Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Tuol Sambo improves: groups

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Prum Pel, 67, and his wife, 36-year-old Vin Thy, sit in their home at the Tuol Sambo relocation site in Dangkor district on Tuesday. Groups providing aid to the site, which houses roughly 40 HIV-affected families who were evicted from central Phnom Penh last summer, say conditions there have improved since it was first settled, though residents such as Vin Thy say they have not yet received sufficient vocational training.

We find that family conditions are better... and there is more dignity and hope.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:04 Cameron Wells and Phak Seangly

GROUPS providing aid to a notorious Dangkor district relocation site for HIV-affected families say residents’ short-term food needs have been met, and that they are making progress in securing long-term employment and housing, painting a far more positive picture of conditions at the Tuol Sambo neighbourhood than they did a few months ago.

More than 60 HIV-positive individuals from about 40 families were evicted from the Borei Keila community in central Phnom Penh to the site on the outskirts of the capital last June and July.

In August, four HIV/AIDS NGOs published a field report warning that the lack of food at the site was “potentially life-threatening”, and concerns about the food situation were renewed in a UNAIDS site visit report produced last November, which stated that access to “more than the minimum food package (rice, salt, oil)” was “crucial” given that most families did not have a secure income.

At that point, the families were receiving food packages from the World Food Programme, but that organisation’s commitment expired at the end of January.

Since then, however, the local NGO Caritas Cambodia has begun providing food packages, which are distributed by the Women’s Organisation for Modern Economy and Nursing (WOMEN).

Kim Rattana, executive director of Caritas, said the families are receiving 50 kilogrammes per month of rice along with “other nutritional foods like soy sauce, fish sauce, dry fish, soya milk and sausages”.

In general, he said, conditions at the site have improved since it was first settled.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Villagers relocated to Tuol Sambo, in the city’s Dangkor district, wash clothes Tuesday in front of new houses being erected on the site.

We find that family conditions are better... and there is more dignity and hope.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“We find that family conditions are better,” he said.

“They are feeling happy, and there is more dignity and hope.”

This assessment was echoed by UNAIDS Country Director Tony Lisle, who said improvements had also been made to the families’ housing and employment situations.

“There is better sanitation, housing and skills training,” he said. “The community seems much happier.”

Some improvements, however, have yet to be implemented. The families are still living in the green sheds that greeted them when they arrived at the site, although the construction of new homes is set to be completed in May.

And though many of the families have participated in a range of vocational training programmes, not all residents said these had sufficiently bolstered their incomes.

Vin Thy, 36, said she had preferred living in Borei Keila, where she could earn more money as a dishwasher and as a scavenger.

A vocational training programme run by the NGO Cambodia Knits has taught her to make finger puppets, but she complained that these only sell for 2,000 riels (about US$0.50) apiece. Given that her husband, 67-year-old Prom Pel, is unable to find a job as a construction worker, the family barely earns enough money, even with the food packages provided by Caritas, which are expected to end in August.

Yim Sam Art, 36, said he was happy at the new site, though he, too, said he was earning less. “Before I worked as a pork deliverer, and I could earn $5 for half a day of work,” he said. “[Now] I work 20 days a month and earn around 15,000 riels per day.”

Kim Rattana, however, said employment prospects for the families were improving, and that nearly all families had at least one member earning $50 per month.

“They work as moto drivers, construction workers and other work,” he said. He added that Caritas plans to remain involved with the site for another three years after it ceases to provide food packages.

Mealybugs cross Thai border

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Workers in Battambang province cut cassava in preparation for drying

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng and James O’toole

A PEST that has figured in the destruction of millions of tonnes of cassava crops in Thailand has spread to Cambodia, members of the Kingdom’s agriculture sector said Tuesday, sparking concerns that Cambodian cassava crops could be at risk as well.

Som Yen, director at cassava broker Malai Trading Company in Banteay Meanchey province, said he discovered cassava mealybugs – small, white pests that destroy cassava – earlier this year in Banteay Meanchey, where he estimated that they had destroyed between 300 and 500 hectares’ worth of cassava. Most farmers in Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district had been affected, he added.

“Due to Thailand’s experience with the mealybugs, I am concerned that they could spread to other areas, but we will have to wait and see the effects when villagers begin harvesting their cassava after the rainy season,” he said.

Pu Thu, a cassava cultivator in Banteay Meanchey’s Svay Chek district, said his land had not been affected by the mealybugs, though he said they had spread to other parts of Svay Chek.

“I don’t yet know what I will do to stop the mealybug from spreading into my area,” he said.

In Thailand, the Bangkok Post said in a report last month, cassava mealybugs are one factor contributing to a blight that the country’s Office of Agricultural Economics said could reduce 2009-10 cassava yields there to 23 million tonnes, down from an earlier projection of 29 million tonnes.

Private-sector analysts, the report added, predicted the yields could drop to as low as 20 million tonnes, with 27 Thai provinces and roughly 100,000 hectares of cassava crops affected by the mealybugs. With Thailand’s cassava industry worth US$1.5 billion annually, according to the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), such declines could constitute hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

In a statement released in January on the cassava blight in Thailand, CIAT described the cassava mealybugs as “sap-sucking insects [that] weaken plants, resulting in leaf distortion and lower root yields”. Mites and bacteria have also contributed to the crops’ destruction in
Thailand, CIAT added.

“These pests and diseases will place a huge strain on Thailand’s cassava production,” Tin Maung Aye, a cassava specialist in CIAT’s Asia office, said in the statement. “There will be widespread economic and social implications.”

Heng Bunhor, chief of Banteay Meanchey’s provincial agriculture department, said the government was aware of the issue but was still formulating a response.

“We know there is a white bug that has spread into the cassava plantations, but we don’t have a report about where exactly it has spread,” he said.

“The first step is that we have to educate people about the spread of the bug, and we must monitor the cassava seeds to stop the spread.”

John Macgregor, communications director for the Cambodian War Amputees Rehabilitation Society, which operates a cassava starch factory in Battambang province, said his organisation had been in touch with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Benin about obtaining the Apoanagyrus lopezi wasp, a mealybug predator, for introduction in Cambodia. These wasps proved successful in eradicating large numbers of mealybugs that caused a cassava blight in much of sub-Saharan Africa during the 1980s.

“We’re hopeful that Cambodian authorities will take appropriate action to give permission to bring [the wasps] in or bring them in themselves,” Macgregor said, adding that this measure needs to be implemented as quickly as possible.

“The main thing is that the solution isn’t held up by bureaucracy, because cassava mealybugs don’t wait for bureaucracy,” he said.

Khem Chenda, director of the department of administrative affairs for the Ministry of Agriculture, said last June that Cambodia had roughly 3.7 million tonnes of cassava under cultivation.

Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Activists seek aid for acid victims

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:04 Brooke Lewis and Mom Kunthear

CAMPAIGNERS have called on the government to ramp up health-care and rehabilitation services for victims of acid attacks, following a meeting between representatives of seven local NGOs and a delegation of American researchers in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

The meeting, organised by Cambodia’s Committee to Eliminate All Discrimination Against Women (NGO-CEDAW), was timed to capitalise on the attention being paid to acid crimes, as a government committee prepares to finalise a draft of legislation addressing the issue, said Dr Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the rights group Licadho and chair of NGO-CEDAW.

“As the government of Cambodia is drafting this new law, it creates momentum for us,” she said after the meeting.

Pung Chhiv Kek praised the committee’s focus on the imposition of harsh penalties for perpetrators of acid crimes and the regulation of acid sales, but said the government should also provide physical and mental health care for survivors of acid attacks. In addition, she said, public education campaigns should be initiated to discourage discrimination against victims.

Unlike most other countries, Cambodia does not have state-run burn units, she said, adding that NGOs currently provide medical care for most acid attack victims.

“We would like to see in the hospitals a special unit dedicated to providing a service for acid victims,” Pung Chhiv Kek said. “It’s not the duty of the NGOs, it’s the duty of the state to provide this service, and we would like to see this provided free of charge.”

She also said that many victims suffer from ongoing trauma, and that it is the duty of the government to offer them psychological support.

“Half of the acid victims told me they don’t want to live. They say they feel half-alive like ghosts or don’t want to go out in public because they feel like monsters,” she said.

Chhun Sophea, programme manager of the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, also attended Tuesday’s meeting and joined the call for improved services for victims. “You need to cover not only medical health but also mental health care and reintegration into society,” she said, adding that victims of acid attacks often lose their jobs or are unable to return to work.

“This is partly why a lot of people don’t even press charges,” she said. “They can’t afford to support themselves and cover legal expenses.”

The committee’s work
Teng Savong, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry and head of the committee drafting the acid law, said Tuesday that improvements to healthcare and rehabilitation services for victims of attacks had been discussed by the committee, but noted that the government had not yet allocated funding for such services.

“We have thought about those points as well, but we cannot force the government to do it quickly because it is according to the government budget – whether there is a budget for this project or not,” he said, adding that the law was a massive undertaking, and that state services for acid victims would need to be upgraded accordingly.

“I think that it is very good if we can have our own centre and free physical and mental healthcare for acid victims,” he said. “I have seen that acid victims do not receive much sympathy from the community.”

Teng Savong said he agreed with Pung Chhiv Kek that public education campaigns were needed, but said this was not necessarily contingent on legislation.

“I think public education should not need to be written in the law, but we can educate people after the acid law is approved,” he said, adding that the committee plans to consult with NGOs to create an effective public-education campaign.

The delegation of researchers from the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell University Law School were present at Tuesday’s discussion to collect information as part of a comparative analysis of acid attacks and related issues in Cambodia, Bangladesh and India. The team expects to release a report designed to help guide legal reforms in the three countries later this year.

Teng Savong said he would meet with the delegation later this week, and that he would welcome any suggestions it had for the draft law. “I am happy that the other countries want to help us and share information because to create an acid law is new work for us,” he said.

Swine flu vaccinations set to begin amid global warnings

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:04 Nathan Green


HEALTH authorities in Asia need to ensure they are prepared for new influenza pandemics, even as cases of swine flu – which has resulted in six deaths in Cambodia – are expected to decrease this year in most areas, an international symposium was told Tuesday.

Meanwhile, officials in Cambodia said a domestic vaccination campaign for swine flu, or H1N1, could begin as soon as today.

Dr Hitoshi Oshitani, a professor in the department of virology at Japan’s Tohoku University graduate school of medicine, warned public health officials meeting in Tokyo to be wary of both the H1N1 influenza pandemic – which he said had not fully run its course – as well as pandemics of other strains of influenza, which he said were likely.

“We still have to prepare for the second season of H1N1. In some places of the world the mortality impact could be much greater than in the first season,” he said. “We cannot let our guard down, and we should be strengthening our preparedness for the next pandemic.”

Oshitani said future pandemics might be more virulent than last year’s H1N1.

“A few years ago it was said more than a million would die if the H1N1 pandemic went worldwide. Fortunately, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was not so virulent, and the mortality rate was much smaller than we anticipated,” he said.

A March 18 report produced by the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, said that there had been 566 cases of H1N1 in Cambodia, resulting in six deaths.

About 300,000 H1N1 vaccine doses, intended to cover at-risk populations in four provinces, have been handed over to the Health Ministry by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and more vaccines will arrive to cover more provinces, Dr Nima Asgari, public health specialist for the WHO, said Tuesday.

He added that the vaccination campaign could begin today.

Swine flu worldwide
According to figures provided by Oshitani at the symposium, organised by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, the H1N1 pandemic had caused 16,813 deaths in 213 countries and territories as of March 14.

The H1N1 influenza strain was first identified in Mexico in late April 2009, and the WHO announced the pandemic on June 12.

It followed the comparatively more lethal H5N1 influenza virus, which caused a pandemic from 2004 to 2008.

Oshitani said the H5N1 influenza, or avian/bird flu, strain was still present in avian populations and causing sporadic human infections. Health officials in Cambodia reported in February that bird flu had killed thousands of ducks in Takeo province.

Dr Peter Horby, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, warned that the relatively low number of deaths caused by the H1N1 pandemic compared to H5N1 could lead to complacency among public health officials, but said this should be avoided. “People were expecting a 1918 pandemic and they didn’t get one, so the danger is that next time they will not be as well prepared,” he said.


Troops linked to sugar firm

va CAAI News Media

Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:04 May Titthara

SOLDIERS who have been deployed to protect land owned by the Phnom Penh Sugar Company in Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune are slated to receive financial support from the company as part of a controversial programme to forge partnerships between the military and the private sector.

Villagers say that former Khmer Rouge troops from Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Battalion 313 have descended on disputed parts of the 9,000-hectare plantation, after angry villagers burned down a company office Thursday.

Suon Ly, a villager who took part in the protest that resulted in the razing of the company office, said Monday that soldiers from Battalion 313 – formerly Khmer Rouge Battalion 37 – arrived to guard the plantation following Thursday’s incident.

“Today we saw a lot of former Khmer Rouge soldiers from Oral district and provincial police who have come to protect the company after we burned down [the office] on Thursday the 18th,” he said.

Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a programme that has seen businesses and government agencies partnering with RCAF units to provide them with charitable support. According to a list signed by Hun Sen on February 22, Battalion 313 is linked with the plantation being developed by Phnom Penh Sugar, which is owned by Ly Yong Phat, a senator in the Cambodian People’s Party.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat said Tuesday that he could not confirm whether Battalion 313 had been deployed to protect the land.

Also Tuesday, villagers accused police of making moves to prevent them from gathering outside Kampong Speu provincial court, where six village representatives are set to appear today for questioning over Thursday’s violence.

“Today the authorities invited all taxi drivers in Omlaing [commune] to a meeting and told them not to drive us to the provincial court tomorrow,” said Khem Vuthy, a representative, who added that the taxi drivers were told they would face harassment if they did not comply.

Authorities denied the accusations. “I don’t know anything about” the ban, said Em Sophal, deputy police chief of Thpong district. “I have no right to ban taxi drivers [from picking up customers].... It’s their own business,” he added.

Effects of Laos dam might be felt downstream: NGO

Photo by: AFP
The Nam Theun II hydropower station is shown in a handout photo released by the Nam Theun II Power Company.

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:04 David Boyle

THE conservation group International Rivers (IR) has accused the operators of the Nam Theun II Hydroelectric Dam in Laos of “illegally” commencing power production, and has warned that the dam could affect the Mekong River in parts of Cambodia.

Ikuko Matsumoto, the group’s Laos programme director, said Tuesday that the Nam Theun II Power Company (NTPC) had failed to honour compensation agreements with people directly affected by the 1,070-megawatt dam, and that the indirect consequences of the dam on fish stocks and water quality would flow downstream into the Kingdom.

“There has been no clear study done on what the real impacts are, but there definitely will be a backwater impact on the Mekong River,” she said.

About 6,200 ethnic minority villagers in Laos have been displaced by the dam, which will be operated by NTPC for 25 years under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme.

NTPC, which has a power purchase agreement with the Thai government, has estimated that the dam could generate US$25 million in revenue.

Aiden Glendinning, public relations and communications manager for NTPC, said Tuesday that his company had done nothing wrong and questioned the credibility of IR.

“We don’t want to go into the technical details that IR have proposed because frankly they’re so far off the mark we don’t even want to go there,” he said.

Matsumoto also slammed the World Bank’s defence of NTPC’s right to commence power production before fulfilling the requirements of the concession agreement, suggesting the bank’s position raised serious ethical questions about its involvement in the project.

“The Nam Theun II Power Company are fully operating the four turbines, and the water level is at its highest, and [the World Bank] are still making this stupid, technical argument that this is not technically and legally a commercial operation – that’s why they use the language ‘commercial export’,” she said.

The World Bank is one of several partners funding the construction of the dam.

Representatives of the World Bank in Laos could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Glendinning denied his company had commenced commercial operations.

“This is still really part of the testing and conditioning process, but we still have managed to obtain a sales licence, so instead of generating electricity and getting nothing for it we’re now able to sell our test energy. So that’s where we are at this point,” he said.

Police Blotter: 24 Mar 2010

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:02 Sen David

A 17-year-old man was serious injured when wedding guests argued with four soldiers in Kampong Cham’s Kampong Siem district Sunday. Police said the host of the wedding party rented four soldiers to defend the revelries. While the guest danced on the stage, one of soldiers ordered him to get off. After that, guests fought the soldiers with rocks, causing them to shoot their guns in the air. But one bullet hit a man who was having dinner outside the party. The police have detained three guests who started the argument with the four soldiers.

A money changer was robbed by two unknown men with guns in Kratie province’s Chhlong district Sunday. Police said that the money changer had prepared his money to take home, but that two men wearing masks took his cash by force. He threw rocks at the robber’s head but one robber shot and seriously injured him and escaped to take the money away safely. The victim said that he lost US$1,500 in the robbery.

A van transporting pure drinking water overturned in the road in front of the Phnom Penh Centre in Chamkarmon district on Monday. Police said that the van drove very fast and did not obey the traffic laws. The van overturned but did not hurt anyone and no passengers were hurt. But the owner of the vehicle was injured and sent to the hospital, and the drinking water spilled all over the road. After the incident the traffic was jammed for more than two hours.

A car owned by a Korean man crashed into a house and destroyed its door in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district Monday. Police said that the Korean is the owner of a big company in Cambodia, and that he was driving with two ladies. The incident happened because the driver drove carelessly and fast, destroying the gate outside the house. He and the two ladies were seriously injured. The owner of the house demanded money from the Korean to repair his gate.

Police in Battambang province’s Koh Kralar district said that three children were seriously injured by an explosion while they were looking after their cows on Sunday. Police said they found two bombs in the field and then started beating them as a game, after which one bomb exploded. Their parents heard the cries in the fields and sent the children to the hospital immediately.

Refuse Site: Scavengers want access to dump

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Refuse Site

Around 100 former scavengers from the Stung Meanchey dump site say they plan to protest in front of City Hall this weekend if they are not permitted to pick through rubbish at the city’s new dump near the Choeung Ek killing fields. Many of the scavengers had been supporting themselves at the Stung Meanchey dump for years before it was closed last July. Chea Seab, the group’s representative, said the scavengers had no way of earning a living because they had been denied access to the new site. “We collect scrap to sell so we can eat, because we are poor, but the waste field committee banned us,” she said. “We will protest in front of City Hall this weekend if they still continue to ban us.” Bun Sovann, who has previously bought scrap from the collectors, said officials working for the committee managing the new site had ordered him to pay US$100 to continue his operations. “I offered to pay them $70, but they disagreed,” he said. Committee chairman Leng Simen declined to comment and referred questions to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, who could not be reached Tuesday.

Conraband: Illegal wood seized in Siem Reap

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:03 Tep Nimol


Siem Reap Provincial Court has detained six suspects following the seizure of seven luxury SUVs carrying timber from Preah Vihear province to Phnom Penh on March 16, as part of a continued crackdown on illegal logging following a directive issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen in January. Ty Sovinthal, a court prosecutor, said the six men were involved with the transportation of 3 cubic metres of luxury timber and had been charged with transporting rare timber without the necessary permission. He added that the trial would await further investigations. Article 98 of the 2002 Forestry Law states that any person guilty of a violation could face one to five years in prison and be fined up to 100 million riels (about US$23,890). The arrests are part of a military crackdown that has so far resulted in the seizure of 10 cars carrying illegal wood. A further 400 cubic metres of timber were seized in Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district on Friday. In January, Hun Sen told an audience of military commanders that illegal logging undertaken by high-ranking officials would no longer be tolerated.

Villagers want to build within Angkor park

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear and Chrann Chamroeun

EIGHT representatives of more than 3,000 families in Siem Reap province’s Angkor Thom district arrived in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, hoping to call on Prime Minister Hun Sen and the National Assembly to allow them to build new houses within the Angkor temple park.

Koeun Keup, 28, a village representative, said the Apsara Authority, which maintains and administers the ancient temples, has prevented seven villages in Angkor Thom district from constructing new houses.

“The Apsara Authority officials don’t allow us to build more houses in the villages, and they told us that if we want to ... build new houses, we should go and build outside our village,” he said.

He said that the affected villagers had collected thumbprints and planned to present them with a written request to Hun Sen to resolve their problems.

“We don’t need more land, but we just want to have the right to build new houses on our land,” he said.

Koeun Keup said that Apsara Authority officials visit the village every month and pull down any new buildings that have been put up.

Eng Pis, deputy chief of the district’s Samrong commune, said that villagers wanted to build new houses when young couples start new families and leave their parents’ homes.

Soeung Kong, deputy director general of the authority, said that the rules were in place in order to protect the integrity of the ruins. He added that an influx of residents could “severely impact the beauty” of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

“The Apsara Authority is not the decision maker, but just applying the 1994 laws governing the Angkor Wat temple site and the preservation of the World Heritage site, which relates to the protection of beauty around the temple,” he said.

He said that when the laws were passed, around 20,000 people lived in the area, but that a boom in land prices elsewhere since 2000 had created incentives for people to move there. Around 100,000 people now live in the vicinity of the temples, he said.

Mondulkiri deaths blamed on flu strain

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:03 Chhay Channyda

THREE ethnic Phnong villagers in Mondulkiri province have succumbed to what health officials believe is a strain of flu, though village residents claim the anger of ancestral spirits is to blame.

Lek Sovannarath, chief of the communicable diseases control bureau at the provincial health department, said two children and one man who was “around 50 years old” died on Saturday, and that five others had since been sent to hospital after experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough, headache, vomiting and diarrhoea.

He said provincial health officials would run tests on the five who had been hospitalised, but he emphasised that the illness was likely a standard strain of flu that was easily treatable.

However, Phon Bun Sok, 24, a resident of Porpet village in Pich Chreada district, where the deaths occurred, said village elders believed they had been caused by spirits that had been angered when a woman who had recently given birth went out to take a bath.

“It is a belief. A woman who has just delivered a baby must abstain from going out to take a bath. She must bathe at home and stay at home for up to three months,” he said. “If we break this rule, the spirits will break us or make us have stomachaches or get another illness.”

Regardless of the cause of the deaths, Lek Sovannarath said he was confident the situation in the village was improving.

Cambodian’s bid for asylum blocked in US

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio

AUNITED States appeal court has blocked an asylum claim from a Cambodian who has said she fears ill-treatment at the hands of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), upholding an earlier ruling by the US board of immigration appeals.

A legal memorandum submitted to the US court of appeals for the ninth circuit on March 10 noted that the asylum applicant, Mealdey Suong, had claimed to be a member of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, and had stated in her asylum application that the CPP “threatened to kill her at her workplace” in Cambodia.

However, the court ruled that discrepancies between her testimony and her asylum declaration, including factual inconsistencies concerning the date of her SRP membership and the death threats she said she received, forced it to uphold the board of immigration appeal’s ruling.

“The Immigration Judge denied Suong’s applications for asylum and withholding of removal, finding that she failed to testify credibly in support of her claims,” the memorandum stated. It did not say when Mealdey Suong arrived in the US.

When asked on Tuesday about Mealdey Suong’s claims, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not know anything about the case, but that he trusted the US courts to make an impartial decision. “The US has enough knowledge about this case to make a judgment,” he said.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said he did not recognise the woman’s name, but that he would look into the matter.

In October, the court rejected the asylum applications of two other Cambodians, Kin Sombath and wife Prak Bunnary, who claimed to be SRP members. The pair, who entered the US during 2001 and 2002 without visas or other entry documents, also said they feared CPP retribution after they participated in a 1998 political rally.

The court rejected their claim due to a series of inconsistencies between their testimonies and those of other witnesses.

Hospital to provide funeral payment in vaccination death

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

THE parents of a nearly 2-month-old baby who died earlier this month after receiving a standard vaccination at a health centre in Svay Rieng province said they had agreed to accept 700,000 riels (US$168) from health officials.

Chhun Phally, 27, the baby’s father, said he and his wife had met with five health officials on Tuesday to negotiate the payment.

“They gave us 700,000 riels for my baby’s funeral. It is not for compensation,” he said, adding that he had originally been hoping to receive as much as 3 million riels.

“I agreed to accept because I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on this problem anymore, and at first I thought they would not agree to give us anything because they would be afraid that they would need to do the same thing if this happened again.”

The baby boy died on March 11, one day after he was injected with a tuberculosis vaccination at the Kra Sang health centre in Svay Rieng’s Romeas Hek district.

Pen Sona, the director of the provincial health department, said at the time that the baby had died not as a result of the vaccination but because of the parents’ “carelessness”, and that they should have brought the baby back to the health centre when his temperature rose after receiving the shot.

On Tuesday, he said officials had agreed to pay the 700,000 riels in order to resolve the matter swiftly.

“Actually, we don’t have a lot of money to spend on this death case, but we agreed to spend this because we don’t want to take time with them anymore,” he said.

He reiterated that the health workers had not been at fault in the child’s death.

Status of women must be improved in Kingdom

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Pung Chhiv Kek at the Phnom Penh headquarters of the human rights NGO Licadho, which she founded, photographed last year.

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:02 Dr Pung Chhiv Kek
Dear Editor,
International Women’s Day on March 8 gave NGO-CEDAW [Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women] the opportunity to emphasise once more the crucial importance of women in a society where they are, along with their husbands, the backbone of the family and the primary support of children for health and education.
A country such as Cambodia, struggling to alleviate poverty, cannot achieve harmonious development without the full contribution of women in every part of society.
The following are crucial to improving the status of women in Cambodia:
  1. good health, which provides physical and mental strength
  2. solid education, a precondition for a better understanding of one’s social and professional environments
  3. access to proper employment, which provides autonomy and, along with education, best protects against violence and other abuses.
We would like to urge the government to continue its efforts to target the weak health system that still allows a catastrophic rate of maternal mortality.
A lot needs to be done to improve the awareness and training of health workers, midwives and the general public in order to enhance health security for women.
Women are especially at risk during pregnancy or during sexual intercourse, if their husbands or partners are HIV-positive or have other sexually transmitted diseases.
Media awareness campaigns broadcast on radio and television should receive government sponsorship instead of being treated as any other commercial advertisement.
In addition, efforts should be undertaken to improve the number and quality of health centres in remote areas of the Kingdom. Attention should be given to providing basic equipment in order to better react to health emergencies that arise during pregnancy and childbirth.
The distribution of free condoms could also allow women to better protect themselves against STDs, and hospitals and health centres should be encouraged to provide free testing for HIV and other STDs, .
It is time to continue efforts in order to improve the currently grim status of education in Cambodia (decreasing resources, teacher shortage and lack of training, corruption, low-quality teaching, half-day schooling, high drop-out rate).
As usual, the situation for girls is worse than for boys, and drop-out rates among girls are much higher. Despite much-publicised government efforts, results do not match expectations: 67 percent of women above the age of 25 have not completed primary school compared with 46 percent for men.
The minister of education has already done a lot to increase the number of female students at all levels, however current figures show that the number of girls enrolled each year still lags behind the number of boys. According to official statistics, about 10 percent of children do not attend school.
Schooling for girls between the ages of 15 and 17 is more likely to be replaced by work because of the current levels of economic pressure and discrimination against women in the Kingdom.
According to official figures, 83 percent of women work in the informal economy, where their rights are not guaranteed. Among them, only 69 percent have an acceptable level of reading and written literacy (that figure among men is 84 percent). This gap has a negative impact on women’s ability to find quality employment. It reduces their access to information and their ability to defend their rights, to protect the level of their wages and to resist harassment.
Since there is no specific law to punish gender discrimination in the workplace, women often receive 30 percent less in salaries than men, while also facing constant challenges to ensuring that managers respect their rights, particularly with respect to pregnancy leave.
Furthermore, poverty, low education and lack of employment opportunities in rural areas encourage young women to leave their homes and work in high-risk labour markets (entertainment, massage and karaoke parlors, brothels), making them subject to exploitation and sexual abuse.
Let us work together to improve the situation of our women in Cambodia, and improve the future of our country.
Dr Pung Chhiv Kek, president
Send letters to: or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Ideas into action

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:01 Post Staff

Lift’s guide to directing your thinking towards positive change

1. Talk about your idea: Although the individual can have a great impact on society, people are always stronger when they come together. Find other people who are interested in the same things you are and talk about the opportunities and problems that exist in that field. By sharing your ideas with other intelligent and innovative people, you will begin to see what ideas might work and what ideas are flawed. Brainstorming is also a really important skill for the work place. Thinking with other people does not only mean that you tell them your ideas, it means that you accept their ideas and help to improve them. Take your idea to your peers and friends, and they will surely be improved.

2. Take action: Once you have a solution, an idea for a start-up, or an idea for an organisation or group, don’t wait to make it happen. Sometimes it feels like starting is the hardest part, but once you begin to get excited and engaged people on board, other people will want to join. Be enthusiastic about your idea. If you are applying for a grant or writing to students to join your cause, be a salesperson. If you believe in your idea, this should not be difficult, just put your heart on the paper. The key to getting anything started is to make connections with other people who believe in your idea, whether they are partners or financiers or potential clients, so don’t wait to meet these people, get your idea out there.

3. Make a plan: Once you have other people interested in your idea, make a plan. Sit down with your team and make realistic goals that you want to meet. For example, how will you promote yourself? Who do you want to reach? What do you want to change? What is your mission? Once you answer these questions and come up with a strategy, distribute the work amongst your assembled team. By setting exact goals, such as “we will distribute information to 10 universities in Phnom Penh”, you will feel like you are making strides even before your idea has become a reality.

4. Make sacrifices: If you really believe in your idea, you should also be willing to make sacrifices in order to make your vision a reality. This might mean managing your time differently or spending money in the short-term hoping for long-term returns. This also means you might have to do things that aren’t comfortable for you – writing letters to people asking for their investments of time and money or putting yourself out there to promote your idea. Some people are great salesman, but many of us aren’t. That doesn’t mean we can’t convince people in the potential success of out idea. If you have a well thought out solution, all you have to do is present it to people in an intelligent way.

5. Believe in your idea: Regardless of how great your idea is, you will almost certainly find challenges and obstacles along the way. Don’t let these problems impact your confidence. Perhaps you will need to change your idea a bit, but being flexible is part of being the process, it doesn’t mean your idea is a failure. Keep working towards your goals and finding new people to make your team stronger. Being innovative isn’t easy, but it is necessary for the improvement of society, change that is in your hands.

Taking action on the internet

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:01 Sidaroth Kong

Three important words can describe being young: energetic, energised and friendly. Young people are also known for being straightforward and creative. You should take advantage of your open-mindedness and kindness to do something you want and take initiative. Let your inspiration take control and take one step at a time on your way to reaching your goal. Visit the following Web sites to learn more about possible opportunities, how to take initiative and the available global support networks: : an informative online portal of available scholarships, training and conferences, and many more opportunities for information created for ambitious young people who have a desire to make an impact in their local communities or the world at large. With appropriate information and opportunities, young people can have greater impact and better develop their personal capacity. : a foundation that strengthens, supports and celebrates the role of young people in leading positive changes in communities around the globe. With this foundation, you can “Learn: access knowledge, tools and resources”, “Connect: network with like minds”, and “Do: take action for a better world”. : offers a safe and supportive global cyberspace within which you can explore, discuss and partner on issues related to human rights and social change, as well as develop awareness, leadership, community building and critical thinking skills through active and substantive participation with your peers and with decision makers globally. : online community of youth interested in global issues and creative positive change. Issues covered are youth media, culture, education, environment, globalisation, health and technology.

So think about some simple initiative within your capacity, set a goal and plan your journey. Some promising results of implementing your initiative will be critical thinking ability, developing self-confidence, accumulating knowledge and practical experience. These things will help you lead the life you want and be well prepared for your desired career.

PetroVietnam, Total paid govt $26m in Jan

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Motorbikes fill up at a Total petrol station on March 14 in Phnom Penh.

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:00 Steve Finch and Nguon Sovan

Oil and gas revenues mark huge increase on previous month

THE Vietnam Oil and Gas Group, better known as PetroVietnam, and French energy firm Total together gave the Cambodian government US$26 million in signature bonuses and social funds in January, an energy official confirmed Tuesday.

Declining to be named, the official from the Cambodia National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) told the Post that PetroVietnam had paid money to the government following the signing of an exploration deal for onshore Block 15. Deputy Prime Minister Sok An signed the deal with PetroVietnam officials on November 12 at the Hotel Intercontinental in Phnom Penh, according to press reports.

Block 15 is located north of the southeastern edge of Tonle Sap lake and mostly covers areas of Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces.

The CNPA official was unable to break down the total amount given by each company, but the revenues marked a huge rise on the $800,000 the government received in December, according to a presentation by Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary General Hang Chuon Naron, who spoke at the Cambodia Outlook Conference in the capital March 17.

The payment by Total related to the 2,430 square-kilometre Area III, the official said, an offshore block in an overlapping zone with Thailand that was supposed to have been agreed on in mid-2009, but has been subject to unspecified delays.

Area III lies within a disputed 27,000 square-kilometre area that cannot be explored until Phnom Penh and Bangkok agree on a production-sharing deal.

Last year Total officials told the Post that the firm would also sign with the government a 10-year conditional agreement for onshore Block 26, which covers a huge area of 22,050 square kilometres that extends southeast, from the capital to the Vietnamese border.

It remains unclear why Total made a signature payment to the government in January while deals for Block 26 and Area III are “still under discussion”, Jean-Paul Precigout, the main negotiator for Total in this case, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

Precigout did not respond on Tuesday to further questions on the issue.

According to Hang Chuon Naron’s presentation last week, the $20 million in combined revenues from the two companies related to signature bonus payments, while the remaining $6 million were for social funds, according to a disclosure cited as part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global standard for openness within the energy industry.

Laurent invests $1.6m in rice factory

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

LAURENT Import Export Company has invested US$1.6 million to build a factory to polish and package rice for export in Battambang Province’s Thma Koul District.

Lim Bun Heng, president of Laurent Import Export Company, said Tuesday that his company plans to build a factory able to process 300 tonnes of rice per day.

Construction will begin in August and be completed in December, Lim Bun Heng said.

“We hope that when the factory is built, the company will be able to export rice in larger amounts into international markets,” Lim Bun Heng said.
Pho Sambo, head of the Industry Office of Battambang’s provincial Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, said Tuesday, that 10 rice-processing factories have been built in the province.

“We support all projects to build such factories in the province, both at present and in the future, because we want our potential fragrant-rice products to be exported in larger quantities in the future,” he said.

Cheam Chan Sophorn, director of the province’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Battambang remains the country’s leading producer of paddy rice, but it lacks modern processing equipment needed for heavy export.

“I think that if the province has enough modern equipment and factories to process quality rice, rice exports will increase,” he said.

Battambang farmers harvested a total of 760,000 tonnes of paddy in 2009 and 2010 — 730,000 tonnes of rainy-season paddy and 30,000 tonnes of dry-season paddy — according to the provincial Agriculture Department.

Lim Bun Heng said his company processed and sold 14,000 tonnes of rice in 2009, 4,000 tonnes for export. The company plans to process about 25,000 tonnes of rice in 2010, he said, with 10,000 tonnes slated for export.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

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Vietnam trade expo

Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

VIETNAMESE traders will open a five-day products exhibition in Phnom Penh April 7, seeking to boost bilateral trade with Cambodia after a drop in 2009. The “high-quality products” exhibition, to be held at Mondial Centre, expects 200 companies and 300 booths, continuing a biannual convention that began in 2002, Le Bien Cuong, Vietnam’s Commercial Counselor in Phnom Penh, said Tuesday.

ANZ to offer bills by ATM

Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:00 Ellie Dyer

REPRESENTATIVES from ANZ Royal Bank and Electricite du Cambodage (EDC) are set to sign a memorandum of understanding Thursday to enable customers to pay energy bills through ATMs. Payments made possible by the forthcoming agreement, which was described as “landmark” in a press statement Tuesday, will be free of transaction fees. ANZ operates around 130 ATMs in the Kingdom.

ACLEDA deal delayed

Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

THE purchase of a stake in ACLEDA Bank by JSH Asian Holdings Ltd is awaiting approval from the National Bank and registration with the Ministry of Commerce, an ACLEDA official said Tuesday, but completion of the deal could be weeks away. JSH Asian Holdings, a subsidiary of Jardine Strategic Holdings Ltd, agreed to purchasea 12.5 percent stake in Cambodia’s second-largest bank from the Netherlands Development Finance Company, FMO, in December 2009 for an undisclosed sum. The National Bank was “very busy”, said Prom Visoth, senior vice president of ACLEDA’s legal and corporate affairs division.

Keep on moving up!

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010 15:00 Touch Yin Vannith and Sun Mesa

Life can be stressful when you are trying to balance a job and studies. Here are some ideas from other youths on how you can maximise your time.

1. Try to find work that is similar to your studies.
This way, the things you learn at each place will improve your performance at the other. Bel No Echana Jasmine, a chemistry student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh who also works at Western University, says, “I study chemistry and I work in a laboratory in Western University. Therefore, I can improve my skills in chemistry by knowing how to manage a laboratory, and I can get some experience by practicing whatever I study in class at my job.”

2. Get a job that requires a foreign language.
These days in Cambodia, applicants in any field of work are more attractive if they can speak a foreign language. Even if you have to do a job that you don’t really like, try to get a job that will allow you to practice a language such as English. “I work in Ilink International School as an English teacher, but my major is Khmer literature, so I have difficulty speaking. However, I can build my experience during my part-time job by learning how to teach English.”

3. Find a part-time job doing something positive.
Rather than just making some extra money, try to find a job that is involved with an organisation that is doing something positive for Cambodia. It might be a school, NGO or a socially-engaged company. “Before started my part-time job, I didn’t know what happened or what developed in my country, but now I can participate in the society and meet lots of people and take on more responsibility,” Bel No Echana Jasmine says.

4. If you have to miss a class, make sure you do the reading.
If you are trying to juggle work and school, you will occasionally have to miss one or the other. “Although I study two majors, I can manage both of them by occasionally saving my time by avoiding the lessons and reading at my house.” While Lift does not encourage students to miss class, it happens sometimes, and when it does, you can save your exam scores by hitting the books.

5. When the weekend comes around, take a break.
If you try to be super productive all the time, you will burn out at the age of 30 and go crazy. When you have some free time, do not feel pressured to do work. You have earned some time off. Sit down and watch a movie, read a book, or go out with your friends. You deserve it!

Slaughter on Sunday 30 March 1997

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Niagara paramedics heading to Cambodia

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Posted By Rahul Gupta Special to the Standard

For his upcoming holiday, Danny Kerr won't be spending his time going sightseeing or relaxing poolside.

Instead, the St. Catharines resident will jump on a plane headed for Cambodia to provide medical training to the locals.

Kerr is a member of GlobalMedic, a Canadian organization that deploys teams of volunteer emergency medical services workers who spend their vacation days providing assistance and training to disaster-stricken and impoverished areas around the world.

On April 15, he and fellow Niagara paramedic Shane Eickmann will join a 16-member team of paramedics, nurses, police officers and firefighters for a mission to Cambodia. For two weeks, the group will help set up medical clinics, provide vaccinations and administer basic first aid to Cambodians.

The team will also liaise with on-the-ground NGOs to deliver medical supplies and equipment, as well as provide emergency medical training and help set up water filtration systems. Kerr will also spend a few days providing advanced medical training to medical personnel from MAG, a landmine clearing group that has undertaken the task of removing some of the five million explosive devices from the country.

Kerr, who had some experience travelling to other countries for missionary work prior to joining GlobalMedic, said he was skeptical at first of the ability of the organization to make a difference on a shoestring budget.

"I had a meeting with (executive director) Rahul Singh and it sounded too good to be true to do all of what he said could be done without any overhead," he said. "But after doing my own research, I realized 95% of what he said turned out to be correct."

GlobalMedic requires its members to fundraise for their trips. To raise money, Kerr and Eickmann turned to various Niagara EMS organizations for support. Needing $1,000 each for airfare, accommodations and meals, the pair —with the help of a team of volunteers — co-ordinated a fundraising plan that netted almost $15,000 and secured two tons of surplus medical equipment for donation to Cambodia.

"Ninety nine per cent of our fundraising volunteers were from the Niagara area," Kerr said.

Kerr and Eickmann will hold a special party on Friday at the Port Dalhousie Lion's Club as a show of gratitude for volunteers who helped co-ordinate the donation drive.

In addition to raising funds for GlobalMedic, Kerr and Eickmann held information sessions to help get the word out about the agency. Their efforts netted a significant level of interest from the Niagara emergency services community.

In Pictures: 'World Water Day'

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By James Wray
Mar 22, 2010

A Cambodian fisherman stands on his boat at the Mekong river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 17 March 2010, in this picture made available 22 March 2010. World Water Day on 22 March 2010 focuses on the needs of the 900 million people who don’t have access to safe water. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says 2.7 billion people, including 980 million children, currently lack access to proper sanitation facilities and 880 million people go without access to a basic water supply. More than half of the population in the Pacific Islands do not have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation and more than half of the population in South Asia do not have access to proper sanitation. A staggering 50 per cent of all hospital beds in the developing world are occupied by victims of unsafe water and sanitation. EPA/MAK REMISSA

A Cambodian man washes his cows in a riverbed in Kandal province, Cambodia, 10 March 2010 in this picture made available 22 March 2010. World Water Day on 22 March 2010 focuses on the needs of the 900 million people who don’t have access to safe water. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says 2.7 billion people, including 980 million children, currently lack access to proper sanitation facilities and 880 million people go without access to a basic water supply. More than half of the population in the Pacific Islands do not have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation and more than half of the population in South Asia do not have access to proper sanitation. A staggering 50 per cent of all hospital beds in the developing world are occupied by victims of unsafe water and sanitation. EPA/MAK REMISSA

A picture made available on 20 March 2010 shows a Filipino child walking on a dried irrigation canal due to a drought by the 'El Nino' atmospheric phenomenon in the town of Molino, Cavite province, Philippines, 19 March 2010. World Water Day is marked on 22 March 2010. The official United Nations statement reads: 'The theme of this year's World Water Day, 'Clean Water for a Healthy World', emphasizes that both the quality and the quantity of water resources are at risk. More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war. These deaths are an affront to our common humanity, and undermine the efforts of many countries to achieve their development potential.' World Water Day has been held to celebrate freshwater annually since 1993. EPA/FRANCIS R. MALASIG
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The Number of Clients of Electricité du Cambodge Increased to 338,567 and the Power Sold Is 1,643 Gigawatt-Hours – Tuesday, 23.3.2010
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Posted on 23 March 2010.
The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 657

“Phnom Penh: A high ranking official of the Ministry of Economy and Finance said that in 2009, according to a source from Electricité du Cambodge,338,567 houses or offices were supplied with the power of 1,643 gigawatt-hours in Cambodia.

“The deputy secretary-general of the National Economic Council and a high ranking official of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Mr. Hav Ratanak, said during a conference about the prospects for Cambodian in 2010, organized on 17 March 2010, that, according to the documents of Electricité du Cambodge, the amount of energy that this institution received and distributed, rose up to 1,643 gigawatt-hours, increasing by 192 gigawatt-hours, while the number of clients increased to 338,567, going up by 23,034, compared with 2008.

“He added that in 2009, 306,898 houses of citizens, 2,184 clients who are foreigners, 26,543 businesses, 1,094 industrial sites, and 1,848 government offices were supplied with electricity.

“According to Mr. Ratanak, in order to promote the plan to develop electricity in Cambodia, Electricité du Cambodge set up a three-year strategic plan, starting from 2010 to 2013. He said that between 2010 and 2013, Cambodia plans to import electricity of up to 5,108 gigawatt-hours from Vietnam and 625 gigawatt-hours from Thailand. Besides, other possible sources of electricity are from Kirirom I, Kirirom II, Kamchay, and the A Tai river hydro-electricity dams, and from electricity plants using coal to generate electricity.

“So far, it is believed that only 17% to 18% of Cambodians have access to electricity. Based on these projections, 70% of Cambodians will have access to electricity by 2030.

“In the region, the electricity prices in Cambodia were considered to be the highest, and Cambodia is also the country with least supply of electricity.

“The prices of electricity being supplied in Cambodia by Electricité du Cambodge are about Riel 610 [approx. US$0.14] per kilowatt-hour, if the consumption is between 0 to 50 kilowatt-hours per month, but if it is 0 to 100 kilowatt-hours or beyond, prices range from Riel 720 [approx. US$0.17] to Riel 940 [approx. US$0.22]. And for citizens, who use privately generated electricity, it is more expensive.”

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5157, 23.3.2010
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Rights Defenders Under Attack: Groups

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By Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer
Original report from Phnom Penh
23 March 2010

Two international organizations on Tuesday called for the full protection of rights defenders and lawyers, who are often targeted with violence and lawsuits for their work protecting people from land theft.

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada and the Asian Legal Resource Center said in a joint statement the government should “ensure full protection to human rights defenders and lawyers working on land rights issues so that they may carry out their duties without improper interference.”

“We call upon the government of Cambodia to implement recommendations to carry out legal and judicial reforms to address the ongoing problem of impunity by guaranteeing the independence and impartiality of judges, prosecutors and court personnel in keeping with international standards,” the groups said.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the groups were not addressing “the current work of the government,” which has already undertaken “legal modernization.”

The government has also undertaken disciplinary measures against judges, prosecutors and court personnel who break the law, he said.

“They should have written a more qualified report to avoid the mistake of attacking the Cambodian government,” he said.

Rights groups in Cambodia say they are consistently under attack.

In 2009, Adhoc recorded 235 complaints against human rights defenders in courts, leading to 147 arrests, 89 releases on bail and 58 detentions. Adhoc also reported dozens of beatings of rights workers by police, with few of the cases acted on by the judicial system.

In June 2009, an opposition lawyer, Kong Sam On, resigned and joined the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, after the lawyer for Prime Minister Hun Sen filed a complaint with the national bar association.

Kong Sam On was supposed to defend Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua in a defamation lawsuit brought by prime minister.