Friday, 24 September 2010

ADB, and IFAD Help Food Security Concerns in ASIA and Pacific Region

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 05:20 DAP NEWS / VISOTH

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, SEPTEMBER 24, 2010-The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing loans, grants and technical assistance of nearly $34 million to help Cambodia improve the management of its water resources and to upgrade irrigation services to strengthen food security and cut poverty, the statement from ADB here obtained on Friday said.

It added that ADB’s Board of Directors has approved the funds for the $63 million Water Resources Management Sector Development Program, which includes measures to strengthen national waterregulations and to improve the management of river basin resources. It also will help the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology rehabilitate small- and medium-sized irrigation systems within the Tonle Sap Basin. ADB will also administer a loan from the OPECC Fund for International Development, and technical assistance grants from the Government of Australia and Nordic Development Fund to support program implementation.

Cambodia’s economy is highly dependent on water, and sustaining the water cycles in the Tonle Sap Lake and Lower Mekong delta is critical to the country’s agriculture and fisheries. With the onset of climate change, more frequent extreme weather events are likely, along with potentially worse seasonal water shortages and floods. To promote more effective water management, the Program will seek to strengthen existing legal and institutional frameworks.

“The activities will result in improved management of water resources and more efficient and sustainable irrigation services, which will ultimately enhance food security and support government efforts to reduce poverty and stimulate economic development,” said Christopher Wensley, Lead Professional (Water Resources) in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.

It noted: the program component will support the government’s Strategy on Agriculture and Water, with outputs to include strengthening the policy, regulatory and institutional environment to improve coordination and collaboration on water resources among government agencies. It will also build the capacity of the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology to manage irrigation services.

The statement added that ADB will finance these activities through a program loan of $20 million equivalent from its concessional Asian Development Fund, which will be released in two tranches over a 24-month period. The loan has a 24-year term, including a grace period of 8 years. Annual interest is charged at 1% during the grace period, rising to 1.5% a year for the balance of the term.

The project component will rehabilitate and upgrade about 15,000 hectares of small- and medium-sized irrigation schemes within the Tonle-Sap basin provinces of Kampong Thom, Banteay Meanchey and Siem Reap. ADB will provide a loan of $10 million equivalent and a grant of $2.8 million from the Asian Development Fund. The project loan has a 32-year term, with the grace period and interest on a par with the program loan.

The OPEC Fund for International Development is extending a $12 million loan, along with $6.36 million from the Government of Cambodia, and $760,000 from beneficiaries, for a total project investment cost of almost $32 million. The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology is the executing agency for the project, which is expected to be completed by December 2017.

The technical assistance package of $11.2 million, including $1 million from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund, and grant contributions from Australia and the Nordic Development Fund, will be used to help implement agreed policy actions, to support training in water resources management and provide capacity building in target institutions.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration.

Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2009, it approved a total of $16.1 billion in financing operations through loans, grants, guarantees, a trade finance facilitation program, equity investments, and technical assistance projects. ADB also mobilized co-financing amounting to $3.2 billion.

Demolished house in Boeung Kak area

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:02 CONOR WALL

A woman and her daughter stand in their home alongside the railway track in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak area. Their house and others are to be demolished. Find out why and how they are coping in 7DAYS.

Police Blotter: 24 Sep 2010

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:01 Sen David

Girls in fisticuffs over two-timing boyfriends
Six girls were detained by police after an argument over boys turned into a full-blown scuffle in Koh Kong town on Wednesday. Police said two groups of girls were fighting over boyfriends who were double-dipping among them. Neighbours were aghast at the behaviour of the girls, who were fighting on a public road. They said Khmer women should be a little more reserved and not fight over something so petty. Police said one of the girls claimed the arguments over boyfriends had lasted for over a year. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Twentieth time unlucky for persistent thieves
Police arrested two men accused of habitually stealing from a particular house in Sihanoukville on Tuesday. The two suspects confessed to police that they had robbed the house at least 20 times when the owner was at work or travelling, stealing such items as phones, computers and cash. Police were staking out the house on Tuesday when the thieves predictably appeared to break into the house once more, and were immediately arrested. Neighbours said they were happy with the arrest. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Students detained for wagging with narcotics
Two students were arrested in Kampong Thom’s Stung Sen district on Tuesday because they were addicted to drugs. Police received a complaint from the boy’s parents who had accused them of wagging school in order to shoot up. Following a raid on the guesthouse that the boys were staying at to get high, the two recalcitrant truants were sent to an NGO to be educated about the dangers of drug use. One of the boys said they did drugs so they didn’t have to go to school. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Trip to buy fire-water leads to rape allegation
A 43-year-old widow filed a complaint to police accusing a teenage boy of sexually assaulting her while she was sleeping in Kandal’s Lvea Em district on Tuesday. When questioned by police, the 17-year-old said he had no idea why the woman had accused him of raping her, and that on the day in question he was only near the woman’s house because he was purchasing booze. However, the woman said the assault had occurred at night. Police sent the case to court for further investigation. KAMPUCHEA THMEY

Lorry driver wanted after fatal collision
A motorbike driver died after a collision with a lorry in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district on Monday. Police said the truck driver collided with the motorbike, which caused it to roll into a pond. The motorbike driver was pronounced dead, but the truck driver managed to escape. Police impounded the truck and are now on the hunt for the driver. KOH SANTEPHEAP

Sunset strip

Sebastian Strangio

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:00 Sebastian Strangio

Residents catch the late-afternoon breeze along the Mekong riverfront in Kampong Cham town.

Sam Rainsy gets 10 years

Photo courtesy of the Sam Rainsy Party
Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy (centre, in white shirt) helps villagers in Svay Rieng province's Chantrea district pull up border markers that he claims have been placed illegally by the Vietnamese. The incident, which took place on October 25, 2009, sparked a series of court actions that have resulted in Sam Rainsy being sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison.

via CAAI

Thursday, 23 September 2010 12:32 Meas Sokchea

EMBATTLED opposition leader Sam Rainsy was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison yesterday on charges of disinformation and falsifying public documents, a ruling that critics described as a blow to democracy in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Ke Sakhan also ordered the Sam Rainsy Party president to pay 5 million riels (US$1,190) in fines and 60 million riels in compensation to the state, saying he had “seriously affected” the government’s reputation.

“The accused’s activity has affected the relationship between Cambodia and Vietnam,” Ke Sakhan said.

Yesterday’s verdict marked the latest turn in a protracted legal wrangle complicated by the government’s relationship with its eastern neighbour and former political patron.

Photo courtesy of the Sam Rainsy Party
Above: A map produced by the Sam Rainsy Party allegedly showing illegal border posts placed inside Cambodian territory by the Vietnamese. Below: A google map of the disputed area.

Sam Rainsy, who fled into exile last year and lives in Europe, was convicted in January by the Svay Rieng provincial court and sentenced to two years in prison in connection with a protest last October in which he uprooted several border markers in Svay Rieng’s Chantrea district.

In the aftermath of the conviction, he publicised evidence of alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory in video press conferences and on the SRP’s website, drawing government ire and the new charges on which he was convicted yesterday.

Police maintained a heavy security presence outside the courtroom yesterday morning, though the hearing was sparsely attended, save for a few observers and local journalists.

In a statement yesterday from London, Sam Rainsy dismissed the latest charges against him as “totally baseless”.

“Today’s verdict from a kangaroo court reflects Phnom Penh’s subservience to Hanoi,” Sam Rainsy said.

“Today’s verdict ... reflects the Vietnamese government’s anger against, and worry about, me because I dared, as a Cambodian member of parliament, defend Cambodian farmers, who are my constituents, against continuous border encroachments by Vietnam.”

But Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, urged Sam Rainsy to respect “the principle of rule of law”.

“We have to maintain rule of law in Cambodia,” Phay Siphan said.

“Who’s in the right position to say who’s wrong, who’s right? Only a judge in the court of law.”

Forgive the debt

Photo by: AFP
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong addresses the Millennium Development Goals Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

Thursday, 23 September 2010 19:21 Brooke Lewis

FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong has called on developed countries to cancel the debts of poorer nations in order to improve the prospects of achieving a Millennium Development Goal to reduce worldwide poverty by half by 2015.

Speaking on the second day of an international MDG summit at United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday, Hor Namhong said that the “burden of debt reimbursement” presented a “major hurdle” for less developed countries seeking to meet MDG targets. He said their ability to fund development projects, “especially in the social sectors”, was severely curtailed by such debts.

“More serious consideration should ... be given to relieving poor countries of their debt burden, thus increasing their financial resources to fund essential development projects to meet the MDGs,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama today at the ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting in New York, said last week that he intended to ask Obama to cancel an estimated US$317 million in debts accrued by the Lon Nol regime in the 1970s.

US officials have indicated that America is unlikely to cancel the debt.

Hor Namhong said Tuesday that, despite the challenges it faces as a less developed country, Cambodia is on track to meet targets to reduce poverty, lower child mortality rates and combat HIV/AIDS.

“According to the recent study made by the Overseas Development Institute and the UN Millennium Campaigns, Cambodia is listed among 20 countries making the most absolute progress on MDGs and on track to meet the target of halving poverty by 2015,” he said.

Earlier this week, the government released a statement that the number of people living under the poverty line had dropped from 50 percent in 1993 to 27.3 percent in 2010.

According to the statement, Cambodia expects to exceed the international target and instead achieve a national goal to reduce the number of people living in poverty to 19.5 percent by 2015.

Talks off, talks on

via CAAI

Thursday, 23 September 2010 20:35 Cheang Sokha

GOVERNMENT officials said yesterday that the anticipated meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva in New York would go ahead as planned, despite Thai media reports quoting Abhisit as saying he may be too busy.

Hun Sen and Abhisit are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the second ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting in New York on Friday to discuss the ongoing border tensions between the two nations.

But the Bangkok Post yesterday quoted Abhisit as saying there might not be enough time to discuss the border spat with Hun Sen, with the meeting between United States President Barack Obama and leaders of the 10-member ASEAN bloc slated to discuss various regional economic and environmental issues.

“I am not sure whether there will be enough time for talks on the border row around Preah Vihear temple, and it is not easy to get down to the details,” he was quoted as saying. “But I can assure you that both countries want to solve the problems between them peacefully since they are good neighbours.

“The border row is a bilateral issue, and it will not be necessary to seek assistance from other ASEAN member states.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that the schedule for the meeting between the two Prime Ministers “is unchanged”.

“But maybe there will not be enough time for the two leaders to discuss some issues,” he said.

He said the two premiers are also scheduled to meet at the upcoming Asia-Europe meeting in Belgium in October, as well as at the ASEAN leaders meeting in Vietnam later that month, and during the Ayeyarwaddy-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy meeting in Cambodia in November.

The border dispute between the neighbouring countries has simmered since July 2008, when Preah Vihear temple was inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.

Ten-year-old reports incest-rape

via CAAI

Thursday, 23 September 2010 20:59 Mom Kunthear

RIGHTS officials said yesterday that they have begun investigations in Svay Rieng province after a 10-year-old girl said she was raped her uncle, brother, and cousin more than 10 times over the course of two months.

Yi Chandara, provincial case manager for Cosecam, a coalition of NGOs working to combat sexual exploitation of children, said yesterday that an investigation had been launched after the victim reported the abuse to a military official whom she met by chance on Monday.

“The girl told us that three people raped her many times, but she did not know who to tell,” he said.
He said that the military official had taken the girl to the provincial Department of Social Affairs, who had placed her in a local shelter pending more inquiries.

Va Saren, director of the department, said that the girl had been sent to hospital for a medical examination, and that an initial examination had not shown any evidence of rape.

“We suspect that she was just the victim of indecent acts,” he said, and added that he was waiting for the results of further tests before deciding how to proceed with the case.

“If we find out she was really raped, then we will file the complaint to the court in order to get an arrest warrant for the offenders,” he said.

Provincial police chief Prach Rim could not be reached for comment yesterday, nor could members of the girl’s family.

Mom Lida, provincial monitor for rights group Licadho, said yesterday that rape cases in the province appeared to be on the rise.

“I think it is because people lack knowledge of how to protect themselves, and because of [the influence of] sex videos,” he said.

He added that victims of abuse often did not know how to seek help.

“Government officials do not broadcast enough information to them to find legal aid when they have a problem,” he said.

Yi Chandara said that his organisation had recorded 13 rape cases in the province so far this year. The victims of the crimes were aged between five and 21, he said.

Ecotourism in spotlight

Photo by: Ellie Dyer
Villagers boat across the river in Chi Pat, Koh Kong province, the location of a community-based tourism project. The importance of responsible tourism was emphasised at a conference yesterday.

via CAAI

Thursday, 23 September 2010 19:52 Catherine James and May Kunmakara

CAMBODIA’S tourism sector needs to increase its focus on “responsible tourism” to keep up with foreign travellers and capture a growing market, according to officials from Dutch-backed development agency SNV.

But domestic firms warned against relying too much on sustainable travel to fuel sector growth at the launch of SNV’s Responsible Travel Cambodia pilot project, attended by 70 tourist operators at Phnom Penh’s Intercontinental Hotel yesterday.

The SNV scheme is to provide business mentoring to six tourism companies for six months with the goal of increasing opportunities to capture the burgeoning “responsible” market.

“We don’t want to just eliminate the negative impacts [of tourism] but rather also introduce positive impacts,” said SNV Cambodia sector leader Trevor Piper yesterday.

Responsible tourism aims at maximising economic, social and environmental benefits of tourism, according to the organisation.

Although local operators at yesterday’s event welcomed a potential shift to responsible travel, some cautioned that the movement had not yet become a big player in Cambodia’s tourist market.

“Not a lot of people ask about ecotourism,” said Peau Vanchanphal, manager’s assistant at inbound tour operator Abercrombie and Kent.

“Most tourists just want cultural tourism, like Angkor Wat.”

Kan Lak, manager at domestic firm Nanco Travel, said he agreed that responsible tourism was further down the list of many international visitors’ priorities.

“Responsible tourism is something we want to look at, but at the moment the main demand is for [visits to] Siem Reap, then Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, and then last ecotourism,” he said.

However, Alexis de Suremain, owner of Phnom Penh hotel The Pavilion, said responsible tourism encompassed more than just eco-friendly destinations, and that an increasing number of tourists prioritised sustainable practices in their travels.

“You have to be aware that this [trend] is something that is happening and it’s happening quickly,” he said, and added that overseas tour operators had asked the hotel about the origin of the timber used to make its furniture to ensure it was eco-friendly.

SNV studies showed demands from the key European and North American markets are changing, Trevor Piper said.

“[Tourists want] more meaningful connections with local people and greater understanding of the local cultural, social and environmental issues”, he said.

Seventy percent of British and North American tourists surveyed by SNV said they would be willing to pay up to $150 more for a two-week stay in a hotel that had a “responsible environmental attitude”.

Tourism is the second largest sector in Cambodia’s economy, contributing US$1.29 billion – up to 15 percent of the country’s total GDP in 2008, according to SNV.

The organisation expects tourism could be worth up to US$1.5 billion by the end of this year.

Ministry of Tourism figures also weighed in to support sustainability at yesterday’s forum. Secretary of state Kousoum Saroeuth said the World Travel Market 2009 survey found that about 71 percent of tourists thought that their travel plans should benefit the local community, and 85 percent thought that trips should have a low environmental impact.

“I would like to encourage all concerned parties, especially the private sector ... to join in with responsible tourism in the context of community development, protection of ecotourism and biodiversity,” he said.

Sam Rainsy raps ‘kangaroo court’

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy talks to reporters during a press conference in December 2008. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:02 James O’Toole and Meas Sokchea

SAM Rainsy’s conviction yesterday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court has struck a blow both to the opposition and the prospects for pluralism in Cambodia, observers said yesterday.

The 10-year sentence Sam Rainsy received follows a two-year term handed down in January by the Svay Rieng provincial court in connection with a protest last year in which he uprooted border markers to protest alleged Vietnamese encroachment.

Yesterday’s conviction for disinformation and falsifying public documents stems from the opposition leader’s attempts to vindicate his border claims by publicising maps of the territory in question in press conferences and on the SRP website.

In a statement yesterday from Europe, where he has lived since fleeing the Kingdom last year, Sam Rainsy dismissed yesterday’s ruling as that of a “kangaroo court” in the thrall of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party. “Only a kangaroo court can issue the type of verdict we saw today,” Sam Rainsy said.

“Everybody, from independent human rights organisations to the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia, rightly says that the judiciary in this country is everything but independent, being only a political tool for the authoritarian ruling party to silence any critical voices.”

In a report published last week, special rapporteur Surya Subedi said laws on disinformation and defamation had been used “selectively and in a biased manner against journalists, human rights activists and political leaders”.

“Public figures should be prepared to tolerate more criticism and avoid using the courts to silence critics,” the report said.

In an email yesterday, Subedi said he was “concerned” about Sam Rainsy’s conviction.

“There is a worrying trend of cases involving parliamentarians in Cambodia, as I have highlighted in my report,” Subedi said. “I will be raising this case when I address the [UN] Human Rights Council next week.”

Aside from Subedi’s comments, however, the conviction drew a muted response from the diplomatic community.

Officials at the British, French and Australian embassies did not respond to requests for comment, and the United States Embassy declined to comment. Yesterday’s hearing was lightly attended save for a few observers and local journalists who gathered outside the court.

Sam Rainsy’s conviction follows recent summonses by the Municipal Court for opposition politicians Chea Poch, an SRP parliamentarian, and Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party. In both instances, the summonses related to cases that were several years old.

Sam Rainsy also received a summons earlier this month in relation to a two-year-old defamation lawsuit brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

“This is going to become a de facto one-party state if we continue this trend,” said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

Thun Saray, president of the local rights group Adhoc, and Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Centre, said they hoped see the SRP and CPP work together to broker a political settlement that would help preserve pluralism in Cambodian politics. Sam Rainsy was able to return from exile following a 2005 defamation conviction thanks to a Royal pardon requested by Hun Sen.

“In a democratic society, the majority also has to give tolerance to the minority,” Thun Saray said. “Both of them, they need to coexist.”

Such a compromise may be slow in coming, however. Senate President Chea Sim rejected a request from the SRP last week that he intervene in Sam Rainsy’s case, and Hun Sen said Monday that there was no room for negotiation.

“If you don’t come to jail, the prison will go to take you,” Hun Sen said.


KEY DATES: the Sam Rainsy saga

February 2005
Sam Rainsy flees into exile after losing his parliamentary immunity in connection with a defamation complaint by Prince Norodom Ranariddh. In December, he is sentenced to 18 months’ jail.

February 2006
The SRP leader returns to Cambodia after a political settlement paved the way for a Royal pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni absolving him of the defamation charge. October 25, 2009
Sam Rainsy travels to Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district and joins villagers in uprooting wooden border markers along the Vietnamese frontier to protest alleged encroachments.

January 24, 2010
The SRP releases what it says is “unprecedented evidence” of Vietnamese border incursions. The evidence includes maps showing border markers 300 to 500 metres inside Cambodian territory.

January 27, 2010
Svay Rieng provincial court sentences Sam Rainsy to two years in prison over the incident. The next month, he is charged with falsifying public documents and disinformation.

September 9, 2010
Sam Rainsy is summoned to appear in court on September 28 in connection with a defamation case filed by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008.

September 20, 2010
Prime Minister Hun Sen warns that he will not intervene to allow Sam Rainsy’s return to Cambodia, saying he should serve his full sentence.

September 23, 2010
Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicts Sam Rainsy on both charges and sentences him to an 10 additional years in prison.

Major RCAF exercise tests new technology

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:02 Vong Sokheng

ROYAL Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers participated yesterday in military exercises close to the Cambodian-Thai border in Battambang and Pailin provinces as part of routine training that included live heavy ammunition, senior military officials said.

Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, said the exercises topped off a three-month training programme for around 1,000 RCAF troops, and that it was the second-largest military exercise held this year after a similar exercises in Kampong Chhnang in March.

Chhum Socheat said that the exercises were part of a regular training regimen designed to “strengthen the defence sector and modernise military

“We are not showing military muscle with this operation,” he said.

The soldiers hit their targets “100 percent” of the time, he said, using anti-aircraft weapons and mortars.

Chea Vannath, a Phnom Penh-based political analyst, said the Ministry of Defence had neglected the military following the 1997 factional fighting, but that it has started to pay more attention to the army following the border tensions that have developed with Thailand since 2008.

Chea Vannath said the government needs to strengthen and modernise its defenses “to protect the sovereign territory” of Cambodia, but “not to spark war with a neighbouring country”.

The military received a shipment of 100 tanks and armoured personnel carriers from Ukraine in Sihanoukville on Tuesday.

Unions condemn job losses

Garment workers chant slogans during a strike outside a factory in Kandal province on Wednesday. Photo by: Pha Lina

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:02 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

UNION leaders have moved to defend the legality of the large-scale strikes that swept the nation last week, condemning factory owners and the courts for the suspension and firings of more than 300 union leaders and activists.

The Cambodian Labour Confederation and the Cambodian National Confederation released a joint statement Wednesday evening in which they “reject the argument that loss of income is a legitimate reason for punishing workers and union leaders who are pursuing their legitimate

“The purpose of a strike is to withhold labour from the employer in order to achieve union demands,” the statement read.

“This inevitably leads to a loss of income by both the employer, who loses production, and the workers, who lose wages. Therefore, to punish workers for the loss of production is to undermine the basis of the right to strike.” The statement also said that courts ordered the suspension of 159 union leaders and activists from 17 factories “for practicing their right to strike”, and that employers had fired a further 151 people for “leading strikes”.

These suspensions and firings violate Article 333 of Cambodia’s Labour Code, which says employers are “prohibited from imposing any sanction on a worker because of his participation in a strike”, it argued.

The statement came as a second round of strikes continued in Kandal province, and an industry representative warned that factories have had to begin reducing worker numbers as a result of a downturn in business caused by the strikes.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said Wednesday that it is a “fact of life” that factories have to reduce the number of employees when business slows.

“We know that one or two factories have had to seek suspension of workers due to the fact that buyers have cancelled orders,” he said. “This is what we said would happen.”

He declined to give further details about which factories had suspended workers or how much business had been lost, though GMAC previously estimated that the garment industry lost more than US$15 million as a result of the strike.

Industry representatives have also justified the court-ordered suspensions, saying the strikes had been deemed illegal.

In their statement, however, the unions argue that the strikes were legal and claim that they have “no confidence in the independence of the courts in Cambodia”.

Loo said yesterday that this argument was irrelevant. “It is not for GMAC, nor the factories, nor the NGOs, nor the unions to decide whether the strikes were legal or otherwise,” he said. “We all must defer to the courts on this matter.”

Last week’s strike, which began on Monday and was scheduled to last for five days, was largely spurred by a July decision that set the minimum wage for garment workers at $61 per month, far below the $93 that some union leaders had campaigned for.

Labour leaders called off the strike on Thursday after the Ministry of Social Affairs called for a meeting to discuss potential “benefits” for workers earning the minimum wage.

But fresh strikes began at some factories on Friday afternoon following reports that more than 200 union representatives accused of inciting the original strike had been suspended.

Workers from three factories in Kandal province have continued to strike throughout the week, agitating for their representatives to be reinstated.

Loo said yesterday that about 7,000 workers remained absent from work in three factories in Kandal province, around 1,500 of whom were striking outside the factories.

The meeting at the Ministry of Social Affairs is scheduled to begin on Monday.

City authorities ban trucks and buses from Japanese bridge

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:02 Tep Nimol

TRUCKS and vehicles with 25 or more seats have been prohibited from crossing the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge across the Tonle Sap and must instead pay to use the newly finished Prek Phnov Bridge on the city’s outskirts, Phnom Penh municipal authorities said.

In a statement Wednesday, City Hall stated that the change in policy was “to get rid of traffic congestion, which disturbs the traveling into and out of Phnom Penh”. Trucks with a net load of 5 tonnes or more and vehicles with 25 or more seats, it stated, must now use the Prek Phnov Bridge.

The Prek Phnov Bridge, built by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat’s LYP Group as part of a 30-year build-operate-transfer agreement costing around US$42 million, will start charging tolls after the Pchum Ben festival, which winds up on October 8.

City Hall’s decision, however, drew concerns from transport operators that the city’s economy would be hit hard by the decision.

So Nguon, director of the So Nguon Group and co-president of the Transportation Working Group of the Public-Private Sector Forum, said the change “will disturb the economy”, possibly even leading to the closing of garment factories “because goods transportation service will slow and expense on goods transportation will increase”.

So Nguon said that his company’s 100 trucks, which run along National Roads 5 and 6, would “take longer routes [and] take longer time” because of the bridge toll.

At the inauguration of Prek Phnov Bridge on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that the bridge would not charge fees for pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, or motorbike-pulled trucks. Fees for tourist buses, taxis and heavy trucks will range from 5,700 riels (US$1.35) to 34,000 riels ($8.08).

The premier said it would also be cheaper for people to pay to cross the Prek Phnov Bridge than take the Prek Kdam Bridge in Kandal province because of the additional time and gas such a route would take.

Ke Sovannaroth, secretary general of Sam Raing Sy party, said that she supports opening up more city access routes to alleviate congestion, but that they should not cost the public. “We just have a few roads and bridges,” she said. “Why are we charging for using them?”

Trial kicks off for woman in scalding case

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:02 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court yesterday heard the case against a Phnom Penh woman charged with intentional battery for allegedly dousing her teenage domestic servant with boiling water.

Sao Chanthy, a 39-year-old vendor, was arrested last month on accusations of seriously injuring a 17-year-old domestic servant in an August 13 incident at her Sen Sok district residence in which she allegedly threw scalding water on the boy’s stomach and hands. If found guilty, she faces up to a year in prison.

Sao Chanthy told the court yesterday that the boy’s injuries were the result of an accident.

“I unintentionally injured the boy by pouring boiling water on him when he came to the table where I had already boiled water and mixed milk into two plastic glasses for my 2-year-old daughter,” she said. At the time of her arrest, Sao Chanthy accused the boy of stealing about US$2.50.

However, the victim dismissed Sao Chanthy’s version of the story, referring to her as a “liar”.

“She accused me of stealing her money ... after checking my pocket and finding over 10,000 riels,” he said. “At the time, I denied stealing the money.... But she still got angry and poured boiling water on me while I was washing dishes in the kitchen.”

However, the boy admitted during questioning yesterday that he sometimes stole small amounts of cash, but “never over 10,000 riels ... and not very often”.

Koeur Bonnara, the deputy court prosecutor, said there was enough evidence to find the accused guilty, despite her “meaningless” denials.

“I have requested that court officials punish the woman according to the law,” he said.

San Sundalen, a lawyer provided to the victim by the local rights group Licadho, said she also requested that the woman be punished for inflicting the boy’s injuries.

Presiding Judge Ker Sakharn did not say when a verdict would be announced in the case.

Bridges go up along border

A Cambodian soldier speaks with Thai troops along the border close to Preah Vihear temple in 2008. Photo by: Heng Chivoan

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:02 Thet Sambath

THE Royal Cambodian Armed Forces are building 15 concrete bridges to connect roads between Preah Vihear temple and a nearby military base in an effort to facilitate the transport of ammunition and food to soldiers based near the border.

The bridges will connect roads between the Preah Vihear temple and Ta Thav, an area that military officials say will be used in the future as a border gate but is now used as a military compound. Ta Thav is located roughly 7 kilometres north of the temple.

Preah Vihear deputy provincial governor Sor Thavy said yesterday that the construction of the bridges was ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen and was being completed by the military’s engineering unit.

Sem Yo, commander of RCAF border battalion 404, said the bridges will make travelling between the two areas easier. Previously, any food and weaponry had to be transported back and forth by foot.

“When the bridges are built, this road will become strong and it is very useful for soldiers to move and transport food and weapons for soldiers standing at the border,” he said, and added that the roads would be paved once the bridges were completed.

Kvan Siem, commander of RCAF’s engineering unit, said yesterday that the unit also plans to build a road along the Thai-Cambodian border, connecting Poipet Town to Koh Kong province.

“This is the government’s plan, ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen, to build roads along the border,” he said.

He adding that the construction of the bridges and roads should be completed “some time next year”.

Stranded workers: Cambodians call for swift repatriation

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:01 Tep Nimol

THE families of 24 Khmer workers being held in Thailand to give testimony in the case of a meatball factory owner accused of mistreating his employees have made another request to the Cambodian government to help speed their return home in time for the Pchum Ben Festival, which runs from today until October 8.

“We want the remaining 24 Khmer workers to get back to Cambodia ... to see their families and to participate in the celebrations,” said Long Keo, a representative of the families. He said he had made a direct appeal to Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong. “They cannot wait until the court tries the case because it will be too long,” he said.

On September 10, three workers were returned to Cambodia by Thai authorities, while another escaped from the vocational training centre where the workers were being held, not wishing to testify.

Koy Kuong said on Wednesday that the workers should remain in Thailand to give their testimony. “The incident happened in Thailand, so we have to abide by Thai law,” he said

Lim Tech, an official of the Thai-Cambodian Border Relations Office, said the workers are scheduled to testify on October 5.

Trio guilty of trying to sell fake US notes

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:01 Chrann Chamroeun

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced three people to five years each in prison after convicting them of trying to sell 237 forged US$20 notes, presiding judge Duch Kimsorn said.

San Kimhouy, 69, and Heang Vanna, 31, were arrested on March 29 from an apartment in Tuol Kork district’s Teuk Laak II commune after they attempted to sell 100 of the counterfeit notes to an undercover police officer. A third suspect, Heang Vanna’s girlfriend Chem Sina, managed to escape and was sentenced yesterday in absentia.

The trio faced up to 15 years in prison on the charges, but the judge suspended all but one year of each sentence.

San Kimhuoy’s lawyer Ou Bonra said the decision to suspend his client’s sentence was “acceptable”.

“The court’s decision to give the minimum sentence is just, following my client’s confessions throughout the investigation,” he said. “He did not know it was against the law but was attracted by the profits he could make.” He added: “My client has high blood pressure and would not be able to stay in prison for very long.”

During a September 16 hearing, San Kimhuoy said he received the notes from a Vietnamese man, who sold them to him for $2 each outside a casino in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town.

“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.

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

Kingdom's biggest MFI to accept deposits

Labourers carry steel past a Prasac microfinance office in Kampot. Photo by: Tracey Shelton

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan

THE Kingdom’s largest micro-lender, Prasac, will launch deposit-taking services from early next year, representing another step toward its aim of becoming a commercial bank within five years.

The microfinance institution had received a deposit-taking licence for its head office from the National Bank of Cambodia, company officials reported yesterday.

Prasac is currently preparing to launch new services by training employees and applying for processing permits for its network of branches, which are expected to be granted next quarter.

The full deposit-taking scheme will be ready for launch in early 2011, Prasac General Manager Sim Senacheert said yesterday.

He said that the new service would enable the company to diversify products to meet client demand.

“More importantly, it would diversify our funding sources. If we could mobilise more savings we will no longer dependent on the overseas borrowings,” he said.

“Savings are a cheap and sustainable source of funds. Therefore, our funding costs will be lower and as a result we can reduce our lending rates as well.”

Prasac intends to offer the public interest rates of around 9.5 percent and 6.5 percent for one-year deposits in riels and US dollars respectively. Six-month saving deposits would be offered at 7.5 percent and 5 percent respectively.

“The interest rates on deposits we would offer are higher than those offer by commercial banks, but are lower than the rates at which we borrow from our foreign creditors, which charge around 8.2 percent per annum.”

As of end of August, Prasac’s outstanding loan portfolio was US$81 million, lent to 100,344 clients.

Cambodia has 22 MFIs. Prasac is the fifth micro-lender to receive a licence for deposit taking, after Amret, Sathapana, AMK and Hattha Kaksekar Limited.

To obtain a licence an MFI must prove that it has carried out operations for more than three years, is in good financial condition, has capital of at least 10,000 million riels ($2.4 millon), operates an effective management system, uses NBC charts of accounts, and has sustainable profitability.

China delegation: Xi'an firms eagerly seek business ties

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:01 May Kunmakara/AFP

CAMBODIA’S Chamber of Commerce will sign an agreement to strengthen business ties with the Chinese city of Xi’an early next week.

Calling it a “starting point” for Chinese investors interested in the Kingdom, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce international relations manager Keo Nimet said a Xi’an delegation was eager to match up with businesses in the Kingdom.

“This the starting point for the Chinese firms to seek business opportunities and find local partners,” he said.

He said that the council already had signed cooperation agreements with many Chinese provinces.

Representatives from 12 large Chinese firms will attend the signing of the memorandum of understanding by Xi’an Bureau of Commerce Director Hao Mangxi and CCC President Kith Meng next week, to be witnessed by representatives from 20 local businesses.

Chinese delegates travelling to the Kingdom specialise in machinery production, electronics, and the food industry, Keo Nimet said.

Xi’an is the capital of Shaanxi province.

The province recorded GDP per capita of 21,732 yuan (US$3,241) last year, a 13.3 percent increase compared with 2008, despite the state government saying “the economy of Shaanxi province had undergone the most difficult time” during the financial crisis.

With over 8 million people, Xi’an has a long history as a trading city in China .

The famed terracotta army was found in its eastern suburbs in 1974.

CDC data shows that approved investment in Cambodia from China was worth some $530 million in the first half of 2010, up 119 percent from $242 million in the same period in 2009.

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and the Peoples’ Republic reached $501 million over the first six months of this year.

This represents a 25.9 percent increase over the same period last year, according to statistics released by Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce.

Mobitel under greater pressure to clarify Cellcard Cash position

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:01 Steve Finch

METFONE’S decision to become the latest mobile operator to sign up to ANZ’s WING money transfer system this week means market leader Mobitel is under even greater pressure to sort out the fiasco surrounding its own mobile-payment system.

The rewards for quick, fully-authorised market entry are obvious. Around 95 percent of Cambodians still do not have a bank account, and the mobile-money model has already proved a lucrative hit in countries all over the developing world, particularly in Africa and Asia.

In a market considered to offer huge potential – WING has gained 150,000 users in a little over 18 months of operations in Cambodia – Mobitel’s strategy in this market appears unfathomable.

Why has the country’s biggest mobile phone company not sought accreditation?--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Why has the country’s biggest mobile-phone company not sought central bank accreditation for mobile money transfer, which is clearly a banking service, despite claims to the contrary by the firm’s executives?

Perhaps even more puzzling is why has Mobitel not teamed up with WING, given that the Royal Group is in partnership with WING-operator ANZ at ANZ Royal Bank?

Mobitel’s stalled entry appears strange given that now two-thirds of the highly competitive mobile-phone sector has already teamed up with WING to offer mobile banking.

That includes its main rival Metfone, as well as Mfone and Hello the next two largest firms in the domestic industry.

Clearly the National Bank of Cambodia does not agree that Mobitel can operate without a mobile-banking licence for its service, which as a result could make legal operations in the sector difficult.

In the wake of the Mobitel’s back-and-forth on this issue, WING has privately responded by assuring major Cambodian mobile clients in recent months that it does have the necessary NBC approval, a further sign that a central bank licence is fundamental.

And there is still no public explanation from Mobitel or ANZ as to why the two firms have not teamed up for what would appear to be a painfully obvious strategic partnership in mobile banking.

When WING celebrated a year of operations in Cambodia at the start of March, ANZ CEO Mike Smith was unable to explain at a press conference in Phnom Penh why the two partners at ANZ Royal had not linked up.

There thus remain more questions than answers in regard to Mobitel’s new CASH service, launched on Monday. But, given that Mobitel’s mostly rural target customer base would be unaware of this apparent discord, it is unlikely to hurt take-up of the new service.

Furthermore, around half of Cambodia’s mobile-phone subscribers use Mobitel, meaning the firm still retains huge competitive advantage. But this position of strength diminishes with the addition of each competing mobile service on the WING network.

Going up against the central bank on the licensing issue is hardly likely to help Mobitel’s cause.

AFL grand final breakfast feeds hungry fans

The Cambodian Cobras pose with Miss Vietnam 2006 at the RMIT University ground during their September 4 visit to Saigon to play the Vietnam Swans. Photo Supplied

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:00 David Boyle

A game that, for the best part of the last 150 years, was played exclusively in Australia has spread its wings far and wide in recent times to foreign shores as unlikely as the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Tomorrow, the newly founded Cambodian National Aussie Rules Football team will join more than one-hundred expected punters to watch Collingwood and St Kilda fight for footie’s Holy Grail.

Far from the days when the conclusion of the AFL season in Phnom Penh meant watching the game in an isolated sports bar, this year Aussie Rules fanatics will flock to a fully stocked Grand Final breakfast at the prestigious Intercontinental Hotel.

The breakfast has been organised by Australian Business Association of Cambodia, the Australian Football League, and anti-human trafficking NGO South East Asia Investigations into Social and Humanitarian Activities.

SISHA Founder and director Steve Morrish says the aims of the event are both serious and social – to support vulnerable Cambodians at risk of trafficking and to support desperate Australians in need of beer and meat pies on grand final day.

“SISHA will run a raffle during the day, and money from the raffle will go towards our youth legal rights project. ABAC have said that if there is any money left over they will put that back into our organisation,” said Morrish.

Punters will be treated to bottomless draft beer, buffet breakfast and lunch and, of course, a meat pie, if they enter through general admission, which costs US$40 a head.

But for those who wish to emulate the feeling of a corporate box, an AFL members ticket will get them special grandstand seating, one extra meat pie and ten bottles of boutique beer for an extra US$30 each.

Morrish wants to use the event to build the profile of the sport locally and he’s brought some high-profile names to greet enthusiasts tomorrow - former Essendon stars Paul Barnard and David Calthorpe.

“Paul Barnard was known as a bit of a thug, a bit of a hitman footballer, and Dave Calthorpe, he was a nuggety little rover that played at Essendon and the Sydney Swans,” Morrish joked of the former stars who terrorized his beloved Navy Blues during the 1990’s.

They’ll also pass on a few much needed tips to the Phnom Penh footie side the Cambodian Cobras, who have been steadily improving and generating local interest since they began with a spate of beltings at the hands of the Vietnam Swans when the team first formed two months ago.

“We’ve got a Cambodian playing at the Cambodian Cobras football club – the kickboxer Thy – and we’ve got few other Cambodians who are interested to come and train,” says Morrish, adding that he believes the AFL will pick up a player from the Kingdom.

“I don’t think it’s too far away ... the AFL’s really pushing out there to try and get it.”

In the meantime, Morrish is ready to enjoy the last Saturday in September showpiece, and he wont be too upset if archrival and premiership favorites Collingwood fall short of expectations.

Tomorrow’s Grand Final, played to a packed house at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, kicks off at 11:30am Cambodian time.

Sokha Angkor Resort puts down new roots

Sokha Angkor Resort’s GM, Emmett McHenry, wields the hoe at Sokha Angkor Resort’s Green Day. Photo by: Nicky Hosford

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

“A GREEN day is a happy day!” declares Phe Leak as he watches his green-shirted team prepare for the Sokha Angkor Resort’s annual Green Day. Judging by the non-stop laughter emanating from the team, he must be right.

Phe Leak is the human resources manager for Sokha Angkor Resort and 60 members of staff were involved in the first phase of planting 700 trees around the bridge at Angkor Spean, near Prasat Kravan, on Tuesday morning.

Such a significant tree-planting by a Siem Reap hotel is a sign that environmental awareness is gaining ground in the Kingdom.

The planting is being carried out in cooperation with the Apsara Authority, which donated the trees as well as the instruction on how to plant them. Apsara will also provide the ongoing care for the trees, and almost 40 representatives from Apsara attended.

The trees, called chheuteal in Khmer and hairy-leafed apitong in English, are indigenous to Cambodia and the region, although they are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature due to habitat encroachment. It is a key planting species for regenerating forests in some parks in Vietnam.

The Apsara Authority says more than 200 different tree species form the most visible part of the natural environment around Angkor Wat, and it takes a team of more than 250 workers to maintain them all year round.

Phe Leak was also conscious that the trees are part of the fabric of the ancient temples of Angkor Wat.

“Angkor Wat is not just Angkor Wat, it is also the environment around Angkor Wat. Trees are the history that grows here.”

The Sokha Angkor Resort Green Day is held annually, with different activities planned each year. But this tree-planting operation is only the beginning.

Emmett McHenry, the green-fingered general manager of the Sokha Angkor Resort, says he hopes other hotels will follow suit with similar operations. Apsara has also donated an additional piece of land so that guests of the hotel can pay to plant their own tree for $50.

Looks like putting down roots in Cambodia is getting easier and easier.

Touch of Tuscan sun for wine lovers

via CAAI

Friday, 24 September 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

TALK of Super Tuscans may bring dazzling images to the minds of some, but during a night of heady oenophilia, delicious Italian wines, not delectable Italian men, were the subject of a seminar hosted by Celliers d’Asie at the Angkor Palace Resort & Spa on September 16.

More than 70 Siem Reap restaurant and bar staff listened to Tuscan wine representative Guillaume Blanchard’s presentation on the regions, varietals, denominations, food pairings and terroir of the wines from a market that is often under-appreciated.

The young are becoming more interested in wine"

“We’re trying to improve the wine experience for Siem Reap,” says Scott McNeill, the Siem Reap branch manager for Celliers d’Asie, a wine wholesaler that’s been present in Cambodia since 1993. The seminar is part of a series in Siem Reap.

“This is just the beginning,” says McNeill. “This is part of our work to support the community and bring good quality wine to Cambodia.”

Blanchard represents noted Italian winery Castello Banfi from Montalcino in Tuscany, north of Rome. Italy is the second largest producer of wine in the world and of the 4000 known varietals (grape varieties to non-winos) more than 1000 are grown there. Tuscany is home to the world-famous Chianti, a wine that developed a reputation for mass volume and indifferent quality in the 1970s and ’80s.

But today’s Chiantis are far superior, says Blanchard. With a growing tourism industry, the market for wines in Cambodia will increase.

But producers and distributors are also very interested in the growing domestic market here. According to Blanchard: “The young are becoming much more interested in wine, and we’re very keen to improve their understanding and experience of wines.”

The phrase Super Tuscans was coined in the 1970s to differentiate those wines from the same region that used different varietal blends – not to describe the descendants of the model for Michelangelo’s David.

After the seminar, more than 130 people joined the Celliers team for an evening drinks party at Nest, where Patrick Charb played solo saxophone as guests enjoyed canap├ęs and several selections of the Banfi estate wines.

Cambodian opposition leader convicted in absentia

via CAAI

Associated Press

Cambodia's main opposition party leader was convicted in absentia yesterday and sentenced to 10 years in prison for a politically sensitive comment about a border dispute, in what critics said was another example of the government's intimidation of its opponents.

Sam Rainsy, who is living in exile in Paris, was convicted of spreading false information about a border dispute with Vietnam. The lawsuit was filed in February after Sam Rainsy questioned whether the border had been incorrectly marked by the government to Cambodia's disadvantage.

The conviction is the second this year for Sam Rainsy, who heads the sole opposition party in parliament and is a fierce, longtime critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In January, a court sentenced Sam Rainsy to two years in prison for a political protest in which border markers were uprooted along the frontier with Vietnam.

He led the protest last year to dramatize his claim that Vietnam is encroaching on Cambodian territory, an issue he often raises to garner public support.

Hun Sen was installed after a Vietnamese invasion ousted the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

He is sympathetic to Hanoi, while part of Sam Rainsy's support comes from appealing to traditional anti-Vietnamese sentiment among Cambodians who don't trust their much larger neighbor.

Cambodian Court Sentences Opposition Leader to Jail

via CAAI


Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy was sentenced to 10 years in prison Thursday. But Rainsy is unlikely to actually end up behind bars because he’s living in exile in France.

Judges found him guilty of forging public documents and spreading false information that the country had lost some land to Vietnam.

But critics of the Cambodian government say the case was used to silence Rainsy, who is the government’s biggest opponent.

Rainsy has also been handed a two-year prison sentence in January for uprooting a post marking the border with Vietnam.

He was also ordered to pay the government a $1,200 fine and $14,000 in compensation.

The Sam Rainsy Party has accused the ruling Cambodian People's Party of interfering with the judicial process.

[Kong Bora, Opposition MP]:
"The court unjustly convicted Sam Rainsy. They convicted him by the order of the government leader and this court I call it the pig cage because when I come in I smell the pig's dung already."

Prosecutors say they are pleased with the court's decision.

[Ky Tech, Government Lawyer]:
"This verdict is acceptable and it gives justice to the government because the damage caused by Sam Rainsy's act is so heavy, especially as it affected the good relationship between Cambodia and Vietnam."

New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused the ruling People’s Party of using unwarranted legal action to silence its political opposition and peaceful critics.