Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Dengue fever takes heavy toll

Photo by: AFP
via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:04 AFP

A nurse works in a ward for dengue fever patients at Alonso Suazo Hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. A dengue epidemic has brought Honduran hospitals to a standstill. In Cambodia, Ngan Chantha, director of the National Anti-Dengue Programme at the Ministry of Health, has emphasised the importance of precautions such as the use of mosquito larvaecide in the rainy season, when the disease poses the biggest threat.

Thailand extends crisis rules

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:03 Boonradom Chitradon

THAILAND yesterday extended emergency rule across about a quarter of the country by three months over lingering fears of unrest, despite calls from rights groups for the sweeping powers to be lifted.

The state of emergency, imposed in April after mass opposition protests broke out in the capital, would be maintained in Bangkok and 18 other provinces – out of a total of 76 – but lifted in five others, officials said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said there were still reports of activity by the antigovernment Red Shirts, whose protests in Bangkok erupted into the country’s worst political violence in decades.

“The government still needs the tools to ensure peace, order and stability for a while,” he said.

The emergency law bans public gatherings of more than five people and gives security forces the right to detain suspects for 30 days without charges.

Authorities have used the powers to arrest hundreds of suspects – including most of the top leaders of the Red Shirt protest movement – and shut down antigovernment TV channels, radio stations and websites.

Two months of antigovernment rallies from mid-March by the Red Shirts, who were seeking immediate elections, sparked outbreaks of violence that left 90 people dead, mostly civilians, and nearly 1,900 injured.

The government rejected calls 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 as a candidate for the opposition Puea Thai Party, which criticised the decision to extend the state of emergency.

“The government has used this law as a tool to eradicate its political rivals and to silence the media,” said spokesman Pormpong Nopparit.

“The government has turned a deaf ear to local and international rights groups, although the situation has returned to normal and the government cannot explain why this law is necessary.”

Critics say the government may be fanning the crisis as it clamps down on and censors the protest movement rather than addressing its grievances.

One think tank, the International Crisis Group, has voiced concern that the emergency laws had empowered Thai authorities to stifle the Red Shirts 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. AFP

Analysis: Good relations on the horizon

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Soldier Noun Sarun, 21, rests at the top of the stairs to Preah Vihear temple yesterday. Two years ago, UNESCO approved Cambodia’s World Heritage site application for the temple.

via Khmer NZ News Media
Timeline: two fraught years in Thai-Cambodian links

June 7, 2008

UNESCO inscribes Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site during its annual meeting in Quebec City, Canada. Thai Foreign Minister Nappadon Pattama resigns three days later.

July 15, 2008
Cambodian authorities arrest three Thais attempting to cross the border in order to plant their country’s flag at the temple, triggering a military buildup on both sides.

October 15, 2008
After a brief firefight on October 3, Cambodian and Thai forces open fire on each other along the border, leaving three Cambodians dead and two Cambodians and seven Thais wounded.

April 3, 2009
Further fighting between Thai and Cambodian troops leaves at least three Thai soldiers and two Cambodian soldiers dead. About five

November 4, 2009
Cambodia makes public the appointment of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as a government adviser. The following day, both countries recall their ambassadors in connection with the issue.

November 10, 2009
Thaksin arrives in Cambodia to a warm welcome from Prime Minister Hun Sen and government officials. It is the first of three visits he has made to Cambodia since his appointment.

November 12, 2009
Thai Sivarak Chutipong is arrested on charges of passing Thaksin’s flight information to Thai officials. He is jailed in Cambodia but returns to Thailand in December after receiving a Royal pardon.

January 24, 2010
Thai and Cambodian troops begin a week of sporadic firefights, trading small-arms and rocket fire in the border area. Cambodian officials say one Thai soldier is killed in the exchange.

July 5, 2010
Cambodia arrests
two Red Shirt activists suspected of links to an attempted bombing in Bangkok on June 22. The couple are deported to Thailand on July 5.

THOUSANDS are expected to turn out for a celebration at Preah Vihear temple today marking the two-year anniversary of its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The July 2008 listing of the 11th-century Angkorian temple, the ownership of which has long been a point of contention between Cambodia and Thailand, sent bilateral relations into a tailspin from which they have barely recovered.

In Thailand, Foreign Minister Nappadon Pattama was forced to resign after the Thai constitutional court ruled he had acted illegally in supporting Cambodia’s bid.

The ensuing spat – kept constantly tense by a series of small-scale border clashes – hit a new low in November last year, when Cambodia announced it had appointed Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as a government adviser.

Thailand immediately withdrew its ambassador in protest, prompting Cambodia to return the favour.

Relations have remained at a stalemate so far this year. Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that any decision to improve diplomatic relations would have to come from Thailand.

“It is up to the Thai side. If the Thais want to upgrade [the relationship], they have to declare first that they are sending back their ambassador,” he said.

He pledged that if Thailand were to dispatch its envoy, Cambodia would reciprocate within 15 minutes “at most”.

Cambodia’s handover on Monday of two Red Shirt activists suspected of involvement in an attempted bombing in Bangkok has prompted some observers to speculate that ties might be on the mend.

On Monday, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva thanked Cambodia for the handover, and said he hoped the move would pave the way for closer collaboration between the two governments.

Springtime for Abhisit
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said the deportation was the most recent demonstration of a thaw in relations that began at a Mekong River Commission summit in April.

The change had been marked, he said, by a moderation in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s provocative stance towards the Abhisit government, as well as a recognition that Abhisit had consolidated his position since antigovernment Red Shirt protests were violently dispersed in May.

“It doesn’t seem that the Bangkok elite in the Democratic Party will give up power easily,” Pavin said. “Hun Sen must have realised that it’s no good for his long-term interests if he does not change his stance on the current government.”

According to one line of thinking, Bangkok took Hun Sen’s pro-Thaksin stance a little too seriously: Their political relationship, which led relations to a new low last year, was purely pragmatic – and therefore subject to change.

“It was partly a domestic political game, and partly just a way of having fun at Thailand’s expense,” said Duncan McCargo, a Southeast Asia expert based at the University of Leeds.

“The history of relations between Thaksin and the CPP elite suggests that this is a very pragmatic relationship, rather than the robust and threatening alliance imagined by the Democrat Party.”

Set in stone
But Preah Vihear temple – known to the Thais as Phra Viharn – continues to cast a long shadow over the countries’ relationship. Although a World Court ruling handed the temple to Cambodia in 1962, it continues to rankle nationalists in Thailand.

Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, described enthusiasm about Preah Vihear as “a celebration of Cambodian identity”, but that the populist use of the issue in Cambodia had put pressure on Thailand to respond.

Indeed, the temple’s symbolism is only magnified by the domestic turmoil that has gripped Thailand since the 2006 coup that toppled Thaksin.

Michael Montesano, a professor at the National University of Singapore, said the domestic political situation in Thailand – where the Abhisit government remained constrained by the need to appease “extreme Yellow Shirt elements” – could keep Preah Vihear firmly on the agenda.

McCargo agreed, saying the temple was not a constant source of concern in itself, but “is dusted off when there is a rise in political temperature” in Thailand.

The long-term health of Thai-Cambodian relations could hinge on the outcome of Thai elections expected later this year.

“Bilateral relations depend totally on Thai domestic politics,” Chheang Vannarith said. If the election failed to produce a government with a popular mandate, or triggered more violent street protests, he said, the two countries’ relations could suffer.

An electoral win by antigovernment Red Shirts and their allies would certainly improve relations with Phnom Penh in the short term, but Pavin said that Thai-Cambodian tensions would never fully fade.

“Relations sit on historical bitterness, territorial issues that have never been resolved,” he said. “The problem will always be there.”

Bombing suspects make frame claim

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Varisareeya Boonsom, 42, at Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:03 Sam Rith and Sebastian Strangio

TWO Thai Red Shirt activists suspected of involvement in an attempted bombing in Bangkok last month said at a press conference yesterday that they were being framed.

Kobchai Boonplod and Varisareeya Boonsom, both 42, were arrested in Siem Reap province on Saturday and handed over to Thai officials at Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday.

As they were being escorted onto the tarmac, the husband and wife told reporters they would face death if they were sent back to Thailand.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Kobchai and Varisareeya had been charged with possessing and using explosive substances to harm others and damage assets, and with bringing an explosive into a public area.

At a press conference at Royal Thai Police headquarters in the Thai capital yesterday, they both again denied their involvement, though they admitted to having sheltered fellow Red Shirts wanted by police.

“I had no motive [to be involved in the bombing]. I did not know anything about it,” Varisareeya told reporters. She said the pair travelled to Siem Reap on June 23 to meet Red Shirt leaders believed to be operating from there.

Thai Assistant National Police Chief Aswin Kwanmuang quoted Cambodian officials as saying that on the day of the couple’s arrest, staff members at their hotel in Siem Reap told them to come down to the lobby to meet Red Shirt leaders Kanyapak Maneejak and Payap Panket.

Police then arrested the couple when they arrived in the lobby, he said.

“The couple said these fellow Red Shirts called them out of their hotel room only to be arrested,” The Nation newspaper quoted Aswin as saying.

But Cambodian officials rejected the reports, along with the suggestion that senior Red Shirts were living freely in Siem Reap after fleeing mass protests in Bangkok that were broken up in May.

“Thai Red Shirt leaders did not enter into Cambodia as confirmed by the Thai spy group reporting through some Thai media,” said Tith Sothea, a spokesman at the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers.

“This is not true information,” he said.

Siem Reap provincial Police Chief Sarth Nady said he could provide no information about the alleged presence of Red Shirts, and added that he did not know the name of the hotel at which the couple had been staying because his men were not responsible for the operation.

When asked whether Cambodia would deport other Red Shirts found living in Cambodia, Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said that the country would arrest anyone guilty of committing terrorist acts.

“We don’t care whether they are red shirts, yellow shirts, black shirts or blue shirts. We are committed to the policy against terrorism,” he said.

Six-month Indian ordeal ends for migrant workers

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Seven members of a group of eight Cambodian migrant workers returned yesterday from India, where they were held in a detention centre for six months.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:03 Mom Kunthear

EIGHT Cambodian men believed to have been trafficked to India arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday morning after spending six months in an Indian detention centre.

The workers reportedly left Cambodia last September to find jobs in Thailand, having struck a deal with a broker who promised them fake Thai visas, passage across the border and construction work on the other side.

“I was cheated,” one of the returned workers, 19-year-old Song Pheakdey, said yesterday. “We were kept on the boat in Thailand for 28 days before we were brought illegally to India.”

He said the men didn’t realise they had been cheated until a Thai man on board told them what was happening.

The next day, he said, the man was killed.

Song Pheakdey said the men were held captive until the ship docked in India, where they were discovered and arrested by Indian authorities. After being held for six months, they were finally allowed to return home.

Government officials say the eight men are among many victims of human trafficking, which has become a growing problem for Cambodians seeking work abroad.

Say Meng Chheang, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, said at the airport yesterday that traffickers must be punished, and that Cambodians should be better educated about the dangers migrant workers face.

“We are worried about people who live in rural and remote areas who don’t know enough about the problem,” he said. “They find it easy to believe in these brokers and end up getting cheated.”

Kim Sovanna, deputy director of the legal department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the men would remain under the jurisdiction of the International Organisation for Migration for the time being and did not know when they would be able to return to their families.

“These men are lucky to be back home,” he said.

“The Cambodian government and NGOs worked very hard to get them back.”

Song Pheakdey said he was very happy to return home after such a dangerous ordeal.

“I want to give a message to all Cambodians: Don’t go to work in Thailand or another country illegally, and do not believe it if someone promises to find a job for you,” he said. “We could have died there.”

Clerk links release in logging case to PM

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:03 Chrann Chamroeun

FOUR officials at the Koh Kong Forestry Administration Cantonment who were charged in April in connection with an illegal logging ring have been released from custody, though provincial court officials said yesterday that their case remained under investigation.

Chhin Long, the chief clerk for the prosecution at the provincial court, said he had seen a document indicating that the release of the men was ordered by Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun and approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has issued several calls this year for a crackdown on illegal logging.

“I briefly saw a letter from Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun that was signed by the prime minister requesting the release of the four forestry officials,” he said.

“I don’t know more details on the reasons for their release. I just handed the letter to the judge for consideration.”


I don’t know more details for their release. I just handed the letter to the judge for consideration.


The officials – Uk Kimsan, Norng Chanda, Kim Nara and Khieng Sochivoan – were arrested in April following an investigation conducted by Koh Kong provincial court into an illegal logging ring operating out of Thmor Bang district, Meas Sitha, deputy director of the provincial cantonment, said yesterday.

Meas Sitha said all four had been released late last month. “I’m only aware that the four officials had been released on June 24. I don’t have any other details,” he said.

Huon Mony, the director of the provincial court, said their case is part of an “ongoing investigation into a massive forestry crime”.

In the April raid that led to their arrest, officials confiscated hundreds of cubic metres of luxury wood and seven trucks, all of which had been handed over to the cantonment for use as evidence later, he said.

Both he and Meas Sithy said they could not remember the specific charges that were brought against the four men, but confirmed that they initially were ordered to serve pre-trial detention.

Investigating judge Bun Thy said yesterday that the case was still under investigation.

As part of the same investigation, two other forestry officials – a former maritime inspector and a current Foretry Department staff member in Preah Sihanouk province – were summoned to the court in June, as were two officials from a conservation NGO. Bun Thy said at the time that all four were summoned “under suspicion of being behind illegal logging and conspiring with businessmen”, but he declined to elaborate.

Eang Sophalleth, a spokesman for Hun Sen, said yesterday that he was not aware of the Koh Kong case and declined to comment. Chan Sarun, a former director of the Forestry Administration, could not be reached for comment, nor could the administration’s director, Chheng Kim Sun.

The crackdown on illegal logging, first announced in January, has led to few arrests and prosecutions, prompting some rights groups and conservation activists to question that it will lead to a reduction in illegal logging in the long term.

At around the same time as the June Koh Kong summonses, officials at Ratanakkiri provincial court said they were launching an investigation into why no complaints had been filed in connection with 45 raids carried out in the province since the crackdown was announced.

Prison accused of land-grabbing

Photo by: James O'Toole
Inmates work at Correctional Centre 4 in Pursat province. Villagers living nearby say the plans for expanding the facility impinge on 78.5 hectares of their farmland.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:03 May Titthara

Twenty-seven families from two villages in Pursat province yesterday confronted prison officials accused of annexing 78.5 hectares of farmland to accommodate a planned expansion.

Nov Pheoun, a representative of Phteah Rong village in Phnom Kravanh district, said yesterday that a brief, nonviolent altercation took place with officials at Correctional Centre 4 (CC4) who he said had prevented residents of his village and Chungrok village from cultivating land they had occupied since 1998.

“Authorities have recognised us as legal [owners], but the agriculture prison guards did not allow us to plant and said that the land belonged to them,” he said.

CC4, which opened last year, operates vocational agricultural training and rehabilitation programmes for inmates.

Prison director Hin Sophal referred questions concerning the expansion to district officials, who he said had researched the affected area before granting the land to his facility.

“While conducting research, they found only 60 affected families, and our authorities have prepared 190 hectares for them already, so other villagers who are affected are the local authority’s duty,” he said.

Phnom Kravanh district governor Toch Sambo said he planned to resolve the dispute, but contended that many of the families did not have legitimate legal claims to the land in question.

“They just came to anarchically take over state land, but we’ve educated them to move out already, and left only a few affected families for whom we are currently searching for a solution,” he said.

Nov Pheoun said villagers from Phteah Rong and Chungrok villages first voiced their complaints in early June, when they protested outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh.

Sochua could be detained by force: court

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

PHNOM Penh Municpal Court has issued a letter warning that opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua will be “detained by force” if she doesn’t pay a court-ordered fine within 10 days.

The Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian has refused to pay the fine of 8.5 million riels (US$2,024) as well as 8 million riels in compensation – fees levied against her when the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found her guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen last August.

In the letter, dated yesterday, Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun ordered Mu Sochua to pay the fine to the treasury within 10 days.

“If [Mu Sochua] does not pay by the scheduled date, we will order her to be detained by force,” the letter stated.

Mu Sochua could not be reached for comment yesterday, but an assistant confirmed she had received the letter.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Mu Sochua’s stance was intended to demonstrate “that the Khmer court is unjust and corrupt”.

Run Saray, executive director of Legal Aid of Cambodia, said it appeared the court was complying with legal procedures in enforcing the conviction.

“If you fail to pay, you could face a contempt of court order,” he said, and added that Mu Sochua could ultimately face jail time.

Such a scenario, however, would play into the hands of the opposition more than the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy.

“If she does [go to jail] she will gain a lot of support, mainly from women voters,” he said. “That’s what the prime minister cannot afford to have happen.”

Instead, both sides might come to a last-minute arrangement that would allow Mu Sochua to avoid jail, he said.

Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that Mu Sochua would not benefit from her own imprisonment.

“If she sees that imprisonment is her correct issue, it is her right. We see this as defiance, not as profit for the SRP.”


Lawyers for Sam Rainsy walk out

Photo by: Pha Lina
Choung Choungy, a lawyer for Sam Rainsy, speaks with reporters after an Appeal Court hearing was postponed yesterday.

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:02 Meas Sokchea

THE Court of Appeal yesterday postponed a hearing for opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two villagers from Svay Rieng province yesterday after defence lawyers walked out of the courtroom.

Lawyer Sam Sokong said that his clients – Meas Srey and Prum Chea – should have been allowed to make the trip to Phnom Penh, and that their case could not proceed fairly if they were denied the right to testify.

“I would like to oppose this hearing because of the absence of the accused,” Sam Sokong told the court. “My clients want to clarify this case.”

In January, Meas Srey and Prum Chea were found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison for destroying public property in the uprooting of border markers along the border with Vietnam. Sam Rainsy was convicted of the same offense, as well as racial incitement.

The opposition leader, who is abroad, was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison and fined 8 million riels (US$2,000).

Yesterday Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, Choung Choungy, blamed the government for the convictions of the two villagers.

“This is the government’s fault. They are responsible for this case,” he said.

He added that he agreed with Sam Sokong that the convicted villagers should be permitted to contest their convictions.

After both lawyers walked out of the court, Judge Khun Leang Meng postponed the hearing until an unspecified date, saying he wanted to address the lawyers’ concerns.

He said he would ask officials in Svay Rieng to send the jailed villagers to Phnom Penh for a future hearing.

But Chan Sok Yeang, a government lawyer working on the case, said the court would have been acting within its mandate had it seen fit to proceed with yesterday’s hearing. He accused a defence lawyer of acting on “political interests”.

“It is his business if it damages his clients’ interest,” he said. “It is his intention for his clients to be detained for a long time more.”

Deum Ampil divided by financial spat

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:02 May Titthara

THE chief financial backer of the Deum Ampil News Media Centre, which announced last week that it would be halting operations due to a funding shortage, said yesterday that she may launch a new newspaper with a different name as soon as this week.

Sieng Chanheng, who also owns the Heng Development Company, said the newspaper would need to begin publishing soon so that her staff could remain employed.

“Just wait and see tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. The new newspaper will come out,” she said.

Her daughter, Dim Sopheavy, the deputy director general of the media centre, also said the newspaper would launch soon. She declined to disclose its name.

“I will run a newspaper soon with the new name, and it will run as a daily, but I cannot tell you the specific name,” she said.

“You will see when the newspaper prints and we are on sale at the market.”

Soy Sopheap, the director general of the media centre, said last week that he had been forced to shut down its popular newspaper, magazine and radio programming after Sieng Chanheng demanded that he cut operating costs in half by firing many of its 110 employees, an allegation Sieng Chanheng has denied.

He said yesterday that he, too, planned to launch a new newspaper soon, though he added that he would need financial backing.

“I have no money to relaunch the newspaper on my own, so I am looking for a financial supporter to help publish it,” he said.

He added that he believed most of the centre’s employees would choose to work for him, though several said yesterday on the condition of anonymity that they were concerned he would not be able to finance a new project.

Yem Noy, director of the Information Ministry’s Media Department, said he had received no recent requests for newspaper licences, and referred additional questions to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who could not be reached yesterday.

Hun Sen’s old dorm rises again

Photo by: Pha Lina
Hun Sen’s former dormitory at Neak Von pagoda, which was destroyed in a March 8 fire that tore through Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 2 commune, has been rebuilt, officials said yesterday.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:02 Khouth Sophakchakrya

A DORMITORY that once housed Prime Minister Hun Sen has been completely rebuilt just under four months after it was destroyed in a fire in Tuol Kork district’s Boeung Kak 2 commune, officials said yesterday.

Thim Sam An, the deputy governor of Tuol Kork district, said reconstruction began on May 27 at the premier’s urging and was completed on June 25, though no inauguration date had been set. He added that he did not know when the dormitory would be made available for monks and students.

“We double-checked the plans already. It was made on the old site, which is 17.74 by 12.10 metres, and we kept the dimensions and original style,” he said. The reconstruction was funded by a US$30,000 donation from Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, he added.

The March 8 fire, which authorities say 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.

In a speech later that month, Hun Sen called for his old dormitory to be rebuilt quickly, saying the fire “did not know it was the house of a pagoda boy who became the prime minister”.

Local officials have yet to demarcate land for residents’ homes, though more than two-thirds of those destroyed have been rebuilt anyway.

The new dormitory can house between 20 and 30 monks and students, Thim Sam An said.

Gnith Khim, the abbot at Neak Von pagoda, said he hoped it would be open soon.

“I hope the authorities will inaugurate this dormitory and give it to my pagoda before the end of this month, because currently we have 100 monks and students living in a dining hall,” he said.

Kampot families seek time to fight eviction

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

A LAWYER for 25 families who stand to lose their land as a result of a recent Kampot provincial court ruling has asked that their eviction be delayed until the Appeal Court considers the case, though 10 police officers were deployed to the disputed site yesterday.

The provincial court ruled on June 28 that the 25 families in Teuk Chhou district should be evicted from 58 hectares of land that have been claimed by Hiev Lun, a businesswoman who says she purchased the land from commune officials in 2005.

According to the ruling, the villagers were to be evicted yesterday.

Pol Lim, a secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, issued a directive the same day as the verdict asking that provincial officials reinvestigate the case. But Chea Hean, a lawyer for the families, said yesterday that the directive had been “ineffective”. He also said an appeal was filed yesterday.

“The provincial court should delay the implementation because the case is still pending at the Appeal Court,” he said.

Sieng Sok, a deputy provincial prosecutor, said 10 police officers along with village and commune authorities visited the site yesterday to enforce the verdict, but that no action had been taken as of yesterday evening.

Long Nhor, the chief of Trapaing Pring commune, where the land is located, said authorities had been trying to evict the villagers – many of them former Khmer Rouge who defected in 1996 – from the land for years.

“I went along with the authorities to apply the verdict, but we didn’t do anything to the land,” he said. “But I do not know if their farmland will be cleared so we can give the land to the plaintiff.”

Commodities exchange counting down to July 30

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A farmer in Battambang province shows his soon-to-be-harvested cotton crop in October last year. Cotton is one of 11 products to be traded on Cambodia's new commodies exchange.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:01 Catherine James

CAMBODIA’S first commodities exchange, which will regulate and monitor the price of gold, oil, cotton and other goods, is set to launch at the end of this month, its chief operating officer has told the Post.

An opening ceremony for the Cambodian Mercantile Exchange will be held in Phnom Penh on July 30, hosting guest speaker Sir Richard Kapsch, the ex-governor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, one of the world’s largest commodities exchanges.

Kushal Kumar Shrestha, CMEX chief operating officer, said interest in the exchange had been growing since its opening was first flagged in March, but that the concept was still a new one for the Kingdom.

It will “take some time ... possibly a few years” before Cambodia’s commodities exchange is a fully fledged operation, Shrestha said yesterday.

Initially, 11 commodities will be tradable on the exchange – gold, silver, cotton, crude oil, heating oil, natural gas, soya-bean oil, soya bean, wheat, copper and coffee – as there is already an existing international market trading these commodities and tracking supply and demand.

Plans call for more local produce to be added as CMEX conducts further analysis, or “price discovery”, on the local market.

Shrestha said that setting market prices for commodities would benefit “everyone”.

“Price discovery of commodities is very important for the importers, exporters, growers, buyers, sellers: for everyone. Directly and indirectly – it will help them,” he said.

Benefits, he said, would come from setting a publicly available “fair” price on which trades could be made and future risk calculated.

CMEX is solely backed by two investors who have set up similar exchanges in their home country of India, as well as Nepal, Kenya and Sri Lanka.

The company plans to focus first on building awareness of the exchange in cities, beginning with Phnom Penh, and later expand to reach farmers in the provinces.

Shrestha said he believed the exchange was a step towards a stronger economy.

“For the economy to grow we need a stock exchange, we need a commodities exchange, we need a futures market, the derivative market. They play a very important role in the growth of the economy in every nation,” he said.

Officials at the long-anticipated Cambodian stock exchange, set to be launched later this year, seem to agree.

The Securities Exchange Commission of Cambodia has been in close discussions with CMEX, as it would ultimately set regulatory policies for both exchanges to operate under.

An SECC delegation including Deputy Director General Kao Thach and Director Chan Narith was now in Nepal to see an operational commodities exchange at work and draw from the Nepalese government experience in regulation, Shrestha said.

The delegation is expected to visit the Nepalese ministry of finance today, and will later meet the security board of Nepal.

Shrestha said CMEX hoped to have licensed up to half a dozen brokers once the exchange went live in mid-August, and had been calling for “entrepreneurs” to apply.

“The experience they need [as a broker] is minimal as CMEX will itself provide the training,” Shrestha said.

Acleda Bank was “70 percent” likely to become the exchange’s banking partner, Shrestha said, but the bank yesterday declined to comment until more was known.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries declined to comment on how the exchange might impact upon farmers. An official said that not enough was understood about how the operation was going to work.

Police Blotter: 7 Jul 2010

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:00 Phak Seangly

A 32-year-old man was beaten unconscious in Kandal province on Sunday after a wager over a boxing match turned ugly. Witnesses at a coffee shop where the brawl occurred said four men decided to bet on a televised boxing match. Three men chose a red-clad boxer, whereas the fourth man, the eventual victim, selected a boxer wearing blue shorts. By the third round, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the red pugilist was not going to be successful in his endeavour to pummel his rival. The three men who bet on him broke off their wagers and allegedly began pummelling the man who bet on the blue boxer. Witnesses said they did not dare to intervene while the man was getting the living daylights beaten out of him. Then they blamed the shop owner.

Police in Kampong Chhnang province have arrested a 40-year-old Phnom Penh man one week after he was accused of taking part in a robbery during which he allegedly “hypnotised” his victim. The 37-year-old victim said he had been “hypnotised” by a drug administered by two suspects, who rode away on his motorbike as he stood transfixed. But the victim later spotted one of the accused men and reported him to police. Various onlookers who showed up while police were interrogating the suspect said they had also been “hypnotised”. Some attempted to beat the man, but police intervened. Police are now searching for the second suspect.

Police in Svay Rieng province have arrested a 19-year-old murder suspect, more than two and a half years after he was accused of the crime. It is alleged that the suspect was one of five people who attacked four others sitting in front of a school in November 2007, killing one. The five alleged killers escaped to other provinces. Police arrested the suspect when he returned home to visit his family. The suspect allegedly confessed to the murder, though no motive was given.

Police in Poipet town have arrested four men and a woman accused of robbing tourists. The suspects, who were nabbed near the Poipet border checkpoint, have been accused of stealing handbags and mobile phones. They have not been formally charged; instead, police offered them an “education” and persuaded them to sign a contract pledging never to steal again, authorities said.

Top-level view: bad times over for banks

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

THE head of Cambodia’s Bank of India says he believes "the worst is over" for the banking sector, hit hard by the economic crisis last year, after showing strong growth in the second quarter of 2010.

Cambodia’s commercial banking sector saw growth in loan disbursements and profits in its second-quarter results, reported by Acleda, the Bank of India, the Foreign Trade Bank of Cambodia and Angkor Capital Bank yesterday.

Acleda Bank reported US$5.6 million in second-quarter profit, up 46.5 percent from $3.82 million in the first three months. Deposits grew 7.7 percent to $793.17 million from $736.2 million, while outstanding loans increased by 5 percent to $614.48 million in the second quarter from $585.5 million in the first.

“We have seen that economic situation has gradually been going well, and demand for loans has been picking up, especially in the trade, tourism and agriculture sectors,” In Channy, president and CEO of Acleda, said yesterday.

“We expect to see profit approaching $20 million for the whole year.”

The rate of non-performing loans at the bank has decreased to 0.6 percent as of June this year, from 0.8 percent at the end of last year.

The Bank of India, which opened in Phnom Penh in May last year, said that its loans had grown by 25.54 percent in the second quarter compared to the first, because of its low interest rates and quick turnaround time.

“It appears the worst is over in Q2,” Ramesh Chandra Baliarsingh, chief executive of the Bank of India, said yesterday. “The economy and the banking sector of the country is again back into a growth trajectory.”

FTB reported quarterly lending growth of 7.6 percent from $105 million to $113 million, while deposits increased by 6.5 percent to $245 million from $230 million.

Angkor Capital Bank saw lending growth of 20 percent to $18 million in the second quarter, from $15 million in the first, and deposits up 9 percent to $24 million from $22 million.

“We expect to see the profit of around $0.7 million this year,” said Alex Ng, Anchor's general manager.

According to a recent banking supervision report compiled by the National Bank of Cambodia, net profit at Cambodia’s commercial banks was down 47.5 percent in 2009, compared to 2008.

Imports of garment materials surge

via Khmer NZ News Media

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara

IMPORTS of raw materials for garment manufacturing surged 45 percent in the first five months of 2010, compared to the same period last year, according to preliminary data released by the Ministry of Commerce yesterday.

Data indicated that imports increased 44.81 percent to US$794.29 million (210,286 tonnes), from $548.48 million (102,464 tonnes).

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce Director Deneral Nguon Meng Tech said the increase was linked to the recovery in demand for garments.

“Normally when our exports grow, the [raw material] imports also follow, as we don’t have our own textile or fabric factories to supply the sector,” he said.

Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia Secretary General Ken Loo said the price of raw material had recently increased, but that sales had not grown in proportion with the cost.

“I think this is the big problem for the industry,” he said.

But Nam-Shik Kang, managing director of Injae Garment Company, said his raw material imports had gone up 15 to 20 percent compared to the same period last year because of increased demand in foreign markets.

Total garment and textile exports rose by 11 percent to $1.06 billion in the first five months of 2010, up from more than $953 million last year.

ADB: List in dollars and riels

Photo by: Julie leafe
ADB economist Jayant Menon discusses so-called de-dollarisation at the ADB Cambodian Resident Mission in Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:01 Jeremy Mullins

CAMBODIA’S planned stock exchange ought to consider allowing listings in both United States dollars and riels, according to Asian Development Bank Office of Regional Economic Integration Chief Economist Jayant Menon.

After being asked for advice by bourse officials, Menon said he recommended allowing listings in both currencies to foster investors’ interest, rather than using the exchange as a tool to meet the government’s long-term aim to “de-dollarise”, or transition from the dollar to the riel.

“It’s not the time to address dedollarisation, it’s the time to address the success of the stock exchange,” he said at yesterday’s Phnom Penh launch of an ADB-published book, Dealing with Multiple Currencies in Transitional Economies, which he co-authored.

“I don’t think trying to use the exchange as a de-dollarisation tool will help it at this fragile stage.”

Stock exchange officials have not yet said which currency will be used for listings.

Ministry of Economy and Finance Secretary of State Hang Chuon Naron said in a speech at the book launch that the ministry was primarily focused on promoting economic growth.

“While dollarisation is important, we have to focus on creating jobs” and promoting growth, he said. He added that long-term economic growth would allow an unenforced transition to the riel.

With the US greenback used in more than 90 percent of domestic transactions, Menon said, there was a temptation to view de-dollarisation as an issue of sovereignty, as widespread use of the dollar means that the US accrues revenue that would have been Cambodia’s if the riel were more widely circulated.

“There’s some justification in feeling this way, but we shouldn’t be overly focused on lost revenue,” he said. “There’s clearly a cost [to using the dollar], but benefits are much harder to measure.”

The Kingdom had come through the financial crisis relatively well, Menon said, and the large domestic reliance on the dollar may have been a factor in its economic success.

He said a gradual approach to de-dollarisation, rather than drastic reform, was best.

Korean firm to buy 40,000 tonnes of corn

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

THE Cambodian arm of South Korea’s agricultural investment company Korea Overseas Grain Investment and Development Co Ltd was planning to buy about 40,000 tonnes of the Kingdom’s red corn next year, a company official said yesterday.

KOGID Cambodia Co planned to spend about US$7 million on red corn from the western provinces of Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey, Kogid Cambodia manager Oung Savuth said.

“We hope the company is successful in buying the red corn as planned,” he said.

He said that in order to support the plan, the company had built a corn-drying plant – able to dry 20 tonnes of corn an hour – in Ratanak Mondul district of Battambang province, and that the plant was being operated in a trial stage.

Kith Seng, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ undersecretary of state, said yesterday that the Kingdom’s western provinces were growing plenty of red corn, but that the growers often struggled to find enough buyers.

“We support the company’s plan to buy red corn because it will help expand market opportunities for our farmers’ products,” Kith Seng said.

According to a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report, last year’s total red corn harvest was 780,754 tonnes – 672,177 tonnes of which was from Battambang, Pailin and Beanteay Meanchey provinces.

In June 2009, KOGID Cambodia announced that it had invested $150 million to buy from 70,000 to 150,000 tonnes of red corn per year from Cambodia to export to South Korea for processing into animal feed.

Oung Savuth said that his company aims to buy a fairly large amount of Cambodian red corn but was not certain it would accomplish its goal, as there were already many competitive buyers of the crop.

Phou Puy, chairman of Battambang province Chamber of Commerce, said 20 companies were competing to buy red corn. Expectations are that about 600,000 tonnes will be produced this year, some of which will be exported to Thailand and Vietnam.

Mobile library draws to a screeching halt

Photo by: Photo Supplied
Children peruse books brought into their neighbourhood by the Department of Books and Reading’s mobile library.

via Khmer NZ

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:00 Roth Meas

THE current state of Cambodia’s mobile library programme can easily be divined by the condition of the light truck resting in the parking lot of the Department of Books and Reading in Phnom Penh.

The tyres are flat, the battery is dead, the paint on the side reading “Biblio Bus” is fading; it’s clear that both the truck and the programme are going nowhere fast.

Yeang Sakkony, 41, the librarian of the Biblio Bus, said the truck stopped working about three months ago, but that all the programme’s books were still stored inside the vehicle. She added that despite appearances, “the mobile-library programme will be up and running again soon” – as soon, that is, as enough funding is found to get the truck fixed.

The mobile library was initiated by the Cambodian government in 1995 with sponsorship from the French embassy, which trained the librarians and donated books as well as the truck. But the embassy recently ended its sponsorship, and no one has stepped in to fill the funding shortfall.

The idea behind the project was that the truck would be driven into different neighbourhoods in the city, where librarians would unroll mats for people to sit on, and anyone who wanted could relax and read the many books that were stored inside the vehicle.

“Anyone who wants can sit outside on the mats and read, or they can sit on chairs inside the truck and read,” Yeang Sakkony said. “We stop at Buddhist pagodas that are close to the primary, secondary and high schools, but we never go too far from Phnom Penh.”

During its heyday, the mobile library ran four days a week, from Monday to Thursday, stopping throughout the week at 10 pagodas: Wat Sleng, Wat Russey Srors, Wat Chumpouvan, Wat Sansamkosal, Wat Keankhlang, Wat Choeung Ek, Wat Prochumvong, Wat Dambok Khpous, Wat Pon Phnom and Wat Bakheng.

Yeang Sakkony said that when the programme started in 1995, most children saw the books as toys rather than something to read.

“After 1979 people were not very interested in reading. Even the schools didn’t have many books. The purpose of the mobile library was to help revive an interest in reading among young people,” she said.

“At first many of the kids went into the truck and just made a mess,” she said. “They would take a book from the shelves, scan it for a second and throw it on the mat.”

But over time the library helped change the attitudes of adults and children, with visitors becoming increasingly interested in reading. The programme also attracted book donations from institutions such as the French Cultural Centre, Rooms to Read, Asia Foundation and Japan Sotoshu Relief Committee.

The library now holds more than 6,700 books in three languages – Khmer, French and English – and for all reading levels.

“We have books on history, literature, cooking, legends, music, but newspapers and magazines are the most popular,” Yeang Sakkony said. She added that she also tries to attract young children with comics and picture books, and established a storytelling programme.

She said that when the truck was running, more than 200 children came to read books every day. “When they heard our truck coming, everybody, even tiny naked boys, ran straight to us. The books made those children happy the whole day. Parents who were illiterate began encouraging their children to go to school after they heard them trying to spell the words.”

Meanwhile, Yeang Sakkony is hoping to get the library back on the road as soon as possible, and even expand the programme to areas outside Phnom Penh.

“But right now we have no budget. With the French embassy no longer sponsoring the programme, we have no money to fix the truck,” she said.

“I’m appealing to other institutions to help us run the library again so Cambodian children, especially those in rural areas, can get access to the books.”

The Phnom Penh Post News in Brief

via Khmer NZ
Building permits: Official cites ‘chaos’ in construction

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

Building permits

THE government aims to reduce “chaos” caused by illegal buildings after seeing a slight rise in prohibited construction last year, the director of the Land Ministry’s construction department said yesterday.

Statistics released yesterday by the Ministry of Land show 755 illicit buildings went up last year, a 2.3 percent increase compared to 2008.
Construction Department Director Lao Tip Seiha said those who built without permission had made a mess of the Cambodian construction sector and caused a loss in profits.

“It’s left the urban planning process in chaos,” he said. Cambodia’s increasing population means that people wanted to build more new houses, but some didn’t know how to apply for permission, he added.

Chhim Chan Virak, project manager and architect for Canadia Bank’s Mekong Condos, said illegal projects could harm buyers because of a lack of quality control.

Brenntag takes over wing of East Asiatic

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

GERMAN chemical distribution giant Brenntag has purchased East Asiatic Company’s industrial ingredients wing, including its Cambodian operations, for more than US$200 million. Danish firm EAC said in a press release that its Industrial Ingredients operations had been sold because they had not reached a scale sufficient to compete in an increasingly consolidated sector.

China asks Cambodians to attend joint trade show

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:00 Chun Sophal

CHINA was encouraging Cambodian representatives to attend the seventh China-ASEAN trade expo, to be held in Nanning in October, the expo’s vice secretary general Nong Rong said.

Philippine trade fair to open at InterContinental

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

THE first Philippines Trade and Investment Mission to be held in the Kingdom kicks off Friday in a bid to boost trade and investment between the two nations. The two-day event will see Philippines’ produce on display from July 9 to 10 at the capital's InterContinental Hotel.

Driving range to open in capital in September

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:00 Soeun Say

A US$1 million golf driving range will open in September as part of the Overseas Cambodia Investment Cooperation’s Diamond Island Development project in Phnom Penh, according to the company architect and project manager Touch Samnang. Prices for its use have yet to be set.

Vietnamese firms plan Phnom Penh expo

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:00 May Kunmakara

MORE than 150 Vietnamese companies are expected at a five-day expo on Diamond Island, Phnom Penh, later this month. The Ho Chi Minh City Expo 2010 will run from July 15 to 19 and is aimed to help Cambodia and Vietnam reach a US$2 billion bilateral trade target this year.

SECC opens search for cash settlement agent

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

THE Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia will start to receive applications for accreditation for a cash settlement agent, it was announced yesterday. According to a prakas, or edict, the applicant must be a commercial bank and will be required to pay an annual fee of 40 million riels (US$9,500). The application deadline is August 15.

Elephants set for travel

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:02 Sam Rith

CAMBODIA is to officially hand over two elephants to South Korea today, a move one official said was intended to express Prime Minister Hun Sen’s appreciation of the two countries’ friendship.

Chheng Kim Sun, director of the Forestry Administration, said the elephants would be given to South Korea during a ceremony at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Kandal province.

“This is the first time we have offered elephants to South Korea,” he said, and added that a sign would be displayed at the zoo stating that the pachyderms “are a present from Samdech Hun Sen to South Korea for friendship and for all children”.

Preparations on track for Asia party summit

Wednesday, 07 July 2010 15:02 Dan Pordes

FOLLOWING three days of briefings, politicians from South Korea, Pakistan and the Philippines said yesterday that preparations were on course for a gathering of Asian political parties set to be held later this year in Phnom Penh.

Mushahid Hussain Sayed, secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League, said at a press conference held at the Council of Ministers that Cambodia’s experience with war and reconciliation made it a natural candidate for an event marking the 10th anniversary of the founding of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties.

“Cambodia today is far cry from what it was, and their policy of reconciliation could be a model for others, particularly in Afghanistan,” he said.

The two-day event – scheduled for December 2 and 3 – is set to include meetings of various groupings within ICAPP, which encompasses 310 political parties from more than 50 countries, as well as discussions with representatives of Latin American and Caribbean countries belonging to the the Cocoa Producers Alliance.

Sayed said it would result in a “Declaration of Phnom Penh”, that he said would address the economy, the environment and energy issues.

“We see these as being a roadmap for the solutions to problems in Asia, a policy prescription for Asian governments,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is set to preside over a portion of the programming.

Suspect has notes on how to make bombs : police

via Khmer NZ

Published on July 7, 2010

Tips on how to make bombs were allegedly found in a notebook belonging to Warisriya Boonsom - a suspect behind the botched blast at Bhum Jai Thai Party office.

Warisriya, who is now in detention, admitted owning the notebook but denied writing down the tips.

"The notebook was found inside her luggage bag," Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tharit Pengdit said yesterday.

Warisriya and Kobchai Boonplod were arrested in Cambodia last Saturday and extradited back on Monday. They fled Thailand on June 23, one day after the blast occurred.

Both Warisriya and Kobchai are now detained at the DSI facility.

DSI senior official Lt-Colonel Sittiporn Charoenput said Warisriya was apparently suffering stress after she was interrogated. She was seen weeping on arrival at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Monday.

"But her condition is now improving a bit. At least, she could eat after asking for some khao mun gai (chicken rice) for breakfast," Sittiporn said, as he led a media tour through the DSI facility.

He said the facility - which has 18 detention cells, each with a bed and bathroom - was maximum security. Each room was for one suspect only and DSI officials would monitor them all.

During the tour, reporters ran into Warisriya as she was brought to her cell. She was shocked to see reporters and stood speechless briefly before bowing her head.

Kobchai's mother Yuppadee Boonplod showed up at the DSI to visit her son yesterday evening. She said tearfully she did not believe her son was involved in the blast.

"He's a quiet, kind-hearted and helpful man. He has never harmed anyone." Yuppadee also denied reports Kobchai and Warisriya lived as husband and wife. "They just shared the same political ideology."

Yuppadee said Warisriya insisted she never said some red shirts betrayed her and Kobchai.

Central Investigation Bureau deputy-commissioner Maj-General Panya Mamen said Warisriya and Kobchai had confessed to buying a cart for the self-confessed bombers and giving them accommodation, but denied knowing about their bomb plot.

"We are going to check their phone-call records and we are digging deep into where the explosives and other equipment for the plot came from," Panya said.

He said Kobchai and Warisriya did not clearly specify who betrayed them.

"They said they went down to the lobby of a hotel in Siem Reap because someone told them via a phone call red-shirt leaders would meet them there. But when they came down, they met Cambodian officials instead and were arrested," Panya said.

Commenting on the case, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the investigation was seeking to find out who else was involved.

Warisriya has been quoted as saying that Payap Panket and DJ Aom, Kanyapak Maneejak, had betrayed her and Kobchai.

Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday expected the couple would give crucial details leading to the arrest of more people in the case. "Based on evidence and ongoing investigation, I am convinced these two suspects played a key role."

Asked if Thailand would ask Cambodia to arrest more suspects on its soil, Abhisit said the government had to analyse information from various sides first. "But we will of course seek co-operation from Cambodia too".