Friday, 2 July 2010

Firm date set for oil flow

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:03 Vong Sokheng

THE long-awaited production of oil in Cambodia is scheduled to commence in December 2012, a leading government official said yesterday, following positive results from off-shore drills.

Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority, is reported to have set a production date at a speech made to Puthisatra University students at Raffles Le Royal Hotel in Phnom Penh yesterday.

“We hope have the first drop of oil produced on December 12, 2012, at 12am,” he said in a statement, later confirmed by spokesman at the Council of Ministers Phay Siphan.

A source told the Post that the comment came after a high-level CNPA meeting with firms with interests in offshore Block A – a 4,709-square-kilometre area of the Gulf of Thailand.

Interests in Block A are held by energy giant Chevron, which operates the concession and has a 30 percent stake, Japanese Mitsu Oil Exploration Cooperation (Moeco), which also holds 30 percent, Kris Energy with 25 percent, and South Korea’s GS Caltex with 15 percent.

In April, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Chevron to start production by 2012 or forfeit its licence.

According to the source, four shareholders from the companies took part in a review with the CNPA on Friday in which positive results from three drill wells in the block were reported.

The companies are expected to submit a final production report on September 18, the deadline for the renewal of their exploration licence, the source said.

He added that the shareholders have expressed concern over apparent disparities between a taxation law and the draft Petroleum Law – which they hope is a “priority” for National Assembly approval.

Chevron spokesman Gareth Johnstone did not respond to an emailed request for a detailed update on extraction progress in Block A and did not confirm a production date had been set yesterday.

However, he did state in an email that: “We are aligned with the Royal Government of Cambodia desire to see production from Block A as soon as economically possible.

“The first oil date is reliant on a successful exploration program, and is dependent on achieving key milestones.”

Te Doung Tara, head of CNPA, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In a letter dated June 9, Sok An confirmed to the Sam Rainsy Party that 23 companies have been awarded rights to explore for oil in Cambodia, although not all of them are still operating.

He also confirmed that Total had paid US$28 million for a concession, $20 million of which was a signature bonus, with $6 million to be paid into a social-development fund, and another $2 million earmarked for administrative purposes.


Film gives Brother Number 2 a voice

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:02 James O'Toole

New York

WHEN did you realise that villagers were being killed?” an elderly Nuon Chea is asked, sitting at his home in Pailin province.

“I can’t really remember the exact moment,” he responds. “I just went on with my work and didn’t jot it down.”

These remarks come in Enemies of the People, a new documentary set to premiere in Cambodia this month, and they are typical of the filmmakers’ interviews with Nuon Chea.

The candour and unapologetic tone with which the former Democratic Kampuchea Brother No 2 discusses his role in the regime are among the most striking elements of the film, and some observers say they may alter the course of proceedings against him in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s second case.

Enemies of the People has been showing at film festivals around the world for the past few months to critical acclaim, winning the Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York last month. Cambodian Co-director Thet Sambath, who also works as a senior reporter for the Post, says it is set to premiere at Phnom Penh’s Meta House gallery on July 21, just five days before the reading of the verdict in Case 001, that of Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav.

In that case, prosecutors had the benefit both of a cooperative defendant and of the prison’s voluminous archives. Finding evidence that links Nuon Chea and the other senior leaders set to stand trial in Case 002 to the purges and other crimes carried out by lower-level cadres will be more difficult, historian David Chandler said Thursday.

“It’s got to be spoken, because the paper trail isn’t there – we’ve known that for a long time,” Chandler said.

“They don’t have a lot of documentation that absolutely ties [Nuon Chea] down – I think this movie’s going to be better on that one than anything they can get on the other guys, because it’s a kind of, not an admission of culpability, but an admission of actions that were taken.”

Nuon Chea tells Thet Sambath, who directed the film along with Briton Rob Lemkin, that he and Pol Pot “had to solve the traitor problem in the way that we did”, enacting purges to protect “the innocent people lower down”.

“We dared to conclude our decision was correct,” Nuon Chea says. “If we had shown mercy to these people, the nation would have been lost.”

Although he has been quiet up until now in his appearances before the court, Nuon Chea boasts in the film to two former cadres who visit his home that he will “open the eyes” of tribunal officials concerning the true nature of the Khmer Rouge period.

“Who killed Cambodian people? It was the USA and Vietnam,” he says. “We preserved the country and stopped it falling to the hands of the enemy.”

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, said in an email that aside from the film, the tribunal likely has “sufficient” or even “more than enough” evidence against Nuon Chea should the case go to trial, in the form both of primary documents and of interviews with former Khmer Rouge cadres and victims. In April, however, the court’s Co-Investigating Judges (CIJs) issued an order detailing their efforts to get an advance copy of the film and “of the video and audio taped interviews behind the creation of such film”.

Although the order noted that the film “must be afforded a lesser degree of weight compared to evidence gathered directly by the CIJs during the investigation”, the judges said they had contacted Lemkin several times in an unsuccessful attempt to gain access to his and Thet Sambath’s material. The filmmakers denied this request, citing agreements with interviewees, prompting the judges to conclude that the film could instead be obtained by the prosecution and placed on the case file after its general release.

Victor Koppe, a lawyer representing Nuon Chea, said he had seen the film with colleagues on the defence team, but was loathe to comment on it.

“I’ve seen it, and I find it an interesting film, and I have all kinds of ideas about this film, but I’m not quite sure if I should offer them in public,” he said.

“It’s hard to go into detail about this movie without possibly saying things about possible defence strategy.”

As a general matter, Koppe noted that any such documentary is “a product of editing, usually, many hours of footage”, and must be viewed accordingly.

“You should always be careful because you really don’t know how things are edited,” he said. “I’m not saying that this film is manipulated in any way, but you just have to be careful.”

Towards the end of the film, Nuon Chea himself speaks of the editorial approach he took during interviews with Thet Sambath, who gradually built up a rapport with the aging leader over several years of visits to his home.

Nuon Chea says he had to “weigh my words and not just say anything” during their conversations, perhaps recognising the role they may play in legal or historical judgments against him.

“My future depends on what is recorded here,” he says.

Deum Ampil discontinued

Photo by: Pha Lina
The Monivong Boulevard office of the Deum Ampil Media Centre, which announced Thursday that it has shuttered its newspaper, radio and magazine operations due to financial constraints.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:02 Cheang Sokha

THE head of the Deum Ampil Media Centre announced on Thursday that he had abruptly shut down operations of its popular newspaper, radio station and magazine, citing financial problems.

Soy Sopheap, a well-known media personality and the centre’s director general, said the suspension of the three products – Deum Ampil newspaper, Radio FM 93.75 and Morokot magazine – would go into effect on Thursday, and that there were no immediate plans to restart any of them.

“I have informed the minister of information about the suspension of the newspaper, radio station and magazine due to a financial crisis,” said Soy Sopheap, who declined to offer further information.

Soy Sopheap said the media centre’s website would continue being updated with daily news items. On Thursday, the website carried an announcement informing readers of the closure of the newspaper, radio station and magazine.

Soy Sophea, Soy Sopheap’s brother and editor-in-chief of Morokot magazine, said the three operations were closed because of a budget disagreement between Soy Sopheap and the media group’s financial backer, Sieng Chanheng, owner of the Heng Development Company.

He said that Soy Sopheap made the decision to go ahead with the suspension after he was asked to cut the total expenses of the operations in

“They do not want to see further losses, so they asked to reduce the expenses and reduce the staff numbers, but we cannot do it,” Soy Sophea said.

He said Soy Sopheap had concluded that he could not make dramatic cuts to his staff of 110 employees and still operate satisfactorily, so he decided to stop their operations altogether.

When contacted by the Post on Thursday, Sieng Chanheng said she had not been made aware of the suspension.

She acknowledged that her organisation was losing tens of thousands of dollars each month as part of its investments in Deum Ampil, but she said she had never asked that operations be shut down.

“It is not a matter of money. We have the money for funding. We lost between US$10,000 to $40,000 a month, but there was no problem,” said Sieng Chanheng, who instead pointed the finger at Soy Sopheap.

“The problem is, Soy Sopheap does whatever he wants to without informing us, the sponsors,” she said.

Buth Bovuth, director general of the Department of Information and Broadcasting at the Ministry of Information, confirmed that he had received the letter from Soy Sopheap informing the ministry of the closure of the three Deum Ampil operations.

“I think his centre is very popular among the readers because it provides good news and quick news,” Buth Bovuth said.

“His main cause of the closure is the shortage of operating finances.”

Deum Ampil newspaper began publishing in 2006. The organisation’s magazine was started in February 2009, and the radio station went live last December.

Guards thwart Pursat jailbreak

Photo by: James O'Toole
Inmates work last month at CC4, a new prison in Pursat province that emphasises vocational training. Prison officials say 10 inmates attempted to escape from the facility on Sunday.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear and May Titthara

A GROUP of 10 inmates has attempted to escape from a new prison in Pursat province that operates a vocational training programme aimed at teaching inmates agricultural skills, its director said Thursday.

Hin Sophal said the incident marked the second escape attempt at Correctional Centre 4 since it opened last year as part of a broader initiative to combat prison overcrowding. In March, the facility – designed to house 2,500 prisoners on 846 hectares of land – began growing sugarcane, rubber trees and potatoes as part of the vocational programme, which has been hailed as a potential model for reducing recidivism.

On Sunday, Hin Sophal said, the 10 prisoners – all of whom are between 19 and 23 and serving sentences for robbery or theft – began “to fight each other without reason” in their shared cell. Prison guards eventually broke up the fight and locked the prisoners in a room together.

He said the prisoners, once locked in, started to kick at the door and walls, and that they also threw objects at the roof in an attempt to make a hole through which they could escape.

“The officials came to stop them, but they did not listen,” he said, and added that the prisoners had attempted to take one of the officials hostage while ordering others to furnish a getaway van.

The prisoners eventually backed down, however, when “one official shot his gun three times to the sky”, Hin Sophal said.

He added that he believed the initial fight had been staged as part of an elaborate escape plot, though he noted that one prisoner sustained two broken teeth in the scuffle.

“I think their trick was pretending to fight each other in order to make unrest in the centre,” he said.

Escape risk at CC4 high
A separate escape attempt in early June was also unsuccessful, Hin Sophal said.

Jeff Vize, prison project consultant for the rights group Licadho, said Thursday that the fact that CC4 prisoners engage in agricultural work in open areas “potentially creates escape opportunities”, but added that he did not know the details of the most recent escape attempt.

“I don’t know if they were working at the time of the attempt,” he said.

Vize said he could not provide figures for the number of prison breaks nationwide, but that that such attempts are reported periodically.

Hin Sophal said CC4 is more porous than other prisons because it is a new structure and does not yet have a “good fence” around it.

He added, though, that guards there are extremely cautious because the risk of escape is higher.

“If we are careless to take control over them, they will escape very easily, but all the prison officials are never careless, even for a minute, because they are prisoners, not the ordinary people,” he said.

Another factor that lessens the threat of escapes, Hin Sophal said, is that all of the prisoners in CC4 are either serving 12-to-18-month sentences, or have been transferred to the facility from other prisons as they neared the end of their sentences.

“My prison is easier for prisoners who want to escape,” he said. “But I always educate those prisoners not to try to escape because their sentence is nearly finished.”

Heng Hak, director general of the Department of Prisons at the Interior Ministry, said he was still investigating the case, and that it is possible the 10 prisoners’ sentences will be extended.

“Those prisoners, if the court finds out they have made a new violation of the law, they will have to be charged again,” he said.

Oxfam urges greater US aid transparency

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio

THE United States should increase the transparency and predictability of its development aid to Cambodia in order to improve its overall effectiveness, according to a report released by Oxfam America on Thursday.

The 20-page report, based on interviews with 200 representatives of US aid agencies, governments and civil society groups in Cambodia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, and Rwanda, states that a lack of information about US aid has complicated government planning and runs the risk of compromising transparency.

“Without greater transparency and predictability, donors risk undermining, instead of strengthening, the citizen-state compact that is at the core of development,” the report states.

In its conclusions about Cambodia, the report argues that due to a lack of information from USAID – the US government’s development arm – Cambodian NGOs have grown concerned about the perceived increase in ties between the US and the Cambodian government, while government officials are worried that USAID is becoming too close to civil society.

“In addition to making US foreign aid a less-useful tool for recipients, the lack of aid transparency can also fuel misperceptions about why the US is providing aid in the first place,” the report states.

“In Cambodia, not having a clear sense of USAID’s direction generates uncertainty.”

The report also says that the information shortfall has made it hard for US-funded organisations to plan their own activities and programmes.

Policy debate
Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness at Oxfam America, said the report was prompted by the Obama administration’s search for a new model of development that is more focused on “country ownership”.

“A lot of the problems are Washington problems, so they tend to be systemic. They have a lot to do with how we plan and distribute our aid,” he said by phone from Washington.

“The Obama administration acknowledges this problem and is working on it, but there is still a dialogue about how this can be done.”

In that sense, he said, the situation in Cambodia is typical of the other countries surveyed in the report. The problem is not that the US is “secretive” about its aid payments, Adams added, but rather that the information released is often not targeted to those people who are on the receiving end of development assistance.

“It hurts the implementation of our assistance, because it doesn’t allow other people to leverage our assistance to have a greater impact,” he said.

Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Centre, which receives funding from USAID, said the relationship between the agency and local NGOs is generally good, but that it could improve its responsiveness to the needs of local development partners.

“I believe that one of the priorities is meeting the needs of the Cambodian people,” he said. “I hope that they become more flexible in providing support for local initiatives.”

At a government-donor forum in Phnom Penh last month, US officials announced US$68.5 million in development aid indications for Cambodia for the 2010 financial year, a figure that is projected to rise to an estimated $79.3 million in 2011.

US embassy spokesman John Johnson was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

Monks to leave suspect pagoda

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A refrigerator is taken out of the monk’s quarters at Srah Chak pagoda on Thursday. The pagoda’s monks have been temporarily evicted after one was arrested for surreptitiously videotaping women.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun and Nay Someta

AROUND 70 monks living at Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak pagoda have been told to vacate the premises for more than two weeks to allow for investigations into a monk who allegedly recorded hundreds of videos of women showering in a public bathroom.

Koung Pheng, one of the monks, said they had agreed at a meeting on Wednesday to leave the pagoda by Saturday.

“Nuns, laymen and students will be leaving on Sunday,” he said.

Neth Kai, 35, was arrested and defrocked last Saturday after being accused of secretly recording videos of naked women at the pagoda.

He is currently in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison after being charged on Tuesday with producing and distributing pornography.

The pagoda’s abbot, Meas Kung, has been asked to leave the pagoda permanently due to his negligence during the affair, said a monk who identified himself only as Sela.

He said a thorough search of the pagoda would be undertaken beginning on Saturday to ensure that no similar video equipment or inappropriate material is present in the monks’ quarters.

Any equipment that is found will be destroyed, and its owner will be banned from returning to the pagoda.

Monks will be allowed to apply to return to the pagoda on July 20, he said.

“I also feel very disappointed about the scandal. I feel like I did not put my full effort into managing and looking after this pagoda,” Sela said.

Lak Pech, 41, who has lived in the pagoda for 30 years, said the eviction of the monks was unnecessary.

“Although I was offended when I heard of the incident, I still have faith in Buddhism. I don’t think that it is fair to ask all the monks to leave this pagoda when there was only one person who did wrong,” he said.

Activists warn: farm evictees face hunger

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:01 Will Baxter and May Titthara

MORE than 1,000 families in Kampong Speu province face food shortages after being forced to give up their farmland without compensation to make way for economic land concessions granted to companies owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat and his wife, rights activists said.

A field report released by local rights group Adhoc on Thursday accuses Ly Yong Phat and provincial officials of failing to compensate villagers affected by an 8,343-hectare concession granted to the senator’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company in Thpong district.

“We are concerned that in the coming year people will have no food and no rice to eat because it is already the rainy season, but they have no land where they can cultivate crops,” said Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for Adhoc. “The company has built a fence surrounding the disputed land, and is clearing and bulldozing land every day.”

San Thou, a village representative from Omlaing commune, said villagers do not know how they will support themselves in the coming year. “None of us have been able to plant any rice yet,” he said.

Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant for the rights group Licadho, said that the families could face “serious hunger issues”.

“It’s yet another example of [the government] pushing families into further poverty by granting a land concession that affects a large number of families and denies them access to land which represented their livelihoods for many years,” he said.

Kamimura Miku, a coordinator for the People’s Forum on Cambodia, Japan, which co-authored the report with Adhoc, said that in addition to the families still living in Omlaing commune, about 150 families that have moved to a relocation site near Pis Mountain in April are also facing food shortages.

Although villagers have managed to plant a few banana plants and some corn, the site lacks basic infrastructure and is difficult to access by road, she said.

But Pot Doeun, a Thpong district administrative official, dismissed the claims. “I don’t believe that our people will have no food to eat next year,” he said, and added that the people “still have some more land to farm”.

Ly Yong Phat could not be reached on Thursday. Thpong district governor Tuon Song declined to comment.


SRP calls for Hun Sen’s help in Takeo border dispute

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:01 Meas Sokchea

LAWMAKERS from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party have sent a letter to the National Assembly requesting that Prime Minister Hun Sen come to the aid of villagers in Takeo province who say that demarcation efforts along the Vietnamese border are threatening their farmland.

In May, residents of Takeo’s Borei Cholsa district complained that new border markers had been planted on their farmland, and that district officials had prevented them from inspecting the markers or protesting against them.

On June 3, 20 SRP parliamentarians and around 100 supporters attempted to visit the site, but were blocked by around 30 provincial and military police and roughly 50 local residents. The two sides exchanged heated words before the SRP delegation turned back.

The letter, sent Wednesday, accuses Borei Cholsa authorities of illegally blocking residents from land to which they have legitimate claims.

Any claims that the land does not belong to the farmers, the letter states, are “completely contrary to the reality, because at the border marker post 270 farmers have planted rice since their grandparents were farmers”.

“In addition, they have land titles issued by the authorities,” the letter states.

The lawmakers also drew a distinction between the situation in Borei Cholsa and that in Banteay Meanchey’s Thma Puok district, where residents have been encouraged to cultivate farmland along the disputed border with Thailand.

“This is the action to truly defend territorial integrity, and the national interests of the people,” the letter says of the situation in Thma Puok. “The blocking of farmers from planting rice by Borei Cholsa district authorities seriously affects their day-to-day living, and they could completely lose their farmland if the border marker becomes permanent.”

But Var Kimhong, the government’s senior minister in charge of border affairs, disputed the lawmakers’ version of events, saying the border area in question was merely a field of grass.

“If anyone attempts to farm on that land, there would be a problem.”

But villager Tet Sokun said Thursday that he stands to lose 3 hectares of farmland if the border markers are made permanent.

“The authorities are preventing me from planting rice on my land,” he said. “I have planted rice on this land since 1992. I am worried, because this land is all I have.”

Keeping a relationship of trust

Photo by: Vinh Dao
David Armstrong, a 40-year media veteran who is now chairman of Post Media Ltd, stands in the Phnom Penh Post newsroom yesterday.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:01 David Boyle

Veteran journalist discusses the media and his vision for the Post’s progress

David Armstrong, a media veteran who has held senior editorial and management positions at papers in Australia and Asia, took over as chairman of Post Media Ltd this week. In an interview, he reflects on lessons learned during his 40-year career, as well as his plans for the Post.

In an interview timed to the launch of Post Khmer last September, publisher Ross Dunkley noted that the English-language edition was “not profitable”, but that it would be “commercially viable in a short amount of time”. Do you agree with this assessment?
Well, I think it’s a good decision to invest here. I think newspapers in Asia have a very good future. Certainly in the West, in America they’re really struggling, but not so much in Asia. So I think it’s the right decision, I think it’s the right decision to invest in both languages.

But to do both – to take the English-language paper daily and start a local-language paper in such a short time – does mean the company has bitten off quite a lot and has to chew very hard. I think looking at the projections, the company is still losing money, but the revenue is growing, and we can look forward to breaking even or making a small profit next year.

Are there glaringly obvious things that aren’t working in the paper at the moment?
Not glaringly obvious. I think the presentation could be a little bit brighter. I think some of the writing is a bit wordy in its style, a little bit slower and harder to work through than it need be, but not all of it. Perhaps recognising that a large part of the readership here is in fact an international expat audience.

Perhaps there could be a little bit more attention to what’s going on in the world around us when it comes to deciding what’s going on the front page.

But then on the other side, the big priority for the company is to work out the right advertising strategies to get the revenue that can support this kind of effort.

What position do you think the Post should take within the Cambodian media market?
I think we stand for some old-fashioned journalistic virtues which give us a special position in the marketplace. We have to stand for old-fashioned virtues like accuracy and fairness and balance, so that readers can see that the news is reliable and that they can trust what they read in the papers.

I think probably with the Khmer edition, we need to use that as a base perhaps for going for an audience target a little bit above the general news [market] in Cambodia. Not a mass market paper, but a very reliable, accurate, honest paper which is pitched for an audience which is a little bit more educated and more interested in the quality of the information rather than the entertainment value.

In a memo to staff at the Bangkok Post in 2005, you wrote: “When I look at the paper, I think we spend too much time, energy and space on recording and recounting the statements of various officials and not enough on finding what is really going on – and telling our readers.” Do you think this is the case at the Post?
I don’t think it’s the case here. There are more active stories in The Phnom Penh Post than the Bangkok Post; more stories where people are getting out, and sometimes in the course of that they have to be quoting officials to get the information that they need to say what’s happening in the field, but it’s not as though they are just going to the parliament or the lunch and writing down what someone says, and then coming back and writing.

And just going out of the newsroom, there’s a lot more where people are going out and finding out about what’s happening in the countryside or in the city.

There have been a couple of minor controversies related to layoffs at other papers where you’ve held a management role, for instance at the South China Morning Post. Do you have any regrets about the manner in which these were handled?
The South China Morning Post faced a new competitor, a paper called the Eastern Express, and they tried to raid the staff. They wanted to take 50 percent of the staff. One way of keeping the staff was to increase their salaries, which added to the salaries bill, and once the threat had gone away the board decided we had to cut salaries by 10 percent, which meant cutting 10 percent of the staff.

Now I thought that was a very bad thing to do – the people who’d stayed to fight off the new competitor were then to be punished for being successful. But nevertheless, it still had to be done. And when you do that there is no nice way to do it.

What are the most important lessons that you’ve learned in your career that you plan to bring to this paper?
The most important lesson I’ve learned I think is the readers regard the paper as their paper, and people often use that phrase – you know, “My paper is…” – which means you have a relationship of trust with the readers and you should never abuse that relationship.

You should always strive to do the best you can to present news which is accurate and impartial.

Interview by David Boyle

Chinese FDI hit $8bn in June

Workers view the Chinese-funded Kamchay dam at its official launch in Kampot. AFP

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan and Catherine James

Government approves ASEAN-Sino investment deal after announcing figure

CHINA’s foreign direct investments in the Kingdom hit an accumulated US$8 billion in June this year, a senior finance official told the National Assembly yesterday as it ratified the ASEAN-China Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement.

Secretary of State for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Kong Vibol, told the Assembly that China’s investments have created many jobs in Cambodia, contributing to reducing poverty.

“China is the largest investor in Cambodia,” he said.

“As of June 2010, the accumulation of Chinese investment hit $8 billion in the sectors of agro-industry, tourism, infrastructure, and hydro-power as well as the garment industry. By contrast, there are no Cambodian investors to invest in China.”

His comments came as the National Assembly rubber-stamped the ASEAN-China investment agreement, provisionally agreed in August, as well as a similar pact initially signed with South Korea in June 2009.

The step means Cambodia has officially adopted a legal structure to promote and protect foreign investments in line with ASEAN’s recommended framework for comprehensive economic cooperation.

Ai Khon, vice chairman of the National Assembly’s Commission on Planning, Investment, Agriculture, Rural Development and Water Resources, said yesterday: “The agreement will promote investment flows and create liberal, transparent and competitive investment regimes on both sides.”

He said that the agreements would ensure similar treatment is granted to investors in respective countries, guarantee fair and equitable protection of investment, lay out compensation measures in case of expropriation, and provide rules for investor-state dispute settlement.

Cheam Channy, a lawmaker for opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said his party entirely supported these agreements as they would promote and expand investments – but warned it would be worth nothing if Cambodia’s judicial system, governance record and corruption levels were not improved.

“We’d like to urge the government to give much attention on these issues in order to attract investment or they [the investors] will put their money in other ASEAN countries with better laws and enforcement,” he said.

Qian Hai, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said yesterday’s ratification of the agreements demonstrated “good cooperation”.

“Our main cooperation is in the area of infrastructure because we think that is what will help Cambodia develop,” he said.

He said the agreements would promote increased investment because it made it “more convenient” for businesspeople to invest in other countries.

Figures from the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) show that in both 2008 and 2009 China topped FDI sources in Cambodia, funding 40.14 percent of investment projects worth $4.3 billion in 2008 and 15.23 percent worth $892.6 million in 2009.

Trade with Taiwan rises 60pc

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A vendor shows off bendable lights at a Taiwan-Cambodia trade fair held yesterday at the Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh.

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara

Officials at a bilateral business meeting say Taipei is looking to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian nations in the aftermath of a major trade pact with China

CAMBODIA’S trade with Taiwan rose more than 60 percent in the first five months of this year, compared with the same period last year, an official from the Taiwan Trade Centre (TTC) told the Post yesterday.

Bilateral trade has surged 60.2 percent to US$165 million at the end of May 2010, from $103 million in the same period in 2009, said TTC Ho Chi Minh director Timothy Tso.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Phnom Penh business meeting attended by representatives of 28 Taiwanese companies, he said the island nation’s exports to the Kingdom climbed 34 percent to $160 million during the period.

Cambodia shipped $5 million the other way in the first five months, a 50 percent increase on the first five months of last year.

“As the world economy recovers I believe that bilateral trade between the two nations will increase,” Timothy Tso said.

The Kingdom maintains a “One China” policy regarding official relations with both China and Taiwan, which means it is up to individual companies rather than government officials to foster business ties, he said.

“It’s meetings like the one we held that will boost our trading relationship,” he said.

Many of the attendees said it was their first business trip to the Kingdom, and exporters such as Venus Plastic Machinery Company manager Fanny Huang said they were eager to scout the market for opportunities.

“I expect that I will find a good market and new partners while I’m here,” said Huang, whose company is already distributing its products to other countries around the world.

Cambodia’s trade with the island nation reached about $300 million in 2009, a decrease on the previous year, Tso said. He added that Taipei is looking to strengthen ties with Southeast Asia.

“Taiwan is not a member of ASEAN, but we’d like to promote trade, so we try to implement trade agreements with all member countries,” he said.

China and Taiwan signed a broad trade pact reducing trade tariffs on Tuesday, and many observers say the deal represents the closest bilateral relations since the 1949 Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War.

Taiwan was the sixth-largest source of domestic imports, according to Cambodia Chamber of Commerce president and Royal Group chairman Kith Meng.

“It has been a major investor in our garment industry,” he added.

Cambodia is an attractive destination for Taiwanese businesses because of the Kingdom’s stable political environment, Kith Meng said.

The Taiwan Commercial Association in Cambodia has seen growing membership since its 1996 inception, according to its president, Christina Yu.

Skill alert: South Korea to introduce labour test

via Khmer NZ News Media

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:00 Christy Choi and Chhay Channyda

CAMBODIAN labourers seeking South Korean work permits will be required to take a skills test beginning in November, officials said at a Phnom Penh workshop yesterday.

In response to complaints from several Korean firms of low technical ability among imported workers, Korean ministry of labour official Lee Bu-yong said that the skills test will ensure that workers have the necessary vocational skills before arriving.

The tests will be adjusted as they are implemented, but “the details for the tests are not completely set in stone”, she said.

Cambodian workers are permitted to stay five years in Korea, contingent on continued employment. Korea processes 5,300 Cambodian applicants each year, but awards a varying number of permits each year. Some 1,630 Cambodians were awarded permits in 2009.

Cambodian Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training secretary of state Pich Sophoan said the Kingdom has provided 436 workers so far this year, with a target to reach 2,000 by the end of 2010.

South Korea is looking to migrants to fill positions its population is not willing to take on, according to Kim Kyoung Soon, manager at the Human Resources Development Service of Korea.

Kingdom’s poorest bore brunt of financial crisis

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Friday, 02 July 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

THE global financial crisis has disproportionately affected Cambodia’s rural and urban poor, according to a Cambodian Economic Association (CEA) survey released yesterday.

Job loss and declining income were widely experienced during the crisis, according to residents of 15 villages sampled last year, but the report’s joint author said that many were unaware of the source of their financial challenges.

“Some people didn’t know anything about an international crisis; they just knew their income dropped,” CEA President Chan Sophal said.

According to the report, “Impact of the Economic Downturn on Households and Communities in Cambodia”, decreasing incomes and job loss particularly affected the urban poor during the crisis: 61 percent reported those factors as their main challenge in 2009 – a dramatic rise from 0.9 percent the year previously.

Around 15 percent of rural poor people said their main difficulty was falling wages, according to the report, up from zero in 2008.

Paying for healthcare presented a major challenge for most rural dwellers, the report added.

Inflation had previously been the most significant problem, with 47.7 percent of rural poor and 64.2 percent of urban poor reporting higher food prices as their largest difficulty in 2008.

Also, 75 percent of respondents said they began purchasing less-expensive food last year, and more than half said they were forced to reduce overall food consumption.

Compared to the 2008 figure, 9 percent more households reported taking out loans.

Although Cambodia had been hard-hit by the crisis that began in the American sub-prime mortgage market, Chan Sophal said growing international ties were still a greater benefit than drawback, to the Kingdom.

“Domestic exposure to external economies is large. Although there was a hiccup, the benefits brought by globalisation outweigh the costs,” he said.

Local Toyota importer unaffected by recall

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Friday, 02 July 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA’S Toyota importer confirmed yesterday that it has resumed imports of Land Cruiser Prados, and said that a possible recall of other Lexus models would not affect domestic vehicles.

Toyota (Cambodia) Co Ltd president Kong Nuon said that none of the vehicles Toyota Motor Corp admitted yesterday might be faulty were imported by the firm.

Toyota sats 270,000 of its Lexus-brand vehicles may be affected by a defect that causes engines to stall, Bloomberg reported.

Japan-based spokeswoman Ririki Takeuchi said as many as seven Lexus models and Toyota’s Crown model may be affected, as the automaker works out how to fix the problem.

The models with engines that may stall are the Lexus GS 350, GS 450h, GS 460, IS 350, LS 460, LS 600h and LS 600hL, and the Toyota Crown, the company said yesterday.

This comes after Toyota said on June 25 it would stop selling its new hybrid HS250h sedan because too much fuel spilled in Japanese government crash tests, posing a fire risk.

“It doesn’t affect us, as we don’t import this type of car,” Kong Noun said.

He confirmed that imports of Land Cruiser Prados had resumed in May – after being suspended a month earlier – once the vehicles’ safety systems were checked in Singapore.

Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, is working to restore brand confidence after recalling about 8 million vehicles globally.

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

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Wing a finalist for innovation award

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

CAMBODIAN mobile payments service WING has been selected as a finalist for an Asian Innovation Award by the Wall Street Journal. The New York newspaper claimed Wednesday that the ANZ Banking Group subsidiary was an example of wireless applications making inroads, claiming it “encourages economic and social development in Cambodia”.

Applications for building licences up

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

THE number of construction companies seeking building licences increased 14.5 percent in the first five months of 2010, according to government statistics obtained Thursday. Seventy construction companies received them, up from 61 for the same time last year. The Ministry of Land Management “has had a lot of companies asking for construction licences because [investors] believe the construction sector will recover soon,” director of the construction department Lao Tip Seiha said.

Child Sex Case: Court drops charges against Dane

Friday, 02 July 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

Child Sex Case

Banteay Meanchey provincial court has released a Danish man who was serving pretrial detention after being charged with two counts of purchasing child prostitution, a court official said Thursday. So Vath, the provincial court prosecutor, said Monday’s release of J?rgen Hansen had been approved by the investigating judge working the case. “We freed him from the prison on June 28 after an investigating judge found there was not enough evidence to prove him guilty,” So Vath said. Ny Chandara, deputy police chief of the provincial anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said Hansen was charged in November with purchasing child prostitution from two girls, ages 13 and 14. “We invited [the girls] to our police station for questioning, and found out the man was involved in purchasing child prostitution,” he said. But So Vath said the court had concluded that the 13-year-old girl’s initial statement to police, in which she said she had had sex with Hansen up to 50 times, was “just a liar’s confession made under police duress”, and that she had later changed her story.

Mekong dam projects will cost more in damages, says MRC report

via Khmer NZ News Media

By Chularat Saengpassa,
Pongphon Sarnsamak
The Nation
Published on July 2, 2010

A recent report from the Mekong River Commission revealed that 12 dams in Lower Mekong River would cause serious problems for the two million people living downstream in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.

The report entitled "MRC SEA for Hydropower on mekong Mainstream, Impact Assessment and Discussion Draft" was presented at a regional meeting held to assess the impact of the mekong River dam projects.

The report showed that if the 12dam project went ahead, it would adversely affect poor people living downstream in the three countries. These people live along the river in rural areas and depend heavily on agriculture and other natural resources for income.

According to the report, Laos will have a dam each in Pak Beng, Luang Prabang, Saiyaburi, Pak Lay, Latsua, Don Sahong and Thakho; the ThaiLao border will have three dams, namely Sanakham, Pak Chom and Ban Koum; while Cambodia will have two dams, namely Stung Treng and Sambor.

The report showed that the Pak Chom and Ban Koum dams on the ThaiLao border would affect 588,189 people living in Loei province, and 413,140 people in Ubon Ratchathani. It added that these dams would also change the boundary lines between the two countries.

Dam construction projects in Lower mekong River would also have an adverse effect on the wetlands, ecological system and the economy. Damages to the wetlands would be to the tune of Bt224 million per year, the report said.

The report also showed that the 12 dams would stop 55 per cent of the river from flowing freely. The mekong would become a huge reservoir and the dams will destroy natural islets, sandbanks and hamper the incubation of freshwater tropical fish and other aquatic animals. Plus the dams will affect Mekong's more than 40 tributaries.

Senator Prasarn Marukpitak said yesterday that the Thai delegation had voiced opposition to the project at the mekong River Commission (MRC) meeting.

Prasarn chairs the Senate subcommittee studying the value, development and impacts on the mekong subregion. The meeting was also attended by delegations from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

"Though these dams can generate power, there are in fact several other alternative energy sources we can rely on," Prasarn pointed out. "I think we should let the mekong flow naturally. Humans should not interfere with its course."

He said his panel would soon decide whether it should forward its opinion on the project to the government for further action.

According to him, Thailand and Laos had signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of the Ban Koum Dam during the Samak Sundaravej government. However, the construction could not go ahead on the Thai side due to strong opposition from the public.

"The construction on the Laos side has already started," Prasarn said.

Italy to help fix Cambodian ancient artifacts

via Khmer NZ News Media

July 01, 2010

Italian ambassador told the Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An Thursday that Italy is to build a laboratory center in Siem Reap province and send professors to train Cambodian students to fix broken artifacts.

Ambassador Michelangelo Pipan told Sok An that Italy has been pleased with helping the Kingdom to restore the Pre Rup Temple over the last four years.

Pre Rup was the second temple mountain, after East Mebon which it resembles, constructed in the Angkor region by Rajendravarman II (944-968). In recent years Pre Rup Temple has been undergoing restoration financed through the Italy funds-in-Trust Project.

Italy has also expanded its project in Siem Reap province, the home of Angkor, to fix the staircase of more than 300 meters of Angkor Temple.

The well-known Italian professors, of the University of Palermo, are expected to arrive in October this year in Siem Reap, where they will train 20 Cambodian students from the Royal University of Fine Arts to learn about the artistic works and how to fix over 4, 000 Khmer artifacts, which have been collected and stored in the province.

The ambassador said that those students, who will attend the three-year training course, will be awarded master degree which is equivalent to the degree provided by Italian universities. They would be sent to study more in Italy in the future if necessary.

"I ask the Cambodian government to summit its request of any prioritized projects to the Italian embassy from there we will consider more assistance," Pipan told Sok An, who is also the Minister in charge of the Office of the Council of Ministers.

Sok An, in response, asked Italy to look to expand its assistance to preserve as well as preservation of the 900-year-old Khmer Preah Vihear Temple which was listed in July 2008 as a World Heritage Site.


VOA Khmer Video: "Enemies of the People" Garners Rights Award

South Carolina Monks Honor Jayavarman VII

Cheoung Pochin, VOA Khmer | Washington, DC
Thursday, 01 July 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Photo: AP
King Norodom Sihanouk, center, blesses a newly restored statue of King Jayavarman VII, at the National Museum

“King Jayavarman VII said the suffering of all people was also his suffering.”

A Cambodian community in South Carolina is ready to celebrate a stupa to honor the ancient Khmer king Jayavarman VII.

Monks at the Sao Sokh San temple in Wellford, S.C.—home to about 300 Cambodian families—say they hope thousands of Cambodian-Americans will join in the ceremony to open the pagoda starting Tuesday.

“We want to show the four virtues of the great Bayon temple,” said venerable monk Sao Khon, head of the temple. “All these virtues that King Jayavarman VII spread to all human beings and religions in that period to protect the country.”

The stupa, which includes a Buddha relic on the third tier, took three years to build with money from Cambodian communities across the US.

“All the money came from Khmer people in Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, North Carolina and South Carolina,” Sao Khon said.

Men Meya, a volunteer fundraiser from Rhode Island, said she spent 15 hours driving to the pagoda to help.

“It’s the first time that we built the stupa for Jayavarman VII in the States,” she said. “It’s a benefit to the Khmer society and people.”

Prom Samrit, another supporters of the stupa, said even though he’d spent money and energy on the stupa, he was glad it had been erected.

“King Jayavarman VII said the suffering of all people was also his suffering,” he said.

‘Enemies’ Documentary Seeks Cambodia Audience

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer | Washington, DC
Thursday, 01 July 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Photo: Courtesy of Thet Sambath
Filmmaker Thet Sambat interviewing former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea in his home.

“If we don’t talk, this part of history will be buried, and the younger generations who don’t understand the truth will fight each other over this ambiguity.”

The award-winning Khmer Rouge documentary “Enemies of the People” is expected to be shown in Cambodia in July.

Both filmmakers and subjects of the award-winning film say they want it to push reconciliation for atrocities committed by the regime by encouraging other perpetrators to talk about their past.

The film, showed at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in June, contains rare confessions from former Khmer Rouge cadre as well as interviews with the movement’s chief ideologue, Nuon Chea.

One former cadre, called Suon in the film, says, “I want to reveal to you all the killers I know.”

“When we find them and they confess the truth, I will feel better,” he says. “I want this documentary shown all over the country, in the provinces, in the cities. Then people who were killers in the regime will come forwards and say, ‘Yeah, I used to do that, too.’ Their public confessions will be an archive for the next generation. Otherwise, we will be gone soon, and the new generation won’t know the story.”

Co-producer Rob Lemkin, who worked with Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath on the film, agrees. With thousands of perpetrators like Suon, “they need to talk about what they did and they need to find a way of living easily with the other people who survived the killing field with other people who were victims,” he said.

Both say they hope the film will show in Cambodia in July.

“Enemies of the People” has won 15 separate awards, including the Nestor Almendros Award for Courage in Filmmaking at the Human Rights Watch festival.

“This is the kind of film that exhibits an immense amount of courage on the part of the filmmakers,” John Biaggi, director of the festival, said.

Co-producer Thet Sambath said he hoped the film’s distribution, along with a book, “could help more people come out to tell the truth about the history between 1975 and 1979.”

“If we don’t talk, this part of history will be buried, and the younger generations who don’t understand the truth will fight each other over this ambiguity,” he said.

Assembly Approves Free Trade Measures

Chun Sakada, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Thursday, 01 July 2010

via Khmer NZ News Media

Photo: AP
Capital flow reached $8 billion with China and $2.7 billion with South Korea in the first half of the year, Kong Vibol, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said in Thursday’s session.

"Investment reached agro-industry, tourism, infrastructure, hydroelectricity and industrial manufacturing, reducing poverty."

The National Assembly on Thursday approved measures that will help Cambodia fit into Asean free trade agreements with China and South Korea.

Supporters say the investment agreements will increase free trade, transparency and competition and provide protections for investors. The agreements are intended to help ease the flow of capital and trade between Asean countries, China and South Korea.

Capital flow reached $8 billion with China and $2.7 billion with South Korea in the first half of the year, Kong Vibol, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said in Thursday’s session.

Investment reached agro-industry, tourism, infrastructure, hydroelectricity and industrial manufacturing, reducing poverty, he said.

In principal, China allows most-favored status to 418 different goods for export, while South Korea has provided most-favored status for 90 percent of goods exported from Cambodia.

However, opposition lawmaker Chheam Channy said during the session that Cambodia still needs to strengthen transparency measures and effective implementation of the law if it really wants to attract investment.

New Horizons

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JULY 2, 2010


KEP, Cambodia--"Kep is not about the sea. Kep is about wind and mountain, precipitation and a way of life," says Rithivit Tep, owner of the Villa Thomas, the Cambodian beach town's oldest building. Dating to 1903, handsome and Gothic-looking, it was originally built to house French colonial administrators on break from their jobs in Phnom Penh.

Luke Duggleby for The Wall Street Journal
Swinging chairs in the garden of Knai Bang Chatt

The French did little on this picturesque stretch of the country's southeastern coast but keep away from the tigers that used to roam the Elephant Mountains, which rise from the paddy fields behind the town. Its natural shoreline, mostly black rock and mangrove swamp, hardly invites bathing. But in the 1950s, Kep became an upscale resort town, Cambodia's version of France's Saint-Tropez. (Suitably, it was called Kep sur Mer, French for "Kep on the Sea.") A beach was created, and regularly replenished, using sand barged in from down the coast. The country's newly emerging elite, propelled into sudden affluence after independence in 1953, lined the Gulf of Thailand seafront with their villas.

Luke Duggleby for The Wall Street Journal
Built in 1903 and soon to be a luxury resort, Villa Thomas is Kep's oldest building.

"Kep was wonderful in its heyday," says Rithivit Tep. "We had cocktail parties every night, artists and musicians stayed here. It was fashionable." King Norodom Sihanouk was a regular visitor, and bands played their locally developed brand of rock 'n' roll mixed with Khmer melodies on the beach. Those who danced themselves into a sweat could escape to Bokor hill station with its handsome casino hotel, spectacularly located on a cool plateau 1,000 meters above the beach town.

But for Kep, as for the rest of Cambodia, the bloom was brief. From the mid-1960s the country drifted into chaos: The U.S. war with Vietnam crossed the border, a coup deposed the king and the Khmer Rouge revolution brought isolation and genocide followed by almost two decades of civil war. (Rithivit Tep, then a teenager and fledgling tennis player—his father, the late Tep Kunnah, was a star—fled with his family in the early 1970s to France and Canada, not returning until 1992.) As recently as 10 years ago, Kep was a ghost town. Streets were overgrown, palm trees where lampposts once stood, as the former holiday homes, built by an elite that no longer existed, were subsumed by jungle.

Now the picture is changing. The area around Kep became a province in its own right in 2008, and has since attracted significant funds from the government for infrastructure development. New roads and administrative buildings, a new market and tentative efforts at urban planning in Kep itself are beginning to show results, and the town of 5,000 has been on the national electricity grid for more than a year. Resorts and restaurants open with increasing regularity, bringing Wi-Fi and swimming pools. Rithivit Tep this year plans to open his old villa (and adjoining bungalows) as a luxury resort; he's also purchased an island off the coast where he intends to establish an ecotourism venture. Initially, he plans to take high-end guests from his mainland resort to the island for romantic luxury dinners.

"Kep must be returned to its former glory," he says.

Jef Moons, a 47-year-old Belgian hotelier, is one step ahead of the pack. He visited Kep on his first trip to Cambodia in 2002, drawn by the lack of information on it in his Lonely Planet guidebook. "I was bowled over by the beauty of the people and the place and wanted to come back to share Kep with friends," he says. "I immediately bought three properties."

With a workforce of 150, Mr. Moons painstakingly restored one of Kep's handsomest beachfront properties, a 1960s villa designed by a student of Cambodia's master architect Van Molyvann. With a second, more recent villa in similarly elegant style and complemented by a pool, his stylish 11-room resort, with a staff of 45, provides Kep's highest-end accommodation.

Luke Duggleby for The Wall Street Journal
A villa designed by a student of Cambodia's leading architect, Vann Molyvann, is today part of the resort Knai Bang Chatt.

"When we first visited Kep, we saw a full rainbow around the sun, a 'knai bang chatt' in Khmer," he recalls. "That's what I called the resort when we opened in 2004."

Veranda, on a hillside above town, offers incredible views across the Gulf of Thailand from its restaurant. Funky and attractive bungalows are connected by a warren of wooden walkways high above the grounds. Canadian-Vietnamese owner Lily Loo is happy that Kep is finding its feet again.

"We opened in 2002," she says. "In the beginning all our guests were backpackers. But in 2005, we noticed a change. Families and wealthier independent tourists began to visit. But it's been a slow process."

Slow is the word in Kep; there's not a lot to do but relax. Knai Bang Chatt has offered diversions ranging from talks by Cambodia experts to photography weekends and wellness spa weeks (not to mention several eclectic performances on the rooftop by Khuon Sethisak, Cambodia's best-known opera singer). There are pepper plantations and caves nearby to visit. The ruined villas are worth exploring—and Mr. Moons warns they may not be around for much longer.

"Many of the old houses will disappear," he says. "Khmer people want to look rich, and 1960s architecture means nothing to them. This is normal after an experience like the Khmer Rouge. Culture here is about surviving."

Luke Duggleby for The Wall Street Journal
At the crab market, Kep's main attraction, the sellers keep their stock -- here a female laden with eggs -- in floating baskets.

The crab market is the town's main attraction. This long row of shacks is a hive of activity from dawn till dusk. Restaurant after restaurant, including an Italian eatery, line the curved seafront. From 4 a.m., local women, colorfully wrapped from head to toe, stand knee-deep in the surf and negotiate prices for the live crabs that are packed into wicker baskets bobbing in the shallow water. A little offshore, bright green long-tail fishing boats are anchored against the backdrop of the Vietnamese island of Phu Qoc and, to the west, Bokor Mountain. Delicious steamed crab, for which Kep is known all over the country, is served all day.

Luke Duggleby for The Wall Street Journal
Just because it's called the crab market doesn't mean you can't get some grilled squid there. There's even an Italian restaurant.

A more sedate eating option is the nearby Sailing Club, also owned by Mr. Moons, an elegant wooden bungalow beside a simple pier, offering Art Deco furniture, mellow music, a short but carefully balanced menu of Khmer and Western dishes, and cocktails.

If even Kep gets to be too much, there's also the possibility of escaping to the simplest of paradises. Koh Tonsay, also called Rabbit Island, lies five kilometers off the coast, and once served as a prison. Today, simple wooden beach shacks, straw-roofed seafood restaurants and a few sun-loungers are as far as facilities stretch on the main beach, a palm-fringed bay with views of the mountainous coastline. The visitors sipping fresh coconut juice in their hammocks are a mixed bunch: backpackers, young families and wealthy, older tourists on day-trips rub shoulders along the half-kilometer sand crescent. Those not put off by the island's basic amenities can stay overnight in simple but clean beachside bungalows.

Luke Duggleby for The Wall Street Journal
Koh Tonsay, or Rabbit Island, five kilometers out, offers a back-to-basics beach experience

Bokor hill station, until recently the heart of a national park, is being redeveloped into a glitzy gambling paradise, with a new resort and at least one golf course planned and even some talk of a dinosaur theme park. That's all right with Rithivit Tep; in his vision, Bokor can be for visitors seeking the shiny and new, while his beach town can appeal to those with a taste for the classic. "We have to make sure," he says, "that Kep will return to its golden age."

—Tom Vater is a writer based in Bangkok.