Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Fish stock in northeastern Cambodia to be sustainably managed by local people

via Khmer NZ News Media

Posted on 16 June 2010

On 11 June, 2010 Mondulkiri province's Fisheries Administration Cantonment officially transferred management rights of the Sen Kangha Community Fishery to local Indigenous people living along the Srepok river in Koh Myeul Leu and Koh Myeul Krom villages of Koh Nhek district. Representatives from both parties signed a three-year long agreement aiming at sustainable management and use of local fishery resource.

With support from WWF, the signing ceremony was organized by the Fisheries Administration Cantonment at their office in Sen Monorom town and was attended by 60 participants from the Provincial Governor's Office, Fisheries Administration, Sen Kangha Community Fishery, WWF and many other local authorities.

His Excellency Chan Yieun, Governor of Mondulkiri, who presided over the ceremony, encouraged effective implementation of the agreement and urged all members of the Sen Kangha Community Fishery to sustainably manage and conserve fish stocks for long term benefit.

"I would like to ask all relevant authorites, especially the Fisheries Administration Cantonment, to cooperate with and provide support to the Sen Kangha Community Fishery in effectively implementing the Fisheries Law, National Strategy on Fisheries Management and other fishery-related regulations," the Governor said as he was delivering the opening speech at the event.

Rapid population growth and illegal fishing practices have led to over-fishing and falling fish yields. Due to the high dependency on fisheries for local livelihoods and food security, the Forestry Administration in collaboration with WWF, have been supporting the establishment of the Sen Kangha Community Fishery since 2007.

"With decreased fish yields observed over the past years due to illegal fishing activities, local communities are worried about potential disappearance of some fish species," said Mr Moul Phath, WWF’s Provincial Conservation Planning Specialist.

The community fishery provides an opportunity for people in Koh Myeul Leu and Koh Myeul Krom villages to conserve fish resources for their long term benefit.

In his speech, the Governor also highlighted that many of Mondulkiri's important zones of natural fish stocks, especially in Koh Nhek district, could, if managed sustainably, supply enough fish to meet the provincial consumption, as well as support other people living at the border of Ratanakiri province.

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East meets West: World premiere of 'Khmeropedies I and II' blends two worlds of dance

NEW HAVEN — When Fred Frumberg went to Cambodia in 1997 as a UNESCO consultant, it was to offer his experience in theater and opera to aid in the revival and preservation of Cambodian traditional and contemporary performing arts.

It was supposed to be a one-year assignment. But, as he puts it, “It’s one of those stories — I never left.”

His temporary stint stretched into founding Amrita Performing Arts in 2003, which will be performing one of its most successful collaborations, the world premiere of Emmanuele Phuon’s dance “Khmeropedies I & II,” starting Wednesday for five performances at the Iseman Theater as part of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.

The Brussels-based French choreographer’s work is the epitome of what artistic administrators such as Frumberg and artists like Phuon have been working to do in the war-ravaged country: blend the classic Khmer court dance technique with contemporary Western movement.

“This is one of our first efforts in our ongoing mission to work with Cambodian artists to come up with a contemporary vocabulary of their own ..., ” said Frumberg by phone from the capital city of Phnom Phen, where he has lived since 1997.

“Emmanuele was very cautious because of her classic Cambodian technique, not to superimpose those, but give Cambodians a chance to free themselves up. It gives them a chance to step out of their box.”

That box to which Frumberg refers is the distinct movements anyone who has seen some Asian dance may recognize.

“Elbows rigid and fingers extended. They start at age 6, and have to train their muscles to make these moves. They’re extremely rigid, and the masters enforce that ...,” he said.

What audiences in New Haven will see for the first time is a melding of the first work, which Phuon created for a solo dancer with a work for her quartet of Khmer dancers, the II of the title.

Phuon developed II with Frumberg after they were brought together in 2008 by The Howard Gilman Foundation at Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project in Florida, where Phuon was dancing. What started as a workshop funded by the Asian Cultural Council, turned into a full piece. With additional ACC funding, Phuon went to Cambodia to work with Amrita, where the quartet work premiered in March 2009.

The name “Khmeropedies” comes from the words “Khmer” and “Gymnop�dies,” a reference to the composer Satie — what Frumberg said is “about manipulating and changing a classical vocabulary into a new style, but still with recognizable elements of traditional Khmer.”

The hour-long work has elements that have never been done together in one evening. From here, it will be performed at New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center.

The quartet piece explores some of the “issues in the handing down of traditional elders to younger masters and the conflict they find in trying to find a new vocabulary and keep their roots,” described Frumberg.

Phuon has the perfect resume for the task: Trained in classical Cambodian dance from childhood, she went on to study in Bangkok, France, Montreal and New York. In addition to performing and working with White Oak Project, she has also worked with Elisa Monte Dance Company, Martha Clarke, Joachim Schloemer, Meg Stuart and Yvonne Rainer, among others.

Amrita is based in Phnom Phen, where the hope is “that some of the dancers will move out into the other parts of the country and train in the provinces,” said Frumberg.

When Frumberg first arrived in Cambodia, he was a little nervous about how he would be received. After all, to many Cambodians, the United States was just another in a long line of warring factions that had come in and bombed the country, making refugees out of millions of its citizens.

What he found were a people anxious for some semblance of normalcy, which is why he’s still there.

“Cambodians in general are very hospitable people,” he said. “They want to move on, to get over their tragic past, and whatever it takes to make that happen, they embrace it, especially in the performing arts. They’re excited when Western people come here and want to work here.”

He added that, “Their only issue was to make sure I wasn’t here for some glorified project, because there are a lot of people who come here, do the project, then move on. That’s all they look for — sustainability and continuity. Once you do that, you are part of the family. ... This is my life.”

Donna Doherty may be reached at 203-789-5672.

Cambodia: spectacle of the elite and the barefoot

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Guardian Weekly reader Laura Watson takes part in a race with Khmer elite runners along the Pursat river and witnesses first-hand the Cambodian love of sport

Laura Watson
Guardian Weekly, Wednesday 6 January 2010

The starting point was a dusty white line across a steeply cambered narrow road, about 8km out of Pursat, a town in the heart of rural Cambodia. Marked also was the start of one of Cambodia's monsoon downpours, accompanied by clap of thunder. I joined the group of bedraggled runners and groaned as we found we were still waiting for the official timekeeper.

The Khmer elite runners, most of the top team, jogged up and down to warm up, bouncing as if they were on springs. Finally we were off.

I tried to settle into my pace and not shoot off too fast. The smallest kids ran beside and in front of me, many in bare feet or flip-flops. One had shoes several sizes too big that slapped loudly with each footfall. It was distracting so I ran ahead. His smaller barefoot colleague kept up with me and we ran alongside each other for a while in companionable silence.

The run took us along the Pursat river, swollen and brown with monsoon rain. Small houses and cafes lined much of the route. Children shouted out greetings and held out their hands for a good-luck slap. Few dogs bothered us, a common hazard for runners on Cambodia's roads and tracks. Perhaps they had been subdued by the weather.

Reaching the outskirts of Pursat brought dry weather and a smoother surface but more obstacles. Many people passed by on motorbikes carrying goods for sale, babies in woolly hats, even entire extended families. All stared at the unusual spectacle of hundreds of runners along their main road.

The last part of a race is always the hardest and the stretch past the market and the small hotel was no exception – a sharp turn to the right and the stadium was just about in sight. This consisted of a muddy field with an indistinct finish line.

Crossing the line in second place I bent down to receive my pink plastic garland and a tag proving my place. All our elite Cambodian friends had done well.

Athletics is poorly funded in Cambodia and runners have to train and live on minuscule amounts of money – even a national team athlete must try to feed himself on about $30 a month, and the one pair of cheap trainers they receive a year is barely adequate for the job. But their love for the sport is obvious and you get the feeling that they would all run anyway, even if they had nothing.

Cambodia: Breakdance arrives on the streets of Phnom Penh

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A Cambodian who grew up in America brings a new cultural framework to young followers

Tibor Krausz
Guardian Weekly, Wednesday 16 June 2010

Traditional Cambodian culture. Photograph: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

Lithe and limber with the joints of a marionette, "Floater" lets it rip around the linoleum mat laid on the pavement. To the beat of a 1980s American hip-hop remix from a boom box, the Cambodian kid, real name Chea Sokchen, 15, transforms into a whirlwind of twisting hips and twirling limbs. After rotating on his palms in his trademark "float," he drops into a "windmill," spinning around his torso with his legs stabbing the air in a V shape.

His fellow b-boy breakdancers whoop and cheer in the throng of spectators gathered to watch this improvised Sunday afternoon dance battle in a park opposite Phnom Penh's Grand Palace, with its sandstone sculptures of traditional Khmer apsara dancers.

In wordless pantomime, the youngster then challenges a sinewy man covered in gangland Goth tattoos to a duel. Sobil Tuy, aka KK, is game. He launches into gravity-defying rhythmic acrobatics, his ponytail flogging the air. Slumping to the ground, wheezing, he makes way for another adolescent dancer. Tuy gave up drugs long ago, but his daily three packets of cigarettes still take their toll.

An erstwhile stalwart of the notorious Crips gang in southern California, Tuy dropped out of primary school. Convicted of armed robbery, he spent the next decade in and out of American jails and immigration detention centres before being deported to Cambodia in 2004 by the US government.

It was no homecoming for Tuy, who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1977 during the genocidal reign of the Khmer Rouge, and taken to the US as a toddler. Rather, he found himself exiled for life to a land that he had never seen.

But once there he metamorphosed into an unlikely guardian for orphaned and destitute children from across Phnom Penh's slums.

"First we were afraid of him," Floater admits, "but KK looks after us like a big brother." Floater adds with zeal: "I don't want to be just a street kid. I want to become a professional b-boy."

Tuy, who insists he's learned his lesson, wants to save his Cambodian proteges from the kind of dead end his own life took so far away. "I made a mistake as a kid," he says. "But I'm not gonna let these kids destroy their lives too."

DAP News ; Breaking News by Soy Sopheap

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Cambodia trains 54 Commercial Arbitrators to Deal Trade Conflicts

Tuesday, 15 June 2010 13:30 DAP-NEWS/ Tep Piseth

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, June 15, 2010-Cambodia on Tuesday trained 54 commercial arbitrators under support from IFC, and EU. Ministry of commerce will open the commercial arbitration center end of 2010 to help deal trade dispute outside the court. Later, Cambodia will open the commercial court.

“The training and selection of Cambodia’s first commercial arbitration are an important step toward building an effective and independent institution for resolving business disputes,” said Cham Prasidh, senior minister and commerce minister in his statement at training course “We believe the national arbitration center will help bolster confidence in the commercial system, which is crucial for promoting investment and economic growth.” he added.

A less bureaucratic and speedier arbitration system is expected to encourage companies to do more business as it reduces the legal risks associated with business partners and transactions.

“Committed to supporting the government of Cambodia in its reform agenda, the EU is providing technical assistance and funding to help Cambodia improve its trade capacity and investment climate,” said David Lipman, ambassador of the EU to Cambodia in his statment.

Cambodia’s National Anti-corruption Council elects its leaders

Tuesday, 15 June 2010 05:54 By Ek Madra DAP NEWS

PHNOM PENH, June 15, 2010 (DAP) – For the first time the Cambodia’s National Anti-corruption Council is officially established and voted on Tuesday to elect its president and vice president for a five-year term, a move aimed to fight graft which has been criticized by donors as a serious problem that affects every single person in the country.

The Southeast Asian nation’s legislative body adopted the anti-corruption law in March authorized the country to set up the anti-corruption mechanism to crack down the rampant corruption, which has been concerned by the country’s donors who injected Cambodia up to $1.1 billion early this month.

Top Sam, who represented the National Assembly, was elected as a President of the Council and Prak Sok, who represented the Senate, was elected as Vice-President.

Top Sam described the Tuesday event “as significant milestone in Cambodia”.
“We will use the anti-corruption law as legal tool to fight corruption,” he said after the closed door votes.

“You will wait and see the result we will achieve,” said Top Sam.

The Council has 11 members including its leaders. They represented the different government’s institutions: the Royal Palace, the senate, National Assembly, anti-corruption unit, Supreme Council of Magistracy, Cambodian Human Right Committee, National Auditing Authority, government, and others key institutions.

Ek Tha, a spokesman for the Office of the Council of Ministers, told reporters that “the election today showed another government’s strong commitment to fight corruption”.

Om Yentieng, head of the Anti-corruption Unit, said the National Anti-corruption Council has now 60 staff and another 60 people would be employed to work for the Council in the near future.

The National Assembly approved in March the anti-corruption law allowed the country to establish the mechanism of National Anti-corruption Council and the Anti-corruption Unit, although the opponents said the law is not transparent which could lead to the failure in tackling the corrupt acts.

In May, 2009 U.S. ambassador Carol A. Rodley said that corruption is a problem that affects every single person in Cambodia.

“According to various studies, corruption costs Cambodia up to $500 million per year in terms of forgone state revenue that could otherwise be spent on public services in education and health care and jobs for Cambodian youth,” said Rodley.

She said that $500 million is equivalent to the cost of constructing 20,000 six-room school buildings or the ability to pay every civil servant in Cambodia an additional $260 per month.

Cambodian officials rejected Rodley’s comment as unsubstantiated.

The Berlin-based Transparency International (TI), the global coalition against corruption which surveyed nearly 200 countries, has said in its Corruption Index (CPI) ranked Cambodia as one of the worst corrupt country in the world.

Lager to go

Photo by: Rann Reuy

via Khmer NZ News Media

Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:00 Rann Reuy

Police based in Siem Reap province dispose of 80 cases of Heineken beer that were found during a raid on a suspected illegal logging den in Prasat Bakong district on Monday.

Protest dispersed at Wat Botum

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Police in riot gear block protesters who travelled from all over the Kingdom to deliver a petition bearing some 60,000 thumbprints to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday. The villagers, who gathered in a park near Wat Botum and gave their petition to a member of Hun Sen’s cabinet staff before being dispersed by police, were asking the premier to intervene in various land disputes.
Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Villagers who gathered to deliver a petition on land disputes to Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh villa are blocked Tuesday at the park near Wat Botum by riot police armed with tear gas and carrying gas masks.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:03 May Titthara

A GROUP of more than 200 demonstrators gathered in front of Wat Botum on Tuesday morning in the hope of delivering a petition bearing the thumbprints of 60,000 villagers affected by land disputes to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

After about two hours, the villagers settled for handing the petition to a representative of the premier’s cabinet before being ushered away by police.

Hor Sam Ath, a representative of the demonstrators, said it was regrettable – but not surprising – that they had not been able to confront Hun Sen directly.

“It would be better if we could explain directly to the prime minister the problems we face as a result of land disputes. Sometimes our cases are buried by officials who do not pass villagers complaints onto him,” he said.

The petition, seen by the Post on Tuesday, quoted speeches dating back to 2004 in which Hun Sen has drawn attention to land-grabbing and other illicit activities.

Nuth Chamreoun, an assistant to Lim Leang Se, the deputy chief of the prime minister’s cabinet, said the villagers – some of whom were holding images of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany – had been told to leave the Wat Botum area because they were an eyesore.

“We could not allow them to stand and hold the prime minister’s photo in a public place,” he said. “It affects the view of Phnom Penh. These people have to understand that it is a city.”

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said on Tuesday that his organisation had recorded 58 new land disputes affecting about 2,830 families in the first five months of this year. These disputes, he added, have led to 40 arrests and one death.

Hor Namhong acclaims verdict

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong talks to reporters Tuesday about his defamation case against Sam Rainsy. HENG CHIVOAN

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha

FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong on Tuesday lauded a French appeal court’s decision to uphold a defamation conviction against Sam Rainsy, saying the opposition leader called him a “criminal”.

On May 20, the appeal court affirmed last year’s ruling in the case, which stems from passages included in Sam Rainsy’s 2008 autobiography – titled Rooted in Stone – alleging that Hor Namhong headed the notorious Khmer Rouge-era Boeung Trabek “re-education camp”. The camp held diplomats and government officials from the Lon Nol and Norodom Sihanouk regimes, some of whom were sent to Tuol Sleng prison.

“The accusation seriously damaged my reputation,” Hor Namhong said on Tuesday. “This issue is not about freedom of expression. He has accused me of being a criminal.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff distributed to reporters excerpts of the French appeal court’s decision, which stated that Sam Rainsy would need to pay €2,000 (US$2,452) in compensation, though Hor Namhong said he was not interested in the payment.

“I did not want money,” he said. “I asked only for €1 in compensation. I think just €1 would be enough for my honour.

Hor Namhong filed a similar complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, also in 2008, but so far no action has been taken on the case.

Sam Rainsy is in self-imposed exile after receiving in January a two-year jail term from the Svay Rieng provincial court for his role in uprooting markers in October 2009 along the Vietnamese border.

Yim Sovann, a lawmaker and spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, declined to comment on the defamation case involving Hor Namhong, saying it was a personal matter.

Minister explains KRT snub

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha and James O’toole

Hor Namhong says foreign judge ‘abused the law’ by issuing summons alone

FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong said Tuesday that he had ignored a request to testify at the Khmer Rouge tribunal because co-investigating judge Marcel Lemonde had “abused the law” in issuing the summons.

With his comments, Hor Namhong became the first among six high-ranking government officials summoned without success by Lemonde in September to publicly explain his refusal to testify. Cambodian co-investigating judge You Bunleng did not join Lemonde in signing the summonses.

“I did not respond because I have a legal reason,” Hor Namhong said.

“According to the rules between Cambodia and the UN, there must be two signatories, from the Cambodian side and foreign side, but Marcel Lemonde ... abused the law by signing alone, so on behalf of the government, which participated in the negotiations for the establishment of the court, I would not abuse this agreement like Marcel Lemonde did.”

In January, Lemonde issued a note detailing the action he had taken in attempting to secure testimony from Hor Namhong and five other officials: Senate President Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon and Cambodian People’s Party senators Sim Ka and Ouk Bunchhoeun. All of these officials had apparently ignored their summonses, prompting Lemonde to conclude that it was not feasible at the time to pursue their testimony further, and to defer the matter to the hybrid court’s Trial Chamber.

In a statement given through UN court spokeswoman Yuko Maeda, Lemonde defended his issuance of the summonses.

“It is not for a judge to engage in controversy with a witness,” Lemonde said. “The summons in question was delivered pursuant to Rule 72(3) of the ECCC internal rules.”

Rule 72(3) states that in the event of a disagreement between the co-investigating judges, “the action or decision which is the subject of the disagreement shall be executed” pending the resolution of the dispute. Exceptions in which no action may be taken arise if the action or decision relates to an arrest or issuance of charges, or if it may be appealed by parties to the case.

Anne Heindel, a legal Anne Heindel, a legal adviser with the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said Hor Namhong’s criticisms of Lemonde were without merit.

“I think it’s pretty clear that Lemonde did have authority to move forward based on the rules, and because there was disagreement between [the co-investigating judges], he’s acting on his own,” Heindel said. “That doesn’t seem to be a problem, or to lessen his mandate.”

The issue of whether Hor Namhong and the other officials can claim immunity if the court seeks to compel their testimony is still unclear, Heindel added.

“The other international courts generally don’t find that government officials have immunity,” Heindel said. “One important issue is how international this court is, but even if this is a strictly Cambodian court, I don’t think that it’s clear that they have immunity.”

You Bunleng said Tuesday that he had not joined Lemonde in summoning the six officials because he did not believe their testimony was necessary in light of other evidence gathered by the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges (OCIJ).

“The OCIJ has already interviewed many witnesses, so there is no need for these people to come,” You Bunleng said.

Lemonde and You Bunleng have also registered disagreement over the timing of investigations in the court’s third and fourth cases, according to documents made public last week. Lemonde has signed a rogatory letter authorising preliminary investigations in the cases. You Bunleng signed the letter, but changed his mind, saying that the OCIJ should wait to consider this issue until indictments or dismissals have been issued in the second case.

Lemonde is currently going forward on his own with the investigations, UN court spokesman Lars Olsen said last week. Within 30 days from the disagreement, however, You Bunleng may choose to bring the matter to the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber for arbitration.

You Bunleng said Tuesday that he had “not yet considered whether to file a complaint about the disagreement to the Pre-Trial Chamber”.

US lawmaker critical of Tier 2 designation

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:03 Irwin Loy and Chhay Channyda

CAMBODIA should not have been removed from a US State Department watch list of countries judged to be making insufficient gains in fighting human trafficking, a US lawmaker has charged.

In a statement released Monday, California congressman Ed Royce said the 2010 Trafficking in Persons report, released this week, let Cambodia off lightly, despite “an abundance of evidence” of persistent problems.

“It appears that some countries like Cambodia have gotten a pass,” Royce said.

The report listed Cambodia as a “Tier 2” country on a three-tier system, indicating that the Kingdom was seen not to have met minimum standards for eliminating trafficking, but was “making significant efforts to do so”. It cited a boost in law enforcement and prosecution against trafficking offenders as justification for taking Cambodia off the watch list.

Royce, however, noted that the change occurred despite a range of serious concerns cited in the report. For example, the report warned that Cambodian children are still trafficked to neighbouring countries, and that the sale of virgin girls persists, as does the direct and indirect involvement of police and judicial officials in trafficking – part of what the report calls “impunity, corruption and related rent-seeking behaviour”.

“We need to be sending a much stronger message that these forms of modern day slavery [are] unacceptable,” Royce said.


Royce, an outspoken critic of the Cambodian government who last year sponsored a proposed resolution condemning “the pervasive corruption of the Kingdom of Cambodia”, said this year’s report was “rewarding” authorities, when they should instead have been given a warning.

Countries that are judged to consistently show few signs of progress in combating human trafficking could in theory face repercussions from the US government.

If Cambodia had been kept on the watchlist this year and next, it would automatically have been downgraded to the lowest level – Tier 3 – in the 2011 report. Under US anti-trafficking legislation, the US government could have then chosen to withhold non-humanitarian aid and to oppose the donation of some multilateral aid from financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The government official who directs Cambodia’s anti-trafficking efforts downplayed Royce’s criticisms, saying the state department report represents the views of a multitude of parties, not just one person.

“We believe that before the US classifies somebody, they have collected information on the issue from sources such as NGOs, the government and their own investigations,” said Bith Kimhong, director of the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking Bureau. “Their information is fully collected.”

Some observers who work on anti-trafficking issues say Cambodia has taken strides in the past year and is deserving of its Tier 2 placement. But others say authorities’ actions have also harmed certain marginalised groups.

Ly Pisey, a technical assistant with the group Women’s Network for Unity, said vice crackdowns executed in the name of stamping out human trafficking have actually targeted sex workers, many of whom have not been trafficked.

“They have been arrested almost every day and sent to social affairs centres,” Ly Pisey said.

She said the crackdowns were given added impetus with the passage in 2008 of the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, more than one-quarter of which focuses on prostitution. Ly Pisey believes authorities were pressured to pass the law quickly so as not to be criticised in that year’s state department report. The 2008 report cited the new law as evidence of Cambodia’s progress at the time against trafficking.

“The US government is using this tier system to judge and criticise others, even though they’re also part of the problem involved in enforcement,” Ly Pisey said.

Tribunal graft monitor silent on activity report

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:03 James O'Toole

THE office of the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s anticorruption monitor had yet to release a report on its activities as of Tuesday, despite the fact that an official there said earlier this year that such a report would be made public “in April or May”.

Last August, National Audit Authority (NAA) head Uth Chhorn was appointed to be the first independent counsellor for the tribunal, charged with monitoring and addressing allegations of corruption and misconduct.

In March, Prom Vicheth Sophorn, deputy director of the NAA’s Audit Department 3, said the office was set to release a public report of its activities after consulting with UN and government officials.

He said at the time that the independent counsellor’s office was in the process of investigating three complaints: two alleged wrongful dismissals and an allegation that members of the court’s security staff had been forced to pay kickbacks to their superiors.

Uth Chhorn said Tuesday that he was “too busy” to discuss the issue, and referred questions to his deputies. Prom Vicheth Sophorn and Auditor General cabinet officer Chea Sophat could not be reached for comment.

The independent counsellor’s office was established in part to satisfy donor concerns about corruption at the court. A press release issued by the government and UN at the time of Uth Chhorn’s appointment did not mention an obligation for the office to make its findings public, saying that the independent counsellor was to carry out his responsibilities “in strict confidentiality”, aside from reporting to the government and the UN.

Long Panhavuth, a project officer at the Cambodia Justice Initiative, said it is important that the independent counsellor’s office make its findings public “to demonstrate that it is working to stop the corruption or the malpractice within the ECCC, and also to build confidence from international institutions”.

“I would say that from the beginning ... one of the problems that concerned us was the transparency in the operations of that office,” Long Panhavuth said, though he added that the office needs to balance this obligation with protections for whistleblowers.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Tuesday that he was abroad and thus did not have up-to-date information on the issue.

UN court spokeswoman Yuko Maeda said she could not comment on the work of Uth Chhorn’s office, as it operates separately from the tribunal.

Anti-graft body announced

Photo by: Pha Lina
Top Sam (left) and Prak Sok address journalists Tuesday at the Council of Ministers shortly after being elected chairman and deputy chairman, respectively, of the Anticorruption Council.

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:03 Meas Sokchea

Council to tackle official declarations of assets as its first task

THE government on Tuesday revealed all 11 members of the National Anticorruption Council (NACC) during an inaugural meeting that included the naming of a chairman and deputy chairman.

The NACC – one of two bodies established by the new Anticorruption Law passed by the National Assembly in March – is responsible for framing the government’s anticorruption strategy, and will report directly to Prime Minister Hun Sen.

During a press conference shortly after being elected NACC chairman, Top Sam, a former member of the Constitutional Council, said the public “had a right” to be sceptical about the potential effectiveness of the body, but emphasised the need to withhold judgment and allow the members to go about their work.

“The members of the NACC must enforce the law,” he said.

The appointment of Top Sam and Prak Sok, also a former Constitutional Council member, to the NACC was announced last week when they were selected, respectively, by the National Assembly and the Senate.

On Tuesday, Prak Sok was elected to serve as deputy chairman of the body.

Om Yentieng, a senior adviser to the prime minister and chairman of the government-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee, automatically became a member of the NACC when Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed him chairman of the Anticorruption Unit. That appointment was announced late last month.

Om Yentieng said Tuesday that investigations of the asset declarations of government officials will be the commission’s first priority.

He added that he believes the NACC’s efforts to combat corruption will be successful.

“We believe it can reduce corruption a lot,” he said.

Seven of the remaining eight NACC members announced Tuesday – Uth Chhorn, Chiv Keng, Keo Remy, Som Kim Sour, Heng Vong Bunchhat, Suy Mong Leang and Chan Tany – were appointed to the body by government institutions, and Kuy Sophal was selected by King Norodom Sihamoni.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann noted that most of the NACC members are also members of the Cambodian People’s Party – a factor that he said could potentially hinder their efforts to expose graft.

“We have very little hope,” he said. “Most of the corrupters are in the Council of Ministers, or [elsewhere] in the government. Will the NACC dare to take action?”

Koh Kong stepmother charged in child abuse

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Khuon Leakhana

A KOH Kong woman accused of beating her 12-year-old stepson has been charged with intentional battery, a provincial court official said Tuesday.

Under the UNTAC criminal code, the woman, who was arrested Friday, faces a potential jail term of between two months and five years if found guilty, depending on the extent of her stepson’s injuries.

Rights workers say she forced the boy to earn money by collecting rubbish and selling the scraps. When he didn’t earn enough money, he was beaten, and when he earned too much, the stepmother also beat him, they said.

Meas Vanthana, deputy director of the Koh Kong provincial court, on Tuesday confirmed that the woman has been charged and is being held in pretrial detention.

“We charged her on Saturday with intentional battery of her 12-year-old stepson, and now she is in temporary custody pending further investigation,” he said.

Chhin Chamroeun, a provincial monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said on Tuesday that the boy needed a new place to live. “We are taking measures to find a new home for the boy because we are afraid that his father is not a good person and cannot feed or take care of him,” she said, and added that the boy’s father has “a drinking problem”.

The boy said on Monday that he “pitied” his stepmother. “I went to visit her on Saturday, and I want the police to release her so that she can go back home to take care of my father because he does not have anyone to look after him,” he said.

“I won’t stay at my home anymore if my stepmother comes back, because I am afraid she will beat me again. She used to beat me on the legs, hands, head and thighs. If I cried, she just beat me harder,” he added.

Lao Linda, director of the Tiroum Khet Primary School, where the boy is a student, said she agreed that he should stay in a home managed by Adhoc.

“He would not have anyone to take care of him if he stayed at home because his father is always drunk,” she said.

Meanwhile, police in Kampot province on Tuesday removed a 16-year-old girl from the custody of her aunt, who has been accused of physically torturing her since she was 10.

Sim Sorphea, head of Adhoc’s women’s rights programme in Kampot, said the girl would “stay at Adhoc’s office while we wait to see how the court will proceed”.

“She looks weak, pale and thin,” she added. “It seems like she has not had any food to eat.”

Thai Sari, the governor of Kampong Trach district, said police and rights workers had “tricked the girl’s aunt” into thinking the girl would be taken to have her wounds treated “by a volunteer doctor”.

There are few statistics available on child abuse in Cambodia, and experts believe many cases go unreported.

Bith Kimhong, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection department, said Tuesday that he could not provide any statistics on child abuse.

An unpublished 2007 report from UNICEF said that there are significant “gaps” in the implementation of Cambodia’s Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and the Protection of Victims.

For instance, the law does not make provisions for rehabilitation measures such as anger management, treatment of alcoholism, or counselling, according to the report. Because most children do not want to lose even parents who abuse them, they are reluctant to alert authorities to instances of abuse, the report said.

US firms speak on climate for investment

Attendees talk in the General Electric booth at a May Windpower Conference held in the US. The firm is considering wind potential in Cambodia, it said on a US-ASEAN Business Council trip. Bloomberg

via Khmer NZ News Media

Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:02 Ellie Dyer

REPRESENTATIVES from seven of the United States’ most influential multinational corporations engaged top Cambodian officials in frank talks this week, in part on obstacles to investment, as companies assessed the viability of long-term projects in the Kingdom during an US-ASEAN Business Council visit.

Representatives from energy companies Chevron and ConocoPhillips, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, defence contractor General Dynamics, technology leader IBM, agricultural firm Bunge and infrastructure, media and finance company General Electric met with leading officials from multiple government ministries Monday and Tuesday.

Delegates of the fourth annual American mission hoped to gain a clearer picture of Cambodia’s economic climate and conduct talks with politicians regarding the “challenges” the Kingdom must face to attract long-term investment, representatives of the US-ASEAN Business Council told the Post Tuesday.

Issues of governance, transparency, regulation and infrastructure concerns, such as the high cost of electricity, were all raised by delegates over the course of the talks – which tackled both the progress of existing investments and potential new projects.

“If Cambodia wants to be more competitive things need to change. Most ministers understand this. We want to see the business environment take off,” said US-ASEAN Council President Alexander Feldman, whose organisation represents more than 100 US companies that conducted US$4.5 trillion in global sales last year.

But he praised recent signs of development, such as the Kingdom’s recently-approved anticorruption legislation, and highlighted possible long-term US investments that he said have the potential to bolster Cambodia’s infrastructure and domestic skills base.

Though no new deals have yet been struck, companies have voiced ambitions to move forward in the Kingdom.

Feldman said that renewable and green energy proved a focus for discussion, as General Electric is looking at the development of wind turbine technology and Bunge is considering Cambodia’s biofuel potential.

Meanwhile, defence firm General Dynamics was taking part in a fact-finding operation to consider the provision of air-traffic control technology to the Kingdom.

Johnson & Johnson could work with the government to tackle medical counterfeiting, which, Feldman said, remains “a major impediment” to the firm’s entering Cambodia in force.

Multinationals that already have concessions in the Kingdom also took part in the trip.

ConocoPhillips, which holds interests in an internationally disputed offshore energy block, and Chevron, which Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered to produce oil in offshore Block A by 2012 or forfeit its licence, both met with officials.

The US-ASEAN Business Council highlighted regulations regarding petrol pricing and law as topics for consideration.

The council also detailed IBM’s intention to expand and Feldman said that US investment in developing nations typically has a long-term outlook, which is not just based on Cambodia’s low labour costs.

“US companies are quality investors. We would provide something of use to Cambodia,” he added.

He highlighted technological innovation and social responsibility as benefits of American dollars splashed in the Kingdom, which has seen Chinese investment flood into the country in recent years.

“We want to work with the government to make the business environment more conducive to attracting international investors,” Feldman said.

US-ASEAN Business Council manager Anthony Nelson added that it also aims to “establish what the government’s priorities are”.

The delegation has visited the Ministries of Finance, Commerce, Health, Trade, Foreign Affairs, Education and Posts and Telecommunications.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Tuesday: “Cambodia has taken the utmost effort to create an environment in which business investment can grow. It will become better and better.”

He pointed to the anti-graft law and Cambodia’s commitment to meet World Trade Organisation standards as positive forces in the business sector.

US-Cambodia trade has risen from around $25 million in 1996 to an estimated $2 billion in 2009, the business council said.

ILO weighs freedom of association

via Khmer NZ News Media

Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:02 Cameron Wells

Agency reiterates calls for progress on union rights, but takes fire for failing to act.

THE International Labour Organisation is reviewing Cambodia’s compliance with a convention ensuring workers’ right to form unions without interference from employers and officials, looking in particular at steps taken to investigate past killings of prominent union leaders.

However, the committee tasked with conducting the review said last week that the government had failed to submit a report outlining steps taken to meet the convention’s requirements.

Convention 87, to which Cambodia became a party in 1999, addresses workers’ free association and collective bargaining rights.

The ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations – which will soon conclude two weeks of meetings in Geneva to discuss various countries’ level of compliance with ILO conventions – addressed Cambodia’s compliance with Convention 87 last Monday.

Because the Cambodian delegation – led by Geneva ambassador Sun Suon and Heang Veasna, the director of the Labour Ministry’s International Cooperation Department – had not submitted a new report, the committee reiterated comments issued in August 2009.

Those comments called on the government to “take all necessary measures to ensure that the trade union rights of workers in Cambodia are fully respected, and that trade unionists are able to exercise their activities in a climate free of intimidation and risk to their personal security and their lives”.

I see many cases of individuals who have not been protected by the convention.

The comments also addressed a handful of particular cases, including the killings of Chea Vichea, former head of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia; Hy Vuthy, the FTU president at the Suntex Garment Factory; and Ros Sovannareth, a union leader at the Trinunggal Komara garment factory.

Chea Vichea was gunned down in 2004 while buying a newspaper near Wat Lanka.

Two men, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, were convicted of the crime that same year, but the Supreme Court ordered their provisional release in December 2008, citing contradictory evidence.

In light of their release, the committee urged the government to ensure that the case is closed in a satisfactory manner.

“The Committee … urges the government to ensure that the investigation [into the murder] is prompt, independent and expeditiously carried out,” it said.

In the case of Hy Vuthy, who was gunned down in 2007, the committee expressed “concern” that it had “received no information on any progress made in the investigation”. No arrests have been made in that case.

The committee also called for a review of the controversial case of Thach Saveth, who was convicted in the 2004 murder of Ros Sovannareth and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Cambodian Legal Education Centre, called on the committee to investigate the three murders, saying it was “a big shame” that no arrests have been made in the killing of Hy Vuthy.

Chea Mony, the brother of Chea Vichea and current head of the FTU, criticised both the government and the ILO for weak implementation of Convention 87.

“The Cambodian government is a signatory to the convention, but both the country and the ILO enforce the convention poorly,” he said.

“I see many cases of individuals who have not been protected by the convention, such as murdered trade union representatives and the intimidation of individuals.”

Labour Ministry officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.


Arbitrators to start their training

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:02 Jeremy Mullins

CAMBODIAN businesses will have an alternative to settling disputes in law courts when the National Arbitration Center (NAC) opens at the end of this year, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh said Tuesday.

Speaking to 54 potential arbitrators, who are set to begin training on Friday, he said the NAC would be an improvement on existing options available for domestic businesses.

“The advantage of arbitration for companies is that it is quicker, more flexible, and also firms can choose their own individual arbitrator,” he said.

Experts from the International Financial Corporation (IFC) say the NAC is an important development.

IFC resident representative Julia Brickell said a World Bank report showed it took on average in excess of 400 days to navigate the Kingdom’s commercial courts.

“The establishment of the NAC will be critical to building a strong business environment in Cambodia,” she said Tuesday.

The IFC is assisting technical aspects of the NAC programme, with 80 percent of the funding provided by the European Union.

Success for the centre depends on the credibility and integrity of its arbitrators, Cham Prasidh said.

“I do not set a quota for the number of graduates, but I set a performance standard. Students must score at least a B+ to graduate.”

Two training programmes are scheduled for students, including lessons on arbitration from Singaporean experts, and a commercial law course.

Around US$500,000 has been earmarked by the Ministry of Commerce for the NAC building, MoC Secretary of State Mao Thora said, but the location has yet to be determined.

Garment Manufacturing Association in Cambodia chairman Van Sou Ieng welcomed the NAC on the event’s sidelines, but said it was important to permit foreigners to qualify as arbitrators.

Border markers cause ‘suspicion’: CWC head

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:02 Kim Yuthana

THE decision to block a Cambodia Watchdog Council (CWC) delegation from viewing contested border posts in Takeo province on Sunday is evidence that the government has something to hide, Rong Chhun, the council’s president, said in a statement issued Monday.

“The prevention caused even more suspicion about what was behind the implanting of the border stakes. The Cambodian authorities have tried very hard to ban lawmakers and civil society representatives from visiting the stakes to find out the truth,” read the statement.

On Sunday, about 10 members of the CWC were prevented from inspecting a border post in Borei Cholsa district’s Chey Chauk commune, that some villagers have claimed impinges on their farmland.

Var Kimhong, senior minister in charge of border affairs, dismissed Rong Chhun’s claim on Tuesday, saying there was nothing suspicious about any of the posts planted along Cambodia’s border with Vietnam.

“The government prevented them from seeing the place because it did not want to see the act of thoughtless uprooting of border stakes again, such as was the case in Svay Rieng province,” he said, referring to a stunt last October that ultimately led to a two-year prison sentence for opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is now in France.

Imports, exports rise

via Khmer NZ News Media

Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:02 May Kunmakara

INCREASED global consumption has sparked growth in Cambodian trade so far this year, according to Ministry of Commerce (MoC) officials.

Official figures from the MoC obtained Tuesday show Cambodia’s total export market rose 13.82 percent to US$1.2 billion in the first five months of 2010, compared to last year’s $1.06 billion, while imports increased 17.45 percent to $1.74 billion, from $1.48 billion for the same period.

MoC Secretary of State Ouk Boung said Tuesday that the Kingdom is making clear progress as the global crisis fades.

“The growth is derived from the surge in global consumption.

“We are seeing many big companies from Japan, South Korea, and ... European countries coming to seek investment opportunities already this year – this demonstrates how the economy is improving,” he said.

However, Cambodian Economic Association (CEA) President Chan Sophal said the rise does not seem as favourable when one considers the trade decline from 2008 to 2009. Margins for Cambodia’s primary export, garments, are also being squeezed, according to Nam-Shik Kang, managing director of Korea’s Injae Garment Co Ltd.

Two to be charged in witchcraft axe murder

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

TWO men who allegedly hacked to death with axes a man they accused of being a sorcerer are set to face Kampong Speu provincial court today, where they are likely to be charged with murder, the provincial police chief said Tuesday.

Keo Pisey said his staff had identified the two suspects based on tips from residents of Bor Seth district’s Por Angkrong commune, where the crime occurred. The victim, 44-year-old Mul Sophal, was killed on Sunday night, he said.

“Two men are now being held at our provincial police station for interrogation,” he said.

He said both had confessed to the crime during interrogation.

“Because they have confessed to killing the man because of witchcraft, we will send the pair to provincial court on Wednesday to face primary charges of murder,” he said.

He added that the victim had been hacked multiple times with axes.

Meanwhile, police in Kampong Speu are continuing to investigate the case, as they have been told other people may have been involved in the killing, he said.

Mich Ponn, a researcher at the Buddhist Institute and an adviser to the Ministry of Cults and Religions, said that belief in witchcraft is common in rural areas, but condemned the killing regardless.

“Witchcraft is a belief that cannot be seen. They could not find any evidence, only suspicions. People should not have killed the sorcerer by themselves, which is against the law,” he said.

Bodyguard charged in drunken shooting

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has charged an officer in the Interior Ministry’s bodyguard unit in connection with the shooting of a 27-year-old man in Meanchey district following a round of heavy drinking on Friday, a official said Tuesday.

Ung Dara, 37, had been drinking for several hours on Friday afternoon when he allegedly got into an argument with and ended up shooting his friend, 27-year-old So Chanthet, who was taken to Calmette Hospital.

The officer was arrested later that night while visiting So Chanthet in hospital, after police were tipped off by hospital staff members, said Chum Savuth, the police chief of Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Leu commune, where the shooting occurred.

“We arrested that man from the hospital while he was visiting his injured friend after attacking him that evening,” he said. “I saw that the victim was suffering from a serious injury on his back, and that both of them were deeply drunk. The group had spent about three hours drinking wine and beers together.”

Koeur Bunnara, a deputy prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said Tuesday that Ung Dara had been charged late Monday and placed in pre-trial detention.

“I charged him yesterday with two charges of intentional battery and using an illegal weapon, and I have sent the suspect to an investigating judge for further investigation under two charges. He will be serving pretrial detention this evening.”

He said the charge of intentional battery carried a potential prison term of between one and five years, and using an illegal weapon could lead to an additional six months to two years behind bars along with a fine of between 500,000 riels and 2 million riels (US$118-$473).

He added that Ung Dara had confessed to the shooting, and that he had been unable to produce a licence for his gun.

“That’s why I charged him with using an illegal weapon, even though he is a police official at the Interior Ministry’s bodyguard department,” he said.

A staff member at the administration section of Calmette Hospital who identified himself only as Yunny said that So Chanthet had been transferred “from the emergency room to the operating room” and was scheduled to undergo an operation, though he declined to elaborate further.

Police Blotter: 16 Jun 2010

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:00 Sen David

Police have arrested three suspects after they allegedly stole a statue of Buddha from a pagoda in Kandal province Monday. The suspects allegedly swiped the artefact, then tried to sell it in a market in Phnom Penh. Police reported that they became suspicious when they saw the suspects bargaining with a market vendor. After an hour of questioning, the suspects allegedly admitted to stealing the statue. Police have sent the case to court.

Mystery surrounds the death of a 59-year-old man whose body was found in the middle of a road in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district Monday. Police speculated that the man may have been robbed, because no items of value were found on his person. But police said they had yet to arrive at any conclusions as to how he died. A witness reported that when she was cleaning a rubbish bin, she saw the body, but that there was no blood at the scene. The victim’s wife has reportedly said that her husband died of a heart attack on the way to visiting his elderly parents.

Two men are dead and another man seriously injured after a terrible traffic accident in Kandal province Sunday. Police said the victims were all riding on the same motorbike when they crashed into a large car. Two of them died instantly, and the third was sent to hospital. Police said the driver of the large car ran away, afraid he would be blamed for the crash. But in the end, the cops blamed the incident on the motorbike driver, saying he had been driving recklessly fast. The bike crashed into the car, they said, not vice versa.

Police in Battambang province say a 5-year-old boy died after his uncle accidentally shot him with an arrow while trying to hit a mouse. Police said the boy was merely playing children’s games in front of his house at the time of the incident. His uncle had just finished crafting a homemade bow and arrow, and he was yearning to test it out. Though he managed to fire it in the mouse’s general direction, he unfortunately struck his nephew instead, killing the boy instantly. The boy’s parents said they felt deep regret about what happened. They did not want to get police involved, considering the incident to be a family matter, but police nonetheless called the suspect in and sent him to court.

Visitors flock to mark PVihear temple ruling

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:01 Thet Sambath

MORE than 700 people visited Preah Vihear temple on Tuesday to mark the 48th anniversary of a ruling from the International Court of Justice awarding the 12th-century structure to Cambodia, officials said.

Hang Soth, director of the Preah Vihear National Authority, said that the temple usually receives around 300 visitors each day, and that Tuesday’s influx reflected a desire to celebrate the ruling.

“They seemed very happy, and they did not worry about anything, even though it is a place with tension and armed clashes between Thai and Cambodian forces in the past,” he said.

Long Sovann, chairman of the provincial council, said no formal celebrations were held on Tuesday, but said that plans were in the works for festivities marking the second anniversary of UNESCO’s July 2008 decision to designate Preah Vihear temple a World Heritage site.

“It is cheerful to remember the temple’s listing as a World Heritage site,” he said.

Yim Phim, commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Brigade 8, said Tuesday that the situation along the border is stable and that it is safe for people to visit the temple.

“If it was not safe, we would not allow them to go,” he said.

Khmer alt-rock band releases first album

Photo by: Ou Mom
Cartoon eMo perform at their album release party in Phnom Penh last weekend.

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:00 Ou Mom

Phnom Penh

WITH their thudding alternative rock music, jerky dance moves and fancy hairstyles, it might have been difficult to tell what country the musicians playing at T&C on Monivong Boulevard last weekend were from. Thailand? South Korea? Japan?

None of the above.They were a group of five young Cambodians who one year ago formed their own band called Cartoon eMo with a commitment – rare in this country – to writing their own songs. Their live set at T&C was in celebration of the release of their self-titled debut album.

At the launch event on the weekend, lead guitar player Ny Noly said the band’s name was a play on the “emo” style of music and fashion that the group follows. “We are proud to use our own abilities to create new music, which we hope will help develop the arts scene in Cambodia,” he said. “We also hope young Cambodians will accept our original work.”

The album was produced by Svang Dara film production company with cooperation from Sabay technology company.

“Rock music is not popular in Cambodia nowadays, so our company is introducing this original Khmer-style rock music to the people of the country,” Meng Sok Vireak, the executive director of Svang Dara, said at the album launch.

Chi Seila, the director of Sabay, said he has been interested in Cartoon eMo since they formed a year ago.

“The formation of the band shows that our arts scene is developing, even if a little slowly,” he said, and added that his company plans to help spread the word about the band through its technology service such as websites and mobile phones.