Friday, 11 June 2010

Cambodia's flooded forest around Tonle Sap to be protected

via Khmer NZ News Media

June 10, 2010

The Cambodian government is planning to declare more than 600,000 hectares of flooded forest around the Tonle Sap lake as a conservation area in an attempt to stop the large-scale destruction of the forests, local media reported on Thursday, citing a senior official.

Fisheries Administration Director Nao Thuok said that in recent weeks fisheries officials and the Tonle Sap Authority had held meetings to discuss the zoning and demarcation of 640,000 hectares of the lake's floodplains and flooded forest, which are important wetseason habitats for the lake's rich fisheries, local English newspaper The Cambodia Daily reported.

Over the past few months, the government has ordered the dismantling of 15 man-made reservoirs, covering around 3,600 hectares of floodplain, in Kompong Thom province alone.

Thuok said that based on aerial photography, officials estimated in 2005 that around 700,000 hectares of flooded forest remained. Earlier, that figure had been estimated at about 1 million hectares of seasonally inundated forest located in the five provinces that surround the great lake.

Tonle Sap biosphere reserve director Long Kheay was quoted as saying that large-scale commercial farming and dry-season forest fires were the main factors contributing to the flooded forests' demise, adding that agricultural land conversion had been concentrated mainly on the floodplain in Kompong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.


First Chinese commercial bank to open branch in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ News Media

Posted on: Thu, 10 Jun 2010

PHNOM PENH, Jun 10, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Bank of China (BOC) has been given the approval in principle by the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) to open its branch in Phnom Penh, Thai Saphear, deputy director of the NBC's cabinet and head of the NBC governor's office, said Thursday.

Thai Saphear said that NBC's Governor Chea Chanto told the new Chinese ambassador to Cambodia Pan Guangxue during a meeting on Wednesday that NBC has approved in principle for the Bank of China to open branch in Cambodia.

Moreover, the governor also suggested the ambassador to try to attract more commercial banks from China to invest in Cambodia in order to boost the development of the economy of Cambodia.

It would be the first commercial bank from China in Cambodia.

According to the NBC's rule, after the approval in principle, the bank has six months to fill the requirements of registered capital, location, staff and statutes before getting the operating license.

Currently, Cambodia has 27 commercial banks. Early last month, CIMB of Malaysia and Agribank of Vietnam have been approved in principle to open branch in Cambodia.

The Agribank of Vietnam may open its branch in Cambodia late this month and CIMB would open its branch in Phnom Penh at the end of this year.

Analysts said that new banks would bring Cambodia new capital, new high-technology to develop Cambodia economy; however, there will be tougher competition among the players as there are a lot of banks in the small extent of economy of Cambodia.

Bank of China is the most internationalized commercial bank in China, the bank said on its website. BOC London Branch, the first overseas branch of the Chinese banks, was established in 1929. From then on, the Bank successively opened branches in global financial centers, and has built up its network in 27 countries and regions. Currently, it had over 10,000 domestic operations and over 600 overseas operations, according to the website of BOC.

Endangered crocodiles hatched in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ News Media


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Conservationists in Cambodia are celebrating the hatching of a clutch of eggs from one of the world's most critically endangered animals.

Thirteen baby Siamese crocodiles crawled out of their shells over the weekend in a remote part of the Cardamom Mountains in southwestern Cambodia, following a weekslong vigil by researchers who found them in the jungle.

Experts believe as few as 250 Siamese crocodiles are left in the wild, almost all of them in Cambodia but with a few spread between Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam and possibly Thailand.

The operation to protect and hatch the eggs was mounted by United Kingdom-based Fauna and Flora International, for whom conservation of this once-abundant species is a key program.

"Every nest counts," program manager Adam Starr told Associated Press Television News. "To be able to find a nest is a very big success story, to be able to hatch eggs properly is an even bigger success story."

The nest, with 22 eggs inside, was discovered in the isolated Areng Valley. Fauna and Flora International volunteers removed 15 of them to a safe site and incubated them in a compost heap to replicate the original nest. They left seven behind because they appeared to be unfertilized.

A round-the-clock guard was mounted to keep away predators like monitor lizards. Last weekend the crocodiles began calling from inside the shells, a sure sign they were about to hatch.

Within hours 10 emerged — and a further surprise was in store. Three of the eggs left behind at the original nest also hatched. A field coordinator, Sam Han, discovered the squawking baby crocodiles when he went to recover a camera-trap from the site.

"When I first saw the baby crocodiles they stayed and swam together near the near site. They were looking for their mother," he said. He snapped a few photos of the hatchlings, their noses poking out of the water.

To cap the success, the camera-trap yielded two infrared shots of the mother crocodile returning to the nest.

The reptiles are now being kept in a water-filled pen in a local village in the jungle-covered mountain range. The indigenous Chouerng people who live there revere crocodiles as forest spirits and consider it taboo to harm them. It's likely they'll be looked after for a year before being released into the wild.

But the euphoria is tempered by hard-edged reality. This part of the Areng Valley has been earmarked for a major hydropower project. The conservation group is looking for other areas of similar habitat to release the juveniles when the time comes.

"To put these crocodiles back into the Areng Valley could spell certain doom for them," Starr said.

The Siamese crocodile has suffered a massive decline over the last century, because of a high demand for its soft skin. Commercial breeders also brought them to stock farms where they crossed them with larger types of crocodile, producing hybrids which further reduced numbers of the pure Siamese.

In 1992 it was declared "effectively extinct in the wild" before being rediscovered in the remote Cardamoms in Cambodia eight years later.

Siamese crocodiles take 15 years to reach sexual maturity, complicating efforts to revive the population. Only a handful of the 13 new crocs are likely to survive long enough to make a long-term impact on numbers.

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

via Khmer NZ News Media

Cambodia to Arrest People Bets on the World Cup Tournament in South Africa

Thursday, 10 June 2010 10:06 DAP-NEWS/ Ek Madra

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 10, 2010 – As the World Cup is to kick off in Johannesburg on Friday already Cambodian police warned its people to stay away from betting the game as worrying the such betting will bring social crimes, said police chief general Touch Naroth on Thursday.

“We are worried that the looser would create crimes such as robberies, so it is best bit to ban betting on the game,” Phnom Penh’s police chief Touch Naroth told DAP News Center.

“We ask the locals to report us when they will see any one who tries to bet on the game. We will arrest and send the gamblers to the court,” he said without elaborating.

The government took campaign in recent years to crack down people who betted over the international football tournament.

Prime Minister Hun Sen recently also urged his people in the country, where 30 percent of its nearly 14 million populations live with less than a dollar per day, not to bet over the World Cup sport event given the past that the looser sought different resources to invest in their gambling.

Cambodians are not allowed to gamble any gambling, although this Southeast Asian nation has allowed foreign investors to open casinos for foreign gamblers.

France, Cambodia Commit to Boost Bilateral Trade in Agriculture, Industry, Tourism

Thursday, 10 June 2010 09:24 DAP-NEWS/ Ek Madra

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 10, 2010 – Cambodia and France reaffirm to boost bilateral trade so as to create jobs and supporting investment in the sector of agriculture, industry and tourism, said the joint release on Thursday.

The announcement was made during the 9- 11 June visit of the French deputy commerce minister Anne-Marie Idrac aimed at enhancing bilateral trade of the two nations.

France is a Cambodian main donor provided the country an estimated $100 million a year.

Idrac, who is accompanied by French businessmen, met with the Cambodian deputy prime minister and also finance minister Keat Chhon.

“The two countries reaffirmed their commitments to improve cooperation for the benefit of creating jobs as well as supporting the productive investment,” said the joint release was seen by DAP.

Idrac she held talks with another deputy prime minister Sok An, who is also minister in charge of the office of the council of minister, on Thursday.

Sok An accompanied Idrac to inaugurate the French funded $7 million for establishing the Golden Rice mill in Oudong of Kampong Speu province.

Cambodian officials said the French investment in the Southeast Asian nation has been increased in recent years although they were not immediately to provide the investment value.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, during his visit in Paris on the sideline of his attending the French Holiday Bastille Day last year, said that Cambodia has provisional granted right for the French Total to invest in Bloc 3 covers 2,430 square kilometres offshore, which sits on the Overlapping Claim Area (OCA) with Thailand.

Idrac also visited a construction site of Sofitel hotel, which is a second hotel invested by the French investment group, Accor, in Cambodia. She flew to Siem Reap, the home of Angkor which is the country’s biggest tourist destination, where she met with French investors.

Prime Minister Hun Sen Apologized to the Local Cambodian Businesspeople for Roath Sensopheap Company's Money Collection

Wednesday, 09 June 2010 13:43 DAP-NEWS/ Tep Piseth

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PHENH, JUN 10, 2010-Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday of June 08, 2010 expressed his regret at the conflict of interest between the private company, Roath Sensopheap, and the local businesspeople selling at the markets and along the public streets in Phnom Penh.

‘’On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to express my apology to all our local businesspeople whose small businesses were worst affected by Roath Sensopheap private Company’s money collection and The Royal Government of Cambodia has to have responsibility for all the existing problems,” Prime Minister Hun Sen gave a speech to more than 1000 students at the Graduation Ceremony in Phnom Penh.

Prime Minister Hun sen’s apology to the local businesspeople occurred after the local businesspeople in Phnom Penh last week had marched about one kilometer to reach Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Phnom Penh in order to demand to eliminate Roath Sensopheap Company’s money collection from the local businesspeople.

It was noted that Roath Sensopheap Company received the license from the Government’s authorities in order to collect money from the local businesspeople selling at the markets and along the public streets in Phnom Penh; more importantly, The Government’s authorities licensed Roath Sensopheap Company to organize the public security and orders in Phnom Penh for the local sellers at the markets and along the public streets.

‘’Honestly, I did not manage this matter,’’ he noted. At the same time, he appealed to the local businesspeople to organize the public security and orders properly at their shops and selling places.

‘’Litters should be perfectly packed and the selling places should be in a very good order,’’ he added.

Local small businesspeople in the past few weeks complained to the Royal Government of Cambodia about Roath Sensoppheap Company’s money collection; even though, The ordinary and poor sellers who have a very small business were forced to pay 200 riels ( about 0.5 cent U.S dollars) to Roath Sensopheap Company’s agents.

“Roath Sensopheap Company’s money collection has absolutely affected the poor Cambodian people’s living standard,’’ he added.

Warming up for the World Cup

Photo by: Sovan Philong

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:04 Uong Ratana

Children play football in front of the National Museum on Wednesday.

KRT judges divided on next cases

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:03 Sebastian Strangio

Int’l, national sides disagree on timing of future investigations

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal has released letters documenting a disagreement concerning the timing of investigations into five additional regime suspects, continuing a long-standing pattern of disputes between Cambodian and international officials over the issue.

Documents made public Wednesday showed that Cambodian co-investigating judge You Bunleng reversed an earlier agreement with his international counterpart Marcel Lemonde to open investigations into the five unnamed suspects.

“For the sake of transparency, they have decided to make public the letters they exchanged recently on this issue,” the judges’ office said in a statement Wednesday.

In the first of the letters released by the court, dated June 2, Lemonde called on You Bunleng to sign a rogatory letter authorising preliminary investigations in Cases 003 and 004.

He said that investigation teams were ready to be deployed “without delay”, and that if the order was not signed by June 4 he would conclude that the two disagreed on the issue, “with all the negative consequences this might entail”.

“I hope we can avoid reaching this point,” he added.

In a response dated June 8, You Bunleng stated that he initially signed the order Friday, but then reversed his decision, saying the issue should be considered in September after the closing order for Case 002 – the “core” of the tribunal’s mandate – is finalised.

He said his decision was based on his consideration of the court’s purpose and the “current state of Cambodian society”.

UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said Lemonde will pursue the investigations on his own, pursuant to court rules. He added that investigators will not yet focus on specific individuals, but rather try to establish “whether or not crimes described in the submissions from the prosecutors took place at certain locations”.

“The results from this part of the investigation will form some of the basis for the decision of whether or not to start investigations against individuals” at a later date, he said.

Despite disagreement on the timing of the new investigations, Lemonde and You Bunleng are still working closely together on Case 002, which will provide a “good basis for future cooperation”, Olsen said.

The disagreement is consistent with an apparent pattern of government reluctance to prosecute any former regime leaders beyond those five already indicted by the court.

In September 2009, the court’s acting international co-prosecutor William Smith announced he had filed submissions for investigations into five additional, unnamed regime suspects, overriding the objections of national co-prosecutor Chea Leang, who had argued that additional prosecutions could prompt ex-Khmer Rouge cadres and their allies to “commit violent acts”.

After the announcement, Prime Minister Hun Sen echoed this warning in a speech, saying, “If you want a tribunal, but you don’t want to consider peace and reconciliation and war breaks out again, killing 200,000 or 300,000 people, who will be responsible?”

Anne Heindel, a legal adviser for the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said the rift echoed earlier disagreements, but said that such disputes are to be expected in a tribunal combining local and international officials.

She expressed concern about delays that might result, but added that it is not feasible to wait for the conclusion of Case 002 before the third and fourth cases move ahead.

“If they don’t get started on Cases 003 and 004 while they’re still on Case 002, there’s probably going to be donor fatigue and unwillingness,” Heindel said. The fact that You Bunleng signed the letter before reconsidering showed “some willingness on his part to consider a third and fourth investigation”, she added.

Under the tribunal’s internal rules, either investigating judge may bring the disagreement before the Pre-Trial Chamber within 30 days.

The rules also hold that while the dispute-resolution process is in motion, “the subject of the disagreement shall be executed”. Only in the case of arrests, it adds, does there need to be full consensus between the two judges.

You Bunleng could not be reached for comment.

UNICEF finds evidence of abuses

via Khmer NZ News Media\

Thursday, 10 June 2010 15:03 Irwin Loy

Local NGO also reports mistreatment of children at controversial Youth Rehabilitation Centre

THE United Nations Children’s Fund says there is “credible evidence” of “ill treatment” at a controversial rehabilitation centre it supports – an apparent shift in position after the agency rejected claims of rights abuses earlier this year.

The news came as a local NGO that provided services at the centre reported that it, too, has found evidence that children were abused, and that the government-run facility has been temporarily closed.

In a statement released by UNICEF’s regional office in Bangkok on Tuesday, the agency acknowledged that some children at the Youth Rehabilitation Centre (YRC) in Phnom Penh’s Choam Chao commune may have been abused. The statement cited interviews with children who were previously held at the facility.

“As a result of these interviews, we found credible evidence of individual incidents of ill-treatment carried out by older children who had been given responsibility for supervising younger boys,” read the statement, which also cited incidents of “slapping and hitting” by a temporary staff member.

That staff member, the statement continued, has since been dismissed for using “corporal punishment”, after UNICEF took its concerns to authorities.

The statement said the government has also stopped using “youth supervisors” and “suspended the acceptance of new referrals to the centres”.

In a January report, Human Rights Watch alleged that the YRC was one of at least 11 drug rehabilitation centres around the country in which detainees were subjected to forced confinement and frequent violence while receiving ineffective or nonexistent treatment.

Tuesday’s statement appears to mark a change the position of UNICEF, whose Cambodia country representative earlier this year said there was little evidence of violence at Choam Chao, and insisted that launching a UNICEF investigation into HRW’s allegations would extend beyond its mandate.

“These are allegations that have been raised by Human Rights Watch,” country representative Richard Bridle said in an interview in early March. “It’s not within our vocation to confirm or deny those.”

In an interview two weeks later, Bridle said he believed there was no systemic abuse taking place at the centre.

“There is no culture of violence there. There is an error in [HRW’s] findings,” Bridle said on March 18, and added that he had based his conclusions partly on a visit to the site and reports from a local NGO that offers services there.

That NGO, the street-children charity Mith Samlanh, said at the time that its workers had seen little evidence of violence during their twice-weekly visits.

But on Wednesday, programme manager Man Phally said his view had changed after he conducted a survey in April of 20 children formerly detained in Choam Chao.

“Most of them said they were beaten up,” he said.

“It was a surprise,” he added. “We didn’t know this earlier. No children reported to us about this. But since we had interviews with them, we found out it was really a problem.”

Sebastien Marot?the executive director of Friends International, which founded Mith Samlanh and now offers it technical support, said he believes there has been an escalation of violence experienced by children at Choam Chao since 2006, when UNICEF started funding the facility and Mith Samlanh scaled down its own services there.

Mith Samlanh had been “heavily involved” at the centre for roughly 10 years, Marot said, during which time the group managed to reverse a culture of violence at the centre.

Many of the children would use Mith Samlanh’s drop-in and vocational training facilities in the city centre during the day, before being returned to Choam Chao in the evening, Marot said.

In 2006, he said, the Ministry of Social Affairs, which runs the facility, drastically scaled back Mith Samlanh’s involvement when UNICEF stepped in with funding.

“They said, ‘We have funding, so we don’t need you’,” he said.

That’s when Mith Samlanh stepped back, he said.

“We were in no position to provide any type of training. We didn’t have the funds. We didn’t have the mandate. It wasn’t our job anymore, unfortunately,” he said.

UNICEF officials declined to comment for this story, as did officials with the Ministry of Social Affairs.

For its part, Human Rights Watch praised UNICEF for its statement this week, which advocated for the closure of drug rehabilitation centres. But HRW also called the agency’s initial response to reports of abuse “disappointing”.

“UNICEF has repeatedly said that they are not skilled at investigating abuse,” Joe Amon, HRW’s director of health and human rights, said in an email. “However, they must ensure that adequate monitoring systems are in place to find and respond to abuses in facilities they support.”

In the meantime, it remains unclear what the future holds for the Choam Chao facility. According to Mith Samlanh’s Man Phally, the rehabilitation centre has been closed temporarily for roughly a month; the ministry, he added, has not offered a reason for the closure. Marot said he plans to meet with ministry officials in the near future to discuss the situation.

In its statement, UNICEF said it is consulting with the government and NGOs “to ensure that there are adequate trained staff to provide for the care and protection of the children”.