Friday, 16 July 2010

Hamill seeks clues to murdered brother's last days

via Khmer NZ

Friday Jul 16, 2010

Rob Hamill. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Former champion New Zealand rower Rob Hamill has appealed for people in Australia's Northern Territory to help him piece together some of the last days of his brother's life there, before he set off in a yacht and was brutally murdered by the Khmer Rouge.

Kerry Hamill, 27, was tortured and forced to falsely confess to being a CIA agent before the Cambodians killed him.

He spent several years in Darwin before buying a yacht and being captured in Cambodian waters in August 1978.

Rob Hamill testified at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in the case against the party's torture master Guek Eav Kaing - known as Comrade Duch - in Phnom Penh last year.

The verdict is set to be handed down on July 26, and Mr Hamill, 46, plans to attend the sentencing.

The New Zealander is now asking people who met his brother in Darwin to shed some light on his life there, the Northern Territory News reported. He said any information, photographs - or even video footage - was "precious" and would help the family come to terms with the tragic loss.

"Just anything would help," he said.

Kerry Hamill arrived in Darwin as part of an overseas adventure, after Cyclone Tracy hit on Christmas Eve in 1974.

He worked with Riteway Concrete, helping build Anula school, before moving in with Canadian Stuart Glass and his wife Susan. The two men bought a yacht, Foxy Lady and together with Englishman John Dewhurst sailed to southeast Asia until their boat was blown into Cambodian waters.

Mr Glass was killed as soon as the crew were captured by the Khmer Rouge.

The other two members were held at the S21 prison -- a former high school which was turned into a torture facility -- until they died.

The Hamill family only found out about the capture 16 months later, in a story in their local newspaper.

The Khmer Rouge killed and tortured thousands of people while they governed the country from 1975 to 1979.

Duch, who as a young student won national mathematics prizes, designed the torture factory, in which 20,000 people are believed to have died.

Mr Hamill has formally requested an interview with Duch and expects to find out after the sentencing whether the request has been approved.

"I want as much information about my brother as I can get. And I really want to understand him (Duch)," Mr Hamill said.

He believed Duch should be sentenced to 40 years -- "the rest of his living days" -- the term sought by the prosecution.

"Anything less than that would be a victory to the (Duch) defence team, I suspect. He took my brother's freedom away, he took away 14,000 others' freedom . . . he should really have his freedom taken away too".

Mr Hamill said he would also visit sites in northern Cambodia to film a documentary, Brother Number One.


Cambodia: Appeal No. MAAKH001 Progamme Update, 16 July 2010

via Khmer NZ

Date: 16 Jul 2010

Full_Report (pdf* format - 666.5 Kbytes)

In brief

Programme outcome: To support the Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) to realize its vision of being the country's leading humanitarian organization.

Programme summary:

The first half of 2010 has seen Cambodian Red Cross (CRC) continue to focus on an ambitious series of changes that will set the direction of the national society for the coming years. Its commitment to decentralization continued and was very much reflected in CRC's strategic review and planning process. This process – leading to the adoption of a new strategy 2011-2020 at CRC's 5th general assembly in August – has really committed the national society to a challenging agenda of humanitarian action. Decentralization of authority and action is the catalyst of much of this and the opportunities are significant. However, CRC acknowledges that several changes need to occur for these ambitions to be realized but it is determined to try, with partners' support, to do so. One aspect of this is a commitment for the voice of youth to be heard throughout the national society, including on its highest forum of governance via a representative.

CRC continued to display its extraordinary ability to fundraise domestically around the 8 May World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, with donations to this year's event the highest yet. Internationally, CRC remains an active contributor to the meaning of Federation, particularly in Southeast Asia, and is proudly taking its hosting duties seriously for the youth directors meeting in September.

CRC continues to maintain good and long-term relations with many partners, including the Federation secretariat. There is room for a more consolidation and coherence in the way partners work with CRC and that is part of a longer term change for all involved: both partners and CRC. In terms of Federation secretariat support, a combination of low response to the support plan and less-than-hoped-for implementation has meant for an indifferent first half of 2010. This has prompted a budget revision downwards from CHF 1,068,173 to CHF 695,843. On the upside, the Federation has identified a new representative for both Cambodia and Lao PDR, who will start in September and is very experienced in the Movement, bringing a strong background of domestic programming and international support to the position.

US hopes for quick end to Thai state of emergency

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BANGKOK, Friday 16 July 2010 (AFP) - A senior US envoy expressed hope Friday that a state of emergency imposed in parts of Thailand since April in response to violent street protests would be lifted "as soon as possible".

But William Burns, the State Department's number three, stressed that Thailand was able to find its own way out of the political crisis, reiterating US calls for a democratic and peaceful solution.

"Clearly the US hopes that the state of emergency ... can be lifted as soon as possible," Burns told reporters after discussions with Thai officials.

He said Americans had been "deeply saddened" by the violence and deaths suffered during the two months of opposition demonstrations in Bangkok that ended with a bloody army crackdown in May.

Ninety people, mostly civilians, were killed and nearly 1,900 were injured in violence sparked by the anti-government "Red Shirt" rally.

The emergency powers -- enabling authorities to detain suspects without charge for up to 30 days and shut down anti-government media -- were extended last week for three more months in Bangkok and 18 other provinces.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has set out a five-point reconciliation plan, which the US Congress has said should form the basis of efforts by all parties in Thailand to resolve their differences.

The next stop on Burns' regional tour will be Phnom Penh on Saturday for events marking the 60th anniversary of relations between Cambodia and the United States.

He is then set to head to Indonesia, with which President Barack Obama has been seeking stronger ties, and will round off his trip on Monday and Tuesday in the Philippines, another close US ally, for talks with the new administration of President Benigno Aquino.

Ho Chi Minh City Expo 2010 opens in Cambodia

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Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam On and Vice Chairwoman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, Nguyen Thi Hong, attended Vietnam-Cambodia Trade, Service and Tourism Fair 2010 (Ho Chi Minh City Expo 2010), which opened in Phnom Penh on July 15.

More than 300 booths set up by 100 leading Vietnamese businesses are showcasing high-quality Vietnamese products including agricultural produce, processed foods, interior decorations, leather goods and footwear, chemical products and cosmetics, electronic devices, and construction materials.

The opening day of the exhibition attracted thousands of Cambodian visitors, who came to shop – or just look.

This year’s four-day fair is said to be much larger and better organized than the nine previous ones.

Ho Chi Minh City Expo aims to increase two-way trade and promote cooperation between businesses in tourism and healthcare services.

Four Americans among dozens killed in Iraq hotel fire

The Sulaimaniyah region is popular with tourists and business has flourished in recent years

via Khmer NZ

By Shwan Mohammed (AFP)

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — Four Americans and at least three other foreigners were among 29 people killed in a hotel fire in northern Iraq that saw some of the victims jump to their deaths, officials said Friday.

The massive blaze in Sulaimaniyah city, 270 kilometres (170 miles) north of Baghdad, broke out around 10.30 pm (1930 GMT) Thursday and raged for seven hours before finally being brought under control.

Hospital officials said four Americans were among those killed and visiting telecommunications engineers from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Cambodia also died, according to their company chairman.

"We have received 29 bodies," said Rikot Hama Rasheed, the director of Sulaimaniyah hospital, following the blaze, which spread rapidly from the second floor of the six-floor hotel and also damaged several nearby buildings.

Witnesses told AFP that at least three of those who died did so after leaping from the windows of the Soma Hotel in a desperate bid to save themselves.

Colonel Araz Bakr, chief of Sulaimaniyah rescue services, confirmed the toll and said 42 others were injured, including seven firemen. He said most of those who died were suffocated by smoke.

A city council official also said 29 people were killed and preliminary investigations indicated that the blaze had been caused by an electrical fault.

"Women and children are among the victims of the incident which happened in the Soma Hotel in the centre of the city," said the official, Razgar Ahmed.

Sulaimaniyah is the capital of one of three northern provinces that make up Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

The region is popular with tourists and business has flourished in recent years as it is peaceful, unlike much of Iraq which remains wracked by violence seven years after the US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.

"Four American persons are among the victims of the incident," an official from Sulaimaniyah City Hospital said, without giving any other details.

The victims from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Cambodia worked for telecoms operator Asiacell, one of the three mobile communications companies in Iraq.

"We lost four engineers from our company, one of them a lady from the Philippines, and three of them men from Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Iraq," said Faruk Mula Mustafa, chairman of Asiacell.

Two other Iraqi employees were injured in the fire, he said.

Arisman hiding in Cambodia

via khmer NZ

Red-shirt fugitive Arisman Pongruangrong is hiding in Cambodia after fleeing at the end of the unrest in May, red terrorist suspect Surachai "Rang" Thewarat told his investigators from the Department of Special Investigation.

On Friday, Surachai attended the remand hearing on terrorism charge at the Criminal Court after his Thursday's arrest in Lop Buri.

In his statement given to DSI, he said he accompanied Arisman to take refuge in Cambodia. He returned to his Buri Ram home on June 26 but Arisman has remained in the neighbouring country.

The Nation

Cambodian Courts Sends Letter to Impound Mu Sochua’s Salary

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 11:03 DAP-NEWS / Soy Sophea

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, JULY 16, 2010-A Cambodian Court on Friday sent a letter to Cambodia’s Parliamentary asking to impound Cambodian opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua convicted of defaming Cambodian prime minister to pay a court-ordered fine.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered Mu Sochua to pay 8.5 million riel ($2,000) to the state and another 8 million riel ($1,882) in compensation to Prime Minister Hun Sen, following her conviction in August, 2009. The deadline was Thursday, but no action was immediately taken against her.

Mu Sochua insisted on Friday that she would not pay the money, and was prepared to go to prison, for what could be up to six months. She claims the court's ruling was politically motivated.

NZ experts help Cambodian officials improve governance

via Khmer NZ

Experts from New Zealand are in Cambodia to help train government officials to improve transparency and management of the kingdom's oil and gas sector.

Officials from Crown Minerals, part of New Zealand's Ministry of Economic Development that manages its government's oil, gas, coal and mineral resources, have been sharing their knowledge.

Caroline Rowe, a senior legal and risk adviser at Crown Minerals, says the World Bank-sponsored course allows New Zealand to share its experiences with Cambodia.

The Phnom Penh Post says Crown is offering advice with officials from the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority and the Finance Ministry's tax department.

This year, the issue of transparency in the sector has become subject to increased scrutiny.

The AFP newsagency says concerns about extractive resource revenues arose in April, when the Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton announced that it was under investigation by the US securities and exchange commission.

The investigation was probing possible violations of anti-corruption laws that many thought related to Cambodia.

Cambodia's office rental prices decline as supply exceeds demand

via khmer NZ

July 16, 2010

Supply of office space continues to outstrip demand in Phnom Penh, putting pressure on already squeezed rental prices, with rates down 25 percent in the second quarter, compared to the same period last year, local media reported on Friday.

Keuk Narin, secretary of the National Valuers Association of Cambodia and general manager of Bonna Realty Group, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying that increasing office space for rent in Phnom Penh was forcing a cut in rental prices.

A quarter-on-quarter comparison of rental rates showed that 2010 second quarter prices fell 2 percent from the first three months of the year, when rates were already 10 percent lower than the 2009's fourth quarter.

A year-on-year comparison shows office rent is between 20 percent and 25 percent lower than in the second quarter of 2009.

"This year the supply of office space for rent has increased 15 percent - much more than the demand - and I think that has pushed prices still lower this year," he was quoted as saying.

The valuers association estimated that monthly rent for A-grade office space ranged between 20 U.S. dollars to 30 U.S. dollars per square meter, down from first quarter rates of 25 U.S. dollars to 35 U.S. dollars. The average occupancy rate for the first six months of this year was around 50 to 60 percent. Rental rates in B- grade offices now ranges from 8 to 12 U.S. dollars per square meter, down from 10 to 15 U.S. dollars per square, with an average occupancy of about 66 percent.

Source: Xinhua

Daily deluge

Photo by: Julie Leafe

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:03 Julie Leafe

A security guard watches from under an umbrella on Sihanouk Boulevard as sodden motorbike drivers pass through the heavy rains lashing the city earlier this week.

Villagers protest mine plan

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:03 David Boyle

HUNDREDS of villagers and local officials have thumbprinted a petition protesting against a planned titanium mine in Koh Kong province, and plan to pass the document on to Prime Minister Hun Sen through local officials on Monday.

The petition, which has been signed by the chief of Chi Phat commune, four village chiefs and about 500 villagers, will today be handed to the Forestry Administration’s chief coastal inspector, Vann Sophanna, who has also voiced opposition to the project.

Penned by conservation group Wildlife Alliance, the petition argues that the mine – expected to extract a million tonnes of titanium ore – will drive away ecotourism revenue and ruin the area’s biodiversity through water pollution and deforestation.

“All mining is done with water, and this will basically poison the waterways and ruin the fish population, and of course it will poison the people, animals and kill ecotourism,” Suwanna Gauntlett, the country director of Wildlife Alliance, said yesterday.

At a community meeting and inspection of the site earlier this week, Vann Sophanna said he personally opposed the mine because its planned location overlapped with 144,000 hectares of protected forest and would impact local ecotourism projects.

“We need to keep this forest cover green, so we will report the worst negative impacts and explain them to the inter-ministerial committee so they can balance the interests of preserving natural resources and the benefits of the mining exploitation,” he said.

He added that the final decision rested with the prime minister, who he hoped would support the concerns expressed in the petition.

Neither the developer of the mine, United Khmer Group, nor relevant government ministries could be reached for comment yesterday.

According to Wildlife Alliance, United Khmer communicated on June 10 that it company would construct a quarry of between 20 and 200 metres in depth over a 15,000-to-20,000 hectare area to extract high-grade titanium.

If successful, the company said, Chinese companies would then construct another three or four mines covering an area of about 100,000 hectares in Koh Kong in addition to the first mine.

Consensus Economics, a macroeconomic survey firm, forecast in late 2009 that in June of this year titanium ilmenite ore would be worth US$95 per metric tonne, meaning the mine could contain deposits worth around $95 million.

But Vann Sophanna said the mine would also doom a potentially valuable carbon sink established under the UN and World Bank-backed Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) scheme.

A preliminary survey by Wildlife Alliance and the Forestry Administration estimated such a scheme could be worth between $1.8 and 2.8 million per year in revenue to the government.

Under the REDD scheme, polluting companies in developed countries would pay the Cambodian government to protect 200,000 hectares of forest in Koh Kong to offset their own carbon emissions, with 40 percent of the revenue going back to the local community.

The mine area also intersects one of only seven remaining elephant corridors in Asia and is listed by Conservation International as one of 34 global biodiversity “hot spots”.


Ministry takes aim at monk scandals

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:02 Kim Samath and Cameron Wells

THE Ministry of Cults and Religions held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the strengthening of Buddhist morals in the wake of several scandals involving monks, with one observer predicting the damage done by the recent indiscretions would take “a long time” to repair.

Min Khin, the minister of cults and religions, said that yesterday’s meeting – held at the Chaktomuk conference hall – was the “first-ever meeting” regarding scandals within the Cambodian monkhood.

“It is necessary because of the monk who filmed naked women and a former chief abbot who was arrested for robbery. These scandals impact our religion,” he told the 400 monks in attendance.

Neth Kai, a former monk at Srah Chak pagoda, was arrested on June 26 after being accused of using a cell phone to secretly record hundreds of videos of women showering in a public bathroom at the temple.

He was immediately defrocked and Phnom Penh Municipal Court has charged him with producing pornography. On Sunday, a local newspaper reported that a former chief abbot in Kampong Speu province was accused of robbery.

Lim Sokunthea, a senior monk in Phnom Penh, urged monks to use mobile phones, computers and the internet “in a suitable way”.

Khem Sorn, the chief monk of Phnom Penh municipality, said yesterday that the scandals must stop in order to let the Buddhist faith repair its tarnished reputation.

“The conflicts between monks, laymen and nuns really impacts the Buddhist religion, which must be avoided in the future to restore the religion’s good reputation,” he said.

Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the image of the religion in Cambodia had been negatively affected by the recent scandals. “There is a widespread negative perception of all Buddhists,” he said.

But the scandals have also provided a “turning point” for the religion in Cambodia, he said.

“I think [the image] can to some extent be repaired,” he said.

“This is a turning point in history for Cambodian Buddhism, if they restrict monks from the use of high technology. But the damage is so big that it will take a long time to repair.”

HIV efforts to target military

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Uk Kea (foreground), a soldier stationed at Preah Vihear temple, says he is aware of the risk of HIV infection and does not have sex outside of marriage.

via khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng and Irwin Loy

FOR the past three years, Song Phal has awakened every morning in the middle of a simmering dispute. The 49-year-old soldier is posted at the front line in the Preah Vihear temple area, where a border dispute with Thailand has occasionally erupted in firefights.

But for health officials, he and other soldiers here represent a separate front in the battle to contain the spread of the HIV virus.

Soldiers are considered to be at high risk of contracting HIV, and with troops living for long stretches of time in confined quarters in often remote areas, previous studies have suggested extra caution is needed to prevent the spread of the virus among this group.

Song Phal says there are soldiers who take advantage of the prostitution available in the area.

“Since before the clash, there have been some prostitutes travelling up the mountain to sell their services, or sometimes individual soldiers call them to buy their services,” he said.

For Song Phal though, the risks are too great. He said he never goes down the mountain to look for sex.

“I am more afraid of AIDS than I am of bullets,” he said.

Health officials are now working on a plan to boost HIV-prevention efforts in the area in recognition of the risks stemming from the buildup of troops following recent political tensions.

The National AIDS Authority, the Ministry of Defence, UNAIDS and the health NGO Family Health International are considering implementing an education campaign for soldiers stationed at Preah Vihear.

“For us, we still consider not all, but some soldiers to be high-risk,” said Song Ngak, FHI’s deputy director.

“There are tensions along the border. A lot of military are mobilised and deployed. New recruits may come in. These people may not have received HIV education like the others.”

The scheme is still in the early planning stages, but Song Ngak said the project’s proponents hope to be able to begin information campaigns and peer-support programmes as early as next month if possible.

Military ‘epidemic’
In the late 1990s, soldiers were considered among the most at-risk groups for HIV infection, Song Ngak said. One Ministry of Health survey estimated the HIV prevalence rate among soldiers at 7.1 percent – far above the national average at the time.

“This was one population that was driving the HIV epidemic before 1997,” Song Ngak said. “When they go out they go to karaoke, or go to brothels. That’s the practice normally.”

Authorities and NGOs stepped in with gradual campaigns, encouraging soldiers to drink less and get tested for HIV/AIDS. Using a peer education system involving respected role models, health officials brought HIV education campaigns to individual barracks around the country.

Song Ngak said there has been no recent comprehensive study to gauge HIV prevalence in soldiers, but he believes the education efforts have paid off.

Nationwide, Cambodia has shown success in reducing its HIV prevalence rate among adults to a level that stands at an estimated 0.7 percent this year.

However, with that success comes lingering concerns. The emphasis on HIV education for the military has lessened in recent years, Song Ngak said.

“If the HIV prevalence rate is quite low, people might say it is not the area we need to put our money into, from the donors’ point of view,” Song Ngak said. “The military population will still be the one group I feel that could be left behind. We have to keep our eyes open.”

Officials with the National Aids Authority could not be reached for comment yesterday.

For his part, Uk Kea, 53, believes he and other soldiers are well aware of the risks posed by HIV. “I have never taken services from prostitutes,” he said. “I used to be a monk and I am honest to my wife.”

KRT on track for Case 002 indictments

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal has announced a formal end to its investigations in Case 002, which involves former regime figures Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Nuon Chea, after the conclusion of all appeals related to the investigatory stage of the proceedings.

Court spokesman Lars Olsen said yesterday that the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber had notified all parties that the 25 appeals had been concluded.

He said the Pre-Trial Chamber would hand the completed case file to the court’s co-prosecutors “in the coming days”, after which they would make their final submissions to the co-investigating judges as to whether to pursue a indictment.

“It is now the last phase of Case 002 before there will be a decision on whether there will be indictments,” and the UN-backed court was on schedule to issue closing orders in Case 002 by a court-mandated September deadline, he said.

“There were some comments by observers that the timelines ... would be impossible,” he said, and yesterday’s announcement was an indication the court was “on track” to meet the

deadline. If it fails to get closing orders in on time, the court would be put in the awkward position of having to release Nuon Chea, the regime’s Brother No 2, on bail.

The Khmer Rouge ideologue was arrested at his home in Pailin on September 19, 2007, and according to the tribunal’s internal rules, suspects can be held for only three years without an indictment.

Hundreds of families block land-clearing

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:02 May Titthara

Kampong Speu Province

AROUND 256 families from Kampong Speu province’s Trapaing Chor commune held a sit-down protest in Phlout Leu village yesterday to prevent a sugar firm from clearing their farmland, villagers said.

Villager Lot Sovan, who claims to have occupied the land since 2000, said the company began clearing the land at 3:30pm Wednesday. Villagers asked the company to stop, insisting that the dispute over the concession had not been resolved. The villagers then prevented further clearing by protesting yesterday, he said.

Kampong Speu Sugar Company, which is registered in the name of Kim Heang, the wife of Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, received a 9,053-hectare land concession in 2009 to plant sugarcane.

In the same month, Phnom Penh Sugar Company, owned by Ly Yong Phat himself, was granted more than 9,000 hectares in the adjacent Omlaing commune, home to more than 2,000 families. This, the villagers say, is in violation of Article 59 of the Land Law, which limits the size of concessions to 10,000 hectares.


Companies will continue to evict us in the future. We prefer to die on our own land.


Villager Koy Hak, 43, said 49 families from his village, which covers 89 hectares of disputed land, came to join the protest yesterday morning to prevent Kampong Speu Sugar Company from clearing the any more ground.

“We did not allow them to begin clearing the land because they did not talk to us; they just want to take over our land and have us move on,” he said.

He said that the company wanted the villagers to relocate to an area about 7 kilometres from their homes, a solution residents see as untenable.

“How can we get ownership of that land? That land belongs to [the military]. Companies will continue to evict us in the future. We prefer to die on our own land,” he said.

However, Chem Sarim, the governor in Oral district, downplayed the dispute, saying that there were no issues with the sugar companies.

Ouch Leng, land programme officer for rights group Adhoc, said the two companies were both guilty of the same transgressions. Both, he said, were taking over villagers’ land without providing fair compensation.

“They have shown complete indifference to the government policy on land concessions,” he said.

“The government tries to make ways for companies to get a lot of land, but it causes villagers to lose their farmland, their main resource for support their livelihood.”

Kampong Speu Deputy Governor Pen Sambou declined to comment yesterday. Chhean Kimsuon, a representative for the two companies, could not be reached.

Police quash anti-Thai gathering

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Watchdog Council, speaks to the press after armed security personnel disbursed a protest outside the former National Assembly building yesterday.

via khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:02 Kim Yuthana and Thet Sambath

AROUND 150 armed security forces were deployed by Phnom Penh Municipal authorities yesterday to prevent a ceremony “expressing hate and demanding that Thai soldiers withdraw” from Preah Vihear temple.

On July 15, 2008, Thailand sent troops to disputed border areas close to Preah Vihear temple after UNESCO accepted Cambodia’s application to have it listed as a World Heritage site.

The ceremony, organised by the Cambodian Watchdog Council, was to take place outside the old National Assembly building near Wat Botum and mark the anniversary of the “Thai invasion” by demanding the withdrawal of Thai troops still stationed near the temple.

However, 150 soldiers and police – outnumbering the protesters – forced the gathering to disburse and relocate.

CWC President Rong Chhun expressed disappointment that authorities prevented the ceremony from going ahead as planned.

“The supporters and I wanted to hold a ceremony to remember the anniversary of the Thai invasion, but we are disappointed that local authorities prevented the gathering,” he said. “The deployment of armed forces is threatening and frightening to the patriotism of Cambodia’s children.”

He said the ceremony was moved to his office in Chamkarmon district, but remained under heavy police guard.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the ceremony was in “the nation’s interest”.

“Local authorities hindering the gathering is a violation of the right of expression,” he said. “This is not a democracy.”

Officials at City Hall could not be reached for comment yesterday.

No reconciliation yet with Thais

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:01 Cheang Sokha

GOVERNMENT officials have dismissed comments made this week by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who said Cambodia should take the first steps to restore the two countries’ damaged relationship.

On Wednesday, Thai media quoted Abhisit as saying that the ball was “in the Cambodian court” regarding reinstatement of ambassadors withdrawn by both countries last year.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that an improvement in relations depended on Thailand, which withdrew its ambassador from Phnom Penh after the Cambodian government appointed fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra as a government adviser last year.

He added that Cambodia did not mind waiting for a Thai response. “If Thailand still does not do it, the diplomatic relations will be kept at the level of acting chargé d’affairs, and Cambodia will not mind,” he said.

“The stance of the government of Cambodia has not changed. It’s still the same: If Thailand sends back its ambassador first then Cambodia will send [its envoy] 15 minutes later.”

After the withdrawal of Thailand’s ambassador on November 4, Cambodia reciprocated, plunging relations to their worst point in years.

Koy Kuong also critised Thailand’s stated intention to oppose the consideration of Cambodia’s management plan for the disputed Preah Vihear temple at a UNESCO meet in Brazil later this month.

“It reflects Thailand’s unwillingness to restore diplomatic relations between the two nations,” he said.

From carpet-bombing to friendship-building

Photo by: Private Collection of Ambassador Julio Jeldres
Prince Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Monique fete Jacqueline Kennedy at Chamkarmon Palace during her visit to Cambodia in November 1967. She came to fulfill “a lifelong dream of seeing Angkor Wat”.

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:01 Sebastian Strangio and Neth Pheaktra

As Cambodia and the United States celebrate six ecades of diplomatic ties, the Post looks back at a relationship that has moved from alliance to alienation and back

WHEN the United States and Cambodia celebrate six decades of diplomatic ties next week, they will look back on a relationship that has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Launched at the beginning of the cold war in 1950, the relationship has been fraught with ideological passions, experiencing periods of intimacy, violent disagreement and chilly silence.

It remains young: Less than two decades have passed since diplomatic ties were re-established at the end of the cold war, and barely 10 years since the end of the ensuing civil war. For 20 years out of 60, there was little or no relationship at all.

Observers and officials from both countries, however, say the current bond – which they describe as built on solid foundations and enduring mutual interests – anticipates a long-term US presence in Cambodia.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said this week that since the re-establishment of relations in November 1991, the two countries had rebuilt strong political, commercial and military ties.

“Our diplomatic relations are developing, and we hope that after the 60th anniversary, Cambodia-USA relations will progress again,” he said.

The administration of US President Barack Obama has identified Southeast Asia as a focal point of a foreign policy that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a speech last year, described as “neither impulsive nor ideological”.

Instead, that policy was geared towards creating “dynamic and productive partnerships that can address both the challenge and the promise of this new century”.

US Ambassador Carol Rodley said last week that since 1950, Phnom Penh and Washington have oscillated between close cooperation and periods in which they “were seriously at odds” with each other.

“For some significant amount of time”, she said, “we looked past each other or we saw each other through lenses that confused rather than clarified the picture for both sides.”

Rodley, who first served in Cambodia as US deputy head of mission between 1997 and 2000, said that “dramatic” changes during her first posting, including the end of the decade-long civil war and Cambodia’s entry into ASEAN, had fostered a more lasting relationship.

“We’ve come to a more mature relationship and a more mature understanding of each other, which I think is a good thing,” she said.

Past troubles
At the time Ambassador Donald Heath, a career foreign serviceman, presented his credentials to then-King Norodom Sihanouk on July 11, 1950, US policymakers saw Cambodia as both a potential ally and a potential threat.

A bastion of Western influence, the country – like the remaining French territories in Indochina – was also seen as a domino teetering on the edge of a red abyss.

NZ lends advice to oil sector

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

EXTRACTION experts from New Zealand are training Cambodian government officials in a bid to improve transparency and management in the Kingdom’s nascent oil and gas sector.

For the past two days, officials from Crown Minerals – part of New Zealand’s Ministry of Economic Development that manages its government’s oil, gas, coal and mineral resources – have been leading a training course on strengthening the regulatory management of the petroleum sector.

Caroline Rowe, senior legal and risk adviser at Crown Minerals, said yesterday that the objective of the World Bank-sponsored course was to share their experiences with officials from the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority and the Finance Ministry’s tax department.

“We presented them with information about the operational managements of explorations and mining, as well as tax policies in the oil and gas in New Zealand,” she said at Phnom Penh’s Sunway Hotel.

“Hopefully, our lessons will be useful for them to develop the sector effectively and transparently. What we expect from the workshop is a continuation of the relationship between CNPA and New Zealand,” she added.

This year, the issue of transparency in the sector has become subject to increased scrutiny.

Concerns about extractive resource revenues arose in April, when mining giant BHP Billiton announced it was under investigation by the US securities and exchange commission for possible violations of anticorruption laws that many thought related to Cambodia.

The watchdog group Global Witness also called for increased transparency with regard to the financing of oil deals.

The government has since confirmed that 23 firms have been awarded rights to explore oil in Cambodia. And though the Kingdom’s oil and gas fields are still in development, work is gathering pace.

Offshore Block A, a 4,709-square-kilometre area of the Gulf of Thailand operated by multinational Chevron, has seen extensive drilling.

“We are aligned with the Royal Government of Cambodia’s desire to see production from Block A as soon as economically possible,” said Chevron spokesman Gareth Johnstone earlier this month.

Two weeks ago Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, chairman of the CNPA, said that Cambodia hoped the first drop of oil would be produced at 12am on December 12, 2012.

Richard Alan Cunningham, the World Bank official in charge of the workshop, said yesterday that although the 2012 deadline sounded “aggressive” it was “not impossible” if everything went well.

He added that Cambodia’s oil and gas sector has the potential to contribute to the development of the country’s economy in the future.

“The difficulties for investors are infrastructures and necessary services to support all the activities are not in place. Cambodia still needs to complete laws on petroleum and tax for the sector,” he said.

Ho Vichet, vice chairman of CNPA, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sochua at ‘war’ with courts

Photo by: Sovan Philong
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua chants with supporters after a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Phnom Penh yesterday

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:01 Meas Sokchea

OPPOSITION lawmaker Mu Sochua reaffirmed yesterday that she would refuse to pay fines levied after she was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, again daring the government to imprison her for failing to meet a court-ordered payment deadline.

As the deadline for paying the fine approached yesterday, the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian called a press conference to “declare war” on the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the Kingdom’s judiciary.

“Today I would like to declare war,” she said. “It is not a war of weapons; I declare war as a democrat against the loss of morality and justice. I would like to tell people that the CPP must be held accountable before the nation.”

Mu Sochua’s fine is the result of a prolonged legal battle with Hun Sen dating back to April 2009, when she launched an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against the premier for comments he made about her during a public speech.

Hun Sen launched a defamation countersuit against Mu Sochua, resulting in her conviction last August by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

She was ordered to pay a sum of 16.5 million riels in fines and compensation (around US $3,928), which she has repeatedly refused to hand over.

Mu Sochua said yesterday that she would not accept contributions from those who had offered to pay the fine, opting instead to let yesterday’s 5pm deadline pass and await her potential arrest. “Let the court take action,” she said. “I am prepared to go to jail.”

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that police had not yet received an arrest order from the court.

“The police are waiting for the court’s citation,” he said.

Neither Sok Roeun, the deputy prosecutor in charge of the case, nor Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chea Sok Heang could be reached for comment yesterday.

Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said that the government and the courts have never regarded Mu Sochua as an enemy, and that her case had been dealt with fairly. He said her resistance to the courts was a move to gain ascendancy within the SRP.

“She wants to go to jail so that she can be party president,” and the situation signifies a rift within the SRP, he said. He added, however, that her declaration of war was a sign of disrespect toward the court system.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that Mu Sochua’s refusal to pay did not signify an opposition to the state, but rather a call to defend the rule of law.

“Mu Sochua is a representative for all women who struggle for a just and independent judiciary,” he said.


Office rental prices decline as supply exceeds demand

Photo by: Pha Lina
A man rides past the Icon Professional Centre on Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh yesterday. Though Icon has seen occupancy rise, many property managers are cutting rent rates this quarter.

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:01 Soeun Say

SUPPLY of office space continues to outstrip demand in Phnom Penh, putting pressure on already squeezed rental prices, with rates down 25 percent in the second quarter, compared to the same of period last year, an official said.

Keuk Narin, secretary of the National Valuers Association of Cambodia and general manager of Bonna Realty Group, said yesterday that increasing office space for rent in Phnom Penh was forcing a cut in rental prices.

A quarter-on-quarter comparison of rental rates showed that 2010 second quarter prices fell 2 percent from the first three months of the year, when rates were already 10 percent lower than the 2009’s fourth quarter.

A year-on-year comparison shows office rent is between 20 percent and 25 percent lower than in the second quarter of 2009.

“This year the supply of office space for rent has increased 15 percent – much more than the demand – and I think that has pushed prices still lower this year,” he said.

The valuers association estimated that monthly rent for A-grade office space ranged between US$20 to $30 per square metre, down from first quarter rates of $25 to $35. The average occupancy rate for the first six months of this year was around 50 to 60 percent. Rental rates in B-grade offices now ranges from $8 to $12 per square metre, down from $10 to $15, with an average occupancy of about 66 percent.

Chheang Meng, general manager for Phnom Penh’s Bayon Building Center said he had slashed his asking price for office space from $17 per square metre to $12 – but buyers wanted it even lower. “Many people are looking for office space, but they need cheaper prices, and we cannot offer it to them,” he said

However, some sites have managed to increase their market share despite the slackening demand.

NVAC figures show that Icon Professional Centre on Norodom Boulevard increased its occupancy from 30 percent to 50 percent quarter-on-quarter, while Canadia Tower increased from 20 percent to 35 percent.

“It is a good sign for Canadia Tower and Icon Professional Center,” Keuk Narin said.

CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) Cambodia predicted earlier this year that office supply in Phnom Penh could reach as much as 200,000 square metres by 2013, almost double the current space, if the majority of office stock slated for development was completed.

Ex-garment workers at risk in sex industry

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:01 Daniel Pordes and Mom Kunthear

LAID-OFF garment factory workers who have entered the entertainment sector are at increased risk of on-the-job violence, alcohol abuse and HIV/AIDS, according to a new study assessing the impact of the global economic downturn on the Cambodian garment industry.

The study, released yesterday by the International Labour Organisation, is based on interviews with 16 ex-factory workers who were laid off during the economic crisis and took jobs as hostesses and sex workers in Phnom Penh to supplement their income.

“All women interviewed had experienced some form of workplace abuse – ranging from verbal abuse to serious physical and sexual assault,” the report states.

One of the interviewees, identified as Sotha, a 23-year-old from Prey Veng province, said that as a waitress she was threatened at gunpoint by a customer who wanted to have sex with her. Despite this, Sotha said she was not deterred from eventually moving into sex work.

After losing her job in 2009 another woman, 26-year-old Battambang native Phary, found work in a karaoke bar and soon started supplementing her income with prostitution, which allowed her to help pay for her mother’s medical treatment.

Ly Pisey, a technical assistant for the Women’s Network for Unity, said she agreed with the study’s assessment and cited the difficulty of applying Cambodian Labour Law in such workplaces.

“The women in entertainment establishments are paid so little, maybe US$30 or $40 a month, that they rely on tips from the customers,” she said. “They have no formal contracts and no guarantees of their working conditions.”

San Arun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Women’ Affairs, said yesterday that she had not seen the study, but that the ministry had created centres for retraining workers who left garment factory jobs in skills such as tailoring and cosmetology.

“We not only teach them skills, but we also educate them on moral and health issues,” San Arun said.

Though she expressed concern about the women’s health and security at entertainment establishments, she acknowledged the attractiveness of such establishments. “Some women cannot spend their time to study at the centres, because they have to spend up to a year to complete the courses.

“That’s why some leave to work in entertainment jobs: because they can earn more and faster,” she said.

VN visa exemption boosts Bavet crossings

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

THE Cambodia-Vietnam visa exemption agreement is helping to boost tourists crossing through the Bavet border point, with visitors up more than 20 percent in the first six months, compared to the same period of last year.

According to statistics provided by officials at the Bavet international checkpoint, a total of 335,468 foreign tourists crossed in and out of Cambodia from January to June this year. This represents a 22 percent increase on the 274,954 tourists who used the crossing during the first half of 2009.

Khun Bophan, chief of the Bavet checkpoint, said yesterday that visitors had increased since the Cambodian government implemented a visa-exemption policy with Vietnam last December.

An easing of the regulations on cars and buses using the border crossing had similarly contributed to the popularity of the overland border, he said. “Under this policy we hope to see the number of foreign tourists entering Cambodia growing more and more for the rest of the year,” he added.

A breakdown of the half-year numbers showed that 173,295 tourists entered from Vietnam – a 21.68 percent increase from 142,411 in the first half of 2009.

The number of tourists leaving Cambodia through the checkpoint was 162,173 – a 22.35 percent increase on last year’s 132,543. Ministry of Tourism data showed that Vietnam was the largest source of international tourist arrivals in the first quarter of this year – totalling 92,605 visitors.

Cambodia has 10 official border crossings with Vietnam, but Bavet is the most popular among tourists.

The Kingdom also has visa exemption agreements with Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Laos, and Indonesia.

In focus: Filipina tastes success in Kingdom

Photo by: Julie Leafe
Teresa Gutierrez stands in an aisle of EXL Filmart in Phnom Penh. She has built up a business supplying products from the Philippines to supermarkets and customers in the capital.

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:01 Daniel Pordes

STARTING any business from scratch is a challenge, but coupled with the premise of selling unfamiliar products to a new country, it takes an individual with brains, bravery and sheer bloody-minded persistence to make it work.

Fortunately, EXL Filmart President Teresa Gutierrez has all three.

EXL Filmart, which set up base in Phnom Penh in April 2008, has expanded from a mini-market selling snacks and beverages to the Filipino community into an import enterprise that provides Philippine products to large franchise stores, including Lucky and Bayon supermarkets and U-Care pharmacy, while servicing outlets in Sihanoukville and Siem Reap.

“I wanted to be in a business that served Filipinos and was ahead of the game,” said Gutierrez, sitting in her second-floor office above one of two mini-mart outlets on Phnom Penh’s Street 51.

The businesswoman first came to Cambodia after being told of the niche for Philippine products in the Kingdom by a friend in September 2007. She arrived in Cambodia two months later with one of her daughters, Charis, and two employees.

“We had very small initial capital to work with, but I thought I could risk it here as the operating costs are lower,” Gutierrez said.

“But we had almost no marketing budget at all to make us known, so we had to be very persistent.”

Initially looking to the capital’s Filipino community for custom, the firm began to target places where local Filipinos would gather.

Churches and restaurants known to be attended by compatriots were all fair game for a sampling campaign.

However, moving beyond the 2,500 registered members of the Filipino community residing in Phnom Penh was crucial if they wanted to do more than cover their overheads, she said.

“We went to Lucky supermarket, and the guards used to always shoo us away. But we didn’t care, we just kept coming back,” she said.

Once the first mini-mart on Street 51 opened, dealing with big companies such as Lucky became easier.

Now, Gutierrez holds monthly meetings with the supermarket’s representatives to introduce new products – in particular snacks from Caloocan City such as Boy Bawang garlic corn snacks and Regent tempura shrimp crackers, as well as Nestea iced teas.

But despite a blossoming market for goods – imported through Philippine-based courier service EXL Worldwide Express – EXL Filmart continues to face difficulties getting some products to wary locals.

Dried mango, one of the most famous products of the Philippines, has been met with distrust from some Cambodians, who say it is eaten only by invalids.

"We need to advertise more and educate potential customers about the product – once they try it I’d said seven out of 10 will buy and have a strong loyalty to it,” she said, and added that the market for canned goods has also yet to develop.

Another pressing issue is the shipping costs involved in importing from the Philippines. Competitors from Thailand and Vietnam have an advantage with access to cheaper overland transport, she said.

“I have to ship in every 30 days. But at the moment, I have to bear with 45 days [shipping time],” she said.

“The cost of the shipping and brokerage is very high and is eating up my profit.”

Despite this, and though she declined to disclose exact figures, Gutierrez said EXL Filmart was running a profit and was set on cornering the market for all things Philippine in Cambodia.

As well as providing all the comfort goods missed by homesick Filipinos, Gutierrez is actively meeting with other Philippine small businesses that are aiming to set up in Cambodia.

After a recent trade fair in Siem Reap, she was approached by several companies who wanted her to help them become established in Cambodian markets, including food, healthcare and beauty products and even karaoke services.

“The most satisfying thing is to help our country, because I take pride in our products, and to help to lift our economy,” she said.

The future of EXL Filmart looks bright.

“Lucky started this small before, you know. That’s what some of our customers told us. I remember this fact, that’s my inspiration,” she said.

Police Blotter: 16 Jul 2010

 via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:00 Tang Khyhay

A man in Kampong Cham province has been accused of killing his uncle and sister with a sword after claiming to have been possessed by a spirit. Police said that the man, who is a committee member of a local pagoda, started shouting that he was acting out a role in a play. He allegedly grabbed a sword and attacked his uncle and sister, killing them both. Police arrested the man 30 minutes after the attack.

A man and a woman in Kampong Cham province have been arrested on suspicion of illegally using a weapon after gunfire was reported in the area last week. Police believe the incident stemmed from a lovers’ quarrel. The woman allegedly tried to shoot the man, a pig farmer, because she believed that he intended to leave her. The case has been referred to provincial police.

Police have arrested a 24-year-old man accused of raping his former fiancée. Investigators said the crime happened last week in Battambang province. It is alleged the man hid in the bushes and pounced on the woman, 21, as she was riding her motorbike. He allegedly took her to a nearby stream and raped her. The man told police that he is poor, so the parents of his would-be fiancée refused to condone the marriage. The man allegedly confessed to the rape, telling police he loved the woman.

A 21-year-old woman was raped and strangled to death while she was harvesting water lilies in Kampong Cham province, the victim’s father reported. The father said his daughter was a student who frequently cut water lilies to feed the family’s pigs. But on Monday, she was late coming home so the father went to find her. He said he saw her lifeless body lying 10 metres from her motorcycle.

A 27-year-old man was sentenced to 10 years in prison after Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted him of raping his former co-worker in Phnom Penh. It is alleged that the man blackmailed the woman, 20, threatening to release a naked photo of her unless she followed him to a guesthouse. It is alleged that he then raped her three times in succession. The man was arrested last November, but he wasn’t convicted until a trial on July 9.

The Art Deli specialises in the spontaneous

A newly formed jazz quartet perform their debut gig at the Art Deli.

via Khmer NZ

Friday, 16 July 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

Loven Ramos may just be the most eccentric man in Siem Reap, and that’s no mean claim in this town. His quirky credentials were firmly presented with his Aladdin’s cave that is the Poetry Store, and now he has extended them further with the Art Deli, also on Alley West. The bar has been drawing attention for a while now, but a new live act had the town painting red last Saturday with an impromptu gig that surprised even the band.

Four musicians who had just met asked Loven if they could practice in the bar. That was the beginning of an evening that drew a crowd to hear the quartet play a rousing series of popular jazz tunes.

“Will jazz work?” was the nervous question posed by Aya Urata, on keyboards. The answer was a very distinct yes.

The band comprised Aya, plus Philippe Ceulen on drums, Mayuko Moriyama on bass and Patrick Charb on saxophone. The mixture of their jazz and the arty surroundings created a wonderful Rive Gauche atmosphere. No one in the audience could believe the group hadn’t played together before and they kept going until after the staff had packed up and gone home, working the magic they had just created.

Loven exuberantly recalls a tourist who wandered in to catch the act. He said he couldn’t get over the extent to which Cambodia was nothing like he had expected.

“And this is my home! I’m so happy to be here,” Loven said.

The good news is that the band will be playing again – they are already slated for a gig on July 24, to coincide with the Alley West Green Market, to be held over the weekend of July 24-25.

The Art Deli, in one of the most attractive buildings in central Siem Reap, is the creation of Loven, from the Philippines, and his Canadian friend Jam.

It’s small and imperfectly formed, though that is decisively part of the appeal. The walls have been scrubbed and covered with paintings, printings, pictures, posters, postcards and random paraphernalia.

The shop-cum-venue opened in April and has gradually gained a name for itself as an eclectic, exciting hub with community art dinners, live music and that elevated feeling that comes from being surrounded by creativity.

The Art Deli is also an exhibition centre for artists to establish themselves, even if their work is not yet ready for the Hotel de la Paix or the McDermott Gallery. Although there is also work exhibited there by Kong Vollak, a highly respected local artist.