Friday, 17 September 2010

Prez speech at Cambodian governor's banquet

via CAAI


India Blooms News Service

Siem Reap (Cambodia), Sept 17 (IBNS) Remarks of Indian President Pratibha Patil at a banquet hosted by the Governor of Siem Reap Province on Thursday:

I deeply appreciate the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation. I am delighted to be in the historical city of Siem Reap which is home to so many magnificent monuments including the world heritage site - Angkor Wat. These monuments reflect the glory of the Khmers at that time and are a visible symbol of strong cultural ties that existed between India and Cambodia.

India is proud to have been involved in the conservation and restoration efforts of Angkor Wat from 1986 to 1993 and is currently working for Ta Prohm Temple. Today, I had the honour of laying the foundation stone for MGC Asian Traditional Textiles Museum, which would be an added testament of Indian cultural cooperation between India and member countries of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation in this beautiful city of Siem Reap.

I see such joint initiatives as proof of the desire of the two Governments to keep alive the historical cultural ties that exist between the two countries.

I wish to commend Your Excellency, the Governor of Siem Reap Province, and your officials, for their untiring efforts in making the city as well as the Angkor area a tourist paradise. vExcellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I invite you to join me in a toast:

- to the age old friendship between India and Cambodia; - to the progress and prosperity of the people of Cambodia; and

- to the historic city of Siem Reap and to the World Heritage site of Angkor Wat.

Germany assists in flood control in Cambodia

via CAAI

September 17, 2010

Germany has provided assistance to Cambodia for flood control system project that will benefit about 700 households with approximately 3,500 farmers and their livestock, according to a statement released by German Embassy on Friday.

The statement said the project was just completed and the hand- over ceremony of the flood control system built in the three districts in Kandal and Prey Veng Provinces, located about 65 kilometers southeast of Phnom Penh, was organized on Friday.

It said that the newly constructed Safety Areas, 900 to 2000 square meters in size, consist of sufficiently raised foundations (several meters above the respective highest flooding levels of the severe flooding in the year 2000), equipped with latrines and drinking water supply facilities.

The assistance was made available after it has learned that severe flooding, as recently witnessed in Pakistan and China, poses substantial threats for human lives.

Flooding also occurs frequently along the Mekong River, and based on requests from the respective district governors, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) - under its Flood Management and Mitigation Program (FMMP) - constructed five Safety Areas in the three districts.

The activities have been financially supported by the German Government and implemented by GTZ (German Technical Cooperation Agency).

Following the year 2000 flood in Cambodia, safety area identification and management by the provincial and district authorities became one of the important flood preparedness activities for evacuation and temporary shelter for flood affected people and their livestock.

The statement said the project costs of the five Safety Area constructions were approximately 20,000 U.S. dollar in total, and the beneficiaries are almost 700 households with approx. 3500 farmers and their livestock, who will be able to evacuate with their belongings to those Safety Areas in times of severe flooding.

Source: Xinhua

Thailand, Cambodia look beyond Thaksin

via CAAI

By James O'Toole

PHNOM PENH - Former Thai premier and fugitive from justice Thaksin Shinawatra's arrival on his private jet in Phnom Penh last year was broadcast live on local television, the climax of weeks of diplomatic intrigue that brought relations between Thailand and Cambodia to their lowest point in years.

Arriving nominally as an economics adviser to the Cambodian government, the ousted leader served mainly as a pawn in a spat between Bangkok and Phnom Penh that saw the countries withdraw their respective ambassadors and engage in an unflattering war of words over the next several months.

The abrupt announcement of Thaksin's "resignation" from his post last month has been cause for rapprochement, with ambassadors returned to their posts and a meeting scheduled between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva in New York next week.

Yet for all the pomp attached to Thaksin's comings and goings, the current rapprochement between Thailand and Cambodia can only steal the spotlight for so long from their more fundamental disagreement over their shared border. Ironically, Thaksin's advisory appointment caused significant economic harm for Cambodia.

In retaliation, Bangkok tore up a 2001 memorandum of understanding on joint development of a 26,000 square kilometer area in the Gulf of Thailand thought to contain significant oil and gas reserves. Cambodia's exports to Thailand plunged 50% year-on-year in the first six months of 2010, while many Thai investors have likely been dissuaded from investing in Cambodia in view of the acrimony between the countries.

Politically, though, Thaksin provided Hun Sen with a chance to ratchet up tensions with a traditional enemy and intensify his border rhetoric to a rather outlandish extent. "Do you dare to swear on magic that could break your neck, on a plane crash or a dissolution of the countries, that your soldiers did not invade Cambodia's territory?" Hun Sen said in a speech last year, apparently addressing Abhisit.

Tension over the border erupted in 2008 after the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site for Cambodia, as both sides laid claim to a 4.6-square-kilometer patch of land adjacent to the temple. The issue flared up again last month after a meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage committee in which Cambodia submitted management plans for the temple.

The countries are in the process of demarcating their border, but talks have been stalled since last year pending approval of the latest round of negotiations in the Thai parliament. Abhisit and his Democrat party-led government are under intense pressure from hardline elements of the nationalist "yellow shirt" movement not to give any ground in the territorial dispute, and a vote in the Thai parliament to approve the latest negotiations was again postponed last month, to the ire of Cambodian leaders.

Cambodia has been pressing aggressively to bring attention to the dispute, appealing to both the United Nations and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for assistance. ASEAN assistance was required, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said, to help avoid "large-scale armed conflict" along a frontier in which at least seven soldiers have been killed in periodic skirmishes since 2008.

These appeals have irked Thai officials, who have repeatedly stated their opposition to border talks in any forum but a bilateral one. The move to cut ties with Thaksin may be the latest element of Cambodia's border strategy, said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

"It gives Cambodia the upper hand when the Thaksin issue has been played out," Ou Virak said, with the move allowing Phnom Penh to "separate the Preah Vihear conflict or tension from other kinds of issues".

Amid its diplomatic maneuvering, Cambodia is also bidding very publicly to upgrade its military capabilities at the border. This week, the government announced the purchase of dozens of T55 tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Meanwhile, in a bizarre bit of corporate charity that has drawn condemnation from rights groups, a local television station is collecting donations to help build reinforced concrete bunkers for combat troops at the border.

Carlyle Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy, said these efforts were largely "grandstanding" for the benefit of a domestic audience. "You can't take it at face value - there's no way that Cambodia is ever going to acquire the military power to take on Thailand in a conventional military conflict," Thayer said.

He said the militarization that Hun Sen has been pushing in relation to the border may be an effort to consolidate his support in the military, an institution that is the only conceivable counterweight to his near-absolute power. "It keeps the military on his side if you talk about an external threat or their importance," Thayer said.

For Thailand, the border dispute with Cambodia remains a key issue in a domestic political crisis that shows no sign of being resolved any time soon.

"The real reason that the border issue is a problem is not because Cambodia has these claims - the real reason the border issue is a problem is that the yellows accuse the reds [Thaksin supporters] of giving away a national asset," said Michael Montesano, a visiting fellow at Singapore's Institute for Southeast Asian Studies.
"The government doesn't want to have to deal with large-scale yellow-shirt demonstrations, and the lives of people in the government can be made very difficult and the lives of their families can be made very difficult if they are seen as somehow stepping back from the yellow cause."

Signs do, for the moment, point to a warming of relations. With the return of their ambassadors - absent for more than nine months - Cambodia and Thailand have now resumed full diplomatic ties, and Abhisit and Hun Sen are scheduled to meet again in October following their meeting in New York next week.

Montesano said Thaksin's "resignation" had in fact likely been brokered in secret talks between the two governments, with Bangkok perhaps hoping to get closer to apprehending red-shirt leaders known to be hiding out in Cambodia after the May 19 military crackdown on protests in Bangkok.

In a surprise move in early July, Cambodian authorities apprehended two Thais believed to be red-shirt supporters and suspected of involvement in a bomb attack on the headquarters of Bhum Jai Thai, the second-largest party in Abhisit's ruling coalition. Phnom Penh handed over the suspects to Thai authorities without a formal extradition request from Bangkok.

"This is to show the willingness of the government in fighting terrorism," Koy Kuong, Cambodia's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said after their arrests.

At the very least, Thaksin's departure has given Hun Sen and Abhisit the political cover to hold talks on economic issues and other obvious common interests. The border dispute continues to loom large in their relationship, however, and for the moment, appears indifferent to external developments.

Just one day after Thaksin's resignation was announced, the Cambodian government's Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PQRU) issued a statement accusing Abhisit of becoming "an accomplice and a sponsor of criminal-prone activity" by the yellow shirts.

"Once again, the [PQRU] urges Thai political figures to put an end to the malicious campaign of innuendo, suggestion and speculation to fault Cambodia by raising the issue of the Temple of Preah Vihear," the statement read.

James O'Toole is a Phnom Penh-based journalist.

AKP - Agent Kampuchea Press

via CAAI

Australian Ambassador Bids Farewell to NA President

Phnom Penh, September 17, 2010 AKP -- Australian Ambassador to Cambodia, Ms. Margaret Adamson paid here on Sept. 16 a farewell visit to National Assembly President Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin.

The out-going Australian diplomat highly evaluated Cambodia’s development in all domains. She was delighted with her mission in Cambodia, during which, she said, she has contributed to helping Cambodia in human resource development, agriculture, infrastructure, law enforcement and judicial reform.

For his part, Samdech Heng Samrin thanked the Australian government and people or their assistance to Cambodia and he hoped that Ms. Margaret Adamson will continue to help strengthen and expand the ties of friendship, solidarity and cooperation between the two countries and peoples even though she ended her diplomatic mission here.

According to the Cambodian NA president, from 1996 to 2008, Australia provided some AU$527,498,000 for socioeconomic development in Cambodia.

On the same day, out-going Australian Ambassador was also received by Cambodian Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Mrs. Men Sam An. --AKP

(By CHEA Vannak)


20 Communes of Kandal Province to Become an Urban Area in the First Step

Phnom Penh, September 17, 2010 AKP -- Twenty communes of four districts in Kandal province are to be inserted into Phnom Penh city, to the extent that the municipality has been extended in the 5th time since Samdech Hun Sen held office as a premier in 1985.

Prime Minister Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen said that the enlargement of Phnom Penh is required to have the development as quickly as possible after the cabinet minister meeting decided recently to take 27 communes from Kandal province.

Speaking at the inauguration of the project for flood protection and drainage improvement in the municipality of Phnom Penh, Samdech Techo Hun Sen said more 7 communes of the districts of Lavea Em and Ksach Kandal, located on the other side of the Mekong River will be included in the municipal control in the next step, because those communes could not be taken yet at this time.

The project for flood protection and drainage improvement in the municipality of Phnom Penh is built when a fund is made available through a Japanese grant of over 19 million US dollars.

Cambodian prime minister signed on Sept. 15 an agreement as requested by Deputy Prime Minister H.E Sar Kheng, Minister of Interior to form a commission for transferring the number of population and the infrastructures of the 20 communes to Phnom Penh administration management in the interests of the development and the construction of additional public facilities with an objective of turning the rural area to become a city.

The 20 communes under the control of Phnom Penh administration are part of the districts of Ponhea Leu, Ang Snuol, Kandal Steung and Kien Svay.

Meanwhile, the Cambodian premier expressed concern about the lower level of the Mekong River.

He also appealed to the Cambodian people to beware of the rainfall that follows one after another in the next few days.--AKP

(By THOU Peou)


Cambodia, India Promote Trade Cooperation

Phnom Penh, September 17, 2010 AKP -- Visiting Indian President Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil has encouraged Cambodian and Indian businessmen and investors to increase their bilateral cooperation.

This is a good opportunity for the businessmen of the two countries to establish contacts and to look for trade potentialities from each other, the Indian president said at the Cambodia-India Business Forum held on Sept. 15 at the Intercontinental Hotel.

The two peoples have known each other for over 2,000 years ago, but their bilateral trade amounted to only US$50 million, she said.

The forum, co-chaired by Indian President Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil and Cambodian Commerce Minister H.E. Cham Prasidh, drew about 70 Cambodian businessmen who represented 40 companies and Indian investors from three main associations – Confederation of Indian Industry, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Also on the same day, a group of Indian businessmen met with Delegate Minister and Secretary General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia H.E. Sok Chenda to learn more about the country’s investment environment and opportunities.

The Indian delegation is interested in the fields of agriculture, food processing and infrastructure as well as hydroelectricity, solar power and mine, H.E. Sok Chenda told reporters upon the meeting.

As of August 2010, Cambodia has got investments in all domains with the total values of US$30 billion, he said.

The group of Indian businessmen and investors is accompanying the Indian president to pay a state visit in Cambodia from Sept. 13 to 18. --AKP

(By KHAN Sophirom)


PM Hun Sen Inaugurates Flood Protection and Drainage System Improvement Facility

Phnom Penh, September 17, 2010 AKP -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has profoundly thanked the people and government of Japan for their continuous assistance and support to Cambodia in the national restoration and construction.

Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen was speaking in Phnom Penh Thursday at the inauguration of US$19.2 million flood protection and drainage system improvement facility built for the Capital of Phnom Penh with the Japan’s grant aid.

“It is our national achievement that resulted from proper and clear consideration of the Royal Government of Cambodia and from the joint efforts of the relevant ministries and agencies, Phnom Penh Municipality, and the Government of Japan,” he said.

Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen called on all people and local authorities at all levels to help protect and preserve the achievement, which, he said, was for the common benefit and the historic heritage as well.

Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia H.E. Mr. Kuroki Masafumi said he was delighted to have known that the officials of the Municipality of Phnom Penh had performed the effective works to preserve the flood protection and drainage system facility.

Appealing to the people of Phnom Penh to cooperate in the preservation of the facility, he said their participation was really important to demonstrate their mastership of the facility.

“We have to continue to work together to develop the Capital of Phnom Penh at present and in the future to make it become an important source of economic growth, representing the progressive society in the modern era, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen pointed out.

He underlined the importance of participation by people in making the city clean, saying “despite having a prime minister or a governor who is one hundred times better, it would still be impossible to achieve because making a country progressive necessarily requires the people’s participation.” --AKP

(By Ravuth M.)


File 002: Four Senior Khmer Rouge Leaders Indicted and Sent for Trial

Phnom Penh, September 17, 2010 AKP -- The Co-Investigating Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), You Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde, signed the Closing Order for Case File 002, indicting four senior Khmer Rouge leaders and sending them for trial.

The four Khmer Rouge leaders – Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan – were indicted on charges of crimes against humanity, genocide against Cham Muslims and Vietnamese, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and offences under the Cambodian Criminal Code 1956, the co-investigating judges said at a press conference here on Sept. 16.

According to Judge You Bunleng, 2,000 of the 4,000 Civil Party applications have been declared admissible.

The co-investigating judges also signed a Dismissal Order in respect of Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who had been tried and convicted separately by the ECCC on July 26, 2010.

On the occasion, Marcel Lemonde announced his resignation as of December. He will be replaced by German Siegfried Blunk.

Nuon Chea, 84, was former national assembly president; Ieng Sary, 84, former deputy prime minister and foreign minister; his wife, Ieng Thearith, 77, former minister of social affairs; and Khieu Samphan, 78, former head of state of the Democratic Kampuchea, the genocidal regime between 1975-1979, which resulted in millions of victims, including an estimated 1.7 to 2.2 million deaths, of which approximately 800,000 were violent.

The hearing for the four accused would begin in the first semester of 2011, said You Bunleng. --AKP

(By SOKMOM Nimul)

Judge to quit court

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
International Co-investigating judge Marcel Lemonde at an outreach event in Pailin in early 2008.

via CAAI

Thursday, 16 September 2010 18:47 James O'Toole

AS the Khmer Rouge tribunal marked the issuance of indictments in its second case yesterday, French Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde announced that he would be stepping down from his critical position after a four-year tenure.

“I ... am passing the baton to someone else,” Lemonde said yesterday at a press conference announcing indictments in Case 002.

“I have other long-standing plans that I cannot now ignore.”

Siegfriend Blunk, who currently serves as reserve Investigating Judge, will take over Lemonde’s position later this year, as the court moves forward with pending investigations in its third and fourth cases.

Lemonde has been pursuing these investigations on his own after his Cambodian counterpart, You Bunleng, declined to sign off on the investigations in June. Defence lawyers sought to have You Bunleng removed after the incident, saying that the uniform opposition among the court’s Cambodian staff to further investigations was the result of political interference.

You Bunleng explained in June that he believed the court should focus on the second case before proceeding with others. But with the Case 002 investigation concluded, his position on the issue remained elusive. “The matter of Case 003 and 004 will be addressed,” You Bunleng said. “We will update the public on a regular basis when these matters are being considered.”

Lemonde himself has also been the subject of challenges from defence lawyers, who charged last year that comments allegedly made by the judge demonstrated a bias towards the prosecution.

Defence lawyers also said that he had breached the confidentiality of the investigation by allowing a documentary crew to film witness interviews, and that the international staff of the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges had withheld information from the Cambodian staff.

Indictments just the beginning

Photo by: AFP
Co-investigatorsYou Bunleng and Marcel Lemonde announcing the indictment of former Khmer Rouge leaders yesterday at Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal.

via CAAI

Thursday, 16 September 2010 20:46 James O'Toole and Vong Sokheng

THE Khmer Rouge tribunal capped a three-year investigation yesterday by issuing formal indictments for four regime figures, setting the stage for the court’s second trial to begin in the first half of next year.

The four – former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary, social action minister Ieng Thirith and Brother No 2 Nuon Chea – face charges including genocide and crimes against humanity.

They are alleged to have helped mastermind a regime under which as many as 2.2 million Cambodians died, 800,000 violently, according to a demographic survey produced in the investigation.

French Co-Investigating Judge Marcel Lemonde – responsible, along with his Cambodian counterpart You Bunleng, for directing the investigation – said it was “a more complex case even than the Nuremberg Trials” for former Nazi leaders, with the case file extending to more than 350,000 pages.

“We make absolutely no claim at all that we have written the definitive history of the Khmer Rouge era,” Lemonde said at a press conference yesterday. “What we have done, however, is to establish the fundamentals, the framework, for a high-level judicial debate, which we expect to be conducted in public.”

Prosecutors have 30 days to appeal against the closing order, and defence lawyers will likely move to raise challenges as well. The court’s Pre-Trial Chamber must rule on such appeals within four months before the case is sent to the Trial Chamber.

International co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley said in June that the court’s second trial would stretch “at least two years”.

Court observers say Case 002, with four defendants and four defence teams vigorously contesting the charges against them, will be a significantly more complex affair than the tribunal’s first case, that of former S-21 prison chief Kaing Guek Eav. The infamous Khmer Rouge jailer, better known as Duch, was found guilty in July of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, receiving a 30-year jail term.

“S-21 was a closed circle, and it went on for a long time,” historian David Chandler said last year. “Duch said he did it, and the documents said he did it. These guys say: ‘We didn’t do it,’ and there are no documents, so it gets much trickier.”

A total of 3,988 people applied to participate as civil parties in the case, after just 90 civil parties participated for the duration of the Duch trial.

Of these, 2,123 have been accepted so far in Case 002, though a number of rejections have been challenged.

Lemonde said he and others at the Office of the Co-Investigating Judges had faced challenges as they sought to balance the need to begin proceedings against the ageing defendants as quickly as possible with the need to establish a comprehensive case file.

One such difficulty emerged prominently last year as King Father Norodom Sihanouk and six ruling party officials ignored summonses seeking their testimony at the court.

“In spite of the difficulties and obstacles – and I can tell you, they were not small ones – we have succeeded ... in producing a document which will allow a trial that Cambodians have been waiting for for 30 years,” Lemonde said.

$1bn Siem Reap airport talks

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
Tourists visit Angkor Wat.

via CAAI

Thursday, 16 September 2010 20:34 May Kunmakara

A SOUTH Korean firm plans to discuss construction of a new US$1 billion international airport in Siem Reap province today.

The company, which was involved in the construction of South Korea’s largest airport, Incheon International, will meet with State Secretariat of Civil Aviation officials today to study the domestic aviation industry, SSCA deputy cabinet director Long Chheng said.

“They want to conduct a feasiblity study of Cambodia’s civil-aviation sector,” he said, but he added that it was too early to discuss the exact size of the planned facility.

Long Chheng also declined to release the name of the firm until the conclusion of today’s meeting, but said Cambodia welcomed foreign direct investment in the sector.

“Under the government’s open-skies policy, we’re very welcoming to any investment in the country’s aviation sector,” he said.

Siem Reap province Deputy Governor Bun Tharith said yesterday that the proposed $1 billion airport would be able to accept larger aircraft than was possible at Siem Reap’s existing international airport.

He said the new airport would be located on 500 hectares of land in Chie Kreng and Sonikum district, some 60 kilometres from the provincial capital, which would keep disruptions at the Angkor Wat complex to a minimum.

“The new airport would not impact or damage the temple by noise pollution because it is located far away from the town and temple,” he said yesterday.

He said that further discussions were required before the project would be sent to the Council for the Development of Cambodia for

Asia Travel and Tours Cambodia’s managing director Chhim Vivath applauded the potential airport, and predicted that up to five times as many tourists could visit the temples of Angkor Wat in the future.

“If they invest here, there could be more direct links from the European Union and United States to Siem Reap.

Tourists could reduce expenses by not having to transit through other countries,” he said.

“The number of tourists to Angkor would increase by a factor of four to five times because the big aircraft could land here,” he speculated.

Foreign tourist arrivals to Cambodia increased by 12.39 percent to 1,221,156 in the first half of 2010, from 1,086,518 for the same period last year.

Arrivals to Siem Reap rose 27.42 percent during the period to 640,944, from 503,028 in 2009, according to data released by the Ministry of Tourism.

High-spirited business

via CAAI

Thursday, 16 September 2010 21:14 Catherine James

INDIA’s United Spirits Ltd – the world’s second-largest spirits distiller – has selected Cambodia as a target market.

USL said yesterday its level of commitment in the Kingdom represented its “first significant step outside the Indian subcontinent”, and that the firm hadstarted importing and distributing spirits through trading company Vimpex Ltd. Vimpex aims for US$1 million in sales by the end of the year, Managing Director Naresh Kumar Dinodiya said yesterday.

“We will be covering the whole nation, and we don’t have any particular segment, but we’ll be doing whisky, vodka, wine, rum and gin also. And maybe we’ll add beer later on,” he said.

USL aims to compete with established market players such as Attwood Import Export through a combination of competitive pricing and an effective marketing strategy.

“Cambodia is the most important foray for us ... where we’ll be making significant investments in marketing and promotions,” USL marketing vice president Debashish Shyam said.

USL is aconglomerate of seven companies owned by Indian firm UB Group. It boasts 145 brands – 20 of which it says sell over a million cases a year
and presently exports to 37 countries.

UB chief operating officer Kaushik Chartterji said the company sees its Cambodian operations as a stepping-off point to expansion throughout the region.

Debashish Shyam said that the Kingdom’s young population, open attitude to foreign investors and relaxed rules on marketing made it stand out from the other options.

Attwood estimates it currently captures about 70 percent of the spirits distribution market. Financial manager Kim Phou estimated sales for its two major spirits, Johnnie Walker and Hennessy, equalled about $6 million a year.

Strike called off early

Workers decry the new minimum wage during a strike at the Grantex garment factory in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

via CAAI

Thursday, 16 September 2010 20:59 Kim Yuthana and Brooke Lewis

A UNION leader said yesterday that he had called off a garment sector strike that began on Monday after the government indicated a willingness to negotiate benefits for workers earning the minimum wage.

Ath Thun, head of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, announced the strike shortly after a July decision from the government and industry representatives that set the minimum wage for garment workers at US$61 per month.

The new rate, which is set to go into effect in October, increased the previous minimum wage, established in 2006, by $5, falling far below the $93 that union leaders had campaigned for.

“If they do not give us the chance to hold new negotiations, we will still hold the strike,” Ath Thun said last month.

Yesterday, however, Ath Thun said that he had called off the strike at midday after receiving a letter from the Ministry of Social Affairs inviting employers and union representatives to meet later this month to discuss “benefits” for those receiving the minimum wage.

The letter, signed by Social Affairs Minister Ith Sam Heng, states that, during a meeting to be held on September 27, “we will discuss an agenda connected with some benefits for the workers to add to the minimum wage”.

Ath Thun yesterday said that although the letter did not mention revising the minimum wage, the proposed meeting was a sign that the strikes, originally planned to take place over five days, had been successful.

“It is really a success for the workers because the strike has not yet finished but it made the government officials agree to negotiate with us,” he said. He added the workers had been striking “to demand benefits and decent wages for the workers”, and noted that they had not been trying to press the government to revise the minimum wage approved in July.

“We will not raise the minimum wage increase in the meeting because we already agreed to [it],” he said, and added that he hoped instead to negotiate improved overtime wages, money for food, seniority wages and bonuses.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said yesterday that there would be “absolutely no compromise on the minimum wage”, and that the meeting called by the Social Affairs Ministry would be held “to discuss the other allowances over and on top of the minimum wage”.

He declined to comment on why the strike was called off, but noted that the strike’s days had already been numbered.

“Most of the factories that were affected by the work stoppages have obtained court orders requiring the workers to return to work within 48 hours,” he said, and the workers who disobeyed risked losing their jobs.

Ath Thun said he had called off the strikes purely because the ministry had indicated a willingness to negotiate, and that the move had nothing to do with the court. “I had not received the court order until after I already called off the strike,” he said yesterday.

Chiv Keng, president of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said he had sent orders to union representatives yesterday morning, instructing them that workers would need to return to their jobs by Friday.

Officials at the Ministry of Social Affairs could not be reached for comment.

Group condemns threat to pagoda, villagers’ homes

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Chhay Channyda

THE rights group Adhoc yesterday condemned a local development company for threatening to evict nearly 300 families in Kandal province and to level a pagoda, saying the provincial court had previously ruled that the land in question should not be cleared.

At a press conference at its headquarters in Phnom Penh, the organisation said in a statement that local authorities had assisted the Heng Development Company in flouting multiple court rulings.

According to Adhoc, the dispute over land in Kandal Stung district first broke out in 2005, but the court sided against the company and in favour of 292 families twice – once in October 2006 and again in February 2007.

“Adhoc would like all relevant institutions to take this issue into consideration and implement the two judgments from the provincial court so that the families will be able to occupy the land peacefully,” the Adhoc statement reads.

Various altercations related to the dispute have led to the wounding of three villagers, the arrest of one man and the issuing of arrest warrants for two others, Adhoc said.

Earlier this month, military police arrested 45-year-old Vorn Vun on suspicion of destroying private property in connection with the dispute. Eang Yan, a representative of families affected by the dispute, said at the time that he believed the officers had also intended to arrest himself and fellow representative Chea Hy, but that they had fled their homes and gone into hiding.

District military police denied having carried out the arrest, with the deputy chief suggesting that it had been carried out by “another authority”.

In August, the company announced that Tuol Tamark pagoda, located on the land in dispute, would be destroyed next month.

Chan Soveth, a senior monitor for Adhoc, said yesterday that the loss of the pagoda would be particularly devastating for those families living on the disputed land. “If they lose the pagoda, it is like they lose their heart,” he said.

Sieng Chanheng, the director of Heng Development, declined to comment yesterday. Choie Sobin, the governor of Kandal Stung district, said he was unfamiliar with the dispute because he had assumed his position only recently.

PM blames floods on rubbish

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Cheang Sokha

PRIME Minister Hun Sen yesterday called on tourists and the general public to stop discarding rubbish in the streets, saying it was contributing to the clogging of drains and thus causing floods after heavy rains.

“If people throw rubbish, then the flooding problem is not due to drainage or rain. It is the fault of the people,” Hun Sen said.

“If people put their rubbish in plastic bags and put them in rubbish bins, the benefit will go to them, not to [Phnom Penh Governor] Kep Chuktema, as they will keep their city clean.”

His comments came during a ceremony in the capital marking the completion of the second phase of a US$30 million flood prevention and drainage improvement project funded by Japan.

Construction work for the second phase began in October 2007 and was completed in February, according to a press release issued yesterday by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

In May, City Hall began issuing fines to people caught littering in an effort to curb flooding, but flooding has continued throughout Phnom Penh during this year’s wet season.

“We have fined many people already at the markets and the public parks,” Chiek Ang, director of municipal Environment Department, said

“We have seen an improvement, but the problem is that people from the provinces still do not understand, and we need to enforce the rules together.”

He said that as of August 21, authorities had collected $2,610 in fines.

Nov Saroeun, chief of the drainage and pumping unit at the Municipal Public Works and Transport Department, declined to comment beyond saying that the first phase of the project began in 2004.

Maternal deaths down: report

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Nurse Heal Channy prepares a syringe for a pregnant woman at a referral hospital in Pursat province last year.

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Brooke Lewis and Chrann Chamroeun

A NEW international report provides an estimate of the Cambodian maternal mortality rate that falls far below the government’s, but still places the Kingdom off track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters.

The report, which was released globally yesterday, estimates that there were 290 deaths per 100,000 live births in the Kingdom in 2008.

That figure, which draws from data produced by the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank, falls far below the Kingdom’s official figure of 461 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is based on 2008 census data.

Despite the relatively positive findings, the report concludes that, with a 58 percent reduction in the maternal mortality rate between 1990 and 2008, Cambodia is “making progress” but is still not on track to meet the MDG by 2015.

Using a 1990 baseline figure of 690 deaths per 100,000 live births, the report concludes that the number of maternal deaths in the Kingdom had dropped by an annual average of 4.8 percent.

Countries such as Cambodia that had a baseline of more than 100 deaths per 100,000 live births needed to have an annual decline in the maternal mortality rate of 5.5 percent or more to be classified as “on track” to meet the MDG.

Cambodia was listed as one of seven countries with high maternal mortality rates outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, which as a region accounted for nearly three-fifths of maternal deaths globally. Also listed were Afghanistan, Laos, Nepal, East Timor, Bangladesh and Haiti.

Sarah Knibbs, UNFPA Representative in Cambodia, said via email yesterday that the figures used in the report had referred to government data, but that they had been “adjusted to a level that makes them comparable globally”.

She added that the maternal mortality rate was one of the most difficult MDG indicators to measure reliably.

The new figures were met with some scepticism from other local experts.

Paou Linar, the head of Child and Maternal Health Care for the municipal Health Department, said yesterday that the rate cited in the report sounded far too low.

“Their statistic is unrealistic and unofficial,” he said, and cautioned that overly generous estimates of Cambodia’s success in reducing maternal deaths might harm future efforts to reduce the figure.

He said that although the Kingdom’s “present situation related to maternal mortality is not going smooth yet”, he remained optimistic that Cambodia could reach the maternal mortality MDG.

The government has “strategic plans” and is making a concerted effort, he said.

Knibbs noted that Cambodia last year set a national target to reduce the maternal mortality rate to 250 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015. This target was revised upward from an original target of 140.

Chan Theary, executive director of the Reproductive and Child Health Alliance, said via email yesterday that Cambodia faces special challenges, including a “shortage of qualified care providers, lack of skills among birth attendants, lack of drugs and equipment at facilities, and poor health-seeking behaviours of clients owing to sociocultural and economic factors”.

However, she said that she, too, remained optimistic that Cambodia could meet its revised MDG target.

“It is possible if collective efforts from all sectors (donors, civil societies and other sectors) are focused into it with the strong commitment and political will of the government,” she said.

Protect the rural poor from con man

via CAAI
Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Katie Hermans and Jan Savelkoels
Dear Editor,
Children from Cambodia is a Belgian nonprofit organisation that was founded as a consequence of the life story of Ruan Hauchecorne. Ruan is a former Khmer Rouge refugee who was adopted by a Belgian family. A few years ago, he found his remaining family members back in Boeng Nimol village (Kampot province) thanks to an article in your paper. Ruan still lives in Belgium and he founded Children from Cambodia in order to collect money in Belgium to finance limited humanitarian projects in his homeland.
Since its foundation, members of Children of Cambodia go once a year to Kampot province to work on small humanitarian projects including:
  • vaccinations
  • well-drilling
  • delivering school supplies
  • sanitation projects
  • English language training
  • small-bridge construction
 In May 2010, we stayed for four weeks in Boeng Nimol, vaccinating 550 children, drilling 15 wells and providing school equipment to two different schools and toilets in another.
It was our intention to repair a wooden bridge in Kohsla village, Kampot province. We discovered this bridge during our stay in 2009 and at that time,the bridge was in a very bad and dangerous condition. One child lost his life in a fatal accident due to the bad condition of the bridge.
When we arrived at the bridge this year, we found out that one of the villagers repaired a part of it and local people using the bridge have to pay a fee every time they have to cross.
The so-called owner of the bridge pretends that he has to recover his expenses for having repaired the bridge. People have to pay 500 or 1,000 riels per passage, and we believe that this so-called owner has been fully reimbursed.
As far as we are informed, the situation has not changed, and people are still paying for crossing. This is definitely against the philosophy of Children of Cambodia, and we ask the support of anyone in order to help us stop this swindling of innocent poor people.
Katie Hermans and Jan Savelkoels
Send letters to: or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Reinvigorating US-ASEAN relations

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Chheang Vannarith



Chheang Vannarith

ASEAN-United States dialogue relations, established back in 1977, have gained new momentum since 2009 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted to ASEAN leaders in Thailand that the US had returned to Southeast Asia, by which she referred to seeing more dynamic engagement between US and ASEAN. The US signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in July 2009, which paved the way for the US to be an official dialogue partner of ASEAN and allowed it to be part of the East Asia Summit. The US also sent an ambassador to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. In November 2009, the first ASEAN-US leaders’ meeting was held in Singapore and on September 24, there will be the second meeting in New York.

Such a meeting is an important platform for leaders from ASEAN and the US to exchange views and find common ground for policy design and implementation. Both ASEAN and the US wish to learn from each other the issues of common concern. In her statement in February 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the United States must have strong relationships and a strong and productive presence here in Southeast Asia. This region is vital to the future not only the United States and each of the countries, but to the world’s common interests: a significant and trade-oriented regional economy; a critical strategic location; and a set of countries that will be key to any solutions we pursue on climate change, counterterrorism, global health and so much else”. Relating the US’s involvement in the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan stated: “The successive and proactive re-engagement of ASEAN by the US has brought about a transformation of seismic proportions to ASEAN-US relations.”

ASEAN, established in 1967, has been evolving to be the main driver in regionalism in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. ASEAN, at the beginning stage of its establishment, was expected just to be a regional institution that could prevent war and conflict between member states and to cope with the spread of communism in the region, but now ASEAN has moved far away from this task to play more important roles in promoting economic development, regional identity and community, and regional order. Such huge tasks have challenged ASEAN leaders to a great extent.

ASEAN is proud of its achievement over the last decades since there has been no war or large-scale armed conflict between or among member states. Economic integration has been accelerating although development gaps are still a big stumbling block. The good thing is that ASEAN leaders have shown their commitment to building a true political, economic and sociocultural community by 2015.

In order to realise the goal of achieving an ASEAN community with openness and inclusiveness, the bloc needs support from all dialogue partners including the US. ASEAN expects that the US can help its economies in terms of trade and investment, technology transfer, education and capacity building, and help to reduce the development gap in the region. Moreover, ASEAN wishes to see the US’s presence in the region in order to maintain regional security, order and stability.

There is a significant economic link between the US and ASEAN. US foreign direct investment in ASEAN totalled US$130 billion in 2007, the largest destination for US FDI in Asia. Investment from ASEAN into the United States ranks fourth among Asian sources, totalling $11 billion. In terms of trade, the US is ASEAN’s third-largest export market, comprising 12 percent of its exports. US exports to ASEAN totalled $66 billion in 2008.

ASEAN wishes to see more investment flow between it and the US, which should continue and further support the poorest countries in ASEAN to export their products to the US market. In the case of Cambodian textiles, with the preferential trade treatment from the US, Cambodia becomes one of the leading textile producers in the region and this industry provides a lot of jobs and income for Cambodians – especially women from rural areas – contributing to poverty reduction in this country. Aid for trade is very important for Cambodia and other least developed countries in ASEAN to develop and catch up with other member countries. The US can help ASEAN to reduce development costs through aid-for-trade mechanisms.

The upcoming ASEAN-US leaders meeting will provide more concrete steps towards bilateral relations and nourishment between ASEAN and the US. Economic development and non-traditional security issues such as transnational crime, terrorism, climate change, food and energy security, natural disaster management and pandemic disease will be given priority. The US and ASEAN are committed to working together to deal with these regional and global issues on an equal relationship and partnership.

Chheang Vannarith is the executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.

Police Blotter: 17 Sep 2010

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Sun Narin

Wealthy bean vendor bruised and burgled
A gang of 10 armed thieves broke into the home of a bean vendor and made off with around US$20,000 and some valuables in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district on Tuesday. The victim’s wife said the thieves tied her husband up with string and beat him unconscious before firing almost 10 bullets into the air to intimidate her. As the thieves were gathering the loot from the apparently wealthy couple, the wife escaped to notify neighbours and police. Five suspects were arrested near the house, but they claimed to be innocent bystanders.

Power cut leads to lights out for husband
A man was gunned down in Kampong Cham province’s O’Rang Oav district on Monday as he tended to a power generator in his backyard. The victim’s wife told police that they were watching a video in the house when her husband went to investigate a power cut. Minutes later, she heard three gunshots ring out, and found her husband dead near the generator. Though she told police her husband never fought with anyone, police have cited revenge as the motive for the killing. No suspects have been identified.

Woman gets shocked by water-power combo
A garment factory worker died instantly after touching a lamp while standing in a puddle of water near her home in Phnom Penh’s Srah Chak commune on Tuesday. The victim’s family said the bare-footed victim touched the lamp for only an instant before suffering a massive electric shock. She was sent to hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Suspect held in rape of sleeping woman
Police have arrested a villager accused of raping a 25-year-old woman while she was sleeping on Sunday in Battambang province’s Rokhak Kiri district. The victim said the suspect climbed into her house and placed his hand over her mouth before raping her. Following the incident, she wept as she told neighbours about what happened. Police have identified the suspect as living in the same village.

Booze-fuelled brawl broken up by gunshots
Police in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet town arrested a group of spoiled teenagers and older people who were entangled in a booze-fuelled brawl on Monday night. A total of nine people were involved in the fight, which police described as very bloody. It was apparently triggered by an argument over a debt. To quell it, one officer, who later admitted to being drunk himself, fired two bullets into the air. Police said many of those involved were habitual trouble-makers.

Two men accused of passing fake $20 bills

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court yesterday heard a case against two men charged with trafficking counterfeit United States currency in March after police confiscated nearly 240 fake US$20 notes from one of the suspect’s apartments during an undercover sting operation.

San Kimhouy, 69, and Heang Vanna, 31, were arrested on March 29 from an apartment in Tuol Kork district’s Toek La’ak II commune after they attempted to sell 100 of the fake notes to an undercover police officer.

Police searched San Kimhuoy’s apartment and found an additional 137 notes.
A third suspect, Heang Vanna’s girlfriend, Chem Sina, remains at large.

San Kimhuoy told the court yesterday that he purchased the notes for $2 each from a Vietnamese motorbike-taxi driver, whom he met outside a casino in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town in February.

“I bought a total of 237 notes so I could sell them to Chem Sina, who agreed to pay $6 for each note,” he said. “This is the first time I have done this, and I really didn’t know that it was fake money.”

Heang Vanna claimed to have played no part in the scheme, saying he happened to be at the apartment at the time because his girlfriend was involved.

Defence lawyer Ou Bunra asked for the minimum sentence for both of his clients.

“I have a doctor’s certificate that says San Kimhuoy has high blood pressure and will not be able to stay in prison for long because it could affect his health,” he said.

“I request a minimum sentence for Heang Vanna because he was not involved in the trafficking.”

If found guilty, the pair face between five and 15 years in prison. Presiding judge Duch Kimsorn said a verdict would be announced on September 23.

Also yesterday, the court tried a Korean man on charges of signing a US$55,000 cheque that bounced last year.

Kim Chungho was arrested in February last year following a complaint from a Korean man who accused him of signing a cheque for $55,000 when his bank account contained just $5,000.

The accused’s lawyer, Phan Phanith, said his client signed off on the cheque because he wanted to help a friend who was heavily in debt.

“He promised to transfer the whole amount to his bank account a month later,” he said.

Kim Chungo requested a minimum sentence because he signed the cheque “out of compassion”.

If found guilty, he faces a minimum of two years in prison. A verdict in that case will be announced on September 29.

Textile museum breaks ground

Photo by: Rann Reuy
Deputy Prime Minister Kong Sam Ol and Indian President Pratibha Patil preside over the groundbreaking ceremony for the Asian Traditional Textiles Museum in Siem Reap yesterday

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Rann Reuy

Siem Reap province

INDIAN President Pratibha Patil and Deputy Prime Minister Kong Sam Ol presided over a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday for the Asian Traditional Textiles Museum, which is to be built in Siem Reap with funding from the Indian government.

Construction of the museum, which will be funded by a US$1.5 million grant from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, started in June of this year and is expected to be completed by December 2011.

According to information provided by officials from the Apsara Authority, collections of traditional fabrics and cloths from Mekong-Ganga Cooperation countries – which include Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines – could be exhibited at the museum when it opens.

The Apsara Authority signed a memorandum of understanding with the ICCR in 2004 to construct the museum on about 1 hectare of land in Siem Reap City.

Bun Narith, general director of the Apsara Authority, declined to comment yesterday.

Patil is currently on a six-day visit to the Kingdom.

Let's learn from India's wealth of rural expertise

Onlookers line the streets as India’s President Pratibha Patil visits the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:01 Steve Finch

WHAT a difference a regional superpower makes. When Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited Phnom Penh in December, Beijing pledged some US$1.2 billion in soft loans and grants to the Kingdom.

And although the visit of Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil to Cambodia this week has resulted in far less direct financial aid – the EXIM Bank of India confirmed just US$15 million for the Stung Tasal water project, according to an Indian Embassy spokesman – in many ways Cambodia can glean more from India’s economic model than that of China.

In terms of telecommunications, China’s answer to Cambodia’s problem of extending rural infrastructure was a $200 million soft loan to market leader Mobitel, a company that will surely use the capital to further its competitive advantage. CEO David Spriggs said last month that Mobitel had “no plans” to share towers in a market that has struggled to invest in infrastructure in the past six to nine months.

Rural infrastructure development is a significant challenge in a country where tower overlap has reached absurd levels in places like Phnom Penh. It is thought that there are enough towers to cover the country twice over, yet some areas remain without a signal. India by contrast has perfected a system in which mobile-service providers share infrastructure so that there is increased motivation to access even the most remote rural areas of the country – given that costs are split and infrastructure and services separated within the sector. It’s called the “Indian model” in the industry.

It is in the area of rural economic development that Cambodia could perhaps learn the most from India. Though China has perfected the art of bringing the rural masses to cities to manufacture wealth and development, India’s specialty – services outsourcing – has largely moved the other way in recent years as businesses have increasingly targeted the countryside.

Known as Business Process Outsourcing, or BPOs, companies have sought to save money on wages by targeting rural communities despite problems of a low skills base, a lack of elec-tricity and sometimes-patchy telecommunications. In other words, the exact same challenges faced by Cambodia’s rural poor.

India addressed these problems by installing generators in key areas, using its dynamic mobile-phone infrastructure model to target unconnected towns and villages planned for outsourcing work.

Of course, India already had an urban-based outsourcing industry, so the leap to the countryside was not such a large chasm to overcome.

Cambodia could still transfer a great deal of this Indian experience to its own countryside. In fact, promising examples already exist: The Battambang office of Digital Divide Data, an IT outsourcing NGO founded in 2001, was its first branch to reach profitability.

For an economy that has seen its tourism sector thrive in recent years, why is there practically no effort towards community-based tourism in rural areas? Chi Pat, in Koh Kong province, remains one of the few examples.

The Kingdom also suffers from a lack of rural economic statistics. Were companies or government departments to train rural populations to input or even collect data we would suddenly see huge knock-on benefits, in terms of investment information. This would be especially true in terms of market data, where companies such as Indochina Research remain largely confined to major urban areas.

Cambodia should not over-emphasise investment figures, especially when many turn out to be overblown, anyway.

A key factor in economic growth remains taking on the best expertise gained from more developed economies, particularly in a bid to tackle low levels of rural economic development. In this respect, India is surely something of an expert.

As you sow, so you shall reap

Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

The Cambodian Agricultural Value Chain Programme says there is potential to increase the Kingdom’s rice harvest by up to 40 percent by 2020 by addressing problems such as seed quality and water supply, officials said yesterday. Speaking at a conference at Raffles Hotel Le Royal yesterday, CAVAC team leader Peter Roggekamp said boosting rice yields would be critical to improving production of the staple crop. Funded by Ausaid, CAVAC intends to focus on agriculture in Kampong Thom, Takeo and Kampot provinces. Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Secretary of State Chan Tong Eav said Cambodia’s transition to commercial farming, required improved seed to boost production and yield. “We are advertising to farmers to change seeds through our development partners,” he said in a speech yesterday.

Aussie Rules prediction: Cats to purr, Saints to shine

via CAAI

Friday, 17 September 2010 15:00 Nick Feely in Melbourne

Preliminary finals week has arrived in the Australian Football League with the two games this weekend to decide the grand finalists for the 2010 season.

Collingwood and Geelong will lock horns today in a mouth-watering, do-or-die contest between the two best-performing sides of the year.

Tomorrow, a well-rested St Kilda take on the Western Bulldogs, who are lucky to be alive after sneaking home against the Swans last week in a coin flip.

Collingwood v Geelong
Today at the Melbourne Cricket Ground – 4:45pm (Cambodian time)

This is the match-up that many believe will decide the premiers.

Both teams are in red-hot form, and with few injury concerns will field near-full-strength teams.

A disciplined Collingwood, with a sturdy, adjustable game style and an often impassable forward press, have won 10 of their past 11 games by an average of 48 points.

Celebrated stars such as Didak, Swan, Maxwell and Pendlebury are being well supported by a fleet of improving young players all over the ground.

After a close loss to St Kilda in the first week of the finals Geelong hit back hard with an emphatic 69-point win over an inexperienced Fremantle side last week.

Their eight-goal first quarter was a timely reminder of how dominant the Cats can be.

Regular performers, including Selwood, Ablett, Scarlett, Chapman, Johnson and Bartel, were all at their best.

This is a tough one to call.

Collingwood will be well rested after having the week off, but the Cats may have gotten more out of an easy, moral-boosting win against the Dockers.

Both teams have great midfields and depth with contributors all over the ground.

This one will come down to the forwards, particularly the small forwards, who can make the most of their opportunities inside 50.

That said, the Cats boast a plethora of opportunistic goal sneaks that I believe will prove the difference in a low-scoring affair. The prediction: Geelong by 7.

St Kilda v Western Bulldogs
Saturday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground – 4:20pm (Cambodian time)

The Saints are in great shape for this one. Having earned a week off last round due to a tough win over the Cats in the qualifying final a fortnight ago, they will go into this match confident, well rested and with almost a full list.

Steven Baker is being considered despite not playing for 11 weeks.

The Dogs may have pinched a win against the Swans last week but they remain in questionable form, having suffered three heavy losses in the past five weeks.

Several of their more experienced players, including Murphy, Griffin, Boyd, Hall and Harbrow, are now contributing well and gun defender Dale Morris returns from injury.

However, they lack the depth to compete with the top three sides and will need a big form turnaround from their lower tier of players to overcome the Saintly machine.

The Saints have beaten the Bulldogs in their past four encounters, including a preliminary final in the same week last year.

Add current form to that, and the Saints are close to a sure thing here.

The Dogs will have gained some confidence from a win last week, and I expect them to come out firing and give Saints fans an early scare.

However, it’s hard to see the Dogs playing four quarters and with question marks on the health of several key players, it won’t be too long before the Saints take over the game. The prediction: Saints by 33.