Friday, 9 July 2010

On the money in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ

9 Jul 10
by John Simpson
Teri Wilson is helping Cambodian children.

MORNINGSIDE banker Teri Wilson will pedal 340km across Cambodia to help children become more money-wise.

Ms Wilson, 26, will jet out on July 19 ahead of the four- day cycling trip from Siem Reap to Battambang in the country’s north as part of the Credit Union Foundation Australia’s Cambodian Leadership Challenge.

The route will take the Credit Union Australia employee and a team of nine other cyclists from different credit unions nationwide, through some of Cambodia’s most isolated and disadvantaged villages.

Ms Wilson, who cycled 500km through Cambodia last year, said each team member aimed to raise $5000 for financial programs for four to nine-year-olds.

“A lot of the children, because their families are so poor, can’t go to school, so this is one of the few opportunities they have to get some sort of education,” she said.

“They’re taught what money is, how you get it, where it comes from and how you save it.”

To donate, visit your nearest CUA branch or log on to

Prime Minister meets Cambodian new ambassador

via Khmer NZ


Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung received Cambodia’s newly-accredited Ambassador Hunn Phany in Hanoi on July 8.

PM Dung praised Cambodia’s achievements over the recent past, which have helped raise the country’s position in the international arena, and boost relations between the two countries.

He asked the ambassador to contribute to boosting comprehensive cooperation between the two countries, especially in trade and investment. He mentioned Vietnam’s investment projects in aviation, telecom, mining and rubber in Cambodia, which bring practical benefits to both sides.

The PM also asked for the completion of border demarcation between the two countries in 2012 as agreed by the two countries’ leaders and make good preparations for conferences of Vietnamese and Cambodian provinces sharing common borders to be held in Cambodia.

He affirmed that the Vietnamese Government, ministries and agencies will create favourable conditions for the ambassador to fulfil his term of office.

The Cambodian Ambassador expressed thanks to Vietnam for its valuable assistance over the past years and affirmed that he will try his best to contribute to strengthening relations between the two countries. VOVNews/VNA

Cambodia to promote solar energy using

via Khmer NZ


PHNOM PENH, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia's rural electrification fund is planning of 12,000 solar panel systems next month to help spread green power to rural villagers who are not connected to the national grid, local media reported on Friday.

The REF - a World Bank-supported public institution aiming to provide electricity to every Cambodian village by 2020 - plans to sell the solar panels to rural households on a monthly payment basis, executive director Loeung Keosela was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying.

Foreign and domestic vendors will be invited to submit bids next month to supply the REF with 12,000 sets of solar panels, batteries and wiring, he said, which will then be sold individually to rural Cambodian households.

"If we procure in bulk sizes, hopefully the cost of individual systems will come down," he added.

The project is funded by the World Bank's 67.92 million U.S. dollars Rural Electrification and Transmission project loan, which is set to expire on January 31, 2012.

The REF previously experimented with grants directly subsidising the cost of solar panels for households, he said, but the plan had limited success. "Only about 90 systems were sold."

"Over the last decade, it seems demand for solar home systems are growing," Mao Sangat, director of privately owned supplier Solar Energy of Cambodia said.

At the first Asian Solar Energy Forum held in Manila earlier this week, Asian Development Bank (ADB) officials said Asia's developing nations were in a perfect position to harvest power from the sun, and added that assistance from development institutions was crucial to growing the industry, the post reported.

Editor: Xiong Tong

Cambodia: Decline of Monk Morality?

Written by
Sopheap Chak

Posted 9 July 2010

via Khmer NZ

Since Buddhism is a state religion guaranteed by the Constitution and the fact that nearly all Cambodians are Buddhists, the recent reported decline of monk morality in the country is a cause of concern.

On several occasions, monks have been found of engaging in violent behavior or misconduct including having sex or watching pornography. There was a case where a provincial chief monk reportedly got drunk and beat a clergymen who didn't file a complaint for security reason since the bully monk is recognized as the king monk in the province. Recently, a monk was caught making a video of naked ladies who went to his monastery for religious watering, a belief that the water provided by the monk will release all bad incidents or bring luck to people. The investigation which led to an arrest was followed by an enormous sharing of that nude video via bluetooth from phone to phone. This apparently raised a question over the emerging development of technology infrastructure in Cambodia where people can widely access porn materials more easily. However, as suggested by Chan Nim, the issue is left to the conscience of the people on the proper use of technologies.

On the other hand, there are many well-behaved monks who understand the role of technology in promoting religious teachings. While it is now common to see many blogs initiated by young people who discuss social, technological or personal issues, there are now Buddhism-themed blogs such as Bodhikaram, Saloeurm, Khmerbuddhism. An extensive teaching of Buddhist philosophy is now accessible online in the form of short commentaries, dictionaries, podcasts, or textbooks in both English and Khmer. Moreover, there are a number of monks who are effectively maximizing the internet in order to reach a wider audience. Venerable Saloeurm Savath, for example, has been rigorously sharing many Buddhist teachings via face-book which acts as a natural linkage with his laypeople who can easily reach him for more explanation on certain Buddhist Principle or issues.

Pagodas and monks are part of Cambodia's cultural and educational heritage. They continue to contribute a lot in society. It is hoped that monk morality can be strengthened to encourage the people to affirm their trust and faith in Buddhism which has hugely contributed to national reconciliation and psychological peace, such as the case of survivors of the Khmer Rouge Regime that kept applying Buddhist teachings to transform their revenge and anger to hope and peace of mind.

Photo from the flickr page of Adam Jones, Ph.D.By Sopheap Chak · Posted 9 July 2010

Cambodia questioned as peace exercise host

via Khmer NZ

NEW YORK, July 8 (UPI) -- A human rights group Thursday criticized the U.S. choice of a Cambodian military unit with a record of human rights abuses to host a peacekeeping exercise.

Human Rights Watch announced in New York the choice undermines the commitment of the United States to promote human rights in Cambodia.

The 2010 Global Peace Operations Initiative, of which the Angkor Sentinel exercise is a part, is a peacekeeper-training joint effort by the U.S. Departments of Defense and State. It is co-hosted by the U.S. Pacific Command, and will be the largest multinational military exercise held this year in the Asia-Pacific region, Human Rights Watch said, with more than 1,000 military personnel from 23 Asian-Pacific countries scheduled to participate.

The U.S. Defense Department funded construction of a $1.8 million training center for the 2010 initiative, which is scheduled to begin Sunday.

"For the Pentagon and State Department to permit abusive Cambodian military units to host a high-profile regional peacekeeping exercise is outrageous. The United States undermines its protests against the Cambodian government for rampant rights abuses like forced evictions when it showers international attention and funds on military units involved in grabbing land and other human rights violations," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The ACO Tank Unit has been involved in illegal land seizures for years, the organization said. The United States should suspend military aid to Cambodia until abusive people or units have been screened out, the group said.

Khmer Rouge War Film

resource on a disaster

via Khmer NZ

Footage pieced together from different sources. Features teenage male and female KPNLAF (Khmer Rouge) soldiers preparing to attack supply boats along the Mekong. There are also staged battle scenes between Khmer Rouge and Lon Nol troops, the latter being defeated and captured.

Gates grant funds production of genetically engineered malaria drug

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Exploring philanthropy, non-profits and socially motivated business, from the Gates Foundation to your donation. A fresh look at the economy of good intentions.

Posted by Kristi Heim

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The Institute for OneWorld Health, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, said it has received $10.7 million from the Gates Foundation to begin commercial production of a key ingredient for malaria treatment.

In a partnership with drug company Sanofi-Aventis, the institute will use the Gates grant to prepare for large-scale production and commercialization of semi synthetic artemisinin by 2012.

Semi synthetic artemisinin is produced by a combination of genetic engineering and synthetic chemistry.

Artemisinin, the standard treatment recommended for malaria, is derived from artemisia, an herb found in Chinese medicine from the leaves of the wormwood tree.

A Cambodian soldier offers blood for a malaria test near the Cambodian and Thai border, where efforts are underway to eliminate a drug-resistant strain of falciparum malaria.

While the parasite that causes the mosquito-borne disease has developed resistance to traditional drugs such as chloroquine, artemisinin in combination with other drugs is considered to be the most effective medication and credited with raising recovery rates globally.

The problem is its cost. Labor intensive extraction drives the price up and out of reach of most people in malaria prone areas such as sub-Saharan Africa.

This scientific paper describes the process, and this article offers a plain English translation of the project to use genetic engineering techniques to create microbes that can mass-produce artemisinin. (The University of Washington is also studying artemisinin's potential in cancer prevention.)

But even a more stable supply may not fully solve the problem of drug resistance when it comes to malaria. U.S. health officials say resistance to artemisinin is spreading.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned last year that parasites resistant to artemisinin had emerged along the border between Cambodia and Thailand.

The Gates Foundation gave the Institute for OneWorld Health a five-year $42.5 million grant in 2004 to establish and validate a manufacturing process to make artemisinin-type drugs more affordable.

Cambodia: Halt US Aid to Abusive Military Units

via Khmer NZ

08 Jul 2010

Source: Human Rights Watch

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

(New York) - The US selection of a Cambodian military unit with a record of human rights abuses to be the host of an annual peacekeeping exercise in Asia undermines the US commitment to promoting human rights in Cambodia, Human Rights Watch said today.

The "Angkor Sentinel" exercise is part of the 2010 Global Peace Operations Initiative, an effort jointly run by the US Departments of Defense and State to help train peacekeepers. Co-hosted by the US Pacific Command, Angkor Sentinel will be the largest multinational military exercise held this year in the Asia-Pacific region, with more than 1,000 military personnel from 23 Asia-Pacific countries taking part.

The peacekeeping exercises will begin on July 12, 2010, with a five-day "command post" exercise in Phnom Penh. A two-week field training exercise will follow, with Cambodia's ACO Tank Command Headquarters in Kompong Speu province as the host. The US Defense Department funded construction there of a US$1.8 million training center for the 2010 initiative.

"For the Pentagon and State Department to permit abusive Cambodian military units to host a high-profile regional peacekeeping exercise is outrageous," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The US undermines its protests against the Cambodian government for rampant rights abuses like forced evictions when it showers international attention and funds on military units involved in grabbing land and other human rights violations."

For years, the ACO Tank Unit has been involved in illegal land seizures, as documented by the US State Department and by Cambodian and international human rights organizations. In November 2008, the unit seized the farmland of 133 families in Banteay Meanchey province, ostensibly to build a military base. In 2007, soldiers from the unit in Kompong Speu province used armored vehicles to flatten villagers' fences, destroy their crops, and confiscate their land.

Since 2006, the US has provided more than $4.5 million worth of military equipment and training to Cambodia. Some of that aid has gone to units and individuals within the Cambodian military with records of serious human rights violations, including Brigade 31, Brigade 70, and Airborne Brigade 911.

The Phnom Penh portion of Angkor Sentinel is likely to showcase elite Cambodian military units based near the capital, such as Prime Minister Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit and Brigade 70, both of which have been linked to a deadly March 1997 grenade attack on the political opposition, and Airborne Brigade 911, which has been involved in arbitrary detentions, political violence, torture, and summary executions.US material assistance has also gone toward rights-abusing units such as Brigade 31, formerly known as Division 44, which in 2008 used US-donated trucks to forcibly move villagers evicted from their land in Kampot province. In recent years Brigade 31 has been implicated in illegal logging, land grabbing, and intimidation of opposition party activists during the 2008 national elections. The unit was also involved in summary executions of captured soldiers loyal to the FUNCINPEC party during a 1997 coup staged by Hun Sun.

Cambodian military personnel are not held accountable for serious rights violations. Instead, Hun Sen has promoted military officers implicated in torture, extrajudicial killings, and political violence, such as Hing Bunheang, the deputy commander of Brigade 70 at the time of the 1997 grenade attack, who was made deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in January 2009.

In December 2009, Cambodia deported 20 ethnic Uighur asylum seekers at grave risk back to China on the eve of a visit by senior Chinese officials to Phnom Penh. The US cancelled delivery of 200 surplus military trucks and trailers to Cambodia under the US Excess Defense Articles program.

This was only the most minimal response to a serious breach of Cambodia's obligations as a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Human Rights Watch said.

In February, Hun Sen announced plans for corporate sponsorship of military units as a way to support defense costs. More than 40 Cambodian businesses have agreed to subsidize military units, including some companies that have long been allowed to misuse military units as the equivalent of security contractors to protect and support their business ventures in agri-business, banking, casinos, and national media.

"By essentially auctioning off military units, Hun Sen revealed that many military units are little more than guns for hire, not the defenders of the Cambodian people," Robertson said. "The US should not be training corrupt and abusive military units for global peacekeeping."

The US government should suspend military aid to Cambodia pending an improved and thorough human rights vetting process that screens out abusive individuals or units from receiving any aid or training, Human Rights Watch said. Certain military units, as well as individual personnel from them, should be immediately banned from Defense Department assistance, including Hun Sen's bodyguard unit, Brigade 70, Brigade 31, and Airborne Brigade 911, and any of their sub-units.

"US support for peacekeeping training cannot mean turning a blind eye to soldiers and units who have violated human rights," Robertson said. "Instead, military units that are called to deploy abroad as international peacekeepers must be true professionals, not only in technical expertise, but in their respect for human rights."

Cambodian-born state Labor MP slams PM Julia Gillard over refugees

via Khmer NZ

Matt Johnston
From: Herald Sun
July 09, 2010

State Labor MP Hong Lim on the steps of the Victorian Parliament building. Photo: Paul Harris

A CAMBODIAN-born state Labor MP has slammed Prime Minister Julia Gillard for using asylum seekers as political playdough.

In an email to a concerned constituent, copied to state Labor MPs, Clayton MP Hong Lim said he felt shame over the ALP's treatment of asylum seekers.

Mr Lim, who is a special adviser to Premier John Brumby on Victoria-Asia business relations, said his community and party should be standing up for people fleeing danger.

"I hang my head in shame as a leader of the Cambodian community, as a member of the ALP, as an MP, as an Australian, as a human being ... to see political expediency being played out so cruelly and so unconscionably even among our Party!" he said in the email.

Mr Lim went further when describing Liberal Party policy, however, saying the Opposition treats boat people worse than animals.

Mr Lim, who was elected to State Parliament in 1996, said Victoria would not be what it was today without the humane treatment of asylum seekers.

"There would not be a successful settlement of the Indo-Chinese community had they been treated the way the present day refugees and asylum seekers have been so cruelly treated," the email said.

Mr Lim told the Herald Sun he did not wish to comment further as it was "very much a federal matter".

"It is a personal view only, expressed privately to his colleagues."

FACTBOX: Land grabs and forced evictions in Cambodia

via Khmer NZ

08 Jul 2010
Written by: Thin Lei Win

A Cambodian farmer cuts rice stalks in a paddy field in Takeo province, 80 km (50 miles) south of Phnom Penh in this file phot taken December, 2008. About 85 percent of the population are farmers. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea

BANGKOK (TrustLaw) - Tens of thousands of impoverished Cambodians have been forced off their land by foreign investors, powerful companies and individuals in the last decade as the economy grew, pushing up property values. Land-grabbing and forced evictions are worsening landlessness - a major impediment to cutting poverty and boosting development in the country.

Here are some of the most contentious land grabs and forced evictions in Cambodia.

1. Dey Krahorm (Phnom Penh)

Set on a prime two-hectare (five-acre) plot of land facing the Mekong River, this slum had up to 1,400 residents. They say they hold land rights under a 2001 land law. Moreover, the prime minister declared the site a Social Land Concession in 2003, meaning it would be transferred to the poor, but the land still ended up in the hands of a company called 7NG.

Activists say unelected community representatives sold the land to 7NG in 2005 without the knowledge of the people living there. Talks about payments were still underway when the authorities evicted the residents in January 2009.

Scores, perhaps hundreds, of families were evicted, with violence involved. Rights activists and police said eight people were injured. Activists say few villagers received adequate compensation. The plot of land where Dey Krahorm was located is worth an estimated $44 million.

After the eviction, residents were transported by truck to Damnak Trayeung relocation site on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Many are still homeless as of May 2010 and the Housing Rights Task Force said 70 percent of those relocated have moved back to Phnom Penh and are living in low-rent housing areas.

2. Group 78 (Phnom Penh)

Group 78 was another community living in central Phnom Penh on around three acres of prime real estate valued at more than $15 million, next to the Australian Embassy and in the same area as Dey Krahorm. According to Amnesty International, most of its 150 or so families who were evicted from the area in 2009 were poor street vendors, teachers or low-level civil servants who say they have been living there for nearly 20 years.

They have applied for formal title several times and have official documentation such as property transfer documents and family record books as proof of their tenure, but the authorities have repeatedly rejected them, activists said. The municipality offered four compensation options - all of them, according to rights groups, inadequate.

After threatening since June 2006 to evict the residents for different and often contradictory reasons, the city authorities did so in July 2009 using dozens of armed police. The families were forced to accept a compensation of $8,000 per household, which rights groups say is considerably below the market value of the land, is not enough to buy a house in Phnom Penh and fails to take into account the varied size of the families. The evicted now live on the outskirts of Phnom Penh but continue to work in the city.

3. Snoul (Kratie)

During the 2008 rainy season, the 250 or so ethnic Stieng families in four villages in Srey Cha Commune in Snoul district found excavators clearing their cassava plants. They later found out that in May 2008 the provincial governor had leased 769 hectares of their forest and farmland to an agro-industrial company for a rubber plantation without their knowledge.

The Community Legal Education Centre (CLEC) said the lease contravenes both the 2001 land law and later sub-decrees that protect indigenous lands. After 10 months, the land clearing was stalled but the Stieng families still lack the ownership documents they need to recover the land.

The company has filed a criminal complaint criminal complaint against three village activists. The CLEC is representing them and lawyers say unless the community proves it owns the land, the charges will hang over them for years. The CLEC also says the families rely heavily on the cassava plants for their livelihoods but cannot work on the fields while the dispute is going on.

4. Spean Ches (Mittapheap 4)

More than 100 families were evicted from Mittapheap 4 village, also known as 'Spean Ches', in April 2007. Many had lived there since the 1980s. Activists said they face an unsubstantiated claim of ownership by a powerful individual.

Although the villagers never saw her title alleging ownership of the land, the district authorities and the governor of the municipality issued eviction notices and told them to move. The villagers' complaints went nowhere and they were evicted.

Witnesses said 150 soldiers, military police and police armed with AK-47s, electric batons, wooden sticks and shields took part. They fired at the ground and above the head of villagers and beat the people who tried to salvage their property, resulting in 18 injuries. Thirteen men were arrested and imprisoned for more than a year and the houses were burnt down. The victims' families said they have since lodged multiple complaints with national authorities but to no avail.

5. Chi Kraeng (Siem Reap)

This is a complex, long-running dispute over 475 hectares of rice fields in Chi Kraeng district in Siem Reap. In March 2009, witnesses said 100 police shot and injured four farmers and detained at least nine people during a dispute between two different groups of villagers.

Rights groups said Chi Kraeng farmers' land was taken away from them by local businessmen with close ties to district and provincial officials. Media reports, however, said the dispute stretches back to 1986, when a large village was divided equally between Chi Kraeng and Anlong Samnor communes.

No policemen have been arrested in connection with the incident while 11 Chi Kraeng villagers remained behind bars. The police said they were not at fault.

6. Kong Yu (Ratanakiri)

Kong Yu (also written as Kong Yuk) and Kong Thom are two ethnic Jarai villages in Ratanakiri province in the highlands of northeastern Cambodia. The villagers and a powerful company have been embroiled in a legal dispute over 450 hectares of land since 2004.

Lawyers for CLEC and Legal Aid of Cambodia argue the disputed land is indigenous community land and as such, under the 2001 land law, it cannot be transferred to individuals outside the community. They also said the land sale contracts are invalid as the villagers had been tricked and pressured into signing them.

However, the authorities do not recognise the villagers as an indigenous community despite their evidence. In October 2008, the company's employees began clearing the farms and a burial forest despite an injunction from a provincial judge.

Moreover, 10 legal aid lawyers acting for the communities were threatened with disbarment and possible criminal charges, activists said. Formal complaints against them were made to the Cambodian Bar Association in June 2007. By the end of the year, all but two had resigned and stopped working on the case.

7. Boeung Kak (Phnom Penh)

One of the few large open spaces in central Phnom Penh, the area around Boeung Kak lake was once home to around 4,000 families who depended on the lake for their livelihood. Residents say they have been living here since the 1980s when they returned to the city after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

Despite their claims to the land under the 2001 land law, the land management team, financed by the World Bank, refused to give them land titles in 2007. Soon afterwards, the land was leased for 99 years to a private developer, who started pressuring the families to leave the area.

In August 2008, the developer began filling in the lake, a move activists say could lead to severe flooding in the north of Phnom Penh. Over 1,000 families have already been evicted after accepting "woefully inadequate compensation under conditions of duress", said a group of non-governmental organisations who filed a complaint with the World Bank over its conduct. An investigation by a World Bank Inspection Panel is underway. More than 70 percent of the lake is now filled and over 3,000 families are still facing eviction.

Sources: Reuters, Losing Ground Report, Untitled Report, Land and Housing Rights in Cambodia Parallel Report 2009, Phnom Penh Post, Sithi Cambodian Human Rights Portal

US, Cambodia Set To Mark 60 Years of Diplomacy

Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer | Washington, DC
Thursday, 08 July 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: by Taing Sarada
Hem Heng, left, Cambodian US Ambassador to Washington alongside with Tea Banh, Minister of Defense, in a pagoda in Maryland.

The embassy in Washington will mark 60 years of diplomatic relations with the US on Friday, with celebrations scheduled in Cambodia in weeks ahead.

The Cambodian Embassy has invited 200 guests and dignitaries for a performance of traditional dance and a live concert Friday, the Ambassador Hem Heng told VOA Khmer.

In Cambodia, the US Embassy is hosting a week of activities starting from July 18. On that day, the Pacific Fleet Marine Band will play a concert at Chaktomuk Hall in Phnom Penh, followed by another performance in Battambang town on July 20.

The award-winning “New Year Baby,” produced by Socheata Poeuv, will play July 19 at Chenla Theater in Phnom Penh. On July 21 and July 22, the government and US embassy are co-sponsoring a discussion of former ambassadors and historians that will be open to the public on both days. And on July 24, the embassy will host a public dance recital of “Seasons of Migration,” by master dancer Sophiline Shapiro, at Chaktomuk Hall.

The celebrations are part of a continued program to mark diplomatic dealings that have not always been smooth. The US was behind a coup that ousted then prince Norodom Sihanouk and preceded the rise of the Khmer Rouge. It also undertook a secret bombing campaign during the Vietnam War.

Relations between the two countries have improved in recent years, with the resumption of direct aid and the lifting of Cambodia from a trade blacklist, following soured relations in the aftermath of the 1997 coup d’etat.

Cambodia Behind Region in Investment

Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Thursday, 08 July 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: AP
Cambodians cross the Tonle Sap river by ferry along a Chinese-funded bridge under construction at Prek Kdam village.

Cambodia has improved its investment environment, “but we have to fix other problems.”

While Cambodia has adopted a competitive investment strategy, it lags behind Asia-Pacific countries in terms of investment facilities and other factors, the World Bank reported Wednesday.

Cambodia is one of the more open countries to foreign investment, but its roads, ports and other infrastructure are not developed, according to the “Investing Across Borders” annual report.

“It’s a showcase to attract more foreign direct investment,” said Ngoun Meng Tech, secretary general of Chamber of Commerce of Cambodia.

Cambodia’s economy has struggled since the 2009 recession, and foreign investment has fallen from $1.2 billion in the first six months of 2009 to $1.1 billion for the same period this year. Experts say the country must now find ways to compete in a different global economy.

In Cambodia, it takes 86 days and 10 procedures to open a business, compared to other East Asia-Pacific countries, where the average is 68 days and 11 procedures, the World Bank reported.

Cambodia has improved its investment environment, “but we have to fix other problems,” said Ros Khemara, a member of the Cambodian Economic Association.

The World Bank also noted that Cambodia does well in the time it takes to lease land, but lags behind the region in the availability of land information.

Group Returns After Fishing Boat Ordeal

Kong Sothanarith, VOA Khmer | Phnom Penh
Thursday, 08 July 2010

via Khmer NZ

Photo: AP
The men came from Banteay Meanchey province.

“He said he spent a few years working as a fisherman and that he had enough money now to buy a car.”

Eight fishermen who had been trafficked on a Thai fishing boat were returned to Cambodia on Tuesday following their arrest off Indian waters.

One of the victims, Nob Chet, 35, said he was happy to be back after his ordeal. He said he was lured onto the boat by an intermediary who promised him more than $100 per month in salary.

The men came from Banteay Meanchey province, where they say a middleman approached them in September 2009 with promises of work for money they could not otherwise make.

The middleman “said the boat would go and come back on the same day,” Nob Chet said on his return at Phnom Penh International Airport Tuesday. “He said he spent a few years working as a fisherman and that he had enough money now to buy a car.”

Soon, the men say, they were caught in a trafficking network, denied their salaries until they jumped ship and were arrested. They were held by Indian authorities for six months and put under surveillance for another three months.

Eventually, some of the men were able to contact their families, who contacted local organizations, said Kim Sovanna, deputy director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ legal department.

“And then we reformed our respective embassy, and we contacted the Indian authorities to settle the matter,” he said.

Police say they are now looking for these traffickers and others, who operate in India, Malaysia, South Korea and Thailand.