Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A touch of silk and French couture in Phnom Penh

via CAAI


Visitors to Cambodia's capital city, Phnom Penh, will notice an abundance of boutiques -- some quite high-end -- specializing in silk products these days. Many are found along the streets catering to expats and foreign tourists near the Sisowath Quay area, overlooking the Tonle Sap River.

At the time of my visit to Romyda Keth's Atelier Ambre in Phnom Penh, the famed designer was out on holiday in France. A young lady dressed in black greeted me at the door and escorted me up the winding spiral staircase into the second floor atelier. Ambre's boutique manager, a French-Vietnamese named Sybille, showed me around.

“This season, Romyda has a lot of this kind of design," she gestures towards a violet dress. It had straps of fabric on the bodice criss-crossing each other. “She produces several designs every month, which is why she chose Phnom Penh to be her base. Here, she can focus on her passion for the creative arts," said Sybille.

In Manila, Romyda Keth has a boutique at G/F Vernida 1 Bldg., Amorsolo St. in Makati. The label is also marketed in Tokyo, Singapore, Mexico, and Chile.

The display area of Atelier Ambre is divided into several rooms, with a very high ceiling supported by large beams. Each room features dresses and accessories such as beaded necklaces and specially designed bags, shoes, and belts. The delicate and intricate embroideries are done in-house.

For this season, which follows the spring-summer collection of 2010, the dominant colors are navy blue, violet, fuschia, red, and white. Accessories are also arranged according to the color theme of each room. But at the same time, Sybille says Romyda doesn't go by the season. She creates as many designs as she wants, no matter the season or trend.

As an avid buyer of silk shawls, bags, and all kinds of trinkets, I try to pick up at least one item of silk in every city or country I go to, and Phnom Penh is no exception. The quality of the silk here is as good as the silk cottage industries of Thailand, sometimes even better.

During my latest trip, I sought out how the local silk industry, particularly Cambodian designers, have fared in promoting their silk creations within the country and the rest of the world.

When a French couturier comes to town

Romyda Keth's Atelier Ambre in Phnom Penh

When the French-Cambodian designer Romyda Keth came into town in 1994, Phnom Penh was just beginning to open up to the outside world. She had lived in Paris for most of her adult life, and after her studies at the Paris School of Fine Arts, she joined her medical doctor-husband in Phnom Penh.

The backwater town was a strange base for starting a boutique specializing in Western design and fashion, but Romyda did the unthinkable -- set up shop in a traditional two-storey French colonial mansion in the heart of the upmarket district, Street 178, just a stone's throw away from the fashionable and exciting nightlife of Sisowath Quay.

My first acquaintance with Romyda's creations was in a three-storey boutique called Gaya in Saigon's District 1, the place where most hip and fashionable people usually go in Vietnam. Gaya sold the latest avant garde household and furniture products, but it also had a section featuring the works of Saigon's up-and-coming designers.

That was where I found Romyda's silk dress. It was made of Khmer silk – soft, slightly shiny, and smooth to the touch. Sparsely embroidered with multi-colored beads at the skirt's hem, it was a simple design with the right accents in the right place, but very chic! I vowed to someday find the designer's atelier.

Understated chic
The Red Room at Ambre Boutique.

At the time of my visit to Romyda Keth's Atelier Ambre in Phnom Penh, the famed designer was out on holiday in France. A young lady dressed in black greeted me at the door and escorted me up the winding spiral staircase into the second floor atelier. Ambre's boutique manager, a French-Vietnamese named Sybille, showed me around.

“This season, Romyda has a lot of this kind of design," she gestures towards a violet dress. It had straps of fabric on the bodice criss-crossing each other. “She produces several designs every month, which is why she chose Phnom Penh to be her base. Here, she can focus on her passion for the creative arts," said Sybille.

In Manila, Romyda Keth has a boutique at G/F Vernida 1 Bldg., Amorsolo St. in Makati. The label is also marketed in Tokyo, Singapore, Mexico, and Chile.

The display area of Atelier Ambre is divided into several rooms, with a very high ceiling supported by large beams. Each room features dresses and accessories such as beaded necklaces and specially designed bags, shoes, and belts. The delicate and intricate embroideries are done in-house.

For this season, which follows the spring-summer collection of 2010, the dominant colors are navy blue, violet, fuschia, red, and white. Accessories are also arranged according to the color theme of each room. But at the same time, Sybille says Romyda doesn't go by the season. She creates as many designs as she wants, no matter the season or trend.

Ambre's spring-summer collection of 2010 features royal blue dresses with matching beads.

While we chatted, several models were looking over the current collection and having a fitting. A mature large-framed foreigner also arrived for the first fitting of two brightly-colored dresses, which fit perfectly around her tall frame. This is the magic of Romyda's silk creations. Even with the straps across the bodice, and the sequins and embroideries, a perfectly tailored outfit makes you look svelte and feeling regal and confident as a queen!

Romyda's fashion creations are usually made for the active and curvy woman who is confident of herself and her femininity, says Sybille. Her designs are unique and fit all ages -- from a youthful 25-year old to a 65-year old lady.

Sybille ushers me into the Bridal Room, and explains that for the astounding dresses, silk is the fabric of choice. “We keep the samples of the bridal couture creations here," said Sybille. The cream-colored room was like a fairyland, with racks and racks of exquisite silk and tulle wedding dresses on display.

About 50% of the current collection uses Khmer silk, which is personally selected and sourced by Romyda and her staff from local silk manufacturers, says Sybille. Sourcing out the silk is not a problem, as Cambodia has a long tradition of silk-making, she adds. However, marketing is still a big question, as the country does not have the capacity to mass-produce high quality silk products for international consumption.

At the Bridal Room, astounding wedding dresses are made of exquisite silk.

Silk on Street 178

Still, I thought the quality of the silk products I saw in the little silk boutiques along Street 178 already shows a certain sophistication in design and the quality of silk.

For the budget-conscious, one of my favorite little stores is Ta Phrom, a hole-in-the wall boutique selling silk bags, shawls, fabrics, shoes, and other items. The owner, Sam Oeurn Ouk, worked with an NGO before he started his boutique in 2004. Prices are okay – from US$5 to $10 for silk scarves to only US$6 for a little violet bag.

One common characteristic of the small boutiques on what is known as the street of silk products is that most of the beautiful silk creations seem to come from only one source – or perhaps, from the same village. Even Kravan House, another silk boutique that churns out exquisite silk handbags and supplies small entrepreneurs in the Philippines, have pieces that are available in another boutique just a few buildings away.

So while I would agree with Sybille that Phnom Penh has its own silk heritage and produces some of the best silks in the Indochina region, it still has to get its act together to produce high quality and unique designs that are unparalleled in the region. – YA, GMANews.TV

Cambodia buys 94 tanks, APCs from E. European sellers

via CAAI

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Sep. 15, 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- Cambodia has purchased 94 tanks and armored personnel carriers from Eastern Europe sellers to strengthen its military capacity, a senior military official told Kyodo News on Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the tanks and APCs, along with several heavy military trucks, will arrive this weekend at Cambodia's coastal Sihanoukville Province about 230 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh.

According to the official, of the 94 vehicles, 50 are T55 tanks and the other 40 are PTR26 APCs.

But the official refused to reveal the countries where the military vehicles were bought and nor their cost.

Other military sources suggested Cambodia decided to buy the equipment from Eastern Europe because many Cambodian military personnel were trained in Eastern Europe, especially in the then Soviet Union or countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.

When asked about the purchase new military equipment, Lt. Gen. Chhum Socheat, a spokesman for Cambodia's National Defense Ministry, said he had not been informed of new equipment, but added that was not surprising.

He said many countries are buying new military hardware and strengthening their military capabilities for ''their own homeland security as well as for the common fight against terrorism.''

The report of the new military equipment coincides with a visit to China by Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh.

According to Chhum Socheat, the minister left for China on Tuesday and will stay there for a week during which he will visit some factories producing military hardware.

(Source: iStockAnalyst )

Mobile Service Targets Cambodia's 'Unbanked'

via CAAI


How do you roll out a banking service in a place where most people don't have bank accounts?

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. tackled that question in developing WING, a banking and payment system it launched in Cambodia early last year.

Customers can withdraw or deposit money from their WING accounts at local Cash X-Press outlets.

In Phnom Penh, said Peter Dalton, ANZ's general manager for innovation, it's not uncommon for workers to send money to relatives in rural areas via a taxi-bound courier, which is risky as well as expensive. The Melbourne, Australia, bank estimates that only about 500,000 of the country's 14 million population have bank accounts, but "there is a need for saving and sending money," he said.

In addition to "unbanked" consumers, there are the "underbanked"—those who have bank accounts but don't have ready access to them because branches and automated teller machines are rare in many parts of the country, Mr. Dalton said.

A large number of Cambodians do have cellphones, though. WING works on four of the country's major mobile networks—hello, qb, Mfone and Smart Mobile—via a simple interface. Customers enter their account numbers and personal identification numbers, then see a menu of options that includes checking their balances, paying bills and sending money.

To send money, they enter the recipient's WING account number, or if the funds are going to someone who doesn't have a WING account, the person's mobile-phone number. (Funds are tied to the WING account, not the phone, so a customer won't lose his money even if his phone is lost or stolen.)

Recipients are notified by a text message when the transfer is complete. ANZ charges about 50 cents to send the equivalent of $20, a notable savings when compared with the $1 to $2 that Cambodian couriers typically cost.

There are now some 150,000 WING accounts, and Mr. Dalton said he wouldn't be surprised to see the service reach 200,000 customers by early next year. ANZ hasn't set a target number, however, he said. "We love the growth rates that we have now."

WING customers can access their accounts and send money through their phones.

In addition to the technological challenges of creating a mobile-payment service, ANZ had to figure out a cost-effective way to introduce it "to people who have never seen this before," he said. To do that, the company enlisted a fleet of 1,800 "pilots," part-time workers who sign up new customers and teach them how WING works. They receive a commission for each new sign-up and help spread the word about the program, often at markets and other high-traffic areas.

"There comes a time when you need cash," Mr. Dalton acknowledged, and that's where WING's Cash X-Press comes in. About 500 outlets are located throughout Cambodia's 24 provinces, and there WING customers can deposit and receive money through the service.

The Cash X-Press outlets, like the WING pilots, are another way of marketing the service, but they also help keep its costs down because they serve many of the same functions as ATMs, which are more expensive to build and maintain.

ANZ, which is working with its ANZ Royal subsidiary in Cambodia, plans to extend WING to support more types of billing, such as electricity and water, for its customers, and it hopes to offer the ability to transfer funds in other currencies, such as dollars.


A market seller uses WING for a payment.

It is also interested in getting local employers signed up to use the service. Cambodia's garment industry, for example, still largely pays workers in cash, which results in long lines on paydays, Mr. Dalton said. Using WING would allow an employer to pay its work force much faster and with fewer opportunities for error.

In addition to tapping a growing mobile-payment market, Mr. Dalton said WING promotes business development and a stronger understanding of how money works among its user base, particularly when it comes to saving. It also gives customers in poor areas an alternative to informal couriers and loans, which often carry high fees and theft risks.

"We think this is a service that encourages both economic and social development," he said. "You can actually generate more healthy economies."

Write to Andrew LaVallee at  

'History cannot be hidden' as Khmer Rouge leaders tried

via CAAI

By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The Khmer Rouge shot and killed his wife and child. They tortured him with electric shocks and yanked out his toenails. They turned rice paddies into "killing fields," where the corpses of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were left to rot.
So for all that, jailing one old man for 19 years doesn't feel like justice to Chum Mey.

"It's a shame we don't have the death penalty anymore," says Chum, 79, inside S-21, a former Khmer Rouge secret prison where he was once jailed.

The subject of Chum's dismay is Kaing Guek Eav, 67, the former commandant of S-21 who is also known as Comrade Duch. In July, an international tribunal here convicted Duch of carrying out the torture and killings of 12,000 people.

Duch is one of five former Khmer Rouge leaders arrested on charges of crimes against humanity. All are accused of taking part in killing as many as 3 million people from 1975 to 1979 — roughly one-third of Cambodia's population at the time, the United Nations says — in a ghastly attempt to turn back the clock on Western influences here and create an agrarian communist paradise.

Cambodians — including the 100,000 who fled to the United States by 1990 — have been waiting for more than 30 years to see justice for the Khmer Rouge, whose rule was followed by a Vietnamese occupation, civil war and U.N. oversight.

But Duch's sentence has angered survivors who say it is far too light for a man whose guards smashed the skulls of children against trees to prevent them from avenging the death of their parents. They ask how the tribunal can deliver justice when only five of the hundreds of former Khmer Rouge cadres and collaborators living freely in Cambodia are to be tried before it. Human rights groups say the U.N. is risking its credibility if the tribunal fails to satisfy the victims.

"I think it's not right. Somebody kill a lot of people, but they are still alive," says Wendy Lim, 57, who works the counter at the Phnom Pich Jewelry store in Long Beach, Calif., home to many Cambodian-owned businesses.

A mother of four who arrived in the USA in 1983, she wipes tears from her cheeks as she recalls the brutality of the Khmer Rouge, which killed her brother. Apologizing for her imperfect English, she says Duch's sentence was too light: "Not good — in the jail too short. He should die."

Others, however, say no tribunal will satisfy everyone and warn that justice is difficult in a country where despite a turn toward elective politics some alleged Khmer Rouge still hold powerful positions.

"This court could keep going for another 50 years because of all the crimes that were committed," says Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which is researching the genocide.

The Khmer Rouge's rise

Cambodians have been at the mercy of colonialism, communism and invaders for decades.

The French made Cambodia part of their Indochina empire in the 19th century, reaping profits from the harvesting of rice and rubber. At the height of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s, Soviet-backed North Vietnamese army troops hid in Cambodia's jungles to attack non-communist South Vietnam.

The United States, backing the South with U.S. troops, bombed the bases repeatedly and aided attempts by Cambodia military to oust the Vietnamese. Hundreds of villages were destroyed. A militia arose from the countryside, calling itself the Khmer Rouge, or Red Khmer, the name given them by the French (Khmer is the predominant ethnic group of Cambodia). Led by Pol Pot, a Khmer who once studied radio electronics at a Paris engineering school, the Khmer Rouge vowed to bring order and equality.

After a brutal campaign, Pol's soldiers surrounded the capital in April 1975. Phnom Penh fell five days after the U.S. Congress ended an airlift of food and weapons to the besieged city.

Cambodia was renamed Democratic Kampuchea. In what it called "Year Zero," the Khmer Rouge set out to cleanse the country of Western influence and traditional Cambodian culture. Banks were closed, money eliminated, schools shuttered. City residents were herded into the countryside to farm. Lawyers, teachers, property owners and Buddhist priests were ordered to be exterminated.

Pol's handiwork resulted not in utopia but poverty, famine and mass murder. It ended when Vietnam's army invaded in 1979.

"Our project was to transform the nature of society," Nuon Chea, one of the four remaining accused Khmer Rouge leaders awaiting trial, says in a newly released documentary film, Enemies of the People, winner of the 2010 Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

During its rule, the Khmer Rouge established labor camps, farm collectives and 196 prisons where people were starved, worked to death or killed, often after digging their own graves. In the film, an admitted Khmer Rouge executioner identified as Suon talks about how his hands grew tired from slitting throats so he switched to stabbing his victims as they lay face down with their hands tied. Like Duch, he says he was following orders.

"If we didn't obey, we would have been killed," says their superior, "Sister Em."

Cambodians who fled the Khmer Rouge for the United States still struggle with the horror they endured. They demand to know why it happened and who is responsible.

Danny You, 45, an urban planner who has lived in the USA since 1984, says he and most Cambodian-Americans he knows have little regard for the tribunals. He thinks those most responsible for the mass killings will never be brought to justice.

"They are corrupt, the government," he says. "How can one guy have killed so many?" he asks, suggesting some are getting away with murder. "I saw the killing. I witnessed everything."

Tom Am, 45, who arrived in America in 1982, agrees: "Someone masterminded it. There were orders from somewhere. There should be others" on trial.

A block down Anaheim Street, the heart of Cambodia Town, or Little Phnom Penh as it is unofficially known, Sam Ty is pleased with the tribunal.

"I think it was good, verdict was fair," says Ty, owner of Pich Kiri jewelry store. "It took a long time, too long."

Sara Pol-Lim, a survivor of the "killing fields" and executive director of the United Cambodian Community in Long Beach, says many Cambodians remain fearful of talking about that period.

Despite distrust in the government, sociologist Leakhena Nou is trying to get the testimonies of Cambodian-Americans about the horrors they suffered in their native land accepted by the tribunal by its Friday deadline.

"Many people are in their 60s and 70s, so this might be their only chance to make a mark on history. They are reclaiming the power that the Khmer Rouge took away from them 35 years ago," says Nou, an assistant professor at California State University-Long Beach.

Questions about the tribunal

Under international pressure, the Cambodian government requested U.N. help in 1997 to establish a tribunal to prosecute senior Khmer Rouge leaders but demanded it exclude thousands of henchmen.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia opened in 2007, with three Cambodians and two foreigners serving as judges. Having passed judgment on Duch, Case 001, the tribunal is to hear its next trial in 2011. But the presence of former Khmer Rouge officials in Cambodia's government, including long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen, raises the issue of whether serious criminals are being shielded from prosecution, critics say.

"People don't believe you can try the Khmer Rouge under this kind of government, who are Khmer Rouge themselves," says Son Chhay, an opposition member of a Cambodia parliament dominated by Hun Sen's party.

Others question whether the tribunal shows the limitations of an international system for perpetrators of genocide.

Human Rights Watch says the tribunal's mandate is being interfered with by the Cambodian government, which could derail additional indictments and trials. The Cambodian government appears to be behind decisions to block additional indictments, it says.

Despite millions dead, "the government is refusing to hold more than five people to account," says Sara Colm, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The U.N. and the tribunal's international donors should not allow political interference with the court to undermine its credibility."

Critics say that has happened.

Sophal Ear, a Cambodian-American political economist in Monterey, Calif., pointed to the 2009 appointment of Helen Jarvis of Australia as head of the tribunal's victims unit as an example of political bias. According to Ear, Jarvis once wrote with her husband: "We, too, are Marxists and believe that 'the ends justify the means.' ... In time of revolution and civil war, the most extreme measures will sometimes become necessary and justified."

"Everyone, including the donors know, that it's a lemon," Ear says of the tribunal. "It either needs to be fixed or it needs to be taken off the lot."

The tribunal is at a crossroads between legitimacy and failure, says Panhavuth Long, project officer at the Cambodia Justice Initiative, which supports the idea of international tribunals. He says the Cambodian government does not want more than five people prosecuted even though Cambodians say many more are guilty. Pol Pot died in a jungle hideaway in 1998.

"Cambodians' dissatisfaction at the (Duch) verdict makes it doubtful they will stay ... engaged for Case 2," he says.

That case involves former deputy leader Nuon Chea, 84, who along with three other Khmer Rouge leaders will be tried next year. Unlike Duch, they have not admitted guilt.

International co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley said the tribunal could prove to be a model for other nations that need international support to tackle serious crimes. "People will look back at this time and appreciate the fact that justice was met to international standards," says Cayley, a British lawyer.

Today, Cambodia is a fledgling democracy with an economy that was growing at 10% a year until the recession. Garment factories have sprung up to take advantage of cheap labor. Tourism is a big source of revenue and jobs. Two million people arrive annually to visit rain forest reserves, sparkling beaches and Angkor Wat, a 12th-century temple.

Chin Yong, driver of a tuk-tuk taxi that is a combination motorbike and carriage, is waiting for a fare near Gold Tower 42, the latest of a few skyscrapers that have gone up recently in Phnom Penh.

On this day, he is more concerned about his poor wages ($5 a day) than seeing justice for the Khmer Rouge. Although he had many relatives die under the regime, he says more tribunals are "not good for the country. We don't want more suffering through the memories."

In the countryside where most Cambodians still live, farmer Tep Naran echoes such sentiments.

"Life for people here is pretty much the same," says Naran, 29, at his home village near Skuon town, Kompong Cham province. "I don't know much about the Khmer Rouge as I wasn't even born then." Of Duch, he says, "He's so old now, why do they want to punish him?"

His father, Tep Sok, who says Duch was his math teacher before the Khmer Rouge, feels differently. "He used to advise me to be a good student, to benefit my family and the whole society. But he must have changed after that," says Tep, 65, who says he wants justice to come for the former Khmer Rouge cadres who live near his village.

In northwest Pailin province, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold, some people defend the regime.

"If there was no Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese would have stolen our land," says Ven Ra, niece of Ta Mok, a Pol Pot commander known as "The Butcher" who was awaiting trial for allegedly directing massacres and died in detention in 2006.

Those kinds of claims are one reason Chum Mey keeps coming to the former S-21 prison, now a genocide museum. When some students arrive, he rises from his seat again to tell what he witnessed here.

"History," he says, "cannot be hidden."

via CAAI

India Blooms News Service

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Sept 15 (IBNS) Speech of Indian President Pratibha Patil at the banquet hosted by King of Cambodia Norodom Sihamoni on Tuesday

Your Majesty,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is, indeed, a great pleasure to visit the Kingdom of Cambodia. We are overwhelmed with the warmth and affection received since our arrival in your beautiful country. I and the members of my delegation greatly appreciate the gracious hospitality extended to us.

Historically, India-Cambodia relations are a product of strong civilizational links spanning two millennia. The many magnificent historical monuments spread all over Cambodia are symbols of our shared cultural heritage. Looking back, one is also reminded of the close association between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Prince Norodom Sihanouk, which helped in developing extremely friendly ties between our two newly independent countries. Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Cambodia in 1954. President Dr. Rajendra Prasad paid a State visit to Cambodia in March 1959. We in India fondly remember the visit of His Royal Highness, Prince Norodom Sihanouk undertaken in March 1955 and his subsequent visits to India. There has always been a strong desire on part of both our countries to strengthen bonds of friendship. India never wavered in its commitment to support Cambodia even at the most difficult phases of its history, immediately after the fall of Khmer Rouge regime.

Your Majesty,

I am extremely happy that Cambodia has been progressing well and it achieved double digit economic growth for a number of years prior to the global economic crisis. While commending the ongoing efforts of Cambodia to achieve a better life for its citizens, I can assure the Royal Government of Cambodia of India's continued support in fulfilling this objective.

Human resource development and capacity building have been the primary focus of India-Cambodia bilateral cooperation for the last many years. India is cooperating with Cambodia in infrastructural projects, considered priority projects for the development of Cambodia, under concessional lines of credit. Today, we have signed an additional line of credit of US $ 15 million for the Stung Tassal Water Development Project in Cambodia.

Your Majesty,

As both our countries have large agrarian sectors, there is tremendous scope for co-operation in agriculture. Initiatives have also been undertaken to enhance economic engagement between our two countries. We need to encourage private sectors to pro-actively explore trade and investment opportunities.

India and Cambodia also have predominantly young populations. There should be greater exchanges between the youth of our two countries, so that our friendship and deep cultural links continue to resonate in the future. To promote cultural ties, recent significant initiatives have been the setting up of a Chair of Sanskrit and Buddhist Studies at Preah Sihanouk Raja Buddhist University and of Mekong-Ganga Cooperation Asian Traditional Textiles Museum. The team of the Archaeological Survey of India is currently working on restoration and preservation of Ta Prohm temple at Siem Reap. We are proud that India was involved in the restoration and preservation of the World Heritage monument Angkor Wat for a few years beginning 1986.

Defence and security-related issues are other areas of active cooperation between India and Cambodia. India is happy to play a role in training the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces officials. It is heartening that in less than two decades, Cambodia has transformed itself from a country which hosted blue berets, to a troop-contributing nation for UN peacekeeping operations in Africa.

We value the support extended by Cambodia for India's enhanced engagement with the ASEAN and for India's inclusion in the East Asia Summit.

I am confident that my visit and similar high level exchanges in the future will contribute to broaden, as well as deepen our bilateral ties and generate goodwill between our peoples.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I now request you to join me in a toast:-

- to the good health and well-being of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia;

- to the continued progress and prosperity of the People of Cambodia; and

- to the lasting friendship and cooperation between India and Cambodia.

Cambodia opens first methadone clinic for heroin users

via CAAI

15 September 2010
By Guy De Launey
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Methadone is a heroin substitute used to treat withdrawal symptoms

Cambodia has launched the country's first methadone-treatment programme, in a new approach to help heroin users.

The World Health Organization (WHO) told the BBC that addiction was widely viewed in Cambodia as a social problem, rather than a health issue.

Until now the government has favoured treatment centres which emphasise hard work and exercise.

But health workers and human rights groups have criticised the facilities, describing them as "labour camps".

The opening of the methadone clinic is the culmination of years of gentle persuasion by organisations which work with drug users.

Ongoing concerns

The methadone programme will be strictly voluntary. Methadone is a heroin substitute used to treat withdrawal symptoms.

Two organisations which run outreach programmes for drug users will identify candidates for treatment.

If they're willing, they will be taken to the clinic for an assessment based on international standards. While the facility is supported by the WHO, it is run by the Ministry of Health inside a public hospital.

But while international health workers are delighted with the new approach, they are still concerned about the existing drug treatment facilities.

The government has no plans to close the centres which it says are voluntary, but which the UN has described as compulsory.

Some residents have complained of being held against their will - and forced to take experimental herbal remedies.

Consumer Price Index sees stable inflation

via CAAI

Wednesday, 15 September 2010 15:00 Nguon Sovan

INFLATION remained near its lowest level this year in August as the National Bank of Cambodia’s measures to stabilise the riel took effect.

The Consumer Price Index rose slightly to an annual 1.8 percent in August, a slight increase on the year’s low of 1.6 percent in July, but still far below the 5.3 to 7.3 percent rates of the year’s first four months, according to National Institute of Statistics data released yesterday.

Kang Chandararot, president of Cambodia Institute for Development Study, said yesterday: “The good [stable] rate of inflation is due to the measures of the National Bank of Cambodia in stabilising the riel currency.

“We expect that the inflation rate will be stable throughout this year.”

So far this year, the NBC has bought US$48 million worth of riels on the foreign exchange market to stop the riel from depreciating too quickly.

The NIS report highlighted that the highest percentage increases among consumer goods were natural gas, sugar, jam, honey, chocolate and confectionery, and petrol prices, which respectively increased by 31.4 percent, 18.9 percent and 10.6 percent.

The International Monetary Fund forecast Friday that inflation would be 4 percent this year.

It is currently averaging 4.59 percent for the first eight months.

The index is made up of 259 items tracked in five different Phnom Penh markets.

Garment strike to go on

via CAAI

Sep 15, 2010

Cambodian workers stand and listen to a speech during a strike outside a garment factory in Phnom Penh. -- PHOTO: AFP

PHNOM PENH - A MASS strike by tens of thousands of Cambodian garment workers entered its third day on Wednesday, with unions warning the stoppage could go on for weeks if employers ignored their wage demands.

Estimates for the number of workers taking part in the industrial action varied wildly, but both unionists and employers agreed that more people had joined the strike since it began on Monday.

Kong Athit, secretary general of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said more than 190,000 workers at 90 factories had taken part, up from 60,000 on Monday. But that estimate was disputed by the Garment Manufacturers' Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which put the figure at just over 30,000.

The walkout is the latest in a string of recent strikes in Asian countries, as employees demand a larger share of the region's economic growth.

Cambodia's garment industry - which produces items for renowned brands including Gap, Benetton, Adidas and Puma - is a key source of foreign income for the country and employs about 345,000 workers.

The strike follows a deal between the government and industry that set the minimum wage for garment and footwear staff at US$61 (S$81.60) a month. Unions want a base salary of S$93 (S$124.40). -- AFP

What's new

via CAAI

Wednesday, 15 September 2010 15:51 Post Staff

A tough place for opposition
Critics of ASEAN governments struggle to speak

What do you think China's impact will be on Cambodia in the coming years? Go to to discuss.
growing awareness of the relentless growth of Chinese economic and military power and a feeling that China asserts itself more in the region” has made “Australia, Indonesia and South Korea appear to be interested in forms of middle-power consultation, to ensure that their interest in a multi-polar Asia is preserved”.
- From a report by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Japanese government regrets that China unilaterally announced it would postpone the talks.”
- Comments from a Japanese foreign ministry official after China said it would reject any investigation by Tokyo into a ship collision in disputed waters that left a Chinese fishing vessel in Japanese custody.
China took the very important step in June of signalling that they’re going to let the exchange rate start to reflect market forces. But they’ve done very, very little, they’ve let it move very, very little in the interim.”
- US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on his disappointment with China’s hesitancy to loosen its grip on the yuan.

The garment strike by the numbers
$61 The current minumum wage for garment workers
$56 The minumum wage prior to negotiations earlier this year
$93 The minimum wage proposed by labour leaders
$72 The monthly amount needed to cover basic needs of workers, according to industry studies
$43 The minimum wage for garment workers in Bangladesh, the lowest in the region
68 thousand
Workers who joined strikes on Monday, according to Kong Athit, secretary general of the Cambodian Labour Confederation.
9 thousand
The maximum number of workers who joined strikes on Monday, according to Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers’ Association in Cambodia
80 thousand
Workers who gave their thumbprints pledging to participate in the strikes prior to this week, according to garment industry unionists.
297 thousand
Total workers employed in the garment sector.
60 thousand
Garment-industry jobs lost during the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, according to the UN.
90 %
The estimated percentage of garment workers who are female.
Not Exactly News Trends

A bad week for ice in the Kingdom

    Part-time ice man iced by ice had self to blame
    A 20 year-old man died after being crushed by seven large blocks of ice last week. While waiting to serve customers in the ice-producing room at the bespoke ice shop where he was employed, seven slabs of ice fell on him, killing him instantly. The manager of the shop said the victim was “not a full-time worker”, and that the accident was his own fault because he failed to use proper ice-manoeuvring techniques. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

    Ice goes up in flames
    492 packages of “ice”, or crystal methamphetamine, were burned along with 9,592 tablets of yama, or methamphetamine, three packages of heroin and two tablets of ecstasy when provincial authorities destroyed more than US$100,000 worth of illicit drugs seized over the past two years in Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey, officials said, adding that 42 people have been arrested for alleged involvement in trafficking illegal drugs since the beginning of the year.

    A bad week for ice in the Kingdom
    Violent monkeys kicked out of town
    A BURGLAR alarm that calls the owner of a house if it is being robbed has been selling well since it was first imported into Cambodia a week ago. Importer Safe Home said that 14 units had been sold in its first week.

    Sneaky fires face new foe
    ELECTRICS firm Dynamic E-Group launched new fire alarms imported from German company Detectomat. A company spokesperson said they were an improvement on the models currently available in the Kingdom, as they were able to detect both smoke and heat.There were roughly 29 fires requiring the fire service in Phnom Penh this year.
    Big Stories
    CITY authorities have warned that residents of the iconic Bassac apartment block in Chamkarmon district could be forced to vacate the building if it is deemed “unsafe” by municipal housing experts.
    “I don’t think that the authorities are thinking much about residents’ safety. What they are thinking is just to give the land to businessmen,” said resident Sem Sinoun, 45.

    THOUSANDS of garment workers stopped work on Monday as part of a promised mass strike to protest against the minimum wage.
    the numbers >>

    OFFICIALS said last week that a second bridge , estimated to cost US$27.5 million, linking downtown Phnom Penh to the Chroy Changvar peninsula would be constructed with Chinese aid and take about 38 months to complete.

    What's the biggest story? Have your say at

    Laugh a little
    A 24-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man were caught in an awkward spot last weekend after the woman’s husband accused them of committing adultery. The suspicious spouse discovered them together, his wife naked and the man wearing her pants. The husband has demanded US$2,000 in compensation. The man said he was an old friend and came inside to stay out of the rain. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

    Think before you drink

    via CAAI

    Wednesday, 15 September 2010 15:21 Chan Sovannara

    Alcohol info
    Alcoholic – If you are an alcoholic it means you are addicted to alcohol. Alcoholic people feel like they need alcohol despite its negative effects on the drinker’s health, relationships and work.
    Alcohol abuse – unlike alcoholism, alcohol abuse may only happen on occasion, but it means that someone drinks too much and puts themselves or others in danger. Alcohol abuse can be a warning sign that someone is heading towards alcoholism.
    Moderate / social drinker – Moderate drinking may be defined as drinking that does not generally cause problems, either for the drinker or for society. Social drinkers do not worry about drinking too much or too often and do not receive complaints from friends about their behaviour.

    Short-term impact: Depending on the amount of alcohol in your blood, called your blood alcohol content (BAC), the short-term impact of alcohol can range from euphoria after a few drinks to serious harm or death if you drink too many. Your BAC after a certain number of drinks varies greatly depending upon your age, height, weight and tolerance. There are many sites, such as, that allow to calculate you or your friends’ approximate BAC.
    Long-term impact: For moderate drinkers who consume a few drinks a week, scientific studies have shown that their risk of heart disease actually decreases. However, people who drink too much face many dangers to their health. Besides alcoholism, over-drinking can lead to disease of the blood, organ failure and severe damage to your nervous system.

    1 Standard Drink Equals 1
    12 oz. can/bottle of beer
    4 oz. glass of wine
    mixed drink with 1 shot
    1 ? oz. liquor ( standard shot)
    12 oz. bottle of wine cooler

    It is generally recommended that, to be safe, you should consume no more than 1 alcoholic drink per hour.

    Eat before you drink.

    Rotate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic drinks like water or tea.
    Don’t drink alcohol, advised Buddha. Along with killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and lying, drinking is one of the five acts strongly discouraged in order to facilitate proper practice of Buddhism. But you wouldn’t know it in Cambodia, where 95 percent of people are Buddhist, or at least claim to be, and beer gardens, bars, clubs and shops selling alcohol are scattered about the country.

    It is almost a right of passage for a most young men to pass into adulthood by joining the group of men at parties and family gatherings to cheerfully guzzle ABC or Angkor.

    Although alcohol has long been the reserve of middle-aged men, a growing number of youth have begun to embrace alcohol in their social lives.

    Some Cambodians who are just getting acclimated to adulthood resist the temptation of alcohol. Some drink on rare occasions when peer pressure gets the best of them. Others are downright disappointed if they show up at a social gathering without booze.

    “The absence of beer means the absence of joy at a friend’s party,” said 23-year-old Phoung Chhunleang, who hosts his friends for an evening of drinking once or twice a month. “Drinking beer is a way to release my stress and it also helps me network with new people. People use beer to make connections in business and potential investments,” explained the private sector employee, who qualified his previous statements by advising his peers not to drink so much that they cause problems.

    Hun Davy, a 23-year-old graduate of the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s sociology department, disagreed with Phoung Chhunleang. “Drinking beer for building lines of communication is only the excuse those who like to drink beer,” she said, adding that people can just as easily talk over less dangerous liquids.

    “We can invite people for a soft drink, tea or coffee instead of alcohol,” she said, mentioning that the question “would you like to have a cup of coffee or tea?” is a polite way of asking someone if they want to chat or go on a date.

    But Hun davy did not condemn drinking alcohol altogether, explaining that alcohol can ease your mind and even contribute to a healthy lifestyle, but only if consumed in moderation. “We should control our drinking rather than allow ourselves to be controlled by drinking,” she said.

    Ouch Ang Pheakkdey, a 24 year-old academic officer at the Learning for Success Center, a foreign language school in Phnom Penh, said that drinking can have negative ramifications along with the potential benefits, depending on the person. In his case, along with many other youth who are entering adulthood, drinking is occasionally an expectation rather than an option.

    “For me, I can’t drink much, but when I meet with my boss at a party, I have to drink to show that I fit in,” he said.

    While adult influence is occasionally to blame, most youths start drinking to follow their friends and show that they are strong and grown up, said Ing Vanni, a social worker for Social Services of Cambodia. “Cambodians usually see drinking as part of socialising,” he said.

    Drinking has two sides, according to Ing Vanni: if we drink a little, it isn’t a big problem, but if people drink too much, they risk wasting time, money, endangering their life through traffic accidents or, in some cases, misbehaving and getting in trouble with the law.

    “When people drink beer, they dull their senses, making it easy for them to withdraw from their stresses,” said Ing Vanni, who agreed that the idea that alcohol enhances social skills is an excuse to justify drinking in social settings.

    According to psychiatrist Mony Sothara, head of the mental health section of Phnom Penh’s Preah Kosamak hospital, young people build their identity based on the things they see around them, and drinking is no exception. Because drinking is widely seen as an acceptable use of people’s free time in Cambodia, it is easy for people to feel all right about their behaviour. “Drinking beer does more damage than it does good,” he said. “It helps to reduce stress while you are drinking, but it can’t solve the root problems that cause that stress.”

    Patil donates Rupees 1.1 crore to India-Cambodia Friendship School

    via CAAI

    By Praful Kumar Singh, Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Sept.15 : Visiting Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Wednesday donated a sum of Rupees 1.1 crore to the India-Cambodia Friendship School in Phnom Penh

    The money will be used to build a school building, library, boundary walls and gates.

    This primary school is located in Village Khum Khnasor, District Srok Srey Santho in Kampong Cham province.

    It was established in 1981 and has 239 students (110 girls and 129 boys from KG to class VI).

    The Embassy of India in association with the Indian Association Cambodia (IAC) is assisting the school, as it is resource deficient and a majority of its students come from poor families.

    India's Ambassador to Cambodia, Rajesh Kumar Sachdeva had visited the school on March 20.

    On Tuesday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called on President Patil at the Hotel Intercontinental here. The two leaders reportedly discussed issues of bilateral, regional and international importance to both countries.

    Delegation-level talks and a signing of bilateral agreements between the two countries followed the meeting.

    After the meeting, EXIM bank director P. Dalal and Cambodia's Secretary of State in Ministry of Economy and Finance, Aun Porn Monirothe, signed an agreement to extend a credit of 15 million dollars for the Stung Tassal Water Development project.

    The second agreement was signed by Ambassador Rajesh Kumar Sachdeva and the Cambodian National Audit Authority to help the latter in capacity building.

    Both agreements were signed to enhance economic engagements between the two countries. An Indian business delegation is also in Cambodia to achieve this objective.

    The total trade between India and Cambodia in 2008-09 was worth 49.61 dollars. Major exports to Cambodia are drugs, pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, cotton, staple fibres, rubber articles, precious metals, etc.

    Home away from home

    via CAAI

    Wednesday, 15 September 2010 15:09 Dara Saoyuth
    You might want that noise to stop while you are studying or that light turned off when you are trying to sleep, but these are just the hassles you have to endure in a dormitory. Although living with a roommate in a dorm – and dealing with the unavoidable annoyances this entails – is a nearly universal experience for university students in many foreign countries, there is also a small group of Cambodian college kids living in close quarters at the Kingdom’s only state-run dormitory for university students.

    After a few visits to the dorm, I decided that in order to get a true sense of dorm life, I needed to spend a night there myself. So last week I packed my bag and headed to the six-building dormitory campus on Russian Boulevard – neighbouring the Royal University of Phnom Penh – to get a taste of the parentless life.

    In foreign countries, room and board (food and living accommodations), are usually part of tuition fees, but in Cambodia, dorms are free to some students from poor families and remote provinces and are reserved mostly for females (although my experience was mostly with young men for obvious reasons).

    Because of the noticeable lack of adults on the premises, you might expect security to be in short supply. But I felt at ease and well taken care of from the get go, and I witnessed a way of life that you’re not likely to see anywhere else.

    The first lessons you are forced to learn are those of acceptance and cooperation. Many of us are used to having our own room and our own space to retreat to when we need some time alone, but you can say goodbye to these comforts as soon as you set down your bags.

    San Kimleang, a 23-year-old woman from Kampong Thom province, said she used to be spoiled by her family, but has shed her sense of entitlement over the past three years. “We have to stay with our roommates for four years, so we need to find ways of living peacefully and it is critical to be tolerant of each other,” she said.

    It’s easy to snap at siblings and take out your frustrations on family members, she explained, but while living with people outside her family, she often has to bite her tongue when she is angry or fed up with the behaviour of her dorm-mates.

    Bou Sophal, who just moved into the dorm last year, knows all too well the challenges of communal living. “Sometimes people cause a disturbance, for example there will be a noise during when we want to study silently or our roommate needs light for studying while we are trying to fall asleep,” he said. “We have to be patient, tolerate and forgive. Today they unintentionally disturb us, but in the future we might do the same.”

    While I could certainly understand their difficulties, having enjoyed my own quiet room for the past 20 years, I also saw how much the students cared for each other.

    Hou Vanthy, 19, said he feels lucky to live in the dorm because his parents, who are farmers with six other children, have little money to spare. As he has become acclimated to Phnom Penh over the past year, he has been able to ask for help from the young men he lives with. “If I don’t have the documents I need, I can ask from them, and I talk with them about their experiences so that I can prepare myself for problems that lie ahead,” he said. “I have never lacked advisers while I’ve been living here.”

    I was a bit jealous when I saw a computer room in the building. I have a laptop but, unlike the guys at the dorm, I do not have access to free computer lessons on a regular basis.

    More senior members of the dorm, such as Suon Sampheavin, a 22-year-old student in his fifth year of civil engineering studies, said that design programmes like AutoCAD are crucial for engineers, but most students living at the dorm can’t afford the relatively expensive fees of a typical computer class. “I teach AutoCAD on weekends, using what I know, so the other guys don’t have to spend money on classes outside. If I don’t help them, they will face difficulties in the future,” he said.

    I was happy to see that it wasn’t all work in the dorm. Barring rain, the self-sustaining students set aside some time in the evening to play football and badminton in the space outside of their dorm. Once they have worked up an appetite, they prepare dinner and, in the men’s dorm at least, pile in front of the TV to enjoy their food with the on-screen entertainment.

    There is not a complete lack of adults – there is a health officer on site in case of an illness or emergency, and there is also not a complete lack of authority. Four buildings have adult managers, while two dorms have elected student managers to make sure things don’t get out of hand.

    Ban Sam, who has been staying in the dorm since 2007, said that as the men’s manager he makes sure that students who enter the dorm follow the rules.

    “Hanging around outside late is not allowed,” the 21-year-old said. “Gambling, drinking beer, or using drugs in the building is banned. For the safety of all students, bringing people from outside the dorm without asking for permission is not allowed,” he added, starting to sound like my parents.

    But just as I was thinking that dorm life signalled a release from chores, it only got worse. “Students have to live with cleanliness and hygiene; for example they have to clean their rooms and take turns cleaning the bathroom and toilet as it is used by everyone.” Ugh! The dorm really was starting to feel like home.

    While the stories you hear about foreign dorms might sound more like anarchy than university, it seems that Cambodia’s dorm-dwellers are quite tame. While most of us have a family waiting for us when we finish our classes for the day, these students only have each other, and the way they support each other was nothing short of incredible. I was thankful for the openness and hospitality of my hosts, but happy to head home when I woke up in the morning.

    Advice from an organisation in the know


    via CAAI
    Wednesday, 15 September 2010 15:00 Chhoun Borith, president of KYSD
    Life presents many different challenges, but youth have the ability to overcome anything. Here are some tips to help you on the bumpy path towards adulthood.
    • Be optimistic in the way you approach things. If you expect something to be boring or useless it will most likely be boring or useless. Try to find something that excites, entertains or enlightens you in every experience you have.
    • Make as many friends as possible. Obviously, you will have some friends who are closer than others, but the more people you get to know and like, the more you will understand other perspectives. People say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but befriending someone is even better. Make other people feel good and they will return the favour.
    • Think peace. When you are angry at someone, ask yourself why before you do anything else. If you can identify the source of your anger you will often find it is not really the other person’s fault, or at least you will be able to confront them with a level head. Life can be frustrating, don’t take it out on someone who doesn’t deserve it.
    • Forgive yourself. If you are a perfectionist, you might be familiar with the term “nobody is perfect”, but it can be difficult to apply to yourself. Hard-working, intelligent people fail all the time. Any success story has many failure stories leading up to it. Failing is nothing to be ashamed of, giving up is.
    • Volunteer. There are so many things for students to do with their free time that it can seem hard to find time to volunteer. But the benefits you bring to society will be reciprocated through your invaluable experiences in the field. Don’t volunteer just anywhere; Cambodia has hundreds of organisations working to improve our Kingdom, be sure to find the one that is best for you.

    The youth leadership challenge

    Villagers help their favorite YLC contestant fix 100 meters length road in the competition day. YLC

    via CAAI

    Wednesday, 15 September 2010 15:00 Post Staff

    IRI public opinion polls indicate that voters in Cambodia cite providing infrastructure in the form of building roads and schools as one of the most important factors they consider when casting their votes in elections. In this week’s episode of YLC, the five remaining contestants are challenged with personally organizing and completing a road construction project. Each contestant was assigned a 100-metre section of a badly damaged dirt road. With only US$50, their own ingenuity and the the help of the local villagers they were able to enlist, the contestants got their hands dirty making real improvements for a community in need.

    The contestants received training from the Youth Council of Cambodia on how to manage a project, fundraise, and organise members of a community to work together for a common cause. Through their fundraising, each contestant collected between $60 and $250 to purchase materials for the project. Commune council members rated the work of the contestants and, as always, one unlucky contestant was sent home. As a reward, the four remaining contestants received a $100 gift certificate to the International Book Center.