Thursday, 25 March 2010

Ex-Khmer Rouge leader out of hospital

In this photo taken, April 3, 2009, Khieu Samphan, right, a former Khmer Rouge head of state, sits in a dock during a hearing at the U.N.-backed genocide tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. An official with a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal on Thursday, March 25, 2010, says the Khmer Rouge's former head of state has been hospitalized for more than 10 days after contracting a cold.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

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Associated Press

An official with a U.N.-backed genocide tribunal says the Khmer Rouge's former head of state has returned to detention after being hospitalized for about 10 days.

Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen says that 78-year-old Khieu Samphan was admitted March 14 after catching a cold. He was released from the hospital on Thursday.

He is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder, torture and genocide for the regime's reign of terror in Cambodia in the mid-1970s.

He and three other defendants are expected to be brought to trial by the end of this year or early next year.

But many fear the former leaders, all of them aging, may die before the drawn-out legal proceedings are completed.

Cambodians to march against rising hemlines

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PHNOM PENH (March 26): Teachers and students from schools in the capital plan to march this weekend in an effort to persuade the government to ban creeping hemlines on schoolgirls' skirts, local media reported Thursday.

The Khmer Teachers' Association said the protest, which will involve around 300 teachers and students, would help to protect local culture from foreign influences.

"I want to improve and retain the Khmer culture that we had many years ago - some Khmer women have changed their manner by copying other cultures and wearing short skirts or sexy clothes in schools and public places," the body's director Sean Bunheang said.

He told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that such influences could destroy Cambodian culture, and wants the Ministry of Education to ban schoolgirls from wearing skirts that sit above the knee. He said the ministry ought to take measures against students who continue to dress contrary to custom.

"I see that some female students don't wear the Khmer student uniform," he added. "It seems like a Western uniform."

Ouch Sophorn, a 23-year-old male English literature student, said he noticed many female students wearing short skirts. "We always turn back to see them," he admitted. "I like to see them wearing short skirts, but I wouldn't want my sister or my girlfriends to do that. I think it is not our tradition."

An official at the Ministry of Education said existing rules decreed that female students should wear skirts that hang below the knee, adding that he approved of the march since it would remind students to dress appropriately. - dpa

Cambodia to let foreigners own property

Cambodians take a ferry across the Tonle Sap River for work in Phnom Penh.

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PHNOM PENH, March 25 — Cambodia’s Parliament is to debate a law next month that would allow foreigners to own property directly, one of the aims being to attract more investors to the Southeast Asian country.

Until now, foreigners wanting to buy property have had to do it through a Cambodian representative.

“This is a really good thing, because all these modern apartments, the Cambodians don’t have money to buy them,” said Nun Pheany, spokeswoman for the Land Management Ministry. “For condominiums, this is an encouragement to investors.”

Neighbouring countries including Vietnam had passed similar laws, so it was time Cambodia did, she said. “We want to have contact with big investors, to make them feel warm in Cambodia.”

The National Assembly will begin debating the legislation on April 1. It would allow foreigners to own apartments above the ground floor in buildings 30km from the country’s borders. Foreigners will only be able to buy a maximum 49 per cent of any building.

“This law has been sought by the private sector. We’ve wanted it for quite some time,” said Sung Bonna, chief executive of Bonna Realty Group and president of the National Valuers Association.

“This will encourage foreigners, investors to help the recovery. The real estate and construction sectors have been weak,” Sung Bonna said.

Heng Sakara, a manager at All Plan International, developer of the US$55 million (RM187 million) River Palace 31 in Phnom Penh, said the law could attract huge numbers of foreigners to the country.

“Diplomats and investors, most of them want to buy units, apartments for their personal property. Cambodians couldn’t afford to buy all of them,” Heng Sakara said, adding it was good news for his 31-storey project, suspended due to the economic slump.

Cambodia’s economy enjoyed several years of double-digit growth before tourism and the garment sector took a hit from the global economic crisis. The economy probably shrank in 2009.

Sung Bonna said Cambodia’s real estate and construction sectors were hit hard in 2008 and 2009 and forecast that this year would be only a little better.

Output in the construction sector slumped 42 per cent in 2009 to US$1.7 billion, ministry spokeswoman Nun Pheany said. She did not yet have data for 2010. — Reuters

Cambodia Laos Vietnam dolphins will be saved
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PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia and the UN have launched a joint project aimed at saving endangered Irrawaddy dolphins from extinction, the international body's World Tourism Organization said Tuesday.

PR Log (Press Release) – Mar 25, 2010 – PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodia and the UN have launched a joint project aimed at saving endangered Irrawaddy dolphins from extinction, the international body's World Tourism Organization said Tuesday.

The Mekong River Discovery Trail Project encourages local fishermen to work in dolphin-watching tourism instead of fishing, the UN agency said in a statement. Fishing nets often cause the death of Irrawaddy dolphins. "Local authorities believe fishing is depleting the dolphins' food supply. Fishermen will be encouraged to take visitors to see the dolphins and sell food and drinks instead," it said. It did not give financial details. Conservationists estimate that fewer than 100 Irrawaddy dolphins exist in the wild, but the Cambodian government has said the number could be around around 130 and could rise to 170 within the next five years. Thousands of the Irrawaddy dolphins, which have blunt, round heads and are almost white in colour, once swam in the Mekong -- which flows from Tibet to the South China Sea and has tributaries in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The project, which begins this month, will teach fishermen about tourism activities, the UN agency said, adding it hopes to draw tens of thousands of visitors. The Cambodian government said it would help build hotels in a bid to draw visitors. "No dolphins means no tourism. No tourism means no development," Tourism Minister Thong Khon said in the statement.

Tourism is one of the few sources of foreign exchange for impoverished Cambodia, which is still recovering from decades of conflict.

Finland to Cambodia Direct flight 3 flights a week
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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A direct commercial air route between Cambodia and Europe was opened for the first time Friday with the arrival of an Air Finland flight, officials said. The Air Finland Boeing 757 landed with 215 passengers on board at...

PR Log (Press Release) – Mar 25, 2010 – PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A direct commercial air route between Cambodia and Europe was opened for the first time Friday with the arrival of an Air Finland flight, officials said. The Air Finland Boeing 757 landed with 215 passengers on board at the main airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, said Khek Norinda, a spokesman for the airport's operator, the French company Scoot Concessionaire Des A Roports.

Khek Norinda said Air Finland plans to operate three charter flights to Cambodia each month using its 219-seat B-757. The plane's arrival Friday was the first by a European commercial airline, he said, saying he hoped the direct link would help increase the number of European visitors to Cambodia and reduce the country's dependence on neighboring countries' airports and carriers. "However, we need more time to assess accurately the effects of direct flights from European countries. We're just at the beginning," he said. Air travel to and from Cambodia is currently dominated by foreign-owned airlines. Last month, the government signed a joint venture agreement with two Indonesian companies to form a national airline to tap the country's growing tourism industry.

Cambodia received 1.4 million visitors between January and September this year, up nearly 19 percent from the same period in 2006, according to statistics by the Tourism Ministry. It has forecast that total tourist arrivals this year will exceed last year's 1.7 million. The ministry said South Korean, Japanese and U.S. nationals respectively lead the list of foreign arrivals in Cambodia.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Army Commander’s Son Arre-Sted For Logging

Thursday, 25 March 2010 06:52 DAP-NEWS

A Fourth Region Army Commander’s son, Chea Sophal, was arrested on Wed-nesday afternoon in Siem Reap province and charged with illegal logging.
The arrest comes after one of the alleged heavyweights of Cambodia’s illegal logging industry was arrested on Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

According to a Siem Reap source, Chea Sophal was sent to the provincial court. The provincial source claimed that the court ruled to imprison him for 18 months for robbery.

Cambodians have been pleasantly surprised by the arrests of high ranking individuals involved in illegal logging after Prime Minister Hun Sen instructed authorities to crack down on illegal logging, especially in border areas.

Your Sereivuth, sub-commander of the illegal logging crackdown, said on Tuesday that twelve people have been arrested since March 17, of whom six have been remanded in custody, Yeay Mab being the latest. You Sereivuth vowed to arrest others involved in illegal logging.

Border provinces like Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri, Stung Treng, Siem Reap, Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey are noted centres of the illegal timber trade.

WHO, MoH Join A/H1N1 Campaign

Thursday, 25 March 2010 06:52 DAP-NEWS

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health on Wednes-day together announced to Phnom Penh residents a campaign to prevent A/H1N1.

MoH Minister Mam Bunheng said “Cambodia will focus on patients infected by A/H1N1 and try to prevent transmission in the provinces.”

Only six of Cambodia’s 566 cases of A/H1N1 have resulted in a fatality, he added.

Pregnant women, infants less than 6 months old and those at risk from lung disease are to be immunized.

Pieter Vanmaare, WHO Cambodia representative, said that in the nine months since A/H1N1 broke out in Mexico, the disease has spread globally.

“The factories tried to produce vaccine to prevent the disease, because they saw all the victims who infected non-stop for the death soon,” the WHO’s representative said.

The World Health Organization announced that we all must responsible to join together to against the A/H1N1, especially in developing countries.

Cambodia needs at least 1.5 million doses of the A/H1N1 vaccine, but the WHO has given only 300,000 doses.

The health minister said Phnom Penh, Kampong Speu, Kampong Chhnang and Kandal provinces will be the first to receive vaccines. The vaccination campaign will run from May to June and include all provinces.

World Tuberculosis Day Commemorated

Thursday, 25 March 2010 06:52 DAP-NEWS

The US government on Wednesday joined the Cambodian Government and international and local partners to commemorate World Tuberculosis (TB) Day. At least 4,500 people are killed by tuberculosis each day around the world, said a senior official from the Ministry of Health (MoH).

On the occasion of World TB Day 2010, MoH Secretary of State Te Kuysean said the goal is to elimate the disease worldwide. “We must find a new strategy to destroy the bacteria,” he said.

Mao Tann Eang of the TB Depart-ment told DAP News Cambodia that the dissemination of information about TB, especially through the media, would help curb transmission. He said TB remains a major concern in Cambodia.

Around15 percent of TB patients are also infected with HIV, and TB is respon- sible for nearly one quarter of the deaths among AIDS patients, Mao said.

Eng Hourt said least about 40,000 new TB cases were recorded in Cambodia in 2009, a decrease over 2008.

A statement from the US embassy said that deaths worldwide from TB have gone down since 1990, but the disease continues to claim more than 1.3 million lives each year.

“In Cambodia, the United States is working with the Ministry of Health’s National Tuberculosis Program and local NGOs to address the TB epidemic.

US assistance is helping to upgrade Cambodia’s reference laboratories, increase TB-HIV co-infection care, and expand Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS) services nationwide. US TB programs also support vulnerable groups and prison populations, the US statement said.

“Today, as we commemorate World Tuberculosis Day, we are reminded that TB is a global problem that affects all countries. Until we as partners have effectively brought TB under control in Cambodia, we are all at risk,” US Ambassador to Cambodia Carol A. Rodley was quoted as saying.

Cambodia has made significant improvements in providing a sustained high TB treatment success rate, which has been at over 90 percent for more than a decade. Seventy percent of TB patients are tested for HIV, and Community DOTS services now reach more than 75 percent of the health centers in Cambodia, surpassing targets set in the national strategic plan.

“Despite these achievements, challenges remain in Cambodia. The TB detection rate must be increased and access to TB care must be ensured for all Cambodians. Multi-drug resistant TB is an emerging problem that should be ambitiously addressed,” the US statement said, adding that the US is committed to working with its partners in Cambodia to tackle these challenges.

The US provided nearly US$4.2 million to TB programs in Cambodia in 2009, and it is the largest bilateral donor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, at US$4.34 billion contributed to date.

Health Minister Mam Bun Heng expressed concern about TB infections in the ceremony yesterday.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Pictures

Don't worry, it will only hurt a bit

Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:04 Tharum Bun and Khuon Leak

Photo by: Uy Nou Sereimony

An infant receives a vaccination at the Cambodian Red Cross Hospital in Chamkarmon district Wednesday, as the Ministry of Health started its national swine flu vaccine injection programme. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng said free injections would be provided, in two stages, to vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, children between 6 and 24 months old and those with chronic lung illnesses. “The first stage will take place in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampong Speu, and Kampong Chhnang provinces,” he said. All health workers across the country will also be vaccinated.

Ghost train

Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:03 Uy Nou Sereimony

Photo by: Uy Nou Sereimony

An abandoned railway carriage sits in a railway station in Phnom Penh last week

Two held over Kampong Speu conflict

Photo by: Will Baxter
A protester crouches before police at Kampong Speu provincial court on Wednesday, where Omlaing commune residents decried the arrest of two representatives.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:05 May Titthara and Will Baxter

TWO representatives of villagers embroiled in a land dispute with a sugar company owned by a Cambodian People’s Party senator were arrested Wednesday morning after being questioned at Kampong Speu provincial court, in a move that prompted hundreds of villagers to protest outside the courthouse.

Khem Vuthy, 30, and You Tho, 62, were among a group of four villagers who had been called to appear on Wednesday for questioning related to a protest held last week in which the Phnom Penh Sugar Company’s local office was burned to the ground. They arrived at the provincial court at 8:30am and were arrested at around 11:20am after being questioned by the provincial prosecutor in a session that was closed to reporters.

The company, owned by CPP senator Ly Yong Phat, has been granted a 9,000-hectare land concession in Omlaing commune. Though company and local officials have insisted that villagers living nearby will not be affected by the concession, hundreds of families have accused the company of trying to take over their farmland.

Judge Keo Mony said after the session that Khem Vuthy and You Tho had been charged with “persuading the villagers to protest, inciting them to commit arson, destroying company property and uniting together”.

The other two village representatives who had been summoned to answer to a criminal complaint filed by Phnom Penh Sugar Company representative Chhean Kimsuon received word of the arrests while en route to the courthouse and fled, villagers said.

They had been travelling with a group of 400 villagers who planned to gather outside the courthouse to demand the release of any arrested representatives.

However, the villagers – who made their way on motorbikes and about 20 mini-tractors – said their trip from Omlaing commune had been hindered by police who were stationed along the road and had set up checkpoints to slow their progress. They arrived at the courthouse at around noon, at which point Khem Vuthy and You Tho had already been arrested and transferred into custody.

About 100 police officers wielding shields and batons then prevented the villagers from entering the courthouse gates.

“If the local police had not blocked us on our way to the provincial court, maybe my two representatives would not have been arrested,” said villager Phal Vanak, who took part in the protest that began later in the afternoon, and who vowed to stay at the courthouse until the two men were released.

Em Sophal, deputy police chief of Thpong district, denied allegations that police had tried to prevent the villagers from reaching the courthouse on time.

You Ren, You Tho’s 26-year-old daughter, insisted that her father had been charged erroneously.

“My father did nothing wrong,” she said. “The reason my father came here was just to answer questions. If he had done something wrong, he would not have come to the court for questioning. He would have already run away.”

Keo Mony, the judge, said the court also planned to arrest the two villagers who had fled, along with 12 others who had been issued summonses, assuming they could be located.

“We will continue to arrest other representatives who did not appear at court this morning, and we will force them to appear in court,” he added.

Muon Kunthear, the wife of Khem Vuthy, said her husband should be released because he was not involved in burning down the sugar company’s office. “Before they decide to arrest villagers, they should find witnesses,” she added. “We have been cheated by the authorities. How can they settle our problems?”

John Coughlan, a legal adviser for the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said afterward that it appeared You Tho and Khem Vuthy had been charged with inciting the destruction of public property, adding that incitement was something of a catch-all charge commonly used against people who speak out against rights abuses.

Rights groups on Wednesday voiced concern about the charges.

In a statement, Adhoc said: “We are concerned that the provincial court decided to arrest these two representatives today, and that they are trying to hunt down other accused villagers involved in this land dispute.”

Kampong Speu Governor Kang Heang could not be reached for comment, and Ly Yong Phat and Chhan Kimsuon declined to comment.

Ministry building sold off to developer

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A monk walks past the Ministry of Cults and Religions’ National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals on Tuesday.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:05 Cheang Sokha and James O’toole

OFFICES of the Ministry of Cults and Religions have been transferred to local investment company Pheapimex in a property deal that some observers say is an example of the malfeasance that characterises the Kingdom’s public land management.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, officials from the Ministry of Cults and Religions’ National Committee for Organising National and International Festivals said they had received a letter from Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) lawyer Khiev Sepphan dated last Friday that asked them to vacate their offices on Sisowath Quay by the end of the month.

“If you do not follow this notification, the lawyer will make a report to the CPP office to pursue further measures,” read the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Post.

The letter instructed the officials to move to new offices at the General Inspectorate for the National Buddhist Education of Cambodia and hand over control of their current facilities to Choeung Sopheap, owner of Pheapimex and wife of CPP senator Lao Meng Khin.

Accounts of how the deal had been brokered differed among ministry officials.

One said that Minister of Cults and Religions Min Khin had sold the building to Choeung Sopheap last April, whereas another said the building was being exchanged for Pheapimex land near the Council of Ministers to be used by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

But regardless of how the deal was made, one official said, staff at the committee had been dealt with unfairly.

“We know that the current office has been sold to the private company, but we don’t understand why they used the CPP name to influence us,” he said, adding that the new proposed facilities are too small and lack meeting rooms.

“If they keep us working there without a proper location, that would be unacceptable,” he said.

Khiev Sepphan said he was simply acting on Min Khin’s behalf, declining to discuss specifics of the deal.

“I have informed His Excellency Min Khin that he should negotiate with those officials so that both sides can reach a solution,” Khiev Sepphan said.

Min Khin said Tuesday that he was too busy to comment, and Choeung Sopheap could not be reached for comment.

Legality questioned
The Pheapimex transfer is just one in a series of deals over the past few years in which government facilities have been offered to private companies with ties to the CPP. Former Ministry of Tourism facilities on Monivong Boulevard and Phnom Penh Municipal Police headquarters on Street 51 are now controlled by the Phanimex development company, and land near the National Assembly that once held the Bassac Theatre is now controlled by the Royal Group, as is the former site of the National Radio headquarters in Daun Penh district.

Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Centre, said such transfers of state public property were illegal under the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law, which states that state public properties may not be transferred to private hands unless they “lose their public-interest use”. This provision was reinforced in a 2005 sub-decree.

“To our knowledge, there’s no such law on transfer of this state public property to state private property,” Yeng Virak said, arguing that this process is instead carried out through methods that “supersede the law”, with sub-decrees issued to convert public property to private property after deals have already been made.

“Very often, the public does not know the justification for conversion,” Yeng Virak said. “Nobody knows.”

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the companies benefiting from such transfers are not subject to a competitive, public bidding process that could ensure that they pay market prices for the property.

“The most powerful politicians are behind these companies. These companies can do whatever they want in Cambodia, especially they buy or swap or transfer the state property,” Yim Sovann said.

Sung Bonna, president of Bonna Realty Group, said property transfers must be conducted in a transparent manner, though he added that it was unsurprising that just a small group of companies appear to have benefited from such exchanges.

“So far, it’s not so many people that can afford to do this,” he said. “We do not say that it’s negative ... countries in development always have this kind of thing.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan referred questions to the Ministry of Land Management, where spokeswoman Nun Theary said she did not have information on the issue at hand.

Teachers, students to march against short skirts

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:04 Mom Kunthear

AROUND 300 students, teachers and concerned members of the public will march through the streets of Phnom Penh on Sunday as part of a campaign to discourage female students from wearing short skirts to school, a campaign organiser told the Post Wednesday.

The Khmer Teachers’ Association organised the event as part of an effort to urge the Education Ministry, school heads and university directors to ban short skirts in school, a move it believes will help preserve Khmer culture, said director Seang Bunheang.

“I had the idea to organise the campaign because I want to improve Khmer culture [and retain the culture] that we had many years ago – some Khmer women change their manner by copying other cultures and do things such as wearing short skirts or sexy clothes in schools and public places. That can destroy our culture.

“I see that some female students don’t wear the Khmer student uniform. It seems like a Western uniform,” he said.

Seang Bunheang said he had sent a letter to the Education Ministry to request that it “take measures with female students who wear short
skirts in school”.

Pov Sam An, deputy director of the ministry’s Informal Education System Department, said Wednesday that he agrees female students should wear skirts below their knees – which he said was mandated by existing rules.

“All female students have to wear their skirts under the knees in school, and it is good that the Khmer Teachers’ Association campaign will remind people of this,” he said. “I cannot accept that some female students in private or state schools wear such short skirts to school.”

Rong Chhun, president of Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA), said Wednesday that he also supported the Khmer Teachers’ Association’s campaign.

“But I think they will not receive any result if we don’t have cooperation from the teachers, students’ parents, students and school managers,” he said.


Eang Huysang, a 23-year-old student said, “I don’t like that some female students wear very short skirts to study because it really affects male students and teachers’ feelings while they are studying. I think they should stop wearing short skirts to school because it is not our culture and is against the rule from the Ministry of Education.”

Ouch Sophorn, a 23-year-old English literature student said, “It is funny for me, and also for other male students when they walk to class, that there are many female students wearing short skirts – we always turn back to see them. I like to see female students wearing short skirts, but I don’t want my sister or my girlfriends to do that. I think it is not our tradition.”

Sim Soktan, a 20-year-old student of business administration said, “It is suitable for female students to wear skirts on the knee or longer than this. It is not good for our Khmer women to look like Western women, and I don’t like it at all. I think [it makes] both male students and teachers feel not so good about teaching and studying.”

Samnang Vathana, a 26-year-old librarian said, “I like wearing short skirts because I feel attractive and many people look at me. Some male students follow to see me when I wear a short skirt, and then I think I look more beautiful and that’s why they want to see me. I want to change my style from wearing long skirts to wearing short skirts.”

RCAF touts killing of Thais near PVihear

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
RCAF General Chea Dara holds up a map of the Thai-Cambodian border area near Preah Vihear temple during a speech Wednesday at the Council of Ministers.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:04 Vong Sokheng and James O’toole

ROYAL Cambodian Armed Forces deputy commander Chea Dara told an audience at the Council of Ministers on Wednesday that Cambodian troops have killed 88 Thai troops along the countries’ contentious border near Preah Vihear temple, compared with just two Cambodian troops killed by the Thais.

Speaking in front of an audience of several hundred government officials and parliamentarians, Chea Dara extolled Cambodian troops’ valour, affirming that the RCAF will defend the Kingdom against any incursion.

“I came here to talk about the triumph in which we shot and killed 38 Thai soldiers in October of 2008 and another 50 Thai soldiers in April” of 2009, Chea Dara said. “After the fight, we helped the Thai soldiers find the dead bodies of their colleagues, and they have never dared to fight again.”

Thai troops, Chea Dara added, were doomed to sustain casualties because of their poor tactics.

“The Thai soldiers were odd – they looked down on us and dared to pursue our soldiers, but we were patient when we opened fire on them because we needed to ensure stability for the national elections in July of 2008,” Chea Dara said.

Veerachon Sukondhadhpatipak, deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, said he did not have exact totals at hand, but called Chea Dara’s figures on Thai casualties extremely unrealistic. News reports have cited just seven soldiers in total from both sides killed since hostilities first began in 2008.

“It’s impossible. 88? No way,” Veerachon said. He speculated that Cambodian figures had perhaps been inflated by false reports from low-level troops.

“Every time when they attack, they might want to report that they were able to do something, do the damage to the Thai soldiers,” Veerachon said. “If it is something that makes [commanders] happy, they just accept the information, regardless of if it’s true or false.”

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An congratulated the RCAF forces for bravely performing their duties.

“Thai soldiers violated Cambodian sovereignty after Preah Vihear temple was listed as a World Heritage site, but we were successful in protecting our sovereignty,” he said.

Cambodian and Thai troops have exchanged fire intermittently along their border near Preah Vihear temple since 2008, when Thailand contested the temple’s inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Cambodia. Skirmishes broke out most recently in January of this year, though no one was hurt.

Bokor disputes to be overseen by officials

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A road is constructed in Bokor National Park in Kampot last year. The government has formed a committee dedicated to dealing with disputes stemming from development work in the park.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:04 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THE government has formed a committee dedicated to dealing with disputes related to development projects under way at Bokor National Park in Kampot province, though officials said Wednesday that they had found no problems with the projects thus far.

The Inter-Ministries Committee for Reconciliation and Resolving Disputes will act as a monitor for projects at the park, according to the Royal Work Book published on February 15 of this year.

The Bokor site is currently being redeveloped by Sokha Hotel Group, which has plans for an international hotel, casino, resort, park, emergency clinic, school and drainage system. Construction began in 2008 and is expected to take 15 years.

Khoy Khun Hour, the governor of Kampot province and acting deputy president of the committee, said the committee would monitor all activities related to the construction, including disputes.

“So far, we have not found any fault with the project,” he said. “We have observed that people who live near the entrance to the Bokor National Park are very happy with the owner of the newest project, while the employer and employees have made an effort to refrain from impacting on the farmland of the residents.”

Yang Phyrum, the conservation chief at Bokor Mountain, said the road that had already been constructed as part of the project had not prompted any reaction from residents living nearby.

“Until now, the redevelopment project of the French colonial-era resort hasn’t impacted on the natural biodiversity or ecological systems in the park, and the residents are benefiting,” he said.

Meas Sithan, who sells fruit near the park’s entrance, said she believed the project would benefit “the future of Cambodia”, though she said her earnings had fallen since construction began due to declining tourist numbers in the area.

“Now I don’t sell as many oranges, coconuts, rambutan and pineapples because of the lack of tourists,” she said.

Ros Hak, a villager who owns farmland near the mountain, said he was concerned that his land could be threatened by the development project.

Try Chhoun, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said he hoped the Sokha Hotel Group “would distribute the benefits [of the redevelopment] to the people and practice social responsibility”.

Police Blotter: 25 Mar 2010

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:02 Sen David

A 30-year-old man hung himself in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district on Tuesday after finding out his wife has a new man. Police said that before he died, the man wrote two letters, one to his wife and one to his family. In the letter to his wife, he wrote that he wanted to die because she had a new boyfriend and never looked after the children. In the letter sent to his parents, he asked them to help look after his 5-year–old daughter. One police officer said he was very sorry that the man decided to kill himself because “life is very important”.

A 73-year-old woman was shot while walking along the road in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district on Tuesday. Local police said that three robbers wanted to snatch a money bag from a schoolgirl, but that they were not successful. After that, one of the robbers wished to shoot the girl, but he got confused and shot the older woman, who happened to be walking by. Police have sent the woman to hospital. A doctor said she nearly died from her injuries. Her health is reportedly weak, but she is still alive and is recovering.

Authorities in Kampot province’s Kampong Trach district say that a 53-year-old crazy woman was banished “far away” on Tuesday. Police said the woman had been in the habit of disturbing residents and local authorities by throwing rocks at cars, for instance, and picking fights with people in the market. Area residents finally concluded that she was crazy, so the authorities decided to banish her from the district to prevent her from disturbing people. Police said they did not believe she was originally from Kampot, and that she may have been from another country because she stayed in Kampot for just one week.

Two foreigners from the Philippines were detained because they used fake money to cheat Cambodian residents at the Russian Market in Phnom Penh. A vendor said the suspects had tried to use fake money to buy clothes, but the vendor picked up on the scheme immediately and filed a complaint to the market police. A police officer said that when they were captured, the pair had a lot of fake money in their bag. When police asked them where it had come from, they said it was not the first time they had used fake money. They added that most of the fake money was in the form of US$100 notes. The case has been sent to court.


Military commander’s son arrested in SReap

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:04 Cheang Sokha and Rann Reuy

Siem Reap Province

THE son of a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander was arrested and sent to Siem Reap provincial court on Wednesday – three years after the court convicted him in absentia of robbery and sentenced him to six years and six months behind bars, officials said.

Court prosecutor Ty Soveinthal said that Chea Sophal – the son of Chea Mon, the commander of RCAF’s Military Region 4 – had been arrested and was being held in Siem Reap provincial prison.

He added that Chea Sophal had asked that his case be retried, saying that he had been receiving military training in Vietnam at the time of his original trial.

“The accused person asked the court to rehear the case, saying the court decision was made without his presence,” Ty Soveinthal said.

The prosecutor declined to elaborate on the crimes of which Chea Sophal was convicted, but he said the court would conduct another investigation before setting a new trial date.

General Sao Sokha, RCAF’s deputy commander in chief, said Wednesday that Chea Mon had ordered the arrest of his son after being informed of the allegations against him. But officials could not explain why there had been a three-year delay between the original trial and Chea Sophal’s arrest on Wednesday.

“I did not know what crime [Chea Sophal] committed, but the court had issued an arrest warrant,” Sao Sokha said. “Our forces just implemented the order from the court.”

Minorities to consult NGO after petition bid failed to reach PM

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:04 David Boyle

REPRESENTATIVES of indigenous groups in Ratanakkiri province who fear they could lose their land to private concessions are set to meet with a land rights NGO today to devise ways to draw attention to their plight, after the provincial governor allegedly failed to act on his promise to deliver a petition from the groups to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The representatives, who are from the Tampuon, Kreung and Jarai ethnic minority communities, said their concerns had been exacerbated by a three-day trade fair held earlier this month in the province, which led them to arrange the meeting with the Indigenous Communities Support Organisation.

Kham Phor Savat, a representative of Kalai village in Ou Chum district, said the representatives had not received any feedback from provincial governor Pav Hamphan as to why he failed to deliver the petition to the premier during his visit last week.

The petition requested that the government facilitate local land titling, intervene in ongoing land disputes and set out requirements for full consultation with affected communities before land and mining concessions are granted.

“If we cannot receive any solutions from the province, we will take this petition to Phnom Penh to have it printed by media companies and civil societies so that our concerns can be heard,” Kham Phor Savat said.

He said that his own community had already been affected by the clearing of 20,000 hectares of forest by a Vietnamese company, which he said had planted acacia and rubber trees on the land.

“This affected land that 190 families in our community use for slash-and-burn agriculture,” he said.

Too many petitions
Ratanakkiri provincial governor Pav Hamphan said he had received a range of petitions from various groups in recent weeks and had not had enough time to act on all of them.

“I have not decided yet whether I will forward all these petitions to the prime minister’s Cabinet or just send a brief report there,” he said.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

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TV station back pay disbursed
Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:03 Chhay Channyda

THE French company Solaris International has begun paying two months’ worth of salaries to staff working at Apsara TV after the head of the station threatened to cancel its contract with the company.

Apsara Director General Sok Eysan said he had been in regular talks with Solaris since more than 200 workers complained about late payments in February.

“I am in the middle between Solaris and the TV staff. The company promised to give me their remaining salary without late payment by June,” he said. “If they do not pay money, I will cancel the contract with them.”

Syluom Dar, director general of Solaris, could not be reached Wednesday.

Border Arrest: Thais catch suspected illegal logger

Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:04 Tep Nimol

Border Arrest

A Cambodian national suspected of illegal logging has been arrested by Thai soldiers, a Cambodian official said Wednesday, confirming an incident that was reported by Thai media last week. “Leun La has really been arrested by Thai soldiers,” said Koy Kuong, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “We have already found a Thai lawyer to defend his case.” Thailand’s The Nation newspaper reported on March 19 that an armed clash between Thai soldiers and a group of around 30 Cambodians who had crossed the border had taken place the previous day. The Nation reported that the soldiers shot at them when the group was caught cutting down trees.

Govt unveils plans for public housing project

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:03 Chhay Channyda

GOVERNMENT officials say they are in the process of developing a public housing system – the Kingdom’s first since before the Khmer Rouge era – that would see poor families lease houses on state land for periods of up to 50 years.

But housing rights advocates said Wednesday that current plans for the system did not appear to safeguard many poor families from forced eviction.

Several details of the plan were included in a document dubbed the “National Policy for Housing”, which was produced last month and made public at a workshop in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

“Nowadays, public housing on public land for rent no longer exists,” the draft policy notes before outlining several routes by which poor families could obtain public housing.

The policy states that officials will make state land available for the construction of housing for low-income families, provided that they have not already identified other ways “to use the land for the public benefit”.

It states that low-income housing would be leased for a period of between three and 50 years, and that private companies wishing to develop real estate projects on state land might be obligated to construct on-site low-income housing.

The government could also opt to grant long-term loans to some poor families, thereby enabling them to construct their own housing.

Rath Sarin, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management and the secretary general of the government’s Land Policy Council, said at Wednesday’s workshop that the policy was part of a broader effort to ensure that all people have access to “adequate housing”.

However, the draft policy also states that the government may opt to relocate poor families currently living on state land to public housing constructed elsewhere.

Housing rights advocates said they welcomed the government’s proposal to provide public housing, but that it did not appear to address the main problem facing many poor families: the lack of tenure security.

Am Sam Ath, a senior monitor for the rights group Licadho, said the government should “focus on giving away social land concessions to poor families rather than renting [the homes] to them”.

“When people rent housing from the government, they can only stay for a period of time. They have no land tenure security, which guarantees them land title deeds,” he said.

“If the government wants [the land] after 50 years of leasing, they must give it back to the state, so they will still have no proper homes for their children.”

Chan Vichet, a former resident of the city’s Dey Krahorm community, residents of which were forcibly evicted in January 2009, said the benefits of the policy would be limited.

Instead of devising policies that would allow for the relocation of poor families, he said the government should focus on ensuring that people who are eligible for land titles under the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law, which states that residents can claim land on which they have lived peacefully for five years, are not forcibly evicted.

“This policy should address the land that people have already lived on for five years and give land titles to them, not to let them live in fear of eviction,” he said.

A report issued by housing rights advocacy group Sahmakum Teang Tnaut in April last year said that around 120,000 people have been evicted from their land in Phnom Penh since 1990 – around one in 10 of the population.

New Cambodian gecko named

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Cnemaspis neangthyi, a new species of gecko found by researchers in the Cardamom Mountains, bears the name of Dr Neang Thy, a Cambodian scientist involved in its discovery.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:03 Sam Rith

A NEW species of gecko discovered in the rocky foothills of the northwestern section of Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains will be named after the Cambodian researcher who helped find it, the conservation group Fauna and Flora International (FFI) said Wednesday.

Neang Thy, a senior research officer at FFI, said scientists in the US have confirmed that Cnemaspis neangthyi, an olive-green gecko with white patches containing central black dots, is a hitherto unseen species.

Neang Thy said he and other researchers from La Sierra University in California, led by Lee Grismer, discovered the gecko in 2007, but at that time could not confirm that it was in fact a new species.

“After discovering the new species, we caught four to five geckos to experiment and compare with other geckos in other countries throughout Southeast Asia,” he said.

The unique combination of its colour pattern and scale characteristics led researchers to conclude that it was “new to science”, according to a press release issued by FFI.

“Cnemaspis neangthyi has been named in honour of Mr Neang in recognition of his important contributions to the herpetofauna of Cambodia and his untiring efforts and personal sacrifice to support conservation research in Cambodia,” the statement quoted Grismer as saying.

Neang Thy, who is also the head of the Ministry of Environment’s General Department for Administration of Nature Conservation and Protection, said he was thrilled that the new species of gecko had been named after him. “I am very happy ... it motivates me to find other new species,” he said.

SRP criticises healthcare at Svay Rieng jail

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:03 Meas Sokchea

A DELEGATION of Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians and doctors on Wednesday visited two villagers jailed earlier this month in connection with a border incident by the party’s president, and accused prison workers of providing them with inadequate health care.

Five parliamentarians and doctors out of the group of 20 were permitted to visit Meas Srey, 39, and Prom Chea, 41, after their relatives complained last week that their health was failing.

The two prisoners were given one-year jail terms on January 27 after Svay Rieng provincial court found them guilty of destroying public property. In October, they joined Sam Rainsy in uprooting border markers in Svay Rieng’s Chantrea district.

Ly Sreyvyana, a doctor who travelled with the SRP delegation, said the medicine that had been given to the prisoners – who have complained of heart problems and low blood sugar, among other ailments – was not up to “international standards”, and complained that prison officials had prevented the delegation from bringing medical instruments inside.

“Only five people were allowed to go inside the prison, and they had to examine the prisoners with their bare hands,” she said. “Prom Chea’s health is very weak. His body is in seriously bad health, but his mental health is even more serious.”

However, Bin Vorn, deputy chief of the prison’s health unit, dismissed claims that the prisoners were not being properly cared for, saying the prison had enough medicine and was also willing to send the villagers to hospital if needed.

Referring to the comments from Ly Sreyvyana, he said, “If she said my medicines and cures are not up to international standards, I would like to see her guidelines and cure them according to those guidelines.”

Heng Hak, the director of the Interior Ministry’s prisons department, also said the prison was capable of giving the prisoners proper care.

52,000 hectares of land seized in Siem Reap

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:03 Rann Reuy


OFFICIALS in Siem Reap province say they have recently confiscated 52,000 hectares of illegally occupied land, and that it will be allocated to military and poor families.

Ty Sokun, director general of the Forestry Administration, said Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin had authorised the taking of land from “rich” and “anarchic” occupants who he said were illegally occupying state property in eight of the province’s 12 districts.

Chheang Tola, the Siem Reap Forestry Department director, said the confiscations had prompted 864 complaints from affected families.

“It is a very complex issue to take the land back,” he said at a meeting on Wednesday that addressed the confiscations.

Ty Sokun said that around 2,500 hectares of the confiscated land would be allocated to military families, and that trees would be planted on 3,000 hectares. The remaining land, he said, would be converted into social concessions for “families in need” or granted to companies that wanted to invest in the province, though he emphasised that officials would prioritise families over companies.

“We will grant land to really poor families who really need land,” he said.

Moeng Vuthy, the governor of Banteay Srei district, said there had been some confusion about what land would be confiscated, as the boundaries separating state land from private land were not clearly demarcated.

“The villagers came to ask me whether the confiscations would affect their land,” he said, adding that he had often been unable to give them an answer.

So Chorn, a 62-year-old resident of Khumream commune in Banteay Srei district, said Wednesday he had heard that officials planned to confiscate the land on which he has grown rice and watermelons since 1997.

“I am concerned that they will take it and never give it back to us,” he said.

“I ask them to grant us that land because we do not have other land to grow our crops.”

Officials raid massage parlour, seize 48 suspected sex workers

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

DAUN Penh district authorities detained 48 masseuses suspected of prostitution during a raid Tuesday in Chaktomuk commune, continuing a crackdown by local police on venues believed to be havens for sex workers.

Sok Penhnuth, deputy district governor, said Wednesday that four Chinese “supervisors” were also detained during the raid on the Yang Chov Massage Parlour, located on Street 252, but that three were later released. The remaining detainee will be sent to court.

“A 24-year-old Chinese man will face court charged with procuring prostitution, and will be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court today,” he said.

He said 46 of the 48 massage workers – 37 Cambodian women and nine Vietnamese women – would be sent to social affairs on Wednesday “for further education and vocational training”.

The remaining two workers, both Chinese, would be sent to the municipal immigration office for “education”.

Police also confiscated boxes of condoms and a menu listing prices for various sex acts as evidence, he said.

The raid is part of a recent crackdown in Phnom Penh following a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month in which he lashed out at officials who he said had undermined attempts to stamp out prostitution and illicit gambling. In the same speech, he called for increased efforts to eliminate illegal gambling halls, brothels, nightclubs and karaoke parlours.

Sang Sophak Vichet, Tuol Kork deputy district governor, said Wednesday that authorities had raided 26 unlicenced massage parlours and 12 karaoke parlours in the last two weeks.

“District officials and police officials led an operation on Monday and Tuesday and raided 10 karaoke parlours in the Boeung Kak 2 commune, and stopped their exploitation temporarily,” he said, adding that the parlours would be given time to apply for legitimate licences.

A similar raid was carried out at the Pencil supermarket’s riverside shopping centre in Daun Penh on Sunday, when 11 Karaoke rooms were shut because the owner was not licenced.

Tang Sochet Krishna, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Tourism Department, said the crackdown would only target unlicenced venues and those undertaking illegal activities.

Ad spending on the rise

Photo by: Uy Nousereimony
A man walks past hoardings for mobile services in Phnom Penh last month. Telcos spent US$1.13m on adverts in February.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:01 Ellie Dyer

However, telcos cut their expenditures nearly 24pc in February

ADVERTISING spending within the telecommunications in-dustry plummeted nearly 24 percent last month year on year, but the competitive sector remained Cambodia’s top spender according to new research.

Statistics compiled by Indochina Research Ltd (IRL), released to the Post Wednesday, show that an estimated US$1.13 million was spent on newspapers and TV adverts by the telecommunications sector this February. That compares to $1.48 million in February 2009, a drop of around 24 percent.

The beverage sector remained the second-highest buyer of advertisements with spend rising 6.5 percent to $1.04 million from around $975,000 in February last year. Personal-care adverts remained steady in the third spot, with public announcements rocketing into fourth – from last year’s seventh spot.

The total advertising spend for the top 10 sectors in February increased slightly compared to a year ago, showing a 4.3 percent increase to about $5.37 million from $5.14 million.

The statistics, calculated using nominal rate cards and the number of adverts appearing on leading TV channels and publications, reveal the industry has shown some signs of recovery following the economic down turn.

“Based on our data, year-on-year ad spend has increased by 20 percent,” Laurent Notin, general manager of IRL, said Wednesday.

In comparison, he said, total spend in 2009 was 20 percent below levels in 2008.

According to Notin, the data showed “some positive” indications but “it has to be sustained long term”.

Marketing manager at mobile phone company Hello, Gary Foo, noted the “huge drop” in telecoms advertising displayed by the figures and pointed to last year’s economy as a potential cause for reduced advertising budgets.

“I believe companies will continue to spend, but they are definitely more selective in evaluating the effectiveness of each medium,” he wrote in an email Wednesday.

He pointed out that not all advertising is monitored or audited while some adverts are offered at discount rates – making evaluation of the medium difficult.

Foo also emphasised the importance of advertising for the mobile-phone market, where nine companies are vying for an estimated 5 million-plus subscribers.

“Certainly brand awareness and top-of-mind recall is important and ever more so in a crowded sector,” he wrote.

Anthony Polovineo, general manager of advertising agency River Orchid, put the drop in telecoms spend down to new companies developing their marketing strategies past big brand-building budgets.

“Now that they, in most cases, are well established in the market there can be seen a shift from heavy brand communications to more specific and tactical campaigns,” he wrote in an email Wednesday.

It remains unclear how a government prakas setting minimum tariffs to prevent price-dumping in the mobile sector, issued late last year, has affected advertising.

Sector leaders in Cambodian advertising remain tentative but positive about the future after a hard 2009.

CEO of Phnom Penh-based firm Orange People, Nathanial Chan, believes that advertising revenues fell by 40 to 50 percent in just 18 months after the crisis hit in late 2008.

“The last year has been miserable. The industry got hit really badly, as for many businesses advertising and marketing budgets are the first to go,” he said Wednesday.

In recent months, he has seen a glimmer of hope. Since the end of February, he said, companies have been holding talks with advertising firms.

“Things have changed dramatically. This is a good suggestion that things will turn around. But nothing is concrete yet,” Chan said.

Polovineo added: “One can assume that as economic conditions improve across the board, that advertising expenditure is likely to bounce back.”

$120bn East Asian liquidity fund opens

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

A US$120 billion currency swap arrangement between all 10 ASEAN countries, China, Japan and South Korea went into effect Wednesday, aimed at providing liquidity in times of crisis.

The Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM) agreement aims to address balance of payment and short-term liquidity difficulties in the region, and to supplement the existing international financial arrangements, according to a joint statement Wednesday from the Asian neighbours.

The CMIM, which stems from a December 2009 agreement, will provide financial support through currency-swap transactions among its participants in times of liquidity need, according to the statement.

“The successful launch of the CMIM, together with an independent regional surveillance unit to be established, demonstrates the solid commitments and concerted efforts of ASEAN+3 members to further enhance regional capacity to safeguard against downside risks and challenges in the global economy,” the statement said.

Each country can swap its local currency for US dollars in an amount previously contributed, times a purchasing multiplier, it added.
Cambodia can access up to $600 million in currency, according to the structure of the agreement.

Tal Nay Im, director general of the National Bank, said Wednesday that Cambodia had joined the fund to access liquidity in times of future crisis.

“For Cambodia, at the moment, we do not need any liquidity,” she said.

China, Japan and South Korea together contributed 80 percent of the fund, or $96 billion.

Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore contributed $4.77 billion each, and the Philippines contributed another $3.68 billion. Vietnam gave $1 billion, Cambodia $120 million and Myanmar $60 million, followed by Brunei and Laos at $30 million each.

Salt producers approach 2010 goal

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Thursday, 25 March 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

DOMESTIC salt producers were close to fulfilling production expectations for the six-month season, easing concerns of a shortage, Ly Seng, president of the Cambodian Salt Producers Association, said Wednesday.

The association has produced a combined 80,000 tonnes of salt in the past five months, nearing the total 90,000 tonnes they had expected for the November-to-April season, Ly Seng said.

“We think Cambodia may not face a salt shortage anymore this year because we still have another month to produce salt,” Ly Seng said.

Cambodia has an estimated 5,000 salt producers, who work from 4,400 hectares of salt farms in Kampot province. The country will need between 100,000 tonnes to 120,000 tonnes this year, Ly Seng said.

Cambodia suffered a salt shortage in 2009, when production yielded only 30,000 tonnes, due to poor weather, an amount which fell far short of demand. The shortage was made up with salt from China.

This year, the association reported flooding had resulted in the loss of 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of salt, worth about US$70,000.

Nevertheless, producers are on track, and the importation of salt may not be necessary this year, Ly Seng said. If rain does not fall between now and the end of the season, the association can make up to 20,000 more tonnes of salt, he said.

“We do not think Cambodia will be short of salt like last year, because we have already produced a lot of salt,” Som Vichet, director of Kampot’s Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, said Wednesday.

In a good year, the Kingdom can produce 150,000 tonnes of salt, he added.