Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Khmer Rouge tribunal Case 002 on show

Photo by: Sovan Philong

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:00 Sovan Philong

Visitors walk through an exhibition of photographs, archival material and other documents pertaining to the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s second case on Monday. The exhibition, titled “Genocide: the Importance of Case 002”, opened at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum on Saturday.

Fire families wait for relocation, new land

Photo by: Will Baxter
A Tuol Kork resident helps rebuild his family’s home, which was destroyed in a March 8 fire. On Monday, 68 families that want to rebuild in Boeung Kak 2 commune asked officials to begin distributing plots of land, and a group of 170 families that have agreed to relocate to Dangkor district learned they may move before the end of the month.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

TUOL Kork district officials on Monday told a group of 170 families made homeless by a March 8 fire in Boeung Kak 2 commune that they could be relocated to an undeveloped site in Dangkor district’s Choam Chao commune at the end of the month.

Also Monday, 68 other families that have continued to resist relocation protested in front of City Hall, calling on local officials to grant them land to build new homes at the site of the fire.

At a meeting with the first group of families, held at Neak Von pagoda, Tuol Kork deputy governor Thim Sam An said infrastructure at the Choam Chao district relocation site would not be fully in place before families arrive.

“We cannot connect the electricity and water line, including the drainage system, by the end of this month. We will have to do these things step-by-step after the relocation,” he said. “But if you agree to go, we will relocate you this month.”

Boeung Kak 2 residents and housing rights advocates have criticised the Choam Chao site for its propensity to flood, but Thim Sam An said that the authorities were “making an effort” to fill in flood-prone areas.

Some residents said Monday that they were willing to wait up to two months to be relocated, provided that officials gave them tarpaulins so they could build roofs over temporary shelters in Boeung Kak 2.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Lim Kim Eng, 68, attends a protest Monday at which residents of Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 2 commune demanded permission to rebuild homes destroyed in a March 8 fire. Her sign reads: “Commune and district authorities have delayed us from rebuilding our homes for three months.”

“Right now, our roofs are ruined, and we have no money to buy new tarpaulins,” said Sam Sam Ang, a representative of the families. “We ask that the authorities distribute some tarpaulins to us … while we wait for relocation.”

Meanwhile, 68 families that have continued to resist pressure from the authorities to relocate demonstrated in front of City Hall on Monday morning, demanding that local authorities begin allocating plots of land promised to them at the fire site.

Kong Saly, a resident who participated in the protest, said that villagers want officials to distribute 3.92-by-5.5-metre plots of land to each family.

“For three months we’ve waited for the authorities to distribute plots of land to us, but now it’s the rainy season, and our roofs are ruined,” she said.

In the fire’s immediate aftermath, officials told residents they could rebuild in the commune provided that they accepted 3.92-by-5.5-metre plots – a downgrade for many of the families – and left sufficient space for new access roads.

Forestry officials summoned

Photo by: Rann Reuy
Officials examine timber discovered during a raid on a warehouse in Siem Reap province in April, one of dozens reportedly carried out nationwide this year.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun ​and Cameron Wells

Courts in Koh Kong and Ratanakkiri to investigate illegal logging claims

KOH Kong provincial court has summoned two forestry officials – a former maritime inspector and a current Forestry Department staff member in Preah Sihanouk province – on suspicion of involvement in an illegal logging ring, court officials said Monday.

The summonses come amid mounting frustration that a crackdown on illegal logging announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in January has not led to arrests and prosecutions, despite a spate of raids in Koh Kong and a handful of other provinces.

Meanwhile, officials at the provincial Forestry Department in Ratanakkiri who have requested permission to auction off wood seized during recent raids there are also set to be called in for questioning, and officials at the provincial court said Monday that they wanted to know why complaints had not been filed in connection with roughly 45 raids carried out in that province this year.

Bun Thy, an investigating judge at Koh Kong provincial court, said Monday that the two forestry officials had been summoned along with two officials from a conservation NGO.

“I have issued summons letters to order [the four officials] to appear in court under suspicion of being behind illegal logging and conspiring with businessmen,” he said.

He declined to elaborate on the case, saying that investigations “were ongoing”.

But Huon Mony, the director of the court, said the investigation centred on one main operation with several offshoots, and that it could potentially implicate “several suspected officials and several businessmen”.

“As far as I know, there is an ongoing investigation into a massive forestry crime committed in April, which was divided into several smaller cases which involved many people,” he said.

A raid on the operation, he added, had led to the seizure of “hundreds of cubic metres of luxury wood” and seven trucks.

Meas Sitha, deputy director of the provincial Forestry Department, said the four officials had been summoned to appear in court on June 21.

Cheng Kimsun, the director of the Forestry Administration, declined to comment on Monday, saying he was in a meeting.

In Ratanakkiri, officials at the provincial Forestry Department have sought permission to auction off wood seized during this year’s raids, saying they want the proceeds to be turned over to the government, provincial court director Lu Susambath said.

He said this request would not be granted until the court received an explanation as to why no arrests or prosecutions had stemmed from any of the raids.

“There were about 45 forest crimes that provincial forestry officials have cracked down on over several months, confiscating hundreds of cubic metres of wood,” he said. “But we have never seen any wood sellers arrested.”

He declined to say how many forestry officials would be summoned as part of the investigation, though he noted that the summonses would be issued before the end of the month.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the lack of prosecutions had frustrated local observers.

“We feel hopeless that local authorities and court officials that have cracked down on multiple forestry offences have failed to apprehend powerful people behind the illegal logging trade,” he said. “We welcomed the crackdown, but if no one is prosecuted then the premier’s speech would be meaningless.”

Toby Eastoe, an ecological adviser for the Cardamom Mountains Wildlife Sanctuary Project at Flora and Fauna International, seconded the call for prosecutions.

“It’d be nice for them to be prosecuted. Every time we send someone to be prosecuted it’s very hard to get through the courts,” he said. “Obviously the higher up the officials are, the harder it is.”

Though the crackdown has “taken out a few key figures”, it has not led to greater protection for forests, he said.

But Mark Gately, country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the crackdown seemed to have curtailed illegal logging in Mondulkiri. “From what I’ve heard from our project teams, there seems to be far less wood being moved at ground level,” he said.

Sok Sam Oeun, director of legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, said it was incumbent on forestry officials – and not the courts – to pursue complaints against individuals.

Article 96 of the 2002 Forestry Law states that anyone caught engaging in illegal logging shall be subject to a fine that is two to three times the market value of the confiscated evidence.

Donors to give near $3 billion in 2010-12

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:03 Sebastian Strangio

INTERNATIONAL development assistance to Cambodia is expected to top US$2.8 billion for the three years ending 2012, according to indicative financing estimates released during government-donor meetings in the capital last week.

According to a copy of the estimates obtained by the Post, the figure includes the $1.1 billion in pledges announced at the close of the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum (CDCF) on Thursday, in addition to indicative financing totalling $958 million for 2011 and $750.5 million for 2012.

But observers say the figures do not necessarily point to a decline in aid payments, and that the indications could rise if new donor-funded projects come online over the next two years.

“The indicative financing for 2011 and 2012 could increase a little because donors require some time to confirm their commitments with their respective governments,” said Sin Somuny, executive director of Medicam, an umbrella organisation for health-sector NGOs.

Hady Riad, a councillor at the German embassy, said Germany’s indicative aid figures, which show a decrease from $65.6 million this year to $50.5 million in 2011 and $27 million in 2012, consisted of disbursals for pre-existing aid projects and would be subject to change. “These figures are not to be equated with any new commitments,” he said.

German development assistance spiked in 2010 because of some projects that have had a “long period of implementation”, he said. He added that Berlin would undertake its biannual assessment of projects in Cambodia next year, and that the approval of new projects could potentially boost indications.

Masafumi Kuroki, Japan’s ambassador to Cambodia, said the 2011-12 figures indicated “an overall trend” of donor support for the government, but that his country’s aid figures would also likely be revised. Japan has indicated it will maintain its level of development assistance at $131.8 million each year from 2010-12.

“Our intention is to maintain almost the same level of assistance for the coming years, but it may increase or decrease,” Kuroki said.

The list of aid figures also gives a breakdown of the record $1.1 billion pledged by donors last week. Japan continues to be the country’s largest bilateral donor, pledging $131.8 million for 2010, followed by China ($100.2 million), the US ($68.5 million) and Australia ($61 million).

UN agencies will shell out $86.8 million for 2010, while the World Bank will contribute $122.7 million, the Asian Development Bank $153.8 million and the Global Fund $75.8 million. The figures also show South Korea pledging $26.8 million in aid for this year, a figure that is indicated to rise to $69.4 million in 2012.

This year’s record $1.1 billion aid pledge was an unprecedented signal of strong donor support for Cambodia, but some civil society activists have argued that development partners have done little to pressure the government to meet good governance benchmarks in exchange for aid.

At the close of the CDCF meeting Thursday, Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon praised the support of the donor community, saying the funds would help support the government’s National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) update for 2009-13, which will require around $1 billion in external funding annually for its five-year duration.

Sin Somuny from Medicam said that the aid slated for the next three years would benefit the country, but that there needs to be improvements in aid effectiveness.

“The country needs this money for development,” he said. “The question is, how do we improve accountability, transparency, efficiency and effectiveness?”

Royalists form new alliance

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:03 Meas Sokchea

THE Kingdom’s estranged royalist parties have agreed to an alliance in a first step towards full reunification ahead of elections in 2012 and 2013, party officials announced Monday.

Funcinpec President Keo Puth Reaksmey said the alliance – to be known as the Funcinpec-Nationalist Alliance – would be formed with himself and Nationalist Party (NP) head Chhim Siek Leng as co-presidents.

He added that despite poor showings in recent polls, the royalists are still relevant as a movement that defends the monarchy and democratic principles including human rights and the rule of law.

“This is the platform of the Funcinpec-Nationalist Alliance as well as for our future single party,” he told reporters at the party’s Phnom Penh headquarters.

Royalist fortunes have declined steeply since Funcinpec won the 1993 election under Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s leadership, and the movement has lost seats in every election since. In 2006, Norodom Ranariddh was expelled from the party after being convicted of embezzling party funds, and formed his own party.

At the 2008 national elections, Funcinpec and the new Norodom Ranariddh Party – later rebranded the NP – won just four National Assembly seats between them.

On Monday, NP President Chhim Siek Leng said that the alliance was a signal that both parties wanted to re-establish friendly relations and put their past troubles behind them.

“Both our parties were previously one party that was royalist, nationalist and democratic. Despite both the parties’ splitting in the past, we all have forgotten the past and regard it as a political experience,” he said.

NP secretary general You Hokry confirmed that the two parties plan to merge under a single name in time for the 2012 commune council elections.

On Monday, Cheam Yeap, a senior lawmaker for the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), congratulated the parties on the alliance.

“On behalf of the CPP, which won the election, I would like to congratulate them,” he said.

“Normally, parties are created with the aim of leading the country, so they will try,” he said.

All bets are off during World Cup, city says

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng

CITY authorities will be on the lookout for any illegal gambling as the football World Cup kicks off later this week, police officials said Monday, pledging to uphold the betting ban handed down by Prime Minister Hun Sen last year.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said Monday that both foreigners and locals would be free to enjoy the monthlong tournament, which starts Friday night, but would be banned from placing any bets.

“We know that some countries in the world would allow betting on the World Cup, but Cambodia will not allow it, and we are strictly standing by the decision of Prime Minister Hun Sen to eliminate all forms of gambling,” he said.

In February last year, Hun Sen abruptly ordered the closure of the country’s sports betting outlets and slot-machine parlours, saying they had been responsible for a moral decline in the Kingdom. Cambo Six, a Hong Kong-owned sports betting agency, was among the largest targets of the crackdown.

Touch Naruth said local police had been ordered to arrest anyone found betting on the World Cup.

“We already eliminated Cambo Six and will not allow it to happen again,” he said.

Born Sam Ath, the police chief of Dangkor district, said he had ordered officials in all of the district’s 15 communes to keep an eye out for people who try to flout the gambling ban.

“If any commune police chief ignores [illegal betting], he will face being fired from his post, but I hope that in Dangkor district there will be no betting on the World Cup,” he said.

Cambodian men trafficked to India to be returned this week

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:02 May Titthara

EIGHT Cambodian men who are believed to have been trafficked to India will be repatriated Wednesday after spending six months in an Indian detention centre, officials said Monday.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said the men were transported to India on a Thai fishing vessel.

“All of them are Cambodian citizens...” he said. “If we did not help them on time, they would be working like slaves on a fishing boat for the rest of their lives.”

The men are believed to have struck a deal with a middleman in Cambodia that they thought would lead to jobs in Thailand, but they then found themselves in Indian waters unexpectedly, Koy Kuong said.

“They knew nothing until they woke up in the middle of the ocean,” he said.

Authorities were made aware of the case after relatives of the men reported them missing, Koy Kuong said. At first, Indian officials planned to send the eight men to Thailand, believing they were Thai citizens because they had fake Thai passports.

“Our Cambodian embassy officials in New Delhi have worked with Indian authorities to find the necessary documents needed to secure their return to Cambodia,” Koy Kuong said. He added that he was unsure how long the eight men had been out of the country.

Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc, said that although Thailand may be a more common destination for victims of human trafficking, there have been other cases in which Cambodians have been sent to countries such as India, East Timor and South Korea.

“Migrants are often easily cheated by brokers because they don’t have land, so they have to go find a job to support their families abroad,” he said.

Officials at the Indian embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.

Salary reform plans to be delayed: official

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:02 James O'Toole

COMPREHENSIVE reforms of the government’s compensation system for civil servants due to go into effect next month are “not yet ready for implementation”, a development official working on the issue said Monday, as details of the controversial new plan remained unclear.

Hady Riad, a counsellor at the German embassy, said there “will still be some discussions which are necessary to flesh out the details” of the new system, announced in January to the surprise of many in the donor and NGO community.

Representatives of the World Bank, UN and other development organisations said the German embassy has been the leading international institution working with the Cambodian government on public administration reform and referred questions to officials there.

“I think everybody knows that there is still some work ahead, and that this needs to be pushed in order to meet these deadlines,” Riad said.

In a December letter to development organisations, Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon announced that effective January 1, the government would cancel salary-supplement programmes for civil servants in a bid to stabilise state finances and maintain equity in compensation. Such programmes had allowed donors to top up the salaries of government workers based on their work on particular projects or issues.

Members of the development community subsequently expressed concern that the abrupt termination of the supplements could spark immediate attrition from government jobs, particularly in sectors such as health and education. In January, therefore, Keat Chhon said the government would allow a six-month transition period during which some forms of supplements could persist.

Based on consultations with government officials in the last few months, Riad said, the new system for compensation and expenses – termed the Priority Operating Costs (POC) system – would create a civil service in which workers of equal rank would receive equal compensation across all sectors of the government.

“The discussions made us believe that one of the major advantages would be that through the introduction of the POC, we would be in a position to harmonize the whole system of salary supplements,” Riad said.

Still unclear is the question of whether POC payments, which are to replace salary supplements, may be adjusted based on the expenses associated with a particular project or on the qualifications of the officials involved, Riad said.

According to a draft of a POC “implementation guide” distributed by the government to development organisations last week, payments from donors in the POC system will be distributed based on the expenses for particular projects rather than as ongoing supplements to the salaries of civil servants. Progress reviews for individuals receiving POC payments are to be conducted every six months, the guide states, and “independent third party audits” of a project may be commissioned by either the government or the donors providing support.

In remarks before the Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum last week, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said donors spent over US$20 million on salary supplements in 2009 for around 13,000 civil servants. “Surely, we can do better and do it in ways that are more transparent, more merit-based and more equitable,” he said.

Parking fees spark complaints

Photo by: Sovan Philong
A group of men sit on parked motorbikes along Charles de Gaulle Boulevard on Monday. The street was recently the site of an experiment in parking fees that has drawn complaints.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:02 Chhay Channyda

RESIDENTS and business owners living on a section of Charles de Gaulle Boulevard where parking fees were recently collected as part of a one-week experiment are preparing to submit a complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen, representatives said Monday.

Under the experiment, which ended last Wednesday, customers visiting shops on a 120-metre stretch between Streets 107 and 109 in Prampi Makara district were allowed to park cars and motorbikes for free for up to one hour, but were charged between 500 riels to 20,000 riels (US$4.80) if they stayed for longer.

Huot Chhon, the owner of a shop selling spare motorbike parts, said he did not know when the complaint would be submitted, but that he was trying to collect as many thumbprints as possible. “I’m worried that in the future the city would start this officially along the road. It will affect our business,” he said.

Prampi Makara district governor Som Sovann said Monday that decisions about whether to undertake additional experiments or to impose permanent fees would be made by City Hall, and that there had not yet been any meetings about the experiment that ended last week.
City Hall officials could not be reached for comment on Monday.

A notice dated May 25 said the point of the exercise was to reduce the number of vehicles along Charles de Gaulle and discourage “anarchic parking”.

Masato Koto, an urban planning consultant who came up with the scheme, said last month that the long-term plan is to make Phnom Penh more pedestrian-friendly.

“In other countries, sidewalks are only for pedestrians,” he said. “But Cambodia is different. Here sidewalks are for parking cars, so we have to change this characteristic.”

Panel to draft acid law by end of month

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

MEMBERS of a government committee charged with drafting a law to curb acid crimes said Monday that they expect to complete the task by the end of the month.

The committee was formed in February after a spate of attacks that began late last year, and committee members originally said they expected a draft law to be completed shortly after Khmer New Year.

Ouk Kimlek, undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry and the deputy director of the committee, said Monday that he expected – but could not guarantee – that the committee would complete the draft law and submit it to the Council of Ministers for approval by the end of June.

“We are not 100 percent sure that the draft law will reach the Council of Ministers [by the end of the month], but we hope it will because we will try our best to complete it on time,” he said.

Ouk Kimlek said the original deadline for completion of the draft law had not been met because committee members were “busy with other work”.
“It is not so difficult for us to complete it, but we have many tasks to do besides this law,” he said.

Teng Savong, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry and the director of the committee, said a meeting had been held to discuss the draft law on Friday, but declined to elaborate on specific points raised.

An initial draft proposed harsh prison terms – including life sentences – for perpetrators of acid crimes, as well as restrictions on the sale of acid, among other things.

Teng Savong said he had not yet read a report that was presented to the committee by the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity (CASC) late last month because he had not yet received a Khmer translation.

“When I get the report in Khmer language, I will discus both the report and the law at the same time,” he said.

Chhun Sophea, CASC programme manager, said the report was designed to assist the government in drafting the law, and that she was working on getting a translation submitted as soon as possible.

“And if they press for the law to come out so fast, we might try to get a summary version translated even faster,” she said.

Ouk Kimlek said civil society input was encouraged. “We always consider their comments in order to make the law look good and have enough information,” he said.

The Council of Ministers will take around two months to consider the draft law before sending it on to the National Assembly for approval, he added.

‘Jungle girl’ sent to Ratanakkiri hospital

Photo by: Photo Courtesy of Adhoc
Rochom P’nhieng − known as the “jungle girl” − receives treatment at Ratanakkiri provincial hospital on Monday.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear

SO-CALLED “jungle girl” Rochom P’nhieng was transported to the Ratanakkiri provincial hospital on Monday to recover after being trapped at the bottom of a 10-metre-deep dugout toilet, local residents said.

Sal Lou, who has cared for Rochom P’nhieng for the past three years and says he is her father, said Monday that her health appeared to be improving after she received food, a shower and medical treatment.

“The health officials have allowed my daughter to stay in one room and are giving her medicine. My wife and I have stayed to look after her because we are afraid she will pull out her IV [drip],” Sal Lou said.

Rochom P’nhieng was discovered in the Ratanakkiri forest in January 2007. She has since lived with Sal Lou and his family, who say she is their daughter who went missing in 1989 while herding buffalo.

Now believed to be 29 years old, Rochom P’Nhieng had been living peacefully with the family for three and a half years before abruptly tearing off her clothes and escaping into the forest last month. After she had been missing for 10 days, neighbours discovered her stranded last Friday at the bottom of a local latrine.

Hing Phan Sakunthea, director of Ratanakkiri provincial hospital, said Monday that Rochom P’nhieng did not appear to be suffering any serious after-effects from the time she spent stranded in the toilet.

“I checked, and she has no big problems with her health,” Hing Phan Sakunthea said. “She just has a rash on her back and hands.”

Hing Phan Sakunthea added that a midwife at the hospital would be examining Rochom P’nhieng to see if she had been sexually assaulted prior to being trapped in the latrine, a scenario Sal Lou said he feared may have occurred.

“I suspect that my daughter was raped and then thrown into the bottom of the dugout toilet, but I am not 100 percent sure, so I asked the hospital officials to examine her,” Sal Lou said.

Chhay Thy, a provincial investigator for the local rights group Adhoc, said he had visited Rochom P’nhieng at the hospital on Monday. The rape suspcisions, he added, had arisen in part because of a neighbour who had previously been accused in a rape case.

“The doctors are looking after her and checking up on her health, but they have not yet determined whether she was raped or not,” Chhay Thy said.

Although she has never learned to fluently speak either Khmer or Phnang, the language of the ethnic minority group to which she belongs, Sal Lou says Rochom P’nhieng had been dressing herself normally and helping out around the house prior to absconding into the forest last month.

Jarai families prepare another complaint against rubber firm

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

A GROUP of 72 ethnic Jarai families in Ratanakkiri province are preparing to file a new complaint against a company they have accused of illegally clearing 15 hectares of community farmland, a rights worker said Monday, three days after five representatives withdrew similar complaints.

Chhay Thy, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said the earlier complaints – which were filed at the provincial court on May 26 – had been withdrawn out of fear that the representatives would be arrested.

Late last month, he said, the company offered to pay the families US$3,000 if the representatives withdrew their complaints, and told the representatives that they would be arrested if the payment was not accepted.

“They told the villagers that if they did not accept the bribe, they would use the money to bribe prosecutors to issue arrest warrants for the representatives. But the villagers still rejected the bribe,” he said.

The new complaint, he said, would be filed by members of all 72 families.

“They plan to file a new complaint backed by all 72 families, so that if the authorities want to arrest someone they must arrest all the villagers, not just the representatives,” he said.

One of the representatives, Rmass Moeun, said the villagers had been gathering thumbprints for the new complaint since Sunday.

“We were afraid that they would arrest us so we decided to withdraw our original complaint, but we still did not accept the $3,000 bribe,” he said. “We still want our slash-and-burn farmland back.”

The families – who live in Saom Trork Chas village, located in O’Yadav district’s Saom Thom commune – have accused residents of nearby Pork Par village of illegally selling 20 to 30 hectares of their land to the Hou Ly Company, which has plans to develop a rubber plantation on the site.

Residents and rights workers have said that the company has cleared 15 hectares of the disputed land since May 14.

Dork Sar, the governor of O’Yadav district, said last month that the Pork Par villagers had the right to sell the land because they had been farming it for over 10 years.

Hou Ly, the president of Hou Ly Company, denied that any arrest threats had been made, but acknowledged that he had offered the villagers a $3,000 payment.

He added, though, that the payment “was not a bribe”.

“The village representatives withdrew their lawsuit and confessed that they had been confused,” he said.

“They need money, but I have not given it to them yet because while these villagers have agreed to withdraw their complaint, others continue to oppose me.”

Prak Soeurn, the chief clerk at the provincial court, said the five representatives had withdrawn their complaints voluntarily.

Hou Ly said he was hopeful that the dispute would be resolved amicably, but added that he was not afraid of a legal fight.

“I still want to negotiate with them, but if the case goes to court, the court will find justice for me,” he said.

New demining group to journey to Sudan

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:01 Sam Rith

CAMBODIA is set to send a new contingent of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers to Sudan later this month, the fifth group to assist in de-mining operations in the conflict-ridden country, officials said Sunday.

Sem Sovanny, director general of the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and ERW (explosive remnants of war) Clearance (IFPMEC), said 52 soldiers had been assigned to replace 52 who will be returning to Cambodia on June 22.

“The 52 deminers will depart from Cambodia to Sudan on June 19 or June 20 to rotate with the 52 deminers who are completing their mission there,” he said.

Taing Bunkry, team leader of 52 deminers from Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Platoon 405 who arrived in Sudan last June, said that the group had completed its mission on June 2 and is preparing for the trip home.

“We are all fine, and we have successfully completed the one-year mission,” he said by phone from Sudan late Sunday.

He added that he did not have up-to-date statistics on the group’s work.

A report released in April, however, noted that the Platoon 405 deminers had cleared 14 antitank mines, 116 antipersonnel mines and 1,478 pieces of unexploded ordnance since November, when work began following a five-month training course.

Cambodia has sent some 468 peacekeepers to Sudan on four missions since 2006. During the first three missions, Cambodian deminers cleared 2,449 antipersonnel mines, 172 antitank mines and 35,785 ERW pieces, according to a June 2009 report published by IFPMEC.

Peacekeepers from the RCAF have also participated in missions in Chad and the Central African Republic. In April, the UN approved a contingent of at least 200 troops that is set to join the UN Interim Force in Lebanon.

Defence Minister Tea Banh said in an address in March that RCAF troops would soon start learning English and other foreign languages in order to expand international military cooperation efforts.

Thailand detains 34 migrant workers

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

THIRTY-FOUR Cambodian labourers have been arrested in Thailand’s Samut Sakhon province for illegal immigration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Monday.

Koy Kuong said officials from the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok were attempting to get in touch with Thai officials and prepare a full report on the case.

“They say it’s very difficult to meet with the Thai authorities right now,” Koy Kuong said.

Dy Phan, director of the Cambodian-Thai border communication office, said Monday that he had been in contact with Thai immigration police who told him that the workers were receiving treatment at a “mental health centre” in Samut Sakhon after Thai police freed them from a meat
processing plant where they had been abused by their employers.

“Thai police have not sent them back yet because they are important witnesses in their case against the owner of the factory,” Dy Phan said. “Thai authorities have issued a warrant to arrest the factory owner, and they promised to send the Cambodian workers back to Cambodia this week, but they did not specify a day.”

Koy Kuong said he could not confirm any of this information, having not yet received a full report from colleagues in Thailand.

“They say wait until they have the information,” he said.

Thai officials could not be reached for comment.

A total of 124,902 Cambodians were legally registered to work in Thailand as of February, according to Thailand’s ministry of labour, though rights workers say there are many thousands more who are undocumented.

Human Rights Watch released a report in February alleging that migrants in Thailand, including thousands of Cambodians, frequently face abuse and extortion from employers and local officials in Thailand.

Police Blotter: 8 Jun 2010

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Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:00 Sen David

A 35-year-old man in Battambang town was arrested Saturday after he allegedly swiped a villager’s cow and then tried to sell it to another person. The cow’s owner said that she often kept her cow near a field by itself, leaving it alone to chow down on grass while she ventured to the market. But when she returned after her regular shopping trip Saturday, she was shocked to find that her cow had mysteriously vanished. Police later caught the suspect allegedly trying to sell the cow to someone else in the same village. Police have sent the suspect to court and returned the cow to its rightful owner.

A man in Kandal province has been accused of shooting another man in the leg, apparently because the victim was “very rude”, police said. The incident reportedly happened on Sunday, when the victim was walking across a bridge and encountered three suspects. One suspect told police that he politely asked the victim to walk in an orderly manner on the sidewalk. But the victim refused and cursed the suspect. “He was very rude,” the suspect told police. So he decided to shoot him in the leg, police say. Police have sent the three suspects to court and the victim to hospital.

A 35-year-old traffic policeman was injured Friday when a motorist slammed into him in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Makara district. Police said the officer was standing on the pavement preparing to fine motorists caught flouting traffic regulations when a 20-year-old man – who was not wearing a helmet – came zooming along and crashed into him.The helmet-less driver said he didn’t mean to hurt the officer, but that he could not control his vehicle after the officer stepped into the road to stop him. The motorist agreed to pay an undisclosed amount of money to the officer as compensation.

Police in Kampong Thom province have arrested a man accused of raping a 21-year-old woman. The victim’s mother reported that she and her daughter had been out looking for firewood Sunday. They encountered a man who began fighting with the victim’s mother, then dragged the victim off deeper into the forest, where he allegedly assaulted her. The victim’s mother complained, sparking a police investigation that resulted in the arrest of the suspect. The suspect has now been sent to court for possible legal action.

Crisis no threat to Cambodia

Photo by: AFP
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange just after the opening bell on Monday.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:01 Catherine James

Monday market plunge will have little effect on growth prospects, official says

Share markets plunged around the world on Monday amid fears of further economic slowdown in the US and Europe, but Cambodia should not see the latest market rout as a threat to its growth prospects, according to a government official.

“The global economy is slower than expected because of the implications of countries borrowing too much for fiscal stimulus packages, but it is still growing,” Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Hang Chuon Naran said.

“It does not yet hold any threat to Cambodia.”

US, European and most Asian stock markets opened dramatically lower on Monday on the back of unease over Europe’s growing debt crisis and worse-than-expected job figures released in the US over the weekend.

Economists have responded by lowering forecasts for the first time since the recovery began in the middle of 2009, according to Bloomberg.

Despite Cambodia’s reliance on the markets in question, Hang Chuon Naran said growing prospects for business in Asia and export product diversity will help maintain the Kingdom’s growth forecasts.

“We will not be reviewing the forecasts for GDP growth this year,” he said. “The 4.5-to-5 percent estimates were already quite conservative. If you look at the IMF forecasts, they are normally quite prudent.”

He conceded that industries heavily reliant on the US and Europe such as garment exports and tourism may feel a squeeze, but said the long-term prospects for growth remain solid.

A key plank in the government’s diversification plan was to attract more regional investment, with ASEAN members high on the list, while increasing the range of products exported to rely less on garments, he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen highlighted ASEAN’s importance in his opening remarks to the two-day World Economic Forum on East Asia, which closed in Vietnam on Monday, saying the grouping is driving regional integration with its aim to create a single economic zone.

“Deeper regional economic integration is now even more important, given prospects for slower growth in advanced economies,” he said.

Hang Chuon Naran said the level of Cambodia’s exports to ASEAN members is currently low, creating more opportunity to benefit once trade barriers to regional counterparts are removed.

The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Trade Facilitation Chief Shamika Sirimanne said ASEAN’s integration plans will pay dividends to Cambodia.

“This is what we need to look into. When those continents [US and Europe] go down, where do the smaller economies like Cambodia turn?” she said.

Developing behemoths such as China and India have the ability to tap into massive domestic markets to rebound from the developed economies’ losses, but smaller developing economies do not, so regional integration makes sense, she said.

“Generally it’s the smaller open economies that benefit more from regional integration because they normally cannot generate a lot of internal demand,” she said.

“Remember, [ASEAN] is a huge region, a huge market we’re talking about, and it’s only going to get bigger and bigger as we go along.”

However she warned that regional integration does not mean immediate advantages, and that Cambodia still must work to facilitate trade.

“If trading barriers are brought down, I think Cambodia could really stand to benefit, but just because barriers disappear it doesn’t create a market – Cambodia needs to put other things in place to remain competitive in the export market.”

However, the garment industry, the source of Cambodia’s leading export, might not benefit from the removal of tariffs among ASEAN’s members because the Kingdom’s garment producers have no control over which markets the garments are sent to, according to Garment Manufacturer’s Association of Cambodia Secretary General Ken Loo.

He said it is difficult to know whether intra-Asian trade will help garment exporters offset potential slackening in US or Europe demand because all 255 exporting garment manufacturers are contracted to brands that decide which markets to sell to.

“But for sure, any market is better than none, and if the US or Europe are dropping then it makes sense to look to Asia,” he said.

He said ASEAN cooperation will ultimately benefit Cambodia because it provides an incentive for the garment suppliers to place orders in Cambodia to export in Asia.

Water revenues rise with customer increase

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

PHNOM Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) revenues grew by 11 percent during the first five months of the year compared with the same period in 2009, General Director Ek Sonn Chan said Monday.

The water authority generated US$10 million in unaudited revenues in 2010 to the end of May, he said at a Phnom Penh press conference announcing that the PPWSA had won the Stockholm Industry Water Award for 2010.

“The increase is the result of a rise in new customers as Phnom Penh recovers following the world economic crisis,” he said.

The authority generated an average of $2 million per month since January 2010 from supplying water in Phnom Penh, an 11 percent rise from the $1.8 million averaged per month during the first five months last year, PPWSA statistics showed.

Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy secretary of state Phourk Sovannarith lauded the PPWSA as a successful supplier of clean water at an international standard, and added that its high production standards would generate future revenue growth.

“I believe the authority will be able to increase its income in the future because it provides good services to its customers, and sells water at a cheap price.”

The PPWSA vends water at $0.25 per cubic metre, kept cheap by maintaining a low loss rate around 6.3 percent, Ek Sonn Chan said.
“The rate of water we lose here is even lower than that of Paris, France,” he said.

It plans to expand production by building a third, $80 million water treatment station in late 2010, he said, able to produce some 130,000 cubic metres of water per day once complete.

Funding for the planned Nirouth water treatment plant will be provided by a $40 million loan from Japan, $20 million from Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), and the remainder financed by the authority itself. Construction will commence in late 2010, and is slated to take two years to complete.

“With the development of this new water treating station, we hope the PPWSA will be able to supply more water and consequently generate a higher income,” Ek Sonn Chann said.

Presently the PPWSA has two main water treatment stations able to produce a combined 300,000 cubic metres of water a day, distributed to customers through a 1,783-kilometre-long pipe network, according to information provided by the authority. The stations are located in Prek village and Chroy Changvar commune.

The authority plans to produce 430,000 cubic metres of clean water per day by 2015, distributed through a 2,300-kilometre-long network. It aims to distribute 560,000 cubic metres through 2,800 kilometres of pipeline by 2020.

The Stockholm Industry Water Award was awarded due to the PPWSA improving service and fighting corruption beginning in 1993, a press release said.

The authority has “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”, it said.

The release also noted the PPWSA planned to list on Cambodia’s upcoming stock exchange.

Croc prices spring up

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Crocodile hatchlings at the Cambocroco farm in Kandal Stung district, Kandal province last year. Farmers say increased demand in Vietnam and China has driven up hatchling prices this year.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

CROCODILE hatchlings are fetching higher prices in 2010 compared to previous years because of growing international demand for the reptiles’ meat, farmers in the sector said Monday.

“[Crocodile farmers] are happier this year because we can sell our products at much higher prices,” said Kaing Sarin, owner of a 2-hectare crocodile farm in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district.

Hatchlings were being snapped up for eventual resale in China, he said. “This year many Vietnamese brokers have purchased Cambodian crocodile hatchlings to raise in their own country and sell in China, where they like to eat crocodile meat.”

Domestic supplies of young crocodiles had also decreased as many farmers left the business due to low prices in previous years, pushing up recent prices, he said.

“I hatched 12,000 new babies this year, and they will sell for $22 per head, which is $7 more than last year,” said Kaing Sarin, who originally invested $600,000 to purchase his farm and stock of 3,000 breeding crocodiles.

Smaller vendors said Monday that prices had improved but added they had too few hatchlings to take advantage of the potential for better profits.

“This year is a strong one for selling crocodile hatchlings, but we don’t have that much stock,” said Khoeu Chhin, who has raised crocodiles on a half-hectare farm in Siem Reap since 1997.

The farm saw a modest jump in hatchlings this year, from 2,500 to 3,000, Khoeu Chhin said, adding he expected annual income from his farm to reach $60,000-$65,000, up from $20,000 to $25,000 last year.

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Administration were unavailable for comment on Monday.

Cambodia’s 600 crocodile farms bred a total of 185,000 of the reptiles last year, according to a ministry report.

ACLEDA set to launch Unity mobile banking next month

Photo by: Sovan Philong
ACLEDA’s new Unity mobile banking system is set to go head to head next month with the only current provider, ANZ’s Wing.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

Service to target Kingdom’s unbanked, but competitors say it requires pricey handsets that will the limit number of users.

ACLEDA Bank aims to launch the Unity mobile-banking service by early next month, Senior Vice President Sok Sophea said, though rivals say it requires expensive data phones beyond the reach of many in the Kingdom.

Although it cost ACLEDA over US $1 million to establish, she said, the service will initially target existing account holders, but will eventually be marketed to Cambodia’s unbanked.

“Unity will be a highway for ACLEDA so that we can invite unbanked customers to join as well.”

However, use of ACLEDA’S Unity service will be restricted by the quality of hand phone its customers possess, according to its website.

All mobiles will have access to Unity’s SMS-based banking services, including balance inquiry, mini-statements and mobile top-ups, but the phone must be capable of operating a web browser or hosting Unity’s phone application to be able to transfer funds between separate ACLEDA accounts, or to complete bill payments.

A spokesman for WING, an ANZ-owned company and Cambodia’s present leader in mobile fund transfers, said Unity’s requirement for higher-end data phones may prove too costly for many of the Kingdom’s consumers.

“In our experience, this puts it out of reach of many Cambodians. It also means the user has to pay for data charges associated with internet banking as well as the fees that ACLEDA charge,” WING Head of Operations Michael Joyce wrote in an email.

A WING transfer is similar to sending an SMS message, and therefore requires only a simple phone. However, it also requires agreements between mobile providers and WING to operate, restricting the service to Hello, QB, Smart, and Mfone users at present, though “we are always looking to operate with more,” he said.

Unity is not restricted to specific providers, and will be cheaper for Hello, Mfone, Smart and Metfone users due to agreements with those operators, Sok Sophea said.

Its service has already undergone trials with ACLEDA employees, and she said Unity will be offered to Cambodia’s general population following a launch early next month.

“We want customers to be able to access account information when they need it, with no limits by location. Bank branches are open only 8 hours a day, five days a week, and ATMs also have limits by location.”

The bank expects to cut operational costs and reduce queues at its branches by offering mobile banking, she added. “We can also gain some revenue by charging for fund transfer and balance inquiry and other transactions as well.”

Registering for the service will require a onetime fee of $5, 20,000 riels or 200 baht, currencies that will be supported by Unity, according to its website. There are also associated fees for each transaction performed.

Security takes priority as firms compete to offer mobile banking

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

Two competitors – ANZ’s WING and ACLEDA’s forthcoming Unity – take different approaches to securing customers’ mobile transactions.

INFORMATION security is essential to facilitating mobile banking, and rests heavily on individuals’ securing their PIN numbers, according to Cambodian industry leader WING’s head of operations.

“The level of trust our customers have in our bank-level security is very important to us,” Michael Joyce wrote in an email. WING is owned by ANZ Bank and says it has signed up more than 150,000 customers.

The firm has experienced a small handful of cases of theft or fraud, he said. “In most cases [of theft], the customers have told their PINs to a friend or relative, and it’s been someone they know who has cheated them.”

WING requires its users to input their individual PIN numbers to complete each transaction, he said.

When a theft occurs, the firm examines transaction logs to investigate cases, Joyce said. “We usually find the culprit and return the customer’s money.”

Phnom Penh-based information-security consultant Bernard Alphonso said WING’s security system looked reasonably safe and broad after reviewing security measures the firm provided to the Post.

“The only weakness, as WING acknowledges itself, is linked to the lack of authentication.

This problem could be combated by users’ taking ownership of security measures, Alphonso added.

“All users should memorise their PINs, avoid writing them on a piece of paper that they carry with them, and make sure nobody is reading over their shoulder when they type in their secret PIN code.”

Security for users of ACLEDA’s Unity mobile banking service, to be launched by next month, also rests on keeping PINs secure, Senior Vice President Sok Sophea said.

“If customers lose their phone, their mobile banking is still secure because people cannot get access without a PIN.”

The services offered by WING and Unity both offer money transfers to the Kingdom’s users, but operate with different restrictions.

ACLEDA’s Unity service will be open to users on any mobile-service provider, but require a more advanced phone to access the full range of banking services, Sok Sophea said.

A fund transfer using Unity’s web browser or application-based service travels via the internet, connected to core banking by New Zealand banking software provider Mobile Commerce Ltd, he said.

Sok Sophea said four levels of security protect Unity transactions: a firewall securing the database from outsiders, Secure Socket Layer internet data security, authenticating each transaction through customer information files, and PIN numbers.

Meanwhile, WING’s transactions are restricted to users operating on four mobile providers, but can be accomplished with nearly any quality of phone, Michael Joyce said. He added that each transaction, similar to sending SMS messages, is fully encrypted.

“We use a technology called USSD2, which is built into almost all GSM phones, even older models. It doesn’t store any information on the phone handset, so it’s safe for users even if they use someone else’s phone.”

Cyclo drivers seek to save their occupation

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Cyclos are becoming a less common sight on the streets of Phnom Pehn as locals and tourists alike opt for faster modes of transport.

via CAAI News Media

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 15:00 Khuon Leakhana and Ou Mom

Phnom Penh

WITH motorised transport ruling the streets of Phnom Penh, pedal-powered cyclos are becoming an increasingly rare sight around the city. And as their numbers dwindle, many of the remaining cyclo drivers are becoming worried about the future of their occupation.

In response, a group of drivers in January formed the Cyclo Conservation and Career Association, and last month about 200 seasoned pedallers met for the organisation’s first annual gathering, which took the form of a meal and festive get-together rather than a formal meeting.

Im Sambath, the executive director of the association, said the organisation was founded, as the name suggests, to “conserve cyclos as a traditional form of transportation in Cambodian society”.

“We are cooperating with the Ministry of Tourism and Phnom Penh Municipal Hall to promote cyclo services and reduce restrictions by traffic police,” he said.

“We are also working to establish contacts with tourism services to attract foreigners, and to spread the word to convince more locals to use cyclos as well.”

Im Sambath said drivers must pay a fee of 1,000 riel to join the association, but that they get benefits for doing so.

“We help them connect with foreign customers and also provide places to wash up, HIV/AIDS education, smoking prevention, training courses to raise their awareness of traffic laws, and training courses to teach skills like cooking to help them make more money,” he said.

Im Sambath said the number of cyclos in Cambodia has decreased significantly since 1999. “In 1999 there were about 9,000 cyclos. This dropped to about 3,500 in 2003 and 2,000 in 2008. Now there are only about 1,300 cyclos in Cambodia,” he said.

He said nearly all cyclo drivers are from poor families in the provinces, and moved to Phnom Penh to find jobs.

Among them is Pao Phearum, 33, who left his home in Kampong Cham in 2007 to become a cyclo driver in the city.

“I think that within 20 years cyclos will completely disappear. There are fewer and fewer, and profits are dropping,” he said. Pao Phearum said the challenges of being a cyclo driver include fatigue, competing with more modern forms of transportation like motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks, and having to pay money to security personnel or police to pick up customers.

Cyclo driver Sun Sokum, 59, from Kampong Speu said he’s worried about his future because he has no other means of making a living.

“It’s normal for people to use modern, faster transportation,” he said. “Before, I could find 10 to 15 customers a day and make about 15,000 to 20,000 riels a day, but now I earn less than 10,000 riels a day.”

However, he said that since joining the association he has had help finding more foreign customers, who sometimes give him tips of US$1-$3.