their work permits. Thailand’s Migrant Justice Programme (MJP) said in a statement Friday, however, that the deadline had been extended by two days, citing documents from the Thai Ministry of Labour.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said Sunday that he was unaware of a change in the deadline, and that such logistics were the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour. Officials from Thailand’s Ministry of Labour could not be reached for comment.

Following the deadline to initiate the nationality verification process, migrant workers in Thailand have until March 31 to submit biographical information to their home governments, allowing them to extend their work permits. The initiative, Bangkok says, will allow Thailand to better regulate immigration and give migrant workers access to government services.

Nationality verification is open only to the 1.5 million workers, including more than 100,000 from Cambodia, already registered to work in Thailand. Workers in Thailand illegally, as well as legal workers who do not submit to the nationality-verification process, will be deported, Panitan said.

“They are illegal workers. If they are arrested, they will be deported,” he said, adding that the policy is “based on the international practice in every country”.

Photo by: AFP
Migrant workers from Myanmar play a game outside their homes at Mahachai, on the outskirts of Bangkok, on Thursday. More than 1 million migrants in Thailand, including Cambodians, face deportation if they fail to meet a deadline this week to register with authorities.

Critics, however, say the policy has been instituted unnecessarily swiftly and provides no recourse for workers who have entered Thailand illegally.

“It is addressing regular migrants and leaves out the irregular migrants, and that is something that represents a threat of massive expulsions, with the obvious consequences of violations of human rights. That’s a great concern to me,” said Jorge Bustamente, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, in an interview with Radio Australia last week.

Andy Hall, director of the MJP, said Thailand has done little to inform workers about the deadlines facing them, and that registration is too expensive for many in any case.

“The Thai government has not published one page of information for workers about the nationality-verification process,” Hall said. “They have not published any material that is suitable for migrant workers to allow them to understand the process.”

Methadone treatment on the way

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:05 Irwin Loy and May Titthara

Plan awaits official approval, but logistical questions remain

PLANS are in place to launch Cambodia’s first methadone programme for heroin users, officials said, a move some observers pointed to as evidence that the government is serious about developing alternatives to controversial drug rehabilitation centres.

Approval of the implementation plan could come this month and possibly as early as this week, officials said. That would mean the long-delayed pilot programme, which would provide heroin addicts with the only government-run alternative to the rehabilitation centres, could begin in late April.

If approved, the programme would constitute “a major step forward” for the government’s approach to drug users and a potential shift from the existing network of “labour camps”, said Graham Shaw, technical adviser on drug use with the World Health Organisation.

“It does indicate that the government is looking far more seriously at evidence-based approaches to treatment,” said Shaw, who drafted the proposal. “They are willing to look more seriously at what really does work, as opposed to the punitive approach” of the rehabilitation centres.

The government has come under fire over allegations – denied by authorities – that drug users sent to the rehabilitation centres are subject to abuse and forced confinement while being given ineffective treatment.

Methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) replaces heroin with controlled doses of methadone, a synthetic opioid that has similar effects. Advocates say MMT allows drug users to stabilise their lives.

The one-year pilot programme would be run by the Ministry of Health, with funding and support from donors and NGOs.

The implementation plan is now awaiting formal approval from the Ministry of Health and the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD).

Meas Virith, deputy secretary general of the NACD, said the anti-drugs bureau is preparing to sign off on the methadone project sometime this month.

“Heroin users face health problems and have no time to work because they use drugs many times a day,” he said. “If they use methadone only once a day, they can go to work.”

If the programme proves successful, authorities envision expanding it to other provinces where heroin use is prevalent, he said.

However, questions remain over the logistics of starting a methadone programme from scratch.

A late April start date would demand extensive preparation in a short amount of time. Though some of the work is nearly complete – the renovation of a clinic at Phnom Penh’s Cambodian-Russian Friendship Hospital and the importation of methadone, for example – other crucial measures are not yet in place.

Uncertainty lingers over the availability of job training and housing for programme participants. Both are viewed as key resources that help drug users reintegrate and cope with addiction triggers.

“There are very few organisations that can provide services like accommodation and vocational skills training. This is the one major area that needs to be developed,” said David Harding, coordinator for drugs programmes at Friends International, which has been involved in planning the programme.

The pilot calls for a staff of more than 20 doctors, pharmacists, nurses, case managers and counsellors. Shaw said that employees have been “identified” within the Ministry of Health, but that extensive training is required to educate them to minimum standards.

The persistent questions surrounding salary supplements for civil servants also pose a challenge. The government told donors last year that it would reform a system that had seen donors topping up the salaries of some civil servants.

Both the WHO and AusAID, the development arm of the Australian government, which is contributing some funding to the US$350,000 pilot, have halted supplement payments, affecting plans for how staff members at the methadone clinic will be paid, Shaw said.

“Methadone is a restricted medication, and we don’t want it to be sold on the black market by anybody. You also have to be very careful with the dosing, otherwise you could in theory kill somebody,” Shaw said.

“It’s very important for these people to focus on their jobs. So if that means we cannot pay a salary supplement, we need to find other ways of ensuring these staff are supported.”

The pilot programme will be designed to reach 100 of an estimated total of at least 2,000 injection drug users in its first year, Shaw said.

Drug users currently have no government-led alternatives to rehabiliation centres. UN agencies are still in the process of drafting a proposal for a community-based treatment model. A local NGO’s licence to distribute clean needles has gone unrenewed since January, alarming advocates who fear a rise in HIV transmission rates among injection users.

Sam Rainsy charges draw criticism

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:05 Meas Sokchea and Sebastian Strangio

A COALITION of civil society groups has criticised the filing of new criminal charges against opposition leader Sam Rainsy, calling for a “political solution” to the current row with the government.

On Friday, government lawyers filed two more charges against the embattled Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) president, accusing him of falsifying public documents in order to prove Vietnamese encroachment into Svay Rieng province.

“In Phnom Penh we have charged him with two offences. The first is involved with falsifying public documents, and the other is for spreading disinformation,” Ky Tech, a government lawyer, said on Sunday. If found guilty on both counts, he said, Sam Rainsy could face up to 18 years in prison.

On Friday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 23 local NGOs, said the new lawsuits had shined a light on the shrinking of the country’s democratic space, calling for all parties to come together in a spirit of “national reconciliation”.

“CHRAC … urges our political leaders to mutually respect each other and negotiate with political maturity in order to address national issues,” the statement read.

The new charges come after Svay Rieng provincial court sentenced Sam Rainsy to two years in prison in absentia on January 27 in relation to an October incident in which he joined villagers in uprooting six temporary border markers in Chantrea district. Villagers alleged that Vietnamese authorities planted the posts in their rice fields.

In January, the SRP released what it described as “unprecedented evidence” that four Vietnamese border markers in Svay Rieng sit well inside Cambodia’s legal territory as defined by French and American maps.

CHRAC’s chairman, Hang Chhaya, said that using the court for an endless procession of lawsuits was useless and added that a political resolution would allow people to “live in peace”. “This is intimidation – it affects the democratic process,” he said.

“We must guarantee safety for people so that they can live in peace. Resorting to the courts for lawsuits like this is useless.”

When contacted on Sunday, SRP spokesman Kimsour Phirith said that, despite what he described as intimidation on the part of the ruling party, the opposition was not scared and would continue voicing concerns about the Vietnamese border.

“Their aim is to remove Sam Rainsy from the country so that he does not disturb their affairs which were done already. This is a political issue, not a criminal issue as they are saying,” he said.

Some observers said the new lawsuits were aimed at preventing the SRP leader from participating in the 2013 elections. “I think it’s a kind of threat, to give an example for other people who dare to do the same thing,” said Son Soubert, a member of the Constitution Council and an independent political analyst, comparing the attacks on Sam Rainsy to the treatment of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

“The government, for the interests of all Cambodian people, should seriously dialogue with the opposition. Instead of listening to that foreign country, they should listen to their own compatriots.” He added: “There should be a serious investigation of all the maps by a neutral party.”

The Vietnamese border issue last prompted a government crackdown in 2005, when critics came out in opposition to the government’s border-demarcation treaty with Vietnam – the basis, along with a 1985 treaty, for the current demarcation efforts.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the government’s offensive against Sam Rainsy was an indication that the situation on the eastern border was still a sore issue for Prime Minister Hun Sen even after the 2005-06 crackdown.

He also said it had distracted attention from Hun Sen’s own border stand-off with Thailand observing that the filing of the charges was bookended by two visits by Hun Sen to address soldiers at the Thai border and rally support for the military. “I’m sure the government is not happy that the issue is back again,” Ou Virak said.

Khmer Krom deportees lose NGO rent support

Photo by: Pha Lina
Khmer Krom deportees prepare food in a rental home Sunday, the last day they were to receive help with rent and food from local rights group Licadho.

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:05 David Boyle and Khouth Sophak Chakrya

THE prospects of 22 Khmer Krom deportees denied identity documents by Phnom Penh police last month became a little bleaker on Sunday after local rights group Licadho stopped paying for their housing and food.

“We have cut off the food and rental payments, but we will continue to support them with health services and coordinate with authorities to provide legal documents that they need to live in Cambodia,” said Am Sam Ath, a technical superviser for Licadho. “But we need them to find jobs to pay for their food and rent during this period, because we cannot support them forever.”

In January, Licadho agreed to pay for the deportees’ accommodation and food for two months while they attempted to secure identity documents, after being deported from Thailand on December 5.

Thach Soong, the group’s unofficial spokesman, said Sunday that he expected the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) to come to their aid.

“We do not know where we can live now that Licadho have cut off [payment for] food and rent for us, and the Phnom Penh authorities still haven’t made the identity cards and other legal documents,” he said.

However, Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR’s Asia spokeswoman, said that although the agency is sympathetic to the plight of the Khmer Krom, the deportees simply don’t fall under its jurisdiction.

“We don’t really have a role to play with the Khmer Krom because to a significant degree they have been recognised as Cambodian nationals, and we’re a refugee organisation,” she said. “We deal with refugees who have fled the country.”

The Cambodian government has previously said it recognises the Khmer Krom deportees as legitimate Cambodian citizens, but has also insisted it is unable to issue identity documents until they have a fixed address.

The Khmer Krom have repeatedly said over the past two months that they are too poor to rent property and are unable to secure property without identity documents.

When contacted on Sunday, Min Sothet, director of statistics and identification for the Phnom Penh Municipal Police, reaffirmed that the government could not issue identity cards without a fixed address.

Govt to help Thailand register legal migrants

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:04 Tep Nimol

CAMBODIA is cooperating with Thailand in its push to reform immigration policy and control the flow of migrant workers, Cambodian officials say.

Thailand has demanded that migrant workers register to renew their work permits by submitting to a process of nationality verification with their home governments. Those who do not register for this process by Tuesday will face deportation, Bangkok says.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said last week that Cambodian officials had been dispatched to Thailand to help facilitate the nationality-verification process. He was unsure of what would happen to workers who do not meet the deadlines.

“Right now we don’t know what will happen, but we hope that Thai authorities treat them ... in an equal and friendly way, and we hope that Thai authorities will not deport legal Cambodian workers there,” Koy Kuong said.

Chhea Manith, director of Banteay Meanchey province’s Banteay Meanchey Termination Centre, which deals with Cambodians deported from Thailand, said that more than 16,000 migrants had been deported via the Poipet border checkpoint during the first six weeks of 2010, after 91,268 were returned in 2009.


Kandal official killed in botched robbery

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

A DEPARTMENTAL director from Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district was shot and died in a failed robbery attempt in the early hours of Saturday morning, police said Sunday.

Kandal provincial police Chief Roeun Nara confirmed that Chhem Sambath was killed by two or three armed assailants near the boundary of Kandal’s Ang Snuol district and Dangkor district in Phnom Penh, in an apparent attempt to steal his motorbike.

A woman travelling with him, identified as Sin Nara, 38, suffered minor injuries, Roeun Nara said.

It was reported that the pair had been travelling on Sin Nara’s motorbike from a guesthouse in Dangkor district’s Choam Chao commune towards their home in Kandal, when they were targeted by the men en route.

The robbers demanded that the victim hand over the motorbike, but Sin Nara threw away the keys, and the robbers attacked the pair, shooting Chhem Sambath in the stomach and hitting Sin Nara in the head with a gun, police said.

Choam Chao commune police Chief Morm Hor said police arrived in time to disperse the group, confiscating Sin Nara’s motorbike as well as a second motorbike whose owner had not been identified.

He confirmed that Chhem Sambath had died on the way to Calmette Hospital. But police have yet to begin investigating the murder, due to an apparent dispute over jurisdiction.

Dangkor district police Chief Born Sam Ath said that officers from his district had confiscated the motorbikes to protect the victims’ property, but that they were not responsible for the investigation. “The incident happened in Kandal province, not in my territory,” he said.

Kampong Speu villagers protest eviction for plantation

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:04 May Titthara

MORE than 1,000 people in Kampong Speu province protested over the weekend amid fears they would be evicted to make room for a development by a sugar company owned by a Cambodian People’s Party senator, though local officials said families would not be affected by the company’s development plans.

The protest began on Saturday in front of the Omlaing commune offices in Kampong Speu’s Thpong district, and continued on Sunday before commune officials met with some of the commune residents to hear their concerns.

“Today, we are meeting with villagers to find a resolution, because Phnom Penh Sugar Company has the right to develop 9,000 hectares of this land, but we will not allow the company to take the villagers’ land,” said Omlaing commune chief Harb Dam.

Kampong Speu governor Kang Heang confirmed that Phnom Penh Sugar Company was owned by Ly Yong Phat, a CPP senator whose Angkor Sugar Company is at the centre of a land dispute in Oddar Meanchey province.

He said Phnom Penh Sugar Company had been awarded an economic land concession for the 9,000 hectares, but he could not confirm when the concession was granted.

Hi Hoeun, a 55-year-old protester, said many of the families had been living on their land since 1979. He noted that although the families had not received a formal eviction notice, they had grown concerned after 12 excavators and six bulldozers appeared on the disputed land last Thursday.

“We would like to ask the company to stop their 12 excavators and six bulldozers and wait for negotiations, because we want our rice and farmland, and we don’t want to get a compensation payment,” he said.

Ly Yong Phat could not be reached for comment on Sunday, and contact information for other Phnom Penh Sugar Company staff was not available.

Charge filed in beer poisoning

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Phat Dara, the mechanic who was allegedly beaten last year by a senior police officer.

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:04 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Friday charged a senior police official with unintentional murder in the death of one of his subordinates, who perished last week, apparently having consumed poisoned beer, a court official said Sunday.

Deputy court prosecutor Sok Roeun said Neang Sokna, deputy police chief of the Phnom Penh Minor Crimes bureau, had been ordered to serve pretrial detention, adding that he faced between one and three years in prison if found guilty.

In December, Neang Sokna was accused of assaulting a mechanic, who filed a criminal complaint against him. That incident occurred after the mechanic, 25-year-old Phat Dara, shouted at children playing in the street to get out of the way of speeding vehicles, witnesses said. Neang Sokna was reportedly one of the drivers, and witnesses said he stopped his car and beat Phat Dara on the head and hands with his gun.

Sok Roeun, who was at one point accused of offering Phat Dara a bribe to drop his complaint against Neang Sokna – a charge he denied – hung up the phone before a reporter could ask him about the status of the complaint on Sunday.

Song Ly, the chief of the Minor Crimes Bureau, said Sunday that Neang Sokna had been suspended since last December because of the investigation into the complaint filed by Phat Dara.

Neang Sokna denied any role in the assault, though 50 witnesses thumbprinted a statement saying they had seen him pistol-whipping Phat Dara.

Neang Sokna is now accused of organising a beer-drinking session that resulted in the death of 37-year-old Tim Satya, an officer in the Minor Crimes Bureau, and the hospitalisation of four other officers.

The beer is believed to have been poisoned. The four hospitalised officers have recovered.

Nach Try, Neang Sokna’s defence lawyer, said he was in the process of investigating the charges against his client.

“If I can prove that the court prosecutor’s charge against my client was unjust, I will request that the judge lift the charges against him during the pretrial investigation,” he said.

Lottery draws criticism

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 May Kunmakara

After previous gaming crackdown, govt permits sport benefit

ONE year after the government crackdown on sports gambling forced the closure of firms, including CamboSix, Sport Social Affairs Co Ltd launched the Cambodia National Sports Lottery nationwide Sunday amid criticism from the opposition.

A joint venture with Singapore-based firm PSC Corporation Ltd, which invested US$5 million, and the National Sport Foundation (NSF), the new lottery is operating under an exclusive licence received from the Ministry of Economy and Finance on November 9.

“This is not a game for betting.... It is a different system – a lucky draw,” NSF Secretary General Vath Chamroeun said Friday.

Some of the revenue raised by the lottery will be used to develop sport in the Kingdom, said Sport Social Affairs President Ly Hout.

The lottery “will play a very important role in the development of our national sport, and improvement of social affairs,” he told the Post, without elaborating.

In February last year, the government closed all sports gaming – both licenced and unlicenced – in a crackdown following a snap order from Prime Minister Hun Sen aimed, he said at the time, at stemming the negative effects of gambling on society.

The opposition Friday criticised the decision to allow the lottery.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said that he did not believe the government should grant a licence “because it violates rules”, whereas the government “said it would close down all kinds of gaming and lotteries”. He added that the venture was a type of corruption.

Mey Vann, director of the finance industry at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said the lottery complies with ministry requirements in terms of capital and transparency.

The venture would give 20 percent of profits after tax to sports development, he added, which Vath Chamroeun said would partly be used for building an international stadium in preparation of future bids to host international sporting events in the Kingdom.

Profit sharing
PSC Corporation will receive 29 percent of profits, the NSF will take 20 percent for sports development, and the remainder will go to Sport Social Affairs, according to the agreement, which also requires the Singaporean firm hold $500,000 in the central bank.

Mey Vann said the NSF would help add oversight to the venture.

The top prize in the new lottery will be $200,000, said Vath Chamroeun.

Workers at Apsara TV to discuss late salaries with station owner

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear

MORE than 100 Apsara TV employees are set to meet with station officials today in an attempt to resolve a dispute over unpaid salaries, station director Sok Eysan said Sunday.

Last month, about 200 workers threatened to strike on February 15 to demand salary payments they said had been withheld for more than two months by Solaris International, the French company that owns the station.

The strike never occurred, but staff members said Sunday that they had still not received their salaries.

Sok Eysan said he had reached an agreement with Solaris in which the workers would receive their salaries for January and February in four separate payments, adding that the company would then revert to its one-payment-per-month system for the month of March.

“I have the terms with the company to pay the salary to the staff, and I have prepared a calendar for the company to pay the salary to the staff,” Sok Eysan said.

“We have accepted the company’s promise, and on Monday I will explain to the staff about this so that they calm down about this problem,” he added.

In February, Syluom Dar, the director general of Solaris, discouraged the workers from striking, though she acknowledged that their payments had been late.

On Sunday, though, she said the salary issue had been resolved.

“It is a rumour to say we have a problem with each other, but I don’t care,” she said. “We will continue our contract until 2030.”

She added that she would not be able to attend the meeting on Monday because she had business engagements abroad.

An Apsara TV staff member, who spoke on condition of anonymity on Sunday, said he planned to attend the meeting Monday to see whether the situation would be resolved.

“I have worked at Apsara TV for three years, but I have never seen a problem like this. I don’t know what I and other staff will do if we still don’t receive our salaries,” he said.

Gambling on recovery

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Heng Chivoan

Locals in Bavet,on the border with Vietnam, watch performances at the launch of the US$100 million Titan King Resort and Casino complex owned by Royal Group Vice President Kith Thieng. Employing 500 people, the casino will increase competition in the gaming sector after a year in which revenues slumped on the back of the global economic crisis.

Hun Sen blasts TV5’s lineup

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng

PM says station fails to air his speeches or serve RCAF interests

PRIME Minister Hun Sen criticised the TV5 television station on Saturday, saying it broadcasts little about the military despite being partially owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Speaking to soldiers of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in Battambang province, the premier impugned the network for neglecting to broadcast his speeches at Preah Vihear and Tamone Thom temples last month, and ordered the Ministry of Defence to cancel its partnership with a private Thai company in operating TV5.

TV5 “has been bearing the name of the RCAF, but it does not broadcast the work of the army,” Hun Sen said. “I will not allow it to use the name of the RCAF anymore – just call it TV5.”

Hun Sen singled out General Neang Phat, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence and director of TV5, for criticism, saying that he had failed to serve the military’s interest despite his decorations.

“He has a lot of stars, but those stars are useless. They did not work and did not affect TV5’s programming, so please sell all your shares to me,” Hun Sen said. TV5 “has never broadcasted my speeches at all, even when I am visiting the army.”

The prime minister called on Minister of Defence Tea Banh to investigate the process of severing the association between the RCAF and TV5, or else shutting down TV5 completely.

Neang Phat said the joint venture between the Thai company and the RCAF had been established in 1994, adding that he hopes it will continue once TV5 makes changes in its lineup.

“We will try to have a meeting with the company to initiate reforms in our programming to produce more programmes related to the army,” Neang Phat said Sunday.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat said Sunday that he was not sure what percentage of TV5 shares is owned by the government.

NCT Jaram to step up biodiesel production

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Chun Sophal

NCT Jacam Energy Co will raise its biodiesel production to 600 litres per day at its refining factory in Kampong Speu province starting this week, said President Chheuy Sophors.

After the US$400,000 plant’s opening in October, the firm had produced just 100 litres of day due to a lack of jatropha, the plant from which the biodiesel is produced.

However, NCT has secured supplies of about 1,800 kilogrammes of jatropha per day from farmers in Kampong Speu, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces, Chheuy Sophors said.

“We will keep increasing our production of biodiesel oil in the coming years if we are able to buy more jatropha,” he said, adding that the target was 5,000 litres per day within three years.

“Farmers will grow more jatropha then,” he predicted.

NCT is paying farmers between $0.15 to $0.20 per kilogram of jatropha, according to company data.

It sells the refined oil at $0.80 per litre, or about $0.05 lower than the crude alternative.

According to a report from the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, 10 companies are researching projects to produce biodiesel, with just three – including NCT – refining between 300 to 500 litres per day, an amount significantly below rising demand for the renewable fuel.

Sam Samy, secretary of state in charge of renewable energy at the ministry, said the government supported the development of biodiesel production – by companies that respected investment law in the Kingdom – given the fuel’s economic and environmental benefits.

Local firm counts on chopsticks

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Chun Sophal

CAMBODIA Green Field Investment Co Ltd has invested US$5 million to build a factory in Kampong Speu to produce chopsticks for export to Japan, the firm’s Director General Chan Sophal said Sunday.

Production of chopsticks – from bamboo and wood – would begin in May to supply Hasiya Co Ltd, according to a deal signed by the two companies.

Ministry of Commerce Secretary of State May Thora told the Post on Sunday that although it was a good business plan, many other firms had attempted to export chopsticks only to suffer from a lack of buyers.

With 80 percent of the factory completed, Chan Sophal said that his venture would not suffer the same fate.

“We are not concerned about the lack of markets because our buyer is able to buy more than the amount we can produce,” he said.

The factory will have a capacity of up to 500,000 pairs of chopsticks per day, he added. Japan uses 3 billion pairs per year, 90 percent of which are imported from China.

“In five years, we hope that we will be able to supply around 10 percent of Japan’s total demand,” said Chan Sophal.

Group aids Hang Chakra’s family

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Hang Chakra appears at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in August 2009

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Kim Yuthana

AN advocacy group for journalists has offered money to the family of imprisoned opposition publisher Hang Chakra, as advocates renewed requests for a Royal pardon ahead of Khmer New Year.

The Germany-based group Journalists Help Journalists has offered to donate US$1,500 to Hang Chakra’s family, said Club of Cambodian Journalists president Pen Samitthy, who added that his organisation is facilitating the donation. In the meantime, the Club of Cambodian Journalists is also asking for Hang Chakra’s release.

“I hope that Hang Chakra will be freed soon. We also want to see their family members meet together during the coming Khmer New Year festival,” he said.

Hang Chakra, editor in chief of the opposition-aligned Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, was sentenced to one year in prison last June after he was convicted of spreading disinformation in a series of stories accusing officials of corruption.

On Sunday, Hang Chakra’s daughter, Hang Chan Pisey, said she held hopes for a Royal pardon before Khmer New Year.

“I would like to appeal to King Norodom [Sihamoni] and especially Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene for the release of my father,” Hang Chan Pisey said.

Amnesty is traditionally granted to some during national festivals, though the prime minister typically must first make a formal request to the King.

Police Blotter: 1 Mar 2010

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:02 Tha Piseth

A teenage motorbike taxi driver was struck in the head twice with stones in a botched robbery attempt, police in Battambang province said. The robbery happened Wednesday, when a customer asked the 16-year-old driver to take him to the Thai border. When driver and customer arrived at their destination, however, the suspect picked up two stones and hit the driver in the head with them. The robbery was ultimately unsuccessful, however. Police arrested the man almost immediately after the driver called for help.

A man in Kampong Chhnang province has died after he was beaten with a stick while going to the toilet. Police said the man was killed Wednesday after he was having a dance with a friend close to his village. The man took a break from the dance floor when nature called. Much to his surprise, he was beaten repeatedly with a stick and died. Local police described the incident as a “normal confrontation” between competing groups of gangsters.

A high school student in Kampong Chhnang province was sent to hospital last Thursday after a group of “gangsters” walked into his classroom and stabbed him in the head with a knife, police said. The assault reportedly stemmed from a playground argument between the 14-year-old victim and his alleged attackers, said police, who believe members of the group had been playing football together immediately before the violent incident. The victim was sent to hospital, and police have sent the case to court.

A businessman in Phnom Penh has been arrested after his business partner claimed that he was owed US$1,000. Police said the suspect failed to appear on his own after Phnom Penh Municipal Court first issued a summons. Police then went ahead and arrested the man Wednesday when the court issued another summons.

A man from Kampong Chhnang province has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after a court found him guilty of attempting to rape a woman while she was breastfeeding her child. The man was arrested in December, almost two years after the incident was reported to police.

PM wants businesses to support the troops

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Saturday called on officials across the Kingdom to arrange support for troops of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) stationed along the Thai-Cambodian border.

Speaking at the opening of new military buildings in Battambang province’s RCAF Region 5, Hun Sen said he hoped businesses in Phnom Penh and outside would partner with military units to support their activities. Businesses are to provide the units with food, medicine and other supplies, he said.

“Today, I would like to recommend that all provincial governors look for private companies in their province who can partner with military units at the provincial level,” Hun Sen said.

“The national defense movement after the encroachment on July 15, 2008, is a huge movement for the nation,” he added, referring to the dispute with Thailand over territory surrounding Preah Vihear temple.

Meas Yoeun, deputy RCAF commander for Preah Vihear province, applauded the new initiative, saying it would give a significant boost to troop morale.

“I think this is a good idea that will provide huge encouragement to the soldiers,” Meas Yoeun said.

During a trip to the border last month, Hun Sen offered harsh criticism of Thailand and its prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, challenging him to “swear on magic that could break your neck” that Thai troops had not invaded Cambodian territory in 2008, when tensions over competing territorial claims near Preah Vihear temple erupted into violence.

Although he called for additional supplies for troops stationed near the border, Hun Sen also said that Cambodia does not plan to provoke conflict with Thailand.

“The solution for achieving peace is communication, cooperation, and developing the long border, but any form of encroachment is unacceptable,” Hun Sen said.


More oversight needed: NBC

Delegates from members of SEACEN along with observers, IMF and ADB representatives pose Friday for a group photo at the venue of the Board of Governors meeting in Siem Reap. Photo Supplied

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Byron Perry

Central bank deputy director general says promoting the riel is also a priority


STRENGTHENING bank supervision and promoting the riel are the main priorities for the central bank for 2010, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) Deputy Director General Nguon Sokha said at a regional finance conference that finished Saturday in Siem Reap.

Following a difficult year in 2009 that started with tight liquidity and rising bad loans, Nguon Sokha said at the 45th annual Southeast Asian Central Banks (SEACEN) Governors Conference that the Kingdom had benefited from its location in the region that had recovered the quickest from the economic crisis that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

“We hope to improve regional trade and diversify the economy in 2010,” she said. “We hope to have small positive growth in 2010. The medium-term outlook is positive.”

Cambodia’s economy is also in a good position due to excess liquidity, she added, and the property sector has largely avoided the fallout from real estate bubbles that plagued other countries during the crisis period.

Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said last month that there was US$900 million in excess liquidity in the banking sector as retail lenders continue to struggle to find sound borrowers in the wake of non-performing loan rates that hit an average 6 percent at the end of last year.

ANZ Royal alone has $200 million sitting idle in the central bank, CEO Stephen Higgins said last month.

“Confidence in the economy remains strong,” said Nguon Sokha during the conference. “Moving forward, the NBC and the government will work together to strengthen bank supervision and promote our local currency.”

The central bank’s expressed commitment to improved supervision comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a December report that although the NBC has improved oversight through spot checks and other new measures, still more action is urgently needed.

IMF representatives, along with those from the Asian Development Bank, took part in the two-day Siem Reap meeting along with representatives from all ASEAN countries except Laos, which acted as an observer. South Korea, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji also sent representatives.

On the sidelines of closed-door meetings at the Sokha Angkor Resort, ADB Vice President Lawrence Greenwood said that discussions focused on strategies for exiting stimulus measures and low-interest rates that had been designed to spur recovery.

Cambodia has experienced flat month-on-month inflation in recent months as food prices remain depressed, but compared with the low bases at the start of last year, consumer price index inflation has started to pick up – in January, prices rose 6.9 percent from a year earlier compared with 5.3 percent in December.

Greenwood said the Kingdom’s economic prospects looked fairly rosy, adding that the ADB predicted a V-shaped recovery for all of developing Asia – including Cambodia – in 2010.

No concrete multilateral agreements were made at the event. But central bank delegates did vow to work together in their efforts to withdraw economic stimulus measures and set monetary policies, according to an NBC press release.

Banteay Srei villagers discover buried statue of Hindu god Vishnu

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap Province

FIVE villagers from Banteay Srei district in Siem Reap province stumbled upon a Hindu religious sculpture last week while returning from looking for wood in the forest, local officials said.

Tieng Sem, the chief of Banteay Srei village, said the villagers had been out in the forest “to collect small pieces of luxury wood left by loggers” and on their return they discovered the statue, a representation of the Hindu god Vishnu, the supreme god in the Vaishnaite tradition of Hinduism.

He added that the statue had been found about 16 kilometres away from the village.

After finding the statue – which is 1 metre high and 40 centimetres wide, and which Tieng Sem described as “very heavy” – the villagers contacted local officials.

“I touched it and saw that the statue is still in good condition,” Tieng Sem said, noting that it had been buried in a half-metre-deep hole in the middle of farmland that had been formerly used for rice but is now used to grow bananas.

“I think someone must’ve hidden it about two years ago,” he said, adding that rains during the past wet season had probably eroded the soil, partly uncovering the statue.

Officials have not yet been able to date the statue, Tieng Sem said.

Chrun Sophal, director of the broadcasting department at the Apsara Authority, said statues had been found in two locations in Siem Reap province last week.

In both cases, he added, the exact weight, style and era of the statue has not yet been determined.

“We will go to see on Monday and issue an acknowledgment letter to the people who discovered the statue and told us,” he said. “If we do not do that to encourage people, they will not tell us if they find statues later.”

CSX launch set for May, official says

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Nguon Sovan

THE Cambodia Securities Exchange will launch officially in May, officials said Sunday.

Hong Sok Hour, general director of the Cambodia Securities Exchange, said that the process to establish the CSX would be completed in early April and officially inaugurated in May.

“We’re preparing to register [CSX] at the Commerce Ministry. After it’s registered, we will apply for a licence at the SECC, possibly sometime next month,” he said, referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia.

An unnamed SECC official told the Post on February 11 that the CSX would be inaugurated this month.

The exchange would be housed at an as-yet-undecided temporary location ahead of the launch of trading at a new four-storey building in Camko City, a development on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

“We do not want to disclose anything about the interim building for CSX because it’s under negotiation,” said Hong Sok Hour.

SECC Director General Ming Bankosal said Sunday the CSX licence would not take long to process, and that the procedure had already been discussed.

Reservoirs to be destroyed

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol

THE Fisheries Administration is planning to destroy 170 water reservoirs in three provinces that have allegedly been built by private companies on state land, a move that has been criticised by provincial officials and civil society representatives.

Nao Thuok, director of the Fisheries Administration, said last week that an overwhelming majority of the reservoirs – 164 – were located in Kampong Thom province, while four were located in Battambang province and two were in Siem Reap province.

“They will be destroyed because they have been constructed in forest areas, fishing areas and in fishing communities,” he said. “Those areas are state property, and their construction can have serious effects on the environment and people’s health.”

But Chhun Chhorn, provincial governor of Kampong Thom province, said most of the 164 reservoirs in his province had been approved by local authorities, adding that their destruction could harm local agricultural output.

“We did this because it gives farmers the ability to harvest more rice, which is our goal,” he said. “The province and the government are going in different directions. They don’t contact or report to us about their plans, and the farmers may protest if they really do destroy” the reservoirs.

They never come to meet us, and they make decisions without consulting us.

Referring to Fisheries Administration officials, he added: “They never come to meet us, and they make decisions without consulting us. We do not know what to do, but I want to keep those reservoirs.”

Nao Thuok said only the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had the right to grant reservoir licences, and that any licences that had been granted by local officials were meaningless.

He added that only 16 reservoirs would be destroyed in the upcoming rainy season, and that the others would be destroyed “in the future”.

Tep Bunnarith, executive director of the Culture and Environment Protection Association, said he too was concerned about how the destruction of reservoirs could affect farmers, adding that he did not understand the motivation behind destroying them now, as many had been in place for years.

“The ministry should destroy illegal water reservoirs, but it should do this when they are built,” he said. “If they do this now, it can destroy resources, and it will also affect farmers who depend on the reservoirs.”

Chhun Chhorn said he planned to meet with officials from the Fisheries Administration to find out how to limit the impact on farmers.

Bun Tharith, deputy governor of Siem Reap province, said he knew that officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology had studied the two reservoirs in his province last year, but that he had no idea that the government would make a move to destroy them.

Forgotten form of theatre comes out of the shadows

Photo by: Pha Lina
Actors rehearse a sbek por performace of the traditional Cambodian tale Preah Tinavong and Neang Pov.

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Monday, 01 March 2010 15:01 Roth Meas

KHAM Sokneang grasps two wooden sticks attached to a cow hide that has been cut into the shape of a young man and painted in bright colours. He holds the hide against a black screen and shakes it while he rehearses his lines for his role as Preah Tinavong, a character in the traditional Cambodian tale Preah Tinavong and Neang Pov.

The rehearsal was for a performance at Chaktomuk Theatre as part of the National Drama and Arts Festival, held from February18 to March 1 to mark the lead-up to National Culture Day, which falls on March 3.

Although Kham Sokneang, 31, has practiced many classical art forms as a professional in the past 17 years, he said he had to dig deep and use all of his talents for the Preah Tinavong and Neang Pov performance, rendered in a type of Cambodian shadow theatre called sbek por (colourful skin).

“While we are speaking, we have to shake the hide to show that the hide is also talking,” Kham Sokneang says, explaining the difficulty. “When we bow down, we have to make the hide bow down, but we still keep talking.”

He said sbek por got its name because the cow hides, after they are cut into the forms of the characters, are painted with bright colours. In other forms of shadow theatre – sbek thom (big hide) and sbek touch (small hides) – the hides are unpainted.

Sbek por hides are medium in size: smaller than sbek thom but bigger than sbek touch.

Sok Mom, a professor of art at the Department of Art and Culture, said that although he has often seen the painted cow hides hanging on walls as decoration, until recently he had never seen them used in a performance.

“Older people always talked about how they used to perform using the coloured hides, and now younger people have started using them again,” he said.

Sok Mom said sbek por performances differ from sbek touch and sbek thom because the actor plays a bigger role.

“The actor can be a performer or a hide holder,” he said. “While the hide is being held, it plays the role of the character. But often the hide is set aside and the actor appears on the stage to play the role.

“The actor has to wear the same clothes as the character depicted on the hide, because sometimes they come out on stage and play the character.”

Kham Sokneang originally performed in Preah Tinavong and Neang Pov last year when the Kok Thlok Association of Artists reintroduced sbek por to Cambodian audiences.

“Our difficulty in performing sbek por is that we have to look at the hide and shake it while we are narrating,” he said.

Moreover, actors must learn how to synchronise with the rhythm of traditional Khmer music, moving fast when the music plays fast, and slowing when the tempo slows.

The president of the Kok Thlok Association of Artists, Eang Hoeun, 44, chose Preah Tinavong and Neang Pov for the sbek por performance in the hope that the story can illustrate the reality of Cambodian society in the present.

“In our society nowadays, many problems arise between a man’s first wife and his mistress, so this story can be educational,” he said.

Eang Hoeu said that when he performs classical art forms throughout the country, especially shadow theatre, he finds that audiences of all ages are always very interested.

“They want to watch this kind of art form. But the problem is that we don’t show it to them very often, so people pick up the modern arts instead,” he said.