Thursday, 3 June 2010

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Donors Inject $1.1 Billion US for Cambodia for 2010

Thursday, 03 June 2010 11:39 DAP-NEWS/ Ek Madra

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 3, 2010– Donors, who are pleased with Cambodia’s performance over years, have pledged an estimated $1.1 billion including loans and grant aid for this impoverished Southeast Asian nation’s development, finance minister Keat Chhon told reporters after two-day meeting.

The minister Keat Chhon said “the donors’ assistance reflected the government’s strong commitment for the country’s development.”

The pledged amount $1.1 billion of which 20 percent is loan, said Cambodian officials who attended meeting.

Japan pledged a biggest contribution among the donors during the 2- 3 June meeting, but officials did not reveal the figure.

“The donors’ financial contribution is positively response to our National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP),” said Keat Chhon.

The National Assembly of this former war-torn nation on early this week approved $6.3 billion, a policy blue print for National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2009- 2013, as investment budget. Cambodia expected donors to fix the shortfall of the investment budget—which will be invested in social, economic, infrastructure and services, planning minister Chhay Than told donors in the meeting.

Cambodia promised donors to invest their financial assistances in the country’s key priority sectors, especially in agriculture, physical infrastructures, human resources development, power production, as well as legal reform, said finance minister Keat Chhon.

“The consensus of the meeting was that the successful implementation of the national strategy development plan will be underpinned by a return to higher level of growth, continued macroeconomic stability, good governance and an enable environment,” said the government’s press release at the conference.

The World Bank Country Director Ms Annette Dixon, who spoke on behalf of development partners, said in the government’s press release that “we share the same goal of achieving results for the Cambodian people, particularly the poor and vulnerable.”

Dixon she also said on Wednesday that “Cambodia has made significant progress in economic growth, poverty reduction and social development in the past decade.”

The country’s poverty line is now said 30 percent out of the country’s total nearly 14 million from nearly 50 percent in early 1990s when the factional leaders agreed to end the conflicts followed U.N. sponsored election in 1993.

The Kingdom’s growth hit almost double digits from 1998 to 2007. This Southeast Asian nation projected at 4.4 pct for 2010 and higher at 6 percent for 2011 thanks to the regional economic recovery.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in the release that “the government will not relax its effort in keeping Cambodia on track of development, including poverty, reduction, peace and political stability, good government, and continued reform.”

Last government-donor meeting in 2008, Cambodia received $951.5 million in assistance, the biggest aid ever since 1994, from donors who urged the country to more reforms including combating graft, land grabs and judicial reform.

Hor Nam Hong to Attend the 3th Summit in Turkey

Thursday, 03 June 2010 10:03 DAP-NEWS

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 3, 2010- “ Hor Nam Hong, Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, will lead a delegation to the 3th Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia ( CICA ) , which is held in Istanbul City, Turkey on June7 to 9 ,2010 , in response to the invitation of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Turkish President Abdulalah Gul, “ according to the Foreign Ministry’s statement said on Thursday of June 03,2010.

“The 3th Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia is a forum for Mixed Cooperation, Political Dialogue, and Confidence Building in order to ensure Security, Peace, and Stability in Asia.

Edited by Mr.Rasmey ( Mr.Go For It )

Court backs Mu Sochua verdict

Police block Mu Sochua during a march towards Sam Rainsy Party headquarters on Wednesday, June 2, 2010, after the nation\'s high court uppheld her conviction on defamation charges filed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:03 Meas Sokchea and Brooke Lewis

THE Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a controversial defamation conviction against opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, closing the last stage of a highly charged legal battle with Prime Minister Hun Sen that has triggered renewed criticism of the Cambodian judiciary.

The ruling, read out to a packed-to-overflowing courtroom by Judge Khim Pon, also upheld a fine of 16.5 million riels (US$3,975) levied against Mu Sochua by the Municipal Court last August, though the former minister of women’s affairs said afterwards that she would rather go to jail than pay it.

“My stance remains the same,” she told reporters and supporters outside the courthouse gates after the hearing, which ran just under 90 minutes. “I will not pay the fine. I am ready, and I am willing to go to jail, even today.”

During the hearing, Mu Sochua said both the Municipal Court and the Appeal Court – which upheld the initial verdict in October – had erred in their rulings by failing to consider all the available evidence. But Khim Pon dismissed her claims as meritless.

“We understand why the accused said in this hearing that the courts did not consider all the points of her defamation case, but that is not correct because in its decision the courts have raised enough evidence,” he said.

After fielding a handful of questions outside the court, Mu Sochua led a group of about 50 supporters north along Sothearos Boulevard towards the Royal Palace, though they were quickly intercepted by municipal police wielding riot shields and batons.

The officers stopped the group for about five minutes, then allowed the march to resume, walking 5 metres in front as Mu Sochua – leading the group in what she later described as “a patriotic song to defend the spirit and the soul of the nation and of the people”— executed a meandering trail that ended at SRP headquarters.

Khim Pon did not specify a date by which Mu Sochua would need to pay the fine.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said he wasn’t sure what the deadline might be, but estimated that she would have “at least around two months”.

He added that Mu Sochua could face up to two years in prison if she stood by her refusal to pay.

“The court can put her in jail for two years if she resists,” he said.

The defamation row pitting Mu Sochua against Hun Sen began on April 4 of last year, when the premier delivered a speech in Kampot province during which he referred to an unidentified female lawmaker from that province as cheung klang, a term meaning “strong legs” that is viewed by some as derogatory when used to describe women.

On April 23, Mu Sochua and her lawyer at the time, Kong Sam Onn, held a press conference announcing plans to sue Hun Sen for defamation.

Hun Sen then filed a countersuit, saying statements made at the press conference – during which Mu Sochua and Kong Sam Onn said Hun Sen’s comments were clearly referencing the lawmaker – were defamatory.

While Hun Sen’s complaint was allowed to proceed, Mu Sochua’s was thrown out by the Appeal Court on October 14 of last year.

Government lawyer Ky Tech, who has represented Hun Sen throughout the case, on Wednesday praised the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“I think that the decision is very just, because if we think of the process of this case – from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to the Appeal Court and to the Supreme Court – the decision is the same,” he said.

Tith Sothea, a member of the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, offered a similar assessment, and dismissed Mu Sochua’s conduct afterwards as mere theatrics.

“This is a correct decision by the court,” he said. “And her announcement that she will not pay the fine and would rather be imprisoned, this is just to show that she is a strong woman.”

Mu Sochua and her supporters, however, dismissed the proceedings as politically motivated, echoing statements they have made for more than a year.

“I would like to indicate that Samdech Hun Sen’s case that won this time is a completely political issue,” Mu Sochua said. “My case that sued Samdech Hun Sen in the first court did not have a hearing. Where is justice before the law? Where is equality before the law?”

SRP spokesman and lawmaker Yim Sovann said the outcome reflected poorly on the Cambodian judiciary.

“The matter of Mu Suchua is not just about Mu Sochua herself. It is about the justice of Cambodia. It shows the international community that the court in Cambodia is not independent, it’s not neutral,” he said. “The court now in Cambodia is a constraint to the economic development, it’s a constraint to the investor attraction ... and it’s a constraint to the poverty reduction and also to the efforts to curb corruption. So we need to reform this court.”

Many domestic and international observers have also criticised the manner in which the duelling defamation cases were handled.

Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Centre, said after Wednesday’s hearing that the outcome reflected a “double standard in Cambodia”.

“The strong and powerful win,” he said, “and the weak lose.”

PM talks on govt salary reforms

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha and James O’toole

PRIME Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday defended the government’s controversial decision to end salary supplement programmes for civil servants, saying such programmes breed corruption and create inequity among government workers.

Speaking before the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum, a meeting with international donors and development organisations to assess the government’s progress on a number of reforms and finalise new aid pledges, Hun Sen called the cancelled programmes “dangerous” and said they risked “breaking our administration”.

“Regarding the issue of salary supplements and why the government decided to cancel the priority packages and the salary supplements, I have already ordered my colleagues to discuss this with the development partners,” Hun Sen said. “At this point, it will help prevent corruption.”

Under several kinds of salary supplement programmes, donors had been assisting the government in bolstering the often-paltry salaries of civil servants across a variety of sectors. Two such supplement programmes – Priority Mission Groups (PMGs) and Merit-Based Performance Incentives (MBPIs) – were implemented in recent years to allow donors to target specific projects and promote a culture of meritocracy among government workers.

In December, Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said the government was cancelling all such programmes as part of a broader administrative reform effort effective January 1. NGOs and development organisations responded that they had been given little time to prepare for the reforms, and in January, Keat Chhon announced a six-month transition period in which straightforward salary supplements, though not PMGs or MBPIs, would be allowed to continue.

Officials from NGOs and development organisations have warned that, in response to the supplement cuts, low-level government employees such as doctors and nurses may leave their jobs or charge more for services to supplement their incomes.

In a letter dated May 25 and addressed to ministers and secretaries of state at “all ministries [and] institutions of the Royal Government”, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said that a replacement compensation system called the “Priority Operating Costs scheme” (POC) is to be implemented in July. The letter says that POC will operate “within the framework of the cooperative financial contributions of the development partners”, though it does not specify what sort of oversight donors will have of their funding.

Operating expenses under the POC system, Sok An’s letter explains, are to be tabulated by totalling “daily expenses”, “expenses on communication” and “expenses on transportation”. Monthly expense limits for employees at different levels of government are presented in a table, with limits ranging from US$50-$70 for “operational” expenses at the provincial level and below to $350-400 for “programme management” expenses at the national level.

“This expense table shall be implemented as the common, standard expense table for all ministries and institutions running the Cooperative Financial Contributions programmes or projects of the development partners and shall be reviewed every 18 months at the latest,” the letter reads.
Hun Sen said in his remarks to donors on Wednesday that the Kingdom’s previous reliance on salary supplements had created an environment in which employees of the same government office were forced to compete with one another to work on donor projects and receive the attendant bonuses.

“Imagine if you had a military unit with 100 soldiers and only three of them received the salary supplements – the other 97 will say, ‘Let those soldiers fight!’” Hun Sen said. “They will withdraw, leaving the other three soldiers to be killed, so if we continue this system, Cambodia’s administration will be broken in the near future.”

Sin Somuny, executive director of the local health group Medicam, said he agreed with the prime minister’s concerns about preserving equity in civil servant compensation. He said, however, that further discussions are necessary to clarify how the POC scheme would work in practice.

“I don’t fully understand the details of both the rate and the arrangement of POC, and I think it needs to be fully understood,” he said, adding that he was unsure whether expense levels could be adjusted depending on the needs of a particular office.

In a presentation at a conference in April, National AIDS Authority vice chairman Tia Phalla said POC payments “are not compensation or salary supplements” and emphasised the need to maintain salaries for government workers at acceptable levels.

“There is a real risk that the huge [public health] gains made in Cambodia over the last 15 years might be reversed if staff remuneration is inadequate,” Tia Phalla said.

Donors and development organisations referred questions to the German Embassy, which they said had been the leading international organisation working on the Kingdom’s public administration reform. Embassy officials could not be reached for comment.

World Bank panel interviews Boeung Kak villagers

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Irwin Loy

A DELEGATION from the World Bank Inspection Panel, which is investigating whether the donor violated its own rules concerning a controversial land-titling scheme, has wrapped up its fact-finding visit to Cambodia, housing rights advocates said.

David Pred, executive director of the group Bridges Across Borders Cambodia, said the panel left Thursday after arriving last month.

Rights groups have filed a complaint on behalf of roughly 4,000 families facing eviction in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak lake area, contending that the families were unfairly excluded from the government’s Land Management and Administration Project (LMAP), funded by the World Bank.

Residents say they were denied titles to their homes under LMAP after the government awarded a 99-year lease to a company tied to Lao Meng Khin, a senator with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. As a result, they say, hundreds of families have already been forced to move, and the remainder still face eviction.

“The bank must find a way to repair the harms suffered by the people of Boeung Kak,” Pred said in a statement.

Boeung Kak villagers met with the Inspection Panel delegation last week.

“We told them how the Boeung Kak development will impact our homes. The authorities accused us of living in slums on state property,” said Ing Navy, who said she blamed the World Bank for her predicament as well as the officials who leased the land on which she lived.

World Bank officials in Cambodia referred questions to the organisation’s inspection panel in Washington, which did not return requests for comment.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the government welcomes the inspection panel’s queries, even if they may result in criticism.

“We consider them to be our partners. They have the right to do whatever they like,” he said.

The investigation is expected to last for several more months, said Pred, who expects the panel to submit its report in October and to give the World Bank six weeks to respond.

Govt firm on Thaksin extradition request

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha and Sam Rith

THE government has again said it would refuse to extradite fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the event he travelled to Cambodia, as Bangkok announced it would send warrants for Thaksin’s arrest to police in 187 countries.

“I would say that we are too lazy to answer to Thailand because we have said many times already that we would not extradite Thaksin,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Wednesday, after meeting with his visiting Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa.

Having been appointed an economic adviser to the government in October, Thaksin can travel to Cambodia, Hor Namhong said, though he added that he knew of no immediate plans for a visit.

Thaksin made a series of visits to Cambodia late last year, fuelling a prolonged diplomatic standoff with Bangkok.

Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday that police were in the process of informing Interpol about the warrant for Thaksin, after which it would be sent to Interpol member countries. “Thai police are currently in the process of preparing the necessary paperwork to inform Interpol,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cambodia has issued a statement rejecting a claim allegedly broadcast Monday by a Thai military commander that antigovernment Red Shirt protesters who clashed with police in Bangkok last month used Cambodia as a base for their activities.

“The Kingdom of Cambodia shall not invade any country, nor interfere in any other country’s internal affairs, directly or indirectly,” the statement said.

Donors, govt open aid talks

Photo by: AFP
Prime Minister Hun Sen, government officials and donors stand for the national anthem during the third Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio and Cheang Sokha

INTERNATIONAL donors and government officials gathered in the capital Wednesday for a landmark donor-government forum amid calls for the government to accelerate the pace of key reforms tied to the disbursal of aid.

More than 100 representatives from donor countries and international financial organisations attended the third Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF), and they are set to make fresh aid pledges before the meetings wind up today.

In his opening address to the forum, Prime Minister Hun Sen vowed the government would use aid money effectively, adding that officials will continue to tackle key issues, including corruption, land rights and the reform of the judiciary.

“The Royal Government has made its utmost effort to firmly and deeply implement various reform programmes and consider them a ‘life or death’ issue for Cambodia,” he said.

But speaking on behalf of donors, World Bank country director Annette Dixon complained that “progress has been limited” on efforts to improve strategic planning and aid management, though she lauded the progress made since the last CDCF in December 2008.

“It is important for the government to take the lead in aligning resources to development priorities,” she said.

During Wednesday’s closed-door sessions, delegates discussed the implementation of the government’s National Strategic Development Plan Update for 2009-13, as well as policies to ensure macroeconomic stability in the wake of the global financial crisis.

In December 2008, donors pledged US$951.5 million in development aid, up from the $690 million pledged in June 2007.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said after Wednesday’s session that the forum was going well and that he had not heard any “complaints” from international donors. “I don’t know how much money the government will receive from donor countries this year, but I estimate it will reach our expectations,” he said.

At a twice-yearly government-donor meeting in April, Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said aid trends were continuing upwards, and that the government’s needs would top $1 billion in 2010.

The CDCF process has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks, with local and international groups calling for donors to put more pressure on the government to meet agreed reform benchmarks – known as Joint Monitoring Indicators – that are tied to aid payments.

“It is not enough to throw money at problems and hope the ruling party will act in the interest of the people,” 15 local NGOs stated in a briefing paper released Tuesday.

In a statement Monday, London-based graft watchdog Global Witness said donors should take “a coordinated stand against the horribly subverted dynamic of aid in Cambodia in which their country’s money props up the basic functions of the state, leaving an elite free to exploit the state’s assets for personal profit”.

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting Wednesday, Raoul Jennar, a government adviser, said the donor-government collaboration had succeeded in creating a new legal framework, and that he hoped for “strong support from donors” at the meeting.

“A lot has been achieved.... More than 260 laws have been adopted during the past decade,” he said. “The problem is implementation, but that requires human resources, sometimes highly-skilled – that’s the difficulty this country is facing.”

Other attendees said the focus should be on civil society participation rather than foreign policy makers.

“Donors alone will not be sufficient for driving sustainable change,” said Sin Somuny, executive director of Medicam, an umbrella organisation for health-sector NGOs. “One thing donors should do is help any environment or mechanism for community and civil society participation.”

Representatives from the US and Indian embassies declined to comment Wednesday. Australian and British officials could not be reached.

City approves Khmer Krom event Friday

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:02 Kim Yuthana

CITY officials have approved plans for Khmer Krom activists to hold a ceremony Friday marking the 61st anniversary of a French colonial ruling that formally ceded former Cambodian territories in the Mekong Delta region to Vietnam.

The decision follows last month’s rejection of a proposal for a similar ceremony to be held in the park outside Wat Botum. In a letter dated May 21, Kep Chuktema cited concerns about “security and public order” in rejecting the initial plan. At the time he recommended that organisers send a new one to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community (KKKC) president Thach Setha said Kep Chuktema had on Wednesday granted approval for a ceremony to be held at Wat Sammaki Raingsey. The pagoda, in Meanchey district, is a centre for ethnic Khmer monks and activists from southern Vietnam.

Though he said he was relieved the plan had been approved, Thach Setha expressed frustration at the lack of haste shown by municipal authorities in response to his group’s requests. “The lateness of their reply means we have a shorter time to organise the celebration,” he said.

Explaining the significance of the anniversary, he said: “The National Land Loss Mourning Day is celebrated for the purpose of commemorating the spirits of those who died in their struggles for the cause of our nation and religion, and for the protection of the Khmer Krom land, which was cut from Cambodia on June 4, 1949.”

Yoeung Sin, abbot of Wat Sammaki Raingsey, said he, too, was pleased that the celebration would go ahead.

“The anniversary is of great importance in arousing the spirits of younger generations of Khmer people, so that they remember history and seek to protect Khmer territory,” he said.

Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), also said the anniversary should never be forgotten.

“Young generations of Khmer people must remember and learn from the loss of this land,” he said. “They must try to protect the territories of their country forever.”

He added that Cambodia remained under threat from neighbouring forces, pointing to allegations that Vietnamese authorities have placed border markers inside Cambodian territory. Government officials have vehemently denied the SRP’s claims.

Svay Rieng school head accused of fraud

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Thet Sambath

TEACHERS at a high school in Svay Rieng province have lodged complaints with education officials against the school’s director, accusing her of corruption and nepotism and demanding that she be removed.

Sek Tikheayo, one of the teachers at Samdech Hun Sen Kraul Hor High School, located in Svay Chhrom district, said complaints against Touch Sothea had been lodged with the Education Ministry, as well as the provincial Department of Education on Monday.

He added that he believes the director is guilty of making false expense claims and pocketing the money, in addition to engaging in unfair hiring practices.

The complaint elaborates that the expenses claims in question were for a fence and clocks that allegedly were never purchased.

“She is immoral, and talks impolitely to us,” he added. “She is rude and has always oppressed us.”

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA), said he forwarded the complaint to Education Ministry officials on Wednesday.

He added that CITA suspected the director of committing corruption on a number of instances, and that officials had neglected to take action despite significant evidence.

“Their accusations are correct. The ministry should take action against her and punish her according to their disciplinary rules,” he said.

Touch Sothea could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Kong Saroeun, director of the provincial Department of Education, said Wednesday that he was trying to get teachers and the director to “stop arguing” and to “reach an agreement”.

“I tried to negotiate a compromise between the two parties after I received the complaint on Monday, but no agreement was reached,” he said. He added that one solution to the dispute could be to send the complainants “to teach in remote areas” rather than removing the school director.

Union delays strike, seeks discussions

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

THE head of a union comprising 86,000 garment workers said he sent a letter Wednesday morning to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) requesting that a date be set for discussions of a proposed 40 percent increase to the minimum wage.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC), had previously said that the union’s members would strike at the end of May if officials from GMAC and the government had not responded to an earlier request for the minimum wage to be raised from US$50 to $70.

On Wednesday, he said he would give GMAC one week to respond to the new letter before sending another letter to the Labour Ministry.

“If the ministry does not reply within a week,” he said, “then I will send a request to the Interior Ministry for permission to hold the strike.”

In 2006, when an agreement was reached to set the minimum wage for garment workers at its current level of $50 per month, the government and industry representatives agreed to discuss wages again in 2010.

Ken Loo, the secretary general of GMAC, said Wednesday that the new letter from Chea Mony had been received, but that he could not confirm its contents because he was out of the office. He said GMAC “remains committed to the agreement” reached in 2006.

He has previously described Chea Mony’s deadline and strike threat as unreasonable and impractical.

Last week, he wrote a letter requesting intervention from the Labour Ministry to stave off a strike, arguing that previous “illegal strikes” have “given Cambodia a bad reputation”.

He said Wednesday that he had been told by the ministry that it would be issuing “an announcement” concerning the issue at some point within “the next few days”.

Ministry officials could not be reached Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday, the International Labour Organisation urged all parties to “discuss and agree, in a timely and transparent manner, guidelines and timelines for [wage] negotiations”.

Veterans ask for govt land grant

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Disabled military veterans gather in Hun Sen Park near the premier’s residence Wednesday seeking the right to settle on protected land in Snuol district, Kratie province.

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:01 May Titthara

AROUND 150 disabled military veterans representating hundreds of families from across the country protested in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh villa Wednesday, calling on the premier to grant them 4,000 hectares of protected land in Kratie province.

Yan Yoeuk, director of Association Cripple Development, an organisation representing disabled veterans, said 620 families filed a request to national and provincial authorities in 2008 for the right to settle on a protected area of land in Snuol district, where they hoped to each receive 5-hectare plots.

But on April 24, Kratie officials informed them that the land belonged to five private companies, he said. They also accused the veterans of submitting “fake documents” bearing the false signatures of senior officials, including National Assembly President Heng Samrin.

Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said the Ministry of Environment was collaborating with provincial officials to review the veterans’ request.

“Our government has a policy of providing social land concessions to veterans and also to normal people who don’t have homes or land,” he said.

Kham Phoeun, Kratie provincial governor, said his hands were tied since the land is currently under protection. “We have to talk with the Ministry of Environment and see what they will do,” he said.

But Mao Duon, a veteran who participated in the protest, said this explanation made little sense. “If that land is protected, why did the authorities give it to companies which are now ... clearing the land?” he said.

Sok Kheng Norvin, the national parks chief at the Environment Ministry, said the veterans needed to “calm down”, but promised to present the case to the premier and deliver an answer within a month.

From factory to beer garden

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Hostesses sit inside the entrance to a beer garden in Phnom Penh last week as a man walks past.


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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng

Women new to entertainment-sector jobs describe fresh set of challenges

A CROWD of young women lingers at the entrance to a Tuol Kork district beer garden. The hostesses sit in rows waiting for customers. Their dresses are cut short, and their make-up is carefully applied under perfectly sculpted hair.

It is a scene that has long been typical of drinking dens across the city. But some of the women at this establishment – and countless others like it – are new to the entertainment industry.

The global financial crisis saw Cambodia lose more than 75,000 garment factory jobs between September 2008 and October 2009, according to Ministry of Commerce figures. As laid-off employees struggle to find new jobs, some have accepted work as hostesses and promoters in beer gardens, where the country’s informal sex trade thrives in the open.

That’s where Huon Chetra, 26, found herself after the garment factory that employed her shut its doors late last year. Seeing few other options, she soon took a job as a hostess in Tuol Kork.

“Within my first week of work, I found that the men drinking would harass the women working here. They would touch everywhere on the body,
especially when they got drunk,” said Huon Chetra, who said she feels compelled to put up with the behaviour.

“If I tried to stop a man from touching me, he would get angry and push me away,” she said. “Then I would be replaced with a new hostess. This happens to every woman working in beer gardens.”

Huon Chetra knows of the dangers of HIV/AIDS, and is aware of the importance of practising safe sex, but said there are times when she doesn’t do so with her clients.

“Sometimes, I don’t ask [the client] to use a condom when he is really drunk,” she said.

“It is nothing to be surprised about. Men come for fun, and men who drink like to touch the girls and have sex. So we have to be fun with the clients. If we keep them happy, they will return again and again and the beer garden remains open.”

Concerns over HIV risks
It remains unclear just how many former garment workers like Huon Chetra have landed on their feet in the entertainment industry. An assessment released last year by the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) found that roughly one-sixth of 357 women and girls interviewed in the entertainment sector were former garment factory workers.

“Wages are declining and working hours are increasing ...” the report stated. “This is leading women to leave [garment sector] jobs in pursuit of perceived higher paying jobs with better working conditions, including those in the entertainment sector.”

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said labour unions have not undertaken extensive studies to see where the more than 75,000 garment workers who have lost their jobs in the last two years have ended up. But it’s clear that many have migrated towards the entertainment industry, he said.

“I found evidence by speaking with individual workers, some of them who used to work in garment factories,” Chea Mony said.

The government, too, lacks definitive data on how many former garment workers may now be working in the sex industry.

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Employees at a beer garden in Phnom Penh perform on stage last week.

Regardless of the numbers, the current situation is cause for alarm for health professionals, said Ros Seilavath, deputy secretary general of the National Aids Authority.

“We are concerned that an increasing migration of females into the entertainment industry could pose a risk of an HIV epidemic, because it is difficult to access them to give them information about contracting HIV,” he said.

Advocates who work with sex workers say it has become increasingly difficult to provide the women with vital health information and access to HIV prevention efforts.

Due to an ongoing crackdown on establishments typically associated with the sex industry – including massage parlours and karaoke bars – advocates find that women are increasingly unwilling to call themselves sex workers because they are afraid of the potential consequences.

This has made it more difficult to even identify the women.

“It’s hard to know exactly where they are coming from,” said Ly Pisey, a technical assistant with the Women’s Network for Unity.

“But, for sure there are people who used to work in garment factories that have closed and are now working in karaoke or massage parlours. They are just trying to make a living.”

No regrets
That is how Bopha, 25, found herself working as a hostess in the capital. The garment factory where she worked shut down last year, leaving her without any form of income.

She says she prefers working in the beer gardens to her old factory, where the hours were long and the job tedious.

“I don’t regret becoming a hostess,” she said. “I am happier here than when I was working in the factory. I have the freedom to choose to go with a man or not. It is my decision.”

However, Bopha didn’t tell her parents about her new occupation.

“I think they would be angry with me if they knew,” she said. “I think that many people think women who work as hostesses in the entertainment industry are no different from sex workers.”

Phnom Penh port traffic up 40pc

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
More than 20,000 TEUs moved through the capital's water port in the first five months of 2010.

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

Recovery in garment, agriculture sectors driving rise in shipping traffic

SHIPPING through the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port for the first five months of 2010 increased 40.3 percent over the same period last year, driven by the ongoing recovery of such key sectors as garments and agriculture, officials said this week.

Some 20,997 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) were transported through the capital’s port in the five months through May, compared to 14,964 TEUs last year, port statistics obtained by the Post Tuesday show.

Month-to-month increases were also recorded, with 4,783 TEUs shipped in May, compared to 4,207 in April, the statistics showed.

“We hope shipments this year will increase more than last year because the economy has been recovering significantly,” said Eang Veng Sun, the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port’s deputy director general.

In January, port director general Hei Bavy targeted total shipping for 2010 at 62,500 TEUs, a 44.3 percent increase from the 43,312 TEUs shipped last year.

Last month, Hei Bavy estimated that shipping through Phnom Penh port will increase fivefold in the next decade as the facility gains popularity among freight companies taking advantage of the capital’s access to international sea ports.

Local trucking companies have also reported a boom month in May, compared with the same month last year, said Sok Cheang, executive director of the Cambodia Trucking Association.

He said the association’s 16 members recorded a 5 percent increase in the volume of freight hauled last month.

Sok Cheang added that he also saw signs that the garment and agriculture sectors – crucial to the trucking business – are getting back on track after taking serious hits during last year’s global financial crisis that saw demand for garments, in particular, plummet.

“We hope our members will have more goods to transport through the port this year,” Sok Cheang said.

UN vows to help govt trade better

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:01 Catherine James

Poor practices hurt Kingdom's competitiveness, experts say

CAMBODIA risks falling behind its regional partners in trade if it does not adapt to the highly-competitive world of global commerce, officials said Wednesday at the close of a two-day trade-facilitation workshop, where the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) pledged to help identify cost and time bottlenecks that could mean the difference between commercial success or lost contracts.

While acknowledging the garment industry’s importance as a source of exports, Bangkok-based ESCAP Trade Facilitation Chief Shamika Sirimanne singled out the Kingdom’s agriculture sector as being “key to trade”, but an example of how exposed Cambodia is to barriers to commerce.

“Seventy-five percent of Cambodians are farmers and that’s largely where the poor also are,” Sirimanne said.

“We’ve heard how difficult it is to do [cut down costs and time], but trade facilitation is necessary – there is no choice. It looks really big but we can break it into smaller pieces – pick the key products and break it down into bite-size problems,” she added.

Sirimanne said concrete initiatives resulting from the workshop included a capacity-building session to be held next month where ESCAP would “train the trainers” to identify cost and time obstacles to trade.

Secondly, she said, ESCAP would sponsor a study tour for government officials to observe trade procedures in neighbouring countries. That announcement followed presentations from India, Thailand and Malaysia, whose officials discussed what policies worked and what did not.

She underscored Cambodia’s position in a “trading region” surrounded by fierce competition by referring to an earlier presentation from the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), which has been battling a steady decline in business and factory closures after the global economic crisis took hold of one of Cambodia’s most crucial economic drivers.

GMAC Secretary General Ken Loo told the workshop that profit margins had dropped 20 percent per annum for the last five years, and that demand for quality and shorter lead times were only getting stronger.

“The major challenge of our industry is buyers no longer ask for a quote – they dictate the lead time and the price, and there’s very little room for negotiation,” he said.

“They base the price on other countries, and if you can match it or better it, they give you the business, if not, they don’t.”

He told the delegates it was not enough to think business practices were acceptable because it was how things had been done for 10 years.

“Sometimes half our production time is spent producing nothing,” he said. “We cannot afford the leakages anymore.”

Gulf Relations: ASEAN seeks Gulf nation investments

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

ASEAN officials pledged closer cooperation with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including boosting investment in ASEAN’s agriculture sector, at a conference that ended Tuesday. “Competent authorities … discussed ways and mechanisms appropriate for the development of programmes, projects and joint investments in agricultural production,” Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said. A possible free trade agreement was not discussed at the two-day conference in Singapore, co-chaired by Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, though the Kingdom remains open to international investment, particularly in agriculture, he said. “In general, Cambodia welcomes foreign investment in food production because we have lots of fertile land.” Qatar commercial counselor Krissanet Sripresert confirmed Persian Gulf businesses were weighing investing in Cambodian agriculture. “Qatar looks to Cambodia for agricultural production, and as a market for our products, as well as a potential supply of labour,” he said. Cambodia has previously sought investment in agriculture from several GCC members.

Border Spat: SRP to defy govt order in Takeo trip

Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:01 Meas Sokchea

Border Spat

Lawmakers from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party said Wednesday that they would defy a government order and travel today to Takeo province’s Borei Cholsa district to investigate encroachment allegations against Vietnam. On Tuesday, National Assembly President Heng Samrin said the group would not be permitted to travel to the area while demarcation was in process. But party spokesman Yim Sovann said at least 16 lawmakers would make the trip to border post No 270, which villagers claim has been planted in Cambodian territory. “No people’s representative who goes to help people must ask permission,” he said at a press conference Wednesday. “We must visit [to see] whether [demarcation] affects people’s land or not.” Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said defiance on the part of the SRP would be illegal as well as inconsistent with democratic procedure. “The authorities will take legal action if they would go because the authorities respect the law,” he said. He added that the SRP should take the issue of border demarcation up with the government.

Land Fight: Russey Keo villagers ‘threatened’

Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:02 Chhay Channyda

Land Fight

Around 35 families who were instructed to vacate their homes in Russey Keo district’s Boeung Chhouk village by May 25 have accused the chief of nearby Tuol Kork village of threatening them with arrest if they continue to resist eviction, villagers said Wednesday. Seng Sna, a representative of the residents, said that Tuol Kork village Chief Pol Dim warned them on Sunday that “the district will take action soon”, and that “anyone found to be a ringleader will be jailed”. “I am afraid of prison,” said Seng Sna. “I told him that prison is for only those who violate people.” The families, who say they live in Kilometre 6 commune, were given an eviction notice last month by officials from Tuol Sangke commune. The notice accused them of living illegally on land that belongs to a woman named Lao Tong Ngy. Nuth Puthdara, the deputy governor of Russey Keo district, said he did not know when the eviction would take place, but that the issue was a “commune matter” and thus should not be handled at the district level. Pol Dim could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Police Blotter: 3 Jun 2010

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Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:00 Sen David

Police in Kampong Cham province have arrested four “addicted card-players” caught getting their fix in a coffee shop in Koh Sotin district. The raid was carried out Sunday after police received a string of complaints from nearby residents, who accused the suspects of engaging in “robbing and stealing activities”. Police said the miscreants were unemployed and did not support their families. Instead, they spent all day every day in the coffee shop. There are “so many” card-players in the province, but they are difficult to catch because they always flee when raids are conducted, police said. The four card-players caught on Sunday have been sent to the provincial court.

A 19-year-old man in Battambang province’s Banon district hanged himself after his mother refused to approve his plans to marry his girlfriend, saying the family was too poor to pay for a wedding. The mother told police she also believed her son was far too young to get married. She broke the news on Saturday, and the man’s body was found two days later.

A 32-year-old man in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district has been arrested on suspicion of attacking a younger man with a stone, causing him “serious injuries”, police said. The younger man had been caught staring at the suspect’s sister inappropriately, an act that enraged the suspect. Police said the suspect had instructed the younger man to be more respectful, but that the staring had continued nevertheless. In addition, the suspect accused the younger man of being “very rude with his family”. Police said they are having a difficult time discerning who is in the wrong. The younger man has been sent to hospital.

A taxi driver in Banteay Meanchey’s Poipet town sustained broken legs after another car rammed into his at a high speed, police said. The driver of the speeding car said he was driving fast because he was late for work. He has offered to cover the taxi driver’s medical bills.

Biz Talk: Assessing Cambodia's HR needs

Photo by: Vinh Dao/Melon Rouge
Sandra D’Amico, centre, managing director of HR Inc, stands with her staff at the company’s office in Phnom Penh.

Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:00 Catherine James
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Sandra D’Amico, Managing Director of HR Inc talks to the Post about the changing workforce

From the salary surveys HR Inc has done in the last few years, are there any trends developing, or did 2009 change everything?
It’s almost impossible to forecast salary trends. However, at the moment what we see is low-level salaries are quite flat but at the three- to five-year experience mark for professionals, salaries jump quite dramatically.

There’s been a few shake-ups over the years – not just 2009 – and the changes have affected the workforce in different ways.

For example in 2006, we had the huge influx of new banks and new telcos – that’s when salaries really moved. Because there were insufficient skills in the market to fill skilled and management positions, people made significant career jumps not necessarily because they had the skills to fulfill the position. Many companies felt the pressure and salaries were distorted in the hunt for talent.

I think the shake-up was good for some companies because the lost talent meant improved focus on looking after the workforce.

But after almost 10 years in Cambodia, I can say the workforce is gaining more experience. We’re seeing a much bigger pool of talent in supervisory and management level coming through.

Some people say Cambodia’s human resources constraint is primarily a lack of strong management personnel. Is the problem the small size of the management pool or is it that management simply lacks ability?
Both I believe. A lack of talent will change in the coming years, as I mentioned, but developing management capacity is critical.

We hear some of the biggest challenges are language/communication and cultural barriers. In the manufacturing sector, for example, you have foreign managers that can’t speak Khmer, and a workforce that only speaks Khmer, with little exposure to working with foreigners. But that’s changing – as people gain more experience we’re seeing managers with more ability to really manage, motivate and effectively communicate with employees.

Is better management also a question of better education at a tertiary level?
Yes, certainly, education is important, but the question of getting into a management position is not only a question of knowledge. It’s a combination of knowledge and experience, and the experience is growing year on year.

A lot of donor money has been invested in primary and secondary schooling, and that’s really where the challenges with education have got to start.

What are the key challenges between the education and workforce sectors?
There is a gap between what education provides and what industry needs, but I don’t think Cambodia is alone in that regard.

There’s a huge lack of industry and education linkages where the demand side is driving what the supply side is needing.

I think the focus on education should be TVET – Technical Vocational Educational Training. This would mean people are taught practical skills in a shorter time that can lead to employment faster. From there they can pursue further higher education.

From a recruitment perspective, there’s a huge need for skilled people in more technical jobs – air-conditioning, plumbers, waitresses, IT, the hotel industry – who can speak a second language – English or Chinese.

In many developed countries there is a looming skills shortage with the majority of the workforce retiring soon. Does Cambodia have any population concerns like this?
Cambodia is completely the opposite. We don’t really have a retiring workforce – that’s why social security is so important. At the moment we have the challenge of creating enough jobs for this massive baby boom coming into the market.

The government said 2010 was the year of the economic empowerment of women. Do you think the needs of men and women in work need to be addressed differently?
Yes, I think so. No question about that.

The environment is changing: Women need to be professionally active from an income perspective, but they also want to be involved. However, they have more pressure to look after the family. I think the Labour Law has some provisions around maternity leave, but employers need to have policies that are flexible towards the needs of women. I think, yes, women do need women-friendly policies to help them be professionally active and to keep them in the workforce.

Exhibition bridges the East-West arts divide

Photo Supplied
An innovative necklace design by Waterlily’s Christine Gauthier made from plastic spoons.

Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:00 Jemma Galvin
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FIFTEEN Cambodian and international artists will come together today to present the National Museum’s latest art exhibition. Titled Diversity in Gender and the Arts: What a Difference a Difference Makes, the show seeks to explore the contrast in perspective between male and female artists and how each gender relates to the world.

A collaboration between See Gallery – a forum for cultural, economical and political collaboration based in Germany – and the National Museum, the show took just two months to come to fruition, with photographers, designers and artists all represented and each participant submitting one to two works.

Jana Heilmaier, the founder and president of See Gallery, said the show’s aim is one not often seen to be tackled here in Cambodia, but stresses it is an important one to address.

“This show will open a bridge between young Cambodian artists and more established artists who can guide them and give them tips on things like how to network effectively,” Heilmaier said.

The native German, whose husband is a diplomat at the German Embassy in Phnom Penh, said another level of meaning is added to the exhibition by observing the interaction between works created by artists from the East and those created by artists from the West.

“I think it’s very important for these artists to be able to look at things from various perspectives and for them to be exposed to a new market in Europe. Plus, the show will add something exciting to each of the artist’s CVs,” Heilmaier enthused.

Among those whose artworks feature in the exhibition is well-known Cambodian photographer Lim Sokchanlina. Self-taught and extremely driven, Lim Sokchanlina is part of the small creative collective Art Rebel who hold four to five exhibitions per year in the artist-founded Sa Sa Art Gallery on Sothearos Boulevard.

In his untitled work included in Diversity in Gender and the Arts, Lim Skchanlina’s 60x90cm photograph explores issues of sexual identity through a uniquely Cambodian framework. A young man, half his face made up with gaudy cosmetics and the other half left in its natural, masculine state, gazes blankly at the camera, challenging the audience’s perspectives on gender and how it can often be ambiguous, and the struggle many individuals must go though when exploring this side of themselves.

Other creative people to keep an eye out for at the show include Leang Seckon, Pich Sopheap, Marine Ky, Em Riem, Vuth Lyno, Eric Raisina, Thomas Pierre, Ponita Reasmey Keo Norodom, Carlota Dachao-Noveira, Anastasia Krol and Ali Sanderson.

Heilmaier said that in choosing the artists to be represented, she got a helping hand from two of here closest friends in Phnom Penh – Waterlily’s creative chief extraordinaire Christine Gaultier and Fleur Buorgeois. Heilmaier added that this was just the beginning of the outpouring of support for the initiative.

Many of the Kingdom’s most influential people have had a hand in the exhibition, too. The Minister for Women’s Affairs, Dr Ing Kantha Phavi, will deliver the opening speech at the exhibition, while Australia’s ambassador to Cambodia, Margaret Adamson, will moderate a panel discussion.

Once Diversity in Gender and the Arts: What a Difference a Difference Makes wraps up at the National Museum on June 8, the works will be packed up and shipped off to Berlin for the exhibition to take up residence in the city’s See Gallery.

Tonight’s exhibition opening, which kicks off at 5pm, will include dance performances, music and an art installation by Leoung Seckon.

Cambodian Country Club goes medievalCambodian Country Club goes medieval

Photo courtesy of Cambodian Country Club
A rider rehearses for this weekend’s horse show at the Cambodian Country Club.

Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:00 Ou Mom
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HORSES will be running their courses this weekend when the Cambodian Country Club goes equine crazy. An entertainment show featuring over 40 horse-riding children and adults will take place this Saturday, May 5.

Vann Ratha, a member of the country club staff, told the Post that both Cambodian and foreign performers will don traditional Khmer clothes and dress for the show.

“Even foreigners – children and adults – will wear Khmer uniform to perform and they will be accompanied by a mixture of traditional Khmer and European music with a flavour of the middle ages,” she said.

The reasoning behind what seems like an odd musical choice becomes a little clearer as Vann Ratha explains part of the show’s medieval theme.

“There will be proud knights facing off in what we hope will be spectacular tournaments. Princesses in beautiful dresses will charm you with their dancing and the warriors will show you their power,” she continued. After the performance a buffet dinner will be served at the club at 8pm, with a party to follow.

A ticket includes the show, dinner buffet and water. Members of the club will pay $19 for adults and $10 for children (3-12 years old), while tickets for non-members cost $22 for adults and $12 for children (3-12 years old). Admission is free for children under three.

Soraya Ourrais, general manager of the Cambodian Country Club, revealed that most performers are aged from seven years upwards and have been training for the show with the Country Club’s French trainers for about four months. “We are hoping to have a similar equestrian event around the same time next year,” she added.

For more information and tickets, please contact 023 855 591/ 092-015 231 755 or go to Cambodian Country Club, Street 2004, Group 6, S/K Toeuk Thla, Sen Sok, Phnom Penh.

Points to mean prizes again

Photo Illustration / Photo Supplied
Cellcard customer service officer Moun Sochanleakhena (right) awards the Post fantasy football league season 2009/10 prize of a 3G phone to Pock Sokny at the Cellcard office Friday.

Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:02 Dan Riley
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LOCAL mobile phone company Cellcard has indicated they will once again sponsor the Phnom Penh Post’s fantasy football league for the upcoming 2010/11 season, which kicks off on August 14. Cellcard awarded a US$20 phone voucher and Cellcard T-shirt to the winners of the 38 gameweeks throughout the last season as well as a 3-G phone to the overall winner, Brenda Wade with her team AV Cambodia.

Wade currently resides in England, and decided to give her prize to her son’s fiancée Poch Sokny – nicknamed Nith – who collected it from the Cellcard office Friday.

“I’m delighted to have managed to win such a wonderful prize for [my son’s] fiancée, Nith,” stated Wade by email. “I have followed Aston Villa for many years, and currently my favourite player is James Milner, who was a very good signing for my team.

“Other players who did very well for me over the season include Drogba and Malouda of Chelsea, Rooney of Man United and Defoe of Spurs, who I was fortunate enough to have as captain when he scored five goals in one match against Wigan.

“I think winning a prize like this involves a bit of skill, a lot of luck and choosing players who are at the top of their form,” she continued. “I would like to thank the Phnom Penh Post and Cellcard very much and I hope the league has another successful season next year.”

Cellcard intend to offer similar prizes for successful fantasy managers again this coming season. However, due to some unsporting practices by participants in the previous campaign, some new rules will be introduced to maintain the spirit of competitiveness. The provisional 2010/11 season rules are as follows:

1. Participants must register their team with the Phnom Penh Post once it is setup on the fantasy league website and before a winning gameweek. Registration must be made by email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , supplying team name, manager’s name, real life full name and contact phone number. Thus, teams can still enter the league anytime throughout the season but must register before a winning gameweek if they want to claim a prize. Managers who have not registered will also not be quoted in the regular Phnom Penh Post (and CTN) reports.

2. Individuals can register as many teams as they want as long as a different phone number is registered for each. In the terms of the website, it is forbidden to enter more than one team per email address.

3. Individuals may donate their prizes to a person of their choice providing the benefactor’s phone number is registered. There are no charges for entry or registration.

4. In order to make the league more competitive, gameweek winners will not be allowed to transfer more than 4 players in a week. If the winning gameweek team features more than 4 transferred players, the manager will be denied the prize, which will be awarded to the next highest total.

5. Phnom Penh Post and Cellcard employees will not be allowed to collect any prizes but will be mentioned in reports, so need to register and declare their employment status.

6. In the event of a tie of highest scores in a gameweek, each manager will collect a US$10 phone voucher and T-shirt. In the event of a tie in the overall season competition, the manager that was in the highest position the previous week/s will be awarded the grand prize.

Cheers to free visas

Photo by: Heng Chivoan

Thursday, 03 June 2010 15:00 Cheang Sokha
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Foreign Minister Hor Namhong toasts Marty Natalegawa, his Indonesian counterpart, during a meeting on Wednesday at which the pair signed an agreement allowing for free, 30-day tourist visas between the two countries. Cambodia now has visa exemption agreements in place with six ASEAN countries, the others being Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam. Hor Namhong said Wednesday that the government was open to discussing exemptions with Thailand, Myanmar and Brunei, as well as with other Asian countries. “I have a plan to discuss these exemptions with other countries like Japan and South Korea, as the tourism market from these countries is booming right now,” he said.