Friday, 18 June 2010

Thailand toughens migrant measures

Photo by: Christopher Shay
Thai border police stand guard at the Cham Yeam international border crossing between Cambodia’s Koh Kong province and Thailand’s Trat province last year.

We allow them to work, but they have to apply for registration first.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:03 Brooke Lewis and Chhay Channyda

THAILAND has announced a series of measures designed to target migrant workers who have failed to comply with a controversial registration process implemented earlier this year – a group that includes about 43,000 Cambodians, according to statistics provided by a Bangkok-based human rights organisation on Thursday.

The measures were outlined in a June 2 order signed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and include the establishment of a “special centre to suppress, arrest and prosecute alien workers who are working underground”, according to a translation of the order supplied by the Human Rights and Development Foundation.

In addition to the centre, the government will establish working committees tasked with investigating migrant workers in five different geographic areas covering all of Thailand’s 75 provinces, the order states.

Andy Hall, director of HRDF’s Migrant Justice Programme, said the order marked a more forceful approach to the enforcement of Thailand’s nationality-verification process, wherein migrant workers were to submit documents to their home governments in order to secure new work permits in Thailand.

“We haven’t seen anything quite so organised like this before,” he said Thursday. “This time, there’s no way for migrants to comply – there’s no registration process open, there’s just a threat.”

The deadline for complying with the nationality verification process was March 2.

According to HRDF figures provided later that month, there were 124,902 Cambodian migrant workers eligible to participate. HRDF figures indicate that 81,601 took part, so 43,301 could be subjected to the new enforcement policies.

But because the policies also target workers who lack the documentation necessary for eligibility, it is likely that thousands more Cambodian migrant workers could be targeted.

There were an estimated 1 million undocumented migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, according to HRDF, who could not provide country breakdowns for that group.

Hall said that with the new policies in place it is unclear what will happen to migrant workers who are rounded up.

“They say they’re going to ‘suppress, arrest and prosecute’. They usually say they will deport, but this time there is no mention of deportation,” he said.

“We’re quite surprised at the policy. The government’s policy is very strong: It’s threatening and punitive.”

Supat Guukhun, deputy director general of the employment office at the Thai ministry of labour, said Thursday that there was no way for migrant workers who missed the March deadline to register without first returning to their home countries to apply through legal channels.

“We allow them to work, but they have to apply for registration first,” he said.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn could not be reached for comment Thursday, nor could spokesmen for the Thai ministry of foreign affairs.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the two countries have a memorandum of understanding in place that allows for Cambodians working illegally in Thailand to be sent back.

“According to an MoU, Cambodian embassy officials can work with the Thai authorities to send them back to Cambodia,” he said. “We would welcome them back.”

He added that he did not yet know the specifics of the new enforcement policies – the details of which are not spelled out in the June 2 Thai government order – and thus could not say for how long workers could be detained at the “special centre” or in other Thai facilities.
“This is an internal regulation of Thailand,” he said.

In what appears to be one of the first mass arrests carried out under the enforcement policies, a raid on Wednesday in Mahachai, in Thailand’s Samut Sakhon province, netted a total of 145 illegal migrant workers – 30 from Cambodia, 103 from Myanmar and 12 from Laos, according to a translation of a Thai news report provided by the Migrant Justice Programme.

The workers were said to have been detained, and it was unclear how they would be processed, with the report saying only that officials would “proceed with them according to the law”.

Hall said Thursday that he was not aware of any other arrests, but that the MJP would be monitoring the situation closely. He added that comprehensive enforcement of the government’s new policy could well turn out to be unfeasible, as it would result in the loss of a vital part of the Thai workforce.

“The economy is quite dependent on migrant workers from Cambodia, Burma and Laos, so we don’t think it’s realistic,” he said. “There is no system now except for new legal arrivals.”

Cabinet calls to ban statues of politicians

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:03 Khouth Sophakchakrya

PRIME Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet has called for a ban on statues depicting living political leaders, after it was discovered this week that a statue erected inside the Anticorruption Institution was a likeness of the premier.

In a statement issued Thursday, Ho Sothy, director of the cabinet, called on government departments and members of the public to refrain from making statues of leaders who are still alive, saying such works are not compatible with Cambodian culture.

“Making or carving the statues of the living people, especially the government leadership, is against the national culture and custom,” the statement said.

Om Yentieng, a senior adviser to Hun Sen and chairman of the Anticorruption Unit, said he had commissioned the 3-metre-high statue.
“I certainly made a statue of the prime minister without asking his permission, but I did so in good will,” he said.

He added that he planned to write a public letter apologising to Hun Sen, and that he will have the statue removed if he is ordered to do so.

“I will write the official letter of apology to him in public this evening,” he said Thursday afternoon.

Khim Sarith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said statues of living people were in conflict with Buddhist tradition, and could also have negative consequences for those who erected them.

“It is not good. Our people have a belief that anyone who does that will meet their misery,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Om Yentieng’s decision to erect the statue had been a mistake, but pointed to political – rather than religious – reasons.

“If he put the statue in front of the anticorruption body when there is still a lot of corruption in the government, it would represent the corruption of the government, so I welcome this decision by the prime minister to remove the statue,” he said.

Miech Ponn, an adviser to the Mores and Customs Commission at Cambodia’s Buddhist Institute, said it was not unheard of for statues of living leaders to be erected.

“However, I do not know whether it is correct for people to make these statues from stone, metal, wood or clay for exhibition, because there aren’t any documents related to this issue,” he said.

Judicial flaws ‘far too numerous’: UN envoy

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio and Cheang Sokha

SERIOUS shortcomings in the Cambodian judicial system have impeded its ability to provide justice for “ordinary people”, the UN’s human rights envoy said at the tail end of his third official mission to the country.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Surya Subedi, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights, said a lack of resources, institutional shortcomings and external interference have resulted in an institution that “does not command the confidence of people from many walks of life”.

“There are an alarmingly high number of people in detention due to various shortcomings in the criminal justice system, and the instances of miscarriage of justice are far too numerous,” he said.

This is especially true when it comes to land rights and freedom of expression, Subedi said. “I am troubled by the impact of land disputes, land concessions and resettlements on the lives of ordinary people ... and the narrowing of political space for critical debate in society due to the disproportionate use of defamation, disinformation and incitement lawsuits against journalists, human rights activists and political opponents,” he added.

During his 10-day visit, which focused on the judiciary, Subedi met with King Norodom Sihamoni, senior officials, judges, civil society members and political party representatives. But a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, scheduled for Thursday morning, was cancelled due to “health reasons”, Subedi said.

Individuals have also petitioned Subedi directly, calling for him to intervene in their cases. On Monday, he met briefly with representatives of villagers involved in land disputes across the country.

The following day, jailed journalist Ros Sokhet wrote to Subedi to request his intervention in his case. Ros Sokhet was jailed for two years in November after being convicted of disinformation after sending disparaging text messages to news anchor Soy Sopheap.

Subedi said his position did not allow him to entertain individual complaints, but that the personal encounters had demonstrated “a certain pattern” in the operation of the judiciary in Cambodia.

“They are very helpful for me to ascertain the need for reform and what other areas are candidates for reform,” he said.

He added that he is calling on the government to establish a “strict timetable” for the implementation of his recommendations about the judicial system.

“This is an obligation voluntarily undertaken by the government of Cambodia, and I’m expecting them to honour their commitments,” he said. Subedi will report the findings of his trip to the UN Human Rights Council in September.

Om Yentieng, head of the government-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said he did not know what Subedi would report to the council, but that his visit had been too short to make a fair evaluation.

“In order to have a fair report they should establish a coalition team to work with the government so that they will have more details and information before making an evaluation,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the party had given Subedi recommendations concerning the alleged political bias of the courts, especially related to legal cases being pursued against SRP president Sam Rainsy and lawmaker Mu Sochua. He added, however, that it was uncertain whether positive change would result from Subedi’s visit. “So far, I have less confidence, but we will wait and see,” he said.

Tuol Sleng photographer begins building Khmer Rouge museum

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:02 Sam Rith

A FORMER photographer at the notorious Khmer Rouge prison Tuol Sleng said Thursday that he had begun construction on a museum to house his collection of regime memorabilia, including what he says are Pol Pot’s shoes and toilet.

Nhem En said Thursday that the 7-by-25-metre structure – located in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district, of which he is deputy governor – will be completed in “two or two and a half months”, and will cost about US$15,000. Construction began last Friday, he said.

He added, though, that the museum will be “temporary”, and that he has plans for a grander facility to be located on 50 hectares of land he has bought and cleared in the district.

“For the first step, we are just building the temporary museum to exhibit photos of Khmer Rouge activities’ leaders, Pol Pot’s shoes and cameras that I used in the regime,” he said. “So far I have no sponsors. All the money I am spending is my own pocket money that I have earned from selling rice crops.”

Last July, Nhem En sought financial backing from the World Monuments Fund, a US-based organisation that supports the preservation of historic sites. He said Thursday that he never received a response.

Prior to submitting that request, Nhem En made a splash in April 2009 when he announced plans to sell Pol Pot’s shoes and some of the cameras he used at Tuol Sleng for $500,000. After no buyers emerged, he said in May that he would sell all of his Khmer Rouge memorabilia for $1 million. That, too, was unsuccessful.

Even though the museum is now being built, he said Thursday that he would still be willing to sell the items for $1 million.

The Council of Ministers in March approved a draft of a sub-decree allowing for tourism development in Anlong Veng, a former regime stronghold that fell to government forces in 1998. Oddar Meanchey governor Pich Sokhin said Thursday that the development work would include renovated roads, “standardised” guesthouses and more restaurants.

Chinese army lorries set to arrive

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

A SHIPMENT of 257 Chinese military lorries pledged last month is set to arrive at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port today, a defence ministry spokesman said.

Chhum Socheat said officials from the ministry had been dispatched on Wednesday to meet the lorries, which he said would be granted an official reception in Phnom Penh next week. The reception, he said, will be attended by Defence Minister Tea Banh and officials from the Chinese embassy.

Chinese President Hu Jintao offered Cambodia the lorries along with 50,000 military uniforms during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen in Shanghai in May. The offer came less than a month after the United States cancelled a similar shipment following the controversial deportation of 20 ethnic Uighur asylum seekers to China in December.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Chinese-funded US$28.7 million Cambodia-China Prek Kdam Friendship in Kandal province on May 31, Hun Sen said he was looking forward to using the trucks in military exercises. “I am thinking of exercising the trucks in lines when they arrive,” he said.

Chhum Socheat said Thursday, though, that there were no immediate plans for military exercises. “They will be driven normally from the Sihanoukville port to Phnom Penh,” he said.

GMAC meets over garment wage increase

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

THE Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia held a meeting on Thursday to discuss a proposed 40 percent increase in the minimum wage for garment workers, two days after a trade union representing more than 80,000 workers announced plans to hold a three-day strike next month.

Ken Loo, the secretary general of GMAC, said it was too early to comment on how the body views the proposed increase.

“We have a position on minimum wage, but we are not ready to disclose it to the media,” he said.

In a letter sent to the Interior Ministry Tuesday, Chea Mony, head of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU), said he planned to organise a three-day sit-down strike beginning July 13 to press his demand that the monthly minimum wage be raised from US$50 to $70. The announcement came less than two weeks after the Labour Ministry urged unionists to hold off on strikes so that negotiations could go forward.

Under a 2006 agreement, the minimum wage is set to be discussed at some point this year, but Chea Mony has in recent weeks demanded
immediate action.

Alonzo Suson, country programme director at the Trade Union Support Organisation, an NGO, said Thursday that he believed the strike threat had “totally undermined the whole process of the minimum wage negotiations”, and added that he did not believe a general strike would be carried out.

“FTU has never had a general strike,” he said. “There may be some sit-down strikes in some factories.”

Loo said Thursday’s GMAC meeting had also addressed the government’s first Law on Trade Unions, a draft of which was sent out for consultations earlier this month. He also declined to provide details of that discussion beyond saying that GMAC would seek clarification on some points from the government.

“We identified some areas of difference between it and the existing Labour Law, and there are some articles we are concerned about,” he said.

Eviction site to become gym

Photo by: Will Baxter
Workers hired by 7NG lay the foundations for a new employee fitness centre on Thursday at the site of the former Dey Krahorm community.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Will Baxter

7NG Group plans to build staff fitness centre in former Dey Krahorm community

LOCAL developer 7NG Group has begun construction of an employee fitness centre on the former site of the Dey Krahorm community in Chamkarmon district, a company official said Thursday.

Srey Chanthou, managing director of 7NG Group, said Thursday that company employees would soon have an exclusive gym where they could “play” in their free time.

“The building of the fitness centre will be complete next month, and all 7NG Group staff will be free to play different kinds of sports: football, tennis, volleyball, etc,” he said. “But we won’t allow other people to come in.”

He added that there was no clear development plan in place for the rest of the site.

On January 24 last year, police and construction workers employed by 7NG Group forcibly evicted Dey Krahorm’s remaining families and levelled their homes. Residents and housing rights groups say 144 families were still living at the site at the time of the eviction.

Naly Pilorge, executive director of the rights group Licadho, was taken aback by the news that 7NG was constructing a company fitness centre at the controversial site, which at one point housed around 400 families.

“7NG violently evicted more than 400 families ... to build an employee gym? How is this valuable development for the country?” she said.

“7NG acquired the Dey Krahorm land illegally, and to this day 7NG has not delivered what it promised, including compensation to [the] rightful owners of Dey Krahorm and basic infrastructure and services to Dey Krahorm people dumped in resettlement sites.”

She also questioned the “urgency” of evicting Dey Krahorm’s residents in 2009 given that, nearly a year and a half later, there is still no clear plan in place for the site’s development.

According to a billboard posted outside the 3.6-hectare construction site, 7NG eventually plans to build luxury apartments, as well as office and retail space, but Srey Chanthou said he could not confirm these plans.

“We don’t have a plan for what we will do with the rest of the land after we finish building the fitness centre. We don’t know what we will do in the future,” he said.

In January, he said development of the site would begin in 2011 and 2012, but could not give a definite start date.

Other rights activists said it was not surprising that 7NG still had not settled on a development plan. “It is never about development. It’s about grabbing land,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

“I don’t know how the employees of this company can happily enjoy a gym that is being built on the backbone of so many people’s suffering.”

Am Sam Ath, a senior monitor for rights group Licadho, said 7NG should use the money being spent on the fitness centre to “pay compensation to the people they evicted or build better houses for them”.

Te Channan, a lawyer for 13 families that are still seeking relocation housing from 7NG, said that their case is still in limbo after representatives from 7NG failed to appear in court for a May 24 hearing. “Now we are just waiting for the judge to set a new hearing date,” he said.

Nun Pheany, general director of administration at the Ministry of Land Management, said Thursday that the ministry had not yet received any applications for approval from 7NG to construct projects at the Dey Krahorm site. He added that any projects must be approved by the municipality.

Khat Narith, the chief of Tonle Bassac commune, where the site is located, said he, too, had not received any applications from 7NG.

Govt denies Red Shirt presence

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha

Ministers accuse Thais of ‘spreading baseless information’ on fugitives’ location.

THE Council of Ministers on Thursday vociferously denied a Thai news report that allegedly claimed Red Shirt leaders Arisman Phongruangrong and Suphorn Atthawong were hiding out in a casino in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town.

A statement from the council’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit also accused Thai officials and media outlets of repeatedly “spreading baseless information” that could threaten the health of bilateral relations, citing previous reports that have also drawn its ire.

“Once again, Cambodia earnestly requests the Thai Administration and media to put an end, once and for all, to such provocative attitude of spreading baseless information, which would mislead the national and international public opinion and unnecessarily put good bilateral relations between the two countries at risk,” the statement reads.

“Numerous false reports have been fabricated again and again by Thai Vicious Circle aimed at discrediting the Kingdom of Cambodia.”

Numerous false reports have been fabricated again and again.

The statement goes on to say that Cambodia embraces ahimsa, a principle of nonviolence rooted in Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

“Cambodia believes in Truth and Ahimsa (non-violence) and strictly sticks to the principle of peaceful coexistence,” it reads.

“She bears no malice towards others and also believes that hatred breeds hatred, greed and violence would inevitably lead to one’s own ruin.”

The statement says the news report about Arisman and Suphorn aired on Thailand’s ASTV, a news station, and that it made “reference to an unverified information given by the Thai National Security Section”.

The ASTV report is compared to a report appearing in Thailand’s The Nation newspaper in late May that quoted the commander of a Thai army ranger company as saying that a group of Cambodian migrant labourers might have been trying to transport alleged “bombmaking materials” to Muslim insurgents in Thailand’s restive southern provinces.

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said on May 31 that all of the migrant labourers had been cleared of wrongdoing, and that the materials in question were being toted in a cart by children who lived in the border region.

“Of late,” reads Thursday’s council statement, “within a period of less than one month, that is from 31 May 2010 to 16 June 2010, two false reports about the suppressed and disbanded red shirts have been fabricated against Cambodia.”

Tith Sothea, a member of the Press and Quick Reaction, said Thursday that the media reports “might worsen the relationship between Cambodia and Thailand, who are currently involved in a dispute along the border”.

Chawanon Intharakomansut, secretary to Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya, could not be reached for comment on Thursday, nor could ministry spokesmen.

Real estate boost predicted

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Construction work on apartments on Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, continues Wednesday.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:01 Catherine James and Soeun Say

Analysts say property law sub-decree would boost foreign investment potential

Developers have welcomed a government move towards allowing foreign property ownership in private units to be up to 80 percent of a building, with stakeholders applauding it as a sign that Cambodia is opening up to more investment.

The government is considering a sub-decree on the foreign property ownership law to clarify the percentage of a building that can be privately owned by a foreigner, the Land Ministry said Wednesday. Previously the law had no limit, and it was not clear what the allowances were.

Reactions among key players in the property market and investment experts, interviewed by the Post on Thursday, were largely positive. Many predicted that the sub-decree would boost Cambodia’s market potential; however, some are uncertain of the time frame for change.

Douglas Clayton, chief executive officer of fund manager Leopard Capital, which has a US$1.5 million investment in residential housing in Siem Reap, said the sub-decree would be a positive indication the government was opening to foreign direct investment.

“This will obviously be very favourable news if they pass this sub-decree,” he said.

Although he did not expect immediate results, at least not in cities such as Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, he pointed to Cambodia’s coastline as an area of potential growth.

“I’m not sure it would immediately stimulate the foreign property market – at the moment there’s not as much interest because of the global financial crisis,” he said.

“I think what we’ll see is the demand for property along the coast will increase. Foreigners tend to want to have a place more for the holidays, so I think that’s where you’ll see more developers targeting.”

Matthew Rendall, partner at law firm Sciaroni & Associates, said there is definitely a market for foreign ownership – “we get enquiries about that all the time” – but that just how big the market is, or could become, isn’t clear.

He said that demand from developers would probably increase as their sales scope went from being concentrated in Cambodia to global in nature.

“The higher the government makes the level of foreign ownership, the better it is for the property market generally because it increases the customer base,” he said.

Daniel Parkes, country manager for Cambodia at global property firm CB Richard Ellis, agreed. He said an 80 percent limit would help expand the market, opening it up to new foreign investment, which he deemed “very important” to the sector.

However, he said that only “time would tell” how it would affect the property market in terms of levels of both construction and development.

“This doesn’t give all the answers, but it is a good step along the way,” he added.

Commentators, however, said that some points remained to be clarified in the sub-decree to prevent a “dual economy” within a single apartment block.

“The idea 100 percent cannot be sold to foreigners will be a factor developers take into consideration when they design these apartments. If x amount can be sold to Cambodian’s only and the rest to foreigners, it would potentially create two different pricing structures,” Rendall said.

He said details of whether the 80 percent refers to the number of units or floor space could also have similar design ramifications.

But he played down fears that a broader customer base could inflate housing prices to the detriment of local Cambodians, saying there will always be a market for different levels of income.

Among property developers, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

Un Mouy, sales and marketing manager for Tow Town Co, a Taiwanese developer behind Bali Resort housing development project, said it has already seen a jump in demand from foreigners following the foreign property law’s introduction earlier this year and expects the sub-decree to drive demand.

“It is good news for us to build more apartments and condominiums to sell,” she said.

She said the company is preparing documents to ask permission for the Ministry of Land Management to build another apartment to meet client demand.

Kheng Ser, assistant to South Korean developer World City’s vice president, said the move would attract more investors as property opportunities opened up.

“I think it’s a good idea to allow up to 80 percent of units to be owned by foreigners,” he said. He added that his company had also sold the vast majority of condos at its $2 billion development in Camko City.

Foreigners “will come more and more to invest and live in our country because they can own property here,” he added.

According to the Ministry of Land Management, the sub-decree is awaiting approval from the Council of Ministers and is set to be passed within
the next month.


Annualised inflation rate declined in May

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara

Consumer goods prices increased 4.5 percent compared to May 2009 and 0.2 percent month on month, statistics indicate.

PRICES grew an average of 4.5 percent in the Kingdom this May compared to the same month last year, pushed by rising international costs for crude oil, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) released Thursday.

Fuel and lubricant prices climbed 27.3 percent since May last year in the Cambodian marketplace, the largest single gain highlighted by the monthly report issued by the National Institute of Statistics (NIS).

Cambodia Economic Association President Chan Sophal said inflation’s slight year-on-year rise was largely to fluctuations in worldwide supply and demand for oil, but added that the 4.5 percent rise was not a major concern for the nation’s macroeconomic stability.

“It rose a small amount, which is normal. We will begin worrying when it reaches more than 5 percent,” he said.

Workers paid in riels faced steeper prices for items denominated in dollars, as Cambodia’s currency had been in decline since April, he added.

The riel traded at 4,256 to a US dollar Thursday, according to Ly Hour exchange. It was 1.6 percent stronger in mid-April, trading at 4,190 riels per dollar.

The National Bank of Cambodia began purchasing US $17 million of riels in April to support the faltering currency.

Its most recent $7 million sale is ongoing, with the last $1 million lot scheduled to be auction off at the end of June.

The average price for consumer goods tracked by the CPI rose 0.2 percent in May over April, the report said. Inflation in April grew 5.3 percent year on year.

Petrol provided 0.9 percent of May’s 4.5 percent year-on-year increase, according to the figures. However, prices declined 0.8 percent for petrol in May compared with April.

Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Hang Choun Naron said last month that the ministry keenly tracks domestic oil prices, as they are a key factor in inflation.

“It’s a free economic market. We cannot put pressure on [vendors] to lower prices, but what we can do is suggest they keep the price low,” he said last month.

Besides fuels, other categories with growing annualised prices included food and beverages, tobacco, clothing, footwear, water, electricity, healthcare, and the cost of transport. Costs for miscellaneous goods and services also climbed 10.7 percent.

Meanwhile, prices for fresh fruit fell by 8.3 percent, compared with May last year, the largest single decline shown in the statistics. Costs for fresh fruit declined 5.5 percent in May compared to April.

Bicycles, cars, telecommunications equipment, alcohol and various vegetables also saw costs decrease compared to May 2009 according to CPI figures.

The index is made up of 259 items tracked on five different Phnom Penh markets, with prices sampled from four outlets in each market.

World Cup fever relievers

More tea, vicar? Escape the World Cup madness with a pleasant lunch at Raffles.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:01 Nicky Hosford

It’s trite to note that the World Cup is more than the ultimate global sporting event. But it’s fair to say that the greatest manifestation of the “beautiful” game, that unifier of peoples, is also a bit of a home-wrecker. The World Cup gives men an open licence to stay out, let loose and generally behave badly. The late nights and carousing leave him looking exhausted and guilty when he does stagger home. Conversations about any other subject wither as he obsesses about dates, formations and dirty tackles, and endlessly relives brief moments of agony or ecstasy. Sadly, as there are laws against false imprisonment, there’s not much the partner of a football lover can do about it.

Tradition once held that you should stand by your man, regardless of his indiscretions, leading some women to gamely cheer alongside their men, and sometimes they really mean it. If you don’t, experience indicates that you can keep up the pretence for about a week, at which point even the most deranged England fan may notice that his wife/girlfriend has spent 90 minutes consoling the charming Irish guy at the bar over his country’s failure to qualify.

That week is now up and if there’s nothing you can do about him for the remaining three weeks, at least there’s something you can do for you. Siem Reap is not bereft of options for World Cup widows. So forget about football, it’s time for something special.

More red carpet than red card, Raffles Le Grand sets a perfect pitch if you’re looking for a footballing respite. Genteel and elegant, or everything that football is not, it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity to get a team of girls together and, for US$16 per person, indulge in an abundance of freshly baked scones, pralines, cakes and tarts, accompanied by smooth sandwiches of smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese, salami, mortadella and tapenade and fresh basil and cucumber.

Take a free moment to discuss, or not, the intricacies of the offside rule, as you wash the delicious treats down with free-flowing tea and coffee. Afternoon tea is served every day between 2.30pm and 5.30pm.

Naturally, you’re going to need the right kit for stepping out, and happily OroRosso (Street 11, near the old market) is launching its new summer collection on June 21. Get in to the shop early to score some of the spring season’s lines that are still being sold at 50 percent off. Or, wait until Monday to get the summer collection that Keo Sophea, the owner, promises will have many more of the graceful designs in summery yellows and blues, with the same soft cottons, linens and ramia.

You don’t need to be in a personal relationship to feel the foul effects of World Cup dementia. If you are looking for decent conversation not involving embarrassing, clutched-head wailing over missed opportunities and dodgy referees, there is simply no substitute for Miss Wong. This bastion of the chic, the cosmopolitan and the mai-tai may be the safest place in town to hide away from all World Cup references, and attempts to stay there until the middle of July will be completely understandable.

Christian de Boer, marketing director at the Hotel de la Paix, has noted that the Arts Lounge and the Spa Indochine have seen an upsurge of patrons since the World Cup kicked off. It’s clear that escape attempts are already being made. If you’re looking for more peace and quiet, and a reward for trying to stay awake during the opening matches, it’s worth noting that the hotel’s Spa Indochine is currently offering 20 percent off all treatments on the main menu during off peak hours (10am-12pm and 8.30pm-10.30pm), and a further 30 percent off all retail products in the spa.

If your partner still doesn’t notice you after a treatment here, it may be time to go back and find that Irish guy. See if he needs any more consoling.

Police Blotter: 18 Jun 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:00 Phak Seangly and Chhay Channyda

What started off as a suspected kidnapping ended in a joyful wedding this week, after two female factory workers said they had fallen in love with each other. On Tuesday, the two women were summoned to court in Battambang province after the parents of one of the women accused the other woman of kidnapping their daughter. But when the women told police in Battambang they were actually madly in love with each other, the parents had a change of heart and agreed the loving couple should be wed. So they prepared a small impromptu wedding for the happy duo.

Police in Tuol Kork district are looking for a man accused of firing his gun carelessly into a local garage during a dispute over car repairs. Police said the accused man drove his Toyota Camry to the garage and blamed the owner for allegedly doing a shoddy repair job. He demanded that the garage owner fix the car again for free. The garage owner, however, refused, saying that it had been more than six months since he had touched the car. The suspect took off in a huff, then showed up again 30 minutes later with a gun. He allegedly fired it five or six times into the garage before escaping. No one was wounded.

A 21-year-old woman who worked in a karaoke nightclub claims her boss slapped her in the face when she dared to ask for money she was owed. The victim said she had asked her boss, who happens to be a senior military police commander, to give her her salary and let her stop working. But he allegedly slapped her, used “unreasonable words” and threatened to have her thrown in jail, police said. A co-worker also accused the boss of withholding her salary. The pair sent complaint letters to the rights group Adhoc and to Koh Kong province’s Department of Women’s Affairs.

Police have arrested a 52-year-old Korean national after he was accused of swindling a fellow Korean man. It is alleged the suspect used a fake document to sell a piece of land in Kandal province for US$120,000. The victim complained and showed the dodgy document to authorities, who declared it to be counterfeit. The suspect has been sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court to feel the swift, unforgiving hand of justice.

Chefs in a ​shuffle

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:01 Post Staff

Joannes Riviere is moving on from his position as executive chef at the Hotel de la Paix and his deputy chef, Bryan Gardener, will take his place. For both men and the hotel, the move presents opportunities for exploring new avenues, especially for Joannes who is set to branch out on his own in Siem Reap.

“Things are still up in the air,” he said, but it’s clear that Siem Reap’s food lovers will soon have a new venue in which to appreciate the work of a man who received rave reviews for his menu at Meric at the Hotel de la Paix. One thing he is certain of, though, is that the ingredients will be sourced locally whenever possible, especially the fish. “Most of the restaurants in Cambodia serve snakehead fish, which is like the chicken of the Mekong. I want to focus on the others like catfish, or Mekong sole, which you can only get if someone catches it and then calls you up. These are very delicious fish,” Riviere explained.

Joannes will also be taking the opportunity to update the recipe book, Cambodian Cooking, that he wrote in 2008 in order to help raise funds for the hospitality training NGO, Sala Baï. He also wants a new book so he can focus more heavily on local ingredients.

For Bryan Gardener, the 29-year-old who will step into Joannes’ boots, and for the hotel, this is an opportunity to “explore new frontiers”, said marketing director Christian de Boer. “This is a time to be creative and innovative. I’m very excited about the possibilities,” he said.

Man About Town: 18 Jun 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:01 Peter Olszewski

To mark the birthday of Her Majesty the Queen Mother today, the entire Paul Dubrule School – 200 students and teachers plus management – will take to the streets on a Green Day cleanup campaign.

Paul Dubrule School director Gerald Hougardy told 7Days, “We believe that good habits to keep our environment clean and our nature green must start at the school, where we are committed to leading by example. Therefore don’t be surprised if you see lots of helpful hands along National Road 6 as it will be time for us to give a little support to the planet we live on.”

Meanwhile, last Friday the Paul Dubrule School played host to Mrs Anne-Marie Idrac, French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade.

She visited the school and also Artisans d’Angkor craft shop because, according to the French Embassy, they “are two main examples of the French private sector involvement in the development of the tourism and craft trade in Cambodia”.

Last year’s Angkor Amateur Open golf tournament winner Tim Orgill will defend the title this year.

Angkor Golf Resort manager Adam Robertson said, “Orgill, playing out of Hong Kong, confirmed his entry last week and is set to bring another 10 golfers from Hong Kong to compete in what is fast becoming a top amateur event in Southeast Asia.”

The Angkor Amateur Open will be held at the Angkor Golf Resort from August 6 to 8.

World Bank consults with Cambodia on ‘constitution’

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Philip Schuler, senior economist at the World Bank, speaks Thursday at the InterContinental in Phnom Penh

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

Trade strategy is being drawn up to prioritise aid and support economic growth in developing nations, top economists say

CAMBODIA’S manufacturing sector will naturally gain higher profit margins as it develops, but exporting industries could benefit from easing border restrictions, World Bank trade economist Julian Clarke said Thursday.

World Bank officials met with Cambodian trade and logistics industry stakeholders at Phnom Penh’s InterContinental Hotel as part of its worldwide consultation process to produce its trade “constitution” by the end of the year.

It is intended to help the World Bank prioritise aid assistance to promote international trade, in turn boosting economic growth, particularly in developing nations, according to World Bank senior economist Philip Schuler.

“It’s not something you can just carve out and say we’re going to focus on trade and nothing else,” the Washington-based economist said.

The domestic garment industry is a key sector that could potentially move upscale in Cambodia, resulting in increased profit margins as economic growth progress, Clarke said on the event sidelines.

However, moving to higher value-added production requires expedited border shipments, he said.

“As you get into more fashion-intensive garment production, you require shorter buy lines and just-in-time logistics. With thicker borders, this timeline is delayed,” he said.

Predictability in barriers is a key concern for the private sector, Clarke said. The World Bank encourages government to be as open as possible, and progress in this sector would boost trade in Cambodia, he said.

“Under World Trade Organisation obligations, governments should have transparent enquiry points, and we are working to establish this in the future,” he said.

Challenges with transparency disproportionately hurt small and medium enterprises, as larger firms have more resources to devote to pursuing these concerns, Schuler said.

The eventual trade-strategy document will be fairly broad in scope, as unique concerns affect each nation, according to World Bank lead economist Mathew Verghis.

“We can’t put in a lot of specifics. What has biggest bang for the buck in Cambodia may not have the biggest bang for the buck in Turkey,” he said.

Trade enables economic growth and poverty reduction, he said, but it can also disadvantage groups of people and cause environmental degradation.

“Although we like trade, we still have a lot to learn on what needs to be done.”

Julian Clarke said the report will guide longer-term projects and country-specific actions.

The proposed World Bank’s report is concentrated on five areas of focus for effectively disseminating and promoting trade, including trade competitiveness, trade facilitation and logistics, trade finance, trade cooperation, and trade data and systems.

A draft paper is scheduled for dissemination at the end of the summer, with the full report expected to become available by year’s end.

The World Bank plans to review the report every five to 10 years to keep it current.

Turning data into a precious asset

Photo by: Vinh Dao/ Melon Rouge
CEO Volak Sao of Campura is keen to tap market potential for technology in Cambodia. Campura has teamed up with American giant EMC to distribute data storage systems to the Kingdom’s businesses.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:00 Catherine James

Volak Sao, CEO of IT firm Campura, talks about his partnership with global tech giant EMC.

What is Campura? How long has it been operating, and how long have you been at the helm?
Campura is the brand name for the system integration business arm of Kamprama Corporation. Basically, “systems integration” is an industry that resells many different technology products, such as hardware and software, and the services needed for a particular customer such as a hotel, bank or telecom to make their operations run smoothly.

Kamprama also owns a number of other businesses outside the technology industry such as a few branches of kindergarten school. I’ve been at the helm since the beginning of Campura in May 2007.

What are Campura’s primary areas for business? Are there many other companies in the same field?
Our primary business focuses on system integration for hotels, banks, telecom operators and others. Our customer target is large entities and SMEs. We also do some distribution of technology and also set up telecom infrastructure.

We have 40 full-time staff, and our revenue was $US5 million for 2009. I can say we’re one of the biggest leading system integration companies in Cambodia. There are many companies in this type of business such as Deam and Interflex.

Campura is a distribution partner for US-based IT giant EMC. How did that come about?
EMC is a manufacturer of data-storage systems, and we’re their partner connecting the manufacturer to the users. EMC doesn’t normally sell directly to end users.

We teamed up with them for an obvious reason – to tap this market’s potential. We approached them, and we’re now the only official EMC partner in Cambodia. It chose us because we have a proven track record of consistent service delivery.

In terms of storage, EMC offers data storage systems, protection and archiving, backup system, disaster recovery system, content management, information security and cloud infrastructure. Our profit margin comes from reselling EMC products, I cannot disclose our customers since I signed a non-disclosure agreement. But I can say major mobile operators and banks use EMC.

Why is the partnership with EMC such a big deal for Campura?
Every large enterprise needs to store their data securely and to be able to easily access it. Data is a very precious asset.

A better question would be: How can large businesses, such as big banks and telecom firms, afford not to have proper storage for their invaluable data? What happens if they lose all their data one day?

How much room for growth is there in the hardware and software market in Cambodia?
I think Cambodia is an emerging market, so new opportunities are coming every day. Room for growth seems to double or triple every year.

We expect we will see a fast growth trend until such a time when the market becomes fully matured.

Then growth will become slower and smaller in terms of percentage increases. So yes, more competitors are expected to come to this field.

What about multinationals entering the market?
I think the business playing field in Cambodia is not too attractive at the moment for multinational companies to set up full commercial operations here. Most of them choose to set up representative offices and use local partners to be the service arm to end users.

Of course, many technology companies like IBM, HP, Cisco will still have to work through partners, even if they have full commercial office to sell their products as their business model does this everywhere in the world.

Are there factors outside the company’s control that could hold the business back or impact Campura?
I think government intervention in terms of regulation, policies, promotion of the private sector and the creation of a fair playing field for all players has a great deal of impact on every business in Cambodia.

But it’s not necessarily holding the sector back. It’s a double-edged sword: It can either hold it back or accelerate its growth.

What “government interventions” do you mean or are you speaking generally?
I’m speaking in general. But the government needs to be more investor-friendly in their involvement with the private sector.

Currently my opinion is that government appears to promote private sector in theory, but in reality, there’s nothing much substance about their action.

The government also needs to create a commercial court of law and enforce their rule on the existing laws.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

via Khmer NZ News Media

Half marathon route set

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:00 H S Manjunath

THE National Olympic Comittee of Cambodia (NOCC) has finalised the route for its Phnom Penh Thmei Half Marathon, to be run on June 27. The start and finish points share a location near the Samrong Andeth pagoda in Phnom Penh Thmei commune, and the 4-kilometre route will wind its way around the area’s traffic-free zone featuring numerous garden paths. “The environment is very good for long distance running in that area which we hope to develop as a tourist site,” noted NOCC General Secretary Vath Chamroeun. “So far we have received nearly 100 entries from foreigners based here – mostly expats – and we expect about 250 to 300 local people including students to turn up for this race.” The sports official added that the event was a trial for a proposed full marathon in the capital next year.

Baseball kids hit field

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:00 Dan Riley

Three Cambodian little league baseball teams will face off in a friendly tournament this weekend at the Kampong Thom baseball field in Baray District near Kampong Thmor market. National Assembly member Nhem Tavy, who is the owner of the Kampong Thom pitch and has helped set up their local team, invited teams from Kampong Chhnang and Preah Vihear to participate in the three-day event which starts Saturday. Sides consisting of around twenty players each aged between 13 and 14 years old will play in morning games before receiving expert coaching in the afternoon from a visiting MLB coach from the US.

NOCC slam branding

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:00 HS Manjunath

The NOCC has warned a local bottled water company not to use the word Olympic as its brand name, contending that its commercial use without permission is against the spirit of the Olympic Movement and in contravention with the International Olympic Committee charter. The General Secretary of the NOCC, Vath Chamroeun, told the Post Wednesday that the commercial exploitation of the name of the Olympic movement violates IOC laws. “The NOCC is bringing this to the attention of the manufacturers,” he stated.

Microsoft launches office suite locally

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

AMERICAN software giant Microsoft Corporation launched its latest edition of its popular Office software suite in the Kingdom on Thursday. “More than 1 billion PCs worldwide have Office software installed, making it the most widely used productivity suite in the world,” Internet market research firm comScore Senior Vice President Mike Hurt said in a Microsoft press release. The last Office edition hit store shelves in 2007. Approximately 95 percent of software operated in the Kingdom is pirated, according to a 2007 report produced by the International Data Corporation and previously provided by Microsoft.

WING launches bill payments

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

WING, an ANZ Bank-owned mobile-payments service available on Hello, qb, Smart and MFone networks, said customers in Phnom Penh and Kandal provinces can now pay Electricite du Cambodge bills using their mobile phones, according to a WING press release. Costs are the same as sending standard WING transactions, it said. It “allows customers to pay electricity bills using mobile handsets, whenever they like, where ever they are”, WING Head of Operations Michael Joyce said in the release. The firm said it has 150,000 customers across Cambodia’s 24 provinces.

Drought may damage harvests, officials say

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng

THIS year’s longer-than-usual dry season could lead to falling rice yields across the country at the upcoming harvest, agriculture officials said Thursday.

Kith Seng, director of planning at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that although there are no precise statistics about the impact of the late rains, an estimated 100,000 hectares in Kampong Speu, Kampot, Takeo, Kandal, Preah Sihanouk, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces could be at risk.

“Activities in agriculture production are slower than last year,” he said.

He added that 2,000 tonnes of rice seeds will be distributed to struggling farmers if the dry weather extends into July.

Keo Vy, chief of cabinet at the National Committee for Disaster Management, said he was also concerned and would “closely monitor the situation”.

“It is still a short period of drought. Therefore we will not make any conclusions about the effect it will have on the livelihoods of farmers,” he said.

Family Issues: Man denies raping his daughter

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

Family Issues

A 44-year-old man pleaded not guilty in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday to raping his daughter, telling judges the 18-year-old was a “gangster” out to punish him for beating her. Chea Sothy was arrested in Sen Sok district last October after his daughter filed a complaint against him, accusing him of raping her multiple times over a three-year period beginning in 2001. Neang Hay, Chea Sothy’s defence lawyer, said Thursday that his client had never raped the girl. “He beat her for trying to have a relationship with a married man over the phone in 2009, so she ran to the police to complain that he raped her,” he said. But Peng Maneth, a lawyer for the girl provided by Action Pour Les Enfants, said Chea Sothy had wrongfully accused her of being a “gangster”, and that the only evidence presented was “his lies”. No verdict date has been set.

Border Case: Court closes Sam Rainsy investigation

Friday, 18 June 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

Border Case

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has finished its investigation into the criminal charges facing opposition leader Sam Rainsy, lawyers said Thursday. In March, the court charged the Sam Rainsy Party president with falsifying public documents and spreading disinformation after he released maps that he said were evidence of Vietnamese border encroachment. In a letter dated June 11, investigating judge Oeung Sieng informed Sam Rainsy, who is currently abroad, that investigations in the case had been completed. “We have decided to close down the investigations,” the letter stated. Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, Choung Choungy, said he met with Oeung Sieng on Tuesday, but that he did not know when his client’s trial would be held. Although investigations have been closed, he said, the judge can reopen them if requested to do so by the plaintiff or the defendant. Sam Rainsy, who has already been sentenced to two years in jail for uprooting border posts, faces an additional 18 years in prison if convicted on the new charges. Deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun, who is in charge of the case, could not be reached Thursday.

Sam Rainsy Talks on "Hello VOA"

Cambodia is ‘the land of smiles’

via Khmer NZ News Media

Posted 17 Jun 2010

Gap year travellers looking for a friendly welcome might want to consider Cambodia – also known as the Land of Smiles.

According to Suite101 contributor Eric Coggins, the Kingdom of Cambodia is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations in south-east Asia for tourists.

The reporter noted the nation has less than 15 million inhabitants, with most of them from the Khmer ethnic group.

It is similar in size to Southern California and can be found between Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, the journalist observed.

Mr Coggins stated the main attraction for travellers are the temple ruins that have survived from the Angkor civilisation, with the most popular point of interest being the Buddhist temple of Angkor Wat and the surrounding Angkor Thom fortress complex.

The site was recently recommended by Daily Telegraph journalist Natalie Paris, who also advised holidaymakers take in the concob towers and the hundreds of carved faces at Bayon.

Upcoming concert at Elder House to benefit youth in need

Photos courtesy of Rith Sang photo - Bora Sang and a villager stand next to one of the water machines provided by Water of Life Asia that cleans water for Cambodian villagers.

Photos courtesy of Rith Sang photo - Orphanages established in Cambodia by Water of Life Asia provide educational opportunities for students.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Andrew Reeder
Special to the Village News

Thursday, June 17th, 2010.
Issue 24, Volume 14.

On Saturday, July 10, an event planned from 1 to 9 p.m. at the Elder House in Fallbrook will showcase and hopefully garner support for two dynamic ministries that work with youth internationally. Break the Chains and Water of Life Asia will be presenting about their programs from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The rest of the day will also feature family-friendly activities including music by several bands, dancing, food, skate and bike demonstrations, and a paintball booth.

Break the Chains is a volunteer-driven organization based in San Diego that rescues girls ages 7 to 16 from lives of forced prostitution in Mexico. The girls are returned to their parents, if the parents are still living, or placed in an orphanage where loving adults care for them and help them with the healing process.

Water of Life Asia is directed by Fallbrook local Randy Fleming and operated by Cambodian partners. The group cares for and mentors Cambodian orphans ranging in age from 2-25. The organization also has a medical ministry and seeks to promote healthier living environments by setting up water filtration machines that provide clean water for local villages. More information is available at

RSVP to attend the event at . As their website says, "Enough awareness…time to act!" Email  for ways you can help with the event.