Friday, 4 June 2010

Land Protesters from Kandal Province Supressed by Police

International Children's Day in Prey Sar Prison

Cambodia's Donors Pledge $1.1 Billion For Development

Robert Carmichael | Phnom Penh
03 June 2010

via CAAI News Media

Photo: AP
Cambodian Finance Minister Keat Chhon, smiles at the end of foreign donors meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (File Photo)

Cambodia's donors on Thursday promised $1.1 billion in aid to help the cash-strapped country meet its development goals. But it came amid criticism that Phnom Penh is failing to address key issues such as landlessness, transparency and corruption.

In the global context, $1.1 billion is not a huge sum. But for impoverished Cambodia, whose annual budget is only twice that, a billion goes a long way.

The 15 percent rise in pledges was announced on Thursday by Finance Minister Keat Chhon at the end of a two-day donor conference in Phnom Penh.

Keat Chhon said the government would focus on four priority areas of roads, water, human resources and electricity.

He added that Japan was, again, the largest donor.

But the conference, which allows donors, senior government officials and some non-governmental organizations to discuss issues of importance, was not free from criticism.

The World Bank said it was critical that Phnom Penh improve its handling of public finances and natural resources.

That echoed calls earlier this week by civil society groups that donors cannot turn a blind eye to corruption and mismanagement of the country's natural resources.

Others also charge that donor funds are not spent properly.

Japan's ambassador Masafumi Kuroki, whose nation will provide $130 million, said although aid effectiveness needs to improve, processes in place mean it is heading in the right direction.

"There is very increased monitoring of aid between the government and development partners, so I think we have to further promote this process of monitoring," he said.

Kuroki also said that factors other than good governance are vital.

"I understand the importance of governance, MDGs and poverty reduction, but I also want to emphasize the importance of economic growth," added Kuroki.

In the past decade Cambodia has enjoyed stellar economic growth of around nine percent annually. But the rewards have not been evenly shared.

The World Bank country head Annette Dixon congratulated the government on some progress made, but warned that 4 million people - or one-third of the population - still live in poverty.

In his speech, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government recognizes that good governance is vital to ensuring equitable development.

And he said combating graft is a top priority. The new anti-corruption law and crackdowns on illegal logging, he said, prove the government's commitment.

On the issue of landlessness and the parallel granting of vast tracts of land to investors, Hun Sen said the government would pay more attention to the land needs of the poor.

But critics say poverty, widespread corruption, increasing landlessness, and opaque deals that allow firms to exploit limited natural resources mean the poor are being ignored.

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said today's pledges are sufficient to meet the needs of the national development strategy. But as World Bank country head Annette Dixon told the conference, the function of the donors is help the poor. How well the government spends this money will be key to meeting that goal.

What Happens to Thailand's Sex Tourism During the Riots?

via CAAI News Media
It takes a lot of violence to drive the sexpats away.

By Jessica Olien
Posted Thursday, June 3, 2010

Downtown Bangkok has finally stopped smoldering, but a curfew is still in effect after anti-government protesters looted and burned downtown for over two months. The shaky calm has both Thai officials and millions of men all over the world asking: Is it safe enough for sex tourism yet?

Thailand's sex trade, which pumps millions of dollars into the Thai economy, has taken a big hit since the protests began this spring. Thailand was once paradise for these men—among them fetishists and pedophiles—but the spell has since been broken. No one really wants their exotic intercourse interrupted by machine-gun fire or beer runs inconvenienced by police checkpoints, although some are, of course, willing to live with it if that's what it takes. Frustrated sex tourists are now being forced to cancel their vacations or wait it out in their cheap rented rooms until the party starts up again.

I came to Bangkok in early May to cover the red-shirt protests and ran into many sex tourists not quite ready to throw in the towel. Most of the men I met in the city's sex districts back then, before the violence began in earnest in the city center, brushed off the conflict completely. They were sure it wouldn't get bad—this is mellow, eager-to-please Thailand, after all—and continued on their merry boozing and screwing ways. Patpong, Thailand's most famous sex district, had been closed by demonstrations, but there were always other places to go to.

The mood turned somber after what happened around Nana Plaza. A popular, multistoried complex of go-go bars featuring women wearing numbers pinned to crotchless bikini bottoms who stare vacantly and listlessly sway against metal poles, the place was suddenly surrounded with razor-wire and signs designating the area a "live-fire zone." Now it was harder to keep up the fantasy, and Thailand's problems were suddenly the problem of every sex tourist from Japan to Germany. The curfew, which went into effect last week, also shut down Pattaya, a town a few hours southeast of Bangkok, where it seems the entire local economy revolves around the sex trade and which is known for tolerating prostitution by underage boys and girls.

Men—and there are thousands of them—who live heavily intoxicated here for weeks at a time, stumbling around from bar to bar, prostitute to prostitute, had a rude awakening when Thailand's major sex tourism destinations were disrupted. "They fucked this country up," a man named Tom told me indignantly, as though he had been scammed on a time-share. "I've been coming here for years. I'm 75. Where else am I going to find a 25-year-old girl who will sleep with me?" Indeed. How inconvenient for Thailand to have political turmoil that disrupts elderly men's Viagra-fueled sex binges. Couldn't they have waited—until he was dead, perhaps—to hash out their grievances with what they feel is an illegitimate government?

Thailand "sexpat" forums are full of speculation on what will become of the country and how it will affect their lives of debauchery. Many of them are living on pensions and retirement. They don't want to move, but the violence seen over the past weeks and the unpredictability of the situation have left them uneasy and looking for alternative locations. Finding another place in Southeast Asia where sex is so easy and the locale for it so accessible is a tricky task. Thailand is a perfect blend of cheap, nonthreatening, and permissive. Thai people are extremely accommodating. As the men like to tell me, they will make your food "not too spicy," and they will giggle at your jokes even if they have no idea what you are saying. By comparison with surrounding countries, Thailand is more developed and has until recently always been considered quite safe.

So now that it's not, where else is there to go? A man with the username UKmatt on the popular expat (and sexpat) forum suggests the Phillipines as a viable alternative to Thailand. There, he says, there are "beautiful Hispanic-looking women with big boobs," but goes on to cite a high crime-rate and bad food as reasons for not going. As for other countries: Sex tourism is not permitted in Laos or Malaysia, and neither Cambodia nor Vietnam has, to my knowledge, ever been referred to as the "Land of Smiles," as the popular Thailand slogan goes. Also, the advanced age of many of the men who come to Thailand for sex also means they need to be close to adequate medical care, which much of the rest of Southeast Asia lacks. Thailand has fantastic hospitals for those who have a heart attack or an erection lasting longer than 48 hours.

One evening, I went for a drink at a bar called Ice in the small town of Nong Khai in the northeastern region of Thailand known as Issan. An off-the-beaten-path destination for sex tourists that has become more popular in the past several years, Issan is the ancestral home of most of Thailand's prostitutes who leave at a young age to go find work in the bars of Pattaya and Bangkok. Nong Khai is home to several hundred western men who either have Thai girlfriends or are looking to sleep with loads of women whose destitution makes them especially willing. Ice Bar is filled with run-down women in spandex dresses trying to convince customers to put down money on a game of pool. I met a man named Terry who has been retired in Thailand for two years but isn't sure that he wants to hang around much longer. It's become kind of a pain in the ass, he explains. "You never know when the situation may make a turn for the worse, and then what? Go to Laos?" He gestures at the direction of the Mekong River. At about midnight, an adorable little girl who looks like she might be about 6 years old comes into the bar selling flowers. "Where else in the world," says Terry, "could I give that girl 1,000 baht, take her outside and do whatever I wanted to her?"

Foreign donors pledge 1.1 bln USD assistance to Cambodia in 2010

via CAAI News Media

June 03, 2010

Foreign donors have pledged 1.1 billion U.S. dollars assistance to Cambodia for this year at the two-day Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF) meeting ended Thursday.

Keat Chhon, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance told reporters that donors had pledged 1.1 billion U.S. dollars, the sufficient amount that Cambodia needs for development plan.

Keat Chhon said during the two-day forum, Cambodia had told donors of development and progress made since the last meeting on various issues, especially, the government reforms on key issues including land issues and administration.

The forum is designed for foreign donors to review works implemented by the government since the last forum and to discuss how much amount they should provide more financial aid to Cambodia for this year.

The theme of the 2010 Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum ( CDCF) meeting was "Implementation of the Rectangular Strategy- Phase II."

This theme sets the stage for dialogue on the recently updated National Strategic Development Plan, which has been extended to 2013 and sets out a path for Cambodia to return to a path of sustainable and high level growth in the wake of the global economic downturn.

At the opening of the two-day forum, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said his government is committed to continue reforms in key sectors such as good governance, anti-corruption, legal and judicial reform, and land issues among others.

The meeting was attended by senior official from ministries and department of government, approximately 25 delegations from the international community including development partners and diplomatic missions and representation from civil society and the private sector.

It is an annual forum conducted since 1996, but this time is the third kind organized and conducted in Cambodia with those foreign donors, which is named in short as CDCF.

Such forum, in many years ago, was held in France and in Japan, but later moved to Phnom Penh for better convenance as foreign resident ambassadors in Cambodia can act on behalf of their governments without need to travel afar.

Among foreign donor countries include China, the United States, Japan and Germany.

In December 2008, foreign donors pledged 951 million U.S. dollars for 2009 and early 2010, and for the pledges made for 2008 worth 690 million U.S. dollars.

All the pledges of the financial support have been and will be spent for many development sectors including infrastructure, health, education and good governance.

Source: Xinhua

Champion, Pauline Johns for Cambodia

via CAAI News Media

04 Jun, 2010

A HIGHLANDS woman is dedicating her retiring years to help heal a society scarred by devastation caused by the Pol Pot regime 30 years ago.
Pauline Johns, 62, spends half of each year helping children in remote Cambodian villages.

In fact, she has already spent much of the past 12 months helping the developing communities establish and equip village schools, providing hygiene and medical support and supplying many of the people with a means of transport.

It has become a labour of love for Mrs Johns, who has largely relied on her personal funds and the support of friends for the various projects.

“I try to do things bit by bit and focus on one project at a time, but these people need so much,” she said.

Mrs Johns’ fascination with Cambodia began about four years ago while visiting the Angkor Temples during a holiday.

“I’d visited many other Asian countries, but this one kept drawing me back,” she said.

“Each year I went back I would volunteer to help at a school.

“Last year I met Canadian woman Lisa McCoy and my involvement in Cambodian projects has grown since then. I have spent most of the past six months volunteering in remote villages and have also become involved in the Rotary Bike Bank Project with Lisa.

“The project supplies children with bicycles for transport so they can travel the long distance to school. There are many bicycles in the rural areas with a Rotary sticker, thanks to Lisa’s work.”

Mrs Johns said that in some villages the local people had built primitive classrooms but didn’t have the means to equip them.

One of her projects is to help equip the classes and improve facilities within the villages.

“Poverty is horrendous in this country and there are so many people still impacted by landmines scattered across the land during the time of the Khmer Rouge,” she said.

Mrs Johns is involved in “A Mine Free World Foundation”, which helps train landmine victims to support themselves.

“I originally went into the villages to help in the schools, but when I’m there I see so much need for medical treatment and we now spend time taking children to clinics for treatment.

“They often need to be treated for simple things, but hygiene is a real problem and this leads to illness. One of our more recent focuses has been to teach the villagers about health and hygiene.”

Hygiene problems were a major challenge for villages.

“Even basic sanitation needs are lacking, so we do what we can to address this problem and, in particular, the supply of fresh water,” she said.

“It is all worth it to see the smiles on the faces of the people in the villages.

“Despite the challenges these people are always smiling, they never show anger.

“What inspires me most is the dedication of the young Cambodian university students who help me. These girls have been sponsored for their education and are so eager to volunteer their time to help their people.

“They have nothing themselves, but they are eager to help their country toward a better way of life.”

Mrs Johns can be contacted by email: .

Sweden - New Ambassadors to North Korea and Cambodia

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The Government today, 3 June, approved the appointment of two new ambassadors. They are Sweden's new Ambassador to North Korea, Barbro Elm, and Sweden's new Ambassador to Cambodia, Anne Höglund.

Barbro Elm has been appointed Ambassador to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). She is currently Senior Adviser and Press Officer at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Press, Information and Communication Department. Barbro Elm has served at the embassies in Bratislava, Madrid and Havanna, among others. She has also worked at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Americas Department and with UN issues. During a one-year exchange appointment at the Norwegian foreign ministry in Oslo she worked with security policy issues. Barbro Elm has also previously been head of the European Correspondent section at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Anne Höglund has been appointed Ambassador to Cambodia. She has been Deputy Head of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Department for Asia and the Pacific Region for four years. Before that she worked for three years in the same department as head of the group for South Asia. Anne Höglund has also served at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Africa and European Union Departments as well as at the office of the Director-General for Political Affairs. At the beginning of the1990s she was Vice Consul at the Swedish Consulate-General in Barcelona.

The ambassadors will take up their posts in autumn 2010.

Cambodian water authority wins 2010 Stockholm Industry Water Award

via CAAI News Media

Thursday, June 03, 2010

STOCKHOLM — A Cambodian water authority has been awarded the Stockholm Industry Water Award for 2010, according to a press release.

The Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) was selected as the winner for its world class performance in water supply and self- sufficiency, the release stated.

“The PPWSA has successfully fought corruption and shown this can be achieved in a developing country on a large-scale basis using simple but effective management techniques that are based on well-accepted business principles and strategies,” said the International Award Jury in its citation.

Stockholm Industry Water Award recognizes the business sector’s contribution to sustainable water management, by minimizing water consumption and environmental impact, according to the release.

To read the entire article,  click here

Cambodian opposition barred from visit to Vietnam border

via CAAI News Media

Posted : Thu, 03 Jun 2010
By : dpa

Phnom Penh - Armed Cambodian military police prevented a group of 16 opposition lawmakers Thursday from inspecting a new boundary marker on the border with Vietnam, an opposition member said.

Cambodia and Vietnam are in the process of demarcating their shared border, and the placement of some markers has proved contentious with claims they encroach on Cambodian farmers' fields.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said the legislators had heard that the border marker was well inside Cambodian territory and went to inspect it but more than a dozen military police tried to prevent them from reaching the site.

"If the government has nothing to hide, they should not work so hard to stop us 5 kilometres away," he said by telephone.

The group eventually managed to get within 150 metres of the post in the south-eastern province of Takeo before they were again turned back by local police.

The government on Tuesday warned that the trip was illegal and said it would prevent the group from reaching the area.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy was sentenced in absentia in January to two years jail for his role in uprooting boundary posts in October on the Vietnam border.

That incident riled Hanoi, which has close links to the government in Phnom Penh.

Vietnam also has significant business interests in Cambodia, including investments in agribusiness, aviation, telecommunications and banking.

Sam Rainsy Rails Against Loss of Land in US Talk

Sok Khemara, VOA Khmer | Washington, D.C
Thursday, 03 June 2010

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Photo: AP
Cambodian opposition party leader Sam Rainsy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“I’m certainly confronting Vietnam, because when I pulled out the border posts on Oct. 25, 2009, the authorities in Phnom Penh were very quiet. No reaction. Nothing happened. And the reaction out of Hanoi when they learned that it was touching Vietnam’s heart, touching the policy of the invasion of Vietnam, then Vietnam got angry.”

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy addressed about 100 Cambodian-Americans in Seattle on Monday night, claiming he remains committed to what he calls a struggle against the “swallowing” of Cambodian land along the border allowed by the current administration.

The courts have issued an arrest warrant for Sam Rainsy, who remains in exile and is already facing at least 2 years in jail on charges stemming from the uprooting of border markers near Vietnam, in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district. He now faces charges for the publication of a map on the Sam Rainsy Party website that alleges the loss of land.

“I pulled one, then a Vietnamese nearby, he pulled one out, as he knew it was wrong,” Sam Rainsy said, referring to the October 2009 incident. “Now the measure of another 300 [posts] are all wrong, so [they] are fearful that I’ve touched the breath, touched the heart, life, of the communist regime in Cambodia.”

Sam Rainsy, who is on a US tour to build political support, said he was not confronting Prime Minister Hun Sen, but rather Vietnam.

“I’m certainly confronting Vietnam, because when I pulled out the border posts on Oct. 25, 2009, the authorities in Phnom Penh were very quiet,” he said. “No reaction. Nothing happened. And the reaction out of Hanoi when they learned that it was touching Vietnam’s heart, touching the policy of the invasion of Vietnam, then Vietnam got angry.”

The Vietnamese “tried to cheat, they try to propagandize, [saying] that they came to liberate Cambodia, that they came to help the Khmers,” he said. “Help what? Come to swallow our land.”

The border encroachment, he said, was a “trick.”

“Now when we catch it, there is reaction from Hanoi, not from ordinary people, but Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung reacted himself,” Sam Rainsy said. “This is a very big problem. Vietnam’s prime minister reacted from Hanoi, asking Sam Rainsy to be condemned. Why did you yourself in Vietnam order Hun Sen to arrest Sam Rainsy? Until Vietnam made the order from Hanoi, then followed the order, but I will not back off what I have done and will continue to do it.”

A spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment on the statements immediately, asking that questions be sent for a later reply.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan called Sam Rainsy’s comments an instigation of racial discrimination and “sabotage” of the relations between the neighboring countries.

“I’m not really impressed,” Phay Siphan said. “Such language is a strategy to raise suffering, look down on nationalities, or create war with neighbors that counters our constitution, which says the Kingdom of Cambodia lives with its neighbors in co-existence. That’s our policy. What is a conflict, we do not want, but what is resolution through cooperation and a good relationship, that is the goal of Cambodia.”

Phay Siphan denied that Cambodia was under the control of the Vietnamese and said the country has its own independent institutions, including the National Assembly, king and elected government. He also rejected claims that court action was taken against Sam Rainsy at the behest of the Vietnamese government.

In public statements, Nguyen Tan Dung called for Cambodia to take action against Sam Rainsy after the uprooting of the border posts and to ensure such action would not take place again.

Sam Rainsy has said his protests against Vietnam and government followed complaints from villages in Chantrea district who asked for help in what they said was land encroachment from Vietnam.

Cambodia and Vietnam signed a treaty in 2005 that some experts say caused a loss of territory for Cambodia. Sam Rainsy has said he has evidence that the border posts he removed were in fact 300 to 500 meters inside Cambodia’s actual boundary.

Phay Siphan said Monday Sam Rainsy should speak to the court and claimed the government has properly demarcated the border. Only a court can say who is right or wrong, he said.

“Now that he’s been charged with displaying a fake document, he himself has an obligation to speak to the court, through any action or means, that’s his business,” Phay Siphan said. “But it’s regretful that he still walks around and speaks about it in this manner, without clear knowledge [of the fact], as a member of parliament.”

Sean Pengse, a border expert who lives in France and has been traveling with Sam Rainsy to explain the border issue, said the problem stems from the governments of Vietnam and Cambodia using US and Vietnamese maps, not the French map at the UN.

“We recognize the French map,” he said. “Why do we not use it? Why use the American and Vietnamese maps, which are different scales, too?”

On Monday, Sam Rainsy also criticized the government’s policy on illegal immigration, corruption, lengthy land concessions to foreigners and election fraud.

Sinuon Hem, a resident of nearby Tacoma who attended Monday night’s talk, said she was happy Sam Rainsy had raised the border issue and said she supported democrats who help people live in peace.

“I think it’s time to raise the issue, to remind the conscience of the Cambodian children to stand up and unite and love each other among Khmer,” she said.

The border issue remains a main political platform for the Sam Rainsy Party, as the government seeks to complete border demarcation with Vietnam by 2012. Thailand’s political crisis has halted demarcation attempts along that border.

Post-Crisis Construction Recovery Lagging

Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Thursday, 03 June 2010

via CAAI News Media

Photo: AP
Construction workers work on a new apartment complex in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“We are watching the situation very closely, and we have seen that the construction sector is still in a downturn. There is still a reduction in local and foreign investment.”

Two years after the onset of the global economic crisis, Cambodia’s construction sector has struggled to recover, despite promising indicators in the country’s other economic earners.

Both garments and tourism have recovered some since the downturn, but officials say a lack of confidence from both local and foreign investors has stymied construction recovery.

“We are watching the situation very closely, and we have seen that the construction sector is still in a downturn,” Im Chamrong, directory general of the Ministry of Land Management’s construction department, told VOA Khmer. “There is still a reduction in local and foreign investment.”

The country’s real estate and construction sectors were booming through 2007 and into 2008, bolstered mainly by investment from South Korea, China and small investors. The rise of the real estate market made construction one of the economic pillars of the country, which, along with garments and tourism, helped make up a third of the country’s GDP.

Two years after the crisis, garment exports reached $603 million in the first quarter of the year, up from $562 million during the same period last year. The number of tourists has increased 10 percent for the same period, to more than 884,000. But in the real estate market, there is still a 50 percent or 60 percent decrease.

“Land and housing prices can’t be increased in 2010,” said Sung Bunna, president of the Real Estate Valuers Association. “Wait until 2011, and don’t hope that it will increase to the same rate as 2007 and 2008. It will increase very slowly until our economy looks stronger.”

Companies and Markets, a global research group based in London, expects a contraction of Cambodia’s construction sector this year. Recovery may have to wait until 2011, with a slow increase of 6 percent through 2014. That’s down from a growth rate of 19 percent before the downturn, according to the group.

Meanwhile, construction investment projects have also declined, though some, like Camko, Grand Phnom Penh, Posco and the Diamond Center, all in Phnom Penh, have continued.

The Ministry of Land Management reported a decline of 82 percent in construction project approvals, or just $159 million, in the first quarter of the year.

Seng Sopheal, a real estate appraiser for Cambodia Properties, Ltd., said the decrease came from a shortage of foreign capital.

A restriction in bank lending has also slowed the sector. Since early 2009, major commercial banks halted large loans, especially for real estate development. Those restrictions remain in place, as banks have sought to avoid risks.

“We don’t seek to provide loans for real estate development,” Stephen Higgins, CEO for ANZ Royal Bank, told VOA Khmer. “We may only do it in some special cases, but we don’t do it in general because generally a real estate loan is more risky than normal lending.”

Central Bank Moves To Stabilize Faltering Riel

Ros Sothea, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Thursday, 03 June 2010

via CAAI News Media

Photo: AP
A currency trader counts Cambodian money, the Riel, to exchange with U.S. dollars from a customer at a money exchange stall on a roadside in the capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“The riel depreciation was caused by a slowdown in our economy. The flow of dollars derives from exports, tourism and foreign investment, which has not been as much as before.”

The National Bank continues to buy up riel with dollar reserves in an effort to increase the value of the national currency, which has fallen more than 1 percent since April 20, its lowest level in three years.

By May 28, the US dollar was equal to 4,219 riel, an increase from 4,186 riel over two months, according to the National Bank. To increase the value of the riel, the bank used $4 million to buy riel out of circulation through a bidding process last week. And on Monday, the National Bank announced it would use $3 million more.

Tal Nay Im, secretary-general of the National Bank, said the first round of bidding would not raise the value of the riel, but would instead stabilize it. The bank intends to sell more dollars in an effort to get more riel out of circulation, thereby raising its value. Financial analysts say it will take around $10 million to increase the value of the riel by 1 percent.

The dollar has been used in Cambodia since Untac’s peacekeeping mission in the 1990s, working side by side with a riel that was demolished along with the banking system under the Khmer Rouge. Decades of civil strife and several currency changes have weakened people’s faith in the riel, and that is likely to continue so long as the riel’s value continues to depreciate, financial analysts say.

Economists say the depreciation is not a great concern, though it can bring an increase in price for exported products. On the other hand, a riel whose value has appreciated too much can also hurt the export market. The National Bank has tried to keep the riel’s value between 3,900 and 4,100 per dollar.

The Economist Intelligence Unit estimated in April the riel would depreciate an average 1.3 percent in 2010 and 2011.

“The riel depreciation was caused by a slowdown in our economy,” Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, told VOA Khmer. “The flow of dollars derives from exports, tourism and foreign investment, which has not been as much as before.”

Another cause was the fear of a financial crisis in Europe, which recently had to take severe measures to bail out the economy of Greece, a member of the European Union that came close to defaulting on its loans.

“If there is an economic crisis, like the fear of the Greece crisis and the financial system in euro zone, those holding the euro will sell their currency and buy dollars,” said Sam Genthy, a financial expert at the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia. “That trend makes a higher dollar value. So if the dollar goes down a bit, the riel will go back to a normal balance.”

The riel is also undergoing seasonal depreciation.

Cheam Tieng, deputy executive director of treasury and internal affairs at Acleda Bank, said the riel faces depreciation pressure every May, but it’s value will rise again when more dollars flow in the tourism sector and when the harvest arrives.

Youth Gang Arrested After Deadly Grenade Attack

Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Thursday, 03 June 2010

via CAAI News Media

Photo: AP
Former Khmer Rouge region of Anlong Veng, Cambodia.

“They confessed they brought with them three grenades and used one of them because he wanted revenge against a dancer with whom they had had a dispute for several months.”

Police arrested three men in the former Khmer Rouge region of Anlong Veng on Thursday, in connection with a grenade attack Tuesday night that killed one man and wounded 16 people.

The suspect, Thai Sitha, 24, is alleged to have colluded with Thoeun Sokun, 18, a former soldier, and Nul Tean, 18, in an attack that was part of a dispute between two youth gangs that began months ago, police said.

The men are accused of attacking a dance party in Oddar Meanchey province late Tuesday night, where one grenade exploded among a group of people.

“They confessed they brought with them three grenades and used one of them because he wanted revenge against a dancer with whom they had had a dispute for several months,” said Ket Sothea, a justice policeman in Anglong Veng.

Cambodian Capital's Colonial Architecture Disappearing

Robert Carmichael, VOA | Phnom Penh
Thursday, 03 June 2010

via CAAI News Media
Photo: AP
A Cambodian woman offers hammocks for tourists outside central market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

"Now what is happening is that all the views are becoming very, very disturbed, with things very, very different without any idea, without any global idea of the town development. This is really today the most important problem. The second one is that everything is done without any general plan. We do the things one after one."

Cambodia's capital city Phnom Penh is relatively young and most of its buildings only two or three stories tall. But that is changing. Much of the city's century-old French colonial architecture is being demolished, to make way for modern high-rises.

Over the past decade, Cambodia has seen dramatic economic growth. While that has created jobs and brought new infrastructure to one of Asia's poorest countries, it also means that the capital's old French colonial architecture is being rapidly replaced with modern high-rises.

As a result this city of 1.4 million people now has a rapidly changing skyline, as 10- and 20-story office blocks and apartments spring up.

Some architects and historians here say as many as 40 percent of the colonial buildings that survived decades of war and the brutal Khmer Rouge government have been demolished in the past 20 years.

Michel Verrot is a French architect who has lived in Cambodia for 11 years. He heads the Heritage Mission, a French-funded project trying to preserve what remains of the architecture from the French colonial period, which began almost 150 years ago.

Verrot explains that during France's rule, Phnom Penh was designed as a city of gardens, avenues and pleasing views. But that is being lost in the rush to modernity.

"Now what is happening is that all the views are becoming very, very disturbed, with things very, very different without any idea, without any global idea of the town development. This is really today the most important problem. The second one is that everything is done without any general plan. We do the things one after one."

The Heritage Mission has mapped the architectural history of Phnom Penh, and has helped restore several buildings, including the iconic Central Market, which is a favorite with tourists.

And owners have restored a few commercial buildings - like the Hotel le Royal.

Verrot thinks the government has little interest in preserving old buildings. He says that is in part because the gem of Cambodian architecture - the temple complex of Angkor Wat - so dominates discourse that it leaves little space for other types of architecture.

But Cambodia's colonial architectural heritage is also part of the country's history, even if recalling that past can prove uncomfortable.

Samraing Kimsan is a secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for historical preservation.

He says the ministry's ability to act is limited, and adds that the task is made more complicated by the attitude of many Cambodians.

"They do not understand or do not love the traditional and old style of building. They do not understand."

Samraing Kimsan says the ministry struggles to educate people to value old buildings. But there is little money to preserve old buildings. The French government has funded some preservation efforts, but that money may not last.

"Everywhere in Cambodia the provincial departments are all French colonialist buildings. So many old buildings are French buildings - (they) need to be restored. France has not much money. But the government needs to get money. But we are now on the way of development."

Samraing Kimsan himself seems less than enthusiastic about colonial buildings, describing them as windy, in need of air-conditioning, and expensive to restore.

His preference is to develop a modern, Khmer-style architecture that marries the old with the new.

However, tourism is a key industry here, and the government is encouraging tourists to stay longer than the usual three days at Angkor Wat, in the town of Siem Reap.

Verrot says preserving old buildings in Phnom Penh would fit with that aim. He and other preservation advocates also note that renovating old buildings has other benefits.

They say it is much cheaper to renovate than to rebuild, and renovation uses local materials, while new buildings require expensive imported steel and glass.

But the government does not see Phnom Penh as a heritage town, as it does Siem Reap. And critics say that means the focus for the capital is on modernity: glass and marble high-rise towers, as in other Southeast Asian cities, such as Bangkok.

CAMBODIA: Donors pledge $1 billion but criticise corruption

Photo: Brendan Brady/IRIN
A woman paddles a small fishing boat in a Phnom Penh lake being drained by developers to make room for a high end Korean-built residential community

via CAAI News Media

PHNOM PENH, 3 June 2010 (IRIN) - Donors pledged the largest aid package in Cambodian history this week while at the same time scolding the country for failing to implement various reforms.

Donors pledged US$1.1 billion in aid for this year - up from last year’s $950 million - during a two-day conference ending on 3 June. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen insisted his government would use the funds effectively, calling reform a “life-or-death issue for Cambodia”.

But rights groups say donors should take a tougher stance to weed out corruption; the country was last year ranked the world’s 22nd most corrupt by Transparency International.

Activists say much of last year’s money has been diverted from the projects they were intended for, such as schools, roads and hospitals.

“The onus for protecting donor aid falls squarely at the door of the donors themselves,” said Ou Virak, head of the Phnom Penh-based Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

Donors needed to do more to make sure their aid was put to good use, he added.

The World Bank is also unconvinced there has been adequate progress. "It is important for the government to take the lead in aligning resources to development priorities," Annette Dixon, country director for the World Bank, said at the conference.

The Bank said the Cambodian government had to be more transparent with its public finances and handling of natural resources after allegations that foreign oil companies paid bribes for oil exploration deals in the Gulf of Thailand, off Cambodia’s southwest coast.

Last summer, Carol Rodley, US ambassador to Cambodia, said Cambodia lost about $500 million to corruption each year, a remark the government condemned as "politically motivated”.

"It's normal that these donor countries raise this issue of corruption,” Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, told IRIN. "The new anti-corruption law will reduce those improper activities."

Some lawmakers have praised the anti-corruption law, passed in March, which requires government and military officers to disclose their wealth to an anti-corruption body.

But critics say the law was passed hastily and that it contains disturbing amendments, including prison time for whistleblowers.

Various drafts of the law lingered in the National Assembly, the lower house, for 15 years before the bill suddenly went to the floor in March.

Photo: Brendan Brady/IRIN
Homeless people found in city parks are sometimes rounded up by police and held in "rehabilitation" centres" like this one


Despite the prime minister’s assurances, Cambodian officials have in recent months issued increasingly bold warnings to donor governments and the UN, complaining of interference in internal matters when they urge officials to clean up corruption, halt arbitrary land evictions and curtail defamation lawsuits against opposition lawmakers.

In March, Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong threatened to have UN country head Douglas Broderick expelled after Broderick had requested the government spend more time drafting the anti-corruption law. The foreign minister called this an “unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Cambodia” in a letter to Broderick. The UN has stayed silent on the issue.

Cambodian officials claim the country has been transformed from a war-torn pariah state to a politically stable destination for tourists and investors.

But activists say that is not enough. “The aid situation has done pretty well in infrastructure,” Donald Jameson, a former US embassy official in Phnom Penh, told IRIN by telephone from Washington DC. “But there is very little being done about the quality of education, healthcare or corruption in the judiciary.”

About one-third of Cambodians still live on $1 a day or less, according to government statistics.

Playing the China card

Some analysts contend that China, Cambodia’s largest donor, is shaking things up by increasing the size of its aid packages each year, with few conditions. Cambodia now makes more decisions in the interests of China, observers say.

In December, Cambodia deported 20 Uighur refugees from Xingjian, a province in northwest China. The UN and US condemned the decision, claiming it was against international refugee law.

After the expulsion, China awarded $1.2 billion in aid and soft loans to Cambodia.

Cambodian Cultural Celebration Comes to Millersylvania State Park
via CAAI News Media

Courtesy photo
The third annual Cambodian cultural celebration will be held on Saturday at Millersylvania State Park. These photos of last year’s event were taken by Sreytouch Ryser of Tumwater.

via CAAI News Media

Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2010

By Carrina Stanton

Like thousands of other Cambodians, Srey Ryser came to the United States in the 1980s to escape the war and genocide that was going on in her home country.

But today the Washington State Parks employee said few, if any, of her casual acquaintances or co-workers know, or have asked, about her past.

Newport dentist set for Cambodia mercy mission



via CAAI News Media

Thursday 3rd June 2010

A NEWPORT dentist is about to embark on a two-week trip to Cambodia where he will help treat patients with cleft lips and palates.

Keith Morgan, 51, who runs Malpas Dental Practice, will join a team of cosmetic surgeons from charity Operation Smile, to help fix the teeth of men, women and children who are undergoing the operation.

The father-of-four will also climb aboard a United States Navy hospital ship, which spends up to five months of the year treating patients all around the world, to perform procedures on people in remote locations who would otherwise not get the treatment they need.

Mr Morgan, of Langstone, got involved in the organisation on the recommendation of a friend who worked for the US Navy two years ago.

On his first trip in 2008 he travelled to Papua New Guinea, followed by Kenya in 2009, helping to treat around 100 patients each time.

Mr Morgan, who also runs a dental surgery in Cwmbran, said he was looking forward to jetting off in two weeks time. He said: “It really is a life-changing thing for these people.

“It is a great opportunity to help people in the third world who would not get this done otherwise.”

Cambodian PM urges government members to adhere to discipline

via CAAI News Media

June 03, 2010

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Thursday to his government members who have just graduated from their administrative studies to adhere to discipline.

Delivering speech at the conferment of certificates to 343 executive and mid-level civil servant trainees and officials from the Senate, Hun Sen said "I would like to share some experiences and concepts about the value and special characteristics that government officials and the entire public administration should adhere to discipline."

"Discipline is one among many other major factors for achieving work success. Individuals must have self-discipline first before they can adhere to those disciplines imposed by institutions and society," he said.

"Government officials must act as role models by coming to work on time so that government institutions can operate without wasting any time. This is a key principle to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of providing public services to people," he added.

Hun Sen said discipline in public administration is the key to assist government officials in performing their duties in order to achieve success in managing the country with governance.

Developing human resources is one of the priorities set forth by Cambodian government in its fourth term that began from 2008 through 2013.

In many occasions and forums, Hun Sen has been encouraging his country's people, officers and the young generation to access to more education and to use their knowledge, skills and masterpieces to help the country.

Source: Xinhua

6th SEA Junior Table Tennis Championship opens in Cambodia

via CAAI News Media

June 03, 2010

The 16th South East Asian Junior Table Tennis Championship opened Thursday at Olympic Stadium with 86 table tennis players taking part in the competition.

This will be the first time Cambodia has hosted the annual event which was held last year in neighboring Thailand, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

Eight countries took part in the five-day competition starting from June 3 to 7. The countries include Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and hosts Cambodia.

Bun Sok, secretary of state of Cambodia's Education, Youth and Sports Ministry attended the opening ceremony. He spoke highly of the development of table tennis in Southeast Asia, and expressed his excitement for Cambodia having the chance to host the regional table tennis championship. He believed that it will further strengthen the cooperation between countries in the region through the organization of competitions, and also help Cambodia to accumulate more experience for hosting more international events in future.

Im Sethy, minister of Cambodian Education, Youth and Sports Minister said in his message that table tennis is one of the major international sports events. Many people enjoy the sport because it helps to cultivate people's endurance and rapid reaction capacity, and people of all ages young and old can participate.

Chan Foong Keong, Secretary-General of Southeast Asian Table Tennis Association, said after the first Southeast Asian Junior Championship was successfully held in Kuala Lumpur, the competition has been developed continually. The competition aims to train the national table tennis player for future international competitions.

The tournament will feature men's and women's singles, doubles, and mixed teams for U18s, and U15s. The Cambodian team will field 13 males and 2 females.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodia's donors pledge record 1.1 billion dollars for development

via CAAI News Media

Jun 3, 2010

Phnom Penh - Cambodia's donors on Thursday pledged a record 1.1 billion dollars in financial assistance for 2010 amid warnings that the country needs to improve accountability and transparency.

Japan was again the largest donor, said Finance Minister Keat Chhon, who outlined the government's main focus areas.

'We have our priorities: roads, water, human resources, electricity,' Keat Chhon said. 'These are the top four priorities. We also need funding for legal reform.'

The two-day donor conference, which concluded Thursday, saw Cambodian officials, foreign donors and non-governmental groups gather to discuss the country's most pressing issues.

Last year, donors provided 951 million dollars, around half the government's budget, and, at the time, the largest sum given.

In recent weeks, media reports have revealed that millions of dollars of revenues from resource industries were not properly accounted for.

The World Bank on Thursday singled out as 'critical issues' the need to improve transparency and accountability in Cambodia's handling of public finances and natural resources.

Other complaints have revolved around the use of aid. Japanese Ambassador Masafumi Kuroki indicated his country would provide 130 million dollars, before adding that aid effectiveness could be improved.

'There is increased monitoring of aid between the government and partners, and I think we have to further promote this process of monitoring of aid,' he said. 'There is already a mechanism to do that, and we have to strengthen that mechanism.'

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen told the conference that good governance was 'the most important prerequisite for a sustainable and equitable economic development and social justice.'

'In the context of this vision, the royal government considers the fight against corruption as a top priority,' he said, citing a new anti-corruption law and an ongoing crackdown on illegal logging and fisheries as evidence of the government's commitment.

And he said agriculture was the top development priority for the country's mainly rural population because it could both bolster economic growth and ensure food security.

He also pledged to pay more attention to granting land concessions to the poor. Land concessions are a highly contentious subject with large investors in possession of more than 1 million hectares.

The conference was reminded by World Bank country head Annette Dixon that 4 million Cambodians - around one-third of the population - live in poverty while many more are on the margins.

'Life continues to be extremely challenging for the majority of Cambodian rural families, who remain vulnerable to shocks,' she said.

PHIGroup Holds Seminar for Leading Cambodian Companies With the NASDAQ Stock Market and the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce

via CAAI News Media

Posted : Thu, 03 Jun 2010
Author : GlobeNewswire

LOS ANGELES and PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, June 3, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- PHIGroup, Inc. (OTCBB:PHIE) (Frankfurt:PR7) (XETRA:PR7) (WKN A0RNQV),, an M & A company with diversified holdings in real estate development, energy, natural resources and special situations, announced today that the company will be hosting a seminar in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, together with the NASDAQ Stock Market (Nasdaq:NDAQ) and the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce to help Cambodian companies raise capital through the U.S. stock markets.

This is the very first time the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, the NASDAQ Stock Market and PHIGroup host this kind of event for Cambodian businesses.

The seminar is from 08:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 3, 2010 at Hotel Cambodiana, 313 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Tel: 855 23-218 189 / 426 288.

The event provides information on the U.S. stock markets and their listing requirements, important criteria for superior market quality, how to go public and raise capital through the U.S. stock markets, and keys to success as a public company. Presenters include the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, NASDAQ OMX (, and PHIGroup, Inc. (

Neak Oknha Kith Meng, President of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, stated: "As we celebrate a 15-year landmark since the promulgation of the law on chamber of commerce and the establishment of the first Cambodian chamber of commerce, Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce, we are excited to collaborate with the NASDAQ Stock Market and PHIGroup to provide this unique opportunity for our members to learn about the U.S. stock markets and ways they can raise capital to expand their business."

"NASDAQ is the exchange of choice for innovative, growth-oriented companies across all key sectors," said Eric Landheer, Head of Asia Pacific for NASDAQ OMX Group. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to meet leading Cambodian companies today. When they want to go abroad to expand their investor base and enhance their global brand, they are welcome to do so by listing on the NASDAQ Stock Market, the home of innovation and growth."

Henry Fahman, Chairman and CEO of PHIGroup, said, "We are delighted to work with the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce and NASDAQ OMX Group and to meet with leading Cambodian businesses on this very special occasion. We look forward to assisting Cambodian companies to successfully access international capital markets as they seek to further their growth."

About Cambodia Chamber of Commerce

The Cambodia Chamber of Commerce was established under the Law on Chamber of Commerce promulgated in 1995 and its relevant amendment and regulations of the Kingdom of Cambodia. By nature, the Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary membership-based and is a not-for-profit institution representing private sector interests in commercial, industrial, service and craft and agricultural sectors and dedicates to the economic well-being of their territory and of the country as a whole. Large, medium and small legal businesses from virtually every profession across the nation could join the chamber of commerce. The Chamber of Commerce works to make their voice heard and contributes to the efficiency of the government, thus, making business environment friendlier to businesses. The Cambodia Chamber of Commerce is a national network of all 12 local chambers of commerce, with the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce being the first one established. Neak Oknha Kith Meng is the current President of the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce. Web site:

About NASDAQ OMX Group

NASDAQ OMX is the world's largest exchange company with trading, technology and public company service capability spanning 6 continents.

NASDAQ OMX offers capital raising solutions to companies around the globe and is number one in worldwide listings with more than 3,600 listed companies representing $4.5 trillion in total market value. NASDAQ OMX offers trading across multiple asset classes including equities, derivatives, debt, commodities, structured products and ETFs. Its technology supports the operations of over 70 exchanges in 50 countries. Through its Data and Financial Products units, NASDAQ OMX provides its companies and investors with unrivaled market insight and visibility across multiple trading pools. Web site:

About PHIGroup

PHIGroup provides M&A advisory and consulting services, develops real estate and natural resources, and invests in special situations. PHIGroup, which specializes in raising capital and helping take companies public, is developing Philand Ranch, one of the largest master planned communities in Vietnam through its majority owned subsidiary Philand Ranch Limited (Frankfurt:1P8) (XETRA:1P8). This project includes Pointe91, a luxury resort and premium residential community in Quang Nam province in central Vietnam. PHIGroup is also engaged in mining in Southeast Asia through PHI Mining Group, Inc. (Pink Sheets:PHIG). Web site:

Safe Harbor: This news release contains forward-looking statements that are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those projected on the basis of such forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are made based upon management's beliefs, as well as assumptions made by, and information currently available to, management pursuant to the "safe-harbor" provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.