Tuesday, 2 March 2010

There Are Nearly 500 Entertainment Places at Night, Most of Them Are Karaoke Parlors – Monday, 1.3.2010

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Posted on 2 March 2010
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 654

“Phnom Penh: At present, there are nearly 500 entertainment places in Phnom Penh, such as beer gardens, karaoke parlors, night clubs, discotheques, restaurants or other places where alcohol and some meals are served, accompanied with music, and female beer seller [often called "Beer Girls"].

“According to reports from the Phnom Penh Municipality, distributed during a recent convention to sum up the work in 2009 and to set the direction for 2010, big entertainment places include 76 beer gardens, 83 karaoke parlors, 10 night clubs, and 9 discotheques. Based on unofficial estimations by expert officials, there are around 300 other places such as clubs, restaurants, small restaurants, or places where soup is served like in beer gardens, where there are women to entertain the male guests.

“The above report went on to say that in Phnom Penh there are 142 hotels, 353 guesthouses, 8 [mainly poor people's building blocks, 54 massage shops, and 233 tourism agencies. 303 places were provided with tourism licenses, 91 new sites were opened, the validity of 266 sites was suspended, and 17 sites were closed because of armed clashes, sex trafficking, rape, and other disturbing offenses.

"It is worth to point out that in recent years, big and small entertainment places that run at night are growing like mushrooms. Some are operated in restaurants where the Phnom Penh police cannot easily control them. Sometimes it is only after problems have occurred that police could know about it. Entertainment places do not need any advertisements at present [to attract customers].”

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6896, 1.3.2010
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Monday, 01 March 2010

Cambodia rebuilds railway with Australian, ADB aid

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PHNOM PENH, March 2 - Cambodia will rebuild its entire railway system by 2013 with the help of the Asian Development Bank , the Australian government and others, its finace minister said at a signing ceremony on Tuesday.

"The project began in 2007 and it will be completed in 2013," Keat Chhon said as the Southeast Asian country received an additional $42 million loan from the ADB and a $21.5 million grant from the Australian government.

Keat Chhon said the ADB had already provided a total of $84 million in loans to help revive the 600 km network.

Another $13 million had come from the OPEC Fund for International Development and Malaysia had contributed 106 km of track worth $2.8 million.

"The railway has played a central role in Cambodia for more than 75 years and many Cambodians see it rightly as a symbol of development and a means of integration with Cambodia's neighbors in the Greater Mekong Sub region and the world beyond," said Kunio Senga, director general of the ADB's Southeast Asia Department.

He said the Cambodian railway would connect with the railway in Thailand, and through it with Malaysia and Singapore.

Australian Ambassador Margaret Adamson said railways would bring new investment.

"Good railways also help the environment and a community's safety by reducing carbon emissions and road accidents."

Toll Holdings of Australia signed a 30-year concession to operate the railway last June, she said.

"They will build Cambodia's human resources capability as well as deliver the railway services. Their presence, I am sure, will also encourage investment by other quality Australian and other foreign companies in Cambodia." prak.chanthul@thomsonreuters.com; +855 2 399 2102; Reuters Messaging: prak.chanthul.reuters.com@reuters.net))

Aid given for Cambodia's railways

In this photo taken Feb. 17, 2008, a Cambodian woman holds her sun as they ride on a homemade wooden cart for a transportation of using rail road at Tbeng Kpas village, Kampong Chhnang province, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Asian Development Bank and Australia on Tuesday, March 2, 2010, launched a multimillion dollar project to restore Cambodia's dilapidated railway network as part of a larger goal to boost regional rail traffic and trade. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

In this photo taken, Feb. 17, 2008, Cambodian villagers ride on a homemade wooden cart for their transportation of using rail road at Tbeng Kpas village, Kampong Chhnang province some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Asian Development Bank and Australia on Tuesday launched a multimillion dollar project to restore Cambodia's dilapidated railway network as part of a larger goal to boost regional rail traffic and trade. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – The Asian Development Bank and Australia on Tuesday launched a multimillion dollar project to restore Cambodia's dilapidated railway network as part of a larger goal to boost regional rail traffic and trade.

Funding for the effort includes a bank loan of $42 million and $21.5 million in grant aid from the Australian government, according to a bank news release.

Cambodia's railroads are in serious need of repair following three decades civil war and of neglect, with a 30-mile (48-kilometer) link to Thailand destroyed.

Officials at the signing ceremony said the upgraded network, to be operational by 2013, would create jobs and business opportunities; reduce road congestion, road maintenance costs and environmental degradation; and help farmers and manufacturers transport their goods to regional markets.

The ADB, OPEC and Malaysia had earlier helped fund the rehabilitation project which will cost a total of $141 million.

Heart surgery for Cambodian toddler called off

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By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/01/2010

Phin Ken holds his daughter, Socheat Nha at Sophy's Restarant in Long Beach last month. Socheat's heart condition is worse than originally thought and doctors have said the cannot operate. (Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)

Monday was supposed to be a happy day. Instead, the family of Socheat Nha, a 2-year-old Cambodian girl scheduled for life-altering heart surgery, was dealt a devastating blow.

During a preoperation examination, it was determined the girl's condition was worse that initially thought and a donated surgery scheduled for Thursday in Las Vegas was canceled.

"This unfortunately is not going to be a feel-good story," said Dr. William Evans, the cardiologist who tested Socheat. "The risk (for surgery) is too great."

Shortly after beginning testing on the child, Evans had a sinking feeling.

An expected narrowing of the pulmonary tract between the heart and lungs was missing. This led to high pressure in the lungs from oxygenated blood flowing back into the lungs rather than out to the body and has already caused a significant amount of irreversible lung damage.

After consulting with other doctors of the Children's Heart Center and Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas, Evans had to tell the family that Socheat risked a better than 50 percent chance of dying on the operating table with the surgery.

That's a risk the doctors couldn't take.

"We have to do the right thing," Evans said.

Evans was part of the same team that in December 2008, performed open heart surgery on another Cambodian, 11-month-old Soksamnang Vy, but this time had to turn away a patient.

Vy's heart ailment was much less severe; the hole in his heart was smaller and he did not have the same lung damage as Socheat.

Evans said if Socheat were a U.S. citizen, she would likely be given oxygen and put on a list for a heart-lung transplant.

Evans said that option, even if available, would have its own set of drawbacks that might be worse than no treatment.

Among those are the long waiting list (about 16 percent die while waiting for a heart), the inability to receive care in Cambodia after the surgery, and the low prospects of long life expectancy after surgery.

Evans said it might be a blessing that Socheat is not an American where "we would be hard-pressed not to intervene."

Evans did his best to paint a positive picture and wouldn't give a life expectancy timeline. He said Socheat could live many years as have other patients of his with similar ailments.

Still the prognosis is grim.

There was some disagreement between Evans and Dr. Paul Grossfeld, who did the initial assessment in Cambodia about some aspects of Socheat's condition, but a variety of sources place her life expectancy to range between 20 and 40.

She will also suffer from cyanosis, or bluing of the skin from the lack of oxygenated red blood, shortness of breath and fatigue, that will increase as she gets older.

The daughter of a rice farmer from Southern Cambodia with family here in Long Beach, Socheat was the third patient brought to the United States for surgery by local nonprofit Hearts Without Boundaries.

Her condition, however, was by far the most severe. And this is its first failure.

Hearts Without Boundaries founder Peter Chhun could barely speak and blamed himself.

"We brought this family here with great hope," Chhun said in a halting voice.

The prognosis drove home the problem of trying to properly diagnose and treat patients from long distances, especially from a country that lacks proper facilities and technology.

"It's a humbling reminder of what we're dealing with," Grossfeld said. "When we did the original evaluation, obviously we had limited resources. At that time, the hope was that we could operate."

Kenha Heang, a cousin who accompanied Socheat and her dad, said he was stunned and deflated.

"We had so many plans and so much hope," Heang said.

Heang said Phin Ken, Socheat's father, held in his emotion when he heard the news, possibly because he had heard it before when Cambodian doctors couldn't begin to assess Socheat properly.

Still, for someone who had gone from despair and resignation to delirious hope, the setback had to be hard. He came to the U.S. where he believed "miracles" occur, only to face a sobering reality.

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Tue, 02 Mar 2010
By : dpa

Phnom Penh - Road workers uncovered a treasure trove of ancient artefacts 10 years ago at Phum Snay in western Cambodia. Among the finds were jewellery, ceramic pottery and even human bones. But shortly after news of the find got out, looters moved in. Within a year, Phum Snay had been stripped bare and its archaeological worth destroyed.

Cambodian authorities are struggling to stem the illegal trade in plundered artefacts. A new colour booklet published by archeologists called the Red List aims to teach police and border officials what to look for.

The looting of ancient sites and temples is a long and common problem in Cambodia, which has to balance widespread poverty and inefficient policing with a rich cultural heritage that gave the world the magnificent temple complex at Angkor Wat, the drawing card for 2 million foreign tourists each year.

Experts say numerous temples and sites around the country have been hacked at and dug up in recent years by those looking to make money from unscrupulous buyers of Khmer statues and jewellery.

Dougald O'Reilly is the founder and director of Heritage Watch, an award-winning non-governmental organization set up to preserve Cambodia's heritage in the face of its wholesale destruction.

"The level of looting is almost unprecedented with hectare after hectare being illegally excavated and the resulting artefacts flooding the market," O'Reilly says. "Soon there will be little left to document Cambodia's prehistoric past."

Cambodian authorities released the Red List to try to combat this trade. It is an eight-page glossy booklet listing the types of Khmer artefacts most at risk of being stolen and smuggled out of the country.

The list was produced in collaboration with the International Council of Museums and is the sixth of its kind in the council's efforts to combat the illicit trade in artefacts around the world.

The publication describes the categories of artefacts to look out for and includes their key characteristics as well as illustrated examples. It aims to be easier to use for non-specialists, such as border agents, than previous documents, which contained lengthy lists of specific missing items.

Hab Touch, the outgoing director of the National Museum in Phnom Penh, says the Red List is a useful tool to improve the capacities of front-line officials.

"It is designed especially for police, customs officers and also people who are responsible for protecting cultural heritage to help understand what kinds of Khmer artefacts are now at risk," he says.

Hab Touch says the list's importance is underscored by the fact that protecting every historical temple and site scattered around Cambodia is practically impossible, which makes educating those who man the borders essential.

Some experts say the problem of looting has worsened since the collapse of the Khmer Rouge in the late 1990s, not least because its downfall allowed for development in areas that were previously off-limits.

Helen Jessup, a scholar and author of books about Cambodia's cultural heritage, says new roads and the clearance of heavily mined parts of the country, for instance, have opened up new areas to plunder. She adds that even some well-known Cambodian sites have suffered in recent years despite being policed.

She says, however, that she is optimistic about the impact of methods such as the Red List, provided the leaflets get to the right people. "They certainly help customs agents and border inspectors," she says.

The information should also reach tourists and other potential customers, she adds. "Then the honest guys would be forewarned," she says.

Hab Touch says an earlier watch list released in 1993, which focused on 100 specific looted items, resulted in the return of 10 of them.

Those pieces are now on display in the National Museum, and Hab Touch says plans are under way to publish a new book of all known missing items once sufficient documentation has been collated to prove national ownership.

But the recovery of stolen artefacts gives only a limited insight into the extent of the problem. Gauging its scale is an impossible task since the trade is by nature an underground activity.

The illicit trade in archeological artefacts is driven by the high prices commanded by items such as stone and bronze heads, particularly in the context of the country's endemic poverty.

One paper written by a Heritage Watch researcher four years ago analyzed more than 300 Khmer artefacts auctioned at Sotheby's in New York.

It found that the offer prices ranged from 7,500 dollars to almost 30,000 dollars each. Around 80 per cent of the pieces had no known provenance, raising suspicions that they were stolen.

Heritage Watch's O'Reilly says domestic and regional buyers account for most of the illicit demand for Khmer antiquities. It is because many items are small, easy to smuggle and hard to identify as ancient that the Red List may prove so useful, he says.

But the experts agree that a single document cannot counteract the demand for stolen Khmer artefacts. Given Cambodia's poverty, its inability to protect many of its ancient sites and its porous borders, the plunder of its cultural heritage is likely to continue.

Righteous suffering

Photo by: Pha Lina

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:02 Uong Ratana

A man with metal spikes impaling his cheeks marches in a spiritual procession marking the end of the Sinospheric Lunar New Year at Chhbar Ampov in Meanchey district on Monday.

Takhmao protest pre-empted

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Dangkor district police block protesters from the district’s Prey Sar commune along Chamkardong street as they attempt to reach Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home in Takhmao on Monday. Eight villagers were detained, and local human rights groups filed official complaints against what they called “intimidation” by police.

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:05 May Titthara

Police detain Dangkor villagers, activists in row over 18 hectares of farmland

EIGHT villagers were detained by Dangkor district police on Monday as they attempted to travel to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Takhmao to protest the alleged seizure of farmland they say belongs to them.

Villagers said that at around 8am, police blocked them along Chamkardong Street in Dangkor district, and that scuffles broke out when they tried to cross the police barriers.

Chhem Dara, a 40-year-old from Proka village in Dangkor district’s Prey Sar commune who took part in the protest, said police arrested eight villagers, including one woman, after accusing them of “looking down on them and throwing stones at them”.

“The police tried to prevent us from going to protest in front of the prime minister’s house and accused us of violating their rights,” he said. “We just want to get our farmland back to use together.”

Yeoun Oun, 44, who was arrested and taken to the Dangkor district police office, said the eight were not told why they were detained.

“We just wanted to protest in front of the prime minister’s house to ask for justice,” she said.

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for local rights group Licadho, said the police also prevented rights workers from taking photographs of the protest, detaining three for a short time.

“Three human rights activists, two from Adhoc and one from Licadho, were detained for a short time because they tried to shoot photos. Later on they were released and got their cameras back, but the police had deleted all the pictures from their memory,” he said.

“The authorities tried to prevent people from protesting by using violence. They should try to find a peaceful way to settle the problem.”

In a statement issued on Monday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC) said it considered the police action to be one of “intimidation”, adding that rights groups had filed official complaints about the incident.

“The photo-erasing is also considered as another act of destruction of official documents without any permission from the owners and without any legal basis for confiscating them,” CHRAC stated.

“The photo-taking by the monitors is also not illegal since they took them in the public areas.”

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Dangkor district police hold back two women from Prey Sar commune as they try to walk to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Takhmao on Monday.

The villagers say that 18 hectares of farmland belonging to 335 families in the community have been unlawfully seized by In Samon, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Interior. Yeoun Oun said the village had filed several complaints to government departments and the Municipal Court since 2007, but had never received a response.

She said the land was claimed by In Samon in 1987, but that it was not until 20 years later that the villagers were told that he had legal title over the land and filed court complaints.

“The authorities always say to us that we have no documents to show them,” she said. “If we had the documents we would not go protest, we can get our land back.”

In Samon could not be reached for comment on Monday.

But Prey Sar commune chief Khat Sokhai said that the villagers have no land ownership documents because the local authorities and land-management office recognised In Samon as the lawful owner of the land since the 1980s.

“Mr Samon has legal documents and the villagers don’t have any documents, so I don’t know how to help them get their land back,” he said.

Local police say the arrests were made because of violent acts by the protesters.

“We arrested the villagers because they threw stones and sand at the police,” said Oul Sam Ol, the police chief of Prey Sar commune.

The police chief of Dangkor district, Born Sam Ath, added that the eight villagers had encouraged people to take part in an illegal protest, and that three policemen were injured in the ensuing clashes with the villagers.

He said seven of the eight had signed agreements at the police station agreeing not to press their claims on the land, since it “already has an owner”.

Only one of those arrested, whom he named as Mao Soly, had refused to agree to the terms and could face charges if In Samon decides to press them, Born Sam Ath said.

“I tried to ask that [Mao Soly] be released, but I don’t know if the landowner will agree or not,” Born Sam Ath said.

“We acted according to the law, because the land owner has controlled that land for over 20 years and also has the legal documents.

“The people have nothing and tried to say that the land is public land.”

According to a report issued by local housing rights advocacy group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut in April last year, more than 120,000 people have been displaced by evictions in Phnom Penh since 1990 – more than one in 10 of the capital’s current population.

Military steps into Kampong Speu land row

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:05 May Titthara and Cheang Sokha

MILITARY police on Monday gathered on land claimed by residents of Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district who fear they will be evicted to make way for a sugar plantation owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, witnesses said, fuelling speculation that the land would be forcibly cleared.

Meanwhile, the senator, who owns sugar plantations in Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey provinces that were developed following evictions, confirmed he would participate in a newly announced partnership between businesses and the Cambodian military that some observers say could see soldiers used to further the aims of the private sector.

Representatives of Phnom Penh Sugar, the Ly Yong Phat-owned company that was granted a 9,000-hectare concession that includes the disputed land in Thpong district, arrived in the disputed area on Monday in the company of 10 provincial military police officers, said Vong Yuon, one of the villagers who lives there. He added that the party left without incident.

Doc Ren, a representative of the villagers, said the presence of the military police was likely designed to threaten them.

“They took the military police to threaten us ... but we did not allow them to take over our farmland, because our farmland is our food pot,” Doc Ren said.

Villagers had earlier camped out with food and water on the rice fields, digging in to prevent company representatives from appropriating the land.

“We brought food and water to the fields because we were afraid that if we left to go home for lunch, they would seize our land,” Vong Yuon said.

After an initial protest by the villagers on Saturday, a Sunday meeting with company representatives did not yield a solution, Doc Ren added, as maps clearly demarcating the land concession were not available.

Kampong Speu provincial Governor Kang Heang on Monday again dismissed fears that the land concession would affect the villagers.

“The company gets the right to develop 9,000 hectares in this area, but I promise that the company’s development project will not affect the villagers’ farmland because we marked off the villagers’ land on our map,” he said.

Ly Yong Phat said his company did not want to harm the community and was working to resolve the situation.

“We have to hold discussions between villagers and the company to find a peaceful solution, and to see whether, if their land is affected, they want to sell the land or move to another place,” he said.

Partnerships stoke concerns
Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a new programme in which businesses will partner with units of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) to provide charitable support. Ly Yong Phat said Monday that his Ly Yong Phat Company would be involved in the partnership.

“For our support, we will address some of the soldiers’ recent needs,” Ly Yong Phat said. “Our soldiers lack rooms and offices, so we will construct those facilities for them.”

In October, more than 100 families were driven off their land in Oddar Meanchey’s Bos village, Kounkriel commune, to make way for a plantation operated by Ly Yong Phat’s Angkor Sugar Company. Officials from the Forestry Administration and troops from RCAF Battalion 42 abetted the destruction of homes at the site, according to local rights group Licadho.

Such examples of the military serving private interests, though prevalent in recent years, may be “officialised” by the new initiative, said Naly Pilorge, director of Licadho.

“It has always been done in the past decade, but this is a little bit different because it’s official,” she said. “It does set a very dangerous precedent.”

Nick Owen, a Cambodia specialist at the Economist Intelligence Unit, noted that even if the programme is ostensibly voluntary, companies may feel compelled to participate, fearing unfavourable treatment by the government if they do not. The companies, in turn, may feel entitled to enlist military forces to pursue their own projects.

“There may be a feeling on the part of those companies that if they’re donating to the military, they may expect services in return,” Owen said.

Tan Monivan, deputy director general of the Mong Reththy Group, rejected the notion that the partnerships could lead to improprieties on the part of either private firms or the military. The Mong Reththy Group has been paired with the RCAF’s Messenger Unit and Military Unit 827, and Tan Monivan said these organisations will operate within the Kingdom’s laws.

“There is no harm in helping the military – we will assist them according to our ability,” he said. Discussions between the RCAF and the Mong Reththy Group regarding areas of specific need have not yet been held, Tan Monivan added.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said that military units are always vigilant against corruption and illegal businesses, adding that this will not change with the new partnerships.

“The duty of the military is to defend the nation – they do not have any power to protect illegal businesses,” Chhum Socheat said. “We have the law, and if [businesses] do anything illegal, they will be punished by the law, and the military cannot help them.”

For his part, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said a “culture of sharing” has long been a part of Cambodian society, and that the initiative is simply a way of formalising charitable donations from the business community that have occurred for many years.

Though he was unsure when the partnerships would be inaugurated, Phay Siphan said the companies’ support would likely come in the form of food, shelter and support for military families.

“We call it generosity,” Phay Siphan said.

Owen noted, however, that the programme could pose a challenge to good governance in the Kingdom, obscuring sources of military financing that he said are already “pretty opaque”.

“When the military starts receiving revenues from sources that aren’t under the government’s complete control, you do get these issues of transparency,” he said.


More military shows on TV5

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
TV5 airs military programming Monday. Prime Minister Hun Sen blasted the station Saturday for its lack of such programming.

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:04 Sen David

LOCAL television station TV5 has increased its military-related programming in response to criticism from Prime Minister Hun Sen over the weekend, said station director Neang Phat, who is also a secretary of state at the Defence Ministry.

In a speech to Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) soldiers in Battambang province on Saturday, Hun Sen said TV5 had not done enough to promote the military, and ordered the Ministry of Defence, which partly owns the station, to sever its partnership with Mica Media Co Ltd, the Thailand-based co-owner.

He also said that the station should not be allowed to continue running the RCAF logo or name.

Neang Phat, who was singled out for criticism in Hun Sen’s speech, said Monday that military-related programmes had been increased immediately, with three such programmes added into Monday’s schedule. He added that the RCAF logo and name would not change, and that the Defence Ministry would continue working with Mica Media Co Ltd.

“Today we have three [new] programmes in one day related to Cambodia’s military,” he said. “There is a morning show from 6 until 6:30, an afternoon show from 2 until 3, and at night we added one military news programme that will air from 7 until 7:30 every day,” he said.

“We did not change anything else, like the logo and channel name, but we increased some programmes following Samdech Hun Sen’s advice,” he said.

The newly scheduled military programmes replaced a music programme and two general news programmes, and military songs were added into prescheduled music programmes, he added.

A prescheduled military news programme showcasing Hun Sen’s involvement with the military as well as a speech delivered by the premier was broadcast on Monday at 1pm, and a prescheduled 10-minute programme featuring uniformed soldiers bare-knuckle boxing for exercise, followed by a speech from a military commander thanking the public for its support of the military, was broadcast at 3:05pm.

Neang Phat said new programmes depicting the daily lives of military personnel and their families are also set to be broadcast on the network soon.

Representatives from Mica Media Co Ltd could not be reached for comment on Monday.

WHO sees rise in reported cholera cases

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:04 Brooke Lewis and Mom Kunthear

THE number of reported cholera cases has increased by 95 in the last two weeks, a World Health Organisation representative said Monday, though a Health Ministry official described all cases reported since November as “suspected”.

The 95 newly confirmed cholera cases bring the total number since the outbreak began in November to 223, said Dr Nima Asgari, public health specialist at the WHO. He added that the uptick in confirmed cases did not necessarily mean that the disease was spreading more quickly.

“It’s very difficult to say – there has been an increase in reported numbers, but there has also been an increase in testing, so it’s hard to say if there has been a rise in the number of actual cholera cases,” he said.

The Health Ministry and the WHO announced at a joint press conference on February 12 that 128 cholera cases had been confirmed since November. That announcement followed criticism from doctors at a paediatric hospital in Phnom Penh who accused the government of downplaying the threat of cholera and failing to inform the public about the disease.

Prior to the press conference, Health Ministry representatives had declined to confirm the cholera outbreak, though doctors at Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital insisted that the government must have been aware of it because hospitals are legally required to report all cases they record.

Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, on Monday again declined to say that any cholera cases had been confirmed since November.

“There have been 223 suspected cases of cholera that have been reported. They have not been confirmed,” Ly Sovann said Monday, adding that the ministry would convene a meeting on Thursday to discuss the current state of the spread of acute watery diarrhoea cases along with diseases including A(H1N1) influenza, or bird flu, and A(H5N1), or swine flu.

Ly Sovann said the government was taking sufficient measures to prevent the spread of diarrhoea.

“The Ministry of Health keeps educating and broadcasting through the media to all people to protect themselves from having diarrhoea or cholera by boiling water and eating good food – and especially that they have to go to a health centre or hospital when they have diarrhoea,” he said.

Ministry reports rise in births attended by trained staff in 2009

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:04 Khoun Leakhana

HEALTH Minister Mam Bunheng said on Monday that the proportion of pregnant women who gave birth with the aid of a skilled health attendant had increased from 58 percent in 2008 to 63 percent in 2009.

Maternal health experts say increasing access to skilled health personnel for pregnant women is critical to lowering Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate, which is one of the worst in the region. The 2008 national census pegged the rate at 461 deaths for every 100,000 live births.

Speaking at the Health Ministry’s annual conference on Monday, Mam Bunheng said that 221,777 of 351,630 pregnant women recorded by the ministry had been accompanied by trained health professionals when they delivered.

“We have tried to educate people many times about the importance of skilled delivery births, and many pregnant women are aware of that now,” he said.

The Millennium Development Goal pertaining to maternal mortality originally called for the rate to be lowered to 140 by 2015, though Health Ministry officials have since requested that the target be raised to 240.

To meet one of the goal’s interim targets, Cambodia must increase the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel to 70 percent in 2010.

According to a report distributed by the Health Ministry at the annual meeting on Monday, a total of 984 health facilities nationwide were staffed by employees trained to handle live births, up from 967 in 2008.

Pen Sophanara, a communications associate for the UN Population Fund, said the Health Ministry would continue to work towards deploying midwives in rural areas, where the percentage of births attended by skilled personnel has traditionally been low.

US to help fight child sex trafficking

Photo by: Pha Lina
American Michael James Dodd (right) leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a hearing on January 18. Dodd, who was convicted in a separate case in August, told the court he was not guilty of purchasing child sex.

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:04 Irwin Loy

A SENIOR US law enforcement official has pledged Monday to boost supports aimed at curbing child sex tourism and incidents of human trafficking among American tourists in the Kingdom.

John Morton, assistant secretary of homeland security for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said his department has signed a “letter of intent” with the Cambodian National Police pledging to continue efforts to combat child sex tourism and trafficking.

“We in the United States are committed to making sure our citizens don’t come here and commit crimes against Cambodian children,” Morton said at a press conference.

“We are intent on deterring that kind of behaviour, on investigating those that do come here and prosecuting and sending them to jail.”

US law allows for sentences of 30 years in prison for citizens convicted of predatory crimes against children outside the United States.

So far, 14 alleged child sex tourists have been returned to the US to face prosecution, Morton said.

That includes three US nationals sent home last year after being arrested by Cambodian authorities on child sexual exploitation charges as part of “Twisted Traveller”, the US operation aimed at prosecuting accused American sex tourists who travel to Cambodia.

Last month, Michael James Dodd was returned to the US to face prosecution after he was sentenced in Cambodia to 13 years in prison on charges of buying sex from underage girls.

“Sadly, I don’t think that will be the end of it,” Morton said. “There are plenty of Americans continuing to come here.”

Morton said the ongoing arrangement between his department and Cambodian police will continue to honour pledges of training, joint investigations and implement a “long-term strategic plan to deal with these kinds of crimes”.

Roughly 2 million children are caught in the international sex trade, according to the NGO World Vision. US citizens, in turn, make up an estimated 25 percent of child sex tourists globally, according to the group.

In Cambodia, research suggests that while Western child sex tourists are prevalent, the majority of offenders do not come from the West. A 2006 study from the group Child Wise found that “local and Inter-Asian child sex offenders” are the most prevalent abusers in the Kingdom.

Apsara TV to provide salaries in mid-March

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:04 Mom Kunthear and Tep Nimol

EMPLOYEES at Apsara TV who have not been paid in more than two months will receive their salaries in mid-March, station management said Monday after a meeting with staff members, following threats of a strike at the broadcaster, which is owned by the French company Solaris International.

“We met with the staff to tell them that the Solaris company agreed to pay their salaries. The company has set the date of March 15 to pay the withheld salaries, and salaries for March will also be paid, but I don’t know when,” station director Sok Eysan said.

Syluom Dar, the director general of Solaris, was out of the country on Monday and could not be reached for comment. She has previously acknowledged that the company has been late in getting salaries to workers, but has also discouraged the workers from striking.

An Apsara TV staff member who attended the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity said he found the repayment terms acceptable.

However, another worker, who also declined to be named, said he was not yet sure whether he was satisfied with the repayment terms, though he added that he had all but ruled out the possibility of a strike.

“I will wait to see if many of the other staff members agree, and if so then I will accept as well,” he added, after the meeting had concluded.

SRP’s Mu Sochua to contest CPP in B’bang

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:04 Meas Sokchea

SAM Rainsy Party Deputy Secretary General Mu Sochua says she has taken up a post in Battambang as part of an attempt to erode the influence of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“We only have one competitor – the CPP. The SRP already knows this; therefore, we must prepare our forces from the grassroots up to the national level,” she said Monday.

“I am moving to Battambang, and I will dare to sacrifice my life for democracy.”

Mu Sochua said she will replace SRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, who is being transferred to Kandal province. The party says it has not decided who will take the vacated seat in her native Kampot province.

Although SRP President Sam Rainsy was sentenced in January to two years’ prison for his role in the uprooting of border markers and faces new charges of disinformation and falsifying documents, Mu Sochua said the party is as strong as ever.

However, Chheang Von, a CPP parliamentarian for Battambang, said that Mu Sochua would fail to attract popular support.

“Mu Sochua is not stronger than the others. How many people in Battambang know Mu Sochua?” he said. “There is nothing to be afraid of.”

At the July 2008 national election, the CPP clinched six of Battambang’s eight National Assembly seats. The SRP holds the remaining two.

Angkor Temples: Apsara goes searching for partners

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy

Angkor Temples

The government body that oversees the Angkor Wat complex met with development partners in a bid to secure resources that will support future excavation work, officials said Monday. Plans are in place for local archaeologists to partner with experts from ENRAP, or Knowledge Networking for Rural Development in Asia/Pacific Region, on future excavations, according to Mao Lao, director of the Apsara Authority’s Department of Monuments and Archaeology. “They will cooperate with us when we have excavation work in the future,” she said. Discussions on funding and a timeline for future joint excavations have yet to be determined, she said. Apsara Authority Director Bun Narith could not be reached for comment on Monday.

More protected land in Kampong Speu given to private agribusiness

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:03 Kim Yuthana

TWO more sections of protected conservation areas in Kampong Speu province have been allocated to Cambodian companies pursuing agribusiness development projects under a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen that was published this week.

The land in Aural district, which totals 17,650 hectares, has been allocated to Great Field International Limited and Yellow Field International Limited, according to the January 8 sub-decree , which was included in a periodic rundown of Royal decrees and sub-decrees published this week by the Council of Ministers.

The minority groups living in the area depend on forest byproducts...

Hem Sophy, the governor of Aural district, said he did not know how many residents stand to be affected by the development projects, though rights workers in the province said they were concerned that members of the Suoy minority group living in the area would lose land they depend on to support themselves.

Sim Chao Sok, an investigative officer for the rights group Adhoc in Kampong Speu, said private development would almost certainly lead to excessive clearance of the district’s forests.

“The minority groups living in the area depend on forest byproducts, and they need to hunt animals to support their families,” he said. “So the act of clearing the forest in the area by the developers could mean that both the environment will be destroyed and the groups’ livelihoods will be threatened.”

He went on to draw a parallel between the Great Field and Yellow Field concessions and a 6,000-hectare concession awarded to HLH Agriculture Cambodia, also in Kampong Speu’s Aural district, which has drawn criticism from activists who say it will harm Suoy families living nearby.

Sem Chao Sok noted that the government and HLH Agriculture Cambodia have promised that the Suoy land will be protected.

“HLH Agricultural Cambodia promised that they will not clear the Suoy families’ land,” he said, adding that the company would be required to put poles around land claimed by the families.

Officials see industry as key to FTA benefits

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A sign advertises engineering, construction and security services on Friday at Tai Seng SEZ in Bavet on the border with Vietnam.

The important thing [for Cambodia] is to get foreign money to foster its domestic industry."

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:03 Nguon Sovan

SEZs vital for growth ahead of full free-trade agreement: experts


FOREIGN investment in Cambodia’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs) is vital if Cambodia is to benefit from free trade with China, say senior ASEAN officials.

On January 1, the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area was created, reducing the vast majority of trade tariffs between founding ASEAN members and China to zero percent.

Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, as new members, must reduce their tariffs on certain goods to 5 percent and have until 2015 to eliminate the tariffs completely.

“The important thing [for Cambodia] is to get foreign money to foster its domestic industry. SEZ development in Cambodia is a potential way to produce exports for China,” Hidetoshi Nishimura, executive director of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, said at his office in Jakarta on Thursday.

Cambodian exports to China are dwarfed by imports to the Kingdom, and foreign investment in the nation has plummeted due to the global economic crisis.

According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), trade volume between Cambodia and China was US$480 million in 2009. Of that, only $13 million consisted of Cambodian exports to China, mostly agricultural products.

According to Cambodia’s central bank, foreign direct investment flows into Cambodia declined 35.2 percent to $514.7 million in 2009, from $794.7 million in 2008.

S Pushpanathan, deputy secretary general for the ASEAN Economic Community, said that for Cambodia to attract more foreign direct investment the country must have clear and transparent investment laws and a mechanism for business-dispute resolution.

“These are factors that investors think about before they put their money in a country,” he said.

He added that as labour costs in Cambodia are cheap, Chinese investors will be attracted to investment in the garment and textile industries here.

The business community seems united in regarding sucessful SEZs as important factors in the Kingdom’s economic development.

Yuji Imamura, Japan International Cooperation Agency’s advisor in charge of investment environment improvement at the Council for the Development of Cambodia, wrote in an email Monday: “For investors, SEZs are where there is basic infrastructure is in place. It is hard work for them to set up their factories outside SEZ areas.”

He added that so far eight of Cambodia’s 21 SEZs are in operation. Around 40 companies are manufacturing garments, textiles, shoes and consumer goods within the zones.

Imamura added that in the future, international investors will see Cambodia as an alternative to investment in Vietnam, as labour costs in the Kingdom’s neighbour have risen.

Chan Nora, secretary of state for the commerce ministry, said Monday that it is clear that SEZs will be a positive attraction for foreign investors as trade facilitation, such as import and export paperwork, is easier inside the zones.

Hirosi Uematsu, managing director of Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, wrote in an e-mail on Monday that since the start of this year, three foreign companies – an animal feed company from China, a Philippine snack food firm and an Indian food-processing company – have signed up to build factories, bringing the number of companies operating in the zone to 17.


Police Blotter: 2 Mar 2010

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:02 Tha Piseth

Police in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district rounded up 40 people they identified as “gangsters” from two communes. Authorities then called on the gangsters’ parents to listen to their sage advice. Police urged the parents not to cause problems that would rupture the fabric of society. Rather than being enraged, the parents listened to the advice and expressed disappointment at how difficult it had been to educate their children. Many of the children just don’t do as they’re told, they complained.

Anti-human trafficking police in Phnom Penh say they have managed to rub out an alleged bordello that was masquerading as an upstanding massage parlour. Police burst in on the Chamkarmon district business Thursday and arrested the owner, a customer and eight alleged sex workers. The head of the anti-human trafficking bureau told media that the house’s owner had placed a sign that read “MASSAGE” outside the establishment, but that inside, there was another service on offer: sex.

Police in Sen Sok district shut down an establishment that had been calling itself a coffee shop. But police said there were no steaming cups of java at this establishment – only sex. During the Friday bust, police arrested seven women working in the house and sent them to get an education. The head “barista” was sent to court and held in prison.

A 32-year-old father in Pursat province has died after he was accidentally electrocuted by fishing equipment he had borrowed. The man’s wife said he borrowed the equipment because the family wasn’t earning enough money fishing with their nets. Police found the dead man in the river, while his daughter was left on the boat crying for more than 20 hours after they pushed off from land.

Police are on the lookout for a 23-year-old accused rapist after a 24-year-old woman in Kampot province was assaulted last Monday. The alleged attack happened when the woman stepped out of her neighbour’s house to retrieve discs to continue watching a film. Police said the woman’s parents had discussed marrying the pair off, but the man’s parents refused. Now the woman’s parents have filed a complaint with local authorities.

Land Dispute: Takeo man arrested for trespassing

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

Land Dispute

A 45-year-old man from Takeo province’s Kirivong district was arrested on Sunday by police who accused him of trespassing on state land, though families in the district say the land is disputed and insist they have lived on it since 1986. Kong Kim Ly, the Takeo provincial Forestry Administration director, confirmed that Chhorn Sarith had been arrested, but referred all questions about the case to provincial court officials, who could not be reached for comment. Hor Nead, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said 25-year-old Kov Pisey was arrested on the same charge last Thursday. He said 43 families had filed a complaint accusing Forestry Administration officials of trying to evict them from a 150-hectare block of land, but that Adhoc had not been able to conduct a thorough investigation. “We have told the villagers to make a list of all of the families who claim to occupy the land,” Hor Nead said. Kirivong district Governor Tek Tong Lim said Monday that he had not been informed of the arrest. Takeo Police Chief Uk Samnang declined to comment.

Leopard Cambodia buys stake in ACLEDA

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:03 Nguon Sovan

LEOPARD Cambodia Fund (LCF) has acquired a 1.47 percent stake in ACLEDA Bank, it announced Monday.

The investment fund, together with two foreign investors, bought a 7.72 percent stake in the ACLEDA Staff Association Plc (ASA) at an undisclosed cost Friday, according to a statement.

According to LCF’s Monday press release, the purchase of ASA shares can be converted into a 1.47 percent stake in ACLEDA bank. The book value of the stake is about US$8.17 million, but Leopard did not announce the purchase price.

“We are excited to invest in ASA, which provides exposure to ACLEDA Bank, one of Cambodia’s most respected financial institutions and strongest local brands. It has a nationwide branch network,” Leopard Capital’s CEO Douglas Clayton said in the statement.

He declined, via email, to name the partner investors, saying they preferred to remain “low-profile”.

Svay Hay, chairman of ASA and vice president and head of capital market division at ACLEDA, said Monday that the purchase deal was completed on Friday. “It’s great to have a partner like Leopard Capital,” he said.

In December, Jardine Matheson announced it intended to buy a 12.25 per cent share in ACLEDA from FMO, the international development bank of the Netherlands, for an undisclosed sum.

Prom Visoth, senior vice president and head of legal and corporate affairs division at ACLEDA, said Monday that all the internal paper work for the purchase deal has been completed and was submitted to the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) last week.

“The NBC promised to give approval this week and after which it will be filed for registration at the Ministry of Commerce. The process should be finished around mid-March,” he said.

Ratanakkiri villagers say dams have drained rivers

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

ENVIRONMENTALISTS and representatives of communities in remote parts of Ratanakkiri province say the waters of the Sesan and Srepok rivers have dropped to unseasonably low levels, something they claim is linked to the development of hydropower dams along tributaries of the Mekong.

Poy Suoth, 54, a representative from Tonle Sesan village in Ratanakkiri’s Veun Sai district, said on Monday that her community has grown concerned since members saw fish dying because water levels were too low. “This is not caused by climate change. It is caused by hydropower dam construction in some countries, like Laos, Thailand and Vietnam,” she said.

The 3S Rivers Protection Network and community representatives held a meeting in Veun Sai district on Monday to discuss how women in particular stand to be affected by the construction of hydropower dams.

Nen Sokith, 23, who represents a community from the banks of the Srepok River, said that some parts of the river were so depleted that people could not bathe.

“Some of our villagers have contracted diarrhoea and skin diseases after using the raw water they took from the river,” she said.

Meach Mean, coordinator of the 3S Rivers Protection Network, said on Monday that people living in the area of the planned Lower Sesan II dam were especially concerned about environmental effects.

Ith Praing, secretary of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Irrigation projects worth $19.8m to proceed

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:03 Soeun Say

IRRIGATION projects worth US$19.8 million have been approved by the government and should be completed by the end of the year, an official of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology (MWRM) said Monday.

According to a ministry report, 16 projects in 13 provinces will begin or resume in 2010, benefiting 28,105 families.

Chan Yutha, director of MWRM’s cabinet, said: “The projects, which use the ministry’s facilities and machinery, will be completed by the end of this year – if they are not disturbed by preseason rainfall.”

The projects are in Kampong Speu, Svay Rieng, Banteay Meanchey, Prey Veng, Battambang, Takeo, Kampong Cham, Kampot, Kampong Thom, Kandal, Pursat, Oddar Meanchey and Koh Kong provinces.

The report also stated that the ministry has approved another three schemes to be prioritised in 2011.

On February 3, Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the opening of the construction site for the Kam Haut irrigation system in Battambang province that the government will spend $310 million to build irrigation systems for this year and 2011 in a bid to boost rice exports.

Cambodia has 2.5 million hectares of land for growing paddy, but a lack of irrigation means farmers can typically harvest only once a year at average yields of less than 3 tonnes per hectare.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries estimates that Cambodia produced 7.2 million tonnes of paddy in 2009, of which 3.3 million tonnes was surplus and available for export.

Yang Saing Koma, president of the Cambodian Centre for Study and Development in Agriculture, said Cambodia has the potential to match the 4 million to 5 million tonnes of rice Vietnam exports per year, if appropriate investment is made in infrastructure. Training is also essential, he added.

Govt might let Thais assess mental state of man who laid mines

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng

CAMBODIA is weighing a request from Thai officials seeking to conduct a mental health assessment of a Thai man convicted of laying land mines along the two countries’ shared border, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

Koy Kuong said the request had been sent on February 24, though he noted that it did not specify when Thailand wanted to send a medical team to conduct the assessment of Suphap Vong Pakna, who Bangkok has said suffers from unspecified mental health problems.

A military court sentenced Suphap to 20 years in prison last month after he confessed to planting land mines along a contested border area before his arrest in Oddar Meanchey province last year.

“We received the request from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh on February 25, and now it is still under our consideration,” Koy Kuong said.

Thai media have suggested the Thai government believes it could ask for a reduction in Suphap’s sentence if he is judged to have mental health issues, but officials declined to speculate on that point last week.

Meanwhile, Suphap’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, said a meeting with his client scheduled for Friday, during which they were planning to discuss the possibility of lodging an appeal, had been cancelled because no translator was available.

“I couldn’t meet my client as scheduled on Friday because I was not able to find funds for a Thai translator,” Sam Sokong said. “Now I am planning to write a request to ask for a translator from the military prison authorities.”

Sam Sokong, who works for the legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, said he had not received any information from Thai officials in Phnom Penh or Bangkok about the request for a mental health assessment.

Prudential in talks to buy AIA

People walk out of AIA tower Monday in Hong Kong. Prudential would become the largest non-Chinese insurer in sealing the AIA deal. AFP

An acquisition of this size would probably need equity financing."--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Tuesday, 02 March 2010 15:02 Zachary R Mider and Kevin Crowley

Deal for AIG’s Asia unit – at more than $35 billion – would be biggest in industry


AMERICAN International Group Inc (AIG) is in talks to sell a Hong Kong life insurance division to Prudential Plc for more than US$35 billion, marking AIG’s largest asset sale since US taxpayers bailed out the company in 2008, people briefed on the matter said.

AIG and Prudential aim to reach an agreement to sell American International Assurance Co in the coming days, although the talks could always collapse, the people said, declining to be identified because the matter is private. Prudential is offering about $25 billion of cash, which it would raise by issuing equity, and the remainder in stock, one of the people said. The price is about 50 percent more than Prudential’s own market capitalisation.

The sale, the biggest in the insurance industry excluding government bailouts, would be a change of course for AIG, which had planned an initial public offering for the unit to help repay its $182.3 billion rescue. Though AIG executives believe an IPO would have a value similar to Prudential’s offer, the sale offers more cash up front, one of the people said.

“Strategically it’s probably the right move” for Prudential, said Justin Urquhart Stewart, who oversees about $3.3 billion as director of 7 Investment Management in London, including Prudential shares. “It puts them into a different league."

Prudential Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam was in New York last week meeting with AIG executives to discuss the bid, one of the people said. Thiam said on February 17 that he wants to raise the proportion of sales from Asia to 80 percent by 2015 from 50 percent now. Prudential operates in 13 Asian nations and is seeking to offset slower growth in the UK market.

London-based Prudential has a market value of £15.3 billion ($23.3 billion). The stock has more than doubled in the past year. The shares rose 2.3 percent to £6.025 in London trading on Friday. The company has an A+ credit rating with a negative outlook at Standard & Poor’s and an A2 rating with a negative outlook at Moody’s Investors Service.

“Prudential has a very strong capital position, but an acquisition of this size would probably need equity financing to support it,” said Antonello Aquino, a senior credit analyst at Moody’s, who follows European insurers.

Prudential is working with Credit Suisse Group AG, HSBC Holdings Plc and JPMorgan Chase & Co on a share sale to fund the purchase, one of the people said. Sky News first reported the negotiations on Thursday. Lazard Ltd is also advising Prudential, the person said.

The UK insurer plans a $20 billion rights offering to finance the purchase, Reuters reported. Lloyds Banking Group Plc completed the United Kingdom’s biggest rights offering in December, raising £13.5 billion.

AIG said last May that it would pursue an IPO of AIA after an auction of the business failed to turn up bids that matched what AIG executives thought the company was worth. That included a bid from Prudential that valued AIA at about $15 billion, one of the people said.

Prudential spokesman Ed Brewster declined to comment, as did AIG spokesman Mark Herr.

The sum raised in the sale would exceed the total of more than 20 other asset sales announced by AIG, which has struck deals to raise more than $12 billion by selling units. BLOOMBERG