Monday, 28 June 2010

Cambodia Hosts Regional Meeting of Foreign Affairs’ Committee on Triangle Development Area

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 11:00 DAP-NEWS/ Tep Piseth

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, JUNE 28, 2010-Cambodia on Monday announced that it will host foreign affairs’ committees of the national assemblyof three countries including Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam on the triangle development of three border areas.

The meeting will be held from July 7-9 2010, and it will preside over the meeting by Samdech Heng Samrin, president of the national assembly of Cambodia,” said cheang vun, chairman of the committee of foreign affairs, information and propaganda.

The main purpose of meeting is pushing the triangle development of border areas of the three countries, he added. We want to create the good environment, friendship and goo neighboring countries and it will contribute further upgrading of our relationship and help local people that need the facilitation of administartion process, He emphasized.

We also want to build friendship and solidarity between the committee foreign affairs of three countries in work of development of the countries, he noted.

Last month, Cambodia hosted the trade fair in Ratanakiri province where is the one province in the triangle development zone of shared borders of the three countries.

Triangle development zone composed of Cambodia’s provinces of Kratie, Stung Treng, Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri, and number of Laotian provinces and number of Vietnamese provinces.

US Peace Corps Volunteers Organized Education Fair in Kompong Cham

Pacific Partnership 2010 Doctors Help Mother and Son

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, June 28, 2010

Commander, Pacific Fleet
By Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Gaines

06.26.2010 SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia – A mother and her young son will be able to lead better lives as a result of the care provided by Pacific Partnership 2010 surgeons working aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy.

U.S. Navy, partner nation, and non-governmental organization surgeons were preparing to perform corrective surgery to a Cambodian child’s urinary tract when they noticed the boy’s mother had very poor eyesight. The 40-year-old woman was found to have severe cataracts in both eyes. After making arrangements for post-operative care for the son, the embarked ophthalmologists then performed surgery on the mother to remove one of the cataracts.

“As the boy was being prepped for surgery, we noticed the mother feeling her way around the ship,” said Australian Navy Lt. (Dr.) Elizabeth Livingstone, an ophthalmologist currently attached to Mercy.
“So we decided to check for cataracts and then decided surgery would benefit the mother.”

Ophthalmologists aboard Mercy were surprised to see such advanced cataracts in a woman this age. The first procedure, which took approximately half an hour, was performed at the same time as the child’s surgery, which took about three and a half hours.

At the conclusion of both surgeries, both mother and child spent time together in recovery, before being taken back to their respective wards.

“Eventually, we removed the other cataract and the mother now has 20/30 vision in that eye,” said Livingstone.

The entire surgical staff celebrated the fact that they had helped this family.

“It is amazing that we could help restore the gift of sight for this woman,” said Cmdr. (Dr.) Kent Blade, officer in charge for Ophthalmology. “Otherwise, the child inevitably would have been leading his mother around in a few years.”

Not only will the child now lead a normal life, but the mother will now have improved vision,” said Cmdr. (Dr.) Brian Auge, a urologist aboard Mercy. “It was also great to see the surgical staff – from administration on down – come together to make this great thing a reality.”

The positive effect in the overall quality of life for this mother and son team translates to an overall improvement for their community – half-day’s travel away – by enabling them to become more productive members who will no longer be affected by a medical condition,” said Livingstone. “The mother must have given me a dozen hugs as they departed Mercy.”

Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships among U.S. government organizations, host nations, partner nations, and international humanitarian and relief organizations.

Singapore's Cambodian sand imports blasted

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday June 28th

Singapore’s ‘sustainability credentials’ undermined by environmentally destructive sand imports, says Global Witness

As host of this week’s World Cities Summit under the banner of “liveable and sustainable cities”, Singapore must do more to address the negative impacts of its demand for sand, which is fuelling an ecologically and socially devastating dredging industry in Cambodia, said Global Witness today. Singapore uses Cambodian sand in its construction and land reclamation projects and must do more to mitigate the negative effects of the trade to prevent its credibility as host of the sustainability summit being undermined.

“Singapore is in danger of appearing hypocritical as it promotes its commitment to sustainability while simultaneously driving demand in an industry that is wreaking havoc on Cambodia’s coastal ecosystems,” said George Boden of Global Witness. “Global Witness has repeatedly asked Singapore to regulate its sand trade to prevent an ecological disaster. We hoped to see action ahead of the summit, but nothing appears to have changed.”

Singapore has increased its landmass by 22% since the 1960s; in 2008 it was the world’s largest importer of sand. Global Witness’s May 2010 report, Shifting Sand: how Singapore’s demand for Cambodian sand threatens ecosystems and undermines good governance, revealed how an unregulated sand dredging industry in Cambodia has ballooned to meet this demand, despite a supposed ban on exports put in place by the Cambodian Prime Minister in May 2009.

Singapore insists that sand imports are a purely commercial activity, and says that it has regulations in place that require its companies to abide by the laws of the countries with which they trade. However, Global Witness’ report makes it clear that this is insufficient, especially given the history of mismanagement and misappropriation of natural resource wealth in Cambodia by its political elite.

Cambodia's sand-dredging industry poses a huge risk to its coastal environment, threatening endangered species, fish stocks and local livelihoods. There is no evidence that basic environmental safeguards have been applied and dredging concessions have been allocated in protected areas. The industry is dominated by two prominent Senators Mong Reththy and Ly Yong Phat, raising serious questions about high-level corruption. Furthermore, it is not clear whether taxes and royalties are reaching state coffers.

“The situation in Cambodia makes a mockery of the supposed ban on sand dredging and underlines the need for Singapore to take responsibility for the consequences of its sand sourcing, rather than relying on ineffective legal measures in Cambodia,” said George Boden. “As it plays host to a summit themed around sustainability, Singapore should commit to properly monitor the impact of its sand imports and ensure that they are not contributing to ecological or social devastation in the region. Failure to act will make the whole conference start to look distinctly like green washing.”


Global Witness investigates and campaigns to end natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses

Are Vietnamese and Cambodian insurers good takeover targets?

Back in late April the Financial Times noted that “Southeast Asia’s insurance sector [would] likely see an uptick in M&A as major foreign players clamor[ed] to make acquisitions in the region.” Vietnam and Cambodia, the piece argues, stand out as especially attractive targets:
“Vietnam, the most vibrant economy in the Indochina region, has already attracted lots of international insurers’ capital, thanks largely to its big youth population and government policy to encourage people to buy insurances, continued the Indochina source. Vietnam has a life insurance penetration rate of just 0.7%, and a population of 88.1 million.”
Although the market share of Vietnam for life insurance is dominated by three main players–Prudential (40 percent), Bao Viet (34 percent) and Manulife (10 percent) per the Vietnam Insurance Association– smaller sized insurers are becoming increasingly relevant: ACE Life, AIA Life, Dai-ichi Life Vietnam, Previor, Cathay Life, Great Eastern, and Korea Life, for example, all showed marked growth in 2009.

Per Cambodia, FT wrote that “there is no foreign ownership cap in the country’s financial services sector, and thus “banking and insurance businesses are combined into one license, meaning that if an entity secures a license, it can provide both services at the same time.” Cambodia’s non-life insurance market is more developed than its life one, as the majority of its citizens still cannot afford the personal life insurance products. While Cambodia’s economy has grown between 6%-10% in recent years, the increases have been driven by construction, garment and tourism rather than the agriculture sector–the defacto foundation for roughly 85% of the population’s livelihood which nonetheless suffers from habitually shoddy infrastructure, low productivity, a lack of access to markets and poorly developed rural financial services. The results in tow have been persistent rural poverty and food shortages. Cambodia’s government claims to be aggressively targeting the situation, and points to international backed schemes to alleviate its chronic, urban-rural income disparity. Last December, for instance, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors approved a loan and grant totaling $30.7 million (joining the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of Finland’s combined $19.1 million) targeted to increase crop productivity and output, improve post-harvest management, increase market access and price transparency, offer greater access to rural financial services, and foster knowledge of agriculture technologies.

According to Youk Chamroeunrith, general manager and director of Forte, the largest domestic insurer in terms of premium revenues, the fundamental issue holding back life insurance growth in Cambodia is the lack of both a proper regulatory framework as well as overall general awareness of the products, despite the fact that the World Bank identified life insurance as a vital sector to encourage public savings and drive productive investment. Moreover, foreign investment schemes, he says, are crucial to the industry’s growth. To that extent, the World Bank noted in April that foreign direct investment in Cambodia would reach $725 million this year, up from an estimated $515 million in 2009.

Non-life is already a rapidly growing sector and is driven chiefly by property, fire, motor and medical business lines. Premium revenue for the entire industry grew 19 percent in the first two months of 2010 and is still forecast to grow approximately 20 percent for the year, per figures released from the General Insurance Association of Cambodia (GIAC) in the spring. This coincides with 1Q results from Forte which reported premium-derived income growth of nearly 20 percent.

Group busted for selling stolen bikes in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ News Media


Police in Ho Chi Minh City Sunday said they had arrested four people involved in a ring that steals motorbikes and sells them in Cambodia.

Initial investigations showed that Phan The Toai, 24, and Pham Van Canh, 21, steal motorbikes, mainly Honda Waves, from Tan Phu and Tan Binh districts as well as district 12.

They then sell the bikes to 20-year-old Nguyen Hoang Cang and Nguyen Thanh Thuy, 45, for VND5-7 million (US$263-368) each, police said.

Cang and Thuy would later sell them to other rings in Cambodia, according to police.

Investigations are ongoing.

Source: VNA

Vietnamese firms flock to participate in HCMC Expo 2010 in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday ,Jun 28,2010

More than 350 Vietnamese companies have registered to join the Vietnam – Cambodia Trade, Service and Tourism Fair 2010 (Ho Chi Minh City Expo), to be held in Cambodia from July 15-19, said the HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Most Vietnamese companies registered in fields such as import – export, tourism, education, health-care, electronics, construction materials and textile and garment.

The expo marks a developmental step for Vietnamese companies seeking to penetrate Cambodian markets, as the event highlights the commercial potential between two countries, said the department.

The fair is not only a chance to display Vietnamese products, but it also promotes trade and cultural activities, as well as hosts seminars on the business connections between the two nations.

The highlight of the event will be a caravan tour, which will depart from HCM City, cross the Moc Bai Border Gate and travel through several Cambodian provinces on the way to Phnom Penh.

The four-day caravan tour will publicize the exhibition and promote tourism to Vietnam, said the department.

The fair is organized by HCM City’s Investment and Trade Promotion Center.

In the first three months of this year, bilateral trade between the two countries reached nearly US$500 million, up 130% compared with the same period last year. The two-way trade is expected to hit US$2 billion this year, a 43% increase year-on-year.

By L.Nam, translated by Cong Dung

Vietnam's Agribank Opens First Branch In Cambodia

via Khmer NZ News Media
HANOI -(Dow Jones)- State-run Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, or Agribank, opened Monday a branch in Phnom Penh, its first overseas branch, the bank said Monday.

Agribank, Vietnam's largest financial institution by assets, said in a statement it aims to serve Vietnamese businesses operating in Cambodia and the country's population of 14 million people.

"Trade between Vietnam and Cambodia has annually grown by an average of 30% over the recent years," said Agribank chairman Nguyen The Binh, adding that trade between the two country is expected to reach $2 billion this year.

Agribank currently has total assets of $24.7 billion and has 2,300 branches and transaction offices throughout Vietnam.

-By Vu Trong Khanh, Dow Jones Newswires; +84 4 35123042;

Spectacular Sold-Out Premiere of Anti-Child Trafficking Film in NYC

Thought Leaders and Global Citizens
Posted: June 27, 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Cambodian Parliament Member Mu Sochua received a standing ovation from the sold-out, standing room-only crowd at the red carpet world premier of REDLIGHT last week. Produced and narrated by UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lucy Liu, the film left many stunned and some in tears. It is that wrenching.

"I am not a victim in Cambodia, but a survivor of Cambodia!," Sochua told the guests present. "In the darkest recess of human trafficking, there is hope!" The film featured the work of both Sochua and Somaly Mam, forming a narrative of the children they have helped out of the pits of exploitation - such as Reena and Sokha.

Daughter Malika with the human rights activist, politician and mother Mu Sochua

Deftly blending horror and compassion, hope and futility, REDLIGHT is the second film in a trilogy that is changing the dynamics of child trafficking globally. Filmmaker Guy Jacobson has mastered the emotional edge of sexual slavery and manages to bring it to us in our sterile lives so that we get it - and want to stop it. The photography of the film is superb, with the breathtaking beauty of Cambodia juxtaposed with the squalid conditions of the children forced into the country's unspeakable brothels.

Rarely does a film have such in-depth access to the characters it follows. REDLIGHT weaves together the touching stories of its subjects into an inspirational journey for the audience. It is a true accomplishment in filmmaking.

The narration by Lucy Liu is familiar enough so that we are able to handle the unfamiliar. The quality and sensitivity of the film assures that its message will resound with audiences around the world as it is sure to win awards from Cannes to Sundance. If you chose to see only one documentary this year, make sure it is REDLIGHT.

More amazing than the film is the dangers Guy Jacobson overcame to film it in the shadow of the mafia, for whom human life holds no sanctity. He continues to risk his life daily fighting to expose and sabotage organized crime's most lucrative business.

Guy Jacobson, along with Lucy Liu, Mu Sochua, Somaly Mam, and child slavery expert
Kevin Bales, are leading advocates to end child trafficking.

After the film, Sochua told the many gathered, "The movie was so real I could smell the brothel and feel the T.B. in the hospital. My Cambodia is this film." Sochua is a politician and a human rights activist. "I am a member of the Cambodian parliament - a member of the Opposition - who has been stripped of my immunity," she told the hushed audience. She represents the Sam Rainsy Party.

Guy Jacobson spoke after the film with Mu Sochua, UNICEF Global Chief of Child Protection Dr. Susan Bissell, and Israeli actress Adi Ezroni.

Sochua has refused to pay a frivolous fine imposed on her by the corrupt court there for 'defaming' the Prime Minister because she sued him for calling her a whore. "When I go back, I might be put in jail."

"My goal is to be re-elected and continue the fight for justice," she told us. "Justice! Hope!," she reminded us. "Justice is my own pursuit," Sochua said.

Guy Jacobson is a passionate filmmaker who understand child trafficking - and exposes it.

As I wrote last week, not often does a filmmaker present both an untenable social problem - and its solution. Guy Jacobson has done that. As filmmaker, former banker and lawyer, Guy's past and present reflected much of the audience comprised from the top ranks of the arts, finance and law. LexisNexis is the film's major corporate sponsor.

LexisNexis' involvement made a deep impression on many of the film viewers. "LexisNexis is to be commended for their support. It is wonderful that they have put their resources behind such an important problem," Dr. Lucie Lapovsky stated. Roberta Cooper added, "It is critical that corporations take a role in this international problem, as has LexisNexis, among others in the travel and business community. Their important work should be publicized and praised widely."

Mu Sochua is empathetic to the stories these girls, one a victim and the other her big sister.

The brilliant film REDLIGHT is shown from the perspective of two Cambodian women opposed to childhood sexual slavery. One, Sochua, and the other Somaly Mam, a woman who escaped the brothels to dedicate her life to freeing others. Child trafficking expert Kevin Bales, author of Ending Slavery and President of Free the Slaves, is also interviewed in the film. See the film's trailer on Vimeo.

Filmmaker Guy Jacobson and his team have made a gut-wrenching plea to end child trafficking.

The deeply moving film points out that staggering statistic that 2.5 million children aged 18 months to 18 years are exploited for their young bodies each year. They can be raped 20 - 30 times a day, and up to half of them will die from shock, torture, drugs, and/or AIDS. But these numbers are difficult to grasp. The film also shows you a few real children and tells their tales. That anyone can get.

I interviewed many audience members after the Premiere. Dr. Lucie Lapovsky of Lapovsky Consulting told me:

Child trafficking is a complicated issue and I certainly do not have the solution. Clearly, traffickers should be prosecuted and not granted any leniency. Certainly, the film left me with the feeling that the economic problems in Cambodia exacerbate the situation.

The brothels should be outlawed or there should at least be aggressive enforcement to make sure that there are not children involved. Parents should be educated about what can happen to their children when they sell them.

I hope we can all be helpful in eradicating this terrible problem of child sex trafficking and can help make Cambodia a truly democratic country.

A red carpet premier in NYC is a million miles away from children forced into sex - or is it?

Roberta Cooper attended the Premier and told me after:

The 'solution' lies in a multi-pronged, coordinated effort that includes the police and the judiciary and the press. There should be consequences for the patrons of the trafficked women and girls. One area that the film did not focus on is girls and women who are transported to other countries, including the United States. We need international sanctions and severe consequences for the perpetrators as well as assistance for the victims. United Nations initiatives are important as well.

I did see guy's other film Holly. I thought both films were excellent, but REDLIGHT affected me more. It had the narrative elements of Holly but was a documentary.

Particularly important is Sochua's work -- and also that of Somaly Mam -- to give the victims a place in their communities, counseling, and training in work through which they can become economically self-sufficient. It is very difficult for the rescued girls to overcome the stigmas placed on them by their own culture.

REDLIGHT is the second in Guy's trilogy, known as the K11 Project. Holly was the first in 2007, the story of a 12-year old prostitute who captures the jaded heart of a foreigner living in Cambodia who in turn goes out of his way to rescue her from the criminal element that controls her. Holly premiered at the United Nations, with honorary committee members including Susan Sarandon and Hillary Clinton.

The main theater was completely full, and another audience watched from the adjacent theater.

The REDLIGHT Children Campaign originally aimed at pressuring governments to enact or amend legislation to address this issue more effectively and allocate more resources towards enforcement of laws. This has proven to be difficult. Now, in addition to the original strategy, Guy wants to make it more difficult and costly for perpetrators to sexually abuse children. REDLIGHT Children has partnered with its sponsor LexisNexis to create both an international case law database for trafficking, and a trafficking offenders' database to assist lawmakers and prosecutors.

"REDLIGHT" director Guy Jacobson with me and John Lee at the premiere in New York City.

Following this superb film I know I cannot answer one question: Why has the United States and Somalia not signed the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Children (CRC)? As founder of Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW), I demand that our own nation takes responsibility for the lives of the children whose innocence, safety - and often lives - have been so terribly compromised. Mr. President, we owe this to these defenseless children.

For further issues, facts and the rule of law, see LexisNexis website. All photos by Arthur Eisenberg (

Enter the King Father

Photo by: Pha Lina

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:00 Pha Lina

King Father Norodom Sihanouk raises his hands in greeting at Phnom Penh International Airport following his return from a four-day visit to Vietnam on Friday. The 87-year-old former monarch was accompanied on the trip by Queen Mother Norodom Monineath and their son, King Norodom Sihamoni.

A joint effort

Photo by: Sovan Philong

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:00 Sovan Philong

Ie Seam (left), 35, and Em Tak, 18, construct a wooden river boat, known in Khmer as a bala, at a floating village on the Tonle Sap lake in Siem Reap province last week. A made-to-order bala, which can carry up to 2 tonnes of cargo, costs US$5,500 (not including engine) and takes 15 days to complete.

Shadowy existence

Photo by: Pha Lina

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:03 Pha Lina

A photograph on display at the Royal University of Fine Arts depicts children who’ve encountered violence and drugs upon moving from the provinces to Phnom Penh. Bamboo Shoots, which opened Saturday, was spearheaded by the International Organisation for Migration and On Photography. It features the work of Mak Remissa, Siv Cheng, Arantxa Cedillo and Post staff photographer Pha Lina, all of whom produced images intended to document the lives of the underprivileged. The show is set to conclude on July 11.

Resolving a minimum wage

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:03 Meas Sokchea and Irwin Loy

Government recommends a $5 per month increase for garment workers

THE government has recommended a US$5 boost to the monthly minimum wage for garment-sector workers – an amount that falls far short of demands from some union leaders.

Officials with the Labour Advisory Committee are planning to meet with union representatives and factory owners on July 8 to discuss issues including the contentious minimum wage, according to a press release issued Friday by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Labour.

“The meeting will discuss an agenda including the minimum salary increase for workers in garment and shoe factories,” the statement said. “The government allows an increase in the minimum salary of $5, and another $6 as a living supplement to the basic salary.”

The current minimum wage for full-time garment workers is $50. Workers already receive a mandatory $6 cost-of-living allowance on top of that.

The press release stated that probationary workers currently earning a minimum salary of $45 a month would receive a similar boost in salary.

Unions and garment factory owners in 2006 agreed to discuss changes to the minimum wage by the end of this year, but there has been no consensus on a suitable increase.

Major unions have proposed wages of $70 and $93; employers have not publicly disclosed how much they are willing to pay.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia (FTU), which demanded an increase to $70 a month, said the government’s recommendation doesn’t meet workers’ needs.

“The Ministry of Labour has done this again and again. Workers have a minimum wage of $50 and a $6 bonus already. So [the recommendation] is different than what we demanded,” he said.

Chea Mony threatened earlier this month to stage a three-day strike in mid-July if the union’s demands were not met. On Sunday, he said that plan was still in place.

“If [employers] do not have a “If [employers] do not have a resolution for workers ... workers will hold a strike,” he said.

Other union leaders contacted Sunday had differing reactions to the government’s minimum wage recommendation.

Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Unions (CCAWDU), said a $5 increase would not conform to today’s economic realities.

“Five dollars is not enough,” said Ath Thun, who questioned why the government had issued its recommendation before unions and factory owners had even sat down to discuss the issue face to face.

Labour Ministry officials could not be reached Sunday.

But Chuon Momthol, president of the pro-Cambodian People’s Party Cambodian Union Federation (CUF), said he was satisfied with the government’s recommendation.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said his organisation had not been officially informed about the government’s decision.

“We will support the recommendation of the government even though it may not be ideal for the industry at this point to have such a revision,” Loo said.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour programme at the Community Legal Education Centre, noted that many unions had been asking for a more significant boost to the minimum wage, and that his own organisation had, in response to research commissioned last year, recommended that the minimum wage be raised to $71.99 a month.

As part of a study produced in September, researchers interviewed 300 garment workers, and concluded that they would need at least $71.99 a month to pay for basic needs such as food and shelter as well as remittances.

“They spend a lot of money on food, on medicine, on clothing, on rent and so on. Based on this, the minimum wage should be $71.99 a month,” Moeun Tola said. “If it is less than this, workers cannot survive.”

He warned that garment workers will shift to better-paying, but more dangerous professions in the entertainment industry if they see little improvement in their salaries.

New term for FTU head
Also Sunday, Chea Mony was granted a new three-year term as president of the FTU, despite having announced in May that he would step down because of health and personal reasons. He vowed Sunday to continue demanding higher salaries for his union’s members.

Groups decry torture by police

Photo by: Pha Lina
A prison guard mans a watchtower overlooking Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh earlier this month.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:03 May Titthara and Irwin Loy

A SEVERELY inadequate legal system and poorly developed law enforcement have prevented Cambodia from meeting global commitments to prevent torture, rights advocates say.

In a statement released Saturday to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said authorities in the Kingdom must boost efforts to curb instances of torture.

The AHRC called the country’s judicial and policing systems “wholly inadequate” to deal with the issue.

“The problem of torture in Cambodia ... is rooted in Cambodia’s policing system, which is seriously lacking in every way....” the statement said.

“The underdevelopment of the policing system results in the constant use of coercion on people who are arrested.”

Victims of torture have few options when wading through the legal system, and they often feel compelled to drop complaints against police, the AHRC contends.

“This is due to the fear of serious reprisals following the complaints,” the statement said.

“The complete absence of any kind of protection for those making complaints prevents people from making such complaints.”

Officials on Sunday rejected allegations that people are tortured, either in police custody or within the prison system.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, noted that Heng Pov, the disgraced former municipal police chief who has been sentenced to more than 90 years behind bars, managed to publish a book earlier this year while incarcerated at Prey Sar prison.

“Who can believe he was tortured in prison? How can police benefit from torturing a prisoner?” he said.

Heng Pov said in May that he had witnessed the torture and beatings of other inmates.

Hi Chamroeun, deputy director of the provincial prison in Battambang, said rights monitors check on his facility on a daily basis.

“Those NGOs just report according to documents they read. They have never come directly to visit our prison,” he said of the AHRC.

“If we did torture prisoners, we could not avoid [local rights groups] Licadho and Adhoc staffers’ eyes.”

Torture difficult to prove
Rights groups, however, say there is evidence to suggest that some people are tortured while in custody.

The number of torture allegations reported to Licadho monitors has been on a downward trend in the last decade, with most of the victims reporting torture while in police custody, according to a report on prison conditions released last March.

In 1999, there were 450 reports of torture in police custody and 49 while in prison. In 2008, there were 78 in police custody and just seven while in prison.

But because interviews are rarely conducted in private without a prison guard watching, making accurate estimates can be problematic, said Ham Sunrith, Licadho’s deputy director of monitoring and protection.

“We have difficulties getting information on torture because police or guards always accompany us during the interviews, so the prisoners dare not talk about torture,” he said.

Cambodia is the only country in the region to have signed on to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which compels signatory nations to establish some kind of national torture-prevention mechanism.

Such a body was supposed to be in place by 2008, according to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), though authorities currently have not implemented one.

Inside Cover: 28 Jun 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:03 Uong Ratana

BANGKOK – Like Jarndyce versus Jarndyce in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens, the sodomy trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim seems to drag on forever.

It has become both a sick joke and a byword for interminable legal proceedings – seasoned with a typically Malaysian and profoundly unsavoury political dimension.

Anwar, a 63-year-old former deputy prime minister, is accused of having sex with a 25-year-old male aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, two years ago.

This month, his lawyer, Karpal Singh, was again stonewalled by the prosecution, namely the government, which has refused to furnish medical reports that allegedly prove Saiful was sodomised.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak initially denied knowing Saiful. Then, when Saiful admitted meeting the PM before pressing charges, Najib suddenly remembered that he had indeed met Saiful.

Said Karpal: “They are all out to put Anwar in jail again. There is no doubt in my mind.”

A decade ago, after being given a black eye by the police chief and enduring a sordid show trial during which a stained mattress was left in the courtroom, Anwar was convicted of sodomy and corruption.

He spent six years in jail before that first sodomy conviction was dismissed on appeal and he was released.

Anwar, who is married with six children, claimed those first charges were trumped up by former premier Mahathir Mohamad to avert a leadership challenge.

He now says the second charges were fabricated to thwart his opposition alliance, which won five of Malaysia’s 13 states in the last election and denied the government a two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time ever.

I frequently interviewed Anwar, as well as Najib and Mahathir, and for that matter Karpal, during my five years in Kuala Lumpur in the 1990s.

The brilliant, quicksilver Anwar was always the one who stood out, although not always for the best of reasons.

The fact is, there has always been something, and I use the word advisedly, queer about Anwar. It always seemed that what you saw was never quite what you got.

Yes, he was accessible, amiable and open – up to a point.

Asked if he were gay, he would smile and answer in that soft purr:

“Roger, come on, please....” And you would think: My God, he could be!

Then you would think: So what? There have been known gay ministers in Singapore, Thailand and elsewhere in the region, including Muslims, and they were never beaten up in custody and hounded out of office.

It is time Malaysia grew up and adopted the adage of the late Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who said: “The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Even the staid US congress has recently agreed to abolish the silly “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule about homosexuals in the military. If macho soldiers can fight beside openly gay colleagues, it’s hard to figure why supposedly intelligent politicians cannot do the same.

Group calls for S’pore to act on sand imports

Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
Sand is stored at a depot in Koh Kong town in February 2009

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng

SINGAPORE should address the negative environmental impacts of its sand trade with Cambodia as it prepares to host an international summit on sustainable urban development, global corruption watchdog Global Witness said.

Starting Tuesday, Singapore will host the World Cities Summit, a four-day urban development conference that will focus on “building liveable and sustainable communities”.

In a statement to be issued today, the London-based advocacy group said continued inaction with regard to its sand imports from Cambodia could undermine its credibility as host of the summit.

“Singapore is in danger of appearing hypocritical as it promotes its commitment to sustainability while simultaneously driving demand in an industry that is wreaking havoc on Cambodia’s coastal ecosystems,” Global Witness campaigner George Boden said in the statement.

Last month, Global Witness issued a report that said sand imports from Cambodia to Singapore had spiked despite a ban announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in May last year.

The report estimated that as much as 796,000 tonnes of sand was being removed each month from Koh Kong province, the epicentre of a sand trade worth an estimated US$248 million annually in Singapore.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Sunday that he regretted Global Witness’s attacks on the government, repeating government claims that the group’s criticism is “baseless”.

“As Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered, any sand-dredging company that operates and causes environmental damage to the ocean will not be allowed and will be completely banned from exporting,” he said.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Development (MND) did not respond to queries as of press time. But on May 11 the MND issued a statement that the city-state “does not condone the illegal export or smuggling of sand, or any extraction of sand that is in breach of the source countries’ laws”.

SRP to pay in Sochua case: party official

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

THE Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) is set to pay 16.5 million riels (around US$3,928) in fines and compensation on behalf of SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua, a party official said Sunday, though the parliamentarian said she had not authorised the payment.

The fine and fee were levied after Mu Sochua was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen in August last year, a ruling that was upheld by the Appeal Court in October and the Supreme Court earlier this month.

The lawmaker has consistently stated she would rather face jail than pay the fine, and SRP officials have said the party would support her decision.

But acting SRP spokesman Kim Souphirith said that at a meeting on Thursday, party officials decided to pay the money in order to stabilise the party. “We don’t want to have an individual political dispute affecting the political party,” Kim Souphirith said.

“Sometimes we must think about the political situation in our country as well.”

The defamation case arose in April last year, after Mu Sochua filed her own lawsuit against Hun Sen, saying he defamed her during a speech in Kampot province.

When contacted on Sunday, Mu Sochua said she knew nothing of the party’s plans and repeated her earlier stance.

“I am standing on my position, which I have maintained all along: I will not pay for the fine, and SRP will not pay on my behalf,” she said by email.

“The fine can be paid only with my authorisation. I never discussed with SRP about authorising payment of the fine.”

Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said Sunday that any attempt by the party to pay the fine would be an attempt to allow Mu Sochua to save face while avoiding jail.

“This is a political pretext to deceive the public’s eyes,” he said. “If Mu Sochua keeps her willingness to agree to jail, she should absolutely oppose [the party] and not let them pay.”


Decree prohibits pension-buying

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

THE Council of Ministers has approved a draft of a Royal decree prohibiting the purchase of military pensions by middlemen, a practice that Prime Minister Hun Sen criticised in a speech last week.

A statement issued Friday by the council said the purpose of the decree is to “improve the effective management and implementation of pensions” by ensuring that they are paid “quickly and transparently” to their designated recipients.

Prak Chanthoeun, director general of the Social Affairs Ministry, said he could not provide statistics concerning how many pensions are purchased each year, but said that “many” veterans sell theirs in order to receive a large payment each year rather than smaller payments each month. In such transactions, middlemen customarily keep a portion of each pension for themselves.

He said the decree did not call for the punishment of middlemen or veterans caught flouting the ban.

Speaking at the National Veterans Conference last Monday, Hun Sen said there are more than 90,000 veterans drawing pensions that support a total of 260,000 people, costing the government 6.4 billion riels (about US$1,523,809) each month.

He also issued a warning to middlemen in the pension-buying business. “I would like to appeal to the middlemen who bought the salary books of veterans: Please return them generously to the veterans or sell them back at the proper price,” he said.

The decree is next set to be debated at the National Assembly.

Kampong Thom reservoirs levelled

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

THREE reservoirs near the Tonle Sap lake in Kampong Thom province have been demolished after their owners ignored an order to remove them by last Friday, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology said Sunday.

“We used 18 excavators to demolish three illegal reservoirs in the forest areas of the Tonle Sap lake, and each reservoir was about 3.5 square kilometeres,” ministry spokesman Chan Yutha said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen in April ordered the destruction of all reservoirs near the lake, saying they caused long-term environmental damage, primarily to forests and fish stocks. Farmers have argued that they need the reservoirs to boost crop yields.

Last week, Chan Yutha said 30 reservoirs in Kampong Thom were slated for destruction if their owners failed to remove them by the Friday deadline. On Sunday, he said the three reservoirs that were closest to the lake were destroyed over the weekend, and that the remaining ones would soon be destroyed.

Nao Thuok, director general of the Fisheries Administration, said Sunday that illegal reservoirs had devastated around 100,000 hectares of forest surrounding the lake, in addition to depleting fish stocks and damaging the ecosystem.

“We must demolish the illegal reservoirs to protect Tonle Sap lake, including the forest and the environment in and around the lakeside,” he said.

He added that the farmers who built the reservoirs had done so without official permission.

But Saom Sophat, deputy governor of Kampong Thom, said farmers were dependent on the reservoirs, some of which, he said, were built both before and during the Khmer Rouge regime.

“Most of these farmers cultivate their rice during the dry season, and they rely on these reservoirs that were constructed before the genocide,” he said.

CPP to mark anniversary

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng

AROUND 5,000 supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) are expected to turn out this morning for celebrations marking the 59th anniversary of its founding, senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Sunday.

“The CPP is the leading political party in the country, and there will be a gathering on Monday at which the president of the party will reiterate its political programme ... to continue to prevent all attempts for the genocidal regime to return to power and strengthen political stability and peace,” said Cheam Yeap, who is also a member of the CPP’s permanent committee.

He said that CPP president Chea Sim would give a speech to supporters focusing on improving the living conditions of all Cambodians.

“I believe that the CPP will show strong political will to eliminate corruption and other forms of exploitation such as land grabbing in order to build confidence among the people ... for the upcoming commune and national elections in 2012 and 2013,” he added.

The CPP traces its origins to February 1951, when the Vietnamese-dominated Indochinese Communist Party was disbanded in favour of three national parties representing the Vietnamese, Khmer and Lao communist movements. However, the present iteration of the party – known until 1991 as the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea – was formed in 1981 following the Vietnamese-backed overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

Police arrest a peeping-tom monk

via Khmer Z News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:01 Chhay Channyda and Mom Kunthear

DAUN Penh district authorities have arrested a monk who allegedly recorded videos of naked women in the public shower of a pagoda and distributed them via Bluetooth and his mobile phone, police said.

Neth Kai, 35, was arrested on Saturday following a complaint from one of the victims, who accused the monk of secretly recording a video of her while she was showering at Srah Chak pagoda in Daun Penh district, said Sok Penhvuth, the deputy district governor.

Police searched the monk’s quarters at the pagoda, he said, and “found a lot of evidence to prove that he had recorded video clips of innocent naked ladies”.

“The suspect admitted that since 2008 he had secretly recorded videos of about 20 women using two mobile-phone cameras … one hidden in the shower’s ceiling and one hidden in a can of incense sticks,” he said.

Among the confiscated pieces of evidence were two mobile phones, about 80 pornographic VCDs, a computer and more than US$5,000, he added.

Sok Penhvuth said the suspect would be charged at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday, and he encouraged more victims to come forward with evidence relevant to the case.

Keo Thea, chief of the municipal anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said that last week his office received three video clips of three different naked women – all approximately 20 years old – who were filmed unwittingly while showering at the pagoda.

“This is the first case where we have received a video taken of naked women in a bathroom,” he said, and added that the women were all obviously filmed without their knowledge or consent.

Sivann Botum, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said Friday that the ministry would act as a plaintiff in the case in order to help out the victims. “Women are the victims in this case,” she said. “A case like this can’t be tolerated because it took place at a pagoda.”

Men held for selling sex videos at stands

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

TWO men in Tuol Kork district have been arrested on suspicion of distributing pornography after they allegedly set up multiple stands at which customers could download sexually explicit videos to their mobile phones, a district official said.

Khem Sophoan, 27, and Chhorn Sok Eng, 23, were arrested on Friday at one of their stands, said deputy district governor Sang Sophat Vichet.

He said police had been investigating the two men for “a while”, and that both would be sent to court.

“They have more than 10 places of business, and authorities have informed computer owners in the district to stop downloading the videos before,” he said. “Their motives cause danger for our society because rape cases against underage children have occurred after people watch these sex videos from their phones.”

Under Article 39 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, the sale, distribution or presentation of pornography in public places can fetch a prison sentence of between one week and one month, and a fine of between 100,000 and 200,000 riels (US$23-47).

Exporters heap praise on rice policy update

A worker moves a bag or rice past stacks of Cambodian-produced grain from Battambang at a shop on Monivong Boulevard, Phnom Penh, on Sunday. PHA LINA

... we will become an important rice supplier for the region but also for the entire world.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

Council of Ministers approves draft document to help improve infrastructure, quality and financing for growing rice industry

THE Kingdom plans to increase rice exports through increased productivity and improved infrastructure, according to a draft policy document approved during a plenary session of the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh on Friday.

Improvements to roads, irrigation systems and the provision of technical and financial aid were earmarked for development, as part of a rice policy update.

A draft of the rice strategy was drawn up by the National Supreme Economic Council following April’s Government-Private Sector Forum, in which Prime Minister Hun Sen highlighted the importance of rice in the future of the Kingdom while axing rice export licences in order to boost trade.

Although details of how the policies would be implemented were not released to the Post, officials active in drafting the policy document believe that pursuing policy adjustments will make Cambodia a large net rice exporter in the future.

Rural Development Bank governor Sun Kunthor, who is also deputy chairman of the National Supreme Economic Council, said the government had already doubled his bank’s capital to US$36 million for 2010, enabling increased loans to farmers and rice processors to produce better-quality rice in response to international demand.

“We hope Cambodia will have a surplus totalling millions of tonnes of rice for export by 2015,” he said.

Cambodia aims to produce as much as 15 million tonnes of paddy by 2015, which would result in a projected surplus of 8 million tonnes for export. With 2.6 million hectares currently under rice cultivation, the Kingdom’s farmers harvested 7.3 million tonnes of paddy in 2009, resulting in a 3.1 million tonne surplus.

The Ministry of Agriculture reported in April that rice farmers had yielded an average of 2.83 tonnes of paddy per hectare this season, an increase on 2.74 tonnes per hectare in the 2008 to 2009 season.

According to the Cambodian Small and Medium Industries Association secretary general, Outh Renne, Cambodia grows rice on one quarter of its potential farm land at present.

“If we have better infrastructure and enough capital, we will become an important rice supplier for the region but also for the entire world,” he said.

Currently, 80 percent of the domestic population is employed primarily as rice farmers, but the Kingdom experiences low yields compared to neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam because fields lack irrigation systems to enable growth.

Major rice exporters welcomed the new policies Sunday, claiming the strategies would help reduce obstacles to producing rice suitable for sale internationally.

Golden Rice Company general manager Chan Vuthy approved of move, but said that the government must pursue comprehensive strategies to reduce production costs. High electricity and transportation prices make it difficult for Cambodian rice to compete on international markets, he said.

President of Laurent Import Export Company, Lim Bun Heng, said that increased transparency from the government when approving and issuing documents for rice exports would also help expedite shipments, as this has proved a difficulty for exporters in the past.

His firm has already begun selling Cambodian rice to Europen companies.

“Companies have been upgrading rice mills to reach international standards. This has helped some firms find international buyers,” Lim Bun Heng said.

Baitang Kampuchea general manager Phou Puy said he hoped that the government’s plans would reduce “challenges” for rice exporters.

Banks saw profits cut in half last year

via Khmer NZ News Media

Monday, 28 June 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan and Jeremy Mullins

PROFITS claimed by the Kingdom’s commercial banking sector declined nearly 50 percent last year, as Cambodia’s fourth largest bank ANZ Royal Bank fell into the red, according to a National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) report released Friday.

Domestic commercial banks saw profits total US$60.3 million for 2009, down 47.5 percent from $114.7 million generated during 2008, the annual banking supervision report stated.

Despite increasing deposits, the banking sector experienced falling returns due to a slowing expansion of credit and a slight growth in non-performing loans (NPL) during the financial crisis.

The cost of accumulating additional customer deposits also grew as Cambodia witnessed a rapid expansion in nationwide banking networks.

Total deposits in the Kingdom grew 32 percent to $3.3 billion last year, outpacing the 5 percent rise in lending to $2.51 billion. However, more of Cambodia’s loans fell into arrears last years, as banks reported an average NPL rate of 4.84 percent for 2009, up from 3.68 percent the year previous.

ANZ Royal, the Kingdom’s fourth-largest bank, reported a loss of $391,000 last year, falling from a $2.9 million profit a year earlier. However, CEO Stephen Higgins said Sunday he was pleased with the bank’s performance during the economic crisis.

“We’re pretty happy given the [banking] environment of 2009,” he said.

ANZ Royal reported a non-performing loan rate of 5.4 percent, representing $14 million of its $265 million portfolio, but Higgins said the bank is seeing its NPL rate recover so far this year.

“We’re a very conservative organisation. We’ve put money aside just in case customers can’t repay,” he said.

Cambodia’s most profitable bank proved to be Canadia Bank, which generated $23 million in profits for 2009, though the figure represents a 31.3 percent decline on the $33.5 million profits garnered during 2008.

“The Cambodian banking market was relatively less affected by the financial crisis; and we banked quite conservatively,” Deputy General Manager Charles Vann said, explaining Canadia’s success Sunday.

The Kingdom’s other two largest banks also claimed falling profits, but managed to stay in the black.

The NBC’s statistics showed Cambodian Public Bank’s profits declining 57 percent year on year to $12.6 million in 2009, while ACLEDA Bank’s total profit was $9.7 million, a 52.7 percent decline over 2008.

NPL rates jumped for several banks, with Cambodia Mekong Bank reporting 36.4 percent of its total loans as non-performing, totalling $7.1 million of its $19.4 million portfolio, after reporting a 0.2 percent rate for bad loans during 2008. Cambodia Mekong Bank president Khoy Boun Chhay did not respond to repeated requests for comment Sunday.

The Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia had the second-highest NPL rate, with 11.2 percent of its $92.6 million in loans reported as non-performing by the NBC’s report.

However, the bank’s officials said its rate of bad loans was actually half that.

“The NBC’s figure are just an unaudited report, and we don’t know what formula they used to calculate the NPL rate,” Foreign Trade Bank general manager Gui Anvanith said Sunday.

“We still stick to our audited report by the PriceWaterhouse Coopers that showed our NPL rate at only 5.65 percent or $5.9 million at the end of last year from 32 percent or $27.6 million in 2008,” he said, and added that the bank’s NPL rate had declined to around 5 percent as of last week.

Foreign Trade Bank’s bad loans had been influenced by six large borrowers affected by the financial crisis last year, including players in agro-industry, construction, hotels, and a power plant, he said, but added that the borrowers had recommitted to paying their debts.

NBC spokesperson Tal Nay Im acknowledged that its report was unaudited, but said all information had been provided by the banks themselves. Roth Sovanorak, deputy chief of NBC’s supervision department, did not answer repeated calls Sunday.