Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Vietnam attends APA in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ


The meeting of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) on “Protecting and Respecting Cultural Diversity” was held in Phnompenh, Cambodia on July 5-6.

Delegates discussed effective measures to protect cultural heritages of human kind and respect cultural diversity of each nation in the Asian region. They agreed that to fulfill this target, each government should have the political will, maintain cooperative relationship and joint efforts among APA member countries, and ensure that cultural diversity does not hinder economic and social integration in the region.

They also said that the parliaments of APA member countries should promote their supervisory role and urge the government to implement proper polices and measures in order to protect cultural diversity in line with strong economic integration in the world.
The event was attended by 10 delegations from APA member countries. The Vietnamese delegation was led by Vo Van Thuong, of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union (HCYU) Central Committee, who was also delivered a presentation.

DSI postpones seeking court approval to detain two bomb suspects


via Khmer NZ

BANGKOK, July 6 - Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI ) on Tuesday said it would delay seeking a court approval for the detention of two suspects in Bhumjaithai Party head office bombing who were deported from Cambodia as investigation on the case is not yet complete.

DSI director-general Tharit Pengdit remarked after Cambodian officials handed over the suspects in the hiring of persons to carry out the bombing to the Thai consulate in Phnom Penh Monday.

Varissareeya Boonsom and Korbchai Boonplod fled to Cambodia on June 23 after a bomb hidden in a fruit pushcart was remotely detonated near the Bhumjaithai party head office the day before.

Three suspects of the case are already in police custody. One confessed he was hired to leave a fruit vendor's pushcart near the party office.

Mr Tharit said the department has investigated the two detainees but could not take them to the crime scene reenactment as they denied being involved in the bombing.

Thailand's police customarily take confessed wrongdoers to the scene of their crime to allow media to television and photograph a reenactment of the crime.

The permitted detention of the three men arrested earlier expires Wednesday and the DSI will seek court approval for further detention tomorrow, Mr Tharit said.

The DSI will postpone its request for the two suspects detention to Wednesday morning as well.

The DSI chief however said the department will oppose bail for the defendents for fear that the two accused might escape prosecution as the charges carry a heavy penalty.

Initially they will be charged for producing explosive devices, causing an explosion and mutually committing terrorism, according to Mr Tharit.

The DSI chief added the investigators also found a notebook in Mrs Varissareeya's baggage with a handwritten bomb-making formula. She conceded that the notebook belongs to her, but she said the bomb notes are not hers.

According to the initial investigation, both suspects confirmed they are Red Shirt supporters. Mrs Varissareeya worked for former Thai Rak Thai party executives who are banned from politics for five years and she reportedly attended every Red Shirt rally.

Mrs Varissareeya claimed many Red Shirt co-leaders are now in Cambodia but she knows only Payap Pankate and Kanyapak Maneechak, 'DJ Aom,' a leader of pro Red Shirt 'Chiang Mai 51 group'.

She earlier told Thai police that she only sheltered the bomb suspects but did not know that they made explosives in her home. She said she was betrayed.

The accused said she was arrested by Cambodian police after a hotel employee notified her to leave her room to meet Mr Payap and DJ Aom.

In an exclusive interview to a Thai News Agency reporter on Tuesday, Mrs Varissareeya said she fled to Cambodia as she wanted to see other Red Shirt co-leaders who reportedly fled to the neighbouring country.

She said she was not angry with the accusation of key Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan who said she and Mr Korbchai are government spies.

"I'm not angry with Mr Jatuporn as the protest leaders do not know all of their supporters," said Mrs Warisriya. "I undertand that Mr Jatuporn must protect all Red Shirt supporters and has to say so."

"I don't expect that I will get help from Red Shirt people as now they are powerless to help me. That's why I went to Cambodia," she said.

Mrs Varissareeya asked those in the judicial process to ensure justice for any case involving the Reds.

"I want my case to be set as a precedent for being given fairness and not be framed," she stated.

She also urged the government to give more space for Red Shirt movement to make their voices heard if it really wants national reconciliation. (MCOT online news)

Understanding markets crucial to wildlife conservation

via Khmer NZ

6 July 2010, by Tamera Jones

Between two and 12 million wild snakes are taken from Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia every year in the largest snake hunt in the world.

A crocodile farm in South East Asia

But if conservationists want to protect these snakes, they need to understand exactly what drives the demand for them, say scientists.

Rather than imposing a blanket ban on snake hunters, research led by Dr Sharon Brooks from the University of East Anglia suggests that banning hunting only during the snakes' breeding season is probably a better way to help populations recover.

'The numbers of snakes being landed daily at Chong Khneas in northern Cambodia is shocking. And if you were to look at snake hunting in isolation, your immediate reaction might be to impose a strict ban,' says Brooks.

Multi-billion dollar industry

The growth in the export of Asian wildlife has exploded in recent years and is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Despite this, scientists know little about what lies behind the supply and demand for many of the countries' plants and animals.

Imposing tight trade regulations often has a detrimental effect on local populations and bans don't necessarily conserve the species they're designed to protect.

'If you impose a ban, you can often make the situation worse, and there is a need to understand the economics behind the trade in order to devise more effective solutions,' says Brooks.

Tonle Sap Lake is the largest wetland in Southeast Asia and with its abundance of wildlife is estimated to support around a million people.

The annual monsoon from May to October fills the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers to bursting, causing the water in the Tonle Sap River to reverse direction and flood the surrounding forests, grasslands and paddy fields. This is when the snake hunters are busiest.

To find out whether or not the massive Tonle Sap snake hunt is sustainable, Brooks and her colleagues decided to see exactly where the snakes were going. Their research is published in Biological Conservation.

'We knew that lots of snakes were being harvested, but we didn't really know much more than that,' says Brooks. 'We needed to find out how the markets operated.'

Although the seven snake species are hunted to supply a range of markets, such as exotic leather, animal feed and snack food, the researchers found that the biggest demand for Tonle Sap snakes doesn't come from international markets.

Instead, by far the biggest demand comes from Cambodian crocodile farms.

But the crocodile market is highly volatile, going through cycles of boom and bust - dictated to by changing economic situations in the countries that import them.

'The market price for crocodiles has gone down since 2003, which together with rising prices for snakes had led to many smaller farms closing down,' explains Brooks.

In contrast, the larger farms have stayed open, in the hope that crocodile prices will return to pre-2003 levels. This means the demand for snakes is still strong.

'There is also the possibility that the same snakes will find their way into other markets, such as that for human snack food which is gaining popularity,' says Brooks.

The researchers found that the price of snakes depends largely on the price of fish, which are the main food used to feed crocodiles, and farmers are mainly using snakes in times of fish shortage. This response to availability is likely to increase the sustainability of this system of exploitation.

If the lake's snakes were protected during the main breeding season, this would still allow snake hunters and crocodile farms to trade at the time of year when it is most important to them.

The Wildlife Conservation Society in Cambodia is building on this research and has recently discussed different management options to help conserve Tonle Sap's snakes.

'Our findings demonstrate the importance of a detailed analysis of markets to traded wildlife conservation,' adds Brooks.


Sharon E. Brooks, Edward H. Allison, Jennifer A. Gill and John D. Reynolds, Snake prices and crocodile appetites: Aquatic wildlife supply and demand on Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia, Biological Conservation, available online 22 June 2010, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2010.05.023

4 in 10 newly-wed wives in rural areas are immigrants

via Khmer NZ


By Bae Ji-sook
Staff reporter

About four in 10 newly-wed males living in rural areas married foreign spouses, mostly from other Asian countries, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said Tuesday.

Wives are usually much younger than their husbands and many were suffering from financial difficulties, the authorities said.

A total of 8,569 males in suburban areas got married last year, of which 41 percent had migrant wives, mainly from Vietnam, China, the Philippines and other Asian countries.

Since Cambodia has recently banned its nationals from marrying Koreans, the number of Cambodian-Korean couples has significantly dropped.

Most of these migrant spouses entered Korea to be married, suggesting that the majority of the cases were pre-arranged by agencies, brokers or mutual friends.

Meanwhile, as of May last year, 167,090 foreigners married Koreans and among them, 41,417 were naturalized with Korean citizenship. About 81.1 percent of the marriages have taken place since 2000.

Ethic-Korean Chinese accounted for the lion’s share with 30 percent, followed by Vietnam with 20 percent, the Philippines with 6.6 percent, Japan at 4.1 percent, Cambodia down to 2 percent.

Wives were younger than their husbands by more than 10 years ― Cambodian brides on average were 17.5 years younger than their Korean spouses, followed by Vietnamese with an average 17 year-age gap.

They were introduced to their husbands through acquaintances or interracial matchmaking agencies.

About 3.2 percent ended up in divorce while 4 percent were widowed within an average of 4.7 years into their marriage.

They cited irreconcilable differences, financial difficulties, infidelity, abuse, domestic violence and other infractions as the cause for divorce.

A ministry official said migrant spouses, who are less informed of the local laws, easily become accused of causing the divorce though the liability is with their Korean spouses.

The ministry furthered the research by surveying 73,669 households of interracial marriages.

Most of the female spouses said the language barrier, economic difficulties and childrearing issues were their largest obstacles.

They said the longer they stayed in Korea, the loneliness would go away and communication levels would increase but their financial difficulties still linger.

Financial issues were indeed serious as 38.4 percent of them made between 1 million won and 2 million won a month and 21.3 percent made less than 1 million, compared to an average Korean household earning 3.3 million won.

CadComms kicks off network expansion campaign

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Cambodian mobile operator Cambodia Advance Communications (CadComms), which operates under the qb banner, has launched a campaign to expand coverage of its mobile network to the country’s entire population by the end of the year, the Phnom Penh Post reports, citing CadComms’ CEO Alan Sinfield. At present, the cellco’s network is limited to the capital and other key metropolitan areas. ‘It is going to be hard to achieve [100% population coverage], but certainly that is our main goal,’ Sinfield noted, though he declined to disclose the cost of the expansion project or the number of towers to be installed. CadComms operates over an Ericsson-supplied 3.5G HSDPA network, launched in March 2008, but the company is exploring the use of other technologies besides 3G to meet its coverage target. ‘The issue is that 3G is expensive technology, so for us to cover the same geographical space it is almost two times more expensive with 3G [than 2G],’ Sinfield stated, adding that 3G coverage would remain available in urban areas and major roadways, with cheaper technology extended to rural areas.

Cambodian Rubber Exports Slide Sharply In First Five Months Of 2010


via Khmer NZ

Capital Market
Jul 06, 2010

As per the latest updates from Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries, Cambodian rubber exports dropped more than 34 percent in the first five months of this year compared with the same period in 2009, according to official figures from the Cambodia Import, Export, Inspection and Fraud Repression Department. Data released on Friday (July 2) show a 34.19 percent drop in exported rubber, from 13,057 tonnes to 9,730 tonnes, and growers blame harsh weather for reducing production during the first five months of the year. The official added that Cambodia had missed out on benefits from high prices because it exported most of its rubber to Vietnam.

The price of the highest-quality rubber, classified as grade 1 of 10, hit US$3,687.50 per tonne last week on the Malaysian Rubber Exchange. Grade 10 rubber reached $2,868.

In a bid to raise rubber production to 150,000 hectares by 2015, Cambodia inked a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam in September last year, offering 100,000 hectares in land concessions to 14 Vietnamese companies operating in Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, Kampong Thom Kratie and Preah Vihear provinces.

Vietnamese companies grew rubber on 10,000 hectares of land in Cambodia last year and planed to add 20,000 more by the end of 2010, some 30,000 hectares in 2011 and 40,000 hectares in 2012, according to the memorandum.

Much of Thailand under new extended emergency rule

via Khmer NZ

AFP July 6, 2010

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand on Tuesday extended by three months a state of emergency across about one quarter of the country, including Bangkok, due to lingering fears of unrest following deadly protests.

The move comes despite warnings from human rights campaigners that the authorities' use of the sweeping emergency powers lacks transparency and suppresses freedom of expression.

The emergency decree, imposed in April after a mass opposition rally began in the capital, will be maintained for three more months in 19 provinces -- out of a total of 76 -- but lifted in five others, officials said.

"The cabinet endorsed the lifting of the state of emergency in five provinces," deputy government spokesman Supachai Jaismut said. "Emergency rule will still be imposed in the rest."

The strict laws ban public gatherings of more than five people and give security forces the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charge.

Two months of mass anti-government protests by the "Red Shirt" movement, pushing for immediate elections, sparked outbreaks of violence that left 90 people dead, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured.

The government rejected a call from the opposition for the emergency decree to be revoked for a parliamentary by-election in Bangkok on July 25.

A Red Shirt leader detained on charges of terrorism is running in the vote as a candidate for the opposition Puea Thai Party.

Security officials on Monday proposed extending the state of emergency, warning that some weapons seized during the anti-government protests were still missing.

But a leading think-tank, International Crisis Group, voiced concern Monday that the emergency laws had empowered authorities to stifle the anti-government movement and should be lifted at once.

"While the Red Shirts have no opportunity for open and peaceful expression because of draconian laws, their legitimate frustrations are being forced underground and possibly towards illegal and violent actions," ICG said.

Thailand should lift the law "or risk further damaging its democracy, hindering much needed reconciliation, and sowing the seeds of future deadly conflict," the Brussels-based group said in a report.

Enraged protesters went on a rampage of arson after a deadly army crackdown ended their rally on May 19. The unrest also spread outside the capital, particularly in the Reds' stronghold in Thailand's impoverished northeast.

The five provinces where emergency rule will be lifted are Si Sa Ket, Kalasin, Nan, Nakhon Sawan and Nakhon Pathom, scattered around north, northeast and central Thailand.

Senior Chinese legislator meets with Cambodian legislative delegation

via Khmer NZ

July 06, 2010

Chen Zhili, vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, met with a delegation of the Cambodian National Assembly's Commission 8 in Beijing Tuesday.

The delegation was led by Ho Naun, chairwoman of the Commission on Public Health, Social Work, Veteran, Youth Rehabilitation, Labor, Vocational Training and Women's Affairs.

Source: Xinhua

Cambodia's banking sector sees boost in deposits, loans

via Khmer NZ

July 06, 2010

Deposits and loans at the commercial banks in Cambodia increased by 12 percent and 8 percent, respectively, in the first five months of this year, local media reported on Tuesday, citing the figure from the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC).

From January to May this year, customers'deposits at Cambodia' s commercial banks increased by 12 percent to 3.7 billion U.S. dollars from 3.3 billion U.S. dollars at the end of 2009, whilst outstanding loans rose by 8 percent to 2.7 billion U.S. dollars from 2.51 billion U.S. dollars at the end of last year.

In Channy, Acleda president and chief executive, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying that the growth was a clear sign of the Kingdom's recovery from the financial crisis.

Acleda received deposits of 796 million U.S. dollars, up 16 percent from 684.68 million U.S. dollars at the end of last year, while outstanding loans increased to 603 million U.S. dollars, up 12 percent from 539.7 million U.S. dollars, according to the NBC's January to May figures.

Cambodia has 28 commercial banks today.

Cambodia's economy has begun to recover since late last year. Garment exports, tourism and agriculture, the three out of the country's four pillars supporting its economy are recovering, except real estate sector that still has a downturn.


Exam time


Photo by: Uy Nousereimony

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:00 Uong Ratana

Students leave Bun Rany Wat Phnom High School after ninth-graders finished morning exams yesterday. The tests, which were set to continue today, are to be administered to 159,724 students at 378 test centres nationwide, according to the Ministry of Education.

Bomb suspects handed over

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Red Shirt activist Varisareeya Boonsom, 42, tearfully awaits her deportation to Thailand at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday. She fears her return equates to a death sentence.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:03 Cheang Sokha and Sebastian Strangio

CAMBODIA has deported two anti-government Red Shirt activists to Thailand, where they are accused of involvement in an attempted bomb attack in Bangkok last month.

Kobchai Boonplod and Varisareeya Boonsom, both 42, were handed over to Thai officials at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday, a move Long Visalo, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said symbolised Cambodia’s commitment to fighting “terrorist” acts.

“In the spirit of combating terrorism everywhere, we arrested the two people because they committed terrorist acts in your country and are handing them over to you now,” he told Suwat Kaewsook, charge d’affairs at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

“Our principle is to oppose terrorism, even if there is no request from your embassy.”

Suwat said Thailand welcomed the government’s deportation of the two suspects. “On behalf of the Royal Thai Embassy, we would like to express appreciation on your cooperation about this matter,” he said.

The suspects were arrested on Saturday in Siem Reap province in connection with the attempted bombing of the Bangkok headquarters of the Bhumjaithai party, part of the Thai government coalition, on June 22.

The attack, which apparently failed after a makeshift bomb detonated prematurely, followed two months of Red Shirt protests in Bangkok that sparked outbreaks of violence and left 90 people dead and about 1,900 injured. Long Visalo said the two had confessed to Cambodian police that they were involved in the bombing. “They accepted that they made the bombs in Thailand,” he said.

As he was escorted by police to the plane, however, Kobchai denied allegations that the pair was involved in the plot, and pledged to fight the charges.

“We are Red Shirts, and if we are sent back to Thailand the government will kill us,” he told the Post. “We will get a lawyer and fight the government. We didn’t do anything, but the government has killed a lot of people.”

A tearful Varisareeya said that sending her back to Thailand meant she was “going to die”.

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Kobchai Boonplod awaits deportation at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday.

Cambodia’s cooperation with Thailand could mark a thawing of relations between the two countries, which each withdrew their ambassadors after Phnom Penh appointed fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser in October and then refused to extradite him.

Following yesterday’s deportation, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced that he was grateful to Cambodia for returning the two suspects. He also pledged to “seek further cooperation” with Phnom Penh.

On Sunday, Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, predicted “positive developments in the bilateral relationship” as a result of the extradition.

But Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the handover stemmed purely from the Kingdom’s counterterrorism policy.

“We don’t take into consideration the improvement of diplomatic ties between Cambodia and Thailand,” he said.

“If Thailand wants to improve Cambodian-Thai relations, it is up to the Thai side to make the decision. Cambodia will follow.”

Michael Montesano, a visiting fellow at Singapore’s Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, said Phnom Penh’s decision to give up the suspects was a textbook example of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s “shrewd” handling of Vejjajiva’s government.

“Should the Thais be interested in better relations with Cambodia, Hun Sen will have opened the door,” he said.

“Should Bangkok again take an anti-Phnom Penh line, Cambodia will be able to say that it had made an important gesture of friendship to Thailand, only to find itself spurned.”

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn was unavailable for comment yesterday.


Soldiers accused of beating farmers

via Khmer NZ

Timeline: Samlot land dispute

Farmers relocate to Samlot district’s Prey Thom and Chamlan Romeang Lea villages after being offered 30-by-70-metre plots of land along with 5 hectares of farmland in exchange for US$93.

Military officials begin trying to evict the farmers from sites in the two villages. An unidentified Korean company, in collaboration with local military officials, begins trying to evict farmers living at another site in Prey Thom village in early 2009.

April 26, 2010
Pich Sophon, a 60-year-old resident of Chamlan Romeang Lea village, is shot and killed by four unknown assailants in an attack that villagers say is likely linked to the disputes. Pich Sophon had been instrumental in advocating on behalf of the 141 families involved in the three disputes. He was also a witness to the April 4 shooting of fellow village advocate Sim Mey, who is believed to have been attacked by the same men.

May 25, 2010
Sim Mey is charged with unintentional damage to property and remanded in custody after being accused of torching a tractor belonging to a military official in 2008. He is released on bail on June 23 and could face one to three years in prison if found guilty. A trial date has not been set.
Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:03 May Titthara

SOLDIERS involved in multiple land disputes in Battambang province opened fire on a group of 60 farmers cultivating disputed land in Samlot district, and injured two in a subsequent beating, villagers and rights workers said yesterday.

Seak Nal, a representative of Prey Thom village in Kampong Lpov commune, said 10 soldiers from Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Military Region 5 opened fire without warning on Sunday morning as the farmers were planting corn.

“We just wanted to plant corn on our farmland, but they shot at us,” he said.

He added that none of the farmers were hit by the bullets, but that two were injured – one seriously – when the soldiers began beating those who refused to stop farming.

A total of 78 families have been growing corn on 390 hectares of land in Kampong Lpov commune for the past five years, but soldiers from Military Region 5 had been trying to remove them since early 2009, Seak Nal said.

Tuy Bun Ly, deputy commander of Military Region 5, said yesterday that he had heard that shots had been fired during Sunday morning’s altercation, but added that he did not know whether they had come from the farmers or his soldiers.

“I don’t know who used violence against whom. I have to go to find who is right and who is wrong,” he said.

He added, though, that the land in question was protected state forest, and that Military Region 5 was not trying to claim it for the soldiers.

“Our Region 5 is not involved in that land dispute, but if our soldiers did not go to protect that area they will destroy all the trees and clear the state land,” he said.

Military Region 5 is a party to two other land disputes in the district, both dating back to 2007. One of them centres on land in O’Samril commune’s Chamlan Romeang Lea village, and the other, also in Prey Thom village, has pitted villagers against the soldiers as well as a private Korean company.

These disputes have resulted in at least two incidents of violence earlier this year, though soldiers have not been implicated in either one. In April, 60-year-old Pich Sophon, a resident of Chamlan Romeang Lea village who had been instrumental in advocating on behalf of 141 families involved in all three disputes, was shot and killed by four unknown assailants. Earlier that month, he had been witness to a shooting that wounded a fellow advocate, Sim Mey, who is believed to have been attacked by the same men.

Nguon Siha, a 45-year-old resident of Prey Thom village, said farmers who tried to cultivate disputed land in the district were often targets of violence.

“We always have unknown [people] shooting at villagers, and one was shot to death, but police could not find the attackers,” he said.

He added that residents had not yet received a response to a complaint filed in June that called on district governor Hen Sophan to intervene. Hen Sophan said he was holding a meeting yesterday to address the issue, but declined to comment further.

Yin Mengly, provincial monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said both officials and soldiers should push for a nonviolent resolution. “The soldiers should protect villagers’ security, but they are making more problems for villagers,” he said.

Opposition paper closes

Photo by: Rick Valenzuela
A copy of Khmer Machas Srok newspaper is displayed sale at the corner of Street 51 and Sihanouk Boulevard earlier this year. The paper ceased publication last Monday, its editor said yesterday.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:03 Sam Rith

A PROMINENT opposition-aligned newspaper has folded due to “bankruptcy”, its editor said yesterday, prompting concern from some observers that the national media landscape would continue to be dominated by outlets that support the ruling party.

Khmer Machas Srok newspaper stopped publishing last Monday in response to a recent decline in sales, editor Chum Sophal said.

“We have stopped publishing the newspaper ... due to bankruptcy. We do not know when we will start republishing,” he said.

Chum Sophal said the newspaper had traditionally generated most of its revenue from daily sales, and that these had plummeted after publisher Hang Chakra was jailed for disinformation in June 2009 for running stories about alleged government corruption.

Since March, the newspaper sold between 20 and 30 percent of the 800 to 1,000 copies printed daily, he said. Before that, the newspaper routinely sold 70 percent of printed copies.

Hang Chakra was released in April, and said shortly thereafter that the paper would continue to run stories critical of the government. Chum Sophal said yesterday, however, that staff had been reluctant to take a hard line against sitting officials, and speculated that this might have led to the loss of readership.

“We reduced our criticisms of the government after our publisher was imprisoned,” Chum Sophal said. “We are afraid of being imprisoned.”

Pen Samitthy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists and editor of the daily newspaper Rasmey Kampuchea, said he was sorry to hear Khmer Machas Srok had stopped publishing.

He added, though, that he believed newspapers should be independent rather than aligned with a particular political party.

“We should think about how to make newspapers independent, not think about opposition newspapers,” he said.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said the folding of Khmer Machas Srok would be a “great loss” for Cambodian readers. “For a democracy to flourish, you need a robust and critical press,” he said.

If Khmer Machas Srok’s closure was permanent, he added, it would leave only one other major opposition-aligned newspaper in the Kingdom.

That paper, Moneaksekar Khmer, has also faced problems recently, having shut down for six months last year when the government threatened publisher Dam Sith with defamation charges.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said yesterday that he was unaware of Khmer Machas Srok’s closure, but he suggested that “untruths” – rather than reduced government criticism – had led to its decline.

“When we publish news with untruths too many times, the readers will lose confidence in the newspaper,” he said.

“They read the newspaper not to learn how to curse, but to know the truth.”


Sochua defiant on return

Photo by: Pha Lina
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua arrives yesterday at Phnom Penh International Airport, where she invited officials to arrest her for failing to pay a court-ordered fine.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:03 Meas Sokchea

OPPOSITION lawmaker Mu Sochua returned to Cambodia yesterday and promptly dared the government to arrest her for failing to pay a court-ordered fine levied in connection with her legal battle against Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The defiant Sam Rainsy Partly parliamentarian was greeted by roughly 100 supporters at Phnom Penh International Airport, where she told reporters she had no plans to pay any money in connection with the case.

“I have returned. If they want to arrest me today, this time is OK, surely,” she said, after acknowledging that she had failed to pay a fine of 8.5 million riels (US$2,024) that was due last Saturday.

“Today is too late for me to pay the fine to the National Treasury. If they want, they can arrest me any time. My address is already known.”

In August last year, Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered Mu Sochua to pay 16.5 million riels (about US$3,928) – the 8.5 million-riel fine and a further 8 million riels in compensation – after convicting her of defaming Hun Sen at a press conference in April.

After the Supreme Court rejected her final appeal last month, Mu Sochua was given until Saturday to pay the fine. A deadline for the compensation payment expires on July 17.

Even as she invited officials to arrest her, Mu Sochua warned that such a move would send shockwaves through the international community.

She noted that, while in the United States, she had submitted a petition to an Obama administration official pointing to what she described as the political bias of the Kingdom’s judiciary.

“The person who took this petition is a very high-ranking woman, and I guarantee this petition has already reached [President] Obama’s hands,” she said.

“The US and other donors, their stance is to protect human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, just courts, and to [fight]

On the day of Mu Sochua’s Supreme Court hearing, government officials and foreign donors met in Phnom Penh for the launch of a development forum. The following day, they announced an unprecedented $1.2 billion in aid payments for 2010 – about $250 million more than 2009.

Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said the fact that donors pledged so much aid for this year meant that Mu Sochua’s case might not have much influence over their relationship with the government.

He added that the dispute between the politicians could probably be resolved, but that both were “hard-headed” and unlikely to back down.

Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said the government was not worried about Mu Sochua’s comments because donors had recognised the progress made in reforming the country’s judicial system.

“The individual’s vision does not represent women throughout the country. This vision cannot be exchanged with the whole interest of society,” he said.

Ker Bunleng, president of the Phnom Penh Municipal Treasury, said he wrote to Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutors yesterday to inform them that Mu Sochua had failed to pay her 8.5 million-riel fine. He said the court would take legal action to recover the fines.

Tith Sothea added that if Mu Sochua refused to pay the compensation to Hun Sen, her assets would be seized and she would face arrest.


Nearly 1,000 ‘gangsters’ netted nationwide

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:02 Tep Nimol and Chrann Chamroeun

POLICE have disrupted the activities of some 920 “gangsters” nationwide in the first six months of the year, according to statistics provided by an Interior Ministry official yesterday, continuing a crackdown first ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen in June 2009.

Chea Bunthol, deputy director of the ministry’s Penal Department, said that the number of cases of gangsterism had increased to 332 from 251 during the same period, but that the number of individual gangsters had fallen from 1,434.

“We have actively operated the crackdown on gangsters from across the country,” he said.

“But the crackdown was done in a polite way. We let the gangsters get re-educated up to two times, but if they still ignore our education, they will be sent to court for further investigation straight away.”

A total of 79 cases involving 150 alleged gangsters had been sent to court so far this year, he added.

Asked to explain how police identified gangsters, he said: “We can tell when we see them that they are gangsters, often because they are teenagers riding their bikes very fast, or gathering for drug-taking in guesthouses or other public places. Or there are groups of people using samurai swords in dance celebrations, gambling, not going to school, etc.”

Though Chea Bunthol called the crackdown a “big success”, Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, had a different take.

“We are not so proud that local authorities have cracked down on these 332 cases, because there is no prevention,” he said.

“Local authorities should use their power to give them better educations, employment opportunities and professional training so they can become good citizens.”

Collision with truck kills six in Siem Reap

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:02 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap province

A FAMILY of six Cambodians who lived in France died yesterday when the car they were travelling in collided with a petroleum truck 20 kilometres outside Siem Reap town.

Pos Chantha, the deputy police chief in charge of traffic in Prasat Bakong district, said the accident occurred along National Road 6 in Rorkar Kambot village, and that all six appeared to have died instantly.

“We have not yet come to a conclusion on the cause of this accident,” he said. “Preliminary sources indicate that the car had sped up to overtake another car and then crashed into the truck coming from the opposite direction.”

The driver of the truck, he added, fled the scene before police arrived.

He said the victims had been on their way to visit their plot of land in Lor Lei village, located in Prasat Bakong district’s Bakong commune.

He said the family consisted of three men and three women, and he identified two them as Chou Saokhun, 48, and his wife, 49-year-old Keo Tymonik. The rest, he said, were their children, Chou Khunnarith, 28, Chou Keo Reaksmey, 27, Chou Puthearith, 25, and Chou Monika, 20.

Their bodies were being held at Siem Reap Referral Hospital, he said.

Siem Reap province saw 1,558 road casualties last year, including 84 fatalities and 845 serious injuries, according to the annual report from the Cambodia Road Crash and Victim Information System.

Nationwide, there were 21,519 casualties in 12,538 crashes, including 1,717 deaths, according to the report.

Five ordered to court over DM land fight

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:02 Chhay Channyda

FIVE ethnic Tampuon residents of Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district have received summonses to appear at the provincial court this week in connection with a violent November 2008 protest, as well as a warning that arrest warrants will be issued if they fail to comply.

The summonses call for the villagers – Pech Ponlork, Pring Ven, Sven Tou, Sev Kry and Ya Khamnea – to appear today and Wednesday.

But Sven Vev, a village representative, said they had not been given enough time to secure legal representation because they had only received the summonses on Sunday.

“Police gave us the summons late, so we can’t go to the court,” Sven Vev said.

More than 60 Tampuon families in Lumphat’s Patang commune are embroiled in a land dispute with the DM Group, a rubber company that has laid claim to 260 hectares of disputed land.

On November 27, 2008, Sven Vev and another village representative were called to the provincial court on suspicion of trespassing on land that officials asserted is owned by the company.

Outside the courthouse, a group of Patang commune residents who had accompanied the pair staged a protest that led to a violent altercation with police, who later filed a complaint against the five villagers who are due to appear in court.

Pech Ponlork, one of the summoned villagers, on Monday echoed Sven Vev’s claim that the five had been given insufficient time to find a lawyer.

“We have no lawyers now, and I will not go to the court without a lawyer,” he said.

Tong Sean, the police chief in Patang commune, said the villagers were trying to stall because they believed the court would charge and potentially detain them.

“It’s not too late to give the summonses to the villagers,” he said.

“They are afraid because they have been involved in this case, including the trespassing on land that belongs to others.”

Luch Lao, the investigating judge, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Laotian workers face drug charges

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

PREAH Vihear provinicial court has charged two Laotian men with drug-smuggling after they were found in possession of more than 2,000 methamphetamine pills last week, officials said yesterday.

Lat Munty Khan, 32, and Hang Phuran, age unknown, were arrested on Friday in Preah Vihear’s Kampong Sraloa commune on suspicion of trafficking drugs from Laos to Cambodia. Charges were filed against them on Sunday. Provincial police chief Mao Pov said yesterday that police seized 2,198 pills from the men, who he said are construction workers from Champasak province in Laos.

“They have confessed to the crime of drug-smuggling during our investigations, but said they only did it once,” he said.

Keo Sim, chief prosecutor at the court, said yesterday that the two men face hefty sentences if found guilty.

“We suspect they may have been involved in drug-trafficking more than this one time,” he said. The pair have been remanded in custody pending investigation, he added.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that the men would not be extradited because their alleged crime was committed in Cambodia.

“According to Cambodian legislation, the two Laotian men will be placed in Cambodian prisons until their trial finds them guilty or not guilty,” Koy Kuong said.

Preah Sihanouk farmers accuse NGO of blocking access to farms

via Khmer NZ News Media

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:02 May Titthara

VILLAGERS in Preah Sihanouk province said yesterday that they had once again been barred from planting rice by an NGO that has claimed ownership of their farmland.

Representatives of 23 families in Kampong Seila district’s Ou Bak Roteh commune said they will have no food to eat unless they are allowed to plant crops before the wet season intensifies. However, they said that when farmers tried to access portions of 270 hectares of disputed land on Sunday, they were blocked by representatives of the Cambodia Disabled Survivors’ Association.

Nget Ly, a representative of the villagers, said the families had not been allowed to plant rice on their land for more than a year. “We depend on our farmland, but the association does not allow us to plant,” she said.

Touch Seouly, director of the NGO, which is based in Kampong Speu province, yesterday confirmed that his staff blocked villagers from planting rice on the land.

“Villagers accuse me, calling me a bad man. But I have been planting rice on my own land,” he said. “I did not plant on the villagers’ land.”

Touch Seouly says that provincial authorities awarded the disputed land in Preah Sihanouk to his organisation in 2006, along with 1,654 hectares in Kampong Speu province. He says the land was given to his organisation so that it could provide farmland to disabled people and former soldiers.

However, many of the villagers making competing claims to the land in Preah Sihanouk province say they have lived there since 1980.

The dispute has led to occasional standoffs, as both sides have armed themselves with weapons.

Kampong Seila district governor Kheng Teng said yesterday that he had ordered the creation of a committee charged with reaching a peaceful resolution to the long-running dispute.

“We will do this according to the law,” Kheng Teng said.

But Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the local rights group Adhoc, said he believes local officials have no real desire to settle the villagers’ problems.

“Authorities are willing to support Touch Seouly,” he said.

Operation in Lebanon delayed

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:02 Thet Sambath

THE deployment of more than 200 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) deminers and engineers set for a UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon has been delayed by two months, officials said yesterday.

“The UN job to demine and construct bridges and buildings in Lebanon, originally scheduled for July, will be delayed because the UN needs more time to relocate troops currently situated there,” said Sem Sovanny, director general of the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance.

Sem Sovanny said that with UN forces still stationed in the barracks, there are no available facilities for the Cambodian troops.

“Our forces will leave for Lebanon in September or October. We are waiting for a new schedule from the UN,” he said.

The mission to Lebanon will mark the first time Cambodia has contributed to a peacekeeping operation in the Middle East. The RCAF’s participation was requested by the UN in March.

Cambodia has sent some 468 peacekeepers to Sudan on four missions since 2006, and additional RCAF troops have been sent to Chad and the Central African Republic.

Otres vendors reject ‘gifts’

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:01 Kim Yuthana and David Boyle

REPRESENTATIVES of 70 business owners and landless vendors slated for eviction from Sihanoukville’s Otres beach rejected an offer of cash “gifts” made by Preah Sihanouk provincial officials at a meeting yesterday.

Eng Phanith, one of the representatives, said authorities proposed giving lump-sum payments of US$3,500 to business owners and $1,000 to landless vendors if they were to voluntarily vacate a 1.5-kilometre stretch of the beach.

He said the group rejected the offer because it would not cover the cost of renting comparable land elsewhere.

“I won’t accept that compensation because it is too small. I can’t buy another place to make a business like my current one,” he said. Instead, he proposed a sum of $5,000 for business owners and $2,500 for vendors.

He added that he had been told by officials that they would take the counter-offer into consideration.

Preah Sihanouk provincial officials scheduled yesterday’s meeting after the business owners and vendors refused to comply with a June 30 eviction deadline. Officials have said they want to develop a municipal garden on the land.

Preah Sihanouk deputy governor Sok Phorn confirmed yesterday that he would take the group’s request to his superiors for consideration. He also emphasised that the money offered yesterday was not compensation.

“It is a gift or present for the vendors because those people live on a public beach and the state needs the beach to develop it,” he said.

“It is a strategy of the government because they don’t want to move, but these plans have been in place for a long time.”

He added that he could not make a decision on the counteroffer before obtaining the approval of his superiors, and that he expected to have a response within a week.

Ahead of the eviction deadline last week, provincial officials ruled out any form of compensation for the vendors and business owners, citing the fact that the stretch of beach was state-owned. Chan Chamroeun, provincial monitor for human rights group Adhoc, which is mediating negotiations along with members of Licadho, another rights group, praised the provincial government’s willingness to compromise at yesterday’s meeting.

“Before, authorities had no intention of discussing this face to face with the business owners and vendors. But now authorities have changed their attitude,” he said, and added that he was optimistic that the negotiations would succeed.

Sor Kem, owner of Sunshine Cafe, a small bar and restaurant on the beach, said yesterday that he hoped officials also considered another solution the group suggested: moving the affected business owners and vendors to another beach.

“They’re thinking about it. This is another option, but it’s going to take a long time,” he said. “They said if they can find [the land], they can give it to us – they will let us know.”

Tuol Kork fire victims rebuild

Photo by: Pha Lina
Residents lay down thatch roofing on a newly built home in Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 2 commune yesterday. A fire reportedly caused by an electrical short circuit tore through the community in March.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:01 Khouth Sophakchakrya

MORE than two-thirds of the homes destroyed by a March 8 fire in Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 2 commune have been rebuilt, despite threats from district authorities that they will be destroyed if they do not conform to new size restrictions.

The fire, which authorities said was caused by an electrical short circuit in a resident’s home, destroyed about 178 homes as well as 31 dormitories at Neak Von pagoda, leaving 257 families, 181 students and 90 monks homeless.

After the blaze, officials intended to relocate the families to Dangkor district’s Choam Chao commune, where they were to receive 5-by-12-metre plots of land.

This plan was abandoned, however, when 67 families refused to vacate the area.

Last month, when reconstruction picked up after the June 11 termination of the relocation plan, deputy district governor Thim Sam An said he would not allow the site to turn into a new urban slum.

Rather, he said, families would be required to stick to 3.92-by-5.5-metre plots – a downgrade for many of the families – in order to leave room for access roads.

“We have banned those people again and again from making new homes without permission,” he said at the time.

Yesterday, he reiterated his earlier assertion that at least some of the rebuilt homes would eventually be destroyed.

“Currently, 124 out of the 178 homes have been rebuilt completely, but some of them will face demolition in the future if the government chooses to rebuild the railway area,” he said.

“They did not rebuild them according to the conditions that we determined, which we informed them of during several meetings.”

He added: “Tuol Kork district authorities set up the new land plots so we could build three more roads to ease the traffic and save them if they have fires in the future.”

Doung Sothea, a representative of the 67 families that originally refused to move, said some families had decided to rebuild before securing approval from officials because they were tired of waiting for new plots to be measured and new infrastructure to be installed.

“We have many lingering concerns, because authorities have not taken accountability for what they promised us,” he said.

Sia Phearum, secretariat director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said it was “a good thing” that residents were rebuilding their homes. He noted that their possessions would be exposed to the wet-season rains otherwise.

“Our monitors have found that people have tried to rebuild, and it’s a good thing,” he said. “It’s good for people with possessions, because they have the right to rebuild.”

New complaint planned over property dispute

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

Sixty-five families in Kampong Thom province are preparing to file a new complaint against a provincial deputy governor who they say has been trying to unlawfully force them from their land since 2004.

The families, who live in Baray district’s Bak Snar commune, on Sunday staged a protest on the disputed 160 hectares of land against the official, Ot Sam Orn, who reiterated yesterday that the land was awarded to him in a concession in 1997.

Ouch Chanthorn, the leader of the protest, said that numerous complaints filed to authorities at all levels in recent years had not led to a resolution of the dispute.

Nevertheless, he said, a new complaint would be filed to provincial authorities “soon”.

He acknowledged that the villagers lacked land titles, but said their claim to the land was stronger than Ot Sam Orn’s.

“We don’t have official papers for this land. But we have taken control over it and farmed it for more than 10 years. It is our land,” he said. “The villagers asked Mr Ot Sam Orn to give the land back and stop using his power to restrict the villagers.”

He went on to say that Ot Sam Orn first expressed an interest in developing the land in 2004, when he asked the families to work for him on a rubber plantation at the site.

Because no official contract was ever presented, Ouch Chanthorn said, the families decided instead to go ahead with their original plan of cultivating beans and potatoes.

Since 2008, Ot Sam Orn has been trying to stop this by periodically hiring tractors to destroy individual plots of crops, he added.

However, Ot Sam Orn said yesterday that he could produce documents – though not a land title – proving that local officials had given him the land in 1997.

“I do not have the official title, but I have enough documents from the commune that gave this land to me,” he said.

He added that he had rented the land out to local families, who had in turn sold it to new families.

“When there were problems, the people who bought the land from the villagers who rented the land from me accused me of taking their land,” he said.

Prach Sa Um, a senior official in Baray district, said he believed the land belonged to Ot Sam Orn, pointing to the fact that he had at least some documentation to support his claim.

“This land is not owned by the people,” he said.

Fibre-optic network online

Photo by: Bloomberg
A 12-strand fibre-optic cable awaits splicing before installation. Cambodia inaugurated a multi-million-dollar fibre-optic network yesterday.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

THE final length of a US$17.6 million fibre-optic telecommunications network linking Cambodia with other Greater Mekong Subregion countries began operation yesterday.

Officials say the new 651-kilometre transmission line to Laos will increase the Kingdom’s communication speeds by linking the country to a regional backbone already connecting Thailand, China, Vietnam and Laos.

“This will improve living conditions for people in the GSM countries, as the entire network is now in place,” Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said at the launch yesterday.

Part of the GMS Information Superhighway project, the latest links were built by Chinese telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei Technologies for a total of $17.6 million, according to a project summary. The links have a network capacity of 2.5 gigabytes per second.

So Khun said construction was financed by a soft loan from China’s state-owned Export-Import Bank, and that the new network was under the control of Telecom Cambodia and Enterprise Telecom Laos.

Increased telecommunication speeds would prove an economic boon to the Kingdom, he said.

It will “increase national income by promoting development of ICT, exchanging new technology and information, and transmit voice, video, data and internet traffic widely to the world at an acceptable price.”

Stretching from Kampong Cham to the Laos border along National Road 7, and from Skun city in Kampong Cham province to Siem Reap along National Road 6, work laying the new cable wrapped up in July 2009, according to Telecom Cambodia director general Lao Saroeun.

Work has been conducted over the past year to increase the capacity of the network to send data at “super-fast” speeds, he said yesterday at the launch event.

Lao Saroeun said the fibre-optic network had already played a role in strengthening cooperation within the GMS, promoting economic growth within the region.

Telecom Cambodia would also be able to begin providing services to customers living in provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap lake, he added.

The original memorandum of understanding establishing the GMS Information Superhighway project was initiated by China and signed by the six regional nations in December 2004. Work on the latest line began at the end of 2007.

Laos’s Minister and President of the National Authority of Posts and Telecommunications Khamlouat Sidlakone predicted operating the cable would improve its economic ties with Cambodia.

“It will facilitate the development of trades and tourism between the two neighbouring nations,” he said yesterday. “It is not only a benefit of the people of the two nations, but also in other GMS countries.”

Banking sector sees boost in deposits, loans

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A teller counts US notes at a Phnom Penh Acleda Bank branch.

via Khmer NZ

Tuesday, 06 July 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

Cambodia’s commercial banks have steadily increased their deposit and loan bases over the first five months of this year, with deposits collectively growing 12 percent and loans 8 percent since the end of 2009, according to figures from the National Bank of Cambodia yesterday.

In Channy, Acleda president and chief executive, said the growth was a clear sign of the Kingdom’s recovery from the financial crisis.

The NBC figures show that between January and May this year, Cambodia’s commercial bank deposits rose 12 percent to $3.69 billion while lending increased 8 percent to $2.7 billion compared to the total at December 31.

At the end of last year, commercial bank deposits were $3.3 billion, and loans were $2.51 billion, according to the NBC’s report.

Although the Kingdom has 28 commercial banks, retail deposits and lending are concentrated in four: Acleda Bank, Cambodian Public Bank, Canadia Bank, and ANZ Royal Bank.

Acleda received deposits of $796 million, up 16 percent from $684.68 million at the end of last year, while outstanding loans increased to $603 million, up 12 percent from $539.7 million, according to the NBC’s January-to-May figures.

“We see both deposits and lending are growing well this year for Acleda – with both growing at a similar pace,” In Channy said yesterday. “It’s a sign of the recovery in the sectors of this country’s garment exports, tourism and agriculture.”

At Canadia Bank, customer deposits increased by 33 percent to $738 million from January to May this year from $555 million at the end of last year, the bank’s vice president Dieter Billmeier reported last month.

He said lending had risen 9 percent to $420 million by the end of May this year from $385 million at the end of last year.

The deposit and loan figures for ANZ Royal Bank and Cambodia Public Bank were unavailable yesterday.

Tal Nay Im, NBC director general, could not be reached for comment yesterday.