Friday, 25 June 2010

Island project sparks concerns

Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
A fisherman off the coast of Koh Rung Sangleum island, which is expected to be the site of a development project financed by a Hong Kong-based investment firm.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:02 Brooke Lewis and Mom Kunthear

A CONSERVATION NGO collaborating with an investment firm told residents of an island off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province this week that they would be restricted to a 12.3-hectare piece of land in order to make way for a development project, Paul Ferber, the founder of Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC), said.

Ferber said the meetings between the residents of Koh Rung Sangleum and representatives of Fauna and Flora International (FFI) took place on Monday and Tuesday. He noted that the size of the land could be subject to change.

Toby Eastoe, project manager for FFI, confirmed that the meetings had taken place, and said his organisation was working with the Hong Kong-based investment company Lime Tree Capital on the development project. He said the size of the land for villagers and the details of the development project had yet to be finalised.

MCC, an ecotourism business based on the island, has criticised the restriction that could be imposed on the 92 families who stand to be affected by the project, saying it would constitute an unnecessary impingement on their rights.

“FFI, even with knowledge about the reduction of community land, seems happy to support a concessionaire that has created a master plan without any local consultation, regardless of the effects to the community,” Ferber said by email Thursday.

He said the restriction, which has yet to be approved by the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), would leave “absolutely no room for the village to grow”.

But Eastoe defended FFI’s work with Lime Tree Capital, saying they were working together to mitigate the potential effects of the project on both the environment and the local community.

He said Lime Tree Capital was granted a concession with a 99-year-lease in mid-2008, and asked FFI later that year to act as environmental consultant for the development of the island.

He said he could not provide the size of the concession.

“Because the company who took this lease on is a responsible company, they asked us to come out and conduct a survey, which basically tells us what sort of flora and fauna are on the island,” he said, and added that FFI staff conducted their first survey on the island in early 2009.

The meetings held this week, he said, were intended to outline provisional village boundaries, though he noted that these boundaries were at the centre of ongoing discussions with the CDC.

“There is a master plan that is being talked about with the CDC, [but] they are still negotiating exclusion areas that won’t be developed,” he said.

CDC officials with knowledge of the Lime Tree Capital project could not be reached for comment this week.

Eastoe said he was “probably going to advise the company to expand the exclusion area” following his trip to the island this week, but emphasised that such decisions were not FFI’s to make.

“We’re advisers to Lime Tree. We can’t tell them what to do,” he said.

Lime Tree Capital could not be reached for comment.

Eastoe said Ferber may have personal reasons for raising concerns about the size of the exclusion area.

“The exclusion area at the moment probably scares Paul because his bungalows are outside the exclusion area and the company probably has a right to throw Paul off the island,” he said.

However, village chief Lay Thai said Wednesday that he, too, was concerned about the project and the proposed restriction.

He said a group of 50 villagers had attended this week’s meetings with FFI representatives, who he said told them to immediately stop cutting down trees and constructing buildings.

Like Ferber, Lay Thai said he was worried that the restriction would prevent the village from growing.

“The FFI officials pointed out the border of the land for us to live on, and they don’t allow the villagers to build new houses when their children want to live separately from their parents after they get married,” he said.

Eastoe, however, said FFI had taken the unusual step of working with a development company because it saw an opportunity to help reduce the environmental impact of rapid coastal development.

“This is a new thing for FFI – we usually work with the government – but there are a lot of new land concessions along the coast, and we’re worried that if someone doesn’t work with them, things will get out of hand,” he said.

“We want to make sure developers don’t just wipe everything out and build hotels.”

Ferber said that he would be happy to work with FFI and developers, so long as conservation projects do not harm the local community.

“If FFI want to set up a conservation project and support the community, they have my full support and cooperation,” he said.

PM hints that SRP had role in failed coup

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio and Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has accused opposition members of involvement in an abortive coup carried out by the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) in November 2000, two days after the mastermind of the operation was sentenced by a US court.

On Tuesday, a federal court in Los Angeles sentenced CFF head Chhun Yasith, a 53-year-old Long Beach accountant, to life imprisonment without chance of parole for his role in the attempted coup.

Speaking at the inauguration of the capital’s first overpass Thursday, the premier linked the opposition Sam Rainsy Party to the plot.

“The US recognises that Chhun Yasith committed terrorism in Cambodia, and some of the members of the SRP joined that activity,” he said.

He added that SRP president Sam Rainsy had repeatedly petitioned him for the pardon of party members detained in connection with the violence.

“Terrorists were taken in as members by the political party, [and] they were jailed, but were asked to be pardoned,” he said.

Chhun Yasith, a former SRP member who formed the CFF in Thailand in October 1998, openly sought the overthrow of Hun Sen’s government.

On November 24, 2000, a ragtag group of CFF members, armed with AK-47s, grenades and B-40 rockets, attacked several government buildings. Eight people were killed and at least 14 wounded in the attacks.

Despite Chhun Yasith’s one-time association with the SRP, party lawmaker Son Chhay said Wednesday that he was expelled from the party long before the CFF was formed. “We learnt he was using the party for his own interests,” he said.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Thursday that some party members were involved in the attacks, but have long since been expelled from the party.

“Anybody involved in any illegal acts are no longer SRP members,” he said. “We don’t support violence. We condemn violence.”

In April, the families of five men imprisoned in connection with the attacks appealed for a Royal amnesty, a request that was seconded by eight SRP lawmakers the week after. Yim Sovann said it was believed the CFF members were duped into taking part in the attack.

“Based on all the facts, we decided to appeal for an amnesty for the people who were cheated by the movement,” he said.

Relief for some around lake

Photo by: Will Baxter
Residents of Srah Chak commune walk along the southern end of Boeung Kak lake Saturday. During a meeting Thursday, officials discussed ways to reduce the impact of the controversial development.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

AUTHORITIES will scale back the size of a planned overpass leading into the controversial Boeung Kak lake development, a city official said Thursday following a meeting to discuss how to reduce the negative impact of the project.

Ty Dory, chief of Phnom Penh municipality’s Office of Land Management Affairs, said city officials met with officials from the Ministry of Economy and Finance Thursday.

He said the meeting had been called after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema to study possible ways to make the project less disruptive to families living in the area.

During the closed-door meeting, officials decided to reduce the width of the planned overpass from 50 metres to 20 metres, Ty Dory said.

“The discussions were focused on how to reduce the impact of the road construction projects that were approved by the city governor last month,” Ty Dory said.

“[Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon] has decided to reduce the size of the overpass … to decrease the number of villagers who will be impacted by it.”

In May, City Hall approved plans to build 12 new roads into the Boeung Kak lake project, including the overpass, which is set to stretch from Kampuchea Krom Boulevard into the project’s planned southern entrance.

The plans for those roads came as a surprise to some families living outside the perimeter of the 133-hectare Boeung Kak lake project, who had previously believed they would not be among the approximately 4,000 families affected by it.

In Srah Chak commune’s Village 3, a 50-metre-wide overpass would likely force about 50 families – or one-quarter of the village’s current

population – to move, said Duong Sim, the village chief, who noted that his own family would be evicted.

He said he had not been told of any decision to scale back the overpass. He estimated, though, that if such a change were made, the number of
affected families would be halved.

“I expect that my house might not be affected by the overpass project if the government makes it only 20 metres wide,” he said.

Authorities have rarely released information on the Boeung Kak project, though a handful of meetings on the master plan have been held this year.

In 2007, the city agreed to lease the site to Shukaku Inc, a company tied to Lao Meng Khin, a senator in the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

By 2008, authorities had changed the legal status of the lake from state private to state public land, and the company began filling it in with sand.

Residents didn’t know what the project would look like until April of this year, when they were given a photocopied graphic representation of the site – a sprawling development filled with soaring towers, villas, and new roads curved around a much smaller lake area.

In late April, city officials told the Post they had approved a master plan for the project, though they have refused to release it.

An estimated 1,000 Boeung Kak families have accepted compensation offers and relocated.

Ty Dory said Thursday’s meeting contained no discussion of how to alleviate the impact on the remaining villagers, who are asking the city to boost its compensation offer of US$8,000 and 2 million riels per family and issue them land titles.

Soy Kolap, who lives in Village 6, said authorities have never visited her family.

“The government has met and approved the plan to develop Boeung Kak. But the results are never good for us,” she said, and added that she doubted Thursday’s meeting would bring her any good news.

“Right now, we feel hopeless that this meeting will make things better for us.”


Retracted confession muddies case involving govt official’s wife

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 13:32 Chrann Chamroeun

A DEFENCE lawyer representing four people charged with the attempted murder of the wife of a senior government official said Thursday that he doubted his clients’ testimonies after one retracted a confession made earlier this week.

All four – Chan Sokha, 37, Neang Sinath, 25, Yan Sothearith, 25, and Sok Lat, 30 – were charged in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday in connection with their alleged involvement in a plot to murder Sun Chantha, the wife of Sun Chanthol, vice chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia.

I do not fully believe my clients as their testimonies vary.

Dun Vibol, the defence lawyer, said Thursday that the four suspects had been arrested on Sunday after Sun Chantha had filed a complaint to the Interior Ministry on June 16 accusing them of attempting to murder her in her villa in Sen Sok district’s Toek Thla commune on June 13.

Dun Vibol said his clients had on Wednesday retracted their initial confessions, and that he now has some doubts about the veracity of their testimonies.

“I do not fully believe my clients, as their testimonies vary from ones given by the police and court prosecutor,” he said, and added that he could not comment further on the case because it was still being investigated.

“This is a complex case and therefore was brought to an investigating judge to find out the truth,” he said.

“I cannot elaborate any further, as I am also still learning the facts.”

Retracted confessions
In testimony before investigating judge Te Sam Ath on Wednesday, a transcript of which was obtained Thursday, waitress Chan Sokha retracted earlier statements to police in which she confessed to being involved in a murder plot.

She had said to police that the plot was masterminded by the wife of her employer, a wealthy Phnom Penh businessman.

“I have never received orders from her to poison or kill Sun Chanthol’s family, although [his] wife and Chanthol’s wife used to have internal arguments,” she said, according to the transcript.

Chan Sokha went on to claim that she had made her initial statements and confessions to police under duress.

Te Sam Ath said Thursday that the case was still being investigated.

If convicted, the four suspects could each face between 10 and 20 years in prison.

Sun Chanthol could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Border Killing: Migrant shot by Thais on border: govt

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha

Border Killing

A migrant worker from Battambang died after being shot by Thai soldiers while returning from work in Thailand on Wednesday, in a violation of military agreements between the two countries, a Cambodian border official said Thursday. Colonel An Saray, commander of the Cambodia-Thailand Border Relations Office in Battambang’s Sampov Luon district, said Dim Doeun was shot by “black-clad” Thai soldiers 200 metres from the border at 6:40pm while returning with three colleagues. “The shooting is absolutely an abuse of the memorandum of understanding we have agreed to that armed forces not open fire on migrant workers, but the Thais still abused this,” he said. Thai soldiers had opened fire because they believed the men were illegally smuggling motorbikes across the border, he added, and confirmed that the body had been repatriated Thursday. Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also condemned the shooting, and said the ministry was waiting for an official explanation from the consulate in Thailand’s Sakeo province.

Garment layoffs down: ILO

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Factory employees sew garments in Phnom Penh last year. A new ILO report points to a decline in layoffs.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:01 Cameron Wells and Vong Sokheng

THE percentage of garment-sector workers losing their jobs has declined by more than half over the past 18 months, according to a report released Thursday by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The 24th Synthesis Report from Better Factories Cambodia – which tracked 157 garment factories between November 2009 and this past April – also points to an increase in the number of trade unions being formed and a decline in strikes, though some observers said they did not believe these findings were reflective of a happier workforce.

Job losses affected 6 percent of the workforce in the period covered by the report, down from 12.5 percent in October 2008.

“Although employment is still down from one year ago, job losses resulting from the crisis have levelled off,” states a press release accompanying the report.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said the figures were “not surprising” in light of the recovering economy.

“I’m not surprised about this,” he said. “The economy is recovering, and it should be expected. Workers are coming back to Cambodia, and employers have more work.”

He noted, though, that the percentages provided by the report might not be precisely accurate.

“The report only covers about 150 factories,” he said. “It is impossible to cover all 284 factories in Cambodia. This report covers different factories to last year.”

Oum Mean, director general of the Labour Ministry’s Department of Labour, declined to comment on the report and referred questions to the ILO.

The report also found that 79 percent of factories had at least one union, marking a 3 percent increase over the previous six-month period. It also states that 9 percent of the factories had experienced a strike, down 5 percent from the previous six-month period.

But Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Cambodian Legal Education Centre, said an increase in the number of unions does not necessarily translate into an increase in protection for workers.

“Most workers organise unions, and they also suffer terminations” from their roles, he said. “Often they can’t function in their jobs properly, and they are also given shorter contracts.”

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said the decline in strikes did not mean garment factory employees were happy with their working conditions.

“The number of strikes being down doesn’t mean working conditions are improving,” he said. “They are down because when factories shut down, local authorities crack down and send the workers to the courts before they strike.”

KR lessons hit close to home

Photo by: David Boyle
Youk Chhang (left), Im Chaem (centre) and Khamboly Dy appear at a textbook distribution event in Anlong Veng district on Monday.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:01 David Boyle

In the school that Ta Mok built, textbook gives children of former regime cadre their first real glimpse into a world largely filtered through their parents’ eyes

Oddar Meanchey Province
AT a high school built by one of the Khmer Rouge’s most notorious leaders, Im Chaem, herself a former regime district chief, on Monday read aloud passages from a textbook that chronicles its crimes.

“Writing about this bleak period of history may run the risk of reopening old wounds for the survivors of Democratic Kampuchea,” she read from the book’s foreword, written by DC-Cam director Youk Chhang.

“Many Cambodians have tried to put their memories of the regime behind them and move on. But we cannot progress – much less reconcile with ourselves and others – until we have confronted the past and understand both what happened and why it happened.”

The textbook distribution event marked the first time A History of Democratic Kampuchea – launched in 2007 by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia – was handed out in Anlong Veng district, a Khmer Rouge stronghold that fell in 1998.

The majority of students who attended are the children of former cadres. Two of them – Nuon Hien and Nuon Srey – are grandchildren of Ta Mok, the brutal regime leader who built the school in 1993, 13 years before he died without ever being made to stand trial.

Commenting on the significance of the morning, Youk Chhang said, “It’s a heartbreaking book distribution knowing that, you look at [these] kids, you see the eyes of innocence, but yet knowing that their parents one way or another support a movement, a policy that cost human life.”
Some 300,000 copies of A History of Democratic Kampuchea have been distributed nationwide, and Youk Chhang said the response to the effort has generally been enthusiastic.

Theam Song Hor, a teacher in Anlong Veng who has participated in one of the Khmer Rouge history trainings organised by DC-Cam, said students there are also eager to learn about the period, although their reactions sometimes betray the former loyalties of their parents.

“When I initiated the Khmer Rouge history programme into the history lessons, most of my students were very interested in it and they liked to listen to my calm explanations,” he said.

“But most of them denied it when I told them that in the Khmer Rouge regime, millions of people were cruelly tortured and killed.”

Students at Monday’s distribution event took advantage of the chance to quiz officials who made the trip, including Khmer Rouge tribunal international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley and Ton Sa Im, the undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education in charge of incorporating Khmer Rouge history into the national curriculum.

Many of their questions centred on basic facts about the regime – how they came to power, for instance, and why they made everyone wear black.

In response to the latter, Im Chaem said: “It refers to the farmer, because at that time [they were] all the farmers. If someone didn’t know how to do the farming they still had to do it. They were all together, so they also had to wear the same clothes.”

Other questions reflected a lack of knowledge about the Khmer Rouge tribunal and its work. One student asked Cayley, for example, whether the extended family of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, could be prosecuted for the crimes he committed.

In response, Cayley explained that the tribunal could only prosecute senior leaders and “those most responsible” for Khmer Rouge crimes.

Speaking to reporters later, he said: “There is a lot of mythology flying around about the court, and I’m sure that is discussed up here ... what I hope is that all of this work will lead to a more constructive dialogue about what happened.”

Khamboly Dy, the textbook’s author, said it is important for teachers to be cognisant of what sets Anlong Veng apart from the rest of the country, and to take that into account when presenting the material. A guidebook produced by DC-Cam, he added, is intended in part to show them how to do this.

“The genocide education project is not just to train teachers how to use the history textbook and the methodology and the teacher guidebook, but also to train them how to conduct the student-centred approach in the classroom,” he said.

As for Im Chaem, she said afterwards that she appreciated the opportunity to take part in the unveiling of the book to students. “When I read the foreword, I tried to help the students understand the book and let them ask the questions,” she said. “I was happy and my mind was clear.”

Sihanoukville is ripe for rubber production

Sap drips from a rubber trip and is collected for processing. Mong Reththy Group has invested in a plantation in Sihnoukville.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

Mong Reththy Group invests heavily in rubber plantation and calls for crop expansion along Cambodia’s coastal provinces

MONG Reththy Group (MRG) has invested US$10 million to grow rubber on 5,000 hectares of land on Sihanoukville’s coastline, company president Mong Reththy revealed Thursday.

The group is set to seed 1,000 hectares of trees near to Snake Island’s Oknha Mong Port later this year. Rubber produced from the cash crop is set to be exported to international markets.

The company plans to increase the plantation’s size until all 5,000 hectares of its concession in Steung Hav district are utilised, Mong Reththy said.

“We hope that the free land which has not been used can be added to a bigger rubber plantation in the future,” the tycoon added.

MRG also plans to build infrastructure around the plantation, with a $5 million rubber-processing factory planned for 2013.

When complete, the factory will produce 3 tonnes of rubber per hour.

The project received official approval on June 14 from the Centre for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), according to its deputy secretary general Duy Thov.

“We believe the project will create job opportunities for Cambodian people and will serve as a source of income for the economy for a long time into the future,” he stated.

Rubber trees have been cultivated in Sihanouk before.

Plantations overseen by French colonists were set up around 1910, but the rubber industry subsequently decided to focus on Kampong Cham where, tens of thousands of hectares of trees were planted.

However, in recent times, the four provinces along Cambodia’s south coast have not seen many commercial rubber plantations eyeing export opportunities.

Mong Reththy, president of the Mong Reththy Group, speaks with a reporter in 2007.

Mong Reththy told the Post Thursday that the Kingdom’s coastal areas are ready for rubber plantations.

He encouraged land owners from Koh Kong to Kep to plant the crop, as it was seeing increasing market demand.

Though his company plans to grow only 5,000 hectares at present, he said the coastal areas of Koh Kong, Preah Sihanouk, Kampot, and Kep provinces had a total of 100,000 hectares that could yield as much as 2 tonnes of rubber per hectare.

Rubber is already being successfully produced in other Southeast Asian coastal regions, such as Thailand’s Song Khla province.

Rubber can be grown nearly everywhere because it is not a soil-selective crop and yields are not overdependant on the application of technology, said Cambodian Rubber Association president Mork Kim Hong.

“I think that growing rubber at the coastal area is a good project because it will help create a greener environment and would be an income source for people,” he said.

Mong Reththy also plans to boost community earning power.

The company plans to grow 1 million rubber seedlings per year, both for its own use and to sell to farmers in Cambodia’s coastal areas, increasing the land under plantation.

“We will germinate rubber trees to sell to farmers who want to grow them so, that they will have jobs in Cambodia, in order to help reduce emigration,” he said.

Mong Reththy anticipates hiring around 1,000 locals on the rubber plantation in the project’s first year, with plans to employ a total of 3,000 workers by 2013.

Two charged for taking bets on World Cup; PM lauds Rooney

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Friday, 25 June 2010 15:01 May Titthara and Cheang Sokha

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday charged a 57-year-old man and his 16-year-old son in connection with a World Cup betting ring they were allegedly operating out of their home in Sen Sok district, a deputy prosecutor said.

Koeur Bunnara said he had issued the arrest warrant for Long Sophanara and his son, Chheang Bunhak, and that a raid of their home in Toek Thla commune had been carried out on Monday.

He added that local authorities had been informed of the gambling ring by neighbours.

Mak Hong, the police chief in Sen Sok district, said the pair had acted as brokers in the ring.

Under the penal code, anyone caught running a gambling ring faces between one and five years in prison along with potential fines.

“Our police will carry out further investigations to find who is profiting from football match betting,” Mak Hong said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but he said last week that both Cambodians and foreigners would be arrested if caught betting on football matches during the World Cup.

“Both Cambodian people and foreigners have to respect the laws of the Kingdom, and I will not allow the opening of places for football betting,” he said.

In February last year, Prime Minister Hun Sen abruptly ordered the closure of the country’s sports betting outlets and slot-machine parlours, saying they had been responsible for a moral decline in the Kingdom.

Hun Sen issued warnings similar to Touch Naruth’s in the run-up to the World Cup.

In a speech on Thursday marking the inauguration of Cambodia’s first overpass, the premier told the audience that he was using his mobile phone to follow matches.

He also had some kind words for the English squad, especially striker Wayne Rooney.

After congratulating UK ambassador Andrew Mace on the fact that England has made it into the round of 16, he said: “I also want to send this message through the ambassador that I admire Wayne Rooney. I admire him for his kick technique.”

He added: “I wish that England will pass through to the last group of eight.”

R'kiri border casino on track

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:01 Soeun Say

CONSTRUCTION has begun on the first casino to be built on the Vietnamese border in Ratanakkiri province, a project representative said Thursday.

Located 800 metres from the border, the as-yet unnamed US$3.5 million casino will aim at attracting Vietnamese and Chinese clients when doors open in a year and a half, a representative from owners Try Pheap Import Export Company said after breaking ground at the site early this week.

“This is the first development project and first casino at the O’yadao international border in Ratanakkiri,” Try Pheap company representative Bee Chivoan Dara said Thursday.

The project is slated to eventually include a residential development, a business centre, warehouses, a market, a bus station, and a garden, he said.

Officials hope the project could help Ratanakkiri make the most of a large influx of tourists coming to the province following the March 17 opening of National Road 78, which connects Ratanakkiri’s capital Banlung to the O’yadao border crossing with Vietnam.

“The road is good, and tourists are beginning to use it,” said Ratanakkiri’s Department of Tourism director Nget Pitou Thursday.

“The province has changed a lot in the last two years. We had only two hotels and five guesthouses in 2009, but now we have seven hotels and 21 guesthouses. There are many homes being built, along with roads, markets, and even more development projects are under construction.”

Future tourist arrivals to the O’yadao border area would be spurred by casino projects, said Nget Pitou.

“Building casinos in the area will help Ratanakkiri enjoy the same success as Bavet border crossing with Vietnam in the future.”

Some 42,000 tourists, including 10,000 foreigners, have visited Ratanakkiri in the year to date, he said, adding it was a 19 percent increase over the same period last year.

O’yadao border checkpoint police chief Long Rockha claimed the number of visitors traversing the crossing daily had significant increased with the opening of the new road, albeit from a very low base.

Investing in further tourist draws, like the casino, would boost the number of holidaymakers travelling to the region, he said.

“We hope it can attract more tourists every day,” he stated.

Bank's golden opportunity

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A Sacombank employee in Phnom Penh on Thursday displays some gold that the institution has begun selling.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

Sacombank opens a gold-trading subsidiary in Phnom Penh

SACOMBANK’S gold- and gem-trading subsidiary Sacombank Jewelry Company (SBJ) opened its first office in Cambodia Thursday on the back of record global gold prices.

The company launched SBJ (Cambodia) with US$3 million funding from its parent firm after a “detailed” study of Cambodia’s market potential, officials told reporters at a press gathering in the Phnom Penh Hotel on Thursday.

The company plans to buy gold from vendors in Cambodia, then refine it to a higher quality for resale.

“We’ve invested $3 million directly from the parent bank in Vietnam to trade pure gold in Cambodian market in order to cut down the current poor-quality gold being traded by local vendors – that is our first objective,” SBJ Vietnam Chairman To Thanh Hoang said.

“Our second [objective] is that we want this market to trade pure gold made by our company, which we refine with a high-tech refinery system which comes from Australia and Germany,” he said.

The technology can refine gold to 99.9 percent purity and costs $1.5 million per unit, he added.

Sacombank Group chairman Dang Van Tanh said that Cambodia is ripe for expansion, based on research the group had undertaken for the past year.

“Before we decided to open SBJ in Cambodia, we conducted detailed research and set our strategy for the business in Cambodia.

“Although Cambodia has a small population, in the future the jewellery business will be very popular,” he said.

Director-elect of SBJ (Cambodia) Pham Anh Thai said while he could not predict how sales in Cambodia would pan out, the firm’s Vietnam business – which has been trading since March 2008 – had sold an average 10 tonnes of pure gold per year.

“I have no defined targets for this market,” he said.

Tal Nai Im, director general of National Bank of Cambodia, told the Post by phone Thursday that the new gold business would contribute to the economy’s growth.

“We welcome any kind of foreign investment to support our economic growth,” she said.

Dang Van Tanh said the group was also preparing to open a local stockbroking firm if the Cambodia stock exchange goes ahead, as planned, at the end of this year.

Police Blotter: 25 Jun 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:00 Sen David and Chhay Channyda

A 56-year-old man was shot and killed during an armed robbery that interrupted a leisurely dinner in Battambang province on Tuesday. Police said the family was sitting down for dinner when four robbers burst in. One of the suspects brandished a gun and demanded that the family hand over their valuables. The 56-year-old man got up to collect the cash, but his wife reported that he was shot when one of the robbers spotted him holding a knife. It is unclear how much money the robbers managed to steal.

Mystery and intrigue surround the death of a 47-year-old woman whose body was found in a rented house in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district Tuesday. The woman’s neighbours became alarmed after they realised they had not seen the woman in three days. They alerted the woman’s son, who entered the house and found his mother’s body. Police speculated that the woman likely died of a heart attack, and that she had been lying dead for more than three days before her body was found.

A 6-year-old girl died Wednesday after she was electrocuted while playing football by herself, police in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district said. The mother reported that the girl was kicking the football around by herself while her parents were inside watching TV. It seems the ball settled on an exposed electric wire after the girl threw it. When she grabbed it with her hands, which were for some reason wet, she was shocked, and she collapsed dead on the spot. Her parents shouted for help, but it was too late. The neighbours said they were sorry about the accident because the girl was so little.

A pregnant woman in Phnom Penh was seriously injured in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district Tuesday after the moto-taxi on which she was riding crashed into a car while it was driving the wrong way down a darkened street. Police said the woman, who is five months pregnant, tumbled to the ground following the crash. She was immediately sent to Calmette Hospital. Information on her condition was unavailable. Police said the woman had been engaging in risky behaviour by driving down a dark street at night.

Female artist wows Phnom Penh

Try Sophal's award-winning photograph The Life of a Young Artist

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Friday, 25 June 2010 15:00 Peter Olszewski

Siem Reap’s 21-year-old photography student Try Sophal was a big winner on June 24 at the awards ceremony and exhibition of the You Khin Memorial Women’s Art Prize at Java CafĂ© and Gallery in Phnom Penh.

The prize was initiated by the US embassy and JavaArts to inspire and encourage Cambodian women to express themselves and recognise the power and importance of women in the arts.

Both established and student artists were invited to apply, with two prizes available – the first prize of US$800 was earmarked for the best of the established artists, and a second prize of $400 was set aside for the best student.

Try Sophal took the best student’s prize with a photograph titled The Life of a Young Artist, depicting an apsara dancing girl preparing for performance.

Try Sophal is an Anjali House kid, one of about 80 children who come from needy backgrounds and are nurtured by the NGO.

Anjali House was created by the Angkor Photo Association, and each year, as part of the Angkor Photo Festival, international photographers supervise photography workshops for the Anjali children’s project, with support from Canon.

Try Sophal participated in last year’s workshop and was selected as one of eight students to work one-on-one with a well-known photographer. She was teamed with the up-and-coming young Indian photographer Sohrab Hura, and her award-winning photo was a result of that collaboration.

But she almost didn’t make it. Samuel Flint, director of Anjali, told 7Days that she was originally too scared to enter and had to be coaxed.

Then came the phone call from the organisers to tell her that her photo had been selected as part of the awards night exhibition, and that her presence would therefore be required in Phnom Penh for the occasion.

After the call, she apparently was too excited to sleep that night.

And of course the excitement level escalated dramatically on June 24 when she was named winner of the Student Prize.

News of the win came on top of more good news last week that meant she’ll be able to continue her school studies and her photography training.

There’d been increasing pressure from her impoverished parents for her to quit schooling and work full time to help support the family.

Flint said, “Ultimately it would have meant her dropping out of school before finishing secondary school. With her family’s background, lifestyle and no qualifications, her options were very limited. I found her a part-time job which allowed her to attend school but not attend the full Anjali House program – only English classes and some extracurricular classes like the photo workshops.

“But we have now found her a sponsor (a long time supporter of Anjali House), which provides her with enough income to pay for her studies, travel and living costs.

“This meant she could stop working about a week or so ago and is now back with us full-time. She studies in grade seven at Angkor High School.

“Her father makes some money making and selling pillows to local markets, but too little to support the family. Two brothers became monks and her older sisters were married off with no education. The youngest three are also with us at Anjali.”No doubt the $400 prize money Sophal collected will also help her cause.

All aboard at Angkor's 21 weapons of mass attraction

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Friday, 25 June 2010 15:00 Post Staff

Cambodia’s Green East Co. has targeted the Siem Reap temple tourism market by launching 21 weapons of mass attraction, in the form of “historically designed” boats.

The Kungkea-Angkor Boats, as they are officially called, will ply the waters of the moat on the southwestern side of Angkor Wat from July 7 onwards.

Sam Sothearit, chief of the personnel department at Green East told 7Days that the boats were modelled on renderings from Bayon temple’s sculptures.

Each boat cost just over $2000 to build, and foreign tourists will be charged $15 for a roughly 1.8 kilometre trip. Khmers will be charged $8.

Sam Sothearit, smoothly settling into his sales pitch, said, “I do believe that guests will come to ride and enjoy, and this project will succeed.”

He said a good sign was that some foreign tourists had already asked to rent the boats since the company brought them to Angkor from Phnom Penh in May.

He added that the company’s second phase will be to introduce rowboats on the Angkor Wat moat, but that plan is still on the drawing board.

Siem Reap is in the mood for love

Siem Reap is the backdrop for a movie currently being filmed in the town called I Have Loved

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Friday, 25 June 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

It’s not about Pol Pot, or the Killing Fields, or land mines, or poverty. It’s not about the Khmer Rouge or corruption or any of the grim narratives that form the basis of most accounts of Cambodia.

It’s a film and it’s about love. A young Asian crew is in town right now making I Have Loved, set in Siem Reap with an international flair. It’s a reflection of contemporary Cambodia seen through the cosmopolitan lens that Siem Reap in particular provides. The movie was conceived and written – and is being financed, co-produced and directed – by a young couple that met at university in Singapore. They came to Cambodia on holiday two years ago and were astonished, they say, by the many ways in which the reality didn’t match up to the rhetoric. From that three-week trip came the idea to create a film that shows Cambodia as the background not just for stories of despair, but also for tales of love and hope.

The story, set in Siem Reap over a number of years, opens with the honeymoon of a young couple from England. However, while on holiday he disappears and her innocence is progressively tested as she searches for him. She returns again and again, challenging her memory each time of what was seen and experienced before, and it is during this time that she meets an Asian man with whom love soon blossoms.

One of the driving forces behind the movie is Elizabeth Wijaya from Malaysia, who is just finalising her English literature Masters at the University of Singapore, where she met her boyfriend and project partner, Weijie Lai, when they were both still undergraduates.

He has just finished his Master of Fine Arts at New York University. They have both worked on short films before, together and separately, but this is the first time either of them has worked on a full-length feature film.

“Our lead actor has more experience than we do,” a relaxed Elizabeth says with a smile. “But, we’re learning a lot from him. It’s a part of our strength, that we are flexible and willing to take risks.”

The couple is financing the film out of their own pockets and relying on the kindness of supporters, including the crew who are only being paid allowances, to make it happen. It’s easy to see what has drawn people to support this young couple. They’re smart, brave and energetic, and their idea is very attractive. The support has come from a number of places, too: from AmbrĂ© in Phnom Penh, which is providing all of the costumes for free, to the Hotel de la Paix, which is the backdrop for much of the story and is supporting the film creators’ and actors’ accommodation. Additional support comes from 8 Rooms Guesthouse, which is providing the crew’s accommodation.

The choice of Siem Reap as a location is fundamental to how the film works. The couple was impressed by the internationalism of this town, which is reflected in both the story and the crew itself, which has members from South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the UK.

Elizabeth says, “We were amazed when we got here that there was so much more to Cambodia than all the bad stories. That inspired us to make a film that showed the different sides of Cambodia. That you can have romance here, too.

“Siem Reap is like an extra actor in the film. It struck us that this was a place quite different from what we imagined.”

The international nature of the town, with its tourists, restaurants and shops, was fundamental to the idea of the film as much as for providing the canvas. “It changes so much, and it’s different every time we come back,” says Elizabeth.

Sometimes this can be tricky. One scene was due to be filmed at the street market, until Wiejie came back again earlier this year to discover that the market was no longer there. “We’ve been working on it for two years, going back and forth, and the changes that we’ve seen are reflected in the film, too. It’s part of the nature of Cambodia and of the film,” says Elizabeth.

Filming will continue for another two weeks. The hope is to have post-production completed in time for the Cambodian Film Festival in October this year and then for submission to the Cannes Film Festival for 2011.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

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ADB appoints new Cambodia economist
Friday, 25 June 2010 15:00 Catherine James

ASIAN Development Bank has appointed economist Peter Brimble as Cambodia’s senior country economist to replace Eric Sidgwick, who held the position for almost three years, an ADB spokesperson told the Post Thursday. Brimble, who will be the ADB’s Cambodia mission second in command after country director Putu Kamayana, is expected to start in the new role on July 1, according to ADB programmes officer Chantha Kim. Brimble was most recently a development consultant to the UNDP and USAID and managing director of currently suspended private equity fund Cambodia Emerald. Eric Sidgwick officially left the Cambodia mission in mid-May after accepting an internal promotion within the ADB, Phnom Penh-based Chantha Kim said. Sidgwick is now the bank’s principle economist for its regional cooperation and integration group based in Manila, a position that was internationally advertised at the beginning of March.

China Claim: Uighurs from Cambodia in ‘terror gang’

Friday, 25 June 2010 15:01 AFP

China Claim

Chinese police said Thursday that they had broken up a “terrorist cell” that carried out lethal attacks in Xinjiang, as the restive region braced for the first anniversary of deadly ethnic unrest. Three members of the cell were among a 20-strong group deported back to China on December 20 from an unnamed country, public security bureau spokesman Wu Heping told reporters. Cambodia sent a group of 20 Uighurs back to China last December despite US and UN protests. “Since 2008 this terror group planned and carried out many terror acts in Xinjiang, including an attack on police and border guards in Kashgar during the Olympics,” Wu said. He said the group was also responsible for bombings and a shootout with police in the city of Kuqa, which was blamed for at least 10 deaths. From July to October last year, the group gathered bombs, axes and Molotov cocktails with plans to carry out a chain of attacks in Xinjiang, and some members fled abroad when the plan was foiled, he said. Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the overseas World Uyghur Congress, said the timing of the announcement was politically motivated.

Brunei At HSBC A5N Rugby Series

Brunei and Laos packs face off in Phnom Penh

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Written by Borneo Bulletin
Friday, 25 June 2010

Phnom Penh (Cambodia) - The HSBC Asian 5 Nations Rugby Series 2010 comes to a close this Saturday with the 29th match played in Asia over the past 11 weeks, according to a press release from HSBC.

Fittingly for what has been a tremendously successful campaign marked by a continuous improvement in the quality of rugby and increasing parity amongst the teams, the HSBC A5N 2010 will come to a close with a finely poised clash between defending regional champion Laos and hosts Cambodia.

The A5N Southeast Asian regional tournament features Laos, Brunei and Cambodia in a round-robin tournament format. The first matches were played on June 20 (Sunday) and 23.Brunei and Cambodia opened the action on Sunday with a tense battle that saw Brunei edge home over the hosts 10-9.

Brunei scored the only try of the match in the 13th minute through centre Jainak with the successful conversion coming from Bruneian flyhalf Petrus Yuan. Brunei added a penalty through winger Ak Moiz PG Ismak late in the first half to bring its tally to 10.

Throughout the match, Cambodia was paced by diminutive playmaking flyhalf and captain Ratana Pich, who scored all of his team's points through three well-taken penalties. At halftime, Brunei led 10-6.

Despite facing a physically larger Brunei side that was itself adjusting to integrating 10 new players in the 24-man squad, Cambodia had a good grasp of the match with the sense that it could close the narrow gap in the second half.

Unfortunately for the hosts, two Cambodian players were sin-binned in the opening moments of the second stanza. Although Cambodia held the line for the sin-bin period, the effort proved too sapping in the long run as the hosts could only manage one more penalty in the second half (again through Ratana Pich).

Pich's successful effort brought his team within one point for the final 15 minutes of the match. But despite the frenzied exhortations of the 500-strong home crowd, the Cambodians could not close the gap and bowed out by a single point.

The opening win put Brunei on the top of the table with 5 points before its crucial match against defending champions Laos. Cambodia figured with one bonus point after a loss within seven points.

In the second match on June 23, Laos showed why they are the defending champions, routing Brunei 23-5.

The results see Laos top the table with five points for their convincing opening round win with a game in hand on Brunei who are tied-first with five points from their opening win over Cambodia. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

U.S. Response to Thailand Foreign Minister Piromya’s Concerns

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United States Mission to the OSCE
Response to Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, H.E. Kasit Piromya
As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
June 24, 2010

The United States warmly welcomes Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to the OSCE Permanent Council, and we thank him for sharing his thoughts on security in the Asian region.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton have personally demonstrated renewed American engagement in the Asia-Pacific region over the past 18 months. This engagement includes a number of high-level visits to countries in the region – including Thailand - as well as the U.S. signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN. We look forward to participating in the first expanded ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting in October. We also enjoy mutually beneficial cooperation with our partners in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

Thailand is a close friend and ally of the United States, and a valued partner in multilateral organizations such as the OSCE, ASEAN and the ARF. Thailand has demonstrated its commitment to working together and sharing experience with the OSCE through hosting events such as the workshop on “Combating Illicit Crop Cultivation and Enhancing Border Management Security” held in January this year. We highly value this type of exchange of best practices; it not only benefits other Partners for Cooperation, but can also assist participating States in addressing common threats to security.

We share with Thailand a vision of a regional Asia-Pacific architecture that is inclusive and promotes shared values and norms, and we welcome ASEAN’s plans to create an ASEAN Community by 2015 based on the ASEAN Charter. We strongly support the inauguration of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, and applaud the organization’s focus on human rights and good governance. We also welcome the growing engagement of the region’s parliaments and ASEAN’s commitment to work with civil society. These are all issues that have proven to be critical to advancing security and stability within the OSCE area. Given OSCE’s experience in this sphere, we see scope for cooperation and exchange of best practices between ASEAN and the OSCE.

In closing, we thank the Foreign Minister for his appearance at the Permanent Council here today and we look forward to continuing bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

Thailand's new party to run by-election scheduled next month

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June 24, 2010

Thailand's newly-established New Politics Party (NPP) on Thursday selected General Kittisak Rathprasert to run by-election in Bangkok, the Thai News Agency ( TNA) reported.

General Kittisak is an ex-army officer and an NPP executive committee member.

On June 15, Thai cabinet approved the proposal by the Election Commission of holding the by-election for the Bangkok Constituency 6 on July 25.

The by-election is planned to fill the vacant House seat left by ruling Democrat MP Tiva Ngernyuang, who passed away recently.

Source: Xinhua

Good news, bad news: Worldwide advertising spending up, U. S. spending down

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June 24, 2010

Although the advertising market is showing renewed signs of strength along with the improving economy, it has not quite returned to 2008 levels.

On Thursday, global advertising giant WPP's GroupM weighed in with a revised forecast for 2010. It said this year's advertising spending worldwide should reach $451 billion -- 3.5% higher than the haul in 2009. Most of that increase comes from growth in China.

The $451 billion matches the amount spent in 2006-07 or 2004-05, after factoring in consumer price inflation, New York-based GroupM said in releasing its forecast, which included data from 70 nations.

In the U.S., ad expenditures this year are expected to drop 1.3% to $145 billion. Last year, $147 billion was spent on advertising, a 7% dip from 2008 levels.

"The U.S media marketplace ... clearly bottomed out earlier this year, and we expect moderate growth in 2011 consistent with GDP improvement,” Rino Scanzoni, GroupM chief investment officer, said in a statement. “Television and online spending will outpace other media as they lead with return on investment metrics."

For 2011, GroupM predicts an improved picture: a 4.5% increase in worldwide commercial spending as online advertising continues to climb. Internet advertising is expected to make up 16% of the total ad market by next year. The company says U.S. ad spending should increase to $149 billion next year.

-- Meg James

Photo: Billboards in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Credit: Don Lee / Los Angeles Times

Computer Game Saves Children From Landmine Scourge

VOA Science and Technology
Robert Carmichael | Phnom Penh
24 June 2010

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Photo: VOA - R. Carmichael
Allen Tan, a former US bomb disposal expert and now regional head of the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, helps one of the children at a Phnom Penh orphanage with the landmine game, June 2010

Decades of war have left Cambodia with millions of landmines and unexploded ordnance that kill and injure hundreds each year. A new approach to educating children about mines was tested last week in Phnom Penh, and is likely to be rolled out to other nations in the coming years.

There is nothing unusual about children clustered around a computer screen, one of them playing a game, the others giving suggestions.

But at this Phnom Penh orphanage, the game they are playing is unique.

This is what its developers call a "serious" game - one that is designed to educate. The children are having fun while learning how to recognize the danger signs for landmines and bombs in a typically Cambodian landscape.

In a country where last year nearly 250 people - one-third of them children - were killed or injured by mines and unexploded bombs, educating the next generation on how to avoid the detritus of war is vital.

Twelve-year-old Sin, who is helping to test the game, explains that he needs to find food for his on-screen dog while avoiding the red landmine warning signs that you see around Cambodia. They aren't always easy to spot.

He says, we walk straight and if we see the red sign then we turn around and come back. Or we can turn left or right to avoid the landmine.

Professor Frank Biocca is from Michigan State University, where the game was developed as part of one of the university's undergraduate programs. Why test it here?

VOA-R. Carmichael
Professor Frank Biocca, one of the game's developers, holds a One Laptop Per Child Computer during his recent trip to assess the game's effect on learning about the dangers of landmines (File)

"Cambodia is a very key and critical case. This is our first test area and so we're hoping to debug various aspects of the game in this environment, because I think it represents a good representative environment of the kinds of challenges we might have in other countries as well. So if it works here, hopefully similar versions of the game will work - at least definitely through southeast Asia possibly into Africa as well - once of course we adapt to local conditions as well," he said.

Biocca says the game works on most computer platforms: PCs, Macs, Linux, the Web - even on mobile phones, which he reckons will become the cheap computers for developing nations.

Assisting with the testing is Allen Tan, the country head of the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation. It's a U.S.-based charity that provides technical advice to demining organizations.

It was Golden West that approached Michigan State University two years ago and suggested that its students write a game to educate children about mines and unexploded ordnance.

Tan, a former bomb disposal expert with the U.S. Army, says the game has potential to benefit children in dozens of countries.

"Any of these post-conflict zones are going to be targets for this kind of education, especially with young populations that might not have been around when the conflict happened, and a lot of these hazards are legacy hazards. Certainly any post-conflict zone could be a target for this type of training," said Allen.

In short, the game, which received funding from the U.S. State Department, has a potentially vast audience.

VOA-R. Carmichael
A child at a Phnom Penh orphanage focuses on playing the computer game, which requires him to find food in the Cambodian countryside while avoiding on-screen landmines, June 2010

The small Cambodian audience testing the game this month certainly enjoyed playing it. Quite how much they learned using this rather than traditional methods - such as leaflets and presentations - is something the developers will assess.

Like all of the children, 12-year-old Minea says he loved it. That is not too surprising, given that Cambodian children get very few chances to play a computer game.

Did he learn anything? If he was in the countryside and saw signposts warning of landmines, what would he do?

He says he would walk far away from that place and he wouldn't touch anything there, and wouldn't play near there.

If the game can succeed in transmitting that message to children in other post-conflict countries, then it should go some way to reducing the deaths and injuries suffered by children from this 20th century problem.