Thursday, 1 July 2010

Khmer Rouge verdict to go live

via Khmer NZ News Media

Jul 1, 2010

PHNOM PENH - THE verdict in the trial of Khmer Rouge prison chief Duch will be broadcast live across Cambodia when it is delivered later this month, the UN-backed court said on Thursday.

Duch is the first leader from the hardline communist regime to face international justice and observers have stressed the need for proceedings to be open to ordinary Cambodians, many of whom lived through the brutal rule.

During his trial the 67-year-old, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, acknowledged responsibility and begged forgiveness for overseeing the torture and execution of more than 15,000 people at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said the broadcast would help to 'stop the return of mass killing' in Cambodia. He said millions of people from across the country are expected to tune in to major television and radio stations for the verdict on July 26.

'The live broadcast will offer great opportunities for millions of Cambodians who were the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime to be involved in the process of justice,' he said. 'The information of the judgement will offer a public debate toward justice and national reconciliation.' The hearing is expected to last for several hours.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation, disease and overwork as the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge movement emptied cities and enslaved the population on collective farms in its bid to create a communist utopia. Duch, whose trial began last February, is charged with crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and premeditated murder. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998. The joint trial of four more senior regime leaders is expected to start in 2011. -- AFP

Convicted Sex Offender Arrested After Fleeing Investigation Into Cambodian ‘Charity’

via Khmer NZ News Media

by David Calleja
July 1, 2010
A British man who ran an unregistered charity outside of Phnom Penh was arrested by Royal Thai Police in Bangkok on Sunday after the London Daily Mirror exposed his prior conviction for the statutory rape of a 15 year old girl.

The convicted sex offender, David Fletcher, was running an unregistered project at the Stung Meanchey rubbish dump outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, delivering food to children there.

Fletcher fled to Thailand on June 25 to escape the authorities after the Mirror article, which said that he was using the dump project to get access to young girls, prompted an investigation into his activities.

He was apprehended in a Bangkok guest house by Thai police on June 27 for not advising immigration authorities about his previous criminal convictions in the United Kingdom, and is now in custody awaiting a decision regarding deportation.

Both the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and the Phnom Penh-based anti-human trafficking organisation, South East Asia Investigations into Social and Humanitarian Activities (SISHA), confirmed the details of Fletcher’s arrest.

The founder and executive director of SISHA, Steve Morrish, told Foreign Policy Journal, “this has been a very complex investigation that has required the close co-operation between international and local policing agencies, NGOs and members of the public. There are allegations of child sexual assault as well as fraud related activity by Fletcher.”

Before going into hiding, Fletcher told Foreign Policy Journal that it was “a crazy statement” to say that he posed a danger to children, but confirmed his prior conviction for statutory rape.

He also denied “using the dump to get access to girls”, but as reporter Andrew Drummond pointed out in the Mirror, he had “even bought himself a 17-year-old Cambodian bride for £150 who he met on the dump – sold by her own mother to pay off debts.”

Fletcher denied this in a response to the Journal, insisting that the girl was 24 and that he had not paid for her.

However, Scott Neeson, the founder of Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), confirmed to the Journal that the girl Fletcher was to marry, who is a student of CCF and whose birth certificate Neeson has viewed, was in fact only 17.

Neeson also confirmed that Fletcher had promised to pay the girl’s mother after talking the “dowry” down to $200 from $600, but the money was never paid.

Once exposed as a convicted sex offender, Fletcher broke off the engagement, took back the ring he had given the girl, and fled the dump.

The revelation of a convicted sex offender working in close proximity with young children has prompted plans for stricter laws governing charities and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The new laws would mandate background checks for employees and ban any person with a prior history of sexual abuse from working for such an organization in Cambodia.

The Plight of Children at Stung Meanchey

Stung Meanchey Waste Dump, stationed 9km from the centre of Phnom Penh, has been home to hundreds of residents living on the premises or in surrounding slums since the 1960s.

It earned the nickname “Smokey Mountain”‘, due to the cocktail of chemicals, sewage, and household and factory waste sending a toxic black cloud affecting nearby residents when set alight.

In June 2009, government officials closed Stung Meanchey’s gates, citing the need for Phnom Penh to have a bigger facility. The new dump is located near Choeung Ek Killing Fields and is fenced off from the public.

Evading hordes of flies, residents or “scavengers” search through piles of rotting animal carcasses and household and factory garbage to find items such as the plastic component of used syringes, which are sold for one cent each.

During the rainy season, walking tracks, combined with contaminated water, presented an ongoing risk to the health of residents. These include respiratory problems resulting from the inhalation of toxic fumes, obtaining serious cuts and abrasions from sharp objects on the dump and walking paths, particularly at night. The average height of garbage mounds is estimated to be five metres.

When Stung Meanchey operated as the city’s dump, children and adults worked up to 16 hours per day to earn between $USD1-2. The estimated population of children varies, but it is reported to be more than 1,000 children.

While there is a shortage of medical facilities, clean water and sanitation, a greater focus is ensuring that the children have the opportunity to attend school. Although some children attend classes, low school attendance is a concern, as families residing on the dump cannot afford the necessary costs for books, uniforms and fees.

Cambodian-born Kilong Ung, the author of Golden Leaf: A Khmer Rouge Genocide Survivor told Foreign Policy Journal, “Cambodia paid a hefty price to survive the genocide that killed two million Cambodians. Now, my heart hurts knowing that Cambodian children are still living off waste dumps.”

Mr. Ung reiterated the importance of providing the youth of Stung Meanchey with the need to provide real options for the younger generation. “Children living in poverty are leaves at the mercy of the wind. Many children have been sold as slaves to support their poor families. These children have dreams. We can make their dreams real,” he said.

UN: Cambodia must address wide rural-urban development divide

via Khmer NZ News Media

Posted : Thu, 01 Jul 2010
By : dpa

Phnom Penh - Cambodia must change the way it targets development or risk worsening already wide disparities between urban and rural areas, a United Nations report warned Thursday.

The report's author, Nicola Crosta of the UN Capital Development Fund, told a conference in Phnom Penh that his research had found "very stark territorial disparities" in the development of the impoverished South-East Asian nation.

"All of this has an impact on Cambodia's growth and can also have an impact on social cohesion and political stability," said Crosta, the fund's chief technical adviser.

The Local Development Outlook Report, which assesses progress at the local level rather than looking solely at the national picture, recommended greater local participation in designing development efforts.

It said the central government should allow local authorities and citizens more input in designing strategies rather than foisting template policies on them.

Crosta said great strides had been made in cutting poverty but noted significant disparities in access to services, such as health care and education, with people in rural areas worse off than those in urban areas.

And he warned the country's natural resources remained under threat.

"The potential is there, but a lot of this potential is not going to stay there forever," Crosta said, adding that Cambodia is at high risk of negative effects of climate change because it has little capacity to adapt.

The research also found large discrepancies in income levels. Despite a decade of strong economic growth, the Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, actually worsened in the three years to 2007 from 0.39 to 0.43. That meant the rich benefited more from economic growth than the poor.

The report also noted that progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals in health and education varied significantly depending on where people live.

It said most people in urban areas have access to safe water supplies, electricity and toilets.

But fewer than one in 10 rural residents have electricity and just 15 per cent have toilets. Fewer than half can access safe water.

At a national level, around 30 per cent of the 14 million Cambodians lives below the poverty line, down from an estimated 47 per cent in 1993.

Cambodia Ratifies Asean-china Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement

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PHNOM PENH, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has eyed temples and cultural sites in Preah Vihear Province as another potential tourism boost for the country.

Delivering a speech to the launch of students contests in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Sok An, deputy prime minister and minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers, said Preah Vihear Province, located about 500 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, is another potential tourism sites.

He said, in addition to Preah Vihear Temple, registered as World Heritage Site in 2008, there are about 200 more temples in the province, plus many other natural sites that include the special kind of birds.

He said giant ibis, a kind of rare bird, is currently near extinction with about 500 recorded worldwide, but in Cambodia alone there are about 200 and they are living in Preah Vihear province.

Sok An also said seeing the province as another tourist destination in the country, the government has spent nearly 100 million U.S. dollars to improve the infrastructure through the building and renovation of the roads and bridges linking from other neighboring provinces.

Civil war has left the province poor in infrastructure and many of the tourism sites there are not accessible.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Cambodia eyes tourism sites in Preah Vihear Province

via Khmer NZ News Media 2010-07-01

PHNOM PENH, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia has eyed temples and cultural sites in Preah Vihear Province as another potential tourism boost for the country.

Delivering a speech to the launch of students contests in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Sok An, deputy prime minister and minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers, said Preah Vihear Province, located about 500 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, is another potential tourism sites.

He said, in addition to Preah Vihear Temple, registered as World Heritage Site in 2008, there are about 200 more temples in the province, plus many other natural sites that include the special kind of birds.

He said giant ibis, a kind of rare bird, is currently near extinction with about 500 recorded worldwide, but in Cambodia alone there are about 200 and they are living in Preah Vihear province.

Sok An also said seeing the province as another tourist destination in the country, the government has spent nearly 100 million U.S. dollars to improve the infrastructure through the building and renovation of the roads and bridges linking from other neighboring provinces.

Civil war has left the province poor in infrastructure and many of the tourism sites there are not accessible.

For Preah Vihear Temple, Sok An said it now becomes one of the most attractive sites for both local and foreign tourists, adding that two days ago, about 200 visitors went to the Temple.

Tourism plays an increasingly important role in Cambodia's national, economical and social development.

It is the country's top priority to build and develop the necessary tourism infrastructure to help drive this industry forward.

Cambodia saw 2,161,577 visitors in 2009, up 1.7 percent, while at the same time world tourism in general declined by 4.3 percent on average, and Asian tourism increased by only 0.9 percent.

Cambodia is located in tropical region and is one of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Editor: Xiong Tong

Cambodia says oil production set to begin on 12/12/12

via Khmer NZ News Media

PHNOM PENH, July 1 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The Cambodian government said Thursday the country's first oil production is expected to begin in December next year.

Giving speech to university students in Phnom Penh, Sok An, deputy prime minister and chairman of Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, said the "first drop of oil production" is set for Dec. 12, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Sok An did not say which company is expected to produce the oil, nor did he disclose the anticipated volume of production.

Earlier this month, however, Prime Minister Hun Sen pressed the U.S. oil giant Chevron Corp. to commence oil production by 2012 or face termination of its contract for an offshore site.

Chevron operates and has a 30 percent interest in Cambodia's Block A, an area covering 4,709 square kilometers in the Gulf of Thailand.

Earlier this year, Chevron said the commerciality of prospects identified in prior years was still being evaluated, while it had been granted an extension for exploration in Block A to the third quarter 2010 in exchange for the obligation to drill more three exploration wells.

Since its operations in Cambodia first began in 2002, it has drilled at least 15 exploratory wells in the block and spent more than $100 million on seismic data, according to the company.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Condemned the Thai soldiers for shooting their guns at the Innocent Cambodian People

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Wednesday, 30 June 2010 14:24 DAP-NEWS

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, JUNE 30, 2010- The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a diplomatic note to the Thai embassy to Cambodia, condemning the Thai soldiers for shooting their guns at the innocent Cambodian people and one of them had been shot to death after he was sent to the hospital.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia has considered such barbarous acts as serious violations of the International Humanitarian Principles which should not be committed by the Civilized Country's agents in the accomplishment of their official competency and it has also been a move towards violating the spirit of point 77 of the notes of the Coalition Committee's 6th Meeting for Cambodia-Thailand bilateral Cooperation, which was held in August 4-5, 2009 in Bangkok," according to the Cambodian Foreign Ministry's diplomatic note the DAP-News Center received on Wednesday of June 30, 2010 said.

"The Royal Government of Cambodia proposed that the Thai authorities concerned should take proper measures to prevent barbarous acts from happening again and that they should investigate into the case in order to bring the perpetrators to justice," The Cambodian Foreign Ministry's diplomatic note added.

"There were a number of Thai soldiers in the military unit 13 shooting their guns at a group of four Cambodian villagers who tried to cross from the Thai border to the Cambodian territory. One of them whose name is Mr. Dim Deu had been shot and seriously injured soon after that he died while he was sent to the hospital," the diplomatic note said.

It is generally noted that it is not the first inhuman acts committed by the Thai soldiers on the innocent Cambodian people, but in reality many other innocent Cambodian people were both brutally killed and seriously injured by the barbarous Thai soldiers.

However, the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a series of diplomatic notes to the Thai government in order to solve the problems, but it provided negative results to Cambodia and proceeded with these barbarous acts.

Head over heels for swimming

Photo by: Sovan Philong

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:00 Sovan Philong

Children show off for the camera at a small water hole in Aranh village, located in Siem Reap province, on Tuesday.

Coming apart at the seams

Photo by: Pha Lina

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:00 Pha Lina

Workers from the Tack Fat garment factory in Meanchey district tussle with police during a protest outside the Ministry of Labour on Wednesday. A total of 87 workers are accusing management of withholding their salaries for part of the month of April.

A plague of crunchy snacks

Photo by: Sovan Philong

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:02 Sovan Philong

Leap Vannet, 14, collects crickets from a water tub on Tuesday night in Aranh Village, located in Siem Reap province. Cricket catches are said to be especially good after heavy rains such as those that lashed Siem Reap over the weekend.

Shelter accused of abduction

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Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:02 David Boyle and Nay Someta

Church denies barring parents from children, and threatens to sue filmmaker

THE leaders of a church that operates a shelter in Phnom Penh are planning to sue an Australian filmmaker for defamation unless he publicly retracts allegations that children in their care have been “essentially abducted”.

The filmmaker, James Ricketson, is producing a documentary on the life of a 22-year-old who says that the SHE Rescue Home – run by Citipointe Church, which is based in Brisbane, Australia – has assumed full custody of her children illegally. Ricketson most recently aired the allegations in a June 4 interview with the Australian film magazine Encore.

Brian Mulheran, a pastor at Citipointe Church, said by email that the church was preparing to take legal action against Ricketson because the allegations were threatening its work and the safety of its charges.

“After showing grace to Mr Ricketson over the last few years it has reached a point where we are now required to protect the main purpose of our organisation – to protect the lives of the innocent Cambodian children in our care,” he said.

A lawyer for the church, Simon Fisher, said Wednesday that Ricketson would be given the opportunity to retract the allegations publicly this week.

If he fails to do so, Fisher said he would file complaints against him in Cambodian and Australian courts and seek an injunction against the release of the film.

The subject of the film – who first met Ricketson when she was a 7-year-old child beggar – said in an interview last month that she voluntarily transferred her children into the care of the SHE Rescue Home in July 2008. At the time, she was living along the riverfront on Sisowath Quay, and did not want her children rounded up in street sweeps by local police, she said.

The woman – whose name is being withheld to protect the identities of her children, ages 5 and 8 – said she was then informed that she would only be able to visit them for two hours every two weeks until they turned 18.

“I was surprised that I could not take my children out of the home to stay with me when I wanted to. I was not aware of that,” she said.

Four other families or single parents – all of them acquaintances of the 22-year-old – said they, too, had seen their visitation rights restricted after they transferred their young children into the care of the SHE Rescue Home.

A project agreement signed in November 2009 by Citipointe and the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation says the shelter can hold up to 17 children.

Pastor Mulheran declined to comment on specific complaints against the shelter, but said access to children was never restricted.

The agreement stipulates that Citipointe is to run a shelter for victims of sexual trafficking, and to give them access to counselling and health services.

Khuon Ranin, an undersecretary of state at the Social Affairs Ministry, said in a letter that Citipointe is also required to “work towards family and Khmer culture reintegration”.

Though he didn’t comment on allegations of wrongdoing at the SHE Rescue Home, he said, “The ministry has programmes to inspect projects and locations of NGOs, and when mistakes are found, the ministry will take legal action”.

Ricketson said he had become convinced that the church was operating illegally, in part because it began assuming custody of children before the agreement was signed.

Steve Morrish, director of the anti-trafficking organisation South East Asia Investigations into Social and Humanitarian Activities (SISHA), said the shelter should not have assumed custody of any children before signing an agreement with the government. “If they go to poor families and they’re not involving the government or the police and the family complains, they’ve got some problems,” he said.

For his part, Ricketson said he had no plans to retract his statements. “If Citipointe wishes to sue me, so be it,” he said.

APLE refuses to settle lawsuit

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Samleang Seila, director of child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, stands near Wat Phnom in May. His organisation is pursuing a defamation complaint against a defence lawyer.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:02 Cameron Wells and Chrann Chamroeun

THE director of child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) on Wednesday rejected a proposed out-of-court settlement in his defamation case against a defence lawyer who often represents paedophiles, as the Phnom Penh Municipal Court took its first step towards bringing the case to trial.

Samleang Seila filed a defamation complaint against lawyer Dun Vibol on May 12, after the latter told the Post that APLE engages in entrapment “in most child sex cases related to foreigners”.

“[Foreigners] have been trapped by local NGO Action Pour Les Enfants with local police to nab foreigners, without preventing the crime from happening. They let the crime occur, and then arrest the foreigners,” Dun Vibol said in an article published on May 10.

Dun Vibol’s comments came in response to similar claims made by Cambodian Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun, who said during a conference on May 7 that “NGO activists and police make traps with the mother of a young girl and a sex buyer” in order to arrest suspected paedophiles.

On Wednesday, Samleang Seila attended a preliminary questioning session at the Municipal Court, where he said he presented evidence in support of his complaint.

The complaint accuses Dun Vibol of lacking evidence to support his accusations, and says his comments “damaged the reputation, dignity and determination of APLE staff.”

“We confirmed information about our complaint against Dun Vibol,” Samleang Seila said after the questioning session. “Our evidence was the original article, but they asked us for a translation of the article.”

He also said the court clerk who conducted the session, Thoang Sithan, had asked him whether it would be possible to settle the case against Dun Vibol outside of court, but that he had rejected the proposal outright.

“He did not give details of what the compromise was, because when he asked if a compromise was possible, we said no,” he said. “We did not ask for any details. Our complaint will go ahead.”

Thoang Sithan, who works on behalf of prosecutor Yet Chakriya, confirmed that he had suggested reaching a settlement, but declined to elaborate.

He said an investigation into Samleang Seila’s complaint was “ongoing”, and that no decision had been reached on whether to charge Dun Vibol.

APLE is seeking 20 million riels (around US$4,762) in compensation, and is also asking the court to levy a fine of 10 million riels against Dun Vibol, according to the complaint.

Yet Chakriya declined to comment on the case Wednesday.

Dun Vibol said he was aware of the complaint against him, but that he had not yet been summoned to the court to present his case.

“Normally, the court summons the complainant to confirm information about their complaint,” he said. “I now have to wait until the court summons me to present my case.”

He reiterated previous claims that he had enough evidence to prove his entrapment allegations against APLE, which he repeated in court on numerous occasions prior to the May 10 article.

“I think I have enough evidence to have the complaint dropped,” he said.

Samleang Seila said Wednesday that he was still waiting to hear from the Bar Association concerning a complaint filed against Dun Vibol in June of last year.

The complaint accuses the defence lawyer of submitting false documents and paying bribes while defending one of his clients, Frenchman Jacques Bernard Rene Collinet, who was convicted last September of purchasing child prostitution and given a three-year prison sentence, two years of which were suspended.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court found that the female victim in the case was 16 years old when the incident occurred.

The complaint from APLE accuses Dun Vibol of forging documents to make the case that she was actually 19 at the time, and of paying an official a bribe of $50 to certify the documents.

Bar Association president Chiv Songhak said Wednesday that the complaint is still being investigated.

Dun Vibol has denied any wrongdoing.

Paedophile suspect arrested

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:02 Christy Choi

ABRITON who headed a children’s charity in Phnom Penh has been arrested in Thailand for immigration offences, according to an anti-human trafficking organisation.

The arrest comes less than two weeks after a British tabloid published a story that David Fletcher, 65, was a paedophile who used his charity to gain access to young girls.

Steve Morrish, executive director of the Phnom Penh-based Southeast Asia Investigations into Social and Humanitarian Activities, or SISHA, said Wednesday that Thai authorities arrested Fletcher on Sunday at a guesthouse in Bangkok.

Morrish said Fletcher is being held because he failed to notify Thai immigration authorities of his previous criminal convictions in the UK.

Officials from SISHA and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) of the British Police alerted Thai authorities to Fletcher’s presence after receiving information concerning his whereabouts from sources who were tracking his movements, Morrish said.

“We’ve been investigating him for about 18 months,” he said. “We located him in Bangkok, after sources told us he’d fled there when news came out last week about him.”

A SISHA press release stated that Fletcher entered Thailand on June 25 – five days after British tabloid The Sunday Mirror published a story claiming to expose him as a paedophile who used his unregistered charity, the Rubbish Dump Project, to befriend underage girls at Phnom Penh’s Stung Meanchey dumpsite.

Morrish said Fletcher is currently being held at a Thai immigration detention centre.

For two years, Fletcher has been under investigation by CEOP, as well as Cambodian authorities, SISHA and local child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants “for alleged sexual abuse of children in Cambodia”, according to the SISHA press release.

Morrish noted that there have been no charges filed against Fletcher by Cambodian authorities. They are “all just allegations now,” he said. He added that if Fletcher has committed wrongdoing, he “needs to face up to what he’s done here”.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and officials at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they were not aware of the case.

Fletcher was convicted in July 1997 on charges including having sex with a girl under the age of 16, indecent assault, taking an indecent photograph of a child and possessing a prohibited weapon, according to Norwich Crown Court in England.

In an interview last week after The Sunday Mirror article was published, Fletcher accused the media of exploiting his past.

“I made a mistake of having an affair with a girl a few months under age,” Fletcher wrote in an email. “The gutter press then as now took it out of context for greater circulation.”

Fletcher said he had “paid his dues” for his mistakes and denied committing any crimes in Cambodia. “As for using the dump to get access to girls, absolutely not,” he said.


Cop charged with assault, firing weapon

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Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:02 Thet Sambath

KOMPONG Speu provincial court on Wednesday charged a military police officer with battery and firing his gun illegally, though he was not made to serve pretrial detention, a court official said.

Meanwhile, medical reports indicated that his victim was not actually shot, despite earlier statements from police to the contrary.

Nhean Somony, 31, was arrested on Saturday after he allegedly chased 37-year-old Soeun Prasoeu to his home in Kompong Speu’s Samrong Tong district and shot at him after a minor traffic accident in Kandal province.

Provincial court prosecutor Muth Dara said charges had been laid against Nhean Somony on Wednesday, and that he had recommended that the officer be placed in pretrial detention.

“I can’t talk in detail on this case, but I found he has made a mistake,” he said. “I am asking for him to be detained in prison during further investigations.”

Svay Yoeun, chief of the Kampong Speu serious crimes bureau, said on Tuesday that Soeun Prasoeu had been shot in the back of the head. On Wednesday, however, he said a medical examination conducted by the Bayon Polyclinic, a private facility in Phnom Penh, indicated that no bullets actually hit the victim.

Rather, he said, the wounds to his head were likely caused by a sharp object of some kind.

“It says the injury is not from a bullet but that he was cut during a clash,” Svay Yoeun said. “During [Saturday’s altercation], the suspect did shoot, but we know the bullet did not go through [the victim’s] head.”

Svay Yoeun added that the results of the medical examination had been passed on to the court for further investigation.

Investigating judge Keo Mony said Wednesday that he was examining evidence in the case, and that he was still considering the prosecutor’s request to place the suspect in pretrial detention. A trial date has not yet been set.

Group calls for more disclosures on oil

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Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio

INTERNATIONAL corruption watchdog Global Witness has welcomed a recent disclosure about exploration agreements signed with foreign oil companies, but says key questions remain concerning payments made to the government.

Last month, in response to questions from the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), Deputy Prime Minister Sok An made public a list of 23 firms involved in exploration in Cambodia, as well as information about how signature bonuses and other payments are handled by the government.

“We welcome Sok An’s response to the questions and the new information he has made available. This is a step forward for transparency in Cambodia and could contribute to improved democratic processes,” Global Witness campaigner George Boden said in a statement Tuesday.

But the London-based group also said there were significant omissions relating to the terms of contractual agreements and the details of payments received, as well as where the money had ended up.

“The government should publish the full details of all agreements and account balances so that the Cambodian people can be confident that the deals are above board,” Boden said.

Sok An’s disclosure came in response to a formal request made in May by SRP parliamentarian Son Chhay. In his response, dated June 9, Sok An also confirmed that the government received US$28 million from French oil giant Total to secure exploration rights in the Gulf of Thailand, $6 million of which was paid into a “social development fund”.

He denied any misuse of the funds, saying that all signature bonuses were paid into a National Bank of Cambodia account jointly managed by the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority (CNPA) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

“Like other national budgets, the money has a single exit and a single entry point with only one commander-in-chief and one chief of staff,” wrote Sok An, who is also the CNPA’s chairman.

“All payments must be made according to oil agreements ... [and] put into an account which is defined by the government.”

Following the publication of the letter last week, Son Chhay said key questions remained unanswered, especially relating to the social development fund.

He said Sok An gave no information about the fund’s formation and what regulations determine how its money is spent. “How do they control this and how do they manage it? How much money is in the fund?” he said.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, dismissed Global Witness’ calls for more information, saying they were motivated by a “personal” animus against Sok An. “All revenues go into the national budget – period,” he said.

He added that the government in June received strong support from international development partners, which increased projected annual aid payments by more than $200 million for 2010.

Global Witness “puts a lot of international pressure and makes a lot of statements, but look at the money we have received from development partners”, he said. “The $200 million we received this year more than last year is our answer to Global Witness.”


Govt officials vaccinated for swine flu

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Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha

SWINE flu vaccines have been administered to an unspecified number of government officials and other personnel working at the Council of Ministers, where Prime Minister Hun Sen and five other officials are believed to have contracted the virus late last week, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said the building had also been sprayed with disinfectant.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday released a statement announcing that Hun Sen had contracted the virus, formally known as the A(H1N1) influenza virus, and that tests had revealed “the positive sign of A(H1N1)” in five officials: deputy prime minister Yim Chhai Ly, senior ministers Chhay Than and Tao Seng Hour and officials Kim Ith and Ith Mith.

According to the statement, Hun Sen likely contracted the virus during or immediately after a meeting at the Council of Ministers last Friday.

Tith Sothea said Wednesday that officials hoped the disinfectant and vaccines would stave off any further cases.

“Since the outbreak occurred at the Council of Ministers building, the office was sprayed with protection medicine, and some officials were called in for injections to prevent infection,” he said, and added that he did not know exactly how many officials had been vaccinated.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith on Wednesday confirmed that the five officials named in the Health Ministry’s statement had contracted the virus, and added that their health and that of the premier was still being monitored.

“The doctors continue to monitor [Hun Sen] and the other government officials’ disease,” he said. He declined to provide any further information concerning the condition of the officials, or to say when Hun Sen might be able to resume a full schedule.

Health Minister Mam Bunheng declined to comment.

Calls for Prey Lang preservation

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Phourk Hong, a community representative from Preah Vihear province, attends a press conference concerning the fate of Prey Lang forest on Wednesday.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:01 May Titthara

MORE than 100 villagers from four provinces gathered in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to draw attention to environmental degradation in Prey Lang forest, and to call for a halt to the granting of economic land concessions in the area.

Representatives of the group delivered petitions to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet and the Ministry of Agriculture requesting action to protect Prey Lang, which covers an area of about 5,250 square kilometres in Kratie, Stung Treng, Kampong Thom and Preah Vihear provinces.

“Villagers in four provinces depend on Prey Lang and its biodiversity to support their livelihoods and provide income and food for their families,” Sem Sean, a village representative from Kampong Thom province, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

He said the forest was threatened by the increasing number of companies that had been granted mining and logging concessions there.

“Because companies have cut down a lot of trees, cleared large areas of land and carried out exploration for mining purposes, there have been a number of negative effects such as flooding and drought,” he added.

Sem Sean said there are currently 33 private companies operating in Prey Lang forest: 12 in Preah Vihear, 11 in Kratie, eight in Stung Treng and two in Kampong Thom.

Some of the largest include South Korean mining firm Kenertec, Rattanak Stone Cambodia Development Co Ltd and the Pheapimex Group, which has been linked to a number of controversial logging and plantation projects across the country.

Phourk Hong, a Kuoy ethnic minority representative from Preah Vihear province, called for the concessions to be “cancelled” and for private companies to be banned from operating in the forest.

“We want Prey Lang to be preserved for our younger generations, so our people can continue our traditional ways of life,” she said.

Chheng Kimsun, director of the Forestry Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, said he had not yet seen the villagers’ complaint. However, he defended the land-concession system and said that sometimes villagers were at fault in disputes.

“Before granting an economic land concession, the government conducts a survey to determine potential impacts on the area. The problems occur because some villagers are bad people and they put up fences around state land so they can try to get compensation,” he said.

In 2007, international watchdog Global Witness reported that Prey Lang was under threat from “large-scale illegal logging” operations with close links to senior government officials.

Cambodia demands explanation for Thai shooting

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:01 Vong Sokheng

THE Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic note to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, describing the recent shooting of a Cambodian civilian by Thai troops as an “inhuman act”.

In a statement, the ministry said that soldiers from the Royal Thai Army’s Unit 13 opened fire on a group of four Cambodian villagers who were crossing back into Cambodia on June 23. One of the men, known as Dim Doeu, was seriously wounded and died on the way to hospital.

“The Royal Government of Cambodia considers the act as another serious breach of internationally accepted humanitarian principle, which should not be committed by an agent of a civilised State in official capacity,” the statement said.

“The Royal Government of Cambodia requests the Thai authorities concerned to take appropriate measures to prevent such atrocities from recurrence, to conduct thorough investigation into this unfortunate incident, and to bring to justice those who committed the above act of cruelty.”

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thailand has never issued a formal response to numerous diplomatic notes related to border shootings.

“Every diplomatic note that we have submitted to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh relating to Thai soldiers shooting migrant workers from Cambodia has never received a reply,” he said.

“Therefore, we condemn them as a thief who never makes a confession of their crimes.”

In February, local rights group Adhoc reported that more than 20 Cambodian civilians, including a 6-year-old child, had been shot by Thai soldiers in the border region in the past two years.

In the most notorious case, Oddar Meanchey provincial authorities reported in September last year that 16-year-old Yon Rith, an illegal logger from Samrong district, was shot and burned alive by Thai border soldiers.

Suwat Keowsook, secretary at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Chawanon Intharakomansut, spokesman of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Otres businesses get reprieve

Photo by: David Boyle
A stretch of Otres beach as seen earlier this year. Business owners occupying a 1.5-kilometre stretch of the beach are to be evicted to make way for a municipal garden

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:01 Phak Seangly and Kim Yuthana

Officials deny formally postponing eviction, but owners still hope for a change of plan


BUSINESS owners occupying a 1.5-kilometre stretch of Otres beach in Sihanoukville were given a brief reprieve from eviction on Wednesday after police negotiated with local rights activists, but officials said no formal delay had been approved.

Last week, restaurant, bar and guesthouse owners operating on the beach received an eviction notice giving them until Wednesday to vacate the area, which the authorities say will be developed into a municipal garden.

The deadline passed largely without incident on Wednesday after police who arrived at the site avoided confrontation and instead held peaceful talks with business owners.

Oun Socheata, the owner of a restaurant and guesthouse that is slated for removal, said police told the business owners that they would be given another day or two to move their belongings.

But she warned that business owners, many of whom have previously said they will refuse to move, remained defiant even after police offered to give them small sums of money to cover transportation costs. “People will burn down their properties by themselves instead of moving out,” she said.

She repeated complaints previously voiced by business owners that officials had not offered them any compensation for the loss of their establishments.

When contacted on Wednesday, Preah Sihanouk deputy governor Phai Phan emphasised that officials had not agreed to delay the eviction.

“We did not offer to prolong the deadline. Some of them are moving today,” he said.

Chiep Sotheary, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said construction workers on Wednesday attempted to build a fence around the area on behalf a company called Otres Investment, but were stopped when Adhoc staffers intervened to force negotiations with police.

She said she had written to Phai Phan asking him to meet with business owners on July 2 to find a mutually acceptable solution.

The owners have submitted three requests, she added.

“Firstly, let them continue to work in the area for five years and later on move by themselves. Secondly, they will agree to develop the park area by themselves. And thirdly, let them continue to sell things in the unoccupied areas of the beach,” she said.

The guesthouse and restaurant owners have no claim to ownership of the land, but have accused authorities of acting in bad faith by accepting payments for business licences despite knowing they would be evicted.

Rainer Deyhle, owner of Cinderella Dive Resort and Beach Bungalows, said he suspected the land had already been sold to a private company, but held out hope that the eviction could be delayed.

“I think the governor’s office will reconsider and find a solution with the developer that will develop that area over the next three years,” he said.

Project seeks H5N1 awareness

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:00 Khoun Leakhana

POULTRY farmers in three border provinces exhibited improved awareness of avian influenza following the introduction of a village-based education project, though in some areas more than 20 percent still say they would eat an animal found to be infected with the disease, according to survey results released this week.

The survey was conducted in three provinces – Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Koh Kong – as part of a programme led by the NGO CARE International. Overall, it found that the farmers benefited from education efforts implemented by Village Surveillance Teams, or VSTs.

In 2007, farmers were interviewed in order to assess their understanding of the A(H5N1) influenza virus, commonly known as bird flu. In particular, the initial interviews assessed the farmers’ knowledge of how the virus spreads to humans and how diseased poultry should be disposed of.


When they were interviewed again at the end of a three-year pilot programme in 2009, the farmers demonstrated that they were better equipped to deal with avian flu cases. In villages in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng, for example, the number of respondents who said they would kill and eat a bird if they were to find it sick was nearly halved, from 43 to 23 percent, according to the survey.

“We saw that there was a behaviour change,” said Cecilia Dy, CARE’s avian influenza project coordinator.

The VSTs that were at the heart of the education efforts consisted of village chiefs and local volunteers.

“One of the messages that the VSTs are promoting is: ‘Don’t eat, don’t cook, report’. I think their activities have contributed to increases in knowledge, awareness and practice,” Dy said.

Villagers are encouraged to report signs of avian influenza so that suspected poultry can be taken for testing to confirm the presence of the virus.

The pilot sites were chosen because of their proximity to the border with Vietnam and, in the case of Koh Kong, Thailand. Vietnam has reported 119 confirmed cases of avian influenza in humans and 59 deaths since 2005, according to the World Health Organisation.

There have been 10 reported cases resulting in eight deaths in Cambodia, said Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Diseases Control Department.

In the most recent case, a 27-year-old man in Prey Veng’s Kampong Leav district died in April after contracting the virus.

Dy noted that Vietnam had been hit much harder by avian flu. “If you compare the situation in Cambodia to the situation in Vietnam, it’s not as serious,” Dy said. “But we still need to be careful about it.”

In areas where past outbreaks have occurred, she said, awareness is generally higher. The April case in Prey Veng, for instance, has resulted in heightened awareness there, she said.

“I think people are more aware there than they are in Koh Kong,” she said.

She said she believed the VSTs could be a successful model to underscore the importance of avian flu awareness at the community level.

“The communities need to be aware that there is a lethal disease that might infect the poultry,” she said.

“It’s not just about poultry. It can be transmitted to humans. They’re not only protecting the birds. They’re protecting their own families, especially their children.”

Demand for quality as car sales recover

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

VEHICLE importers saw sales of new cars rise sharply in the first half of this year, compared with the same period of 2009, with dealers reporting demand soaring between 20 and 50 percent.

Although many firms declined to reveal exact sales figures to the Post on Wednesday, dealers across the board said the industry had entered a period of sales growth following the economic crisis.

Naritat Motorcare Cambodia Co Managing Director Long Narith, who runs a Phnom Penh-based firm, said sales of imported Nissans rose about 20 percent during the first half of this year, after seeing a 50 percent decline during 2009.

Nissan, whose Thai branch chief Carlos Ghosn said Wednesday that he sees Bangkok as a strategic export hub for the company, aims to sell about 500 cars in Cambodia annually. Narith said he was confident of meeting the target this year.

“The demand for new car models is picking up in line with the recovery of the global economy after hitting revenues hard last year,” he said.

He said that fluctuating oil prices should not affect sales, and that he and aims to import a new high-price model in response to demand.

Meanwhile, Seng Voeung, manager of the capital’s R M Asia Co said his firm’s Ford imports had gradually increased with quarter-on-quarter growth of about 20 percent. Successful bids to supply cars to government institutions had contributed to this, he said.

However, despite strong growth, the firm is still expecting below target sales for 2010, in part due to increased competition in the car market.

“So far, we have sold 170 cars and are expecting to sell about 350 cars at the end of this year. [This] is out of our target of 400,” he said.

Auto Sales (Cambodia) facility manager Chanchal Sinh said sales of Chevrolets surged about 50 percent in the first half of this year, and that Cambodians are increasingly looking for safe, fuel-efficient cars.

Freight firms weigh in on increase in exports

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

THE swelling export market for goods is directly benefiting wholesale transport services, with freight and trucking services seeing business start to increase again.

Goods shipments at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port have increased 47 percent in the first half of 2010, compared to the same period last year, according to official figures from the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port obtained Tuesday.

The figures show that in the past six months, 26,790 TEUs, or 20-foot equivalent units of freight, have been shipped through the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port to Vietnam’s Cai Mep deepwater port, compared to only 18,266 TEUs for the first six months of last year.

Eang Veng Sun, deputy director general of the Port, told the Post on Wednesday that the increase of shipments was the result of increasing shipping of raw materials for the garment sector, general goods, construction materials, and agricultural and textile products.

“We hope the increase will continue this month and in the coming months because the world economic crisis is well on the way to recovery,” Eang Veng Sun said.

According to the port’s statistics, freight shipments in June 2010 reached 5,794 TEUs, an 18.87 percent increase on May, and a 77 percent increase on the 3,275 TEUs of June last year.

Sok Chheang, executive director of the Cambodia Trucking Association, which has 16 large transportation companies as members, said Wednesday that transportation service was also increasing very well compared to this time last year.

He said the shipment of goods such as garment and agricultural products was only increasing gradually.

“Our association’s members have not reached their full potential in providing transport services yet because the amount of goods exported and imported are still limited,” he said.

The port’s statistics show it plans to ship much as 62,500 TEUs in 2010, a 44.3 percent increase on last year’s total of 43,312 TEUs.

According to the half-year figures just released, the port has reached 42 percent of its intended 2010 target.

Eang Veng Sun said the port was seeing more investors interested in using the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port’s service because its location lies closer to firms’ production bases.

Police Blotter: 1 Jul 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:00 Phak Seangly

Police in Kandal province have accused a 21-year-old man of attacking his own father with a cleaver. The suspect allegedly became enraged when his 61-year-old father sold his car, which he enjoyed taking out for a leisurely drive. The father had criticised his son for prancing about in public, wasting money and getting his parents into trouble. In response, the younger man took a cleaver and allegedly struck his father in the head and shoulders 10 times before fleeing. The victim was sent to a local health clinic. Witnesses said he had brought court complaints against his son twice in the past, but withdrew them both times at the behest of his wife. This time however, the injured man vowed to use the full force of the law.

Police in Kampong Thom province say a 31-year-old woman was arrested Saturday after she allegedly threw a rice pot at her husband’s head. The incident stemmed from a marital spat. Apparently, the man came back Saturday afternoon clearly intoxicated. He pulled out a battery and some electric cricket-hunting tools and announced that he was going after crickets. The woman, concerned this might not have been the best idea, stopped her husband. Angry voices turned to pushes and shoves, and the wife fell to the ground near a rice pot. She then grabbed the pot and allegedly threw it at her husband’s head. Her aim was true: It wounded the man “badly”, police said. Police have set the woman free, saying that if she were imprisoned, there would be no one to take care of their children.

A 41-year-old woman was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of stealing two cows in Banteay Meanchey province. Police said the suspect was apprehended after a woman who sells beef reported her to police. The suspect allegedly confessed to stealing the cows, then helpfully offered that this was the second time she had committed such thievery. Police returned the cows to their rightful owners and sent the woman to court.

Police in Battambang town have arrested a 31-year-old man accused of beating up his buddy – six years after he was initially charged. It is alleged that the man attacked his friend after the victim threw wine on him. He then fled to the border area for work, and wasn’t arrested until he returned on Monday.

Supplying wine fit for a Kingdom

Managing Director of QP Renato Buhlmann, stands in front of rows of wine imported by the company, which is soon to change its name in Cambodia to Wine and More (Top). The company imports wine from across the world, including Europe and South America, to Cambodia.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Thursday, 01 July 2010 15:00 Catherine James

Renato Buhlmann, the managing director of alcohol and fine food distributor Quarto Products who helped bring the joys of the grape to Cambodia, discusses the burgeoning Cambodian wine market
What is QP’s primary activity in Cambodia?
We import wine and food into Cambodia, supplying mainly hotels and restaurants, but we also sell to some shops and also some private customers – an aspect of the business which is growing more and more.

The business is basically 90 percent wine distribution and the rest consists of food product distribution, mainly Italian. The wines are from all over the world and range in price.

Tell us a bit about QP’s beginnings.
I established QP [he is currently 30 percent shareholder] in 1997 with my business partners in Singapore.

We first opened for business in Yangon, Myanmar. We opened offices in Cambodia and southwestern China in late 2004 and today have about 70 staff across the board.

We’ve just moved our head office to Phnom Penh from Siem Reap.

Why did you make Siem Reap the head office in the first place?
At the time Siem Reap was booming. We were a new company – a small company – and in Phnom Penh it takes a bit more time to get to know the ins and outs and who’s who. Also in Siem Reap, as we specialised in hotels and restaurants, we could get an easier grip on the market.

Now, Phnom Penh is developing faster than Siem Reap. First of all there were the economic issues, then the Thai problem, so tourist arrivals in Siem Reap are not the same as before.

Tourists don’t spend that much money anymore and not as much on wines. Phnom Penh is more dynamic.

So are tourists a key client base?
The main client base is always restaurants and hotels. But obviously they also depend on their surrounding climate. So in Siem Reap, if there are fewer tourists, it’s very difficult for them to do good business. Here in Phnom Penh you don’t only have tourism but also local and international business.

What wines sell well in Cambodia?
When I first came a few years ago, French wines very much dominated. But now even French restaurants are offering New World wines. Restaurants answer to the demand of their customers but it is not just taste driven, economically things are a bit different.

Until a few months ago, the euro was very strong, so European wines were not very attractive, so too Australian wines because the Aussie dollar was also quite strong. At that time things like Chilean and Argentinean wines did quite well.
But now it’s changing again, the euro is more favorable again. But still, New World wines have definitely been on the rise.

What is a New World wine?
In terms of wine, the Old World would be France, Spain, Italy, Germany – most of central Europe, for example.

New World wines are newly discovered wine regions with usually a 200- to 250-year history. Europe has a history of a few thousand years.

You mentioned currency shifts affecting the market, how about the global financial crisis?
I was saying how the currency affected the sales mix. But of course the economic situation can also affect sales. In terms of our business [during the crisis], it just didn’t increase as fast. We are a new company, so it’s growing in general, but last year it basically just got stuck. It didn’t really go backwards, but there was no development.

How much revenue do you make in a year?
I don’t really want to talk about the numbers, but we’re a small company, and we started from zero. So in terms of measuring how much we’ve grown, our sales are growing year on year by about 30 percent.

Cambodia brings in about 20 to 25 percent of revenue. In Myanmar, where we’ve been the longest, growth is about 45 percent and China makes up the rest. But the mix of food to wine in each place is different.

And how have things gone in the first six months this year?
The first quarter of the year was very strong, mainly due to the tourism season. Siem Reap was also quite strong until the end of March. But now we’re into the low season. That’s okay, it’s a pattern. The strongest months are end of October to end of March.

You are in the process of changing your name to Wine and More. Why?
We’re just changing the name in Cambodia. It’s still QP in Singapore and the other regions. We’ve had some interest from private investors here so we thought it’s better to have a different identity in Cambodia to reflect the new interests.

If you were to tell a potential investor about your company, what would you tell them?
We are in countries where business is getting more and more developed. There are huge possibilities. For instance in China, we are in the part that is still to be developed, and we are the only company directly importing there – so I think we are in a spot which will grow a lot in the future.

There’s also going to be some diversification with the company, not to move to other countries, but some other ideas I don’t want to mention here yet.

You’re originally from Switzerland. Why did you start this firm in Asia?
My background is the hotel industry, and I ended up in Asia. I liked it – I had my friends here and my connections here. In terms of Cambodia, you can grow with the market as it develops.